DAY TRIP TO CATALINA ISLAND

I have been living in California for more than a decade but some travel plans never see their destination. One such was to Santa Catalina. Something always came up and the visit took a back seat. Finally this summer, we made it to Catalina. Wohoo!!!!

A short, sweet day trip with my munchkins.

 

ABOUT CATALINA:

Santa Catalina is a fairly small island around 22 miles long and 8 miles wide located around 35 kms South-West of Los Angeles, California. Total population is around 4100 with 90% of the population living in Avalon, the only incorporated city. The second biggest one being Two Harbors. It is a tourist paradise with over 1 million travelers every year.

Catalina Map

HOW TO GET HERE:

You can use boats or helicopters to get here. Ferry rides take around 1 hour while the air ride lasts 15 minutes.

There are two major ferries, Catalina Express and Catalina Flyer  while IEH is often chosen for helicopter rides.

We took the Catalina Express from Long Beach to Avalon.

 

catalina
Road Signs

 

Catalina
Catalina Express Building

 

Catalina
Our Ferry

If you want to go to Two Harbors then you have to board the ferry from Dana Point.

Roundtrip fares cost around $74 for adults and $ 58 for kids. The boat ride is about 1 hour long but it is so comfortable that you hardly feel that you are on board for an hour. Also if you are on the top deck you can walk around and enjoy the view.

Catalina
Tickets

 

Catalina
Lower deck seating

 

Catalina
Upper Deck

Do bring snacks with you as the ferry ride make your hungry, especially if you have kids accompanying. We bought snacks from the shop inside the building but there is a small café on the ferry to purchase snacks too.

 

 

Catalina
Ferry leaving the building
Catalina
View of Long Beach from the ferry

 

Catalina
View of Carnival Ship from the ferry

If you live close to Newport Beach then I suggest taking the Catalina Flyer to get to Avalon which costs pretty much the same.

If you are planning to go on a weekend or a major holiday,  do purchase the tickets in advance as the regular seats get sold out pretty quickly and you might end paying more for premiere seating.

AFTER REACHING:

 

Catalina
Landing Deck at Avalon

Once you reach Avalon, you can enjoy the island on foot, rent a bike or rent a golf cart. I would highly suggest renting a golf cart if you want to see all the tourist attractions and nice views from the mountains and if your little ones are with you.

 

Catalina
Golf Carts neatly parked

 

 

 

 

 

 If its a lazy day trip then you are good to go on foot.

 

Catalina
Veterans Park Avalon

 

 Again, rent the golf carts in advance as they tend to get sold out pretty quickly. There are a lot of rental companies with good rates to choose from. Sometimes you cannot reserve a cart as it is available on first come basis but keep it in might that during a busy season they will rent out pretty quickly so go with companies which let you rent in advance. The rental places are within walking distance from the ferries.

THINGS TO DO/SEE:

 Avalon is beautiful with boutique hotels, family owned shops and tourist attractions. A complete list of must see things can be seen on TripAdvisor. There is some kind of activity for everyone.

 

Catalina
Walk across town

Some must see attractions include Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden, Will Richards Studio, Catalina

Island Casino, Catalina Island Museum.

 

Catalina
Murals outside casino

 

Catalina
Casino Tours

 

Catalina
Beautiful Casino Building

 

 

 

Catalina
View of Houses perched up the hills

 

Catalina
Artistic Restrooms

 

Catalina
Veteran Memorial

 

 

 

Catalina is heaven for water lovers. You can do scuba diving, snorkeling, paddle boating, kayaking and also take glass bottomed boat tours.

 

Catalina
Underwater Tour

 

Catalina
Boats Resting

 

For lazy beach fun, head to Descanso Beach Club, a private beach open to public.

To relax and enjoy try the Tasting Tour or have calming massages,

For the adventure types, there is Zipline Tours, Parasail Tour, Jeep Eco Tour, Segway Tour.

 

 

Zipline Tours

FOOD:

There are a lot of places to eat depending on how much you are willing to spend and what you are in a mood for. There are alot of seafood options and if you dont want to spend a fortune head straight to Fish and Chips.

 

Catalina
Fish and Chips

Since my son eats gluten free and was in a mood for pizza we ended up going to Antonio’s Pizzeria. It was fun to see peanut shells all over the floors. The food was a bit pricey but the ambience was worth it.

 

 

 

 

Peanut shells on the floor

 

Gluten free Chicken Pizza

 

 

 

Catalina
Tuna Salad Sandwich

 

Chocolate Cake

 

 

Trip to Catalina is incomplete without  ice-cream from Big Olaf’s and salt water taffy from Llyod’s.

 

 

Catalina
Big Olaf’s

 

Salt Water Taffy

 

 

Catalina
Lemon Sorbet

 

Catalina
Lloyd’s

 

Catalina
Candy by pound

LODGING:

We didn’t plan to stay overnight but we saw some sweet boutique style hotels spread all over the Island. In my opinion a day trip is sufficient to enjoy Catalina but if you are visiting with a group then it might be fun staying over.

 

Catalina
Hotel Atwater

 

 

Catalina
Hotel Pavillion

 

Catalina
Hotel Metropole

OVERALL:

 

Day trip to Catalina was totally worth it. The ferry ride, island experience, good food…..

Do I miss it already? Probably not.

It is a good option if you want to do a getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life but since we did it on a weekend and since it is a tourist attraction, it was super crowded. Maybe it is less crowded on a week day???

Catalina
Boats parked in the water

 

Catalina
Beautiful Sunset

 

Catalina
Landing Deck Long Beach

 

 

 

Have you visited Catalina?? How was your experience??

 

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RUNYON CANYON HIKE

If you live in Los Angeles, chances are you must have already been to this place like a zillion times, but this was out first time here. There was a chance of rain but we still went ahead and enjoyed the cool drizzle while hiking. There are soo many stunning views that you will be stopping to either get a click or to soak it all in.

Here we go…..

LOCATION:

Runyon Canyon is located in the heart of Hollywood, less than 30 minutes from Downtown Los Angeles. It is by far, LA’s most popular dog friendly, workout/hiking spot.

map of runyon canyon hike

ENTRANCES:

There are 3 popular entrances.

Two on the south end of the park from Fuller and Vista Street and one from Mulholland Drive which is the north end.  Use one of the following addresses to get here:

2001 N. Fuller Ave, Los Angeles, CA, 90046 (South End)

or

7317 Mulholland Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90046 (North End)

Runyon Canyon
Fuller Entrance

Runyon Canyon Hike
Mulholland Entrance

HOURS OF OPERATION:

 Everyday Dawn-Dusk

Runyon Canyon Hike
Sign

PARKING:

No matter which entrance you chose, parking is really challenging, especially on a weekend. For the south  end, you only have the option to do street parking. At the Mulholland entrance, there is a small parking lot. Unfortunately it is usually full so try to find a street parking to save time. Make sure to read the street signs to avoid ticket.

 

Runyon Canyon Hike
Mulholland Parking Lot

Runyon Canyon Hike
Mulholland Drive Street Parking

 

HIKING TRAILS:

There are three main Hiking Trails. The easiest one is  the main paved trail with a gentle slope. The next one is the Steps Trail and the most challenging one is usually called the Spine Trail. The length varies from 2.5- 3.4 miles, depending on the trail you choose.

Runyon Canyon Hike
Trail Board

OUR HIKE:

Since it was our first time and we were not sure how easily the kids will get tired, so we chose the main paved trail for our hike. It is considered easy to moderate trail depending on fast you hike.

Runyon Canyon Hike
Start from Mulholland Gate

We got here around  1 in the afternoon and it took us good 10 minutes to find a parking spot. The parking lot was full so we ended up doing street parking around the Mulholland Entrance. The hike was busy from the start.  Since it was cloudy and a wee bit chilly, we wore jackets initially.

We kept water bottles with us but unlike other hikes it was pleasant to see water fountains around. The water fountains were neat with four-way water access. One side high for adults, a low access for kids, one down for dogs and a space specifically designed for filling water bottles. How cool is that.

Runyon Canyon Hike
4-Way Water Fountain

Runyon Canyon Hike
Trails going up

Runyon Canyon Hike
Paved trail

Runyon Canyon Hike
View of the twisty paved trail going down hill

Runyon Canyon Hike
Warning Signs posted through out

We went all the way down to the fuller entrance and as we were making our way back up, it started to drizzle. Unfortunately, we first did the downhill and then the uphill so it was a bit challenging for the kids. But I wont say it was super bad. And the drizzle made our hike super fun.  The slope is gentle except for a short stretch where you will need some muscle power.

Runyon Canyon Hike
Views of Downtown while hiking

There are designated non-leash dog areas and you will encounter dogs running way ahead their owners. I read that the road has been repaved with Macadam instead of Asphalt to make sure it won’t get unbearable for dog’s paws on hot days.

Runyon Canyon Hike
Off-Leash Dog zone

Runyon Canyon Hike
Mud trail
Runyon Canyon
Greenery along the way

Runyon Canyon
Trail View

Runyon Canyon
Looking towards South Gate

Runyon Canyon
Water Fountains at Vista Entrance

We were able to do the entire loop in less than 90 minutes. I am sure the time would have been less if we did the uphill first and then the downhill. Also we took a couple of breaks to take pictures and enjoy the panoramic views of Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, Downtown Los Angeles, and of the nature all around us.

Runyon Canyon
Downtown LA

Runyon Canyon
Panoramic View of Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory

Runyon Canyon
Hollywood Sign

Runyon Canyon Hike
Hollywood Mansions

Back towards Mulholland Gate

TIPS:

  • If you want to do just one hike while in LA, do Runyon Canyon. You will enjoy views of LA and might have a celeb sighting too.

  • If the weather is cool then you can hike at anytime but for those hot LA days it is best hike early in the day or later in the afternoon.

  • Parking will always be a challenge.  So do not waste time and park a bit further down the street and walk your way to the trail.

  • Make sure to read the street signs and park only in the designated spots to avoid ticket.

  • If you are scared or dogs, then this hike is not for you as no matter which trail you choose, there are  off-leash areas.

  • You can have a good workout on the main paved trail too.

  • If you are hiking with kids, then I highly suggest entering from Fuller or Vista Entrance and going uphill first so that its easier for them to hike downhill later.

  • There are no bathrooms available so plan accordingly.

  • Don’t get intimidated. People of all levels of strength/stamina can do this hike.

  • There are breath-taking LA views so do have your phone/camera handy if you want to preserve the moment.

  • If you are hiking by yourself, bring some good music along for a more fun time.

 

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SAN FERNANDO MISSION

A few months back, my son had a field trip to the San Fernando Mission and I was lucky to be one of the chaperones. We enjoyed a guided tour of the mission. These grounds are brimming with religion and history. There a lot of paintings, statues, artifacts and each tells its own story.  The Bob Hope Memorial is also located within this mission. Having studied from a Convent of Jesus and Mary myself, I enjoy the winds of tranquility which surround such places.

san fernando mission, california
Mission Plaque

Mission San Fernando Rey de España or the San Fernando Mission is a reconstructed Spanish mission which is located in the Mission Hills District of Los Angeles.

san fernando mission, california

The mission was founded on 8th September, 1797 and was 17th Spanish mission to be established. The mission is the namesake of the San Fernando Valley. The entrance is through the gift shop. There are lot of memorabilia which you can buy from there.

san fernando mission, california
Mission Entrance through gift shop

Once you exit the gift shop you enter the main plaza which has a beautiful fountain right in the heart of the garden. The garden has a variety of plants, bushes and trees.

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DISCOVERY CUBE LOS ANGELES

If you are looking to do some quality, educational activities with your kids which are super fun too, then Discovery Cube is just for you.

 

discovery-cube-banne

 

 

There are two locations of the Discovery Cube. One in Santa Ana and the other in Los Angeles. Since we live closer to the San Fernando valley, we went to the LA one.

 

Discovery Cube next to Hansen Dam
Next to Hansen Dam

 

sign to discovery cube
Take FootHill Blvd off 210 Freeway

 

 

DISCOVERY CUBE, Los Angeles is a 71,000-square-foot interactive museum at the Hansen Dam Recreation Area in the Lake View Terrace neighborhood.

 

Entrance Gate
Entrance Gate

 

 

Parking is free and there is an ongoing deal on the ticket these days where both the adults and kids get in for the same price.  As you enter you get the feeling as if you are in big warehouse and its fun seeing kids of all ages running here and there.

 

Front Entrance
Front Entrance

 

Ticket & Membership Details
Ticket & Membership Details

 

Welcome
Welcome

It is the place to be for science-based learning and hands-on discovery.  Discovery Cube is modeled around STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and also incorporates early learning and health awareness. There are two levels of hands-on exhibits, displays, programs and learning spaces.

 

Inside
Inside

 

Skeleton on a Bike
Skeleton on a Bike

 

weighing

GingerBread Exhibit
Gingerbread Exhibit

 

 

Sound Waves
Sound Waves

 

 

Here is a detail of some of the interesting exhibits:

 

LEGO: TRAVEL ADVENTURE

There are a lot of interesting exhibits and the choice will depends solely depends on the interest of the kids. The toddlers and younger kids will definitely enjoy the Lego:  Travel Adventure which is on the second floor. Don’t get me wrong, the older kids will love this huge exhibit equally. To be honest, anyone who loves Lego, will love it. You get to make interesting Lego vehicles and then race with friends.

 

 

Lego Travel
Lego Travel

 

Lego Train
Lego Train

 

Lego Racing Car (Kids can sit in it)
Lego Racing Car (Kids can sit in it)

 

 

HELICOPTER TOUR

The helicopter tour is actually a Helicopter Simulator Ride which takes you way above the skies of LA then deep into water system under the city.

 

Helicopter Tours
Helicopter Tours

 

Screen inside the helicopter simulator
Screen inside the helicopter simulator

 

 

INSPECTOR TRAINING COURSE

A tablet based scavenger hunt where the kids get to be inspectors and make sure the house is safe and sound. The interactive tablet makes the inspection super fun and if all he answers are correct you get your picture taken which is displayed on the wall.

 

Inspector Station
Inspector Station

 

 

Inspector Tablet
Inspector Tablet

 

Bedroom Inspection
Bedroom Inspection

 

Bathroom Inspection
Bathroom Inspection

 

Backyard Inspection
Backyard Inspection

 

Teaching kids about insulation
Teaching kids about insulation

 

 

 

Thermostat Reading
Thermostat Reading

 

 

 

RACE TO ZERO WASTE

Race against other kids or your friends to see who sorts the recyclable and other items first.

 

Trash Truck
Trash Truck

 

 

Trash coming out of the truck
Trash coming out of the truck

 

 

Trash Belt
Trash Belt

 

 

DISCOVERY MARKET

Grab a cart, choose your shopping list, aim the scanner at the right products and earn a picture on the Wall. Kids learn the importance of choosing healthy foods and also reading labels.

Discovery Market Entrance
Discovery Market Entrance

 

Carts Lined Up
Carts Lined Up

 

Cart with Screen & Scanner
Cart with Screen & Scanner

 

Checkout Stands
Checkout Stands

 

Checkout
Checkout

 

 

Bakery Section
Bakery Section

 

Grocery Aisles
Grocery Aisles

 

Dairy Aisle
Dairy Aisle

 

Scanning the products
Scanning the products

 

 

 

AQUAVATOR

Dive deep into the earth’s core via an elevator to see the geological layers. Seeing the Megalodon was sheer fun.

 

AquaVator Entrance
AquaVator Entrance

 

Inside the cool AquaVator Room
Inside the cool AquaVator Room

 

 

4D THEATRE

Watch a sweet short movie in the awesome 4D Theatre.

 

glasses

 

 

SANTA ANA WINDS CAPSULE

Stand inside a capsule and enjoy the 70mph Santa Ana Winds.

 

 

Santa Ana Winds Capsule
Santa Ana Winds Capsule

 

Santa Ana Winds Exhibit
Santa Ana Winds Exhibit

 

 

PLANETARY RESEARCH STATION

Observe weather patterns, historic storms, earthquakes on a suspended earth globe.

 

Mercury
Mercury

 

 

Planets
Planets

 

ROCK WALL

Climb the rock wall using only the highlighted rocks.

 

Rock Wall
Rock Wall

 

 

SCINCE OF HOCKEY (LA KING)

 

Looking up towards the Hockey Exhibit Upstairs
Looking up towards the Hockey Exhibit Upstairs

 

Enjoy a virtual hockey game. Be a goalie, or climb aboard the Zamboni Machine and get a picture taken.

Zamboni Truck
Zamboni Truck

 

Be a Goalie
Be a Goalie

 

 

 An indoor cafeteria “BEAN SPROUTS” offers a variety of healthy options which can be enjoyed by both the adults and the kids.

 

Bean Sprouts Cafe
Bean Sprouts Café

 

Don’t forget to stop at the “ELEMENTS” gift shop for a take home memory.

 

Elements Gift Shop
Elements Gift Shop

 

 

Overall I think its a nice, educational fun activity place for the kids. Do bring them at least once and let them decide on their own which exhibit is their favorite and with the ongoing ticket deal and the winter wonderland exhibit opening on 17th where the kids can enjoy snow sledding, snow tubing and other snow activities, this is one fun place to be this winter.

Winter Wonderfest

 

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GREAT WOLF LODGE WATER PARK

It was my son’s birthday recently and being a water lover we decided to do some fun water-activities with him.  The weather of Southern California is soo beautiful year-long that the concept of an indoor water park is rather alien to the residents. That is why when my good friend mentioned this park I didn’t know a great deal about it. After an online search, we decided to surprise my son by celebrating his birthday at the Great Wolf Lodge.

 

great-wolf

 

 

Water Park Drone View (From their website)
Water Park Drone View (From their website)

 

Great Wolf Lodge is Southern California’s first and only indoor water park. It is part of a chain of 15- water resorts spread all over the country.The 603-suite hotel and 105,000-square-foot water park opened its doors earlier this year and since then has been the talk of the town. It is located at 12681 Harbor Blvd, Garden Grove, CA 92840 just 5 miles from Disneyland and 17 miles from Knott’s Berry Farm.

 

 

Street named "Great Wolf "
Street named “Great Wolf “

 

The only way to enjoy the water park is to book a room in the hotel or if someone you know is already checked-in, you can go to the park as their guest after paying and getting a day pass.

 

Front of Hotel
Front of Hotel

 

Entrance Door
Entrance Doors

 

The best part is that even if you plan to stay for one night, you can enjoy the water park after you check out too.

 

Giant Spider Web
Giant Spider Web

 

 

Giant Spider on the ceiling
Giant Spider on the ceiling

 

Upon arrival we headed for the hotel lobby which was decorated with the Halloween Theme. A giant spider-web and ultra giant spider adorned the lobby. The front desk staff was super friendly and we all got wolf headbands as a welcome gesture. The birthday boy got a special birthday headband.

 

Headbands....Orange for everyone and grey one birthday guests
Headbands….Orange for everyone and grey one for birthday guests

 

 

Trick or Treat Horror HOuse
Trick or Treat Horror House

 

 

Spiders Everywhere
Spiders Everywhere

 

Bear in the lobby Area
Bear in the lobby Area

 

Great Wolf Lodge water park wristbands are RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Device).  No need to carry cash or room keys. The wristband is used to open your suite door as well as charge food and beverages on your account. How cool is that? No more kids fighting that its my turn to use the card to open the door 🙂

 

RFID bands
RFID bands

 

 

You can choose between standard rooms and themed rooms. The themed rooms have bunk beds and a separate TV just for the kids.

 

Hallways
Hallways

 

Standard Room
Standard Room

 

 

Sweet Toiletries
Sweet Toiletries

 

 

Coffee & Haribo Gummies
Coffee & Haribo Gummies

 

 

Themed Room
Themed Room

 

Throughout the hotel there are interactive stations which are triggered by wands (need to be bought separately from MagiQuest Shop). You can become a Master Magi by playing three levels of this interactive game. The kids can keep the wands as souvenir when they check out and can always bring them back with them if they revisit.

 

 

 

Interactive Magic Quest Screens
Interactive MagiQuest Screens

 

 

interactive-screen-throughout
Another Quest interactive Screen

 

 

Club House Crew
Club House Crew

 

 

The water park is located on the lower level. Besides the water park there a lot of activities on the dry land too like Howly Wood XD Theatre which is a 4-D thrill ride, Ten-Paw Bowling Alley with half-length lanes for young kids, a full-fledged gaming arcade and loads of other fun activities. There is a cute Scoops kids Spa for mommy-daughter bonding time where they can enjoy manicure and pedicures. Kids can enjoy storytime and other fun activities with special appearance by the Great Wolf Kids characters like Wiley or Violet.

 

 

Arcade
Arcade

 

 

MagiQuest
MagiQuest

 

Story Area
Story Area

 

 

Scoops Spa
Scoops Spa

 

 

There are a lot of dining options including Lodge Wood Fire Grill, Hungry as a Wolf Pizza, Loose Moose Buffet Style Family Kitchen and to go eateries like Dunkin Donuts and Bear Paw Sweets & Eats. Buckets is the only restaurant located inside the water park serving burgers, sandwiches, salads and other goodies if you want to eat without leaving the water area.

 

 

Wood Fired Grill
Lodge Wood Fired Grill

 

 

Bears Paw Sweets
Bears Paw Sweets

 

 

Dunkin Dpnutd
Dunkin Donuts

 

 

And there are lovely shops like Buckthorn Exchange and Bear Essential Swim Shop to get awesome swim gear or lodge-themed clothing and accessories, jewelry, totes, books, kitchen ware, frames and toys as memories when you leave.

 

Buckthorn Exchange Gift Shop
Buckthorn Exchange Gift Shop

 

 

Lovely Merchandise
Lovely Merchandise

 

 

Clothes
Clothes

 

 

There are loads of attractions within the water park which will cater to all ages. From slides like howling tornado, coyote canyon, river run canyon, to floating lily pads to check out your balance while walking on water, to lazy river where all you need is a tube to chill in, to wave pool where artificial waves are made every 5 minutes, to flow boarding. There are soo many water activities to choose from. There is towel area where you can get fresh towels so there is no need to bring your own towels. Lockers are available for rent to store your valuables. There are showers and restrooms inside the park.

 

 

Entrance to the Water Park
Entrance to the Water Park

 

 

Exit
Looking towards the exit from inside the park

 

 

Rules
Rules

 

 

Cub-Paw Pool
Cub-Paw Pool

 

 

Tubes going up for Coyote Canyon
Tubes going up for Coyote Canyon

 

 

Flowboarding
Flow boarding

 

 

Fort Mackenzie
Fort Mackenzie

 

 

Side View of Fort Mackenzie
Side View of Fort Mackenzie

 

 

Chinook Cove
Chinook Cove

 

 

Slap Tail Pond
Slap Tail Pond

 

 

Water Park View
Water Park View

 

 

Crooked Creek
Crooked Creek

 

 

Buckets....The only inside restaurant
Buckets….The only inside restaurant

 

 

Lockers
Lockers

 

 

 

Not in a mood to go on the slides? No problem. Chill in the Cool Rental Cabanas or head outside to the Racoon Lagoon for a zero-depth-entry paradise offering a four-foot deep end, geysers, fountains with plenty of poolside seating for soaking up the sun.

 

Racoon Lagoon
Racoon Lagoon

 

I highly suggest getting their Breakfast package. Breakfast is served 7-11 am on the weekends and is buffet style in the Loose Moose Lodge Dining Area. There is a large variety of food options to choose from. You can get an omelets made fresh according to your own liking or enjoy oatmeal and other delicacies.

 

Loose Moose Dining
Loose Moose Dining Area

 

 

breakfast-buffet
Buffet Style Breakfast

 

 

bagels-and-muffins
Bagels and Muffin Corner

 

 

Fruits Corner
Fruits Corner

 

 

breakfast-stuff
Eggs, Sausage, French toast, waffles and much more

 

 

So if you haven’t already put Great Wolf Lodge on your “Must Do” list, now is the time to do it. A great indoor water experience where the whole family will have fun. Be it for a celebratory reasons or just for a relaxing family weekend getaway, Great Wolf Lodge is one fun place to try.

 

Till next time
Till next time….

 

 

 

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Water Balloons-Fun Activity for the Whole Family

Yes…I know…I know. You will be saying that summer is almost gone and fall is just around the corner and now I am talking about Water Activity?? In my defense, we were soo busy enjoying and playing with these water balloons that I had to wait for my clothes to dry up so I could share the fun with you  🙂

We got these water balloons over the summer break for my kids. Filling the balloons and tying them with hand was getting really challenging because you can imagine, kids don’t ask you to tie one…its at least 30 if not more and the truth is half of them pop while tying and you have to start from scratch.

Who ever came up with this “Balloons that tie themselves” idea was pure genius and then decided to sell it to parents like us, makes them Super Heroes.

These are fairly simple to use. The kids can attach them to the end of the hose themselves, turn the water on and then the magic happens. Its better to have a container to collect them once they fall of the straws, we were too lazy so we omitted this step. (To be honest I can never find anything in my house when I need it….I think we have a ghost problem!)

This activity is soo much fun that I am the biggest kid standing around the hose, watching with with my mouth open, waiting for the magical moment to happen when the balloons fall off the straws “TIED”.  WOW!!!!

Unfortunately the ones we got are no longer available. Here is the link to a similar one…..  WATER BALLOONS.

 

Sneak peak at the fun:

 

 

 

 

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TRAIN TRIP FROM SIMI VALLEY TO EL PUEBLO DE LOS ANGELES HISTORCAL DISTRICT

Last weekend we decided to visit the Los Angeles Plaza Historic District which includes the famous El Pueblo Historical Monument in the plaza, La Placita Church, the vibrant Olvera Street, Pico House and the Old Plaza Fire House to name some. Train Ride was on our “Must Do” Summer Activity list so we took Pacific Surf liner to Union Station instead to driving there by car.

Pacific Surliner
Pacific Surfliner

 

Once we reached the Simi Valley Train Station, we purchased the tickets from the automated ticket vending machine (TVM) only to find out that the train was late. Even though it was 100 F and we were sweating like crazy, the excitement of the ride made our wait easier.

ticket
Round Trip Ticket
Simi Valley Train
Simi Valley Train Station
simi valley station
Train tracks at Simi Valley Station
Automated Ticket Vending Machine at Simi Valley AmTrak
Automated Ticket Vending Machine at Simi Valley AmTrak
Peak inside the Pacific Surfliner
Peak inside the Pacific Surfliner

 

Once on board, we headed upstairs and found good window seats for a better view. The ride lasted for 1 hour and 10 minutes and we stopped at Chatsworth, Van Nuys, Burbank, Glendale Stations on our way. We could see the Santa Clarita Brush Fire all the way from San Fernando Valley. We also crossed the famous Los Angeles River Concrete Structure which has been featured in various movies.

 

Santa Clarita Fire
Santa Clarita Brush Fire

 

 

Chatsworth Train Station
Chatsworth Train Station

 

Van Nuys station
Van Nuys station
bob hope station
Bob Hope Train Station
Glendale Train Station
Glendale Train Station
Los Angeles River Concrete Structure
Los Angeles River Concrete Structure

 

Union Station is a landmark in Los Angeles. The building is beautiful with huge chandeliers and high ceilings and architectural details. The station was jam-packed and it seemed like everyone was going somewhere. Automated ticket vending machines and helpful information desks made travel easy. The waiting area is neat with a grand piano to show off your playing skills. Union station has a fresh food store called “Trimana” where you can find soups and sandwiches along with packaged snacks and fruits. Other food stores include T &Y Bakery,  Ben and Jerry’s, Star Bucks, Subway and Wetzel Pretzels, so yes you can get your caffeine fix and also enjoy a snack. For more fine dining head over to Traxx,a traditional American Restaurant and Bar.

Inside the Union Station
Inside the Union Station
On our way out
On our way out

 

View of the chandelier and the ceiling
View of the chandelier and the ceiling

 

We exited the Union Station from the West side and after crossing Alameda Street made our way into the El Pueblo Plaza. As we made our way up the stairs the first thing we saw was the statue of Mexican musician and actor Antonio Aguilar and right behind that was a gazebo where a band was performing and people were dancing with the beat of the song.

intersection
Exiting the Union Station towards Alameda Street

 

 

Antonio Aguilar Statue
Antonio Aguilar Statue
Band of Musicians
Band of Musicians

 

We also saw the Bell of Dolores, which commemorates Mexican independence from Spain.

bell
Dolores Bell

 

As we made our way to the Olvera street, we crossed the central plaza where sweet Spanish songs were playing and it felt as if the time had stopped and everyone was dancing, laughing and enjoying, a sight rare to be seen in today’s fast world.

Olvera Street was one fun experience. From dream catchers, to masks, to Mexican clothes, to hand bags, there was a variety of things in smiling colors. We shopped for a bit then headed to Juanita Café to have authentic Mexican Food consisting of Tacos, Burritos and Enchiladas. The kitchen was open and very small but the food was full of flavor and spices. If you are visiting Olvera Street, do try Juanita Café.

 

Calle Olvera
Calle Olvera
Entrance to Olvera Street
Entrance to Olvera Street

 

Dream Catchers at Olvera Street
Dream Catchers at Olvera Street
Colorful Masks
Colorful Masks
Shops at Calle Olvera
Shops at Calle Olvera

 

Juanita Mexican Cafe
Juanita Mexican Café
Juanita Café Kitchen
Juanita Café Kitchen
Enchiladas Juanita Café
Enchiladas Juanita Café
Burrito
Burrito

 

We ate a lot and to get out of the food coma, strolled around to see the amazing architectural beauties surrounding the plaza like the Pico House, Fire House and the Masonic Hall. These building speak for themselves and you can feel the historical aura surrounding them.

El Pueblo Statue
El Pueblo Statue
El Pueblo Plaza
El Pueblo Plaza
Los Pobladores Plaque
Los Pobladores Plaque

building

pico house
Pico House

 

el pueblo

Cross
Cross

 

architecture

 

As we made our way back to the Union Station to head home, I felt a certain type of happiness and calmness. Was it because of the sweet flow of Spanish music and watching the people sway to the beat or was it because of the historical buildings telling you their stories in a strange way. I don’t know what it was but the feeling was priceless. So take a trip to this historic landmark for a rich, unforgettable cultural experience

 

 

Heading Back
Heading Back

 

Walk Way to the Train
Walk Way to the Train

 

Bye Bye Train
Bye Bye Train

 

 

 

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WAGAH BORDER CEREMONY-PAKISTAN

During our last visit to Pakistan we went to see the lowering of the flags or as it is known internationally the “Beating Retreat” ceremony at Wagah Border.

Wagah is a densely populated village in Pakistan through which the controversial “Radcliff Line” was drawn in 1947. The village lies approximately 0.3 miles west of the Border Line. In Pakistan the border crossing is called Wagah whereas in India it is called Atari, named after the village Atari which lies approx. 0.3 east of the Atari Border.

Wagah Border is around 15 miles from the city of Lahore and it takes anywhere between 40-60 minutes to reach depending on the traffic that day. The ceremony begins before sunset and lasts around 45 minutes. Try to reach there early to find good seats and enjoy the festive mood with patriotic songs and dhol (drums) being played and people dancing and having fun. It is a daily military practice which is jointly done between the Indian Border Security Forces and Pakistan Rangers since 1959. It attracts a lot of spectacles including foreigners.

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CARPINTERIA STATE BEACH CAMPING

Camping is our favorite outing. Nothing beats the fresh air and being close to nature. My kids love playing in the water so we try to find campsites near the beach. Carpinteria is our all time favorite campsite. Due to its location it books way in advance and consider yourself lucky to find a spot at any given weekend of the year.

 

City of Carpinteria
City of Carpinteria

THE CAMPGROUND:  There are 4 campgrounds within the campsite Anacapa, San Miguel, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa. There is camping option for both tents and RVs. You can book for large groups or just for your family. It is located off US 101 and is approx. 12 miles south of Santa Barbara. Within the campsite there is a Visitors Center and Rangers Center. Each camping spot has a picnic table, fire ring and water faucet. Each campground has bathrooms and washing stations and paid hot showers. Check-in time is 2pm and Checkout time is 11 am. The Amtrak station is at walking distance and the train tracks are almost next to the campgrounds. You can see the trains passing multiple times during the day. There are a lot of food joints within walking distance.

 

Entrance to Anacapa Camp Ground
Entrance to Anacapa Camp Ground

Carpinteria Campsite Welcome
Carpinteria Campsite Welcome

Entrance to the campsite from Linden Ave
Entrance to the campsite from Linden Ave

Campsite on left, beach on right
Campsite on left, beach on right

OUR CAMPING EXPERIENCE:  We camped for two nights which meant more time to enjoy the beach and the campsite.  One of our friends also joined us which made out trip more enjoyable. We arrived at the campsite around 2 pm. Our spot was on the Anacapa campground which is next to the Carpinteria State Park. Our camp hosts Barbara and Jerry were super helpful and friendly.

 

Camp host's Trailer with Wooden Shed
Camp host’s Trailer with Wooden Shed

Camp Spot 124
Camp Spot 124

Tent Setup
Tent Setup

 

Tent finally up
Tent finally up

Our camp spot had a lot of shrubs and small trees and fitting two tents side by side was impossible. We ended up setting them almost perpendicular to each other. Also the parking was laid at such an angle that it was impossible to fit two cars. Eventually, after unloading we had to park one of the cars in the general beach parking which was across the campsite. This is not the issue with all camp spots.

After setting up the tents and other stuff we decided to hit the beach. It was a bit windy but the warmth of the sun made it really enjoyable. The kids played in the water and the adults enjoyed beachside walk. The beach was clean with a lot of shells and interesting rocks. By the time we came back to the campsite everyone was drained. We all gathered around the fire ring and enjoyed yummy BBQ and board games. We were soo tired that we slept the moment we hit the sleeping bags. Luckily no train passes through the night so all you enjoy is the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. Soo calming.

 

Water Station
Water Station

Cooking Station
Cooking Station

Grilling Chicken
Grilling Chicken

These Citronella Lamps were a life saver
These Citronella Lamps were a life saver

Campfire
Campfire Chilling

 

For breakfast we had homemade croissant sandwiches with mortadella and the kids enjoyed waffles. My younger son has food allergies so we ended up making gluten-free, dairy free grilled cheese sandwich. I thoroughly recommend investing in a nice Pie Iron as it was super easy to warm up the sandwiches and also make grilled cheese with it. After breakfast we just chilled around the fire ring and later hit the beach. Initially we had decided to drive to the city for lunch but as the kids were having a blast we decided to eat at the beach.

 

Carpinteria Beach
Carpinteria Beach

Lazying on the beach
Lazying on the beach

Mortadella Sandwich for snack
Mortadella Sandwich for snack

After resting for a bit the kids went to the Tom Interpretive play area which has cool tomols (boats) and dolphin statues to climb on and very interesting slide structures. It is It is very modern and chic. It’s a fun place for both the kids and adults. We enjoyed making smores and popping jiffy popcorn at night. The jiffy pop experiment was meh. Next time we will get pre popped popcorn.

The best part of our trip was heading to the beach after sunset and sitting under the dark sky enjoying the stars. The kids were amazed to see soo many stars and the oil rigs looked like lit up ghosts ships from afar. Not everyday do you get to enjoy a calm beach with the waves singing and the stars shining in all their might on a pitch black background.

 

Tomol Play Area
Tomol Play Area

The next day after packing up and loading the cars we went to “The Spot”, a beach side fast food restaurant. We enjoyed burgers and shrimp. It is cash only place so if you decide to eat here make sure you have money. Their shakes an floats are super yummy too. Later the kids grabbed ice cream from Rainbow ice-cream and Yogurt parlor. A bit pricey but totally worth the money.

The Spot
The Spot, Carpinteria

Burgers and Shrimp "The Spot"
Burgers and Shrimp “The Spot”

 

 

We also went to Siam Elephant. You can read the review at:

Siam Elephant Restaurant Review

 

Entrance
Entrance to Siam Elephant Thai

 

siam-elephant-thai-restaurant-carpinteria-sweet-and-sour-shrimp
Sweet & Sour Shrimp

FINAL VERDICT: Carpinteria is like city camping without the city feel. I know it is beachside but still within the city and you do not feel as if you are camping in the wild.If you want to enjoy beachside camping but away from the crowds, go to Carpinteria State Beach. Convenience store, Amtrak, restaurants are within walking distance so even if you pack just your camping gear you will be good to go. It is a kids friendly campsite. Clean bathrooms stocked with hand soap and paid hot showers.

If you are thinking of doing one family outing this summer, camp at Carpinteria State Beach Campgrounds. The whole family will enjoy.

Happy Outing:)

 

 

 

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TIPS ON CAMPING WITH FOOD ALLERGIES

Last week we went camping for two nights. My son has food allergies so we have to plan in advance before taking any trip. Camping can be a bit challenging since you have to make sure you have everything on hand. It seemed daunting initially but compared to the fun we all had, it was nothing. To give you an idea, my son has dairy, gluten, soy allergies and on top we try to keep sugar at its minimum. He does not have any nut allergies.

 

Here are some tips for a relaxed and enjoyable camping trip:

 

RESEARCH:

Before leaving the house do a thorough research of the area where you are  camping. Print or save the location to the nearest hospital and also the nearest pharmacy on your phone so in case of emergency you have it handy.

Doctor

MEDICATION:

Most important tip is medication. Make sure you have the necessary medicines on hand. If someone in the family has nut allergy make sure to have the Epi-Pens handy. Check the expiry before leaving the house. I also carry Benadryl and Ibuprofen for kids just to be safe. And of course you should have a stocked up first-aid kit with bug spray.

 

 

epi-pen
EpiPen

 

 

first-aid
Camping First Aid Kit

CONTAMINATION:

To avoid cross contamination make sure to have a table cloth to cover the picnic table. We usually take 2-3 disposable ones so if one rips or has another issue, we have another one ready. Its better to have disposable cutlery, plates, glasses etc so you are not spending most of the time washing. My favorite green company is Susty Party .

 

Sustainable, disposable tableware
Sustainable, disposable tableware

 

 

FOOD: I suggest taking the food with you. I know it might seem like a lot of work but this way you will be less worried and feel more in control. Invest a good quality cooler if you plan to make and take food with you. One important tip is to stay safe by avoiding new foods while camping. You never know how your body will react. Here are some ideas for different meals.

 

Cooler for keeping food fresh
Cooler for keeping food fresh

BREAKFAST:

 

Invest in a cast iron pie iron. Do not buy the cheap ones as they do not work. This way you will be able to make yummy breakfast items like:

-Grilled Cheese Sandwich (Gluten free bread with vegan cheese)

 

udi daiya-cheese

 

-Gluten free waffles & pancake (For recipe Click HERE)

 

Dairy Free, Soy Free, Gluten Free Pancakes

 

 

 

-Gluten free muffins/ rolls with cream cheese

 

-Vegan cereal with almond milk

 

silk one-degree-veganic-sprouted-cereal-boxes

 

 

 Snacks: -Fruits & Veggies & Energy Balls (For Recipe Click HERE)

 

No Bake Date Energy Ball
No Bake Date Energy Ball

 

 

-Nuts, Cookies (For recipe Click HERE)

 

Gluten Free Cookies
Gluten Free Cookies

 

 

– Nut Butters or Sunbutter

 

 LUNCH & DINNER:

-Burger with gluten free buns

-Gluten free tortilla wraps (For Recipe Click HERE)

 

BBQ Chicken wrap with onion and chutney

-BBQ

-Hot Dog (Make sure they are nitrate free)

-Rice with chicken/beans

 

DRINKS:

  -Water

– Zevia

Leaf & Love Organic Lemonade Juice Box

-Almond Milk

DESSERT:

 -Muffins & Cupcakes (For recipe Click HERE)

coco-nana-cake2

 

 –Nuts, Bars , Cake (For Recipe Click HERE)

-Fruits

– S’mores (Marshmallow,  Gluten free graham crackers and enjoylife chocolate)

 

 

 

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