Sunday, December 30, 2012

Universal Studios

View from Universal Studios to Burbank

Alex and Bumblebee
Universal Studios

King Kong Destroyed Studio Tour Tram
Wisteria Lane, "Desperate Housewives"

"War of the Worlds"
Director and Producer of the Year

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

If you are a Republican, then visiting the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is equivalent to a trip to Mecca. If you are a Democrat, you might have to hold your nose, put on blinders, stay away from the ultra-rude museum docents (looking as if they've been especially shipped in from the red states) and take a trip down history lane.

We whizzed by a full-scale replica of the Oval Office with numerous Reagan artifacts from his terms as President and then completely skipped all the other exhibits to head straight for Air Force One. This original aircraft flew for seven U.S. Presidents over 20 years: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. In 2001, the Reagan Library received the aircraft in a decommissioning ceremony at the San Bernardino International Airport. It was disassembled by a nine-person crew from the Boeing Company into fuselage, tail and stabilizers, engines, main landing gear and wings. In 2003, it was then transported on a specially designed truck. A building was partially constructed for the aircraft, and after it was towed inside in 2004, the remaining walls were built around the aircraft as it was reassembled. It took 5 months to polish the plane. After many years, its still sparkles today. If you are willing to wait in a long line, you can walk through "The Flying White House" and get a souvenir photo taken. The pavilion also holds a helicopter and motorcade with Presidential limo, police motor cycle and secret service vehicle.

The rest of the museum isn't for ages six and under. Guest are introduced to Reagan through his college days, some highlights of his movie career (he starred in over 100 movies) and then through his Presidency and death. His tomb is outside, perched atop a hill with nearly 360 degree dramatically, gorgeous views. The library is also is home to the Reagan archives. It holds over 60 million pages of documents, over 1.6 million photographs, a half million feet of motion picture film, tens of thousands of audio and video tape, and over 40,000 artifacts. In what seems like a marketing scam to draw in even more visitors annually, Disney has opened a hall attempting to feature the friendship between Reagan and Walt.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mission 26: Space Shuttle Endeavour Returns Home

Someday, when Alex and Serene are much older they will be annoyed by the stories their parents told them about the things they did when they were small children. Alex scaled the Great Wall of China and Serene basked in the beauty of the Bosphorus. They'll never remember it. They won't care. And, as parents we'll be annoyed that after we worked so hard to make sure they were happy that now they don't even want to hear the details -- again!

The story of the Space Shuttle Endeavour returning to Los Angeles in October 2012 riding on the back of a specially designed 747, flanked by two military fighter jets, landing at Los Angeles International Airport and then riding on a flatbed truck through the streets of Los Angeles before arriving at its final home at the California Science Center will be one of those annoying stories from their youth.

But, Mommy and Papi are the space shuttle's generation. We grew up when shuttling astronauts space still felt like science fiction. We watched in awe as the rockets soar to the heavens -- and then returned home. We giggled with the astronauts bounced around the Space Station without gravity to hold them down. And, we cried when they exploded and the crews of men and women were lost. (I will always remember where I was when I heard the news of the Challenger disaster.) The space shuttle program stretched our imaginations further than we could have ever dreamed. And now to have lived through its birth -- and its retirement -- is both bitter and sweet. The next generation of space travelers will entice the imaginations of my children. In the meantime, the California Science Center in Los Angeles is the final resting spot for the Endeavour Shuttle. Originally constructed in the city of angels, it has returned home on its final mission # 26. The exhibit chronicles the shuttle program, honors the crews that flew so far, features a film of the return of Endeavour to Los Angeles and brings visitors up close to the shuttle.
Flying above Jet Propulsion Laboratory flanked by fighter jets.

Landing at LAX.

Landed at LAX; pilots hoist American Flag.

Mission 26: Heading Home

Endeavor flies above NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Endeavour hitches aride atop 747 aircraft.

Serene searches for Endeavor.

Permanent Home for Space Shuttle Endeavor.
Parked at Los Angeles landmark "Randy's Donuts" en route to California Science Center.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour is display at the California Science Center.

Shuttle's massive engines.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Rockin the LA Car Show

The Los Angeles Auto Show happens once at year at the LA Convention Center in late November/early December. Children 12 and under get free admission. If you are in the market for a new vehicle and want to compare from a wide variety of options under one roof, then this is the place to go. We went to catch glimpses of futuristic cars. But, it was a lot more like an indoor fancy car lot  then an opportunity to see the future. The kids were unaware and found that crawling in and out of every car on the floor was as fun as Disneyland.

Billed almost as fashion show for cars, the 10-day event features models from dozens of companies already on sale at the lots, and state-of-the-art concept cars tucked just behind barriers so you can look, but not touch. When Serene climbed in any car, she refused to get out. (After all, she finally had the wheel!)  After Alex checked out dozens of models, the kids and I agreed... mommy needs a new F150. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012 from Disneyland

Merry Christmas from Disneyland 2012!  If you can handle the crowds, Disneyland and Disney California Adventures are magical at Christmas time. The parks go crazy with decorations. Everything sparkles! Alex learned about playing hooky for the first time, skipped school, grabbed a friend and headed to meet the Mouse!

Six year old boys are still not ready to stand in endless lines, but between fast pass & good ole fashioned luck, we never waited more than 20 minutes. We are not Disneyland fanatics. The simulated rides, Star Tours and Soarin', were the biggest hits for us. The monorail and submarines were also pretty fun. Alex was still scared of the pirates, unimpressed by the mermaids, but did love Tarzan's Treehouse and Mark Twain's Riverboat. (Mostly, when he and his friend weren't on a ride, they just wanted to go home and play Legos.). Luckily, Downtown Disney is home to the Lego Store. Alex's Happiest Place on Earth seems to be outside those expensive gates.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Views of the Bay at Tilden Park

The view of the San Francisco Bay from the Berkeley Hills at Tilden Regional Park is breathtaking. The Golden Gate and Bay Bridges frame the city skyline just below trees rolling down swooping mountains. In park's forest, there is a Botanic Garden, carousel, steam train, pony rides and golf course.   

Serene and Alex rode the steam train on the narrow gauge railway that was built in 1952. In the crisp air, we took a 15 minute ride through the woods, catching glimpses of the beautiful Bay views. Alex is well past his train engineering years and Serene probably won't catch the Thomas the Train phenomena, but the pair (with cousins and aunties in tow) both enjoyed the ride.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Annenberg Community Beach House

The Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica is open to everyone, year-round, no membership required. On five acres of ocean front property, it features a swimming pool, cafe, gallery, play ground and the Marion Davies Guest House open for tours. The property was originally built by William Randolph Heart for the actress Marion Davies in the 1920s on California's Gold Coast. In the 1940s, the property was converted to an Ocean House and was declared "America's Most Beautiful Hotel."In recent years, it was converted to a property open to the public, at no fee, for all to enjoy.

And in November 2012, as the water numbed my toes, Alex and Serene jumped into the ocean fully clothed, rolled in the sand and conquered the play yard. They simply couldn't be pulled away from the Pacific waves even as the sunset.