Monday, July 9, 2012

Hurricane Harbor

Hurricane Harbor is not the best place to take small children in the greater Los Angeles area. The water slides are too big. The splash areas with smaller water slides and fountains are so large and spread out it is impossible to keep track of more than one child at a time. The lazy river ride looks like the LA River, i.e. polluted. Unless you are first to arrive at the park, it is impossible to find chairs. Even on a hot day, the water is much too cold. The lines for all the rides are much too long. The food is bad and overpriced. There are lots of photographers around the park taking pictures, but when you want to check out the photos they took of you when you leave, there is only one small booth with not enough employees to handle the lines. The parking lot is too far away. And....there is still plenty more to complain about.

But -- still the kids had fun. I won't go rushing back until the kids are significantly older, but I'm glad we checked it out and it's hard to deny the smiles at the end of the day.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Grizzly Giant...and other trees

The giant sequoia trees in Mariposa Grove at Yosemite National Park are among the largest living things on earth. Some of the trees are more than 3000 years old. The park's biggest - The Grizzly Giant -  is 30 feet in diameter and estimated to be 1900-2400 years old. The Tunnel Tree is open for people to walk through its base. Its a long uphill hike, but you can also enjoy a one hour narrated tram ride to visit the bulk of the grove. The tram driver tells the history of the park, the grove, how firefighters handle controlled burns (required to keep the trees thriving) and you get a chance to stop several times for photos. Its the only way to really visit the grove with small children.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Biking Yosemite Valley

There are over 12 miles of paved bike trails on the Yosemite Valley floor and almost no hills. We rented two bicycles with trailers behind to haul Alex and Serene at the Curry Village bike stand. We were able to park the car and travel far & wide across the valley for hours -- something we never could have done on foot. The trails are easy to navigate, with detailed postings along the way to help guide you. The kids loved the breeze blowing in their hair and being able to stop to jump in the river, browse the snack shop and take in the breathtaking views. With little kids, we never would have been able to enjoy Yosemite so much without the tip to rent the bikes!

The views are beautiful at Yosemite National Park


The views at Yosemite National Park must be experienced to be believed. El Capital, Sentinel Dome, Bridalveil Falls, Half Dome and the whole Yosemite Valley are among the most breathtaking views in the world. Our introduction to the park this summer was stunning. Over 3.7 million people visit Yosemite National Park annually; most of them enter the park and then never leave the 7 square miles of the Yosemite Valley floor, an area less than 1% of the whole park. (Ourselves included.) Alex and Serene enjoyed the Merced River the most. First the toes, than the ankles, and knees dipped into the cool water, before they both couldn't resist and plowed in fully clothed into river just inches from the shore.*

With the southwestern most entrance to the park is just about a four hour drive from our house, we'll be back for all the seasons.

[*WARNING: Use caution as with any river as later in the season, other children drowned in rougher spots.]

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite National Park

If this sounds like an advertisement for Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite National Park, that's OK. It is a wonderful lodge two miles from the southeastern Yosemite park gate. It caters to families with multiple restaurants, snack shops, two outdoor swimming pools with two jacuzzi pools, an indoor pool with two jacuzzi pools, an arcade, relatively reasonably priced room service and lots of special extras. Wagon rides, rock climbing, guided hikes, archery, biking and more. We enjoyed the family festival -- a summer outdoor all-you-can-eat BBQ picnic in a beautiful wooded area next to the hotel with delicious food, open bar, live music, horseshoes, gold panning, and making s'mores over an open fire pit. The parents could eat and enjoy while the kids played. The concierge offered tips for inside the park that made our time so much more enjoyable. When the kids are a little bigger, I hope to check out the lodge's exclusive Ascent Spa.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has the bones of a blue whale at its entrance, a Tyrannosaurus Rex that roars at you just inside its doors, a small creek bed and a Butterfly Pavilion out its backdoors. Just 96 years old, the musuem boosts more than 3 million artifacts and specimens in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, vertebrate and invertebrate biology, geology and paleontology, art, library, and archives in its eight permanent halls, two changing exhibit halls and five outdoor areas. Alex climbed the rocks along the creek bed and Serene squeeled the butterflies were "Awesome!" That's four thumbs up from my little ones. 

Happy Independence Day 2012!

(Photos taken by David D.)
The pier at Santa Barbara is one of the best places to view 4th of July fireworks in Southern California. Alex and Serene spent the day frolicking with friends before enjoying the enourmous spectacles of color above the Pacific on the Santa Barbara beach.