Monday, August 6, 2018

2016 California Trip: Disneyland and California Adventure

I have a soft spot for Disneyland. I grew up in Southern California and I have a lot of nostalgia for the theme park. My cousin now works for Disney, so he was extremely generous and let us use some of his friends and family passes. We were able to go to both parks - we started the day off in California Adventures because we wanted to ride the new Radiator Springs Racers ride. We snagged a fast pass for that ride, and then headed over to Midway Mania. Matt was very excited to ride with Brian.

We went on Mickey's Fun Wheel next, which has some cars that slide around a track as the wheel makes its revolution. This makes the Ferris wheel quite exciting!

Nolan and Grandpa "Frankie" have a tradition. They LOVE the Tower of Terror ride, and are the only two willing to ride it from our group. They set off to take the plunge at the Hollywood Tower hotel. This ride has now been changed to a Guardians of the Galaxy themed ride, so I'm sure he will want to do that the next time we visit!

While Frankie and Nolan rode the Tower of Terror, Dennis, Matt, Grandma, and I headed over to Cars Land. We stopped to see a trolley show starring Mickey Mouse on the way.

Cars Land is extremely well themed. We rode Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters.

It wasn't long before Frankie and Nolan showed up, and we went to have lunch in the Grand Californian hotel. After lunch, we hopped over to my beloved Disneyland, and rode the Jungle Cruise.

We managed to ride a lot of rides that afternoon, including Hyperspace Mountain, which had been themed with Star Wars music and effects. We spent a very full day at Disney, and ended with a trip to let the boys build their own light sabers in Tomorrowland.

Nolan was so tired he had to be carried out at the end of the night - you know it has been a successful Disney trip when the kids pass out as soon as they are in the car!

2016 California Trip: Carpinteria Tar Pits

There are tar pits in many areas in Southern California. The La Brea Tar Pits are the most famous, but Carpinteria Beach has its own tar pits. We decided to take a trip to explore the coastal bluffs here and the boys had a lot of fun.

There is nothing as entertaining to young kids than poking sticks into tar and watching it bubble and ooze. We talked about animals that would get trapped in the tar, not realizing it was hidden just under the dust and leaves.

The bluffs in Carpinteria have beautiful views up and down the coast, though you must be careful not to get too close to the edge...

There is a trail down to the beach, and we followed it to explore the shore and a few tide pools.

The beach was fun, but we didn't have swim gear for the boys so we pulled them out of the water before they got completely soaked. The beach area also has a lot of tar (it IS part of the general tar pit area), so that can take some scrubbing to remove later!

We love the central California coast area - it is just so beautiful and a lovely place for a hike in late summer.

2016 California Trip: Camarillo Air Show

Camarillo typically hosts its air show in late August, so we took a quick trip to the airshow to look at the planes and watch a few planes fly. The weather was very hot and there was no shade, so our journey was definitely on the shorter side for this trip!

A highlight was watching a skydiver float to the ground with a giant flag.  We also liked watching the fire fighting helicopter demonstrate its impressive ability to carry and drop water.

We walked around and looked at a C130, and the boys were able to go into the cockpit. There were many smaller aircraft parked at the airshow, too, and we talked to several pilots before the sun got the better of us and we decided to depart for lunch in air conditioning.

Until next time, Camarillo!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

2016 California Trip: Surf Lessons

We really love visiting California in late August. Most of the California public schools are back in session, and the weather is fantastic. Our New York state schools do not go back to school until early September, so it is a way for us to experience many things "off season" with great weather.

We signed the boys up for private surf lessons through Ventura Surf School. They provided the wet suits, the surf boards, and the instruction in the price, and it was a HUGE hit with our boys.

They started out by doing some basic moves on the sand, learning how to "get up" on the board and what to do when they fall off. This was excellent for Nolan, as this was pre-cochlear implant and he could not hear in the water. Having instructions given when he was able to wear his hearing aids was a big plus!

Once the on-land instructions were complete, the boys headed out to the water. Surfing can be a difficult sport, but both boys absolutely loved it.

Matt was able to get up on his board and surfed many waves over and over again. I was impressed! We surfed at Mondo  Beach, which was perfect for young surfers.

I was VERY impressed that Nolan managed to stand up and surf by his second or third try. He absolutely loved being able to do this and managed to surf until he became too cold and decided to hang out on the sand. The ocean water in this part of California is very cold, so I was impressed he held out for as long as he did!

We will definitely be back for more surfing in the future!

2016 California Trip: Horseback Riding in Santa Barbara

Horseback riding in California is extremely fun. The rides offer impressive views and the terrain is very interesting. We went horseback riding with Grandpa Lefler at the Circle Bar B Ranch near Santa Barbara. This was the boys' first time on a horse, and they did really well.

Nolan had a small horse named Peanut, and Peanut was a fantastic horse. Matt had Goldie, a horse that had a mind of her own. She was a little bit challenging on the ride, but Matt did very well!

A lot of the trail was charred from one of the many wildfires that races through this area of California on a regular basis. It was both sad and interesting to see what the fire had seared and what it had left untouched.

Our guide at the Circle Bar B Ranch was wonderful and we all had a fantastic time. I highly recommend horseback riding if you are in this region of California. The mountains and ocean create an amazing place to do a trail ride!

Friday, April 14, 2017

2016 California Trip: Universal Studios, Hollywood

Dennis and I moved to the state of New York 13 years ago, but we still consider California "home." I managed to secure really inexpensive direct JetBlue tickets from Buffalo to LAX, so we made a trip to visit our parents in August 2016.

The Monday after we flew in, we took a trip to Universal Studios, Hollywood to see the new Hogsmeade themed land and the other rides in this park. I hadn't been to Universal Studios since the early 1990's, when the "big" ride was E.T. - the park has grown a lot since those early days!

We went to Hogsmeade first, but just walked through briefly. We headed to the studios tour, and had a good time seeing different film sets and going through the 3D King Kong set and the Fast and the Furious tunnel. After the tram tour, we had lunch in the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. This place was beyond cool.

We managed to get a big, round table in front of the fireplace. The kids were very happy to have butter beer!

The food was a cut above generic theme park food. I was pleased with my stew in a bread bowl. It was nice to get out of the heat and hubbub of the park to have a (relatively) quiet lunch.

The kids liked their lunches, too, but they liked sharing the day with grandparents and uncle/aunt even more.

After lunch, we went down the very long escalators to ride the Mummy coaster, the Transformer's ride, and Jurassic Park. Transformers was an amazing ride and we really enjoyed it - the boys also liked the raptor encounter by the Jurassic Park ride.

After the rides, it was time for churros. No theme park visit is complete without a churro!

We returned to Hogsmeade and went to the wand ceremony in Ollivander's shop. I was actually chosen to try out the wands - it was a very cool ceremony. Uncle David and Aunt Mary Ellen bought the boys interactive wands and they had a fantastic time trying them out all around Hogsmeade. We still have the wands and can use them for future visits to this park or the one in Florida.

We wanted to ride the main Harry Potter ride, but the ride broke down and we were never able to ride it. A big shame, but we still had fun exploring the village of Hogsmeade.

We left as evening arrived and had dinner outside the park. We had a fantastic day and will probably return to the parks in Florida to get the full experience.

We had several fun days coming up: the beach, horseback riding, surfing lessons, Disneyland, hiking, and an air show were on the agenda!