Category Archives: So Cal

Family Fun at the Los Angeles County Arboretum

I’ve lived in Southern California my whole life, only miles away from the Los Angeles Arboretum. Even though it was just minutes down the road I really never visited except for school functions like taking Senior portraits around the grounds. That changed completely after I had my son – it has become my family’s new, huge playground complete with fountains, ponds, a waterfall, oak grove, orchid greenhouse and historic home. To say we love this San Gabriel Valley treasure is an understatement.

When it comes to botanical gardens in the San Gabriel Valley, the Arboretum might not be quite as lush as some other locales, but their gardens are beautiful when in bloom and I love that is is much more accessible, which makes you feel like it belongs to you. Your family can enjoy a picnic on the lawn, then your kids can explore the eucalyptus grove or engage in a game of tag without feeling like you’re doing something you shouldn’t be. You can feed the ducks, geese, fish and turtles the bread you’ve saved from home. It’s your garden and you are welcome to enjoy it.

The Arboretum has many events throughout the year such as Pasadena Pops concerts, art shows, plant sales, and lectures. Maybe you’ll choose to stroll through the historic train depot and Queen Anne Cottage and see what life was like for Elias “Lucky” Baldwin. Kids can have a fun summer learning about nature through the Arboretum Summer Nature Camp which runs June through August.

Admission for an adult is only $8.00 and children 5-12 are $3.00. Kids under five years old are free! The best value I believe is the Family Membership which is only $75.00 and allows two adults and all your children to enter. Here’s the bonus: with a membership you also have free admission to more than 270 participating gardens throughout the United States and Canada!

For more information on Los Angeles County Arboretum hours & admission, memberships, and events, visit their website and learn what a wonderful gem is waiting for you in your own backyard.


Big Family Fun at Adventure City

 Adventure City Anaheim California Toddler Amusement Park

When family visits us it usually means a trip to Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm – and we love those amusement parks. However, when my sister decided to visit a couple weeks ago we decided to try something new – Adventure City in Anaheim. I have lived in L.A. my whole life and had never visited this unique California theme park for young children. It has been around for decades (it was formerly known as Hobby City) and now that Jack is two it seemed the perfect place to go.

Just down the road from Knott’s Berry Farm, Adventure City was really easy to find and parking was plentiful – and free! Where do you get free parking anymore?
Adventure City Anaheim California Toddler Amusement Park
The entrance fee was only $14.95 per person but we used the coupons Sarah found online at the Anaheim Visitor and Convention Bureau’s website to get an additional $2.00 off.  Upon entering the park all of us adults thought it was adorable. Everything was decorated well, sparkling clean and just plain cute. The staff we encountered throughout the park were all friendly, helpful and seemed genuinely happy to be there which was refreshing.

Adventure City Anaheim California Toddler Amusement ParkMy sister and I took Jack on the Fire Rescue ride, where you get to pick a rescue vehicle and ride around a small track with lights blazing. I think my sister had as much fun as Jack! We also went on the airplane ride and visited the petting zoo before heading over to my son’s favorite thing of all – the choo choo train. We ended up going on it twice, riding all around the park (and through their birthday party room) and Adventure City Anaheim California Toddler Amusement Parkwatching employees wave to us along the way. Other venues in Southern California that have trains can charge $2.50 – $3.00 per ride which can add up quickly!  At Adventure City your kids can ride over and over and over again until they get their fill all for $14.95. I think the train and carousel alone are worth the admission cost. There are several rides such as the Freeway Coaster or Drop Zone that would satisfy older children who enjoy something racier.  Adventure City has 11 rides in all plus other attractions like a rock climbing wall, shows and an arcade to keep kids of all ages entertained.

Adventure City Anaheim California Toddler Amusement ParkWe did have lunch at the park and our meal was fine. It’s typical amusement park food with burgers, hot dogs and chips as standard fare, but they do offer a chicken wrap which was fairly tasty. If you prefer to bring your own food there are several tables both inside and outside the park available for your use.

Overall our experience was great and I know we will be going back again and again in the future, and probably bringing more people with us. While we all still love Disneyland and Knott’s, Adventure City is tailored to the little ones which makes it special. If you’ve been to Adventure City leave us a comment and let us know what your experience was like!

Hey, It’s Cheaper Than Buying Her a Pony

Here You Leave Today And Enter The World of Yesterday, Tomorrow and Fantasy

A year ago around this time, we took the plunge and bought Disneyland Annual Passports.  We couldn’t wait to spend the year with Mickey.  Since then we’ve spent many at day in the parks, I lost count somewhere around the 15th visit.  Seriously, I was determined to get our money’s worth.  We’ve loved every minute (aside from a few isolated temper tantrums) and have made family memories we’ll treasure for a lifetime. We recently got a postcard in the mail letting us know our renewal date was approaching, so it was decision time.  Passports aren’t cheap and now that the twins are three, we’ll need five instead of three.

As a reasonably frugal family we could think of plenty of reasons not to pony up, but in the end we did just that.  It may mean we don’t take a big family vacation this year, or eat out as often.  Yet the benefits of having the passes made it practically a no-brainer.  We can escape into a world of fantasy for the whole day or just a few hours.  We can take it slow, enjoy the parade, the shows, the people-watching – and not feel like we have to get on every ride.  There’s always another Disney day.  It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how stressful my week has been, whatever grown-up worries are weighing on my mind, once we walk through the gates it all seems to disappear.  It’s all forgotten and we can spend quality time with the kids, seeing the wonder through their little eyes.

Look – now I don’t have to buy her an actual pony!  Think of all the money we’re saving on horse equipment, boarding and food.  Her brothers already eat like horses as it is.

Are my kids a bit spoiled by getting to go to Disneyland all the time?  A little perhaps, but we don’t go all out on every trip with treats, souvenirs and the like.  We’ve discovered one of the parks cheapest and most collectible souvenirs, pressed coins.  All three kids have their own pressed penny book and they add a a couple to their collection on each trip.  They’re happy and we’ve spent nothing more than the change in the bottom of my purse.  I know someday they’ll probably have better things to do than spending day after day at Disneyland with mom and dad, but I don’t see the magic wearing off any time soon.  These memories we’re making?  They’re priceless.


Travel Town Playdate

Sarah and I occasionally get together for playdates with the little ones and we visit the zoo, park or a botanical garden – anywhere kids can run and have fun. Invariably, however, there is always a train or tram (and they always cost money), so we have to once again tell the kids no, sorry, no rides today. Well, you can only say that so many times, right?

A while back we decided to give the kids a real treat and take them to Travel Town in Griffith Park, a place filled with real trains you can explore and some you can even ride. I can’t tell you how excited they all were when we walked into the yard and heard all the train horns choo-chooing and engines chugga-chugging. It made my toddler so happy I wished they had train horn kits I could take home.
After exploring the engines and seeing the stage coaches it was time for the real thing – their first rides ever on a real train. We climbed into our seats, the conductor came around and collected our tickets, he yelled “all aboard” and away we went, slowly steaming around the track. All the children were in heaven. Seeing the smiles on their faces for that five-minute ride was worth every penny.
When it was time to disembark we made our way to the gift shop so each kid could commemorate their visit with a train trinket. Of course they had the standard train whistles, but I was kinda hoping they had train horns for trucks so I could pick one up for my husband to install on my SUV.  That would surely get someone’s attention next time I need the horn, right?  Alas, no such luck.  With our souvenirs in hand it was time to go home for naps. They all fell asleep on the car ride home and I hoped they all were dreaming about what fun they had on their first train ride.

Review: Vons Home Grocery Delivery

Vons Home Grocery Delivery

My normal grocery shopping routine goes something like this:

Spend all day trying to put together a shopping list, during naptime and those fleeting moments when nobody is fighting or crying or making a mess.  Then get the kids to bed late, make myself (barely) presentable and head out to the store exhausted.  All I really want to do is relax but it’s gotta be done.  I could do my shopping during the day of course, though somehow it’s even less appealing.  Shopping with a four year old and two two year olds is hardly my idea of a good time.  On the plus side, the store is never crowded.  I’d still rather be unwinding with a book, wasting time on Facebook or watching bad television.

When I got an e-mail asking if I’d like to try out Vons Home Grocery Delivery, you can bet that it took me only seconds to reply with an enthusiastic “YES”.  I placed my first order from the comfort of my couch, with my hair in a messy ponytail, in pajamas.  And it was kind of fun.  I did have a few frustrating moments when registering for the site, until it dawned on me that the reason it wouldn’t accept my e-mail address was that it wanted it to be entered in all caps.   From then on, it was smooth sailing.  If you have a shopping list, you can search for the specific items you need.  You can also browse the selection aisle by aisle.  While the selection wasn’t quite as extensive as I’d find in store, I did manage to find everything I needed and some great Vons Club specials to boot.

Once you are ready to checkout, you select a delivery window.  The standard window is four hours, you can make that shorter for an additional fee.  You’ll also decide how you want out of stock items to be handled.  There are several options here: substitute for the same item in a different size, substitute with another brand, etc.  I didn’t want any surprises on my bill for substitutions of higher priced items, so I opted to have any out of stock items left off of my order.  Order submitted I put the computer aside and turned on an episode of Mad Men, which I’ll take over spending my evening loading up the car, driving home and putting groceries away any day.

The next day, our groceries were set for delivery between 10 and 2.  Around 1:45 we received a call from the driver to let us know that he’d be a little late.  Gotta love L.A. traffic.  I had to rush out the door to meet up with a friend, but luckily my husband didn’t have afternoon plans.  Besides, watching out the window for the truck kept my kids entertained for an extra few minutes.  I had intended to get pictures of my groceries to share, but by the time I got home everything had been put away.  I love my husband.  I can tell you that the produce was perfect and the refrigerated and frozen items arrived nice and cold.  The delivery driver was friendly and left us with an itemized receipt.  Of the 40+ items I ordered, only three were out of stock.

Overall, this was a positive experience.  One major downside to shopping online – you can’t use most of your manufacturer’s coupons.  (You can load some coupons from Cellfire, Shortcuts and P&G eSAVER to your Vons Club card.)  Being that I love my coupons, I’ll probably be sticking to my late night grocery runs for the most part.  However, when I’m pressed for time or can’t get out of the house, home delivery is a great option to have.  I wish I had taken advantage of it while I was on bedrest before my twins were born.

Ready to try Vons Home Delivery yourself?  From now until 9/30, you’ll receive $7 off your first order and FREE delivery when you use the coupon code “CHARMED” at checkout.  Note: Vons is a Safeway company, so you should be able to use the code there too!

Disclosure: I was provided with gift cards from DEI Worldwide on behalf of Vons to facilitate this review.  The opinions expressed here are all my own.