Category Archives: day trip

Take A Trip To Fairyland

Discoverying Mushrooms

Take a break from reality and checkout Fairyland. Catch a puppet show, find a rabbit hole and climb up the Jolly Roger.

Before Disneyland, there was Fairyland. Hidden in the middle of busy Oakland, this hidden gem is perfect for young kids. It offers a fun fantasy filled experience for tots and adults alike.

Founded in 1950 by Arthur Navlet, Fairyland has given generations of tots a fun place to develop their imaginations. From Pinocchio to Alice in Wonderland, Fairyland allows kids to interact with their favorite stories.

Moderately priced at $8 for adults and kids over 1 (under 1 are free), Fairyland is an affordable outing. Make sure to grab a key to the fairytale story boxes – $3 a key. Bobby loved holding and using the key to unlock the story boxes.

photo(2)Bobby and CJ recently experienced Fairyland. He loved running around the grounds, exploring miniature houses and riding the little train around the park.  They also loved sliding down the rabbit hole into a painted tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, they enjoyed the painted maze themed after the Queen of Hearts.  Then,we popped by to meet Peter Rabbit.

The music tunnel is pretty fabulous as well.  Both boys basically ran in circles, discovering instruments along the way.  The best part was getting to stand in the middle watching them run around.  Ahh, life as only one can experience in fairyland.

Fairyland has more than fairy themed play structures. It has puppet shows and guest appearances from characters like the Cat in the Hat. There are children’s theater performances from June to October.  We may catch the show about the dragons.  While the theater performances are less frequent, the puppet shoes run daily.  Who knew that a puppet show would mesmerize a two busy bustling boys? I sure didn’t.  They loved watching and listening to the story of the Elves & the Shoemaker.

Of course with so much active play, the kids might need some fuel. Fairyland does have a simple and moderately priced snack bar.  With PB&J, chicken burgers and turkey sandwiches on the menu, you’ll find something. I’d have to recommend the sandwiches over the burgers though. The chicken burger I ordered was breaded and fried, resembling a hockey puck. If you want to play it safe, you can bring your own lunch as Fairyland has a grassy picnic area.

After lunch, you can let your tots expel excess energy by running around the playgrounds.  Then pop back in the car and enjoy a quick drive back to the Valley or stay in the Oakland area and enjoy a myriad of things to do.  Berkeley Bowl is worth a stop.  With endless rows of fresh produce, it’s a great educational not to mention culinary experience for wee ones.  For other ideas check my article on Tilden Park .

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One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish — Go Fish

There comes a time in every young boy’s life when he wants to try to catch something.  Sometimes it’s a bug, other times it’s a leprechaun, but more recently my young boy, Bobby, has been talking about catching a fish. fish So, after much debate about what the first experience should be like whether it should be out at a pond, or part of a camping trip, my husband and I decided to take the easy option.  We went to a trout farm to go fishing.   A trout farm provides a pretty fool proof way of providing a successful first fishing experience.  In fact, it seems pretty impossible not to catch a fish.

So, off we went to Hagemann Ranch in Bodega Bay.   This place is worth the drive.  Boasting two ponds, docks and little nooks and crannies, it was perfect.  Add to that, the convenience of rentable fishing poles and license free fishing, it’s the ideal destination for first time fisherman (and parents too).

So, we rented three poles, bought some worms and were off to fish. As we walked down to the pond, I was a little skeptical and wondering how long it would take Bobby to catch a fish.  Within minutes, Bobby had picked a little spot near the water.   Daddy cast the line, it was game time.  But before I could even start thinking twice about how long it would take and before any other poles were baited up and cast, Bobby had caught a fish.  Squealing with joy, he danced up and down as he saw his prize.  His little brother, CJ, celebrated by pointing and grunting.  Success!

Then, it was time to cast again.  Cast after cast, Bobby caught fish after fish.  Within a half hour, he caught 5 fish.  I never thought I would hope the experience would take longer.  So, we packed up, and had them clean the fish.  On the way out, the boys enjoyed some gummy worms.  Bobby laughed as he pretended to be a fish eating the worms.  It could have been the sugar, who knows, but the little gummy worm fish dance was priceless.

With time to spare, we ventured into a neighboring town to grab some homemade ice cream at Screamin Mimi’s .  For you locals out there, this place is worth a stop.  From the festive decor to the mouthwatering treats, it’s a delight.  I highly recommend the Mimi’s Mud, which is coffee ice cream blended with fudge and cookie love.   Total bliss!

After loading up on sugar, we brought our fish home, stuffed them with rosemary and grilled them over charcoal.  Of course, we let Bobby relive his first “fish story” and tell us all about how he caught fish after fish after fish.  The perfect ending to a (nearly) perfect day.

Fishy Fun – San Francisco’s Aquariums

With cool days ahead, it’s a nice time to check out a new indoor venue.   Aquariums are always a hit with my boys.  Bobby loves looking for the scuba divers, and CJ likes watching the fish.  And, I (to be honest) like sitting down for a few minutes while both of my boys are completely entertained.  So, it’s a win win for all concerned. Image

There are two aquariums just a short drive away in San Francisco – Aquarium of the Bay and Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco.  Both are fabulous places to check out.

The Aquarium of the Bay boasts 3 floors of fishy fun.  It even has a touch pool for kids to get up close and meet some sea creatures.  But the most intriguing part of this magical wonderland are the tunnels.  With over 300 feet of crystal tunnels, kids get to feel like they’re swimming with the fishes (and scuba divers).  Bobby could have spent the day in the tunnels watching the sharks, rays and scuba divers (not to mention running around chasing his buddy).

Another amazing option is the Steinhart Aquarium at the Academy of Sciences!  Make sure to plan time to visit the coral reef, alligator and penguins!  Then, take a stroll across the water walk and watch the rays swim under your feet.  There’s a touch pool too that is fully equipped with a step for little ones to climb up so that they can check things out.  Bobby loved meeting the starfish.  CJ was a different story as he was happy splashing in the water.

Unsure where to go?  Well, let the weather be your guide.  If it’s wet out, then I’d opt for the Academy of Science which is a much larger facility.  You can spend the entire day enjoying the various exhibits and activities offered there.  If it’s dry and not too cold, then check out the Aquarium of the Bay.  Located in Fisherman’s Wharf, the location Imagealone offers tons of fun for kiddos.  Make sure to check out the outdoor playground and street performers!  You may even spot the bush man.

Meeting Reindeer at the SF Zoo

Looking for sometReindeer Romphing fun to do this holiday season?  Consider introducing your tot(s) to some of Santa’s reindeer.  They’re at the SF Zoo.  Just follow the red signs to their location.  Both of my boys loved watching the reindeer prance about.  In fact, we could have probably spent most of the day just observing the reindeer do their thing.

After visiting the reindeer, we stopped by to see the penguins.  Luckily for us it was feeding time which happens at 10:30am and again at 3:30pm.  Bobby laughed as the penguins lined up to be hand fed their breakfast.

We then strolled about for awhile checking out the zebras, monkeys and even the rhino.  Bobby though was most amused by the peacocks that were free ranging along the paths.

We ended up stopping for lunch right near the carousel, which proved to be a great way to encourage Bobby to enjoy some veggies. Of course after his lunch, he got to ride the carousel.  He picked out a pig to ride on and loved trying to figure out how the pig moved up and down.  I totally loved admiring the beauty of the carousel which is made out of wood and dates back to the 1920s.  Total perfection.

Of course a trip to the zoo would not be complete without stopping by the children’s petting zoo with goats, horses and ducks.  My boys loved petting the goats. I loved watching them. For older kids, there is a tack barn with creative activities like drawing for kids to enjoy.  My boys aren’t there yet, and were more into taking the mini tractors for a spin around the grounds.

Tips – If you can swing it, I highly recommend going on a weekday it is a much more relaxing experience. Avoid the first Wednesday of the month as it is the free day for SF residents. I also highly recommend bringing a picnic lunch as well as some extra layers.  Oh and kids 3 and under are free.  So enjoy!


Pumpkin Patch Roundup

Along with fall, comes pumpkin lattes, jack o lanterns and of course Halloween!  Halloween is such a fun holiday to prepare for with kiddos.  Of course there is one tradition that is a treat to kids and adults alike — finding that perfect pumpkin.  Sonoma County has many amazing pumpkin patches to visit.  From neighborhood patches to full blown farms, there is something out there for everyone.  Here are a few suggestions:

Adobe Pumpkin Farm, Old Adobe Road, Petaluma.  Driving into Petaluma from Sonoma, you’ll likely pass by Adobe Pumpkin Farm.  With rusty old tractors decorating the pumpkin patch, kids can have fun running from tractor to tractor.  After kids find the perfect pumpkin, then you can do other things like harvest veggies, taste some local goodies, or shop for holiday (even Christmas) goods.  If you plan your visit on a weekend, then you will benefit from additional kid friendly activities such as pony rides, face painting and jumpy houses.

Peter Pumpkin Patch, Petaluma, 4235 Spring Hill Rd., Petaluma.  This pumpkin patch is out by Spring Hill Cheese Co. (also known as Petaluma Creamery.)  Let kids explore the patch, go for a hay ride, dig potatoes, milk cows, and climb pyramids made from haybails.  Then, treat them to some organic ice cream while you try some of Spring Hill’s organic cheese.  Definitely a trip worth making!

Petaluma Pumpkin Patch – Right off of the 101 is another pumpkin patch – the Petaluma Pumpkin Patch.  This patch has a fun corn maze (and animals too!).  So, hurry up and pick your pumpkin, then get lost in the maze.

Petersons Pumpkin Patch, 636 Gossage Avenue, Petaluma – Pumpkins, animals and bees are on the agenda for those visiting Peterson’s Pumpkin Patch.  This farm is stacked with things for kids to do.  From a kid friendly exhibit on bees to feeding cows and watching chickens, this farm has lots to offer.

Stanly Lane is another local gem.  It has lots to offer in addition to pumpkins, including baby pigs!

Tolay Fall Festival has loads of fun on the menu.  Tractor rides, creatures barn, petting zoo, lawn games and crafts are a few of the things to do.  This festival has only select hours, so make sure to check the calendar before you go – available at

Tomales Bay – A Cool and Kidfriendly Seaside Adventure

Summer is here, and the weather is as well.  On these hot days, the local parks are a bit torturous to visit.  If you’re looking for a place to go, why not head to the beach.  There are many great beaches out there waiting to be enjoyed by little explorers. 

Last summer, I was in love with visiting Salmon Creek; this year, Tomales bay.  Without crashing waves, these beaches are ideal for tots.  Situated on a gentle bay, these beaches are completely kid friendly.   In fact, one of the beaches, Hearts Desire, even provides shade on sunny days.

Although a bit of a drive, Hearts Desire beach is well worth the trek.  With a parking lot steps away from the shore, it is a convenient option.  Bring $8 (cash or a check) for the parking fee.  There are decent bathrooms so pregnant moms and potty trained kids don’t have to worry about finding a restroom.  With BBQ pits and a grassy area, this beach offers space for group gatherings.

Ideal for explorers of all ages, the water at this beach is calm and shallow.  Young explorers can look for small crabs, seaweed and seashells!   Older explorers can walk to deeper water and swim out to a floating platform.

The sand, perfect for castle building, encourages tots to spend hours creating whatever their imaginations desire.   Last week Bobby and I used diggers to build a road for race cars.  We decorated it with flags made from seaweed and trees made from acorns. 

If your tot is a boat lover, then you are in luck.  Bobby has spotted sailboats, kayaks and canoes at this spot.

If your tot likes to roam, then check out one of the short hiking trails around the beach.

You can bring a picnic or grab goodies on your way.   Why not grab a bag of oysters at Tomales Bay Oyster Company? You can shuck them when you get to the beach. Prefer to grab a snack after your beach adventure?  Then, drop by Point Reyes Station.  There are a few darling kid friendly cafes to visit.  Consider stopping by Café Reyes home to a kid friendly patio.  Relax on the patio while enjoying fresh oysters and wood fired pizza.

Then enjoy a leisurely drive back home.  If you’re lucky, your little one(s) will snooze on the way.

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