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Archive for February, 2009

Scouting Adventures at San Diego’s Fleet Science Museum

February 24th, 2009 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in San Diego Day Trips, Scouting
Justin whispers to a friend

Justin whispers to a friend

My husband and I are reluctant cub scout leaders.  Ken travels for business ALOT, and I try to juggle my responsibilities as the informal assistant leader for Justin’s den in addition to my role as business owner, mother of preschoolers…you get the picture.  We serve our den as best we can, but we are blessed with alot of parent support.

As we entered into a busy year of Webelos this year, we called upon the parents to each help the den complete on badge activity.  The results have been spectacular and the source of some great family adventures.  So far the boys have toured a working construction site, City Hall, and the Gemological Institute of America.  In order to earn our Science badge, Den 7 headed to the Fleet Science Museum last weekend.  They present a wonderful comprehensive science badge workshop with fun hands on activities.  It was lead by a spirited young graduate student.  The boys did an amazing array of very simple experiments to learn more about the scientific laws discussed in the Boy Scout book.  The boys blew ping pong balls with straws and launched film cannister rockets.  The day reminded me of just how fun science can be, and how sad it is that this kind of interactive science seldom seems to make it into the public school classroom.

Other information about the Fleet Science Museum:

The Cafeteria food is overpriced like most tourist destinations, but at least it is high quality and yummy.  They have a wide variety of kid friendly choices including hot dogs and cereal.  Justin ordered a Greek salad and a hot dog.  That’s my boy :) .  I had the Tortellini salad.  With drinks lunch was about $17.

If you pack your own lunch or snack, you can’t eat it in the museum, but there is a beautiful plaza with a fountain right outside.

The museum is small, with some very fun hands on exhibits.  Plan to spend about 2-3 hours exploring.  Is it worth full admission?  That’s a hard one.  You might want to try to visit on a free Tuesday or combine your visit with an IMAX show.


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Solo Theme Park Adventures

February 19th, 2009 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Legoland, theme parks, Travel Tips
Jared became a big Pluto Fan on this Visit to Disneyland

Jared became a big Pluto Fan on this Visit to Disneyland

The idea for the Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook came from a series of Legoland visits with three kids and no husband.  Ken works very hard and is also not the biggest fan of themeparks without humongous rollercoasters.  In order to make the most of our Legoland membership, more often than not, I needed to go it alone.  This situation created some limitations.  Several rides at Legoland, had a one adult per child rule, so my preschooler could not ride with my nine year old.  Even bathroom runs take a bit more planning without an extra adult along. 

Since then I’ve also tackled Disneyland, Seaworld, and the zoo on my own.  Each trip  presented some challenges, but also offered plenty of fun.

I  discovered that knowing the park and planning ahead made a huge difference in our Legoland adventures.  Here are a few tips to make your solo theme park visit a little easier.

  • Plan ahead.  Know the age and height restrictions for the various rides.  Try to have some rides and attractions in mind that the whole family will enjoy.  My book, The Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook includes pull out sections that give detailed ride suggestions for every age group.  There are many great web resources for other themeparks.  If you do some digging, theme park websites also have this information.
  • Prep your kids.  When I am going solo, I make sure that my nine year old knows that there will be some activities that we won’t be able to enjoy due to our parent kid ratio.  I make sure that everyone knows that the goal for this trip is to have fun as a family.  I try to have a future “Mom date” visit planned, so Justin can look forward to enjoying a few more thrills at some point.
  • Take a picture of your kids using your digital camera before entering the park.  That way if they get lost, you have an up to date picture to share with the theme park staff.
  • Have a family motto.  Ours is “The Smith Family Stays Together” .  This is our travel mantra.  We repeat it often throughout the day.
  • Enlist your older children’s help in keeping an eye on the little guys.
  • Bring a stroller.  It’s a great place to store your stuff and make a quick exit during that end of the day tantrum.
  • Bring a friend if possible.  A theme park is actually a great place to have a playdate, and you can switch kids, if your family is like mine half timid/half brave.
  • Bring a big kid buddy.  Believe or not some of my most fun adventures came with bringing four kids to Legoland.  Since Justin had a buddy he could ride some of the big kid rides, and both boys were helpful in wrangling the little ones.
  • Pack lots of snacks.  You never know when a break or a bribe will come in handy.

Most of all, be brave. Go solo.  Don’t miss out on fun family adventures just because you are outnumbered.  The day won’t be perfect, but the kids will bring home some funny stories, you will have some cute pictures, and everyone will sleep well after all that adventure!


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Valentine’s Day Discount for the Sea Life Aquarium

February 14th, 2009 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Uncategorized

Sorry this is so late, but it just arrived in my inbox yesterday, and I was at Disneyland.  The Sealife Aquarium in Carlsbad California is offering free child admission for each paying adult today.  They also have a fun craft making valentine’s on recycled paper and plenty of fun facts about how the sea-life “love” each other (sounds rated G…don’t worry).  Kids can also leave love notes for their favorite sea creature. 

Kudos to the Sea Life for providing some affordable family fun and promoting literacy at the same time!  While you’re visiting stop by Legoland California.  Looks like today would be a great day for it.  There has been a break in the storm.


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Rainy Adventures at Legoland, Disneyland, and San Diego Museums

February 12th, 2009 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Legoland, theme parks

The four day weekend looms ahead for many parents.  Here in San Diego there is rain in the forecast.  Not good news for the Mom of three active kids.  We will probably spend alot of time at home at play,  but will also make some time for adventure.

Tommorrow I will be using our Southern California pass to take Jared and Justin to Disneyland. (Destiny has opted to stay with Grandma.)  It may be sprinkling a bit, but we’ll be putting on our rain clothes, packing a lunch, and braving the sprinkles.  Justin and I headed to Disneyland on a rainy day last month for semester break.  I learned a few things: it pays to come prepared (rain ponchos are $8),  make sure you hit the rides as soon as the rain clears, and expect some of the rides and activities to be closed.  If you willing to be soggy,  a rainy day at Disneyland is less crowded fun.

Legoland can also be a source of rainy day adventure.  If you venture out, go left as you enter the park.  You can enjoy the Build and Test, manipulate, a mindstorm, or try out the latest Lego video game.  The Duplo building area is a fun place to wait out a storm with the little ones.  You can also catch the latest Lego musical or a 3-D movie.  See my guidebook for more Legoland rainy day ideas.

Another item on my “may do” list is head to a San Diego Museum.  It’s museum month here in San Diego.  Stop by your local Macy’s and pick up a San Diego Museum good for half off admission to many local museums.  I’m hoping to get to the Children’s Museum by the end of the month.  Check out the museum month website for more information


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Disneyland Destroys Small World and SD Zoo Bans Food for Hungry Toddlers

February 5th, 2009 by bsmith | 5 Comments | Filed in theme parks, Uncategorized

Sorry for the headline.  I am feeling a little bit melodramatic today!  I have decided to blog less to concentrate on my business ventures for a while, but couldn’t stay silent about two articles I read today in the Union Tribune.  As a mom, Small World Fan, and theme park lover I had to weigh in on thse important changes to two of my favorite attractions.

Apparently the “renovation” of the Small World ride has resulted in its “Disneyfication”.  Disney characters  (think, Arial, Stitch, and Alladin) can now be found strategically placed throughout the Small World ride.  The music has even been altered to reflect Disney movie soundtracks.  Some may consider me a “Disneyland Purist” who is behind the times, but this is completely unacceptable.  The Small World Ride was a beautiful albeit stereotypical celebration of all the world’s cultures.  It seems disrespectful to alter it by injecting the Disney brand through what essentially amounts to “product placement.”  It was a fantastical version of reality-everyone happy and harmonious, and that is what I loved about it.  It makes me cry every time I sail through.  Disney claims that is implementing these steps to appeal to a broader demographic.  I would say that the ride is packed every time we go, and it attracts riders with its history and charm.  What makes Disneyland special is that some of the best “historic” rides have stayed the same.  What’s next, Tarzan visits the Tiki Lounge?

Further south ,the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park has banned outside food.  This is not a new concept, most themeparks have a policy in place.  It will remain to be seen who strictly it will be enforced.  So far I haven’t found a theme park that make you throw away outside food as you enter.  I had heard Disneyland once had stricter policies, but now they do not stop you from bringing a picnic.  Legoland seems to be the same way, thank goodness.  I’ve heard that Sea World is also somewhat lax about this.  The Zoo folks said that people’s coolers were getting in the way during busy summer months.  If so I think it would be more prudent to ban coolers.  In this economy you are not going to get many new passholders if you don’t let them bring their own food.  Most of us can not afford to spend $30 or more to feed our family every time we head to the zoo.

I was considering purchasing a zoo membership this year, but am now rethinking this.  Zoo food is yucky and overpriced.  We will not be visiting  very often if we can’t pack a few snacks to keep the grouchies away.  A picnic area outside works for the big folks, but we all know those preschoolers need to eat, when they need to eat.  They’re not always up to a trek out the gate.

On a more postive note,  a Harlem Globe Trotter will be visiting Legoland on February 6th between 4 and 5 pm.  Hopefully he will show off some moves.  Legoland Members get discounts to the Harlem Globe Trotters Show here in San Diego as well as to the Wild Ocean IMAX Movie at the Ruben Fleet Science Museum.    I love Legoland’s cross promotions, don’t you?

Well so long for a while my friends.  I’ll miss you and try to start up again as soon as I can.

Happy Trails,


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