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Archive for May, 2009

An Unforgettable Evening at the San Diego Zoo Elephant Odyssey

May 29th, 2009 by bsmith | 6 Comments | Filed in San Diego Adventures, San Diego Day Trips, San Diego Zoo, Special Events
My New Elephant Friend, San Diego Zoo

My New Elephant Friend, San Diego Zoo

Last Friday evening my family and I had the chance to attend the Elephant Odyssey VIP party at the San Diego Zoo on behalf of Family Adventure Guidebooks.  Justin, my oldest, loved being a VIP. He  showed everyone my badge announcing “We’re VIPs!” at every opportunity.  Very embarrassing!  We all had a great time.  The food was  delicious.  The kids got airbrush tattoos and rode home cuddling the soft woolly mammoths that we discovered in the elegant swag bags.  The kids also enjoyed some close animal encounters.
Destiny and Justin's Avian Adventure

Destiny and Justin's Avian Adventure

Destiny Meets a Marsupial

Destiny Meets a Marsupial

 

One of the most interesting parts of our visit was the opportunity to explore the Conrad Prebys Elephant Management Facility that is located in the center of the exhibit.  I have read that there has been some controversy about whether zoological institutions  can care for elephants in captivity, but I must say that this structure was pretty comprehensive.  The bottom was like a huge open air barn.  The elephants respond to their keeper’s call, and come in for check ups, husbandry, and training.  When the elephants are not in the care center, it is sealed off so visitors can get a closer look.  My four year old Jared and I enjoyed peeking into the laundry room and seeing the zoo keeper’s boots.

Another hi-light came as I went in search of the zoo’s PR person.  I walked back towards the entrance to the exhibit and came upon a tired preschooler running back and forth in front of the glass jaguar enclosure.  The playful jaguar on the other side of the glass joined his new found little friend in doing laps.  It was an amazing sight.  If you have the opportunity to make it to Night Zoo this summer, it is worth a visit.  Many of the animals were more active  and fun to watch as we prepared to leave the park.

San Diego Zoo Elephant Management Facility from a Distance

San Diego Zoo Elephant Management Facility from a Distance

 Even Zookeepers Need to do Laundry

Even Zookeepers Need to do Laundry

Even if a swag bag full of woolly mammoths and a picture frame made out of elephant poop is not in your future, I would highly recommend checking out the new exhibit.  When the Monterey Bay Aquarium first opened its emphasis on featuring the history and wildlife of the surrounding ecosystems was revolutionary.  The San Diego Zoo is taking a similar tact with this new exhibit.   The entrance to the exhibit teaches visitors about pre-historic San Diego.  Recently, fossilized skulls and bones of Columbian Mammoths were unearthed during a construction project in downtown San Diego.  The Elephant Odyssey  uses giant life-size statues of Columbian Mammoths and other prehistoric creatures to give visitors a sense of what San Diego life was like before humans.  These statues make for a great photo op. They can also cause a stir.  In the latest edition of Zoo Nooz, Rick Schwartz the Elephant Odyssey Ambassador noted that he got some strange looks as he escorted the models from Wisconson to San Diego.

Jenny Mehlow who works in media relations at the zoo recommends visiting the exhibit early in the day.  She also suggested riding the Skyfari Aerial Tram to get there.  I whole heartedly agree!   Here are some pictures of our own Skyfari adventure:

Waiting for the Skyfari Tram

Waiting for the Skyfari Tram

We Got the Elephant Tram.  How Cool is That?

We Got the Elephant Tram. How Cool is That?

View of Balboa Park from Skyfari Tram

View of Balboa Park from Skyfari Tram

Thanks to my good friend Deb at San Diego Momma for securing me an invitation to this spectacular event. Check out her fun take on the VIP party entitled This Post is Made With Real Poo .  Other San Diego Mom bloggers who did great posts about the event are Tonya, Mel, and Sondra.

I am including this post, albeit belatedly,  in my friend Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday Blog Roundup.  Funny, her post this week is also about a very big creature.  Stop by and check out wonderful photgraphs and writing from around the world.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

PS Please pray for my friend Deana.  She is having trouble getting enough white blood cells to receive a potentially life saving procedure.

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Mondays are for Dreaming: The Perfect Camping Trip

May 25th, 2009 by bsmith | 5 Comments | Filed in Mondays are for Dreaming, Scouting, Smith Family Misadventures

Ok, I screwed up.  I was trying to post a comment on the Mother of All Trip’s blog and ended up  entering the “Mondays are For Dreaming” blog round up instead.  Oh well, it gives me a chance to show off my cute kid pictures from this weekend.

I am dreaming of the perfect camping trip.  Somewhere far away and wooded.  It should include a lake  for canoeing and fishing, flush toilets and showers, a campsite and trails that allow dogs, lots of trails to explore, and plenty of boulders to climb on. 

 On this perfect trip I  would cook healthy gourmet meals and the whole family would eat them cheerfully.  The kids would entertain themselves effortlessly with twigs and dirt.  Someone would watch the other kids so I could go on stress free jaunts with each one individually.  Perhaps I would be able to squeeze in a solo sunrise hike.  I would have remembered everything including socks for each member of the family and tent poles!  Oh, and every kid would eagerly pose for pictures with a perfect smile.

OK, that’s my dream camping experience.  Now on to what happened this weekend:

Here’s what we ate:

destinys-healthy-dinner-smores-followed-by-pizza

Destiny's Healthy Dinner-S'mores Followed by Pizza

Destiny's Other Dinner Courtesy of a Mom Who Brought Healthy Food

Destiny's Other Dinner Courtesy of a Mom Who Brought Healthy Food

 Here’s where we slept:

I Forget the Tent Poles for the Big Tent So Mom and the Kids Squooshed into this Tent.  Dad Slept Outside Under the Stars.

One Small Tent for Five People

 (I forgot the tent poles so four of us squeezed into one small 3 man tent. Daddy slept under the stars.)

Here’s how much my son liked posing for pictures:
Justin's Grumpy Face

Justin's Grumpy Face

 Seriously,  we enjoyed our Mataguay adventure, and I look forward to sharing it’s beauty with you in a future Photo Friday Post.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Photo Friday: Where the Wild Things Are!

May 22nd, 2009 by bsmith | 11 Comments | Filed in Smith Family Adventures, Spring Adventures, theme parks

What adventures do the Smith Family have planned for this weekend?  I’ll give you some hints.

jared-camp-mataguay-2008

And

justin-cans-for-critters-san-diego-zoo

 

Here’s the Smith Family Itinerary for Memorial Day Weekend:

Friday Night

 Represent Family Adventure Guidebooks preview  event for the new Elephant Odyssey exhibit at the San Diego Zoo.  I’m so excited to be invited, and the best news is I get to bring the whole family!  I sure hope those preschoolers behave themselves.  My son is a little disappointed that we won’t be sleeping over at Mataguay on friday night, but I’m hoping that a close encounter with an exotic animal will cheer him up.  I’m also glad for an extra night in my own bed!

Saturday

We will leave for Cub Scout Camp Mataguay at the crack of dawn.  Mataguay is located near Julian in San Diego county.  We plan to get really dirty, canoe, fish, look for lady bugs, climb rocks, and just have a generally wonderful time. The kids will just generally run amok like wild animals from dawn until dusk.  Hope we will get some sleep after the campfire on Saturday night. 

My kids love Camp Mataguay.  Our trip last year was one of the best family adventures ever! The kids love the freedom of climbing on boulders, exploring new trails, and catching fish.  Here are some of my favorite pictures from our 2008 camping adventure.

On Top of the World, Mataguay 2008

On Top of the World, Mataguay 2008

Mugging on the Mountain, Mataguay 2008

Mugging on the Mountain, Mataguay 2008

Sunday

The big Boy Scouts and Venturers will make us a pancake breakfast.  We’ll  attend a sweet ecumenical morning prayer service.  I hope that Jutin can squeeze in a little more fishing and fun before heading home.

Thanks for Bringing Us Mom!  Mataguay, 2008

Thanks for Bringing Us Mom! Mataguay, 2008

If you have a chance stop by Delicious Baby and see more great Photo Friday posts.  May your weekend be filled with family adventures.
Let the wild rumpus begin!
Happy Trails,
Bridget
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Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Theme Park Membership Has Its Privileges

May 19th, 2009 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Disneyland, Family Travel, Legoland, San Diego Day Trips, Sea World, theme parks, Travel Discounts
Jared Makes A Camel Friend, Legoland California

Jared Makes A Camel Friend, Legoland California

If you are thinking about purchasing a theme park pass, be sure to investigate the extra benefits and privileges that the theme park may offer passholders.  Although these vary from park to park, many times these extras will almost pay for your entire membership.

Since my two youngest were born less than a year apart, our family has become experts at the “staycation”.  Traveling far from home with two preschoolers seems a bit too crazy for us at this point.  Our location here in Carlsbad gives us many options for family fun.  Visiting theme parks and zoos is one of the things that we enjoy doing together as a family.  In the past three years we have held passes for the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, Legoland, and Disneyland.

Legoland

If you live in Southern California or visit frequently throughout the year, a Legoland membership offers many opportunities for family adventure.  In addition to the great special events and members only activities that Legoland holds throughout the year,  Legoland offers excellent deals and discounts to its members.  Twice a year, members receive coupons for free entrance with a passholder.  This gives your family opportunities to bring friends and grandparents along to enjoy a Legoland adventure.  Also, if there is a Dad or teenager in your family who won’t be making it to Legoland very often this can be a great way to bring them along to enjoy the fun.

Legoland pass holders also receive free entrance to The Wave in Vista and Wild Rivers in Irvine.  In addition to the regular member dining and shopping discounts, Legoland’s quarterly newsletters contain coupons for additional savings.  This month I have a $10 voucher for the Ocean Journey Cafe, a free bucket of water balloons at the Raptor Splash, and other discount coupons.

Members benefit from Legoland’s efforts to promote the new Sea Life Aquarium.  Legoland is continuing to offer special visitor rates to Legoland members and friends and family.  Come enjoy the aquarium for as little as $5 per person!  Note that a coupon is required.  The curent coupon says that it expires 5/31/09, but keep checking the site.  So far they have extended this offer several times.

The Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook  will help your choose the combination of  memberships that will save you money and work for your family.

Disneyland

When we were planning a three day trip to Disneyland, I decided to investigate the price of membership.  I knew that we wouldn’t be visiting too often, but since we live only an hour away a few return visits would be fun.  After doing my research I decided that the Southern California Select passes offered the best value four our budget.  Unlike Legoland, non premium Disney Passholders do not receive many benefits.  However, they do receive some limited dining discounts in the parks and shopping discounts at Downtown Disney.  Still, with prices that can be less than a multi-day visit, an annual Disneyland pass is worth considering.

San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park

Membership at these attractions is extremely affordable.  (Kids passes are only $2 more than the one day Best Value Ticket).  Adult members receive two free guest passes which come in handy for out of town guests.  Pass holders also receive free admission to the Journey into Africa Tour at the Wild Animal Park…this is a must see!   In addition, they receive unlimited Skyfari aerial tram rides at the zoo.  These are important since, kids have to do alot of walking at the San Diego Zoo.  Membership covers both attractions so your family has plenty to explore.

Members also receive a monthly zoo magazine that contains interesting articles about the animals and great coupons including more free admission tickets for passholder guests.   All pass members also receive discounts on Wild Animal Park parking.

Sea World San Diego

We have had the opportunities to obtain discounted entrance to Sea World with our preschool, so I haven’t gone the pass route yet.  I am dreaming of an  Unauthorized Sea World Guidebook some day, so we may be getting passes next summer. 

In the mean time, be aware that Sea World offers the Fun Card which is a great deal.  You get a pass good for admission throughout the entire calendar year for the price of a single admission.

Parking

Make sure you factor the price of parking into your membership decisions.  Sometimes it pays to buy a more premium membership for at least one member of your family in order to get free parking.  Be sure to investigate whether the person needs to be the driver or just in the car.  Premium child memberships are often cheaper and  also offer free parking.

If you don’t live in Southern California, I encourage you to research theme park memberships in your area.  You may just discover the ticket to a whole year of family fun.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

 

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Free Sea Life Aquarium Ticket!!!

May 15th, 2009 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Legoland, theme parks, Travel Discounts

The Sea Life Aquarium is sponsoring an E-Waste recycling event.  If you bring your old TV, DVD player, cd player, computer, cell phone etc. to the Legoland back gate between 8am and noon on Saturday May 16th.  This event is sponsored by Recycle San Diego and I Love a Clean San Diego.

I’ll be heading to the Sea Life Aquarium next week with one of my mommy blogger friends so I could really use a ticket.  I plan to pack up my old electronics and head over.  See you there!

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Photo Friday: Shark Tank Pool (Golden Nugget, Las Vegas)

May 15th, 2009 by bsmith | 8 Comments | Filed in Family Travel, Las Vegas Adventures, Road Trips
The Smith Boys Enjoy The Shark Tank Pool, Golden Nugget, Las Vegas

The Smith Boys Enjoy The Shark Tank Pool, Golden Nugget, Las Vegas

Las Vegas is know for its amazing pools.  I’ve only had a chance to see and/or experience about four of them.  From what I’ve seen so far ,The Golden Nugget should definately be on your must stay list if you value a fun, kid friendly pool. 

 

Destiny Gets Splashing at the Golden Nugget Pool, Las Vegas

Destiny Gets Splashing at the Golden Nugget Pool, Las Vegas

This lovely pool is completely shallow all the away around.  It encircles a giant fish tank filled with large colorful fish and even a few sharks.  A highlight for the adults and older kids is a water slide that passes directly through the tank.  It is transparent in the part that goes through.  I found myself going so fast that it was hard to see.  My ten year old managed to slow down enough to look around and even make funny faces as he went down.  There is a height requirement for the waterslide.  Also, your little one must be a good enough swimmer to exit the pool by his or her self after they splash down.

Ken Reacts to the Golden Nugget Waterslide

Ken Reacts to the Golden Nugget Waterslide

Other great ammenities in the pool area are: pool lounge chairs to cool off on a hot Las Vegas day, lots of comfy cushioned lounge chairs to hang out on, and a hot tub that is shaped like a flower.  Your family can hunker down in one petal while the couple on their honeymoon can hide out in the other. 

One thing to be aware  of  is that this pool can get busy.  During the day it was very crowed and difficult to find a lounge chair for our stuff.   Justin got tired of waiting  in line for the water slide.  When we visited early evening it was almost deserted.   We enjoyed our “private pool”. 

 I purchased life jackets for Jared and Destiny that they wore throughout their Golden Nugget  pool adventure. The jackets gave me piece of mind and gave my preschoolers the freedom to explore  the shallow water.

Jareds Ready For a Swim at The Golden Nugget Pool, Las Vegas

Jared is Ready For a Swim at The Golden Nugget Pool, Las Vegas

Congratulations to my friend Debbie at  Delicious Baby who just had her third baby.  She is so organized that she managed to get her Photo Friday Travel Blog Roundup up the day after she gave birth.  Reward her efforts by checking out great the great travel photos from bloggers around the world.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Join the Club!

May 12th, 2009 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Travel Discounts, Travel Tips

A few years ago, we took a fabulous Florida Vacation while my husband attended a conference.  We had the opportunity to stay at the Tampa Mariott Waterside Marina and Luxury Hotel.  We had so much fun staying at this Mariott ,  Ken joined their rewards program.  (By the way, if you ever stay there,  the Cafe Waterside had a delicious oatmeal creme brulee with fresh berries. I’ve never tasted anything like it. It was one of the least expensive items on the menu, and I had it for breakfast every day during my stay.)

Whenever Ken travels on business he tries to stay at a Marriott.  This works out well, because although Mariott has beautiful luxury hotels like the one in Tampa, it also offers more affordable options for the budget business traveler.  When traveling with the family we prefer properties that offer suites like The Fairfield Inn, The Residence Inn, Towne Place Suites, and Springhill Suites.  The small kitchens, continental breakfast, and other ammenities really come in handy when traveling with the kids.  Since we are rewards members we also earn free hotel stays.  If you pick an out of the way location those points can really go a long way.  On our recent visit to Seattle, my husband and I stayed at the Towne Place Suites in the picturesque town of Mukilteo, Washington.  It was a drive into the city, but the property was very close to the water.  It had an extensive continental breakfast, a basketball court, umbrellas in case of rain, as well as the usual pool and workout room.  You could even rent a fish to keep you company during your stay!  Ken and I used reward points to stay all three nights!  Without the free room our Seattle adventure would have been much shorter.

Sign up for the Mariott Rewards Program or choose the hotel chain that your family uses the most and sign up for their loyalty program.  With any luck you can enjoy a few extra affordable family adventures with your free hotel stay.

Our Seattle trip also showed us how important it is to  be enrolled in those car rental preferred member rewards clubs, and to keep your info updated.  Ken thought he had a membership with Dollar Rental Car, but his membership was so outdated they had changed the name of the club and he was no longer in the computer!  We waited about 20 minutes to get to the front desk, just to do the paperwork for our rental.   Then it was off to an off-site building to wait again to pick up the car.  If the kids had been with us it would have  been torture!  Dollar Rental Car had rock bottom prices, but the service was slow.  Here’s the link to sign up for their Dollar Express program.  Do it now and save yourself some rental car hassle.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Adventures in Motherhood

May 9th, 2009 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Smith Family Adventures, Traveling with the Dog
Smith Family's First Yosemite Adventure

Smith Family's First Yosemite Adventure

My journey to motherhood, was not a flat country road.  It was more like the treacherous path up to a Yosemite waterfall.  Justin was conceived without much effort, but as the years passed no little brothers or sisters followed. 

Deep down we knew that God had a plan for our family. After much reflection Ken and I decided to start the adoption process.  Four months after we completed our home study, we found ourselves the parents of a beautiful baby girl. 

Since the process was unexpectedly quick,   a newborn Destiny enjoyed several adventures that had been planned before she joined our family.  When Destiny was just a few weeks old, we headed up to the Bear Valley to go skiing and sledding with friends.  The grownups took turns staying home to cuddle the baby while the others hit the slopes.

 A few months later, the Smith Family headed to Disneyland.   By the Disneyland trip, I had discovered that I was pregnant with Jared.  It was before my first ultrasound, however, so we didn’t tell Ken’s family.  I hid out in my room at my brother and sister in law’s house and snuck crackers to keep the morning sickness at bay.

That spring we joined my brother and sister in law  and their friends for a camping trip to Yosemite.  It was quite a time. Several families had multiple little ones.   My brother in law got the brillant idea to hike up to Vernal Falls.  Most of the adults were carrying babies on their backs.  Justin, age 5 was doing an amazing job hiking on his own.  I was several months pregnant and trying to keep up with the steep climb.  By the time we reached Vernal Falls, I was absolutely exhausted.  At the top, I decided to fess up about my pregnancy.  I wanted to make sure that my brother in law didn’t make us climb any higher! I think that this was the first time Justin learned he was having a new sibling.  We didn’t want him to share the secret before we were ready. The climb down was a bit of a nightmare. We got very lost.

As you look at the picture above, note that there are actually five people plus one crazy puppy.  We were all having a wonderful time!

Like all best stories, this one continued to be filled with suspense.  After I returned from Yosemite,  an ultrasound suggested  that the baby was not a baby, but rather a molar pregnancy.  A few weeks later, as the doctor prepared to perform an operation to resolve this issue, she discovered that I was indeed pregnant.  Apparently that was the moment Dr. Muir started believing in a higher power!   Six months later our third little adventurer was born.

I share this story with you to remind you that motherhood is an adventure. It is filled with tears, laughter, surprises…and yes even miracles.  Enjoy every minute of it! 

Our Happy Ending!

Our Happy Ending!

Happy Trails,

Bridget

PS  Hugs and prayers going out to my friend Deana who is fighting Burkitt’s Lymphoma.  Please join me in praying that next  Mother’s Day will be all about breakfast in bed with her boyz.

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Photo Friday:Butchart in Bloom (Victoria, BC)

May 7th, 2009 by bsmith | 8 Comments | Filed in Business Travel, Canada Adventures, Spring Adventures
A Sunken Garden Peek, Butchart Gardens Victoria BC

A Sunken Garden Peek, Butchart Gardens Victoria BC

I just got back from an amazing trip to the Pacific Northwest.  We were in Seattle on business and my husband surprised me with a getaway to Victoria, BC.  What an enchanting place!  Lots to blog and brag about later. For now it’s late Thursday night, my kids will be  up early.  I’ll let a few of my photos speak for themselves.  Enjoy!

My Favorite Flower, The Forget Me Not Was Scattered Throughout the Garden

My Favorite Flower, The Forget Me Not Was Scattered Throughout the Garden

Happy Trails, Butchart Gardens, Victoria BC

Happy Trails, Butchart Gardens, Victoria BC

For more great travel photos check out the Photo Friday Travel Blog Roundup @ Delicious Baby .

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Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Snacks to Pack for Theme Park Adventures

May 4th, 2009 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Legoland, theme parks, Travel Tips

Many theme parks like  Disneyland let you bring your own food into the park.   Others request that you don’t bring food, but do not search your bag or otherwise stop you from bring food into the park.  Bring lunch or a few snacks can be crucial in order to keep costs low and ensure that you have something that a picky kidd will eat..  So go ahead and pack a backpack or insulated lunch box when you’re getting ready for a  theme park visit.

 Here are some of my favorite lunch items and snacks to pack for your day at the themepark.  I don’t necessarily limit my kids to healthy food on our visits.  To me, a day at a theme park is a time to indulge a little and it prevents my kids from constantly begging for treats:

  • Fruit Leather (These are great to slip in your pocket when you aren’t bringing a backpack or stroller)
  • A can of squeezie cheese and crackers (Easy to carry, fun, and doesn’t spoil)
  • Salami alone or with crackers
  • Apples
  • Home made cookies (Pack these in a container so they don’t crumble.  I’ve learned the hard way)
  • String Cheese
  • Water Bottles
  • Water or juice pouches (These are not welcome at zoos and other places that have animals due to the straws.)
  • Strawberries or melon slices in a container.
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Carrot or celery sticks
  • Grapes
  • Nuts like peanuts or pistachios
  • Chips
  • Pretzels
  • Orange Slices

What are your favorite foods for a theme park picnic?

Happy Trails,

Bridget

P.S. Thanks to Stacey at San Diego Bargain Mama for featuring The Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook in her Made for Moms section.  If you live in the San Diego be sure to check out her blog for the latest bargains.

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