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Archive for October, 2010

Photo Friday: Suffragette Parade at Wilder Ranch State Park, California

October 28th, 2010 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in California State Parks, Photo Friday, Santa Cruz County Adventures

Suffragettes at Fourth of July Parade, Wilder Ranch State Historic Park

One of the things I love about state and national historic parks is that they serve as a tangible reminder of our nations colorful and sometimes bitter history.  I also appreciate the many dedicated rangers and docents who make history come alive for their visitors.  In 2009, I was lucky to attend a Fourth of July Celebration at Wilder Ranch State Historic Park  in Santa Cruz, California.  A group of dedicated volunteers ranging  from high school students to retired teachers made history come alive for their visitors at this annual event.

One of the highlights that will always stay with me was a Fourth of July Parade led by a group of suffragettes whose ages ranged from 6-69.  Their presence was a poignant reminder of the reality that when my grandmothers were youngsters in 1909, women could not vote.  The struggles of these brave suffragettes, their hunger for the vote, makes our freedom to choose our elected officials at the ballot box possible.  Because of their sacrifice, voting is a responsibility that I take very seriously.   I expect those running for public office to do the same.

This election day all California voters have the ability to go to the polls and to vote for Proposition 21 which will  keep state parks like Wilder Ranch open.  The passage of this proposition would secure the future of the  California’s state parks and give all Californians with registered vehicles the opportunity to explore California’s great historic parks.

Thanks Ladies!

This weekend take a minute to honor these dedicated State Park volunteers by sharing the news about Prop 21 with your friends and family.  Blog about it, retweet it, post info on Facebook.  Together we can make a difference.

Happy Trails,


P.S.  Coleen Lanin of Travel Mamas has a nice post up about two state parks that I really must visit, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Torrey Pines State Park.  Pay her a visit to find out about her adventures in two very different parts of California.

P.P.S.  Thanks to Debbie at Delicious Baby.  She doesn’t even live in California, but she has dedicated her Photo Friday blog round up to state parks posts this week.  I love the pictures that are up so far. They reflect the diversity of California’s State Park system. Debbie’s Photo Fridays are a great way to share your favorite travel pictures with the world.  If you blog, stop by and add a post and photo about your favorite state park today.


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Camping Solo With Kids: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, California

October 28th, 2010 by bsmith | 5 Comments | Filed in California State Parks, Family Adventure Guidebooks, Outdoor Adventures, Santa Cruz County Adventures, Smith Family Adventures, Spotlight Thursday

Hot Dog Roasters, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

 I did not grow up in a family of campers, but I have always loved the outdoors.  Lucky for me my parents found a way that I could enjoy camping while they stayed in the comfort of their own beds.  I spent my summers on YMCA campouts led by caring enthusiastic volunteers who loved to camp.  These adventures were  my first introduction to camping in California’s diverse state parks.  I had the chance to visit Bodie State Historic Park and Emerald Bay State Park in Lake Tahoe.  I rode horses, went river rafting, and even houseboated down the Sacramento Delta.  On each of these adventures I learned a few new colorful swear words from my peers (sorry that I briefly brought them home,  Mom and Dad).  Much more importantly my experiences with the YMCA inspired my love of travel, my appreciation of the natural world,  and my devotion to environmental advocacy.  Trying adventure sports like waterskiing and river rafting increased my confidence as I mastered new tasks that were hard.  These adventures also deepened my spirtuality.  The  first time I concretely felt the presence of God was sitting on a boulder watching the sunrise during a YMCA camp out.

As a mom I want to give my kids the gift of  similiar experiences.  I know that time spent in the outdoors will help them to learn and grow in ways that I will never truly understand.  I want them to learn how to be self sufficient, to set up their own tents and cook their own food.  Even though it is uncomfortable and exhausting for us to sleep together tucked in a single tent, I want them to have that experience as well.  Frankly, I want them to be able to sleep anywhere under any conditions so that some day they can travel the world learning about other cultures points of view without always staying in the most comfortable American based hotels.

In theory, this is what I want for my family.  In practice camping can be very tough, especially with a little one who thrives on routine and enjoys  the unique smell of his own mattress as he lulls himself to sleep.  That’s how I found myself in a tent in  the middle of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Parkwith two wailing children wondering if my commitment to giving my kids camping experiences was worth it.  At the time I had my doubts, but with the benefit of hindsight it was worth every moment of adversity.  Here are a few of the high points of camping alone with kids:

Hiker Boys, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Justin, my  oldest showed off the amazing skills he has gained through his involvement with Boy Scouts.  He lit all the campfires and set up our tent.  He loaded up a heavy backpack and headed out on a hike.  He was a shoulder to cry on when things got tough.

Destiny and Friend ,Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

We spent our first night camping with my amazing friend Joellen and her two kids.  It was the first camping experience for the three of them.  My kids had so much fun sharing their wealth of camping knowledge.

Destiny and Friend, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

The boys roasted hot dogs and the girls cuddled with their stuffed animals in the tent.

I had the chance to see that  Gabriel, Justin’s best friend from kindergarten had grown into a young man. The two boys headed off for a hike in the redwoods with Gabriel’s dad. Gabriel’s mom helped keep Destiny entertained as I talked Jared down from a post nap tantrum.

A Tired Jared at the End of His Hike, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Joellen and I took a long “big kid hike” with one four year old, two five year olds, one six year old, and one eleven year old.  We survived thanks to walking sticks, snacks, and a sense of humor.

Will I go again?  You bet!  Joellen and I are already planning a campout for summer 2011 and we are inviting more friends to join us.  But here’s a thing, with the budget chaos here in California local state parks like Henry Cowell may not be open for camping adventures in 2011.  If you live in California you can make a difference by voting yes on Proposition 21.  Not only will you keep state park campgrounds open for camping adventures, you will also get unlimited day use parking at most Calfornia State Parks.  Now that’s a travel bargain!

Family Adventure Guidebooks is so excited to be participating in the Trekaroo Spotlight Thursday Blog Roundup, Save Our State Parks edition.  Please support my fellow travel bloggers by paying them a visit or even adding an account of your own state park adventures.  Most importantly tell your friends about proposition 21 so all of our kids can enjoy camping in California State Parks.

Happy Trails,


P.S.  My friend at Go Explore Nature has a great post up about birdwatching at Malibu Lagoon State Park.  I also loved Pit Stops for Kids post on Jedidah Redwoods State Park.  Can’t wait to explore both these great state parks with my family!


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Wordless Wednesday: Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz California

October 26th, 2010 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in California State Parks, Santa Cruz County Adventures, Uncategorized, Wordless Wednesday

The Natural Bridge at Natural Bridges State Beach (Others were washed away by erosion)

A day with friends at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz, California:

Chilly Summer Picnic, Natural Bridges State Beach

Justin's Kelp Flag, Natural Bridges State Beach

Watching the Waves, Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz

 Happy Trails!


P.S. Check out Travel Savvy Mom’s post on saving California’s State Parks


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Family Adventure Guidebooks on You Tube: Save our State Parks, Yes on Prop 21

October 25th, 2010 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in California State Parks, San Diego Beaches, San Diego Family Travel, San Diego State Parks

Last year I tried my hand at amateur film making in support of our state parks.  Check out my cute family at South Carlsbad State Beach!

Check out some great posts about the California State Parks by one of my favorite bloggers Sharlene  of Double the Adventure.

Happy Trails,



Mondays are for Dreaming: A California State Park Roadtrip

October 25th, 2010 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in California State Parks, Mondays are for Dreaming

I think that most family travel bloggers have a bucket list.  Vacations that they dream of taking with their kids, but haven’t yet attempted.  Perhaps the trip is too expensive or their kids are too young for such adventures.  My bucket list is long and varied.  I like to dream big, but our family has precious little vacation time, and ironically at least some of my kids aren’t great travelers.  The long and/or multiple destination road trip is pretty much unattainable. 

When I heard last summer that many of the California State Parks would be closing, my heart fell.  One of my big dreams is spending a few weeks exploring state parks and camping along the way.  Here in California we are blessed with a breathtaking assortment of ecosystems and our parks reflect that.  Kids can see wild flowers bloom in the Anzo Borrego State Park desert, collect shells at State Beaches like Ponto, and hike up in the high Sierras at Donner Memorial State Park.  I want my kids to  experience it all, but at the moment we are not up for such an ambitious adventure.  (Something which was driven home  as we all sat sobbing in a tent at Henry Cowell State park this summer) Well, for the record, Justin my oldest wasn’t sobbing ;) .

Frankly ,our state park adventures need to happen in the form of shorter manageable outings.  These may need to involve a pop up trailer that gives us a home base to return to after we venture  out so my youngest has the routine he craves.

In any case, in order for my Monday dream of more California State Park adventures to come true, those parks need to stay open!  Please spread the word about California State Proposition 21 which would keep the parks open and give all Californians access to one of the most precious treasures our state has to offer. 

Family Adventure Guidebooks is happy to join Mother of All Trips for her Mondays are for Dreaming blog roundup.  Why not share some of your state park dreams today?

Happy Trails,



State Park Sunday: Bloggers Rally in Support of Proposition 21

October 24th, 2010 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in State Park Sundays

State Parks Supporters, Wilder Ranch SP Fourth of July Celebration

The above photo was taken at one of the best Fourth of July celebrations I ever attended.  Every year volunteers at Wilder Ranch State Park put on an amazing old fashioned turn of the century Fourth of July party.  Kids can do vintage crafts, the Declaration of Independence is read, and you can even try some hand cranked ice cream!  This 2009 Fourth of July Celebration was particularly poignant since at that time Wilder Ranch was one of many California State Parks scheduled to be closed due to California’s budget crisis. 

 In 2010 I spent the Fourth of July at a Padres Game.  The game had gone into extra innings and things were looking grim for our Padres. Suddenly the announcer shouted Rally Time!  The crowd went wild, cheering , hooting, and stomping their feet.  Bouyed by the crowds enthusiasm the Padres rose to the challenge and won their game.

As I write this the state parks are limping along.  Most remain open with a skeleton crew. Crime is up due to decreased ranger supervision and bathrooms at some parks are closed because they can’t afford anyone to clean them.  As California still struggles with budget woes every cycle brings new threats of closure.  Last year a major corporation withdrew a publicity campaign in conjunction with the state parks because they weren’t even sure that the state parks they were trying to help could remain open!

It’s rally time for State Parks throughout California .  On Tuesday November 2nd, California voters will have chance to save the state parks and get something of real value at the same time.  If Proposition 21 passes ,California drivers will pay an $18 vehicle registration fee and receive in return unlimited day use admission to California State Parks.  As I see it, everyone wins. All  Californians get  access to their local state parks.  This means more trips to the beach, more hikes to scenic outlooks,  and more chances to learn about California History at a nearby historic park.  Tourists who already travel from all over the world to experience the natural beauty of California State Parks get to enjoy clean well maintained restrooms and quality ranger programs.  The towns that depend on these tourists for revenue survive and thrive as our state parks become a world class tourist destination.  All for $18, the price of a large pizza.

So my fellow travel bloggers…it’s rally time. Let’s make some noise!  Spread the word about Proposition 21.  Share your favorite state park memory with your readers. 

Thanks to San Diego Bargain Mama, Fun Orange County Parks, and Day Tripping Mom for their Yes on 21 Posts.  Stay tuned this week for more posts about my favorite state parks and links to bloggers participating in our rally.  I’m looking forward to reading about everyone’s state park adventures.

Happy Trails,



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Photo Friday: Bellagio Fountains

October 21st, 2010 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in Las Vegas Adventures, Las Vegas with Kids, Uncategorized

Bellagio Fountains Las Vegas

My absolute favorite Las Vegas attraction is the Bellagio Fountains.   On my first trip to Vegas, I took in this breathtaking watershow next to my sister-in-law who was discretely nursing her baby and with my oldest son, a tired, restless preschooler.  A few years later, my husband and I stayed at the Paris Hotel for a couples getaway.  I stayed up every night looking across the street at the show  from my climate controlled hotel room until the fountains were shut down for the night.  In 2009, my oldest and I made a long  hot summer trek on foot from the MGM Grand to the Bellagio .  Justin in a typical tween way was underwhelmed by the spectacle.

Ken and Justin take in the Bellagio Fountains Las Vegas

My latest visit to the fountains, however, is  the one I will always treasure.  We were able to share the fountain show  with all three kids this summer.  Destiny and Jared danced in the darkness to the beautiful music.  Ken and Justin stood silently taking it all in.  I had a moment to reflect on how much our family has grown and changed  since that first Las Vegas visit over eight years ago. 

People don’t think of Las Vegas as a family travel destination, but it has a lot to offer if you know where to look (and what to avoid). Indeed it is my youngest child’s favorite place to visit due his desire to stay in fancy hotels.  Keep an eye on this blog in the coming months.  I’ll share more of our Smith Family adventures in this affordable, off beat family travel destination.

Happy Trails,


P.S. Family Adventure Guidebook participates in Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday Blog Roundup.   This week Debbie has a great LEGO photo up.  Check it out!


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Library Adventures: Family Open Studios, Dove Library (Animal Adventures)

October 17th, 2010 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in At Home Adventures, Library Adventures, San Diego Adventures

Destiny and Jared, Snake Charmers, Carlsbad Public Library

 Carlsbad, California is a a community that takes the arts and libraries very seriously.  I’m proud to live in Carlsbad and try to take advantage of their free kids educational activities whenever I can.  Frankly, there are so many that that would be impossible for our busy family. (Especially thanks to the giant homework load assigned K-12 by the Carlsbad City Schools, thanks so much y’all). 

World of Adonna Khare Exhibit, William D. Cannon Gallery, Carlsbad California

Once a month the Carlsbad Cultural Arts Office puts on a Family Art Day in association with an exhibit presented at the William D Cannon Art Gallery.  Twice a year they do a “plus” Family Art Day which is even more spectacular than their usual events.  This month the gallery is hosting a very kid friendly exhibit  The World of Adonna Khare: Beasts, Backpacks and Curious Creatures filled with whimsical pictures of wild animals.

Destiny consults with Adonna Khare

Being a kid with roots in liberal Santa Cruz , Destiny was fascinated by the Lion’s nose ring and had to consult with Adonna Khare herself about the source of her inspiration.  The ability to talk with a real artist had a big impression on Destiny as she sees herself as an artist as well.

Jared at Work, Family Open Studios Dove Library Carlsbad, California

The highlight of Jared’s visit was the chance to create a beautiful hummingbird using water colors and oil pastels.  It was amazing to see how Jared’s skills  have evolved from scribbles to representational art within just a few months.  I love how the Family Open Studios program helps kids to see themselves as serious artists.  All the volunteers are so patient and respectful.  They really bring out the best in their young visitors.

Pacific Animal Productions Keeper Karla Majewski shares a Wallaby

The other amazing part of our visit was the Pacific Animal Productions animal show.  If you are planning a birthday party in Southern California and have money to spend (an only child perhaps?) consider this company.  Their show was amazing!  Destiny and Jared even got to assist with displaying a giant python.  Keeper Karla was unfazed by toddlers trying to rush the stage and my little guys concerns about the python.  They also provided an awesome petting zoo for the even that included a pig as well as soft bunnies and guinea pigs.  My kids were entranced!

If you live in the San Diego Area do yourself a favor and visit the kids events section of the Carlsbad Public Library website frequently.  Last week author James Guerney of Dinotopia fame visited the library.  I try to post these wonderful events when I can, but when I get swamped you miss out.  

Happy Trails,


P.S.  Family Adventure Guidebooks Participates in Trekaroo’s Spotlight Thursdays.  Stop by the Talking Trekaroo Blog  to see what other families have been up to.


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Miracle at Kelly Elementary

October 11th, 2010 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in Uncategorized

Sorry that this isn’t my usual upbeat adventure oriented post, but the beauty of having a blog is sometimes you can just take a break and put something out there that’s in your heart.  Last Friday a gunman showed up at a local Carlsbad Elementary School and started shooting radomly on the playground.  By the grace of some hardworking guardian angels and several good Samaritans in the shape of construction workers, only two students received superficial wounds. 

The workers chased the gun man, used their pickup to stop him, and restrained him until the police arrived.

My two thoughts for the day on this event are as follows:

Acts of bravery and sacrifice can make a big difference.  The entire Carlsbad community is greatful to the workers who put their lives in danger to protect our children.

As my friend Deana who passed away from cancer used to say, hug your children early and often.  I’m giving out extra hugs to my little ones this week.

Kelly students and teachers, you are in our prayers.  Hope things are getting back to semi-normal today.



October Family Fun in San Diego: Brick or Treat

October 7th, 2010 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Autumn Adventures, Legoland, Legoland bargains, LEGOLAND Brick or Treat, San Diego Family Travel, theme parks

 Destiny, Jared and I boogied down at the Brick or Treat Celebration at LEGOLAND CA last weekend.  The weather was pure Indian summer and we had a great time getting together with friends, watching the shows, and getting our groove on at the Brick or Treat Dance Party.  Brick or Treat activities are much more spread out this year, which makes things a lot easier and more fun.  The last one I attended there were moments that felt more claustrophobic especially as we went from place to place with preschoolers.  Now that the festivities take place throughout half of the park, kids and parents have plenty of room to enjoy the fun.  Here are some highlights of our Brick or Treat adventures:

Meeting Up With Friends

Family Adventure Guidebooks was lucky enough to receive a VIP invite to attend Brick or Treat.  The kids and I had fun seeing two of my favorite travel bloggers and their kids.  Sharlene Earnshaw of Trekaroo and Double the Adventure came with her delightful twins.  We had fun swapping stories as moms of bossy big sisters and mischievious little brothers. Coleen Lanin of  Travel Mamas brought her kids as well and as the kids enjoyed to Duplo Play Area the moms shared blogging and travel writing war stories.  I love the picture below because it shows that girls like construction equipment to ;) .

Construction Girls, LEGOLAND CA

LEGOLAND is an ideal place for a play date.  Kids love hanging out with their friends, and Moms have someone to help keep them sane as they navigate the theme park lines.  It is also allows for a little kid swapping so the daring can ride the roller coasters and the timid can find other fun.  We were lucky to spend the rest of our evening with Destiny’s best friend and her family.  Aren’t they cute as they pose by the Brick or Treat Trail?

Destiny and Friends LEGOLAND CA


This was one of the best parts of our Brick or Treat Adventure.  The witchy cast members were experts at  creating a fun environment where  kids felt comfortable boogieing down .   The music was fun, kid appropriate yet bearable for the adults.  Kids got participation ribbons which unfortunately didn’t stick to clothing very well and were lost within minutes.  Destiny  and Jared could have spent all night  shaking their groove things.

Destiny's Brick or Treat Dance Moves

Disco Jared, Brick or Treat Party LEGOLAND CA

Brick or Treat Trail

Brick or Treat Trail, Legoland Ca

The kids love this experience because they get candy.  I love this experience because they don’t get too much candy.  This year LEGOLAND is offering Brick or Treat Trails at two different locations, but kids can only choose one.  I’m glad they’re spreading out, but wish the kids could try both trails.  It’s pretty hard to explain to an impulsive five year old, why he can’t go trick or treating at that cool are over there.

The Scoop on Brick or Treat

My kids are passionate fans of Halloween and it is excruciating for them to wait 31 days until trick or treating despite the spooky decorations popping up on our neighbor’s houses and the giant bags of candy showing up in the stores.  Brick or Treat is the perfect place for little kids to get ready for Halloween.  The LEGOLAND staff and Cast Members work very hard to transform LEGOLAND into a truly magical place for a night time adventure.      Brick or Treat continues Saturday Nights through Halloween.  It’s free with a full day admission, but there is also a lower cost option for evenings only. $30 to visit LEGOLAND.  That’s a bargain!

P.S.  To learn more about other fun Halloween happenings in the San Diego Area check out my post on UPTAKE.COM.

P.P.S. Family Adventure Guidebooks is a proud participant in Trekaroo’s Spotlight Thursdays Blog Roundup.

P.P.P.S.  Family Adventure Guidebooks received complimentary passes to attend Brick or Treat.  This didn’t really influence my review as I am already a huge LEGOLAND fan without the freebees.  I even wrote a book about it.  Check out The Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook on

Happy Trails!


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