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Archive for the ‘San Diego Adventures’ Category

Photo Friday: Spring Comes to the Self Realization Temple Meditation Garden Encinitas

June 3rd, 2011 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Outdoor Adventures, San Diego Adventures, San Diego Day Trips, San Diego Family Travel, Uncategorized


Family Adventure Guidebooks Photo Journalist in Training, Justin Smith

This post is made possible by one of the hansomest young photographers I know,  my son Justin Smith, age 12.  I did not join him on this outing.  Although this garden really brings out the best in kids who are able to walk quietly and use their inside voices, it is not appropriate for preschoolers, toddlers and even exuberant kindergarteners.  Jared and I stayed home!  Recently my seven year old daughter joined my mom for a trip to the Self Realization Temple Meditation Garden.  It was a rite of passage for Destiny that she was able to enjoy the garden in a quiet and mature manner, and we lavished her with praise.  Looking forward to that hopefully not so far off day, when the entire family can enjoy this garden.  In the mean time I live vicariously through Justin’s gorgeous photos:

Cactus in Bloom, Self Realization Temple Garden Encinitas

Koy Pond, Self Realization Temple Garden Encinitas

Cacutus by the Sea, Self Realization Temple Garden Encinitas

Check out Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday for more amazing travel photos!


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Photo Friday: Spring at San Elijo Lagoon

May 26th, 2011 by bsmith | 3 Comments | Filed in San Diego Adventures

The Gillin Cousins at San Elijo Lagoon

 My father passed away on May 2nd about six months after his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer.  If you haven’t heard much from this blog lately, it’s because I took a sabbatical from blogging and many other activities to focus on enjoying my last few months with my Dad.  It was a worthwhile endeavor.  My father, John Gillin relished life. His warm and generous spirit touched the lives of many.  He was blessed by visits from friends and family from all over the country in his last few months.  The kids had the chance to meet and get to know their relatives.  We shared many happy family occasions this year.

After Dad’s death, my Godfather Terry  my dad’s cousin and my cousin, Colin flew in for my Dad’s funeral.  It was so fun to watch them meet and get to know each other for the first time.  Each shared characteristics that were also intrinsic to my dad; his sparkling blue eyes, his quiet sense of humor, and his warm calm approach to life.  Even in this difficult time it was extraordinary to spend time together as a family.  My son Justin was overjoyed because Colin brought his son 15 year old Graham with him.  After years of enduring gatherings of younger, (and mostly female) cousins, Justin had finally  found a kindred spirit.

Touching Down at San Elijo Lagoon

One of our weekend activities was an outing to nearby San Elijo lagoon.  The flowers were in bloom and my cousin Colin the wild life biologist helped us to understand more about the bird behaviors we observed.  My six year old is a big fan of anything green, especially frogs, so he enjoyed visiting with this fellow at the nature center.

Jared's Froggy Friend, San Elijo Visitors Center

Justin was inspired by the wild flowers in bloom, and took some amazing nature shots.

Cactus in Bloom, San Elijo

Blooming Daisy, San Elijo Lagoon, Del Mar

Mom and Jared San Elijo Lagoon

I love the above photo of Jared and me.  It really captures the joy of that day.  Our San Elijo adventure was not only the perfect way to celebrate spring.  It was a powerful reminder of the gift of spending time with extended family.

Happy Trails,


P.S. For more spring adventures check out Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday Blog Roundup.


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A Must Experience Family Adventure…CYT’S “Just So Stories”

March 9th, 2011 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in San Diego Adventures

Funny how this Ash Wednesday I found myself just where God needed me to be!  Our family is in crisis mode right now.  Both Ken’s mom and my dad are afflicted with cancer, so time is very precious and it seems like everyone needs our help .  My mother in law is in the hospital recovering from surgery, but previously I had volunteered to drive for Destiny’s class field trip.  When I tried to get out of my commitment, I discovered that there were no other parent volunteers to take my place.  So despite the fact that I felt quite guilty for having fun, I found myself sitting in the audience of “Just So Stories” a wonderful musical inspired by the work of Rudyard Kipling.

I didn’t expect much, a children’s play based on the stories of Rudyard Kipling,  how could that be relevant for today’s six year olds and for this 38 year old for that matter?  Magically, as the musical began to unfold I found that it was.  The story had a moral positive message that permeated my soul and brought me a few hours of peace amidst this ocean of craziness.  The kids loved it to and were on the edge of their seats for most of the two hour performance.

Everyone involved in this performance, besides the director, was a young person between the ages of 6-18.  Even the lighting crew and the stage managers were kids!  The  colorful sets and costumes were professional quality.  The young performers danced and sang like experienced Broadway actors.  The story was entertaining with plenty of witty asides for the grownups and more obvious humor for the kids.  I was awed that this complex, professional quality production was carried  so confidently by a large cast of young actors!

If you and your family find yourselves in Northern San Diego this weekend you should consider attending the next showing of “Just So Stories” at the Star Theater in Oceanside on Saturday at 2pm and 7pm or on Sunday at 2pm.  If you can’t make it, be sure to keep on eye on the CYT website.  They have an impressive array of productions being staged all over San Diego County this spring.  They also offer summer camps which Destiny is very interested in attending.  Due to her dislike of scratchy costumes she is planning to man the  stage lights!

The most spine tingling part of this story is that,  when I went to research the meaning of the acronym CYT, I discovered it means Christian Youth Theater.  Looks like God was guiding my Ash Wednesday plans after all!

Happy Trails,



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Passports With Purpose: LEGOLAND Prize Package

November 17th, 2010 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Legoland, Legoland bargains, Passports With Purpose, San Diego Adventures, San Diego Family Travel

Once again, Family Adventure Guidebooks is proud to participate in the Passports with Purpose Travel Blog Fundraiser. Passports with Purpose, is a yearly fundraiser organized by travel bloggers that raises money for deserving non profits throughout the world.  Last year Passports with Purpose raised over $30,000 to build a school in Cambodia.  You can find out more about the this beautiful school built by PWP donations here.

This year the goal is even more ambitious.  We hope to raise over $50,000 in order to build a village in Southern India with the help of the non profit organization LAFTI.   How do we plan to do it?  Well Passports with Purpose has some wonderful sponsors ( BootsnAll, LiveMocha, Round the World with Us, HomeAway, Traveller’s Point, Hostelling International, Quintess, Raveable, TravelPost, and Uptake.) who have given us a big boost towards our goal, but we still have a lot of money to raise.  How can you help?  Bloggers around the web used their connections to secure great travel related prizes.  For a ten dollar donation you can enter a drawing for the prize of your choice.  It’s that simple!  Check out the Passports With Purpose prize catalogue.  Drawings will be held on December 13th to give you plenty of time, to slip your prize under the Christmas tree if you wish!

Because  Carlsbad is one of the most beautiful, most fun, most exciting locations for a family vacation (can you tell I live here ? ;) ).  I have worked with LEGOLAND California,  The Museum of Making Music, and to bring you a fun LEGOLAND getaway for four.  The winner of the Family Adventure Guidebooks LEGOLAND prize pack with receive single day Sealife Aquarium/LEGOLAND hopper passes for four.  They will also receive four tickets to the nearby Museum of Making Music.  In order to make sure you have a place to stay during your LEGOLAND Adventure you will receive a $200 Hotel Club credit at  You can use this for one night in an upscale property or two or more nights at a more budget oriented choice.

You have until mid September to use your prize passes, so do your Christmas shopping at the LEGOLAND gift shop, stop by the Carlsbad Flower Fields in the spring, or upgrade to a  LEGOLAND water park ticket for a nominal price and  float down the river on a LEGO raft.  The possibilities are limitless!

I’ll also throw in a PDF copy of The Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook  to help you find some great local restaurants and other nearby kid friendly attractions.

The value of this package totals more than $550 dollars!  Not bad for a $10 donation.  Visit the Passports With Purpose Prize Catalogue and click on the LEGOLAND prize pack.  Hope you win ;)

Happy Trails,


P.S. Thanks to LEGOLAND California, The Museum of Making Music, and  for your generous donations.

Here’s more info about Hotel Club:

Whether you are looking to book a hotel in Shanghai or accommodation in Istanbul, has got you covered.” is a world leading global accommodation website offering hotel and accommodation bookings for up to 12 months in advance. Established in 1996, HotelClub provides consumers with over 69,000 accommodation choices in over 7,300 cities worldwide throughout 138 countries. HotelClub is a truly global offering with its services available in fourteen languages. The company operates three websites –, and”


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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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Photo Friday: San Diego Zoo Elephant Pool Party

July 2nd, 2010 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in San Diego Adventures, San Diego Zoo


Elephant Enjoys a Snack at the Elephant Beach Party

The kids and I were invited to the media preview of the Elephant Pool Party  at the San Diego Zoo.  This fun and mellow event is free with the price of  zoo admission. It  takes place July 1-4, then every Saturday through September 4th.  If you find yourself at the San Diego Zoo on any of those dates, head to the Elephant Odyssey exhibit between 11 am and noon.

During the pool party the zoo provides special enrichment activities for the elephants  including giant elephant sized beach balls and fresh fruit floating in the water.  The day we were there the elephant rejected the beach balls in favor of the floating treats.  She enjoyed apples, oranges, and pineapples.  Surprisingly  her favorite treat appeared to be the lettuce.  She set a great example for my little animals by eating plenty of fruits and veggies!

Watching the Elephant Beach Party, San Diego Zoo

 Hopefully  their curiosity will get the best of them and they’ll  eventually they will start exploring the balls.  During a recent interview with Zoo Ambassador Rick Schwartz, he explained to me that although the zoo keepers supply plenty of enrichment, they give the animals the opportunity to choose whether or not to participate.

Hula Hoop Diva, San Diego Zoo

 The zoo was kind enough to provide enrichment activities for their young visitors.  Destiny loved hula hooping and visiting with Dr. Zoolittle.  Jared had fun cuddling up to the life sized statue of an elephant baby.

Jared's New Buddy, San Diego Zoo

 Dr. Zoolittle was a very friendly guy and once again proved that San Diego Zoo volunteers are some of the nicest around!

Destiny and Dr. Zoolittle, San Diego Zoo Elephant Beach Party

 Hope you have a little beach party in your  4th of July weekend plans!

Happy Trails,


P.S. Family Adventure Guidebooks participates in Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday Blog Roundup.  Stop by to read exciting travel adventures throughout the world.


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Photo Friday: Celebrate World Ocean’s Day at the Sealife Aquarium and Beyond!

June 4th, 2010 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in San Diego Adventures, Sea Life Aquarium, Uncategorized

Jared enjoys the wonders of the Sealife Aquarium

This year it is more important than ever to celebrate World Ocean’s Day.  The devastating oil spill off of the coast of the US could have been prevented. If we give our children an appreciation of our world’s oceans, they will be better policy makers and protectors of this fragile marine ecosystem.

Living in a tourist town I can tell you that a clean healthy ocean creates a thriving local economy .  People come to enjoy clean beaches and to swim in clean water.  This is what is making the effects of the current oil spill particularly devastating for southern economies.

It is easy to overlook that the mission of many local aquariums includes a conservation component.  These are not just glorified theme parks, but organizations that are dedicated to educating the public about respecting marine life and making decisions that have a positive impact on our oceans.  A child who has a chance to learn how to touch    creatures gently under the watchful eye of a docent, will take that knowledge on their family tide pool excursions and hopefully know to leave those critters in their native habitat .  The child who sees the exhibit on global warming will start shutting off lights and encouraging their parents to carpool.  The child who sees a giant mural made out of beach trash will think twice before discarding a gum wrapper in the sand. 

Growing up I spent many days at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and those visits inspire a life long fascination with the marine world.  At seventeen,  I proposed a bill that banned off shore oil drilling at the Youth and Government Model Legislature and Court program.  As a teacher, I took classes at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and shared the knowledge I gained with my students.  Many of those students lived very close to the beach but had never been there.  A fieldtrip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium opened up a whole new world for them.  As a parent , I join my kids for beach cleanups. We are always amazed at the trash we find.

In Carlsbad we are lucky to have the Sea Life Aquarium just down the street from us.  I must confess that when it was first constructed I wondered if it was really a worthwhile addition to Legoland.  After all the Birch Aquarium at UC San Diego and Sea World are both  just a half hour away.  After I did some research into the Sea Life organization and paid a second visit to Sea Life on a less crowded day, I started to gain a deeper appreciation for this little kid friendly aquarium.   Sealife sponsors cleanups of local beaches.  They have proudly displayed a mosaic entitled, “Beach Trash, a Whale of a Problem” constructed by local school children.  Visitors are asked to make a clean oceans pledge before leaving the aquarium.  If you have preschoolers,  the smaller size of this aquarium and the specially designed peep holes that put kids in the middle of the tank make this an ideal introduction to the marine world.

Trash, A Whale of a Problem, Sealife Aquarium Carlsbad

This Saturday my family will be honoring World Ocean’s Day with a visit to the Sea Life Aquarium.  They are sponsoring a fun Dr. Seuss themed day with plenty of conservation information snuck into  the Seussian silliness of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. More information about their World Oceans Day Celebration is included on the Sealife Aquarium website.

World Ocean’s Day Celebrations are being held world wide.  If you have some free time this Saturday or next week on June 8, the actual World Ocean’s Day, visit the Ocean Project’s website to find a place to celebrate.

Family Adventure Guidebooks participates in the Delicious Baby Photo Friday Blog Roundup.

Happy Trails,



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Five Family Fun California Vacation Activities That Your Kids Will Love

May 18th, 2010 by bsmith | 5 Comments | Filed in Family Travel, San Diego Adventures, San Diego Zoo, Santa Cruz County Adventures

With three kids and the price of airfare,  we tend to stick close  to home for many of our vacations.  That doesn’t mean we spend all our time at Disneyland, however.  There are lots of fun ways for families to enjoy their California vacations.  Here are some of our favorites from North to South.

View from the Train, Train Town Sonoma
View from the Train, Train Town Sonoma

Sonoma Adventures

  • Picnic in the Sonoma Plaza: This was one of my family’s favorite day trips as a child.  Last summer I returned with my kids and am happy to say it continues to be very fun.  Grab a picnic from a local gourmet deli and play at the Children’s Playground.

Ride a train at Train Town: Admission is affordable and the ride on the miniature train is perfect for all ages.  You stop to take on water at a kid sized town that the little ones enjoy exploring.



US Pampanito, Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco California

San Francisco Adventures


  • Visit Fisherman’s Wharf  Play vintage games at the Musee Mechanique and take an audio tour of the USS Pampanito Submarine.
  • Explore the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park This National Historic Park has a cheap entrance fee and plenty of big vessels to explore.  They also have a wide assortment of tours and kids programs.


Roaring Camp Railroads, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Adventures

  • Ride a Train Through the Redwoods  Roaring Camp provides old fashioned family fun.  You can ride a steam train through the redwoods or catch a diesel down to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
  • Ride the Giant Dipper  at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk This is my favorite roller coaster in the world.  It’s more than 100 years old and you can catch a glimpse off the ocean and the town of Santa Cruz as you zoom along.

Carlsbad Adventures

  • Build and Test at LEGOLAND California Carlsbad, California is a charming family oriented beach town with a great family attraction.  Legoland California is an interactive theme park for young children.  The Sea Life Aquarium and the new LEGO themed Water Park give families more reasons to visit.
  • Play at the Flower Fields. Unfortunately the Flower Fields have finished their season, but if you return next spring, you will be awed by the fields of flowers.  Kid’s enjoy a quaint Santa’s Village themed playground.



Soar Over the San Diego Zoo

San Diego Adventures

  • Go on Safari at the San Diego Zoo.  It may be clique, but a visit to the world famous San Diego Zoo is a must see for family travelers.  Keep an eye out for The Unauthorized Guide to the San Diego Zoo releasing later this year.
  • Stop by Cousin’s Candy in Old Town.  Old Town San Diego is a great location for family adventure.  Kids enjoy visiting the old buildings and learning about life in old San Diego.  The highlight of your trip will be the trip to this old fashioned candy store- trust me ;) .

Happy Trails,


PS “I wrote this blog post while participating in the Williamsburg Tourism and TwitterMoms blogging program for a chance to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here .


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Photo Friday: San Diego Cityscape, Porto Vista Hotel

May 7th, 2010 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Family Travel, Photo Friday, San Diego Adventures, San Diego Zoo

Boats Sail by Porto Vista Hotel, San Diego

Living up in Carlsbad, a tony suburb in Northern San Diego county, sometimes it’s easy to forget that I’m minutes away from a metropolitan city.  Last night I ventured down town to Little Italy for a Mom’s Night Out event at the elegant Porto Vista Hotel.  We met at the Porto Vista’s rooftop bar which offers  a stunning view of the San Diego Harbor and downtown.

San Diego Cityscape from Porto Vista Rooftop Bar

This hotel has a very distinctive vibe of retro urban chic.  Step into the lobby and you are greeted by a bright yellow vintage vespa.  Everything is sleek and post modern.  I stopped by The Glass Door Restaurant, which offers city views through wall length windows or share an intimate cocktail with  your  love out on the balcony.

Fun quirks of this sophisticated hotel are the fact that you can bring your dog to the Friday HappyHour or attend a free yoga class.  Although it’s not the first place you would think of when planning your family vacation, it’s proximity to the airport and down town as well as shuttles to many nearby attractions make it a destination to consider.


As twilight fell over the city and I headed home, I took a moment to reflect on my downtown San Diego adventure.  I plan to return with my children this summer.  It’s time that they get a taste of  life in the big city and see the world outside their sheltered corner of San Diego.  I’m looking forward to exploring the restaurants of Little Italy, and maybe going in search of the best gelato San Diego has to offer.

I enjoyed networking with other bloggers including  ,Meladramatic Mommy, Mommy of Many, Ali Starkey, Natalie at   I had a chance to reconnect with my friend San Diego Momma.  I always turn to her blog when I need to laugh…and think, or maybe think…and laugh.  I also had a chance to talk with Charity Lacey, a San Diego Marketing expert with a new business venture  You + Me Marketing designed to connect bloggers and brands.

Family Adventure Guidebooks participates in Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday Blog Roundup.  Other places you could find me this week are Mother of All Trips Mondays are for Dreaming,  The Carnival of Cities currently visiting Travel Savvy Mom, and Trekaroos Spotlight Thursday .    My post about the new Polar Bear Plunge exhibit at the San Diego Zoo is now live at Uptake. Phew!  I’ve been busy this week.

Off for a well deserved rest ;) .  Have a great weekend!

Happy Trails,



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Free Admission to the Reuben H Fleet Science Museum in San Diego This Saturday!

April 29th, 2010 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Free Stuff, San Diego Adventures, Travel Discounts


 Lunchables is sponsoring free admission to the Rueben H Fleet Science Museum this Saturday May 1st  for the first 1,500 people to visit. Those lucky few can also attend an IMAX film for five dollars on that day.  Doors open at 9:30 a.m.  See you there!

Happy Trails,


P.S.  Thanks to my friend Deb at San Diego Momma.  She has a really funny and interesting blog about motherhood and life in general. 


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