Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Road Trippin' with Kids

Zion National Park
Last summer we spent a lot of time in the car. We drove to Utah and back. We camped at Big Sur, Bass Lake and Hume Lake. We are crazy like that.  I calculate that it added up to over 50 hours in the car. Our kids were 6 and 2 1/2 at the time, so we needed to learn a few tricks along the way. Here are some of our favorite road trip ideas.

On the longest trip, I wrapped up some new toys and books to be revealed at different points along the journey. We took a basic canvas bin to sit between our kids but there are some great organizers out there.

1. Sticker activity books and coloring books. Remember to bring something to color with-- we reccommend colored pencils because June in Las Vegas.

2. Thin books to look to and read. We brought many of out Dolly Parton Imagination Library books because they are thin and mostly great quality.

3. Books with small colorful pictures, like Richard Scarry Best Word Book,  Counting Colors, Where's Waldo, or I Spy.

4. Busy Books have some reading pages with a box in back for the figurines. These were definitely the favorite for my 2 1/2 year old. We also brought along little people and other figurines/animals.

5. Magnetic drawing board  

6. Small Magnet Sets like this Curious George one or you can make your own version with magnets and a small cookie sheet. You can get fancy on Pinterest with family photos and puzzles too.

7. We played the licence plate game and ABC game. This site has some paper versions of these and other games.

8. Books on CD See a full post of suggestions here.

9. Tchotchkes You know all the little toys your kids pick up in the course of a year. Party favors, fast food meal prizes, quarter vending machine toys. I find those toys on the floor and in the corner forgotten all the time. When I find it, I pick it up and throw it in a box in my garage. All of the randomness from our year. When we go on a road trip, the box comes out. Sometimes it gets brought out in stages wrapped or in bags, but often it is just a bin of stuff. They feel like they found long lost treasure and I don't need to clean it up repeatedly at home.

10. Lots and lots of snacks. We had fruit and nuts in our car as well as crackers, pretzels and such. Anything that melts is not recomended. See above note on Vegas in June.

Some useful sites I found: It's Always Autumn, The Crafty Working Mom, and Pinterest tips.

I know some of you are thinking about DVDs. We actually don't have a DVD player in our 13 year old car or even a portable one. I am sure we will use one some day, but so far these are the tools we have used.

This summer has many fewer road trips planned. Not because last summer didn't go well, but just the stage of life we are in. I look forward to a road trip again, maybe when I have a fourth graders and I can get this pass!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Arroyo Hondo Preserve

The Arroyo Hondo Preserve is a little known area protected by the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County. It is open on the first and third Saturdays of the month for the community. There are docent led tours at 10 am, but you can also explore on your own. Advanced reservations are required, but are very simple to make with an email.

There are many trails from here. The first time we went we took the docent tour which was 3 miles. The secons time we followed West Creek Trail up to Bear Crossing, then headed back down Bear Trail. This was just over one mile.

 Directions: It is about 25 minutes from Goleta. Take 101N. About 4 miles after Refugio Beach, turn right into a driveway (just after call box 101-412). If you reach Gaviota State Park, you have gone too far.

Trail Rating: Easy
Distance: 1 mile (or more)
Time: 25 minutes
Nearby attractions: Gaviota State Beach and Refugio State Beach

More information: http://www.sblandtrust.org/portfolio-item/arroyo-hondo-preserve/

West Creek Trail

Bear Crossing

Arroyo Hondo Creek

Plank Creek Crossing

West Creek trail

Bear Trail


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Nojoqui Falls Park



 Nojoqui Falls Park (a Chumash word pronounced nah-hoo-ee) is a large park with several reservable group picnic areas and 2 play areas. The play areas are spread out. The smaller area has swings and a jumping ring. The larger area has a 5-12 play structure with 2 double slides, 3 climbing areas, and monkey bars.

Directions:  a 30 minute drive on the 101N from Goleta. Turn right onto Old Coast Highway about 6 miles after the Gaviota Rest Stop or 5.5 miles after the Gaviota Tunnel. Turn right again onto Alisal Rd after about a mile.

Nearby attractions include picking blueberries at Santa Barbara Blueberries, feeding the animals and picking your own produce at The Farmstead, or enjoying the hike to Nojoqui Falls.

Pros
It is close to the Najoqui Falls hike.
There are bathrooms.
It is a shady park,
Parking is easy.

Cons
It is a drive to get there from Santa Barbara.


5-12 Play Structure

Slides and Climbing Areas



Stepping Stones

Monkey Bars

Smaller play area

Jumping ring

More information.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Nojoqui Falls

Nojoqui Falls in spring
Nojoqui Falls (a Chumash word pronounced nah-hoo-ee) are a 30 minute drive on the 101N from Goleta. Turn right onto Old Coast Highway about 6 miles after the Gaviota Rest Stop or 5.5 miles after the Gaviota Tunnel. Turn right again onto Alisal Rd after about a mile. Google directions.

The park has a playground and group picnic areas. Follow the road all the way through the park to find the trailhead. This is an easy trail with a slight incline and a roundtrip distance of about .6 miles. The shady path is cool on a warm day. The last 200 feet are closed as of spring 2017 due to the risk of landslides. Be safe. More information.

Trail Rating: Easy (except for the last 200 feet which appear slick)
Distance: .6 miles
Time: 15 minutes
Nearby attractions: Pick blueberries at Santa Barbara Blueberries, feed the animals and pick your own produce at The Farmstead, or enjoy the play area at Nojoqui Falls Park.

Bridges cross the creek



Friday, May 19, 2017

Kid Friendly Hikes and Nature Walks

Noquoji Falls
This is this second anniversary for my blog! It feels fitting to share my 2017 goal.

The quest for 2017 is hikes and exploring natural areas with my gals. On a women's retreat in February, I was taking a hike with some friends and they helped me brainstorm this list. (Thanks Katie and Monica!) As always, my Facebook friends added to the list. I am also perusing Santa Barbara Day Hikes (Raymond Ford) and Day Hikes Around Santa Barbara California (Robert Stone) Unlike last summer, I got a start this spring so I would have some posts ready to go for you!

Updated List
Arroyo Hondo Preserve
Botanic Gardens
Cheltham/Westmont Trail
Carpinteria Salt Marsh Preserve
Douglas Preserve
Elings Park -- Sierra Club Trail
Elings Park -- Veteran's Trail
Ellwood Butterfly Preserve/Bluffs
Wind Tunnels at Gaviota State Park
Knapp's Castle
Lake Los Carneros
Lizards Mouth
Moore Mesa
Nojoqui Falls
Parma Park
Rocky Nook Park
San Antonio Creek Trail (Tucker's Grove, Kiwanas Meadow)
San Marcos Preserve
Seven Sisters
Skofield Park
Stevens Park
Tucker's Grove Trails (behind the playground)
Tunnel Trail

Related Posts: Summer of the Parks 2015, Summer of the Beaches 2016, Summer of Day Trips 2018, Summer of Museums 2019, Summer of the Beaches II 2020

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Best Parks with Outdoorsy Play Areas


Rock Climbing at Rocky Nook Park
We revisited Rocky Nook park a few weeks back and enjoyed the open natural space. It got me thinking about parks with natural open space where my kids spend more time in nature than on the playground. Of course, I need to say beware of poison oak and watch your kids as they play in the creek. There are lots of open spaces that have great natural areas, but here are a few of my favorite parks.

If I ranked them, the top three are pretty much tied...
1. Stevens Park
2. Rocky Nook Park
3. Tucker's Grove Park
4. La Mesa Park
5. Bella Vista Park

These other parks have some nature area that my kids have been occupied with for some time.
6. San Miguel Open Space
7. Santa Barbara Shores 
8. Hidden Valley Park
9. Willowglen Park
10. Oak Park


Natural trails
Creeks to explore