Dec 052016
 

What is a parent-child date night? Simply a way to do something special and reconnect with your child. Sometimes we get so busy with our day to day routines that we can forget that these are not the end themselves, only the means. It’s helpful to take a step back and spend some special time with our children. This is especially true when you have multiple kids! When there is a new baby, for example, older kids will really enjoy the extra attention.

Family Bonding" 10 Parent-Child Date Nights | Alldonemonkey.com

Here are some fun parent-child date night ideas, but keep in mind that the most important thing is spending special time with your child!

Disclosure: I received complimentary passes to VIP Night at Century Arden 14 & XD Theater; however, all opinions are my own.

Parent-Child Date Night Ideas

  1. Go to a live show, like monster trucks or Disney on Ice
  2. Have fun at bowling or a video arcade
  3. Take a cooking or computer class together – they will love seeing you learn something, too!
  4. From Kid World Citizen on Creative World of Varya: Super Noche!
  5. From Moms and Crafters: Playdates with Mom
  6. From Adventures in Mommydom: Mommy-Son Mini Golf Date Night
  7. From Adventures in Mommydom: Daddy Daughter Date: Scavenger Hunt
  8. From Gianna the Great: “When I take my granddaughter out for a ‘date night’ we go have coffee/hot chocolate and a bookstore.”
  9. From Bicultural Mama: “My daughter had been asking me for a ‘Girls Night Out’ so a couple weekends ago she and I went to dinner at the restaurant of her choice, then went holiday shopping at the mall for daddy, then went home to watch Zootopia on Netflix.”
  10. Go to the movies! The boys and I had a blast attending VIP Night at the grand re-opening of the Century Arden 14 and XD Theater here in Sacramento. It was fun to get a sneak peek at this totally refurbished theater, with 14 wall-to-wall screens and custom digital surround sound. But what we loved the most was the luxury loungers – no joke, each seat is an electric-powered recliner, complete with cup holders and footrests.

Family Bonding: 10 Parent-Child Date Night Ideas | Alldonemonkey.com

I am nearly 6 feet tall, and often feel uncomfortable in theater seats, plus I am always self-conscious of blocking the view of people behind me. Not so here! I had plenty of room to stretch out and not worry about those behind me – or in front! Aren’t you tired of having to stand up or shrink in your seat to let someone else pass by? (Or okay, let’s admit it – aren’t you tired of being the family that arrives late and makes everyone else stand up or shrink in their seat so you and your wiggly kids can pass by?) I was amazed at how wide the aisles were – all of them, not just those in the middle of the theater. What luxury!

Family Bonding" 10 Parent-Child Date Nights | Alldonemonkey.com

And if you have picky kids in your family, you will also appreciate the self-serve concession stand, where you can get your order just how you want it. So next time you are headed to the theaters, check out the new Century Arden 14 and XD Theater for movie watching in style!

Nov 042016
 

I’m lucky enough now to have gone to Disney on Ice several times, and it is always such a great show. The first time I went, though, I was nervous about taking my boys with me. Would they have fun or would they be totally bored? Is the show really for girls, or can you take your boys to Disney on Ice without regretting it?

Why You Should Take Your Boys to Disney on Ice | Alldonemonkey.com

I’m happy to report that each time my kids have had a blast! So mamas, you can relax and enjoy yourselves: Here’s why you should take your boys to Disney on Ice, too!

Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to Disney on Ice for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

Why You Should Take Your Boys to Disney on Ice 

It’s not just princesses and fairy dust. This year’s Disney on Ice is subtitled Passport to Adventure, and it is focused on just that: adventure. There is flying and battling with Peter Pan, silly fun with the Lion King, and of course Olaf. My six year old, of course, noticed right away the weapons (“Is Hans using a real sword?”), and both laughed along with everyone’s favorite snowman. There is so much variety to the show that there really is something for everyone.

Why You Should Take Your Boys to Disney on Ice | Alldonemonkey.com

Photo courtesy of Feld Entertainment

Don’t limit your idea of what they would enjoy. Who says boys can’t enjoy a little sparkle and glitter? If you never let them experience it, you may never know what they’d really like. My three year old loves Frozen and is drawn to anything with Anna and Elsa on it, so the second half of the show was a big hit. Even in those moments where I thought the show would be too “girly” for them, my boys loved the theatrics.

It’s a big show with lots cool effects. It is always fun to go out together and see a live show, especially one like this that is designed to really draw in the audience with big gestures and effects. Let’s see – there are fireworks, bubbles, snow, dancing starfish, a crocodile (“Is that real?”), a sea witch, kids that can fly, and set changes that morph and melt into the ice. My 6 year old was particularly interested in how the Darlings were able to fly with Peter Pan and how the lights were used to create different effects on the ice floor.

Why You Should Take Your Boys to Disney on Ice | Alldonemonkey.com

Photo courtesy of Feld Entertainment

You get to check out a cool new venue. If you go to see the show this weekend in Sacramento, you get to check out the brand new Golden 1 Center. (Spoiler alert: It’s really cool!) It is spacious and clean, and the food choices are excellent (very important when you have kids with you!)

You deserve it. As a mom of boys, you’ve seen more than your share of pirates, dragons, zombies, skeletons, and storm troopers. You deserve a few hours of happy Disney characters ice skating to songs you love, so let them watch what you like for once while you sing along with Frozen.

Why You Should Take Your Boys to Disney on Ice | Alldonemonkey.com

My favorite moment: Let it go, Elsa! Photo courtesy of Feld Entertainment

Tip: Boys are less likely to have seen some of the popular Disney movies, so be sure to prep ahead of time by watching some together, like Lion King and Peter Pan. They’ll love the movies and have more fun at the show if they already know the characters and the plot.

So take your boys to Disney on Ice this weekend along with the rest of the family, and you will all have a great time!

WHEN: Thursday, November 3 – Sunday, November 6

Thursday, Nov. 3,  7:00 PM

Friday, Nov. 4, 7:00 PM

Saturday, Nov. 5, 11:00 AM, 3:00 PM & 7:00 PM

Sunday, Nov. 6, 12:00 PM & 4:00 PM

WHERE: Golden 1 Center – 547 L Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

TICKETS: Ticket prices start at just $20! Special Opening Night discount tickets available for 50% off for select seating (not valid for VIP/Front Row levels). All seats are reserved; tickets are available for purchase online at Ticketmaster.com, charge by phone at 800-745- 3000 or visit the Golden 1 Center Box Office.

*tickets prices are subject to change; additional venue/ticketing fees may apply

Visit Disney On Ice for more details about this show and the full line up of Disney On Ice productions for the 2016-2017 season.

Oct 242016
 

Giveaway for tickets to see Disney on Ice in Sacramento

Take your kids on a magical adventure around the world with Mickey and Minnie Mouse as your tour guides with Disney on Ice: Passport to Adventure, coming soon to Sacramento!

On the itinerary? Exploring the African Pride Lands from The Lion King with Simba, Timon and Pumbaa; voyaging deep under the sea to Ariel’s mystical underwater kingdom from The Little Mermaid, and touring London with Peter Pan and Wendy before flying to Neverland to meet up with Tinker Bell. And don’t forget traveling to Frozen’s Arendelle for an extraordinary adventure with sisters Anna and Elsa, their friend Kristoff and everyone’s favorite, huggable snowman Olaf.

I’m excited to see so many favorite Disney characters in one show, plus it will be our first chance to visit the brand new Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento! We’ve been following the progress as it was being built, so I can’t wait to check it out!

Disney on Ice Sacramento

Photo courtesy of Feld Entertainment

We are giving away tickets to the opening night show! Be sure to scroll all the way down to find out how to enter!

WHEN: Thursday, November 3 – Sunday, November 6

Thursday, Nov. 3,  7:00 PM

Friday, Nov. 4, 7:00 PM

Saturday, Nov. 5, 11:00 AM, 3:00 PM & 7:00 PM

Sunday, Nov. 6, 12:00 PM & 4:00 PM

WHERE: Golden 1 Center – 547 L Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

TICKETS: Ticket prices start at just $20! Special Opening Night discount tickets available for 50% off for select seating (not valid for VIP/Front Row levels). All seats are reserved; tickets are available for purchase online at Ticketmaster.com, charge by phone at 800-745- 3000 or visit the Golden 1 Center Box Office.

*tickets prices are subject to change; additional venue/ticketing fees may apply

Visit Disney On Ice for more details about this show and the full line up of Disney On Ice productions for the 2016-2017 season.

Disney on Ice Sacramento GIVEAWAY

Congratulations to our winner, Jennifer F!
We are giving away a pack of 4 tickets to the opening night show in Sacramento on Thursday, Nov. 3 at 7 pm. All you have to do to enter is comment on this post, telling us which Disney character is your child’s favorite! Giveaway ends midnight Pacific Time on Sunday, October 30. Winner will be randomly selected from entries. 

Jul 232016
 

Our 5 top picks for families visiting the California State Fair

The California State Fair is a great place for families, and for many it is a cherished tradition to visit every year. After visiting with my young children, here are my top picks that families won’t want to miss!

Disclosure: Thank you to Pebbles Cereal for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.

California State Fair: 5 Top Picks for Families

Kids Park: If you are looking for old-fashioned (and new!) carnival rides, this is the spot! While there are other carnival rides at the State Fair, the Kids Park has tons that are designed just for kids. There are height restrictions on many, but you can still find some, like the merry-go-round, for little ones. If you plan on going on a lot of rides, consider buying a wristband, which gets the user unlimited rides.

Ag Area & Petting Zoo: We spent quite a bit of time in the Agricultural area, which is where kids can see one of the more traditional aspects of the state fair. My kids loved all the stations (most of which are free), where young kids can play in the corn sensory bin or make music with parts from old farm equipment. They can also use props to practice milking a cow, saddling a pony, and roping a steer. You can see the real deal, of course, at the petting zoo, which for many families is a highlight of the state fair. Be aware that once you enter the petting zoo area, all the (very friendly and docile) animals will be walking all around you, which was a new experience for city kids like mine. Many of the animals are a bit, er, overly friendly, so keep an eye on your clothes and purse, or they might get nibbled on! Also, you are very likely to see at least one animal answer the call of nature, so watch your step (and your shoes).

California State Fair: 5 Top Picks for Families | Alldonemonkey.com

Camp Smoky: I loved Camp Smoky because it is a little forest oasis in the asphalt desert of the State Fair. It was so cool and refreshing just to walk around in the shade of the trees and listen to the very friendly young rangers teach the kids about the importance of caring for our forests. Kids can pick up a passport, which they get stamped at various stations (like the school house or the forest trail) to exchange for a bandanna at the end . The super cute puppet show teaches kids about fire safety as well.

California State Fair: 5 Top Picks for Families | Alldonemonkey.com

Jest in Time Family Stage: We had a chance to watch the clowns of Jest in Time, and they were awesome! My kids were laughing non-stop during this pair’s antics and gentle humor. There is a special kids’ seating area up front, where young helpers can get picked as volunteers. I don’t want to give away anything, but beware of flying toilet paper in the finale!

Pebbles Play

We spent a long time at the Pebbles Play area, located just next to the Kids Park. It is a fun spot for kids to get creative, explore, and enjoy some treats! This summer the Pebbles Play Tour is traveling to major cities across the US – including the California State Fair in Sacramento from July 22 to 24!! 

California State Fair: 5 Top Picks for Families | Alldonemonkey.com

First off, my kids got to build toy guitars out of recycled materials using kits from YOXO®, a environmentally sustainable toy company. (Don’t miss this video of them making music with one of these guitars!)

And what kid (or adult!) wouldn’t want a chance in a real life replica of the Flintstones Flintmobile?? My kids love pretending to drive anyway, but hanging out in the Flintmobile was just on another level.

They also loved these virtual reality – I mean cereality – goggles, which gave them a 360 degree virtual view of Pebbles World. It was their first time trying out anything like this, and it was love at first sight! 

Finally, don’t forget to grab a sample of the ultra fun Pebbles treats (Cocoa Pebbles or Fruity Pebbles) and get your dollar off coupon for Pebbles cereal (where available and while supplies last). Find out when the Pebbles Play tour is coming to your area!

Get creative this summer with the Pebbles Play Tour

Get Creative at the Pebbles Play Tour: California State Fair July 22 – 24, 2016

Where: California State Fair, 1600 Exposition Blvd Sacramento, CA 95815

When: Friday, July 22 – Sunday, July 24, 10 AM – 10 PM

Who: Families of all ages

How: Come and have fun!

Admission cost: Adults $12, Senior (62+) $10, Youth $8, Child (4 & under) Free

For more info: Visit Facebook.com/PebblesCereal/Events

 

Future Events Include:

Houston
Latin Fest, Jones Plaza, 600 Louisiana St, Houston, TX 77002
1 PM – 10 PM, Sunday, August 14
Admission cost: Free

Chicago
Festival de La Villita, Little Village, 26th St. and Kostner Ave., Chicago, IL 60623
Fri. 6 PM – 10 PM, Sat. 2 PM – 10 PM, Sun. 2 PM – 10 PM
Friday, September 9 – Sunday, September 11
Admission cost: Free

Connect with Pebbles on Instagram or Twitter with @PebblesCereal or by using the #PebblesPlay hash tag.

Find more tips about the California State Fair here!

Jul 172016
 

10 fun ways to get creative with your kids this summer

Summer is the perfect time to get creative with your kids. The days are long, the sun is shining, and everyone is on vacation mode. Here are 10 fun ways to get your kids’ creative juices flowing this summer:

Disclosure: Thanks to Post Cereal for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.

10. Art Projects: Summer is a great time to do big art projects you might not have time for during the school year. You can take advantage of the sunny weather to do summer-inspired art, like sun melted upcycled crayons.

9. Science Fun: Dive into STEM fun with creative science projects! Whether you do experiments or open-ended discovery, the key is to really let your kids explore!

8. Summer Camps: Camps are a fun way for kids to make friends and explore a topic they are interested in, like art or science. You can also create a DIY summer camp tailor-made for your kids.

7. Scavenger Hunts: I adore scavenger hunts! They are terrific boredom busters and a great way to help kids see their surroundings with new eyes.

6. Sensory Bins: Clean out the cupboards and put together some creative sensory bins for your kids. There are so many fun options and they will stay entertained for hours!

5. Cook Together: Take the time to try out a new recipe together or invent your own. It’s a fun way to explore other cultures, too!

4. Go Outdoors: I am a firm believer in getting kids out in nature. They naturally respond to the outdoors – so much to see and explore! It is sure to inspire them to get creative, whether with play, science, or art.

3. Get Lost in a Book: What better way to spur their imaginations then through reading great books! Reading together or independently is a wonderful catalyst to creative thinking, as their imaginations expand to include new worlds and ways of being.

2. Play Music: I grew up taking music lessons, and it was always a wonderful way to relax in my free time. Summer is a fun time to play music without the pressure of recitals or performance but instead for sheer pleasure. If your child doesn’t play an instrument, it can be a good time to explore one, or simply make your own instruments out of household items and have some fun singing and dancing.

1. Explore, Learn, and Play with the Pebbles Play Tour: This summer the Pebbles Play Tour is traveling to major cities across the US – including the California State Fair in Sacramento from July 22 to 24!! Create, taste, experience, and imagine with the Pebbles Play Tour this summer, where kids (and kids at heart) can:

  • Become an inventor with recycled materials, thanks to YOXO®, the environmentally sustainable toy company
  • Transport yourself to imaginative worlds with Pebbles virtual reality goggles
  • Put yourself in the driver’s seat by sitting in a real life replica of the Flintstones Flintmobile (don’t forget to use the #PebblesPlay hash tag when you share your photo on social media!)

And of course, kids can sample ultra fun Pebbles treats (Cocoa Pebbles or Fruity Pebbles) and parents can grab a dollar off coupon for Pebbles cereal (where available and while supplies last). Find out when the Pebbles Play tour is coming to your area!

Get creative this summer with the Pebbles Play Tour

Get Creative at the Pebbles Play Tour: California State Fair July 22 – 24, 2016

Where: California State Fair, 1600 Exposition Blvd Sacramento, CA 95815

When: Friday, July 22 – Sunday, July 24, 10 AM – 10 PM

Who: Families of all ages

How: Come and have fun!

Admission cost: Adults $12, Senior (62+) $10, Youth $8, Child (4 & under) Free

For more info: Visit Facebook.com/PebblesCereal/Events

 

Future Events Include:

Houston
Latin Fest, Jones Plaza, 600 Louisiana St, Houston, TX 77002
1 PM – 10 PM, Sunday, August 14
Admission cost: Free

Chicago
Festival de La Villita, Little Village, 26th St. and Kostner Ave., Chicago, IL 60623
Fri. 6 PM – 10 PM, Sat. 2 PM – 10 PM, Sun. 2 PM – 10 PM
Friday, September 9 – Sunday, September 11
Admission cost: Free

Connect with Pebbles on Instagram or Twitter with @PebblesCereal or by using the #PebblesPlay hash tag.

Jun 182016
 

Have you wondered about attending a Comic Con with kids? Maybe, like me, you assumed it was really more for adults, or you just weren’t sure the best way to go about it so it would be fun for the whole family. I just went to my first Comic Con with three young children and we had a blast! I found it to be very kid-friendly, but there are some things you should know before you go, so that you can all have a great time.

What you need to know before attending Comic Con with kids

Comic Con with Kids: What You Need to Know

Disclosure: I received free passes for the show for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

Wizard World Comic Con is in town, and I was lucky enough to take my kids to opening day! (Yes, I did get to see Dean Cain!) Here is a look at what to know before you go, so that it is a fun day for everyone.

It Is Fun for Even Young Children: I was skeptical about how the Comic Con would be for my three year old, but he had a great time, and I didn’t see anything that I was uncomfortable with him being around. Everyone was very friendly with my kids, and there were lots of other little ones there.  I can’t count the number of times doors were held for us or people moved to accommodate my stroller.

I asked several fellow bloggers what their experiences were attending Comic Con with kids, and they had all attended multiple times with their children, starting from very young. For many families it has become a tradition to attend Comic Con together. Sandy from Adventures with My Geeklings says: “Mine are 5 & 7 and have gone since the the oldest was 3. Until they were 4 almost 5 they only went one day but it was fine and they loved it.”

Use the Wizard World Comic Con Website to Plan Ahead: The resource center on the Wizard World Comic Con website is really comprehensive in answering any questions you have, like what the guidelines for costumes are and whether you can bring backpacks. There is an interactive map and a schedule, so you can plan on what you’d like to see and when to go. Keep in mind that celebrities may cancel at the last minute, so be sure your children are prepared for this. Also, make sure you leave plenty of time just to wander around – that is so much of the fun!

You Can Bring Your Gear: I have 3 children ages 6 and under (including a baby), so we have a lot of gear. Luckily I was able to bring a stroller and a backpack. Just be prepared to have your backpack or bag searched when you enter. Keep in mind that an umbrella stroller may be a good idea for toddlers or slightly older kids that just need a break from walking around the large convention center.

There Will Be Costumes: One of the most fun parts about Comic Con is the COSTUMES. Fun for anybody, but this is an aspect that is really fun for kids. Many attendees take cosplay (that is, costume play) very seriously, so you can see some really awesome costumes. If your kids want to, they can dress up, too! For many, this is one of the best parts of going.

You Don’t Have to Wear Costumes: Many, many people do not wear costumes, and that’s okay, too. Many of the folks we saw were just in T-shirts and jeans. My kids were excited to dress up, but once we got there they changed their minds, so be prepared to carry around costumes if this happens (or if they just get tired of it after a while).

There Is A Lot of Cool Stuff to See and Do: Often we think of celebrity photo-ops, but that is not all there is to Comic Con! There are backdrops to pose for your own photos, tons of vendors with cool gear, panels and demonstrations, tournaments, and more.  For my kids a real highlight was trying out new video games in the play zone.  This is the same area where they hold the tournaments, but there are also times reserved for casual free play. This can be a nice way to take a break from walking around or to entertain the kids while one spouse stands in line for a celebrity photo-op.

Just be aware that in some cases computers are connected for group play, which is not always well indicated with signage.  My little ones accidentally ended up in a 4 player game with some grownups. My kids had a blast, but not so much their teammates! They were very nice about it, but I made sure to move my kids on to something else as soon as I could.

It’s Not Just White Guys: Many of us have the false idea that the gaming world, etc is made up mostly of white men, but the Comic Con we attended was much more diverse than I had expected, in terms of the attendees and exhibitors. Check out this very cool company out of Los Angeles, 133 Art.  I love their Kid Carvers!

Bring Cash: While many vendors take cards, some do not, and inevitably these will be the ones selling the item your child has to have.  Bringing cash can also help you budget a bit so things don’t get out of hand once your children are surrounded by all that wonderful stuff.

There Will Be Lines: Unfortunately, this is a reality of attending such a big convention. Even just the line to pick up admission tickets that had already been purchased was quite lengthy. And if you want a photo-op or autograph with a celebrity, be prepared to stand in line as well. This is not always the case (the celebrity lines were actually very short when we were there), but it really just depends on when you go and who you want to see, so make sure you are ready for this.

Kendra of Biting the Hand that Feeds You recommends attending with another adult (like your spouse), or attending one day without your kids, so that not everyone has to wait in line: “We took double strollers and I took whichever kid was more interested in seeing the celeb into line with me while hubby took the other shopping. This year I was able to have my sister watch them Friday and Saturday while I got my celebrity photo ops and signatures, then we took them on Sunday in two single strollers so we could split up and take each of them where they’d best like to go.”

There Is A Lot of Stimulation: The volume at the convention was actually fine, but even so there is a constant wave of sound around you, and lots to see and experience. If you have a child with sensory issues, Autism Odysseys has a brilliant article on making conventions more enjoyable for them. (She also has a lot of useful tips for anyone attending Comic Con with kids). For my boys, the problem was that they got pretty hyped up and so I had to remind them to eat and drink.

Think about Food Ahead of Time: There are food vendors there, but it’s hard to know ahead of time what you can find or how long the lines will be, so bring some food just in case.

There are Volunteers to Answer Your Questions: There are many volunteers staged throughout the convention, and they are so friendly and helpful. I had never been to Comic Con before, so I had a lot of questions, and they were always happy to help.  When we went they were all wearing matching T-shirts, so they were very easy to spot.

There Is Free Stuff: My boys scored free headbands from a favorite video game, and I saw at least one vendor giving away free posters, so keep a sharp eye out!

A Lot of Stuff Isn’t Free: Obviously there are are many vendors at the convention, but some things you usually expect to be free aren’t, like taking photos. If a volunteer catches you nabbing a photo of a celebrity with your phone, you will be warned but eventually may be asked to leave. (You can find more info on the Wizard World website).

You Should Always Ask First: The best rule of thumb is to ask first before taking a photo of someone, especially a celebrity. But this courtesy also extends to other attendees. Many wearing great costumes are happy to pose for pictures, but be sure to check first.

Know When to Call It a Day:  You know your child, so you are the best judge of when it’s time to head home. Remember that because there is so much stimulation, they may not be seem very tired until you walk out the doors and it hits them all at once, so watch for their triggers but also keep an eye on the clock.

Have you gone to Comic Con with kids? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Stock images courtesy of Wizard World Comic Con.

Jun 132016
 

Wizard World Comic Con comes to Sacramento - with a giveaway!

Wizard World Comic Con is coming to Sacramento!  The fun begins at 3 pm on Friday, June 17 and goes through Sunday, June 19.  Here are all the details, plus a discount code and you can enter for a chance to win a 4 pack of passes for your family!

Photos courtesy of Wizard World Comic Con

What: Wizard World Comic Con, “Where Pop Culture Comes to Life”

Who: Celebrity guests scheduled to appear include William Shatner, Ray Park (Darth Maul from Star Wars Episode 1), Billy Boyd (Peregrin Pippin Took from The Lord of the Rings trilogy), Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes from Captain America), and Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter from Agent Carter).

When: June 17-19, 2016

Where: Sacramento Convention Center

For more details and tickets: Wizard World Comic Con Sacramento

Discount Code: SACBLOG16 for a 50% off general admission (kids 10 and under are free!)

Comic Con Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jun 102016
 

Review of a fun new family friendly Hawaiian restaurant in midtown Sacramento.

An island of Hawaiian culture and cuisine has arrived in Sacramento, in the form of a family-friendly, family-owned restaurant.  We had the fun task of visiting them recently and trying out what they had to offer.  Read on to see what we thought!

Disclosure: We received complimentary meals at Coconut’s Fish Cafe for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

When you enter Coconut’s Fish Cafe, the first thing you notice is the fun island decor.  It’s all tastefully done – no hula outfits here! – with paintings of Hawaiian fish and (our favorite!) tables shaped to look like fish/surfboards.  You immediately feel like you’ve entered a little tropical paradise right in the heart of midtown Sacramento.

The staff is also incredibly friendly.  Waitresses circulated constantly to answer questions and clear away plates.  Even in midst of the busy lunch crowd customers’ needs were quickly taken care of.

And after meeting the owner, it was easy to see why.  Founder Michael Phillips is so personable, and his outgoing personality sets the tone for the restaurant.  His obvious enthusiasm for the restaurant is infectious, and it’s clear that Coconut’s Fish Cafe is a true labor of love.

It is also a family affair: the co-owners are his daughter and son-in-law, though they are currently out on parental leave, as their daughter was born earlier this month – her photo prominently displayed on the wall by proud grandpa!

The thought and care that has gone into each dish is obvious.  There are no filler items on the menu.  Even the kids fish and chips dish – which in many other places is a deep fried mess – is actually something I was happy for my kids to enjoy.  I loved that the breading was so light and not greasy, but Phillips says that the real key is in the tropical fish.  Hawaiian fish have a much milder taste than our cold water varieties, and so kids that visit Maui get hooked on the taste, even if they didn’t previously like fish.

I can attest to the truth of this – My older son does not eat fish (not even fish sticks), but he agreed to try the grilled mahi mahi kids plate.  (Yes! A kids plate that actually is a real meal, not just junk food!)  He not only said it was good, he actually ate it.  And that is really something for my picky eater!

All of the dishes at Coconut’s Fish Cafe are health conscious yet also incredibly flavorful.  For example, Phillips uses coconut milk in the cole slaw instead of heavy mayonnaise – it is such a great combination!

I was excited to try their signature fish tacos.  I love that in designing this dish, Phillips was careful to use Hawaiian flavors, such as mango salsa and wasabi, rather than doing a fusion with Mexican tacos.

So if you are looking for something new, fresh, and healthy that the whole family can enjoy, I highly recommend Coconut’s Fish Cafe in midtown Sacramento.  Be sure to tell Chef Phillips we said hello! 😉

If you are going, do make sure to plan on extra time to find parking, especially if you go at peak times.  Street parking in this area can be difficult to find!

For more family fun in Sacramento, be sure to check out my Sacramento for Families board on Pinterest!

May 042016
 

Pamper Yourself with Brunch at the Elephant Bar | Alldonemonkry.com

Weekends are made for doing those extra – yet essential – things we don’t have time for during our regular work-a-day lives, like spending time with our loved ones and taking time for ourselves.  Having a leisurely brunch out at a restaurant with amazing food is a wonderful way to pamper yourself this Mother’s Day or anytime you want to do something special for yourself.

Disclosure: We received complimentary meals for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

Review of the brunch menu at the Elephant Bar Restaurant

My family and I recently discovered a new favorite place to have brunch: The Elephant Bar Restaurant, which we visited in Sacramento.  The layout is spacious and elegant, and the menu has something for everyone – from sweet treats to savory dishes.  It is the perfect way to treat yourself and your loved ones this weekend!

The atmosphere at The Elephant Bar is sophisticated yet relaxed, making it perfect for going together with your girlfriends, getting some one-on-one time with your partner, or having a family brunch.  As a mom, it was the perfect fit for me, because I felt pampered but also didn’t feel uncomfortable having my kids with me.

The service was incredible.  Manager Kimberly and her team – including our server Jason – took great care of us.  I love that this is a place where the staff samples all of the offerings so that they can really tell you all about them.  Kimberly made herself available to answer any questions about the restaurant and was genuinely interested in what we thought about the food, and Jason was incredibly patient with my very talkative kids.  He told us that the restaurant is very responsive to patrons and has even adjusted its menu in response to patron feedback.

Review of the brunch menu at the Elephant Bar Restaurant

The Brunch Menu

And the food was amazing.  A-MAZE-ING.  If you’re going to take the time out of your schedule to really treat yourself to a nice meal – whether it’s arranging for a babysitter or getting the kids ready to go out with you – you want the food to be worth it.  And the food at the Elephant Bar is just that.  The brunch menu is all new and includes sweet dishes like Raspberry Passion Pancakes and Gooey Butter Cake French Toast, plus heartier ones like Philly Cheesesteak Frittata.

We ordered the Raspberry Passion Pancakes for the kids and the Philly Cheesesteak Frittata for ourselves.  (They do have a separate children’s menu, but we were excited to try the new brunch offerings!)

I just love the idea of pancakes infused with raspberry and passion fruit.  They were great!  The pancakes themselves were not too sweet, which is how I like it, to pair with the honey maple syrup and whipped cream.  And I love that they are served with breakfast potatoes to balance out the meal.  The Philly Cheesesteak Frittata is a real protein boost, which is something I look for.  The meat was really flavorful, and I loved the chipotle pesto!  But what really stole the show was the French toast, which we devoured as well.  It was crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside – heavenly!  And did I mention that we somehow found room to sample the wonderful creme brulée??

Review of the brunch menu at The Elephant Bar Restaurant

So if you are looking for a way to pamper yourself and your loved ones, be sure to have brunch at The Elephant Bar Restaurant!  We will definitely be going back again.

The Elephant Bar Restaurant now offers brunch on the weekends from 10 am to 2 pm.

Apr 212016
 

18 Most Picturesque Places to Visit in Northern California with Your Family | Alldonemonkey.com

We love to travel with our kids, and though this often includes international travel, we have found that when traveling with young children it can be much easier to travel locally.  Luckily for us, we live in Northern California, a beautiful, varied region that attracts travelers from all over the world – and we’re lucky enough to have all these scenic places right in our backyard!  So if you are in our neck of the woods, here are our picks for the most beautiful places to visit in Northern California with your family.  Share your favorites in the comments!

18 Most Picturesque Places to Visit in Northern California

1. San Francisco: Okay, I’m cheating because they are so many picturesque places in San Francisco alone.  From the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park to Lombard Street and Pier 39, there are so many spots to visit.  Here are recommendations of where to visit in San Francisco as well as great day trips you can take in the area.  What is your favorite Bay Area spot?

2. Lake Tahoe: Truly a gorgeous place to visit, one that will win over even the most “indoorsy” child.  In addition to lake itself (one of the largest in the country), there are also lots of fun places to play, hike, and picnic in the surrounding area.  And in the winter, it is a great place for skiing and playing in the snow!  Tip: If Lake Tahoe itself is crowded, try exploring one of the smaller lakes in the area, such as Dicks Lake or Eagle Lake.

3. Yosemite: We absolutely love going to Yosemite and have visited regularly before and after having kids.  There is something for everyone, whether you crave solitude in the woods or more of a camp atmosphere as in Camp Curry.  Being originally from the East Coast, witnessing first-hand the enormous stone faces of Yosemite’s peaks really brought home just how different and big everything is out West.

4. Wine Country: This beautiful region – which includes Napa and Sonoma Valleys – is another world-famous spot in Northern California.  And even if, like us, you aren’t interested in the wine, you still don’t want to miss the breathtaking views this area has to offer.  While much of the area is geared towards adults, you can still find great kid-friendly spots, such as Calistoga, and we had a great time exploring the San Francisco Solano Mission in Sonoma. (For more on Missions throughout California, visit our California Missions page).

5. Point Reyes: Point Reyes has gorgeous beaches as well as its famous lighthouse.  There are so many spots to explore and enjoy.  Just beware of all those stairs to get down to the lighthouse if you take the kids!  And keep in mind that if you are driving from inland, there is a significant drop in temperature when you reach the coast.  It is always much colder, so bring a long-sleeve shirt or light jacket, even in the middle of the summer! (If you love the coast, another great spot south of San Francisco is the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve!)

6. Muir Woods: Northern California is renowned for its redwoods, and Muir Woods is one of the premier places to view them.  It is easily accessible from San Francisco, and there are very kid-friendly trails through the woods.

7. Big Sur:  Located south of Monterey, Big Sur offers some of the most beautiful views of the California coast.  You can simply enjoy the scenery from the viewing spots along the highway, or extend your stay with some camping. When I was in college, it was a popular spot for retreats.  It contains a number of state parks and a federally protected marine area.

8. Santa Cruz: Despite the fact that Santa Cruz is more accurately part of Central California, it is typically included in Northern California, and in any case is worth a mention as a great place to visit!  There are, of course, the beaches, but it is also known for its old-fashioned boardwalk, with carnival rides and games for the kiddos.

9. Monterey: From the beaches and aquarium to Cannery Row, Monterey is not to be missed.  There are lots of areas for families to explore, and personally I enjoyed the beautiful drive along the coast almost as much as the destination itself!

10. Mount Shasta: If you drive along I-5 heading to far northern California, you can’t miss Mt. Shasta, which rises up suddenly and dominates the view for miles.  This potentially active volcano is at the southern end of the Cascades.  Beyond exploring the mountain itself, the surrounding area is beautiful and provides plenty of outdoor activities for the whole family.

11. Sierra Nevadas: This gorgeous mountain range stretches throughout much of Northern California, and includes Lake Tahoe and Yosemite.  And thanks to the California Gold Rush that took place in its foothills, it is also dotted with real ghost towns!

12. Apple Hill: For many families in the Sacramento area, it is an annual tradition to visit Apple Hill in the fall.  This beautiful collection of orchards and farms offers apple picking, pies, petting zoos, and more!  And pie, did I already mention pie?

13. Old Sacramento: This historic part of Sacramento is a fun place to visit with kids, to see what life was like in the time of the Gold Rush.  You can take a river cruise, enjoy the old-timey shops, or visit the State Railroad Museum (always a favorite for kids!)

14. UC Davis Arboretum: The 100 acres of gardens included in the Arboretum are open to the public 24 hours a day, free of charge.  It is a favorite spot for UCD students to study, for professors to spend their lunch breaks, and for families to enjoy a picnic or leisurely walk.  You can also appreciate a great diversity of plants from all over the world included in this wonderful collection.

15. State Capitol and Gardens: The Capitol is an impressive building and has so much history to explore.  (Be sure to check out the paintings of the governors, especially Jerry Brown’s first portrait!).  But the grounds themselves are also worth the trip, with plants from throughout the state.  Our favorite time to visit is at the holidays, when you can enjoy the decorations – including the Christmas tree on the lawn – as well as holiday concerts.

16. American River Parkway: The 23 mile parkway stretching along Sacramento is a wonderful place to enjoy wildlife or recreation and is a favorite place for school field trips as well as family outings.

17. Russian River: The Russian River is a treasure tucked into the redwoods outside Santa Rosa.  Kids will enjoy swimming or kayaking in the cool river water.  Don’t miss these great tips for your visit.

18. Lassen Volcanic National Park: This park, established nearly 100 years ago, is a cauldron of geologic activity innocently situated in the peaceful wilderness of Northern California.  Make sure to hold the little ones’ hands as you cross the plank walkways over boiling mud, evidence of Lassen’s past as an active volcano.  And be prepared for that rotten-egg smell from the sulphur – of course, if you have little boys like mine, it will just add to the atmosphere as far as they are concerned!

What are your favorite places to visit in Northern California?

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