If you are visiting San Francisco or live in the area, be sure to include Alcatraz on your itinerary! It is a fun trip to do with your kids, and really brings history to life. Here are our top tips for visiting Alcatraz for families.
Alcatraz for Families: San Francisco with Kids
Alcatraz is most well known as an infamous prison, but it was also a military garrison as well as the site of one of the most significant political protests of the modern American Indian movement. In addition, it is a spectacular way to experience San Francisco Bay.
Here are our tops tips for visiting Alcatraz for families:
Alcatraz for Families: Top Tips
Be careful of parking! Choose your parking lot/garage wisely. We parked very close by, and after we had already paid a large sum for all day parking, a bus driver took the time to flag us down, honking at us and warning us to be careful of thieves (!) We moved our car to the middle of the lot, took all our valuables with us, and hoped for the best, but when we returned in the evening, we did see two cars on the perimeter of the lot that had their windows busted out. Next time, we will probably choose a parking garage, even if it means a bit more walking.
Don’t worry, there are bathrooms on Alcatraz and on the ferry! There are also plenty of bathrooms at the dock back on the mainland, which is really convenient if you just drove in from outside the city.
Buy your tickets ahead of time.
Tours of Alcatraz sell out weeks ahead of time, so buy your tickets early. You will find plenty of companies offering tours: We chose Alcatraz Cruises because they are an official vendor with the National Park Service. You can find all the most up-to-date information about the tours on their website.
Plan on 3-4 hours.
There is a lot to see on Alcatraz, so allow for plenty of time on the island. The ferry ride takes about 20 minutes each way, and you need to queue up 20-30 minutes ahead of your departure time. (You won’t miss the boat if you get in line later, but you may not have a place to sit). On Alcatraz, the main attraction is the tour of the cells, plus there are special exhibits and gardens to see. We arrived on the 1 pm ferry (easy to do if you are coming from Sacramento, as we were), and left on the 4:25 pm ferry back to San Francisco. From there it is an easy walk to Pier 39, where you can have a bite to eat, look at the shops, or (if it’s the right season) see the sea lions.
Food and beverage (other than water) are not allowed on the ferry or most of the island, but they are allowed at the dock. Since you’ll be spending several hours at Alcatraz, I recommend at least packing snacks. (Keep in mind that as of this writing there isn’t any food for sale on Alcatraz either). We packed a light lunch and ate it on some of the benches looking out over the bay. It is a nice place to take a breather and enjoy the view.
San Francisco is notorious for its changeable weather, which can be quite cool even in the middle of summer. We were there in July, and it was cold, especially on the island! The best thing to do is wear layers. If the sun comes out, you can always shed a layer or two, but you are going to want some good jackets for most of your time on Alcatraz.
Wear good walking shoes.
There is a lot of walking on Alcatraz, and most of it involves hills. My husband and I didn’t have any problems (except I wished I had brought my real sneakers instead of my cute ones), but the kids needed to have some breaks in the walk up to the main cell block.
Everything on the island is wheelchair accessible. They even have a special shuttle service for those with mobility issues, but this does not include those with small children. So if you have little ones, be sure to bring a stroller or carrier.
Don’t miss the audio tour.
When I asked my kids what their favorite part of Alcatraz was, the audio tour of the cells won hands down. You can either use the devices available there, or download the app on your phone once you arrive. The tour really brings history to life, as you walk down the corridors and peer into the cells (you can even walk into some!) hearing the voices of former prisoners and guards.
Did you grow up singing along to “Down by the Bay” or help your kids “Shake My Sillies Out” to Raffi’s infectious tunes? Then you won’t want to miss his live show, coming soon to a city near you! I’ve got all the concert details, plus a giveaway for my Sacramento readers, so just keep scrolling down while you eat, eat, eat your “Apples and Bananas”!
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the music below and tickets to the concert for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
For four decades Raffi has delighted audiences at his concerts and through his numerous albums, and now is your chance to share his music live with your little ones! Raffi is on tour now, singing from his beloved classics as well as his brand new 15-song album, Dog On The Floor (see my full review). Proceeds from his concerts benefit the Centre For Child Honoring.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity to see Raffi live in concert! For my Sacramento readers, scroll to the end to see how you can enter to win your own tickets!
July 24, 2018activities, SacramentoComments Off on Indoor Playground for Young Kids: Imagine Play of Elk Grove
Looking for a fun play to take your kids when it’s just too hot outdoors? Here is our experience at a local indoor playground for young kids, where little ones can explore and enjoy no matter what the weather. And even better, local readers can win free passes in our #SummerFunSac challenge on Instagram, so don’t miss out!
Disclosure: We received complimentary passes to Imagine Play of Elk Grove for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.
Indoor Playground for Young Kids: Imagine Play of Elk Grove
Imagine Play of Elk Grove is an indoor playground for young children and a haven for parents and caregivers wanting to give kids a safe place to play and explore. Everything is perfectly sized for little ones and designed to spark imaginative play and sensory fun.
My toddler and I recently had a chance to visit, and she had an absolute ball! As the youngest of three, she reveled in having a play space full of toys and equipment designed just for younger children!
There was a castle with stairs to climb and a ball drop built into the side, a pirate ship, a grocery store set up, and more hands on, open ended toys than I have room to list.
And as if that weren’t enough, they also have art and sensory activities offered every hour on the half hour in a connecting room. My daughter loved playing with the kinetic sand!
Just be warned that if you bring a child to Imagine Play, they will not want to leave! Luckily, you can bring in a packed lunch and drinks (not in the main play area, but in the adjacent seated area), or purchase snacks, juice boxes, and water.
Parents must be present and supervising their children, but the space is designed so that you can comfortably do this from the seated area, while enjoying your complimentary coffee 🙂
We loved our time at Imagine Play in Elk Grove, a wonderfully imaginative indoor playground for young children. Be sure to stop by, and don’t forget you could win free passes when you enter our Sacramento Summer Fun IG challenge!
June 19, 2018SacramentoComments Off on Sacramento Family Fun: Southside Park
One of my goals for this summer is to get out and explore the Sacramento area with my kids. It’s the whole reason I created the #SummerFunSac challenge on Instagram, to encourage others to do the same (and to commit myself publicly, so I’d follow through!) I’m happy to share with you today one of our great discoveries – Southside Park in downtown, beloved to Sacramento residents for many years and a new favorite for us. If you are looking for Sacramento family fun, you won’t want to miss it!
The biggest attraction for my kids was the adventure playground! We loved the outer space theme and how the playground equipment itself had different features than what we typically see in neighborhood parks. And I always appreciate it when there is separate equipment for younger and older children, plus accessible ramps and handrails.
There was so much to climb on and connecting walkways that it reminded me of the Ewok village from Star Wars – kids can spend so much time playing without their feet ever touching the ground!
But by far my kids’ favorite part was the GINORMOUS sand pit! This is wonderful for open ended play for kids of all ages. My five year old and eight year old spent just as much time in here (perhaps more) than my two year old.
There is so much to do at the playground that we could easily come every day for a week without anyone getting bored!
While they were focused on the playground, however, I was enjoying all the big, shady trees and the view of the lake – you can even go fishing!
There are also a swimming and wading pool and a jogging trail, plus an amphitheater (though no alcohol is permitted).
One thing I was curious about and had trouble finding a definitive answer for ahead of time was about parking. Since Southside Park is in downtown Sacramento, I wanted to know if I needed to have quarters with me for the meters. In the end, I took them, but it turns out that you don’t necessarily need them. While much of the parking around the park is metered (and at least the ones we saw didn’t take cards), there is free parking right in front of the playground area. So in most cases you do not need to worry about having change with you, though I’m sure that on busy weekends you may still have to use metered parking.
June 4, 2018Sacramento, SummerComments Off on Sacramento Summer Fun Instagram Challenge
The Sacramento area has so much to offer for families! This summer, get out and explore the River City with your kids by taking part in our #SummerFunSac Instagram challenge: You could win one of our great prizes, while celebrating Sacramento summer fun with your family! Read on for more details on this fun Instagram challenge.
Sacramento Summer Fun Instagram Challenge: #SummerFunSac
Looking for a fun way to get out and explore the Sacramento area with your family this summer? Join in our #SummerFunSac Instagram challenge and giveaway, running this June and July and celebrating all the ways families have fun in the River City in the summertime!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram.
How to Participate:
Post a photo(s) of you and/or your family having fun in the Sacramento area this summer! All photos must be family friendly and include the #SummerFunSac hashtag.
If you have kids that love airplanes, you won’t want to miss visiting the Aerospace Museum of California! Read more about our experience, plus learn about an incredible new resource for Sacramento families!
Built on the grounds of the former McClellan Air Force Base, the Aerospace Museum consists primarily of a large, open exhibit hall plus outdoor space with 50+ aircrafts!
Weather permitting, several of these are open every day for visitors to explore. When we visited, we got to climb aboard the “Jolly Green Giant,” a helicopter from the Vietnam War; a FedEx delivery plane; a Coast Guard aircraft; and (my favorite) a World War II era plane that flew supply missions during the invasion of Europe. Nothing teaches you history like being inside the actual aircraft that took part!
Back inside, there are even more aircraft (and engines) to see, plus rotating exhibits on different topics – the current exhibit is the Art of the Airport Tower. My kids loved getting into the training craft – which were actually used to train pilots – and pretending they were flying a plane!
My oldest son’s favorite part, though, was the Morphis Simulator Ride. It is a mini-theater inside of an aircraft, which moves as you watch a short film about flight or space. (This is an additional cost from admission).
If you bring a toddler, you will need to watch them like a hawk in the main exhibit areas. Many of the aircraft on the exhibit floor are marked off with just a chain – an obvious “no touching” signal for most people, but not for a curious toddler! I actually ended up putting my two year old in a stroller as we went through these areas. Luckily there are several areas set up just for kids where she was able to play and really get a more hands on experience. She loved climbing up into the mini-aircraft and playing with the controls!
There is a small but well-stocked Kids Zone upstairs geared toward younger children. It is gated but open to the main exhibit floor so that parents can relax and enjoy the view while their kids are enjoying themselves with the many airplane-themed puzzles, toys, and art stations.
What made the visit special for me was chatting with the docents. These older gentlemen are so knowledgeable and really have a love for the aircraft. One told me that every time his wife goes to an outlet mall, he finds an airport to visit – win win! And they are all so patient with children and love to answer questions, so be sure to take advantage of this amazing resource!
How long you will spend here really depends on your child’s age and level of interest. My 5 year old was ready to leave after about an hour and a half, whereas my 8 year old could have easily stayed longer than the 2 hours we were there.
Luckily Freedom Park is right next door, so I recommend packing a lunch (there’s nowhere to eat close by) and having a nice picnic lunch and playtime at the park after the museum or to break up a longer visit. (You can exit and re-enter the museum). Keep in mind that this park is one of the few in Sacramento without a shade cover, so it gets very hot in warm weather, so you’ll want to make sure you visit it earlier in the day during the summer.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
At first I wished that the book were organized into themes, but I’ve come to appreciate the intentional randomness of the list. As the author notes, often the best adventures are actually a tangent from what you meant to do! This book is great for spring break or weekend adventures. My kids and I had a lot of fun just flipping through the book to see which ones we have done and just how many we have left to do! (The Aerospace Museum is #36 on the list, by the way!)
As parents, life can get so busy that often we have to stop and catch our breath and wonder, where did the time go? I always look forward to spending time with my kids, but practically speaking I actually spend most of my time running errands and doing household chores. Someone is always tugging on my leg asking to play freeze tag or build a fort in the living room, but I usually put them off because there is always a diaper to change, or a meal to cook, or laundry to fold. Trust me, I would much rather build a pillow fort! If you also find yourself struggling to find time to enjoy your family, here are three simple ways to reconnect with your kids – even when you are really busy!
Disclosure: I received complimentary samples of Mighty Kong Muffins for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.
3 Simple Ways to Reconnect with Your Kids – Even When You Are Really Busy!
1. Take Play Breaks
My four year old could play freeze tag all day long. From the moment he wakes up until time to brush his teeth at night, anytime there is a pause in activity (and usually when there isn’t), he asks to play freeze tag. Somehow it always seems like he asks just as I need to change a diaper or when I’m in the middle of cooking. Rather than put him off completely, I try to take short play breaks with him. Be realistic about how much time you have, then set a timer and give your child your focused attention – no checking Facebook, no picking up toys off the floor, or straightening the furniture – just playing with him.
For me, this is usually 10 or 15 minutes at a time on a weekday. (I make sure to do non-timed, longer play times together on the weekends, but these are usually not practical during the week). This seems like a really short amount of time, but it always seems surprisingly long, considering I am really focusing on him and not multi-tasking like I usually do.
It doesn’t stop him from asking to play again 5 minutes later, but he is more understanding when I have to say no, and I feel less guilty about getting my work done.
2. Play a Game after Dinner
Our kids get screen time in the evenings, yet we noticed that this often resulted in a race to leave the dinner table and get back to electronics. So now we have instituted the rule that we play a game (or do a puzzle, etc) after dinner before we all retire to our corners to relax before bedtime. The kids love it, especially since Daddy is home to join in as well, so no one is watching the clock and rushing to leave the table. As much as I love game nights, this abbreviated version works for us during the week, so we can still get in play time together as a family and make sure we really reconnect with our kids in the evenings.
3. Do Read Alouds
We all know how important it is to read together, and most of us tend to do this at bedtime, which is such a snuggly, cozy time to share a good story. Yet I noticed that we tend to do this with our kids individually (as they all go to bed at slightly different times), plus the stories tend to be shorter because of the late hour.
I loved that old-fashioned idea of a family sitting around reading a great book together, so I started doing family read alouds during the day. It is wonderful bonding time, plus it is a great way to engage kids with slightly more challenging material or to read stories they might not have considered. For example, a younger child might be more inclined to stick with an easy chapter book because of the excitement of reading with older siblings, and another might be surprised to find that they like a story outside of the genre they tend to favor. (For great reading ideas, see my book reviews!)
I have found that the easiest way to keep everyone’s attention, despite the range of ages and interests, is to involve food. Give the kids something to eat at the table, and they are more likely to be sitting quietly and listening as you read. As homeschoolers, we can often do our read alouds over lunch, but it’s also a great way to relax together over an after school snack. This is especially true if you have a child that doesn’t like to sit and talk when they first come home – here is a great way to reconnect with your kids without forcing conversations they aren’t ready for.
Finding a Great Snack to Share
We have recently discovered a new favorite snack, which is perfect to share during our family read aloud. While we do have the occasional treat, I am rather picky about making sure my kids have healthy snacks. So I was excited to find out about Mighty Kong Muffins, a family-run and locally-owned Sacramento business that makes the most delicious gourmet bran muffins in a staggering 22 varieties. (See their interview on a local news show).
I know what you’re thinking: Gourmet bran muffins? Yes, it’s true! The ingredients are all high-quality and non-GMO, with fresh fruits and nuts and high grade dark chocolate. You won’t find any flour in these muffins – or any preservatives or artificial ingredients, for that matter. These mini-muffins are a great snack you can feel good about sharing with your kids.
We received a variety pack of the Mighty Kong Muffins and so had fun sampling four different flavors: Ape Dates (date walnut), Naner Naner (banana walnut), Wapple Apple (apple raisin), and the seasonal Rumplepumpskin (cranberry pumpkin). (Note: all flavors are available without nuts). My younger son loved the Wapple Apple, which my older son couldn’t decide between the Ape Dates and the Naner Naner. Personally, I loved the Rumplepumpskin. In other words, every single one was a hit!
During my parents’ last visit, I wanted to show them a part of Sacramento they hadn’t seen before, so we picked Sutter’s Fort, a site in the heart of Sacramento that is of major historical importance not just to the region but to the history of the American migration to the West. It is popular site for families and school field trips because it provides great hands on experiences to help investigate our state’s history. It is so convenient that it’s easy to make into one stop in a larger tour of the area, but there is so much to explore at Sutter’s Fort that we ended up spending the better part of a morning there.
Sutter’s Fort: Sacramento History for Families
History of Sutter’s Fort
If you travel in Northern California, you are bound to come across the name “Sutter.” There are the Sutter Buttes (named “Spirit Mountain” by the Maidu Indians) and Sutter County, and of course Sutter’s Mill, made famous by the discovery of gold there in 1848. All of these were named after John Sutter, a Swiss immigrant who received a land grant from the Mexican government in 1839. The settlement he established (named New Helvetia, or New Switzerland) was the first in Sacramento and the first non-native settlement in California’s Central Valley.
Soon after gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in 1848, Sutter sold his fort and left, and it was later overrun by gold seekers. In 1871, a movement began to restore the site. and the reconstructed fort was opened to the public in 1905.
We were most interested in the connection between Sutter’s Fort and the Donner Party, which my son is fascinated by. In 1846 the Donner Party set out for California, but because of a late start and a tragic miscalculation in taking an untested shortcut, they arrived at the Sierra Nevada mountains too late in the season and were trapped in a blizzard. They were forced to make camp for the winter, and many soon began to die of starvation. It was five months before all were rescued, and many resorted to cannibalism. Only 45 of the original 81 members of the Donner Party survived.
When the plight of the Donner Party first became known, John Sutter sent help, and the survivors were eventually brought to Sutter’s Fort to recuperate. Among the artifacts on display at Sutter’s Fort today are items from the Donner Party, including the doll of young Patty Reed.
Many other artifacts from early California history are also on display, some of which can be seen in this online exhibit. They showcase the Gold Rush era, early California statehood, and the Civil War.
Planning Your Visit
Sutter’s Fort is located in midtown Sacramento at 2701 L Street. Parking is available on the streets surrounding the fort, so be sure to bring quarters for the meters. There is a grassy field surrounding the fort if your little ones need to burn off a little energy afterwards.
Be aware that the site consists of a number of buildings surrounding a large open courtyard, so while most of the exhibits are inside, you will spend a lot of time walking outdoors, so you need to plan accordingly in inclement weather.
As you enter the complex, you’ll be able to visit displays in the various buildings around the fort, such as the general store or the smithy. We had a great time talking to the blacksmith, and my son even got to go in and give him a hand!
Kids really get a sense of what life was like in those days – from doing laundry and baking bread to what it would have been like to travel cross country with your family in a wagon! My kids really loved climbing up in the tower to see the cannons, which were hung from the ceiling in such a way that they could swing around to point in various directions to protect the fort from attackers.
Keep in mind that Sutter’s Fort does host demonstration days and fairs periodically, so check the calendar before you come. You can even come to the “Haunted Fort” just before Halloween! We got lucky and happened to be there on a day with a large school group, so there were even more interactive exhibits than usual.
Also, they work closely with school groups and scout troops, so be sure to contact them if you’d like to plan a visit with a group of students. One program even lets the kids stay overnight!
Fans of Guardians of the Galaxy will be excited to know that a new Marvel Universe Live! show is coming to Sacramento in September! This exciting new show, which will be at the new Golden 1 Center from September 14-17, 2017, will feature Guardians of the Galaxy and more than 20 favorite Marvel super heroes and villains!
We are big fans of Marvel Universe Live and can’t wait to see a new show at the Golden 1 Center! And best of all, you can win a family pack of 4 tickets to opening night just be commenting on this post and telling us your kid’s favorite Marvel super hero (or villain)!
Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to this show for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.
Don’t miss the action-packed adventure of Marvel Universe Live! Age of Heroes. Spider-Man and The Avengers will be joined by the Guardians of the Galaxy, including Star-Lord, Gamora, Groot, Rocket and Drax. Witness a legendary battle to defend the universe from evil, in this newest production from Feld Entertainment, the world’s leading producer of live touring family entertainment.
What: Marvel Universe Live! Age of Heroes, featuring Guardians of the Galaxy When: September 14-17, 2017: Thursday, Sept 14, 7:00 PM; Friday, Sept 15, 7:00 PM; Saturday, Sept 16, 11:00 AM, 3:00 PM & 7:00 PM; Sunday, Sept 17, 1:00 PM & 5:00 PM Where: Golden 1 Center, 500 David J Stern Walk, Sacramento, CA 95814 Tickets: Tickets start at $20 each! Discount Opening Night tickets available for only $15 each on select seating (not valid for premium/VIP levels)
This September, take your kids out for a show with non-stop action, movie-style thrills and amazing stunts! Immersive video projection and cutting-edge special effects will captivate and transport audiences across the universe from the fantastical Savage Land to New York City and beyond. Spider-Man and Wasp’s dynamic aerial stunts along with Captain America’s daring motorcycle skills will be on display in the ultimate race against time to save mankind.
Tickets now available for purchase online at Ticketmaster.com, charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or visit the venue Box Office.
*Ticket prices subject to change; tickets may be subject to service charges, facility and handling fees.
Marvel Universe LIVE! Age of Heroes will travel throughout North America on a multiyear tour, including stops in Denver, Las Vegas, Bay Area, Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami and New York. After North America, the show will embark on an international tour starting in 2019. For a complete list of North American tour dates, locations and to purchase tickets, please visit MarvelUniverseLIVE.com.
Enter for a chance to win a family pack of 4 tickets to opening night on September 14: Comment below and tell us your child’s favorite Marvel super hero or villain! Winner chosen at random. Contest ends September 6, 2017, at midnight PT.
This content has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PureLife35pk #CollectiveBias
It’s that time of year! The weather is finally warming up, and there are more and more beautiful days to get outside and enjoy with our kids. We love going to the playground, but I also love to take the kids hiking, where they can breathe in the fresh air and really reconnect with the natural world. Even if your children are very young, you don’t have to miss out on this fun activity, as many parks and recreational areas have paths that are easy for strollers and little legs. Here are our favorite kid-friendly hikes in Northern California.
Before You Go
Have a plan. Exploring can be so much fun, especially in the great outdoors, but if you have little ones in tow, don’t waste all their energy wandering around looking for the trailhead. Most parks have detailed information and maps of kid-friendly hikes available on their websites, or you can talk to a ranger once you arrive.
Use good shoes. Bring home good memories, not sore feet! Make sure everyone has well-fitting, supportive shoes to wear. Remember that ordinary sneakers often don’t have good grip for outdoor trails, so use hiking shoes when possible.
Wear layers. The weather may be cool when you start, but you will quickly warm up as you walk, so be prepared by dressing in layers. This will also help if you are going to be hiking on a densely forested trail, where it may be significantly cooler than in sunnier areas.
Pack high-energy snacks. Nuts or trail mix are great snacks to keep you and your kiddos going on kid-friendly hikes.
Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, especially when you are active outdoors! My relatives are always surprised at how much my kids love to drink water, but it’s a habit that we have instilled in them from a very young age. My boys love to run and play, so it’s important to make sure they stay hydrated. And now it’s even easier, with the new 35 pack of Nestlé® Pure Life® water now available at Walmart. It’s such a great value, because it’s the same price as the old 32 pack – that’s 3 extra bottles for free! Find out more about this great offer at the end of this post.
10 Kid-Friendly Hikes in Northern California
Muir Woods National Monument: Muir Woods is simply a classic spot to visit in Northern California, a lush forest of old growth redwood trees that has been federally protected for more than a century. It also boosts easy trail loops that are accessible for strollers and wheelchairs. There are also moderate to strenuous hikes if your children are older, but even if you stay on the easy trails, don’t worry that you are missing out – the views are still spectacular! Be aware that it is usually quite chilly inside the forest, even on warm days, so bring layers.
Lassen Volcanic National Park: Lassen is another area that has been protected for more than 100 years and today is enjoyed by nearly half a million visitors a year. And frankly it is one of the most unusual spots we have visited in California: an active volcano, a gigantic steam vent, a cold boiling lake, and bubbling mud that smells like rotten eggs – it’s a kid’s dream! The most accessible site is the Sulphur Works, and the Devastated Area (its actual name!) has a half-mile hard surface trail with wonderful views. Please be extra cautious not to let your children wander off the trails, especially in the hydrothermal areas, as it could be dangerous.
Mount Shasta area: Mount Shasta is the second highest peak in the Cascade Range (which also include Lassen, see above). The mountain itself is awe-inspiring, and while most of its trails are more rugged, its Panther Meadows trail is relatively short and easy (approx 1 mile). But don’t neglect area at the base of the mountain, which has many beautiful areas for families to enjoy nature. The walk to Hedge Creek Falls in Dunsmuir, for example, is just over half a mile from the picnic area, and is accessible even during the winter, when many trails on the mountain are closed. McCloud River and Falls also has kid-friendly hikes, and you can enjoy a walk around Siskiyou Lake using the new Wagon Trail.
Point Reyes National Seashore: Often when we think of Point Reyes we think of the beaches – picnicking or flying kites among the dunes, or climbing the steep steps to the lighthouse – yet the park is actually much more extensive than just the coastline. There are plenty of paved or well-packed dirt trails that are relatively flat and easy for little legs. Earthquake Trail in particular is paved and just over half a mile. And if the beach is what you are looking for, North and South Beach also have short paved paths in the dunes that offer beautiful views of the ocean.
Lake Tahoe: The famously clear waters of Lake Tahoe – the second deepest lake in the United States – and the rugged Sierra Mountains that surround it attract visitors from all over the world. It is actually a cluster of state parks and recreational areas, such as Emerald Bay State Park. Some of the trails around Lake Tahoe are quite strenuous, but it is easy to find ones to match your family’s abilities. For example, the Rubicon Trail is a flat, easy trail that goes right along the shoreline. Don’t miss the historic Vikingsholm Mansion!
Russian River: The Russian River is one of those areas in Northern California that I feel are underappreciated. It is a gorgeous area with beaches and wilderness areas for families to explore and has miles of trails for a range of abilities. The best known area for kid-friendly hikes is Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve. Just north of Santa Rosa, this is an old-growth redwood forest with an easy self-guided trail through the grove.
Effie Yeaw Nature Center: This beautiful area near Sacramento encompasses 100 acres of woodland to explore along the American River. All of the nature trails are easy and include interpretive signs. You are sure to see wildlife during your walk, and there is always something to explore at the Nature Center. I love the natural playground and butterfly garden!
Cosumnes River Preserve: This preserve – more than 50,000 acres – is a wonderful place in the Sacramento area to explore nature with your kids. There are two easy trails to choose from, one dirt and one paved. It is a quiet, pristine area, great for spotting wildlife along the trail. Even the shorter, paved trail offers close up views of marshes and wetland plants.
American River Parkway: This 23 mile parkway is accessible at various points along Highway 50. There are a number of parks inside the parkway, including Effie Yeaw (see above). The Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail is popular with bicyclists and pedestrians alike. It is paved and can be accessed from most of the parks within the American River Parkway.
UC Davis Arboretum: I am quite partial to the UC Davis Arboretum, as I used to study there when I was a grad student, and my husband and I would go for walks along its trails when we were newly married (eons ago!). Located on the campus of UC Davis, the Arboretum is open to the public 24 hours a day, with no fee for admission. The main path is a 3.5 mile paved loop. There are also plenty of open areas along the way where you can relax with a picnic or play catch. As you walk, you can enjoy plants from around the world, such as the Australia Collection or the East Asia Collection.
A New Reason to Enjoy Great-Tasting Water
As with any type of outdoor activity, it is essential to keep you and your little ones well hydrated when you are headed out on kid-friendly hikes. That is why I was excited to find out that Nestle Pure Life is now available in a 35 pack at Walmart – at the same price as the old 32 pack! The packaging for Pure Life is also new, so look for it in the water aisle or in a special display.
I want only the best for my kids, which is why I choose Nestle Pure Life, since it is filtered through a 12 step quality process and enhanced with a unique blend of minerals. You can tell the difference because of its great taste!
I keep a pack in the trunk of my car so we are ready any time we want to go for a hike or just head to the playground! Even just running errands on a warm day can make you dehydrated, so I make sure that the kids and I drink plenty of water. This new 35 pack makes it even easier to keep everyone healthy on those special days and everyday!
Please note: Only the 24 pack is available online, so if the 35 pack of Nestle Pure Life is not available in your local Walmart, please ask a store manager about getting the product in your area.
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