Oct 262021
 October 26, 2021  Fall, Northern California, Sacramento, travel Comments Off on Apple Hill: Sacramento Day Trip

Learn more about Apple Hill, a popular fall destination in Northern California! It is an annual tradition for most Sacramento families, with lots of great food, spectacular views, and activities for kids.

Apple Hill Sacramento Day Trip | Alldonemonkey.com

For many families in the Sacramento area, making a trip to Apple Hill is a fall tradition.  In part this is because here in the Sacramento Valley we are “seasonally challenged.”  It’s not that we don’t have seasons, it’s just the two main ones we experience are 1) Incredibly Hot (summer) and 2) Rainy and Cold (winter).  Spring and fall are just brief periods during which the weather jumps back and forth between these two extremes, as if unable to make up its mind.

Apple Hill, CA - Alldonemonkey.com

So for many of us, a day trip up in the mountains to Apple Hill helps us feel like we are experiencing what autumn should be like: cool yet sunny weather, gorgeous fall colors, and apples everywhere you look – in barrels, boxes, and bins, and in cider, tarts, jams, sauces, breads, and – of course – pies.
Apple Hill, CA - Alldonemonkey.com

The Apple Hill Growers – Contact Info and Schedules

Apple Hill is an association of apple orchards, all located within driving and sometimes even walking distance of each other in the towns of Camino, Placerville, and Polluck Pines, California.  But if you think Apple Hill is just about apples, you’d be mistaken.  Most of the orchards feature bake shops and/or craft stores, and many also have small cafés or specialty shops.  And best of all, there are quite a few with activities for kids, such as petting zoos and hay rides (more on this below).  You can even pick your own apples and pumpkins at some of the orchards.

From the association’s main page you can find a complete list of growers, with an interactive map.  They even have pages just for those where you can pick your own apples or pumpkins, and those selling Christmas trees.

Activities for Kids

Every year the association also publishes a complete list of growers offering kids’ activities.  There are pony rides, hay bale mazes, nature trails, crafts, and face painting.  (Please note that some of these activities are only offered on the weekend, and some may involve a small fee).

There are so many orchards at Apple Hill that it is impossible to visit them all in one day.  I have only visited a handful, although I have a friend who makes sure to visit a new orchard every year, with the goal of eventually visiting them all.  She is the person to ask about who has the best pie! (See her recommendations below).

There are so many good spots to visit in Apple Hill.  Here are just some of our favorite places to go:

Apple RidgeApple Hill, CA - Alldonemonkey.com

We always have a good time at Apple Ridge. This is without a doubt my favorite place to visit for those with young children.  When mine were small, they loved running up and down the hill that leads to the petting zoo, where kids can see and even feed goats, sheep, chickens, and bunnies.  There is also a pumpkin patch and a nature trail, plus a tractor to climb on!

This is also where we usually stop to eat, either for a picnic lunch or a sandwich from their café; it is truly beautiful to sit out and enjoy a meal (or pie or cider) under the trees.  This is also a good place to pick up a pie to take home or goodies such jams and sauces.

Denver Dan’s

Denver Dan’s is a great place to take kids, especially if you’d like to pick your own apples.  Don’t be put off by the odd look of the large silver bunker that houses their shop.  This is a really fun place for little ones, and it’s a great spot to buy a whole pie (see recommendations below) or some of the other specialty items. They even do small pie-making classes. Sometimes there is a (very) small petting zoo outside (think llamas!), but for us, the main attraction is the older gentleman who works at the back of the store.  He will let you sample all of the many kinds of jams and jellies they sell (including many flavors you would have never imagined), but he is best known for showing kids how to use the hand-cranked apple peeling gadget mounted on the back table.  He is such a sweetheart and a real character – trust me, he alone is worth the stop!

Delfino Farms (formerly Kids, Inc.)

This is one of the most popular spots in Apple Hill to take kids. You can pick pumpkins, walk on the nature trail, see farm animals, or play in the corn maze.

High Hill RanchApple Hill, CA - Alldonemonkey.com

This is one of the most popular spots in all of Apple Hill, partly because they have such a variety of activities and products, and partly because it is one of the first stops off of the highway.  One of the most popular features is a large fish pond, where you can either feed the fish or catch them with your fishing pole!  There are also ducks wandering around, which my kids love.

A warning, however: If you have a toddler as curious and active as mine were, you may want to hold off visiting High Hill Ranch until they are old enough to not want to run straight into the water (or go before they are old enough to walk!)  My oldest used to love High Hill Ranch, but I found it exhausting, as I spent most of my time chasing him around.  This is especially difficult because the pond is located at the bottom of a steep hill, which he also found very entertaining.

Beyond this, though, High Hill Ranch is a lot of fun.  One of the highlights for us was seeing workers clean and peel the apples in big machines and then making them into cider, which they give out in free samples.

Abel’s Acres

This is another fun spot for kids.  Behind the fully stocked bakery and specialty shops, there are a hay maze, pumpkin patch, and pony rides, plus a large field for running around.

Apple Hill Sacramento Day Trip | Alldonemonkey.com

Boa Vista

Boa Vista is not known for its kids’ activities, although they do have a small area to walk around and pick pumpkins. But it is a very popular spot to stop and enjoy some baked goods or buy jams and sauces.  In fact, now that my kids are older, this is our favorite destination because the food, including a café serving lunch, is really amazing. If you have small ones, keep in mind that there is a busy road running right through Boa Vista, which you have to cross to get to the main picnic tables.

Apple Hill: Plan Your Trip



If you go to Apple Hill, you must pay attention to the schedule, especially if you are looking for something fun to do with the kiddos.  While some of the locations are open year-round (though often on a limited schedule), many of the orchards only open in the fall (usually September through December).  If you are unsure whether a location will be open, it is best to call ahead before making the drive.

Getting Around Apple Hill

Apple Hill is located in a beautiful area, but this means that once you arrive, your drive will be on narrow, winding roads.  (The drive to and from the area is all on highways).  This makes for a scenic drive, which is lucky because if you go on an autumn weekend, chances are you will spend much of your time in your car, looking out at the fall foliage, since you will be stuck in the traffic from all the other folks driving around on these small roads.

If possible, we go on a weekday morning instead, which makes for a much more relaxed experience with hardly any traffic.

Parking is free at each location, in parking lots of varying sizes, and usually easy to find, although if you go on the weekend, you may have to walk a bit at the most popular spots from the back of the lots.

Keep in mind that cell reception is very spotty throughout Apple Hill, though it has improved. So don’t count on having service until you get back on the highway.

Bathrooms are available at most places, but be aware that this often means a port-a-potty or a tiny stall at the back of a store.  Back when I had little ones, I could never find a changing table, so we always had to do diaper changes in our car.


Most locations are free to enter, though they may charge for the activities.  In many instances, though, this is fairly minimal – for example, fifty cents for a cup of food to feed the goats at a petting zoo.

Apple Hill Sacramento Day Trip | Alldonemonkey.com

Food in Apple Hill

The main food you can find at Apple Hill are baked goods. Some but not all orchards offer lunch, so we often packed a picnic, and it is easy to find beautiful picnic spots.  We have also found good meals to purchase as well.  Most are casual dining, offering sandwiches, salads, or barbecue that you can eat from paper plates at nearby picnic tables.

So, who really has the best pie in Apple Hill?

Every person you ask has a different opinion, and truthfully, it would be hard to go wrong with any Apple Hill pie.  (Pie is, admittedly, one of my main reasons for going to Apple Hill in the first place!)  But I asked my friend Crystal, who grew up visiting Apple Hill with her family and has now visited nearly every orchard, whose pies she likes best.  Her recommendations?

  1. Bavarian Hills, especially the French (crumble top) apple pies
  2. Denver Dan’s, especially for apple berry pies

Have fun deciding which orchard you think has the best pie (or doughnuts, or breads, or tarts, or cider…)! Let us know in the comments!


Sacramento for Families

Fall Crafts, Activities, and Books for Kids

Jul 062021
 July 6, 2021  California, Northern California, travel Comments Off on Alcatraz for Families: San Francisco with Kids

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 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

Park wisely.

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.

Alcatraz for Families: San Francisco with Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

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.

Alcatraz for Families: San Francisco with Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

Pack food.

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.

Alcatraz for Families: San Francisco with Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

Wear layers.

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.

Alcatraz for Families: San Francisco with Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

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.

Alcatraz for Families: San Francisco with Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

Have you ever visited Alcatraz?

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Sacramento for Families

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18 Most Picturesque Places to Visit in Northern California with Your Family

10 Kid-Friendly Hikes in Northern California

Jul 142017
 July 14, 2017  travel Comments Off on Family Travel Guides From Around the World

Do you love to travel with your family? Are you raising little world explorers? Here is an enormous collection of family travel guides featuring destinations from around the world, so spin the globe and see where your next destination will be!

Family Travel Guides from Around the World | Alldonemonkey on Multicultural Kid Blogs

To see the full list of family travel guides, just go to Multicultural Kid Blogs to read my guest post there! We will be adding content all the time, so check back frequently!

Family Travel Guides From Around the World

May 042017

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.

10 Kid-Friendly Hikes in Northern California | Alldonemonkey.com #shop #PureLife35pk #CollectiveBias

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.

10 Kid-Friendly Hikes in Northern California | Alldonemonkey.com #shop #PureLife35pk #CollectiveBias

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 MonumentMuir 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 areaMount 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.

10 Kid-Friendly Hikes in Northern California | Alldonemonkey.com #shop #PureLife35pk #CollectiveBias

Point Reyes National SeashoreOften 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 TahoeThe 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 RiverThe 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 CenterThis 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!

10 Kid-Friendly Hikes in Northern California | Alldonemonkey.com #shop #PureLife35pk #CollectiveBias

Related Post: 18 Most Picturesque Places for Families to Visit in Northern California

Cosumnes River PreserveThis 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 ParkwayThis 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 ArboretumI 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.

10 Kid-Friendly Hikes in Northern California | Alldonemonkey.com #shop #PureLife35pk #CollectiveBias

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!

10 Kid-Friendly Hikes in Northern California | Alldonemonkey.com #shop #PureLife35pk #CollectiveBias

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!

10 Kid-Friendly Hikes in Northern California | Alldonemonkey.com #shop #PureLife35pk #CollectiveBias

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.

And don’t forget to visit nestlepurelife.com to sign up for promotions, offers and more.

10 Kid-Friendly Hikes in Northern California | Alldonemonkey.com #shop #PureLife35pk #CollectiveBias

What are your favorite kid-friendly hikes?

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?

Apr 122016
 April 12, 2016  household, travel Comments Off on Great New Stroller for Family Travel

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by @GBChildUsa as part of a Blog Blast Activation for Influence Central.

The gb Pockit stroller is a great choice for family travel

Making travel plans for the summer? Be sure to check out this great new stroller for family travel!

A stroller is a great item to have on hand when you travel with young children – except that they are usually so bulky!  Introducing the new gb Pockit stroller, available from Babies ‘R’ Us, which actually set a world record for being the world’s most compact stroller.  When folded, it is only 12 x 7 x 14 inches!  What a difference that would have made if we had had one on our last family trip!

It is small and light, but also durable and is designed for kids from 6 months up to 55 lbs.  And I loved that it was really designed with busy parents in mind, as it can be easily steered with only one hand and folds in only two steps. It really is the ideal stroller for family travel!

For more on the gb Pockit Stroller – and for a chance to win prizes! – join the Twitter party on April 28!

  • Date: Thursday, April 28, 2016
  • Time: 1 – 2 PM ET
  • Moderators: @MomCentral
  • Brand Participants: @GBChildUSA
  • Party hashtags: #gbPockit
  • Prizes: 2 pre-party winners and 6 party winners will receive $50 Amex gift cards and 1 grand prize winner will receive the gb Pockit Stroller
  • Party Focus: We’ll be chatting about family adventures, whether a jet-setting vacation or a weekend getaway, the gb Pockit gives on-the-go Moms a portable stroller, ideal for all of our family travels.

gb Pockit Stroller: Great New Stroller for Family TravelThe gb Pockit stroller can be found at Babies ‘R’ Us.

Mar 022016

A look at the Sonoma Mission (San Francisco Solano) in Sonoma, California

I love learning about local history, so since we moved to California years ago I have been fascinated with the Spanish missions that dot the length of the state.  I have had the opportunity to visit several of the 21 missions over the years and most recently traveled to the Sonoma Mission (official name, San Francisco Solano) with my family.  It is a great place to visit with kids to learn more about California history!

Sonoma Mission (San Francisco Solano)

The Sonoma Mission was:

  • The last California mission to be built (1823)
  • The furthest north
  • The only mission built after Mexico’s independence from Spain
  • The only mission founded without prior approval from the Church
  • The only one my kids have visited (so far!)

Why We Loved It

My favorite parts were the chapel and the central courtyard.  In the small chapel it is easy to imagine the overlapping prayers and desires of the generations of people who have sat or stood in that very spot.  In the courtyard is where they worked.  It was so amazing to see the old outdoor “beehive” oven they used for baking.  This is a great way for kids to understand how things used to be before electricity.

A look at the Sonoma Mission in Sonoma, California

I loved the central fountain, surrounded by benches and shaded by trees like a little desert oasis.  Although not original to the Mission, it is a welcome addition for today’s visitors. If you visit in the summer, you will appreciate this cool, shady spot even more!

You also can’t miss the huge growth of Prickly Pear cactus, which served as a living fence during Mission times.

A look at the Sonoma Mission in Sonoma, California

My boys loved the army barracks, which show you how soldiers from the Mexican era lived.  There is even an old canon!

How to Find It

The Sonoma Mission is now part of the Sonoma State Historic Park, which includes the Mission, Barracks, and Vallejo family home.  The park is actually six different sites located around the beautiful town of Sonoma, which is in the world famous California Wine Country.

The park is open daily except for major holidays.

While You’re There

We loved La Casa, a wonderful family owned Mexican restaurant right across the street from the Mission.  Before heading home, we also stopped at Chocolate Cow, which has great ice cream as well as candy.  It is located in a cute little shopping plaza just a short walk away from the Mission.

A look at the Sonoma Mission in Sonoma, California

For More Information

California Missions Resource Center

Sonoma Petaluma Parks


Sonoma State Historic Park

Do you have a favorite spot to visit in California?

California Family Destinations

Today we are joining with other California bloggers to share favorite family destinations in the Golden State!  Find great resources in this list, plus link up your own below!

Participating Blogs

All Done Monkey: Sonoma Mission

Mama Smiles: Silicon Valley Family Day Trips

Little Hiccups: Planes, Trains & Cable Cars in the San Francisco Bay Area

Trips with Tykes: National Parks Sites in the San Francisco Bay Area Perfect for Kids

Left Brain Craft Brain: Monterey Bay Aquarium with Kids

Savvy Every Day: Family Getaway to Carmel, CA

Nov 192014
 November 19, 2014  travel 4 Responses »

Family Travel Oasis: The Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport from American Express | Alldonemonkey.com

I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Influence-Central for American Express. I received thank you items for my participation.

Family travel is not for the faint of heart.  Among the more difficult phases of a family trip is flying itself.  Children naturally rebel against so unnatural an act as sitting in a confined space for long stretches of time – especially when parents restrain them from exploring all of the wonderful new places on the airplane and in the airport that are begging to be discovered!

That is why I was so excited to learn about the brand-new Centurion Lounge from American Express in San Francisco’s International Airport.  This 8,200 foot lounge is located in Terminal 3 of SFO and is truly an oasis for family travel.

I had the pleasure of previewing it recently with the Monkeys, and we had a blast!

As a parent, it was so relaxing to be in a safe, clean, beautiful space where I could let my children play without worrying about what exactly they might find in their explorations!  Also, anyone who has traveled with young children will appreciate how heavenly it is to have a space large enough for the kids to stretch their legs – but one that ultimately has boundaries so they don’t run off from you!

A Family Travel Oasis

s1. Engaging, colorful play space

In addition to the general spaces – filled with soft, inviting couches – where kids can play, The Centurion Lounge also has a Family Room dedicated just to them!

Family Travel Oasis: The Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport from American Express | Alldonemonkey.com

The Family Room is equipped with fun toys for a range of ages and soft kid-sized cushioned chairs, plus a large screen TV and a collection of children’s books.  It’s also sound-proof – brilliant!

Family Travel Oasis: The Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport from American Express | Alldonemonkey.com

2. Wonderful food!

A big perk for families with little mouths to feed is the buffet at The Centurion Lounge, filled with delicious, healthy foods.  But don’t worry, there are also lots of treats for the kids and grownups!

Family Travel Oasis: The Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport from American Express | Alldonemonkey.com

Photo courtesy of American Express

The offerings are inspired by the cuisine of the Napa Valley and curated by renowned chef Christopher Kostow.

Family Travel Oasis: The Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport from American Express | Alldonemonkey.com

Little Monkey clutching the balloon animal he received at the reception; photo courtesy of American Express

3. Luxury service

For weary travelers, it is a real treat to receive such incredible service.  When you enter, you are greeted by American Express Member Service professionals, happy to answer any questions and help you get settled in.  And throughout your stay there is always someone discreetly available to bring you a drink or help you with your things.  For parents accustomed to doing all the fetching, it is heavenly to have someone taking care of you for a change.

4. Spaces to rest and relax

Families on the move will appreciate having comfortable spaces to recharge.  There are plenty of couches in spacious open areas, as well as cozy nooks to snuggle with your babes or catch some zzz’s.

Family Travel Oasis: The Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport from American Express | Alldonemonkey.com

Family Travel Oasis: The Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport from American Express | Alldonemonkey.com

5. Tech space

Of course, one characteristic of travel is being less connected to your networks.  The Centurion Lounge’s high speed wi-fi , as well as the outlets near every seat, make recharging your gear and getting in touch with your loved ones (or your office, or your travel information…) easy to do.

Family Travel Oasis: The Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport from American Express | Alldonemonkey.com

Family Travel Oasis: The Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport from American Express | Alldonemonkey.com

6. Spaces to refresh

Finally, one of my favorite features of The Centurion Lounge is the shower!  Now isn’t that a great idea??  It is tucked discreetly into a quiet corner of the lounge, back around a corner, so you don’t feel like you are freshening up in front of everyone!  The ability to clean up is a great feature for any traveler but especially for those traveling with children, who seem to attract dirt and mess.  For once, it would be nice to arrive at our final destination not feeling like we were wearing an inch of grime for every leg of our trip!

If you are looking for a place to unwind and relax with your kids during your next trip, be sure to visit The Centurion Lounge for American Express members!  The new lounge is the first on the West Coast and the fourth in a network that is expanding to major airports across the US.  Entrance to The Centurion Lounge is complimentary for consumer, Business and Corporate Platinum Card and Centurion® members, and their immediate family or up to two travel companions.  All other American Express Credit and Charge Card members can purchase a one-day pass for $50.

For more information, visit The Centurion Lounge website or follow American Express on Facebook or Twitter.



Aug 212014
 August 21, 2014  family, travel Comments Off on Family Travel: Benefits and Challenges of Traveling with Young Children

Family Travel: Benefits and Challenges of Traveling with Young Children | Alldonemonkey on Kid World Citizen

Traveling with young children presents particular challenges: You have to figure out what to pack and how to keep them occupied on long plane rides and car trips. But it also offers certain benefits, such as experiencing the wonder of new places through your child’s eyes. Many parents of little ones debate whether it is worth the trouble or if it is better to simply wait until their kids are older. What should you do?

Today on Kid World Citizen I am sharing some factors to consider as you make a decision: Is travel with young children worth it?  What do you think?

Family Travel: Benefits and Challenges of Traveling with Young Children

Jul 212014

Places to Visit with Kids in California: Fairy Tale Town, Sacramento {Sunshine Kids Blog Hop 2014} | Alldonemonkey.com

This post is part of the Second Annual Sunshine Kids Blog Hop.  This year we are focusing on great places to visit in California with kids!  Be sure to link up your family-friendly California posts below, and visit my post on Native California from last year’s blog hop!

Fairy Tale Town has been a favorite destination for families in Sacramento for generations.  Opened in 1959, it was one of a wave of storybook parks that opened around the United States during the 1950s and 60s, thanks in large part to the success of Disneyland.  Yet Fairy Tale Town is one of the few still in operation today.

Places to Visit with Kids in California: Fairy Tale Town, Sacramento {Sunshine Kids Blog Hop 2014} | Alldonemonkey.comClimbing up the beanstalk

It is truly a magical place, where fairy tales and nursery rhymes come to life.  Kids can slide down the beanstalk, climb up to Owl’s house in the 1000 Acre Wood, swing on the jungle gym in Sherwood Forest, and stop to pet the animals at Farmer Brown’s Barn.

Places to Visit with Kids in California: Fairy Tale Town, Sacramento {Sunshine Kids Blog Hop 2014} | Alldonemonkey.comEven the bathroom breaks are fun!

There are 25 playsets in Fairy Tale Town, each based on a different childhood tale.  In addition there are farm animals, two performing arts stages, and several gardens.

Places to Visit with Kids in California: Fairy Tale Town, Sacramento {Sunshine Kids Blog Hop 2014} | Alldonemonkey.com

Since many of the features were built in the 1950s, there is a lot of concrete, but everything is very well maintained and safe for young visitors.  In fact, there are only a few features (several of the high slides) that are not appropriate for very little ones. While older kids will find much to enjoy here, you will also see lots of toddlers moseying around the park.

On a recent visit, my preschooler and my toddler both enjoyed themselves immensely.  The little one loved playing in the bright, colorful play areas just his size.  My older son enjoyed it on a different level now that he is familiar with the stories on which the play areas are based.  We spent an entire morning here and could have easily stayed longer.

Places to Visit with Kids in California: Fairy Tale Town, Sacramento {Sunshine Kids Blog Hop 2014} | Alldonemonkey.com

In addition to all the fun attractions available on an everyday basis, there are also performances, special events, and summer camps.  There is a cafe (the Dish and Spoon) plus plenty of picnic tables if you prefer to bring your own food.

If you visit during the summer, I suggest visiting in the morning to avoid the heat.  Thankfully, though, even in the afternoons there is plenty of shade from the many trees in the park.

Places to Visit with Kids in California: Fairy Tale Town, Sacramento {Sunshine Kids Blog Hop 2014} | Alldonemonkey.com

I highly recommend Fairy Tale Town as part of your California Staycation!  It is a whimsical, magical place that you and your kiddos will enjoy.  Afterwards you can head next door to beautiful William Land Park or just across the street to visit the Sacramento Zoo!  (Combined tickets are available for Fairy Tale Town and the zoo).

Are you taking a staycation this summer?


sunshine kids blog hop 2014

Places to Visit with Kids in California:

Sunshine Kids Blog Hop 2014

Summer is a great time to explore with your kids – and you don’t have to travel far to do it! California has so much to offer to families. Take a great staycation this summer by visiting your local treasures! In our second annual Sunshine Kids Blog Hop, we are focusing on our favorite places to visit with kids in California. Enjoy! And be sure to add your own family-friendly California posts in our linky at the bottom. You can also check out even more California posts on our collaborative Kid Friendly California Pinterest board!

Participating Blogs:

Alldonemonkey.com Sparkling Buds baykidsplaybutton
A Mom With a Lesson Plan Little Hiccups EHM Grab Button 250x250
Capri+3 Savvy 3 MeMeTales
SoCalPocketMemories made-with-happy-square-200
365ishdaysofpinterest 2KuriousKids
Adventure Bee

And now it’s time to see what everyone has been up to:

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