Is your child a Thomas the Tank Engine fanatic? If so, your chance to experience all things Thomas & Friends and even take a ride on a train drawn by Thomas the Tank Engine himself is coming this summer! Tickets are on sale now for Day Out with Thomas: The Go Go Thomas Tour 2013, which takes place over two weekends on July 26, 27, and 28 and August 2, 3, and 4 at Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
You can take a train ride, meet Sir Topham Hatt, enjoy live music, take in some storytelling, get a (temporary) Thomas & Friends tattoo, create with Mega Bloks, and even watch videos. There's something for everyone. Of course there are also plenty of ways available to separate you from your cash, with just about every conceivable Thomas & Friends product available for sale.
Traveling with an infant or toddler can be a unique challenge, especially when getting them to sleep. Marin parent coach, infant/toddler sleep researcher, and family therapist Angelique Millette has complied the following list of handy tips for traveling with children.
Angelique works throughout the Bay Area and across the country supporting families and helping them meet life's challenges. You can learn more about her and her events and classes at www.angeliquemillette.com.
It's that time of year, travel time and many parents have been calling with questions about traveling with their babies and young children.
I've put together a list of tips and suggestions all tried-and-true by parents and their children:
If your baby will be sleeping in a pack'n'play on your trip, in the week or two before your trip place your baby in her pack'n'play for sleeping (AM nap or bedtime) so she gets used to the new sleep space.
Bring your baby or toddler's lovey, sleep sack (light and heavy weight depending upon the weather in the region you are visiting), unwashed crib sheet (familiar scent), and sound machine. Bring your toddler's blankies, stuffed animals, favorite bedtime books and pj's. This will help your little one to feel more secure in a new place and have reminders of home.
Talk to your young child about traveling. If flying for the first time, talk to your child ahead of travel day and tell her about flying in an airplane. Bring along her favorite books, 1-2 new toys and favorite snacks/sippy cup.
Like many other fourth graders in Marin, my son has been immersed in California history this year. One of the books that he read in class was Patty Reed's Doll, which tells the story of the ill-fated Donner Party from the point of view of one of its youngest members and her beloved doll "Dolly." When we learned that Dolly herself is on view at Sutter's Fort State Historic Park in Sacramento, we decided we had to make the trip to go see it.
Sutter's Fort was built between 1841 and 1843 by Swiss-born pioneer John Augustus Sutter, who made it the centerpiece of his settlement which he dubbed New Helvetia. Sutter's Fort was a welcome sight for many early California immigrants who often endured arduous conditions crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Sutter was renowned for his hospitality and assistance to immigrants, but his lands were overrun by gold-seekers after 1848, destroying much of the empire that he built.
While the two-story adobe Marin Building is original, the rest of the fort, including the 15-foot-high adobe walls, has been reconstructed. Step through the fort's gates, though, and you're back in the 1840s, especially if one of their special interpretive "Hands-on History" programs is taking place.
Looking for a fun and educational day trip? Why not explore California's railroading past at Sacramento's California State Railroad Museum? Located in the historic Old Sacramento neighborhood, it's an easy day trip from the Bay Area or a convenient stop on the way home from Tahoe. Either way, it's perfect for a family outing at any time of the year.
If you like trains—and really, who doesn't?—the California State Railroad Museum is the place to go. Chronicling the history of California's railroads from the first transcontinental railroad in the 1860s to the modern day, there's really something here for the whole family. Not only can you view two centuries worth of historic locomotives and rolling stock, but you can actually go on board four different railroad cars, one of which is equipped to simulate movement at night.
Also on view in the museum are a huge array of toy trains and model railroad equipment. It's also one of the most family-friendly museums you can visit, full of big machines and fun things for kids to see and do.
Last weekend, we visited one of our favorite outdoors spots in the Bay Area, Jack London State Historic Park. Located in the small Sonoma Valley town of Glen Ellen, it's about a 45-minute drive north from Marin.
The park is made up of land that was at one time the Beauty Ranch owned by renowned writer, social reformer, and rabble-rouser Jack London (1876–1916), author of classic adventure tales like The Sea Wolf,The Call of the Wild, and White Fang. This is always a destination for us in later winter and early spring—the wild mustard and other wildflowers are in bloom, the weather is cool and clear, and it's breathtakingly beautiful.
Nestled at the foot of Sonoma Mountain, Jack London State Historic Park is full of stunning scenery, historic buildings, and short easy hikes that are perfect for families. There are also longer treks available for those who don't have kids in tow.
Who doesn't like Jelly Belly jelly beans? You probably knew that they come in practically every flavor imaginable, but did you know that they're made just up the road in the Solano County town of Fairfield? Did you know you can tour their factory for free? The Jelly Belly factory offers a fun, tasty, and informative tour daily that's a perfect outing for families and groups.
The Jelly Belly Visitor Center is open every day (except for New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) from 9 am to 5 pm, and guided tours of the facility operate daily from 9 am to 4 pm. No reservations are required—just show up at the factory at 1 Jelly Belly Lane in Fairfield. Tours leave every 10 to 15 minutes and last about 40 minutes or so. Typically, you'll have to wait for about 15 minutes for a tour, but during really busy periods like holidays, spring break, and Christmas vacation, you can expect to wait for an hour or more.
When it's your time to go, you'll be handed a paper Jelly Belly cap (the wearing of which is mandatory, unless you brought your own cap or hair net) and your group will move upstairs to start the tour. No photos are allowed in the factory, but along the way you'll see just about every part of the plant, including the candy kitchen, the packing and shipping areas, and the place where they coat and polish the jelly beans as a final step in their manufacture. My kids were amazed by all the giant bags of sugar stacked on the factory floor. ("You mean they use all of that?!")
Living in the Bay Area, it's unlikely that we're going to get a white Christmas, or much snow at any time during the winter for that matter. Fortunately, Lake Tahoe, the Sierra Nevada mountains, and all the snow play fun you could possibly want are just a few hours away.
Our favorite mountain destination is Northstar California Resort near Truckee, but there are numerous ski resorts and snow play areas around Lake Tahoe to suit anyone's taste and budget.
Here's our guide to places to ski, snowboard, tube, sled, and play in the snow around Tahoe. We're tried to focus on spots that offer not only skiing and snowboarding, but tubing, snow play, and other winter activities, as well. If we've omitted your favorite, please let us know!
Due to this season's early snowfall, many resorts and ski areas are already open, especially larger operations like Northstar and Heavenly that make their own snow. Most others are tentatively scheduled to open by mid to late December. Make sure you check before you go, as opening dates are dependent on snowfall and weather; we've included website links and phone numbers.
While we love the skiing and winter fun at Lake Tahoe, we know that not everyone's a skiier, and sometimes you just want to take the kids up to play in the snow. While many of the Tahoe ski resorts like Northstar, Squaw Valley, and Heavenly have tubing parks, ice skating, and other winter non-skiing activities for the family, there are plenty of places in the Sierras where you can get your snow play fix without the ski resort hustle and bustle (and price tag).
Most of these snow play sites are within a few hours' drive from Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area. While some have tubes and sleds to rent, others, most notably the California State Sno-Parks, offer little more than a place to park your car so you can go play in the snow. For a list of Lake Tahoe ski resorts that offer both skiiing and snow play activities, read our article here.
Are you and your family ready to hit the slopes this winter? Thanks to last week's early season storm (and of course the snowmaking machines), our favorite Tahoe ski destination, Northstar California Resort will open early this year.
The ski and snow fun start this Wednesday, November 14. Four lifts will be open, as well as a beginner magic carpet lift for new skiers and riders. Ski school, on-mountain dining, and Northstar's 9,000-square-foot ice skating rink will also be open starting Wednesday, and of course all the dining and shopping in the Village, too.
Learn more about what Northstar has to offer for familes in our article here. We're looking forward to heading back up later on in the season, toasting some marshmallows for s'mores at one of Northstar's fire pits, and meeting Marsh Mellow, the Northstar marketing wonder dog (pictured here—my daughter's obsessed with him).