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You’ve got your Saturday routine down to a science. Drive to cafe, to the farmers market and then outdoor activity that will entertain the antsy kids. If you’re tired of running from one stop to the other, change things up by having all your fun at one location. Old Poway Park is all about the endless fun without the hassle of schlepping your brood around. Read on to discover what this amazing spot has to offer (hint: pancakes, trains and a farmers market awaits).

POWAY MIDLAND RR STEAM ENGINERide the Train
Step back in time and take a vintage train ride on the Poway-Midland Railroad. The full-size, narrow-gauge railroad carries passengers aboard vintage and antique railroad equipment, and it’s run entirely by volunteers dressed in authentic railroad attire.

The train operates on Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 3:45 p.m., and Sundays, 11 a.m. – 1:45 p.m. In order to avoid any disappointment, be sure to check the train schedule prior to arriving to ensure it is not a “Quiet Sunday” (typically, the second Sunday of each month).

POWAY MIDLAND RR DEPOT

You can also ride on the newly-restored 1906 San Francisco Cable Car on the fifth weekend of each month. Train tickets are purchased inside the Depot Store for only $2.50 per adult and $.50 cents per kiddo. While parents wait in-line for tickets, kids can play inside the Depot Store with the wooden Thomas trains and check out historical railroad memorabilia on display.

The actual train ride is a short (approximately 5 minutes), half-mile circular 2-lap route around the park. And if you celebrate your birthday in Old Poway Park, the train engineer will make an additional third lap in your honor! It’s just the right amount of time for your antsiest kiddos and to decide what to explore next.

OLD POWAY PARK - FARMER'S MARKETWhere to Shop
Come rain or shine every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Old Poway Park Famer’s Market features rows of tented vendors selling everything from fresh produce to hummus. Kids will love peeking at the colorful fruit and glorious baked goods (grab a homemade muffin to tide the little ones over until lunch). Since it’s a Certified Farmers’ Markets (CFM), farmers sell their locally grown fruit and vegetables directly to you. For the best selection, be sure to arrive before 10 a.m.

OLD POWAY PARK - NELSON HOUSEWhere to Play
The fun in Old Poway Park isn’t limited to the trains! Stop in the Heritage Museum and check out the historical artifacts pertaining dating as far back as the pioneer days. The Poway Historical Memorial Society provides your family with an educational blast from the past. Your little ones will love the replica of 1890’s/early 1900’s classroom showcasing desks with ink wells making them thankful that school isn’t like that anymore!

Stroll over to the Nelson House Museum and take a step back in time and tour the Niles Nelson Poway residence, originally built in the late 1800s. See how families lived and dressed during this time period. Kids can practicing playing the old-fashioned piano and check out what phones looked like way before the iPhone. Depending on volunteer availability, the Heritage Museum and Nelson Home are open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. (closed second Sunday of every month).

OLD POWAY PARK- BLACKSMITH

View blacksmithing up-close and in-person at the Overshiners Blacksmith Shop and learn how metal objects, such as railroad tie spikes, were made from wrought iron and witness live demonstrations of metal work art. The shop is open every first and third Saturday of the month from 10:30 am – 1:30 pm.

Just a few feet from the blacksmith shop is the Poway-Midland Railroad Trian Shed where the historical trains are stored. When the train is operating, the train shed is wide-open, so curious kids can peer inside and get a glimpse of the other equipment not in use. This is a must-see for any avid train fan.

A memorial honoring past, present and future veterans of the United States Military is open year-round and located on Midland Road and Adrian Street, across the street from the train shed. Stop by and show the kids this awesome piece of military history.

In addition to the farmer’s markets, train ride and museums, the Old Poway Park offers a large, serene area to simply come and relax with family and friends. The area is first-come, first-served and the family can picnic or barbecue, enjoy a summer concert in the park’s large white gazebo, gaze at the koi pond, or just read a book in the shade.

HAMBURGER FACTORY 1Where to Eat
Enjoy a home-style country breakfast at the Hamburger Factory Restaurant, located right inside Old Poway Park. And don’t let the name fool you! This place is much more than your average burger joint. When you step inside, there will be no need for your hand-held devices to keep you occupied until your meal arrives. The country-cottage décor will have everyone at your table pointing out various eclectic wall-hangings, ranging from dressed-up stuffed bears to old mining pans. Kids receive a packet of crayons and a coloring place-mat menu. Die-hard sports fans are kept occupied with several televisions around the room that are tuned-in to those all-important sports games.

As the name implies, the restaurant is known for their array of tasty hamburgers that can be personalized and made-to-order, but the cooks at the Hamburger Factory Restaurant can also whip up crispy bacon, buttermilk biscuits, fluffy pancakes and a mean egg scramble that won’t break the bank. With a large breakfast menu, there’s pretty much one guarantee: no one will leave hungry. Weekend breakfast is served from 7 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., and lunch begins at 11:45 a.m. on weekends and holidays.

Old Poway Park
14134 Midland Rd.
Poway, Ca  92064
Online: poway.org/452/Old-Poway-Park

What’s your favorite thing to do at Old Poway Park? Tell us know in the comments section below.

— Leah R. Singer and Christina Q. Cross (photos too)

Just Jump In: Trampoline Parks to Bounce Around

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When the natives are restless and jumping off the couches like a superhero in flight, it’s time to visit a trampoline park and save your furniture from doom. Indoor jump parks are perfect to get the wiggles out (and hey, jumping is also a good workout for you!). Unlike outdoor trampolines, the trampoline centers feature specially designed frames and springs covered by thick safety padding and considered much safer. Read on to find out three great places to jump in.

get air powayPhoto credit: Get Air Poway Facebook page

Get Air Poway
What makes Get Air Poway unique is a gated “Small Air” area with trampoline and foam pit which is totally separate from the main jump area. Here, kids under 46-inches have the freedom to safely jump without any parent’s worry of their kiddo colliding midair with a much taller jumper or adult. There are super, comfy couches that outline one side of the Small Air Area, where parents can sit back and relax while watching their little one bounce and play. The Small Air area is located on the same floor as the main court, which makes it easier to keep track of older kids playing in the dodgeball court or main court.

Insider’s Tip: There are cubby holes to store shoes. Since there are no lockers, be sure to leave valuables at home.

12160 Community Rd.
Poway, Ca 92064
Online: getairpoway.com

skyhighsportsPhoto credit: Sky High Sports Facebook page

Sky High Sports
You’ll find three different areas at Sky High Sports located in Miramar, including one main trampoline area where you can literally bounce off the wall. Another area is dedicated for dodgeball. Kids love the foam pit area where they can either swing from a rope or trampoline bounce into a sea of soft foam blocks. The lower level includes the Kids Court for little jumpers ages 8 and under. Luckily for parents, there are lots of benches around the trampoline perimeters so you can chat with friends while the kiddos jump to their hearts’ content. And if anyone needs a break from jumping, head into the arcade.

Insider’s Tip: “Munchkin Mondays” admission for kids 6 and younger is $8 for 2 hours from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Also, on the first Tuesday of every month from 2 to 5 p.m., Sky High welcomes kids and young adults with special needs and their families and friends so they can enjoy bouncing without the loud music and other distractions.

8190 Miralani Dr.
San Diego, CA 92126
Online: sdo.jumpskyhigh.com/index.php

sky zonePhoto credit: Sky Zone San Diego Facebook page

Sky Zone San Diego Indoor Trampoline Park
Located in Chula Vista, Sky Zone San Diego is inside the Eastlake Design Center. Like the other trampoline parks, Sky Zone San Diego has times for open jump, a foam zone and ultimate dodgeball. What makes this center unique is their offering of SkyRobics for parents. These classes are low-impact, healthy fun that combines calisthenics, core exercises and strength-building aerobics. Hey, just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you can’t have fun (and burn calories) too! Jumpers are fitted for and required to wear Sky Zone shoes while jumping. If you forget to bring or wear socks, Sky Socks are for sale.

Insider’s Tip: Bring the little ones in for jumping at a discount. Sky Zone offers kiddos 42-inches and under the chance to jump for only $12 until 4 p.m. on Monday – Friday.

851 Showroom Place #100
Chula Vista, Ca 91914
Online: skyzone.com/SanDiego

Which San Diego trampoline park is your favorite and why?

— Christina Q. Cross and Leah R. Singer

Take Flight to Del Mar’s Exotic Bird Sanctuary

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Your kids may already be fans of Rio or perhaps they just love anything that flies (birds, airplanes, superheroes — you name it). Feed two birds with one visit (well, at least one visit) to the Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary where you’ll have the chance to feed exotic birds in the picturesque tropical grounds. This hidden gem is tucked on the south side of the Del Mar Fairgrounds as you head into Del Mar Village and it’s open seven days a week, making it the perfect escape for little bird lovers at heart.

FREE FLIGHT EXOTIC BIRD - 1

The Aviary
When you step into the peaceful, lush grounds of Free Flight filled with bird-safe plants and trees, you’ll find birds of varying colors and sizes all around you perched on tree limbs while others are resting in cages. You’ll meet Bam Bam (a blue and gold macaw); Chole (a Leadbeater cockatoo); and Mandy (an Alexandrian parrot) to just name a few from the cast of characters.FREE FLIGHT EXOTIC BIRD - 6

All of these birds (who were donated and/or rescued) have the late Dr. Robert (a.k.a, “Dr. Bob”) Stonebreaker to thank for their pristine living conditions. Dr. Bob founded this tropical bird garden in 1981 as a boarding and breeding facility, and overtime it became a unique aviary where visitors of all ages have the opportunity to interact with rare exotic birds. Since 2009, Free Flight has been a non-profit with the mission to provide shelter and re-socialize former exotic bird pets while raising public appreciation and awareness of endangered or threatened exotic birds as well as conservation.

The Free Flight docents play an important role, greeting visitors on arrival and helping orient them to the aviary. The docents will direct you to which birds welcome head scratches and provide you with a detailed history of each bird’s background, from their name to all about their species in addition to some general exotic bird factoids. Such as, exotic birds have the emotional intelligence of a two-year-old and many can live up to 80 years. And, since these exotic birds are social by nature, it’s important that they are stimulated daily not only by their caretakers but also by different visitors.  This interaction helps the birds lessen any fear-based aggression.

It should be noted that children must be accompanied and supervised by adults at all times. Also, kids are not permitted to run throughout the aviary because it be upsetting to some of the birds.FREE FLIGHT EXOTIC BIRD -2

Bird Feed
The best way to get acquainted with the Free Flight birds is by feeding them. While you can’t give Polly a cracker or smuggle treats in from home to feed the birds, you can purchase a fresh produce mix to feed them in a bowl.

FREE FLIGHT EXOTIC BIRD -3

Some birds are very social and depending on your comfort level, you are permitted to handle them. Most birds are content by just you talking to them, admiring their beauty and, of course, raising a food bowl in their direction.

Another highlight is the beautiful Koi pond with a small bridge. Koi food is also available for purchase. The bright orange, yellow, and red fish definitely keep the younger kids intrigued. After interacting with the birds and Koi, there are also benches to just sit and soak in the beauty of the sanctuary.FREE FLIGHT EXOTIC BIRD - 4

Birds of a Feather Flock Together: Adoption Program
Many exotic birds end up needing a new home because their owners don’t realize the expense and time required to properly care for an exotic bird. Free Flight takes ex-pet birds under their wing due to a change in the owner’s situation and rehabilitates them in their free flying, outdoor environment.

Once the birds are re-socialized, Free Flight offers them up for adoption. Visitors can choose among the birds to adopt.  Due to the concern for the future welfare of the bird, potential adopters, however, must meet Free Flight’s criteria and be deemed a match. If Free Flight determines that a particular bird is unable to be adopted, the bird will stay at Free Flight to live out its life. Over the years, Free Flight has placed 155 birds in “Forever Homes” with only three adoption returns.

If adopting a bird is not in the picture, Free Flight also welcomes visitors to sponsor a particular bird that they have become fond of during their visit.

FREE FLIGHT EXOTIC BIRD - 5

Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary
2132 Jimmy Durante Blvd.
Del Mar, Ca  92014
Online:  freeflightbirds.org

Hours: Open daily 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., except Wednesday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. If there’s inclement weather (either too hot or cool), be sure to call in advance to learn if the birds are out.

Admission: $5 per adult; $2 per kiddo under 13. There’s also a membership program available for frequent visitors and group tours, for Girls Scout troops, playgroups and the like, can be arranged with advanced notice.

Have you been to this cool exotic bird sanctuary? What’s your favorite bird to watch?

Written and photographed by Christina Q. Cross

Oma’s: Where Dairy Farm Meets Pumpkin Patch

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There aren’t too many San Diego pumpkin patches we don’t like. But for a harvest farm experience that takes place on a real working dairy farm, head on over to Oma’s Pumpkin Patch where you’ll find a no frills pumpkin patch replete with real tractor-pulled hayride, farm animals, pumpkins, and even a bit of Norwegian flair. Read on to discover why you should make a visit to Oma’s your new fall tradition.

OMA'S PUMPKIN PATCH 10

Finding the Perfect Pose
Toward the entrance of Oma’s, you’ll come across an area with various autumn themed displays, which makes for the perfect fall photo-op. Pose there, or use the pumpkins, Indian corn, corn stalks, gourds and hay bales (all of which are for sale) for your picture (holiday photo, anyone?). Be sure to snap a few photos on top of the open-bed vintage truck or with a pumpkin scarecrow in the background before your pumpkin lovers take off running.

OMA'S PUMPKIN PATCH 9

Where to Play
Oma’s features plenty for little tykes to explore without you having to open your wallet and purchase tickets for various attractions. All of these cool activities are included with admission, which means means your child can run through the hay bale maze and climb on top of, and pretend to drive, a variety of tractors (and other farm vehicles — even a few bulldozers!) as many times their little heart desires.

Your kids will love the petting corrals with sheep, billy goats and other farm animals. Outside the petting corrals is a large trough area with sinks where you can wash your hands with soap and dry them with paper towels.

OMAS PUMPKIN PATCH No. 13

Several playground areas on the farm cater to different age groups. If you have toddlers, head towards the area that features a play kitchen, gas station and Little Tykes Cozy Coupe (foot-peddled) cars.  For the five and under, there’s a huge sand pile with toy trucks and tractors in a variety of sizes. For the more adventurous older kids, head over to “Cottonseed Mountain” where your little climbers can scale a large hill of cottonseed and come zooming down on a disc sled.

OMA'S PUMPKIN PATH NO. 8
And yes, your kids can even “milk” cows.

OMA'S PUMPKIN PATCH NO. 12
Ride and Learn
Included with admission is a hayride where you can expect an actual tractor-pulled ride (yes, the real thing) through an operating dairy farm. After passing grazing horses, llamas and donkeys named “Sugar” and “Spice” (who are more spice than sugar) in the fields, you will get up-close and personal with dairy cattle inside an open-air dairy barn.  Just prep your noses for the waft of farm animal living.

OMAS PUMPKIN PATCH NO. 9While inside the dairy barn, you’ll learn fun facts about the life of dairy farming (think, breeding and milk production, which will certainly be more fascinating for you than the kids).  You’ll also hear a little history about the farm itself, including background on Gerrit and Gerry Van Ommering—the  Dutch immigrants who established the farm after emigrating from the Netherlands in 1960.

Insider’s Tip: “Spring Dairy Tours,” which are more interactive than the basic hayride tour, are offered in April and May for kids who are in kindergarten and older.

OMAS PUMPKIN PATCH No.

Where to Eat
A bottle of water is included with each admission to Oma’s. But if your little explorers get hungry, you can purchase reasonably-priced snacks at the Cow Country Café. Oma’s welcomes picnic lunches and snacks from home, all of which can be enjoyed under shaded lunch tables.

OMA'S PUMPKIN PATCH 11
Pick Your Pumpkin
On the way out, choose one kid-sized (approximately 5-10 lbs) “Jack Patch Pumpkin” from a large pile in a tented area.  Pumpkins, ranging from itty-bitty to grandiose in size, are also for sale with seasonal crafts available at the gift shop.

OMA'S PUMPKIN PATCH 6
Oma’s Pumpkin Patch
14950 El Monte Rd.
Lakeside, Ca  92040
Online: omaspumpkinpatch.com

Hours: Tues.- Sun., Sept. 23 – Nov. 1 from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday

Price: $8/kid, 1 year and older.  Price includes a water bottle and “Jack Patch Pumpkin.” Adult admission is free per paying kiddo. Additional adults are $4 each.

Have you been to Oma’s Pumpkin Patch?  What’s your favorite thing about it? 

–Christina Q. Cross

photo credits: Joy Cerin, Christina Cross

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Sometimes navigating a kid-loaded minivan makes us parents feel rather unglamorous, especially when driving past an upscale shopping center. But if you’re passing by the Flower Hill Promenade in Del Mar, you may want to pull into a parking space for a few hours of shopping and relaxation. This center offers an upscale shopping experience, but in a kid-friendly environment. So pull over the minivan, get out the kiddos, and spend a few hours shopping in Del Mar.

Where to Shop

Sweetpea Children’s Shop: Sweetpea has beautiful kids clothing that ranges from infant to young child (perfect when you need to buy clothes for two kids with different age). The boutique offers everything from infant clothing and accessories to “Moses Baskets” and diaper bags.Tip: Sweetpea is a great place to buy a birthday or shower gift since free gift wrapping comes with every purchase.

Sweetpea Children's Shop Flower Hill Del Mar

Pigtails & Crewcuts: It’s often tough to get the little ruggrats to sit still for a much-needed haircut. Between your shopping errands, stop in to Pigtails & Crewcuts to get your kiddo a trim in a fun environment the little ones will love. Haircuts are given on a first-come, first-serve basis. There’s a train table and lots of toys to play with if there’s ever a short wait (mostly on weekends).

Pigtails and Crewcuts Del Mar Flower Hill

Beach Bungalow Designs: If you want some inspiration to beautify your home or your kid’s bedrooms, check out Beach Bungalow Designs for some interior design eye candy. The owners offer their design expertise in selecting bedding, upholstery, window treatments, and furniture that reflect your kiddo’s personality. If you’re not ready to redesign an entire room, Beach Bungalow sells accessories, including adorable frames, pillows, and artwork. Tip: Ask about a free in-store consultations.

Beach Bungalow Designs - Flower Hill Promenade Del Mar

Modish Maternity: While this boutique primarily sells stylish maternity clothes and nursing wear and accessories, they also offer a hip collection of jewelry that isn’t exclusive to pregnant moms. Tip: In-store alterations are included with every purchase. That means that after baby comes along, you can have all your stylish maternity clothes altered to fit your post-baby body.

Where to Eat

If you’re tired from the shopping and want to sit down and be served, try Milton’s Deli for a delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner. Open seven days a week, Milton’s offers a grew menu for both adults and kiddos. The best part of dining at Milton’s is the tables covered in white butcher paper. While parents can enjoy a meal, kids can entertain themselves by drawing all over the table with crayons.

Milton's Deli No. 4
If the wee ones won’t sit still for lunch, try some less formal options in the Promenade including Chipotle and Burger Lounge. Both restaurants offer lots of indoor and outdoor seating, and bathrooms. If you’re looking for a sweet treat, head to Yogurtland for self-serve yogurt. FroYo is always a hit with the little ones (and moms too).

Yogurtland Flower Hill Promenade - Del Mar

Where to Play

When shopping and eating are done, let the kiddos burn off some energy in the Flower Hill Promenade play structure. Just outside of Geppetto’s Toys store is a play structure on rubber-cushioned surface geared for kids 5 and under. Tables with chairs and large umbrellas, as well as a long concrete bench on the side of the playground, provide shade and nice place for parents to relax.

Playground 3 at Flower Hill Promenade Del Mar

You can also make your way into Geppetto’s Toys where kids are encouraged to play with the different toys and demo the two train tables.

Gepetto's  Flower Hill - Del Mar Promenade

Insider’s Tip: If you’re having trouble finding a parking spot, check behind the Whole Foods and find a space in the three-story, four-level parking garage. There’s also valet parking on the west side of the mall.

Flower Hill Promenade
2720 Via De La Valle
Del Mar, Ca 92014
Online: flowerhill.com

What is your favorite place to visit at the revamped Flower Hill Promenade? Tell us in the comments! 

Written and photographed by Christina Q. Cross

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If your kid dressed up as a cowboy for Halloween and considers Woody his best pal, it’s time to experience what life on the prairie is truly like at Feather Acres Farm & Nursery. Tucked away in a sleepy neighborhood in Del Mar, this secret garden packs serious fun with horse corrals, pony rides and a guinea pig pen. Read on to find out more about this gem that will delight any little cowboy or cowgirl.

Feather Acre Farms - Entrace Sign

Farm Philosophy
Not to be confused as a petting zoo or children’s day care, Feather Acres is firstly an animal nursery and floral business. However, their barn doors are open to visitors of all ages and heights. Here parents can show their kids how to patiently and respectfully socialize with animals.

Feather Acre Farms -Nursery

While this is a free farm experience, donations are always appreciated. Or, even better, parents can help sustain the farm’s activities with some beautiful orchid shopping. Home decor and an overly content kiddo? Yes, please!

Feather Acre Farm horse view

Outside Farm for Fun
Under parental supervision, little ones are free to roam the property. Explore  horse corrals and watch magnificent stallions. Venture over to the other side for a slice of farm life on display.

Scamper up a few steps away from the nursery and discover even more animal pens. There’s a sweet, yellow cottage with clucking chickens. If turkeys are more your kind of bird, walk on over a few houses down. Or keep following the bleats, and meet playful billie goats in their happy home.Feather Acre Farms Turkey

Be sure to check out the vintage John Deere wagon parked nearby the chicken coop.

Feather Acres Farm wagon photo

Feather Acres also offers pony ride lessons for little ones. The cost is $25 for a 30-minute encounter. Kids groom the ponies, take a ride along the trail and walk the animals to their pens. Pony rides are only available by appointment, so be sure to call ahead and book your time.

Feather Acres Farm Pony Ride 2

Farm Party Extras
With advanced reservations, Feather Acres offers “Pony Birthday Parties.” Feather Acres will provide the grassy area, picnic tables and two ponies for rides, while you supply the rest – birthday cake, balloons and other party accoutrements.  If the weather is cooler than norm, a small area inside the nursery will open for use.

Feather Acres Farm - horses

Inside Farm Fun
Don’t forget to wander inside the nursery for some hands-on fun.  Toward the front of the nursery is a guinea pig pen. Only four young ones at a time are permitted inside. Once inside, kiddos are welcome to sit and hold the guinea pigs. Feather Acres staff members are nearby to assist your kiddos and will avidly request that the young ones do not yell at or chase the piggies.

Feather Acres Farm - Guinea Pigs

Walk farther back into the nursery and you’ll find an adorable rabbit named Mr. Moose.  Kids may sit quietly and pet Mr. Moose in his cage or outside while sitting on the clay flowering pots.  Just be sure to close Mr. Moose’s roof when you’re finished or else he’ll hop out.
Feather Acres Farm Rabbit

Farm Dining
Home brought picnic lunches are welcome on the scenic property for customers, and there are outdoor picnic tables and benches to share.  Just be sure to dispose of or take your trash with you.

Feather Acres Farm -Picnic

In-House Farm Tips
Wear closed-toe shoes as the entire farm property lays on dirt roads and uneven pathways.

If planning a multi-fam group trip, please contact the staff for approval first. Sudden large-scale parties (families more than three) may find themselves turned away at the door.

All of the animals on Feather Acres Farm are Ted and Vicky’s personal pets. Kindly remind young ones to treat the animals with care and respect. Don’t feed or touch animals without permission, and, for obvious reasons, keep wiggly fingers and noses outside the cages.

And if anyone hears a cowbell ringing for lunch after their visit to Feather Acres Farm & Nursery, head only a mile and half back down the hill to Flower Hill Promenade in Del Mar.

Feather Acres Farm & Nursery
980 Avocado Place
Del Mar, Ca 92014
858-755-3093
Online:  featheracresnursery.com

Hours: Tues.-Sat. 10am-5pm; Sunday 10am-2pm; Closed on Mondays.

Feather Acres Farm - side view

Have you visited Feather Acres Farm & Nursery? What farm activity did you enjoy most on your visit?

–Christina Q. Cross

Photo credits:  Christina Q. Cross

The Inside Scoop on “Day Out With Thomas”

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If your child is nuts for all things Thomas The Tank Engine, earn the “Parent of the Year” award (or even century, for that matter) by spending a few hours at a “Day Out With Thomas: The Go Go Thomas Tour” where your kids will climb on board and take a train ride on their beloved hero. The smiley blue train pulls into the Orange Empire Railway Museum (OERM) in Perris for five days in November. Go for a ride, take your photo with Thomas, and enjoy the many activities on your day out. Here’s our guide on how to make the most of your trip.

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS - Photo 1

The Mainline
Obviously, the main event draw for all Thomas fans is the actual train ride, and it takes some advance planning for this event to pull this off without a hitch.  (“Well, bust my buffers!”)  First, to avoid Thomas fan disappointment, purchase your tickets in advance since the event has sold out in the past.  When purchasing your tickets on Ticketweb, you will choose your actual Thomas train departure time.  So, be sure to give yourself plenty of travel time in order to arrive “Right On Time!” in Perris, California.

We recommend that you arrive at least an hour before your scheduled train departure to park and get your bearings at the Orange Empire Railway Museum.  Bring the stroller as there is a lot of walking from the parking lot and throughout the railway park which is flat. There’s even a stroller parking area prior to boarding the Thomas train.  Train passengers are asked to begin lining up a half hour before their scheduled departure.

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS photo 2

The Thomas train ride is 25 minutes long with large windows and plenty of comfortable seating.  It should be noted that the ride does not follow a route.  Rather, the Really Useful Engine goes down the track and then reverses, returning you to where you originally boarded.  But happy train passengers are, for the most part, none the wiser as there is also plenty to observe inside the Thomas train, with an in-character train conductor, eagerly punching tickets and apprising you of Sir Topham Hatt’s latest instructions.  We recommend that you ride the No. 1 Blue Engine first and then enjoy the rest of the activities as outlined below.

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS - Photo 3

Say “Chugga Chugga, Choo Choo”!
After disembarking Thomas, it’s time peer into his googly eyes and say “Hello Thomas” up-close.  At the very front of the engine, there is, yes (“Cinders and Ashes!”), another line for families to stand in for a photo with the Thomas train in the background.

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS - photo 4

Yet, rest assured parents–the professional photographers know how to keep the line moving and line-up families for the best shots in only a matter of a few minutes.DAY OUT WITH THOMAS - photo 5

Then, get ready for more smiles and hopefully the shortest and quickest line (“Oh Bumpers!”) for a photo op with Sir Topham Hatt, the Controller of the Railway on the Island of Sodor.  DAY OUT WITH THOMAS -photo 6

After posing, find a photo kiosk where you can quickly view the professional shots with your family, Thomas and Sir Topham Hatt and decide on which photo digital and print packages suit you best.

Dining and Lounge Area:
While a dining car is not on board the Thomas train (“Fizzling Fireboxes!”), there is a food truck row with a variety of food to choose from, which mostly includes fast food options so we suggest bringing your own lunch if you’d prefer not to indulge in the hamburger, ice cream variety. A large shaded picnic table area is located at the end of the food truck row to enjoy your meal with a mother’s tent with changing tables and indoor bathrooms nearby.

Imagination Station
Peep, Peep!   All Thomas aficionados receive a “passport” upon admission that your kids can use to obtain stamps at different stations.  Once all stamps are collected head on over to the Imagination Station to receive a goody bag.

Inside the large tented “station”, kids can freely play at activity train tables, build with Thomas Mega Bloks, color Thomas coloring pages, and create other hands-on Thomas-themed arts & crafts.  You’ll also receive Thomas & Friends stickers and temporary tattoos.  With plenty of chair seating for adults, this is a great place for parents to take a load off and watch their kids explore.

Nearby, there are bounce houses and face-painting in addition to a kid-friendly hay maze and petting zoo.  Plus, there is live-entertainment, including story-telling and bands such as Jules Music for Kids.

The (Extra) Siding:
While on your Day Out with Thomas, your admission ticket includes a self-guided tour of the Orange Empire Railway Museum which is a massive collection of Southern California’s railroad history. Highlights include the three-foot gauge Grizzly Flats locomotive on display and an operating model railway train collection with over 100 O-scale electric model trains to view.

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Unlike the one-time, Thomas train ride, you can enjoy unlimited rides on OREM’s operating trains, including a city street car (trolley) on the half-mile dual-gauge Loop Line, and another train operating on the 1.5 mile standard gauge Mainline.  A picnic area is located near the main entrance featuring an interactive railroad “signal garden.”DAY OUT WITH THOMAS - photo 8

Freight Train (aka the “Goods Train”):
Before leaving, don’t forget to load up at the Thomas The Train Gift Shop and take some “extra cargo” home.  It has absolutely everything imaginable with the Thomas the Train logo (every Thomas train available, clothing, DVDs, puzzles, games and toys, imaginable!) and the perfect place for birthday and holiday shopping for your favorite Thomas fans.  As they say, if you can’t find your Thomas train novelty item here, you probably won’t be able to find it anywhere.

The Manifest
Parents should plan to spend at least three hours at the outdoor event which will occur rain or shine.  Guests of all ages are welcome to attend this event with tickets costing $19 per person.  Kids aged two years and above require a ticket for a seat and those under two will need to ride on a lap.

Day Out With Thomas runs on the following five dates in November: 9, 10, 11, 16, and 17, 2013.  Get tickets early for preferred seating preference times, usually in the mornings.DAY OUT WITH THOMAS - photo 9

Orange Empire Railway Museum
2201 S. “A” Street
Perris, Ca  92570
Online: oerm.org/day-out-thomas
Event tickets: ticketweb.com

Have you been to a Day Out with Thomas event?  Which one did you attend and what was your child’s favorite part?

Written and photographed by:  Christina Q. Cross

Rock Out at the Museum of Making Music

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When your little crooner starts mimicking Carly Rae Jepsen (um, seriously?), dances along to the latest Jonas Brothers single (breathe, just breathe), or plays a mean air guitar imitating Bob Dylan (ok, that’s more like it), it’s time to take your rising rock star to the Museum of Making Music. This musical education will introduce your little Bono to the history of music and how it’s evolved in a hands-on way. Located in Carlsbad, less than a mile from LEGOLAND, the Museum of Making Music invites visitors no matter how young to pick-up instruments and make music.

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Just Rock It!
At the Museum of Making Music, your children will learn how music has evolved from the 1890s to present by viewing exhibits arranged in chronological order.  They’ll see first-hand how the music industry has developed over time and the cool design changes of the instruments.

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By listening to audio samples and watching video clips of music performances, your kids will also discover genres and tunes that defined each year.  Extremely knowledgeable museum docents standby to answer any pint-sized music-related question that comes to your little musician’s mind.

Not only will your budding rock stars have the opportunity to stroll through the history of music but more importantly, they’re given the green light to pick-up and play vintage instruments found next to the exhibits with signs that read:  “Play Me.” Score!MUSEUM OF MAKING MUSIC -3

The best part, though, is saved for last. At the end of the museum, experience the highlight of every visit — The jam session area for kids (and parents too!) filled with modern instruments ranging from electric drums to keyboards.  For children who are interested in learning to play a new instrument, there are a variety to choose from. This is a great way to introduce your kids to new ways of making music without actually having to invest in that guitar that they may or may not end up playing. MUSUEM OF MAKING MUSIC-4

Autographs & Memorabilia
Be sure to check out the gift store on your way out the door.  It’s stocked with lots of music-related goodies (books, CDs, DVDs and even kids’ instruments) making the perfect gifts for the musicians in your life.  And if you don’t have time, you can also purchase merchandise from the museum’s on-line store.

A Few Good Notes
While the museum is on the small-side (read: it’s easy to keep track of your kids), don’t let the size fool you. Each gallery is jammed packed with music history, trivia and instruments.  So, expect to spend up to 2 hours here (easily). And, if you get sucked into the interactive instrument playing areas, well, your time in this super cool museum could easily skyrocket.

To get the most out of your experience, check out the museum’s “Upcoming Events” page in advance so you can see a live concert performance during your visit and take advantage of all the special events. The Museum of Making Music frequently offers family-friendly performances, including a free Kinder Koncert by The San Diego Symphony, and other talents in their concert hall.

Now, for the Encore
In addition Museum of Making Music’s concerts, the space features educational group tours for kids of all ages, including preschoolers, scout troops, and K-12 students (“MusicVentures field trips”).  Plus, don’t forget to check out the week-long Summer Music Camp for kids ages 9 through 18. This summer music camp is aimed at kids who are at all levels of music playing experience and eager to begin music lessons or enhance their existing musical talent.MUSEUM OF MAKING MUSIC-5

Museum of Making Music
5790 Armada Drive
Carlsbad, Ca  92008
Online: museumofmakingmusic.org

The details: The Museum of Making Music is open six days a week (closed on Mondays) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 per adult; Youth (ages 4-18) $7; and kids age 3 and under are free.

Tell us about your visit to the museum in the comment section below. 

Written and Photographed by: Christina Q. Cross

Just Opened: Paint The Walls Art Studio

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Why is it that without fail whenever our little Picassos decide to craft at home with paint, markers, glue and other messy materials, they somehow always end up leaving their mark on the furniture, floor and, yes, even the walls? Next time spare the mess and bring your budding artist to the newly-opened Paint The Walls in Poway, where your kids (12 months and up) are invited to paint actual walls and chalk the floors to their young hearts’ content.

The Landscape
When you walk into this arts & crafts activity center, there’s no agenda – only bright white panels line the walls screaming for brush strokes of bright colors. Your kids will be given a smock in their size (if desired) and their own pallet of a rainbow assortment of paints.

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There’s a large selection of painting tools to choose from — various sizes of brushes, stencils, sponges, rollers and rubber stamps are found in buckets and tins. Paper in all colors is also provided if your Jackson Pollock would rather take a keepsake home, and tins of markers can be found at every table ready to embellish any masterpiece.Toward the back of the studio, you’ll find chalkboard walls and even a chalkboard floor.

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Expressionism
Rest assured that when the novelty of these new canvases wear off, your kids will remain entertained by an abundant array of art materials to explore, which include play dough, Fun Foam, Sugar Glue Painting, and Goo — all included in the cost of admission.  Or, pick out a wooden craft item to decorate that ranges in price from $2.50 to $3.50.

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At Paint The Walls, kids are given all the tools and freedom to express their creativity. It’s a great place to encourage your child’s self-expression and for the little ones to work on their fine motor skills without even knowing it, in a fun, open-play environment.

Bonus
Paint the Walls also offers art classes and summer camps.  Plus, if you’re stumped about where to host your child’s next birthday, the space also features crafty birthday parties for your little’s next bash. No clean-up (by you!) required.

Other Art-a-Facts
• All of the paints are washable but we suggest dressing the kiddos in clothes you don’t mind getting messy. There is a large sink and plenty of soak for washing hands and faces.

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• Outside food or drinks are not permitted but Paint The Walls sells healthy, packaged snacks and drinks.

• You must remain with your children at the studio at all times.

Paint The Walls
11385 Poway Road, Suite 108
San Diego, Ca 92128
Online:  paintthewallssandiego.com
Cost:  $10 per child over 12 months of age for unlimited time in the studio. $8 for each additional sibling. Adults and babies are free.

Have you been to Paint the Walls? What’s your favorite thing about the space? 

Written and Photographed by: Christina Q. Cross

Just Opened: Build It Workshops for LEGO Lovers

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Editor’s Note, November 4, 2013: As of today Build it Workshop has closed. 

After a LEGOLAND adventure, our kiddos can’t think of anything else than busting out their LEGO collections and turning the living room into a colorful brick-topia. Well we’ve just discovered the coolest place for junior engineers to design, construct, build, destroy, and rebuild their most imaginative LEGO creations, and it’s only 5 miles from California LEGOLAND. Read on to find out the scoop on the newly opened Build It Workshops, the ultimate drop-in play space for little builders.

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The Construction Zone
The minute you set foot inside this spacious, brightly-lit studio you’ll immediately know why your kids will build all day at Build It Workshops.  With over 40+ building activities available, the toughest decision will be what to do first.  Race LEGO-designed model cars down a ramp or chase marbles through the wall run at various angles?

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There’s plenty of child-size tabletop space for every kid to use their mad architectural skills and construct their version of the Eiffel tower from Dado Planks.  No child will be forced to share their LEGOs or Magna-Tiles as there’s ample building materials for all stored neatly in large bins.

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And there’s no need for you to invest in the newest, award-winning toy building materials.  Build It Workshops has them all to try out, ranging from HexActly to Reptangles.

The Blueprint
The brilliant mastermind behind Build It Workshops is owner Rudy Gonzalez, Jr.  He opened the workshop in February 2013, and it has already won the San Diego Magazine: 2013 Best of North County award for “Best New Hands-On for the Kids”.  Following his own passion for science and innovation, the former biotech professional was inspired by his two daughters to provide Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) learning experiences for all children.

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So, it’s pretty much guaranteed that your child will leave having stimulated their critical thinking skills.   And for the first time, your kiddo may discover that they really do love math and science thanks to Build It Workshops.

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The Estimate
A Daily Drop-In Pass is $12 per child for 2 hours of build time, while an All Day Builder Pass is $20 per child.   $1 Military Discount is offered per child.  Parents and stroller-bound kids are free with child admission.

In addition to open-play, there is an impromptu “Daily Build” class providing both instruction and materials for a featured, pre-planned activity, such as building a cardboard robot, designing electric origami or making paper airplane launchers.   Depending on the materials being used, it is an additional $3 to $15 material cost to participate.

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Party Walls and Tech School
Like all play studios, Build It Workshops hosts birthday parties and accommodates playgroups.  But it also offers innovating classes featuring LEGO Robotics and Scratch Programming (for non-techies read: interactive video game design).   For avid builders, there is summer camp and a Junior Builder Club.

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Safety Precautions and Building Code
Before heading over, don’t forget to check out the workshop’s rules.  In sum, activities are recommended for children ages 3 and up mainly due to small building parts and safety concerns.  Since the studio is nut-free, you can enjoy food from home at tables outside the workshop’s front door.  Pre-packaged snacks and beverages, however, are sold and can be enjoyed inside.  Free WiFi access is also available to all guests.

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Build It Workshops
1818 Marron Road, Suite 103
Carlsbad, Ca   92008
Online: thekidworkshop.com

What will you construct at Build It Workshops this summer? Let us know in the Comments section below.

Written by: Christina Q. Cross

Photos courtesy of Build It Workshop’s Facebook page.