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Kids have an innate desire to climb everything from kitchen counters to trees––and if they’re metaphorically climbing the walls at home, it’s time to give them a literal outlet. Whether your little monkey is all beginner or ready for bouldering, we’ve rounded up the best indoor rock climbing gyms in San Diego. Scroll through our slideshow to see where to scale new heights.

Grotto

Perfect for littles as young as 5, Grotto goers will learn the basics of climbing and will advance their overall technique, strength and confidence! Not only will your tiny mountaineer learn how to climb safely, they’ll take it to the next level with fun climbing games and team building exercises. This program offers low coach-to-student ratios so each climber will get one-on-one coaching as well as group coaching. Kiddos will learn the importance of stretching and training with a focus on great sportsmanship and team camaraderie! Grotto also offers <a target="_blank" href="http://store.grottoclimbing.com/item/kids-camp">kids rock climbing camps</a> all summer. 4460 Alvarado Canyon Rd. San Diego, Ca 92120 619-283-2105 Online: <a target="_blank" href="https://www.grottoclimbing.com/&quot; target="_blank" rel="noopener">grottoclimbing.com</a> <em>photo: Grotto</em>fuck

Where do you take your fam for indoor rock climbing? Tell us in the comments below!

––Elizabeth Silva

Choo-Choo! All Aboard the North Pole Limited!

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Bundle up your little elves in holiday-themed mittens and scarves and head east for a SoCal Christmas tradition: a ride on the famous North Pole Limited train. This magical journey to Santa’s Workshop includes a sing-along with Santa’s elves, a storybook read-aloud, and cookies and hot chocolate for all passengers. A ride on this vintage car, and a visit with Saint Nick and his lady Mrs. Claus, give this adventure its signature nostalgic vibe. Read on to see why North Pole Limited is a holiday must-do for your Christmas lovin’ gang!

Holiday Train Ridephoto: Elizabeth Silva

What is the North Pole Limited?
We think every adventure should include a little learning. Let your tots know that the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association (PSRMA) is an educational organization committed to preserving railroads just as they existed in the in the Pacific Southwest. They offer vintage train rides with locomotives and cars from the early 20th century. How cool is that? Each year starting in November, the North Pole Limited returns to celebrate the holiday season. For a short history lesson on how PSRMA came to be, click here. If the kiddos are a little more visual (like us), check out these neat train videos on PSRMA’s YouTube channel.

Fun Fact: The North Pole Limited is run by volunteers who come from far and wide to be part of this special event. Volunteers who can belt tunes are asked to be singing elves on the train!

Train Ride by Heather Smithphoto: Heather Smith

Planning Your Train Ride Adventure
Start your day by arriving at the Campo Depot about 45 minutes before your train is scheduled to leave the station. Pick up your tickets at the ticket agent window then head over to the onsite playground. Your munchkins can spend a little time getting out their wiggles in the play area or in the gift shop. Before hopping the train, check out the Hobo Camp where your brood can enjoy tales of railroading’s past. Once onboard the North Pole Limited, little ones can sing Christmas carols to their tiny hearts’ content. Popular holiday songs are led by cheery elves and Santa’s helpers. Next a traditional Christmas story will be read up and down the cabin aisle – so the little ones should be all (elf) ears! All passengers big and small can enjoy cookies and hot chocolate as the train makes its way to Santa’s Workshop where Santa and Mrs. Claus will hop onboard. We hear Santa can’t wait to hear what’s on your kiddos’ Christmas wish lists this year!

Holiday Train - SoCalphoto: Elizabeth Silva

Ticketing and Pricing Information – Let’s Do This!
Coach tickets are a more budget-friendly option and get you a ride on a restored 1920’s vintage commuter car. First-class tickets get you a spot on either the Union Pacific long-distance chair car #576 or the Santa Fe business car #1509. In addition to cookie and hot chocolate service, both first-class cars offer complimentary soft drinks and treats along with larger seats and more legroom. Those riding in Santa Fe business car #1509 will have access to the open-to-the-air rear platform as the North Pole Limited rails down to Santa’s Workshop. Tickets for the North Pole Limited must be purchased in advanced. Rates can vary based on time and date of train ride. To purchase tickets, click here.

Coach Fares

  • Toddlers (under age 3 riding in an Adult’s lap), $10
  • Kiddos (ages 3 – 12), $30
  • Adults (ages 13+), $40

First-class Fares

  • Toddlers (under age 3 riding in an Adult’s lap), $10
  • Children (ages 3 – 12), $40
  • Adults (ages 13+), $50

photo: Anna Butera

Good to Know

  • Get your tickets early! Tickets sell out quickly.
  • Dress kiddos in layers. Christmas jammies are encouraged! Campo gets chilly at night during the holiday season.
  • Leave the strollers in the car as there is limited space on the trains.
  • There are restrooms at the Campo Depot. Little ones should use the potty ahead of time as there are no restrooms on the trains. Parents, you, too!
  • All trains at Campo Depot are wheelchair accessible. Be sure to request accommodations when making reservations.
  • Parking is free and plenty.
  • Got a post-ride hungry family? Check out Café B for pizza, sandwiches and other family-friendly options at 1247 Sheridan Rd.

750 Depot St.
Campo, Ca 91906
619-478-9937
Online: psrm.org

Have you experienced this holiday train ride? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below!

—Elizabeth Silva

Art Produce: Where Culture Meets Community

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We all know kiddos are naturally creative. Maybe they’ve found an artistic passion squishing through their pudgy little fingers on a pottery wheel. Maybe inspiration comes on a drawing pad or into the creation of a finger puppet. Whether your wee ones love to sculpt, build, paint, weave or draw, they’ll find something to create and call their very own at Art Produce’s Community Art Classes. And for you, Parents? We’ll meet you in the urban garden, the Gallery, the tasting room or eatery. Read on to find out why Art Produce has it all!

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What is Art Produce?
Situated in historic North Park’s Arts District, Art Produce is a place where community meets culture. Their mission is to encourage engagement through art, education, and culture of the neighborhood. Owner of Stone Paper Scissors, Lynn Susholtz’s concept for Art Produce was to create an approachable center where people of all ages could come together. Once an old boarded up building, Art Produce is now a magical place to create and share art, eat, drink, and play.

art-produce-pic-3-flags

Make it Yourself
This drop-in community art program is perfect for blooming artists big and small. Your kiddies can create and experiment every Saturday from 2 – 4 p.m. with an ever-changing array of techniques and materials such as paint, pencils, clay, found objects, paper, and more. Drop-in art classes are led by professional artists and educators. One of our favorite art classes is Finger Puppets, led by Terri Hughes-Oelrich, author and illustrator of Kalea & Her Sweet Tooth and founder of San Diego’s Sugar Museum. Little ones 8 and younger must be accompanied by an adult. Donations for Make It Yourself are welcome. Pay what you can! Contact Art Produce for upcoming events.

Insider’s Tip: For your mini art aficionado, a Make It Yourself art class is the perfect backdrop for a unique and memorable birthday activity. Best suited for kiddos ages 6 – 7, advance notice is required. Contact the studio for more information.

art-produce-pic-4Photo: Lynn S. via Yelp

Garden
Once an old asphalt parking lot, Art Produce created an urban organic garden and orchard sustained by a rainwater catchment and solar energy system. The design of this urban garden makes it comfortable for visitors to enjoy an array of activities such as performances, community events, art exhibitions, and film screenings. It also includes an outdoor classroom and workspace where art classes often take place. We’re pretty sure your miniature smartie pants will enjoy pointing out as many fruits and vegetables as they can! The garden has lots of space for the little ones to get their wiggles and giggles out! It’s also pet-friendly. Score!

Insider’s Tip: There are many frog designs hidden throughout the property. See how many frogs your little tadpoles can find starting in the garden. Make a game of it!

art-produce-pic-5

Gallery
Art Produce Gallery is a unique space entirely visible from the sidewalk making it accessible to everyone—including your curious little minion! Past events include sculptural installations, mixed media, and live performances. For more information about the Gallery, its current exhibit, and its artist residencies, click here.

Insider’s Tip: The entrance to the Gallery is through Tostadas. Your cherubs will be dazzled by the Gallery’s enormous glass door—fingerprints allowed!

art-produce-pic-6

Eat & Drink
Parents, you won’t want to miss this: ChuckAlek Biergarten has an onsite tasting room. ChuckAlek specializes in German-style lagers, original-era porter & stout, and sours. They are known for working with local culinary experts and hop-growers to create new and exciting beers. Grab a taster while your little half-pint (sorry, we had to!) is creating art! You can thank us later.

Hungry? Grab a bite to eat at Tostadas Fresh Fruit & Seafood Bar, the onsite eatery. Tostadas serves up bold new flavors, freshness, and fish—on what else—tostada shells! Try the Sandia: ahi tuna, watermelon, red onion, jicama, apples, cucumber, mango, peanuts, soy, orange, lemon juice, and chipotle mayo on a delicious, crunchy shell. You’re welcome!

The little ones won’t be able to resist the “jugos” on the menu. With names like Yellow Submarine, Clock Work Orange, and Run Forrest, who could?

Insider’s Tip: The entrance to the ChuckAlek is at the garden entry from Herman Street. The entrance to Tostadas is on University Avenue.

For more information on art programs through Art Produce, click here.

For more information on Stone Paper Scissors and its award winning public art projects for parks, schools, and community initiatives, click here.

3139 University Ave.
San Diego, Ca 92104
619-584-4448
Online: artproduce.org

—Elizabeth Silva (photos, too)

 

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Experiments with water and gravity, scavenger hunts and a gigantic interactive display of 464 LED lights. This may sound like your mad scientist’s dream come true, but in reality, it’s all just a normal day of gadgets and gizmos at Pennypickle’s Workshop in Old Town Temecula. Read on to discover what you’ll find at this quirky science museum and why it might just become your family’s new favorite hangout.

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About the Professor
The story goes, Phineas T. Pennypickle was always an inventive little fellow. Fascinated with time travel, electricity, and transportation, he imagined ways he could revolutionize these things using science. As his knowledge of the world increased, he began to invent more and more gizmos and gadgets. Soon, his entire house (which he also uses as a laboratory) became cluttered with wacky inventions. Professor Pennypickle, while a fictional character, is loved by all who play in his 7,500 square foot home laboratory and search for Beaker, the Professor’s tiny field mouse companion.

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What to Expect
Pennypickle’s mission is simple: to help kiddos and their families discover science while having fun. Rooms like Chemistry & Physics, Dynamic Earth, Perception & Illusion, Water Resources, and Aviation & Flight are only part of the fun. Little ones can participate in a real-life science demonstration led by the Professor’s assistants. Check the website for session times! It must be said the Professor has a great sense of humor. His recycle machine stomps on empty cans with an old boot and a bag of cement, he has transformed his toilet into a hydroelectric generator, the fireplace in the Library is actually a secret passage into the mysterious Maze Room, and his Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich-Making-Machine is a must-see! And don’t forget to ask the Professor’s assistants how the hot air balloon got into the foyer… The kiddos won’t be disappointed by the answer!

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The 2016 Version of the Light Bright
Pennypickle’s Workshop just got a new toy! It’s called the “Ever-So-Bright-Color-Creator-090813,” or Everbright for short. Think of it like a life-sized version of the Light Bright toy we bet you had during your own childhood. Here at Pennypickle’s it’s a one-of-a-kind experience for visitors of all ages to explore their creativity by turning 464 rotating LED lights that provide endless possibilities of vivid color, geometry, and patterns. Little ones who create a special masterpiece, may even get their photograph taken for the Professor’s wall!

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Pennypickle’s Gift Shop
Your mini Einstein will be all smiles in the Professor’s little shop. Chock full of fascinating scientifically-oriented items, your scientist-in-the-making will go wacky trying to narrow down their choices. Some of our favorite gift shop items include: clocks (hello, time travel!), microscopes, rocks, science kits, and magnets! Items in the gift shop start as low as $5.

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Know Before You Go
Pennypickle’s Worshop is open every day except Monday. To limit the amount of kids and to ensure everyone has a great experience, the museum offers different sessions throughout the day. Click here for detailed rundown of the times they’re open.

Cost: $5/person for guests three-years-old and over

There is ample free public parking located in the Civic Center parking structure located right up the street from Pennypickle’s Workshop, at the corner of Mercedes and Second Street.

Insider’s Tip: Pennypickle’s Workshop offers exciting programs and even birthday party packages. Past labs include Explore Science, Monday Madness, Teeny Tiny Science, and special summer events. Check their events page for upcoming programs.

42081 Main St.
Temecula, Ca 92590
951-308-6376
Online: pennypickles.org

—Elizabeth Silva (photos, too)

A Nurturing Experience You Otter Know About

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Know a darling little someone who could use a wish right now? Maybe by way of wet, wiggly otters and other cute and cuddly creatures? Nurtured by Nature, a nonprofit organization in rural Valley Center, brings one-of-a-kind Otter Swim Encounters to kiddos with terminal illness and life-threatening conditions referred through Make-A-Wish San Diego. Here’s a look at what’s in store if know someone who needs a special wish.

Armadillo, Photo by Nurtured by Nature

photo: Nurtured by Nature

The “Nature” of the Animal Encounters
Nurtured by Nature was formed by a local couple, Kevin and Wendy Yates, with the idea to provide unforgettable moments, foster hope and well-being to kiddos-in-need through physical interactions with nature. The concept also sought to inspire a bond between animals and humans thus promoting awareness and preservation.

Otter, photo by Nurtured by Nature

photo: Nurtured by Nature

The Animal Experiences
Touching and feeding a two-toed sloth, an African crested porcupine, armadillos, an African ground hornbill, and hedgehogs are just part of the fun. The highlight of every kiddos’ day will be spent swimming and playing with Asian Small Clawed Otters. These curious and social little creatures will steal the show and have your little one giggling with delight.

The friendly staff at Nurtured by Nature will teach little ones all about the plight of otters in the wild. Your minions will also learn about the otters’ diet, social behaviors, and emotions. Not unlike kiddos, otters are emotional critters and require lots of attention and exercise (and toys!). No otter meltdowns, please!

Otters by Nurtured by Nature

photo: Nurtured by Nature

During the guided otter swim encounter, little ones will get to be right in the middle of all the pool action! Here’s what you need to bring for the encounter: swim suit, hat, sunscreen, towel, a change of clothes and drinking water. And don’t forget that camera!

Good to Know: Adorable, silly, curious otters may cause uncontrollable laughter in wee ones! Parents, consider yourself warned.

Girl with Otter, photo by Nurtured by Nature

photo: Nurtured by Nature

Ways to Get Involved and Request a Visit
If your family is looking for ways to get involved, check out the Ways to Help page on Nurtured by Nature’s website. The organization recently teamed up with Ralph’s Community Reinvestment Program. So now you can register your Ralph’s Reward Card to help out every time you shop!

Know a kiddo who could use a little nurturing? Ready to make a dream come true? Stop by the Make-A-Wish San Diego page to refer a kiddo-in-need and check out this cool video.

Editor’s Note: Public otter swim encounters are limited to guests 18 and older. Reservations for 2017 public encounters can be made directly through the website.

15630 Rim of the Valley
Valley Center, Ca 92082
760-638-0880
Online: nurturedbynature.org

Have you experienced Nurtured by Nature? What did you think?

—Elizabeth Silva

4 Places for Family Fun in Fallbrook

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When you think of Fallbrook, avocados tend to be first to mind. But this San Diego North County community is also known as “the friendly village” that’s chock-full of adventure. Your minions will get a kick out of the beautiful gardens, a park with ancient trees, a historical stagecoach restaurant and an easy walking trail. What are you waiting for? It’s time to head north to check out Fallbrook, the “avocado capital of the world.”

Myrtle Creek Garden and NurseyPhoto: Rebecca H. via Yelp

Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens & Nursery
Spend the day with your fam enjoying the lush grounds of Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens & Nursery – a one-of-a-kind experience. Chill in the shade of a huge live oak or get lost in the vast displays of flowers, plants, and gardens. Kiddos will love touring the historic Fallbrook Barn where they’ll meet some of the animals that still live there. For lunch, mosey over to Café Bloom where you must order a slice of their award-winning Myrtle Berry Pie. For a little extra fun, pick up one of their picnic baskets and lunch under an oak tree. Don’t forget to stop by Wild Bird Sanctuary and the Butterfly Gardens. These are both perfect photo ops. Finish out the day by visiting the Farmhouse Gift shop filled with artisan-crafted gifts the whole family will love. Enjoy free admission and parking.

Insider’s Tip: Try the Myrtle Berry Lemonade served up in a mason jar. It’s made with farm fresh blueberries, boysenberries and raspberries. You even get to keep the mason jar!

Know before you go! For an idea of what the grounds look like, check out this video.

2940 Reche Rd.
Fallbrook, Ca 92028
760-728-534
Online: discovermyrtlecreek.com

Live Oak Park Red TricyclePhoto: Andrew M. via Yelp

Live Oak Park
A Fallbrook cornerstone, Live Oak Park was once inhabited by Native Americans. Now it is home to a forest of oak trees. Enjoy a family picnic under the sprawling canopy of massive oaks or play a game of basketball, volleyball, soccer, or softball on one of the many courts and fields available. Tiny ones can get wiggles out on two large playgrounds while Fido runs amuck in the dog leash-free area. Live Oak is home to songbirds, hawks and woodpeckers that swoop in and out of these ancient trees.

Insider’s Tip: Never fear! Ample restrooms, picnic tables and drinking fountains for both dogs and their owners are situated throughout the park.

2746 Reche Rd.
Fallbrook, Ca 92028
760-728-2303
Online: sandiegocounty.gov

El Parque Stage Stop Red TricyclePhoto: Ashley W. via Yelp

El Parque Stage Stop
Are the kiddos craving Mexican food? Just across the street from Live Oak Park, visit El Parque Stage Stop restaurant, a local hole-in-the-wall favorite. Tied to Fallbrook’s early days, El Parque Stage Stop was where stagecoaches stopped in the 1880s. Kiddos will get a kick out of the rustic, laid-back décor featuring oak barrel tables, a giant mirror, and western artifacts. This inexpensive mainstay features family favorites like authentic tacos, burritos, tortas, and menudo. Order a half-dozen or a dozen homemade tamales to take home. The family won’t be disappointed!

2659 Reche Rd.
Fallbrook, Ca 92028
760-731-2775
Online: elparquefallbrook.com

Hiking Trail By Natalie Galati for Red TricyclePhoto: Natalie Galati

Santa Margarita River Trail
Hiking has never been so easy and beautiful. Santa Margarita is a wide, flat hike that the whole family can enjoy. A six-mile loop will take you along the Santa Margarita River where a few big (but manageable) boulders keep things exciting for the wee ones. Half way down the trail, kiddos will enjoy checking out the broken down 1950s station wagon. Make your way down to the river where your little trail blazers can find little shells and rocks. The best time to hit the trail is during the spring and summer when the flowers are in full bloom!

De Luz Rd. and Sandia Creek Dr.
Fallbrook, Ca 92028
Online: fallbrooksource.com

What’s your favorite thing to do in Fallbrook? Tell us in the comments what we should check out next.

—Elizabeth Silva

Ramona Roundup! 6 Places to Check Out

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Your family’s been to all the San Diego beaches, and you’ve explored the best parks and playgrounds SoCal has to offer. You’ve checked out all the hip family-dining options around town. You’ve even been to the edges of the county to find the best kid-friendly adventures. Now what to do? Put on your cowboy boots and head to Ramona! This quiet, East County small town is the gateway to the inland mountains; its farms, parks, restaurants and other unique activities are all just part of its charm! We’ve lassoed up some new ideas that will surely delight the whole family – rural style!

Cheyenne Arabians and Miniatures Horse Farm

Cheyenne Arabians & Miniatures
This fun farm offers a casual, relaxed setting for pony rides best suited for kiddos 2 – 12 years old. Offered in 15-, 30- and 60-minute sessions, let little ones warm up to horseback riding with safe, hand-led ponies best known for being calm and quiet. The farm also offers birthday parties with options for a petting zoo and jumbo jumper. Looking for a gift for a kiddo that has it all? The farm now offers gift certificates for pony rides.

Insider’s Tip: Cheyenne Arabians & Miniatures was featured on Animal Planet’s That’s My Baby staring Cheyenne, Gypsy and Baby Piglet. Watch here for some added family fun!

1927 Orange Ave.
Ramona, Ca 92065
760-788-3780
Online: cheyennearabians.com

Oasis Camel Dairy Farmphoto: Nancy Reigler/Oasis Camel Dairy

Oasis Camel Dairy
What do camels, wild turkeys, soap and pomegranates have in common? They can all be found at Oasis Camel Dairy for a fun and quirky adventure! Visit the farm for a one-of-a-kind experience. Watch an animal show featuring birds and other farm animals, ride and pet camels, and shop for camel milk products and gifts. Camel rides operate during all public events and Open Farm Tours. Check the calendar for Open Farm Tour dates and special events like the Wild West Turkey Stampede and Pomegranate Days. Camel rides are $5 for kiddos 3 – 14 and $10 for 15 and up. Get your little ones excited for their visit – watch this fun and educational video featuring Oasis Camel Dairy!

Insider’s Tip: Camels get squirrely when it rains so check the forecast before heading to the farm! Open Farm Tours will not be cancelled but camel rides are not available when it’s raining.

26757 Hwy 78
Ramona, Ca 92065
760-787-0983
Online: cameldairy.com

Mamma Rosa Italian Restaurant Ramona CA

Mamma Rosa Italian Restaurant
For nearly 37 years, this family-owned Ramona mainstay has been serving up delicious food in an ultra-friendly environment. This casual Italian restaurant offers all the usual suspects: pizza, pastas, calzones and baked entrees all at reasonable prices. Bambinos have lots of options to choose from on the kids’ menu, unless of course, you’re ordering one of their famous family meals. Their family meals serve enough food for a small army – just ask anyone in town!

1130 D St.
Ramona, Ca 92065
760-789-6147
Online: mammarosasramona.com

The Cookie Cottage - Ramona, Ca

The Cookie Cottage, LLC
Started by a local mom with a passion for baking and a panache for business, this charming miniature shop offers cookies, cupcakes, breads and other sweet treats that will have your little crumb snatchers begging for more! Blink and you might miss this tiny roadside cottage. It’s small in size, but big on taste – trust us! Kiddos will get a kick out of the bakery’s storybook appearance and walk-up window while parents appreciate the warm and friendly service. They offer gluten-free, organic, and sugar-free options. Just ask! The Cookie Cottage also provides local delivery service for large orders and will make special treats for events like birthdays and parties. Check The Cookie Cottage’s Facebook page for hours and daily specials.

Insider’s Tip: Looking for a new treat to call your favorite? Don’t leave The Cookie Cottage without trying the Lemon Iced cookie. You can thank us later.

1158 Main St.
Ramona, Ca 92065
760-440-0605
Online: facebook.com/The-Cookie-Cottage-LLC

Barona Speedway

Barona Speedway
Does your little speedster have a need for speed? Check out Barona Speedway where this spectator sport makes for great family fun. San Diego’s only semi banked ¼ mile clay oval track is located about 6 miles north of the Barona Casino. The track features a wide variety of cars including Junior Sprints, Mini Dwarf Masters, Mini Dwarf Sportsmen—just to name a few—which provide an exciting race program every other Saturday. The gates open at 1 p.m., with races beginning at 5 p.m. Barona Speedway offers a concession stand with lots of good munchies and soft drinks. Visitors may bring their own coolers and barbecues. Check the schedule of events for race dates – the season usually begins in March.

Admission pricing:
$10/Adults
$5/Teens
$2/Kids (7-12)
Free/6 & under

1750 Wildcat Canyon Rd.
Ramona, Ca 92065
619-669-1303
Online: baronaspeedway.com

Dos Picos County Park Ramona CA

Dos Picos County Park
If your crew loves the outdoors, Dos Picos County Park has a little something for everyone: camping, picnicking, soccer fields, horseshoe pits, fishing and lots and lots of hiking trails. Dos Picos, or “two peaks,” gets its name from two prominent mountains nearby. This 78-acre park is surrounded by beautiful open ranchland and steep rocky slopes which make it peaceful, shady and secluded. Camping includes partial hook-up sites, tent sites, and a youth group area. The park also offers the award-winning Discovery Kit Program – an exciting outdoor environmental educational adventure for elementary school-age kiddos. We like the Plants with Lego Photosynthesis kit – good for adventurers of all ages. Dos Picos is perfect for your next family outing or stay-cation!

Insider’s Tip: The park is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to sunset. Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for campers. Parking is $3.00 per vehicle and is collected at the entry gate.

17953 Dos Picos Park Rd.
Ramona, Ca 92065
858-565-3600
Online: sandiegocounty.gov

What’s your favorite spot to visit in Ramona? Tell us in the Comment below!

—Elizabeth Silva (photos too)

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A little-known treasure just south of downtown San Diego, Living Coast Discovery Center is home to sharks, rays, sea turtles, rescued birds and other coastal critters and native plants. Round up your bunch of curious little creatures and head over to Living Coast Discovery Center where close-up, interactive exhibits make learning fun and exciting.

Living Coast Discovery Center Entrance

This zoo and aquarium is situated on the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. The expansive 316-acre property offers visitors a look at unique and endangered animals, and walking trails – where you might even spot local bird species! Upon your arrival, check out Turtle Lagoon, where your kiddos will be greeted by endangered Eastern Pacific green sea turtles. The sea turtles are fed everyday at 2 p.m. This is an exciting experience for kiddos big and small. The viewing area is large and offers a perfect photo op.

Living Coast Discovery Center Kids Interact with Starfish

Sharks and Rays, Oh My!
Next, enter the intriguing world of sharks and rays where visitors are welcome to touch the smooth backs of friendly rays as they glide through the interactive pool. Your crew of critters will get a kick out of watching staff feed sharks and rays in their 21,000-gallon habitat. Feedings and presentations are open to the public and free with your paid admission. Just make sure to check the daily schedule and get there early to get a good spot.

Living Coast Discovery Center Owl

Fun Overhead and On the Ground
After the feeding frenzy, make your way down to Shorebird Aviary, Raptor Row and Eagle Mesa. Owls, roadrunners and eagles are just a few of the birds at Living Coast Discover Center. Don’t miss the majestic Golden and Bald Eagles. But shhhhhh! Little ones should always remember to use their bird-friendly voices as many of these feathered buddies will only make an appearance when it’s quiet.

Living Coast Discovery Center Trails

Later, explore several walking trails which cover about a mile and a half of ground. The trails start from the Discovery Center out to the shore of San Diego Bay. Little explorers will be impressed as parents point out the view of the Coronado Bay Bridge, the old gunpowder factory and railroad tracks. If you’re lucky, you might see shorebirds, rabbits, lizards, a soaring harrier and even an osprey.

Living Coast Discovery Center Bald Eagle and Kids Playing

Know Before You Go
Parking is free and plenty. After parking your car, take the Living Coast Discovery Center shuttle into the park. Shuttles arrive every 15 minutes. Due to the proximity to the coastline, the hiking trails tend to get a bit chilly, so make sure to bring a light jacket.

Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Price: $14/Adults (18-64); $9 Kids (4-17); $9/Seniors (65+) and Students (with ID); Free/Kids (0-3)

1000 Gunpowder Point Dr.
Chula Vista, Ca 91910
619-409-5900
Online: thelivingcoast.org

—Elizabeth Silva (photos too)

The Short Game: 4 Courses for Their First Hole in One

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Whether your little ace is all bogey or all bunker, every mini golfer needs a caddie (ahem, parent!) to help shag balls. From an old naval training base to a course that supports under-served kiddos, your Happy Gilmore will be all smiles on their fairway to heaven. Grab your brood of eagles and birdies and make your way down to one of our favorite San Diego golf courses. No mulligans!
Colina Park Golf Course

photo: Elizabeth Silva

The Loma Club
Situated in popular Liberty Station, The Loma Club dates back to the early 1900s when it was originally part of San Diego Country Club. Once used by the Navy during the 1920s for recruiting and training, this course is a true San Diego landmark. This course features wide views of the downtown San Diego skyline and harbor, and lots of planes flying overhead. Mini golfers-in-training will be delighted to hear that pro golfers Phil Mickelson and Craig Stadler grew up practicing on this course. The onsite restaurant, The Loma Club Bar & Grill, offers a family-friendly assortment of sandwiches, burgers, yummy treats, and beverages with a full bar – all at reasonable prices.

Course details:
9 hole, par 3 length course
27 par, 1,023 yards

Insider’s Tip: Mark Fisher of Fish and the Seaweeds plays every Friday during happy hour from 5-8 p.m. on the patio. Be sure to stay for happy hour Mon.-Sat., 4-8 p.m. and all day Sunday. The Loma Club also offers free junior golf clinics.

2960 Truxtun Rd.
San Diego, Ca 92106
619-222-4653
Online: thelomaclub.com

The Loma Club Golf Coursephoto: Amber E. via Yelp

Colina Park Golf Course
Located in City Heights, the beautiful Colina Park Golf Course offers little golfers a crack at their short game. Every hole is less than 110 yards and includes elevated tee boxes – perfect for kiddos (and parents) at any skill level. For almost twenty years, Colina Park Golf Course has partnered with Pro Kids/The First Tee San Diego, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping underserved youth. The organization promotes leadership, character development, and life skills through the game of golf and education. All green fees go toward supporting Pro Kids/The First Tee San Diego program. The golf course also features disc golf—a game of tossing a disc into a target basket, which is par for the course at Colina Park!

Course details:
18 hole, par 3 length course
54 par, 1250 yards

4085 52nd St.
San Diego, Ca 92105
619-255-4425
Online: colinaparkgc.com

Rancho Carlsbad Golf Club Photophoto: Elizabeth Silva

Rancho Carlsbad Golf Club
Nestled into the hills of Carlsbad, this 18 hole, par 3 course is the perfect place for your mini Tiger Woods to practice their backswing, and for parents to work on their short game. If you’re looking for a unique experience, Rancho Carlsbad Golf Club now offers Footgolf, a new sport that combines the skill and accuracy of golf with the excitement and fun of soccer. It is played just like a normal game of golf, except it uses a soccer ball and your foot instead of golf equipment. After your game, stop by the 19th Hole Deli for a quick burger, sandwich, and other casual menu items.

Course details:
18 hole, par 3 length course
54 par, 2021 yards

5200 El Camino Real
Carlsbad, Ca 92010
760-438-1772
Online: ranchocarlsbadgolf.com

Reidy Creek Golf Coursephoto: Samantha Thompson/Aaron & Samantha Wedding Photography

Reidy Creek Golf Course
If your pint-sized champion is looking for challenges that require a little skill—lots of deep bunkers, water features, and tricky greens—this is the place for your pack. Reidy Creek is known as one of the country’s finest and most challenging par 3 courses so little ones shouldn’t expect a hole-in-one right away! Located in rural Escondido, this course takes advantage of its natural valley setting and views of nearby mountains. Reidy Creek offers junior golf tournaments, junior lessons, and junior camps!

Course details:
18 hole, par 3 length course
54 par, 2,582 yards

2300 North Broadway
Escondido, Ca 92026
760-740-2450
Online: jcgolf.com

What’s your favorite spot to play golf? Tell us where your kiddo plays!

—Elizabeth Silva

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Dirt, water, sunshine and a little TLC is the recipe for your next San Diego adventure (We know, sounds a lot like parenting, doesn’t it?). Creating a special garden with your little darling is easy when you know where to go for supplies. If you want to pack serious fun with an educational twist, introduce your muddy monsters to the world of nurseries. The practice of growing and cultivating plants is one great way to teach kiddos about colors, shapes, textures and the life cycle of plants and trees. Get down and dirty at these super cool San Diego nurseries!

City Farmers NurseryPhoto credit: City Farmers Nursery

City Farmers Nursery
Escape the hustle and bustle of busy city life. Step into a garden nursery oasis, right in the heart of San Diego. The massive grounds at City Farmers Nursery offer unique organic plants and supplies not carried by other stores. Each month the nursery hosts classes ranging from growing your first vegetable garden, to canning and cooking, to beekeeping. Your curious beansprout will love exploring the grounds, visiting farm animals (chickens, goats and turkeys, just to name a few), and having a ball in the play area. Future farmers and gardeners have a special place at the nursery: they offer real, working pint-sized tools as well as kid-friendly events. The nursery also features an onsite restaurant, Nate’s Garden Grill, and a coffee bar, Sunflower Coffee Company.

Insider’s Tip: If you’re lucky, you might even catch live music on the restaurant’s dog-friendly patio. Parking is plenty.

4832 Home Ave.
San Diego, Ca 92105
619-284-6358
Online: cityfarmersnursery.com

Moon Valley NurseryPhoto credit: Natalie Galati

Moon Valley Nursery
Known for specializing in water-wise plants, trees, palms, and shrubs, Moon Valley Nursery has been planting trees across the desert for more than 30 years. Blooming arborists can explore the spacious grounds, pond, and turn hidden alcoves into a wonderland of trees while parents peruse the nursery’s expansive selection. Make your trip to Moon Valley an educational one by having kiddos identify unique trees; for a list of the nursery’s selection of palms, click here. If you want to have even more family fun, enter the nursery’s Ugly Tree Contest by posting a photo of your ugliest tree on their Facebook page by November 8. One lucky family will receive a new tree worth up to $3,000!

26334 Mesa Rock Rd.
Escondido, Ca 92026
760-309-4080
Online: moonvalleynurseryca.com

Walter Andersen Nursery Railroad LayoutPhoto credit: Chris W. via Yelp

Walter Andersen Nursery, Poway
Walter Andersen Sr. opened his first nursery in Old Town in 1928. Since then, the nursery has expanded to include two locations: San Diego and Poway. Parents looking for a fun and easy kid-friendly adventure and a large selection of plants should check out the Poway location. But can we be honest? Little garden enthusiasts will ditch the gardening when they see the railroad that runs throughout the nursery. With a layout at almost 4,500-square-feet, 7,000 gallons of water, 60 tons of rocks, and 15 bridges, your mini horticulturist-turn-engineer will be charmed, we’re sure. The nursery staff is friendly and knowledgeable – they even offer classes for adults on topics such as drying herbs, caring for fruit trees and strawberry potting.

12755 Danielson Ct.
Poway, Ca 92064
858-513-4900
Online: walterandersen.com

Mission Hills NurseryPhoto credit: Angie O. via Yelp

Mission Hills Nursery
As the oldest garden center in San Diego, Mission Hills Nursery is a secret garden right in the middle of the city. Parents will enjoy this family-operated garden center complete with roses, landscape shrubs, trees, interior plants, pottery, flowers galore, and friendly, knowledgeable staff. Little sprouts will love the koi ponds, on-site chickens, and resident cat! If the family loves ladybugs and snails, they’ve got those, too! The staff at Mission Hills Nursery always wears big smiles and is oh so knowledgeable.

Insider’s Tip: The nursery may be closed on rainy days – make sure to call ahead when skies are gray!

1525 Fort Stockton Dr.
San Diego, Ca 92103
619-295-2808
Online: missionhillsnursery.com

Fun Tip:
For ideas on the best plant choices for the kiddo’s garden, check out Gardening Know How.

What’s your favorite nursery to check out? Got a few kid-friendly suggestions? Tell us in the Comments below!

—Elizabeth Silva