Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch Returns to West Hollywood

Halloween Event Has Treated Families to Frighteningly Good Time for 27 Years

Guest post by Stephanie Houfek

If you love Halloween and live in LA, then surely you have heard of Mr. Bones, the skeleton king who has reigned over the pumpkin patch in West Hollywood since 1986.  The Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch has become nearly as famous as some of his neighbors in Hollywood, as each year paparazzi snap photos of celebrities and their kids at the patch.  But glamour aside, this delightful pumpkin patch has earned its fame for its fun kid activities, frighteningly big and scary decorations, and fabulous assortment of big and beautiful pumpkins, gourds and squash.

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Kids can pull along a wagon and pick their own pumpkin from the piles of pumpkins in the patch.  Cute signs instruct kids (and parents) on how to handle, or not handle the pumpkins – no throwing, dropping, picking up by the stem, sitting on pumpkins, etc., Pumpkin prices range from $1 for baby pumpkins to $60 for jumbos, and up to $100 for Big Mac Organic pumpkins.

The Mr. Bones slide, pumpkin bounce house, hay maze, petting zoo and pony rides are some of the most popular attractions for kids.  The food offerings, including gourmet Kosher hotdogs, gourmet chicken sausages, fantastic carne mignon tacos, grilled Tillamook cheese sandwiches, hand-dipped carmel apples, Porch Pie pies, and gourmet flavored snow cones are pretty appealing for kids of all ages.  If $5 hotdogs are beyond your budget, no worries, visitors are welcome to bring their own snacks.  All rides cost $1-$7. Face painting costs $10-$15.  All attractions and food are payable in tickets purchased on site.

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Despite the immense popularity of this pumpkin patch, it still feels intimate, partly due to the fact that the space itself is rather small – on about a city block, and because it is family owned. The focus is on providing a fun and friendly atmosphere for families to enjoy.  To this end, the professional photographers who come to get pictures of the celebrity patrons are cordoned off in a pen and monitored by security so they do not intrude upon guests.

Since fall temperatures can still reach into the 80s, Mr. Bones added a shade tent and more umbrellas in past years where patrons can retreat from the heat, and there’s also a pumpkin house and two teepees where kids can play out of the sun.  Best advice is to wear light clothes during the warmest day hours or visit after 5 pm, and if kids wear costumes (optional), dress them in clothes underneath or bring other clothes for a quick change if they get overheated.

While the pumpkins may be pricier than the local supermarket, the weekend admission of $4 for adults and $2 for kids can be used as credit to buy pumpkins or other merchandise in the Mr. Bones boutique, which also sells costumes, decorations, pumpkin carving kits and other Halloween goodies.  Weekday admission is free, and groups are welcome before 2 pm on weekdays. This year, Pillsbury is a partner with Mr. Bones, and the company will be donating $5,000 to support the LA Regional Food Bank as part of their partnership.

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The patch is open weekdays 9am to 7 pm, 9 am to 8pm Friday through Sunday, and 9 am to 3 pm on Halloween.  Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch is located at 702 N. Doheny Drive in West Hollywood, where the owners also operate Mr, Greentrees at the same location during the Christmas season; but that will change next year as the property has been sold.  The new site has not yet been determined, but you can join Mr. Bone’s mailing list on the website for updates.

Cool Off During SoCal’s Indian Summer at Local Theme and Water Parks

Get Dunked and Cool Off on Slides and Rides that Blow Your Hair Back

School has started for most kids in Los Angeles, but summer fun doesn’t have to end.  SoCal’ Indian summer often lasts through early fall, so jump in the car this weekend and head to local theme parks and water parks to chill out.  Here is a short list of the coolest rides and slides and best places to stay and eat for the most awesome endless summer ever.

Park it Here

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Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier includes 12 rides and an arcade of midway games

Pacific Park at the Santa Monica Pier is close to home for many Angelenos, and the cool ocean breezes are always a welcome escape from inland neighborhoods.  The park includes 12 rides and an arcade of midway games, like the Tub Toss, where my son took home a beloved Despicable Me Minion (the trick is to aim high and to the side).  The Sea Dragon that swings riders in a 180-degree arc in a rising and plunging boat is a favorite with teens and daring younger riders, and the West Coaster steel roller coaster that cascades over the coastline offering views from 55-feet up is a great first roller coaster for kids.

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The Pacific Park West Coaster

The Pacific Wheel solar-powered Ferris wheel gives you spectacular views of the Pacific.  All-day unlimited-ride wristbands are $15.95 for kids and $22.95 for 7 and older, or rides are priced at $3 to $5 each.  The park is in full operation through September and then partial and limited operations in the fall, and full operation on weekends.  The pier is in the midst of an ongoing renewal project to maintain the 100-plus-year-old historical landmark, but Pacific Park access is unaffected, and the huge 40-ton crane parked at the pier actually is a sight to see in itself.

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Construction at the Pier does not impact Pacific Park, but the 40-ton crane does add a site to see

Water Water Everywhere

Aquatica in Chula Vista, is one of the most exciting and beautiful water parks around.  Recently acquired and remodeled by SeaWorld, which is about 25 minutes away, the former Knott’s Soak City features six water rides and five water play areas, including Big Surf Shores wave pool, Loggerhead Lane lazy river and Walkabout Waters four-story play area.  Our family’s favorite ride is the Walhalla Wave, in which up to six people can ride together in a raft down a 78-foot half pipe.  For kids over 48 inches tall, the HooRoo Run boasts an 80-foot vertical drop that will thrill even the hardcore water park enthusiast.  For younger splashers, the expansive kiddie play area with waterfalls, water cannons and small slides will keep them occupied for hours.  The facilities are clean and well kempt, though along with the new ownership and makeover came higher prices, from overpriced snacks like $6 ice cream cone to $12-$20 lockers.  Entry costs $38 for 10 and older, $30 for ages 3 to 9, and free for 2 years old and under.  Open through weekends through November.

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The whole family can ride Orange Crush at LEGOLAND Water Park

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Lots of of kiddie areas at LEGOLAND Water Park offer little ones a play place to splash

LEGOLAND Water Park adjoining the LEGOLAND theme park offers plenty for water fans of all ages.  The family sized Orange Crush is one of the most popular rides, featuring 312-feet of twisting splashing fun for up to four riders.  Unique to LEGOLAND is the Build-A-Raft River where riders can gather floating oversized LEGO blocks to attach to their innertube.  Several kiddie play areas with open and enclosed small slides, waterfalls, fountains and sprinklers offer lots of splashing fun in wading-depth water and a sandy beach.  At LEGOLAND you have the option of mixing up the fun at both the theme park and the water park.  The theme park also features wet rides that cool you off, like the Pirate Reef and Splash Battle in Pirate Shores that will get you soaked.  Buy ponchos to help keep you dry, or for $5 for a few minutes of hot air use the stand-inside dryers to dry off, or bring a change of clothes, as bathing suits may not be worn in the park. Admission starts at $76 for adults and $66 for kids 3-12, which includes both the theme park and the water park.  The Water Park is open daily through early September and then on weekends as weather permits.

Where to Stay

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The play area at LEGOLAND features nightly live entertainment

LEGOLAND Hotel is the coolest new place to stay in Carlsbad.  The hotel features themed rooms and surprises inside for kids.  The kids’ bunk-and-trundle bed combo sleeps up to three kids, and adults sleep in an adjoining semi-private room.  The lobby features a LEGO pit for community building, and an elaborate pirate-ship play area offers many fun features and live entertainment in the evenings.  Fun features include a disco elevator, a giant whoopee cushion, talking bathroom mirrors and LEGO model decorations throughout the hotel.  Guests also enjoy one hour early admission to the park.

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Themed rooms and bunk-and-trundle beds for up to three little ones makes staying at LEGOLAND Hotel a fun adventure

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The pool at Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort & Spa is just one of the many ocean view amenities

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The garlic fries at Chandler’s at Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort & Spa

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One of the tastly seafood entrees at Bistro West

Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort & Spa (10 minutes from LEGOLAND and 30 minutes to SeaWorld) is a convenient base for visiting nearby amusement parks.  The hotel is located across the street from a spectacular stretch of beach, and “ocean view” is the operative description for just about all the resort’s amenities: ocean view pool, ocean view restaurant, ocean view bar and lounge area (with outdoor ocean view  fire pit), ocean view meeting rooms, and of course, ocean view guest rooms with ocean view balconies.  The hotel’s restaurant, Chandler’s, offers panoramic seating for viewing gorgeous sunsets amid a succulent dessert garden.  Besides addictive pretzel balls, standouts on the menu include fresh-caught sea bass and swordfish entrees and parmesan garlic fries.

Where to Eat

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Bistro West in Carlsbad has locals and tourists lining up for fresh local fare

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The bubble wall at Bistro West mesmerizes kids and grown-ups alike

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A new kids menu at Bistro West features healthy options for kids

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Bistro West’s Chef’s Eugenio Martignago and Jason Connolly pride themselves in creating beautiful and healthy dishes from local sources

Tourists and locals alike line up at Bistro West, one of the hottest restaurants in Carlsbad.  The delectably tasty menu features healthy and locally sourced gourmet comfort food, vegetarian and gluten free options, and a healthy kids menu.  Highlights include a generously portioned calamari starter with zesty dipping sauces, thick Kobe beef burgers, classic homemade lasagna, homemade soups, exotic-topping pizzas from West’s stone hearth oven, an assortment of generously sized dinner salads, like the satisfying Manciata New York Steak Salad, and decadent desserts such as Bistro West Mud Pie for Two or warm fig and cherry bread pudding served with bourbon sauce.  The crowd is multi-generational and well-dressed, and the atmosphere is casual chic, with modern but comfortable décor and a color-changing bubble wall fixture that mesmerizes kids and grown-ups too.  Fido won’t feel left out either, with a pet-friendly Bow Wow Hour on the patio.

Over Land Over Sea

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SeaWorld’s Return to Atlantis is one of the wet rides that guests flock to ride in the hot weather

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Madagascar Live at SeaWorld is one of the park’s newest shows

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Cirque de la Mer at SeaWorld features acrobats performing tricks on seadoos and flying in physics-defying aerial acts over water

SeaWorld is most famous for its animal shows, but with last year’s addition of the Manta diving-and-looping rollercoaster the park has become more popular with thrill ride seekers.   Bring a change of clothes so you can enjoy all the wet rides, like Journey to Atlantis, a half-roller-coaster half-boat-ride where park guests blast you with water cannons at the end, and Shipwreck Rapids, a winding, swirling ride down rapids and under water falls, and then dry off to hit the dry rides and shows.  To shorten your wait time at popular rides, grab a Quick Queue pass. Get a schedule of daily shows online or at the gate.  Ironically, one of the most popular shows at SeaWorld, Madagascar Live, is a sing-and-dance along musical that has little to do with the sea.  The park’s mainstay shows include SeaLions LIVE, where sea lions jig to pop songs like Gangnam Style; One Ocean, starring legendary killer whale Shamu; and the amazing Cirque de la Mer, where acrobats perform tricks on seadoos and fly in physics-defying aerial acts over water.  Online deals for admission for a single day are $64 for both adults and kids 3-9, or kids go free with an adult who pays full-price ($79).

Where to Stay

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The water taxi picks up passengers at Paradise Point and drops them at a private marina gate at SeaWorld

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Lucky water taxi rides sometimes get a glimpse of Cirque de la Mer performers warming up on the docks

Paradise Point is an island oasis just a few minutes from SeaWorld.  The resort’s bungalows feature lush courtyard and beachfront locations with access to a public beach where kids love the nighttime tradition of toasting marshmallows and making s’mores around the beach fire pits.  The central Island Market store rents bikes to explore the island, and the elegant Baleen restaurant and more causal Barefoot Bar and Grill offer dining at the marina.  Through early September the resort offers a water taxi that drops guests at a private marine entrance to the park for $10 for adults and $6 for children.  If you happen to arrive at just the right time, you might catch SeaWorld’s Cirque de la Mer performers warming up “backstage” on the marina docks.

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The spacious rooms at Hotel Indigo feature kitchenettes and courtyards along with vaulted ceilings and designer decor

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One of the two pools at Hotel Indigo

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A pool at Hotel Indigo from the above at Oceanview Restaurant and Lounge

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A lounge area outside Oceanveiw at Hotel Indigo

Hotel Indigo in Del Mar is a great option for families with sophisticated tastes but moderate budgets.  About 20 minutes from LEGOLAND and SeaWorld, and 35 minutes from Aquatica, Hotel Indigo is an incredible remodel of the Stratford Inn, transformed from a sleepy lodge into a fabulous and swanky but kid-friendly boutique hotel, exquisitely decorated and featuring excellent service.  The spacious rooms feature kitchenettes and beach-inspired designer décor  and horse racing artwork in homage to the nearby Del Mar track.  The rooms open into landscaped courtyards with private patios or balconies. The happening Oceanview bar and restaurant features an inviting outdoor lounge area with gas bonfire pits overlooking one of the two pools.  Del Mar is a short drive from Carlsbad or San Diego and a terrific option for families making a weekend of their LEGOLAND or SeaWorld visit.  The hotel a 10-minute walk from Del Mar Beach, a beautiful , expansive sandy beach where surfers, families, locals and tourists play in harmony.

Where to Eat

At the festive Café Coyote in Old Town San Diego, screaming kids are as welcome as raucous margarita drinkers.  In this landmark multi-storied restaurant featuring countless dining rooms, neither can be heard over the din of large parties, gathered to celebrate everything from birthdays to bridal showers at this immensely popular watering hole and landmark famous for its offering of more than 100 tequilas.

Chillin’ at Disney

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Cars Land has put California Adventure back on the map

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The adorably rendered Cars Land features a shop with cone head hats

Disneyland and California Adventure are the mecca for SoCal theme park fans, but with great rides come great lines, except off-season.  Cars Land has put California Adventure back on the map, and the blow-your-hair-back Radiator Springs Racers is a must-ride attraction.  For a great cool off, float and splash down the Grizzly River Run whitewater raft ride, or for a blast of indoor AC, head into the friendly and scenic skies on Soarin’ Over California simulated flight ride.  At Disneyland, a wild dash in the dark on Space Mountain is a great escape from the heat, or take a cool plunge on Splash Mountain, or for a blast of fresh air, the Matterhorn Bobsleds climbs up and away into icy caverns to meet the abominable snowman.

Another great spot to cool off on a warm day is the Disney Animation Building, in Hollywood Land at California Adventure. Indoors with air conditioning, guests can learn all about animation — from the Toy Story Zoetrope to projected animation all around the lobby to “learn to draw” character sketch sessions throughout the day. And more: fun exhibits to find your inner Disney character and interact with other characters, along with the family favorite show, Turtle Talk with Crush.

Next door at the air-conditioned Hyperion Theater, the popular stage show plays several times a day – “Aladdin, a Musical Spectacular,” complete with a flying carpet!

To minimize your wait times, plan your day of rides in advance and master using the FASTPASS.  A great tool to gauge expected crowd size at the parks is http://www.isitpacked.com/disneyland-crowd-forecast-predictor-calendar/.  Admission starts at $86 for ages 3 to 9 and $92 for ages 10 and up for a one-day visit, though park hopper a multi-day tickets are your best value if you have a couple of days for your visit.

Where to Stay

Kids Fun Zone & Pool

The pool at Hilton Anaheim sports a water feature that includes a kiddie water slide, water cannons and a 200-gallon drench bucket

The Hilton Anaheim is a known as a premier convention hotel, but it’s also a terrific family hotel, and its location just two blocks from Disneyland and California Adventure makes it an appealing option for guests visiting the parks. The on-site Disney help desk sells park passes and can help guests plan their Disney day with insider tips, and guests can upgrade to Disney view rooms to see the Disney lights and fireworks nightly.  Kids love the swimming pool with a water feature that includes a kiddie water slide, water cannons and a 200-gallon drench bucket.  The hotel’s Kidz Korner offers supervised activities, and their babysitting service is a great option for parents who need some grown-up time off.

Where to Eat

Hilton Anaheim’s Mix restaurant offers upscale dining and cocktails, or nearby there are more causal options, including a food court and several family friendly restaurants within the Garden Walk plaza, which is walking distance or a short shuttle bus ride away.


Los Angeles on Dwellable

The PickUp Rolls Out in West Hollywood

 Free Late-Night Makes Cruising Santa Monica Boulevard Flirty and Fun

West Hollywood is known as one of the most walkable cities in the US, but it is also known as one of the most unparkable, which has been a huge stumbling block for the city’s nightlife.  That is all about to change with last week’s launch of “The PickUp,” a free trolley that will run Friday and Saturday nights, from 8 pm to 3 pm.  The service will run from Robertson Boulevard to Fairfax Boulevard, picking up and dropping off party happy patrons every 15 minutes along a four-mile loop with stops every two to three blocks at the hottest venues along Santa Monica Boulevard.

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Riders can ditch their cars and hop aboard the flaming yellow PickUp trolleys, decorated with vintage comic character images and screaming suggestive sayings like, “Get on and get off,” and ride in style while grooving to a music soundtrack mixed by WeHo DJ Derek Monterio.

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PickUp riders will enjoy perks like VIP entry to The Abbey, the world’s most notorious gay bar; plus two-for-one Abbey breakfasts before noon. Other popular bars like Micky’s are jumping on the bandwagon by offering PickUp patrons no cover and priority admission. Hugo’s has one free appetizer with entrée for PickUp patrons. Riders getting off at Fubar get one $1 drink, and a stop at Here Lounge gets PickUp riders half off their first drink.

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The PickUp is a six-month pilot project unanimously approved by The City of West Hollywood’’s City Council at a cost of $71,000 allocated from the city’s general fund.  The service will cost the City $110 per operating hour. If the pilot project is successful the city will consider options for the program to return and look for opportunities to partner with the private sector for sponsorship and advertising to fund it.

“I am so grateful that staff worked overtime to make this a reality,” said West Hollywood Councilmember John Duran. “When D’Amico and I first brainstormed about this, we knew we had to create a mode of transportation that would fit into Weho’s hip urban culture. Time will tell if we are successful,” continued Councilmember Duran.

The City of West Hollywood prides itself in its passionate and creative approach to city government and has established itself as an innovative leader in municipal programs. In February of 2012 the City launched a pilot car-sharing program in partnership with ZipCar to provide West Hollywood residents, businesses and visitors with increased access to affordable, convenient transportation options that reduce congestion and emissions. In 2011 West Hollywood was named the “Most Walkable” city in California and received 89 out of 100 score for walkable amenities and even beat out San Francisco and New York City.

For information, visit www.weho.org/wehopickup . “Like” The Pickup on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/wehopickup or on Twitter @wehopickup


Hollywood on Dwellable

Oscar Gifting Suite Finds Niche with Celebrity Parents

Jayneoni Moore’s Boom Boom Room Studio Previews Hot New Products for Kids, Raises Funds for First Books Charity

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Lisa LIng visits the pre-Oscar Boom Boom Room gifting suite

Everyone has heard about the lavish gift baskets and gifting suites that have become as much a part of Hollywood’s award season as red carpets.  Companies give away their goods and services to nominees and celebrities with hopes these powerful media influencers will generate buzz about their products.  Ideally the celebs will show off those products in photos, which is a tantamount to an unofficial endorsement.

Jayneoni Moore, a fashion television personality and celebrity nursery designer, found a way to stand out in the gifting scene by offering celebrities not swag for themselves but for their little ones.  Moore’s Boom Boom Room Studio pre-Oscar gifting suite, and her other events in conjunction with various award ceremonies, targets celebrities who are expecting or new parents.  The event is a chance for celebs to meet, greet and take away samples from big brands as well as boutique vendors of children’s toys, gear and apparel.

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Dad Jackson Rathbone, mom Sheila Hafsadi and son Monroe stop by to visit the momprenuers of Mommy-Baby Bonding Blanket.

The 2013 Oscar-eve event at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills offered guests a trove of treats and goodies, such new Fisher-Price toys from their Imaginext line, adorable and eco-friendly Funkins  table linens for kids,  a month of free Blessed Bums cloth-to-compost diapers, bows for girly babies from the Hair Candy Store, designer cookie treats from The Cookie Jar, wearable teaching moments from Mightee Kids, and Mommy-Baby Bonding Blankets, a small but big-hearted company which just announced a campaign to send their fuzzy baby blankets to service members overseas so they can cuddle with them and send them home with their scent to ease separation with little loved ones.

Besides freebies for celebrity guests, Boom Boom Room Studio events have included DJ entertainment, face painting, cookie and candy making and other kid-friendly activities, and donations collected at this year’s event benefited the children’s First Book to help build libraries in low income classrooms.

Home Sweet LA Home | Traffic Log | Stroller Traffic

Home Sweet LA Home | Traffic Log | Stroller Traffic.

Troutdale in Agoura: There’s Fish in Them There Hills

1 entranceFishing near LA?  That’s what friends asked when we suggested we take our boys angling one afternoon.  Yes indeed, there’s fish in them there hills.  In Agoura, just an hour from the city, in two trout-stocked ponds on little compound known as Troutdale.  The best thing about Troutdale is that kids are just about guaranteed to catch a fish.

Hook, Line and Corn

The second best thing about Troutdale is that you don’t need any gear, and you don’t need any fishing experience.  For a fee of $7 per person, you get a bamboo fishing pole tacked with fishing line, a pinch weigh and a hook; a couple ounces of corn kernel bait; and a bucket.  You cast your line into the water, and with a bit of time and patience, you should get some nibbles and hopefully a fish, or two, or more.

Don’t worry, if you are squeamish once you snag a fish, Troutdale’s helping hands assist in getting your fish off your line and into your bucket.  The fish are all big enough to keep – and in fact there is a strict “no catch-and-release” policy.  You pay for each fish you catch based on size, from $6 for a 10-inch trout, to $11 for 15 inches and larger.  Cleaning is an additional buck and a half per fish.  The current record catch is 37 trout in a day, and the biggest fish a 28-inch whopper that must have been the storied “one that got away” for years.

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Fish Early and Often

Weekends are busiest at Troutdale, where an average 110 to 220 visitors come to fish per day, though on a chilly winter morning our fishing party was among only a handful of other fisherfolk.   Every two weeks the two 25’ by 20’ ponds, festooned with two floating fountains for atmosphere and aeration, are replenished with up to 1,500 fish from a farm in Napa Valley, so the fishing is always bountiful.

Generations of families have come to Troutdale for more than 67 years to fish and enjoy the rustic grounds, decorated with life-size woodcarvings of bears and forest creatures, log benches and picnic tables.  For private parties, there’s also a thatch-style dining area with tables.  Everything is kept simple at Troutdale, down to the main office, consisting of a simple shack, where a limited selection of fishing rods, nightcrawler worm bait and refreshments and are for sale.

Troutdale’s facilities include two ponds with seating all around, picnic tables and woodcarvings of forest animals.  A large straw hut for parties is also available.

Troutdale’s facilities include two ponds with seating all around, picnic tables and woodcarvings of forest animals. A large straw hut for parties is also available.

Fish Local

Most visitors come from the local area — Ventura, Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, though some drive from distances as far away as San Diego to fish at Troutdale.  The majority of visitors are families with children, though all ages of kids, teens and men and women frequent Troutdale, such as one elderly grandfather who has been a regular for more than 60 years.

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Fisherman Aram Shirikchyan acquired the site seven years ago and now operates Troutdale with his family.  He fishes at Troutdale with his own children and delights in seeing other families enjoy the sport together.  His biggest challenge:  stocking the pond just right so that visitors can stretch out their day of fishing and not catch a day’s worth of fish in five minutes.

What to bring:  You don’t need any special equipment, unless you want to bring it, but some other considerations include a seat cushion (and you thought that sit-upon you made in Brownies would never come in handy!), hand-sani and paper towels for fishy hands, and warm clothes if you are visiting during winter months, or even during summer time.  The fish bite most when the sun starts to go down, so layer up.  If you are having your fish cleaned, they are handed to you in a sealed plastic bag with ice, so a cooler may be helpful but is not necessary.   Outside food for picnicking is allowed; just obey the signs to keep the area clean and don’t throw anything into the water.

You never know who you be casting next to, like Adam Sandler, who enjoys bring his daughters fishing at Troutdale (pictured with one of the owners).

You never know who you be casting next to, like Adam Sandler, who enjoys bring his daughters fishing at Troutdale (pictured with one of the owners).

How to get there:  Basically you have two choices from Los Angeles:  10 W to 405 N to US 101 N to Kanan Road exit; or the PCH scenic route to Malibu Canyon Road to Las Virgenes Road to Mulholland Hwy.  We tried both routes to and from Troutdale navigated by our GPS in the sporty Mazda CX-5.  The SUV handled the curves wonderfully, but my son did not.  So add Children’s Dramamine or Psi Bands to the list above if your kids are prone to motion sickness.

How to cook ‘em:  Trout are easy to cook.  Wrap each fish in foil with lemon and butter, and season with salt and pepper.  Broil or grill them for about 7-10 minutes on each side.  Eat with care as trout has many small bones.

Troutdale is located at 2468 Troutdale Drive, Agoura, CA  91301.  Tel. 818-889-9993.  For more information, go to www.allyoucanfish.com.

Rise of the Guardians – Where Else Can You Find Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, etc., all in One Fantasy World?

DreamWorks’s animated film Rise of the Guardians is out just in time for the pre-holidays, which evidentially begins just after Halloween now.  From the billboards around town it might seem like a Christmas movie, but the story actually takes place around Easter.  Along with Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), nicknamed “North” in the movie, the main characters include “Bunny,” (Hugh Jackman) the Easter Bunny, “Tooth,” the Tooth Fairy, just about every persona of childhood fables; and the plot centers on the lesser-known of these “Guardians,” Jack Frost (Chris Pine).

Seems everyone knows about the legendary Guardians, whose job it is to look after the children of the world, but nobody knows that Jack Frost is real.  Frustrated by his invisible existence, Jack stirs up trouble everywhere his staff touches, much like the Mayhem man of the Allstate commercials, freezing up sidewalks and streets and conjures up blizzards while trying to stave off his loneliness.

When the Boogey Man, “Pitch,” (Jude Law) cages up all the Tooth Fairy’s helpers and steals the vials of lost teeth that store every child’s childhood memories, children stop believing in the Guardians.  If Pitch succeeds, the world will go dark – a world without wonder, without which the Guardians cannot exist, and fear will rule.

Pitch’s dark force of scary black horses, or Night Mares, are truly frightening.  When the Night Mares began stampeding and screeching across the screen, pawing and snorting furiously, my five-year-old grabbed my arm and said he wanted to leave.  I explained to him that the Guardians were very powerful and they were going to protect all the children from Pitch and his Night Mares.  This was DreamWorks after all, and I had to assume this was going to be a happy ending.  So my son decided to give it a few minutes longer, and we stayed for the rest of the movie, though he still tugged on my arm every time the horses made an appearance.

Besides the ominous steeds, another element of the movie that was perhaps a bit too intense for young children – and for me – was Jack Frost’s path to becoming a Guardian (Spoiler alert!  Skip to the last paragraph if you don’t want to know what happens).  A la “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jack was playing on a frozen pond with his sibling, a younger sister, when the ice began to crack.  Jack saves his sister, but he plunges into the icy water, drifting to the bottom, and passing into the Guardian world.  Though I suppose the story is intended to comfort those who contemplate the question of the “why” when the life of a child is lost, it only caused me to ponder the reality of such an unfathomable tragedy.  It was the one scene in the film that actually moved me emotionally, to tears.

The overall plot was a little intricate for young children to follow, but the action and 3D effects will keep them engaged — my son actually reached out several times to try to catch snowflakes!  The characters and accents were entertaining, and the renderings of the North Pole, Tooth Fairy land, the Easter Bunny’s lair and other other-worldly places were fantastical and imaginative.  To perhaps inspire a little creativity and get the kids of the house, Rise of the Guardians will make a good diversion from the busy holidays, even if kids in Southern California have never heard of Jack Frost.

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