Spring skiing and shredding must-have gear


Trew-Chariot-Back-640x471This year’s epic snow sports season is likely to go strong into late spring and even early summer months. Some North American resorts have reported on high-snowfall years that their slopes stay open as late as the Fourth of July. So gear up in style for spring skiing and riding with these slick head-turning fashions and take advantage of some great near-the-end-of-season sales prices.

Pull on your big-boy/girl bibs

Bibs are back in a big way. The sister of the full-on zip-up onesie snowsuit of the 70s, ski bibs are rising up as the nouveau chic on the slopes. Not only do they look stylish and sassy, they are the far better choice for snow wear than traditional ski or snowboard pants. Bibs are perfect when you want a bit of extra warmth over a fleece pullover or under layer, but you don’t want to wear a vest. For aggressive riders and steers, the bibs come up high under the arms to prevent snow from getting in your waistband. They also stay up, so you don’t find yourself constantly tugging and adjusting your waist band, which is especially a hassle with gloves on.

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A hot and hip company, Trew, is leading the revival of bibs, with their high-performance bibs, that style spotters are seeing all over the best resorts this season, like the Trewth ($399) men’s bibs that set the standard for tit-to-toes coverage, or Trew’s already legendary women’s Chariot bibs ($399) that tackle the biggest complaint about bibs for women, with its “she pee” side zip (check it out here https://trewgear.com/trew/trew-updates/article/bathroom-break-in-your-bibs), that makes bathroom breaks easy and fast.

They also have beaucoup pockets for stuffing glasses, digital lift tickets, lip balm, wallets and other necessaries for the slopes. The styling of the Trew bibs, with bright colors and water repellent materials and fashionable bright colored zips and trims, will make you stand out in the snow. When it’s time to chill out in the lodge, you can roll them down to the waist, but they look pretty cool anyway you wear them.

Who wears the pants?

All that said about bibs, if you choose to go traditional, Trew has perfected snow pants, with the plentiful pocket design and fashion forward colors and trim, with an adjustable Velcro strip to keep the waistband snug. The pants for a little larger opening at the leg for heftier snowboard boots. For women, the Tempest ($349) features an adjustable waist, long legs, and three-dimensional articulated panel design that fits all shapes of physiques.  For guys, the Eagle ($349) pant is articulated and ventilated for sidecountry stash runs, with durability for long days hot-lapping your local mountain, and relaxed for comfort.

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As with all the Trew stormproof wear, their technologically advanced proprietary material, Dermizax®NX, is tops in breathability and toughness. The water-repellent membrane keeps you dry after fall, and next to the skin the material keeps you warm yet it is breathable, with ventilation openings.

As someone who has gone through many snow pants due to rivets popping, zippers tearing off we’re getting stuck, and seems tearing open, Trew has impressed me with its durability, looking and wearing like new for an entire season.

Top it off

For spring shredding, pair bibs with a lightweight water-repellent cold breaker like Trew’s Stella ($190) women’s fly freeride shell that has set the standard for the industry with its tailored-to-flatter, articulated-to-shred, and built-to-last design.

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Layer up

Underneath it all, Trew’s women’s lightweight Nuyard Merino ¼ Zip (sale priced $109) is ultimate hi-tech baselayer, woven with NuYarn merino, a  warmer, softer, better thermal-regulating and more mobile wool than its traditional merino brethren.  For warmer days, the Merino Sweater ¼ Zip (sale priced $55) keeps out the chill and regulates as you move, and it looks sharp and stylish for hitting the lodge apres ski.

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Hot mitts

Serius Heat Touch Torche component gloves ($394.99) may be the first gloves you have to read a manual to use, but hands down you will be wearing the smartest gloves on the mountain with these on your mitts. These three-in-one gloves have a battery-heated component glove that slips inside an insulated shell. They can be worn together or separately and with or without the heating batteries. The heat can dial down for spring skiing or up when you are at the top of the peak and the temps drop. Charge the batteries for about three hours, insert the batteries into the wrist cuff and press the button to the desired heat level.  What’s even smarter, and you can swipe away on your smart phone screen while wearing these gloves.

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Pack it up

Nothing’s more of a drag on your travels than hauling a bulky duffle around stuffed with all your gear.  You don’t have to lighten your load and leave stuff behind, instead get rolling with the massively spacious Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 36 ($419) or ORV Trunk 30 ($359).  This bag fits all your winter adventure gear plus the kitchen sink, with lots of pockets and compartments to keep wet stuff separate from dry and all your gear easily accessible. Some extra bells and whistles include an Equipment Keeper Porter Key with bottle opener, exterior and interior compression straps, and an external pocket for easy grab items. All that and a waterproof boot bin, to boot.

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Exploring nature, art and community at Sundance Mountain Resort – oh, yeah, and skiing

Sundance Mountain Resort offers year-round family friendly activities

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When most of us think of Sundance, we think of the film festival founded by Robert Redford in the 1980s. The indie filmmaker event moved many years ago to nearby Park City, Utah, but still today Sundance Mountain Resort remains a beacon for creatives and independent spirits, and it has become known as a wonderland for families, where they can spend quality time together and make lifelong memories.

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Purposefully kept small, true to Redford’s vision when he took over the former Timp Haven in 1968 and developed it to create this idyllic resort, Sundance prides itself as a sanctuary committed to the balance of art, nature and community.

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Many families we met at Sundance say they vacation year after year at the resort because of its smallness and the appeal of its family friendly offerings, such as a top-notch children’s snow sports school, art and pottery classes, wooded paths and mountain streams for exploring, and activities such as evening snowshoe hikes with owl spotters.

The wild, wild best

The resort sits on 5,000 acres of beauteous mountain land just outside of Provo, Utah, on the slopes of Mount Timpanogos in Utah’s Wasatch Range. Locals and those who return year after year to this best-kept secret in Utah ski country refer to it as Shangri-La.

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A true testament to an enterprise that is well-managed from the top down, the staff, from the hotel check-in clerks to the ski instructors, are impressively professional and enthusiastic about their work. And like a dedicated CEO and true believer in his mission, Redford himself skis at the resort at least a few times a season, ensuring the resort runs at peak level.

 

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Accommodations are limited to approximately 400 guests at the privately owned or leased 115 cabins and a dozen mountain homes at the resort. Our ski party of two adults and two kids stayed at one of the resort’s chalets nestled in the wooded property, which felt like a private retreat. Paths from the villas lead to the restaurants and other resort buildings, or guests can utilize the resort’s fleet of SUVs to shuttle around the resort.

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The chalets on the property speckle the woods of the hillsides, and in a heavy snow they are barely visible except for their rooftops and chimneys. After one snowy night we awoke to a fresh foot of powder on our doorstep, perfect for snow man making and a snowball fight in our front yard.

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Inside, the cabins are luxurious yet designer-rustic.  Each feature breathtaking views of the mountains, a private deck, expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, wood-paneled and slate stone walls, an open floor plan with a climb-up loft – a favorite with the kids, a kitchen, large fireplace, and rooms outfitted with alpine chic pine and leather furniture and hand braided rugs.

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Our cabin was also stocked with board games, which we played by the fire, until the tired kids passed out before 8 pm, after a day on the slopes.

Mountains of food

When it comes to dining, you can’t go wrong with any of the resort’s restaurants, which all have stellar reputations for their culinary excellence. The romantic candlelit Tree Room Restaurant is the most formal offering, yet the ambiance is comfortable and inviting. Décor includes Native American art from Redford’s personal collection.

For more casual and family friendly dining, the frontier-themed Foundry Grill features fresh hearty fare and pizza from its open kitchen. Après ski and into the night, the late crowd can enjoy drinks and live music at the Owl Bar, the site of the original Redwood Bar where Butch Cassidy’s Hole in the Wall Gang hung out. For quick pick-me-ups, the Creekside Café offers sandwiches and soups at the base of the mountain, and for the adventurous, the Bearclaw Café is a treat at the top of the back mountain, for skiers skilled enough to get there.

Snow, snow on the range

While the dining is superb, it’s the mountains that are the main attraction of Sundance.  For those old enough to remember the Redford classic “Jerimiah Johnson,” these are the mountains that provided the stunning backdrop for the film. Though quaint in size compared to other local resorts, such as Park City Mountain and Deer Valley, Sundance holds its own when it comes to the quality and variety of terrain for all levels of skiers and boarders, and the resort boasts four chair lifts and a beginner tow lift, with the newest quad lift, Reds, carrying 500 people uphill per hour.

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During our visit near the holidays, which is peak ski season, the staff remarked that the “crowds” were large, but not once did any of our party wait more than five minutes for a chair lift; and even during the busiest hours for renting and returning skis, we did not experience any long waits more than 20 minutes.

Heading for the hills

Sundance is easily accessible, about an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City airport. Rather than brave the mountain roads after dark when we flew in at night, we opted to stay overnight at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. If we had not been so eager to get to the mountains, we would have certainly stayed longer at this gorgeous hotel, which offers the only five-star luxury accommodations in Salt Lake City and features one of the most beautiful displays of holiday lights and Christmas trees in the world during the holidays.

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Sundance’s proximity to the airport makes it an easy ski-in, ski-out resort, but its location lower on the mountain range, at about 12,000 feet, means the resort has a shorter snow season than its neighbors at higher elevations.

The compact season is a boon to the resort, as the resort hosts more guests after the snow melts. When other area resorts are winding down with dwindling crowds for spring skiing, Sundance is gearing up for its busiest time of year, when spring and summer vacationers come for horseback riding, mountain biking, zip tours, and, of course – for fans of Redford’s “A River Runs Through it” — fly fishing.

Like the plot of that film, the great outdoors and the notion of family is treated as sacred at Sundance. The resort’s fame may be born of its celebrity owner and the Hollywood-once-removed SWAG-circus festival that bears its name, but otherwise this serene retreat is an escape from city life, and a place where visitors can reconnect with nature, and their families.

Heading for cool, at The Shade Hotel in Redondo Beach

Looking to take a needed stay-cation nearby, where you can feel a world away from work, the kids and LA, but you’re close enough to bolt home if the babysitter needs you?  The Shade Hotel in Redondo Beach is just the escape.

shade-redondo-beach-exterior-41 The chic and modern hotel is so waterfront that peering out of the sliding glass doors of the guest rooms you would swear you are floating on a ship.  For a true feeling of communing with the sea, guests can enjoy the bird’s-eye view of the sail boats bouncing in the harbor below while soaking in their private outdoor tub, discreetly situated off the boudoir, on the balcony.

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Dining is conveniently at Sea Level restaurant, located at the hotel’s culinary building across a breezeway adjacent the lobby.  The restaurant serves a chef-driven menu of California coastal cuisine, including a raw bar of fresh oysters and craft cocktails to be enjoyed in the LA-lively bar inside or outside, under the stars, by the patio fire pits, along the spectacular seascape boasting views from Palos Verdes to Malibu.

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During the day, enjoy the quiet roof top pool, or grab a complementary cruiser bike and head to the beach path just a couple hundred feet from the hotel’s entrance.  Other hotel perks include day passes to the Bay Club fitness facility, a short walk across the neighboring parking lot of Bluewater Grill Seafood, and a partnership with Trilogy Day Spa for special treatment packages.

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The Redondo Beach locale is up-and-coming, and though the immediate neighborhood has a number of warehouses and visible smoke stacks across the skyline, the area continues to evolve into a hip and happening destination, with more restaurants and trendy shopping popping up, such as Riviera Village, featuring more than 300 boutiques, restaurants and galleries.

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While the term “boutique” generally connotes small, the rooms of this three-story, 54-room property are spacious, and each is fully equipped with mini-fridge, coffee maker, and other comfort amenities, and there are plenty of USB plug-ins and Wi-Fi to keep all manner of tech connected.  The rooms feature chromatherapy, whereby guests can tune the color of the neon accent lights in the room to set a particular mood.

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The hotel’s efficient service is on par with that of a grand hotel, yet the Shade delivers cool luxury with a laid-back feeling, beginning with check-in, when guest are guests are greeted with a glass of champagne.  Rooms start around $249 per night.

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Making the most of a short weekend in Long Beach

img_3980A beach, a city, and a harbor for ships and visitors

Living 17 years in LA, I visited Long Beach about half a dozen times. It served as a halfway meeting point for me and friends who lived in Orange County. We had brunch and dinner there on occasion, and I visited the aquarium with my son and went whale watching once, but I never really considered Long Beach a destination. That was before I had the opportunity to spend an entire weekend there, and I truly got to know what this 55-square-mile city offers unique from its neighbors.

Long Beach has 11.5 miles of beach, which is how the city gets its name, but what sets this  Southern California seaside town apart is its urban environment by the waterside. Think Seattle or Miami, but with constant sunshine, and relaxed attitude of Southern California, along with a desirable geographic position 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles.

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Whereas across the Southern California coast, denizens can brag that they can snow ski in the morning and sunbathe on the beach in the afternoon, Long Beach one-ups that boast with the promise that residents can go sailing or deep sea fishing, or even visit the island of Catalina for lunch, then go skiing, and be back by dinner time to dine at a world-class metropolitan restaurant and hit the nightlife in the city, until the wee morning hours if they wish.

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It is a vast city, with a plethora of diverse offerings in the area of culture, cuisine and arts.  The latter category of arts happens to be one of most thriving for the city in the last decade, in which the city has dedicated 1% of its revenue to developing arts programs. Long Beach is the home of the Museum of Latin American art, along with the long beach museum of art, which combines contemporary collections and classical architecture with an oceanfront view. The city is also known for its street art, including the gigantic outdoor murals of the Pow! Wow! international art collective.

The local art scene inspires much of the culture of the town, from the awesome award-winning architecture of the Long Beach airport, named one of the 10 most architecturally beautiful airports in the world, to Retro Row, a 1950s-inspired walk back in time into a mid-century throwback of restaurants and coffee shops, barbershops, and furniture and decor shops that seem like a scene out of  Mad Men, for which in fact the set designers of said show often visited for props, wardrobe and inspiration.

One cannot talk about Long Beach without mentioning the RMS Queen Mary. The behemoth transatlantic ocean liner, built in 1936, that is three times larger than the Titanic, is permanently docked on the Long Beach shoreline, where at now serves as a tourist attraction and hotel where visitors can stay in one of the refurbished first class state rooms.

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In speaking to locals of Long Beach, it seems everyone has a connection to the Queen Mary. Many have worked there, or their friends or family members have, and many have their own personal stories about the lore of the old ship, purported to be haunted by ghosts.
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The boat has been floating at its current resting place since 1967, and it rises twice a day, up and down with the tide, hosting hundreds and even thousands of tourists daily for tours and special events. Visitors and ghost chasers revel in the stories told by the Captain and Commodore and the many knowledgeable docents who share a passion for the ship as strong as any Brit’s fealty to their royal figurehead.

Aside from the Queen Mary, there is much more to the shoreline and the bounty of the sea that is an essential draw to the city. The Long Beach aquarium is also world renowned, housing more than 11,000 animals and nearly 500 different species and featuring exhibits that allow visitors to get an up-close perspective and even touch the animals displayed there, in addition to sponsoring many learning programs for visitors of all ages.

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In addition to these two major attractions there is also a wharf area with seafood restaurants, like the renowned Parker’s Lighthouse, offering tourists and locals spectacular views along with the region’s best and freshest seafood. The culinary scene, like the city itself, has great variety, such as renowned authentic Mexican food at Lolos Mexican Cuisine; The Attic on Broadway, a southern comfort food eatery; the trendy Sip Bar & Lounge at the Marriott Renaissance Long Beach Hotel, featuring the “ocean to fork” culinary creations of award-winning Top Chef contestant Executive Chef Janine Falvo; and L’Opera, a sophisticated fine dining restaurant featuring Northern Italian fare.

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Lest we forget to mention the shopping, Long Beach is home to one of the area’s newest outlet malls, called the Pike Outlets, which not only has a number of premium discount stores, such as Restoration Hardware and Columbia sportswear, but it also features a Ferris wheel that has become an attraction in itself.

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While a day trip is an easy excursion from Los Angeles, for out-of-towners and those who want to stay overnight, the city offers a growing number of hotels, from the downtown Hyatt Regency, which offers spectacular vistas of the city to the quaint feeling Hotel Maya, a Hilton Doubletree hotel, which though is a sizable property of 200 rooms, has the charm of a boutique hotel, with views overlooking the bay and it’s own marina, which maritime guests can slip into and then stay overnight on their boats or in hotel rooms.

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The hotel also features Fuego restaurant, famous for its handcrafted margaritas made from its expansive selection of premium tequilas. Its best-kept secret its small private beach, Playa Maya, for which the hotel developers brought in thousands of pounds of sand to create an inviting alcove with lounge seating around fire pit which are the scene of s’more making and merry making in the evenings.

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The hotel offers bike rentals which I took advantage to take a quick, three-minute ride to the Queen Mary, then I doubled back and headed into the city, which was easily accessible by bike designated bike paths. I rode to the Pike and took a break by the Rainbow Lagoon Park and a spin by the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, which was dark on the weekend I visited.

On a sleepy Sunday afternoon, the city was quiet, almost deserted, which is part of the diverse character of the city that is a lure to visitors. It is a bustling city during the weekdays, and a laid-back beach city on the weekends – a city that embodies work and play. While tourists may find its appeal as a central outpost for visiting Los Angeles and many of Southern California’s other major attractions, such as Disneyland, California Adventure, and Universal Studios Hollywood Long Beach in itself has the draw of a tourist destination, with its features as a metropolitan city, with the added appeal of a sunny beach comprising its boundaries.

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As a port city, where cargo ships dock from around the world, and to which trucks haul goods back and forth, Long Beach can experience a fair amount of traffic, and the tangled maze of roads to the harbor, with the abundance of signage directing visitors to the various attractions, can make it a navigation feat to find one’s way around at first. Once I got the hang of the roadways, with the help of Waze, I was able to steer myself around like a native, and in fact I found a few short cuts. While I got a good sense of Long Beach by staying there for a weekend, I learned there was a great deal I have yet to explore in this sprawling beach, I mean, city.

Things for families to do in Carlsbad

Most people think of Carlsbad, California, as the town where LEGOLAND is located. The theme park is certainly a main attraction, but Carlsbad has much more to offer, including many unexpected charms, as our family discovered on a recent trip.

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About 90 miles from Los Angeles, or two to three hours by car depending on traffic, Carlsbad can be a day trip or a great weekend getaway. We visited during the summer, which is a popular time for families, because the kids are out of school, but it’s also a great time for other reasons, including great beach weather, and not to mention it is peak strawberry season.

We started our weekend vacation early at the LEGOLAND Park, and the kids loved the newest attraction at the park, Heartlake City, especially appealing to girl guests. It featured live musical performances with ‘tween-themed dance numbers, with lots of girls in frilly pink costumes.

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img_6124We first started coming to LEGOLAND when the kids were five, and while we expected our kids, age 7, to outgrow LEGOLAND at their age, we were thrilled to see they were still excited to ride the Dragon roller coaster, which we were able to experience at least five times, thanks to the short lines early in the morning, and they had not yet tired of the LEGO Technic Coaster, which they were now tall enough to ride on their own.

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img_6128As we do every visit, we loved racing other families in the Police and Fire Academy relay, though as usual, our rig came in last. As a special treat, we got tickets to visit the water park adjacent to LEGOLAND, which was a great way to cool off after a day of traipsing around the park in the sun. Our favorite waterslide is always the orange rush, because all four of us can ride together as we spin down a giant slide and ride the walls of a huge half pipe.

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After a full day at the theme park and water park, we discovered a strawberry field right near the freeway exit. We decided to do a little impromptu strawberry picking. For $20, we got a bucket that the whole family could fill up, and we were told we could eat as many strawberries as we wanted while we were picking them. Since it was late in the afternoon, the heat had dissipated, and it was perfect timing for us to be out in the exposed fields.

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The kids loved competing to find the most outrageously large strawberries in the most bizarre shapes. We ate so many strawberries we almost didn’t have an appetite for dinner, but when we told the kids we were going to Bistro West, suddenly they were hungry again.

Bistro West is one of our favorite restaurants in Carlsbad. It’s just a few miles from LEGOLAND, and they have a terrific farm-to-table fresh summer harvest menu. Chef Jason also prepares a great kids menu with many healthy choices, and they even have a Bow Wow Hour on the patio for guests with pets. They also have an expansive vegetarian menu and a gluten-free menu of over 20 items. As always, the kids ordered their favorite calamari appetizer with dipping sauces, and the grown ups shared one of their unique signature pizzas, topped with pear Gorgonzola and prosciutto. Besides the excellent food, the kids also love watching the “bubble wall” fixture in the restaurant that mesmerizes them with is changing colors.

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We told the kids we wanted to make this Carlsbad trip an educational experience, and at first they grumbled, but once we arrived at the Museum of Music Making, they changed their tune. While the antique instruments were more captivating to the adults, the kids gravitated immediately to the experiential area of the museum, where they got to put on headsets and play the drums so that only they could hear the sound effects.

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The kids were enjoying themselves so much they hardly realized they were learning as they explored all of the hands-on exhibits. We lucked out, and the day we visited the museum was hosting a drum circle. This was a new experience for all of us. Each of us chose a drum from an assortment offered to us, and a leader set the pace and chanted and sang while we beat our drums in rhythm.

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As the kids were getting antsy about being indoors in such a beautiful day, our next stop was to a local skate park. My son had been in skateboard camp for the last two summers, and he thought he had seen the best skate parks Southern California had to offer, until we drove up to Alga Norte park.

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The skate park, the largest in San Diego, features more than 10,000 feet of curved and flat ramps, two pyramids, two stairways, several bowls and pipe grinding ledges. It was skateboarder’s heaven. While there were a number of teens at the park, there were also a good number of younger skaters, and there was a beginner’s area, which parents like myself favor, since at some parks the littler kids often get run over by the older, more experienced skaters. Best of all for parents, there was a shaded picnic area where we could sit and spectate.

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img_6172Onto the second to last stop of our whirlwind tour, we headed to Carlsbad State Beach, which was directly across from our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn. Even though we live in LA, less than 15 minutes to Venice and Santa Monica beaches, Carlsbad beach remains one of our favorites in Southern California.  We were able to find easy metered street parking, though there were a number of parking lots near the beach. We accessed the beach from a paved path down from the sidewalk along the shore, and we set up our base camp near the water.  Even though it was a mid-summer weekend, we were delighted to be one of just a few dozen families in sight, and we felt like we had our own little slice of beach to ourselves.

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img_6052The kids played in the sand with some buckets and shovels we brought along, courtesy of the hotel, and we watched some surfers who seemed to be catching some decent waves. The kids loved that near the restrooms there was a tower of showers, were all the surfers and beachcombers rinsed off the sand, and the kids got to help some surfers wash off their boards.  We were very impressed at how friendly the local surfers were and considerate of their little admirers.

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After the beach, we headed for the Harbor Fish Cafe. Despite its humble appearance, this little restaurant is one of the hottest spots in town. It’s popular with both locals and tourists, though it is known less for its great seafood than its awesome views, especially at sundown.  As we experienced the vivid pink orange hues of the sky as the sun set over the water, we were happy that the kids were already starting to nod off at the restaurant.

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Back at the hotel, we all crashed, like the waves on the beach. We had considered a day trip to Carlsbad, but we were glad we had opted to make it a weekender.  The Hilton Garden Inn is an affordable option for families, with suites that have separate living areas with pull-out sofas and private patios. They also have fabulous views of the ocean across the street, and a large outdoor pool and whirlpool, plus free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, so while the kids slept I was able to get some work done.

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The hotel is also two miles from LEGOLAND, which was the primary reason we felt the location was ideal for us, but little did we know the park was just one of many terrific family attractions close by, including an adorable beach community and shopping Village that we had overlooked on previous trips, because we were focused on the theme park.

As we took a final stroll along the beach and got some smoothies for the road before we headed back to LA, a group of motorcycle riders on Harleys rode by us down the main drag. As a fan of Sons of Anarchy, the TV series about a bad boy motorcycle club of a town called Charming, I was intrigued to get a closer look at the riders. But instead of tough guys, these riders looked like retired corporate executives, sporting shiny luxury bikes, as they rode in orderly formation and pulled up to the juice bar where we were sitting. As the cyclists joined us at the yellow painted picnic tables, and we enjoyed our smoothies in the sunshine, I snickered to myself, that really, this was the town that truly should be called Charming.