Surprise Trip to Southern California | Summer Bucket List

The kiddos are on their 3rd week back to school and although it's been nice getting into a regular routine and being able to work without interruptions, sometimes the school grind has me missing the lazy days of summer.  The heat in Las Vegas has not let up, so carpooling and driving back and forth in 105+ degrees is the worse!! So, it make me so happy that we were able to squeeze in one more super quick trip before school started earlier this month.  

Ever since Diego started school we've taken a beach trip to Southern California in August as our end of summer/back to school trip. We had such a  busy summer this year that we just didn't think the trip would happen.  We told the kids and they were totally fine with it  But, It's been our tradition for years and I still wanted to make the trip happen! I decided to redeem some of our Hilton Honors Rewards points for the hotel and drive out to SoCal on Friday morning and head back Sunday!

Since the kids didn't think it was happening, we thought it would be fun to surprise them! For the past few years we've added a "mystery activity" to our yearly Summer Bucket List and they've been simple things like mini golf with friends and driving out to get ice cream.  Well, we totally surprised them Friday morning when we woke them up to our favorite California song! You can listen to it HERE ;)  Elysse got it pretty quickly and started jumping up and down and ran into Diego's room yelling, "We're going to California! It's our mystery surprise!" It was a pretty funny moment!  We had packed the car beforehand, so we had them get in the car in PJs and change when we got there. It was epic. 

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And just like that, 4 hours later, we were sitting on the beach under our umbrella in Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach, CA! The kids had a great time boogie boarding, building sandcastles, and just playing in the water.  Once everyone started getting tired, we packed up and headed to our hotel to shower and grab some dinner.  We were all beat after our long day on Saturday, so we slept in Sunday morning and took our time checking out.  We decided to hit the beach again, this time making our way towards L.A. and hanging out in Venice Beach for a bit. Jason and Diego skateboarded along the boardwalk and Elysse and I hung out at the beach.  The boys joined us after a bit and we stayed a little longer but we didn't stay too long since we were driving back to Vegas.  

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It was definitely a whirlwind trip but it was still a good time and we made some fun memories together, which is always the best.  The kids were so appreciative of their surprise trip and kept thanking us.  I'm so glad we made it work and didn't break one of our family traditions.  Now, I hope the kids don't expect us to top this "mystery activity" next year! LOL

What traditions do you have with your family? Have you ever had to break a tradition? How do you keep them going year after year?  

2017 Spring Break in Southern California

I know, I know, it is almost summer and I am just now sharing our spring break getaway! But, better late than never and I've even got some tips on how to get away on a budget ;) 

We have a busy summer coming up and we'll be traveling in June & July without the kiddos (woop woop!) and our family vacation to Portland, OR is also in June.  The in-laws will be visiting this summer as well for a few weeks, which means we'll be getting away with them on some day trips too.  What I'm getting at with all of this is that we've been saving our pennies for this summer! But, we also love to travel and it had been a few months since we'd gone away as a family and I think we all needed a change of pace and a change of scenery!  So, this spring break we planned some fun local activities during the first part of the week, including a sleep over with friends, and then we took off on Friday morning to Southern California! 

We were really trying to keep this trip as budget savvy as possible, so after a yummy lunch at Porto's Bakery and Cafe, we made our way to  The Getty Center in Los Angeles.  After living in in Vegas for over 8 years and visiting L.A. countless of times, this was our first visit to The Getty.  It's been on my list of places to visit for awhile, but I just wasn't sure if the kiddos would be interested in the art when they were younger.  Even now, I was skeptical that they wouldn't enjoy it but boy was I wrong! They loved seeing all the paintings, sculptures, and the gardens.  They especially thought it was so cool to see some paintings by famous artists that they'd actually heard of, like Claude Monet! The Getty is located on a beautiful property, with several buildings and gardens and water features.  To get to the center, we had to take a tram up the hill to where there are amazing views of the city below.  The best thing about The Getty? It's free admission. There is a parking fee of $15 but it's totally worth it! We spent about 4 hours there and could have probably spent more time if it hadn't closed! 

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After our visit to The Getty, it was time to make our way through the L.A. Friday afternoon rush hour to our hotel.  We were staying in Ventura, CA because Saturday was another family first for us, Six Flags Magic Mountain Amusement Park! This was another thing we've been waiting on the kids, especially Elysse, to be tall enough to ride most of the rides.  To save money, we purchased our tickets online a week in advance.  This proved to be the biggest saving on admission tickets.  Our hotel, Hilton Garden Inn Valencia, was also located across the street from the park and provided a shuttle to and from, saving us the $25 parking fee! 

Being spring break, we were fully expecting the park to be busy and it was, but not so much so that we couldn't enjoy our time there.  We also met up with my sister and her family and another family we're friends with, so it really made it for a fun time for the kiddos.  They really enjoyed being able to ride the rides and hang out with their friends.  Amusement parks are not my favorite thing to do on trips for all the usual reasons: they're crowded, long lines for rides, and bad over-priced fast food. But, aside from the Disney theme parks and Legoland, the kiddos hadn't been to an amusement park with big roller coasters and had been wanting to go.  It worked out great and I'm so glad we went with a group of friends and family to make it even more fun! 

Sunday was our last day in SoCal before heading back to Vegas, so the kids spent the morning in the pool and then we made our way to Malibu Beach.  We couldn't come all the way to California and not at least see the ocean! The best thing was the fruit carts on the side of the road that make your bowls to order! So delicious!! Our time in Malibu was quick, we ate on the pier at the Malibu Farm restaurant.  I highly recommend it! Then we walked along the beach for a bit before the long drive back home. 

This trip was much needed for us!  It was a quick getaway from our routine, we saw the ocean, ate some yummy food, got cultured at The Getty, and screamed so much on roller coasters we woke up hoarse the next day! Yup, a seriously well-rounded and diverse trip for our family.  

I know it's late, but how did you spend your spring break? 

Race-cation | Southern Califiornia Getaway

One of the best reasons to choose a race in a different city is the opportunity for a race-cation! You know, where you sign up for a race and plan a trip around it!  Because I love to run and I love to travel even more, it's no wonder most of my races are out of town.  I love being able to combine two of my favorite things!  Mostly, these are just weekend getaways like for the L.A. Marathon and sometimes they are full-on family vacations, like for Disney's Wine and Dine Half Marathon in DisneyWorld.  Either way, it's always exciting to get away and run in a new place!  

Last month I got to race the Ventura Beach Half Marathon and we made a nice little family trip out of it.  The kids had already started school, so we let them play hooky and we left Friday morning.  We headed straight to L.A.'s The Grove shopping center where Elysse had an appointment with a personal shopper at the American Girl store!  You can read all about her amazing experience and my recommendations when visiting this store HERE.  While Elysse and I shopped and had lunch at the American Girl Cafe, Jason and Diego spent their afternoon catching PokeMon Go at the nearby La Brea Tar Pits.  They also grabbed a bite to eat and even did a little shopping too.

In case you didn't know, Friday afternoon traffic through L.A. is insane.  We thought because we were leaving a few hours before rush hour that we would be ok, but it was still really congested and it took us quite awhile to get from Los Angeles to Ventura.  When we finally arrived at our hotel, I realized just how chilly the evenings are in Ventura and we were not prepared!  Elysse still got in the pool before we headed to dinner.  She's crazy and maybe I'm a little crazier for letting her get in.  But hey, it's a vacation! 

Saturday morning, was packet pickup and our family day at the beach.  The first thing we did, was head to Old Navy to get some sweaters because the morning was cold and cloudy and I knew the evening would also be chilly.  Then we headed to Trader Joe's to grab food for our beach picnic lunch later.  At this point, we're all starving, so we had to find a place to eat a late breakfast on Main St. Finally, around noon, we made it to the beach.  Packet pick up was right next to the pier and super quick to find and get my bib for the race the next day.

After all of this, it was finally time to relax at the beach for the day!  The weather was cool but it did get pretty sunny once that morning fog rolled out.  We spent the day lounging, making sand castles, and gathering shells.  Diego had gotten a skate board while in L.A. so him and Jason practiced skating along the bike trail.  It was seriously one of the most chill out days at the beach we've ever had.  Even though it was too cold for actual swimming in the ocean, it was a blast!  We were all so stuffed from our big breakfast, that we didn't even have our lunch or snacks until we got in the car to leave.  

As soon as we got back to our hotel, Elysse was ready to jump in the pool again! I don't know how she has so much energy.  But, because we didn't swim in the ocean, we figured why not! So her and Jason stayed at the pool while Diego and went up to the room to get a head start on showers and get ready for dinner.

Sunday was race day and it was perfect!  You can read all about my race recap HERE.  Unfortunately, with school on Monday, we decided to head back home soon after the race was done.  After my race, we headed back to the hotel to check-out and for me to get myself all cleaned up from the half marathon.  After breakfast we decided to take the scenic route and find the Musical Road in Lancaster, CA.  It was originally made for a Honda commercial.  It's a quarter mile bit of road that when driven on it, it is supposed to sound like  William Tell Overature or better known as the theme from the classic Lone Ranger tv show. Was it worth taking the scenic route for this? Absolutely! There are only a few of these musical roads in the world and even though it wasn't perfectly in tune, it was still a fun little side track.  

Click the photo to see and hear our drive over the Musical Road! 

Click the photo to see and hear our drive over the Musical Road! 

We also got to see one of the largest wind farms in the world as we drove back to the interstate.  We had no idea we'd be seeing that, but when we kept seeing so many rows of windmills, I quickly googled and found out it was the Alta Wind Project, also called the Mojave Wind Farm, the third largest onshore wind energy project in the world.  Pretty neat bit of trivia :) 

All and all, our family race-cation was a much needed break from the busy months we'd been having with packing and moving and the kids starting new schools.  I highly recommend when looking for your next race, consider making it a race-cation! I'm sure the idea of traveling and getting away will be a nice motivator as you put in those training miles!