Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History


Founded in 1916, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History makes for a great excursion to Santa Barbara with the kids.  There are eight exhibit halls with permanent exhibits featuring birds, mammals, insects, ocean life, a planetarium and more. Many of the exhibits are "hands on" with buttons and interactive features that kids particularly enjoy. There are an additional two halls for changing exhibits.

You and your kids can roam the nature paths and visit the well stocked gift shop, full of educational items. I can vouch for the fascination kids (and adults) have at this Museum. It is a very comfortable museum that in my experience is rarely is crowded. The "Museum Backyard" area and gardens has a picnic area, stream and other enjoyable features. The pond and stream often have tadpoles that captivate the kids.

The museum is open 7 days a week and is closed certain holidays. As of July 2019, admission is $15 for adults, $12 for 65+ seniors and teens (13-17) and $9 for children 2 to 12 years of age. Become a Museum member and you don't have to pay for admission. The Museum also offers birthday parties for members. Tax-deductible family memberships are currently $99/year.

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is located at 2559 Puesta del Sol Road, Santa Barbara. More information at or 805.682.4711.

Disneyland Park in Anaheim

Everyone knows about Disneyland Park (originally called just Disneyland) in Anaheim, so here in this post we will summarize some key tidbits about this amusement park.

Disneyland Park and sister theme park Disneyland California Adventure together form Disneyland Resort, along with three hotels (Disneyland Hotel, Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel) and Downtown Disney, an outdoor shopping and restaurant area connecting the theme parks and hotels.

Disneyland Park Sections (or "Lands")

Disneyland is divided into the following "lands," or themed sections: Main Street, U.S.A., Adventureland, New Orleans Square, Frontierland, Critter Country, Fantasyland, Mickey's Toontown and Tomorrowland.  Ground breaking for a new section, "Star Wars Land," began in April 2016. Star Wars Land will encompass 14 acres when completed at a future date.

The eight existing lands occupy 85 acres. The original lands when Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955 were Main Street U.S.A, Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. Later on came New Orleans Square (1966), Bear Country (later changed to Critter Country) in 1972 and Mickey's Toontown in 1993.

The "lost" land is Holidayland, which opened in 1957, a 9 acre area with a circus and baseball diamond, that closed in 1961. (Good to know this, trivia buffs!)

Disneyland Park Attractions by Land

Visit for updates on rides that are closed for renovation.

Opening May 31, 2019: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run

  • 14 acre expansion of Disneyland

  • Opening later this year: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

  • Reservations required from May 31 to June 23, 2019

Main Street U.S.A: The Disney Gallery, Disney’s "Aladdin” Sneak Peak, Main Street Cinema and Main Street Vehicles (turn of the 20th century vehicles)

Adventureland: Enchanted Tiki Room, Indiana Jones Adventure, Jungle Cruise, Tarzan's Treehouse

Critter Country: Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Splash Mountain

Frontierland: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Frontierland Shootin' Expedition, Mark Twain Riverboat, Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island, Sailing Ship Columbia

  • Frontierland, representing the “Frontiers of America,” opened as on of five original lands on July 17, 1955.

  • Big Thunder Trail is a walkway between Frontierland and Fantasyland and also serves as one of the entrances to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad’s 40th anniversary is September 2, 2019

  • Eateries in Frontierland include The Golden Horseshoe and Stage Door Cafe for quick service options and Rancho del Zocalo Restaurant (Mexican food) and River Belle Terrace (comfort food) for sit down and dine options.

Fantasyland: Alice in Wonderland, Casey Jr. Circus Train, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, King Arthur Carrousel (yes, this 1955 original ride is spelled with two r's), Mad Tea Party, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Peter Pan's Flight, Pinocchio's Daring Journey, Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough, Snow White's Scary Adventures, Storybook Land Canal Boats, “it's a small world”

Mickey's Toontown: Chip 'n Dale Treehouse, Donald's Boat, Gadget's Go Coaster, Goofy's Playhouse, Mickey's House and Meet Mickey, Minnie's House, Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin

New Orleans Square: Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean

Tomorrowland: Astro Orbitor, Autopia, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Disneyland Monorail, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, Star Tours - The Adventures Continue, Star Wars Launch Bay, Star Wars: Path of the Jedi

Various Areas: Disneyland Railroad

Character Experiences and Live Entertainment

There are various opportunities to meet Disney characters throughout the park. Visit for details. And for live entertainment opportunities, visit


Retail pricing is as follows as of May 2019 and of course is subject to change:

  • 1-Day, 1 Park: Varies from $104 (Value) to $129 (Regular) to $149 (Peak) (For Ages 10+; Ages 3 to 9 are about $6 less per ticket)

  • 2-Day, 1 Park Per Day: $225 or Park Hopper $280

  • 3-Day, 1 Park Per day: $300 or Park Hopper $355

  • 4-Day, 1 Park Per Day: $325 or Park Hopper $380

  • 5-Day, 1 Park Per Day: $340 or Park Hopper $395

  • Annual Passports: There are 5 to choose from and they vary from $399 to $1,399 per year. The $1,399 Disney Signature Plus Passport gets you in to both park every day of the year.

  • One Day Parking: $25

Learn more at

The Nethercutt Museum in Sylmar


The Nethercutt Museum in Sylmar houses a spectacular collection of over 120 antique, vintage, black iron and classic automobiles. This is a place that a surprisingly few number people know about but is a MUST SEE (another "hidden gem," like The Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard). It is a truly gorgeous collection of cars, including numerous winners of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and other famed auto shows.


Particularly eye opening to an auto novice like me is the sheer number of different car manufacturers on display that I'd never heard of, like Tucker, Simplex, Cord, REO, Maybah, Ruxton, Westinghouse, Pierce-Arrow, Moon etc as well as autos made by Daimler, Rolls Royce, Cadillac, Packard, Lincoln, Ford, Duesenberg, Oldsmobile, Bugatti and others. There is also huge number of hood ornaments, headlamps and other vintage paraphernalia on display.


Admission to The Nethercutt Museum is FREE of charge and hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Closed Sunday, Monday and all major holidays.  Visit for more information. Open to all ages.


Located at 15151 Bledsoe Steet, Sylmar. When I went I took the 101 east to the 405 south towards Santa Clarita, which becomes the 5 freeway. Get off at Roxford exit east (exit 159A; don't get confused and take the NEXT Roxford exit). Turn right on Roxford, right on San Fernando Road and left on Bledsoe. Museum is a few blocks up on the left hand side. Turn left on Bradley (at Bledsoe) and an immediate left into the parking lot.


Outside the Museum you can walk through a 1912 Pullman Rail Car and a 1937 Canadian Pacific Royal Hudson Locomotive. Open twice a day (weather permitting) at 12:30 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. for 15 minutes.

In addition to the main Museum, next door at 15200 Bledsoe is The Nethercutt Collection, which has over 50 automobiles along with what they call the world's finest assemblage of mechanical musical instruments. Admission here is also free but you must make reservations for the 2 hour docent-led tour, kids must be 12 and older, and no video recording or flash photography is allowed. Tours are currently offered at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.


Marvin Braude Coastal Bike Path - Pacific Palisades to Torrance

We love driving down to Will Rogers State Beach from time to time, bring the bikes and enjoy the Marvin Braude Coastal Bicycle Path along the Pacific Ocean. 

This fun 22 mile path takes you from Pacific Palisades as far as Torrance.  Depending on how far you want to go and if you have kids with you, there are so many spots to stop along the way. 

To get to Will Rogers State Beach from the Conejo Valley, take the 101 to Las Virgenes/Malibu Canyon Road south to PCH, then about 9 miles down PCH to Will Rogers (17000 PCH), just east of Gladstones and Sunset Boulevard. Parking at Will Rogers varies based on when you go; I last recall paying $10.

The path doesn't actually start at Will Rogers Beach as it is a walking path only at this point. Ride the bike through the parking lot to the start of the bike path at Temescal Canyon Road. And, you're off!

From the start of the path, here are some approximate distances to destinations:

  • Santa Monica Pier - 3.2 miles
  • Venice Pier - 5.8 miles
  • Marina del Rey - 8.7 miles
  • Playa del Rey - 9.9 miles
  • Dockweiler Beach - 12.5 miles
  • Manhattan Beach Pier - 16.5 miles
  • Hermosa Beach Pier - 18.2 miles
  • Redondo Beach Pier - 20.4 miles
  • Torrance Beach - 22.3 miles (endpoint)

With younger kids, the Santa Monica Pier makes a perfect 6 1/2 mile round trip destination as you can stop, eat lunch and have some fun at Pacific Park, then ride back. Or kick it a few notches and ride to/through Venice Beach for all the action. 

Pacific Park up ahead

Pacific Park up ahead

There are plenty of restrooms water stops and of course non-stop BEACH to enjoy here, making this one of my favorite destination for bicycling with the family. And of course, you don't have to park at Will can park anywhere on PCH in and around the bike path to enjoy it.

Of course you do have to be careful of sand on the path, pedestrians/beach goers crossing and walking on the path, other cyclists, runners, roller bladers and crowds.  

Detailed map at


Day at the Races - Santa Anita

Santa Anita Park

You don't have to be a gambler to enjoy a day at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia!  The winter/spring horse race season starts the day after Christmas and ends usually early April.

Santa Anita is a beautiful 320 acre park with a large grandstand that holds 26,000 people and a nice infield with plenty of open space.  I picked the horses for fun when I was a kid and loved it on the rare occasion when my father and I made a day of it at the race track.


The park is open Thursdays through Mondays, with 10 races on weekends/holidays and 8 races on most weekdays.  Gates open at 10:30 a.m. and first race is normally at 1 p.m. 

You don't have to put a lot of money down on a race to enjoy the excitement!  Heck, pluck down $2 and bet on a longshot and you'll be glued to the race.  It's really a lot of fun.

Admission is only $5 for adults and FREE for those under 17 accompanied by an adult.  Parking is $4 ($10 valet).  For kids there is a playground with slides, a jungle gym and swings.  There is a picnic facility for special events  Better yet, there are Family Fun Days from noon to 4 p.m. each Sunday in March through season's end in April.  Family Fun Days feature carnival games, giant inflatable slide and bounce house, face painting and pony rides.


If you're looking to take it up a notch, check out the fine dining at The Turf Club (dress code jeans, sneakers and t-shirts here), Front Runner and Club House Terrace restaurants.

Santa Anita is located at 285 West Huntington Drive, Arcadia.  Visit or call 626.574.7223 for more information.

So I convinced the kids that that to drive with me to Santa Anita on Super Bowl Sunday 2013 with the goal of getting home in time for the Super Bowl. We left our house in the Conejo Valley around 9:40 a.m. and arrived about 20 minutes before the first race at 11 a.m., about 3 hours earlier than normal I guess because of the Super Bowl.

We parked in the northern lot that takes you directly to the infield area. Follow the green line in the parking lot to find it. The parking area is huge. I prefer the infield because it is outside and you don't have  to endure as much of massive plumes of cigarette smoke you have to endure in the grandstand area. That said, the food choices in the infield were limited to hot dogs and junk food, so if you don't bring your own lunch, you'll have to go under the tunnel into the grandstand area.

Speaking of the tunnels, they're cool. There's a tunnel to get from the parking lot to the infield and another one that gets you to the grandstand and paddock area. The tunnels are extremely good for echo sounds with the kids.

There's a humongous screen in the infield where you can view the horses and the race. We sat on the benches in front of the screen so we could stand up during the race and watch the horses down the stretch. I let the kids pick one horse each race. Having a little skin ($2) in the game makes it a lot more fun. Although the kids' choices were a little off the mark, I managed to win a couple exactas that brought me close to break even for the day.

The humongous screen in the infield area

The humongous screen in the infield area

So much excitement as the horses take it down the final stretch

So much excitement as the horses take it down the final stretch

We took a quick walk to the paddock area, where you can see the trainers prepping the horses before the race and walk into the track. We also met the trumpeter before the race. Such a nice guy who enjoyed interacting with the kids.

The park itself is just stunning. So huge and beautiful. Although the park was at very low capacity the day we went, but we still encountered some characters who were cursing and moaning about their lousy do be prepared for that.

The only drawback to the infield area is that it is mostly unshaded, so wear sunscreen and consider bringing an umbrella if you don't want too much sun. Or of course you can go to the grandstand. The playground area in the infield is pretty well maintained and comparable to what you'd find in most parks.

So we left after the 7th race around 2:15 p.m. and made it back home with 15 minutes to spare before the Super Bowl at 3:30 p.m. What a great day!

Train Rides at Griffith Park

Griffith Park & Southern Railroad

The Griffith Park & Southern Railroad has operated almost continuously since 1948.  GP&S Railroad, 4400 Crystal Springs Drive, Los Angeles (near Los Feliz and Riverside) and Travel Town Railroad, 5200 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, Forest Lawn exit from the 134 Fwy.) are open 364 days a year, closing only on Christmas Day.

If your kids are Thomas the Tank Engine fans, then this is a no-brainer half day excursion.  We visited GP&S over a Memorial Day weekend and the kids could not get enough of the 1 mile mini-train ride, traveling over 2 bridges, a tunnel and a mini-Western town.

Travel Town is a 3/8ths of a mile track that does 2 loops, so you do get 1/4 of a mile more ride for your money on the GP&S track.  Both rides are $2.75 per person as of March 2018 ($2.25 for seniors over age 65). GP&S also has a simulator ride, pony rides and concession stands.  Travel Town also has a railroad equipment history museum as well as dozens of old-time railroad locomotive and cars.

For more information, visit or call 323.664.6903 (GP&S) or 323.662.9678.

Pics and vid from a trip to Travel Town in April 2011.


California ScienCenter - Exposition Park


My kids and I visit California ScienCenter in Exposition Park from time to time, roughly a 1 hour drive from Thousand Oaks. It is worth the drive. The ScienCenter is built in the location where the first State Exposition Building that opened in 1912.  The redeveloped building is modern and beautiful, with several floors of scientific exhibits of interest to all ages, including Ecosystems, Creative World, World of Life, Air and Space and Science Court. Entrance to the museum is FREE, although donations are greatly appreciated.  Parking is $12 (as of December 2017).

The "World of Life" exhibit on the third floor is a perennial favorite in our family, where we get to see everything from brains and lungs to live cockroaches, termites and animals. There's also a kids' "Discovery Room" with additional fun activities for the younger one.


If you have more time and energy on your trip to Exposition Park, visit the adjacent Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California African American Museum as well as the Exposition Park Rose Garden (where they have 16,000 or so rose plants).

California ScienCenter is located at 700 State Drive at the corner of S. Figueroa and 39th Street in Exposition Park.  Visit or call 323.SCIENCE (724.3623) for more information.

The Space Shuttle Endeavor went on a flyover trip to the West Coast atop a Boeing 747 on Friday, September 21, 2012. The Endeavor completed 25 successful space missions between its first mission on May 7, 1992 and its final mission in May 2012 to the International Space Station, now resides at the ScienCenter in the Samuel Oschin Pavilion. It is so popular that you must reserve a time slot to visit. There is a $2 convenience fee for reserving a spot at


NASA named California ScienCenter one of only three museums in the U.S. to permanently exhibit a retired space shuttle.  We have visited the Endeavor and the exhibit is extraordinarily impressive. Learn more about the Endeavor at


Noah's Ark at the Skirball Center

Noah's Ark Exhibit at Skirball Center
Noah's Ark Exhibit at Skirball Center

Noah's Ark at the Skirball is a can't miss excursion for your kids.  It is an 8,000 square foot permanent exhibit with a huge ark and numerous interactive exhibits involving the various animals on the ark.  While roughly based on the biblical story of Noah's Ark, the exhibit is nondenominational and is an interactive learning and fun experience.  I would say that generally kids between the ages of 2 and 7 will enjoy this exhibit the most but kids and adults of all ages enjoy this amazing display of life-size giraffes, camels and uniquely displays. 

Noah's Ark Picture #2
Noah's Ark Picture #2

If you plan to attend, reserve a space in advance as they limit the crowds to manageable quantities (which is good because it gives the kids more space to explore).  This is a beautiful museum off the 405 freeway going down the Sepulveda Pass, off at Skirball Center Drive, roughly 25 miles from Thousand Oaks.

More information from the website:

Imagine yourself immersed in a favorite childhood tale. Five years in the making and occupying an 8,000-square-foot gallery, Noah's Ark at the Skirball welcomes children and families to take this journey together. Inspired by the ancient flood story, which has parallels in diverse cultures around the world, this one-of-a-kind new destination invites visitors of all generations to have fun—and to connect with one another, learn the value of community, and help build a better world.

The galleries are divided into three distinct and lively zones embodying the central themes of the Noah's Ark story:

  • Storms (meeting challenges)
  • Arks (finding shelter and community)
  • Rainbows (creating a more hopeful world)

Inside a floor-to-ceiling wooden ark, filled to the rafters with whimsical animals, you and your family will play, build, climb, explore, collaborate, and more. Conduct a storm, help construct the ark, and bask in the glow of a beautiful rainbow. Mingle with hundreds of fanciful animals—from cuddly companions to life–sized puppets—all crafted from recycled materials and everyday objects, including bottle caps, bicycle parts, baseball mitts, croquet balls, mop heads, and rear-view mirrors.

The Skirball is open Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays and certain holidays). Museum admission is $12. $9 for 65+, full-time students with ID and children over 12.  $7 for ages 2-12. FREE admission to all on Thursdays.

MB2 Raceway - Indoor Go Kart Facility in Sylmar and Thousand Oaks


MB2 Raceway opened a 60,000 square foot indoor kart racing facility at 1475 Lawrence Drive in Newbury Park in September 2008.

Established in 2006 in Sylmar, MB2 provides high performance indoor kart racing and related entertainment. MB2 fuses professionally designed ¼ mile road race circuits, high performance emissions free Italian (go) karts and a unique motor sports aesthetic theme, which together forms the successful consumer racing enterprise. MB2 regularly hosts professional drivers, leading action sports athletes, racing tournaments and private events.

The Newbury Park facility is really large and there's plenty of space to move around. Between races you can roam around, watch other racers, play pool, air hockey and arcade games or just hang out with your friends. Plenty of action and really lots of fun! Even if you're not really speedy in the karts, they are fun to try and the staff ensures that races are safe.

There are four rooms for birthday parties and corporate events. Several of the rooms are quite large.

MB2 is very popular for kids' parties. Kids need to be at least 48 inches tall to ride in the smaller kids' karts. My son had his 8th birthday party at MB2! A majority of the kids were trying it for the first time and they all had a blast.

Buy an Arrive & Drive single 14 lap race or an annual Track Pass membership that offers discounted race specials, free birthday racing and more.

For more information visit or call 805.214.9999. Open 7 days a week. Hours, directions and pricing at


Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach


The Aquarium of the Pacific is the fourth largest aquarium in the nation. The aquarium has over 11,000 animals in more than 50 exhibits that represent the diversity of the Pacific Ocean. Each year more than 1.6 million people visit the Aquarium. Founded in June 1998, the Aquarium of the Pacific is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

The Aquarium is a MUST SEE if you have kids. It is just jam packed with eye popping, interesting, mesmerizing sea life but in an easily accessible way. You can actually make it through the entire museum, indoors/outdoors, in just 2 hours, or you can easily spend the entire day there. Some of our favorites are the shark tank, sting rays (they let you pet the sting rays, which come up and visit you like they are dogs), sea otters, jellyfish and hammerhead sharks.

You will hear screams of joy and amazement throughout the Aquarium as everyone will find aquatic life that is just mind blowing to watch. In addition to the animals, there is a small outdoor play area, films and other exhibits. Visit or call 562.590.3100 for more information. It is located at 100 Aquarium Way.

Pricing as of February 2016 is $29.95 for ages 12 and up, $26.95 for seniors 62+, $17.95 for ages 3 and 11 and free for 2 and under. If you are a AAA member, save up to 25% off tickets at AAA location or buy online or show your card at the Aquarium for 10% off.

From Thousand Oaks, simply take the 101 east to the 405 south to the 710 south. There are plenty of signs that will lead you to the parking lot. Open every day of the year, except Christmas Day and during the Grand Prix of Long Beach in April.


Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens


The 133 acre Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens first opened in 1966. The Zoo is home to more than 1,100 mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles representing more than 250 different species of which 29 are endangered. In addition, the Zoo’s botanical collection comprises several planted gardens and over 800 different plant species with over 7,400 individual plants. The Zoo receives over 1.5 million visitors per year and is owned and operated by the City of Los Angeles.

There's a children's zoo area with a petting zoo and fun exhibits. There's also a play area for kids that is quite popular.

Some advice! The line to get into the park can get pretty long on weekends. My advice is to buy an L.A. Zoo Membership! There is a $134 one-year family membership (as of June 2016) that gives you FREE admission for 2 adults and all of your kids, plus 2 one-time guest passes.  If you have a family of 4 and visit the park twice a year, this membership SAVES YOU MONEY as the regular entry cost is $20 for adults and $15 for ages 2 to 17. Ages 62+ is $17. (Pricing as of June 2016.) Plus, there was NO LINE to get in with your membership card! That alone gave us an extra 30 minutes in the park today.  Lastly, the card gives you 10% off your meals and gift shop purchases.  Seems like a no brainer!

Zoo membership also gives you free or discounted admission to zoos and aquariums across the country.

The Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, Reptiles (LAIR) exhibit opened in March 2012. There is a damp forest section that has Fiji Island banded iguanas, poison dart frogs, Guatemalan palm vipers and Fly River turtles, an area where you can watch staff taking care of the animals, tortoises, lizards, crocodile swamp, desert reptiles and much more. We also learned that Mexico has more reptile species than any other country on earth.

The L.A. Zoo is located at 5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles. Visit or call 323.644.4200 for more information.

Hippo relaxing at the Los Angeles Zoo

Hippo relaxing at the Los Angeles Zoo

Nicely appointed kids' play area at Los Angeles Zoo

Nicely appointed kids' play area at Los Angeles Zoo

Rhino at Los Angeles Zoo is just kickin' it

Rhino at Los Angeles Zoo is just kickin' it

Zebra at Los Angeles Zoo is having a snack

Zebra at Los Angeles Zoo is having a snack


Page Museum / La Brea Tar Pits


The La Brea Tar Pits has the largest collection of Ice Age plants and animal fossils in the world.  Over the last 100 years, more than 3 million bones, plants, bugs and other items have been retrieved from the oily asphalt that continues to ooze up out of the ground at Rancho La Brea in the heart of Los Angeles.  These bones are between 10,000 to 40,000 years old.


The Page Museum located at the La Brea Tar Pits displays many of these bones...giant mammoths, saber tooth cats, ground sloths, bears, wolves, bison and a whole assortment of animals.  The museum is open 361 days per year from 9:30am to 5pm, closed only for Independence Day, Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day and New Year's Day.  We visited on a Sunday and were amazed by the fact that half a dozen scientists were hard at work in this amazing "fish bowl" laboratory, cleaning and restoring fossils while we watched.

Outside, you can walk around and see the gooey sticky tar-like asphalt, including "Pit 91," where the annual excavation of Ice Age fossils has taken place since 1969. 

This is a great place to take the kids, for both education and for a fun, active excursion.

Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits is located at 5801 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles 323.934.PAGE (7243) Visit for more information.