Old Town San Diego
While it’s true that San Diego has tons of kid-friendly activities like SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, and nearby LegoLand, our first stop when we arrived in California was Old Town San Diego - a historic area filled with restaurants, shops, and historic sites which just also happened to be in Frommer’s 500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up.
I’ve always been a big fan of these kind of historical areas because they’re an easy way to learn about the past without spending a ton of cash.
Driving the wagon at Old Town San Diego
At Old Town San Diego there was no entrance fee and visits to the historic sites were self-guided, so we were able to peek into the old jail, courthouse, and bank before spending the majority of our time at the Seeley Stables Museum and La Casa de Estudillo, a restored hacienda.
My kids like places like Old Town San Diego because they feel less like a stuffy museum and more like stepping back in time to a different era.
Inside the Seeley Stable Museum
Seventy-four places visited, 426 to go.
Hollywood's Real Red Carpet
It may be hard to believe, but each year the
Kodak Hollywood and Highland Theater, located within a high-end mall, is transformed into the entrance to the Academy Awards. Lined with columns listing the names of the Best Picture winners,
Best Picture-Slumdog Millionaire
Hollywood magic is performed and the names of shops are artfully hidden while the red carpet is installed over the permanent red carpeted grand staircase leading up into the theater. According to our guide, the red tile lining the risers of the staircase came from the Wizard of Oz’s yellow brick road (which in the movie has two spirals – one yellow and one red).
Tiles in the red carpet
Somehow it seems fitting that the tiles leading to the wonderful land of Oz was used to create this ultimate “red carpet.”
Congrats to all this year’s nominees!
Agate Fossil Beds
There are times, such as our visit to Agate Fossil Beds located near (as in 22 miles away) Harrison, Nebraska, when I question the choices the author of Frommer’s 500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up made when deciding to select an item for the “500 List.” And while I would agree that for a serious dinosaur-loving/fossil-loving child Agate Fossil Beds might be an interesting stop, I’m not sure it deserved a spot in the “500 List.” But since we had to somehow get from Rapid City, South Dakota to Rocky Mountain National Park – our last stop on our US Western trip, I decided a small detour to Agate Fossil Beds was merited – plus my kids were distracted by watching a movie on our computer during the long drive there.
The fossils on display were those of the Miocene era mammals. Anyone expecting huge T-Rex skeletons will be sorely disappointed.
One interesting exhibit, however, were the fascinating corkscrew burrows (called Daemonelix) that the land beavers of that era built.
And although there are hiking paths that lead you to areas where these burrows were found, you can also take “virtual” hikes . . . which conveniently avoid “real” rattlesnakes.
Also part of the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is a collection of Plains Indians artifacts originally owned by the Cook family – the former owners of Agate Springs Ranch.
Cook Collection of Sioux Artifacts
These artifacts were gifts given by the Lakota Sioux to the Cook family when they left their reservation in South Dakota to visit the Cook family. Outside are reproductions of the tepees the Sioux used when they stayed on the ranch.
Tepees at Agate Fossil Beds
72 places visited – 428 to go!
With four beautiful and extremely different missions easily linked along the San Antonio Mission Trail, it would be a shame to only visit one. We chose to complement our visit to Mission San Jose with a short stop at Mission Concepcion.
Mission Concepcion is quieter than Mission San Jose, but no less beautiful. It somehow feels more feminine than Mission San Jose and inside, its restored frescoes are stunning.
Fresco inside Mission Concepcion
I was so glad we took the time to learn a little about the history of the Texas Missions. The kids were able to understand their importance in the settlement of Texas and how they created “mini” communities along the Camino Real between Mexico and Texas frontier. The missions are still part of active parishes and Catholic masses (and weddings) are held in their churches. Although we drove between the two missions, there is also a 17 mile bike trail that connects all four missions along the trail. The trail follows the San Antonio River and would be great for a day’s adventure. Maybe next time . . .
Mission San Jose
Most people make at least one stop on the Texas Mission Trail when they visit San Antonio – the Alamo. But the Alamo is only one part of a vibrant and beautifully restored (thanks to the National Park system) mission trail that stretches 17 miles from downtown San Antonio to the city’s suburbs.
On our trip to San Antonio, I wanted to stop and visit some of these other missions before we went to the “biggie,” the Alamo.
There are a total of four missions (not counting the Alamo) which are operated by the National Park System – Mission San Jose, Mission Concepcion, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada. These four, along with the Alamo, formed a cultural, spiritual, and financial backbone linking Texas to Mexico in the 1700s.
We only had time to visit two of the missions, but I think we picked the best of the best – Mission San Jose (the “Queen of the Missions”) and Mission Concepcion (my personal favorite).
We took a guided tour with one of the park rangers and marveled at the church’s wonderful architecture . . .
Rose Window at Mission San Jose
. . . before heading over to the working gristmill to watch how flour was made from wheat.
Working gristmill at Mission San Jose
We made a brief stop in the museum gift store to get our National Passports stamped, and then we left, heading to the next mission on the Texas Mission Trail – Mission Concepcion.