Muir Beach.

Nestled below Muir Woods National Monument, Muir Beach offers one of the best spots to observe tide pools.


Muir Beach is a small beach that isn’t as crowded as other beaches. There is a small parking lot and basic restrooms on site. There is a pretty nice path that goes over a bridge and leads to small make shift boardwalk that extends onto the beach.

Check out these online resources from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to help identify creatures in the tide pool.
The size of the many jelly fish that washed up on the beach are impressive!
Rocks encrusted with mussels.
Something no one seemed to be able to identify on the beach was the “By-the-wind Sailor” (Velella velella [size: to 3 in.]). There were hundreds of them all washed up on the shore.
A few people that I chatted with on the beach said they resemble the bottom of a coke bottle. “By-the-wind sailors live far out to sea, but many get blown ashore in the spring. The angle of the sail may determine where they land. Those whose sails angle to the left are blown to our coast, while right-angled ones sail toward Japan. These jellyfish relatives use their tentacles to catch passing plankton.” -Monterey Bay Aquarium

You’ll find huge rocks that offer excellent climbing opportunities and nice trails. Be aware that there are no life guards at this beach.

Muir Beach is not a typical “sunny” California beach.
We brought our own sunshine.
Definitely bring a long sleeve shirt or sweater as it gets cooler. As we made our way back to our car in the evening, we passed by many bonfires on the beach where people were roasting s’mores.
The fog moving in.
To learn more about what happens in a tide pool, Scholastica offers a great free “read and learn” book for young children.

Tilden Park.

Tilden Park is easy to get to from CA-24 and offers quite a scenic adventure on curvy mountain roads as you journey to your destination. Be sure to share the road and approach curves cautiously as there are a lot of cyclists. Even though it’s California, pack a sweater. It’s was quite cooler up in the mountains among the forest. We spent a total of 4 hours here. Be sure to take in account that if you want to see the 3 places featured on this post, they are at separate locations in the park and you’ll need to drive there.

1. Merry-G0-Round. This was our first stop! There was a place to purchase food here (along with restroom with running water) so we decided to have a picnic lunch here after riding the antique carousel.

$2 per ride or $10 for 7-ride ticket book.
They accept cash as well as all forms of credit cards.

This is for sharing! Cotton candy for $2.50 made right before you! 

2. Redwood Valley Railway. This was the biggest surprise of all. We really enjoyed riding in an open, mini steam train up in the mountains among the trees. There are covered compartments too. Everything about this attraction was low-key and fun! Trains run daily until 5p.m. June 16th – September 1st.  In addition, the train is open on the weekends from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (or dusk, whichever comes first). If you have a stroller, you’ll want to leave it in your car.

$3 per ticket or $12 for a 5-ride ticket
They accept cash as well as Visa or Master.

3. Little Farm. Though we love all 3 of these spots, the farm was by far their favorite! Staggered about on a hillside, the Little Farm offers a big hands-on experience. Kids get to see the animals up close and pet the cows and sheep. Don’t forget to bring celery or lettuce to feed the farm animals. I actually didn’t bring any food for the animals. A kind stranger shared her celery with the boys so they could feed the cows, chickens and sheep.

In the boundary of the farm is a garden for kids. We spend quite a bit of time wandering through the garden, checking out all the vegetables and fruit growing. From what was written on the scarecrow, it appears that they host an advanced farm class for kids.

Attached to the Little Farm is the renowned Environmental Education Center. Inside we would information on the East Bay Regional Park system, native animals and a few displays. Be sure to check out their monthly program and activities guide
The Little Farm is free.

Santa Cruz.

One of my first photography assignments, my Senior year in high school, was to take pictures at an amusement park. During school, our class ventured behind the school parking lot to snap photos of the rides as they stood dormant before they came to life for the Maria SS Lauretana Festival (or as we all called it, the Italian Fest). Today, I stepped back into that 17 year olds shoes and re-introduced myself to a perspective that made me appreciate my time at the Santa Cruz Wharf all the more. 

I wonder if my first photography teacher ever knew she was teaching us about more than just photography? Besides self expression and an outlet for my creative energy, she helped me learn to focus on life’s details that make up the bigger picture. That’s carried over in several areas of my life. Whether delivering on a project, researching or planing an event…it’s in the details. It’s when we embrace every day moments, the little details that are often overlooked, that we truly give 
meaning to our life story. 

 {Like candy for the sky.}
 {Every wharf needs a scene like this to greet you. Come as you are!}
 {Street artist creating from spray paint.}

Positioned off Highway 1, this seasonal seaside amusement park hasn’t lost it’s history despite the plethora of modern day additions. 

We purchased a packet for 50 tickets, which seemed to work out fine. We even had a few left over. However, if you are going to spend the entire day at the amusement park, you may want to consider an unlimited wristband. We spent half of our time soaking up the beach! 

Our favorite area (a sanctuary from the larger crowds) was on south end of the park especially designed for smaller kids. Our youngest loved the Sea Serpent rollercoaster

We used the remaining tickets on the sky lift. By doing so we also avoided the majority of the crowd below and it made for a relaxing ending to a pretty colorful day! 

{The view from above is a must.}

If you do go, avoid the main parking lot. Instead, head over to the section near the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center. There are more parking options and you may snag a metered spot (we paid $5 for 5 hours!). 

If the rides really aren’t your cup of tea, for the summer: On Wednesday evenings, they have a free movie. On Friday evenings, they have a free concert. …beachside. How perfect is that? For more event listings, like the firework spectacular in October for the Santa Cruz Wharf’s 100th birthday, check out the website for the City of Santa Cruz

Off the beaten path, you’ll find a great taco shack that only accepts cash called, Taco Moreno. The line is often out the door, but it’s worth the wait. Much like our visit to Santa Cruz!

{Veggie Taco Bliss.}