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If you’re heading to San Francisco, you simply must plan to spend some time in Chinatown, the oldest in North America and the largest outside of Asia. San Francisco’s Chinatown is a sensory delight; the art, the food, the music, the shopping–China’s culture is a fantastic experience and was a highlight of our road trip. Though we only spent a few hours there, it’s one of my family’s favorite memories. Planning Our Visit to San Francisco’s Chinatown We only spent one night in San Francisco, but our limited time was packed with experiences. Honestly, as we planned this three-week road trip from Missouri, we didn’t initially plan to stay in San Francisco; we intended to drive on through. I thought San Francisco would be its own trip for us one day. As we continued to plan, we realized that we’d be staying somewhere nearby anyway as we drove from Monterey…

The Fantasmic! Dining Package can save you some time by allowing you to explore the park rather than stake out a spot to view Fantasmic!. As we planned our first Disneyland trip, we knew we wanted to see this nighttime show. Though we’d seen the Walt Disney World version several times, Disneyland’s Fantasmic happens right in the middle of the park on Rivers of America rather than in a separate outdoor theatre. We knew we didn’t want to miss this, and we knew we didn’t want to spend time staking out a viewing spot early if we didn’t have to. The solution? Booking a Fantasmic! Dining Package. Disney Dining Packages and Dessert Parties When we go to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, we like to find ways to minimize waits for some of the special experiences Disney offers. Sometimes we book a dessert party in order to get special viewing…

If you’re into amazing national parks, eventually you’ll find yourself in the Redwood National and State Parks in northern California. We really only spent about 24 hours among these magnificent old trees, but any time you can make for one of the most awesome places on earth is totally worth it. One of our first experiences in the redwoods was taking a hike in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. We’d stayed the night in a cabin at the KOA in Crescent City, California, the night before. Besides sleeping among these enormous trees, we hadn’t had any redwoods experiences yet. Since we drove down from the north, our first experiences were with the Redwood National and State Parks. Unlike most national parks, this national park merges with three California state parks to preserve and maintain the area. This is a rather recent development; the merge happened in 1994. Farther south, the…

What do you think of when you think of Malibu? Hollywood stars? Expensive homes? Barbie? (Yes, I’m a child of the 80s.) I think of all of these things, so when we had a chance to make a quick stop to Malibu Beach, we took it. Malibu: The Plan or More Accurately, the Non-Plan When we planned our first trip to California in 2019, we knew we wanted to include some beach time. Kristin and I had never even been near the Pacific Ocean, so squeezing in a beach visit or two was definitely a goal. There are a lot of choices, of course, but in the end, we chose Malibu and Santa Monica Pier.  One reason we chose Santa Monica is that it’s the end of Route 66, and we live blocks away from the historic highway in Joplin, Missouri. If you want to check out more about our…

When we began planning our first trip to Disneyland and Southern California, Knott’s Berry Farm came up in our planning. I’d always wanted to go, and we didn’t know how often we’d make it to to the area since we’re from Missouri. Little did we know that we’d find our way back to California in July of 2021 and that we’d plan a Halloween trip to Disneyland for September. But at the time, you know, it seemed like we should pack as much in as we could. In fact, that’s always how we roll: if we can swing it, we’ll make it happen. So, we thought we may as well give it a go, and I’m so glad we did! It’s a charming park with some pretty high-thrill coasters. It also reminded us of the theme park near us that we call home–Silver Dollar City. If you’d like to read…

Disney Dreamin’: The Background We’d never been to a Disney park in any other season but summer.  June and July, to be exact. When you’re a teacher with a school-aged kid, it’s difficult to get away during the school year. This past summer, we planned a trip that included Yellowstone and Seattle, and, originally, the plan was to fly from Kansas City to Denver and rent a car. When reports of rental car shortages emerged, we canceled the flight and drove the entire trip from Missouri. In the end, we were glad it worked out that way; we ended up adding an extra week to the trip. But, we had a flight to reschedule or we’d lose the funds. What to do? Plan a long weekend to Disney? Yes, please! In the end, we chose Disneyland over Walt Disney World. Since we’d only have a couple of park days, a…

If you’re planning a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, California, be sure to put Storytellers Cafe on your to-do list! Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Buffet was a wonderful memory for us. One of my favorite things to do on a Disney trip is to try fun restaurants and meet our favorite characters. Luckily, Disney allows you to combine both of these into one experience. Character dining is something we always make time for on our trips. When I saw the adorable outfits the characters wore at Storytellers Cafe, I knew we had to give it a try! Visiting the Grand Californian Hotel Storytellers Cafe is located in the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. What’s cool about this hotel, besides the architecture and theming, is that it has a private entrance to Disney California Adventure Park. You can walk out of the resort and into Grizzly Peak, the park of the…

What do you do when you only have a few days to spend in California on your first trip? You spend one night in San Diego. Of course, I would’ve loved to spend more time there, and I hope to go back one day. But for this trip–one night. Before Old Town San Diego We’d already rented a car and stayed two nights in LA. We had a fabulous time checking out some of the places we’d only seen on TV shows or movies. We stayed at the Magic Castle Hotel and had a great time in Hollywood. You can click here to read all about the Magic Castle Hotel. To read more about the Hollywood Walk of Fame, click here. How about the Sunset Strip? Click here. After our second night at the Magic Castle Hotel, we woke up early to make the drive to San Diego. I loved…

If you’re heading out to Knott’s Berry Farm and you like fried chicken, you really should plan on eating at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant while you’re there. During our first visit to Knott’s Berry Farm last year, we had a yummy lunch at the restaurant. When I read that you can try numerous boysenberry menu items, I knew we had to give it a shot. The boysenberry is central to the history of the park, and I’d never tasted one, so the idea was too tempting to resist. Apparently, the boysenberry is a cross between a red raspberry, a blackberry, and a loganberry. It’s also a great way to break up the day and relax in the middle of park touring. You really can’t miss it; we walked right on by as we headed to the front gate from the parking lot. Yes, it’s outside the park, but if…

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