Why the Best Trips in California Include a Stop to See the Redwoods!

Best trips in California Big Basin Redwoods National Park

One of Our Best Trips in California

Me: We’re going to see some really big trees.

Kids: Really Mom? Why?

Me: Because you’ve never seen anything like them.

Kids: OMG (growning)

A few hours later…

Kids: Mom, that was really cool.

Me: I know.

Road Trip!

We always have the best trips in California.

Seriously… some of our best family memories!

This particular trip from Monterey to San Francisco included a little detour through Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Big Basin is about an hour and a half from Monterey and an hour and a half to San Francisco.

The California State Park system is awesome! And their website is fantastic. (Especially for not so outdoorsy moms like me.)  I love that it includes things like: what you can do if you only have an hour…or half a day…or a week! So Big Basin was the perfect destination for us to check the famous redwoods off of my bucket list!

Big Basin is the oldest state park in California and has the largest continuous strand of ancient redwoods south of San Francisco. There are more than 80 miles of trails, several waterfalls, and trees 2500 years old!

Best trips in California- Big Basin Redwoods National Park

Can you fit your family in a tree??

The Redwood Loop Trail

We chose to walk the Redwood Loop Trail since we only had an hour. It’s a little over half a mile trail that is stroller and wheelchair accessible. This may be a short trail but it packs a big punch! They have a self guided tour pamphlet so you can follow along on the trail.

Nature is so cool y’all.

The highlights were definitely the Mother of the Forest and Father of the Forest…two of the oldest and biggest beauties.

So cool.

Best trips in California Big Basin Redwoods National Park

The root structure of a giant redwood that fell in 1983!

Best trips in California- Big Basin Redwoods National Park

A new meaning to group hug!

Best trips in California- Big Basin Redwoods National Park

Although it’s an easy walk, I’d still recommend wearing better/more appropriate shoes!

Best trips in California- Big Basin Redwoods National Park

Chimney Tree- A redwood hollowed out by fire completely to the top!

Tips for Visiting Big Basin:

  • These are mountain roads leading to and from Big Basin. If you or your kids get car sick…be prepared!
  • There are a few little places to eat on your way to the park in Boulder Creek (15 minutes) or Ben Lomond (20 minutes).
  • Wear walking shoes (unlike me…what was I thinking?).
  • There are actually really nice restrooms at the beginning of the trail.
  • It costs $10 to park at the Headquarters area of the park. Our “walk” was definitely longer than the 0.6 mile trail since parking was limited, but that was not a big deal to us.
  • They give you this nifty little form to fill out and leave on your dashboard to let rangers know what your plans were if you don’t return to your car. Kinda cool/ kinda scary! Safety first people!Best trips in California Big Basin Redwoods National Park

We have had some of the best trips in California! I would definitely recommend adding a stop to see the redwoods to any California road trip itinerary. There are several other places to see them if Big Basin isn’t along your route. Here is a good resource for other places to see the redwoods in California.

I personally loved Big Basin because it was a super easy stop without feeling like I had to spend the day hiking or camping. Don’t get me wrong, I do like hiking… I just don’t feel like that always fits into the itinerary without devoting an entire day to it.

You can read more on our California adventures HERE (San Francisco) and HERE (Napa Valley with kids!)

Have you seen the giant redwoods in California? As always, let me know what y’all think!

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Best trips in California Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Linking up with Two Traveling Texans and #TheWeeklyPostcard …go check them out too!

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How to Enjoy a Day in Napa Valley with Kids!

Napa Valley with Kids

Napa Valley with Kids!

Napa is just for adults.

Or so you thought.

Don’t get me wrong. Napa Valley is certainly on top of my “I’d like to go back without my kids” list. Because, well…wine. But, it is possible to have a ton of fun in Napa Valley with kids.

I promise.

Our day in Napa was jam packed to the brim full of fun activities for both the kids and adults to enjoy. Napa was on the tail end of our epic California road trip and I honestly thought when I was planning our day in Napa that the kids would be miserable. I actually scheduled the following day at Six Flags amusement park because I was trying to make up for dragging them through wine country.

But, boy was I wrong!

The Jelly Belly Factory Tour

We started our day at the Jelly Belly Factory. They offer FREE self guided tours starting every ten minutes. We arrived early, but still had to wait about fifteen minutes. We weren’t the only ones excited about jelly beans! In the meantime, we admired all the Jelly Belly art and got our trusty (required) hats ready for action.

Did you know it takes 7-14 days to make a Jelly Belly bean? We all thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Jelly Belly bean life cycle but maybe enjoyed the free samples a bit more! Yum!

(Side note for any allergy-friends out there: Jelly Belly are gluten free, dairy free, peanut free, and vegetarian friendly.  Certified kosher. Yay!)

Napa Valley with Kids Jelly Belly Bean Factory

The Napa Riverfront

Next up on the agenda was the Napa Riverfront. We strolled through the super cute little shopping area and stopped at Lucero for an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting. Not all tastings in Napa have to be wine tastings!! And believe it or not, the kids really enjoyed sampling all the different flavors. We even purchased a few and had them shipped home.

Since fine dining wasn’t an option with kids, we just walked past the acclaimed French Laundry restaurant before grabbing a quick sandwich and some sweet treats from Bouchon Bakery. We ate alfresco in the attached courtyard which was a perfect compromise with the kids.

Sadly we didn’t have time to explore the Oxbow Public Market which I’ve heard is fantastic! It’s definitely on my must-do list for the next visit!

How you can enjoy a day in Napa Valley with kids.

Kid- Friendly Wineries

Wineries in Napa Valley with kids??

Yep! No problem! We had two wineries in mind that during my research appeared to be kid-friendly. Our decision was made for us since Sterling Vineyards’ aerial tram was closed for maintenance the day we were in town.

Castello di Amorosa was the destination!

Y’all…it’s a castle…a full fledged Tuscan style castle smack dab in the middle of Napa Valley. And it’s beautiful. You can roam the grounds for free but to go inside you have to pay…there are several different options depending on which type of wine tasting or tour you prefer, but we just did the basic general admission ticket. We had access to two floors, sampled five wines, and the grounds.

You do also have to buy a minor ticket for children, but it includes a grape juice tasting which my daughter thought was the coolest thing ever!! (Side note: they do not allow strollers inside the castle.) We weren’t the only ones with kids there either, so we didn’t feel out of place or anything.

The castle was very busy. This isn’t the place to go for an intimate romantic date. This particular day, they were setting up for a private event later that evening so there was a full orchestra practicing…it was pretty cool! But that was even more entertaining for the kids, well…actually us too.

Oh and the wines were quite lovely. We are far from wine experts. It was more about the experience for us. We did order a bottle or two (or a case) to be shipped home!

So see…Napa Valley with kids is possible!

How you can enjoy a day in Napa Valley with kids- Castello di Amorosa Winery

Worth Mentioning

We also stopped by Stags’ Leap Vineyard. We had wanted to purchase a special gift for my father in law and knew he was a fan of their wine. This is definitely a more upscale winery and not so much for the kids. BUT, they were so kind and patient with our children as we talked, sampled, and made our purchase. They even brought the kids water in wine glasses while they were waiting. Kindness goes a long way people!

How to enjoy a day in Napa Valley with kids!

Old Faithful Geyser

There’s an Old Faithful in California? Say what?

Yep. Apparently there are three geysers in the world with the Old Faithful designation. Who knew, right?

We rolled up to Old Faithful in Calistoga, California in the early evening catching the tail end of her eruption. She goes off about every 30-40 minutes for around two-six minutes. And she’s incredible. You most likely have heard so much more about Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, but in my opinion…this one is better.


There was one other couple there. That’s it. And we actually hung around after the first eruption and watched again…


It was very cool. We hung around the 40 minutes or so and played bocce ball, read about the geyser, meandered the gift shop, and hung out with the goats and llamas. Yep! It was the most peaceful evening. If only I had packed us a picnic dinner too.

Yes, Yellowstone does shoot higher and may seem mightier, but there are huge crowds. HUGE! There are so many people there and you have to stand back really far from the geyser and may have people standing directly in front of you. In Calistoga, you were right up close and personal with Old Faithful. It was just a different experience all together. One that I will remember for a very long time and would highly recommend.

Napa Valley with Kids- Calistoga California Old Faithful Geyser

I most definitely think an adult trip to Napa would be epic. But, when you’re in the area, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t do Napa Valley with kids…and ENJOY it! I didn’t even need that silly day at Six Flags after all.

You can read more about our time in the San Francisco area HERE.

Have you been to Napa? Let me know what y’all think!

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How you can enjoy a day in Napa Valley with kids.

Linking up this week with #TheWeeklyPostcard and Two Traveling Texans…be sure to check them out too!

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Visiting the World Trade Center Memorial in NYC

World Trade Center Memorial

Where were you on 9/11/2001?

I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing as I’m sure most people my age do. There are few events in my lifetime I remember such vivid details about. I was hurrying to get to my meeting on time and putting on a final swipe of mascara when my attention was grabbed by the breaking news on the television.

Visiting the World Trade Center Memorial in New York City was a profound experience for me. I think the only other time I’ve ever felt such raw emotion was when my husband and I visited the Mauthausen Concentration Camp Memorial in Austria.


That’s the best word to describe it.

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San Francisco’s Mission District: Where I Fell in Love with Street Art

Mission District Street Art


I went to the Mission District for a burrito.


It’s no secret I have an obsession with pretty much all things Mexican, including the food. So of course, I had to have a burrito in the birthplace of the burrito!! (well the mission style burrito was born there…but you know what I mean!)

So we asked around and were told we had to go to La Taqueria for the most authentic and best burrito. It’s a small, no frills, cash only restaurant with a line out the door and family style seating. There’s not a lot on the menu, but that was ok…we were only there for one thing. Burrito time!!! And it was fantastic! I loved it! (Side Note- you should definitely try the agua fresca!! It was outstanding!! All for of us were all fighting over it!)

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11 Reasons Why I Love North Carolina’s Outer Banks

NC's Outer Banks


There are so many things to do in NC’s Outer Banks! We’ve been going for years and we never get bored. But, there are a few things you should know before going. The Outer Banks are about 100 miles of beach towns from Cape Hatteras to Corolla, NC. It will take you over two hours to drive from end to end, so you may not be able to do everything all in one trip. In addition, there’s a ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke Island that is another experience all by itself (but well worth it)!

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Why You Shouldn’t Skip Nashville’s 12 South Neighborhood

Nashville's 12 South Neighborhood


Now, I know that Nashville is known for the Honky Tonk’s on Broadway, country music, and The Grand Ole Opry. But, just a few miles away from downtown is Nashville’s 12 South neighborhood…and it is definitely worth a visit! Most well known for it’s walkability and the “I Believe in Nashville” mural, there’s some really great things going on in 12 South.


Street art is becoming more and more popular these days as an actual tourist destination. I mean, you can actually search the murals on google maps a lot of the time! Who can resist taking photos with these fun wall murals…I sure can’t! The most well known of the murals is probably the “I believe in Nashville” mural, but the Draper James blue and white stripes and the rainbow “Nashville” murals are pretty popular as well. There is a beautiful floral wall nearby too but we couldn’t find time to get to it!

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What You MUST Do If You Only Have One Day in Chattanooga Tennessee

Chattanooga things to do


I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t heard more about Chattanooga Tennessee all these years…but clearly, I’ve been missing out. Living in a bubble I guess?? We only gave ourselves one day and one night on our recent southern road trip in Chattanooga and that was not even close to being enough time in this fabulous city! The city itself is much larger than I realized and located on the border of two time zones…can you say confusing?!? They have world class white water rafting on the Ocoee River and apparently an awesome aquarium too! Needless to say we are already planning a return trip to finish our Chattanooga things to do list!

So…in my honest opinion, these two stops CANNOT be missed!

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