Apparently it’s easier for me to take crazy adventures than it is to write about them. My pre-parent brain would have been able to knock this post out in no time. There would have been plenty of hurdles along the way: indecision about word choice, a thousand re-reads for typos, adding and deleting until the wee hours of the night. That, however, was a lifetime ago. Now I’m a half-decade into sleep deprivation and my brain is so foggy I’m not sure if the trip was even real. I see that there are pictures, bills, and mementos, so I’m going to go ahead and write about what I remember, publish an imperfect post, and move along to the next blurry adventure.
We started the day with a delicious hotel breakfast. It had the right amount of Immediate-keep-kids-happy-food balanced with the We’ll-need-snacks-again-in-five-minutes-food. Off we went to Storyland.
Storyland: Fresno, CA
Storyland is a storybook themed playground from the 1950s with elements of a theme park. It’s tucked into this little area called Roeding Park with other attractions like Playland and the Chaffee Zoo. It was a weekday, so Playland was closed which wasn’t a big deal except it’s hard for kids to see the potential rides and fun without getting to participate. We paid the $5 for parking and bought tickets for everyone- $6 for me and $4 for each kid (including the one-year-old). Plus, the $2 per person add-on for the train ride and we’re already racking up the bill for a relatively low-key place. We enter the park and press the button on the first talking statue- a caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland- which tells you if you want to hear the other stories through the park you must go back to the ticket booth and get a $5 magic key. We’re already out almost forty bucks so, what the heck, bring on the magic.
About two hours later we had experienced all that Storyland had to offer. The train ride was a five-minute novel experience for the kids, but not unlike any similar ride you would find elsewhere. The “magic” key worked in about 4 of the 15 story boxes around the park. Let’s just say I wouldn’t avoid this park at all costs, but I’d recommend keeping your expectations low.
890 W. Belmont Ave
Fresno, CA 93728
We drove the three hours from Fresno to Santa Cruz and checked-in to our next hotel. We still had a couple hours of daylight, so we decided to explore the sites at the nearby state beach.
Natural Bridges State Beach: Santa Cruz
We paid for parking, stretched our legs, and hiked to the Monarch Grove Natural Preserve where thousands of Monarch Butterflies make their winter home. It was a little tricky as we had been in the car for several hours, but also needed to stay quiet in order to avoid disturbing the butterflies. After checking out a few of the butterfly clusters, we went back across the parking lot and down a path to play at the beach. It was here that I learned my children were not as nervous around the ocean as they were before. Yay for courage; boo for my anxiety. They played in the sand and let a few small waves soak their clothes. Beautiful place where the only stress comes from worrying moms like me.
Natural Bridges State Beach
2531 W Cliff Dr
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
How we had any energy left is still a mystery to me, but we kept the party going and went out to find some dinner. Being a very short drive from the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, we decided to follow the flashing lights.
Beach Boardwalk: Santa Cruz
Maybe because it was cold and I was tired or maybe because I was solo with four kids, but the Boardwalk was, meh. On a warm summer day with the buzz of a happy crowd it would have felt very different. Cold weekday night alone with kids- well, not ideal. There were the typical carnival games, food, and expenses. We shared a plate of nachos and the kids practiced their begging. They begged for every ride. They begged for every treat. They begged for every game. I couldn’t quite figure out the logistics of accompanying the bigger kids on the rides without abandoning our littlest guy with the teen ride operator. We enjoyed ourselves, but I could see how it could quickly drain our budget. Regardless, the Pacific Ocean makes a beautiful backdrop for life.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
400 Beach Street
Santa Cruz, California 95060
Phone (831) 423-5590