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  1. Thursday, April 17

    Spring Break Part 2: Anaheim!

    Time to share how we finished up our Spring Break last week! Once we were done having fun in Los Angeles, we hopped in the car and headed south 1 hour for a visit to Anaheim.

    I think in most people’s minds when you hear the word “Anaheim” you automatically think “Disneyland.” Disneyland is most certainly in Anaheim, but there is actually tons to do there in addition to visiting the Magical Kingdom. In the last few years the downtown area of Anaheim has been completely rebuilt, featuring local shops and restaurants. The Anaheim area has so much to offer (museums, sports, amusement parks, Medieval Times), you could easily spend a week staying in Anaheim and keeping incredibly busy! The other great thing is that there are so many hotels in town to choose from and many of them have shuttles that can take you to all the places you want to go. It’s basically a town built for vacation with the family and we have always had a blast when we visit. This time around we only had two days, so we visited Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland. We also had the chance to stay in two hotels.

    What We Did!

    visit to knott's berry farm by @janemaynard

    Knott’s Berry Farm: Here’s the thing about Knott’s Berry Farm – it is totally fun, less expensive than Disneyland, and NEVER as crowded. As much as we absolutely love Disneyland, it is almost always filled to the brim with people, which can be a little overwhelming. Even on a busy day at Knott’s there is room to breathe and the lines don’t take hours to get through. Plus, our family loves Peanuts, and Camp Snoopy is perfect for the little ones. We also had lunch at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, where it all began. When you eat there, just eat a dozen biscuits and a few pieces of fried chicken and you should be all set. DELISH.

    visit to knott's berry farm by @janemaynard

    On our visit this time around we did a few things we had never done before, including the horse-drawn carriage ride and a ride on the narrow gauge steam engine. The carriage ride was actually really fun and the kids and I got to sit on top in front by the drivers. The steam engine was incredibly cool – it was the last working narrow-gauge engine in the U.S. when the Knott family purchased it for their park, and the cars you ride on are 130 years old. Owen is seriously obsessed with trains, so we chatted with the engineers for a bit and it was fascinating.

    visit to knott's berry farm by @janemaynardThis is the little train ride in Camp Snoopy, not the big steam engine. But the kids all look so happy here, I had to share. And, yes, this was the vacation of train rides. SO MANY TRAINS.

    Cate and I also did the Ghostrider roller coaster for the first time and, um, HOLY HEADACHE. Yes, that pile of wood you see below is a roller coaster. But Cate thought it was awesome, even “wilder than a buckin’ bronco!”

    the ghostrider at knott's berry farm by @janemaynard

    visit to knott's berry farm by @janemaynardWhen you’re 2 and you’re tired you just sit where you are.

    Disneyland: There is just something about Disneyland. Sure, it costs about a billion dollars to go. Sure, it’s almost always crowded. But it is also always magical. Everything there is just so well done and beautiful. We spent most of our day on this visit in California Adventure. Cate got to ride on Radiator Springs Racers THREE times (thanks to fast passes and the parent swap passes when you have a stroller). I think she also rode on California Screamin’ 4 times. Crazy girl!

    california screamin' at california adventure at disneyland by @janemaynard

    Cars Land will forever be my favorite part of visiting the Disney parks. It is just so BEAUTIFUL, both day and night. And the rides are all awesome.

    cars land at california adventure at disneyland by @janemaynard

    Oh, one more thing to mention! We have never ridden the entire train ride at Disneyland until this visit. The kids LOVED it. We had no idea there were dioramas at the end of the ride as you arrive back at Main Street. We actually circled the park twice before the kids would let us get off! Then we watched the parade from the train station above Main Street and it was perfect!

    visit to disneyland and california adventure by @janemaynard

    Where We Stayed!

    Ayres Hotel in Anaheim: Our first hotel was the Ayres Hotel in Anaheim. The hotel is located across the street from the Honda Center where the Ducks play, and just a block away from where the Angels play. It’s just a few minutes’ drive to Disneyland and all the other attractions, and the ART shuttle runs by the hotel if you don’t want to drive to those places. The rooms were very nice and sort of “fancy” – when Anna stepped off the elevator and looked down the hallway for the first time she exclaimed, “This hotel is BEAUTIFUL!” We stayed in a King VIP room, which had a king-sized bed and a pull-out couch, as well as plenty of room for the kids and all of our luggage. The pool was small but perfect for kids and they had a great time swimming. Plus, we got to see Owen’s true colors at the hot tub.

    owen wooing the ladies at the ayres hotel in anaheim by @janemaynardDon’t hate the playa, hate the game.

    The Ayres also had a fabulous full breakfast, with the busiest yet friendliest chef I’ve ever met! The kids were in heaven at the breakfast and I think it might have been their favorite part of the trip. (Kids are so funny!) The staff was incredibly helpful and friendly at every turn.

    The Anabella Hotel: For our last two nights we stayed at the Anabella, sister hotel to the Carousel (where we originally thought we would be staying). The Anabella is across the street from Disneyland and was just a short 10-minute walk to the park gate. The walk was also really lovely and un-crowded, running along the backside of California Adventure (rather than Harbor Blvd). We’ve gone to Disneyland both ways – staying in a hotel across the street and having to drive or shuttle ourselves in. If you’re going to Disneyland and can swing a hotel within walking distance of the park, DO IT. Parking at Disney is such a pain. Being able to just walk to the park is HEAVEN. They’re building even more hotels across the street from Disneyland, so there will be even more options in coming years.

    the anabella hotel in anaheim by @janemaynard

    The Anabella Hotel was a beautiful property, with a great pool and restaurant. We stayed in a Concierge room, which is an L-shaped room with a king bed, double bed and a pull-out couch. Our room had its own patio area, which was really lovely, too. After we put the kids to bed, Nate went outside to read on the patio in the perfect southern California air! The rooms were pretty, although we could hear our {noisy} neighbors pretty well and the bathroom wasn’t super easy to use, with practically no counter space or storage areas. There is a very long vanity area outside of the bathroom, however, which is nice for getting ready while someone else is actually using the bathroom. We had that counter covered with all of our stuff from the road trip – basically we are really good at using up all available storage space! (Note: The noisy neighbors arrived on our last night. The front desk quickly shut down the craziness at night and were very attentive to the situation. The neighbors were noisy again the next morning, but we were leaving so we didn’t request a new room or anything, but I’m certain the staff would have worked with us on that as well if we had asked.) Like the Ayres, the staff were very nice and friendly everywhere we went on the property.

    So, there you have it! A Spring Break packed with FUN. (And Nate and I even survived!)

    Knott’s Berry Farm provided us with tickets and lunch. Disney and the Anaheim Visitor and Convention Bureau provided us with media passes for Disneyland and California Adventure. We received discounted rates for our hotel stays at the Ayres and The Anabella. All opinions are my own! Anaheim is fun, fun, fun!


  2. Tuesday, April 15

    I’m in love with Los Angeles and I don’t care who knows it!

    We decided to be fun people for Spring Break. It’s a lot of work being fun people, by the way, especially when one of the fun people comes down with croup the first night of Spring Break (we’re looking at you, Owen). But in the end it all worked out and the week was a blast! First we headed to Los Angeles for a few days and then skipped on down to Anaheim for some theme park fun. I’m going to share two posts about the trip and today we’re starting with LA!

    hollywood sign from griffith observatory by @janemaynard

    Here’s the deal with Los Angeles. The only times we’ve ever gone up there have been for quick day trips for a specific reason – going to an event and then heading home – or driving through to go somewhere else. So, whenever we go, we’re on a schedule and all we think is, “How does anyone live with all this traffic?” and “Why would anyone want to live in a city essentially just made of traffic?” and “Holy Freeways, there’s a lot of traffic.” I was soooo biased. I have uttered the words “I hate LA” more times than I care to admit. I totally did not know what I was talking about.

    LA is AWESOME. There, I said it. I am in love with Los Angeles. It’s quirky and huge and fun and there is so much to do. Seriously, we had a blast and can’t wait to go back! Granted, we {amazingly} didn’t sit in any traffic the whole trip, but LA is truly a city filled with all kinds of wonderful gems, especially edible gems. Here’s a quick rundown of where we stayed, the fun stuff we did, and the food we ate, in case you find yourself visiting the City of Angels! (Thanks to those who gave tips, they were super helpful and we definitely need to venture back to do it all!)

    hotel angeleno by @janemaynard

    Where We Stayed: Hotel Angeleno
    We stayed in a suite at Hotel Angeleno, located on the 405 smack dab in between Bel Air and Santa Monica, sitting in the shadow of the Getty. Our room looked to the southwest, so we had a peek of the freeway and the skyline and a full view of the ocean and the Getty. It was beautiful. The hotel has shuttles to nearby sites, a pool, and free wine at 5:30 every afternoon. There is also a restaurant on the top floor with amazing views. The building is round, which was fun and made for an interesting-shaped room, and the rooms were very nice. The location of the hotel was super convenient, with easy access to so many of the great things that LA has to offer. Oh, and free parking! Woohoo!

    hotel angeleno morning view of the getty by @janemaynardThe Getty is at the top of the hill. This is what we woke up to, with the golden sun shining on everything.

    hotel angeleno view from the room by @janemaynardThe only thing we lost off the balcony was Owen’s binky. Fortunately we were over the pool area and the binky was recoverable. Also, it didn’t kill anyone below. Win-win.

    Fun Stuff We Did

    • Griffith Observatory and the Travel Town Museum at Griffith Park. If you have kids interested in trains, Travel Town is a must! Owen was in heaven. On Sundays they also have live steamers that you can ride on. We got there too late to ride the steamers, but we did get to see them scoot by, and there is still a train ride in the regular Travel Town museum area even if you miss the steamers. We ended up simply driving by the Griffith Observatory – the kids were pooped and since it was the weekend there were mobs of people, but the view is AMAZING and we plan to go back with the kids on a less-busy day for a show at the planetarium (if you have people under 5, you have to make sure to get there for the first show of the day).

    travel town museum at griffith park by @janemaynard

    travel town museum at griffith park by @janemaynard

    • La Brea Tar Pits. The tar pits were fascinating and the kids had a great time at this small and accessible museum. Plus, seriously, the tar pits are just plain cool. Note that you can walk around the park and see the actual tar pits without paying admission to the museum, but you’ll learn more if you go to the museum and it is very interesting. We bought an annual family pass, which also gives us access to the LA Natural History Museum, which we will definitely be visiting.
    • The American Girl Store. Our girls got American Girl dolls for Christmas, so we surprised them with a visit to the store. We thought about eating at the cafe but it was very pricey, so we decided to let the girls each choose one thing in the store and get their dolls’ hair done instead. We just didn’t tell them about the cafe and they were in heaven. We probably spent an hour in the store!

    the la american girl store by @janemaynard

    • The Getty Museum. We just spent a couple hours at the museum but it was beautiful. We went to the Getty near the end of our trip, so the kids were feeling a bit restless. But I am really glad we took them and I’m sure we’ll return! The exhibits are wonderful and the views cannot be beat. The museum is free, parking is $15 and you can park twice in one day. We also want to visit the Getty Villa in Malibu, which is supposed to be beautiful as well. The Villa is also free but you need to get tickets ahead of time.

    view from the getty museum by @janemaynard

    • Westwood Village. On our last day we stopped in Westwood Village for lunch and ice cream (see below). Westwood Village is an adorable neighborhood with movie theaters, food and more right next to UCLA. It was lovely sitting at a table on the sidewalk enjoying our food.

    westwood village by @janemaynard

    The Food We Ate
    We ate sooooooo well while we were in LA. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

    • Plan Check Kitchen + Bar: My sister told us we had to eat at Plan Check, a burger joint similar to Unami Burger but better, according to Anne. Every last bite was scrumptious. I don’t think you can go wrong ordering anything off the menu. My sister says pig candy is a must, which we didn’t know until after, but thankfully Nate got a taste of it on his burger.

    plan check kitchen + bar by @janemaynard

    • The Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax: When we left the Bay Area, part of me mourned the loss of the Ferry Building in my life. I LOVE THAT PLACE. The Farmer’s Market in LA is different from the Ferry Building but every bit as wonderful. It’s my new Ferry Building. So much food, so much ambience, so much history. The tater tots from Fritzi’s…I didn’t know tater tots could be good, and not only were they good, they were stellar. Moishe’s gyros pita was flavored perfectly. Bob’s Donuts were to die for. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I honestly could have spent all day just at the Farmer’s Market. Love love love love love. My dad told me after we visisted that when he was growing up, my grandmother also loved going to this Farmer’s Market. That makes me love it even more.

    the farmer's market at 3rd and fairfax in LA by @janemaynard

    • Milo + Olive: We ordered pizza from Milo + Olive in Santa Monica as recommended by friend Gaby. Nate’s assessment: If the French made pizza, this would be it. The crust was seriously like eating a perfect baguette. And then they had this thing called the garlic knot, which we thought would be garlic bread but was in fact a piece of bread filled with cloves of garlic and baked to sweet, delicious perfection. Cate couldn’t get enough of the garlic knot! Awesome food.

    milo + olive pizza  by @janemaynard

    • Diddy Riese: When we checked in at Hotel Angeleno, the receptionist told us we should take the kids to a place nearby called Diddy Riese. The whole trip we kept planning to go but never making it. The last day, as we drove out of town, we finally went. We grabbed lunch at the Flame Broiler down the street and then walked over to Diddy Riese for dessert. I did not know that ice cream sandwiches could be so good. They make homemade cookies and then put together your ice cream sandwich based on the flavors you choose. The cookies were divine. I could have eaten 4 sandwiches and been happy.

    diddy riese in los angeles by @janemaynard

    There you have it, Los Angeles in 2 1/2 days with 3 kids! This was just scratching the surface and I can’t wait to get back!

    A portion of our hotel costs were covered by Hotel Angeleno. All opinions are my own and we still spent plenty of money on our little jaunt to LA! 😉