Dave

Small Events with Big Charm: Holiday Activities for Kids

Garden of Lights San Diego Botanic Garden

San Diego’s big attractions go all-out for the holidays, but not all families that want to the hustle and bustle of large events. Families looking for a more intimate holiday experience can enjoy some equally charming activities happening all around town.

Garden of Lights at San Diego Botanic Garden

Garden of Lights San Diego Botanic Garden

Lights, flowers and s’mores – what more could you ask for? (photo by by John Bryant)

Garden of Lights transforms the San Diego Botanic Garden into a dazzling winter wonderland filled with more than 100,000 sparkling lights illuminating the garden for a magical holiday experience that includes snow sledding (bring your own!), live music that includes mariachis and traditional Christmas carolers and get this – even a team of blonde Belgian draft horses ready to take your tykes on a wild wagon ride they won’t soon forget.

The event is a shutterbug’s dream, with Santa Claus posing for pics with young and old in a brightly lit gazebo and a vibrant, festively decorated “Poinsettia Garden” that will certainly make your snapshots sparkle. The social set will appreciate the warm and cozy campfire setup that provides s’mores and marshmallow roasting opportunities; supplies will be available for purchase, including cocoa, hot mulled wine and standard coffee drinks.

There will also be a variety of special holiday crafts that children can take home, a nutcracker exhibit displaying a collection of more 50 nutcrackers and a unique display of gourd figures featuring characters from the original Alice in Wonderland book.

Where:  230 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas CA 92024
When:  December 7 – 23, 2013 and December 26 – 30, 2013
Time:  5 – 9 p.m.
Cost:  Adult $14; Child (3-12) $6; Seniors, Military & Students $10; Kids under 3 free
>Find out more about the Garden of Lights

Frosty Farm at Helen Woodward Animal Center

Frosty Farm at Helen Woodward Animal Center San Diego

It doesn’t get much cuter than the Frosty Farm (photo courtesy Helen Woodward Animal Center)

There’s nothing cuter than miniature horses dressed as reindeer, and kids who love animals will agree as they revel in Frosty Farm’s festive four-legged frenzy that takes place at the Helen Woodward Animal Center. The event features hands-on interaction with sheep, bunnies, guinea pigs and reptiles. In addition, kids can frolic in falling snow, navigate a Magical Ice Palace Maze, build a gingerbread house and receive a special gift from Santa.

Where:  Helen Woodward Animal Center 6461 El Apajo Road, Rancho Santa Fe CA 92067
When:  December 7-8 & December 14-15
Time:  10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Cost:  $20 Child; $9 Adult (registration required at animalcenter.org/education)
>Find out more about the Frosty Farm

Christmas in the Park at Old Poway Park

Christmas in the Park at Old Poway Park San Diego

Santa welcomes guests to Old Poway Park.

Families looking for a holiday festival that captures that small town charm will want to head to Old Poway Park in the City of Poway. The festival embraces the historic park’s turn-of-the-century heritage with a community Christmas tree lighting, horse drawn hayrides, a live petting zoo, square dancing, children’s theater and piano player sing-a-longs that the whole family will enjoy.

Even Santa and Mrs. Claus add to the nostalgia of these old-fashion traditions when they make a surprise visit rolling into the festival riding on a 1907 Baldwin steam locomotive. Families will also be able to ride the antique train during the festival.

Where:  Old Poway Park, 14134 Midland Rd, Poway CA 92064
When:  December 14, 2013
Time:  3:30pm – 8:30pm
Cost:  Free
>Find out more about Christmas in the Park

Do you know of any fun holiday activities for kids happening around town? Share it with us in the comments below.

Alison

Discover, Explore and Play at the San Diego Botanic Garden

San Diego Botanic Garden Hamilton Children's Garden Sign

During the entire month of October, kids can eat play and stay for free in San Diego with over 100 kids free offers from San Diego museums, restaurants, hotels and attractions. Participating attractions include all the kids’ favorites: SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, LEGOLAND and the New Children’s Museum. But don’t overlook the opportunity to introduce youngsters to attraction they may not yet know – such as the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas, home of the largest interactive children’s garden on the West Coast.

San Diego Botanic Garden’s Hamilton Children’s Garden

San Diego Botanic Garden Hamilton Children's Garden Sign

The botanic garden’s 1-acre Hamilton Children’s Garden is fertile ground for growing young minds – a great place for nurturing a child’s love of nature. It includes 14 themed sites – ranging from a butterfly garden to a rhythm garden, where kids can make music playing nature’s instruments.

Flora at the San Diego Botanic Garden

Youngsters can make mud pottery in Art’s Garden,  practice their ABCs at the alphabetical Spell and Smell Garden and be awed by fruits, vegetables and flowers growing from bales of hay.

Kids Climbing a Tree at the San Diego Botanic Garden

A favorite destination is the massive kid-friendly tree house that combines a man-made trunk, with living trees that kids can explore from roots to canopy through tunnels, walkways and rope ladders.

Explore Even More With Over 36 Acres of Flora

Beyond the Children’s Garden there are 36 more acres for exploring – with plants and trees from 15 geographic regions, including Central and South America, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, the Canary Islands and Mediterranean regions. Visitors can wander everything from an “undersea” succulent garden that simulates a coral reef to a tropical rain forest. There are herb and topiary gardens – and of course, plenty of native plants and trees.

There’s also a small gift shop, a plant shop, a snack bar and the Children’s Garden has picnic tables.

Location: 230 Quail Drive, Encinitas, CA 92024 (map)
Hours: Daily – 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Cost: $12 for Adults. During October, each paid adult gets to bring along two kids, 12 or younger, for free – Click Here to Download the Kids Free CouponAdd $2 for parking (except cars with four or more passengers get in free).
Website: www.SDBGarden.org

Suzzanne

Spring Garden Festivals in San Diego

San Diego Zoo's Discovery Days: Garden Festival

It’s the middle of spring, and what better way to celebrate than with these festivals celebrating San Diego’s blooms and buds.

1. Guests will have a full day of activities at the San Diego Zoo’s Discovery Days: Garden Festival, May 5-8. Visitors can learn about the rare plants growing at the Zoo, which is a certified museum based on its rich horticulture, and partake in self-guided walking tours and botanical bus tours while enjoying special performances, scavenger hunts and more.

2. Starting today through Sunday, the Sage & Songbirds Festival takes place at the Viejas Outlet Center in Alpine. This annual celebration of Alpine’s recognition by the National Wildlife Federation as “America’s 1st Community Wildlife Habitat” features a plant and art sale, live butterfly exhibit and daily butterfly releases.

3. This one has my name all over it! The San Diego Botanical Garden is hosting a Chocolate Festival. This annual festival for chocolate fans features dozens of tasting, demonstrations, gifts and more. All in the beautiful setting of the Botanical Gardens. If you’re bringing the little ones, be sure to check out the West Coast’s largest interactive children’s garden, the Hamilton Children’s Garden.

Suzzanne

5 to Try: Grandparents Edition

Grandparents Day is Sunday, September 12th! In honor of all the grandparents out there, here are our 5 to Try with the grandparents. Our kids and the grandparents have tried all of these activities and I think all would give them two thumbs up!

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center: On Sunday, September 12th, the Science Center is offering free admission for grandparents and their grandkids! The Science Center offers exciting “do touch” science exhibits for visitors age 1 to 101. Our favorite area is the “block buster’s.” Visitors can build fun structures with thousands of KEVA planks – no glue or connectors necessary!

San Diego Botanic Garden: This is a great outdoor activity for both grandparents and kids. The grandparents will love the 36 acres of distinct garden displays and the kids will LOVE the largest demonstration children’s garden on the West Coast, which features a 20-ft climbable tree house. I can tell you first hand, that tree house is super fun!

USS Midway Museum: When my dad came to visit a few months ago, he suggested visiting the USS Midway Museum with him and the kiddies. At first I think I was the only one with some hesitation. But I have to say it is one of my favorite places to bring guests when they are visiting San Diego. It’s really fascinating to learn about the ship, and the kids love to walk up and down the stairs and explore the different areas of the ship. This museum has a lot of stairs and small corridors to walk through therefore I would only recommend it if the kids are big enough to maneuver it on their own and the grandparents are up for a lot of stair climbing.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park: We have taken both sets of grandparents to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Why? Well for starters, it’s only about 15 minutes from our house; but it could be 15,000 miles. Our favorite is of course the Park’s Journey into Africa tour. This open-air vehicle brings visitors to eye level with animals. On one of our last visitors we did the Balloon Safari with the grandparents. It provides a birds-eye view of the Park. It’s really fun!

Old Town San Diego: Old Town, considered the “birthplace” of California is a really fun way to spend the day with the grandparents. We took my mom there recently and she loved the historic Victorian houses. My kids loved the candy shop! They really have the best taffy.

What are your weekend plans?