Parent Q&A

  • Where to Go for a week with Toddlers in early Apr?

    (9 replies)

    Hello BPNers!  Preschool is out first week of Apr, and we could use advice on where to go with our 4yr old and 2.5yr old.  We have done Hawaii a couple times, though in all honesty I am not sure that the money and efforts are worth it.  We are thinking ideally a place we can drive to, where we have a chance at renting a place with two bedrooms where we'd chill for a week, and ideally with some decent food options, and maybe near some kiddie diversions(beach? park?). We did a trip last Aug to Marina Del Rey and had a townhouse one block from the beach and had a great time.  We could do it again, but are there other places we should consider?  Down the coast - Santa Barbara?  Pismo Beach?  Up wine country?  Could also go into the mountains though not sure about weather or food or two bedrooms.  

    Thank you for your advice!

    OP here - thank you everyone!  We will research!  Would love to also get advice on a couple of thoughts that have not come up so far:

    - Morro Bay?  

    - any snow/sledding possibilities left for the first week of April (we don't ski)?  We had heard about Granlibakken or Donner but have no idea if either might be suitable or has sledding that late in the season. 


    Thank you!

    Check out Twain Heart/gold country.  Columbia and the caves are well worth it.  Highway 88 is beautiful that time of year.  Jackson, Pioneer and the old mining towns along 88 and 49 are worth visiting.  ​Not sure how far you want to drive, but Santa Cruz, or up highway 1 to the Redwood forests is spectacular. 

    ​Death Valley is a must see in a lifetime.  As are many places along 395 between Lee Vining and Ridgecrest. Other places around there are Searles Valley, Joshua Tree, Red Rock Canyon, Fossil Falls, Palm Springs, (but it can be in the 100s.) 

    Hope this helps.

    I think with young kids on a week-long trip it's nice to be near a body of water, but in Northern California it's cold in April!  Santa Barbara is nice, San Diego has LOTS to do, and of course LA has endless entertainment options such Disneyland.  Driving to Southern California is not so bad, depending where you're headed. You could even turn it into a 2-day drive and stay overnight someplace on the Central Coast. The kids might enjoy staying in a cave room at the Madonna Inn near San Luis Obispo!  Monterey Aquarium is really great for little ones too (but only for a day), and there are a ton of elephant seals to look at near San Simeon,though unless you're touring Hearst Castle, not great for little kids, there is not much there. 

    For a getaway a bit closer, I like Sea Ranch, which is 2-3 hours drive north in Sonoma County on Highway 1.  You can rent a nice house with a view of the ocean, or not, if you're on a budget! There is a variety of sizes and costs, and all the houses are very nice, many with hot tubs and fireplaces, and they are spaced far apart with trees around them so you don't feel like you're in suburbs-by-the-sea. There is a large playground for the kiddies, lots of easy flat walking trails through the cedar trees and along the coast where you can see seals, a couple of walk-on beaches with hardly any other people on them, and some swimming pools you can use.  It's very relaxing,  and we go up there at least once a year. Food-wise, you are better off cooking most meals at your house.  There is a restaurant in the Sea Ranch lodge for lunch and dinner, but it's a little pricey and more adult-oriented. Up the road about 10 minutes in Gualala there are various restaurants, take-out pizza and Mexican, and my favorite, Surf Market, which has a great deli as well as produce and meat and seafood that make you want to cook. 

    If a short flight is an option, I second the idea of San Diego/OC. There's so much to see (assuming no rain).

    In San Diego: San Diego Zoo, San Diego Wildlife Park, Sea World, Balboa Park, etc. I would suggest to skip Legoland as the ride options available for a 3-4 year old are VERY limited.

    If you fly to the SNA airport (in OC) you also have multiple options in the area: beach, visiting the Queen Mary (Long Beach), the aquarium (in Long Beach too), Pretend City would be heaven for that age (Irvine) and if you happen to go to Disneyland try Disney California Adventure which is less crowded and offers more options for 3-4 year olds (e.g. Carsland, Bugsland, Disney Jr. show, lots of musical mini-shows on the plazas, Ariel's Grotto, etc).

    good luck!

    I'd recommend Santa Barbara. There's a unique, wooden sprawling playground at Alameda Park. Adjacent is the lovely Alice Keck Garden with winding pathways, turtles and ducks. On the pier is a small aquarium with neat exhibits and across from the beach is a carousel. We enjoyed the gem and mineral exhibit and a hands-on discovery room at the Museum of Natural History. There's a variety of shopping and dining options and an easygoing vibe in general. Since you have a whole week, you could explore beaches and towns up the coast like Pismo Beach or visit quaint Solvang. 

    Avila Beach is great for families -- beach is very kid friendly (no waves). You can rent motorized bicycles and ride up and down Bob Jones trail. There is even a little farm at the end of it. The downtown is small and cute. 

    We spent a recent holiday in Carmel, CA. We rented Medicine Cottage, which was a charming and ideally located two bedroom / 2 Bath home. We walked to the beach and to Ocean Ave. We spent a lot of time reading in front of the gas fireplace. We spent a day at the aquarium with our little ones. We ate out and got and prepared food from Whole Foods in Monterey. There is so much to do there, and it's so close, and I highly recommend this spot.

    Disneyland, LEGOLAND, and Sea World (depending upon your ethics. . .we used it as an opportunity to lecture ala Blackfish) are also doable with a full week off with children you kids' age.

    Have fun wherever you go!

    I second Monterey.  We just went there with a 18 month old and loved it.  (Despite having been many times before, with a toddler it was different and we appreciated it more).  We went for three days and didn't even have time for Dennis the Menace Park - next time!

    Monterey/Pacific Grove (although could be rainy), San Diego (brutal drive) for Legoland, beach, science museums? We go to Santa Barbara frequently since we have family there. We always have a good time, but there's not a lot for toddlers there particularly. There's no "signature" playground a la Dennis the Menace Park in Monterey. I cannot imagine spending a week in Pismo... it is a small town! I think you'd get bored, and it's easily a half hour to SLO for their kids' science center & restaurants. Ashland OR is 5 hours, has cute little downtown, nice playgrounds, and kids science museum. Again, for an entire week though, I think you're best off going to someplace that's big with a good sized tourist infrastructure like LA or San Diego. If you edit down your trip to 4 days, you could have a great time in monterey, SB, or Ashland. My personal pick would be renting a 2-bd in Pacific Grove for 3-4 nights. One day at MY Museum in Monterey, one day exploring the coastline in PG/Monterey (rent a 4-person surrey bike), *maybe* one day at the aquarium (not my favorite place on earth, always too crowded), and definitely a long visit to Dennis the Menace. Then back home to normal schedules!  :)

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Kid-friendly lodging in Carmel

March 2005

Looking for kid-friendly lodging in Carmel. We are going to a wedding there in mid-August and we will have a 3-month old and 3-year old. Most places don't seem particularly open to young children. Any suggestions would be really appreciated. Please contact me. Monique

We stayed at the Wayside Inn, a block or two from the main avenue in Carmel, with our then 18 month old. Most units have a kitchenette plus a separate living area with fireplace. They deliver a basket of breakfast goodies to your door and have home-baked cookies in the office all day long. It wasn't particularly cheap, about $200/night, but I've found that pretty par for the course in Carmel. They also took us for one night on a weekend, which is hard to find.

If you want to consider Carmel Valley (gorgeous, but about a 15 minute drive from the town of Carmel), try the Valley Lodge. They have a nice outdoor pool and spa and include a continental breakfast (served in a kind of cafeteria-style room right on premises). Some of the rooms are suites, I think.

We also stayed just recently at the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove (between Monterey & Carmel). Really nice woodsy feel, again a good breakfast included, balcony and fireplace in the room.

All 3 of these spots were filled with families. Good luck! Amy

We stayed at the Carmel Valley Lodge. It is about 15 miles inland from Carmel. Great kid-friendly (and dog-friendly) place. They have a heated outdoor pool that is swimmable all year round, as well as a hot tub. There is a playground right nearby. You can rent a cottage with a kitchen, and the Lodge provides a nice buffet breakfast. Ronnie

Carmel in January

Oct 2004

My father and stepmother are coming out visit in early January and have booked a place in Carmel for a few days. Can anyone give any recommendations for fun things to do specifically in Carmel during that time? Or good restaurant recommendations? Thanks! Melissa

Two fabulous restaurants in Carmel: ''The Carmel Chop House'' and ''Grasings.'' These restaurants are owned by Narsai David and are both exquisite. Good luck! Soreya

More recommendations

September 2003

Re: Pet-friendly Getaways

A truly wonderful place to stay is the Forrest Lodge in Carmel. They are a b with a variety of rooms (cottages actually) - you can have your own kitchen (and fireplace) if you like or not. They are about a block from the shops of carmel. We drove down to the carmel city beach which is dog heaven! No leashes! At the Lodge they have a hose & dog towels so you can clean off your dog post beach. And there are lots of resturants in Carmel where you can bring your dog if you so desire. Last time we stayed there I think our dog had the best vacation! Your breakfast comes with dog treats too. Phone 831-624-7023. enjoy!

Carmel is a very dog-friendly town, and our dog loves going to the beach there. Some of the places downtown can be pretty pricey-- we've stayed a little farther out, at a place called the Carmel Mission Valley Inn. It has a large field adjacent for those early morning/late night walks =) Also, a nicely-done mall (the Barnyard) about 50 yards away, with several restaurants. Enjoy your trip! Jim

March 2003
Re: Romantic Getaway for Couples
My husband and I finally got a nice rare weekend away from the kids in March. We wanted something not too far away, not too expensive, but clean, pleasant and relaxing. We stayed at the Carmel River Inn, in one of the cottages - ours had a king size bed, a separate living room w/fireplace, and a kitchenette. I think it was about $95/night, but that may have been the off- season rate. It was a bit rustic (no bathtub, knotty pine furnishing), but very clean, private and quiet - and we actually got to sleep in past 8:00 - unheard of! For entertainment, there was walking around the river area, and it's close enough to the Mission that it could be a nice hike. We also got in the car both days - to Carmel for a day of walking around, window shopping, lunch, and looking in the art galleries, then Monterey for dinner, before heading back to the cabin to enjoy the rain and the fireplace. The other day was a drive to Point Lobos to hike around, take some pictures, and just appreciate nature at our own pace. Just not having to hear ''I want'', ''I need'', ''When??'', and ''Why not??'' for two days made us happy to come home to the kids. I'd recommend Carmel as a close-by way of remembering what it's like to talk and walk together and even sleep without constant interruption. Eileen