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Mission Inn (minus the kids)

26 Apr

Southern California has an abundance of beautiful beaches, amazing views, elegant hotels, and restaurants to please even the pickiest palate.  The number of options can be totally overwhelming at times.  Newport Beach, Beverly Hills, San Diego and Malibu are just a few that come to mind.  I always love to find a new amazing destination or a place that just simply exceeds my expectations.  My quick getaway to the Mission Inn in Riverside (yes, I said Riverside), did exactly that.

This last minute and loosely planned overnight trip was really unlike anywhere I have ever visited in Southern California.  While on our spring break adventure in So. Cal, I decided last minute to squeeze in an overnight grownup getaway.  The Grandparents offered to watch the little monkeys so my hubby and I could detox from our 3 long days at Disneyland.  There it was, I had 24 hours to escape, including drive time to and from Palm Springs.  I wanted to spend as much time relaxing and as little time as possible on the freeways.  This last minute booking of a hotel room in the hottest  spring break destination of the Southern California desert proved to unsuccessful.  So the search began and I started moving my hotel options further from the spring break mecca of Palm Springs.  I remembered years ago, during my days as a Southern California girl meeting once for a quick brunch at the Mission Inn in Riverside.  I recalled it being nice, the location worked, and even better there was a room available.  I did zero research (very unlike me) and I booked a room.  How terrible could it really be?  Any night without kids is a treat and even better after the Disney marathon we had just completed.

As soon as we pulled up to the valet, I was stunned.  This property was much more beautiful than I had remembered.  As I walked through the lobby and entered this quaint and amazing hotel full of history, I knew at that point I had found one of the gems of Southern California…in Riverside!

The service was impeccable, the rooms were unique and spacious, and the beds were plush.  The steakhouse was amazing (one of several dining options) and compared to any top steakhouse I’ve ever visited.  My late night stop in their Presidential Lounge & Bar was the perfect place to end a great night.

I put my old iPhone camera to work and came up with some half way decent snapshots to document my visit to the Mission Inn.   Mission accomplished…I detoxed from Disney.  Amazing what some eye candy for adults and a great dinner can do for the mind!

Disney Memories

20 Apr

Last week, for spring break, we did what I usually preach against.  I typically seem to be the person trying to convince friends and family to expand their comfort zone, be creative, and skip the vacations in Southern California or Florida.  There are so many other great places in this world that are less expensive, just as much fun for the kids, and everyone will even learn a little along the way.  I am all about going to new places and exploring different cultures.  I strive to teach my kids about diversity and history all while relaxing and enjoying amazing cuisine.  So, I’ll get it out of the way now.  I am a total hypocrite when it comes to Disney.  I love the allure and excitement of the overpriced and crowded Disney parks, the fun characters and the thrill of the rides.  That being said, I would go on a Disney vacation any day of the week.

The story began on Easter Sunday with church and our usual backyard egg hunt.  This Easter morning egg hunt had a little curve ball thrown and did I ever surprise my kids.  In between jelly beans and chocolate, the contents in some of the eggs had letters that spelled out the word DISNEYLAND.  Before I knew it, the word scramble was completed, the kids figured it out, and  they were shocked with the news of a surprise Disneyland vacation.  My little boys screamed, my daughter pulled an academy award performance (with tears and fanning herself included), and my soon-to- be teenager “knew it”.  He does know everything though.

I had packed during the days before (let me say I don’t recommend that stunt, it’s not an easy task) and we left on the spot.  Off we set for a long drive with 4 kids, a dog needing to be dropped off with the grandparents, and 2 parents already exhausted from trying to pull off the surprise of the decade.  After 2 days in the car and a quick overnight stop in Las Vegas, we arrived at the “Happiest Place on Earth”.  The kids were over the top ecstatic and we didn’quite know what we were in for, as this was our 1st multiple day Disney adventure.  Well, needless to say, we survived.  We spent way too much money, ate about 10,000 calories of overpriced food, and were exhausted.  But somehow through it all, I couldn’t get enough.  This trip was great and the quality of the time with my kids was priceless.  Great job Disney, you did it again!

I began thinking about this trip several months ago with my planning and research.  I researched hotels and how to make the trip as cost effective as possible (tough to go “budget” when Disney is involved).  I got a great rate on a family suite at the OC Hyatt and saved a few bucks on our park hoppers by purchasing them online (Getaway Today Vacations).  The Hyatt was amazing and having the extra bathroom & comfortable king sized bed for my husband and I was awesome.  We let the kids call the shots and spent a huge amount of our time at California Adventure.  The rides are bigger and faster, plus they serve wine (huge plus for me while standing in hour long lines).  We didn’t lose any kids, no one threw up from overconsumption of crap, and we were all still speaking after our last 15 hour day of adventure.  I’d call it a success.

I’m not sure what it is about Disneyland that lures me into the magic.  I spent 3 days navigating through over stimulating amusement parks, spent way too much money, ate horribly unhealthy food, and was totally exhausted.  Somehow through all of that, battling crowds, and 4 bickering kids, we all had a blast.  As I was watching the” World of Color” show at California Adventure, it all made sense.  The classic music of Disney, clips from movies, and the perfection of the lights, fire & water, brought back years of memories from my childhood.  It’s not a specific memory, but a feeling.  A feeling that brought tears to my eyes.  It was something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  There was something so amazing about revisiting my childhood and knowing that I was creating a memory for my children.  This was the kind of memory that my kids will re-live someday with their kids too.  So, I think I will add Disneyland as a “must do” trip with your kids, not once but at least a few times.  Life is all about creating memories that will last forever.  Right?

Olvera Street, Los Angeles

2 Mar

Being a California native, every year we take at least one trip out to Southern California to visit family and friends.  We have done all of the theme parks and beaches, but sometimes we are looking for something a little different.  Being a family of 6, amusement parks can get quite pricey and even we can get beached out.  I love to plan different adventures, where the kids will learn a little something and have a blast doing it.  Flashing back a few years, we decided to explore Los Angeles. We found a great Los Angeles vacation rental and set out to explore another side of Southern California.  One of our favorite adventures was Olvera Street in Los Angeles. Really, it was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon in the beautiful California weather.  Great food, awesome people watching, live music, a great photo opportunity, and of course a cold beer on the patio.  The kids loved picking some special trinkets from the  souvenir carts and even learned some great history about one of the oldest areas of Los Angeles.  It was like a mexican vacation in an afternoon.  What a great day and a must do for our family again this summer!

Can this picture be any funnier?  Fake mustache, sombreros, ponchos, banjos, and a donkey…