City Guide Featured Our Travels Reviews

Santa Ynez Valley-Solvang California Worldmark

town of solvang californiaVineyards and wineries abound in the lush and beautiful Santa Ynez Valley.  If you enjoy wine you will love the quaint Danish town of Solvang, California.  But since wine country is not usually associated with family fun, I thought I would write a review of our time at the Santa Ynez Valley – Solvang California Worldmark Resort to help you decide whether or not you want to add Solvang to your vacation itinerary!

We stayed at the Solvang Worldmark near the beginning of our Epic Road Trip and were so happy with our experience there.  While the town was far from engineered for children, the Worldmark Resort itself was perfect for our three kids! 

worldmark solvang california

worldmark solvang

solvang worldmark

solvang worldmark resort

solvang california worldmark

The Solvang Worldmark Resort was smaller than some of the fancier places we stayed and didn’t have staff led activities any of the days we were there but with a foosball table, pool table, and table tennis in the clubhouse along with an open movie viewing area, the kids were pretty happy regardless.

By far the best part for me was the 1’6″ kiddie pool.  While I hung out in the hot tub they could play in the pool without me worrying about them drowning.  Since none of our kids knew how to swim at the time it was always a little overwhelming taking all three of them to the pool by myself.

Of all the resorts and hotels we stayed in on our 4 month road trip, this pool was by far my favorite for that one reason!

solvang worldmark pool

solvang california worldmark pool

What we liked about Solvang California Worldmark:

  • The Worldmark Resort was very kid friendly
  • The main part of the town is a short walk from the Worldmark
  • While not the most luxurious accommodations Worldmark Solvang was fresh, clean, and was perfectly suited for a family getaway
  • The kiddie pool, of coarse!
  • A nice family game area
  • Grilling Patios
  • Friendly front desk and facility personnel

solvang california worldmark clubhouse

solvang california clubhouse

What we didn’t like about Solvang California Worldmark:

  • No bike trails nearby – though there is a short path behind the resort which would be a good place for a short walk

*We were in no way compensated for staying at Worldmark Solvang and writing this review…we just liked it that much:)

Tips for Traveling to Solvang with Kids:

  • Eat out for lunch in order to experience the authentic Danish cuisine with out breaking the bank.
  • There is a Subway on Mission- the main strip if your kids don’t like to try different kinds of food.
  • If you are NOT staying at the Worldmark make sure to research beforehand to ensure there is stuff for them to do where you will be staying.
  • Don’t miss Ostrich Land.  A local ostrich farm where you can feed the big birds!  Click on that link to watch a funny video of our time there!!!
  • Pastries galore in town – Yumm!  And many are big enough to share!

visit solvang california

The town is well kept and feels like a great little getaway from the hustle and bustle you associate with California.  I would love to go there again!

I hope you found this review helpful.  I heartily recommend staying at this worldmark, especially if you are going to Solvang with your children.  I also wrote about FREE things to do in Santa Barbara if you are interested!

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road


City Guide family fun Featured northwest Our Travels seattle

Franklin Falls Hike Near Snoqualmie Pass

The hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest are some of the most coveted in the world, and Franklin Falls near Snoqualmie Pass far exceeded all my expectations!

franklin fallsOur friend had been telling us about the Franklin Falls hike for a long time and when we finally had the chance to get there we didn’t want to leave — if you are anywhere near the Seattle area, you should definitely check it out.  It’s a really special place.franklin falls 6franklin fallsfranklin fallsThe boys enjoyed traversing over big boulders and getting their feet (and shoes) wet in the river.  But don’t worry if you have smaller children – the trail itself doesn’t require these feats of bravery!franklin falls wawalking on waterThe trail is the perfect distance for kids and other than a bit of a tricky climb if you want to go down into the falls, it’s a very easy trek.  If you are up for a little extra challenge, the hike down to the falls is worth the effort.  We had fun splashing around in the water and getting close to the falls.

The water is cold, so be warned!

franklin fallsIsn’t it beautiful?

We had so much fun on our hike at Franklin Falls!

I still can’t believe we live just half an hour away from this kind of beauty. I pinch myself every day. If it would have been up to me we would not be living here at all — I’m so so thankful that God knew best and brought us back home.

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

City Guide Featured Our Travels Reviews

The Ridge Tahoe Review

Just when you pass a ski lift and think you can’t possibly drive any higher the road curves and The Ridge Tahoe sign comes into view.  And what do you know, the steep incline continues UP!   I am not a skilled writer so I can not impress upon those who have not been to The Ridge Tahoe the unsettling feeling you get driving through narrow passages between rock faces.  It appears to be landscape that engineers defied God and gravity to build upon.

the ridge tahoe at lake tahoe
In no way am I afraid of heights but I gotta tell you this drive did something to me.  Each time we left the resort for some fun and came back – it happened again.  It was like heart palpitations without the actual palpitations.  I know, it’s a little melodramatic right?

The steep drive pays off because once you get to The Ridge Tahoe you are treated with sweeping views of the valley below.  It’s stunning.

the ridge tahoeWhile the resort itself is a bit aged they do a good job of keeping it clean and comfortable.  There is a ton of stuff to do while you are there as well.

You never have to leave the resort to create fun memories with your family.  If you plan on visiting outside of ski season, like we did, a few things to do on site are putt putt golf, tennis, private hiking trails, swimming, and rock climbing lessons.  They also have a couple of playgrounds for younger kids, a game room and theater which plays free movies twice a day.

the ridge tahoe swimmingthe ridge tahoe pool
The living space was large and open so the five of us never felt cramped in our one bedroom unit.  Although it’s clear that the last major kitchen and bathroom renovation was done in the late 80’s or early 90’s the new carpet, hardware, fixtures, fireplace facelift and tasteful decor distracted us away from the age of the place and made it feel warm and inviting.

the ridge tahoethe ridge tahoe kitchen
the ridge tahoe bedrooms
Did I mention the Jacuzzi soaker tub?  I’ve got one word for it.  Mammoth.  It felt like they actually designed the place around the tub.  The Ridge Tahoe is located within the ski resort Heavenly and as far as I’m concerned if for no other reason than this one feature it is aptly named!

the ridge tahoe bath
One obvious thing the condos are missing is air conditioning.  It was fall and we had to sleep with the slider in our room and windows open- and it was still too hot.

What we liked about The Ridge Tahoe:

  • Views
  • Activities galore
  • Kids Club
  • Shuttles to town
  • Ski-in Ski-out during ski season
  • Jacuzzi tub!

What we didn’t like about The Ridge Tahoe:

  • No air conditioning – please do not underestimate the importance of this one thing
  • Farther from the lake and town then we’d like


We would go to The Ridge Tahoe again for sure during ski season or cooler months, but NEVER during the summer due to the absence of AC.  I loved all the activities but would plan better to take full advantage of them next time.  Also, if we were planning on spending most of our time near the lake I would find other accommodations.  It’s a bit of a drive.  All in all we had a wonderful time there.

Tips for your visit to The Ridge Tahoe:

  • Drink lots of water.  The high elevation will make you feel dizzy and sick quickly if you are not properly hydrated.
  • Make sure to plan ahead to make sure to take advantage of the onsite activities.

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road

City Guide Featured Our Travels seattle

Seattle Shopping & People Watching

shopping in seattleSeattle has a vibrant shopping district servicing any demand you may have.  Within just a few blocks you can shop at high end stores like Coach and Michael Kors or fill up your bags without emptying your wallet at Ross or Nordstrom Rack — my personal favorite.

And don’t worry about running on empty from all that shopping because there are plenty of restaurants and caffeine fill up stations (aka Starbucks) to go around!

If window shopping and people watching are your thing, you’re in luck because Seattle’s Shopping District is the place where everything collides.  Oh how I love the diversity represented in Downtown Seattle!  Window shopping and people watching are my happy place so when I’m in Seattle I usually make a run to Nordstrom Rack and Anthropologie to see if something catches my eye, otherwise it’s just enjoying the feel of the city and keeping an eye on my tribe — can I get a witness?!

Shopping in Seattle – Westlake

seattle shopping westlakewestlake center seattleblue trees seattleShop Pacific Place for High End Stores

pacific place seattleSatisfy your Eclectic Side at Anthropologie in Seattle

anthropology seattleshopping anthropology

There is something for everyone when it comes to shopping in downtown Seattle.  I have a little bit of a bohemian style so I enjoy stores like Anthropologie and Free People.  Both are right there in Seattle, but unfortunately Free People is outside of the main shopping district.

Hike to Pike Place

And if you are up for a bit of a walk, you are within walking distance to the ahhmazing Pike Place Market.  It’s the perfect distance on a nice day and chances are you’ll see some interesting things along the way — just a hunch:)  We like to throw a couple of Blessing Bags in my purse or backpack if we are spending the day in the city.

pike place market in seattle

To make your way back to our Epic Road Trip Tour, click HERE.  And if you haven’t yet, make sure to connect with me on FB or where ever you’re hanging out.  I’d love to get to know you!  Buttons to do so are below!

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

City Guide Featured Our Travels seattle

Beyond Fish Throwing – Exploring Pike Place Market in Seattle

pike place market in seattlePike Place Market

Pike Place Market in Seattle is one of those places where you feel alive just being there. If you want to experience some of the diversity that I love so much about the puget sound area you don’t have to look much further than this one place.

At any given time you are surrounded by what feels like every race, creed, age, religion and people group. Every socioeconomic status represented. I’m a people watcher — obviously less so now that I have three kids underfoot — but this is a place where you can learn a lot about humanity just by being mindful of what others are responding to and what they are doing.

Beyond Fish Throwing

Pike Place is best known for the fish throwing, and I gotta tell you, if you haven’t seen it before it is quite amusing. Large slimy fish being hurled many yards from one man to another who is tasked with the chore of not letting the scaled creatures fall to the floor.

That’s raw talent my friends.

Besides the enjoyment of guessing whether or not these fish hands will be able the snag the catch of the day mid air, vibrant produce, samples, street performers, and hand made jewelry are also a few of the things you can look forward to at the Market. I am always shocked how cheap the big beautiful bouquets are.

pike place fish market pike place market seattle pikes place market flowersstreet performer pike place market Biggie eating his first figPike Place Market

Pike Place Market in Seattle is one of those places where you feel alive just being there.  If you want to experience some of the diversity that I love so much about the puget sound area you don’t have to look much further than this one place.

At any given time you are surrounded by what feels like every race, creed, age, religion and people group.  Every socioeconomic status represented.  I’m a people watcher — obviously less so now that I have three kids underfoot — but this is a place where you can learn a lot about humanity just by being mindful of what others are responding to and what they are doing.

Beyond Fish Throwing

Pike Place is best known for the fish throwing, and I gotta tell you, if you haven’t seen it before it is quite amusing.  Large slimy fish being hurled many yards from one man to another who is tasked with the chore of not letting the scaled creatures fall to the floor.

That’s raw talent my friends.

Besides the enjoyment of guessing whether or not these fish hands will be able the snag the catch of the day mid air, vibrant produce, samples, street performers, and hand made jewelry are also a few of the things you can look forward to at the Market.  I am always shocked how cheap the big beautiful bouquets are.

The Gum Wall

Just below Pike Place — in the belly of the beast — is a rather odd attraction that you should at least swing by when you are there. And don’t forget to bring some chewing gum so you can add to the artwork on the brick wall! Yeah, it’s a little unsanitary but too fun to pass up!


For other fun stuff to do while you are down at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, consider hacking a dinner cruise like we did!

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

City Guide Featured Our Travels state and national parks

Yellowstone National Park with Kids

Yellowstone National park with kidsStretching across Wyoming and into Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone National Park is best known for the popular geyser, Old Faithful, and other geothermal activity.  Made up of mountain ranges, forests, rivers, and lakes, Yellowstone became the first national park in the world after President Ulysses S. Grant signed The Act of Dedication in 1872.

Since then countless millions of people have enjoyed the unique landscape that Yellowstone alone has to offer.  I love the etching in the stone above Yellowstone’s Welcome Arch.  It reads FOR THE BENEFIT AND ENJOYMENT OF THE PEOPLE!

Thanks for that, Ulysses!

yellowstone national park

Yellowstone National Park Sulfur Springs

yellowstone hot springs and geysers

yellowstone with kids

Look at the distressed look on his face!  You may want to plug your nose for this one buddy!

Be prepared for a pungent, rotten egg, smell to greet you from the time you open your car door.  It’s shocking at first but, don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.

yellowstone sulfur rocks yellowstone sulfur

Picturesque Yellowstone Landscape

yellowstone sulfur springs

natural landscape of yellowstone national park all american scene at yellowstoneDoes it get any more Americana than that?  Look at this scene!  You can look forward to miles and miles of peaceful meadows and scenes just like these.

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in North America and is centered right over the largest supervolcano on the continent known as the Yellowstone Caldera.  Did you know that the caldera is an active volcano?

yellowstone lake yellowstone lake

Lake Village Shopping and General Store

lake village general store yellowstone yellowstone general storeLake Village is the perfect place to stretch your legs and grab some ice cream!

yellowstone with kids father son yellowstone lake father son yellowstone with kids
The Dead Trees of Yellowstone

We were surprised how many dead trees we saw inside of the park.  One of the reasons for so many dead trees in Yellowstone is due to a beetle invasion affecting conifers.  As the trees die off the beetles move to healthy trees and the invasion continues.

Another reason is the volcanic activity underneath the ground.  The sulfuric gases poison the trees.  You can’t help but wonder when you see endless dead, dried up trees whether or not another large fire would result.

dead trees yellowstone
The Bison of Yellowstone

yellowstone buffalo Be careful. These guys get scary close!

The herd of bison at Yellowstone National Park is the largest (public) bison herd in all of the U.S.  Free ranging elk, wolves, and grizzly bears are just a few notable animals that share the terrain. 

The Junior Ranger Program at Yellowstone Park

Want to get the kids familiar with the park before you arrive?  Make sure to download the Jr. Ranger Activity Sheets ahead of time.  [for 5-7 year olds and for 8-12 year olds.]  You certainly don’t have to do any legwork before you get there but it is nice to look over the information and questions with the kids ahead of time so that you can really enjoy and explore the park while you are there.

If you are traveling to the park with children, but are unfamiliar with the Jr. Ranger Program, I gotcha covered!  Check out the post I wrote about everything you need to know about the FREE Program offered to children at most State and National Parks!  Since we learned about the program we never go to a state or national park without participating in it if it is available.  It really amplifies the experience for all of us, but the kids especially!

RV YellowstoneLike with most of the National Parks that we have visited, we definitely want to go back with an RV so we can spend much more time there!  There are so many ways to explore the Yellowstone, but if you are taking a road trip to get there, don’t forget to check out the post I wrote about Road Trip Games & Ways to Keep the Kids Entertained on a Long Drive!

Hope you love Yellowstone as much a we did!!!  Don’t forget to drop me a line and let me know what you thought!

Also, I’d love to connect with you on FB, Google+, Twitter, or Pinterest.  The buttons to find me on all social media are below!

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

City Guide Featured Our Travels

Lava Beds National Monument with Kids

lava beds national monumentGoing to The Lava Beds National Monument was an unplanned detour for us and one we were happy to have made the time for.  After spending the night in Klamath Falls, OR we were gassing up at the local Albertsons gas station when the friendly attendant suggested we check out Lava Beds on our way to Lake Tahoe.

Since there was no hurry for us to get to Tahoe, we decided to take his word for it and headed for the Lava Beds on the way.  What a GREAT stop it was.

lava beds national monument

lava beds caves

Lava Beds Highlights:

  • Energetic, helpful rangers
  • Short distance from Klamath Falls, OR
  • Relatively close to Crater Lake National Park
  • Unusual terrain
  • The kids loved it!
  • Great visitors center with Native American, US History, and Geological RoadSchooling opportunities
  • Caves for different ages and ability
  • Junior Ranger Program
  • Easy hiking paths
  • Great for bicycling on the park roads

kids at lava beds national monument

 Tips for Visiting The Lava Beds National Monument with kids:

  1. If you plan on doing some serious exploring in the caves bring you own helmets so you don’t have to purchase them there
  2. Make sure to borrow flashlights at the Visitors Center
  3. Pack a lunch so you can stay for the day- there is so much to do!
  4. The caves are chilly so bring long sleeves for layering- even in the summer
  5. Ask about the Junior Ranger Program at the front desk.  Its basically Road Schooling curriculum handed to you for FREE. The kids will be excited about learning when they know they are earning a certificate and badge!

Next time we are in the area, we will definitely make sure to give ourselves plenty of time to explore the different caves at Lava Beds National Monument.  We really just scratched the surface in our short time there.  I think the time was appropriate for the ages of our kids but as they get older it would be nice to give ourselves more time to explore below the surface of the earth!

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road

City Guide Featured Our Travels

Where is Crater Lake & Why Should I Go?

where is crater lake

Where is Crater Lake anyway and why should I go?  If you are anything like me, who apparently slept through geography class, you may be asking yourself the same question.  After having been, I can assure you, you don’t want to miss out on this gem!

Crater Lake is located in southwest Oregon in the spectacular Crater Lake National Park View Map.  Besides its immense beauty and crystal clear water, here are some reasons why nearly half a million people flock to the lake each year:

  1. Easy access and open year round – You may get the most out of your visit if you go in the summer, however, in the winter you can snowshoe and cross country ski along the rim!
  1. Air is refreshing and clean at the high elevation.  It’s more exciting than it sounds!
  1. Considered the cleanest large body of water in the WORLD!
  1. At 1,943 feet deep Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States
  1. Jr. Ranger Program– Great for RoadSchooling!  Make sure to stop at the Steel Visitor Center to participate.
  1. Friendly rangers and staff– No, that is not a given!
  1. Nice gift shop with classy, quality merchandise.

crater lake

Here are a few ways you can tailor your visit to Crater Lake to your liking:

  • Take a scenic drive around the lake
  • Hike the rocky peaks
  • Take a Boat Tour
  • Fish the two species that survive in the lake- Rainbow Trout and Kokanee Salmon
  • Swim- The only legal place to swim is at the end of The Cleetwood Cove Trail
  • Watch a film at the Steel Visitors Center about the rich human history of the park
  • Visit the volcanic spires “Pinnacles” at the southeast corner of the lake.
  • Explore the history exhibits for a peak into an earlier era at the Great Hall of Crater Lake Lodge.

Crater Lake was our very first stop on our 4 month road trip.  We didn’t spend much time there but I’m happy we made space in our schedule to visit.  I hope this little post peeks your curiosity and if someone were to ask you now Where is Crater Lake? I hope your answer would be “on my travel bucket list!”

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

City Guide Featured

Top 5 National Parks in California

5 Must-Visit National Parks in California

The west coast of the United States is known for its beauty and natural resources.  Each year travelers from all over the world come to experience all that the state of California has to offer.  One of the best ways of experiences the state’s beauty and natural resources is to visit the top 5 National Parks in California.  These parks offer some of the best outdoor recreation activities in the world.

Yosemite National Park

california parks

This is among the first national parks to be established within the United States and boasts of scenic meadows, waterfalls and picturesque beauty. Hikers will require permits that offer access to great activities such as bike riding, hiking, rock climbing and fishing.

Death Valley National Park

This is the ideal destination for ultimate hikers. The terrain is rather harsh but provides the perfect environment for visitors to experience nature at its rawest form. The wildlife and vegetation is very varied and for the less experienced hikers, guided tours will offer much needed insight. The trip would not be complete without visiting historical mining sites as well as deep gorges that are home to a unique flora and fauna. For those who are unable to withstand very high temperatures, it would be advisable to visit the park in winter. The park is located about 200 miles from the city of Los Angeles.

Redwood National Park

This immense natural habitat for native redwood trees covers an area of more than 100,000 acres including a part of the pacific shoreline in Northern California. This great ecosystem also includes plenty of rare animal species and plant species that coexist in harmony.

If you want to view the tallest free standing tree in the world, the Redwood Forest is the place to be.

Directions to Redwood National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

joshua tree park

This park was opened officially in the 1930’s and is located where the Sonoran and Mojave deserts converge. Nature lovers will surely be impressed by the flora and fauna in this park that includes numerous Joshua Trees that dot the desert landscape. Outdoor enthusiasts will be impressed by the great sites for camping and hiking.
To find the Visitors Center you would like to visit (there are 4 of them in Joshua Tree National Park), check HERE.

Channel Islands National Park

This magnificent national park can be considered a natural oasis owing to the large number of animal and plant life that are found on five separate islands just off the Californian coast. The islands are largely isolated which have made the area conducive for the natural ecosystem to thrive.

This group of islands has long been considered one of the top 5 National Parks in California and although it only gained national park status in 1980, the group of islands was declared a United States National Monument in 1938. There is plenty to see and do at the Channel Islands national park and for this reason the park is visited by an average of about 300,000 people per year!

Don’t forget the best part about visiting California’s National Parks with your kids – The Junior Ranger Program!

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road

City Guide Featured

FREE Things to do in Santa Barbara, California With Kids

Things to do in Santa Barbara California

Santa Barbara, California is a fantastic place for families to relax and enjoy the sun and beautiful beaches while on vacation! Children will love to dig in sand and get their feet wet as they explore Santa Barbara’s coastline.  I know ours did!

santa barbara

Many of the activities in Santa Barbara are priced for family life making it a great budget friendly  city to explore.  Here are a the best of them:

Santa Barbara Courthouse:

If you are looking for outstanding design, Santa Barbara offers FREE visits to the Santa Barbara Courthouse.  With one of the most exquisite pieces of architecture in the country, there are performances and other interesting activities to keep the family engaged.   ides to the top of the courthouse to their famous clock tower “El Mirador.”  A viewing room greets you at the top where you will get breathtaking views. The tile work is interesting and historic. This is a FREE trip that you and your kids will love.

ADDRESS:  1100 Anacapa St #2, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

PHONE #:  (805) 568-3959

The Painted Cave:

These caves are FREE to explore and were created by the Chumash indigenous people of the area. The caves are a colorful and interesting experience for young people and adults alike.

ADDRESS:  Hwy 154, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

PHONE #:   (805) 733-3713

A.C Postal Rose Garden:

This amazing and serene location holds more than a thousand types of roses with views of the mountains of Santa Barbara that are absolutely spectacular. It is absolutely FREE for kids in Santa Barbara and is guaranteed to be a wonderful adventure for a family.

LOCATION:  The A.C. Postel Rose Garden is located on Plaza
Rubio between Laguna St. and Emerson Ave.

PHONE #:  805-564-5433 (Inquires made through the Parks Dept.)

Old Santa Barbara Mission: 

Often referred to as the “Queen of the Missions”, the mission is the primary cultural landmark in Santa Barbara.  This historical landmark allows families to visit for FREE but does require a small fee to take the family into the chapel.  This is one of Santa Barbara’s main attractions and is great for kids and budget friendly!

ADDRESS:  2201 Laguna St.  Santa Barbara, CA 93105

PHONE #:  (805) 682-4713

Santa Barbara City Parks:

With over 75 parks to choose from, Santa Barbara’s parks provide a great way to see the natural side of the city.   The kids can get their energy out while getting up close and personal with the flora and fauna unique to Santa Barbara’s landscape.  And you guessed it….it’s FREE!

Find one that suites you HERE

Santa Ynez Valley:

Another must see location in Santa Barbara is the Santa Ynez Valley. It holds over seventy wineries. The wineries have wine tasting and there are several golf courses there as well as places to fish, hike, and bike.

solvang california

Solvang which is Danish town known for its pastries, fine dining and shopping also has a variety of free activities. This is an adventure all families will enjoy and mom and dad can taste wine while the children fish, enjoy parks and the whole family is able to engage is hiking or fishing together.

State Street:

If you want to experience the culture and flair of Santa Barbara a fantastic place to take the family is State Street.  And don’t forget the shopping!  The State Street area can be toured by walking or by the area’s electric shuttle. The shuttle makes a stop on every block and kids will love the ride! Santa Barbara also has parades and many wonderful festivals throughout the year including the French Festival, the Harbor Festival and the Sandcastle festival. Exploring State Street is great for families and is totally FREE of charge.

Check this website for more information about Downtown Santa Barbra and State Street.

Old Spanish Days Fiesta:

One of the festivals that no one should miss while visiting Santa Barbara with kids!  The fiesta is a festival that has been taking place in Santa Barbara for eighty-five years and draws people from all over the world. Since the Santa Barbara area has such a wonderful Spanish culture the festival celebrates this with a week of dancing and music as well as art and cultural food. The fiesta is free for kids in Santa Barbara and is a deeply rich cultural experience that the whole family will find enthralling and exciting. The tourism board can inform anyone about the scheduling.

For specifics about the upcoming Old Spanish Days Fiesta check go HERE.

Alice Keck Garden:

Another exciting activity for the family that is FREE and perfect for kids is a visit to the Alice Keck Garden. This park holds a pond filled with Koi and has a gorgeous gazebo. The neighborhood around the Garden is highly engaging so make sure to interact with the locals.  Don’t be shy to ask them about their favorite places in the city!

ADDRESS:  Garden St & Arellaga St.  Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Santa Barbara Historical Museum:

If you are like us and want to learn about the history of the places you visit, you don’t want to miss the Santa Barbara Historical Museum.   This museum documents Santa Barbara from the era of the Chumash indigenous people all the way through to modern day. There are many exhibits that display the homes in the area and these change regularly.  There is a large library for kids and parents to explore (perfect for road schooling) and it is all FREE!

ADDRESS:  136 East De la Guerra Street  Santa Barbara, CA 93101

PHONE #:  (805)966-1601 ext. 108

If you aren’t as concerned with budget and want to get a beat on some other great things to do in Santa Barbara, the Chamber of Commerce in another good resource.  When we visit new places and we aren’t sure what to do, we stop by the local chamber.  The men and women that work there are often long time residents of the area and love to share what they know.  Plus they know about all the current activities happing around town.

santa barbara california

Although not all winery tours are free, I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend a visit to at least one of these gems that Santa Barbara is known for.  Sanguis, is a coveted winery that creates amazing blends of the finest wines – each created by a different winemaker.  The varieties of vintage may differ, however, the finesse and quality of the vintages are always original and this winery.

A vacation in Santa Barbara, California offers beaches, mountains, parks, festivals and multi-cultural activities. It is the perfect place for a family with kids to visit for amazing and beautiful sightseeing and even some cultural education!

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road












City Guide

Guide to Portland: The Fun & Frugal Parents Guide to the City of Roses

things to do in portlandA Guide to Portland, Oregon- A city steeped in contemporary architecture, charming neighborhoods, and abundant natural resources, Portland provides the perfect back drop for a memorable family vacation.  Portland has a multitude of fun and affordable options for families.  Here are a few of the more noteworthy ones:

The International Rose Test Garden:

While stopping and smelling the Roses may not be on most kids’ radars at first glance, even the most cynical of tiny travelers will have to admit that the roses in Portland are pretty impressive. Many rose gardens dot the Portland city limits including The International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park (FREE admission). Kids can enjoy FREE gardening classes at many of Portland’s community gardens as well. If your travel plans bring you to Portland in June, the annual Portland Rose Festival complete with a parade, carnival, and Rose Queen is a big hit.

Portland Saturday Market:

No Oregon trip would be complete without a stroll through Portland’s largest flea/farmers/food market. A stop at the market is a must with children, especially when the weather is nice and the street performers are out in numbers. Unlike what the market’s name suggests, it is open on Saturday AND Sunday and includes a variety of stands and stalls (some include toys and other fun items). Hit the International Food Market for yummy picnic food and nearby Voodoo Donuts for a special treat to round out lunch.

Portland Streetcar:

Jump on the Portland Streetcar for easy access to the Pearl District Portland City Center the South Waterfront and more.  The kids will love the unique experience!  You can grab a handy app for everything you need to know about transit services, fees, and routes in Portland here.

Portland Aerial Tram:

For a fascinating view of the Portland skyline and beautiful Mount Hood and Mount Saint Helens in the distance, take the kids up the Portland Aerial Tram. At $4/adults and kids from 0-6 free, this is a bargain and is especially enjoyable on a warm, clear day. If traveling in June, check on the FREE community activities being offered by the tram each weekend.

Japanese and Chinese Classical Gardens:

Help the kids find their zen at the Japanese and Chinese Classical Gardens. With quiet walkways and a great duck pond, this stop makes a great afternoon respite from the hustle and bustle of Portland.  With kids under 6 FREE, it won’t break the bank!

Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden in Grant Park:

Take your photo with Ramona – The much loved main character of Oregonian Beverly Cleary’s books is available (in bronze form!) for photos at the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden in Grant Park.  Encourage your kids to finish up those last chapters on the plane, car or in the hotel prior to seeing the sculptures of the whole Quimby gang in the park!

Academy Theater and Pub:

If you are looking for something more low key, Portland has a variety of movie theaters which play second run movies at a fraction of the regular cinema cost. On a rainy day (and there will be some!), Academy Theater and Pub plays movies at $4/adult, $3/child. Joy Cinema and Pub offers $1 movies on Monday nights and discounted rate at other times. Note: After 6pm, only adults are admitted at Joy Cinema and Pub.

Tour a Local Brewery:

Trying local beer and exploring local breweries is a mainstay activity in Portland. Breweries have recognized that parents want to try the region’s fantastic suds so many have adapted their menus to include child friendly food at a price that will not break the bank. Hopworks Urban Brewery, for example, has a play area for the kiddos and can be easily accessed by bicycle. Check out their website for their “Tot” calendar which includes craft activities, story time, and delicious snacks for kids.

The Best Cheap Eats in Portland:

Junk food takes on a new meaning in Portland. Bypass the traditional McDonalds and Burger King stops opting instead for Burgerville (don’t forget the Walla Walla onion rings available in the summer) or Zach’s Shack with its crowd pleasing chili cheese fries. Wash the burger down with a cone from Cool Moon Ice Cream on Johnson Street made lovingly by long time Portland resident with ingredients from Oregon.

*Portland has a multitude of FREE newspapers filled with events and activities the kids will love. Pick up a copy of the Northeast Portland newspaper (or check them out online) and flip to the “Free” and “Family Friendly” sections for upcoming festivals and fairs, many of them at little to no cost.

I hope this guide serves as a useful resource for you as you set out to explore Portland.  If you know of some wonderful, budget friendly, places for families to visit in Portland, leave a comment and let me know.  I’d love to hear from you!

Emily Eck

City Guide

Things to do in Sedona, AZ {Splurge Worthy}

best things to do in sedona, azThere are so many things to do in Sedona, AZ for families and adventures.  If you haven’t had a chance to read our Top 10 Budget Friendly Activities Sedona has to offer make sure to check that out.  Sedona is a warm, earthy place full of vibrant culture and rugged beauty.   If you are wondering wether or not to include it in your trip itinerary, I highly suggest that you do!  Here is our list of splurge worthy things to do in Sedona, AZ:

Verde Canyon Railroad:  OK, are you ready for another ride? I know you might have just taken the trolley ride around Sedona but another great ride is through the Verde Canyon! What better way to explore this ancient and impressive canyon than on a train, especially with the kiddos?  This 4-hour ride takes you through one of the many world-famous canyons of AZ. This canyon is untouched, undeveloped, and most certainly spectacular. Take in the fresh air, the history, the extraordinary flora, fauna and wildlife, and tremendous towering cliffs you see all around you. Although a bit pricey,  there is no better way for a family to see the stunning vistas of this canyon in Sedona.

Check Verde Canyon Railroad’s website for more information and pricing.

Pink Jeep Tours:  The Pink Jeep Tours are quite possibly the most popular activity to do in Sedona and possibly Arizona! Take an extraordinary adventure in your own private pink Jeep! The tours all vary and are flexible depending on the amount you’re willing to spend and the places you want to see. This exploration of Sedona is like no other offering a rugged adventure of history, panoramic views, and thrilling rides through picturesque Sedona. If your going to splurge on something to do in Sedona, this is it!

Check Pink Jeep Tours website for more information and pricing.

Papillon Helicopter Tours:  Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopter is a great way to get a unique view of The Grand Canyon — one of the 7 wonders of the world!  Papillon Helicopter Tours is the world’s largest and most experienced helicopter sightseeing company!  Multilingual tours leave Sedona daily.

Check Papillon’s website for more information and pricing.

Red Rock Balloons:  Hop aboard a colorful hot air ballon and take flight over the rugged Red Rocks!  This serene attraction will be like none other as you will be treated to wildlife sightings and the gentle soaring and lift of the balloon will relax you!  After your sunrise flight, enjoy a champagne picnic with a continental breakfast.

Check Red Rock Balloons’ website for more information and pricing.

Arizona Outdoor Adventures:  If you are looking for a little adrenaline, how does a 40 mile guided off-road ATV tour sound?  Have fun with the Arizona Outdoor Adventures in this off-road adventure through the West Sedona Valley where they will take you up to an 800 foot high view from atop Skeleton Bone Mountain.  All ages and skill levels are welcome.
Check Arizona Outdoor Adventures’ website for more information and pricing.
what to do in sedona

I hope this list as well as the budget friendly list serve as an excellent resource for you in your upcoming trip.  Choosing one or two from each list will be sure to immerse you in the special culture  and feel the unique city of Sedona, AZ. has to offer!

Have you done any “Splurge” worthy adventures yourself that are worth mentioning?  If so, make sure to tell us about them in the comments below!

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road