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All Weekend

It’s the annual harvest festival at Roaring Camp Railroads, Felton. Here’s the info.

It’s the Ardenwood Farm Harvest Celebration this weekend. This is lots of fun but gets super busy. I strongly recommend getting there first thing. Here’s the flyer.

You can enjoy the annual Cupertino Carnival this weekend. Find the event details here.

Saturday 13th October

There are pumpkins in the park in San Jose. More details here.

Check out the free science and aviation day this weekend, also in San Jose. You can find the website here.

For all those horse-mad kids, it’s the Day of the Horse Event up in Woodside this weekend. See here for details.

Want a break from all things Halloween? Go bird watching in the morning at Bedwell Bayfront Park, 10.30am-12.30pm. See here for more information.


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October is always so beautiful at the shore here that we decided to make the most of the glorious weather and to head out on a coastal walk.  We picked the Old Cove Landing Trail at Wilder Ranch State Park as we’d heard it was spectacular when the skies are clear. Well, it was spectacular and we enjoyed amazing views of the rugged cliffs, sea caves and sealife. It was also spectacularly easy: just under 3 miles and entirely flat. But best of all, we were able to clamber down to the sand at Old Landing Cove itself and to enjoy an entirely secluded and empty (well, apart from the seals) beach.  A perfect hike for preschoolers.

walking the coast

can you spot the seal colony?

a beach of our own

cave exploration




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All Weekend

It’s the Pacifica Fog Fest — might be worth checking out if you feel like heading to the shore.  More information here.

Saturday 29th September

There’s a 1pm farm tour of Hidden Villa. $10 per person. See here to register. See how the farm is changing now it’s Fall.

It’s Autumn Weekend at Filoli. See here for more information.

Explore Elkhorn Slough by Pontoon with the Marine Science Institute from 1pm to 3pm. Space is limited and you do need to register — see here for details. Looks fun, especially for older kids.

Sunday 30th September

There’s a 10am farm tour of Hidden Villa. $10 per person. See here to register.

Learn to pan for gold at Ardenwood Farm from 11am until noon. $2 per person. Registration required – call 510 544 3284.

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Lots of fun events for little boys!

All Weekend

It’s Train Days at the Los Altos History Museum both days from 10am until 4pm.  This is an excellent family event and worth the $10 donation per family. You can find more information here.

Saturday 22nd September

You can visit Palo Alto Airport for its Airport Day from 10am until 4pm. Event details here.

Sunday 23rd September

Another plane event- this time Open Cockpit Day at the Oakland Aviation Museum from noon until 4pm.  See here for more information.

Sunday is a Target Family Day (“A Day at the Circus”) in Redwood City from 11am until 3pm.  Event details can be found here.

It’s the Cupertino Fall Festival from 10am until 6pm at Memorial Park, Stevens Creek Blvd and Mary Avenue. This is a free event organised by the local Rotary Club.

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This weekend I received a nasty wasp sting to the hand.  This was my umpteenth one this summer and I prepared for the usual: removed my rings ready for my hand to swell up and searched out some painkillers to numb the hours of throbbing pain.  But this time, I had a friendly Stanford scientist on hand who showed me how to neutralise the sting in minutes. He gallantly fetched his ‘sting kit’ from the car, consisting of meat tenderizer, water, and paper towels, and made a compress for my hand.  In minutes the pain was reduced, and within an hour it was as if I’d never been stung.  A great trick to know for those of us with small boys who like picking up insects.

To make your own sting kit you just need a quick trip to Safeways for Adolf’s meat tenderizer.  Then, if anyone is stung, you add some of this powder to water and use a paper towel to massage it into the sting puncture (having first removed the stinger).  Special fruit enzymes in the meat tenderizer then get to work and neutralise the proteins in the bee or wasp sting, preventing pain and swelling. The faster you apply the solution the better.  My scientist friend recommends keeping a sting kit in your house and in your car.

The FDA knows about this little trick, and confirms that it works, but won’t explicitly recommend it as a small number of folk may be allergic to the fruit enzymes.  I guess you pay your money and take your choice.

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All Weekend

It’s the Santa Cruz County Fair and Horse Show.  Find information and schedules here.

Visit the Walnut Creek Model Train Show at Walnut Creek. It’s $3 for adults, $2 for kids 6-12 years old and children under 6 are free. More information here.

Saturday and Sunday are “Family Days” at the Monterey Bay Birding Festival. You can find more information and schedules here.

Saturday 15th September

There’s a farm tour at Hidden Villa from 1pm-2.30pm. The cost is $10 per person and you can sign up here.

It’s the Rancho Day Fiesta at Sanchez Adobe in Pacifica from 12-4pm. There is a suggested $1 donation per visitor and additional charges for other activities. Find the flyer here.

This weekend is the official California Coastal Clean-Up. If you’re interested in joining in, check out this website to find a nearby location.

Sunday 16th September

There’s a Wild Cat Adventure Show at Foothills College, Los Altos Hills at 2pm. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12 and can be reserved in advance.

It’s the PAMP Moon Festival this weekend at Mitchell Park 3-6.30pm. Lots of fun for the kids.

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This September we took advantage of Portola Redwoods State Park’s reprieve from closure and booked a campsite for a weekend of hiking and exploring.  I’d only ever visited the park before in winter when I found it a little limited and gloomy (perhaps because they’d removed the bridges and hence cut us off from most of the hiking trails for the season).  This time, however, we really enjoyed ourselves.  Perhaps it was the weather or the company or the great hiking trails, but we found Portola Redwoods to be a really fun and easy spot to visit with kids in the summer/fall.

anyone know where we are?

The Camping

The camping is a bit of a mixed bag. As is always the case with state parks, the sites vary in privacy and exposure.  Although most of the sites in the main camping areas around the bathrooms are fairly large, they are also very open: there is almost no vegetation and few trees and it’s pretty much like camping in a field.  I would imagine it gets very busy and noisy in high season–not ideal for camping with small children.  I would recommend avoiding these loops and picking some of the sites on the edges of the campground (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 14, 28, 29, 38, 39, 40) if you want peace and privacy. And, don’t worry, the walk to the bathrooms from these sites is not the endurance hike some internet reviews make it out to be!  The campsite facilities at Portola Redwoods are limited. There are a couple of washrooms but the only hot, running water is to be found in the pay shower s(bring quarters).  There are plentiful potable water taps and trash cans dotted around the campground. Firewood is available for purchase round the clock at the park office and visitors’ center, which is nice.  I had read that this park is often plagued with mosquitoes, but we didn’t really see any this trip and I only received a couple of bites (which is exceptional as I am, apparently, so tasty that a lone mosquito twenty miles away will usually seek me out).

An Easy Hike: The Sequoia Nature Trail

This short, easy trail leaves from behind the park office, goes down a gentle hill to the Pescadero Creek, crosses the water and loops through the woods on the other side, before returning over the same bridge and back up the trail to the visitors center. At 3/4 mile it’s a perfect little trail for very small children and reluctant hikers.  It wouldn’t be ideal for strollers, but you could make it round with a rugged jog stroller as long as you didn’t mind carrying it up and down some steps by the river.  I have to say that I think this trail is a little dull as guided nature trails go, but it does have the big positive of a rocky riverine beach where kids can spend time paddling and throwing stones. The visitors center is also worth a visit either before or after the walk.

Tiptoe Falls

A slightly longer hike

You can extend the Sequoia Nature Trail by skipping the ‘loop’ across the river and instead heading down the Iverson Trail once you’ve crossed the creek.  The Iverson Trail loops through a spectacular part of the woods and loops back across the Creek to the picnic area by the park office.  It’s a fairly easy trail (a little over a mile) with just a little clambering and no long ascents/descents. Our boys really enjoyed this as a quick hike that was a bit more satisfying than the nature trail.

A Longer hike for 2-5 year olds

We took the Old Tree Trail from near the visitors center and then headed left up the hill on the Slate Creek Trail. At the junction with the Summit Trail we turned right and searched for ‘The Summit’ before heading down the hill, along the Service Road and onto the Iverson Trail. The boys were excited to see the Iverson Cabin Site and were a little disappointed that a) it’s only a pile of rubble and b)they weren’t allowed to play with said rubble. But they loved Tiptoe Falls a little further along the trail where we stopped for lunch and a paddle.  From there it’s a short walk back up to the park office.  This loop was a little over 4 miles and lots of fun, with some interesting ‘stops’ along the way. The ascent up to the summit is fairly arduous, however, and not for a toddler who doesn’t like to walk and the trail is definitely not stroller suitable.

An unamed beach off the Iverson Trail

And if you don’t feel like hiking, you could easily pass an afternoon exploring the creek and throwing rocks into the water.

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A couple of weeks ago we were looking for a morning hike that we could combine easily with an afternoon on the beach at Santa Cruz, and ended up at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.  This was our first trip to Henry Cowell.  While it looked beautiful from the brochure, most park reviews and trail guides seemed to suggest there weren’t many fun, short walks for little ones.  I’m glad, however, that we finally made it out there.  I can report that it is indeed a gorgeous park and that there are a number of fun activities and hikes that are perfect for the 2-5 year old age range.

Morning at Henry Cowell

The Visitors Center

We started our morning in the main part of the park at the visitors center (the Fall Creek Unit of the park looks awesomely rugged, but less suitable for toddler hiking as all of the hikes are very long).  There is a large car park here but parking spaces were in short supply when we returned to our car mid-afternoon, so I would suggest arriving in the morning on the weekend.  The visitors center is wonderful: plenty of interesting, child-friendly exhibits about the park and super friendly staff.  Our boys particularly loved the little booklets they were given about animal-print spotting and the ‘stamp’ table they could use to fill them in. Once completed, the Monkey proudly carried his around the nearby loop looking for prints.

The Monkey in the Woods

The Guided Nature Loop

Right outside the visitor’s center is a short (under a mile) loop amongst the old growth redwood trees called The Redwood Grove Loop Trail. This path is wide, easy and flat–so easy in fact that we even saw a couple of wheel-chair users exploring there in the afternoon.  Unlike many of these parks, there were plentiful ‘nature trail guides’ available at the head of the loop.  You can either purchase one for 25 cents (honour system but you might want to bring change) or borrow a ‘loaner’.  The redwoods in this area are pretty spectacular and the woods are beautiful.  We were there early in the morning, which I highly recommend, and had the loop pretty much to ourselves and could enjoy the wonderful quiet and morning sunlight filtering through the canopy.  Our kids loved the loop and working out what each of the numbers indicated. They also loved the enormous Fremont Tree with a giant, hollow cave beneath it (you might want to pack a small torch for exploring this very cool redwood). This loop is wonderful for very small kids.  On its own, however, it wasn’t too satisfying for our boys –too short and too easy–so we headed on into the park.

Cable Car Beach

At the far end of the loop you can cut through to the River Trail. The boys enjoyed this wide, easy, flat road as it runs alongside the roaring camp railway track and under the railway bridge.  We then took the narrow trail off to the right of the road along the creek.  After a quarter of a mile, this trail leads to the lovely Cable Car Beach.  This is a great spot for paddling and creek play. Our boys loved it and could have stayed for hours.  If you’re planning to camp at the park, this would be the perfect spot–in summer, anyway, when the water is low–for playing with a small, inflatable boat or ring.

Paddling at Cable Car Beach

A Longer Walk up to the Observation Spot on Pine Trail

A hike out to Cable Car Beach via the Redwoods Loop may be enough for many small children: it’s about 1.5 miles there and back and has a fun destination. If you want to walk further you could take a hike up to the top of the ridge.  We took the Eagle Creek trail from Cable Car Beach and then the Pine Trail up to the observation point. We returned via the Ridge Fire Road and Pipeline Road and stopped at Cable Car Beach to play on the way down.  This was a fun, but fairly tough, walk.  If you’re going to attempt it with small kids, be aware that it’s about 4 miles round, has a long ascent, and that the trail at the top is sandy and hard-going on little legs.  Our three year old managed it in good spirits, but the two year old retreated to the backpack for the return leg.  Warning aside, it is a beautiful trail and the sandy landscape at the top of the ridge is interesting and the views magnificent.

The view from the top

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It’s a quiet weekend following Labor Day, but there are a few interesting events to check out.

September 8th

It’s Ohlone Day at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.  A free event running from 10am-4pm that could be easily combined with a hike in the park.

There’s the Apple Festival at Garin Regional Park. Also free, but with a $5 charge to park, noon-4pm.

All Weekend

The Capitola Art and Wine Festival is on this weekend. It’s free, open from 10am to 6pm and promises a ‘kids’ art area’.  You could check it out before retiring for an afternoon at the beach.

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All Weekend

It’s time for the Historic Rail Fair at Ardenwood Farm. It’s on Sat, Sun and Mon from 10am until 4pm. Our boys love this annual event but, sadly, this year it has to come with a health warning. The Dumbarton Bridge is closed all weekend which makes for a long journey from our side of the bay. Here’s the event flyer.

Saturday, Sunday and Monday witness a series  of great train robberies at Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton.  Advance tickets can be purchased here.

It’s the 147th Scottish Highland Gathering and Games at Pleasanton this weekend.  Here’s the website for more information.

At Watsonville it’s time for the 48th Annual Fly-In and Airshow, from August 31st-September 2nd. Adult tickets are $15 per day, but kids under 12 are free.  Find the event website here.

Visit the Capitola Begonia Festival for flowers, nautical parades, art projects and sandcastle competitions. The event runs all weekend. Check out the website for information and daily schedules.


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