Traveling With Kids – San Diego Air and Space Museum – It’s No Ripley’s –

Are You Not Entertained?

IMG_2152The oldest is like the best version of me in a museum. Respectful, reads all the information on a display that interests him, doesn’t touch sh*t he’s not supposed to touch. Like the Prettiest-girl-in-the world. The youngest is like the worst version of me. Giddy at some exhibits, wanting to climb on others, happy to stay with the family until he’s not, until there’s something cool to look at longer than the others would like. Plus, if he gets excited about something, he won’t stop talking about it. Just like me sometimes.

I figured 50/50 that we would make it out before being asked to leave.

I was the first one to crack.

events air and spaceForget all the things I could see… they had a room filled with planes set aside for a special function, planes that I wanted to see. Not that I couldn’t see the planes from the windows, it’s that I hate anything that stops me from doing stuff.

It’s a flaw in my character.

If I see a sign that says do not touch, I desperately want to touch whatever it says I can’t touch. Like at whistler, there was a sign that said do not touch the honet’s nest. Seems like good advice, yet it took every ounce of my self-control not to touch it.

Here it took every ounce of control not to wander into that room filled with people in suits and dresses, planes overhead, chefs in white outfits standing behind their creations, and overly hot-looking waitresses carrying silver plates of tasty-looking yummies. If I’d been alone, I would have likely wandered in there by ‘mistake’ and grabbed a few snacks before I was escorted out of the event.

However, today, I am very respectful of museum rules. Mostly. So I didn’t go in. That and likely the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world would have left me rot in jail.

IMG_0323IMG_2172The youngest, too, was well-behaved. He loved that he could stuff himself in a small plane or climb into the cockpit of a helicopter. He asked all about the WW1 planes (though it could be he didn’t ask at all, maybe I just started going on and on about them and how they flew and fought.)

But he didn’t much care for the rest of it. In fact, much to my horror, no one cared that they had a P51 or Spitefire or F-18. Like right there!

You could even touch it!

IMG_0327Also, no one wanted to hear my incredibly entertaining and informative talk on WW2 and planes. Not even my epic story about the battle of Britain and how we owe so much to so few. In hindsight, I should have talked about how my dad had worked on those planes or mentioned that Finn and Jake flew them in an alternate universe. In fact, I was so boring that I was left talking to myself at one point, looking up at a ME109 swooping down from the ceiling. *sigh*

Another dad looked over at me, as I glanced around to where my family had gone and just shook his head and smiled. He too was alone, his family standing in line to get rewards for completing the Ripley questions.

However, for the oldest, there was highlight. Something that he actually enjoyed.

IMG_2173I took him on a flight sim. An F18, blue angels sim.

The youngest refused to go. He knows his limits. It’s one thing to climb into a cockpit that doesn’t move, another thing entirely to be locked in a large coffin-like box that could spin upside down.

So the oldest and I were belted inside one of the sim machines., told about the controls, then sealed inside.

He was a bit nervous. Excited, too, but nervous. I was dead proud of him for even trying this out. It was going to take him well beyond his comfort zone.

Then the sim started.

The oldest roared down the runway then into the sky. The controls were hard to understand, at first. He flew into buildings, the ocean, the runway, and a mountain. But then he began to get the hang of it. We shot straight up, the sim tilted 90 degrees. We spun in the air, the sim rolling us upside down. We barrel rolled and banked and dove, over and over and over again.

IMG_2176I held on for dear life while the oldest laughed and giggled and shouted with pure joy.

However, apparently there was a camera in the sim. The prettiest girl in the world said I looked like I wanted to get out.

And throw up.

I told her that’s my usual face, but it was all I could do to hold on as the oldest flew the hell out of that plane.

It only lasted 10 min, but it was an amazing 10 min.

He wants one for his home now.

Afterwards, we collected the little rewards for having completed the Ripley believe it or not questions (though, to be truthful, the youngest had decided to tick every possible answer box, but they gave him a gift anyway – which was probably based on numerous previous meltdowns experienced by younger children.) The oldest got a pencil which he dubbed his magic wand. The youngest got something he hit his brother with on the way home but I’ll be damned if I can remember what it was.

IMG_2154However, despite my failure to interest anyone in the epicness of flight and warplanes and tales of WW1 and 2, we hadn’t got kicked out, both boys had a bit of fun at some point and the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world hadn’t had to explain why her boys (me included) had done something silly.

So, a success, I guess.

But we still had some time left in the day.

What to do, what to do?

Luckily our secret San Diego spy, Schmennis, had a suggestion.

The day was not done yet!

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Traveling With Kids- San Diego Balboa Park – Ripley’s

Believe It Or Not
IMG_0291What would he boys want to see more? Elephants or the elephant man? A popular zoo or someone who can pop his eyes out of his head?


When they heard that there was a Ripley’s believe it or not display, they were so excited that he HAD to add it to our itinerary. It was located in the Air and Space museum. Balboa Park. Not that far from our hotel.

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world got us there without a hitch.

IMG_0304Inside, there were drones flying above our head. Beneath them, the Apollo 9 gumdrop capsule sat looking like it had been through a war or entered the atmosphere or something. There were moon rocks, models of the whole Apollo 9 rocket, space suits…

ripleys pageAnd the boys politely looked at all of them, but their eyes were constantly glancing towards the Ripley’s display.

So, not wanting to torture them anymore, we went in.

ripleysThere were all sorts of horrible and grotesque things, so the boys had the time of their lives. Wanna see a guy stick a huge cockscrew into his nose and out his mouth? They got a vid of that. Want to see a totem of some sort covered in flayed human skin? They got that. How about an astronaut carved inside a needle?  Yup, got that, too. Want to see a man who can dislocate his entire body? Guess what, they have that on vid, too.

IMG_2157There was a car made out of wood, the world’s smallest production car, a replica of the world’s tallest man, little picture-like blocks on the wall filled with all sorts of cool facts, a short movie about Ripley himself and plenty of hands on things to touch like a life-sized operation game.

The boys bounced from display to display, eager to get to the next one.

The youngest one found a set of boxes he could crawl into. He loved that we couldn’t see him. Oh, we could hear his giggling, but he was gone from our sight.

IMG_0311The oldest dutifully completed the quiz they’d given him, finding all the answers to questions like who owned the moon and

IMG_2159The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world loved the carriage made out of jade. Not a model carriage, an honest to god carriage that could carry at least 2 people.

I loved a video screen where I could make all sorts of things go forward or backwards or stop, things like a glass breaking, a dog wagging water of itself, music making waves in milk. When the oldest found me, I think I may have been talking to myself. Pretty, so pretty, yes, yes it is.

The oldest measured himself against the tallest man in the world. At least a robotronic version of him (the tallest man, not the oldest.)

IMG_0318The two of them played with magnetic gears. I tell you, if there was something they could touch, they touched it, and if there was something they could touch that made sound, they touched it at least twice, and if it was super gross, they had to be dragged away from it.

IMG_0307But the fun, the bestest fun, was when they saw the megalodon mouth. Perhaps their most favourite creature in the world. If they could have lived in there, they would have. As it is, when they can clone something, they’re gonna clone a megalodon. And ride it.

None of us broke anything. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world didn’t throw up when she saw the stuff made out of human skin. The youngest didn’t injure himself on all the pointy things. The oldest found more amazing and disgusting things that he could see in real life. And me, I was so sad there wasn’t a t-shirt made out of congealed bull semen or something.

We all had such fun.

But there was still a whole museum to see.

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Traveling With Kids – San Diego – Balboa Park

Our Secret Spy

bondTruth time. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world had a spy down in San Diego. To protect his identity, let’s call him Schmennis. He‘d gave us advice on where to look for a good Mexican restaurant. He’d given us advice on driving times and things to see, things to do, and things to avoid. He given advice on the weather, clothes to wear and a place the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world could do some shopping.

IMG_0282IMG_0286So, after we had visited the gorillas again, (no sign of the baby), after we had done the gorilla stance, after we had eaten terrible hamburgers while the red-eyed bird kept its eye on the oldest, after we had fed a few ducks, bought a few souvenirs, tried to find popsicles and failed, after we’d bought gorilla t-shirts for the boys, it was on his advice that we went to our next destination.

balboa park mapBalboa park. The park of about a billion museums. Ok, that’s not entirely true, but the park is HUGE!  It has the San Diego Air & Space Museum, the San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego Automotive Museum, the San Diego Hall of Champions, the Centro Cultural de la Raza (whatever the heck that is), the Museum of the Living Arts, the San Diego Museum of Man, (not to be confused with the San Diego Natural History Museum), the San Diego Model Railroad Museum (oh my, the geek in me got all tinglie inside), the Mingei (What?) International Museum, the Museum of Photographic Arts, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (for little kids), the Timken Museum of Art, the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center, the George W. Marston House and the San Diego History Center.

Whew, right?

Plus there were gardens and green parks and merry-go-rounds and the San Diego Zoo and dogs.

It’s the neat thing about not having a hard and fast schedule. We could do a whole ton of things with our free time. So, we’d researched some options the night before and presented the incredible findings to the boys. The Air and Space Museum had a Ripley’s Believe it Or Not exhibition!!!!

Unlike the epic fail of Universal Studios, this suggestion made the younger one hoot, and the older one smile, just a bit at first, but then he couldn’t contain himself and got all bouncy and excited like his younger brother.

Now you have to understand. The boys, the oldest in particular, has a bookcase full of books about odd things, weird things, smelly things, dead things, and sharks.

johnny depp chocSeeing a real life exhibit by Ripley would pretty much hit most of those things. It would so awesome, like the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world eating chocolate with Johnny Depp or me having the abs of one of those 300 Spartan guys.

So, off we drove.

But our guru had not told us what to expect when we arrived there. It was way better than we even imagined.

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Traveling With Kids – San Diego Zoo Safari – Tour Guides

The Expected Tour Guide

IMG_0229We’d made the safari tour. I would have bet against it. I sat beside the tour guide, while the boys and the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world sat at the back. Like tailgunners.

I can’t report how the boys thought about what they saw, at least until I talked to them afterwards and, by then, it wasn’t their pure, immediate responses, which I so love.

We saw rhinos and zebras and camels and all manner of deer-like creatures, and birds and giraffes and wild horses like the Mongols tamed and cows with the hugest horns I’ve ever seen.

However, being beside the tour guide, I felt obligated to always respond to stuff she said. I dunno why I felt that need, but I did. “So, over here you’ll see two indian thing-deerie things peeing on the tree,” and I would say, “Cool.” “And by the side of the road, there’s a wagawagagnome licking its testicles.” “Wonderful.”

IMG_0232I even answered questions. “Can everyone hear me.” “Yes,” I said, sitting right next to her. “Has anyone seen a baby Rhino?” “Only on TV.”

However, after two stops where we got out in the rare rays of sun, the youngest decided he wanted to sit up front. And the fun began.

See, contrary to what his teachers may think, the youngest actually knows everything. At first he was a bit shy to share his expansive knowledge but all it took was one person in the back responding to a question and giving the wrong answer.

Tour guide, “The zipline is the longest zipline in the world.”

The other tourist, “When we were in Whistler, they said it was the longest.”

“Well, actually, there are several zip lines at Whistler,” says the youngest. “Only one was the longest.”

And off he went.

“Rhinos…” began the tour guide as we slowed to watch a pack of them lumber by…

The youngest turned to her. “Well, did you know that Rhinos are endangered?”

“Well, ah, yes, yes they are.”

“I know all about Rhinos.”


“I did a project at school,” he told her. What he forgot to mention was that he had to be hauled to do it kicking and screaming. “There are white rhinos and black rhinos and did you know that they can reach up to 35 miles per hour?”

“Yes, yes I did.”

“And did you know that they…” Well you get the idea.

I loved it. It was hilarious. But he really did know his rhino stuff. Who says school is a waste of time? He also knew a lot about horses, cows, lions and what’s the best popsicle.

We loved seeing all the animals. The youngest told the group all that we do to help save the animals and the environment. “Did you know that we recycle our plastic?”

Tour guide, “That’s great.”

“And did we don’t drink pop. Mom says we can’t.”

“Well, I’m, ah sure, yeah, that helps, too.”

“And we don’t throw things out of the car.”

“And at my dad’s, we bag up all the grass.”

“Also, good…. Ah, anyone else?”

Luckily he did not talk about his plan to use farts to power his cars.

But seeing the animals, once again, up close, in the open, either standing around, or eating or snuggling each other, gave us a much greater appreciation for all living things. Seeing them, made us all want to protect them and made us realize how valuable and amazing life can be on this planet.

IMG_2126The oldest vowed to do better. The youngest vowed to make sure he did.

For me, I loved that they told stories about the animals. These Malaysian deer were rescued from the Boxer rebellion and there were only a dozen in the world, but with careful breeding, we’ve brought them back from extinction and now there are thousands.”

The stories made a difference.

I thought it was a great way to start a day. Little did I know it was just the beginning of what would become the BESTEST DAY ever!

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Traveling With Kids – San Diego Zoo Safari – Need For Speed

Will We Get There In Time? San Diego Safari

The tour left at 11:00

We had to be there by 10:50. It was like the Amazing Race.

IMG_059410:10, we tore out of our hotel, not far enough behind to make this a complete disaster, but far enough that we had to really haul ass.

By 10:30, we turned off the highway. Still a ways to go on slower roads with schools and speed limits and armies of cops waiting to stop us. (Hmmm, it sounds like Smokey and the Bandit, or for you younger people, Need For Speed.)

By 10:41 we were in the line to get parking. I had ignored the posted speed limits is a very bad way. Of course, the guy in front of us was chatty. 3 cars went by in the other lane while we were in ours.

10:44. We get to the booth. We have a free parking pass. This doesn’t confuse the attendant, but she wants to give me a receipt. Slowly. Like a sloth.

10:46 We screech into a parking space. It’s starting to spit rain. Great. Just great.

10:48 We’re out of the car. We have everything. Phones. Bags. Wallets. Tickets for the park. Kids.

10:52 We’re inside the park. We’re walking as fast as we can with two little ones who are both like that dog in Big, “Squirrel!!!”

We are already late.

images (1)10:58 We rush to the tour bus area.

We are the last to arrive.

Everyone is looking at us. The youngest waves at them. The tour guide looks at her watch, then us, then at her watch, then us. And frowns.

But we made it. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world and the boys sat on the back seat facing behind them. I sat in the front with the tourguide after both of the kids politely declined (No WAY!) to take that position.

Then the ride started.

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Traveling With Kids – San Diego Zoo Safari – Morning Stress

Wed – Good Morning Stress or Math is My Friend

IMG_2009 (2)So far on this vacation, we haven’t had a lot of deadlines. The flight we had to make was one. We left early to counter any border problems or traffic problems or problem problems.

Of course nothing went wrong and so we sat in the airport for a good 3 hours. Even the long line at the border (according to the website) was only ½ as long. And that included a pretty thorough inspection of our paperwork (to allow the boys to cross the border.)

So today, after not being able to get on the tour to see all the Asian animals on safari yesterday, we had booked the ride for 11:00. We had to be there at 10:50.

10:50, the ticket dude said. “Seriously. 10:50.”

Now, had this just been the Prettiest-girl-in-the world and I, hey, no problem. But we had the agents of chaos and destruction to contend with so…

I did the math. It will about ½ hr to get there. There’s parking we need to find. We need to walk there to the safari starting point. And, hey, it takes the boys a little longer to get into the car and there’s always the possibility of something like the youngest deciding today he would press all the buttons on the elevator. So, let’s say we had to leave by 10:00.

Now, there was no way we could say we need to leave by 10:00. If we were lucky, we’d be out about 10:15, short of dragging them around by the ears.

So we told them 9:45. Shhhh. Don’t ever tell them our secret. But realistically, that would mean we’re out of the room by 10:00.

IMG_3390So, doing the math, going backwards from 10, we need 40 min to eat at the restaurant in the hotel. Everyone could be done in 30, but the youngest loves to stare at his food a lot before eating it. So, yeah, if we are on him, we’ll likely get done in 40. Say 5 min to get there and back.

That means we’ll have to get dressed by 9:10. Getting dressed can either take as long as 3 min. Yes, I’ve timed it. Or it can take as long as, well, forever and ever and ever and ever.

And then there’s showers and hair-blowing and braces cleaning and all of that.

8:00 I figured. If we get up at 8, we may just have a chance.

As I wrote this, it was 8:34.

I gave 50/50.

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Traveling With Kids – San Diego Safari Park – Mini Adventures

10 Mini adventures at the Safari Zoo

1)IMG_2090IMG_2095IMG_2093 After we saw the gorillas, we measured ourselves up against the gorilla. The oldest, “You’re nearly as big as the gorilla, Joe.” Ah, thanks. A lot. Then we did the gorilla pose outside of their area. (I used the picture yesterday). It’s fun to do interactive stuff, even if we make it up ourselves.

2) IMG_2099     We ate looking out at the bird lagoon. The youngest continued his photobombing of everyone while the oldest was sure he was being stalked by a red-eyed bird. (The youngest even photobombed the bird shot). We ate, hot dogs, as promised and though it’s not exactly news worthy, I could actually bite one (something I couldn’t do for nearly 2 months due to stupid-ass braces.) Oddly enough, that bird, or one of his cousins, seemed to appear everywhere we went. Hmmm. Maybe the boys shouldn’t have shouted at the ducks. Apparently there is a bird mafia.

3)      Let’s remember how important bathrooms are. Not that I want to talk about what goes on it in there or the adventures we had, (though they youngest is obsessed with wanting to put his face in the air dryer), but it’s vital to not be far away from one at all times. For some reason I don’t yet understand, at 1:10, they don’t need to go to the bathroom, even when asked. At 1:12, they need to go NOW!!!! So we’ve developed a routine, like eating little bits throughout the day, go bathroom throughout the day.

4)      Elephants rock. They’re the Morgan Freemans of the animal world, stately, majestic and likely to kick anyone’s ass who messes with them. Despite the fact it poured with rain for about 5 minutes, we lovIMG_2145ed watching them lumber around their enclosure. One little elephant played with a barrel while mom watched and occasionally showed him how to roll it. Plus, afterwards, the best picture of me EVER was taken. I almost look good (and yes, I am that vain.)

5)      Lions do not rock. They should. They are the most beautiful of creatures, but for the entire time we were they, they snoozed. This is what they do. For ¾ of the day. It would be like someone watching me for a whole day. The boys were massively disappointed though I think if they had to see a lion take down a gazelle and tear it bloody limb from bloody limb, they might have different ideas. As it was, not matter how much the youngest yelled at them to do something, or the oldest muttered how bored he was, the lions refused to perform.

6)      We had a race up the stairs to the top of the observation tower. The oldest and I bet we could beat the youngest and the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world who took the elevator. I nearly had a heart attack. I beat the oldest but he claims, (and is somewhat justified) that I said it was a race when I was already half up the tower and he was at the bottom. Luckily CPR was not needed though I won’t be doing that again any time soon.

7)      IMG_3542 (600x800)We took the free tour through the African savanna. I could watch giraffes running forever. They are so graceful. Again, seeing these creatures live, in their own habitat, doing their own thing (mostly munching on leaves or trying to find a way to eat bark from a tree protected by extensive fencing wire), allows us to connect to them on a whole different level. We care about them more. How could we not?

8)      The boys loved the rhinos which, I have to say, kinda look like me on a Sunday morning, all grey and grumpy and looking to bang a head into something. The rhinos didn’t do much. Much to my disappointment, they didn’t charge the tour or stand on two legs or sit at a computer writing out a novel, but, again, they were magnificent creatures to see.

9)     IMG_2119 Lemurs are stinky. Skunk stinky. We walked into their enclosure and it smelled bad. Apparently, like skunks, they spray nasty-ass stuff on people they don’t like or who bother them. We kept the youngest far, far away from them. But they kept an eye on him, let me tell you. Sure htye looked like they were sleeping, but they’d heard from the birds, this little guy was trouble.

10)  IMG_3494 We saw the most amazing thing. To calm cheetahs, the animal, not the yummy, orange snack, they’ve introduced dogs to them. DOGS!!!! Big, hairy, very calm dogs. Apparently, the two species bond. Dogs are great at bonding with a variety of animals, small cats, turtles, horses, sheep, Dennis Leary, but big-ass cats? Who would have guessed?

So, despite the fact we couldn’t do the Asian savanna tour, we had an incredible time. I didn’t have a meltdown, the boys had some amazing experiences seeing the animals and we only got partially wet. Nothing was rushed in the end. We found an Applebee’s to eat at, and while the youngest had a small meltdown over something we never did figure out, the day was a success in my books.

IMG_0223We even got to bed at a reasonable time. We watched Ender’s Game, learned a thing or two about war, and then went to sleep.

Tomorrow, though, we HAD to make it to the Safari Park by 10:40. We’d booked that tour and despite having the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world with us, (she was not against using her powers of pretty to get people to make exceptions to the rules), we were told it would leave on time with or without us.

How hard would it be to make that appointment?


Wow that took 4 hours to post. The site kept crashing. Anyone had problems like that?

It does take a bit of time to write and load pictures for a blog, but usually only an hour or two depending on how distracted I get looking up pictures of Scarlett Johansson in a bikini for my blog. 

So, hey, if you like photobombs or would like to see more pictures of Scarlett J. Lemme know. And please share the blog. Peace out (yes, I just said that!)

Posted in Blogging, California, Parenting, San Diego, San Diego Safari, San Diego Zoo, Travel, Traveling with Kids, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments