Belmont Park: Wooden Roller Coaster & Rides in Mission Beach

Belmont Park, in San Diego’s Mission Beach area, is a beachfront amusement park that opened in the 1920’s. Much like the boardwalk in Santa Cruz, Belmont Park has been entertaining children and adults for almost a century. While it is much more commercial now then it used to be, it is still a great place to explore with family on a summer weekend. Here is all the information on this fun, historic spot.

Details

  • No cost to enter
  • Parking is free
  • Hours: Open Friday – Sunday
  • Location: 3146 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109

Getting There

Belmont Park is right near Mission Bay off Mission Bay Dr and Mission Boulevard. There is parking next to the amusement park and more parking across the street. It will still be hard to find parking on the weekends though, especially during the summer. After parking, head into the amusement park.

The Park

The park is located on the boardwalk, with lots of restaurants and bars that face the ocean. It’s a nice place to get a meal or even a coffee as it is hard to beat the views.

You can walk along this path all the way up to the Pacific Beach Pier about 2 miles away.

In Belmont Park, first head into the middle of the park and you will see all of the attractions.

There is a ziplining area, rock wall and many other activities you can pay to go on.

I especially like the roller coaster as it’s a blast to be able to ride a historic wooden coaster like this and look out over the beach.

They also have an arcade with lots of electronic games and things like air hockey.

The park has many restaurants that look out over the beach and fair type food sold from the many vendors.

The amount of time you spend here will be dependent on the age of your kids, but even as an adult, it is a great place to explore for a few hours. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Belmont Park: Wooden Roller Coaster & Rides in Mission Beach

Belmont Park, in San Diego’s Mission Beach area, is a beachfront amusement park that opened in the 1920’s. Much like the boardwalk in Santa Cruz, Belmont Park has been entertaining children and adults for almost a century. While it is much more commercial now then it used to be, it is still a great place to explore with family on a summer weekend. Here is all the information on this fun, historic spot.

Details

  • No cost to enter
  • Parking is free
  • Hours: Open Friday – Sunday
  • Location: 3146 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109

Getting There

Belmont Park is right near Mission Bay off Mission Bay Dr and Mission Boulevard. There is parking next to the amusement park and more parking across the street. It will still be hard to find parking on the weekends though, especially during the summer. After parking, head into the amusement park.

The Park

The park is located on the boardwalk, with lots of restaurants and bars that face the ocean. It’s a nice place to get a meal or even a coffee as it is hard to beat the views.

You can walk along this path all the way up to the Pacific Beach Pier about 2 miles away.

In Belmont Park, first head into the middle of the park and you will see all of the attractions.

There is a ziplining area, rock wall and many other activities you can pay to go on.

I especially like the roller coaster as it’s a blast to be able to ride a historic wooden coaster like this and look out over the beach.

They also have an arcade with lots of electronic games and things like air hockey.

The park has many restaurants that look out over the beach and fair type food sold from the many vendors.

The amount of time you spend here will be dependent on the age of your kids, but even as an adult, it is a great place to explore for a few hours. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Biking in Downtown Napa Along the River Trail

When exploring downtown Napa, you will no doubt find the eateries and wineries to be one of your main attractions, but most people skip over the fantastic riverwalk that runs through the heart of town, and that can be walked or biked. Here is the information so you can go on a bike ride during your next trip.

Details

  • Rent bikes from outside of Oxbow
  • As long or as short as you would like

Getting There

The best place to rent bikes for this journey is at the stalls that are conveniently located right outside of Oxbox Public Market. You can pay by the hour for these bikes and take them all over town. Plus, when you get back you can get food or a drink at Oxbow as well, read more about that here.

Riding along the river is the best way to experience Napa and to do that I would recommend heading up Mckinely St, through the Oxbow Commons Park and then turning right on the small path on the other side of the park.

This ride will take you along the river on a beautiful bike path with hotels on one side and the water on the other.

It is primarily shaded, and it has a few small hills but is mostly flat.

This path goes a few miles, but when you feel tired, you can turn around and go back the way you came.

When you get back, you can continue biking south if you would like, through the Oxbow Commons Park and down to the riverfront promenade area of downtown Napa.

The city is an excellent place for biking, and if you are staying in downtown, I would recommend getting out on the trails. Let me know if you have some suggestions for where else to bike in the comments and read more of my favorite spots in downtown Napa here.

Biking in Downtown Napa Along the River Trail

When exploring downtown Napa, you will no doubt find the eateries and wineries to be one of your main attractions, but most people skip over the fantastic riverwalk that runs through the heart of town, and that can be walked or biked. Here is the information so you can go on a bike ride during your next trip.

Details

  • Rent bikes from outside of Oxbow
  • As long or as short as you would like

Getting There

The best place to rent bikes for this journey is at the stalls that are conveniently located right outside of Oxbox Public Market. You can pay by the hour for these bikes and take them all over town. Plus, when you get back you can get food or a drink at Oxbow as well, read more about that here.

Riding along the river is the best way to experience Napa and to do that I would recommend heading up Mckinely St, through the Oxbow Commons Park and then turning right on the small path on the other side of the park.

This ride will take you along the river on a beautiful bike path with hotels on one side and the water on the other.

It is primarily shaded, and it has a few small hills but is mostly flat.

This path goes a few miles, but when you feel tired, you can turn around and go back the way you came.

When you get back, you can continue biking south if you would like, through the Oxbow Commons Park and down to the riverfront promenade area of downtown Napa.

The city is an excellent place for biking, and if you are staying in downtown, I would recommend getting out on the trails. Let me know if you have some suggestions for where else to bike in the comments and read more of my favorite spots in downtown Napa here.

Mammoth Mountain Scenic Gondola Ride

The Mammoth Lakes area along California’s Highway 395 is one of the most beautiful places in the entire state. It is best experienced by setting out on foot and hiking along some of the area’s great trails, but if you don’t want to do that, then another fantastic way is to take the scenic Mammoth Mountain Gondola all the way up to 11,000 feet. It’s a great experience for the whole family and one that while pricey, will give you a fantastic view of the surrounding mountains. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Cost: $29
  • Last ride down is 3:30 PM

Getting There

After getting off on Highway 395 at the Mammoth Lakes exit, you will proceed through the town and follow signs for Mammoth Mountain. Parking is in the Mammoth Mountain lot near the bronze mammoth, from there you can proceed to the ticket booth to grab your tickets for the gondola.

The Gondola

After grabbing tickets, you will head over to the gondola building and get in the line for next available gondola. Depending on how busy it is, you may have to share with other skiers or snowboarders.

The ride takes about 11 minutes to make it to the top and along the way it stops one more time to pick up more riders. It should, of course, be noted that if you are skiing or snowboarding, then you don’t need to pay extra for the gondola as it comes with the ticket.

The ride up and down are both beautiful as you look out over the mountains covered in snow (or not in the summer).

When you make it to the top, you will be at just over 11,00 feet, and you can get out and walk around.

It was freezing when I was up here in the winter, but it was still awesome to explore.

The lookout provides a 360-degree view of the mountains and valleys all around you, and it is something you will not soon forget.

I could see all the way back to Highway 395 in one direction and out to Mono Lake in the other.

After walking around for a while, I headed back into the building.

The building has a small museum that you can see in less than 10 minutes.

In the museum, there are binoculars next to the window that show you which mountains you are looking at out in the distance.

There is also a small cafe here as well that has food and drinks if you are interested in purchasing them.

After spending as much time up here as you would like (don’t miss the last ride), you will head down.

The ride is much less likely to be busy as all the riders were not taking it, so I was able to have a gondola all to myself.

This is a fantastic experience in Mammoth and one that I recommend for the views both in the summer and in the winter. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Mammoth Mountain Scenic Gondola Ride

The Mammoth Lakes area along California’s Highway 395 is one of the most beautiful places in the entire state. It is best experienced by setting out on foot and hiking along some of the area’s great trails, but if you don’t want to do that, then another fantastic way is to take the scenic Mammoth Mountain Gondola all the way up to 11,000 feet. It’s a great experience for the whole family and one that while pricey, will give you a fantastic view of the surrounding mountains. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Cost: $29
  • Last ride down is 3:30 PM

Getting There

After getting off on Highway 395 at the Mammoth Lakes exit, you will proceed through the town and follow signs for Mammoth Mountain. Parking is in the Mammoth Mountain lot near the bronze mammoth, from there you can proceed to the ticket booth to grab your tickets for the gondola.

The Gondola

After grabbing tickets, you will head over to the gondola building and get in the line for next available gondola. Depending on how busy it is, you may have to share with other skiers or snowboarders.

The ride takes about 11 minutes to make it to the top and along the way it stops one more time to pick up more riders. It should, of course, be noted that if you are skiing or snowboarding, then you don’t need to pay extra for the gondola as it comes with the ticket.

The ride up and down are both beautiful as you look out over the mountains covered in snow (or not in the summer).

When you make it to the top, you will be at just over 11,00 feet, and you can get out and walk around.

It was freezing when I was up here in the winter, but it was still awesome to explore.

The lookout provides a 360-degree view of the mountains and valleys all around you, and it is something you will not soon forget.

I could see all the way back to Highway 395 in one direction and out to Mono Lake in the other.

After walking around for a while, I headed back into the building.

The building has a small museum that you can see in less than 10 minutes.

In the museum, there are binoculars next to the window that show you which mountains you are looking at out in the distance.

There is also a small cafe here as well that has food and drinks if you are interested in purchasing them.

After spending as much time up here as you would like (don’t miss the last ride), you will head down.

The ride is much less likely to be busy as all the riders were not taking it, so I was able to have a gondola all to myself.

This is a fantastic experience in Mammoth and one that I recommend for the views both in the summer and in the winter. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Queen Mary Haunted Encounters Ghost Tour

The Queen Mary is a very popular tourist attraction in the Long Beach Harbor that attracts people for many different reasons. Some come for the New Years party, some come to stay on a boat, and others come to dive into the ships haunted history. I had done a lot on the boat but had never checked out the Haunted Encounters Tour. On a recent adventure to stay on the ship, I decided to book the tour and see if I could find any ghosts, here is all the information.

Details

  • Book in advance
  • 375 rooms on the ship, 50 of which they believe are haunted
  • B340 is supposed to be the most haunted room, and no you cannot stay in it.

The tour itself is an hour, and it leaves from the Promenade Deck. Here are a few of the spots that you visit on it.

Room B340

As I said above, this is the room that they believe is the most haunted on the entire boat. We were told that the ghost would pull covers off of people sleeping there and walk around in the room. It was said to have started after a man passed away in the room half a century ago.

Next, we went to a staircase where people have said they have seen ghosts wandering around in as well, before making our way to the pool.

The Pool

The reason that I went on this tour was to see the old pool which is only accessible by taking this tour, so I was excited to enter this off limits area. They keep the lights very low in here, and it adds to the creepy vibe of the old and run down pool room.

The pool is excellent though, and it would have been amazing to see in its heyday. The ghost they believe is here is a girl named Jackie, and even though many people on our tour were excited about her, nothing happened.

I liked walking through the hallway out of the pool area as well as there were some old advertisements from when the ship sailed, and it was fun to see the history.

Engine Room

From there we walked down into the engine room and down to door number 13. This is the spot where another fatal accident happened, and so it has become haunted as well they said. The ghost is a maintenance worker looking for his wrench.

Lastly, we visited the ship’s propeller which was really cool to see. They have a room with clear water that shows you the propeller well. The area is supposed to be haunted from passengers on a boat that was hit by the props but I just enjoyed seeing the massive prop up close.

So did I see any ghosts or anything weird on this tour? No, I did not. That being said it was a fun trip to see some of the more historic and off-limits parts of the boat. Let me know what you think of the tour in the comments.

Snoopy & Charlie Brown: Explore Peanuts History in Santa Rosa With These Four Stops

Santa Rosa has become the official home of the beloved Charles M. Schulz comic strip Peanuts, and in Sonoma County there are a bunch of fun things you can do as either a die-hard or casual fan. I would say that I have an appreciation for the characters since I grew up watching both the Christmas and Halloween special, so when I visited for a few days I set out to find some of the most popular fan spots and help others do the same. If you are a Peanuts fan or if you just want to have a fun adventure with your kids, check out this below guide.

Details

  • A whole days worth of stuff to see in Santa Rosa
  • Make sure to note the hours for the ice rink and museum

Video

Stop 1 – Santa Rosa Airport

If you are flying into the Santa Rosa Airport, then this will be your first stop, but even if you are not flying in here you probably still want to come up and see some of the sculptures they have. The airport itself is named after Charles M. Schulz, so it is worth the visit just for that.

The main sculpture they have is a bronze one of Linus and Charlie Brown leaning on the bench and having a conversation. You can also go into the terminal and see some of the other sculptures if you would like as well.

Stop 2 – Railroad Square

Heading out from the airport, you will want to make your way down to Railroad Square which is the old historic downtown in Santa Rosa. This is a great spot to get a coffee or a bite to eat and just walk the streets.

You can also see the original statue from the statue program here, a bronze statue of Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

As you walk around you will see more statues such as Woodstock and Lucy so be sure to continue exploring.

Stop 3 – The Museum

From here you will want to head to the museum and dive fully into the world of Peanuts. You can read an entire post I wrote about the museum here.

The museum is great, and it runs the gauntlet between being fun for adults and for children.

The highlights for me are the kite-eating tree out back and the comic mosaic wall in the lobby. I would recommend at least an hour to experience it all.

Stop 3 – The Ice Skating Rink

Right across the street from the museum is Snoopy’s Home Ice. This skating rink was created by Charles Schulz himself and it is still a huge attraction to this day.

Grab some skates and head out on the ice to get the full experience. Read more about it here.

If ice skating isn’t your thing, then head to the Warm Puppy Cafe and get a Beagle Burger or a Rice Krispy treat of one of the characters.

Be sure also to check out the table that Mr. Schulz used to sit at and that is now permanently reserved for him.

Out in front of the ice rink is a bunch of signed cement slabs from people who have played here or were friends of Mr. Schulz. The highlight through is Charles Schulz own signed concrete block, complete with a small drawing in it.

Stop 4 – The Gift Shop

After visiting the ice rink, cross the next street and head to the gift shop.

This is the spot for all things Peanuts, including your own Charlie Brown T-shirt.

On the second floor of the gift shop, there is another small exhibit with lots of different pieces from Peanuts history.

I enjoyed exploring this area as there were some fun sculptures on the walk up and a chronological exploration through the history of Peanuts on the back wall.

Stop 5 – Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa

After leaving the gift shop head over to the Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa in Santa Rosa. This hotel is the largest holder of these statues, and they currently have eight throughout the property.

There are three just in the lobby, so at least walk in and check those out.

Also, if you are looking for a place to stay, read my review of the Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa which was a fun property that I stayed at.

This completes my time exploring Peanuts history in Santa Rosa. Check out the video I made on it here and be sure to leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Touring the Sriracha Factory of Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale

If you have been to a Chinese food restaurant, then you have no doubt seen/experienced the spicy goodness that is Sriracha. The iconic plastic bottle with the rooster on the front and the green top is one of the most popular condiments in the USA, and it is produced right here in Southern California. I got a chance to take the tour of the facility, and you can read all about it below.

Details

  • Free – Book here, but it books up pretty far in advance
  • Location: 4800 Azusa Canyon Rd, Irwindale, CA 91706

Getting There

The Huy Fong Factory is located right off the 10 Freeway. It is in an industrial area as the building itself is over 650,000 square feet. There is plenty of parking for visitors so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a place to park.

Video

Here is a video I made of the tour.

The Tour

I arrived about 10 minutes early for my tour and was ushered into a large room where they had a movie playing with the history of the company. Here are a few things I learned:

  • Huy Fong is the name of the ship that brought the owner over from Vietnam, so he named his company after it since it brought him to a new life.
  • They use 100 million pounds of chili in a season, and it comes from only one farm.
  • They have been in business for 36 years and just sell to wholesalers, not end users. The company hasn’t added a new customer for 11 years since they are kept at full demand.

This room also had a lot of pictures from the way Sriracha has connected with popular culture over the years.

There is a cartoon from The Oatmeal and even a photo of Sriracha floating in zero gravity on the international space station.

After hanging out in here, the tour began with hair nets and jumping on a golf cart with the license plate “hot one.” The golf cart took us around to the back of the factory and we started the 25 minutes of walking through the world of sriracha.

During the chili crushing season (fall) there is a ton more going on then there was when I went, so keep any eye out for those open houses.

The tour takes you around the factory and you still see the process, but it is mostly focused on the bottling aspect.

Our guide brought a microphone, but the factory is loud that it is pretty hard to hear. This didn’t take away from the fun though as it is a well laid out tour that takes you to the main aspects of the line.

The best part is the bottling area where you see the small bottles that are expanded to their normal size and then filled.

From here the bottles are stamped and the iconic green top is added.

Next, they get put into a box and then the boxes get stacked and wrapped to prepare for shipment.

The processing line can produce up to 10,000 bottles an hour per lane and there are 9 lanes.

We then loaded back into the golf cart and were driven through the holding area where there are tens of thousands of blue buckets filled with the crushed chilis just waiting to be turned into Sriracha.

One of the things I learned is that there are many makers of Sriracha, but Huy Fong Foods are most recognized. The name is not trademarked but the rooster and the green cap of the bottle are. When you have a Sriracha burger at a restaurant it is most likely not Huy Fong Foods Sriracha unless you see one of their trademarks.

The Gift Shop

After the tour ends you will make your way to the gift shop where you are given a free small bottle of Sriracha. You can also purchase gifts from the wide range of shirts, pillows and other funky stuff they have.

The gift shop is sold at cost, so they do not make a profit on anything here and because of that the prices are really great. I got a shirt for $10 which was impressive.

All in all, I am happy that I finally got a chance to visit this fun Southern California spot. It is hard to beat a free tour where you get bottle of Sriracha at the end and I suggest you add this spot to your list of places to visit in California.

Snoopy’s Home Ice Skating Rink & Warm Puppy Cafe in Santa Rosa

Also known as the Redwood Empire Ice Rink, Snoopy’s Home Ice has become a go-to spot for all Peanuts fans. Located in the heart of the Peanut’s Complex in Santa Rosa, this ice rink has a great history that is still living on to the day. The arena, opened in 1969 by Charles M. Schulz, has been a fun spot for families for over a half century, here is all the information so you can check it out yourself.

Details

  • Cost: $9.50 + $3.50 for skate rental (Dec 2016)
  • Location: 1667 W Steele Ln, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Getting There

Heading North on Highway 101 you will get off on Steele Ln/Guerneville Rd. Head left then keep right to stay on Steele Ln. The museum and ice rink are about a quarter of a mile down on the right. There is a bunch of parking available in the attached lots.

The Exterior

Upon arriving, be sure to browse the outside first. In the cement around the exterior are famous signatures of athletes, actors, and musicians, with a Charles M. Schulz signature and drawing prominently displayed in the front.

There are also a few sculptures out here as well from the sculpture program and a Snoopy-shaped plant.

The Ice Rink

Heading inside you will be greeted by the skating check in, where you can pay your fee and grab your skates. It feels old in the ice rink but in a cool vintage way.

Next, you can hit the ice and skate to your heart’s content. The rink is much bigger than I anticipated it being and it can hold a lot of people.

When you finish skating, be sure to head into the Warm Puppy Cafe.

Warm Puppy Cafe

The cafe is home to some fun Peanut’s inspired dishes, such as the Beagle Burger and Rice Krispy treats in the shape of Peanuts characters.

Also, be sure to see the table by the window, which is where Charles M. Schulz sat every day to work on the strip and to have breakfast. It is now permanently reserved for him.

Lastly, visit the museum and the gift shop before leaving the complex as they are both close by. All in all, Snoopy’s Home Ice is a great place for the whole family while in Santa Rosa. Be sure to check it out if you are in the area and let me know what you think in the comments.