Category Archives: FuN ThiNgS to do wiTh KiDs

Splashtopia! A Guide to Family Fun at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa and the Palm Springs area

 

Photo provided by Elizabeth Hanson
Photo provided by Elizabeth Hanson

In August, my family and I had the awesome opportunity to go to the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage, CA. If you don’t know where that is, it’s right outside Palm Springs.

It is affectionately known as Splashtopia by many families in Southern, California and beyond.

In a nutshell, it’s both super fun and enormously relaxing.

The resort itself is set on 240 acres and includes a full service spa, 2 acre water park, a 27-hole golf course, and 444 guest rooms.

I went with my three boys and husband, so I have to admit that I did not set foot in the spa. I wish I did, however, as it includes 20,000 square feet of facial treatments, massage and body treatments, hair, nails, make-up service, and more fun stuff. It also has a separate pool. But I will have to come back someday on a girl’s weekend.

What drew us there was Splashtopia. It is a dream for both kids and parents. For the older ones there are two, 100-foot waterslides, a 425 foot lazy river and a pool to swim around in.

slide into paradise - photo by Elizabeth Hanson
slide into paradise – photo by Elizabeth Hanson

Here is a fun video featuring the waterslide.

where being lazy can be fun - photo by Elizabeth Hanson
where being lazy can be fun – photo by Elizabeth Hanson
peaceful night - photo by Elizabeth Hanson
peaceful night – photo by Elizabeth Hanson

 

For the little ones there is an actual sandy beach and a play zone with fountains and sprinklers for them to splash around in. The other great aspect of the beach is that it included a shaded seating area. I definitely appreciated it as when we went in August it was hotter than hot!

a desert beach getaway - photo by Elizabeth Hanson
a desert beach getaway – photo by Elizabeth Hanson
kids wonderland - photo by Elizabeth Hanson
kids wonderland – photo by Elizabeth Hanson

 

A few facts about the resort that you might find helpful.

I’m including a few little details here just in case you are considering Splashtopia for your family.

  • Kids must be 42” to ride the slides. And let me tell you, they are fast!
  • They don’t allow outside food and drink. However, I saw many families bring in snacks for the little ones. We did too and tried to make it not too obvious. As we spent the entire day there we also bought food from the Splash Grill.
  • They have food at the pool from their Splash Grill. It’s ok, not fantastic. It includes things like burgers, fries, sandwiches and fruit plates. The pricing is what can be expected at a resort. There are cocktails and other alcoholic beverages for the adults.
  • The main pool is open from 9 am to 10 pm with lifeguards in attendance. The lazy river and slide close a little bit earlier at 9 pm and also has lifeguards. In my opinion, it is so hot there in the summer that spending the entire day at the pool is the best way to go.
  • The Splash Grill is open from 10 am to 8 pm.
  • All of the hours I have given are for April through August and differ the remainder of the year.
  • There is a changing table for babies in the women’s restrooms and NOT the men’s restrooms. I find this a bit of out of date as today’s daddy changes diapers too.
  • Internet is free. Bring your own movies on your Ipad as they cost $17.99 plus tax if you order one in your room.
  • A pull out bed costs $35 extra nightly.
  • There is a separate adult only pool.
  • The resort offers daily activities for kids as well as nightly music.
  • Golf and tennis are free June to September.
cool evenings - photo by Elizabeth Hanson
cool evenings – photo by Elizabeth Hanson
What are the rooms like?

We stayed in a room that was not off the pool. It costs a bit less and only required us to walk about 2 minutes to get to the pool. The room was clean and big.

The only thing I wished it had was a place to hang up swim suits. There are not ample hooks in the bathroom. And I don’t know about you ladies, but I have more than one suit!

Eating at the Resort

There are several options for eating at the resort if you want to dive in and not explore the surrounding areas.

The Splash Grill is the restaurant that you order from while playing at Splashtopia. It has kids meals, sandwiches, burgers, tropical drinks and a variety of other things. I thought the food was ok. It certainly wasn’t bad, but it was far from gourmet. It’s more pricy then eating out, but the advantage you get is not leaving the pool. That was worth it to us. Sandwiches are $14 to $16, smoothies $8, salads $12 to $15, and alcoholic frozen drinks $12 to $13.

We did not eat in the main restaurant Blu Ember. I asked other families about it and everyone seemed to like what it had to offer. They have a kid’s breakfast that got rave reviews from the children I spoke to. They serve nutella and that made quite an impression. Kids under 12 eat for free at dinner time with the order of an adult meal. Main meals are $24 to $39 each. Even with our kids eating free, we could pay less off the resort.

There is also a Palms Cafe similar to a Starbucks or Coffee Bean and an R Bar that we did not go to.

photo by Elizabeth Hanson
photo by Elizabeth Hanson

In our opinion Palm Springs has so much to offer in the way of restaurants that we preferred to venture out. This, of course, was much less expensive than eating at the Resort and frankly, I preferred the food options much better. Within minutes of the resort is every food chain you can imagine as well as many other great restaurants.

Fun Things Nearby
outside wildlife - photo by Elizabeth Hanson
outside wildlife – photo by Elizabeth Hanson

 

If you can tolerate the heat, The Living Desert, is a must see. It is one of the most impressive zoos I have ever seen. The giraffes have over 5 acres to roam on as do the cheetahs.

cheetahs living large - photo by Elizabeth Hanson
cheetahs living large – photo by Elizabeth Hanson
living desert cheeta
prowling – photo by Elizabeth Hanson

 

There is a whole program of Zoo Talks that you can hear as you visit various sections. The speakers are well informed and clearly love their jobs.

tell me a story - photo by Elizabeth Hanson
tell me a story – photo by Elizabeth Hanson

 

What I love the most about this zoo is that all of the animals have ample space to roam around. I won’t give you the whole list of animals, but in addition to giraffes and cheetahs there are snakes, amphibians, coyotes, gazelles, big horn sheep, bobcats, and more.

For those of you that are in love with miniature trains, the zoo has a Wild West miniature train track which is very impressive.

putting around - photo by Elizabeth Hanson
putting around – photo by Elizabeth Hanson

They also honor memberships from several other California Zoos. As we are Santa Barbara Zoo members we got a nice discount.

 

The Palm Springs Air Museum is a mecca of World War II airplanes. It is also air conditioned so you don’t have to worry about beating the dry heat.

taking off - photo by Elizabeth Hanson
taking off – photo by Elizabeth Hanson

Even if you are not an airplane buff it is worth visiting. Their list of war birds is very impressive and includes a C-47 Skytrain, a P-51 Mustang, a corsair, a Thunderbolt, and a ton more impressive aircraft from both the Pacific and European Theater.

Upstairs in the library, you will also find flight simulators to try out.

 

We didn’t go to The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway on this trip, but we have gone in the past. It is a fantastic view. Once up top, you can hike around or stay inside and eat at the restaurant.

If you are afraid of heights, you should know that it is both steep and high. The tram is solid though and feels very secure.

 

Overall Impression

Palms Springs is a great place to visit. We miss it already!

Splashtopia was so much fun that we definitely want to go back. My entire family gave it a big thumbs up. My husband said he has never felt as relaxed after a vacation.

You can sign up to receive special deals at the Omni’s website.

You can also check Groupon. We got 50% off our room there. If you get a Groupon, keep in mind that it doesn’t include taxes and resort fees.

Elizabeth Hanson is the mom of three fantastic little boys that she has the pleasure of homeschooling. You can visit her blog www.modernhippiemommy.com to read her musings on natural living.

Tips on Healthy Eating: Replanting Your Tower Garden

Sometimes pictures speak louder than words so I’ve made this cute, little 6 minute video to walk you through replanting your Tower Garden.

Please subscribe to this blog on the homepage to receive a free ebook on wellness and share this post if you found it helpful (or you thought my kids were cute!).

Na’am Yoga: for kids with special needs or people who need to heal

It sounds like science fiction. It has words attached to it that sound like another language. Words like mudra, mantra and pranayama. But it’s actually an approach to healing that is rooted in ancient history and modern science.

It’s called Na’am Yoga and its unlike any kind of yoga I’ve ever practiced and I’ve been practicing for over a decade. It combines movement (mudra), sound (mantra) and breath (pranayama) to move mountains within the body and mind, promoting healing far beyond the reaches of conventional Western medicine.

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The Na’am Yoga LA center offers classes for everyone, the physically healthy individual as well as the one with specific health challenges. They are a non-profit because they offer free sessions targeted to promote healing for people who’ve experienced set backs such as strokes, diabetes or cancer. They even offer a Friday class for those on the autism spectrum.

I sat in on the class tailored for those on the spectrum and felt the floor shake as the kids pounded on it, combining musical beats with movement and joy. Instructor Eugene Pisareuski helped release any tension the kids may have held in their bodies by guiding them through sharp exhalations and beautiful mantras. The room resonated from a chorus of their declarations that “I am love to all. I am peace to all.” They filed out after class with soft faces and laughter.

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One parent, Kate, thinks it works. She said her two adopted, autistic sons have participated in the Friday class for two years. “I wish they could do this everyday.” She said the class left them calmer and they sleep better. Her sons, Nathan age 22 and Michael age 8, she explained, come from traumatic backgrounds on top of the autism they must navigate. “This practice centers them and that’s a definite plus.”

Executive Director of Na’am Yoga Los Angeles, Jane Mirshak said there are many different paths to healing but this one “opens your heart and makes you happy. When you are happy, you can deal with stress.” And doctors believe stress is the cause of many diseases.

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Mirshak said there is much research on sound and breath and it all gets incorporated into Na’am Yoga. The sound redirects energy throughout the body, the movements and pressure points stimulate healing in both body and brain, then breath promotes relaxation.

“Whatever ailment someone is experiencing,” said Mirshak, “we could design a routine to specifically address it.”

Many of the teachers with whom I spoke found Na’am Yoga after seeing the positive results of someone they knew who was practicing it while also battling disease. Even Kate is now training to incorporate the technique of Harmonium, a healing tool created by Na’am Yoga founder, Dr. Michael Levry, for use in her home. According to the Na’am Yoga website, Dr. Levry discovered the secrets that inspired Na’am Yoga through the teachings of spiritual gurus in India.

Excited by this new discovery, I quickly shared the news with my parents. My father practiced yoga for years until two strokes left him unable to perform many of the moves in a typical yoga class. Since beginning his new practice of Na’am Yoga, his caretaker tells me he’s happier and wakes up excited to start the day. Na’am Yoga, it turns out, is good for everyone in the family, even if you’re not the one practicing it.

There are 11 Na’am Yoga centers around the world. For more information go to: www.naamyoga.com or www.naamscience.com

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A shorter version of this post originally appeared in LA Parent Magazine

Sid the Science Kid….teaching us how we process

             It may not have been Shakespeare or even Shultz but the colorful, giant characters from the Sid the Science Kid television show stirred some scientific knowledge into the burgeoning brains of children as they performed various skits centering around our 5 senses at the Valley Performing Arts Center on Saturday the 8th of March.
            In the skits, Sid and his friends, May, Gerald and Gabriela, performed experiments and answered questions posed by Teacher Susie that helped them discover the mysteries of their own bodies and how they process the information they gather from living in our world.
Sid and his buddies with Teacher Susie

            The stage was brightly colored, the costumes were captivating and larger than life and the auditorium, filled with hundreds of children, was unusually quiet for most of the performance while the kids sat mesmerized watching Sid and his friends make their scientific explorations. 
            I brought my 5 year old, who has seen the show but isn’t allowed to watch much television, so he enjoyed the performance but not on a visceral, ‘oh these are my friends’ kind of level. 

           However, we did run into some friends, the Attars, after the show and they do watch the show regularly and had a much more enthusiastic response. Three year old Gavin really like the music and dancing while 6 year-old Jordan thought the character, Gerald was really funny and wished the audience could have actually made some of the concoctions created by Sid and his friends during the 5 senses exhibit the adults held after the show. 
           The ‘after show’ exhibit was a lot of fun too. Kids didn’t get to make them but they got to try tasting various concoctions designed to let them experience sensations like sweet, sour and salty. They also got to smell a variety of scents and touch various textures.
            My only complaint was the sound quality seemed distorted during the song portion of the performances. While the talking was clear, the singing seemed blown out and was hard to decipher.
            Overall, it was an entertaining afternoon wrapped in a healthy dose of education. Mother Marni Attar said, “It was fun for the whole family and we hope they put on another show with a different concept soon.”

A Crazy Idea

They said it couldn’t be done. A girlfriend said the thought alone gave her an anxiety attack. But I did do it. And it wasn’t so bad.
I took my son to Hurricane Harbor and Magic Mountain….on the same day. And we went without my husband. 
It could have been much worse. The morning we planned to go, my other son, 5 year old Kaleb opted out. He said he didn’t want to go, that he’d rather go to sports camp or hang out at his friend’s, our neighbors, house. He’s not really into waterplay, didn’t know we’d also be going to Magic Mountain and is definitely a handful. Maybe two. So I didn’t argue and let him go play while 3 year old Knox and I sped off to meet our friends at Hurricane Harbor. We didn’t hurry because we have season passes.
The water park is divided into sections. The little kids section is called Castaway Cove and there is more than enough to do there to last a whole day if your kids are under 54″. A multi-level structure with spouting water coming from all directions, attached water slides, water cannons and even a tire swing, sits in the middle of the shallow water “cove.” 

 It is flanked by a few other water slides that can be ranked from “flat – scoot your tushy down by pushing your hands to move” 


 to “yes you’re actually moving and can get a decent ride but nothing too scary.” 

Knox had fun getting his hair wet with his friend, Haley. 

 He also loved the River Cruise although I felt like we needed a bath in disinfectant after we left that lazy latrine river. It didn’t smell or anything but there were just so many people, it creeped me out. He also loved the Forgotten Sea Wave Pool with its programmed waves but you have to either hold on to your kid or put him in a raft or life preserver (which you can rent or are provided) because the waves can get rambunctious.
There are plenty of lounge chairs provided by the park but even though there are so many, they get taken fast. So, either get there early or use the lockers for your stuff. Chances are you’ll only be using the chair as a place holder or meeting spot for your group.
For older kids there is another section called Splash Island that is a little more thrilling and has height requirements between 36″ to 40″ – although when I went on another day with my husband, we took 36″ Knox down all the slides his heart desired. He likes water and being splashed and it appeared the ride attendants didn’t mind as long as we were watching.
There is a 100 gallon water bucket overhead there….that slowly fills up…..

And then dumps down

Knox loved it. Kaleb, (on the previous trip) not so much.
Eventually Knox complained about being cold (the water is cool which is great on a normal triple digit temp day, but on this day it was only in the low 80s) so we decided to walk across the park to Magic Mountain.
We had bought a season pass last year for both parks because there is this little known section in Magic Mountain called Bugs Bunny World http://www.sixflags.com/magicmountain/rides/kidsrides.aspx 
that has a couple small roller coasters and a bunch of slow moving, animated rides. There’s also a multi-story  “clubhouse” called Looney Tunes Lodge where kids can run around, climb, slide and blast each other with foam balls. And there are usually no lines for any of it. After experiencing the hours long wait times at Disneyland, this was a very appealing selling point for us.
Last year they also featured a live show with all the Looney Tunes characters in which both my boys loved to participate. It makes for great home videos. 


It wasn’t playing this time but I hope it comes back.
On this day, Haley and Knox got to ride the roller coaster,

Cruise on a practice date in their jeep,

And cuddle in Bugs Bunny’s house on his oversized pink sofa chair.

Knox even got to test his strength in the Strong Man hammer game. 



He didn’t actually ring the bell but after paying the modest $5 game fee, everyone is a winner. So, he walked away with a Batman cape for his effort.
It was a great day. Knox was a great listener. And we can’t wait to go back.

You can read the LA Parent version of this post HERE

Living Life On the Sidewalk

How many of us are waiting for something to happen so our “real” life can begin? When I graduate from college then my life can start. When I get married, when I have a baby, when I get that job, when we move into that new house….I know I fall into this category. Over and over again. I’m always waiting for the next big thing to happen so my life can really start.

Yesterday I shared a moment with my children when they discovered caterpillars on the park sidewalk.

I’m not sure if they too are already fantasizing about the day their “real” lives will begin (though I do hear Kaleb say things like, “Mommy when I turn five, then can I watch Power Rangers?” ~ he just turned four!) but it was at that moment that I realized that this was my actual life and it was already happening! I’ve done most of the stuff on my list: I graduated from college. I had a fulfilling career. I met an amazing man and married him. I had two incredible children and inherited one from my husband. My life is on. There is no reason to keep delaying my full appreciation of it.

I recently heard that people don’t realize that they’re happy until the moment’s over. That made me so sad. It made me want to horde every moment so I can use every bit of it up while I still had it. Everything changes. Sometimes not fast enough, sometimes much too fast. But once it’s gone, it’s just a memory. I’m going to try and make my memories ones of moments I don’t regret not appreciating.

Kinda Camping

If you put your face close enough, these days, Kaleb may reach up and give it a squeeze. He may explore your cheeks with soft, tentative fingers and sometimes you might even get a heartbreaking giggle. And if you’re still standing, he’ll knock you over if he accompanies this burst of love with a cavernous display of his toothless gums. Or maybe that’s just me.


He’s really gotten very social lately. He smiles at strangers when they stop to compliment him in a store (as mommy tries to slyly back away from the nice, potential germ-carriers).

He used to cry when someone would stick their faces to close to his “turf” but no longer. He may glance at me for a quick smile of reassurance and then he’ll turn it on for his guest.

His mystery crying has stopped. I guess he’s old enough to start becoming a bigger part of this world (see previous entry). If he cries, there’s a tangible explanation. Mostly it’s because he’s tired. Mommy will sometimes lug him around because she’s still learning to live between nap times. Sometimes it’s hunger (And that’s a particularly loud one. No mistaking that one for say – boredom).

The hair blow dryer has become my best friend. Times when he’s too tired and fussy to sleep are quickly remedied with a 10 minute blast of rushing air (pointed away from the baby, of course!). I tried this as a potential remedy when I read that this “white noise” mimics the sound he heard in my womb. I don’t know, I wasn’t there but I’ll tell you – it works like a charm.

Turns out he’s a multi-tasker. He’s found his thumb and will suck on the little bitty thing whenever his heart desires. And sometimes it desires right in the middle of mealtime. Boob will compete with thumb for oral terrain. And sometimes he’ll miss his mouth and instead stick his thumb in or on his nose or maybe his eye. Occasionally it’ll end up in his ear.

We went camping last week. Well, kinda camping. We rented a motorhome so the baby would be more comfortable.


Now, I have always had very strong opinions about people who camp in motorhomes (Howard always laughs when I go down this road). When you have access to a bed and don’t have to walk across a campground in the middle on the night to pee, you’re not camping. When you can watch a DVD on a giant TV set and listen to the radio, you are not roughing it. I know some may disagree but I don’t care. If you don’t have to give up some of the modern conveniences to focus instead on the beauty of nature and your inner strength to endure it, what is the point of leaving your living room? Just make a day trip.

Anyway, we rented a pretty sweet 33-foot motorhome “for Kaleb’s sake.”

We parked it at our favorite surf beach in San Onofre.

And took turns surfing.


Kaleb joined in on the fun.

Though his “board” is the land-locked training wheel version.

(duh)

Our friend Rebekah came down to join us for the day.

And my college friend, Kelly also visited with her two little girls.

They actually camped!

We played Trackball.

 

We made s’mores by the campfire.

We had a blast.

Camping is fun in a motorhome. Even if it’s not all that rough.