Fave Five 2009 Travel Excursions, Part One

Managing Editor Janeen Christoff and her daughters share their Fave Five travel experiences of 2009

By: By Janeen Christoff

With the addition of baby girl number two this year, I considered the possibility that my travel days would slow down. It’s pretty busy being a mom to two girls, but in the first nine months of my second baby’s life, she visited Las Vegas, Mammoth Mountain, Calif., Huntington Beach, Calif., and Seattle. She took her first plane ride and even got her passport. Now, I’m starting to think that my travel days are just beginning.

Vive Las Vegas
On the surface, Las Vegas is Disneyland for adults. But just like Disneyland is fun at any age, so I have discovered, is Sin City. My husband and I headed to the Venetian with our girls in tow to celebrate his birthday this June. I had given him tickets to The Beatles “Love” and my parents, who were also in town, were scheduled to watch the kids so that we could have a relaxing evening out. Not only did “Love” prove to be more than worth the five-hour drive, the Venetian proved to be a thoroughly entertaining place for children. Ava, our 2-year-old loved taking in the performances in St. Mark’s Square and waving at the gondola drivers as they floated by with their passengers. She traipsed cobblestone streets and ran in and out of shops. There were plenty of family-friendly dining options. A lap pool was perfect for children, and it wasn’t too hard to find a shady spot to sit on the crowded pool deck. Best of all, one room was big enough for the entire family. While my husband and I rejoiced that we could all fit in one room, Ava’s biggest thrill came with the discovery of the Jacuzzi-sized bathtub that she “swam” in — swimsuit and all.

A Mammoth Adventure

Managing Editor Janeen Christoff and daughters Ava and Audrey  // © 2009 Janeen Christoff

Managing Editor Janeen Christoff and daughters Ava and Audrey // © 2009 Janeen Christoff

While there is definitely something to be said for a white Christmas, this year, our family visited Mammoth Mountain for a summer retreat. We resided slopeside — or in the summer, maybe a better word is “trailside” — at the Mammoth Mountain Inn. In summertime, the hills are transformed into a mecca of mountain bike trails. Although my husband is a fan of mountain biking, his girls are not (well not yet anyway), so rather than heading for the hills, we made for the monument – Devil’s Postpile National Monument. We took a bus, which left from the Adventure Center, just outside of the hotel, into the valley where we hiked a short path to Devil’s Postpile and then picnicked along the river.

My oldest daughter also proved to have an adventurous spirit, seemingly inspired from our day in the woods, and back at the Adventure Center, she managed the climbing wall and sped down the zipline — surely one of the youngest kids to do it!

Marshmallow Madness
It’s true that the Hilton Waterfront Beach Hotel in Huntington Beach, Calif., has a great pool, fabulous dining, a stunning location and beautiful oceanview rooms. But I can’t think of a better way to kiss the summer goodbye and welcome the fall than by roasting marshmallows over the fire on the beach. During a weekend at the Hilton, our friends and our family spent time by the pool, in the waves and on the beach, but it was the evenings’ activities that truly made magic. We had reserved a s’mores kit with the concierge and that evening received a wagon of goodies from graham crackers and hot chocolate to blankets and firewood. After rolling our loot across jPacific Coast Highway to the firepits on the beach, we started a fire and demonstrated marshmallow-roasting techniques to the kids. For the rest of the night, we sipped hot cocoa, pigged out on mushy marshmallows and sang campfire songs. The best part — at the end of the night, the girls were asleep before the wagon’s tires left the sand.

Mother/Daughter Mexico
After nine months of pregnancy and the birth of our new baby, Audrey, I felt like my 2-year-old and I needed some time to reconnect. After all, for the first two years of her life, she had had the undivided attention of her mommy. So, the two of us boarded Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas bound for the Mexican Riviera. While it was definitely a challenge to be one-on-one with someone so young 24/7, it was a wonderful opportunity for me to get to know my daughter in a way I think many parents don’t have the opportunity to do. And, there was no limit to our adventures. We wandered the streets of Puerto Vallarta, soaked in the sun in Mazatlan and went on an underwater adventure in Los Cabos. We also braved a tropical storm and formal, sit-down dinners every evening. We grew so close on our trip that my husband now jokes that I speak fluent “Ava.”

Trick-or-Treats in Seattle

Ava and her dad take in the Pike Street Market // (c) 2009

Ava and her dad take in the
Pike Street Market

It’s not that I don’t love Los Angeles in the fall — I do. And certainly the October weather in L.A. is more hospitable to trick-or-treating than the climate in the Pacific Northwest, but for some reason, fall just doesn’t feel like fall without some moisture in the air and Halloween isn’t quite the same when it’s 90 degrees outside — at night. So, to show our kids how the other (way more than) half of the country lives, we headed to Seattle to get into the true spirit of the season — rain slickers and all. Taking advantage of Virgin America’s excellent airfare deals, we hopped a plane for the Pacific Northwest. Apart from trick-or-treating with family friends, we also spent a day exploring the city. The girls loved the Children’s Museum Seattle at the Seattle Center. From there, we strolled down Pike street to the Pike Street Market. We stopped and had piroshkis for lunch. After a stroll through the market where we watched the fish-throwing, we paused at the original Starbucks to warm up with hot chocolate for the walk back to the car.