What To See And Do At This Year’s State Fair With Kids

By Alyssa Green

The 2012 California State Fair is winding down, but there is still time to get out and enjoy what our lovely state has to offer.  The fair, which began on July 12th, ends this weekend.  If you haven’t had a chance to get out there yet, now is the time!

Just the mention of a fair brings to mind flashy games, fun rides and lots of yummy (and fattening) food.  All of that is, of course, what brings many of us out to the fair in the first place.  We want to have fun!  And we want our kids to have fun.  But don’t be fooled into thinking that rides and games are all that will entertain your kids.  The State Fair also offers wonderful activities and exhibits that expose your children to new and educational ideas and experiences.  Having spent quite a bit of time at this year’s event, here’s my recommendations of what to see and do with your kids.   Here’s what you won’t want your kids to miss out on.

The Farm.   If you visit “the Farm,” your kids can learn about California
agriculture by receiving a “farm passport”  which encourages them to walk around the farm area looking for specific fruits and vegetables, learn fun facts along the way and get their passport stamped.  Once completed they will receive a prize – a snack of their choice of a fruit or vegie.

They’ll also enjoy a farm tractor with slide to climb on, a little “piggies” ride for the teeny tiny kiddos, John Deere tractor pedal cars to ride, pony rides, a small petting zoo free of charge and have the opportunity to milk a (fake) cow.

Birds in Paradise.  This year’s floriculture exhibit is fantastic.  Kids will love seeing all the exotic birds, some in cages, some just perching contentedly around the exhibit which makes visitors feel as if they are in the jungle.  There are parrots, macaws, cockatoos, emus, peacocks and more.  My kids loved the photo op with colorful parrots sitting on their shoulders.

Toytopia.  Both today and yesterday’s most popular toys abound in Toytopia.    Enjoy the world’s largest Etch-a-Sketch, a retro 80’s video game arcade, a life-size transformer, a lego wall, a Barbie Doll display, and more.  Just be aware that there are also some toys for sale…and your kids will probably ask for some.

The Wizards Challenge.  This is a great place to let your kids run around in a contained area.  Let them try their hand at making gigantic bubbles, or test their balance as they run through the dragon’s lair.  Fun and challenging activities abound in this exhibit, so be prepare to spend some time.

The Animal Nursery.  Don’t pass up this wonderful opportunity to teach your kids about mamas and babies.  They’ll love the mama pig and her cute little piglets as well as some new little lambs.  There is also a video showing the birth of these babies, something kids in Sacramento don’t see everyday!

The County Exhibits.  If nothing else, this is a nice cool building to cool off in when it’s just too hot outside.  But really, once you get inside, you’ll want to take a look at all the fun exhibits the different California counties have put together.

Believe it or not, kids really enjoy the county exhibits too.  I don’t know about yours, but my kids love to collect stuff.  Especially if it’s free.  And here, there is plenty of stuff for your kids to pick up.  For instance, if you stop by our booth (Sacramento County,) you can pick up a “boarding pass” and once it’s stamped, your kids can walk away with a free airplane glider of their choice.

These are just a few of my recommendations.  There is so much more to see…the livestock of course, the horse shows, the doggy diving, the monster trucks, and much, much more.  So sure, have some fun on the rides, play a few games and try that chocolate covered bacon.  But don’t forget to explore all the other wonderful things the fair has to offer. Click here for a full schedule of events.

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Things to do when the kids are complaining that they are “BORED” during the summertime!

By Heather Crivellone

Well, summer is officially underway- and if you are like most moms out there, you are counting down the days left until school starts.  Kids are probably complaining that they are “bored” or just getting those little hands into everything that they shouldn’t be getting into.
Here is a simple (and CHEAP) list of activities that you can do with your kids to keep those busy hands active and keep them entertained during these “dog days” of summer:

1.  Visit one of our local libraries.  They offer free story times and most have a “kids” area with toys, puzzles, computer games and other activities to keep them busy.

2.  Go on a Scavenger Hunt.  If you can’t imagine yourself creating your own map to find treasures, then head down to Old Sacramento and  follow the one that has been created for Old Sac.  You will learn a few things about our city, and have some fun along the way!

3.  Take a nature walk with your kids and explore nature.  You can visit places like the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Auburn’s Hidden Falls or just venture out in one of our city’s beautiful parks.

4.  And speaking of parks- we have a plethora of family friendly parks with amenities to keep you and your kids busy all day.  When was the last time you packed a lunch and had a picnic at McKinley or William Land Park?

5.  Visit on of the local Farmer’s Markets in the area.  Chat with the growers and sample some of fresh fruit and veggies.  My kids seem to eat more veggies at the “samples” and it’s always a fun way to spend the afternoon or evening with the kids.

6.  Take some of those veggies that you just bought at the Farmers Market and make some crafts.  Have you tried painting with fruit and veggies?  Cut the Apples and Potatoes and make paints… and if you don’t have any leftover, then use some leaves, sponges or anything else you can find on hand other than the typical paintbrush.  Kids will giggle and have fun while creating their masterpieces.

7.  Visit the Davis Arboretum.  Beautiful gardens and trails will keep you busy.. take a lunch and stay the day.

8.  Make a bird feeder with peanut butter, bird seed and toilet paper rolls.  My kids had a blast doing this-  although, we did have more bird seed on the ground than on the “feeder”, but every morning they still run outside to see the birds.

9.  Visit a local pizzeria for lunch and see if you can do a “tour”.  Pizza Rock in Downtown is great for kids- if you plan it correctly, you can watch them do their “pizza acrobats”.

10.  Go to an outdoor concert or movie.  Friday night concerts at Cesar Chavez Park (Through July 27th) or catch a movie at “Screen on the Green” Saturday nights in August.

11.  Take the kids fishing.  We are surrounded by water with lakes, rivers and streams.  Or visit a park like Gibson Ranch where they stock their ponds for fishing.

12.  Go on a bike ride.  We have fantastic trails throughout the Sacramento Area.  If you don’t have a bike, you can always rent one and travel along the American River.  It’s a great way to get in some exercise and family fun all in one.

13.  Take a trip to the State Capitol.  Visit the gardens, take a tour of the building, or just take a picnic and enjoy the scenery.

14.  Explore art in the area at the 2nd Saturday Art Walk.  Or have the kids create their own art at Art Beast.  This is a day adventure that will keep the busy all day long.

15.  Visit a local farm to pick your own produce and check out the animals.  They may even let you feed the animals.  Impossible Acres in Davis is a great place to pick your own fresh fruit.

16.  Tour a local historic site.  Sacramento is bursting with history and you don’t have to go far to enjoy your own history lessons first hand.  Sutter’s Fort, The Governor’s Mansion, and Old Sacramento to name a few.

17.  Visit the LEGO Store at Arden Fair mall to create something unique.  Have a building contest and get “out of the heat” and into some air conditioning at the local mall.

18.  And to keep cool on these hot summer days, visit one of the many spray parks in the area.  Free and fun ways to keep cool with the kids as they splash and burn energy.

19.  Craft Times are offered at local Michael’s and Joann Stores.  Also check out Big Spoon Yogurt on the first and third Thursday’s of the month.  They offer story time and craft times for the kids (with a free frozen yogurt after).

20.  Some movie theatres in the area offer $1 movies on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.  The movies are kid appropriate and it’s a great way to get the kids out of the heat and do something “fun” for cheap.

Hope this list helps for things to do with your kids when they start complaining and yelling “I’m Boooooorrrreeeeddd!”.

Weekend Family Fun For July 20-22nd

Here’s to a fun-filled weekend!

7/20 – Navy Day at the Aerospace Museum – The Aerospace Museum of California is bringing a small glimpse of the United States Navy to Sacramento. The Museum will be highlighting all things Navy and visitors will be treated to a day full of activities and the opportunity to meet sailors and learn about this branch of the military.

7/20 – Family Friday: Gold at the Crocker Art Museum – This week’s color theme is gold, so wear what’s bright or sparkling. Children of all ages and their families are invited to enjoy a dance performance by 11 young dancers ages 8–12 from Kalanjali Dances of India. The dance is called Bharatanatyam, an ancient classical dance form of South India.

7/20 – Summer Concert Series:  Ricky Berger at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center -Ricky Berger, touring pop, folk, and jazz artist, will be performing live in this concert series. Get ready for an evening of creative musical storytelling and be prepared to be entertained as Berger uses a variety of musical instruments during her performance.  Bring your own picnic and beverages. No glass containers or dogs allowed.

7/20-21 – Family Camp-out at Fairytale Town –  Spend the night at Humpty’s house. This exciting overnight adventure includes a theatre performance, arts and crafts activities, a scavenger hunt, bedtime stories, and a sing-along. Wake up the next morning under Fairytale Town’s canopy of trees to a light continental breakfast.

 7/20-29th – California State Fair Continues – The State Fair will focus its traditional exhibits and competitions on recreation, sports, and tourism that make California an adventure capitol of the world. The 159th California State Fair theme is FUN that Moves You! It’s all about BIG FUN, and this year’s entertainment, exhibits, and coming attractions are predicted to get you out of your chair and to the State Fair for an exciting summer experience!

The fairgrounds will highlight some of the unique recreational activities available throughout the State of California for people of all ages.

7/21 – Eppie’s Great Race & US Bank Kids Duathlon – Also known as the world’s oldest triathlon, Eppie’s Great Race has been held every year since 1974, and is a Sacramento-area summertime tradition for elite athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and families. Compete in the 39th annual Eppie’s Great Race triathlon–a 5.82 mile run, 12.5 mile cycle, and 6.36 mile paddle on and along the American River Parkway. Kids can join the fun with the US Bank Kids Duathlon–a 2 mile run and 5.75 mile cycle for kids ages 17 and younger.

7/21 – Get Me The Moon with Art Beast – Preschoolers and toddlers will go home with glittering moon sand after enjoying Eric Carle’s clever tale, “Papa Please Get the Moon for Me.” Children will explore two art stations. At one, they will create Carle style drawings using watercolor and wax crayons to create a moonscape. At the other station using simple ingredients, the children will mix sand, corn starch, glitter and water to create moon sand, a magical sand that holds its shape and carries a bit of the moon’s glow.

7/21 – Hands on History: Before the Gold Rush at Sutter’s Fort – Even before the gold discovery, the community of Sutter’s Fort and the visitors to New Helvetia were an incredibly diverse mixture of people and cultures. There were the local Native people who became such an important part of Sutter’s dreams. There were at least 30 different groups of Native people mentioned in the New Helvetia Diary (the daily log book of Sutter’s Fort) as having visited or provided labor for John Sutter.

Experience foods, drinks, activities, and games practiced by the many cultures that inhabited the Fort. There will be many hands-on crafts such as stringing beads, making dolls, seeing a variety of different weapons, and making your own souvenir. Cannon demonstrations are scheduled for 11am, 1pm, and 3pm.

The adjacent California State Indian Museum is also having activities for “Before the Gold Rush.”

7/21 – Solitary Bees at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center –  Join “bee-ologist” Julie Serences in learning the fascinating life cycle of native bees and gain an understanding of why they are important to the ecology of our landscapes. Following a 45 minute program, stroll the grounds with Julie to identify a variety of busy native bees.

7/21 – Navy Day at the Sacramento Zoo– Sacramento has been chosen as a host city for a Navy Week Celebration July 16-July 22, giving area residents an opportunity to meet some Navy Sailors and learn about the Navy’s critical mission and capabilities.Don’t miss your chance to catch demonstrations by the Explosive Ordinance Disposal team including an interactive and fully operational robot and a 76 lb bomb suit, view Navy Tour displays with Immersa-Domes that give 180-degree simulations of the sights, sounds and smells of being on an aircraft carrier, and experience Blue Angel F/A-18 Flight Simulators that present a pilot’s perspective of an aircraft carrier take-off and landing combined with low level flying.  This event includes performances by the Navy’s high-energy seven-piece rock and pop ensemble The Destroyers.
7/22 – Navy Day with the River Cats– Come celebrate the conclusion of Sacramento’s Fleet Week on Navy Day at Raley Field. Naval simulators and a Navy band will be on Ballpark Drive prior to the game and the River Cats will honor the men and women who serve during an on-field enlistment and re-enlistment ceremony.The River Cats will be facing off against the Tucson Padres in this baseball game. It’s Sunday Funday, so there will be a pregame autograph session and kids will be able to run the bases postgame. 

Did you know that July is National Ice Cream Month?

By Heather Crivellone

“I scream, You scream, We all scream for ICE CREAM”!  Did you know that July is National Ice Cream Month?  And on the third Sunday of the Month (which happens to be this Sunday, July 22nd) is recognized as National Ice Cream Day.  If you didn’t know this, here is a little bit of history.. it was declared in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan. He recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by a full 90% of the nation’s population. In the proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.”
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t know of a kid (or an adult) who doesn’t love ice cream… and especially on a hot summer day!

Ice cream is a staple summertime treat for kids of all ages. And for long time Sacramento residents, there are a few “hot spots” here in the area to keep cool with the icy treat.  Vic’s Ice Cream  in Land Park has been a household name for several generations. They have been a family business since 1947 and continue to serve up some of the best ice cream in Sacramento.
Ice Cream isn’t their only forte, they serve up lunch items and according to some regulars, the hot dog sandwich is fantastic!

Along with Vic’s, there is Gunthers Ice Cream.  Another household name who has been serving up ice cream and treats since 1940.  They are located at 2801 Franklin Blvd. in Sacramento from 10am-10pm daily.  Just like Vic’s, they serve up some of the best ice cream treats around, along with lunch specials and even lower fat options for those of us who are “watching thier waistlines”.

Leatherby’s Family Creamery, with 3 locations in the Sacramento area has been serving sundaes, floats and other treats since 1982.  They also offer lunch and dinner items… but, the specialty is ice cream- so just skip the meal and go straight for the hot fudge sundae!  And in honor of National Ice Cream month, they are offering FREE “Rachel’s Sundae” Coupons to those who post on thier Facebook page  either “a favorite memory of Leatherby’s” or “a picture eating an ice cream sundae at Leatherby’s.”  (This promotion is limited to the first 500 posts.)  Now I can remember my parents taking me to Leatherby’s when I was young for a birthday party and one of my fondest memories was the Clown Ice Cream Sundae.  If you are a Sacramento native and reading this…then I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.  There was nothing better than a sugar cone, lots of whip cream, ice cream and chocolate chips to make a 5 year old happy!

So in honor of National Ice Cream Month, go out and treat your family to a cone, shake or sundae… isn’t that what summer is all about?

Gibson Ranch Park- a day out full of fun for the whole family!

By Heather Crivellone

If you are looking for an all day outing, a place to take your family to experience the “great outdoors”, somewhere that you can literally be a “cowboy” for the day and somewhere that won’t break your budget- then visit Gibson Ranch Park!  Located at 8556 Gibson Ranch Road in Elverta, just 30 minutes north of downtown Sacramento, this park really has it all…and more!

I had been to Gibson Ranch on a few separate occasions, but this last time we visited, I was in for a treat.  We had the opportunity to go “behind the scenes” and took a guided tour of the farm…my kids enjoyed seeing all the animals (ducks, cows, llamas and goats to name a few).  The kids especially loved all the horses and we found out that they offer horse riding lessons (for kids 8 and older..so we have a few years still to wait.)

But to our surprise they also allow the little ones to enjoy the thrill of being little cowboys with pony rides!  Parents can lead their children on pony rides for a small fee.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the proper attire (flip-flops are my summer staple) and we weren’t able to ride this time around.  However, if you want to give your child this fun opportunity then call ahead and secure a reservation for a pony and make sure you wear close-toed shoes so you can take part in the action with your kids.

Not only do they have the farm to explore, but the park is surrounded by over 5 miles of trails that can be used for hiking, biking or horseback riding.  The trail also leads you along a scenic view of Dry Creek with stops along the way that are perfect for exploring and splashing in the water.
And if you enjoy fishing, they have a plenty of places for you to cast your pole.  Two large ponds are stocked with fish and the creek itself is a great place to try to catch some dinner.

And of course a park isn’t really a park unless they have structures for the kids to climb and play on.  They have 2 playgrounds, plenty of picnic areas, BBQ areas and clean bathrooms (a MUST for us mommas!).

Now, the park is great for a day trip- but, if you are someone who enjoys the “thought” of camping, yet doesn’t necessarily want to “rough it” up in the High Sierras- then pack up some clean clothes and stay overnight in one of the cabins at Gibson Ranch.  Yes- they even have cabins to rent for a night out on the farm!  This is something new that they offer, so you would need to call and speak with them directly- I couldn’t find any information on their website regarding lodging, so if you are interested then call and speak with a member of their staff.
What an experience for the family- hiking, horseback riding, fishing, feeding the ducks, playing on the playground and even staying the night at the park- this could be the start of a new summer tradition for many families!
Call ahead for tours of the farm, to reserve the pony rides and a cabin for overnight stays.

So pack up your lunches, grab your fishing poles and bring your hiking shoes since a day at Gibson Ranch Park is sure to keep you busy!
And don’t forget $5 to park your car and some change to purchase duck and goat food at the general store…have fun!

Next stop in our “Spray Ground” tour is Lone Tree Park in Rocklin

By Heather Crivellone

The next stop in our “Spray Park” tour is Lone Tree Park in Rocklin. As with the other spray grounds in the area- for my kids, it was all about the playground and then some water play to cool off!
My kids were in climbing heaven with the structure that was meant for little monkeys..and not necessarily a 3 and 4 year old!  They had climbing walls, bars to swing from, slides and a unique twirly seat to stand or sit on…that my little daredevils were able to play on for hours!

The spray ground was made specifically with a little boy in mind… “fire hydrant” mister, squirting “horse” guns, a big blue circle mister to run and play through and shower like sprayers.  It was enough to keep my little crazy kids splishing and splashing all afternoon during this Sacramento heat wave we have been having!

As with other parks in the newer residential areas, there is not enough shade to go around! There are a few umbrellas and tables, but if you plan on staying all day- I would suggest bringing an umbrella or an EZ up for your family (or arrive first thing in the morning to snag a table and umbrella….we weren’t so lucky that day).

Lone Tree Spraygound is open May 15th– October 1st, 10:00am- 7:30pm. If you make the trip out to Rocklin for this fun park, you don’t need to worry about packing lunches, since there are tons of eateries, shops, malls and everything else you could imagine in the area. So make a full day out of it- and have some fun cooling off with your kids and having fun at this park.

Mommy and Me Day at Raley Field on July 18th

 By Heather Crivellone

Last year, my daughter and I visited Raley Field during their “Mommy & Me Day”, and we both had such a great time that she continues to talk about “Dinger” the River Cats Mascot and how she wants to go back and visit the baseball field.

Luckily for us, the Sacramento River Cats will be hosting another FREE “Mommy and Me Day” on Wednesday July 18th from 10am- 1pm. If you did not get a chance to attend the last Mommy and Me event- we highly recommend making the time to take your little ones out to the baseball field.
Parents and their children (Under the age of 6) can spend the day out on the baseball field playing different games and participating in activities such as: tee-ball, soccer, arts and crafts, and much more.

Last time they had Dinger the Mascot visiting with all the children, games with parachutes, balls and everything that the pre-school aged children love!
There will be free snacks and drinks provided while supplies last, and they will also have additional food and beverages to purchase.

If you are planning on attending this event, please go on their website and fill out the mandatory waivers and bring them with you to the field. This will help in having to wait in the long lines…. And since we know that children are not the most patient little beings- this may help avoid a spontaneous “melt-down”.

Make sure you don’t forget your sunscreen (since you will be down on the field), camera for those great shots of your little ones “sliding” into home-plate, and plenty of energy for a fun filled day!