Monday, December 13, 2010

Southern Cal Family Fun Spots for the Holidays!

By: Kevin L. Nichols

As parents, we often fantasize during the holidays of creating innovative traditions that the newer nucleus of our family will enjoy and one day incorporate in their own lives. Family pot-lucks and visiting friends have been the norm for many years and feel very comfortable. Although the economy may weigh in on what a feasible way to celebrate the holidays these days actually is; it is hard to resist the nostalgia that this time of the year brings. As you reflect on the fun that you had as a kid at places like Disneyland ® and Knott’s Berry Farm ®, have you recently thought what it would be like to celebrate the holidays in Southern California at one of your favorite “family-fun” destinations without breaking your piggy bank? If not, here is some information about 4 major attractions: Disneyland ®, Knott’s Berry Farm ®, LEGOLAND ®, and Universal Studios ®, and what’s going on there during the holidays.

Travel Considerations

If you have not been to the Los Angeles area in a while, it is about a 5 ½ hour moderate drive from the Bay Area (which assumes, bathroom breaks, rest stops, and an occasional meal) or an hour flight. Air travel lately has been extremely affordable. TraveZoo.com TM has been advertising sales on Virgin Airlines ® (one of my personal favorites) for $39 & up each way per person, which is astounding. For those of you who refuse to go over your annual 12,000 mile allotment on your family vehicle, rental car rates can be found for $30 per day to about $75 per day plus gas depending on the vehicle, however, if you stay for the entire week, you might be able get a weekly rate. I recommend going to rental car company local editions for car rentals because the airports charge additional fees per day, taxes, and other surcharges. Hotel accommodations are fairly reasonable as well, but the prices also vary due to location. If you are on a budget, staying at the Disneyland ® Hotel TM may be out of your price range for the holidays, however, a Residence Inn TM or a hotel with suites can be found on the periphery for less than $100 per night online via Expedia.com TM or any other travel website. Thus, for a week long trip for a family of 4, you can probably get away with either $360 for air, or $350 for a full-sized car/small SUV plus gas, and about $450 on lodging, for a total of about $800. If you are resourceful, you can also save money on eating out every meal at a restaurant by bringing food with you and/or purchase it at a local grocery store (i.e. Whole Foods ®) in the area, and stay in a hotel with a kitchen. These are just some ideas of how you can make a trip happen, if you really want to.

DisneyLand ® and California Adventure Park TM

It really is “The Happiest Place on Earth.” TM With DisneyLand’s ® acquisition of Pixar ®, it has more characters and rides than ever. DisneyLand ® is ideal for families with younger children, however, the whole entire family can enjoy roller coasters, excellent shows, and share the magic that made our own childhoods so memorable. Some of my favorite attractions are the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage Submarine TM, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster Voyage TM, and the Matterhorn Bobsleds TM. California Adventure Park TM highlights various native landmarks and attractions based here such as Hollywood and the Golden Gate Bridge. The parades often feature some of Pixar’s ® signature characters from such movies as The Incredibles TM, Toy Story TM, and Cars TM.

This year, DisneyLand ® is offering a free 4th day when buying a 3 night, 4 day Vacation Package. The package also includes discounted park hopper tickets, however, you must stay at one of their resorts. In addition to its regular shows, such as Star Wars ®Jedi Training Academy TM there were will also be some new shows for the holiday season, such as “Worlds of Color” – a nighttime water spectacle where storytellers on a massive stage of water in California Adventure Park TM. Paradise Bay becomes a magical kaleidoscope of color, lights, and music. You won’t want to miss the “Tron: Legacy” dance party, the “Disney Channel Rocks” and the “Disney Dance Crew” shows as well. For more information, please visit www.disneyland.com and for discounted tickets, please visit your nearest Costco TM.

Knott’s Berry Farm ®

Knott’s is celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Charlie Brown TM and the Peanuts TM Gang this year. “Snoopy’s Starlight Spectacular” is a continuous light show filled with Peanuts TM three-dimensional figures, themed music, sound effects, voice-overs, and colorful projections of Peanuts TM characters.

Knott’s is known for its “friendliness” towards smaller children, i.e. Family/milder rides, however, their water rides and high thrill roller coasters make it a full-fledged amusement park. Some of my favorite rides are the Sierra Sidewinder, La Revolucion, Timber Mountain Log Ride, and the Perilous Plunge. One thing to note, Knott’s Berry Farm ® is closed on Christmas Day. For more information, please visit www.knotts.com.

LEGOLAND ® San Diego

LEGOLAND ® is an amazingly unique destination in that many of the attractions at the park are created out of miniature LEGO’s ®. As seen in the accompanying photographs, thousands of hours and LEGO ® pieces have been used to create replicas of San Francisco, New York City, Mount Rushmore, and the Sydney Opera House for example. It also has water rides, roller coasters, and live shows such as “The Big Test” featuring the Fun Town Fire Department volunteers. LEGOLAND has a new water park, Sea Life Aquarium, and tons of rides, roller coasters, miniature golf, and fun for the entire family.

This holiday season, LEGOLAND ® will be featuring “Holly Jolly Holidays,” a holiday festival that includes a life sized LEGO® brick Santa and Reindeer, miniature Santas and reindeer delivering toys throughout Miniland USA, and the “Let it Snow” musical. Moreover, every night from December 26-31, 2010, they will be lighting up the sky with fireworks at the park’s closing. For more information, please visit www.legoland.com.

Universal Studios ® Hollywood

Many people think that Universal Studios ® is only the place where movies and sitcoms are made and that its main attraction is its world famous studio tour. Well there is more than meets the eye here with its roller coasters, such as The Simpson’s Ride TM, the Revenge of the Mummy TM ride, and the Jurassic Park TM ride. You will also get to experience the amazing King Kong 360° 3-D, which is touted as the world’s largest, most intense 3-D experience. The Studio Tour, still takes you to see Jaws, The Bates Motel, and the plane wreckage from the War of the Worlds, however, it also takes you to Wisteria Lane to visit ABC’s Desperate Housewives.

For the holidays, Universal will be celebrating “Grinchmas,” a festival full of holiday cheer, while Whoville comes to life. You can have your picture taken with the Grinch and Max, and even play in a real show. Lastly, there will be a celebrity reading of Dr. Suess’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas and a tree lighting ceremony. As an exclusive online promotion, if you buy your tickets online, you get 1 week free for the price of one day. For more information, please visit www.universalstudioshollywood.com.

Thus, if you are straddling the fence and do not have any solid plans for the holidays, I strongly recommend that you consider making a Southern California fun spot your holiday destination this year. You can create your own family traditions that you and your children will never forget. If money is tight, there are ways to be resourceful. You just have to have a plan and make it happen. Happy Holidays!

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