October 24, 2014

Disney Eats: A Lovely Sit-Down Dinner at Carnation Cafe

Of all the times we've visited Disneyland Resort, our family has never enjoyed a sit-down dinner until we went to Carnation Cafe on the last night of our most recent trip.

Fried Pickles
Kids Chicken-Fried Chicken

Kids Mac & Cheese

Sourdough Bacon Cheese Melt

Chicken-Fried Chicken

The Fried Pickles, although it didn't come out until after we received our meals, were delicious! Coated with Parmesan and panko, they were quite addicting.

I had the Chicken-Fried Chicken, and although the serving was smaller than I expected (it didn't seem that much bigger than the kids' size), it was very good. The chicken was so tasty and I loved everything on the plate - the milk gravy, the mashed potatoes, and even the veggies!

My husband liked the burger, and the kids liked their meals as well.

The restaurant only had a couple of dessert options left at the time we dined - nothing that appealed to us, but that was okay, because we were all so full from the yummy meals.

Service was great, and it was a very nice dinner.

Carnation Cafe
Disneyland Park
Disneyland Dr
Anaheim, CA 92802
(714) 781-3463

October 23, 2014

A World of Wonder at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Despite having gone to college across the street from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and living nearby, it wasn't until my most recent trip to Los Angeles that I finally visited this fascinating museum.

Having opened its doors in 1913, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County has since become one of the world's leaders in valuable collections, with more than 35 million objects (including some that are 4.5 billion years old!).


Dueling Dinos
Highlights of Our Visit
There are so many amazing exhibits at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

My personal favorites included the dioramas in the North American Mammal Halls (the African Mammal Hall was closed, but I'm sure I would've loved the exhibits there as well). The detail in each scene was simply spectacular.

Walrus diorama in the North American Mammal Hall

My kids also loved the exhibits, as they had not seen some of the animals, such as the bison or moose, except for on television or in books.

I also liked the Gem and Mineral Hall.  I had never seen so many gems and minerals in one place before.
A wall of minerals in the Gem and Mineral Hall
The Butterfly of Peace, which consists of 240 colored diamonds with a total weight of 166.94 carats, was assembled one stone at at time over the course of 12 years.  Such a stunning display!


Butterfly of Peace
What I really liked about the Natural History Museum was how there were many interactive areas to engage kids, pique their interest, and offer a fun method of learning.


My kids helping to build a Willow House
Feeling a skunk's fur
The Nature Lab, which had a variety of interactive exhibits, was my kids' favorite part of the museum, simply because of the variety of things they could do there.  They could draw, look at specimens through a microscope, play on touchscreens, and more.


My kids having fun with the Rattlesnake's View of You Exhibit
The Dino Lab was cool, where we could watch staff members work on real fossils, and my kids loved seeing all of the exhibits in the Dinosaur Hall.  They were in awe at how huge some of them were!


Dino Lab
Dinosaur Hall Exhibit
We also saw interesting insects, ancient artifacts, hundreds of birds, live rats, numerous exhibits about the history of Los Angeles, and more!


Age of Mammals Exhibit
Visible Vaulte: Archaeological Treasures from Ancient Latin America

Ralph W. Schreiber Hall of Birds exhibit
City model of Downtown Los Angeles
I also enjoyed how the museum's map listed an NHM Top 10 of must-see things, as well as a Hidden Gems list, which was like a fun scavenger hunt throughout the museum.

Dining
NHM Grill is on site, or you can bring your own food and picnic outside of the museum (you will get a stamp for re-entry).

Our Experience Visiting with a Special-Needs Child
My oldest son has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and although I know kids on the spectrum all behave and react differently in various environments, I always try to share our personal experience when visiting attractions.

Upon arrival we made sure to give my son a map since he loves maps.  He'd hold onto it and refer to it throughout our visit, often times asking us to go to certain exhibits.

Because the museum is multi-level, he kept wanting to go upstairs or up the elevator, so we had some difficulty keeping him focused, but interactive exhibits really helped to distract him from the stairs and elevators.

Once we got to the Nature Lab and its numerous interactive exhibits and touchscreens (he loves smartphones and tablets), my son was very interested and engaged in all there was to do.
My son drawing in the Nature Lab

He also enjoyed the Rainforest exhibit in the Bird Hall, primarily because this gave him a chance to walk upstairs to look for more birds.

Although there were field trips taking place while we visited, the museum was not overly crowded (you can click here to find out the best times to visit if your child has an aversion to large crowds), and in general the noise was minimal (I found the quietest places to be in the Mammal Halls or in the Nature Garden).

There were several places to sit throughout the museum for rest breaks, and for those on a GFCF diet, outside food can be enjoyed on the exterior grounds.

Final Thoughts
We spent half a day at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, but we could've easily spent an entire day there if we had more time.

We saw so many great exhibits and learned so much about animals, dinosaurs, Los Angeles, and more.  Stepping inside this museum was like stepping inside a new world that was full of awe and wonder.

Whether you only have an hour or you have the whole day to explore, The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is truly a wonderful place to visit with the entire family.


Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
900 Exposition Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Phone: (213) 763-DINO

Click here for hours and admission prices.  $10 parking.

Thank you to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County for hosting 4 members of our family. 

October 22, 2014

Some of the Best Pizza I Have Ever Eaten at Kaneohe Boston's Pizza

I recently had some of the best pizza I've ever had on Oahu at Kaneohe's Boston Pizza.
Ceiling decorated with pizza boxes
Garlic Knots
Pesto-riffic Deep Dish
Slice of the Pesto-riffic
Kids Pepperoni Pizza
The Garlic-Knots were very delicious.

The Kids Pepperoni Pizza is 10 inches and was more than enough for my 3 boys.

The Pesto-riffic Deep Dish pizza was amazing.

Mozzarella, bacon, chicken, pesto, and ranch combined to create one of the best pizzas I've ever had.

Service was great, and the shop is very kid-friendly, with toys, games, and a chalk board.

Chalkboard
Kids toys and games
Kaneohe's Boston Pizza offers many other types of pizza, but I don't know if I could eat anything other than the Pesto-riffic the next time I go.

It's that good...

Kaneohe's Boston Pizza
46-028 Kawa St A11

Kaneohe, HI 96744
(808) 235-7756

Hana Hou / Wordless Wednesday - Disney California Adventure

In Hawaii, Hana Hou means to repeat; do again, so on this and every Wednesday, I'll be posting a photo of a place that I'd love to visit again, or of an activity that I'd love to try again on a future trip.

Where would you like to visit again?

Disney California Adventure - Even though I was there just last week, I already want to go back!

October 21, 2014

Breakfast at Jack's Restaurant

It doesn't matter how far we have to drive - if a place is known for serving good breakfasts, I'm there! So one weekend we took the family to Jack's Restaurant in Aina Haina Shopping Center, which is on the other end of the island from where we live.
Jack's Special Biscuit (Served with Whipped Honey Butter on the side)

Kim Chee Fried Rice

Grilled Cheese

Griddle Cake & Omelet


The little restaurant is quite a popular spot. It was packed when we arrived, so we had to wait about 10 minutes for a table.

I had the Kim Chee Fried Rice, which comes with a biscuit. The fried rice was a very generous serving, and it was indeed spicy because of the kim chee. The biscuit was good, especially with the honey butter.

Service was quick and friendly, and I would definitely make the drive out to Aina Haina Shopping Center again just to eat at Jack's!

Jack's Restaurant
820 West Hind Dr # 119
Honolulu, HI 96821-1851
(808) 373-4034

October 20, 2014

Ramada Maingate at the Park - Becoming Bigger and Better

Twice before our family has stayed at the Ramada Maingate at the Park, which is just a short walking distance from Disneyland, and since then the hotel has gone through some big changes, including the construction of a new 4-story building which houses the hotel's superior rooms and suites.

The hotel is still going through some major renovations, with the construction of yet another 4-story building, but there are still many things that haven't changed (thank goodness), such as the free parking, free continental breakfast, free Wi-Fi, and great service.

Check-in
Due to the renovations, check-in took place in a temporary trailer.

Check-in was very quick, and the employees were very friendly.  After receiving information about the complimentary breakfast, room location, elevators, and parking, I was soon on my way to the room.

Room
Our family stayed in a 2 Queen Beds Superior Room in the new building of the hotel.

2 Queen Beds
Flat screen TV, microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker
Bathroom area - love that there are two sinks!
Closet
I did think the closet - which was a wardrobe-type storage closet, was a little too small, and I did miss the cute towel animals from previous visits, but overall I loved the room.  It was spacious, nicely decorated with dark tones for a modern feel, and most importantly - our family was very comfortable in the room.

The air conditioning always cooled down the room quickly, we could barely hear guests in neighboring rooms, and we slept soundly throughout the night.

We could see Disney California Adventure from our room, and at night we had nice view of the Disneyland fireworks from right outside our door.

View of the pool and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure Park
Fireworks view

Because of the construction, parking spaces were sometimes hard to find, but they do offer free valet.

And the construction itself was not bothersome - we didn't encounter any disruptive noises or debris.

Although housekeeping forgot to give us washcloths and some bath amenities twice, a simple phone call eventually resolved the issues, and throughout our stay we had no other issues with our room.

Dining
Ramada Maingate at the Park offers a complimentary Continental breakfast.  Options included donuts, bagels, fruit, hard-boiled eggs, biscuits, gravy, bread, juices, cereals, milk, and coffee.

Donuts

Fruit

Biscuits
Cereal
Coffee

Breakfast is served in the pool house, and although there is some seating in the pool area to eat breakfast, many guests opt to use their in-room tray to transport food back to their rooms.  The great news is that the building that is currently under construction will house a new breakfast room!

There are also numerous other dining options within walking distance from the hotel.

Other Services and Amenities
  • Disneyland ticket sales
  • Gift mart selling souvenirs, toiletries, and more
  • Pool with kids splash zone
  • Hot tub
Click here for a list of more services and amenities.

Once the new building is completed, there will be a fitness center, meeting space, retail outlets, and a roof top sun deck.
Alpha Gift Mart
Pool

Final Thoughts
Overall our stay at Ramada Maingate at the Park was once again terrific.

The room was very nice and comfortable, there are numerous complimentary services and amenities, and the hotel is close to Disneyland, making it an ideal hotel for our family.

I can't wait to see what the new building will look like!

Ramada Maingate at the Park
1650 S Harbor Blvd
Anaheim, CA 92802
(714)772-0440.




Thank you to the Ramada Maingate at the Park for hosting multiple nights of our stay and providing a media discount for the remaining nights; gratuities were paid on our own.

October 19, 2014

Just Dessert at Shokudo Japanese Restaurant & Bar

I recently went to Shokudo Japanese Restaurant & Bar just for dessert after eating lunch nearby.

It's been a while since I've been to Shokudo, and I had no idea that there were so many varieties of their popular Honey Toast. 
Cinnamon Honey Toast
Thick slices of Japanese bread are toasted and the insides are cubed.  Ice cream, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of cinnamon completed this simple, yet delicious dessert. 

Even though I shared the Honey Toast with two others, there was still a lot of leftover toast, which a friend took home to enjoy later.

Shokudo Japanese Restaurant & Bar
1585 Kapiolani Blvd

Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 941-3701

 
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