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Enter to win a chance to meet Yo Gabba Gabba!™ Stars Brobee™ and Muno™

August 4, 2011

Brobee™ and Muno™ from Yo Gabba Gabba!™ are coming to the Modesto Nuts game Sunday, August 21st! is giving away 2 meet & greet tickets and 2 preferred grandstand tickets to one lucky registered member of!  The meet & greet tickets include admission to the ball game, a 1 hour special meet & greet time pregame (4-5pm) with both characters, a hot dog, soft drink and a snack!  Don’t forget your camera for this photo op!

To win, you must be at least 21 years old and a registered member of  After becoming a member of, you must write a review that characterizes your specific experience (good or bad) of any activity or event that you and your family have been to and you will automatically be entered into the drawing!  The more reviews you write, the more chances you have to meet Brobee™ and Muno™ from Yo Gabba Gabba™ at the Modesto Nuts game.

Yo Gabba Gabba!™ Star Brobee™

Here are some things to remember about writing reviews on Reviews are your own opinion of a specific place, event or activity.  Be objective and truthful. Tell us how you really feel and why.  Useful reviews are detailed and specific, and give the reader a feel for your experiences.  Think about what kind of information you want when you ask a friend or relative to recommend a pre-school, party venue, playground, or camp for your kids.

On Friday, August 12, 2011, a winner will be randomly selected from the reviews posted on from 8am PST August 4, 2011 to August 12th, 2011 at 9pm PST.  The winner will be contacted via email and will have 48 hours to contact us to claim their prize.  The winner will also be posted on facebook within 12 hours of being selected.

Yo Gabba Gabba!™ Star Muno ™

Good luck and thanks for participating!


Great Times at Great America

July 27, 2011

It was at the request of our tween that we be sure to make it to California’s Great America this summer, and it didn’t take much persuasion to get the younger kids on board after taking a peek at the photos of the park online.

After scouring the internet for coupons and codes, I found that the best deal was right there on the Great America website: if we were to buy four or more tickets, each ticket would only cost the equivalent of a child admission ($34.50).  Parking could also be paid for at the time of sale, so we checked out with five tickets and a one-day parking pass and promptly printed them right at home the night before our outing.

Since we planned to go on a Friday, we left Modesto at about 9:30am (though still managed to sit in late-morning Silicon Valley traffic), and arrived in Santa Clara near 11:30am.  Driving to the park, finding parking and making our way through the entrance gate were easy peasy.  There was quite a line for admission tickets, which we bypassed thanks to our pre-purchased tickets.

Our first few rides of the day were family rides: the double-decker Columbia Carousel — the tallest of its kind, and the 200-foot tall Star Tower observation tower.  Though labeled as “low thrill” rides, we enjoyed the chance to ride together and acquaint ourselves with the layout of the park via the Star Tower.

Once we had made our way towards the rear of the park, we found the need to divide and conquer.  Many of the rides in the areas other than KidZville and Planet Snoopy were not suitable for our youngest child, who is only 5 years old.  Being more of a thrill-seeker myself, I took the tween and headed for the nearest roller coaster; my husband took the grade schoolers and stopped for lunch.

Food Festival, located in the “County Fair” area of Great America, had options galore and shaded seating was abundant.  The kids noshed on corn dogs, french fries and [a bit] of a green salad.  Though expensive, the food was quite good for being concession grade; everything seemed freshly made and the portions were large enough without being wasteful.

  • At Food Festival, visitors can choose from tacos, burgers, teriyaki bowls, soft serve and more.
  • Expect to pay $4-6 for a fountain drink, $3.75 for a bottled water, $5-7 for a hot dog or corn dog, and nearly $10 for a complete meal (protein, starch and side).  Pretty awesome in-park deals are offered via text messaging.  At the beginning of your day, text CGAToday to 74674, and you’ll receive at most six texts that day.  Of the five I received, two were for free drinks with purchase, one was for a free appetizer with purchase, and one was for half off a game fee.  Message and/or data rates may apply.
  • Outside food is not allowed inside the park, but there are picnicking areas outside the entrance gate and re-entry after eating is allowed.

Rides for adventurous souls are the meat and potatoes of Great America’s appeal.  There are four main high-thrill roller coasters: Grizzly is the only classic wooden coaster; Demon is a whirling dervish of corkscrew turns; Vortex is a twirling, topsy-turvy coaster that riders will actually stand for; and Flight Deck is the best combination of all the above, during which riders are seated with their legs hanging for an ultimate flying sensation.

(Clockwise from top left: Flight Deck, Demon, Vortex, and Grizzly)

  • The tween said that her favorite coasters were Flight Deck and Grizzly.  The least favorite (by all accounts) was the Vortex, whose very bumpy, jostling ride gave both of us instantaneous headaches.
  • The lines were of course much longer for these rides, but the longest we ever had to wait was 30 minutes prior to boarding.  I’ve experienced longer waits at Great America before, but only on weekends.

KidZville and Planet Snoopy are areas of the park dedicated to those 36-48” tall.  KidZville had only a few rides that enticed our kids (Fender Bender 500, a bumper car ride and the KidZville River Adventure, a walk through water exploration area), so they pushed through to Planet Snoopy where the bulk of their afternoon was spent.

  • Each ride was enjoyed at least twice: Woodstock Express — a small, age-appropriate roller coaster with hills and turns but no sudden falls or inversions — was a favorite, as was the Pumpkin Patch — a ride that took us slowly up 30 feet in the air, spun slowly around and then returned to the ground — but this was mostly due to our own emotional attachment to “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charile Brown”.
  • Snoopy’s Splash Dance is a maze of water sprays and misty curtains.  While it does not require a bathing suit, we can say from experience that it’s highly advised.
  • The kids were cast on-the-spot in “Charlie Brown’s Pirate Adventure”, one of many live shows throughout the park, though the only one currently showing in the Peanuts Playhouse.  It was very fun for them to sing and dance along with giant Peanuts characters!  Total photo op!

There was an entire portion of the park we never even made it to.  Boomerang Bay is the water park within a park at California’s Great America, packed to the gills with features: a huge wave pool, inner tube river rides, water slides, and two water play areas for children.  Jackaroo Landing, with smaller-scale slides, bridges, rope ladders and more, looked like immense fun for toddlers and preschoolers; Kookaburra Cay, strictly a “sprayground”, was a perfect spot for little ones who were more timid or needing to wind down.

  • This section of the park operates on a schedule slightly different from that of the rest of the amusement park.  Be sure to check the schedule when planning your trip.
  • Don’t forget the sunblock — there are no mature trees in the area, and shaded seating is sometimes hard to find.
  • Weather in the Bay Area is not nearly as warm as the Central Valley.  Expect, even on days with midday highs in the 90’s, for the evening to cool significantly.  Be prepared with lightweight clothes for changing into after a day of fun in Boomerang Bay.
  • Lockers are available in the Boomerang Bay, as are full-body dryers, which are sort of an experience in of themselves.  Both of these features require additional money.

All in all, we had a great time spending the day at California’s Great America — so much, in fact, that we’re contemplating season passes next summer!

Check out our entire California’s Great America photo album at the Facebook page.  Don’t forget to “like” us while you’re there!

Fun at the Stanislaus County Fair

July 21, 2011
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Stanislaus County Fair is celebrating its 100th year and a lot has changed since we visited four years ago.

In theme with it’s 100th year celebration, the Time Travel exhibit will take visitors back to the fair’s inception with photos, school projects, and articles; how many Stanislaus residents know the fair started as a Melon Festival?!

We entered at the North Broadway gate near the Kids Zone and exhibit halls.  The carnival was not visible from the get-go and made it easy to put off until the end of our visit.

The Rain Forest exhibit was not only informative but fun: kids could climb, hop and slide their way into the space which felt very authentic due to the mist, vines, camouflage netting and animals around every corner.  Docents near each animal were willing to share the animal’s unique abilities or qualities, and some were even available to pet.  Score!

We had not recalled whether there was so much “walk-about” entertainment in years past.  We saw a clown riding a penny-farthing, a cowboy on stilts, a balloon sculptor, Al and Wally from the Modesto Nuts, and Seymour the robot all walked around talking to kids.

We’d stopped in at the Lowe’s tent to get crafty, but were disappointed with how simple the projects offered were.  All were geared only towards preschoolers; popsicle sticks, letter beads and glue didn’t spark any creativity in even my youngest child.

The hypnotist at the fair, Steve Bayner, entertained us with very funny stunts appropriate for all ages.  Much to the displeasure of my 9-year-old son, participants had to be over the age of 16.  My children kept questioning whether the participants were faking or not: they couldn’t believe what Steve was able to get the participants to do — act like it was freezing cold or super hot; hold a glass of water and spill it all over themselves.  The show, though a little long, was a nice break from all of the walking we had done.

We enjoyed some traditional fair food then headed over to the 4-H exhibits, stopped in at the small petting zoo and then hit the midway.  The fair offered a large assortment of rides and games (all expensive with little chance to win, though that didn’t stop the kids from trying).  By the end of the night, we were all tired and ready to go home.

The organizers of the fair had offered a free Park & Ride shuttle this year, whose route ran from Pitman High, to CSUS, then to the fairgrounds.  While this sounded like a good idea when arriving, it was anything but when we were ready to leave and already quite worn-out.  It took over an hour to get back to our vehicle at Pitman: everyone was leaving the fair near closing like we were, so while the shuttles were picking up frequently, the number of riders hopping on were numerous.  In hindsight, the $4 parking fee at the fairgrounds would have been well worth the time saved.

A few other things to know before you go:

  • Any live performance with heavy attendance will impact surrounding exhibits.  The area around the stage was very crowded and impeded the flow through the livestock area.
  • First-aid does not carry children’s medicines and will charge for adult dosages distributed.
  • A fair-wide scavenger hunt via personal cell phones is fun and participation makes participants eligible to win an iPad.

Brought to You by the Letter “F” — as in “FREE”!

July 8, 2011

We went on a Free Fun Find earlier this week, sleuthing out A LOT of family-friendly totally FREE things to do through the next several weeks.  Now Friday is here, and we are really excited about this Sunday’s kick-off of Fairytale Town’s Children’s Concert Series.  All four musical acts gracing Fairytale Town’s Mother Goose Stage are local artists, with a national fan base.  First up: Francie Dillon.  She goes on promptly at 2pm, and the show is free with general park admission.  I’m a Francie fan; are you?

When they were younger, the birdies would flock to the speakers when I played The Hipwaders.  The Hipwaders will be performing next Sunday, July 17, and I’m hoping they play “Educated Kid”, which is absolutely my favorite track of theirs:

We fine feathered friends of yours would like to make sure you and your family make it to one of the Fairytale Town concerts, so we are creating our own FREEBIE.  The first fourteen — yes, 14! — friends to leave a comment below, sharing their children’s favorite kid song will win four (4) FREE admission tickets to Fairytale Town.

As always, we have some fine print to get out of the way:


  • You must be at least 21 years old to enter.
  • Winners will each receive four (4) free admission passes.
  • Only the first fourteen (14) commentors will win four admission tickets.
  • Only 1 (one) entry per blog commentor.
  • The admission tickets are valid through April 2012.
  • Please email your mailing address to if you are indeed one of the first fourteen commentors.  Your tickets will be mailed to you via USPS.
  • This offer is not redeemable for cash or transferable.
  • Additional restrictions and rules may apply.

Miss Birdie’s County Fair Pick and Free Tickets

July 1, 2011

Oh, does the excitement build in our household each June! The Alameda County Fair is an annual Absolutely Must See, Absolutely Must Do for the flock!

No fair compares to the Alameda County Fair, held in Pleasanton, which opens each year in late June and continues through early July.  This year, the fair opened on June 22 and remains open until July 10, closed only on Tuesdays.  The weather in Pleasanton is perfect (often an escape from triple-digit temps in the valley) the food is always top-notch, and the kid activities are spectacular.

There are TONS of buildings and exhibits indoors to wander through, and we do this first, extending the day and postponing the outdoor midway fun until after lunch. The commercial buildings make for a virtual “As Seen on TV” experience, and while some things are really gimmicky, some items I’ve fallen for, purchased, and loved.


In the past, we’d packed lunches — outside food is allowed — and eaten on shady lawn areas near the horse track, but recently, we’ve just budgeted to eat fair foods this one day each year. The Festival Square Stage food areas are our favorites; positioned between the horse track and the stage are two of the best food vendor sections.   The teriyaki chicken sticks, fried zucchini and grilled corn are not only delicious, but also almost no-guilt options when it comes to fair fare.  Adventurous fair-goers will want to look for Jungle George’s food cart near the Science & Outdoor Adventures Building.  Jungle George’s serves up wild foods like grilled python on a stick, yak burgers, and chocolate covered scorpions.  This year, visitors will also find new deep-fried foods including butter cubes, Jelly Belly jelly beans and Kool-Aid.


With two midways — one for kids and one for older teens and adults — the Alameda County Fair makes it enjoyable to spend a considerable chunk of time on the wildly fun rides.  It’s easy to burn through tickets when each ride requires multiple tickets and we’ve got three kids… Unlimited Ride wristbands are the way we go ($25-28 each). Fortunately, with the admission discounts — we usually go on the Kids FREE Fridays — we can save a little. The small midway has sufficed us now for 12 years. Our eldest has only just begun to ask to go on the bigger midway rides, which we hit on the way out.

The fun extras (pig races, mutton bustin’, ag displays, kid activity areas and kid-specific shows) are great and included with admission.


Now how can you get in to the Alameda County Fair for FREE?  All you need to do for a chance to win four (4) adult fair admissions is:


  • You must be at least 21 years old to enter.
  • You must add a Facebook comment to the Facebook Fan Page between July 1, 2011 at 1:00 pm and July 3, 2010 at 9:00pm PDT.
  • Only 1 (one) entry per Facebook Fan.
  • The admission tickets are only valid through July 10, 2011.
  • The randomly selected winner will be contacted via email and has two (2) days to claim the prize.
  • The winner will be announced via Facebook Fan Page on July 3, 2011 by 10:00pm PDT.
  • This offer is not redeemable for cash or transferable.
  • Additional restrictions and rules may apply.

School’s Out for Summer

June 24, 2011

School’s out forever!  Okay, not really forever, but sometimes, when another day without the distractions of school rises with the sun, it can seem like forever.  And it’s not just the kids that are begging for something to keep boredom at bay… There are days when we as parents are also wishing for a break from what seems like another endless day of summer.

For this, we have a prescription: day camps!  Fortunately, there are a number of camps beginning in the next few weeks — and still have openings.


5678 Dance Studio: Summer Session 2 begins July 11th.

Juline School of Dance: the one week dance camp is over, but Summer Dance Session begins June 27.

Camp Glee through Modesto Junior College Community Education begins July 18.

Shakespeare Camp for Kids, run by the Riverbank Parks & Recreation Department, begins July 18.


The Chartreuse Muse still has some spaces in its remaining Camp Creativity sessions.

Wonder Woman vs. Iron Man Action Figure Camp begins next week, through Modesto Junior College Community Education.

The Science of Art is explored in a one-day camp at Mistlin Gallery July 14.


Modesto Ajax hosts Dutch Method Summer Soccer Training, which begins next Monday, June 27.

Boy’s Basketball — Shooting Camp begins June 27.  This camp is hosted by the Cal State Stanislaus Warriors.

Splish Splash Day Camps at Brenda Athletic Club are weekly camps continuing all summer long.

Riverbank’s Karate Camp begins July 5.

Aqua Camp and Aquatic Fitness Camp, held at Johansen High School’s Pool and organized by Modesto City Parks and Recreation Department, begins July 5.

Beginning Tennis, one of the Riverbank Parks & Recreation Department camps, begins July 9.

Held in late July, Girl’s Basketball Camps are offered by Cal State Stanislaus.

Summer Clinic with the First Tee program doesn’t begin until August, but register early!


Castle Science and Technology Center offers weekly camps June through July.

The Modesto Junior College Community Education Program offers Lego Mindstorms: Intermediate, and Lego Mindstorms: Challenges, both robot building camps, beginning June 27.

Kaboom!, a hands-on science lab camp, through Modesto Junior College Community Education, begins July 11.


Outdoor Adventure Camp, a full day of outdoor play at Jacob Myers Park, begins June 27.

Micke Grove’s Zoofari Camp is offered throughout the summer, with nature-based camps for all ages.

Fairytale Town offers FunCamps throughout the summer, as does the Stockton Children’s Museum, and the Modesto YMCA (operating during the summer months), and the Hannik Equine Center and Shady Lawn Ranch offer week-long horseback riding camps throughout summer.

Share your opinion of the camps your children take part in and the activities and events your family attends anytime. is made better with honest feedback from parents and caregivers like you!

Giddy on up to Humpty’s Western Round Up

June 13, 2011

Fairytale Town's annual fundraiser, June 11   Good times will be a-rollin'!    Upcoming Fairytale Town fun

Fairytale Town’s annual fundraiser, June 11

Gather up yer youngins and mosey on over to Sacramento’s Fairytale Town this Saturday night for a rootin’ tootin’ good time!  The non-profit Fairytale Town has been preparing for its annual fundraiser, “Humpty’s Western Round Up“, and would love to have you and your family attend.

Good times will be a-rollin’!

Aspiring cowpokes young and old are in for an evening of fun!

Trick roper James Barrera will be entertaining the audience with flying lariats and cracking whips.  Having earned a huge fan base throughout the state, Barerra is considered a walking, talking, special effect; his roping act includes an awe-inspiring double-handed bullwhip routine snapping out rhythms alongside a live singer.  Beware — he might just lasso and hogtie an unsuspecting audience member.

The Dave Russell Band — based now out of Sacramento, but originally from North Carolina — has performed to sold out shows across the country and now heads to Humpty’s Western Round Up to provide the tunes required of any quintessential hoe down!  The Dave Russel Band is sure to get you up out of your seats, tappin’ yer toes, and screamin’ for more.

What’s a cowboy or cowgirl without a horse?  The Sacramento County 4-H Mini Equine Program will be on hand to answer questions, share information, and provide an opportunity for children to touch and interact with its collection of miniature horses.

Other fun activities and crafts unique to Humpty’s Western Round Up will be available Saturday evening.  Children can rope and wrangle faux ponies; knock down bottles from a fence post using precision aim; create a picture of the setting sun so they, too, can ride off into the sunset; and craft a good-natured rattle snake to rustle up a little fun for days to come.

Humpty’s Western Round Up at Fairytale Town is this Saturday, June 11, from 6 – 10pm.  It’s a special ticketed event, and tickets are available for purchase online. Prices, in advance, are $25 for adults, $10 for children aged 2 to 12, and free for children aged 1 and younger.  If purchased on the day of the event, prices are increased by $5.  Ticket cost includes park admission, all live entertainment and themed activities, barbeque eats prepared by Red Oak BBQ, a soft drink, and Crystal Ice Cream for dessert.  Saloon stations will be serving beer and wine for purchase.

Upcoming Fairytale Town fun

The excitement continues all summer long at Fairytale Town!  Open daily from 9am – 4pm, the park often organizes special events for the enjoyment of all visitors.  Save the dates for these fun opportunities to visit Fairytale Town AND see something a little extra:
International Celebration, July 2.  Cultures from around the world perform on the outdoor Mother Goose Stage, including Sangeet Bharati, Minyo Tanoshimi Kai, Kyla’s School of Highland Dance, Fenix Drum & Dance, Folklorico Aztlan de Sacramento, Hula 4 Fun, and Eastern Ways Martial Arts.

Twilight Concert: Sacramento Taiko Dan, July 13.  This Japanese style of percussion combines music and movement, creating a dynamic and visually exciting art form.

Very Special Arts Day, July 16, which features performances by very special artists, displays of visual artwork created by VSA arts students, and hands-on workshops such as collage, mobiles, yarn painting, block print-making, and ink-blot butterflies.

Children’s Concert Series, Sundays in July.  Matinee performances will feature favorite local children’s artists, including Francie Dillon, The Hipwaders, Mister Cooper and Octopretzel.

For a truly unique experience, Fairytale Town offers Family Camp Outs.  Sleep under the stars and awake to the sunrise.  Fairytales to be read before cozying up, of course!  Three special sleepover nights are offered through the summer months.

Children learn through play…

…and that’s what Fairytale Town is all about!  Find out more about this beautiful 2.5 acre children’s play park and outdoor children’s museum by visiting its website at

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