Summer Vacation 2015 – Los Angeles & San Diego

We had a fabulous summer vacation this year – a trip out to Los Angeles and San Diego. Linda has been trying to get the family out to California for several years, but I’d been very resistant due to the time it would take to travel out there and tour the state. However, we finally agreed on flying out (instead of driving) and also visiting a couple cities, instead of all of them.

Day 1

We flew in to Los Angeles about 10am and, after getting a surprisingly nice Chevy Cruze rental car, went directly downtown to the Grammy Museum next to the Staples Center. The girls were incredibly happy because there was a Taylor Swift exhibit with lots of her artifacts and dresses.

IMG_7881After touring the Grammy Museum, we drove over to Warner Brothers Studios for a tour around the lot. What a magnificent tour through back lots and stages – we could easily see many of our favorite TV shows and movies come to life as we gazed upon sets, streets, and stages.

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The highlight of the tour was getting to see the stage where “The Ellen Degeneres Show” is filmed; Emily is such a fan of the show and had been hoping we’d be able to see it. The tour was coming to an end and we had not seen the anything in regards to the show. We had been told up front that some of the stages were filming and we’d not be able to go anywhere near them. I assumed this was the case, but the guide offered “one last stop, if nobody minds having the tour go a little long”. We all agreed and went in the back entrance through a seemingly nondescript doorway – and right on to the set of  “The Ellen Degeneres Show” – Emily began to cry uncontrollably.  We weren’t allowed to take any photographs inside, but we did get this one of Emily outside the studio.

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Additionally, Linda wanted to make sure I got a photo with me and Bugs Bunny, one of my favorite childhood cartoon characters.

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We finished the day off by going to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and searched out different stars on the sidewalk – finding the star for Ellen Degeneres, of course.

Day 2

The second day in LA was filled with a tour around LA on a guided tour bus. This was perfect, because we parked the car and let someone else do the driving and explaining about all of the sights. We started at the Santa Monica Pier and then went to Venice Beach where we saw skateboarders and the famous Muscle Beach (but no one working out at 9am).

IMG_7906After walking around Venice Beach, we then made our way to Beverly Hills. We drove around a bit and saw some mansions and then walked along Rodeo Drive and did some window shopping. It really did feel like walking around The Plaza in Kansas City, but I know the prices were quite different.

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After lunch, we drove up to the Griffith Observatory, which gave us a gorgeous view of the entire LA basin. Additionally, it gave us the best opportunity for a picture with the “Hollywood sign” in the background (look real carefully over Anna’s left shoulder).

 

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We then finished the day of the tour back at the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the TCL (Grauman’s) Chinese Theatre.

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Day 3

Our 3rd day found us waking in Anaheim so we could be close to Disneyland. We arrived and parked with very little difficulty (what an amazing HUGE parking garage they have). The tram ride was easy and we were at the front gates within 15 minutes of arriving. After all the years of hearing about lines at Disneyland – we witnessed firsthand how awesome they really move and you don’t feel like you waited all that long.

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The worst thing to happen was getting stuck on the “It’s a Small World” ride. We sat for about 15 minutes near the final exit – right in front of a blaring speaker – blasting “It’s a Small World” over and over and over and over and over and over…. (you get the idea).

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The parades were awesome – especially the nighttime parade, but no iPhone picture was going to do it justice, so you’ll just have to view at the collage of the daytime parade.
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We got our pictures with Tigger, Eyore, and Pooh. Linda’s been a Winnie the Pooh fan since early childhood.

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Day 4

The 4th day was one of leisurely travel down the coastal highway to San Diego. It was a Sunday morning, so we got up and went to Mass before striking out on a gorgeous day of travel with beautiful oceanside scenery. We stopped in Oceanside, California for a long lunch at a seaside restaurant.

IMG_7965We made our way to the hotel in San Diego and promptly fell asleep, waking in time to get some dinner. First half of the trip completed and a couple more days to go.

Day 5

Much like our first full day in LA, we spent our first full day in San Diego on a tour of the city. We started with a tour of the harbor and then had a tour of the city via a tour bus. I didn’t really take any pictures of the city tour, but highlights were going through Little Italy and out to Coronado Island.

IMG_7969 IMG_7971 IMG_7979We ate a fabulous lunch in Little Italy. After the tour was over, we grabbed some fabulous Italian desserts from a deli and then walked down to the Ballast Point Brewery where we enjoyed appetizers and  drinks.

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Finally, we finished the night off at the Balboa Park free outdoor pipe organ concert.

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Day 6

Our final full day in San Diego was reserved for the San Diego Zoo and also the San Diego Safari Park. This was one full day walking around and enjoying the amazing exhibits at the famous zoo.

IMG_8021 IMG_8030 IMG_8034After finishing at the Zoo (just as a thunderstorm arrived), we travelled the 30 miles out to Escondido to see the Safari Park. This was an amazing tour (although hot and muggy after the rain went away). Riding the tour bus around this huge safari park suggested as to what it must be like to go on a safari in Africa. The animals are all co-mingled and running around together. Very cool.

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After a long, hot day of walking (6.8 miles of walking according to my Apple Watch), we stopped off for one more round of refreshing drinks and appetizers at the Stone Brewing Co.

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Day 7

Our last bit of vacation in beautiful, sunny California was spent at the USS Midway Museum, right down on the harbor and just a few miles from the airport. This was a fabulous experience, getting to see how an aircraft carrier works and how the crew lived and functioned. There are lots of airplanes and helicopters, both inside the main hanger and up on the deck.

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The best part for me was seeing the medical ward, ICU, OR, and dental clinic deep down in the bowels of the ship.

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After our tour was over, we returned our trusty little Chevy Cruze and boarded the plane back to Kansas. California, it was awesome visiting and we look forward to coming back again!

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First Day of School – 2015-16

After having a packed summer with little time for relaxation, the girls have returned to school. Anna is entering her Senior year and Emily is now a Junior.

They’ve already been busy with band and drill team, meeting just about every morning for 2 weeks before school started.

Here are the required “first day of school” pictures:

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Additionally, since it’s Ann’a final year in high school, Linda pulled out the picture from first day of Kindergarten:

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