Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Making Space Fun Again: Kennedy Space Center

  We've all had those trips that we were excited about taking. Children are giddy when taken to Disneyland while some people look forward to sitting on the beach under an umbrella with a beverage of their choice. I would also feel safe to say that most of us plan to do or see more than one thing while they were on vacation otherwise the trip would feel stale. If you relate to that I would ask you if you had ever had an instance where one of those events or sites turned out to be the unexpected highlight of your trip? This happened to me while we were going on a cruise to the Caribbean and I can't begin to tell you how surprised I was. 
 Our cruise left on a Sunday and as a safety factor we chose to get into town early so we allowed time on Saturday to visit Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.  Like many Americans I was confused, saddened and understanding at the announcement of the retirement of the shuttle program and I do still have strong feelings about it but that's not what this blog is about. I felt that since the shuttle program was going away the same fate would soon follow for the rest of NASA and we would be left with museums and memories of the golden age of space exploration. In a way I was correct. We'll always have some great exhibits housed in museums to visit with our kids. I was very wrong, however, about NASA fading away and after visiting Kennedy Space Center I left more excited about the space program then I have been at any point in my life. 
   The KSC complex has enough to see that I won't be able to cover it all in this blog post but when you visit, and I strongly suggest you do so, you will experience every aspect of mankind's history of space exploration.
 The Rocket Garden grabs your attention as soon as you walk on site. How can it not? There are massive rockets standing before you in all their glory answering any questions you had about how big these things are. Spoiler, some of them are massive. There are displays that go in depth about the space race, early astronauts, and our love affair with science fiction but the two highlights that I want to mention are the bus tour and Shuttle Atlantis.
  I would compare the bus tour to Universal Studios' Back Lot Tour. The bus takes you through the heart of KSC where you have the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the launch pads where rockets and shuttles began their journey's to space. You pass the assembly building where shuttles were attached to the fuel tank and rocket boosters and where they would be set atop the "crawler" prior to making agonizing slow (1mph) creep to the launch pads. By the way, the crawler is the largest piece of that a man can drive that I've ever seen in my life. Ship's are bigger but ocean dwellers don't count here.
  The highlight of the bus tour is the Saturn V rocket hangar. Your visit starts out with a reenactment of what mission control experienced during the Apollo missions which is pretty intense. It's amazing what lights and speakers can do to make you feel like you were really there. Once the theatrics are over the doors are opened to the main hangar where an actual Saturn V rocket is lying on it's side and disassembled so that visitors can see how the rocket sections were tied together during launch. Assembled this thing is 363 ft. long and seeing it in person makes you proud of mankind's accomplishments. Space suites, moon rovers and tools are also on display to tell the story of what it took to get to and work on the moon in visual detail.
 Hands down my favorite display in the entire KSC complex was getting to see the shuttle Atlantis. Despite all the signage I honestly had no idea that I was about to walk into a room with Atlantis. It's rare for me to not do some form of research prior to a trip but in this case it was a blessing. I felt like a little kid when the veil was lifted and I was literally just feet away from an orbiter. The display allows you to look inside the cargo bay doors with the Canada arm stretched across the room and you can count each black tile on the the bottom of the shuttle from the floor below if you were so inclined to do so. I really wanted to climb inside and think about floating over Earth but I had to settle for the children's version that sits adjacent to Atlantis but I guess I can deal with that. The kids thought it was cool to see this stuff but I don't think they really grasped the importance of what they were seeing which I can understand considering they didn't live through the peak of the shuttle program but some day I hope they'll get it.
  Despite being saddened by the shuttle program ending our visit opened my eyes to the future of American space exploration. Once I realized that this is only a transition phase similar to what took place while moving from rockets to shuttles I got excited about NASA and space travel again. So what if we don't have a replacement shuttle yet, we still have rockets that are launched on a regular basis which anyone can witness if you're lucky enough to be there on a launch day and now there is more of an open market with independent companies building exotic and mind blowing machines that will help pave the way for the future of space travel. Every day we're one day closer to commercial space travel (scary, actually) and I'm convinced that someday man will walk on the surface of Mars, a feat that still seems more like science fiction rather than reality.
  The Kennedy Space Center ended up being my favorite part of my cruise vacation and it took place before I even set eyes on the stupid ship. Seriously, I could have jumped right back on a plane bound for Utah and I would have considered it a successful trip. If you would like to learn more about what you can see at KSC check out their web site at https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Bird Brain

  When traveling I like to see new things like most people do. I also enjoy photographing my experiences so that I can relive them anytime I want and also to continue proving to my mother in law that I am the superior photographer, which by the way is no contest. I love to photograph historical landmarks, buildings and breathtaking vistas during magic hour. Of course a perk of traveling is seeing local wildlife that can't be found where you're from. These animals can be exotic or they may be ordinary, some may be wild while others may be domesticated but to you they are special so you photograph them.        This is what I find myself doing on each trip especially if I'm going to Yellowstone National Park or somewhere else that is known for wildlife. But what I've discovered while going through my photos is that there seems to be an overabundance of birds.
  It isn't intentional. I mean, I like birds and all, they're really fun to hunt but I hadn't really looked at them as a focus of photography, yet here they are popping up in every folder on my hard drive. I have photos of pelicans from Florida, grouse from Bodie, blue birds form Yosemite and Flamingos from Sea World. I found a sneaky wood pecker at Silver Lake in Utah as well as some ducks. Everywhere I look I see birds and it doesn't make sense. Yes it surprises me but it doesn't disappoint me. Through photography I have learned something about myself and that is, I seem to find birds to be an interesting subject. I like taking pictures and it doesn't matter what it is because taking photos is fun and is a creative outlet but somewhere in my brain when I see one of these feathered creatures my inner wildlife photographer tries to capture them in a perfect shot.
   My primary purpose of travel is to see interesting things which means I'm not able to set aside the proper time to needed to get the greatest landscape photos during "magic hour" but it seems that the birds find me when they want to be photographed. Are all of these photos great? Maybe not but I'm not selling them. The birds and I seem to come together at very interesting times which make the photos even more special like the Bodie grouse that wandered out for me and my daughter during a wind and rain storm. Had the wind not picked up I'm sure they would have remained hidden in the sage brush and we would have never seen them. On a trip to Yellowstone we had gotten up and entered the park at around 6 am and I don't even remember what the main purpose was but we ended up pulling over next to the Madison River with a thick fog hovering around us and we were able to snap some photos of geese fording the river. In that case I didn't have the proper zoom lens on the camera but there wasn't really time to change so I settled for what I got. Is it a great photo? No but I enjoy it because it reminds me of standing on the Madison River with my daughter who was four years old at the time.
  Is there a point to my little story? Maybe. I found it interesting that I've learned to appreciate something that I had no intention of ever paying attention to. Through the lens I've found beauty in unexpected places and while I don't think that bird photography will ever be a primary objective of my travel photography I don't think it hurts it either. So to you, dear reader, I implore you to always have a camera with you while you travel and don't be afraid to snap a photo of whatever catches your eye because it may just teach you something about yourself.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Holiday Travel

  I've come realize that with each year that passes time seems to go by faster than the previous year. I guess if you take into account that when you only get 3 waking hours of time at home a day and the pressures of relentless work schedules with no hope of pleasing your client time isn't going to really stop for you. It is usually around this time of year, one week before Thanksgiving, that one starts to ask, "Where did the year go?" Or maybe the constant countdown of shopping days until Christmas has you asking those close to you, "Didn't we just get done with Christmas?"
  Of course with the arrival of the holidays the question arises of who's going where and who's bringing what. For us these questions have been easy. Our families have lived within twenty miles of each other for all of our lives and we gave up on trying to visit everyone we wanted to spend time with on Thanksgiving a long time ago. It was just too difficult to do and we ended up eating way to much food. So we have Thanksgiving at our home each year with an open door policy for anyone that wants to visit. On good years my friend and I like to get up early and head out to the desert to sling some lead at tin cans for a couple of hours which helps ease frustrations and is over all just a blast. Pun intended. This year, however, is a different story.
  My brother is in Chicago. My friends and family are in Salt Lake and we're in California with no way out this year. So no shooting this year, buddy. We'll try again next year. It's a new experience for us and I have to say that it's a bit of an adjustment. So what are we to do? The same thing we always do. We're here and anyone's welcome. We won't see everyone this year but we'll be happy to see our parents at least and I'm hoping that next year we'll be able to make it home for at least one holiday so that we can start easing ourselves back home permanently but that's too far away to get exited about right now so we'll just not think about that right now.
  I admit that it makes me wonder if traveling for the holiday's would be something worth trying, though. Why do I continue to sit at home and spend half the day cooking and lounging around each year? Probably because I like to do those things but that seems to be getting boring. Would I find Thanksgiving just as enjoyable if I were on a cruise ship in the Caribbean? Maybe. Would I enjoy myself at Disneyland? Absolutely not. Thanksgiving week is the busiest time in the park and I promise you that I wouldn't be caught dead withing ten miles of that place during the holidays but some people don't seem to care so I'll let them enjoy each others company.
  Maybe it would be worth checking out Australia. The weather warms up down under while we cool off so it only makes sense to visit while the weather is in our favor right? Kangaroos, crocodiles and sunshine what more could you ask for? I suppose if Australia is too far to go there is always Florida. We exchange kangaroos for old people and alligators rather than crocodiles but the weather is still nice. Folks from Florida don't have fun accents like he Aussies but them's the breaks.
  For now the thought of traveling during the holidays is just that, a thought. I'm still happy being at home with my family while I vegetate for a few days. Sometimes that's just what the doctor ordered but I'm learning that I'm open to more ideas as I get older and there's no telling what I'll come up with next. I will think of all of you that are traveling this year to see your families. I'll think of heavy traffic coming in and out of Los Angeles and the horrible, long lines and no place to sit at the airports across the country. I will think of you lugging around your luggage while trying to keep an eye on that one child of yours that likes to wander off when you aren't looking. Yes I'll think of all of this and smile knowing that I'm sitting at home stress free and enjoying the constant sunshine that Southern California has to offer. Yup, staying home doesn't seem so bad when it comes right to it.
  Good luck to all of you who will be traveling next week. Let your travels be fun and safe. We'll be here to occupy a few minutes of your time if the need arises. Have a good weekend and we'll see you next week.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sneak Peeks and Stage Shows of Disneyland.

Its always another day in paradise.  Realizing that it is another day in paradise is the trick.  Disneyland is a magical place I absolutely love if I wasn't to obvious about that, but even Disney days aren't perfect.  Sometimes its 95 degrees in hot and humid Southern California and that 70 minute wait to ride Radiator Springs Racers just might break you.  Sometimes there are a million people squished into the space you're standing and you are wondering how many more they can fit until the park hits capacity.  Sometimes you go to a theme park seven times in a ten day period and your feet are screaming at you to sit a minute.  We decided to explore our magical place as if there wasn't a ride to be had and we were not disappointed.

Ever since Disney took over Marvel I have been so excited to see what they might do to the parks.  If I can be completely honest, the Twilight zone Tower of Terror being turned to the Guardians of the Galaxy was not my idea of a great first step.  I get that there are things decided in meetings that we don't know the details too.  I also get that we are talking about Disney and that I'm sure they will do a great job.  They are killing one of my favorite steps into an imaginary place and replacing it with something I am not as excited for.  I've heard rumors that they might be transforming most of the corner around the ride into a Marvel themed area but nothing solid enough to get excited about.  It has been super cool to see the Iron Man suit over in Innoventions.  It was also really cool to see the suit Benedict Cumberbatch wore in Doctor Strange.

Next to the Monsters Inc. ride is a sneak peak of Doctor Strange in the theater where they used to have the Muppet's show.  As you walk in to the wait area this suit is on display.  Our little gal thought this was the coolest thing ever.  We loved the Sherlock series so she was a big fan of Benedict Cumberbatch.  To see the suit he actually wore was such a treat for this little fan.  Of course its all in 3D so they hand you a set of glasses to be fully immersed in their story.  It startled me a little bit when the walls moved as part of the story.  Attention to detail is their thing but having screens down the sides of the theaters as well was an extra special touch.  I realize that the movie is out in the theaters already but we haven't yet watched it so this was all a surprise for us.  It was also air conditioned in the theater which was awesome.

If you are a frozen fan, or a stage show fan, or a human being then I have heard that the Frozen stage show at the Hyperion Theater is the must see show of a lifetime.  I cant tell you how great it is though because I cant seem to get in line early enough.  They first time we tried it was cutting it to close to catching a plane.  The second time we tried the 45 minutes early we got in line was not enough.  It seems that if you really want to see the show you should line up around and hour early and still you might not make it in depending on crowds.  We have our plans in place to make a trip to the park just for this show so I will return and report later.            

Where It's Tough to be a Bug played there is a sneak peek to Moana.  While I am excited to see this movie and I was in awe of the sneak peek, It's Tough to be a Bug is coming back right?!?! I hope so.  The preview was awesome with full effects.  You are immersed into the story complete with 3D glasses, splashes of ocean waves, little critters running under your bum, bursts of fog and a tale of bravery and magic.  I'm seriously excited to see this movie now.

Great Moments with Mr Lincoln is another show that cant be missed.  Walt saw the power in the story of this man and his love for his country.  Its chilling to see Mr Lincoln stand before you in this amazing show.  Seriously, Go see this!  And while you are there take time to look around the wait area to see how Disneyland took shape.  We tend to walk past this as we rush down Main Street to the fun but its so so good.  Also on Main Street is the Main Street Cinema.  Here you can see six of Disney's early films in a small dark open floored theater.  Its closely across the street from Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor.  I'm not trying to tell you how to live your life but it seems to me that the location of these two places is meant to be a treat and seat, well a seat on the floor but still.  Disneyland has a lot of things to see and do that aren't all about the rides.  The rides are awesome though so don't skip any of those.  Just don't pick the Mad Hatters Tea Cups too soon after your ice cream.  

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.  J. R. R. Tolkien


Friday, November 11, 2016

The Whaley House

   I'm taking us back to San Diego once more to discuss one of the more special buildings of Old Town, San Diego. Many buildings come and go, their histories lost to time but in some cases a building's history is so special that it becomes a beloved landmark. These buildings are the one's that land on historic registries which help protect them for multiple generations to enjoy. The Whaley House is one of those buildings.
  What started out as a granary became Thomas Whaley's dream home. He designed the two story home himself and construction was completed in 1857. At one time the granary was used as a courtroom for San Diego County and the upper floor's front bedroom was converted into a small theater with a stage and seating for 150 people. After being in this room on a few occasions I'm here to tell you that I sure as heck wouldn't be one of those 150. There simply isn't enough space to squeeze that many people in there. I suppose fire code was a little different (non existent) back then.

  As you can see the Whaley House was never just a family dwelling. From courthouse, general store and a theater the house was reinvented to serve the community as needed and based on that history alone I would say it built a storied reputation. But the house is known for one other, maybe controversial, detail. It's haunted.
  Yeah, I know Halloween is over but you can't talk about the Whaley House without talking about ghosts and two of my top 10 favorite topics of conversation are hauntings and history.   To be honest I would have included the Whaley House in our October posts except that we chose to visit the last weekend of the month and time just ran out. What do you do?
  Many paranormal teams have visited the Whaley House with many of them coming away with very interesting photos and audio recordings. The home has been featured on multiple television shows, one of them even rated the Whaley House as America's most haunted house. This was my third visit to the house and each time I did a different type of tour none of which gave me any type of evidence of ghostly activity. But don't think I'm implying that this place isn't haunted. I just haven't been lucky enough to catch anything yet. My eleven year old daughter and my Dad both saw a strange shadow hovering over the stage while we listened to our tour guide tell the history of the 150 people cramming into the room. I'm bummed I didn't see it but if both of them saw it then something was there. I guess I'll just have to keep going back.
  Who's still home? Thomas and Anna Whaley have been seen in the house and the yard. In fact, one of best stories I've heard is when Anna Whaley appeared to Regis Philbin. Other unknown spirits seem to hang around the house. Whether they were former residents that had rented the home or family friends checking in on the place are questions that will never be answered.
  The most famous ghost surrounding the property is that of "Yankee" Jim. Convicted of attempted grand larceny, James Robinson was hung on the property prior to the construction of the house. His execution was not a smooth one. In fact, it was difficult to watch according to the history books. Rather than a quick snap of the neck he ended up slowly strangling to death. Thomas Whaley happened to be a witness at the hanging and still decided to purchase the property and built the house directly over the site. It is believed that the large arch in the first floor living room is in the same location as Jim Robinson's gallows.
  You have the option of taking a self guided tour during the day or a guided tour after 5 pm. We opted for a 7:30 pm tour which ended up being a popular time slot. Our large group fit just fine while we were in the court house portion of the house but be we all quickly became close friends as we toured the rest of the home. Let's face it, no house is ever really designed to become a museum but it surely wasn't a thought during the 1800's. While it was tight it was still a fun tour that made sure to hit the highlights of the families history as well as making sure to meld in the ghost stories which in my opinion keeps everyone paying attention and teaches them something as well. As an unexpected surprise the Ghostbusters and Ecto-1 were paying a visit on the night we were there which a thrill for my kid's. Being the car guy that I am I was more interested in the car which was a very well done recreation. I obviously wasn't the only one who like the car because the crowds around it kept me from getting a clear photo of it. Oh, well. Kudos to them and the Whaley House for having them.
  The Whaley House is one of those special places that I try to always visit when I'm in the San Diego area and it's a very popular attraction for tourists year round. It's possible to visit the house thanks to the Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO.) They have been the caretakers of the Whaley House since the year 2000 and have spent these years painstakingly restoring the home by using old photos and records. To see more on their story check out their web site  http://whaleyhouse.org/aboutus.htm.
Of course studying the history is fun but not as much fun as visiting for yourself. I'm told the weather is always beautiful down in San Diego so if you're looking for a nice winter getaway you should head on down there and don't forget to pay attention to your peripheral vision. You never know who may be watching. By the way, if you're lucky enough you might get to meet the Ghostbusters. Just sayin. See you next week.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Day Free of Crowds at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

The worst part of any theme park adventure is the crowds.  The cost usually comes in as a close second though.  The third has got to be touching handrails a million people have had to touch and where ever their hands have been.  That is my top three list and I am sticking to it.  You really cant do a lot about it but once in a while you hit a golden day.  A day where the crowds are away, you get a great discount, the sticky handrails are few and the park is buzzing with fun things for you to do.  This day was one of those days. 

Twisted Colossus is one of the most popular rides here at Six Flags Magic Mountain.  Its so worth it too.  Two tracks side by side on a wooden frame unlike any other.  This is the only wooden roller coaster I've ever been on that flips you upside down multiple times.  And just when you think its all done swoosh you are off to a second loop around the track.  If you can time it right, and they try to as often as they can, you can race the car in the other track.  Its a shock to be that close to another car while you take turns twisting upside down above each other.  Really if you only do one ride ever at the park this should be your one ride.  And wait the wait.  Its worth it.  Its even more worth it if its only five minutes though.  If its only five minutes ride it a few times. 


It was our first year at Six Flags Magic Mountain Home School Family Day.  Our annual passes didn't get us in so I almost skipped it.  We have been here a few times this year and I couldn't imagine one more being all that special. We needed a little pick up after saying goodbye to our fur baby Jeep so we packed a week full of parks and fun. We are so glad we came to the park this day. 

 Lets be completely honest here.  Crowds are not the reason we home school but crowds are definitely a huge perk to the option.  We have been to Magic Mountain a few times this year and the crowds weren't that bad.  I can handle a 30 minute wait when I'm hanging out with my adventure buddies.  We can usually go and get a few rides in, get lunch and go back home to finish the day.  One this day we rode everything we wanted and more.  The amazing crew at the customer service desk even helped us to upgrade our day passes to passes for next year so we felt like it was a great value too.  It worked out beautifully.  If you go to the park for the day and you love it, talk to customer service.  Often they will let you use what you paid for that days pass to go toward an annual or season pass.  Basically we paid for two days and get a whole year. 

I mentioned there were no crowds right? Seriously, it was magical.  As I looked into it a little bit more there are other parks that do it as well.  For example November 11th is the date set for Six Flags Discovery Kingdom's annual Home School Day.  I wondered for a moment if it was worth the five hour drive to go but I think we will wait until we have a weekend to spend. Getting tickets was pretty easy.  Just go to the event page and click the tab for special group and educational events. Find the home school day and buy your passes.  There were a lot of families there supporting their favorite home school friends.  There is no place that asked you for proof of home schooling so I feel like you could get a great day celebrating your favorite home school family even if you aren't one your self (My opinion, not theirs).  Need a favorite?  Choose us.  We are always up for a great adventure.

I feel like I might of let the cat out of the bag here.  If you go next year and the place is packed, I'm sorry.  Take your favorite adventure buddy and spend some time in a line with your phone down and have a face to face conversation.  The real world really is a pretty cool place.

We had a blast, like we always do.  I truly believe that the adventure is all depending on the attitude you take on it.  We are thankful we have the freedoms we do and can take adventures like this.  We are thankful for our friends and family who go on these adventures with us either in person or here on our blog.  We are thankful for our memories and each day we are given to make new ones.  Happy November everyone.  What are you thankful for? Low crowd days for sure.

{Hugs} Misty

Friday, November 4, 2016

Old Town San Diego

  Tourist destinations wouldn't be popular if the sites didn't have something interesting to offer. Each place has it's own flair and "must see" sites or things to do. Most people wouldn't go to New York City without seeing the Empire State Building and what would the point be to visit Washington D.C. without getting a glimpse of the White House? Well, San Diego, California is no exception. You might visit Balboa Park to take in a museum or the zoo or you may want to take in a little military history while touring the U.S.S. Midway. But I don't think I would be alone in saying that one of San Diego's must see spots is Old Town San Diego.
  We tried to visit Old Town on our previous trip to San Diego back in January of 2016 but we spent too much time elsewhere to make it over there. Since we're only a few hours away we decided to pack up and spend the weekend and like I had hoped, we weren't disappointed.
    We kept it easy and stayed in a hotel just down the street to keep our driving to practically nothing and we never had to fight for a parking spot. Once hitting the street it didn't take long before the wonderful aromas of Mexican food surrounded us. In other words, there's a lot of Mexican Restaurants in Old Town which isn't really a bad thing unless you want variety. In fact it may be a sin not to stop in to Cafe Coyote. Their salsa and chile verde are by far the best I've come across. Really. If I could replicate it I may not eat anything else. I guess I could have been really hungry or something but that's my story and I'm stickin' with it.
  Now to be up front and honest, Old Town is a tourist trap much like Calico, CA or Gardner Village in Utah. You'll find a lot of little shops housed inside very old buildings selling candy, sodas (which we bought,) olive oil (also bought,) and jewelry (not this time.) I suppose that's what keeps the place going but for me the draw is the history and the buildings. One building in particular peaks my interest each time I visit and that's the Whaley House but that's a story for another time. The buildings within the borders of the state park consist of a mix of original and reconstructed buildings mostly stemming from the mid 1800's. The Well's Fargo museum resides inside the Colorado House, a former hotel that has old stage coaches and telegraph history to explore. The Seeley Stable Museum has historic furniture, wagons and live burros if you're into that sort of thing. Be careful though, they bite.  We did hear a rumor that they were going away soon.
   The first building we entered was a church now used by the Church of Immaculate Conception.  This beautiful building is worth stopping by just to look at the stained glass windows. The detail is incredible to me and since I don't spend a lot of time around stained glass it's cool to check them out. This was also the first time that I've seen prayer candles have now become digital. I guess nothing is sacred anymore.
  We spent an entire day in Old Town and it wasn't until I started writing this post that I realized how much of the place we had neglected to see. I didn't make it into the Sheriff's Museum to look at old uniforms and patrol cars. We didn't take the extra walk to the Mormon Battalion Historic Site either. Now I feel that I have once again left San Diego with unfinished business. I guess we'll have to go back soon to finish exploring the town and, of course, partake of some more chile verde.
  Take the time to check out Old Town when you visit San Diego. It really is worth the time. It wouldn't consistantly be one of the most visited California State Parks if it wasn't. By the way, even though it's a state park there is no fee to get in to the town or any of the buildings. That means you'll have more money to buy hot sauce or olive oil or both. Have a great weekend everyone. Stay safe!


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Happy 100th Birthday San Diego Zoo.

2016 has been a great year for big birthdays.  This year was the big 100 for the National Park Service and for the beautiful San Diego Zoo.  Happy Birthday to two places that give you the opportunity to step into nature and see the world in a new way.  In 1916 Dr. Harry Wegeforth was driving past Balboa Park and heard a lion roar.  The lion was left over from an exhibit that had closed earlier in the year. With a love of animals and a heart that believed he could do anything, the once physician saved that lion and began San Diego Zoo.  I wonder if he knew how big his impulse adoption of a lion would ever become.  The Story is a fun one and you can read more about it here on the zoo's timeline from their website.   
This place is huge!  99 acres of hills and valleys is a lot to explore.  The first thing we did was jumped on one of their tour buses for a trip around the park for a quick overview.  This was the perfect way to get an idea of how big this place is and plan your day.  Quick Tip: Its a double decker bus.  If you want to see all the animals you want to sit on the lower level of the bus.  From here you can see both sides of the bus well and not miss a thing.  Plus you aren't spending 35 minutes in the sun to start off your sunburn for the day.  The bus driver and guide was amazing.  I cant imagine the stress of driving that huge bus through all those zoo visitors.  She told us a great tale of the zoo and all the fun little facts at each stop all while not killing anyone.  If you have ever tried to push a shopping cart through a crowded store in a hurry with a toddler telling you all about the deep details of her mind you might have a tiny bit of an idea what our guide might have been going through.  It was such an adventure.  They also have what they call kangaroo bus that you can use to get from place to place in the park.  Grab a map when you walk in and it will tell you all about it.  It will also tell you the location of all the eating spots, bathrooms and of course the great things to see at the park.  At the end of the day we rode the Skyfari down to the front of the park.  This tram ride gives you a view of the zoo from the sky.  You can also see some of the beautiful buildings of Balboa Park.  This tram moved at a pretty quick pace and was a bit bouncy.  In the end of it you reach the bottom where a cute little gal steps out in the path of your tram and braces herself to catch you.  Its a must do when you visit the park for sure.  

Between the eight of us there that day I think we might have taken thousands of pictures.  It was a tough job to pick our few favorites to write up this post.  This sleepy guy is part of the Koala exhibit.  Koalas sleep 18 to 22 hours a day so this is how we are going to see them most.  Australia is highly selective of who it will let export Koalas so when they received their first two Koalas in 1925 it was a huge deal.  San Diego Zoo has been so successful in their breeding programs that the zoo is now home to the largest colony of Koalas outside of Australia. 

San Diego Zoo does everything big.  If your going to do something you might as well go all in and that is what they do.  As you explore their website you can see live cams of their animals in action through out the day.  Here is a link to their polar cam so you can explore the zoo from home.  The polar bears are especially active and fun to watch.   Its funny to think that polar bears would be so at home in sunny San Diego but they seem very happy in their sunny home.  In the wild their diets consists of a lot of fats to build up a warm layer.  Here they are fed a healthy diet and so they aren't as chubby.  Maybe this is why they have so much playful energy here.  

When we were here I saw animals new to me and ones I never knew I would see.  This is a Tasmanian Devil.  Really all I knew about this animal was what I had learned on Looney Toons.  This guy didn't have the energy of the furry friend we saw as kids.  He wasn't as noisy either.  Maybe we caught him on a quiet day.  He looked so peaceful napping in the sun.  Have I mentioned a hundred times yet that the animals all seemed so happy there?  You can tell that the zoo has a love for the animals that drives them to create these beautiful places. 

From wild birds who come to steal the food from the zoo animals to elephant poop paper products you can buy in the gift store this place was one surprise after another.  We spent an entire day exploring the exhibits and still there were things we didn't see.  There is something magical about San Diego Zoo and I cant wait to go back.  

{Loving the Journey}