Family VonWang's Passport


Member since:
02 December 2008

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Icon_pictureBeen to 195 Attractions
Icon_star189 Reviews
Icon_star1117 First to Review
Icon_camera233 Photos
Icon_thumbsup63 Helpful Votes
About Me & My Family

My husband Phil and I have two daughters, Gabriella and Charlotte. We all love to travel and explore the world! We prefer villas or rental apartments so we can use the kitchen, though a stint at the Four Seasons is also welcomed. We prefer relaxed, unstructured vacations with lots of downtime. We don't cram too much into one day. Our ideal vacation would be to rent a house or villa in Europe, rent a car, and spend a few weeks just getting immersed in the culture.
Our Family's Travel Personality
adventurous, curious, quiet, pampered, relaxed, independent, sophisticated, artsy
We Just Got Back From
Our Favorite Vacation Spot
The National Parks!
A Place We'd Love To Visit
Favorite Vacation Memory
Gaby and Charlotte playing with all of their cousins at our annual family reunion.
Worst Travel Moment With My Kids:
10 hour flight to Hungary and my daughter didn't sleep AT ALL.
Websites I Like:

Kid-Friendly Activities on California's North Coast

The best family activities in Mendocino and Humboldt Counties


18220 North Highway 1
Fort Bragg, California

Gorgeous garden trails lead to dramatic ocean cliffs. Great picnic spot!

reviewed on: May 09 2011

"Walk Through Fairyland"

If you think flower displays are boring, you haven’t been to Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, a wonderland for make believe and fairy play.  Let your kids pretend to hunt for dragons among the beautiful woodland displays, or dance on the event lawn (provided there are no actual weddings that day), before scurrying down to the dramatic ocean cliffs!   Though summer is the main bloom season, the large, well-designed gardens always have some color, so families will enjoy coming for a walk or picnic any time of year.  We visited on a blustery April day when the Rhododendrons, Camellias, spring bulbs were in full throttle.  


Our kids loved exploring the secret trails that lead meander alongside Digger Creek, such as the Fern Canyon, Canyon Rim, and Pine Forest Trails.  Unlike the wide, packed North and South Trails, the side trails are not stroller accessible.  


Both the North and South trail lead down to beautiful coastal bluffs.  The Cliff House, a covered viewing platform nestled into a crack in the ocean cliffs, makes a great picnic lunch spot.  You may spot whales or sea lions, as well as pelicans and of course seagulls.  Clean and spacious bathrooms are strategically located near the Cliff House, as well as by the main entrance.  
Don’t miss the café and Cowlick’s Ice Cream (a local Ft. Bragg creamery) at the entrance.  There is also a large gift shop/garden store with an impressive array of locally made items.  We especially loved the display of handmade wind chimes.  If you have room in your car, you might browse the nursery, where you can buy beautiful plants for your garden.
Admission to the gardens is free on National Public Gardens Day (May 6th, 2011).

*Though I received complimentary tickets to the Botanical Gardens, my review is entirely my own opinion and was not influenced by The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens or its affiliates.


100 E. Laurel Street
Fort Bragg, California

4 hour train ride through the redwood forests. An interesting trip through California history

reviewed on: May 04 2011

"Rails Through the Redwoods!"

The skunk train is a piece of living history that will bring your family back to the days of big lumber, steam trains, and gold rush fever.  The beautifully restored cars are authentic and well maintained and will captivate every little Thomas the Tank Engine aficionado and their family.


Although kids can walk from car to car and stand outside in the observation car, the 4 hour round trip from Ft. Bragg to Northspur can get monotonous, so don’t forget to pack toys and games to keep kids occupied.  Although the conductor does a great job discussing the history and points of interest along the way, small kids may soon grow tired of sitting still and, unless you are happy to chase your kids up and down the rail cars, will need some distraction.
We enjoyed seeing the 1000 year old redwood specimens, which survived the axe only because they were damaged by lightning and were economically worthless. The big trees were more fascinating to me than they were to my kids, who don’t quite understand the concept of a millennium yet.

The BBQ feast in Northspur is worth waiting for.  We had an excellent pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw which we devoured, and would have gone for the tasty looking tri tip had we packed more cash.  They also have Otis Spunkmeyer cookies, various drinks, and a kiosk selling jewelry and gift items.  Make sure you get in line for BBQ as soon as you get off the train, because the stop in Northspur is only 40 minutes and you may run out of time to eat otherwise.  If you get hungry on the train, the café car serves hot dogs, popcorn, candy, and drinks.

My kids loved riding on the beautifully restored antique trains, but I wish I had packed some books or games for them, because they got tired of just sitting and looking out the window.  All in all, a wonderful trip into the past, and a perfect activity for train lovers.

*Although I received complimentary tickets to the Skunk Train, this review is my honest opinion and was not influenced by the Skunk Train staff or its affiliates.


130 Riverside Drive
Point Arena, California

A beautiful, private preserve and rare animal breeding program. Tours are interesting and educational.

reviewed on: May 02 2011

"Rare African Animals in a Quaint Seaside Town"

The most unexpected delight of our Mendocino Coast trip was undoubtedly the stunning B. Bryan Preserve, tucked away in plain sight in Pt. Arena.  Judy and Frank Mello own a gorgeous Victorian wedding cake of a house, surrounded by fields of very rare African hoofstock and Zebra.  Starting in September 2011, they will be adding giraffe as well.  


There are no road advertisements pointing the way to B. Bryan; because it is the Mello’s private residence, you must call them in advance to book a tour.  Driving past gardens full of happy chickens pecking amongst the clumps of giant calla lillies, you would never know that some of the only living Hartman’s Mountain Zebra or extremely rare sable Antelope live just beyond the farm gate.  I can attest that they are there, and quite happy too; we saw a two-day-old baby sable antelope nestled in the grasses.


Frank Mello gave us a wonderful tour through the fields and pens, talking about each of the animals, their history, diet, and special needs.  We saw his herd of Grevy’s Zebra stallions, the pregnant mares about to foal (once the 2011 crop of babies have foaled, Mello estimates he will own about 1% of the world’s remaining population of Grevy’s Zebras.  They are that scarce.), and the nymph-like sable antelope, with their gorgeous curling antlers.  Both of my kids loved driving through the fields in Mello’s truck, though my two-year-old kept calling the zebras “giraffes” and was more fascinated by the dart gun bullet that Mello keeps in his truck than the critically endangered Zebra standing 5 feet away.  That is to be expected with toddlers, I guess.  Nonetheless, this is a great visit for all ages.
Because B. Bryan is a preserve, the animals are given lots of space to roam and are not always visible from the fences.  Best to book an evening feeding tour, where all the animals come and get personal and the photo opportunities abound.

I only wish we could have stayed longer in the gorgeous, family friendly Carriage House ($135-$185), or one of the luxury cottages (no kids less than 12 years old allowed in the cottages because they are located right next to the animal pens).  

If you only have time for lunch or a cup of coffee, make sure to visit Trink’s in Gualala or Franny’s Cup and Saucer in Pt. Arena.  Both are popular and delicious spots with unique treats.


3414 W Street
Eureka, California

A very small zoo with rare red pandas.


Dolphin Isle Marina
32399 Basin Street Fort Bragg, California

A very well organized Kayak outfitter that does family friendly tours for all ages

24201 N Highway 1
Fort Bragg, California