Reviews & Photos
May 04 2015
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SOCIAL Costa Mesa
512 W 19th St.,
Stuck at the end of a quirky strip of small shops such as a thrift shop, game store, and vapor seller, is a modern restaurant that is a gem to enjoy with friends. Get social at SOCIAL!
A wide variety of cocktails is available created by master mixologists with a ton of ingredients - at least half of them I had never heard of. I got the "Papa Pina" after the waitress recommended it as the sweetest drink and the one that "most girls get." And then we laughed at the true stereotype of girls drinking sweet cocktails!
Because the menu items are served all on one plate and then are encouraged to be shared by everyone, we ordered a couple of items at a time. Of course we had to try the brussel sprouts - which everyone loved (except me - too sweet). The asparagus plate with a soft egg and some kind of cooked grain was delicious to my palate. Tri tip with a corn hash was tender and perfectly flavorful. Our waitress brought over the hogs head to show us that another table ordered and it truly was a hogs head - which you eat like pulled pork. Looked interesting! At the price and size, it's definitely something to share.
Desert was yummy! We loved the tres leches cake and liked the beignets with coffee ice cream. The flavor of the cake won the day, however.
This is a great place to enjoy a meal with friends - and if you come early enough before it gets too dark and the bar starts hopping - with kids. But the price of each menu item may make it a pricy meal for a family - so I would recommend just enjoying it with friends.
Disclosure: I received a media discount on my meal for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.
May 04 2015
0 families found this helpful
Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach - Hotel & Resort
2101 Mandalay Beach Rd,
"Free Happy Hour? I'm there!"
There is a lot about this Embassy Suites that makes it amazing - can you say...
* Beach-front property
* Large pool and jacuzzi in a beautiful courtyard
* True suites - doors close for a private bedroom for parents!
* Complimentary breakfast - cooked to order
* Kids activities
* Complimentary evening reception nightly - adult & kid drinks and snacks!
All these things combined make for a beach resort that is beautiful, perfect for families, and a great vacation destination. And the price is right - this is not a costly, swanky property that has high resort fees - but a very nice Embassy Suites with economical prices. Yes, there is a daily parking fee and WiFi fee, but it's reasonable.
We stayed in a king suite on the 2nd floor with 2 bathrooms, a large living room with a pull-out couch, and a separate bedroom with king sized bed. It was a bit of a tricky fit finding places for all of our 4 kids to sleep (we pulled cushions off the couch to make another bed) but we made it work. On the downside- there was only enough pillows for 4 people, 4 bath towels, and 1 extra blanket in the closet which we used on the pull out couch. When I called the front desk for an extra blanket (we had no blanket for the other 2 kids) I was told they would check the closet. I don't love that kind of response - I would prefer a "yes, we will get it for you" type of answer - but we still received two blankets within 10 minutes. The blankets themselves (and the ones in our room) were a bit old with piles of material that made them bumpy and not smooth - and the whole building seemed a bit in need of updating - and the room colors were a dull brown with not much brightness - but the real charm of the place was outdoors - so we didn't mind. The empty mini fridge and microwave were a great addition to the little kitchen area.
POOLS and BEACH
The main courtyard had a large pool which was heated and large jacuzzi that held about 20 people. The main buildings separated the pool area from the beach, which was very good because of the wind, but a lot of detritus (leaves, sand, small jellyfish) had still found their way to the pool and jacuzzi area - but it was all clean the next day so I could tell the staff did a great job. There was easy beach access through a gated area but it was a long walk to the shore. The weekend we visited was incredibly windy, so we didn't spend much time at the beach - nor did anyone. We walked the 2-3 blocks to a nearby city park to the north and enjoyed playing on the large playground.
The breakfast area is held in the restaurant with large open spaces, huge windows with lots of light, and a large buffet. There was a separate line for the made-to-order omelet grill and the wait wasn't too long - although the estimates were about 30 minutes. The buffet held scrambled eggs, sausages, french toast, pancakes, and potatoes. All delicious. A separate area held a large selection of muffins, danishes, toast, and breads. Coffee, tea, juice, and a soda fountain were also available. Large rooms opened off of the buffet area with plenty of seating for all guests. We LOVED breakfast each morning.
COMPLIMENTARY EVENING RECEPTION
This is just genius. From 5:30-7:30 guests can visit the Splash Bar for mixed drinks and beer, and kids can get juices and snacks like chips, goldfish, and fruits inside. All complimentary. We enjoyed a couple of drinks while soaking in the jacuzzi and watching the kids swim. It really made our stay feel like a vacation! The next day while we were at the pool, there was a menu for food and drinks with wait staff visiting the pool chairs. The prices were way too high for us to enjoy lunch ($11-12 per food item) and there were signs that said coolers were not allowed - so we waited to get our lunch outside the resort.
Bottomline - this is a perfect destination for all of Southern California with it being about 1 hour from LA and 2-3 from OC and the IE. It's a beach resort destination with great prices, and wonderful amenities that make families enjoy their time!
Disclosure: Our family received a complimentary stay in order to complete this review. We were not asked to present a particular point of view and all opinions are our own.
May 04 2015
2 families found this helpful
Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands National Park,
"For the adventurous family!"
I have always wondered what it would be like to visit one of the Channel Islands that I have seen popping out of the water as I drove the coast near Santa Barbara. Finally, we got the opportunity! And it was beautiful - although windy and cold. The kids and we enjoyed our hiking trails, for the most part, but they honestly would have enjoyed it more if there were more beach activities they could have done. I don't think they really loved our trip - but perhaps it was only the weather.
**This is a great activity for an adventurous family! One who likes hiking or kayaking, and doesn't mind not having any resources (like restaurants, playgrounds, or other activities for kids). Strollers would not work and there is a lot of elevation change on the trails. Most of the trails are near a cliff with a sharp drop off to the ocean below, so kids and parents must be careful. All visitors must plan ahead to bring food, water, and whatever else they will need.**
We took a day trip with Island Packers from Ventura Harbor to Santa Cruz Island. It was a cold and windy day and it made for a rough sea crossing - but we made it. Santa Cruz Island was filled with hiking trails so that was our activity for the day. Starting from Scorpion Anchorage where we were, there was only one main trail that led to a cove where there was beach access (Smugglers Cove), but that trail was 8 miles round trip. We knew our kids couldn't make that so we went with the Cavern Point trail to Potato Harbor and back. It was about a 5 mile round trip and we were tired at the end of the day!
The views from Cavern Point and all along the trail were breathtaking! We were near the edge of the cliff to the waters edge - so I was a bit nervous with our kids - but it was ok. The wind was gusting at 30 mph but thankfully blowing from the cliff to inland, so I didn't feel like we were going to be blown over the edge. There weren't many hikers on the Cavern Point loop in the morning and it was nice to have the trail and vistas to ourselves. We saw lots more people on the trail to Potato Harbor, but it was nice to say hello and have a chat. There were no restrooms, picnic tables, or anything on the way - but we stopped for a rest on the ground and even ate our lunch there. The view at Potato Harbor was pretty - but not much more pretty than the rest of the trail. Someone said there was a large group of nesting brown pelicans, but the wind was bothering me so much that I hardly looked.
The view on the way down to the campground was vast, scrubby, and mountainous. It made me ponder what SoCal would look like without civilization. Kind of pretty - especially with the wildflowers! We walked through the campground - which was flat and shaded by large eucalyptus trees (and there were pit toilets and water taps) and then made it out to the shore about ½ mile further.
The shoreline was rather rocky with some small stretches of black sand. The kids enjoyed playing there and stacking rocks. There were hardly any waves and the swimming was poor. It would have been fabulous to be there on a hot day in summer to go swimming and snorkeling to see the kelp beds and fish. The water was beautifully clear, even on the windy day we were there. We walked down the shore a short stretch looking for tide pools or caves, but the wind really whipped up the sand and made it not worth our time- so we went back and hung out in the sun until it was time to get onboard Island Packers for our return trip.
Will we come back? I certainly hope so! My kids would love a more "watery" adventure with kayaking or swimming, so I think we will plan it for a summer or fall day when the weather may be more cooperative. These islands are definitely worth a visit - put it on your bucket list!
* Bring all the food and water you will need. There are no services - so plan ahead.
* There are "fox boxes" near the picnic tables and visitor center to protect any food or items you want to store for the day.
* All trash must be packed out. Bring bags for trash.
* Wear lots of layers - it can be windy and cold or sunny and warm.
* Wear good hiking shoes for exploring the island and water socks/tevas/keens for shore and ocean exploring.
* Bring sunscreen!
* It is illegal to feed island foxes - even on accident - so warn kids not to drop food.
Kayaking is available via other companies such as the Santa Barbara Adventure Company, Channel Island Kayaks, and Channel Island Outfitters. Arrangements must be made beforehand.
Disclosure: We received complimentary passage on Island Packers in order to visit the islands and share with Trekaroo readers. We were not asked to present a particular opinion and all perspectives are our own.
May 04 2015
0 families found this helpful
Island Packers Company
1691 Spinnaker Dr. ,
"Rough crossing - but great company"
A weather system was moving in across California in April - changing our summer weather of 90 degree days to a cooler 65 and windy. And along the coast of CA, the wind can really rip across the channel, creating high surf. When we checked in for our trip to Santa Cruz Island, the staff asked us if we really wanted to go - or get a refund or reschedule. We chose to go for it because we were only in Ventura for the day. And he was right- it was rough!
The Island Packers Co. has been around since 1968 and takes visitors to the different Channel Islands for day trips, kayak excursions, camping, and for whale watching adventures. There are a wide variety of trips and times, so check the website for details and help in deciding what you want to visit.
We made sure we called the hotline by 5:30 am to hear the recording of the day's trip - and because we did we found out that our original trip to Anancapa had been cancelled because of the weather, but the trip to Santa Cruz was on schedule. We arrived 45 minutes early like instructed which was good because it took a while to sign in and get ready. It gave me a chance to buy Bonine and SeaBands in the little gift shop. That saved us! The Bonine really worked well and kept us from seasickness -but it's only for kids 10 (or 12?) and up. So my younger ones used SeaBands.
The ship started bouncing up and down as soon as we left the harbor and continued that way for 1 ½ hours until we reached the island. People were rushing down to the back of the lower deck because it was a bit smoother, the wind was fresh, and they could throw up over the rail. 2 of my kids and hubby stayed down there the whole trip - and were very tired and wet from the salt spray by the time we arrived. The others of us stayed in the seats on the top, but in the back. It was a good seat with fresh air, but not too much blast of wind from the front of the ship.
It was incredibly difficult to walk around the ship because of the movement. We had to hold on tightly to a rail to keep from falling or being thrown. For this reason, I would STRONGLY discourage any family with young kids from going on a trip if the weather is rough. It would be near impossible to help a toddler get from one place on the ship to the next- and the danger of falling or banging into a metal rail would be great. Wait until a beautiful day on the channel and then enjoy a nice crossing!
* Wear many layers of clothes - and a top layer that is water-resistant. The ocean wind and air can be very cold, even on a summer day and it is easy to get sprayed by the waves striking the boat.
* Use a backpack to hold all of your stuff so that you have hands free to hold kids and hold onto the boat yourself.
* Bring snacks and water for the boat ride. You may find it difficult to walk down to the lower deck to buy food. But they take cash. Salty snacks can help with queasy stomachs.
* If you have motion sick kids- try a motion sickness medicine but be aware that many cause drowsiness and can render kids asleep for the rest of the day.
* Consider bringing ziplock bags to throw up in. I would have preferred that to trying to get to the bottom deck with a kid in order to make it over the rail.
Disclosure: We received complimentary passes for our excursion to Santa Cruz Island via Island Packers. We were not asked to present a particular point of view and all opinions are our own.
May 03 2015
0 families found this helpful
33 Miller Alley,
The new kids menu has just been unrolled at Sushi Roku and it is an offering of healthy choices, creative service, and is appealing to kids. For kids 10 and under, the choices range in price from $8-13 and are served in large bento boxes.
My kids enjoyed the beef yakitori and crispy chicken. Each came with edamame, applesauce, steamed rice, and tempura potato/broccoli/sweet potato. They loved the meat, rice, and applesauce, but the tempura was bland and starchy and did not appeal to any of them. There is a sushi option for kids including a tuna roll, cucumber roll, shrimp sushi, egg sushi, edamame, and applesauce but my kids were not interested in trying it.
The most exciting part of their meal came from the Japanese soda - Ramune - which was served in the glass bottle with the marble seal. It was the first time any of us had tried it - and popping the marble down into the bottle was the most surprising event! It was a sweet soda with a ginger ale/sprite flavor which they loved!
The adult menu featured a wide variety of fresh seafood served up artistically. I tried the Tuna Jalapeño Roll with spicy tuna, tuna sashimi, and yuzu olive oil. It was beautifully arranged with a sprig of cilantro and sliced jalapeño on each roll, and it was delicious with a strong after bite of flavor from the jalapeño. I took off the jalepeno because I have a weak tongue for spice- and enjoyed it much more. The Yellowtail Diced Chilies was delicious although I was surprised at how it was served. Flat slices of the yellowtail were laid on the plate and covered with oil, sliced green onions, chilis, and garlic ponzu. No rice - surprised me! But I found it absolutely the favorite thing I tasted all day. Last, I tried a baked crab handroll which had a strong fish flavor, but was also good.
The atmosphere is definitely kid friendly with indoor and outdoor seating in a comfortable, yet modern setting. Couches with pillows around a table were in one area near the bar, while regular tables and chairs were indoors. I would recommend sitting near the patio with access to the courtyard so that busy kids could take a walk with parents while waiting for their food.
Disclosure: We enjoyed a complimentary lunch for a media event to roll out the new kids menu. All opinions are my own and I was not asked to present a particular point of view.