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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    The English Lake District
    Posts
    7

    Default Las Vegas - Tucson - San Diego - San Jose -- with young children !

    I have the great fortune to be leaving England behind and visiting America again.
    I'm travelling with my wife, 4 year old son and 1 year old daughter and this is what we have lined up.
    We are landing in Las Vegas and then having a couple of nights to let our (especially the children's) bodies adjust to the gained time, then we are picking up our hire car (booked a LDAR class vehicle) and doing the following trip (the flights, accommodation and car are already booked).
    Las Vegas (via Hoover Dam) to Cottonwood (nr Sedona) - 2 nights stay
    - Scottsdale (3 nights) day tripping with in laws who live in Phoenix
    - Tuscon for (4 nights) day tripping with in laws who live in Phoenix
    Driving through the desert to San Diego, hmm, that'll be fun !!
    -San Diego (4 nights)
    - Palm Desert (3 nights)
    - Santa Barbara (2 nights.)
    - San Luis Obispo (3 nights)
    - Morgan Hill (1 night).
    Depart from San Jose for England.

    All in all, we are in America for 24 nights/25 days, and I've tried to devise a route which doesn't involve a great deal of driving each day (Las Vegas to Cottonwood is about 300 miles. Tucson - San Diego is about 400 miles), but will give us a taste for lots of different aspects of SouthWest America.

    I think that I've set a fairly gentle pace, and to be honest, we're not in that great a rush to get from A to B to C. Our journeys will probably last as long as our childrens interest/hunger and restroom requirements --- so here's my question for you. I've gone looking through the threads (and man alive, there's a lot of really good indepth stuff there !), but what I would like from anyone who can help, is some advice on childrens playgrounds or rest areas with childrens playing facilities, that are easily accessible from roads like I-8.

    As the main driver, I take the view that if the children are happy, then my wife is happy. If my wife is happy, then I can relax and enjoy the trip as well -- so, if it was a matter of carrying on for another 10 miles or so, and stopping somewhere where the children would have a fun, energetic and running around break, rather than a diner on its own, that would be great.

    Cheers folks



    England

    p.s. we've toured differing parts of America before, both as a twosome and a thressome, but this is the first time as a four. If people are thinking things like 'hey, these guys are going to Vegas, but missing out on the Grand Canyon, they must be mad', we've considered it, but we didn't think that our 4 year old would appreciate it enough, so that's for another trip. But we are going to do things like taking the Verde Canyon Railroad, which will give him (& us !) a taster for the area in the future.

    If anyone would like to make any observations about our trip/itinerary, I would very gratefully listen to them

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default looks good

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    It looks like you exactly the kind of trip you are looking for, and you've built a trip that meets those goals. I think your outline looks great and you should have a fantastic time!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default Yes, that's a great itinerary

    And should meet your family's needs quite nicely.

    I wish I had a good answer to your question about playgrounds, etc. I don't have much specific to offer but all towns have schools and I've never seen a school without a playground. Of course, in the spring, kids will still be in school. Most elementary schools seem to get out of school about 3:00, give or take a bit. So, after that time, their playgrounds should be free of school kids. And on weekends, of course.

    I know in my town parents with young children will often take their kids to the school playground to play on the equipment even when school is on. They probably time it to not be there during recess. There aren't any restrictions against this. But that might not be true of all towns so this may not work for you everywhere. Recesses in my area tend to be mid-morning...say 10am or so?...and in the afternoon at around 2pm or a tad earlier. So if you could time it when kids aren't there, it might work.

    I believe most towns have regular city-owned parks with playgrounds as well. I'm sure you could ask any local for directions to one. Just a park provides room to run around and I've seen few towns that don't have one. Bring a few basic toys like balls, etc. so they enjoy doing that.

    I did check around and found a few websites that might have some helpful information. They don't have specifically what you're looking for but you might still get some ideas from them.

    Road Notes - about what's at various rest stops - many rest stops are fairly large with open grassy areas, some even have trails if they're at a scenic spot so, while not a playground exactly, they do sometimes provide room to run.
    Interstate Wizard - about what's at exits, you can search by town or highway

    If the weather is bad, quite a few McDonald's have playgrounds now. Some other fastfood chains like Burger King, Wendy's, etc. have followed suit although I don't think they have them as common as McDonald's does. It might be useful to job down their locations along your route just in case so you have fun places to stop if it's raining or if you can't find another alternative.

    Hope this helps a bit.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    The English Lake District
    Posts
    7

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Judy View Post
    And should meet your family's needs quite nicely.

    I know in my town parents with young children will often take their kids to the school playground to play on the equipment even when school is on. They probably time it to not be there during recess. There aren't any restrictions against this. But that might not be true of all towns so this may not work for you everywhere. Recesses in my area tend to be mid-morning...say 10am or so?...and in the afternoon at around 2pm or a tad earlier. So if you could time it when kids aren't there, it might work.

    Hope this helps a bit.
    It helps more that you can imagine . I never even imagined that you would be able to use a schools facilities -- in England that would be a huge no-no. As for your other suggestions, they've been added to my 'Holiday 2008, favourites folder' already.

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    It looks like you exactly the kind of trip you are looking for, and you've built a trip that meets those goals. I think your outline looks great and you should have a fantastic time!
    Over in England, this forum has the reputation of 'what those people don't know, isn't worth knowing -- plus, they're a really friendly bunch as well'.

    I'm off to search for another B&B Inn in the Scottsdale/Tempe/Phoenix area, as my original choice doesn't look to 'hot' (the advantage of having relatives who live in Mesa !)


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default Good, but remember my caveat

    Some schools might have rules against non-school kids/adults being on school grounds during school hours. I would imagine there would be signs posted saying "keep out" or "no trespassing" or something similar. My gut says that this would be more common in bigger cities and that small towns would have a more open policy. But I can't say for sure. But, like I said, most all towns have some kind of public park so those would always be an option. However, not all city parks have playgrounds but they do have room to run.

    Over in England, this forum has the reputation of 'what those people don't know, isn't worth knowing -- plus, they're a really friendly bunch as well'.
    Wow! Very cool. We try. I'm sure there are things we don't know. We love to get feedback from our visitors about new things they've discovered on their trips. This is a big country and it's not possible for us to know it all. But it's cool that you think that. LOL We aim to please.

    I'm off to search for another B&B Inn in the Scottsdale/Tempe/Phoenix area, as my original choice doesn't look to 'hot' (the advantage of having relatives who live in Mesa !)
    I'm going to send a PM to one of our moderators who lives in that area and who tends to stay in B&B when he travels. He might know of some good ones there and be able to give you some advice.

    Happy planning. If you have more questions, we'll try to help. And please consider coming back here after your trip and giving us a trip report. We love those!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    The English Lake District
    Posts
    7

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Judy View Post

    Happy planning. If you have more questions, we'll try to help. And please consider coming back here after your trip and giving us a trip report. We love those!
    i love to talk about my travels - sadly, not to many people are usually so keen to hear about them :)


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default My 2 Pence

    I'm the Moderator that Judy referred to in her last post. Unfortunately, I live in Tucson rather than Phoenix (sort of like living in Birmingham and being asked for advice on the City). Normally, my wife finds our B&Bs, although lately we've tended more towards self-catering establishments such as this one we took on a recent trip to the Cotswolds. Interestingly enough, what she usually looks for is the decor. She figures that if the owner/operators pay attention to the furnishings and accessories, they'll do right by their guests. What she does then is just do a web search on 'bed breakfast town_name' and see what comes up. She'll then choose something that appeals to her sense of style (and pocketbook, of course). No pictures of the rooms is cause for immediately dismissing the establishment from further consideration. Hope that helps.

    As far as places to stop and let the kids blow off some steam along I-8, that will be a bit of a problem. I-8 does cross mostly desert in Arizona and below sea-level farming fields in Central California. But there are a few places that I use when I drive my grandchildren to San Diego. There is a slightly unusual convenience store just off exit 119 at Gila Bend with an old tractor kids can climb on, some odd sculptures for sale (not to be climbed on) and generally some room to run. At Yuma, especially if they're misbehaving, take them to the old Territorial Prison and 'suggest' that they deserve to stay. Just across the state line in California are the Imperial Sand Dunes, straight out of Tatooine. As you cross California's Central Valley, you will be as much as 100 feet below sea-level. Have the kids watch for the signs and think about what this means. If you got a very early start, and haven't spent too much time anywhere along the way, CA-94 offers an alternate route into San Diego. The highlight of this road is the train museum (with train rides) at Campo, but the drive itself is also quite scenic.

    And finally, if you like to talk about your travels, we like to hear about them. When you're done, we welcome you to come back and post either in this thread or on the Field Reports Forum.

    AZBuck

  8. Default Tucson to San Diego...

    I did the Tucson to San Diego trip last spring, as part of a whirlwind road trip.

    There are a couple of things which might be of interest.. Not sure how much a 4 and a 1 year old would find this.. but..

    Northwest of Tucson, along the I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson is Pichao Peak State Park. This is claimed as the farthest western battle of the US civil war. There's an annual reenactment, and a small musuem (as part of the park visitors center) but you'll have to check the park web site to see when the reenactment is.

    (Really Obscure landmark -- back in the early 1960's the US Air Force put a huge grid of calibration marks on the Arizona Desert. These were white cross-like structures placed in the desret to make a huge grid of 1 mile apart calibration marks. Why? The legend says these were used to calibrate and test the cameras on orbiting satellites. There are still a bunch in the desert -- particularly along I-8 near Casa Grande, 10 miles or so west of the I-8/ I-10 junction. You can see these on Google Earth if you zoom in... And you can find them on the ground.)

    The Yuma Proving grounds are just east of Yuma. Last time I drove past, we were overflown by a flight of USMC Harrier jump jets coming back from training -- I've also seen sky divers, and multiple types of helicopters buzzing across the freeway here.

    Fort Yuma is an interesting place to look over-- the major western supply base for the US Military for most of the 19th century.

    Imperial Dunes are cool to walk around -- but there is also lots of people zipping around in motorcycles and dune buggies, so you might want to be careful where you're walking.

    Old Yuma Plank Road. Getting through the Yuma dunes has always been hard. Even today, they have to keep pushing the moving sand dunes back from the highway. Back in the early 1900's,. they build a plank road across the dunes -- several miles of road, made out of wooden planks laid on top of the dunes, and laced together with cables. There's still s small section of it around. It's off of I-8 just past the Yuma Dunes area along Gray Wells Road.

    Desert Tower. Just as you come out of the desert and start up the steep mountain sides to cross over to San Diego area, there's the In-Ko-Pah view tower in the little county park named for it. Back in the 20's or so, an entrepeneur built the tower with an amazing view across the desert. It's still privately owned and costs a couple of bucks to climb to the top to look out. Pretty cool -- with lots of strangely shaped rocks around for the kids to climb on.

    There are several small fields of wind turbines now along the I-8 route through the mountains east of San Diego. Keep your eyes out for these...

    If you take I-8, you'll undoubtedly see evidence of the big wildfires on the hillsides east of San Diego.

    Now, there's also an interesting side trip possible on this route as well -- instead of coming up the steep mountains to San Diego where I-8 goes now, the old stage route to San Diego went north west from the little town of Octillio on what's now called Imperial Highway. This follows the old stage route, through the SW corner of Anza Borrego State Park, past the Aqua Caliente County Parks (Hot Springs & camp ground) to the old stage stop at Vellecito (now also a County Park, with campground). Imperial Highway junctions into California 78 which takes you up into the old mining town of Julian. And then from there, you can head back southwest towards San Diego. Possibly too much for an excursion on a Tucson to San Diego drive, but a very interesting side trip.

    For places for the kids to play -- a lot of the McDonalds Restaurants have a play area next to the fast food restaurant. Basically climbing structures and the like -- its very obvious if these are part of the restaurant. Other than that, you might want to borrow a blanket from relatives, or pick up a cheap blanket and spread it out as a picnic cloth and for the 1 year old to crawl around on. Other than that, most city parks have some type of play equipment, ranging from very simple to rather elaborate.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    The English Lake District
    Posts
    7

    Default

    Thank you both so much for your helpful suggestions and ideas -- I know a little boy (& his Daddy !) who would really enjoy the idea of a railroad museum (his Mum & younger sister less so).

    I think that on the day that we drive from Tuc - San, we'll probably set off fairly early, take our time to enjoy the sights of the desert (ha ha ha), and stop as and when the children need a break. With the options/suggestions that you've both given, theres a good chance that we can actually DO something when we make a break, rather than just breaking for the sake of it.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    The English Lake District
    Posts
    7

    Default

    Hi AZBuck

    those pictures look like the kind of places that we rent when we do a cooatge holiday in the UK.

    I've done some mooching around the usual places - VRBO, BBonline & Great Rentals etc and we've managed to find a perfect place in Mesa.
    & as a bonus, its big enough for the relatives to stay with us as well.


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