Family Vacation Part 4 – Walking Around Downtown San Francisco at Night

Downtown San Francisco

We pulled into San Francisco last night for phase 2 of our family vacation. Interestingly enough we happen to get to town on the same day that Pride Day was scheduled, so needless to say that we hit some major traffic and saw some fascinating characters on our way to the hotel.

Once we arrived at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel (TripAdvisor review here) , we checked in and got a bite to at at Lori’s Diner, a fantastically delicious greasy spoon set in the 1950s.

After that back to the room to relax a bit, check email, and then get ready for Tia & my first vacation date night alone without kids. We arranged a babysitting service to come to the room and watch the boys.

We headed out with our mission being to find a dance club that caters to the late 30s/40s in age that had a DJ who plays 80s/90s/hip-hop music. After searching Yelp on our phones and doing some preliminary research (which i had also done in our room), we decided that this place called The Cellar was where we needed to be. We arrived around 9:30 pm. You guess it – too early. The staff said the place didn’t really get going until about 11.

Leaving slightly discouraged, but with full-intentions to return later we started our walk back towards the Union Square area, which was just a few blocks near our hotel.

We stopped in front of a heart-shaped fixture that signified Frank Sinatra’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and took a quick selfie. Unfortunately Tia was less than satisfied with it so deleted it.

The remainder of our evening consisted of basically people watching.

One notable gay couple we saw during our drive into town were 2 men literally naked from head-to-toe, with the exception of footwear and some kind of sock-like covering for their genitals, and only their genitals.

At night people were out in droves, despite it being Sunday. We saw a large group of young Asian males (20s) lively in conversation, a couple in their 60s walking around holding hands,  a group of 30 something white males making lots of noise at a crosswalk while bantering to each other,  probably more gay couples walking the streets than straight ones, and a mid-50s couple from India.

We probably heard bits and pieces of most major languages in passing other visitors and residents on the streets.

View from our room at the San Francis Hotel
View from our room at the San Francis Hotel

Diversity is certainly at its finest in San Francisco, the true melting pot of the United States (no disrespect to Chicago or New York City).

Around 10:30 we decided to get a night-cap at the bar in our hotel. It was lovely to just sit, have a drink with my wife, discuss the plans for the rest of the trip, and then turn in.

We didn’t make it back to the club. I know Tia would have gone, but this guy tires easily and is actually an old man at heart.

What are your thoughts about San Francisco at night? 

 

Family Vacation Part 3 – Legoland California Resort (A Review of the Park)

Legoland

On Friday I took the family to the Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad, CA. Toby is 10 and Miller is 4 so we figured these are the perfect ages to get them introduce to the park. That, and they are pretty big Lego fans, especially the older one.

Please note that we did not get to all of the features/rides/experiences at Legoland, and thus I suggest you treat this as a partial review. I will only be discussing components of the park that we personally had experience with.

We arrived around 10:15 am and promptly mapped out our route for the day.  Our first impressions were very positive – colorful, well-decorated entrance, a beautiful courtyard/entry area, and all the right things you need when you enter an amusement park, like stroller facilities, the big Lego store, and somewhere to buy something to eat & drink.

First thing we did was to buy our younger son a Lego hat from the big Lego shop, since he accidentally left his in the van that transported us from our hotel – it was $15. Gotta stay sun protected since you are outdoors all day.

Lego Movie ExperienceLego Movie Experience

We proceeded in a northwesterly direction and came upon the Lego Movie Experience. This exhibit alone was a top-notch experience. Imagine yourself walking around the dad’s basement in The Lego Movie, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. It had everything from Lord Business’ supertall ominous building (the Octan Tower), to Star Wars, to the Old West. I wished that they would have given the Clock Cuckoo Land exhibit more space and attention, however. Probably took at least a dozen pictures here. Outside we were able to get pictures with a life-sized Wyldstyle and Emmet.

Water WorksWater Works

After that we stumbled upon Water Works interactive music feature.  This was actually one of the main highlights for me personally. You and your kids can hop around and trigger musical instruments to play a delightful medley of sounds fit to dance to, and believe me, our little guy did exactly that.

 

Kid Power Towers

Kid Power Towers

Next we were off to the Kid Power Towers. Did this with my 10-year old and we waited about 10-15 minutes in line. It’s similar to one of those rides in say, Zombieland, where the characters are attached to a cylindrical-shaped vertical structure and thrust up in to the air. Wasn’t that extreme though, what happens is that you pull yourself up to the top by pulling on a rope, and have the ability to let yourself come back down a few inches at a time. Lasted maybe 5 minutes or so and was an enjoyable and fun experience where you could get a bird’s-eye view of the park.

Sky Cruiser

Here’s my biggest complaint of the entire day. The wait-time at Sky Cruiser was ridiculous! We clocked it at 53 minutes. Seriously?! The only reason I followed through was because my 4-yr old was begging me. What helped was that while parents waited in line, the kids could enter a Lego play area, and keep themselves occupied. The ride was nice and fun, but only lasted maybe 3-4 minutes, literally. The wait time on this ride was a real downer.

Lego Club House Lego Club

Liked this one – it’s a place similar to The Lego Store where kids can go and build Legos out of a bucket, hang out, and do their own thing. My boys loved it, but because lunch was quickly approaching we weren’t able to spend very much time here.

Fun Town Hot Dogs

Ate lunch here, and of course, the entree was hot dogs. Pretty good – we ordered 2 hot dogs for the adults, an adult-sized beverage, and 2 “kid packs”, that included a hot dog, chips, and a drink. $29 was definitely a fair price considering Legoland has a monopoly here.

Fun Town Police & Fire Academy

We had a blast here! Only waited about 10 minutes to get on. It’s actually a race between you and 3 other families. You get on a police or fire vehicle, “pump” your way to the scene of the fire, get out and spray water at the fire until the bell sounds, and then back to your vehicle and speed back to where you started. We finished 2nd out of 4, but were curious how another family beat us that didn’t seem to be pumping their vehicle as hard. Oh well, it was a lot of fun.

Fun Town Stage Performance

As we were walking to our next venue, we had the opportunity to listen to a group of young girls performing the song “Roar” by Katie Perry. My wife is a trained musician, and listened intently for the quality of the vocals. First of all, one of the main soloist performers was out of breath, which could supposedly be expected when you are both singing and dancing. But it wasn’t just that. The other performers were not in the same key with each other or the background music.

Miniland USA

Star Wars - the Hoth System
Star Wars – the Hoth System

Miniland USA was by far one of the best parts of the entire park for me personally. The amount of Legos used and attention to detail, and expansiveness of these displays boggles the mind. I found myself standing in front of many of these exhibits for minutes at a time. An absolutely incredible visual experience. Legoland Miniland USA

Most notable was the entire Star Wars section, Las Vegas, New York, and Washington DC. Legoland gets extra points from me on these ones

Caricature Artists

Our boys, Miler (4) and Toby (10)
Our boys, Miler (4) and Toby (10)

Throughout the park there are places where an artist will paint a caricature of you, your kids, or your entire family. We had our boys drawn as Lego people and surprisingly they sat still for a good 10-15 minutes while it was being done.. The artist did a wonderful job capturing some of their most unique facial features. We also had it framed. Cost about $70 and the company is called Kaman’s Art Shoppes. I was happy to pay the fee.

Coast CruiseMount Rushmore

This is a must-do in my opinion. Had a little bit of the feel of the “Jungle Cruise” at Disneyland, but with Legos, of course. It seems there are Lego creations that you can only see well if you go on the cruise, which makes it somewhat exclusive. We got right on and were very happy with our tour guide, the sound system, and the incredible Lego creations we were able to observe.

Dino Score Games

My son bought a bucket of ping-pong balls for $10 and the family shared in trying to get a ball in those hard plastic dishes that float around water for a prize. We won 1 medium stuffed animal and 1 small one. It was fun.

Matthew Coates Basketball Minion

I played the basketball game and was given 4 balls/chances for $10. I made the 2nd shot and won a really cool plush Minion (about 3′ high) from Despicable Me.

The Big Shop

Once you finish at the park this is one of those “must do” places where you buy your kid something to take home. Options galore, well-staffed, and lots of great eye candy.

Final Items & Notes

We were there 4 1/2 hours total, and all pretty exhausted when it was over. We aren’t one of those families that can stay an at amusement park for 8 hours. We did what we wanted to do then left happy, not worn down and ready to hit our beds.

One of the things my wife did was to write our cell phone numbers on our kids’ tummies. This way if they get lost they could show them to the park authorities and we would be contacted.

The water fountains are really low-flow and we were a little agitated when we tried refilling our water bottles.

The restroom facilities are state-of-the-art and kept in tip-top shape. They even have short sinks for little guys & gals.

I refuse to pay $3.62 for a 20-ounce Powerade, but that’s just me

It was a lot of fun watching Miller put together his first Lego set ever. We’ll be back.

Overall Legoland California Resort rating 7.5 out of 10 stars.

Have you been to Legoland? Please feel free to leave your comments about the park below. I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Draws People to Beaches?

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I’m currently on my family vacation in San Diego (and Carlsbad), and we have gone to 2 beaches over the last 2 days : Pacific State Beach and the Carlsbad State Beach. During this time I have had the opportunity to observe a large number other beach-goers and asked myself the question “what is it that draws people to beaches in droves?”

People love the beach. Bottom line. Some would literally live at the beach if they could. Being the curious sort of fellow I am, I just ask the question. Being a Realtor, it’s like asking the question “Why are beach-front homes so much more expensive than regular homes?”

The answer to this question lies in the attitudes and beliefs people hold towards being physically close to the water.

Perhaps there are restorative properties in beaches. Being close to the water may bring people back to a subconscious state of what it was like in their mother’s womb surrounded by water. There is comfort and wholeness in being close to or in the water, that cannot be duplicated in any other fashion.

Beaches calm us down and help us relax. In my experience the main reason people do things is because of the way it makes them feel. Think about it – we avoid pain and gravitate towards pleasure. This could be a blog post all by itself. People want more of things that bring them pleasure. Being at the beach relaxing and just being is a state people like to experience. Think about it – have you ever seen a stressed-out person hanging out at the beach?

Carlsbad State Beach, CA

Beaches give us perspective.  Going to a beach helps people see that they are part of a bigger picture and there is so much out there in the world. Vast , expansive oceans and lakes permit us see infinite and limitless possibility. At home most of us are surrounded by houses, buildings,  trees,  hills, mountains, and so on. There is always something to break up the horizon. I’m not stating this as a judgment, just as a fact. You can only see so far until the horizon is broken up by one of these things. Not so with beaches and oceans. They expand so far than it appears that you could literally see forever.

Beaches can be both powerful and frightening. Watching ocean waves immediately makes you realize how frail we human beings are in nature. An ocean can literally wipe out entire geographic areas, and topple massive ships. I believe there is some kind of deference people have towards large bodies of water, that they understand the  potential ramifications of beaches and oceans, and as a result find a deep respect for them.

Beaches are life. Specifically the body of water the beach extends to. The ocean’s ecosystem has so many different kinds of life, and I believe that at a subconscious level that essence of life seeps deeply into us.  Beaches are also life in that waves ebb and flow towards them, and regardless of what is happening around the beach, they will do so until the end of time. Life doesn’t stop until we do, much like the waves of the ocean.

Beaches have  a spiritual element to them. Being at a beach, sitting in front of such an awesome (and I don’t use that word lightly) creation helps people feel connected to God, or whatever higher entity they ascribe to. There’s something to be said for being alone, or with someone close to you, on a beach, and just feeling that connection, that draw, towards something bigger than yourself. A deeper level of satisfaction is achieved, and a sweeping sense of awe overwhelms your soul.

What do YOU think draws people to beaches? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

 

 

Family Vacation Part 2 – Arriving in San Diego: Beach/Surf Lesson Day

Toby & I

We arrived in San Diego around 11 A.M. and were pretty hungry from the trip. We ate at a wonderful restaurant called The Fishery (Yelp review here). Toward the end of the meal our bill arrived and Toby and I got into talking about the amount owed & tipping.

Miller spills the pepper.
Miller spills the pepper.

He recalled and brought up that I used to wait tables at The Olive Garden. I shared with him that servers don’t get paid very much for their time (usually half of minimum wage), and it’s important to tip generously, which I did.

After that we drove a few blocks down to Pacific Beach, where the rest of our afternoon would unfold.

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House we saw walking from the beach to the surf lesson office.

The highlight of the afternoon were surfing lessons. Toby & I opted to try and learn the inner-peace of bonding with the ocean, and as how most new things go, ended up struggling to stand up properly on the surf board.  We got our surfing lesson from the San Diego Surf School (full Yelp review here).

The office of the surf school was a few blocks from the beach, so I had a nice, slow walk with Toby and we chatted a little about life, the houses on the block, and the cool bananas he found growing at at one of them.   photo-8

 

He was pretty excited about finding bananas growing in California. Needless to say, the walk to and from the office was memorable for me. As a dad, one of those moments where time just seems to slow down and nothing else is going on in the world besides you spending quality time with your child.

Surf lesson

 

Our instructor taught us the basics of surfing properly: laying tummy-down on your surf board with your feet/toes touching the very back of the board. photo-12From there you paddle when the waves hit you with closed-fingered hands, then you prop yourself up with your hands on the side of the surf board (not grasping the sides, but palms down pressing up your body weight). Then from there in one motion you prop up your entire body weight and “hop” your legs into position.

Video of me attempting to surf

Video of Toby attempting to surf

Easier said that done. This guy, who lifts weights 3 times a week, goes to gentle yoga once a week, and has a weekly tennis match, struggled with the last part all day long. I actually excelled at the pop-up, but failed time and time again getting my feet far enough apart on the board to maintain any kind of balance. In fact, I recall a lot of grunting sounds after pushing up from laying flat to trying to manuever myself into proper standing position. What’s the secret?

photo-13Needless to say, I was proud to watch Toby keep trying over and over, having a great attitude throughout the entire lesson. Not once did he great frustrated with falling. At the end of the day, we were both tired, but were also feeling fulfilled that we had a new experience, something that I’m hopeful we’ll both remember for the rest of our lives.

Will I pursue surfing avidly? Probably not. I can tell you that I did manage to stand up for about 2 1/2 waves though. But I do see the draw of the sport/activity, being one with the waves, and a certain inner-peace that could be draw as a result of mastering it.

Panoramic video of the beach

We are staying at the Carlsbad by the Sea Resort (full review here, photo-11after we check out on Saturday) The evening consisted of Carlsbad Premium Outlets, which are directly across the street from us, so we walked over. We ate at a restaurant called Blaze Pizza, man oh man, all I have to say about that place is, go there! Tasty thin-crust pizza with all the right ingredients and seasoning. Afterwards we strolled the plaza, with my boys having to stop at every Ipod & iPhone cover vendor we passed (boys these days with technology, huh?), had the incredible Brownie ice cream from the legendary Haagan-Daas, and ate a super-tasty vanilla cupcake  with cream cheese frosting from CB’s Cupcakes.

photo-3Have you visited San Diego or Carlsbad as a tourist or are a resident? Would love your comments about the area below! photo-4

 

 

 

Family Vacation Part 1 – Leaving for San Diego

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On Thursday, Tia & I woke up around 4am to get ready to head to San Diego, CA for our family vacation. This is one of 4 destinations we will be at, and certain the most popular summer destination for Arizona vacationers, as it is only 5-6 hours away and has so much to offer.

As usual, Tia is the person that *fully* prepares and packs for our trips. She is the master packer, carefully placing each and every item in our luggage, to the envy of most world-traveling business executives. That’s my love, the stay-at-home mom (and I don’t mean this in a derogatory sense).

I have a little more patience level getting out the door than she does. She is very concerned about making it to San Diego around a specific time, where in my mind I’m on vacation and there really isn’t a a hurry – kind of like “we’ll get there when we get there”. As you can imagine this usually creates a little bit of marital conflict, but nothing we can’t work through.

Tia usually cuts my hair, well, shaves with a #3 blade, to be more exact, and I asked her to do so this morning since it was getting a little long (for me), and would be nice to feel the ocean breeze going through it on our trip. Toby, our 10-year old son, wakes up around this time, finds my hair on floor, and jokes about gluing to himself and creating his own chest hair. Understandably, the mood lightens and we all have a good laugh.

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One of the interesting things I found out about our newly-adoped kitty-cat Linley that morning is that my wife likes to leave the TV on when we leave the house for more than a few hours at a time. Channel 70, The Home Shopping Network, to be exact. Now why would a cat want to watch this channel? Must be for the great deals, apparently.

In we all hop to our 9-year old silver Dodge Caravan and start our journey (don’t worry, we didn’t forget Miller), and of course mommy wants the kids to sleep at least for the first couple of hours, but to no avail. The kids are sleepily-excited and start talking and want to watch a movie. Since we have an older vehicle, it doesn’t have the built-in movie screens the cars of today have, so we have wires everywhere since we installed our own. Pretty. Commence “The Lego Movie” , which I like to think of as “Frozen for boys”.

windmill

During the trips somehow dying comes up with Miller (our 4-year old), and he tells us that he doesn’t want to die. I explain that all people die, that are bodies are temporary, and someday we will go to live with Jesus in Heaven.  To which Miller replies “Oh, we can’t walk there. It’s way very far away.” Nope, definitely not!

 

A Little Bit About Me & My Background

My name is Matthew, and I do prefer Matthew, not Matt. Although I’ll never correct you. I live a comfortable and generally happy life – I’m 38 years old, married, have 2 boys, drive a Toyota Camry, own a home, and work as a self-employed real estate agent in Chandler, AZ.

I’m an Arizona native – born in the small town Page (up north, practically Utah) and grew up in Glendale, AZ. This was no doubt my hometown. I married when I was 22 to my college sweetheart and we lived in west-central Phoenix for a few years in a cockroach-infected apartment, right near Metrocenter Mall. In 2000, we bought our first home in Chandler, AZ had our first son, Toby, in 2004, and then moved again in 2009, where we had our 2nd child, Miller.

Have seen a lot during my lifetime, and while I’m not the wisest guy on the block I know a few things. The purpose of this blog is to share my life experiences with others, for laughs, learning, inspiration, a good time, and deep thought. I remember watching the film “Julie & Julia” with my wife a couple of years ago, and how uplifting it was to watch Amy Adams’ character do what she did via blogging.

Matthew Coates family picture

While I don’t claim to be an Amy Adams, I will be delivering content on a regular basis, and some people will read it, some won’t – AND THAT’S OK. I’m not going to sweat it. In blogging for my real estate business I have actually come to really enjoy it. Who would have thought?

I’m a college graduate, in a business career, raising a family, do the best I can, yet I have developed a “draw” towards putting my thoughts and feelings on paper (or, on a website if you want to be technical). According to most of my friends, I should be “too busy” to entertain anything like this. But although that may be the case, as anyone will also tell you, you’ll fit in whatever is important. And so that’s what I’m doing. That and compartmentalizing  my thoughts and life into this blog for your education and entertainment. I’ve started delegating certain tasks so that I can do more sharing with the world.

Not to get too off-topic, but generally everyone today does what they are “supposed” to do, but very few do what they “want” to do. Perhaps I have made enough prior good decisions to allot myself this luxury. I do not take it for granted.

I live my life the best I can, and I absolutely love my life. I work hard and play hard and give back when possible. I am transparent and direct with people, which isn’t always the most comfortable, but I believe it is the right way to live for me.

So what inspired this website? First of all, I am an introvert. Most people perceive this as meaning one who doesn’t like to be around others and is shy & reserved. One of the things I found out about introverts is that we like people, we really do, it’s just that we draw strength, creativity, and comfort when we are by ourselves. I like a good party as much as the next person, but if you stick me in front of 15 people at once and put me on the spot I’m going to be a little timid!

The site is a way for me to express those thoughts & feelings that in certain situations it’s better to just hold my tongue and diary them later, but also free me to express things I think about, am concerned over, and keep me up at night. As well as the fun & enjoyable, things that make me laugh, smile, or wonder.

Over time, I hope to learn a little bit about each of my readers, what motivates you, inspires you, makes you angry, sad, and so on. Look forward to starting that process now…