In a perfect world I would have planned something a little more “Christmas-sy” for our adventureday with the little mice. The only downside to a Christmas adventure the weekend before the actual Holiday is that EVERYONE is doing it, which means it’s probably going to be crowded.
In other words:
No thank you.
So we instead traveled 45 minutes north of our home to Sierra Madre, a little town at the foot of Mt. Wilson that doesn’t have a single stop light but does have a Starbucks.
I personally LOVE Sierra Madre. Brayden pointed out how some of the residents can look at you a certain way if you appear too “left” (apparently a lady was whispering viciously about George’s Anti-Flag hoodie. Take a breath, honey. It’s a band). The area does have a very quaint and untouched feel about it. Everyone has a dog and you can tell what breed they are (in other words, no mutts) and I have never seen so many salons and nail places on one block (do the women do anything besides primp here?). That’s the only (truth be told) downside. It feels like old town “Stepford”. I was unaffected but Brayden and George seemed to be very conscious of it.
Just felt I should prepare you.
The boys really like it and unaffected Kap and I loved it. We stopped at Bean Town http://www.beantowncoffeebar.com (one of our favorite spots for breakfast when we’re in the area). They have a fantastic selection, reasonably priced, a great atmosphere and friendly staff (the gentleman that helped us was wonderful AND was wearing a Ghostbusters shirt that looked like Venkman’s uniform, see, not all “Stepfordian”).
Brayden had a breakfast burrito as big as his forearm, George had oatmeal with almonds (you had a choice of almonds, fruit and/or raisins), Kapples had a blueberry muffin, Co a chocolate croissant and I had “the veggie”. It’s pretty friendly to meat eaters and vegans alike. Win-win.
We then walked up the main streets, looking at the storefronts, admiring the nativity scene and loving the little churches on opposite sides of the street (one simply gorgeous with it’s white steeple, the other an impressive, garland bedecked stone).
This isn’t a town that sticks out as a tourist attraction. It just simply “is” so don’t look for anything fancy to entertain you. They have a Christmas Carol production at the old theater (I heard Tom Hanks filled in for a friend one year, if that stuff impresses you).
We found our interests lie in the Memorial Park and Lizzie’s Trail Inn Museum.
Across from the churches is the Memorial Park. It lives up to its name. It has a cannon at the entrance and a memorial nearby honoring those that have served. The playground is like any other in a well maintained neighborhood but the craftsman style homes surrounding and the gorgeous colors in the trees this time of year made it feel worlds away. We played and laughed and then started the short trek back to our car.
On our way we saw an adorable shop called Belles Nest http://www.bellesnest.com. I stopped in because I have had the most difficult time finding a Christmas present for my Grandmother. The entire shop is wonderful, full of everything from notebooks, to jewelry, to a small clothing section, hand made soaps to tea spoons. We all enjoyed it immensely but fell in love when we found the small garden area.
Needless to say, I found something for Grandma.
On to the Lizzie’s Trail Inn Museum!
We arrived and I immediately thought “wow, this must be a busy place”. There were a lot of cars parked along the street and we parked a little ways away. I figured out that the Mt Wilson trail is nearby. This side of Sierra Madre, only 5 minutes from the Main Street, feels like a whole other town. The vibe is a bit more country and if you pass the museum and go further down the road, the streets narrow to almost one lane. The houses are tilted up hills in a way that reminded me of Big Bear and the back road to the Sequoias.
The Lizzie Trail Inn used to be the only place you could stop and get a bite and something to drink before or after climbing to the peak. There’s also a bit of history that, during the prohibition, they had a moonshine operation.
The museum itself is small and crammed full of original artifacts from when the Inn was in operation (not much about the moonshine gig). Upon arriving we were greeted by, I’m assuming, members of the Historical Society. I don’t recall the man’s name but he had a lot of information about the history of the establishment and the construction of the telescope on Mt. Wilson. Everyone was incredibly friendly and not one had an elitist attitude and were thrilled the kids took an interest in the very old pinball machine (“It doesn’t have paddles so it was really a gambling machine”). It was a lot of fun and they accept donations but don’t tell you to do so (which made me donate more honestly). It was a short stop with only a couple small rooms to read through (there are a lot of panoramas containing detailed written histories of the pictures on them) but a great experience. We would definitely go back when we’re out that way.
Please note: the operating hours are from 10-noon every Saturday.
Our last stop was the Los Angeles Arboretum http://www.arboretum.org/index.php/visit/. We love the outdoors and we love nature so walking into this place was quite the treat. We had been to the Spring Preserve in Las Vegas, the Botanical Garden in Encinitas and the Arboretum in Fullerton several times. This one, located in Arcadia, is pretty incredible. It has free roaming peacocks that are really everywhere (Co counted 20), the Queen Ann House and coach house which are incredible (Kap exclaimed several times how her house “WILL look like this”). Some of the sections were under construction but we still walked through and explored most everywhere, including a stop at the aptly named Peacock Cafe, where the birds must be used to being fed portions of people’s lunches (they watch your every move from 2 feet away). The kids were a little annoyed that I got all hippy on them and wouldn’t allow them to give the birds “people food”. We stopped at the gift shop and I got a reasonably priced succulent arrangement. They have a pretty great variety of gifts and they’re not the garden variety kitsch either. They’re gifts you would be stoked to receive!
We headed to the car and the kids all chattered excitedly about how much fun they had and asking when we could come back.
It was wonderful.
Full of peaceful, nostalgic, whimsical family time? Yes!