PETALUMA -- Vacation with kids in California's wine country? Sure. There are lots of activities that appeal to families.
This past June I took my two grandchildren -- Cierra, 10, and Connor, 6 -- to visit family in Sonoma County and looked for activities that were inexpensive, not too time-consuming and suited to their ages and interests. I'd say we mostly succeeded.
A favorite of everyone was a visit to Mrs. Grossman's Sticker Factory in Petaluma. While not aware of brand names, both kids are big fans of stickers.
It fit the criteria for price ($3 each), time (just over an hour) and kid-friendliness (what child doesn't like stickers?)
The actual tour of the sticker-printing facility, unfortunately, did not hold the interest of this 6-year-old boy, who was not inclined to obey the rules of staying within the factory's safety lines. His mom had to take him out to wait in the lobby.
What did capture his and his sister's interest and imagination was the sticker-art room, where each visitor is handed a packet of stickers and a postcard and encouraged to be creative. Leftover stickers were taken with us and ended up adorning more artwork -- plus a hat and even the inside of the ice chest, I later discovered.
As scrapbook enthusiasts, my daughter and I took advantage of the discount ($3 off a $20 purchase) in the factory store, buying for ourselves as well as for the kids.
Also playing to Cierra and Connor's artistic bent was our
I figured every child likes Snoopy and the other "Peanuts" characters, right?
Well, to be honest, this was a little less successful, as a 6-year-old has minimal interest in strolling through exhibits and reading cartoons. For Connor, it only became fun when we reached the museum's Education Room, where he could unleash his own creativity with crayons and a large stack of paper.
Cierra got more out of the museum, absorbing the how-to-draw lessons and adding her own rendition of Woodstock to a hand-out coloring page. She, her mom and I enjoyed posting our artwork on the wall there, along with those of other visitors. It was nice to learn that it all would be saved in large notebooks that docents compile for the museum.
Cierra also enjoyed browsing through scrapbooks of letters to Schulz from famous people and seeing personal memorabilia such as items from his studio.
And, outside in the museum courtyard, it was fun to spot the "kite-eating tree."
Not surprisingly, the little gift shop in the museum and the much, much larger one across the road, next to the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, caught both children's attention. I shouldn't have been surprised at that. Merchandise ranges from pencils, erasers and other trinkets to T-shirts, sketchbooks and videos to $3,000 lithographs --and, of course, stuffed Snoopys in many sizes.
If you're really pressed for time, you could just stop by to snap some photos of the large statues of Snoopy, Charlie Brown and other characters. They're outside the museum and the ice rink, and posing with them doesn't cost a cent.
One very inexpensive afternoon was spent at Spring Lake Park in Santa Rosa. For a parking fee of $6 per vehicle, we picnicked, kayaked, fed ducks and geese, and played with the four dogs that accompanied our group of 11 adults and three kids.
The 320-acre park is open daily in the summer and offers picnic areas, hiking and bike trails, a swimming lagoon and boat ramp at the 72-acre lake.
For more water activities, there are ocean beaches a short drive away along the coast, and the Russian River has its own beaches and canoe and kayak rentals. We've taken Cierra and Connor to both on previous trips. The local kayak owners we know say they prefer the lake, as the paddling is smoother and easier there.
Weighed against my two measures of post-travel analysis -- would I go back and was the time there too short? -- I'd say this was a successful trip. And I will be back.
IF YOU GO
MRS. GROSSMAN'S STICKER FACTORY: 3810 Cypress Drive, Petaluma. Tours are given Monday through Friday in summer from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., by appointment only (limited hours the rest of the year).www.mrsgrossmans.com; (800) 429-4549.
CHARLES M. SCHULZ MUSEUM: 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa. Insummer, open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for ages 4 to 18, seniors 62 and up, and college students with ID. www.schulzmuseum.org; (707) 579-4452.
REDWOOD EMPIRE ICE ARENA: "Snoopy's Home Ice,"1667 W. Steele Lane (across the street from the Charles M. Schulz Museum). www.snoopyshomeice.com; (707) 546-7147.
-- Safari West, 3115 Porter Creek Road, Santa Rosa, 800-616-2695 or 707-579-2551, safariwest.com
SPRING LAKE PARK: 391 Violetta Drive, Santa Rosa. www.sonoma-county.org/parks; (707) 565-2041.
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