Weed, CA – What feels to many travelers like the final outpost on the California drive toward Oregon, where Interstate 5 and Highway 97 go separate ways before crossing the state line, Weed may seem an unlikely stop for anything other than gas and a possible sandwich. And let’s face it, the city’s name doesn’t do much to much to push the tourist trade either. But if you’ve got kids in the car, you may want to plan a pit stop in this small town, especially in fair weather.
You won’t see the city’s 7-acre Bel Air Park while driving the main strip through town, but local families know it well as you’ll find by the army of playmates clambering on the climbing structures, slides, swings, and loveable dinosaur-built-for-two. A handful of picnic tables rest nearby in the shade of some large trees, and you can also pitch your picnic blanket in a shady spot of lawn beside the playground.
Across an expanse of thick lawn, you’ll see restrooms and also one end of the outdoor Weed Community Swimming Pool — another great place to let your kids burn off some energy while in Weed, if you have time. Babies and toddlers will enjoy the “baby swings” further east from the main play structure and big kid swings (but still within eyeshot). Explore the park and you’ll also find a Bocce court and horseshoe pits. But there’s plenty of room to just chase a ball–or each other while you work up an appetite.
Good to know:
Weed can be freezing in winter and quite hot in summer months (check current weather here), but you will find shade in the park. On the hottest days, it makes a terrific venue for a dinnertime picnic and chance to air-out your car while parked in the shade. If you don’t have picnic supplies with you, hit the main grocery store or a gas station mini mart on upper Weed Blvd. where you can pick up ready-made sandwiches, chips, and drinks. Weed also has a number of restaurants if you prefer or in case you pass through in foul weather.
As of yet, online mapping won’t help you much. So just follow South Weed Boulevard south and cross east under the freeway. Turn right at Scotts Valley Bank and proceed on College Avenue. Soon you’ll see the Mt. Shasta Brewing Company on your left (wet your whistle in their tasting room), and then the playground of Bel Air Park just beyond it with nose-in free parking at the curb.
This photo was taken 2 years ago when we first discovered Bel Air Park, thanks to the recommendation of a gas station attendant and resident father of three. It’s been an important road stop for the Rivolis on all road trips north ever since.
Shelly Rivoli, author of Travels with Baby:
The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children
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On our previous road trip with the two kiddos in the van and some 1100 miles rolling onto the odometer, we had the opportunity to revisit a lesson from Psychology 101. No, it didn’t occur to us up front to try some psychology, or even reverse psychology, or to introduce the concept of transference to our screaming 2-year-old who had clearly had enough of the 5-point harness. We were simply desperate. Already having maxed out Tim’s vacation and bereavement time, we had to make tracks back to the homestead.
As I write in Travels with Baby, “Making good time doesn’t always make for a good time…” when you’re traveling with small children, and on the final morning of our unplanned journey this was proving to be an excellent case in point. “OUT DIS CAH SEEEAAAT!!!” was a catchy sentiment that quickly spread to Big Sister as well. Soon, not one of us was happy in our car seat, but there was nowhere safe to pull over.
Enter the penguin. As I looked over my shoulder from the front passenger seat, pleading for the umpteenth time to join the chorus of Old Macdonald or find solace in whichever toy had last been hurtled at my headrest, I spied the penguin puppet on the floor. It was within my reach. Soon, the penguin was peeking over my shoulder and around the side of my seat. He waved and there was a giggle. “Penguin! What are you–?!” and suddenly he was dancing on my head. There was laughter.
“Penguin, get down from there!” I looked over my shoulder and told the girls, “Really!” Then I scolded the “Naughty little penguin! Don’t you know you need to stay in your seat while we’re driving in the car?!” No one was screaming. For the moment. I apologized to the penguin for not having a car seat the right size for him, and explained how he must be a a good “lap penguin” for the duration of the journey. “What would the police say if they saw you dancing on my head?!”
He agreed to stay on my lap. But the moment he got antsy and began the climb up onto my shoulder, the girls shouted in sheer delight, advising him on proper road trip etiquette. Penguin tried to be good and stay on my lap, he really did. Sometimes he behaved himself so well in fact that he got to take turns riding on the girls’ laps. But the moment he fell to the floor or started the Macarena on Mom’s head, there was an entire car full of passengers ready to help keep him in line.
I can’t say it was all that much quieter in the car, but it was far preferable to hear their laughter and shouts of instruction to their cries of discontent and pleas for release. We were all laughing at times, if only for the absurdity of the situation. “Naughty little penguin!” are words that still make us chuckle in tense and tired moments at the house.
We just returned from another Rivoli Family Road Trip, logging some 1730 miles from the Bay Area through Central Oregon’s high desert country, the fertile Willamette Valley, lush rainforest with waterfalls, and the rugged Pacific coastline. We stayed in our tent, a couple of hotels, a family home, and a vacation rental. Thankfully, there was no shortage of meaningful stops on this journey.
In my next posts, I’ll be sharing some of our favorite sights from this adventure and some tips for great road trips. To all of you parents gearing up for road trips with your little ones, I wish you many miles of smiles and memorable stops along the way. And just in case the next scenic viewpoint is further down the road than your child would like, be sure to pack a penguin —or at least your sense of humor.
Whether you’re gearing up for your first camping adventure with your baby or toddler, or you’re pondering how best to do it now that your child’s a toddler or a preschooler, you may all be happier campers on your trip after a little practice run at home. Sure, pitching the tent in a backyard overnight is not a bad way to reintroduce your child to camp life after a long winter, but if you don’t opt for that, you might want to at least run through some of these situations to help your child–and yourself work out some of the potential kinks in camping with small kids:
Using the portacrib or travel bed:
If it’s been a while, or you need to perfect the art of making a “tent within your tent” to help keep the air around your child warm in the night, be sure to figure out what works best for your situation–and to pack all of the pieces (best blankets, bunting, clips, etc.) with you.
Transitioning to sleeping bags:
When your child is ready to use her first sleeping bag, let her try it out and get familiar with it at home first. It can be quite a change of sleeping habit for toddlers still accustomed to cribs and rolling around freely in the night without much need for blankets.
Sleeping in the same room:
If your children normally sleep in their own room at home, you may want to practice sleeping in the same room so that it’s not such an exciting novelty when it’s time for lights out in the tent. If you’re worried about picking up permanent roommates on the home front, I recommend using the living room for this special event.
Preparing for safety issues:
With toddlers and preschoolers, start discussing camp safety concerns early, like respecting the campfire and resident wildlife, and avoiding poison oak. You’ll still have to be on your toes, regardless, but it can help to have kids thinking about these things ahead of time, rather than getting the first explanation in the thrill of the first moments at camp.
With a forecasted low of 39 F for our first night in the tent this year, sleeping in hoods has also been a helpful pre-trip topic of discussion at our house. Not to mention, it’s been great fun to practice.
Having spent hours upon hours searching the internet trying to discern which places might be most comfortable to stay with my own small children, I have often felt the aching need for a comprehensive resource that gives a Mom’s-eye perspective of hotels, resorts, condos and other vacation properties around the world. I’m delighted to report that Jamie Pearson has pulled it off. She just launched Travel Savvy Mom, written by a network of traveling and expat moms around the globe. Already online: profiles of vacation properties in Hawaii, Egypt, Australia, Oregon, Costa Rica, South Africa, Spain, and New York to name a few. Better yet, these write-ups are geared not just toward traveling families, but toward those facing the added dimension of vacationing with babies and young children in particular. I’m so excited about this site that I already submitted a profile of my own, which you can read here. For those of you who have found truly great places to stay with babies and small children, I hope you’ll consider submitting your own property profiles for consideration on the site. If you see a property listed where you’ve stayed with your family, you can add your own comments and experiences, too. Congratulations on a great site, Jamie! And thanks for taking some of the guess work out of planning trips with our littlest travelers.
Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby
The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children
Summer Sale – Save 15% on Travels with Baby and qualify for FREE Super Saver Shipping – Click here for details!
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