Category Archives: Parks

Santee Lakes vs. Hilton Head Park

Today I went to the Santee Lakes sprayground for the first time.  I have heard really good things about it and I found out that you could park in the park for free today so we decided to give it a shot.  I have to say I was not impressed.  On a typical weekday, the cost to drive into Santee Lakes is $3.  On a weekend, it’s $5.  And that’s just the start.  Then, to play in the sprayground, kids have to have a wrist band, which is $2 per kid.  For the price paid, I expected it to be a huge sprayground with a lot of space for kids to run around and get wet.

This is it. The whole kit ‘n’ caboodle.

I guess I expected too much because I was kind of disappointed.  We had been there for 5 minutes and my kids were telling me they were done.

Where The Boy spent most of his time.

We did end up staying for about an hour, but I really wasn’t that impressed.  I just kept thinking of how I could have just gone to Hilton Head Park for free with so many other things to do.

I love Hilton Head Park.

Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but I don’t think so.  We did live right next to the park so we went on a daily basis, but I would still think it’s a great park even if it didn’t have so many memories.  it’s totally free.

The sprayground area is not any smaller than that at Santee Lakes, but there are also two play structures and swings for the kids to have fun with when they don’t want to play in the water anymore.

There are covered picnic tables for lunch, and there are also barbecues.  It really is a gem of a park in Rancho San Diego.

Now, a fair warning: this park can get really crowded on the weekends.  If you’re planning a party there, make sure that you have a back-up plan in case you don’t end up with one of the gazebos.  People are known to get there at 4 or 5 in the morning, just to reserve their party spot and I’ve heard of fist fights breaking out over the picnic tables.  Also, being that this is a fairly new park, there isn’t a lot of shade, so don’t forget your beach umbrella.  There is, however, a baseball diamond and a great little path to walk/run with workout stations along the way and a basketball court.

Sure, Santee Lakes has paths and picnic areas and lakes and ducks and camping and playgrounds.  I think it’s definitely a place to be mentioned and used.  Now that I live so close, I need to go there more often, but if you’re going purely for the sprayground, save your money and head a little further south to Hilton Head Park.  You won’t be disappointed.

*Update: As of this year (2012), Hilton Head Park has started charging $3 per child for use of the sprayground.  I have not been there since this change, but I have heard that there is a vending machine where you can purchase a wrist band for your child, which allows use of the sprayground area of the park.


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The Great Park

I have been wanting to check out The Great Park in Irvine for a while.  I don’t know how I learned about it, maybe in the paper or a magazine or something.  I read about the huge helium balloon that you can ride.  It takes you up into the air a little ways and then comes back down.

I thought it looked cool.  There’s one very similar at Safari park, but you have to pay extra to ride and the one at The Great Park is free.  As you know, I’m all about free.  The only problem is, if I drove up there just to go for a free ride in the helium balloon, I might as well have gone to Safari Park and paid for the ride with the money I would have saved on gas.  So this week was the perfect opportunity.  Since we spent the night in Anaheim on Wednesday, we stopped by the park on our way home Thursday afternoon.  I didn’t know at the time that the balloon ride (and carousel for that matter) are only open Thursday through Sunday.  Luckily for us, it was a Thursday that we made the trip.  I thought we lucked out when we got there because it looked like it wasn’t very busy at all.  But when we went into the visitor’s center to get tickets, they told us that they had sold out for the day.

We could come back an hour before they opened that night and try to get them in the evening if we wanted.  We opted out and rode the carousel a couple of times instead.  It turns out that the weather wasn’t cooperating that day and they couldn’t take as many people up at a time as they can on a clear, breeze-free day.  Maybe next time.


About The Great Park . . . it looks like it will be really great.  It’s still under construction.  It will be a huge urban park.  Right now, the big draw is the helium balloon and the carousel.  Did I mention that both are free?  Because they are.  Since my kids could ride a carousel all day, every day without getting sick of it, we rode it a couple of times.

Even though we were disappointed about the balloon ride, we did end up having a good time.

We thought the bike rack was really cool and the kids loved this checker path.

If I’m ever up in Irvine on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday again, I’ll be back.

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Balboa Park

Last Monday I decided to take The Boy to Balboa Park.  My plan was to go to the Model Railroad Museum.  We have been there a couple of times before and it’s always a hit.  This month, though, we can get in for free with our membership to The New Children’s Museum.  My time in this month is running out and I really wanted to make it to the Model Railroad Museum.  Of course, as we were getting ready to leave, The Boy threw a fit and didn’t want to see the trains.  I still, for the life of me, can’t figure out why not.  So I asked him if he wanted to see the fish (our Children’s Museum membership is also good for the Japanese Friendship Garden this month).  He seemed excited about that so we got in the car and headed for the park.  When we got there, he was still adamant about not going to the Railroad Museum so we walked to the Japanese Friendship Garden.  We got there right before a group of two military families arrived, and were greeted with news cameras.  I wasn’t sure what was going on, or what to think, and since we were there at the same time as these military families, the museum people thought we were with them.  When they realized we weren’t, they informed me that the garden was closed and that we would have to come back another day.  So no coy pond today.  Back to the Model Railroad Museum?  The Boy would not have it.  By this time, it had started to drizzle or I would have just gone to the zoo.  Instead, I noticed the free tram stop right near where we were standing so we decided to take a ride.

We were the only ones on the bus so we were able to chit-chat a bit with Rick, the driver.  He even asked me if I wanted to drive!  Sure, he wasn’t serious, but it was still a fun idea.  We had a nice little ride.

When we were done, I finally convinced The Boy that he wanted to see the trains.  So we walked to the Model Railroad Museum and it was CLOSED!!!  Of course.  That seems to be what happens to me.  I need to start checking these things before I go out.  We ended up just having a little picnic and going home.  Even though our excursion didn’t go anywhere near planned, we had a good time.  And we went back yesterday.  But that’s another post.

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