Last month we had the best mini getaway. It was mid October so felt Fall festive, with crisper weather and Halloween just around the corner. Our first stop was a surprise for Cam to meet Thomas the Train in Santa Cruz. Cam is obsessed with Thomas right now so when tickets went on sale for a special Thomas & Percy Halloween takeover, we knew we wanted to take him.
We told Cam we were going to see the trains but didn’t tell him THOMAS would be there. Bundled up, with thermoses filled of coffee and tea, we drove over the windy hill to Roaring Camp, where they went all out with the Thomas Takeover! Right upon entering you see a blow up Thomas and other train friend characters. The highlight for us, of course, was seeing Cam’s face when he first caught a glimpse of Thomas and all things Sodor. I will never forget it. He stopped in his tracks with this little coy smile spread across his cute face. (When I was telling my dad about it later, his Cam-voiceover was, “okay, my parents are cool.” I’ll take that and run with it.)
Cam got to “meet” Sir Topham Hatt. He played with trains on tracks (that we had to rent by giving our IDs – they weren’t messing around). There was a pumpkin patch for every kid to take one pumpkin; a souvenir Thomas bucket that the kids lunch came in; a firetruck to get in and explore, and the actual main event, the train souped-up as Thomas and Percy!! Well worth it.
Our original plan basically ended here. We were going to ride the train and then drive home after during nap. BUT, instead, we continued down South for a gifted trip to us in Monterey! Our neighbors won free tickers to a race at Laguna Seca and one night stay at a hotel nearby from the radio!! They already had plans that weekend so asked if we wanted to go instead. Cam loves cars and racing right now – plus, free night stay in Monterey? yes every time – so we were excited and thankful they thought of us.
We arrived at the racetrack, not fully sure what to expect. But scored free upgraded parking and a VIP golf cart ride down to the event, so we were off to a good start.
Not only did we get free admission tickets and a complimentary hotel stay, we also were upgraded to the “wine experience” (maybe we should be calling into the radio more often, with these prizes, y’all…). Again, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect and, since we were with Cam, weren’t sure we would even be able to enjoy it together. Lucky for us, the wine experience area was directly next to the kids area (parents must have been involved with this placement…) and with our wristbands, we had in and out privileges.
This meant I could go in for a glass of wine and a snack, come out with my loot and stay with Cam while Mike did the same! We were able to toast together and watch Cam play with the race car ramp they had set up in the kids zone. Wins, wins.
We also had the opportunity to see a F1 car do a few laps around the track, which was so cool to see and experience. We are still into Formula One over here and spend many weekend mornings lazily watching races. It’s fun because Cam is also into and will say cute things like “I want to watch race car” or “that blue one is my favorite.” All of this to say, Cam LOVED seeing the race cars on a real track.
After a lot of excitement, it was time to go check in at the hotel, Casa Munras. The hotel seems unassuming from the outside but is actually a super cute spot with a pool (still heated to 75 degrees) and a tapas restaurant that you know we had to check out.
After sorting ourselves out in our room we decided to go full vacay mode and take a dip in the pool. The weather had warmed up a bit throughout the day and it was heated so why not? Cam enjoyed bobbing around in the water for about 20 minutes but then started shivering and it was time to get out. We had dinner reservations at Estéban Restaurant for 6pm but our day was running ahead of schedule, so instead arrived at 5:30pm. We were pleasantly surprised to find out there was still 30 minutes of happy hour!
After mojitos and an array of tapas (and some reminiscing on our summer trip to Spain!) it was time for bath and bed for Cam. Conveniently, our room was within baby monitor range of the pool (this was actually HUGE and something I want to start requesting when able in upcoming travel). Mike and I were able to enjoy around drink by the pool while watching Cam doze on the monitor. A great end to a great day.
Before we went to sleep, I was sure to figure out what nearby would be open for breakfast early the next morning. Not having a solid morning plan when you’re away from a kitchen with a toddler is a non-starter. Happily, across the street from our hotel was my ideal spot, a cozy organic cafe: The Wild Plum.
Sure enough, we were there bright and early (the benefit of not sleeping in anymore is missing the brunch crowds on the weekend)! I ordered a stack of pancakes with berries – so fluffy and yummy! Our waiter was also very kind and gave Cam a free refill on his oatmeal, after he demolished his first serving.
The park scene near us also DID NOT disappoint. We were walking distance from Dennis the Menace park, which is incredible. It is right on a lake that had inflatable swans you could rent – we might be repeating this vacation during the summer to try them out. There were multiple play areas, including a maze, a small sailboat, and a baseball field. It was the best park we’ve found since our trip to San Luis Obispo earlier this year. We spent the rest of the morning running around and exploring before going back to the hotel to pack up.
Before we drove home, we rounded out the weekend trying out a great brewery, Dust Bowl Brewing. There was a food truck option for lunch and Cam loved zipping around the picnic style tables we were sitting at. Mike and I were just content enough with our beers to not really care if other people were judging our loose parenting style at that moment… 😉
The food was simple but so incredibly good. The location and atmosphere couldn’t be beat, and either could the company. Our favorite time is family time (cheeseball) and it was great to spend such a fun time together. Thanks, Ally & Rob!!
Want more? Read about other trips to Santa Cruz and Monterey here and here