Jun 12, 2012

Toddler Tuesdays: Monterey Bay Aquarium

For London’s actual 2nd Birthday, we finally took her to the Monterey Bay Aquarium – something we have said we need to do since she was 3 months old! Took us long enough, huh?

Knowing a drive there and back in one day, along with the actual visit would be too much for London, I had booked us a hotel room for Saturday night and we headed to the coast Saturday around 11:30 AM. London decided this would be a good day to first, get up super early that morning (6:30 AM) and two, take a nap for less than an hour. But, for the most part, she tolerated the 3 ½ hour car trip relatively well. We actually made it there in less than 3 ½ hours and that was with a stop in Santa Nella to let this pregnant lady void her bladder. It gets smaller and smaller day by day. We actually arrived at our hotel around 2:30 PM. And that’s where we let London run around for a little while before getting back in the car to head to Cannery Row.

I hadn’t been able to find a hotel room at a decent price within walking distance of the Aquarium and Cannery Row, and I’m so glad that I didn’t. We actually ended up staying in Pleasant Grove, whose City limits start about a block from the Aquarium. We were only 2 miles away to be honest. And we discovered what a cute little town Pleasant Grove is – I only wish we had arrived sooner so we could walk around the cute downtown and all the amazing shops it had. Plus, our hotel was actually just a couple blocks from the ocean and a little lighthouse. We determined that Pleasant Grove is actually much nicer than Monterey itself is.

The hotel wasn’t that bad either. The Sea Breeze Inn & Lodge was more of a motel with little cabins and drive-up rooms. Our room was one of two rooms in an upper story. It was a little on the small side, but clean and comfortable all the same. And we learned that the hotel is dog-friendly. We saw one couple walking their Lab and Rottweiler around the parking lot later that day when we went to the pool and spa.

And because we purchased our aquarium tickets through the hotel reservation, they were good for two days! Which is why we went into Monterrey and Cannery Row in the first place – we decided to take advantage and spend a few hours before dinner in the Aquarium. First stop was the Open Ocean exhibit. Cameron put London on his shoulders and we all watched the tuna, a turtle, a sting ray and sharks swim by. London was definitely amazed by it all and was quite distracted the whole visit.

We also took in the Kelp Forest and Jellys before we headed out to Cannery Row for dinner. Usually we head to The Fishhopper, but we changed course and went to Louie Linguini’s across the plaza instead. Here’s how we made our decision to eat here: We were walking by and a gentleman representing the restaurant offered us a sample of clam chowder. Cameron took one and immediately circled back saying it was really good – it actually reminded him of what good clam chowder was supposed to taste like. So while he dined on a bowl of clam chowder and a seafood medley salad, I feasted on some Dungeness Crab while London ate most of my fries and a few pieces of her cheese pizza. I highly recommend this place for any one visiting the area. Plus, it sits up on top of a building overlooking the ocean. You can’t beat that view.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel for a quick dip in the spa – for Cameron that is. London and I just stuck our feet in. Unfortunately for Cameron, he woke up Saturday with a major kink in his neck and could barely turn it. Between a few massages from me and some Icy Hot, we were able to loosen it up some, but you could tell he was stiff and in pain. Then, we cruised Pleasant Grove some more on our way to Safeway for some provisions like Milk for London and beer for Cameron. All I wanted was a Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks but we were too late and they were closed.

Bedtime proved to be a challenge. London has outgrown her play yard so we didn’t even bother taking it. Except that we also forgot our pillows at home (which we consistently do). We had planned to use all the hotel pillows to create a barrier on London’s bed to keep her from rolling out. And lucky for us, each bed had 4 pillows. We used the 4 on London’s bed to place on either side of her, under the main comforter. Then we used the large, decorative bolster pillows to place at her feet, again under the comforter. And London got one of my pillows to use for her head, on top. The bed had a sheet over the comforter which we used to cover London, but I also packed her flannel PJs.

It took all of us going to bed at 9 to get her to go to sleep. Having the TV on, on low was too much distraction for her and even then, it took some time for her to go down. London did sleep through the night, safely. And it was pretty cute listening to her wake up, babbling. As soon as I moved she rolled over and peaked at me from behind one of the pillows. That was at 7 AM, so at least it was a relatively acceptable weekend time to wake up.

Unfortunately for me, I didn’t sleep well thanks to my first middle of the night charley horse from this pregnancy. It struck in my calf and was quite sore all of Sunday and even on Monday! Made for a slow moving Mama. And Cameron woke up every time he rolled over that night due to his neck.

So it was a good thing we went to the Aquarium for a little while the day before, as we only lasted a couple hours on Sunday before London was ready for a nap and we were ready to get home, despite the gorgeous weather Monterrey was experiencing – no fog and a cool 75 degrees or so. I really miss that bay weather right now as our temperatures are edging into the 100s.

We got to the Aquarium just as the opened, and some of the volunteers were walking around with tubes full of Jelly Fish, which London got to see up close. From there, we checked out the new Jelly Fish exhibit that had several interactive features that London enjoyed.

We also spent some time wandering the sea horse exhibit before heading to one of the special kids areas all about whales. London loved coloring the most and for the most part enjoyed anything she could freely run around in or participate in. While standing on one of the outside decks, we spotted several otters and a seal.

The trip worked out rather well. We had wished that we had planned on going on Friday night and had all day Saturday there, but that may be better when London is older, too. She needs her run-free time and we need our down time. Once this baby arrives and gets more established, we are definitely thinking about a family membership to the Aquarium – if we just went 4 times a year (once every 3 months) we would recoup the cost of membership and more. But, we’ll have to hold off on that until at least January – and London is free until she is 3, so it would make more sense to just get two individual memberships until then.

Tulley spent the weekend at PetSmart and didn’t come home until last night. She was pretty tuckered from all the playing she did with other dogs while we were away and is soft as can be after her exit bath.

Although, now that we know the hotel is dog-friendly, we may decide to bring her along in the future depending on the weather.

~ Sarah

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