We enjoyed a wonderful holiday season but found that we were confused and frustrated with this time of year as we traveled from sunny California to Nevada to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s .
We are from New Hampshire and for us, mother nature marks the start of the season. Setting back the clocks and the drop in temperature indicates to us that the holidays are coming. This transition helps us mentally shift from fall and prepare for the season – gift shopping, sending Christmas cards, attending craft fairs, visiting Santa, etc. As a family, we enjoyed spending time together and making new “on the road” traditions, however we were reminded of all the seasonal happenings we take part in back home and longed to spend time with family and friends.
Thanksgiving was spent at Yosemite Pines RV Resort in Groveland, CA. A campground located in a town much like the one we hail from in New Hampshire. Lucas, our budding chef, helped prepare a delicious menu for dinner, which consisted of turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, buttermilk biscuits, butternut squash, sparkling grape cider, apple crisp and pumpkin pie. I also challenged him to include a dish that the pilgrims had at their dinners. He chose Nasaump, which is a traditional Wampanoag dish that is made from dried corn, local berries, and nuts. It is boiled in water until it thickens, and is similar to a porridge or oatmeal. We all gagged just a little on this side dish.
We were looking forward to attending the local craft fair, but when we showed up and there was no craft fair, we were disappointed to learn that the banner the town hung announcing the event was from last year and the dates were incorrect.
We spent the day after Thanksgiving at Yosemite National Park, which reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain. Yosemite is known for its granite cliffs, waterfalls (which were not flowing this time of year), clear streams, giant sequoia groves, and biological diversity. Unfortunately, many, many people had the same idea. Parking was at a minimum to see sites. The sites we were able to see including Half Dome and El Capitan, which was recently scaled by two free climbers who made history as the first to accomplish such a feat in one push, were beautiful and majestic. Well worth a visit.
Christmas was spent in southern California. Early December we spent a week in Anaheim to visit the Disneyland parks. This is where Lucas had the opportunity to visit with Mrs. Clause and make cookies. It was wonderful to see the parks decorated in twinkling lights and watch all the magic unfold that Disney parks always deliver. The colorful, character parades and fireworks set to music topped off our visit.
After Anaheim, we traveled to Rancho Jurupa Park in Riverside, CA. We were very fortunate to spend two weeks with my mother and brother who flew out for the holidays to visit with us. Riverside is home to the historic Mission Inn, the Beaux-Arts style Riverside County Historic Courthouse (based on the Petit Palais in Paris, France), and the Riverside Fox Theater, where the first showing of the 1939 film Gone with the Wind took place. The theater was purchased by the city and refurbished as part of the Riverside Renaissance Initiative.
Riverside’s annual Festival of Lights was happening during our stay. Another brilliant display of lights. Vendors selling food lined the plaza and the Mission Inn was decorated inside and out for all to visit and admire. During their stay, we also visited Universal Studio, Joshua Tree National Park, Sea World, Citrus State Historic Park. In addition, we toured Hollywood, and watched the Newport Beach holiday boat parade after spending all day at the Pacific ocean area beaches. Lucas enjoyed making Christmas cookies with his grandmother and Uncle who also took him to a cooking class. Jacob went to a watch a Broncos vs. Chargers game in San Diego with his Uncle. This will most likely be the Christmas experiences they remember forever.
Shopping for gifts consisted of a half day’s worth of fighting crowds about a week before Christmas when my mom and brother were able to watch the kids. Unfortunately, we only managed to send a few Christmas cards. We did get a chance to see Santa at Universal Studio and Mrs. Claus we visited with at Disneyland.
My family left a few days before the holiday, which we spent at Campland by the Bay in San Diego. Christmas Eve day we spent watching seals play in the waves at a beach in La Jolla and seashell collecting at Silver Strand State Park Beach off Coronado Island. After dinner that evening, we played Candy Land (candy version) and watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Santa visited our traveling home and left gifts for the kids.
On Christmas Day, we attended church at the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, which was first built in 1769, for a peaceful and inspiring mass. This was located in the Old Town part of San Diego. Christmas dinner at Rockin’ Baja Lobster and watching the movie Into The Woods at a local theater topped off the day.
Our stay in San Diego concluded with a bike ride through the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve where we were able to visit with people from Mexico. It is the only spot in the Southwest that allows this intimate opportunity for families and friends to see each other and converse without the hassle of crossing the border.
Through the fences you can also see a monument, which represents the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This Treaty of Peace ended the Mexican-American War in 1848. From this location, you can also see Mexico’s beach neighborhood of Las Playas de Tijuana where a bull ring is still standing by the sea, and an old lighthouse.
The Wine Ridge RV Resort in Pahrump, Nevada was our destination for ringing in the New Year. After much research about how to celebrate the holiday in Las Vegas on family blogs, we decided to spend a quiet evening at home watching the NY ball drop. The strip is not a place for kids on this occasion. It was also a very cold evening – unusual for Las Vegas this time of year. Temperatures dropped below freezing.
We celebrated my birthday a few days later in Las Vegas and visited several hotels to show the kids all the splendor and glitz that defines this area. My teenager loves the city and talks about coming back with his friends in several years when he is “legal”. My youngest was a trooper as we dragged him up and down the strip for approximately 12 miles of walking according to our pedometer. He enjoyed the Hershey Factory and M&M World.
We are extremely grateful for this opportunity to see the southwest over the holidays and enjoy new experiences. Next year, we will be back in New Hampshire where we will once again enjoy our favorite traditions.