Raising Wilshire

A blog about parenting and car-lite living in Los Angeles

Category: How We Do It

Jazz on the Lawn is the perfect way for SaMo families to end weekends in August

THIS is the way to do the concert: Blanket, wagon, folding side table, wicker suitcase for all your outdoor picnicking needs. 

Every Sunday evening in August, the City of Santa Monica holds a free jazz concert in Gandara Park. It’s free, it’s chill, and it works exceptionally well for multi-generational families.

Lets’ start with the obvious: I am a major fan of Jazz on the Lawn, this concert series organized by the City of Santa Monica  each Sunday in the month of August. The concert series started 13 years ago at the behest of a councilmember who was looking to activate Stewart Street Park, a park that used to be a dump. I started going four years ago, when I moved within walking distance of Stewart Street Park (now Gandara Park). I now plan my August weekends around these, and schedule my out-of-neighborhood excursions so I will be home in time for the concert.

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5 Pointers for Camping with a Toddler

Wilshire likes to be outdoors. It should come as no surprise that he likes camping. His parents like camping too.

I didn’t start out as a camper. As a child, my family ‘vacationed’ in Las Vegas up to 6 times a year. Las Vegas is not far from Los Angeles, and has functioned as a getaway destination for Angelenos for nearly a century. My dad is a compulsive gambling addict, so my relationship with Las Vegas is a sad one. I’m relieved that I can carve a different path with my family.

Kid and I go camping
Holding his hiking poles.

Most recently, we took Wilshire camping around his second birthday. We stayed Leo Carrillo State Park, which is just outside of Malibu city limits and about 25 miles away from our house. Leo Carrillo is in this little valley just east of the water. As it is a California State Park, the campground was very nice. Not all the campsites are created ‘equal’. We liked #26 because it was near restrooms and the on-site convenience store – but not near Mulholland Highway, which traverses just north of the campground.

This was our third time camping outdoors with our son, and I think we’re getting the hang of making camping fun and stress-free. The kid sleeps through the night when he’s in our tent. My mother wondered how we managed to make camping work because it was an experience she never had, so I realized there may be value to sharing the top 5 things I do to make camping safe, fun, and enjoyable with my toddler. Hopefully this helps you too.

1. Bring a travel crib. 
We bring a Graco Pack ‘N’ Play with us. Not only does our son sleep in it, it’s a safe place for him to play and chill while we are completing necessary tasks such as pitching our tent and cooking. We have had a lot of luck putting both our son and another child in said pack ‘n’ play. Don’t they look cute here?

2. Bring a high chair. 
We own this snap-on high chair from Chicco. Our son is still not quite big enough to sit at the picnic table comfortably. This snap-on chair allows him to be on par with the rest of us. I no longer worry about him sliding down off the bench and hitting his chin or head.

3. Reserve a campsite in advance. 
Through Reserve California, you can book a campsite up to six months in advance. There is a $7.99 registration fee and a $7.99 cancellation fee. I suggest setting up a reminder to book a site as soon as the 6 month window opens.

4. Set up dedicated camping bins if you have the space for storage.
We now have these nifty bins which contain all of our dedicated camping supplies, plus a table for holding our camping stove. These bins, plus a cooler, are now stored in a location which makes it quick and easy to load our car. It used to take me hours to prepare for our prior trips because everything was scattered across our house. Now we’ve gotten organized, it takes only an hour to pack everything – food, high chair, and diapers included. Less time packing, more time relaxing.

I will have to blog more about our camping set-up another time.

5. Stay more than one night.
In our first two trips, we only spent one night outdoors. It was exhausting and disappointing to spend so much time setting up only to have to dismantle the campsite less than 24 hours later. Last weekend, we spent two nights outdoors and it was glorious.

I have a tickler in my calendar now to book another campsite later this weekend for summer. I love being able to anticipate these sorts of events. Do you like to go camping with your kids? Tell us what kind of things you do to make camping more fun and accessible!

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