Visiting Candytopia in Santa Monica with Kids

if you haven’t been to Candytopia in Santa Monica, California, you don’t want to miss your chance. it’s a candy dreamland with each room having a different theme with creations made of colorful candy. it’s a picture perfect place to get cool photos and experience awesome artwork made of nothing more than candy…of course. Candytopia runs through July 22nd at Santa Monica Place. after you visit, there are plenty of places to have lunch or dinner at, so it makes the perfect outing for kids and grown-ups alike.

i had the chance to visit Candytopia with the kids and we had the perfect time. all of them had there favorite rooms, and there was a lot of interactive exhibits to explore. we also received candy in a lot of the rooms, so they all got their sugar rush before the adventure was over. and Candytopia is all about taking photos, so you will want to bring your phone or camera and get all the awesome shots in each room.

there first room you enter, has a steam punk vibe and the staff of Candytopia are in full costume and character. they explain the rules, get everyone excited and send you off to explore the world of candy in Candytopia.  you are allowed to stay in each room as long as you would like, but once you leave and move forward to the next, you are not allowed to go back. so make sure you get all the pictures you need in each room before leaving.

then we entered the Candytopia art gallery where we got to see lots of famous paintings and sculptures made out of candy. there were also glass chandeliers hanging all over the room. we got our first candy treat and plenty of time to view each artwork and take lots of photos.

the next room was an under the sea adventure and you felt like you were under water in a candy ocean. there were fish sea creatures, and divers made of gummy bears and jelly beans, and there were even sharks to take your photo with.

other rooms included a giant wall of clouds, giant beach balls and optical illusions. we had so much fun taking photos that made us look like we were falling down a hole, and walking a candy tiger.

if you ever wondered what it feels like to surf with a shark or swing from the vines of a jungle, you can try that too at Candytopia.

little miss Dani Kat had the most fun in the Trolli Confetti room where she could throw confetti to her hearts content. there was a spinning platform, confetti flying everywhere, and even flying pig the had “confetti toots” to put it nicely.

the finale at Candytopia is a giant pool of marshmallows where you can jump in and be a part of a marshmallow Tsunami. you can bury yourself in marshmallows, jump into them, throw them, and make them pour from the ceiling. of course, don’t forget to get your picture in them. they are so much fun!

Candytopia was fun and a great way to spend a long summer day. you only need about an hour and a half to experience it. don’t forget to bring your camera, and leave valuables at home. if you can do away with a purse, i highly suggest only bringing the necessities so you can do the photo opps without having to worry about bringing stuff. also, there is no bathroom inside, so don’t forget about that. once you leave, they don’t let you back in.

if you ever dreamed of nibbling your way through Candyland or scoring a Golden Ticket, then Candytopia is the right place to go. treat yourself to Candytopia, and let your tastebuds and your imagination soar!

{Disclosure: We were invited guests of Candytopia. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. }

Get the Most Out of the OC Fair on a Budget with Kids

the OC Fair opens today, and if yours kids are anything like mine, they are already begging to go. the OC Fair is an icon of summer here in Orange County, and every year there is a month long celebration of fair favorites. i love almost everything about the fair except for the prices. not everything is expensive, but with four kids, everything can add up. so i am sharing a list of ways on how you can Get the Most Out of the OC Fair on a Budget with Kids.

for our family, we usually go to the Fair 2-3 times each year. we usually go once, and splurge a little bit one food, rides and activities, but the rest of those day are most definitely budget days. a typical budget day will include: going on Opening Day for free or a Kids Free Day. the kids will get three free rides doing the Read & Ride program (more info below), sharing a treat, visiting Centennial Farm, checking out the exhibits, playing in the Explorium, and watching the free shows happening around the fairgrounds.

sometimes i give each kid $10 to spend how they like. if they know ahead of time, that it’s the only extra money we will be spending, i curb any begging for extra items at the Fair. plus, they get to learn about budgeting and really getting what they want.

OC Fair Ticket Deals

visit the OC for free or almost free. the OC Fair has free days, free kids days and discounts on admission prices. first things first, on Friday, July 13th, Opening Day, everyone is Free ‘Til Three (12-3 p.m.). and did i mention FREE PARKING.

• We Care Wednesdays run from noon to 3:00 p.m. just donate the specified items to each Wednesday Non-profit partner and get a FREE admission to the OC Fair and one carnival ride per person.

July 18th – School Supply Drive
(bring new school supplies valued at $5 or more, such as pens, pencils, crayons, notebooks (items must be sealed; no coloring books or workbooks)

July 25th – Share Our Selves Canned Food Drive, benefitting Second Harvest and OC Food Bank
(bring 5 canned food items)

August 1st – Children’s Book Drive, benefitting THINK Together
(3 new or gently used children’s books

August 8th – Clothing Drive, benefitting Goodwill OC
(bring 5 gently used clothing items)

Thursdays Wear Overalls Day
Guests in overalls will receive FREE admission. Valid noon to 3 p.m.

Thursdays Kids Day
Children 12 & under receive FREE Fair admission all day.


OC Fair Discount Tickets

• on Fridays, it’s Seniors Day (60+). Seniors get in for $5 plus FREE Ferris wheel and merry-go-round rides all day.

• First Responders and Law Enforcement get free admission the Week of August 8th through 12th. this includes active-duty and professional staff of the police, sheriff, fire and emergency services departments.

• on Saturdays, the OC Fair offers the “Best Deal Ever” from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. general admission is half price AND carnival rides are half off ticket redemption – that’s half the number of tickets, same amount of fun!

Sunday Fun Day is 11 a.m.-1 p.m. general admission is half price AND carnival rides are half off ticket redemption – that’s half the number of tickets, same amount of fun! or get a $35 unlimited ride wristband.

How to Save Money on OC Fair Rides

the rides are so much fun and they are one of the things that the kids beg for the most. but tickets can really add up, and each ride can cost anywhere from 3-10 tickets! yikes. here are some ways that you can get some free or discounted tickets.

did you know that your kids can get 3 free rides just for reading?!!! it’s a great deal and worth as much at 20 tickets. the OC Fair Read & Ride program allows kid ages 5-11 can read two books to earn three free carnival rides by writing a short book report on this form. and just so you know, i don’t think they are strict on ages, because i made all my kids read and write the reports last year and they all got free rides. such a great deal. completed book report forms can be redeemed for ride tickets at the Centennial Farm Information Booth during Fair hours.

• Wednesdays $35 Unlimited Carnival Ride Wristband
Enjoy all the rides you can handle for one price. (Sold until 5 p.m. Valid until 8 p.m. Wristbands must be purchased onsite. Required Fair admission sold separately.)

• on Fridays, get $2 Rides and $2 Games noon to 4:00 p.m. in the Main Carnival and Kiddie Carnival.

• Saturday Carnival Special is half off ticket redemption – that’s half the number of tickets, same amount of fun! Valid 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

• Sunday Carnival Special is half off ticket redemption – that’s half the number of tickets, same amount of fun! Or, get a $35 unlimited ride wristband. Valid 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Free Things to Do at the OC Fair

there are lots of free things to do at the Fair, you don’t even really need to buy anything to enjoy it. our favorite things are Centennial Farm, the Explorium (Kid Zone), acrobatic & hypnotists shows, arts exhibits, Culinary Exhibits, Reptile House, Pet Center, 4H exhibits, water area, garden and farm area, free rides for kids with the Read & Ride program, and browsing vendor booths.

seeing the baby animals is the most favorite activity on our list, followed by the Explorium Kid Zone shows.

How to Save Money on Food at the OC Fair

out of all the attractions and amusements at the OC Fair, the food is what can cost the most. it really adds up if everyone wants a meal, and a drink, and a treat, and another treat.

if you are on a budget and want to spend as little as possible on food, i suggest eating first and then visiting the Fair. a fair isn’t a fair without food, so plan on at least getting a treat to share. some suggestions of my favorite sharable Fair treats are – Funnel Cake (with ice cream topping), Caramel Crack Fries, Berry Treat Bowl from Sherri’s Berries, Giant Donuts (look for the Unicorn Cotton Candy Donut), Giant Foot-long Corn Dogs, Loaded Curly Fries, Fried Zucchini and the Big Skillet Cookie.

plus, on Thursdays, you can get $3 Taste of Fair Food from noon t0 4:00 p.m. its a great way to get to enjoy a variety of select fun-sized Fair treats for a value price. samples include funnel cake, tri-tip, lemonade, cinnamon rolls, tacos, gelato, cotton candy and more.

How to Save Money on OC Fair Parking

general parking is $10 everyday. you can always park for free offsite at some of the free parking lots and walk to the Fair. or you can get FREE Off-Site Parking on Saturday & Sunday and Free shuttle service from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. at the Experian parking structure located off the Bristol Street exit of the 405 Freeway. follow the signs to “Experian.”

the OC Fair Express costs $2 each way, or 75¢ for seniors 60+ and persons with disabilities. when you ride the OC Fair Express, you will receive a coupon for $4 OC Fair admission, that’s a $10 savings! OC Fair Express buses depart from nine locations on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the duration of the Fair. if riding Metrolink, you can connect to the OC Fair Express at the Anaheim Canyon, Santa Ana, Irvine or Anaheim-ARTIC Metrolink stations. show your valid Metrolink ticket and ride the bus for free.

Now it’s time to enjoy the OC Fair!

the OC Fair runs for a whole month, this year it runs from July 13th through August 12th. hopefully with these tips and tricks, you can visit multiple times and not break the bank.

How to Support Friends with Cancer

This is a sponsored post. Photos provided by Jaime Jenkins.

having a friends with cancer can not only feel terrible, it can also leave a friend feeling helpless and emotional – not to mention awkward. many times it’s hard to know what things to say, how to help, and how to act. having dealt first hand with having friends being diagnosed and/or dealing with cancer, i have definitely felt all these emotions. i struggle with how to best support them and also how to cope with my own emotions. that is why i partnered with Dr. Luis Sandoval of Kaiser Permanente Orange County to give you some helpful information on How to Support Friends with Cancer.

Dr. Luis Sandoval works in Psychiatry, at the Kaiser Permanente Santa Ana Medical Offices. he works with many cancer patients, and also patients that have experienced loved ones with cancer. he pointed out that there is no one way to support friends with cancer, as each person has different needs. the main issue that he sees, is a lot of times, friends of cancer patients tend to do things that help themselves and make themselves feel better, over what might be best for the patient. meaning that instead of listening to the friend with cancers true wants, we pick what help ourself feel better.

this is where we have to be careful and ask ourselves, what is really happening here. are we doing this because we are feeling sad? or is it really helping our friend. a cancer diagnosis can be really emotional not only on the person who has cancer, but also on the friends of that person. so, it is important for us to take care of our emotional needs as well, so that we can be a better friend.

Dr. Sandoval also mentioned that cancer patients don’t like to be constantly reminded that they are sick. you don’t have to treat them differently than before. of course they will probably need more support and help than they did before, but you don’t need to act differently, or hide your own problems and feelings, or do things for them that they can do for themselves. people don’t like feeling helpless or useless.

to further my knowledge on How to Support Friends with Cancer, i enlisted the help of one of my good friends Jaime Jenkins. she has been battling stage 4 breast cancer since 2014, and is also a patient at Kaiser Permanente Orange County. she has had a wonderful experience at Kaiser and loves all of her doctors. i knew that she could give me some great tips and advice on this subject. if you haven’t met Jaime, she is an extremely positive and uplifting person, even in the face of such a devastating disease. she is loved by everyone in the community and is a light among us.

Jaime mentioned that since her diagnosis, many many people have offered help, love and support. she appreciates everything so much. one thing that she did stress is how lonely cancer can leave you. there are many times where you are just too sick to have people around, or times where you are stuck inside and have to miss fun activities and events with your friends and family. it’s really nice when people drop off a gift or a meal, but it’s the continued stream of support that is really needed. it can just be a simple text checking in on her, or a quick visit that means so much.

Jaime also mentioned that she doesn’t want her friends to think they can’t come to her with their own problems. which coincides with Dr. Sandoval’s point that cancer patients don’t want to be treated differently. Jaime doesn’t want a friend to not share with her their own problems just because she is dealing with cancer. she often hears people tell her that they don’t want to mention a problem in their life because they know that she is dealing with something much worse. Jaime wanted to let everyone know that she does want to hear about their lives and problems so that she too can support them in anyway she can. she might not be able to physically help them, but she can definitely be a listening ear, offer advice or encouragement, and be their biggest cheerleader. it’s not fun to feel helpless and a burden on others.

no matter how you put it, cancer is a hard thing. there is no one way to support friends with cancer, but hopefully with a few of these thoughts, you find ways to support your friend and also help yourself. by keeping things positive and healthy, all those involved can focus more on positive light and healing.

you may not have thought about Kaiser Permanente Orange County as a hospital system that treats cancers, but they first they focus on healthy living and early detection, to reduce your risk of cancer and help you live your best life. Kaiser Permanente offers smoking cessation classes and medications, nutritional counseling, weight management programs and other health education opportunities to help members thrive. you can also read about ways to reduce your cancer risk on their website.

and if you do develop a cancer, Kaiser Permanente physicians will employ the latest treatment options to combat the disease as quickly as possible. they make sure patients receive the safest and most effective chemotherapy, cancer care using an electronic health record that provides dosage and treatment protocols. the system is constantly updated with recommendations from cancer experts from throughout the organization as well as results from the latest clinical trials.

cancer support is just one of the many services that Kaiser Permanente Orange County provides to our community. i have really loved working with them this past year because i have learned a lot of great healthy living information that i’ve been able to use daily.

if you have missed some of the other healthy living posts that  i have written, check them out here:

My Trip to the Kaiser Orange County Farmers Market
Tips for Having a Healthy Pregnancy
Our Family’s Visit Thrive Walk at the Orange County Great Park
Great Tips on Mens Health
Tips for Helping Families Stay Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
Remembering the Baby Milestones
Tips on Raising Boys
Sun Safety in Orange County
Tips on Dealing with Mens Stress
Choosing the Right Birth Control for You

The Kids Loved Visiting Bricks & Minifigs in Fullerton

Bricks & Minifigs in Fullertontoday, i surprised the boys and took them to the newest store in Orange County – Bricks & Minifigs in Fullerton. as you probably guessed, Bricks & Minifigs sells LEGOS! but it’s not like “the” Lego Store. it’s an aftermarket LEGO shop specializing in only new and used LEGO® items. they buy and trade all kinds of LEGO products, from tubs of bulk to storage unit sized collections. as long as it’s LEGO® brand, they will take it!

Bricks & Minifigs is actually a change store, but it is the first one located on Southern California. inside, you will find hundreds of individual minifigs, bulk bricks, components and accessories. if you are looking for a rare piece or minifig, or if your kids want to sell their extra Legos, then this is a fun store. my boys loved looking at all the minifies in the display cases. and they took over deciding what they wanted to buy.

all of the minifigs on display have prices according to their popularity, rarity and condition. you can find minifigs for $5 and minifigs for $25+. many of the minifigs were once part of larger Lego sets that are no missing pieces or found for sale on eBay. or maybe someone had two of the same and wanted to trade. there were even animals, accessories, and base plates.

another fun area is the bulk brick section. you will find thousands of pieces of Lego here. and it’s better that the Lego Store’s bulk section, because there are lots of unique and rare pieces….not just bins of the same color of overstock pieces. you can fill up tubs or bags for as little as $10 up to $40. there is everything in there, so be prepared to have kids take a long time to make their selections.

when you sell your Legos to Bricks & Minifigs, they will either give you cash or store credit to buy more Legos. you will get more store credit than cash, and the amount of cash/store credit is based on multiple factors – condition, rarity, availability, how old, etc. you can even sell Lego sets (with or without missing pieces) or anything that is Lego brand. you can buy it all too! this store has a lot of unique things…and it’s going to get better and better as time goes on. right now, the selection is small (actually there is quite a bit)…but as more people buy and sell, the more variety there’ll be.

best of all, this particular Bricks & Minifigs happens to owned by a local Orange County mom. so head on down and check out the store. your kids will be very excited and it makes a fun couple hours out. bring your extra Lego sets or some minifigs to sell. my boys were so excited to spend their allowance money.

a fun and colorful store, with lots to explore.

and while you are in Fullerton, head over to my favorite bulk popsicle store, Deelite Distribution, and get a box of popsicles. it’s literally less than two miles away. we stocked up. SUCH. A. FUN. DAY.

Orange County Summer Bucket List and Free Printable

Orange County is truly unique. our weather is beautiful, we have great beaches, lots of fun family-friendly amenities to enjoy in our communities, and did i mention the beaches…oh yeah, i did! well, i often get asked what are my favorite activities to enjoy with kids in Orange County, so i decided to put together an Orange County Summer Bucket List of things to do with the kids during the summer, so that you can experience OC like i do. the list includes a bunch of freebie activities, some cheap or moderately priced activities, and just a couple more pricey activities. this way you can budget out your summer accordingly and not break the bank. i have even included this FREE PRINTABLE so you can enjoy this bucket list as much as us!

 Click Here to Download the Orange County Summer Bucketlist Free Printable

feel free to swap out any activities that don’t look like they will work for your family. here are my TOP PICKS!

Orange County Summer Bucket List

1. Go to the Beach – we have tons of beaches that are great for families. my top picks are Corona Del Mar, Newport Pier and Balboa Beaches. these all have restrooms near the sand, and close parking. i also love Victoria Beach because of the unique castle tower and cement pools, Treasure Island Beach, and Crystal Cove (all in Laguna)…although the walks are a bit of a hassle. Or if you want to go to the tide pools, here is a list of family-friendly tide pools in Orange County.

2. Ride the Balboa Ferry and Visit the Balboa Fun Zone – we love the Balboa Fun Zone. i love to take the kids across to the island on the ferry and go to the little park or walk along the beach. the ferry is very cheap, and if you pack a picnic, it can be a very inexpensive day. back on the boardwalk there are fun things to do like the ferris wheel or arcade, and there is a candy store where you give the kids a couple dollars to get a few pieces of candy.

3. Go to Adventure Playground in Huntington Beach – this is a tradition of ours every year. the Tom Sawyer Rafts are so much fun. i dread the day when my kids are too old to go. Kids are $4 and adults are free. You can get more information about Adventure Playground here.

4. Go to a Concert in the Park – check out this list of over 100 outdoor concerts in the park or beach to find a concert near you.

5. Visit a Splash Pad – there are lots of great splash pads in Orange County. My favorite is the splash pad at Crown Valley Community Park, but you can find some more on my list of 101 Things to Do With Kids in Orange County.

6. Go to Adventure Playground in Irvine – this is an awesome park where kids can play to their hearts content. there are giant legos to build with, play structures, water fun, games, books, dirt, mud, and so much more. if your kids like to get dirty, they can, if they don’t, you can definitely play without getting too messy. you can read more about Adventure Playground here.

7. Experience Ghost Town Alive! – happening Knott’s Berry Farm. at this is the best interactive fun you can get at an amusement park. the Ghost Town characters help you solve mystery, play games, tell stories, and give you tasks all over Calico. you can dress up or just follow along. it’s definitely one of my favorites at Knott’s. you can read about it here.

8. Go to a Movie in the Park or Beach – grab some beach chairs, a blanket, a picnic and some movie snacks and head to one of these OC Movies in the Park for and evening under the stars.

9. Go to Zoomars – this little petting zoo is located in the historic district of San Juan Capistrano. you can feed the guinea pigs and animals fresh veggies, ride a train, play in the corn pit or ride a pony. check it out here.

10. Get a Box of Popsicles at Deelite Distribution – this is the best popsicle wholesaler in Orange County. you can get all the fancy ice cream treat you find at your local ice cream truck, except for better prices so that you can stock your freezer. don’t forget to bring cash.  read about Deelite Distribution here.

11. Go to Irvine Regional Park – Ride the train or go to the OC Zoo. there is a lake where you can rent a paddle boat or trails to rent out bikes and surreys. make sure to check out the Irvine Park Railroad website for some fun deals.

12. Get an Ice Cream Treat from a Local OC Hotspot – there are so many places to get a magical, awesome ice cream treat. here is a list of great OC treat places to help you find one.

13. Go to Discovery Cube OC – we love visiting the Cube all summer long. there are lots of exhibits to explore, and the cooking classes are the best. highly recommend getting an annual pass for the family. and right now there is a dinosaur exhibit. get more information here.

14. Go to Crystal Cove and Get a Shake from the Shake Shack – Crystal Cove is a great beach for the whole family. read about it here, and make sure to top it off with a milkshake from the Ruby’s Shake Shack!

15. Visit the Oso Creek Fairy Trail – this is my new favorite here in the OC. there are over 30 fairy houses to find on the family-friendly trail. read about it here.

16. Go to Knott’s Soak City – Orange County’s biggest water park. located across from Knott’s, there are lots of water slides, a wave pool, kiddie area and lazy river. you can read about it here.

17. Go Swimming – this will be an easy one to cross off the list. summer is all about swimming.

18. Go Bowling for Free – there are two programs that let your kids bowl free or almost free all summer. check them out here and here.

19. Go to Marina Park in Newport – if you have little kids, Marina Park is a great park to let them swim in the ocean or play on the playground. there is a sandy area with a bay to enjoy and the restrooms and parking are close. read about it here.

20. Go Indoor Rock Climbing – Sender One has some great indoor rock climbing courses. try your hand at the big kid/adult course, or take the family and kids to Sender City! read about it here.

21. Sign-up for the Summer Reading Program at the Local Library – did you know that most of the local library have games and prizes included in their summer reading programs? our gave out coupons for free kids meals at one of our favorite restaurants. its a great way to get out of the house and encourage those kids to read!

22. Visit Pacific Marine Mammal Center – you can read about it here.

23. Have a Beach Bonfire – one of my best memories as a child is roasting hotdogs and marshmallows on sticks over a bonfire at Corona Del Mar beach. the ocean breeze blowing cool air as we warmed up against the hot blazing fire. here is a great list of all the places you can have a bonfire in Orange County and some great tips too!

22. Go to the OC Fair – the fair begins in the middle of July and goes through the middle of August. it has all sorts of things to do….everything fair related you can think of. it’s a tradition of so many OC families. you can check it out here. make sure to look for the deals and specials to save some moola.

now that you have checked out my Orange County Summer Bucket List, you can print out your own bucket list. just print the FREE PRINTABLE below. then, put it into an 8 x 10″ frame. have the kids check off the activities as you finish them…see how many you can complete before summer’s end. if you don’t prefer one of the activities, just swap it out. ENJOY!!!!

 Click Here to Download the Orange County Summer Bucketlist Free Printable