The Orange Empire Railway Museum Train to Santa’s Workshop

Last year our family discovered a magical Christmas adventure! We loved it so much that it will now be a family tradition every year. We took the Train to Santa’s Workshop at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris and what a special evening it was. Beginning at the end of November, you can take one of Orange Empire Railway Museum’s vintage trains and embark on a magical train ride to visit with Santa Claus himself at his North Pole workshop. The evening includes not only a visit with Santa himself, but lots of fun activities including a model train display, cocoa and cookies and chatting with Santa’s elves and Mrs. Claus. The Orange Empire Railway Museum is about a 40 minute drive from Orange County without traffic. I feel the trek is worth it, and if you plan ahead, you can grab a bite to eat before you head to the train station to begin your journey.

Since we’ve only been once, I can only provide you with my one time experience, but I continue to hear great things about the Train to Santa’s Workshop. We took the 7:00pm train because I wanted it to be dark and more of a Polar Express experience. It was not crowded at all, but I heard that the 5:30 train was filled to capacity, so I would expect that would change the experience a bit.

I also made the entire family wear matching pajamas. Since I had never been, I read on their website that they recommended wearing pajamas. However, most only children wear wearing them. BUT…I wouldn’t worry about that. WEAR YOUR PAJAMAS. It totally made the night, and everyone kept coming up to us saying we looked so festive and that they wished they would have worn theirs too. So I highly recommend. I asked my kids…including my teenager if they would wear their pajamas again this year, and they all said absolutely. It was so much fun.

The cool thing about this train ride, is that it takes place in a vintage train. A fully working train! You are sitting inside…not outside getting cold. It takes you on a 20 minute ride to visit Santa where you can watch out the windows, or talk to the conductor. 

One of Santa’s elves came through and talked to the kids and gave everyone a candy cane. It was great. Other elves led the passengers in Christmas songs, holiday trivia games and storytelling. 

As the train arrived at Santa’s Workshop, you could see Santa waving at the kids as the train arrived. The kids were so excited! We didn’t know what to expect, but we were very impressed! The entire workshop was dressed up for Christmas, and we couldn’t wait to board off the train to check it out.

We got to get our photos with Santa. You need to bring your own camera. Santa also gives each kids a stuffed toy.

Then we explored the workshop and took lots of photos with the kids. 

After you visit Santa, kids can do Christmas crafts or chat with Mrs. Claus and the elves. There are also lots of photo opps.

There are also train tables to enjoy (check out my older boys playing with the younger ones…LOVE IT), and also Thomas the Train ride ons for the littlest kids. Everyone loves trains.

When everyone had finished visiting Santa and enjoying his workshop, we boarded the train to go back to the train station. Santa waved goodbye to everyone. 

We then took the train back to the Pinacate Station. We were sad to leave…but more fun was coming up.

At the Pinacate Station boarding area, there is a huge model train display to enjoy and also vendors selling Christmas crafts and presents. If you decide to take the 7:00pm train, you may want to visit this area before you head over to see Santa. It closed pretty quickly when we got back, and we probably would have enjoyed visiting a bit longer.

If you wrote a letter to Santa, make sure to put it in Santa’s mailbox!

You can even get a cup of cocoa and a cookie to enjoy while you look at the trains. This is all included in your admission ticket.

It was the perfect way to end the night and keep ourselves warm and cuddly. 

The Train to Santa’s Workshop at the Orange Empire Railway Museum was great. There was a magical feeling in the air throughout the entire night. And my family had the best time. It truly left us with a festive Christmas spirit and fun memories we will never forget. Can’t wait to go again this year!

Make sure to get your tickets soon. Not sure if they will sell out, but you don’t want to miss your chance.

Family Dinner Fun at Mainplace Mall

if you have kids, then you probably have experienced the struggle that comes with taking them to a restaurant. i had finally gotten to the point in life with my boys, that going to restaurants with them was fun again. but now that Dani has come along, things are back to crazy! taking a two year old to restaurants isn’t fun at all. so we decided to try a family dinner night at Mainplace Mall since we heard it had been renovated to be more family friendly.

if you haven’t been to Mainplace Mall in a while, then you will be surprised when you go. they have done some great things in the mall, all towards making your family, food and shopping experience better.

there are a bunch of great family restaurants, and outside, Mainplace has created lounge areas with lawn games, plants, lights and music, to make waiting for your table enjoyable. and although there wasn’t a wait for dining at all, the kids had so much fun playing and running around. no fighting, great weather, nice music and a fun atmosphere started our dinner experience right.

on this evening we decided to try out Applebee’s, because we’ve never been to an Applebee’s before. it is a very family-friendly restaurant, with great kids meal options, a relaxed atmosphere, video/game pads for the kids to play and more.

having a family with kids ranging in age from teen to baby, it’s not always easy to find a restaurant to please everyone in the family. but we were able to find food that all the kids enjoyed, and including the parents. some of the things i liked about Applebee’s were the meal deals. they have a bunch of different deals where you could get an appetizer, side and entree for around $12-16, they also had couple deals where you could get two meals and an appetizer for around $20. the kids meals all come with drinks, and there was a little bit of everything on the menu.

after dinner, we headed into the mall to check out some of the improvements. a lot of changes have been made, and stores are being added. just think, the more people who come, the more stores will come, and the better Mainplace Mall will be. i totally see the potential. i was happy to see a lot of my favorite children’s clothing stores.

i was please to find two large family lounges with bathrooms, nursing rooms, changing tables, microwaves, televisions, game boards and couches. if your a parent, then you know how helpful this can be.

finally, we headed down to the first floor of Mainplace to check out the kids place area…

and we also rode the train!

i enjoyed my time Mainplace so much, that i brought back Dani the next week for some mommy and me time. the mall isn’t crowded and there are lots of things to enjoy, there are brand new art murals, and a big food court that have a dining area for families…including kid sized tables. and did you know that there is a movie theater in Mainplace?

yes, Mainplace Mall has changed for the better, and we can’t wait to see what else is instore for this mall. don’t be afraid to check it out, and be sure to go online to find out when they are having special events. there are many fun family friendly events that are being offered free to the public. way to go Mainplace!

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

Finding Fairy Houses on the Oso Creek Fairy Trail in Mission Viejo

this weekend, we headed over to see if we could spot the Caring Fairies of the Oso Creek Trail in Mission Viejo. these are the same Caring Fairies of the Aliso Summit Trail in Laguna Niguel. they found a new home at the Oso Creek Trail since the residents of Laguna Niguel didn’t appreciate the traffic these popular fairy houses brought to their community. it was sad that the fairies had to move, but i can tell you that the are doing very well in Mission Viejo. and we had such an awesome time looking for the fairy houses along the Oso Creek Fairy Trail.

if you haven’t been to the Oso Creek Trail in Mission Viejo, you should try and check it out sometime. it is one of the best family friendly trails in Orange County. great for all ages, it has art, statues, benches and a park along it’s route, plenty of shade, and now…dozens of fairy houses hidden  along the trail. you have to look closely or you will miss them – they are found in tree stumps, fence posts, rocks, bushes and other natural landmarks.

to visit the Oso Creek Fairy Trail, you will want to park at 27301 La Paz Road, Mission Viejo, California 92692, near the Potocki Center for the Arts. there is a parking lot with free public parking at the beginning of the trail. you can also pick up a fairy map at the Potocki Center for the Arts when it is open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. i do admit it was kind of hard to read at first….however, it did become easier after we found some of the fairy houses.

when you enter the trail, you will have to look very closely to find the fairy houses. they are smaller than you think, and easy to miss.  to start you on your journey, look for the first fairy house on the trail. it is located at the bottom of a fence post, next to the fence that leads from the parking lot to the Oso Creek Trail. it has a tiny welcome sign and sits below brightly colored pink bougainvillea.

from there, keep you eyes open to spot more fairy houses. they are found along both side the trail that follows the east side of the creek. there are also a few houses on other side of the creek, but you do not need to cross the bridge over the creek if you don’t want to. there are plenty of houses on the main side. however, there are some great hiking trail on the side if you want to find more fairy houses.

we had the best time with our two littlest kids searching the trail for the fairy houses. in my opinion, the OS Creek Trail is the best trail in Orange County for toddlers and young kids. most is paved and there are turnouts that have grass to run in, benches and things to explore. you will find fair houses in all these turnouts.

look really closely at the bottom of this fence post. do you see it?

yes, there is a time fairy house located at the bottom. they are truly magical, and fun to find. even us adults had the best time…plus we got some exercise and fresh air.

the details are amazing and the kids had fun pointing out the little objects they saw. each of the fairy houses had items such as brooms, pathways, chairs or stools, and miniature gardens.

the fairy houses can be found in all sorts of places, so you should take the Oso Creek Trail one way on your way up and another way on your way back.

finding the fairy houses along the trail was also a great learning experience – where we could teach…especially our baby girl, not to touch and just look. it took a few times, but she finally caught on that it was fun to look and take the beauty of each of the little houses, and soon she was running to each location to see each of them.

here are some photos from our adventure finding fairy houses on the Oso Creek Trail.


there will be a stretch of trail where there won’t many fairy houses, and you will come to a mosaic wall and a stairway on the other.

you can take the stairway up to the park at the top. turn right and head pass the sports fields towards the playground. you will be going back towards the parking lot from where you began. once you get to the bear statues, you will find a few more fairy houses.

you will come to the playground, there aren’t any fairy houses around it (as far as we could see), but once you pass it and come to the trail that leads back down to the lower trail, you will start to see them again.

then, at the bottom of the ramp, turn left to go back towards the parking lot where you parked. you can continue to look for any fairy houses you missed. we found some really cool ones like a fairy library and a fairy coffee house.

it truly was a magical evening. such a joy to be out in nature, enjoying the fresh air, and seeing the children excited to find those fairy houses.we came across so many other families experiencing the same thing. all the children eager to hunt those magical fairy houses. this is the life i love living in the OC.