You might have noticed from the photos, but this has really been Willow's vacation. Syd is the best of sports, but at just three years old, a week-plus is a long time to be without the regularity of the home routine, as well as the familiarity of the home stuff and the hometown people and places. She's grown very close to her grandmother this trip, which is as terrific a goal as anyone could have, and otherwise my focus has been to keep her as even-tempered as possible and encourage her to participate in whatever adventure she feels ready to participate in.
But at five, Will has come into her own as a kid. She is enjoying her grandparents, agreeable to any kind of activity, and relishing every single new thing that presents itself to her. And we've been learning so much about her on this trip, as well. The kid loves the beach, loves rides that spin around really fast--she loves adventure. Five is a good age.
I wanted the girls to engage with the concept of the ocean as more than just the beach, so we drove down to Monterey to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, another landmark that we hit every year. It has touch tanks where you can handle everything from seaweed to starfish to sea urchins--
--and extensive habitats both of old favorites, like the jellyfish--
--and new favorites, like the seahorses: Almost all of the exhibits are at a height appropriate for a child Willow's age----and, happily, there are outdoor as well as indoor portions of the museum, and interactive components to all of the exhibits (the thoughtfulness of the interactivity depending on how recently the exhibit was put together), and a playroom for small children with dress-up materials, art activities, and stuff to climb all over.
And when you're done with the aquarium, you have to save some energy for the Dennis the Menace Park. It was created by Hank Ketcham in the 1950s, and yet it is still an innovative and engaging playground, with just a few traditional jungle gyms and plastic equipment pieces, and lots of concrete and stone structures to scramble on, with slopes that allow you to climb up them or slide down them, a real train for hanging off of in a death-defying fashion in order to get a glimpse of the bay----a looooooong suspension bridge, a hedge maze, a rock wall, and several really terrific slides for the slide-fiend in the family: Whew. And when you're done with that, even though it's very late in the day, almost sunset, take a quick trip to the Seaside Beach:
The waves are excellent, and occasionally there are harbor seals, and if you run really fast, you can maybe pretend that you, too, are five years old and an adventurer at heart.