Top 10 Toys & Games for Kids That Help in Overall Development.

 

 

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Vir is riding the Microkickboard scooter

Before having my toddler, I had seen one too many living rooms taken over by toys. I was determined that my own living room would never look like a play area. But, like all the other things I said I would never do, I found it difficult to avoid once I became a parent.

I have tried to curtail my toddler’s toy collection by buying only a few thoughtfully curated open-ended activity-based toys, some action-based figures and pretend play toys and few outdoor play and sport related products.

I am making this list based on seeing which toys have received the most use and love in our house over the years, and by the stream of friends who have played with them, the clear winners are the below 10 products. We love open ended toys as they foster creativity, imagination and problem-solving skills and makes little ones learn to be independent. These toys can vary from the child’s desire and age. (blocks, animal figures, dress up accessories and more).

ikea kitchen

 

  1. Ikea Play Kitchen – This kitchen by far is my son’s favorite pretend play toy, and I have seen him play with it since he was 1 year old. I love with time  he has learnt to be independent by playing with it. The best part is watching all his male friends also enjoy playing in the kitchen as much they do while playing with trucks. I have added several small items in his kitchen like a coffee maker, cup and kettle set to play food and utensils. (found in ikea and amazon)

 

 

2.shifu Augmented Reality games helps in memorizing better and is an immersive learning experience. Vir was recently gifted the Play Shifu Space card game by his aunt and he is learning a lot more about the planets and solar system 

 

osmo

 

I also liked theOsmo games and had seen them at our friend’s and stores, planning to try them out too

 

 

 

 

3. Construction based Toys like Tegu wooden blocks , Picasso Tiles and Lego Duplo blocks We like to rotate construction toys to avoid boredom. Vir loved that he can build different stories with each toy group.

 

4. Board Games like Three Little Piggies  helps with logic and spatial insight. I love Vir is playing the expert level and this is by far one of his favorite story and game

5. Puzzles from eeboo has helped in letter and picture recognition for at early stages of development and we have recently bought the Word puzzle gameto develop reading skills

 

6. In Culture Toys and Learning Kits – Teaching our son about our culture and language is very important to our family and plush toys and books from Modi Toys and a Travel kit with memory cards and so many other products from Sanskar teaching has helped us make the learning process fun.

Modi toys recently launched the baby Hanuman plush toy and story book I can wait to get my hands on. Also Sanskar Teaching offers virtual and online courses in Gujrati.  I highly recommend checking out these two mom owned business.

 

car track7. Car Track Play –PlayTape is perfect for building the kid’s own world of roads, highways, and racetracks. It is compatible with all match box size trucks and cars and the best part is roads can be made anywhere. Its is easy to remove and I like how my son makes these roads around his bed room

 

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8. Balance Bike – Getting my son to balance bike since he was 18 months was one of my best decisions. We started with the Woom 1 bike and after a year of balance bike we moved toWoom 2 and now he is pedaling without any training wheels!  I highly recommend their bikes we have been using the brand for over 3 years now and love it. The woom 2 bike represents the ideal link between the balance bike and a pedal bike and enables fast learning of the movement process – even without training wheels.

 

9. Scooter – We got the scooter when Vir turned 2 and it has been very helpful in promoting muscle strength and development. We love the Microkickboard scooter, it is one of the highest rated scooter in the market. Vir’s favorite activity after school is to hit the park on his scooter. I love the quality and that he never trips on it while turning.

 

boat10. Outdoor toys like water and sand table is a must especially with summers approaching. Vir was gifted Step2 Fiesta Cruise Sand & Water Table with Umbrella by his grandparents for his 2nd birthday. I like that it has a place for sand and water both. Most of the time my son makes it a car wash for all his cars.

 

 

 

 

Hope you find this resource useful!

I will love to hear your most recommended toys too.

You can also read:

10 Best Educational and Interactive Apps for Toddlers

Crafts, Toys and Activity Ideas for 3 year olds

Make your kid’s playroom magical  

DIY Finger Paints for Babies

Color party or celebrating Holi with kids 

 

XOXO

Arushi (2)

How Busy Moms Can Train For Their First Half Marathon. A Beginner’s Guide.

Wow! A half marathon in the books at the beginning of the year is just the moral boost I needed to start my year strong. I never imagined I would ever run a long-distance race. It was NEVER one of my bucket list items. Yet on Aug 2019 training for my FIRST HALF MARATHON happened to land on my To-Do-List. I remember I was feeling extremely low around that time and needed a distraction.

I had been suffering from sciatica pain for almost 6 months since the start of 2019. (This pain had been bothering me for time to time since pregnancy.) I wasn’t active for all those months and gained 8-10 pounds! This period was by far my lowest state in terms of physical well being. However, that rest was important as I wanted to make sure the sciatica pain didn’t come back.

Once I felt better and could get back to a healthier and active lifestyle,  I made sure I wanted to work towards a fitness GOAL. The Chevron Houston Marathon & Aramco Half Marathon registrations ad popped up on my FB feed and my gut told me to sign up and just go for it!

The last time I ran a long race was a 10k, almost 3 years back right after my pregnancy. My goal then was to shed all that baby weight. But this time it was different. I didn’t run to lose weight, I ran for my mental and physical well being. I ran for a stronger me. I ran to challenge myself. I ran because I believed I could do a half marathon if I set my mind to it.

If you follow my Instagram, you must have seen me training on my stories. It is saved under my highlights section. I started preparing for the race around September 2019. This training also helped me get ready for a 2-hour trek on an active volcano- Mt. Batur in Bali, Indonesia. This training was turning out to be my therapy and a getaway from the daily mundane. I really made sure that I don’t over think or stress about the race. So, I made a plan and I tried to stick to it.

In this post I am sharing all my tips and tricks on how I prepared to run my FIRST Aramco Houston Half Marathon on January 19th, 2020 in Houston, Texas at age 34. 

View this post on Instagram

“It always seems impossible, until it’s done.” First Half Marathon ✅. l couldn’t have asked for a stronger start to 2020. So happy that I was able to share this journey of training for my race with my son. He has motivated me to be the best version of myself, so I can set a better example for him. I grew up watching my dad pick medals at different sporting events and that inspired me to be in sports throughout school and college while representing my university and state in basketball 🏅I hope to inspire my son similarly to be strong and hardworking. Because I do believe our children follow our example and not just our advice. 🙏🏽 . . #RunHou #HouHalf @chevronhoustonmarathon #HouMarathon #momswhorun #toddlermom #boymom #liveyouradventure #letthembelittle

A post shared by Arushi | Houston Blogger (@the_snazzy_mom) on

Finding a Race and Signing Up

The act of committing to a race and plunking down the registration fee can help to motivate you. Plus, you need to know exactly when the race is so that you can map out your training runs over the next few months. Click HERE to find a race in your state.

My Training Plan

Note that I was always able to run a minimum of 3 miles. So, I followed the program below, 4 months prior to the race. However, if you are just starting off, I recommend training at least 6 months prior to race and get yourself to commit to this plan.

I followed the Novice 1 Half Marathon Training Program by Hal Higdon. This is a great running plan if you can stick to it. Note- I was also flexible with my run schedules. Every week wasn’t the same. Some days I was running 3 days a week and sometimes 5 days a week. What I focused was on avg miles weekly and most importantly, a long run on the weekend. I never missed that.

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Credit :  Hal Higdon (https://www.halhigdon.com/)

Time Management for Moms

Most important question I have been asked by my followers. How can you do it all? Be a mom, work full time and manage your home? Let me tell you there is no magic formula. It’s team work, better planning and commitment that helped me finish the half marathon.

Communicate with your partner/ nanny/ family members before you plan to race. Me and my husband worked as a team. I couldn’t have really done this without his support. We discussed the days he will be doing school picks ups and drop offs, so I could use those days for my short runs. This meant I got to wake up early and go for runs at the gym before work or finish work 30 minutes earlier once a week and head to the trail in the evening. We also planned 1 day in a week where my husband would come back early from work, so I could start training for my longer runs in the evening (6miles +). Evenings worked best for me as Houston weather is brutal and honestly, I am not a morning person. Weekends were the easiest to coordinate and I kept aside 2 hours for my training every weekend.

Running Gear

Shoes- I had two fresh pairs of shoes on hand when I started my training. It helps extend the life of each pair by giving them ample recovery time between workouts. I ran the race in Reebok shoes and trained with Hoka one. I highly recommend both brands.

Active wear– I ran in leggings and tank tops. Most important part gear for me after my shoes was having a good sports bra. I love the Reebok Pure Move bra, it is made with motion sense technology that reacts to your movement. Also, I highly recommend wearing active wear with in built belts or zipped pockets to store phone and keys. I love my Flip belt leggings.

Before race day I treated myself to a new running T shirt and running sleeves from the Chevron Marathon Expo when I went for my bib pick up. Highly recommend buying gear form the race expo. It will forever be special.

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Fuel for workouts

Pre work snack- I always had limited time to plan my snack, so I would just eat a banana or a peanut butter sandwich and head out for short runs. On days I did my long runs I would make a smoothie, I usually added banana to every smoothie with some spinach, chia seeds, hemp seeds, berries and oat/ almond milk.

Post workout– I would have a protein drink, some Greek yogurt with berries and granola etc. I often had my premier protein shake or some slices of apples with almond butter or I would just have dinner as almost 80% of my runs were in evening.

Note- I was eating almost everything and didn’t diet or control my calories for weight loss. If your aim is too loose weight while training, I recommend planning your meals and doing calorie counting to get the best results.

Race day nutrition– Carb load a day or two in advance before the half marathon. I ate good carbohydrates like whole grain pasta, quinoa, brown rice or sweet potatoes. These foods can help your body store extra glycogen which one can draw on for quick fuel during the run. On race day I carried my Cliff  bar to snack after 10 miles, although I didn’t eat it at the race as I got bananas at every 5 miles and preferred eating that instead.

Hydration- While training I only hydrated myself with water and since I ran on trails, there was a water fountain every few miles, so I didn’t carry any water with me while training.  I didn’t use any gels, but I have heard great things about it and will be using them in the coming months. Read more HERE

Note on race day there is water + Gatorade so it is suggested you pick one and only hydrate with that to avoid mixing it up. I stuck with water.

Apps and Tech, I used for training

Recovery Days are Important

 The day after a tough workout, the most I wanted to do is jog lightly or do some form of cross-training, like cycling. You need a recovery day after a hard day. No exceptions. I usually took Epsom salt hot water baths after long runs and it helped my aching muscles a lot.

Injuries are common.

Getting injured while running is very common. Read about it here .The more miles I ran, the more stressful it was on my joints, muscles, and cartilage. And even though I felt so good pounding the pavement with the wind in my hair, the reality is that our body is made of tissue. I suffered with Achilles Tendonitis just 4 weeks before my race. I rested my leg for a week and later started to use ice packs for at least 20 minutes after each run. Anti-inflammatory painkillers helped too, but what helped me the most was the ankle compression sleeves I bought 2 weeks prior to my race.  I wore it and ran the race. I was comfortable running in to up to 11 miles. Post that I was in pain but was able to finish my race.

Tapering ( cutting back on running a week before the race) is crucial

It allows the body to recover from the training that you’ve put in, which sets you up for peak energy on race day. It helped me a lot especially after my injury. I did short runs of 3-5 miles in my tapering weeks. And did lot of stretching exercises and yoga.

 

Take the pressure off and say goodbye to any negative thoughts.

Before race day I was wondering what if I was not able to complete my race. What if my ankle pain gets worse. I would let myself down. But then I reminded myself – Hey I will still be me, and my family and friends will love me no matter whether I finish first, last, or even if I don’t finish. I can cover this topic in an entire post itself. I kept saying to myself that I am strong, I am brave and I have to do me! And above all, I wanted to  set an example for my son.

Honestly at the end of the day, racing does hurt. It is going to test your mental strength, and no amount of tips or tricks will make it hurt any less. However, that pain is what leads us to the moments of pride; because we know the struggle we have been through to get to that moment.

I would like to finish this post by quoting the legendary Kobe Bryant, who the world lost  tragically on 26th Jan  in a tragic accident .

“Pain doesn’t tell you when you ought to stop. Pain is the little voice in your head that tries to hold you back because it knows if you continue you will change.” – Kobe Bryant. 

Good Luck on your training! You can do it.

XOXO

Arushi (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Everyone!

MEANINGFUL

Spending hours in long lines in the store or scanning through websites for that perfect gift can sometimes take away the joy and fun from the gifting process. Moreover, a huge focus on objects or a bunch of stuff people may not need can get stressful on your mind and pocket. To that end, I try hard to make, create or buy gifts for family members and friends that has to do more with the person’s soul instead of a hefty price tag.

I am sharing below my gift ideas that are my personal favorites be it for the holiday season or any event in someone’s life. Some of these ideas are DIY, some can be purchased online within minutes while some are more personal and need your time and presence. I am also sharing here some tips that can help you decide what that gift could be.

TIP 1 Listen  – Did your friend, colleague or family member talk about a product or service they want to try? Try gifting them something they really want. Even though it might be something predictable or boring, but research has shown that gift recipients are more appreciative of gifts they ask for than those they do not.

TIP 2 Don’t focus on size – In the spirit of gifting and showing love we sometime focus on the size of the gift instead of focusing what someone would really love. Be smart and practical and save money!

Tip 3 Keep it simple- Shopping for a“PICKY” friend or cousin can be stressful and one is always second guessing their gift. Keep it simple and uncomplicate things by getting them what they like and not what you think might me cute.

TIP 4 Focus on the moments & the experiences – There are overwhelming number of gift guides and Top 10 gift items lists out there online sharing so many different types of goods and products. But if you want to focus on improving your relationship or make a family member or friend feel closer ,than experiential gifts have more impact than material goods!

(According to a research by Chan and Mogilner’s, the relationship improvements that recipients derive from experiential gifts stem from the emotion that is evoked when the gifts are consumed, not when the gifts are received. Giving experiential gifts is thus identified as a highly effective form of prosocial spending and can have a greater impact on improving the relationship between the giver and receiver.)

Here are some gift ideas that cover the above 4 TIPS

MAKE A GIFT

These gifts take your personal time in making something that will be cherished by someone.

PHOTO & MEMORY GIFTS – Photo books for grandparents, Family calendars with quotes, Personalized story books, Pillows, & Photo mugs. You can get great deal on stores like Shutterfly, Vista Print, Costco, Minted, Sanpfish etc. I personally use Shutterfly.

Digital Art Print -I love this idea, it is easy to get and can be a great piece of art in someone’s house in the nursery, bedroom or kitchen. You can add your touch by selecting a frame that will go with someone’s taste. Digital prints can be a quote you like, an image , a collage or anything that speaks to the person’s taste and preferences you are gifting too.

Personalized GiftsEtsy has so many fantastic options to personalize gifts from glass bottles, fabric bags to metal and leather key chains, diaries etc. I gave my best friends personalized jewelry with our initials on it Nordstrom usually has a small kiosk at their stores where you can personalize anything!

Build a Box/ Gift – This is extremely simple and a fun way to create something for a friend and family member really focusing on what they will appreciate most. Example: A coffee box with a cute mug with a fun quote, their favorite coffee blend, some chocolate and a cute message holder.

You can also buy a cozy slipper and fill it with some spa essentials like bath salts, candle, nail polish, face mask for someone who can enjoy some Me time. I just made some gifts for son’s teachers with Bath & Body works items.

Build a terrarium: My personal favorite! I must have gifted so many. It’s a great project if you like. From simply buying a gorgeous succulent or cactus and placing it in a cute mug to creating a terrarium garden in a glass bowl with tips from Pinterest. A plant is always a great gift idea!

SMART & PRACTICAL GIFTS

Movie, TV or Music Streaming Subscription gift- with so many great options available for entertainment and music today you can be sure this will be a much appreciate gift especially if you can’t meet someone physically.

You can gift a year’s or few months subscription of Spotify Premium, Netflix, Apple Music, Apple TV, Disney + to HBO etc

You can also give other subscription gifts like lifestyle boxes for wine, beauty -A face mask subscription box

Kids STEM Toy box from Amazon

Lifestyle subscription box Fab Fit Fun (Use code ARUSHI to get $10 off)

Dollar Shave Club box for men

Membership gifts can really bring ease to someone who needs it and haven’t signed up yet. Be it from a local gym or boot camp class membership to Amazon Prime or Shipt home good and grocery delivery service, they add a lot of value to someone’s life by saving their time. For families Zoo, Museums, botanical memberships make great gifts too.

Gift Cards– This might not be personal, but they make the person excited they can shop something they like whenever. For example, a $50 Zara gift card is great idea for friend or family member who loves to shop there and can add some more $$ and buy their favorite bag. Gift cards of stores where people prefer to shop makes most sense. I personally prefer gift cards over any random gift that I might not use.

 Charitable donation- Contribute to your friend’s racing fund or donate to a charity of their choice. Giving to a charitable or social cause in honor of someone you care about is one of the most thoughtful ways to celebrate the season of giving.

Experiential Gifts

Experiential gifts are perfect for our loved ones who reject the notion of receiving material gifts during the holidays. From workshops and museum memberships to immersive artwork and trans formative books, there’s no shortage of meaningful experiences to gift our minimalist friends. Groupon has some great experiences you can look at and even Airbnb.

Meditation classes– Most major cities have unique meditation and mindfulness studios for classes and workshops, so look around for local options as well.

Pampering Sessions -Relaxing Spa day, boutique pedicure and manicure services, hair spa day and more are perfect way to pamper your family member or friend. Join them too.

Creative Workshops- If your spouse, friend or family member likes cooking, music, pottery making or like to learn how to surf or scuba dive a workshop or class gift makes a great call. This is great for date nights and also for bonding between siblings and friends.

Annual Pass to national parks is a great gift for the outdoor lover.

Tickets to a musical, sports event or concert

For the adrenaline junkie you can look at flying lessons, race car driving and escape the room tickets.

I hope you like these ideas , they make great holiday and special occasion gifts too. I have seen people’s face light up with a smile when they receive a gift they didn’t expect with awe and surprise. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling? I believe we all can appreciate a gift that is thoughtful and meaningful and care less of the brand or its price.

Happy Holidays !

Arushi (2)

Pink and Deep Plum Skincare Tips Pinterest Graphic

 

Crafts, Toys and Activity Ideas for Tricky Three Year Olds

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I love listening to Vir’s stories when he plays with these toys. He loves to see his favorite Sago Mini charterers come to life with this Road Trip Collection.

Forget the ‘terrible twos’ – meet the ‘tricky threes’! As our little ones toddle their way into preschooler-hood, they leave the obsession with ‘no’ behind, and begin to develop their own unique tastes, faves and dislikes. While it’s a unique privilege to watch them blossom into little people, it does make coming up with activities they’ll like even trickier.

In my previous post I shared our love for Sago Mini and few other apps on our Top 10 Best Educational, Interactive and Engaging apps for toddlers and preschoolers. Check it out if you haven’t already!

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One of Vir’s favorite toys. Robin’s barn, you can pack it all up in the box and head to the cafe.

This post covers a master list of fun toys, crafts, apps and activities that even the pickiest, trickiest three-year-old will get into! (Originally published on Sago Mini’s website (Click Here

22.Practice sorting with a muffin tin.
21. Play dress up (or try a mess-free virtual version!)
20. Host an epic play date.
19. Head out on an impromptu scavenger hunt – ask your child to find anything from all the purple fruits in the grocery store, to all the red cars on your road trip!
18. Have an indoor dance-til’-you-drop party.
17. Collect leaves on your nature walk and create crayon rubbings of them in a special ‘explore journal’.

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16.Explore textures and practice sensory skills by placing various objects in a paper bag and have your child guess what they are.
15.Take a Portable Playset to your neighborhood cafe.
14. Work on a puzzle together.
13. Clean up your craft game with these zero-waste activities.
12. Practice organization by packing a suitcase for a pretend-play trip.
11. Fill up the bathtub with water, throw in some fun water toys and create a splash-zone play area!

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10.Create an on-the-go puppet show with the Walk & Play Finger Puppets.
9.Act out your favorite fairy tale – or better yet, create your own!
8. Learn all the dance moves to your kid’s favorite song (Baby Shark, anyone?)
7. Craft a creative hat (& then try it on unsuspecting family members.)
6. Take the subway or drive to a new area, and be a tourist in your own town.

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If you follow me on Instagram you know we love to go to our neighborhood library every other weekend.

5.Set up your very own Tickle Trunk.
4.Get some help in the kitchen.
3. Check out the local library or community center for free activities.
2. Find a petting zoo – or create your own with animal figurines and stuffed animals!
1. Snuggle up with some sweets and their favorite story – this one’s fun for both the 3-year-olds and the 30-ish-year-olds. 🙂

I will love to know how you keep your little one’s busy!

Love

Arushi (2)

Top Things To do in BALI -A 5-day Travel Guide

I had always wanted to go to Bali but the thought of traveling for almost 30 hours door to door from Houston, Texas would take away the fun. However, things finally fell into place and like most of my travels this year I planned a trip to Bali out of the blue.  You can click here to read more on my recent trips to San Antonio, Cancun and San Francisco . Thanks to my husband who wanted to travel to India this year and so we worked out the perfect plan where he traveled with my son to India to his parent’s house in Delhi and I traveled directly to Bali and joined my family later in India after 6 days to celebrate Diwali.

I love that I can break a trip solo or with family to another Asian country while traveling to India. I plan to do that more often now as I mostly end up traveling to Europe, Mexico and South America from US every year. This time on my travels I got to experience the gorgeous island of Bali with my cousin who joined me in Taiwan,where both of our flights had a layover. This was a perfect girl’s trip I could have imagined!

You can check out my Instagram Page for all the spots I visited in Bali. It is saved under Highlights on my feed!

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One of the first things you hear and read about Bali is the amazing hospitality, the hotels, villas and the most instagrammable resorts. Since mine was a short trip I knew I will have to change base to experience one 2-3 sides of the island. And so, I went ahead and booked a small cottage on Airbnb in Ubud for our first few days of travels and then changed base in Seminyak. This was a great decision and I highly recommend my readers to keep maximum one or two bases for your trip to avoid the hopping around with luggage’s. Our cottage was so cute and had the most gorgeous views from the pool. We were served fresh breakfast daily and the hospitality was great. The property was amazing and there were more villas around, so it felt safe.

Day 1 Ubud

Ubud is the place one needs to stay in Bali to truly the experience the culture and character of the island. Also, most of the tours start from Ubud, so it’s easier to travel around.  We stayed for 3 days in Ubud and were able to accomplish a lot than we had thought.  One of the most important things to note is that you need a driver in Bali to travel. Its convenient and safe and relaxing as the traffic can get crazy in peak hours. Our driver was so helpful and trust worthy, he was recommended by a friend and I am happy to share his information in cased anyone wants it. (Pl email me) All our tours were organized by him and after comparing the costs online and on Fb chat groups we know those were the best prices offered. The Bali Life Fb page is one of the best resources to seek help and advice on any topic. It is a huge community of travelers who are so helpful in answering any questions.

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1) Tegalalang Rice Terrace, one of the most visited tourist attractions in Ubud. I had never seen anything like it before so had to make a stop. Tegalalang rice fields is a series of rice paddies located in the centre of Bali, famous for its terraced layout. This is a traditional Balinese irrigation system known as subak. Although the fields had no water in it as we went in October the fields look stunning. You must give a small donation to enter but to experience the Bali swing and some other spots there is a small fee. We weren’t into the swing experience maybe because we prefer roller coasters 😊

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2) With so many beautiful waterfalls to choose from in Bali, it is hard to decide which one to visit. We visited Tukad Cepung Waterfall. A few hundred stairs down the cliff is worth the effort once you arrive at the destination. The circular cliffs give you the feeling of being in a cave, while the open sky right from where the waterfall emerges, gives you the most enchanting view. To avoid lines, we made sure we visited it at 9am. Also carry swim suits and waterproof shoes. The hike up and down can be hard for younger kids. Also, on our way up we enjoyed the breakfast on a swing. The entry is IDR 10,000 per person

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3) Cantik Agriculture Coffee Plantation apart from offering the famed Luwak coffee, also explores different flavors to create a variety of unique products including teas, chili chocolates and flavored coffee. The plantation offers educational tours that suit any ages. This was one of my favorite and most unique experiences in Bali. We tasted 15 different types of coffee and teas. I loved the simple set up and bought some coffee and chocolate as souvenirs from the trip. The tour is free you can tip your guide and support the farm by buying some coffee.

 

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4) Ubud Palace– After our long drive to the above 3 places on out first day we made it back from our road trip and tours back to Ubud by 3pm, relaxed and enjoyed some delicious Indian food at Ganesha Restaurant tasted some local ice cream and headed to Ubud Palace for a stroll. Originally built in the 1800s by the late Ida Tjokorda Putu Kandel. The Ubud Palace, which is also known as Puri Saren, is a must-visit on any tour itinerary to the Ubud area. It is spectacular and is free to enter. We couldn’t make it to the evening cultural performance as we were tired and jetlagged. But I can imagine how stunning it must be to experience it.

5) Pura Taman Saraswati Temple in Ubud is slightly different from other temples in Bali. The temple has ponds with pink lotus flowers and neatly arranged water parks. It was one of the most majestic sights ever. We sat there for some time to soak in all the beauty.

Day 2 Trip to Nusa Penida

Just 45 minutes from Bali by boat, Nusa Penida has beautiful views, stunning landscapes, and one of the most gorgeous beaches. We started early at 7 am from Ubud to catch the speed boat and arrived at Nusa Penida. I recommend hiring a driver if you don’t plan to stay back at the island. The roads are bad and hiring a scooter isn’t a good idea. We honestly focused on snorkeling and had limited time to explore the island so lost some opportunities there. Also it turned out to be an extremely taxing day as there was so much travel within the island as well. I recommend staying here a night to truly experience all of the majestic beaches.

1)Manta Ray snorkeling: The giant manta rays are usually present throughout the year, but we had no luck in Nusa Penida that day and couldn’t find any at the Manta Ray point which was a bit sad. Especially as we spent a lot of time on snorkeling transfers and on boat. However, we visited 3 other snorkeling spots and I got to snorkel for hours and it was fun especially as I snorkeled after a year.

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2)Kelingking ‘T-Rex– This was truly an amazing sight. My desktop wallpaper just came to life. The Instagram famous coastal cliff, which truly does look like a T-rex was just spectacular. I still remember the moment I laid eyes on the beach below with crystal clear water. Stood there for a while to soak in all the beauty. We were tired to hike down the cliff to really enjoy the beach also itb was extremely hot and I felt my skin was burning. There are some small cafes where you can stop and grab a drink and cool down. I was a bit scared of getting a picture near the cliff as it was seriously too high but made it.

3)Nusa Penida Treehouse was a huge miss due to the limited time we had on the island as we gave to take the ferry back at 4 pm and most of our time was gone in snorkeling. The Tree House (Rumah Pohon) is perched up on the mountain at Thousand Island (Pulau Seribu) viewpoint near Atuh Beach. It is part of the Thousand Island viewpoint area costing only 10,000 rupiah to park and enter, which is less than $1 USD.

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Day 3 Ubud

This was a relaxing day where I wanted to just enjoy the cafe culture and shopping in the city and just take it slow. Unfortunately, the second half of my trip I had severe nausea and vomiting due to which I lost an entire evening to enjoy in Seminyak. Bali Belly is real guys, I think something I ate dint suit me and my system just wanted everything out! So, after 6 hours of vomiting I could hardly move and rested to get better.

1) Ubud Monkey Forest The monkey forest demonstrates the coexistence of humans and nature. Several temple festivals are held within the grounds of the monkey forest. The area enclosed by the temple walls and the forest area around it is considered sacred. We left our belongings at the reception as the monkeys can take your stuff so it’s important one is careful. As I entered the forest a monkey came towards me and gently pulled my skirt. I was a bit scared, but it was smooth from then on. Just keep a safe distance from the monkeys. Entrance fees for adults is 80,000 Indonesian Rupiahs which is roughly $6 and children 60,000 rupiahs $4.50.

2)Ubud Art Market – I love to take some time out to shop and honestly Bali has some beautiful things for home décor, fashion and jewelry. We spent hours strolling through stores and looking for unique pieces and gifts for friend’s and family. After shopping at Seminiyak I can say Ubud market is much cheaper and has more traditional items.

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3)Spa and Wellness – One can’t leave Bali without a good spa session. And honestly a good 1-hour massage is very cheap and so relaxing. Almost every area in the city has massage parlors and spas. I was not really looking for a flower bath so dint venture for a fancy place and stuck to nice local small shops. The massage can range from IDR 50,000 to 300,000 depending on the place and service you request.

4) Lazy Cats Cafe – A cafe, bar, and gallery, Lazy Cats’ architecture combines industrial bohemian with classy decor. They also have a mix of art, lush vegetation, and vintage furniture. We spent 2 hours lounging there and enjoying our lunch and some drinks. I just wished there was some air conditioning there as it was one of the hottest days in Ubud in October.

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Day 4 Seminyak

Seminyak has a more urban look and feel unlike Ubud. It’s very chill and I liked the vibe there especially if you are looking to party and enjoy the beach bars and cafes. We booked our hotel here from Hotels.com (I use this site to book all my hotels when I travel. After 10 nights I get a free night at a hotel of my choice!) Our hotel was central to everything. Seminyak sits a little way along the coast from the famous Kuta Beach in Bali. This part is more focused on beach clubs where you can sip a drink with your feet in the sand, although there are also some clubs to be found in the area. Also, Seminyak is known for its shopping with some of the biggest names in Bali. We rented a scooter here. It was easy to ride around the area, and parking was available easily everywhere. We spent IDR 60,000 on the scooter for a day.

1) Floating Brunch at Cabina Bali: I wanted to experience the floating brunch in the pool in Bali as I knew it wouldn’t be something I won’t get to do elsewhere. So, I researched and came across Cabina Bali a gorgeous cafe to indulge and enjoy with friends or family. The pastel pink walls, tall palm trees, aqua sunbeds, and cacti lining the walls were so IG worthy. The food was delicious, and we spent almost 2 hours lounging in the pool. The staff is extremely friendly. Note: You need to make a reservation to go to this cafe. We booked weeks in advance.

2) Chill at La Plancha – I had not imagined such a magical sunset setting, with a mango lassi or a mai tai in hand, lazing amongst a field of rainbow beanbags on the beach. We spent 4-5 hours just lazing here, enjoying the live DJ music, hitting the beach and finally enjoying the sun set views. If you find yourself in Seminyak, be sure to check out La Plancha during your search for that perfect beach resting spot. Don’t miss a sunset here, you won’t regret it!

3)Party in the night at Motel Mexicola- After so long I went dancing and Motel Mexicola was so much fun. The place is a boisterous, Mexican-inspired restaurant in day and at night it’s a big bar. The music is fantastic and the energy too. People were dancing on tables and there is no cover also the best part is you can get some late night tacos too.

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Day 5  Seminyak

1) Mount Batur  Sunrise Treak and Breakfast with a view. One of my most recommended experience of Bali will be the sunrise trek to Mt. Batur. This was my first time hiking a volcano and it was majestic. Mount Batur is situated in the Bangli region on the island of Bali, Indonesia. You can hike it to watch the sunrise over nearby volcanoes Mount Agung and Mount Agang. The hike is two hours (for most, quicker if you need fewer breaks) and remember you are hiking a volcano which is 1,717 meters, or 5,633 feet, above sea level. I started at 2 am from Seminyak by car. The hike starts at 3:30 am from the meeting point. So, it’s a night out plan.

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Take time to do what makes your soul happy. Because when you take care of yourself, you’re a better person for others. This is not just an instagram caption,it’s my reality. And a topic that I have often discussed on my feed 🙏🏽 . Hiking Mt. Batur a volcano in BALI 🌋 which is 5,633 feet, above sea level at 3 am in the morning and summiting in 2 hours to see the incredible sunrise is one of my favorite experiences from my recent trip. This moment was especially important to me as I was almost about to cancel this hike after a very dramatic 24 hours in Bali like- from having the worst nausea and vomiting for 6 hours, to burning my hand by a curling iron to frantically searching for my Iphone 11 pro for 5 hours in Bali and finding it in a cab 20 miles away (have to share this on a separate post) and then hiking without a day’s sleep. I thought this trip was jinxed. But then I just dint want anything to dampen my spirit. So I partied hard and went hiking the same night. #snazzymomtravels 🙏🏽 . On another note my name ARUSHI means dawn or the red sky or first ray of sun ☀️ So gotta rise up and keep shining 🙏🏽 . . #bali #balilife #femmetravel #mountbatue #dametraveler #sheisnotlost #wearethetravelgirls #shetravels #girlswhotravel #ubud #visitbali #balivibes #thebaliguideline

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 For me the hike was easy as I have been training for a half marathon, so as per your fitness level you can decide to hike and see the timing to finish. The main issue was the volcanic rubble which was making everyone slip.  Note: the temperature and climate will be different from one night to the next and changes throughout the hike. I wore comfortable leggings, trainers and layered with a jacket and workout top only. Also carried a small back pack of the gear I needed.

I booked my hike with my driver for a private hike as I was coming from Semniyak which is an hour and half drive at night. It costed me $120. This includes everything, including pickup and drop off from Seminyak, local guide up the mountain, water, flashlights, simple breakfast at the top. It’s cheaper if you are doing it with someone, also recommend doing it from Ubud as its closer. If you like to hike the mountain,  I recommend booking through Airbnb tours.

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 2) Bruch at The Junction House- Right after I returned from the hike, I wanted to indulge in a brunch experience! And I don’t think there could have been a better way to end the Bali trip. The Junction House is an urban-styled Haussmann Parisian House. The French elegance, tall windows, the chic color coded and modern interior resembled a cozy Parisian apartment

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It's a good day when avocado toast + coffee is involved! 🥑 ☕️ And on my recent trip to BALI, the brunching scene went one step further with the refreshing tropical açaí bowl and the decadent chocolate ball dessert at the @thejunctionhouse ! This place is a must visit if you are heading there anytime soon! ❤️ . #OnTheBlog I have shared my most recommended brunch spots, cafes and beach bars that should be on your must go list! On my recent trip to the tropical paradise “Bali” I uncovered some of the most beautiful spots on the planet to the best cafes! Bali truly has some of the most incredible cafe scene! . What is your go to brunch dish? Avo lover anyone ? 🥑 . . . #brunchtime #sundayfunday #balieats #balifoodies #femmetravel #dametraveler #ubud #sheisnotlost #wearethetravelgirls #shetravels #girlswhotravel #balitrip

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This House is not a place, it’s a feeling! I loved the delicious tropical acai bowl, avocado toast and had 2 cups of latte with the gorgeous Bali Latte art. The staff was so friendly and gave us great recommendations for choice of food. The latte was strong just the way I like it and by far this was our best meal of the entire trip!

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3) Shopping at Seminyak: The streets of this beach town are lined with some of Bali’s hottest stores. From sleek home ware, delicate silk dresses and cool craft work Seminyak has some of the coolest designer and boutique stores to shop from. At the Seminyak Village shopping mall you can find all major designer brands, great pubs and restaurants and some good views of the beach from the mall terrace. I bought some souvenirs and gifts for family from the local shops and art market. Note you must bargain at local shops to get a good price.

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I hope you find this guide useful. You can DM me on my Instagram to have a faster response for any of your questions here.

LOVE !

Arushi (2)

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The 4P’s of Mastering the Road Trip with Kids

Traveling with kids can be such a rewarding experience. And making some unique memories on a road trip that will last a lifetime is worthwhile. We have an unforgettable memory from our Texas Wild safari trip at San Antonio this summer where the ostriches stuck their head into the car windows to get some food. There was a lot of yelling and excitement involved and that is one of the coolest experiences I have had in the car lately!

I love how our toddler is excited to spot a trailer truck , motorbike or an eighteen wheeler on the road, how he has made a game of his own called “Where is the moon” on night drives and how recently on our very recent road trip in San Francisco he enjoyed, sang and memorized the lines from his current favorite song Senorita by Shawn Mendes!

But it can be easy to forget about all those joys when you’re three plus hours into what probably feels like the longest drive of your life. We’ve all been there. And to help keep your sanity I am sharing my 4Ps for an enjoyable and stress-free road trip with kids.

 

1) Planning

 Time to Go: I like to plan the best time to drive with kids ahead of time, so all unfinished tasks and last-minute shopping or stops can be avoided. Night time works best if kids are younger or under 2 or 3, they sleep well as per schedule, stay in diapers and that also meant uninterrupted conversations with your partner.

Or leaving bright in the day, early morning works best too for a lot of parents especially of you are on a 6+ hours trip.  Making sure the person driving is well rested is very important on long road trips, so time to go is one of the first steps to having a stress-free road trip.

2) Play Stops

Mapping out the entire route before you travel gives a good sense of breaks you can take for food or restrooms. We also like to find interesting places to stop for like historic sites, museums, charming towns, and beautiful places for picnics, including state parks, lakes or even a playground. This helps burn of some energy on the road trip. Another tip I have is to book a hotel/motel with a pool if you are on a very loooong drive. Something the kids can look forward to while great for cooling down.

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3) Packing

Important Gear for Family

Phone charger, Battery pack, Tablet, First aid kit, Mosquito repellant, Sunscreen lotion, Water, Snacks, Dryer sheets for the car to smell fresh. I also make a small backpack of important items that I might need immediately and keep in the passenger seat.  Few trash bags to collect all trash and clean up.

Gear for Kids

 Activity books, stickers, toys, crayons and a car seat organizer help too. I usually make a busy bag for my son for flights and now use that for road trips too. I highly recommend getting magnetic games for the car.  Also, surprising kids with a new toys ensures less tantrums. Worked for us. I always grab some new toys from Target $1 aisle or Dollar store and introduce them to my son when he listens or when the tears won’t stop. You can hunt for some on amazon too.  A kid friendly playlist is great for bonding and learning some new rhymes, so I make one on Spotify. For older kids’ audio books is a great idea. And when everything fails, I give my son his tablet to plays some fun and educational games or cartoons that you can download from Netflix and you tube kids. We also carry a scoter for our son, so he can get out and ride it on a long drive. Try including a fun activity on a long drive where you end up taking more than 2 plus breaks. Bring on the snacks, try carrying new variety of crackers, cheese, candy, cookies that your kids can enjoy or be excited about. Don’t forget fruits, juices and milk. Also buying a snack at a gas station can be helpful to calm the situation at times. I always carry a blanket and a stuff toy for my son as it helps him sleep.

Also I found these Road side games online. Great for older kids 3+ . Going to use them on your next trip.

Free Printable Road Side Scavenger Hunt 

Free Printable I spy

Free Printable Big Kids US License Plate Game

 

4) Patience

There will be potty emergencies, snack breaks, tantrums, but there will also be magic on these long drives. If I have learned one thing about being on the road with a baby, then toddler, it’s that nothing will ever go as planned. There will be delays, you might forget your kid’s favorite toy or something else. This is already life with a three-year-old. Just embrace the chaos. Above all, bring your sense of humor and patience fully intact. Road trips are fun, and they are hard. Keep your partner calm, sing and avoid arguing and stressful moments by taking some deep breaths and putting your favorite track from the 90s.

Have a safe journey my friends!

XOXO

Arushi (2)

 

 

San Francisco Travel Guide. Things To Do in Five Days In & Around the City.

 

There’s no shortage of fun to be had in this gorgeous city with tons of exciting landmarks and family-friendly attractions. We have been to San Fran over 3 times before Vir was born and this time we were able to experience the city differently. My mom was here visiting us and so we planned to travel to San Fran for a 5 day trip this summer. We also did a road trip San Antonio t just few weeks before San Francisco and were glad to have so many different experiences and a big change in scenery. (Read more here)

One of the most important things about exploring San Fran is planning the places you want to visit in the city itself or downtown,  and spend those days close by to avoid traffic.

img_9001_facetune_20-07-2019-08-55-15We stayed at the Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel and it was such a great decision. Right in the belly of busy, high-rise downtown, the hotel is conveniently close to the famous Powell-Hyde cable car turnaround, bus tours at Union Square and public transport on Market Street. The interior of the hotel is unique especially the lobby which is so creative in designs and furniture elements. Since there were 4 of us travelling, we booked the 2-queen room suite. I was surprised to see that our room was so spacious compared to the hotels I have stayed earlier in NYC. The interior of the room provided such a relief from the city streets, especially loved the pastel colors like lavender, peaches and lilac colors apart from the fabulous sky line views. We always book hotels that serve a good breakfast spread or buffet and the Clift has a great selection of dishes that can’t be missed.

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The Redwood room at the Clift 

On our trip to SFO we also celebrated our 9th marriage anniversary and the legendary Redwood Room Bar in the Clift was the perfect and glamorous venue to enjoy drinks with my husband while Vir and my mom rested in the room. We were so impressed with the interior features -the original redwood paneling and enormous bar, which, legend has, was carved from a single redwood tree! The ambiance is so classic and rich, and I highly recommend going there!

Here’s what we did in San Francisco with a toddler!

Powell-Hyde Cable Car Ride: It was extremely convenient to take the cable car as our hotel the Clift was very close to the turnaround. We left in the morning at 9am to avoid the long lines. The Powell-Hyde cable car cruises from the wharf past the top of Lombard Street, through Chinatown, past Union Square and ultimately ends at Market Street downtown. Bring cash (exact change not required), so you can quickly pay the operator for your trip. You can buy a one-day pass for use on all the city’s public transportation ($20), or just a one-way cable car pass ($7) which we opted for. Vir was so excited all through the way, it was his second time sitting in a cable car (we sat in few on our tip to Portugal a year and half back)

Pier 39/Fisherman’s Wharf : It is a must do if you visit the city.  It’s a captivating destination to visit with children. Travelers can easily spend a full day visiting. The famous sea lions that took up residence on the docks of Pier 39 in 1990 and now rarely ever leave. These creatures play, splash, and sometimes even fight, all while hundreds of tourists look on. It’s an amazing animal encounter that is hard to have in the busy city without visiting a zoo. We also did a boat tour( highly recommend doing one),  few carousel rides shopping and had some delicious crepes.

Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito : This was our second time back here and even though it was very foggy the day we choose to visit, we were able to get some fantastic clicks and views from the Battery Spencer.(just wait for the fog to pass, it comes and goes every few minutes) Vir took a nap on the drive and missed it but my mom enjoyed the postcard views and city skyline. We drove just a few minutes further north and found ourselves in the seaside city of Sausalito. This little seaside town in SF’s back yard has unbelievable scenery, protected “banana belt” weather, and a laid-back Mediterranean atmosphere. Apart from enjoying a stroll around the city, grabbing lunch at some boutique restaurants you can also enjoy the 30-minute Sausalito ferry ride. It is better, more interesting, and less expensive than tour boat rides. In fact, it is the second most exciting ferry boat ride in the world.

 China Town: It’s easy to spend a day here, exploring the streets and alleys, browsing the shops and enjoying the authentic Chinese food. I have fallen in love with this area! The sights, sounds, smells and culture are just amazing!! Look down every ally for the talent of artist and murals. Try the foods! The shops are perfect for souvenirs. A must see! Walk through and just take it all in!

img_9358Stanford and Palo Alto neighborhood: Vir and my mom on this trip also got to visit my husband’s Grad school. This was a day trip where we spent our time at the Stanford campus, shopping at the college shop, exploring the campus and facilities. Deep was so happy to return to his school and share some fun memories from his past with Vir. This is a good trip for kids as there is splash pad in the schools, big parks to have a picnic and some cool spots and buildings. It is open to public. Pl check the website before you visit.

We had lunch at Palo Alto downtown and took a stroll around. Vir also participated in a small activity at the Apple store for kids, I don’t think he understood much (as it was 5 and up) but was very intrigued. Don’t miss grabbing a coffee at the gorgeous

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Roaring Camp Steam Train Through Santa Cruz Redwood: We planned a road trip to Roaring Camp train ride, and it was one of the best things we did in a while with Vir. The Steam Engine added to the fun, as in modern times steam engines are obsolete and their hiss, puff and whistles adds extra excitement for kids. Train ride goes through Redwood forests, and train driver talked about some interesting facts about Redwoods. Train ride is not just a train ride but gets you closer to nature. I would recommend it for family with kids for sure. Love the setting of the place just like an old town with small shops and activities for kids. Recommend booking tickets ahead of time as it guarantees your spot and your choice of departure time; rides often sell out, especially in the summer.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk: We drove from San Francisco to Santa Cruz to spend 2 days there. And stayed right near the Santa Cruz boardwalk.  What a great place to spend the day! There is no admission fee. The boardwalk has so many fun things to do, excellent food selection and access to the beach. My family had a great time here! Vir enjoyed some toddler rides while I went on a roller coaster ride!

Seymour Marine Discovery Center: We stopped at the discovery center on our road trip for 30 minutes. There are 2 giant whale skeleton exhibits that you can’t miss the blue Whale and the gray whale. The 87-foot blue whale skeleton is one of the largest skeletons of any kind, displayed anywhere in the world. These skeletons are outside of the center and can be seen for free. There is also an aquarium, touch pools and small marine exhibit inside, which was closed as we visited after 5 pm.

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Capitola Village : One of the artsy, secluded spots close by, but away from the crowds of Santa Cruz. This is a wonderful little beach and small town. There are pastel colored houses next to the beach and many restaurants have outdoor seating looking toward them. The beach is small and paid parking is limited. We all enjoyed spending a few hours in the town and grabbing pizza and ice cream. Do visit if you have time.

Sand City : On our drive to Monterey we came across a spectacular sand dune and took an exit to see where this came from? These dunes are the highest found on California’s Central Coast. Me and my husband parked the car to hike the dune and check what’s the view like on the top. Once above the dunes, we saw a sky full of paragliders. Sand City is one of the prime spots in the state for paragliding. The winds are perfect, the launch area ideal — and the view is incredible. I wish we had more time and I would have loved to explore it more. For next time!

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For our 5 day trip we had the comfortable, powerful and stylish Toyota Highlander Hybrid . I love that we made so many amazing memories with my mom in this car while exploring the city and neighboring areas. Supreme ride comfort, a smooth and punchy V6 drive train and spacious interior accommodations for people in the first two rows. This SUV has an upscale cabin with an abundance of safety features. We loved it !

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Monterey, Carmel and 17-Mile Drive: It is must do for any visitor especially if you have time. This was our second time on the drive, and it was spectacular! The 17-Mile Drive is a road that passes through an exclusive neighborhood. And you must pay an entrance fee just to drive on it. You can spend close to 3 hours here. We made a few stops here and enjoyed the looking at Point Joe, Bird Rock, The lone cypress, seals and the restless sea among other things.

 

 

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These fun things to do in San Francisco will only enhance your trip to a great city. Add some of these to your itinerary especially if traveling with kids and  to the must do things in San Francisco and you will find yourself having so much to do!

XOXO

Arushi (2)