Mr. Joe’s Farm and Petting Zoo – Perris California

Mr. Joe’s Farm and Petting Zoo – Perris California

Being a homeschool family leaves plenty of time to find fun and educational day trips to go on. So when a friend mentioned going to a farm in Perris, CA, we jumped on the opportunity.

Since I had never heard of Mr. Joe’s Farm, I really didn’t know what to expect. The farm is Mr. Joe and his wife Stacey’s private residence and you do have to make an appointment to come on the property. There is only a small sign on the fence to indicate you are there and once you get to the gate, you will have to be let in.

After parking we were greeted by Stacey and her friendly dog Foxy. Stacey was so kind and patient. She showed us around the farm and introduced the animals, answering any questions we had. Her love for her farm and animals was apparent. The couple gives these tours at no cost, only accepting donations so that everyone has the opportunity to see these animals up close, no matter their economic status.

We saw alpacas, llamas, goats, mini horses and donkeys but our favorite was Oscar the camel. I have to say that I may be a bit biased since I have a love for camels but he really was the most amazing animal on the farm. He was gentle and friendly with everyone in our group, posing for pictures and allowing us to pet him.

After our tour, Stacey allowed us to walk around and we even could have picnicked there if we wanted. I have to say that the only thing that would have made the experience even more fantastic would have been cats with litters of kittens to play with, but that’s just my opinion. It really was such an exciting day for the kids and they even learned a few things about farm life. If you would like to schedule a time to go see Mr. Joe’s Farm, head to their website at Mr. Joe’s Farm Home for more information.

Hello Riverside! Signed Book Giveaway

Hello Riverside! Signed Book Giveaway

Shining Thoughts Blog has teamed up with Hello Riverside for an amazing GIVEAWAY!
Being a Riverside CA blog and loving all things Riverside has to offer, we were thrilled to see a child’s board book published called Hello Riverside. This beautifully illustrated book depicts some of the best places to play throughout our gorgeous city.
So here is the scoop. We have an author signed copy of Hello Riverside that we want to give away to one lucky family. All you have to do to enter is like Shining Thoughts Blog as well as Hello Riverside on Facebook AND leave us a comment on the giveaway post with your favorite memory of Riverside. Your memory can be from the past or present, bonus points for pictures!! If you are not from Riverside, you can still win! Just comment what you would like to see if you were visiting.

Winner will be drawn at random on February 14th and announced on this post. Feel free to share with your friends and family so they can get in on the fun as well. Good luck!

This giveaway is not affiliated with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other social media outlet. Please keep comments and pictures G rated, this is a family blog/book.

Knott’s Berry Farm- Affordable and Fun!

Knott’s Berry Farm- Affordable and Fun!

We had Disneyland passes for almost 10 years. Some of our best memories were made there. With the price increases over the years and the change in the handicap procedure, we finally had to take a stand and discontinue our wonderful family days at Disneyland.

With Disneyland off the table, we wanted to try some of our other local amusement parks. So at the end of 2016, we purchased our Knott’s Berry Farm season passes and we were just able to use them this past weekend. Knott’s season passes vary with your needs, some of which come with admission to Knott’s Soak City.

Parking was amazing! There was a slight suck when we had to walk up and down a steep hill pushing strollers but a little exercise never hurt anyone. When we entered the park, there was Franklin and Charlie Brown with only a few people in line for pictures. My children were thrilled! Then we made our way to Camp Snoopy which was literally right by the front entrance. I love this fact because parents with little ones don’t have to trek across the park to get their fun started.

The rides in Camp Snoopy were themed and my children loved the fact that it was a land for them. The lines were not short but not crazy long either. It was actually quiet large and there was plenty of space for you to picnic, watch your children on the rides or just take a little break. There was also lots of bathrooms throughout Camp Snoopy which is fantastic!!

Another area in Camp Snoopy had props relating to the Peanuts characters and 3 characters waiting to take pictures with all the guests of the park. The line was so short!! Snoopy showed my children his dog house and Woodstock showed my son how to flap his wings. Interactions like that are priceless. They were not trying to rush through the line and really took time to connect to my children.

We knew our children were not going to be able to ride much of anything else because of their height but we strolled around the park and really enjoyed it. There is a ton to look at, little shows to stop and watch and lots of delicious food options. Knott’s Berry Farm feels like a throwback amusement park and I love it!

I purchased a refillable cup that we can use through the year for free refills. 30$ kinda seemed high but if you do the math and use it often, it is worth it, especially since you can refill it at different places throughout the park. You just have to remember to bring it with you each time you come to the park. We also purchased a cup of strawberries and candy both of which were very well priced for an amusement park.

There was still a ton that we did not get to see or do and I am looking forward to a time that just my husband and I can have a day there to ride all the rollercoasters. For only 91$ a pass, I think it was completely worth it and know that we will get a lot of use out of it! If you would like to purchase a season pass you can click Knott’s Season Passes  and print yours at home!

Monster Jam 2017 at Angels Stadium

Monster Jam 2017 at Angels Stadium

Monster Jam is in southern California and my son loves monster trucks so of course the entire family had to get tickets. We were all so excited to see his reaction. I was very surprised to see how much tickets were for seats way up at the top. When I was younger, you were able to purchase a family 4 pack of tickets for 20$ and now tickets are 25$ a piece, plus taxes and fee’s. Of course we paid it and were happy to see these huge trucks do their thing at the big A!

When we got to the stadium we saw that parking was 20$ to park on the grounds. Having two little ones in tow means the closer the better, so we paid the money instead of parking in one of the neighboring parking lots for half the price.

After parking we headed up to the gate to enter. It was an absolute mess. People were clustered up trying to get through 6 metal detectors. There were no lines that made sense and tons of people cutting in line. If I was in charge, I would have roped off designated lines for each metal detector so that there was some order.

Once we were able to get into the stadium and find our seats, it was time for the show to start. Or at least we thought it was. Our tickets showed a start time of 6:30 but the event did not get started till 7:00. Finally the lights dimmed and the trucks came out. It was adorable seeing my son with his wow face. The trucks did a parade lap and he pointed out his favorite ones. We all cheered and shouted as they lined up for their qualifying laps.

After the shock of their loud engines and enormous size wore off, which didn’t take long, we were waiting for the flips, wheelies and tricks to start. They didn’t. Each truck took a turn making two laps around the designated space, then they had a wheelie competition that consisted of the trucks driving up heaps of dirt and getting a little air. There was a moment that you could almost feel the entire stadium take a deep breath of disappointment. As I noticed little boys start to lose interest, parents had to resort to pulling out their smart phones and allowing their children to watch Netflix and play games. If that wasn’t bad enough, we then had to entertain our son, as well did other parents of little ones, during a very LONG intermission.

Finally the freestyle portion was going to begin and the excitement rose again. First truck up drove around, went up the hills, did some donuts and revved its engine. Second truck the same. No crazy jumps, flips or fireworks. We all kept waiting for something amazing to happen and finally a truck tried to flip his truck, the crowd was on their feet, first time of the night besides during the wave. Finally it was getting good……. sike out! Everything in me wanted to get up and go. No one in my family was interested anymore and neither was anyone around us. The money I had spent on tickets kept me there.

The last couple trucks to go in the freestyle comp were the only trucks we had ever heard of. They put on a good show, trying flips, rolling their trucks and getting the crowd into the show but by that point, we were over it. My children had no more interest and they were ready to go. I felt sad for my son, we had built him up for a good show and that was not what we had got.

After doing a little research, we saw that Monster Jam was going on in numerous states across the United States on the same night. All the trucks that we knew of had either multiple trucks spread throughout the different shows or they were only at certain shows. Each show with only a few big name monster trucks. No name, no sponsor (or small sponsor) trucks were fillers for the shows. They were not putting on a good show because the damage to their trucks would be coming from their own bank account, not a sponsors.

When a family is spending good money to come see a monster truck show, they should receive a show and that is not what happened in Anaheim. I believe that Monster Jam saw the popularity rising and they jumped on the opportunity to make every dollar they could while it lasted but in turn the show was affected.

I am terribly disappointed because my son did not leave with a greater love of monster trucks, he left not wanting to go back.


Skypark at Santa’s Village

Skypark at Santa’s Village

We woke up before the sun did to make the drive up the mountain. Listened to Christmas music all the way up and paused only a moment to see the sun rise. When we started to see snow on the ground, we knew we had to be getting close. Then we saw it, Santa’s Village.

Candy canes and rocking horses surrounded by snow. Log cabins dressed with garland and poinsettias. Christmas trees all decorated in a unique fashion. In an instant we were transported to the north pole. My inner child was glowing and my daughters joy was apparent.

As we stepped into Skypark at Santa’s Village we were greeted with warm smiles, which was exactly what we needed. The wind chill had to be negative a billion and with the temperature only set to hit a high of 28, we were already freezing to our core. I knew it was going to be cold, but never could have prepared for this.


Arrow, Santa’s wolf, was eager to give kisses and welcome us to his home. He had to be the most beautiful K9 we had ever seen, his piercing light blue eyes told the true story of this magical place.


A land of log cabins, Christmas tree’s and wonder awaited for us to explore and we jumped right in. We started at Arrow’s Adventure Peddle Cars where we peddled through helping Arrow collect the Santa Key. This key helps Santa gain entrance to homes with no chimney for him to wiggle down. Then jumped to the Polar Express Train ride that takes you around Silver Bells Ice Skating Ring. Stopped for a photo with Arrow and roamed the Sky Trading Company.


There was plenty of places to eat or get a treat such as K’s Kandyshoppe and Creamery as well as St. Nick’s Patio and Grille.  Our favorite was The Gingerbread house. The building was a gingerbread house and adorned with candies and frosting. They carried many baked good items and of course made the best gingerbread cookies we have ever tasted.


After satisfying your sweet tooth seek help from the elves in making a wonderful craft and writing your letter to Mr. Claus. Get all of your energy out taking a climb up the rock wall or up and around a gigantic dump truck. Weather permitting you can even take a spin on the strider bike course. Then it will be time to visit Santa Claus which was the highlight of our North Pole adventure.

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Scarlet pushed the door open to his home and stopped in her tracks as she saw Santa and Mrs. Claus sitting next to the fireplace. A beautifully decorated teddy bear Christmas tree behind good ol Saint Nick and a mantle full of Christmas decor was exactly what I envisioned his home looking like. This moment will forever be etched in my memories. Watching my daughter sit on Santa’s lap and recite her wish list. Santa carrying on the conversation about candy canes and hot cocoa. I never could have asked for a sweeter encounter. Leaving Santa’s home we made sure to place a hand on the always frozen North Pole.

The wind and cold weather never let up so we made our way to Kringles and had the most delicious cup of hot cocoa. Adding our candy canes to our cocoa, as Santa had recommended, gave it that extra shot of Christmas. The log cabin decor inside was the perfect setting for my daughter and I to visit and enjoy warming up in.

From Christmas carols to train rides and biking to rock walls, Skypark at Santa’s Village is an experience everyone should have. Bringing this old gem back to life and reimagining it to an even better establishment that can bring happiness to all ages year around. Genuinely friendly and helpful staff fill this place with the magic it takes to be, Santa’s Village.



Visit Skypark at Santa’s Village to purchase your tickets and to get all the information you need before visiting the park.

Once you are truly in the Christmas spirit be sure to check out our Christmas Ornament DIY for a wonderful Ornament inspiration.

We would love to hear about your experience at Skypark, leave us a comment below! Merry Christmas!

A Day Out With Thomas The Train In Perris Ca

A Day Out With Thomas The Train In Perris Ca

Every November, for as long as I can remember, I have driven past a huge billboard in Perris, CA that featured Thomas the Train. A day out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum it read. I was intrigued but always had plans for those weekends.

Recently my son has picked up a liking for Thomas the Train and I figured it was the perfect time to look into going. So I purchased our tickets for the second train of the day which was at 9:30. Tickets cost 25$ per person, including children 2 and up. For that amount of money, my standards were set pretty high.


We arrived an hour early, which is suggested on the website. The parking lot was already starting to fill up at that point which was very surprising. I didn’t realize it was such a popular event. There were plenty of signs pointing you to where you needed to be which helped eliminate confusion. After our tickets were scanned and we entered, I could see Thomas. I watched as my son’s eyes spotted him as well and I could see the wonderment and excitement on his face.


There was quite a few activities to do and my children wasted no time getting into them. We followed the map to earn stamps, once all stamps were collected you were given a prize. Walked through a hay maze. Jumped in Thomas the Train bounce houses. Watched a Thomas episode. Took a picture with Sir Topham Hatt and drank some delicious lemonade.


Then the time came to ride on Thomas the Train. We got our boarding pass and jumped aboard. The children were given an Junior Engineer Certificate and the Conductor announced over the intercom where we were headed. A quick trip to the edge of Perris and back. My children and most the children aboard were so filled with joy. My son told me “Mommy we are riding on Thomas the Train!”

Once we got off the train it seemed like the crowd size had tripled and there were lines everywhere. We headed over to take a picture with Thomas and had to wait 30 minutes. The volunteers rushed us through, snapping a quick picture and leading us away from the Train docking area.


I suggest picking the first train departure time of the day to beat the crowds and to get parking. When we left, they were parking cars pretty far away from the entrance. In order to do everything they offer with the event, you should allow yourself at least a couple of hours. There are plenty of picnic benches and food vendors to choose from if you need a break for lunch.

Overall the experience was wonderful for my children, it was an experience they will not soon forget and worth the money. Orange Empire Railway Museum also offers other seasonal activities, including Easter Train, Halloween Train and a Santa Train. You can check their website for more information on these events and more.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

My stomach dropped and my heart almost stopped as we pulled up to the parking lot of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The height up the mountain was daunting and my fear of heights was catching up to me. Reluctantly I paid my 5$ parking fee and knew I must conquer this fear. A bus picked us up and we headed to the tram visitor center. img_7292


A short wait in line and I was able to pick up my tickets. Trams were making trips every 10 minutes and everyone was eager to get aboard. As the doors to the tram opened and everyone piled in, I found myself a spot in the middle, holding on to one of the poles for dear life. We started on our way up the hill, the floor started to turn so that everyone was able to see 365 degrees of beauty. Windows were open which really helped with the claustrophobia.

Each tower passed gave the tram a good swing and by tower 3 you could feel the drastic temperature change outside. I have to admit, my husband was the one snapping pictures and having the time of his life, I would give a quick glance, close my eyes and hope not to vomit. By the time we made it to the top, I was ready for a cold beverage and some food! Lucky for me there a few choices for that.


A cozy bar, a restaurant and a made to order walk through were all great choices. Food was hot, delicious and just what we needed. Tables were clean, area was family friendly and all staff were very accommodating. Even though I don’t like heights, the views were breathtaking, best sights I have ever seen while eating a savory lunch.

There were beautiful vantage points everywhere around mountain station and lots of trails to hike as well as rocks to climb. If you are not into hiking, which we are not, it was very relaxing to sit outside on a bench and breath in the fresh crisp air. It is chilly up top so I would recommend wearing layers.

img_7294While walking around the mountain center, we noticed a museum and movie theater. Sitting in on the movie was a great treat. It had lots of facts about the tramway and was so interesting to see the changes they have made through the years. The tram was built using not a single dollar of tax payers money and only took 2 years to complete. It opened in 1963 and then was revamped to the new rotating tram cars in the year 2000. Palm Springs Tramway has the highest vertical ascent in the world! img_7305

Our wait for the tram heading down was just as quick as catching one up. As beautiful as our day was, It was nice to have my feet back on the ground, at a lower elevation. img_7339 This experience is not one I will soon forget and absolutely recommend you take this adventure as well. I also think this would be a wonderful gift to give to a couple or family alike. You can visit for more information and to purchase your tickets to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

Special thanks to Greg Purdy for allowing Shining Thoughts Blog to experience this “8th wonder of the world”!

Aquarium of the Pacific – Long Beach

Aquarium of the Pacific – Long Beach

There are so many amazing experiences for children to have when it comes to sea life. Besides going to the beach, aquariums are the most visited when it comes to ocean themed field trips. Today we had the opportunity to go to the Aquarium of the Pacific located in Long Beach, CA. It was a beautiful sunny day down by the bay, with plenty to see in and around the aquarium. We only did the Aquarium but if you wanted to add a whale watching expedition to your day, there is a boat that leaves a mere 50 yards from the entrance of the aquarium.

The aquarium was jam packed full of people and I am convinced it’s like that every weekend. So if you want to be able to take each exhibit in and explain it to your child, I would suggest making a trip during the week when it is not as busy.  As you first walk in, your eyes are drawn to a floor to ceiling tank with huge fish swimming through kelp. We spent quite a bit of time at this tank, it was truly mesmerizing.

Once you are ready to start your walk through to the other exhibits, you will come to many smaller tanks filled with various ocean life including seahorses, jellyfish, eels and more. I was amazed to see how small seahorses were, they are hard to see unless you really know what you are looking for. The eels are scary and I must say would be one of the last sea animals I would ever want to encounter.

Head outside to feed beautifully colored birds or take a break and let the children play in a sea themed splash pad. There are plenty of hands on exhibits including the opportunity to rub your fingers across a shark’s back! My daughter would have swam with these sharks if she could, they were small enough that you don’t feel intimidated sticking your hand into their tank.

While we there they fed the sharks shrimp, octopus and pieces of fish, it was truly amazing seeing these natural predators scarfing down on their food. When you make your way around the hands on tanks, you will see a much larger tank that is most definitely not hands on because it is filled with different species of huge sharks that have plenty of teeth!

On this outside level there is a place that you can grab a bite to eat, do a little shopping or have a picnic of your own. There are plenty of restrooms, drinking fountains, and even a Jamba Juice, all very accessible from anywhere outside. Make your way up the outside steps or elevator  to find a favorite of most, the sea lions. This is another exhibit that we spent a lot of time at, just to watch their playful personalities. Also on the second level is a baby penguin exhibit. It was really adorable see these small non flying birds frolic around without a care in the world.

Once you head back indoors you are now on the second level, and you can see an enormous life size whale hanging from the roof. It is amazing how large these species are and it really puts into perspective how big the ocean is.

My children really enjoyed their day at the aquarium and I know that we will be returning soon. This is the kind of hands on education you cannot get from a book and I love it!

If you wanted to visit the Aquarium of the Pacific, click their link for hours of opperation and to purchase your tickets ahead of time.

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament- Buena Park

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament- Buena Park

When teaching a lesson to your child about past centuries, it may be hard to convey the scene. That is one of the biggest advantages of a field trip to Medieval Times.

As you approach your destination, a castle appears and the excitement builds.  Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament could be set no where else but in a castle. Before you can take a stroll through the courtyard you must find out what knight you shall be cheering for. You are given a color crown to match your knight and your table assignment. Doors open an hour ahead of time, so you have plenty of time to take in the middle ages decor, take pictures and check out the giant horses that could take down an army (if they needed too).

Make sure you walk around and look at all your options for adorning yourself with your knights colors. We purchased flags to wave in support of knight. Other items they offer are foam swords and shields, flags, glow wands, crowns and so much more! Medieval Times also has a full bar, so enjoy an adult beverage like the royals did.

You will truly feel as though you have taken a step back in time as the knights guard announces your groups to enter the arena. Assigned seats will place you in a group of your fellow knight followers. Through the entire show you will be cheering and booing together. Once the show has begun, your dinner will be served, no silverware necessary.

Delicious soup, chicken, potatoes and corn will coat your ribs while you watch the knights ride their beautiful horses through competitions. Then enjoy a pastry as the knights battle in celebration for all of their guests. Hoot and holler, cheer and shout and if your knight is on the loosing end of the joust you may want to shed a tear.

A trip to Medieval Times is a fabulous family experience as well as an educational experience. Next time you are looking for a fun activity to do, make a reservation and see where it takes you at Medieval Times!!

Great Wolf Lodge Garden Grove

Great Wolf Lodge Garden Grove

The first time that I was made aware of the Great Wolf Lodge was a commercial during one of my children’s cartoons. My daughter told me that she wanted to go there, I looked it up and found that there were none in southern California. Disappointed, we put that idea on the back burner.

To our surprise we eventually started seeing ads for one in Garden Grove Ca which is not too far from us. Thrilled we had to book a room. First thought on prices for a night’s stay, OMG which child will we sale to be able to afford this place?? I stayed diligent on looking for the best time to book, best deals and if there were any coupons. With it being a new resort, there wasn’t many out there. I finally took the plunge and just booked a night stay. image

When the day finally came for our one night stay, I was just as excited as my children were. Both of my children are huge fans of the water so I was hoping this would be a huge success. Walking into the lobby I was in awe of the details, it was as if I had stepped out of Orange County and into the wilderness.


The check in process was a breeze and the staff were overly helpful, smiley faces and so eager to help. Our room wasn’t ready yet but as soon as it was, I received a text on my phone making me aware. The rooms were very spacious and extremely clean. Once again the details were on point for a stay in the wilderness. We requested a room near the elevator which was a life save with our little ones, after a long amount of time in the water park they were not so eager to walk.


We purchased a pup pass for each of our children and it was well worth the money. If you plan on doing any of the extra activities that are not included with your stay, you will save a ton of money by doing them through one of three of the passes they offer.  Our pass included a build a wolf, or better known as a creation station animal, a cup of mike and ikes, credit for the arcade, a glitter tattoo and a cup of ice cream. These were all amazing breaks from the water park that still kept the kids entertained.


There are also a lot of activities that are included with your stay. Arts and crafts, face painting, balloon animals, dance parties and more. When you check in you will get a schedule, make sure to check it right away so you don’t miss any of the activities that you were hoping to do with your children.


When you are ready to take on the water park, make sure you have your water shoes on, it can get very slippery. Towels are provided at the park so no need to bring one from home or from your room. Your room key is in your wrist band that you must wear at all times, so no need to worry about losing your key. If you want a chair to sit in, get there early and place a towel down, otherwise it may be hard to find one.  A lot of the larger water slides usually have a wait time but if you come near close time, you should be able to get right on the slide.


Food wise they have some great options for everyone, our favorite was buckets, it’s located in the water park and has the best hot dogs and cheeseburgers. I suggest getting one of the refillable souvenir cup, it is free to refill throughout your stay which is a great deal!! Our other favorite is the Dunkin Donuts, since we are so use to seeing Starbucks everywhere, it was a nice change.



I must say that even though a bit pricey, I think it is well worth it. The family time was amazing that we all had together and my children have been talking about Great Wolf Lodge everyday since we came home. We will definitely be staying again in the near future and suggest you do the same.