Mother’s Day Hike: Nicholas Flat

trail in the forest

A trail in the forest: my favorite thing to see

Mother’s Day. Every year for several years now the only thing I want to do on holidays is hike with my family. Without any whining. It seemed like it would happen on Mother’s Day this year—I gave the boys plenty of warning, and it was such a simple request.

But then this morning all three of them were sick. They’re leaving this week on a trip, so it seemed best to let them stay home and rest. So I went on a hike all by myself, and it turned out to be exactly what I needed. Since I knew I was going solo and could therefore go anywhere I wanted, I returned to a beautiful spot that isn’t super popular…yet.

Nicholas Flat

You can approach this area from the south via Malibu Springs Trail at Leo Carillo State Park or from the north at the end of Decker School Road. That was the convenient spot from here, because it’s off Route 23, which begins at Westlake Blvd. It’s a hairpin turn to the right and then just park when you reach the trailhead at the very end. The wide pathway takes you south through a foresty patch and then emerges out into a grassy meadow where you are greeted with this glory:

Nicholas Pond

This pond was dry until the recent rains. 

Bench by pond

A perfect place.

A side trail takes you around the west end of the pond and up into the rocks. As of today there were several fallen rotten tree limbs and one of them jumped out of nowhere and bonked me right on the head. Okay that was actually my fault because I was rushing up to the rocks, racing against my dying phone battery and distracted by a text (out here where there’s no service!). Lesson learned, nature. I’ll pay better attention.

Nicholas Pond

West end of Nicholas Pond

The side scramble and even the head bonking were totally worth it though because this:

Pacific Ocean from Nicholas Flat

I played around with trying to get a good picture of myself in this spot…

Selfie

New profile pic

But that wasn’t the point of the hike, I promise. It was solitude and freedom to explore without anybody whining or standing around impatiently waiting for me to find a geocache. Which I did. Several times, and it was fun. So there. Happy Geocaching Nerd Mother’s Day to me.

Wildflowers in meadow

Had to bushwhack to find a cache. Rewarded with this view.

Wildflowers on trail

Nicholas Flats Road trail

Meadow

View from trail. Lots of brush, worried about snakes.

snake on trail

This was the only one I saw today, and he left quickly.

plastic rat

Rat in a geocache!

burned trees

Entering the Fire Swamp

My total hiking time was 2.5 hours, but you can easily park at the trailhead and be at the pond and then the ocean view in less than 20 minutes. I bopped around and took lots of pictures (these are the best) and stopped at the above bench to pull all the pokey things out of my shoes and socks. By the time I got home, I was relaxed and accomplished, and my boys had cleaned the entire house even though they weren’t feeling good. Wins all around.

I’m curious about approaching this area from the beach, plus there are a few more caches out there that I’d like to find, so I’d like to go back sooner than later. People get really protective of their favorite hiking spots and caution you about telling everyone about them so they don’t get too popular and crowded. So keep Nicholas Flat and its trails between us, okay?

Decker School Road

Winter Wonderfest at Discovery Cube LA (Ticket Giveaway!)

No snow in your town? Pay it a little visit at Discovery Cube of LA!

I’m back with another fun snow-related giveaway (read to the end to enter)! Discovery Cube of LA, that central location for science learning and fun at the Hansen Dam Recreational Center in the Valley, has Winter Wonderfest happening now through January 7. It’s an awesome time to visit the center with the kids on break and you looking for something to do with them, plus, snow!

My boys were born in West Hills and have lived their whole lives in the Valley or the Bubble, so needless to say they don’t get to see snow very often. Last winter we drove up to the mountains, intending to visit the tubing park, but we got stuck in traffic so we never got above the snow line. (Womp womp.)

That’s why I was super excited to learn that Discovery Cube is having this snow event so close to home. It’s hard to imagine lots of snow in a place that can be 70 degrees in late December, so your mileage may vary as to the actual amount of snow when you get there, but rest assured the staff at DCLA has prepared something super cool (get it?) for your kids.

Sledding ramp for the littles

Winter Wonderfest runs now through January 8, 2017, at both the Orange County and Los Angeles locations of Discovery Cube. This event offers kids the opportunity to learn the science behind sledding, weather, and how snow is formed through hands-on activities. There is a 75-foot long ramp for sliding down on inner tubes, a smaller ramp for real snow sledding, and a snow play area.

Like I said, my boys aren’t used to lots of snow, so they were excited by the exhibit here. My 9-year-old said his favorite part was the science, especially the Cloud in a Bottle. The “snow meets science” learning stations also include Animal Adaptations to the Cold and Three States of Water.

Also, hockey!

Of course, a day at Discovery Cube of Los Angeles also includes the rest of the center too. This is the third time my boys visited and the older one still loves the recycling game where you sort trash into its different types and compete against other kids.

Tickets for Winter Wonderfest are $7 and require admission to Discovery Cube ($12.95 for kids – and adults too for a limited time!). If you visit the center before January 1 you can also see the Science of Gingerbread exhibit, with hands-on activities. The winners of DCLA’s gingerbread creation contest are displayed throughout.

Winter Wonderfest
Discovery Cube
11800 Foothill Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 91342
Visit website for tickets and more info

Flash giveaway! I’m giving away a 4-pack of tickets to Discovery Cube LA and Winter Wonderfest! Leave a comment on this post (not Facebook!) to enter by 11:59 PM on Tuesday, December 27. I will contact the winner early Wednesday morning, so you can visit DCLA and get your snow play in before the kids go back to school in January! Tickets will be held at will call under your name. Extra entry if you follow Agoura Hills Mom on Instagram or like my page on Facebook (just let me know in your comment).

Thank you to Discovery Cube for sponsoring this post and for the adorable photos of my imaginary little girls in the snow.

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium

The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium is a great place to exploring the pier, where you can spend a whole day.

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While your kids are still little and amazed by the world, while your underwater explorer still loves the mystery of the deep dark blue and its inhabitants, while your Earth-lover still wants to preserve our environment and learn about local plant and animal species, take them to the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium for a fun family day out. I visited recently as a guest of Mommy Poppins for their Best of LA awards event. (I didn’t win, but it was an honor just to be nominated. For real!)

santa monica pier aquarium snacks

Want some wolf eel with your coffee?

Yes, there is a bigger aquarium in greater Los Angeles, but this one is so close! And with the California Incline now open again, traffic isn’t as bad it has been the last year and a half. Take the 101 East to Las Virgenes, then turn right and head out to PCH. Take PCH to Ocean Ave, turn right and head down to Pico. Turn right there, and right on Appian Way. Park on the street or in the lot – either way you’ll pay about $12 for the whole day.

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From there you’ll walk along the boardwalk, past the lemonade stand, and to Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, which is under the pier. It’s a small space and won’t take you long to walk through and explore, but if you have pre-schoolers they will likely spend plenty of time watching the sharks in the waist-high tank. No touching them!

Luckily, right across the room is a touch tank where curious kids can handle anemones, starfish, and more. There are displays of sea life everywhere—there are 100 species of plants and animals right there in the facility!

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There’s a different focus or special event each day of the week. Children can help feed the sea stars Tuesdays and Fridays and 2:30PM, and watch staff feed the sharks on Sundays at 3:30. Older children can volunteer at the aquarium starting at age 15.

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While you’re at the pier, head up the stairs or ramp to check out Pacific Park with its games and amusement park rides. Stop to watch trapeze artists in training at trapeze school. Enjoy local musicians performing right there on the pier. Grab a meal or a snack at the food court or one of the restaurants at either end.

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And of course, remember to pack your beach stuff. A blanket, an umbrella, some sunscreen, and extra clothes for the kids who will run into the water no matter how many times they whine “But I hate the beach!” (Just my kids?)

santa monica pier aquarium pinterest

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
1600 Ocean Front Walk (under the pier)
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Tue-Fri 2pm – 5pm
Sat-Sun 12:30 – 5pm
Admission is free for kids 12 and under
Adults and kids 13 and up $5