channel islands visitor center.

so. the story goes, that anna and i had a trip booked to camp on anacapa islands in the channel islands national park. but, just before we were set to go, we chickened out. an earthquake. no shelter from sun. aggressive birds. no internet. no escape until our ferry came back. winds. low temps at night. not much to do on the island other than a 2 mile hike. so, we canceled.

we resigned ourselves to just a boring trip to the channel islands national park visitor center on the mainland. so, on the weekend at thornhill broome, we drove to ventura to check things out. but first. donuts.

the coolest part of the visitor center was a big aquarium stuffed of sea life found in the reefs of the channel islands.

like GINORMOUS starfish.

and these smaller, brightly colored starfish.

below, hazel loved hanging out with her giant orange fish friend.

we had to crawl into a dark tunnel to get a glimpse of this spiny lobster.

when the announcement for the park video was made, we scrambled over to watch it. it was by far the best park video we’ve ever watched, probably to make up for the fact that you have to take a ferry to the islands for like $50/person, so this is the affordable way to “visit”. also, it was narrated by kevin costner.

derek snapped this picture of a photo on the wall of a huge-mongous fish.

after the video, we went outside to head up to the top of the building to see off into the ocean and get a glimpse of the islands. (the visitor center is in a harbor, so at ground level, you are having to look over and around hundreds of boats). before we went up the stairs, we stopped for a photo booth pic.

from the top deck, we could spy the island of santa cruz, the biggest of the channel islands. while the kids were working on their books and examining the items on the touch table in the visitor center, one of the volunteer rangers suggested anna and i try our luck with getting a ferry and campsite out to santa cruz, that it’s much more kid friendly and has lots more to do for a several day trip. (spoiler alert: we went and it was awesome).

for our final bit of learning about the islands, we walked around the gardens, which are filled with plants and flowers found on the channel islands (and some of them nowhere else in the world!). this giant coreopsis was one of our faves.

the kids had a bingo scavenger hunt to work on, which kept them occupied.

we saw some of our mainland faves. the prickly pear.

and found a pinecone as big as anna’s head.

lots of fragrances to investigate. this is lilac, which i didn’t know existed outside of western ny.

we spotted several lizard friends, who stopped to do pushups while we paparazzied them.

i managed to get one quick shot of the kids in the garden before one troublesome tiny person ran off in protest.

lastly, we made things official, by getting junior ranger badges. it seemed like cheating. to be able to get a badge without setting foot in the actual park, but they still had to do a lot in the visitor center museum.

on our way home, we planned to stop at rei to see if i could find a way to spend a gift card that has been burning a hole in my pocket. (i wisely decided to wait, since i didn’t actually need anything at the moment). then, we stopped at some roadside markets to score cheap strawberries, avocados and firewood.

the flower arrangements were so bright and colorful.

the cashier gave hazel a tiny banana and she pretty much thought she was the coolest kid on the planet.

and then we walked away with a flat of strawberries for $18. and then we had strawberries for every meal for the next 3 days.

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