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Mon, Feb. 17

Vacation destinations<br>becoming more open<br>to welcoming children

Being a single parent, I hardly ever go anywhere without my son. That was certainly the case on our recent vacation to southern Calif-ornia.

In the past when going to public places, it was often a nerve-racking experience trying to keep a young child in line while attempting to have a relaxing dinner or movie.

Maybe it’s the fact that my son is now 5 years old, or perhaps it’s just that more and more places are becoming open to accepting young children.

We headed to Lake Los Angeles, Calif., where my parents live, to pay a visit. Nothing to worry about there — my dad let’s his grandson do just about anything he wants (that wasn’t the case when I was his age).

A few days later, we headed down to San Diego, where my brother lives. San Diego has always been one of my favorite places to visit — my brother has lived there since 1978 — but I would never want to live there. Too crowded.

Terry lives at Mission Bay and owns a sailboat. We took the boat out and my son had a great time. I was a little nervous because other times when going out on the ocean, I had become seasick. But that was in a powerboat.

After docking the boat, Brandon thought it might be a good idea to go get into the rowboat he saw nearby. Grandpa got to him just in time as he was getting reading to step off the dock.

Brandon and I spent almost an entire day at a new amusement park in Carlsbad, which is located just north of San Diego. It’s called LegoLand, and if you haven’t guessed, its theme is Legos, the blocks we all played with as kids.

Getting into LegoLand is an expensive experience. It cost about $67 for Brandon and I to get in. But I figured, hey, we’re on vacation, let’s just go have fun. They must bank on that philosophy because there was no shortage of people there.

LegoLand was great for a child Brandon’s age. The rides are geared more toward young children, so if you have an older child, they might find LegoLand to be a bit boring.

The lines were fairly short for the rides the day we were there (I went on a weekday on purpose in an attempt to avoid long lines). Brandon seemed to have the most fun at driving school, where toddlers can actually drive a car by themselves around an oval, paved track.

Brandon thought it would be amusing to jam up traffic around the oval, and beforehand, I tried to explain to him that this wasn’t bumper cars. Nevertheless, he received his driver’s license.

Five hours into our visit, I tried to talk Brandon into heading back to San Diego. Brandon didn’t seem to go for that idea, so I told him I’d buy him a Lego set at park’s store.

Expecting to spend a hefty price, I was actually surprised to see a large, Lego-filled plastic fire engine that you can ride on or use as a toy box go for $25. We forked over the cash and headed for the parking lot.

A few days later on our way back to Arizona, we decided to stop in Laughlin, Nev. Now I had never been there and I’ve always had a certain interest in seeing how I’ll do at blackjack. But what to do with Brandon?

We stayed at Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort, which was very receptive to young children. This place has a bowling alley, multi-plex movie theater, various restaurants and most importantly, a daycare facility where Brandon could play while dad was off losing money (actually, I broke even).

The first night we got there, I took Brandon over the Kiddie Kastle, the name of the daycare place. I filled out a form (shot records were not necessary for out-of-state customers) and they took his shoes.

Brandon was fitted with a name band around his wrist and was given a bag he wore around his waist. That was where he could stuff all the tickets he wins at the games they had inside.

It was a great thing. I didn’t have to feel guilty leaving Brandon somewhere while I was sitting at a blackjack table. In fact, Brandon didn’t want to leave the place when I came to pick him up.

That night, we went to the movie, it was a simple walk from one end of the hotel to the other, and saw “The Perfect Storm.” (I hope he still likes boat rides).

Brandon and I just might pay more visits to Laughlin in the future. The rates for lodging and food are inexpensive and it was a fun couple of days.

(Brad Fuqua is editor of the Grand Canyon News).

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