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A Weekend At Cannery Row in Monterey

A Weekend At Cannery Row in Monterey

When we first thought about visiting Cannery Row in Monterey, we likened it to Seaport Village in San Diego or Pier 39 in San Francisco. We thought perhaps it would be packed with tourist traps. We were very wrong. There is a lot of authentic history packed into historic Cannery Row. Back in the day, the wharves here were lined with warehouses, boats, fishermen and tons and tons of sardines. Now the area is gentrified and reborn as a fun family destination, and there are so many things to do at Cannery Row in Monterey.

waves splash on rocks at Cannery Row, Monterey, California

Cannery Row is perfectly positioned along the coastline of Monterey Bay, California.

Kids or not, visitors can spend days at Cannery Row and not run out of fun activities for all ages. Granted, if you are looking for the occasional tourist-centric shop full of t-shirts and plushie toys, you’ll find them. However, those are vastly outweighed by the fun – sometimes kitschy – shops, galleries, toy stores, jewelers, restaurants and more.

Plus the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium is just at the end of the street! That’s worth a day-long visit right there.

All of this is punctuated by the gorgeous ocean waters of Monterey Bay, lapping on the rocks and piers of the wharves and buildings on its shore. Tourist or not, no visitor can ignore the beauty of this coastline. This is the reason Cannery Row is so popular = its beauty.

At sunrise, this seagull roosts on a plaza pedestal at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa.

Things To Do At Cannery Row

Triton, Sophia, Ava and I set off from San Diego for a weekend of exploration and things to do at Cannery Row in Monterey. Getting there is now even more convenient, and we were thrilled to learn there is a direct flight on Alaska Air from San Diego to Monterey. The flight was a little more than an hour, and we were landed and ready to start our adventure.

Alaska Air wing shot over Monterey Bay, California

Winging over Monterey on our Alaska Air non-stop from San Diego. Sweet!

Here’s a breakdown of our itinerary for things to do at Cannery Row, in case you want to follow in our footsteps!

Friday

12 pm – Check In at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

When we walked in the front door of the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, we all drew a deep breath. The front lobby is bounded by a row of windows, all looking out on the ocean with perfect views. In the middle of that wall, a roaring fire crackled in the fireplace with cozy chairs surrounding it. Immediately impressed, we had that feeling continue for the duration of our stay.

Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa entrance, Monterey, California

The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa strikes an impressive portrait at the entrance to Cannery Row.

Stay tuned for a full review of the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa on this blog soon. In the meantime, suffice to say our rooms were spacious, beds were very comfortable, and everything was spotlessly clean.

king bedroom at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa at Cannery Row

Spacious rooms are a hallmark of the Monterey Plaza Hotel, and that bed was soooo comfy.

1 pm – Lunch at The Fish Hopper

Perched at the end of a pier on Cannery Row, Fish Hopper Restaurant served a delicious lunch, and those of us that like seafood were in seventh heaven. Overlooking Monterey Bay at a window-side table, we enjoyed our lunch immensely. Our tuna sashimi appetizer was a true standout, but so was my creamy lobster roll, all buttery-licious with fries and ranch dressing on the side. And Triton loved his Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna and Coconut Prawn Salad. Sophia (who doesn’t care for seafood) gobbled up her Poached Pear Salad with strawberries and candied pecans, which was colorfully plated with an orchid on top.

Poached Pear Salad at The Fish Hopper, Cannery Row, Monterey

The Poached Pear Salad was a huge hit with Sophia.

  • The Fish Hopper – open daily from 10:30 for lunch and dinner
  • 700 Cannery Row (831) 372-8543
  • Lunch entrees start at $14.95 USD
The Fish Hopper restaurant at Cannery Row, Monterey, California

Set on the end of a historic pier, The Fish Hopper has a great menu.

4 pm – Massages at Vista Blue Spa

Within the Monterey Plaza Hotel, we ambled over to the top-floor Vista Blue Spa and were taken by the rooftop hot tubs and dipping pool overlooking the Bay. Inside, the spa is surprisingly large despite its modest lobby area. Everything has an ocean-centric theme here (natch) and the services and treatments run the gamut from classic massages to Detox Body Peels to Clarifying Facials. Several options looked appealing, but the De-Stress Massage stood out as sorely needed. It was the perfect antidote to a long work week and one of our favorite things to do at Cannery Row on this trip.

rooftop hot tubs with ocean views at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, Monterey, California

Sitting in one of the rooftop hot tubs is a great way to unwind at the Vista Blue Spa.

Vista Blue Spa lobby at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, Monterey, California

The Vista Blue Spa lobby is modest and well-appointed.

7 pm – Dinner at Schooners Coastal Kitchen

With arms and legs feeling like noodles, it was a good thing the hotel had a fantastic restaurant onsite. Our dinners were classic and well-created, with some menu favorites that pleased us all. Standouts were the ribeye steak (massive) and the locally caught Wood Oven Braised Swordfish with artichokes and gnocci. More than that, our service was spectacular – both the server and her assistant kept us happy, entertained and anticipated our every need. Really solid.

Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

The interior seating areas at Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar are bright and colorful.

10 pm – Fireside back at Monterey Plaza Resort

One of the hotel’s main features is a huge plaza between the buildings that overlooks the ocean (get it? Monterey Plaza Resort). With an arbor and columns, an enormous fountain and tons of vantage points, the plaza is a great gathering place for families, friends and lovers. At night, a large outdoor firepit warms guests who can sit in comfy chairs and sofas positioned around its sides. With a little chill in the evening air, this was a great way to end the evening before heading upstairs to sink into slumber.

Room view of plaza, fountain and Monterey Bay at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

The view from our room at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa look over it’s enormous plaza and ocean beyond.

Saturday

6 am – Sunrise Over Monterey Bay

Triton and I are early risers. Ever since the girls were born and starting waking us up a O’ Dark Thirty, we’ve fallen into a habit that is hard to break. Fully awake at 6 am, I ventured out for a morning walk along the ocean and was greeted by a pretty unbelievable sunrise. With orange and yellow streams of light rising over the distant land and nearby waves, that sunrise was like a Hallmark greeting card. Picture perfect from the Plaza overlook. A stroll down Cannery Row was a wonderful way to see all that history without any cars or people milling about. (The advantages of being an early riser!)

8 am – Coffee & Breakfast from Tidal Coffee

Knowing that we would be paddling soon, we needed to roust the kids from their sleep-like-the-dead dreams. Nothing like some hot tea and a chocolate croissant with some fruit salad to get the blood flowing! Of course by this time, Triton and I had already been up for awhile and were ravenous. The coffee flowed, the almond croissant and raisin scone were disappeared, and we were ready to take on the day.

  • Tidal Coffee at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa – 6 am – 6 pm
Tidal Coffee and plaza at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

Tidal Coffee was the perfect way to start our mornings at Cannery Row.

10 am – Ocean Kayaking with Adventures by the Sea

This was a tough one, talking the girls into trying ocean kayaking. There were none too excited to put on waterproof jackets and pants, climb into 2-person ocean kayaks, and paddle around Monterey Bay. Once we got into the water, however, their attitudes changed like the wind. It wasn’t so bad after all, they had decided. In fact, it was pretty darn great!

Adventures by the Sea at Cannery Row, Monterey, California

We met our guide at Adventures by the Sea to get outfitted for our ocean kayak adventure.

Our guide led us across the harbor so we could see some amazing sights. Sea otters floated on their backs and played with each other lovingly. Sea lions barked their greetings as they perched on rocks and piers. All sorts of birds flew about and dove for invisible fish that they gobbled immediately upon surfacing. Two hours of paddling fun went by quickly, and helped us work up a great appetite for lunch. Of all the things to do at Cannery Row, this was truly one of the highlights!

Father and daughter kayaking in Monterey Bay

After a few practice strokes, we were off and running.

family with two dads ocean kayaking in Monterey Bay, California

Ocean kayaking in Monterey Bay is a blast!

1 pm – Lunch at The C

Over in the lobby of the Intercontinental The Clement Hotel facing the ocean, The C restaurant was a welcome respite after our kayak sojourn. Again we were really pleased with the fresh seafood choices, and perhaps might have over-ordered a bit. But those giant prawn cocktails and fried calamari were so darn good! Main courses we enjoyed most were the Monterey Bay Rock Cod Tacos, the Flat Iron Steak Sandwich (with bleu cheese and carmelized onions- yum) and of course, the cheeseburger with fries. Ava even said her hamburger was one of the best she’s had in a long time. Triton and I added to the decadence by ordering martinis at lunch, slurping them up like old pros from an episode of Mad Men.

toasting martinis at The C restaurant at Cannery Row

These dads needed a little pick-me-up after all that ocean kayaking.

  • The C restaurant at the Intercontinental The Clement Hotel – open 6:30 am – 10 pm
  • 750 Cannery Row, 831-375-4500
  • Lunch entrees start at $17 USD
The C restaurant outdoor seating, Cannery Row, Monterey, California

The C restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating with amazing views of Monterey Bay.

3 pm – Shopping along Cannery Row

There are a ton of unique and fun shops along Cannery Row, and we ducked into several to let the girls have a good long look. Galleries selling original watercolors, painting and sculptures caught our eyes, but the girls were drawn to the sparkles in several jewelry stores. Custom artisan-crafted jewelry is very popular here, and we ogled different necklaces, earrings and bangles. Ultimately, Ava and Sophia decided on simple earrings from a fun bohemian store called Enlightenment Zone.  This could have gone on for hours but the smell of chocolate from famous Ghirardelli beckoned us. And who were we to resist?

Downtown Cannery Row in Monterey, California

So much shopping and people watching along Cannery Row, day or night!

4 pm – Ice cream treats at Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop

I grew up going to the original Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory at the old Ghirardelli Square near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. This outlet on Cannery Row does the original justice, and we all enjoyed ice cream cones piled with our favorite flavors. Black Cherry Vanilla, Cookies ‘n Cream, and Mint Chocolate Chip were all devoured with much glee. The store also features tons of chocolate candy bars and other treats to purchase for the friends at home.

Waiting for our ice cream delights at Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop on Cannery Row.

7 pm – Dinner at Sardine Factory

Perhaps this was the biggest surprise of our trip, because a restaurant with the name Sardine Factory could be misleading. From the outside, the landed sailboat and red clapboard sides of the restaurant might seem like a casual fish house.

The Sardine Factory restaurant entrance, Cannery Row, Monterey, California

Walking up to The Sardine Factory, we knew we were in for an experience like no other.

But inside is another story, and it was actually a sophisticated and highly popular restaurant with a celebrity chef and a long list of A-List stars, sports figures, politicians and regular schmoes like us. The host led us down a dark hallway to our table, and when we turned the corner the room opened up into a giant glass gazebo filled with good looking people and great smelling food.

glass rotunda at The Sardine Factory restaurant at Cannery Row, Monterey, California

We were so impressed walking into this glass rotunda at The Sardine Factory.

Our meal was a masterpiece of both taste and showmanship, and when we met the Executive Chef Bert Cutino we understood why. He’s an accomplished and much-awarded man both in the kitchen and out, and we absolutely loved our dinner here. From The Factory’s Famous Cheese Bread to my traditional Italian Clams and Linguini (Pasta Vongole) the dishes were superb. Sophia loved her Castroville Artichoke Bisque and Ava was ecstatic with her Shrimp Scampi Rigatoni. Triton devoured his Diver Scallops with Wild Mushroom Polenta, and everyone blessed their meals as truly delicious.

Diver Scallops at The Sardine Factory, Cannery Row, Monterey, California

Triton’s Divers Scallops were a specialty of The Sardine Factory.

Dessert Was Out of This World

And then came dessert. Served dramatically on a raised silver platter, Chocolate-Dipped Ice Cream Bon Bons required the waiter to trigger a dry ice-induced spectacle. This covered our table in a dense, thick fog which spilled over and on to the floor. Other tables were as excited as we were to watch it the action unfold. The ice cream was clearly secondary to the presentation, which was just fine with us.

Ice Cream Bon Bons at The Sardine Factory, Cannery Row, Monterey, California

This photo does not do the dry ice fog justice, but you get the point.

  • Sardine Factory
  • 701 Wave Street, Monterey  (831) 373-3775 – Dinner 5 – 9:30 weekdays, 5-10 weekends
  • Dinner entrees from $29 USD

10 pm – Netflix Night in the Hotel Room

After all that hoopla, we staggered home with full bellies and tons of stories to tell. Everyone retreated to their own beds, where we each watched our favorite Netflix shows before nodding off. (We’re currently obsessed with Russian Doll and Dead To Me. What’s your fav right now?)

Sunday

9 am – Breakfast: Room Service

We had a full weekend of sampling all the things to do at Cannery Row. Since is was Sunday morning, we actually slept in a bit and ordered room service rather than going out for breakfast. You know how they always tell you it will be 15-45 minutes, and you chuckle to yourself because you know it will be at least 45 minutes? Well our room service at Monterey Plaza Hotel arrived in 20 minutes – hot, fresh and delicious. My decadent French Toast was out of this world, as was Triton’s colorfully plated Huevos Rancheros. Washed down with a healthy serving of hot coffee and fresh orange juice, and this breakfast room service was one for the books.

lobby entrance at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

Stepping into the lobby at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa is impressive from the get go.

11 am – Head Out for Airport

Monterey Regional Airport view from the tarmac, Monterey, California

Monterey Regional Airport is so quaint, there were only a few gates to manage the flights here.

A Fantastic Weekend at Cannery Row

Our entire family returned home with hue smiles on our faces from a fun and active weekend in Monterey. After all, there was something for everybody and so many things to do at Cannery Row! Ocean kayaking adventures for Jon. Relaxing massage for Triton. Cute sea animals for Sophia. And room service for Ava (that girl has always loved her room service).

Let us know if you want to visit Cannery Row, and we’ll help you set it up!

 


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Our Fab 5 LGBTQ Friendly Winter Vacation Spots

Our Fab 5 LGBTQ Friendly Winter Vacation Spots

Winter is a great time to get away. Traveling to celebrate the holidays, use vacation time or just wanting to escape are all great reasons to look for a place to go during the coldest and shortest days of the year. So if you’re looking for some great vacation getaway in LGBTQ friendly winter vacation spots in the United States, here’s a list of some of our top five choices.

Our Fab 5 LGBTQ Friendly Winter Vacation Spots

Fort Lauderdale, FL

Aerial view of Fort Lauderdale Beachi in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Winter feels like summer on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale.

 

 

Located just north of Miami, Fort Lauderdale is sometimes overlooked in favor of its more popular neighbor city. Don’t let that stop you from a winter visit – this place is among the most welcoming LGBTQ destinations in the U.S. With over 7 miles of beaches, Fort Lauderdale is a great place to escape cold winter weather. Plus it and a more relaxed atmosphere compared to Miami. A diverse city with museums, breweries and concerts, it’s also home to Port Everglades. This is where over 40 cruise ships dock, making it a great place to start a cruise vacation too.

When visiting Fort Lauderdale be sure to stop in Wilton Manors. A small city-within-a-city located inside Fort Lauderdale, Wilton Manors is home to many LGBTQ owned businesses. In addition, this neighborhood enjoys a very large percentage of its population that identifies as LGBTQ. We’ve yet to visit here as a family, but we’ve put it on our top list of winter destinations to visit this year.

Average High Temperature in December: 77° Fahrenheit

Closest Airport: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

Great place to stay: W Hotel Fort Lauderdale

Aspen, CO

Skiing the champagne powder in Aspen, Colorado (photo credit: @mavrick)

The original home to Gay Ski Week, there are plenty of winter activities in Aspen, CO. Guided snowshoe tours, snowmobiling, tubing and ice skating are just a few of the outdoor activities that families and couples can enjoy together. Not the outdoorsy type? There’s still plenty for you to do on your vacation like visit the Aspen Art Museum or just relax by the fire. Aspen is a foodie paradise so you’ll have your choice of all kinds of restaurants, many with amazing wine lists as well. Even though it has a small year=round gay population, Aspen is well known to roll out the red carpet for our LGBTQ community. That’s one of the many reasons we list it as one of our top LGBTQ friendly winter vacation spots.

Average High Temperature in December: 35° Fahrenheit

Closest Airport: Aspen/Pitkin County Airport

Great place to stay: Little Nell

San Diego, CA

sunset over La Jolla Shores Beach, San Diego, California

Sunsets over La Jolla Shores beach in San Diego are just perfection, winter or summer.

Called America’s Finest City, San Diego is also our hometown and we love every inch of it. Home to one of the best zoos in America, beautiful beaches, top notch surfing, whale watching and fantastic weather all year round, San Diego is a great place for anyone who loves the outdoors. Are you a foodie? San Diego has some great places to eat and even has close access to some excellent wineries. And if you have a passport and are up for a fun adventure, it takes less than 20 minutes to get from San Diego to Mexico which makes for a really easy day trip. If you are really into wines Mexico’s upstart Valle de Guadalupe wine region is gorgeous, with remarkably delicious restaurants and Mexican wineries that rival California‘s best.

Average High Temperature in December: 65° Fahrenheit

Closest Airport: San Diego International Airport

Great place to stay: Hotel Del Coronado

Hotel Del Coronado turret and pool at night

Even winter nights are gorgeous at the Hotel Del Coronado.

 

Honolulu, HI

Diamond Head with catamaran in Waikiki, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

Snorkeling off Waikiki Beach in Honolulu with Diamond Head as a backdrop.

Located on the island of Oahu, Honolulu is a great LGBTQ weekend getaway any time of year, but during the winter its balmy weather and island hospitality will make those winter blues disappear. That’s what it makes this one of our favorite LGBTQ friendly winter vacations spots. The state capital of Hawaii, Honolulu has access to many activities for all ages from whale watching tours, access to the beaches and the mountains and historical tours including an important part of Honolulu’s history, Pearl Harbor and the memorial that’s located there.

Visiting with the family? We found some of the best family fun activities in Honolulu including a fantastic Hawaiian luau.

Average High Temperature in December: 81° Fahrenheit

Closest Airport: Daniel K. Inouye International Airport

Great place to stay: Hilton Hawaiian Village

Hilton Hawaiian Village from Waikiki Bay

The Hilton Hawaiian Village compound offers guests a variety of options and activities.

New York City, NY

New York, Usa - January 2, 2008: tourists and skaters in the famous Rockefeller Center during the Christmas holidays.

Ice skating at Rockefeller Center in New York City is an iconic winter activity (photo credit: @pedro2009)

What says the holidays more than a visit to The Big Apple in December? From the store displays to the holiday lights to ice skating in Rockefeller Center, spending the holidays in New York City is a fun getaway for families of all ages. One great thing about New York City is the diversity in population so LGBTQ members won’t feel out of place. Another great thing – lots of hotels in a variety of different locations from Brooklyn to Manhattan. While the weather can get chilly in New York City during the holidays, the average snowfall in Central Park is a little less than 5”that time of year. So if you like your holidays a little cold with not a lot of snow, NYC is waiting.

Average High Temperature in December: 43° Fahrenheit

Closest Airport: John F. Kennedy International Airport or LaGuardia Airport

Great place to stay: 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge at night looking towards New York City

The views from the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge are epic.

 

 

Have you visited any of our favorite LGBTQ friendly winter vacation spots for couples and families? Let us know which ones you love or share if we left your favorite one off our list!


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Tips for Gay Dads Traveling Internationally with Adopted Kids

Tips for Gay Dads Traveling Internationally with Adopted Kids

We often find ourselves in the position of being 2 gay dads traveling internationally with adopted kids who don’t look like us. It shouldn’t matter. We shouldn’t have to think about it. Yet, it does. And we do. We have found traveling internationally with adopted kids to be wonderful, eye-opening, and sometimes scary. We decided early on to push through the fear and go to some of the world’s most far-flung places. With some additional planning, we have had amazing experiences and kept everyone safe and together.

family with 2 dads on the London Eye in London, England

Our first trip overseas was to London, where riding the London Eye was a highlight.

There are millions of families with adopted kids, many of which include LGBTQ parents. We have found that there are unique challenges to 2 gay dads traveling internationally with adopted kids. In addition to the issues every parent has to negotiate, we have to be better prepared and more patient with strangers. However, we believe the value of travel is worth it! We now have two teenage daughters who have definitely caught the travel bug!

family with 2 dads in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, Turkey

Soaring over Cappadocia, Turkey in a hot air balloon at sunrise = bucket list! (Not the friendliest country for LGBTQ travelers though).

See the World as a Family

We believe visiting places around the world helps us see the world differently. Our families has traveled from Ireland to the Mexican Riviera to Cambodia, and we’ve learned people are much more alike than we are different. Our family truly enjoys that exploration.

LGBTQ parents traveling internationally with adopted kids requires some organization and planning. We wanted to offer other families some of our tips and tricks to make their family travel safer and more pleasant.

American girls with Cambodian boy monks near Siem Reap, Cambodia

When we visited this Buddhist monastery in Cambodia, the girls found kids their ages.

Family Travel Tips from 2 Gay Dads 

When you are traveling internationally with adopted kids, you may need more than just passports for your whole family. You may also need to carry additional documents. We had a situation where my husband and I had to actually prove to several  flight attendants and crew that we were the legal parents of our two girls. Luckily it worked out for us, but it was a harrowing experience we’d hate to see anyone else go through. These tips are especially important if you are traveling with younger children who can’t advocate for themselves.

family with 2 dads in Tuscany, Italy

Our visit to Tuscany introduced us to so many warm and friendly Italians.

6 Travel Documents to Carry When Traveling Internationally with Adopted Kids

Think about what you will need to feel safe and secure when your family is moving through security screenings, passport control, and the check-in process. We suggest carrying these extra travel documents in a sealed plastic bag in your carry-on baggage. Better to be safe than sorry!

  1. Your child’s birth certificate. If you or your partner is not a parent listed on your child’s birth certificate, make sure you have a notarized letter from the parent whose name is listed that authorizes you to travel with the child.
  2. Adoption papers so you can prove your child is legally yours. We stopped carrying adoption papers for our daughters when they were 10 or 11 years old. At that point we felt comfortable they could answer questions for themselves.
  3. Custody documents for minor children. This is essential if your children do not have the same last name as you or your partner.
    two girls in a wheat field in Loire Valley, France

    Our trip to France included a stay in a manor house in the Loire Valley.

  4. Notarized ‘permission to travel’ letter. If you and your child don’t have the same last name, it is smart to have a letter from your partner (or someone who does share the child’s last name) stipulating that you have permission to travel with your child. This is particularly important if you plan to travel alone with your child.
  5. Copy of insurance cards with the child’s name. In addition to your own insurance cards, carry your child’s copy as well. Also take a picture to get a digital copy. Ideally the card will have both your name and your child’s name.
  6. Emergency contact information. On a written sheet of paper (not digitally) create a list of contact information you can get to in a hurry. Include your family’s pediatrician, dentist, and any other medical professionals, as well as family members. Don’t count on being able to remember phone numbers in a stressful situation. Or if your phone runs out of battery!
family with 2 dads ziplining in Costa Rica

When in Costa Rica, we ziplined as a family for the first time.

While having these travel documents is important, it is not the whole story to keeping your family safe and sane when traveling internationally. If your family includes adopted kids and/or you are a LGBTQ family like ours, we have some other tips you might find useful.

4 Tips from 2 Gay Dads Traveling Internationally

  1. Choose your destination wisely.

Did you know that even in 2019 there are more than 70 countries that consider consensual same-sex relations a crime? These “crimes” may carry a severe punishment. There are also some places that are openly hostile to the LGBTQ community. So why go there? Why would you bring your kids there?

We decided not to travel to specific places because we didn’t want our daughters in a country where the government says we’re evil. You can check out the U.S. State Department’s website for safety tips for LGBTQ travelers. Also use International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA), as it is a comprehensive LGBTQ travel planning resource.

girl blowing on dandelion to make wish

Ava made a wish at Blarney Castle in Ireland.

  1. Be ready for dumb questions.

There’s one truth I’ve found everywhere I’ve traveled: People all over the world can be pretty dumb. Due to closed minds, misguided information, or lack of diversity you may be asked cringe-worthy questions. I’ve been asked, ‘Where’s the mommy?’ when checking into a hotel or for a flight. It is uncomfortable but I try to be prepared. Instead of reacting angrily, I use it as a teaching moment to help the person better understand my family. Most times the person apologizes when corrected. If your kids are of a different race or ethnicity than you, be ready for strangers to ask things like “where did you get her” or something else insulting. Having a quick reply at the ready can diffuse a bad situation. No need for international snark – just find a pat answer and move along.

family with 2 dads visiting Spain

Just north of Barcelona, we stayed in a little Spanish farm house near an ancient walled city.

  1. Support companies who support us.

Everyone who travels wants to feel welcome. That is even more important for LGBTQ families and those with adopted kids who may feel the anxiety of not knowing how they will be received. Take away some of that anxiety by using travel brands that train employees on inclusion and make a concerted effort to be queer friendly. Hilton, Kimpton and Fairmont are three of my favorite brands for this very reason. I’m also a big fan of the new company, FabStayz, which is a short-term accommodation rental service which is like Airbnb for the LGBTQ community.

two girls making a heart with their hands on the beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

We loved our visit to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where we felt right at home at the Hilton Los Cabos.

  1. Be prepared for the paperwork headaches.

Before you can plan your next fabulous adventure, you have to obtain passports for your family. And for LGBTQ families, that is not always straightforward. You will need an original birth certificate to obtain a passport from the US Passport Agency. Get the birth certificate by submitting a request to the Bureau of Vital Statistics. The request must be submitted in the state of your child’s birth, not necessarily the state you live in now. Single parents may get pushback from the agency because of lack of a custody agreement. Look for the newest forms which stipulate “Father/Mother/Parent” to help alleviate this issue.

two girls visiting temple in Hanoi, Vietnam

In Hanoi, Vietnam, the locals were so warm and inviting to our family.

Bottom Line

While it can be difficult for 2 gay dads traveling internationally with adopted kids, it is so worth it. I honestly believe that the more families like ours are visible just like any other family, the better. Every time we travel, we’re showing the world that we are just the same as any other family. For a lot of people who haven’t seen families like mine, we are changing their perspective.

girl snorkeling in Aruba

The water was so crystal clear in Aruba, we loved snorkeling and seeing all the undersea life.


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Spooked at San Diego’s Haunted Whaley House

Spooked at San Diego’s Haunted Whaley House

Our kids have that weird fascination, where they are a little scared of ghosts but yet are drawn to ghost stories.  Scary movies attract them in some sort of curious can’t-look-away kind of attraction. As teens, Ava and Sophia are living in that in-between stage where they’re not kids anymore. They love haunted houses, but real ones instead of carnival versions.

So recently, we readied ourselves to tackle the Haunted Whaley House in San Diego.

The Whaley House in Old Town San Diego

The Whaley House is noted as one of the most haunted houses in the US.

 

The Haunted Whaley House in San Diego

The Haunted Whaley House is situated smack dab in the middle of tourist traps, great Mexican restaurants and many historic buildings dating back to San Diego’s founding. Local lore tells us this is a classic haunted house, and the folks that run the house give a great tour full of stories that support the claims. (The House has actually been featured in several books and TV specials, including Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel).

Supposedly there is a little girl ghost who hides under this table at The Whaley House.

The Haunted Whaley House has ruled over Old Town San Diego since 1857, and then things started to go awry. It seems Old Man Whaley was an opportunist back in the day. He saw a good deal in buying the land where San Diego officials used to hang bad guys. The gallows were built pretty much where the Whaley House stands now. Now let’s see, what would be your first clue there was a reason that land was so cheap? Hmmmm.

tour group inside The Whaley House in San Diego

Maybe the red lights help the ghosts come out to visit?

Ghosts on the Haunt

The ghost of Yankee Jim Robinson was the first dude to haunt the place, and the Whaley family reacted poorly. People started dropping like flies, including several children. Some seven or eight people died in the house, not counting the people they hung on these grounds beforehand. On top of all that (literally) the house is built near a graveyard, which still exists in part.

That’s a lot of ghosts to wander around, and naturally people are going to see some.

The Whaley House haunted tour is definitely spooky, like this hideous living room decor for example

The Whaley House haunted tour is definitely spooky, like this hideous living room decor for example.

 

Witness a Ghost Sighting?

Not us. Despite the spooky house – which is more like a museum than anything – we saw no apparitions. We experienced no sudden gusts of cold air, heard no creepy little lady calling “Carol Anne, Carol Anne, go into the light!” We did listen to some great stories about the Whaley Family. The tour covers the history of San Diego in its early years, and what life was like in the olden days.

On a related note, I almost died and joined the Whaley ghosts going up and down that staircase inside the house. That thing is steep and spindly, so watch your step.

staircase at Haunted Whaley House in San Diego

You could easily become a ghost at The Whaley House by trying to navigate this rickety staircase

 

Visiting The Whaley House

Tickets during regular day hours are $10 for adults and $8 for kids 6-12. In the evenings after 5 pm all tickets are $13. You can check the Whaley House website for more information on hours and ticket prices. You can even arrange for a private tour after hours (spooky!). It’s pricey at $75 per person, per hour – might be worth it though since those ghouls usually show up later at night.

Overall, the Whaley House hosts a super interesting tour – definitely creepy – and maybe the kids were a little freaked. A little. The girls did great, racking up another notch on their Rights of Passage markers. Definitely worth the $13 ticket.

If the Haunted Whaley House is not enough for you, there is also a Ghost Tour of Old Town San Diego that meets in the central plaza there each night. We’ll have to try that one next!

girls with ghost tours sign in Old Town, San DIego

If the Whaley House isn’t enough, there is always the nearby Ghost Tours to join.

I kinda miss the days when the girls got scared and ran into my legs, wrapping their arms around me. They would bury their faces, holding on for dear life. Yeah, that doesn’t happen any more. More like the other way around!

group of mummy skeletons at Halloween

When the girls were little, they would not even go near these mummy skeletons at a local restaurant.


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7 Teen Dating Rules From 2 Gay Dads

7 Teen Dating Rules From 2 Gay Dads

Got teens? No matter what you do, you are probably going to have to deal with them dating sooner than later. We’ve been in this for a few years now, and have developed some teen dating rules we think can make this time palatable for everyone. Know that we are in it with you! We’re 2 gay dads who are trying to manage this exciting/scary season of life too. We have been dragged into it kicking and screaming but after some frank conversations (and bourbon) we are working through it.

Whether you are a home with 2 dads, 2 moms, one of each or any other combination, you probably aren’t looking forward to watching your teenagers start dating. It is anxiety attack-inducing at its worst. Being a family with 2 gay dads, we seem to be doubly protective of our girls. On top of wondering if the boy will treat them right and not get handsy, we worry our girls will endure awkward questions and insensitive comments because of our family.

Like all parents, we just want to protect our girls. That’s why these 2 gay dads came up with some handy teen dating rules.

high school girl and boy dressed for Homecoming Dance

We liked Sophia’s first real boyfriend a lot, and still made him come to our house every time. (Photo courtesy 2019 from Jon Bailey)

7 Teen Dating Rules By 2 Gay Dads

Despite many advances in LGBTQ rights, we live in a world that can sometimes be dangerous for people who are gay or who are gay allies. We sincerely believe though that there is more that connects us than divides us, and that we are all more similar than we are different. It’s our hope that we have instilled that confidence in our girls and they choose partners who are respectful and kind.

  1. Not all boys (or girls) are alike.

Our family is a prime example – love comes in many forms. We want our girls to understand stereotypes don’t help anyone. They should not assume a partner will treat them in a certain way, or even know how to treat someone in a relationship. Teen emotions run high, and also sometimes run out of control. We all don’t like or want the same things. That’s ok!

Photo courtesy of Antonio Guillem

  1. Sex, love and dating are not the same things.

Sigh. No Dad wants to talk, or even think, about their daughters having sex. We’ve all heard the horror stories. Ugh! However, we believe our girls need to understand the difference between sex, love and dating. That one doesn’t have to follow or go hand in hand with the other. Open communication is the key – between the teens dating and also between teens and their parents. Talk with them about these realities and set some teen dating rules for them in advance. At least they will know where you stand!

  1. Girls have all the control.

As 2 gay dads we are so invested in making sure our daughters feel empowered, and not marginalized at all. They get to decide what happens with a romantic partner as well as when, where and how. We let them know they can always, ALWAYS say No.

Photo courtesy of Erstudiostok

  1. Be respectful. 

This is one of the most important teen dating rules everyone should have. Our daughters need to be respectful of our parental rules, curfews, values and morals. They also need to always be respectful of their romantic partner and expect the same in return. Finally, we hope our daughters understand they need to show respect for themselves too.

Photo courtesy of millann

  1. We must meet your date first.

There will be no honking at the curb and our daughters running out to a waiting car. Not. Happening. Our daughters understand we need to know who they are leaving with, where they are going and what they will be doing. We also need to make sure the person trying to date our gorgeous, smart, kind, funny, amazing daughters are good enough for them. (Spoiler alert: they probably aren’t.)

  1. Start slow.

There are lots of theories about what age is right for teens to start dating. However, that is really an individual question to ask of each teen. However, studies have found early dating, and prolonged one-on-one dating increases the risk of sexual activity. Encourage group dates at first. Help your teenagers keep their romantic life in perspective. And make sure they are dating someone in their same age group.

Photo courtesy of skynesher

  1. Who has 2 gay dads who will always be there for you? You do!

Anytime. Any place. We are committed to being there for our girls through their dating highs and lows and the ups and downs of teenage life. We want our girls to fully comprehend that there is nothing they can do…NOT ONE THING…that could ever make us not love them.

Photo courtesy of martin-dm

 

 

 

 

Also, if you have girls you may want to consider taking them to self-defense classes for teens. We did this recently with great results, and you can read about it in another story from 2 gay dads.

In addition, there are several other sources that can round out your perspective on teen dating rules. Consider this article on setting ground rules for teen dating, and this good advice from Very Well Family.

These teen dating rules by 2 gay dads are not just for gay families. We believe this experience is hard enough for everyone. Good luck!

 

 


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Tips From 2 Gay Dads on Back to School Shopping with Teens

Tips From 2 Gay Dads on Back to School Shopping with Teens

Back to school shopping with teens is an experience we were not ready for a few years ago. Prior to teenage-hood, back to school shopping was sort of sweet and easy. We pretty much picked out what the girls would wear, and having the gay fashion genes helped us style them right. But now? We’ve learned some valuable lessons and are here to share tips on back to school shopping with teens. And sometimes it ain’t pretty.

Now the girls have very decisive opinions about everything from style to color to cut to accessories. I guess we raised them well in the style department, but we have to be careful or that will come back to bite us! These days back to school shopping with teens could be a battle field. However, we’ve learned some tips to make our way very carefully across this dangerous minefield.

girl shopping in Puerto Vallarta outdoor bazaar

Even in foreign lands, our kids find a way to shop with the excuse that it’s for school.

5 Tips for Back to School Shopping With Teens

You too can make it across! Just follow these simple tips for back to school shopping with teens.

  1. Have a budget.

For all that is holy, do not ever start shopping with a teenager (especially one of our daughters) without a budget. Most teen girls have no idea what is appropriate to spend. You may be in for quite the surprise if you set off on a shopping excursion without reigning in the budget. We give our girls at total amount to spend, and then it’s like a math equation for them to add up their purchases and stay within budget.

Photo courtesy of Nattakorn Maneerat

  1. Make a list of needs and wants.

Use this as an opportunity to help your teenager define wants versus needs. Also, help them prioritize the items on their list. Maybe snow boots can wait, but gym shoes for PE on the first day can’t! Have the kids go through their closest and take a current inventory of what still works and what is now needed. This is one of the most important tips on back to school shopping with teens. (No teen needs multiple variations on the same pair of Nikes).

  1. Compare shopping online first. 

Your child is probably on his/her phone all day anyway, so tell them to go online to the stores you plan to visit. This way, they can see ahead of time what items are available. They can also add things to the cart or take screenshots so they can easily find them once you’re in the store. You may get lucky and find your teenager just wants to click and ship their back to school wardrobe to your front door. Win/win!

Photo courtesy of Halfpoint

  1. Make them spend their own money.

When back to school shopping with teens, it is helpful if they have some skin in the game. If they have money from babysitting, raking leaves or birthdays, have them spend that on the things they want. Help them understand the bigger picture of your family budget and then ask them to contribute by picking up the tab for some items if they can. We use this back to school shopping tip to focus them on priorities of want versus need. (See #2).

  1. Get help.

One thing we have learned in our years of parenting is that sometimes you have to call in the reinforcements. Being a family of 2 gay dads, we know we don’t always have the right information or experience to be everything for our girls. Shopping for bras and panties? Yeah, two men are not so good in that department. So we ask for advice from women friends. We read blogs and laugh at memes and ask questions in private Facebook groups. There’s no shame in asking for help.

girl shopping for makeup at Sephora

Our girls never met a makeup counter they didn’t like.

3 Products to Add to Your Back to School List

Now that you know some good tips on back to school shopping with teens, what are some of the necessities you should buy? Make sure you have a list from their school for specific items they need. Go over their needs/wants list and make a plan for what you will buy right now.

After all that, consider adding these 3 items to your list. Both you and your teenager will be glad you did!

  1. A good backpack.

It is crazy how much some backpacks cost. Long gone are the days when you can pick one up at the corner store for $10 and have it last for a year. Those cheap backpacks won’t last for a week (that is if your teenager will even be caught dead carrying it!) We really like the backpacks from Fenrici because they are durable, super cute and well-made. Plus this is a company that gives back! The product sales help support families suffering with rare pediatric diseases. Starting around $30, they are a fantastic deal.

Photo courtesy of Fenrici Backpacks

  1. Power banks.

The ChargeHub HomeBase Power Bank Docking Station is an at-home charging station that can power the whole family on-the-go! This Docking Station charges 4 power banks PLUS one additional device using the USB Charging Port. Each power bank has a durable aluminum case and is color-coordinated with a metallic-finish for easy identification. Everyone can grab an extra power bank on the way out the door in the morning. If it’s one thing teenagers need, more ways to charge up their phone is near the top of the list. These power banks have a powerful 4000 mAh battery capacity which will keep your devices charged throughout the day. We also like how the storage drawer conveniently stores cables away and maintains an organized space. $59.99

Photo courtesy of ChargeHub Home Base

  1. Athletic gear.

Regardless of if your teenager is the star on the football team or just barely made JV track, they want to look good while their working out. Having quality athletic gear that is sweat-resistant is also key for teens who often smell a bit…ripe. Dick’s Sporting Goods just launched their own line, called DSG, of sports gear that is just fantastic. It is super high quality yet substantially lower priced than name brand competitors. Look for t-shirts starting around $10 and athletic shorts around $15. (Download their app for even more ways to save.)

Photo courtesy of Maria Smith

Whether you are back to school shopping with teens for the first time or the 10th, I hope 2 gay dads’ tips on back to school shopping with teens will help you through. Godspeed.


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Running My Home Office Smoothly Is Now A Snap

Running My Home Office Smoothly Is Now A Snap

Office Depot sponsored this post, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tracking PixelI love having an office at home, and even though I’m not always there to sit at my desk I know it’s there to come home to. Traveling to the four corners of the world, spending time in the field, and pounding out blog posts from the neighborhood coffee shop are all great. Still, I do like knowing my home office will be running smoothly when I want to work from home.

That’s gotten a whole lot easier with Office Depot as my partner. They’ve got all the major worries handled so that I don’t have to! And as creative as I am with the big picture stuff, it’s the little things that can trip up a small home-based business like ours. You know, like if I run out of file folders to hold all my travel brochures. I can’t just walk down the hall and grab them from the big giant office supply closet. Mainly because we don’t have a big giant office supply closet in our home! Who does?

Keeping it Sane at Home

We travel so much for work, things can get a little batty. When we travel, I’m voraciously collecting brochures and pamphlets throughout the whole trip. I want to make sure I’ve got all the details I may need later when I start writing my travel stories. And traveling as often as we do, these bits and pieces of information start to pile up.

When I realized I could scan all these printed materials with my HP OfficeJet Pro 9010, it became a whole new ball game. Office Depot is helping us keep organized by helping to eliminate much of that mess. All my little stacks of papers from various trips have been scanned, digitized and stored in folders on my laptop. Now I can quickly access the information I need to write my stories without leafing through a stack of papers. I even started paying the kids to do this for me to save time. Life hack!

Even better, the HP OfficeJet Pro is first and foremost a printer the whole family can use. We can remotely send documents to print from wherever we are in the world – even from just upstairs. (I think our kids use this function more than anyone, truth be told.)

Supplies to Help Me Think

One of the reasons I enjoy working at home is the lack of interruptions during the day. I write more easily when my brain can just flow. Sometimes when I’m thinking through how to block a story creatively, I doodle. It’s funny, because it’s almost as though my hand moves automatically. I draw these fanciful shapes and patterns in all different colors, but my mind is completely elsewhere. As it turns out, researchers have found that doodling helps creativity and organization.

My doodling has made its way into my daily to-do list too. Each morning I have my handy dandy TUL planner in front of me. With coffee in one hand and TUL pen in the other, I plan out the details of my day in a very VERY colorful list.

Staying on Top of It All

Part of running a small business from home is the fact that you are the boss of everything. That means basking in the glory, slogging through the tough stuff, keeping on deadlines. Oh, and remembering all the things.

That last part? Well, remembering to order supplies is usually not on the top of my list. Like, oh for example ordering more business cards. Recently our family had plans to attend Comic Con – an event which was a combination of fun and some potential business. We remembered to get the passes, buy funky t-shirts to wear, even plan out what cool things we wanted to check out once there. But I forgot we were running near empty on 2DadsWithBaggage business cards. Yikes!

Scrambling over to Office Depot’s website, I navigated to the Workonomy Print and Copy Services section. A quick upload of my business card specs and a few clicks later, my order was placed. Of course, I opted for these to be delivered to our home but there was also an option to pick them up at the nearby store. They arrived in plenty of time, and we were off to get our freak on with the monsters and masses at Comic Con.

Office Depot is My Office Manager

They’ve saved my bacon a few times now, my virtual friends in Workonomy at Office Depot. Often when I get into the writing groove, I lose all track of time. I’m focused on spinning my story, capturing the essence of a place we’ve just visited or a new thing we’ve discovered. And when I’m in the zone, I don’t want to be interrupted by the need to run out and grab supplies.

Plus running out for office supplies can be just plain inconvenient. Knowing that I can order what I need from Office Depot online to be delivered to my front door the next business-day? Well that’s a no-brainer. (This happens more often than I care to admit.)

The convenience of jumping on the Office Depot website at odd hours of the night has helped me stay productive AND keep my home office stocked. Workonomy can also help your small business with tech services, from 24/7 remote tech support to computer services and installation, tech trade in and more.

You never want your small business to slow down because of tech problems, and Office Depot’s services are like having an IT person on call without the expense of an employee.

With all this productive time on my hands, I should be able to crank out twice the amount of work!

Oh no – what have I done?!?!?

 

Office Depot sponsored this post, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.


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Easy Pasta Carbonara Recipe from my Italian Nana

Easy Pasta Carbonara Recipe from my Italian Nana

This post was created in partnership with Perdue Farms, and the content expressed here is my own.

Growing up in a big Italian family, we had lots of gatherings that centered around food. In our family, food equals love – and we sure got a lot of good love! One of our favorite dishes has always been pasta, and this easy Pasta Carbonara recipe is still a family pleaser.

dish full of freshly made pasta carbonara

The creamy egg and cheese mixture tastes so good with the salt of the bacon in this easy Pasta Carbonara recipe.

When I was a kid, we’d gather in the kitchen as pots were boiling, the oven was baking, and something was always bubbling on the stove top. This is how we learned to cook, since there were no recipes written down. A dash of this and a sprinkle of that, and it all came together in something delicious. So this easy Pasta Carbonara recipe from my Italian Nana had to be figured out from scratch. I updated it a bit for modern tastes, and here is the recipe:

Easy Pasta Carbonara Recipe from my Italian Nana

ingredients to make Pasta Carbonara

Having the right fresh ingredients is half the battle to making any delicious pasta dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg and 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cream or half and half
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (yes they do taste different)
  • 4 slices of Niman Ranch (R) Uncured Applewood Smoked Bacon – No Sugar (Nana used Italian guinciale, but bacon is easier to find and less expensive. Bacon with no sugar is imperative here.)
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Chopped parsley
  • 1 lb pasta – spaghetti is preferred but linguini works too

Instructions

Put a pot of water on the stove to boil, with a healthy dash of salt.

Beat eggs and mix in cream and cheeses. Add pepper and salt to taste. Set aside.

Pouring cream into egg mixture

Pour the cream into egg mixture and whip together.

Cut bacon strips into squares and fry at medium high in large pan with olive oil, onions and garlic, careful not to cook until crispy.

slices of Niman Ranch organic bacon

Using about 4 slices of Niman Ranch bacon, cut into 2-inch squares.

Turn off heat when bacon is cooked limp and leave in pan.

pan with fried bacon and onion in pieces

Fry the bacon pieces until crispy on the edges and still limp in center.

Boil pasta until cooked just al dente. Reserve one cup of pasta water and drain the rest.

Put drained pasta in pan with bacon mixture, and heat on medium for about a minute or so.

Add egg and cheese mixture to pan and stir well over heat quickly. Turn off heat.

Add pasta water a little at a time and stir for added creaminess.

Easy Pasta Carbonara Recipe – Serve and Enjoy

Put into large bowl and serve immediately with parsley sprinkle on top. Have cheese on the side for those that like more (like my kids).

serving dishes of fresh Pasta Carbonara

Heaping servings of homemade Pasta Carbonara make my family so happy!

This whole process of making this easy pasta carbonara recipe takes less than 30 minutes. Serve with green salad and some crusty sourdough bread, and you are now a family dinner hero.

My Nana would be so proud of you!

dish full of freshly made pasta carbonara

Pasta Carbonara is a family favorite that is easy to make at home.

For other pasta recipes from my Italian family kitchen, try:

Pasta With Zucchini Blossoms Recipe 

Sicilian Pasta with Fava Beans Recipe

Easy Shrimp Scampi Recipe