Celebrating 40 seasons of fun at California's Great America

California's Great America

The summer holidays may be almost over, but don't stop planning those visits to California's Great America! They are on their 40th season, and the fun is still going strong. I took the family there this weekend to celebrate making it through our first week of school, and it felt like summer had just begun.

If you've never been to California's Great America before, it's not too late to join in the fun, because the park is still open on weekends until November 1.  California's Great America is a great family theme park, with something for everyone. I recommend spending at least 5 hours in the park to be able to experience the most popular rides, and even then you won't be able to do every single ride (there are over 70 rides, shows, and attractions!). That's why a season pass for locals makes so much sense: for the cost of a full-price ticket, you get unlimited entry for the season. If you're just visiting, you can find discounts from AAA as well as the awesome $25 discount at the bottom of this post.

One thing to note: Boomerang Bay is closing on September 20, so make sure you enjoy this awesome water park while the weather is warm! Boomerang Bay has a lazy river, a wave pool, a water play structure, and several amazing water slides. It's our favorite water park in the Bay Area!
California's Great America Boomerang Bay

Since it's the park's 40th anniversary, don't forget to take a spin on their original rides: Demon, Centrifuge, Celebration Swings, Delta Flyer/Eagle's Flight (gondola), Rue Le Dodge (bumper cars), Barney Oldfield Speedway, and of course the Carousel Columbia, the world's tallest double-decker carousel. These rides are just as awesome and just as popular as they were in 1976!
California's Great America

Of course, it wouldn't be a proper visit without experiencing at least one of their thrill rides. My favorite is the Drop Zone, but Flight Deck is a pretty close second. Both were among the first of their kind when they opened in 1996 and 1993, and I will never forget the feeling when I first rode on them.
California's Great America

But just because a ride isn't a fancy shmancy roller coaster doesn't mean it can't be thrilling or amazing! Great America is chock full of rides like these. It looks like a regular old viking ship, but it actually swings upside down and in a complete loop!  My kids love this ride!
California's Great America

The big addition at the park this year is the expansion of the Planet Snoopy kids area.
California's Great America Planet Snoopy

The area formerly known as Kidzville has now been integrated into Planet Snoopy, and the entire area (signs, food outlets, attractions) has been rebranded with images of everyone's favorite beagle and his human friends.
California's Great America Planet Snoopy
California's Great America Planet Snoopy

They've also added 3 new rides: Joe Cool's Gr8Sk8, Peanuts 500 and Snoopy's Space Buggies. I love the rebrand because it makes everything more cohesive (and who doesn't love Snoopy!).
California's Great America Planet Snoopy

What's up next

Season pass holders will be really glad they get unlimited entry into the park, because the park is open on weekends through October, so there are still plenty of opportunities to play. The park has several fun special events, including Guest Appreciation Day on Labor Day (featuring $1 hotdogs, soda, and popcorn!), a couple of Halloween -themed events for Girl Scouts, and the 2015 USA Cheerleading and Dance Competition. People are already looking forward to Great America's famous Halloween Haunt, which starts on September 25 and runs every weekend night (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) until November 1.

Save $25 off Great America Tickets

Great news! Bonggamom Finds readers can Save $25 off Tickets at California's Great America Theme Park! Just use code: BLOG4CGA when purchasing tickets at http://cagreatamerica.com

California's Great America Planet Snoopy

Disclosure: I received free day passes to California's Great America. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Keep mosquitoes away with Stinger Mosquito Repellent Lantern

You may think that summer is almost over, but for us here in California, Indian Summer has just begun! We've actually been experiencing the hottest days yet. Facing 100+ degree temperatures in a house with no airconditioning is a challenge, to say the least. Fortunately, our house is naturally cool, and it's only in the evening when the house really bakes up -- just in time to let in the cool evening air.

Unfortunately, the evening hours bring another challenge -- mosquitoes!  You want to open up all the doors to let in the cool air, but you're also letting in the mosquitoes.  So, do you sweat or do you itch?  Fortunately, since reviewing the Stinger Mosquito Repellent Lantern, we no longer have to choose!

1) It looks nice. It's not some huge, plastic monstrosity! The lantern works with pretty much any outdoor decor scheme, and it emits a soft blue light that looks really nice in the fading daylight.

2) It smells nice. The citronella scent isn't too overwhelming,

3) It works!  We left our back door open yesterday to let the cool air in and placed a Stinger Mosquito Repellent Lantern by the doorstep, and we didn't see a single mosquito indoors.

The area covered is supposed to be 15 square feet, so don't expect it to drive mosquitoes away from your entire back yard, but it was the perfect size for guarding our back door.  If you have a larger area you want to protect, get a few more lanterns!

Disclosure: I received a product sample to facilitate my review, but have not been paid to review the product or give my opinions. Product information (in italics) is provided by the featured company/product. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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IHOP introduces limited-time Double-Dipped French Toast

I'm not very good at making French toast, and let's face it, it's kind of a bother to have to soak the bread and griddle it... so messy!  I've got the art of making waffles and pancakes down, but when I'm craving French toast I like to eat out -- which makes IHOP's new dish just perfect for me!

IHOP's latest special, limited edition dish, Double-Dipped French Toast, looks and tastes as good as it sounds. It comes in 2 yummy flavors; I've tried the Strawberry Lemon and I can't wait to go back and try the Cinnamon Sugar.

Today I took the boys to IHOP and ordered the Lemon Strawberry Double-Dipped French Toast. Here's a closer look:

The tartness of the lemon cream goes perfectly with the sweetness of the strawberries. The vanilla batter coating keeps it moist and chewy on the inside, just the way French toast should be, while  the cornflake/oatmeal coating makes the French toast crispy on the outside, and gives it a yummy crunch.  There's probably more strawberry sauce on the plate than I would prefer, but fortunately it's on the plate, not on top of the French toast, so it doesn't make everything soggy. You can also request to have the sauce served on the side!

The Double-Dipped French Toast is served as part of a combo meal. You get 2 slices of French Toast, then choose your combo meal. The most basic consists of 2 eggs (cooked however you want them), 2 slices of sausage or bacon, and hash browns (I chose 4 slices of sausage because YUM).  Prices start at $7.99!

Trust me when I say you will LOVE this dish.  Combined with the plate of eggs, hashbrowns, and sausages, it was a LOT of food, so consider sharing or setting some aside to take home -- or giving your leftovers to your hungry kids who couldn't get enough of the lemon-strawberry goodness! 3Po ordered crepes, which were yummy, but he conceded that they couldn't compete with the Double-Dipped French Toast.  I have a feeling we'll be back at IHOP soon....

Double-Dipped French Toast is only available until September 20, so make sure you get to IHOP to try it before then!

More about Double-Dipped French Toast

The end of summer just got a little sweeter with new Double-Dipped French Toast from IHOP® Restaurants. This twist on the breakfast classic features soft brioche bread first dipped in vanilla batter, then dipped a second time in a coating of corn flakes and oatmeal and griddled perfectly to a crispy golden-brown. 

Guests can choose one of two flavor combinations to top off this hand-crafted treat:

· Cinnamon Sugar Double-Dipped French Toast – Soft brioche bread is first dipped in vanilla batter, then dipped a second time in crispy corn flakes and oatmeal, griddled, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and whipped topping.

· Lemon Strawberry Double-Dipped French Toast – Soft brioche bread is first dipped in vanilla batter, then dipped a second time in crispy corn flakes and oatmeal, griddled, then topped with cool lemonade cream and glazed strawberries.

Disclosure: I received an IHOP gift card so I could try and review IHOP's Double-Dipped French Toast.  Product information (in italics) was provided by IHOP via Wills Communications. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Get 25% off Square Photo Books from AdoramaPix


Now that our summer travels have come to an end, it's time to preserve all of the the memories we made into a photo book. I love leafing through photo books of our travels because each photo brings back all the wonderful memories of our trip and the time we spent together!

I've just discovered a great deal on AdoramaPix square photo books: 25% off! Get 25% off AdoramaPix square photo books (6x6,8x8,10x10,12x12) by using code: pxusfam25 Create a custom photo book and order online at  http://www.adoramapix.com/app/home/. Hurry, offer ends 09/30/2015 11:59 pm EST

About AdoramaPix

AdoramaPix helps people turn their digital photographs from abstract computer files into beautiful keepsakes designed to last a lifetime. Their custom photo books display your captured memories in rich color and vibrant detail. Thick, durable, professional grade photo paper resists fading and ensures that your photos will be just as colorful for future generations. The binding is lay-flat, so even panoramic images can splash across two pages without any separation. Your memories deserve to live in a stylish, archival home with AdoramaPix photo books.

You can find all the fun gift ideas HERE: http://www.adoramapix.com/app/home/


Disclosure: I am receiving a free AdoramaPix photo book courtesy of USFamilyGuide.com.  The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Save $25 off tickets to Great America

California's Great America

School may be back in session, but as far as I'm concerned, summer's not over yet! That's the great thing about living in the Bay Area -- the weather stays warm and sunny right up to the end of fall.  That means families can go to California's Great America almost any time of the year!  So if you've been out all summer traveling or visiting family, it's not too late to have a great time at Great America!

Everyone in our family loves Great America, and we go every year. It's got over 70 rides, shows, and attractions, so my kids never get bored.  Now that they're older, they don't even need their old parents dragging them down -- they can even visit with their friends (in fact, our local middle school's 8th grade field trip is always to Great America!).

What with all the cool roller coasters....
California's Great America

.... and all the fun waterpark attractions at Boomerang Bay....
California's Great America

.... it's the best way to spend the day with the family!

California's Great America Planet Snoopy

Even little kids have plenty to enjoy.  In 2015, California's Great America expanded and rebranded the Planet Snoopy kids area. Three new Planet Snoopy rides were introduced, and the entire area known formally known as KidZville will be morphed into the expanded Planet Snoopy.

The new rides will include Joe Cool's Gr8Sk8, Peanuts 500 and Snoopy's Space Buggies. Gr8Sk8 will be an interactive ride atop Snoopy's giant skateboard with the feeling of going off the edge. Peanuts 500 lets racers zoom around the track and slingshot around the track ends, while Snoopy's Space Buggies will lift astronauts into the air for a gravity defying lunar landing. The park is much more child-oriented and Planet Snoopy is extremely vibrant with its new colors.

"Great America is known for its thrill rides, but we pride ourselves on a being a park for everyone. Enhancing Planet Snoopy and introducing three attractions parents can ride with children adds to our inclusive family atmosphere," said Great America Vice President and General Manager Raul Rehnborg.

California's Great America Planet Snoopy

Save $25 off Great America Tickets!!

Great news!  Bonggamom Finds readers can Save $25 off Tickets at California's Great America Theme Park!  Just use code: BLOG4CGA when purchasing tickets at http://www.cagreatamerica.com

Disclosure: I am receiving free passes to Great America courtesy of  USFamilyGuide.com.  The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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LeapPad Platinum review

LeapPad Platinum

When LeapFrog came up with the LeapPad Ultra in 2013, I was blown away by how much better it was than previous LeapPad versions. Nearly 2 years later, when I heard that LeapFrog was coming up with a newer version of the LeapPad -- the LeapPad Platinum -- I was so excited to see what improvements they would come up with and what new bells and whistles it would come with. When LeapFrog sent me a review unit to try out, I decided to gift it to my 5 year-old niece.

LeapPad Platinum

My nieces loves her new LeapPad Platinum! Her eyes lit up when she first saw it, and now she carries it around with her everywhere and calls it her special iPad. She plays on her parents' tablet and phones all the time, so she was able to get up and running and start having fun on the LeapPad Platinum right away. She loves taking selfies of herself and her little sister just like her parents do on their phones!

The new Imagicard feature (a set of special cards that kids can scan into the LeapPad Platinum and have the characters on the cards come to life on the LeapPad Platinum) is icing on the cake. She's already a big fan of Paw Patrol, so she was amazed that she could scan Imagicard with the LeapPad Platinum and see her favorite Paw Patrol characters join the videogame she is playing.

I've always said that the LeapPad is the perfect kid-friendly tablet and the perfect alternative to letting your kids play on your phone or tablet, and the new Platinum version is no different. It really does give kids hours of educational fun right out of the box, without any of the set-up headaches that plague parents when they try to make their devices kid-safe.

LeapPad Platinum

Most of the features found in the LeapPad Platinum are the exact same features that I was so excited to see on the Ultra: the 7" hi-res screen, 8 GB memory, Wifi capability, kid-safe browser, 2MP front and back camera, 480p video, accelerometer, rechargeable battery.

The battery life of the Platinum (5 hrs) is actually less than the Ultra (8hrs)! I was disappointed to see that the Platinum was so similar to the Ultra.

Pretty much the only new feature is the Imagicard technology. Don't get me wrong, Imagicard is an awesome technology and it certainly enhances the educational and entertainment experience for kids.... but the Platinum sells for $129, whereas the Ultra can be found on sale for $64.99 (it originally sold for $149). Is the LeapPad Platinum worth the price premium? You decide!

Disclosure:  I received a product sample to facilitate my review, but have not been paid to review the product or give my opinions.  The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Get ready for school with Mabel's Labels Limited Edition Back To School Combos

It’s that time again, summer is flying by! I'm going through my Back to School checklist, making sure all my kids have what they need for the new school year.  One thing I always make sure I have on hand at this time of the year is Mabel's Labels. Labeling my kids' belonging is an absolute must, and Mabel's Labels is my favorite brand of labels because they're so durable, stylish, and affordable.

Over the years, I've found that the most cost-effective Mabel's products are the combo packs, especially their seasonal packs. This fall, Mabel's Labels is bringing back their most popular combo packs. They all contain basically the same variety of labels, just in different designs:   the Ultimate Back To School Combo (108 labels for $42) has designs best suited to elementary school-aged kids, the Little Kid School Combo (104 labels for $42) has designs best suited to preschoolers and kinders, and the Stylish Scholars Combo (108 labels for $42) has designs that are great for middle schoolers all the way up to college students and adults.

I was thrilled when Mabels Labels sent me the Stylish Scholars Combo pack to review! I happen to buy a combo pack every year, but trust me, we never run out of things to label, so having a sample pack to review was awesome. The Stylish Scholars Combo comes with:

40 Skinny-Minis
Skinny Minis are your basic labels that go on anything and everything. They're small enough to fit on most surfaces, yet large enough to catch people's eyes. I slap these on almost everything my kids take to school: binders, pencil cases, lunch containers, organizers, water bottles, instrument cases, music stands,  bike locks, umbrella handles.. the list goes on and on.  If it's something you don't want to lose, put a Skinny Mini on it!

50 Tag Mates
Tag Mates are laundry-safe clothing labels. They are amazing!  I love that you don't have to iron or sew them -- just peel and stick them on clothing labels (yes, they really do stay on, even after multiple trips to the washing machine). I don't always use them for clothes -- they make great container labels too!

16 Round Labels
These round labels were originally meant to be shoe labels, but they can be used for anything and everything, because they're made of the same material as the Skinny-Minnie labels.

2 Teeny Tags
These attach to any zipper or chain, so they're great for pencil cases, duffel bags, lunch boxes, laptop cases, backpacks, and more.

My kids are in middle and high school now, so I appreciate that Mabels Labels has design options that don't involve butterflies and race cars.  You can choose from a variety of subtle, modern prints and muted colors.

Finally, it goes without saying that all the labels in the Stylish Scholars pack are dishwasher safe, microwave safe laundry safe, and waterproof. I don't think I've ever had to replace a label, other than the occasional Tag Mate label on clothing (you need to choose the clothing surface carefully -- the Tag Mates stick better to polyester surfaces and clothing labels, they don't do very well on cotton based fabrics).  Mabels Labels are simply the toughest, most durable labels I've ever tried!

Mabel's Labels Back to School label combos are only available till September 30, 2015, so order your labels ASAP!

Disclosure:   I received a product sample to facilitate this  review, but have not been paid to review the product or give my opinions -- in fact, I am a satisfied Mabels Labels customer who frequently purchases labels from them at my own expense.  The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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