Bike Picnics: 5 Steps to Reviving the Outdoor Family Dinner Tradition

Living in LA, it is second nature, for most, to just jump in the car and be on your merry way, but sometimes shaking up old family traditions make way for new perspectives and awesome adventures. This past summer our five year old took off her training wheels and sped into the world of cycling, so we thought, what better way to honor her new-found freedom than by starting a new family tradition; bike picnicking.

It’s a fairly simple concept. Pack up dinner. Secure it on your bike. Head to your favorite neighborhood park. Eat and be merry. But, we discovered very quickly there are many details that needed to be worked out in order for the whole family to enjoy, so here, in a nutshell are the lessons we’ve learned to get the most out of our new family tradition.

Photo Courtesy Kerem Hanci

1. Respect Your Child’s Ability

Don’t choose a park clear across town if your little one’s legs generally only make it once around the block. Take into consideration the entire family’s endurance level and map your course accordingly.

2. Know the Code of the Road

Study up and then impart that adult-sized wisdom to your kids, empowering them with the knowledge to stay safe. Ride on the right side of the road, in the same direction as the vehicles. Stay alert at all times, and remember, a bicycle is a vehicle which should obey all traffic signals and signs.

Photo Courtesy Kerem Hanci

3. Securely Stow Your Food

The last thing you want, after thoughtfully and carefully preparing and packing a lovely family dinner, is for it all to end up like roadkill, spilled out across the asphalt. Use a big front-wheel basket, or even better, a cool and convenient cargo trailer, like this Burley Nomad. Guaranteed to hold everyone’s eats, with room left over for mom and dad’s beer. I got my hands on one of these sweet Nomads when Burley invited me to be one of their #MothersOfNature Ambassadors and I can’t wait to find more cool uses for this cargo trailer!

4. Be Prepared for Mishaps

Being prepared is rule #1 of parenthood and biking is no exception. Invest in a small bike repair kit and a first aid kit, and make sure your cell phone is fully charged. Of course, chances are your ride will be smooth sailing, but you never know when it may come in handy.

Biking kids
Photo Courtesy Kerem Hanci

5. Feast Like Royalty

If there’s one thing I know for sure, any outdoor activity is better with a delicious reward. I am known for going a bit overboard, sometimes when it comes to make-ahead meals to enjoy in nature, but here are a few super simple ideas the whole family will devour.

1 Heirloom Tomato
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
Fresh Basil
Red Onion
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt & Pepper

Thinly slice the tomatoes, mozzarella and red onions then lay them on a plate, alternating tomato, mozzarella, basil leaf. Once you have used up all of the sliced ingredients, sprinkle red onions on top, lightly salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar!

Roasted Broccoli & Fennel
2 heads of Broccoli
1 Fennel Bulb
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Cut the heads of broccoli into florets and slice the fennel. Toss everything lightly in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Fruit Salad
2 Large Apples
1 small container of Blueberries
3 Persian Cucumbers
1/4 pound of Grapes

Core and slice 2 apples. Remove grapes from stem. Peel and chop cucumbers. Toss everything into a bowl and serve!

Exploring the Outdoors: A Conejo Valley Guide

Located 45 minutes north of Los Angeles, just off the 101 freeway, the Conejo Valley is a splendid outdoor playground, virtually undiscovered by its cosmopolitan neighbors. The gateway to the Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Center, the area originally settled by the Chumash people spans both southeastern Ventura County and northwestern Los Angeles County and offers a wide variety of opportunities to get outdoors with the family.

Given its close proximity and easy accessibility, the Conejo Valley makes for the perfect date night, day trip or weekend getaway, and its thriving craft beer and wine scene is an added bonus when looking to balance outdoor play with nightlife merriment. The rural beauty of this area is hidden in plain sight, boasting more than 500 miles of hiking and biking trails making it a unique destination that is friendly for the entire family.

Here are just a few ways you and your family can get off-the-beaten path and explore the hidden gems the Conejo Valley has to offer.

Hiking and Biking

Paramount Ranch Hike

  • Distance: 4 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 150 ft
  • Open to: Hiking, Biking
  • Difficulty: Moderate

2903 Cornell Road, Agoura Hills, CA, 91301
Take the Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101) to Kanan Road exit. Head south on Kanan for 0.5 miles. Turn left on Cornell Way and veer to the right. Continue south for 2.5 miles. The entrance is on right side of the road.

Grasslands Hike – Malibu Creek State Park

  • Distance: 0.75 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 105 feet
  • Open to: Hiking, Biking, Equestrian
  • Difficulty: Easy

27000 Mulholland Highway, Agoura Hills, CA 91301
From Highway 101, take the Las Virgenes Road exit and go south for 3.1 miles to Mulholland Highway.  Take a right on Mulholland Highway and almost immediately, look for the Grasslands Trail on the left.

Los Robles Hike – Los Padres

  • Distance: 6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 900 feet
  • Open to: Hiking, Biking, Equestrian
  • Difficulty: Easy

From the 101 freeway, drive to the south end of Moorpark Rd, turn right on Greenmeadow Ave., and go a half mile to the parking lot.

Paradise Falls Hike – Wildwood Park

  • Distance: 2.5 miles (loop)
  • Elevation change: 260 feet
  • Open to: Hiking, Biking
  • Difficulty: Moderate

928 W Avenida De Los Arboles, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
Take the 101 Freeway to Thousand Oaks to exit 45 for Lynn Road. Drive north for 2.5 miles on Lynn Road, and turn left on Avenido de los Arboles. Drive to the end of the street and park in the lot on the left.

Pedego 101 Electric Bike Tour

Biking is a great way to explore a new city, allowing you the ability to cover a ton of ground, and connect with your surroundings without being confined to the interior of a car. Electric bikes give you more flexibility to discover farther distances even if you’re with young kids or grandparents.

During our time in the Conejo Valley we hooked up with Pedego 101, who offers a full fleet of electric bikes with a variety of models that fit all shapes and sizes. They were so knowledgeable and welcoming, after our 13-mile bike ride across picturesque bridges and through tree-lined canyon roads, we felt as if we had gained a family.

Pedego 101
2859 Agoura Road Westlake Village, CA 91361
(805) 379-9245

Family Friendly Dining

The Malibu Cafe
Nestled in the gentle, rolling hills of its word-famous namesake, Malibu Cafe is a cornerstone of coastal, rustic living. Eat decadent corn and lobster chowder, listen to down-home live music and lounge under the canopy of centuries-old California oak trees tastefully decorated with elegant chandeliers.

Malibu Cafe is as kid-friendly as it gets with 100% outdoor seating and plethora of fun kid games such as jumbo Jenga and air hokey set up on the lawn for all to enjoy. The biggest challenge you might have to face at this laid back ranch-style restaurant is leaving.

The Malibu Cafe
327 Latigo Canyon Road Malibu, CA 90265
(818) 540-2400

Tavern 101 Grill and Tap House

Another kid-friendly tavern to try when you have a hankering for mouth-watering BBQ is Tavern 101. Located just off the 101 freeway, this hidden little gem of a restaurant offers a laid-back atmosphere, hand-crafted cocktails and more meat than any one person could ever attempt to consume.

Tavern 101 Grill and Tap House
28434 Roadside Drive  Agoura Hills, CA 91301
(818) 991-7227

“Adults Only” Offerings

101 Cider House

Some of the most interesting and unique cider this year is coming out of a dark corner in an unassuming industrial park in the Conejo Valley. A budding pioneer of the craft beer industry, Mark McTavish and the rest of his talented 101 Cider House team are self-proclaimed cider evangelists.

Sourced locally, their product is raw, made with natural ingredients and 100% fresh pressed juices. the end result is vibrant and daring and sure to knock your socks off.

101 Cider House
Tasting Room Hours: Thursday 5pm – 10pm, Saturday 1pm – 11pm, Sunday 1pm – 5pm
31111 Via Colinas, Westlake Village, CA 91362
(818) 851-9018

Sunland Vintage Winery

Michael and Debby Giovinazzo are making old school hip again with their throw-back vintages that conjure up thoughts of Old Italy and its robust yet delicate wines. Their award-winning Sunland Vintage label tickles the palate and their bright and cheery tasting room will have you coming back for more.

Sunland Vintage Winery
Tasting Room Hours: Thursdays & Fridays 6pm – 9pm, Saturdays 1pm – 6pm, Sundays 1pm – 5pm
1321 E Thousand Oaks Blvd. #108 Thousand Oaks, CA 91362
(805) 379-2250

4 Reasons Why I Have to Go Back to Costa Rica

Four years ago my husband and I reluctantly stepped back on US soil, with the echo of howler monkeys still ringing in our ears, the heavy dew of the rain forest still kissing our sun-soaked skin and our hearts full of every single happy, soulful person we met on our 2 week road trip across Costa Rica. The initial concept of a Costa Rican trip sprung from my brother, as a picture perfect locale to propose to his then girlfriend. When we were invited to go along and be a part of his surprise, life-changing moment, we simply asked, “When do we leave?!” 
Every second of our whirlwind 15 day trip was planned with an adventurous spirit. Having rented a four-wheel drive vehicle, we made a conscious decision to tackle the rugged interior jungle roads and washed out coastal passages head on with the confidence that the villages and the people and the eco-systems we would discover off the beaten track would be a thousand times better than any walled-off, all-inclusive resort. We were right.
I will warn you that the title of this blog is a bit misleading. As you scroll down, you might notice that three out of the four reasons appear to be the same: Adventure. But, I will tell you that the adventure that exists on the west coast surf town of Playa Negra is completely different from the adventure that awaits in the northern rainforests of Monteverde which is a complete one hundred and eighty degrees away from the adventure that we found on the more laid-back Caribbean coastal town of Puerto Viejo and the Panamanian border-town of Manzanillo.
Every single inch of the more than one thousand kilometers we traversed, was brimming with Pura Vida. I’m here to tell you that once you visit Costa Rica, it will live in your bones, your blood, your heart forever. We are dreaming of the day we will go back with our daughter, to introduce her to its wild jungles, watch her eyes widen at the sight of its majestic coasts, revel in its beautiful family-oriented culture and most of all inject her with a little of its happiness. Pura Vida! 

1 | Adventure

This is an awesome video my, now sister-in-law took as she and my brother zip-lined through the cloud rain forests of Monteverde, Costa Rica! My husband and I were right in front of them! It was a magical and exhilarating once-in-a-lifetime experience!

2 | Adventure

The surfing in Playa Negra is world class, the beaches are stunning and the villagers are warm and inviting!

Surfing in Costa Rica

3 | Adventure

The chances of walking 5 feet without a wildlife sighting is pretty low, in Costa Rica. One of my absolute favorite things while we were exploring the west coast was being woken up in the middle of the night by the howler monkeys. It was like a deep, melodic reminder that I was in the middle of the jungle. It’s also a nice added bonus to have a professional photographer for a husband to capture all of the beauty we witnessed, so we can remember it for ever!

Wildlife in Costa Rica

4 | Pura Vida

This totally out of focus and not-so-flattering picture of me and my hubby biking through the Gandoca Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge on the southeastern most tip of Costa Rica pretty much sums up the pure joy and happiness we felt.

Biking in Costa Rica