My family loves the Irvine Regional Park. We’ve made the “trek” to the foothills for school field trips, church picnics and just-for-the-fun-of-it train rides, and zoo visits. When Irvine Macaroni Kids asked me to check out this weekend’s launch of the annual Easter Eggstravaganza at Irvine Park Railroad, I quickly carved out a few hours in our already packed weekend. Please note that although I have personally paid for all previous trips to the Irvine Park Railroad, this particular visit, including all of our activities and even popcorn was provided at no charge by the Irvine Park Railroad. The opinions in this blog are my own, with no influence from the Irvine Park Railroad.
We are in the middle of a March heatwave, so I thought we must be crazy to take the littles further inland to warmer weather, but the entire Easter Eggstravaganza is shaded by park trees. It was a serendipitous escape from the heatwave.
Living gluten-free means always having food with you… rule #2 (right after, don’t eat gluten), so I packed a picnic lunch with extra veggies, to compensate for the upcoming egg-hunt sugar high. There were plenty of picnic tables, and several families set out picnic blankets under the trees. We found no shortage of charming picnic spots.
While picnicking, we scoped out our first stop, the Easter Bunny, who was super sweet with the littles, even with Miss E constantly touching his nose. For $10, you can get a photo taken with the Easter Bunny (additional photos are $6).
The egg hunt was the favorite activity for both kids. Technically, Miss E said her favorite was the jolly rancher (gluten-free) she found in one of her eggs… I guess the actual hunt was a close second. Sadly, we’ve all been to an egg hunt where toddlers are left with almost no eggs, while older children, and worse, often parents, are less than thoughtful about the very little egg-hunters. Not so at the Easter Eggstravaganza egg hunt. They provide a tear-free egg hunt with a few simple rules. Visitors may select a hunt appropriate for the age of their children. We chose ages 2-7, but there was a younger 2-4 hunt available. Parents are not allowed to gather any eggs. Each child finds eight eggs… plus as much as they want of (name-brand) candy generously scattered all over the lawn. Every child, of every age, had fun at the egg hunt.
The kids then each traded a ticket for 10 minutes in the moon bounce, which gave me just enough time to sort through Miss E’s candy and find out which items were gluten-free. These candy lists from the Celiac Disease Foundation were my go-to source. The folks running the egg hunt were kind enough to show me the label for the jelly beans, which were not gluten-free. Thankfully, Miss E’s jolly rancher… along with about half of her candy (more than enough for any three-year-old) was gluten-free.
As a family, we enjoyed a train ride and a hay ride, both providing beautiful views of the park, with the hay ride taking us even farther around the park. The train ride was CJ’s 2nd favorite activity and the hayride (complete with a sound system to set the mood) was my personal favorite.
The kiddos wrapped up our visit with face painting, carnival games where EVERYBODY wins, and popcorn (gluten-free by my checking of the label), enjoyed under the shade of a charming tree that begged to be climbed… despite the “do not climb” sign.
Gluten-free tips for your visit:
- Pack a picnic lunch. The only gluten-free item that I found at the concession stand was the popcorn (possibly nachos, but I didn’t read the labels to confirm). Even the fries are cooked in a shared fryer, used for corn dogs and chicken nuggets.
- Skip the cookie decorating (which looked really yummy, if you are on a gluten diet)
- Ask the top-quality, face painters to avoid your child’s mouth. They use hypo-allergenic makeup but were not certain if it contained gluten. This occurred to me after the fact with Miss E, so I just wiped the makeup off around her mouth, and chalked it up to a lesson learned for next time.
- For candy, check labels and/or use the candy lists from the Celiac Disease Foundation. (The Halloween Candy List was more helpful for the egg hunt than the Easter Candy List, which focuses more on easter basket items.)
I highly recommend a visit to the Irvine Park Railroad during the Easter Eggstravaganza. The event is open daily between now and April 4, 2015.
Meet & greet, and photo with the Easter Bunny: $10 (additional photos $6)
Tickets: $5 (book of 15 tickets: $60) One-ticket activities include: train ride, hay ride, egg hunt, 2 carnival games, cookie decorating, and moon bounce. Face painting requires two tickets.
Parking: $3 weekdays, $5 weekends
Coloring booth and bring-your-own-picnic: FREE!