Winter had been long and full of snow-shoveling in the Sierra Nevada, so the prospect of a warmer climate and family fun was calling our names.
Fairfield, California, fit this description perfectly. Just a few hours’ drive from us, it was a destination we had been to before and promised to return to when the kids were old enough for kayaking the Suisun Marsh. Conveniently situated off of I-80, the area boasts a range of family-friendly activities, including sugary treats and outdoor exploration. Best of all, Fairfield gets no snow and averages more than 250 days of sun annually—no heavy jackets required!
The four of us were ready. Tayla, aged 10, Jake, aged 8, my husband, Alex, and I left our snowy home with enthusiasm for the perfect Fairfield weather.
We had a three-day weekend booked to enjoy our time in Fairfield and arrived on a clear Friday evening. After checking into our hotel and grabbing a quick bite of dinner, everyone was keen for an evening adventure.
“Anyone up for some kart racing?” I asked, having read about the local track in the Fairfield Visitor Guide in our hotel.
“I’m in!” Tayla responded enthusiastically. Her brother agreed—now that doesn’t happen every day!
Driven Raceway promised a world of fun, and fortunately, we had plenty of time to drive—Fridays boast an 11 p.m. closing time. We opted to sign up for memberships, as this meant we could take advantage of package deals for multiple races.
Jake had never raced a kart before, so I kept a close eye on him, but I soon realized I didn’t need to worry. The team at Driven Raceway offers kid-appropriate karts, and they’re happy to help train smaller racers. Both of our kids were soon whizzing around the track, huge smiles on their faces.
“I’ll race you,” I challenged Alex.
“Ha, I can take you!” he returned.
We sped around the track in faster karts, suitably thrilling for adults. Who won? I’ll never tell… but let’s just say one of us is demanding a rematch.
If you’re the parent of a train enthusiast (as we are), then you have the opportunity to make their day in Fairfield. On Saturday morning, Jake was hopping up and down over the prospect of a visit to the Western Railway Museum. Of all the options for museums in and around Fairfield, we had suspected that this would be his pick.
The museum preserves the electric railway history of the area and displays more than 50 historic cars. We were all enthusiastic about taking a ride on the streetcar and the interurban.
“Mom, this is the best!” Jake enthused.
The entry fees were very affordable and included our train tickets. We also spent an hour or so on a guided tour through the museum with a very knowledgeable volunteer docent. Jake had a lot of questions, and they were happy to answer.
Following the museum, both kids were excited about our next stop—the famous Jelly Belly Candy Company. The free, self-guided Jelly Belly factory tour shows the production of the delicious candy from start to finish. The kids had their noses pressed to the glass, looking at the boxes of jelly beans on the factory floor, separated by colors.
“So much candy!” Tayla said, in awe of it all.
“I dare you to try this,” Jake challenged, holding up a free sample box of their BeanBoozled candies.
“Don’t be fooled,” I told Tayla. “The contents of that box are a gamble for your taste buds.”
Tayla took a deep breath and grabbed a colorful bean—the back of the box informed us could be stinky socks or Tutti-Fruitti. The look on her face as she spat the bean into a napkin said it all. “Your turn,” she told Jake.
Luckily, they also gave out free samples of their regular Jelly Belly candy. We devoured those, along with some sweet selections from their gift shop, on the way back to our hotel.
Sunday dawned, and we were treated to another warm and bright day in Fairfield. Today, we had planned an activity that Alex and I had been looking forward to for some time—kayaking the Suisun Marsh. We all enjoyed a hearty breakfast to gear up for our adventure.
Suisun Marsh is the largest contiguous estuarine marsh in the US, covering 84,000 acres. We booked a tour with Grizzly Waters Kayaking, located at the Suisun Boat Ramp, a short drive from Fairfield. The guides went over some basic instructions and safety precautions first, which I noticed gave the kids more confidence.
To say the Suisun Marsh area is gorgeous is an understatement. Our Nature Paddle tour showed us intricate ecosystems, sea lions and egrets. Along the way, the guides explained just how important the California Delta is and how it provides drinking water for Californians and a home for local wildlife. The day was sunny, and the paddling was relatively easy.
“This is the life,” I sighed, soaking up the sunlight and natural vistas.
Alex, an amateur photographer, got some amazing shots of egrets proudly stalking around the marsh. The kids took to the kayaking quickly and were sad when our two-hour tour came to an end. We agreed to keep paddling on our own for a bit longer in the rental kayaks, after devouring a picnic lunch. Paddling is hungry work!
After an exhilarating day of outdoor exploration, we hopped in the car to head back to the hotel, all of us tired but happy.
"Six Flags tomorrow?" Tayla asked.
“You bet,” I answered. Fairfield is a short drive to the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom theme park in Vallejo and is the perfect base from which to visit it.
I asked the kids if they were having a fun vacation so far, and the happy looks on their faces in the rear-view mirror made it clear.
“I got to see trains AND sea lions!” Jake exclaimed.
“And I didn’t have to shovel any snow,” Alex chimed in with a wink.
I looked over at Alex with a smile, thankful to Fairfield for a much-needed warm escape.