Family Adventures: Up in the Air and Down to Earth

Sunday Signal

California offers a host of fun places to go and things to see for families with children. California is also a place for dreaming big dreams, for seeking and finding adventure.

Summer is a great time to experience a true family adventure.  

Here’s two ways to make family time, adventure time, either up in the air or down to earth.  

Up, Up and Away

If you’ve ever dreamed of flying up, up and away, a hot air ballooning adventure may be what you’ve been seeking.

Magical Adventure Balloon Rides

Balloon Port: South Coast Winery Resort and Spa event parking lot, 34843 Rancho California Road, Temecula, 92591


Snow-capped mountains to the east, the pacific coast to the west, a landscape of lush rolling hills and a climate of ocean swept air, this is Temecula, southern California’s wine country. The experience includes a post flight celebration with champagne, juice or mimosa toast, an assortment of individually wrapped breakfast items, a private tour of the Hug A Duck exotic petting zoo, free chocolate samples from Sugarplum Chocolates, a commemorative flight certificate, free digital souvenir pictures and complimentary celebratory banners.

A Grape Escape Hot Air Balloon Adventure

Balloon Port: Europa Village Winery, 33475 La Serena Way, Temecula, 92591


Temecula is the perfect location for hot air ballooning, it is easy to relax as you float over the countryside.  The cool morning breezes, consistent weather and open land provide guests the best conditions for hot air balloon rides.

Strike it Rich

Sadly, there are no places where you can dig up dinosaur bones in California, but you can visit fee digging sites to find gold and gems.

For a complete nationwide list of fee digging sites, which include areas where you can dig up dinosaur fossils, visit

Here’s a few places you might strike it rich.

California State Gem Mine

The Historic Old Road Camp

48242 Los Gatos Road, Coalinga, 93210


Did you know that California has a state gem? It does, and the gem is called Benitoite.

Benitoite is one of the rarest gemstones in the world. Gem quality stones and other mineral specimens can only be found one place on earth, a small 40-acre parcel of land in the Diablo Mountain Range of San Benito County (three hours from the Santa Clarita Valley). Benitoite was first discovered at the California State Gem Mine in 1907. It was first thought to be a sapphire or a blue diamond because of the deep blue color and beautiful internal fire. After samples were sent to the University of California for examination in the early 1900’s, it was discovered to be a new mineral.

Gem quality Benitoite can be worth more than a diamond.

The mine has been featured on Travel Channel’s television show “Finding Cash and Treasures” as well as other television programs.

Visits are by reservation only. Make reservation 2-3 days in advance at (559) 287-4096.

For your admission fee you are allowed to take home one quart-sized baggie of finds per person.

Pricing: $70 per person, kids 12 and younger, $20.

The mine provides screens, shovels, washing tables, quart sized bags, UV blacklight room to look through your material and employees to demonstrate, assist and identify your finds.

You will need to bring clear safety glasses for the blacklight room, lunches, drinks and lawn chairs. A pop-up shade is recommended for summer and gloves are recommended for winter.

Gold Prospecting Adventures

18170 Main St., Jamestown, 95327


This great family outing guarantees you will find gold on every trip of two hours or more and you keep all the gold you find. The guides, dressed in period costume, offer everyone a genuine and comprehensive gold rush experience. Pan for gold at a real gold mining camp located on a shady, gold bearing creek in the heart of the Motherlode. Gold Prospecting Adventures has a variety of gold discovery options.

Himalaya Tourmaline Mine

Lake Henshaw 26439 Hwy 76, Santa Ysabel, 92070


Seen on Travel “Finding Cash and Treasures” this mine is open year-round, Thursday-Sunday, with no reservations necessary. Located near Santa Ysabel, this is a fun gem and crystal dig. Many minerals can be found at the mine including pink and green tourmaline, black tourmaline, quartz crystals, spessartine garnet, lepidolite and a variety of others. Keep everything you find.   

Pricing: Adult $75, youth 13-15 $37.50, children 12 and under are free with a paying adult. Additional children $20 each. Discounts: Senior and active military rate $60.

Bring sun hat or rain gear, muddy shoes, rubber gloves, tooth brush, baggie for your crystals and a small bucket, or bin, for specimens.  Tissue paper for wrapping your crystals and specimens.

Roaring Camp Mining Company

13010 Tabeau Road, Pine Grove, 95665


In the heart of the California Mother Lode Country Roaring Camp was once a camp for Forty Niners, but since it was so inaccessible, most of the gold still remains. Visitors can see an operating gold mine and can mine their own gold by panning, sluicing, metal detecting and dry washing.

An all-day guided gold panning tour is $40 per person. All Day Guided Gold Panning Tour. Pan for gold, collect rocks, fish, hike and enjoy river swimming in nature’s most beautiful swimming hole. Enjoy lunch at the Trading Post or bring a picnic lunch. A great place to spend a day on the river with your family. Tours Sunday-Friday, 10 a.m.-return to your car at 4 p.m.

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