Strawberry picking with kids may not be on the top of your list of things to do during a visit to San Diego or Carlsbad, but after a couple of fun-packed days riding roller coasters and kiddie rides at LEGOLAND California, your family will probably be ready for a nature-inspired down day. Lucky for you, there is Carlsbad Strawberry Company, a u-pick farm and fruit stand just around the corner from LEGOLAND, Carlsbad's most popular attraction. Here's what you need to know before you go.
What to wear
I wish I had thought through what to wear before my family's visit! Don't dress your brood in their finest attire for your strawberry picking session. Your kids will likely get a bit (or A LOT) of bright red juice on their clothing during your outing. It's best to wear something not-too-fancy and dark-colored to avoid stains. Unless it is a blazing hot day, I suggest wearing long pants because the vines can be a tad scratchy, particularly on sensitive young legs. Sport closed-toe shoes to keep feet from getting too dusty and to avoid stubbing tootsies.
When to go strawberry picking
You can pick berries at the 80-acre Carlsbad Strawberry Company u-pick farm typically spring through July. Hours are 9 am-5 pm.
What to do at the fields
Before you start plucking the little red treasures, you must pay. You can buy a huge bucket (like we did) or get a smaller, snack-size version. Next explain to young ones how to pick the strawberries. You don't want the kiddos to select a bunch of unripened green berries or to grab rotting fruit either. Tell them to pick the darkest red berries they can find while avoiding any that look squishy or that are dripping with juice. Warn kids that they are not to eat any of the fruit until you get home (or back to your hotel room) where you can wash them. You don't want anyone getting sick from ingesting pesticides or natural bacteria. You should also stop by the rules sign and read off each item to make sure everyone understands what are the no-nos, like stepping on plants or picking berries with long stems.
What to do with all those strawberries
If you are staying in a hotel, get the smaller bucket and use the strawberries for a healthy and delicious snack during your vacation. If you live in Southern California or you are staying in a rental condo or home that has a kitchen, splurge on big bucket so you can make some fun strawberry goodies.
Strawberry daiquiri recipe
If you have access to a blender, strawberry daiquiris are the perfect treat for vacation (or to feel like you are on vacation). After tweaking a recipe I found online, here's my strawberry daiquiri recipe:
* 2 oz dark rum
* 1/2 oz triple sec
* Juice from one key lime
* 1/2 tsp sugar (more if using light rum)
* About 1 cup ice
* 10 strawberries (stems removed)
Put everything in the blender and puree on high until it's the right slushy consistency.
Your offspring will be bouncing up and down with excitement so make the kiddie cocktails first, omitting the booze, of course. For an added treat, top with whipped cream, or create a sugar rim on the glass by rubbing the rim with a lime and then dipping it into a sugar-filled plate. Garnish with a strawberry.
Fresh strawberry pie recipe
If you have access to an oven, you can't go wrong with a strawberry pie. (Don't forget to make sure you have a pie pan back at your vacation rental, or purchase one at the grocery store!) Here's a super-simple fresh strawberry pie recipe:
* Pre-made pie crust
* About 1.5 quarts strawberries (stems removed)
* Strawberry glaze, like Comstock in the baking aisle or Marzetti's in the produce aisle
* Whipped cream
Bake crust and let cool. Add strawberries and top with glaze. Chill in the refrigerator for about an hour. Top with whipped cream before serving.
Why to go strawberry picking with kids
Spending time outdoors with your children while working together on a simple project like berry picking is one of life's sweetest pleasures. It's an inexpensive and fun activity that all ages can enjoy.
Fruit picking enables city and suburbanite children to learn firsthand how fruit grows, which just might encourage healthy eating. Unlike his fruit-gobbling big sister, Karissa, my 4-year-old son is afraid of vegetables and especially fruits. As a baby Leo refused to eat any baby food fruits of any kind, store-bought or homemade. When I say he is afraid, I mean he has an all-out phobia of fruits — bananas, apples, peaches, berries — you name it, he's afraid of it.
Leo started eating corn-the-cob shortly after we visited a corn field and he saw how that yellow vegetable was growing right there on the stalks! For Father's Day this year we wanted to do something outdoorsy together as a family. We decided to head to the strawberry fields to encourage some berry biting.
Did he bite a strawberry? Well, no. But he did lick one…three times! Sure, it was coated with a sweet glaze from the strawberry pie I had made. Although he has yet to bite one, he now he claims to like strawberries. I call that progress!
How to get to the Carlsbad Strawberry Company
Carlsbad Strawberry Company is located at the corner of Cannon Road and Paseo del Norte, east of I-5 at the Cannon Road Exit, near LEGOLAND California.
An unfortunate update
This story originally posted July 2012. My family returned to the Carlsbad Strawberry Company in April 2014 and we were disappointed to find that they now charge a minimum of $10 per person to pick strawberries. Children under age 5 are free. This new pricing is due to huge groups of people taking advantage of the Carlsbad Strawberry Company's u-pick field previous pricing and stealing strawberries. We could not afford (nor could we eat) $40 worth of strawberries, so we sent our two children into the fields to pick fruit alone. It is no longer the family fun activity it once was, but hopefully the policy will change back soon!
Have you ever gone strawberry picking with kids? What did your kids think about the experience? Let us know in the comments!
A Note from The Travel Mama: I did not receive any media discounts or freebies related to this post. All opinions are mine, as always!
All photos by Colleen Lanin.