In our parenting column—Surviving Until Naptime—Neel Garlapati and Karin Mak offer advice to other young parents in Alhambra. They touch on all things kids-related in and around the SGV, from entertainment, to health, to education. This week, they share an itinerary for a morning trip around Alhambra and Monterey Park.
Last summer the Alhambra Farmer’s Market relocated from its long-time location in a parking lot off Monterey Street, to Second Street right outside of the recently renovated library and City Hall. We had been shopping at the old location for nearly a decade and did not welcome the change, but have found that it has its benefits—one of which is breakfast.
Speaking of the library, it is true that most libraries don’t open until 1:00pm on Sundays, but given that one of the SGV’s most popular farmer's markets is bustling from 8:30am to noon at the literal doorstep of Alhambra’s newly renovated library, might it make sense to open at 10:00am on Sundays? What good is a library if it is not open at the one time during the week when the most people would be likely to take advantage of it? Why not simply switch the Sunday and Saturday hours so the library opens at 1:00pm on Saturdays and 10:00am on Sundays?
Back to breakfast though. As we have frequently declared, our kids are early risers. On Sundays this is not always a bad thing because if we can get them out of the house then we have a chance at getting the first choice of fresh produce at the market. With the location change, our rallying cry to get the kids out of the house has been the Diner on Main’s silver dollar pancakes. We are both accomplished home chefs, with proven recipes for almond waffles and pumpkin pancakes, but for our kids, nothing can compare to cheap white flour pancakes with gobs of syrup and whipped butter. The Diner on Main serves comfort food and the place is filled with kitschy, nostalgic 1950s and 60s Americana. More importantly, they are open at 7:00am every day. Did we mention our kids get up early?
We try to arrive at the diner well before the Farmer’s Market’s opening bell rings at 8:30. That way, once we are done with breakfast we can simply hop across the street for the first-pick of produce. One of the appeals of the Alhambra Farmer’s Market is that it doesn’t trot out a bunch of bells and whistles. There are no clowns or face painters, no gourmet food trucks lining the streets. The focus has always been on the produce. Amid the lack of entertainment our kids have learned the art of heavy sampling (followed by heavy purchasing by their parents after they ransack the citrus stand’s samples for the third straight time). One of their favorite things to do is share a fresh young coconut—their heads awkwardly jammed together while they each attempt to suck every drop of liquid out of the coconut shell. Electrolytes for the kids and entertainment for their parents!
The ramp leading up to the library’s west patio is a great place for the kids to run free without irritating shoppers. They like to pretend they are battling monsters (parents) at the top and run all the way to the bottom of the ramp (excellent for tiring them out). They also like to scout around the area searching for brown widow spiders—of which there are a surprising amount!
The Farmer's Market doesn’t have much shade, so we usually try to finish our shopping before it starts getting real hot. Once we have made our way back across the street and piled all our groceries into the car, we often will head to one of the many fantastic parks in the Alhambra/Monterey Park area. Stayed tuned for a review of parks and playgrounds in a future article. For today, we’ll focus on one of our kids’ favorites: La Loma Park. This is a nice, quiet park with a playground that the City of Monterey Park recently renovated. The play structure includes a pirate ship theme and has a few musical features as well. This play area has a reasonable amount of shade and a few nice picnic tables under some large oak trees where you can enjoy a packed lunch.
Otherwise, you may want to head over to Bollini’s Pizzeria Napolitana nearby for fantastic wood-fired pizza made by a locally raised chef trained in Italy. Pro tip: If you are going to Bollini’s, it’s a good idea to arrive shortly after they open. It is a small restaurant and it fills up. If you call ahead with your pizza order and let them know you are dining in, they’ll have a table ready for you and your pizza will be out in a flash.
Tip number two: If you are visiting La Loma Park during a little league game you can head up the stairs to the concession stand and buy a cheap lunch of hot dogs, sausages and burgers for the whole family. If you want to get some exercise and wear out your kids, have them walk up and down the stairs between the playground and the two little league fields a few times. It builds character! And if you are lucky it might be just enough to wear them out for naptime.