2/2/16

Arches National Park {with kids}

It's time for another Traveling Tuesday post. I'm starting off with documenting some of the amazing places we visited last summer during our vacation out west. In July of 2015 we set out on a grand vacation through the southwest. We traveled for 21 days and over 6,000 miles, visiting 5 states and 9 National Parks. We explored new places and met up with old friends. Overall, it was an incredible journey and everyone learned so much. You can view all posts about our wild west adventure here.

Destination: Arches National Park
Date of Visit: July 2015
Kids: Cole (age 8) & Kiley (age 5)
Length of Stay: 3 Days & 3 Nights

After our day in Canyonlands National Park, we spent the night at our amazing hotel in Moab. I can't recommend the Gonzo Inn enough. The rooms were clean and very spacious, they had a laundry room where I could wash clothes and a nice pool. It was one of the best places we stayed on our trip out west. We woke up early and it was actually overcast and surprisingly cool. Someone told us it was the coolest day in July that Moab had seen in the last 20 years. This was awesome for us because I was worried about we were going to be hot. We began our day by heading up to Landscape Arch. The hike was great, nice and cool. This is an easy hike for the kids because it is fairly flat and sandy.


After Landscape Arch, we headed over to the Delicate Arch viewpoint. I had originally planned for us to get up early and hike to Delicate, but since we had booked a Fiery Furnace hike for our last day I didn't want to overdo it. It turns out that this was a great decision because the Fiery Furnace was extremely strenuous and I probably would have killed the kids attempting to do 2 difficult hikes in 2 days. After the Delicate Arch viewpoint we found a place to eat a little lunch.



Our after lunch adventure was my favorite for the day. We hiked up to Double Arch where you can climb around under the arch and explore a little in the rocks. The kids really enjoyed this one and the fact that there is quiet a bit of shade under the Arch helped. The clouds had cleared by this point and it was starting to get hot. This is an easy and short hike to do with kids. There were even people pushing strollers along the sandy trail.



On our way back down to the Visitor Center we stopped at Balancing Rock because Cole was dying to take this picture. Then it was time for another Junior Ranger badge and back to the hotel for some swimming.


On our second full day in Moab we decided to spend some time leisurely exploring the town. This was the first real souvenir and window shopping we had done since we started our trip. We had passed this real life Tow-Mater truck near hotel and the kids wanted to stop for a picture. The next order of business was the Rock Shop.




We wandered around a little more and bought a few t-shirts and loitered in a bookstore before grabbing some lunch. After lunch we headed over to Canyonlands by Night and Day for our boat tour. The boat tour took us up the Colorado River where we got to see arches, petroglyphs and lots of other fun landmarks. Our guide was great and very knowledgeable. This was the perfect relaxing day in Moab, and I'm glad we took the time to chill a little. The next day we would hike the Fiery Furnace trail inside Arches and it was strenuous to say the least. I'm going to dedicate a separate post to that experience, so stay tuned.


Highlights: Hiking to Double Arch was everyone's favorite part of our day in the park. Everyone also enjoyed exploring the town. This was the the biggest "town" we saw on our trip so it was fun to do a little souvenir shopping with the kids.

What We Would Change: Really, I wouldn't change much about our time at Arches. I think we saw pretty much everything that was kid friendly enough to hike to. I'm glad we had planned to pack our lunches in on the first day, because it does take a while to get all the way back out to the park to eat. 

Recommended Reading: I highly recommend the Foder's guide to National Parks of the West, we used it when planning our trip and it was a great resource. I liked that there were plenty of suggestions to exploring the parks with kids.



1/26/16

Canyonlands National Park {with kids}

It's Tuesday, and that means it's time for my Traveling Tuesday post. I'm starting off with documenting some of the amazing places we visited last summer during our vacation out west. In July of 2015 we set out on a grand vacation through the southwest. We traveled for 21 days and over 6,000 miles, visiting 5 states and 9 National Parks. We explored new places and met up with old friends. Overall, it was an incredible journey and everyone learned so much. You can view all posts about our wild west adventure here.

Date of Visit: July 2015
Kids: Cole (age 8) & Kiley (age 5)
Length of Stay: 1 Half Day

We left our hotel outside Capitol Reef and headed towards Moab where we would visit Canyonlands & Arches National Park. The drive didn't take very long and we arrived in Moab well before we could check into our hotel so we decided to head into Canyonlands, the Island in the Sky district, right away. Besides the visitor center, there are not many amenities in Canyonlands. We decided to stop in Moab to pick up some food for a picnic lunch before heading into the park, and after the long drive up to the visitor center, I was glad we did.

We stopped by the visitor center to pick up Junior Ranger books and then enjoyed a picnic lunch at the tables right outside. We hiked to Mesa Arch and it was pretty amazing. It would end up being the closest we would get to an arch with the fewest amount of people around so I'm glad we took the time to take some pictures.





After stopping by the ranger station for Junior Ranger badges we headed to our hotel to check in.

Highlights: The kids loved Mesa Arch. The fact that you can walk right up to it was very cool. It was a great introduction to the arches we'd see the next day at Arches National Park. Canyonlands gets a lot fewer visitors than it's more popular neighbor Arches so it was fun to visit without the crowds. Also, the hotel we stayed in Moab was the Gonzo Inn. Let me tell you, it was amazing. The perfect place for families. Our room had a separate bedroom and a small kitchen. It was wonderful to spread out after being in standard hotel rooms for the last week.

What We Would Change: Canyonlands is divided up into 3 different districts and we only had time to visit the Island in the Sky while we were there. We had planned to the Needles later in the week, but decided the kids really needed a rest day. Since we were doing so much hiking in Arches later in the week. I would love to go back to the area and spend more time in Canyonlands.

Recommended Reading: I highly recommend the Foder's guide to National Parks of the West, we used it when planning our trip and it was a great resource. I liked that there were plenty of suggestions to exploring the parks with kids.


1/22/16

STEM Gifts for Kids {as seen on Jacksonville Moms Blog}

Christmas has come and gone, but STEM Gifts never go out of style. Perfect for birthdays and other special occasions, head on over to the Jacksonville Moms Blog to read about a few of my favorites.

1/19/16

Capitol Reef National Park {with kids}

It's time for another Traveling Tuesday post. I'm starting off with documenting some of the amazing places we visited last summer during our vacation out west. In July of 2015 we set out on a grand vacation through the southwest. We traveled for 21 days and over 6,000 miles, visiting 5 states and 9 National Parks. We explored new places and met up with old friends. Overall, it was an incredible journey and everyone learned so much. You can view all posts about our wild west adventure here.

Date of Visit: July 2015
Kids: Cole (age 8) & Kiley (age 5)
Length of Stay: 2 Days & 2 Nights
After our stay at Bryce Canyon we headed to Capitol Reef National Park. We took Historic Highway 12, which is also knows as Hell's Backbone. Highway 12 is known as one of the most scenic roads in America, and it certainly was that. But it was also one of the most terrifying roads I've ever been on. If you have a fear of heights or suffer from motion sickness, then I would not recommend it. But we survived, and on the other end of the adventure was an amazing farm-to-table restaurant called Hell's Backbone Grill. We stopped for a late breakfast/early lunch and it was just as delicious as I imagined it would be. The kids loved running around in the garden, and I loved the french toast.

Stretching their legs and enjoying the scenery.


Seriously YUM!

After our delicious brunch, we headed right over to Capitol Reef National Park. We stopped by the visitor center for Junior Ranger books and then spent a little time exploring the park. Capitol Reef has an awesome Ripple Rock Nature Center that is perfect for kids of all ages. We ended up spending quiet a bit of time there. They had interactive activities that both kids loved.

When we were done with the nature center we headed to our hotel. At this park we stayed at the Red Sands Hotel. The rooms were clean, but very small. They did have a pool, and free breakfast, so that's always nice.

We decided to get going early on our second day at Capitol Reef National Park and we headed straight for the Hickman Bridge Trail. Several different rangers had said that it was their favorite trail in the park, so that was enough of a recommendation for me. The first part of the trail was a little steep and there was very little shade. But the second part had a little more cover and flattened out.


The Park Rangers were right, this was a great trail for kids. There were tons of great rocks to climb on and lots of hidden areas to explore right on the trail. I would list this trail as moderate when done with kids. It was steep in the beginning and a little rocky, but it certainly wasn't hard. 


After our morning hike we found a nice picnic area in the park and relaxed and ate the lunch we had brought with us. There were deer running around right in the picnic area, the were everywhere in the park. The kids then went and turned in their Junior Ranger books for another badge.

Capitol Reef is rich in history and we enjoyed hiking along the petroglyphs and the old orchards. The kids picked fruit and we bought pies from the Gifford House. Overall, I would say this was the most kid friendly park we visited, they really did have something for everyone

Apples eaten right off the tree.

Highlights: The Hickman Bridge hike was my favorite part, but the kids loved the nature center. We even went back there on our second day so they could take a Junior Geology class. This park was my daughter's (age 5) favorite of all the places we visited on this trip. We also so the most amount of wildlife at this park. Hands down, this was the most kid friendly park we have ever visited.

What We Would Change: Really, I wouldn't change much about our time at Capitol Reef. We could have done another day of hiking, but it sounded like many of the other trails weren't as kid friendly so I'm not even sure that was necessary. 

Recommended Reading: I highly recommend the Foder's guide to National Parks of the West, we used it when planning our trip and it was a great resource. I liked that there were plenty of suggestions to exploring the parks with kids.









1/12/16

Bryce Canyon National Park {with kids}

This is my second installment in my Traveling Tuesday initiative for 2016, I'm starting off with documenting some of the amazing places we visited last summer during our vacation out west. In July of 2015 we set out on a grand vacation through the southwest. We traveled for 21 days and over 6,000 miles, visiting 5 states and 9 National Parks. We explored new places and met up with old friends. Overall, it was an incredible journey and everyone learned so much. You can view all posts about our wild west adventure here.

Date of Visit: July 2015
Kids: Cole (age 8) & Kiley (age 5)
Length of Stay: 2 Full Days & 3 Nights
We had arrived late in the evening to Bryce after leaving a full day of adventure at Zion National Park. We stayed at the Best Western Bryce Grand Hotel and I can say that it was surprisingly nice and the room was larger than I expected. It also has a free breakfast and pool, which are very nice when you're traveling with kids. There are surprisingly few amenities near Bryce Canyon so I was glad I had stocked up on some snacks and other food before leaving St. George, Utah. 

Since I knew we'd be here for a few days we took it easy on our first day in the park. We started at the visitor center where the kids picked up Junior Ranger books. Then we headed further into the park where we walked along the rim, from Sunset to Sunrise point. Unlike Zion, you can actually drive into Bryce and we had no problem finding parking spaces at the various spots throughout the park. We attended a ranger program about the geology of the area and learned that Bryce isn't actually a canyon, it's technically an amphitheater. My kids are STILL talking about the fact that it's named incorrectly. The kids sat for while and worked on their Junior Ranger books. I would like to note that the Junior Ranger books at Bryce were the hardest we've ever encountered. Even the word search my 5 year old had to complete was difficult. Plan accordingly and allow enough time if you're going to complete them with your kids.

Once the kids had their books filled out we headed back to the visitor center so they could get sworn in and receive their Junior Ranger badges.

Since we decided to take it easy with hiking on this day, we spent the afternoon swimming at the hotel and exploring some of the shops outside the park. Cole was in love with the rock shop we found and there was even a place for ice cream. Overall, it was a nice relaxing day.

Our second day in Bryce Canyon we started out strong with big plans for a day of hiking. I had packed a picnic lunch for us and tons of extra snacks. We decided to attempt the Navajo Loop Trail which goes down into the amphitheater (remember it's not really a canyon). This trail is listed as moderate to strenuous because of how steep it is, and also because much of the decent has loose sandy footing that makes it a little slippery if you have on regular sneakers (which we did).

This passthrough was at the beginning of the trail. Let's just say the kids were excited about what else they would discover along the way.


Let me just tell you that the trail was amazing. We went slow and let the kids explore and climb on rocks along the way. They loved the unbelievable views from the bottom.



When we got down to the very bottom we found a nice spot for a snack and a rest. There were a surprisingly large amount of birds and small critters for us to watch while we rested. This trail was crowded right at the top, but it seemed that many people weren't interested in venturing all the way down to the bottom. 

 We made it back up to the top right before lunch. This is a picture of us on the way up, you can see Thor's Hammer in the background. We enjoyed a picnic lunch while we recovered from the steep climb out of the amphitheater. After lunch we drove all the way to the highest point in Bryce Canyon. There is a short, 1 mile trail called the Pinecone Loop that we did with the kids. It was flat and very east. Then it was back to the hotel for our afternoon swim in the pool.

Highlights: The Navajo Loop Trail was everyone's favorite adventure at Bryce. Also, the star gazing at Bryce Canyon is some of the best in the world. We were there during a new moon and the sky was exceptionally dark. The only downfall was that during the summer it doesn't get really dark until about 9:30pm and the kids were very tired after long days.

What We Would Change: I hadn't realized that there were so few amenities around Bryce Canyon. There was no big grocery store and very few restaurants. I wish I had done more research ahead of time and planned to pack in more food options for us. We ate at the Canyon Diner one night, which was horrible. After that experience we booked a reservation at the lodge inside the park

Recommended Reading: I highly recommend the Foder's guide to National Parks of the West, we used it when planning our trip and it was a great resource. I liked that there were plenty of suggestions to exploring the parks with kids.