4/19/16

Tucson with Kids {Reid Park Zoo}

In July of 2015 we spent a week in Tucson, Arizona visiting friends. Tucson is very different from our home in Jacksonville, Florida and the kids had a great time exploring new museums and restaurants. I'll be taking a few posts to review all the fun and exciting things we did in Tucson. You can click here to read through all of them.

Destination: Reid Park Zoo
Date of Visit: July 2015
Kids: Cole (age 8) & Kiley (age 5)
Length of Visit: 1/2 Day



We headed out one morning for a visit to the Reid Park Zoo. Reid Park had a baby elephant born last year and the kids had voted in the naming of baby Nandi so we thought it was only fitting to pay a visit while we were in town. My son is obsessed with elephants and I mean, look at how cute that baby is. Reid Park is a really nice little zoo. It was smaller than the Jacksonville Zoo, but a great way to spend part of the day.


Admission: Admission prices vary by age. Adults are $9 and kids (2-14) are $5. We actually used a b1g1 coupon my friend had, so that helped with the cost.

Food: There is a cafe right on property, so you can spend the entire day there and not have to leave for lunch. We packed in snacks and drinks and just ate them when we wanted to sit and rest. 

Tips: Tucson is hot in the summer. If you go to visit over the summer I recommend going to the zoo early to avoid the heat and crowds. Bring lots of water!

If you're interested in other things our family did in Tucson, click here. You can also read about all the National Parks we visited while traveling out west by clicking here


4/12/16

Tucson with Kids {Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum}

In July of 2015 we spent a week in Tucson, Arizona visiting friends. Tucson is very different from our home in Jacksonville, Florida and the kids had a great time exploring new museums and restaurants. I'll be taking a few posts to review all the fun and exciting things we did in Tucson. You can click here to read through all of them.

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


During our visit to Tucson, we got up early and headed out to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Although it's called a museum, it's more like a zoo and it was fabulous. They had tons of exhibits and animals, there was even an entire aviary filled with hummingbirds! Since it was mostly outside, by the end of the day we were hot. 


We loved the animal show. Not only was it fun and informative, but it was inside and air-conditioned. 


Touch tanks in Tucson, who knew?

I absolutely loved the humming bird aviary. We went in here 3 or 4 times throughout the day. The birds came right up close to you and I was able to take tons of pictures. Cole (8) even found a little nest with teeny, tiny eggs inside.


Admission: Admission prices vary by age. Adults are $20.50 and kids (3-12) are $8.00. We actually used a b1g1 coupon my friend had, so that helped with the cost.

Food: There are a few food choices right on property, so you can spend the entire day there and not have to leave for lunch. We packed in snacks and drinks and ate at the food court for lunch. The food was above average and not extremely expensive, so I was excited about that.

Tips: Tucson is hot in the summer. If you go to visit over the summer I recommend doing the outside part of the museum first and then go inside to look around in the air conditioning. I highly recommend this museum to families with kids of all ages. There is lots to do and see and you could easily spend the entire day there. Bring lots of water!

If you're interested in other things our family did in Tucson, click here. You can also read about all the National Parks we visited while traveling out west by clicking here


4/5/16

Tucson with Kids {Houston's Horseback Riding}

In July of 2015 we spent a week in Tucson, Arizona visiting friends. Tucson is very different from our home in Jacksonville, Florida and the kids had a great time exploring new museums and restaurants. I'll be taking a few posts to review all the fun and exciting things we did in Tucson. You can click here to read through all of them.

Date of Visit: July 2015
Kids: Cole (age 8) & Kiley (age 5)
Length of Visit: 2 Hours

Pretty much the only thing my daughter wanted to do on our trip out west was to ride horses. Since she's only 5, she was too young to ride down into the Grand Canyon, or even a trail in Bryce Canyon. So when we reached Tucson we started looking up places to take her horseback riding. We decided on an evening ride with Houston's Horseback Riding, that would take us through Saguaro National Park.



Since neither one of my kids had ever ridden horses before, I was a little concerned. But Houston's made sure they were safe and secure the entire time. Kiley (5) used a lead, which mean she was tethered to a professional rider so that her horse would follow along next to the pro. Cole (8) started out with a lead, and then was able to navigate the path on his own. The kids had so much fun. 

We wove our way through Saguaro National Park at sunset and a sprinkle of rain cooled us off, making it the perfect trip.


Cost: The trail rides aren't cheap. It's $60 cash per person for a 2 hour ride, and they charge an additional fee if you want to use a credit card.

Tips: Book your trail ride early, because we found that they fill up fast. Bring cash to avoid the credit card transaction fee. Pack lots of water, even riding in the cooler evening we all needed a drink after a while.

If you're interested in other things our family did in Tucson, click here. You can also read about all the National Parks we visited while traveling out west by clicking here

3/29/16

Tucson with Kids {Ben's Bells}


In July of 2015 we spent a week in Tucson, Arizona visiting friends. Tucson is very different from our home in Jacksonville, Florida and the kids had a great time exploring new museums and restaurants. I'll be taking a few posts to review all the fun and exciting things we did in Tucson. You can click here to read through all of them.

Destination: Ben's Bells Studio
Date of Visit: July 2015
Kids: Cole (age 8) & Kiley (age 5)
Length of Stay: 1/2 Day

When I found out we'd be spending a week in Tucson, I knew I wanted to include a trip to the Ben's Bells studio on our list of things to do. The mission of Ben's Bells is to spread kindness and I have always wanted to volunteer to paint, so we took everyone and spent an hour or two at the studio. This was the one thing I really wanted to do when we were in Tucson and it didn't disappoint. Everyone had a great time, and we picked up a few souvenirs.



Ben's Bells offers open studio time during which you can go and help out. The day we went they needed us to paint kindness coins. My kids, ages 5 & 8, loved this activity. We visited the Ben's Bells Main Gate studio and the employees were very welcoming and excited to have us. You don't need to call ahead, but I had emailed to make sure they would have something for us. There are lots of other shops and restaurants near the Main Gate studio and you can easily make this a fun day out with the kids.


Admission: It's technically free to volunteer at the Ben's Bells studio, but they do ask you to "bring a buck" as a donation. You can learn more about their open studio hours here.

Tips: I really think this is a great activity for kids of all ages. While we were painting we talked about what it meant to be kind and even bought a few kindness coins to bring back to Florida. Ben's Bells asks that you limit your party size to 6 people or less if you are coming to work during open studio hours. If you'd like to bring a bigger group, just contact them and they'll fit you in. Know that you will get messy!

If you're interested in other things our family did in Tucson, click here. You can also read about all the National Parks we visited while traveling out west by clicking here

3/22/16

Tucson with Kids {Pima Air & Space Museum}

In July of 2015 we spent a week in Tucson, Arizona visiting friends. Tucson is very different from our home in Jacksonville, Florida and the kids had a great time exploring new museums and restaurants. I'll be taking a few posts to review all the fun and exciting things we did in Tucson. You can click here to read through all of them.

Date of Visit: July 2015
Kids: Cole (age 8) & Kiley (age 5)
Length of Visit: 1/2 Day

We visited the Pima Air & Space Museum with our friends who live in Tucson. To say it has something for everyone is an understatement. The massive museum has planes as far as the eye can see. The kids loved climbing into all the different aircraft. 



The kids especially loved the Space Gallery with all the different simulators and exhibits.


There are acres and acres of outdoor exhibits.

Admission: Admission prices vary by age. Adults are $15.50 and kids (5-12) are $9.00. We actually used a b1g1 coupon my friend had, so that helped with the cost.

Food: There is a Flight Grill right on property, so you can spend the entire day there and not have to leave for lunch. We packed in snacks and drinks and just ate them when we wanted to sit and rest. Outside food is allowed in, but you can't eat while you're walking around looking at the exhibits.

Tips: Tucson is hot in the summer. If you go to visit over the summer I recommend doing the outside part of the museum first and then go inside to look around in the air conditioning. I highly recommend this museum to families with kids of all ages. There is lots to do and see and you could easily spend the entire day there. 

If you're interested in other things our family did in Tucson, click here. You can also read about all the National Parks we visited while traveling out west by clicking here

3/15/16

Saguaro National Park {with kids}


Another 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. 

Destination: Saguaro National Park
Date of Visit: July 2015
Kids: Cole (age 8) & Kiley (age 5)
Length of Stay: 1 Day



While in Tucson, we headed into Saguaro to hike among the gigantic cactus. The kids loved this park, and especially loved the Junior Ranger pack the let us borrow. At Saguaro they earned Junior Ranger badges and then, as a family, we earned "not so junior ranger" badges. Saguaro was my son's most anticipated park to visit. He has an obsession with cacti so this was right up his alley. Saguaro National Park is divided into two different districts, the East and the West. We only visited the east region of the park while we were there because of time constraints. 


He loved hiking the trails and identifying all the different cacti. Saguaro was by far the hottest park we visited. Make sure you go early and take LOTS of water. There is very little shade.

My kids loved the Junior Ranger Explore Packs that Saguaro provides to families visiting the park. It made it easy to complete their Junior Ranger books for another pin. Be sure to ask for one at the visitor center.

The kids earned their 9th Junior Ranger Badge on this visit.

Something unique to Saguaro was their Not So Junior Ranger Program. This is separate from the Junior Ranger Badge, and it's designed for older kids, or adults, or for the entire family to complete. Of course we participated, because after watching the kids earn badges all over the southwest, I wanted one of my own.

Highlights: The kids loved the Junior Ranger Pack that we checked out at the visitor center. Also, the Not So Junior Ranger Program was a hit with the entire family. Saguaro had a surprising amount of wildlife you could see if you went to visit early and beat the heat.

What We Would Change: I wish we would have had time to visit both regions of the park. Maybe next time.


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. 


3/8/16

Montezuma Castle National Park {with kids}

Happy Traveling Tuesday! I've been 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 Visit: 1/2 Day


We checked out of our hotel at the Grand Canyon early because we knew it was going to be a long day of travel on the way to Tucson. My friend, who is a park ranger, suggested that we plan to stop at Montezuma Castle National Park so the kids could stretch their legs (and earn another Junior Ranger badge). It was the perfect place for us to get out and walk around. There's short, paved trail that was the perfect length for us to walk. The kids completed the easy Junior Ranger book and we were on our way.


This is a small park, but it was still a fun visit. I would have liked to plan ahead next time and pack a lunch so we could picnic while we were there. They had a nice visitor center with a few hands-on activities that the kids loved.


Highlights: The kids both said they loved the visitor center at this park and they also loved that the short trail was paved.

What We Would Change: If we went again I would take a lunch and plan to picnic at the park. It had lots of shade and it was very well maintained. It makes a good 1/2 day trip if you're in the area.


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.


3/1/16

Grand Canyon National Park {with kids} Part 2

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. I divided my information about Grand Canyon into two separate posts, you can read part 1 here.

Date of Visit: July 2015
Kids: Cole (age 8) & Kiley (age 5)
Length of Stay: 3 Days

As I mentioned in my first post about Grand Canyon, we entered the park on the East side of the South Rim and started by exploring the Desert View Watchtower. Our second day in the park, we started off by exploring Grand Canyon National Park. The kids were up early and it was amazing because it felt like we had the entire canyon to ourselves. We decided to hike a little into the canyon and while we were down there the kids completed some items from their Junior Ranger books. The rest of the day was spent visiting the main visitor center, and the Geology Museum. We finished with dinner at El Tovar in their spectacular dining room.

The early bird gets the best view.

Bright Angel Trail will lead you all the way to the bottom of the canyon. We didn't go very far, but we did venture down a little for a great view.



Getting sworn in as Junior Rangers at the Grand Canyon.

The kids agreed that Grand Canyon had the best gift shops of all the parks we visited. They had been waiting to spend some souvenir money and were excited to find some good treasures. Cole picked a deck of Night Sky Constellation Cards and Kiley picked a "Ranger Andy" doll. It's a park ranger doll that just happens to look like my good friend, who is a park ranger.

Highlights: Staying at El Tovar was by far one of the highlights of our visit to Grand Canyon. We loved getting up early and having the canyon all to ourselves. Rooms at hotels and lodges inside the canyon fill up fast so be sure to make your reservations early.

What We Would Change: As I mentioned in my Part 1 review, Grand Canyon was our least favorite park on our trip out west. It was the most crowded and had the largest number of tourists and trash on the ground. I'm glad we went and saw it but I really don't feel the need to ever go back. 

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.