Your Local Theme Park is as Good as you Remember

colorado, Colorado Events, Travel, United States

Many times we are reminded that theme parks are for kids. They are money sucks of candy and cartoons and memorable characters and wild rides that make many adults queasy. We are reminded to take our kids to this and that so they have fun and memories and pictures. But I say, hold up, theme parks are as much for adults as kids, and you damn well can have a great time.

This year, if anything, is becoming my year of theme parks. For a long time I shied away from the parks. Well, I didn’t actively shy away, but I didn’t try to go to theme parks. I had not been to anything since 2015 on my last trip to Florida, and I decided to change that.

The last eight months have been a stressful, but mostly positive experience in my family. My husband had a job change, I am having two surgeries this year (more on this later next week), I have had promotions and job trainings. It has been crazy, an emotional roller coaster (pun intended), and stressful. I decided that my stepdaughter and I needed some fun on a day we had free together and that’s what we did.

We took a whole Saturday, grabbed Lily’s friend Josiah, and spent a whole day eating junk food, riding rides, and weaving through crowds at Elitch Gardens in Denver, Colorado. It was silly, it was fun, we made goofy jokes, we laughed at the rides, we got dizzy on the tea cups and we had an overall great day.

We enjoyed it so much we are looking forward to going next week with our Girl Scout Troop! There is even a new ride based on Meow Wolf, the Kaleidescape, which is an amazing art installation! It’s classic fun, in a local setting, full of all the grease and Dippin’ Dots that made a 90s childhood amazing.

So, fellow adults, and adult adjacents, get off your ass and enjoy the insane stupid fun of your local theme park this year. You will blow off steam, you’ll get some sun, you’ll walk like five miles so don’t stress about the calories, and you will make some memories.

Happy Travels!

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Family Travel Planning – Part 1

family, Florida, Travel, wedding

My sister is getting married in October, in Orlando, in a backyard wedding. This means the whole famdamily is going to the wedding. Which means we are going to be trying to make the most of the vacation, family time, and sightseeing in one giant Robinson Wedding Week.

As you can imagine, trying to organize approximately 20 people to show up to pre-wedding events, and another 60 for the wedding, is a bit of a project. While it’s my sister’s wedding, and she is tackling the wedding EVENTm I am working on extra events to keep kids, parents, cousins, and myself sane.

While my family likes a good time, I can’t say they are the best at planning in advance to make the most of their time. If you are in a situation like me, it’s vital that you make a plan and stick to it so that you can actually enjoy your “vacation” without getting lost in a sea of relative needs. Here are my tips for surviving and enjoying the journey.

UNIVERSAL FLORIDA RIDES  
Ivy Friendly “Grown-up” Rides
Minion Mayhem Revenge of the Mummy
Shrek 4-D Men in Black
Simpsons Ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster  
Hogwarts Express  
Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl  
  1. Make Lists
    • Make a list of people going, lists of priority sites and activities, lists of time needed for travel.
    • Lists will help you prioritize and plan more comfortably.
    • If you are headed for theme parks, make a list of activities and rides that are most important, and that will work for different people and ages. For instance, my five year old cousin won’t be able to do many of the rides my 12 y/o step daughter wants to ride. Therefore, with some planning we can split up and get to ride everything we want. (see above)
  2. Plan What You Want or Need
    • Vacations are expensive, so it’s important to make a plan to get the most out of your time on a trip. With a group, things go slower, and sometimes you just won’t get everyone to commit to a plan. Therefore, it’s important to choose what you want and need the most then invite everyone.
    • For example, I pick days that work the best for the most important things. What day do we need to do the Bachelorette for the Bride? What day will be more comfortable for everyone for sleep, timing, obligations etc.
    • You won’t be able to make everyone happy, but people usually will make something work if they want to join in. If they can’t, then they usually find an alternative option.
  3. Know You Won’t Make Everyone Happy
    • Inevitably you will have people that aren’t happy with the schedule. While it’s nice to make things work for everyone, it usually doesn’t ever work. If you waited for everyone to be able to go, the truth is that you probably would never get to go!
    • Prioritize the most important people, sometimes this is the people getting married, sometimes it’s making sure the kids get to have the most at their day at Disney. While it’s nice to wait for Aunt Janet to get her nails done, maybe Janet needs to reschedule or join everyone at another time.
  4. Don’t plan on Being with Everyone All The Time
    • It’s nice to plan on being together a lot, but the truth is that everyone will want to do different things at different times.
    • It’s common for everyone to get sick of each other too. This gives kids and adults a chance to get space, quiet time, and down time to relax.
  5. Plan Ahead
    • The sooner you start trying to book an AirBnB, hotel, rental cars, and other arrangements, the better the rates and the better selection you will have. Booking a last minute flight and room probably won’t give you the best price and options.
    • Start drawing up plans for each day so that you can get a feel for what everyone wants or needs. This gives you time to rearrange plans in case of closures, event changes, or other situations.
  6. Plan for Down Time
    • If kids are involved you will need some time to relax. If adults are involved, you will need some time to sleep, eat, talk, and not have to be anywhere. I highly suggest making a day or two free days, or open days, where loose plans are made, and everything is casual. If people are exhausted, cancel plans, and take time to sleep or just chill.

Read More on Florida:

Happy Travels!

A Stack of Magazines

musings, Travel

It’s easy to say “I read” as a kid. It’s much more interesting to explain exactly what that looked like.

My family are readers, through and through, every room, including the bathrooms, had books or magazines in them. Often she leaves were two or three deep, the coffee table housed endless picture books. I read before bed. My mom read to us before bed. I read on the bus. My grandma shared art books with us. I powered through reading challenges. I took home stacks of books from each library visit.

My mom was an assistant library for our community school/public library (small town Cripple Creek) which meant the book love train was never ending.

Some of the coffee table books that littered the living room were elaborate photo essays of places all over the world. The art ones showed off masterpieces and where to find them. The DaVinci anatomy book connected past and present to our understanding of the body.

But the cream of the crop was the, what’s seemed to my child mind, mountains of National Geographic magazines in our basement. Vividly I remember pouring through stack after stack searching for images and stories that inspired my exploring. Ships bobbed on azure waves, tribally adorned men dove for pearls, houses were made raw and blended seamlessly into the landscape. I saw that much more was happening outside of the mountains of Colorado.

As I grew older I would read some of the articles and learn about poverty, war, crime, danger, and the perseverance of peoples. Combined with all my reading, and the nightly news my grandfather consumed I began traveling in my mind. I was compelled to seek these other lands, these people, the animals, the food, the azure waves (I didn’t see the ocean until I was 17).

I knew then, as I do now, that the stacks of magazines were so much more than “a stack of magazines” they were portals into all that the world was and could be. They were windows into the soul and spirits of endless stories and endless lives. They were pure magic.

At some point the magazines were donated to the local school, where they were cut into collages and posters, an upcycling rebirth. And as an adult I collect new stacks and new stories and new portals to new worlds I dream of exploring.

My First Travel Adventure

adventure of the week, family, Travel, United States

My first trip without my parents was in 2008 with my great aunt and uncle. My uncle was a retired Vietnam Navy Veteran and his group of “Navy Rats” decided to have a reunion in Norfolk, Virginia.

In the summer of 2008 I was 17 and I wanted to work for the summer to save for a trip I wanted to take in 2010 to Europe. However, living in the sticks of Colorado and in the beginning of the worst recession since the 1930s, I didn’t have many choices.So, Casper, Wyoming was having an oil boom and there were ample jobs for those needing “something”. My aunt and uncle graciously opened their home to me, and I worked that summer as a hostess at IHOP (I don’t recommend this part of the experience).

However, the first few days I was gone I learned the first boy I kissed had died from Bacterial Meningitis. I missed home and the comforts of my small town life, and I felt isolated in a job with a lot of drama (think back seat shags in the parking lots, and being screamed at by drug dealers).

However, even though it felt like I got kicked out of a car driving down the interstate, I found a lot of strength that summer. Strength to fight through panic attacks. Strength to go to a job I hated. And the reward was my first time on an airplane and other firsts.

We headed to the east coast, I flew the first time. Saw Ellen Page at the Detroit airport (Juno was a new movie still). I saw the ocean for the first time. We visited Historic Jamestowne and Jamestown Settlement as well as Colonial Williamsburg.

It was at these locations that history began to come alive to me and I began to appreciate the layers and complexity around every turn.

It was then that I became totally hooked on travel to real and historical places. It was at these places that I started to think critically on what I knew about American History and colonialism. And I have never looked back.

This journey would push me into being away from home for months at a time. It would push me to seek knowledge and stories. It would encourage me to face my fears and anxieties like a warrior. It would make me a stronger girl that would turn into the woman I am today.

The moral of the story, is don’t give up because it scares you, move forward because you should.

Happy Travels!

Playing Renaissance

musings

If you have gathered anything from my love and passions while reading this blog, it’s that I’m a bit of a history geek.

My first passions started with medieval and renaissance Europe as a teen. Which lead me, almost annually, to the Colorado Renaissance Festival. Since then, I go every year or two with a group of friends and a wad of cash to enjoy a fun and silly adventure.

Held every weekend in the summer, usually June to early August, the festival is all that a Renaissance festival can be expected to be.

It’s the perfect chance to dress up in a cute, sexy, ridiculous, or just funny costume. Over the years I have made, worn, and even bought some fun get ups. There was a princess or three, movie costumes, a pirate a couple of time, and most recently a maiden costume.

It’s not a historical trip I seek anymore, as I am fully aware of the inaccuracies and absurdity of the festival. Instead, I seek out the shows, frozen margaritas, and artisan goods. I enjoy a day of walking and talking with friends, and I love seeing the care and details taken with homemade costumes.

If you find yourself along the front range of Colorado in the summer, stop by for a turkey leg or two.

Throw Back Thursday – Childhood Travel Lessons

colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, new mexico, outdoors, Throwback Thursday, Travel, United States, wyoming

Many people gain a love of travel as children. Sometimes they’re crammed into the beck of a family station wagon, or a small camper, traversing open highways to neighboring states and countries. Others fly away to an annual beach escape, all-inclusive, beach, and drinks.

My family did things differently. As a product of low-income we did things a little less luxuriously. We crammed into a Dodge Neon, five of us. We slept in rustic cabins on our ranch or in canvas tents at a re-enactment. On occasion a worse than Motel 6 room was in the cards. This meant a shower and how to cram three kids in a twin or double bed, absolutely luxury was a queen. We ate at cheap diners and cheese and crackers as we rolled along plains lands.

We went through Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, and South Dakota to icons like Devil’s Tower, Jewel Cave, Helena, and De Smet. We saw where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and a Palace made of Corn. And we have many pictures at Mount Rushmore in different outfits, an awkward ages, with relatives that have passed or friends that have moved on.

Reenactment with my cousin Nathan, aunt Mary and baby sibling McClellan.

These journeys taught me how important a hot plate and hot water can be. That boiled eggs are always a good snack. That learning to read in the car without motion sickness is vital to surviving 1,000 miles with two younger sisters. That you can survive 30 playthroughs of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. That dogs can wedge themselves anywhere if given enough time. And most importantly, short legs make for an easier car ride.

All in all these things taught me to be better at travel in the big wide world. Hot plates turned into hostel kitchens. Small cars meant I can live through a long plane ride. Crappy hotel means I can survive…. crappy hotels and most hostels. I know the importance of hitting grocery stores to cut food costs. I know that picking light makes everything easier. I know that audio and physical books are life savers for endless journeys that have no service, wi-if, or charger.

The frugality of my parents has meant I knew how to save and travel at 19, 22, 23, 24, 26, and 27. It means I know how to pinch pennies and look for deals, to read and study and to plan my journey, to know the importance of flexibility and patience.

My cousin Nathan and I at the family ranch in Wyoming.

While I didn’t see much of the world until an adult, I know these lessons will carry me well into my old age.

Happy Travels!

Dam the Heat, Paddle the Reservoir

adventure of the week, colorado, Colorado Events, outdoors, Travel, United States

Colorado has had a hot summer, along with much of the United States. With the heat comes the discomfort of not having great air conditioning at our apartment and many other homes in the area.

When the days hit the 90s and up to 100, many of us take to the mountains, or the Poudre river and finally, our Horsetooth Reservoir. “Horsetooth” (as the locals call the area) was established in 1949 and was created to stabilize the water system of the region. Since then it has been a great recreational area for locals and visitors.

This summer a friend of mine encouraged me to try Stand Up Paddle Boarding at the reservoir as a way to have fun and try a new skill. I found a new sport that has proved to be a great way to cool down and have fun.

I took my stepdaughter on my first times out, and the second time for a chance to really experiment with a SUP (Stand up paddle board). I found my spills into the water a hilarious and amusing way to cool off. Paddling meant a great workout and just enjoyable to take in the scenery and other paddlers. Our favorite is seeing those with dogs on their boards who are having the time of their lives.

If you want to check out paddle boarding on Horsetooth Reservoir the best area is on the North Shore (Satanka Cove). This area has less people in motorized water crafts (I’ve only ever seen jet skis).

There are two companies that operate rentals on the shore, and both charge approximately $20/hour. They have life jackets included in the rental price, and two smaller people can comfortably fit on a board. It’s a great experiment in balance and fun. If you want to try something more intense yoga classes are held regularly.

Comedy Overlook Rentals

What’s SUP

For weekends you can sometimes hold a rental to ensure you get your board.

Parking and access to the reservoir is $7 for the day per vehicle. 

Most importantly, have fun and Happy Travels!….

SUP.jpg

Adventure of the Week- Amtrak Train Journey

adventure of the week, family, Travel

Earlier this month I took a road trip to Iowa to attend a cousin’s wedding. The first half was spent on the never ending drive through Nebraska with my great aunt Jayne, her granddaughter Ivy, and my stepdaughter Lily. We stopped at the Omaha Zoo and made a comfortable adventure of the journey.

To return from the wedding, since I needed to be back to work before Jayne planned to return, my stepdaughter and I could either fly, rent a car, or how we decided – take the train.

CALIFORNIA-ZEPHYR.jpg

The Amtrak’s California Zephyr runs through Iowa, and we caught it about an hour south of Des Moines. From there one journey’s overnight before arriving in Colorado around 7:00 a.m. making the train journey approximately 12 hours depending on delays.

The train was only around $130 for the two of us one-way in basic economy seating. We sat on the top floor of the double decker economy cars and with ample leg room and the ability to walk around it never felt particularly cramped on the journey. No it was not luxury accommodations and a bed would have been nice, but for one overnight journey it was a reasonable price and journey.

I would say if you were to journey much longer, then a sleeper car of some sort would have been ideal. If only to be able to stretch out properly and have some privacy. Amtrak offers Roomettes and Family Rooms, depending on one’s budget and preferences.

Naturally, train travel is not the fastest or most efficient, but the experience is worth having and it’s an economical means for some routes. Additionally, trains are not nearly as crowded as buses I have traveled on or even planes, meaning you feel less cramped and trapped by everything.

Here are some of my tips for making the journey more comfortable:

  • Pack light
    • Most train stations will not have the ability to check your bags, so you will have to carry on suit cases and they need to be small enough to fit overhead. A larger carry-on bag is ideal
  • Keep comfortable items closed
    • Have a smaller personal bag with you to have by you and your seat, here it is ideal you have things like books, phones, laptop, and a toothbrush or any night creams and other items you may want handy. This includes snacks.
  • Keep the kid(s) happy
    • I brought the Nintendo Switch from our house to keep Lily gaming until I felt we should sleep. She also had books, snacks, and other items to keep her comfortable.
    • My emergency kit for all kid-related items includes wet wipes, chapstick, lotion, hand sanitizer, and a game of some sort.
  • Wear comfy clothing
    • Like with a flight, wear items that are comfortable to sit in for 12 hours + and that are stretchy or okay for swollen feet, and other discomforts of travel.
  • Keep medicine handy
    • Sometimes aches and pains happen, as well as the inability to sleep, keep your medicinal items handy for easy treatment.
  • Walk around
    • The journey will be much longer if you don’t move around, so make sure you check out the dining car, observation car, or simply journey the aisles to get some legs stretched.
  • Avoid the food
    • This may be a no-brainer, but food on flights, and apparently trains, are not like the Hogwarts Express as I had hoped. Everything was overpriced, greasy, and lacked flavor. For my next train adventure, I plan on bringing my own oatmeal and other noms
  • Stay hydrated
    • The train offers water bottle/cup refill stations, take advantage of this to avoid buying bottled water. AND it’s ore environmentally friendly. (For other tips, check out Ditching Disposables.
  • Have Fun!
    • Travel can be hard, no matter the means, make it a time to enjoy things you don’t usually. Watch the sunrise, have a glass of wine on a train, talk about silly things with your kiddo, or write in your journal. Sometimes just being is the ultimate treat.

HAPPY TRAVELS!

Travels with a 4-Year-Old

adventure of the week, Iowa, musings, Travel

I recently traveled to Iowa with my Great-Aunt and her granddaughter Ivy. Ivy would then be my second cousin (I think) and her dad, who is the same age as my husband is my first cousin once-removed. Here is a chart I am basing this on: click here.

What was one of the best parts of traveling on this trip was going with a Ivy was how different it was to travel with a little kid. She was such a trooper too, but I also have to laugh at how amusing it is to travel with children. If you want to learn more on our adventure, read about the great Omaha Zoo!

Here is my list of observations:

Travels with a 4-year old

  • They will stick their finger into something that hurts, and start screaming
    • This episode was brought to you by a soda cup lid
  • They will refuse to eat, drink, and/or pee
    • Forcing them to is sometimes ok, and sometimes a match of wills
  • They will say they don’t want an ice cream cone
    • Then you buy the ice cream cone for you; they want it and take it.
    • Then they eat about four bites and don’t want it anymore.
    • All while you have since ordered yourself a NEW ice cream cone.
  • They won’t sleep in the car without a fuss
  • They will ask 20 times if you are there yet
  • They will cry over having to put pajamas on
  • There will be misunderstandings over mumbles, whining, and stories.
    • Someone may cry over this.
    • Multiple people may cry over this
  • Tears will be shed over automatic dryers and toilets at restaurants and rest stops on the way.
  • Someone will lose a sock, or socks.
  • Shoes will be taken off and misplaced
  • Beloved stuff toys will be misplaced
  • There will be unbelievable joy
  • Followed by horrific meltdowns
  • They will fall over their toes at least half a dozen times
    • Half of these times, they will cry out of embarrassment and shock, not actual injury
  • They will get lost and turned around in a crowd
    • This will also lead to panic and meltdown
  • They will be wearing some of their food
  • They will play a game of keep away when needing to get dressed.
    • This will put everyone in hysterical laughter at how cute and funny it is
  • They will get dehydrated and hot and whiney from being outside
    • Make sure you force water down their throat
  • Trains are seen as absolutely amazing
    • Stick them on one to prevent meltdowns over tired feet
  • They will want a giant lollipop from the gift shop
      • They will get the giant lolli
      • They will never eat the giant lolli OR
      • They will eat some of it and you will find the rest stuck to the car in the worst possible way

     

    What are your favorite kid moments?

    HAPPY TRAVELS!

    Travelswith4yo

Adventure of the Week – Omaha Zoo

adventure of the week, Nebraska, Travel, United States

On my recent adventure to the midwest I had a fun blend of road trip and train journey across 1000 miles, each way, of prairie…..and….prairie. Some may argue it’s plains, but either way you cut it, it ends up being a whole lot of grass, corn, straight rows, and small towns. Not to mention a few cow poop smelling sections near feed lots.

All I have to say is thank you engineers and scientists for cruise control and thank you oh wise zoologists of the last 100 years for placing a zoo in the middle of it.

Located in Omaha, Nebraska the Henry Doorly Zoo is by far one of the best zoos in the country, and absolutely one of the best in the world. Due to their investments, resources, creativity and dedication they have created a zoo that creates lasting memories for visitors that is unparalleled to other zoos.

For instance, I remember stopping at said zoo in about 2003 and being completely blown away at it, even if I was a snotty teen.

The zoo has changed little in the last 15 years, but it still remains an innovative and moving network of habitats that brings out the mystified kid in all of us.

My favorite, this journey happened to be the charming penguins who literally came up to the glass to nod heads with my fellow travelers, an 11 and 4 year old, who felt they both had nice chats with the friendly penguins.

Other highlights included the indoor rainforest with plenty of bats, otters, frogs, and pygmy hippos. The gorilla habitat offered plenty of entertainment with the massive creatures storming by visitors.  Finally, the cat house offered oohhhs and ahhhs at majestic clawed beasts lounging in the afternoon shade.

 

adventureoftheweek.-Zoo.jpg