Summer Weekends in the Mountains Part I: Grand Colorado on Peak 8

Happy fall, friends! Back in July of this past summer, we were lucky enough to check out Grand Colorado on Peak 8 in Breckenridge for a press trip. I couldn’t share our adventures until the story came out, and now that it has, I’m so excited to drop some mountain love here, as well.

We stayed at the resort from Friday night through Sunday afternoon. And even though we hit some gnarly traffic on the ride home, it was definitely worth it. Other than a small accident that put Emilia in urgent care on Saturday night, we all had a blast.

Friday Night

We arrived to our suite late afternoon on Friday, and holy hell was it impressive! Our living room had amazing views of the mountain, the Adventure Park activities and the pool area down below. In general, the hotel was very well suited for families, and the girls had the best time exploring.

Kid-sized games galore!
So much people watching!
Dinner at Robbie’s Tavern, located in the resort, was so yum. As were the drinks πŸ˜‰

Saturday

On Saturday we explored the resort a bit more (pools, kids’ crafts & cafe), and drove into town to check out the Breckenridge Alpine Garden.

Is there anything better than a blue-sky mountain day??
The Alpine Garden was the perfect substitute when we discovered that the hike we wanted to take was closed, and the other had no parking. Small enough to enjoy at a kids’ pace, and the kids love being in nature.
Downtown Breck is such a delight <3
The girls and I caught the free gondola from town back to the resort!
More fun games with a breathtaking backdrop.
After a morning spent exploring, we picked up some crafts to paint back in our room while we had some lunch.
Chris & I switched off on having amazing massages in the afternoon while the girls rested, then we hit up the pool. We had evening plans to head back into town, but after Emilia’s accident and urgent care visit, we decided to lay low back in the room and let her rest. Rest assured she was totally fine and back to her adorable, rambunctious self in no time πŸ˜‰

Sunday

Sunday begin with pancakes in our suite and a trip to the second indoor/outdoor pool.
We were given passes for the Epic Discovery Adventure Park, which the girls made great use of, starting with this amazing bungee jump trampoline!
Look at that pure joy!
We also opted to ride the ski lift, which was so beautiful and only about 75% terrifying with littles!
Emilia was unphased by Mom’s anxiety, particularly after her head trauma the day before!
After checking out we headed back into town for lunch at Breckenridge Tap House and ice cream at Higgles.
The girls got to ride the Gondola with Chris this time <3
Mint chocolate chip all around!
After filling up on treats, it was off to find the Breckenridge Troll! (Please know that you can easily park in the huge parking lot near the troll and walk about 400 feet. We started off trying to hike there from the downtown area, and this was so. much. easier!)
Troll spotted!
The hike to and from the parking lot is short but beautiful. My favorite kind πŸ˜‰

And that was it, friends! 10/10 recommend this place for adventurous, outdoor-loving families looking for a fun getaway! Until my next press trip post (we had THREE!) … bis bald, friends!

Royal Gorge and CaΓ±on City, Colorado With Kiddos

The secret to smiling faces? Skittle bribes, all dang day long.

Happy August, friends! The month started out on not such a great foot for us, so we weren’t in our normal headspace when heading out on this quick getaway. (Well okay, I wasn’t!) At the end of the day I’m so glad we did go. It’s always a good idea to take some time to get out of your own head, recognize what’s so special about your life, bond with your kids, show them new things and, as one friend put it, nature is always healing πŸ˜‰

The Details

Lodging (Price: $692 for 3 nights)

We stayed at this Airbnb in CaΓ±on City, which was a sweet little three-bedroom place with a large dining area and kitchen. It might have been a tad overpriced for the location (it was about 20 minutes from the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, which was our main point of interest for this trip), but we still had a blast. It was all one floor (no scary stairs for littles!), and the layout actually allowed us to put Emilia in her Pack and Play at the back of the house so Lotte and Grace could have separate rooms if they needed them (which one night they did).

The backyard was cute, too, with a grill and little table area under a covered patio, where we grilled out and had dinner on our final night.

Entertainment

The kids have a book called Good Night Colorado, and the Royal Gorge Bridge makes an appearance as one of the MUST SEE places in Colorado. When we were planning a final farewell to summer trip (the girls start school on August 16th!), we knew we didn’t want to go any farther than 2.5 hours (exactly how far Royal Gorge is from us), but that we wanted adventure on a low-key, kid-friendly level which, despite the RIDICULOUS photos, the Royal Gorge offers.

This is an amazing place for families … as long as no one is afraid of heights! Travel tip: Most of the attractions, the playground and the visitors center, etc., open at 10 a.m., but the bridge itself is open at 8 a.m., and tickets are cheaper then. (We paid $83 for the four of us over 2 years of age.)

There was also no one there early in the morning, which was delightful, and the weather was so lovely. By the time we ended up leaving around 10:30, it was getting pretty busy and incredibly hot. Honestly, it wouldn’t have been the amazing experience it was if we waited until 10 a.m. to get there.

As it was, we had the best time.

Grace and her insects πŸ˜‰ She was besides herself to find two HUGE butterflies on the way in!
Despite our children’s faces here, we all had fun <3
Makin’ herself right at home <3
Man, oh man.
This girl was spottin’ tiny green frogs in the grass and slithery lizards running in the opposite direction. She’s a gem at this age, and so easy to please!
Feeding the fish.
They have every kind of adventure activity you could imagine here β€” zip lining across the gorge, climbing the gorge, white water rafting in the gorge, riding a train through it, etc. We didn’t do any of those with the kiddos, but the Gondola is included in your entry ticket price, so we did take that, and it was thrilling!

We give Royal Gorge Bridge a big ole’ thumbs up! They have a campground, “glamping” cabins, a dinosaur museum … honestly, we could have spent a week here and not been done exploring. We definitely hope to get back!

Our Friday afternoon was spent hitting up Centennial Park, which had a fantastic splash pad and playground and access to the Arkansas River and was about a mile from our Airbnb. Then it was ice cream at You Scream Treat Emporium.

On Saturday we hit up Skyline Drive β€” a very narrow 2.6-mile drive with the most amazing views and … wait for it … DINOSAUR PRINTS! β€” and then did a short hike β€” the Royal Gorge Overlook Loop β€” to take in the Royal Gorge bridge from a distance.

Nothing to see here, just a mom trying REAL hard not to drive off a cliff!
More skittles bribery in action.
Dinosaur prints! (And yes, Lotte does have dinosaurs on her outfit and she is also holding a stuffed dinosaur, so you can imagine the happiness this activity brought!)
Chris ran up a steep, short trail to snap this pic. (Insert Wow emoji here.)
We accidentally ended up taking the road for drivers for our hike (the hiking trail runs right next to it), but it turned out for the best because there was no way our double stroller would have fit on the other trail.
This girl lives for a Dada snuggle <3
This gorgeous view. So humbling.
Back at the parking lot we had a quick picnic β€” with this ridonc view β€” before packing up and heading home.
My crew. They super cute.

We stopped for coffee at The Bean Pedaler in the cute little downtown area before heading home. All-in-all it was a very successful β€” and beautiful β€” trip, and I’m so glad we did it. It’s a good reminder that it’s often worth doing something to get yourself out of your head. And travel memories are, for the most part, never a bad idea.

And now it’s back-to-school mode over here! This is the girls’ final week before heading back, and I’m so grateful for our summer trips to Seattle and New York, plus this one. I’m grateful the girls had fun experiences with camps and playdates with friends and neighbors and lots of unstructured playtime at home.

We also celebrated a 6th birthday.

The birthday girl requested a trip to the Denver Aquarium on her special day.

It was one for the books. Hope you guys are having an awesome summer, as well <3

BIS BALD, FRIENDS!

Seattle With Three Littles Day Two β€” Olympic National Park

Happy Tuesday, friends!

Back to our second day in Seattle, where we rented a car and hopped on a ferry (with our car!) to head on over to Olympic National Park.

If you’ve been a visitor of this blog for a while, you already know that we’re big fans of National Parks! (See Great Sand Dunes, Rocky Mountain National Park, Moab, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Sequoia!) It’s always a goal of ours to introduce our kids to these beautiful places in America, and to help them gain an appreciation for nature and their surroundings.

We sure are lucky to have these things available to us.

Anyway, back to Day Two. It’s a trek to head to Olympic National Park from Seattle. We caught a 30-minute ferry to Bainbridge Island and then drove another 90 minutes to the visitor center and then to do the Moments in Time Interpretive Trail. That’s a lot to do with three littles, but the car we got was comfy and they snacked and watched videos (and, shockingly, napped on the ride back to the ferry at the end of the day) and all was good. We almost bailed on the trip when the weather looked iffy (it turned out perfect!) and seemed like too much effort, but I’m so glad we didn’t!

Chris and I were discussing how, in most cases, the things we almost bail on usually turn out to be some of our favorite memories. It’s a life lesson, for sure.

Anyway, here’s a bit of what we saw!

Back on the ferry!
And back in the car!
And a short two hours later, we arrived!
Grace’s love of insects is contagious, so these slugs on the way to the visitor center were obviously a highlight!
The visitor center at Olympic National Park is so kid friendly and amazing β€” it’s a must-hit!

After the visitor center it was about a 30-minute ride to the Moments in Time Interpretive Trail, which was unbelievably gorgeous. (And, by the way, FREE! Entry into the park was totally free, too, but you can β€” and should β€” make a donation online!) The bluest water, the mossiest rainforest, and all the bird chirping you could ever want in life.

So incredibly serene.

Nothing better … am I right?!
Oh it’s just Emilia, livin’ that ferry life πŸ˜‰

Back at home we made dinner for the girls to eat out on the deck, while Chris and I ordered sushi from Umi Sake House, which was every bit as sensational as advertised.

After Emilia was down, Chris took the older girls for a jaunt on the pier (which we could literally see from our living room window), where they took in the sunset view and played a bit of soccer.

And that was our Day 2 in a nutshell. Our third and final day is comin’ at cha tomorrow … and it was also a big one πŸ˜‰

Bis bald, friends!

Seattle With Three Littles β€” Day One

Happy Memorial Day, friends!

We’re back from our long-awaited trip to Seattle and Olympic National Park, and I can confirm … if you’ve had Seattle on your bucket list for a while, BOOK THAT TRIP NOW!

We had the absolute best time on our little 3-day stay. We planned to fly in late on Wednesday, after the girls got out of what was supposed to be their last day of school before the summer. The school ended up closing two days earlier, though, for renovations. We tried switching to an earlier flight but they were booked out. So we didn’t end up getting in until around 9 pm (on what was NOT our best flight), but luckily the Airbnb where we stayed was only about 20 minutes from the airport.

The Details:

Accommodation: We stayed at this Airbnb, which had very many amenities. It was right on the water, and was walking distance to literally everything a tourist could want. There was a 24-hour doorman, garage parking, a pack and play and highchair and childproof locks on the doors. There was a small balcony facing the waterfront, a shared hot tub and a rooftop. All the things you could possibly want for an awesome stay.
Price: $1990 for four nights

Airport transfer: We set up a car service from Starline Town Car & Limo Service to pick us up at the airport and drop us back off, and it was totally and absolutely worth it. With the five of us, three carseats, a double stroller and all our bags, it was a lot less stressful knowing that we’d have door-to-door service in a car that would definitely fit all of our things, and that we would definitely have a ride for our 5:30 a.m. pick-up to head back home.
Price: Approximately $300 (this included tip, taxes and other fees.)

Car rental: We rented a car on Friday to drive into Olympic National Park. We had to get a big one, obviously, so that’s always a bit more pricey.
Price: $260

Food: We spent about $500 for food, most of which was coffee. (Not really, but we did do a bit of a “coffee crawl” around the city, which I would highly recommend.)

Coffee from La Panier in Pikes Place.
Fresh ingredients Chris picked up from Pike Place Market to make ….
This insanely delicious meal!

Entertainment: We spent about $150 on entertainment, including ferry rides, Olympic National Park and a ride on The Seattle Great Wheel.

Olympic National Park was a 30-minute ferry ride (with your car!) to Bainbridge Island, and then about 90 minutes from there … and worth every second!
One of our favorite activities was the ferris wheel!

In other words, it wasn’t the cheapest trip for three days, but we were prepped for that going in and had saved up. We knew we didn’t want to scrimp, since neither of us had been before, and knowing that ahead of time helped us not feel guilty spending while we were there.

It was also the first time the girls traveled with their own money from their allowance. This was clutch when Lotte would point to a $20 useless trinket and I could say, “Sorry, you don’t have enough money for that!”

Day One:

You know who doesn’t sleep in after a late travel night? ALL THE CHILDREN!

We knew we’d all be dragging a bit on our first full day, so we decided to take the morning slow and walk around the neighborhood, including seeing the waterfront and Pikes Place Market.

Seeing the original Starbucks is like a celebrity sighting πŸ˜‰
There is a lot of construction happening around the waterfront right now. We definitely want to head back in a few years to see how it all turns out!

After a short rest (and Chris shopping at the market for fresh ingredients for our dinner), we grabbed a ferry to walk to Alki Beach.

We took a bit of a detour on our walk back to the ferry from the beach, but we did get to head down this gorgeous road, so bonus?!
Emilia discovered her love of ferries on this trip <3

After our afternoon walk/beach trip, it was back to the Airbnb, where Chris cooked up his delightful pasta dish for dinner and the girls hit the hot tub with Chris. Friday morning we would be heading out to Olympic National Park … can’t wait to share that adventure with you tomorrow!

Bis bald, friends!

The Goat, the Farmhouse, the Paint Mines & the Birthday

Welp, friends, No. 39 is in the books.

This past weekend was my birthday, and Chris really stepped up the celebrating. We’ve had a visit to the Paint Mines Interpretive Park in El Paso County on our bucket list for a few years now, so we used my birthday as an excuse to finally make it happen. After all the fun we had over the past two weeks with the Connors visiting, I wasn’t sure we had it in us to keep up the celebrating, but boy was I wrong πŸ˜‰

The Farmhouse Airbnb

We started the festivities on Friday by staying at this farmhouse Airbnb which included, much to the girls’ delight, a bunch of farm animals (Starling the Goat was a family fave), a hot tub, a pool table and a swing set. It was the perfect spot for cupcakes and revelery.

Starling the Goat was so happy to greet us.
The girls discovered a love of hot tubs when we stayed at the Airbnb in Winter Park, so it sure was lucky this place had one, too.
Happy birthday to me! Love these cute faces the most.

Paint Mines Interpretive Park

Saturday was my actual birthday, and we were up early to have breakfast, take the hot tub for a spin, pack up and get on the road for the Paint Mines, which was about a 30 minute drive from where we were staying.

We didn’t really know what to expect with this visit, but it turned out to be even better than we could have imagined. There are multiple loops to pick from, and even though I wouldn’t call the trails stroller “friendly,” per se, Chris was able to use our beloved Strolley (aka the off-road Radio Flyer) throughout, which was especially helpful since Grace isn’t necessarily into 2.5-mile walks these days πŸ˜‰ I carried Emilia in the Ergo, and we had tons of snacks and sunscreen and water at the ready. We got there around 10:30 in the morning and ended up leaving around 1, which seemed to be when the park was really starting to get busier. Admission is free, so I can imagine it would be quite the destination. My advice would be to get there early if you plan to go.

Here’s a bit of what we saw …

Always up for adventure, this crew of mine.
Just the most gorgeous, open-air, expansive views!
I was all too happy to snuggle up with this one for a couple of hours <3
Lotte’s poses are all some version of dances from her ballet class, which I thoroughly enjoy.
Grace wasn’t quite about the posing for most of the day, but Lotte was all too happy to oblige her mother on her birthday.
Despite her sassiness during our visit, Grace said that the Paint Mines was her favorite part of our trip. Oh, preschoolers β€” try to figure ’em out, I dare ya!
According to the website, “The Paint Mines are named for their colorful clays that were collected by American Indians to make paint. Brightly colored bands, caused by oxidized iron compounds, are found in varying amounts throughout the many different layers of clay.”
The next photos are part of a series I like to call: “Me and my Emilia” <3
Chris really took his role as picture-taker very seriously for this trip, and I’m not mad about it!

You guys, if you think this was too many photos … well I really did my best to edit down what I posted, which was HARD! If you’re in the area and have the time, a visit to the Paint Mines is well worth a stop. It’s free and beautiful and can take as long or as short and you’d like. It’s kid-friendly (enough!), and will provide with you the backdrop necessary for 12,000 awesome photos. Go, I say, and be prepared to leave in awe.

And that was my birthday weekend, my friends. I’m sad the past two weeks are coming to end, because they have just been so much fun. Luckily, we have a trip to Seattle coming up at the end of May that we’re very much looking forward to.

Until then … bis bald, friends!

2021: A Year in Review

They can’t all be good photos, right?!

Welp, friends … there goes another year. As the photo above indicates, we’ve had our highs and lows. I think the year didn’t quite pan out the way most of us were hoping it would, but still, there were bright spots to be found.

Here’s hoping 2022 brings you and your family all the happiness and cheer that you deserve! And here’s what we were able to get up to in 2021 …

April

We dusted off our travel boots for the first time in more than a year (!) this past April for a trip to the mountains. We headed to one of our favorite low-key spots β€” Granby Ranch β€” and the older girls even tried their hand at skiing for the first time.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Lotte, Grace & Emilia cuddled up on our couch in the cabin.
Chris and the big girls posing on frozen Grand Lake.
They look a little weathered here because this was after their lessons … but I HAD to get a pic of the two of them with their adorable little set of skis!
We wrangled the kids to take a quick selfie when we got out on the lake in Grand Lake.

June

By the time June rolled around, Chris and I were fully vaccinated, and we were able to start hosting some of our favorite people at our house again. We also went on a fun mountain/lake hike, Lotte continued her adventures in skiing and started running (well, that was pre-June, but I blogged about it in June!) and we continued to find adventures everywhere we could in the great Colorado outdoors. We also spent Father’s Day in one of Chris’ favorite places.

Grandpa came for his first visit in more than a year!
Lotte started track!
Evergreen Lake, Evergreen, Colorado
Evergreen Lake, Evergreen, Colorado
Me and my JMU girls πŸ˜‰
We sure do love a good splash pad!
Just a dad and his trio of ladies.

July

The end of June and beginning of July was a busy time for us, as we packed up the car and hit the road for our trip out East! We started in Colorado and made out way out to New Jersey and New York and then back, stopping in a number of states along the way. (You can find all the gritty details here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

Cody Park, Nebraska
Cody Park, Nebraska
The Bean in Chicago!
Brigantine Beach, NJ
These cutie cousins <3
With Atlantic City in the background
Staying at a real, working farm in Pennsylvania was … interesting!
One of the best stops on our trip home!
The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
entering Colorado on the way home
Colorado State Line

Then, at the end of July, our firstborn turned FIVE!

August

We hosted more of our besties in August, Lotte started kindergarten, Grace returned to preschool and we managed to make it to Frisco for one final summer mountain visit.

Frisco, Colorado
Frisco, Colorado
Em’s first Frisco visit!

September

We hosted one of Chris’ good friends in September, and they hiked a 14er (a tradition they started years ago). We also spent Labor Day at Standley Lake with friends.

Kayaking on Standley Lake
Kayaking on Standley Lake
Standley Lake, Arvada
Standley Lake, Arvada

October

We spent October in our traditionally favorite way … with all the fall activities!

December

As the holidays rolled around, we were really looking forward to spending Christmas and New Years with family back in New York. Unfortunately, Covid had different plans for us. Perhaps we’ll have better luck next year. Still, we managed to get a day in Manhattan, and we did get to spend actual Christmas Day with family, which was an upgrade from last year, so we’ll call it a win.

Times Square is never not entertaining!
Grace was very taken with the Rockefeller tree πŸ˜‰
Snow on Christmas Eve was a perk!
Christmas Day cuties
Merry Christmas to you and yours!

And that’s 2021, my friends. We’re looking forward to a quiet New Years Eve (and wedding anniversary, for myself and Chris <3) and planning for (hopefully) some fun travels to come in the New Year.

But until then … bis bald, friends!

The Covid Christmas We Should Have Seen Coming

Christmas Day was surprisingly joyful, considering what came before and after …

As the final days of 2021 wind down, I’m hoping that you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy. Our trip to New York for the holidays got disrupted by an outbreak of Covid within our family (extended family, at least, so far the five of us are still Covid-free), so we ended up cutting it short by a week. Still, we managed to pack in a lot of celebrating before things turned ugly.

While I’m grateful for the positive things that came this year β€” vaccines, three healthy daughters who turned five, four and one, a husband who loves me and takes care of us in this roller coaster of a life, a career that I really love, and so much more β€” I also won’t be sad to see it go.

Here’s hoping there’s even more to look forward to in 2022. Bis bald, friends … and happy New Year!

The “Calm” Before the Storm

The week heading into our trip was crazy for us, as well, with my stepdad flying in for a visit, Grace turning four and Emilia turning one. We managed to get in a lot of partying before we even boarded the plane.

My sweet, sassy middle daughter. I hope you never, ever change <3
She insisted on having her dinosaurs with her in this picture. Just one of the many reasons I love her so.
My last baby. Emilia turning one has been bittersweet for me. It’s the most fun to watch her grow, and also the saddest to leave the baby phase behind.
Never. Not. Happy.
We took the family to see the holiday lights at Chatfield Farms before we flew out to New York, which ended with freezing cold kids and lots of tears … but it was pretty while it lasted!
Early Christmas at home before we left meant another excuse to wear our matching Christmas pajamas … not that I ever need an excuse.
Thank you, Denver Airport, for having all the fun holiday entertainment! Emilia hadn’t met Santa yet, so this helped me tick that item off my bucket list πŸ˜‰
As a surprise to no one, Emilia is a champion traveler.
At Grandpa’s …. pre-Covid confirmations :/

New York City for a Day

We had always planned to head into the city for a day during this trip, but we got spooked by Covid numbers the morning we were meant to catch the train. So we ditched the public transport idea and decided to rent a car, instead. I’m so glad we did, because it ended up being a highlight of the trip. It was the first visit for Emilia, and seeing the city we love all decked out for the holiday … well, there’s really nothing quite like it.

We stuck to the touristy parts of midtown β€” Grand Central, Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, and the Saks Fifth Avenue holiday window displays β€” and seeing these things through the kids’ eyes, for the first time, was so much fun.

Ah, the allure of a mini-van. I won’t lie … it was definitely nice having this extra room! We love our Highlander, but a mini-van … let’s just say I get it now.
There is nothing like that skyline.
This is the building where it all started for me. My first real job in magazines β€” an internship at More and then a full-time gig at Parents β€” was right here, and I must have walked these streets hundreds of times. To be back there, taking a photo with my girls, really meant a lot to me <3
Of all the places in the city to visit on a holiday trip, Bryant Park is my absolute favorite.
And of course no NYC trip is complete without a big ole’ street vendor pretzel!
Times Square was freezing! But the ball was up, and the girls thought the craziness was so much fun!
Grace was very excited by the Rockefeller Christmas Tree πŸ˜‰
We spent a lot of time in front of these window displays, and Lotte would have stayed even longer! She was so thoroughly entranced by them, and it was the cutest thing in the world to see.
We ended our visit with a trip to Grand Central, where Chris showed the girls the parabolic curve (where you can talk to people on opposite sides!) and the pretty main hall.
And the Grand Central Market for treats, of course!
Love ya, NYC. Until next time …

Christmas and the Days Before It

We learned the day after we got back from the city that my stepdad had Covid, so we hightailed it out of his house and went over to my sister’s (after we all got negatives on our rapid tests, of course). This ended up being futile, since our Christmas morning tests were negative again, and by the next day my brother-in-law and then sister had it, as well. Still, for those couple of days, we continued on, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Chris and I had already decided that we would be leaving early, and we had already cancelled our Airbnb trip to a lake house in PA (THANK YOU AIRBNB FOR ISSUING A REFUND!) and had moved our flights up by a week to return home (THANK YOU SOUTHWEST FOR ALLOWING US TO DO THIS FOR ONLY THE COST OF THE FLIGHT CHANGE, A MEASLY $150!). We figured if we’re going to get sick, we’d want to be at home when that happened.

Plus, we had nowhere to stay. We officially had Covid cases in both of the family homes where we could go.

I know a lot of people had their holidays ruined or changed due to Covid this year, and I can only hope that by next year, we’ll be in a better place. Who knows, really, but for now, like I said, I’m counting my blessings …

At least there was snow on Christmas Eve!
Christmas Eve gifts from elves, courtesy of my sister <3
At-home manicures were a big hit!
The cutest.
Also the cutest!
Christmas morning cuties!
Grace’s face pretty much says it all … does it not?!

And that was our trip in a (shortened) nutshell, friends. We made it back home in one piece, which is pretty much all that I can ask for at this point, and we’ll be ringing in the New Year together as a family of five <3

See you all in 2022 … and BIS BALD!

Keep the drinks coming!

The Drive Back: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado

On the road again!

After a glorious farm wedding on July 3rd, we were back in the car on the 4th to start our trip home!

As you can see from that first photo, most of us were unhappy about this …

Actually, Chris and I went back and forth quite a bit about extending our trip. We had booked refundable places to stay on the trip back, exactly for this reason. Ultimately, though, we decided to keep things as they were. We had jobs and summer camp and track practice and a home to get back to, as much as we would have liked to have stayed for longer.

It was Em’s first Fourth of July, and she spent it in the car! She didn’t seem to mind πŸ˜‰

The Long Road Home

Rather than driving straight through β€” like we did on the way out β€” we planned for three stops on the way back home. We stopped at a Comfort Suites in DuBois, PA, an Airbnb in Vandalia, Ohio and a Sleep Inn in Oakley, Kansas. We would also be making some touristy stops throughout, to break the trip up even more.

After saying goodbye to our family (we hope to see you soon!), it was a “short” four-hour trip to our hotel in Pennsylvania. Even though we arrived late, a super-wired Grace caught some fireworks at the end of the night with Chris. The next day we took advantage of the awesome indoor pool and grabbed some breakfast before heading out.

One of my favorite photos from the trip was taken at a gas station on our way to a hotel … go figure.
This random pic at another quick rest stop was another gem <3
We love hotels! (And are also very excited to be out of the car!)
I mean, look at this awesome pool!
So fun!
Naturally, I enjoyed from afar πŸ˜‰
Fun with luggage trolleys.

After pool time and breakfast in PA, we loaded up the car again and headed to our next stop β€” a playground/picnic and then a splash pad, both in Ohio.

This playground in Ohio was so cute, and totally empty!
We only stayed here for a quick run-around and to have a picnic, but Emilia approved.
We drove about an hour from the playground to this random splash pad in Ohio. It was on the smaller side, but on a 90+-degree day, it definitely got the job done!
Splash pads and playgrounds really take it out of ya!
And we were off … again!
Thanks Ohio … we’ll see ya later!

World’s Biggest Things β€” The Stop We Never Knew We Needed

The rest of the trip β€” about four hours β€” to our Airbnb in Vandalia β€” was a bit rough, if I’m being honest. We were all pretty over the car, somehow both tired and wired, at the same time. Luckily, about an hour outside of Vandalia, we saw a sign for some of the Big Things in the Small Town of Casey, Illinois, and made the split-second decision to pull over.

Man, oh man am I glad we did … because how much fun are these?!

Who knew big things could be so much fun?!
It was late, and starting to get dark, so we couldn’t see everything, but what we did see was so. much. fun!
World’s biggest rocking chair! (Allegedly …)
This is the world’s biggest wind chime!
Next was the world’s biggest golf tee!
Then onto the world’s biggest mouse trap?! I don’t know, but we loved it all!
What would it be like to write with the world’s biggest pencil?
I don’t think this was part of the actual attractions, but at this point in our trip I sure didn’t mind seeing my kids contained somewhere I wasn’t πŸ˜‰
Checking out the world’s biggest mailbox!
There was a fountain behind the mailbox where you could throw in coins and make wishes. Bet you could guess what my wish was! (Hint: Getting to our next destination quietly was involved …)
Such an adorable town, and definitely worth a stop on your way by it!

Coffee, Dragons and Arches

After our pit stop in Casey, we still had a couple hours to our Airbnb in Vandalia, but luckily the stop did what it was meant to do β€” wear the kids out! They all fell asleep on the ride to Vandalia and, luckily, this Airbnb was glorious. Three bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a fully stocked kitchen with drinks and snacks. It was exactly what we all needed after a full day of travel.

This cutest little drive-through coffee shop β€” Shimoji Coffee β€” on the way out of Vandalia was so lovely!
The Kaskaskia Dragon is easy to visit on your way out of Vandalia! You can grab some coins at the store across the street to make him actually breathe fire!
About an hour later, we were at The Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Chris and I visited the Arch on our drive out to Denver from New York when we moved here, but it has since gotten an upgrade to National Park status. The museum is amazing now, and the grounds have even gotten an upgrade. It’s definitely worth revisiting if you haven’t been back in a while!
The museum is so much fun!
There are a lot of fun things for kids to do and see, too.

After our Arch pit stop, it was back in the car for a few hours, until we stopped for gas and went for a quick detour for treats at the Ozarkland General Store

One of each, please!
After Ozarkland it was on to Topeka, Kansas, where we stopped for dinner at The Pennant. This restaurant was perfect, because it had games and bowling and plenty of run-around space for the girls. Plus, it was right downtown, which was fun to check out!

Downtown Topeka, Kansas fun!

After dinner we had a couple hours to our hotel in Oakley. We picked that particular hotel because it was just a few hours from there to our home in Colorado, and we needed to leave early Wednesday to get back.

Grace, exhibiting perfectly how we all felt waking up early on Wednesday to head home after our whirlwind trip.

And that, as they say, was that, friends! After countless miles, five hotels/Airbnbs and 11 states, we were back where we started! Being home felt lovely and completely odd, all at once. We are so grateful that we were able to have this experience, to see our people and to check out so much of the U.S.

At the end of the day, we wouldn’t have done anything differently … except maybe pay more attention to the rules of Dramamine earlier on in the trip. Sorry, Grace!

The Details

Here’s a quick look at all the places we stayed, visited and ate at during this leg of our trip:

The Finances

Now for the super fun part … the money! We likely would have spent less money on this trip had we flown, even factoring in the cost of the flights. Gas is incredibly expensive right now, which was one factor. We also decided ahead of time that we didn’t want to scrimp on this trip. After not traveling for more than a year, we wanted to stop where we wanted to stop, eat what we wanted to eat, and stay where we wanted to stay.

And it worked out because, like I said, we wouldn’t have changed a thing. Here’s how our finances broke down. We spent:

  • Hotels: $1581
  • Gas/Tolls/Parking: $770
  • Food/Groceries/Entertainment: $1112
  • Miscellaneous: $250

The grand total on this trip was almost $4,000 which, of course, is a lot of cash. Considering everything we did, though β€” including places stayed, food ate, things visited β€” for five people, it really wasn’t all that bad.

Plus, as the kids say, YOLO, my friends … YOLO.

And that was our trip! I hope each and every one of you β€” who has made it this far in this post! β€” has something equally as adventurous and amazing planned for the summer. Until next time, friends … bis bald!

Our Road Trip Continued: The Pennsylvania and Upstate New York Edition

Paddle boats on the lake behind our Airbnb in Pennsylvania were definitely a perk.

Welcome back, friends! After our delightful stay in Brigantine, we were ready to hit up our next destination β€” an Airbnb attached to Billy’s New Hope Barn in Honesdale, PA.

I should start by saying that the ride out to the farm was less than optimal. (Think lots of things going wrong, including traffic and car sickness … it wasn’t our best ride …) So by the time we arrived, we had all about had it. The farm itself was very sweet, with lots of rescued animals for the girls to fawn over and fall in love with. I, however, was ready for a delightfully decadent shower, or perhaps even a lovely bath.

That wasn’t going to happen here.

Staying on the farm is a unique (and ultimately worthwhile) experience, but it’s important to know what you’re getting into. I’d liken this stay to “glamping,” since there was a roof over our heads and running water, but it wasn’t fancy by any means (nor is it advertised as such … that’s just what I was hoping for at that particular moment in my life.)

Once we started to get over the effects of our gross ride, things got better. It was actually very sweet to see the girls react to the animals, to eat a picnic dinner on the table by the lake, to watch the fireflies outside next to a campfire and to fall asleep to the sound of bullfrogs, and all the other nature surrounding us.

The farm is right next to the cabins on the property, so we walked over pretty much as soon as we arrived.
After this trip Grace won’t stop asking for a cat, while Lotte has her heart set on a dog. Either way, I’m not ready for a new pet, so here’s hoping they forget soon!
I do love a cute barn scene.
There are a ton of animals on the farm that are being rehabilitated from less-than-optimal settings. The girls loved being able to feed and pet them all.