The Best Fall Activities Around Denver for Kids

Peak fall is happening over at Anderson Farms right now!

Welcome to October, friends! Technically, it’s been October for a while, but this past weekend was the girls’ fall break from school, so it really feels like we’re in the midst of the season now! Over the past four days we’ve really laid it on thick with all the quintessential things. We managed to:

  • Finally attend the Fall Festival at Anderson Farms, out in Erie, Colorado
  • Hit up the girls’ favorite park — Paco Sanchez Park — for a Mom/daughter date with Lotte
  • Get in lots of outdoor time for scootering and bike riding
  • Check out the Halloween decorations at the Denver Zoo with Grace’s little bestie from preschool
  • Pick up some supplies from the local library for a marathon afternoon of Halloween movie watching (and, while we were there, checked out Lotte’s kindergarten artwork on display!)

Have I mentioned we love fall?

Day 1: Anderson Farms Fall Festival

Thursday was Day 1 of the girls’ fall break, and we met up with my cousin and her three cuties at Anderson Farms for their fall festival. This place was awesome, and I have a feeling that it’s a pretty good thing we went on a weekday (tickets are cheaper on weekdays, too!). I imagine weekends might be a madhouse. But we got lucky, and on a random Thursday there were no lines for things like duck races, hay rides, bouncy castles, corn mazes, barrel rides and so much more.

I HIGHLY recommend this place if you’re looking for something fun to do with the kids!

Ready for all the fall activities!
I have truly never seen such fun pumpkin displays, except for The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in the Hudson Valley.
Duck races!
There was a long and spooky corn maze for adults, and then this shorter, kid-friendly version for the littles.
Ask me how much I wanted to jump on these inflatables?!
The tractor ride out to the pumpkin patch was definitely a big hit!
This cutie loved it all <3
Pumpkins, as far as the eye can see!
And … the best part … they were already picked! At our usual pumpkin patch (which I still love), you have to cut the pumpkins yourself, which can sometimes be tricky.
Grace took her pumpkin picking very seriously.
It was the first time this little one visited a pumpkin patch and, as no surprise to anyone, she rocked it!
Our cute little crew.
One of these things is not like the other.
Chris enjoyed this ride as much as the kids, I think.

Day 2: Paco Sanchez Park

On Friday, Lotte and I stole away from the rest of the crew for a bit to visit a park that Chris had introduced the girls to, but that I had never been to before. According to their website, “the giant 1950s microphone-inspired tower heralds the horizon, but the built-in play value is what really makes this park honoring local radio DJ Paco Sanchez truly extraordinary.”

Well, no kidding … take a look at this place!

I won’t lie — the first time Lotte started doing stuff at the playground I had a quick momentary thought of, “Can she handle this?!” I mean I’m her Mom, I worry, okay!?
I quickly learned that she was more than capable, though, and it was so amazing watching her climb, swing, run and slide.

I love some good family time, of course, but it’s also awesome to get away with just one girl every so often.

One quick note: If you do come here, the playground is recommended for kids from five to 12, but of course it’ll be up to you decide if your kid is ready for the dexterity that all the play equipment requires.

Day 3: Boo at the Zoo!

On Saturday, we met up with one of Grace’s preschool friends to check out the Halloween decorations at the zoo. We didn’t actually spend a lot of time paying attention to the animals, but the kids had a great time together, and it was so lovely getting to know Judah’s parents a bit better, too.

Plus, the zoo is always one of our favorite spots around Halloween!

Can’t even take this one …
Grace, never not running places.
The “strolley,” as we lovingly call our foldable Radio Flyer, turned out to be quite the draw!
It’s become a tradition to hit up the train (which only lasts about five minuets, if that) while we’re at the zoo, and Judah was happy to oblige.
The girls had their first Carousel ride (at this particular zoo, at least) AND their first fruit roll-up on this trip! Not a bad day …
This guy was certainly creepy, but Em didn’t seem to mind!
This spot is always a crowd pleaser.
My girl <3
Too. Much. Cuteness.
The new penguin exhibit proved very exciting!

And that, my friends, was our fall break in a nutshell! Oh, plus a photo of Lotte and her dot at the library, because, duh …

Bis bald, friends! Hope you’re all getting into the festiveness of the season, as well!

Life Recently: Hello, Fall! How I’ve Missed You …

Just a dad and his daughter, ready for a fall run!

I’ve never pretended to be a lover of the summer, but this year I feel like we definitely made the most of it! (See posts about our cross-country drive and trip to the beach, visits from east coast besties and water activities out on the lake for proof!) Still, I’m never sad to see summer go.

Blasphemy, I know 😉

Now that fall is officially here, and the weather (for the most part) is changing, I’m looking forward to all things fall and cold-weather related. I’ve already got this this fall festival booked for us for next weekend, along with a trip out Paint Maines Interpretive Park to celebrate Chris’ birthday. We’ve had our Halloween costumes planned since the beginning of September (there’s no shame in my game), Lotte has a season ski pass and lessons awaiting her, and our flights back east for the Christmas season were booked months ago.

In other words, we’re ready!

Grace and I started decorating the house for the fall last weekend. These little trinkets — which were my Mom’s — make me so happy.

I won’t lie, there is a small part of me that feels an inkling of sadness when I compare this year to last. As Halloween and Thanksgiving rolled around last year, I was very pregnant and we were very excited to meet our little nugget (and find out whether she was a boy or a girl!) at the end of the year. There is no excitement that can equal that of waiting for a baby to arrive.

But this year … she is here! She can celebrate with us, and that, I have to remind myself, is even more fun.

This little smooshkin will be adorable at Halloween, I can promise you that much!
Outdoor birthday movies are even better with blankets in the chilly fall air!
The joy that is Grace twirling. Luckily, this happiness is not contained to one season.
Fall is just THE BEST season for clothes!
Our first figs from our new fig tree!
I am probably one of the few people on the planet who doesn’t mind the sun going down earlier at night. More snuggle time, if you want my opinion!

I hope you guys are all gearing up for a super fun (and super safe!) fall and winter season, as well. I don’t know you personally, but I can say without a doubt … we all deserve it <3

Bis bald, friends!

P.S. I started an Instagram account for Chris’ culinary shenanigans — if you’re interested, check it out @the_au_chef !

Hiking Two 14,000 Foot Mountains in Two Days (Is Hard!)

Hitting above the tree line on the way up when hiking Mt. Belford.

Chris and his friend from New York have made it a tradition to climb 14ers in Colorado together, and while the pandemic derailed any plans for that tradition last year, they were back at it in full force this year! Below, Chris shares all the deets!

While 2021 is far from fantastic, thank goodness there are some freedoms restored from 2020. One of my best friends from New York traveled out to Colorado in early September and joined me for two days of hiking 14ers in the Sawatch Mountain Range. We had our eye on three 14ers, specifically:

*Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford, a joint hike we were planning on tackling on Thursday

*Mt. Elbert, which we tackled on Friday with some fellow running club teammates

Here’s our itinerary, in case it helps anyone else interested in doing something similar:

Wednesday

I picked Gavin up when he flew in on Wednesday and we drove straight to Buena Vista, a little town that’s about 2.5 hours west of Denver. Buena Vista is a great central location that gives you access to a wonderful mountainous playground. It was fun to spend the time in the car catching up and making up for lost time. We stayed at this great one-bedroom Airbnb (I crashed on the couch), and we checked out the Eddy Line Restaurant, a local brewpub I had remembered from a birthday lunch years ago. We prepped for the hike on Thursday by getting our food, drinks and gear ready and went to bed early. The AirBnB actually didn’t have a smart TV (the horror!) but they did have one of the best DVD collections I have come across, and we were able to rewatch some classics like Snatch, Fight Club and Dogma.

The view from our apartment balcony was gorgeous to say the least.


Thursday

We woke up at 4:30 am and left to hike at 5:00 am. The trailhead for Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford is just a 33 minute drive from Buena Vista. The road to the trailhead is a pretty intense dirt road, but the All Trails directions got us directly there. We were hiking by about 5:45 am, which is way darker than I remembered. Still, a lucky flashlight in the car made it less intimidating (bringing a headlamp or flashlight is a must).

It was too dark to take this photo at the start, so here it is with a couple of busted dudes at the end of our hike.
Following the signs is essential when hiking 14ers!

This hike was IMMEDIATELY hard. Usually, there is a gradual climb or a chill portion, but this hike was pretty hard the entire way. It also didn’t help that we somehow got off the trail and ended up semi-rock climbing up a waterfall and steep, rocky surface of a mountain. It was hectic, to say the least. Finally, we were able to find the trail, and almost kissed the ground when we did.

Pointing to the top of Mt. Belford on the way back down.
Mt. Belford geographical marker.
Well thought-out hiking infrastructure 😉

The rest of the summit was a slog made up of steep switchbacks, as it goes with 14ers, and we reached the top … only to see a thick, heavy cloud cover and some light sleet. 

Cloud cover at the top of Mt. Belford.

Feeling a little defeated by what we dubbed “the situation,” and seeing the sleet/cloud cover, we decided to bail on Mt. Oxford, the second peak we had planned to hike. Luckily, there was a truly mellow trail off the back of the mountain that was a Godsend. There was even a pretty magnificent rainbow that showed up around 13,000 ft.

Nothing like a good rainbow to make up for a cloudy view.

The rest of the way down did feel never-ending, but it was very rewarding when we got back to the car.

Details: All told, we hiked 9.5 miles. This was the hardest 14er we have hiked to date (and it is only a Class 2). I would also do this later in July or early August to help avoid any cloud cover. We have unfinished business with Belford and Oxford, so we will be back!

Friday

We packed up and left the apartment at 4:30 am and made it to the Mt. Elbert parking lot by 5:20 am Friday … and it was already packed! We were lucky to snag the last parking spot (!) and began hoofing it with our running team friends, Joe and Zach.

Mt. Elbert was two miles longer than Mt. Belford, but the trail is better marked, and is very easy to follow, some hikers refer to it as the ‘gentle giant’. The weather was also incredible on the way up, chilly but sunny. We hit the summit by 8:50 am and took the obligatory pics, though there was some cloud cover that had rolled in.

Sun rising above the tree line at Mt. Elbert.
Just a couple of guys, ready for a hike.
Obligatory top-of-mountain photo, with clouds.
Not to brag, but … Mt. Elbert is the second highest mountain in the continental U.S. No big.
It was pretty.
From whence we came!

After that we booked it back down, and we made it back to the lot by 10:50 am. From there we drove to Idaho Springs and stopped at Westbound and Down Brewing for some delicious (and well-deserved!) sandwiches and beer.

Details: All told, we hiked 11 miles and it was well worth it. It is certainly long, but the effort is paid off by the achievement.


After our hikes, Gavin hung out for some fun adventures in our hood including a pool and barber visit, a tap house, and a canoe ride. Overall, these hikes were hands down the hardest we have done to date (we’ve now done TK), but it was terrific to spend some time in nature and catch up on life after 2020. 

Bis bald, friends!

Labor Day Weekend Starts at the Lake

Taking canoes out on Standley Lake is an annual tradition of ours that we missed last year because of the pandemic.

Happy Labor Day weekend, loves! I hope you were all able to find some kind of rest and relaxation over the past few days.

Chris had a friend visiting from New York and the two of them hiked a couple of 14ers over the week (more on that, later!), then came back to hang with us for a couple of days before Gavin flew back. On his last day, we all headed over to our local lake — Standley Lake — to rent some canoes and take them out on the water. We had been making this a tradition of ours each summer, but last summer they were closed because of the pandemic.

This summer, however, they were back open for business, and it was better than ever! We met some other friends of ours over at the lake and got one canoe and one kayak and spent two hours out on the water. The big girls loved it, while Em loved hanging out and supervising.

Supervisor extraordinaire 😉

Rentals were $40 each for life jackets and the kayak and the canoe, and you get two hours out on the water. It was time well spent, friends!

Little Grace tucked between Chris’s legs here … let’s just say she had more fun once we trusted her enough to sit in an actual seat!
Mira holding court. So grateful for friends with amazing kids.
This one <3 Never not smiling.
Chris and Grace paddling on Standley Lake.
Chris and Grace paddling on Standley Lake.

Happy Labor Day, friends! Sending all the sunshiney, mellow vibes your way!

Bis bald!

The Start to a Crazy New Year

One of our favorite spots in Colorado — the Frisco Bay Marina

Friends. How is it that no one told me how hectic life gets when you have kids in school?! And in activities?!

O.M.G.

Lotte started kindergarten a few weeks ago (sob!) and Grace is back in preschool, while little Em continues to delight us from home. Lotte also started ballet/tap, and Grace is starting up with swim lessons and music classes in the month of September. And honestly, at this pace, I’m not sure how long I can handle it!

Sweetest little dancer, who forgave me for the fact that I didn’t have her ballet outfit ready in time for her first class 😉

I mean, I know we’ll get used to this as our life, and so-on-and-so-forth, but sheesh, I’m way more exhausted than the kids. I think the fact that we’re still coming out of a pandemic (which is so not over yet) adds to the exhaustion.

Anyway, I’m rambling. The point is, life is crazy busy right now, so when we get a chance to break away from the madness, I’m all-the-more grateful. This weekend we took a day to head into the mountains. We hadn’t been to Frisco in years, and I’m dying over the photos of itty bitty Lotte and Grace in this post! It was Em’s first trip to Frisco (only second trip to the mountains ever, actually, with this trip to Granby being her first), and it was an all-around success, I’d say.

I’m not usually one to climb on the playground equipment with the girls (I have Chris for that!), but something about that mountain air changes me, friends 😉
We adore the Frisco Bay Marina — it’s the perfect, low-key spot for families!
It’s also the perfect spot to live vicariously through people who rent things there, like kayaks and canoes.
Just look at that happy Frisco face!
Em is happiest checking out her surroundings … the older girls are happiest when snacking.
Checking out new places is exhausting!

After hanging in the bay for a while, we walked into town and headed straight for our favorite outdoor lunch spot, right next to Foote’s Rest Sweet Shoppe (because ending a trip to the mountains with ice cream is a must, obviously).

Em has started standing (with help), and even though it literally pains me how quickly she’s growing up, I’m so, so proud of her.
Like I said … ice cream! It’s a must …
Ending the day with laughs.

After our busy Sunday in Frisco, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about actually getting out the door on Monday with all three girls like I planned, but Lotte happened to have the day off, and I was determined to make it work. So we packed up the car, and I headed to the Denver Zoo with my girlies.

Lucky for me, Lotte was more than happy to help push Grace, since I had Em strapped to me the whole time.

We had our ups and downs on this little outing, but overall, I’m so grateful that I have a flexible job that allows me to do fun and spontaneous things like this with my girlies.

Heading to the Zoo first thing in the morning is without a doubt the best time, we’ve found. It’s less busy, of course, but also the animals are always out and about!
We did something new on this trip, which was to feed the Lorikeets! So. Much. Fun!
Gorgeous!
We road the train, too, which as you can probably tell by these faces is one of our all-time favorite Zoo activities.
Happy place.

Anyway, a very happy and healthy start to the week to you, my dear friends! I hope whatever craziness you’re getting up to right now, that your able to take a beat and enjoy the little things, too.

Bis bald, friends!

Saying “So Long” to Summer 2021

The smoke from wildfires in the West have made it pretty gross outside in Colorado, but we still made the most of it when we had some besties visit from New York last weekend.

I used to think that it was preposterous to even think about school/fall/the end of the year before Labor Day, but as Instagram has taught me, it’s actually fairly common for schools around the country to start before then. Here in our little slice of Colorado heaven, Lotte will be starting kindergarten (SOB) and Grace will be back to preschool starting next Tuesday.

Le sigh. Summer, where did you go?

Besides our big ole’ road trip and Lotte’s 5th birthday, this summer has been but a blink. We’re looking forward to the girls getting back to school (even though they loved summer camp!) and seeing all their old friends, and we’re hopeful that this school year will see some semblance of normalcy. There will be masks, of course, but if we can just keep the kids in school, that would be such a blessing.

Again, le sigh. The world we live in these days.

Anyway, we had one of my good friends and her daughter — Lotte’s best NYC friend, she informed me — visit last weekend, and today was the girls’ last day at summer camp. We’re soaking it in, and keeping our fingers crossed for the fall future.

Bis bald, friends!

Lotte had the best time trying out track this summer, and we had the best time watching her!
2nd and 3rd place in her races … wahoo!
We didn’t get around to our annual paddle out on Standley Lake yet, but we did pal around the lake quite a bit, which is always a delight.
There were a lot of porch hangs, as well <3
And a LOT of cuddles with this treasure…
Peak summer vibes right here.
We went to a children’s concert in Boulder when our NYC friends visited, and it was so stinkin’ cute!
Taking it all in while avoiding the crowds, something I’m sure you’ve all come to excel at, as well.
Smokey mountain views.
Someone thoroughly enjoyed her first concert experience!
Dad and daughter <3
Our “strolley” (as Chris lovingly refers to the collapsible Radio Flyer we have) is such a game-changer every single place we go. Fine, Chris, I admit here, in public, that it was a great purchase!
Fiona brought flower crowns for Lotte’s birthday!
The sweetest!
Nothing says summer quite like a run through the backyard sprinklers.
We headed into Golden and hit up the Golden Mill one of the days that Carla and Fiona were here. This place is quickly becoming one of our must-hit spots for guests.
The ice cream there is a must!
This trio agreed …
These guys were just the sweetest … even given the occasional complete meltdown 😉
Carla and I were roommates our freshman year of college, then worked one street away when we both started our careers in Manhattan. Now her daughter is five months older than Lotte and her son is two months younger than Grace. Love her to stinkin’ bits!
I don’t know what they were judging here, but something about this photo is very sweet to me.
We saw so many people tubing down the river while in Golden. It was very fun to sit in the park and shovel ice cream into our faces while watching other people exercise.
Last day of summer camp calls for cute summer dresses!
G sure does love a chocolate treat.
This one <3

Our Firstborn is Five

This gorgeous little girl is no longer so little …

What is it exactly that you feel when your firstborn child turns five? Is it wonder at the amazing little person she is becoming? Is it sadness for missing the baby that was so sweet and cuddly?

Whatever the feelings are that you’re supposed to have when your first child turns five …. I’ve got ’em! I have all the feelings, friends! Lotte turned five this past Tuesday, and while she’ll probably never, ever read this, I just want to say … it’s not possible to love someone more, little muffin. You are sweet and sensitive, smart and silly. I cannot wait to see everything you have in store for this world.

Lotte had a “no rules” night on Monday night — aka a campout in the basement with Dad! — while we set up her bedroom for her birthday surprise. She got a big-girl bed for her birthday, and I set up all the gifts from family and friends in her room, as well. It was the most fun to see her come in and have everything laid out, and I dare say we’ve created a new birthday tradition.

We hit up the Denver Botanic Gardens — and the accompanying Mordecai Children’s Garden across the street — that morning, and it was so much fun. I had been to the children’s garden with Lotte and Grace years ago, but heading back with them at these ages was great. I think there’s probably a limited amount of time that I have left before Lotte starts to grow out of these things (or perhaps not … what do I know?!), so I’ll be soaking it all in as much as I can!

Bis bald, friends — I hope you’re all having amazing summers!

The fact that we can all fit together on Lotte’s big-girl bed is such a perk!
Everyone knows that little sisters get some gifts on big sister’s birthday, as well 😉
I still have one more print to get, but those Trailblazer on the wall behind Lotte’s headboard are my favorite. They’re from a sweet little company called Piccolina, and I am obsessed.
The traditional balloon pose is a must!
Pancakes with strawberry ice cream for breakfast … it must be a birthday!
The rooftop children’s section is so sweet, with plenty of spaces for the littles to run and play, things to touch and small, and even a small stream to splash in.
I can’t even imagine the upkeep for a place like this, and they do SUCH an amazing job!
May you always stop to smell the flowers, my love.
It was super busy on a Tuesday morning, but still a lot of fun!
Cutest sisters <3
We brought a picnic as well, of course! Having a picnic in a garden is just about the best summer activity there is.
See … we all enjoyed it!
The regular, adult section of the Gardens was looking so good this year, too!
I love how curious these girls are. I never want this phase to end.
Halfway through, I remembered that I had taken a photo in this entrance when I was quite pregnant with Lotte, so we had to get a cuddle photo in the same spot on her fifth birthday, obviously.
A little baby Lotte, all ready to come out and take on the world!
Chris’s birthday cake tradition continues! Lotte requested a strawberry Owlette cake from PJ Masks, even though she hasn’t watched the show in about two years.

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 😉

The Long Road Home

Rather than driving straight through — like we did on the way out — 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 😉
Fun with luggage trolleys.

After pool time and breakfast in PA, we loaded up the car again and headed to our next stop — 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 — The Stop We Never Knew We Needed

The rest of the trip — about four hours — to our Airbnb in Vandalia — 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?!