“Spring” Break in Grand Lake, the 2023 Edition

Happy Thursday, my friends! The above photo perfectly encapsulates what you should expect when heading to the Colorado mountains for a spring break that takes place during the third week of March.

Lots and lots (and lots and lots) of snow!

I’ll start by saying this: I wasn’t into this trip. I mean, I planned this trip, don’t get me wrong. When I knew the girls had some time coming up for break, but that Chris wouldn’t be able to take time off from work, I knew that getting out of our house, even for just a couple of days, would be a necessity.

What I didn’t count on was a massive storm heading in for the two days we would be in Grand Lake, and the absolute FOMO I would have from watching our friends head off to sunny and fabulous locales, like Hawaii and Colombia.

I mean … how do you compete with Hawaii? Or Colombia?

I decided you don’t. Instead, you lean into the snowy Xanadu, buy all the hot chocolate, wine and comfort food you can get your hands on, and decide to make the most of it.

Or at least, I tried. We stayed in this tiny cabin which, while appealing, is a bit close quarters for a family of five, during a snow storm, while one parent is still trying to get some work done.

Cabin was cute, with beautiful views, but still … small is small, people!

Still, we absolutely made the most of it. At the end of the day, I’m so glad we got up to the mountains and spent a couple days in the fresh air. Here’s what we got up to!

Day 1: Our Arrival

We arrived after dark on Monday after making a pit stop in Winter Park for dinner at Hernando’s. Even in the dark, you could tell from the outside that the cabin would be charming. (And that this trip would be … ahem … an adventure!)

After my anxiety driving over Berthoud Pass and one carsick-induced puke (poor Emilia), it was really nice to stop off in Winter Park for dinner and a breather.
See? So cute and charming!
At least the girls are getting way better at sharing a bedroom! Bunkbeds are always preferred, but this worked, too πŸ˜‰
Emilia made herself right at home, testing out all the furniture and climbing over everything possible.
These little muffins sure are the cutest adventurers <3

Day 2: Grand Lake Adventures

Our first full day in Grand Lake called for snow, but we lucked out and got only a few flurries, combined with a mostly gloriously sunny day!
So we took advantage of our nice-weather luck and headed over to Grand Lake. If you’ve been here a while you’ll recall that we made a similar trek last spring break β€” with Nan and Poppa! β€” and it was just as much a hit this year as it was last!
This mom will interrupt the fun for selfies. Always. #sorrynotsorry
Just a coupla cuties, having a snowy blast!
I’ll never get over the fact that we were walking on a lake. Although this time parts of the lake were definitely more thawed than I would have liked, which was terrifying ….
Snowmen and snow angels were a must.
So full of love for these ladies.
Chris had to work while we were away, but the girls and I made the most of our lady time <3<3<3
This little one definitely doesn’t remember her trip out here last year, but she just might have a few glimmers from this one πŸ˜‰
The rest of our day was filled with equally as essential snow day necessities, including lunch at The Hub
Couch snuggles …
Family reading ….
And (very competitive!) family games!

Oh, and we also had to get our car towed out of our driveway when it got stuck on ice.

Never a dull moment, friends.

Day 3: Rocky Mountain National Park … and SNOW!

We woke up Wednesday morning to alllllllll theeeeeeeeee snowwwwwwwwww!
So up we suited and out we went … again! We spent the morning in our front yard before heading out to Rocky Mountain National Park, where our first stop was the Kawuneeche Visitor Center.
Snow, snow, and ….
MORE SNOW!
Made for some cute pics, like this one (don’t mind Emilia … she had just stuck her hands in the snow without gloves on …)
And this one πŸ˜‰

After our early morning snowcapades, we loaded up the car and headed to Rocky Mountain National Park and the visitor center.

At first we thought the visitor center was closed because of how absolutely deserted the area was, but luckily it was open (guess we were the only intrepid blizzard travelers), and it provided us with about 45 minutes of activity, which was priceless. (Insert exasperated/exhausted face here.)

We wanted to try for a short hike after the visitor center, but it had started snowing pretty heavily again by then, so we scrapped that idea and opted for lunch in the town, instead.

But not without stopping for a RMNP sign photo first, of course!
If you don’t take a selfie … were you really there?!

Lunch was at Sagebrush BBQ & Grill, which was delightful, and I would highly recommend (as would Emilia)!

Back at home, the girls spent our final afternoon riding sleds and climbing up to the roofs of the cabins because THAT’S HOW TALL THE SNOW WENT.

My little adventurer. (This was obviously a Chris activity. I would have been WAY to nervous to let her do that!)

After one final night in our tiny cabin we were up and at ’em at 5 so we could get home in time for Chris to start his work day. Grand Lake, you ended up being a gem, despite my initial hesitation πŸ˜‰ I’m so glad we went.

The gorgeous (and at times terrifying!) road home.

And that was our trip, friends! Next weekend if my birthday (!), and we’re off again, this time to tick off a bucket list adventure that I’ve had since an 8th grade report. Any guesses?!

Until then … bis bald!

Old Friends, New Experiences, Loads of Memories

Happy Monday, friends! We celebrated the holiday weekend with a visit from one of my oldest friends and her husband and kids. Another one of my high school friends moved to the area recently, and this little mini-reunion between the three of us β€” along with my kids getting to hang out with Faye’s kids β€” was everything my soul needed.

Highlights included sledding in Majestic View Park, a trip to the Butterfly Pavilion, checking out Meow Wolf Denver, lunch at Avanti in Denver … and of course all the extra special bonding time. It’s sappy but true β€” old friends make the best friends.

It snowed quite a bit the day our NY friends arrived, so hanging in our back yard and having snowball fights was a highlight, as well.
The cuteness between these two is off the charts <3
Love this girl.
And this whole gang!

Here’s a bit more of what we got into β€” hope you all are having a happy weekend, as well!

Majestic View Park Sledding

Sledding down slick hills is THE BEST!
Snow cuties.
<3 <3 <3

The Butterfly Pavilion

My friend Moe is not a fan of butterflies, but she faced her fears for the sake of the kiddos πŸ˜‰
Lotte held a tarantula ….
Grace gave her a “high five”!
This place is so interactive and hands-on, it’s amazing for kids.
Butterflies!
This particular butterfly was in love with us and kept coming back …
Such a friendly butterfly!

A Day in Denver

On Saturday we headed into the city to check out the interactive Meow Wolf experience (AMAZING, if not somewhat overwhelming!) and have lunch.
There were four floors (I think, it was honestly hard to keep track!) and SO MANY interactive, amazing things to check out!
The exhibits all bled into each other so you spend the entire time in these realistic “worlds”.
I can definitely see how it would be overwhelming for some, but our kiddos all loved it!
This was OBVIOUSLY my favorite room … BOOKS!
We had a big group and we got separated for most of the visit, but we all met up for the lunch after and agreed that it was well worth the trip!
I told them to make faces like aliens were coming to get them.
My loves <3
Lunch after was at Avanti, and the weather was so wonderful we were able to sit on the roof with views of the city.

It was a fun visit with some very sweet moments that we’ll always treasure.

I can’t even <3
We had a birthday celebration for Faye’s husband after our Denver day, and the mini cowboy hats were a big hit.
So were the moustaches.
Come back real soon, friends <3

Bis bald!

YMCA of the Rockies β€” The Estes Park Version

Edit Note: I wrote this post on the Monday after Thanksgiving, as we had just spent the weekend at the second YMCA of the Rockies location. Since the trip was a sponsored press trip, I waited to post this until the story for the publication that sponsored me went live. You can find the complete Good Housekeeping 2023 Family Travel Rewards story here!

Happy Monday after Thanksgiving, loves! Our little family was lucky enough to try out the second YMCA of the Rockies location β€” this time in Estes Park β€” the weekend after the holiday. (You can find information on our stay at the Granby Ranch location here.)

While similar in many ways, and with many of the same amenities as Granby, the Estes Park location did feel slightly different. There is less property at this location, which means the cabins and activities are closer together. This is nice if you’d like to opportunity to walk around more easily, but the vastness of the Granby location also had its perks. Whichever you visit, you honestly can’t go wrong. Grace spent the entire first-day-back-preschool-morning-check-in walking up to her little friends and her teacher and saying, “I went to the YMCA of the Rockies!”

It obviously had a lasting impact. Here’s a little bit why …

Even the check-in area was charming!
We had a real fireplace at this cabin, which you just KNOW Chris loved!
Games were another big part of our stay.
So glad we got to check out the pool on this trip!
The most fun!
Who doesn’t love a good air throw?
Just like in Granby, the cafeteria was a big hit.
Me and my cute little crew πŸ˜‰
We took a cute, short guided nature walk that involved hugging trees!
Borrowed some clubs for some mini-golf!
The library β€” and more specifically the story time at the library β€” is a MUST if you come here!
Grace did some rock climbing on the scrambling wall, while Lotte …
… gave the big wall a go!
Nature Center cuties
We made ice cream!
We explored some trails!
We made art!
We made a mess πŸ˜‰
We tried out the playgrounds!
We got cozy and colored by the fireplace in the lobby!
We made smores in our jammies back in our cabin!
And on Sunday morning, we woke up to gorgeous, snow-dusted vistas.

And that was our action-packed, amazing trip in a nutshell, my friends! Check out the YMCA of the Rockies in the Good Housekeeping travel awards here.

Bis bald, friends!

YMCA of the Rockies β€” The Snow Mountain Ranch Version

Edit Note: I wrote this post the Monday after we made our actual visit, but had to wait until the story was actually live. You can find the complete Good Housekeeping 2023 Family Travel Rewards story here!

Happy Thanksgiving week, my friends! We have been battling all the illnesses over here lately (just like literally everyone else in the world, I know), but we did manage to pull it together this past weekend for a quick press trip out to YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, CO.

As you’ll recall, we are already big fans of Granby, but the YMCA property took that love to a whole other level. I won’t go into a ton of detail here (because all of that is covered in the actual story that the press trip was for, which you can find here), but I’ll just say, this is the best, most upgraded camp experience you could ever have, dropped right in the middle of the most majestic mountain setting.

Some of our activities included:

  • Meeting the sled dog team and going on a little ride
  • Checking out the Kiva/Rec Center
  • Making crafts in the Craft Center
  • Smoresing and bonfireing
  • Building a float for a mini Thanksgiving Day parade
  • Enjoying our SPECTACULAR mountain views

We feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit this iconic spot.

We stopped off in Idaho Springs on our way home, as well, and had lunch at Beau Jo’s <3

I hope you guys are staying healthy and have some relaxing and fun holiday plans ahead. Until next time … bis bald!

Colorado Springs Bday Bash Part Two: Garden of the Gods and Cave of the Winds

Dads work on their birthday weekend trips, don’t get it twisted πŸ˜‰

Happy Monday, friends! Back to yesterday, when we were spending the second part of Chris’ birthday getaway at Garden of the Gods and on a cave tour at Cave of the Winds.

We’ve been to Garden of the Gods a number of times (like here, with my bestie), but yesterday was magnificent. The weather β€” while windy β€” was remarkable in all her fall glory, and we got there basically as the park opened to avoid the (always) crowds.

The girls basically love anywhere they can run unencumbered.
Happiness is …
Fall foliage AND these spectacular rocks <3
YOU try getting a photo of an almost-two-year who is NOT in motion!
Cuties.
Lotte’s new favorite thing is asking me to take specific photos β€” often with specific poses β€” and it is just delightful.
Emilia was over it by this point, but here’s a photo of me and 2/3 of my ladies.

After Garden of the Gods, we hopped back in the car and drove 10 minutes to our Cave of the Winds cave tour. It was about 45 minutes long and the girls were so great during it! I definitely think there were moments that were scary/hard for Grace (like when they turned the lights completely off and we were plunged into darkness β€” to show us what the cave used to be like before they added electricity β€” or some spots that were slick to walk in), but she was such a champ, and I was so proud. They both asked awesome questions (Lotte about stalagmites and G about bats) and, I think, had a really fun time.

It’s hard to take a ton of photos in a dark cave, as you can imagine, but here’s what I did get:

So pretty! Do NOT take this tour if you’re claustrophobic!
Cute little cave dwellers!
Emilia was great throughout, as well!
More formations whose names I forget but that still look beautiful.

And that was that, my friends! A successful birthday trip all around, made all the more fun by the tons of leftover birthday treats we had to bring home πŸ˜‰

Happy fall, everyone … and bis bald!

Birthday Bashin’ for Chris in Colorado Springs – Part One

Say cheese, it’s almost your birthday!

Happy Monday, friends! We just got back from spending Chris’ birthday weekend in Colorado Springs, where we stayed at this Airbnb in Old Colorado City, to be exact.

Even though we’ve been to Colorado Springs a number of times (like this special trip, for example), we had never stayed in this part of town, or done the activities that we came to do this past weekend.

Let me start by saying, our Airbnb was magnificent. The place itself was very nice, newly remodeled, etc., but really, it’s the location that sets this place apart. It’s right across the street from a great park (which just happened to be the main stage of the town’s adorable fall fest on Saturday afternoon with live music, face painting, plant potting and more), and is right on the main street, making it walking distance to tons of restaurants, bars and activities. The places that we visited on our stay included:

This is a long list for having only been there for two nights and one full day, but even so, there were so many other fun places we wanted to try! (And hopefully will, sans kids, one day.)

Grace is me when it comes time to pick treats … GIVE ME THEM ALL, PLEASE!
Even Emilia got a vegan chocolate treat to devour πŸ˜‰
Air throws are all the rage these days <3
We grabbed breakfast early on Saturday and took a quick walk in town before heading for the main attraction of the day. These sweetest little farm owners were setting up their stand for the fall festival later in the day and gave the girls each a free pumpkin β€” what a fun way to start the day!
My favorite pictures are the ones that girls request, like Lotte, with this one πŸ˜‰

The main reason we picked this particular Airbnb, though β€” even though all the other perks were top-notch once we arrived β€” was its proximity (about seven minutes) to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. These ancestral Puebloan Ruins date back 800 to 1000 years, and they’re so well preserved that you can walk and explore in them which, naturally, the girls were obsessed with. It was so fascinating learning about their way of life, and it really makes you realize how smart they were, especially given the fact that their habitats are still standing today despite having so little to work with.

I mean … incredible.
These cuties LOVED exploring! (Chris, too .. hah.)
Hi!
Never goes anywhere without her tiger these days <3
The surrounding area is so picturesque, too.
These two.
The museum did a great job explaining more about the daily lives these people led. Not entirely sure Lotte should have put her tiger inside the fake fire pit, but sometimes ya gotta pick your battles.
Emilia loved it, too!
Love a good stranger pic!

After spending a few hours at the cliff dwellings, we headed back to our Airbnb and spent some time on our front porch listening to the live music of the fall festival before heading over to partake in the festivities.

It was Emilia’s first “concert,” and she was HERE. FOR. IT!

After a couple hours at the festival, some down time, some snackin’, and a partial viewing of The Addams Family (for me and Chris, not the girls, although I do think they would actually find it hilarious), we hit the streets again to check out The Michael Garman museum, which turned out to be even more fun than I imagined. Michael Garman was a sculptor who created Magic Town, a square-foot miniaturized neighborhood with hand-made buildings and sidewalk scenes, which became The Michael Garman Gallery and Magic Town Museum with more than 500 of his sculptures.

Emilia was fascinated!
The older girls were enraptured.
Chris and I were pretty impressed, too!

After the museum we hit up Westside Cantina for Chris’ birthday dinner, complete with multiple tacos and multiple margh’s …

One of everything please …
Emilia also approved πŸ˜‰

And that was the gist of our Saturday, the day of Chris’ birth. It was so much fun, and the girls had a blast. Sunday was another adventure, but I’ll get into more on that tomorrow. For now … bis bald, friends! I hope the fall is treating you well <3

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.