YMCA of the Rockies — 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 — this time in Estes Park — 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 😉
We took a cute, short guided nature walk that involved hugging trees!
Borrowed some clubs for some mini-golf!
The library — and more specifically the story time at the library — 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 😉
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 — 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 😉

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 — while windy — 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 — often with specific poses — 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 — to show us what the cave used to be like before they added electricity — 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 😉

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 😉
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 — what a fun way to start the day!
My favorite pictures are the ones that girls request, like Lotte, with this one 😉

The main reason we picked this particular Airbnb, though — even though all the other perks were top-notch once we arrived — 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 😉

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 Cañon 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 😉

The Details

Lodging (Price: $692 for 3 nights)

We stayed at this Airbnb in Cañon 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 😉 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 — 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 — a very narrow 2.6-mile drive with the most amazing views and … wait for it … DINOSAUR PRINTS! — and then did a short hike — the Royal Gorge Overlook Loop — 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 — with this ridonc view — 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 — and beautiful — 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!

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 😉

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 😉 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 — 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!