Monday, August 11, 2014

Squeezing in a summer trip to Charlotte

Fam portrait downtown
I am woefully behind in writing this post since we got back from Charlotte almost two weeks ago. I have a good excuse though – in the past two weeks, I started a new job and we’ve been packing up our house as we prepare to move at the end of the month.

Before we left for Charlotte, Phil told me I had no business going on the trip since we were in the midst of so much upheaval, but I really wanted to squeeze in some family and friend time before I started my new gig, particularly since Jen has been encouraging us to come down for summer boating fun for years.

We had a great time! Our friends were so hands on with the kids, and Phil and I even had an afternoon to ourselves getting massages (!!!). Jen and I shopped for some last-minute work wardrobe finds and Dylan got to drive another boat, this time on Lake Norman.

Sienna finally warmed up to pool time
Strolling/swinging around downtown Charlotte during restaurant week
Captain Pickle with Big Tom (Jen's dad)
Touring the children's museum while mom & dad get massages
Ah, well. Back to packing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Family fun daytrip to Put-in-Bay

Lots happening with our fam this month, but we squeezed in a fun day trip to Put-in-Bay thanks to Miller Ferry. I haven't been to PIB in years and Phil had never been so it was a great chance to experience it as a foursome.

Family selfie at the Put-in-Bay Butterfly House
It's just shy of a two-hour commute for us to catch the ferry and we hopped on the noon one just minutes after getting our tickets. The kids loved riding with the cars and staked out a spot by a porthole to catch all of the action.

Best spot in the house...err ferry
Once on the island, we borrowed a four-seater golf cart from Island Bike & Cart Rental -- something I had never done before on the island. The kids had a blast "driving" and we rigged our stroller up on the back.

  • Since we were running out the clock against the nap time fairy, we stuck to just a few activities: 
  • Lunch at Mr. Ed's (Such a different experience with kids! ;) They loved the live music)
  • Fishing at the Aquatic Visitors Center where kids fish for free with poles, bait, life jackets, etc. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday during the summer)
  • The Butterfly House, which hosts 900 butterflies, including 50 different species
  • Ice cream and coffee at the Chocolate Cafe

Our first-time fisherman!
Had we had more time, we might have explored Perry's Cave or the Fort aMAZE'n maze, but we packed in what we could before taking the 4:30 p.m. ferry back. Thankfully, nap time during drive time was not a problem:

I think D's entire preschool knows that we were on an island and drove a golf cart, so the trip definitely made an impression! 

I was compensated with ferry passes and a golf cart during my trip to Put-in-Bay. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Albuquerque museum hopping

Exploring hot air balloon baskets at the International Balloon Museum
When Phil first announced that he was going to a conference in Albuquerque, I googled things to do in Albuquerque with kids and found this gem of a list. It sold me right away that we could have a fun family trip there.

I couldn't wait to check out hot air balloons inside and out at the Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum. Added bonus: the museum hosts an award-winning story time every Wednesday morning. 

The museum is a few stories high (to accommodate legit blown up hot air balloons) and the back wall is all glass and overlooks a huge field. It's a great spot to check out balloon sightings, particularly during the  annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in October when more than 700 hot air balloons take to the sky. The coolest! I also loved how inexpensive museum admission is ($8 for our family).

(Clockwise: bubbles!, hands-on instruments, my chain reaction scientists, Sienna flying a plane)
During our first couple of days, we kept getting suggestions to visit the Explora! Science Center and Children's Museum. It definitely didn't disappoint. We had so much fun there that we drove to the hotel to pick up Phil after his conference sessions were over and brought him there so he could see what we did all day. 

We probably spent the most time in the front of the museum where you could build chain reaction experiments with pulleys, little balls and all kinds of other contraptions. I also love the section of the museum with instruments and sound experiments. And, older kids can ride a bike on a high wire near the museum's ceiling. 

Extra friendly geese at Tingley Beach
If we had more time, we definitely would have visited more museums, particularly those in the ABQ Bio Park, which features the zoo, aquarium and botanical garden and a fun train that takes you around to all three (extra ticket needed if you don't buy the combo pass). Because we wanted to enjoy the outdoors after Cleveland's unforgiving winter, we only visited Tingley Beach, a series of fishing/duck ponds near the Rio Grande within in the Bio Park. There's a designated kids' fishing pond, which I had to distract D from big time, and a trail along the river. 

One additional museum we visited was the Rattlesnake Museum in Old Town. Great area close to downtown that I'll talk about in my next and last ABQ post.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Climbing Albuquerque mountains and volcanos -- toddler-style -- with a dose of adrenaline

Climbing the Sandia Mountains via the world's longest tramway (3 miles) to the summit at 10,300 ft!
A couple of nights ago, I finally watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I knew when I first watched the preview in the movie theater that I would love it since it's about imagining adventure in your life and then making it happen.

As I watched the movie, I couldn't stop smiling thinking about the travel "risks" that I've taken over the years that turned into incredible experiences:
The movie reminded me of that wonderful yet scary feeling of adrenaline when you're in an unfamiliar place and you're wondering, "Am I crazy to do this or would it be crazy not to?"

In Albuquerque, I had a milder version of that feeling when I took the kids on the world's longest tramway up the Sandia Mountains to a peak more than 10,000 ft high. When I was researching things to do with the kids for the trip, I thought the tram would be so fun, particularly since I loved the one I went on in Hakone, Japan, near Mount Fuji. But, doing it alone with toddlers? Although I called and talked with the staff there and got advice from the Albuquerque visitor center and everyone said it would be fine, I still didn't sleep well the night before. 

The tram station was about 20 minutes from downtown and when we got there, there was a sign that said the weather at the mountaintop was 31 degrees (it was about 60 degrees in Albuquerque). What?! I asked if that was for the legit top of the mountain or where the tram was taking us and the man looked at me funny and said both were the same thing. Then he said it probably was closer to 45 degrees and he had to update the sign. Whew!

I put an extra layer of clothes on the kids and we were off! The staff and tourists were awesome since they let me keep our ginormous double stroller unfolded so I could better manage the kids.

The littlest mountain climbers atop the "North" Mountain. Elsa would be proud!
I'm so glad we went! The scenery was beautiful and Dylan LOVED the dips our car took each time we came up to one of the towers. Hilariously, he kept calling it the North Mountain (Frozen).

From the Sandia Mountains, we drove another 20 minutes to the National Petroglyph Monument, which stretches 17 miles across Albuquerque's west mesa throughout volcanic cliffs and canyons. The trails feature petroglyphs, rock picture carvings, on volcanic rocks dated 400 to 700 years ago made by Native Americans and Spanish settlers.

Toddler trail climbers at Boca Negra Canyon
We "hiked" as best we could along the trails at Boca Negra Canyon and admired the carvings of drums and animals. Definitely not stroller friendly since there are giant rocks in the middle of the trails, but we all still had a great time and even made friends with some lizards.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Albuquerque family vacation was a blast!

(Clockwise) Rattlesnake Museum, hot air balloon basket, Sandia Peak tram, Tingley Beach

Who knew? Albuquerque was a fantastic spot for a family trip! And, New Mexico is now checked off of my list of states to visit. Lots to do indoors and outside, including exploring Albuquerque's Sandia mountains and 19 museums. The kids loved the range of things to do, from climbing mountain trails to hands-on activities at the museums to dancing to music in the park to swimming in the hotel pool.

I only have two regrets: no hot air balloon sightings or pink sunset views that gave the mountains their namesake ("sandia" is the Spanish word for "watermelon). While Albuquerque boasts that it is the best location in the world for hot air ballooning (because of its cool early morning temperatures and the "box" effect, which provides predictable wind patterns in between the mountain ranges), the weather was more windy than normal so the skies were empty. Regarding the lack of sunset sightings, I was banished indoors at dusk to put the kids to bed. Silver lining: I caught up on lots of sleep!

Phil and I both agreed that it would be amazing to be in town for the city's annual International Balloon Fiesta, which is held every October and hosts about 750 hot air balloons. It's on my bucket list!

In the interim, more to come on mountain-climbing (toddler style), museums and fun things to do in Old Town.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Next stop: The Land of Enchantment

The kids are pumped for our trip & can't wait to use their Skootcases
I don't know what it is about New Mexico, but it has been calling to our family. I've heard "The Land of Enchantment" reference three times in the past couple of weeks and D keeps wanting to read books about hot air balloons, something Albuquerque is known for hosting. We're headed there later this month for a family trip since Phil is already going for a conference. 

I am envying my pre-parent trip planning self right now as I have made a minimal effort to plan activities for the kids and me during the day while Phil is going science bonkers. I literally have three pins on my Pinterest board:

But quality over quantity, right? If we can check out hot air balloons, swim in the rooftop pool of our hotel, drive through the mountains and catch a mariachi band, I think that's a total win. Also, I will be happy if I can finally spell Albuquerque correctly.

Any other ideas? Send them my way!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hitting the beach in Miami after a long break

I’m back from hiatus - travel certainly slowed down for me during the second half of the year. I did have a trip to Indy last month, but I was too lazy to blog, to be honest. But now I’m back after what I hope is an annual girls’ destination trip with my friend Jen. Our first destination was Miami for a long weekend – more specifically, Sunny Isles Beach.

The past four days were absolutely fantastic, particularly after the bruising winter we're having! So happy to retreat from polar vortexes while basking in Florida sunshine. I've only been to the Miami area once before - in 2006 with Phil when he had a conference in South Beach. 

The Trump international Resort where we stayed and Sunny Isles Beach were amazeballs in general for 3 reasons:

The beautiful hotel had wonderful service, a fantastic pool and great beach- and pool-side dining options. We booked on Expedia and I liked that there were lots of inclusions. For example, we didn’t have to pay extra for beach chairs, umbrellas and towels on the beach. The hotel is kid-friendly too and I hope to bring the entire fam back.

Quiet, soft, well-kept beach. Even though I only dipped my toes in the water, I liked that we were close to the lifeguard station. I loved running in the sand each morning…sometimes barefoot and sometimes with running shoes.

Great location with lots to do around the hotel. There was a “utility” shopping plaza across the street for anything from groceries to nails to breakfast to booze to souvenirs, and there also were a couple of lux shopping options within a 5 minute cab ride. And, not once did we have a challenging tab getting a cab back to the hotel. 

Such a great trip and I can't wait for my next vacation, which will be in a few months when our who fam heads to Albuquerque.