We recently visited the Colorado Sand Dunes this May- it's been on our list for a while and this was the year it came together. While the sand dunes are accessible well into the fall, there are a few reasons to visit in late May. For one, the weather is still a little cooler. The main reason is that the Medano Creek is flowing which is an incredible sight to see. The water is snowmelt and pretty chilly but it's fun to splash before or after hiking the dunes.
Because we decided on this trip a little late, we ended up staying in Alamosa (about 45 min away) instead of the nearby Sand Dunes Lodge. For us, it actually ended up being a good option because 1 day was plenty of time for us to do the dunes and the falls. We stayed at the Hampton Inn Alamosa. We loved having a pool (indoor) to swim in the evening. They also offered a pretty decent complimentary breakfast.
To really experience the dunes, it's fun to rent a sand sled or board- regular snow sleds don't really work well on the sand. You can find them for rent several places but the simplest option is to rent from the Oasis which is just a couple of miles from the National Park Entrance. Rentals are $20/day and include a bar of wax to help you get going a little faster. Go early- we arrived right at 9am on a Saturday and there was hardly a line but by the time we were leaving 15 minutes later, the line had doubled. Same goes for the park itself- at 9:25 we drove right in without a wait and grabbed one of the last nearby parking spots. When we left the park around 11:30, people were parking down the road and the line to enter the park seemed infinite! I really don't know if this is typical but we were very happy with our timing.
The Dunes themselves were incredible to see, just as you would imagine. You can see them from several miles away as you drive towards them. They just seem to pop up out of nowhere! The weather was windier than we expected and if we went again, we would definitely pack some pants and a hoodie. (We pretty much dressed for summer!) When the wind really picked up, it was a little like being sandblasted. We made the best of it- hiking to the top of some of the nearby dunes and then trying out the sand board (like a snowboard) and the sled. It was pretty fun!
We splashed in the creek for a bit but again because of the wind, our plans for sitting and enjoying the "beach" didn't really pan out. Again, it may be a little different later in the day or different times of the year.
After leaving the park, we stopped back at the Oasis to turn in our sand boards and grab some lunch- they had counter service only but the food was surprisingly delicious! Grilled chicken salad, good burgers and great fries. We filled up and then headed back down the road to hike Zapata Falls.
Oh Nantucket! You exceeded our expectations! We absolutely can't wait to go back!
To be completely honest, we really did not know all that much about Nantucket before planning this trip. We thought it might be a great little addition to our Boston trip but it actually turned out to be the highlight! (see here for part 1 & 2 of our Boston trip and also a little bit of our experience traveling during Covid times)
Now there are multiple ways to reach Nantucket so you'll need to think it through and decide what works best for you. Because of covid, we ended up having to change our plans anyway but it ultimately worked out fine. Also important to know that Nantucket is not necessarily a budget trip- we saved where we could but just know going in that it's not the simplest option- Cape Cod would be your best bet if you are looking for a budget version.
Originally we had planned to take a car service from Boston to Hyannis, take the ferry to Nantucket and then just Uber or taxi as needed on the island. Then we had a flight directly out of Nantucket that connected in Chicago before landing us home in Denver. Due to covid, the Nantucket flights were completely taken away, leaving us with a one-way ferry ticket and no way out of Nantucket.
A few phone calls later, we had things back in order, this time renting a car in Boston, driving to Hyannis, parking for the 4 days we were on Nantucket, adding a round-trip ferry ticket, then flying back out of Boston home to Denver.
Not a bad way to do it at all. Another option would have been to take the car on the ferry with us, but that requires a different, slower ferry that was already sold out by this point. Cars can also be rented on the island but rental prices start at $145/day!
We left Boston around 1:30 to make the 45+ minute drive down to Hyannis. There was some traffic but nothing terrible on a Sunday afternoon. We made it to the ferry terminal in plenty of time, dropped our luggage and parked the car in our pre-booked lot (we opted for on-site which was just a few yards away. Off-site is available for a little less $ and accessible by shuttle).
We got in line for the ferry and soon we were on, seated in a nice section with a table. Masks were required the entire ride which was just under an hour. There is food and drink available for purchase. Once off the ferry, we grabbed our bags and headed into downtown Nantucket. We were staying in Sconset which is about 15 minutes across the island. Our plan to grab an Uber did NOT pan out well- Ubers are not readily available, especially Uber XL for a family of 5. Taxis are the best option and cost right about $24 from downtown to Sconset. There is an island shuttle as well that's only $2-3/per person and takes closer to 35-40 minutes. We opted for this later to go into town one evening for dinner (no luggage). Realizing the Uber limitations, we were able to reserve a taxi for our departing morning so that we would not have to worry about missing our ferry!
Finally, we arrived in Sconset which is just a little slice of perfection! Our rental house was just a couple of blocks from the beach and steps away from the town center which includes the cutest little market and a handful of restaurants.
Our first official day in Boston- see here for how we got here, what we planned, and what traveling looks like right now.
After such a long day of travel, we let everyone sleep in a bit. With so many things currently closed, the only things we were really able to do were seeing all of the outside sites so there was really no hurry to be anywhere. Once we were all up and dressed, we started out to see the Public Gardens and Boston Commons- America's oldest public park, established in 1634. We explored for a bit then stopped for lunch at The Earl of Sandwich right in the Commons- again, not much was open so all of the places on my list of must-try weren't very helpful. This turned out to be great, the kids had fresh pizza and their salads, soups, and sandwiches were really good. After lunch we walked through the public gardens which were beautiful- so green with everything in bloom. The kids loved watching the ducks in the pond and even though it was a very hot day (90!), there was plenty of shade. We saw the Make Way for Ducklings statue and then headed back up to the State House to begin the Freedom Trail.
The Freedom Trail officially begins in the Commons at the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial which commemorates the first all-black volunteer regiment in the Civil War. Unfortunately it is currently being restored so we couldn't actually see it but there is a photo on the website.
Next is the State House, with the beautiful gold dome. It was sadly closed (like all the sites on the trail) so we could only view the outside. We continued on to the Park Street Church, just a block away. The entire trail is 2.5 miles and most of the sites are within a few hundred feet of each other. It was pretty hot this day and not being able to ever go inside made it a little tough, but we packed plenty of water and made the best of it! We did end up saving the last part, Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution for the evening since they are across the river and we took a rest during the hottest part of the day. The trail is marked all along the way by a red brick line which is really fun for the kids to follow (and helpful for everyone!). Luckily, the last few sites before Bunker Hill took us right back near our hotel.
After cooling off and resting it was almost time for dinner. Once again, most of the places I'd seen recommended were closed but since we were right by Little Italy, we decided to try La Famiglia Giorgios, and it was a winner! They were offering takeout only and it was very easy to order over the phone and bring back to our hotel for a feast! Right before I picked up the dinner, I passed a little Italian bakery, Bova's. There were cases filled with every type of pastry imaginable so I selected a small sample for everyone to share plus a couple of drinks for dinner. We had the best dinner which revived us for the last part of the trail.
We headed across the river, following the red brick trail. The path takes you right through Charlestown which is a beautiful area! Gorgeous homes and little park areas, and before you know it you are looking at Bunker Hill! People were gathered here for sunset picnics (socially distanced!). After we looked around, we got back on the path (you backtrack a little) towards the USS Constitution. It's a really nice walk, back through Charlestown. Even though the boat and museum were closed, we were able to get pretty close to the boat. There are also great views of the harbor and downtown from here!
Before crossing back over the bridge, we rewarded our efforts with some delicious ice cream from Emack and Bolio's! They had some really fun flavors and also a delicious root beer float with a micro-brewed root beer!
That pretty much wrapped up our day!
Tomorrow-Visiting Cambridge and Harvard
Like many of you, we had several trips and plans for this spring and summer that have been cancelled due to Covid. However, there was one trip we left booked (which we had planned way back in the winter), watching reports carefully to see if it would still be possible- and it was! We ended up traveling to Boston and Nantucket for just about a week and it was wonderful despite all the changes.
Before I describe what we did, I want to preface by saying that by no means is this a recommendation for anyone to go book a trip right now- please use your judgement and carefully look to see what the status of covid is in your own area as well as the area you might travel to and of course your own personal risk factors. For us, we were in constant communication with relatives we had in the area as well as the homeowner of the place we were renting to make sure everything would be as safe as possible. We also knew that nearly everything we would be doing would be outside. While we had a great time in both places, this was by no means an ideal visit of either place just because there are still so many restrictions in place.
We originally planned this trip where we would fly into Boston, stay a few days, then take the ferry to Nantucket and fly back to Denver from there. However, Covid messed up those plans big time, completely deleting our Nantucket flight and so we had to rework the whole trip. There are a few different ways to get to Nantucket- you can go by high-speed, passenger ferry (about an hour), take your car on a ferry (about 2 hours and must be booked WAY ahead- this was no longer an option for us at this point), or you can fly into Nantucket- either from Boston or straight in/out (though that was no longer an option either for us this time).
Ultimately, we ended up flying into Boston, renting a car there (car rentals on Nantucket are $150/day+!), and driving down to the ferry. We then parked the car while we took the passenger ferry and once in Nantucket we just used either the island shuttle or taxis. I've been thinking through how we might do this next time, assuming things are back to normal so I may add a summary of those thoughts at the end of this post! Let's get on to the trip!
In Boston, we stayed at the Courtyard Marriott Downtown/North Station. The location was perfect and the room was huge! The hotel was hardly occupied and masks were required at all times outside of your room. The lobby was enormous with several tables that came in handy for us later for enjoying some takeout. We were pretty hungry after a long day of travel- one inconvenience is that most of the airports we were at had very little open for food and there is no food service on the airline, though we did receive bottles of water and a snack (United).
AB Burgers was right outside our hotel and offered patio dining and takeout so we grabbed a table. It was delicious, with an amazing sunset view of the Zakim Bridge. After dinner, it was almost 10 local time so we headed to bed at the hotel. Next day, the Freedom Trail!
For New Year's Eve we decided to give Great Wolf Lodge a try! We had visited before, once in Texas and once in Colorado Springs but never for a holiday. It did not disappoint!
To be sure we got the best pricing, we booked several months out. If you have flexibility, you can often find a Groupon or great week day rates but these will not apply for holidays. Their basic rooms are very spacious and every room includes a mini fridge and microwave. For an extra treat, you can upgrade to the kids' cabin room which includes a fun little kid's area with bunk beds and a tv.
You can arrive as early as 1:00pm the day of your reservation to enjoy the waterpark- rooms are not guaranteed to be ready until 4pm. They will happily store your luggage and deliver it to your room once it's ready! Just pack a small bag with your swim gear and you can easily change in their roomy locker rooms.
Since we were meeting up with friends, we thought it would be nice to have a dedicated table and chairs for this day (current guests have to check out of their rooms by 11 but can enjoy the water park all day long, so they have seating access beginning in the morning and by 1 most chairs were taken.) The cabanas and day beds were all reserved but we were able to snag a reserved table and 4 chairs- this runs $55 but also includes a large pizza and a 2-liter of soda which was perfect for the kids' dinner later that evening! It gave us a great spot to keep all of our things and have a snack break while still having a good view of the park. No need to worry about reserving anything for the next day- you can enter the park in the morning and snag a spot easily, free of charge. We also packed a small bag of snacks and drinks which are allowed in!
When you are tired of the waterpark, there is still plenty to do around the resort- there's an arcade, mini golf, ropes courses, mini bowling, and of course the Magi-Quest! These all cost extra- you can purchase everything separately or buy the Paw Pass which includes multiple options. Paw passes in CO run from $49-99 each depending on which one you buy. We decided to go with one $99 Wolf Pass for the 3 kids to share- it included one wand and one magi-quest and then we just purchased 2 more. If you plan to come back, you can reuse the wands and just pay for the game!
The Wolf pass also included several more options so the kids each got to pick 2 things and then share a few such as the small candy cup.
New Year's Eve was especially fun- after doing some questing, we headed down to the big ballroom to watch the early ball drop! It was very festive- there was cider, coffee, and a popcorn bar! They also had the NYC ball drop live on tv and the staff was leading everyone in different dances. Confetti and balloons everywhere made it so much fun and there was even a great big photo booth with props! We hung out there for a while before heading up to our room to play some games and wait for midnight Colorado-time.
Now that the kids are a little bigger (7, 10, & 11) we are trying to add in a little more adventure to our trips. One of the big things to do in Monterey is to bike the 17 mile drive (or at least part of it). The boys are strong bike riders and the rental places offered plenty of kid-friendly options such as tag-a-long trailers so we decided to give it a try. We rented from Adventures by the Sea which has several locations and plenty of good reviews. To make things easy, we went to the Cannery Row location which has a back entrance right onto the bike trail. They also had a huge selection and were so helpful. For some reason their website no longer shows the family bike options but I called them and they assured me that they still have everything available- pricing for our whole family for half a day was under $100.
Adventures By The Sea
Address: 685 Cannery Row #210, Monterey, CA 93940
After getting everyone set up, we set off on the trail. The first section is a dedicated bike lane, super easy for everyone.
Before you know it, you are riding right along the ocean- the views are incredible (still on a dedicated bike/walking path) We rode over to a green space and then parked the bikes and hiked the super easy walk up to Lover's Point, that little outcropping of rocks). You could pack a lunch or snack and have a quick little picnic here if you want!
We continued on- eventually the path gives way and you are riding alongside the road but there is still a bike lane and the traffic is not too fast or heavy. It might be a little scary if you have wobbly riders but our boys did great and the little one was secure behind me on the trail-a-bike. We made several stops to regroup and take pictures- the scenery is amazing! They also wanted to stop at every little beach point.
Eventually it was beginning to be lunch time and we decided to cut our losses while everyone was still happy and turn around. We had gone about 5 or 6 miles at this point. We found a good spot to cross safely and began the ride back, still in a safe bike lane. After returning our bikes, we went to check out El Torito for lunch, right on Cannery Row- it was nice and big with plenty of ocean view seating. We will never turn down fajitas!
Please consider your own family's abilities and safety when deciding if this ride is for you, but for our family it was a winner!
Every October the kids get a 4-day weekend and so we try to take advantage of the time off for a quick, local trip. Most places still have great weather this time of year. This trip we decided to head out to Monterey, a part of California we'd never quite made it to. It's very easy to fly right into San Jose- we found great priced flights on Frontier this time. Josh happened to be working in San Francisco that week anyway, so he just swung by to pick us up after work on Friday. We decided to stay in Monterey at the Hyatt Regency- it was moderately priced and very convenient to downtown and the freeway since we did have a rental car. After checking into the hotel, we unloaded our things and headed to town (just 5 minutes away) to check it out. We stopped to let the kids play at the "Dennis the Menace" Park- it's a huge complex with an impressive playground, paddle boats, skate park and more. The weather was amazing and it was the perfect way to run off some energy before dinner.
After plenty of playtime, we headed over to Fisherman's Wharf- a small pier with great views and plenty of seafood options. There's even a nice little beach right next to it. We explored the beach, let the kids put their toes in the water. We walked around the pier, stopping to watch the sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks.
We stopped for dinner at the Crab House- really all of the restaurants here are pretty touristy and a little overpriced but the food is fresh and there are good views. They all are outside sampling their clam chowder. After dinner there a few dessert options around including an old-fashioned candy shop.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel- the Hyatt is very cozy with a nice lobby. There's a big fireplace in the center with seating. There's also a little coffee shop with fresh donuts and some quick and easy breakfast options. My little one and I enjoyed some early coffee and cider the next morning by the fireplace (mornings are very cool- bring your jacket!) The resort is a popular golf destination but we found it to be very family friendly as well.
Shortly after we moved to Colorado, my husband set out to climb all of the Colorado fourteeners. These are mountains that are over 14,000' tall- Colorado has 58 of them! He's very close to finishing but some of the ones left are pretty far from the Front Range. So when he knew he'd be climbing some near Telluride this summer we decided to make it a family trip. Telluride is a good 7 hour drive from us so not somewhere we'd be likely to be back close to for a while.
Telluride consists of the actual town and Mountain Village (the ski resort base). One of the wonderful things about Telluride is that the town and village are connected by a free gondola! It's just about a 12 minute ride pretty much eliminating the need for a car while you are there no matter where you stay.
We started out by taking tbe gondola one short leg to the center of mountain village. The kids were happy to climb the rock wall that's right in the center park. It's free and kept them busy for quite a while!
Stitch Fix is a favorite of mine- I've gotten several fixes for myself over the last few years. But a few weeks ago I tried out their kid's service for my 7 year old daughter. It was a hit! We kept everything! Their kid's pricing is excellent too- a relief because while I think the quality is worth it, the grownup lines do tend to be a little on the higher end.
I started out by filling out a profile for my daughter. You'll answer lots of questions about likes/dislikes and then choose images that would appeal to her or not. It's fun to do this with your child if possible. You can also create a Pinterest board to link to give the stylist a clearer picture of what you like. My girl is very girly, loves dresses and bling so I was sure to add in that info. You can also mention any sensory issues (we can't deal with itchy fabrics or elastic waists, etc).
Just a few days and then you get your box! Here's what was in ours:
So many items! In a grownup fix, you get 5 items. This box was filled! And everything was mix and match, perfect for kiddos! We had 3 pair of leggings- the quality was amazing- my thin, long-legged girl is often hard to size just right but these leggings were all buttery-soft and fit in waist and length- a rare find for us! It's been a few weeks now and they have all held up well to washing.
There were 2 dresses- super cute and very soft and comfortable. Everything was spot-on sizing-wise except for the jacket which ran a little large. But my girl LOVED it and was determined to keep it- with the sleeves rolled up a big it's just fine and will last us extra-long!
The shoes are super cute- they are easy to slip on, comfy, and have all the sparkle and bling she loves. All of the tops fit perfectly and are so cute- it's nice to have something a little different from the usual Target wear everyone else has.
The pricing is amazing, especially if you've done a grownup fix. All of the leggings were priced at $12- very reasonable compared to other stores, especially for the good quality. With any Stitch Fix, if you choose to keep everything, you get 25% off your entire order! With a grownup fix, it's almost always worth it because it usually makes one item free. With the kid's fix, it was a no brainer- we loved everything and it was a bargain- very comparable to what we would have paid anywhere else.
When you use my link you will get $25 off your first fix. On any fix, you will be charged an initial $20 styling fee but it will be applied towards anything you choose to keep. You have the option to keep nothing and will only be charged the $20 fee. Shipping each way is free. Once you receive your items you have 3 days to try everything on and decide what you want to keep. You can check out through the website and there you can also leave feedback on each piece regarding sizing, fit, quality, etc. This is helpful information for your stylist so that if you didn't like something, they can improve in future fixes. Linking a Pinterest board really helps the stylist nail down your personal style.
Let me know if you have any questions- it's so fun to try and not much to lose! I want to try it out for my pre-teen boys next!