Colorado Girl’s Summer Bucket List

Do you have a bucket list? You know one of those lists of things you want to do before you “kick the bucket”. My kids and I created our own sort of bucket list. While we didn’t call it Bucket List – we called it “Colorado Kid” list. It was all the things that we thought that someone who lives in Colorado should do in their lifetime. And maybe why some people actually come here to visit (instead of just those of us who get to live here). Some of the items were winter (ski, snowboard, snowmobile, ice skate on a lake, etc) there were quite a few that were summer items. So maybe you can start your own Colorado Kids list with some of these suggestions.

In Town (Denver)

  • WaterWorld is a water park on the North side of Denver (on 88th and Pecos). They have been recognized as one of the best water parks in the country and it is right here in our back yard!  https://www.waterworldcolorado.com/
  • At Elitch Gardens your sort of get a two for one, it is a theme park and water park. There are rides for all ages and sizes and plenty of other fun happenings from free concerts to dive in movies.  https://www.elitchgardens.com/
  • Who doesn’t love a night at Red Rocks? The natural amphitheater that is famous for the amazing sound and natural setting. One of the least expensive ways to really experience the venue with the whole family is Film on the Rocks! The films are typically proceeded by an awesome local band that goes along with the theme of the movie.  http://www.redrocksonline.com/fotr/
  • Free Concerts or movies is an amazing way to enjoy a Colorado evening and some entertainment. Most are free and pretty much you can find something on your side of town (because they happen everywhere). https://www.milehighmamas.com/blog/2018/06/01/summer-2018-free-concert-and-movie-guide/
  • Cherry Creek Arts Festival (July 6-8) is a wold-class and award-winning arts festival showcasing the visual arts, performing arts, and culinary arts. So much to see for everyone. Just make sure you bring your water bottle. It is usually pretty warm out. My kids and I sat in the shade of the tent of the culinary stage. We watched the chef prepare the meal and wrote down the ingredients and steps. Then we went to Whole Foods, bought all the stuff and re-created the meal at home that night. Arts in the home. (We couldn’t exactly re-create some of the visual arts – and we certainly tried to recreate some of the performing arts). cherrycreekartsfestival.org/
  • If music is your thing, Underground Music Showplace (July) is the place to go! Let’s just call it a full two days of a free concert downtown. https://www.undergroundmusicshowcase.com/
  • Taste of Colorado (Sept – Labor Day weekend) is a staple for anyone who has lived in Colorado for any time. Civic Center park is transformed into a tasting haven, top artists perform (Leann Rhimes was just announced for this year) and tents upon tents of crafts/community exhibitors https://atasteofcolorado.com/
  • Renaissance Fair. A bit cheesy but fun. Yes, we all want to walk around eating a giant turkey leg while we watch jousting or say hello to a King and Queen. It is a great teaching opportunity to talk through history and culture of a different time and place.  https://coloradorenaissance.com/

But if you’ve had too much in town – you can always escape to the Mountains!

  • Hike! Pretty much it seems like you can pull your car over on the side of the road and just start walking! Hiking is easy and fun. Stop and take pictures, see if you can find animal footprints in the dirt and try to identify the animal or just let the kids get their energy out. There are several books that can guide you and your team where a good hike might be for the ages and abilities of your crew. Some of our favorites? Bear Creek, Ouzel Falls, Royal Arch Trail and Mt. Falcon. My kids love wearing the water packs – that can be picked up pretty inexpensively!
  • Want to fly over Vail Valley? Try ZipLine! We went to 4 Eagle Ranch. The ranch has the usual ranch stuff (horses, rodeo series and western Family nights) but they also do Glamping, 4×4 tours and our favorite, ZipLining. The kids and I got outfitted at the ranch then hopped in a jeep and driven over to the Zip course. The course is 7 zips each getting slightly longer with the longest being 1000’! My daughter loved it. My son went tandem with a guide. They say they can hold most weights. 4eagleranch.com/
  • Several areas around town seem to have these amazing Obstacle Courses and/or summer tubing
    • Lawson Adventure Park is easy to get to as it is just outside of Idaho Springs (Eat a pizza at Beau Jo’s on the way home!) You can stay at the park in a Yurt, cabin or tent! But you can also just go for the day and try the activities. They have a Via Ferrata (rock climbing), Mountain Zorb (our favorite), learn how to fly fish on Clear Creek, try a short zipline, challenge course or try to stand up in a water walkerz.  http://lawsonadventurepark.com/
    • I can’t decide if I like snowboarding or summer at Vail more. The summer Vail Discovery includes adventure courses, ziplines, mountain coaster, tubing hils, climbing wall and bungee Trampoline. https://www.vail.com/explore-the-resort/activities-and-events/…/epic-discovery.aspx
    • Maybe your kids aren’t ready for a full sleep away camp (or maybe like me, you can’t really afford that)> I love thatYMCA Rockies has day tickets. Try your hand at archery, canoeing, challenge courses, craft shop, bike rentals, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, disc golf, climbing, swimming, tennis, rafting, volleyball or the summer tubing hill.  https://snowmountainranch.org/activities/summer-tubing-hill/
    • Bailey has a new adventure park. I have not been to this one yet – but sounds like a lot of the same stuff from ziplining to obstacle courses.  http://treehouseadventurepark.com/
  • Rafting is such a refreshing way to enjoy the mountains and an ultimate check on the bucket list. We used River Runners several years ago with my kids. They loved it. They sat in the middle of the boat, didn’t have to paddle and enjoyed the ride. We were quite ready for lunch when the 1/2 day rafting was over. That mountain run off water feels good at first – but even in summer it’s sort of cold! https://whitewater.net/
  • Colorado is well known for our Western Roots. So, we had to add horseback riding. We like Safari Ranch outside of Fairplay – because the horses are not trained to follow another’s trail. You feel like you’re out there on your own. We did a ½ day of riding and the day ended by the grill -= where we made lunch and then headed home before the summer camping traffic started on 285. americansafariranch.com/
  • A great weekend getaway is Glenwood Springs. There is a lot to do in Glenwood. You can hike Hanging Lake, go to Glenwood Caverns, swim in the hot springs pool. https://www.glenwoodcaverns.com/
  • I grew up in Steamboat –  so for me this was a must to show my kids all the places I went as a kid. I remember fishing at Lost Dog Creek, camping at big mountain and hiking Fish Creek Falls. But there are tons of things to do in town as well. Try the mountain coaster, or get a tube and go tubing down the Yampa (right by the park/library). However, it’s a 3-hour drive so at least a night up there makes sense.
  • Colorado Springs has a ton to offer as well. You can do it as a weekend get away or a bit further of a drive for a few hours of fun. There is a lot you can see/do down there as well. Cheyenne Mtn Zoo is cool. The Cave of the Winds (and the terror-dactyl ride), 7 falls, and drive to Royal Gorge.
  • If you like sitting in a hot spring pool Mt. Princeton can’t be beat. We especially loved the part in the river where you can be literally sitting in a pool of warm water and still have your toes in the freezing cold river! When we went we did a bit of hiking up Agnes Falls then enjoyed the hot springs afterwards.

This is just a start of the fun places we know about or have discovered. We are pretty certain that the “Colorado Kid” list is something that can be changed or added to all the time. So if you know of some other great things that scream Colorado please send them our way!

Great Family Fun at Lawson Adventure Park

 

 

My family likes to spend time in the mountains. To be honest, it is just me that really likes to spend time in the mountains – the kids don’t have a choice and I typically drag them up there with me. They pretend they are not having a good time. Typical teens. Grumpy face. Head buried deep in whatever social media secret they are keeping from me at the moment. I took my daughter and her friend to Lawson Adventure Park in Lawson Colorado this last weekend. (Lawson is just West of Idaho Springs).

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We tried several of their offerings.

Challenge Course. We started the day with the Challenge Course. A bit like a suspension bridge with a small zipline. We could choose which direction and what challenge to attempt. The climb up the rope wall to start. Then we walked across the suspension bridge to a rope loop hang. Then zipped back to almost the beginning. It was certainly a challenge for all ages at any point but a lot of fun at the same time. There were eight elements total. (We tried them all).

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Zorb. The zorb was one of our favorite things all day. It is like a giant inflatable hamster ball that is tossed down the hill with someone inside! There is also water in here (about 5 gallons) so that the person inside slides and slips around. Be prepared to be drenched.(See the Awesome Video here: https://youtu.be/ebUMt-Tx2KE)

Water Walkerz. From a spectator standpoint Water Walkerz was hilarious. With my daughter inside an inflated plastic ball – she attempted..and attempted…and attempted to stand upright inside the ball as it was floating over a small pool of water. No matter how hard she tried or how close it looked like she would get to doing it – it was met with a fall and a burst of laughter.

Maze. I have to admit, I was a bit blasé about the Maze. It looked like one of those kids mazes that is erected at the playground or Renaissance Festival. Seemingly easy to navigate to the opening point. However the twist on this was there were four hole punches hidden through the maze that spelled out M-A-Z-E. We were to race each other and get all four punches before we could exit the maze and time-stamp how long it took us. The twist made it so much fun and a great (dry) way to finish off our day.

The day was a bit overcast and we were a bit afraid of weather plus, we found that we were pretty tired at that point in the day – but there are definitely some things I would like to go back to do in the future.

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Perfect Break To Orlando Vacation

I planned the trip months ago. Last year we took my mom to Washington D.C. (the kids and I). She had always wanted to go – but my dad didn’t. (Yes, my parents are still married). So we invited him to go with us to Orlando – which just happened to be this year’s destination. With teenagers, we knew that DisneyWorld and Universal – the big theme parks – would be on the agenda. But, I didn’t want to overwhelm my 70-year-old dad with roller coasters and costumed characters. So, we left one day in the middle of the week for him to plan what we were doing. He did a GREAT job! It was probably one of my most favorite days.

The day started early (early by definition of my teen daughter would be anything before noon but this was 8 a.m.). We rented a car just for the day. It didn’t make sense to rent a car for the week and then pay for it to sit in a parking lot. The reason we needed a car? We were headed to Lone Cabbage Fish Camp. By the looks of the map on my iPhone we were literally going to the middle of nowhere. It didn’t appear that there was ANYTHING else nearby. The camp really is out there by itself. While it is weather worn and looked a bit old (seriously straight out of a movie) – it was clean and the people were GREAT. They were very down to earth. We waited on the deck (which is beautiful on the back side of the building – you wouldn’t know it was there when you first drive up. We had actually reserved a 60 minute ride but through some scheduling conflict we weren’t on their calendar – so we opted for the 30 minute (which you don’t have to make reservations for).

Lone Cabbage Fish Camp between Orlando and Cocoa Beach.

Lone Cabbage Fish Camp between Orlando and Cocoa Beach.

The 30 minute airboat ride was awesome. The guide was very knowledgeable about the alligators and other wildlife. He told us that he is a hunter – there is actually a process to get your alligator hunting license. He is careful just to hunt what he is going to eat (and told a story about his dad catching him shooting a crow – which he had to eat). He told us about the migrations and where they like to hide, what they eat, poaching, feeding and more. The boat got going fast enough for my kids to really feel like it was a ride (and not just a float).

Airboat Ride at Lone Cabbage Fish Camp

Airboat Ride at Lone Cabbage Fish Camp

We were told we HAD to have the sampler plate which included gator, frog legs and catfish. I was impressed that both of my kids ate some of each. I thought the food was great. Especially the frog legs.

Sampler Plate at Lone Cabbage Fish Camp includes gator, frog legs and catfish. #nomnom

Sampler Plate at Lone Cabbage Fish Camp includes gator, frog legs and catfish. #nomnom

We asked the lady that did everything at Lone Cabbage (cook, wash, bartend, answer phone etc) the best way to get to Cocoa Beach. Her directions? “Go East on the same road you got here on until you hit sand.” Sounded simple. And it was! Within 15-20 minutes we were at the beach!

We forgot to pack swimsuits (guess we weren’t really thinking) but figured that since it was a rental car and that the sand and wet wouldn’t make much of a different. So we literally jumped into the ocean with our clothes on! I suppose it was not all that different from a swimsuit – when my daughter and I have shorts and sports bras on and my son had basketball shorts. Being from Colorado means that my kids hardly ever get to see a beach or the ocean. This was the perfect opportunity to play for a couple hours! We parked at a meter (thanks to the attendant/park ranger who told us where the meters were just a block away – so that we would not have to pay the full $10 day rate). Besides, I think the walkway was cooler looking than if we had gone to the paid lot.

At Cocoa Beach

At Cocoa Beach before we fully jumped in. 

We HAD to shop at the iconic Ron Jon Surf Shop located right there at the beach. The shop had all assortment of beach needs and some fun souvenirs. Even though we live in Colorado we have seen several Ron Jon stickers in the back of cars here. (Plus, I thought if someone wanted a clean/dry shirt they could get one there).

Ron Jon Surf Shop

Ron Jon Surf Shop

Ever since I was a kid my dad would ensure that we had an afternoon snack on any trip. This one was no different. As we were driving back toward Orlando from Cocoa Beach we decided that we were going to have a Key Lime Pie somewhere. I couldn’t remember exactly where I had seen the store – but I knew we passed one on our way between Lone Cabbage and Cocoa Beach. When I drove past it (on the left side of the road), I literally drove around in circles getting to it. While the location of the Key Lime Pie Company isn’t easy to get to if you’re on the wrong side of the road – it is worth the circles! The shop is little and there is no seating inside – but there is an awesome tiki bar just outside (up the stairs) where you can take your key lime and sit in the shade to eat it.

Key Lime Pie Company

Key Lime Pie Company

Our day was winding down. We headed back to our hotel in Orlando. We visited the new Orlando Eye (although we didn’t go in) after we got cleaned up from our ocean excursion. While we didn’t go in (I’m cheap – it is about $25/per person). We had a great time! (And then went to the theme parks again the next day.

Have you had a perfect break from all the tourist hype somewhere? What is your favorite?

Can We Skip Brunch This Mother’s Day?

I am a big believer of time spent with someone as a gift. The gift of the memories you can not buy – and long after the flowers have died or the chocolates have been eaten – you remember the time you spend with someone. Typically for me that means doing something active together. The best Mother’s Day memories are the times that my teens acquiesce and do what I ask of them, because it was Mother’s Day. Here are a few choice ones from our list (and one that would never make our list).

  1.  Go on a Hike: We are lucky to live in Colorado where there are trails everywhere. Hiking can be easy. Pick a hike that you can do with the whole family. Something that makes it even more fun is if you pack a picnic and plan a fairly short hike just to get to the picnic. Hiking is simple and costs NOTHING to get started. We sometimes do the picnic idea in reverse – where we walk to the store and then figure out what we are having for dinner. We walk home while carrying all the groceries (this is sort of on the move weight lifting).
  2. Play Tennis: When was the last time you told your kids to gang up against you? Seriously the kids love to play two on one tennis. It doesn’t have to be a serious game where we keep score. Just hitting the ball to each other is fun. And it is a very inexpensive sport to play. I grabbed a couple tennis rackets and a sleeve of balls from WalMart for just $20 or so.
  3. Try a New Class Together: Nothing makes my daughter giggle more like she did when she was little than the time we went to a Hot Yoga class together or the time I attempted a Barre class (Seriously! It’s not just dancing). She could do the moves better than I could – and I looked like a discombobulated dork. There are several gyms (I belong to 24 Hour Fitness) that will offer free day passes – before you have to commit long term to have your son or daughter be at the gym with you.
  4. Go to the Batting Cages: There are a couple batting cages near our house. It is fun to go and make a competition on who hits the most balls. My son got a total charge out of this one!
  5. Garden: While this would never make it to my own personal list (I have a black thumb), I know that many of my friends get great pleasure from gardening. Planting and pulling weeds is (supposedly) a great workout and digging in the dirt a stress reliever. The kids will get a kick out of you telling them to go outside and get dirty! The cost is inexpensive as you can get seed packets for under a dollar.
  6. Sleep: A full night’s sleep is so very necessary and good for your health. Rather than waking mom up to try to give her some extravagant brunch – how about you let her rest.

What Happens When You Don’t Make It

My daughter recently tried out for cheerleading at her high school. (She will be an entering Freshman). This is not a typical teenage passing fancy – something that just sort of sounded interesting. She has been preparing for this for several months now. She participated for several months at a competitive gym cheer program. She has perfected her cartwheel, round-off and is working on her back walk-over. They say that after the back walk-over the handspring will come fairly easily. Then for the past couple months she has been participating in cheer clinics to learn the cheers and dance that she would need to perform during try-outs. They also needed to hand in recommendations from three teachers. She has really been preparing for this!

Friday was the big day. The school said they would distribute letters (which they asked the kids to open in private). If the girls were chosen to be a part of the team they should come back to attend a meeting about an hour later. She did NOT get chosen. She was heartbroken. He was a crying mess. I don’t blame her. She had been trying so hard. And as a parent – there is absolutely NOTHING I could figure out to say to make her feel better.

But then trying to be level-headed I sort of have to say – this is good. She can put in another year. She can get that handspring. She can concentrate on the transition into high school (and maybe her grades – but she is a good student and has good grades already). My son told her to explore other sports (he also provided her with a list of all the sports she would be good at – love that kid!). And at the back of my head I couldn’t help thinking, “ok, well it is a good life lesson – she won’t get every job she interviews for or every promotion she’s up for.” And not to mention the amount of money that I will be saving! But no matter how hard I tried to convince myself that it was OK. I felt bad for her. No matter who else had a story of trying a second, third or fourth time (my sister and I both had to try out a couple times before making our cheer teams) it didn’t make her story any better in the moment.

Just when she was starting to put together a plan on how to go chin-up and try again next year…she got an email from the coach. A spot had opened up after all. She is in! Now it is a different kind of determination (proving they made the right choice to include her).

A Pinterest Project: Bath Bombs

My daughter and I went to the mall. (Not so crazy that we went there – however crazy it may be that my teen daughter stayed with me….ah, the power of the credit card). She made me go into the Lush store while we were there. So if you have not been to a Lush store, they sell bath bombs. Which are essentially home made bath salts. They were ridiculously overpriced at $6-12 per one time use bomb. I felt fairly certain that I had seen these little gems on Pinterest and they could be made for significantly less money.

I usually pin things on Pinterest and don’t really actually attempt the projects. Some of the time I don’t attempt because I don’t want the mess or even because I can’t find all the stuff that it calls for. But this particular one seemed pretty simple. The most difficult thing on this list to located was the citric acid (which we found is actually available at Whole Foods – it is a food additive). And the funny story that ensued when I told the pharmacist at Target that we were looking for the acid so we could make bombs – perhaps I should have said BATH bombs.  Otherwise, I had everything we needed was easy to find or was already in my kitchen cabinets. YAY!

Makin' bath bombs

Makin’ bath bombs

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Baking Soda
  • 3/4 cup Corn Starch
  • 1/4 cup Epsom Salt
  • 1 cup Citric Acid
  • 10 drops Food Coloring – you can also use Beet Juice for pink color like I did or Carrot Juice for yellowish
  • a few drops of Essential Oil of your choice (we used lemon and vanilla)
  • 2t Water

Directions: Mix the Baking Soda, Corn Starch, Epsom Salt and Citric Acid in a bowl with a whisk. Mix the water, food coloring and essential oil in a small jar/bowl. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients mixing using the whisk the whole time. When the mix is slightly wet it should mold into balls in your hand. Make sure you dry completely.

Home Made Bath Bombs

Home Made Bath Bombs

The project was short, simple and easy. I am excited to give a couple of our bombs to a friend who has been going through a difficult time.

My Son Is Now Driving…YIKES

I haven’t even gotten into a car with him behind the wheel. My son passed his written exam on Friday allowing him to obtain a driver’s permit. He will hold this for one year. In that time I’m supposed to try to come to terms with the fact that a. my son is old enough to drive and b. my son can and will be safe on the road.

So I’m pretty sure that each and every state has different rules and ways of getting a licence. In Colorado, your teen has to pass an online class (teaching them the stuff in the book) and receive a certificate for passing that class. S/He may also take a class from a certified class location (although I found these to be very expensive). Once they have that certificate they need to go the DMV and pass the written exam. (I hear the DMV takes appointments – so that is the way to go – rather than waiting your turn which could take HOURS!). Once they have passed the exam they get their provisional license (a piece of paper until the other one with a photo arrives in the mail about two weeks later). They should drive on this permit with a licensed adult in the car with them for a certain number of hours (40) which include city driving, highway and nighttime driving. The parent(s) have to sign off on this practice driving.

To be honest, I am actually glad that it is my son that will be on the road before his sister. He is a much more even keeled temper (despite her being hyper organized). He is a rules follower and has even made me hand over my phone to place it in the glove box while I’m driving. “No texting and driving” he says. We will start with just learning how to operate the car – by taking it to a nearby parking lot. No traffic just yet and no, I will not make him go on the highway on his first driving foray.

All my dear neighbors and friends. Do please take caution as you walk the streets of our town. Please be patient with my frazzled nerves. Please forgive us when we are late. I’ll keep you all updated on how this is progressing. Since he got the license he is a little scared to drive and says he wants to do his first time with his dad. Fine with me.

Do you have a new driver in the house? How did you learn to calm down?

Washington D.C. Is Not For The Weak Knee’d

I really am more of a Type A personality than I like to admit. There are times that I like to call myself a gypsy. I have had some of my best times just “going with the flow.” But there is something innately exciting about planning and looking forward to something. That was the case when I took my kids and my mom to Washington D.C. earlier this June. The trip required a bit more planning. We had to write to senators to get a tour of the White House and an intern-led tour of Congress (Thank you Colorado Senator Bennet) months in advance.

I had consulted with mom to find out what some of the highlights that we should make sure are on the list. I think some of them were obvious – you know White House, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial and she wanted to be sure to see the Vietnam Wall (she said it was “her era”). We put as much as we could on a schedule. For me that was a lot of planning! That was one way to make sure we would see everything we needed to see in the short week we were there – and keep my teen kids on task. (There will be another post explaining our whole itinerary and the amazing things we saw). Otherwise they would happily sleep the day away.

On the first day, my mom developed blisters. This made any excursion outside of the hotel a difficult one – one where she would amble along like she’s 90 years old (she’s not but she is 68). I was on a mission for some reason – to see everything that we had on our schedule. This meant that every day was planned and scheduled (and even at that we missed a few locations). I didn’t have much sympathy and only in the past few weeks have I realized what that was all about. In retrospect, I don’t really want to see my mom as an older person. She has so much spunk and life to her yet. I don’t want her to slow down. And in my head any “healthy person” should be able to walk like crazy! At the same time, I’m quickly turning my kids over to adulthood which will include them NOT wanting to spend time with mom. They want to spend time with their friends at the rec center or are busy in their school lives. I am stuck here somewhere in the middle. Making the most of my ability to control what I can control. For this one week – I was able to have both the old and the new with me. But on the brink of change.

I asked my daughter what her favorite part of the trip was. She said it was getting to ride on the metro and in taxis. My son, he liked the White House and Mt. Vernon. And as much as I have to admit it – I liked planning every piece of it. As for my mom? I guess I’d have to ask her – but I’m pretty sure she didn’t like my task master attitude or the fact that I had to stick to the plan!

Next year? My dad will get to come with us to Florida (my parents are still married – but I felt it unfair that one come with and not the other). He will be 70 years old. Maybe I should go easy on him. Maybe I won’t. Just thinking – maybe I should invite them both. A gift for my dad’s birthday (which is in June) would be to not treat him the way I did my mom this year. (I’m sorry mom!)

Me, Mom, and my two kiddos in DC at the Congress Building

Me, Mom, and my two kiddos in DC at the Congress Building