NPS Centennial Anniversary Celebrates Adventure Travel

imageIn 2016, The National Park Service is celebrating 100 years of providing worldwide visitors with spectacular landscape all throughout the United States.  Over the last century, these parks have encouraged inspirational travel, education for all ages and diverse adventures that enable exploring some of nature’s finest gifts to humankind.  The preservation of land and nature inside America’s National Parks offers a timeless gift of history to past, current and future generations.

The National Park Service Centennial Initiative invites guests to visit, experience and share the unparalleled beauty and adventures that are possible inside these spectacular parks. These opportunities are the result of constant conservation and preservation efforts in the last decade.image  As this celebration unfolds in 2016, I’m reminded of all the family experiences in some of America’s best landmarks in the last few years.

Canyonlands National Park, just outside of Moab, Utah was a favorite landmark with my children.

Just a few ten minutes away from Moab, you’d never even know this mecca of astonishing canyonlands awaits. But once inside, a child and adult size playground unveils.  We took a sunset razor tour by the canyonlands, which resulted in a truly spiritual and amazing Moab adventure.image

Or you may want to drive just five minutes away to visit another Moab landmark at Arches National Park, a massive landscape of red rock mountains, hills and valleys that takes your breath away.

We loved the trails and the opportunity to explore the varations of this landmark, including hiking in and around these giant rocks.image

There’s so much nature to explore in these parks, including the National Park Service Junior Ranger program.  This program allows children and youth to complete age-appropriate and ranger-led activities in the park. Once completed, children and earn a patch and a Junior Ranger badge.


Or fast forward to a winter’s visit to Rocky Mountain National Park, located in Estes Park, Colorado. This park is beautiful to visit any season of the year, and the adventures await at all points in the park.  Camping, hiking, sight seeing, snow shoeing, photography trips are just among the few activities that tourists love to do inside this park masterpiece.

park3We enjoyed snow shoe trails througout the park that led us into the beautiful park and toward Sprague Lake.

The trails are groomed nicely and there’s public parking.  It’s a great experience for adults and children.park4

estes2There’s elk, deer and so much wildlife to see and hear in this forest mecca.  This region of Colorado is known for elk.

There’s a plethora of tourism especially during Fall, because September through October is mating season.  Elks trumpet this region with bugling in playful pursuits. This rutting call is an experience to hear, as playful sounds echoe throughout the park and leave onlookers in awe of preserved nature that educates, inspires and creates lasting memories.park2

Another trip that left us in awe of nature was the Great Sand Dunes National Park, just outside of the little town of Alamosa, Colorado.

We visited these tall dunes tucked away in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains during late Spring.  Be sure to check the temperatures at The Dunes before planning your adventures. The sand gets hot and different parts of the park offer unique activities based on time of year.  park6

With so many things to do inside this park we ultimately decided to try sand boarding.  This is one experience you should try, a bucketlist kind of experience.

Suprisingly it was just like downhill boarding in many ways, except there are no turns, it’s all straight down.  And it’s a fast ride, but so much fun.image

There’s also tons more to do at the tallest dunes in North America including but not limited to camping, splashing around in Medano Creek, climbing and hiking these giant structures, participating in the Junior Range Program.

There’s much to do here for all ages and if you want more, there’s fly fishing, cattle herding and photography trips at parks and towns close by.image

Who knows what 2016 adventure travel awaits, but visiting more of America’s beautiful landmarks is on the brain.  These National Parks offer the best of nature, and this is possible because of the amazing initiatives that preserve and conserve these regions for worldwide tourists.

Share your park in 2016 at #findyourpark.




Eldora Ski School Colorado

You’ll want to be sure and check out Eldora’s Ski School in Colorado.  This Colorado family ski resort is one of the most easily accessible slopes, with very close proximity to the Denver metropolitan area.  Not only is it close to Denver but ski traffic is not an issue at Eldora.  You likely won’t find yourself sitting in the traffic that many drivers do in route to some of the ski areas in Summit County and beyond.  For this reason and more, there are many folks that choose to visit Nederland, Colorado for a good day on the slopes and/or ski lessons at Eldora Ski Resort.eldora10

I learned to ski on the hill in my grandparent’s backyard, they lived in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.  Once I learned the basics, my family and I ditched the backyard for ski resorts, and visited many including Eldora Ski Resort, which among many things is a nice Colorado family ski resort.eldora7

I was reminded of the great care this resort offers for beginners, both with ski lessons for adults, children, groups, individual private lessons and lessons for people with disabilities.

When we arrived for my children’s ski lessons, we were greeted by a warm and friendly staff in the Children’s Center in Indian Peaks Lodge.  My daughter had skied before but this was my son’s first time, so I was grateful the staff seemed so geared toward accommodating the little people.eldora11

The staff initially grouped the children and had assigned everyone by skill level and age.  The lessons began with education about skiing, and the basics of putting your skis on, and then walked the class out into the open flat ground in front of the lodge.

They had the children begin the day with using just one ski.  No poles either, so that everyone could gain some confidence in their abilities to balance.  Eventually, everyone had on two skis and were learning how to break. eldora16

It was not long before this ski group was moving ahead to the small hill, that uses the “magic carpet”, a nice name for the conveyor that is available to hop on at the bottom of the small hill.  For those newbies who’d rather carry their skis from top to bottom, there’s also an easy path on the side of the slope.eldora15

I should mention that while children are busy in lessons, parents are encouraged to enjoy their own day of skiing while the children are in good care.  I for one was looking forward to a one of Colorado’s best Nordic Tracks here at Eldora.  Or there’s tons of downhill runs at this large ski resort, including a double black diamond!image

There’s also plenty of restaurants and a bar just a few steps from the Indian Peaks Lodge.  Or if you want to leave the ski resort, the staff will have your contact information  – but they do encourage staying close by.

Close by and just down the street is Nederland.  There’s what some might deem a yoga ski retreat, since Tadasana Mountain Yoga offers a therapeutic mountain yoga retreat experience via their Wellness Program services.  Reiki, therapuetic massage, life coaching and high-altitude quench treatment for hands and feet are just a few of the many therapeutic services.eldora3

Whatever you do while your kids are in this ski school, there’s plenty to keep busy.  When we’d return from having our own fun, the kids had also returned from having lunch, an inclusion in the cost of ski school.  Shortly after loading up on carbs evidently, their energy was strong and many of the children were now using the MAGIC CARPET and ready to move the green hill.eldora5

By the end of the day, this Colorado ski resort had my two newbies confident on their skis and going down a green hill.  I was happy to say the least.

This is a great Colorado family ski resort because it offers high quality care for children, newbies and beginners.  My daughter continues to rave about the lessons and their instructor.  She can hardly wait to go back again.  You know when it’s been a long day of skiing and your child is raving about the experience, it’s a good one.  Family skiing in Colorado offers all kinds of resorts and experiences.  This is one ski school in Colorado that is doing a great job!eldora12




Aspen Fall Foliage Road Trip

imageSome places are truly so beautiful that it’s almost painful to leave.  This year we ventured up to Aspen Colorado at just the right time of year.  Fall was in full force and the foliage was spectacular, it was definitely sad to depart from this beauty.imageMaroon Bells in Aspen is a very popular destination in Fall.  Fall foliage road trips bring the masses to this beautiful destination. With bold panoramic fall foliage backdrops surrounding much of Aspen Mountain and Maroon Bell lake, this location is a photographer’s paradise and destination visited by worldwide tourists.  image

This year we wanted to enhance our memory at Maroon Bells and explored culinary resources in downtown Aspen.  We learned about gourmet carry-out lunches to buy at Meat and Cheese in downtown Aspen.  We showed up for our carry-out lunches, and headed up to Maroon Bells hiking trail.

These lunches were exceptional!   Wrapped in fancy linen napkins, this healthy and delicious lunch spread definitely hit the spot after hiking, not to mention was the coveted meal amongst onlookers.  We carried these in our backpack too, as they are light, wrapped snug and require no special treatment.image

While at Maroon Bells, there are several places to navigate and diverse scenic trails to explore.  Prior to arrival, be sure to check with Aspen Chamber for parking information.  Certain times of the year visitors must take a shuttle to the lake from town instead of parking at the base.  The Aspen Chamber also provides current trail information and up-to-date information on closures and trail construction.

There’s another great place to visit on a fall foliage road trip to Aspen – take a ride up the gondola at the Aspen Gondola Plaza.  This ride up Aspen Mountain provides more panoramic views of the Fall foliage in Aspen.  imageAnd when you’re at the top be sure to stop by at Sundeck, Aspen’s premier restaurant location for offering more panoramic views of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. image Not only are the views amazing, but the food is healthy, fresh and made-to-order.  Alcohol is also served.  Sundeck restaurant is operated by Aspen’s five-star hotel, The Little Nell.  Visiting Sundeck restaurant on Aspen Mountain was one of our favorite stops in this Colorado fall foliage road trip.image Another part of our trip that we loved were the accommodations at The Gant Aspen.  This condominium resort exuberated Fall colors at every turn, which made this resort experience paramount. image Situated on five acres at the base of Aspen Mountain, The Gant Aspen is nestled in quite a cozy location, that lends itself a sense of privacy and autonomy from the busy town that surrounds.  The Gant Aspen, although “tucked” away, is actually within just a few streets of downtown Aspen.  We didn’t even use the courtesy guest shuttle at The Gant Aspen to go into downtown Aspen.  We merely walked just a few streets and arrived to to dinner in downtown Aspen.
imageWe also had beautiful views of the mountains from the greater part of the resort.  And for the individual condominium, rustic met luxury with our fancy accommodations at The Gant Aspen.  Our cozy and posh condinium was spacious, complete with two rooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, dining area and classic living space.  Also, the condiminium had a large fireplace. The bedding was very comfortable and the entire unit was clean and amazingly decorated.  We really enjoyed our time at The Gant Aspen.  It was the perfect resort to relax and unwind on this Colorado fall foliage road trip.

imageAnother great activity in Aspen is downtown, at night.  With music and entertainment on almost every block, not to mention the great variety of restaurants to choose from, there’s plenty to keep you occupied and having a great time.

imageWhen it was finally time to leave Aspen, we decided to add one last stop for our foliage tour.

We visited Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs.  This quaint and lovely hot springs sits in Carbondale, just about a 30-minute drive from Aspen.image  This is a perfect end for a Fall foliage trip because the views are great, from up high where the pools sit.Be sure to contact the Hot Springs in advance to secure reservations if you go.  We saw several visitors turned away for the hot springs, because they didn’t have a reservation.image

There’s so much beauty in Colorado during Fall.  It’s one of my favorite seasons of the year, even though it never seems to last long enough.  I’m glad for the opportunity to visit Aspen this Fall, and will plan to return again.


Broadmoor Fishing Camp

Childhood Colorado fishing trips are forever imprinted in my memory.  These family trips would begin in the early morning hours.  A tap on the shoulder meant it was time to rise, exit the tent and head to the shallow river banks. There we’d crawl on hands and knees, lay low by the shrubs, not utter a word, cast and wait for that line to gracefully tug.image    

Forty years later I still love the feel of a healthy tug on the line and a great Colorado fishing adventure, especially when it’s at The Broadmoor’s Fishing Camp.  I recently had the opportunity to visit this beautiful fly fishing camp located in Lake George, Colorado.  This world-class trout fishing region and camp rests upon five miles of the Tarryall River and borders 120,000 acres of the Lost Creek Wilderness.image  Roughly 70 miles North of The Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, this fly-fishing trip will satisfy a fisherman or woman’s desire to sport plenty with spectacular nature surrounding at every turn.  Lost Creek Wilderness is filled with rock canyons, open meadows and a meandering river that creates a fly fishing paradise.image

  We arrived to this beautiful camp in the early afternoon and would imagesoon begin our fishing adventure.   Initially however, we settled into our cozy cabins, toured this beautiful camp and then indulged in a Broadmoor chef prepared feast next to the river.  And just before heading out to fish, we were greeted with lots of love from Sunny, the 10-year-old retired hunting lab at the Broadmoor’s Fishing Camp! 

Once we geared up with Fly Fishing Waders by Patagonia, secured our boots and rods, all of which are included as part of the Broadmoor Fishing Camp Wilderness Experience, we were ready to roll and trekked downstream with our knowledgeable fishing guide.image    With five miles of pristine creekside private waters located on Tarryall River, our seasonsed fishing guide navigated this terrain with ease.  She would lead us to worldclass fishing spots, secluded and heavily wooded by Colorado’s Blue Spruce, Douglas Fir and Quaking Aspen Trees.  

There, we’d learn about casting, flies, knot techniques and fish behavior.   Bait and all fishing supplies were provided by the fishing guide, another great inclusion of The Broadmoor Fishing Camp experience.image  We weren’t expected to tie the hooks and flies on our lines, but certainly could.  As fly fishing amateurs, we wanted our fishing guide to take over and she mastered this in seconds for us.   

This experience is for both the seasoned and amateur angler.  Fishing guides are sensitive to what level of fly fishing adventure each guest seeks, and will lead or support accordingly.

On this diverse terrain, we used any number of flies, including the dry fly, the nymph and the streamer.  We also used saltwater flies one day in a very flat part of the river.image  The tips and tricks these guides had was impressive!

They know the best time of the day to fish, in which locations of the river are ideal, best flies to use given location, temperature of water and time of day.  I was so grateful for their expertise.   Their expertise was indispensable!

We also had the unique opportunity to observe Fishing Camp Manager and seasoned fishing guide Scott Tarrant, and Steve, another seasoned fishing guide, provide a fly tying demonstration, step by step.  They made this art appear seamless.image

This angler’s art of binding materials of all hook sizes, colors and materials is a challenging yet creative endeavor.  Scott and Steve are no amateurs, having years of fly tying and fly fishing engrained in their craft, these guys definitely know how to make beautiful Elk Hair Caddis and Wooly Bugger ties.  It was fascinating to watch, truly it’s an artform fused with talent, passion and fishing expertise. 

imageOn another day at fishing camp, I spent the entire day with seasoned fishing guide Amy McMahon.  She was a great guide – full of enthusiasm yet very relaxed and enjoyable to spend a day of fishing with.

We spent our time exploring different regions of the river and she helped me craft my cast, tied the clinch knot multiple times and changed multiple flies.image  She also spent time in the water, fetching my line lodged under the river boulders, more than a few times.  She was awesome! image Finally, perserverance and new fishing skills paid off.  It was equally amazing to catch and release, once the challenge was met.image  The time spent with a fishing guide makes the fly-fishing trip a wonderful experience, not only in terms of learning new skills, but also because they are equally invested in the overall fishing adventure and experience for guests at The Broadmoor’s Fishing Camp.  

And when it’s time to call it a day, or take an afternoon nap, the active angler has many options.  

My favorite was resting and taking in some great Tarryall River views.  Or, the active angler can return to his/her quaint and rustic guest cabins along the creek.image  There are seven cabins total at The Broadmoor’s Fishing Camp, and each is a restored miner’s cabin.  The preservation of history combined with the rustic and restored guest accommodations make this a truly unique and authentic Colorado experience.image

Make no mistake… these restored cabins don’t miss a modern beat either with cozy beds, chairs and seating, Wi-Fi and luxurious rustic design.  No guest comfort or detail is spared in these cabins.image

A central heated bathhouse is within a few steps of each of the cabins, as well as the grand lodge with a wraparound porch.  Inside the grand lodge, Broadmoor chefs prepare meals for family style dining.image  River-to-table trout is a chef specialty at The Broadmoor’s Fishing Camp.  

We had the opportunity to watch a hands-on demonstration by the Broadmoor’s Sous Chef Angus McIntosh in scaling, gutting and prepping river-caught fish.image

We ate family style and river-to-table with some of the fish caught during the day. This fish was showcased at dinner, along with more sides that created a bountiful feast for guests at Colorado’s fishing camp.

With endless varieties for this river-caught Rainbow Trout, Sous Chef Angus McIntosh created a beautiful dinner presentation, and served this fish as a fisherman would, with head, tail and fins intact.  He also prepared this delacacy as boneless fillets, perfectly moist and seasoned.image

 Sous Chef Angus McIntosh also provided a demonstration of preparing The Angry Trout, a popular dish at The Broadmoor’s Summit Restaurant.  This river-to-table culinary art and dining opportunity at the Broadmoor Fishing Camp is exceptional and authentic.image

Some of the family-style dining also takes place by the river at Fish House.  Something about the scenery of this location, the bustling river waters just below, savory cuisine and family-style dining, as well as great conversation with others gathered around the table makes this place one of my favorites at The Broadmoor’s Fishing Camp.broadmoorThere so many amazing details about this all-inclusive Broadmoor Wilderness Experience adventure.  The Broadmoor’s hospitality at Fish Camp is paramount.  Fly fishing in pristine and private waters in the Lost Creek Wilderness coupled with the abundance of nature’s beauty at every turn makes this one of Colorado’s great outdoor adventures to repeat, time and time again.image





Girls Trip in Victoria BC

It was time for the annual girls weekend of travel.  This pack of women I call the “sisterhood” because after nearly 25 years of memory making together, we know each other pretty well.  This year we explored several weekend ideas and ultimately explored things to do in Victoria Canada. image

First on the priority list in Victoria BC was locating an oceanfront hotel or resort that we could call home during our stay.  It didn’t take long to locate Oak Bay Beach Hotel, a luxurious waterfront destination at Oak Bay, also part of small coastal community of Victoria BC.  Victoria oceanfront travel was our theme, and we looked forward to some exhilirating scenery and coastal experiences.image

This hotel was really perfect for a girls weekend, with an oceanfront spa and oceanfront dining that offered spectacular views and luxurious oceanfront accommodations.victoria

  Morning tea and spectacular ocean views make this luxurious Victoria hotel one of the best.  The luxurious ammenities here offer the perfect royal treatment and experience for all guests.  We enjoyed everything about this luxurious Victoria hotel as well, including but not limited to service, food, cleanliness and staff friendliness.

Adventure was another important part of this girlfiends getaway, and so we rode scooters.  None of us had been on a motorcycle or scooter, yet this experience was so much fun!  We worked with Cycle BC Rentals & Tours, and were very impressed by the very-necessary training we needed & received from Ander in the Victoria location.image

Prior to using the scooters, we received a mini course on riding the scooters, as well as Ander’s assessment of our capabilities.  Eventually somehow, we convinced him that we were capable of riding after a few test runs.  :) We also didn’t ride in the busy parts of downtown Victoria but instead on routes alongside the ocean.  It was BEAUTIFUL and a very fabulous part of our trip to Victoria.

Things to do in Victoria Canada on a girls getaway must also include a Victoria Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Downtown.image

We received the royal treatment from Paul our server, who made us feel like queens gathering on this beautiful morning for an afternoon tea.  We left our scooter helmets at the door and entered a century-long experience and tradition of many of England’s past and present royalties, celebrities and dignataries.image

The tea lobby of the Fairmont Empress in Downtown Victoria BC is very picturesque with antique and vintage furnishing.  This beautiful space reveals history, but equally provides one of the best Victoria experiences today.  The afternoon tea entails delicious hand-made signature Empress scones, assorted pastries and the Empress blend of seasonal tea.  This was quite a memorable and royal experience.  This is a must-do with the ladies in Victoria.image

Also close in proximity to Oak Bay Beach Hotel is the Oak Bay Marina.  You can rent kayaks or take a chartered fishing trip from this marina.  You’ll also want to make a visit to the coastal Oak Bay Marina Restaurant to take in the beautiful sunset ocean views and indulge in fine seafood. image

And when you’ve finally had enough fun on this Victoria girls trip, you’ll head back to Seattle on the Victoria Clipper Ferry like we did.  This vessel is spacious and our ride was smooth.  While in the Seattle area, you’ll need to make one last great memory like we did at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville, Washington.  image

The Library Pairing Tastings is just the royal experience we needed before saying goodbye.image

We learned a great deal about different wines and a lot of tricks to enhance the flavor and taste with this pairing.  image

We also enjoyed a tour of the winery from our guide.  But for me, the best part was the dessert, right?!  Save the best for last.image

Who knew that dipping a biscotti stick in Ste. Michelle’s Ethos Late Harvest Riesling would be so divine?  It’s a dessert that I’ll be sure to have again.image

And finally, the grounds at this beautiful Washington vineyard and winery are beautiful.  Bike, walk or drive here and you’ll be sure to make some good memories, just as we did.




Best Places to Visit in California

Summer trips to any one of the five oceans is a must.  Summer is all about relaxing and playing in the best of nature, and California’s beaches and the Pacific coastal region are a favorite.   I’ve compiled some of the best places to visit in California after a recent family summer trip to several seaside resorts and towns in Newport Beach, all the way down through Laguna Beach.image

Let’s start with dining in Dana Point.  This beautiful seaside town is surrounded by coastal bluffs and rolling lush hills.  You’ll find some of the most beautiful waterfront dining venues for taking in the Pacific Ocean at Dana Point.  We elected to eat at Cannon’s Seafood Restaurant because I wanted some spectacular views of Dana Point Marina, and this picture was worth every penny.  The Chart House was a neighboring restaurant that also faced Dana Point Marina.  Both of these restaurants are perched high on the hillside and provide best sunset views in Dana Point, but there’s also plenty of dining options closer to Dana Point Marina if water proximity is more important than expansive sunset views.  This area offers beautiful dining options and is one of the best places to visit in California.image

Next recommedation for best places to visit in California is the Montage Laguna Beach.  The Montage Laguna Beach Experience is a travel vacation experience you’ll want to have at least once in a lifetime.  Not only is this five-star waterfront resort perched high above the coastal bluffs to offer some of the best Pacific views, but it also neighbors in backdoor proximity to some of the best beaches that California has to offer.  One of these backyard beaches is Treasure Island.  We loved the sea caves and coves especially.image

 Laguna’s prestigious Montage Laguna Beach is one of the best places to visit in California because of the natural wonders that can be found around Thousand-Step BeachCrescent BayCrystal State Cove Park and Treasure Island.seacaves California’s National Park issues warnings and safety precautions for not only kayakers, but for any visitors that are exploring the sea caves.  Weather and water conditions can change quickly, so be sure to check out California’s changing forecast before you go.image

Thousand Steps Beach is one place everyone loves, no matter what age, this place is amazing.balboa3Thousand Steps Beach as you can guess, is famous for the long staircase you’ll take from town to reach this beautiful pristine ocean that is busy with surfers, body surfers and sun gazers and worshippers.  The steps down were easy breezy.  The climb back up was a slightly different experience.  Totally manageable but just take your time.  It’s not a marathon – this was my motto.

Thousand Step Beach is truly one of the most scenic areas in and around Laguna Beach and so it’s definitely one of the best places to visit in California.image

Another stop you’ll need to make in California is the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel.  This luxurious oceanfront resort is a favorite, especially because of the Ritz Kids programs offered and the child-friendly resort focus.  We loved our visit and enjoyed some of the best oceanfront dining at Raya, one of the dining venues at Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel.  I especially was impressed by the child-friendly menu, dining options and activities for children.balboa4  Anytime I visit a Ritz Carlton with my kiddos, I’m always impressed with the special accommodations and considerations for children during travel.  I love that about the Ritz Carlton.ritzbluAnother great waterfront dining venue in Laguna Niguel is the Ritz 180Blu.  This is a great place to take in the sunset, have a cocktail and just relax.  It’s ideal for adults, and a great place to spend time with friends.  There’s usually a band or individual musician that keeps the atmosphere lively in the evening.  This was one of my very favorite places to visit for sunset gazing.ritzcarlton

I also loved the amazing backyard beach accessibility of the Ritz.image  The walk to the beach from the resort was easy, and the beaches are well maintained and perfect for surfing, body surfing or relaxing.  For these oceanfront Laguna Beach dining venues, close proximity to some of Laguna’s best beaches and the exceptional child-friendly focus and accommodations at Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel, this is one of the best places to visit in California.image

Heading up North, you’ll want to visit Balboa Island, in Newport Beach.  Be sure to check out all the adventures on the island, including kayaking, fishing, surfing and shopping.  Shopping on Balboa Island was one of my favorite parts about the island.  My daughter and I could have spent HOURS at these shops.balboa2   Also, you’ll want to be sure and stop at Dad’s Original Frozen Banana.  These frozen bananas are a five-star treat and solely a good enough reason to visit Balboa Island.balboa1However, the sunsets are pretty amazing here as well.  So I guess for the views, sunsets and frozen banana treats – Balboa Island is another top choice for one of the best places to visit in Calfornia.   image

Catalina Island, located just 22 miles off the Pacific California Coast is also one of the best places to visit in California.  There’s so much to do on this island.  Read all about what to do on Catalina Island, whether you plan to make a day trip or stay longer.image

This island has something for all ages and will keep you plenty busy.  It’s location and unique Mediterranean landscape feel is what makes this destination one of the best places to visit in California.

There’s so many places in California, and it’s hard to narrow down my top picks.  For now, this coastal region is my top pick for summer vacation and coastal travel.  So much to do, so little time.

** Some pictures courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel


Santa Catalina Island

I’ve always wanted to visit Catalina Island, which is a beautiful island just 22 miles off the coast of California.  image

First, I wanted to explore the ways of arriving to the island.  I learned there is transportation by sea in many forms to Catalina Isand, and we ultimately secured our transportation with the Catalina Flyer.  This large three story ferry left from Newport Beach in the early morning and we arrived to Catalina Island by 10:30a.  The other modes of transportation include but are not limited to Sea Planes and Helicopter.image

Our experience on the Catalina Flyer was great.  The crew was efficient and helpful from the time of boarding this vessel.  They explained that the ride to Catalina Island could be a rough ocean ride, and what to do if passengers were prone to motion sickness. They even sold Dramamine on board!  It was a perfectly beautiful and clear morning the day we visited Catalina Island.  This 22-mile ride across the Pacific Ocean is what you might expect in terms of motion, so come prepared and don’t forget to look at the constant horizon – a life saver!!  The best part about the trip was the dolphin sightings – they were on all sides of the ferry throughout most of the ride.image

Upon arriving to Avalon Island, you’ll want to decide your mode of transportation for getting around the island.  Will you be staying for just one day at Catalina Island or longer?  There are several places to rent a four or six seater golf cart to take a tour of this island, or to just get around if you’re staying for a few days.  You don’t even have to know what to do in Catalina Island – just rent a cart and figure it out.image

There is a beautiful scenic tour of Catalina Island, and it last for roughly an hour using a golf cart.  There are other parts of the island that are not accessible outside of this scenic tour, and no one is allowed to those other parts of the island except guided tours, etc…  So remember that you don’t have 100% access to the entire island when you rent a golf cart, but, it is the mode of transportation around Catalina, especially for a one-day trip it’s nice.  But if you’re wondering what to do in Catalina Island – rent a golf cart and take the island tour.  It’s beautiful.image

So wondering what to do besides the one hour scenic tour in Catalina Island?  Try some Snorkeling or scuba diving, it’s a popular activity around Catalina Island.  With the waters being so transparent, its totally inviting.  You can bring your own equipment and/or get hooked up with a professional guided snorkel or scuba tour.catalina2  Playing and relaxing in this beautiful transparent water is a common interest among the many visitors, both at Descano Beach Club and at the beach at Avalon Island.  You can rent water toys at the beach at Avalon, or bring your own.  It’s a great place for children to play.catalina3Shopping.  It’s what you can do in Catalina Island.  There’s a very nice selection of stores in Avalon that can provide some wonderful retail therapy and fun.catalina1Dining.  It’s what to do in Catalina Island.  Buffalo Nickel was great!  Try the fish tacos and a margarita, you won’t be disappointed.image

Explore and Play – it’s what you can do on Catalina Island and you’ll never grow weary of these beautiful pristine waters.


Snow Mountain Ranch

There are so many family attractions in Colorado during the summer.  And there’s a special place in one of the best Colorado mountain towns that offers so many great family experiences and attractions for kids at Snow Mountain Ranch!  This mountain and wildnerness adventure camp in Granby, Colorado is one for the entire family and all ages.  It’s conveniently located less than two hours from Denver.

Upon arrival at Snow Mountain Ranch & YMCA of the Rockies, you’ll soon learn about the endless activities available for children and adults.  These activities are outlined according to day, time and fee, if one is assigned.  Many of the activities are free, and are spread throughout the day.  We were so excited to explore the options.  We began with a guided horse tour with Sombrero Stables.image

image1 (2)

This trail ride with Sombrero Stables was a favorite for my daughter and I.  The guide was knowledgeable and friendly, and especially good with helping ease any anxiety with riding.  She led us on a trail, back into the Rocky Mountains where the Aspen and Pine trees were plain beautiful.  We finally looped back around to the stables.  Perfect.

The next activity was a favorite of both children and adults.  If you’re looking in the Granby area or checking out Winter Park summer activities, you’ll definitely want to check out this tubing in Colorado, at the Summer Tubing Hill at Snow Mountain Ranch.

I love tubing in Colorado, whether it’s in a river or during winter down a hill.  But I had never heard of tubing in Colorado during the summer down a hill.  I learned this summer downhill tubing in Colorado at Snow Mountain Ranch is one of only three that exist in the United States and is the very first in Colorado!

With a turn of the tube and a little water’s help, you’re flying down this hill.  And before you know it, you’re all the way down.  And then step over, and take a ride to the top.  Get your tube ready, turn and spin, go down, repeat.  We repeated much, it was so much fun!image

So if you’re looking for some great family attractions in Colorado during the summer, and especially attractions for kids, this tubing in Colorado is a first of its kind and one you’ve got to try!

The next day we were back at exploring more wilderness adventures in one of the best mountain towns of Granby, Colorado.  It was time to trout fish, but more than that, for the little people to get fishing tips from the fisherman.image

And obviously, the Snow Mountain Ranch’s fisherman gave some great fishing tips.  This catch is about the average size of most, and everything here is catch/release.image

We also tried out some ziplining at Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, Colorado.

This ziplining tour was great.  It may not be the longest zip line, but it sure felt like it.  The guides were extremely helpful with directions and helping anyone who needed assistance.  My children although young, were thrilled to indulge in this ziplining.image

 In terms of lodging and accommodations, where do I start.  You have so many options to choose from starting with cabins, lodges, yurts and campgrounds at Snow Mountain Ranch.  image

I was pretty much smitten with the Village of Yurts at Snow Mountain Ranch.  These Yurts, also coined a Mongolian House, are a comfortable yet intimate experience with the outdoors.image

Each yurt provides comfortable beds and all the essentials you would come to expect in a lodge or cabin.  There is no electricity and/or plumbing in a yurt, but there is a bath house just steps away that offers all these.  This Yurt park in Granby, Colorado is one of the best I’ve seen.  Perched high on the hillside, each Yurt offers beautiful and expansive views of the area.image

Speaking of the area, there’s a good amount of trail biking around Snow Mountain Ranch.  You can rent the bikes for the day, or halfday, and explore the trails in the area that are divided by skill level and color.  image

We also enjoyed the arts and crafts store.  There is a plethora of activities to choose from, as well as some to buy if you choose.  We love painting!image

And the indoor swimming pool, let me not forget.  It’s a great place for the kiddos to release some energy.  Children must pass a swimming test to swim alone in the pool, but once they’re in, they are climbing the walls and playing with all the other great features.image

And when you’re at the beautiful Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, Colorado, don’t forget to stop and breathe, take in the fresh air and smell the flowers.  It’s a very spiritual place in the mountains with the splendor of nature surrounding the camp.  It’s a reminder of the great Creator.  And a wonderful place to make special family memories.


Sand Dunes National Park

The Great Sand Dunes National Park has the tallest dunes in the United States, and is a natural wonder of sand hills that you and the entire family will enjoy.  Located in the Sangre Di Cristo Range and town of Mosca, these sand dunes are a popular Colorado family vacation destination for those wanting a unique experience of nature.  image

Many visitors enjoy hiking the dunes, sand boarding, sand sledding and wading around the waters of Medano Creek.  This creek keeps the sand base cool during the late Spring and early summer.  Be sure and check the Great Sand Dunes National Park weather before you come, to plan accordingly for activities and adventures in the sand!
IMG_9243Outside of the Park, companies such as Zapata Ranch just down the road from the Great Sand Dunes, offer horseback riding tours in the park, as well as photography trips, etc..  Find out places to rent and learn about sand surfing and sand sledding in the Great Sand Dunes.  We tried some sand surfing and sledding and it was just as fun as it sounds!  And it’s an activity for all ages.  And with a backdrop of the Sangre di Cristo Mountain Range, it doesn’t get much better.IMG_9244Close to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, is the City of Alamosa where you can find hotels, motels, ranches and cabin accommodations.  We elected to stick with the “nature theme” and found a rustic cabin that was close to the Great Sand Dunes National Park.  Some very close places to the Dunes are Zapata RanchGreat Sand Dunes Lodge and Great Sand Dunes Oasis. image  Also close to Alamosa in the town of Mosca is the Colorado Gators Reptile Park.  This is a must visit, especially if you’re bringing the children as they’ll love the large assortment of alligators and reptiles.image

And when you’re done with the alligators and playing around at the Sand Dunes, head back to Alamosa for a good meal.  There’s plenty to choose from but we loved a very good burger at San Luis Brewery, located right on Main Street.