1 Day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary

1 Day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary

Are you planning to visit Mesa Verde National Park or short on time and considering it? Don’t miss this national wonder and immaculate preservation of American history! Follow this family-friendly 1 day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary and love every minute of your self-guided tour.

Mesa Verde National Park was founded in 1906 to preserve the archeological culture and legacy of the Ancestral Pueblo people. I’ve heard many Europeans speak about their medieval castles and state Americans have nothing to compare. Not true!

The Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings are true castles, not built on a solid hilltop but dug out and built inside the sides of a cliff! In fact, the two cowboys that found it and brought it to the attention Wetherill family called it “a magnificent city”. Can you imagine? Two cowboys, minding their own business herding cattle and discover a gigantic cliff dwelling!

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Visit the American cliff castles for yourself with a 1 day Mesa Verde map itinerary. Pressed for time? Follow the map and advice for a fun-filled educational day you won't want to miss. Family vacation or a day trip from Durango, Colorado. #familytravel #mesaverde

Now, to be fair, the Utes knew about the structures before this. However, the cowboys made their “discovery” famous and got more people involved in the excavation and preservation.

In fact, in Mesa Verde National Park, you will see not only cliff dwellings but a progression of homes and religious buildings. The Puebloans lived here for more than 600 years, from around A.D. 600 to around 1300. Take that European castles! (Don’t worry, I love you too!)

Mesa Verde National Park Quick Information

Mesa Verde is one of 4 national parks in the U.S. state of Colorado. They also include Rocky Mountain National Park, the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Location: In the southwestern corner of Colorado, easily accessible from Cortez or Durango, Colorado.

Elevation: 7,000 – 8,500 feet

Safety: The park has rugged terrain with steep cliff dropoffs, deep canyons, and some narrow trails. Stay on the prepared trails and monitor children.

Park Entrance Fees: There is an entrance fee to enter the park, and I suggest you check their website for current rates. If you have a fourth grader traveling with you, find out how to get a free U.S. national parks pass here!

Mesa Verde Tours:

If you visit during summer months, the park is more crowded, but you also have the opportunity to join a group tour. If you have the time and are physically able to walk for a couple of hours and climb ladders, I highly recommend the park-run tours of Cliff Palace and the other dwellings.

Be sure to reserve your spot beforehand or check in immediately at the Visitor’s Center to find out what’s available during your visit. They are various lengths and different levels of difficulty.

The self-guided 1 day Mesa Verde map itinerary below is kid-friendly and accessible for wheelchairs. The stops and short hikes I’ve recommended are mostly paved pathways or wide well-maintained paths.

Where to stay in Mesa Verde:

Camping: Stay in one of the brilliant campsites in the national park at Morefield Campground.

Airbnb: As a family, we love to book places using Airbnb! I like to have more room, a different experience, and our own kitchen to prepare meals. Check for options in and around Durango, Colorado.

When using Airbnb, I always advise you to choose a place with plenty of good ratings. It’s nice to read a few of the past reviews to get a feel for the place. Also, it will help you be able to tell if it’s a good fit for your family.

Coupon BONUS! To get $40 off an Airbnb home booking of $75 or more or $15 off an experience of $50 or more, click on my link here!

Hotels: My kids like to stay in hotels for the exciting experiences of a free morning breakfast buffet and a swimming pool! I always look for hotels with a good swimming pool.

Mesa Verde Map

While you probably won’t be able to see the detail on this map, it will give you an idea of the locations I suggest to visit. Be sure to pick up your own map on your way into the park when you pay the entrance fee and mark it up to your heart’s content.

1 day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary, National Parks map #mesaverde #familytravel

Now, shall we begin the self-guided essential 1-day tour? Yes, please!

1 Day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary

The following plan is meant to be a self-guided tour. It consists of easy, quick stops along the way for families with young kids or those who don’t wish to go on a long hike. Use this as a guide but make it your own day trip. Grab a Mesa Verde map, and if there’s something you want to see along the way I don’t specify, by all means, explore!

1. Mesa Verde National Park Visitor and Research Center

When you enter the park, do take the time to stop in at the visitor’s center. There’s an interesting exhibit, and the rangers are knowledgeable and ready to help. Ask what to do in the current weather conditions, if any trails or sites are closed, that sort of thing.

a. Purchase tour tickets

Here you will purchase any tour tickets you wish to go on run by Mesa Verde National Park. Purchase tickets or find out more information on the guided tours if you have the time and wish to tour the Cliff House or other dwellings. Most take at least a couple of hours so keep that in mind.

b. Sign up for the Mesa Verde Junior Ranger program

I absolutely LOVE the Junior Ranger program, and it’s a perfect fit for kids wanting to learn more about the park. My daughter is a huge fan, completes EVERY activity in EVERY book and is determined to collect as many badges from U.S. national parks as possible.

My son, on the other hand, is not quite as eager but has participated in the program, and we’ve had fun with it together. It also helps keep the adults in the group on their toes and on the lookout for interesting facts.

Find a ranger and ask to sign any kids with you up for the program. They’ll have to fill out a booklet of activities and when complete they’ll be sworn in as a Junior Ranger. They get an official certificate in a small ceremony and a badge. Awesome!

c. Gift shop souvenirs

If you or the family want to stock up on souvenirs to remember the trip, this is the place to do it! Truly, they do have a good variety of books, postcards, posters, and kid collectibles. My daughter selected an adult coloring book of all the national parks with some colored pencils, and the 6-year-old found a stuffed peregrine falcon he couldn’t live without.

d. Facilities

Last, but not least, this is a good place to use the bathrooms before you set off on your adventure. There are restrooms at some of the stops but not all so I like to avoid as many panicked emergencies as possible.

2. Mancos Valley Overlook

On to stop number 2! After the visitor’s center is about 4 miles to the Mancos Valley Overlook. This is a quick stop, but one not to miss! Get out of your vehicle and walk down to take in the views. This is also right next to the Morefield Campground if you happen to be camping there.

There are some tables if you’d like to have a picnic or a snack or simply get that photo op.

Mancos Valley Overlook, enjoying the view of Mesa Verde National Park #mesaverde #familytravel

3. Montezuma Valley Overlook

This is another great point to see some different views of the park. It was a little muddy when we were there, but I made great friends with this tree. We enjoyed the stop.

Tree at Montezuma Valley Overlook, Mesa Verde NP #mesaverde #nationalparktrees

4. Geologic Overlook

Continue to drive until you make it to the Geologic Overlook. In good weather, there are good views and short well-maintained paths. Take a minute to work on the Junior Ranger packets and think about the astounding feats of architecture you’re about to see.

5. Far View Sites

Next, travel down to the Far View Sites, passing the Far View Lodge and Far View area. Do NOT accidentally turn onto the Wetherill Mesa Road. This is a great turn off to visit on the second day in the park but won’t fit into our 1 day Mesa Verde map itinerary.

The Far View Sites are surface sites, which simply means they’re above ground and not in the cliff. You can see the Far View House, Pipe Shrine House, Coyote Village, Far View Reservoir, Megalithic House, and Far View Tower. We were told it was one of the most populated areas from A.D. 900 -1300.

Perfect spot on the Mesa Verde map for kids

What do I like about this site? It’s a good, safe place with nice trails, and interesting places to explore for kids. They can run around, act out stories, and let imaginations run wild!

The last time we were there it was under snow so I didn’t get a good picture. Let me know how your kids enjoy it!

6. Cliff Palace Loop (6mi/10km)

The Cliff Palace Loop is one of the two main loops that take you to see the cliff dwellings and mesa sites on the Chapin Mesa. It’s a one-way loop, and I suggest going here first and earlier in the day before the large crowds arrive.

a. Cliff Palace

If you see one thing in Mesa Verde National Park, you will want to see the Cliff Palace. It’s the “enchanted castle” and iconic picture you see in anything referencing Mesa Verde.

Explorer Momma at Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde NP #cliffpalace #mesaverde

Frederick Chapin, the first tourist guided by the Weatherill family to Cliff Palace, was an experienced mountaineer. He visited in 1889 and 1890 and described it in writing like this: “It occupies a great space under a grand oval cliff, appearing like a ruined fortress, with ramparts, bastions, and dismantled towers. The stones in front have broken away; but behind them rise the walls of a second story; and in the rear of these, in under the dark cavern, stands the third tier of masonry. Still farther back in the gloomy recess, little houses rest on upper ledges.”

The pathway down from the parking area is nicely paved and you even pass by a seating area for when the rangers give their guided tours. Once you get down to the viewing area there’s an amazing view of the Cliff Palace and all around the canyon.

Unfortunately, unless you have a ticket to attend one of the guided tours you won’t be able to go down the locked rusted staircase to view the dwelling up close. When traveling with kids and only a day to explore this is no problem. If you have an extra day book one of the tours.

Looking out at Mesa Verde NP, towards Cliff Palace #mesaverde

b. Balcony House

Balcony House can better be seen from the Soda Canyon Overlook trail. If you have tickets to the tour stop here or move on to see it from the trail viewpoint.

Balcony House, Mesa Verde NP

c. Soda Canyon Overlook Trail (1.2mi/1.9km)

The Soda Canyon Overlook Trail is the longest we attempted with my 6-year-old. Moreover, he called it the “really long hike”, and it was a lot of fun. Awesome views abound, but this is one of those places where Mom panic kicks in.

Soda Canyon Overlook Trail, Mesa Verde #familytravel #mesaverde

The trail goes very near the dropoff down into the canyon. Also, the telescope in the picture below is on a large rock sticking out into the canyon. While the places that meet the trail are fenced, off the trail they are not. I would advise kids know to stay on the trail on this one!

Looking though the telescope Mesa Verde NP #mesaverde #familytravel

But wow! What an experience!

7. Spruce Tree Terrace

Spruce Tree Terrace is a little café area where you can stop for lunch or a snack. We didn’t pack a picnic and found it to be a good break between loops. There are various sandwiches, hamburgers, brats, French fries, salads, cookies, and general American-style quick foods. It’s a little higher priced than you’d normally find, but hey, it’s the only thing in the park!

If you live close by or are organized to get a good picnic together before going I highly recommend that also and taking advantage of one of the many picnic areas.

In summer, needless to say, it is very HOT. Be sure to bring enough water, sun hats, non-toxic sunscreen, etc. to keep you hydrated and safe.

8. Spruce Tree House

Safety concerns with falling rocks have closed the Spruce Tree House for tours for the foreseeable future. However, you can still get a good view of it from the overlooks near the museum. This is the third largest cliff dwelling and hopefully will be open again soon! It’s one of the easiest to get down to and has paved paths for strollers and wheelchairs.

9. Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum

If you have the time or just want to breeze through, the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum is worth a stop. Some people will really want to examine the dioramas illustrating Ancestral Pueblo life. My children did not, but we’d also been on a lot of stops!

In addition to the dioramas, there are exhibits of prehistoric artifacts, a chronology of Ancestral Pueblo culture, and other displays.

If the family needs a rest, there’s also a 25-minute informational video on the park that runs on the half-hour. In summer months, I would imagine it would be a welcome break in the air conditioning! Check it out.

10. Mesa Top Loop (6mi/10km)

Now, head over to the second loop on the map, the Mesa Top Loop. It’s good to start this one after a good lunch and everyone’s revived and excited to see more! There’s a lot more to see on our 1 day Mesa Verde map itinerary than just Cliff Palace (although it IS pretty impressive on its own!).

a. Pit house

Be sure to stop at the Pit House. This is the earliest evidence of people living in the area from about A.D. 550 to 600. They build shallow pits in the ground and covered them with pole and mud roofs and wall. In fact, the entrance would have been through the roof!

The Pit House you will see at the site is one of the best preserved anywhere with features common on all pit houses. There’s a large space used as a living room with a fire pit in the middle. Then to the side, adjoining the living room is an antechamber where they think firewood and food were stored. All the family would sleep on the floor around the fire, grandparents, parents, kids.

How would you like that? Pick up the Mesa Top flyer at the entrance for more information.

b. Square Tower House

I have to say Square Tower House is my second favorite cliff dwelling in the park, after Cliff Palace. Take a short paved trail down to the viewpoint area. The four-story tower looming over the rest of the buildings is quite impressive. The tower boasts window, flooring, doorways, and even a reed mat, feathered cloth, and a humanlike figurine were found inside.

Square Tower, Mesa Verde National Park #mesaverde #familytravel

Evidently, the residents of the 80 original rooms in this dwelling came and went using hand-and-toe holds dug out of the cliff walls. Yes, they had to climb in and out! People lived here toward the end of building in Mesa Verde, from A.D. 1200 to 1300.

c. Sun Point View

Sun Point View is a good place to stop to view many dwellings at one time. Here you will see a dozen different cliff dwellings in alcoves in the Cliff and Fewkes Canyons. Take the kids out, stretch your legs, and see how many you can spot!

d. Sun Temple

The Sun Temple is a fascinating place to explore and let the kids run around to see what they can see. Moreover, it’s another place where you can get up close and personal with one of the structures. Peek through the windows and discuss why they might have created four-foot-thick walls.

Looking through the Sun Temple window, Mesa Verde #mesaverde #familyadventure

What would they have used this D-shaped structure for? There are signs it was left unfinished, without a roof, according to the experts. But, a point of interest is the natural rock basin in the southwestern corner possibly served as a “solar marker”. Also, people from the surrounding areas could have attended ceremonies in the temple.

Sun Temple, Mesa Verde NP

11. Return to the Visitor’s Center

The Sun Temple is the last stop on the Mesa Top Loop. From there, if you have any time left explore away. If not, head back to the Visitor’s Center before it closes. When we were there it closed at 4:30, but times do vary depending on the season.

In addition, the kids can complete the Junior Ranger program with a ranger and get their certificates. The packets can be mailed in, but they love that sense of accomplishment to finish in a day. Have I mentioned we LOVE the Junior Ranger program?!

Grab the last minute souvenirs, and you’re done for the day! I hope you enjoyed this 1 day Mesa Verde map itinerary. Let me know in the comments below if it’s useful to you!

Ready to visit more National Parks?

Check out Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico!

10 Musts for visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park with kids


1 Day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary

To be fair, this is a lot to pack into one day at Mesa Verde National Park. However, if you do only have the day you’re going to want to see as much as possible! It’s a fascinating place to discover hands-on about the ancestral Puebloan people. Forget reading about it in books, go out and explore!

The kids will love this National Park, and I have a feeling it’s a trip they will remember for a long time! Happy travels!

Lauren

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Only have a day in Mesa Verde National Park? This is the perfect family one day Mesa Verde map itinerary with the best places to be sure to see. From Cliff Palace to the Sun Temple, it's a must-see national park. #mesaverde #familytravel #usnationalparks

Hotel Booking Options:



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More information on U.S. National Parks:

  1. State and National Parks Family Bucket List
  2. Northern States National Parks Bucket List
  3. Utah and Colorado National Parks Bucket List
  4. California National Parks Bucket List
  5. How to Get a Free National Parks Pass
  6. Carlsbad Caverns with Kids: 10 Musts for an Amazing Visit
  7. Secrets of Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter

Visit the Corning Museum of Glass with kids

Visit the Corning Museum of Glass with kids

Preview: How to and why you should visit the Corning Museum of Glass with kids. Corning, New York is in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York State and the Museum of Glass is a must-visit.

Kids love to create, to make art, and figure out how things work. You may think oh! The Corning Museum of Glass, eek! That sounds dangerous just thinking about my kids in that place. Not so! I’m going to tell you why this is an awesome outing and truly memorable experience for kids and the entire family.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Visit the Corning Museum of Glass with kids. One of our favorite things to do in Corning, New York. #familytravel #cmog

Where is Corning, New York?

First things first. Where is Corning, New York? Well, Corning is an amazing town located in the Finger Lakes Wine Country of New York State, just 10 minutes from the Elmira, New York airport. It’s about 250 miles from New York City but only about 100 miles from Rochester, New York.

Therefore, you have many options when it comes to transportation in and around the area. If you arrive by plane, any of the nearby airports make sense, Elmira, Rochester, Buffalo. Once the plane has landed, we really like to have the freedom to explore the entire area and so a rental car is the best bet for our family. That way we can get to every little pumpkin farm, waterfall hike, and art show in the area as well as to the further afield destinations like Niagara Falls and New York City! Then make your way back to the Corning Museum of Glass with kids. There are also Greyhound buses in the area and Lyft and Uber drivers when you need them.

What is the Corning Museum of Glass?

Have you heard of Corningware? Pyrex? Yes, these famous traditional dishes found in so many houses today all came from Corning, New York. But is glass just about dishes? By no means!

The Corning Museum of Glass is dedicated to telling the story of that amazing material: glass. Nearly 50,000 objects are displayed in the galleries, with historical pieces dating back to the Pharaohs to the modern glass art of today. Interactive displays and the innovation lab make it the perfect place for kids to learn about art and science and how the two intertwine in glass.

Corning Museum of Glass, New York. #iloveny #familymuseums

Top things to do at the Corning Museum of Glass with kids

Make your own glass art

Kids’ favorite thing to do at the Corning Museum of Glass is to make a piece of their own glass art. As I said before, kids love to create! They love to see the magic of glass blowing, fusing, cutting, and they are shocked when they get to form their own glass masterpiece. The Corning Museum of Glass is so awesome because they have so many classes and options to make glass art creation available to all ages.

You can sign up to make a seasonal piece of glass, such as a fall pumpkin or winter Christmas tree! There are also options to make picture frames, glass ornaments, bead making, and so much more. I recently got to make my own glass flower with the help of one of the museum’s well-trained glass blowers, and was so excited about it I felt like a kid myself.

Lauren makes a glass flower at Corning Museum of Glass #myflxtbex #glassart

First, I had to decide what I wanted to make. Second, I picked the colors I wanted in my flower. Then I got to work! Word of warning, the fire is hot! I didn’t get near it or actually heat the glass, but I did wear protective eyewear and gloves to use the tongs and bars to shape the glass.

Do you know what? My flower is not perfect, but what an experience to actually feel the hot glass pulled and shaped with my tongs, by my own hand! I loved it, and I LOVE my piece of art, my glass flower.

Glass etching project

Each class or project has an age requirement to it for obvious safety reasons, but there are fun projects for almost any age. Another project available for all ages is to sandblast a drinking glass. To complete this project you are given a drinking glass. Kids and adults alike pull out the artist inside to create a design on the glass using stickers. Once the stickers are exactly as you want them, a museum helper will take you to the machine to sandblast the glass. Tiny scratches create a white snow all over the parts not covered in stickers. You remove the stickers and voila! Your creation is complete and ready for display!

Glass dinosaur etching. Make your own glass project at the Corning Museum of Glass, New York. #familytravel #cmog

Check out the current classes and make your own glass projects here!

Glass demos

Kids can’t do everything by any means, so that is why the glass demos are a big hit as well. One of the coolest, how do things work demos loved by aspiring 6-year-old engineers is the glass breaking demonstration. In the innovation lab, questions like: How does glass break? How can we make it stronger? and Why does glass break differently in your car than the windows or glass dropped at home?

In the Windows Gallery of the Glass Innovation Center, you can actually meet some of the inventors who create better-performing glass for space shuttles and all the screens we watch and touch every day.

What else can you see demoed? Go to a glassblowing session and see a piece of art formed.  Watch a flameworking demo or see how optics are made. It’s fascinating.

Corning Museum of Glass upper level #cmog #corningny

Explore the Corning Museum of Glass with kids

Where is the best place to go at the Corning Museum of Glass with kids? It depends on the child! What are they interested in? I would invite you to wander the galleries, find the glass of ancient Egypt, see the glass fruit larger than a toddler, and wander the Vessels Gallery of light bulbs, orbs, and glass containers of all kinds. It really is a magical eye-opening experience they will remember.

Make a glass pumpkin at CMOG #corningny #glasspumpkin

My favorite area of the Corning Museum of Glass

I’m not usually one to go for the contemporary. Actually, I’m always more of a let’s look back at history to see what’s been done hundreds and hundreds of years before type of gal. Which is why I was so shocked to find the Contemporary Art and Design wing was my favorite area of the museum. The white space around each piece of art, the lines and curves, they all calmed me and made me want to spend more time just breathing in the beauty and calm.

Corning Museum of Glass. Modern Art glass display. #cmog #corningnewyork

My “insider” tip for free admission to the Corning Museum of Glass

We have a family membership to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Okay, what does that have to do with the Corning Museum of Glass you may ask! Well, both museums participate in the ASTC Travel Passport Program. Because we are members of a participating science center or museum, we’re eligible for free admission to other centers outside of our area. There are certain parameters, like the museums have to be more than 90 miles away, and I like to double check with the museum beforehand to be sure they still participate.

You can check out the list of science centers and museums that participate here. Whenever we travel, I like to see what museums are on our route take part in the program. It’s always a fun and educational stop, and the kids love it! There are museums all over the United States and the world where your local museum membership will benefit you and save you money.

We love the ASTC Passport Program!

Visit Niagara Falls with kids!

The perfect family vacation is Niagara Falls with kids. State Parks and family travel are the best! #operationusparks #everykidinapark #familytravel #explorermomma

A glass art family tradition

When I was a child, one of my favorite things to do was to visit my grandmother in her stained glass shop. She encouraged me to touch the glass and play with the stained-glass kaleidoscopes she made. She always urged me to embrace my own creativity. We made glass jewelry, ornaments, and had a wonderful time together. Now, my own daughter has been exploring the art of stained glass ornament making with my father. They love to work on projects together and be able to create and have their own grandpa and granddaughter time.

If you’re near Corning, I highly recommend a visit to this amazing museum. Plan to spend some time to wander there, make a glass project, and visit demonstrations. Isn’t it amazing what all this one little material can do?

Have you been to the Corning Museum of Glass with kids or on your own? Tag me in your pics on Instagram @explorermomma.

I’d love to see them!

White circle display, Corning Museum of Glass #cmog #modernart

How to get a FREE US National Parks pass

How to get a FREE US National Parks pass

There’s something magical about being a kid in a national park. Everything is new and wondrous and makes an imprint in your mind that will last a lifetime. Did you know that every single fourth grader in the United States can get a FREE Every Kid in a Park Pass? Yes, a free US National Parks pass. It’s good for the entire family for the whole year and gets you into not just National Parks but all federal lands and waters. How cool is that?! My daughter’s in fourth grade this year and has so inspired our year we’ve titled “Operation US National Parks for Families”.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Impact of U.S. National Parks on kids

I grew up in Colorado and feel as though Rocky Mountain National Park is my own backyard and safe haven or escape. It is and will always be near and dear to my heart, but another national park also made a huge impact and imprint on my childhood. When I was a kid, my grandparents lived in Homer, Alaska. We were fortunate enough to be able to travel up there to visit them a couple of times and also experience the magic that is the Kenai Fjords National Park.

Kenai Fjords National Park, glacier calving

I remember being entranced by the glacier and the huge variety of wildlife I saw in one relatively small area. We took a tour on a little tour boat, and I think my hands were on the bars at the very front with the wind blowing in my face the entire time. I leaned over to see porpoises jump next to us as we sailed along, whales breach and wave their tales in hello, colorful puffins in the rocky cliffs, the bark of sea lions lounging on rocks, a moose on the hill, and SO much more. In a time way before the Wild Kratts entered our lives this was a miracle for me to see. AND it was live and in person, real and in the wild to my mind. It was not a zoo.

Kenai Fjords National Park, sea lions

What is Operation U.S. Parks for Families?

Operation U.S. Parks for Families is a series of blog posts to be featured throughout the  2018-2019 Every Kid in a Park Pass year. The goal of this series is to inspire families to visit national parks together and provide them with ideas for amazing activities in each park they can do as a family.

Who will be featured in Operation U.S. Parks

To begin, Operation US National Parks for Families will feature some of our own fabulous past experiences at national parks. In addition, throughout the year I’ll be highlighting our CURRENT travels to different parks and federal lands. Then as an even bigger BONUS I’ll be highlighting the experiences of other families all over the country! I’m so excited about this aspect of the series so we can provide a broader picture of family experiences with different opinions, likes, dislikes, and interests!

Operation US National Parks for Families. Join our family and more as we travel the United States together. Learn how to get your free US National Parks pass! #travelwithkids #usnationalparks #everykidinapark #explorermomma

Get your FREE US National Parks Pass and join us! 

Would you like to join us for Operation US National Parks for Families Journey? We’d love to have you! Sign up for our newsletter to receive weekly updates on where we’re exploring! Will it be the caves in Carlsbad, New Mexico? Maybe, you’ll get to see and read about an adventure to the giant redwoods and sequoias of Sequoia National Park! Perhaps, if you’re really lucky, we’ll journey to Watkins Glen National Park in New York for scenery and kid-friendly hikes that could be straight out of a Tolkien book. So get your cloaks, backpacks, tents, elf-ears, or whatever you’d like to prepare and join our EPIC National Parks journey today!

How to sign up for your Every Kid in a Park Pass

How do you get your free US National Parks Pass? It is so super simple. All you do is go to the official US Government website here. Explore the website or just click on “Get Your Pass”. As I’m writing this they’ve recently updated the site for the 2018 to 2019 school year. Your fourth grader answers a few questions to make a diary entry to begin to figure out how they’d like to use their new pass. It’s super-easy and a fun activity.

free US National Parks pass, Hand on mouse

Once you sign up and complete the diary on the website, there will be a ticket to print out. Now, you can use it as your yearly pass, or you can take it to your first park or water area, show a ranger, and obtain a wallet-sized card for the year. Did I mention it’s FREE? What an awesome deal to bring families together in nature!

Congratulations! Free US National Parks pass

The next step is to take the family on hundreds of adventures until the card expires August 31, 2019 (or the current school year). Do you know what? If you miss something or don’t have time, little brother can get his own pass in the next year or two. Then you get to plan for that national park year as well!

How to use your free US National Parks Pass

If you’re going to use it you’ve got to plan your first trip! Are you going to camp in the woods? Do you want to see protected animals and wildlife? Maybe you’d just like to find your nearest park to start! Before you go read the official rules here. Then, just present your ticket as you enter the park! The park ranger will trade your printed paper copy of the ticket for an official Every Kid in a Park card, and your fourth grader will sign it. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Every Kid in a park pass, free US National Parks pass

There are sooo many opportunities for exploration and fun with this pass! Literally, you’ve got hundreds of places to visit near or far, it’s up to you.

Plan your trip with Operation U.S. Parks for Families

Now, I challenge you! Get out and explore! Follow along with our blog series and gain inspiration. Yes, I formally invite you to travel along with us virtually on our Operation U.S. Parks for Families journey. You can create your own adventures, the sky’s the limit! It’s such fun to plan destinations as a family and give every member a say. Can you tell I’m excited!?

Lily Ridge Trail with free US National Parks pass

Carlsbad Caverns National Park for Families

10 Musts for visiting Carlsbad Caverns with kids

Let’s travel with our free US National Parks pass!

I am so thrilled to explore our US National and State parks all over the country! My family and I will be planning and writing about our own trips using the Every Kid in a Park Pass. Also, we’ll all have the opportunity to travel virtually all over the country with other National Park loving families. Truly, I cannot wait to see the beauty of our parks and hear about the super-awesome and life-changing family experiences only nature can inspire and bring together.

My friends, I hope you follow along with us on this magnificent journey to explore our US National Parks!

I’d love to see your own adventures! Tag me in your National and State Park travel pics on Instagram @explorermomma.

Explore a National Park today!

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Operation US National Parks for Families. Join our family and more as we travel the United States together. Learn how to get your free US National Parks pass! #travelwithkids #usnationalparks #everykidinapark #explorermomma     Did you know you can get a FREE US National Parks pass? Find out how and join our family travel adventure around the United States. #operationnationalparks #everykidinapark #familytravel #ustravel #explorermomma

Thanks to all and HAPPY TRAVELS!

Georgian Language Phrases For Travelers

Georgian Language Phrases For Travelers

This post will give you useful Georgian language phrases for travelers. Download the Georgian phrases PDF, your own Georgian travel dictionary! In one place find basic Georgian phrases and useful Georgian phrases to get a richer picture of the people as you travel.

When you travel to other countries do you try to learn the basics in the native language? Even if it’s just a few words as an introduction, I’ve found it paves the way for a richer, fuller visit. In addition, it helps to ingratiate you with the local people and gives you a whole other view of the place and culture.

I’ve had many people ask me how in the world I learned Georgian, even after living there for several years. How? I studied. I interacted with people all over the country (and that done with me being an introvert). Was it always comfortable? No, of course not, and language learning is never perfect, but little by little you begin to understand and feel a part. Georgian language phrases

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Useful Georgian language phrases for travelers, free printable, Trinity Cathedral Tbilisi. Travel with confidence and learn some culture! If Tbilisi, Georgia is your destination, you need these basic language phrases. #georgianlanguage #georgiantravelphrases

Luckily for you, if you’re traveling to Tbilisi or any other part of Georgia soon, I’ve put together a handy printable list of useful Georgian language phrases for travelers.

Speaking foreign languages while traveling

I vividly remember the reaction of a woman I met in Baku, Azerbaijan when I attempted to speak to her in Azeri. This was a while ago now, but she was taking money for tickets or a tour at the Maiden Tower, an old Zoroastrian tower in Baku that’s now a local history museum. At first glance, she bore the no-nonsense, expressionless face I associate with former Soviet countries. They all feel Americans smile too much at strangers, as do many other countries. To me, she looked put out at having to be bothered with doing her job and giving out tickets.

Slowly, I stepped up and asked for the tickets in what I thought was correct Azeri. She did a little double-take and really looked at my face, and I was able to respond to whatever she asked me in return. Her face lit up, smiled, and she yelled over to her friend that these girls were actually trying to speak Azeri and NOT Russian. At least I think she said something to that effect. We ended up getting more attention, and a bit of a special tour.

Metekhi Church entrance

Why learn basic Georgian phrases?

Indeed, it’s all about being polite and respectful when you go to someone else’s country, to speak their language. Even if you don’t get very far, or they speak English and cater to tourists, they will generally appreciate your attempt. Don’t be afraid of not getting everything perfect either! I do pretty well in Latin languages and Georgian; however, my German, Russian, Azeri, etc. are pretty horrendous. But don’t fear! Most of the time they don’t expect you to have perfect grammar and pronunciation. The point is to communicate and learn from your hosts.

Georgians are some of the most hospitable and welcoming people I’ve ever met. They take great pride in their hospitality and love to have guests. They, like the Azeri woman I mentioned, are super-excited when foreigners speak Georgian to them and not Russian or another language.

     

I first fell in love with the Georgian language through traditional Georgian music before I could speak a single word. Music so often communicates the history and passions of a place so I like to listen to what I can before and during my visit. Also, I encourage my kids to do the same thing and so makes travel a huge living lesson for us.

You can never understand one language until you understand at least two.

Geoffrey Willans

English Author and Journalist

Need some ideas about things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia?

Narikala Fortress, Tbilisi

In my recent blog post, you can read all about awesome activities to do with kids in Tbilisi, Georgia. It’s an amazing city and so much fun to explore!

Georgian language phrases

The Georgian language is a beautiful language rich in history. What’s it related to? This is generally one of the first questions I get asked when speaking to someone about how I know it. Georgian is in its own family and branch, and therefore it’s not Slavic, Latin, Germanic or others. In addition, it has its own alphabet with 33 letters always pronounced the same way when read, similar to Spanish. Right now I’m not going to go into the alphabet but for our purposes use Latin letters to make it easier for travelers to get some words out!

When you speak in Georgian, do not stress syllables as in English, but read through them with the same level of stress throughout, if that makes sense.

A few phrases in Georgian:

gamarjoba (gah-mar-joh-bah) This means hello!

me lareni var (may lahren-ee var) My name is Lauren.

Tip here: You’ll want to insert your name instead of mine. In Georgian, you add an ee (long e) sound to the end of your name if it ends in a consonant sound, in this case. I’ll not trouble you with a bunch of grammar right now.

sasiamovnoa (sah-see-ah-mohv-noh-ah) It’s nice to meet you. (I love saying this word so had to add it in.)

didi madloba (dee-dee mahd-loh-bah) Thank you very much.

kargat (kar-gaht) Good-bye! (informal)

nakhvamdis (nahkh-vahm-dees) Good-bye!

Do you want some more? Get the free Georgian language PDF printable, and practice to your heart’s content. Most Georgians are thrilled to help you with pronunciation and language so if you know someone who’s Georgian enlist their help.

 

Sign up for Explorer Momma’s newsletter and download your free Georgian language phrases for travelers printable below!

Georgian language phrases PDF

Georgian language phrases preview

Free Printable

A different language is a different vision of life.

Federico Fellini

Italian Film Director and Screenwriter

Travel and Georgian basic phrases

Do you tremble with excitement when you learn a new word or piece of language? Well, maybe we won’t go that far, but it’s exciting! Just imagine how much you can learn about a culture with a few simple words, some good food and company, and a lot of observation.

I said it before, but let me stress again, don’t worry about getting it perfect! We are communicating, and a couple of words are better than none to get a point across. Language is such an amazing part of a culture and helps form the identity of the people.

Good luck on your travels. I hope you enjoy learning a bit of Georgian today and have the opportunity to travel there someday!

Narikala Fortress and the Mother of Georgia overlooking Tbilisi

How do you say good-bye in Georgian?

nakh-vahm-dees!

How To Make Traditional Georgian Bread

How To Make Traditional Georgian Bread

This post contains affiliate links. Traditional Georgian Bread

When you travel do you search out the local restaurants? Do you try to get at least a glimpse of the culture and history of a place? I’m admittedly a history nerd and love to meet with the people who live where I travel to get their inside stories. Georgia is one of those magical places that celebrates and shares its own culture. With warm hospitality, Georgians are more than ready and willing to give you a huge traditional dinner party, dance, and song. Many people struggle on a daily basis in the country, but their pride in culture and tradition are a foundation and bring an optimism for the future.

Traditional Georgian bread pin, tonis puri

The bread and salt of Georgia

My husband is from Georgia, and this summer we got to take the kids over to see family, the people, and places he loves. Guests are greeted with the “bread and salt”, in Georgia generally meaning a feast, always including bread. Most any meal you eat in the country will involve a plate of bread on the table. Moreover, bread is a respected food, almost revered. It’s a huge insult to throw it away or waste it. The salt on the table represents the spice, or the relationships and friendships made.

Being Georgian, my husband has always emphasized the importance of the bread. Can you imagine my 8-year-old’s excitement when she was invited to help make it in the traditional oven? If you look at the picture below, it’s sort of an earthen kiln, called a “tone”.

Traditional Georgian bread, tone

Georgian culture is rich and deep, full of emotion. It’s fascinating to see bread being made today in the same way it’s been made for hundreds of years. It represents the welcoming hospitality of the Georgian people. Take a dive into Georgian culture and learn how this traditional Georgian bread is made. 

Preparing traditional Georgian bread, tonis puri

First of all, make the basic bread dough and set it to rise. Families use a simple recipe including flour, salt, water, and yeast. Then, prepare the oven (kiln) by starting a huge fire in the center and burning down the wood or dried grapevines to ashes. Every household (nearly) in Georgia has their own grapevines and make wine. I could go into the significance and symbolism of using the grapevines, but I’ll save that for another time. The fire must burn for half an hour or more to get the oven hot enough to bake the bread. While this happens the dough rises and you set out the cooling racks.

Preparing the dough

Once the fire burns long enough, the ashes will smolder down at the bottom of the oven. At that point, place large sheets of metal over the hot ashes so the dough can be safely placed on the sides of the oven (tone). 

Traditional Georgian Bread preparation

The oven’s ready

Then, pat out the risen dough and press it in a sort of oval form all over the insides of the kiln. This is not a process you go through for one or two loaves, no! A family will bake 10-20 or as many as fit in the kiln. Then, that bread is used for a large event, or for the family for the next couple of days or so as well as for the cousins and neighbors surrounding. The next time it will be someone else’s turn to bake.

Dough put in the kiln

Bake the traditional Georgian bread

As soon as you stick the bread dough to the walls of the kiln, carefully remove the metal sheets from the ashes below. Now the heat and steam can come up and hit the dough to bake. Finally, close the top of the kiln (tone), and bake the bread for 20-30 minutes.

Traditional Georgian Bread in the kiln

When it’s ready, take off the top of the oven and remove the bread loaves (tonis puri) and set to cool.

Baked traditional Georgian bread

Have you ever smelled freshly baked bread? If so, you will know your mouth immediately begins to water, and you’re drawn to the smell. This is the time the kids, and some adults, suddenly decide it’s time to help so they can rip off a bit of that delicious yumminess. Bread brings the family and guests together with smiles and laughter.

Traditional Georgian Bread supra

Grandmother Tamar’s story

Several years ago we visited my husband’s grandmother’s home in the village of Ali, Shida Kartli region of Georgia, for her 100th birthday. She shared many stories during the time we were there, but one stood out for me. With a big smile, she told me the story of two naughty little boys, my husband and his brother, who used to “help” her around the house.

They would get into everything, but one day she was making the bread in the “tone”, as she did often. The boys were told to stay away from the oven, she would give them bread when it was dinner time. But being two mischievous and impatient boys, they could not wait for dinner. When she found them they had the lid off the oven and two heads were down inside the kiln (oven). Thankfully, it had already cooled down, but there were bits like cracker still stuck to the side. My husband reached far in to get one of these pieces and actually toppled inside. Grandma Tamar had to jerk both boys out, and my husband’s head was covered in the ash from the bottom of the oven.

She cackled and said he had some scratches, was covered in ash, and looked a mess. Really, it could have been worse, but the bread was medicine. They made and shared it together just as her ancestors did and her grandchildren do today.

So tell me,

How do you welcome guests to your house? What traditional foods or crafts does your family enjoy?

Do you want to learn more about Georgia?

Read about our favorite places to visit as a family in Batumi, Georgia, on the Black Sea.

Batumi with kids feature

Learn more about Georgian food and traditions:

Tasting Georgia: A Food and Wine Journey in the Caucasus by Carla Capalbo

Supra: A Feast of Georgian Cooking by Tiko Tuskadze

Lonely Planet Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan (Travel Guide) by Lonely Planet


Tbilisi, Georgia: Doors and Windows

Tbilisi, Georgia: Doors and Windows

This page contains affiliate links. Tbilisi, Georgia

I’ve always been attracted to different kinds of architecture, specifically doors and windows. Over the summer we took the kids to Tbilisi, Georgia and then around the country. Naturally, I spent much of the time chasing the kids around, but I also tried to get some good photos to remember the trip. Time and time again I found myself taking pictures of doors, windows, and buildings.

What draws your eye to a door or a window?

To me, a door or a window can say or hide much about a culture. Moreover, a closed-door always makes me more curious. Curiosity’s not a bad thing, so the monkey tells us, but it makes one wonder. What is behind that ancient wooden door?

When I was in college, I spent some time in Oxford, England. There you can walk the streets and see so many closed doors, but then suddenly one opens up, and you get a peek in. Is it to a stairway or a room? No, it opens up to a beautiful quad grassy area with pathways and more buildings across. The colleges of Oxford allow only the chosen ones in through their doors to the beauty of the grass, gardens, and the inside buildings. As a curious one, I had to get myself invited into a few: to a play, a lecture, and even in with a tourist group.

Possibility

So really, it’s the possibility of what’s behind that door or window that may draw you to it. Whenever I travel I look at the different buildings, old, new, run-down, or immaculate. Especially when traveling in Tbilisi, Georgia and the surrounding areas, what you expect to find on the inside of a door is not at all what you find when you go in for a visit. A run-down building with trash around it, some broken brick, and wires hanging about can lead you into to a modern state of the art apartment, nothing like you’d expect.

Imagine

Now sit back and imagine. Look at some of these buildings and doors in Tbilisi, Georgia and around the country. Georgia is a beautiful mountainous country with beaches on the Black Sea, skiing in the Caucasus, vineyards, and powerful traditional music and dance. This area of the world’s also had a difficult history, but so many of the strong people there have risen above the hardships and celebrated their culture and traditions in a modern Georgia.

What do you think’s behind that door?

Tbilisi, Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia, Cat in a doorway

What’s inside this building? Is it someone’s home, an office? Has it been abandoned or now inhabited by cats? Who owns the car in front of it?

Tbilisi, Georgia door with ivy

Now, what’s behind this door? Is it a church, an office, or a storage area? In addition, who goes through this door, and what does that symbol mean?

Tbilisi, Georgia Parliament

This building has seen a lot. Built in Soviet times, members of Parliament convene here and make decisions for the country. What is the monument on the front steps? Furthermore, who else has walked those steps and tried to go through those arched doorways?

St. Nino metal door

A woman carrying a cross. Who could she be? Why Saint Nino brought the distinctive cross to Georgia, formed out of grapevines and entwined with her own hair. Orthodoxy is a major part of the daily lives of many Georgians. Who’s behind this door?

Tbilisi, Georgia church

What has happened to this once ornate church? Did this happen during Soviet times? Who goes through those doors now?

Old town Tbilisi wooden building

How many people live in this house? How long has it been in the family? Does the design on the rug mean anything?

More Tbilisi, Georgia

Door with grapevines

Do you see those vines hanging down? In Georgia, you will see grapevines on nearly every house. Traditions run deep, and Georgians make wine to celebrate and welcome guests. It’s truly an art form. I wonder who planted this vine in the middle of the city?

Brown church door

How long has this door been in place? It’s not a work of art like the Saint Nino door, but it tells a history just the same.

Opera house

What is this place? Can you imagine a famous opera singer on the balcony? The people are dressed up to attend an orchestra or boys’ choir performance. It’s the Tbilisi Opera house!

Restaurant overlooking Tbilisi

If you’re a fan of old Soviet movies, I’ve been told this restaurant appears in all the ones with scenes in Tbilisi. Famous movie stars, politicians, and the well to do have dined at this restaurant at the top of the mountain overlooking Tbilisi, Georgia. The funicular brings you up to the top from the center of town. I can imagine quite a few scenes happening here!

Beyond Tbilisi, Georgia

Train station at night

Train station doors by night. Was that a bat that just dive-bombed me?! Look out for ghosts! Phew, that’s just my shadow.

House front

Here’s a cheerful house front. Grapevines, laundry, a happy yellow with open doors inviting over the neighbors.

Batumi blue apartment building

What is it like to live in one of these giant apartment blocks? How could each one be individualized to the tastes of its owner?

Soviet Batumi building

Imagine this building in its prime. Who would have stayed here at this prime location on the beach of the Black Sea? Vacationers, government leaders? Maybe someone on house arrest?? What do you think happened here?

St. George Batumi

Saint George is not only the Patron Saint of England but also of Georgia. Who doesn’t love the idea of George slaying the dragon?

Batumi green apartments

Again we have the apartment block, but here at the seaside, it’s a brighter shade of green. How many people live here? Incidentally, are they rented out or for vacationers? Hmmm…

Explore Batumi, Georgia!

Batumi with kids feature

Metekhi gift shop door

Small church by the church

Wooden doors

Follow the Open Door

Gonio Fortress

Be curious. Wander. Travel is an education in so many things. Listen to the stories of the people around you. The doors will open up, and you’ll be invited in to be a part of a new culture, tradition, and way of life.

Writing Prompt

Any one of these pictures would make an awesome writing prompt for a short story. If you use one I’d love to read it! Take the time and go through that door to a new world!

Curious to know more? Click on the object to take you to it on Amazon:

   

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