Best Estes Park Hikes For Kids

Best Estes Park Hikes For Kids

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I was such lucky kid to have many memories hiking around Rocky Mountain National Park and other areas near Estes Park, Colorado. Quite often I think about how fortunate I was to grow up near to such a beautiful place. Naturally, I want my kids to love it as much as I do, and so it’s necessary we explore as often as possible. Of course, we don’t get up there nearly as much as I’d like!

Estes Park hikes for kids elk pin

Flashback!

I close my eyes and flashback to my childhood. My parents and I drive up to Estes Park and eat lunch at a local restaurant. Then, we head into Rocky Mountain National Park to drive around and look at the leaves or the elk, and stop at a hiking trail to explore. My father bends down with his black Canon camera to take close-up pictures of leaves and rocks along the trail. Squeal! I see a chipmunk, and my day is made.

What’s in it for you?

Together, my kids and I adventure out to explore the same trails and others in the Rocky Mountains. For you, we’ve put together a collection of our favorite Estes Park hikes for kids. Why? Because I want you and your family to have a fabulous Rocky Mountain experience. If you’re nearby or plan to vacation next summer and come in from across the country these are must-see beginner hikes. I hope you will love and protect these areas too.

How could you not love it?! Really.

The hikes we’ve listed are an easy introduction to hiking and meant for families to do together. Consequently, they are each no more than a mile or so in distance and fairly level. They were selected intentionally so a 4-year-old can walk them with Mom and Dad, and Grandma can join in if she wants. Try any or all of these Estes Park hikes for kids your whole family will love!

Our 8 favorite Estes Park hikes for kids

1. Lily Lake

Estes Park hikes for kids, Lily Lake

Lily Lake is an absolutely magical place in Fall. I highly recommend going there anytime, but if you are in the area in late September this is a must-see. There are yellow and orange aspens all about the lake and a nice flat walking area all the way around (about 3/4 of a mile). This is a handicap accessible trail, and you are in for some great photo ops!

Lily Lake is located about 6 miles south of Estes Park on Colorado Highway 7. There’s a convenient parking area very near the entrance to the trail. Everyone in the family will enjoy this one.

Hiking at Lily Lake

Bonus! The historic Bald Pate Inn is just nearly across the street and makes some of the most awesome pie I’ve ever eaten. Read about the Baldpate Inn here.

2. The Knoll

This is a good hike if you’re actually staying in Estes Park or spending a lot of time in town. Maybe you check out the historic Stanley Hotel, go on the ghost tour, and then the kids are ready to run. Park your car in the small parking lot or on Wonderview Avenue, just across from the Stanley Hotel. You will be able to access the trail from the parking lot. FYI – Dogs are not allowed on this trail.

Estes Park hikes for kids, Stanley Hotel

First, start off going south on the trail to the Knoll. Don’t you just like that name? “The Knoll…” What it is really is a view of downtown Estes Park and what’s left of an old stone cabin. For those of you who like histories, I was told it was originally built in 1907 by a former editor of the Denver Post. The elaborate cabin had a huge porch and fireplace, maybe too big, since it burnt down at the end of that year.

Next, go back north on the path until you see a downhill trail to the west. Follow it until you find the cabin built by the editor, Mr. Birch, to replace the one burnt in the fire. This one was built in 1908 and used by the Birch family into the 1980s. It’s is a fun path to scout out and to see some great views of the Stanley Hotel and downtown Estes Park.

3. Lake Estes Trail

Did you bring dogs with you on vacation or your bikes? You can walk with your furry friends around Lake Estes or have a fun family bike ride. When the fog and mists are down you almost imagine yourself in the Scottish Highlands (especially if the Scottish Festival is going on in mid-September, and you can hear the bagpipes over the lake!).

4. The Downtown River Walk

The Estes Park Downtown River Walk is a fun “hike” with the kids along the river. There are cafés and restaurants with tables set up should you need refreshment. Also, parents can peruse the gift shops as you walk, and kids can explore with another adult or take a rest at one of the many wooden benches with a fabulous view and sounds of the river running by.

5. Moraine Park Discovery Center Nature Trail

As you enter Rocky Mountain National Park, hold onto that map and newspaper the ranger hands you after you pay your fee to get in. The newspaper lists a ton of hikes and activities you can participate in during your visit. Certainly, take a look at your map if you need to, and head on over to the Moraine Park Discover Center.

After you park, you’ll find an easy half-mile trail the kids will enjoy just behind the Discovery Center. Before you begin, be sure to find a ranger in the center and get the activity booklet for kids to complete as they explore. You can get other great ideas from the rangers here for things to do with kids, and in the summer there are activities like Discover Days and Discover Hikes led by the rangers.

Another awesome program is the Junior Ranger Program where kids can complete a booklet, speak with a ranger, and earn a Junior Ranger badge. Lots of fun! For more information on the Junior Ranger program click here.

6. Sprague Lake

Sprague Lake trail

Sprague Lake, oh how I love you! Sprague Lake is located in Rocky Mountain National Park up Bear Lake Road. This is a fabulous place to go for a leisurely picnic by a stream. We like to go to Sprague Lake in the fall, generally mid-week when it’s less busy. Although, as long as you can find a parking spot there are many picnic tables and a nice path around the lake. We always have a good time whether it’s busy or not.

Estes Park hikes for kids, Sprague

First of all, you can enjoy your picnic, and then put your lunch stuff in the car. There’s even a well-kept bathroom with regular toilets during the summer, which is always important with kids! From there, head over to the path around the lake. It’s about 3/4 of a mile all the way around, and my kids love it! You’ll find log benches placed every 50 feet or so to sit and take in the magnificent views. Not only that, but it’s wheel-chair accessible, stroller friendly, and ready for the perfect photo op! A couple of weeks ago when we visited, my son stopped at every bench, rock, sign, flower, whatever, then plastered a smile on his face and yelled, “Picture!”

Sprague Lake view and tree

Therefore, take your camera or phone. You’ll get some great shots.

7. Bear Lake

After you finish at Sprague Lake if everyone’s still full of energy head up Bear Lake Road until you get to the Bear Lake Trailhead. The loop trail around Bear Lake is not to be missed, and even though it’s only about .6 miles, it’s a bit more challenging than Sprague Lake and others. I don’t mean it’s incredibly difficult, but it’s not completely level and may be harder for younger kids.

Word of warning. Bear Lake is INCREDIBLY popular all times of the year so I would suggest going early, or late in the day, mid-week. There are a lot of other fun more lengthy trails that start out here, but they’re more advanced. For example, Nymph Lake is only .5 miles away, but it has an elevation gain of 225 feet. You can look at RMNP’s list of trails here.

8. Copeland Falls

If you’re heading out of Estes Park to Meeker or Allenspark south on Colorado Highway 7, you’ll want to pay a visit to the Wild Basin Trailhead. It’s about 12 miles south of Estes Park, then turn right off of Colorado Highway 7 onto Wild Basin Road. From there, drive about half a mile more and take another right into Rocky Mountain National Park. Keep going to the Wild Basin Trailhead just a couple more miles from the park turn-off.

In our experience, this trail is not nearly as busy as some of the others. Moreover, it’s conveniently located near Allenspark and one of my absolute favorite restaurants, the Meadow Mountain Cafe, a rather fabulous gem you should definitely check out (read about it here in Estes Park Restaurants With Character). But enough tangent there, back to the hike!

So you’ve made it to the Wild Basin Trailhead. The trail will eventually take you all the way up 2565 feet and seven miles to Lion Lake. However, with the kids we like to hike to the Lower, then the Upper Copeland Falls, only about .3 to .4 miles up the trail. There’s an elevation gain of 15 feet so pretty manageable! From the main trail, you will want to branch off to the side trail to take you right by both parts of the falls. After you pass by the Upper Falls it will reconnect back to the main trail without having to backtrack down by the falls on the same path. There are more lakes, cascades, and falls the farther up you go, but it’s also a lot steeper so I’d wait until the kids are quite a bit older to tackle those.

Sprague Lake purple flowers

Now go hike!

There you have it! Those are 8 of our favorite hikes in and around Estes Park, Colorado. Give them a try and let us know what you think. OR if you have another kid-friendly hike suggestion in the area PLEASE let me know because we’d love to try them out!

Estes Park hikes for kids pin-

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


Long Layover With Kids: 8 Ways to Survive

Long Layover With Kids: 8 Ways to Survive

This post contains affiliate links. Layover with kids

When you hear the words, long layover with kids, do you just cringe? For those of you who’ve experienced a layover between flights at an airport, think about how tired you are and what you do. Now imagine that same level of fatigue after an eight-hour or longer flight while you wait five hours for your next three-hour flight, and add in two grouchy kids. Doesn’t that sound like fun?! Not so much.

Today I’m going to give you 8 things to do to survive a long layover with kids. In addition, you are going to feel super-awesome because you planned beforehand and won’t have a breakdown in the middle of the Toronto Airport (or wherever you’ll be). This is truly a win-win!

Recently, my family of four traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia by air. This lengthy trip involved two layovers each way, and it’s stressful enough on your own, much less while you’re trying to help your kids get through it! First, we stopped in Toronto, Canada for five hours, and then in Warsaw, Poland for fourteen. Bragging moment, I was super-proud of my kids and how they handled it. Now, I’m going to give you ideas for both the long and short layovers. Here we go!

Long layover with kids pin

8 Ways To Survive A Long Layover With Kids

1. A well-packed carry-on bag the child can carry or pull

This is so important! You will all be tired so don’t overpack the 4-year-old’s bag so you have to carry it all the time. Admittedly, I carried my son’s bag now and then, but he could carry it himself, and he used everything in it at some time or another. For more detail on what to pack, see my post on ‘The Complete Kids’ Carry-On Packing List’.

2. Find a home base

Next, as soon as your plane lands and you’ve taken care of the essentials like finding the restroom, you’ll look for a home base. No, you’re not going to be hauling around a tent, but find your own space not too far from your next gate. Also, this should be an area with several chairs where you can park your carry-on bags, and the kids can spread out.

This spot will become your home base if one parent needs to take one child to go do something. One adult should always be at the base to watch the bags, but then you can otherwise come and go as you please. Moreover, the kids can spread out coloring books, crayons, snacks, whatever, without feeling smushed and without bothering anyone.

I even like to get food and bring it back to base for everyone so we don’t have to cart our bags (and kids) around.

3. Change of clothes and pajamas

A change of clothes for everyone and a set of pajamas are imperative to make the kids, and you, more comfortable. Maybe a child got sick on you on the last flight and you need to change. Don’t just think the kids will be the only ones whose clothes might need replacing.

If it’s night time, pajamas are a great thing to have for the kids. Pajamas are familiar and comforting, and hey! They might even get some much-needed rest and take a nap!

4. Take frequent walks 

If you’re not napping, walking around frequently, with the adults taking turns, is a great idea. You’ve been smushed up on an airplane for so many hours without moving and will just be getting on another. Kids don’t ever sit still and in one place any longer than they have to so why expect they will while traveling? Walk around, find the nearest bathroom and your favorite snack store, but get moving!

5. Airport scavenger hunt

Kids love to play games so try out this Airport Scavenger Hunt printable (scroll to the end to download) or other activity books. The scavenger hunt is awesome because it gets you moving around intent on finding the listed objects on the list. Work it as a family or individually, but make sure to emphasize the rules about staying with an adult.

Layover with kids: Airport Scavenger Hunt pin

6. Tablet with earphones for each child

I normally limit screen time at home but not while traveling! If it will entertain the child and let us rest, it’s completely worth it on the airplane or at the airport. My children were actually tired of the tablets by the time we got to the layovers and didn’t use them as much as I expected. Get everyone moving around and doing other things, but when they’re tired of that and sitting around waiting, a new movie or game will pass the time.

Long layover with kids and iPad

7. Food! 

Make sure you have or can buy snacks (see ‘30 Nut-Free Snacks For A Long-Haul Flight‘) and meals in between flights. We love to try out local foods, and even at an airport, we try to get something different. (That is unless we’re on the last leg and my four-year-old snaps and only agrees to eat Oreos or the snacks I’ve brought because they’re familiar). For example, it may sound odd, but my daughter loves sausage. She was so excited she got to have a sausage sandwich at the little cafe at the Warsaw Airport. “It was so good Mommy! That’s why they call it POLISH sausage at home, hahaha!”

8. Book a hotel room in the airport or nearby

This is a big one that can make a huge difference in your travels. If you have an 8 or more hour layover, and you’re not trying to run into town to do some sight-seeing, I strongly suggest getting a hotel room at the airport or near-by if available. This made such a difference in how we arrived at our destination and was super-easy. Before we left, I made a reservation at the Courtyard Marriott across the street from the Warsaw Airport, and we simply walked over and checked in.

Courtyard Marriott Warsaw

We all got to shower or take baths, sleep in our own space, and just relax and get ready for our vacation. This meant we (even the kids) were refreshed and ready to go get on that last flight to our destination. The jet lag was easier to handle, and it made for a much happier family.

Be Prepared

If you’re going on a long trip anytime soon with kids, I think the lesson is to be prepared. You’ll want to prepare your carry-ons and the kids’ favorite items. Then, plan your layovers and if you can get a hotel or not, and be sure there are options for everyone in the family. No one wants a grouchy goose, so make your travels go as smoothly as possible.

Helpful hint: it takes some effort and planning!

Don’t neglect your packing list and then wonder why the kids scream and complain and drive you crazy the entire trip. It can still happen, but you can plan, be prepared, be flexible, and enjoy your travels as a family. You can more than survive your layover with kids, you’ll make it a fun adventure exploring a new place!

Download your Airport Scavenger Hunt PDF now!

Layover with kids: Airport Scavenger Hunt preview

Share in the comments below, what’s the worst or best experience you’ve had on a long layover with kids?

Tbilisi, Georgia: Doors and Windows

Tbilisi, Georgia: Doors and Windows

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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:

   

Top 10 Things To Do in Batumi With Kids

Top 10 Things To Do in Batumi With Kids

*This post contains affiliate links. Batumi with kids

Are you looking for an awesome beach vacation with a giant dose of culture and post-Soviet vibe thrown in? Have you heard of Batumi, Georgia? We just took an amazing trip to explore this up and coming city and had an awesome time! It’s true we have connections to Georgia (the country, not the state) because my husband grew up there and has a bunch of family still living there. We wanted a fun place to take the kids, along with his mother and niece, for a family-bonding vacation everyone would enjoy.

Batumi was the perfect spot for our vacation and has a lot to offer for kids. We had a clean fast train out from the capital and back, and a great flat experience with Airbnb. For Americans, the exchange rate was about 2.4 GEL or Georgian lari to the dollar so great for us, although not fabulous for native Georgians! We heard a ton of languages around, Russian, Azeri, Georgian, English. My mother-in-law got to relive some of her youth, and her grandchildren were introduced to her past. It was perfect.

Batumi with kids pin

Our Top 10 Things To Do in Batumi With Kids

1. The Batumi Boulevard

Overhead Batumi Boulevard

The Batumi Boulevard was a great place to go to walk, stare out at the sea, and let the kids run. So often on a vacation kids need space to just get out and run around, and this was a scenic, calming place for Mom at the same time. The Boulevard runs North and South along the Black Sea so on one side you have a view of the sea,

Palm tree along Boulevard

and on the other, you have restaurants, hotels, buildings, and art.

Lower Boulevard

The Boulevard includes the larger walkway, and next to it the small red road for biking. Another awesome thing is that there are bikes (1 to 6 seaters) you can rent at several locations along the way. So, of course, the kids get tired, and if they’re old enough you can just grab one of these 4 seaters and pedal your way down enjoying the view.

Warning: We saw a lot of foreign tourists biking with selfie sticks filming themselves as they pedaled. Beware of traffic and people not always paying attention!

Highlights

While I enjoyed the sea view and palm trees, my son’s favorite part was his chocolate ice cream cone. And admittedly yes, we got ice cream several times! The Boulevard has so much for all the senses. First, we just walked, ate some ice cream, and then used the random exercise equipment. Then, we pondered the art sculptures, sat under a gazebo staring out at the sea, and listened to the traditional Georgian songs of the street musicians. The kids ran, laughed, ate more ice cream, then collapsed on benches because they were so tired and “could not go a step further”. It’s a great place.

Georgian musicians

2. The Ferris Wheel (or in Georgian: “Eshmakis borbali” = the devil’s wheel)

Ferris wheel panoramic

Who doesn’t love a ferris wheel?! The ferris wheel is a fabulous way to get some great views of the city and the Black Sea and definitely makes our top 10 for Batumi with kids. My daughter was initially scared to death of the thing because it looked so high. But actually, it goes around slowly, and the seats are in a circle with bars around them, not with your legs dangling. Also, it never truly stops so you get on and off as it continues to turn.

Harbor view from ferris wheel

Go buy a ticket at the little ticket booth for 3 GEL a person. If you miss the ticket booth and try to buy some as you get on you’ll just get yelled at in Russian (well that’s me since I have blond hair and most Georgians assume I’m Russian) to go back to the ticket booth.  Don’t forget your camera, and enjoy the ride!

City view from ferris wheel

BONUS! Just next to the ferris wheel is the famous Ali and Nino statue that moves continuously to tell the story of the two individuals from the book of the same name. It’s a good resting spot, AND there’s a fairly clean public bathroom near it as well. It’s 50 tetri and so worth it!

Ali and Nino statue

3. The Dolphinarium

I’ve been to many sea lion shows at zoos around the United States but never to a dolphin show. Doesn’t just saying the word “Dolphinarium” sound like something unavoidable in Batumi with kids? Going into the show, I really didn’t know what to expect but was pleasantly surprised.

Dolphins throw trainer

The Dolphin Show was fun and upbeat from beginning to end (it lasted about 45 minutes total with the dolphins performing). There was music throughout the entire show paired with each dance or trick of the dolphins. Also, the announcer was pretty amazing going from Georgian to English to Russian pretty seamlessly, excited and engaged in the program. Everything was clean and professional, and you could tell the dolphin trainers loved working with their intelligent dolphin friends.

Dancing dolphins

My entire family loved it, 4 up to 73-year-old, and there were smiles throughout. It was also a fun mix of locals and tourists as we sat by some Russians, but there was a local elementary class just up a balcony to our left. At 15 GEL a person (under 4 free) it was a great time. You should visit too!

Dolphin jump feature

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 4. The Boulevard Beach (the northern section)

Batumi rock beachBeach umbrellas

What’s the first thing you notice? It’s the rocks, right? Yes, it’s a rock beach, and can be hard on the feet (so bring sandals!), but it’s great for Batumi with kids! The kids play in the sand all the time, and beautiful, colored rocks are a novelty.  Both my kids made rock collections, towers, practiced skipping rocks and had a blast. The other thing that won the day? The sea life. There were little jellyfish everywhere and dolphins playing in the distance. We went from screams of fright to joy every two seconds. Loved it.

Medusa jellyfish

5. Europe Square

Europe Square, golden fleeceEurope Square, bikes

Europe Square is what it says and probably the most European-looking location in Georgia. It’s fun for the adults to look around at the architecture, take pictures, and have a coffee. The kids loved the water jumping fountain in the middle and thought the statue of Medea with the Golden Fleece was “super-awesome”. The Astronomical Clock was impressive, and the kids were in the mood to explore and thought it was pretty cool. There’s also some well-tended plants, flowers, and of course palm trees to enjoy as you walk around. It won’t take you too long to walk around but don’t miss this square!

Astronomical clockEurope Square, fountain

6. Sarpi Beach and Turkish border

There’s just something about the beach and cafés at the border at Sarpi I love. It’s about 15 km from Batumi, but you see a lot more Turkish influence in that short distance. We even heard the Muslim call to prayer from the Turkish side. Again, we met with a multi-cultural mix of people (Georgians, Russians, Turks, Azeris), which was great for the kids to see and interact with. My daughter and niece played with some Russian girls for awhile, and to me, that’s a huge educational piece in friendship, understanding, and differences.

Sarpi beach

It’s a little crazy right at the border, but you usually have the beach with only a few other tourists. It gets a lot busier in August and September, but since we were there in June we had a huge section of beach just to ourselves. In addition, we stopped at a fun, open café-type area with lots of tables and umbrellas just before the border. We all got penovani khatchapuri (the cheese bread with puff pastry) and a drink. There are convenient pay toilets close by too, look for the WC sign. Pay toilets mean they’re much cleaner, and it’s not all that expensive. Also, did I mention it’s gorgeous?? I love the views you get around this area of the beach.

Turkish border at Sarpi

Here’s the border crossing. Note the Georgian and Turkish flags.

Sarpi beach with towels

 

7. Alphabetic Tower

Alphabetic towerThe Alphabetic Tower is located near the Ferris Wheel at the northern end of the Boulevard in Miracles Park. It’s an impressive structure made to look like a DNA helix covered in the letters of the Georgian alphabet. Yes, the Georgian language has its own unique alphabet with 33 letters that are not Cyrillic or Latin, but Georgian! You can ride up to the observation level or even eat at the restaurant, although we didn’t do that at the time. You get some great views of the city through the glass. We enjoyed the outside more and the playful tone of the architecture!

8. Gonio Fortress

Gonio Fortress

The Gonio Fortress is a Roman fortification within what was Colchis. You know, Jason and the Argonauts, the Golden Fleece and all that!? Awesomeness. It is also believed to be the resting place of the Apostle Matthew, although that has not been officially verified. History buffs, you need to visit this place. If you’re bringing kids make it a morning stop on your way to the beaches and border at Sarpi so you can rest on the beach in the afternoon. My kids basically said, “A castle! Cool!” It’s a fun place ponder the history and people who’ve been in this region of the world.

Fountain

9. Batumi Dancing Fountains

First of all, we happened to stumble upon the dancing fountains during the day, after a small meltdown by the four-year-old. The fountains have some fun bridges that go over them near the spouting water. Kids from all around were running and laughing and trying to touch the water.

Dancing fountain bridge

I didn’t get great pictures, but the day fountain-chasing was a much-needed break. The night show is set to music and lights and is a fun evening when you’re wandering about between the Boulevard and the city. This is a great pick when visiting Batumi with kids.

10. Laguna and Atcharuli Khatchapuri

Okay. So in the country of Georgia, I would say the most popular food people eat on a daily basis is khatchapuri. Khatchapuri is basically cheese bread, and there are many ways of preparing it in which the regions all over Georgia specialize. Batumi is in Adjara, know for their Atcharuli khatchapuri. Oh my yes. This is the kind you’ll see looks like a bread boat filled with cheese, large pats of butter, and an egg broken in on top at the last minute. Just take a look.

Atcharuli khatchapuri

My family just sat staring at the things in awe for a moment, and then remembered proper Atcharuli khatchapuri protocol. First, your boat is brought out to you piping hot with the butter and egg just placed on top. Second, you take your fork and mix it all up inside the boat, pulling out the sides and middle bread even, and mixing it all up to cook the egg. Next, dig in, breaking of the sides of bread and dipping them in the middle as you go. Last, beg for a Borjomi (Georgian sparkling mineral water traditionally used to settle stomachs).

Mixed Atcharuli khatchapuri

I’m drooling just staring at the pictures. Let me tell you, the stuff is amazing. I only got about a third of mine down it was so filling, but my husband cleaned his plate! We went to eat at a place called “Laguna”, recommended to us both by locals and tourists as the BEST Atcharuli khatchapuri in Batumi, THEREFORE the world. I can definitely say it’s the best I’ve ever had, and I’ve had it quite a few times. If you are in Batumi this is a MUST – GO, GO! get yourself a bread boat of this gooey, cheesy, buttery goodness.

Laguna

Conclusion

This is longer than my normal post, but Batumi is such a fun, different, amazing place to visit, it warrants more than the norm. There are so many other places around this city I could have included, but I tried to stick to those that were enjoyed most by my kids. Several people told us to check out the Botanic Gardens, but I didn’t include them in this list because the four-year-old is not a hiker who enjoys the ups and downs and meandering trails to see plants. It may be perfect for your visit though!

I have so many good memories of this place and fun times with the family. If you’re heading to Batumi with kids definitely look up some of these places before you go. Or, if you’re traveling without kids look them up anyway! You won’t regret it.

Aba hey! Kargat iqavi.  Me at the beach

What are some of your most memorable travels as a kid?

I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Batumi things to do

A Baby Giraffe and 10 Tips for the Perfect Denver Zoo Visit

A Baby Giraffe and 10 Tips for the Perfect Denver Zoo Visit

This post contains affiliate links. A Baby Giraffe at the Denver Zoo.

Denver Zoo pin

Are you planning a trip to the Denver Zoo or any other zoo for that matter? Is your little one begging to see that adorable new baby giraffe? My family loves the Denver Zoo, but it can get extremely crowded or overwhelming if you don’t make a plan. Before you go keep in mind my tips for a perfect zoo visit.

1. Meet Dobby, the baby giraffe!

First of all, oh my cuteness! When you arrive at the Denver Zoo, grab your map and head in the direction of the giraffes. Amid the cries of, “So cute!”, “Awww!”, and “The sweetest ever!” you will see the most adorable baby giraffe named Dobby. Yes, Dobby – isn’t that just the perfect name? I may be gushing a bit, but Dobby was a huge highlight in our recent visit to the zoo. I didn’t have the giant-lensed camera like the gentleman just down a bit from us, but we still got some good pictures of the little guy.

Dobby, the baby giraffe Denver Zoo giraffe family

Dobby was born February 28, 2017, and we saw him April 18. He seemed comfortable in front of our small group and walked around by himself and amongst the other giraffes. Furthermore, I am certain that with a glint in his eye he winked and smiled just as we turned to walk away. Surprisingly, some of my own family do not believe this assertion! Therefore, I strongly suggest you go to the Denver Zoo and see for yourself!

2. Get a membership

Going to the zoo, the natural history museum, the aquarium, and others can be costly for a family. We absolutely love the zoo so even though we don’t live in Denver I purchased a zoo membership. I ended up getting the individual and guest membership, but there are family memberships as well as several other different kinds. Compare the membership options here: Denver Zoo Memberships. 

What do I like about a membership? For one, it saves me money. If we go to the zoo more than 2 times this year it pays for itself, and anything after that is a bonus. I have the satisfaction of suggesting going to Denver and visiting the zoo at little cost other than gas. Most memberships include 1 or more additional free guest passes, tickets to ride the train and carousel, and a discount on food and other purchases. Be sure to include to tally these in your comparisons if you’re considering it.

Another thing I like is that this is an outdoor, educational activity for kids. If you’ve read much from me you’ll know my son absolutely loves animals, and he is fascinated by their different ways of survival. The Denver Zoo is a huge place, and there is always a new animal for him to discover and learn some amazing fact about. He loves to tell me and other family members all about what he’s learned. Of course, as a mom, this is a huge win for me too!

Eagles

3. Visit the zoo on a weekday

This may be a no-brainer to some parents out there, but when should you visit the Denver Zoo? Well, before we went last week I double-checked their website to be sure it was not a free day or a special event day. For example, there were added advertised activities and shows for kids during Spring break. Did we go at that time? Accidentally, yes, but then we changed our plans and did something else because the crowds were so overwhelming.

If your family doesn’t mind crowds definitely attend some of the special events, but my 4-year old gets stressed with a lot of people around and immediately wants to leave. He loudly lets us know of his unease, and it’s not fun for anyone.

Conclusion? Visit the zoo on a weekday, maybe a Tuesday or Wednesday when there are no special holidays or events happening.

Denver Zoo camel

4. Pick the main things you want to see and plan out your route

The Denver Zoo is a huge place, and you will wear yourself out running back and forth to see the specific animals requested by the kids. “Mommy, I want to see the alligator, and the gorillas, then the elephants!”

These animals are far apart at the zoo so take a moment to look over your map and plan your basic route around. If the kids are worried about certain animals make a point to show them on the map and let them know when you’ll see them. Your feet will thank you.

Monkey hanging

5. Plan out the shows you want to see beforehand

This goes along with planning your route. If you want to see any of the shows take a look at the sign as you enter for the daily show times. It’s located just after the ticket taker or you can ask in the visitor center.

I highly recommend the sea lion show as it’s one of our favorites!

In summer there are more show times than other seasons so don’t assume times from past experience. If you don’t want a screaming kid who’s devastated they missed the elephant show, it’s always good to double-check. Planning is good.

Are you looking for more educational experiences in Denver for kids?

Read all about our awesome trip to the Denver Downtown Aquarium!

6. Denver Zoo activities

What can you do to make your visit more educational? My daughter especially likes to use a scavenger hunt page to find specific animals. Then it becomes a game to her and almost a race to find the animal with its new fun fact.

Another fun thing to do for older kids is to give them their own naturalist journal. Depending on your child you can give instructions or not. I tell my daughter to sketch and label the animals she sees and write one to three sentences describing interesting things about it. Possibilities include physical description, what the animal eats and how it gets it in the wild, how it moves around, how it protects itself, etc.

You can order a fun naturalist journal like one of these from Amazon. Click on the journal to take you to the Amazon site:

7. Make a search for new animals

Go see some of the lesser known animals. Tell your kids to imagine they are going to discover new animals and introduce that animal to the world! Next, you or one of the older kids can introduce the new-found animal to the group and give some facts about them.

For example, on our last trip I fell in love with the fossa. The fossa is a predator that lives in Madagascar, has the longest tail for grabbing onto trees, and a surprisingly small head. I was fascinated watching it walk around its habitat.

8. Take a stroller or wagon and bring your lunch

Even though my son doesn’t use his stroller much anymore I still brought it to the zoo. As I’ve stated, it’s a large place! If your child gets tired of walking they can ride in the stroller, and you have the added perk of a place to stow all your gear.

Also, to save money you can pack your lunch and stow it in the stroller with an ice pack. I like to pack a lunch and then just buy a snack for the kids later in the day as a treat. Or bring your own snacks too and with an already paid for membership you won’t have to spend a thing!

Monkey Island lunch view

9. Ride the train and carousel

Carousel sign

The train and carousel are must-dos for kids at the Denver Zoo. There are always huge smiles all around, and a nice variation in your zoo experience. I like to do these two rides in the later part of our visit when the kids are getting tired and need a change in activity.

Buy tickets or get the tickets from your membership at the little house in between the train and carousel beforehand. If it’s busy and you go directly to the carousel you will waste a lot of time in line and then have to go buy tickets anyway.

Tip: If you’ll be going often save time and money and buy a punch card. With the card you can go directly to the ride and not have to wait in line a the ticket house.

Zoo train

10. Check the weather report before you go

In summer it can get extremely hot so don’t forget hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and water for everyone. Conversely, if it’s going to be cold or rain part of the day you can still have a great zoo experience if you plan the right clothing, umbrellas, and focus on the warm houses such as Tropical Discover (lovingly called the reptile house by my family) and Bird World. Always, just follow the Boy Scout motto and be prepared!

Zoo carousel zebra

Exploring new places is always such fun, and often you don’t have to go far for a great experience. We are so lucky to have the Denver Zoo fairly close by, and whenever we travel with kids we check out the zoos and museums wherever we are. If you have a young, curious zoologist or two in tow you can have a fabulous time with a little preparation.

What are some of your favorite zoos or places to see wildlife? Please put some of your ideas in the comments. I’d love any suggestions for places to take the little ones!

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