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

Download your free Kids' Travel Journal for your next trip!

Kids' Travel Journal preview

Read about it here

 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!
Read it here!

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!

Little Passports World Edition Review

Little Passports World Edition Review

Little Passports review pin

This page contains affiliate links. Explorer Momma was given a free 3-month membership to Little Passports for review. I only recommend things I find value in and would use for my own family.

Even though I’m not currently teaching, as a certified French and Social Studies teacher I am always looking for activities that promote learning. What will inspire, encourage, or motivate my child and others to explore? What can we do to pique their curiosity? I’ve chosen to do a Little Passports review because this is a program that can plant a seed. The seed is the joy in learning about geography, cultural diversity, and the idea of educational travel. With care, this seed will hopefully grow and bloom. 

I’ve been interested in the Little Passports company in the past, and we just recently received the first shipment of the World Edition. I’m writing this review having received a free 3-month subscription from the program as an affiliate. However, I want you to know I only write about ideas and products on my blog I use and enjoy. You will not see a negative review from me because I’m not going to write about something I wouldn’t use for my own family.

Little Passports is a delightful program sure to excite your kids about geography and travel, and from what I’ve seen so far, I highly recommend it.

Do you remember the excitement of getting something in the mail as a child? You might have received Valentine card from Grandma, a postcard from your uncle’s travels, even some stickers advertising a magazine. For me, these were fairly rare occurrences so when they came I treasured them. Now imagine your child getting their own package in the mail with their name on it once a month. Oh, the joy! Anticipation! For my daughter, the excitement of getting something fun in the mail is almost as important as the actual contents.

Need more ideas to get kids excited about learning?

10 Tips to Get Kids Excited About Learning

Read about it here!

What’s included in the first shipment of Little Passports, World Edition

Little Passports close-up

Introductory letter from Sam and Sofia

Sam introduces himself and his good friend Sofia. This first letter sets the stage for their travel and adventures around the world. Of course, he promises future communications as they visit different countries.

Picture postcard showing Sam and Sofia

The postcard shows our friendly duo in Sam’s aunt’s garage. They’re sitting on the magic scooter they found with a GPS that can take them anywhere in the world. Imagine the possibilities!

Activity sheets

My 8-year-old daughter really enjoyed the activity sheets especially the one that teaches kids to say hello in languages from all over the world. We actually had to practice them all out loud and talked about where we might use them. Hopefully, the future pages will be just as educational and entertaining.

Travel suitcase

The suitcase in the first shipment is a fun idea. Who doesn’t love old pictures of suitcases and trunks with travel stickers all over them? The only problem is that now my 4-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter are arguing over who the suitcase belongs to, so we may have to get another one! 

Each month, you can store the items you receive from Sam and Sofia in your suitcase. In addition, they’ve promised to send more stickers and luggage tags to put on the outside. There’s  a place on the inside for the child’s name and a working clasp to open and close it.

World map

A world map is a great part of the package, and my son immediately declared he needed to put it up in his room. Moreover, the map is not just anywhere, but on the wall by his bed so he can plan his adventures. Most of these expeditions center around Australia, Tasmania, and Antarctica lately. I admit I’m a proud momma because at 4 it’s amazing to me how many places he can point out and actually knows what they are.

Also, stickers have been promised in future mailings to put on your map to track where Sam and Sofia have been.

Personal passport

The world traveler passport is a fun addition to the package. In it, kids can attach their photo on the page with their name and address just like a real passport. There are places for country stamps, of course. Also included are fun questions to encourage discussion about travel with parents. By the same token, kids even have a place to plan their future travels and think about why they want to go to each country.

Stickers of Sam and Sofia

As I mentioned, there are stickers to go on your suitcase, and we are told of more for the passport and suitcase from each country.

Boarding pass to attach to your suitcase with passwords to on-line games and activities

We haven’t gotten around to trying out the on-line games and activities yet, but they are included as a part of the package. On the boarding pass you attach to the suitcase there’s a website and codes to get in.

Parent guide

The parent guide lists out the items in the first shipment and describes some of what to expect in the future packages.

What do I think?

I think this is a fabulous program with the right amount of mystery to keep kids wanting more. My daughter cannot wait for the Brazil package to come and has been asking about it every couple of days since her suitcase arrived. This is something you can get out of it what you put in. It takes some time and attention to complete the activities and read through everything.

I also like the fact it encourages parents to get involved and talk to their kids about their travel experiences. You will need to interact with your kids and help them with certain aspects of the program, but they are free to imagine all the fun places they want to visit in the future.

A membership to Little Passports makes a wonderful gift

If you are looking for a gift for a child I highly recommend Little Passports. You can order the World or U.S. versions, and there’s even a science program. The child receiving the gift will get their initial program package and then monthly thereafter get another installment. The World program will evidently be mailings from the different places Sam and Sofia visit.

This program includes some of my favorite things. It gets kids excited about learning, inspires them to study geography, and cultivates an interest in travel and cultural diversity. Consequently,  one would hope it also sparks a curiosity that will develop into an appreciation and understanding of their part in the world, it’s people, and our beautiful differences.

Denver Things to Do with Kids: Downtown Aquarium

Denver Things to Do with Kids: Downtown Aquarium

Denver things to do with kids: Downtown Aquarium

Searching for Denver things to do with kids? You really can’t go wrong with a zoo or aquarium in my experience, and when one has an ocean-life obsessed 4-year-old, the Downtown Aquarium is the obvious choice.

Spring Break Activities: Denver with kids

Spring Break this year was two different weeks for my two kids (preschool and elementary) so we weren’t able to go on any far off adventures. We decided to content ourselves with a staycation and do some short day trips from home. Furthermore, the trip to the zoo was a no-brainer easy quick day trip, and the kids were super-excited.

We had our day all planned out and were set to spend at the Denver Zoo. We drove into the city and noticed a lot of traffic as we got closer and closer to the zoo. Then we discovered all the cars were actually turning into the zoo parking, the parking garage was already full, and the neighboring museum and park lots were full of zoo patrons as well. As we drove farther and farther looking for a parking spot, I watched the masses head toward our destination. Because of my perceived lack of air due to the sheer crazy number of people, my mind began screaming, “Get out of here! Now, while you still can!”

There’s not a lot I find more miserable than inching around in giant crowds, and so I suggested we forego the zoo and try the Downtown Aquarium. Needless to say, I expected some squawking, but the rest of the family immediately agreed (amazing), and we were on our way leaving the throngs behind. Phew!

Aquarium escalator

The Downtown Aquarium is a great educational place for kids

Starfish eating

The Downtown Aquarium has a ton to offer and impressively looks out over downtown Denver. First of all, the escalator as you enter looks like a giant metal fish sort of in the style of Captain Nemo’s submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. You get swallowed by the fish and head up to the main floor to begin your tour. There are some remarkable displays, and then the tanks begin. Big tanks, little tanks, wall tanks, table tanks, you name it, and you can see some sort of marine life in all of these. My son loved them all but was especially transfixed at the massive shark tanks. He stared at them awhile before he recovered himself and began to lecture on the different kinds of sharks.

Aquarium shark tank

If you get tired of marine life, there are also areas with snakes, tarantulas, macaws, and even a tiger! Moreover, if you’re not expecting to see the tiger you can actually get quite a surprise after going through the glass tunnel tank. You’re still marveling at the manta rays and eels and bam! You walk straight toward a glass wall, and you’re face to face with a tiger! Now, he has a pretty large area and is often up on top of a bunch of rocks where he’s hard to see. Still, it is possible for him to walk right up next to you.

 Aquarium fish

Looking for more fun travels with kids?

Try Carlsbad Caverns With Kids: 10 MUSTS For An Amazing Visit

Read it here!

Hands-on activities for kids

In addition to the displays, there are some cool hands-on areas. Kids can carefully feel stingrays, starfish, horseshoe crabs, and even some small sharks. My daughter was fascinated by the thought of actually touching a shark, and it was the favorite thing she did her entire visit. Also, a close second was when she got to see “actual, real-life mermaids” to quote her. Be sure to look for the mermaid dive times when they swim in the tank with the fish. Later she actually got to talk to one of them, wow!

Aquarium fossil

My son, on the other hand, did not feel the need to touch the sharks and all the rest. He stated his favorite part was seeing the Giant Pacific Octopus, better known as Jackie. Jackie was active when we came by and was all over the tank with her eight legs whirling. “We could go to the Pacific Ocean and see a bigger one, but Jackie is nice,” the small one determined.

Giant Pacific Octopus

Denver things to do with kids: the Downtown Aquarium Restaurant

If you’re wanting to eat at the Aquarium, the restaurant is definitely an experience. The seating area is surrounded by large fish tanks of fish and “mermaids” swimming about. You can make reservations at the restaurant and request to sit near the tanks, and I would recommend this particularly if you’re visiting on the weekend or special day. The gift shop is just next to the restaurant so be ready for the kids! They’ll want marine life t-shirts, stuffed animals, hats, trucks, and all sorts of other trinkets emblazoned with  “Downtown Aquarium”.

How to cut down on cost

The one downside, in my own opinion, is the cost of the visit. It can add up quickly with Aquarium tickets, a carousel ride outside, food at the restaurant, a souvenir, and the $7 parking. If this is a concern for your family plan it all out beforehand using the current prices on the Downtown Aquarium website.  Then decide what you will or will not do beforehand. For example, you can bring your own picnic lunch and eat outside at tables on a large balcony area on the second floor. Also, you can completely bypass the gift shop if you don’t plan to purchase souvenirs.

Tip: A few days before you go subscribe to the Aquarium’s mailing list. The first email I received from them contained a half-off adult admission coupon so definitely worth subscribing. You can always unsubscribe after your visit if you wish!

Denver aquarium squid

More fun!

If you’re looking for different Denver things to do with kids, do visit the Downtown Aquarium. There are so many fish and animals for the kids to learn about, it’s well worth the time. Likewise, we were incredibly grateful to have another option when our zoo plans fell through, and everyone had a fabulous time.

What is your favorite fish or animal to see at an aquarium? What are some of the other aquariums you’ve visited or would recommend?

April Fool’s Day Pranks: A Fishy Tradition

April Fool’s Day Pranks: A Fishy Tradition

Pin: April Fool's Day pranks

This April Fool’s Day pranks post contains affiliate links.

Oh, the memories of April Fool’s Day pranks! As a kid I usually didn’t try anything too terrible. However, I do remember one year when I put a rubber band around the water sprayer on the sink. Then, whenever you turned on the water it would spray you. Let’s just say my mother was not thrilled with this, and much screaming ensued. In fact, I remember thinking how ingenious I was to come up with something like that and just could not understand why she was so upset!

April Fool’s Day Pranks, the Fishy Way

The past few years we’ve celebrated April Fool’s Day the French way, with paper fish. I love France and celebrating cultural holiday traditions, and quite awhile ago I took some classes in France then taught high school French. Therefore, it was natural I should introduce my own kids to Poisson d’Avril (or April Fish). Kids absolutely LOVE this tradition, and of course, the French claim to have started April Fool’s Day. So here we go, let’s learn about French culture so you too can celebrate April Fool’s Day with your kids as Poisson d’Avril.

Les Poissons

What is Poisson d’Avril?

Poisson d’Avril is what the French call April first, or April Fool’s Day. In fact, they celebrate by playing jokes on others just like American April Fool’s Day pranks. However, the day is called Poisson d’Avril, so kids and adults alike make paper fish. Then, throughout the day they try to stick them to other people’s backs without them knowing. I know it sounds fairly basic, but kids find it hilarious and don’t tire of it throughout the day (sometimes the entire week)!

History

The French often claim all things started in France, and April Fool’s Day is no exception. Supposedly, it all goes back to 1564 when King Charles XIV moved the calendar around and made the beginning of the year January instead of late March. Well, people resist mandated changes and some continued to celebrate the New Year in the last week of March. Those who continued to celebrate the old New Year had pranks played on them, and for some reason people started to stick paper fish on their backs. Consequently, these victims were called the April Fish (Poisson d’Avril). Why fish? Did it start with fishermen? Who knows, but the tradition stuck, and hey, why not go with it?

Sandbox fish

Create your own Poisson d’Avril paper fish

Here’s how to begin this super-fun, incroyable, tradition at your house. First, sign in below to download your free printable fish paper. While the fish are in color, I like to print it out in black and white so the kids can color the fish themselves. Second, give each child a page to color and cut out. Third, provide the tape and encourage fish sticking on friends’ and family members’ backs. Then let the shenanigans unfold!

April Fool's Day fish printable

Do you need some more activities for kids to get you through to summer?

Try a few of the 7 Awesome Activities to Beat the Winter Blues.

Read it here!

My own experience with Poisson d’Avril

Everyone loves April Fool’s Day pranks, and I love most anything that keeps my kids busy and makes them laugh and enjoy themselves. Oddly enough, I get lots of hugs on April Fool’s Day as the children try to sweetly stick fish on my back. Then, they go away snickering behind their hands until they can hold it in no longer and scream, “Mommy! You have a fish on your back! Hahahaha!”. Queue hysterical laughter.

Similarly, high schoolers can really get into this holiday. I think of when I taught high school French, and I liked to celebrate as many French fêtes as possible. Poisson d’Avril was always a hit. Inevitably, if you give a 16-year-old boy crayons, scissors, and a fish outline on a piece of paper he will become an excited little boy again. No matter how cool and disinterested he is in your class he will take the bait! As a result, you can get all sorts of participation in your French speaking activities about fish. AND as an added bonus everyone leaves laughing and with a paper fish stuck to their back. It’s a ton of fun to watch the hilarity spread around the school.

April Fool’s Day pranks at French bakeries

Okay, so maybe it’s not really a prank, but it’s a lot of fun! If you are lucky enough to live near a French bakery, on April first they generally have French pastries and chocolates all in the shape of, you guessed it, fish. Unfortunately, I don’t live by a French bakery (long sigh), so generally after watching pastry week on The Great British Bake-Off or some such, I over-confidently attempt an elaborate fish pie or little pasties. I’ve managed to make them taste pretty good, but usually they look more like a blob than a fish. Moral of the story – find yourself a glorious French bakery and get yourself some fish pastries!

Lumpy Fish pies

Fish cookies

Cookie cutter

Chocolate fish

Yes, please!

Toy fish

Let’s play!

Fish journal

I love this

Why? Do we really need a reason? Well, because it’s hilarious! Kids will love Poisson d’Avril and some new April Fool’s Day pranks.  Also, as a bonus, everyone’s learning to appreciate the French culture while having fun. Please share your pictures and stories of your fish on Dad’s back or any other successes you have with the activity. I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section below! Have fun and bonne chance!

What other pranks do you play for kids on April Fool’s Day?

Carlsbad Caverns With Kids: 10 MUSTS For An Amazing Visit

Carlsbad Caverns With Kids: 10 MUSTS For An Amazing Visit

This post contains affiliate links.

Carlsbad Caverns is high on my list of natural wonders of the world. Where else can you go down 700 feet into the earth and be transported into what seems another world? Moreover, it’s a world you’ve only imagined in stories with dwarves and Gandalf, or perhaps with Tom Sawyer, Becky, and Injun Joe. But should you visit Carlsbad Caverns with kids? The answer to that questions is yes, this is a place you want to take your kids. Not only will you look around, but believe me, it will create an impression in their minds they will remember their entire lives.

We have a family reunion almost every year in Ruidoso, New Mexico, and we often do side day trips from there exploring New Mexico. Carlsbad Caverns is definitely a favorite one of those trips for both adults and kids and not to be missed! The kids didn’t even mind the 3-hour drive (too much) back and forth they were so excited.

Carlsbad Caverns is no little cave you walk in and do a quick walk around the main room. The “Big Room” as it’s called, is about a mile around with a walking trail. Keep in mind only part of the area is wheel-chair friendly and strollers are not allowed down in the main cave. There are over 300 limestone caves in the area, and if you are a brave soul you can even arrange a  spelunking adventure in some of the less frequented caves. However, it is not for the faint of heart! There will be ropes, crawling, climbing, dirt and wet involved. If that’s your thing then go for it; it’s awesome!

Are you a fan of National Parks?

Pick up some great tips here for exploring Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park with kids in winter.

READ IT HERE!

10 MUSTS for visiting Carlsbad Caverns with kids

Carlsbad Caverns 3

Back to the main point. If you happen to be in New Mexico, or even if you’re not, make sure you plan to visit the Caverns. To make the most of your visit, by all means, read and utilize these 10 tips for an amazing visit to Carlsbad Caverns with kids!

Bring water bottles

Water is the only thing allowed down in the caves so don’t try to sneak in lunch, snacks, juice, etc. This is for the protection of the caves so I wouldn’t get too worked up about it. Still, this makes it even more important to bring water bottles for all as you will be walking around at the very least for an hour or two. There is a little snack area for emergency refueling, and it’s an almost eerie experience sitting at your table in the dark cave eating a sandwich.

Don’t forget a jacket or sweatshirt

It’s chilly down in the caves, even in 100-degree summer weather, so be sure to bring a jacket or sweatshirt for everyone. Or you can be like my husband and refuse then just be a little cold walking around. However, if you want to enjoy your trip, make sure everyone, especially the kids, have sweatshirts.

Carlsbad Caverns walkway

The Natural Entrance vs. the elevator

So here’s the debate. Do you walk down the Natural Entrance or use the elevator? It completely depends on your group. The Natural Entrance is about a mile and a fourth and is narrow in places and quite steep. If you have the time, health, a group including older kids, and a sense of adventure take the awesome Natural Entrance where the original explorers descended. On the other hand, if you have younger kids or anyone with health problems (such as a bad knee or asthma) I would suggest taking the elevator down to the Big Room.

Prep kids for what’s below

I didn’t have to worry too much about this as my kids showed only interest and no fear, but I would describe a cave for your kids before you go down. It’s not a small, enclosed area, but it is dark with spotlights around to see the pathway and formations. In addition, it’s cool and feels humid so very different than what they’ve experienced on the surface. Another thing to remember is that a cave echoes! Signs and rangers encourage you to speak quietly if you must speak. Your cell phone won’t work either so you’ll want to put it in airplane mode.

Carlsbad Caverns 7

Cameras all around!

Do you have a budding photographer in the family? Flash photography is permitted in the caves as long as you’re considerate of those around you. Take advantage of it! My little guy loved getting his camera out and taking pictures of the pools, the “tree”, and “dinosaur” formations as he called them.

Carlsbad Caverns camera man

Flashlights/headlamps

Another warning! There are multi-colored mining helmets with lamps for sale at the gift shop and down in the cave. It is inevitable the kids will want one. If this purchase is not something you’re willing to make for everyone, arm the family with their own flashlights or headlamps. We have a couple headlamps we take camping, and they’re great because wherever you look, BAM! the light points there. This lets you see some of the areas that may not be as well lit as others. Explore!

      

Read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (or listen to it in the car on your way to the cave!)

Okay, so this one is me. You will probably have some travel time on the way to Carlsbad so fill that time with a classic! The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain was a great favorite of mine when I was a kid and should be shared. While you’re not in Missouri, you will be in a cave, and who can forget the great scene when Tom and Becky are lost in the cave with a murderer?! Right? Please tell me this made an impression on you as a child as well because it always comes to mind when I think of caves.

                                                                        

Exodus of the Brazilian free-tailed bats

Are there naturalists in the family with an interest in bats? Be sure to plan time in the evening to sit and watch the departure of the Brazilian free-tailed bats leaving the caves. Don’t worry, they won’t be down in the Big Room on your cave tour, they live in another cavern and stay away from people. Go to the amphitheater for a free talk from one of the rangers about the bats and wait for the mass exodus. The best time to see them is from August to September when the babies join in. It’s quite an experience even for those who may not be quite so fond of the creatures. For more details see the link here.

Carlsbad Caverns ceiling 2

Self-guided and optional ranger-led cave tours

Speaking of Park Rangers, there are all sorts of tours you can sign up for if you want more of an adventure away from the Big Room. My daughter begged to go on the Spider Cave tour because she thought it would be awesome to crawl around through the cave maze on your stomach with her head lamp. Unfortunately for her, most tours are for those 12 years old and up. If anyone in your group is not great with small, enclosed spaces, be sure to talk to the rangers about the particular tour you’re interested in. Take a look at the tour schedule here: Carlsbad Caverns tour scheduleOf course, you can do your own self-guided tour of the Natural Entrance and Big Room.

Carlsbad Caverns & me

Carlsbad Caverns with kids: The Junior Ranger program

Finally, for my last MUST, take advantage of the Junior Ranger program. Ask in the Visitor’s Center or one of the rangers for a free Junior Ranger Activity Book. They have two books, one for ages 0-6, and the other for 7-12 year-olds. Your child will visit the caverns then complete the book and other requirements. After that, a ranger will review their work and award the participants with a Junior Ranger badge. Super-fun free educational experience! Score!

Are you ready for some more exploration either without kids or with those 12 and older? Experience a ranger-led tour like one of these:

The King's Palace

Try this hour and a half journey to the deepest part of the cave open to the public! View the different formations as you go 830 feet below the desert surface. Experience the ranger-led blackouts on one of the most impressive mile hikes you will ever take part in.

Left-Hand Tunnel

2 hours exploring an unpaved section of the cave by candle-lit lantern. Don your hiking boots for staying upright as you view slippery slopes, cavern pools, and delicate formations.

Slaughter Canyon Cave

A 5 and a half hour “moderately strenuous” tour where your efforts will allow you to gaze upon magnificent formations: the Christmas Tree, the Monarch, the Mushroom, and the Chinese Wall.

Hall of the White Giant

Are you ready to rough it, get dirty, and do some crawling around in small spaces? Enjoy ladder climbing, slippery surfaces, and free climbing too! Make your way through the narrow passage of Matlock’s Pinch and see the fabulous White Giant formation.

So what comes to mind when you picture a giant cave? Have you been in a large cave before? For me, it’s a once in a lifetime experience not to be missed! Make your plans for summer vacation and visit Carlsbad Caverns with kids. Also, be sure to keep all the MUSTS in mind for a super-amazing trip to be talked about in AWE for years to come!

Carlsbad Caverns 4

Explorer Momma EM

Join Our Free Newsletter

Sign up to receive the latest newsletters and updates from Explorer Momma directly to your inbox!

(We never send spam or ads)

You're in!

Pin It on Pinterest