The Ultimate Road Trip Activities For Kids

The Ultimate Road Trip Activities For Kids

Are you planning a road trip for spring break or summer? We’re planning for a LOT of time in the car this spring break, and I’m already searching for tips and ideas to pass the time for the kids. I’d like to help you out too so I’m sharing what I think are the ultimate road trip activities for kids.

When I was young, we moved across the country a couple times for my dad’s job. The first of those moves was when I was in fourth grade, and we moved from Colorado to Illinois, which was completely across the world as far as I was concerned. I still remember being heartbroken at having to leave my best friend, school, and everything that I knew. Now I look back, and I think it probably was good for me to experience a new place and get out of my comfort zone a bit.

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Ultimate road trip activities for kids

Road trip activities for kids

My best friend and her parents were always very creative, and before we left to drive cross-country they gave me a mysterious bag. Inside was a bunch of wrapped items as well as a set of directions about where in the trip I could un-wrap each one. It was a sad goodbye but the activity bag was fascinating!

Kids love little gifts, activities, and knick-knacks. While I don’t remember exactly what was in the packages, I do remember how excited I was to get to each place to open the package. “Only 10 miles to Lincoln!!! We can make it!”

It passed the time and made me look forward to seeing new towns along the way. Also, I got to know the road atlas maps really well so it was a great geography lesson. Do any of you remember having the good old State Farm Road Atlas? We ALWAYS had one in our car.

Since then, I’ve made several such bags for friends going on long drives and for road trips with kids. Depending on who it’s for, I’ve included games, CDs for a specific place on the drive, a Rubik’s cube, books, a journal, history of places along the way, and lots of other fun items. Kids absolutely love it.

How to make your own road trip bag

If you’d like to combine a bunch of awesome road trip activities for kids into one, you’ll want to make your own road trip bag or tote for the journey.

First of all, map out your trip, which you’ll check into anyway.

Second, select cities or towns along the way about an hour apart, or 60-80 miles works well. Fill out the free printable you can download below with your list of cities or towns in the order of your trip (or just use your own piece of paper).

Third, the cities or towns you selected will be where the kids get to open their wrapped items. Count up how many gifts/activities you will need and obtain that many items to wrap. You can see my examples below. Also, if you have more than one child I find it best to make each kid their own bag to avoid squabbling.

Fourth, wrap the items and number them from one to however many cities you’ve chosen as destination gift opening spots. I usually just write the number on the package, but you can make a fancy tag if you like.

Fifth, place a filled out copy of your free printable ultimate road trip activities for kids in each child’s bag and load it in the car. Make sure that place is easily accessible during the trip.

Sixth, when you get to each city written down on the paper, the kids get to open their package with the corresponding number. Yes! Joy! Finally! Ahh! Love!

Voila! With so many road trip activities for kids to anticipate and the trip will go by like the snap of your fingers. Well, maybe not quite that fast, but close. It may sound like a lot, but it really doesn’t take that long to put together. If you use items from dollar store type places, it’s not going to break the bank either and will be worth every penny for everyone’s happy sanity during the drive.

What do you need?

To begin, you’ll want to gather all the supplies you’ll need to complete your awesome road trip activities for kids. 

Road Atlas

I like to include a map or road atlas showing our entire journey that’s not on a screen. When there are wrapped surprises at stake kids get to know the route really well. Also, they can page through and look at the different states or countries and plan out their own trips. As my favorite heroine says, “There’s so much more scope for the imagination!”


Dollar store prizes

I find the dollar-type store and the Target $1 section to be awesome areas to find fun items to unwrap. It’s best to get something that’s a puzzle, game, or something meaningful to you both to occupy them as long as possible. Kids think these are fabulous especially when they’re wrapped up and they anticipate opening them. In addition, they have to stare at the packages in the car, and you will get squeals of joy when it’s time to open them up! You may never again see someone so excited to get to Dumas, Texas (no offense intended to our Dumas friends!).

Wrapping materials

When you create your road trip bag, you plan to have an item to open about 60-80 miles or so. This averages out to about one item to open for every hour you’re on the road. Therefore you’ll be needing some fun wrapping paper or even newspaper comics. You’ll also need scissors and tape.


Activities and Games

Coloring Books

Sometimes it’s fun to include a task or a game with the wrapped prize or gift. For example, you could put a sticky note on the coloring book that says, “Color three different pages in the coloring book before you can open your next destination package.”

Activity books

My daughter absolutely loves activity books and games like Mad Libs. They’re great for in the car because we all contribute words and get to laugh hysterically when the story’s read.



 These National Geographic sticker activity books are a big hit with my son. He’s majorly into dinosaurs, science, space, and all that fun stuff. So, of course, you know best what will amuse your child. Find the perfect activity book for them.

Auto Bingo

On family road trips as a kid, I always played Auto, Interstate, Car Bingo or whatever you would like to call it. This is a fun surprise to wrap up that will take some time to play.


Rubik’s Cube

It’s always fun to throw in a Rubik’s Cube as one of the items especially if the kids haven’t seen one before or at least not in a long time.



Travel Scavenger Hunt Card Game

I tend to DIY a lot of scavenger hunt type activities for my kids as we travel, but when in a hurry this is a great option. This scavenger hunt game has kids searching all over for things like license plates, stop signs, a red car, etc. To check it out on Amazon click here.


Free kids' travel journal printableKids’ Travel Journal

Whenever we go on vacation I also love for my kids to keep a travel journal. You can use just a blank notebook or journal or take advantage of my free printable. To read about it and download, click here.

Games are road trip activities for kids and the whole family

The ABC Game

In the car, one of our most popular games to play is the ABC game. To make it an item in your road trip tote bag you can write it on a sticky note and stick it to a rock or put it in a small box. Then wrap it up and you all have to play when it’s destination is reached!

To play is fairly simple, but it takes a little time and is fun. The players take turns stating three things starting with the letter they get on their turn. First, you say your name. Then, you say where you’re from. Lastly, you say what you are taking. All of these need to start with the letter of your turn.

So for example, I say: My name is Amy. I’m going to Antarctica, and I’m taking apples. You go clockwise around the car, and the next person says: My name is Bertha. I’m going to Bermuda, and I’m taking belly button lint. Go through the entire alphabet that way. Silly items are always popular so have fun with it!

I Spy

This is another easy fun game to play to pass time. First, someone is named the spy. That person says, “I spy with my little eye something red!”

Then you go around the car giving everyone a chance to guess what that red thing is. Whoever guesses correctly get to be the next spy. We usually limit the things you can spy to inside the car because half the time you pass by them before someone guesses if they’re outside.

The License Plate Game

This is a good game for a little bit older kids. My 9-year-old loves it until we get to the middle of nowhere and don’t see cars from other states. First, have the child list all 50 states on a piece of paper. It’s good for them. Once that’s done, every time someone sees a different state’s license plate you put a checkmark by it. This can last throughout the entire trip, but there’s something extremely satisfying about checking off all 50.

Who else love books?!

A couple of books to read are fun to throw in the road trip tote bag. They are simple educational road trip activities for kids. If you can find a good book associated with your destination, even better!

Alligators and Crocodiles

by Laura Marsh

Are you going to Florida? Learn all about Florida animals like Alligators and Crocodiles!


The Witch of Blackbird Pond

by Elizabeth George Speare

The Witch of Blackbird Pond is a Newberry Award Winner, and one of my favorite books! Learn about colonial Connecticut and some interesting history of the area. Also, it has great characters and a storyline you won’t want to put down.

Alamo All-Stars (Hazardous Tales #6)

by Nathan Hale

My daughter loves Nathan Hale’s graphic novel series, Hazardous Tales. She’s been reading Alamo All-Stars of late. Can you guess where we might be going soon?

Download the printable to use with road trip activities for kids

Road trip bag free printable preview


Are you traveling by airplane?

Give our kids’ free printable Airplane BINGO a try! Print it out and you’re good to go with an extra activity for the flight.

Airplane BINGO, kids airplane activities preview

So what are your road trip activities for kids?

We love a good road trip as a family. So many funny memories are made, and you want everyone in the best mood possible. These road trip activities for kids have worked for us. I hope you take some time to prep your own road trip tote bag! Let me know how it goes.

Now, what else do you do to occupy kids on the road? I’m always on the look-out for suggestions!

Top 10 Things To Do In Ruidoso, New Mexico With Kids

Top 10 Things To Do In Ruidoso, New Mexico With Kids

Picture your favorite Western movie. Do you see wide open spaces, dusty ground with cactus and yucca plants as far as the eye can see? But wait! What’s that in the distance? Is it a plateau, a mountain? Imagine the scene as Billy the Kid and his crew come at you in a cloud of dust. As they get closer you can make out figures on horseback in cowboy hats racing to guide the stampede of cattle. The rustlers just made off with the cattle from a nearby ranch, will get rid of them for a price, and for good measure may even rob a train in the evening. Who knows? Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico with kids.

What I know is that the scenery as you near Ruidoso, New Mexico inspires all my stereotypical western stories to come to life. Moreover, it’s truly another world you step into, at least another culture, as we travel from northern Colorado to mid-southern New Mexico. The area around Ruidoso may be the dry, cracked Western scene; however, go up the mountain and into Ruidoso, and you’ll find a charming mountain town perfect for family vacations.

But what are the top things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico with kids? What is it that draws us so often away from our beautiful Colorado mountains? To be perfectly honest, my grandparents lived there long ago, and now it’s where we meet up with our relatives from Texas for fun and family. We LOVE it.

So be inspired! Go pull up that western soundtracks playlist on Spotify, and plan your family vacation today.

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Top 10 things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico with kids

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico pin

1. Book a cabin with plenty of outdoor space to play

If at all possible I highly recommend booking a cabin or house with plenty of outdoor space for the kids to play. It’s true we usually go as a large group and so enjoy a larger area, but there are smaller cabins choices available too. Then, with your own cabin, you have a kitchen to do more of your own meal prep, and more space for the family to rest and relax. We loved our space this last summer with a fabulous outdoor seating area complete with grill and hot tub, our own little golf green, horseshoes and much more!

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico cabin Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico cabin yard

Website options for cabin rentals:

1. Airbnb – We’ve had good experiences with Airbnb in the past. My advice is to make sure you look for places with plenty of good reviews and use your best judgment. If you are new to Airbnb you can use my link here to sign up and get $40 off your first booking. Click here for the link to sign up.

2. VRBO – Click here for their website.

3. Ruidoso Reservations by Condotel – Click here to see the cabin availability on their site.

A lot of these cabins are available on multiple sights so you can do some searching to get the best deal.

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico horseshoes

2. Inn of the Mountain Gods

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico, IMG buildingThe Inn of the Mountains Gods is owned by the Mescalero Apache Tribe and boasts beautiful scenery, fabulous rooms, food, and a casino. It’s located a little over seven miles from Ruidoso and will take you about 20 minutes by car.

For kids, we like to make a day excursion out of it. First, we drive out to the hotel and look around the inside for a bit. When we’re ready we head down to the buffet and enjoy the variety and quantity of the breakfast or lunch buffet. After that, once sufficiently stuffed, we either continue to look around the inside of the hotel or wander down to the lake for the kids to play or walk around it on the convenient pathways.

What kid doesn’t love a walk around the lake with frequent stops to look for fish, study the plants, or throw rocks and twigs in the lake? You probably won’t make it all the way around, but it’s fun to explore!

3. Pillow’s Funtrackers, Family Fun Center

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico Funtrackers carFuntrackers is a great place for families to play and have a fun time together. First, you might play a round of miniature golf. Following that, race around the track on the goKarts (there are several tracks depending on ages). Then perhaps you’ll want to cool each other off with a giant splash from the bumper boats and then go get lost in the Mountain Maze.

For weeks after we visited this place my son’s favorite thing to call out was, “Grandpa’s lo-oost!” Yes, Grandpa got a bit mixed up in the maze, which was of endless amusement to the children.

There is just so much to do here you could literally hang out most of the day or until the kids get there fill and wear out. The goKarts were great. Lots of fun for all!

4. Kids Konnection Playground

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico playground

For a morning out to a playground, you won’t want to miss the Kids Konnection Playground (685 Hull Road, Ruidoso). First of all, the equipment is fun and original and actually covers a large space. Also, there are areas for kids 5 and under as well as 6 and up, fabulous!

We also like the fact it’s located right next to a big open grassy field where the kids can run, play soccer, play tag, or just burn off some energy. I’ve also been told there’s a good dog park nearby, and although we haven’t been in need of one, you may!

Ruidoso, New Mexico, best of 2017


5. The Hubbard Museum of the American West

26301 Hwy 70 West, Ruidoso Downs, NM

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico Saddle

All right now, tell me. Have you cranked up an American Western film soundtrack yet? You might try , or , my favorite , or if you have Amazon Prime .

Listening to a bit of this will get you in the mood to visit the Hubbard Museum of the American West. This is a fun museum for kids and adults alike, although with kids you may have to move a bit quicker than if you were on your own! Be sure to see the horse statues at the top of the hill.

A tour of this place is sure to bring out your inner cowboy, and if you’re like me you’ll start saying, “I’m your huckleberry” in a southern accent to all friends and family. Or to that random person who meets your eyes in the museum. 😉 Just kidding.

6. Horseback Riding, Grindstone Stables

523 Resort Dr, Ruidoso

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico, Horseback riding

It’s inevitable the kids will be dying to go on a horseback ride after a visit to the Hubbard Museum of the American West. Therefore, why not saunter on over to the Grindstone Stables and go on an hour-long guided horseback ride? Or if that’s not your thing, enjoy a carriage ride through mid-town Ruidoso with amazing views of Sierra Blanca in the distance.



7. Ruidoso Municipal Swimming Pool

515 Sudderth Drive, Ruidoso

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico, swimming poolIf it’s hot, and the kids need some exercise, we love to head over to the Ruidoso Municipal Swimming Pool for open swim. Be sure to check their website or give them a call (575-257-2795) to get open swim times before you drive over. The swimming pool is nice, and although definitely not brand new, a lot of fun. As a matter of fact, they have a huge, fabulous slide perfect for kids. While I stayed in the baby pool with my son the last time we were there, my eight-year-old daughter probably went down the thing 15-20 times. It’s a climb to get up to the top of the slide so it’s also great for ensuring an easy bedtime routine in the evening because they’ll be so worn out!

8. Wildlife Photo Scavenger Hunt

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico deer

Ruidoso is a beautiful mountain location with mountain views, a variety of flora, but also wonderful chances to see wildlife. Go on a wildlife photo scavenger hunt with the kids to get pictures of elk, deer, wild horses, hummingbirds, eagles, and so much more. However, I will advise if you happen to run into one of the bears, steer clear!


Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico, Hummingbird



9. Gondola Ride at Ski Apache

1286 Ski Run Road, Alto, NM

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico, gondola

Is your family ready to see some stunning views? Make the drive to Ski Apache in summer to take the gondola ride to the top of the mountain. You won’t regret it a visit to this magical place, unless perhaps you have a child like mine who claims vertigo and refuses to step on all gondolas, funiculars, etc. But never mind that! Have an amazing ride up the mountain, eat at the snack bar, and enjoy yourself.

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico


Ski Apache view

10. Flying J Ranch

6 Flying J Road, 1028 State Hwy 48, Alto, NM

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico Flying JThe first time I visited Flying J Ranch was over 20 years ago (no need to be exact!), and I loved it just as much then as I do now! It’s my favorite attraction in Ruidoso, and kids love it.

Relax and find your inner New Mexico western cowboy, or cowgirl. At Flying J you’ll enter an old west town complete with Sheriff and a live gunfight. The kids can ride ponies, explore teepees, and even rope some cattle. Then the whole family will enjoy a chuck wagon dinner with beef, chicken, beans (of course!), biscuit, applesauce, and my daughter’s favorite spice cake!

After you eat be ready for James and Cindy Hobbs and friends to entertain with the Flying J Western Show. See their website here for more information. “The show is an action-packed show filled with World Champion yodeling, amazing harmonies, fancy fiddling, hilarious comedy, banjo playing and guitar picking! The show at the Flying J Ranch is simply fantastic!”

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico Flying J, game Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico horse Ski Apache view

What are your family vacation plans for this summer?

Are you planning to visit Ruidoso this summer? Take advantage of my kid-tested list of top things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico with kids. Then let me know how it works out for you! For us, it’s a family tradition and fabulous time.

Where else are you planning a family trip this summer? Or maybe where did you go recently? Give me your suggestions below!

Looking for an excursion from Ruidoso?

Carlsbad Caverns featureCarlsbad Caverns are a must-see and completely awe-inspiring. It’s such the perfect exploratory experience for kids. We love it!



Are you planning a fun family vacation to escape from the noise of the everyday? Perfect for family reunions and getaways, check out my top 10 things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico with kids.

Tips For Visiting Santa’s Workshop

Tips For Visiting Santa’s Workshop

This page contains affiliate links. Santa’s Workshop

What are your childhood memories of visiting Santa? Did you go to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap and ask for that one special gift? Maybe you spoke to Santa’s helper at a Christmas party? Personally, I rarely went to see Santa, but I did write him letters. As I grew older I knew what was actually going on, but I didn’t want to let go of the magic. Truly, I embraced the idea of Santa and his reindeer stomping on our roof and saying ‘Ho! Ho! Ho!’ down the chimney.

Where is Santa’s Workshop?

Well, this year our family made the trip to Santa’s Workshop at North Pole, Colorado, and it was fabulous! North Pole, Colorado you say? Yes, that’s what they call it, Santa’s Workshop at North Pole, Colorado. Actually, it’s located conveniently near Colorado Springs outside the town of Manitou Springs. It’s a full-blown theme park dedicated to the North Pole and Santa Claus. Santa’s house is at the center of the village, and a visit with Santa’s an important part of any trip! I’m going to save you a hassle and let you in on my tips for visiting Santa’s Workshop.

Tips For Visiting Santa's Workshop pin

What is Santa’s Workshop?

Santa’s Workshop is a theme park aimed towards younger kids, but teenagers and adults alike love the place. In spite of the fact it’s not as large or modern as Disney or Six Flags, it’s treasured by locals and visitors alike. Moreover, it’s set in the mountains, unique, and nostalgic. Santa’s Workshop is in its 61st year, a quaint mountain village theme park with fun rides especially for ages 3-7. Of course, there are other rides for older kids and adults, but there are few a 3 or 4-year-old can’t ride.

My kids love it because you can ride as many rides as you want all day long with very short lines if any at all. Well, that’s if you avoid the busiest days! Also, my daughter enjoyed the magic show so much she wanted to go again later in the day. You’ll find rides, shows, food, shops, and fun!

Tips For Visiting Santa's Workshop Colorado entrance

My top tips for visiting Santa’s Workshop

1. Print out the $3 off coupon before you go

If you visit the Santa’s Workshop website go to the coupon section to print off the coupon. When I last checked it was three dollars off the general $23 admission. Also, if you have a military or dependent ID an even greater discount so be sure to bring it with you.

Tip! Print the coupon before you go or copy a picture of it in your phone. Internet and phone services are iffy, and most phones will not have service.

Tips For Visiting Santa's Workshop Colorado ride

2. Double check to be sure they’re open the day you wish to go

In winter Santa’s Workshop is closed most Tuesdays and Wednesdays and can be closed due to weather. If you’re not sure about the weather you can call 719-684-9432 to check whether or not they’ll be open.

3. Wear your walking shoes and several clothing layers depending on the weather

There are picnic tables and benches all around, but even so, you’ll do a lot of walking! In order to be comfortable, wear comfy shoes and a jacket or layers depending on the weather. Therefore, check the weather and dress accordingly.

Tips For Visiting Santa's Workshop Colorado sled

4. Arrive at least 10 minutes before they open

Santa’s Workshop opens at 10 am, and if you’re there on a busy day (such as the day after Thanksgiving) you’ll want to be early! I suggest you arrive and park 10-15 minutes before they open to get in the entrance line. Then again, some days there may be little to no line, but do you want to take that chance?!

Tips For Visiting Santa's Workshop Colorado bridge

5. Go see Santa first to avoid the lines. Smile big for your picture!

Again, in order to avoid long waits, make a beeline for Santa’s house to get in line for a visit. With kids, you HAVE to visit Santa, and you might as well get it done early and then enjoy the rest of the park. In addition, be sure to avoid the lunch hour. You won’t be happy if you’ve been in line for 45 minutes, Santa goes to lunch, and you have to wait in line another 30 minutes until he gets back!

You can have an elf or helper take a picture with your own camera or have them use theirs. After that, you can go to the shop around the corner to view the pictures and make any purchases you wish. For example, get your picture on an ornament, a mug, or in a photo book just to name a few. Smile!

Tips For Visiting Santa's Workshop family picture

(Yes, I covered up my kids’ faces. I generally do on the blog, and that is a personal choice. In this post you may notice I got a little carried away with adding characters to my pictures…)

Santa's Workshop Colorado tree

6. Make any personalization orders in the shops immediately after visiting Santa

There’s a great shop with all sorts of ornaments and Christmas decorations that can be personalized with kids’ names and years, family names, whatever you want. If this is something you want to do go early so the personalization can be done while you ride rides. Then you can pick up your order on your way out and not have to carry it all day either.

Santa's Workshop Colorado slide

7. Pack your own lunch for any sort of special diet or to cut costs

The food is expensive at Santa’s Workshop and limited to pulled pork, turkey, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, pretzels, and various other items. Moreover, if you’re on a special diet, need gluten-free, or have other allergies I would suggest bringing a sack lunch. You can keep it in the car and send someone out to get it when the time comes if you don’t want to carry it around with you. As I said before, there are quite a few picnic tables in the eating areas, and you can enjoy your lunch there.

Santa's Workshop Colorado tree view

8. Make some s’mores!

Santa's Workshop Colorado s'mores

I loved this! There’s a fire pit in front of the village shops, and there you can stop and warm yourself. OR…go into the candy shop and purchase a s’more kit! Who doesn’t love to make s’mores? If you have kids with you, it will be something they remember. Also, they’ll need a good snack mid-afternoon. In the candy shop, they’ll also give you sticks to roast the marshmallows. So much fun!

Santa's Workshop Colorado candy kitchen

9. Get super-excited about the magic show!

Like I said, my daughter thought the magic show was AMAZING! As with anything, go in with a positive attitude and play it up to the kids. The more excited you are, the more they will be.

10. Have fun and be a kid again!

Santa's Workshop Colorado ferris wheel

Our family favorite holiday is far and away Christmas. Did you know you can get a dose of Christmas cheer any time of the year? Indeed, one can visit Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, Colorado year round. Do you need a dose of Christmas in July when you’re on your family camping trip in Colorado? I hope you’ll review my top tips for visiting Santa’s Workshop. Then go for it! Santa’s Workshop is merry anytime during the year.

Do you need some Christmas book ideas for Mom?

Check out my cozy Christmas book list and grab a couple today!


Christmas Books for Adults pin


Estes Park Restaurants With Character

Estes Park Restaurants With Character

We all love to eat, right? I probably do a little too much!  Without a doubt eating out when traveling is one of my favorite parts of a vacation.  We all need to make healthy food choices, but the occasional splurge can be considered a learning opportunity to promote cultural diversity (that’s what I tell myself).  Local food specialties are a part of the culture of an area, and an occasion for a food adventure.  With that in mind, we try not to eat at food chains or anything familiar while traveling (unless the children are completely losing it), rather search out the hidden gems in an area.  So just for you, here are some of my discoveries in and around Estes Park, Colorado.  Estes Park restaurants with character!

Estes Park restaurants with character

Poppy’s Pizza and Grill

First off, I’ll start out in town with a few of the places we enjoy.  For a great place to go with kids, try Poppy’s Pizza and Grill at 342 Elkhorn Avenue, just across the street from the public library and parking area.  You will want to park near the library and cross the street at the light. Then why not do some shopping and exploring before or after you head to Poppy’s?  I’m drooling just thinking about the pizza at this place.  Above all, my favorite is the Thai Pizza with peanut sauce, red onion, chicken, broccoli, water chestnuts, and mozzarella.  YUM!

The traditional meat lovers in your family may like the Straziante: Italian sausage, pepperoni, salami, cappricola, smoked mozzarella, & Italian herbs.  However, if a picky eater doesn’t care for any kind of pizza they also have sandwiches, burgers, and salads. 

BONUS: Plenty of gluten free and dairy free options!

Why else do we like Poppy’s?  Great location and a beautiful view by the river.  Great place for lunch or dinner.

 Estes Park Restaurants

Antonio’s Real New York Pizza & Deli

Another great pizza place in Estes is Antonio’s Real New York Pizza & Deli.  Are you from the east coast?  Did you grow up with east coast style pizza?  If yes, then this is the place for you!  If you are a fan of traditional wood-fired New York pizza head on over to 552 Elkhorn Avenue and dig in.  Moreover, Antonio’s staff is super friendly, and you can even order on-line to take back to your cabin if you don’t want to eat in. 

Hint: If you like garlic, or are trying to ward off vampires, try the garlic sauce NY white pizza made with local mozzarella.

The Other Side

The Other Side Restaurant

Did I mention Estes Park restaurants with character?  If I had to pick a character for The Other Side it would be a duck because they’re so associated with the place. Not to eat mind you, but to watch out the window on the duck pond.  This restaurant is comfortable, welcoming, and in many ways homey to me.  In the downstairs dining area, there are huge windows displaying beautiful mountain views over a charming duck pond.  Also, at Christmas time we love the huge Christmas wreath on display. 

Hint:  Do request to eat downstairs, not up in the cafe as it’s a much more open area with those fabulous picture windows.

This is a wonderful restaurant for kids for several reasons:

  1. Big parking lot for easy access to the restaurant
  2. Great basic kids menu with Rocky Mountain National Park coloring map to keep them busy
  3. If they get tired of coloring they can go outside on the deck and look at the ducks at the duck pond.  I like to send Grandpa or Daddy out to help them with this task so I can enjoy a moment to breathe and enjoy the view!
  4. There are different mountain animals on the backs of the chairs so it becomes a huge game to see what “animal” everyone is for lunch that day.  The moose is highly coveted.
  5. Nice location on the west side of Estes close to Rocky Mountain National Park


The food at The Other Side I would describe as American, and you can get a good burger, fried trout, or a very important grilled cheese for the four-year-old. 

Favorite Snack Stop: The Taffy Shop

The Taffy Shop, and yes I mean the original Taffy Shop established in 1935, is a nostalgic treasure in Estes Park.  The front of the store is white and decorative with a turquoise sign reading simply, “The Taffy Shop”, which makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into a movie from the 50s.  First of all, don’t be shy and just peek in from the window!  Well, of course, you might be mesmerized for awhile by the period taffy pulling machines working away in the front window.   Once you can pull (ha! pull!) yourself away check out the front counter and all the different colored taffy lined up in front of you. 

Next, you really must sample a few of the different flavors and make a show of selecting exactly the right mix for your box to take home.  I love them all but am partial to the peppermint, cinnamon, and lemon.  Select flavors that go well together because “the children” (well me really) will want to experiment and twist two pieces together to create new flavors like chocolate peppermint, lemon vanilla, and who knows maybe molasses cinnamon?  Hmmm…not so sure about that one.

Salt water taffy – does that sound appealing?  Not so sure?  Well, believe me, it is amazing! In addition, visiting the shop is an experience you and your kids will remember for years to come.

Salt water taffy - foodiesfeed

(Word of caution: Pecans are used in one of the taffy flavors so beware for any tree nut allergies.  If necessary check with the store for any other allergens.)

My favorite Estes Park restaurants with character not quite in Estes Park (but close by!)

The Baldpate Inn

Baldpate wagon

You don’t have to travel far from Estes to find this amazing inn tucked in amongst the pine and aspen trees near Lily Lake.  It’s located at 4900 South Hwy. 7, Estes Park, so still considered a part of the town.  There is so much character in this place, I need a new word for it, or maybe a few.  To begin, make reservations for lunch and step back in time at the Baldpate Inn; she has a quaint personality and sense of humor all her own! 

Baldpate Inn    Near Lily Lake

The inn is closed for the winter, but I strongly encourage visiting in September when the aspens are in their full autumn yellow splendor.  Definitely have a relaxing lunch, and be sure to plan some time to explore the famous Key Room (thousands of keys on display).  Then take a stroll around nearby Lily Lake with your camera for some breathtaking shots.  You’ll eat so much you’ll want to get some exercise besides.

First of all, when you visit the Ballpate Inn for their soup and salad buffet, you will be seated in the sunporch dining room boasting an unrivaled treetop view of the mountain valley.  For lunch or dinner you can enjoy the buffet with delicious homemade soups, salads, breads, muffins and other buffet items.  My son especially enjoyed the peanut butter muffins, and they have different flavors every day like strawberry rhubarb, banana butterscotch, or savories such as garlic onion.

Baldpate chocolate pie

You know that extra stomach you have for pie?  Be prepared because you will need it here!  Enjoy some conversation with the family and some coffee as you finish your buffet, and then go drool over the assortment of pies available.  If you have a larger group you can all get a different kind and then sample each other’s.  Of course, if you get pieces of the apple or chocolate pies you may not feel inclined to share!

Meadow Mountain Cafe

Meadow Mt Cafe

The Meadow Mountain Cafe is like finding the X at the end of a treasure map when you’re hungry.  It’s located in the small, rustic town of Allenspark, Colorado, just outside of Estes Park.  If you’re wanting character with AMAZING food this is the place to be.  They’re open for breakfast and lunch, but due to the weather in winter they may be closed some days so you’ll probably want to call before you visit.  Be ready to slow down and relax.  Here you can chat with friends or read a book by the wood burning stove and sip on a cup of coffee with just a hint of cinnamon.

Meadow Mt Cafe sign

This cozy mountain cafe is popular with locals and the perfect place to stop for rustic charm, hippie flair, and home-cooked delicious food. They have great breakfasts with eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, waffles and more.  If you’re around for lunch try a fabulous burger, BLT, veggie burger or soup of the day.  They also generally have a special of the day like a Cuban sandwich or other choice.

Hint: Try the homemade bread; it is awesome! 

Meadow Mountain Cafe is definitely worth the quick trip from Estes or your rented cabin in the area.

Also, please check out our post on winter activities in Rocky Mountain National Park with kids! 

I hope you try some of these places out on your next trip to Northern Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park.  You won’t be sorry eating at any of these Estes Park Restaurants with character.  Bon appétit!





Secrets of Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter

Secrets of Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter

Oh, how I love Rocky Mountain National Park!  RMNP is one of my favorite places to go with kids, by myself, or with friends and family.  There’s a power in the immensity and beauty of the mountains, the trees, the wildlife, and being out in nature.  With this in mind, if you’ve never been, what are you waiting for?  Any season is a great time to visit the park, but today let’s focus on winter with a few pointers.  Over the years the park has gotten busier and busier due to the popularity of tourism in the area and an outdoor lifestyle.  I’m going to share some of my secrets with you for exploring the park in winter, although I admit somewhat reluctantly!

This post contains affiliate links.

Secrets of RMNP

Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park

Snowshoeing is a great way to see the park in winter, get some exercise, and leisurely enjoy yourself.  Furthermore, this is an activity you can do without any lessons or preparation, you just strap some snowshoes on.  Recently I went on a trip with family, including my four and eight year olds, and they did awesome!  If you can, plan your trip during the week and not on a holiday to avoid some of the crowds, although you never will completely avoid the masses.

Where to go

You can print out your park map by clicking here beforehand, or a ranger will offer you one when you enter the park.  Take a look at it whilst I recommend a few choice spots to visit.

Snowman at Bear Lake

There are some great trails around Bear Lake, and depending on the amount of snow you can also take the easy trail around Sprague Lake.  Warning!  These parking lots fill up quickly, and you will be surrounded with other explorers.  If you like this atmosphere that’s great!  However, if you are looking for a chance to get out on your own in the snowy expanse this is not the choice for you.

Hollowell Park

I’m going to let you in on my little secret: Hollowell Park.  I’m struggling right now typing this because instinctively I don’t want to share this blissful spot. Even when Bear Lake trails are packed, and the entire road is cut off due to the amount of traffic, Hollowell Park is a peaceful, wide-open trail with very few people, and when you do occasionally meet someone you share that knowing smile that yes, you’ve discovered a gem of a hike.  You can take it fast or slow, with kids or without.

Family snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park

Chasm Falls

Chasm Falls is another great snowshoe hike you can do with kids.  It’s located up the Old Fall River Road, and in winter you can park in the lot and picnic area at the junction of Endovalley Road and Old Fall River Road.  From there you will hike about a mile up Fall River Road to Chasm Falls.  It doesn’t sound very far, but it’s a good length for kids, guaranteed to wear them out!  Couple that with the fact your reward at the end of the trail is an icy waterfall, few kids can resist it.

Another nice option is to join one of the free ranger-led snowshoe trips.  For more information on this awesome opportunity check out the Rocky Mountain National Park website here.  Did I mention they’re free?!

Hidden Valley Sledding

In the event you have a child set on sledding, the only place in the park where it’s permitted is the old Hidden Valley Ski Area.  The sledding area is the bunny hill, and there are no tows so you’ll get some exercise!  Also, make sure you bring your own sled because there aren’t any on site to borrow or rent.  This can be a fun family activity, but it is a valley and when it’s windy it is COLD.  You can call the park Information Office to ask about the wind before you go, 970-586-1206.

Hidden Valley sledding in Rocky Mountain National Park

Wildlife quest at Rocky Mountain National Park

Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

Another secret of Rocky Mountain National Park is the wide range of wildlife you can see, especially if you get back on a quiet path with snowshoes.  What can you find?  Even in winter you may see elk, moose, deer, and bighorn sheep.  My son was incredibly excited to see a coyote walking through the snowy woods the other day.  Also, we’ve seen snowshoe hares before, and the kids are fascinated by the fact they change colors depending on the season.  On this trip, unfortunately we were only able to find the tracks of a snowshoe hare, but finding tracks is a great way to learn about all the wildlife in the area.

Snowshoe hare tracks in Rocky Mountain National Park

For the birdwatchers out there, you will find no shortage of camera candy in RMNP.  Fun fact: there are 280 bird species in the park, and it’s been designated as a Global Important Bird Area.  Take special note, Lumpy Ridge, which is north of Estes Park in RMNP, is actually closed to hikers at certain times while the peregrine falcons nest there.  Swoon!  For the Wild Kratts obsessed four year old boy, this is a paradise.  You can also see the white-tailed ptarmigan, three-toed woodpecker, blue grouse, northern pygmy owl, and oh so many more.  Take some binoculars and a camera and see how many different species you can find.

Peregrine Falcon - pixabay


If you don’t have your own snowshoes and poles, you can rent them at any number of locations in Estes Park, Colorado before heading up into the National Park.  Some are bigger stores than other, but here’s another little secret: The Warming House at 790 Moraine Avenue in Estes Park.  This is my favorite location to rent snowshoes and other equipment.  The store is in a cabin-type building, the staff is helpful and friendly, and it makes for a homey, familiar feel.

They have all kinds of snowshoes for kids and adults, gators, waterproof shoe covers, poles, pretty much anything you might need to rent for a snowshoe trip.  In addition, if you need one, you can even rent a Kelty child carrier (backpack) to explore the park.

If you are looking for skis, snowboards, or other snow sport equipment, the Estes Park Mountain Shop is one option with rentals available.

Rocky Mountain National Park Soundtrack

This is one of my last little secrets for today.  First of all, remember music is extremely powerful, and your mind will associate it with experience.  Secondly, make an appropriately majestic soundtrack to listen to as you drive the magical roads through the park, and force your kids (and spouse) to listen to it.  Don’t succumb to putting on the Wiggles (while we still love them), a Disney mix, or the Laurie Berkner Band!

You can create your own mix, but might I suggest:

So, I got stuck on soundtracks, but I do recommend The Last of the Mohicans along with some John Denver above the others.  Gotta love it!  Just humor me and try it out, or at least nod.  There you go!

Above all, have some fun on your Rocky Mountain National Park adventure in winter!  In particular, get some exercise, breathe the mountain air, and search for wildlife.  I am certain you will not regret it.


Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park

What? Why bring up summer camping in a post about winter?  Well, if you want a good campsite this summer, and you know when you’ll be in the area, now is the time to book your perfect campsite before all the good spots fill up.  Gone are the days when you can drive in and be pretty certain of finding a campsite.  Dream, plan, and book your trip on-line here!

Estes Park Hikes for Kids

Estes Park hikes for kids, mountain with golden aspens

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