Visit the Corning Museum of Glass with kids

Visit the Corning Museum of Glass with kids

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

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

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

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

Where is Corning, New York?

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

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

What is the Corning Museum of Glass?

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

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

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

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

Make your own glass art

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

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

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

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

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

Glass etching project

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

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

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

Glass demos

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

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

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

Corning Museum of Glass upper level #cmog #corningny

Explore the Corning Museum of Glass with kids

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

Make a glass pumpkin at CMOG #corningny #glasspumpkin

My favorite area of the Corning Museum of Glass

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

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

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

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

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

We love the ASTC Passport Program!

Visit Niagara Falls with kids!

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

A glass art family tradition

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

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

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

I’d love to see them!

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

Owego New York: Top Things To Do

Owego New York: Top Things To Do

Preview: I truly fell in love with the beautiful and historic Tioga County, New York. In this article, you’ll find my favorite things to do in Owego New York.

What are the top places that come to mind when you say, New York? Of course, there’s New York City with Long Island, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and more. All fascinating places with their own cultures within the city in their own right. But what of the rest of the state? If we get out of the big city what do you think of? You might name Niagara Falls, but if you’re not from the area I want to introduce you to one of the friendliest, most beautiful, and definitely historic counties in the state, Tioga County.

Believe me, you will want to visit this hidden gem! Especially if you drink in history like I do, or if you just want to eat and drink well and enjoy yourself, Owego is a fabulous find!

Did you know I walked in the same places as Teddy Roosevelt? Looked at the same beautiful Susquehanna River and walked in and around the same beautiful buildings he did? My inner history nerd jumped up and down with joy the entire time I was there.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored travel post for which I received financial compensation and/or complimentary travel accommodations. All opinions are my own.

Things to do in Owego New York. Reasons to love Tioga County. #experiencetioga #artstrailtioga #15thingsowego #belikebelva #iloveny #myflxtbex #tbex

Where is Owego New York?

Owego New York is a village located in south-central New York, in Tioga County, USA near the border with Pennsylvania. It’s on the edge of the beautiful Finger Lakes region and only about a 45-minute drive from the Elmira/Corning Airport or 3 and a half to 4 hours from New York City. I would suggest getting a rental car to explore the entire area if you don’t drive in yourself, just to make your stay more flexible.

 

Top things to do in Owego New York

Explorer Momma in Owego New York with Jim and his antique car. #experiencetioga #artstrailtioga #15thingsowego #belikebelva #iloveny #myflxtbex #tbex

 

1. The Belva Lockwood Inn

 

Belva Lockwood Inn, as featured on House Hunters. #belikebelva #experiencetioga #15thingsowego #familytravel #explorermomma

Belva Lockwood quote #belikebelva #15thingsowego #explorermommaHave you heard of Belva Lockwood? I, who at times obsess on history and the women’s rights movement, had not. But never fear, let’s remedy that injustice. Belva Lockwood was born on October 24, 1830, neither to wealth or privilege or any real hope of a good education. She persevered against hostility and became the first woman admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court after successfully lobbying to admit women lawyers. She was bold and ran for president, not once but twice, for the Equal Rights Party.

For a time Belva Lockwood ran a school in Owego New York before she moved to Washington D.C. to pursue her political career. That school was at this very property, recently renovated and now being turned into the fabulous Belva Lockwood Inn. Can I tell you a little secret? I got to tour the property and heard the Belva Lockwood story from the owners Ike and Julie Lovelass themselves, recently featured on House Hunters, (another thing I love). Check out that episode here!

Truly, I cannot WAIT for it to be finished later this year so I can come back to stay and do some more exploring. If you want to be among the first to stay at the Belva Lockwood Inn, be sure to take advantage of the $100 voucher for an overnight stay (30% off) you can get it here (as long as it’s offered!).

 

2. Walking tours – Historic Homes, Evergreen Cemetery, Courthouse Square

Owego New York War Memorial #experiencetioga #owego #warmemorial #explorermomma

There are several walking tours of Owego with brochures available at numerous locations around town. The Tioga County Visitor’s Center is located at 80 North Avenue, Owego, New York and is certain to have them. To begin I’d suggest the Courthouse Square Walking Tour where you’ll learn about the Tioga County Courthouse, the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Veterans Memorial, and more!

When you enter Owego you will also immediately notice the beautiful historic homes along the streets. There is conveniently a cell phone self-guided walking tour of Owego’s Historic Homes! All you have to do is start at the Susquehanna River Bridge and Front Street and dial 607-345-4080. There are also maps and brochures available for this tour. I love learning about the people and the stories behind the old buildings!

If you’re really interested in the people who lived in the area there’s also an Evergreen Cemetery Walking Tour where you’ll learn about characters such as Lyman Park Truman, 1829-1881, the “Millionaire Banker of Owego”. Introduce yourself to naturalist author J. Alden Loring, 1871-1847 who traveled with Teddy Roosevelt on his year-long African safari and Dr. Helen Dean King, 1869-1955 second only to Marie Curie of France in her achievements in genetics and embryology at the turn of the century, one of the few women to hold a professorship in research work.

 

3. The Cellar

The Cellar Restaurant Owego NY #myflxtbex #ketorestaurant #experiencetioga #explorermomma

With all that walking you’re going to need some sustenance! I highly recommend the locally owned restaurant, the Cellar on the River. They have their traditional menu items that have been on the menu for 10 years or more, such as the Lobster Thermidor Fondue (please try this as it’s absolutely amazing!). Also, they’re always trying new menu items and actually smoke their own meats and fish for dishes. As you may know, I eat keto, and the Cellar Tap had awesome options like pastrami and swiss with house-made Guinness mustard, salmon lettuce cups with caper cream, smoked tuna salad stuffed tomatoes, and more.

The Cellar Tap is the front seating area with a bar near the street, but there’s more formal dining in the back and beautiful Susquehanna Riverview Dining Room. Who doesn’t want to enjoy their meal with an amazing view of the river? Top it all off with some fresh berries and champagne sabayon and you’ll be one happy traveler.

 

4. Tioga Arts Council Events – Cloud Croft Studios

Cloud Croft Studios Owego, NY #experiencetioga #cloudcroftstudios #owegoarts #explorermomma

Owego also has an active and impressive creative arts community. The Tioga Arts Council appears to do an amazing job cultivating the local arts and celebrating artists. I was lucky enough to attend an exhibition at the picturesque Cloud Croft Studios, an almost story-book location with a beautifully updated barn and swimming pond, perfect for fishing. I have relatives who are professional artists, and this place and the wonderful people who welcomed me there reminded me of my own family. For a moment, my inner Bob Ross awakened and I longed to paint and return to my father’s old workbench to perfect my stained-glass techniques. Do visit and support any of the local exhibitions.

 

5. Riverow Bookshop

Riverow Bookshop Owego New York #experiencetioga #ilovebookshops #reading #explorermomma #explorermommatravel

I am a book nerd, lover, obsessor, whatever title you want to place on it. Who doesn’t absolutely love to look through local bookstores? In the Riverow Bookshop you can peruse THREE floors of books and enjoy tea or a glass of wine while you do so. Does that not just sound like heaven? Take an hour or two, or an entire afternoon and just relax and commune with the books, or talk with the store owner and helpers, take your pick.

What trip to New York is complete without a visit to Niagara Falls?

Epic things to do at Niagara Falls with kids #niagarafalls #familytravel #stateparks #explorermomma

6. Take a ride with Jim and go antique shopping

Jim's tour of Owego New York #owegoantiques #earlyowego #iloveny #explorermomma #explorermommatravel

Is antique shopping your thing? I adore antique shopping and can be drawn in for hours looking at items and thinking about their past owners and uses. It can take hours for me to find that perfect souvenir or necessary item for my kitchen, and I drink in every minute of it. When you’re in Owego, be sure to stop in to the Early Owego Antique Center. You’ll find quality antiques and interesting stories about the area. And if you’re really lucky you might talk the owner into showing you his antique car or even giving you a ride around town! Everyone at the store is amazingly friendly and full of pride and stories about historic Owego.

 

7. Calaboose Grille

Calaboose Grille, Owego New York #15thingsowego #experiencetioga #hauntedhistorytrail #explorermomma #explorermommatravel

Are you looking for a dining experience unlike any other? How would you like to eat in an old jail cell? Why not, I say! The Calaboose Grille is dripping with character and good food. “Calaboose” is evidently an old Cajun slang term for jail, and the restaurant maintains that atmosphere and much of the original architecture with the bars still on the windows and cell outlines, but with a quirky modern twist. In addition, it’s also a stop on the Haunted History Trail of New York State so be sure to ask about the mysterious occurrences like glasses moving around and pictures flying off of walls! Gasp.

 

8. The Owego Riverwalk

Beautiful Susquehanna River, Owego New York #susquehanna #riverwalk #15thingsowego #explorermomma #explorermommatravel

If you have some extra time during your stay in Tioga County, get out to enjoy nature and get some exercise! The impressive Susquehanna River is a huge part of life in Owego and locals and visitors alike love the beautifully landscaped Owego Riverwalk. Walk from Draper Park to Ahwaga Park, watch for birds along the water, take some photos, or go fishing! I was shown a black and white photo of one of the old-time riverboats that used to travel up and down the river like you’d think of in a Mark Twain book. Truly, I can just imagine it, the circular paddle at the back, maybe a dinner cruise? There may be a business opportunity there!

 

9. Tioga County History Museum

Tioga History Museum, muskets #tiogahistorymuseum #15thingsowego #experiencetioga #artstrailtioga #explorermomma

The Tioga County Historical Society and Museum was founded in 1914. The museum is located at 100 Front Street in Owego and is open from 10am-4pm Wednesday through Saturday. The museum has a variety of galleries and exhibits, many focused on military history, and there’s an impressive portrait of Abraham Lincoln. One display I found fascinating, was the story of a man who was in attendance at Ford’s Theater the night Lincoln was shot and his experience trying to help the President. His clothes, now on display at the museum, were covered in the President’s blood and are poignant and heartbreaking in bringing this man’s story to life.

 

 

 

Why I love Owego New York

I think what hit me most about this place is its people. The locals here are passionate about their town and the county’s rich history. They have great pride in their local farm produce, foods, and brews, and serve them up well! Also, one of my favorite characteristics of the people I was fortunate to meet here is the connection to the arts and the true beauty of the rolling hills, ponds, trees, and rivers.

I can tell you if this Colorado girl lived closer, there are so many amazing things to do in Owego New York, experiences to enjoy, it might very well be my go-to weekend getaway. I do hope to return!

Have you been to Owego New York or Tioga County? Tag me in your pics on Instagram @explorermomma. I’d love to see them!

Epic Things to do at Niagara Falls with Kids

Epic Things to do at Niagara Falls with Kids

Did you know if you go to Niagara Falls with kids you’ll experience 3,160 tons of water flowing over Niagara Falls every second? Amazingly enough, the power of Niagara Falls is capable of producing over 4 million kilowatts of electricity. Situated between the two countries, that electricity is shared by both the United States and Canada.

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

What do I love about these natural giants of power? Absolutely everything! Niagara Falls is one of those super epic impressive sites that if it isn’t on your bucket list, then WHY NOT?? To a child, the immensity of the falls is huge and one of those experiences that will stay with them forever. These are the moments I love to capture with my kiddos. As we begin this year of Operation National Parks, let’s start off with one mouth-dropping state park. This is why we travel to national parks, state parks, and the world!

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

Just the basics

Niagara Falls State Park is located on the border between the United States and Canada. It’s easy to get to from Buffalo, New York or Toronto, Ontario from the Canadian side. Because it is a U.S. State Park, it is located on the U.S. side, but you can get amazing views by crossing over into Canada as well.

TIP: I had no trouble parking and was there mid-September on a weekday. However, I was told the lots fill up quickly in summer, especially on weekends, so if you’re traveling with kids or a large group I would do my best to come on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday to avoid lines and crowds.

TIP 2: If you plan to see all the attractions, save some money and purchase a Discovery Pass before you go. It gets you access to Maid of the Mists, Cave of the Winds, and pretty much everything, with about a 35% discount. Check out the Niagara Falls State Park website for the most up to date prices here.

Rainbow over the crash of the falls. Niagara Falls with kids is the perfect family vacation. #operationusparks #explorermomma

Top 10 things to do at Niagara Falls with kids

1. Cave of the Winds

From the parking lot, I meandered over to the Cave of the Winds ticket booth and building. I walked under a grand archway and enjoyed the plants and flowers smartly planned throughout. There was no line, and the friendly woman working the booth gave me a flier of attractions and suggested some options.

TIP: Conveniently, there are also restrooms right next door to the Cave of the Winds ticket area for that 5-year-old’s emergency!

The actual tour is awesome. I’m an admitted history nut and love to spend hours soaking up little bits of random facts and staring at black and white photographs. The beginning of the Cave of the Winds tour is for the general public, and presents a visual experience through displays and then a short film. It is very well done and designed to make the history of the falls come alive to not just the interested history buff, but for the energetic 12-year-old boy, or anyone.

Hurricane Deck at the falls. Cave of the Wind is a must-see experience with kids. #operationusparks #explorermomma

From there you walk over to get on the elevator to take you down to the walkway at the bottom of the falls. You’re given souvenir sandals to wear and keep (the 12-year-old boy I mentioned was super-excited about this), a bag to protect your own shoes, and a yellow poncho to protect you from the water spray. Wander around. I highly recommend it. It’s amazing!

2. Trolley

Take the Niagara Falls trolley with the family. #operationusparks #explorermomma

The trolley is a fabulous option for families to take to the major attractions and sites all over the park. You can leave your car, save your feet, and the kids love the novelty of taking the trolley to each place. All aboard!

3. Maid of the Mist

Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist boat tour. #operationusparks #explorermomma

Maid of the Mist is another must-do at Niagara Falls with kids. This time you get a blue poncho and a tourist-filled boat takes you lazily down the river past flora and fauna past Bridal Falls, Cave of the Winds, and then into the spray of the mighty Horseshoe Falls. From the bank, it looks as if the boat’s enveloped by the water at the bottom of the falls. It’s an amazing experience for sure and a great memory for kids.

4. Niagara Fall Observation Tower

While you’re at the Maid of the Mists, be sure to ride the elevator up to the Niagara Falls Observation Tower. There are some stairs to the top, but you’re rewarded with fabulous views. In addition, should you have a young up and coming bird watcher with you, this is the perfect location to see some of the local peregrine falcons, bald eagles, and other birds. We search for these birds everywhere we go thanks to our friends the Wild Kratts so this is a huge hit with our family.

The Niagara Gorge has officially been designated an Audubon Important Bird Area (IBA).

Niagara Falls with the Maid of Mist boat below. #operationuspark #explorermomma

5. Aquarium of Niagara

The Aquarium of Niagara is always a hit with kids who love marine animals. Check out the Penguin Coast exhibit and see some sharks! With over 40 exhibits you’re sure to find the California sea lion or seahorse.

6. Hiking Trails and the Discovery Center

Does your family love to hike? Briefly check out the Discovery Center then pick one of the many hikes to explore. There are convenient signs posted around with the distance of each hike, difficulty, and age appropriateness. It’s super-easy to find the best one for you as an individual or a group with different levels.

7. Walking Tour App

Do you have a teenager attached to their phone with you? Did you know the Niagara Fall State Park has its own Walking Tour app? It’s a great thing to put that pre-teen or teen in charge of downloading the app and giving the family the information it sends to you as you complete the walking tour. Just search for Official Niagara Falls Tour in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. There’s information on 17 sites as you make your way around the park and an interactive map. Depending on where you go it can even send coupons for discounts on ice cream, souvenirs, and more. Click here to learn more about the app.

Flowers with Niagara Falls mist in the background. #operationusparks #explorermomma

8. Niagara Adventure Theater

Okay, you’ve walked, hiked, and are planning to bike. Do you need a rest? The Niagara Adventure Theater provides a little break in your active schedule. When it’s time for a rest, stop at the Niagara Falls State Park Visitor Center. There you can view the half-hour presentation of “Niagara: Legends of Adventure” full of daredevils, stories, and history. It’s air-conditioned and a good place to relax for a while.

9. Biking the State Park

While I did not bike, a family with older kids can have a wonderful time biking around the state park. As you finish with the Adventure Theater look for the rentals tents just outside the Visitor Center. There are different kinds of bikes on offer, even kids bikes for ages 7-13. Ask about the best bike routes or explore on your own.

Here you can also rent wheelchairs, strollers, and kid wagons. I love that this gives everyone access and opportunity to explore the park in their own way!

10. Fireworks and Illumination days

Fireworks and illumination. Family travel at Niagara Falls. #operationusparks #explorermomma
Bryan Goff

If you’re going to get the family out at night, the fireworks and Niagara Falls’ illumination days are spectacular and very popular. Kids love the fireworks and the different displays of color on the water.

Travel Stories

I love people watching when you travel. It’s fun to see the families, individuals, and couples and imagine, what brought them to this place at this time? For example, I ran into a couple at the Cave of the Winds last week. Evidently, I’m fairly approachable being a mom, generally with at least a hint of a smile, and the ability to handle an iPhone, because I get asked all the time to take pictures for people.

This particular couple wanted their picture under the falls at Hurricane Deck, so I took the traditional smiling pose. “Great”, she says, “thanks so much!”

They gave each other a quick kiss before coming back to get the phone from me, and I managed to capture that moment with the kiss under the falls. The woman looked at the photo with the kiss, and a gigantic smile lit up her face. “This is absolutely perfect!” she says. “We’re on our honeymoon, and I’m blowing this one up to frame!”

You never know how you can make someone’s day! It definitely was a great addition to mine!

Join us for Operation U.S. Parks!

Get your free U.S. National Parks pass and join us on the U.S. Parks journey.

Congratulations! Free US National Parks pass. #operationusparks #explorermomma

Books and shows with Niagara Falls

It’s always fun to tie something kids know to their travels. If my son sees something on TV or we read a book about it beforehand, that prior knowledge makes it all that much more interesting when you actually visit. For example, “Mommy! This is where Trek fed the baby Spinosaurus!”

Films and shows


Niagara Falls With Kids Books


Are you going to Niagara Falls with kids?

Niagara Falls is one of these magical places on earth that creates an inner joy and excitement to those who experience it. Last week when I visited, I could feel the enthusiasm in people all around me! Travel establishes a bond or camaraderie with those near you like few things can. Also, it’s another teaching point for me to show my kids how to interact with others and be kind to everyone when you’re traveling or just visiting a local event.

Have you been to Niagara Falls? Tag me in your pics on Instagram @explorermomma. I’d love to see them!

Hover over the Pin and click Save for later! Then don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest here!

Niagara Falls with kids. Family travel awesomeness and things to do. #operationusparks #iloveny #explorermomma  The perfect family vacation is Niagara Falls with kids. State Parks and family travel are the best! #operationusparks #everykidinapark #familytravel #explorermomma

Thanks all!

How to get a FREE US National Parks pass

How to get a FREE US National Parks pass

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

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

Impact of U.S. National Parks on kids

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

Kenai Fjords National Park, glacier calving

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

Kenai Fjords National Park, sea lions

What is Operation U.S. Parks for Families?

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

Who will be featured in Operation U.S. Parks

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

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

Get your FREE US National Parks Pass and join us! 

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

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

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

free US National Parks pass, Hand on mouse

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

Congratulations! Free US National Parks pass

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

How to use your free US National Parks Pass

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

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

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

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

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

Lily Ridge Trail with free US National Parks pass

Carlsbad Caverns National Park for Families

10 Musts for visiting Carlsbad Caverns with kids

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

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

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

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

Explore a National Park today!

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

Thanks to all and HAPPY TRAVELS!

Epic Colorado Family Vacations

Epic Colorado Family Vacations

What’s your family tourist destination this summer? Can I suggest several Colorado family vacations? I’m a little biased, but I really think Colorado is the perfect state for family vacations. If you’re a nature person or not, kids THRIVE when they’re outside and near a stream or in the mountains. Whether it’s hiking, fishing, kayaking, riding whitewater rapids, camping, or reading a book by the mountain lake, it’s an ideal spot for kids’ activities and empowerment.

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

Colorado family vacations pin

This summer we’re all about exploring and appreciating our own backyard. By that, I mean a good time to appreciate all the awesome travel destinations nearby our home in northern Colorado! We’ll be heading to Grand Lake for a few days, be doing some camping in various locations, getting the kids out to summer camp with their peers, and doing day trips to Denver. Of course, we have some more travel lined up, but that’s another post. We can’t wait!

Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to start my list of EPIC Colorado family vacations close to home. My own hometown, in fact, Greeley, Colorado. If you haven’t, dive into my blog post linked below, and if you have, still read all about it. With an insider’s perspective, you’re sure to find something new and fun to explore!

Simply EPIC Colorado Family Vacations

Things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids

Breckenridge snowboards with slope in background

Have you been to Breckenridge, Colorado? When you hear the name, what do you think? If you think skiing you’re right on. However, did you know Breckenridge is one of those amazing mountain towns with a TON of stuff to do for families in any season? I have to say I think summer’s my favorite season in Breckenridge. The old town’s fabulous, and did you know they hold an excellent summer music festival? If you are at all into concerts every night with beautiful mountain scenery, this is the place for you!

We were in Breckenridge, Colorado most recently in spring at the end of the ski season. There was still a good dose of spring snow on the ground, but we found a ton of fun family activities even without skiing. To learn more things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids, see the blog post here.

What to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

Colorado family vacations, Grand Lake, Old Baldy

Grand Lake, Colorado is one of my favorite places on earth, and I’ve been to visit very nearly every summer since I was about six years old! There are many places I might tire of going that often, but not Grand Lake. For us as a family, it’s the perfect place to relax, be in nature, and enjoy the small mountain town and its residents. Kids can build castles on the beach, swim, fish, make s’mores, play on the playground, hike, marvel at the moose walking by the cabin, and just be a kid in the Rocky Mountains. As a mom, this is an incredibly relaxing trip because the kids are so easily occupied, and I can enjoy my morning coffee staring out over the lake with Mount Baldy (Mount Craig) looking down!

Learn more about Grand Lake, Colorado and read the blog post here!

Why we love Estes Park, Colorado

View of Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park, Colorado is another amazing Colorado destination for families. I have SO many memories from my own childhood and now with my own kids in this popular town. If you want to shop, play miniature golf, head out to the local YMCA, and so much more all in a spectacular Rocky Mountain paradise, you need to head here.

We LOVE to get out and hike so click here to see the Best Estes Park hikes for kids.

Half the fun of travel is eating, right? Click here to learn more about Estes Park restaurants with character.

Secrets of Rocky Mountain National Park in winter

Rocky Mountain National Park in winter elk

If you love Estes Park, no doubt the family with also fall in love with Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll find wildlife such as elk, coyotes, or bighorn sheep in any season, and it’s a great place to camp in one of the park campgrounds. We love it any time of year but especially in winter when the crowds are down slightly and you have time to explore.

Read all about what there is to do with kids in Rocky Mountain National Park in winter here.

Planning a trip to New Mexico?

Check out the family-friendly, beautiful Ruidoso, New Mexico!

Ski Apache view, Ruidoso, New Mexico

Things to do in Denver, Colorado with kids

Things to do in Denver, Aquarium entrance

If you fly into Colorado or most of the time even drive, you’ll probably head through our beautiful capital, Denver, Colorado. Denver has SO many amazing things to do with kids like the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Children’s Museum of Denver, the Botanic Gardens, the Butterfly Pavilion, and more! We make day trips fairly often as a family and are so lucky to be nearby to take advantage of all the interactive educational opportunities for kids. Denver is always a great base for a Colorado vacation or a vacation itself.

If you’re heading to Denver check out my articles on:

The PERFECT Denver Zoo trip and

The AMAZING Denver Downtown Aquarium

Visit Santa’s Workshop

Santa's Workshop Colorado elves

Is Christmas the favorite holiday at your house? Well, you will want to make the day trip from Colorado Springs to North Pole, Colorado. Santa’s Workshop is a theme park set in the mountains where it’s always Christmastime and full of fun! Don’t expect a modern day Disney World or Six Flags, this is a place built in the 60’s, and it truly feels like a nostalgic step back in time. Be a kid again. There are SO many rides for the young and old; it’s a great day out.

Click here to see more and get my tips for visiting Santa’s Workshop

Family camping tips and free printable packing checklist

Campsite sunrise view, feature

Near all of these scenic family travel destinations, there are opportunities for camping. If you have an RV or love tent camping, you’ll find the perfect spot. So pull out those sleeping bags and hiking gear and let’s get ready for summer!

Sign up for the Explorer Momma newsletter and get the free printable camp packing checklist as a bonus! Check out my family camping tips and free printable packing checklist here

What to do as a family in Greeley, Colorado

Centennial Village, Greeley, Colorado

Recently, I was given the opportunity to collaborate with a fellow blogger and guest post on her website A Book Lover’s Adventures. Do you know what I was asked to do? Write a blog post for tourists from an insider’s view of my own hometown. How many of you think about your hometown as a travel destination? To be honest, I certainly hadn’t much. I LOVE my hometown and am proud of it, but it’s always been Denver or the nearby Rocky Mountains that seem to be the more natural tourist draw. If you have the chance to come through I know you’ll love it too.

Click over to A Book Lover’s Adventures to read all about Greeley, Colorado and other hometown tourists!

Are you convinced? Go Colorado family vacations

I hope you plan several perfect Colorado family vacations or camping trips! The sun will lift your mood, the mountains will call, the trees will rustle, and if you’re like me, you’ll be in your happy place. I think it’s so important to teach kids to appreciate nature and take care of it for the future. Also, they will love, or at least appreciate, the joys of an active outdoor lifestyle and have the chance to embrace it for themselves.

Now, I have to admit I haven’t covered nearly enough of the state and need to remedy that. Where else are your favorite Colorado family travel destinations?

 

Tell me in the comments, where shall we adventure next?

Things To Do In Breckenridge, Colorado With Kids

Things To Do In Breckenridge, Colorado With Kids

Are you planning a mountain vacation? Do you need things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids? There’s always skiing, but what else is there to do in winter or even summer? We’ve got you covered! Recently we had the opportunity to visit Breckenridge for a long weekend and had a blast with the kids.

This page contains affiliate links.

This past weekend we got a deal on a hotel and decided it would be a fun weekend to explore Breckenridge but not make it a ski weekend. We wanted to relax, hang out as a family, and have fun! There are not a lot of places in the world with a better view than Breckenridge so my arm doesn’t need a lot of twisting to head on up there.

As a kid, I remember heading up to Breckenridge usually in the summer. My favorite thing to do was to ride the alpine slide, or sleds on rails, down the ski slopes. Most of the ski areas around have one as a part of their summer activities to draw in tourists.

Another thing I’ve always loved about the town is that there’s ALWAYS some festival or event going on. The Breckenridge Music Festival is fabulous if you are at all interested in orchestral music. One year, I think I was a freshman in high school, I attended a weeklong music camp and focused on flute and piano all day. Every evening of the camp we attended the nightly music festival performance, and I was in heaven.

Things to do in Breckenridge, CO with kids

8 things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids

This last time we were in Breckenridge, it was the end of the ski season. Still a good snow, but at the very end before it starts to turn to mud. Since we weren’t determined to ski the whole time we were able to find quite a few great activities to do as a family. If you head up I hope you try some of these things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado too!

1. Breckenridge Gondola

First of all, the Gondola. The Gondola is a great thing to do with kids once or more a day because hey, it’s FREE!! During the ski season, it runs from 9 am to 6 pm seven days a week. You can ride from the base parking all the way up with stops at Shock Hill, Peak 7, and Peak 8. It’s great even if you’re not skiing to go up to the top to eat, explore and see the views, check out the new hotels, or to take it up to go snowshoeing.

Eight people can fit in the enclosed gondola cars, and I found everyone in our cars always eager to encourage each other and share their experience so far in town. A lot of the people we ran into were escaping offices in Denver for the weekend and just could not quit smiling they were so happy to be up in the mountains. The Breckenridge Gondola is one of many awesome things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids.

Breckenridge gondola winter view

2. High Line Railroad Park and Playground

189 Boreas Pass Road, Breckenridge

Do you have a Thomas the Tank Engine obsessed child in your household? While my son is not quite so into it as he once was, this High Line Railroad Park was a HUGE hit. On display, just outside in the park, you’ll find Engine No. 9, one of the few remaining narrow gauge engines that once braved the precarious mountain passes. Think Skarloey and Peter Sam. As a bonus, it’s even fitted with a huge snowplow just like Thomas is always grumbling about. If that means nothing to you just move on, but it’s a fun tie-in for young kids! 😉

Breckenridge narrow gauge steam engine

You’ll also find a caboose and various other cars and memorabilia around. It’s so much fun to see the engine detail up close and to try to figure out how it all works. We actually easily explored the area with snow on the ground, and it was a much-needed play time for my kids. The playground next to the trains was a lot of fun, a good way to get in some more exercise and laughter.

3. Stephen C. West Ice Arena

If your kids want to try out some ice skating, head over to the Steven C. West Ice Arena. It’s right next to the High Line Railroad Park and has a ton of fun options for everyone. They’re open seven days a week, but I would call (970-547-9974) or check the website beforehand to verify the daily schedule. However, there are choice activities for the entire family. Join the free skate indoors or outdoors. Maybe you’re into figure skating or want to try your hand at curling! They have something for you!

Ice arena & railroad park, Breckenridge

Love Colorado mountain towns?

Read all about the perfect family-friendly mountain getaway in Grand Lake, Colorado!

Grand Lake, Colorado best of 2017

4. Carter Park Sled Hill

300 S. High Street, Breckenridge

Are you still looking for things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids? I hope so because this is a good one! We got an insider tip from a woman working at our hotel about this great sledding hill just over at Carter Park. We brought a sled with us, but the hotel also had stacks of them you could borrow while you were there.

Things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado sledding

Many locals use this hill for a fun afternoon of sledding. However, on the day we went out there, the sledding hill had only two other families out there with us. I was shocked because it was one of the busiest, craziest days of the ski season, and the ski slopes were more than a little packed.

Plan to get your exercise because yes, you have to walk back up the hill. It didn’t seem to bother the kids too much, and in fact, they wanted to stay on there into the evening! Unfortunately, my husband wore out pulling the child up the hill in one of the sleds, but while they did that I got to admire the magnificent view. This is a place to see. Have fun!

5. Ready Paint Fire

Okay, switching gears here. Do you like to paint? Make pottery? Fire things in kilns? Well then! Take a rest from all the outdoor activities and check out Ready Paint Fire. Have you always wanted to make a mosaic or fuse glass together as abstract art?

This place is awesome! Truly, it’s a place to be enjoyed by the entire family ages 3-80. Plan to spend a couple of hours and make a piece of art and share fun and laughter with the family. It’s a very different activity and one the kids can really get into.

Tip: Check the local guidebooks found at most hotels for coupons because there is a studio fee along with different costs depending on what you want to do!

Breckenridge Rail Road Park view

6. Breckenridge Recreation Center

If the kids get sick of the hotel pool or yours doesn’t have one, you need to visit the Breckenridge Recreation Center. After all the fun in the snow switch to warm and water! What kid (or dad) doesn’t like an excellent water slide? It’s obviously perfect in summer too.

If swimming’s not your thing, they also have an indoor rock-climbing wall, gymnasium, racquetball court, indoor track, and aerobic/dance studios. I even heard mention of fencing classes. Check out their website for complete information here. Tempting!

7. Hiking, snowshoeing, and bike trails

Breckenridge is well-known for being great for bike-riding. There are paved trails through town and well-maintained trails all around the area. My family loves to snowshoe, and so in winter, many of the bike trails double as awesome snowshoe hikes. It depends on the age of your kids, but even a short walk or hike can be memorable for them up in the beauty of the mountains. My son tends to remember it for making him TIRED, but you know, it’s good for them! Am I right?!

Breckenridge bicycle path with snow

Just next to the gondola you’ll find one of the paved bike trails, and you can easily get a map of those online, from a local store, or your hotel. For some snowshoe trail options, click here. I remember when I was younger and came up with a good friend of mine, we brought our bikes. Her dad loaded all the bikes and drove us to the top of one of the slopes, and we got to ride our bikes downhill all the way back to town. I thought it was such a good idea, thus avoiding the difficult uphill climb!

8. Dog Sledding or Snowmobiling

When you were young did you read Jack London and imagine you were going to be in that great sled dog race the Iditarod? Scott O’Dell, Jack London, and several other authors I read gave great accounts of the preparation and entire Iditarod experience, and at about age 10 I was determined to participate.


While unfortunately, that dream didn’t come true, did you know there are places where you can at least go dog sledding? Oh, yes, my friend. You too can mush the dogs and pose for an action photo of you seriously fighting the cold and bonding with your trusted sled dogs.

At Good Times Adventures you can take the whole family dog sledding or snowmobiling. This is one of my favorite things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado. For more information see here!

BONUS!

2 Below Zero

I know I said 8, but here’s another possible awesome thing to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids! If you head on over to 2 Below Zero you will have an amazing sleigh ride or chuckwagon ride (depends on the season) with a chuckwagon dinner, musical and/or comedy entertainment and fun! The winter sleigh ride is about 2 hours and 15 minutes or so and includes a sleigh ride, dinner, and musical entertainment. My family LOVES these kinds of places, and it’s so awesome to make an event out of your location, its cultural history, and FOOD! 

Breckenridge sunny day, snowy mountain

What other things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado will you try out?

I absolutely LOVE being in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Moreover, the more you get kids out in nature the better I tend to think. Teach them an appreciation of nature, a love of exercise and the outdoors, and they have an outlet for life. So many problems can be solved with a good hike and time to think.

Where are your favorite family vacation destinations to get the family outside and moving?

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