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!

Pin this article to save and share!

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!

Family Camping Checklist And Must Haves

Family Camping Checklist And Must Haves

Now is the perfect time to be talking about family camping preparations because hey it’s just decided to start SNOWING! Do you know what? I’ll let you in on a little secret. Go ahead and go through your family camping checklist. There’s never a bad time to plan for a camping trip, and I’m in Colorado so since it’s 25 degrees Farenheit right now, tomorrow it should be 74 again, right? Because that’s what happens here!

This post contains affiliate links which means I make a very small percentage if you click through and purchase something. All opinions are strictly my own!

Family camping checklist, campfire pin

Let me first tell you what can happen on a badly planned family camping trip. Last summer we decided on a whim to grab that camping site that had just been released on the website in Rocky Mountain National Park at the Moraine Park Campground. What luck! That place is crazy busy in the summer and we hadn’t booked ours months in advance. We threw the tent, some food, and the kids in the car and set off to enjoy the mountains.

The BAD Camping Experience

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my Rocky Mountains, but what ensued was NOT a pleasurable experience. I did NOT use a family camping checklist. Our campsite was in the middle of a group of sites in the large campground, although at first, we didn’t think it was too close to others. We got our tent up and sent the kids to look for pinecones and bugs. Unfortunately, there’s not a river or lake or a lot to do at that campsite, and we were sort of pinned in. We’d forgotten our normal card games and had to drive out of the campground to do much hiking or other activity.

That night the ground was hard, the hole in our camping mattress painfully evident. Not that we could sleep anyway because it was so cold one of the people at the next campsite turned their car on and ran the heater ALL NIGHT. YES!! All night the hum of the car and the burr of it when the heater came back on caused none of us to get much sleep. By morning we were so tired, grouchy, and picking at one another that we picked up things and went home. It was not like a bear attacked our food and destroyed our campsite, it was just NOT the ideal family camping trip in nature.

SO what did that teach us? PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!! With kids, my sanity revolves around checklists and planning and preparing for every eventuality. Of course, so many people’s personalities are different, but even a little planning can’t hurt!

Prep the kids and test your gear with a trial run

Rocky Mountain National Park tree view

What do you mean by a trial run you may be thinking!? I mean exactly that. If you haven’t used your camping gear for a while, pull it all out and build up a grand event for the kids to CAMP IN THE BACKYARD!! Ooh! Try out some of your favorite or new camping recipes modified for your kitchen, but take it outdoors to eat in camping chairs by the tent. Test out your headlamps, flashlights, even the camp stove if you use one. Also, I like to shake out the tent and sleeping bags to air them a bit and make sure they’ve all been cleaned since the downpour and mud slosh of the last trip!

Another thing that I love about a backyard campout is that it’s a great trial run for the kids! If you have young ones who’ve never camped before it can be scary. In the backyard, it still can be but with easy access to the house. Once the tent and set up is more familiar to a child, they will be more comfortable with it in a foreign setting, your desired campground. Baby steps, right?

Family camping checklist picture, campsite

Reserve your campsite in advance

If you are headed to a national park or a popular campground, be sure to book your campsite online in ADVANCE. The Rocky Mountain National Park campgrounds open up reservations six months in advance, and if you’re planning to go there I suggest you book it as soon as you can.

First, choose your campground. What activities are there around for the kids to do? Do you want to be by a good fishing spot, a lake or a river? Do you want to be close to accessible hikes or areas for wildlife viewing? Or do you just want a space to hang out, play cards, talk, and hang out around a campfire? Some campgrounds even have games like horseshoes, putt-putt, and other things children like to do. Do you need electricity and a bathroom? Decide, what is it you want out of the campsite area?

Second, study the campground map and look at the campsite pictures if there are any. Are you a family that likes to be in the middle of things among a lot of people at a party or more separated with space and a good view? Book your campsite accordingly! If you’ve never been there, consult someone who has or Google reviews for the specific campground. Another thing, be sure the review is recent so you know there hasn’t been a fire or attack of pine beetles or something to drastically change the area!

Third, book your campsite on-line! Find the website for the campground you’ve chosen and get your reservation booked!!

Love to go hiking with your kids?

Check out these awesome Estes Park, Colorado hikes for kids and family!

Estes Park hikes for kids, mountain with golden aspens

Camping Gear

When you’re looking at gear for a camping trip a lot of it depends on the length of time you’re going to be camping and what exactly you’re wanting to do. I’ve admitted I’m no longer a hardcore, a week at a time camper with kids, but I do like a two-night trip. When you do your trial run fun backyard campout you can determine what gear you still may need to get. I would really LOVE to have this entire awesome new tent setup from Cinch!, with solar charging hookups and super easy setup and takedown. However, for our short-term camping, our old tent will probably do just fine! What kind of tent’s on your family camping checklist?

Cinch!

I highly recommend downloading my family camping checklist. You can write all over it, add things, and cross things off as you need. As a mom going in a million directions I know I need something written down clearly defining the next step. Truly, I’ve learned because I’ve had too many experiences where I’ve said oh, I’ll remember that! And then, of course, I don’t, and it gets left in the storage area in the basement.


Sign up for Explorer Momma’s newsletter and as a bonus download this amazing family camping checklist today!

Family camping checklist preview

Family Camping Food

Food! There are so many fun camping recipes on Pinterest I encourage you to find a few new ones to please the family. As a kid, I still remember how much fun it was to wrap my packet of food up in foil and throw it in the fire to cook. How in the world did the adults let me do that?! As a strict rule follower, it was a great release and rebellion for me without really rebelling. Of course, there’s always a traditional s’more to be had as well!

If you are wanting to cook with a campfire or just sit around one, always check for fire restrictions or bans at your campsite before you go!

With food, plan out your days. What will you eat for each meal? What are your snacks? Will it spoil or need to be kept iced? There are a lot of things to think about with food, and my preferred short trips make it a lot easier than a couple week campout, although that is totally doable also.

Another thing to think about is how you can keep your food away from the wildlife in the area. Can you contain it at night so the bears don’t sniff out your camp? (Often there’s a locked “bear box” assigned to campsites to keep food if that’s a problem in the area). Maybe you can tie all the food in a bag up in a tree or in your car? Although, I’ve heard of bears getting into cars as well! Talk to the ranger or campsite director about best practices in regard to food storage.

PLEASE! When you plan out your food, remember you also have to cart out all your trash or find an appropriate receptacle for it!! Leave nature and your campsite as it was when you found it!

Tent camping in the Rocky Mountains

Things to do while camping

I mentioned this briefly before, but think about what things you want to do with the kids or friends while you’re there. Find out what’s available and what will work for you all to do. Add the necessary items to your family camping checklist.

  1. Where are the best nearest hikes?
  2. Can you fish in the area? Who all needs a fishing license?
  3. Can you boat or kayak?
  4. Bring card games to play during a downpour in your tent!
  5. Frisbee, baseball, soccer, or other sports
  6. Plan a nature scavenger hunt for the kids.
  7. Give the kids an old camera and tell them to take pictures of as many different: leaves, pine cones, bugs, birds, animals, or whatever’s around, they can. My son LOVES this and can do it for hours.
  8. Create a nature journal. This is more my daughter’s style. She loves to draw and write about the things she sees. I don’t like to give it too many rules so she can be creative, but you can give suggestions. Why don’t you draw all the flowers, butterflies, or animals you find? Can you imagine a story about that tree and write it out?

Family camping trip, kids hiking

What’s left on your family camping checklist?

Family camping and camping on your own or with friends are two ENTIRELY different animals. I used to love to pack in all my gear and tent on my back 5 miles or more to the backcountry campsite where there wouldn’t be anyone else around. Peaceful. Quiet. Serene.

Add young kids to that equation, and you are headed for a disaster of high magnitude!! Now, as a family, our ideal camping experience is 2 nights at a campground site. In addition, this site is close enough to walk back to the car, but separated enough from the other campsites so you still feel the peace of the great outdoors.

You can have an amazing experience, but it does take some patience and planning. And flexibility, which is what I always have to work on!! I hope you printed your family camping checklist and will use it this summer!

Get your family outside and run! Soak in the sun and stare at the stars. Give it a chance, and planned properly with a family camping checklist, you will LOVE your time and memories made.

Now here’s a question for you! Where are some of your favorite family camping spots all over the world?

 Family camping checklist preview1

Things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

Things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

Are you ready to start planning the perfect summer family vacations and adventures? A lot of times I start planning much earlier in the year, but when spring hits I allow myself to really dig into the details and begin to daydream about summer days on the lake. We love to find new things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado, our absolute favorite lake retreat!

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Did you know Grand Lake is the largest natural lake (meaning not man-made) in Colorado? Also, it’s on the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park so can be a great base to avoid the crowds of Estes Park and explore not only the Grand Lake area but the Park as well. There are just so many things to love about Grand Lake, from the historic boardwalk to the burger and ice cream shop on the beach, to the spectacular hikes nearby.

So let’s dig in. What are some of the best things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado as a family?

Things to do in Grand Lake Colorado

Awesome things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

Why do I love Grand Lake so much? For me, it’s the perfect little mountain town on the lake with charm and old-time character. It’s not pretentious, and nearly everyone’s friendly and ready to enjoy themselves on the lake. In addition, it’s super kid-friendly. Did I mention it’s also the most beautiful idyllic spot?? So, if you get tired of reading a book in your beach chair by the lake or your kids drag you away, here are some fun and entertaining things to do.

Trail Ridge Road

To get to Grand Lake, we like to head west from Estes Park, through Rocky Mountain National Park. The highlight of this route is the awesome Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous road in the United States. Let me tell you, there are some amazing views to be had, and I highly recommend taking your time. Stop to take pictures, explore the visitor’s center, and take the Alpine Ridge trail hike at the top. It’s not a long hike, only .6 miles roundtrip; however, you gain 200 feet so can be a bit of a climb. Slow down and breathe in the views. You won’t regret it!

Trail Ridge Road, Things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

Play on the beach

Shoveling sand in Grand Lake

Here’s a great way to stay relax and enjoy the view as you read a book and drink your coffee next to the lake. There are a couple of sand beach locations, one in town and open to the public between Grand Lake Marina and Headwaters Marina. We like to stay in one of the cabins in Lemmon Lodge with its own beach and kids’ play structure. Grab a floaty and some sand castle supplies, and the kids are set for the afternoon!

My morning coffee spot Grand Lake, Colorado

Get some hiking on!

There are some awesome hikes around Grand Lake, at many different levels depending on who’s going. I can’t think of many better things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado than some good hikes. Try one out with your family!

Adam’s Falls – easy

Adam's Falls, Things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

From the East Inlet Trailhead, Adam’s Falls is a great short hike with an impressive reward at the end. I like this hike because it’s accessible to nearly everyone, and kids feel a good sense of accomplishment when they reach the falls. When I was little I remember my father hanging off the side taking pictures, and I was scared to death he was going to fall in. I think he enjoyed that. However! Since then they’ve added more stone walls to block off dangerous areas and make it more kid and family friendly. Also, it doesn’t take very long if you need an activity because it’s only .9 miles roundtrip.

Cascade Falls – medium

Grand Lake wildflowers

If you start at the North Inlet Trailhead, Cascade Falls is a good 6.8-mile roundtrip hike with amazing views and falls. I like it because there’s only a 430-foot elevation gain and doable with older kids. In this area, we’ve seen moose and deer and other wildlife so be on the lookout! It’s also a good trail to spot wildflowers along the trail.

Shadow Mountain Lookout – hard

Shadow Mountain Fire Lookout

I’m classifying this hike as hard because it’s difficult for me, and at the ages of 5 and 9 my kids would not get very far. However, it’s a beautiful hike with far-reaching views from the lookout point at the top, and I do recommend it for adults or older, experienced kids. The hike begins at the East Shore Trailhead and is about 9.6 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1,635 feet. Good luck!

View from Shadow Mountain

There are many more hikes around, and it’s always good to ask in one of the local hiking shops which hike is good at the moment. For people who are on them all the time, they can generally tell you which ones are in good shape or difficult to navigate because of snow or mud. I also like to hear which area is their current favorite. You can get some good recommendations!

Are you also headed to Estes Park, Colorado?

Estes Park hikes for kids, mountain with golden aspens

Fishing things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

Fishing is my husband’s favorite activity when we get to Grand Lake. There are great opportunities to catch trout, especially rainbow, brown, and lake trout. I’ve been advised the best time is early morning and the best spot where the river runs into the lake. Of course, there are many great fishing spots from land or even from a boat on the lake. If you forget to purchase a Colorado fishing license, most marinas, fishing tackle shops, and even some gas stations sell them. Currently, kids and seniors fish for free, although seniors must still obtain a license. When you get your license be sure to also grab the year’s Colorado Fishing Brochure containing regulations and information on the area.

Fishing things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

My son told me recently he’s planning to catch a lot of seaweed and sticks because he doesn’t want to put a hook in the fish. A kind soul.

Get out on the lake

There are many options to get you and your family out floating on Grand Lake. Truly, there are so many things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado. As a family, we like to sometimes take the tour boat from the Headwater’s Marina next to the public beach. We like to take it around the lake because the drivers give you the history of the area, lake facts like depths and fishing, and they also point out all the cabins and the famous people who’ve lived there. You’ll also get random facts about which ones are accessible by road or only by boat or snowmobile.

Swimming in Grand Lake Colorado

At several of the marinas, you can rent a canoe, paddleboat, motorboat, pontoon boat, kayak or the newest fad – a stand-up paddleboard (SUP). Have you tried out a stand-up paddleboard? They’re those things that look like big surfboards you stand on with a paddle. I’ve even seen people doing yoga on them, but so far I’ve been a chicken to try one. Therefore, this summer’s the time! I will get out on an SUP, and it’s really not the end of the world if you fall in, right? 😉

Nature hunt

Momma and baby moose, things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

My kids always love to go out on what we call a “nature hunt”. This is one of their favorite things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado. You can do this on a hike, around town, or just as you wander around your cabin. Be on the lookout for animals such as hummingbirds, deer, elk, moose, coyotes. We try to take pictures when we can, and my daughter likes to draw a picture of each animal spotted in your journal. There are also some beautiful wildflowers and plants to see around, and we always love seeing the Colorado state flower, the Columbine.

Kauffman House Museum

I’m a complete history geek and love to check out local museums when we travel. The Kauffman House Museum is conveniently located near the lake just up from the public beach. It was built in 1892 and run as a hotel by the Kauffman family until 1946. Now it’s run by the Grand Lake Area Historical Society as a museum and open most days from 11 am to 5 pm. Check their website here for more information and hours.

The museum is a fun activity for history buffs like myself and for older kids interested in how people lived in the area over 100 years ago.

Holzwarth Historic Site

Another interesting hike and interactive historic site for the family to visit is the Holzwarth Historic Site, also sometimes called Never Summer Ranch. The trailhead and parking area to visit the ranch is located a little over 7 miles north of the Grand Lake Entrance on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s about 1.3 miles roundtrip from the parking lot to visit the site and historic structures.

Holzwarth Historic Site

During the summer, volunteers help visitors connect to the Holzwarth’s story, the German family who immigrated to Colorado and settle the original homestead and began the ranch. They also teach the homestead way of life and what early dude ranches were like on the border of Rocky Mountain National Park. You might even get to have your picture taken in a period giant bearskin coat!

Grand Lake boardwalk and shopping

Another fun activity is to wander up and down visiting the shops along the historic Grand Lake boardwalk. You may be on a mission to find your perfect cabin style souvenir or just window shop, but it’s a must-do activity for our family. There’s also a conveniently located park and play area for kids about midway down the boardwalk, so a good resting place.

There are so many other things you can find to do if you want such as putt-putt golf, bowling, making s’mores, card games, and fun restaurants to try.

Our favorite restaurant – The Fat Cat Cafe

I’ll do another post later on restaurants and food in Grand Lake, but I have to point out the Fat Cat Cafe here too. Of all the wonderful things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado, of course, you have to eat. Do NOT miss the Fat Cat! We absolutely love the food and the people who run this place. Truly, I don’t know how she does it, but the sausage, yes I said breakfast sausage, is to die for. I love pretty much any of the food, but I’d also recommend especially any of the homemade pies. Like the banana cream. The last time I was there I bought a whole one on our way out of town to take home with me it was so good.

Closing

Yesterday I walked around my backyard with my son, just sort of to survey the yard work we need to get done. I was also trying to get him to burn some energy because he’d been going crazy being inside so much lately. Did you know that children actually grow faster in spring than other times of the year? So says the book Spring: A Spiritual Biography of the Season by Schmidt and Felch, and I really believe it to be so. Kids have been cooped up more all winter and are ready to run and grow!

Back to our explorations, we discovered some tulip and crocus leaves starting to peak out through the old leftover fall leaves we planned to clean out. I LOVE spring flowers, lilac bushes starting to bloom, and the sun warming off the chill in the air. It’s spring, and do you know what that means? Yes, indeed, it’s time to plan a trip to Grand Lake, Colorado!

At least, that’s what it means to me. Flowers coming up through the snow are the clear signal I’m allowed to begin dreaming of our June trip to Grand Lake. It’s truly one of my favorite spots on this earth, and I hope you get to visit one day. Try out any or all of these activities, and if you discover something else awesome I’ve left out please give a shout-out in the comments below!

Things to do in Grand Lake Colorado, Mount Baldy

Things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado.

Paris Travel Tips: Let’s Plan a Trip to Paris

Paris Travel Tips: Let’s Plan a Trip to Paris

Ah-ah-ah-AH-achoo! It’s flu season, and it seems like half of my daughter’s school is sick. Literally. We haven’t had the flu but our own personal set of viruses that keep the child out of school and in bed or on the couch. Unfortunately, most of these will keep a kid out of action for at least a week, and believe me they go crazy with boredom. Oh, yes. There’s only so much crafting, TV watching, reading, and homework ignoring one can do! Of course, there are also those days the patient is so sick and out of it they can’t really do anything, but what I’m talking about is that time when they’re almost well but still aren’t allowed back at school because of a fever or other factors. Then it’s time to plan a trip to Paris!

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So what do you do when you run out of things to do for the sick child on the couch? I’m tempted to say let them be bored and figure it out, which is not a terrible suggestion. However, when you’re sick I think a little humoring and encouragement is due! Therefore, what better thing is there to do than plan a trip to Paris??

“Plan a trip to Paris?” you may say, “I’m not going to Paris! Why would I plan a trip there?”

Why?! Well, why not? Paris is ALWAYS a good idea, and basic organizing, trip planning, and budgeting are great skills for kids to learn. You may not actually go on your trip, although I highly suggest it, simply planning and learning about an awesome place like Paris is really a lot of fun.

Let's plan a trip to Paris, Eiffel Tower pin


What exactly do you need to plan?

Airplane Tickets

As far as airplane tickets go, you can book through any number of sources. There are the traditional www.orbitz.com type websites. You can go through a travel agent. Or you can go to the individual airline’s website such as British Airways.

Arc de Triomphe, Let's Plan a Trip to Paris

Where to stay?

There are so many options for places to stay in Paris! Part of the fun of this exercise is to search online for the best Paris hotels or B&Bs.

Hotel Websites

Of course, you could always plan to stay at the Ritz Paris. If money is not an issue there are all sorts of fun websites to explore accommodations in Paris.

Airbnb

Look for good locations on Airbnb. I’ve used Airbnb internationally and nationally and had great experiences with the hosts. If you use my link, and it’s your first time to sign up you’ll even get a $40 travel credit, and who couldn’t use that?! Click here to sign up and get your credit.

If you do choose to book through Airbnb I always suggest selecting a place with many good reviews, not something newly listed. Also, as far as location goes, try to be close to a metro station or within good walking distance to the monuments and places you’d like to see.

Jardin du Luxembourg

Take some time to search

Another option is to simply Google “best hotels for families in Paris” or specifically the style of accommodation you’re looking for. Go to your favorite travel website or look at several such as www.orbitz.com or www.hotels.com or whatever you’ve had success with yourself in the past. As an exercise, it’s fun to look at several and get a variety of options.

Are you going on a road trip soon?

Road trip activities, in the car with feet on the dash

Read all about the Ultimate Road Trip Activities For Kids. Let’s keep them happy and occupied!

What monuments or places would you like to see?

Do some searches. What are you interested in? The history of Paris? Art? Food? Sports? Do you want to see some of the amazing churches in Paris such as Notre-Dame or the dazzling stained glass in Saint Chapelle? Maybe you were a fan of Highlander back in the day (or another show set in Paris 😉 ) and want to see all the places around the city where it was filmed. If nothing else you can plan to have a sword fight with baguettes under a certain bridge with the Eiffel Tower in view.

Sainte Chapelle stained glass windows

There are so many amazing places to see in Paris, famous cafes and restaurants, and ways to grow and learn. Plan to take your time with meals in France and do as the French do. Enjoy each other’s company and delight in the food. Relax and breathe in the culture. It’ll be good for you.

What will your trip cost?


Fill out your free printable Let’s Plan a Trip to Paris! worksheet. Add everything up and see how much your trip will cost. If you wish, add in a budget for food as that’s not included in the basic plan.

It’s not that much now, is it? Make a plan and jump on that airplane. I’ve never regretted traveling to a new place and the amazing new experiences to be had. Take a risk and act on it today! Or simply enjoy a sick day diversion to lift your spirits.

Sign up for Explorer Momma’s newsletter and download the free Let’s Plan a Trip to Paris! worksheet as a bonus!

Let's Plan a Trip to Paris printable preview

 

So, will you plan a trip to Paris?

Are you inspired yet to plan a trip to Paris? Maybe even act on that plan and do some bookings? I love Paris, and there’s nothing like a sick day to make me long to be able to travel. So, step 1, if you’re sick, get better! Step 2, download your Let’s Plan a Trip to Paris printable. Step 3, explore the internet using your printable as a guide, and plan a trip to Paris! Step 4, go to Paris!

Have you and your family visited Paris? What are your favorite monuments or places to see? I was lucky enough to first make the trip in high school with our high school French club. I loved it so much I’ve studied the French language and have been back many times. However, it’s been too long! I really need to start planning…

Let's plan a trip to Paris, the Eiffel Tower and Deux Magots

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?

Sign up for Explorer Momma’s newsletter and download the printable to use with road trip activities for kids as a bonus!

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!

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