January 17, 2020

Best (And Easiest) Bike Trail On Kauai

There are many ways to experience the beauty of Kauai, the “Garden Isle” of Hawaii. One low-key option for taking in the scenery is bike riding. Two wheels allow you to enjoy views at your own pace, and when it comes to traveling with kids, setting the pace is important.

Kapaa Bike Path in Kauai, Hawaii -  Guide to Ke Ala Hele Makalae Trail, a flat, beginner-friendly bike path along the coast. Tips on what to bring for the bike ride, what you'll see on the easy route, and where to eat after you're finished. Great route for biking with kids! #Kauai #Hawaii #biking #trail #familytravel

Where to rent bikes on Kauai

We rented our adult and kid-sized bikes in Kapaa. There is no shortage of places to rent, and you don’t have to reserve them ahead of time. We biked during the busy holiday season and had no problem walking up to rent bikes for a group of eight.

Helmet on and ready to bike the Kapaa Bike Path on Kauai

You’ll find bikes will be a little less expensive if you rent them in town versus on the outskirts of town near the trail. Bike rentals should come with a helmet, though, they say it’s optional for adults.

(Get the helmet)

We opted for seven-speed bikes with hand brakes. We didn’t get heavy duty mountain bikes or sleek road bikes, so I can’t vouch for the ease of renting those.

Be sure to thoroughly look over each bike before starting your ride. We discovered one of our kids’ bikes didn’t shift gears properly.

Beginner bike trail on Kauai

If you haven’t been to Kauai, it’s important to know that this island is traversed by few roads, which are almost always filled with cars.

I’m talking legit traffic jams (but at least the views nice, right?).

Kids posing next to their bikes on the Kapaa Bike Trail in Kauai, Hawaii

So, when I talk about bike riding on this island, I’m not talking about commuting by bikes. I saw some brave souls do this, even a few with kids in tow, but for my kiddos, we stuck to a paved trail.

If you’re a beginner when it comes to biking, it’s just as important to find an easy trail when exploring an unfamiliar place.

We were very happy with the terrain found along the Ke Ala Hele Makalae Trail, more commonly known as the Kapaa Bike Path. This stunning 7.3-mile trail is incredibly kid-friendly, with wide paths and postcard vistas.

Where to start on the Kapaa Bike Trail

As it turns out, the Kapaa Trail will eventually be even longer.

I’ll first tell you about the section we biked. Leaving from the eastern edge of Kapaa, we biked north on the trail. The views were gorgeous! We biked past beaches (way too rough to consider dipping our feet into the water).

Boy on bike in Kauai, Hawaii

We also biked past a former banana plantation where we took in the awe-inspiring view of the rough surf.

It’s the stop known as “Pineapple Dump.”

It’s a very short route, but we were biking with kids as young as 7 and it was starting to warm up a bit too much. (The route is not shaded)

You will pass by beaches on this trail, including Fuji Beach and Kealia Beach. We were riding in the heart of winter, so the waves were a bit too high for us. The north end of the trail, you’ll encounter Donkey Beach.

Had we gone the opposite direction, we would have written past a busier area, past the bustling town of Kaapa. The good thing about that southern route is that there are places to stop along the way that might involve, say, getting shave ice to cool off.

This trail will eventually connect to a trail that passes by Lydgate Park.

I wish we had time to visit that part of the trail – there is a great playground there for kids. It’s also known for the keiki beach.

Tips for biking this Kauai trail

These tips are good for those biking with and without kids.

The ocean view just off the Kaapa Bike Trail in Kauai, Hawaii
  • There are a few restrooms along the trail with running water and water fountains. They are found at:
    • Kealia Kai
    • Kealia Beach
    • Kapaa Park
    • Lihi Park & Wai’Kaea Boat Harbor
  • Speaking of water, bring a lot of it. We only brought two refillable water bottles for the four of us and that was a terrible idea. Water fountains on the route can be found at Kealia Kai, Kealia Beach, and Lihi Park.
  • The trail is not shaded, and there aren’t many covered rest stops, so put on sunscreen.
  • Kauai is buggy, so if you plan on stopping to check out the views, put on bug spray. Or, you may be like me, and get bit whether you’re moving or not, so just put on bug spray to be safe.
  • You’ll notice signs at some parts along the trail indicating where falling rocks may be encountered. Just keep biking and you’ll be fine. Don’t stop to test out the durability of the fragile cliffs.
  • The trail is not hilly nor do you cross many busy streets (though you do ride past beach parking lot entrances). Still, it’s good to practice safe biking, so wear a helmet. 
  • More good trail practices to note: 
    • Bike on the right-hand side of the trail.
    • Announce your presence when you’re coming up behind a walker or runner.
    • Pass pedestrian and slower bikers by passing them on the left-hand side.  I always say “Biker on your left.”

Treats after your Kauai bike ride

Kapaa is a vibrant little town for food options, especially along Kuhio Highway. Right by the trail, near where we rented bikes, we encountered a collection of food trucks. If you’re hungry, you can get your lunch there.

Shave ice from the Shave Ice Tege Tege food truck in Kapa'a.

Or if you just want a cold treat, there was a shave ice truck. If you aren’t familiar with this Hawaii treat, it’s pretty popular (and definitely not called shaved ice…or a snow cone).

We got our shave ice at the Shave Ice Tege Tege food truck.

Restaurant-wise, I have a few suggestions, and like I said, they’re going to be located on Kuhio Highway.

Interior of Nom Kauai - A great brunch spot in Kapaa

If you’re biking early in the morning, snag breakfast/brunch at Nom Kauai, 4-1101 Kuhio Highway a4. It was, hands-down, our favorite meal on Kauai. But, they’re only open until 2:30 p.m., so plan accordingly.

The exterior of Nom is pretty unassuming and located in a small strip mall near a grocery store. Inside, though, is a fun and hip little restaurant. It is kid-friendly, though it’s definitely more appealing to the kid-free crowd.

Beer at Olympic Cafe in Kapaa

On the day of our bike ride, we got started late and, thus, had a late lunch (too late for Nom). We went to Olympic Cafe located at 1354 Kuhio Highway. This open-air restaurant is good for big groups, and it’s pretty kid-friendly.

Looking for a scenic and easy bike path on Kauai, Hawaii? Check out the Kapaa Bike Path, an easy biking trail along the coast. Here are tips for biking the trail with kids, including where the restroom stops are, what beaches are along the route, and where to eat after your ride. #biking #biketrail #Hawaii #Kauai #Kapaa

More Kauai Adventures

Stay tuned for future blog posts about Kauai, Hawaii! In the next few weeks, I share details about hidden gems you’ll love to discover for yourself if you visit the island.

While you wait, go ahead and get some travel inspiration with the Kauai Bucket List.

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January 13, 2020

Ultimate Universal Studios Hollywood Food Guide

I plan trips around food and restaurants, even when going to a place like Universal Studios Hollywood in California where rides steal the show. Between roller coasters and character sightings, I wanted to make sure my family had some unique dining experiences. Here’s how we enjoyed the food at Universal Studios Hollywood!

Disclosure: I received complimentary passes to Universal Studios Hollywood in order to write about our experiences. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Don't skip planning your meals at Universal Studios Hollywood! Here's a guide to food & drink at the theme park, including what kids like, what food is great to split, and how much one of those tiki drinks cost. #UniversalStudiosHollywood #California #themepark #foodie

Where is Universal Studios Hollywood?

Universal Studios Hollywood is in Burbank, Calif. It’s a little more than 400 acres and split up between the Upper Lot and Lower Lot. You’ll find most of the eateries are located on the Upper Lot.

I’m including Universal CityWalk™ restaurants in this guide, even though you do not need a park ticket to go to them. CityWalk™ is located just outside the theme park.

Restaurant Guide to Universal Studios Hollywood & CityWalk

I discovered that whatever you are craving, you’ll find it inside and outside Universal Studios Hollywood. My plan was to visit restaurants that you could only visit at Universal, but as you’ll see below, there are a lot more restaurant chains in the area that you could visit if you’re looking for familiar and predictable.

Let’s start first with the restaurants inside the theme park.

Food at Wizarding World Of Harry Potter

This was one of my favorite ares in Universal Studios Hollywood, as I suspect is the case for most visitors. Even if you aren’t a die-hard Potterhead, you can appreciate the detail of the area.

Buildings at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood

And if you are a big fan? You’re going to love dining here. The following are the eateries you’ll find in this fantastic little space.

  • • Hog’s Head
  • • Magic Neep™ Cart (this is simply a snack cart)
  • • Three Broomsticks™

Raising young Harry Potter fans, you’d think we’d get some butterbeer™ inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but I knew from past experience, my kids would take a sip and then realize they still don’t like butterbeer.

Butterbeer truck

So we didn’t get any butterbeer™. Maybe when we’re a little older, we’ll try again.

Tip: Word is, the butterbeer™ ice cream is a must-try.

My son fought hard to get us to have lunch at Three Broomsticks™, too. But, on a warm winter day, shepherd’s pie or fish and chips just didn’t appeal to the rest of us. We’ll save that for another visit.

Candy at Honeydukes at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan or not (but especially if you are), head to Honeydukes to find the best selection of candies and treats.

Of course, there are Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans and chocolate frogs inside the store. But you’ll also find a dizzying assortment of unique treats, as well as more standard fare like saltwater taffy and suckers.

Candy jars at Honeydukes inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Springfield restaurants

Everyone in my family is a big “The Simpsons™” fan, so of course, we spent a lot of time in Springfield™ at Universal Studios Hollywood. Because we only had one day planned for the park, we decided to split food so we could try more things.

Families dining inside Moe's at Springfield™ at Universal Studios Hollywood

Want to dine in the world of the Simpsons characters? Here are all the eateries and bars in the part of the theme park:

  • • Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck
  • • Duff Brewery Beer Garden
  • • Krusty Burger
  • • Lard Lad Donuts
  • • Moe’s Tavern
  • • Suds McDuff’s Hot Dog House

Springfield is located in the Upper Lot of Universal Studios Hollywood.

Ordering lines at Krusty Burger at Universal Studios Hollywood in California

Despicable Me restaurants

The area at Universal Studios Hollywood dedicated to “Despicable Me” is located in the Upper Lot.

  • • Despicable Delights
  • • Gru’s Lab Café

We didn’t spend a lot of time in this part of the park, other than to ride Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. I think, had it been warmer, we would’ve visited the water area at Super Silly Fun Land, and then, we’d probably would’ve bought a snack.

Lower Lot restaurants

You won’t find a lot of dining options in the Lower Lot of Universal Studios Hollywood.

  • • Jurassic Café
  • • Panda Express
  • • Studio Café
  • • Nu-Isla Bar (tropical drinks for the 21+ crowd)

The food at Jurassic Café was the most unique (in my opinion) in the park. Dishes were inspired by Costa Rican cuisine. Caveat: If you’ve been to Costa Rica, you may be a little disappointed. Gallo Pinto is not one of the items on the menu, even if it says “rice and beans” as a side.

Tip: Tropical Twist cone at Studio Café is an instagrammable treat.

Upper Lot restaurants

I think you’re really going to enjoy the setting of some of these restaurants. If there’s one thing Universal Studios Hollywood does well, it’s transporting you to another time and place.

French Street Bistro, for instance, is found on this charming stretch that’s, well, reminiscent of France. Photo opps, by the way, are plentiful (with and without characters).

Lucille Ball look-alike spotted along the French street at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Here are the eateries you’ll find in the Upper Lot, outside of the other themed areas I mentioned earlier:

  • • Cinnabon
  • • Cocina Mexicana
  • • French Street Bistro
  • • Mel’s Diner
  • • Mulligan’s Irish Pub
  • • Palace Theatre Café
  • • Plaza Grill

Universal CityWalk restaurants

Brace yourselves. Universal CityWalk™ is an entertainment, shopping and dining complex. It is full of eye-catching neon signs, smells, and familiar brands. It’s pretty hard to walk through it without feeling hungry.

Nighttime at Universal CityWalk near Universal Studios Hollywood in California

Here are all the restaurants (as of this post going live) that are open on the CityWalk™:

  • • Antojitos (Mexican)
  • • Ben & Jerry’s
  • • Blaze Pizza
  • • Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
  • • Buca di Beppo – Italian
  • • Cinnabon
  • • Dongpo Kitchen – Sichuanese cuisine
  • • Jamba Juice
  • • Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville
  • • Johnny Rockets
  • • Karl Strauss Brewing Co.
  • • KFC Express/Pizza Hutt
  • • LudoBird
  • • Menchies (frozen yogurt)
  • • Mini Monster (tea and boba)
  • • Panda Express
  • • Pink’s Famous Hot Dogs
  • • Poke Bar
  • • Popcornopolis
  • • Samba Brazilian Steakhouse & Lounge
  • • Smashburger
  • • Sparky’s Mini Donuts
  • • Subway
  • • Taco Bell
  • • The Crepe Café
  • • Tony Roma’s
  • • VIVO Italian Kitchen
  • • VooDoo Doughnut
  • • Wasabi at CityWalk – Sushi
  • • Wetzel’s Pretzels

To get to and from our car to Universal Studios Hollywood, we had to walk along the CityWalk. On the way back, we did not manage to avoid the siren call of good food.

So we stopped at Ben and Jerry’s and bought some ice cream. You know how I am with ice cream.

Budgeting for food at Universal Studios Hollywood

Part of the fun of going to a theme park like Universal Studios Hollywood is enjoying the treats you can only find there. But, if you’re on a budget, you can’t really enjoy ALL the treats, right?

A mixed drink at Universal Studios Hollywood is a splurge.

For a family of four, assuming you aren’t bringing in a lot of your own food (more on that in a second), expect to spend about $75 on food (on the low end). Below are averages I’d estimate we spent on different items. We ended up splitting items so that we could try more things.

  • • Snacks – $5 per person per snack
  • • Pop/bottled water – $5 per person or FREE if you bring a water bottle
  • • Alcohol – $14-$20
  • • Kid’s meal – $10
  • • Adult entrée – $15-$25

We ate breakfast before entering the park and dinner after we left the park, so most of our food expenditures were for lunch and snacks.

The biggest purchase? A mixed drink at Isla-Nu Bar. It came with a souvenir tiki glass, at least.

What would be recommended splurges? That depends on what you’re a bigger fan of. We spent a lot of time browsing the food throughout the Simpsons part of the park, though, we also lingered for quite a while at Honeydukes.

Can you bring food into Universal Studios Hollywood?

The short answer is: Yes.

Browse Universal’s FAQs for more details.

However, there are restrictions. The following are allowed to come into the theme park:

  • • Bottled water (maximum 2 liters) 
  • • Small snacks 
  • • Any food required for special dietary needs 
  • • Any food required for medical purposes and medically-indicated nutritional supplements 
  • • Baby food/baby formula 
  • • Soft-sided insulated bags no larger than 8.5″ wide x 6″ high x 6″ deep

How I saved money on food at Universal Studios Hollywood

I didn’t bring snacks into the park with us on our visit (mainly because I wanted to eat all.the.food there).

Since there was a lot we wanted to try, we decided we’d do a lot of splitting of foods. First place we headed to for a snack? Springfield™. Like I said, we love the “Simpsons” show.

For a snack, the four of us split a pink donut from Lard Lad Donuts. It was really good and plenty for the four of us. It’s definitely too much for one person. At about $8, I thought it was absolutely worth it for this sugary treat.

For lunch, we ordered two chicken finger meals at Cletus’ Chicken Shack. This was a great meal to split since each came with six chicken fingers and a large portion of fries.

A few other items we split, just to try included:

  • • A Krusty Burger served at…where else? Krusty Burger. This was a good burger, and a good portion for one person. I wouldn’t recommend this one for sharing.
  • • A pork entrée at Jurassic Café. The pork was tasty, and the plantains on the side were good, but the rice and beans were a disappointment. My kids wouldn’t touch it. The café is touted as a Costa Rican café, so I was hoping for some gallo pinto as a side. These were definitely not gallo pinto rice and beans. The entree was $15.
Krusty Burger at, where else?, Krusty Burger

The best way to save money at Universal Studios Hollywood is to bring a refillable water bottle with you. Then, use those saved money from beverages to eat all the good food.

What about dietary restrictions and eating at Universal Studios Hollywood?

Turns out, Universal Studios Hollywood is on it. They have a dietary food guide that’s super helpful.

While I’m no longer a strict vegetarian, I remember the stress of trying to find substantial food. There’s a lot of it at this theme park. Here’s some of the food options I found at Universal Studios Hollywood for vegetarians (note that menus can change):

Universal Studios Hollywood Vegetarian/vegan options

Hollywood & Dine

  • • California Cheese Pizza
  • • Cheeseless Pizza (by request only – VEGAN)
  • • Sautéed Vegetables and Rice (by request only – VEGAN)
  • • Roasted Portobello Mushroom Burger served with French fries and coleslaw (VEGAN)

Mel’s Diner

  • • Veggie Burger with Hummus, served with French fries and coleslaw (skip the coleslaw to have a VEGAN meal)

Gru’s Lab Café

  • • Grilled Cheese Sandwich served with French fries and coleslaw

Cinnabon

  • • Cinnabon Roll

French Street Bistro, Studio Café and Palace Theatre Café

  • • Tomato and Mozzarella Sandwich
  • • Thai Udon Noodle Salad (VEGAN)

Three Broomsticks™

  • • Fresh Fruit Plate (breakfast only; VEGAN)
  • • Sautéed Jumbo Asparagus Platter (request VEGAN)
  • • Continental Breakfast served with croissant and scone
  • • Potato Leek Soup and Salad Plate

Luigi’s Pizza

  • • Penne Pasta with Marinara Sauce
  • • Penne Pasta with Alfredo Sauce (contains dairy)
  • • Cheese Pizza (contains cheese)
  • • Meat Hater’s Pizza (contains cheese)

Krusty Burger

  • • Mother Nature Burger served with French fries and coleslaw

Cletus’ Chicken Shack

  • • Waffle Sandwich with Veggie Burger, served with French fries and coleslaw

Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck

  • • Bumblebee Man’s Mucho Mucho Nachos served plain with cheese and vegetables

Jurassic Café

  • • Cheese Pizza (contains cheese)
  • • Caesar Salad (contains cheese and anchovies)
  • • Veggie Burger with Hummus, served with French fries and coleslaw
  • • Fresh Fruit Cup
Everything you need to know about the food at Universal Studios Hollywood in California | Guide to restaurants and how to budget for a family trip to Universal Studios Hollywood | Helpful guide answers questions about budgeting and what foods are vegetarian and vegan. #California #USA #UniversalStudiosHollywood #foodie #food #guide #familytravel

Read more about Universal Studios Hollywood

Planning a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood? There are more posts to come, including the not-to-miss experiences I recommend at the park.

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June 14, 2019

Guide To 24 Hours In Scottsdale With Kids

You’ve planned 24 hours in Scottsdale, Arizona, and you’re vacationing with kids. Whether you want to play indoors, outdoors or a bit of both, there are a lot of things you can do in Scottsdale and nearby. Here’s how to spend a day in Scottsdale, with my tips on things to do, kid-friendly hotels and restaurants. Scroll to the end for a sample Scottsdale one-day itinerary.

Have just a short amount of time for a family getaway to Scottsdale, Arizona? Here's a guide to 24 hours in Scottsdale, including fun things to do, good restaurants, and family-friendly hotels. #familytravel #Scottsdale #Arizona #Guide

Disclosure: I was hosted by Experience Scottsdale for a portion of my trip, and some of the places I visited were during Bloghouse Scottsdale. Some meals and admission were comped; while others were out of pocket. This post contains affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to readers, if you click the link and make a purchase, I receive a small fee to compensate for the recommendation.

Where to stay in Scottsdale

Scottsdale, “The West’s Most Western Town,” is the fifth largest city in Arizona. Being near the state capitol, Phoenix, the choices of hotels can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve stayed in two different hotels (and toured another) and each would appeal to a different type of family.

Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows is a luxury resort featuring bungalows and a gorgeous main pool (plus a few other pools). They have dine-in movies at the pool on Saturday nights.  

Where to stay in Scottsdale with kids - Andaz Scottsdale has several pools, including one where they show movies on Saturday nights.

There are lawn games scattered throughout the property, as well. From certain parts of the property, you can see Camelback Mountain.

This hotel appeals to an art-loving family. The design is artful throughout (there’s even an Instagram guided walk there).

Hotel in Scottsdale - Andaz Scottsdale has lawn games throughout the property. In the background is Camelback Mountain.

They also feature works by local artists from Cattle Track Arts + Preservation include items used in the restaurant, artwork in the lobby, and occasional art-making sessions for guests of the hotel.

Plus, it’s also a pet-friendly hotel.

The Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch makes it hard for kids to want to leave. The pool area alone is noteworthy (they’ve dubbed it the “water playground). There’s a slide, sandy beach area, and the Fun Zone with a climbing wall and giant games. There are free bicycles to ride, including kids bikes, as well as gondola rides for an additional fee.

The resort offers Camp Hyatt, a children’s program for ages 3-12, that teaches kids about the region’s flora, fauna, culture and geography of the area. And, my favorite program of the hotel (that will also fascinate kids) is the naural way the hotel rids the hotel of pesky birds: They have a live hawk or falcon on the resort to deter the pest birds from hanging around.

Scottsdale hotels for families - The Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch has a water playground with a water slide, sand beach and a whole lot of pool.

There are several restaurants, but SWB stands out with its southwestern cuisine. I had a superb “Wine Me, Dine Me” dinner there, though I’d say it’s the kind of experience is best for adults. SWB is family-friendly. While I was there, they were advertising a kids-eat-free promo.

The Phoenician is a high-end luxury resort that’s alluring to families with a big travel budget. It has a kid’s program, pools, splash garden and a treehouse (with a waterslide). While I was on a tour there one night, they were playing a movie on a big screen at one of the pools.

Things to do in Scottsdale with kids

The big draws to this desert city include spas, golf and fine dining. I don’t know about yours, but those aren’t exactly big draws for my kids. Being Midwestern folk, we wanted to see the Sonoran Desert!

If you’re visiting during the summer, start your day early when it’s “coolest.” I recommend kayaking the Lower Salt River, which is close to Scottsdale. This picturesque river is easy to navigate and calm, so it’s enjoyable for all ages.

Things to do with kids in Scottsdale - Kayak the Lower Salt River and with some luck, see wild horses

I kayaked with Arizona Outback Adventures, and would recommend their guides. We saw wild horses crossing the river and our guide pointed out a ton of birds.

Tip: Get an early start to your kayak trip to avoid loud crowds of tubers on the river, especially on the weekend.

Other outdoor activities in Scottsdale include: Hiking, go on a bike ride or horseback ride, or take a hot air balloon ride. The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy is a popular place to go for hiking and biking (and rock climbing if you’re that kind of family). It’s the largest city-owned preserve in the U.S.

Just outside of Scottsdale is the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. It’s gorgeous. Saturdays in the summer they have flashlight tours in the evening.

Scottsdale activities for kids - Visit the nearby Desert Botanical Garden and experience the Sonoran Desert. The trails are easy to hike with kids.

Scottsdale and its neighboring cities have quite a few other water activities families will enjoy. Probably the biggie for families is the Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Phoenix waterpark located in nearby Glendale, Ariz.

Kid-friendly indoor things to do in Scottsdale

On my recent trip to Scottsdale, I only visited one museum, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. I highly recommend a visit there, especially if you can visit by mid-October to see the three temporary exhibitions.

Indoor things to do in Scottsdale - View special exhibits at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, such as "Mutual Reality: Art on the Edge of Technology."

My favorite of the exhibitions was “Mutual Reality: Art on the Edge of Technology,” which ends Oct. 6, 2019. It’s highly engaging and most likely to appeal to younger museum goers. I loved interacting with exhibit pieces.

OdySea in the Desert is a large collection of attractions in Scottsdale that probably could take a day to explore with kids. It includes the OdySea Aquarium, Butterfly Wonderland, Laser + Mirror Maze, Paradise Earth, Pangaea: Land of the Dinosaurs, and the temporary exhibit “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.”

If you’ve got a car and your kids are younger than 10, you could spend the afternoon at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. My kids loved it there, especially the large climber and the Noodle Forest.

Where to eat in Scottsdale with kids

Head to the vibrant Old Town Scottsdale for an abundance of family-friendly restaurant choices, plus cute shops and photo opportunities.

Farm & Craft is a darling restaurant focused on sustainable, healthy food. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and there is a kid’s menu. This is the place to go for fresh food.

Kid-friendly restaurant in Scottsdale - Find fresh, sustainable food at Farm & Craft in Old Town Scottsdale. The restaurant has a kid's menu/

The Mission is a restaurant that would be good for families for lunch or brunch (though no kid’s menu); kids may be out of place at dinnertime with the candle-lit tables. Their menu is modern Latin cuisine. Order the guacamole – it’s made tableside.

Hula’s Modern Tiki is another Old Town Scottsdale restaurant to keep on your radar, especially if you’re traveling with older kids. While, there is no kid’s menu, you can order tacos or sandwiches to be shared. And, don’t skip dessert. The key lime pie was tasty.

Restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale - Hula's Modern Tiki, where the dessert is pretty festive.

Hula’s is near the popular ice cream shop, Sugar Bowl, which has been around since 1958. You can’t miss it – it’s in a pink building.

Hash Kitchen has four restaurants in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area, and I went to one located near the Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch. While its claim to fame is having the largest bloody mary bar in Arizona, it’s a family-friendly place for breakfast or brunch. They do have a kid’s menu.  

Culinary Dropout has several locations including one in Scottsdale. It’s a fun place especially if you have older kids. We went for lunch at the Farmer Arts District and played games like cornhole in the Yard Area. It’s got a cool vibe, but keep in mind that after 6 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays, the gaming area is open only for the 21 and older crowd.

Where to eat in Scottsdale with kids - Culinary Dropout has several locations around the Phoenix/Scottsdale metro, including one in Scottsdale.

If you’re prepared to travel for food, drive to Phoenix to dine at Rustler’s Rooste Steakhouse. Sure, it’s a pure tourist magnet that’s big on atmosphere and not so much fine dining…but kids will love it. Where else are you going to get the option of using a slide instead of stairs to get to the dining room? Be sure to order some fried rattlesnake for an appetizer.

Sample one-day Scottsdale itinerary for families

Sonoran Desert view in Arizona

Breakfast – Be one of the first for breakfast at your hotel or Hash Kitchen, which opens at 7 a.m.

Morning – Kayak the Lower Salt River with Arizona Outback Adventures. See huge Saguaro cacti, a variety of birds, and, with some luck, wild horses. Bring towels, as you’ll want to play and cool off in the water.

Lunch – After paddling, we asked AOA to drop us off at a restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale. You’ll want to pick one you’ll feel comfortable smelling like the river. We went to Farm & Craft.

Afternoon – Shop and look around Old Town Scottsdale before heading back to your hotel for an afternoon at the pool.

Dinner – You may be tired from your day, so consider dinner at your hotel, if there is a restaurant. SWB at the Hyatt Regency is a good option. No hotel restaurant? Go somewhere fun like Rustler’s Rooste Steakhouse.

There are so many fun things to do in Scottsdale, but if you only have a day, here's a guide to choosing what's best! Read this post for tips on family-friendly things to do outdoors, indoor activities (for hot days) and hotel recommendations. #Tips #Arizona #Scottsdale

Want to explore more of Arizona?

Check out this guide to Tucson with kids! You’ll find tips on good hiking trails, as well as adventurous options like a zip line experience.

I’ve got an entire Pinterest board dedicated to Arizona family vacation inspiration, too.

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May 31, 2019

Best Things To Do Outdoors In Tucson With Kids

The best way to enjoy Tucson, Ariz., is outdoors. With more than 300 days of sunshine and an average daily temperature of 72 degrees, why stay indoors? The vibrant desert and majestic mountains are the heart of Tucson so this post features some of the best things to do outdoors in Tucson, all of them are great for kids.

Planning a family vacation to Arizona? Here are some of the best things to do in Tucson, Arizona that are kid-friendly. Tips include scenic desert drives and trails, where to zip line and where best to see the famous Saguaro cacti. And for those seeking cowboys and touristy gunfights, the post includes where to find those in Tucson. #familytravel #Arizona #USA

Best scenic drive in Tucson

Tucson is surrounded by five mountain ranges. The most dramatic range is the Santa Catalinas with Mt. Lemmon, capping out at 9,000 feet. The term “sky islands” refers to isolated mountain ranges that raise up out of the desert floor with cool islands of green forests high in the sky.

Best outdoor things to do in Tucson with kids - Drive the Mt. Lemmon Highway/Sky Island Scenic Byway.

Driving the Mt. Lemmon Highway/Sky Island Scenic Byway is my top recommendation for a Tucson visit. This winding scenic road carries you up switchbacks and past vistas to the little village of Summerhaven and the southernmost ski resort in the U.S.

The University of Arizona has created a marvelous audio tour phone app that narrates the trip. You will see and learn about the diverse climate zones, geology, and unique wildlife of this sky island.

Tip: I recommend bringing a picnic to enjoy at the top and don’t forget a sweater or jacket, the temperature will change over 20 degrees from desert to peak.

Kid-friendly trails in Tucson

Tucson is a hiker’s heaven. There are trails of every level from the desert floor to the mountain peaks. Many of these trails are multi-use, meaning you can hike, mountain bike or horseback ride.

Sabino Canyon Recreation Area in the Coronado National Forest is just 10 miles north of downtown. It’s packed with trails, picnic areas, a tram and wonderful Visitor Center. Sabino Canyon is part of the National Park Service and does have a $5 daily fee (your NPS Annual Pass will work, also).

Best things to do outdoors in Tucson with kids - Visit Sabino Canyon Recreation Area for hikes. It's just 10 minutes from downtown Tucson.

Further north on the west side of the Catalinas is Catalina State Park. Here you will experience the plethora of desert life, the drama of canyons, washes and towering ridges. The park offers geocaching tours, ancient ruins tours, star parties and music in the mountains. Entrance fee is $7 per carload.

Best outdoor things to do in Tucson with kids - Try Arizona Zipline Adventures at the Peppersauce Station near Mt. Lemmon.

The old mining town of Oracle appears almost a ghost town at first glimpse. There are some gems to be found in this foothills town if you are willing to look for them. Oracle State Park and the surrounding area offers some interesting ranching, and prospecting historic sites. At the very end of the pavement, before the  dirt road starts climbing to the backside of Mt. Lemmon, you will find the Peppersauce Station. Here you find Arizona Zipline Adventures and their Peppersauce Kitchen.

Where to experience the desert in Tucson

Of course, we cannot leave Tucson without experiencing the desert and the Wild West. On either side of downtown Tucson you will find the Saguaro National Park. There is an East Park and West Park. I prefer the West Park. Entering the West side from downtown takes you over the spectacular Gates Pass Road. At the bottom of this mountain pass you can see the Sonoran Desert and its iconic saguaros spread out for miles.

Related post: Where can you find a Sonoran Desert in the Midwest? Head to Omaha’s zoo to the Desert Dome!

Best outdoor things to do in Tucson with kids - Check out the saguaros at Sagauro National Park, located near downtown Tucson.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a mix of zoo, botanical garden and interactive museum. Start early, bring water and enjoy everything the desert has to share.

Also just a couple of miles away is the Old Tucson Movie Studio Theme Park. Old Tucson has gunfights and cowboys and all the cheesy fun your kids can endure.

Tucson, Arizona is a great destination to experience the desert. Here are some of the best things to do outdoors in Tucson that are kid-friendly and scenic. Post includes tips on when to go and what to pack! #familytravel #Arizona #guide #USA

About the guest blogger

Janet and her husband just recently retired to Tucson, Ariz., from Wisconsin. After a lifetime in the Midwest, they are now on a perpetual vacation exploring all that Tucson and the Southwest has to offer. Her website is packed with places to Go! Learn Things about the Tucson and beyond.

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April 23, 2019

5 Fun Water Activities In Colorado Springs

After I got a lot of great feedback on my Colorado Springs Bucket List, I started thinking about taking my trip planning up a notch. If we were to visit Colorado Springs in the summer, what kind of adventures could we have on water? After digging around the Visit Colorado Springs website, I got some great inspiration. Here are the water-based activities in Colorado Springs that are kid-friendly and fun:

Fun things to do in Colorado Springs (in the water)! Here's a list of all the family-friendly water-based activities in Colorado Springs, including rafting, hikes to waterfall, water parks & SUP. #visitcos #pikespeakwonders #sponsored #OlympicCityUSA

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Visit Colorado Springs #visitcos #GetOutdoors #Adventure #ColoradoSprings

Fun things to do in the water in Colorado Springs - Whitewater rafting
Photo courtesy Visit Colorado Springs

Whitewater rafting

Adventure level: High

I was surprised to read that whitewater rafting can be quite family-friendly in the Colorado Springs area. I counted 14 different outfitters on the website, with many clearing marketing to parents by touting all-ages excursions and “family class” rapids.

Fun water activities in Colorado Springs - There are a lot of places to fish and fly fish in Colorado Springs, Colorado
Photo courtesy Visit Colorado Springs

Fishing

Adventure level: Low

Colorado Springs has several fishing spots including the Pike Peak area at the Crystal Creek Reservoir and at Arkansas River in Cañon City. For more urban fishing, try Fountain Creek in Manitou Springs. There are also three reservoirs on Pike Peak’s South Slope that are accessible if you have a permit. If you want a guide to show you the best spots, check this website out.

Things to do in Colorado Springs in the water - Stand-Up paddleboard and SUP yoga
Photo courtesy Visit Colorado Springs

Stand-Up Paddleboard

Adventure level: Low-Medium (depending on your balance and core strength)

If your kids are a little older, try hitting the water on stand-up paddleboards (SUP). Try SUP at Palmer Lake, Prospect Lake, Monument Lake, Quail Lake or any of the reservoirs around Pikes Peak. You can also try a SUP yoga class. I did that one time in Omaha, and it’s a mix of peacefulness and quite a workout trying to stay balanced.

Fun things to do in Colorado Springs include water activities like spray grounds, fountains and waterparks
Photo courtesy Visit Colorado Springs

Pools, Spray Grounds & Water Parks

Adventure level: Low

My kids love a good water park. Aga Park is a 4,000-square-foot water park with a ton of kid-friendly features like an elephant cannon and tidal bucket.

For pools, the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region has collaborated with the City of Colorado Springs to bring several great options to the public without requiring a Y membership. These include indoor pools like Memorial Park Family Center YMCA and Cottonwood Creek Family Center YMCA, as well as outdoor options at Prospect Lake Beach, Wilson Ranch Pool, Portal Pool and Monument Valley.

Spraygardens are those seasonal water features at parks that typically are weather-dependent. Find spray grounds and fountains in the Colorado Springs area at Uncle Wilbur Fountain at Acacia Park (pictured), Julie Penrose Fountain at America the Beautiful Park, Deerfield Hills Spray Ground at Deerfield Hills Park, and The Water Hole at Venezia Park. Deerfield sounds pretty impressive with 16 different spray features as features like foaming geysers, soak stations and a water wall.

Things to do in Colorado Springs in the water - Hike to waterfalls including Broadmore Seven Falls
Photo courtesy Visit Colorado Springs

Hike to waterfalls

Adventure level: Medium-high

If you like the rush of that first glance of a waterfall, Colorado Springs has some trails for you. Moderate trails that are family-friendly include about a one-miler leading to Helen Hunt Falls; the Broadmoor Seven Falls (pictured), which takes some stair-climbing, but I hear it’s worth it; and St. Mary’s Falls in North Cheyenne Cañon Park, with a much longer hike of 6.1 miles round-trip.

Headed to Colorado Springs with kids? Here's a lift of activities in the water to keep cool all summer long - from adventurous whitewater rafting to water parks and fishing holes. #sponsored #visitcos #ColoradoSprings #familytravel

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March 25, 2019

Things To Do At Point Lobos With Kids

There are a lot of things to like about Carmel-by-the-Sea – the food, the quaint architecture, the beach – but the highlight of my family’s trip to the area was Point Lobos State Natural Reserve (it’s more commonly referred to as Point Lobos State Park, and considered the “crown jewel” of the California State Park System). We wanted a place to hike that was beautiful and kid-friendly. And, bonus, it was not far from our hotel. Here are a few of the things we did the morning we went to Point Lobos:

Guide to taking kids to Point Lobos, the crown jewel of the California state park system - Kid-friendly trails, exploring the tide pools and more helpful information to plan a visit #familytravel #hiking #outdoors

Kid-friendly hiking at Point Lobos

Weather on our trip was not the greatest, so we needed to choose a short hike in case we got caught in a rainstorm. We decided to hike Cypress Grove Trail because we’d read it was picturesque and short. Perfect for our needs, right?

Things to do at Point Lobos with kids - Hike the Cypress Grove Trail
Trails are well-marked at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in California.

Most of the trail was flat, though there were some steps and boulders to climb. Nothing was too difficult for the kids, who were 7 and 9 when we did this hike.

The trail is .8 miles long and takes you through one of the two naturally growing stands of Monterey cypress trees remaining on Earth. 

If you only have an hour for the park, this is a great trail to take! If you have more time, or have other needs, review this page with suggested routes at Point Lobos.

Things to do at Point Lobos State Natural Park with kids - Hike the Cypress Grove Trail and enjoy the view
We did a little bouldering at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. This is found along the Cypress Grove Trail.

We also hiked a bit of the North Shore Trail on accident after taking a wrong turn. It’s more challenging than Cypress Grove Trail (and longer – it’s 1.4 miles). We turned around before we were too far into it.

Things to do at Point Lobos - See Old Veteran Cypress, a much-photographed old cypress tree
A view of the gnarled Old Veteran Cypress clinging to a cliff at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve near Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.

While we were on the North Shore Trail, we took the short Old Veteran Trail to get a good view of the Old Veteran Cypress, a well-known tree in the park. We also got views of sea lions, I think. I wish we’d brought binoculars to get a better visual.

Hiking tip: Dogs are not allowed on the trails, nor are bicycles.

Tide pools at Point Lobos

We nearly drove past the tide pools on our way out of the park, but I’m glad we spotted some families walking on the rocks. They caught our attention, and we wanted to go see what they were looking at.

Things to do at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve - Explore the tide pools #California
My daughter loves animals and water, so she was in absolute heaven at Point Lobos.

It was exhilarating to explore the terrain. There was an element of danger, being near the edge, but it was also a thrill for us.

Things to do at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve - Explore the tide pools
It’s a little nerve-wracking standing even a few feet from the edge.

We stayed further back than it looks, I promise!

Tip about exploring the tide pools: It’s against the law to collect shells, rocks, wood, plants, or animals at the park.

Educational opportunities at Point Lobos

When we visited on the weekend, we encountered volunteers at the Information Station near the parking lot with a display of animal pelts. The kids were able to compare the difference between an otter pelt and a sea lion.

Things to do at Point Lobos - Learn about the wildlife found at the park
My kids liked touching the animal pelts on display at Point Lobos. My daughter may have been snuggling the otter fur.

The volunteers also answered a few of our questions, like, what was the orange stuff covering the trees (answer: an algae called Trentepohlia aurea).

Things to do at Point Lobos - Learn about the trees in the park
The algae growing on the trees at Point Lobos are harmless.

There’s a Junior Rangers program for kids ages 7 to 12 that runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day Weekend. Get more details here.

The park also provides educational information online, as well as Marine Protected coloring book you can download.

Would you want to visit Point Lobos on a rainy day?

We visited Point Lobos in the winter. If you couldn’t tell from the pictures in this post, it was a dreary day when we went to Point Lobos State Park. All morning, the clouds threatened to spit rain. We ended up cutting our visit short because we knew a full-on shower was imminent.

This is what you get when you have a first-year parkour student in your family.

I wouldn’t recommend the tide pools in the wet weather, and hikes, well, they’re doable if you’re a hearty family. Check out the other things we did in the area when its as rainy, though, and you can find some good alternatives.

I read that the climate at the park remains pretty moderate year-round, with temperatures in the mid-50s to mid-60s. You’re most likely to encounter fog in the summer.

Important information about visiting Point Lobos

To plan your day at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, keep these things in mind:

Things to do at Point Lobos State Natural Park in California - Explore tide pools
The kids liked exploring the tide pools at Point Lobos.

Point Lobos hours: The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. They will not admit anybody after 6:30 p.m. There is no camping allowed.

Point Lobos costs: You will need to pay a vehicle entry fee to enter the park. It’s $10 for most. If you want a brochure, it’s $2. If you want to dive or snorkel, there are additional fees (reservation or walkup).

You can also also rent a kayak or standup paddle board for $10.

Point Lobos’ location: This California state park is pretty convenient for travelers since it is right off of Highway 1, plus it’s just about 3 miles from Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Things to do with kids at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in California - Guide to kid-friendly trails and tide pools, plus important information to know if you want to visit #California #Carmel #familytravel #outdoors

Plan your Carmel trip!

Want to plan a Carmel-by-the-Sea getaway? Start with this Carmel Bucket List, and then read through these posts for more ideas:

Taking Kids To Carmel, California

Hofsas House Hotel: A Family-Friendly Hotel in Carmel

Dining with kids in Carmel

Taking Kids On The 17-Mile Drive

Things To Do On A Rainy Day In Monterey & Carmel-by-the-Sea

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