Blog 66: Things to do in Denver, Colorado

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Shannon and Gwen dreamed up this nwaMotherlode feature during a looong drive to a blogger conference in Nashville a few years ago. They interview bloggers across the U.S. (and beyond), looking for tips from the people who know their cities best. Most recently we chatted with bloggers a little closer to home in Little Rock. Twice!

This month, we head over to beautiful Denver with blogger Emily Vanek of Colorado Moms as our guide:

When you’re in Denver, you should definitely plan to eat at …

Casa Bonita! Where else can you see cliff divers and get endless sopapillas? Also Little Man Ice Cream or Sweet Cow Ice Cream are great places to beat the heat.

You do NOT want to miss seeing …

Denver-Mountain-Parks-Logo_smallRed Rocks. A park, hiking trails and the world famous amphitheater. Views of the city are just a hike away!

A few “hidden gems” that only the locals know about …

The splash pad at the Westminster Promenade. Hidden behind the hustle and bustle of the shopping area is a great wade pool area with tons of shade. There is also a great indoor play area at Cherry Creek Mall, perfect to let the kids run around when it’s cold or raining outside.

The most kid-friendly hotels are …

Omni Interlocken has a great kids program. Also the Curtis Hotel Downtown has themed floors and just steps away from the 16th Street Mall.

For couples-only excursions, stay here …

Cheyenne Mountain Resort just 90 minutes south in Colorado Springs. Great views, heated outdoor pool that can be enjoyed year round and great restaurants are nearby.

Cheyenne Mountain Resort

Cheyenne Mountain Resort

If you visit when it’s cold, you can enjoy …

Summit County. Just 90 minutes west to great Ski areas like Keystone, A-Basin, Copper Mountain and Breckenridge!

If you visit in the summer, you’ll like playing here …

water worldWaterWorld! A huge water park with tons of thrill rides, kiddie pools and fun for the whole family!

One of the most awesome things about Denver is …

You are only less than 90 min away from the best ski areas, great outlets malls and many other adventures!

I would describe the “vibe” in Denver as …

Laid back. Don’t be in a hurry, just find a great place to sit and stare at the Rocky Mountains.

Denver is a good vacation choice because …

There are tons of things to do all around Denver and into the mountains. Catch a game at Coors Field, visit the Museum of Nature & Science, take a hike around Bear Creek Lake.

emily vanek, blog 66Emily Vanek is the owner and editor-in-chief of ColoradoMoms.com. Her work is also featured on 5minutesforSpecialNeeds.com, SavvySource.com and TimetoPlayMag.com. She and her husband live with their three sons near Denver. Her youngest child is on the Autism Spectrum, so she is passionate about connecting with parents with special needs. In her spare time, she knits, shops, and reads. She is also a master tortoise wrangler and expert in getting water out of various electronics (don’t ask).

Be a tourist in your own town!

Many of you may have family or friends visiting this week to help celebrate the Fourth of July weekend. If that’s the case at your house, this is a perfect time to act like a tourist in your own town.

Below is a list of some of our readers’ favorite places to visit in Northwest Arkansas.  You’ll find some of their comments below. Most of these suggestions have links, so just click on the activity/location if you want to find out more.

These are also good suggestions if you’re planning a “staycation” this summer!

If we leave out your favorite things to do in Northwest Arkansas, write a comment below and share them with the rest of us!

Oodles of Outdoorsy Options:

Devil’s Den State Park – It’s a beautiful park with a built-in pool, picnic tables, great bridge, swimming pool and river and boat rentals. We brought a picnic and the Frisbee and football and had a blast! If you’re adventurous, you can also go caving. There are also cabins and camping options.

Withrow Springs State Park - (Near Huntsville) Great camping area, swimming pool, playground, hiking trails, fishing and tennis. Canoes, too!

Lake Fayetteville – There’s a lovely park with a playground and picnic tables as well as volley ball nets. It’s on the south side of the park off of Zion Rd – Veteran’s Memorial Park. The bike and frisbee.jpgwalking trails are great and, if you have an off road bicycle, you can ride along the Botanical Gardens. The other thing you MUST do there is a round of Frisbee golf! It’s a blast and takes you by the lake and through the park – although I find I really want to spend some time catching the Frisbee as well as throwing it once we’re done with the 18 baskets.

Speaking of Veteran’s Memorial Park, Northwest Arkansas has an abundance of small, fabulous parks with walking trails, play equipment, and picnic areas. Some of our favorites in Fayetteville are Wilson (you’ll love the rock castle, fish pond and beautiful landscaping), Gulley and Gordon Long (many trees protect the kids on hot summer days).

Lawrence Plaza, just north of the Bentonville Square (at the corner of NE A and Blake streets) features a 7,000 square-foot, multi-use facility that transforms into a splash pad in the summer and an outdoor ice rink in the winter!

index2.jpgGator Golf on College Avenue offers two courses and a free game if you get a hole in one on the 18th hole. You can see a great sunset from there if you catch it right and the course offers some interesting variations.

Farmers Markets! Fayetteville, Rogers, Bentonville. We finally made it last weekend and I can’t believe we waited so long! There is something for everyone there including music, cookies and coffee, breakfast burritos and lots of puppy.jpgamazing produce and flowers. There are even a few crafts. Just be forewarned that in Fayetteville, the animal shelter will be showing their adorable dogs that need to be adopted. It might be too much to resist. I came very close to adopting one myself.

Pea Ridge Battlefield – Walking trails and step back in time. Take a guided tour via tape/CD and hear the battle come to life.

Prairie Grove Battlefield Park – Bring your hand-held GPS, stop by the gift shop for the first set of coordinates and find answers to a sheet of clues they provide. Beautiful walking trails, stroller-ready.

bgo_logo_290x.gifBotanical Gardens of the Ozarks in Fayetteville - Lots of events for both adults and kids. The firefly festival in summer is a great kid event. They also have evening events for adults like “Chefs in the Garden” and a Holiday Farmers’ Market. While the farmers’ market continues, we like to just go on Sunday mornings and walk around when admission is free.

Fayetteville bike trails - These are great for a family outing or couples only.

Tanyard Creek trail in Bella Vista - Great walking trail with streams, a swinging bridge and a waterfall!

Terra Studios in Durham – The kids loved walking around the gardens and paths and looking at all of the strange and unique pottery creatures. You can also watch pottery and bluebirds of happiness being made. Before you leave have a snack in the coffee shop and sit in a really cool booth.

Corn mazes, pumpkin patches and u-pick! There are three corn maze-focused attractions (they all have lots more than the maze) in the area, including Ozark Corn Maze in Cave Springs, Farmland Adventures in Springdale, McGarrah Farms in Pea Ridge, Dickey Farms in Springdale, Vanzant Fruit Farms in Lowell and Lost Corn Maze in Siloam Springs.

Attend a Northwest Arkansas Naturals baseball game!

Modern Mission Outdoor Laser Tag is similar to paintball, but without the projectiles. Off Joyce Avenue in Fayetteville.

The Pinnacle Hills Promenade Mall is an outdoor mall in Rogers. Lots of shopping, restaurants and a movie theatre.

Baby, it’s cold (or hot) outside:

Ozark Bowling Lanes in Fayetteville might fool you from the outside, but they have redone the inside and it is really a very nice bowling alley. There are also pool tables if you need a little variety or for your friends who aren’t as fond of bowling as you might be. My husband and the two boys and I just went for pool one day. I even managed to hit a couple of balls in the pockets!bowling.jpg

Fast Lane Entertainment on N. Dixieland in Lowell is also lots of fun when you’re looking for arcade games, bowling and lazer tag. They’ve got ginormous pizzas, a varied menu for adults and glow-in-the-dark bowling.

Fun City Pizza in Springdale (next to Babies ‘n Beyond) is another great place to let the kiddos play — and it’s brand new. They have arcade games, big slides and tunnels for the kids to play on, indoor mini golf, pizza and salad bar for guests. No admission fee!

The Starlight Skatium is a brand new skating rink on College Avenue in Fayetteville. It’s a great place for birthday parties and for taking the parents wayyyy back.

Arkadia Retrocade in Fayetteville (Evelyn Hills Shopping Center) is a place where parents can go way back! These video games are vintage. $5 cash admission at the door for all-day, old-school video game play. Check out the Facebook page for hours.

Jump Zone in Bentonville is the perfect place for letting the kids blow off steam on humongo inflatables. Also a great birthday place and loads of fun. They often have parents’ nights out and the kids love this place.

Books! Of course the Fayetteville Public Library is world class! It has two floors of books, materials and movies for the whole family. There is a whole section dedicated to the children and a coffee shop where mom can take a break and relax. There’s are also great libraries in Rogers, Springdale (just outside this library’s windows there’s a wonderful park and duck pond for kids to enjoy!) and Bentonville.

The Jones Center for Families in Springdale is absolutely amazing! It has a small water park and pool along with other activities like indoor ice skating, and a playground, basketball, volley ball and 9-hole disc golf. Year-round fun.

Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale – My kids would spend an hour in the museum. They love the hands-on exhibits. They also have a great history camp in the summer for kids.

Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville opened 11-11-11. There are beautiful trails to wander along, art to enjoy, a library and even a cafe. The 120-acre site of the Museum complex is located within walking distance of the Bentonville town square. Admission is free.

Northwest Arkansas Mall in Fayetteville.

Got any fun ideas we missed and you’d like to share? Click on the comment button below and let us know! For other suggestions by NWA mamas, click here to read our 5 Minutes with a Mom feature. The featured moms usually mention their favorite places to play here. Plus you might just meet a new friend!

Blog 66: San Antonio from a native mama’s point of view

blog66Thanks to Debi Pfitzenmaier of San Antonio Busy Kids for sharing her thoughts about her hometown of San Antonio.

This great city review is making us want to visit SA — ASAP!

When I’m in San Antonio, I should definitely plan to eat at …

Order street tacos at one of the small hole-in-a-wall taquerias. My favorite is in the Deco District. And then be sure to stop by Lulu’s Bakery and Café for one of their monster-sized, three-pound cinnamon rolls.

The best shopping can be found at

Depends on what you are shopping for. We have some phenomenal local artisans. But, if I’m just browsing, my favorite places to wander are The Shops at La Cantera and Pearl (the fabulous redevelopment of the Pearl Brewery into a true urban space).

You do NOT want to miss seeing …

The Bracken Bat Flight guided tour during the summer months for an up-close view of Bracken Cave as the largest colony of bats in the world (20 million) head out for dinner.

The Alamo.

And the big cowboy boots at North Star Mall.

San Antonio boots

A few “hidden gems” that only the locals know about …

Pearl Farmers Market on Saturdays and the Scobee Planetarium (which is scheduled to reopen in 2014 after extensive renovations). A little north of San Antonio is the Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo.

Be sure to take your kids to …

SA kiddie parkKiddie Park on Broadway. Generations of San Antonians have fond memories of this historic park. Built in 1925 and renovated in 2009, San Antonio’s Kiddie Park is the oldest children’s amusement park in the country. For an extra dose of fun, ride the San Antonio Zoo’s Eagle Train to the park.

The most kid-friendly hotels are …

The Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort right across the highway from Sea World, the Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort right next to Fiesta Texas, or the JW Marriott Resort with its spectacular 1,100-foot lazy river.

For couples-only excursions, stay here …

Downtown at the historic Menger Hotel or the (supposedly haunted) Emily Morgan Hotel next door to the Alamo.

Even though it’s a big tourist draw, you can probably skip visiting ….

The Riverwalk Mall as an entrance to explore the Riverwalk itself. Opt instead to explore the Museum Reach of the Riverwalk, which is far more beautiful and relaxing.

If we want to stay warm in the winter, we should ….

It rarely gets too cold, so head outside and experience the holidays in true San Antonio style with Merry Mariachis at SeaWorld and at the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza. Enjoy an unbelievably beautifully lit Riverwalk with millions of lights in the trees and more than 6,000 Luminarias along the walkways. Savor tamales – a holiday tradition – at any of the local tamales shops or at the annual tamale festival at the Pearl.

If we visit in the summer and want to stay cool, we should ….

morgan's wonderlandGet in the water. Take a lazy ride down the Guadalupe River, head to Aquatica at Sea World or spend a day at Schlitterbahn. Or, head underground. It’s a steady 70 degrees or lower inside Cave Without A Name or Natural Bridge Caverns.

One of the most awesome things about San Antonio is …

San Antonio is home to the world’s first ultra-accessible theme park, Morgan’s Wonderland. Designed specifically with special needs individuals of all ages and abilities, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Boots photo courtesy of Kimble Young via Flickr

Debi crownAbout SA Busy Kids: Everything you wanted to know about where to go and what to do with your kids in and around San Antonio, Texas. SA Busy Kids was started by San Antonio mom and writer Debi Pfitzenmaier who was told by her husband to go find a hobby. In her day job, she is a media relations pro and consultant. 

Travel Blog 66: Things to do in Cumming, Georgia (near Atlanta)

blog66It’s vacay time! Where’s your family headed?

For over a year now, we’ve enlisted the help of fellow mamas across the blogosphere to give us the low-down on their hometowns — places you might consider visiting.

Next up is blogger Mandi Holcombe, an awesome mama who runs the hyperlocal website (like nwaMotherlode!) called Cumming Local and lives with her family in Cumming, Georgia, near Atlanta. She shares the scoop about Cumming here on Blog 66:

Q: Tell us all about your hometown, Cumming …

Cumming is just north of Atlanta. We get to enjoy the perks of a big city but are far enough away from the hustle & bustle!  We’re also near Lake Lanier, Amicalola Falls, and the North Georgia Mountains.

Q: Are there any cool annual festivals/activities?

The Cumming Country Fair & Festival is held every October – it’s an annual tradition you don’t want to miss!  Fair food, carnival rides, and lots of entertainment!  The city also holds an annual 4th of July Fireworks Show and Parade,along with special events for Christmas too.

Q: If folks want to visit Atlanta, is Cumming a good place to stay? How close is it to Atlanta? 

Cumming is about 30-40 miles north of Atlanta.  But Atlanta is known for having traffic, so Cumming is not convenient if you’re only coming to visit Atlanta.  However there’s lots to do OUTSIDE of the city.

Cumming FairQ: When I’m in Cumming, I should definitely plan to eat at …

A personal favorite is Dutch Monkey Doughnuts – hand made doughnuts from fresh, and local ingredients – yum!!

Q: The best shopping can be found at …

The Collection at Forsyth is an outdoor shopping center with retail, dining, AMC Theatres, and more.  We also have Lakewood 400 Antiques Market – open the 3rd weekend of every month.  You never know what you’ll find there but it’s a great place to stop if you’re visiting when they’re open.

Q: You do NOT want to miss seeing …

Sawnee Mountain is a great place to visit and spend the day with your family.

Q: Be sure to take your kids to …

  • In Cumming: The Aquatic Center, Sawnee Mountain, or Poole’s Mill Park
  • In Atlanta: Georgia Aquarium

cumminglocal_logoQ: An awesome thing about Cumming is …

Cumming and Forsyth County is a great place to raise a family. I love that we’re close enough to Atlanta that we can take advantage of all Atlanta has to offer – the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta Zoo, the World of Coca-Cola, plus lots of great concerts and events that include Atlanta in its tours.  BUT we’re also just far enough out to not actually live in the city!  We’re close to Lake Lanier and the North Georgia Mountains and also not a long drive from Savannah, great cities in Florida and even Disney World!

Mandi Holcombe Bio Pic, resizedMandi is Wife, Mother of 2, and Blogger of all things local in Cumming GA and Forsyth County.  Through her website, CummingLocal.com, Mandi keeps families in the loop of things to do, places to go, & ways to support small businesses.

Blog 66: Things to do in Lake Chelan, Washington

Lake Chelan 3

Summer is on the way and we’re already thinking about where we might go for vacation. Do you know where you’re headed?

In this Blog 66 feature, we enlist the help of fellow mamas across the blogosphere to give us the low-down on their hometowns. This month we’re getting some help from Kristi Bonney, blogger, photographer and social media junkie. Kristi lives in picturesque Lake Chelan.

Krist says as far as summer events go, here’s what her hometown has going on so far:

  • Cruizin Classic Car Show in downtown Chelan June 7 & 8: City Cruise, Show & Shine, hula hoop championship. music, entertainment, shopping and activities for the whole family
  • Manson Fireworks Festival July 4
  • Chelan Rockin’ Fireworks Show July 6
  • Lake Chelan Bach Fest July 12-20: The Bach Fest String Quartet will be performing free concerts around the valley, wineries, and at the Riverwalk Park.
  • Lake Chelan Roadeo August 2 & 3
  • Lake Chelan Fine Arts Festival August 15-18: Arts, crafts, culinary arts, food, special events and live entertainment.

Kristy adds: For more events, visit the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce website. It’s jam packed with great info on planning your trip and the girls who work at the office are super friendly. In fact, they helped me plan our move out here to Lake Chelan!

Lake Chelan 1

Next up, the Lake Chelan Q&A!

1. Tell us a little about what it’s like in Lake Chelan: Lake Chelan is located in north central Washington state and is a 55-mile long lake in Chelan County. Clear, pristine and downright breathtaking, Lake Chelan is a popular vacation destination for families, water sport and wine enthusiasts, many of whom return each year. Lake Chelan offers a wide variety of activities and attractions year-round, but is most popular with summer vacationers.

Lake Chelan 2The little towns of Chelan and Manson are nestled on the lake, where vineyards and orchards pepper the hillside.

2. In your opinion, what makes it worth the trip: If you love getting outdoors, enjoy water activities, small town life and wine, then a visit to Lake Chelan is perfect for you! A relaxed and welcoming community awaits you here in Lake Chelan.

3. When I’m visiting I should definitely plan to eat at: Stop by Blueberry Hills Farm for the 400 Mile French Dip – the slow roasted prime beef sandwich served on a lightly grilled baguette that the Seattle Times penned “worth driving 400 miles for!” You can’t go wrong at Blueberry Hills. The Danish Yeast Waffles are light and airy.

The Real Man Burger is for serious burger eaters only – no sissies allowed! If you’re in the mood for dessert, pick up one of their fresh fruit pies or muffins. Have I mentioned that Blueberry Hills is also a you-pick farm? Great family friendly atmosphere. Beautiful location. Fun decor. Awesome food.

* I wrote about my visit to Blueberry Hills. Click here to read more about it!

4. The best shopping can be found at: Visit Downtown Chelan and Downtown Manson and shop in one of the many family-owned gift shops and boutiques for anything from fine art to jewelry, clothing, gourmet fudge, whole food items, local wine, cheese and more.

5. You do not want to miss these local attractions:

  • Blueberry Hills Farms: Pick blueberries, dine in the farmhouse or out on the patio or indulge in one of their homemade decadent desserts.
  • Chelan Riverwalk: Get active and enjoy the one-mile scenic river view loop trail in downtown Chelan
  • Slidewaters Lake Chelan Waterpark: Great place for family water park fun.
  • Vin du Lac Winery: Stop by for a wine tasting, tour, delicious meal in a beautiful setting and live jazz music on Saturdays!

6. A hidden gem: Stehekin, though not hidden, is an absolute must-see. Tucked away on the northwest end of Lake Chelan, Stehekin is accessible only by boat, seaplane or hiking. Simply put, Stehekin is heaven on earth. Take the ferry and stay awhile. There’s lots to do – river rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, bicycling.

Lake Chelan 57. Be sure to take your kids to: Slidewaters Lake Chelan Waterpark. Be sure to take your kids to Slidewaters Lake Chelan Waterpark for a day filled with family fun outdoors. Enjoy some fun in the sun on the rapids, lazy river, hot tub, kiddie area and the many slides throughout the park. Also available: volleyball court, private pavilion, concession stand, gift shop and air brush tattoos!

8. The most kid-friendly hotels are: Campbell’s Resort is a family friendly hotel located right along Lake Chelan with walking access to shops and more. Expect sweeping views of the lake, friendly service and great amenities. Lounge along the private beach, or jump in one of the pools or hot tubs. They have two of each! Dining and spa services located on site as well.

9. For couples-only excursions: There are lots of great couples-only options. Get in on any of the many wine tours and tastings here in Lake Chelan. Grab a game of golf at Bear Mountain Golf Course. Relax and indulge in a couples massage at Campbell’s Resort. Or, stop by the Mill Bay Casino for some gambling fun.

10. The best time of year to visit Lake Chelan is: While Lake Chelan offers a variety of activities and events throughout the year (including skiing at Echo Ridge during the winter months), you’ll find so much to see and do during the summer – boating, swimming, golfing, tennis, wine tasting, farmers markets, fresh fruit stands and more.

11. The coolest thing about this area is: One of the things I love most about Lake Chelan, besides its obvious beauty, is its small town atmosphere. The residents are friendly, welcoming and committed to maintaining Lake Chelan’s charm. You won’t find fast food restaurants or big box franchises within city limits. What you’ll find instead are family-owned businesses run by folks like you and me.

Kristi BonneyKristi Bonney is a 30-something Native Hawaiian transplant living in the Pacific Northwest. Writer. Photographer. Speaker. Social Media Junkie. Author of photography and lifestyle blog, Live and Love Out Loud. Co-creator of the popular Nurture Photography online photo challenge series. “I blog. I take photos. I explore the world around me. I strive to live unapologetically out loud.” Follow her on Twitter @tweetingmama. *All photos courtesy of Kristi Bonney