Lions, Bobcats, Lynx, Oh My – Natural Selections Offers Guided Hikes for Families in and around Boulder

Lions, Bobcats, Lynx, oh my! Natural Selections is the educational arm of Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks that offers hikes and activities to get the whole family outdoors and learning about our natural environment. They offer events for families at least once a month, year around – even in the snow! These events are fun, educational, entertaining, engaging, and all about the natural environment all around us.

Upcoming Hikes for Families:

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Some of these hikes require registration, so check in before hand. You can get on their email list to get advance notice of upcoming events:

https://bouldercolorado.gov/osmp/nature-hikes

Thanks to Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks for engaging Boulder kids in nature!

#Getoutdoors

 

The Capital Is Calling: Washington D.C. is a Great Family Vacation Option!

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Washington, D.C. is a great family vacation option! The history is rich and no matter the age of your children they will recognize some of the iconic monuments & locations in D.C. Not only is this an amazing learning environment for the kids, but the Smithsonian’s and all the monuments and memorials along the National Mall are free. Even though D.C. is not a beach vacation or an amusement park, it is vibrant and alive with tons of options for the whole family!

DC2We spent four amazing days in D.C. with our kids, ages 9 & 11. We could have spent longer, but four days worked out well. We got to see a lot, but not at a frenetic pace. My whole family agrees that we would head back without hesitation!

The Highlights of Our DC Trip:

Kids: The Flight Simulator at the Air & Space Museum in Virginia was their favorite!

Parents: Seeing the space shuttle at the Air and Space Museum in Virginia, and walking along the National Mall seeing the iconic memorials and monuments, especially the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

Whole Family: Capital City Bikes Tours – Monuments & Memorials Sunset Bike Tour. This DC2
was an amazing tour that took us through the streets of D.C. at sunset. We stopped at the major monuments and memorials and were treated to juicy details we never would have known without the guide who was super knowledgable! Older kids can have their own bikes and the younger ones can join on a tandem.

DC Government Tours: Our trip was a last minute decision so we did not get to participate in a lot of the organized tours of the government. If you plan ahead you can request a tour of the White House and/or the US Congress. Depending on the age of your kids – these can be a really memorable experiences! Try to put in a request at least 3 months ahead of time if possible.

Local Tours: Take a bike tour with Capital City Bike Tours. They can usually be booked last minute and offer you guided tours of the monuments and memorials of D.C. You can also take a self-guided tour of the National Mall. Find a brochure from the National Parks Service.

Smithsonian Museums: I have fond memories of spending time at Washington D.C., museums.  I specifically remembered the Air and Space Museum, so I was excited to take the kids back! We spent the most time at these museums: National Museum of Natural History, the Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of American Indian. They were all great options and entertained the kids for hours. Each has a cafeteria so you can take a break, or grab something from a street vendor right outside along the National Mall. The American Indian Museum has a really great cafeteria we heard people rave about and after trying it we concur. It offered delicious food based on the different Native American regions so it was unique and educational, but the kids still enjoyed the food.

The most memorable museum – the one we had to drag our kids out of – was the Air and Space Museum in Virginia – this one you have to drive for – but this location houses all the over sized space toys like the space shuttle, war planes, bi-planes, and tons more. Also, there are flight simulators on site and the kids LOVED these. It was almost impossible to get them out!

Other Museums: There is also the International Spy Museum that is amazing and really engages the kids. It isn’t a Smithsonian so it does cost to go in. We thought it was worth the cost!

Outdoors: Take a walk on the National Mall – which is a actually a National Park – so look for Junior Ranger program information for your kids. They offer activity booklets your kids can do along the way all the while becoming a Junior Ranger replete with a badge and stamp when they complete this booklet. We found ice cream and pretzels along the National Mall which offered a great break and a burst of energy for all of us on those hot summer days. Of course you can explore the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, and other outdoor locations too.

Getting There: United Airlines and Frontier Airlines offer direct flights to Washington, D.C. from Denver.

General Words of Advice:

1. Take your time! Go slowly and don’t schedule yourself too tightly. There is so much to do you will want to get it all in, but if you are traveling as a family, pick your top sites and hit those for sure. Everything else is icing on the cake.

2. If you go in the summer it can be really hot, so consider going early or late to avoid the middle of the day heat – even if you are planning to be at the museums!

3. Bring good walking shoes. Seems obvious, but you walk a lot and so good shoes helps!

Have tons of fun exploring the rich history and educational opportunities in Washington, D.C.!

How Memories Are Made: Family Travel Through Nicaragua and Costa Rica

“There is a great hotel in San Jose!”, was my son’s response to our friend’s request for suggestions of what to do in Costa Rica.

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For almost three weeks we traveled throughout Nicaragua and Costa Rica – all eight of us – two families traveling together. We intended to have an adventure so we spent our days on volcanoes, zipping through the jungle canopy of Costa Rica, surfing in San Juan del Sur, hiking through the heat and humidity of a remote volcanic island, and riding horses. It was all adventure, but not all of it as positive as others; during the course of the trip the kids’  backpacks had been stollen and the kids managed to puke all over at least two hotels. It was an amazing [multi] family adventure! It really was. Honest.

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San Jose Marriott

When I think back on our trip I remember watching the sun set on the Pacific Ocean while drinking smoothies along the coast in Nicaragua, my husband remembers “Tyler’s Place” where we stayed to surf and explore Nicaragua. BUT if you ask my kids they will tell you that there is a great Marriott in San Jose!

They did just that the other day. We have friends who scored last minute United Airlines mileage tickets to Costa Rica and knowing we had been there, asked for recommendations. I offered up mine in a detailed email. In the soccer carpool this friend asked my son this question and he offered what was most vivid in his mind – The Costa Rica Marriott Hotel in San Jose. This friend sent me an email to confirm this was his response. We both laughed. Then I started thinking about how it could possibly be that my son’s best memory of our extended family trip was of a hotel?

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The white sheets!

Until the other day I hadn’t thought about the moment when we got to San Jose, after a long drive and our stollen backpack fiasco, for a long time. It reminded me that you cannot always predict what memories will be indelibly etched in your children’s minds. What will make the biggest impact. You just never know! In this case I believe it was the contrast of the relatively rustic way we traveled for close to three weeks, the stollen backpacks, being sick, then the safety of this simply luxurious hotel.

When we walked into the hotel it felt cloistered. It felt safe. It felt welcoming. The sheets were so white. The beds so tall. The restaurant had the most amazing buffet any of us had ever seen. They prepared anything the kids requested. My kids noticed ALL these details. All of them. We had not left Costa Rica but the Marriott made us feel like we had been swept up into the best of all worlds – local culture and amenities galore. This experience is indelibly woven into the fabric of my children’s beings. They may forget the other amazing things we did on our trip, but they will not forget this simple luxury.

Family Travel in Guatemala: A Full Sensory Experience!

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A Guatemala Trip Report: Our family of four had a blast!

The jungle here in Guatemala belies the hidden Mayan culture we are about to encounter. As the kids swim in the pool at our small hotel on the site of Tikal National Park I know they cannot comprehend what is right around the corner. No way. They complain about having to hike in. Par for the course. Then we come out onto the main plaza area in Tikal where they see pyramids and monkeys and things they have no words for – we all stop to soak it in. We are standing on this sacred spot looking into the past. Reminds me of the first time I saw the Grand Canyon – it was almost incomprehensible how large it was. Then our guide tells my boys they can climb around on the site and they immediately start exploring. Guatemala is truly a land of amazement and a perfect family travel experience!

Guatemala has a special place in my heart. My husband and I traveled to Guatemala in 1990. We took time off from college and spent 3 months learning Spanish and traveling around this amazing country. The indigenous culture, Spanish, vibrant colors, mountains, and the warmth of the people in this Central American country had left me dreaming of the day I would return. Since then I have always wanted to go back. I finally got the chance and took my kids – ages 10 & 12 – for 2 1/2 weeks.

Guatemala is not luxury travel. Though you can travel luxuriously. We IMG_3656used TripAdvisor to locate hotels that were family-friendly and retained a feeling of the local culture. A few years earlier we traveled to Costa Rica and we wanted something a little rougher, but not without any amenities. We organized most of our travel ahead of time, but left room for flexibility.

Guatemala is not insular. You can really get a sense of the culture through food, experiences, and observation. We chose to travel close to the ground and spend time observing [and participating in] the local customs and events whenever possible. It seemed we were always stumbling onto something new like on New Year’s day when the people in Antigua lit off literally streets full of firecrackers. Smoke filling the streets. People cheering. Believe me, we would never do this in the US!

IMG_4156Guatemala is not tame – there are adventures of all kinds to be had. We found ourselves traveling to some of the hot spots in this country since we had under three weeks. Our family spent time in Antigua, Chichicastenango Market, Tikal, and the Pacific Ocean site of Paredon Surf House. I would add Lago Atitlan and Livingston as must see family spots in Guatemala but we didn’t make it because of our schedule and choosing to travel more slowly! So to add to surfing some of the things you can find to do in Guatemala as a family are sailing, horse back riding and zip lining.

Here are the places we spent time in during our trip:

Antigua – We spent at least a week here on and off. The town is a Worldantigua Heritage site which was the capital of Guatemala at one time. The buildings are spectacular and the fact you can get a great cup of coffee was helpful! The kids loved wandering the cobblestone streets, eating lunch overlooking the plaza or in an amazing internal courtyard, touring a coffee cooperative, and experiencing the most amazing New Years party throughout the streets of Antigua – ever! If you were dropped in Antigua on New Year Eve you would think this was a town of Pyromaniacs – this makes for happy boys.

Chichcastenango – This was our first stop. A little overwhelming for theIMG_3615 kids as their introduction to Guatemala so I would head there again, but later in our trip. The market in Chichicastenango is amazing. It is the real deal. It is not intended for Gringo Tourists – people are selling day to day goods as well as masks. The best part was the fact that we happened upon a religious ceremony that includes ornate processions, and men hanging upside down from ropes on a pole 3 stories high. Captivating for all of us!

Tikal – The most amazing Mayan ruins rising out of the jungle! We stayed at a hotel on the site of Tikal National Park. A splurge. But it was amazing to be right in the park. A walk through Tikal is nothing like it would be in USA. You can climb all around and on these Mayan ruins so it was a full body experience and with 10 & 12 year olds they really appreciated being let loose. I highly recommend Tikal for any family!

Paredon Surf House – This is a little known location on the coast of Guatemala. Our family full of culture and loved every minute, but we IMG_4156wanted to satiate our surfing desires so we did some research and found Paradon Surf House in the town of El Paredon about 2 hours from Guatemala City. It was an amazing, tranquil, out of the way location right on the water with a pool, food available onsite [so no stressing about buying ahead and making it], and surf lessons available all day long. Perfect! Beside surfing along the black sand beaches was that there were people from all over the world staying in this small surf house that held maybe 30 people max. The kids got up and surfed the first day and then didn’t want to stop!

Getting Up Close & Personal – The thing we appreciated most is how close to the culture and people we got in Guatemala as tourists. It was the coffee tour that is burned in my mind – just our family with a coffee farmer & interpreter. We ended the tour at this farmer’s house where the kids got to separate the dried coffee by using a bike powered machine he clearly created, roast the coffee over a fire, meet the kids of this family, and drink coffee. They still talk about the “best coffee ever!”

Safety – We always felt safe traveling in Guatemala. With kids we decided to avoid the local bus service known as “Chicken Buses” which was bitter sweet because we traveled in relatively more comfort than we had in our previous visit, but we had some of our best experiences on these buses sitting next to chickens. We were careful with food and simply explained to the kids about not drinking water from an unknown source and washing regularly. It was easy and no one got sick!

The kids thoroughly enjoyed our Guatemalan adventure. They have asked that on our next vacation we stay in one place longer. What they described would fall into the arena of “All Inclusive” but I don’t think this is what they mean since they have never experienced anything of the sort. Will a more tame trip be in our future? I doubt it.

 

 

2015 Free Days: Get In On The Family Fun & Adventures!

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Free Days – Explore somewhere new with your family!  Don’t spend a fortune and get all the benefits of the great cultural things the Denver/Boulder Metro Area has to offer! 

There was recently a question about finding Free Days. Free Days are great! They are specific days when some of the best museums around town are free. This means you can stay as long as you like without feeling like you just dumped down a lot of money. It increases the fun!

Upcoming Free Days:

  • Denver Zoo – February 6, 2015
  • Denver Art Museum – February 7, 2015
  • Longmont Museum – February 14, 2015
  • Denver Botanic Gardens – February 16, 2015

There are lots of Free Days throughout the year. Let them inspire you to explore somewhere new or a new corner of someplace you already know. Consider planning a picnic lunch if it’s a nice day. Or stop by Downtown Denver and take a ride on the 16th Street Mall Shuttle just for the fun of it!

SCFD Free Days include awesome locations such as:

Want to plan a trip or just see what Free Days are coming up? Check out the SCFD Free Days Calendar for all the 2015 Free Days.

#getoutside #freedays #free #Denver #Boulder

Tumble Books For Your Kids: Free Talking Books On Your Computer + More…

Tumble Books are a great resource of online talking books, puzzles, videos and more for kids. If you have a library card, you have access to this great resource!

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 5.37.40 PMTumble books are mainly focused on early readers, but I noticed some educational video titles that would be suitable for kids a bit older too. Fun videos on Barcelona, Benjamin Franklin, and many more.

The Tumble Books are talking books, but the books have also been transformed to be a bit interactive so they are more engaging to kids. I found myself mesmerized by a few of my kids’ favorites.

To get to Tumble Books:

1. Go to the Boulder Public Library Youth Section

2. Click on the Tumble Books Link

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3. Pick the type of Tumble Book materials you want to view: Picture books, chapter books, videos, etc…

4. Now search for the titles you like or browse for one that your child will enjoy… It’s really easy! No wait lists. Just click and go.

 

 

BVSD Open Enrollment Time Is Just Around the Corner

Open Enrollment. These two words bring strong emotions to the parents of Boulder. For some who chose to enroll their kids in their neighborhood school, open enrollment in the Boulder Valley School District [BVSD] is not a big deal. Phew! For the 40% of us who do open enroll our children it can be stressful.

So what is open enrollment in BVSD? Any child can go to any school based on availability by entering their child into the lottery system called, Open Enrollment. All families in BVSD can look at all schools to see which one seems to meet their child[ren]’s needs best. There are many choices [charter schools, focus schools, and neighborhood schools] and each has it’s benefits and drawbacks. But ultimately many Boulderites choose to open enroll their children in an attempt to try and find the best fit. For more details on open enrollment click here.

BVSD Open Enrollment Dates:

December 1, 2014 through January 16, 2015

Finding the BVSD school that is the right fit – School Tours:

All BVSD schools offer school tours during the open enrollment process. To tour a school you need to go during their scheduled school tours. To find open enrollment school tours dates/times – BVSD Open Enrollment Tours

There are two main types of BVSD schools:

Neighborhood Schools: These are the schools that are designated for your neighborhood. Your child can always get into these schools if you live within the boundaries. You DO NOT need to open enroll to these schools if you are in the neighborhood, but you CAN if you want your child to go to the school, but you are NOT in the designated boundary.

Focus/Charter Schools: These are open enrollment schools that serve ALL of BVSD. There are NO designated neighborhood boundaries for Focus and Charter schools. You MUST open enroll to these schools. 

To help you visualize the open enrollment process here is the BVDS open enrollment flow chart [the one they have up is from last year, so the dates are incorrect, but the content is good otherwise]:

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For Boulder Families with younger children there are a few schools that have open enrollment options for preschool, such as Community Montessori. For these schools, open enrolling at preschool age is the best way to secure a slot for your child. So even if your child is too young for elementary schools, taking a look at the open enrollment process can be really helpful. Likewise, the award winning Peak to Peak Charter School has open enrollment policies that favor those who have applied many times. They are all a bit different, so it is best to do your research!

Open enrollment happens for a limited time. You MUST apply to open enroll your child between December 1, 2013 and January 16, 2014 to get into the lottery. To get an open enrollment application head to the BVSD website. Good luck to everyone open enrolling a child this year!

Free Days: Get In On The Fun!

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 10.51.18 AMThere was recently a question about finding Free Days. Free Days are great! They are specific days when some of the best museums around town are free. This means you can stay as long as you like without feeling like you just dumped down a lot of money. It increases the fun!

 

A lot of these Free Days are in and around Denver. Consider planning a picnic lunch if it’s a nice day. Or stop by Downtown Denver and take a ride on the 16th Street Mall Shuttle just for the fun of it!

SCFD Free Days include awesome locations such as:

  • Denver Art Museum
  • Denver Museum of Natural Science
  • Boulder History Museum
  • Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Denver Botanic Garden
  • Colorado Railroad Museum
  • Denver Zoo

November Free Days

 

December Free Days

Want to plan a trip or just see what Free Days are coming up? Check out the SCFD Free Days Calendar 

#getoutside #freedays #free

2014 Pumpkin Patches AND Halloween Events In and Around Boulder

PUMPKIN PATCHES IN & AROUND BOULDER

Cottonwood Farm. Pumpkin patch, hay maze, animals, antique farm equipment. Plenty of fall produce, including decorative gourds and corn bundles. Free admission. (Wagon rides cost extra). Open daily 10:00 to 6:00pm  cottonwoodfarms.com.

Munson Farm. Pumpkins, fall fruits, vegetable. Hayrides, corn maze, pumpkins. Free kids pumpkin with purchase if you print out the first page of their website. Free admission. Open daily 9:00 to 6:30pm. Valmont Road and 75th Street, Boulder, CO. munsonfarms.com.

Red Wagon Farm. Pumpkins, winter squash, apples, and more produce! See farm animals (alpacas, llamas, goats, chickens, geese!) and enjoy the Straw Bale Maze! Free admission. Open 10:00 to 6:00 daily through Halloween. Red Wagon Farm Website.

South Boulder Pumpkin Patch. Grand Opening October 11 & 12 noon with food trucks and lots of fun for all. Saturdays & Sundays noon to 6 and weekdays 10/20 through 10/31 from 4 to 7pm. 3485 Stanford Court, Boulder, CO 80305. SoBo Pumpkin Patch Facebook Page.

 

HALLOWEEN EVENTS FOR FAMILIES

Munchkin Masquerade – October 31, 2014 Bring your younger kids down to trick or treat amongst their peers along the shops on Pearl Street Mall. Always a family favorite! The kids are adorable in their costumes. The treats are everywhere. It could not be more fun. October 31, 2012 from 3:00 to 6:00pm rain or shine. For more information visit DBI Website.

Colorado Railroad Museum Trick or Treat Train – October 25 & 26
Family-friendly Halloween event features rides in the vintage passenger cars with conductors and engineers in full costume; a “silly” graveyard; and a pumpkin patch. 10am-4pm at the Colorado Railroad Museum, 17155 W. 44th Ave., Golden. October 25 & 26. Colorado Railroad Museum Website.

The Great Pumpkin Race & Halloween Carnival – October 27, 2014
Purchase a pumpkin and watch it race down the lazy river with the rest. Winners receive prizes like free rec-center passes. Carnival games begin at 4 to 5:30pm; pumpkins launch at 5pm sharp; the pumpkin-carving contest is at 1:30pm. Bob L. Burger Recreation Center, 111 W. Baseline Road in Lafayette. 303-665-0469 City of Lafayette Website.

Time to Start Thinking Skiing! Get Free Ski Passes for Your 5th and 6th Graders!

IMG_0070If you have a 5th or 6th grader it is time to start thinking about getting them their Free/Cheap Ski/Snowboard passes. The way it works is that there are two different programs: School of Shred & Colorado Ski Country USA. They both offer 5th graders free skiing, but at different locations, so you want to get both! They offer 6th graders cheap or free skiing depending on the program. More details below.

5th Graders: You get 4 days of free skiing at all Colorado Vail Resorts: Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and A-Basin [School of Shred]. In addition you get 3 days of free skiing at 20 other Colorado ski resorts including Aspen, Buttermilk, Steamboat, Copper Mountain, Winter Park, and many more [Colorado Ski Country USA]. And you also get one free ski/snowboard lesson and equipment rental through both programs – so essentially you could take 2 free lessons with rental gear if you are new to skiing or snowboardng. They really want you to get good!

6th Graders: You can purchase a pass for 4 days at all 20 Ski Country USA resorts for $99 [these are the smaller resorts]. This is a screaming good deal! School of Shred on the other hand is offering the same deal for 6th graders as they did for 5th graders–4 free days of skiing at their resorts.

It is time to get your child[ren] registered! Don’t forget to register for both programs – especially if you have a 5th grader!

School of Shred Passport – Sign Up

Colorado Ski Country USA Passport – Sign Up

Have fun skiing/snowboarding!