Travel Mishaps When Life Gives you Lemons…

I’ve been happily planning our family’s next big trip and I’m pretty excited about it! After a year of dreaming, pinning, reading blogs, and saving some instagood ideas I’ve finally booked my flights and accommodations!  We’ll be heading to London for two weeks over the Christmas holidays, a dream come true!

#westminsterpalace

Now that our flights are booked, its time to narrow down, prioritize and finalize some of those fun ideas I’ve been thinking about all year. I’ve been booking tickets and tours, researching day trips, and making plans… secure in the knowledge that even with the most careful and organized planning I won’t get to do all of it… something will go wrong.

#whenlifegivesyoulemons

Yes, you read that right. Something will go wrong, something always does! The key is knowing that even though I don’t know what that something is or when it will present itself we make the best of it when it does.

As the saying goes:

“When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.”

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The boys and I put together this list of travel mishaps, most of which we now laugh about. Have you ever had a travel mishap? Were you able to make lemonade, or were the lemons just too sour?

Lost In Tempura

Life’s given you lemons when you think your dinner check will be on the very reasonable side but actually ends up costing as much as all the other meals on the entire trip combined! Whoops, we made a mistake with the conversion from yen to dollars…

That said…

Japan with kids #japanwithkids

Our meal was fantastic, in fact it was hands down the best meal we had the entire trip! Tempura in Japan was incredible and nothing like anything we’d in the States. The batter was light as air, the house made sauce was divine, and we learned a new way to enjoy tempura, a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt. It had been the perfect way to end what we all considered the vacation of a lifetime!

TempuraWant to read more about that incredible dinner or about our other Japanese adventures? Check out these related posts:


Japan! Adventures in Cuisine!
Japan! Tokyo… No Wasabi Kudasai!
Japan! Planes, Trains & Automobiles!

Last Chance for Gas

Life’s given you lemons when you’re driving a diesel car, but you put gas in the tank. Whoops! Having never driven a diesel it was news to us that American diesel cars and pump nozzles have different shapes preventing such a mistake from happening,

That said…

Killarney

Not having a car meant cancelling our trip to the Dingle Peninsula, which although disappointing, turned out to be more than okay as we spent a lovely day wandering in the Killarney National Park. Located just across the road from downtown Killarney and about one block from our hotel it was just steps away. No car needed! The weather was somewhat unpredictable, but the boys loved walking into the wind and rain! The park path twisted and turned through forest and meadow and at the end a castle!

Killarney Ireland
Wind

Want to read more about our adventures in Killarney National Park or about our other Irish adventures? Check out these related posts:


Ireland! 50 Shades of Green!
Ireland! Along the way… Cork!
Ireland! Three Days in Dublin!

High Wind Advisory

Life’s given you lemons when you’ve traveled half way around the world to see the famous Benagil Sea Cave (listed as one of the world’s most beautiful places), and high winds, during the entire visit, prevent you from ever reaching the cave, which is only accessible by boat.

That said…

#praiadamarinha

#praiadamarinha

We ended up at the Praia da Marinha, listed by the Michelin Guide as one of the ten most beautiful beaches in Europe and as one of the one hundred most beautiful beaches in the world! The entire time we were there I kept thinking how amazing it was and that this couldn’t be real! The high winds and surf prevented swimming, but we relaxed on the sand, dipped our toes in the water and took many photos.

#beachbumTo read more about our visit to the Praia da Marinha or about our other Portuguese adventures check out these related posts:


The Algarve! Pinch Me! Is This real? 
Portugal! DETOUR… To The End Of The World!
Portugal! Beautiful Lisbon!

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining 

Life’s given you lemons when your night sky photo tour of Monument Valley is foiled when an unexpected storm complete with rain, wind, thunder and lightening suddenly blows in.

That said…

Monument Valley Utah #monumentvalleyEven with the heavy rain keeping us indoors, we spent an enjoyable evening in our little cabin and got some great sunrise photos instead.

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familyroadtrip

To read more about our visit to Monument Valley or the successful night sky photo tour in Bryce Canyon check out these related blog post:


Soaring Over Monument Valley
Exploring Bryce Canyon National Park Day & Night

Just Be Nice

Life’s given you lemons when fellow tourists behave badly. Our visit to the Las Vegas Neon Museum would have been perfect, but for the rude behavior of another guest. His strange and threatening attitude put everyone on edge, including the guide.

That said…

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids Neon MuseumWe loved seeing the signs, and learning about the history of Sin City. The museum staff were kind and even refunded our admission.

Things to do with kids in Las Vegas Neon Museum

To read more about our visit to The Neon Museum, and our other adventures in Las Vegas check out these related blog posts:


Las Vegas The Neon Museum
Las Vegas: Beyond the Strip
8 Things to do in Las Vegas… with Kids

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Life’s given you lemons when your kid throws up before during, or after a plane flight. My little one has thrown up in just about every airport, plane, or taxi from Paris to Rome, and everywhere in between. If there’s anywhere he hasn’t thrown up my older one took his place.  Whoops, there went the retainer!

That said…

Dublin Rental Car Agency

There’s nothing like a little throw up to speed up the check in process.

Travel with kids #travelwithkids

To read more about… ha ha! Okay, maybe you don’t want to read more about that, but here are some fun and thankfully unrelated posts:


Much Ado about Paris!
Roma! La Città Eterna!

Sour Lemons

Sometimes it’s just not possible to make lemonade no matter how much sugar you add to those sour lemons…

Ants

Life’s given you sour lemons when you go to load up the car after a fun weekend in Santa Barbara, and find it crawling with thousands of ants! I’m not sure anything could have prepared us for that! Four hours and a through cleaning later, we set off for home. Needless to say the ride wasn’t our most relaxing.

santa barbara-0901


Related post: Santa Barbara!


Food Poisoning 

Life’s given you sour lemons when your toddler falls ill with salmonella on the flight home from Hawaii and instead of heading to your house from the airport you head to the doctor.

What’s The Matter?

Life’s given you sour lemons when one day after you arrive for your vacation you fall ill with a rare and difficult to diagnose virus. Spending your vacation in the hotel room instead of out exploring, now that’s just rotten!

#stlouiscathedralnight


New Orleans! Lets Eat Lunch & Talk About Dinner!


Even though things don’t always turn out as planned, I’ll still take the occasional lemons if it means we get to have lemonade in the end!


Pin for later:

Travel Mishaps #familytravel

 

The Grand Canyon & other Stops Along the way in the American Southwest

Lo Gas Road Sign Nevada
Grand Canyon National Park Arizona #grandcanyonwithkids
A California Condor flies over the Grand Canyon

I’ve been a road tripper my entire life. I have fond childhood memories of summers our family spent touring the Western half of the United States in a VW bus. In recent years we’ve found ourselves exploring further afield. Last year we spent three weeks driving around Ireland, Scotland and England, the summer before that we toured Portugal with stops in Lisbon, Sintra and Carvoeiro before we set off for further adventures in Spain. Along the way we’ve discovered many wonderful surprises!


Related posts:
Portugal: Detour to the End of the World
England: Along the Way: Hadrian’s Wall

Glen Canyon Dam Page Arizona #lakemead
We met this gorgous view at an unplanned stop along the way…

No matter our destination one thing has always been the same: I’ve been the passenger for thousands of miles. Preferring to let others take on the driving duty, I was content to sit back taking photos out the window, and reading my guidebooks in between periodic naps. But that changed this past summer when the boys and I joined my parents for a 2000 + mile road trip throughout the American Southwest.


Related post: Postcards from the American Southwest

The One Behind the Wheel

Seven Magic Mountains Las Vegas NevadaThis time I would be the main driver and I was somewhat aprehensive. I knew I could do it, but everyday for two straight weeks? Would I get bored? Would it be too much driving? Would I hear a never ending chorus of “Are we there yet?” from the back seat…

Route 66 Kingman Arizona #route66
Historic Route 66 is definitely worth a stop! Did you know it ends in Santa Monica, California?

Deciding to take my chances and do it my way, we took our time and stopped when and where we felt like it, which really helped to break up the monotony of the miles. Success! I don’t recall hearing anyone ask “are we there yet?” and we discovered many wonderful places along the way! Here are just a few*…

THE SEVEN MAGIC MOUNTAINS

Along the way from Los Angeles to Las Vegas
Henderson, Nevada
20 miles from The Delano Hotel Las Vegas

Seven Magic Mountains Las Vegas #sevenmagicmountains
It was impossible to snap a people free photo

Our first “along the way” stop was The Seven Magic Mountains, a temporary art installation, in the desert just outside Las Vegas. An instagrammers dream, this grouping of brightly colored boulders stacked 30 feet high was created by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. Installed in May 2016 the exhibit will be in place for two years.

 

GLEN CANYON DAM

Along the way from Monument Valley to Antelope Canyon
Page, Arizona

125 Miles from Monument Valley

Glen Canyon Dam Page Arizona #lakemead
Glen Canyon Dam is the second highest concrete arch dam in the United States

The famous Antelope Canyon brought us to Page, but our visit wasn’t until the following day, so we decided upon a visit to the Glen Canyon Dam. The Visitor Center provides fabulous views, of the Dam, beautiful Lake Powell, and has an exhibition worth exploring. We took the Dam tour where we not only learned about the construction of the dam, but had the chance to walk across the top, and to go inside, which was around 638 feet down…

 

HORSESHOE BEND

Along the way from Antelope Canyon to The Grand Canyon
Page, Arizona
110 Miles from The Grand Canyon

Horseshoe Bend Colorado River Arizona

Located just outside Page, Arizona, Horseshoe Bend is one of the most photographed spots on the Colorado River. That said, walking to the edge of a 1000 foot drop with no safety guards isn’t high on my list (pun intended!) Go? Don’t go? How could I skip this natural wonder? Go? Don’t go?! I went, but I had to crawl to get to this point. I admit I didn’t heed the signs, but you should. What have you done to get that photo? Would you have leaned over to get the perfect pic?

 

THE GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK

Along the way from Horseshoe Bend to Las Vegas, Nevada
253 Miles from Las Vegas

Grand Canyon National Park Arizona #grandcanyon
The Desert View

I know what you’re thinking! How is the Grand Canyon National Park just a stop along the way? Well… after two weeks of soaring temperatures, visitor centers, and redish colored rocks we were simply canyoned out. We felt a bit like National Lampoon’s Vacation. Arriving just before the rain, we had time to visit the Desert View overlook and the Grand Canyon Visitor Center before we called it a day.

Grand Canyon National Park Arizona #grandcanyon

The next morning we had a family meeting and gave ourselves permission to continue on our journey without another visit to the Park. I can’t say for sure if I would have felt this way had The Grand Canyon been our first stop, but we visited many beautiful places on this adventure and felt no remorse about the nature of our visit.

 

HISTORIC ROUTE 66

Along the way from The Grand Canyon to Las Vegas
Kingman & Seligman, Arizona
104 Miles from Las Vegas

Historic Route 66 Seligman Arizona American Flag painting
Stopping to “get our kicks on Route 66” was an absolute must!

At one time stretching from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California Historic Route 66 is one of the most famous roads in the United States. No longer an official highway it is still possible to drive on stretches of what was once known as America’s Main Street, or The Mother Road. We took the time to stop in Seligman for some kitschy Americana photos and again in Kingman at an old school diner for some lunch.

 

THE HOOVER DAM

Along the way from Route 66 to Las Vegas
33 Miles from Las Vegas

The Hoover Dam
at 726.4 feet Hoover Dam is the tallest concrete arch dam in the United States.

Our final along the way stop was the Hoover Dam. Walking across Glen Canyon was pretty neat, but driving across Hoover Dam was really cool, at the same time I couldn’t help but think about all the action movies I’ve seen where they detroy the dam… Let’s get out of here!

*If you’d like to read more about our adventures through the American Southwest, and other fun places we stopped along the way check out these related blog posts:

8 Things to do in Las Vegas… with Kids
Family Friendly Hiking in Zion National Park
 Exploring Bryce Canyon National Park Day & Night
Road Trip to Arches National Park
Soaring Over Monument Valley
Chasing the Light in Upper Antelope Canyon

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The Grand Canyon Arizona #grandcanyonwithkids

Chasing the Light in Upper Antelope Canyon

#familytravel Antelope Canyon Page Arizona

‘As the sun moved across the sky, beams of light would shine through the cracks in the earth high above us. Our time in Antelope Canyon was limited, and I had to get this right, this would be my one and only chance. I set up my camera equipment as best I could, an amateur masquerading as something more; I fumbled with my camera’s settings… would I be able to capture the wonder of this ancient place?

Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #antelopecanyon

I pressed myself as close to the wall as I could, but there was nowhere else to go. It was so hot I could feel the sweat dripping down my back, and my knees ached from squatting in the dirt. In places the walls were so close together I had to squeeze to get through, and as the rush of people pushed past the dust swirled around me like a lightly falling snow.

Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #photography

The Antelope Slot Canyons Upper and Lower

Formed by the passage of water over the course of thousands of years the Antelope Canyons are an incredible natural wonder. The two slot canyons at this site are referred to as Upper and Lower Canyons.

Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #antelopecanyon

A visit to the Upper Canyon requires no hiking or climbing, which makes it a more family friendly option. Additionally, Upper Canyon has access from both ends while Lower Canyon has one-way in and one-way out. *Flash flooding is a real possibility in both locations..

Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #antelopecanyon

A Photographers Dream

Maybe you’re thinking what was this self described indoor girl doing crammed into a crack 120 feet below the surface, with the very real possibility of flash flooding? Funny, I had the exact same thought!

#familytravel Antelope Canyon Page Arizona

It was the light that brought me to this magical place and I wasn’t alone! Photographers from around the world come to chase the light beams through the narrow passages and unique rock formations of Upper Antelope Canyon.

Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #antelopecanyon

When the midday sun breaks into the canyon and shines upon the smooth sandstone walls it brings to life the brilliant reds, oranges and yellows, which would otherwise be hidden from view. This natural phenomenon only takes place March through October.

Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #antelopecanyon

Tour Options – Antelope Canyon can only be viewed via guided tour.

Over the past few years I’ve come to realize the value of a guided tour, however in the case of Antelope Canyon a guided tour is the only option. While there are multiple companies offering tours, not all of them are equal. We lucked out when we chose the fabulous Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours!

Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #antelopcanyon
A tour group waiting to enter Upper Antelope Canyon

Depending on your group’s interests there are different tours available. Wanting the chance to both take photos and to enjoy this special place I opted to take two different tours.  I took a photograhy tour early in the day and came back in the late afternoon with my family for a sightseer’s tour.

Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #antelopecanyonnavajotours

I loved my morning guide, Richardson, so much I requested he be our guide during our afternoon tour.

Photography Tour

Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #photography

This tour is aimed at more serious photographers, or at least those serious enough to have invested in a fancy camera and tripod. Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours limits the number of participants on photo expeditions, so it was just Richardson, myself and one other fellow, Chris from Luxembourg.

Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #antelopecanyon

We took photos for two straight hours all the while chasing the light based on the position of the sun. Richardson knew where to go within the canyon at any given time to get the best shot. As the sand falls from above it accentuates the beams of light giving them texture and creating a spectacular effect.

Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #antelopecanyon
Taken with an Iphone 6

This tour is all about photography. There won’t be any explanation of the formations or history.  If, like me, you don’t have a lot of experience photographing dark places, your guide will help you with suggested camera settings.

Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #antelopecanyon
With so many people getting a clear shot was challenging…
Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #antelopecanyon
The effect the light beams had were magical

Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #antelopecanyon

Sightseer’s Tour

Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #antelopecanyon

Returning later in the day with my family, the beams of light were gone, but the canyons were no less awe inspiring. Focusing less on photography, though cameras are welcome, we learned the names of different formations and enjoyed just being in this wonderous place. At one point we were asked to put our cameras away so we could fully immerse ourselves in the experience.

Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #antelopecanyon
Taken with an Iphone 6

Need To Know, Tips and Advice:

Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #antelopecanyon

  • Antelope Canyon is located just 10 minutes east of Page, Arizona and a two hour drive from Monument Valley.
  • Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours is located at Indian Route 222 HWY 98 between milepost 299 & 300
  • Plan ahead! Tours sell out months in advance, especially midday tours March – October.
  • Photography Tours are $120. Sightseer’s Tours are $48 for adults and children are $28. Parking is free.
  • In addition to your payment, which is collected upon your arrival, the Navajo Nation Parks & Recreation will collect an $8 permit fee. This fee must be paid in cash, however credit cards & traveler’s checks are accepted for tours.
  • Arrive 60 minutes before your scheduled departure. If you have not checked in 30 minutes prior to your scheduled tour, your reservation will be canceled.
Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #antelopecanyon
Keeping busy while waiting on the tour to start
  • ONLY cameras and water are permitted on the tour.
  • NO BAGS of any kind are permitted on the Sightseer’s tour.This includes purses. Tripods aren’t premitted either.
  • A DSLR or SLR camera and a tripod are required for the photographer’s tour. A camera bag is permitted on this tour.
  • In the event of bad weather, flash flood warnings, rainout, or high wind advisories, the canyon will be closed. These warnings are taken very seriously.
  • You’ll be driven via an open air 4×4 vehicle to the Canyons.
  • The road is rough, bouncy, hot, DUSTY and dry. Make sure to shield your camera from the dust. I wrapped mine in a disposable plastic baggie.

Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #antelopecanyonnavajotours

  • Dust will cover everything and get everywhere. A bandana or other face covering will come in handy.
upload-8c161286e8d388b4d7c000b6bb044b89.
Map provided by Antelope Canyon Tours.

*There was a flash flood in the canyon the day after our tour.


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Antelope Canyon Page Arizona #photography #antelopecanyon

Soaring Over Monument Valley

Monument Valley Utah Arizona #monumentvalley

Monument Valley Utah #monumentvalley

If there was a main destination on our epic 2000+ mile road trip through the American Southwest it was Monument Valley, which is located on the border of Utah and Arizona. Believe it or not my inspiration for this mega adventure came while riding Soarin’ Over The World an attraction inside Disneyland’s California Adventure Park. And why not? Inspiration can come from anywhere: magazines, guide books, blogs, television shows, food, instagram feeds, and yes, even theme park rides.


Related Post: Wanderlust is Calling!

Soaring over Monument Valley

Family Road Trip to Monument Valley Utah Arizona #monumentvalley
We “flew” over the West Mitten Butte at Disney’s California Adventure.

As I was saying, after “soaring” over Monument Valley on a theme park ride, I just knew I had to see this amazing natural wonder in person. Not only that, this was a part of the United States no one in my family had visited, so it would be something new for all of us.


Related Post: Postcards from The American Southwest

Along the Way

Monument Valley Utah #monumentvalley #forestgump
Our first view of Monument Valley from Hwy 163.

The drive to Monument Valley from Arches takes around 2.5 hours, and other than a few photo stops along the way, we drove straight through.

Mexican Hat Utah #mexicanhat
We stopped for a quick photo of the Mexican hat rock

It was a happy accident when we decided to stop for a photo in the very place Forrest Gump stopped his cross-country run!

Monument Valley Utah #monumentvalley #forestgump
The film character Forest Gump ended his cross country run in this very spot on Hwy 163.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley Utah Arizona #monumentvalleyMonument Valley is famous for it’s majestic sandstone buttes, the tallest of which rises over 1000 feet from the valley floor. It’s no wonder that this place has been repeatedly featured in film and media since the 1930s.

Monument Valley Utah #monumentvalley
The Man on a Horse

Visitors can choose to drive the Park’s 17 mile dirt road in their own vehicle, however the roads are more suited to off road vehicles and much of the Valley is only accessible via guided tour. Along the way you may run into local Navajo people selling handmade goods.

The View Lodge & Visitor Center

Monument Valley Visitor Center #familyroadtriputahUpon entering the Park you’ll find yourself at The View lodge and Visitor Center. Inside you’ll find park information, a museum, restaurant, gift shop, and of course amazing views of the Valley in every direction! Even the elevator has a view. Really! If you plan on taking a guided tour the View Lobby is where you’ll meet your guide.

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familytravelutah

Tours of Monument Valley 

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familyroadtrip
Monument Valley Loop Drive

Realizing that navigating a winding bumpy dirt road for 2 – 3 hours wasn’t the best way for me to see the Valley or to keep my sanity I booked our group on a guided tour. We chose the Dineh Bekeyah tour company, which was a great experience.

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familyroadtrip
Our Guide Steven

Our guide, Steven was kind, friendly, and informative. During our four hours together we learned about the Navajo people, their customs, and their relationship to the Valley. We drove into the backcountry, where we were able to venture onto some of the rock formations and climb mountains of sand. We saw pictographs, “dragons”, and wild horses!

There is really no way to explain the sheer size of the monuments, and how I felt being among them. A little little like Land of the Lost, maybe?

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familyroadtrip
Camel Butte

Photography

Family road trip through Monument Valley Utah Arizona #familyroadtrip
Photographers Point

If you’re a photographer than Monument Valley is the place for you, in fact there is even a place called Photographer’s Point. IF the weather is in your favor, sunrise and sunset are popular times to take photos, as well as after dark when the dark skies allow the stars to come out in full force.

Unfortunately my plans for an astrophotography tour were foiled when an extreme storm complete with rain, wind, thunder and lightening blew through the area. That’s not to say I didn’t get a few snaps, just not night sky.

Monument Valley Utah #monumentvalley
This crazy storm blew in foiling my plans for night sky photos

I rose before the sun to catch the sunrise. I’m pretty sure a bat flew into my face while I attempted to take some photos in the predawn light. Eeek!

Monument Valley Utah #monumentvalley
I woke up before dawn to catch this sunrise

Gouldings Lodge

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familyroadtrip
Gouldings Lodge

Our accomodations during our visit to Monument Valley were at Gouldings Lodge, which is located just a few minutes drive from the Park entrance. Our little cabin of sorts, which had a great view of the Monuments and conveniently a kitchenette was perfect for our party of five.

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familyroadtrip

The Gouldings story is quite fascinating. Originally sheep farmers, their farm was struggling during the depression of the 1930s. Through a series of events and luck they brought Hollywood, to the Valley (and with the filming of the famous western movie Stagecoach starring John Wayne) the Valley to the world.. The rest, as they say, is history…

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familyroadtrip
Goulding’s Lodge at Golden Hour

Onsite at Gouldings you’ll find the Stagecoach Restaurant, a grocery store, swimming pool, museum, gift shop, and more.

Tips & Advice:

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familyroadtrip

  • Monument Valley isn’t a state or national park, but rather a Navajo Tribal Park.
  • There is a fee to enter the tribal park.
  • Navajo people live and work within the park’s boundaries.
  • The backcountry is only accessible via guided tour.
  • Hiking opportunities wihtin Monument Valley are limited, and during extreme temperatures the trails may be closed.
  • The View Lodge is the only lodging inside the park and it books far in advance.
  • We booked our guided tour in advance, but same day tours are possible.

Inspiration is Everywhere

Disneyland inspired Monument Valley, but it’s not the only place I’ve ever visited due to a little help from an unusual source. Our visit to Northern Ireland was born out of a desire to see the Giant’s Causeway, but it was my love of Game of Thrones that led me to the Dark Hedges.

#dark Hedges
The Dark Hedges

Related Post: Best. Day. Ever! The Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland!

Scotland had been on my list since I read Harlequin Romance novels as a teen (I admit it was guilty pleasure), but it was the novel Outlander that inspired my visit to Culloden Battlefield in the Highlands.

#cullodencottage


Related Post: Taking The High Road…

I don’t know about you, but I’d fly to Italy just for the coffee and Spain for a plate of chorizo and manchego… Does it really matter where the inspiration comes from?

SAMSUNG CSC
Chorizo y Manchego 

Related Post: An Afternoon in Seville!

What type of vacation do you dream of? Have you ever chosen a destination based on an unusual reason? Are you inspired by pop culture, social media, or low airfares? Maybe you just spin the globe and come what may?

 


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     #monumentvalley Family Adventures in Monument Valley Utah Arizona       #monumentvalley Family Adventures in Monument Valley Utah Arizona

The Sweet Tooth’s Walking Tour of Downtown Los Angeles

Bottega Louie Los Angeles California #dtla

Bottega Louis Los Angeles California #macarons

I’ve been inspired by all the mouthwatering photos of food I’ve been seeing online lately, but with literally thousands of delicious choices right here in my home town of LA, and limited time to eat out, my list of must try places was growing long. A plan was in order and I decided a food tour* was the perfect answer! Combining a visit to one of my favorite LA neighborhoods with delicious food and iconic sights sounded fun to me, but how would I keep my 9 year old son (and husband) engaged? A dessert tour of course! After all, life is short… dessert first!

Angeles Flight Railway Things to do in Los Angeles #angelsflight

There are many fabulous neighborhoods in Los Angeles, each one with it’s own charm, but it was my desire to ride the newly reopened Angels Flight Railway, that helped me choose Downtown LA for this particular adventure.  A big fan of public art, I was excited to see a number of fun street art pieces along our route.


Related Post: Downtown Los Angeles Graffiti & Mural Walking Tour

Sweet Tooth’s Walking Tour of DTLA

Downtown Los Angeles California #historicLosangeles

The Sweet Tooth’s Walking Tour is 1.7 miles, and can be enjoyed in both directions. We chose to walk back to our car after the tour, but there are plenty of public transportation options if you’re too full to walk. Public parking lots and metered parking are available. We found $5 parking just behind Birdies.

Birdies
Location: 314 West Olympic Boulevard Los Angeles (Stop A)

Our first stop, Birdies, is well known in LA for both their donuts and fried chicken, so of course we had to try both! The donuts are baked fresh every two hours.

Birdies Los Angeles California #birdies

To ensure we had room for all our delicious stops, we decided we’d share two donuts, and some Birdies Bites (fried chicken tenders) between the three of us. There are multiple dipping sauces available for the bites. We tried sweet Asian chili and house ranch, but left the ghost pepper mayo to braver souls.

Elliot chose a panda donut, because… panda! The strawberry donut was so delicious we forgot to take a proper photo. pictured above is the cream cheese champagne glazed gold leaf donut, a specialty donut, which will set you back $100! Other donuts range in price between $.50 for donut holes and $3.50 for fancier flavors.


Related Post: Donuts Are The New Cupcakes!

Bottega Louie 
Location: 700 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles (Stop B)

Bottega Louie, is known for it’s colorful and photogenic macarons, but it isn’t just about the sweets and treats, it’s also a full service restaurant with a full bar and a gourmet market.

Bottega Louie Los Angeles California #dtla

We weren’t planning on a sit down meal, so we took our treats to go, however the lunch options looked and smelled wonderful, so I see a return visit in the near future!

LA Weekly listed Bottega Louie as one of the 10 best macarons in LA! The flavors we enjoyed were, chocolate mint, raspberry, salted caramel, birthday cake and coconut. My favorite was the coconut! Macarons can be purchased individually, or in boxes.

Elliot chose to enjoy a chocolate eclair rather than a macaron… from the looks of it he had no regrets!

Little Damage
Location: 700 S Spring St, Los Angeles (Stop C)

Little Damage is a family owned soft serve ice cream shop in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. With trendy black cones and unique flavor choices, Little Damage, is not your average ice cream… its ice cream with a Goth twist!

Wakling Tour of Downtown Los Angeles #littledamage

We sampled Unicorn Tears, a lovely blue color, which actually tasted like vanilla birthday cake. A scoop is $6 and comes with one free topping. The trendy black waffle cone (made from activated charcoal) is $1 extra.

Planning on sharing your food finds on social media? With it’s many fun signs, both inside and out, Little Damage provides plenty of opportunities for that perfect pic! But you better hurry, because it’s hot out there and the SoCal sun and soft serve ice cream don’t mix.

The Bradbury Building
Location: 304 S. Broadway, Los Angeles (Stop E)

If there are any movie or architecture lovers in your group, they’ll love this next stop!

Bradbury Building Los Angeles California #bladerunner

Built in 1893, the Bradbury Building is the oldest commercial building in the area. While the outside might not seem like anything particularly special, its the inside’s Victorian Era atrium with it’s grandiose iron work, 50 foot ceilings, and open cage elevators that really shine.

Bradbury Building Los Angeles California #bladerunner

Fans of the movie Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford, might recognize the atrium space as Sebastian’s home.

Visitors are welcome, and entrance to the Bradbury Building is free, but keep in mind the building is still in use, so access is limited. If you’re interested in exploring further there are various tours available.

Street Art Downtown Los Angeles #StreetartLA
View from the Bradbury Building lobby

Grand Central Market
Location: 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles (Stop F)

The Grand Central Market opened in 1917 and has been operating continuously ever since. A popular destination for locals and tourists alike, you’ll find something for everyone in your group, no matter their food tastes. From Thai sticky rice to cheesecake, whisky and cheese, a Jewish deli, vegan choices, coffee, Chinese food, green grocers and so much more. There’s even a PB&J shop!

Grand Central Market Los Angeles California #grandcentralmarket

The hustle and bustle, neon and vibrant atmosphere make Grand Central Market a place worth visiting all on it’s own! My plan to finish our foodie tour with a taste of cheese at the DTLA Cheese shop was foiled when we realized we were just too full. Next time!

Angels Flight Railway
Location: 351 South Hill Street, Los Angeles (Stop G)

The newly reopened Angels Flight Railway has been in operation on and off since 1901, and at 298 feet is the world’s shortest railway. When it opened, one hundred years ago, its location was the main hub of commerce and entertainment in Downtown Los Angeles. The Angels Flight Railway is a treasured piece of LA history, and it has given more than 100 million rides!

Angels Flight Railway Los Angeles California #angelsflight

Located just across the street from the Grand Central Market, Angels Flight was the perfect way for locals to get up and down the steep hill with their groceries!

Angels Flight Railway Los Angeles California #angelsflight

A one way ride on Angels Flight is $1 payable at the upper station. Metro pass holders may ride for $.50. If you’re only interested in riding one way there are stairs located to the side of the railway. We rode up and walked back down.

Street Art Los Angeles California #dtlastreetart
Street art as seen from the Angels Flight Upper Station

The Last Bookstore
Location: 453 S. Spring St, Los Angeles ( Bonus Stop D)

If you have book lovers in your group you’ll want to make time for The Last Bookstore. Full of character and visually stunning this place is a book lovers dream!

#thelastbookstore

A labyrinth of books, the comic section, the first edition vault, (literally, it was inside an actual vault), the artist studios, and a rare book room are just a few of the places you can explore during a visit to The Last Bookstore.


Related Post: The Last Bookstore

*This is a self-guided walking tour created by yours truly! Even with the promise of unlimited desserts I couldn’t persuade my teen to join us.


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Foodie Walking Tour of Downtown Los Angeles #sweettooth      Foodie Walking Tour of Downtown Los Angeles #sweettooth

Road Trip to Arches National Park

Arches National Park Utah #windowarchhike

Family Friendly Arches National Park #windowarchhikeArches National Park, one of many National Parks we visited in Utah, was also the furthest and most challenging drive of our two week road trip. That was partly due to our decision to take Scenic Byway 12 from Bryce Canyon to Moab, home of Arches National Park. The drive proved to be more of an adventure than I planned on, and to say that I was nervous while driving on the extremely steep and winding road would be the understatement of the century. Petrified would probably be a more accurate description.

 

Utah has some of the most diverse landscape I’ve ever seen, and once I was able to look up again, I was amazed at all the different types of terain we drove through.

 

The Road to Arches National Park

Goblin State Park Utah #goblinstatepark
Goblins standing sentry at Goblin State Park

Although the road to Arches felt long, we made stops at both Capital Reef National Park, and Goblin Valley State Park, which helped to break up the very curvy drive. Temperatures were well over 100 degrees, so our visits were on the quick side.

Capital Reef National Park

Capital Reef National Park #capitalreefnationalparkCapital Reef National Park is one of Utah’s Mighty 5, however it is the most underrated of all the parks. Many people I spoke with consider it their favorite of all the parks, they love having the place all to themselves.

 

The Capital Reef Visitor Center is located along HWY Route 24, and after a quick look around we drove a short distance down the road to see the Freemont Indian Pictographs, which date back to between 700 AD – 1300 AD. Parking and a convient walking path make viewing the pictographs a very family friendly activity.

Capital Reef National Reef #Pictographs

 

Goblin Valley State Park

Goblin State Park #goblinstatepark

Recommended by a friend we made stopping at Goblin Valley State Park a priority, however in hindsight I realized I should have timed this visit for either sunrise or sunset. Because our visit took place mid-day, temperatures were extremely high, there was no shade and the harsh lighting meant a very abbreviated visit.

Goblin State Park #goblinstatepark

It was sot hot, my boys wouldn’t leave the car’s airconditioning, but I was here and didn’t want to pass up an oppotunity to walk among the hoodoos or “goblins”, which are the main attraction at Goblin State Park.

 

Arches National Park

Arches National Park #turretarch
The Turret Arch

Arches National Park is home to the largest concentration of natural arches in the world. The most famous of which is the Delicate Arch, which also happens to be on the Utah State Liscense Plate.

Arches National Park #utahliscenseplate
This liscense plate has been retired and was for sale in a gift shop.

I admit I underestimated  the time it would take to drive to Arches so our time in the park was limited. We would just be getting a taste of what this park had to offer. For example this Utah liscense plate was the only way I would be seeing the famous Delicate Arch.

Visitor Center

 

As always our first stop was the visitor center. We watched a movie about the Park’s unique landscape, viewed interactive exhibits, consulted with the rangers, and of course vistied the gift shop!

Arches National Park Utah #windowarchhike
The Window Arches from a distance

Knowing that our group wasn’t up for moderate or difficult hiking in the extreme heat we chose to view the park via two easier walks, and the many pull ins along the Park’s main road.

The Windows – Easy

Arches National Park Utah #thewindowsarch

This wasn’t our first stop within the park, but it was my favorite. A quick and relatively flat walk, and we were able to explore The Windows and see amazing views without too much effort. We all loved this walk, and sitting under the shade of the giant Window Arches helped us get a feel for just how massive these formations really are. This is perfect walk if you have limited time in the Park.

Arches National Park Utah #windowsarches
View from The Windows

 

 

Balanced Rock – Easy

Arches National Park Utah #balancedrock

Balanced Rock, as you can see isn’t an arch, but it certainly is impressive. It’s hard to get a sense of scale when looking at photos, but if you look closely you’ll see tiny people among the rocks. The Rock can easily be seen from the parking area or there is a short walk around as well.

 

The Courthouse View Point

Arches National Park Utah #courthouseview

 

The Gossip Ladies – View Point

Arches National Park Utah #gossipladies

Zax’s Pizza

Arches National Park Utah #zaxspizzaA casual pizza restaurant with unique and delicious toppings and great service, Zax’s wasn’t the only meal we ate while in Moab, but it was our favorite! Don’t just take my word for it, Zax’s came highly recommended by just about every person I spoke to when discussing our trip to Moab, and now I’ve joined the club!  I wish my photos were better, but I was too busy eating to take many pictures…

Arches National Park Utah #zaxspizza
The Honey Chicken Pizza was SO good!

Tips & Advice:

Arches National Park Utah #southwindow

  • There wasn’t much shade and it was 104 during our visit. Bring water! Yes, I know I should be wearing a hat.
  • Be aware and heed all signs. People do die here, often people who don’t heed signs.
  • Keep in mind that many of the more famous hikes are moderate to difficult for example Delicate Arch is considered difficult.
  • Many of the park’s sights can be seen from the car, and or convenient lookout points.
  • Automobile Lines to get into Arches National Park can be long, so plan to arrive early if possible. You’ll beat the lines and the heat!
  • Once you leave the Visitor Center there are no facilities of any kind inside the park.

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Family Activities Arches National Park #archesnationalpark  Capital Reef National Park #capitalreef  Goblin Valley State Park #goblinvalley 

Exploring Bryce Canyon National Park Day & Night

Bryce Canyon National Park with kids #BryceCanyon

Bryce Canyon with Kids #sunsetpoint #BryceCanyonBryce Canyon National Park, was just one of many National and State parks we spent time in during our visit to Utah. In fact we visited four National Parks, one State Park, and a Tribal Park. If the number of photos I took are any indication, Bryce Canyon was a favorite!

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah #sunrisepoint

That could be due to its higher elevations and cooler temperatures, which made Bryce Canyon a welcome respite from the extreme heat of our previous stops in Zion and Las Vegas.

Bryce Canyon National Park #hoodoo

We enjoyed hiking through unique and alien landscapes by day, and explored the night sky, and it’s many wonders, under it’s famously dark skies by night.

Bryce Canyon National Park #astrophotography
The Milky Way!

Getting There

Bryce Canyon National Park #roadtriputah

At around 80 miles the scenic drive from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon is a very manageable distance, however the road can at times be curvy, steep and narrow or all three at once, and if you’re me, that can make for slow going.

Bryce Canyon National Park #utahroadtrip

Other times, the road seems to stretch out in front of you for what feels like forever, and it was during one of those stretches that I saw something in the distance. What is that large and strange looking formation?

The Rock Stop!

The Rock Shop Orderville Utah #therockstop

Having previously read about The Rock Stop, we decided to stop and take a look around! As it turns out we were far from the only ones! People come from around the world to visit the Wonders of Utah, and it turns out The Rock Stop is one of them.

Oderer Utah The Rock Stop Utah

This turned out to be a perfect place to stretch our legs and grab a drink and a snack. We even picked up a souvenir or two!

Bryce Canyon National Park By Day

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah #queensgardentrail

If, like us, you have limited time in the Park, consider making the visitor center your first stop. While there, you can learn about the park, pick up a park map, and speak with the Park Rangers about what might be the best experience for your group’s needs.

Mossy Cave Trail – Easy

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The Mossy Cave trail includes close up views of the Park’s famous hoodoos, the mossy cave, and a waterfall. At just under one mile roundtrip Mossy Cave Trail is a perfect hike for all ages and fitness levels. This hike includes parking and services.

The Navajo Loop/Queen’s Garden Combination Trail – Moderate

Bryce Canyon National Park #thorshammer
You’ll see “Thor’s Hammer” on the Navajo Loop Trail

One of the Park’s most popular hikes, The Navajo Loop/Queen’s Garden Combination Trail, is a perfect hike if you want to get a taste of what Bryce Canyon has to offer, but don’t have a lot of time in the Park.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The hike is a loop and starts at Sunset point. For safety the NPS park service recommends walking .4 miles along the canyon’s rim to Sunrise point where you follow the Queens Garden Trail down into the canyon. Whoops we did just the opposite.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Whoops, we went the hard way!

The hike took us around three hours, contains 300+ feet of elevation and includes some very steep drop offs. The views from above the canyon were stunning, but I also loved walking among the Park’s famous hoodoos. You can see more photos from this amazing hike at the end of the post!

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

We took our time and along the way enjoyed some light rain, the unique landscape, and the many chipmunks!

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park By Night

Dark Ranger Telescope Tours #astrophotography

Dark Rangers Telescope Tour

Dark Ranger Telescope Tours #astrophotographyIf Bryce Canyon was one of my favorite places, then The Dark Rangers Telescope Tour was my favorite activity of the entire trip! It’s been a dream of mine to photograph the night sky, specifically the Milky Way, and Bryce Canyon’s remote location makes it the perfect place to fulfill this dream. My sons both love science making this a wonderful family activity!

I discovered Dark Rangers Telescope Tours while researching the Park’s official site, and I can’t say enough about our experience. Our evening with Kevin Poe, a local park ranger, and astronomer, was perfect from start to finish.

Dark Ranger Telescope Tours #astrophotography

We met Kevin at his observatory, and spent three hours learning about and exploring the night sky. We saw Saturn and Jupiter, a swan nebula, the Andromeda Galaxy, Vega, star clusters, exploded stars and more. It was truly amazing!

Not only that, but I got a lesson in astrophotography, and night vision! Did you know that red is the only color light that allows your vision to stay in night mode?

Tips & Advice:

Bryce Canyon National Park #steeptrails

  • Are you traveling with a Senior Citizen or a 4th Grader? That’s good news! Seniors can purchase a lifetime National Park Pass for $80 with access to over 2000 locations, and their companions will be able to enter along with them for free.
  • Fourth grade students and their families can enter National parks for free with the Every Kid in A Park Pass. Sign up on line, print out the temporary pass, and redeem it for your permanent card when you visit your first park!

Bryce Canyon National Park #everykidinapark

  • Bryce Canyon City is located just outside the park. Food, lodging and free parking can be found here.

 

  • Cars are allowed in Bryce Canyon National Park, but I highly recommend taking advantage of the free parking in Bryce Canyon City and using the park shuttle.
  • The Visitor Center is the first stop inside the park.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah #visitorcenter

  • Watch your step and look where you’re going. There are many drop offs and very few protective measures in place, we saw a little baby slip and he almost fell. Really! The daddy caught him at the last second when I gasped!

Bryce Canyon National Park #warning

  • If you’re interested in astrophotography book your tour with the Dark Rangers in advance and you may be able to connect your camera directly to the telescopes.
  • There are a variety of tours available, however I wanted to include astrophotography, so chose a private tour.

Photo Gallery:

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah #sunrisepoint
We finished the hike at Sunrise Point.
Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Trees adapt to the unique terrain.
Bryce Canyon National Park Utah #queensgardentrail
Steep drop offs mean: Watch your step!
Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
The landscape was like nothing I’d ever seen.

Bryce Canyon National Park UtahBryce Canyon National Park UtahBryce Canyon National Park Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Navajo Loop Trail
Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
View from Sunrise Point
Bryce Canyon National Park Utah #sunsetbrycecanyon
Tropic, Utah
Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Sunset in Bryce Canyon National Park

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Bryce Canyon National Park Utah #astrophotography #familyfriendlyhiking

Family Friendly Hiking in Zion National Park

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalparkDid you know that over 4 million people visit Zion National Park every year? This summer we decided to join the masses and see what all the fuss is about. Part of a larger loop, Zion National Park was our second stop, which included stops in Nevada, Utah and Arizona, over the course of two weeks.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark

Located in Springdale, Utah, Zion is a very manageable 2.5 or 3-hour drive from Las Vegas (our first stop). We arrived in the mid-afternoon and there was plenty of daylight left, so we went straight to the Park.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark
We completed two “hikes” this was taken on the Riverside Walk.

There are many walks and hikes of varying lengths and difficulties. We chose “hikes” that would suit everyone in our group, which was made up of all ages and fitness levels. Strenuous or more challenging hikes weren’t ever on our agenda, however with temperatures soaring into the hundreds even the easiest hikes can feel challenging.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark
Along the Lower Emerald Pools walk.

During our visit we completed two hikes, both of which were paved and felt more like walks, and both would be suitable for all ages, The River Walk, which leads to The Narrows, and the Lower Emerald Pools Walk. During our visit we saw wild turkeys and their babies, countless squirrels, and many deer.

The Riverside Walk (Shuttle Stop 9)

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark

The Riverside walk is an easy 2.2-mile paved path, which follows alongside the Virgin River. This is also the access point for one of the Park’s most popular hikes, The Narrows, a strenuous 8+ hour, 9.4 mile hike through the river.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark
This is where the Riverside Walk ends and The Narrows hike begins.

The Riverside walk was perfect compromise for our group! We saw wildlife, hanging gardens, and cooled off by dipping our feet in the river. We felt like we got a small taste of the Park and even saw the famous Narrows!

The Lower Emerald Pools Trail (Shuttle stop 5)

Zion National Park Utah
Much of the Lower Emerald Pools trail is without shade.

The Emerald Pools Trail consists of three parts. Parts two and three are more strenuous, with a moderate rating, while part one The Lower Emerald Pool Trail is listed as easy, making it a perfect choice for our second walk in the Park.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark
Standing under the waterfall was a welcome reward!

The 1.2-mile trail is paved and leads to a waterfall, which is a very rewarding end to this 1-hour walk with a slight elevation and limited shade.

Once you reach the waterfall you can continue on and complete the entire Emerald Pools trail, or like us, you can turn around and head back. Keep in mind there are some very steep drop offs. If you look carefully at the photos below you can spot some tiny people up on the ledge, which is located just above the waterfall where we ended our walk!

With temperatures well over 100 degrees, not everyone in our group wanted to participate, so we dropped them at the Zion Lodge, a lovely place to take a break and relax. If you’re looking for a souvenir there is a lovely gift shop inside as well. You know I stopped there!

Navigating within Zion:

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalparkIt’s important to note that vehicles aren’t allowed within Zion National Park. The Park Service operates a free shuttle bus, which takes visitors throughout the Park, stopping at 9 different designated stops starting at the Visitor Center and ending at stop 9 The Temple of Sinawava. The ride takes about 40 minutes from start to finish, and its not only incredibly scenic, but informative as well. Shuttles come about every 10 minutes*.

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark
Waiting for the shuttle outside our hotel The Desert Pearl Inn.

As I mentioned above, 4 million people visit Zion every year, so you can imagine that at times the park will be very crowded. Because the shuttles are the only way into the park consider arriving on the earlier side, or at off times to keep your wait times down.

For example, our wait time in the late afternoon was nonexistent, but on our second day we attempted to ride during a peak time, and we were met with an hour + line, just to get on board. After all that waiting we still had to contend with multiple shuttle stops, a long hot ride and 108-degree temperatures. An earlier start might have saved us as much as two hours!

Practical Information:

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalparkZion is an oasis in the desert, but it is still a desert. Bring water everywhere. I really can’t stress this enough. It’s important to bring enough water for everyone in your group. Temperatures can and do reach well over 100 degrees.

Accommodations:

Desert Pearl Inn Zion National Park with Kids #Zion
View of the pool from our room’s balcony

I admit I didn’t research accommodations in Zion, I didn’t have to! My fellow blogger, Oregon Girl around the World, suggested The Desert Pearl Inn, and we couldn’t have been more pleased! However, we weren’t the only ones happy with this choice, it was completely booked, so planning ahead is a good idea.

SAMSUNG CSC
This is the view of the Park from the front door of our room.

The property is conveniently located within walking distance to the Park’s entrance,  but if you prefer a ride there is a separate town shuttle which stops right out front of the Inn.

The service, pool and grounds were all lovely. The room was spacious, the beds were comfortable, and even with a full kitchen two double beds and a sitting area our group of five had plenty of room to spread out.

Tips & Advice:

Zion National Park with Kids #zion

  • Check the weather and possibilty of flash flooding before you go, especially for The Narrows.
  • Bring lots of water and snacks for everyone in your group.
  • Wear appropriate clothing, hats, and shoes.
  • Heed the signs. People have died on these trails, and many more have been injured, or suffered heat related illness.
  • The Visitor Center doesn’t sell food or drinks, but there is a little grocery just outside the park gate.

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Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark

Zion National Park with Kids #zionnationalpark

Mini Emoji birthday Cakes

Mini Emoji Birthday Cakes

Mini Emoji Birthday CakesAs my kids have gotten older they’re less interested in large elaborate birthday parties. However, even if the event itself has gotten much simpler, that doesn’t mean we don’t love a good celebration, and a fancy cake to go with it!

Mini Emoji Birthday Cakes

Elliot’s birthday falls in the summer, which means there is usually a fun and family friendly movie available! Thankfully, we all enjoy the movies, so for the past few years we’ve spent his birthday at the theater! This year’s pick was the emoji movie, which made choosing a theme for the birthday cake a no brainer!

Mini Emoji Birthday Cakes

We were celebrating with a small group, seven of us, so I thought it might be fun to create individual cakes for each guest, rather than one much larger cake, which might go to waste. I asked Elliot to choose the emojis, with the condition that he would only choose round.

Here are the seven he chose:

😂 😊 😍 😎 🙄 🙃 😶

In keeping with the theme Elliot requested the cakes and frosting both be lemon flavor. I wanted to the cakes to be uniform in size and shape, so used mini spring form cake pans, and baked the cakes in two batches. Once the cakes had cooled completely a cake leveler was used to ensure they were all the same height. Spread a thin layer of frosting over each cake, this will also help adhere the fondant.

While the cakes were baking I prepared the fondant.

Mini Emoji Birthday CakesYou can purchase fondant in every color of the rainbow, however, if you can also color the fondant yourself, which is what I did. Divide the fondant up based on how many colors you’ll be using.

A helpful hint: put parchment paper down on your work surface and wear clean new plastic gloves while kneading the fondant. Not only will this protect your hands and surfaces from the food coloring, but you’ll find fondant much easier to work with if you don’t touch it directly with warm hands.

Mini Emoji Birthday Cakes

Rather than use a traditional cake board I thought it would be fun to make the cake board part of the theme! Using a piece of recycled cardboard covered in foil and parchment paper I created a birthday “text box.”  Use the leftover cardboard to create little boards for your mini cakes, which will make handling and decorating them a lot easier.

Mini Emoji Birthday Cakes

Creating the faces was actually much easier than it sounds. I used items I already had on hand in the kitchen, including cookie cutters and alphabet shapes. For example the tears of laughter were created using the letter J!

Emoji Birthday Cakes

Happy 9th Birthday Elliot!

🍰 🎁🎉🎂

Mini Emoji Birthday Cakes


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Mini Emoji Brithday Cakes

Mini Emoji Brithday Cakes