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.

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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

8 Things to do in Las Vegas… with Kids

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids

Are you considering a trip to Las Vegas with your kids? Having recently visited with my two boys, I thought I’d share with you some of the things we did there, all of which are 100% kid appropriate and very well done! The only problem… They’re in Las Vegas…

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids

Let me explain

Having done the bulk of my traveling since the arrival of my kids, there’s rarely if ever been a place I felt I couldn’t take them. The reality is, if they weren’t going, I wasn’t going, so they went! Ancient temple in Japan, no problem! Fashion exhibit in the Metropolitan Museum of Art! They loved it too! Windsor Castle, the streets of Belfast, Rome, Paris, New Orleans, and the list goes on.

My mindset has always been: Why wouldn’t I bring my kids, after all, people in these other places have kids too! That said, you might be shocked to hear me say, “Las Vegas, isn’t really for kids.”

Things to do in Las Vegas Fremont East District
In comparison to some, these ladies were over dressed!

I know, how could I? When this goes against everything I’ve always said about travel with kids, but for a number of reasons, I’ve never liked the idea of bringing my kids to Las Vegas, and having recently done so, I can safely say that I should have gone with my first instincts.

Things to do in Las Vegas Fremont East District
This was just one of the many “colorful” people we came across

My older son, Simon, who is close to 15, says that Vegas is like the Twizzler Statue of Liberty Pictured below: “It looks really cool at first, but then when you get up close it’s dirty and gross.”

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids Twizzler Statue of LIberty
Looks neat from here, but up close it was covered in dirt.

I’m sorry if you love Las Vegas, but this is pretty much a perfect analogy! It isn’t one thing exactly, just that it’s all so in your face. There’s no way to pick and choose what you might see.

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids
What your kids will need after a visit to Sin City!

Still considering a family visit to Sin City?

8 Family Friendly Things to do in Las Vegas

The Vegas Sign

Things to do in Las Vegas with KidsYou’ll probably want to document your trip, and a visit to the famous Las Vegas Sign is a great place to start! The Sign is located on a large pedestrian friendly median in the middle of S. Las Vegas Blvd. The city has kindly provided parking and a large visitor friendly area just for taking photos!

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids

Swimming

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids
The Shark Tank at the Golden Nugget

Las Vegas is located in the middle of a desert so swimming is a great idea, and very family friendly. Just make sure you’re at the “family” pool!! During our visit we had the opportunity to swim at the Mandalay Bay Pool, and the Shark Tank at the Golden Nugget, both were great fun!

The Mandalay Bay Pool

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids Mandalay Bay Pool

The pool complex at the Mandalay Bay is huge. You’ll find multiple pools, a lazy river, and a wave pool. Shade is a hot commodity, so if you’re planning a visit arrive early to claim your spot.

Mandalay Bay Pool Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids

Temperatures reached 114 during our visit, so floating down the lazy river was a big hit, and is appropriate for all ages, so a great family activity. The boys also enjoyed the wave pool.

Things to do in Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Pool

Towels are provided, and food and drinks can be ordered right from your lounge chair. Floaties and other pool supplies are available at the pool shop.

The Shark Tank at the Golden Nugget

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids

Each pool has it’s claim to fame, but none quite like the Shark Tank at the Golden Nugget, referred to us by Erin at Oregon Girl Around the World, which literally has it’s water slide run through the middle of a large tank of sharks and other ferocious looking sea life!

Things to do in Las Vegas with kids

Both my boys gave this a try! My teen quit after one go, saying the water in the pool was too cold. I admit it was a bit on the chilly side.

Golden Nugget Shark Tank Las Vegas Nevada
Please swim with me!

My little couldn’t care less if the water was cold and loved swimming around the outside of the tank, but once through the middle was enough for him.

Golden Nugget Shark Tank Las Vegas Nevada
A happy kid – Finally got big brother into the pool!
Things to do in Las Vegas
A happy mom – Big brother finally got in the pool!

The pool closes for swimming at 7 pm, but the pool area and bar stay open until 1 am.

Things to do in Las Vegas

Sweet Treats

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids

Sweet tooth? You’re in luck! There are no shortage of treats to be found in Las Vegas! We loved the Chocolate box located in the Golden Nugget Hotel, but the ice cream at the Forum Shops in Cesar’s Palace wasn’t bad either!

The Eiffel Tower Experience

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids

The photographer in me was looking for night shots of the famous Las Vegas Strip, but our visit to the Eiffel Tower Experience, at the Paris Hotel and Casino, was a win for the entire family!

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids

Once you arrive on top, you’ll be 460 feet up, which means sweeping views of not only the Strip, but also the entire city!

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids

Your time at the top is unlimited, so consider sticking around for a bird’s eye view of the Bellagio Fountain show, which takes place every 15 minutes after 8 pm.

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids

I highly recommend purchasing these tickets in advance, as our last minute purchase wasn’t exactly smooth.

Speaking of fountains, The Bellagio isn’t the only fountain in town! The fountains in the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace are full of fun surprises, including occasionally coming to life!

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids

Shark Reef Mandalay Bay

Things to do in Las Vegas with KidsThe Shark Reef Aquarium, located in Mandalay Bay, is a fully accredited aquarium, and is home to not only sharks, but many other fascinating creatures as well.

Located just next to the aquarium is the Polar Journey, which was full of interactive exhibits that really appealed to my younger son.

Thrill Rides

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids

Everything in Las Vegas is over the top and the rides are no exception! If you’re traveling with older kids or thrill seekers they’ll love all the choices.

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids

My son rode the New York New York Big Apple Coaster and loved it! If, like our family, you have riders who aren’t thrilled by a ride like this, there is an arcade conveniently located just outside where you can occupy yourselves while you wait for your riders.

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids

For those who prefer something a little more tame, consider a ride on the world’s tallest observation wheel The High Roller. Families are welcome!

Art Hunt

Las Vegas Nevada Street Art

Whether your artistic tastes range from fine to street or everything in between there is plenty to discover in Las Vegas! This visit found my teen and I exploring a treasure trove of amazing street art in the Fremont East District, but keep your eye out for traveling exhibitions as well.

The Neon Museum

Things to do in Las Vegas Nevada

Las Vegas wouldn’t be the same without it’s iconic neon lights. Many of which have been lighting up the night for decades. The Neon Museum is a unique museum and conservation nonprofit where you’ll learn all about the city’s history as it relates to neon while walking among the larger than life signs. Seeing the iconic signs at sunset was a highlight of our entire stay.


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Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids

Las Vegas: Beyond the Strip

What can you do in Las Vegas if you’re not interested in gambling, nightclubs, or extreme roller coasters? Why, look at art of course, and if you’re me, it’s street art. Las Vegas is a treasure trove of amazing art!

Chor Boogie Street Art Las Vegas Nevada

Shortly before our visit I learned about some large scale pieces (thank you social media), and once we decided that Las Vegas would be our “rest” stop between Los Angeles and Zion National Park, I started researching what else might be available to view! I’d hit the jackpot! Yes, pun intended! There was literally art around and on every corner!

Las Vegas Nevada Street Art

There was so much to see, my head was spinning, or maybe that was the effect of the 112 degree temperatures, and burning pavement? Maybe both? The heat prevented me from exploring the area the way I would have liked, but we managed to see quite a lot. Thankfully many of the works are close to one another.

Las Vegas Nevada Street Art
It was SO hot out!

Fremont East District

You’ll find all this amazing art in Downtown Las Vegas, and more specifically in the Fremont East District. Downtown Las Vegas has experienced a major revitalization, and Fremont Street is the second most popular destination in the city after the famed Las Vegas Strip.

Fremont East District Las Vegas Nevada
The concentrated number of murals in the area are remnants of the Life is Beautiful Festival, a three day event, which takes place in the Downtown core each year, and includes music, food and street art. The event is put on by JUSTKIDS, an organization dedicated to spreading art all over the world. Who doesn’t love that mission? The 5th annual Life is Beautiful Festival will take place in September 2017. Hmmm, I see a return trip coming on…

Downtown Las Vegas Street Art

The 21 story Plaza Hotel, located at 1 South Main Street, is home to two amazing murals. While Shepard Fairey’s painting can be seen from the street, D*face’s mural, entitled: Behind Closed Doors, is harder to see and requires a trip to the Plaza’s Pool Deck located on the 5th floor.

Artist: D*Face
Location: The Plaza Hotel Pool Deck, 5th floor
Country of Origin: England
Las Vegas Nevada Dface Street ArtArtist: Shepard Fairey
Location: The Plaza Hotel
Country of Origin: USA
Las Vegas Nevada Shepard Fairey Street ArtArtist: Alexis Diaz
Location: 6th and Ogden
Country of Origin: Puerto Rico
Las Vegas Alexis Diaz Snail Street ArtArtist: Chor Boogie
Location: 6th & Ogden
Country of Origin: USA?
Las Vegas Nevada Chor Boogie Street ArtArtist: Zio Ziegler
Location: 6th & Ogden
Country of Origin: USA
Las Vegas Nevada Zio Ziegler Street ArtArtist: ROA
Location: 6th & Stewart
Country of Origin: Belgium
Las Vegas Nevada ROA Street ArtArtist: Vhils
Location: 7th between Ogden & Steward
Country of Origin: Portugal
Las Vegas Nevada Vhils Street ArtArtist: Felipe Pantone
Location: 7th between Ogden & Steward
Country of Origin: Argentina
Las Vegas Nevada Felipe Pantone Street ArtArtist: D*Face
Location: 7th & Ogden
Country of Origin: England
Las Vegas Nevada DFace Street ArtArtist: Mark Drew
Location: 7th & Ogden
Country of Origin: Australia
Las Vegas Nevada Mark Drew Street ArtArtist: Martin Whatson
Location: 7th & Steward (around the corner)
Country of Origin: Norway
Las Vegas Nevada Martin Whatson Street ArtArtist: Dface 
Location: 7th between Ogden & Fremont
Country of Origin: England
img_1686Artist: Pixel Pancho
Location: 7th and Fremont
Country of Origin: Italy
Las Vegas Nevada Pixel Pancho Street ArtArtist: Ana Maria Ortiz
Location: 7th & Ogden
Country of Origin: Puerto Rico
Las Vegas Nevada Ana Maria Ortiz Street Art
The Fremont East District is also home to many amazing sculptures!
Las Vegas Nevada Burning Man Street ArtArtist: Kirk Jullum
Location: 7th & Fremont
Country of Origin: USA?

Take a look at the specs on this! Impressive to say the least!

Created by aerospace engineer Kirk Jellum the mantis is a 150:1 scale exact replica of a female preying mantis he found in an open field. The mantis can speak 20 different languages, and is operated by a team of four.

Las Vegas Nevada Burning Man Art

Street Art After Dark

Visit the Fremont East District at night for a completely different experience, though I can’t promise the temperatures will be any cooler the lights are pretty spectacular!

Las Vegas Nevada Fremont East District

Fremont East District Las Vegas Nevada

Las Vegas Nevada Fremont East District

 

 

Miscellaneous Street Art

 

 

The second most popular area in the city can’t quite be called “off the beaten path”, but it’s not the Las Vegas most people envision either. If you do find yourself in Las Vegas, I highly suggest you take some time to visit the Fremont East District!
Las Vegas Nevada Street Art

Tips & Advice:

  • Las Vegas is HOT! Wear proper shoes, and bring water! I’m NOT wearing proper shoes… My feet were on fire! I had to drive between the murals.
  • The Fremont East District is 3 miles from the Stratosphere “end” of the Strip. Don’t plan on walking, especially in the summer months.
  • The 5th annual Life is beautiful festival will take place September 22 – 24, 2017.
  • The Fremont East District is comprised of six blocks. The boundaries are from Las Vegas Boulevard East to 8th Street, and from Ogden Street South to Carson.
  • These are just some of the many pieces of amazing art located within this vibrant district.

Stay tuned for more about our visit to Las Vegas


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Street Art Tour Las Vegas Nevada

 

 

Postcards from The American Southwest

Family Road Trip American Southwest

Historic Route 66 Seligman Arizona American Flag painting

My boys, and I* have been road tripping through the American Southwest these past two weeks, which means I’ve been out gathering a ton of fun information to share with all of you, but haven’t had time to write about it in detail yet! I thought it might be fun to give you a sneak peak at some of the amazing things we’ve experienced during this summer’s adventure, all of which I plan to write about in more detail in the near future!

Capital Reef National Park Postcard Utah

Capital Reef National Park Postcard Utah

Dear Faithful Reader,

Don’t you just love receiving mail! I do! We’ve been having quite a summer exploring Nevada, Utah and Arizona! It’s been so hot out and we’ve been doing a lot of driving! The USA is a vast and unique place!! Here is a little sneak peak of our Southwestern Adventures!

xo, hilary

Next stop… The American Southwest!


Road trip with Kids Southwest USA

Road Trip with Kids

Dear Faithful Reader,

No road trip would be complete without long stretches of endless road. We saw this sign from the road, but when we pulled off to explore further, things weren’t quite what they seemed. Snapped a few picks, but didn’t hang around long…

xo, hilary

Next stop… Las Vegas, Nevada!


Las Vegas Nevada with Kids

Las Vegas with kids

Dear Faithful Reader,

Las Vegas with kids wasn’t something I’d ever planned on… I’ll be writing more about our experiences there, but I think I’m going with my first instincts on this one.

xo, hilary

Next stop… Zion National Park!


Zion National Park Utah

Zion National Park with kids

Dear Faithful Reader,

Zion National Park has hikes and walks which are suitable for all ages! We did both the Emerald Pools hike and the River Walk!

We saw waterfalls and a tons of wildlife! It was 108 degrees, so dipping our toes into the river at the end of the walk was a welcome reward!!

xo, hilary

Next stop… Bryce Canyon National Park!


The Rock Shop Orderville Utah

The Rock Stop Orderville Utah Road trip with kids

Dear Faithful Reader,

We saw this strange object from a distance and wondered… what is that?! Turns out it was the Rock Stop! There are so many of these shops, but this is the only one we saw that was actually in the shape of a rock!

We just had to stop!!

xo, hilary

Next stop really is… Bryce Canyon National Park!


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Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Dear Faithful Reader,

After high temperatures in the 100s for days on end, the cooler temperatures in Bryce Canyon were a welcome reprieve!!

We did a moderate hike through the hoodoos. There were even a few raindrops! It was a steep climb back up, but so worth it!

xo, hilary

The next stop… Arches Capital Reef National Park!


Quick Stops at Capital Reef National Park and Goblin Valley State Park

Capital Reef National Park Utah

Capital Reef Postcard Back

Dear Faithful Reader,

Have you heard of Capital Reef?

Although it doesn’t get as much press it’s pretty beautiful! Many people say it’s their favorite due to low crowds… we saw some petroglyphs that were 2500 years old!

xo, hilary

The Next stop… Arches National Park Goblin Valley State Park!


Goblin Valley State Park Utah

Goblin Valley Postcard back

Dear Faithful Reader,

The road from Bryce Canyon to Arches was so LONG….!
We took Scenic HWY 12, which was probably my LEAST favorite road ever!
It was beautiful, but so curvy!!!
We stopped at Goblin Valley State Park
for a stretch and a rest

The valley is filled with hoodoos, which one can walk among… it was hot hot hot!
Evning might have been a better choice…

xo, hilary

Next stop… Arches National Park!



Arches National Park with kids

Arches National Park Utah with Kids

Dear Faithful Reader,

I was surprised by how impressed I was by the arches! Does that sound silly?

Unfortunately, the hike to the famous Delicate Arch was in the difficult category, but there are a number of family friendly walks and viewpoints throughout the park!

xo, hilary

The Next Stop… Mexican hat!


Mexican hat Utah Forrest Gump

Mexican Hat HWY 163 Forrest Gump Stop Utah

Dear Faithful Reader,

After a few days in Moab, it was to head to our next stop: Monument Valley! This is the stop that starte it all, but I’ll save that story for a future post!!

The drive from Arches to Monument Valley isn’t too long, so wedidn’t stop along the way except to snap a pic of Mexican Hat Rock and to see the Forrest Gump movie sign!

xo, hilary

Next stop… Monument Valley! Finally!


Monument Valley Sunrise Utah

Monumnet Valley Utah Sunrise

Dear Faithful Reader,

We all loved our visit to Monument Valley! There so much history in this beautiful place!

We had hoped for some stargazing and to see the sunset over the magnificent valley, but instead were treated to quite a summer storm, complete with lightning, rainbows, and hail!

All was not lost… I set my alarm for sunrise and was treated to quite a light show, the soundtrack was provided by frogs and crickets! I may have seen some bats!

xo, hilary

Next stop… Page, Arizona!


Antelope Canyon Arizona Photo tour

Upper Antelope Canyon Page Arizona

Dear Faithful Reader,

When I first considered this trip, I knew the Antelope Canyon slot canyons would have to be on the itinerary! These canyons are easilyt one the most unqiue places I’ve ever visited, and this city girl definitely had a moment when I realized where I willingly was!

Wanting to take photos, and to enjoy the moment I opeted for two tours in one day! It was the best decission! our guide was awesome and this experience was definitely a highlight of the trip!!

xo, hilary

Next up… Horseshoe Bend!


Horseshoe Bend Page Arizona

Horseshoe Bend Page Arizona

Dear Faithful Reader,

Horseshoe Bend is the most photographed location along the Colorado River and it’s easy to see why! The view of the bend in the River from 1000 feet up is pretty magnificent!

I’ve recently learned I’m not great with extreme heights, so I wasn’t able to get all the way to the edge fro a complete view, but hopefully you get the idea!

xo, hilary

Next stop… The Grand Canyon!


The Grand Canyon Arizona

The Grand Canyon Arizona

Dear Faithful Reader,

We’ve been on the road for two weeks, and we’ve seen some pretty amazing sights!

Today was our final stop The GRAND CANYON! We visited the South Rim, where our first stop was the Desert View.

We were pretty excited to see an endangered California Condor fly over the Canyon!

xo, hilary

Next stop… HOME (via Las Vegas)!

*Tim stayed home to hold down the fort!


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Roadtrip American Southwest with Kids