Wasatch Wildflower Festival

Last weekend, we went to Snowbird up Little Cottonwood Canyon for the annual Wasatch Wildflower Festival. The Festival provided guided hikes of varying levels and abilities, all with the focus of looking at the beautiful summer wildflowers we have in Utah. There were also hikes offered at Brighton, Solitude and Alta on different days.

Of particular interest to us, of course, was the “Kids Walks” which were shorter (less than an hour) and provided activities. We had two knowledgable guides take us on a 1-mile hike on the lower mountain trail. They pointed out the various kinds of vegetation and flowers and gave the kids magnifying glasses to look more closely at them. The hike they took us on was pretty much paved the entire way, so even those with strollers could easily navigate it.

We are so lucky to live near these great ski/summer resorts. It is always such a nice way to spend a summer weekend in Utah; even though it was near 100 degrees in the valley, it was cooler up in the mountains. And as I’ve mentioned in the past, beating the heat in the summer is definitely one of my favorite things!

Homestead Resort Summer Concerts

To celebrate the Summer Solstice, we looked for a fun activity where we could spend the evening outdoors enjoying the longest day of the year (which was of course way past Theo’s bedtime). We met some friends in Midway, Utah to go to the Summer Concert series at Homestead Resort.

It was perfect outdoor concert weather and a very mellow, relaxed atmosphere. Much like many other outdoor concerts, it is BYOB and bring-your-own-blankets/chairs. We found a shady spot and the kids ran off to explore the area while we chatted, listened to music and had some wine and dessert.

The boys also went to explore the crater and I enjoyed having the Homestead hotel lobby nearby (with clean indoor bathrooms). They have a package where you can order a picnic dinner and even spend the night, but we opted out of this and brought our own food. At the end of the night, we changed Theo into his pajamas for the ride home (which took about 1 hour) and marveled at the sky still being illuminated by the sun at close to 10pm. He fell asleep on the way and transferred into his bed at home without a peep.

The Summer Concert series runs throughout the summer on Saturday evenings and is free, so head this way if you need a relaxing summer escape!

Red Butte Gardens Summer Family Campouts

One of of favorite summer traditions, which we will be doing for the 3rd time this year, is the Red Butte Gardens summer family campout. It is the perfect family activity for our family since I am not a camper, but my husband and Theo love it. They have gone on boys trips alone to camp, but this campout is one that even I can enjoy. ūüôā

The amphitheater lawn area is reserved for the tents, and the programming during the evening includes s’mores, guided hikes, and music and movies. One year they even had telescopes set up to look at planets. Everyone sleeps using their own gear, and then in the morning they provide a catered hot breakfast.

It is truly “camping Lite” for those of you who may be concerned about bringing very young kids to “real camping” or those of you who don’t want to be completely removed from civilization or those of you who want running water and indoor plumbing nearby. These are all big highlights for me personally, and ¬†I don’t think I’m the only one. The campouts typically sell out and require pre-registration, so book your dates now! (They typically have two dates every summer: one in July and one in August). Happy Camping or “Camping”!

Red Butte Gardens’ "Garden Adventures"

We can’t pass up an activity that’s actually called an “Adventure!” We’ve been members of Red Butte Gardens for years and were excited when Theo turned 4 last year so he could participate in their children’s education program,¬†Garden Adventures. They hold classes once or twice a month on Saturday mornings (10-11:30) in the Sprout House in the children’s garden area. The themes vary and focus on different aspects of the garden that are fun and kid appropriate.

The class we went to this weekend was on “Trees.” They had story time and read the book “A Tree is Nice” and then had a little lesson on tree branches and the different parts of them (buds, nodes, etc). They had a combination snack/art project in which the kids decorated pictures of trees with popcorn “blossoms” and caramel “branches.”

The day ended with some active games (normally they go outside into the garden but since it was rainy we stayed inside). The kids all got to take home a seedling of a tulip tree to plant at home and received some instruction as to how to find a good spot.

Of course, the Gardens are beautiful and are a nice place to visit even without a reason, but the classes are a fun way to get the family to Red Butte Gardens and learn something new.

The Great Salt Lake Nature Center

If you haven’t been able to tell from my previous blog posts, I tend to prefer going on adventures that are of the indoor/climate-controlled kind. So when I kept hearing about this “Nature Center” that everyone was talking about, I was a bit hesitant, but figured I could check it out for the purpose of research for the blog. You’re welcome!

We went to the Great Salt Lake Nature Center on a day when there were barely any other visitors so we had the place to ourselves. The overall atmosphere was very tranquil. The Center is pretty much just a couple of indoor exploration rooms:

We didn’t see any staff the whole time we were there, so could’ve probably learned and gotten more out of the experience if it was guided. The larger part of the Center consists of paved trails into the Farmington Bay area of the Great Salt Lake.

Theo has this great pop-up book of bird landscapes including different bird calls. Standing in the middle of the trails, you could hear so many different kinds of birds calling out. It was like a real-life version of the book. (Yes, I know this is a ridiculous statement, but the closest thing I could relate to.)
The Pros of this activity are:
  • Large, easily navigable trails
  • Experiencing the native Utah landscape (we saw a snake)
  • Ability to hear and connect with nature
I’ll try not to focus on the Cons of this activity, but will summarize with just one word: GNATS.
Theo had a fun time and enjoyed walking along the trails and looking out over the water. And I will admit that even though I didn’t have high expectations for this activity, I did have some moments to myself that were meditative and very peaceful.

Activities for All Abilities

Have you been enjoying watching the Olympics? We have! I asked Theo what his favorite event to watch has been so far and he said “Upside Down Skiing!” (i.e. Aerials). What these athletes do with their bodies mentally and physically is just astounding.

As the Olympics come to a close, I am looking forward to introducing Theo to the Paralympic Games where physical limitations do not stop these amazing athletes from competing at the highest levels. This year’s Paralympics will also be held in Sochi and run from March 7-16; they¬†will also be broadcast on NBC and NBC Sports Network.¬†There will be five sports in competition which include: Biathlon, Cross-country skiing, Alpine skiing, Ice Sledge Hockey, and Wheelchair Curling.

Also, are these just the most adorable mascots ever or what?! I’m pleased to introduce to you Snowflake and Ray of Light.

Here in Utah, there is a wonderful organization called the National Ability Center which provides adaptive recreation programs and events for people of all abilities, including children. On March 6 they will have a Paralympic Opening Ceremony party for members and their families. I love their mission and the fact that they also provide social activities to enhance the feeling of community.

Photo Credit: National Ability Center (discoverynac.org)

If you have a family member who could benefit from their programs, they are currently registering for their spring 2014 activities which start at the end of March (early bird registration with a discount ends on March 10).

This is their comprehensive schedule of available activities. If you want to just check out their facilities and see if they would be a good fit for your family, they will host a free Demo day in May. They have a fun schedule of family activities throughout the summer as well.

I’m grateful for events and organizations that help all of us be more understanding of the world around us and that personally give me a way to impart important values to Theo. When a classmate of mine¬†won the Bronze in the Nagano Paralympics¬†our senior year of high school, it made quite an impression. Let’s celebrate the fact that the human spirit is the same within all of us, regardless of the differences in our physical bodies.

Music & Movies

Deer Valley Music Festival, 2012

Since I love music and film both so much, it is not a surprise that I love when they are combined in a novel way. There have been a few opportunities where the Utah Symphony has incorporated visuals from movies to be accompanied by the live orchestra during the concert. We took Theo to the Deer Valley Music Festival a couple of summers ago when they had the “Disney in Concert: Magical Music from the Movies” performance and he loved it.

We also very much enjoyed the “Pixar in Concert” performance last month where they showed scenes from beloved films such as Wall-E, Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Ratatouille (a household favorite) while the orchestra played the score along with the film.

We are looking forward to the upcoming “The Magic of Harry Potter” concert in a few weeks. I’m hoping they will do a similar production with visuals from the movies along with the music performed. The Harry Potter fans in your family will probably love it!

[UPDATE 2/8/14: I heard back from the Utah Symphony PR people that there will not be screens set up during the Harry Potter show, but the music from the movies will be performed. Just wanted to clarify!]

Shifting gears slightly, I must profess my love for “sing-a-long movies.” They are as cheesy as you think they are. I have had the pleasure of participating in sing-a-longs for “The Sound of Music” and “Grease,” both of which are classics in the movie musical genre. The cheesiness factor goes through the roof when I insist that my friends and I dress up in costumes in character for the movies. Behold:

Pre-transformation “Good Sandy”
Fraulein “The Hills Are Alive” Maria

Anyway, my point in bringing this up is that the crazily popular movie “Frozen” just¬†came out with a sing-a-long version and is currently being shown in the¬†theaters. I’ve heard friends proclaim that they have had the soundtrack to the movie playing nonstop since their family saw¬†the movie, or that they find themselves humming the songs. Here is your chance to bring the kids and belt out the songs like you really want to! Bonus points if you wear costumes.¬†

“Secret” Kids Ski Rental Program

Theo¬†started ski lessons last year (at age 4) and one of our first to-do items was to find out what to do about ski gear. I had heard from friends about this great program at Utah Ski & Golf but was unable to find out any information online. Turns out that they don’t¬†advertise this program and just use word-of-mouth to spread the information. Well, if this is your first time hearing about it, I’m glad to be the mouth spreading this word!

So the deal is, you make a one-time up-front payment of $350 and it includes unlimited trade-ins for used boots and skis until the maximum junior size offered (which they estimate to be about age 10-12, depending on the size of the kid obviously). Poles (when they need them) are extra.

Normally, you can rent kids gear for $17/day.¬†Last year¬†Theo¬†took two sessions of ski lessons at Brighton for 10 weeks. That would’ve been $170 for one season’s¬†worth of rentals. If he continued at this same pace, we’d pay off this¬†investment in 2 years (and this year he is only 5 years old). That’s 5-7 more free seasons of ski rentals for him!

The sooner you start / the smaller the kid, the most value you will get out of this program. Happy skiing!