Park City Escape

A few weeks ago we went on a short 24-hour getaway to Park City with some friends, and it was a great little escape. We went up for the Deer Valley Music Festival’s Disney concert and arrived early on a Friday evening. We stayed at a great condo in Deer Valley and were able to eat dinner and settle in before the concert.

The kids loved the concert! They wanted to stay until they could hear the songs from “Frozen” which meant that we stayed until the very end, which was around 10pm. We still had to navigate the packed parking lot, but were happy to only drive a few minutes until we got to the condo. The kids went to bed immediately and we were all ready to relax and rest.

The next day, we woke and ate a casual breakfast at the condo and then headed out to Park City’s Main Street for the Kimball Arts Festival. The traffic going into Park City the day before had been really terrible since they blocked off lanes for the exclusive use of shuttle buses. We took advantage of these (free!) buses on Saturday and were able to get in and out of Main Street easily without having to worry about parking.

There was a special kids area with activities and we watched a pottery demonstration. The adults enjoyed looking at all the various artists’ work while the kids focused on things like snow cones. We had a nice lunch at a restaurant on Main Street and then headed back to the condo. The kids took a quick dip in the hot tub while the adults finished packing up and then we said goodbye to Park City!

It was a great little respite from the heat of the Salt Lake valley and felt like we were really away from the daily grind. So glad that we live near someplace that can feel like we’re so far away!

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!

A Curious Destination

Today we went to visit the new Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point. To make it even more of an Adventure, we took the Frontrunner train from Salt Lake to Lehi to the museum.

I’ve mentioned the Frontrunner train on this blog before, when I mentioned taking it to the Treehouse Museum in Ogden. I have been a frequent traveler on many public transport systems while living in Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C. but I have never encountered a more pleasant commuter train ride than the Frontrunner here in SLC. It is always exactly on time, pristinely clean, and never crowded. You can take it as north as Ogden and south as Provo. We’ve ridden the entire line and I’m so glad it is an option. Anyway, kids 6 and under are free, and adults can buy a group pass that pays for itself if you have 2 adults riding roundtrip.

When we arrived in Lehi, we had to walk about 1 mile from the train station to the museum itself. It was a scenic walk along a golf course for most of the way, with sidewalks available. Once you reach Thanksgiving Point itself, there is a stretch of road into the museum where there aren’t any sidewalks so we had to walk carefully along the side of the street. It is still paved, so a stroller would be doable, but I was surprised that they wouldn’t provide a sidewalk along the main thoroughfare into the children’s museum.

It’s in sight! We made it!

The museum only opened a few weeks ago, and even on a weekday morning, it was very crowded. Like wait-outside-in-a-line-just-to-get-in crowded. I’m used to doing that going into a concert or something like that but to have restless kids involved is not as much fun. We eventually made it inside and took a look around!

We hit up every area of the museum with the exception of the high ropes course, which was an additional fee. Everything was bright and new but nothing really jumped out at me as exceptional, or unique to the museum. In fact, one of our favorite parts was going into the Children’s Discovery Garden (which they thoughtfully planned to be connected to the museum). I tend to think the most impressive part of Thanksgiving Point is still the outdoor gardens.

Overall, it was an enjoyable day trip since we involved the fun of taking the train back and forth, but it probably won’t be a very frequent destination since it’s pretty far away for what it is and about double the price of the children’s museum we have close to home. But I’m always glad to see more infrastructure being built for children and families and I’m sure it is a welcome addition to the Utah county area.

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.

The Olympics – My favorite time of every-two-years

The 2014 Winter Olympics are coming up in a few weeks and I can’t wait. ¬†Even though I’m not incredibly athletic nor much of a sports fan otherwise, the Olympics (either Winter or Summer) are one of my favorite things ever. It is not just about the athletic achievements but about the dedication and passion for something that humans can all strive towards. I also love the international aspect of it and how for a short time, it seems like we are all just one big human race and not separated by any boundaries.

Anyway, this is also a time that I think is full of teaching moments and opportunities for kids. I’ll break it down into the two most obvious themes.

International Unity

Politics aside (I’m not a fan of Russia’s anti-gay policies), I really love that people of all different races and cultures can come together in one city for 16 days and relate to each other as members of the same worldwide family. Theo received this game as a present a few years ago and I’ve always loved it, especially the back:

The game consists of matching up faces on cards, but each face is a picture of a child from a certain country. The back lists the countries the faces match up with. We’ve had more fun talking about the different countries and locating where they were on the map than doing the actual matching component.

We’re a little map-crazy in this household because my family growing up was very international (I’ve lived in multiple places in my life and each member of my family was born in a different country, on 3 continents). My brother currently lives in Europe and my husband/Theo’s dad lived in Germany for a few years, so I’d like to give Theo an awareness of our place (literally and figuratively) on this planet. In his bedroom, we hung a huge world map which we got from a wonderful local store that specializes in maps, Utah Idaho Supply / Map World:

From a very young age he was able to locate Salt Lake City, Utah on the map (“Where do we live?”) and also other key areas such as Richmond, Virginia (where my parents live), Seattle (where his cousins and aunt and uncle live) and, of course, London. We’ve also used it to identify the origins of different restaurants we frequent (India, Pakistan, Tibet, Thailand, etc.). It is a wonderful resource to have and cost around $30 at the map store.
I also bought these inexpensive placemats from a local toy store, which were about $5 each:
We used to keep them in the playroom as reference materials but started actually using them as placemats when we eat. I love the conversations that start out with just random observations about a place on a placemat.
All that said, the Olympics are a great time to discuss the different countries, identify them by their flag/uniforms (a friend of mine is looking for small versions of the worlds’ flags to show her daughter), locate them on the map, and discuss their cultures (and perhaps delve into skin color/ethnicity/race issues). When else do we have the chance to have so many “real-life” examples of people from different countries right on the TV in our own homes?
Sports/Athletic Determination
Whether or not your child (or you) is athletically-inclined, I think everyone can enjoy watching someone be at the top of their game and achieve a life-long goal. Being in Utah, we can appreciate the Olympics as a former host city, and create a sense of wonder and applicability by visiting various Olympic sites, like the Olympic Cauldron Park where you can see the torch, and the Utah Olympic Park and Utah Olympic Oval where actual events took place in 2002.
Theo the Future Gold Medalist
If your child gets inspiration from watching the athletes during the Olympics, lucky for us, we have options for training right here! At the Oval they have classes for kids in ice skating and hockey, but also in speed skating and curling (!). Figure skating classes start at age 3, speed skating at age 5, hockey at age 6 and curling at age 8. I’ve talked about alpine skiing for kids on a previous blog post, but some of the more esoteric sports like ski jumping and bobsled and skeleton are also opportunities you can try at the Olympic Park.
There are also the life lessons on continuous practice, determination, perseverance, and dedication that are sometimes hard to explain in a concrete manner, but that are easy to explain when you have a story and example to use in the form of these top athletes.

Ice Castles — They’re a Thing and They’re Incredible

Three years ago we went to visit the Ice Castles in Midway and they were insane. Whatever I was expecting, they totally met those expectations and then some. I was so sad when for the past few years I’d Google them and they were off in another area of the country doing their thing, but not here in Utah. This year they are back!
And not only are they back, Amazon Local is having a deal with discounted tickets for the next 11 days (date of this post is Dec. 11, 2013). Regular price is $10 per person (children under 3 are free) and the Amazon deal is two people for $12 or four people for $24.
The Ice Castles won’t be ready until after Christmas (they approximate they’ll be ready around the first week of January, 2014), so now we all have something fun to look forward to after the festivities of the holidays are over.
Theo was too young to remember them last time (age 2) but he is going to go nuts when we go this year. Can’t wait!
P.S. If you live in SLC like we do and want to make an “Eastern Utah Expedition” outing out of it, stop by Dairy Keen in Heber for a meal. They have a train that goes around the restaurant and kid-friendly (i.e. hamburger/shake diner-type) food.

Thank you, Smithsonian!

We had a blast going to Washington, D.C. with Theo and introducing him to all of the FREE* Smithsonian activities. We went to the National Zoo where we got to watch a panda snacking on bamboo and Theo made inter-species contact with a gorilla.

On the National Mall, we visited the Air & Space Museum (where we had to sidestep all of the military warplane exhibitions and graphic pictures of air battles) and Theo especially liked climbing into the cockpits and living quarters in the space shuttles.

We also went to the Natural History Museum where Theo watched a video with rapt attention about the evolution of humans.

On our last day, as we were heading out, we stopped by the American Indian Museum because I had heard that their cafeteria was the best one on the Mall. It did not disappoint! The building was beautiful as well.

Ever since our trip, Theo has been asking for “Washington D.C. songs” as lullabies before he goes to sleep. My repertoire includes: You’re a Grand Old Flag, America the Beautiful, Star Spangled Banner, This Land is My Land, and My Country ‘Tis of Thee. So patriotic.

*Is it really free in a theoretical sense? We’ve been paying for these ever since we started paying taxes. Getting our money’s worth.

Treehouse Museum

Distance notwithstanding, the Treehouse Museum in Ogden is the best. The best. We have a routine down for our visits there which include:
— Monday mornings: discounted admission ($3 for kids age 1-5, $1 for adults)
— Taking the pristine Frontrunner train from SLC to Ogden
— Post-museum take-out from Costa Vida on the way back to the train
— Eating lunch on the train on the return trip
— Exhausted (calm) kids after a long day
Mission accomplished: tired kids.
Vintage Theo on the Frontrunner, age 2.
This is the kind of outing that fills your whole day when you have a day that needs to be filled. We don’t go there that often b/c it is such a huge time commitment but we’d probably go monthly if it was closer. Don’t let the distance intimidate you; it’s worth it!