Monday, October 16, 2017

A Perfectly Fall Playlist

It's getting COLD here in the mornings, which makes me so happy and really excited. One of my favorite things to do, especially in the Fall and Winter months, is get up earlier than everyone else, make some tea, and just take some time for myself. It's such a peaceful way to begin the day and there's just something about the extra darkness during this time that makes it a little more special too. Try it, I bet you'll like it. And while you're at it, get a little extra Fall-ish with it and put on these tunes. Also good for winding down at night, Fall candle burning, underneath a big comfy blanket with a great book. So here is 1 hour and 45 minutes, 25 songs of pure Fall. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Zion National Park- Our Family Trip + Tips and Ideas

We just got back from a long weekend in Zion National Park in Utah, and I am SO excited to share all about our time there. I have many tips and ideas to pass along, so I'll get right to it. Some background- this was a multi-family trip that we planned almost 7 months ago! Of of our entire 27 person group, I was surprisingly the only person who had ever been to Zion. All of our school-aged kids have Fall Break, and we decided to take advantage of the first weekend to make the 6-hour drive from Prescott to Utah, and stay for a few days. Hotels in Zion book up fast, and our group of 6 families ended up staying in two hotels. Luckily there were right next to one another and literally felt like they were the same hotel. Half of us stayed at the Hampton Inn and the other half at the SpringHill Suites (either link contains a $50 off coupon!). Both VERY great hotels but if I had to choose I would pick SpringHill (we were at the Hampton Inn) just because they were all suite-style rooms (great for babies, making a quick breakfast or coffee, and for staying up later than the kids), an awesome splash pad and a slightly better pool. However they were $100 more per night and honestly, Hampton Inn is a great choice and just as wonderful. The main draw for both properties is that the Zion Shuttle Bus stops RIGHT in front. Like you literally walk out of the hotel and get on the shuttle. It takes you right to the Welcome Center at Zion and is incredibly easy and convenient. Had we booked even further in advance it would have been so lovely to stay at Zion Lodge IN the park, but we were all incredibly happy with these hotels and I'd highly recommend checking them out.

We arrived Friday, ordered pizza by the pool, then went to bed early so we could get up early Saturday morning. The first hike we did was the Riverside Walk, which was perfect for all of our families, who have kids ranging from 7 months (Olive) up to 9 years old. We did other hikes throughout the weekend, enjoyed the gorgeous Fall weather, and soaked up all of the insane beauty around us. There is SO much to do in Zion that I feel like our three days wasn't enough, and if you had more time to spare I would suggest 4 days would be pretty great. I'll share some hike ideas from the itinerary I put together for our group below, and add in more info too. 

With kids? Do this first:

One thing to be sure to do is first stop in the visitor center and get the kids all Junior Ranger packs! Children aged four and older can complete pages in the booklet to earn their Junior Ranger badge. Both of my boys loved doing this, and the rangers take it very seriously. Henry and Charlie earned a very neat wooden badge at the end and it was a big highlight for them.

Some other notes:

-Start early! We are total early birds and enjoyed an almost-empty park every morning, and as we were leaving each early afternoon the wait times for the shuttles into the park's nine shuttle stops were pushing 30 minutes plus. 

-Bring more water and snacks than you need. If you're hiking with kids, 1 mile can seem like nothing when you're planning, but suddenly it's taken you 2 hours and you didn't pack enough food. Bring more than you think you should!

-Have the right gear. I don't mean fancy, expensive hiking gear, but a good hat that provides shade, a backpack that can hold water either in it or on the side, and grippy shoes. If that means hiking boots, awesome- but trail running shoes can work well too. Zion has so much sandstone and it can be super slippery.

-Do check out the gift shop. I typically avoid gift shops because they're so overpriced, but the shop at the visitor center was fairly priced and had some AWESOME items. The boys each picked out a new stuffed animal (Henry's very large bat pictured below was $15), and there were a ton of books, maps, etc. to look through. Just browsing through there is a fun activity in itself if it's too hot outside and you need some time in the A/C.

Some great hikes to check out:

Riverside Walk- an easy walk along a paved trail that ends at the beginning of the Narrows. The Narrows is one of the most beautiful parts of Zion and definitely a must to see! This would be a great way to start the day and get into the spirit of Zion. If you aren't committing and actually going IN the Narrows but still want to walk a bit, I suggest bringing a change of clothes for each person and water shoes to wear in the river. 

Emerald Pools- 1-2.5 miles depending if you want to see all three. Great for all ages- the first two trails are paved, and we just did those then turned around. The trail starts at Zion Lodge and afterward you can grab some of the delicious soft serve sold inside the snack shop area. The lawn is a great place to chill out and relax for a bit too.

Weeping Rock- another easy one the kids can all do- takes you to the iconic, must-see rock. Very cool and a totally accessible hike for all abilities.

Angel's Landing. 5 miles round trip. Heavy incline, steep and sheer drop offs, and scrambling over rocks. Adults only. It's not safe for little kids to go all the way up- but preteens and teens would be okay. I LOVED IT and highly recommend it. You'll want to start this one early for sure- if you're staying outside the park you'll want to take the first shuttle bus in to get started right when the park opens.

Packing list outside of the normal weekend gear-

Baby carrier- we used our Ergobaby Omni 360- it has a waist pouch which is so handy.
Water shoes (for The Narrows)
Backpacks for each person/water hydration pack


My vest
My hat
Olive's fleece (she's in size 6-12)

And here are a ton of photos from the trip! Let me know if you have any questions- I'm happy to help.