Mile High Farms, Fall Traditions

mile-high-farms-denver
Our recent visit to Anderson Farms’ pumpkin patch. This weekend: Mile High Farms’ corn maze!

Mile High Farms is deemed “A Place Only Kids Can Imagine”, so it it bad that I’m swept away at the festive fall charm?

A few popular attractions at Mile High Farms:
Whimsical dressings at the INSPIRE stage are the perfect prop for playful performances and a world of imagination, a playground of repurposed farm equipment, petting zoo, AND getting lost in the corn pit (but I generally leave this to the kids…when people are watching, ha).

NEW this year:
Horse drawn wagon rides in addition to the traditional antique tractor rides through the pumpkin patch! A “Play Your Heart Out” theme, which I will certainly take very seriously. A second corn pit, hula-hoop station, additional stage performances, a second mini straw bail maze, and of course, the main maze – inspired and designed after the Mile High Farms’ tire swings (my stop this weekend!).

mile-high-farms-pumpkin-patch

$3 OFF ADMISSION! Valid Saturdays and Sundays ONLY through the month of October. Print out this coupon and redeem discount at our ticket booth. Limit 6 tickets per transaction. Not valid with any other offer.
http://www.usfamilyguide.com/nationaladmin/clientcoupons.php?bid=10946

LEGO KidsFest This Weekend!

LEGO KidsFest
April 27-29, 2012

Congratulations to Angela McDonald, winner of the LEGO KidsFest ticket giveaway!
DATES & SESSIONS:
Friday, April 27 4 pm – 8:30 pm
Saturday, April 28 Session I: 9 am – 1:30 pm Session II: 3 pm – 7:30 pm
Sunday, April 29 Session I: 9 am – 1:30 pm Session II: 3 pm – 7:30 pm
(Note: Each session offers the same exhibits and activities)

WHERE:

Colorado Convention Center 700 14th Street Denver, CO 80202

Crafts for Kids + Christmas Gift Ideas = My Art Workshop in Littleton, CO

It’s never too early to start Christmas shopping…I say that every year, purchase couple of wonderfully thoughtful gifts and procrastinate on all the rest – till about the week before Christmas (yes, family members, your hunches are confirmed.) I’m a #WellIntendedProcrastinaholic.

So, this year I’ve decided to pace myself – a little here, a little there – easier on the budget that way too. Pretty soon, I’ll have that perfect gift for everyone on my list!

Here are my thoughts for Christmas 2011:
We all know that a gift from the heart is more valuable than any other which money can buy…and being the mother of two little ones who don’t seem to stop growing (sometimes overnight,) I thought a sentimental “moment in time” would be darling – and for years to come. A handcrafted something, made by my two favorite artists, with names, dates, handprints and the like. Now, where to find such a creation.

My ARt WoRkShoP in Littleton, Colorado.

A darling place with more options than I had imagined – from t-shirts to wheel pottery, custom stepping-stones, canvas paintings, mosaic art and more – the list of possibilities had me excited…and the kids liked it too! With the drop-in hours at this art studio, a quick visit whenever we had the chance and we’d have all our family gifts in plenty of time for Christmas!

The staff was amazingly helpful (and patient) when we came for our review. I had taken the kids right from school, which was a poor decision on my part because I showed up with two exhausted and grumpy kiddos. The sweet gal that helped us surely thought my kids were “something else” but she kept a smile on her face the entire time…including the couple of minutes I had assigned to my son in a “thinking chair.”

For the first person on our list: Daddy. *Not to worry, while he is an active subscriber, evidence shows that his receiving posts does not actually mean he reads them, ha! In his defense, he’s very busy and has to listen to me verbalize all my random thoughts, so I can understand why reading them may not be at the top of his to-do list….So, yes, his gift will be a great surprise.

Once we had gathered our emotions and the understanding that we were agreeing upon a coordinated gift (rather than spending our budget on his one item,) we were ready to go!

I let the kids look around the workshop but with the many choices, they needed a bit of guidance. I pointed out to them that several of the pottery options would allow for a darling handprint from each of them. Noelle thought my suggestion of a salt and pepper shaker set was great – each of the children would have their own work and just enough space for a print! PLUS, in 2009 Si and dad had created a lovely cookie jar that also had two little handprints on it. It would match perfectly in our kitchen/dining area – AND would be useful, yay.

Both kids had a fabulous time creating their special gifts and I had just as much fun watching them. They each picked colors and brushes, taking their time as they intently lathered on layers of paint. One thing I love most about glazed pottery is that it always ends up beautiful – no matter how wild the mess gets, the kiln takes care of it! I know the kids’ efforts will be appreciated and the artwork adored…we’ll look at these pieces of work years from now and search for the hazy memories of a Christmas long past, thinking back on those little hands and toothless smiles…and wonder how the time does pass.

Swimming With the Fish at the Downtown Aquarium

Swimming with the fishes aint just for mobsters any more…and you’ll probably live to tell about it, assuming you steer clear of the sharks, stingrays and creepy eels – not sure the eels can actually hurt humans, but they totally freak me out!

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The Downtown Aquarium, in partnership with A-1 Scuba & Travel Center, offers both snorkeling and scuba diving with sea life in a safe and enjoyable environment. My son Silas and I had the opportunity to experience snorkeling, which is led by a professional dive guide. Because we were snorkeling rather than diving, we remained at the water’s surface at all times but were able to peer down at the amazing creatures below…and dodge them as they swam toward us, yikes. We were free to explore the entire tank and wave to the human spectators below – the children visiting the Aquarium enjoyed seeing my son floating at the top of the tank!

Si was intrigued, and a little intimidated, by the number of sea life in the water with us. He was concerned about being in the water with SHARKS (and I was too, but I played it cool, hee hee.) The guides assured us that it was safe but asked us not to touch any of the sea life, so when one of the giant sea turtles came right up to Si, the guide gently pulled him close to her so that he felt safe…I just closed my eyes and hoped for the best. Turns out, the turtles are the friendliest of all the creatures in the tank and just wanted to say hello. They’re herbivores (thankfully) but since they’re about 3-4 feet long and weigh about 250-450 pounds, they cause a bit of an adrenaline rush as they swim right up as if they’re the family pet.

Swimming with the fish was a fabulous experience for our whole family – my hubby and daughter took photos for us as we geared up and got into the water. They were able to then walk down, into the tunnel, and see us from the outside of the tank. Noelle is still too young to swim with the fish but fully plans on giving it a try on her sixth birthday! Silas would like to try scuba diving – now that he’s comfortable hanging with sharks. He’ll have to wait till he turns ten though…and has his scuba diving certification. Looks like the snorkling experience comes with a complimentary scuba experience at A-1, so we might just have to give it a try!

Disney Live!

My family and I spent a spellbinding evening at Disney Live! Mickey’s Magic Show in downtown Denver at the Wells Fargo Theatre.  With unexpected visits from several of the princesses, including Cinderella with her Prince Charming, my daughter was enchanted. 

My son was taken with the work of Brad Ross, a young, talented magician with a résumé boasting of several recent magic and entertainment awards.  Brad works alongside Mickey to perform top-notch illusions that keep even the parents guessing.  Because my seven-year-old takes great interest in magic, he paid close attention to Brad’s work.  He had some thoughts on how the illusions may have been performed, but even after having watched hours of “magic secrets revealed” videos, he was bewildered.

This Disney Live show deserves recognition for professionalism, talent and delightfully entertaining theatrical tricks.  Having been to another of Disney Live’s productions, I can say that this show is most certainly a step above other works in it’s class. 

Children were able to enjoy the fallen confetti at the front of the stage after the show, and to them, that’s a very important part of the evening.  With pockets bulging with confetti pieces, we said good night to a truly magical evening.

Steamboat Springs Ski & Stay

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I’d like to add something to the saying, “Wherever you go, there you are,”…before you go, think location.

I have had some wonderful opportunities to review Colorado ski resorts this year and all were absolutely amazing!  Each of the accommodations have been fabulous, and I would recommend all of them to my friends, but I have developed a true appreciation for not only the ski-in/ski-out luxury, but the difference that location can make.

Bear Claw Condominiums
Bear Claw has an ideal location, on the main mountain of Steamboat Springs Resort, just below the Christie Peak Express mid station. This means that you can walk out your back door, gear up and ski on down to the base – no gondola rides, chair lifts or navigating the runs to find your way back to the epicenter of it all – you’re staying right there!  This was particularly convenient for us because our kiddos were taking lessons at Steamboat’s Kid’s Vacation Center (KVC) at the Gondola Square.  The KVC entrance was just down the slope from our condo; so we were able to ski-in for lunch, back out to check on the kids and onto the lift – without feeling like our ski time was ticking away.

Other aspects of Bear Claw Condos that I loved (random order):

  • Parking garage with free shuttle service – it’s so nice to not worry about parking!
  • Full kitchen amenities, including pantries stocked with supplies – we didn’t have to run out for syrup, coffee or sweetener (just some of the things we tend to forget, ha)…it’s nice to avoid the markup on food prices in ski towns.
  • TVs in every room – this is a favorite on behalf of my kids – they can’t get enough of movies in bed, and that’s exactly why we don’t have this offering at our house.
  • Sauna in our condo – clothing optional, no creepers – I like it.
  • Beautiful, heated outdoor pool (mountain view) and two, toasty hot tubs – loved the seating along the edge of the pool – relaxing option.
  • Ski-in/ski-out – need I say more?
  • KVC at the bottom of the hill – check on the kids and still have time to ski.
  • Après ski appetizers, complements of local Steamboat restaurants – in the Bear Claw lounge at 4:30 every day.

Excellent Customer Service
Staff at Bear Claw was extremely helpful and professional. Our daughter, being an affable critic, provided the ultimate test in customer care – she decided to throw a monumental fit over who pushes the elevator button, and while busy stomping and screaming, the elevator doors closed in her face and the rest of the family rode down to the parking garage – belly laughing the whole way.  It really isn’t our family culture to laugh at another’s misfortune, but the natural consequences of this one was just way too funny!  So, dad sprinted up the stairs as I rode the elevator back to the lobby to find a gracious concierge consoling her and patiently waiting for us to make our way back to claim our daughter.

Kid’s Vacation Center (KVC)
Steamboat Resort offers a variety of ski and snowboard classes as well as care for kids as young as six months, so it’s a great destination for families with kids of all ages.  The Kid’s Vacation center underwent a recent expansion including a 40% increase in space – an approximately 3,000 extra sq. ft. addition to accommodate families.  The facility is beautiful and very kid-friendly with a fun, western theme.  Check-in has been streamlined with eight new additional kiosks to help the process flow quickly.

Our three-year-old participated in the Maverick’s class which included two one-hour ski lessons in small group sizes.  Lunch was included and no lift ticket is necessary, as the class is held on the magic carpet area of the slope – super cute to watch the little ones as they do their best to steer down the hill.  My daughter’s items were well labeled at check-in, and I received a pick-up card with her name for the end of the day.

Our seven-year-old received snowboarding lessons in the Rough Riders class – available to children in 1st grade through age fifteen.  His class included lunch and had a well-marked meeting/pick-up location at the top of the magic carpet.  He had a great time expanding his snowboarding skills to toe-side techniques and spinning 360’s (not part of the lesson but he did see his instructor do this “super cool” trick.)

Both kids greatly enjoyed their lessons and time with new friends.  Learn more about the different types of lessons offered at Steamboat at http://steamboat.com/plan-vacation/family.aspx.

Get your kids excited for their experience on the slopes at Steamboat with Snow Monsters, Steamboat’s Kid’s Only Website http://steamboat.snowmonsters.com/.

Learn more about Bear Claw Condominiums at http://bear-claw.com/.

Our trip to Steamboat Springs was an epic ski adventure!  My appreciation and thanks to Bear Claw and KVC for hosting us, loving our children and making our stay one to remember.  We look forward to a return adventure!

Beaver Creek, Colorado

Beaver Creek Photo Journal

“Not exactly roughing it”   Daily, hand-delivered groom maps; digital trail guides; personalized concierge service; ski valet; exquisite dining; gondola rides; village escalators; rejuvenating spas; designer shopping and a posh après ski scene…the slogan rings true.  Don’t think that just because you’re spending your day on the slopes you’re going to miss out on the pampering treatment – high tea at Beaver Creek means freshly baked chocolate chip cookies at the base of the mountain – free for everyone and hand delivered by chefs adorned in white coats and berets, just make your way down for a 3:00 indulgence.  This is skiing/boarding at it’s finest!

Beaver Creek Landing
What an awesome review and super cool Christmas vacation for our whole family!  The timing was perfect – just as the holiday festivities were commencing in Beaver Creek. We spent 4 amazing nights at the Beaver Creek Landing, at a ski-in/ski-out condo located in the Bachelor Gulch area of Beaver Creek, just steps away from a chair lift up mountain.  The condo had everything we needed (and plenty more) – we were able to prepare meals in our kitchen, soak in our giant tub, warm by the fireplace, and catch a movie on our big screen.  Concierge service was fantastic – planning tools were abundant and the staff at the Landing provided us with additional, personalized assistance to design the perfect vacation for our family.  At the Landing, we had several options including in two, steamy, outdoor hot tubs; a heated pool; foosball; a mega-sized chess set; a pool table; fire pit (which we enjoyed nightly with our s’mores ingredients) and an overall family friendly atmosphere.  The ski-in/ski-out was unbeatable – we had our own, luxury ski lockers and could just gear up and go, ski back to the condo for a drink/snack/romance/warm up by the fire/whatever…and head back out again.

Fantastic Location
Beaver Creek Landing is removed from the center of the bustle, in Bachelor Gulch, which is one of three on-mountain villages in Beaver Creek and a local ski/snowboard favorite due in part to the warm morning sunshine, lack of congestion on the runs, and abundant tree skiing (according to chats with friendly locals). The Landing offers several, beautiful new amenities including personal ski lockers, complete with boot driers and automatic exit doors, making the ski-in/ski-out amazingly convenient.  Transportation was a cinch in Beaver Creek – with our car safely parked in the garage at the Landing, we could simply dial a ride for a free shuttle to where we needed to go, and they always arrived within 10 minutes or less.  Learn more about the amenities at Beaver Creek Landing at: http://www.eastwestbeavercreek.com/beaver-creek-landing

Bachelor Gulch Amenities:
• Lift ticket office, Ski & Snowboard School
• Retail apparel and equipment rental in Beaver Creek Sports
• Main access to the Bachelor Gulch Express Lift with beginner & intermediate terrain
• Restaurants, outdoor patio and bar
• Free dial-a-ride shuttles to Beaver Creek Village

Allegria Spa
Beaver Creek Landing partners with Allegria Spa at the Park Hyatt located at the base of Beaver Creek mountain.  As a guest at the Landing, we were able to enjoy several of the amenities at Allegria Spa.  We explored the Aqua Sanitas water sanctuary and massaged sore muscles beneath the warm waterfalls – perfect because I was still recovering from my snowboarding adventure at WP the previous weekend, ha.  Allegria Spa caters to those preferring a day away from the slopes as well, featuring several massage packages for those who don’t ski.  Details at: www.allegriaspa.com.

Beaver Creek Mountain
Beaver Creek is a top-rated Colorado resort with endless outdoor recreation opportunities including skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing – with over 146 trails and 26 lifts.  I wasn’t sure at first if three full days on the mountain would be too much, but let me tell ya, day three was just the beginning – I could have spent a full week on this mountain, and would still be discovering awesome new territory.  Dining wasn’t too shabby either.  Fresh sushi and a glass of wine at Spruce Saddle Lodge – not my typical mountain lunch break, but I had to give it a try – a new favorite – it’s going to be hard to go back to sandwiches and chili after this experience, ha.  The Lodge also features a $9.95 “Lunch for Less” including an entrée, side dish, and beverage, which is one of the best values I’ve seen in resort dining.  And the views from the lodge weren’t so shabby either with giant, glistening ice cycles draping the windows overlooking the valley, covered with a powdery layer of fresh snowfall.

Ski/Snowboarding Lessons
The kids took two days of lessons at Beaver Creek – our little one on skis and our seven-year-old in boarding lessons.  Both advanced in their skills and had a great time meeting new friends and joking with their instructors.  Our son was on the slopes with dad by the third day and did very well.  Our three-year-old decided that she wouldn’t be returning to preschool – she’s switching to ski school!

Safety Award
Beaver Creek has received the Best Overall Safety Award from the national Ski Areas Association for three years running.  The resort holds nine titles for instilling safety as a core value and practice among employees and guests.

EpicMix
Beaver Creek is a participant in EpicMix, a tracking program that monitors participant’s runs and reports stats online: http://www.snow.com/EpicMix/Home.aspx.  It’s a great way to review your child’s progress and boast of your adventure on the slopes!

Beaver Creek Village
We spent a lot of our time in Beaver Creek Village just taking it all in.  The main village is at the base of the ski area, and offers several dining options, plentiful shopping, and a charming ice rink in the center of it all.

Dining
For a special evening out, we dined at Toscanini in the piazza at the heart of the village.  The atmosphere was lively, elegantly informal, and kid-friendly.  Familiar Italian dishes were skillfully transformed into unique, contemporary cuisine with impressive combinations of unlikely pairings to create an amazing epicure experience.

While the cuisine at Toscanini was hard to beat, the handmade crepes were pretty delectable as well.  In a small stand near the ice rink and next to a warm fire pit, a skilled chef stuffs paper-thin crepes with fruits, spreads, and drizzles of your hearts desire.  Coupled with a hot cocoa, this was the perfect ending to a full day.

Entertainment
Upon arrival at Beaver Creek, we were provided with a folder of information including the week’s activities, trail maps & mountain guide, family information, and other helpful resources and phone numbers.  It’s a lot to choose from, so be ready to hold a family meeting and take a vote.

One of the activities we had the opportunity to enjoy was ice-skating at the piazza.  It was our final day in Beaver Creek and a lovely ending to an amazing vacation. With the trees adorned in lights and the snow falling lightly around us, it was a dreamy scene.  The zamboni resurfaced the ice every three hours, making for continually smooth and graceful skating…skills aside.

There is certainly no shortage of things to do in Beaver Creek, and while I wanted to try them all, we only had time for a few, and that’s why we’ll be visiting again.

When we arrived back home, our son added, “Live in Beaver Creek” to the top of his Christmas list, which was posted to the front of our refrigerator for Santa to see…and Santa thought this was a very good wish.

For a list of things to do in Beaver Creek, visit: www.beavercreek.com

 

Winter Park Mountain Lodge

 What will Santa bring your family this year?  Well, if you’ve been really good (and I know you have) you’re family might be spending a weekend at the park – Winter Park – where you will find blankets of sparkling, fresh snow piled high on glorious slopes right outside your bedroom window…when you stay at the Winter Park Mountain Lodge.  Oh, and you won’t have to endure the classic “are we there yet” because this lodge is a painless 67 miles northwest of Denver.

With a complementary shuttle bus from your hotel door straight to the base of the mountain, you’ll have hours of leisure and bonding time, and every parent knows that a little downtime is truly priceless.  Even that hard-to-buy-for member of your family is going to be pleased with this gift!  No traffic, no up-before-the-sun mornings, no parking…and the kicker: Winter Park Mountain Lodge won’t break the bank – check out their sweet ski-and-stay packages http://www.winterparkhotel.com/index.html.

So, you’re thinking it sure would be nice to have some adult time during your getaway, right?  Well, you can!  While my husband and I were enjoying our private snowboarding lessons (we ski, so this was super fun but not very pretty, ha) our kiddos were busy taking lessons of their own.  The resort even had a “just because I’m three” class for our little one – she LOVED it!  Our son cried when his lesson was over.  All of our instructors were fantastic, and many had been recruited from other countries and do this year-round, traveling with the snow – I was impressed with their commitment and professionalism. 

My husband and I enjoyed a quiet lunch at the top of the mountain…and then realized that if you go up, you have to find your way back down, yikes.  At the end of the day, we were invited to take part in the celebration of the grand opening of the new Private Lesson Center at the resort (where I eased my snowboarding pain with a glass of wine, ahhhh).  This beautifully designed center is located right next to the rental shop and has no shortage of conveniences and amenities for customers.  The knowledgeable staff is happy to assist with every need, and I know this because I felt like an overgrown child with all my “where does this snap, I can’t get my foot in, I forgot my”, and everyone was extremely patient with me.

After a full day, we didn’t have to worry about a drive home, we took the shuttle bus back across the street to the Winter Park Mountain Lodge and soothed our sore muscles in the two large Jacuzzi tubs while our resilient children splashed around in the pool.  The dry sauna helped a bit too, but I think I aggressively hugged the mountain one too many times.  Luckily, the Lodge offers a charming restaurant/brewery on-site so we didn’t have to go far for dinner. 

Winter Park Mountain Lodge was an amazing holiday getaway for our family and we greatly appreciated the personalized customer care.  We enjoyed fresh-baked cookies upon our arrival, personalized snowmobile-guided sled transportation around the resort, our own, private snowboard instructor (thanks Barry!), and high-fives and laughs with the delightful staff at the Moffat Station Restaurant and Brewery – where my three-year-old insisted on “playing” a video poker game at the bar despite the selection of appropriate games available.

We wrapped up a fabulous weekend with a tour of the Winter Park/Fraser area, which was just beautiful!  We explored the new Fraser Valley Recreation Center between the towns of Winter Park and Fraser and enjoyed swimming, a giant water slide, steam room, weights (ok, I was too sore for this), and ran out of time before making it to the climbing wall, but it was a great ending to an amazing weekend.

Dear Santa, thank you for the awesome trip to Winter Park this year…maybe, if we make your good list, can we go again next year?