Travel: San Francisco with Kids

Hi, Renae again, sharing the ins and outs about traveling around San Francisco with kids in tow. We’ve been racking up airline miles and I’m learning all kinds of stuff shuffling around the country (especially in some big cities!), so I’m passing it along to you! Grab a cup of tea or coffee…I’ve got a lot of juicy travel tips intertwined! 

I had so many emotions on our San Francisco trip! We’d never spent much time in San Fran other than the hubs and I just passing through quickly en route to another gig so I was so looking forward to actually getting to spend a few days in such a notoriously cool city. Ya’ll, I had big plans and a list of places I wanted to see!

But I had some pretty terrible luck on our first day when my diamond fell out of my wedding band! I was really upset about it, but didn’t want our son to feel that energy. Our adventures on the road are where we actually get to spend time as a family and share some of our best memories so I certainly didn’t want it to keep us from enjoying our time together. (But believe me, I did zoom in on every picture I took and retraced my steps like a mad woman trying to find it.) This time Steve (my husband) was headlining the weekend at a club in downtown San Francisco in the financial district. Since I knew we’d be staying in the heart of the city and doing a lot of walking, I brought along a sturdy stroller.

I’ve gotten questions about what’s a good travel stroller and I can say we’ve gotten good use out of our Graco Breaze. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s compact, lightweight and inexpensive so it’s easy to travel with and I don’t mind so much if the airline throws it around. I loved the clip-in infant car seat option when Garrett was a baby and my back definitely appreciates the handles being higher than a typical umbrella stroller. I recommend traveling with a collapsible caddy with cupholders for things you want grab quickly like your phone.There’s lots of these on the market. They are super handy and hardly take up any space. This stroller passes the true test because with all the shoving, cramming and traveling it’s still holding up 2 years later.

I’m sure you’ve been on vacay and seen that family on the brink of a breakdown because they’ve tried to cram in every ride at the theme park and they’re hangry and exhausted. It’s a gift to get to experience all these cities and I want to be able to share all the best stuff with you so even though I should know better, I find myself making the same mistake. Life on the road can be exhausting if you don’t pace yourself.  I’m learning when traveling with kids it’s so much more enjoyable if you pick and choose just a few sites to hit. Instead of hitting the “best of” in each city, keep in mind your child’s age. And especially in bigger cities where you can spend lots of time in traffic, choose things near you so your time isn’t spent stuck in a car. This might mean being especially strategic about where you stay.

San Francisco offers so many amazing sites, I had a hard time choosing! But I found that focusing on places we could walk makes the experience so much more pleasant.

We actually spent our first day taking an easy morning stroll to the Ferry Building and picking up breakfast in the Ferry Marketplace. The farmers market and cuisine options at the Ferry Building are pretty top notch. You can get everything from flowers, to fresh baked bread, to mushroom gardens. On the weekends the market is massive, taking up all of the outside boardwalk as well. It’s a perfect activity for families

There were plenty of benches to eat outside while watching the Ferry boats come in -I was tempted to just hop on one and see where it took us.

Garrett preferred to feed his breakfast to the birds instead. And since I’m making an effort to let him lead the way instead of trying to hit every sight, that’s exactly what we did.

Across the street in Justin Herman Plaza local artisans had tents set up and we scooped up an adorable paper mache piggy bank decorated with comic cutouts. – I loved that it was hand made and such a fitting San Fran souvenir. I think we might have to start collecting piggy banks on our travels! Sue Bierman park is in the area too and offers a great playground that we enjoyed till nap time.

From the Financial District, Pier 39 is also within walking distance. Brace yourself for crowds, as it is a popular tourist destination even on a weekday. There’s a little something for everyone here with plenty of restaurants and sweet treat options. While you’re here, catch a glimpse of the Sea Lions that hang out on the north side of the pier. We hit up the carousel (of course!)

And we snagged a seat at an acrobatic show. The performer we saw, Orion Griffiths, was super talented and claimed to come from an actual British circus family. I was so impressed at the caliber of this street performance show. We didn’t stay here long because the crowds were a little too intense for me. But the show was definitely the highlight.

You can’t do San Francisco with a little one without getting on a trolley, so we got up early to catch one from Union Square (more on the amazing shopping here later)  to Fisherman’s Wharf. Some tips for the trolley: have cash, a compact stroller and go early because they get super crowded.

People say avoid Fisherman’s Wharf, but I’m glad we didn’t listen!

We grabbed coffee and a bite at Boudin Bakery and strolled Jefferson Street to Hyde Street Pier stopping to look at lobsters in tanks that would soon be in sandwiches. There’s tons to see and since we did it first thing in the morning it was a super pleasant stroll.

Hyde St Pier is home of the San Francisco Maritime Museum -the only National Park on water. We practically had the whole place to ourselves.

Garrett enjoyed running through and climbing the collection of ships. You can also get a good view of Alcatraz from the deck of the ferry ship. If your kiddo can sit still long enough, they also have a great tour here around noon. And if you’re brave enough to dip your toes in the cold water, there is a small beach here perfect for a quick dip.

San Francisco is a city full of great food. The competition in the city is so fierce almost every restaurant is pretty great. Someone recommended we try Scoma’s for lunch. It’s just off the main strip but right by all the fishing boats. It’s a white table cloth kind of restaurant, but still had a great kids menu and we’re happy to have us with our little guy. I love when you find a nice restaurant that still feels welcoming to a family. Scoma’s has awesome views and you can even peek in the windows of their fish cleaning station right across the street. We had to call it after lunch, as our little guy needed to get back for naptime, but if you’ve got bigger kiddos who can hang longer the Musique Menifee, an old style arcade is nearby..

Some cities like NYC knock the big public parks out of the ball park and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is another one. There’s so much you can do and see in the park including the California Academy of Sciences and the Japanese Tea Garden. We ended up taking a cab, which from our hotel in the financial district with city traffic was pretty pricey. But we spent the afternoon on the carousel (yes, another one!) and the playground here is large and perfect for kids of all ages.

When Garrett got bored of the playground we strolled to the Botanical Gardens and ran around the grounds here.

I wish I could share with you more wonderful restaurants in San Fran, but truth is most of our days end with dinner in the green room, squeezing in more time with Dad at the comedy club before he starts work. Our kid doesn’t have a set routine, he doesn’t sleep well in his own bed, and potty training while traveling is a challenge (this trip Little Man pooped while sitting in my lap at dinner with work friends), but if it’s a choice between splitting up the circus or keeping us all together, for me moments like these make it pretty obvious.

A couple more tips when doing San Francisco.

It’s chilly pretty much all year long except for September. Even in July fireplaces are still being used Crazy, I know! Depending on what time of year you go, you’ll need a heavier layer. But even in the summer you’ll still need to pack a little something. –or don’t and go shopping in Union Square! Tons of great stores in the area – including a great big Macy’s!

Also, I know some people think the big city red bus tours are obnoxiously touristy, but I say, don’t judge! If you’ve got kiddos in car seats, and you’re visiting a big city it’s a great way to see a bunch of places without spending a ton on cabs. Many of them allow you to hop on and off at your own pace. If you decide to go this route, check Groupon or Living Social ahead of time for discounted tickets.  There are some amazing sites we passed up on because we didn’t want to make the trek in a cab and a city bus tour might have made it more manageable with our little guy. So definitely worth considering.

Despite losing my ring, we still got out and enjoyed the San Francisco sites. It’s an incredible place, and there is still so much we didn’t see this time around, like the Bay Area Discovery Museum. I’m looking forward to hitting San Diego which is one of my favorite cities that I think does a stellar job of catering to families. Until then, you can follow #ourtravelingcircus on Instagram!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Travel: Fire Island with Kids

Hi there, Renae again. We are still talking about our week in New York and where our random road trip took us….on a ferry boat to a place called Fire Island. Most people have never heard of Fire Island, so I’ll give you the lay of the land and give you all the best info and tips you need for your next trip! 

After the hubs shows were done in West Nyack, we found ourselves having 2 free days between the next road gig to do whatever we wanted. It’s not typical that we find ourselves with random time off, so this was exciting!  We just had to be at JFK airport so Steve could get to Chicago for his next gig and Garrett and I could catch our return flight home. But what we did with those 2 days was totally up to us!  It’s been a crazy summer and we were really looking for some relaxing downtime, so we packed up our suitcase and decided to do what real New Yorkers do in the summer to escape the Manhattan heat.

We headed to Fire Island and I’m now smitten with this magical place! Getting here is the tricky part. You can drive the national seashore, but the road ends once you arrive at the beginning of Fire Island. Thanks for that one Google Maps! In order to get on the island you have to catch a ferry in Bay Shore, NY. The ferry is your only option, as there are no cars allowed on the island. Even golf carts are a pretty rare site.

No vehicles on the island makes it so ideal for kids to have free reign when exploring. Some fun info about Fire Island is that each of it’s villages has a very different feel to it. Where we stayed, Ocean Beach, is known to cater to both families and the more social crowd.

The Pines and Cherry Grove are known to be popular with the LGBT community. The permanent population is less than 300 people and some of the communities are so small they call them hamlets. The ferry drops you off right in the center of town where the restaurants, the market, and shops are all located.

While there are a few hotel options here, the ones we saw, we quite small and minimal. And some were a shared bathroom situation. We lucked out and had a friend so generously open up their house to us which was next to the most adorable little white church.  If you have the option to rent a cottage, this is the way to go (check AirBNB or other similar sites!).

Since there aren’t any cars, there’s no need for streets so its basically a grid of sidewalks between all the cottages. Garrett got lots of wagon rides while I had plenty of wine.

And since the island is less than 600 feet wide in some places you can easily access both the bay and the ocean. But make sure to time it right! We found ourselves at a playground on the bay when the afternoon sun was glaring down.

The beaches can get packed, but everyone was super friendly and there is definitely a small community feel even though the island is flooded with visitors in the summer. Everyone just loads up their beach gear on a cart or wagon and heads to the beach to set up shop. People feel comfortable leaving their umbrellas out all day and coming back and forth. TIP: Our friends even take a small plastic pool to the beach to set up for the little ones to get wet, but still stay close. It’s a great idea if you’ve got smaller ones.

We pretty much just relaxed on the beach and strolled around the whole time. Ocean beach is filled with families walking around. It’s scooters galore and its so nice to feel like kids can just go out and explore. I imagine its a great place to bring older kids too because you feel comfortable giving them a little more independence. (I say this now, but ask me again when my son is a teenager.)

And you can even spot deer on the island. They’ve gotten used to co-habitating with all the summer visitors and they will come very close to you in search of food. One evening one came right up to hand when we stopped to admire it.

I don’t have many tips to share, because Fire Island is delightfully easy going. There is only 1 little market, so just make sure you get what you need for your little ones on the mainland before you hop on the ferry to avoid the higher price tag on the island. Other than that, you just have to get there to experience it. Hopefully my photos have enticed you enough to check it out.

I was so grateful the hubs tour route gave us a few days off and that Steve threw out the suggestion to go to Fire Island, because it was exactly what our family needed. I absolutely recommend you check it out if you get the chance. I know everyone raves about how great NYC is and it definitely is, but if your a family on vacation, Fire Island offers such a cool experience.

ON A SEPARATE, BUT MUCH NEEDED NOTE:

My family has been so blessed to be able to travel and share these experiences together. I feel guilty writing about it, knowing so many families are still struggling in Texas as a result of Hurricane Harvey. And while there are many causes to donate to, many people don’t know that diapers are not provided by disaster relief agencies. I simply can’t imagine the heart break a mother must feel when they struggle to feed or diaper their child. Please consider checking out www.texasdiaperbank.com to make a donation. They have an Amazon wish list as well, so its easy for anyone anywhere to contribute.

Just a quick wrap up on TIPS for Fire Island with kids:

  • take the ferry to get there
  • rent a cottage
  • bring beach gear
  • bring a wagon to take little ones on walks (no cars) and to get your things to the beach
  • consider bringing a small plastic pool to the beach for little ones
  • bring your necessities with you from the mainland, as there’s only one market on Fire Island
  • bring a camera for the photo ops! 

Happy traveling, friends! Follow along with our traveling circus on Instagram!

Travel: NYC with Kids

Hi, I’m back again with some tips on one of America’s greatest cities: New York City. We even got to explore a bit of upstate New York, so I’m giving you a taste of each and loading you up with helpful info. New York can be a tricky one, so hit me up with any questions.

I LOVE Manhattan. I moved there when I was 17 for college and I’ll snag any opportunity to go back. My NYU roommates are starting families and I love getting our kids together and seeing how we’re creative humans choosing to take on motherhood in different ways. It’s inspiring!

I’ve done New York twice with my traveling tot. Last year when he was 9 months and again at almost 2 and I can tell you that New York is not for the faint of heart.

If your family is looking for a chill, relaxing vacation, stay away from Manhattan! But, if you love the fast paced energy of a big city and you think your kids inherited that gene, then go for it!   New York is the adult version of Disneyland. It’s the Las Vegas strip on steroids minus the casinos, but with the best of everything at your finger tips. With that being said, its gonna cost you a pretty penny to play on this playground. Prepare and surrender yourself to that and you’ll enjoy yourself so much more. I constantly have to remind my hubs of this one! (Or read Kara’s post about how to do NYC in 1 day on a budget… otherwise plan to splurge a bit!)

Ideally we really try and pack efficiently on our NYC trips. A small suitcase & the super lightweight umbrella stroller.

Caption: See, I told you we’re efficient packers. –yeah right! The gray backpack with wheels is for the carseat (highly recommend if you are an avid traveler) and the cammo bag is loaded with Capt. Evil shirts Steve sells after his shows. And I obviously need a massive suitcase for potential shopping expeditions!

Quick TIP: if you’ve got a little one, always travel with a thin blanket rolled up in your bag. In NYC it’s great to block out over stimulation for stroller naps and nice to have handy for a diaper change emergency because bathrooms are hard to come by.  If your little one is still content to let you wear them, a baby backpack is definitely the easiest way to get around. As an added bonus, I think I sweat out five pounds walking around with my little guy strapped to me the 1st time.

Both times we’ve done NYC as a family it’s been in the sweltering heat of the summer!

There is tons to do and public transportation can get you anywhere, but the subway is insanely hot and you are walking everywhere in some intense humidity, a sweaty mess lugging around all the crap you need for a toddler. I have no idea how NYC bloggers get beautiful photos of themselves and their families, because I’m pretty much a stinky hot mess the whole time! So my suggestions is go in the spring or fall if you can.

If you are up for the adventure, it’s an amazing city to explore and Central Park offers something for everyone. It’s home to the Central Park Zoo, several children’s playgrounds, rowboat rentals and horse drawn carriage rides. Central Park is huge so decide on what attractions you most want to hit and know where you are going (Google maps helps and if you’re walking, put it on walk mode). Our plan was to take Garrett for his first carousel ride. We caught a cab to the park, but got dropped off in the entirely wrong place and found ourselves walking for an hour, before we came to the Victorian Gardens Amusement Park. It’s a great option for preschoolers with smaller rides, but not the original carousel we were looking for.

When we finally found it we were soaked in sweat, but both agreed the expressions on Garrett’s face made it totally worth it. It started our love affair with carousels all over the country.  While your here you can check out Heckscher Playground and the zoo is close by too. We ended up using all our time trying to find the carousel!

It’s also fun sailing the remote controlled boats at Conservatory Water and grabbing a bite in the nearby boathouse cafe. If your child has a longer attention span, but you are not quite sure they are ready for a broadway show, try a puppet show at the Marionette Theater located in the Swedish Cottage. They offer affordably priced shows daily during the summer.

And if your family loves carousels as much as mine, by far one of the coolest I’ve ever come across is the Seaglass Carousel in Battery Park. It’s a work of art. My pictures don’t do it justice, but if your littles can stay up past dark, it’s magical. It’s definitely a New York site I’d hit again.

While you are hanging around Battery Park you can catch the Staten Island ferry. Insider TIP: it’s FREE and will get you a close view of the Statue of Liberty without the hefty tour boat price tag.

This time around, I wanted Garrett to be able to run around and explore but we needed to keep cool too. So he headed to Hudson River Park’s Pier 25. It’s got water, sand, swings and plenty to climb all gated in Tribeca. I also think I spotted some model moms here!

I’m always up for a children’s museum, so we had to hit Manhattan’s. I’ve gotten spoiled, getting to visit children’s museums all over the country and I had high expectations for this one. It’s good, but we visited on a rainy day so it was packed and I found the 5 floors with long elevator lines made scoping everything out a little trickier.  In my opinion the appeal of this museum is that it’s in the Upper West Side, which is a fabulous neighborhood to stroll. Within blocks of the museum you can have any kind of food your heart desires from Indian, to Thai, to Chinese, to Poke, to Ramen. You can even grab a sweet treat at Treat House and make a full afternoon of it.

No matter what age your children are, car seat or not, if you are sticking to the NYC metro area I’m going to strongly recommend NOT renting a car. Let me explain:

Rental Cars in NYC are way more expensive than lots of other cities. We rented a car because we would be traveling between Manhattan and Steve’s gigs in West Nyack. But the convenience of having a car is stressful. You are fighting traffic, street parking is often an issue, and garages are ridiculously expensive. And part of the New York City experience is taking public transportation.

You don’t need a car seat on subways, buses, cabs or most Ubers, depending on the driver’s discretion. If you’re traveling super light, there is even a train from the airport where you can then transfer to the subway to get to where your staying. That being said, a cab is pricier, but exponentially easier. I’d cab it to your landing pad, and then use the metro or a ride share app to avoid higher cab fair while your exploring.

A couple of Insider Tips here:  

Uber is usually nicer and less expensive than a cab and has replaced most cabs. But Via is a great option if you don’t mind sharing your ride. Rides in Manhattan anywhere south of 125th St will cost you $5 plus an additional fee per +1. The app just tells you what street corner near you to meet your driver. If your traveling on a budget, but want to avoid the sweltering heat of the subway or just prefer to experience the city above ground, this is an option worth considering.  

If you do decide to take a car into Manhattan, parking apps like ParkWhiz and SpotHero are super helpful in finding the best price near your destination. You can even reserve and pre-pay for your spot. All of these apps are constantly changing their pricing and technology, so do a little research to figure out which is best at the time of your trip.

 I’m obviously a strong proponent for family travel and taking your kids everywhere, but for me New York was easier when we could just strap Garrett to our stomach and didn’t have to worry about him darting into NYC traffic. At almost two, he’s too little to handle all the walking and too heavy to be carrying like a Sultan in his stroller up and down subway steps. He’s also not quite old enough to appreciate the amazing things NYC has to offer like the the Statue of Liberty or sit through a broadway show. -If he did, I’m dying to take him to the Gazillion Bubble Show! (Score discounted tickets at TKTS or TodayTix).

So we choose to spend a couple of days in Manhattan, then head to West Nyack for Steve’s shows in the countries 2nd largest shopping mall –You know I wasn’t gonna pass that up!

If you are an East Coaster, West Nyack is a great staycation that feels like a world away from NYC and it’s just a 45 minute drive. It’s lined with huge green trees, gorgeous old victorian coastal homes, and offers cool views of the Hudson River.

The comedy club is located in the massive Palisades Center which in addition to offering all the shopping my heart desires, it offers so much to keep families entertained. It houses a movie theater, a bowling alley, a go-cart race track, a carousel and there is even a ropes course in the mall that is noted as the world’s tallest but still offers a mommy and me ropes course for the younger set. My son’s absolute favorite was Billy Beez. This place is the Taj Mahal of indoor play spaces. We spent A LOT of time here before showtime. I know some folks find indoor play spaces kinda repulsive, but this one is pretty rad even for the naysayers. It has trampolines, slides galore, a sports court, and multiple spaces designated for the little ones.  

Of course, I couldn’t only show my child the inside of a shopping mall. (Or could I?)  We did a lot of swimming in the hotel pool and ventured out to explore quaint downtown Nyack and the playground in Village of Nyack Memorial Park. The playground here has sweet log cabins and super high slides. There’s also a water play area and skate park. From here you’re a stroll to Main St. lined with boutiques & restaurants.

If your kids are up for a hike, Nyack Beach State Park is great. While it’s not the most ideal beach to get in the water, it does offer a 2 mile riverfront pathway that takes you to the base of Hook Mountain and offers cool views. It’s a lovely spot for a picnic and you can fish here.

We’d planned to return to Manhattan for a few days before hopping on a plane, but we were already feeling like the city had kinda chewed us up and spit out. We were tired, it was really hot, and the hubs really needed some down time before his next gig. So with 2 days off and a car to get us anywhere, we packed our bags and hit the road. I’ll tell you all about it in my next post!

Continue following our traveling circus on Instagram too!

 

Find Your Tribe + Grasshopper Point

The other day we packed up the car and headed to Sedona, Arizona, for a day trip with our homeschool group. We decided to celebrate NOT Back to School at Grasshopper Point, a shady water hole in the red rocks surrounded by big green trees and a stream. 

When I started this blog, I was a public school teacher. I taught 1st grade and 3rd grade. I LOVED teaching. About 6 years in, I decided to take a leave and stay home with my daughter and pursue some entrepreneurial dreams. When my daughter turned preschool age, I started homeschooling her and started a preschool co-op with other mommy friends. We have some of the best memories from those days. But eventually, all of our sweet friends went off to kindergarten and we needed a new plan. It was important for us to have a community. My daughter is an only child (read more about that here), and she’s extremely social and loves her friends. We tried out lots of different homeschool groups, and although we made lots of new friends, nothing felt like ‘home.’ 

Feeling discouraged and questioning my choice to homeschool, I prayed hard for an answer. Again… it was important for us to have a community… a tribe. And a few days after I broke down crying in prayer, I met my friend Mel. She was a mom of a sweet little girl in the PreK cooking class I was teaching. She mentioned that she had decided to homeschool and wanted to know if I wanted to get together weekly with our kids. Of course I agreed (you can tell a kind soul when you see one, am I right?) and soon thereafter we met a mutual friend of a friend, Nicole, and added to our group.

Now, 5 years later, we are 8 moms strong and 21 kids deep. We are all so alike, yet all so different. And each of our differences adds to our group. We collaborate, plan, laugh, educate, meditate, play, adventure, explore, share, make memories, learn, and love on each other’s kids.

I am so thankful for this tribe. They encourage me and support me. And not only am I am better homeschooler for it, I am a better mom, wife, and friend because of them. And my daughter has built some really awesome friendships and has learned a lot of really awesome things. 

I am so thankful life brought us all together… so we could travel this journey of homeschool and motherhood and celebrate milestones together. Plus, we have A TON of FUN! 

If you’re in Arizona, I highly recommend visiting Sedona. Your kids will LOVE Grasshopper Point. Be sure to bring $8 per car for parking. It’s an easy walk down to the water but there are lots of rocks and boulders so watch your step! Once down at the water, there are lots of places to have picnics, swim, hike, and explore. If you can go during the week, it’s even better because you avoid the crowds. It’s not a pet-friendly trail, so leave your furry friends at home. Be sure to bring sunscreen, towels, water shoes, and lots of H2O. And as always, don’t forget to hike out with your trash. 

Wild and Free with a LOVE for learning. Our party in nature has me pumped for another awesome school year full of new learning experiences and adventures. Luci and I are excited for fourth grade!

Are you a parent of a fourth grader or a fourth grade teacher? If so, you must check out Every Kid in a Park! It’s a program for fourth graders enabling them and encouraging them to visit national parks by making it a free and educational program! We are all signed up and can’t wait to take advantage of it. Let us know if you do too! 

Travel: Visiting Cleveland with Kids

Hello! Renae here and I’m happy to be back and sharing more about traveling with kids… little kids to be exact. So today let’s take a trip together! If you are planning on visiting Cleveland with Kids, I’ve got some great tips and places to share with you. 

I’m going to let you in on a dirty family secret. My husband’s tour dates were booked before Garrett (our son) was born, so even though he’d be so delicate, we decided he’d be taking his first road trip at 3 weeks old. At the time, I couldn’t anticipate what a hormonal mess I might be, and I imagined it would be such an important family bonding time that I wanted us to be together no matter where we were. For me, the thought of being on my own with a newborn seemed scarier.  Since we knew we’d be doing a lot of traveling, we decided to introduce a lovey. It was actually a tip I got from a sleep training book. The idea is to introduce a special blanket or animal that comes out at naptime and bedtime to help signal it’s time to sleep. We took it a step further and slept with the lovey in our bed before Garrett was born so that it smelled like us. That way even before he could see it, he could smell it. We figured in a state of constant change, it was something he could always have that felt familiar to comfort him.

And yes, it’s become one more thing we have to make sure to pack, but it’s been really helpful when we’re sleeping in different beds all the time. One of my girlfriends called him Carcass because his body is flattened out with no stuffing which coincidentally makes him easier for traveling. My husband loved the name because it sounded manly, so Carcass stuck.  And somewhere along the line Carcass became such a comfort that he didn’t just come out at bedtime. He was joining us for alot of our daytime exploring. He’s even really helpful on those first sleepovers with the Grandparents, or transitioning to nap time at daycare. My kid might grow up to be like Linus from Charlie Brown dragging around his smelly germ infested blanket everywhere, but for now Carcass is so worth the help he brings at bedtime when we’re sleeping some place foreign all the time. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen Carcass all over Cleveland. He’s a main character in my instastories.

Carcass: Our Dirty Little Secret. Don’t worry, I’ve already scoured the Internet to make sure we have a back up.

So how’d we end up in Cleveland? My husband, Steve, had been out on the road for about a week and it was time to get the band back together, so Garrett and I hopped on a plane by ourselves to meet him in Cleveland. Lucky for me, Garrett slept most of the way. I wish I could offer advice on techniques for how to hold a lap child on a plane without an arm falling asleep or your fingers tingling, but I haven’t seemed to master that yet.

When I told a girlfriend who used to live in Cleveland I was going there she asked “Why?”.  And then right before I got there, I learned Cleveland is referred to as “The Mistake on the Lake” and not just by haters. It says that on Wikipedia too. But, I have to say, downtown is nice, clean, and offers so much to do. With the Kimpton Schofield Hotel as our landing pad, we were able to take in so many sites just walking around with the stroller. And downtown Cleveland offers so many great hotel & restaurant options.  One morning we had breakfast At Yours Truly in the Playhouse District and scoped out the countries largest outdoor chandelier.

And 4th Street is an awesome alley way lined with bars & restaurants with plenty of options and outdoor seating. It’s the perfect combo for a mom & tot. Outdoor seating so you don’t have to worry about disturbing the tables next to you, plenty of great people watching to keep everyone entertained, and a relaxing spot to sit have drink while the little one eats. We loved our dinner at Pickwick.

When your visiting a new city, I recommend grabbing the local paper. I usually find free ones in a coffee shop. Cleveland has all kinds of cool stuff happening down at the Harbor including a summer concert series. It’s a city that embraces music for sure. On our stroll to the Harbor we found cool murals, art & large speakers playing music in public parks.

It’s a nice 15-20 minute stroll from downtown to the Harbor & the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. The museum is packed full of really cool stuff from Elvis, to the Beatles, to Katy Perry and does a great job of walking you through the history of music and its political reflections. We went on a weekend when U2 was in town and the place was packed. If you’re going to do this one with a kid who’s too big to be strapped in a backpack or refuses to stay in the stroller, I recommend visiting on a less busy weekday so you can actually take everything in.  I was super nervous about loosing my kid amongst all the people in the many nooks and crannies of this museum. If you’re looking to buy a souvenir or gift for a music lover, the museum store is huge and actually has lots of unique merchandise.

We also spent a morning at the Cleveland Downtown Aquarium. It’s on the smaller side, but had plenty of interactive stuff to keep our kiddo entertained. There is a decent sized tortoise enclosure where you can get pretty close and we got to pet a knarly looking lizard. There is an awesome “walk thru” tank where you can see large sharks swimming all around you. And if your feeling brave there’s a tank full of sting rays you can dip your hand in and touch.

My son didn’t know what time zone he was in and was awake till an ungodly hour, so I was on the hunt for ways to stay busy after 5pm that were a little more kid-friendly than a comedy club. I discovered Memphis Kiddie Park. It’s a 15 minute drive from downtown, but was super sweet and easy. The park has been around for over 2 generations and definitely has a vintage feel to it. Each ride will cost you a little over 2 bucks and we didn’t have to wait in any lines. They have a concession stand that sells your typical carnival foods.  I enjoyed it because it made for such relaxing evening watching Garrett enjoy himself on the rides… even though his face might not look like it in the photos.

I’m a huge fan of children’s museums in any city, but Cleveland’s was closed for renovations, so we found ourselves checking out the Science Center. Side note: On our travels, I’ve learned that aquariums are typically a little pricier than museums geared for the younger crowd. Just something to keep in mind if traveling on a budget is a high priority. This Science Center is several stories, with an area designated for the under 7 crowd. Our little guy is obsessed with balls so we pretty much split our time between the toddler area and the Lego exhibit. I feel like I’m really doing a stellar job of exposing him to all kinds of germs and building his immune system (LOL).

They also have a great rooftop outdoor water play area. I was pretty impressed with the cafe here too. They had several healthy options and more than the typical concession stand offerings. There’s also plenty of picnic tables along the water if you prefer to dine alfresco. This one was totally worth the cost of admission.

Don’t forget to get a pic with the iconic Cleveland sign in the Harbor. It’s hiding behind the Science Center & Hall of Fame. You can also catch a cruise of the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie from here. I wish we’d had the time to do a boat tour. Cleveland has a ton of cool bridges and I’m sure a sunset river cruise would make for some great family photos.

On a mommy of a toddler note: Garrett peed and pooped in the potty 2x on the last day because he said/asked for the potty and wanted to. Super exciting, but I’ve got some anxiety about how we’re going to keep the progress going and manage it through airports and on planes. Should make for another adventure! Add it to the bucket list.

On the return flight the plane was practically empty, so we got a whole row to ourselves. I realized traveling with a lap child is much tougher. There’s way more freedom when he’s got his own seat. Room to color and play on his own tray so we’re not nearly as desperate for the tablet. And even better, my legs aren’t numb and I can use both hands. Awesome!

Thanks for following along on our adventures. We have lots more exiting trips before the summer is over including New York & San Diego. And I’m quickly learning that travel needs and suitcase must-haves are constantly changing as our little rugrat grows, so feel free to shoot me any questions you have!

Travel take-away: Remember to check out parks, museums, zoos, aquariums, and new restaurants when you visit a new city with the kids! 

Continue following our traveling adventures by following me on Instagram!

Best Eats at Knott’s Berry Farm

Hello there makers! We are back from one of our many California vacations for the summer and we had a great time beating the heat in Arizona for a few days. We spent one day at the beach in beautiful 75* weather and we spent the next full day at Knott’s Berry Farm with our best friends. It was such a fun trip full of laughs, roller coasters, and yummy food. We’ve been lots of times (we love it there), so I thought it would be fun to share some of the Best Eats at Knotts Berry Farm. Because let’s face it, it’s not just about the rides. It’s about the food too!

Ghost Town has a lot of our favorite foods! We each get something throughout the day (before standing in line for another roller coaster) and share! Sutter’s Grill/Funnel Cake and Log Ride Funnel Cake have the most delicious funnel cakes in the history of ever. I especially love it with boysenberry and powdered sugar, but you can get it in a variety of ways.

Calico Fry Co. has delicious fries with a variety of yummy toppings. They serve them in a box, so grab a couple of forks and eat them while you’re in line for a ride or watching a show. 

The Gourmet Churro Factory has delicious churro sundaes that are a MUST try. And also totally shareable. 

Sutter’s Grill also has delicious, hand-dipped corn dogs and waffle fries. Talk about YUM!

My all time favorite treat to get when visiting Knotts Berry Farm is the delicious boysenberry soft serve ice cream cone. It’s seriously the perfect summer treat, but I’d eat it year round, y’all!

Fireman’s BBQ has the most delicious barbecue. My two favorite things to get from here are the fire roasted corn and the turkey legs. I know Disneyland is known for their turkey legs, but I promise you, you’ll be a fan of Knott’s Berry Farm’s as well. 

If you feel like sitting down for a meal with the family, I recommend Ghost Town Grill. They have a great menu. I especially love that the burgers come with a side of boysenberry aioli. Note: you can get gluten free buns or go bunless on your burgers upon request! 

Ghost Town Bakery has fresher baked goods that are must tries. The huge boysenberry donuts are my favorite, but the soft cookie sandwiches filled with boysenberry mousse are delicious too.

If you need a quick pick-me-up, head over to the Boardwalk’s Gourmet Coffee Hut for a Boysenberry Latte. It’s delicious! I recommend asking it for half sweet (2 pumps instead of 4) and it’s the perfect hint of boysenberry in your latte. 

And of course, you can never go wrong with the famous chicken dinner at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. After all, it’s how Knott’s Berry Farm got started. 

Photo courtesy of Hungry In LA

Be sure you stop in at the General Store for all the berry goodness Knott’s has to offer. From salsa to honey to candy to jam… they have it all! I love souvenirs you can take home and eat later. #foodismylovelanguage

So many yummy things to try when you visit Knott’s Berry Farm next! What’s your favorite treat to get when you visit?

We had the best girl’s trip to California and a day at Knott’s Berry Farm only made it better!

This trip was hosted by Knott’s Berry Farm, but all opinions and thoughts are completely my own. I only share things I love and think my readers will too. 

 

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

Travel: Visiting Tacoma with Kids

Hi y’all! My name is Renae and I’ll be sharing traveling tips with you monthly here at MFTM! This month I am really excited to share tips for visiting Tacoma with kids. 

When Kara asked me if I’d be interested in regularly contributing to her blog I was thrilled. Since you probably don’t know me, I’ll tell you I often call myself an un-domesticated goddess because when you look up “domesticated” in the dictionary those adjectives frighten me! But truth be told, I’m a DIY, decor loving, homemaker and recently a stay at home mom – A title that’s sometimes hard for my independent spirit to own. And the ‘home’ part isn’t completely accurate. These days we’re a bit of a traveling circus. I’m the primary caretaker for our 1 1/2 year old son and I “run our household” whether it’s in an actual home or out of a suitcase. My situation is pretty relatable, I had a job I loved at an acting school where I felt creative, inspired, and independent — and then I got pregnant. I thought I’d be able to bring the baby to work with me and when that didn’t work out as planned along with the reality of an hour commute each way and high cost of childcare, things got challenging. Our situation gets a little more unique… my husband is a nationally touring stand-up comedian. INSERT SHAMELESS PLUG HERE He’s hilariously funny with a Netflix special to prove it.  I’m actually a producer on this special, and I work for my husband too! (yes, it gets tricky, but that’s a whole other thing!) We quickly learned with him working in a different city every week, we wouldn’t have much time as a family and I would have been single parenting a lot of the time without any family near to help. Something had to give. We decided what made the most sense was for me to quit my job and the baby and I would join Steve on tour as much as possible and #ourtravelingcircus was born.

I don’t know about you mammas, but life after baby was a tough adjustment for me. I knew I had a pretty amazing opportunity to travel and spend this time with my baby and it was a blessing that we were able to do it, but I cried when I quit my job. When I was pregnant I felt like my body was taken over by an alien, and after I had him in the midst of all the hormone fluctuations I struggled to get back to being me. Work was the one place I felt like myself. Sure, an exhausted version of me. But it forced me to get dressed and I got to be creative, joke around with my co-workers, and have stimulating conversations that weren’t all about my new baby and being a mom. And when that was gone, I felt really lost.

But the last 20 months out on tour with Steve, we’ve made some pretty special family memories traveling across the country by plane, RV, & car. We took our first road trip when our son was less than 3 weeks old. -Not ideal for breastfeeding, but you manage.

And we’ve been able to catch up with friends up and down California, all over Texas, New York, Florida, Arizona and Vegas. And over time, I’ve been learning to embrace this time in my life even though its not what I imagined I’d be doing. It’s likely this won’t work for our family forever and he’s already growing so quickly so I’m trying to take every opportunity that allows me to better mom.

I’m really enjoying experiencing these cities through a child’s eyes, But Its challenging to carve out time for yourself when your sharing one room and balancing your husbands weird work hours which is not compatible with a baby’s sleep schedule. So when Kara asked me to contribute to the blog, I thought it was a great chance to take a moment for myself and get back to being creative. I figure it can only help me continue to discover who I am post baby. And I’ve got lots to share about the adventures of traveling with a little rugrat!

TACOMA
When we visit a city and where we stay is often determined by the comedy club. Lucky for me, most comedy clubs are usually located in busy city centers near nice hotels, shopping and restaurants! Tacoma didn’t disappoint.

Travel tip right off the bat here. Tacoma came at the end of a 2 week run for us, so we thought it would be easier not to drag around a car seat. Wrong! Renting one cost us $10 a day. So we ended up paying almost as much for the seat as we did the rental car. If you’ve got a big drawstring bag from your dry cleaner, just toss the seat in it and check it for free with your luggage.

We stayed at Hotel Murano in downtown Tacoma which has lots of cool glass art from the Museum of Glass down the street and the hotel restaurant was great too. Downtown Tacoma offers so much to explore within stroller walking distance. There are some hills, so in it’s worth traveling with a stroller that has some storage as opposed to a little umbrella stroller for this trip. Tacoma is beautiful and green and the cherry blossoms were in bloom when we visited. It didn’t rain, so we were able to go out and explore a lot.

If your little one is an early riser there is a Starbucks close by and the University of Washington has a bookstore attached with a quaint little kids area. We hung out there waiting for the museum to open so I could get my coffee fix and Dad could sneak in a little more sleep.

Our traveling circus has frequented several children’s museums and Tacoma has been one of our son’s favorite. It’s not the biggest, but it’s got plenty to keep kids entertained including a water play area and a really cool plane jungle gym structure to climb all over. We found ourselves strolling there one morning and then back again at the end of the day because he loved it so much.

You’ll have to get in the car and drive, but Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium has been one of my favorite places to visit in Tacoma too. It’s one of the prettier zoos I’ve been to with interactive exhibits and a nice big playground. Point Defiance isn’t huge, and a lot of the animals were away sleeping, but we saw peacocks roaming and beautiful lions. I’m a fan of the zoo/aquarium combo. Plenty of grassy spaces too if you wanted to lay out a blanket and pack a lunch.

It’s a beautiful drive over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to Gig Harbor to have a seaside lunch. We spent a relaxing afternoon doing some eating, bird watching and shopping.

And there is still so much more to do in the downtown area! We ran out of time so the Museum of Glass and Tacoma Art Museum are on our list for next time. I loved Tacoma and hope we’re able to go back. It was one of the easier cities to adventure around with a tot and I totally recommend it.

Traveling Take-Aways:

  • Check in your carseat and use a large, drawstring laundry bag.
  • Stroller with storage room.
  • Check out the bookstores, museums, zoos, and parks in the city you’re visiting.

You can follow #ourtravelingcircus on my Instagram! I’ll be back next month with more traveling tips for you!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Tips for Taking Kids Fishing

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PrepFreeProtein #CollectiveBias

Hi there makers! We had a great Memorial weekend as a family camping and fishing. My husband took my daughter fishing for the first time and she really enjoyed it. The place we camped at in our RV had a great catch and release pond for her to practice. While we were there, we came up with some great tips for taking kids fishing and thought we’d share with all of you!

1. Prepare your kids. Let them know that fishing takes time and patience. These are great lessons to learn as a child… and even as an adult (I speak for myself of course!). 

2. Get a good starter fishing pole (we got ours at Walmart for $8), bait, hooks, and bobbers. 

3. Bring water! You’ll be at the pond, lake, or river for a bit, so be sure to stay hydrated. 

4. Bring your phone or camera so you can take a picture of the fish you catch! You’ll want to remember your kid’s first catch and so will they. 

5. Pack snacks to bring with you, and preferably with protein. Lorissa’s Kitchen is our go-to when we are camping, hiking, road tripping, or standing in our favorite theme parks’ lines.

Because it’s prep-free, it’s so convenient to throw it into a fanny pack, backpack, or tote. Our favorite flavors are Korean Barbecue Beef and Sweet Chili Pork, but all of them are so delicious. Lorissa’s Kitchen is high in protein, low in carbs, low in fat, has no MSG, no preservatives and is gluten free. It’s a great on-the-go snack to have on hand. We buy ours from our local Kroger store in the snack aisle. 

You can save $1.00 off any Lorissa’s Kitchen product (2.25 oz.) with this coupon from June 1st – August 29th, 2017. There will be a one-day in-store sampling event mid-June at Ralph’s, Fred Meyer, and QFC stores on Friday, June 16th – Sunday, June 19th, 2017. 

Check out Lorissa’s Kitchen on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest/YouTube too.  

 

Have you taken your kids fishing? What tips do you have to add to our list and what’s your favorite snack to bring along?

Road Trip Tips and Essentials

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareTheLyrics #CollectiveBias

It’s summertime and you know what that means… vacations and road trips! Our family loves a good road trip. Whether it’s some place in our state we want to explore or a cross country trip, bring it on. We love to travel and most of the time we find it easiest to jump in the car and travel that way. Since we do it so often, we have a routine down… a system that works for us and that I thought I would share with you. Though I am no expert, I am full of wanderlust at heart and we travel often, so here are my road trip tips and essentials. This is focused more on road trips and travel with kids, but take whatever info you find helpful.

road trip cooler5

  • If you are taking your own vehicle, be sure to have the tires aired up and checked, fluids topped off, and an oil change if necessary.
  • Make your kid(s) a road trip kit complete with a road map, road trip seek & find/BINGO (printables all over Pinterest), book(s), coloring books and twistable crayons (they don’t melt as easily and you avoid paper wrappers and sharpening), Mad Libs, small pillow, and a Kindle or iPad with headphones (loaded with new games, books, music, movies).
  • Download a gas station app so that you can find the best priced gas along the way as well as the nearest gas stations along your journey.
  • Pack easily accessible snacks and drinks. I utilize baggies and plastic containers to the max. I also love personal coolers because they are nice and compact and there’s a flat top to use as a table top in the car.

road trip cooler3

  • Utilize rest stops for bathroom breaks and to stretch your legs (and the kids’). Sometimes I’ll have my daughter do a few jumping jacks, sprints, and yoga stretches to get some of the jitters out. It’s fun with the adults participate too!
  • Bring quarters for the kids. We reward good road trip behavior with quarters. Then at rest stops they can be used to purchase a treat or in the quarter machines that have stickers and tiny trinkets.
  • Bring a camera or a phone with lots of empty space for pictures along the way. Don’t be afraid to pull off the road (safely and in the designated areas of course) to take pictures and explore. I love looking back on our family travel photos.
  • Have a road trip play list ready to go. Have all of your family’s favorite songs ready for their listening pleasure. (This can even include audio books!)
  • Research ahead of time! Plot out and find cool and interesting places to stop along the way. This can be natural features, museums, parks, monuments, hikes, visitor centers, thrift and antique stores, farmer’s markets and festivals, historical places, restaurants, etc. Explore!
  • If you’ve done a lot of driving, be sure to check those tires and fluids in the car before you hit the road back home.

And don’t forget to refill those coolers with snacks and drinks for on the way back home! I hope you found my road trip tips helpful.

road trip cooler4

This personal cooler is one of my road trip essentials we’ve been bringing on our most recent adventures and I love it (so does my daughter)! It fits my Diet Coke cans nicely as well as my daughter’s road trip snack baggies and water bottle (we refill it with a jug when needed) while keeping everything nice and cool. It’s not too big and bulky, so it fits well in the back seat or on the floor of the car. The flat top lid makes a great surface for snack eating or even coloring pictures.

road trip cooler2

I am also loving the new Diet Coke cans with the fun song lyrics on them and felt inspired to add some lyrics to our little cooler. Isn’t it cute?! It’s super easy to do and only took me a few minutes.

road trip cooler1

I used my Silhouette Cameo to design and cut a vinyl sticker for the front of the cooler. I used lyrics off of one of the Diet Coke cans I was drinking… because I couldn’t get the song out of my head and I thought it would be clever on a cooler that holds our snacks and drinks. Plus, music is a big part of our road trips, as we are often singing loudly together in the car. No shame here! We love music!

road trip cooler8

Head over to your nearest Sam’s Club for Coca-Cola and Diet Coke  and get yourself road trip ready while you sing your favorite song lyrics right off the cans.

diet coke

Do you have any road trip tips? I’d love to hear where your family is adventuring to this summer!

Camping at Lake Pleasant, Arizona

Hello there friends! Now that it’s summertime, I’m sure most of you are ready to get out and explore our lovely state. Typically families plan their trips and vacations in the summer due to kids being out of school. So I thought I would share some of our favorite things to do as a family around our home state. We love being outdoors and near water, so Camping at Lake Pleasant, Arizona, is a must on our summer bucketlist.

Lake Pleasant6a

There are a few options to pick from when planning your camping trips at your local and state lakes. Though many families go for the corporate owned facilities, we LOVE camping at our state and regional parks. And there are plenty of reasons why, which I will get to shortly.

Lake Pleasant7

Lake Pleasant, Arizona, is located only 35 miles from Phoenix and is the biggest lake in the area with over 10,000 acres of water surface. It’s the perfect place for boating, water skiing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and more. It’s the perfect place for family fun and of course it’s pet friendly as well. Just keep those pets on a leash and be sure to clean up after them. 

Lake Pleasant2

Lake Pleasant has 2 marinas, a restaurant, and a few options for camping. Our personal favorite is Desert Tortoise Campground. This campground is right on the water and has options for RV hook ups as well. The above photo is our view from our favorite spot.

Lake Pleasant1

If you’re lucky enough, you may see a Bald Eagle or two fly overhead or even a pack of wild burros while staying at the lake. The beautiful sunsets are a backdrop to the wildlife and saguaro cacti that surround the lake. It’s really a great place to hang.

Lake Pleasant4

Two of our favorite things to do when camping are to go on nature walks and cook over the campfire, both of which can be done at Lake Pleasant. Sometimes when the sun goes down, it’s even chilly enough for a light jacket.

Lake Pleasant3

The next time you consider camping, check out Lake Pleasant and the state/regional campsites. The campsites and bathrooms are very clean, you are right near the water, and the view is unbeatable. Plus, the price of the site is extremely affordable and the money you spend goes back into keeping our state and regional parks clean and well kept.