Right to left: Mt St. Helens, Mt Rainier (in the foreground), Mt Hood (barely visible) and Mt Adams.
Taken from the window of an Alaska Airlines flight between Seattle and Walla Walla WA.
Right to left: Mt St. Helens, Mt Rainier (in the foreground), Mt Hood (barely visible) and Mt Adams.
Taken from the window of an Alaska Airlines flight between Seattle and Walla Walla WA.
I don’t think I’ve ever live-blogged before – this is my first attempt. The gurus says “Don’t live-blog while you’re away from your home, people will know you’re away”. Thankfully someone already broke into our house and stole the only stuff worth stealing so hey, that frees me up to pretend I’m feckless and fancy-free again
The map above shows today’s self-guided walking “tour” (hah “tour”!).
High points: Pottering at the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market; People-watching at Washington Square Park; Really appreciating the differences in NYC neighborhoods (that’d be me – and maybe the Murphster – the children were more consumed with the ignominy of having to walk to far).
Low points: OMG! The need to line up at Empire State just to buy tickets!! And whew! I really like the Highline but To Be Avoided on a Sunday with Children. Seriously.
My children, believe it or not, hate traveling.
Their reaction to plans to visit NYC: “Hey, our phones will work! We’ll understand the language!”.
Yeah. Funny kids.
Today I remembered why:
1. Traveling with kids sucks (they complain continually).
2. I’m really, truly not meant to be a desk jockey: I felt better after walking ~8miles (add walking to Curry Hill and back to the map above) around New York than I have done in months.
3. Visiting anywhere pushes you to be a better person: either because your kids challenge your patience and tolerances OR because the mass of humanity around you makes you wish for a desert island OR because the people-watching prompts truly funny conversations OR because it takes a certain density of people to generate (or save) art and beauty and even if you can’t draw a straight line (like me) you appreciate the value of life, love and color.
Today’s guest post is by Keryn Means of Walking on Travels.
Winter fun isn’t just for the big kids. Little ones can dive in feet first with family-friendly activities for kids of any age, many of which are free or cheap, and will never take place on the famed slopes of Whistler.
Get the kids bundled up and head into Whistler Village with mittens and a sled in tow. A man-made hill perfect for toddlers to climb is set up in the main field. Spend hours zooming down over and over again; the free fun may never end. Thankfully there are plenty of coffee shops near by to grab a beverage and warm up before the next round of excitement.
After you have had enough of snow down your pants you can let the kids decide between the playground or ice rink. The playground is accessible for children of all mobility needs and skill levels, making it a great place to make new friends and even have an epic snowball fight in the tree house.
Ice-skating doesn’t have to just be for the big kids. For $5 you can rent skates and get a free helmet to borrow for toddlers. Our 2 year old had no problem fitting his toes in a pair. Plus they have small walkers for younger skaters that need a little help in the balance department. The best time to go is when the slopes are open and all the older kids are off snowboarding down the mountain. Our 2 year old son wasn’t quite ready to go out on ice on his own, but we had a blast helping him and falling down together.
If you are up for it you can head over to the Tube Park, although not free or cheap for that matter, it is still a great time for kids ages 3 and up. Parents can’t ride in their child’s tube with them, but you can hang onto it as they go down.
Ski school starts at 3 years old, which is the perfect age. No fear and they still bounce at this age, unlike their parents who have to worry about breaking an arm if we hit a bad patch of ice on our board.
But what about the babies? Those not quite walking don’t have to be kept out of the fun. Most hotels in the area have outdoor heated pools and hot tubs. If you don’t want to bring your baby outside you can always head to the Meadow Park Sports Centre for some indoor water fun.
Before the kids head to bed make sure you check out the Sunday night Fire and Ice Show. This was a huge hit with our toddler. He never would have left if it weren’t for our freezing toes and growling bellies.
When all else fails babysitters are on hand to give mom and dad a break so they can hit the slopes for a few hours alone time. Either way you go, the whole family, right down to the smallest snow fanatic, will have a blast on slopes of Whistler’s.
BIO: Keryn Means is the founder of Walking on Travels, a site that gives hope to today’s modern parent who doesn’t want to stop their lives; they simply bring their kids along for the ride. You can find Keryn dragging her 2 boys around Seattle most days and across the globe several times a year. Follow along on their adventures on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
I recently moved teams at work. This is the priceless view from my new desk. My team will likely move again, office shuffles being a common feature of any corporate environment, but for now every time I stare out the window, it’s a treat. I don’t think I’m daydreaming any more or less than when I didn’t have a picture window view but I do know that I value the view every time. It’s the strangest thing. The water is calming and peaceful and watching the ducks beats YouTube cat videos by a mile.
Fremont, the neighborhood where I’m located is north of Seattle’s downtown core (where most Seattle hotels are located) but for me, this is the quintessential Seattle ‘hood. There’s quirky street art, funky locally-owned stores and restaurants and my I see my city’s outdoorsy nature passing by my window all day every day.
Rowers from the various crew teams fly by all day long. The odd kayaker or even kayaking tour group paddles by on their way from Lake Union to the Puget Sound, people pass walking, running and cycling on the Burke Gilman trail and I’ve even spotted the odd paddle-boarder. There’s a continual stream of boats of all shapes and sizes and yesterday’s unusual sighting was two tugs escorting a houseboat (how very Sleepless in Seattle!).
But really the headline act on my window stage is the ducks. Definitely beats the cat-videos
This post was sponsored by Trivago.com.
I’ve driven past the Residence Inn by Lake Union in downtown Seattle a hundred times but it was only when Marriott invited me to come visit the hotel at a mom blogger’s event that I got a chance to explore this property. I’m happy to have done so because now I know that this hotel is a perfect choice for budget-conscious families visiting the Seattle area.
The hotel is north of the city’s downtown core but close to the Seattle Center. There’s also a small playground across the street. This area, South Lake Union, is currently undergoing an extensive redevelopment. A number of Seattle’s technology companies have moved in to new office buildings here bringing a ready market for the restaurants, bars and cafes that seem to have popped up like mushrooms where before there was literally nothing. The South Lake Union Trolley runs from SLU to Westlake Center in the heart of downtown from 6am to 11pm most days.
The Residence Inn is not a stylish luxury hotel but it is bright, open, clean and comfortable. The rooms are spacious. There are studio, one-bedroom (450sq ft) and two-bedroom (770sq ft) suites. All rooms have fully equipped kitchens, sofa beds and wifi.
I stayed in a one-bedroom suite with a view of the lake. My boys are now 12 and 16. They’re big. I am on my way to being the smallest person in our family. This room was one that I felt could easily accommodate all of us – not a mean feat for four adults who like a generous amount of personal space.
Three things make the Residence Inn a great choice for vacationing families: the full kitchens, the large rooms and the fact that buffet breakfast is included in the room rate. Food can be a hidden cost for families that can make or break a vacation budget. Eating out is expensive, eating all meals out for a number of days in a row adds up really quickly. I’ve found that having the option of self-catering is a fail-safe way to keep under budget and this hotel makes it easy to do so.
The other nice thing about the Residence Inn Seattle is the guest laundry. The washing machines and dryers are coin-operated. There’s also a small gym and an indoor pool. The pool is about 5m x 10m so not really suitable for laps but a fun place for kids to play in after a busy day’s sightseeing maybe?
Disclaimer: My stay at the Residence Inn was provided by Marriott Hotels however the views expressed above are all my own with no input from the hotel or Marriott.
Last week I wrote an accommodation primer for planning a trip to Whistler with kids. It seemed natural to follow-up with 5 reasons to choose Whistler for your family ski trip. My kids learned to ski at Snoqualmie near our home in Seattle. As they were taking weekly lessons there we used a trip to Whistler as a high point of the ski season and a reward for their efforts. Why? Read on…
There’s an interactive version of this map here.
Size. Terrain. Vertical Feet. Skiable area. These are all terms you’d think more suited to a professional skier than a grade-schooler, but even at eight BigB was able to rattle of Whistler’s impressive statistics. At over 8,100 acres of skiable area on the two mountains Whistler is larger than all the other resorts in North America by far. Even a little kid can appreciate the scale by looking at the terrain map. If you have numbers-crazy boys like mine memorizing the facts became a game in itself. The benefit when visiting Whistler with kids? There is no way your child can get bored here. They can play on the snow, roll in the snow, slide on the snow, ski, ride, ride the gondola, and test themselves on Olympic-standard downhill runs and kid-sized terrain parks. Enough said.
A big mountain does not a good family ski resort make. There needs to be a good distribution of runs in each skill level. There needs to be opportunities for kids to try out a tree run safely and barrel down a steep with enough room for you to keep close by in case they wipe out. Whistler’s distribution of beginner, intermediate and expert runs is 20-55-25, Blackcomb’s is 15-55-30. Even from the top there’s a choice between easy green, wide, sweeping blues or sharp, straight black runs down the mountain. When you’re at Whistler with your kids it’s easy to accommodate a daredevil kid or a cautious skier and still have plenty of fun.
Yes, that’s a house-sized tree fort, on the mountain. On Whistler mountain actually. Blackcomb has a magic castle. Even the runs into these are kid-sized – or so they always seemed to me. The view across the valley from in front of the tree fort on a clear day makes you feel like the world is laid out at your feet. Not that your kids will notice mind you, they’ll be too busy climbing and sliding, taking a break from the hard work of skiing to just play in this made-for-kids mountain feature.
If your kids are like mine, they’ll spend their ski day alternating between skiing and eating – with likely at least one badly-timed bathroom break. One of my favorite things about skiing on Whistler with kids is the profusion of food choices on the mountains themselves. I ski with pockets stuffed with granola bars, trail mix and chocolate, but they need real food to keep them going too. The resort charge option on Whistler’s lift tickets means that my kids, now a little older, can be independent about choosing and buying their own food.
When the Peak to Peak gondola in 2009 opened I swore I’d wait “a few years” before riding on it. My kids had other ideas. We rode it every day, multiple times a day that season. Another one to chalk up on my list of the things you do with kids. And really, my kids were right. On a clear day the views from the gondola are straight from a picture postcard. You have to admire the engineering and, at 11mins start to finish, you have to admit that it’s a faster way to cross from one mountain to the other than downloading and uploading.
You don’t even have to be a skier or boarder to enjoy this panoramic gondola ride which is particularly good to know for anyone visiting Whistler with very young kids. Make a day of it: ride the Whistler gondola up for lunch at the Roundhouse, take the Peak-to-Peak across to Blackcomb for hot chocolate and stop at the sliding center on your way back down the mountain.
That’s it, there’s my 5 great reasons why Whistler is my pick for families. If you have any questions about this resort, or skiing in kids generally, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer your question, ok?
We’ll be visiting Whistler in February. That’ll make 12 years of fun family ski memories at this expansive Canadian mountain resort. I shared this with a friend here in Seattle who immediately came back and asked for help in planning his first trip to Whistler with his kids. His primary concern was where to stay given that Whistler is a large resort with many different “neighborhoods”. Here’s the advice I sent to him.
The Whistler Village area is where the hotels (Pan Pacific, Westin, Hilton) are located. On this map, “Skiers Plaza” is the area in front of the lift entrances. This is a busy spot before, during and after the ski day. Crowds gather at the Longhorn Bar (#7) from lunchtime on and this, and the Dublin Gate in the Pan Pacific (#16) are apres-ski central. Village Walk, the main pedestrian thoroughfare through the village starts from behind the Carleton Lodge (#7 on this map). It’s about a mile-long walk from here to the edge of the village i.e. the intersection with Hwy-99. The Village Walk is lined with shops, bars and restaurants and is the heart of the village.
The Whistler Kids drop-off/pick-up area is inside the Village Gondola building. The kids load up in the gondola (too cute when all you can see is the top of their ski helmets) and go up to mid-mountain to the Whistler Kids on-mountain base.
With small kids I’d avoid staying in this section of the village since it does get noisy at night.
This where we usually stay. The accommodation is mostly condo complexes some with communal pools or hot tubs. You’re still in the thick of the village action but not likely to be disturbed by late-night revelers. My favorites here are the Delta Whistler suites, the Town Plaza Lodge or Glacier’s Reach (this last because they have private hot tubs).
It’s a bit of a hike from say Town Plaza to the Whistler Kids drop-off especially with young kids in ski boots but if you give yourself an extra 30 minutes you can make it.
Whistler Upper Village aka Blackcomb is where you’ll find the really fancy accommodation: the Four Seasons, the Fairmont and Club Intrawest. There are regular shuttles between Blackcomb and Whistler and it’s really only a 15 min walk between the base areas, but the “village” in Blackcomb is much smaller. There is a single street – maybe 500yards – with no more than 10 shops. On the other hand, the Whistler Kids facility at Blackcomb is at the base area which is logistically easier especially with younger children and children who might need a little more time with Mom or Dad before heading off for the day.
Club Intrawest, with a pool and hot tub, a movie room and a games room is a luxury condo experience in the Upper Village.
The Creekside area is actually the original Whistler base. It’s a 5-10 minute drive to the village proper from here. The Creekside gondola can be excellent because the lines are shorter than the other gondolas but there are limited restaurant choices here and limited shopping.
There are free shuttles between all the village areas.
The maps on this post are all from Whistler resort accommodation information.
I’ve had great success finding good accommodation at reasonable rates using alluradirect.com and from specials on the whistlerblackcomb.com website.
If you have questions about Whistler or skiing with kids, leave your question in the comments below.
Now that we’re home from our trip around the world with kids, back at school and work, we’re trying to keep the spirit of our travels alive by enjoying our city and state together on the weekends.
This past weekend we took a walk to Fremont, a quirky neighborhood in Seattle. On our way there, almost hidden by the leaves on the Burke-Gilman trail BigB found this Up sign on the ground. The Murphy boys voted and decided that legitimately found meant permission to keep. I wasn’t originally in favor of this decision but it did lead to some fun photo moments…
As I shopped for Christmas gifts at Theo’s Chocolate, BigB hammed for the camera. If chocolate, specifically Seattle chocolate is on your Christmas shopping list a visit to Theo’s to check out their selection of gift sets is definitely worthwhile. From $27 to $120, these boxed combinations of chocolate and coffee treats are a chocolate-lover’s dream holiday gift.
We took an alternate route home just so we could stop by the Fremont Troll because, y’know, when there’s a friendly troll under your nearby bridge, it is worth stopping by to say “hi” every once in a while
Photo captions provided by Murph.
BigB was not enthusiastic about the idea of snorkeling with Manta rays. I was surprised by his reluctance. We’ve been snorkeling before, albeit not for a couple of years. It only took a few moments for me to winkle out of him that he was scared because we haven’t been snorkeling since he’s been wearing glasses and that he was also nervous about the safety of a night-time snorkel. I told him that I he’d be fine in the water with me so he shouldn’t worry about the dark. I had no idea what I would do about his vision concerns but I bundled him into the car anyway.
Within minutes of arriving at the Fair Wind Big Island Ocean Cruises dock, BigB had made friends with four other kids who looked to be around the same age and was busy jumping of the dock and generally tom-fooling around. So much for fears and nervousness. As a scuba-diver, I was a little concerned about the size of the snorkeling boat. I’ve done enough diving to have a healthy disregard for large snorkel or dive operations which ferry way too many people to precious coral reefs with little regard for the impact of such traffic on the marine environment. I waited and watched as the team prepared the boat and the rest of the guests gathered.
My opinion of Fair Wind was bolstered once the team started to interact with the guests. The boat captain explained the timeline of activity before leaving the dock clearly and in a no-nonsense fashion. He mentioned that once on board, a naturalist would give brief talk about the Manta Rays and what to expect during the snorkel. They then proceeded to very speedily kit out our group of almost 30 people with wetsuits. One of the guys came around asking about vision issues and explained that they had some masks with lenses to help correct for minor levels of short-sightedness. BigB was thrilled.
On board, the crew quickly handed out masks and snorkels. Again, I was impressed by the organization and efficiency of the team. The naturalist talked briefly about Manta Rays, explaining how these beautiful creatures feed on tiny plankton and how shining lights in the water, accidentally discovered at what is now the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort, attracted plankton and thereby also attracted manta rays. (You can read more about the history and about manta rays here). We passed some other snorkel boats and I was alarmed and annoyed to see what looked like a mosh pit on the water’s surface. I hoped we wouldn’t be part of anything like that because I knew that although I would be fine, it would be darn difficult for me to keep BigB safe and comfortable in that environment.
As if on cue, one of the Fair Wind team called for silence and brought out a funky-looking, brightly-colored contraption. It took me a minute to realize that it was made from pool noodles cut into what looked like 2ft lengths and strapped together into rafts. The Fair Wind team, also wanting to avoid a snorkel mosh pit have come up with a novel and effective solution. Each section of the raft has three “bars” and sections are separated with lights. Each raft is about four sections long, allowing for eight people to hold on to the raft spaced about an arm’s length apart. Brilliant.
BigB had an other bout of nervousness just before getting in the water but now I could confidently tell him that he had nothing to worry about. We jumped in, grabbed a noodle and looked down just in time to see a manta swimming within inches of my nose! For the next 20-30 minutes, we were treated to an incredible show. There were two large manta rays feeding just below us, continually swimming up through the streams of light under us. A couple of times I thought that BigB was struggling with his mask and snorkel but it was only his excitement – even in water he was chattering away to me, not quite aware that all I heard were gurgling sounds. “That was just fantastic!” he exclaimed as he climbed back on the boat. “Next up, I need to learn how to scuba dive” he said as he handed over his gear. The Fair Wind guys smiled in agreement, “way to go buddy”.
Jet-lag is tough on the body but sometimes it’s worth it. Like when BigB and I traveled from Seattle to Hawaii and found ourselves awake with the birds and a perfect opportunity to explore Liliuokalani park in Hilo without a soul in sight. This park leads to Coconut Island (pictured above), a pretty peninsula with shady trees, small beaches and some structures dating from much earlier times. Although it was not quite 8am, it was already hot. So hot that that BigB was tempted by the gently lapping water. He insisted on paddling British-style. Looking at him I knew that in minutes he’d be wet to the waist – and so it was. We had to dash back to our hotel room to get a quick change of clothes for him before heading out for our day exploring.
You know your day is going to be a good one when it starts with a visit to a chocolate factory! We stopped by Big Island Candies on the recommendation of Warren of NativeGuideHawaii.co and it was a great call. The view into the factory is very industrial, but browsing the merchandise is chocolate-lover heaven. There’s all manner of goodies from milk and dark chocolates to shortbreads and Da-Kine treats . BigB chose a milk chocolate hibiscus flower as a souvenir. The artistic, colorful displays and packaging of the product are also worthy of a mention.
The Imiloa planetarium is on the University of Hawaii campus above Hilo in a beautiful building. We were met by Vincent Ricento for a guided tour. Calling Imiloa a planetarium is a meagre description for what you’ll find if you take the time to visit this attraction. Certainly it has an excellent planetarium which has the interesting twist of being able to teach about two sets of constellations: the usual Greek ones and also the Hawaiian ones. In some cases, these are different names for the same heavenly bodies but in others the Hawaiian constellations were entirely new to my Western mind. In addition, Imiloa is a cultural museum, teaching about Hawaiian cultural roots and also a science museum. Your path as a visitor teaches you about Hawaiian customs, starting with the Kumulipo, or creation chant, through explanations of how Polynesian cultures used astral navigation to travel across the Pacific and leading on to modern scientific displays relating to astronomy. As a mom who’s spent a lot of time in science museums, Imiloa definitely rates as worth a visit for a unique perspective, innovative presentations and an engaging thematic story. There’s also the 4D exhibit on the evolution of our galaxy and it’s placement within the larger known universe which BigB and I liked so much that, even though our visit was short, we sat through this display twice.
After lunch (with Jessica from BIVB) at the Hilo Coffee Mill (yum!) we hit the Hawaii Volcanos National Park . The park was busy, but we were lucky enough to be able to join a ranger-guided walk of the steam vents to Kiluaea overlook. Our guide, a volunteer from the Mid-West who was spending her second sojurn in Hawaii, was full of stories of the park’s early visitors (including Mark Twain) and the evolution of the park. She proudly explained how the location of the hula platform (facing the crater) was originally the site of an old tree. The story goes that Pele, the goddess of fire, struck the tree with lightning so that the platform could be placed where it currently stands – with an incredible view down to the Kiluaea crater.
On our walk I stopped to remark on the pungent flowery scent which filled the air – when we were not smelling the noxious sulphur-like fumes from the steam vents. The ranger disparagingly pointed out a beautiful orange flower and derided it as a plague. Apparently the park service struggles with invasive plant species. She also explained that non-native species of birds and animals are also a problem on the island. We were with another group including kids and the ranger took time to ask all the kids about how plants could possibly move across the ocean to Hawaii. Such impromptu natural science discussions make me a big fan of ranger-led walks at National Parks.
Our ranger was fascinated by Isabella Bird, an Englishwoman who visited the park and spent much time in Hawaii in the late 19th century. The idea of a woman coming from the strictures of proper English society to Hawaii alone at that time and becoming accepted and loved by the Hawaiian people obviously sparked her imagination. We learned all kinds of odd facts such as how difficult it was to get to the crater in those days and how Ms Bird had to learn to ride a horse astride – rather than using the English side-saddle – in order to satisfy her curiosity and get to the point where we were now standing. Interestingly, although I wasn’t expecting this little sociological discussion, it did not detract from our visit and in fact, provided a human interest angle to the story of the park.
My plan had been for us to visit the Jaggar Museum and the lava tubes at the park before returning to our hotel but after a chocolate factory, a planetarium and a hike, all BigB wanted to do was to hit the pool. We headed down the mountain with plans to return again in the morning (thankfully our park entrance fee was valid for a few more days) before heading across the island to Kona.
Our stay on the Big Island was organized by and paid for by Hawaii Tourism. Thanks folks!