Best Long Weekend Trips from Denver, Colorado

When we first moved to Denver a couple of years ago, one of the things that struck me was how far it actually was from other cities. Denver is sort of nestled away on its own, but there are some great weekend trips waiting for you if you are willing to drive a bit.

Rapid City, South Dakota



Seeing Mount Rushmore is something that we quickly added to our list when we realized that it was less than seven hours away from Denver. The drive to Rapid City is beautiful and full of historical stops. We stopped just outside of Cheyenne to see the Oregon Trail ruts. When we were just outside of Rapid City, we stopped at the Mammoth Site. Over 60 mammoths have been discovered at this site and if you are lucky you will see them working the dig while you visit.

While in Rapid City, we went to Mount Rushmore. We drove through Custer State Park and had to sit in our car for about half an hour as a large herd of buffalo wandered in and out of the cars as they crossed the road. We had the best steaks at the Alpine Inn and we learned about the Crazy Horse Monument. There was so much more that we could have done but we ran out of time.

See my post about what to do on a three day trip to Rapid City.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado


Glenwood Springs is less than three hours from Denver without traffic and it is lovely. We often talk about just driving over for the day but we haven’t tried it yet. I could spend the entire long weekend sitting in the Glenwood Springs and renewing my body and spirit but there is so much more to do.

The Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is worth a visit just to ride the alpine slide on the side of the mountain. You can tour the caverns, ride some rides, and play some games. We visited in the summertime, but some day I would like to go in the winter so that we can see it covered with snow.

See my post about what to do on a three day trip to Glenwood Springs.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sandia Peak Tramway

Albuquerque is about a six hour drive south of Denver. We spent three days in Albuquerque and during that time we squeezed in some hikes, saw petroglyphs, and learned all about hot air balloons. We also did a self-guided tour of all the Breaking Bad film spots. My kids weren’t very interested in this part but luckily we had lots of other fun stops. We took the Sandia Tramway up the mountain and it was almost as scary as the one we took in Switzerland. The views are worth it though so I am glad that I swallowed my fear and went. I am so glad we stopped at the International Balloon Museum. We spent way more time exploring than I had allotted for but we were having too much fun.

See my post about what to do on a three day trip to Albuquerque.



Shop Denver Holiday Flea this Weekend

*I was given admission to the Denver Flea and a $20 gift card to facilitate this review. All opinions are mine and mine alone. Rest assured, I spent well over $20.

From December 3rd to the 6th, the old Denver Post Production Facilities will be transformed into a holiday shopping wonderland. The warehouse will be filled with rows and rows of makers and retailers who “cultivate the Colorado lifestyle” and you won’t know where to begin.

I was able to go tonight to attend the Ultimate Shopping Experience. My family and I love supporting local businesses whenever we can. Before attending the Denver Holiday Flea, I looked through the list of vendors and retailers. I was excited to see some that I recognized and many that I couldn’t wait to check out.

You know how sometimes you go to the maker fair and it is just booth after booth of the same stuff? This is not that maker fair. Every single booth was different and I wanted to buy something from every one of them.  What sorts of things will you see at the Denver Flea?

This was the find of the night for me. It is framed in reclaimed barn wood and I just adore this picture. The only thing that would make it better would be if it said Ski Winter Park. When we were in Winter Park a couple of weeks ago, I saw this picture but it was much larger and pretty expensive so I decided to pass on it. When I saw it tonight, I had to have it. I know exactly where it is going to go.

Denver Flea

I have been following Helliemae’s Caramels on Instagram pretty much since I arrived in Denver but I haven’t had a chance to try their caramels. Oh. my. The Sea Salt Caramel? Just try one and try to walk away from the table without making a purchase.

Denver Flea

I picked up a couple of Christmas gifts at the Naked Goat Farm so I can’t tell you what I got but if you love handmade soaps, lotions, balms, and scrubs, you will love this place. They also sell delicious jams.

Denver Flea

I leave you with the t-shirt I wanted to get but they were out of my size. So Gnar has created a t-shirt that states exactly how I feel about this fine city of Denver. I am always telling people that Denver is my happiest place on Earth. I will be searching for this one online.

Denver Flea

Tips for shopping the Denver Holiday Flea:

  • Do a lap around the entire place so that you can get your bearings. Take note of your favorite things and then go back and pick them up when you know what you really want.
  • Try the spiked cider. But, only if you aren’t driving. It is crazy strong.
  • Bring cash to help support small businesses. Those credit card fees can eat up a small businesses profits and if it doesn’t, the fees are usually transferred to you somehow.
  • Bring your jacket inside with you. I left mine in the car and it is cold in there!
  • Don’t forget to visit the food trucks and grab something to eat.

Breckenridge Brewery Tour – Littleton, Colorado

“I know what that does. I have been on tons of brewery tours,” said my 11 year old son.

I wasn’t sure if I should be embarrassed or proud at that moment. Luckily for me, I was among beer lovers so my face turned red with a hint of embarrassment while everyone around us giggled at my son’s comment.

Breck Brewery

Breceknridge Brewery has recently opened an operation in Littleton, Colorado. We had family in town for the week and we decided that was a perfect time to take the tour. We had a fascinating tour guide who told us how the brewery got its humble beginning from beer growlers left on the front porch by neighbors waiting for them to be filled with beer to the operation that they have now. The tour took us through the different stages of beer making. My favorite part was seeing the offices where the beer production calendar could be seen through the window that looked onto the floor.

Before you start your tour, you can get a glass of beer poured to carry with you. After the tour, you head back to the tasting room to try four different beers available. While on the tour, you learn about some of the tour guide and local favorites but, unfortunately, they aren’t all available for tasting. The tour lasted approximately an hour. Our party ranged from 9 to 60 years old and everybody was captivated throughout the tour. My kids loved the science aspect of it.

Breck Brewery

After our tour, we walked over to the Farmhouse restaurant where we had reservations for lunch. The seasonal sweet bread appetizer was pumpkin and it was delicious. My Ranch Grilled Chicken sandwich with the roast Colorado chile cream cheese was fantastic. The Farmhouse is difficult to get into without reservations. You can try, but you will likely be waiting.

Breck Brewery

Tips for visiting the Breckenridge Brewery

Make reservations for the tour. You have to pay $3 for drinkers and non-drinkers are not charged but all must have a reservation to save a space.

Make reservations for the Farmhouse restaurant after. This will ensure that you won’t have to wait too long. It was recommended that we make our reservation for 1.5 hours after the tour and we walked right in and were seated right away.


Winter Park, CO – A Research Report

*This week, my third grade daughter came home and showed me her latest writing piece. They had to choose a favorite place or space in Colorado and write about it. She chose Winter Park because it is one of her favorite places. We just might have a family full of travel writers! I am sharing this here with her permission.

Winter Park

Are you looking for a place in the great state Colorado?  The location of Winter park is Winter Park, Colorado 80482. In the winter there is ice skating and skiing. In Winter Park there usually is a lot of snow. Maybe that will be your first white Christmas. You can always go sledding on a hill. The population of Winter Park is 946. Winter Park’s mountain elevation is 9,100 feet. It takes one hour and a half to get there from Denver, Colorado to Winter Park, Colorado. In the summer there is the alpine slide and mini golf. Winter Park has great skiing, snowshoeing, and tubing in the winter. Winter Park has amazing mountains. There is some really nice mountains. My favorite part of the mountain is called Jack Kendrik. My favorite restaurant is by a place where you ski. It is Goody’s Creperie.  I’d prefer Winter Park if you want all that stuff. I think if you are looking for a mountain paradise and awesome condos than Winter Park is the place for you.


Road Trips – Through the Eyes of an 11 Year Old

*Recently, my son had to write a personal narrative for his language arts course. He chose to write about our summer road trip and how it affected him. I am posting this here with his permission.

Road Trips

20150723_155014 (1)

Road trips are the best thing ever, especially this one. My sister, my mom, my grandma, my three cousins, and I went on a road trip this summer. We planned to visit Tucson, Arizona, see the Four Corners, and explore Mesa Verde National Park but we didn’t know our trip would take a detour. Road trips give you the chance to learn interesting facts, see new places, and learn new things about yourself.

First, we decided we were going to go on a road trip and it was the longest one I’ve been on. We got packed up, got into the car, and then we took off. We all knew that it was going to be a long drive to Tucson, Arizona but we didn’t know how hot we would get. After a while we were all sweating. We were asking to turn the air up. Even when the air was all the way up it was still pretty hot.This weather was very different than the weather in Colorado. Then we started to run into some Saguaro cacti. It got everybody’s attention. We learned that a fifteen foot Saguaro cactus is a hundred years old and that is when they grow their first arms. This was the most interesting fact I learned about Saguaro cacti.

20150723_164928 (1)

When it was time to leave Tucson, my mom and grandma were looking on a map and they saw we were close to the Grand Canyon. “Hey, does anyone want to stop at the Grand Canyon? It will be four hours out of our way,” mom said. My cousins and I looked at each other and had the same idea. “Yes! But does it have to be so far away?” we said. We were all so excited to get there and we were all impatient. When we arrived I wondered how big it would be. I learned a little bit at school about how big it was but never saw it in person. We were almost there. Just a few more steps. As I stared I was in awe about how amazing the sight in front of me was. I was so glad I got to see this new place.

Of course, the extra hours that were on our trip made us tired but the trip there was worth it. As I stood in front of the Grand Canyon, I felt happy that we had made the stop. At first, I wanted to say no but then I realized you should take the opportunities while you can. You don’t know when you are going to do something like this again. It might be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Choosing to stop at the Grand Canyon made me realize that I should take chances while I can.

My favorite part of the trip was hanging with my cousins, learning about the Saguaro cacti, and seeing things that I’ve not seen before. The Grand Canyon was way bigger than I thought it would be. We had a great time, not to mention, saw some amazing things. I am so glad my family stopped at the Grand Canyon or we would have missed something amazing. Next time you go on a road trip take the opportunities.

Don’t Miss Your Local Fall Festivals!

I feel it is safe to say, no matter where you live in America, you are probably able to find some sort of local fall festival.  You may not live near apple orchards or pumpkin patches, but you likely have at least one event to celebrate the harvest.  We happened across one of our local festivals by complete accident!  I saw an ad two days before in the Momaha, a local Omaha magazine our daughter brings home from school.

Apple Jack Festival -

My advice:


I have yet to attend a fall festival that I regretted.  In Virginia, I drove 3 hours to go to my nearest, decent sized apple orchard and the State Fair happened to be along the way.  I picked apples (and many other fruits) on a regular basis in Newport, Rhode Island.  Here in Nebraska, I am lucky to be in America’s heartland, amidst acres and acres of rolling farms.  It is hard to turn around without running into a cornfield or an apple orchard.  We don’t buy apples at the grocery store right now, instead we stop at the local orchard on our way home to buy a few pounds.  I hope we are able to do the same with other fruits and berries in the spring and summer.

Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard - twokidsandamap

There isn’t much you need to know before you go U-Picking:

  • It helps to have a water bottle handy.
  • If you are picking somewhere that will let you, I recommend you bring your own bags for the sake of being eco friendly (make sure it is a light bag so you are not paying for the extra weight when they weigh it).
  • Most local businesses would prefer cash (some ONLY take cash) so they don’t have to pay ridiculous credit fees.  We always try to have a few 20s with us when we go.
  • Apple picking (or anything else for that matter) really doesn’t take very long.  You park, usually check in at the main office, pick your fruit (10 minutes…or a little more if you are walking through a big orchard), weigh your pickings back at the office, and go.  Of course, if you go somewhere like Kimmel Orchard (see more below), you will be spending a bit more time there).

Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard -

Festivals are the same:

  • Bring some water, a stroller for little ones, and some extra cash.
  • Decide to go in advance so you can time your day well.  We attended the Apple Jack Festival in Nebraska City, Nebraska this morning and it began at 8:00am.  It was a 40 minute drive, but we still left early enough to arrive before 9 and I am SO glad we did.  We beat the traffic, beat the lines, and had a wonderful leisurely walk through the orchard.  Our group of 9, comprised of two families, had a blast.

Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard -

If you are anywhere near Nebraska City, NE around this time of year, I HIGHLY recommend you attend the Apple Jack Festival.  It is celebrated in the entire city, as well as most of the local outlying orchards and several farms.  All things apple appear around every corner.  Be prepared to eat apple donuts galore, drink apple cider until you burst, and enjoy hayrack rides, pony rides, and at Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard, an obstacle course to keep the kids entertained!

Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard -

Kimmel is great year round, not just during the festival.  They boast 40+acres of U-Pick property including strawberries, peaches, pears, apples, pumpkins and more!  The shop is enormous and filled with homemade goodies to buy.  My friend, from Brendid, and I even took part in a tasting of Kimmel’s dozen or so wines made with grapes grown on their property.  No, we didn’t try ALL of them! :)

Wine Tasting at Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard -

The Orchard also shares it’s property with the Kimmel Education and Research Center, a University of Nebraska Partner focused on agriculture and natural resources.  I truly could go on and on.

Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard -

We had such a fantastic experience at Kimmel Orchard and I cannot wait to return.  It was well staffed, with over 100 volunteers from a University of Nebraska fraternity and sorority.  The orchard is clearly no stranger to this event and they knew exactly how to set up to make things run smoothly for their thousands of visitors.  We will definitely be attending the Apple Jack Festival every year and Kimmel will certainly be a place we bring many of our friends who regularly come to visit us from all over the world.

Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard -

Aren’t our children just lovely???

If you haven’t attended a fall festival yet, you are missing out!  It isn’t too late this year…go read your local paper, magazines, or blogs and find out what is happening near you!


The Bellagio is a Cut Above the Rest

Bellagio Fountains

When planning a surprise trip to Vegas for our 15th wedding anniversary, I went back and forth with where I should stay. Which hotel had the best amenities for us at the right price?

After much research, I decided to book the Bellagio. It cost me about $200 a night but it included an $80 food credit. This made the cost for two nights a little bit easier to swallow.

We arrived in Vegas, caught our ride to the hotel, and stood in line to check in. It was about midnight and we were surprised to find the line practically out the door. It didn’t move very quickly but we were able to take in the sites of the lobby while we waited.


When it was finally our turn, we were informed that all that was left was a smoking optional room. AKA, there is a 100% chance that people have smoked in your room. I called a week ahead of time to inform the Bellagio that we were going to be a late check in so that this would not happen.

Womp, womp.

It was 1am at this point. We had worked all day long, spent the evening at the airport and had a late flight. We were tired and ready to crash so we took the room with the assurance that we would be able to switch it out the next day.

We woke up the next day and decided to switch rooms because the smoke smell was pretty terrible. We waited in a much shorter line (apparently most of the casino goers were still sleeping at 10am!) and were informed that our new room would be ready after 2pm and that we were given a food credit for our troubles.


After a few hours of exploring, it was time to get the new room keys BUT…

It may come as no surprise to you that the line was out the door. Again.

We went up to our room and called to cancel the room change. I just couldn’t bear to stand in that line again after walking around in the heat of the desert sun. Much to our surprise, they offered to change the key remotely. We packed up our stuff and headed up to the much nicer smelling room (with a better view!).

Shortly after we dropped our stuff, a knock at the door sounded. We opened it and were surprised with a box filled with nine of the most delectable chocolates I have ever tasted. It was a little anniversary gift from the Bellagio.


In addition to the amazing service, we also enjoyed the fountain show. It was much shorter than we expected but it was every bit as lovely as we thought it would be.

Despite our initial difficulties, the Bellagio has earned a life-long customer. If we ever make a trip back to Vegas, the Bellagio will be the first place we will look to book.

Two Hours in Grand Canyon National Park

Two hours at the Grand Canyon? That seems a bit ridiculous for a national park that is 215 miles and takes five hours to drive between the North and South Rims.

But what do you do when you have a massive road trip planned out perfectly and on the morning of day 3, you realize that the Grand Canyon is only two hours out of your way?


You reroute the GPS of course!

We had a tight itinerary that was more driving than sightseeing. On day one, we drove from Denver, Colorado to Tucson, Arizona. We spent the next day visiting family and then it was time to continue on. The original plan was to leave Tucson and drive to Mesa Verde National Park, while stopping at the Four Corners. While looking at a map, it was obvious that the Grand Canyon was only a couple of hours away so we did some quick research.

We rerouted the GPS to take us from Tucson, Arizona to the South Rim Entrance.


Our drive through the Grand Canyon was quite literally that: a drive through the Grand Canyon. We didn’t have time for leisurely hikes or picnics. We were there to gape at the giant hole in the ground, snap some pictures and continue through the park to an east exit near Cameron.

So how did we fare?

We were glad that we added the Grand Canyon to our itinerary at the last minute. How could we be so close and not stop? After we left the Grand Canyon and continued driving, all of the older kids on our trip (we had a 13 year old, 2 ten year olds, an 8 year old and a 3 year old) proclaimed the Grand Canyon to be the best stop on our road trip. That made it worth it.


Here are a few tips that we learned along the way if you only have a couple of hours in the Grand Canyon:

Fill up your car with gas before driving into the park entrance. This gave us a peace of mind because we had no idea what was on the other side!

Stop and take pictures when you want to stop and take pictures. You only have an hour or two and you are not going to want to turn around.

Stop at the visitor center but plan to spend some time. We decided to stop at the visitor center to pick up Junior Ranger books, use the restroom and stretch our legs. Parking at the visitor center is a premium and you might have to drive around for a little while. It can also be quite a walk to the center depending on where you have to park. While at the visitor center, we spoke to a ranger and found out how to exit the park so we were headed in the right direction. We also explored the exhibits. There is a water bottle filling station as well as plenty of restrooms and a shop. You can walk around the visitor center to Mather Point where you will get your first glimpse of the Grand Canyon. This is also one of the most crowded spots. We snapped a few pictures and headed down the road.

From the South Rim to the Cameron exit, there were plenty of places to stop and take pictures. Before we went, a friend told us to skip all the touristy places and just make the drive if we didn’t have the time. She was right. We could have stopped at the visitor center, used the restroom, and hit the road. We would have still seen the majestic views that the Grand Canyon has to offer.

If you are making the trip from Tucson to Mesa Verde National Park, be aware that adding the Grand Canyon on to your itinerary will make you arrive in Mesa Verde long after dark. With two hours at the Grand Canyon and minimal stops along the way we arrived after 10:00 at night. Because of this, Four Corners was closed when we arrived. The next day we had to tack two more hours on to our itinerary to make the drive to Four Corners and back.

Summer Ski Resort Activities at Copper Mountain Resort

Copper Mountain Ski Resort in the summertime? Yes, please.

Copper Mountain in the Summer

I still have the Copper Mountain t-shirt that my husband brought home to me. I was six months pregnant with our now 10 year old son and my husband went on a boy’s ski trip weekend. They loved Copper Mountain and we have since visited it a couple of times in the winter time. We have driven past it in the summertime but decided to take the time to visit this summer when Copper Mountain invited us up to try out their Summer Activity Passes.

Included in the pass was access to three bungee, one zip line and one go-kart session, unlimited access to mini golf, bike haul, diggler (scooters), scenic chair, lake activities and the climbing wall.

Copper Mountain

We arrived around ten in the morning and easily found parking. After we parked, we stopped by guest services to pick up our tickets, courtesy of Copper Mountain. You can purchase individual tickets but by the time you add them up, it will most likely make sense to buy the adventure pass.

We wandered from activity to activity having a blast. We were lucky to be there during the week so while there were crowds, we did not find ourselves waiting in line for more than a minute or two.

Copper Mountain

Our first activity was the bungee jump. The guys working the bungee jump were by far the most friendly group we encountered. They made sure that the kids enjoyed their time and also helped them to conquer some of their fears about jumping higher or trying to do a flip.

After the bungee jump, the kids spent awhile soaking each other on the bumper boats. They also raced around the go-kart track, and zipped across the lake. They were able to get a couple holes in at the putt-putt course but the sky turned black quickly and the rain started pouring.

At this point, we decided to call it a day, but we could have easily stayed for a couple more hours. We will definitely be back.


Things to Know Before You Go:

Do adults need a ticket? Yes, and no. The only thing that my husband did was ride the go-karts. Even then, the only reason he did that was because my daughter was too small to go by herself. Check the height requirements and decide if you are going to need a ticket to participate. If we went back, we would definitely save some money by not purchasing tickets for the adults.

But I want to ride the lift up to the top. Copper offers free lift tickets for each $12 spent in the village. Grab a snack and then use the receipt to get up to the top to see the views.

Plan to arrive right when the activities open. Storms are common in the mountains. If they see lightning, activities will shut down until 30 minutes after that last seen strike. If it is raining hard enough, many of the activities shut down with or without lightning.

*Thank you to Copper Mountain for providing us with Summer Activity Passes. All opinions are mine.

Camping at Crabtree Falls, Virginia – A Photo Tour

Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Recently, Virginia is For Lovers posted about 13 Awesome Tent Camping Experiences in Virginia. The list was a great selection of camp sites across Virginia from False Cape to sites in Luray. Though 13 locations does not even begin to touch on the amazing places to set up your tent in the wildlife of Virginia, I was disappointed that one site in particular was left off the list.

Crabtree Falls Campground is the epitome of what family travelers would like to see in a camping experience. There are things to do, clean facilities to use, nature all around, a friendly ownership, and the list goes on… One of the great pulls to the campgrounds is Crabtree Falls, the highest vertical cascading waterfall on the East Coast, surrounded by lush forest and abundant wildlife.  It is located in the George Washington National Forest and is touted as one of the best known Virginia hiking trails. Crabtree Falls Campgrounds is immediately adjacent to the stream that flows from the base of the waterfall. Saddled with enormous boulders, the grounds are a brief walk down the road from the waterfall.

Crabtree Falls Campgrounds - Two Kids and A Map

Whenever I try to explain the experience here, I am almost at a loss for words.  How do you describe the beauty of one of the most serene places you have ever been?  We learned about Crabtree Falls through our Boy Scout/Cub Scout group.  The boys take a trip there each year and one day my best friend recommended we stop letting the boys have all the fun, and take our two families there together.  I had no idea what was in store.  When we arrived we were greeted by the husband-wife owners of the campsite who live on location.  We were given a description of the amenities – clean bathrooms and showers, a small shop with just about everything you could have possibly forgotten at home, a game room (not that you will use it when you have this type of location), playground, laundry and YES! well behaved pets are allowed! Then we were directed down to our waterfront tent sites beside the gurgling stream.  After our four older children helped our families unpack the car and heft the equipment down to the site, they were off!  They immediately turned into children of the land, climbing over rocks, wading in the water, and more.  It was straight out of a movie.

There are options for every type of camper at this campground…cabins, RV sites, and tent sites – many with electric – are all available and each is equipped with a fire pit and a picnic table.  However, NOTHING beats the four waterfront sites, two of which we took up with our party of 9!  We built so many memories that weekend and were all able to get away from the world and experience nonstop relaxation.

Prime camping right next to the stream and away from the road:Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

The kids were off to explore as soon as we were all set up!Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Wildlife abounds in all the nooks and crannys (see the butterflies on the ground???)Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

The two year old was NEVER boredCrabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Can’t beat relaxing in a stream on a warm summer’s day
Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Crabtree Falls is a short walk up the road from the campgroundCrabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Once reaching the base of the trail, you start your hike to the top!  The trail winds in and out and up and down and is a REAL hike (especially when carrying a 30 pound two year old on your back the entire way!)Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

One of the many small waterfall sections you see on your way to the topCrabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

There truly was never a dull moment on this trip
Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

I cannot wait for a chance to return, especially if it is with this crowd again.  Next time you are camping in Virginia, seriously consider staying a Crabtree Falls Campground.  You won’t regret it!

Where is your favorite campground?!