Before we visited the Valley of Fire with kids it just looked like an Instagram heaven. That’s all that we knew about it, all from photos that people had taken and posted to Instagram. And then we visited and hiked and had up close wildlife encounters and fell in love. Valley of Fire State Park is the best Las Vegas day trip you didn’t know you need to do.
As you know, Walt Disney World is huge and truly is a lot to take in. We have demystified the process of planning a Disney World trip and understanding the layout of the full resort, but it’s now time to dig deeper into the Parks. This is our plan for a one-day Disney’s Animal Kingdom itinerary and includes everything you need to know to have a roaring good time.
Upon our first visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, all we really knew was that there was some sort of zoo situation that was really remarkable and that there was a section that was the real life Pandora from Avatar. We didn’t know that the whole park was going to feel like and that it was going to be just as magical as the Magic Kingdom.
Within Disney’s Animal Kingdom you’ll find the following lands: Africa, Asia, Discovery Island and the Tree of Life, DinoLand USA, and Pandora. Each area is very different and offers unique experiences, including surprising character meet & greets and dance party. The park is centered around the Tree of Life, so if at any time you feel lost or confused, just find the tree and you’ll be good to go. By the end of one day in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you’ll know the park like the back of your hand and you’ll love it!
Visiting Joshua Tree National Park is a great addition to a vacation to Palm Springs or Southern California in general. It’s a very unique National Park and visiting is a very different experience compared with Yellowstone or Yosemite. I’d sooner relate it to visiting the Everglades than any other Park. There are tons of things to do on a Joshua Tree day trip, but you need to know what to do before you just show up.
Before arriving at Joshua Tree we’d done some research around hiking and unique features of the park. We didn’t fully understand the layout though and had to adjust our plans to be able to experience the best of a Joshua Tree day trip. The following guide should help you plan, prep and have an awesome time exploring this fascinating place.
WHAT IS A JOSHUA TREE?
So glad you asked. A Joshua Tree is a member of the yucca or lily tree family. It’s like a giant succulent that grows only in hot, arid climates. They are very rare outside of the deserts of the American Southwest (there’s a small grove in Mexico), but their yucca cousins can be found in deserts all around the world.
The Joshua tree is a rough, pokey plant. It doesn’t get very big, unlike the Sequoias or Redwoods, and it’s rarely grows straight up. Joshua Trees are shaped like Dr. Seuss trees and look a lot like the silhouette of a person jumping out to scare you. They really cool. They don’t bloom every year, but when they do it is amazing and since it’s so rare, if you get the chance to visit when they’re blooming, you’ll be one of the few people on Earth that experience it.
If I say “Orange County” you most likely think of the beaches or Disneyland, and that makes sense, but did you know there in another really fun destination in Orange County? There are so many things to do in Buena Park, just to the north of Anaheim, that it’s both a great home base for Orange County and a wonderful destination in itself.
Here’s a fun fact: we used to live in Buena Park! When we lived just off Knott in the mid 2000s the neighborhood was nothing exciting. Today, Buena Park has become a bustling, colorful city that’s the entertainment capital of Orange County. We had three days and enjoyed tons of things to do in Buena Park.
Why Choose Buena Park?
Buena Park is located in northern Orange County, bordering Anaheim and Cerritos. A large part of the city is residential, but then the rest is all about the fun. The city has become a hub for really good food in addition to fun and activities.
Buena Park is ideal for both hanging out and being a home base for all things SoCal. If you’re staying in Buena Park, it’s an easy hop onto the 91 to LAX, the 5 to SNA or Beach Blvd down to Huntington Beach. Also super close is Disneyland: just a quick zigzag down into Anaheim. Really, anywhere you may want to go in SoCal is easy to access from Buena Park because it’s situated between so many highways.
I hate to be that guy but I’m going to share with you the best secret spot in California for Instagram worthy pictures. I know, you’ve seen it a thousand times but this you want to check out for sure. Guadalupe is the best surprise of a town and it’s the most Instagramable town in California, or at least the Central Coast.
There are some places that have been ruined by Instagram and people over running things in an effort to get a cute picture or something. That’s not the case here. Instagramable Guadalupe, CA is cool and would only benefit from people sharing its awesomeness.
A party of the Santa Maria Valley, Guadalupe is nestled between wine country, artichoke fields, and the sand dunes of the Guadalupe Nipomo Dunes Preserve. It’s about three hours north of Los Angeles and 40 minutes south of San Luis Obispo. It’s a short jaunt off the 101 and totally easy to add to a California Coast road trip. It’s one of the less visited towns off the 101 and is absolutely worth your stop.
We’ve loved visiting the Santa Maria Valley of California for years, ever since our first visit in 2017. We wanted to take a different approach to visiting on our most recent trip, so went with the theme of agritourism. Of course we still enjoyed the beach and nature of the Central Coast, but California agritourism with kids was a hit in more ways than just a fun vacation.
Why the Santa Maria Valley for California agritourism? For three reasons: diversity of farm experiences; wonderful, welcoming people; and it’s gorgeous. Just keep reading…
WHAT IS AGRITOURISM?
We love agritourism because it’s a very different way to explore and learn. If you’re not familiar, agritourism is the approach of tourism through the lens of farming and agriculture. It’s visiting and interacting with farmers and experiencing both the work and the joy of farming. One of the biggest benefits of agritourism with kids is helping them see and understand where their food comes from.
Tip: a good conversation to have with kids is regarding sustainability and organic farming and labeling. When you start visiting farms and vineyards, you’ll see signs and you’ll hear farmers talking about what they do to ensure they’re growing the best produce possible, so it’s nice to lay some groundwork.
Zion National Park is known for its epic hikes and canyoning routes, but it’s also full of fun hiking trails that are great with kids too! By now you’ve seen that we really love Zion; we found that the scenery paired with the activities make for a perfect family vacation destination. And that’s what we’re talking about here: best kid friendly hiking in Zion National Park.
If you are looking for epic views or easy strolls, there are plenty of kid friendly hiking options in Zion. You truly don’t have to over-exert yourself (or your kids) to experience and appreciate the best of what Zion has to offer. These are our top picks for families and safety tips for some kid friendly hiking in Zion National Park.
HIKING SAFETY IN ZION
We always start here because it’s easy to get right into the hike info. Here’s what you need to know to be prepared for hiking in Zion National Park:
- Know the details of your hike – distance, elevation gain, estimated time
- Bring more water than you think you’ll need – we do 1.5 refillable bottles per person
- Bring enough snacks to equate to a meal
- Don’t rush kids on rocky trails
You know how there are those projects that you always want to do but you keep putting off? One of them for me was writing a book. I never really wanted to write a novel or scholarly work, but I’ve always wanted to make a book for kids. And I did it! The Ultimate Travel Journal for Kids is live on Amazon for pre-order and hits the shelves May 21, 2019.
I’m really excited about it. “But what’s this book about?” Well, it’s a travel journal for kids (or adults that want an easy way to journal). “Why not make a travel guide?” Well, we might just work on that as a joint project, both Chris and I, but for now this was the best option and what I was really passionate about working on. So, here’s the story of the Ultimate Travel Journal for Kids.
Why make a travel journal for kids?
If you’re a parent or have spent a lot of time with kids, you know that it can be difficult to get them to genuinely engage and have meaningful conversation about their day or what they’ve been doing. When I started to write the prompts for the Ultimate Travel Journal for Kids I had to think about the questions I ask the boys when we’re traveling or when we’ve been apart for a few days. I considered what they get excited to talk about and what topics are like pulling teeth.
As a dad, something I want to understand with my kids more than anything is what makes them happy and piques their interest. Conversation about what is going through their minds and what they think about what we’re doing while traveling can be tricky. I’m totally up for the effort, but anything to make it easier AND to document what they’re thinking about is a win in my book. And that’s why I’ve worked to create this awesome journal. I’ve tested it out with our oldest, and Oliver is a journaling champ, so hooray!
Choosing a family vacation destination is tough enough, with sometimes vastly different ideas of what would be cool to kids of different ages—not to mention what the parents want. But for queer families, there are added issues to consider. Is the destination welcoming? Does the family want to be with other queer families, or does that not matter to them?
There’s obviously no one-size-fits-all answer, but many LGBTQ families do consider whether the place they’re traveling is safe. Such is the case with New York-based Justin Huff, who travels with his husband and three-year-old child.
“I think safety is most important,” he said. “Being gay is one part of who I am and being safe and keeping my family safe is more important than beating someone over the head with sexual preference.”
And David Molino Dunn said that his family does tend to stay away from countries that have known anti-gay laws in place.
“We would rather avoid having a negative situation altogether. There are plenty of wonderful places we have yet to visit that would be much more welcoming to our family,” Dunn said. “I remember specifically driving a few extra hours to avoid having to stay the night in Mississippi one time. Better safe than sorry.”
Connecticut-based Dawn Ennis said that if it’s a place she feels safe, she doesn’t out herself or her queer children. But she’s generally not afraid to wear a transgender symbol or attire that speaks to LGBTQ rights.
We visit Atlanta quite a bit since we have family in Georgia, and we’re always looking for new things to do with the kids. On this last trip, we finally got to visit a dinosaur museum: Atlanta’s Fernbank Museum of Natural History. It was the perfect addition to a family trip to Atlanta.
After six or seven trips we’re always looking for something new, so it’s refreshing to find dinosaurs in Atlanta. The Fernbank Museum is more than dinosaurs though, and we loved it all!
Locale of the Fernbank Museum
There are actually a few really cool sites in the proximity of the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Between downtown Atlanta and the Fernbank there is the MLK National Historic Site and Sweet Auburn neighborhood, Piedmont Park, and the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. There is also the Path, a long interurban trail for biking, running and walking, connecting the Druid Hills area to downtown.