Seattle With Kids: Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Seattle with Kids Mount Rainier National Park

When we visited Seattle with kids a few summer ago, we couldn’t plan our trip without adding a day trip to Mount Rainier nation park to our itinerary. As a national park passport holder, we always looks for national park wherever we go to add to our stamp collection. Not that Mount Rainier is something we can skip on our visit to Seattle.

Seattle with Kids - Mt Rainier-2

On a clear day, we can see Mount Rainier enticing visitors to Seattle to visit. A lot of locals plan their weekend trip to the park. But we only had so much time in Seattle that we decided to just rent a car and drove to Mount Rainier for a day trip. If we go back to Seattle again, we would probably plan a longer trip to truly enjoy the many outdoor activities we can do there.

Easy Day Trip from Seattle

Seattle with Kids Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier national park is about three hours drive from downtown Seattle so we started our day bright and early after picking up our rental car. We chose to visit Paradise visitor center for year round opening as well as easily accessible from Seattle. After a couple pit stops along the way, you know, kids needed to go to the bathroom, Mr. Rojo needed to refill on his coffee, we entered the Mount Rainier national park and all our attention was directed to the beauty of nature along the way.

View Points and Photo Ops

Seattle with Kids Mount Rainier National Park

If you plan to go to Mount Rainier, one advice I can give you is to take it easy and stop to take in the majestic view. There are several stops along the way that you can enjoy different views of Mount Rainier before arriving at Paradise visitor center. Take advantage of that. It will help kids to stretch their legs and spend some energy after riding in the car for almost three hours.

Paradise Visitor Center

Seattle with Kids Mount Rainier National Park

We are by no mean the expert in national park but we have been to plenty of national parks in the past and I have to say the Paradise Visitor Center is high on the top of our list on both size and design.

Seattle with Kids - Mt Rainier-10

The two-story lobby surrounded by wooded columns and wooden beams really make you feel closer to nature just like you are in a fancy hotel on the mountain. The big windows all around the building allows nature light and mountains to be part of the inside. And not to mention, Mr. Rojo’s favorite, Starbucks coffee is available on site.

Seattle with Kids Mount Rainier National Park

Coming from Atlanta, we didn’t think we will be able to still see snow in summer. So it was a nice surprise to be able to just walk outside the visitor center and played in snow for a while.

We enjoyed our lunch at the visitor center food court. Then it’s time to explore the park. There are literally so many things to do in the park. Many trails you can choose from. So take time to check out and see which one is best fit for your family.

Grove of the Patriarchs Trail

Seattle with Kids Mount Rainier National Park

As we headed back to town, we opted for a stop at Grove of the Patriarchs trail for a quick hike. The hike is relatively easy for kids but might be a bit tougher for younger kids in stroller. Check out at the visitor center to get the advice on what trail is suitable for your family as well as along the path of your trip.

Seattle with Kids Mount Rainier National Park

There is section where we cross the river on the suspension bridge. The kids loved it! It was the introduction for them to the suspension bridge before our visit to Capilano suspension bridge in Vancouver.

Seattle with Kids Mount Rainier National Park

Along the trail, we learned about the ancient forest. The trees are huge! The pictures don’t do its justice for capturing how majestic those trees are.

All in all, we had a great day trip to Mount Rainier and I highly recommended adding to your itinerary.

 

Postcard from the Road: Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

After two month trips to Thailand last year, this year we decided to stay closer to home (for various reason including financially). So our summer road trip 2013 was born.

Summer Road Trip 2013

Our road trip will take us from Georgia to Indianapolis, Niagara Falls, Toronto, New York City, Philadelphia and home. This two plus weeks will be the most we have ever done. So I decided to do a quick post like a postcard from the road to keep you up to date on our adventure.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Leaving early from our home in northern suburb in Atlanta, we passed through Tennessee and Kentucky on our way to Indiana where we planned to stop.

A Detour at Mammoth Cave National Park

But along the way, as an avid national park passport holder, we looked for opportunity to add a cancellation stamp to our passport book. And as we drove along I-65, I spot the sign for Mammoth Cave National Park right off the exit. Seeing that we still have plenty of time to arrive in Indianapolis later that day, we decided to take a quick detour of our route.

And what a pleasantly surprise to have found a great national park. We had no idea what to expect with Mammoth Cave National Park. I didn’t even know what’s the park is known for.

Mammoth Cave National Park Visitor Center

But as we stopped at the visitor center, we soon learned that we would be visiting not just one of the world longest cave system but also the world heritage site. What a great combo! This made me want to tag my friend, Traci from Go Big or Go Home whose site features her family quest to conquer all biggest, longest, tallest sites all around the world.

Since we didn’t plan the trip, we didn’t anticipate the activities that we could do at the park. The best way to truly explore the Mammoth Cave National Park is to join one of various tours provided by the park ranger. So we settled for the next best thing and explore the visitor center where there are plenty of interactive information for us to learn about the world largest labyrinth underground.

We already talk about planning a trip back so we can truly enjoy visiting Mammoth Cave National Park.

Family Tips:

  • There are various types of accommodation within Mammoth Cave National Park ranging from tent camping, cabin and hotel. So any types of travelers will be sure to find something to suit them.
  • Plan at least one tour to explore the world underground of the cave system that still have yet to be explored fully. The tickets for the tour can be sold out during high season so plan in advance.

 

Fun Things to Do in DC for School-age Kids

Things to do in DC with kids

Finding family friendly things to do in DC with kids is easy. But choosing what your family can fit into your schedule and limited vacation time is extremely hard. We have been to Washington DC with kids a few years ago and we knew that we want to go back there again. Even with a proper planning on finding things to do with kids on our last trip, we still have a long list of things we haven’t done in DC.

So now, I’m back at it again, searching, reading, listing and planning our next family vacation to Washington DC. This time, the kids are older. They are in elementary school and they have learned a lot more about US history and all other things kids learn in school. So our list has changed from things that will entertain toddler and young kids to things that will interest tweens and school-age children. Here are our list of top things to do in DC for school-age kids.

The Library of Congress

Not that Library of Congress is not worthy of a visit if it doesn’t have the title of the world’s largest library. But with a parent of kid who obsesses with anything that holds the world title, we couldn’t miss out on visiting the world’s largest collection of knowledge. With various activities suitable for families and kids like a free guided tour of the Thomas Jefferson Building or an interactive self-guided Passport of Knowledge, who said visiting library has to be boring.

Tour of the Capitol

Kids will love to see how their government works if we are lucky and the Congress is in session. Last visit to DC, we missed our tour by 5 minutes because we miscalculated on how long it would take to go through the security check. And to make matter worse, we couldn’t get the stand by tickets because there was a false fire alarm that day. But this time, we hope we could finally get to tour the Capitol.

Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center Air & Space Museum

We have been to the National Air and Space Museum at the National Mall location. It was huge and kids enjoyed every minute of it. We spent almost a couple hours there touring and checking out almost every exhibits. So this visting to DC with kids, we would love to change it up and check out the biggest aircrafts and space object especially the Discovery Space Shuttle. With the location in Chantilly, the visit to Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center Air & Space Museum will be a bit drive so we will probably plan to explore things outside DC that day.

International Spy Museum

With so any free museums to visit in Washington DC, it might seem odd that we will want to shell out admission fee to another museum. But as we mention, the kids are older and their interests have changed. The Spy Museum will be a big hit not only for them but for us as well. Luckily, we found a deal online from GoldStar so that will help on our budget.

National Building Museum

Ok, we haven’t heard about this museum before until we read the post from local blogger in DC. And after checking out the website for more information, we know this will be another great non-traditional museum that kids will enjoy. There are free tours for historic building tour and family-friendly wonderous pension building tour. We also can’t wait to check out the family tool kit to help us learn and explore the museum in a more fun way.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Now that kids are older and know that value of money, what could be more exciting than seeing the money being printed. To tour BEP, if you go during the peak season like us, you will need to get free ticket at the Visitor Center or via your congressional office. The free 40-minute experience includes an introductory film and gallery tour of the production process.  The visitor center includes exhibits and currency products for sale.

United State Holocaust Memorial Museum

We don’t know what to expect but the kids have been learning about war history and Miss J has been reading Ann Frank book since 4th grade. So she knows that this is one museum she would like to visit. After checking out the museum website, there are several good information on how to visit the museum with kids. Make sure to pick up or download family guide before you go.

National Parks in DC

We bought National Park passport book for our kids a few years ago but after our first trip to Washington DC. So this revisit trip is a great opportunity for us to collect passport cancellation stamp from various national parks in Washington DC. At least we know we will visit The White House, Vietnam Veteran Memorial, Washington Monument, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and many more. We might not be able to get all the stamps but we will try to visit the ones that are close to each other.

So that’s it. Our list of things to do with kids in DC for our 4 days visit. As usual, we will use this as a guide but will also play it by ears and be flexible on the program.

Check out our list of things to do in DC with young kids from our previous visit here.

 

Vancouver with Kids: Biking in Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

Vancouver With Kids- Stanley Park Biking Helmet

Our visit to Vancouver with kids last summer was short and mixed in with business but it was one of the most memorable trip for the kids. Not only we took several mode of transportation ranging from boat, train, trolley and bus, we also got to bike around the popular Stanley Park in Vancouver.

Explore Stanley Park by Bicycle

 Vancouver With Kids- Stanley Park Biking View

Stanley park is a must visit for anyone who plan a trip to Vancouver. The park is well maintained with various activities for the whole family to enjoy and the view.. the view is breathtaking even with cloudy sky!

Great Bicycle Rental Shop with Ideal Location

Vancouver With Kids- Spokes Bicycle Rental

During this trip we had only a few hours to explore Stanley park, ideally I wish we could stay longer during our visit in Vancouver. So we decided to explore the park on a bike. We received complimentary passes from the conference I attended for Spokes Bicycle Rentals. Funny how thing worked out since that’s the company that I had been researching and planned to use them anyway.

Vancouver With Kids- Trail-A-Bike Stanley Park

Spokes store is located only a short walk from the entrance of Stanley park which makes it’s an ideal location. With kids, we didn’t want to have to walk with our bikes around the block. The shop has various types of bikes to fit various level of bikers. For our family, we opted for one child’s bike and one trail-a-bike. Mr. Z still hasn’t mastered his bike skill and we knew he would most likely give up on biking if he has to do it on his own.

Vancouver With Kids- Spokes Bike Rental Staff

The staff was very helpful in setting up our bike and made sure that it was the right size for each of us. The process didn’t take long and soon after we were ready to head out for a fun day except it was still raining. It was our last day in Vancouver and it was one of the activity that the kids had been looking forward to. We waited it out a bit and luckily the sky opened up and we were ready to roll.

Let’s GO!

Vancouver With Kids- Stanley Park Bike Trail

Biking in Stanley park is very popular and easy. With separate path just for bike and pedestrian, it was safe and easy to do with young kids. The path is clearly marked with the sign to show separate lane for bike versus pedestrians. We started off at the main entrance of Stanley Park and followed along the bike trail the curve around the shoreline providing us with amazing view as we look back to Vancouver skyline.

Kids Approved Points of Interest

Vancouver With Kids- Stanley Park Biking Totem Poles

There are several points of interest to stop along the way that will keep kids entertain for the whole bike trail. It would have taken us the whole day to stop at everything. But with limited time, we just had to skip some and save those for next visit. Not long after the entrance, we learned about First Nation History and the Totem Poles at Brockton Point Interpretive Centre.

Vancouver With Kids- Stanley Park Nine O'clock Gun

As we peddled leisurely along the Sea Wall bike route, we stopped to check out the Nine O’Clock Gun, the historical canon that still booms out message faithfully each night.

Vancouver With Kids- Stanley Park Bike Trail

The bike trail wraps around the shoreline that go around the whole park. It took us about an hour and a half to complete the whole loop. The path is clearly marked for bicycle, pedestrian and roller-blade traffic. Most of the path is easy even for kids. There are some sections that narrow but with caution there shouldn’t be any issues for any kids.

We also saw several playgrounds along the way. Even though we visited Vancouver in June, the day we went to Stanley Park was cool and cloudy so we didn’t try out the outdoor water fun at the Variety Kids Water Park.

In the end, we enjoyed our time in Stanley park and we would highly recommend exploring the park on a bike. It was fun and easy to do as a family.

Family Tips:

  • Dress properly with tennis shoes or non-slipper shoes.
  • Dress in layer as the weather in Vancouver can change frequently. An extra rain jacket came in handy for us.
  • Bring bottle of water. There are also a few concession stands and restroom along the way.
  • Remember to ask for the trail map from bicycle rental shops.
  • Enjoy!