Our latest blog post for Deuter USA is about a fantastic non- profit that we are lucky to be branch ambassadors for here in NJ…check it out and share it with the outdoor families that you know!
Holden (my 4 yr. old): Uh, mom…there’s a baby bear at our door.
Me: No, sweetie, you probably saw a cat.
Holden: It’s definitely a bear mom, come look!
When you live in the country, sometimes you have surprise visitors show up at your door for breakfast.
Little bear was not pleased when he found out we were having yogurt parfaits instead of porridge.
We are one of those families with an endless itinerary. We’re always ready to go and explore.
Last year, our collective family travel itinerary included 13 trips, and our suitcase was a staple in our bedroom because it was being packed and unpacked so often. As any parent knows, traveling with kids is an amazing adventure, although it’s not always relaxing. I read somewhere that after you have children, “vacations” become “trips” for a little while. That being said, my husband and I like to try and get away alone at least once or twice a year for a little true R&R (SLEEP!), romance and a little adventuring without the kids in tow.
Saratoga Springs, NY, is a town that totally caught me by surprise in the best way possible. As frequent visitors of the Adirondack area, I thought we would be visiting another sleepy mountain town with beautiful views. But when we arrived in the historic town and pulled into Saratoga Spa State Park and up to The Gideon Putnam hotel, we knew we were in for a treat. The Gideon Putnam is grand, and instantly played into a nostalgia that was way before my time. I could easily picture elegant people in beautiful hats headed to the races, drinking juleps, and eating cucumber sandwiches. I quickly wanted to get settled into our room so we could do what Saratoga Springs State Park was calling us to do… explore!
Saratoga Springs offers so many activities to choose from, including golf, hiking, biking, and the famous Saratoga Horse races. The Gideon Putnam even offers a complimentary shuttle service into town where you will find dozens of amazing restaurants, beautiful boutiques (and incredible hat shops), and a movie theater (I mention this, because I was so excited to go see a non PG rated movie!).
But with all of the things that Saratoga Springs has to offer, the gems are truly the State Park, the springs themselves and the absolutely amazing and famous Roosevelt Baths. If you are desiring a getaway focused on wellness, healing and relaxation, this is the place to come. Built in 1935, the Roosevelt Baths are still home to the original tubs where you can experience a mineral bath with water collected directly from the natural Springs in the park. There are 18 active mineral springs still in the park, and at Roosevelt Baths, the naturally effervescent water is captured cold from the underground springs and then mixed with warm fresh water. Our private bath attendant made sure to explain to us that when the mineral water hits the fresh water, it oxidizes and turns brown… and good thing she did, because the muddy and almost rusty looking water would have definitely surprised us otherwise! Now, a disclaimer: I am not a bath person. It takes me a long time to relax (like most moms), and I usually do not enjoy them. I. Loved. This. Bath. The effervescent water mixed with the salt buoyancy made me feel like I was floating on air for a 20 full minutes (PS — there is trace evidence of natural lithium in the spring water… so maybe…). After our bath, we were treated to an amazing massage. I then relaxed for an additional 40 full minutes in the relaxation room alongside my husband and a cup of tea. Heaven.
I’m not quite sure how, but we floated back to our room (during our walk back we were able to hear an entire sound check for a Counting Crows concert happening at the Performing Arts Center inside the park!). We spent the rest of the evening hanging out, snacking on some French fries and juice for dinner, and then heading back to The Gideon Putnam for an exquisite 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
After a long morning of hiking the grounds of the State Park, we decided to attend one of the Roosevelt Bath’s walking tours of the active Springs. Our tour guide explained to us the different benefits of the different springs (and which would go best with our favorite whiskey drink!) and we left with a newfound respect for nature, and a few jugs of the healing water to bring back home.
Our retreat to Saratoga Springs left my husband and me feeling recharged, rekindled and extremely relaxed. We both said we could not remember another time that after only 48 hours at a single location we felt like we were away for much, much longer. Never underestimate the power of some time alone as a couple, a healing spa experience, and a snazzy new “races” hat.
The outdoors have always been an important part of our lives. Back in the day (“the day” being the late 90s when Matt and I started dating) you could always find us at a local park lying on a picnic blanket with our boom box in tow, trying to backpack on the Appalachian Trail (note that I said try; we actually packed canned food and gallons of water on our first attempt…rookies) or taking a walk along one of the beautiful rivers in our area. It wasn’t until our first child was born that we both really felt the mountains calling.
More like shouting, actually. We knew that raising our boys on the trail was incredibly important to us in this day of excessive screen time and overly planned schedules. So at 6 months old, into their carriers they went and up the mountains we climbed. We’ve learned many things in these past four and a half years since becoming parents and many of them we have learned both on trail and from our kids. Here are a few to note:
Take it slow.
My husband is a bit of a speedy hiker and you just can’t do that with a preschooler and toddler in tow. Slowing down and taking in the surroundings makes every adventure more pleasant. Looking at the outdoors through your child’s eyes will make every hike more memorable.
The more you go, the more it just becomes your way of life.
Just like any scheduled activity, hiking becomes part of the kids normal routine that they look forward to.
Use every teachable moment.
Sing songs, play I spy, tell stories… But also use the trail to talk about Leave No Trace and animal habitats.
Take the time to dream.
Our family always comes up with our craziest and most fun ideas while we are out in the woods. It must be the abundance of fresh air or something, but somehow we always finish a long hike with a new travel destination in mind.
It’s not about the summit.
Say what?! Ok, I love an amazing summit view just like every other hiker (including my kids!), but when you are out there with your family, that is not always what it’s about. It’s about the the journey and the adventure, not necessarily about the destination. It’s all about making memories, growing as a family, and appreciating this beautiful world that we have the privilege of living in.
Check out our latest blog post for Deuter about one of our favorite places to visit on the East coast!
ROAD TRIP! Baltimore!
The Fall is here, and it’s time to start planning those fun getaways! Flying anywhere with a family is expensive, so in my family, we are always looking for places that we can Road Trip to for a few days of fun.
Only a short 3.5 (or so) hour drive from our Morris County area, Baltimore is the perfect place for a family friendly 3 day weekend.
When choosing a hotel, my first choice, if possible, is always a Kimpton property. We stayed at the Baltimore Hotel Monaco for 2 nights, and we were very impressed with this property. As we usually find with Kimpton properties, the hotel was spotless, absolutely beautiful, and incredibly accommodating to families with young children. Upon check-in (after walking through the amazing lobby in all it’s white marble glory) our concierge led my 18 month old son to an adorable treasure chest, and allowed him to pick out a toy to keep. This was his favorite place to go upon our stay! We stayed in a Bunk Bed Suite, which had a separate kids bedroom with bunkbeds, a tv, xbox, beanbag chair, and a giant mural of a dog on the wall… it was perfect! The Kimpton Kids program goes above and beyond to accommodate your kiddos- they provide everything from kids bath robes to playyards upon request, to a resident goldfish for your stay. And no worries Mom & Dad…Hotel Monaco has free wine happy hour just for you every day as well.
Going out to dinner with little ones is sometimes more hassle then it’s worth…so we always feel lucky when the hotel restaurant is decent. In this case, it was great! We had a truly fabulous meal at B&O American Brasserie. Kids menu for my son, and a very sophisticated, yet comforting menu for my husband and I. Every course that we had was pretty amazing, but the Brussel Sprout in their mustard cream, was one of the most delish veggies I have ever tasted!
Baltimore has so many things to do that are family friendly. You can take in a baseball game at the famous Camden Yards, visit the fantastic Port Discovery Museum , or go to to the fabulous National Aquarium which is located right on the Inner Harbor. The Inner Harbor has tons of restaurants, and shopping, or you can take a paddle boat ride in the harbor itself!
We visited the Port Discovery Children’s Museam is a short walk from the harbor…and boy was it worth a visit. This Museum has tons to do for all ages. Older kids can climb, crawl, jump, and slide through the three-story urban treehouse, KidWorks and little ones will have a blast in the Tiny Tots room or playing with Water in the Water works room.
If you have older kids (or a science nerd of a hubby like me)- definitely check out the Maryland Science Center which is located right on the Inner Harbor. I’d compare this to our own Liberty Science Center, which we all know is tons of fun! The dinosaur exhibit was a favorite of ours (no surprise there!). The Science Center also boasts an IMAX 3D theater and a Planetarium. Perfect for a rainy day too.
I think the fan favorite in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has to be their amazing Aquarium. What a fun experience to get to view the sharks in Shark Alley, the aquariums amazing and unique 225,000-gallon, ring-shaped exhibit. The dolphin show at the aquarium was our favorite because we could come and go as we pleased! There are set demonstration show times, but the Dolphin Discovery is open all day and the beautiful Dolphins are always in full view. Your children will also love the 4D theater- right now they are showing Happy Feet! Before visiting, be sure to visit the Plan your Visit portion of the Aquarium’s site. It gives helpful planning info (like, NO strollers allowed! But, they have baby carriers available to borrow- so great!).
As you can see, a Baltimore vacation has so much to offer! Take it all in, and be sure to eat some yummy crab cakes while you’re there too!
We are one of those family’s with an endless itinerary. Always going, always exploring, always traveling.
From the month of April to this upcoming October, we will collectively have gone on 11 trips, and our Deuter Helion 80 suitcase is a staple in our bedroom because it is being packed and unpacked so often. As any parent knows, traveling with kids is an amazing adventure, although it’s not always relaxing! I read somewhere that after you have children, “vacations” become “trips” for a little while. That being said, Matt and I like to try and get away alone at least once or twice a season for a little R&R (SLEEP!) and a little adventuring without the kiddos in tow.
Here on the East coast, there is no shortage of stellar places to visit within a few hours of where we live. We are fortunate to be able to drive a short distance to a beach, to some amazing cities, and most importantly, to some awesome mountains, complete with summit vistas that just take your breath away. Matt and I decided to head out to PA, and spend two days in the Pocono region. We heard some pretty great reviews about Skytop Lodge…and I thought it would be a nice change of pace to sleep in a wonderfully appointed suite after a day of hiking and fun! Skytop Lodge gives you a feeling of grandeur the moment that you pull up to entrance via their circular driveway. But as fancy as this property feels (you have to wear a jacket in the dining room at dinner…), there is no shortage of outdoor activities right on property that will get you right in the middle of nature at its finest. Kayaking, biking, paddleboarding, and hiking can all be done on the 5,500 acres of pristine Pocono land. I think we could stay a whole week and not get bored!
The Adventure Center at Skytop hosts a rock climbing wall, paintballing and a ridiculously awesome Zipline and Treetop Challenge course. Disclaimer- I am stupid afraid of heights. Making the decision to attempt the Treetop Challenge course was kind of a conquer my fears type of decision…and, that I did. In spades. The course was challenging, fun, exhilarating, terrifying (for me) and kind of oddly romantic. My Deuter Speedlite 15 was on my back the entire course holding my water (which I needed on the regular…climbing 30 ft. ladders is hard work!), my bug spray (since we were getting eaten alive out there), snacks, and our camera. It was actually the first time I used the Speedlite, and it has now become my go-to bag for all of our activities where a larger pack just won’t work, or when we only need to carry a few necessities.
I was so happy that we spent that we spent those 4 hours up in the trees, leaving our comfort zones (which we try to do often) and feeling very alive. Another bucket list item crossed off the list!
After a pretty fantastic night of sleep in our gorgeous suite, we woke up and headed back to our happy place….the woods! We hiked the West Rim Trail on the Skytop Property and hiked out to Upper Falls. There is just something about a waterfall that makes me so at peace. Hiking into a waterfall is even better.
Leaving Skytop was not the end of this 24 hour adventure for us. We stopped at the Delaware Water Gap to hike to the summit of Mount Tammany. I’ve been hiking at the Gap for a long time, and I have never done this hike! It’s a pretty popular trail, with some moderately steep rock inclines. This trail is definitely one where you’ll see other day hikers…and we saw some other hikers with Deuter day packs! We love talking Deuter shop whenever we’re on the trail, so it was fun to chat about the Speedlite, and my ACT Trail 22 SL (people LOVE the Petrol/mint color).
The summit of Mt. Tammany didn’t disappoint. The rolling green mountains of the Delaware Water Gap, NJ and PA are always so awe-inspiring to me. Sitting on the cliff of rocks overlooking pine trees as far as the eye can see is like meditation. It’s a different vista than the dramatic mountains of the west coast for sure, but the layers of green just give me such a sense of calm.
Gotta love NJ. For reals though, challenge any “NJ is the armpit of America” nay-sayer to hike Mt. Tammany and still feel that way…nope, not going to happen.