Road trip to… The city! Baltimore that is! Some fun tips for heading there with the family.

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.

One of my favorite places to go is Baltimore, Maryland.  I love heading to the city when the weather gets cooler. image

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!

Our kid-less adventure to the Poconos- Complete with Ziplining, a summit hike and 8 hrs of uninterupted glorious sleep

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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.

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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.

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Meet one of the newest Deuter Family Ambassadors…Us!

So, here we are, loving life… This Spring and Summer have been one for the record books so far- let me give you a rundown of my April to upcoming October: Partied in Vegas, spent 8 days in my native Sicily on one of the greatest trips of my life, going glamping in upstate NY (and planning on drinking some Ithaca beers), solo backpacking trip for Matt (only 29 more peaks to go!), hitting some high peaks with the kids, an amazing trip to a historic property in Saratoga Springs where we will hike the park and drink from the actual springs, some PA- AT hiking and adventuring, northern NJ hiking, a trip to Shenandoah National Park, lots of ADK love, and a beach trip to Fort Lauderdale, FL for a Macaroni Kid meetup. Add to that our other summer fun; waterparks, swim lessons, zoo trips, daytime movie outings, and ice cream on the daily…..yeah, our life does not suck this summer. I am beyond excited and thankful to have all of these memories to be made and miles to be trekked with my boys (all 3 of them!)

And then, something even more awesome happens…Our little Rispoli family is one of the newest families to be chosen to represent our favorite hiking pack company, Deuter. Deuter is one the leading backpack brands worldwide, and I am so excited to represent and promote them, especially to the East Coast. We will be taking their amazing Kid Comfort 3 kids carriers with us on our upcoming treks and trips and I know the kids will be just as excited to ride in them as we are to carry them! Seriously, they are like the Cadillac of Kids carriers. So, stay tuned for our reviews and our adventures. We are excited to share our experiences and memories with ya’ll and super stoked to share the Deuter love.

 

xo Elisa

 

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No bake Hippy Balls. The hiking snack of champions.

 

 

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Planning a day hike with the family? Here’s a delicious and nutritious treat that will help keep your family moving!

Since we are a family of hikers. Being in the woods = our happy place. My boys are river dwellers, would prefer sleeping in a tent as opposed to their comfy beds, and they love snacking on the trail. Our favorite thing to do on a beautiful day is to pack up our kid carrying hiking packs with all the necessities and set out on a new adventure. Necessities when hiking with young children include a lot of snacks and drinks! Our favorite way to carry our water on the trail is with a water hydration backpack (we have a Platypus brand). You can add some coconut water to it as well for the extra electrolytes, or some of your favorite sports drink powder.

Stay away from snacks that are heavy and high in processed sugar. We like to pack healthy and high protein snacks that don’t need any refrigeration…you don’t want to have to carry the extra weight of an ice pack to keep a snack cool!

Here are a few quick and easy hiking snack ideas that the whole family will love:

Banana tortilla wraps: Take a large tortilla, spread some peanut butter (or Sunbutter to keep it nut free) all across the wrap, then spread some honey on the wrap, place a full peeled banana on one side of the wrap and then roll. This can be eaten whole or can be cut into “sushi” type bites.

Kale Chips: Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Toss fresh Kale leaves with about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with some sea salt. Bake for about 20 min. or until crispy! Perfect for trail snacking without weighing you down.

These are my family’s personal favorite:

No Bake Trail Mix Peanut Butter Balls (Aka Hippy Balls)

Yields about 20 balls

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Ingredients:
1/2 cup of peanut butter (creamy). (You can substitute Sunbutter for a nut free version)
1 1/4 cup oatmeal (dry, old fashioned)
1/3 cup real maple syrup
1/3 cup 60% cacao chocolate (use your favorite kind of chocolate here!), chopped in food processor
2/3 cup raisins, chopped in food processor (cherries, figs, cranberries will work too)
1/3 cup ground almonds, ground in food processor (you can omit for a nut free version, but they will be a bit sticky)
2 tbsp ground flax seed (optional)

Directions:
After chopping chocolate, raisins, and almonds, mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.
Place bowl in the fridge for 20 minutes to chill.
Roll mixture into small bite sized balls.

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Keep extras in the fridge.

Enjoy and happy trails!

Featured in this in this months Macaroni Kid EATS! Newsletter- http://eats.macaronikid.com/article/996901/no-bake-trail-mix-peanut-butter-balls

Easy like a Sunday Morning

The boys on the trail...
The boys on the trail

Getting in at 3 am Sunday morning from a birthday party isn’t very conducive to a productive Sunday. Especially when the boys woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5 am. #threecupsofcoffee

We still wanted to get outside today, since it’s supposed to rain the next few days here. My 3 year old, H, wanted to “go on a hike and go to the playground”, and we just ran with that (well, not literally. We ran yesterday and our legs feel like jello today… So, we kind of hobbled).

We took a walk in the center of our town, along the river and then headed to park via the Columbia Trail. This is why we love where we live. Trail, nature preserves, playgrounds, great restaurants… All within 5 minutes of our home! And now, spending the rest of the day cuddling my munchkins.

Sunday Funday indeed.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.” Thoreau

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So here’s a ditty about me…and this. You know that feeling of wanting to live bigger, but that nagging terrified feeling that keeps you from taking that leap (for those of you who have seen my skydiving photo of before I jumped out of the plane…that’s the feeling I am talking about.)? I have had that itch for a while now. Now, my life is already incredibly fulfilling. I stay home with my 2 boys, whom are my reason for everything, and I also get to work for and publish for Macaroni Kid while at home with them. But, my life long dream has been to publish a travel blog. Something that can chronicle our adventures for years to come, and something that can be shared with people who are passionate about the same things. Informative, helpful, fun… but most of all, inspiring. You don’t have to be a world wide traveler to experience amazing things- there are many adventures and amazing memories to be made right out your front door. Matt (my adorable and mountain man hubby), and I are pretty passionate about giving our kids an incredibly memorable childhood. And every time we take them into the woods, or into a river, or up a mountain, I think we are fulfilling that goal. The way they see the world is pretty magical….so, our job is just to take them to magical places!

So, amidst my romantic rambling, I hope you’ll see my goal here to share our positivity and love of wandering. I hope you’ll join us on this amazing journey!