City Guide Featured Our Travels Reviews

Santa Ynez Valley-Solvang California Worldmark

town of solvang californiaVineyards and wineries abound in the lush and beautiful Santa Ynez Valley.  If you enjoy wine you will love the quaint Danish town of Solvang, California.  But since wine country is not usually associated with family fun, I thought I would write a review of our time at the Santa Ynez Valley – Solvang California Worldmark Resort to help you decide whether or not you want to add Solvang to your vacation itinerary!

We stayed at the Solvang Worldmark near the beginning of our Epic Road Trip and were so happy with our experience there.  While the town was far from engineered for children, the Worldmark Resort itself was perfect for our three kids! 

worldmark solvang california

worldmark solvang

solvang worldmark

solvang worldmark resort

solvang california worldmark

The Solvang Worldmark Resort was smaller than some of the fancier places we stayed and didn’t have staff led activities any of the days we were there but with a foosball table, pool table, and table tennis in the clubhouse along with an open movie viewing area, the kids were pretty happy regardless.

By far the best part for me was the 1’6″ kiddie pool.  While I hung out in the hot tub they could play in the pool without me worrying about them drowning.  Since none of our kids knew how to swim at the time it was always a little overwhelming taking all three of them to the pool by myself.

Of all the resorts and hotels we stayed in on our 4 month road trip, this pool was by far my favorite for that one reason!

solvang worldmark pool

solvang california worldmark pool

What we liked about Solvang California Worldmark:

  • The Worldmark Resort was very kid friendly
  • The main part of the town is a short walk from the Worldmark
  • While not the most luxurious accommodations Worldmark Solvang was fresh, clean, and was perfectly suited for a family getaway
  • The kiddie pool, of coarse!
  • A nice family game area
  • Grilling Patios
  • Friendly front desk and facility personnel

solvang california worldmark clubhouse

solvang california clubhouse

What we didn’t like about Solvang California Worldmark:

  • No bike trails nearby – though there is a short path behind the resort which would be a good place for a short walk

*We were in no way compensated for staying at Worldmark Solvang and writing this review…we just liked it that much:)

Tips for Traveling to Solvang with Kids:

  • Eat out for lunch in order to experience the authentic Danish cuisine with out breaking the bank.
  • There is a Subway on Mission- the main strip if your kids don’t like to try different kinds of food.
  • If you are NOT staying at the Worldmark make sure to research beforehand to ensure there is stuff for them to do where you will be staying.
  • Don’t miss Ostrich Land.  A local ostrich farm where you can feed the big birds!  Click on that link to watch a funny video of our time there!!!
  • Pastries galore in town – Yumm!  And many are big enough to share!

visit solvang california

The town is well kept and feels like a great little getaway from the hustle and bustle you associate with California.  I would love to go there again!

I hope you found this review helpful.  I heartily recommend staying at this worldmark, especially if you are going to Solvang with your children.  I also wrote about FREE things to do in Santa Barbara if you are interested!

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road


City Guide family fun Featured northwest Our Travels seattle

Franklin Falls Hike Near Snoqualmie Pass

The hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest are some of the most coveted in the world, and Franklin Falls near Snoqualmie Pass far exceeded all my expectations!

franklin fallsOur friend had been telling us about the Franklin Falls hike for a long time and when we finally had the chance to get there we didn’t want to leave — if you are anywhere near the Seattle area, you should definitely check it out.  It’s a really special place.franklin falls 6franklin fallsfranklin fallsThe boys enjoyed traversing over big boulders and getting their feet (and shoes) wet in the river.  But don’t worry if you have smaller children – the trail itself doesn’t require these feats of bravery!franklin falls wawalking on waterThe trail is the perfect distance for kids and other than a bit of a tricky climb if you want to go down into the falls, it’s a very easy trek.  If you are up for a little extra challenge, the hike down to the falls is worth the effort.  We had fun splashing around in the water and getting close to the falls.

The water is cold, so be warned!

franklin fallsIsn’t it beautiful?

We had so much fun on our hike at Franklin Falls!

I still can’t believe we live just half an hour away from this kind of beauty. I pinch myself every day. If it would have been up to me we would not be living here at all — I’m so so thankful that God knew best and brought us back home.

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

Featured Our Travels

A Hero is Born at The Ridge Tahoe

the ridge tahoe The morning our little guy became a hero, we were turned away from the pool because the maintenance man at the Ridge Tahoe had just shooed away a mama bear and her two cubs from taking a nice dip in the pool.  Little did we know that was only the first close call we would have that morning.

When we were finally granted entrance, it was still pretty brisk so the kids and I all sat in the hot tub visiting with a nice retired gentleman ……. when all of a sudden I hear screams from the pool.  I looked over and Biggie was holding Girlr, kicking his feet with all of his might as he bobbed up and down — water sputtering out of his mouth.

The kids had been asking to get in the pool and I was halfway out of the hot tub, finishing my conversation with the retired schoolteacher, when it all went haywire.

Biggie and E quietly slipped into the pool with their lifejackets, when Girlr thought she should join them.   She didn’t have her life vest on because I didn’t make her wear it in the hot tub since she was never more than an arms length away.

It all happened so quickly.  Time slowed way down and it felt like I was running through molasses as I respond to Biggie’s screams for help.

Needless to say, I was so thankful for his quick action.  He really did save her from drowning!

the ridge tahoe poolThat’s right buddy, take a load off. It’s been a big day!kid saves kid drowningNot bad to hit hero status at the tender age of 5, eh?!

I’m so proud of you Biggie.  You are loyal, strong, generous, thoughtful, smart – and a mix of all the best things in this world.  And now you are also a full fledged HERO.  For real, you are awesome and I am lucky and proud to be your mama!five year old heroWe have friends who lost their son to a pool drowning several years back.  What a terrible, unspeakable loss. Despite being shaken for several days following the incident, I am unbelievably thankful that our little girl’s life was spared.  It is sobering how quick this type of thing takes place.

If you are trying to find your way back to Our Epic Road Trip post click the link to hop on back!

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road


City Guide Featured Our Travels Reviews

The Ridge Tahoe Review

Just when you pass a ski lift and think you can’t possibly drive any higher the road curves and The Ridge Tahoe sign comes into view.  And what do you know, the steep incline continues UP!   I am not a skilled writer so I can not impress upon those who have not been to The Ridge Tahoe the unsettling feeling you get driving through narrow passages between rock faces.  It appears to be landscape that engineers defied God and gravity to build upon.

the ridge tahoe at lake tahoe
In no way am I afraid of heights but I gotta tell you this drive did something to me.  Each time we left the resort for some fun and came back – it happened again.  It was like heart palpitations without the actual palpitations.  I know, it’s a little melodramatic right?

The steep drive pays off because once you get to The Ridge Tahoe you are treated with sweeping views of the valley below.  It’s stunning.

the ridge tahoeWhile the resort itself is a bit aged they do a good job of keeping it clean and comfortable.  There is a ton of stuff to do while you are there as well.

You never have to leave the resort to create fun memories with your family.  If you plan on visiting outside of ski season, like we did, a few things to do on site are putt putt golf, tennis, private hiking trails, swimming, and rock climbing lessons.  They also have a couple of playgrounds for younger kids, a game room and theater which plays free movies twice a day.

the ridge tahoe swimmingthe ridge tahoe pool
The living space was large and open so the five of us never felt cramped in our one bedroom unit.  Although it’s clear that the last major kitchen and bathroom renovation was done in the late 80’s or early 90’s the new carpet, hardware, fixtures, fireplace facelift and tasteful decor distracted us away from the age of the place and made it feel warm and inviting.

the ridge tahoethe ridge tahoe kitchen
the ridge tahoe bedrooms
Did I mention the Jacuzzi soaker tub?  I’ve got one word for it.  Mammoth.  It felt like they actually designed the place around the tub.  The Ridge Tahoe is located within the ski resort Heavenly and as far as I’m concerned if for no other reason than this one feature it is aptly named!

the ridge tahoe bath
One obvious thing the condos are missing is air conditioning.  It was fall and we had to sleep with the slider in our room and windows open- and it was still too hot.

What we liked about The Ridge Tahoe:

  • Views
  • Activities galore
  • Kids Club
  • Shuttles to town
  • Ski-in Ski-out during ski season
  • Jacuzzi tub!

What we didn’t like about The Ridge Tahoe:

  • No air conditioning – please do not underestimate the importance of this one thing
  • Farther from the lake and town then we’d like


We would go to The Ridge Tahoe again for sure during ski season or cooler months, but NEVER during the summer due to the absence of AC.  I loved all the activities but would plan better to take full advantage of them next time.  Also, if we were planning on spending most of our time near the lake I would find other accommodations.  It’s a bit of a drive.  All in all we had a wonderful time there.

Tips for your visit to The Ridge Tahoe:

  • Drink lots of water.  The high elevation will make you feel dizzy and sick quickly if you are not properly hydrated.
  • Make sure to plan ahead to make sure to take advantage of the onsite activities.

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road

City Guide Featured Our Travels seattle

Seattle Shopping & People Watching

shopping in seattleSeattle has a vibrant shopping district servicing any demand you may have.  Within just a few blocks you can shop at high end stores like Coach and Michael Kors or fill up your bags without emptying your wallet at Ross or Nordstrom Rack — my personal favorite.

And don’t worry about running on empty from all that shopping because there are plenty of restaurants and caffeine fill up stations (aka Starbucks) to go around!

If window shopping and people watching are your thing, you’re in luck because Seattle’s Shopping District is the place where everything collides.  Oh how I love the diversity represented in Downtown Seattle!  Window shopping and people watching are my happy place so when I’m in Seattle I usually make a run to Nordstrom Rack and Anthropologie to see if something catches my eye, otherwise it’s just enjoying the feel of the city and keeping an eye on my tribe — can I get a witness?!

Shopping in Seattle – Westlake

seattle shopping westlakewestlake center seattleblue trees seattleShop Pacific Place for High End Stores

pacific place seattleSatisfy your Eclectic Side at Anthropologie in Seattle

anthropology seattleshopping anthropology

There is something for everyone when it comes to shopping in downtown Seattle.  I have a little bit of a bohemian style so I enjoy stores like Anthropologie and Free People.  Both are right there in Seattle, but unfortunately Free People is outside of the main shopping district.

Hike to Pike Place

And if you are up for a bit of a walk, you are within walking distance to the ahhmazing Pike Place Market.  It’s the perfect distance on a nice day and chances are you’ll see some interesting things along the way — just a hunch:)  We like to throw a couple of Blessing Bags in my purse or backpack if we are spending the day in the city.

pike place market in seattle

To make your way back to our Epic Road Trip Tour, click HERE.  And if you haven’t yet, make sure to connect with me on FB or where ever you’re hanging out.  I’d love to get to know you!  Buttons to do so are below!

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

Featured Our Travels seattle

Would You Let Your Kids Play with Elephant Poop?

Woodland Park Zoo

Is it just me or is playing with elephant poop just about the strangest activity the Woodland Park Zoo, or any zoo for that matter, could possibly offer?  When you go for a nice afternoon at the zoo there is no opportunity to ride on the humps of camels, play patty cake with lionesses, swing from the branches with primates, run with gazelles, or swim with the sharks, but don’t worry folks because they have something much much better in store for your children.

They have the excrement of elephants!

And because here in Seattle, we don’t want to let anything go to waste — not even waste itself —  what better thing to do than throw together a feces craft for kids?  As gross as that might sound, I gotta say, I’m tracking with the good folks at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo on this one!

I mean, it’s not every day that you can get the waste of a 4000 pound animal all over your hands and come out feeling good about it.

I can come up with a couple of names for this activity.  I’m thinking crappy craft, feces fun — you get the idea.  At the Woodland Park Zoo, however, they call it Elephant Poo Paper Making.

Woodland Park Zoo Elephant Poo Paper Making Craft

elephant poo paper woodland park zoowoodland park zoo seattleLook at this feisty little girl!!!  I love it when people don’t mind getting down and dirty — Proud moment for this mama!

Although they have “sterilized” the poo, the idea of playing with elephant dung isn’t the most pleasant thought for most people.  Thankfully none of our kids have weak stomachs so this was a fun afternoon activity to do after we visited other parts of the zoo.

The African Village at the Woodland Park Zoo

woodland park zoo

woodland park zoo africa

woodland park zoo
I can’t wait until we can take our kids to the real Africa.  That will be such a treat!  In the meantime we will have to enjoy a little more time at the African Village at the Woodland Park Zoo and get our hands dirty making beautiful, rough edged paper.  I didn’t get a picture of the final product.  It turned out lovely:)

What do you think? Would you let your kids play with elephant poo?

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

City Guide Featured Our Travels seattle

Beyond Fish Throwing – Exploring Pike Place Market in Seattle

pike place market in seattlePike Place Market

Pike Place Market in Seattle is one of those places where you feel alive just being there. If you want to experience some of the diversity that I love so much about the puget sound area you don’t have to look much further than this one place.

At any given time you are surrounded by what feels like every race, creed, age, religion and people group. Every socioeconomic status represented. I’m a people watcher — obviously less so now that I have three kids underfoot — but this is a place where you can learn a lot about humanity just by being mindful of what others are responding to and what they are doing.

Beyond Fish Throwing

Pike Place is best known for the fish throwing, and I gotta tell you, if you haven’t seen it before it is quite amusing. Large slimy fish being hurled many yards from one man to another who is tasked with the chore of not letting the scaled creatures fall to the floor.

That’s raw talent my friends.

Besides the enjoyment of guessing whether or not these fish hands will be able the snag the catch of the day mid air, vibrant produce, samples, street performers, and hand made jewelry are also a few of the things you can look forward to at the Market. I am always shocked how cheap the big beautiful bouquets are.

pike place fish market pike place market seattle pikes place market flowersstreet performer pike place market Biggie eating his first figPike Place Market

Pike Place Market in Seattle is one of those places where you feel alive just being there.  If you want to experience some of the diversity that I love so much about the puget sound area you don’t have to look much further than this one place.

At any given time you are surrounded by what feels like every race, creed, age, religion and people group.  Every socioeconomic status represented.  I’m a people watcher — obviously less so now that I have three kids underfoot — but this is a place where you can learn a lot about humanity just by being mindful of what others are responding to and what they are doing.

Beyond Fish Throwing

Pike Place is best known for the fish throwing, and I gotta tell you, if you haven’t seen it before it is quite amusing.  Large slimy fish being hurled many yards from one man to another who is tasked with the chore of not letting the scaled creatures fall to the floor.

That’s raw talent my friends.

Besides the enjoyment of guessing whether or not these fish hands will be able the snag the catch of the day mid air, vibrant produce, samples, street performers, and hand made jewelry are also a few of the things you can look forward to at the Market.  I am always shocked how cheap the big beautiful bouquets are.

The Gum Wall

Just below Pike Place — in the belly of the beast — is a rather odd attraction that you should at least swing by when you are there. And don’t forget to bring some chewing gum so you can add to the artwork on the brick wall! Yeah, it’s a little unsanitary but too fun to pass up!


For other fun stuff to do while you are down at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, consider hacking a dinner cruise like we did!

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

Featured Our Travels

Our Epic Road Trip from Start to Finish

family road trip

I wanted to do a post that made it easy to follow the trip that got Home Sweet Road started.  This is an outline of where we went and what we saw.  I will link new posts to this master list as I publish them.  Hope you enjoy what I have up so far:)

The Dream is Hatched

Remember we Sold Our House in Kansas City after an unforgettable 5 years of making some of the best friends you could ask for.  From there we planned on a whim – and under the influence of a sugar high – to take the real long way to our final destination, in the Boulder, CO area.  And that is when the idea of an open ended road trip was birthed.

The Road Trip Begins

  •  Our Adventure Begins.  After dropping our stuff in a Denver storage unit we headed to our first stop in Bozeman, MT.
  • From Bozeman we drove to the Seattle area (where we are originally from) to visit our families, attend my brothers wedding and throw my dad his 60th birthday party.  We didn’t know when we would be back so we made sure to do lots of fun stuff while we were there.

A Few Highlights from Seattle

 Oregon, Northern California & Nevada

 Living the Dream in California

  • From Lake Tahoe we Drove Through the Basin to Yosemite
  • Completely Missed the Redwoods.  Twice.
  • Became Convinced that I Got Pregnant – by Accident
  • Reconnected with Dear Friends in Fresno
  • Took Girlr to the Beach for First Time
  • Explored Pismo
  • Stayed in a Little Danish Town
  • Almost got our Hands Bit off Feeding the Ostriches
  • Blasted past LA on our way to San Diego
  • Almost got Ran Over on our Bikes
  • Hit up LEGOLAND & the (Lame) Aquarium – Sorry, not Impressed – Other than Brick-or-Treat, of Coarse
  • Toured the Taylor Guitar Factory
  • Went to Joshua Tree

On the Road in Arizona

  • Seriously LOVED Scottsdale
  • Had the Best Enchiladas of our Lives in Sedona
  • Went to the Grand Canyon

Oh How I Love Utah

  • Enjoyed Zion National Park in Utah
  • Hung out in Park City
  • Visited Family and had the Best Pizza of my Entire Life [made by my cousin who owns a food truck] – On the heals of Sedona’s enchiladas, it sounds like I’m exaggerating — I’m Not!
  • Learned what it Takes to Become an Olympian
  • Celebrated Howl-O-Ween in a Dog Lovers Town
  • Walked with the Dinosaurs

Colorado is Calling

  • Went to Breckenridge
  • Took the Kids to Adventures in Odyssey
  • Got Equipped for Ski Season
  • Wept after Fulfilling a Life Long Dream
  • Fell Asleep in the Snow
  • Broke My Nose
  • Got Medical Attention after Running into a Fence Post (unfortunately unrelated to breaking my nose)
  • Hung out in Vail
  • Unknowingly Booked the Most Horrendous Accommodations.  It was bad my friends!
  • Had Turkey from a Green egg
  • Fell in love with Beaver Creek

The Road Home

Little did we know that God would throw a wrench in our plans to settle down nestled up to the Rockie Mountains because He had something so much better in store for us.  By so much better, I mean, something that we would never have planned for ourselves!!!  Funny how life sneaks up on you sometimes.

Our adventures continue.  They may not be full time, but they are full force and full fun!  Thanks for going on this journey with us!

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

Featured Our Travels seattle

The Lowdown on the Seattle Museum of Flight with Kids

museum of flightYou don’t always know what you’re in for when you take your kids to a museum.  So, when we were on our way to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, we wondered: Will it be worth the effort?  Will the kids show resistance?  Will we just end up dodging staff who are shushing our rowdy children?

I mean, maybe your kids are saints in these environments, but mine have yet to reach that celestial status, so we tend to hold our breath a bit as we pull up our bootstraps and head for the entrances of these types of establishments.

And you know what?  Other than a meltdown at the end of our tour from our littlest, we had a lot of fun at the Museum of Flight.  There were some parts of the museum that were set up for the kids to play and explore and then others – like the World War exhibits – where they needed to slow down and  show a little more restraint out of respect for the material they were interacting with.

 The Airplanes at the Museum of Flight

The Museum of Flight is basically an aviator aficionado’s paradise.  But, if you are like me & my kids and know nothing about the history of aviation, you will enjoy it too.  The sheer number of airplanes on display is mind blowing.  So many different styles and eras are included.  It’s cool to see how aviation has evolved over time!

The exhibits are hands on and easy to understand for those of us not in the know.

museum of flight planes

museum of flight seattleHop into the cock pit and pretend for a minute that you are in charge of the airplane!

Take a look at this bad boy!  The Blackbird aka the Mother Ship.  The M-21 is a variant of the A-12, which is the earliest Blackbird type. Built for a CIA, this aircraft – the M-21 – carried unpiloted drones to gather intelligence.  I mean, really, this is a thing of beauty!

museum of flight airplanesMuseum of Flight for Kids

Like many museums, the Museum of Flight is an educational goldmine.  They even have an entire portion of the space dedicated to children.  Hands on displays and simulators are just a couple of things that the kids enjoyed while we were there.  Little flyers can test their piloting abilities and strap in for a hang gliding simulation.

C’mon!  That’s cool.

museum of flight educationMuseum of Flight WWI & WWII Wings

With a decidedly somber feel, these exhibits are likely to impact you.  It is just so insane the price people paid and the amount of people that died in those wars.

If you have little ones, you will want to gauge when the best time is to stop in to these wings.  We miscalculated, and by the time we got around to it, our little one was in melt down mode.

It’s a bummer because it is here that you can explore the aircraft, interactive exhibits and history of “the war to end all wars.” And learn what it took to be a fighter pilot and the tactics used during the wars.  My favorite, although I was hurried, were the personal stories of the fallen heroes from around the world.

museum of flight ww1 The Space Exhibit at the Museum of Flight

We especially enjoyed the space exhibit.  It was fascinating to learn how things have changed for astronauts over the last few decades.  From what they eat to what they wear.  The food pouches, suits, and stories really gave us a feel for what it is like for them.
museum of flight seattle

museum of flight astronautI liked the Museum of Flight so much, I’d like to go back.  Actually, it would make for a great date with my man.  That way we could really slow down and read more of the history and take it all in without the chili beans underfoot!

While there is plenty to do for younger kids, if you are looking to benefit from all that the museum has to offer it would be best if your kids were a little older.  Just keeping it real!

Let me know if you decide to go yourself.  I’d love to hear what you thought!  Also, don’t forget to flash your military card or AAA card for a 10% discount when you go. 🙂

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

City Guide Featured Our Travels state and national parks

Yellowstone National Park with Kids

Yellowstone National park with kidsStretching across Wyoming and into Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone National Park is best known for the popular geyser, Old Faithful, and other geothermal activity.  Made up of mountain ranges, forests, rivers, and lakes, Yellowstone became the first national park in the world after President Ulysses S. Grant signed The Act of Dedication in 1872.

Since then countless millions of people have enjoyed the unique landscape that Yellowstone alone has to offer.  I love the etching in the stone above Yellowstone’s Welcome Arch.  It reads FOR THE BENEFIT AND ENJOYMENT OF THE PEOPLE!

Thanks for that, Ulysses!

yellowstone national park

Yellowstone National Park Sulfur Springs

yellowstone hot springs and geysers

yellowstone with kids

Look at the distressed look on his face!  You may want to plug your nose for this one buddy!

Be prepared for a pungent, rotten egg, smell to greet you from the time you open your car door.  It’s shocking at first but, don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.

yellowstone sulfur rocks yellowstone sulfur

Picturesque Yellowstone Landscape

yellowstone sulfur springs

natural landscape of yellowstone national park all american scene at yellowstoneDoes it get any more Americana than that?  Look at this scene!  You can look forward to miles and miles of peaceful meadows and scenes just like these.

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in North America and is centered right over the largest supervolcano on the continent known as the Yellowstone Caldera.  Did you know that the caldera is an active volcano?

yellowstone lake yellowstone lake

Lake Village Shopping and General Store

lake village general store yellowstone yellowstone general storeLake Village is the perfect place to stretch your legs and grab some ice cream!

yellowstone with kids father son yellowstone lake father son yellowstone with kids
The Dead Trees of Yellowstone

We were surprised how many dead trees we saw inside of the park.  One of the reasons for so many dead trees in Yellowstone is due to a beetle invasion affecting conifers.  As the trees die off the beetles move to healthy trees and the invasion continues.

Another reason is the volcanic activity underneath the ground.  The sulfuric gases poison the trees.  You can’t help but wonder when you see endless dead, dried up trees whether or not another large fire would result.

dead trees yellowstone
The Bison of Yellowstone

yellowstone buffalo Be careful. These guys get scary close!

The herd of bison at Yellowstone National Park is the largest (public) bison herd in all of the U.S.  Free ranging elk, wolves, and grizzly bears are just a few notable animals that share the terrain. 

The Junior Ranger Program at Yellowstone Park

Want to get the kids familiar with the park before you arrive?  Make sure to download the Jr. Ranger Activity Sheets ahead of time.  [for 5-7 year olds and for 8-12 year olds.]  You certainly don’t have to do any legwork before you get there but it is nice to look over the information and questions with the kids ahead of time so that you can really enjoy and explore the park while you are there.

If you are traveling to the park with children, but are unfamiliar with the Jr. Ranger Program, I gotcha covered!  Check out the post I wrote about everything you need to know about the FREE Program offered to children at most State and National Parks!  Since we learned about the program we never go to a state or national park without participating in it if it is available.  It really amplifies the experience for all of us, but the kids especially!

RV YellowstoneLike with most of the National Parks that we have visited, we definitely want to go back with an RV so we can spend much more time there!  There are so many ways to explore the Yellowstone, but if you are taking a road trip to get there, don’t forget to check out the post I wrote about Road Trip Games & Ways to Keep the Kids Entertained on a Long Drive!

Hope you love Yellowstone as much a we did!!!  Don’t forget to drop me a line and let me know what you thought!

Also, I’d love to connect with you on FB, Google+, Twitter, or Pinterest.  The buttons to find me on all social media are below!

Emily Oak Home Sweet Road

City Guide Featured Our Travels

Lava Beds National Monument with Kids

lava beds national monumentGoing to The Lava Beds National Monument was an unplanned detour for us and one we were happy to have made the time for.  After spending the night in Klamath Falls, OR we were gassing up at the local Albertsons gas station when the friendly attendant suggested we check out Lava Beds on our way to Lake Tahoe.

Since there was no hurry for us to get to Tahoe, we decided to take his word for it and headed for the Lava Beds on the way.  What a GREAT stop it was.

lava beds national monument

lava beds caves

Lava Beds Highlights:

  • Energetic, helpful rangers
  • Short distance from Klamath Falls, OR
  • Relatively close to Crater Lake National Park
  • Unusual terrain
  • The kids loved it!
  • Great visitors center with Native American, US History, and Geological RoadSchooling opportunities
  • Caves for different ages and ability
  • Junior Ranger Program
  • Easy hiking paths
  • Great for bicycling on the park roads

kids at lava beds national monument

 Tips for Visiting The Lava Beds National Monument with kids:

  1. If you plan on doing some serious exploring in the caves bring you own helmets so you don’t have to purchase them there
  2. Make sure to borrow flashlights at the Visitors Center
  3. Pack a lunch so you can stay for the day- there is so much to do!
  4. The caves are chilly so bring long sleeves for layering- even in the summer
  5. Ask about the Junior Ranger Program at the front desk.  Its basically Road Schooling curriculum handed to you for FREE. The kids will be excited about learning when they know they are earning a certificate and badge!

Next time we are in the area, we will definitely make sure to give ourselves plenty of time to explore the different caves at Lava Beds National Monument.  We really just scratched the surface in our short time there.  I think the time was appropriate for the ages of our kids but as they get older it would be nice to give ourselves more time to explore below the surface of the earth!

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road

Featured northwest Our Travels

Mount Rainier National Park – A Family Hike at Sunrise

mount rainier sunrise

Having lived in Kansas City for five years before our extended road trip we didn’t realize how soul starved we were for nature.  God used his brush and painted wondrous landscapes all over the globe for mankind to interact with and enjoy.

In this technological age its easy to forget to make time for ourselves and get away to be refreshed by God’s handiwork.  We had never been so in touch with that need as we were when we set off on our open-ended adventure.

When we lived in the Pacific Northwest before we didn’t appreciate the beauty like we did once we moved away.  It’s true that distance makes the heart grow fonder.  We feel like the lucky ones.  We are in awe of things we wouldn’t even have noticed before – like the way the White River bends and carves out its path along 410 on the way to Mount Rainier National Park.

mount rainier sunrise hikeHow the evergreens tower over the road and frame in glimpses of the layered foothills or the rock faces that stand proudly beside the road.  Seeing others enjoy the beauty of creation makes my heart happy – which is part of the reason I devote so much time to this blog!

As you make your way up the mountain the view just gets better and better.  The dark earth that pushes up in jagged formation at the base of Mt. Rainer will take your breath away.  I’m not being dramatic.  It really will! 

When we went the winter snow had since melted in most of the lower elevations but some of it remained.  All the different textures complemented each other so well making the drive and the hike so enjoyable.  We started our hike at the highest point you can drive on the mountain.  Higher even than Paradise

mount rainier sunrise hike

sunrise lodge mt rainierYou can either start your hike from Sunrise Point or the Sunrise Day Lodge.  We opted for the latter.  We began our afternoon just up from the lodge at a semi private picnic area to enjoy our picnic lunch.  It is just lovely to pause as a family and enjoy lunch with a majestic view.  

It definitely feels like a tourist spot with so many nations represented by the visitors.  We met several different groups of people on the trail that either didn’t speak english or had distinct accents.  It’s fun being around people from places all around the world!

Our kids were able to make the hike.  I did pack/carry Girlr , who was 2 at the time, for about half of the time in my soft pack carrier.  She fussed a lot, which was not completely uncommon, but happily ran down most of the trail on the way back to the van.

hiking mt rainier with baby

hiking sunrise with kids

kids hiking mt rainier We are constantly working on teaching the boys to complain less and complement more.  This is definitely a work in progress.  They started complaining about 10 minutes in.  We stayed 3.5 hours!  It wasn’t a strenuous hike and we had lots of water and snacks.  We moved slowly and stopped frequently.  The boys removed their shoes for part of the trail and commented on enjoying the way Rainier dirt felt under their feet.

boy playing in the dirtBiggie would stop every so often to scratch something in the dirt.  When we asked him what he was doing he announced that he was leaving “targets” along the trail so that we would be able to find our way back.  He didn’t want us to get lost.  LOVE that kid!!!

All in all it was a great family adventure in which we highly recommend.

If you are visiting with kids, don’t forget about the Jr. Ranger Program that most National Parks offer.  If you are familiar with this blog you know that I am basically obsessed with the Jr. Ranger Program!  If you are unfamiliar with what the JRP is make sure to read the post where I explain what it is and how to get the most out of it!

mount rainier day hikeTips when Visiting Mount Rainier National Park – Sunrise with Kids:

  • June through early fall is an ideal time to visit
  • Be prepared to dress warm by bringing a jacket or sweatshirt or layer your clothing so you are comfortable no matter what the weather.
  • Check for road closures/conditions at Mount Rainier National Park Road Status Web Page
  • Leave early in the morning so you have lots of time to explore.
  • Pack a lunch so you can enjoy a picnic.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen and sunglasses.
  • Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.  At this elevation you will need it! You and your kiddos can easily get nauseated and feel sick if you don’t drink enough water at the higher elevations.
  • Binoculars are fun to have.

mount rainier with kids

hiking with children

mount rainier with kidsWhat we liked about our visit to Sunrise at Mount Rainier National Park:

  • Beautiful drive
  • Great hiking trails and easy hikes for the kids.
  • Fun to meet people from all over the world who visit the mountian.
  • Relaxing and Rejuvenating
  • Picnic with a view!
  • The standard park pass lasts 7 days from when you purchase it.

What we didn’t like about our visit to Sunrise at Mount Rainier National Park:

  • Sometimes bears are milling around
  • The weather can be unpredictable
  • Occasional road work

I have a related post/review from our visit to Paradise at Mount Rainier National Park, so make sure to check that out if you are planning on a day trip to the mountain.  Hope you feel inspired to take your family to the Mount Rainier sometime soon!

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road