5 Tips To Keep Calm and Hike with Kids

Let’s be honest: when you hike with kids, it isn’t always perfect. (I hope I didn’t break a fantasy for you there.) In fact, if I’m being brutally honest about my own experiences, outdoor adventures with the family always include some sort of uprising.

uprising

I figure since I have suffered through many misadventures, I should share some of my tips for [attempting to] push through the adventures when it starts to fall apart.

 

1. End the negativity before you clip the buckles.

Look, I totally get the moments when you are trying to get in the car and someone is still playing with building blocks and only has one sock on. Then, when you ask in your kindest fairy-godmother voice for them to get ready, all hell breaks loose. Trust me. I get it.  Have your fly off the handle moment if need be. Discipline if need be. My recommendation is: make sure that by the time you clip the seat-belt buckles there has been a resolution and the argument doesn’t follow you on the road. The kid might be sulking, sure, but make sure the negativity of handling the situation ends prior to leaving for your adventure.

And yes…this is my child on our way out the door to a family hike in the best summer hiking attire possible: button-up shirt and jeans. He was so happy to come on our adventure.

hiking-with-keep-calm


2. Be prepared for the elements.

Check the weather, know where you are going, what to expect and pack accordingly.  Not having enough water, snacks, or clothing can send kids in to a tailspin (not to mention a lack of water is unsafe).  We had one family hike that ended up being about an hour and a half longer than we had anticipated. That hour pushed us in to the hottest part of the day. We had brought PLENTY of water and snacks IF we hadn’t hit the terrible afternoon heat.  We ran out of water about 30 minutes before the end of the trail, at which time our over-packing of snacks failed miserably because they all melted in some capacity or another. The perfect recipe for an uprising. This same concept goes for a child that is too cold. Don’t forget to check the weather AT YOUR DESTINATION. It might be cooler than your home, so just be ready.

 

3. Ignore the negativity.

I have to admit that I am not a great example of this suggestion; my husband, however, is amazing. If your adventure is exuding negativity (that is not harmful or down-right out of control), simply ignore it. Your kids (or spouse?) are trying to get a reaction out of you so you will give them what they want. I have spent a good hour exercising my patience with a very unhappy 10-year-old who felt the need to tell me why each tree, leaf, bug, and rock were the “stupidest thing ever”. Rest assured the negativity did end and we avoided any escalated emotions by simply ignoring the poor attitude.

keep-calm-hike-kids-keep-going
4. Bribery works.

Okay, okay. You have to promise not to judge me. Bribery isn’t a favorite of everyone, so don’t burn me at the stake, please. Let’s just get real: desperate times call for desperate measures. When you are stuck 300 feet down a trail with switchbacks as your only escape, ice cream promises and happy meal dreams will work wonders. Find the one thing that sends your kid in to the my-parents-are-the-most-amazing-humans-ever-to-walk-the-earth euphoria and run with it.

 

5. Your attitude will dictate the family’s attitude.

Of all the tips, this is the biggie. This is the one you want to remember when all else fails. It took a bit of nudging from my sweet and patient Hubs for me to realize that the kids feed off my attitude (and his) — good or bad.  If your adventure is going downhill fast, take a step back and check yourself (and any other adults you might be on the adventure with).  Are you arguing? Are you upset? Chances are the kids are reacting to the tension they can see and feel and it will only get worse. Struggling to change your attitude? Even if you have to “fake it til you make it” I promise you that even a faked happiness will eventually turn in to a family memory of love, laughter and joy. You just have to give it time…and patience…and time….and a little more patience. Make every misadventure the best thing that has ever happened! Banged up knee? HOW COOL!! What a story to tell your friends!! Things like this will alter your entire family’s attitude and make a misadventure in to a family favorite memory.

calmly-hike-with-kids

 

SEE MORE: A DAY WITH KIDS IN SNOW CANYON STATE PARK

 

Our family adventures are some of my favorite times with the kids. Not everything goes according to plan, someone is always mad at me at some point, and I usually ask myself “Why did we do this?” at least once. Even with all of that, I know that in the end the kids will never regret going (nor will I), memories are being made, and the time we are spending together is what matters most and builds our family unity.

Now go out and find somewhere to hike with kids! Chin up! You CAN do this!!

(And if you have experienced nothing even close to an uprising — kudos to you and your family!! You should get a gold medal and I’m not even joking! We really need to find where we can get those…you know, gold medals.)

 

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A Day With Kids in Snow Canyon State Park

In the quiet southwest corner of Utah you’ll find Snow Canyon State Park. 7,400 acres of lava flows, sandstone cliffs and a colorful desert environment. Snow Canyon State Park can be overlooked since it sits a short 45 minutes away from Zion National Park, but I promise you won’t want to leave this park off your list.

Snow Canyon State Park is a family favorite not only because it’s far less traveled than our national parks, but it also boasts tons of kid-friendly trails and adventures.  With a cost of only $6/day per vehicle ($30 for an annual pass), you would be silly not to check it out.  Pack up the kids and spend the day in Snow Canyon State Park!

 

Petrified Dunes

Located just north of the upper and lower Galoots picnic area, the Petrified Dunes allow kids of all ages to roam freely versus being confined to a designated trail. Spend as much time as you would like admiring the views and enjoying the landscape. You can easily travel 1+ miles walking all over the dunes.

day with kids snow canyon state park

 

Butterfly Trail

After exploring the Petrified Dunes, the dunes will guide you towards the Butterfly Trail. This is one of my absolute favorite trails in Snow Canyon State Park. Just under 2 miles (out and back) it’s easy for all kids and takes you across rocks, through trees, up hills, in sand and so much more. This is the kind of trail that your kids won’t get bored on.

kids snow canyon state park

 

Lava Flow Trail

The Butterfly Trail intersects with the historical Lava Flow Trail. This trail is lined with lava rock as a result of cinder cones erupting between 1.4 million years ago to as early as 27,000 years ago.  Found along this trail is the lava cave or lava tube. This is a very dark cave created by the lava that flowed after eruption. The entrance to the cave is a relatively easy climb down for most kids, but entering the cave should be at your own discretion. Older kids could maneuver through on their own (head lamps are advised), but younger children would need more support and could make your trip a bit more difficult. If you expect to venture through the entire cave, plan at least an extra hour for exploring.  After you’re done, you’ll want to head back the way you came, towards the Petrified Dunes. However, if you have someone else with you, they could pick you up at the Lava Flow trailhead as well.

lava flow trail snow canyon state park

lava trail snow canyon state park

 

SEE MORE: 11 Ways To Give Your Kids Experiences, NOT Stuff

 

Sand Dunes

The sand dunes are the biggest, softest and coolest sand box you’ll find. The red sand of Snow Canyon is as beautiful as it is fun. Nested against the red rocks, you have a vast area to play in. You won’t have to worry about running in to your neighbors because there’s room for everyone. The sand dunes also provide garbage cans, bathrooms and ample parking. This is the perfect place to take an afternoon lunch break. Make sure you pack a few shovels, frisbees or buckets to add to your sandy fun!

snow canyon state park sand dunes

 

Pioneer Names

Once done with lunch, take an incredibly easy walk to see pioneer names etched on the canyon walls. The .04 mile walk offers kids some awesome history and let’s them scale the canyon wall to get a closer look.

snow canyon state park pioneer names

 

Jenny’s Canyon

Jenny’s Canyon is near the entrance of Snow Canyon and a great trail to take as you’re working off lunch. This trail is loved by my children because of its ease and the cool reward at the end: a slot canyon! The walk is roughly .8 miles (out and back) and you’re welcome to take as much time as you want enjoying the cool canyon and overlook.  This will only take you about 30 minutes (if taking your time), but fast walkers (or parents on a kid-less date) can do this in 15 minutes. The best part is, it’s completely up to you!

snow canyon state park jennys canyon

 

Johnson Canyon or Scout Cave

If your crew is still game for a few more miles you can choose between Johnson Trail or Scout Cave (or both!).  Both trails are accessed from the same trailhead just before entering Snow Canyon State Park. That’s right! Fee-free hikes!

Johnson Canyon is an easy 2.25 mile (out and back) trail. This trail does close annually between March 15 and October 31 to help preserve the natural habitat. If you visit during these times and still want a chance to see this beautiful trail, arches and historical pioneer names along the way, check with the ranger station as to when the ranger-guided tours are available. Outside of these closure dates, you can come and go as you please.

snow canyon state park johnson canyon

Scout Cave is a bit longer hike and begins on the same trailhead. Being 4 miles (out and back) can take you around 2+ hours, depending on your hiking companions, but is worth it! The enormous cave at the end offers an amazing overlook of St. George and is just plain cool. You’ll have to beg the kids to leave. This trail also gave my family our first sighting of the evasive desert tortoise! I know friends who have lived in southern Utah their entire lives, hike nearly every weekend and have yet to see one! If your family plans to hike Scout Cave (or anywhere in Snow Canyon for that matter), keep those eyes peeled! Especially on cooler mornings and after rainstorms.

snow canyon state park Scout cave

Snow Canyon State Park is a southern Utah gem you won’t want to miss. The park also offers rock climbing, horseback tours, tent and RV camping (with or without hook-ups) and is close to the city of St. George, 2+ reservoirs and Zion National Park–there’s no chance of getting bored on this family trip! You won’t regret spending a day in Snow Canyon State Park with the kids.

 

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4 Must Have Tips For Geocaching With Your Family

This post was originally posted on the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis blog.

After visiting the Pirates and Princesses exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, we found the hidden treasure left by a peg-legged Pirate. By following his prints, we were led straight to the loot. I began thinking about how fun it would be to do a little treasure hunting on our own. Having heard about geocaching before, I thought this would fit the bill perfectly.

Pirate treasure

If you haven’t heard of geocaching, it is essentially an outdoor treasure hunting game. Geocaching is based on using GPS devices. Using the GPS coordinates, you navigate to a spot and try to find the geocache which is a hidden container. Inside, you should find a log book to sign and the treasure – small items left by others who also found the cache. You take something, leave something and put the cache back for the next treasure hunters to find.
We’re just beginners at geocaching but we’re hooked. We love getting outside and searching for treasures all over the place. Here are a few tips to help you start geocaching with your family:

  • I downloaded the Geocaching app on my phone which acts as my GPS device. With the free version, you can only find certain geocaches while “advanced” geocaches require a paid upgrade. There are plenty of traditional geocaches to keep you busy so I recommend sticking with the free version when you first   start out.
  • Our first find was too small and what we had brought with us didn’t fit. We also didn’t have a pen to write our names on the log. We had to return later with a smaller treasure to exchange. After that, we put a pen and a variety of treasures in a bag to bring with us every time. Plus, we can keep it in our car for spontaneous geocaching while we’re out and about.
  • Remember that geocaches come in all different shapes and sizes which is part of the fun. We even found one hidden inside our local library!
  • Keep in mind that the GPS coordinates get you close but not always exactly to the spot. Your kids will be great helpers to search high and low. Some geocaches will have a hint to help you. It may take a while to discover and sometimes you might not find it but there’s always another geocache to find.

Geocache treasures

Geocaches

Outdoor Adventures We’re Obsessed With in Puerto Rico

Old and new San Juan from San CristobalOld and new San Juan from San Cristobal (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

From one-inch frogs that sing their nightly songs to cascading waterfalls that pour into natural swimming pools offering respite from the year-round heat to hidden beaches with natural barriers for calmer waters, the lush island of Puerto Rico presents a trove of natural treasures that inspire visitors to leave the pool and spend more time exploring the outdoors.

When vacationing in Puerto Rico with the family, these outdoor adventures are definite must-adds to your itinerary.

 

Visiting a Bioluminescent Bay

Kayaks for the Bioluminescent Bay excursionKayaks for the Bioluminescent Bay excursion (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Bioluminescent bays are some of nature’s most enchanting wonders and Puerto Rico is home to three of the remaining few in the world. While naysayers may tell you that it’s not that impressive and tour guides will confirm that only about 10% of the original population of dinoflagellates is left due to several factors – including nearby development, kayaking to one of Puerto Rico’s magical bio bays is an experience that will last a lifetime. The bigger kids will enjoy navigating through the mangrove forest in the darkness, an awesome adventure on its own, while everyone will enjoy gently sloshing their hands in the water to see flecks of blue-green light appear and disappear. Allow your guide to tell you about these fascinating microorganisms and the conservation efforts being done to preserve their habitat, and look up to enjoy the twinkling stars in the sky.

Laguna Grande in Fajardo, only an hour’s drive away from capital San Juan, is easily accessible, while Mosquito Bay on Vieques is brighter and more popular.

 

Kayaking and Snorkeling Around Palomino Island

Palomino Island at El ConquistadorPalomino Island at El Conquistador (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Off the northeastern side is the lovely and family-friendly Palomino Island, El Conquistador Resort’s tropical island, which offer families plenty of outdoor activities. Whether you are seeking to enjoy some watersports or to simply laze around on the beach and indulge in a bit of sunning, this spot is paradise.

Available watersports include catamaran and wave runner rides, hobie cat tours, boat dives, snorkeling and kayaking. Horseback riding, hiking, beach volleyball, ping pong and soccer are also available on the island. Rent snorkeling equipment, then kayak to the nearby Palominito Island where a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was filmed. Once there, secure your kayak on the shore and do some snorkeling. Back on Palomino Island, find a lovely spot near the water, order that delicious, refreshing Palomino Adventure drink (virgin for the kids) and relax before heading back to the resort. And remember to save some time to enjoy the onsite Coqui Water Park.

 

Hiking in the Rainforest

Waterfalls in El YunqueWaterfalls in El Yunque (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Located on the eastern side of the main island, El Yunque National Forest, along with its many notable, family-friendly attractions, is easily accessible, making it a great place to visit for both outdoorsy and non-outdoorsy families. The only tropical rainforest in the United States National Forest System boasts a plethora of natural wonders such as waterfalls, sweeping views, different types of forests, endemic wildlife, dramatic hiking trails and more. Enjoy picture-perfect moments at La Coca Waterfall, take in the panoramic views atop the Yokahu Tower and get some mud on your boots—literally—on a hiking trail. Later, have a refreshing swim at La Mina Waterfalls. Visit the visitors’ center for a lovely and well-earned lunch outdoors, and take some time to learn about the indigenous plants and their medicinal properties. You can go on your own by car, or better yet, hire an accredited tour company so your tour guide can give you interesting facts about the forest you wouldn’t know otherwise.

 

Zip Lining at ToroVerde

While it may seem daunting at first especially to those who are afraid of heights, zip lining at ToroVerde is an exhilarating adventure that the older kids and adults in the family will want to do over and over again. Hike, cross thrilling suspension bridges, rappel and zip line your way through the ecological adventure park, and enjoy its beauty from way up high, with the assistance and guidance, of course, of the park’s experienced guides. The park offers several tour packages, so visitors can take their pick based on their adventure levels and preferences. Purchase a combo that includes several short zip lines, a couple of suspension bridges, the “Jump of the Coqui” rappel, and the Beast, which takes you flying like Superman on one of the world’s longest single run zip lines. Kids 8 and older can enjoy the Bull Maze.

Later, head to the restaurant for some much needed nourishment. Order croquette risotto and plantains to start. The stuffed chicken breast with yellow rice is terrific and filling; so are the different types of mofongo, Puerto Rico’s national dish.

 

Exploring Old San Juan

San Cristobal San Cristobal (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Families cannot visit Puerto Rico without a proper exploration of its capital city. San Juan is a perfect blend of European flair, Spanish colonial architecture and all the modern conveniences of a US city. Visit and explore the historic walls of its massive forts, San Cristobal and San Felipe del Morro, both part of the San Juan National Historic Site; quietly admire the intricate architecture of the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista and the Capitol of San Juan; and walk around the old city’s cobbled streets to appreciate the endearing and brightly colored houses that line them. Visit around the holidays and watch local Christmas performances and squares adorned with lights, garlands and Christmas trees.

Leave some time to explore the new part of the city as well, which flaunts delicious cuisine, a vibrant culture and an exciting street art scene. For a family-friendly hotel to serve as your base, consider the waterfront Caribe Hilton.

 

Boating Along a Mangrove Forest

Many boat tours around the city can take families to explore the island’s channels of mangrove forests. For a more interesting excursion that cater to kids, however, head to Museo del Nino de Carolina (Children’s Museum of Carolina). The interactive museum, which encourages kids to find their passion and interests, not only features several areas for studies and endeavors (from theater and art to science and mathematics) and fun exhibits, it also boasts a tiny zoo populated with friendly chickens, ducks, exotic birds, goats, sheep, cows, horses, donkeys and emus; a go kart track; and an old plane that visitors can board to explore. Complete your visit with a relaxing boat ride along the nearby canal lined with mangrove trees, and see iguanas and local birds as well as the occasional alligator. Keep an eye out for those duck nests as you walk around the property to catch a glimpse of the eggs and maybe a chick coming out of one of them, if you’re lucky!

 

Michelle Rae Uy contributed this to MiniTime. She is a travel writer based in Los Angeles and MiniTime’s Head of Content who spends her free time on adventures and film photography.

 

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Final Fling! 5 Fun Outdoor Escapes with the Kids this Fall

Go apple picking at County Line OrchardGo apple picking at County Line Orchard (Courtesy County Line Orchard)

The end of summer doesn’t necessarily mean the end of adventures. In fact, fall is a fantastic time to venture outdoors for family activities! In the Midwest, it’s easy to find “falltastic” fun every kid in the family will enjoy. There are golden forest to be hiked, apples waiting to be picked, fall fests to be enjoyed, and, of course, football.

Let these five family-friendly outdoor adventures inspire you to explore some new autumn escapes in your neck of the woods.

 

Celebrate everything apple by apple picking

At County Line Orchard in Hobart, Indiana, hop on a tractor ride to the orchards and fields to pluck apples right off the trees, and gather pumpkins and other fall harvests. The West Corn Maze is family-friendly, but the dirt pathway is best for walking not strollers. Get a maze map and let the kids lead the way! Families with young children will enjoy the mini corn maze and goat feeding in the Kids Farm. Taste a pumpkin or apple spice donut from the Orchard Store. TIP: Wear gym shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy, and save apple picking until the end of your visit. The orchard is open from Labor Day through November 1. Children 2 and under are free. Admission ranges from $1 to $10.

Where to Stay: Residence Inn Merrillville

 

Kick off football season with a stadium tour

Tour Lambeau FieldTour Lambeau Field (Courtesy Lambeau Field)

You may not be able to score tickets to the big game, but most NFL – and some college teams too – offer stadium tours. Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, offers the popular Champion Stadium Tour. On this family-friendly guided walking tour, your family will stroll through the famed player’s tunnel, stand on the side lines and get photos in the end zone. A tour highlight is Lambeau’s rooftop, where your family catches bird’s eye views of the stadium and Green Bay. All tours are completely stroller and handicapped accessible. Tours are available nearly every day, except home game days. Children 5 and under are free. Check the website for ticket prices, tour schedules and other tour options. TIP: Tickets cannot be purchased online, they are only sold at the stadium.

Where to Stay: Residence Inn Green Bay

 

Gather for stories around a toasty campfire

On Saturdays in October, Starved Rock State Park Lodge in Oglesby, Illinois, the hotel within Starved Rock State Park, offers free campfire stories under the stars. Storytime begins at 7 pm and lasts about an hour. It is a nighttime event, but the campfires are very kid-friendly. Don’t worry about packing snacks, popcorn and s’mores kits are sold onsite – so your family can roast marshmallows over the fire. The seating area is rustic wooden benches. If that’s not your family’s style, feel free to bring chairs and blankets. Campfires are free and open to the public. Reservations are not required. TIP: Illinois State Parks do not charge entry fees.

Where to Stay: Starved Rock Lodge is beautiful, but books up quickly. The Days Inn Oglesby/Starved Rock is a great back-up.

 

Celebrate the harvest at local fall festivals

Emma Krumbee's Scarecrow FestivalEmma Krumbee’s Scarecrow Festival (Courtesy Emma Krumbees)

Scarecrow loving families should visit Emma Krumbee’s Scarecrow Festival in Belle Plaine, Minnesota. Meander down the Scarecrow Path lined with about 100 handmade friendly scarecrows. Then fill up your afternoon with the many kid-friendly attractions. Take a wagon ride to the u-pick pumpkin patch, climb on the Rainbow Tire “Caterpillar” or “board” a pirate ship. TIP: This festival is ideal for kids 9 and under. Open daily from 10am to 6pm from mid-September through October 30. Admission is $5.50 (children 2 and under are free).

Where to Stay: Embassy Suites Bloomington in nearby Bloomington

 

Take a Fall Color Hike in a State Park

Missouri State Parks and Historic SitesMissouri State Parks and Historic Sites (Courtesy Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites)

During autumn, Midwest forests burst with vibrant colors. Weston Bend State Park in Weston, Missouri (near Kansas City) has eight trails that take hikers along the Missouri River up to breathtaking scenic overlooks and through colorful forests. The paved Overlook Path (a must see!) is a short, woodsy walk that ends with spectacular views of the Missouri River and the surrounding forests. Perfect for teens and tweens, the moderately rugged North Ridge Trail has a new tech twist. Missouri State Parks are piloting an app that plays audio tours via smart phones and other hand-held devices at specific points along this trail. Be sure to download the app before you go. Check the website for information about the app and other trails. TIP: Missouri State Parks do not charge entry fees. Fall colors in northern Missouri peak in early October.

Where to Stay: Residence Inn Airport Kansas City

 

Maribeth Pjosek Durkin contributed this to MiniTime.

 

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