There are few sights as awe-inspiring and confounding as thousands of baskets being lifted hundreds of feet into the air by fire and colossal, brightly colored balloons. This vision is so enthralling that millions of spectators flock to hot air balloon festivals across the United States each year to marvel at this man made wonder.
For those that are up for rising before the sun, otherworldly “glow shows” can be enjoyed, which consist of pilots filling their balloons with the heat and light of massive burners before dawn. And, if you’re brave enough to say yes to the full magic of a hot air balloon, many festivals provide opportunities to go for a ride. If you’re ready to go on a journey that will awaken a giddy sense of fascination, check out one or more of these top-notch hot air balloon festivals.
1. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta: Albuquerque, New Mexico – Early October
A vibrant tapestry of balloons highlights the astonishing natural beauty of New Mexico’s high-desert landscape during the internationally renowned Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. As one of the largest balloon celebrations in the world, this gathering features over 500 balloons, laser shows, live music, endless activities for children, and of course, millions of visitors.
Because there’s so much to do at this ten-day event, it’s recommended that you make a full vacation out of it and attend the festival over the span of a few days. Be sure to mix in other sightseeing excursions in and around Albuquerque, such as Petroglyph National Monument or La Luz Trail, as fall is believed by many to be the most visually stunning season in New Mexico.
As a kid, I would flip through my baby book, hoping my mom had filled in some of the blanks while I was sleeping or at school. But every time I took the book off its shelf, I saw the same barren pages between the faded pale yellow covers. Listed were the date and time of my birth, my birth weight, a lock of hair from my first haircut … and that was all. I promised myself that if I ever became a parent, I wouldn’t start a baby book if I couldn’t commit to the project. As an adult, I know that I’m amazing at starting projects. But finishing them? Not so much.
This is why I’ve never owned a baby book.
It turns out, I’m not alone. In the age of the smartphone, many parents are finding the traditional baby book just doesn’t make sense. That doesn’t mean those of us who are sans baby book aren’t capturing the important moments. There are plenty of ways to hold onto the milestones, the mispronunciations that are too cute to correct, and everything in between – while letting go of the pressure to fill in the blanks.
. . .
4 | Film them
There is nothing quite like a video to preserve a moment. At the end of each year, Bailey Gaddis, the Ojai, California mother and author of “Feng Shui Mommy,” creates a “Year in Review” video montage of all the short takes she’s recorded of her four-year-old son throughout the year. Not only does the video showcase milestones and random sweet and funny moments, Bailey loves that they double as holiday gifts for the grandparents. As an added bonus, videos won’t create clutter.
My superhero obsessed son is exposed almost exclusively to male superheroes – especially when it comes to superheroes who are in kid-approved cartoons. All dudes, all the time.
I knew we needed another option when he came out with, “sorry mom, only guys are super” when I tried to join in on one of his superheroes games. Um, so not true kid.
So, I was pleased to discover a new American-Canadian female superhero show on Nickelodeon: Mysticons.
The show has been described as “Manhattan meets middle Earth” and showcases the inherent strength and confidence in girls by following four diverse young ladies who (like most heroes) are committed to saving a magical realm from evil. And, they fight said evil while wearing flashy form fitting duds that will make for fun Halloween costume options for little girls tired of only having a Wonder Woman option.
I feel like I missed out as a little girl who grew up in an era when the pink Power Ranger was the only butt kicking female heroe to idolize. So, you might find me slipping back to my childhood ways by grabbing a big bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and plopping on the couch for some Mysticons after my Flash and Spiderman loving boys go to sleep.
This show is likely most appropriate for children 7 and older.
You can catch Mysticons on Nickelodeaon on Sundays at noon (ET/PT) and encore episodes on Nicktoons on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. (ET/PT) Until then, here’s a preview.
San Francisco has figured out how to achieve the tricky alchemy of sophistication mixed with flair and fun, making it an ideal vacation destination for a family with a varied platter of interests. From epic bay views to grassy sprawls, fine art galleries to interactive museums, and white table cloths and candles to picnic benches surrounded by the smells of hamburgers, San Francisco has something for everyone.
But, with such an expansive city to explore it can give even the savviest traveling family anxiety when deciding where to start. Union Square is a favorite home base for many families as it’s drenched in amble opportunities for shopping, dining, and outdoor recreation. Also, Union Square is within walking distance to Chinatown, the iconic cable cars, and so much more.
Where to Stay in San Francisco
The Westin St. Francis – A family friendly hotel that provides gifts for the kids at check-in and offers family rooms and complimentary cribs. This historic hotel is also a great option if your family enjoys a sprinkle of luxury. And, depending on your style preference of said luxury, The Westin has you covered, offering both classic and modern rooms.
While the spirit of many ski towns dissolves with the snow, the Tahoe area pulsates with energy all year. When the skiers and boarders skip town, usually after enjoying the snow from November to July, a fresh crop of thrill seekers and wanderlusts emerge to enjoy the hiking, biking, diving, fishing, swimming, and sightseeing in the visually rich environment.
With an overflowing platter of recreational options, this area is ideal for families yearning for adventure, but with a variety of comfort zones.
When planning your summer vacation to Tahoe, pick and choose from the following to craft an epic journey into this astounding pocket of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
1. Bike Riding: If you’re looking for a scenic, safe, and leisurely family bike ride, rent your wheels at Parallel Mountain Sports in the Village at Squaw Valley (or bring your own!) and have them direct you to the path that snakes along the Truckee River all the way to the crisp waters of Lake Tahoe.
The summer is long, so long – especially when you have the task of keeping a preschooler, with an attention span shorter than the nail on their chubby little pinky finger, entertained and educated. Oy vey.
My little nugget has been especially interested in colors lately, so, the following activity from Education.com helped us splash some learning cloaked in fun onto our summer.
(Hudson enjoys his custom made flash cards so much he takes them on road trips and pairs the colors with passing vechicles, road signs, plants, or random food particles scattered throughout our car.)
What You Need:
Card stock or other sturdy paper (index cards work well too)
Markers in a rainbow of colors
What You Do:
Begin by talking about color with your child, using the markers as a guide. Take each marker out of the package one at a time and ask him to name the colors as you go along.
Cut the card stock into 5″ x 7″ rectangles. If you’re using index cards, move on to step 3.
Have your child draw a picture of a flower, plant, or other spring thing on the front of each card, using only one color for each card.
Now turn each card over and write the name of the color you used on that card on the back using the same color marker. For some handwriting practice, try writing the words lightly in pencil first, then having her trace over the letters in marker.
Now it’s time to play! Take the cards outside. Choose one card and ask your child to name the color, then turn the card over to reveal the color word.
Now look around outside and find something natural (like a tree or flower) that’s the same color as the card.
Once you’ve found something, turn to your child and say, “I spy something with my eye that is the color_____”. Encourage him to try and find the object you chose. Give him descriptive word clues to help point him in the right direction. If he guesses another object that is the right color, let him know that his pick is also correct.
Continue playing by repeating steps 5-7 for the rest of the color cards. Once he finds all the colors, he wins!
During the course of the game, invite your child to select unique adjectives to describe each color. Encourage him to get creative with his word choices and use his imagination 🙂
A metropolitan tapestry woven with public parks, exotic curio shops full of kid-friendly treasures, and an eatery with dumplings on almost every corner (and what kid doesn’t love dumplings?) San Francisco is a natural choice when selecting your next big city family vacation.
But, the question of where to stay is often the stumper when trying to find well-situated and family focused lodging in the city.
Using my family as a metaphorical guinea pig, I’ve discovered five of the top San Francisco hotels that will set your family up to have the ultimate vacation in one of the world’s most cultured concrete jungles.
Tucked between a fine art gallery and Morton’s Steakhouse, this hidden gem hotel is freshly renovated and less than a block from Union Square where your family can roam in the grass, inspect public art installations, or sign up for Emperor Norton’s Fantastic San Francisco Time Machine (a walking tour).
Because all rooms are situated off the street, and look out onto a small courtyard-esque corridor, you can enjoy the convenience of being in the heart of downtown, without hearing the constant beat of that heart: traffic. But, even if quiet wasn’t readily available you’d still settle into serenity as this hotel features the most comfortable beds I’ve ever sunk into, and a nightly wine and cheese reception that does wonders for that fore-mentioned serenity.
A short walk to Chinatown and a hop, skip, and a stroller push to just about any culinary option your child’s particular taste buds might desire, this hotel will pour a large helping of simplicity on your trip.
After 146 years Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey took its last bow this May. Feld Entertainment, the owners of the circus and other popular family entertainment shows, like Monster Jam and Disney on Ice, made the historic decision to close the show when ticket sales declined, a direct result of moving their pachyderm performers to the Center for Elephant Conservation.
The decision to retire the elephants—the beginning of the end—wasn’t easy for the Felds. In many ways, the animals were the core of a show that has been an American family tradition for as long as the institution of baseball. The childhood of the Feld sisters, Nicole, Alana and Juliette, was built on that show.
The closure announcement was met with mixed reviews—a sense of victory from some animal rights groups, loss from families that enjoy the circus, and an amalgam of nostalgia, heartbreak and hopefulness from the three Feld sisters. Along with their father Kenneth, they ran the day-to-day operations of the third-generation family business, and were the ones tasked with making this challenging choice.
After traveling multiple hours on ground or air, with restless children in tow, many parents want a one-stop shop for fun, food and accommodations, happy if they never have to look at their crumb filled vehicle the entirety of the trip.
Squaw Valley has answered this prayer, crafting a village that offers nosh for all palates, ski runs for every level of courage, hotel rooms with a mix of luxury and minimal breakables (I’m looking at you mischievous tots) and live music that makes even the tiniest of feet burst into dance.
If family vacations full of equal parts thrill, relaxation and simplicity are your jam, use the following guide to relish the goodness of Squaw Valley.
Find Your Peace at Wanderlust Yoga Studio: This studio has multiple classes geared to prepping your body (and mind, and spirit) for a stellar day of skiing, and for restoring your muscles after that last run. The variety of offerings sprinkled throughout the schedule allow flexibility for you and your fellow child-sitter to each catch a class.
Entertain Your Kids at the Children’s Program: Because most children loathe being taught sports (or anything) by their parents, let a trained instructor ignite your child’s passion and skill for skiing or snowboarding. This program accommodates children three to thirteen years of age and ups the fun ante by utilizing kid-specific tools and games during instruction. And because we parents are nosy, the instructors provide a post-lesson report card detailing your little skier’s skill and cognitive-based progress.
Most vacations to extreme sports destinations, while pregnant, are annoying – you can’t do much but eat, sleep and be bummed that you’re not participating in the adventure seeking. But not at June Lake – while famous for its family-friendly downhill skiing, this cozy mountain town offers plenty of ways for “with child” ladies to have an envy-worthy snow sojourn.
Just thirty minutes away from the chic resort of Mammoth, June offers a slower pace and amble amounts of relaxed rustic vibes. This isn’t a town where you need to feel pressure to have the cutest winter gear, “put on your face” to go out, or be fearful of your bank account being drained during your stay.
June Lake is just the place for you – you hardworking “baby maker” you – to recharge for the remainder of your epic journey into motherhood.
When I think about common sources of motivation, phrases like “meditation”, “self help books”, “my grandmother”, “that yoga guru”, and “affirmations” pop up – “supercross riders” have never been on my list, but maybe they should be.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with a supercross legend, Ricky Carmichael, the current star Ryan Dungey, and two up-and-comers, Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac, about what it takes to build the courage to compete in a sport wrought with unpredictable danger, frequent injuries, and intense rivalries, and how to settle into the sweet mental state that often results in a big win.
As we talked, I expected a slew of technical terms I wouldn’t understand to be thrown at me, but instead, I received poignant and thoughtful responses on what it takes to go all in when committing to the challenges of supercross, and a life riddled with obstacles.
Following are gems of wisdom from a few dudes who have made a career out of conquering their mental doubts and physical limitations.
1. It’s Not Failing, It’s Learning. The term “failing” is not in Ricky Carmichael’s lexicon, instead, he uses the term “learning.” He views a mistake as an opportunity to wipe the drawing board clean and build a new and better way to tackle the challenge at hand.
Ryan Dungey seconds this sentiment, believing that his ability to objectively view a mistake, tweak his strategy, and fully commit to implementing that strategy during practice allows him to move into his next race with a refreshed mental state, which is important because . . .
2. Success Comes With a Sound Mental State. As Ryan Dungey puts it, “You can be the fittest guy out there, but if you don’t have it going on mentally, the physicality doesn’t mean anything.”
When life throws you into a high intensity situation, be it on a field or track, in a boardroom, or even a tense conversation with a spouse, a healthy mental state is the best tool to not just make it through, but find favorable results on the other side.
But, that healthy mental state doesn’t live in the realm of overconfidence, or the domain of timidity – it lies somewhere in the middle. As Eli Tomac says, “You don’t want to bring overconfidence because you might get caught sleeping, but, you don’t want to be too nervous and lose your way – try to find the middle.”
Sounds great, but how to do we find that mental middle ground . . .
3. Preparation Is Key. All four riders reiterated that preparation is, as Ryan Dungey says, “the best way to be ready for the challenge.” And when asked if he had any rituals before a race Ricky Carmichael reminisced that his only reliable ritual was preparation.
So folks, if at first you don’t succeed, do as Eli Tomac does and “go all in with preparation.” And the more you prepare, the easier it is to . . .
4. Keep your cool, and focus on yourself. In our social media obsessed culture it can be easy to get lost in what everyone else is doing – becoming despondent if someone scored a goal you’ve been vying for, feeling “less than” if a colleague is able to log more hours of prep than you, or getting distracted by irritation if a competitor seems adamant to goad you. Ryan Dungey battles this by “keeping my cool, and focusing on myself.”
So, if you become overwhelmed by the doings of others, circle back to your own unique talents and abilities, devote your energy to putting in the work towards your goal, and allow the resulting sense of power to return you to a lovely state of equilibrium.
And above all else . . .
5. Be in it for the long haul. In supercross (and most things in life worth working for) a championship is not won in one race, it’s won over a series of races. Losing perspective, by becoming ruled by the outcome of one event in a series, pulls you out of the long-term focus and lasting spirit you need to conqueror the ultimate win. Ken Roczen described it as, “Being out of for blood, but not overreacting.” Love it.
Want to see how this advice pans out for these boys? With the exception of retired Ricky Carmichael, these three riders just began their 2017 supercross season that is sure to offer an intriguing seventeen rounds, leading to the crowning of a champion.
I’m addicted to the spirit of Christmas – so much so that I would happily pull up roots and move to Santa’s Village if the big guy extended an invite.
This ever-present craving for all things jolly, cheery and evergreen-y pulled me to downtown San Francisco two weeks before The Big Day. I wanted a chance for my young son, husband and I to get away for a mini and merry trip before we were absorbed into the loving chaos of our extended family.
While most Christmas themed areas leave me wanting more (more mistletoe, more lights, more hot chocolate, more classic holiday tunes, more wreaths, more red, more green, and more cheer) I left my holiday getaway to SF full of joy, wonder and peppermint flavored spirits.
Have a hankering for your own holiday themed sojourn? Here are events and activities in downtown San Francisco to help you create the ultimate Christmas family vacation.
Did you know that the yum factor of coffee and beignets ramps up exponentially after grooving your groove thang to a few sets of live music?
Do your taste buds, and ears, and eyes, and heck, your everything a favor and head to New Orleans for one (or all!) of the following music festivals, sure to leave you blissed-out and figuring out how to extend your trip by a few days.
“Sorry boss, (cough cough) I think I pulled my hamstring doing a wicked version of the Cajun Jitterbug and couldn’t possibly sit on an airplane.”
The following festivals offer audible treats for every palate, so pick your pleasure and book your flight.
Have you ever gone on a vacation and felt a need for a vacation when you returned home? Or, gone on vacation and arrived home feeling like you missed out on memory making during the trip? Cabo San Lucas, Mexico offers a lovely alchemy of relaxing and adventurous opportunities sure to send you home feeling rested, yet electric with memories of stimulating experiences.
Cabo’s desert climate, warm waters, luxurious yet playful accommodations and activities in water, sand or spa, create ideal conditions for vacation magic to grow. If you’re looking for a destination that will “magically” strip your inhibitions, and give you a tender loving massage (or mud bath) in between your bursts of adventure, get on the next plane to this land of milk and honey (and tequila.)
The following activities will help you and your Cabo getaway develop undeniable chemistry.
Burst your “safe zone” bubble right out of the gate by hopping in a UTV and exploring the desert that flows onto white sand beaches. You’ll feel much more deserving of that margarita by the pool after coating yourself in a few layers of thrill, and dirt.
Did you know there is a quirky haven tucked in the mountains above Reno, Nevada where you can watch camels and ostriches race, spy on ZZ Top bearded locals sipping pints of brew under colorful chandeliers and explore mines where millions of dollars worth of gold and silver were precariously pulled from the Earth in the mid-1800s?
All this goodness is living in Virginia City, Nevada.
When the mining industry went bonkers in the 19th century, Virginia City provided the means for forlorn prospectors to become mining-millionaires. Subsequently, many of their wives became widows- the average life expectancy of miners in this time was 45 (if they breathed some luck in with all the dust.)
The new Disney On Ice show, Follow Your Heart, is staying true to its moniker by recruiting cast and crew who have always pushed past seemingly impossible odds in the name of following the trail of their heart’s desire (and for many of them, that trail was paved with ice- ouch.)
Because Follow Your Heart is marrying the nostalgia of past greats like Fantasia, with the quirky new characters from Inside Out and Finding Dory (oh, and the characters from Frozen, duh) the show requires talent, on and off stage, that understand how to tap into the magical world of Disney within, to ensure the magic is exuded out into the eager hearts of the audience.
When you have a baby it can be a struggle just to put on some pants and walk to the mail box. Well, Sarah Bowman and Rene Coal Burrell of the band Famous Octoberhad the baby, put on the pants and didn’t just make it to the mailbox, they went on tour for the “One Day Baby” album they also birthed. Sarah and Rene are a living testament to the fact that creative passions, career and parenthood can harmoniously coexist as they travel through the United States sharing their music and nurturing their young family.
I was able to get a glimpse into their journey thus far, and gleaned plenty of inspiration for my own journey through motherhood.
Reno has been percolating with opportunity that is now being realized in community-focused gentrification- and I’m loving it. I used to think of Reno as a gateway to Tahoe, but a recent trip to “The Biggest Little City in the World” has flipped my script. I now view Reno as a trendy and entertaining stand-alone destination that allows me to carry a cup of wine around my neck as I walk along the river flowing through its center. I struck gold when I “discovered” Reno.
Here’s a few reasons you should shimmy into a plane seat headed for a Reno vacay, or maybe even score in their real estate market before it’s gobbled up by hipster Millennials.