Monday, January 9, 2017

My favorite family places in Salt Lake City Top 5

I told you I was going to post a top five list for the places I have lived in the past few years (really the past 9 years). We have moved a lot in that time and I have covered those places, Omaha, Spokane, Scottsdale, Aberdeen, and Yakima. I thought I was done there, but I am going to include one more place, the place I call home in spite of the fact I haven't lived there in about 14 years, the place of my birth, where I visit frequently and where my family still resides: Salt Lake City, Utah (which I will abbreviate as SLC from here on out)! Which incidentally is one of the most family friendly places you will ever find! 

One final Top Five family spots: SLC

Top 5 Salt Lake City

I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and lived there until the end of 4th grade. We moved away for a few years while my dad was in law school. We moved back to SLC when I was starting ninth grade. I graduated from high school there (Go Titans!) and College there (Go Utes!). After college I taught high school there for a year before this whole medical schooling journey took us away to Omaha. Though I haven;t lived in SLC for many years, we visit several times a year and it is home for me! So, this one might read more like a visitor than a local view, but here's to hoping I still sound a little like a Utah native! Gosh! :)

Before my list, One Note on DEALS in Utah: 

There are a couple GREAT discount passes you can get if you plan to do several activities in Utah. SO, before you plan a trip to Salt Lake, or if you live there.

What is it? A ski resort

My Experience with it: My family never skied growing up, but we did have a summer time share at Snowbird. So, for most of my growing up years I spent a week in the summer staying in the Iron Blossom Lodge at Snowbird. Which pretty much makes me an expert, well except for the part where I had no clue what was going on at that SKI RESORT during the winter. LOL. I have skied a few times with my husband and kids as an adult. But we had not done a real ski trip in Utah. When we visit Utah, almost all our time is spend visiting family. So, we had not skied much in Utah with our kids. Last Christmas (like a month ago), Wes (my husband) had the week before Christmas off work so we took the kids to Utah, but decided this time we were going to spend the first 3-4 days of our 9 days there at Snowbird skiing as a family. So we stayed at the Cliff Lodge and were able to ski and figure out the winter part of Snowbird. It just makes me love it even more. 

Where is it? Up Little Cottonwood Canyon. 

What can you do there and what does it cost?  There is so much to do there-ski, swim (if you're staying there), play in the arcade, hang out at the snowbird center, hike, ride the tram! Some of it is free (If you want to hike in the summer, just drive up, find a parking spot and start hiking), but much of it costs money (skiing!). Check out their website for more details

What is it? A park with a pond in the middle, lots of picnic areas, a couple playgrounds, and tons of grass!

My Experience with it: I grew up not far from Sugar House park and spent lots of time sledding and playing in this park. I've been to many a picnic in the covered shelters. It is a big park with lots of meeting places.

Where is it? 1330 2100 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84106

What can you do there and what does it cost? You can sled, play in the park, go for a walk or meet up with friends. It is a fun park, but really it's just a park...and it's FREE! 

3. Temple Square

What is it? The grounds around and including the LDS Temple in downtown Salt Lake City. 

My Experience with it: Well, I was married in the temple, and I have visited Temple Square many, Many times in my life. 

Where is it? Downtown SLC. It is hard to miss, and the grid numbering system of the streets on SLC basically radiate out from the Temple. Here is a description of how to get there

What can you do there and what does it cost? So, to go in to the Temple you have to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and you have to hold what is called a temple recommend. BUT don't let that deter you from visiting the grounds. There is a visitor's center where all are welcome to tour, and there are missionaries at Temple Square that can take you on a tour of the grounds and tell you about the history. Or you can take a self-guided tour. ALSO, if you are in SLC during Christmas season, the amazing lights at Temple Square are not to be missed! It is absolutely beautiful there during the Christmas Season. Please read more about Temple Square here

4. Thanksgiving Point

What is it? A big "campus" with shopping, museums, farms, and lots of stuff to do with kids.

My Experience with it: Honestly this was new and not anything like it is now when we moved here, but now every time we visit, people want to meet there for one reason or another. To go to one of the museums or farms, or movies. So, we have been there just about every time we have visited for the last several (10?) years.

Where is it? 3003 Thanksgiving Way, Lehi, UT 84043, USA

What can you do there and what does it cost?  There are a few main events to visit here. I will list them below with a link to each item so you can check out current prices and descriptions:
5. Seven Peaks SLC

What is it? A water park (It was Raging Waters when I was growing up, but Seven Peals bought it a while back) 

My experience with it: I had my 12th birthday party here (when it was Raging Waters). And my family has been there a few times over the past few years. Because we have bought the Pass of all Passes which lets us do lots of awesome stuff including this water park! Some might argue that that the Provo Seven Peaks is better, but I like the SLC one best. Personal preference I guess.

Where is it? In SLC: 1200 West 1700 South in Salt Lake City, UT 

What can you do there and what does it cost? This is a seasonal option for summer fun! Water slides, lazy river, wave pool, and more! Cost changes year to year, but we have found that we go more than one day a year so the Pass of Passes is the best bang for our buck! If you watch Groupon deals in SLC, usually they have awesome deals on The Pass of all Passes. 

As I said earlier, I grew up in Salt Lake, so it was tough, REAL tough to keep this list at 5 items! So here are some honorable mentions that probably should be squeezed into more of a top 10:

  • This is the Place Park (It is a Pioneer site with old time activities, shows, and even live animals. My sister works at the livery stable so you might even see her there if you're lucky!)
  • Hogle Zoo (I grew up going to this zoo. Make sure to get the obligatory picture at the lion drinking fountain!)
  • U of U (University of Utah). #GoUtes! When I was a kid, my dad was in school at the University of Utah and we lived in family housing on campus. I lived there until I was 8 years old. So, I have often said I grew up on the campus. Later I went to the U and got my degree in Theater education. I include it on this list because walking or biking this campus was the most fun as a kid! Plus there are tons of collegiate sports and excellent college theater as well as a professional theater on campus. AND there are tons of kids camps and programs throughout the year and especially during the summer. Check out Youtheater where I worked for several summers during college! Great summer program for kid to experience theater! 
  • Discovery Gateway  A hands on children's museum
  • Clark Planetarium I love planetariums and this one is big! And fun!
  • Lagoon Utah's amusement park! As a kid I thought it was a half step below Disneyland. As an adult I can say it is not to that level, but it is certainly fun! And it is full of great roller coasters! Which I love! 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Top Five Family Fun for Yakima...So Far...

Once again, as I said in this post, I often wonder where the locals really hang out in the places I visit (or when I move to a new place). So, I am going to share my top five local hang out spots from the places I have lived.   I posted about OmahaSpokaneScottsdale, and Aberdeen so far. Today's city is I am JUST discovering, so this list will likely evolve over the years, but for now, here is my Yakima list! 
Top 5 Yakima
After my husband did a fellowship at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ for a year, he took his first "real job" post-training in Aberdeen, WA. We spend 3 years there. Then last year my husband got an amazing job offer in Yakima, WA, and we moved here summer of 2016. We are really just discovering this area and have so, SO much more to explore, so this list is what we have found and loved so far
1. Get Air 
What is it? A trampoline park
My experience with it: We have gone here as a family a couple times and a couple of my kids have been invited to parties here. 
Where is it? 1015 E Lincoln Ave, Yakima, WA 98901
What can you do here and what does it cost? There are trampolines, foam pits, basketball courts (trampoline basketball courts), and more. They have birthday rooms as well. Current prices can be found here
2. Skateland 
What is it? A skating rink
My Experience with it: Very limited. My younger daughter went to a birthday party there and I was there for about 10 minutes picking her up, It is on this list because my daughter LOVED it and cannot wait to go back! It looked like a lot of fun and we will be planning a family fun time there soon! 
Where is it? Actually in Union Gap at  2506 Old Town Rd. Near the Mall. 
What can you do here and what does it cost? I know you can skate there, and there are a few arcade games. Check out more info on their site here.
3. Cowiche Canyon trail
What is it? Hiking trails
My Experience with it: We have hiked a few times up on the trails. It is great hiking. Our kids did great the couple times they hiked with us here. 
Where is it? The trail head locations are in different spots, so look here for the directions to the trail heads.  
What can you do here and what does it cost? Walk, bike, or ride horses on these trails. Kids and Dogs welcome, but they warn to make sure your kids follow the rules and make sure you clean up after your dogs and keep them leashed. Cost-FREE! Yeah! 
4. Akin Center Theatre
What is it? A Theater/performing arts center (plus a center for dance, drama, and music classes AND a preschool). 
My Experience with it: My oldest 3 kids were just in The Secret Garden in October (my middle son played Colin Craven) and my 4th child was just in The Nutcracker in December, That 4th child also takes dance classes there. 
Where is it? 1610 S 24th St, Yakima 98902
What can you do there and what does it cost? Go watch a show! Or take a class. This is a small but mighty community theater that also educates kids in the arts! As a former high school drama teacher I LOVE that! Check out their site and see what they have going on. 
5. Sarg Hubbard Park on the Yakima Greenway
What is it? A park on a larger walking trail
My Experience with it: My husband and I love to walk on the trail around here and this is a park our family loves. We walk here fairly often.
Where is it? 111 S 18th St, Yakima, WA 98901

What can you do there and what does it cost? Play at the playground, walk the trails, feed the ducks on the pond. Just enjoy the area! (If you like Pokemon Go, there are a few Poke Stops around the park and a couple gyms.)
And speaking of Pokemon Go, if you like to play, here's a bonus tip: Downtown, in the area surrounding The Second Street Grill is a GREAT place to play-lots of Poke stops, gyms, and Pokemon spawns. 
I am looking forward to finding more places to hang out in Yakima! For now though, these are our favorites! 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Top Five places our family loves in Aberdeen, WA

Once again, as I said in this post, I often wonder where the locals really hang out in the places I visit (or when I move to a new place). So, I am going to share my top five local hang out spots from the places I have lived.   I posted about OmahaSpokane, and Scottsdale so far. Today's city is not as big or as well known, but equally loved by our family: Aberdeen, WA! 
Today's Top 5: Aberdeen
If you have heard of Aberdeen, you either live in Grays Harbor or are a Nirvana/Kurt Cobain fan. Aberdeen is known as the place where Kurt Cobain grew up, the place he "escaped". But locals don't really like to be know for that. And to be fair, it is so much more than just the place Kurt Cobain was from. When driving through Aberdeen to get the the ocean, you probably get a poor impression of the city because the area you drive through is basically the part of town that is in the worst shape. Plus there is a big homelessness problem in Aberdeen and you will see it as you drive through. 
But at the heart of Aberdeen is everyday working people that are quirky, and loving, and fun. It is a small community where the mayor is your neighbor and little league football field is the place to be on Saturdays. Where Friday nights in the fall will find the whole town at the high school football game, Where a thriving theater community is prevalent. It is a place where kids have opportunities to really develop their talents with involved families and community members. It is a place where the neighbors all know each other and watch out for one another.
And this little community is the place that I most recently left a little piece of my heart! The people make this city what it is, so it's good to know where they all hang out. 
Here is my list of the Top 5 Places where I hung out in Aberdeen with my family: 

What is it? A gym, swimming pool, sports center, preschool, etc.

My Experience with it: When I moved to Aberdeen, several people told me to joint he YMCA. I did because I thought it would be good for sports and activities for the family and I hoped I would be motivated to work out. I had no idea how much time I would spend at the Y. It is really a hub of activity for the community. I worked out there, my kids took swim lessons and played sports, and my youngest even went to preschool there (best preschool in town!). So, I had a lot of experience with the YMCA in a lot of different areas. And I can tell you, I talked to half the town at the Y each week! People participate in Y programs and work out there. It is a local hang out! I miss the Y!

Where is it? 2500 Simpson Ave, Hoquiam, WA 98550

What does it cost and what can you do there? OK, so admittedly as a visitor to Aberdeen/Hoquiam, this might not be the main hang out, but it is on my list because I was literally here daily.  Often I was there multiple times a day. There is a ton to do there-free swim or swimming lessons, working out, playing sports, taking classes, preschool, etc. There is even a drop in child care area so parents can work out in peace for an hour and a half/day. If you are living in or near Aberdeen/Hoquiam, you really should get an annual membership (Membership rates and details can be found here) AND as a visitor, you CAN get a day pass-it would be worth the cost to swim during open pool time with the family! 
2. Little League Football field and baseball field

What is it? Little league football and baseball fields/games

What is my experience with it? My sons played little league football every year we lived there. They did not play baseball, but baseball is even bigger in town than football. The little league games are actually fun to go watch and they have great facilities, The little league baseball fields are in south Aberdeen and the football little league plays home games on the same field that Aberdeen High school plays their games on. Lots of the locals come to the games. If you are visiting town you will likely find a big group of people to meet or visit with at these events. Plus they are entertaining (my husband was assistant coach and he got booted out of the game by the ref at the very first away game. The ref was an idiot...BUT, It can get a little heated out there, but is just pure entertainment to watch). There are always great concessions to buy that help support the programs too, so come hungry and just plan to stay for the day and watch all the games! :) 

Where are they? Aberdeen Little League Baseball fields/Pioneer Park Sports Complex: 214 S Tildon . The Aberdeen Little League Football plays at Stewart Field: 800 Willard St  Stewart Field is also where you will find half the town each Friday night in Fall cheering on the Aberdeen football team, the other half of town is usually cheering Hoquiam high school! :) 

What does it cost and what can I do there? Go watch some kids sports and eat some food to support the organizations! Admission to games is usually a donation and food prices vary, 

3. Bishop Center 

What is it? A performing arts center/theater

What is my experience with it? Right after moving to Aberdeen, my oldest son was asked to sing with the Grays Harbor Symphony at a Christmas performance at the Bishop Center (You can watch his performance here). Shortly after that, my husband, oldest son and I were in Les Miserables there, and just this year my middle son played Michael Banks in Mary Poppins there. We have also gone to watch quite a few shows there. The shows are Phenomenally well done and the special events are always entertaining! 

Where is it? Located on the campus of Grays Harbor College. Address is: 

What does it cost and what can you do there? There is a variety of special event shows that come here as well as Orchestra and Choral performances and main stage theater productions twice a year. Prices vary for each show. They are currently rehearsing for Anything Goes which will open in March. Check out all the upcoming events here.

4. 7th Street Theater

What is it? A theater in Hoquiam

My Experience with it: This theater, like Bishop center, has special events that come through (even Macklemore stopped here on his small town tour last year!). There are monthly movie nights as well. BUT my main experience with this theater was working as a board member for the group 7th Street KIDS. Each summer the KIDS group puts on a musical in 6 weeks with kids ages 7-16. And they are great! They also do a mini-camp show that is a 2 week long program with a short musical for ages 6-12. My kids were in Honk!, My Son Pinocchio, and my younger daughter played Baloo in Jungle Book Kids version (at mini camp). So, I have a special place in my heart for the summer show put on by 7th Street KIDS! 

Where is it? 313 7th Street, Hoquiam, WA 98550

What Does it cost and what can you do there? There are a lot of special events happening at the theater with varying prices. Check out the list of upcoming events here. (Notice Hoquiam High school performs their musical here each year-I wish I could see Little Shop of Horrors next month!!!) And take note of their popular Movie series!

5. Sam Benn Park and Finch Park

What are they? Parks, they are both parks

My experience with them: Yeah, I know I am cheating on this one as this is clearly two different parks. But guys, I have to include both because my kids liked Sam Benn best, but Finch has a spray ground, so I couldn't ignore that appeal. So, this is a two for one! 

Where are they? Sam Benn: 300 Hanna Ave, Finch: 608 W Sumner.

What can I do there and what does it cost? FREE! Parks to play at for free! Sam Benn is my kids favorite as it has disc golf, a playground, basketball courts, and usually their friends were there! But I am including Finch here too because on a hot summer day you will find LOTS of friends cooling off at the spray ground there. Finch also has a playground, covered picnic tables, basketball courts and a baseball diamond. 

Honorable mentions: 
  • Rainier Lanes Bowling at 415 W Heron, Aberdeen (Fun place to bowl with a mini golf area and some arcade games. It's right by Safeway)
  • Lake Sylvia at 1812 N Lake Sylvia Rd, Montesano, WA 98563. LOVE this place. The only reason it's not on my list is because it is Montesano! Go there! (You need a Discover Pass
  • Harborena at 2112 Simpson Ave in Hoquiam. Fun Skating spot. My kids loved it.
  • Extreme Fun Center in the Mall at 901 S Boone St in Aberdeen. This place opened right about the time we moved away, but we went back to visit and spent some time here. If we lived in Aberdeen still, this would be a major hang out I am sure! It is a lot of fun! Check it out! 
  • Coming Attractions Movie Theater in the mall at 1017 S Boone St (the other side of the mall from the Extreme Fun Center). 

Beckees Top Five Places to hang out in Scottsdale with the Fam

Once again, as I said in this post, I often wonder where the locals really hang out in the places I visit (or when I move to a new place). So, I am going to share my top five local hang out spots from the places I have lived.   I posted about Omaha and about Spokane so far. 

Today's Top 5: Scottsdale
So, after living in Omaha for 8 years (with a one year break in the middle in Spokane), we moved to Scottsdale, AZ where my husband was doing a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic there. So, like Spokane, it was only a  year spent there, but unlike Spokane, I was not on bed rest! :) Yeah! We loved Scottsdale and really tried to take advantage of the beautiful sunny weather! I learned that I love hot places. I had great air conditioning in our rental house (and basically everywhere), so the extremely hot summers didn't even bother me. It was actually a pretty heavenly year. 

In no particular order, here are my top 5 favorite Family hang outs in (and around) Scottsdale: 

1. Fountain Hill Park 

What is it? A Park surrounding a lake with fountain. With a disc golf course and a Spray ground (important stuff in Scottsdale)!

My Experience with it: I know, this is not in Scottsdale, but in Fountain Hills. But guys, I love it here. Seriously, LOVE it! From where we lived, it was a short drive up to Fountain Hills. It was a very oft visited park for us since we love disc golf and the splash pad was a great place to cool off in the Arizona heat. I would guess we came here once a week at least...

Where is it? 12925 N Seguaro Boulevard, Fountain Hills, AZ 85268 

What can you do there and what does it cost? FREE to disc golf, play on the playground or splash pad, or to walk around the park). But since you will already be in Fountain Hills, you should stop over and spend some money on some of the most delectable chocolates ever at Chocofin! YUM! 
2. Lost Dog Wash Trailhead in McDowell Sonoran Preserve 

What is it? Hiking Trails in a preserve

My Experience with it: We like to hike and be active as a family as much as possible, so this was an awesome find! When my kids started school in Arizona, we discovered that there was a parking area and trail head for great hikes, just past their school. It was awesome. So close to home, and really fun! We went on these trails often. Once or twice a month at least. They are family friendly, but stay on the trails to avoid the walking cacti. And MAKE SURE to bring WATER!!! (Gotta stay hydrated in that hot climate)

Where is it? Located at the North end of 124th Street beyond Anasazi Elementary School. (Go to Anasazi at 12121 N 124th St in Scottsdale, drive north past the school and you will drive right into the parking lot for the trail heads)

What can you do there and what does it cost? You can hike some awesome trails! It's FREE! Bring Water!

3. Camelback

What is it? Another Hiking Spot, right in the middle of town

My Experience with it: Here is where I get to hang my head in shame. I only tried to hike this 2 times, both times we had all our kids with us. The youngest 2 were 1 and 3 at the time. It was hard to help them up and at some point I turned around with them both times and sent my husband the rest of the way up with the older kids. So, I have never made it to the top. It is now a bucket list item to do so! Side note-if you have young kids like that it may be a tougher hike than they can handle...but if youare fit and can help them, you can totally make it. BRING WATER though...

Where is it? There are 2 trails up. Echo Canyon Tail parking is at 4925 E. McDonald Dr. And Cholla Trail (which incidentally does NOT have parking at the trail head) is at 6131 E. Cholla Lane. But you can park down the street. Here is the official page with info about Camelback. Also Check out this page for some great info about where to park when planning to hike either of these trails. 

What can you do there and what does it cost? Hike. Hike to the top of Camelback then come back here and shame me for not making it to the top. Oh, it's free, but parking is a beast so plan to go early in the morning (like 4 am early) or plan to take a while to park. BRING WATER!!! Staying hydrated in the AZ heat is super duper important friends! 

Please check out this awesome site for lots of info about Camelback.  

4. Phoenix Zoo

What is it? A zoo.

My experience with it: One of my biggest regrets about my time in Scottsdale is that I did not discover the zoo sooner. It was my own fault really. Lots of friends told me to go, but I just honestly didn't want to pay. But near the end of our year there, my mother in law came to visit and she and I decided to fork out the big bucks and take the kids there. 

Where is it? 455 N Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ 85008  

What can you do there and what does it cost? First of all, as I mentioned above, it is expensive (base prices are about $25/day for ages 14+, $15/day for ages 3-13. Free for ages 2 and under), but it was worthwhile to spend some time there. In retrospect I should have bought a membership when I first moved there and we for sure would have made it worth the $170 it costs for the Family membership (Now I have enough kids over the age of 3 that I would need to buy the $270Family Plus plan, but I still think that would be worth it.)  BUT there really is a lot to do there. Obviously there are lots of cool animal exhibits, but they also have (for additional costs) a 4-D theater, a train, a carousel and camel rides.

5. Wet N Wild Phoenix

What is it? An awesome water park

My Experience with it: Let me tell you something, when we were moving to Scottsdale, most of the houses had pools. I searched and searched for a house without a pool because I had 5 kids under 10 years old and none of them were great swimmers (ironic as I am now living in Yakima and looking to buy a house with a pool). I quickly regretted that decision (though I did feel safer at home without a pool in the back yard). We needed a place to go a cool off. We discovered there was a Wet N Wild water park in Phoenix, AND we discovered that there was a deal on season passes. So we splurged and bought season passes for the whole family. It was a bit of a drive away, but the kids and I spent a big chunk of our summer there. 

Where is it? 4243 W Pinnacle Peak Road, Glendale, AZ 85310

What can you do there and what does it cost? Prices are a little much for daily passes, but you can usually get a great deal on season passes. Current daily prices are listed here and season pass info is here. As far as what you can do, there is a variety of slides, a wave pool (my fave), and a lazy river. Lots to do and a great place to cool off during the summer. 

It was super hard to keep this list to 5 items and here are a few Honorable mentions that really could easily have been on this list. So, make sure to check these out as well!

  • McCormick Stillman Railroad Park at 7301 E Indian Bend Road in Scottsdale. It is a blast! Do not miss it.
  • Pools are a huge deal in AZ since it is so hot! Most houses have pools, so if you live there, make friends, if you stay at a hotel, plan to make use of the pool, or if all else fails, go to a public pool. There is a list of public pools here. 
  • Professional Baseball teams do Spring Training in Scottsdale/Phoenix area. If you are there for that, make sure to catch a game! 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Beckees Top 5 Spokane hang outs for families

Once again, as I said in this post, I often wonder where the locals really hang out in the places I visit (or when I move to a new place). So, I am going to share my top five local hang out spots from the places I have lived.  Yesterday I posted about Omaha

Next Up: Spokane

I told you yesterday that I lived in Omaha for my husband's medical school for four years, moved away for a year, then lived in Omaha again for four years of Radiology residency. That year in the middle was spend living in Spokane, Washington. This was our first experience living in the state that was clearly destined to be our ultimate home/settling place. 

To give you some background about that year, I have to admit that I did not get to venture out as much as I would have liked that year because I was unexpectedly (but excitedly) pregnant that year. And it was my rough pregnancy where I went into pre-term labor at about 20 weeks and was on bed rest for the next 20 weeks. I was so lucky to have a church family that took care of me even though I was still pretty new there, and 2 of my 3 older kids were going to preschool at the First Presbyterian Church preschool (which is now a full Pre K-5th grade Private School) in downtown Spokane,, and those wonderful moms and teachers helped me out a lot too! PLUS there was a great group of resident doctors wives that helped me a ton as well (in spite of the fact that several of them were also pregnant). AND my family from far and wide took turns flying in to Spokane to help me. So, in spite of the rough health circumstances of the year, I managed to find some gems in the city for places to send my family with my kids (or for me to go to when I was able to).

We lived right near downtown Spokane, so most of the places we hung out were near there. There are, I am sure, many more places in Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake areas, and even Coeur d'Alene areas that I am missing, but for ME, there were the solid hang out areas my kids and family LOVED!

Again, in no particular order, here are my Top 5 places to hang out in Spokane with a family:

1. Manito Park

What is it? A park with many beautiful themed gardens, a playground, pond and even a popular sledding hill.

My Experience with it: Honestly this was the be all end all hang out spot for my family. It was not too far from home, had a park, sledding hill, and so, so many beautiful gardens! Even when I was on bed rest, sometimes I would cheat just to get out of the house for a little bit and we would drive over here and I would sit and watch the kids play, or sit in one of the gardens. I love so much about this place! 

Where is it? 1702 S. Grand Blvd. Spokane, WA 99203

What can you do there and what does it cost? FREE. There is so much to do, and it's free! You can feed ducks at the pond, play at the playground, wank through the gardens, or sled down the hill (in the winter of course). This is a kids dream, but the gardens are still so peaceful and beautiful. My favorites are the Japanese Garden and the Rose Garden. Beautiful! 

2. Riverfront park

What is it? Yes, another Park. This one is right downtown on the river and there is a ton to do here! 

My Experience with it: We moved to Spokane at the end of June and I was put on bed rest sometime in January (If I remember right), so I had a few months to explore before bed rest took over. Most of my exploring time was spent at Manito Park and Riverfront Park. I was trying to be more fit and active back then, and I would drop my kids off at preschool then my 1 year old and I would walk over to Riverfront Park and he would play for a while then we would walk back to the car. So, we spent quite a bit of time here. There is a ton to do. Honestly, when we lived in Spokane, we could barely afford rent, food and the basics, so our activities had to be free. There's tons to do at this park, but we just did the free stuff (mostly).

Where is it? 507 N Howard St, Spokane, WA 99201

What can you do there and what does it cost?  There is a lot do do for FREE, but there is a lot to do that costs money as well. Plus you will need to plan to pay for parking as well (unless you walk from somewhere with free parking). My favorite FREE things about the park include the giant Red Wagon slide (my kids love this), the sculpture walk and the Spokane Falls. Some of the things we DID pay for at one point or another include the Skyride Over the Falls and the 1909 Looff Carrousel. There is so much to do there that I cannot really list it all (or the prices), so let me refer you to this site for more information about Riverfront Park.  

3. Riverside State Park (Nine Mile Falls)

What is it? A recreation area with an interpretive center, hiking trails and camping sites. 

My experience with it: OK, This is a site that makes the list based on my friends, family and mostly my husband's recommendations. I actually only made it up here once for a short hike. But when  I was making this list, my husband brought this place up and I remembered that he and the boys camped here with church and had hiked here. I had friends that lived near here and met to hike often. As I said, I only went once, but it was great and I would recommend it for sure! 

Where is it? 9711 W Charles Road, Nine Mile Falls, WA 99026 

What can you do there and what does it cost? This is a Washington State park, so you need a Discover Pass to go into this area. So, the cost is for either a day pass ($10) or an annual pass ($30, and if you live in Washington, get the annual pass-there are lots of awesome areas that require Discover Passes to use them. Totally worth the cost). While there, you can hike, cross country ski (winter), boat (summer),  camp, rock climb, or check our the interpretive center! 

4. U Pick Orchards/Green Bluff

What is it? A group of farms where you can go to pick and/or purchase fresh produce.

My Experience with it: We went to Green Bluff only a couple times when we lived in Spokane and I still miss it. Greatly. Fresh, awesome produce from a variety of farms! It's like going to a Farmers market, but actually going to the actual farms. The hardest part is deciding where to stop and how much you should really get. :) 

Where is it? Green Bluff is located about 15 minutes north of Spokane and is nestled at the foothills of Mt. Spokane. It is divided into two loops of farms, the East and the West. Click here for directions.

What can you do there and what does it cost? Prices vary. You can drive around the loops and find the fresh produce of your dreams (Or of my dreams-seriously, I still dream about this mecca of fresh produce). Some of the farms have U pick options, others just have freshly picked produce available for purchase. 

5. Spokane Valley Mall 

What is it? Literally just a mall

My Experience with it: We took the drive out East to the valley the first time because someone recommended we check out the most amazing game store ever, Uncle's games in the Spokane Valley Mall That was a great recommendation-it really is an awesome game store! But we also discovered that there was an indoor children's play area that my young kids (at the time) LOVED! What a blessed FREE indoor area to discover for cold winter days with kids that need to get out of the house! It was a drive for us, but worth it.

Where is it? 14700 East Indiana Avenue, Spokane Valley, WA 99216

What can you do there and what does it cost? Cost varies of course. You can shop and spend as much as you want OR just let your kids play in the play area for free. Whatever you do, make sure to stop in Uncle's games and check it out. You may spend more than you intended though because it is awesome! Just consider that fair warning! But even if you aren't going to purchase anything, go there anyway just to see all the unique games they have available. 

That is my Spokane Top five hang outs for families (at least for my family), but here are a few bonus suggestions:

  • Coeur D'Alene: One of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life. The area of the lake near Coeur d'Alene Resort is amazing. It is about 40-60 minute drive from Spokane, but totally worth it.
  • Liberty Lake: Check out the lake and the areas around it. Beautiful. (Side note, if we ever moved back to Spokane area, this is probably where my husband would want to live)
  • Children's museum (Mobius): I got to chaperone a couple field trips here. It was a lot of fun. I would for sure check it out with kids. My kids particularly loved the Philippines area since their dad lived in the Philippines for 2 years and they have heard about it their whole lives.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Beckees Top Five Omaha Places to hang with the family

As I mentioned in this post, I often wonder where the locals really hang out in the places I visit (or when I move to a new place). So, I am going to share my top five local hang out spots from the places I have lived. 

First Up: Omaha

My family lived in Omaha twice. Once for 4 years while my husband attended medical school (from 2003-2007), then we moved to Spokane, WA for a year before moving BACK to Omaha for another 4 years while my husband was in a radiology residency. So, we spent a total of 8 years in Omaha. 
BUT last lived there in 2012. So I am CERTAIN there are new places that are locals hangouts. I tried to pick the places I loved when I was there that I think are timeless! :) 
And again, I just want to emphasize that this is my personal top 5 faves in Omaha for places to hang out with a family. The list would look different if I was listing fave adult hang outs obviously! 
Without any further ado, here are my top five Omaha places to hang with your family (In no particular order).
1. Lake Zorinsky park and pool

What is it? Lake Zorinsky is a Lake surrounded by trails, a couple playgrounds, and an aquatic center. There are also soccer fields, basketball hoops, and lots of areas to explore.

My Experience with it: When we lived in Omaha during medical school we lived kind of in midtown, but during residency we lived in West Omaha near Lake Zorinsky. It was SO nice to live right where we could walk to this park and pool! But even before we lived near it, we would drive over to walk or play there. And the Pool opened when we were living nearby during residency which made the whole area even more awesome for us!

Where is it? 3808 S 156th St, Omaha, NE 68130

What can you do there and what does it cost?  
  • Walk, run or ride (non motorized) the 7.9 mile trail around the lake. FREE
  • Take the kids to one of the parks. Bring a picnic!  FREE
  • Bring a soccer ball or basketball and play a game (In winter, dress warm and build a snowman or have a snowball fight). FREE
  • During the summer season you can swim at the Zorinsky Aquatic center (See fee schedule here) You will see on the fee schedule at the link above that as of today (1/5/2017) the cost is $4-5 for a day pass per person (except kids 2 and under are free), or you can get a  $175 Family Pass (2 or fewer adults, 6 total) + $20 for each extra child. We literally lived a few blocks away, so we wanted to be able to go to the pool every day. Plus I have 5 kids. At the time one of them was under 2, so we bought the $175 family pass. (If you do the math, it would cost us $10 per day for the 2 adults plus $16 per day for the 4 kids over 2. That is $26 per day. So, If I was going to the pool 7+ times, which I was, then the pass was totally worth it!) 
Click here for my review of it on Trip Advisor

2. Henry Doorly Zoo & Wildlife Safari

What is it? OK, so this is two different places. The Henry Doorly Zoo (which is probably the number one tourist attraction people would recommend for families in Omaha) and the other is the Lee G Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari (which is technically in Ashland). I am including them both because the Zoo is kind of the big show and the think you should not miss as a tourist. It is also a place that locals with kids (especially stay at home parents) really do hang out. But I am including the Wildlife Safari because it is my favorite! And when we were there, the two were connected so you could get into the Wildlife Safari for really inexpensively if you were a zoo member. 
My Experience with it:  As mentioned, I love the wildlife safari. My husband does too, but honestly, the zoo was my husbands favorite! If he was the stay at home parent I bet he would have been there daily even though it was a bit of a drive.
Where are they? Henry Doorly Zoo is at 3701 S. 10th Street Omaha, NE 68107. Wildlife Safari Park is located off Nebraska’s I-80, Exit 426. 16406 N. 292 Street, Ashland, NE 68003

What can you do there and what does it cost?
  • Zoo: There is SO much to do and a lot of it is indoors, so you can absolutely go year round. There is a jungle area, a desert dome, and tons of other exhibits.  My favorite is to see the baby animals in the nursery area. Besides the animal exhibits, there are also a few rides/attractions, and an IMAX theater. So, here's the rub though-they all cost $$$. The zoo is not cheap for a daily pass, and you pay extra for rides, movies, etc. So, plan ahead. The zoo has a great site that can help you plan your day and see all the prices. When I lived in Omaha, I bought an annual pass each year and we always used it more than enough to make it worth our while! Daily admission fees are posted here and membership options (which I highly recommend if you will be there more than once or twice) are here
  • Wildlife Safari Park: Here you get to drive through where the animals live! I love it! But you need to know that it is only open for the summer season. Prices are listed here. Note that if you have a Zoo membership, you can add on a membership to the wildlife park at a discounted rate (making it $45 instead of $55), or you can pay the daily price if you'll just be there one day. Make sure you bring your camera to this one!!!

3. Omaha Children's Museum
What is it? Exactly what it says it is-a Children's museum. It has a farm area, grocery store, ball/science area, art area, traveling exhibits and more. It is hands on and is basically a big indoor discovery center that is a God-send in the middle of a cold, snowy Nebraska winter! 
My Experience with it: As soon as I discovered the Children's museum I wanted a membership! If you have young kids, especially preschool age, so not miss this! Seriously! Even older kids will have fun here, but it is PERFECTION for the kids from like 2-10. We spent a lot of time here when we lived in Omaha and even took advantage of some of their special programs (my oldest daughter got to meet an astronaut for a special program!) I love it.
Where is it? 500 S 20th St, Omaha, NE 68102

What can you do there and what does it cost? Tons of activities for kids including a farm area, grocery store, ball/science area, art area, traveling exhibits and more. As with the Zoo, you can pay a daily use fee OR you can join as a member. We always had a membership when we lived there. Admission, which includes special exhibits, is Free for Members and kind under 24 months, $12 for Adults and Kids, $11 for Seniors. Membership Prices are listed here. Just an FYI, when we lived there we would get the Family Membership (currently listed as $119/year) and we'd get the add 2 guests add on since we often had friends or family visiting that would come with us. 
4. Elmwood Park

What is it? A park. It has a big playground, huge fields/grassy areas, and a pool open during the summer.
My Experience with it: I met friends here and we'd let our kids play all the time. It is a nice big park, somewhat centrally located where kids can run and play! In winter, dress warm and plan to play in the snow! 

Where is it? 802 S 60th St

What can you do there and what does it cost? I only did the FREE things here-play on the playground, on the baseball fields, grassy areas, etc. But there is an outdoor pool open during the summer that is not free.  
5. Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

What is it? It is a Pedestrian bridge where you can walk from Nebraska to Iowa (or the other was around) over the Missouri river. Bob (the bridge) is basically awesome. 
My Experience with it: We would drive to the Omaha side of the bridge often for family walks. Not only is it family friendly, it is also some of the most breathtaking views you can get! 
Where is it? 705 Riverfront Dr Omaha, NE 68102

What can you do there and what does it cost? FREE. It is free-go for a walk or ride and just enjoy!! Walk it at sunset. You won't regret it. Bring a camera and get the famous picture of you standing in 2 states! Oh also, in the Omaha plaza (on the Nebraska side) there is a spray ground that is guaranteed to by full of frolicking kids during the hot summer days and the Iowa side has a fun park to play at as well. Lots for the family to do here! P.S. Here's Bob's website to check out.

Bonus Ideas:

Those are my top 5 hang out areas for a family in Omaha, but there are a few honorable mentions to look into if you are headed to Omaha anytime soon.
First, If you are going to Omaha in September/October, DO NOT miss Valas Pumpkin Patch, the Disneyland of Pumpkin Patches! See my review of it on TripAdvisor here. 
Here are my other honorable mentions:


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Top Five Favorites (As a local)

When you go somewhere, do you ever wonder where the locals really hang out? I always do, So I am going to share my top five local hang out spots from the places I have lived. 

Here's a preview of what to expect:

I have five kids ages 5-14. In the past 8 years we have lived in Spokane WA, Omaha NE, Scottsdale AZ, Aberdeen WA and Yakima WA. I am a stay at home mom, so whenever we move I try to find the best family friendly activities to do. I want fun stuff for me and the littles to experience. There are always the touristy destinations that you discover first, then the everyday nearby parks and hangouts for your neighborhood. And I am always looking to find the best family places to hang out without spending a lot of money. It usually ends up being a combo of the tourist places and local finds.

Free, fun activities are my favorite, but there are some things that are worth spending money on as well. For example, if I lived in Anaheim, Disneyland would be a place I would want to hang out at with my family. So, it would be worth it to me to spend the money to go there. BUT I would not buy a full price daily pass every time I wanted to go with the kids, I would want the most economical way to go there. So I would do the math-figure out how often I would REALLY go there. Am I going weekly? Monthly? Or will I really only go a few times during the year? Once I honestly assess how often I would go, then I would look at the ticket options and buy a pass for the option that is most economical. (In the Disneyland example, if I was a California resident, the best option for me would likely be to purchase a locals only annual pass.)

When you move to a place you have to find your places, the ones you want to hang out at, then find the smartest, most economical way to make that happen. Your places will probably be different than mine, but I thought I would take some time to share about my top places from the places I have lived. Be on the lookout for upcoming Top Five lists! 

My awesome Turtle Bay Photo

Guys! Hey Guys! As you have surely noticed, I love to travel. Like, LOVE it. (To be fair, the actual traveling part stresses me out, but that's another story). I have been sharing some of my travel experiences on here, but this is not the only place I contribute to. I actually love to contribute reviews on sites like TripAdvisor and Google. 
One of the things I do fairly often is to post pictures on Google maps of places I go. Most of them get a few views (like 1-1000), but I have one that I posted a couple weeks ago (the one pictured above) that has exploded to 160,000+ views because it is the MAIN picture you see when you google the place, Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu. Check it out here and see if my picture shows up as the main picture for you: Turtle Bay Resort on Google Maps

Monday, January 2, 2017

Christmas Adventures 2016 (for 2017 adventures)

For an explanation of our Christmas Adventures from last year check out this post, for the report of how the 2016 adventures went read this, and if you want to read about a specific adventure with the VIP experience at Universal Studios (including Harry Potter land) make sure to check out this post

And now that you have done some homework and read all that, I will tell you about the Christmas Adventures we opened on Christmas 2016 for adventures to be done in 2017. 

Before I do though, you should know that my husband has 3 weeks off this summer during the time the kids are out of school. We knew we would be planning vacations for those 3 week. We decided those 3 weeks (ie vacations) would be 3 of the adventures. We also wanted 2 more adventures so each of the 5 kids could open one adventure. This year each adventure had a large manila envelope attached to a small wrapped present. The kids were told to open the present, guess the adventure, then open the envelope to see if they had guessed right.

Adventure 1

The picture above shows the present/hint that came with this envelope. Can you guess what the adventure was (this one is pretty vague, so I bet no one will get it)? Here's the answer:

For this adventure, each of the 5 kids gets to plan a one on one "date" (thus the calander hint, full of dates) with mom and a one on one date with dad. This may seem like a small adventure, but it is a big deal. It tells our kids that we will make time for each of them individually. One of the dates has already happened. Our middle child and Wes went on a Poke-walk (playing Pokemon Go) for about an hour in the morning on Saturday (Wes used his phone and our son used my phone), then they went to breakfast together, then on another Poke-walk for about an hour. Planned by our son and he couldn't have been happier with it! I will update you on the upcoming 9 dates! 

Adventure 2

Based on the picture above did you guess the next adventure? Can you see that the hint was a book on Washington state? Here's the adventure to go along with it:

So, as I mentioned, we moved to a new city this year. So adventure 2 is a monthly family activity to discover a local adventure. These will include things like skiing and going to the local trampoline place. Maybe local fairs/carnivals, etc.

Adventure 3

Adventure 3 came with the book above as a hint. I bet you CAN guess this one:

I titled this one as "History has it's eyes on you". We plan to go to historical sites in Washington DC, and to visit my brother-in-law and his family. This adventure is one of our summer vacation adventures.

Adventure 4

Honestly this is a biggie. Can you guess what is is based on the hint above? It is one of the vacations for this summer, and it is combined as a gift to the kids AND to my parents and Wesley's parents. 

As pictured above, it is a "Big Fat Beach Family Fun". You can see we put that it will be a trip to California with my parents (XiaXia and Papou-that's Greek for grandma and grandpa) and Wesley's parents (Grandma and Grandpa). This is another one of the summer vacation weeks.

BUT I have to tell you something. On New years eve as Wes and I were planning this trip online, Wes had the idea to surprise everyone again and upgrade the trip to Hawaii! We found a great deal on a vacation package to the big island of Hawaii and we're going to take our kids and both sets of our parents there instead of California! 

As this was a Deals blog for many years, I want to share that part of the switch was because it was a deal. The accommodations (beach houses or hotels) were comparable between Hawaii and California. Air fare was more to Hawaii. However, if we went to southern Cal as planned, we were going to do Disneyland and Universal Studios, which are expensive. We found a vacation package at Costco Travel (great prices there by the way) for the Big Island of Hawaii that made it great! And Wes and I love the Big Island! So we are excited about that! 

Adventure 5

Can you guess this one?

If you guessed this one, congrats, you are awesome! I cannot find the picture that says what it is, but it's a "choose your own adventure". The kids get to pick the last summer vacation (within a set of rules pictured above of course, and pending approval of the parents that will be paying for it), Once they pick the destination, I will help them plan it, shop around for the best deals and get the whole thing ready to go. This one may or may not work. We shall see if the children can work together or not I guess! (If not I guess Wes and I take over). Here's to hoping it works!

As you can see, we have a FUN 2017 to look forward to! In addition to these fun things, Wes has a few times this year he will be going to Continuing Medical Education conferences and I get to go with him (thanks to our moms who will be coming to Yakima and taking care of our kids), plus we are celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary in May by going to NYC to see Hamilton (I bought the tickets last summer). 

This blog will probably look like a travel blog this year, but I will try to just keep letting you know what my deal is in other areas too! 

To sign off, I want to wish you all happy adventures in 2017! Happy New year!