Colonial Williamsburg without a ticket

Recently I was going to be in Williamsburg, Virginia with my family primarily to go to Busch Gardens (see my post 5 reasons Busch Gardens Williamsburg has something for everyone) but we were going to have about a half day leftover before we would have to go home, so I thought we could go to Colonial Williamsburg.  An adult ticket online is $25.99 for a “sampler ticket” that includes a visit to 2 trade shops, the shuttle, the public gaol, and a visit to one family home.  A single-day adult ticket for $40.99 will get you all of the aforementioned plus more city sites, trade shops, family homes and gardens, live reenactments in the streets, Governor’s Palace and Capitol Building access, admission to two art museums, and 10% discount on tours and evening programs.  Considering we would only have a few hours in the area I didn’t see spending over $100 for that, so I decided we would not buy tickets at all and see what we could see.

After a delicious breakfast at Aroma’s Specialty Coffees, Bakery, and Cafe we walked around the main street of Colonial Williamsburg, Duke of Gloucester Street.  I knew that some of the homes here are private residences and offices and if there is a British flag flying, that means it’s open to the public.  We kept our eyes open for the British flag and went in several shops such as The William Pitt Shop that sells children’s colonial clothing, hats, toys, games, and books.  We also browsed in Prentis Store that sells unique items handmade by skilled tradespeople using 18th-century tools and techniques.  We found that if a store or building had people standing outside in period clothing that looked like they were guarding the place, that meant you had to have a ticket to enter so after one or two instances like that, we quickly learned to just by-pass those places entirely.  I had read online that the Raleigh Tavern Bakery cranks out hot, fresh-from-the-oven gingerbread cookies every morning so we stopped there to pick up some and quickly devoured them.

Although we just got a little taste of Colonial Williamsburg, given that we only had a few hours to spend I was glad we didn’t spend the money for tickets and just did our own thing on our own pace.  I think if we would have bought tickets we would have felt obligated to cram as much in as we could, which would have just been a bad idea.  We never would have been able to see and do as much as is offered here and we would have just been exhausted.

There is very little you can see and do without a ticket, so if you plan on spending more than a few hours here, you should definitely buy a ticket and plan on spending at least a couple of days here. Bottom line is pretty much all you can do without a ticket is look at the buildings from the outside and browse in the shops and eat at the restaurants.  Would I go back and spend a couple of days to do Colonial Williamsburg properly?  I would and if you’re also a history buff, I recommend it for you and your family.

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5 reasons Busch Gardens Williamsburg has something for everyone

When I was a kid, my brother rode the Big Bad Wolf and Loch Ness Monster while I just watched, too scared to go with him. We were at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia but at this point in my life, I was too scared to ride roller coasters.  A few years after that, I discovered the adrenaline rush from riding roller coasters.  Recently, I wanted to go back as an adult to ride the coasters and let my daughter who had never been there experience the amusement park.  Unfortunately Big Bad Wolf, a suspended roller coaster that was in service since 1984 was closed permanently in 2009.  I love suspended coasters so I missed the boat on that one, but there are plenty of other roller coasters at BGW, which brings me to reason number 1 why Busch Gardens Williamsburg has something for everyone:  there are some great roller coasters here.

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Griffon Roller Coaster

Busch Gardens’ newest coaster Tempesto is a launch coaster with speeds up to 63 mph and a complete inversion 154 feet in the air.  Alpengeist is an inversion roller coaster that climbs to 195 feet and riders are hurtled through six inversions at speeds up to 67 mph.  Apollo’s Chariot has a drop of 210 feet and reaches a maximum speed of 73 mph.  Griffon has a 205-foot, 90-degree, 75 mph free fall.  Verboten® is a somewhat tamer roller coaster than the previously mentioned ones.  It is an indoor/outdoor ride with an 88-foot plunge toward the river.  A long-time favorite of the Busch Gardens coasters is Loch Ness Monster®.  This coaster has two loops and stretches 13 stories tall before racing down a 114-foot drop, with speeds as fast as 60 miles per hour.  Loch Ness is what I think of when I think of Busch Gardens Williamsburg.  The fact that is has been in operation since 1978 shows why it’s one of the most popular rides in the park.  It is a classic.

Reason number 2:  Busch Gardens Williamsburg is a beautiful amusement park.  It is divided into sections with different European countries as themes.  These sections are Germany and Octoberfest, France and New France, Ireland, Scotland, England, Italy, and Festa Italia, and  Jack Hanna’s Wild Reserve.  Each section has corresponding scenery, rides, attractions, and restaurants.  It is nice to just walk around the park and take in all of the details and the scenery.  If you don’t like riding amusement park rides, you can easily fill your day with shopping, dining, sightseeing, and people-watching.

When you need a break from riding rides, you can always take in a show, which is reason number 3:  the shows are good with high-quality actors, singers, and dancers.  There are 8 family-friendly shows spread out all throughout the day so watching at least one or two shouldn’t be too difficult for most people.  All For One™ premiered July 1 and is about the Musketeers.  Mix it Up! includes a team of chef musicians in Italy’s il Teatro di San Marco.  Celtic Fyre is a popular show featuring Irish song and dance.  London Rocks™ is a musical journey that explores the roots of rock-n-roll and in a 25-minute live action and multi-media rock show.  Roll Out The Barrel includes live musicians, singers and dancers, and incorporates some acrobatics in this musical about a contest in a German village.  Sunny Days Celebration is a sing- and dance-along for younger children and their families featuring  Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Grover, Cookie Monster and Zoe.  I really wanted to see The Secret Life of Predators but there just wasn’t enough time.  This is a live-animal show featuring some of North America’s top predators.  One of my favorite shows is More…Pet Shenanigans.  I love the fact that the animal trainers at the park wanted to incorporate rescued and shelter animals in a show.  The park also supports animal shelters with a program called Happy Tails in which they offer two free single-day tickets to the park to those who adopt a dog or cat from participating shelters.

BGW also offers several special events throughout the year, which is reason number 4: there are five festivals or special events throughout the year.  The Food & Wine Festival is late May through late June.  For the weekend of July 4th, there is the Fireworks Spectacular.  Similar to Octoberfest is the Beer Festival, Bier Fest in September.  The month leading up to Halloween includes Howl-O-Scream.  During the holiday season beginning around Thanksgiving there is Christmas Town.

Often we think of amusement parks as a place to go for fast roller coasters and other rides, but Busch Gardens Williamsburg has many rides, shows, and attractions for younger children, making this park truly family-friendly, my reason number 5.  They call it “KIDsiderate” and while they offer play areas like Land of the Dragons® and the Sesame Street® Forest of Fun™ there are also an abundance of strollers, changing tables, nursing rooms, and of course kid-friendly food offerings.  BGW also takes safety seriously and offer height-check stations to make sure your child is tall enough to ride certain rides.

Although I didn’t even mention any of the other rides, there are many that are a lot of fun and definitely worth checking out!  Some of my family’s favorites include Escape from Pompeii, Le Scoot, Roman Rapids, and Aeronaut Skyride.  Although I’ve never done it, the Rhine River Cruise looks like fun.  Hmmmm, maybe next time!

Logistics:  check the website for up-to-date pricing but generally, a one-day ticket for an adult costs $80 online and $70 for children ages 3-9.  Buying tickets online generally saves you money and time (you don’t have to wait in line to buy tickets when you arrive at the park).  You can also add animal tours, dining plans, and wine tastings online for additional fees.

GPS Driving Directions

Busch Gardens
One Busch Gardens Blvd.
Williamsburg, VA 23185

Busch Gardens is located in Williamsburg, VA at Exit 243A on I-64. Alternative local routes include US Route 60, and State Routes 143 and 199. Major nearby cities include Virginia Beach (55 miles), Richmond (55 miles) and Washington, DC (150 miles).
Flying? Three airports are situated within a 45-minute drive of Busch Gardens.

ORF – Norfolk International Airport
RIC – Richmond International Airport
PHF – Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport

Taking a train?
The Williamsburg Amtrak Train Station is just 10 minutes from Busch Gardens. For more information about routes and schedules, visit Amtrak’s website.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Half Marathon, Mississippi-20th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Mississippi was my 20th state.

Like most people, I had never run through the grounds of a Space Center, that is until November 2010 when I ran the Mississippi Gulf Coast Half Marathon. This race was on the grounds of the John C. Stennis Space Center in Gulfport. When I ran it, there were about 500 runners for the marathon, half marathon, and 5K so it was a smaller crowd for sure. The race director Leonard Vergunst actually ran and won the marathon that year.

This race is held Thanksgiving weekend every year so the weather is typically good for long distance racing but I did get a bit cold standing outside waiting for the start. When I ran it, the temperatures should have been in the 50’s but a cold front just rolled through the area the previous day so it was about 10 degrees cooler than it should have been and was in the 40’s for most of the race. Fortunately I brought a running jacket, hat, and gloves just in case and was fine.

I struggled with multiple injuries in the months leading up to the race so my time was much slower than for previous races. One injury I had that was non-running related was an inflamed rib. My young daughter had accidentally kicked me in the ribs one evening when she was getting ready for bed, and I had pain from that for several months when I ran. I also had iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) on one leg and tendonitis on the knee of my other leg. This was one race I was happy to just finish and probably shouldn’t have run it given all of my injuries.

The course was a bit of a let-down for me because I was hoping it would be more scenic and have more rockets or space-related things to look at than there were. As I mentioned earlier, we ran through the grounds of the Stennis Space Center but we only saw one rocket at the main visitor building. The course was flat and had good aid stations but there were zero spectators not including the volunteers (which makes sense because it’s a space center with limited visitor entry).

When I finished, I noticed the medal I was handed by a volunteer had last year’s date on it. I emailed the race director and he said half marathoners weren’t supposed to get medals (only marathon finishers), but he had some leftover from the previous year and decided to let this year’s half marathoners have them instead of throwing them out. My finish time was 2:32:50.

My family and I had fun hanging out in Gulfport for a few days after the race. It’s a pretty small, low-key area good for a quiet and relaxing long weekend. If you have young children, I recommend checking out Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, a hands-on children’s museum. Gulfport is only about an hour and a half drive from New Orleans if you want to squeeze in an adventure there.

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Gulf Coast Running Club

Enjoy waterfalls? Try Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in Oregon

See my post Central Oregon-Eugene and Bend for information on those parts of Oregon.

Another scenic area to visit in Oregon is the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area encompasses 292,500 acres, running from the mouth of the Sandy River to the mouth of the Deschutes River and spanning southern Washington and northern Oregon. The Gorge is unique in its natural and cultural history, as well as its designation as a National Scenic Area.

The National Scenic Area is home to the Historic Columbia River Highway, dubbed America’s first scenic highway by many. The original Columbia River Highway’s official dedication took place on June 7, 1916.  It was designed to bring travelers to the most breathtaking sights and scenes in the Gorge. Its iconic and innovative design included rock walls, bridges and structures such as Vista House and Multnomah Falls Lodge.

When the Scenic Area was created in 1986, the idea was to help reconnect the pieces of this unique highway to create the new “Historic Columbia River Highway.” You can explore the modern highway today with a combination of driving, biking, and walkways. Several of the most iconic spots, such as Multnomah Falls and Eagle Creek, were developed in conjunction with the highway’s construction, to bring motorists to the Gorge’s most beautiful areas.

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Today, this scenic drive remains one of the best in the nation. However, popularity comes at a price.  Stop-and-go traffic is common along the waterfall corridor most weekends from spring until fall.  To make the most of your visit and time, go on a weekday or early in the morning to minimize crowds and congestion.  From Vista House to the Portland International Airport is only a 30 minute drive without heavy traffic, so it’s easy to make this area a stopover to or from the airport even if you aren’t staying in the Portland area.  I would like to go back another time to explore the Portland area and west of there, including Cannon Beach.  Any other suggestions?

Central Oregon-Eugene and Bend

Portland, Oregon had almost 9 million overnight visitors in 2015 according to travelportland.com.  On the other hand, in central Oregon, Bend had roughly 2-2.5 million visitors that same year.  While I couldn’t find an estimate for annual visitors to Eugene, I would guess it’s even lower than for Bend.  When I was planning a trip to Oregon, I chose the less-traveled areas of Eugene and Bend for the majority of our time in the state.  Although we would be flying into Portland, I left zero time there for exploring that area, and we picked up our rental car and drove promptly to Eugene.  I was going to run my 36th half marathon (leaving only 14 more to go for all 50 states) in Eugene so we were going to spend a few days in Eugene then drive to Bend to spend a week there.  Nothing against Portland but there’s only so much you can see in 10 days.

Eugene, Oregon is famous for being the birthplace of Nike and is nicknamed “Track Town, USA.”  They were the hosts for the Olympic Track and Field Trials for 2016 and many other years.  If you’re a runner, chances are pretty good you’ve heard of Steve Prefontaine.  While in the peak of his running career, he was killed at the young age of 24 in a car accident.  “Pre,” as he was called, helped spark the city’s running boom in the 1970’s.  Ask just about any Eugene resident about Steve Prefontaine, and they’ll tell you an earful.  Running is in these people’s blood.  I was seriously nervous about running a half marathon here (I might be dead-last running against all of these die-hard runners) but I somehow managed to win third place in my age group.

If you’re a runner, a must-do in Eugene is to run on Pre’s Trail, a nice loop on chipped wood in Alton Baker Park.  You can run past many water formations including a pond, creeks, and river as well as the famous University of Oregon stadium.  There are also many wineries in Eugene with not only tasty wine but also great people working there as well.  Everyone we spoke with at the wineries were all very friendly, down-to-earth, and not at all snobby like you find at wineries in other parts of the country.  Cascades Raptor Center is also a fun place to visit, even in the rain (Eugene experiences an average rainfall of 46 inches per year).  The Raptor Center is a working rehabilitation center and the birds on display could not be returned to the wild. Birds with the right disposition are used for educational exhibits.

When our time was up in Eugene, we drove to Bend and saw the landscape change from lush and green to dry, high desert.  The contrast was stark.  While Eugene is often rainy and overcast, Bend has an average of 158 clear days and 105 more that are mostly sunny, making it the city with the highest average sunny days in the state.  Bend has many places to hike and bike in warmer months and ski in the winter.  The largest beer trail in the West is also here, the Bend Ale Trail.  This is my kind of place!

For something other than the aforementioned activities in Bend, check out the High Desert Museum.  It’s like a zoo, history museum, and science exhibits all rolled into one place.  I always like checking out local history when I’m traveling and this was a good place for history of the Pacific Northwest.  There are temporary as well as permanent exhibits, some indoor and some outdoor.  Some favorites include the Miller Family Ranch, Autzen Otter Exhibit, Desertarium, and the Birds of Prey Center.

For some hiking, it’s hard to beat Smith Rock State Park and Tumalo Falls.  Smith Rock State Park is near Terrebonne and Redmond, Oregon and is a popular climbing spot.  One of the best trails here is Misery Ridge which takes you over Smith Rock, with a view of Monkey Face and views of the canyon and Crooked River.  To reach the viewpoint for Tumalo Falls you can walk 5 minutes from the parking lot and then there are multiple trails from here if you so desire.  The Tumalo Mountain trail is classified as moderate/difficult and is 1.75 miles one way.  It is a steep climb from 6400 feet to 7775 feet with a beautiful view at the top.  The trail starts at the Dutchman Sno-park on the Cascade Lakes Highway.

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Smith Rock State Park
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View from the top of Misery Ridge
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Tumalo Falls

It’s  easy to spend a week in Bend, but 2-3 days in Eugene is plenty.  It seems that so many people overlook these areas when planning a vacation in Oregon and just go straight to the ever-popular Portland.  They would be missing out on some unique scenery and fun things to do for the whole family in by-passing these areas.

 

 

Madison Mini-Marathon, Wisconsin-19th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Wisconsin was my 19th state.

When I signed up for the Madison Mini-Marathon, I felt a little twinge of distaste. It was the wording of the race that I didn’t like. Why didn’t they just call it what it was- a half marathon? To me, calling it a “mini” marathon somehow didn’t seem right. Nonetheless, I registered for the 2010 Madison Mini-Marathon.

The name aside, this race was a good course albeit a steaming hot one so don’t go run this one expecting to set a PR (personal record). Also Madison is pretty hilly so there are some hills on this course, another reason you likely won’t PR here. This is a fairly big race but they have corrals, which helps as long as people actually go in the proper corral.

Even though there was a 7 am start, it was already 72 degrees with 95% humidity. The course seemed to highlight the “best” parts of the city like the capitol, State Street, the arboretum, and had lake views along the way. However, there were some challenging hills from about mile 5 through 9. Volunteer and spectator support along the course was excellent. At the finish, which was 2:15:01 for me, I received my hefty finisher’s medal.

After the race, there were a lot of people (including me) who cooled off our swollen feet in the nice, cool water near the finish. There was a generous spread of food at the end and free beer from Wisconsin Brewing Company. Also, there was a band playing at the finish so a lot of people hung out after the race.

For this race, my family and I spent a couple of days in Madison where we went to Olbrich Botanical Gardens, the Wisconsin state capitol, and the Madison Children’s Museum. We also spent a week in Lake Geneva, which was truly beautiful and relaxing. Lake Geneva is full of huge vacation homes that you can see as you walk along the Geneva Lake Shore Path. Lake Geneva Cruise Line has several options for a scenic boat tour. You can also see the world’s largest refracting telescope at Yerkes Observatory, which is surrounded by 77 acres of beautiful park space designed by the brother of Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park in New York City. I also recommend spending a day or two in Milwaukee if you have the time to spare. We only had time to visit the Milwaukee Art Museum, and that was fun but there’s so much more to see and do in Milwaukee, if only I had known ahead of time.

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Madison Mini-Marathon

 

 

Montreal, a City Unlike Any Other

When I started writing this post, I almost put “Montreal, a little slice of France,” as the title, but then I stopped myself for a few reasons.  1) I have never been to France before so I can’t really say that.  2) I might seriously make some Canadians upset by saying this (or French people). 3) Montreal really is a unique city unlike any other.  However, there is definitely a strong French influence in the food and culture. French is the city’s official language and is the language spoken at home by the majority of people living there.  If you’re into food, architecture, and/or history, this is a city for you!

Some of my favorite sites in Montreal include Old Port, Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, Biodome, Jardin Botanique, just to name a few.  Old Port, or Vieux Port de Montreal, has a lot going on.  During warmer months, there are pedal boats and jet skis for rent, Voiles en Voiles where you can climb about a life-size replica of a pirate ship, you can cruise on a schooner, take the Decalade challenge at the Conveyor Quay Tower or if that’s not thrilling enough you can sky jump.  There are numerous special events in Old Port throughout the year as well.  Last but not least, there is the Montreal Science Centre full of fun exhibits and an IMAX theatre.

The Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal is like visiting a museum as well as a massive, ornate church.  There are many tours offered including a 60 minute guided tour that will take you in very private areas of the Basilica as the galleries and the baptistery.  You can also sit in the balcony of the organ to listen to classical organ music and meet organist Pierre Grandmaison.  The original chapel was much smaller and was operated by the Jesuits.  In 1657, the Sulpician Fathers took over operation and started construction of a larger church.  Construction of this Baroque style church was completed in 1683.  However, by 1800, this church was also deemed too small and construction of a larger Gothic Revival style church began and was completed in 1829.  In 1889, the architects Perreault and Mansard were commissioned to build a chapel that would accommodate ceremonies for smaller ceremonies. Named the Chapel of Notre-Dame du Sacré-Cœur (Our Lady of the Sacred Heart) it was built in Gothic Revival style and consecrated on December 8, 1891, only to be seriously damaged by a fire in 1978.  The new chapel was opened in 1982.

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The Biodome, Botanical Garden, Insectarium and the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium are all part of Space for Life, which has the purpose to raise individual and collective awareness about the need to get involved in protecting the Canadian heritage.  This mission is carried out through educational, conservation, research and outreach efforts.  The Biodome recreates ecosystems of the Americas including a Tropical Rainforest, the Laurentian Maple Forest, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Labrador Coast, and the Sub-Antarctic Islands. When the Biodome opened in 1992, its ecosystem concept was a world first.  With over 4,500 animals from 250 different species and 500 plant species, the Biodome is bound to have something for everyone.  The Insectarium has both permanent and traveling exhibitions and includes one of the most comprehensive collections of insects in North America.  The Botanical Garden is full of themed gardens such as the Japanese Garden and Chinese Garden as well as 10 greenhouses open to the public.  The Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium has one of the largest collections of meteorites in Quebec, the permanent exhibit called EXO:  Our Search for Life in the Universe, as well as rotating shows in the immersive theater.  There are several options for tickets for these four places.  You can combine two or more places to get a better deal on pricing and tailor your tickets depending on your interests and income.

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Montreal has some stunning architecture, with some buildings going back to the 16th century.  In 2006 Montreal was named a UNESCO City of Design, only one of three design capitals of the world (the others being Berlin and Buenos Aires).  There are 50 National Historic Sites of Canada in Montreal, more than any other city according to Wikipedia. Many of these historic sites are churches and battle sites but there are others as well.  I enjoyed just walking around the city and admiring the beautiful buildings around me.

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Finally, to the food of Montreal!  Some foods in Montreal are unique to the city itself or to Canada in general and are definitely worth trying.  One example is Montreal smoked meat and one of the best places to get it is Schwartz’s Deli.  Believe me, it’s worth the wait. Another famous example is poutine.  These are french fries smothered in gravy, cheese, and curds but you can get all kind of different toppings on them.  One place to try them is Poutini’s House of Poutine but you’ll find them at restaurants scattered throughout the city.  There are so many different phenomenal restaurants in Montreal, you should have no problem finding good food.  The only problem may be in deciding which place to go to since there are so many to choose from!  Some of the current top restaurants include Bouillon Bilk and Le Robin Square.  While the restaurants in Montreal tend to be a bit expensive, they’re an experience you won’t forget and that is priceless.  Come to think of it, your whole vacation in Montreal will be a priceless experience that you won’t forget.

Garmin Marathon, Kansas-18th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Kansas was my 18th state.

How many of you have heard of Olathe, Kansas?  Now how many of you have heard of the company Garmin? I’ll bet most of you have at least heard of Garmin, but probably none or very few of you knew Olathe, Kansas is the headquarters for Garmin. Or maybe it was just me that wasn’t aware of that until I went there.

The point of my questions is because the start and finish of the Olathe Kansas Marathon and Half Marathon was at the Garmin headquarters. This race was a nice size with 703 finishers for the half marathon and the average finish time was 2:09:22. The course was flat except for some rolling hills and small hills near the finish.

The race course wasn’t the most scenic I had run, with a portion of the course going past an industrial area followed by ordinary looking houses in neighborhoods. The weather was good for racing, mid-50’s at the start, rising to the low 60’s by the finish. Water and Gatorade were plentiful at the aid stations. The pacers were awesome and right on their target finish times.

At the finish there was the usual food- bananas, oranges, and bagels, plus water. Although when I ran this race in 2010, the shirts and medals were small and cheap-looking, the medals for more recent years’ races look awesome! They’ve definitely stepped up their game. My finish time for this race was 2:06:01.

Olathe is a suburb of Kansas City, which is where my family and I spent the majority of our time before and after the race. Kansas City was surprisingly beautiful when I was there, with so many flowers in bloom, and fountains everywhere. Kansas City, Missouri has more fountains than any other city in the world except Rome, Italy. We had a lot of fun going to the museums and enjoying delicious Kansas City style BBQ. Of course my husband couldn’t resist saying (multiple times) “We’re not in Kansas anymore” every time we would cross the state border going to and from Missouri and Kansas. That never got old to him.

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Garmin Marathon

Facebook page

Well, I have finally created a Facebook page.  I’d love for you to join me there to write comments and connect with others.  Since it’s new, there isn’t a ton of content there yet, but hopefully soon!  I’ll add my posts from my wordpress blog here as well, and would love to connect with anyone that follows me from there (or have new followers of course).

I’d love to hear opinions, comments, suggestions from others on travel, running, or whatever strikes your mood!

Here’s the link to the Facebook page:  Running to travel.

Hope to see you there!

Colorado in June- Estes Park and RMNP

As I stated in my previous post Colorado in June- Hiking in Boulder although some people that are avid skiers wouldn’t consider traveling to Colorado during the summer, I found it to be spectacular and highly recommend it.  The home base for our vacation was in Boulder, but an easy day trip is to Estes Park and on to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Estes Park is only about an hour from Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park is just a few minutes from Estes Park.  We spent several hours walking around the town of Estes Park and Lake Estes.  While Estes Park is much more touristy than Boulder, it is still a beautiful area of Colorado.  The Stanley Hotel, most famous as the inspirational role in Stephen King’s “The Shining,” is also in Estes Park.  We wanted to catch a glimpse inside but decided to skip it when we were told there was a parking fee.  Since we were limited on time, we didn’t think it would be worth it for just a few minutes.  After  a short walk around the lake and some souvenir shopping we had a delicious lunch at Moon Kats Tea Shoppe, which was a fun little place full of all kinds of cat-themed merchandise and really good tea and sandwiches.

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From Estes Park, we drove to Rocky Mountain National Park and spent the rest of our daylight hours here before driving back to Boulder.  This is a park where you never even have to get out of your car if you can’t walk much or just don’t want to.  Since we had a limited amount of time here, we decided to drive and see as much as we could rather than hike and see less.  Normally we are avid hikers and jump at the opportunity to hike up and down beautiful mountains, but in this case it just made sense to limit our time on the trails.  We saw more elk than we had ever seen anywhere else, including Canada and Montana.  We also saw a new creature to us, the marmet.  They look kind of like a groundhog and they were everywhere at Rocky Mountain National Park.  The snowdrifts were quite high and there was a good amount of snow on the ground at the highest elevations, but for the most part, the weather was pretty nice.  It doesn’t get much more beautiful than at Rocky Mountain National Park.

IMG_20160607_131545356_HDRIMG_20160607_132607921_HDRDSC03583DSC03604As I said in my post Colorado in June- Hiking in Boulder vacationing in Colorado during June is a fun way to spend a summer vacation and I can’t recommend it enough if you enjoy hiking and spending time outdoors!  I know we only scratched the surface of places to explore in Colorado and we’re already excited about going back another summer and exploring other areas like Colorado Springs, Durango, Steamboat Springs, or Mesa Verde National Park.  Any other suggestions?