Blueberry Picking – Outdoor Summer Fun in Northwest Arkansas

Last week our neighbor invited us out to pick blueberries at a local blueberry farm. We’ve picked strawberries and apples in the past, but this was our first time picking this super fruit. We headed to Bearing Fruit Farms which was easy to find right off of Highway 45, just east of Fayetteville.

A full bucket of berries is $20 U-Pick. My daughters and I picked a quarter of a bucket, so the total price was only $5.

The owner explained that the different varieties of blueberries they grow vary in taste, size, and growing season. The last to ripen will be available through mid-July. Check their facebook page for hours and picking times.

We’ve been enjoying our berries for days. I found a healthy blueberry muffins recipe here. The girls had fun making the muffins and liked eating them even more!

If you are on the look out for fun summer activities in Northwest Arkansas, I definitely recommend blueberry picking. I think this will become an annual tradition at our house.

Memorial Day in Rocky Mountain National Park

We just reserved our cabin for Memorial Day 2020 in Estes Park. Of course in the back of my mind, I’m thinking we might have to cancel it because we don’t know when Rocky Mountain National Park will reopen and the stay-at-home orders to protect us from getting and spreading Covid-19 will be lifted. Here are the official details.

Since the future is looking foggy, I’m going to take a look back at some of our favorite Memorial Day moments of the past 5 years. I’ve included tons of links to hikes we’ve done over Memorial Day weekend plus a list of the top hikes we recommend this time of year in Rocky Mountain National Park.

2015 – Rocky Mountain National Park with a baby

We took our now 5-year-old daughter to Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time. We hiked up Deer Mountain which is a great early season hike. You can read more here. When we weren’t hiking, we were looking at vacation properties and we ended up buying our first Colorado property which was a two bedroom condo at the historic Mary’s Lake Lodge. Since then, we’ve made countless family memories in our home away from home.

Deer Mountain trailhead
Deer Mountain trailhead
You will see new antlers growing on the elk in May

2016 – Rocky Mountain National Park with a Toddler

The next Memorial Day, our baby was a toddler and she could walk short distances on her own. One of our favorite early season short hikes is Sprague Lake. This loop is less than a mile. We wrote, Toddler Self-Guided Tour of Sprague Lake.

For longer hikes, we decided to graduate from our ergo baby carrier to a new kid carrier. We tried it out for the first time up to Gem Lake. We love the views on this hike. We wrote about it in, Riding High in New Kid Carrier.

But what would we do with the old baby carrier? On this trip we found out we were expecting baby #2.

family photos at sprague lake in rocky mountain national park

2017 – Family Adventures in Rocky Mountain national park

So the following Memorial Day we were back in Rocky Mountain National Park with two little girls. A highlight of our trip was spotting a moose in Sprague Lake. I wrote, Moose Spotting Makes for Memorable Morning Hike Around Sprague Lake.

We also visited the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park. This is a less crowded area of the park which has beautiful waterfalls and wildflowers. We posted, Family Friendly Waterfall Hike in Wild Basin. Our baby gave it a thumbs up!

Waterfalls in the Wild Basin

memorial day in estes park

In the town of Estes Park, we enjoyed a ride up the Aerial Tramway. May is also a great time of year to enjoy the restaurants and shops in downtown Estes Park. We have a list of our favorite restaurants here.

Our Trip on The Estes Park Aerial Tramway
Estes Park Aerial Tramway

2018 – buying a cabin in estes park, colorado

cabin in estes park colorado
We love our new cabin – it’s a great fit for our family

The following Memorial Day we picked up the keys to our new cabin. We enjoy having a free-standing property so we don’t have to worry quite so much about our noisy little family disturbing other guests. We can’t get enough of the mountain views, sitting by the fireplace, and home cooked meals on the back deck. It’s in the rental pool at Solitude Cabins, you can learn more about renting it here.

On this Memorial Day weekend the weather was warmer, so we were able to go on some wonderful hikes to Fern Falls and Dream Lake.

Fern Falls
Snow hike in Rocky Mountain National Park
Hike to Dream Lake in late May with a few patches of slippery snow near the lake

2019 – Epic road trip to new mexico and colorado

Last year we made our way to Rocky Mountain National Park on Memorial Day weekend, but first we went to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I wrote about traveling with kids to Santa Fe here, and here. Our road trip continued with an afternoon at the Great Sand Dunes National Park which is located in southern Colorado. We spent the night in Buena Vista, Colorado (which was gorgeous) before heading up to lunch at a brewery in Boulder, Colorado and finally Estes Park. During our time in Estes, we hiked in the Upper Beaver Meadows and on a snowy stroll around Bear Lake. My husband enjoyed a solo hike on Hermit Park’s Kruger Rock trail.

Upper Beaver Meadows
Snowy hike around Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
Views from Kruger Rock trail

best Memorial Day HikES in Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park, colorado

> Deer Mountain – 6.2 miles roundtrip with great views.
> Sprague Lake – half mile loop with benches, views and wildlife.
> Bear Lake – half mile loop, higher (9,475 feet) elevation could mean snow
> Nymph Lake & Dream Lake – .5 miles to Nymph Lake, 1.1 miles to Dream.
> Gem Lake – 1.6 miles each way. The views on the way up are the highlight.
> The Pool & Fern Falls – 1.7 miles to the Pool and 2.6 miles to Fern Falls.
> Kruger Rock – 2 miles each way. Hermit Park has separate fee from RMNP.
> Copeland Falls & Calypso Cascades – short waterfall hikes in the Wild Basin.
> Upper Beaver Meadows – 1 mile hike in lower (8,437 feet) elevation.

tips for memorial day weekend in rocky mountain national park

> Scenic drives such as Trail Ridge Road are open seasonally based on weather conditions. Trail Ridge Road typically opens the last week of May. You can get up-to-date information by calling (970) 586-1222.
> Pack layers for changing weather. Higher elevations typically get chillier.
> Expect snow, ice, mud…really anything is possible. Waterproof gear and footwear are helpful. We’ve also used trekking poles to help navigate snow covered trails.
> Estes Park hosts an annual art festival on Memorial Day weekend, for more information about events check out visitestespark.com

Traveling with Kids to Santa Fe, New Mexico (Part 1)

Iconic Santa Fe train stop

One of my 19 in 2019 goals is to take our daughters to two new states this year. Choosing our first destination was easy. I traveled to New Mexico for family backpacking trips and big cousin reunions when I was a kid. I have many fond memories, so I was excited to return. We decided on the city of Santa Fe because it’s known for food, art, culture, and exploring the outdoors.

Hotel Santa Fe

We stayed at the Hotel Santa Fe, Hacienda & Spa which we selected because it’s the only Native American-owned hotel in downtown Santa Fe. (according to their website) †

Hotel Santa Fe, Hacienda and Spa in Santa Fe, New Mexico

We enjoyed the location because we could easily walk to restaurants and attractions. There is also plenty of parking onsite as well as a shuttle service.

We ate a delicious breakfast and dinner at their Amaya Restaurant, and the girls LOVED the outdoor swimming pool where we met several other young families. (the water was a bit chilly for Mom)

Hotel Santa Fe outdoor pool

Restaurants in Santa Fe, New Mexico

I grew up in a town known for it’s food (Kansas City – barbecue), so when I’m visiting a new city with a foodie reputation, I’m eager to try the local flavors.

Tomasita’s – Our first night in town, we went to Tomasita’s which serves ‘northern New Mexican cuisine’. They are known for their red and green chile. My favorite part of the meal was their sopaipillas served warm with honey butter. This restaurant was conveniently located within walking distance to our hotel.

Second Street Brewery at the Railyard – We enjoyed a few snacks and local beer at Second Street Brewery in the Railyard district which is located near the Farmers Market and was also a walkable distance from our hotel. The brewery has a full food menu. The chocolate milk and soft pretzels were a big hit with our daughters.

Pizzaria da Lino – Our gracious server welcomed us like family and the brick oven pizza was delicious. Chili Line Brewing Co. is right next door and it’s also worth checking out their smoked beer.

Chocolate Maven – It’s not surprising that this chocolate shop that seems to be a bit hidden from the other tourist attractions is decorated with numerous “Best of Santa Fe” signs. Their hot chocolate is the best I’ve ever tasted!

Chocolate Maven in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Best of Santa Fe first place winner. Best bakery in santa fe, new mexico

Mangiamo Pronto!  Sam’s Corner Cafe – We enjoyed friendly service and creamy gelato at this cozy Italian cafe.

Gelato in Santa Fe at Mangiamo Pronto! Sam's Corner Cafe

Tip: We had several friends recommend The Shed. We were amazed that this James Beard Award winning restaurant had a two week waiting list for a reservation! Next time we are in New Mexico we will plan ahead.

Our stay was great and the mouth watering food was top-notch, but there is even more to enjoy in Santa Fe. I’ll write another post about our favorite family-friendly attractions, so keep an eye out for Santa Fe: Part 2.

Great Sand Dunes National Park: A One-of-a-Kind Family Adventure

Great Sand Dunes National Park

As I watched my daughter dancing on the sandy beach, I looked up at the snow-capped mountains and the largest dunes in North America. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve is located in southern Colorado, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Medano Creek

We went to the park mid-day on Memorial Day, so I was relieved when we got into the park without a long wait at the entrance and we were able to find a good spot in the popular Dunes Parking area. We were very lucky! During peak season it’s better to avoid crowds and afternoon storms by arriving early in the morning.

Medano Creek runs in late May at Great Sand Dunes National Park

To get to the dunes, we had to cross Medano Creek which flows each season when the snow melts off the mountains (typically in late May). The water was freezing cold, but it was so much fun to take off our shoes and run laughing and splashing across the icy stream.

Sand, water, mountains at Great Sand Dunes National Park

We played in the sand, which was nice and cool on our bare feet. During summer months, the sand can be as hot as 150 degrees Fahrenheit!

Dancing in the sand at Great Sand Dunes National Park

We witnessed some visitors carrying sand sleds and sandboards which can be rented out at local equipment stores.

Wind at Great Sand Dunes National Park

Wind created the formation of the Sand Dunes over time, so it’s not surprising the Sand Dunes can be windy. We experienced a little bit of the wind which can blow sand and make hiking less enjoyable. The park recommends using sunglasses, long sleeves and pants during high winds.

Our visit to the Great Sand Dunes National Park was short, but amazing. I hope we can go back soon to explore more of the park and surrounding areas.

You can learn more about the Great Sand Dunes National Park in the online visitor’s guide.