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.

Hiking Kessler Mountain Trails in Fayetteville, Arkansas

When I meet people these days I typically ask them about their favorite local restaurants and their favorite places to hike near our new home in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We’ve got a lot of great hiking suggestions, but Kessler Mountain was on the top of many lists. When we were blessed with a warm winter morning, we decided we would seize the opportunity to explore Kessler Mountain Regional Park.

Here is a link to the Kessler Trail map. There are 10 trails in the park with different levels of difficulty.

Kessler Mountain Regional Park in Fayetteville Arkansas. Hiking.
Kessler Mountain Regional Park

We decided to start on the Last Call trail which is 1.2 miles. Portions of the trail were muddy from recent rain, but for the most part we enjoyed good hiking conditions.

Family Hiking trails in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Northwest Arkansas. Hiking.

As first time visitors, we appreciated the directional trail signage.

Last Call and Terrapin Station trails in Kessler Mountain

Hiking with toddlers means exploring every rock, tree and bridge we cross.

Kessler Mountain.
Kessler Mountain

The trails were well used by both hikers and mountain bikers. The rule is mountain bikers should yield to hikers, but we definitely kept our eyes and ears open to make sure the girls were safely out of the way. Everyone was very polite and patient with us!

Kessler Mountain Fayetteville Arkansas

When we reached the end of Last Call, we had a few options. 1. turn around to go back. 2. take a right uphill towards Terrapin Station trail. 3. take a left downhill towards Terrapin Station trail.

Out of curiosity, we headed uphill and found the main reason to continue is to join up with other trails like Crazy Mary. (I was kind of hoping for a lookout, but we didn’t see much besides water towers) So, we turned around and headed downhill on the Terrapin Station trail which is .9 miles. This was our favorite portion of the hike because it felt the most secluded.

Bluffs Fayetteville Arkansas
Awesome bluffs and rock formations

I think winter is a great time to hike because you get great views of bluffs and rocks that you might miss when the trees are thick and green. I also don’t worry as much about snakes, ticks and mosquitoes.

Winter hiking northwest arkansas
These rocks reminded me of the trolls in the movie Frozen. Just me!?

Soon after the trail split between Terrapin Station and Chinkapin Oak, it joined back into the Last Call trail and zig zagged back down to our starting point.

terrapin station and chinkapin oak

We promised our girls a cookie and play time at the park’s playground as a reward for good behavior on the hike. We were blown away by how great they did. Our four-year-old walked all 2.5 miles on her own! And, our two-year-old walked impressive stretches and rode happily on Dad’s shoulders for the remainder.

playground at Kessler mountain park in Fayetteville arkansas
The playground at Kessler Mountain is a fun outdoor themed space for little ones to climb and slide.

Near the playground, a path connects to the paved Cato Springs Trail which is 3 miles long and joins the Razorback Greenway Trail. (according to an article we found from the Fayetteville Flyer)

I was curious about the unique names of some of the trails in the park and started googling them when we got home. Terrapin Station is the name of a Grateful Dead album. Crazy Mary is a Pearl Jam song. Is this a coincidence? Or, am I starting to figure out the theme? If someone knows the answer, please share!

Now that we’ve been to Kessler Mountain Park, I can see why others recommended it. We can’t wait to go back and explore more of the trails.

Overland Park Farmers’ Market

On our trip last month to California our family spent a wonderful day in Folsom which is located in Northern California between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe on the American River. Folsom is known for it’s prison, but we spent our time hiking along the river and strolling through the city’s farmers’ market in the quaint historic downtown. My aunt bought Cecy a gorgeous handmade basket for our market trips back home.

This weekend we had family visiting us, so we planned a little adventure to our local farmers market in Overland Park, Kansas. The markets’ season just started in April, but the vendors were ready to go with gorgeous displays of fresh flowers, fruits, vegetables, juices, grass-fed meats and more.  Tucked back behind Metcalf between 79th and 80th streets, the market is bigger than we expected and has a great community feel.

Cecy’s basket got filled with fragrant fresh rosemary and flowers. We also purchased red potatoes, spinach and a loaf of bread for our dinner.

IMG_4633