Balto Statue in Central Park

From the Belvedere Castle to a zoo, there is a lot for tourists and locals to enjoy in Central Park, but for us there was only one priority – to see the statue of Balto,’The Bravest Dog Ever’.

Our interest in the famous Alaskan sled dog began early this school year when our daughter’s first grade teacher gave her a book about famous dogs. The story featured Balto and the incredible mission to save children in the small town of Nome, Alaska from an outbreak of diphtheria in 1925.

This story captured our daughter’s imagination and soon we were ordering other versions of the book including ‘The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto (Step-Into-Reading)’ and ‘Balto of the Blue Dawn (Magic Tree House: Merlin Missions Book 26)’. Through our Balto research, we discovered that there is a bronze statue of Balto in Central Park. Since we were planning a trip to New Jersey to visit family, we decided to find the statue in New York City on our Spring Break trip.

On a Sunday morning, we took a train from New Jersey to Penn Station in New York. We were a little nervous to use busy public transportation with our kids, but they did great. Here is a map of the NJ Transit Rail System. At Penn Station we were able to get on the Subway (Subway Map) to Central Park and the Museum of Natural History.

We attempted to re-create a picture we took during our first trip to New York, which was six years ago. I wrote about our experience visiting New York with a baby stroller here.

At last, we found Balto! You can find out more information about ‘one the most beloved monuments in the Park’ from the Central Park Conservancy.

Missouri Lavender Farm

I just got back from a relaxing weekend in Columbia, Missouri. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the Battlefield Lavender Farm in Centralia, Missouri, which is about 25 minutes from Columbia.

My sister pre-purchased our reservations online. The tickets were $6.00 each. You can order tickets here.

We decided to clip a mixed bundle of lavender from the wide variety growing on the farm and were provided with an adorable wooden crate, measuring guide, and clippers. Several of the lavender varieties are edible and could be used for cooking.

Once our lavender was picked, we headed into their barn to pay for the bundle ($15) and view the lavender merchandise. I bought a lovely lavender hand lotion, and my sister purchased a linen spray and lavender soap. I regret not buying more because I think the items would make such unique and thoughtful gifts. On the bright side, I have a good excuse to go back!

After picking lavender in the heat of the summer, we treated ourselves to a refreshing scoop of ice cream at Sparky’s in downtown Columbia. Inspired by our excursion, I ordered the honey lavender flavor.

My sister and I split our bundle of lavender. I brought my half back home and will have it hanging up for the next few weeks to dry.

Overall, I would recommend a visit to Battlefield Lavender Farm, especially for a ladies outing or a romantic date. I don’t know if my little ones (ages 4 and 6) would have been able to trim the lavender safely – for them or the plant. There was also a lot of bees, which is awesome for pollination, but something to keep in mind for those with allergies. Picking season is short, so check out their website or follow the farm on social media @battlefieldlavender for all the details!

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