By Marcella Simmons
My yearning to travel goes way back as far as I can remember. School field trips was one of my favorite things to do because our class visited places that were sometimes taken for granted especially if they were in our town or city. We’d visit museums and interesting places like the Houston Planetarium, the Intercontinental Airport and Hermann Park Zoo field trips stick out in mind more than anything. Someday, I will venture back to Houston, Texas to revisit the places of my school days! My grandchildren would appreciate visiting some of these places as well.
Now, many years later, as an adult and an avid traveler, before leaving for a trip, I search out every museum in the town or city of our upcoming trip destination before hand. We fill every day with tons of activities, some of which is free or inexpensive, educational and all the while, we’re making memories as a family.
The Internet is a luxury I never had back in the seventies. Had it been around back those days, there’s no telling where I’d be today! Maps are easily at our disposal and GPS’s makes traveling so much easier. Nowadays, before arriving at a destination, I know exactly what we’re going to do and when we’re going to do it. Nothing bothers me more than to hear a bunch of teenagers whining about being bored and not having anything to do! Especially on my trip! So I plan every day ahead of time, and make sure that slack times are in the evenings where we gather around the pool and enjoy a good swim or if we’re camping out, we all gather around the fire where we can roast wieners or marshmallows, make s’mores and have family time and share our thoughts and pictures of the day.
We’re not the perfect family and no, we don’t always have a perfect vacation… but we make memories and have fun trying and that’s what makes it so good! Because we are not rich and have to vacation on a shoe string budget every year makes us appreciate the things we do and see, and the places we go! It’s not all about theme parks, glitz and famous places – there’s something good even in the smallest museums. You just have to know ‘what’ and ‘where’ it is! It’s called research! If you travel with teens, nine times out of ten they carry cell phones. Keep them busy on Google looking for fun activities in the town you’re visiting. You’ll never know what you may find!
Let me tell you about our trip last year.
Day one, we started off here in the South, drove to Amarillo, where we spent the night in an affordable room that served breakfast. In the evening before retiring for the night, we ate sandwiches and chips, and swam for a while and ended the evening with a movie or two. The next day we spent the biggest part of our day driving on to Colorado Springs, Colorado where we spent the next few days having a blast before going on to the next destination on our itinerary.
Day three, while we were in Colorado Springs, our first visit was to the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park, Colorado.
They have a wonderful display of dinosaurs, prehistoric marine reptiles, pterosaurs and fish of North America’s late Cretaceous period. In addition to vibrant graphics and life-restoration sculptures, visitors could venture around the museum reading the stories of each specimen. They also have a working fossil laboratory where important recently discovered paleontological specimens are being freed from their rock matrix and undergoing restoration, as well as a children’s area where they can brush off fossils in our dig box, there are books to read, a magnetic board for them to make their own imaginative dinosaur, and a rubbing station where they can take home their colorful drawings of dinosaurs. Everyone in the family will enjoy the Dinosaur Resource Center. If you have a few extra dollars to spend, there is a gift shop for souvenirs.
Later that evening we had dinner, swam at the pool at our motel and spent the remainder getting baths, and ready for bed so we could get a decent start the next day. Since we had such a large group with us, we got multiple rooms where everyone wouldn’t be too cramped and could enjoy a good nights sleep after the long drive the day before and the outing this day. Our motel wasn’t the best but it provided the essentials we needed at an affordable price, and it was clean and quiet. We were on a budget!
The next day, we packed a picnic lunch and headed off to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings located in Manitou Springs, Colorado, five miles west of Colorado Springs.
We toured the Anasazi Museum. Impressive dioramas depicted the daily life of the Pueblo Anasazi. At the museum, we saw exhibits of tools, pottery, weapons, and informative videos that offered a glimpse of the mysterious people who left a remarkable architectural legacy on mesa tops and in cliff walls like the one at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. Scientists still are unsure why the Anasazi left their cliff dwelling homes hundreds of years ago, but when you tour the dwellings and museum you’ll also become intrigued with finding out more about their lives as my family has.
The Manitou Cliff Dwellings was an all-time favorite. My grandchildren spent hours roaming through the cliff dwellings and climbing in and out the dwelling windows and outlets as the Anasazi children probably did hundreds of years ago. It was something we all found in common and most of the older grand kids are still in search of unanswered questions about the Anasazi of the Colorado Springs area that dwelt here many years ago.
Day five, we were on our way to Cripple Creek, Colorado for a one-night stay. We had a train ride the next day aboard the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge train was small in comparison to the ones that we’ve rode in the past, but it was a huge blast with the kids as we took a scenic tour up the mountain. They took turns helping the conductor steer the train up the mountain. The younger children were excited beyond degree and talked about their experience driving the train for days to come. Though we had to drive quite awhile to get there it was worth it in the end.
Day six, we headed over to Sugar Bush Camp Ground located in Howard, Colorado just a few minutes from Salida where we’d spend the next three days camping out and touring the countryside. We drove over to Canon City to the Royal Gorge Bridge, the world’s highest suspension bridge that was built back in 1929.
You’ll find some surprising adventure awaiting you at the bridge – a miniature train, a theatre and historical expo, a skycoaster, zip line, gondola and the bridge’s newest addition, children’s playland. Your admission ticket allows you peruse the entire park. It may seem a little scary but it is truly worth the visit. Personally I am afraid of heights and walking the 2,200 feet across the Royal Gorge over 1,200 feet above the Arkansas River really wasn’t my cup of tea. I walked across in the middle with my eyes shut with grand kids on both sides leading me on! I frantically made my way across without looking through the cracks! The quiet and scenic views made the walk memorable but being the scardie-cat that I am, I wasn’t ready for the return trip back across.
Day nine, we left the Salida area and ventured over to Leadville. We rode the Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad later in the afternoon. Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, this scenic train trip lasted about two and a half hours. We traveled about 1,000 feet above the headwaters of the Arkansas River Valley. We chose the open car because the afternoon was cool and the kids enjoyed not being cooped up for the journey.
Day ten, we drove up to Lake City where we spent the next five days at TEXAN RESORT. We had a two-story three bedroom cabin large enough we could all spread out and stretch without bumping into each other at every turn. With all the comforts of home at our fingertips, we rested and enjoyed ourselves. While we were in Lake City, we had a picnic downtown at the park while the little ones played with the other kids. We grilled hamburgers in the evenings back at the cabin while the kids played horseshoes with some of the other guests at the resort. We were fortunate enough to meet up with some children who lived there year round who showed our clan some fun and adventure while we were there. The mornings were rather cool but sitting on the front porch wrapped in a cozy blanket and sipping hot coffee while the family slept on soothed my nerves. I wasn’t ready to go home. I’m not sure I’d really want to be in Lake City in the dead of winter but at this moment when all was well with me, it was a wonderful thought!
This is our fifth year staying at the TEXAN RESORT – they have cabins to fit your group size. Be sure and tell I recommended them when you call. If you like to fish, hunt, hike or just want to get away for a few days, then The Texan Resort is the place to be.
While we were in Lake City, we took the kids to the park downtown, and we eased up the mountain to the Hard Tack Mine Tours & Museum. The tour into the mine shaft was cool and educational to say the least, but the gift shop caught their eye immediately. I handed out rolls of quarters and let them spend a few dollars on rocks and magnets, etc.
Later in the week on Friday, we went to the Mountaineer Theatre downtown and saw Finding Dora.
Lake City is a relaxed, laid back little town. There are a few horseback outfitters in the area and backpacking, and rafting if you’re into that kind of thing.
Our trip didn’t end there though.
On day sixteen, we left Lake City and decided to take a little longer getting home so we drove over South Fork, Colorado – camped out five days at River Bend Resort – the kids were utterly miserable because our cranky older neighbors kept yelling at them for playing in the water. Chevy Chase made a hit movie here back in the eighties and one would think it would be a family place. If you’ve got kids, this is not the place to be. It is filled with camper trailers and with that comes the older generation who don’t tolerate kids while they’re relaxing and fishing. We were comfortable and all that in our tents and with our air mattresses but the manager came down and threatened to make us leave if the kids kept throwing rocks in the water. So – next year, we won’t do that again.
Since there wasn’t a lot to do in South Fork, I drove the grand kids over to a little town called Mosca – we went to the Colorado Gators Reptile Park.
On Friday evening, we took the kids to the Star Drive-In theater a in Monte Vista about fifteen miles from South Fork. If you’re in the area, and want a real old-fashioned drive in experience, this is the place to be. There are two large screens and two different movies playing on the weekends.
We left South Fork and decided to stay several days in Blanding, Utah. We liked our motel, the Four Corners Inn – there was no pool but Lawrence, the general manager, made our stay comfortable and the breakfast every day were really good. Even though it didn’t have a pool, we were able to find a mini water park in town that was fairly reasonable and the kids loved it there. It stayed open from 1:00 in the afternoon until 7 p.m. We took a picnic lunch each day so that was really nice.
The kids enjoyed an outing at the Dinosaur Museum in Blanding.
We left Blanding and drove the few hundred miles to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The first three nights we were supposed to stay at Hotel Cascada but because of a transformer explosion that not only affected the electricity – it also blew out a water main – we were sent over to Home2 Suites. Everyone at the motel was evacuated and sent over to the other motel. Some new arrivals were upset because they had driven for hours with their families but things happen. It was not their fault that the transformer blew. Michelle, the manager of Hotel Cascada, was as nice and polite as any one person could be and she went out of her way to assist her customers.
We spent three nights there at Home2 Suites and let me tell you, they had the best beds I believe I have ever slept on. The breakfast was super good as well. The staff made sure we were comfortable. There was even a dishwasher and fully stocked kitchenette in each room. We had to buy our own food though!
The last four nights we stayed at Hyatt Place Albuquerque/Uptown – the pool was awesome. The staff went out of their way to see to it we had a wonderful stay. Breakfast was not only good but everything was served fresh.
The kids had a blast out at Hinkle Family Fun Center located at the northwest corner of Tramway and Indian School in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
We rode the bumper boats, the go-karts, and spent endless hours inside playing the arcade games. This place is awesome and it’s not just for kids. They have this wheel similar to the one on the game show The Price is Right that is my favorite! I played it so much that I hit the 1000 jackpot every time! When it was time to go, it was a lot of fun redeeming the tickets for our gifts. Having over 7000 tickets, I split them with the grand kids and they picked out a lot of stuff to take home.
We ventured out to the Albuquerque Zoo and Botanical Gardens one day; Cliff’s Amusement Park the next; we visited the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science located at 1801 Mountain Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM. Phone: (505) 841-2800.
We walked around Old Town and ventured in the local shops. We ate at the HACIENDA DEL RIO RESTAURANT & CANTINA in Old Town section of Albuquerque.
We saved the best for last! Albuquerque NM is the place to be! Look out July 2018! Here we come!
Our trip home was long but not boring. The kids were already making plans for the next year and believe me, this ma-maw is ready to go! As I say, have grand children, will travel!!! We’ll see you there…
Marcella Simmons is the editor/publisher of https://familytravelhostusa.com/. She has been writing for over twenty years with hundreds of published credits in over three hundred publications worldwide. She loves traveling with her grandchildren.
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