Saturday, November 11, 2017

Kids Holiday Gift Guide 2017

It's time to get this holiday party started!  I've had several emails and IG messages inquiring about gift guides for the holiday season.  I decided that it would be easiest to focus on one gift guide at a time, so today we're talking all about the kids.  

I only have boys, so my girl gift knowledge is pretty limited.  However, each of the items listed would be great for both boys AND girls.  My kids are 8 & 10, so the gifts reflect the interests of that age range(ish)...give or take a few years.  If nothing else, hopefully these lists will give you a starting point.

I can't believe it's already time to start shopping. And by shopping I mean cozying up in my warmest robe with a big cup of coffee and adding things to my cart :)
Online shopping is my favorite way to shop.  We travel during the holiday season and it's so much easier for us to shop online and send Santa's gifts straight to grandma's (where we'll be celebrating Christmas this year).  Then all we have to worry about is shipping them back home to us.  Amazon is my favorite because they're fast and reliable and they've got a great return policy.  Please note that this post does contain affiliate links for some of the items listed!  

I tried to make it as easy for you as I could, so all you need to do is click on the items pictured to shop.

Let's start with stocking stuffers.  These items are $15 and below.  For me, the cheaper, the better.  In addition to a random pair of socks, new undies, and a favorite candy bar, we usually add 3-4 different small items to their stockings.  Several of these will be making appearance inside the boy's stockings this year.
Snap Petz Letters TO Me Rock Paper Scissors Yo-Yo Ball Mr. Food Plates Kanoodle Hovering UFO Ball Art Dice Pac Man Joke Book Scratch Art Fidget Ball 3D Puzzle Fingerling Monkey Rock Pet Digital Timer Bookmark


1.  Snap Petz are little picture taking animals. Super cute and great for kids who enjoy taking pictures and the photos automatically upload to the smart device to which they're connected.

2.  Letters To Me When I Grow Up - both of my boys are really sentimental and stuff like this is their jam.  This little booklet provides different prompts for the kids to write about and spaces for them to draw pictures that accompany their writing.  I plan on having them fill these out and then tucking them away to give to them when they're older!

3.  Rock, Paper, Scissors is what it implies.  Our favorite game in card form. 

4.  The Yo-Yo Ball is an upgraded twist on the original yo-yo.  These are a blast!

5.  Mr. Food Face Plates - I've always loved these. And if they're going to play with their food, they might as well make the most of it ;)

Kanoodle is a hand-held puzzle game complete with a book and carrying case.  With over 100 puzzle challenges, this is a gift that keeps on giving.

7.  This Hovering UFO Ball is just the coolest thing!  We saw these in action at market this year and fell in love.  This is an "every kid" kind of gadget!

8.  I think these Art Dice are my most favorite find.  I love ANY kind of gift that encourages creativity.  My boys love to draw and they often ask me to give them ideas about what to draw.  With a roll of the art dice, they have unlimited possibilities of things to draw!  

9. If you love nostalgic gifts, this Handheld Pac Man Arcade game is the way to go.  

10.  For the kid who loves to laugh...and make others laugh, too...the Knock-Knock & Laugh Out Loud Joke Books are a no-brainer!

11.  Scratch Art Mini Notes are a perfect find for kids and if I'm being honest, I'd like a set for myself, too :)

12.  These Fidget Balls are handheld 3D puzzles similar to a Rubik's Cube and come two to a pack.

13.  The WowWee Fingerlings are the cutest stocking stuffers on the market!  These little monkeys are interactive and will hold on to your finger, blow kisses, swing their tails, blink their eyes, and MORE.  Adorable!

14.  Rock Pets are the pet that every parent wants for their child.  This is a great alternative for the child who is begging for a pet this holiday season ;)

15.  The teacher in me LOVES this Digital Timer Bookmark.  It records the amount of time spent reading.  A great tool to have on hand to keep your kids accountable for the amount of time they read each night.



Now let's move on to the "big" stuff.  As you can see, I LOVE gifts that foster thinking and creativity while being fun at the same time.  These gift ideas are really great for both boys and girls alike!
Quadrillion Geek Box Audio Pet Osmo Bubble Ball Playstix Escape Room Light Blocks Rock Painting Kit Kaliedescope Kit Telestrations Slammo Lego Boost Crayola Story By Me DIY Comic BOok Ozobot Cubetastic Build a Bear Work Station Mega Prank Kit Electric Ripstik
1.  Quadrillion is a magnetic puzzle game with thousands of challenges so play can always be varied.  LOVE games like these!

2.  My Geek Box is a really cool subscription box perfect for our smallest heroes and princesses.  The boxes can be curated to your child's franchise preference and they're stuffed to the brim with all sorts of cool items like t-shirts, toys, shirts, and franchised merchandise.  Subscriptions are offered in 1, 3, 6, & 12 month deliveries, so this makes this a great one-time or year-round gift.

3.  The Audio Pet is a great gift for kids who love to listen to music or audiobooks.  It's a bluetooth wireless speaker that connects to your smart device & streams sound.  It's also equipped with a little camera.  With a selection of 6 different animals, you're sure to find one your kid would love.  My boys will go CRAZY over the pug speaker!!!  

4.  The Osmo is an iPad compatible game system. Not only is it a wonderful learning tool, but it's fun, too!

5.  These Bumper Balls CRACK me up!  I can see hours of fun being had with these.  Great for partner play and perfect for parties, too!  Just inflate to play.

Playstix are perfect for kids who love to build.  These are a great alternative to Lincoln Logs and provide tons of opportunities to create many different structures.  

7.  Operation Escape Room is a must have for the kid who loves a challenge.  My mom is getting this one for my oldest who absolutely LOVES escape rooms.  After visiting two escape rooms this past summer, he is going to LOVE opening this one! 

8.  Electric Light Blocks are like Legos on steroids.  Again, little ones who love to build will love the ability to let their creations glow!

9.  Rock Painting is all the rage right now and this Rock Painting Kit is amazing.  It comes with everything you need to paint, decorate, and hide 10 rocks.  Stickers are also provided so that your kids can keep track of where the rocks are found.

10.  A little art, a little construction.  This build-your-own Kaliedescope Kit includes everything needed for kids to make their own.

11.  Telestrations is the visual form of the "telephone game"...perfect for kids and families to enjoy!

12.  Slammo  is a great addition to your outdoor games and keeps kids entertained for hours!  (Also known as "spikeball")

13.  The Lego Boost Building & Coding Kit is the priciest item on the list.  If you're looking for a "big ticket" item, consider this one.  This kit provides your kids with the option of building one of five different multi-functional robots that can be controlled with a little coding.  This is a great gift idea for kids who are into coding!

14.  My Comic Book Kit - my oldest absolutely LOVES graphic novels and has recently taken an interest in creating his own comics.  This comic book kit would be right up his alley. It comes with pre-formatted blank pages for kids to create their own stories.  When the story is complete, send it back to the retailer in a pre-paid packaged envelope and it will return to your child as a professionally bound copy of their original work!

15.  Crayola Story By Me is another option for budding authors.  Kids can write their own story, send it off, and receive it back as a professionally bound hardcover book complete with an "all about the author" page and everything!

16.  Cubetastic is pretty fantastic!  This 3D puzzle cube pairs with an augmented reality app that teaches kids how to solve the cube step-by-step. This is a more interactive version of the Rubik's Cube and perfect for kids who love solving puzzles.

17.  The Build-a-Bear Workshop Station brings the store into your home.  Kids who love this franchise will get everything they need to stuff & dress two bears in their very own home!

18.  The Razor Ripstik Electric Casterboard is an electric version of the original.  This amped up version comes complete with a remote control, too.

19.  The Mega Prank Kit comes complete with 35 different pranks and jokes and is perfect for kids who love to make themselves laugh, LOL.  I used to love these as a kid!!!

20.  The Ozobot is a robot that has optical sensors that respond to the commands of your coding and comes with 20 different games and activities.  I absolutely LOVE this little device and think it's an amazing gift for fostering creativity and engineering skills!

WHEW!

Hopefully these stocking stuffers and gift ideas are helpful.  Stay tuned for MORE gift guides coming this week!  On deck...gift guides for women, men, families, teachers, cheese lovers, travelers, hostesses, and MORE!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

I've never been the biggest fan of anything pumpkin flavored.  Not pumpkin pie.  Nor pumpkin cheesecake.  And especially not pumpkin spice lattes.  The flavor is just "meh" to me.  All that to be said, my whole family tends to love the taste.  And from the looks of social media, it appears that the rest of the free world feels the same way as my family.  #oddmanout

A few years ago I baked this delicious chocolate chip pumpkin bread and...shockingly...absolutely LOVED it.  


We've been on a bit of a cookie kick lately and I wanted to take that same bread concept and bake it in cookie form.  I don't come up with my own recipes so I set out to find the perfect method already tested and tasted by one of the pros :)  And let me tell y'all right now...this one is a WINNER.  My new go-to cookie recipe. 



This batch lasted a total of 1.5 days in the house.  My husband and my boys were CRAZY about them.  And while I'm not a fan of pumpkin myself, I have to say that I was crazy about these, too.  The pumpkin isn't overwhelming, but you can definitely taste it.  They're bakery style soft and fluffy.  And even though I try *really* hard not to eat sweets during the week, these were simply irresistible.  

PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

1 CUP canned pure pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 C. granulated sugar
1/4 C. light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 C. vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 TBSP. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 C. all-purpose flour
1 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 C. milk chocolate chips

You'll only need one bowl for this, so cleaning up isn't a beast.  


In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of pumpkin, white sugar, brown sugar, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla.  Use an electric mixer to beat ingredients until smooth.  Add in the cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, salt, flour, and both chocolate chips.  Beat these in with your electric mixer, but only until combined!  DON'T overmix!!  

You'll notice that your batter seems more cake batter-like in consistency and that's exactly how it should be.  Cover the bowl tightly and chill for 1-10 hours.  I chilled mine for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.  

Remove from fridge and scoop out about 1/4 C. of the batter and place in a mound on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. This amount will yield larger, bakery style cookies.  If that's white you like, be sure to only place 6 mounds of dough on the baking sheet at a time to prevent it from running together.   

Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350.  

Remove from oven and place on racks to cool.


Truly, y'all.  These cookies are AMAZING.  If you're a fan of pumpkin...or just cookies in general...you'll want to add this to your list of things to bake IMMEDIATELY.  I'm headed out in just a bit to grab more ingredients because my boys are begging for more.

I'm so grateful for people who actually know how to combine the right ingredients in just the perfect way so that I could, in turn, enjoy the tastiness without any of the frustration :)  Chelsea's Messy Apron knocked this one out of the ballpark.

These cookies are a bit thicker than your regular chocolate chip cookies.  And they're so unbelievable fluffy and moist.  Almost like cake, but not quite.  Somehow they're both dense and airy.  Easy to prep and bake, quick to disappear.  

8 very enthusiastic thumbs up from this family of four! 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Breckenridge - Eating, Drinking, & Shopping.

Yesterday we talked all about our favorite hikes & lodging in Breckenridge and today it’s all about the food, drinks, and shopping…my favorite topics!  When we go on vacation, so does my ability to eat sensibly.  We enjoy eating out when we travel.  I enjoy eating in general ;)  These are a few of our favorite restaurants, sweet spots, and places to grab a frosty beverage or two and shop!

Let's start with breakfast.  

Truth be told, we aren't huge breakfast eaters.  I mean, the boys love starting their mornings with pancakes, waffles, cinnamon rolls, or muffins (all the delicious carbs), but we're not really big on breakfast meals.  If we're eating a big breakfast, we'll usually eat it at dinnertime.  All that to be said, our breakfast experience here is very limited.  We usually pick up grab and go breakfast type foods from the grocery store and eat that before heading into town.  Here are some of our suggestions...




If you eat nothing else while you're in Breckenridge, be sure that you stop here.The best crepes of all time (says everyone I know who's tried them).  This past summer I introduced my mom to them and we stopped here each day we were in town (#excessive #sorrynotsorry #worthit).
These crepes are perfect for breakfast (both sweet and savory), but also make the best dessert.  
Just a little word of caution...be prepared to wait.  I'm not sure how we lucked out this past summer, but we never had to wait more than 45 minutes for our crepes (that includes waiting in line to order).  Of course, Fall wait times are the fastest, but we couldn't believe how lucky we got in the summer!  We haven't been that lucky during Spring Break.  A two-hour wait time on crepes in March seems pretty standard.  Trust me when I tell you that it's worth it. 


They recently opened up a second location, so if you're determined to get your crepe fix and the line looks to long, try out the new place right across the street. 


What to order:
Grant and Landon suggest the S'Mores, Chocolate, or Butter & Sugar crepes
My mom recommends the Bananas Foster crepe
I HIGHLY recommend the German Apple Strudel crepe (my favorite!) I also loved the Strawberry Shortcake, Gateau St. Honoree, and the Blueberry Muffin crepes.


Sit down for breakfast at Columbine Cafe


We've been wanting to try this place for some time and were finally able to make it in a couple of weekends ago.  We waited a little over half an hour to be seated which wasn't terrible.  We were orginally quoted 10 minutes, but they were pretty busy and there were only two servers so that wasn't surprising.  When we were finally seated, our food arrived incredibly quick and it was really delicious.  I think I liked mine more than Adam liked his, but you can never go wrong with pancakes :)  When we asked some of the locals where we should eat breakfast, this was the place that was the most recommended.

What to Eat:
The pancakes.  Word of caution - they're HUGE.  I ordered one and couldn't finish it.  But it was really, really good!



What to drink:
The Cinnamon Roll Latte (amazing!!!)



If you're feeling like a basic...well, you know...head to Starbuck's.



I know.  I know.  These are on every corner in every city across America.  WHY wouldn't I want to try something local?! Honestly...it has nothing to do with coffee and everything to do with aesthetics.  I think this is the most adorable little Starbuck's I've ever seen....especially when it's covered in snow!


The coffee tastes the same in Breckenridge as it does in Houston, but there's something about the ambiance that draws me back in every time.  And the boys love their hot chocolates and breakfast pastries & cake pops, so it's an easy pick for us when we can't decide on anything else.

Like I said, our breakfast prowess in Breckenridge is limited, so that's all I've got.  Let's move on to lunch and dinner. 





This is a family favorite.  Of course, when we go with the boys this is always our first stop.  We absolutely LOVE the atmosphere.  It’s a casual restaurant with a pub-style feel.  Several TV’s playing sports and an arcade right outside of the eating area.  4-player Pac Man is always our go-to game (I never win) with skee ball coming in at a close second.  The kids can run back and forth from our table to the games and we can pretty much keep an eye on them the whole time.  The food is really, really good to boot.  


What to Eat:
We recommend the potato skins and fried pickles for either your appetizer or a meal. We love to sample and share J    Their calzones and pizza are delicious as well.
What to drink:
AVALANCHE!   Avalanche is our favorite Colorado brewed beer and Eric’s  is one of the few places serving it.






This place NEVER disappoints.  
If you want a delicious, American meal , this little place is a must stop. We ate here for my birthday over the summer and typically stop in at least once every other time we visit.  Great atmosphere, wonderful service, and the music is always on point. We can't recommend this place enough!

What to Eat: 
 ONION RINGS - the absolute best!  
The fried zucchini strips are delish as are the loaded nachos.  Ohmiword. When we visited a couple of weekends ago, we split the nachos and a side of onion rings and left with full bellies and happy taste buds.  We also recommend the Green Chile Cheeseburger (husband’s choice) and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich (my pick).  


What to Drink:  Easy Street.  YUM.






Need a Text-Mex fix?  Try Mi Casa!

image via Trip Advisor


While we’re on the subject of family favorites, we’d be remiss not to include some Tex Mex in the mix.  Mi Casa always delivers in this category.  GREAT atmosphere.  Always busy.  If you’re dining here during Spring Break, be prepared to wait for a long time.  We love sitting in the dining area closest to the windows because the view is pretty spectacular…especially when everything is covered in snow.  We’ve always had great service with each visit.

What to Eat:  Avocado Frito with Chicken (unassumingly delicious)
Be sure to order the queso to start with…it’s delish!  And the fried jalapenos are great, too.  The nachos are excellent as are the quesadillas and you can’t go wrong with the fajitas!  My husband would recommend Manuel's Burrito or the Chimichanga.

What to Drink:  

The Casa (add the strawberries!)




If you want something less casual, head to Blue River Bistro.  


Blue River Bistro was another unexpected surprise.  This is an Italian-American restaurant with a more sophisiticated atmosphere.  We were with the boys when we visited and ran in to escape the rain.  We're so glad we did!

What to Eat:  Crispy Tiger Shrimp (delicious appetizer!)   
I ended up ordering the fettucine with marinara for my main course and in my opinion, you can never go wrong with pasta.  The boys were happy with their grilled cheese and chicken tenders and overall we would definitely visit again.  Excellent service, great food.




You'll definitely want to hit up Motherloaded Tavern while you're in town!


This place was such an unexpected delight!  It's a small, family-friendly restaurant with the most unique menu.  We celebrated my brother’s birthday here over the summer and loved absolutely everything about it.  In fact, we loved it so much that we visited a few days later with the boys after the group went back home.  We sampled a ton of food the night we dined-in with just adults.  We all got something a little different and everyone shared.  Everything we sampled was SO good.

What to Eat:
  As random as this sounds, start with the deviled eggs.


Then be sure to grab an order of the NOT-CHOS.  And while you’re at it, the disco tots, too.  The homemade mac & cheese and the Mac Daddy Mac & Cheese were both AMAZING.  I love mac & cheese, but both of these versions truly take the cake.  

The atmosphere here is really amazing and the kids loved it just as much as we did.





Got a hankering for pizza?!  You MUST go to Fatty's Pizzeria!


Fatty’s Pizzeria is probably our most favorite pizza ever. The boys call this “our pizza place”.  We love the atmosphere here just as much as the food.  The boys are especially fond of the fare.


What to Eat:
We always get the meatball pizza with onion and jalapenos and the boys opt for their own pie of pepperoni and cheese.  In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with any of the pizza because the base is so amazing.  And we all know that when it comes to pizza, it’s all about that base ;)  


What to Drink:
 If you happen to be visiting Fatty’s in the early afternoon (ish) hours, order a Bloody Mary (spicy, of course).  They make their mix in-house and it’s one of the better mixes I’ve sampled!

 




Want MORE pizza?!  Try Giampietro Pizzeria


Giampetro's is a much smaller pizza place than Fatty's, but equally as delicious.  If we choose pizza from here during Spring Break, we make sure to get it to go.  When we were visiting over the summer we noticed that they added a bar area next to the dining room.  We haven't stopped to check it out yet, but it looks great from the street :)

What to Eat:
Start with the Cheese Bread (the sauce is outstanding) and top it all off with pizza.  ANY pizza will do because the base is amazing.  





Food with a view (of sports) - Ollie's Pub & Grub



This past visit we stopped in at Ollie’s and because it was just the two of us, we opted to sit at the bar.  The place was packed…game day Saturday…so the excitement was palpable.  Great music, fabulous atmosphere, and our bartenders were the best.  I found a beer I really love and we shared the most delicious appetizers.  We're anixous to visit again and try the full menu.  While this is definitely a bar type atmosphere when walking in, it's kid friendly, too.  The bar area is separate from the dining room so that makes this a great place to eat a meal with your family or watch the game with your friends.  Highly recommend!

What to Eat:
I’m always a fan of fried pickles, but some places just aren’t as good as others.  Ollie’s fried pickles are probably the best I’ve ever had (and that's saying A LOT).  Our bartender recommended the Sweet Thai Chili buffalo wings and she was spot on.  Some of the best.  


What to Drink:
try the Agave Wheat or the Left Hand Saw Tooth Amber Ale





Looking for a restaurant with a "mountain feel"?!  Head to the Blue Stag Saloon

This is the most charming, cozy little restaurant on Main Street.  We absolutely LOVED it here.  Great kids menu (which is always a bonus), excellent service, and laid back vibe.  Of course, the food made it all that much better, but this place is definitely a winner.  


What to Eat:
The Shaved Prime Rib Sandwich or the Carnitas Street Tacos. I hear the burgers are pretty fantastic, too!




Like steak?!  Try Salt Creek Steakhouse


We had our family pictures taken while we were in Breck this summer and ended up meeting my mom and dad here for a quick bite after we were done.  I wasn't super hungry so I only got a salad, but everyone else seemed to really enjoy their meals.  This is a nicer restaurant with a great ambiance and cozy dining room.  When we visited, we were the only people in the restaurant with the exception of one other table, so we really had the whole place to ourselves (almost).  Needless to say, great service!  LOL!!  But it would've been great either way...our server was a doll.   I'd love to go back again when I have a bigger appetite.

What to Eat:
My mom recommends the crab cakes and I personally loved the caesar salad



Right across the street is the Briar Rose Saloon.

Head here for dessert and cocktails and sit in the bar area (if you're without the kids).  

What to order:
the cheesecake (one of the best I've ever had. Light and airy. Perfection on a plate)
Pair your dessert with a coffee cocktail.  I recommend the signature Briar Rose Coffee.


Speaking of desserts and sweet treats, the Mountain Top Cookie Shop on Main Street (formerly known as Mary's Mountain Cookies), is a must stop.  My boys LOVE the cookies with the creme filling or just the plain...albeit delicious...chocolate chip cookies.  I personally love the Salt Mine cookies!



While we're on the subject of sweets, my boys would be extremely disappointed if I didn't mention their most favorite candy shop in all of the world...FUZZIWIG'S Candy Factory.  Dear Lord.



We don't make it a habit of eating candy on a regular basis, but we do treat them to "their pick" at Fuzziwig's when we visit.  It's a darling little candy shop with lots of old school selections.  Truth be told, we find ourselves sneaking in even when the kids aren't with us :)



If you're looking for a place to enjoy a cocktail or two, we really love Apres on Main Street. It's family friendly until 9 pm and you can even bring in your own food.  There are a variety of board games available to play while you're visiting, too.  And they always play the best music.


They have an amazing selection of craft beers on tap as well as a variety of handcrafted cocktails.

Speaking of cocktails, when we visited this past summer we celebrated my brother's birthday in town (without kids...thanks mom & dad!)   We ended up at this fun little tavern, RMU, that we loved more than we expected.  Thanks to Bob Ross streaming on all the TV's and an insanely great musical playlist, this was one of our favorite grown-up locations :)




When Adam and I visited a couple of weekends ago, we stopped in for a quick break at The Canteen.  This might be one of our favorite patios in town.  


It helps that we visited on the most gorgeous day, but the views were truly stunning.  
I enjoyed a Hot Apple Pie while we sat on the patio and took it all in.  We absolutely LOVED this place.  I highly recommend a visit when you're in town.



Last up on this very, very long list is one of the most historical places in town...The Gold Pan Saloon.

I absolutely LOVE places rich in history.  Places that have a story to tell.  The Gold Pan Saloon is just that place.  Established in 1861, Gold Pan is said to be the oldest operating bar in Summit County.  Of course, it's not just a bar...you can grab breakfast and lunch here, too.  I absolutely love the atmosphere and the overall design & decor.  

The vibe is really laid back (and possibly haunted ;)  And the best part of it all?!  This little gem also serves our favorite Colorado brewed beverage!


Last up, let's finish with some shopping suggestions. 
We pretty much stick to Main Street when we're shopping (and by we I mean me).  There are probably a lot of great places to shop, but all I know is where I've shopped on the main strip.  Since we're usually not really there to shop, that's really good enough for me!

While you're in town, you might want to stop in at The Christmas Store and pick out a Breckenridge ornament to decorate your Christmas tree.  We made sure to do this last time we were in town and we're so glad we did.

My favorite clothing boutique is Beloved.  Great selection of clothes and shoes at different price points.  It's hard to leave without a little something.  #treatyoself

I also adore Marigold's Farmhouse Funk & Junk.  This is the most adorably decorated boutique.  An eclectic mix of farmhouse style, vintage finds with a mix of jewelry and clothing, too.  I can always find something here....especially clothes-wise.  

The Joy of Sox is always a fun stop.  As the name suggests, tons of random socks, pj's, and lots of other little gift type items.  Lots of things I can't necessarily find anywhere else. Such a great little place to pop-in while you're browsing around town.

Ruby Jane is another little boutique I love to visit.  It's always decorated so adorably.  Full of seasonal decor and gift items as well as clothes and a small selection of jewelry. 

We always stop into Sun Logic to check out the sunglasses and seasonal clothing.  The guys who work here are the absolute nicest and we've scored some amazingly good deals here, too.

Of course, I love stopping into Patagonia & North Face, too.  Especially when it's off season...they have such great sales and deals!  

Our favorite souvenir/t-shirt shops are Shirt Off My Back, Arctic Attitude, & Shirt & Ernie's.  

WHEW!

I think that about does it!  

We're definitely not Breckenridge experts.  I know we haven't covered half the ground there is to cover.  But we really do love it there!  Hopefully these last few posts answer some of the questions I've been asked.  I hope it's somewhat helpful should you find yourself in Breckenridge one day.  

After writing these posts, I'm sitting here wondering why we live in Texas, LOL.  We're already planning our next trip back and can't wait to see what new things we try next time we're in town!


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Breckenridge - Lodging & Hiking

Yesterday’s journey from Denver through Fairplay had us checking out some pretty quaint little stops and breathtaking views.  Today we’re heading into Breckenridge and talking all about our favorite places to stay, hikes, and scenic spots.  While this is definitely not a comprehensive and exhaustive list of all the lodging and hiking that Breckenridge offers, it’s our little summary of what we’ve experienced in our favorite little mountain town.

We’ve visited in Fall, Winter, and Summer and we love Breckenridge in ANY season.  It’s definitely the least busy in October (from what we’ve experienced) and most busy during Spring Break.  Summer was surprisingly busy as well, but that to be said we really never had long waits when eating out.  It never felt “crowded”.  I’m sure the locals think otherwise, but for a group of occasional visitors, we were never bothered by the amount of people in town.  

I absolutely LOVE being outdoors in Colorado.  It’s almost impossible to stay inside (unless it’s raining, of course).  There’s so much to see and do and hiking is at the top of our list of things we love to do the most.  This past summer we hiked Blue Lakes Trail with some of our friends.  This was the perfect hike to do with kids.  Not too far from downtown, Blue Lakes is a moderate trail right under 2 miles in distance.  It was a fairly simple hike with the reward of a waterfall visit at the end.



The view from Blue Lakes Trail was absolutely breathtaking.  We hiked this trail in July...starting out pretty early in the morning so we could finish up before the daily rainshower...and the weather was perfect.  It was slightly chilly at first start, but after hiking a mile the pullovers came off and the heat turned on.  One of our favorite parts of this hike was our mountain goat sighting.  Apparently mountain goats are commonly seen on this trail and we were lucky enough to spot a family of 3 careening the mountainside.  I highly recommend this trail…with or without the kids.  Just remember to pack the bug spray before you head out.  


The kids absolutely rocked this trail.  Not a complaint from any of them (ages 6, 8, 9, & 10).



Sapphire Point was another family favorite.  This trail overlooks Dillon Lake in Frisco…a 15 minute(ish) drive from Breckenridge.  I think this ended up being the boys’ favorite.  There were chipmunks galore that ate right out of our palms (peanuts!).  This was the first time for my boys to see chipmunks, much less getting close enough to eat right out of their hands, and it was a memory that won’t soon be forgotten.  



There’s a gorgeous spot overlooking the lake that’s a must for photo ops.  We made sure to take one too many :)  


The entire loop trail is less than a mile and easy to walk/hike.  The views are breathtaking and I highly recommend this trail as well.  If you wanted to make a time of it, pack some food.  There are some picnic tables around the loop overlooking the lake that would make a wonderfully scenic lunch spot.  We hiked down off the trails in certain spots to check out some of the random structures that were decorating the area and we all thought that was pretty neat.  This is definitely a trail we'd visit again...simply beautiful!



We had intentions of hiking Mohawk Lakes Trail and Quandary Peak (without the kids), but weren’t able to fit those in so we’re hoping to try again this summer.

This past summer we stayed in a house on Mount Baldy.  One of the draws to this location was the trail leading from our house all the way into town.  I believe it was a 3 mile hike down.  Easy and scenic.  Simply breathtaking!  And definitely one that the kids enjoyed and were able to do easily.


You can also access the Boreas Pass Road here and I highly recommend that as well.  Yesterday I talked about heading into Breckenridge through the Boreas Pass via Como.  If you start in Breckenridge and take Boreas Pass Rd. up to the top, you’ll end up at Boreas Pass/Continental Divide which is home to cabins and railroad remnants.  You’ll also see the Wagon Cabin which is said to be one of the oldest buildings in the Breckenridge area.  There are LOTS of places to stop and pull over along the way up/down….great hiking trails, too.  And if you time it right in the Fall, you’ll get to see Aspen Alley…a stunning tunnel of trees flocked in the most beautiful hues of yellow and orange.  A MUST visit! The most incredibly breathtaking views.

Fall 2015



As for places to stay, we definitely have our favorites.   In the Fall, we love staying at One Ski Hill on Peak 8.  We’ve been able to get some great deals this time of the year and the views are gorgeous. Located at the base of Peak 8 (our favorite ski spot), the property is meticulously maintained and the lodging is cozy and clean.  We’ve always had great experiences with their staff, too.  


They are so accommodating.  We took the boys to Breck last Fall and stayed here and had the most fun bowling on their private lanes on property. When you stay at One Ski Hill, you have the option to take advantage of this free feature and reserving a 30 minute slot in the Mine Shaft for private bowling.  The boys thought that was the coolest. 



Although we don’t stay here in the Spring, we do bring the family to Peak 8 to ski.  We absolutely love One Ski Hill’s Apres ski spot, the T-Bar. When the boys are in ski school, the adults will meet here for lunch and a cocktail and we always end our ski days here with a well earned round of hot chocolates.  


The Epic Discovery is up and running during the summer and also located on Peak 8.  Ziplining, rock wall, alpine sliding, bungee trampoline, maze, mini-golf, tubing, alpine coaster, and MORE!  We went to Epic Discovery our first day in Breck this past Summer.  It was pretty crowded, so we opted to sit out on the patio and enjoy a round of drinks instead standing in the long lines.  We planned on going back later in the week, but things got chaotic, the weather didn’t cooperate, and we didn’t make it back up.  Just gives us something to look forward to this summer for sure!


When we stay at One Ski Hill, we usually stay in the 1 bedroom condo.  We take the bedroom and the kids sleep on the pull-out sofa.  It’s perfect.  One of our favorite features of staying here is the free shuttle that will pretty much take you anywhere in town, pick you up, and bring you back.  We can drive from Denver to Breckenridge, park, and never take the car out again until we leave town.  All-in-all, this resort is definitely right there at the top of our list.  We absolutely LOVE it. 



In the Spring we love staying at Mountain Thunder Lodge.  This resort is right across the street from the gondola which we take up to Peak 8 for skiing.  It’s definitely not a ski in/ski out, so if you’re looking for something like that, I wouldn’t recommend it.  It's more of a ski-in, walk/ride out.  We stayed here in a townhouse with our friends last Spring and thought it was awesome. Well maintained, clean, and spacious.  


And here's what it looked like a couple of years ago when we got about 30 inches of snow the week we stayed for skiing!



Again, we had access to the free shuttle service which was wonderful when all 8 of us wanted to head to Main Street for lunch/dinner/etc.  We were also able to hop on the shuttle and head to the gondola for drop-off.  This was clutch with 8 people and loads of ski gear.  


A couple of years ago we walked via the underground tunnel from Mountain Thunder to the gondola.  Easy and doable, but cumbersome with all the gear and two little skiers :)  I’d definitely love to try a true ski-in/ski out one of these years. Until then, we absolutely love Mountain Thunder Lodge.  Both the condos and the townhouses make the most perfect stay!

A couple of weekends ago we stayed at Main Street Station.  Since it was just me and Adam, we decided we wanted to try staying somewhere in walking distance of everything on Main Street since we knew that’s where we’d be spending most of our time.  We really liked the location.  A lot of the shops & restaurants in Main Street Station were closed during our stay, so I think staying here in the summer or even over Spring Break would probably be a lot more exciting.  We weren’t necessarily looking for a bustling property when we went a few weekends ago, but that’s definitely something you might want to consider if you have kids with you.  Overall, I would recommend it and probably stay there again, but we’d love to try something different next time we visit.


This past summer we ended up renting a house on Mount Baldy since we had an extended stay and several people in our group.  We ended up using VRBO to book our stay.  We found our lodging in April when there were great deals being offered.  If you’re planning on renting during the summer, scout out your location early and then secure it in the Spring.  We tried to find something on AirBNB, but ended up going with VRBO because the pictures of this property and the deal we were offered were just too good to pass up!



We absolutely LOVED our spot overlooking the mountains.  The house was unreal…a LOT bigger than we anticipated, but just perfect for our group.  There was a huge balcony on the main floor overlooking the mountains and an additional second balcony on the bottom floor complete with a hot tub.  You could walk right into the “backyard” and a lower level patio from the bottom balcony/deck.  This was a favorite spot for the kids because the property had an awesome little treehouse for the kids to enjoy.







The kids loved sitting out on the main floor balcony in the mornings and "sketching".  It was the cutest thing.  That was definitely the best feature of the home.  Tons of seating options and a great little swing that was just perfect for pre-storm naps :)



 The best part about our little house was coming home each afternoon and watching the storms roll in over the mountains.  Like clockwork, the rain would start to fall every afternoon between 3 and 5.  Somedays it would last longer than others, but it rained every day of our 2 week stay. 




 The fireplace was used almost every night as was the hot tub.  We kept the windows open for fresh air and the kids really enjoyed their own space upstairs sleeping on the couches and playing with the in-house games.  There was a little something for everyone!



The drive to town was maybe 7 minutes total and we were able to walk about half a mile from our house to the Free Ride bus stop when we didn’t want drive and park.  We absolutely LOVED the location for an extended stay and would absolutely stay here again in a heartbeat.  


If you’re driving in town, be prepared to pay for parking.  You won’t need cash though.  Just a credit or check card and your license plate number.  Before you visit, download the Passport Parking App.  This app allows you to pay for parking on your phone.  You can even add more time to your parking if you end up enjoying your Breckenridge excursions longer than expected.  Parking is a lot less crowded in the Fall than in the Summer.  We haven’t had to battle the parking over Spring Break because we use the shuttle system, but I can imagine that it’s really crazy that time of the year.  Just be prepared :)

While you're in town, be sure to stop by the park area across from the Riverwalk Center.  This is one of our favorite little scenic areas.  In the Fall and Summer, the kids absolutely love taking off their shoes, wading in the water, and hopping across the rocks.  This is a great place to sit and enjoy your crepes while watching the kids play.

Fall 2016

Spring 2017


 Summer 2017


Fall 2017

Right in that same spot there's a little bridge that crosses over this river.  This vew is on the other side of the bridge and it's our absolute most favorite spot in the city.  We have to stop by and snap photos each time we're in town.

Fall 2017

Summer 2017



For brevity’s sake, I’m going to stop this post right here and pick up tomorrow right where I'm leaving off .  Tomorrow we’ll chat strictly about food and shopping…my most FAVORITE subjects!