75 Must Have Road Trip Snacks

best road trip snacks for kids
Hitting the road on the Great American Road Trip then you need some snacks. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Great American Road Trip, it’s part of our culture. We yearn to discover our country much like the first explorers.

We pack up the SUV and hit the road nearly every school break. So what’s the best road trip snack for kids?

Road trip snacks are just as important as the map. My kids, 10, 13 and 15, have road trip snack opinions so I take them shopping. That’s when it gets fun. I say yes to most things. Since it’s just for our road trip.

best road trip snacks for kids
Pack the SUV and don’t forget to pack the snack bag. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Best Road Trip Snacks for Kids

I could tell you I pack the most nutrient-rich, organic items that I can find. But Mom needs a break. I want to be the Fun Mom for our road trip. So I’m packing all the fun snacks, just for vacation. We’ll go back on the nutritious wagon when we get home. Promise.

The Classic Road Trip Snacks

  • Beef Jerky
  • Pringles
  • Cheez-Its
  • Moon pie
  • Twizzlers
  • Cracker Jack
  • Corn nuts
  • Slurpees

Road Tripping Protein 

Sometimes I’m in the middle of a desert and there’s not a place to stop for a meal.

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Yogurt. Don’t forget the spoons or get the tubes.
  • Breakfast in a Pouch, a combination of nuts and fruit in a single-serve pouch
  • Flavored almonds, sweet or salty
  • Hummus
  • Nut butter, peanut, almond or cashew
  • Pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

Best Bars for Road Trips

Bars are a must for any car. Stash a few in console compartment, just in case.

  • Protein bars
  • Granola bars
  • Cereal bars
  • Fig Newtons
  • Date Bars

Fruit Snacks for Road Trips 

My kids love their fruit but most fresh fruit doesn’t travel well. It really needs a cooler or to be eaten on the first day.

  • A banana or two. Not too many because they bruise.
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Apples
  • Fresh Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Fruit leather
  • Freeze-dried fruit– Apples and pears seem to be the winners here.
  • Applesauce pouches
  • Yogurt-covered raisins
  • Dried cherries or apricots
  • Bagged fruit snacks

Got the Ultimate List of Road Trips Snacks. Got something for everyone, including the road tripping purists.

Cheese

A good source of protein and travels well if individually wrapped. Put it in a cooler during the summer.

  • String cheese
  • Babybel
  • Laughing Cow
  • Individually packaged pieces of cheddar or Colby.

Salty Snacks

I stay away from any snacks that will cover my car in cheesy fingerprints.

  • Cracker sandwiches. I get the variety pack to keep everyone happy.
  • Gold Fish. My kids still love these.
  • Pretzels
  • Popped popcorn
  • Chex Mix
  • Bagel chips
  • Potato chips
  • Pita chips

Just for Fun Sweet Treats

  • Cookies, a couple of varieties. I even buy the kind I usually say No to, except chocolate-coated for melty mess reasons.
  • Rice Crispy Treats
  • Graham crackers
  • Gummy anything
  • Animal crackers
  • Marshmallows
  • Trail Mix
  • Muddy Buddies Mix

Road Trip Snack Bag Must Haves 

  • Paper towels
  • Wet wipes
  • Disposable silverware
  • Ziploc bags, quarts and gallon size
  • Clothes pins or Chip Clips
  • Refillable water bottles

Snacks for Mom

I do the majority of the driving on our road trips so I have my own snacks in the front seat since my kids will eat everything within their reach.

  • Sweet and salty nuts
  • Good crackers
  • Edamame
  • Bean Chips, like the SnapPeas Crisps
  • Good Cheese
  • Bottled cold coffee drinks
  • Canned sparkling water
  • Gum
  • Sweet tarts or other really tart candy

I also pack treats that wake up my mouth so I can stay alert. After a few hours on the road I like to chew gum. I have a roll of Sweet Tarts or other candy that’s really tart. I alternate unsweet ice tea or iced coffee and sparkling water.

What About Dad?

Dads want a break from the daily obligations of parenting too. So let him eat junk, just for the trip.

  • Pork Rinds
  • Bugles
  • Pistachios, just give him something for the shells
  • Sunflower seeds, same
  • Gas station hotdog
  • Slim Jim
  • Hot Fries
  • Hostess Cupcakes
  • Twinkies
  • Fried Pies
  • Antacid
best road trip snacks for kids
Grab a reusable bag and pack it full of your favorites. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Tips for Road Trip Snacking

First off, I make it easy and fun. I forget about the cute little containers I saw on Pinterest. Let’s get real for a minute, what am I supposed to do with all those containers on the second day of our trip?

I skip the plastic containers and especially the glass Mason jars. I buy individual serving sizes so I grab all the trash from the back seat when I stop for gas. Don’t think I’m the only one with messy kids.

Then I load everything up in one of my reusable shopping bags. Since it’s soft-sided, I can stash the bag in another place if needed.

Since it’s vacation my kids get what they want, except for chocolate, a giant barrel of cheez balls and Capri Suns. The chocolate and the cheez balls for obvious messy reasons.

Let me tell you a story from the summer of 2010, a Capri Sun gunfight broke out in the backseat of my Toyota 4 Runner. I didn’t know that my boys could turn drink pouches into sticky sweet weapons. They did and they had a great time. Now Capri Suns are permanently banned from my SUV.

The snack bag is another passenger and has its own spot in the the back seat. My 15-year-old daughter is in charge of the snack bag in route. As the driver I need to stay focused on driving. That and I don’t have time for any snack squabbles that break out.

I really have two snack bags. One with the kids and one hidden in the back of the SUV. I use as it as back stock. If if give all the snacks to my kids at once, they would eat everything like a pack of puppies.

Did I miss your favorite? Let me know in the comments.

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16 Ways to Apres at Squaw Valley Village with Kids

 

Enjoy Squaw Valley with kids where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe.
Squaw Valley offers families the place to ski big  plus a village full of family fun. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Squaw Valley–More than a Ski Resort

Taking the entire family skiing requires more than a few lift tickets. Squaw Valley Ski Resort offers a village packed full of fun for everyone on a family ski getaway, not just the skiers.

When I’m planning my family’s annual winter getaway, I look for fun activities for everyone. I want shopping, dining, and winter activities like sledding and skating all within walking distance. I found all that in Squaw Valley’s Village on a recent visit. 

Top Family Fun at Squaw Valley

  • Snow Tubing
  • Mini Snow Mobiles
  • Sledding
  • Indoor rock wall
  • Outdoor trampoline
  • Roasting s’mores
  • Take the aerial tram to High Camp
  • Tour the Olympic Museum
  • Snow shoeing
  • Dog sledding
  • Cross country skiing
  • Shopping
  • Spa treatments
  • Yoga
  • Fireworks on select nights
  • Live music on select nights
  • Horse-drawn sleigh rides on select nights
  • Plus lots of holiday fun during December

What I loved about The Village at Squaw Valley

  • Everything is right in the Village so you don’t have to leave the resort.
  • Even in the busiest time of the year it never felt crowded.

What I wanted from The Village at Squaw Valley

  • A skating rink in the Village.
  • Better labeling in the parking lots since it tends to be a sea of cars.
family fun at Squaw Valley where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
I found lots of family fun at Squaw Valley that doesn’t require a lift ticket. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Family Fun without a Lift Ticket

My kids could ski or snowboard everyday but Mom can’t. I need a break after a few days or my legs will fall off or worse.

Sure, my kids would love to explore on their own but I’m not comfortable letting my kids, 10, 13 and 15-years-old run wild on the mountain. So I add a rest day into our family ski getaway.

I might get to sleep in an extra hour but I’ve got to keep the kids moving. And that means heading outdoors for winter family fun.

What to do at Squaw Valley Village with Kids

In a corner of the Squaw Valley Ski Resort, I found the SnoVentures area packed with winter fun. Located next to Squaw Kids, the ski and snowboarding school, SnoVentures offers a day’s worth of fun.

For kids of all ages, snow tubing gives families a fun outlet for competition. Grab a tube and use the covered surface lift for more fun with less work.

A free sledding area, located next to the snow tubing area, offers all-day fun for free if you bring-your-own equipment. Or pick up a sled in Tahoe City, just 10 miles away.

For the kids, mini snowmobiles offer thrills and a taste of the adrenaline sport with just-the-right-size option for kids. Limited to kids 6 to 12.

The Village at Squaw Valley also features an indoor rock wall. Outside I found a Sky Jump Trampoline for the kids.

More than a ski resort, Squaw Valley Village offers family fun off the slopes with outdoor sports along with indoor activities as well. See a full list to plan your winter getaway.

For the winter athlete, the Nordic Center at the Resort of Squaw Creek at Squaw Valley offers 18km of groomed trails, located close by. Winding through the meadows in Squaw Valley offers postcard-perfect scenery.

Too much of a workout for a vacation? Try snow shoeing and pull the kids in a toboggan for fun with the littles.

Families looking for an Arctic-inspired adventure can find it at Squaw Valley. Imagine a team of Alaskan Huskies pulling the family through the snow-covered meadow on a dog sled.

Don’t forget that Squaw Valley offers horse-drawn sleigh rides and live entertainment during December. Santa skies into Squaw too. And remember to try one fo the festive meals for the holiday season.

Squaw Valley’s Aerial Tram

The aerial tram offers spectacular views of Squaw Valley and Lake Tahoe beyond. A scenic ride aboard a large tram car offers a fun outing to High Camp, the terminus for the tram.

With a couple of restaurants at High Camp, take the family on a ride for lunch or dinner. Don’t forget to tour the Olympic Museum. Tickets are required.

Olympic Museum where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
Learn a little ski history at the Olympic Museum at Squaw Valley’s High Camp and remember to grab a gold win selfie. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Squaw Valley’s Olympic History

Squaw Valley’s skiing is not the only thing that’s legendary. Their successful 1960 Olympic bid is as legendary as the games themselves.

In 1955 Alex Cushing, the chairman of Squaw Valley, saw a newspaper article announcing Reno as the possible site for the 1960 Olympic Games. He threw his resort in the mix, boasting only a single chairlift and a couple of rope tows at the time.

The place to beat—Innsbruck, Austria, an international favorite.

Against all odds, Cushing secured the vote in France. With the help of the State of California and Walt Disney, the infrastructure grew out of the valley virtually overnight.

Days before the opening, Squaw Valley lacked the snow it needed. Then a fierce snowstorm blew in from the West and dumped the much needed snow.

As if orchestrated by Walt Disney himself, the head of pageantry, the clouds cleared moments before the official the start of the Olympic Games. Moments later Walt Disney released 2,000 doves into the air signaling the start of the 10-day long games.

Be sure to walk through the Olympic Museum at High Camp. My kids loved standing on the Olympic podium.

Indoor Winter Escapes

Need an escape? Sneak out to the Trilogy Spa located in The Village at Squaw Valley. Don’t forget that massages can work out the mountain kinks.

The Wanderlust Yoga Studio, located in The Village, offers drop-in classes.

The Village is packed with shopping and offers more than winter gear. Shop at the Squaw Valley Logo Company or any of the shops featuring home, kids or toy shopping.

The kids can even craft on their winter getaway.

Après-Ski Fun

Every Saturday evening, the Village at Squaw Valley offers live music. Then at 6 p.m., the night sky lights up with fireworks.

Squaw Valley also features a film series selected nights throughout the winter season for free movies at the Olympic Village Lodge.

For adults looking to unwind, the Auld Dubliner Irish Pub draws a crowd along with several other bars in the Village area. 

Rocker Where to take kids Skiing in Lake Tahoe
My kids ate big after a day on the slopes at Rocker in the Squaw Valley Village. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Where to Eat in The Village

The Village at Squaw Valley offers lots of options for families.

During my visit, we ate at Rocker, steps from the lifts. It features a patio to watch the fireworks and a casual environment for families.

My kids dominated a plate of nachos as big as the state of California. With a little kids’ menu, big kid pleasing hamburgers, a choice of farm fresh salads, the whole table left full and happy.

Snacks for kids where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
We love crepes and I found lots of tasty treats across Squaw Valley Ski Resort for families. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

For snacking during the day, I stopped by the Euro Snack trailer for savory and sweet crepes. Of course, I ran into Starbucks for coffee and hot chocolate. I also found pizza, sushi and grill options.

For the Skiers and Snowboarders

Squaw Valley Ski Resort is more than a ski resort, it’s a bucket list destination and an international favorite for over 50 years. And it was recently voted Best Ski Resort in North America by the readers of USA Today.

Any day on the mountain can’t be beat, and a day at Squaw is epic. It’s more than the world-class runs, it’s a the feeling seeps in and takes hold. It’s the kind a day that you remember for decades.

Family Skiing at Squaw Valley where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
Heading up the First Venture lift right after we get to the SnoVentures area. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Squaw Valley by-the-Numbers

Base Elevation: 6,200 ft. Summit Elevation: 9,050 ft.
Vertical Drop: 2,850 ft. Skiable Acres: 3,600
Type of Terrain Percentage of Runs
Green 25%
Blue 45%
Black 30%
Total Named Runs: 170
Lifts: 29 total:

1 aerial tram, 1 funitel, 1 high speed 6-pack, 3 high-speed quads, 1 quad, 9 triples, 3 doubles and 5 surface lifts

Squaw Valley Ski School

Squaw Valley offers programs divided by age. For the youngest skiers, ages 3 to 4 (potty-trained kids only), the Pioneers program focuses on fun with first time, full-day and half-day programs available.

For the 5 to 7-year-olds, kids can choose from skiing or snowboarding. The Explorers Ski and Grommets Snowboard Program is for more active kids and broken down by ability–green, blue or black-level runs.

Kids 8 to 13-years-old explore the mountain trying lots of runs along side similarly-skilled kids. The Mountaineers Ski and Jibbers Snowboard program will be on the snow the majority of the day.

All kids’ programs (ages 3 to 13) feature an afternoon first time package. Teen group lessons are available though they meet in the adult lesson area.

Is it Your First Family Ski Trip?

What do you need to pack for family ski trip? I’ve been there and pulled together a list to help you out.

Need some advice on picking a ski school for your kids? I’ve got some tips for families to find the best program. 

More Lake Tahoe Fun for Families

Looking for more places to discover in Lake Tahoe? Got a couple of my favorite spots to share.

Mt Rose Meadows for sledding 

Spooner Lake for sledding 

Granlibakken Tahoe  

Northstar Ski

Mt Rose Ski Tahoe 

Then discover a quaint town to spend an afternoon, like Tahoe City.

Where’s Squaw Valley Ski Resort

Squaw Valley Ski Resort is located at 1960 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley, California. Squaw Valley is 12 miles south of Truckee, California, along California Highway 89. Tahoe City, California, a quaint mountain town on the western shores of Lake Tahoe is 10 miles away.

If flying into Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) to visit Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley is 48 miles from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) via Interstate 80.

Parking Available

General Parking Free
Premier Parking $20
Valet Garage Parking $30 or $40 holiday

Disclosure: 

My family was hosted by Squaw Valley Ski Resort though I have skied at Squaw Valley for years.

Know Before You Go

  • Pack a bag of marshmallows and a couple of roasting sticks, I found several fire pits, perfect for an après-ski
  • Squaw Valley Ski Resort’s partner resort, Alpine Meadows is a short complimentary shuttle ride away.
  • Before heading out check out road conditions at NVroads.com for tire chain requirements. I use Nevada’s website for the Lake Tahoe region since it’s easier to use on a mobile device than California’s website.

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Crush it Local Style at Lake Tahoe’s Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak Resort for Kids
With peeks of Lake Tahoe below the skiing and boarding at Incline Village’s Diamond Peak is some of the most scenic. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Diamond Peak, the Locals Ski Resort at Lake Tahoe

On my first trip to Tahoe, I pulled on a pair of ski boots for the first time at Diamond Peak Ski Resort. After a couple of days on the snow, I was hooked for life. Flash forward 20 years and now I want to know how’s Diamond Peak Resort for kids.

A lot has changed in my life since my first Tahoe weekend. I’m toting a carful of kids in ski and snowboard boots now. What impressed me the most was all the perks and deals for families at Diamond Peak Ski Resort.

2017 Diamond Peak Lift Tickets

Ages Regular Holiday
24 to 64, Interchangeable Parent’s Pass $79 1/2 Day $74 $89 1/2 Day $84
13 to 23, 65 to 79 $59 1/2 Day $54 $60 1/2 Day $64
7 to 12 $34 1/2 Day $29 $44 1/2 Day $39
Child under 6, 80+ FREE FREE

Online discounts available though must be purchase in advance. Family packages are available. Diamond Peak offers discounts for the active military, first responders and adaptive skiers.

What I loved about Diamond Peak Ski Resort

  • Convenience for families staying in Incline Village. No traffic.
  • Manageable size of Diamond Peak and all runs end at the Base Lodge.
  • The sense of community at Diamond Peak can’t be beat. It’s a locals’ hangout.

What I wanted at Diamond Ski Resort: 

  • More green runs. It has 3 runs for kids just starting out.
  • More close-in parking. I had to take an open air shuttle down the mountain.

Diamond Peak By-the-Numbers

Base Elevation: 6,700 ft. Summit Elevation: 8,540 ft.
Vertical Drop: 1,840 ft. Skiable Acres: 655
Type of Terrain Percentage of Runs
Green 18%
Blue 46%
Black 36%
Total Named Runs: 30
Lifts: 1 high-speed quad, 2 quads. 3 doubles and 1 surface lift for ski school.
Diamond Peak Resort for Kids
My 10-year-old moves up to the easiest blue trail at Diamond Peak. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Diamond Peak Resort for Kids

Learn to ski with the local kids. Diamond Peak Ski Resort is the go-to program for Lake Tahoe kids. Since it offers half-day and full-day programs along with six-week programs over the entire season.

Diamond Peak Ski School has an efficient drop-off procedure and after checking in at their desk, the staff handles the rest. It’s a relief to have someone else fit the kiddos with their equipment, especially ski boots.

After outfitting the kids with their equipment, the ski instructors pull all the skis in a toboggan. Then the kids walk to practice area, centrally located next to the ski services building or the school yard green run.

Diamond Peak Resort for Kids
Diamond Peak’s Ski School features a surface lift along with the Schoolyard chair lift. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The ski school has a surface lift and the School House lift is very close to the ground, about 10 to 15 feet off the ground depending on the snow base. The ideal situation for little kids advancing to ski lifts.

For all day ski programs, Diamond Peak offers kids favorites like, mac-and-cheese and pizza, for lunch.

Terrain Parks at Diamond Peak

I’ve got two boys, 10 and 13-years-old, so I’ve learned about terrain parks over the last few seasons. It’s not as crazy as I originally thought.

I will admit, when my daredevil son told me he wanted to check out a terrain park a couple of years ago, I envisioned something I’d seen on the Olympics. Don’t worry, think of terrain parks as snow playgrounds.

During my visit, my kids started with the terrain features at the bottom of the Logdepole run. Then moved up to the Popular Progression Park. Even my 15-year-old daughter started to ski over the small jumps.

Be sure and check out the terrain park signs to see if your kids are in the right playground. Most resorts install several terrain parks with differing levels of difficulty. Take it easy and start small.

Ski like a local at Diamond Peak in Incline Village on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. With kids lessons along with some of the best views, Diamond Peak offers family skiers some serious perks, like FREE skiing for some kids.

Parent Perks at Diamond Peak Ski Resort

I’ll take any perk. Diamond Peak offers an interchangeable parents pass so parents can share a single lift ticket. Allowing one parent to watch the baby while the other shreds the mountain.

Diamond Peak features family packages for two adults and two kids. And don’t forget kids under 6 ski FREE.

A shout out to Grandma and Grandpa, take the kids skiing for FREE. Those over 80 get free lift passes too.

Where to Eat at Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak Resort for Kids
Grab a table on Diamond Peak’s sun deck to enjoy the view of Lake Tahoe. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Diamond Peak offers a couple of lodges, their Base Lodge and Snowflake Lodge at top of the Lakeview Quad lift. The Base Lodge features a food court where I got my kids a couple of hotdogs, though vegetarian options are available.

Wild Bill’s BBQ hits the spot for the older crowd with two locations. During busy days, grab some Wild Bill’s on the Base Lodge Deck, the place to relax under a blue bird sky. Venture up to the Snowflake Lodge for more BBQ.

The Loft Bar serves up the classics for après ski unwinding. Staying open a couple hours after the lifts close, it’s the place to toast a perfect run. 

Is it Your First Family Ski Trip?

What do you need to pack for family ski trip? I’ve been there and pulled together a list to help you out.

Need some advice on picking a ski school for your kids? I’ve got some tips for families to find the best program. 

More Lake Tahoe Fun for Families

Looking for more places to discover in Lake Tahoe? Got a couple of my favorite spots to share.

Mt Rose

Spooner Lake

Granlibakken 

Northstar

Squaw Valley

Then discover a quaint town to spend an afternoon, like Tahoe City.

Where’s Diamond Peak Ski Resort

Diamond Peak Ski Resort is located in Incline Village at 1210 Ski Way, on the northern shore of Lake Tahoe. Just 35 miles south of the Reno-Tahoe International Airport when driving  Mt. Rose Highway (NV Hwy 431).

If flying into Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) to visit Lake Tahoe, several airport shuttles drop off in Incline Village at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, located at 111 Country Club Dr. Diamond Peak Ski Resort runs a Free ski shuttle bus from the Hyatt as well as several other locations throughout Incline Village.

Disclosure:

My family was hosted at Diamond Peak Ski Resort though I have skied this resort through the years.

Know Before You Go: 

  • Reservations are recommended during holiday breaks and long weekends. Ski School sells out.
  • Helmets are recommended but not required at Diamond Peak and not included in the ski lesson package. Helmets are $10 additional.
  • Arrive early to ski school to allow for smooth transition.
  • Group snowboarding lessons begin at 7-years-old or at 3 with a private instructor.
  • Before heading out check out road conditions at NVroads.com for tire chain requirements, especially Mt. Rose Highway (NV Hwy 431). I use Nevada’s website for the Lake Tahoe region since it’s easier to use on a mobile device than California’s website.

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9 Things To Do in Tahoe City with Kids this Winter

Watson Cabin, Where to go in Tahoe City with Kids.
Walk by the Watson Cabin along the shores of Lake Tahoe. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

What to do in Tahoe City with Kids

A day on the mountain can’t be beat, but Mom needs a break after a couple of days. That’s why I plan a day to sled and ice skate with the kids. Tahoe City offers 9 activities perfect for families that scream fun like sledding, ice skating and snowshoeing, all within walking distance. Then answer the question, what to do in Tahoe City with kids.

Tops for Sledding Granlibakken Tahoe

Granlibakken features the fastest sled hill in Lake Tahoe
My 12-year-old needs a sturdy ride and Granlibakken features MH sleds.

Nestled in the evergreens, Granlibakken Tahoe offers lodging and a small ski operation, although my kids love their crazy fast sledding hill. For nearly half what other ski resorts charge for an hour of snow tubing, Granlibakken offers a full day of sledding fun.

For $16 per person ($17 during holidays), kids get unlimited rides down their monitored hill and a saucer sled for the day. Kids can climb Granlibakken’s hill over and over, racing each other and even Mom.

Tahoe City where to sled at Lake Tahoe
My kids discuss strategy as they figure out how to beat Mom down the hill. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

After a few sledding runs, time for s’mores! The ski hut at Granlibakken sells s’mores packages with enough chocolate, grahams, and marshmallows for a family of four to toast at the fire pit. Or bring your own in your snack bag. The ski hut also features hot drinks, soups and Mexican favorites in an authentic log cabin with a pot belly stove.

Find Granlibakken Tahoe at 725 Granlibakken Road. It features a small ski hill with a rope tow and inexpensive lift tickets ($30 – $35 per person for a full day).

Tahoe City Winter Sports Park

First on my kids list, the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park, to ice skate. All the winter sports activities are conveniently located next to each other and rental equipment is available.

Go ice skating in Tahoe City
Take the kids ice skating in Tahoe City. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

TAHOE CITY ICE RINK

Tahoe City features an ice rink with jamming tunes and festive lights, perfect for kids of all ages. Located in the center of town (251 North Lake Blvd), this rink offers families a place to strap on their skates for some outdoor fun.

We laced up our skates and hit the ice under a canopy of twinkling lights. My kids grabbed the seals that beginners use to push around the ice for confidence and stability.

Rental skates are available or bring your own. Admission for skaters and tables for non-skaters.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKI TRAILS IN TAHOE CITY

For outdoor enthusiasts, Tahoe City Winter Sports Park offers 4 km of groomed trails. Meander through a meadow in the center of Tahoe City enjoying the sights and scents of the season.

The Tahoe City Winter Sports Park offers ski rental. And trail passes required.

Tip: Teens enjoy cross-country skiing though not suited for the youngest kids.

TAHOE CITY SLEDDING HILL

Looking for more outdoor kid fun? Tahoe City Winter Sports Park offers a small sledding hill steps away from the ice skating rink. Admission based on age.

SNOWSHOE TRAIL IN TAHOE CITY

Snowshoeing requires no new skills, just strap on snowshoes and walk with a couple of poles. I found a snowshoe loop that’s dog-friendly at the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park. Grab a toboggan and pull the littles for family fun.

Special shoes aren’t required and the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park offers snowshoe rental.  I just strap them to my snow boots. Admission for the snowshoe loop pass.

 

Tip: Want to do it all? Buy a Sports Park All Day Fun Pass.

CAFÉ ZENON

Tahoe City where to sled at Lake Tahoe
I sampled the mac-and-cheese along with the fries at Cafe Zenon after skating for a while in Tahoe City. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

After a couple of hours on the ice, we needed to eat. Steps away from the ice rink at Tahoe City Winter Sport Park I found Café Zenon. With a large menu of upscale comfort food offerings, I found entrees that satisfied my palate and the kids.

The mac-and-cheese is not just for the kids. Adults can order it with pride. The chicken tenders with fries are cheat-worthy. Don’t tell the kids! But the fries are really frites–yummy.

Café Zenon offers a full bar with inventive and signature cocktails. For the kids, order a hot chocolate.

THE TAHOE ART HAUS AND CINEMA

See a Movie, what to do in Tahoe City with Kids
Baby it’s cold outside so grab a seat and see a movie. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Evening comes early in the winter so escape to the movies. Sit in the cozy couch seating or rock away in a leather seat, the Tahoe Art Haus Cinema shows latest blockbusters.

As Lake Tahoe’s only cinema draft house, order a local draft beer or coffee drink. Don’t miss the popcorn spice bar and I found hotdogs and cheese pizza too.

COMMONS BEACH PARK AND PLAYGROUND 

Visit the Playground, What to do in Tahoe City with Kids.
Kids have lots of choices at the Commons Beach playground. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

If the snow isn’t too deep then let the kids play along one of most picturesque walking paths at Lake Tahoe. The Common Beach Park features open spaces for running, a walking path and a playground.

The divided path offers a lane for cyclists and walkers along with interpretive signs. My kids found playground gold at Commons Beach Park. Even my 14-year-old scrambled over the climbing wall.

Since I found plenty of seating, a few picnic tables and a restroom located next to the playground, families congregate here year-round. Even the little kids have a separate play structure. Free

Along the shore of Lake Tahoe, the quaint hamlet of Tahoe City offers families winter fun, minutes from the area's best ski resorts.

Where to Shop in Tahoe City 

Quaint, locally owned shops line the streets of Tahoe City. As a bonus, you can walk between all the shopping in Tahoe City.

Skiing and Sledding Near Tahoe City

Enjoy Squaw Valley with kids where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe.
Lake Tahoe offers families the place to ski big with lots of family friendly runs and terrain parks. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Lake Tahoe offers world-class skiing for families, including some of the best ski schools around. And Tahoe City is minutes from several top resorts.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort offers families Olympic skiing and history with lots of mountaintop green runs served by a large gondola.

Northstar Ski Resort offers families a luxury ski getaway with a premier kids learning center.

Diamond Peak Ski Resort has been a locals favorite for years.

Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe boasts lots of green runs just for kids along in the Enchanted Forest.

Then I’ve got a couple of FREE sledding hills nearby too.

Tahoe Meadows

Spooner Summit

First Time Skiing? 

Need help packing for a family ski getaway. I’ve pulled together a list of must haves for the whole family. 

Finding the perfect resort for your family requires research. I’ve got a list of the features I look for in a family friendly ski resort.

Disclosure:

My family was hosted for part of our visit to Tahoe City. Consideration for locations listed.

Know Before You Go:

  • The ice rink is open everyday throughout the winter season though check after a heavy snowfall when snow removal temporarily closes the rink.
  • Outdoor ice skating rinks have faster ice than indoor rinks. Bring a helmet for kids learning since falls are common.
  • Park at the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park and walk to the park, movie theatre and shopping.
  • Before heading out check out road conditions at NVroads.com for tire chain requirements. I use Nevada’s website for the Lake Tahoe region since it’s easier to use on a mobile device than California’s website.

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Your Guide to Skiing at Northstar in Lake Tahoe with Kids

Enjoy Northstar Ski Resort best ski lessons for kids in Lake Tahoe
A day enjoying the blue bird sky while skiing down a perfectly groomed run is divine. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Carving my way through a treed glade as the diamond-dusted mountains sparkle soothes my soul. For my kids, catching a bit of air in the terrain park makes them forget about homework. My husband just wants to be away from his office and work obligations. A family ski getaway should be filled with moments of wonder and excitement, not frustration and tantrums. To do that, a family needs a ski resort that caters to the needs of families. By providing kids a superior learning environment, Northstar Ski Resort offers the best ski lessons for kids in Lake Tahoe. With a village full of après fun, families create memories instead of meltdowns.

Northstar Ski Resort at Lake Tahoe

Located near California’s Lake Tahoe, Northstar Ski Resort boasts a secluded ski resort that caters to families.

What I loved about Northstar Ski Resort

  • The sheltered location reduces wind issues.
  • They love families, kids are everywhere.

What I wanted from Northstar Ski Resort

  • Better labeling in the Village.
  • Less traffic.

Northstar By the Numbers

The Mountain Statistics

Base Elevation: 6,330ft. Summit Elevation: 8,610ft.
Vertical Drop: 2,280 ft. Skiable Acres: 3,170
Type of Terrain Percentage of Runs
Green 11%
Blue 56%
Black 33%
Total Named Runs: 100
Lifts: 20 total:

2 gondolas,1 high speed 6-pack, 7 high-speed quads, 1 fixed-grip quad, 2 triples, 2 surface lifts and 5 Magic Carpet lifts

 

Our Day Skiing and Riding at Northstar

Enjoy Northstar Ski Resort best ski lessons for kids in Lake Tahoe
Skiing with kids down Northstar’s engineered runs make this Mom a better skier. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

My kids, 9, 12 and 14-years-old, have skied and snowboarders for several years, each year taking lessons and starting on the green runs. Though we’re making progress and moving up to the easiest blue trails.

My youngest and I rode the Big Easy lift, the easiest lift for younger kids. This area offered banked turns and a spine that my 9-year-old son loved. This is the place to start your first day on the snow.

My kids moved up from the Big Easy lift to the Arrow Express lift. This lift offers a longer green run for kids and families. It’s also a designated slow zone and Northstar positions ski patrol along this route to control speed during peak periods, like holidays.

After a few runs down the Lumberjack trail and the Lower Main Street, my kids tried the Vista Express Lift to tackle Skid Trail. Another green run that connects with Lumberjack and Lower Main Street for an even longer green run.

At the end of the day, my kids took the Village Run back to Northstar’s Village. Since everyone makes their way back down the mountain this way, I don’t suggested this for beginners due to congestion.

Northstar Terrain Parks

Enjoy Northstar Ski Resort best ski lessons for kids in Lake Tahoe
Spend time in Northstar’s terrain park, let the kids show you some new tricks. Even better, shoot a video. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I’ve got two boys, 9 and 12-years-old, so I’ve learned about terrain parks over the last few years. They’re not as crazy as I originally thought.

When my daredevil son told me he wanted to check out a terrain park, I envisioned something I’d seen on the Olympics. Don’t worry, think of terrain parks like snow playgrounds. Most resorts offer several parks with different terrain features.

At Northstar, my boys stayed on the Warren Miller’s Playground, off Skid Trail after riding the Vista Express Lift. This terrain area boasts features made of snow, like small jumps.

As a mom, be sure and check out the terrain park signs to see if your kids are in the right playground. Most resorts install several terrain parks with differing levels of difficulty. Take it easy, start small and keep an eye out for the more advanced teens.

Northstar Ski School

Enjoy Northstar Ski Resort best ski lessons for kids in Lake Tahoe
Ski School is the only way to get the kids on the snow and loving it. Let the professionals handle it. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

After seven years of kids in ski school, I can spot an excellent program.

My Must Haves for Ski School

  • Trained staff that actually like kids and know how to talk and play with kids. Corny jokes and riddles a plus.
  • A separate facility with an indoor transition area that allows for kids to rest or warm up.
  • A separate outdoor area that’s fenced off from the rest of the resort yet visible for parents wanting to check-in.
  • Separate magic carpet lifts or surface lifts for ski school only.
  • Staff that fits kids with skis.
  • Helmets for kids regardless of local laws.

An Outstanding Program will have

  • A program that keeps the littlest kids off the elevated lifts before 6-years-old.
  • A chef-inspired lunched that’s accommodates kids’ special diets, like gluten-free or vegan.
  • Engineered runs that makes turning easier.
  • Covered lifts

As a Mom, I notice the details. I want the best possible program with the best possible instructors.

Though the kids just want to have fun.

That’s what it’s all about. Getting kids on the snow and loving it. Northstar gets that. They aim to groom lifelong skiers and riders with a super fun day on the slopes. S’mores included.

Enjoy Northstar Ski Resort best ski lessons for kids in Lake Tahoe
The engineered trails at Northstar help kids and adults master turns. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Northstar makes it look easy but it takes skill and talent behind the scenes. From the instructors to the groomers and even the chefs that prepare lunch, the ski school team works together for the best possible experience for your kids.

The instructors connect with kids of a certain age naturally. Northstar pairs instructors with kids that age, making the instructor-student relationship stronger. I remember that feeling when I was a preschool teacher.

The groomers work overnight to create an environment that helps kids learn faster. By banking the turns and adding fun features like rollers, Northstar’s beginner runs give kids confidence and a high-five moment of fun.

Even the chefs at Northstar elevate lunch for the kids with freshly cooked options like chicken or fish. Along with healthier lunches, Northstar also serves a daily soup, vegetarian and gluten-free items.

At the end of the day, I want to see kids beaming with a smile and announce, I love skiing.

Snowboarding for Preschoolers

Grandlibakken-Tahoe: an intimate ski hill that's easy for Mom and her wallet. Lake Tahoe, Family Ski Destinations,
Northstar offers snow boarding lessons for kids as young as 3. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Northstar offers one of the few programs in the U.S. with snowboarding as an option for potty-trained 3-year olds. The Burton Academy gets the littlest kids on a board and loving it in a riglet park.

In the Ripperoo’s Riglet Park, named after the riglet reel that attaches to the front of the snowboard, instructors pull kids through tiny terrain features. Kids get the feeling of snowboarding sooner and progress faster.

Back when my 12-year-old son started on the snowboard, he had to wait until he was 7 to take a group lesson. A lot has changed for the youngest kids in the last few years, with Northstar and Burton leading the pack with the littlest riders.

Northstar’s Signature Programs

The Ultimate 4 Program at Northstar offers small group instruction for four people ages 4 and up. Grouped with similarly skilled skiers and riders, students get individualized instruction in a fun, more social environment.

Get all the details for skiing with kids at Northstar Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe. Take a look at where to learn, where to ski and where to play. Even tips on what to do after the lifts close.

Moms looking to move up the mountain, Northstar offers Womens Ultimate Four, an afternoon lesson offering quality instruction from a female coach. It’s a casual environment for moms that missed a few seasons and want to improve their skiing.

Platinum Access offers guests a one-day pass for a no-wait lift line access. Seasonal options available for season pass holders.

Private family lessons are available and accommodate up to six people for the same price.

For families with special needs children, Achieve Tahoe offers private lessons for kids with physical, sensory or intellectual challenges with adaptive ski and snowboard equipment and trained instructors.

Where to Eat at Northstar Ski Resort

During my visit to Northstar, we ate at The Lodge at Big Springs located at mid-mountain, right off the Big Springs Express Gondola. With a pizza station, burgers, soups, salads and baked potatoes, I found something for everyone in my family. Kids meals are available.

For skiers farther up the mountain, The Zephyr Lodge is located close to the Tahoe Zephyr Express lift. At Northstar’s summit, The Summit Smokehouse offers views of Lake Tahoe.

The Village at Northstar offers families lots of options, like pizza, sushi, tacos and food trailers. Paired with activities for the family, après-ski continues after sunset. 

Family Fun at The Village at Northstar

The Village at Northstar offers iceskating, movies, crafts, shopping, s’mores and the list goes on. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The family fun starts at Northstar’s ice skating rink that features a stage with live music. When the Zamboni takes a spin, kids gather around the fire pits for s’mores while adults enjoy a Starbuck’s coffee or a cocktail from the Cabana Bar.

For the active kids, I found a bungee trampoline. Not all kids want to play outdoors, so the The Village Candle Shop offers arts and crafts, like candle making, pottery painting and mosaics. Build a souvenir at The Bear Village.

I found a spa offering massages and spa services along with yoga in The Village. And don’t forget the movie theater with two screens.

For families with little kids (ages 2 to 6) that don’t ski, Minor’s Camp Child Care offers licensed daycare services at Northstar. Kids will enjoy arts and crafts and outdoor play in the snow while mom and dad enjoy a day on the slopes.

Winter Fun off the Slopes

Northstar Ski Resort hosts star gazing with a star guide that takes guests through a tour of the night sky. Several different tours offered from family tours to snowshoeing night star tours.

At the Cross-Country, Telemark and Snowshoe Center, I found fat tire bike rentals and rental equipment for cross-country skiing, Telemark skiing and snowshoeing.

Kids love tubing and Northstar offers tubing just off the Big Springs Express Gondola. First-come, first-serve for one-hour of tubing fun and a separate lift ticket is not required. Kids have to use their own tube and be 42” tall. 

Where to stay at Northstar Ski Resort

Enjoy Northstar Ski Resort best ski lessons for kids in Lake Tahoe
Enjoy the house-made s’mores on the patio after a day of skiing at the Ritz-Carlton – Lake Tahoe. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Located mid-mountain I found the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offering an AAA five-diamond resort that caters to families. During my visit, I toured the property and found a contemporary mountain retreat that reminded me of national park lodge.

The central fireplace anchors the gathering space, outfitted with small groupings of sofas that allow for intimate conversations. Families enjoy live music and sip on cider while playing board games with the kids.

The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe offers a mountain concierge that stores ski equipment slopeside. A luxury feature for families skiing with several kids. Hauling gear is never fun, especially with small kids.

My kids love to stay active, even on a getaway. The Ritz-Carlton offers seasonal activities geared towards families. The complimentary s’mores are a winter must-do. Every afternoon, a marshmologist passes out house-made marshmallows to toast at the firepit.

During my visit, this mom had to sample a couple of marshmallows and it was so worth it. Next to the firepit, I found Ritz-Carlton’s Après-Ski Champagne Experience for an afternoon treat. Champagne makes everything better, even a near perfect ski day.

More Lake Tahoe Fun for Families

Looking for more places to discover in Lake Tahoe. Got a couple of my favorite spots to share.

Mt Rose Meadows for sledding 

Spooner Lake for sledding 

Granlibakken Tahoe

Squaw Valley Ski Resort

Mt Rose Ski Tahoe

Diamond Peak Ski Resort 

Then discover a quaint town to spend an afternoon, like Tahoe City.

Prep and Pack for Lake Tahoe

Need help packing for a family ski getaway. I’ve pulled together a list of must haves for the whole family. 

Finding the perfect resort for your family requires research. I’ve got a list of the features I look for in a family friendly ski resort.

How to get to Northstar Ski Resort

Northstar Ski Resort is located at 5001 Northstar Drive, Truckee, California. It’s 7 miles south of Truckee, along California Highway 267. Tahoe City, California, a quaint mountain town on the western shores of Lake Tahoe is 17 miles away.

If flying into Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) to visit Lake Tahoe, Northstar is 41 miles from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport via Interstate 80.

Disclosure:

NorthstarCalifornia Ski Resort hosted my family for one day. Though I have enjoyed Northstar on several occasions before that visit.

Know Before You Go: 

  • Reservations are required during holiday breaks and long weekends. Ski School sells out.
  • Kids under 12 are required to wear a helmet during ski school.
  • Arrive early to ski school to allow for a smooth transition.
  • Pack lip balm, googles, and an extra set of gloves for kids in ski school.
  • Pack a bag of marshmallows and a couple of roasting sticks, I found several fire pits, perfect for an après-ski treat.
  • Before heading out check out road conditions at NVroads.com for tire chain requirements. I use Nevada’s website for the Lake Tahoe region since it’s easier to use on a mobile device than California’s website.

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A Family Guide to Skiing Squaw Valley

Enjoy Squaw Valley with kids where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe.
Squaw Valley offers families the place to ski big with lots of family friendly runs and terrain parks. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Where to Take Kids Skiing in Lake Tahoe

Squaw Valley is a legendary Olympic resort in Lake Tahoe that boasts 6,500 acres to explore. Their runs top lists across the world, like the KT-22. It’s a bucket list destination for skiers from around the world.

Squaw is the resort where locals take their friends when they want to ski big. A day at Squaw is a day kissing the clouds while the snow and the lake try to out sparkle each other.

Squaw Valley where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
Been working with my kids for years to reach the point when we could ski Squaw Valley as a family. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

But what about the kids? My family loves this resort, part of it is the allure of Old Tahoe, the make-you-smile vibe that resonates with today’s kids as much as it did 50 years ago. The other is telling the kids back home you got to ski Squaw.

What I love about Squaw Valley Ski Resort

  • The skiing can’t be beat. Known as one of the top North American Ski Resorts.
  • It’s Olympic history as the host of the 1960 Winter Games.
  • The Village at Squaw Valley offers lots family fun with restaurants, shopping and activities.

What I wanted from Squaw Valley Ski Resort

  • More green skiing in the SnoVentures area, near the Ski School
  • Ice skating in The Village.
  • More discounts for families.

Squaw Valley by the Numbers

2017 Lift Tickets at Squaw Valley Ski Resort
Ages Online Advance Tickets
18 to 64 $129
13 to 17 $112
5 to 12 $78
65+ $112
The Mountain Statistics
Base Elevation: 6,200 ft. Summit Elevation: 9,050 ft.
Vertical Drop: 2,850 ft. Skiable Acres: 3,600
Type of Terrain Percentage of Runs
Green 25%
Blue 45%
Black 30%
Total Named Runs: 170
Lifts: 29 total:

1 aerial tram, 1 funitel, 1 high speed 6-pack, 3 high-speed quads, 1 quad, 9 triples, 3 doubles and 5 surface lifts

My Visit to Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
With views of Lake Tahoe and the Squaw Valley area, I take a moment to savor the view. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Skiing with three kids can be a challenge at a large resort. Keeping the kids corralled requires a Mom with wings, not skis. And I will admit I shied away from the larger ski resorts when my kids were younger.

I can report that my kids, 9 12 and 14, had the best day on the snow at Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe. During our two-day visit, we spent our first day on the snow getting our ski legs underneath us again at the SnoVentures area its beginner lifts and green runs.

Enjoy Squaw Valley where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
Skiing with these two requires a Mom with some stamina and a little bit of skill. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The SnoVentures area is perfect for families since it’s next to the parking lot. Making trips to the car for forgotten items is no big deal.

The SnoVentures area features a separate lodge with some indoor seating along with a microwave and a hot water spigot. I found outdoor picnic tables and a couple of food vendors so I didn’t have to hike back to the Village.

Most of the skiing at Squaw Valley is mountaintop skiing that requires a ride up an aerial tram. I checked out my kids and reassured myself that they knew how to stop and turn before we headed up the mountain.

This area also offers mini snowmobiles, snow tubing, and cross-country ski trails as well.

High Camp with Kids

Ski Squaw Valley where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
The High Camp area offers wide open skiing with lots of green runs just right for families. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

On our second day, we wanted to head up the mountain so we boarded the aerial tram for High Camp. I double-checked I had everything I needed to keep my three kids happy for the day. It’s a hike back down to the car.

For this ride, skiers and boarders carry their equipment and don’t wear it since High Camp features a lodge where the tram loads and unloads. The tram ride up the mountain includes a sway that might frighten some younger kids though my 9-year-old was fine. And remember to hold on.

Enjoy Squaw Valley where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
Even during busy holiday weeks, I found lift lines easy to manage, especially early and late in the day. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The High Camp offers sweeping views of Squaw Valley along with peeks of Lake Tahoe beyond. It features the Olympic Museum, an ice-skating rink, a seasonal pool and hot tub (spring through summer) and several options for lunch or dinner.

The High Camp area offers lots of green runs, beginner terrain parks and several different lifts. My kids loved the mountaintop skiing and snow boarding including my 9-year-old.

Ski Squaw Valley where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
Be prepared to ski at a higher elevation at High Camp with googles, a neck gaiter or scarf and thicker gloves. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

At 8,200 feet, the winds can be an issue at High Camp, especially on the lifts. I suggest goggles for all, even on sunny days. I could see smaller kids having possible issues with the wind.

For our trip, my kids covered lots of the green runs using the Bailey’s Beach, Mountain Meadow and the Belmont lifts. I found the skiing open and uncrowded on the busiest week of the year.

During our visit, we used the Squaw Valley app that features real-time information. I could find my teen skiing even with spotty data coverage.

Squaw Valley Terrain Parks

Enjoy Squaw Valley where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
Catching air is tops for my kids when skiing and boarding in the terrain parks. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I’m a boy mom. So I’ve learned about terrain parks over the last few seasons. They’re not as crazy as I originally thought.

I will admit, when my daredevil son told me he wanted to check out a terrain park a couple of years ago, I envisioned something I’d seen on the Olympics. Don’t worry, think of terrain parks like snow playgrounds.

At Squaw Valley, my kids, 9, 12 and 13, started on the terrain features at the High Camp Start Park. Then they moved on to the Belmont Park near the Belmont Lift. And stayed there the majority of the day.

Sure the kids want to SKI Big but what's it really like to ski with kids at Lake Tahoe's Squaw Valley? Got all the details from lessons to terrain parks along with places to eat.

As a Mom, be sure and check out the terrain park signs to see if your kids are in the right playground. Most resorts install several terrain parks with differing levels of difficulty. Take it easy, start small and keep an eye out for the more advanced teens.

Squaw Valley’s Terrain Parks
  • SnoVentures Start Park
  • High Camp Start Park
  • Belmont Park
  • Gold Coast Park
  • Mainline Park

Night Skiing at Squaw Valley Ski Resort

Try night skiing at Squaw Valley, where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
Squaw Valley offers night skiing and boarding on a 3.2-mile blue trail. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

My 12-year-old begged for hours to snowboard down the Mountain Run, a blue run that’s a whopping 3.2-miles long. After talking with several ski instructors, I said yes and made his day.

Dad accompanied him down the mountain. My son had no problems but Dad felt his age (40+).

Night Skiing lift tickets can be purchased for an additional fee and are valid from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The aerial tram transports skiers and snowboarders. Night Skiing is usually available the week after Christmas and Saturdays through March.

Squaw Valley Ski School

Learn to ski at Squaw Valley where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
Squaw Valley’s covered surface lifts top my list for premium features of the best ski schools. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Squaw Kids, the Squaw Valley Ski and Snowboard School, offers programs divided by age. All lessons begin at their separate facility, located between SnoVentures and the Village.

For the youngest skiers, ages 3 to 4 (potty-trained kids only), the Pioneers program focuses on fun with first-timers, full-day and half-day programs available. The littlest skiers will be on the snow and in lessons for several hours and nap time is not included.

Family Skiing at Squaw Valley where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
Heading up the First Venture lift right after we get to the SnoVentures area. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

For the 5 to 7-year-olds, kids can choose from skiing or snowboarding. The Explorers Ski Program and Grommets Snowboard Program is for more active kids and broken down by ability–green, blue or black-level runs. A lunch break is included for all-day students.

Kids 8 to 13-years-old explore the mountain trying lots of runs alongside similarly-skilled kids. The Mountaineers Ski Program and Jibbers Snowboard Program will be on the snow the majority of the day and includes a lunch break for all-day students.

All kids’ programs (ages 3 to 13) feature an afternoon first-time package. Teen group lessons are available though they meet in the adult lesson area.

Squaw Valley Programs and Clinics

Squaw Valley features a couple of programs geared towards Moms looking to move up the mountain. For blue or black-level skiers, check out the 3-day Women of Winter Camp in January.

Looking for a guide to showcase the best that Squaw Valley offers? A non-instructional guide and priority lift access will allow for more exploring. A complimentary jacket is included and guide services are for blue or black-level skiers.

Private lessons are available and accommodate up to four people. Discounts for multiple days are available.

For families with a special needs child, Achieve Tahoe offers private lessons for kids with physical, sensory or intellectual challenges with adaptive ski and snowboard equipment and trained instructors.

Where to Eat at Squaw Valley Ski Resort

Rocker Where to take kids Skiing in Lake Tahoe
My kids ate big after a day on the slopes at Rocker in the Squaw Valley Village. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

At the end of a killer day of skiing, I love to grab a bite to eat before I head back. The Village at Squaw Valley offers lots of options for families.

During my visit, we ate at Rocker and my kids dominated a plate of nachos as big as the state of California. With a little kids’ menu, big kid pleasing hamburgers, a choice of farm fresh salads, the whole table left happy.

Snacks for kids where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
We love crepes and I found lots of tasty treats across Squaw Valley Ski Resort for families. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

For snacking during the day, I stopped by the Euro Snack trailer for savory and sweet crepes. Of course, I ran into Starbucks for coffee and hot chocolate. I also found pizza, sushi and grill options.

For adults looking to unwind, the Auld Dubliner Irish Pub draws a crowd along with several other bars in the Village area. Be sure and visit the World’s first ski-in, ski-out Starbucks located in the Gold Coast Lodge at the top of the Gold Coast Funitel, the only funitel in the U.S.

Squaw Valley’s Olympic History

Olympic Museum where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
Learn a little ski history at the Olympic Museum at Squaw Valley’s High Camp and remember to grab a gold win selfie. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Squaw Valley’s skiing is not the only thing that’s legendary. Their successful Olympic bid is as legendary as the games themselves.

In 1954 Alex Cushing, the chairman of Squaw Valley, saw a newspaper article announcing Reno as the possible site for the 1960 Olympic games. He threw his resort in the mix, boasting only a single chairlift and a couple of rope tows at the time.

The place to beat—Innsbruck, Austria, an international favorite. Cushing had the U.S. vote since the State of California backed the cause. Though it took a scale model so enormous it couldn’t get into the presentation room to win over the rest of the Olympic Committee.

After the successful bid, roads and facilities had to be built and fast. Even Walt Disney helped make the 1960 Olympic Games a success by orchestrating the pageantry.

After an unseasonable warm winter a fierce snowstorm dumped the much needed snow days before the start of the Olympic Games. Then the games needed the clouds to clear to light the eternal flame.

As if orchestrated by Disney himself, the clouds cleared and the torch was lit. Then 2,000 doves rose into the air above Squaw Valley signaling the start of the 10-day long games.

Be sure to walk through the Olympic Museum at High Camp. The Olympic podium offers a perfect picture spot for kids.

Family Fun Without a Lift Ticket:

family fun at Squaw Valley where to take kids skiing in Lake Tahoe
I found lots of family fun at Squaw Valley that doesn’t require a lift ticket. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Taking the entire family skiing requires more than a few lift tickets. Squaw Valley Ski Resort offers a village packed full of fun for everyone on a family ski getaway, not just the skiers and boarders.

During my visit, I found a spa, yoga and shopping for Mom and Grandma. The kids can craft at the craft studio, roast marshmallows, sled, snow tube, and ride a mini-snow mobile.

Try a new sport. I found dog sledding, cross-country skiing, and snow shoeing. I even found trampolines and climbing walls.

If celebrating the holidays, Squaw Valley offers horse-drawn carriages, Santa visits and special seasonal performances. Nightly fireworks are a must. And the chefs at Squaw Valley turn out special holiday meals.

Is it Your First Family Ski Trip?

What do you need to pack for family ski trip? I’ve been there and pulled together a list to help you out.

Need some advice on picking a ski school for your kids? I’ve got some tips for families to find the best program. 

More Lake Tahoe Fun for Families

A day at the resort is fun but so is finding a perfect sled hill in a nearby forest. Got a couple of my favorite spots to share.

Mt Rose

Spooner Lake

Granlibakken 

Northstar

Diamond Peak

Then discover a quaint town to spend an afternoon, like Tahoe City.

Where’s Squaw Valley Ski Resort

Squaw Valley Ski Resort is located at 1960 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley, California. Squaw Valley is 12 miles south of Truckee, California, along California Highway 89. Tahoe City, California, a quaint mountain town on the western shores of Lake Tahoe is 10 miles away.

If flying into Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) to visit Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley is 48 miles from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport via Interstate 80.

Parking Available
General Parking Free
Premier Parking $20
Valet Garage Parking $30 or $40 holiday

Disclosure:

Squaw Valley hosted my family for one ski trip. Though I have skied Squaw Valley on numerous occasions without any sponsorship.

Know Before You Go: 

  • Reservations are required during holiday breaks and long weekends. Ski School sells out.
  • Arrive early to ski school to allow for smooth transition.
  • Kids helmets are mandatory in Squaw Valley’s Ski and Snowboard School.
  • Pack lip balm, googles, a small snack and an extra set of gloves for your kids.
  • Kids in ski school (ages 3 to 13) will ride ski lifts when they can turn and stop.
  • I found several fire pits so pack a bag of marshmallows and a couple of roasting sticks for a perfect for an après-ski treat for the kids.
  • If your kids are afraid of heights, keep them in the center of the tram and focused on the view in front of them.
  • Before heading out check out road conditions at NVroads.com for tire chain requirements. I use Nevada’s website for the Lake Tahoe region since it’s easier to use on a mobile device than California’s website.

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45 Places to Discover with this 4 Day NYC Itinerary

 

Brooklyn Bridge 4 Day NYC itinerary.
A trip to New York City is a must for teens who crave the energy of the city Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

New York City packs an energy that falls flat with younger kids but teens possess the stamina for urban trekking at its finest. I lived in NYC for two years, though I didn’t introduce my kids to the metropolis until they could walk all day without whining.

In a city that never sleeps, travel lessons abound. In my experience, the skills I learned in NYC helped me navigate any of the world’s capitals. From parks to museums and shopping to snacking, New York City offers a week of teen fun.

Top Attractions in New York City

  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

  • Rockefeller Center

  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum

  • Museum of Modern Art – MoMA

  • Grand Central Terminal

  • Times Square

  • A Broadway Show

  • American Museum of Natural History & The Hayden Planetarium

  • Central Park

  • The Plaza Hotel

  • Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Day One Downtown Manhattan with Kids

Explore the oldest part of New York City to catch some of the best views along with the city’s rich history. A must for families with school-age kids since the Statue of Liberty tops the list.

Tip: All the destinations are close together so put on the walking shoes and grab a bottle of water to explore. An umbrella and a rain jacket are great additions to your backpack too.

Visit the Statue of Liberty during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
The Statue of Liberty is a must for your trip to NYC. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island – First Stop

New York City Harbor
Admission Varies

How to get there: Depart your hotel and grab some breakfast before heading south to the southern tip of Manhattan at Battery Park. Use MTA subway stop Whitehall St/South Ferry on the 1 or the R train.

Make the effort and visit the Statue of Liberty, especially if you are traveling with kids. When I lived in NYC I never visited it. Instead I opted to take the Staten Island Ferry to see it from the water. Don’t make my mistake.

As a symbol of freedom and liberty known world-wide, the Statue of Liberty sits on a 12-acre island in the middle of New York Harbor. Learn about its construction in the museum under the pedestal. Then climb the stairs to the top of the pedestal or head to the crown to capture views of downtown Manhattan (additional tickets required). Take lots of pictures and it’s OK to stand at the base and look up at her in wonder.

Operated by Statue Cruises, the ferry departs from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. Explore the Statue of Liberty first then re-board the ferry to tour Ellis Island, an additional stop. First ferry leaves at 9:30 a.m. and last one departs at 3:30 p.m. with extended hours during peak seasons. Ferry ticket required for everyone and admission based on age.

Ellis Island

From 1892 until 1954, Ellis Island welcomed 12 million immigrants to the United States. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum walks visitors through the facility that processed close to 5,000 people a day.

Concessions are available at the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island Museum or grab some to-go before boarding the ferry. I stopped at Inatteso Café, 38 West St., for sandwiches and cookies to take with us.

Tip: To tour both islands, give yourself the morning. Reservations are a must and book months in advance for the pedestal tour and six months in advance for the crown tour. A Junior Ranger Booklet is available. All passengers will go through airport-style security screening.

Explore Castle Clinton on your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Next to the Statue of Liberty ferry is the Castle Clinton National Monument. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Castle Clinton and Battery Park – Second Stop

Battery Park
Open Seven Days A Week From 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Free

After disembarking the Statue Cruises ferry, explore the Castle Clinton National Monument for more immigration history, located steps from the ferry dock. For war buffs in the family, it’s also a fort from the War of 1812 with antique cannons. Junior Ranger booklets are available.

After the history lesson, walk over to the newest carousel in New York City, SeaGlass Carousel, in Battery Park. Built in 2015, hop on a fish to whirl around the pavilion to classical music. Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and admission is $5 per person. 

Walking Tour of Lower Manhattan

Top Sites

  •  Charging Bull and Fearless Girl

  •  Trinity Church

  •  New York Stock Exchange

  •  Federal Hall

  •  9/11 Memorial

Walk up Broadway from Battery Park, a quick .5-mile walk, to take some selfies at the Charging Bull Statue and Fearless Girl, Broadway at Morris St.

Continue up Broadway and walk by Trinity Church, located at 75 Broadway at Wall St. The first church was built in 1698 and rebuilt two times. A notable building from the American Revolution and people fleeing the 9/11 attacks found shelter in the church from falling debris.

Next walk by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), at 11 Wall St., unfortunately tours are no longer available so grab another picture.

I would pick either the Federal Hall National Monument or the 9/11 Museum to tour, depending on interest and time.

Visit Federal Hall during your 4 day NYC itinerary
Next to the New York Stock Exchange is Federal Hall, a National Park Site. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Federal Hall National Monument – Fourth Stop

Federal Hall National Monument
26 Wall Street
Open Monday Through Friday From 9 a.m. To 5 p.m.
Free

This building served as the first Capitol of the United States, the Supreme Court and the Executive Branch offices. George Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States at Federal Hall as well.

Located at 26 Wall Street, Federal Hall’s visitor center is at the Pine Street entrance. It’s open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. During the summer, it’s open Saturdays as well. Free to enter and Junior Ranger booklets available.

To get to the 9/11 Memorial, head north from Federal Hall to Cedar St. Walk a couple of blocks west to Greenwich Street then take a right. The memorial is in the following block.

4 Day NYC Itinerary
Take a moment and remember those who lost their life on that day. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

9/11 Memorial and Museum – Fifth Stop

180 Greenwich St.
9/11 Memorial
Open from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Free
9/11 Museum
Open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Admission depending on age, 6 and under free 

How to get there: For the 9/11 Memorial, head north from Federal Hall to Cedar St. Walk a couple of blocks west to Greenwich Street then take a right. The memorial is in the following block.

As a former American Airlines flight attendant that lived through that horrific day, I visit the 9/11 Memorial to remember my former colleagues. The memorial is somber space that gives visitors a place to reflect.

For visitors with more time, reserve tickets to the museum, located steps from the memorial. It uses artifacts from the World Trade Center and actual recordings of emergency calls. Touring the museum is an emotional experience though the area around the WTC has recovered, experiencing a rebirth.

Tip: Please be respectful of other visitors at the Memorial and Museum.

Time to eat so head to a downtown NYC icon.

Where to eat in NYC with teens, try Katz's for pastrami on rye.
The pastrami on rye is a NYC icon though teens might not get it. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Dinner at Katz’s Delicatessen – Sixth Stop

Katz’s Delicatessen
205 E. Houston St.

How to get there: Walk east along Cortlandt St. to the MTA Fulton St. Station for the Brooklyn-bound J train (it will be headed north). Exit the Essex St. Station and walk north along Essex Street to 205 E. Houston St.

Katz’s Delicatessen is an NYC icon. The pastrami-on-rye sandwiches are pricey but I ordered half and got a bowl of Matzo ball soup. This location is as original as it gets, with locals dining alongside the travelers.

Tip: You can order at the counter and seat yourself or sit at a table with table service. Don’t lose the paper ticket the waiter gives you, you will have to hand it to the person working the door.

Time for dessert so walk to Little Italy.

Have dessert in Little Italy on your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Grab a seat and a cappuccino in Little Italy. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Dessert in Little Italy – Seventh Stop

Ferrara Italian Bakery
195 Grand St.

How to get there: From Katz’s Deli, walk south on Orchard St. for two blocks until Grand St. and head west eight blocks (about half a mile).

Stop at Ferrara Italian Bakery for a cannoli and cappuccino fix with table service. Or grab a gelato on the street and walk around Little Italy that sparkles at night.

Time to head back to your hotel so grab one of the three MTA Subways at Canal Street with service on the N, 6, Q, Z trains.

Day Two – Exploring Midtown and the Theatre District

As a beacon of culture and shopping, Midtown offers all the big city thrills one expects from a trip to NYC. Wear the walking shoes and Broadway shows that appeal to families don’t require dressy outfits.

Tour the Top of the Rock during your 4 Day NYC itinerary.
I prefer Rockefeller Center to see NYC from above. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Rockefeller Center – First Stop

Rockefeller Center
45 Rockefeller Plaza
Free, Tours Additional Admission

How to get there: After breakfast near the hotel, take the MTA subway D or F and exit the 47-50th St./Rockefeller Center Stop.

After reserving tickets online, bypass the ticket line for the Top of the Rock. After a quick elevator ride, explore three different floors all with incredible views. With the best views of Central Park, this is also the best way to see landmarks like the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building.

Next, tour the legendary theater and home to the Rockettes. After the Top of the Rock tour, stay at Rockefeller Center and tour Radio City Music Hall (admission ticket required). Art Deco theater features rich architectural details from a bygone era along with some of Bob Mackie’s Rockettes costumes.

After the Radio City Music Hall tour, walk around the Rockefeller Plaza (located at the base of Rockefeller Center) and stop by the LEGO Store to see NYC landmarks built in LEGOs.

Time to feed the kids so I recommend staying at Rockefeller Center to eat. Between the Plaza and the concourse level, I found close to 30 different places to eat.

Bribe the kids with a chocolate chip cookie from Jacques Torres Chocolate, located on the concourse of Rockefeller Center and head to the some of best art in New York City.

Visit the MoMA during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Take in the art at the MoMA, like Starry Night by Van Gogh. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Museum of Modern Art MoMA — Second Stop

11 W. 53th St.
Open From 10:30 a.m. To 5:30 p.m.
Admission For Adults, Kids Under 16 Free

How to get there: From Rockefeller Center, walk .5-mile north along 5th or 6th Avenues to the MoMA, located at 11 W. 53th St.

If your kids have short attention spans, head straight for the Fifth Floor. That’s where I found Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, Dance by Henri Matisse along with works from Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo and Pablo Picasso.

Kids under 16 get in free and the MoMA hands out guides for family visits. Walk through the gift shop for unique souvenirs. After art comes architecture so head to a grand Gothic Cathedral located on 5th Ave.

Tour St. Patrick's Cathedral during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Walk through St. Patrick’s Cathedral for one of the top architectural sites in NYC. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

St. Patrick’s Cathedral — Third Stop

Fifth Ave. Between 50th And 51st St.
Open 6:30 a.m.to 8:45 p.m. Every Day
Free

How to get there: From the MoMA, walk three blocks down Fifth Ave. to 51st St.

Next up, great architecture so walk through the Neo Gothic Cathedral in the center of midtown. During my last visit, I saw a girls’ choir performing and the acoustics were unbelievable.

Up next, walk .5-mile to a grand train station and some dinner.

Walk through Grand Central Terminal during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Grand Central Terminal is a transportation hub along with a top tourist attraction. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Grand Central Terminal — Fourth Stop

89 E. 42nd St.
Terminal Open From 5:30 a.m. To 2 a.m.
Dining Concourse Open From 7 a.m. To 9 p.m. Monday Through Saturday, Sunday 11 a.m. To 7 p.m.
Free To Enter

How to get there: From St. Patrick’s, walk down 5th Ave for seven blocks to 43rd St. then walk east for two blocks.

Walk through the Beaux Arts Masterpiece and my favorite building in New York City. As the largest train terminal in the world, Grand Central Terminal is a top destination for locals and travelers with dining and shopping along with commuter trains and subways.

The ceiling of the main concourse features an astronomical ceiling, a four-sided brass clock and Tennessee marble was used for the stairs and the floor. The exterior features granite with expanses of divided-light windows and sculptures.

Lots of options for dining, The Oyster Bar, is the oldest business in Grand Central and offers an iconic NYC dining spot. Or walk to the concourse level for more casual dining, with options like Shake Shack. The Great Northern Food Hall offers Nordic-inspire menus in the Vanderbilt Hall on the Main Concourse. Grand Central Market offers prepared food, coffee, cut flowers and specialty food items.

After dinner, it’s time to see a Broadway show. If this is your kids’ first theater production, I recommend a Disney on Broadway show.

See a Broadway show during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
If it’s your family’s first theater experience, I recommend a Disney production. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Theater District for a Show — Fifth Stop

The theater district runs from 40th to 54th Streets and from 6th to 8th Avenues.

How to get there: Grab a MTA S Train in Grand Central Terminal and exit at Times Square Station.

With audiences full of families, a Disney on Broadway production is my choice for kids’ first theater performance. Packed with tunes they know by heart, elaborate sets and glittering costumes, kids stay glued to their seats. During my last visit, we saw Aladdin.

Tip: Sure, you can hope for last-minute reduced seats though I reserved my seats way before my trip to ensure my family sat together.

Times Square – Sixth Stop

Intersection of Broadway and 7th Avenue

After a show, celebrate a great trip with the brightest lights in the city. The best time to walk through Time Square is after dark. Times Square also features street performers and lots of shopping.

Tip: Times Square is also a major MTA subway stop with service on the N, QRS123, and trains. 

4 Day NYC Itinerary
My favorite New York Style cheesecake is Junior’s with large slices of creamy, not-too-sweet cheesecake and available to-go. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Junior’s Restaurant and Bakery – Seventh Stop

1515 Broadway at 45th St.
Open From 6:30 a.m. to Midnight

With all the walking, it’s time for dessert. I recommend heading north on Broadway to Junior’s for cheesecake. Topping the best cheesecake list for years, it’s a dense, not-too-sweet and creamy NY-style cheesecake. I ordered the plain and didn’t share.

Top of the Rock – Eighth Stop

Rockefeller Center
45 Rockefeller Plaza
Free, Tours Additional Admission

How to Get There: From 47th St. and Seventh Ave. (Times Square) walk north two blocks to 49th St. then head east for one long block to Sixth Ave.

If you purchased the Sun and Stars ticket at Top of the Rock, head back to the Rockefeller Center. After sun sets the crowds ease up and the lights of New York City twinkle.

Day Three — New York City’s Park & Animals

This day will focus on the animals in the Natural History Museum and exploring Central Park, both favorites among kids. After learning the history of New York City and its early residents, it’s time to learn about its famous park.

Tour the Natural History Museum during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
A trip to the American Museum of Natural History will keep the kids engages for hours. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

American Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium — First Stop

American Museum Of Natural History
Central Park West At 79th St.
Open From 10 a.m. To 5:45 p.m.
Admission Depending on Age

How to get there: After enjoying breakfast at your centrally located hotel, take the  A or B  MTA subway train and exit the 81st / Museum of Natural History.

A must for families, even my teen daughter spent hours exploring. A sprawling museum that could take all day so hit the highlights, like the Hall of Dinosaurs, “Lucy” the early human, the giant blue whale and the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda along with the Hall of North American Mammals.

Carve out a little time for the Hayden Planetarium to learn more about the world beyond our atmosphere. It’s located on-site and requires an additional timed ticket.

Tip: I recommend eating lunch at the Natural History Museum and the Museum Food Court on the lower level features family favorites. During our visit we enjoyed salads though pizza, burgers, sandwiches and a selection of desserts are available. Reserve tickets to the Hayden Planetarium before arriving to make the best use of your time.

After exploring the museum, walk across the street to Central Park.

Tip: First load a Central Park map on your phone and find your phone’s compass. Even after living in New York City for several years, I still get turned around in the park since all its paths curve and meander.

Visit Conservatory Water during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Walk to Conservatory Water to see the sailboats. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Walking Tour of Central Park — Second Stop

Enter Central Park right across the street from the Natural History Museum and grab some water from a street vendor lining the park’s edge.

Head for the Swedish Cottage and stay out of the Ramble, a thicket of woods. I used my phone’s compass to navigate out of it and I lived in the city for years.

After Swedish Cottage, walk through Shakespeare’s Garden and tour Belvedere Castle (donations accepted for tour) to grab a NYC skyline photo from the top.

Next head south to Conservatory Water for a charming area dedicated to the young-at-heart. Rent a wind-powered sail boat ($11 for 30 minutes) or just enjoy the scenery.

Walk through Central Park during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
The Alice in Wonderland statue is another must for families. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Hans Christian Anderson Statue is close along with the Alice in Wonderland Statue. Both offer must dos for families.

If the kids want to paddle a boat, head to Loeb’s Boathouse to rent one. Then grab an ice cream cone at the Loeb Boathouse Café Express for an afternoon snack.

Up next, Bethesda Terrance, Fountain and Arcade, tops for pictures of the park. If the kids need a pretzel, find a street cart near Bethesda.

Tour Central Park during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Bethesda Terrace is a top spot in Central Park. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Next walk south along The Mall, a wide sidewalk shaded with trees. Another must for families, the 1908 Carousel is open April though October from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $3 per person, cash only.

After riding the Carousel, walk by the Chess and Checker House and play a game. Then move on to The Diary, a visitor center for Central Park.

Another must for families, the Central Park Zoo boasts a sea lion exhibit that visitors can see while walking along a free path through the zoo.

I found lots of playgrounds sprinkled throughout Central Park so take a minute and let the kids play.

The Plaza Hotel Food Hall — Third Stop

The Plaza Hotel Food Hall
1 W. 59th St.
Open From 11 a.m. To 8 p.m.
Where to eat in NYC with teens. Try the Lady M Mille Crepes Cake
The best thing I sampled in NYC, Lady M Mille Crepes Cake that I found in the Plaza Food Hall. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

How to get there: From Central Park exit at its southeast corner, The Plaza Hotel is across 59th Street.

After romping through the park for the afternoon, take a break and eat. I recommend The Plaza Hotel Food Hall. The food hall is around the corner from the lobby and in the basement offering lots of options for families.

I found sandwiches, salads and pasta in family-friendly quick service formats. Even the city’s best desserts can be found at The Plaza Food Hall, like Lady M Crepe Cakes, Billy’s Bakery and Chef Daniel Boulud’s Épicerie Boulud.

After grabbing dessert, shop downstairs at the gift shop selling Plaza merchandise. And for Moms with girls, the Eloise Shop is a must.

After sitting for a bit and recharging, walk about .5-mile east on 60th St. to the Roosevelt Island Tram.

Take the Roosevelt Island Tram during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Hop aboard the Roosevelt Island Tram for the best views of Midtown. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Roosevelt Island Tram — Fourth Stop

At the intersection of 59th St. and 2nd Ave. 


How to get there: From The Plaza Hotel on 59th St. walk five blocks east to Second Ave, about half a mile.

Take the family on a tram ride for free, if you purchased a MTA MetroCard for the subway (or $4 roundtrip). The bright red tram cars climb up and over the East River to get to Roosevelt Island. Get off and re-board to return to mid-town for some of the best views of Midtown.

After a full day, head back to your hotel. The MTA Lexington Ave./59th St. Station offers service on the NR45, and 6 trains, two blocks from the tram station. Another day of exploring awaits in New York City.

Here's your itinerary for the Ultimate Family Trip to New York City. Got the must-see tours along with top museums and even some cheap eats for the kids along with walking and subway directions.

Day Four More to Explore

After three packed days, NYC still offers more neighborhoods to explore. Start the day in the trendy neighborhood of Chelsea in Lower Manhattan, packed with boutiques, foodie destinations and one of the NYC hot spots–High Line Park.

Chelsea — First Stop 

Chelsea Market
75 9th Ave.
Open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

How to get there: From your centrally located hotel, take the downtown-bound C or E trains to the 14th St. Station. Walk west on 14th St. to 9th Ave. Chelsea Market is one block north.

Chelsea Market is a food hall and shopping complex across several floors. After grabbing a bite at any number of places for breakfast, wander around the market for unique shopping.

Head across the street to the High Line for an urban hike, a top destination.

Walk High Line during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Explore a converted railroad platform that’s been transformed into a park. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

High Line Park — Second Stop 

High Line Park
Runs from Gansevoort St. to 34th St.
Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Free

How to get there: Located across the street from Chelsea Market, take the elevator to the High Line from the western side of Chelsea Market Building.

Next walk High Line Park, an elevated walking path and park created from an abandoned New York Central Railroad Spur on the west side. Created in 2009, High Line is a destination for locals and travelers alike. As a bonus it’s free, unless if you want to grab a snack or a quick coffee along the route.

Take the High Line to its northern end at 34th St. After returning to the street level, hail a cab to the next destination, Circle Line Circles for a NYC cruise.

New York City Cruise — Third Stop

Circle Line Circles
Departs from Pier 83 at W 42nd 
First Cruise at 10 a.m.
Admission based on age and type of cruise

How to get there: You can walk from High Line Park to Pier 83 via 10th Ave. but it’s 13 blocks. Or hail a cab.

Sure you can take a bus tour but a scenic cruise is better. No street traffic and lots of fabulous city views and as a bonus, see NYC’s bridges from the water.

Tip: Check out the schedule before arriving to see which cruise appeals to you. During peak periods reservations are recommended.

After cruising the open water of the New York Harbor, time to explore another ship at the Intrepid Museum. But take a lunch break first.

Gotham West Market — Fourth Stop 

600 11th Ave.
Open 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

How to get there: From Pier 83 walk along W. 43rd St. to 11th Ave. Gotham West Market is one block north.

Food Halls offers lots of options, especially for families, and I rely on them for eating in NYC on the cheap cheap. The Gotham West Market offers options like burgers and noodle bowls along with a bar and desserts.

Visit the Intrepid during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
With a retired Space Shuttle and the Concorde along with a submarine, the Intrepid offers all kinds of kid fun. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum — Fifth Stop

Pier 86 W.46th St. at 11th Avenue
Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission based on age

How to get there: From Gotham West Market, walk west W. 43rd St. to Pier 86.

As a top destination for kids along with the American Museum of Natural History, this is a must for school-age kids. Don’t let the aircraft carrier throw you off, I found more than military aircraft.

Clamber across the deck of the USS Intrepid to see a retired Concorde (I miss seeing her at JFK),  and of course seeing one of the retired space shuttles is a must. The Space Shuttle Enterprise is one of several on display across the U.S.

If you or your group doesn’t have problems with claustrophobia, explore the USS Growler, a submarine.

After exploring the Intrepid and seeing the Space Shuttle, time to switch gears again. This time I offer some choices.

Visit The Met during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
As the largest art museum in the U.S. The Met is a must for art lovers. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1000 5th Ave. 
Open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. 
Adult admission suggested, kids under 12 free

As the largest art museum in the U.S. you can explore all day and still not see it all. So check out the map when you enter and concentrate on your interests.

My favorites are The Temple of Dendur, the Medieval Art for it imposing display and the American Wing. Yet don’t miss the extensive collection of European Masters.

Tip: Need a break? Grab a snack or light meal at any of the cafes located in The Met.

A Baseball Game

NY Yankees Stadium 
1 E. 161 St., Bronx
Tickets Required 

How to get there: From Midtown, take the Bronx-bound D train to the 161st St./Yankee Stadium  Station. Yankee Stadium is just outside the subway station and for a game the subway is the best way to get to there.

The energy at a Yankees game could power a medium sized city on its own. If you have baseball fans, make the effort and see a game.

If it’s an away game, take the Classic Tour instead. Led by a tour guide, visitors see all the best of Yankees Stadium, like the historic baseball artifacts. (Admission based on age.)

Tip: For baseball fans, this is a must. Check the schedule way in advance and purchase tickets before your trip. Be ready for some fun, Yankee fans are loud and the energy at the games is electric, even for non-fans.

Using A NYC MetroCard With Kids

Use the subway to get around, a must-have skill for teens who will be exploring on their own in a few years.To explore NYC via the subway, head to the nearest subway station to purchase a MTA pay-per-ride subway card.

I prefer to use the MetroCard vending machines but cards can be purchased at the subway station booths. The vending machines accept credit cards and usually faster than the booths, which might be closed.

Each fare is $2.75 when using a MetroCard and you get a 5% bonus when you load more than $5.50 on each card. A single ride ticket is $3 via the vending machines or booth.

The MTA unlimited passes come in 7-day and 30-day options. Stick with a pay-per-ride card unless you will ride the subway more than 14 separate times.

Tips and Hints for the NYC Subways

  • MetroCards can be used on subway trains and local buses.
  • $1 new card fee applies to all new cards.
  • Free transfers between trains in the same station.
  • Metro cards bend easily so keep your cards in a protected place, like a wallet.
  • If this is your first trip to NYC, stay away from Express trains and buses.
  • Up to three kids 44″ and under can ride for free with an accompanying adult.
  • Free kids usually crawl under the turnstile before the paying adult swipes their card or use the nearby accessible gate.
  • Get a card for each person to swipe so you don’t look like a tourist. Kids 12 and older should be able to navigate swiping Metrocards and moving through turnstiles.
  • Know if you are traveling Uptown (Bronx/Queens) or Downtown (Brooklyn). Trains and subway platforms will be labeled and maps are in each train car along with multiple spots in the subway station.
  • Since there are lots of stairs to navigate, pack your lightest stroller.
  • Hold hands if traveling with smaller kids, especially during peak periods.
  • Make sure your child knows to go to a NYPD officer or MTA personnel if lost. Give kids a card with contact information in case of emergency.

Plan a Youth Group Trip to NYC

Don’t rule out taking a group of kids to NYC, I did. I kept costs within budget with a week-long stay at the HI Hostel on the Upper West Side and lots of cheap NYC eats.

I told the teens we’re urban camping and hiking. And we did with packed backpacks and walking shoes.

What to pack in your NYC Bag:

  • Water bottle
  • Protein bars
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Bleach Wipes
  • Hand Wipes
  • Umbrella
  • Packable Rain Jacket or Poncho
  • Phone Battery Charger and Cord
  • Cash
  • Something to sit on for parks

Know Before You Go: 

  • Travel like a New Yorker and take the subway. I’ve got the directions for you. Or grab a cab or other car service.
  • Free public restrooms are hard to find. Pack hand wipes, bleach wipes and hand sanitizer to clean up. McDonald’s is reliable but be prepared to buy a dink to get the key.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and pack the FitBit to track those steps.
  • The streets of New York are safe but be aware who and what is around you at all times.
Disclosure:

Consideration for brands mentioned. I used a complimentary CityPass New York for admission to several attractions.

 

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11 Things to Do in Southern Oklahoma with Kids

Stop by and see the bison as one of the things to do in Sulphur.
I found a herd of bison in Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Just a few hours north of Dallas/Ft. Worth, southern Oklahoma offers mountains, a former national park, a wildlife refuge and even a chocolate factory. On a recent trip north of the Red River, I explored the area between Lawton and Sulphur, Oklahoma. Here’s the ultimate list what to do in southern Oklahoma with kids .

What to do in Southern Oklahoma with Kids

I pulled together a list of 11 places for family fun in Southern Oklahoma.

Lake Murray State Park

Lake Murray offers lots of water fun and it's what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
Enjoy Lake Murray and its unlimited ways to enjoy the water. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Just a few miles north of the Texas/Oklahoma border, Lake Murray State Park is the first and largest state park in Oklahoma.

With over 12,500 acres to explore, I found plenty to do. Boating and water sports are the obvious choices. But I also found a golf course, ATV/motorcycle area and hiking. Along with plenty of camping from primitive sites to deluxe RV sites are available.

First I stopped by the Lake Murray Resort that offers a range of accommodations, like newly renovated lodge rooms to historic cabins. I even found some floating cabins in assorted sizes.

Find Lake Murray Resort at 3323 Lodge Road, Ardmore.

Tucker Tower

Climb up Tucker Tower as what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
Tucker Tower offers sweeping views of Lake Murray. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Next on the list, a stop by Tucker Tower is a must for families. The historic tower rises up 60-feet above Lake Murray and acts as a beacon on the lake.

The tower is an original Works Progress Administration (WPA) project at the southern end of the lake. Today it houses a museum to the WPA in Oklahoma and the views can’t be beat.

Nature Center

Explore the Nature Center as what to do with kids in Southern Oklahoma
Walk through the exhibits at the Nature Center when exploring Southern Oklahoma. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Next to check out the Nature Center is a family magnet. With interactive displays kids learn about the animals in the area, always a hit with my kids.

During our visit, my kids earned a Nature Center at Tucker Tower patch by completing a booklet.

Find Tucker Tower and the Nature Center at 13528 Scenic Highway 77, Ardmore. Both are free though donations are accepted.

Bedré Chocolate Factory

Stop by Bedre Chocolate Factory as what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
Like chocolate wasn’t enough, Bedre Chocolate Factory offers a playground. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Continuing north, I found a chocolate factory with convenient access right off Interstate 35, that bisects the state.

Over 40 years ago, a chocolate factory began in the small town of Ada, Oklahoma. Now it draws all the road trippers traveling through southern Oklahoma. Bedré Chocolates offers a shop full of temptations. So grab a treat with the kids and watch chocolates roll off the production line from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

During our visit, we sampled their classic treat, the meltaways in nearly every flavor available. Along with traditional chocolate, my kids loved the salty snacks dipped in chocolate. As a kid bonus, I found a playscape right outside.

Find Bedré Chocolate at 37 N. Colbert Rd. and open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free to enter.

Chickasaw Cultural Center

Explore Chickasaw Cultural Center as what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
Tour the Chickasaw Cultural Center when exploring Chickasaw with kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Next the Chickasaw Cultural Center blew my family away. With an extensive tribal cultural center across 184 acres, kids have lots of space to explore.

With facilities that include the Chikasha Inchokka’ Traditional Village, it hosts reenactments and living history demonstrations. During our visit, we watched a stomp dance along with traditionally-dressed docents demonstrate Chickasaw crafts and agriculture.

Along with the village, I found a café, a gift shop, a fine art gallery along with a lake that kids can feed the fish. Such a beautiful facility that must be explored to appreciate.

Located at 867 Cooper Memorial Dr., the Chickasaw Cultural Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and noon until 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission varies.

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Explore Chicksaw National Recreation Area as what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
Explore the natural pools of Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur, Oklahoma, with your kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Before I visited the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, I had no idea it was the former Platt National Park. Sometimes national park gets reclassified and that’s the case for this area.

Though it might not be one of the big national parks, I found an area packed with historic buildings, natural pool swimming and scenic mountain vistas.

With a large recreational lake that beckons boat owners. And the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) historic buildings that add history. Finally the resident herd of bison is a must for kids. I found plenty of family fun for a long weekend.

Chickasaw National Recreation area features a couple of units. With the Platt Historic Unit, right outside the town of Sulphur, I found the Travertine Nature Center, the CCC buildings and the swimming areas. Then Arbuckle District offers Lake of the Arbuckles access at each of its three campground areas, Guy Sandy, The Point and Buckhorn. And an additional boat is located at Upper Guy Sandy area too.

The visitor center, Travertine Nature Center is free and open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. most days. Find it at 1504 Perimeter Rd, Sulphur. The park is open 24-hours a day.

Bison Viewing

Stop by and see the bison as one of the things to do in Sulphur.
As my kids top choice, find the herd of bison in Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Kids love animals so stop at the Bison Viewing Area located off U.S. Route 177, just south of Sulphur. A herd of 10 buffalo call the Chickasaw Natural Recreation Area home.

After several attempts to see the buffalo, we caught the bison near twilight in the viewing area. During our visit, we even saw a couple of baby bison grazing near their mothers.

After exploring the Sulphur area for a couple of days, I decided to take the long road home. We drove over to Lawton, Oklahoma, before heading back to Texas.

About 90 miles west, I found a prairie landscape with rolling hills along wildlife refuge, the Comanche Museum and Cultural Center along with Fort Sill.

Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center

Explore the Comanche Museum when you explore Lawton with kids
The Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center offers families lessons in the WWII contributions and arts of the Comanche Nation. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Our first stop, the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center, is a must for more information on Quanah Parker and the Comanche people. The Comanche Museum focuses on the history of the Comanche people from the beginning until today.

During our visit, we learned about the WWII Comanche Code Talkers. Seventeen Comanche men used their native language to communicate in an undecipherable code that helped to defeat Hitler during D-Day.

The Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center is located at 701 NW Ferris Avenue. Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and closed Sunday.  It’s free and took about an hour to explore.

Fort Sill Army Base

The grave of Quanah Parker at Fort Sill, another site to explore in Lawton with kids.
Sitting high on Chiefs Knoll at the Fort Sill Cemetery, we find the grave of Quanah Parker, last chief of the Comanche Nation. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

 

Continue the history lesson and head over to the Fort Sill Army Base to visit the Fort Sill Post Cemetery (not be confused with the Fort Sill National Cemetery). As the final resting place of Comanche Chief Quanah Parker, his mother Cynthia Ann Parker and his little sister, Prairie Flower on the high point of the cemetery, Chiefs Knoll.

Visit the Fort Sill National Historic Landmark and Museum for history on the fort. With 38 buildings in the area, there’s lots to see.

For artillery buffs, a visit to the U.S. Army Artillery Museum is a must. With an outdoor display, families can walk through to see Howitzers.

Since Fort Sill is an active U.S. Army Base all visitors over 16 must pass a background check at the Ft. Sill Visitor Control Center. It’s free and takes about 15 minutes to complete.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

As a top Oklahoma park area, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge provides a refuge for free-range buffalo, Texas Longhorn cattle, prairie dogs, deer and elk over 59,000 acres. I suggest looking for animals at dawn and dusk, when they are most active.

With 11 different places to explore in Southern Oklahoma, plan a visit to Sulphur or Lawton with your family.

First stop off at the Quanah Parker Nature and Visitor Center for an interpretive display. Additionally the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge offers camping with 47 tent sites, 23 RV sites and 20 walk-in sites.

Open sunrise to sunset seven days a week with free admission. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge offers 30 miles of hiking trails though we drove through looking for wildlife.

Holy City of the Wichitas

Explore the World Chapel at the Holy City of Wichita when you explore Lawton with kids
The interior of the World Chapel in the Holy City of Wichita near Lawton. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Close to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, I found the Holy City of the Wichitas, a shrine west of Lawton.

In 1926, the late Reverend Anthony Mark Wallock started an annual Easter Pageant. In 1934 the 66-acre site got a federal grant and the Federal Works Progress Administration built many of the buildings that remain.

As an annual Easter Pageant, the Prince of Peace remains the longest running passion play in the U.S. Depicting the birth, life and death of Christ, the play drew a record crowd in 1939 of 225,000. With the Wichita Mountains as a backdrop, Jerusalem comes alive with Temple Court, Calvary’s Mount and the walls of Jerusalem.

Find the Holy City of the Wichitas at 262 Holy City Rd. Open Wednesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5p.m., free.

Where to Stay in Sulphur

Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center

Stay at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma.
With a Junior Suite my family enjoyed our time at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During my visit to Sulphur, Oklahoma, my family stayed at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center, located next the the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. With over 1,700 acres to explore, the Chickasaw Retreat offers the ultimate refuge for relaxing and reconnecting as a family.

During my stay, I enjoyed a Junior Suite with my family. With a spacious room, I found plenty of room for a roll-away or pack-n-play. In the separate kitchenette I found a small refrigerator, a full-size microwave and separate sink. The luxurious bathroom included a soaking tub for rejuvenating along with a separate shower.

In a separate building, I found a wellness center that rivaled any health club with lots of machines and an indoor track. With a steam room and a dry sauna, relaxing comes easy at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center.

I also found the Sole’renity Spa, with services like manicures and pedicures, massages, facials, wraps and waxes. My kids enjoyed the indoor pool during our stay as well.

The indoor pool at Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma.
Though indoors my boys, 9 and 12, enjoyed the pool during our trip. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Find Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center at 4205 Goddard Youth Camp, Sulphur, Oklahoma.

The Artesian Hotel

Stay at the Artesian Hotel when visiting Southern Oklahoma with kids.
With a complete renovation the Artesian Hotel offers families nicely appointed rooms. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Artesian Hotel offers refined lodging steps from all the sights in the revitalized downtown Sulphur, Oklahoma. The original hotel opened in 1906 and included five stories and named after the mineral water found on the property during construction.

After an extensive renovation, The Artesian offers visitors and locals a respite of refinement. The 81-room hotel features a traditional bathhouse, an indoor and outdoor pool along with shopping and restaurants. Make an appointment at the kid’s spa while you enjoy a treatment of your own at Sole’renity Spa.

Find The Artesian Hotel at 1001 West 1st Street, in the center of the revitalized downtown of Sulphur.

Where to Eat in Sulphur 

Springs at the Artesian

Eat at the Artesian Hotel during your visit.
Along with food adults crave, the kids meals offer yummy options kids love. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During my visit to Sulphur, my family enjoyed dinner at The Artisan Hotel restaurant, Springs at the Artesian. In an upscale dining room with seating for 140, I found homestyle-inspired entrees.

For our visit we sampled several entrees for dinner. My 12-year-old son ordered a classic cheeseburger served on a pretzel bun with bibb lettuce. Then my 9-year-old ordered the Chicken pot pie off the kids’ menu. With a flaky crust and loaded full of tender chunks of white meat chicken along with a rich béchamel sauce, this kid’s entrée would have satisfied me.

For dinner I ordered the Pecan encrusted Tilapia and along with a glass of merlot from the Springs at the Artesian’s full bar. To top off dinner, we enjoyed chocolate cake. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Bedré Café

Enjoy the Bedre Cafe when you visit Chickasaw Oklahoma.
With it’s vintage vibe the Bedre Cafe is a family favorite. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

For a quick lunch we stopped by the Bedré Café, located on the street-level shopping area of The Artesian Hotel. In a 1950s inspired malt shop, I found a large selection of Oklahoma’s own, Bedré Chocolates. Along with assorted baked goods and a coffee-house style drinks, Bedré Café scoops up hand-dipped ice cream and along with shakes.

For lunch my family enjoyed a panini of the day along with a turkey club wrap along with a cup of tomato soup. All satisfying though my sons loved the Arbuckle Shake made with vanilla ice cream and Bedré chocolates the most, imagine that. Open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., every day.

Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies

Stop for a fried pie what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
As an Oklahoma original sample a fried pie at Arbuckle’s along Interstate 35. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Located right off Interstate 35, Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies provides a regional road trip snack. With both savory and sweet pies, we sampled the cherry and apple along with the pizza-style and beef and vegetable. With super flakey pastry that’s filled and pinched before your eyes, the pies are a must when visiting South Central Oklahoma.

Located at Interstate 35’s exit 51 in an old Sinclair’s gas station and open breakfast through dinner. This is the original location with other shops across north Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Allergen Alert: All pies are fried in peanut oil.

Fat Bully’s Burgers

Grab a burger at Fat Bullys what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
While you watch the sun set over the Arbuckle Mountains enjoy a burger. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

After exploring the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, I pulled the SUV into Fat Bully’s that features half-pound burgers and live music. During our visit, we sampled the metric burger and my youngest had a kid’s meal. All the burgers sat on toasted buns with trimmings on the side.

Located at 3133 Chickasaw Trail in Sulphur, Fat Bully’s serves lunch and dinner, Wednesday through Sunday. Live music on most Saturday nights and amazing sunsets every night.

 

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11 Tips for Car-free Fun on Amtrak’s California Trains

tips for taking Amtrak in California.
One of the amazing views from Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner in California. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

As a road tripping maniac that’s driven three kids across North America, I hate my car at times. I love to use different forms of transportation. So when the opportunity came up to take the train from Southern California to the Central California Coast, I jumped abroad. After my trip, I came up with 11 tips for taking Amtrak in California.

Tips for Taking Amtrak in California 

1: Book the right train.

On my trip to Santa Barbara and Solvang this summer I boarded two different trains, Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner and the Coast Starlight. Each offering a different experience though they share part of the same track.

Tips for take the Coast Starlight in California
Hop abroad an Amtrak train for car-free fun in California. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Pacific Surfliner is a regional route that travels between San Diego and San Luis Obispo, California, stopping at most Amtrak stations along the way. It features a business-class car and coach cars with unreserved seats plus an observation car with a snack bar below.

The Coast Starlight runs between Los Angeles’s Union Station and Seattle with limited stops. It offers reserved coach seats, business class, an observation/snack bar car, a dining car, a parlor car plus sleeping cars.

California Driving Ain’t a Dream

2: Ditch the car and go car-free.

Tips of taking Amtrak in California.
Riding the rails instead of battling the roads tops my list of reasons to ditch the car and go car-free. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

As I look at my maps app, I blink again hoping that it’s a joke. But sadly, it’s true. Sometimes driving in Southern California is a nightmare.

With hours eaten up behind the wheel, the dream vacation crumbles as kids melt down in the backseat and this Mom loses it as another driver cuts her off.

I found a solution, ditch the car and go car-free. That’s what I did recently when I grabbed an Amtrak train. With dedicated parking at most stations, it’s easy to park the car and explore California car-free instead.

Transportation that Does More than Transport

3: The customer service difference on Amtrak.

I get it, I used to fly the friendly skies as a flight attendant for a major airline. And those skies aren’t friendly anymore.

What surprised me the most on my Amtrak train, customer service still shines on the rails. The conductor and the train stewards were polite and informative.

Looking to escape from the craziness of Southern California, then hop aboard Amtrak's Coast Starlight. Got all the tips and hints for your trip along with a video.

A steward helps passengers on-and-off the train. If the train hinted at slowing down, the conductor explained what was happening and when we would be on our way again.

I had a coach seat on the train that had to accommodate another train’s passengers when it went out-of-service. Passengers were standing everywhere, in the aisles and on the stairs.

But we were all on the train. There’s relief in that.

The stewards walked up-and-down the crowded train cars and apologized for the conditions. Then they informed us how many passengers would be getting off at upcoming stations. Then they thanked us for choosing Amtrak.

Wow. So simple but so often ignored. The passengers remained calm and even gave seats to the passengers who needed them the most–injured, elderly and those with disabilities.

Not All Trains Seats are the Same

4: If sitting in a seat is important to you, reserve a business-class or reserved coach seat.

Price sells many things in life in the case of train travel, buy up. As I learned on my weekend trip, things go wrong and when they do the train fills up.

Get a business seat, tips for taking Amtrak in California.
Looking for a reserved seat on the Pacific Surfliner then reserve a business class seat. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

If you and your family are traveling with luggage out of the area, buy a reserved coach seat or business-class seat. This guarantees a seat on the train. A regular coach ticket guarantees passage, meaning you could be standing at peak times or off-schedule operations.

Though I will be honest, when the trains went off-schedule the day I was traveling, I was grateful to be on the train.

Did I have to stand part of my journey? Yes, but the train conductor and the rest of the train staff constantly communicated to the passengers what was going on.

In our case, a train had to be taken out-of-service coupled with a big convention. That meant Amtrak had a busy weekend already then another train’s passengers had to be accommodated on my train.

If I had been flying, I would have been stuck at the gate watching planes leave the airport without me. As promised, a lot of the passengers disembarked in LA and I got a seat.

In a situation that could have escalated into some seriously pissed-off passengers. Everyone remained calm by opening a book or their phone and made do.

ThruWay Buses

5: ThruWay Buses make for easy transfers.

For stops beyond traditional Amtrak stations, ThruWay buses take passengers to their final destinations. As the case for my journey to Solvang, California, a charming Danish community, I boarded a charter-like bus at the Santa Barbara Train Station.

thru buses, tips for taking Amtrak in California.
Hop on Amtrak’s Thru Bus service to destinations beyond the train station. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

My train incurred delays but my ThruWay bus waited for the train to arrive. The process of getting off the train at Santa Barbara and onto an Amtrak ThruWay bus was painless. Requiring a lot less walking than changing planes at a mega airport, like Dallas/Forth Worth.

Coast Starlight

6: Book the Coast Starlight if your itinerary permits.

After exploring Solvang and Santa Barbara for several days, I needed to meet my family near San Francisco. I boarded Amtrak’s Coast Starlight at the 1905 historic Santa Barbara Train Station.

Where the Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner is a regional train route that stops at the majority of the stations along its route, the Coast Starlight does not. Running along the west coast from Los Angeles’s Union Station to Seattle, the entire journey takes about 36 hours.

Known as Amtrak’s the most scenic route, I was blown away. I took the segment from Santa Barbara to Salinas, California, taking about six hours.

My plan was to pull out the laptop and work. But I was glued to my picture window.

This route passes though untouched California coast north of Santa Barbara. For fans of the Pacific Coast Highway, when the PCH heads inland north of Gaviota, the train rolls through. This includes Vanderburg Air Force Base.

My Coast Starlight Experience

7: Pack all you want! Four bags are allowed.

tips for taking Amtrak in California.
I took four bags aboard with me. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Call me silly, but I felt a bit of old school glamour getting on my train. Maybe it’s the oversized sunglasses I was wearing or the fabulous weather in Santa Barbara but I imagined how a starlet would have ridden the train in the 50s. (Now, this 40ish Mom of three is not saying she’s a starlet but I had a vacation-induced fantasy. Don’t spoil it with reality. Or I’ll call you my husband.)

Arriving within minutes of it’s scheduled departure, my train arrived at the Santa Barbara Station, located on State St. in downtown. For my journey, I had a reserved coach seat. Finding the correct car was no problem and a steward greeted me at the coach car entrance. Then he asked if I preferred a window or aisle seat.

I grabbed my four bags (yes, I had one standard roll abroad, a backpack plus two shopping bags full of goodies) and stepped onboard. First, I stowed the larger suitcase on the rack downstairs next to the car entrance. Then I took the rest of my items to my window seat upstairs.

My Reserved Coach Seat

8: Forget the airplane luggage hassle.

tips for taking Amtrak in California.
Look Mom, it’s legroom and a legrest at my reserved coach seat. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I had no problem storing my stuff since my train wasn’t taking off and traveling 500 m.p.h. through the air so I didn’t have to secure it. I left my backpack in my seat and the shopping bags in the open rack above.

No one was fighting for storage space. My bag wasn’t deemed oversized and checked either.

After I settled in, the first thing that I noticed was all the space. I could have danced in the space between the edge of my seat and the seat in front of me. Amazing.

I’m an average-sized woman and I’ve had to wedge myself into some small jet seats lately. It seems I’m always flying in the back of some regional jet that looks smaller than a sparrow. So this train seat was luxurious.

Tips for taking Amtrak in California.
Seat power on each row. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I had a picture window to enjoy all to myself since the aisle seat was vacant. Then I found the standard 110-volt plug. Pulled out my chargers and plugged in my phone and my laptop at the same time.

The Amtrak Experience

9: Explore your train, especially the observation car.

explore the train, tips for taking Amtrak in California.
I love sitting in the observation car and watching the scenery roll by. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

My train pulled a line of train cars. Actually the Coast Starlight train blocks traffic on the streets at the Santa Barbara Station when stopped.

It wasn’t long before I was out of my seat and exploring my train. I went to the observation car with its domed skylights and enjoyed the view. This car is a favorite so it can be hard to get a seat at times.

10: Feel free to bring snacks aboard for your journey.

cafe cars, tips for taking Amtrak in California.
Amtrak trains feature a cafe car, below the observation car. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Below the observation lounge, I found the cafe car with a couple of tables. It’s kinda like the convenience store of the train. There’s a selection of drinks, hot and cold, treats and small meals. Nothing really glamorous so I purchased a sandwich before I boarded my train in Santa Barbara.

I met a cabin steward, James Lake, a 12-year Amtrak veteran. He graciously took me on a tour of the rest of the train.

Special Amtrak Cars on the Coast Starlight

11: Ask for a tour.

Make reservations for dinner, tips for taking Amtrak in California.
Make reservations for the Dining Car if traveling during dinner. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

We walked through the dining car where waiters and waitresses served food made onboard. With a printed menu, including a kids’ menu, I found chef-inspired selections. Reservations are accepted for dinner in the dining car, with business-class passengers getting first dibs.

The business class car was next and includes complimentary Wi-fi and bottled water along with an invitation to a wine and cheese tasting in the Pacific Parlour Car (additional fee applies). At Los Angeles and Portland, business-class passengers get access to the Metropolitan Lounges.

Tips for taking Amtrak in California.
With signature cocktails and special events like wine and cheese tastings, the Pacific Parlour Car is another reason to upgrade to Business Class. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

After the business class car, I walked through the Pacific Parlour Car, a vintage 1950s railcar. They were originally on the Empire Builder from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest but moved to the Coast Starlight.

Pacific Parlour Car

With a wood interior that reminded me of hotel bars where men in fedoras smoked cigars, I found the ambience enchanting. The Pacific Parlour Car features a full bar with signature cocktails along with coffee drinks and snacks.

Meals are served in the Pacific Parlour Car for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The parlour car offers a separate menu with a more limited selection than the dining car.

On the first level of the Pacific Parlour Car my guide walked me through a small movie theater where Amtrak used to show movies. Unfortunately, this theater is not being used at the time.

Tips for taking Amtrak in California.
The vintage theater in the Pacific Parlour Car isn’t showing movies right now. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

After the Pacific Parlour Car, I found the Superliner Sleeper cars, where overnight passengers enjoy a roomette with berths. Since it was booked to capacity for my summertime mid-week train journey,  I didn’t tour an Amtrak roomette.

After my tour, I returned to my seat and enjoyed the scenery whisk by until my destination.

Disclosure:

My Amtrak train journey was part of an hosted press trip. The opinions are my own.

Know Before You Go:

  • Amtrak doesn’t feature in-seat entertainment.
  • Sleeping cars feature a shared shower in each car.

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12 Haunted Cave Tours to Get Your Brood in the Mood this October

Take a Haunted cave tour.
Take your crew to a haunted cave this season for bone shivering scares. Photo Credit: Pixaby

Need a real scare this season? I’ve got 12 haunted cave tours across the U.S. to get your brood in the mood this October.

What about clumsily climbing through a cave so dark you close your eyes to get away from the suffocating darkness. How about knowing a thousand tiny, blind bats hang inches above your head with only an old-fashioned lantern to protect you?

Your skin crawling? Do you feel the goosebumps as a mysterious breeze crawls through a cave without wind? Have a facial twitch you can’t explain?

How about watching the lights of your EMF only to hear a researcher whisper, I haven’t see that phenomenon before.

Grand Canyon Caverns in Arizona

Take a hour tour outfitted with a lantern and a K2 an EMF meter to register disturbances in the electromagnetic field.

Tours:

Every day in October at 6 p.m.

Located at mile marker 115 along Route 66, that’s 63 miles northeast of Kingman, Arizona. Admission for adults is $22.95 and kids 6 to 12 is $16.95 with kids under 6 enter for free.

Cave of the Winds in Colorado

Take an adventurous lantern tour of Manitou Gran Caverns while listening to ghost stories with a little history thrown in.

Tours:

Every day in October at 11:00 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.

Located at 100 Cave of the Winds Rd., Manitou Springs, that’s miles 8 miles northwest of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Explore a haunted cave this October.
Lights are optional on haunted cave tours, most use lanterns. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Spook Cave in Iowa

Take a tour with a Halloweeny name, Spook Cave. After the cave tour, kids can trick-or-treat.

Tours:

Every day 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Trick-or-Treating Friday October 20, Saturday, October 21, Sunday, October 22 and Saturday, October 28 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. only.

Located at 13299 Spook Cave Rd. McGregor, Iowa that’s 110 miles from Madison, Wisconsin.

Wabasha Street Caves in Minnesota

Would you let a lost soul guide your candlelit tour? Take an hour tour and hear the stories of the Lost Souls. Two different tours offered.

Tours:

Lost Souls Tours on Sundays October 8, October 15, October 22 and October 29 at 12:30 p.m. Admission is $10 per person, cash only.

Spirited History Cave Tour on Mondays, October 16, October 23 and October 30 at 4:00 p.m. Admission is $8 per person, cash only.

Located at 215 Wabasha Street South, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Your crew over the neighborhood haunted house? How about clumsily climbing through a cave so dark you can't remember if your eyes are open? What if the cave was full of bats? And a legendary ghost. Check out my list of 12 Haunted Cave Tours through the U.S.

Lockport Cave in Lockport, New York

Take an hour-and-half candlelit tour while walking along the Erie Canel then touring the Lockport Cave.

Tours:

Friday, October 20 and Saturday, October 21 at 7:00, 7:20 and 7:40 p.m.

Every day from Wednesday, October 25 to Tuesday, October 31 at 7:00, 7:20 and 7:40 p.m.

Tour starts at 5 Gooding St. in Lockport, that’s about 30 miles northeast from Buffalo, New York. Admission is $17.50 per person and kids must be 8 years to take tour.

Lewisburg Haunted Cave in Ohio

Who wants to tour a limestone cave 80 feet below ground with 30,000 live bats?

Tours:

Fridays: October 6,  October 13, October 20,  and October 27 from 7:00 p.m. to Midnight.

Saturdays: October 7, October 14, October 21, and October 28 from 7:00 p.m. to Midnight.

Located at 4392 Swisher Mill Road, Lewisburg, that’s 25 miles west of Dayton, Ohio. Admission Adults $17 and Children 10 and under $8.

Crystal Cave Park in Pennsylvania

Take lantern tour with guides dressed in Victorian clothing as they recount the hauntings in the 1800s.

Tours:

Fridays: October 13,  October 20, and October 27 at 6:00 p.m.

Saturdays: October 14, Saturday, October 21, and October 28 at 5:30 p.m.

Located at 963 Crystal Cave Road, Kutztown, that’s 65 miles northwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Admission for Adults is $20 and kids 8 to 11 is $12. Not recommended for children under 8.

Haunted Cave tours across the U.S.
With haunted caves from across the U.S. find a tour near you. Photo Credit: Pixaby

Lincoln Caverns in Pennsylvania

Take the kids on a haunted cavern tour followed by a haunted hayride.

Tours:

Fridays: October 6, October 13, October 20, and October 27 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Saturdays: October 7, October 14, October 21, and October 28 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Located at 7703 William Penn, Huntingdon, that’s 95 miles west of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Admission $22.98 for adults and $13.98 for kids.

Appalachian Caverns in Tennessee

Take a haunted Halloween tour of the Appalachian Caverns.

Tours:

Fridays: October 6, October 13, October 20 and October 27 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Saturdays: October 7, October 14, October 21 and October 28 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Located at 420 Cave Hill Road, Blountville, that’s about 100 miles from Knoxville, Tennessee.

Bell Witch Cave in Tennessee

A cave so haunted it terrorized generations of locals. One man even died.

Tours:

Fridays: October 20 and October 27 from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Saturdays: October 7 and October 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. October 21 and October 28 from noon to midnight.

Sundays: October 8 and October 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. October 22 and October 29 from noon to 6 p.m.

Located at 430 Keysburg Road, Adams, that’s 42 miles north of Nashville, Tennessee. Admission $12 per person. No Children under 2, under 18 must have parental consent.

Cave of the Mounds in Wisconsin

Take a tour through a candlelit cave while trick-or-treating for gemstones. A family-friendly cave tour where costumes are encouraged.

Tours:

Thursday, October 26 and Friday, October 27, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturday, October 28 and Sunday, October 29 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Located at 2975 Cave of the Mounds Rd, Blue Mounds, that’s 25 miles west of Madison, Wisconsin. Admission for adults $17.95 Children 4 to 12 $9.95 and children under 3 free.

Ledge View Nature Center in Wisconsin

A family-friendly candlelight cave tour, packed with fun and facts.

Tours:

Friday, October 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 21 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Located at W2348 Short Road, Chilton, that’s 76 miles north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Admission: $8 for adults and $6 for 17 and under, minimum age 5.

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