It’s that time of year again, Auto Show Season! So I’m headed to check out the local auto shows. First up, Houston Auto Show and my go to manufacturer Toyota. For 30 years I’ve been a Toyota Driver so I’m interested in what’s new and what’s been redesigned. As a bonus I’ve got a chance for free tickets to Houston Auto Show at the bottom of this post from this post’s sponsor.
Why attend an Auto Show
If you’re in the market for a new vehicle, the local Auto Show should be your first stop. And here’s why:
Get an overview what’s the new in the industry-from safety to style.
Shop brands efficiently and effectively without the pressure of salespeople.
Have some fun. I test drove a stick shift convertible just because.
Sit in all types of vehicles. Try on that convertible, slide into the luxury SUV.
Find a new car crush. A totally out-of-your-league dream. That’s until you win the lotto the same day as the kids get full-ride scholarships.
I’m headed to this year’s Houston Auto Show to see what’s new with my go-to manufacturer, Toyota. I’ve got a newly minted teen driver behind the wheel coupled with an aging (sniff, sniff) family SUV. So Mom needs a new car.
My Toyota History
My relationship with Toyota began in 1990 with a light blue Corolla 4-door with a manual transmission and air-conditioning. It didn’t even have intermittent wipers or a rear window defroster. But hey, I was a kid and who needed that stuff anyway.
Next I moved on to my current Toyota, a 2002 4Runner 4WD. A hard-working member of the family that’s hard to replace.
Then a red 2007 Toyota Matrix nicknamed Britni. My husband (and the primary driver) said it was a girl car. She broke up with him and moved on to another owner.
Finding a new SUV is like shopping for a new pair of jeans, a new swimsuit and a new pair of shoes you will wear everyday rolled into one. I will drive this vehicle everywhere and own it for at least a decade. It’s a big and expensive decision.
I have three kids, 10, 13 and 15 so a third row might be nice. I like having a trailer hitch though I don’t own a boat.
As a Mom and the primarily road trip driver, safety is always important. So I look over the safety features during my research too.
The New 2018 C-HR
As a new crossover to the Toyota line-up, the C-HR offers a more compact option to the popular Rav4 and Highlander crossovers.
Bold Style signals New Direction in Toyota Design
Includes Two Toyota-First Features: Driver Distraction Secure Audio and Brake Hold Function
Only Vehicle in Its Segment with Standard Pre-Collision System with Active Braking
Standard 18-in. Alloy Wheels, Dual-Zone Climate Control, Bucket Seating and 7-in. Audio Display
The estimated MPG is an impressive 27/31. The cargo space is 36.4 cubic feet with folded-down seats and 19.0 cubic feet behind the second row.
With ground clearance coming in at 5.9” along with the lack of AWD, keeps this crossover on the paved roads. A consideration for me and drivers in rugged locales or snow prone areas that need more control and traction. The seating for five accommodates my three kids.
I love the styling but the C-HR doesn’t fit my needs for AWD or cargo space. A sporty option for the younger, less parental driver. I’ve got too many things to haul in my life and my SUV.
The RAV4 offers proven performance and versatility that I’ve come to rely on for the last five years. I drive our RAV4 on road trips throughout the seasons. I’m especially interested in the Toyota RAV4 Adventure.
Dirt-Inspired Styling and Higher Ride Height
Active lifestyle inspired
The optional AWD adds stability and security when driving to the ski resort. The seating for five, accommodates my three kids. The ground clearance is a bit easier on the knees than the C-HR.
I need to test drive the RAV4 Adventure to see how it handles compared to my older model. So it adding to my list.
Other Toyota Options for Families
Not a SUV fan, then consider a sedan. The Toyota Camry gets a total redesign for 2018.
The Toyota Camry
Best-Selling Car in America for the last 16 years
Standard Toyota Safety Sense-P
New Emotionally-Charged Design and Performance Experience
Aggressive Exterior Character Lines and Low Center of Gravity
The Toyota Pick-Ups
I know some Toyota Pick-Up fans out there, like my Dad. Both the Tacoma and the Tundra are manufactured at Toyota’s San Antonio facility.
Free Tickets to Houston Auto Show
Yep, enter to win free tickets to the Houston Auto Show.
Contest rules: Entries must be completed by midnight January 23, 2018. No purchase necessary; contest open only to US residents and subject to the laws of Texas. Winners will be notified by email by January 24, 2018. Winners MUST pick up ticketsin person at the Houston Auto Show, NRG Center, 1 NRG Park, Houston, TX 77054, between January 24, 2018 and January 28, 2018. Winners may be asked to provide identification to receive their prize. Prize value $24 per prize, not exchangeable for cash or other items. Grand prize value is $124. A total of 10 pairs of tickets will be awarded and a total of 1 grand prize will be awarded.
Houston Auto Show Details
NRG Center One NRG Park 8400 Kirby Drive Houston, TX 77054
Wednesday through Sunday, Jan. 24 to 28, 2018
Wed. thru Fri. Noon – 9:30 p.m.
Sat. 10 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Sun. 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
$12 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12 and of course we love money saving tips like this coupon!
Ride and Drives
Twenty different car manufacturers will be on site with cars to test drive.
Southern California offers more to discover than Hollywood or Santa Monica. With charming communities up and down the coast, pack up the kids and explore Long Beach for the day. About 25 miles south of Downtown Los Angeles, it offers a full day of family fun. So I’ve outlined what to do in Long Beach with kids.
Long Beach is a favorite with my kids since it’s boasts the Queen Mary and a fabulous aquarium. But first it’s time for breakfast.
Gaffey Street Diner
247 N. Gaffey St.
Opens at 5:30 a.m.
Gaffey Street Diner makes everything from the biscuits to the salsas fresh in-house. It was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives with Guy Fieri.Be prepared to eat, the servings are generous and the scene is unpretentious.
The Queen Mary
1126 Queens Hwy.
Admission + Parking fee
Once the queen of the seas she crossed the Atlantic Ocean from the East Coast to-and-from England. In 1967 the RMS Queen Mary moored in the Long Beach Harbor. Now a maritime destination and some consider her haunted with multiple accounts of ghostly sightings walking the decks.
Take the tour to learn about the history of the RMS Queen Mary, including a tour of duty during WWII for troop transport. Walk through the model room with scale models of various ships and see the LEGO version of the Queen Mary.
Across the decks, I found the indoor pool (not open to visitors) and different mechanical rooms. With several restaurants, we ate at the Chowder House. Offering a family friendly menu, it worked for my kids.
Grab Starbucks coffee or snacks at the Midship Marketplace and eat at the tables on the deck outside. Another choice for families, The Promenade Cafe offers a menu with American favorites.
For a unique place to spend the night, book a stateroom on The Queen Mary. During our visit to Long Beach we spent a night onboard. Best for families with older kids and remember it’s an vintage ship.
After touring the Queen Mary, disembark the ship and head to the Long Beach Bike Share at the entrance. Since the parking is plentiful and paid I would leave the SUV at the Queen Mary.
Long Beach Bike Share
Rent by the Hour
Several bike racks across Downtown
If everyone is willing, rent bikes from the Long Beach Bike Share Program. With multiple bike racks around the downtown area, I found it convenient for families with kids in middle school and older. Though helmets aren’t included.
From the parking lot of the Queen Mary, I found dedicated bike/walk lanes across the bridge to Shoreline Village. The bridge was a bit of a challenge for me though my teen had no problems.
Park the bikes in the rack and remember to take your belongings. If you park your bike in the official bike rack, the time on the meter stops. But your bike is open for another biker though I didn’t have a problem finding a bike during the weekend.
Aquarium of the Pacific
100 Aquarium Way
Admission depending on age
A must for families, the aquarium houses over 10,000 animals from 500 different species. With animals from the West Coast to the tropics, kids encounter a wide assortment of marine life.
As a kids favorite, spend a little extra time at the touch tanks.
Shoreline Village and Boardwalk
Since your bike has a basket, pack a picnic to enjoy in the shadow of the Rainbow Lighthouse. I found lots of grass, perfect for an afternoon or evening picnic.
The boardwalk in Shoreline Village is lined with souvenirs shops. It’s a pleasant bike ride for families though watch for bike route signs and walk your bike around the aquarium.
Pelican Pier Carousel
Don’t miss the Pelican Pier Carousel in the arcade. It’s a treasure from 1920 that started on the East Coast with stops in New Hampshire and Missouri before landing on the West Coast. Before Long Beach this carousel delighted kids in Santa Barbara.
Looking for a bit of throw back fun for the kids. Grab some tokens and play the games in the arcade.
After exploring the Aquarium, the Lighthouse and the Boardwalk. Ride out to Long Beach beaches.
Catch some sun at Long Beach Beaches
Just pass Shoreline Village, families can splash in the water. Since a breakwater protects the Long Beach Harbor, Long Beach beaches are calm compared to other Southern California beaches. Perfect little kids though will fall flat for teens wanting to surf.
Take a Scenic Cruise
All aboard for family fun so grab a scenic cruise in Long Beach. For animal lovers book a whale watching cruise out of Long Beach. Winter and early spring offer the best chances of seeing a whale.
For those needing more information I recommend the Moon Travel Guides. I use the following for my travels through California.
This post contains affiliate links.
Know Before You Go:
Download the Long Beach Bike Share app before arriving.
Tell the kids you’re stargazing for your next family getaway, then hand them sunglasses and a bathing suit. Los Angeles offers families epic beaches, a unique cultural experience along with top museums wrapped in a SoCal vibe that tweens and teens crave. That’s why I’ve added LA to my kids bucket list. Need some help planning a trip, I’ve pulled together a two-day itinerary with where to go in LA with kids.
Day One The Shuttle and the Surf
It’s a vacay so eat like the calories don’t count.
Grand Central Market
317 S. Broadway
8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
How to get there: From your centrally located hotel, head to S. Broadway in Downtown LA.
As a downtown landmark since 1917, Grand Central Market provides a hum of early morning activity and some solid breakfast options, like Eggslut as well as coffee counters and bakeries.
After breakfast, time to explore like an astronaut.
California Science Center
700 Exposition Park Dr.
Free, except for special exhibits and $2 tickets to see the Space Shuttle
How to get there: From Grand Central Market, take E. 3rd St. to I-110 South and continue for 3 miles. Take the W. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. exit (20A exit) and park in the paid parking lot.
The Space Shuttle Endeavorrequires an additional ticket but don’t miss it. And don’t forget the external tank outside the building.
The Ecosystems exhibits walks kids through 11 different ecosystems. So don’t miss the kelp forest with touch tanks mimicking tidal pools. The desert display features a mock flash flood that kids love too.
Know before you go: Since this is a free museum, it’s a favorite with school groups. Buy tickets for special exhibits and the Space Shuttle at Will Call or the Ticket Window.
After exploring the earth and stars, head out for some art.
The Getty Center
1200 Sepulveda Blvd.
How to get there: From the California Science Center take W. Exposition Blvd. to Normandie Ave. and head north to I-10 West. Head west on I-10 for about 3 miles to the I-405 North. Continue for about 10 miles on I-405 North then take exit 57B for Moraga Dr. Then take a left on N. Sepulveda Blvd. and then another left on Getty Center Dr. Park in the paid parking lot and take a tram to the museum (free).
Savor the beauty of LA in a beautiful place to see beautiful art overlooking a beautiful view. The Getty Museum is more than an art museum, it’s a work of art itself.
Designed by Richard Meier, The Getty Center is a top architectural delight as well as the gardens and courtyards. As a favorite among locals, sit in the grass and enjoy a sunny afternoon.
With an extensive art collection including Van Gogh’s Irises, you could spend all day so keep it limited to your interests or stroll the gardens instead.
Time for lunch.
Kye’s on Montana
1518 Montana Ave.
Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
How to get there: From The Getty Center to Kye’s it’s a 5-mile drive. Start out by taking a right on N. Sepulveda Blvd. then take a right on N. Church Lane. Next take a right on Sunset Blvd. and then take a left on S. Westgate Blvd. Finally take a right on Montana Ave. Park at metered parking where available.
Grab a Kyerito, a hand-held wrap with a host of yummy fillings, including gluten-free, wheat-free, diary-free and soy-free options. Due to the special wrapping technique, your Kyerito wrapper, romaine lettuce, nori or collard greens, remains crispy for the trek to the beach.
Head to the Santa Monica Beach for the afternoon.
Santa Monica Pier and Beach
Ocean Ave. at Colorado Ave.
A trip to the beach is a must for LA. And a SoCal sunset is legendary, it will totally make up for any hiccups in parking.
How to get there:From Kye’s head south on Montana Ave. towards the Pacific Ocean. Take a left on Ocean Ave. Continue for about a mile to the pier, parking is available on the pier or use metered street parking.
If surfing is on the kids list then arrange for a surfing lesson from one of several surf shops that offer lessons. Don’t worry about special gear, the shop arranges all that for you, like spring or wet suits and surf boards.
I have three kids, 10, 13 and 15, and all benefitted from surf lessons. Though like any new sport, practice is the key and kids must be proficient swimmers.
Santa Monica Beach and Pier
After surf lessons, explore the Santa Monica beach and pier for the rest of the afternoon.
I recommend renting bikes and taking a guided tour of Santa Monica. Great way to explore and the dedicated bike lanes make it safe for families. Several rental shops next to the pier.
After a bike tour, rent a couple of chairs and watch the sunset. Let the kids play in the sand or chase waves.
After the sun sets, head to the Santa Monica Pier for dinner and family fun. It boasts carnival rides and food in abundance. I’m partial to the carousel though I found a Ferris wheel and a roller coaster.
Day Two Hello Hollywood
Start your second day in Los Angeles with the stars. While the crowds are still sleeping hop in your car and head for breakfast off Sunset Blvd.
The Griddle Café
7916 Sunset Blvd.
Opens at 7 a.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. weekends
How to get there: From your centrally located hotel, head north on U.S. 101 and exit Sunset Blvd.
A drive down Sunset Blvd. is a must for its icon LA vibe. As a bonus, it’s early so the driving should be easy going.
Since it’s a favorite, arrive early to satisfy your breakfast dreams. The Griddle Café offers a huge menu with pancakes in every flavor along with French toast and egg dishes.
Head around the corner to see a bit of Old Hollywood history, built in the 1920s. The Château Marmot, 8221 W. Sunset Blvd. is iconic LA hotel. As the backdrop to numerous movies and a celebrity hangout, it’s a must.
Time head to the theater, so drive north and turn right on Hollywood Blvd. As home to several famous theaters, it’s a bucket list destination for movie goers.
Start with TCL Chinese Theatre’s (formerly Grauman’s) stars’ footprints, at 6925 Hollywood Blvd. Then walk to the home of the Academy Awards at the Dolby Theater, 6801 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Hollywood Blvd. between La Brea Blvd. and Vine St.
After walking by the famous theaters, find the brightest stars in California. With three-and-a-half miles of brass and granite stars, spend a few minutes finding your favorites for a star selfie.
Drive by Capital Records Building, 1750 Vine St. to see the record label’s headquarters. Built in 1956, the round building looks like a stack of 45s before changing gears and heading south.
After stargazing, take a walk through LA’s infamous tar. A must-do for generations, La Brea Tar Pits topped my list since I was 10.
La Brea Tar Pits
5801 Wilshire Blvd.
How to get there: From Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, drive west on Hollywood Blvd. to N. Highland Ave. and head south to Wiltshire Blvd. Head west on Wiltshire Blvd and park in the shared La Brea Tar Pit/LACMA parking lot.
A must for families, see the strange bubbling tar churn and spew into puddles and pools at the La Brea Tar Pits. Start with a walk around the property to see the tar pits in different sizes. Though be prepared to cover your nose, the tar reeks.
After walking around the tar pits, head into the museum to look at prehistoric animal bones found on the property. And the discovery isn’t over, La Brea Tar Pits remains an active discovery zone.
Since the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) shares a parking lot with La Brea Tar Pits. Walk through the museum next.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wiltshire Blvd.
Adult admission, kids under 17 free
How to get there: Located in the same complex as the La Brea Tar Pits so walk to the entrance.
Don’t let the name confuse you, the LACMA (as the locals call it) is the largest art museum in the western U.S. With separate buildings dedicated to different eras and styles visitors could spend all day. I recommend hitting the highlights and check in with a docent upon arrival to tailor your visit to your interests.
After a morning with the stars, some tar followed by the arts, it’s time for lunch. For the kids, I recommend Pink’s hotdog stand, a LA icon. Hop back in the car for a 10-minute drive.
Drive by the Petersen Automotive Museum (6060 Wilshire Blvd.) before heading to lunch. The building opened in 2015 and resembles a red car racing around a corner, can’t miss it.
Pink’s Hot Dogs
709 N. La Brea Ave.
How to get there:From La Brea Tar Pits, take Wilshire Blvd. at S. La Brea Ave. take a left. Street parking in front and parking around the back, though watch that meter!
I will admit, I’m not a hotdog enthusiast though I enjoyed Pink’s.
First, pick a celebrity named dogs, like the Martha Stewart Dog. Then give your order to the ladies working the counter, many who have worked the stand for years.
Grab a table out back under an umbrella. And bite into an experience. Are the hotdogs messy? Yep but the kids will love it.
4730 Crystal Springs Dr.
Free, attractions extra
How to get there:From Pink’s, head north on La Brea Blvd. then take right on Santa Monica Blvd. Continue east on Santa Monica Blvd. until N. Western Ave. and take a left.Continue to Fern Dell Dr. into Griffith Park. Located west of Interstate 5 and south of SR 134 (Ventura Freeway) Use the DASH Observatory Shuttle ($.50) to get around the park since parking can be hard to find, especially at the Griffith Observatory.
As one of the largest municipal parks with an urban wilderness in the U.S. Griffith Park offers days of exploring. Depending on your family, I would choose one attraction in Griffith Park–the Los Angeles Zoo or the Griffith Observatory.
Los Angeles Zoo
5333 Zoo Dr.
Since 1966, families explore the zoo with over 250 animal species across 133 acres. Take a spin the vintage carousel with the kids too (additional ticket).
2800 E. Observatory Rd.
With amazing views of Downtown LA and the Hollywood Sign, a visit to the 1935 Griffith Observatory tops many must do lists for LA. Free to visit, the building is an Art Deco jewel and includes science exhibits including telescopes.
For the train lovers in the family, visit either the Griffith Park and Southern Railroad (4400 Crystal Springs Dr.) for a ride on a miniature train.
Another must do for train lovers, Travel Town (5200 Zoo Dr.) offers an outdoor facility with several full-size train cars to explore.
After exploring Griffith Park for a few hours, head back and stop for dinner at The Original Farmer’s Market.
The Original Farmer’s Market
6333 W. 3rd St.
How to get there: From Griffith Park, head south out of the park on Fern Dell Dr. and onto N Western Ave. Continue until Beverly Blvd and turn right, headed west. At Fairfax Ave. make a left.
More than a fresh produce market, The Original Farmer’s Market is a foodie destination. Stocked with unique and familiar purveyors, find everything from fresh seafood to cold brew coffee.
Since so many quick service eateries are in one location, this is the ideal place to feed a family. For the teens in the family, The Grove, is next door. Offering the possibility of seeing a starlet or two (189 The Grove Dr.).
Since it’s a vacation, reserve tickets to your favorite pastime.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
111 S. Grand Ave
The only way into the concert hall is to attend an event. So if the LA Philharmonic is in season reserve tickets to the architectural marvel, sheathed in stainless steel. Designed by Frank Gehry in the Deconstructivism style, it’s an architectural icon.
While at Walt Disney Concert Hall, drive by the newer The Broad, located across the street at 221 S. Grand Ave. As a contemporary art museum, the building looks like a honeycomb.
1000 Vin Scully Ave.
If a concert sounds boring, get tickets to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a home baseball game. Another place to enjoy a perfect SoCal evening.
The kids have spoken, they want to go skiing for their school break. Now it’s time to prep and pack up for the trip.
Rental Property vs. Hotel Room
I prefer renting a condo versus staying in a standard hotel room, especially for families. Here’s what I want in a rental property or condo for a family ski trip.
Washing Machine and Dryer–a must for wet clothes
Fully Equipped Kitchen + Dishwasher and Microwave
Dining table with chairs for everyone
To save money, I cook. I make breakfast and dinner then we eat out for lunch. Though I also pack a snack bag for the kids.
I pack a few extras to make a rental feel like home.
Cozy blankets–snuggle in the car on the way and at the rental.
Scented candles or plug-in air freshener
A bouquet of flowers–I grab some at the local grocery store.
Crock Pot or InstaPot–I save serious money by making hearty, easy-to-make meals.
Fondue Pot–So much fun for a ski trip and easy too!
Roasting Sticks–Most resorts feature fire pits so grab the sticks and a bag of marshmallows.
Clothes a Family Needs for a Ski Trip
Before buying new stuff, I dig out what I have. It’s amazing how much you have already.
Winter coats with Hoods–Wash them and spray them down with water repellent.
Base layer–A lot of kids use a polyester layer for sports, pack those. The old-school waffle-weave long underwear is itchy.
Fleece layer–Another item most kids own.
Wool or Cashmere Sweaters--Natural fibers are best so I pack my nice sweaters. But not something that most kids own.
Scarves and hats–Instead of scarves, my kids wear neck gaiters so there isn’t any dangling clothing while using ski lifts. Hats or beanies when not wearing a helmet.
Socks–Pack some hiking or wool-blended socks.
Ski gloves–I buy inexpensive gloves for the kids. One will get lost, every single time. Spray those down with the water repellent too.
Snow Bibs or Pants–Bibs for the little kids since the ski pants are hard to fit around little waists. Pants for teens and adults. Spray the bibs and pants down with water repellent, especially the seats of the pants.
Snow boots–Inexpensive boots if you live in a warm climate. Spray down with water repellent.
Hand and Foot Warmers–Buy these before heading to the ski resort, they are expensive in the resort’s shop.
Ski Mom Tip: Buy black items so you can pass them down as the kids grow.
I use this repellent with excellent results.
Snow Play Fun
Sure the kids would love to ski every day but I can’t. So after a couple of days at the resort, I plan a snow play day.
Heavy-Duty Sled–My kids are older and harder on the equipment, I found this heavy-duty sled holds up to my sons. As a bonus, it’s made in the US.
Snoballer–A snoballer is another must for snow day fun. The snow balls are super smooth and aerodynamic. Old-school outdoor winter fun.
Snacks for Ski Trips
Most family friendly resorts allow you to picnic at their outdoor tables. Some resorts even have indoor lunch rooms they allow picnickers to use. Though respect the rules of the resort.
I find the lunch line at the ski resort’s snack bar daunting during the school holidays. With my snack bag, my kids grab a quick bite, especially my boy who wants to snowboard all day.
Refillable water bottles
Gatorade or flavor packets
Hot water in a thermos
Instant hot cider or cocoa packets and tea bags
Granola bars and Protein bars
Dried fruit or fruit leather
Marshmallows and roasting sticks
Reusable coffee cups
Other Things that Make Life Easier
I pack another bag for the non-food stuff. Including a
First aid kit with lots of bandages
Sunscreen for faces
Wipes and tissues
Extra gloves–A glove will go missing every single time.
Ski goggles–My kids prefer to use sunglasses for sunny days.
Sunglasses–Goggles are best for blustery or snowy days.
Giant blue IKEA bag–Some families change into ski boots at the car but I find kids slip and fall. I can fit all the boots and helmets and haul them to the ski lodge.
As a top destination for kids along with the American Museum of Natural History, it’s 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, the supersonic jet. Then see one of the retired space shuttles, the Orbiter Enterprise, one of several on display across the U.S.
American Museum of Natural History
The Hayden Planetarium
Central Park West At 79th St. Open from 10 a.m. To 5:45 p.m. Admission based on age, separate tickets required for Planetarium. Babies under 2 free.
A must for families with kids of all ages, my teen daughter spent hours exploring. A sprawling museum that could take all day so hit the highlights, like “Lucy” the early human, the giant blue whale, the Hall of Dinosaurs, 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.
Best Museums to Learn History
180 Greenwich St.
Open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Admission depending on age, Kids 6 and under free.
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 a somber space that gives visitors a place to reflect.
Walk though the 9/11 Museum to see the artifacts from the World Trade Center and actual recording of emergency calls. Touring the museum is an emotional experience though the area around the WTC has recovered, experiencing a rebirth.
Statue of Liberty
Ellis Island Immigration Museum
New York City Harbor
Hours vary by season.
No Admission to Museum though a Statue of Liberty ferry ticket is required.
As a symbol of liberty and freedom known world-wide, the Statue of Liberty sits on a 12-acre island in the middle of the New York Harbor. Learn about the construction of the statue in the museum under the statue.
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.
East Side Tenement Museum National Historic Site
Visitor Center at 103 Orchard St.
Open every day from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Admission based on age.
Walk through history in a preserved tenement building on the Lower East Side. Tour the building that housed 7,000 working class immigrants from 1863 until 1935.
With specialized tours focusing on Irish immigrants, Jewish immigrants and sweatshop workers along with neighborhood tours, get an understanding of an immigrant’s life over a hundred years ago.
Federal Hall National Monument
26 Wall Street Open Monday Through Friday From 9 a.m. To 5 p.m. Free
The 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.
Museum of Modern Art MoMA
11 W. 53th St. Open from 10:30 a.m. To 5:30 p.m. Admission based on age, Kids Under 16 Free
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 family guides for kids. Walk through the gift shop for unique souvenirs.
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.
Admission based on age and kids 12 and under 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 its imposing display and the American Wing. Don’t miss the extensive collection of European Masters.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Ave.
Open Monday through Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
Open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. Closed Thursday.
Admission based on age, Kids Under 12 Free
I love the Guggenheim for its architecture. Originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, head to the top floor and explore the exhibits on your way down.
The Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort St.
Open Monday, Wednesday through Sunday various hours. Closed on Tuesday.
Admission based on age, kids under 18 are free.
Anchoring the southern end of High Line Park, The Whitney showcases contemporary art from the 20th and 21st century with a focus on living artists.
The Morgan Library and Museum
225 Madison Ave.
Open Tuesday though Sunday various hours. Closed Monday.
Admission based on age, kids under 12 are free.
My favorite space to explore is Pierpont Morgan’s three-story library, rotunda and study. The opulent interiors have to be visited to appreciate. A must for readers and even Harry Potter fans since it reminds me of Hogwarts.
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.
Consideration for brands mentioned. I used a complimentary CityPass New York for admission to several attractions and some of the museums offered complimentary admission.
More than 20 years years ago I added Jordan to my bucket list. Then an email came and suddenly I’m on my way. With just a few weeks to prepare, I had a lot to learn. Though the biggest dilemma was what to wear in Jordan. I wanted to share what I did and what worked for your first trip to Jordan.
My Jordan Journey
My trip is probably like your trip.
I explored Jordan for 8 days with a full travel day on both ends. I visited Jordan in October though you could use my packing list for spring too. Both are the high seasons for Jordan. With winter’s bitter desert temperatures and summer’s brutal heat, I would avoid those seasons.
I flew into-and-out of Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport. During my visit, I explored Jordan’s top attractions.
The Dead Sea
The Wadi Rum
The Red Sea
Jerash’s Roman Ruins
The Holy Sites in Jordan
I enjoyed a combination of 4 and 5-star hotels and resorts in Amman, the Dead Sea and the Red Sea.
Though in the Wadi Rum I enjoyed some Arabian Glamping. And I spent a night at a world-renowned ecolodge, Feynan Ecolodge, in the Dana Reserve.
Since it was my first trip to the Middle East, I started reading.
Books About Jordan
I’m a reader so I bought some books to prepare for my trip to Jordan. Articles provided useful tidbits though I needed more detailed information.
Lonely Planet Jordan—I’ve used Lonely Planet guides since my first trip to Europe, years ago. I appreciate the honest and useful advice.
I read Lonely Planet Jordan cover-to-cover. Packed with tons of useful information, get the book and read it. All of it.
National Geographic Atlas of the Middle East–I will admit it’s been a while since I studied geography so I needed to study up on the Middle East. Sure, I knew the major countries but I didn’t know much else.
Along with the maps of individual countries, I learned about water and oil issues. Jordan is water poor, actually one of the poorest in the world. So water conservation is important and I kept my showers short.
Walking the Bible by Bruce Feiler–An authoritative book that looks at geographic and biblical clues to provide insight into today’s Holy Land. A must for people wanting to visit Jordan’s holy sites.
Since the book overs the entire Middle East, read the introduction and the chapter detailing the sites of Jordan if you’re short on time.
Leap of Faith by Queen Noor–Written by the former Queen of Jordan, an American that married King Hussein, it’s as much a book about recent Middle Eastern history as a book about women’s issues.
Movies to Watch Before Visiting Jordan
An easy and painless way to research for a trip, I watch movies. As a bonus movies add drama and excitement ahead of your trip.
Lawrence of Arabia–Top of the list is the 1963 Academy Award Winner for Best Picture. It’s a must. Tells the true story of TE Lawrence, a British soldier dispatched to Arabia to find Prince Faisal. Then leads a group of warring tribes to run the Turks out of Arabia during the Arab Revolt.
Filmed in Jordan, the shots of the Wadi Rum desert are stunning. Then I downloaded the soundtrack and listened to it during my flight to Jordan.
Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade—Another movie to watch before heading to Jordan, especially Petra. Released in 1989, this movie peaked my interest in Jordan as a teen.
I got goose bumps when I walked along Petra’s Siq and a sliver of the Treasury came into view for the first time. Just like the movie and I felt a little like Indiana Jones.
What to Wear in Jordan
I did a little research since it was my first trip to the Middle East. I didn’t want to offend anyone yet I wanted to stay comfortable.
My itinerary included lots of outdoor exploring so I packed for that. Channeling a safari look, I relied on cotton khakis and long-sleeved cotton shirts with a couple of long skirts for dinner.
3 Pairs Cotton Hiking Pants/Cargo Pants–I wore each pair twice, using the dirtiest pants at Petra and the Wadi Rum.
6 Long-Sleeved Cotton Button-up Shirts—Since I was working I needed a polished look. When I packed I rolled up my shirts and didn’t have any wrinkles. I packed several white cotton shirts that pulled double duty, wearing them once paired with maxi shirts for nice dinners. Then I wore again for a full day.
2 Maxi or Boho Skirts—I found a couple of inexpensive skirts that I worn several times for dinner paired with sandals and a woven leather belt.
1 Fleece Pullover—I usually pack one for layering and I used it several times.
1 Down Vest—I wore it in the desert in the evening. Packed it in a compression bag and it didn’t take up much room.
Scarves—I packed several to coordinate with my outfits. I used them for dust and sun protection. Also can be used on your head for walking into mosques.
2 Pairs of Sunglasses—I will break or lose at least one pair on every trip.
1 Foldable Sun Hat—I wore my Scala sunhat constantly.
Shoes for Jordan
Hiking boots—I wore my hiking boots in Petra and anytime I was riding an animal.
Hiking Sandals—I wore my hiking sandals the other days I was exploring. I even wore them into the Dead Sea at the end of our trip. Then I had to put them into a gallon-sized plastic bag for the trip home since they didn’t dry out.
Casual Sandals–I wear sandals comfortable enough to walk in that dress up an outfit too. Here’s my favorite, inexpensive and easy-to-pack.
Flip-flops—I pack them for the pool, spa or campground showers.
What to Wear Swimming in Jordan
I’ll be honest here, I hadn’t even heard of a burkini before this trip (the swimsuit that covers everything for head to toe). Would everyone be wearing one?
My itinerary included excursions to the Dead Sea and the Red Sea so I needed a swimsuit. Since my itinerary was tight, I packed two. I’m glad I did. My first suit didn’t dry out.
Since a float in the Dead Sea is tops for most travelers, I was hesitant with my tankini. I found the Dead Sea area one of the most cosmopolitan parts of Jordan. In fact all I saw were western bathing suits, including bikinis, at the pool and the beachfront.
During my visit, I stayed at the Marriot Dead Sea Resort and Spa and visited the hotel’s beach. I read that the Dead Sea mud might discolor swim suits. It didn’t when I washed my suit with detergent at home as usual. Though I would wear an older suit, just in case.
For the Red Sea I stayed at Kempinski’s Aqaba Hotel and did see several burkinis but saw cheeky bikinis too. I wore another tankini at the pool and a t-shirt dress cover-up through the lobby. I didn’t feel uncomfortable.
Note:While snorkeling in Aqaba our boat captain and crew were wearing western board shorts and tank tops.
Other Important Stuff I packed
My luggage. I prefer to use a carry-on rolling bag but that wasn’t happening for this trip. So I packed up my Ricardo Beverly Hills Carillon 28″ hard-sided wheelie luggage. Though I struggled keeping it under the 50-pound Royal Jordanian luggage weight limit.
Tip: Weigh your toiletry bag and take only the necessities. I had to edit odd-and-ends out of mine.
I use packing cubes to keep myself and my luggage organized. A must since I move hotels everyday on a trip.
My regular backpack acts as a mobile office and holds all my gear, packed with my computer and camera equipment. I don’t want to haul it around all day so I packed a small packable backpack. It’s perfect for day hikes and exploring museums.
My regular backpack acts as a mobile office and holds all my gear, packed with my computer and camera equipment. I don’t want to haul it around all day so I packed a small packable backpack. It’s perfect for day hikes and exploring museums.
I packed an empty Naglene bottle since I was visiting Bethany-upon-Jordan, the baptism spot of Jesus by John the Baptist. I found a font of clean water and I brought home 16-ounces of River Jordan water for family who requested holy water.
Note: For security purposes, I labeled my water container before I left and packed it into my checked bag.
Jordan Packing Notes
After looking over the itinerary, washing out clothes seemed impossible. And washing machines that guests could use are not the norm in the Middle East so I packed a bit heavy.
A note here, all adults in Jordan covered their arms and legs, not just the women. So men wear long sleeve shirts and long pants. It’s considered impolite for men to show their furry legs to women.
Since I was wearing long sleeves and long pants, I didn’t use much sunscreen. I just sprayed down my ears and neck. Of course, I applied lots for the boat cruise and beach days. I packed two 3-ounce spray containers.
Make an Appointment at Travel Clinic
I looked over the CDC website for Jordan travel information, including required immunizations. My family practitioner advised me to make appointment at a travel clinic.
At the travel clinic, my nurse practitioner advised a Typhoid vaccine, along with hepatitis A and a booster vaccine for diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis since it had been five years since my last.
Along with vaccines, she discussed traveler’s diarrhea (TD). She advised I start taking probiotics before and during my trip. I also drank a dose of Emergen-C daily, especially after long international flights. I packed some over-the-counter medications for TD symptoms since it’s the most common illness during travel.
Fear of TD–Traveler’s Diarrhea
I have a fear of TD, who has time for that. I didn’t want to find a Jordanian pharmacy so I packed all the supplies I might need. Here’s what the CDC recommends.
Oral Rehydration Salts—available at REI
Prescription Antibiotics—prescribed by a doctor or nurse practitioner based on your itinerary.
First Aid Supplies
Accidents happen so pack a basic first aid kit to be prepared, even for minor scrapes and blisters.
Motion Sickness pills, like non-drowsy Dramamine
Cold Medication—I prefer a separate Day and Night version.
Triple antibiotic cream—like Neosporin
When traveling in developing countries, pack some restroom supplies. You will need them outside restaurants and hotels.
Toilet paper, off the roll in plastic bag
Hand sanitizer–I used two small bottles during my trip.
Note: I left all medications in the original container to avoid issues with security or customs.
What to Eat in Jordan
I am a super fan of Greek food and I found similar dishes in Jordan. I enjoy meat though vegetarians have lots of options. Some of my favorites:
Moutabel—similar to Baba Ghanoush
Manalush—or Arabic Pizza seasoned with Zatar, a thyme and sesame spice blend
Shish Kebabs—especially in lamb
Zarb—Bedouin underground BBQ
Baklava—Jordanians include pistachios
Drinking in Jordan
Only water that’s labeled drinking water is safe to drink in Jordan. I drank bottled water during my visit.
All of my 4 and 5-star hotel rooms included at least two bottles for drinking and making tea or coffee in the room. The other lodging offered drinking water in carafes or drinking water dispensers.
I always pack my water bottle to refill when I see a fountain. Though in Jordan, I didn’t find a lot of drinking water fountains so fill up at the hotel.
Muslims typically don’t drink so I enjoyed cocktails at hotels that cater to western guests. Even then the hotel bars had a limited selection.
The local currency is the Jordanian Dinear (JD). So I learned a lesson here, it’s considered an exotic money and I couldn’t buy any at the JFK airport in New York City. And JFK has a flight leaving for Amman, Jordan, every day.
It requires submitting an order several days in advance for pick-up at JFK’s terminal 4 or ordering a week in advance and shipping the currency to your home or office.
Tourists will need 40JD for the required 30-day tourist visa though I found ATMs inside the Amman International Airport.
During my trip, I used my credit cards and cash equally.
Jordan uses Arabic though I found most Jordanians working with travelers speak English. Most tourist destinations had signs in English.
How to Get to Jordan
I flew Royal Jordanian Airlines from New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). Though Royal Jordanian flies out of Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) as well as Montreal Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport (YUL).
Royal Jordanian uses Boeing 787 Dreamliners for the 11-hour flight and offers a two-class service, economy and first-class. Dreamliners are the way to go for international travel so it pays to research which routes and carriers use them.
As a former flight attendant, I might be sitting in coach though I want to feel like first class. To do that I pack an in-flight amenity kit.
A Flight Attendant’s Make-at-Home First Class Amenity Kit
Compression socks—put them on before your first flight of the day
Bottle of water
Travel toothbrush and paste
Hair brush or comb
All over face powder
Atomizer with lavender water
I usually wear a large scarf that I use as a thin blanket. Sleeping on airplanes is hard for me so I pack several blow-up pillows with fleece covers. One for my neck and one between my hips and the seat.
Since I travel for work I usually meet a PR representative or tour guide as soon as I disembark. I wear dressy jeans and a casual but comfortable long-sleeve t-shirt, year-round. I hit the restroom as soon as I clear customs and fresh-up.
DIY a Jordan Trip?
I was part of an organized press trip with an English-speaking guide. I would recommend taking a tour and not renting a car and driving yourself around Jordan.
The traffic seemed chaotic at times and I never saw any lanes separating the cars. Rugged landscapes to traverse and road signs in a foreign language seemed like another reason to leave this trip to the professional tour operators.
My trip was sponsored by the North American Jordan Tourism Board in order to promote tourism in Jordan. My opinion are my own.
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
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
Road Tripping Protein
Sometimes I’m in the middle of a desert and there’s not a place to stop for a meal.
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
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.
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 or Cuties
Freeze-dried fruit– Apples and pears seem to be the winners here.
Dried cherries or apricots
Bagged fruit snacks
A good source of protein and travels well if individually wrapped. Put it in a cooler during the summer.
Individually packaged pieces of cheddar or Colby.
I stay away from any snacks that will cover my SUV in cheesy fingerprints.
Cracker sandwiches. I get the variety pack to keep everyone happy.
Gold Fish. My kids still love these.
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
Muddy Buddies Mix
Road Trip Snack Bag Must Haves
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
Bean Chips, like the SnapPeas Crisps
Bottled cold coffee drinks
Canned sparkling water
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.
Pistachios, just give him something for the shells
Sunflower seeds, same
Gas station hotdog
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.
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
Mini Snow Mobiles
Indoor rock wall
Take the aerial tram to High Camp
Tour the Olympic Museum
Cross country skiing
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Valet Garage Parking
$30 or $40 holiday
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.
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
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+
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
Total Named Runs:
1 high-speed quad, 2 quads. 3 doubles and 1 surface lift for ski school.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.