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Family Celebrations at the YMCA of the Rockies

There’s nothing more beautiful than wintertime in the mountains. The snowcapped mountains and fresh powder on the ground make for a fun day of playing outdoors followed by warm evenings by the fire. Getting together as a family is a wonderful reason to go up to the mountains for a weekend of fun (although there’s never any need to have a reason to go to the mountains when you live in Colorado). 

Just a few weeks ago we headed up highway 36 from Denver to the YMCA of the Rockies, just outside Estes Park to celebrate my sister’s 16th birthday as a family. During the winter months traffic into the mountains can get a bit crazy, being able to enjoy the mountains without having to fight ski traffic is always a plus. 

Even after a heavy snow, the trip from Denver took just an hour and half to get to the YMCA campus, perfect for a car loaded with teenagers in the backseat. 

Now that we’re grown and out of the house, its hard to get all our schedules to align so we can get together as a family for a weekend away. When we do, having space for us all to sleep without having to do a ton of planning is the ideal time together. 

The YMCA of the Rockies is the perfect place to get together as a family, especially since we could stay in a loge with a few rooms for us all to spread out. With 6 adults in the family the double bed rooms in Emerald Lodge are ideal for everyone having enough space and rooms near by one another. They also have cabins or vacation homes on property for bigger groups or those who want to have a more private gathering.

The cafeteria serves three meals a day so theres no need to cook and a full calendar of activities are available to keep you busy during your stay. 

We started the day playing out in the snow and then warmed up in the Craft & Design Center where we could choose from t-dye, ceramics, mosaics, jewelry design and a whole variety of other projects. 

After grabbing lunch we picked up some skates at the Sweets Memorial Building and went out to the frozen lake for outdoor skating before checking out some board games to enjoy by the Lodge fire after dark.

Staying together was the perfect family celebration for my sister’s birthday, giving us just enough of a break to really enjoy the time before we had to head back to Denver on Sunday. With no dishes to wash and everything we needed a short drive on campus, it was a relaxing adventure that everyone was able to enjoy. 

Disclosure: The YMCA of the Rockies invited us to join them for a weekend stay in one of their lodge rooms. All opinions are my own. 

 

Travel

Tips for Visiting London as a Couple

Nearly six months ago we packed up a backpack a piece and caught a flight over the Atlantic to spend a week in of the oldest modern cities in the world. Visiting London as a couple was something we’d been looking forward to since our wedding. As we planned our trip we listened to tips from family and friends, read travel blogs about the best sights, and created wish lists of things we wanted to do while abroad.

Tips for visiting London as a couple

As a couple prone to over scheduling ourselves we left most of the trip agenda free so we could enjoy the city and enjoy our adventure. I’ve outlined some of my highlights from the trip throughout this post, but our FAVORITE part of the week we spent in the city was wandering town with the lovely Sarah of Sarah Wayte Photography taking photos at some of the most popular tourist sites.

By scheduling a local photographer we benefited from her better understanding of the city and landmarks and allowed us to enjoy the rest of the trip without feeling the need to haul a camera with us wherever we went.

Tips for Visiting London as a Couple

Tips for visiting London as a couple

1. Select a hotel near a tube station

Everyone says [and is correct] that London is very expensive. When we were looking for hotels we originally selected an option close to Buckingham Palace but upon starting to book the trip found that it had doubled in price. Unbeknown to us, our backup choice [The Premier Inn Waterloo] was a block away from a the Waterloo Tube station and within walking distance to dozens of iconic London spots. 

A value hotel chain the Premier Inn provided everything we needed – a king size bed and great location. Beyond that, the Premier doesn’t have many other features you might get in a more expensive hotel option. Our hotel happened to be just across the street from the London Eye and a few blocks from the South Bank, Big Ben, Westminster Abby and more. The location won us over and I couldn’t be happier with how things turned out. 

Tips for visiting London as a couple

2. Buy an Oyster Card 

As anyone who lives in a big city knows, public transportation is everything. We purchased a week long Oyster Card for the central area of London and spent a TON of time traveling the city via Tube. We never felt the need to take a black cab since everything we wanted to see was convenient to most Tube Stations. 

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3. Talk to the Locals 

To really experience a city you have to check out the places that are off the beaten path. While browsing the shops on Regent Street I ended up in the Kate Spade store chatting with an American student studying at the London College of Fashion. We asked where the best place to grab dinner was and she recommended a steakhouse nearby called Flat Iron who’s specialty is a simplified menu at a fantastic price. 

No reservations allowed the Flat Iron serves a single entree of a beautifully cooked Flat Iron steak along side 4 side options. This low-key meal was the best value we came across throughout our trip and we enjoyed it so much we stopped by two different locations for dinner on separate evenings of our 6 nights in town. 

Tips for visiting London as a couple

4. Select a good guide book 

I loved having my Rick Steve’s London book to rely on and share tips and history of the city. I purchased two books for this trip (both this one and Ireland) and I definitely got the most use out of the London edition. 

Before our trip I flipped through picking places I wanted to visit and once we were on the ground in London I used it to learn more about places as we visited them. The book itself was a bit bulky to carry around in a handbag but when I used my daypack it was perfect to include for the day. 

Tips for visiting London as a couple

5. Find a Local Photographer for Photos 

I don’t think I can say enough how much I loved having Sarah take our photos on this trip. Instead of asking strangers to take photos and being sad with how they came out, we were able to give Sarah a list of places we wanted to capture and she did all the rest. 

There are tons of services that specialize in tourist photography but after researching the options I didn’t like how short the shoot options were. Instead, I asked a photography group that I’m a part of on Facebook if they had any recommendations for someone based in London. I spoke with a lady who happened to be in London, but was unavailable during the time we were traveling – ultimately she recommended we reach out to Sarah. Photographers are a wonderful community to be a part of and its amazing how easy it was to find someone who was available and excited to help us capture special memories of our trip. 

Tips for visiting London as a couple

London was so much fun and there was no way to pack in all of the places we wanted to see in just one trip. I can’t wait for our next trip! What tips do you have for visiting The Big Smoke? 

Photo Credits: Sarah Wayte Photography

 

Travel

Storks, Flying into Theaters on September 23rd

As adults without children we see a lot of animated movies, probably more than most of our friends who have kids. I love the simplicity of animation and the authenticity that can be brought to life by a non-human character. When we received the opportunity to see a pre-screening of the new Storks Movie I was excited to get to check it out before the formal debut in theatre’s this weekend. 

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Travel

Traveling Light: 5 tips for Vacationing with a Backpack

Backpacking through Europe may sound like a college student’s cliche but I can promise you that there is nothing more freeing then having only a single, easy to carry bag, when you are traveling. This of course means that you can’t bring as many things, but once you are realistically looking at what you need for leisure travel you might be surprised at how little you actually need to pack. 

We spent 2 weeks visiting London and Ireland, using just a single 50 liter back pack each. I’ve pulled together a list of all the tips we learned during the trip and from friends before traveling.

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