Denver Travel Diary – 2018

Over the summer, my family and I took our first ever vacation! Now, we have done our fair share of traveling since the twins were born, but this was the first time ever for us to go on a trip that didn’t include visiting family. What a different experience it was! No obligatory visits and no one else’s time table, which for our families usually means waiting and waiting for other people.

We spent a long weekend in Breckenridge and Denver, Colorado, and I wanted to share with you some of the family-friendly things we did with our toddler twins. I hope you enjoy reading about our trip to Denver. Stay tuned next week for a look at what we did in Breckenridge.

Things to Do

We visited Denver over the last weekend of July, so the weather was warm and sunny the whole time we were there.

Downtown Aquarium

The Downtown Aquarium is a great place to spend a day with the whole family. The boys absolutely love animals, so they were very interested in seeing everything this aquarium has to offer.

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Downtown Aquarium – Denver

The aquarium boasts over a million gallons of underwater exhibits, containing over 500 species of animals.  In addition to the aquarium, the complex has a Stingray touch pool, restaurant, and activities including face painting, a carousel and theatre.

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Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities

Hubby and I visited the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities on our first visit to Denver, back when we were still dating. We absolutely loved it, and when we were planning out this trip, it was one of the first things that came to mind when we were thinking of things to do with the children.

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Inside the Main Gallery

The Arvada Center is located in the city of Arvada, which is about 20 minutes northwest of Downtown Denver. The Center’s facilities include art galleries, classrooms, theatres,  an outdoor amphitheatre, and sculpture gardens.

After checking out the galleries, we spent the rest of our visit in the outdoor sculpture gardens. They were so fun for the boys to run around it, and for older kids, there are tons of opportunities for them to climb!

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Squiggles, Interactive Sculpture Garden – Bill Gian
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Arvada Center Outdoor Sculpture Garden

16th Street Mall

Our hotel was located a few blocks from the 16th Street Mall, so we wound up spending quite a bit of time walking around the area. The Mall is mile long pedestrian and transit promenade in the middle of Downtown. Free shuttle buses go up and down the mall. We didn’t take advantage of it since we liked to walk.

The mall has tons of restaurants and shops, as well as movie theaters.

One of the landmarks on the 16th Street Mall is the D&F Tower. The tower is a two-thirds replica of the Campanile of St. Mark’s in Venice, Italy and was the highest building west of the Mississippi when it was built in 1909.

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D&F Tower

One of my favorite things about the 16th Street Mall was the public art in the alleyways.

 

Meow Wolf at Next Stage Gallery

Meow Wolf was basically one of the best things happening in New Mexico when I was living there. I found out that Meow Wolf was collaborating on a temporary exhibit, called Special Guest at the Next Stage Gallery, which was within walking distance of our hotel! I immediately added this to our itinerary.

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I loved that the kids got to interact with the exhibits and explore in a safe, fun and creative environment.

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Meow Wolf is currently preparing to open a permanent space in Denver sometime in 2020. For more information, visit them online.  Until then, Special Guest will be running until the end of this year.

City Park

After arriving in Denver, getting our luggage, getting our rental car and eating, the boys really needed to have a chance to run around since we were immediately continuing on to Breckenridge. We stopped by City Park in Downtown and played in some of there beautiful open fields.

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City Park

They had a run of the place and had a lot of fun. The park was surprisingly clean for an urban park.

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City Park – Denver

Sleeps

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View from our room at the Hyatt Place Denver Downtown

For this trip, we made our home at the Hyatt Place Denver Downtown. This is a great option for families because of the central location, amenities and moderate price.

We loved how convenient the location was. This hotel has great freeway access and is within walking distance of the 16th Street Mall. We were playing it pretty easy this trip so we did not mind that the majority of eateries along the 16th Street Mall are national chains. We just wanted convenience since we were traveling with the twins and another family as well.

Pros: indoor pool, fitness center, high quality hot breakfast buffet included with your stay, free wifi, location, clean. Our room also had a nice view of Downtown Denver, which the boys loved.

Cons: Parking fee. Pack n Plays provided, instead of cribs.

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Enjoying the view!

I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip to Denver. Let me know if you have any favorite things to do in Denver with kids! Our stay was so short that we weren’t able to even scratch the surface!

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A Rainy Visit to the State Fair of Texas and Frisco, Texas

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Big Tex at the State Fair of Texas

Last weekend, we headed to Dallas to visit my sister, brother-in-law and their two pups. My sister lives in the bedroom community of Frisco, Texas, which is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Frisco was the fastest growing US city in 2017 and has grown a huge amount ever since she moved there about 10 years ago. Notably, the Dallas Cowboys moved their headquarters and training facilities to Frisco in 2016.

To be honest, the weather was horrible the entire time we were there. We are so spoiled in San Diego. It was raining on and off the whole weekend, so we had to time our activities during less rainy times or find indoor activities to keep us occupied.

State Fair of Texas

On Friday, we headed to Fair Park to attend the State Fair of Texas. The fair has taken place annually since 1886, except for some breaks during the First and Second World Wars. Over 2 million people attend every year, and it is considered one of the most attended and best state fairs in the country.

I have attended the fair numerous times in the past as a child and visiting my sister and always have a fun time.

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The Champ at the State Fair of Texas

Attending the fair with the boys was slightly different than what we are used to. We spent a greater amount of time visiting the animals and doing a couple of kids’ activities.

We started off our day at the Home on the Range exhibit, where we could feed and pet different animals, including cows, donkeys, goats and pigs.

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Home on the Range Petting Barn
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Home on the Range Petting Bar
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Goats at the Petting Barn
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Feeding the goats
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Exhausted mom with her piglets

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Next, we took the boys to the Little Hands on the Farm activity. They each got to put on an apron and get a basket to act as little farmers! It was seriously the cutest thing!

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Little Hands on the Farm

The twins collected different produce, eggs and milk and then took them to the market to sell their products. The boys like to collect things, so they had a blast doing the tasks.

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Little Hands on the Farm
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Little Hands on the Farm

One of the highlights of the fair is, of course, eating insane fair food. New this year was the “Cotton Candy Taco,” which I did not partake in but did take a photo next to the replica of it!

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Cotton Candy Taco

Every time I visit the State Fair of Texas, I have to have a Fletcher’s Corny Dog. This baby was first sold at the fair in 1942 and claim, as others do, to have been the original corn dog. I don’t know who was the first, but Fletcher’s is delicious!

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Fletcher’s Original Corny Dog

Another of my must-do activities at the fair is seeing the butter sculpture and the Creative Arts Building. This year’s butter sculpture featured Big Tex’s head and was made from 1,000 pounds of butter!

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Butter Sculpture of Big Tex

I love looking at the crafts and food items that regular folks create and submit for the Creative Arts contests. There is so much talent and so much to look at!

It was getting pretty late in the day and Dallas traffic is the pits, so we made our final stop at the Midway to check out the games and rides.

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Midway

A section of the Midway is referred to as the Kidway, where there are rides for the little ones. The twins were too small to ride the majority of the rides, but we found a little whale ride to go on with them. They tolerated it, but did not enjoy the ride!

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Ride in the Kidway

Little Humans Big Fun

On Day 2 of our visit, we stuck to things that were in Frisco since it was supposed to rain all day long. We started the day off at Little Humans Big Fun. Although they are only open from 9 AM to 10:30 AM, it was definitely worth the $24 that we spent. The twins loved every minute of their time there. That is, except for when little brother got pushed by a mean girl and started to cry.

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Grocery store play area

There was a good variety of things for them to do. They were especially obsessed with the grocery store and shopping carts.

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Giant Lite Brite
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Auto shop play area

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For parents, there is no admission charge. I seriously do not understand why other places, like the Children’s Museum, charge admission for adults. It makes no sense. Additionally, Little Humans Big Fun also provides free coffee and espresso drinks, tea and wifi!

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Foam building blocks

Sci-Tech Discovery Center

We stayed until Little Humans Big Fun closed and decided to head to the Sci-Tech Discovery Center next. Had it not been raining, we would have done a different activity, but our options were limited. I read some pretty unimpressive reviews before we went to the Discovery Center and was not expecting much.

Honestly, it was not that great, but did keep the boys occupied for a good hour or so before we went to lunch.

They loved the bubbles, fire show, and ball drops!

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Having fun with auntie!
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This looks like a good place to sit!

Bye, Auntie and Uncle

I am so happy that we got to visit my sister and brother-in-law, especially while we were able to still take advantage of the twins’ lap child status for our flights! We don’t get to see them that often, so it was nice spending a whole weekend together!

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And of course, we also loved seeing Waffles the Corgi and his sister Cinnabon the Chowgi!

 

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Waffles the Corgi
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Cinnabon the Chowgi

 

Visiting the Crayola Experience with Toddlers

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While visiting family in Pennsylvania recently, we decided to spend a rainy day at the Crayola Experience in Easton, Pennsylvania.

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The complex is huge with so much to do for little ones and younger elementary-aged children. I would say older elementary-aged children would not find it as amusing. Although we did not have time to explore the entire attraction and we skipped things that were not age-appropriate for my 15 month old twins, there was still plenty to do for the toddler-aged child.

Wrap It Up

Upon paying your admission fee, each guest is given a shopping bag and two tokens. One of the tokens can be used at Wrap It Up. Here, you can choose a Crayola crayon color and create a personalized label for it. Once your label is printed, you machine wrap it to create the perfect take home souvenir.

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Toddler Town

We spent the majority of our time in Toddler Town. There were multiple activity cubes to play with.

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But the reason why we stayed here so long and actually wound up coming back to Toddler Town a second time was because the twins were all about the giant Light Brite board. They could not get enough of it!

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Rainbow Rain and Stomp & Play

These two attractions are fun digital interactive games. With Rainbow Rain, you can play in melting wax.

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Stomp & Play lets you play games on a digital interactive floor. There was also an under the sea game on one of the walls.

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Colossal Caddy

The Crayola Experience had a number of coloring stations with different pages you can choose from to color in.

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Modeling Madness

With your second token, guests can visit the vending machines lining the room to choose from a variety of different colors of Crayola’s modeling compound.

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Tables were set up with cookie cutters and other tools for you to mold and play with the modeling clay. The boys really enjoyed this attraction. Even just playing with the clay in their hands was great for their sensory development.

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Big Blue

Made from 123,000 blue crayons and weighing 1,500 lbs, Big Blue is the world’s largest crayon and worth stopping to admire.

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The Crayola Store

This gift shop is filled with adorable souvenirs. We took home a few t-shirts for the twins.

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But my favorite thing at the shop was the amazing Pick Your Pack crayon display. Loved the rainbow of colors!

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There is so much more to do at the Crayola Experience. While we got our fill on these few things to do, once the boys are older, I would love to visit again and check out the other attractions and have more fun with my sons!

Things to Do in Las Vegas as a New Mom

Life with infants can be hectic to say the least. Life with twin infants is a daily struggle to get by. I realized out of the blue that I had a credit on Southwest Airlines that was going to expire by the end of the year. After a few text messages and phone calls, I was planning a trip to Las Vegas for the following weekend. Thank goodness we moved to Southern California. Otherwise, my credit would have gone to waste.

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With hubby, the kids and grandparents back home and my friend occupied for much of the weekend, I found myself going solo for about half of the weekend. This was a-okay by me since I have traveled a lot by myself throughout the years. I decided that this weekend would be a time to relax and get some rest and pamper myself with food and other treats. I also kept myself occupied by pumping throughout the day. Momma’s gotta bring back that liquid gold to the babes and keep up my milk supply!

Here are my top 5 picks for enjoying Las Vegas as a new mom without the kiddos

Bellagio Gardens and Fountain

On every trip I take to Las Vegas, I have to visit the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. Their displays are so impressive even by Vegas standards, and I love seeing what they come up for the different seasons. For Fall 2017, the theme was “Proud as a Peacock.”

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In addition to the main peacock display, there were two other displays featuring a willow tree and scarecrows and another with goblins.

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While at the Bellagio, watching at least one round of the Fountain show is a must-do for me. Yes, it is cheesy but I find the water mesmerizing and somehow romantic. I was actually able to catch shows while I was both getting to and leaving from the hotel.

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So beautiful at night!

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Having grown up as a Chinese-American in Southern California, I went to Las Vegas A LOT! Doing some of the things off the beaten path appeal to me. On our first night in Vegas, we took a late night tour of the Neon Museum, and by late night, it was super late night for a new mom! 11 PM! What?!

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I definitely recommend a night tour of the museum so that you can see all of the signs lit up in their intended glory.

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The tour also provided a ton of information about the history of Las Vegas. Although it was hard for me to pay attention with my distracted, foggy mommy brain!

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Eat All the Foods

As a new mom, it is not unusual for me to be eating sandwiches with cold cuts, microwaved yakisoba from Costco or bagels and cream cheese because there is just no time to even think about what you are going to eat. Let alone make a proper meal. Luckily, my mom is here to make many of my meals, but when you’re starving and home alone or it’s early in the morning, I make due.

I definitely indulged myself on this trip, which is so easy to do with all of the variety of foods, celebrity chef restaurants and buffets. I must say, though, that restaurants on The Strip are pricey!

My most memorable meals on this trip included an early solo dinner at Momofuku. It was still happy hour so I enjoyed my pork belly bun and ramen at the bar.

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When I go to Vegas, I have to eat at least one meal at one of the buffets on The Strip. The Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace is one of my favorites, and it did not disappoint. It’s so hard to chose what to eat when you have limited stomach capacity! #firstworldproblems

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I had some more time to myself while the others went to a festival out in the desert, so I enjoyed a solo afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. I was given a beautiful seat next to the window and since the Tea Lounge is located on the 23rd floor, I had a gorgeous view.

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The food and tea, ambiance and service made for a wonderful afternoon treat.

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Now, I have to point out a specific dish rather than an entire meal as this dish was so amazing. I am drooling thinking about it. The meatballs at Rao’s (also at Caesars Palace) are ridiculously delicious! Go eat them!

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Visit Red Rock Canyon

With all that eating and the fact that I have probably exercised four times since having my babies, getting out and going on a hike sounded wonderful. Red Rock Canyon is located only about half an hour from The Strip and is a great way to get outdoors and away from the craziness of Las Vegas.

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Unfortunately, we were running behind schedule and could only do the driving tour of Red Rock Canyon. Next time, I want to do one of the actual hikes. It is breathtaking. My phone camera does not do it justice at all!

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Spa Day

For a day of utter relaxation and tranquility, I visited one of The Strip’s many hotel spas, which also happened to be at the Bellagio. Like many of the other hotel spas, the Bellagio Salon and Spa offers day passes which allows for day use of their facilities even if you are not receiving a spa treatment. We received a $40 discounted day pass since we were staying at another MGM property. The girls and I spent the day using the sauna, steam room and Jacuzzis. I enjoyed their fresh fruit, coffee, juices and flavored waters. Also, the spa has everything you need to head to your next destination (showers, toiletries, hair styling products) so we were able to head straight to a show after our time at the spa! Unfortunately, I was either so relaxed or so tired from being a new mommy that I fell asleep at the show. Oops.

Being away from the kids for a few nights is hard and I probably wouldn’t have gone away if it were not for the fact that my airline ticket was expiring. I did feel refreshed and my mind felt clearer when I returned though. So if you feel ready to leave your kiddos at home, I say do it. It’s not for everyone, but all families work differently. I think it was a trip well taken!