Adirondack Hiking with Kids – Panther Mountain

Panther Mountain
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We spent the weekend camping at the serenely beautiful Rollins Pond campground in the central Adirondacks.  Our goal was to find a kid-friendly hike where we could take four kids ages 3 to 7 hiking without complete meltdowns or ending with tired parents carrying them.  Plus, the trail needed to be within the Saranac Region of the park and close to our campground as we were starting out a little late in the day.  Panther Mountain was ideal!  With a length of .6 miles to the summit you can complete the entire trail within an hour.  The trail starts with some steep climbs along side hemlocks and birches but eventually becomes less rigorous as you reach the top.   It took us about 25 minutes to reach the summit with little to no complaining from the troops.

Panther Mountain

These kids were awesome during the initial steep climbs on Panther Mountain

You can’t help but be in awe at the sweeping views of Panther Pond and the High Peaks region when standing at the summit. The rocky ledge is a great flat area to rest before heading back and given the short length of the trail, there’s no need to rush down.

Panther Mountain

This guy was super proud to hike his first mountain!

The story goes that the mountain’s namesake came from the large numbers of panthers, cougars, and mountain lions that roamed the Adirondacks in the early 19th century. There haven’t been sightings of these animals in the Adirondacks in a very long time but the name still remains.

The trail-head is located on Route 3 about 15 miles from Saranac Lake with ample parking across the street.  Panther Mountain is an excellent hike for families and this was the first time my kids fully hiked a mountain.  They were pretty proud of their accomplishments and slept well that night!

How Do You Pack for Family Travel?

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Seriously? I ask this because this summer we took lots of weekend adventures, and some longer ones as well, and I felt like I was in constant packing mode. So readers, I’m asking you how do YOU pack for your family travel?

Packing for Family TravelWorking full times means the daytime is a no-go as far as time to squeeze in packing so I usually plan ahead about a week before departure time. I figure out if I need to purchase anything? Will we be preparing meals? Do the kids need new clothes for a fancy evening? Then I start a new list on my all-time favorite app Cozi.com which usually includes things I need to do (i.e. make time for pedicure) to the packing list.

I then figure out what kind of luggage is required and this depends on whether or not we’ll by flying (worst packing for me), driving, and will we have access to the car? If so, I don’t need to tidy up the packing quite so much. Then the luggage of choice usually sits in our bedroom for days before we leave as a constant reminder that I need to pack.

I usually spend way more time on the kids’ things than mine which has, on many occasion, left me with a bunch of crappy clothes shoved into a suitcase last minute. I’m working on this problem and since we no longer need all of the baby gear I’m getting better at prioritizing my own packing. I rely on packing cubes for vacations in which the kids aren’t bringing their own suitcase. I super love these cubes and they truly keep things organized. I plan to use them as long as their little belongings still fit in them.

Then comes the inevitable laundry that’s required and I usually spend a morning before work and a couple of evenings in power folding sessions and grabbing the kids for help. Clothes go directly into said suitcase(s) sitting on the floor.

Next is the “stuff”. The life jackets, winter snow gear, rain gear, camping gear, and anything else that is non-clothing requirements for the trip. Then comes the cursing as my husband gets the roof carrier on the car to put all of the gear and luggage in.

The morning we leave is usually a flurry of activities that usually involve me stuffing snacks and water bottles together for road chow and making sure one of the most important necessity is packed – the chargers! Hubby and I tend to work like a machine getting everyone and everything into the car followed by a well-deserved “fancy coffee” for the road. Hit play on the DVD player, take a deep breath and we’re off!

So, how do you PACK for your family travel?

Camping with Kids

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The summer is not over yet! It’s August and we’ve FINALLY made plans for a camping trip and I can’t wait! Last year was the first year we camped with the kids (than 2 and 5) and it was fun but also a learning experience! Camping is great way to unplug with the family but it’s definitely a lot of work and a little planning can go a long way. We love camping in the Adirondacks where there are lots of campgrounds and sites located lakeside.  Here are some of my top tips and a full packing list to help you out and make your trip a little easier.

Adirondack Camping - Eagle Point

Adirondack Camping – Eagle Point

Tips for Camping with Kids

· Make your first trip closer to home. My son got sick on our trip so instead of staying our last night we enjoyed the day at the campground, made s’mores around 4PM and left shortly afterwards.

· Bring activities (preferably non-electronics) to keep your kids occupied while you’re setting up your site. This is a great time to send the kids on a nature scavenger hunt and whip out some water colors for them to create a masterpiece with.

· Camp with another family that you enjoy being with and with kids of similar ages. We had a great time but my kids were in search of other playmates and there weren’t many near our site. Plus with adjacent sites the parents can relax after the kids go to sleep.

· Be prepared for all kinds of weather. This is car camping after all so hopefully you’ll have the room to pack the extra gear and clothes.

· Prep your kids for your trip and how the comforts of home will not be readily available (i.e. toilets will likely be a short walk away).

· Invest in a roof carrier if you don’t have a large car. Our Subaru Outback was completely packed and the carrier was a huge help.

· Research the area to see what else is around (museums, family-friendly sites, amusement parks, etc.) in case your trip includes a rainy day. I’m a planner so I always like to know what’s in the area that I’m visiting.

· Involve your kids in the planning and packing!

Camping Packing List

(Much thanks for this list goes to my friend Kathy who is more organized about these things than I am.)

□ Tent
□ Stakes
□ Tarp – bring at least 2
□ Hammer / Mallet
□ Rope and bungee cords
□ Pillows
□ Sleeping bags
□ Air mattress, cots, or sleeping pads
□ Extra blankets
□ Camp chairs (get kids their own chairs to avoid fights)
□ Collapsible table (for storage/grill)
□ Canopy or Screen tent (over picnic table)
□ Lantern(s) / flashlights
□ Headlamps
□ Broom/dust pan
□ Stove or grill (plus fuel)
□ Portable DVD player or iPad loaded with movies
□ Car chargers for phones, tablets, camera or invest in a portable charger
□ Buckets/sand toys
□ Balls / bats
□ Books
□ Paper/crayons/ paints and brushes
□ Glow sticks and bracelets
□ Toothbrushes/toothpaste
□ Soap/shampoo
□ Towels
□ First aid kit with band aids and meds
□ Sunscreen
□ Pocket knife
□ Bug repellant
□ Cookware (pans)
□ Cooking utensils
□ Bottle opener / corkscrew
□ Sharp knife with cover
□ Small cutting board
□ Eating utensils
□ Plastic cups and coffee ups
□ Coffee maker/filters
□ Cooler
□ Water container / bag
□ Small shopping bags
□ Zip-loc bags
□ Dish soap/ sponge
□ Collapsible dish drainer
□ Paper towels
□ Life jackets (if near a lake or ocean)

Summer Nights and the Working Parent (No More Guilt)

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As images of kids in pools or daytime library programs fill my Facebook feed I’ve been thinking about what summer means to me.  In my household both parents work outside of the home so the quintessential summer for us isn’t always happening during the day.  But our summer nights are where we are redeveloping what summer means for us.

When I was younSummer-Night-at-the-Game_thumb.jpgg both of my parents were teachers and home all summer long.  This meant days of meandering the neighborhood by bike, playing games that involved the properties of many neighbors, and going house to house swimming.  I’ve spent a large sum of time (and money) making sure my kids are in enriching, outdoor type summer programs during the day.  I’ll admit, this idea of a more scheduled summer really upset me at first because I wanted my kids to have the kind of carefree summer I used to experience.

But things have changed this summer! This is our first summer I can happily say the kids are diaper and nap free and our nights are basked in fun this year.  Yes, we still take vacations and our weekends have been amazing, but this year I’ve found balance in working while still being able to really, truly enjoy the summer.  This is the first summer since having kids where I’ve really found that sense of balance and have dropped the guilt that came with not being around more in the summer.

Now that the days are getting a little shorter, the kids favorite pass time is watching our yard become an electric glow of lightning bugs.  Or watching the rapid wing pace of the bats that fly overhead helping control our mosquitoes.  It’s our evening nights at the minor league games where the kids stalk all of the mascots for a picture and know we won’t leave without getting them an ice-cream. It’s knowing that when we finish dinner, we’ll pile the dishes in the sink and head over to the community pool to meet up with the neighbors and my kids will inevitably find kids to play with.  It’s laying out a blanket and snacks for an after dinner live performance at the library or park.

Summer Nights

It’s NOT feeling that the kids are too young to stay up a little later and just letting the summer nights flow.  Yes, we all define and create summertime memories in our own special way and I’m not comfortably enjoying mine!  How do define summer for your family?

 

New Orleans – the Perfect Parent Getaway

French Market
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The plane had just landed in New Orleans and nobody was urgently telling me they had to use the bathroom or that they couldn’t find the right shade of blue in their crayons. Nope, the kids weren’t with us on this trip. Now I love traveling with my children and exposing them to new and interesting places, but sometimes we all need a little adult break. Just about every year we’ve been able to sneak away for a night. That’s 24 hours of adults-only time and for our 10 year wedding anniversary we said this trip was going to be different. We prepped the kids for an extended stay with the grandparents and hopped on a plain for five days in the Crescent City.  This whole trip was about seeing and experiencing areas that we wouldn’t be able to if we had brought our two young cherubs and what better way than the fun, yet romantic allure of New Orleans!

Our stay was just a sneak-peak of all that NOLA has to offer but I’m highlighting the “best of” from our trip so enjoy!

Where to Stay – Boutique Hotel Splurge

Located just a block from the extreme of Bourbon Street, Hotel Mazarin offers couples a romantic escape from the hurriedness of the French Quarter with an elegant lobby and peaceful courtyard. The phenomenal breakfast buffet included made to order buttery pancakes and omelets too. My favorite aspect of this hotel, apart from the great location, was the black marble tile throughout the rooms and shower. It added a bit of adult elegance and slight edginess that I don’t regularly see in my family friendly hotels. We splurged on the hotel as we don’t often get to take advantage of more boutique style accommodations when traveling with kids.

Hotel Mazarin

The courtyard at the romantic Hotel Mazarin

Gastronomical Bliss in NOLA

This category clearly needs to be narrowed down more because New Orleans has some of the most unique cuisine in the country so plan on trying it all! Here are a few of our favorites from budget to splurge this sampling of NOLA will leave your mouth watering.

CrawfishFelix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar –  Forget the lines at the more famous Acme’s Oyster and head across the street to the real deal at Felix’s. Sit at the old-school countertop and watch the oyster’s being shucked with speed and precision – over 1,200 oysters per day. Crawfish come broiled by the pound and couple them with a local Abita pint and you’re set!

Emeril’s Delmonico – I was hesitant on going to a restaurant of the big Food Network king thinking it would be a constant advertisement, but friends and reviews assured me this was decadence. Oh, and were they right. The restaurant Delmonico, conveniently located on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line in the Garden District, was purchased by Emeril Lagasse in 1998 and completely remodeled and revamped. The service was absolutely impeccable and the Creole food was a work of art creatively paired and exquisite presentation. Emeril’s Delmonico is first class and well worth the price.

K Paul’s – Famed New Orleans chef, Paul Prudhomme’s cozy restaurant sits in the heart of the French Quarter and creates scrumptious Cajun entrees with a modern twist. Starting with a classic fried green tomato appetizer and shrimp remoulaude turned classic southern into something totally unexpected for the taste buds. The blackened meats and fish were delicious and a house specialty.

Cafe du Monde – One cannot leave New Orleans without trying the famed hot beignets covered in powered sugar and melting in your mouth. Café du Monde is the more famous destination but tends to have lines during the day. The indoor/outdoor café is open 24 hours a day and we made this our midnight stop on the walk back from Frenchmen Street to our hotel. Coffee and steaming pastries at midnight – something you definitely can’t experience with two little kids in tow.

Cafe du Monde

Delicious midnight snack at Cafe du Monde

Must See Sites and Sounds

Frenchmen Street – One of the reasons we wanted to visit New Orleans was for the incredible music scene. My kids would have loved all of the music but it was the night time scene that drew us here! Frenchmen Street is known for its stretch of clubs just outside the French Quarter but still an easy walk. From Vago, DB’s, Snug Harbor to our favorite Café Negril, the dozen or so clubs on Frenchmen Street most clubs have music all night with the evening’s band posted on the front window. From brass bands to jazz to just plain funky, you will find it here. I could serious come here every night and that’s just what we did during our visit!

Our evenings in New Orleans reminded me of when we used to spontaneously go out pre-kids. Carelessly walking from club to club was an amazing way to reconnect and one of the reasons I’d go back to New Orleans in a heartbeat!

Bike Tour I love visiting a city and getting an initial overview via some tourist mechanism. The 12 mile guided bike tour around New Orleans from Free Wheelin’ Bike Tours was exactly the kind of tour we were looking for. Again, another activity that would have been impossible with two little kids but almost kind of romantic for us, even with the dozen or so other bikers. This locally owned operation provides riders with the good, the bad and the ugly of their beloved city.  We loved this tour so much here is a separate post on it!

Free Wheelin Bike Tour

National WWII Museum Although I believe in life long learning, a historical visit to the National WWII Museum didn’t seem to fit the vibe of our trip but my husband convinced me to go. Now, this spectacularly massive homage to the war of wars is a site I would tell all visitors (especially those traveling without young kids) to see. From the 4D movie Beyond all Boundaries to the changing exhibits, this museum will educate even the biggest WWII history buffs.   Here is another post  for those looking for more details.

National World War II Museum

A must explore – the National World War II Museum

French Quarter Like many looking for a romantic getaway, we stayed in the French Quarter which makes touring it all the easier. Each block has its own niche from the shops on Royal Street to the frat-like parties on Bourbon you’ll find where you belong. Find a cocktail at Patrick’s Bar Vin Wine Bar (nicely located adjacent to the Hotel Mazarin), take a steamboat ride along the great Mississippi River, or people watch in Jackson Square. Remember, you can take your libations with you as long as you keep it in plastic!

French Quarter

Lastly, if you have the time, get out of New Orleans for a day and learn about the history by visiting one of the former plantations, try a local eatery serving up crawfish by the pound, and go alligator watching on one of the swamps nearby.

Outside NOLA

Swamp tours, gators, and history outside of the city of New Orleans

One travel aspect I really miss from my pre-kids traveling day is the freedom to roam an area in the early dawn hours of the morning before a city really comes alive. I took advantage of this and took off with a coffee and my camera to see the French Quarter. It was me and the trucks unloading fresh oysters, along with cleaners wiping away the grime from the night before, and musicians heading home. Finding that freedom again, that sense of who I am as an adult and not just a parent, was one of the many reasons this brief sojourn away was so worth the splurge.

Need more convincing on why parents should take adults-only getaways? Read on:

Why Parent Getaways are Important

I would like to thank the New Orleans CVB for providing some complimentary admissions during my visit but my opinions are always my own.