summer vacations Archives - 2 Dads with Baggage
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9 Fun Things to Do With Kids in Las Vegas

9 Fun Things to Do With Kids in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is known by some as Sin City, but that moniker has not been fair for at least 20 years. Yes, it is possible to find plenty to entertain an adult in all the ways you can imagine (and some you can’t even). There is also a very strong family component to the Las Vegas Strip. We’ve taken our kids on enjoyable vacations there several times, and there are tons of fun things to do with kids in Las Vegas.

Whether your kids or big or small, we’ve got a bunch of options for you to consider as you make a list of things to do with kids in Las Vegas. Depending on where you plan to stay during your visit, some of these activities may be very close to your hotel. Regardless, it’s easy to get around with the Las Vegas Monorail trains that connect some of the destinations. Plus there’s always our good old friends Uber and Lyft, especially if it’s too hot to walk.

Vegas neon sign

Las Vegas is chock full of neon art, practically anywhere you look.

Fun Things to Do with Kids in Las Vegas

There;s even more fun things to do with kids in Las Vegas than we’ve listed here (in no particular order). But this is a good start. You may not have time to visit all of these activities, so there’s always a good reason to go back!

1. Roller Coaster – New York, New York Hotel & Casino

Rocking and rolling around and through the hotel and casino, this rollercoaster is legit. Complete with a full loop, the Big Apple Coaster begins and ends in a gaming arcade. The full carnival and electronic games here will entertain the family members who are too short to ride (or too chicken like me).

2.Bellagio Fountains – Bellagio Resort & Casino

Free to the public every 15 – 30 minutes, the Bellagio Fountains are choreographed to music favorites. Dancing waters mingle with water jets that spout 460 feet into the sky. The whole show is quite a spectacle.

Breathtaking views of the Bellagio Fountains from the top of the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas

3. Eiffel Tower – Paris Hotel & Casino Las Vegas

A slightly smaller version of the real thing in France, the Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas includes a high-speed elevator to the top. A lookout platform allows guests unparalleled views of the Vegas Strip, the surrounding city and the mountains beyond.

4. Aquarium – Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino

The Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay is very well designed, complete with open tanks to touch manta rays and squishy sea cucumbers. Neon-colored fish swim in enormous tanks. Our favorite was the moon shaped jellyfish, which undulate in slow motion.

Tickets are $25 for adults, $19 for kids.

5. Bodies…The Exhibition – Luxor Hotel

Fascinating to many and gross to some, the Bodies…The Exhibition showcases real human bodies and organs preserved through a special process. The Exhibition provides an up-close look inside our skeletal, muscular, respiratory, and circulatory systems. They even show a healthy lung next to a smokers’ lung to show the damage smoking can have on our bodies.

Tickets are $32.

There are many discount tickets available if you search through our affiliate sites.

6. Cirque de Soleil – various hotels

There are a total of six Cirque de Soleil shows in Las Vegas, and five of them are suitable for the entire family. Our family favorites are “O”, which happens above and below the waters’ surface. The other is Michael Jackson ONE. ONE is set to Jackson’s famous hits and features impressive dances inspired by his performances. Read more about the best Cirque de Soleil show in Las Vegas for families here.

Ticket prices vary by show, and start at $79.

Zebras "O" Cirque de Soleil Las Vegas

These zebra creatures as a central image in the incredible “O” by Cirque de Soleil in Las Vegas – photo credit: Veronique Vial

7. Water Park – not hotel located

When the weather is hot (and Las Vegas can hit above 100-degrees in the summer), a water park is a fun way to cool off. Kids love Wet ‘n’ Wild Water Park Las Vegas because of the water tubes, lazy river and other daredevil slides and activities.

8. High Roller Ferris Wheel – The LINQ

The world’s tallest “observation wheel”, this enormous High Roller ferris wheel has become a staple of the Las Vegas skyline. It can be seen from the planes landing at McCarran International Airport and pretty much anywhere else in Las Vegas. Cabins that can host up to 40 people each are slowly rotated around the circle, with fun views and really good air conditioning.

Tickets start at $25 for adults, $10 for kids (children under 6 are free).

9. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum – The Venetian Hotel & Casino

Famous the world over for the lifelike wax figures invented by Madame Tussaud back in the late 1700s. Madame Tussaud’s  Wax Museum in Las Vegas has something for all ages. Pose with Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper and Beyoncé, along with old Hollywood stars and modern sports celebrities.

Tickets start at $19.

Captain Jack Sparrow Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum Las Vegas

Captain Jack Sparrow was a huge hit with our kids at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Las Vegas.

Where to Stay in Las Vegas with Kids

We’ve stayed at several hotels on the Las Vegas Strip with our kids, and our favorite so far as been Vdara Hotel & Spa. Free of smoke, Vdara is also casino-free so they offer a cleaner and more healthy environment. All of Vdara’s rooms are large suites, with mini kitchens and a fold out couch for the kids.

Vdara is part of the MGM Hotels group, and rooms start at around $100/night.

An favorite hotel for families is the Paris Hotel & Casino Las Vegas. The hotel’s replica of the Eiffel Tower sports amazing views of Las Vegas in all directions, and the restaurants and kid-friendly. Our girls loved the Creperie on the main lobby floor, where fresh crepes are made to order (nutella and whipped cream seemed to be a big hit).

Paris is part of the Caesars Entertainment group of hotels, and rooms start below $100/night.

At night, the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas shines like a beacon across all of Las Vegas




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5 Family Activities at Taos Ski Valley in the Summer

5 Family Activities at Taos Ski Valley in the Summer

*This experience was hosted by Taos Ski Valley, and all opinions expressed here are our own.

Taos Ski Valley is world renowned among top ski resorts as among the best skiing there is in the US. Families flock from all over for the amazing New Mexico snow, the pristine mountain conditions, and the down-home family vibe at this unique resort. In the summer the resort has even more activities to offer. A recent visit helped us discover many family activities at Taos Ski Valley in the summer.

pool at The Blake, Taos Ski Valley

The pool at The Blake hotel in Taos Ski Valley overlooks gorgeous pines and a clear running stream.

The new management at Taos Ski Valley has made enormous improvements over the last couple of years. Even more is coming this season, with many more additions over the next three years. A major focus has been to program more activities for the off-season months of May-November, when the snow is melted and the mountains are green with grasses, trees and wildflowers.

5 Family Activities at Taos Ski Valley in the Summer

With such beauty, history and adventure at its doorstep, there are plenty of family activities at Taos Ski Valley in the summer. We strongly recommend connecting with a local guide. We were so fortunate to have Angelisa Murray from Heritage Inspirations to lead us through our itinerary. She was beyond our greatest expectations, and made our whole experience extra special.

The Blake Hotel Taos

Perched at the bottom of Taos Ski Valley’s slopes, The Blake is a 5-star resort hotel.

Here’s our top 5 recommendations:

1. Exploring Downtown Taos

Downtown Taos is small enough that it’s easy to walk around the entire area at leisure. With so many interesting shops, galleries and restaurants, a family can easily spend an entire day exploring.

Taos Artists Colony

Taos has long been known as an artist community, dating back to the late 1800s. On a trip to document the Great Southwest, Bert Phillips and Ernest Blumenschein discovered Taos and settled there. Other artists soon joined them to form the Taos Society of Artists, the most famous of which is Georgia O’Keefe. Her masterpiece paintings of the raw land, colorful vistas, bones and flowers were all conceived and created from her experiences in the Taos area.

Much of these early artists’ inspirations have fueled an entire colony and economy based on original art. There are many shops and galleries where art and photography can be purchased, and even a couple where the kids can get in the act. The Harwood Museum of Art is a good place to start for children’s programs.

tasting chocolates at _____

In downtown Taos, Chokolá allows guests to taste their varieties of special housemade chocolates.

Art in Other Forms

Other businesses have grown from this fertile community as well, including an amazing chocolatier called Chokolá Bean to Bar. Here you can sample several varieties of chocolate, made from beans roasted in-house and then mixed into nibs and then bars. Our favorite was from Ecuadorean beans, while others liked the Venezuelan chocolate best. Kids enjoy ogling the many flavors of truffles and chocolates, or gobbling up some of their high end gelatos.

Another interesting place we visited was Tres Estrellas Designs.  This is a unique gallery specializing in the art of historic Native American woven blankets, serapes and rugs. Colorful examples of this art form hang from the walls, with price tags from several hundred dollars up to more than $20,000. They also have an impressive collection of old Western artifacts for sale. Watching someone demonstrate the working loom is mezmorising, as she weaves the threads according to certain patterns.

loom with Native American blankets

Learning how to make Native American textiles using a loom and natural threads at Tres Estrellas.

2. Hiking the Rio Grande Gorge

If you prefer a view from above, there are several easy hikes along the rim of the Rio Grande River Gorge. We decided on an easy, flat hike for roughly 2 miles along the Orilla Verde area on the Vista Verde Trail. Getting an early start is recommended, so the sun isn’t too hot yet and the animals are still foraging for food. After slathering up with sunscreen, we grabbed our hats and water bottles to head down the trail.

Rio Grande Gorge hieroglyphics

Angelisa pointed out a great example of local hieroglyphics on along the Rio Grande Gorge.

Just a few hundred yards in on the left, Angelisa steered us toward an impressive example of hieroglyphics from ancient times. Carved and painted on the side of a huge boulder, the writing was faded but clear enough to make out the symbols. It was a drawing of a local cactus in flower! It was amazing to think about the meaning this must have had for whomever painted it and their tribe.

Big Horn Sheep on Rio Grande Gorge

This young Big Horn Sheep kept a wary eye on us as we hiked around him to avoid disturbing his zen.

Flora and Fauna

Just down the path we entered a clearing full of bunnies, their ears angled carefully to pick up the sound of our footsteps. Remarkably unconcerned at our interruption, the adults and babies went on feeding, nibbling the green bits of new growth on low plants. Later we happened upon a young Big Horn Sheep, who took a liking to our gang and followed us for quite a ways.

The views from this vantage point are breathtaking. From the edge, it’s possible to look up and down the Rio Grande River Valley.

deserted road in Taos, New Mexico

The high desert roads near Taos, NM are often completely deserted except for the occasional photo model getting in the way.

3. Touring the Taos Pueblo

Not to be missed, the Taos Pueblo is a remarkable combination of modern day needs and ages-old traditions. In fact, the Pueblo has been maintained in its original condition for more than 1,000 years. As we walked through the grounds, we visited the dwellings, the stream that feeds the area, the beautifully decorated church and the graveyard. The Catholic church, St. Jerome’s, was built in 1850 after the original church from the 1600’s was destroyed in war. Now the church is cared for by a special group of women that regularly change the adornments of the holy figures at the alter. These themes follow the seasons, with colors that match the turning of leaves or the flowering of spring.

Historic Significance

Taos Pueblo is very special, as it is the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark. The Pueblo is the oldest continually inhabited Native American community, having never been overtaken in war or conquest.

Original dwellings at Taos Pueblo

Blue skies, green mountains and clay-colored adobe dwellings are beautiful contrasts at historic Taos Pueblo.

There are many, many impressive points of interest and things to learn on a guided tour of Taos Pueblo. Local merchants sometimes sell their handmade wares, created in the tradition of their ancestors. There are toys, jewelry and mica-flecked pottery of all shapes and sizes. We enjoyed touring the site, seeing how adobe bricks are made and watching as residents climbed traditional ladders to reach their upper-story dwellings.

4. Rafting Down the Rio Grande River

The Rio Grande River cuts through a chasm in the high desert terrain just outside of Taos. The effect creates a dramatic gorge containing rocky walls that tower more than 1,000 feet in some places. In the spring and summer, the melted snow feeds waters into the River that create fun rapids perfect for rafting. Several local rafting companies offer fun-filled rides down the Rio Grande, with an average rapids rating of 2. This means there are a couple of wild spots to get your heart racing. Mostly, the route contains moderately moving waters that are easier to navigate without drama. Kids love the roller coaster-like effect, and the cool waters are a nice respite from the hot summer days.

Check out Cottam’s Rio Grande Rafting to inquire about different tour options and pricing. Stand Up Paddleboarding is also available in calmer areas of the River. Some places offer funyaking as well, with boats sized for one, two or more people.

Williams Lake near Taos, New Mexico

The hike to Williams Lake yields tremendous vistas.

5. Hiking the High Wilderness to Williams Lake

Starting at Taos Ski Valley, this trail leads to high elevations that rise above the forests and qualify as true wilderness lands. As high as 11,000 feet, these hiking trails are more a bit more aggressive and probably not best for little kids. Older kids (maybe 9-10+) and adults will love the views from here, like no others to be found in the area. The trails lead through the pines and up to meadows full of wildflowers and green open land. A few yards more, and Williams Lake comes into view.

Williams Lake Trail

The Williams Lake Trail in the summer is a thing of beauty. Led along by our intrepid guide Angelisa, our gang set out in the morning for the two mile hike. When we reached the meadows, the flowers were in full bloom and the air was so clean and fresh. The lake is not large in the summer, and can be easily circumnavigated in short time. Sitting at the edge was one of the most peaceful experiences of the whole trip.

Tons of Family Experiences

With so many cool things to do in Taos Ski Valley, we need to go back and repeat all these experience and add some more! Planning for  such a long list of must-sees, we are already scheduling our next trip for great family activities at Taos Ski Valley in the summer.





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Books for Teens to Read This Summer

Books for Teens to Read This Summer

Our kids love having downtime in the summer, but it’s still so important to keep brains engaged when they’re not in school. It’s hard enough to convince them to wake up before noon, let alone use their brains productively! The best way to get your kids reading during summer break is to model good reading habits. Pick up a book and foster that love of reading. Kids who really love reading, however, have choice in what they read. Let your kids explore different genres of books.

Get them started by providing some suggestions like these books for teens to read this summer.

teen girl book collection

Our girls have a collection of books ranging from classic to teen love to vampire romance.

Books for Teens to Read This Summer

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

The sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda follows Leah, Simon’s best friend, on her own coming-out journey. We love LGBT-friendly novels for young adults, and these characters are real and well-written. Because of some mature themes and language, the book is more appropriate for older teens.

Refugee by Alan Gratz

This critically acclaimed novel showcases three refugee children from different places in the world throughout history. This timely novel is an incredible way to discuss current events in the world with your children.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

The first book in The Selection series is a dystopian, fairy-tale with a little bit of competition and some teen romance. Our girls love this series. It will keep your teen on the edge of their seat wondering what will happen next!

teen girl with books

Provide teens with lots of reading choices. They will settle into a few that are sure to become favorites.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

The story of Kit Tyler who befriends a colonist accused of being a witch during the Salem era was published in 1959. The story has definitely stood the test of time. Introduce your child to this Newbery Medal Award winning story with a scary twist.

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Graphic novels are not just funny paper reads. The stories are rich with plot and character, and El Deafo is no exception. Check out the gorgeous illustrations in this amazing story about fitting in and finding oneself.

The List by Siobhan Vivian

In this book, a list comes out each year at a local high school of the prettiest and ugliest girls in each class. The consequences for each girl chosen can be painful. It’s not always the girls on the ugly list who are suffering the most. The book has a powerful lesson about popularity and appearances very apropos for girls our kids’ ages.

The Only Game (Home Team) by Mike Lupica

Mike Lupica’s sports-themed books are favorites for boys and girls alike. The Home Team series focuses on a group of kids in a small town. They learn lessons about fitting in, forgiveness, and family through their athletic endeavors.

boy with book and headphones

It’s amazing how much a teen can retain while reading. Even while listening to music at the same time!

What is your teen reading this summer?

These books are perfect reads for your kid to keep their mind engaged and reading muscles strong this season. Keep the list handy for great reads into the fall as well. As with any choice reading, we love to talk to our kids about the books they enjoy. In fact, you may want to pick up a copy of some of these books for teens to read this summer and enjoy them for yourself or read along with your child!


Leah on theLeah on theSimon vs. theSimon vs. theRefugeeRefugeeThe SelectionThe SelectionThe Witch ofThe Witch ofEl DeafoEl DeafoThe ListThe ListThe Only GameThe Only Game

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Road Tripping: Sedona in the Summer

Road Tripping: Sedona in the Summer

Beautiful Sedona, Arizona, is a must-stop for any family trip through the Southwest. We love road trips and although temperatures are rising, our last visit proved it’s easy to have a great time in Sedona in the summer. Just make sure your car has AC! We piled the kids and all our stuff into the sporty Kia Sorento with room to spare, wheeling down the roads armed with Starbucks and an excellent sound system.

Kia Sorento road trip

Our sporty Kia Sorento was a comfortable ride for our summer road trip to Sedona.

Hope you enjoy our suggestions for how to enjoy Sedona in the summer with kids!

Sedona in the Summer With Kids

Take a Jeep Tour

Sedona is postcard-famous for its amazing red rocks and gorgeous canyon scenery. One of the best ways to see it up close is off-roading with Pink Jeep Tours. The 4-wheeling can get a little wild, and sometimes it felt more like being on a rollercoaster instead of a jeep. Still, we were securely belted in and grateful for the shade canopy as we explored dirt trails and streambeds. The drivers are also knowledgeable guides, and we were surprised to learn the whole area was once at the bottom of an ocean!

Pink Jeep Tour in Sedona

The Pink Jeep tour was a highlight of our visit to Sedona in the summer.

From the canyon floor, we wound our way up rock faces and through narrow gullies. Our driver perched us on top of a gigantic boulder – the perfect spot to get out for a closer look and some Insta-worthy pics.

Tip #1: Put the kids in the back where the ride is bumpiest. They laughed and giggled throughout the whole trip, while the adults rested more comfortably in the calmer seats.

Visit a Real Western Ghost Town

If you want to have a great time in Sedona with kids, there’s no better way than to visit an authentic Old West ghost town. Jerome, Arizona is just an hour’s drive away from Sedona and it’s true Old West mining town. With lots of local color and many tales of historical fiction, Jerome may be a ghost town but it is far from dead. We toured several fun (air-conditioned) restaurants, shops and galleries on the downtown streets. If you read my post about the Haunted Whaley House in San Diego, you know our girls are fascinated with ghosts.

ghost town tour in Jerome Arizona

Abandoned lockers at the old Jerome High School haunted me in more ways than one!

To raise our chances of seeing some spirits, we booked a guided tour on the Ghost Town Tours’ Spirit Walk. Although we didn’t see any apparitions, the kids were definitely spooked when we walked through a deserted old high school. It was a ghostly site complete with creepy locker rooms and abandoned gym.

Tip #2: Try to visit mid-week when the summer crowd is even less, and you may end up with your own private tour guide like we did.

Morning Hike at Bell Rock

You can’t talk about having a great time in Sedona with kids unless you include a morning hike. We like to head out before the sun gets too hot. (Our sleep-until-10 a.m. girls grumbled a bit about having to wake up early until they saw the spectacular sunrise.) We drove the Sorento to the trail head, and  kicked off our hike through the red rocks and twisted junipers of Bell Rock.

Bell Rock in Sedona Arizona

The beauty of Bell Rock is just breathtaking, and yes this is a photo I actually took.

Choosing one of the easier hike options, we spied tons of desert flora and fauna along the way. Colorful birds, hawks, bunnies (awwwww!) lizards and butterflies all came out to greet us. The fresh morning air, nature show and the desert in bloom made for some pretty amazing photo opps. It felt like a mashup of True Grit combined with Snow White. (Triton expected at any moment a bedraggled cowgirl would appear with blue birds resting on her shoulders.)

Tip #3: Bring bottles of water, a hat and some granola bars in your backpack. It’s easy to work up a sweat and hunger, and you’ll avoid the kids wanting to run back to the car.

Stargazing in the Desert

One of the things our family loves the most about the desert is the clear night sky, which our kids just don’t get to see in our urban home. Sedona is a designated International Dark-Sky Community, with very few streetlights and far from any big city. The night sky in Sedona is pitch black, making it one of the best places to stargaze in the US. We booked an evening sky tour with Sedona Star Gazing. We geeked out when they heard it would be led by a former NASA engineer, using a real telescope. Plus there was no hiking involved—bonus!

stargazing in Sedona

It was sooooo cool to look through the telescope and see Saturn and her rings.

Sitting in an open field in comfortable lawn chairs, we took turns looking through an enormous telescope. Our guide used a laser pointer to point out one amazing star after another. We even saw Saturn and her rings, Jupiter and some of its moons, and tons of stars and constellations.

Tip #4: Sedona in the summer is colder at night than you might expect, so bring long pants and sweatshirts for extra comfort.

Shopping in Downtown Sedona

When the tours are over, make sure to leave some time for souvenir shopping. We quickly got used to the misters that keep visitors cool as you stroll downtown Sedona. Offering an eclectic mix of art galleries, crystal shops, restaurants and more, downtown Sedona is a bustling scene. The kids had an especially great time in the rock shop. Checking out the large variety of colored rocks and stones, they picked out some special ones to bring home as gifts for friends.

Tip #5: Plan the jeep tour and shopping downtown together. The starting point for the jeeps is right in the middle of the main downtown area.

The cliffs and rock formations surrounding Enchantment Resort are just stunning.

Whether gorgeous scenery, hiking, exploring history, or stargazing, there are lots of ways to have a great time visiting Sedona in the summer with kids.

How to visit Sedona:

Sedona is just over two hours north of Phoenix by car. It’s a beautiful drive as you climb though the Tonto National Forest and into red rock country. The Sedona Visitors Information website has tons of great info and links to hotels, restaurants, and attractions.

Where to stay in Sedona:

There are many fantastic hotels, resorts and B&Bs in Sedona, and we can recommend a couple that we loved:

Enchantment Resort & Spa – This luxury accommodation is tucked into a picturesque red rock canyon, offering rooms and suites decked beautifully in the desert theme. Their spa, Mii Amo, is world renowned and we could totally see why. Summer rates start around $379.

Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock – With views looking out over the desert floor directly aimed at Bell Rock, this Hilton comes perfectly equipped. The hotel is decked out with a spa, tennis courts, large pool area, spacious rooms and more.  Summer rates start around $212.

Prickly Pear Margarita at Enchantment Resort

The signature Prickly Pear Margarita was a nice greeting at the Enchantment Resort in Sedona.