Category Archives: National Parks

Return to the Finger Lakes Wine Country, NY

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One of the places that I have continuously returned to over the years and still manage to find something new is at the Finger Lakes, NY.

It’s about a 5-hour drive from my New Jersey home, but a wonderful escape that feels a world away from my everyday life. My family has gone with me over the years, but I think on this last trip the area really managed to carve a special place in my kids’ heart, so much so that they didn’t want to leave.

What I have come to love about the destination is not just the beautiful outdoor experiences one can have there, but also the community. Whether I am spending time with a farmer working at a local orchard or winery, or with an artist in residence at the Corning Museum of Glass, that sense of pride and community that I feel every time I am there is the thing that makes us feel so welcomed, so at home, and so in love with this place.

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Family vacation, unplugged in Woodstock, VT

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My friends, it’s time to unplug and go on a vacation.

These feel like insane times. Turn on the news, read the paper, go online, and it feels like you just can’t escape it. At home, kids seem addicted to video games, YouTube videos, and if they are on social media, even worse (I have managed to keep my younger ones off it so far – though YouTube is a problem). Information overload, or Cognitive Overload as referred to by health experts, can lead to depression, indecisiveness, and stress, and Smartphone addiction is a real thing which can lead to sleep deprivation, mood swings, and even a lack of focus.

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Hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains, California

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With every trip to Los Angeles, I understand more and more the allure, the affection, and why so many of my East Coast friends and family have escaped to its warmth. This latest trip was extra special because I had my husband and kids with me, something which always makes travel to anywhere more fun.

On my last visit, I was able to connect with a lot of local friends who showed me the best of their neighborhoods. I invite you to check out Los Angeles from a New Yorker’s Point of View for a list of these must-see areas.

On this trip, we had a small list of suggestions, but mainly did a lot of exploring on our own and found a few more gems in the process. Most importantly, on this trip, I got to take part in my favorite activity: hiking.

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Photography of a Fall road trip in Montana (and lessons in homeschooling)

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As my regular readers know, I ventured into the world of homeschooling this year. I started this summer, so as of the publishing of this post it has been 5 months since we’ve been on this journey, and boy have we learned a lot already.

One of the things I wanted to do upon homeschooling my kids was travel more with them. I had struggled in the past with taking them out of school for trips and then either dealing with frustrated teachers or having my kids burdened with a backlog of work and tests (because there are always tests) that they had to catch up on. It wasn’t fair for anyone – the teacher, the boys, or me. And though I didn’t take on homeschooling for the sole purpose of traveling with my kids, I saw it as a great opportunity and a huge stress factor we didn’t have to contend with any longer. But learning is still important and figuring out ways to incorporate it into the travel experience was something I gave a lot of thought to and even planned out.

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When you are a nature-lover, and of color, in America

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Recently, I decided to take my boys out for a day of hiking. There are some short hikes around the reservation near our home here in  New Jersey, but I wanted something a bit more challenging, so we headed an hour away to Pennsylvania to explore the trails along the Delaware Water Gap.

It was a gorgeous day, a nice break from the humidity and intense heat we have felt so regularly this summer. The kids and I were in high spirits and we were excited to explore nature. The radio kept playing all our favorite songs and we cracked jokes. There was no traffic and the drive was easy.

Then I spotted it. A pick-up truck had merged in front of me and across its back cabin window was a large sticker that took up almost the entire glass. It was the confederate flag. I felt my body get tense. I honestly don’t know if we had crossed the border into PA yet, it really didn’t matter. I was heading into rural America, alone, with my kids.

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Falling in love with Glacier National Park

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Before I made my way to Glacier National Park, the oooh’s and ahhh’s and expressed envy from those whom I told about my travels made it clear that I was in for a treat.

Since first setting foot in a national park in 2009, I have yet to find one I didn’t love. But my affection has always been for something different as it is already my experience that all the parks have something uniquely beautiful to offer. Glacier National Park is no exception. The hiking, over 700 miles of it, takes you through waterfalls and cliffs, lush forests and vast plains. The wildlife is everywhere, so it’s always great to be prepared. The diversity of the park, even if just from East to West is so great that it almost feels like you are in two different parks. No photograph can ever do it justice. This was an undiscovered park for me and I was lucky enough to meet some awesome people along the way to show me all the wonderful it had to offer.

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A Visit to Acadia National Park

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These past few months have weighed heavy on many of our hearts and minds. It’s difficult for me, as a woman, as a person of color, child of immigrants, and mother to biracial children, to process it without feeling overwhelmed with the gravity of it all. Though I don’t recommend travel as an escape to our problems and reality – as they will always be there when you get back – I do think that a little retreat is needed for healing, for soothing of our souls, calming of our minds, and some perspective in our lives. For inspiration in finding those things worth fighting for and speaking up for.

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Making Visits to National Parks A Part of Our Culture

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Every park I have visited has something different about it, a different effect, a different appeal. It’s not just trees and plants and bugs and stuff. I mean, it can be if you don’t make the effort to connect with your surroundings. I walk away with a unique experience each time and I love the challenge of self-reflection and solitude.

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Olympic National Park Expedition with the American Latino Heritage

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While I was in the West Coast, and exactly after I had left Seattle and driven past the signs to Olympic National Park due to lack of time, I received the news that myself and fellow travel bloggers, Chelle and Crystal (of BrownGirlsFly) and Ana (of TravelingLatina) had been selected as after we submitted an application to join the American Latino Heritage Fund and the National Park Service in raising awareness of the cultural heritage in many of the parks and help increase diversity in the visitor population.

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Discovering Billings, MT

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After wonderful night at the Country Inn and Suites, we packed our bags and decided to do some of the things listed on their Peaks and Valleys Country itinerary.

First stop that morning before getting on the road was at Dehler Park, the Billings Mustangs ballpark.  Christopher Marshall, Director of Operations for Dehler Park honored us with a personal tour of the new field area.

The Billings Mustangs used to play on an older park called Cobb Field, which was leveled in 2007 to make way for a spacier, more accommodating, and newer Dehler Park, which the Mustangs moved in to for the 2008 season.

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The Mustangs weren’t in town during our visit, so we didn’t get a chance to see them in action, but we did get the chance to walk around this gorgeous new field and, even for just a moment, pretend what it would be like to be there when all the excitement of a game was going on.

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The Billings community is very proud of their team, and very protective of the baseball culture in their area.  These things, as well as the changing trends, are always carefully considered during game time, so that even the details regarding music, and what they do (or don’t) during half time is handled with care and consideration to the fans. Bottom line, when you come see a game here, it will feel very much like watching a real baseball game without the acrobatic distractions just like in the olden days, but with access to services and provisions for the modern family.

The ballpark has a great area where younger kids or teens can come together to hang out away from their parents without disrupting those sitting and watching the game, or where parents can escape to if their child is acting restless.  They have a barbeque area as well, and a nice wide walkway to move around on.

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Admission prices range from $3 to $9. The seating design is perfect too, every seat provides a great view of the wonderful field. There’s a shop for souvenirs and collectibles, which we had problems getting through while both entering and exiting the fields because everyone, from the 2.5 to the 11 year old, wanted something.

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IMG_1566We really enjoyed touring this beautiful ballpark, something so dear to the Billings community.  It was wonderful.  The boys really liked it; I can only imagine how much greater the experience would have been had we been there for a game. Maybe next road trip!

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Our next stop was to Pompey’s Pillar National Monument.  This is such an historical site.  The little ones were mostly attracted to the indoor exhibit and the film detailing the adventures of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which led to the discovery of the area. The rest of us were in awe of Pompey’s Pillar itself.

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It was amazing when we climbed the wooden stairs the led us first to the area where Captain Clark engraved his name along with the others joining him, and then to the top of the Pillar and seeing the Yellowstone River, just as Clark had centuries ago.  That and a few extras.

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IMG_1634I thought this Stop was not only a beautiful and breathtaking one, but something that just really gave you a sense of the history of this country, the important people who helped shape our nation, and the incredible tenacity needed to take on such a task.

With all the food for thought, we got back in the Routan and started making our way back on the road.  And though they may seem a lot to do in less than a day in Billings, turns out we did more. Here’s a little video covering our visit to the Pictograph Cave State Park, a beautiful way to end our first day in Billings, MT.

Ride to Billings, MT from NYCityMama on Vimeo.

 

Many thanks to Christopher Marshal, from the Billings Mustangs for his gracious hospitality, and Dave Sniadak, from Axiom Marketing Communications, for facilitating the encounter.

Our family had a great time!

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