All Aboard the Polar Express Train!

We kicked off the holidays (and celebrated Colton’s 4th birthday) in Williams, Arizona. We drove 2.5 hours north to embark on The Polar Express train ride that takes you to the North Pole and back. It was truly THE MOST magical experience for Ryan and I and incredibly memorable for the kids. Beside that, we saw snow! The minute we spotted snow on the ground, Colton excitedly asked, “Mom is that really snow?” At that moment I realized he hasn’t seen snow since he was one years old so of course this was a huge deal for him. Nolan on the other hand was more interested in the rocks on the ground than the snow, but he’s still figuring things out.

polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

We arrived on Saturday afternoon at The Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel where we booked their hotel package that includes free breakfast, dinner and train tickets. It was the cutest little hotel in the heart of a really charming town. We got checked in and immediately let the kids loose to run around and throw snowballs at each other.

family-at-polar-express

polar express Arizona

We then grabbed appetizers at the hotel Pub (and took a few glasses of  wine back to our room) so we could snack and gear up for the evening. We dressed kids in matching holiday pajamas from Hannah Andersson (our favorite!) and watched as they ran around the hotel room giddy in anticipation for what’s to come.

polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

It was 28 degrees so we had to bundle up which unfortunately hid their cute jammies under big jackets but that’s the price you pay to avoid freezing your face off. Nearly every family was dressed in either matching outfits or pajamas (my kind of event!). It was really darling to see so many loved ones grouped together.

One family had grouped a few tables together at the hotel’s restaurant and had a game of Monopoly going. I thought to myself, that’s a huge commitment as no-one can finish that game in under two hours, but nevertheless they had the right idea. Grab some hot chocolate, snuggle up by the fire and indulge in game night with your family. Moments like this one where happening everywhere you looked.

As for us, we left our hotel room at 5:10 to get into the train line by 5:15 (it was that close of a walk). The kids had their train tickets in hand as we approached the station. “Don’t lose your ticket, Colton”  Kelsey would remind him. “That’s what happened to the kid in the movie and we don’t want that.” She was right. We were in train car J so we made our way through a crowd of excited families to find a conductor waiting to welcome us aboard.

polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

polar-express-arizona-mom-blog
polar-express-arizona-mom-blog

polar-express-many-hats-of-a-mom-blog

many hats of a mom blogger

polar-express-arizona-mom-blog

You get reserved seats when you buy tickets (just indicate if you’re doing two separate reservations that you’d like to sit together). We were so excited to find that our two rows were located in the back of the train car, making the ride feel a bit private and cozy. The train cars flip around (thank you to the kind lady who pointed this out) so we were able to face each other during the train ride and better contain our wiggly and always-in-motion toddler.

polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

As the train took off from the station I caught a glimpse of Colton starring out the window. He was stiff as a board and perfectly poised during the initial moments of the train. You could tell he was a little nervous and excited for what was to come. The team did a REMARKABLE job of bringing the Polar Express movie to life through the talent and decor aboard the train. I was incredibly impressed.

Less than five minutes into the train ride they started handing out hot chocolate and huge chocolate chip cookies. The hot chocolate was served at the perfect temperature for our kids little taste buds and must have been made with chocolate heaven because Ryan and I “got ours to share” but I really devoured most of it.

They played Christmas tunes as we entered a “magic tunnel” – the tunnel helped us jump into time so we could get to the North Pole much faster. They read the Polar Express book so bring your own if you want to follow along. As we approached the North Pole, Colton and Kelsey ran to the other side of the train and glued their faces to the window to get a peek at Santa and his reindeer.

We saw little itty bitty elf houses and some other scenic buildings from Santa’s hometown. As we slowed down and started going back to Arizona, we were told Santa boarded the train! This was super exhilarating for the kids. As we waited our turn for Santa to join our train car, they gave us song books and we sang Christmas carols. I’m telling you … does it get better than this?

It does because Nolan started getting sleepy and curled up into my lap as Santa arrived and greeted the kids, giving them ‘jingle bells’ just like in the movie. Colton got an extra special birthday bell and off Santa went. Ryan and I couldn’t have asked for a better evening with our family.

We highly recommend it if you get the opportunity. Next year we plan on visiting the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff, Arizona. Please let me know if you’ve been and if you have any tips!

Daughter Date at the Desert Botanical Garden

Kelsey is on fall break so Ryan and I took her to the Desert Botanical Garden to explore. With a notebook in hand and crayons in her purse, we decided it would be a great opportunity for her to learn more about our indigenous plants and surroundings. I wasn’t sure if she would find it as interesting as we do, but she loved it!

She drew a line down the center of her notebook (one side for mom, one side for Kelsey) and we took turns drawing our favorite plants. Sadly for me, her drawings were better than mine! But in my defense, I was trying to balance a camera, purse and you know … I was drawing from a bad angle. ha.

desert botanical gardens mom blogger

desert botanical gardens mom blogger

It felt like we had the place to ourselves. Mostly because the trails would wind and turn, allowing you to feel like you were alone in the garden. I’ll have to come back when it’s just Ryan and I because it felt like it could be a romantic place to stroll at night. Especially after cocktails at Gertrude’s, their on site restaurant.

desert botanical gardens mom blogger

desert botanical gardens mom blogger

desert botanical gardens mom blogger

desert botanical gardens mom blogger

See what I mean about our drawings? She drew them as good as me!

desert botanical gardens mom blogger

There are bunnies, quails, lizards and Monarch Butterflies at the Garden. This was an especially cool moment – only because Kelsey is going to be a Monarch Butterfly for Halloween. She loved pointing out the different critters that we saw along our walk.

desert botanical garden phoenix mom blogger

desert botanical garden phoenix mom blogger

desert botanical gardens mom blogger

This cactus looked like a heart so we immediately stopped in awe.

desert botanical gardens mom blogger

desert botanical gardens mom blogger

We are so grateful to live in a place that is as naturally beautiful as this. Walking through 140 acres of this gorgeous landscape reminds you to stop and enjoy the moment. Which is exactly what we did.

desert botanical gardens phoenix mom blogger

desert botanical garden phoenix mom blogger

desert botanical gardens phoenix mom blogger

desert botanical garden phoenix mom blogger

By the end of the night, she was all giggles. It could have been the sucker I gave her, too. That’s probably it.

desert botanical garden phoenix mom blogger

desert botanical garden phoenix mom blogger

 

desert botanical gardens phoenix mom blogger

desert botanical garden - many hats of a mom blog

desert botanical gardens phoenix mom blogger

desert botanical garden phoenix mom blogger

desert botanical garden phoenix mom blogger

desert botanical garden phoenix mom blogger

desert botanical garden phoenix mom blogger

This is a picture of my future. I asked her to hang out while I shopped in their cute gift shop (if you want succulents matched with beautiful pots, this is your place) and she immediately took to my phone to play Pokemon Go.

desert botanical gardens phoenix mom blogger desert botanical gardens phoenix mom blogger

As we were walking out of the Garden, you can’t help but notice this amazing art installation at the entrance. I stopped to snap some photos when Kelsey screamed, “Wow!! Mom, look at that!” I thought she was really getting into this art thing, only to realize this is some sort of a “poke stop”  –  this generation is so hard to keep up with!

Thank you to the Desert Botanical Garden for hosting us. We will definitely be back!

An Afternoon at the Farm

DSC08893

If you have kids and live in Phoenix … go to the Farm at South Mountain for brunch and let the kids run free on their huuuuuuge grass lawn. We took a soccer ball, a diaper bag, and that was about it. The kids kept themselves entertained hiding behind trees, chasing the ball and playing tag. Ryan and I got to actually eat lunch, kick back a little and just relax. What a perfect, perfect Sunday.

DSC08899

The farm at south mountain

The Family Hat: Santa Photos 2012

I love her expression in these photos. Priceless, if I do say so myself. She loves herself a good pose and pout. This is another photo for the record books. I swear she doesn’t learn this from me …(right?).

Did you know Bass Pro has an entire winter wonderland for kids inside? Who knew? My in-laws took these two crazy kids there on Friday and said it was awesome for kids. That’s where they got these photos. They said they have crafts, Santa, activities, ornament making stations, carousel … the works! And it’s free. Head on over if you can.

The Vino Hat: Verde Valley Wine Trail

My in-laws recently visited the Valley Verde Wine Trail, located in Northern Arizona. My father-in-law is a wine connoisseur – so if he says the wine was great, that means the wine was great! They started in Jerome, Arizona then worked their way to Cottonwood and then to Page Springs. Ending the day in Sedona with dinner at Elote Cafe. His pictures are amazing!

I think Ryan and I need to do the same. The Valley Verde Wine Trail is home to four Arizona wineries and eight tasting rooms. I’m sold!

Last year, my friends went wine tasting in Northern Arizona too. You can read all about Teri’s experience and see her photos here. Guess what, Ryan? Looks like we’re the last ones to the wine tasting party. Let’s go!

The Wife Hat: His Five-Star Birthday

Before Kelsey got croup, Ryan and I found ourselves immersed in a five-star weekend. After taking in the Music Museum, we continued his 32 birthday celebration with a stay at The Phoenician.

Thanks to our grandparents for watching the little one so we could enjoy adult time. The desert landscape at this resort is so beautiful, we couldn’t help ourselves from taking tons of photos. See? Isn’t it pretty.

It was overcast out, which was perfect for a little toe dipping in their heated pool. And yes, this is what winter looks like here.

After taking a tour through their famous Cactus Garden and beautifully landscaped property (yes, Ryan noticed all of that), we sat poolside for some great cocktails. Then, like any good vacationers do, we got ready, ate a fabulous dinner and then retreated to their outdoor bar for signature cocktails by the fire. Ahhh … what a weekend it was!

The Wife Hat: Music History for Two

My music-loving husband and I visited The Music Instrument Museum. We spent about 2.5 hours looking at exhibits and gallery’s featuring over 10,000 instruments from around the world. Rich on history and interactive fun, we had a blast and learned a lot.

Upon arrival, you get a pair of headphones. As you enter each exhibit your headphones will automatically allow you to hear music from the country/ time period you are visiting. What a thrill this place is.

The MIM cafe has amazing food, wine and beer selections while giving you a great place to rest your feet. Downstairs is the fun interactive stuff where Ryan and I got to play guitars, bang some banjos and I got to hit a massive “gong”. Pretty fun stuff, I would highly recommend you visit.

 

Eric Clapton’s “Brownie”

 

Steve Vai = one of Ryan’s favorites.

 

The whistle = the only instrument in the entire place I can play.

The Family Hat: Boo at the Zoo

You can tell it’s cooling off because we’re actually able to go outside. Last weekend, we found ourselves at the Zoo. Kelsey loved the giraffe (“long neck” – she would say) and the elephant. The cows were “okay”. The turtles were “slow”, but the monkeys – those excited her. There were pumpkins inside the exhibits for the “boo at the zoo” theme. Fun stuff, I tell you.

Crocodilekelsey

Taking a quick rest with Dad.

Do you see the slow poke in the back?

We’re so immature (or delirious from the sun) because we both stopped in our tracks, looked at each other and laughed when we spotted this gorilla statue and his … well, giant features.