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Rite of passage: crawling into the play structures to find your kids

When my daughter was young, one of our favorite places to play is a local play-area at a Rec Center near us. The indoor play-structure was built with a tree house theme in mind, and all of the tunnels stretch out above the room, like the branches of a tree. It’s great because the parents can stand or sit down below and chat while their kiddos crawl through miles and miles of tubing above. There are many different compartments, most all with windows overlooking the room below. There are different slides throughout so that you can easily get down…only to run around like a crazy person on the squishy floor of the play area and climb the spiral stairs up again.

Claire and I went there many times. Our Moms’ Club et there on occasion (more now, in colder weather, since meeting at a park to play is so nice-weather-dependent). It was great to meet my friends and chat while Claire played with the friends she knew in the group and meet new friends who happened to be playing there that day as well.

But, it wasn’t always like that.

At first, Claire didn’t want anything to do with the looming structure. The stairs were too enclosed, and the tunnels too confining, and she’d get three steps up and start crying for me. The whole thing turned into more of a stressor than a playful relaxing time, so I opted not to go to the playdates at the center. Our group had so many activities during the week that it was fine to pick and choose.

Eventually, we started going again. Claire started getting more and more comfortable with going up the stairs into the structure by herself, and the more she did it, the more confident she became. Sometimes she’d venture out on her own, and sometimes all it took was an older or more confident explorer to say, “Hey! Come play with me!” and off they’d go.

And, then, we reached a new level….

2018’s most (and least) popular baby names of 2018

Did your child’s name make the list?

BabyCenter recently shared their annual list of the most popular names of 2018 and the winners are Sophia, for girls, and Jackson, for boys.

Both Sophia and Jackson aren’t strangers to the list, as this is the former’s ninth consecutive year being the top choice for parents and this would be Jackson’s sixth year running.

Most Popular Girl Names

  1. Sophia
  2. Olivia
  3. Emma
  4. Ava
  5. Isabella
  6. Aria
  7. Riley
  8. Amelia
  9. Mia
  10. Layla

Most Popular Boy Names

  1. Jackson
  2. Liam
  3. Noah
  4. Aiden
  5. Caden
  6. Grayson
  7. Lucas
  8. Mason
  9. Oliver
  10. Elijah

Least Popular Girl Names

  1. Emerson
  2. Quinn
  3. Alaina
  4. Julia
  5. Jocelyn
  6. Vivian
  7. Delilah
  8. Willow
  9. Allison
  10. London

Least Popular Boy Names

  1. Weston
  2. Declan
  3. Xander
  4. Jason
  5. Theodore
  6. Micah
  7. Jonathan
  8. Rowan
  9. Austin
  10. Evan

The Keto Diet: New Study Reveals Long-term Problems

Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to lose weight? Here is something to consider.

The ketogenic diet, commonly known simply as the keto diet, is all the rage these days, but new studies are casting doubt on its benefits.

Sara Seidelmann, a cardiologist and nutrition researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, recently published a massive study surveying the eating patterns of more than 447,000 people around the world. She discovered that eliminating entire food groups may work for a while, but you could pay a big price over time.

The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that forces the body into a state of ketosis — that’s when your burn fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. Because sugar is a carb, many keto dieters drastically reduce their sugar intake but also eliminate healthier carbs. There’s also some limited evidence that people become less tolerant of glucose and develop diabetes after going low-carb might. Low-carb diets also tend to neglect nutrients like magnesium, calcium and potassium that can be plentiful on less restrictive diets that include high-carb foods like beans, bananas, and oats.

Research that backs up Seidelmann’s study was presented in August at the European Society of Cardiology Congress. It found that people who eat a moderate of amount of carbohydrates are more likely to live longer than either low-carb or high-carb dieters.

2019 Disneyland Planning Guide: New Attractions, Themes, Festivals & Eats

The Disneyland Resort will become a “must-do” travel destination in 2019, whether it’s for a celebration of 90 years of magic with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, a journey to the planet Batuu to live the adventures of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a whirl on two family-friendly attractions opening at Pixar Pier, an encounter with Captain Marvel, or a chance to enjoy the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival.

The year will kick off in true Disney fashion with Get Your Ears On – A Mickey and Minnie Celebration, a party to celebrate Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse at the place where they first appeared for guests. Disney California Adventure Park will celebrate Lunar New Year and the Year of the Pig with a special appearance by the Three Little Pigs, and this spring the annual Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival will offer tasty treats and special entertainment for guests of all ages to enjoy. The Downtown Disney District will continue its exciting, promenade-wide transformation, and the Hotels of the Disneyland Resort will open special dining locations.

For the first time ever, guests will be able to live their own Star Wars adventure at the highly anticipated new land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, opening in summer 2019. The Star Wars universe will come to life like never before with authentic, intergalactic adventures.

Get Your Ears On – A Mickey and Minnie Celebration at Disneyland Park

The biggest celebration of Mickey and Minnie in Disneyland history begins in January 2019. Honoring 90 years of magic with this beloved pair, guests will discover new and enhanced entertainment plus limited-time décor, specialty foods and merchandise.

Beginning Jan. 18, “Mickey’s Mix Magic” will light up the night at Disneyland park with a new high-energy projections show. This nightly extravaganza creates a family-fun dance party throughout the park, with “DJ” Mickey spinning the new celebration song, “It’s a Good Time” along with new, fun takes on favorite Disney songs. State-of-the-art projections, lighting and lasers transform Main Street, U.S.A., the water screens on the Rivers of America and the façade of “it’s a small world” into a colorful, dazzling display of lights and sounds to celebrate Mickey Mouse. On select nights, “Mickey’s Mix Magic” will go sky high when the show is enhanced with the addition of fireworks.

A fan-favorite, “Mickey’s Soundsational Parade,” returns to Disneyland Jan. 25, with a rockin’ new opening to kick off the party. Mickey leads the way in a new, larger-than-life opening, inspired by classic and nostalgic Mickey pull toys. Next, Chip ‘n’ Dale arrive with a giant celebration cake, as Mickey and his drum corps kick off a procession of Disney characters.

From Jan. 22 through Feb. 18, Disneyland Resort will celebrate the love of Minnie and Mickey for Valentine’s month. Guests will find a new Mickey Mouse flower “portrait,” and lovely and festive Valentine’s décor all along Main Street, U.S.A. Guests may also choose to partake in Minnie’s Valentine Surprise, a special scavenger hunt experience in Disneyland park. After purchasing a commemorative map and stickers at select merchandise locations, they may search for the hidden valentines that Minnie has left for Mickey around the park. Upon completion, maps can be returned to a designated location to redeem a special Valentine’s surprise.

2. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge invites guests to live their own Star Wars adventure

In summer 2019, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will make history as the largest single-land expansion ever at the Disneyland Resort. In this epic, new land, guests will live their own adventure in a galaxy far, far away and explore Black Spire Outpost. Once a busy crossroads, this spaceport on the planet Batuu is now home to those who prefer to stay out of the mainstream, including smugglers, rogue traders and exotic creatures traveling between the frontier and uncharted space.

Guests will take the controls in one of three unique and critical roles aboard Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. On Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, guests can join a battle between the First Order and the Resistance – including a face-off with Kylo Ren. These two new incredible experiences, paired with the land’s interactive components and optional integration with the Play Disney Parks app, will invite guests to become galactic travelers and live their own Star Wars adventures in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

In addition to these two long-awaited attractions, guests may try blue milk, well-known to Star Wars fans, and pop into the local Cantina for libations. They will discover treasures as they maneuver the winding alleyways and merchant stalls, and they may see familiar Star Wars faces, including Chewbacca and stormtroopers. The beauty of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is that each guest is encouraged to choose their unique adventure in the galaxy.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will feature original music created especially for the land by Academy Award-winning composer John Williams.

3. Lunar New Year celebration returns to celebrate the Year of the Pig

Disneyland Resort will ring in the Year of the Pig this Lunar New Year in Disney California Adventure, from Jan. 25 through Feb. 17. A joyous celebration of Asian cultures, the Lunar New Year celebration welcomes guests of all ages to commemorate the tradition with beloved Disney characters, and welcome another year of good fortune.

Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession, a limited-time offering during the Lunar New Year celebration, is a bright and bold parade hosted by Mulan and her faithful dragon, Mushu. As a special treat for the Year of the Pig, the Three Little Pigs will join the procession. Delicious Asian food and kid-friendly crafts and activities will be available as well.

4. Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival showcases a bounty of flavors

The vibrant Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival will return to the Disneyland Resort from March 1 through April 23, 2019. Seasoned foodies along with culinary newbies will
delight in experiencing this eight-week celebration of California-inspired cuisines. Guests will enjoy indulging in favorite dishes and broadening their palettes with more than a dozen delicious
Festival Marketplaces, featuring small plates, specialty wines and craft beers.

From celebrity chef appearances to family-friendly cooking demonstrations, there is something for connoisseurs of all ages to enjoy. In addition, children can participate in Junior Chef, a fun,
hands-on “cooking” experience, specially designed for young chefs. Participants will receive a sweet surprise following the seminar.

Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind and Jessie’s Critter Carousel arrive at Pixar Pier

Guests have been enjoying Pixar Pier since it opened in June 2018, bringing the stories and characters of Disney•Pixar films to life with exciting attractions, themed neighborhoods and fun
eateries. In 2019, Pixar Pier welcomes two additional attractions to complete the land: Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind and Jessie’s Critter Carousel.

This Pixar-inspired land is full of family-friendly fun, including the thrilling Incredicoaster, the popular Toy Story Mania! attraction and the beautiful Lamplight Lounge restaurant overlooking
Paradise Bay. Guests have the opportunity to encounter characters from Disney•Pixar films, including Mr. Incredible and Mrs. Incredible and Edna Mode from “The Incredibles,” and Jessie
and Woody from “Toy Story.” Even the iconic Pixar Lamp makes an appearance, atop the Pixar Pier marquee.

At Pixar Pier and at both theme parks, guests will be able to maximize their visits with Disney MaxPass, snagging digital Disney FastPass selections via the Disneyland app (subject to availability) and receiving unlimited digital downloads of Disney PhotoPass photos captured during the day.

Downtown Disney District continues promenade-wide transformation

The Downtown Disney District at the Disneyland Resort is a fresh, one-of-a-kind Disney experience, immersing guests by day and night in an exciting mix of dining, shopping and entertainment that’s fun for all ages. The Downtown Disney District has been undergoing an exciting, promenade-wide transformation, including the opening of Splitsville Luxury Lanes, the Disney Home store, The Disney Dress Shop and Salt & Straw scoop shop, along with a reimagined design for the World of Disney store. Coming soon: a fresh, new look at Naples Ristorante e Bar plus two new dining locations, Ballast Point brewery and Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes.

At a glance: additional new and limited-time magic at Disneyland Resort in 2019

Disneyland Park
• Tropical Hideaway opens, featuring Rosita from Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
(late 2018)
• Disneyland After Dark special after-hours ticketed events (Sweethearts’ Nite on Feb. 7 and 90s Nite on March 7)

Disney California Adventure Park
• Vampirina joins Disney Junior Dance Party! (Feb. 1)
• Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind attraction opens at Pixar Pier (2019)
• Jessie’s Critter Carousel opens with a rootin’ tootin’ spin at Pixar Pier (2019)
• Captain Marvel, one of the most powerful heroes in the universe, begins encountering
guests (2019)

Hotels of the Disneyland Resort

• Tangaroa Terrace, Tropical Bar and Grill opens at the Disneyland Hotel (early 2019)
• Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa opens a new bar in the pool area (spring 2019)
• Character Dining: Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet recently debuted at Storytellers Café and Donald Duck’s Seaside Breakfast at Disney’s PCH Grill Downtown Disney District
• New hyper-reality experience, “Ralph Breaks VR,” is now open at The VOID
• New look at Naples Ristorante e Bar (early 2019)
• Ballast Point brewery opens (early 2019)
• Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes opens (early 2019)

• Halloween Time returns (Sept. 2019)
• Holiday entertainment, festivities and décor return (Nov. 2019)
• Play Disney ParksϮ app will feature exciting new updates (throughout 2019)
Upcoming anniversaries
• Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage (originally opened as Submarine Voyage), 60th
anniversary (June 6)
• Matterhorn Bobsleds and Disneyland Monorail, 60th anniversaries (June 14)
• Splash Mountain, 30th anniversary (July 17)
• Haunted Mansion, 50th anniversary (Aug. 9)
• Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, 40th anniversary (Sept. 2)

Disneyland has raised ticket prices ahead of its hotly anticipated summer opening of “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.”
The average increase is eight percent but they vary by ticket. The one-day adult peak ticket price rose from $135 to $149, while the price of the one-day regular ticket, which blocks out some dates, rose from $117 to $129. The price of the one-day value ticket, which blocks out even more dates, rose from $97 to $104. The most affordable (and limited use) annual Select pass increased from $369 to $399, while the most elite annual Premier pass (which combines Disneyland and Walt Disney World admission) increased from $1,579 to $1,949.

30+ hike ideas for a ‘First Day Hike’ near you!

This Jan.1, Colorado Parks and Wildlife invites all Coloradans to welcome 2019 by heading outside to enjoy the trails in a Colorado State Park. First Day Hikes offer a chance to start the new year right by getting people out for some exercise in nature. At least 25 ​state parks are participating by hosting an organized hike. Each park offers a unique opportunity to enjoy the new year, with most parks offering guided hikes and some parks providing multiple options to choose from, allowing you to select the time and route you prefer.

“Getting outside is the best way to bring in a new year and Colorado state parks showcase all the best things about the outdoors,” said Crystal Dreiling​, park manager at Trinidad Lake State Park, one of the participating parks. “We are thrilled to have seen this event continue to grow since we started ​the program in 2012.” 

Many parks are also offering refreshments and free giveaways for this event, such as mugs and pens, thanks to a grant provided by the Colorado Parks Foundation. 

The hikes ​​are free but park visitors must possess a valid parks pass to participate. The daily pass for entry to most parks costs $8 per vehicle; annual passes are available for $80. (Prices reflect ​2019 Fee changes​).

All First Day Hikes will vary in ability levels and length depending on location and weather conditions.​​​​ Bring snacks and water, dress in layers and be prepared with traction and/or trekking poles for winter hiking in snow or on icy trails; if there is snow, consider bringing snowshoes. ​​​

Find a 2019​ First Day Hike Near You!

Chatfield First Day Hike 2019 – NEW Plum Creek Nature Trail
Tuesday, January 1

Join us on the *NEW* trail for the *NEW* year! Come out to Chatfield State Park for a hike on the *NEW* Plum Creek Nature Trail at Chatfield State Park. Lets get our legs and our minds moving as we see a sneak the *first* public view of the new and improved Plum Creek Nature Trail! The trail will not be open to the public until Spring 2019. Hot chocolate and donuts provided! Be prepared for all weather and pack a water bottle. We will meet at the Heronry Parking at 09:00 AM!

First Day Hikes at Mueller
Tuesday, January 1

Colorado State Parks have taken on the tradition of hosting hikes on New Year’s Day – to start the New Year out right! Join in First Day Hikes at Mueller! Bring water, snacks, (snowshoes?) and dress for snow! First hike at 9:00 am!

First Day Hike at Eleven Mile State Park
Tuesday, January 1

Join us at Eleven Mile State Park for a ranger hike!

First Day Hike – Elk Meadow
Tuesday, January 1

Colorado State Parks have taken on the tradition of hosting hikes on New Year’s Day – to start the New Year out right! Join in First Day Hikes at Mueller! Bring water, snacks, (snowshoes?) and dress for snow!

Arkansas Headwaters First Day Hike 2019
Tuesday, January 1

Join us in celebrating the new year with this nationwide First Day Hike of 2019 event! Our guided 3.5-mile hike includes beautiful scenery and lunch at the midway point.

First Day Hikes at Staunton State Park
Tuesday, January 1

Join us for a series of first day hikes at Staunton State Park! We will have a main meeting area at the Ranch Hand Group Picnic Area with photos being taken of the visitors before their hike. We will also have a cookout with hot dogs, smores, coffee and hot chocolate. There will be 6 different hikes leaving at different times to accommodate different visitors schedules. The hikes will be differing in degree of difficulty and length.

First Day Hike – Rock Pond
Tuesday, January 1

Colorado State Parks have taken on the tradition of hosting hikes on New Year’s Day – to start the New Year out right! Join in First Day Hikes at Mueller! Bring water, snacks, (snowshoes?) and dress for snow! 5-miles and 600 feet elevation with Naturalist Cindi

First Day Hikes at Cheyenne Mountain
Tuesday, January 1

Sleet, snow or 20 below, come and enjoy the first day of 2019 with a hike!

First Day Hike at Cherry Creek
Tuesday, January 1

Join us for a a First Day Hike at Cherry Creek! We’re hosting a bird watching walk along Vaughan Way Trail, starting at the campground.

First Day Hikes at James M. Robb Colorado Rivier State Park
Tuesday, January 1

Join us for a First Day Hike around the Connected Lakes section of JMR-Colorado River State Park, traveling approximately 3 miles along the Waterfowl Loop and Promontory Point trails.

First Day Hike at Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Tuesday, January 1

Join us for a First Day Hike at Golden Gate Canyon State Park! We will be leading two hikes, one along the Black Bear trail and one along the Mule Deer Trail. Meet at the visitor center to begin the day.

First Day Hike at Highline Lake
Tuesday, January 1

Join us for a hike at Highline Lake State Park to ring in the new year!

First Day Hike at John Martin Reservoir
Tuesday, January 1

Join us at John Martin Reservoir for a first day hike! Celebrate the new year with on our 10 a.m. hike on the Red Shin Trail.

First Day Hike at Lake Pueblo
Tuesday, January 1

Join us at Lake Pueblo State Park for a first day hike to welcome the new year!

First Day Hike at Lathrop State Park
Tuesday, January 1

Join us for a first day hike at Lathrop State Park, and ring in the new year with some quality time outside!

First Day Hike at Lory State Park
Tuesday, January 1

Join us for a first day hike at Lory State Park! We will have a guided hike to Arthur’s Rock trail (3.4 Miles) and a second easier hike on the Well Gulch Nature Trail (1.4 Miles).

First Day Hike at North Sterling State Park
Tuesday, January 1

Celebrate the new year with a first day hike at North Sterling State Park!

First Day Hike at St. Vrain
Tuesday, January 1

Join us at St. Vrain State Park for a first day hike to ring in the new year!

First Day Hikes at State Forest State Park
Tuesday, January 1

Join us at State Forest State Park for a first-day hike, and celebrate the new year with us!

First Day Hike at Sweitzer Lake State Park
Tuesday, January 1

Join us at Sweitzer Lake State Park for a first day hike to ring in the new year.

First Day Hike at Trinidad Lake State Park
Tuesday, January 1

Celebrate the new year with a first day hike at Trinidad Lake State Park!

First Day Hike at Vega State Park
Tuesday, January 1

Celebrate the new year with a first day hike at Vega State Park!

First Day Hike at Yampa River State Park
Tuesday, January 1

Celebrate the new year with a first day hike at Yampa River State Park.

Homestead Hike
Tuesday, January 1

Colorado State Parks have taken on the tradition of hosting hikes on New Year’s Day – to start the New Year out right! Join in First Day Hikes at Mueller! Bring water, snacks, (snowshoes?) and dress for snow! 2.5-miles with Naturalist Penny

Chatfield First Day Hike 2019- NEW Plum Creek Nature Trail
Tuesday, January 1

Join us on the *NEW* trail for the *NEW* year! Come out to Chatfield State Park for a hike on the *NEW* Plum Creek Nature Trail at Chatfield State Park. Lets get our legs and our minds moving as we see a sneak our first public view of the new and improved Plum Creek Nature Trail! The trail will not open to the public until Spring 2019. Hot chocolate and donuts provided! Be prepared for all weather and pack a water bottle. We will meet at the Heronry Parking at 11:00 AM.

America’s State Parks First Day Hikes at Barr Lake
Tuesday, January 1

Barr Lake State Park invites all Coloradans to welcome 2019 by heading outside to enjoy the trails in our Colorado State Park. First Day Hikes offer a chance to start the new year right by getting out for some exercise in nature.

First Day Hike at Rifle Falls State Parks
Tuesday, January 1

Celebrate the new year with a first day hike at Rifle Falls State Park, and begin your year with some quality time outside!

Outlook Ridge Hike
Tuesday, January 1

Colorado State Parks have taken on the tradition of hosting hikes on New Year’s Day – to start the New Year out right! Join in First Day Hikes at Mueller! Bring water, snacks, (snowshoes?) and dress for snow! 2-miles with Naturalist Craig

First Day Hike at Eldorado Canyon State Park
Tuesday, January 1

Join us for a guided hike on Fowler Trail followed by hot chocolate at Visitor Center around a fire, if weather permits. Program length about 1 – 1.5 hours total.

First Day Hike at Steamboat Lake State Park
Tuesday, January 1

Join us for a first day hike at Steamboat Lake State Park to celebrate the new year!


Peace Big and Small

A child asked at bedtime, “Mommy why is there war? Why can’t there be peace in the world?”

“Well, to have peace in the world, we need peace in our country.

“To have peace in our country, we must have peace in our city.

“To have peace in our city, we must have peace in our neighborhood.

“To have peace in our neighborhood we must have peace in our home.

“To have peace in our homes we must have peace in ourselves.” *

So, my Mile High Mama friends, rather than wishing for world peace, I wish you each peace within yourselves.

And I wish the same for me.

*vignette paraphrased from a story told to me by a very wise woman

Denver Mom Turns Sorrow Into Support For Others

A woman from Denver has written a book about losing her husband to a massive brain hemorrhage. Now, she’s helping others who’ve suffered similar tragedies by donating all proceeds from the book to the Jamie Beck Family Foundation.

Michele Morris turned her grief into support for others. It was a courageous journey that started with adversity 5,000 miles from Colorado and ended with hope at home.
The couple raised three children. As empty nesters, they traveled. But a trip to Spain in October 2016 turned tragic.

“When we landed in the baggage claim area of the Madrid airport, Greg collapsed of a massive brain hemorrhage from a ruptured aneurysm,” explained Michele.

Michele is a food writer and a cookbook author. This time, she would share raw emotion.  She wrote her memoir, Poco a Poco, which means little by little in Spanish. It’s what she remembers doctors saying about Greg’s recovery.

Family Travel: First Look at the Gaylord Rockies Resort

A city-within-a-city has risen on a hilltop overlooking the Rockies. The Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center in Aurora is officially open after two years of construction. The size and scale of this ambitious project are well-known locally. The completed resort is the largest in Colorado and striking in size and scope. It’s one of the most ambitious projects in Colorado’s history and now you and your family can be their guests.

What can you expect to see, do, and eat at this 486,000 square feet of rustic Rockies charm?

The first thing you will notice as you drive up to either self-park or use the valet service is how utterly overwhelming it looks. You might think you’d be a bit lost in such a place. But, every employee we encountered was warm and friendly, which somehow made it feel like a small, welcoming hotel that could cater to your needs with ease.

Once inside, the nine-story-tall window in the Grand Lodge brings an airy lightness to soaring indoor space. It is banked by waterfalls, fountains, a bridge, a full-sized historic caboose, and plenty of intimate and upscale seating nooks. This is the perfect place to have a coffee break, a late night drink, or to just relax.

Five of the eight dining options rim the Grand Lodge. There are possibilities for every palate. We dined at Vista Montagne, a modern take on Italian cuisine with western touches like bison and trout incorporated into old favorites. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Directly across the bridge and through the cave is the big, bright, and colorful Mountain Pass Sports Bar with Colorado’s largest HDTV. Is 75 feet big enough for you to watch your favorite local team hopefully win? Pair that with some burgers and beverages and you have yourself a staycation to remember.

1501 guest rooms, including 114 suites, are now available to book. We stayed in a room with two doubles with a mountain view. The room was decorated like a sleek western mountain home, with whimsical animal artwork, upscale bedding, and all the bells as whistles you’d expect in a modern hotel. We had a movie night with snacks from the Rockies Marketplace, a perfect way to wind down after a day of enjoying many amenities.

These amenities include the Relache Spa & Salon. It has a polished snowy mountain theme, with soothing icy decor in a cozy space. Full services are available for men and women. The Fitness Center is light-filled and boasts the latest in equipment.

Family Fun

What about the kids? Most would not be into getting a facial, but they would definitely be into zipping down a twisty water slide into a pool. There are plenty of ways to play in the indoor/outdoor waterpark. They provide life vests in all sizes for some peace of mind as they splash. Best of all, a lazy river winds around outside. At night, the pools and river are illuminated with ever-changing colorful lights. Several fire pits with seating dot the outdoor spaces for nighttime relaxing under the stars.

Additional outdoor-based fun can be found on one of the basketball or tennis courts, a nine-hole mini golf course, pickleball, and bike rentals. Back inside, a small arcade with video games and claw machines will help your kids get their electronic fix and maybe win a little souvenir of their stay.

Looking forward to 2019, the Gaylord family of resorts presents Summerfest, which runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Details for the Gaylord Rockies Summerfest will be coming soon, so make sure to check back to see how you and your family can start planning for summer right here at home. Additionally, in Winter 2019, the Gaylord Rockies will have a winter festival called ICE that promises to bring next-level frigid fun to Colorado for the first time ever!

This December, the Gaylord Rockies Resort has a interactive and innovative lights show inside and outside the Grand Lodge. You can bundle up and walk around through sparkling trees, changing orbs of light, and lighted chimes you can control. Watch giant projected snowflakes flutter around on the sides of the building. Gather around one of the firepits with some cocoa, too.

For more information about the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center, visit Ask about rates for locals in December.

The Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center hosted our family for purposes of review. All opinions, insights, and experiences are our own.


How to keep learning alive (and fun) this winter

As a mom and an educator for the past 17 years, I know that students might not be very interested in schoolwork when they are not in school. The key is to find ways to enjoy your time off as a family and continue learning at the same time.

At Colorado Connections Academy online public schools we take a personalized approach to learning for all students, evaluating each student’s learning style, skills, and interests and developing an academic road map for success. You can take this same approach to winter learning, tailoring activities to your individual child’s interests and finding any opportunity to bring learning experiences to life.

Here are some of my tried-and-true activities to reinforce learning this winter while spending some quality family time together:

Family tree time

As families come together for the holidays, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about what makes your own family unique. Have students sit down with family members and interview them to create a family tree. Or, start with immediate family and research answers to questions like, “what were the top news stories when grandpa was born?”, “who was the President?”, “where did they live and how did they live?” and so on.

Read, read, and read!

Visit your local library and search for authors who specialize in winter themes or books with winter settings. Perhaps there’s a book about winter traditions around the world, or a novel set during a historic snowstorm? You can also take this a step further and have your student write their own winter-themed story with their own illustrations.

Take learning to the kitchen

Baking or cooking is a fun way to learn about fractions and measurements while making something tasty. You can also explore the ingredients in your recipe. Look up the difference between baking powder and baking soda, or read about yeast and learn how some types of dough can conduct electricity!

Be your own meteorologist

Explore the science of weather as a family. Students can measure snow totals, monitor the temperatures outside, or research the area’s past weather conditions using a farmer’s almanac. Once measurements are completed, they can put on their own weather forecast at home or set predictions for the rest of the winter break. 

Opt Outside

In Colorado, there are so many opportunities to get outside. Go on a neighborhood walk or find a local trail. Keep your eyes open for wildlife, and research the animals you saw when you return home. Collect sticks and rocks while on your adventure, and use your newly found items for a fun art project. Or, make a scavenger hunt list for specific items to find on your hike, and even challenge each other to a scavenger hunt contest.

At Colorado Connections Academy, we know that students gain an even deeper understanding of subjects when they can explore these subjects outside of the traditional classroom setting. Many families tell me that the flexibility of online school allows their students to pursue educational activities like these regardless of the time of year, helping to make learning more relatable, meaningful, and fun. Regardless of your student’s school option, try out a few of these activities with your family, and you’ll soon find that there are fun learning opportunities available around every corner.

Chaille Hymes is Executive Director of Colorado Connections Academy, a network of tuition-free online public schools serving students in grades K-12 statewide. The schools’ individualized approach to learning combines state-certified teachers, an award-winning curriculum, technology tools and socialization opportunities. For more information, visit




How to create lasting happiness for your family

“Dear Stranger,

You don’t know me but I hear you are going through a tough time, and I would like to help you. I want to be open and honest with you, and let you know that happiness isn’t something just afforded to a special few. It can be yours, if you take the time to let it grow.

It’s OK to be stressed, scared and sad, I certainly have been throughout my 66 years. I’ve confronted my biggest fears time and time again. I’ve cheated death on many adventures, seen loved ones pass away, failed in business, minced my words in front of tough audiences, and had my heart broken.

I know I’m fortunate to live an extraordinary life, and that most people would assume my business success, and the wealth that comes with it, have brought me happiness. But they haven’t; in fact it’s the reverse. I am successful, wealthy and connected because I am happy.

So many people get caught up in doing what they think will make them happy but, in my opinion, this is where they fail. Happiness is not about doing, it’s about being. In order to be happy, you need to think consciously about it. Don’t forget the to-do list, but remember to write a to-be list too.

Kids are often asked: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ The world expects grandiose aspirations: ‘I want to be a writer, a doctor, the prime minister.’ They’re told: go to school, go to college, get a job, get married, and then you’ll be happy. But that’s all about doing, not being – and while doing will bring you moments of joy, it won’t necessarily reward you with lasting happiness.

Stop and breathe. Be healthy. Be around your friends and family. Be there for someone, and let someone be there for you. Be bold. Just be for a minute.

If you allow yourself to be in the moment, and appreciate the moment, happiness will follow. I speak from experience. We’ve built a business empire, joined conversations about the future of our planet, attended many memorable parties and met many unforgettable people. And while these things have brought me great joy, it’s the moments that I stopped just to be, rather than do, that have given me true happiness. Why? Because allowing yourself just to be, puts things into perspective. Try it. Be still. Be present.

For me, it’s watching the flamingos fly across Necker Island at dusk. It’s holding my new grandchild’s tiny hands. It’s looking up at the stars and dreaming of seeing them up close one day. It’s listening to my family’s dinner-time debates. It’s the smile on a stranger’s face, the smell of rain, the ripple of a wave, the wind across the sand. It’s the first snow fall of winter, and the last storm of summer. It’s sunrise and sunset.

There’s a reason we’re called human beings and not human doings. As human beings we have the ability to think, move and communicate in a heightened way. We can cooperate, understand, reconcile and love, that’s what sets us apart from most other species.

Don’t waste your human talents by stressing about nominal things, or that which you cannot change. If you take the time simply to be and appreciate the fruits of life, your stresses will begin to dissolve, and you will be happier.

But don’t just seek happiness when you’re down. Happiness shouldn’t be a goal, it should be a habit. Take the focus off doing, and start being every day. Be loving, be grateful, be helpful, and be a spectator to your own thoughts.

Allow yourself to be in the moment, and appreciate the moment. Take the focus off everything you think you need to do, and start being – I promise you, happiness will follow.

Happy regards,

Richard Branson”

This piece was contributed by Richard to help raise money for MIND, a Mental Health Organisation.