Category: travel

Travel Guest Post: 13 Travel Tips for Touring Washington, D.C.

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Hey BFOTD readers! My name is Nicole and I blog at Three 31 — connect with me on social media too! I am a sweet tea drinking, Jesus loving, country girl from Kentucky married to a Texan named Husband. (Well, that’s not really his name but that’s what I call him.) We live near Fort Worth on a small spread with a white horse named Blue. While I have never given birth to another human, I consider my eighth grade students (130 in all) to be my precious, annoying, and hormonal angel babies. When I’m not blogging or teaching language arts, I enjoy photography, cooking, target shooting, reading, mission and volunteer work, reality TV, and traveling. Last summer, Husband had to go to Washington D.C. for work purposes, but I made sure there was a way for me to go for fun purposes! This was my first time in the nation’s capital and I absolutely LOVED it. For security purposes, I cannot disclose information about our accommodations but that’s okay because my part of the trip was all about visiting national monuments and museums and eating really great food!

MOUNT VERNON home of George + Martha Washington on the Potomac River


ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY The Tomb of the Unknown SoldierChanging of The Guard


NATIONAL MALL Washington Monument | Lincoln Memorial | National Archives | White House | U.S. Capitol and crab cakes at The Old Ebbitt Grill


SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY and dim sum (steamed dumplings) at Ping Pong near DuPont Circle

 If the pictures don’t do the trick, perhaps these travel tips will convince you to start planning your trip and pack your bags.
  1. Check (and double-check) that you’ve got a memory card in your camera. If I had checked my camera, you’d see pictures of perfectly steamed shrimp seasoned with Old Bay and lemon zest, fried cod, crispy potato wedges, cole slaw, and corn-on-the-cob. Husband said this particular meal was “really tasty.” He never, ever compliments food. Ever.
  2. Spend at least a half-day at Mount Vernon in Alexandria, Virginia. I arrived before the estate opened, but I entertained myself by taking pictures with my camera’s self-timer. It was ridiculous and silly. But a lot of fun. I also recommend a ride on the Spirit of Mount Vernon and cruise along the Potomac River. The view of George Washington’s mansion from the water is incredible.
  3. Remember the fallen at Arlington National Cemetery and observe the daily ritual of The Changing of The Guard. This is a must-see. I have goosebumps remembering this experience. You can’t NOT go to Arlington and visit The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier.
  4. Wear sunglasses, sunscreen + comfy shoes. But not new shoes. I purchased a pair of athletic/walking shoes the day before we left and had blisters on my feet within the first hour of walking around the National Mall. Fortunately, I had a pair of really comfortable sandals.
  5. Use public transportation + ride the METRO trains.I cannot promote METRO transit system enough. For a mere $9, I had an unlimited daily pass and I zippy-do-daa’d all over the D.C. area. Transitioning from one train to another is super easy and really quick. Honest-to-goodness, I never waited more than 5 minutes to board. An added bonus: the “facility” where Husband and I stayed provided a personal driver who drove me to the train station every morning and picked me up later in the afternoon.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Being in a metro area during the week has its advantages. People who live and work in the area are out-and-about and, usually, eager to help. I can’t tell you the number of people I approached to ask, “Can you point me in the direction of ___?” and they answered my question with a smile on their face. I paid attention to those around me, looking for people carrying a to-go lunch. Those were the folks on their lunch break; they know the area!
  7. Eat at local specialty restaurants. No offense to restaurant chains, but I avoid them when I’m in a new place. In fact, I spent several hours researching local eateries found only in the D.C. area. Taking into consideration my food allergy, every meal was incredible. Husband and I ate at Steamer’s and Woodmont Grill (Bethesda, Maryland) and Copper Canyon (Gaithersburg, Maryland). During the day, while I was by myself. I ate at Mount Vernon Inn (Alexandria, Virginia), Old Ebbitt Grill and Ping Pong (Washington, D.C.). If you love crab cakes, you must try this recipe for Old Ebbitt Grill Crab Cakes.
  8. Keep a street map in your tote bag. I’ll be honest, the navigation signs on roadways in the D.C. area are somewhat confusing. I got turned around and made several U-turns, but I always found my destination. However, the day I wanted to visit the National Geographic Museum, I turned right when I should have gone left. After a delicious lunch at Ping Pong, I headed towards the museum but found myself in the middle of Embassy Row. I waved to people walking by with their dog or watering the flowers in the yard … hey, I’m a nice tourist! I turned my misfortune into a learning experience and passed more than 100 properties belonging to dignitaries and secretaries of foreign countries along Massachusetts Avenue. I saw the sculpture of Mahatma Ghandi in front of India’s embassy and took a deep, cleansing breath ( Namaste, y’all). A few hours later, plus a refreshment from Smoothie King, I boarded the METRO train en route to Bethesda. The afternoon was not wasted, but I sure wish I had found the NatGeo Museum!
  9. Visit the National Archives … but arrive extra early. If you’re in Washington, D.C., you have to see the documents that created this country. The original Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and Bill of Rights are on display inside the dimly lit rotunda of the National Archives. I got goosebumps seeing John Hancock’s signature! Let this be fair warning, however, access to the gallery is limited. I arrived 30 minutes before the building opened and the line was clear around the block. Luckily, I was included in the first group of people (approximately 40) into the sacred space. An hour later, when I left the building, the line stretched three city blocks!
  10. Watch an IMAX movie at the Smithsonian Museum. Sure, I can watch IMAX films at my local movie theater, but watching an IMAX inside the Smithsonian Museum is much more exciting! I saw a film on coral reefs in the South Pacific and told Husband we really need to go on a vacation that includes a tropical destination!
  11. Try a new cuisine. I know I’ve mentioned food a gazillion times already, but I tried dim sum (steamed parcels of deliciousness) for the first time and fell in love.
  12. Make friends. The facility where Husband and I stayed had incredible staff. Miss V was like a grandmother and Mister S was my personal driver to the METRO train station each morning and afternoon. Mister S told me about growing up in Nepal and traveling the world before becoming a security consultant for the United States. I could have talked to him for hours. At restaurants, I made some type of connection with the staff. They were extremely attentive with my food allergy and I met the executive chef and manager before every meal. The waiter at Ping Pong is originally from Fort Worth and he attends George Washington University studying international commerce. I also met a family at Mount Vernon from Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a small world, you never know who you’re going to meet next!
  13. Because 13 is a lucky number, remember these tips:

  • The unlimited METRO pass is valid after 9:30am.
  • Keep a water bottle in your purse. And refill often.
  • If bathroom facilities are available, use them!
  • Avoid large and bulky souvenirs.
  • Keep a small amount of cash in your wallet for a taxi.
  • Allow extra time between destinations … especially tourist attractions, museums, rental car return, and going through airport security.

Have you been to Washington D.C.? What was your favorite attraction? Leave a comment! 2013

Thanks so much for sharing your adventures with us, Nicole.  I’ve been to D.C. several times, but there is so much to do and see there I can’t wait to go again.  Jed has never been and he is as much a history nerd as I am, so I know we will make it back soon.

Family Travel: Hiking the Continental Divide at Cottonwood Pass

I am in love with Colorado in the summer.

Hiking is one of my favorite things in life.  Walking around in beautiful places makes my heart so happy.

We were so blessed to travel for 2 months this past year and experience so much beauty.  While we were staying and working at Trail West in Buena Vista, Colorado, we hiked Cottonwood Pass three times with our whole camp group.  It is a super easy hike for families.

We hiked with babies and kids of all ages as well as adults with all kinds of health problems and an 84 year old grandmother.  She loved it.

The hike doesn’t take long but you get a fantastic payout at the top.  There is a 360 degree view of the Collegiate Peaks and Taylor Reservoir.  The pass is open in the summer, and you can find more about closings and see tons of pictures and videos here.  The trailhead is about 19 miles west of Buena Vista and the pass is used as a route from BV to Crested Butte.  The pass was used in the USA Procycling Challenge, so Jed felt like Andy Schleck when he rode his bike down the mountain.

   For kids under 3 I would highly recommend hiking with an Ergobaby carrier or some other type of backpack type carrier.  Bear was obviously too little to do it on his own, and we saw many a preschool get a bit tired and whiny on the way up.  It’s just how they roll.  The hike is quick and easy, but you do climb to 12,600 feet so you will feel it.

No matter how warm it is at the bottom of the mountain, bring lots of layers for yourself and your kiddos.  We learned that lesson the hard way on another hike with the Bear.  I did not win Mom of the Year in 2012, and I blame that hike among many, many other things.  You can read more about our adventures hiking with a toddler here.

Have you taken your whole family hiking?  Share any tips or what holds you back in the comments section below.
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Summer Flashback: On the Road from Buena Vista to Vail

As a hazy shade of winter makes me sleepy and cold temperatures keep us indoors, I think wistfully back to our summer adventure. Here are a few instagram pics from one leg of the trip.

Sweet sleeping baby
A bike race through the pass
Not the Tour de France, but fun to watch all the same.
Downtown Leadville, Colorado
A lovely alpine lake

Our next adventure will be adding a new member to the family.
What is your next adventure?

Best of Bare Feet on the Dashboard: Travel Edition

Oh the places we’ve been…
In celebration of three years of blogging I’m sharing some of my favorite posts with you this week.  Today’s edition is all about travel.  We’ve traveled abroad, traveled in the states, traveled as a couple, traveled with an infant, and most recently traveled with our toddler.  Here are my favorite travel related posts of the last three years.  
 The Ancient Mayan City of Tulum
Our Top 8 Frugal Family Travel Tips
Hiking with Toddlers
Playa del Carmen – Our Mexican Beach Adventure
Navarre Beach, Florida, Post Oil Spill
Taking Your Own Travel Photos 
Without Hiring Pros or Harassing Strangers
A Rustic Bachelorette Weekend in Arkansas
Babymoon in Glen Rose, Texas
Looking back through these posts made me nostalgic and realize I still have a ton of travel adventures to share.  Thanks for reading Bare Feet on the Dashboard and sharing my journeys.
What’s your all time favorite travel destination? 

Daddy and the Four Wheeler

 Jed was so excited to take the Bear on his first four wheeler ride when we visited the ranch over Thanksgiving.  Don’t worry, he was just planning on circling the driveway.  The Bear was not equally excited, and you can see below how things played out.  He started out a little nervous.

 Then he progressed to uncomfortable and tried to escape.  Then the whole situation escalated into a full scale meltdown.  Needless to say, the Bear’s first four wheeler ride will come sometime in the future.

Toddlers and Tractors

 The Bear’s obsession of the moment is all things farm.  When we were invited to the Goertz’s ranch for Thanksgiving, he was in heaven.  Not only were there big tractors, cows, horses, and 4-wheelers, there was also a pint sized tractor perfect for him.  He spent hours on this thing.

He also loved watching his big cousins, Preston, Parker, and Noah, do fun big kid stuff.  You know, like drive full sized gators around.  

Look at the pure concentration on Preston’s face.  This kid is going to be an awesome driver by the time he turns 16.  

Now I just need to find one of these mini tractors for our backyard.  Craigslist is calling…

Double Rainbows in Colorado

We took an amazing road trip through the western United States this summer with our toddler on board.  You can read more posts about our travels here, and more about Colorado here.  Everything about Colorado has this magical quality, even the weather. Storms move through fast and are unpredictable.  From our view at Trail West we could watch storms roll in over Mt. Princeton almost daily.  

 These rainbows appeared one afternoon and alternately faded and glowed as the storm took its course.

 You can see some of the collegiate peaks in the background, and the base of Princeton is just to the right.
Below you can see the storm over the top of Mt. Princeton.  Princeton is over 14,000 feet high, a true Colorado fourteener.  The summit is completely covered by the storm.

Family Travel: Visiting an Old West Ghost Town

Ghost towns dot the map of the United States, and extremely prevalent in the former wild west states.  As a card carrying history nerd married to another history nerd and world geography teacher, historic sites are a big part of our normal travel itinerary.  Ghost towns in particular have long fascinated me, so much so that I did my senior history thesis on Cadron Settlement, a long lost Arkansas ghost town.    

 One of the activities at Trail West Lodge is a 4×4 Jeep tour up to St. Elmo, a real Old West ghost town.  We jumped on board.  St. Elmo used to be famous for mining, now it is famous for chipmunks.  Oh, how time changes us all.  🙂

Let me just recommend Jeep tours to anyone with a kid who needs a good nap.  We did a lot of off road driving in Colorado and New Mexico, and it was the Bear’s kryptonite.  He couldn’t fight it.  Out like a light every time.

The most popular thing to do in St. Elmo is feed the chipmunks.  I freely admit that I enjoyed this more than anyone else, maybe ever.  I had a Disney princess moment, y’all.  

 The Bear, on the other hand, was a bit suspicious of the little critters.  He really liked them, laughed and pointed, but wanted no part of them touching him.  It was probably better that way.

 Jed even fed the little buggers.  This is a huge deal for a non animal lover.

 The second most popular thing about St. Elmo is the scenery.  It is serene and so beautiful.  A lovely mountain stream flows through the middle of town, and mountains surround you on all sides.

 Even the one room schoolhouse has an alpine view.  How did teachers educate a room full of kids of all ages?  This mystifies and amazes me.  My grandmother taught in a schoolhouse much like this in El Paso, Arkansas.

 The pioneer cemetary is on your way in to town, if you come up the jeep route.  The graves reside among lovely trees in an aspen grove, and date back to the mid 1800s.

 This is a replica of what the inside of the courthouse and jail looked like around the time of the town’s boom (late 1800s).

 The original Miners’ Exchange building is now home to the St. Elmo General Store.  There you can buy a snack for you or for the chipmunks, books about the town and Colorado history, postcards, and lots of souvenirs.

 There are so many of the original buildings still standing.  We really got a glimpse into mining life during the gold rush.  As we walked the dirt streets we pictured miners and their families grinding out an existence high atop a mountain in rugged Colorado.

 On our second trip up to St. Elmo, my parents joined us.  I inherited my history nerd gene from both of them, so they thought it was awesome.  My dad was a big fan of the cable series Deadwood, and we could picture that kind of action happening on the main street.  It was a great little outing for the whole family.

Do you or your family enjoy historical travel? 
What’s your favorite history travel outing?

Family Travel: Hiking with a Toddler

Hiking is one of my favorite activities in the world.  Jed and I have loved hiking together since we first started dating.  Many of our first dates included exploring the mountains of western North Carolina together.  We were excited to take The Bear hiking for the first time during our trip out west.  He LOVES being outside, so we thought he would really enjoy it.  We were so right.  We took many hikes with him this summer and while we did some things right, we made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot about hiking with toddlers.

Our Top 5 Hiking with Toddlers Tips
1. Bring a comfortable carrier – comfy for you AND your wee one.    
2. Be prepared to go slow and stop a lot to play.  
3. Bring snacks and drinks – for all of you.
4. Layer clothes and sun protection.
5. Know exactly where you are going.

I’ll explain a little more about each tip.  Some might seem like common sense, but believe me when I tell you we had to learn some things the hard way.  
1. Bring a comfortable carrier – comfy for you AND your wee one. We love our Ergobaby carrier.  I won it off a blog giveaway and it is by far the most comfortable one we’ve tried for big babies.  With a toddler, a carrier with a back carry option is going to be your best bet.  Front carry will kill your back after a few hours.  We were able to hike comfortably with the Bear (27 lbs) for 3-4 hours wearing the Ergo.  We loved the Moby Wrap when the Bear was teeny, but he weighs a lot more now and we need more structure.  We also used our Bob stroller (handed down from Sam and Michelle) for flatter trails.  It was awesome.  To push a hiking/jogging stroller up or down any kind of incline you need serious strength, so be prepared for that.  Always use the safety strap.     
2. Be prepared to go slow and stop a lot to play.  If you are used to hiking pre-baby, the pace is going to be completely different.  The Bear can go for 3-4 hours happily if he gets to get out and play every 30 minutes or so.  We hold his hands and let him walk for a bit, throw rocks in creeks, throw sticks, explore, etc.  This makes a HUGE difference in his attitude.  
3. Bring snacks and drinks – for all of you.  On one hike we packed plenty of snacks for the Bear, but not enough for us.  We were starving and cranky by the time it was over.  Not fun.  Bear loved hiking with his snack trap full of cheerios, and a few chipmunks may have been fed during the process.  Water is so important for the whole family, especially at high altitude.  Bring more than you think you need.  
4. Layer clothes and sun protection.  When you change elevation, the temperature can change quickly and drastically.  We knew this but sort of forgot during one hike, and the poor Bear got so cold.  I felt like such a rookie.  The sun is also more powerful at higher elevations.  We used sunscreen and hats for ourselves and the Bear.  We love Babylegs legwarmers for layering.  We use a pair that is breathable and SPF 50, as well as the regular cotton pairs.  They also have ones with bug protection now, but we don’t have those yet.  They are great because they make on the trail diaper changes super easy, and are easily removed and stored if the temp rises.  

5. Know exactly where you are going.  Ah yes, our biggest mistake.  We got lost.  For a long time.  With a one year old.  Not good.  We had a map but forgot it, and decided to keep on going.  This was not a wise decision.  Thankfully we finally ran into a family on four wheelers that pointed us back to civilization, but it could have gotten ugly.  From here on out we will always have a map or a well marked trail to follow.  Even if you are an experienced hiker, don’t take it for granted that you won’t get lost.  It happens all the time.  We’ve been hiking for years and it happened to us and was pretty scary.

Have you ventured onto a trail with your kids?
What hiking tips do you have to share? 

Family Travel: Baby’s First Rodeo

When you’re traveling with wee ones, entertainment that satisfies the whole family can be hard to come by.  While we were at Trail West this summer, the assigned team decided to take all the work crew and summer staff and assigned team families to the local Buena Vista rodeo.  Big fun.  It was awesome.  The Bear loved it, and so did the whole group, which consisted of all ages from 0-65.  We had tons of little kids, 30 high schoolers, 20 college students, and a bunch of adults with us, and everyone had a blast.  

 This is the Bear’s “I’m trying to figure out what the heck is going on face.”  He was enthralled by everything from the mutton bustin’ (little kids riding sheep) to the serious cowboys riding buckin’ broncos.

 The one downfall of the rodeo arena was that the fence was not exactly toddler proof.  Look how far apart the slats are – perfect for a 1 year old to climb through.

 He was loving it.  One great thing about a rodeo is that it moves fairly quickly because they are trying to cram in tons of events.  Jed and I couldn’t believe how much the dude on the left in the brown cowboy hat looked like Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall.

I tried to get a better picture of homeboy with out being too creepy.  Look at the pic below from Legends of the Fall and tell me they aren’t twinsies.  He’s just above Bear’s head to the left with the long hair.  
Anyway, I digress.  

 It was a constant flow of entertainment for all.  Calf roping, rodeo queens, barrel racing, and bronco riding kept us cheering for several hours.  Sadly, just before the bull riding, a HUGE storm rolled in and we had to abandon ship and head back to camp.  I’m pretty sure several of the work crew and summer staff (high school and college folks) still haven’t forgiven me for making them leave.

 Calves after calf roping
 Rodeo Queens on parade
Buckin’ Broncos
We all loved the rodeo, and I’m hoping to take the Bear to another one this year closer to home.  Mesquite, Ft. Worth, and Houston all have big ones, and the Texas State Fair is coming up soon.  
Have you ever taken your family to a local rodeo?
Do you check out local festivals when traveling?