Passing through Amarillo, TX

Don’t have much time as you drive through Amarillo? No fear, here are the top hot spots to see.

Cadillac Ranch is an absolute MUST if you are staying in Amarillo or even just driving through. There is a truck right there at the entrance where you can buy spray paint but if you don’t want to spend the moolah you can just go around the cars and pick up the spray bottles until you find one that still has some left. No matter what you decide your kids, and perhaps yourself, will be in heaven as you have free reign to display your art on these unique cars in the ground

You can read more about the history of Cadillac Ranch HERE if you are interested. Such a fun stop along Route 66

We personally found so many cans that still had enough for us to get some words, art or pictures out before they were empty. Everyone was very gracious about taking turns and helping each other find some.

There are no rules there either so you can climb in or on the cars to find the best place to leave your mark.

Once we were done there we headed to The Big Texan which is mentioned on just about every blog post or article you will ever read about Amarillo.

After being there we can see why. This place is SO fun. You feel like you are in an old western movie as you explore the grounds, it has a HUGE gift shop, so many picture perfect places and plenty to keep you entertained as you wait your turn.

With that being said, the wait was TWO HOURS when we got there. We had been in the car for 5 hours and there was no way I was going to convince the kids to wait another 2 hours to eat so we had fun looking around but unfortunately didn’t get to partake in the goodness that I hear The Big Texan dishes up. Either way, it was a fun stop that we’re glad we made. I really don’t blog to sell people on traveling so I don’t take amazing pictures of places but trust me, this place had such a fun vibe and is worth the stop. 🙂

Since dinner at The Big Texan didn’t work we decided to try to find another local joint which led us to Blue Sky and although I’m sure The Big Texan lives up to all of the hype we had read, Blue Sky did NOT disappoint. It was SO delicious AND we didn’t have to wait 2 hours so…win/win!

Their onion rings and chicken fried steak were my favorite but we ordered a bunch between all 6 of us and none of us were disappointed.

Overall, major win and we would definitely go again if we ever find ourselves back in Amarillo.

So there you have it. If you are just passing through and want a fun pit stop or two and a yummy place to eat you have our family’s recommendations! Safe travels!


Albuquerque w/the kids

We just stopped in Albuquerque for a night on our southwest road trip but we found some real gems to see if you are ever there. We were quite surprised by the drive through New Mexico; I did not know it would look so much like the drive through the red canyons of Utah. There were some drab looking sections of drive but also so much beauty in the red rocks and canyons we drove through. After settling in our hotel room we headed out for dinner.

This fun wall of old signs is just outside Route 66 Diner, a must stop in Albuquerque. The food was delicious, the atmosphere was so fun and the service was fantastic.

This picture makes it seem empty but it was actually very busy although the wait wasn’t too long which was good because we were so hungry. They had a great variety of classics and New Mexico dishes and you have to get a milkshake! It was pricey but we did way over order…we waited too long to eat and our eyes were WAY bigger than our stomachs! If we ever end up back in that neck of the woods in NM we would probably eat there again but split more dishes.

kids showing off their pressed pennies in the lobby

If you want something educational to do with kids while in Albuquerque the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is a great choice. You will learn all about the history of the natives of New Mexico through art, videos, displays and hands on exhibits. I love that the museum starts off with this gorgeous art on the horse with a story that explains their belief that if one of them lives on, they all do. We all carry with us pieces of our ancestors that help to keep them alive.

The museum has several exhibits to walk through and my favorite part about each of them is that they are FULL of hands on interactions for the kids. They also have many videos throughout that allow the children to learn more about the dances, food, and environment of the natives. I didn’t take any pics of the displays but they were amazing as well. So much pottery, art, tools, kitchens, baskets and more. And SO many stories told and legends to be passed on….I could go on and on. If you can’t tell, we really enjoyed this place!

If you are there on the weekend you get to watch some natives talk about their history, their traditions and watch them perform some of their ceremonial dances. At the end they invited you to come in the circle and perform a dance with them that represents acceptance, peace and friendship. It truly is beautiful!

We probably could’ve spent an additional hour there taking our time with some of the exhibits we had rushed through to get to the performance. We also probably could’ve spent more time looking at the stands throughout the courtyard where locals sale their gorgeous art and jewelry. As tempting as that was, we had to get on the road to head to our next destination. We left feeling like we got our money’s worth and glad we had made the stop.

There are so many options of places to see in Albuquerque with, or without kids, but we’re happy with the couple stops we made. We’re glad we went and experienced something new, happy with what we saw and now we feel we can move on to seeing more of the US and if we end up back in that part of NM again one day we wouldn’t be mad, but we’re also not disappointed that we didn’t see more or dying to go back. It was a great place to stop on our way to somewhere else. 🙂


Joshua Tree National Park

A couple weekends ago we woke up Saturday morning longing to take a break from house projects and instead go on a family adventure. So naturally we jumped in the car and took off within 30 minutes…what can I say? We love being spontaneous.

Don’t forget that if you have a 4th grader you can get into any of the National Parks for free. Just go HERE and scroll down a little until you see “Get Your Pass”. Have your child answer the couple questions and then print the pass before you head out. Thanks to our son we got in free this time!

As for when to visit Joshua Tree National Park, here is an average temp recording of the park. We went in April because we wanted to go before it was too hot but I had ready May-October is the “ideal time”. We’ll just have to agree to disagree. One thing is for sure, no matter what time of the year you go, make sure to bring plenty of water, a full tank of gas and be prepared for NO cell service in the park.

If there is one thing Joshua Tree National Park is known for it is…well…the Joshua tree. These Dr Suess like trees are super fun looking and definitely cover the park. You drive through the park a little bit past the Ocotillos and Cholla Cactus Garden before you start to see the trees but once you do it will amaze you how many there are!

Since we only had one day in the park and not very many hours because of how long our drive was, we were picky about what we stopped for. Our first stop was Skull Rock and it did not disappoint. In fact, most of the family voted that it was our favorite part.

It doesn’t take long to see why it is called Skull Rock. Once you take a picture with the skull there are a bunch of giant boulders to hop around and climb on. It is so much fun. There is a trail you can follow that takes you up and over the rocks but we just stayed close to the entrance and played around a bit before moving on.

Even Tay was getting really into climbing the rocks. So sweet. The older kids had fun finding small crevices that they could jump across.

After Skull Rock we moved on to Hidden Valley Trail. There are also picnic tables all around the entrance of this trail so if you need to stop to eat before or after a hike, this is a good place for that. On the hike a friendly man was telling us the history behind the location. Apparently, according to him, the name comes from cow stealers that would steal cows from nearby ranchers/residents and they would hide them in this valley, hence the name, Hidden Valley.

This trail is definitely kid friendly. It is a 1 mile loop and very easy. Even our 2 year old walked most of the way. There are so many fun crevices to play in a rocks to climb. Keep an eye out for wildlife of course. We didn’t see any snakes but there were plenty of places they could of been out sunbathing. We did come across some lizards but that was it. We were told there were sometimes some big horn sheep there but we missed out on seeing any.

Our final stop before we had to head back home was Barker Dam Trail. I have mixed feeling about this trail but all in all I would do it again to try to find the dam. That’s right, we didn’t even see it. It is an easy trail and just slightly longer than Hidden Valley Trail at a 1.1 mile loop. There was a little more up and down climbing involved so definitely no stroller access but it was easy for our 5 year old still. Our 2 year old spent some times on dad, and my, shoulders because we were on our 2nd hike of the day.

As for the scenery, it was still beautiful in it’s desert sort of beauty. One thing I love about desert hikes is the conversations you can have with your kids about beauty growing in difficult terrain, like the flowers we saw blooming ON a rock.

Or these gorgeous flowers blooming from this extremely prickly cactus.

There was still plenty of Joshua trees…

…and more climbing on rocks and hiking through desert.

We never made it to the dam though and the only thing I can think of is when you see the arrow/sign pointing for you to turn left to start the loop back to the parking lot you should still keep hiking further past it to see the dam and then back track a little to get back to walking the trail back to the parking lot. We’ll have to find out for sure next time we go. I had read your best chance for seeing bighorn sheep and deer was at the dam since they come down to get water.

Places we wanted to get to but ran out of time this go around:

Lost Palm Oasis – that is right there is an oasis with warm sand & large California palms right in the middle of the dessert! It is a quick stop as you don’t have to hike long to go to it but we were just running out of daylight and needed to start our 4 hour drive back home.
Keys View – this is the highest viewpoint in the park giving you breathtaking views of the mesas, rocks and valley along with a glimpse of the infamous San Andreas Fault!
If you really have time to spend at the park you can set up a tour of Keys Ranch (only available with a paid tour) that really does look pretty cool. The tour gives you a glimpse into how settlers and natives lived on this land for so many years.

To sum it all up, you can still have a great experience at Joshua National Park, even if you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to it. Could we have spent more time there, absolutely! With that being said, we felt like we spent the perfect amount of time there to experience the park but not tire our littles out too much. I don’t think any of us are DYING to go back but we would love to stop by again at some point.

We even got a gorgeous sunset seeing us off as we got back on the highway to head home.

I’m grateful for these memories made with our family and I’m grateful for the reminder of just how beautiful this planet we get to call home is.