Travel Blogs – The Barefoot Nomad http://www.thebarefootnomad.com Travel. Tech. Family. Fun. Thu, 18 Jan 2018 04:03:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Things To Do in Vancouver With Kids http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/things-to-do-in-vancouver-with-kids/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/things-to-do-in-vancouver-with-kids/#comments Thu, 04 Jan 2018 01:30:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15159 Vancouver, one of Canada’s premiere destinations and wildly regarded as one of the world’s great cities, is also only a few hours away from our our place. As such, we’re in Vancouver several times a year with the family.

It’s a fantastic city, and there are plenty of things to do in Vancouver with the family, from indoor fun like the Vancouver Aquarium, to outdoor adventure by the ocean, to thrill seeking fun on either the Lynn Canyon or Capilano suspension bridges.

Things to do in Vancouver with kids

There are hundreds of fun things to do with kids in Vancouver, but we’ve picked the very best for this list.

The Vancouver Aquarium

The non-profit Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is committed to rehabilitation and re-release (wherever possible) of injured, ill or abandoned marine creatures. It also operates Ocean Wise, a conservation program that works directly with local restaurants, markets, food services and suppliers to ensure that they have the most current scientific information and to help them make ocean-friendly buying decisions.

The Vancouver Aquarium is Canada’s largest aquarium and home to over 58,000 animals. It’s a great place to take kids, with the new Discover Rays touch pool, and plenty of kid-friendly exhibits and play areas.

Vancouver Aquarium kids fun

Stanley Park

I’m not sure I can count how many times we’ve visited Stanley Park over the years. Quite handily, it’s right next to downtown and it also houses the Vancouver Aquarium. There are over 1000 acres here, with stunning views of Vancouver’s skyline, and plenty of room for kids to run free. It’s a special place that lets you glimpse the natural wonder of British Columbia’s coast in an urban setting. Be sure to take your time and wander through the giant Sequoia trees. If you love trees, Stanley Park won’t disappoint.

Ducks on Misty Beaver Lake Stanley Park Vancouver

First Nations heritage

The First Nations people of Vancouver have played a large role in preserving Stanley Park in its natural state. If you’re interested in First Nations culture, and especially the relationship between First Nations people with Northwest coast trees and plants, I’d highly recommend taking the Talking Trees tour with Talaysay Tours. It’s a two hour tour, and I was fascinated by our soft-spoken guide’s intimate and detailed knowledge. Just a note, this tour may be better suited to slightly older children.

Horse-drawn tours and railway tours

Everyone on these old-fashioned horse drawn carriages looks like they’re having a blast. The tour leaves from Coal Harbour, and a guide describes Stanley Park’s attractions, which include the Vancouver Harbour, Lions Gate Bridge, the cedar forest, totem poles, and Deadman’s Island and more.

The kids will also love the Stanley Park Miniature Railway and the Prospect Point totem poles.

Stanley Park beaches and more

Everyone in your group will love the miles of stunning boardwalks that line the rugged coast with walkers, joggers, bikers and rollerbladers all cruising by. There are also numerous beaches and beach volleyball courts set up along the shoreline.

Science World at TELUS World of Science

Kids adore Vancouver’s Science World, with it’s fun, hands-on interactive displays like Eureka!, as well as huge special events, OMNIMAX films and real life art exhibits. Even if you don’t go inside, there are plenty of free fun things to check out outside like the giant marble maze and the moving water stand.

With continually changing exhibits and galleries designed just for kids, there’s something new at Science World every time we go.

Vancouver Science Centre

Vancouver Seawall

The Vancouver Seawall is a 28 km (17 mile) long paved pathway that runs along the ocean front through most of metro Vancouver. Views are fantastic here, and it’s always busy with families and health enthusiasts. There are beaches, kids play structures and beach volleyball courts running along the seawall at various places so make sure you grab your swimsuit if you’re there in the summer months.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Kids will love this suspension bridge, which stretches 140 meters (over 450 feet) long and 70 meters (230 feet) high above the Capilano River. The only negatives I can say about it are that it can be busy, and that admission is steep at over $40 for an adult. Kids under six are free, though. As well as the bridge, there’s the Treetops Adventure, a decent collection of First Nations totem poles, rain forest ecotours, gardens, nature trails and the new cliff walk which lets you climb on the outside of a cliff along a slim cable suspension bridge.

The FREE Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

As an alternative to the pricey Capilano Suspension bridge, we like to visit the free Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge. The lesser known (and free!) Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver’s Lynn Canyon Park is a solid alternative to the Capilano bridge and has some pretty pathways that cross the bridge and lead down to natural pools and waterfalls.

Granville Island

Granville Island, in Vancouver’s downtown district, is the city’s most popular tourist attraction. Both kids and adults usually love a visit.

The main attraction here is the bustling Granville Island public market, full of fresh fruit and veggies, pastries and breads, specialty coffee, ethnic specialty cuisine, and artisan handicrafts. There are also almost 300 stores on Granville Island itself.

As well as the shops, there’s almost always some sort of show being performed on Granville Island. Whether that’s buskers blowing enormous water bubbles for the kids, musicians playing everything from bongos to reed instruments to banjos to dance troupes performing acrobatic stunts, there’s always something there to entertain the kids.

Vancouver Foodie Tours The Best of what to see do and eat in Vancouver British Columbia

Granville Island is surrounded by lovely views of the waters of False Creek and the Burrard Street Bridge. There are marinas and boats all along the shore front here. Also, be sure to take some time to walk by the floating water homes just east of the public market.

Getting to Granville Island

You can either cross the Granville Island bridge on car or on foot (it’s a very long walk by foot) however parking is very limited on Granville Island. As such, most people take an Aquabus Ferry to get there.

The kids will also love cruising around False Creek on the Granville Island Ferries, which runs a fleet of adorable, mini ferries that buzz back and forth between small docks around False Creek and Granville Island. It’s also the easiest way to get to Granville Island if you’re walking in from downtown.

Aquabus at Granville Island Vancouver

The Kids’ Market

Be sure to check out the kid’s market on Granville Island! It’s housed in a large, yellow building, and packed with toy shops and a busy play area. Your kids will love it, but your wallet probably won’t so take that as you will.

The Granville Island Water Park

Despite Granville Island’s small size, they’ve managed to build the largest free water park in North America. It’s open all summer and is a great place to chow down on all the goodies you picked up at the public market.

Kitsilano Beach

Located right downtown, Kitsilano beach is a long swath of soft, gold sand that peeks out over beautiful English Bay.

There’s plenty of fun to be had here resting on huge logs along the beaches, beachcombing for shells and playing in the golden sand. There’s also a playground right there with park benches for the parents and beach volleyball nets set up, ten tennis courts, as well as basketball courts.

Vanier Park

Kitsilano Beach, or Kits Beach as the locals call it, is next to expansive, leafy Vanier Park, which is home to the Museum of Vancouver, the Vancouver Maritime Museum, the City of Vancouver Archives, and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. There’s plenty of grass and space here, making it perfect for a relaxing day under the trees. If you visit during summer, check to see if the International Children’s Festival is happening in the park which is a popular festival for kids every summer.

English Bay from Vanier Park Vancouver

English Bay from Vanier Park Vancouver

Kitsilano Pool

You’ve likely seen photos of this outdoor, heated salt water pool with city and mountains in the background. It’s only open in the summer, and there’s a place for little kids in the shallows.

Cuddle cats at the Catfe

Catfe is Vancouver’s first cat cafe, featuring adoptable cats from the BC SPCA! Animal loving kids will adore a visit here, but since it’s hugely popular, make sure to make an online reservation as soon as you can since it’s usually booked up days in advance.

Catfe Vancouver

Saving money on your trip to Vancouver

Vancouver’s beautiful and fun, sure, but it can also be a bit pricey. Here’s little list of ways to save some cash in Vancouver.

Attractions near UBC

During our last visit to Vancouver, we stayed on the UBC (University of British Columbia) Campus, at the lovely West Coast Suites at UBC. If you’re looking for a quieter pace, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Museum of Anthropology (MOA) and the Greenheart TreeWalk at the UBC Botanical Garden may be just the ticket.

Tip! If you’re planning to visit several UBC attractions, look into the UBC Museums and Gardens Pass. You can buy adult, concession (senior, youth or student) or family passes. The pass gives you admission to the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Nitobe Memorial Garden and the UBC Botanical Garden. It also gives discounts on food, books, clothing and the fun Canopy Treewalk.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

An enormous blue whale skeleton is the first thing you’ll notice at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. Inside, we were fascinated by a dated, but interesting, documentary on how the blue whale skeleton was found, unearthed, and installed. The vault-like downstairs houses more than two million specimens of plants, marine invertebrates, insects, fish, vertebrates, fungi, and fossils. Kids with a naturalist or scientific bent will love this place.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

Greenheart TreeWalk and the UBC Botanical Garden

Our kids had a blast tearing along this 310 metre (1,000 foot) long canopy walkway. It’s not as tall or scary as the Capilano or Lynn Canyon Suspension bridges, but the multiple walkways make it a lot of fun for kids. At its tallest, it’s almost 20 metres (65 feet) above the forest floor.

Tip! The Greenheart TreeWalk is not included in the UBC Museums and Gardens Pass, but the pass offers a 10% discount on the treewalk.

The Greenheart TreeWalk is in the larger UBC Botanical Garden, which covers about 110 acres (44 hectares) and has over 8,000 different plants. We loved the long, winding trails through big, shady trees, as it gave the kids (and us!) a chance to burn off some energy.

Greenheart TreeWalk at UBC Botanical Gardens

Museum of Anthropology (MOA)

If your kids are a little older, they may appreciate the beautiful Museum of Anthropology (MOA). Inside, there are stunning displays of First Nations totem poles plus 38,000 ethnographic objects, as well as 535,000 archaeological objects. The MOA building, designed by famed architect Arthur Erickson, is a gem in itself.

Museum of Anthropology Vancouver

The best family accommodation in Vancouver

Deciding where to stay in Vancouver with a family can be a bit tricky. All of the accommodation downtown can be a bit pricier, but it’s a good choice if you want to be near the city’s main attractions. We’ve picked our favorite downtown hotels, an excellent choice just out of the center, as well as a great airport hotel, and our best value option out of the downtown.

The Perfect Location – Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver

A couple of years ago, our little family stayed at the Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver for two very happy days.

It’s a gorgeous hotel in a perfect location downtown across from Canada Place, and it caters perfectly to families. Our kids loved sitting in the room looking out over the harbor to watch float planes land and take off, and cruise ships like the Disney Wonder dock. Rooms are modern and beautiful, with plenty of room for little ones to run about, and it has every amenity you would want, from a heated outdoor pool to a spacious gym to quality dining downstairs. There’s even a rooftop herb garden and beehives that you can visit!

See prices and availability.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver

The relaxed family hotel – West Coast Suites UBC

Don’t get me wrong, we love Vancouver’s downtown. It’s interesting and vibrant, with plenty to do and see. However, downtown’s not always a kid friendly place. When the kids were a bit younger, we were in town for a wedding, and got a hotel a close to Granville Street. On the way back to the hotel from the reception, with our then nine and six year olds in tow, we had to dodge a lot of drunk and rowdy folks so choose your place accordingly.

Needless to say, we were up for a hotel that was a bit more relaxed the next time we visited the city.

West Coast Suites at UBC was a perfect choice, with its location out of the downtown core, and surrounded by quiet grounds. Driving to the hotel, you’ll see the spacious UBC campus to one side, and get peeks of British Columbia’s stunning Pacific Coast on the other.

All of the rooms at West Coast Suites at UBC are one bedroom units with a full kitchen and a pull-out Queen bed for the kids. You can read more about our West Coast Suites stay here.

See prices and availability.

West Coast Suites UBC living area

West Coast Suites UBC living area

The airport choice – Fairmont Vancouver Airport In-Terminal Hotel

The Fairmont Vancouver Airport In-Terminal Hotel is Vancouver’s only in-terminal airport hotel. It gets great ratings, and might be worth the splurge if you’re looking for a little luxury at the airport. There’s a surcharge for WiFi.

See prices and availability here.

The budget downtown option

If you’re looking for a budget hotel in the heart of downtown, Robson Suites and Sunset Inn and Suites both get good reviews.

We haven’t stayed in either because they’re always infuriatingly fully booked far in advance, but they’re both smaller boutique hotels that should run you close to, or under, $120 a night for a double room. Both hotels include free WiFi, but Robson Suites is closer to Stanley Park (but doesn’t include breakfast, though rooms have a kitchen or kitchenette), while Sunset Inn is right next to Stanley Park (and includes breakfast in the rate).

See Robson Suites availability.

Check Sunset Inn and Suites availability.

A bit of a drive, but great value – Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Riverport Richmond

If you’re up for taking the SkyTrain or driving into downtown Vancouver, and want to save a few $$, the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Riverport Richmond is an affordable, clean option. We stayed here for a few days a few years ago, and would stay again. It’s a pretty standard chain hotel, but clean and new, with free breakfast, free airport shuttle, fast, free WiFi, and a pool and hot tub.

See prices and availability here.

The Hidden Gem – The hotel on Granville Island

Granville Island Hotel is one of Vancouver’s less known gems. It’s a boutique hotel located right on Granville Island, overlooking the water, and gets great reviews.

Check prices and reviews here.

Airbnb

As a family, we love staying in Airbnb properties. We always rent a condo or house, which gives us a kitchen, more bedrooms, and often an extra bathroom. The price you’ll pay varies on location and size, but a small private studio starts at around $60/night downtown, while a private two bedroom starts at around $100.

Create a new account using this link, and get $35 USD in Airbnb credits the first time you use them. (We get a credit, too).

Vancouver fun with kids

How to get around Vancouver as a family

Whether you drive, grab the efficient Skytrain, or take a scenic SeaBus, there are plenty of transportation options for families in Vancouver.

SeaBus to North Vancouver

This is relaxing, affordable ride across Burrard Inlet, and gives you a lovely view of Stanley Park, the Lions Gate bridge, and mountains on the distance. Kids will love watching float planes land and watching the other boats on the water.

Ferries

Vancouver public transit includes the SeaBus (above). To get to Vancouver Island or the other off coast islands, you can take a ferry with BC Ferries.

Granville Island has its own ferry company, Granville Island Ferries, with a fleet of adorable, mini ferries that buzz back and forth between small docks around False Creek and Granville Island.

Hop-on, Hop-off Sightseeing

We haven’t had a chance to take the hop-on, hop-off trolley downtown, but our kids’ eyes light up every time they see it drive by. I’m sure it’ll be a huge hit!

Wee ones are thrilled to see Vancouver from an old-fashioned trolley or an open-air bus. With fully narrated tours, Vancouver’s hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tours give a great overview of the city, along with giving families the flexibility to make stops whenever suits them. Hop off to explore all the downtown attractions, then hop back on again to continue to the next exciting destination.

Vancouver Downtown Vancouver Trolley Hop on Hop off Tour

Drive

Driving around downtown Vancouver is certainly possible, and we’ve done it many times. As long as you’re not visiting during a major event, there are usually enough parkades to handle the traffic. Just be warned: traffic can get highly congested during rush hour or if there’s an accident. Parking is also one of the most expensive in Canada and runs $10 to $30 a day in downtown Vancouver, depending on your location.

Skytrain

Most visitors to Vancouver take advantage of the Skytrain service around the city. The system is quick, efficient (trains leave the downtown stations every two to five minutes) and covers most of the city. You can take the Skytrain out to the suburbs, and scenic Westminster Quay on the way to (not so scenic) Surrey.

Public transit

Aside from the ubiquitious Skytrain, Vancouver has a large fleet of buses that cover most of the city and are a great option if you’re staying at UBC.

Uber and Lyft

As of January 2018, ride sharing apps like Uber or Lyft aren’t available in British Columbia, but there are suggestions that may change soon.

Have you visited Vancouver with kids? What were your favorite Vancouver attractions for the family?

Things to do in Vancouver with Kids We travel to Vancouver several times a year with the family. There's always so much to do, including walking or biking the seawall, having fun at the aquarium or hiking through Stanley Park | Vancouver Travel | Vancouver BC Canada | Vancouver with kids | Vancouver with Family #Vancouver #BC #travel Things to do in Vancouver with Kids There are hundreds of things to do in Vancouver with the kids, from indoor fun like the Vancouver Aquarium, to outdoor adventure by the ocean, to thrill seeking fun on the Lynn Canyon or Capilano suspension bridge. | Vancouver Travel | Vancouver BC Canada | Vancouver with kids | Vancouver with Family #Vancouver #BC #travel ]]>
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When is The Best Time To Visit Dubai? It’s Not When You Think http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/asia/when-is-the-best-time-to-visit-dubai-its-not-when-you-think/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/asia/when-is-the-best-time-to-visit-dubai-its-not-when-you-think/#comments Tue, 19 Dec 2017 22:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15575 Wondering when is the best time to visit Dubai?

Spoiler: It’s not when you think.

Well, the truth is you can go anytime, but to really have the best experience, you want to be there when the weather isn’t too hot, so you can hit the beaches as well as the mile long designer malls.

Since air conditioning is common throughout the city, and people do in Dubai year round, it’s definitely accessible for most of the year.

When should i visit Dubai As such, the only drawback to visiting Dubai in the winter is that it also coincides with their busiest season. With that kind of weather and so many unique things to do in Dubai, it’s no wonder everyone wants to visit during winter.

However, if you really want to enjoy your trip, the best time to visit Dubai is from early November to late March. That’s when the average highs make going outdoors a joy, and give you plenty of things to see and do both inside and outside the city.

The Best Time to Visit Dubai

Already sold on booking a trip to Dubai? Then check out hotel and flight deals for getting to Dubai on the biggest travel search site in the Middle East, Wego. If you’re still not convinced, read on!

Dubai’s weather

It’s no secret that Dubai is a hot place. Both figuratively and literally. Temperatures routinely go above 105°F or 40 Celsius over their summer (June to September) while daily highs during winter hit the low 80s and high 70s. That’s plenty high for hitting world famous Jumeirah Beach or spending the afternoon driving the nearby sand dunes in the adjacent desert.

Dubai white sand beaches and skyscrapers in the distance

Dubai Beaches

If you’re still not convinced about the best time to visit Dubai, just remember that Dubai is nicknamed the Desert City for a reason. Dubai literally lies in the middle of the Arabian Desert. As such, there’s no shortage of sand, and though the days can get hot, the nights definitely stay cool outside of their hot summer season.

Dubai is also naturally a dry place, and you can expect nothing but sunshine most days of the year. That said, it does get damp in the hot summer months, so there’s another reason to go to Dubai during the winter.

Dubai’s tourist season or high season

What’s the best season to visit Dubai?

It stands to reason that Dubai’s largest tourist season coincides with the weather. Dubai’s high season runs from November to March as well.

As such, the only drawback to visiting Dubai in the winter is that it also coincides with their busiest season. With that kind of weather, and so many unique things to do in Dubai, it’s no wonder everyone wants to visit during winter.

Airfare  and hotel prices reach their peak prices during Dubai’s high season. However, the big plus is that everything is open during the winter in Dubai. Lots of shops and attractions close down during their summer months when most people aren’t willing to brave the heat.

That means that if you go from November to March you’ll get a chance to visit any of Dubai’s three3 water parks as well as the hugely popular Global Village. There’s also LEGOLAND Dubai (read our review of LEGOLAND Florida here) and the world’s largest indoor theme park, the IMG Worlds of Adventure. You can also get your Bollywood on at Dubai’s Bollywood Park!

Global Village Dubai

Global Village Dubai

Dubai’s shoulder season

Dubai’s shoulder seasons, which are unofficially April/May and then September/October, can get pretty warm. If you love the heat, this might be the best time to travel to Dubai, since things quiet down in the city around this time. That means shorter lineups at the attractions and better deals for flights and hotels.

It’s also a great time to enjoy mornings at the beach and early evenings walking around Dubai’s marina and boardwalks. Dubai truly comes alive as the sun sets.

Of course, it also means that certain places and attraction are either shut down or on reduced hours, so you have to weigh everything out. If you want to see Dubai in all its glory, while also working heavily on your tan, while also saving a few dollars, then Dubai’s shoulder season might be for you.

Dubai Marina at night with lighted walkways and anchored boats

Dubai Marina at night

Dubai’s low season

Don’t like the outdoors anyway or just love a great deal? Then Dubai’s low season, which runs from June to September, might be for you. Sure, lots of things are closed down due to the summer heat, but the world class malls and shops are still open and you can get some killer deals on everything from flights and hotels to store wide sales.

Even better, you can often score some fantastic deals on airfare during low season.

If you’re more highbrow, Dubai has you covered as well. Dubai isn’t known as the cultural center of the Middle East for nothing. There are dozens of galleries, art exhibits, cinemas, music halls, cafes and clubs all around the city that aren’t as dependent on the weather. You can also do everything from indoor skiing to indoor skydiving in Dubai year round, and still enjoy early mornings at the beach and late nights walking along the paved paths and boardwalks along the Persian Gulf.

Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall

Best time to go to Dubai

No matter which season you head to Dubai, there’s bound to be something for you to do in this cosmopolitan, man-made marvel of a city.

In winter, you can enjoy sand boarding down the slopes of Big Red, the colorful 91 meter high sand dune just outside the city, or traveling back in time and enjoying the rich scents, sights and sounds of the ancient souks still found at the heart of Dubai.

In the shoulder season, you can visit any of Dubai’s theme parks and enjoy the empty lines, as well as carefree mornings basking in the Arabian sunshine along the miles of Persian Gulf beaches, while still enjoying the marvels of Dubai at night.

In Dubai’s hot summer season, you can forego the lines and prices and enjoy everything a cultured city like Dubai has to offer. Just realize that you’ll want to spend all your time inside to fully enjoy the city in the summer months.

In short, Dubai has something for everyone all year long and having the third busiest airport in the world means that getting to Dubai is as easy as booking your airfare.

Looking for something unique to do in Dubai? Check out our post on unique things to do in Dubai here.

Where to stay in Dubai!

The Dubai luxury hotel

If you’re looking for a luxury hotel in Dubai with a beach and Spa, you can’t do much better than the highly rated Nikki Beach Resort and Spa Dubai. It’s gorgeous, rates well, and many rooms include breakfast. Just be ready to shell out $500 a night or more.

See availability and prices.

The Affordable Alternative

The Dusit D2 Kenz Hotel Dubai is a solid budget choice. It’s got free WiFi and free parking, and often comes in at under $100 a night, and gets great ratings for staff, location, and large rooms.

See prices here.

The family hotel

The Jerimiah Creekside Hotel rates extremely well with families. It has large rooms, good staff, plus fast check in. It should run abour $150 a night.

See prices here.

The Hostel

You can’t do much better than Dubai’s At the Top Hostel. There are Privates, Twins, Quadruples as well as Female/Male/Mixed Dormitories for 2, 4, 6 & 8 guests, and it’s a few minutes walk to the public beach with famous Barasti beach bar. WiFi and breakfast are free.

See prices and availability.

at the top hostel dubai

UAE society celebrates the return of British Polo Day | Dubai

British Polo on Camel

The Best Time to Visit Dubai Since air condition is rampant throughout the city, and people do live there year round, it’s definitely accessible for most of the year however, if you really want to enjoy your trip, the best time to visit Dubai is from early November to late March. Dubai - when to visit. Well, the truth is you can go anytime but to really maximize your experience, you want to be there when the weather isn’t too hot so you can hit the beaches as well as the mile long designer malls. ]]>
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Marival Residences Luxury Resort Review: Family Friendly Luxury http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/marival-residences-luxury-resort-review-family-friendly-luxury/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/marival-residences-luxury-resort-review-family-friendly-luxury/#respond Tue, 28 Nov 2017 18:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15281 marival sponsored disclosure

Last year, I was lucky enough to spend a few days at the Marival Residences Luxury Resort in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit. So, this year, when Marival invited the whole family along to check out their Family Emotion Program we were happy to join in.

When you need a break, sometimes an all inclusive hotel is the perfect choice. Winter was creeping in on us in Canada, and the idea of a stress-free vacation somewhere with a long stretch of beach and some nice warm swimming pools sounded like exactly what we needed.

 

Why a special family program? If you’ve ever traveled with kids, you know that it’s a completely different experience than traveling alone or as a couple. Days of lounging on the beach and partying the night away are long gone, and replaced by playtime in the sand and mid-afternoon naps (it’s not all bad).

How much does it cost? Click here to find out.

The Family Emotion Program at Marival does a really good job of figuring out what parents and kids want. There are plenty of fun activities, a concierge to help organize your trip, and goodies for both the parents and the kids!

The Marival Family Emotion program

Marival’s all-inclusive Family Emotion program is just for families. It includes a ton of goodies, all which are customized for your family’s needs. I’m pretty sure they thought of absolutely everything!

Family concierge service

I think the very best part of the program is that each family gets a family concierge to help with their stay. Our Family Emotion concierge, Raquel, was absolutely wonderful. She was attentive to us (but never intrusive), and always helpful and welcoming. We had absolutely first class service from her – as good as any hotel we’ve ever stayed in.

Welcome basket

Inside our room, we found a welcome basket of healthy and sweet snacks. With hungry kiddos, this was the perfect welcome!

snack basket at hotel

A stocked mini-bar with family goodies

Our full size fridge came stocked with soda, beer, juice, yogurt and chocolate milk! Even better, it was refilled every day and we could request just about anything from the resort.

Marival suite kitchen fridge

Nanny Service!

Yes, you heard me right: up to eight hours of child care is included during your stay (conditions apply). That means that if you want to go out together for anything from a special meal to a few hours at the spa you can knowing your children are in good hands.

Kids Club

Every day from 9 am to 5 pm, you have the option of dropping your kids off at the kids club. They can play video games, do crafts, and have a lot of fun while you enjoy a few kid free hours.

Gifts for the kids!

There was an adorable bath basket in the kid’s bathroom, waiting for each child. This included some tub toys and some special child friendly bath products.

kid's gift basket

Pampering for Mom

Our room came with a gorgeous basket of high end L’Occitane pampering essentials for Mom, and a gift certificate for the on-site spa (more on that later!)

moms gift basket

Beach essentials and toys

In our suite, we also found a bag filled with sunscreen and beach essentials, plus a family menu to help us select from a broad choice of beach and pool toys, as well as other vacation essentials. Once you’ve selected from the list, pass the form back to the Family Emotion concierge and they’ll deliver everything right to your room.

Family picnic

One of the great Family Emotion options at Marival Residences is that you can order a fully prepared picnic for wherever you like. You can have it delivered to the beach or by the pool. We had ours dropped off in our room to enjoy beside our semi private demi pool. The chocolate cake dessert where a huge hit with the kids and we enjoyed the mountain of guacamole they included in our specially made picnic basket.Our Marival Family Emotion picnic

In Room Family fun!

When we ventured out on our own, our kids adored the free Xbox console and game rental they provided. There are also DVD players, movies, electronics, water toys and more available via the Family Emotion program.

Outdoor family fun!

As well as the kid pool and the always entertaining splash pad, Marival Residences also has a playground area and they even rent out free bikes so you and the family can go for a family excursion. The best news, a few of them are 3 seaters so even the littlest riders don’t get left behind.

A family photo shoot

I couldn’t remember the last time that we had a family photo shoot!

The Family Emotion Program comes with a professional photo shoot, with a photo album and CD, plus a gift card to develop prints when you’re back home.

We were very happy with our family photo session. The sky was a little cloudy however the photos turned out beautifully and the photographer was fun to work with.

a photo from our family photo session

Included Tours and fun!

The Family Emotion package comes with a free off site activity for every person, as well as a free second family tour.

There are numerous options to choose from so went zip lining as a family, and also had a blast driving on a little RAZR off road vehicle over a giant swinging suspension bridge.

RAZR car over the river

Want to learn more? Check out our article on what to do in the Riviera Nayarit, with 23 wonderful experiences, from visiting the bustling surfing town of Sayulita, to checking out the idyllic vibe of San Pancho, to snorkeling the aquamarine waters off Marietas Islands (where you can see birds like blue-footed boobies of Galapagos Islands fame).

Zip lining fun

 

Our room at Marival Residences

Our two bedroom Family Emotion suite with a semi private demi-pool was a whopping 1,711 square feet. That’s huge!

When we walked into the nicely air conditioned space, we saw a modern open-plan living space with a full kitchen, dining area and a living room with a large flatscreen TV.

The two bedrooms each had a private en-suite bathroom, plus each had a flatscreen TV. Our master bedroom had a lovely deep bath and King-size bed, while the kid’s room had two double beds.

Marival master bedroom

We even had our own private washer and dryer, plus our ground floor suite had outdoor lounge chairs by the pool as well as a patio table and chairs.

Marival bedroom

The kiddos loved the fridge filled with drinks, and the fruit and snack basket. Anyone with kids knows they get hungry at the most inconvenient times so that was a huge plus when the kiddos were feeling peckish.

Marival kitchen

What about maid service? Yep, it’s included. Our daily cleaning service was always on time, and did a great job. They also provide turn down service complete with tasty little snacks like chocolate or cookies.

All of the Family Emotion accommodation is in two or three bedroom suites, with the option of an ocean view, a demi-pool, a penthouse suite, or even a three bedroom private villa.

In our demi pool ...

In our heated demi pool …

The Hotel

There’s definitely something wonderful about an all-inclusive, no worries vacation. Once we donned our cool, braided bracelets from the Marival Residences Luxury Resort, we could eat and drink all we wanted. Not only could we enjoy all of the facilities at our resort, we also had access to the nearby Marival Resort’s facilities and restaurants.

This is a great deal, as you essentially get two resorts facilities for the price of one. The Marival Resort sister hotel is just five minutes away. There’s a free shuttle that runs every 15 minutes from the main lobby and the Marival Resort also has a special area devoted just to the Marival Residences as well as the rest of the resort.

WiFi: There’s WiFi Internet access throughout Marival Residences Luxury Resort. I had great luck with my connection, which rarely dropped, and worked reliably in my room and all throughout the resort. That said, if you find your internet connection to be slow, ask for an upgrade, as they do have faster speeds available.

The Food at Marival Residences

In general, we found the food quality well above what we’ve had at a typical all inclusive in Mexico.

The all inclusive program includes all snacks, breakfast, lunch, drinks and a la carte dinner specialties, plus national and international brand drinks.

There are five restaurants on site, plus the VIP beach club, room service and poolside service, in addition to six restaurants at the sister resort, Marival Resort & Suites.

As vegetarians, the kids and I were very happy. There were always vegetarian options available, which is wonderful, because we often have a difficult time at resorts!

There’s really not much bad to say about the food here, but we’d love to see a few more family friendly menu items always available at the hotel, like pasta or pizza. Since the menu for the Lemmon Grass was a set menu, there wasn’t a lot for kids there. When we went inside to Omaggio, the theme night was Asian, and like many US and Canadian kids, ours don’t love Asian foods. When we went upstairs to Insu, we found a few items that the kids loved, but it would be nice if the main restaurant, Omaggio, always had a few kids’ items available, or a separate kids menu.

Room Service!

Room service is included with the all-inclusive package at Marival, though you do pay a 10% surcharge. Being able to get room service 24 hours a day, seven days a week was one of my favorite parts of staying at the Marival Residences. The kids loved it too!

We had great luck with room service, as it came quickly and everything was the correct temperature and quite tasty. Our room was close to the main lobby, so that may have made it especially fast. Their breakfasts were especially tasty.

Insu Sky Lounge

Insu was my favorite restaurant at Marival Residences Luxury Resort. It’s located in the penthouse of the main building, above the lobby, with an impressive view overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Menu items are all bite size to share, and we all found everything to be delicious. My kids adored the bite sized Caesar salad and especially the grilled cheese while Charles raved about their great sliders.

Omaggio

The largest restaurant at Marival Residences is Omaggio. The menu is huge, with a great selection, and it offers a themed evening menu for each day of the week.

Lemmon Grass

Located outdoors, Lemmon Grass is a casual and elegant poolside restaurant. It has a set menu at night however the menu varies by day.

Lemmon Grass Restaurant Marival Residences

Grill al Fresco

Grill al Fresco is outside by the pool, and has plenty of dishes for breakfast, including Mexican delights, an omelette station, and a selection of fruits, juice and pastries. At night the Grill al Fresco transforms into a barbecue.

Brunello Lobby Wine Bar

Brunello Lobby Wine Bar is a lovely, intimate spot to enjoy tapas and a glass of wine (some wines are not included in the all-inclusive plan).

Poolside snack service

If you’re in the mood for a snack by the pool, just wave over a server, and they’ll bring you snacks and drinks poolside. Our family can wholeheartedly recommend the chips and dip as well as the fries. The guacamole everywhere in the hotel is extraordinary!

Mozzamare Beach Club

The brand new, ocean side Mozzamare Beach Club serves up (my favorite!) tasty guacamole and chips, fresh seafood as well as gourmet dishes and beverages. They were still partly under construction when we were there however the area was already looking gorgeous and, judging by all the smiling people, a huge hit with the crowds.

Mozzamare beach club

Mozzamare Beach Experience

There’s beach access, a Palapa Restaurant and another gorgeous pool here, and this beach section is only a few minutes walk from the main area, conveniently on site at the Marival Residences Luxury Resort. Charles and Cole both grabbed a free boogie board and enjoyed the waves while we all enjoyed watching dolphins jumping out of the water in front of us. The Mozzamare beach club is new this year, and it’s a fantastic addition from my trip last year.

We also enjoyed a special night time celebration at the Mozzamare Restaurant and think that it would be the perfect location for an outdoor wedding!

Food at the sister Marival Resort

Guests of the Marival Luxury Residences can also eat at the sister hotel, the Marival Resort. The Marival Resort has several restaurants, including La Pergola (the large buffet restaurant), Piazzetta del Forni (thin crust pizza), Las Palmas (Mexican cuisine), La Palapa and Miramar Bars, La Bamba Rodizio, and Amalfi (Italian).

The Melange World Spa

If you’re a spa lover, then the onsite Melange World Spa is for you. The spa treatments and decorations are based on therapies from around the world so if you love choices, then this is the spa for you!

At Melange, you can enjoy a specialized World Spa Experience from Mexico, Italy, Japan, Turkey, Russia, Bali, India, Thailand, or the USA. Each spa is unique, and based on the spa history and culture for which it’s named.

Italy Spa at Melange World Spa Marival Luxury Resort and Residences

Italy Vendimia Wine Experience

We had a wonderful time with the family spa package. Both of our kiddos (aged eight and twelve), enjoyed a facial and massage with us. I think that our daughter may have found one of her new favorite things to do on vacation.

Our little girl enjoying a chocolate facial

Our little girl enjoying a chocolate facial

If you’re interested in a few of the other World Spa experiences, these two definitely stand out as all around faves:

The Italy Vendimia Wine Experience starts with a wine therapy bath in an original wooden winebarrel, where you enjoy a wine tasting, followed by a full body relaxing massage.

The India Shirodhara Spa Experience includes a Shirodhara treatment with herbal oil that is poured in a steady stream onto your third eye, and a gentle scalp massage to help relax the nervous system. All of this is done on a traditional wooden table (with padding to make it comfortable) that was imported from India. Following the oil treatment, there’s an Abhyanga therapy whole body massage with warm herbal oils, followed by a steaming hot water bath in a luxurious copper tub.

Melange World Spa India Shirodhara Experience

India Shirodhara Spa Experience

All of the spa treatments are uniquely customized to the area of the world where they originated. For instance, the Mexico Agave treatment (which I enjoyed last time) featured a facial and body wrap with the native agave plant, cacao, honey, aloe vera, and Mayan mud, with a facial and body exfoliation and a light body massage. There’s also a specialized couples massage, or a men’s wellness & renewal treatment.

Melange World Spa Couples Massage room.jpg

Couples Massage

Melange also offers traditional spa treatments, including facials as well as hand and foot treatments.

Marival Residences Family Emotion

The beach in nearby Sayulita

Where is Riviera Nayarit?

The Riviera Nayarit, which includes Nuevo Vallarta, is the northern neighbor of well-known Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s ruggedly beautiful Pacific Coast. The Puerto Vallarta airport actually serves both areas and is actually closer to Marival Residences (around 15 minutes) in Nayarit than some of the downtown hotels on the Jalisco state side.

The bottom line

Like many Canadians, we’ve been to many all-inclusive resorts, and we’ve visited Mexico many times over the years.

The Family Emotion Program at the Marival Residences Luxury Resort was, hands down, one of the very best family programs we’ve ever enjoyed. It’s a perfect place to visit for a stress-free, relaxing holiday with the kids!

Want to book? Just head over to the Marival website to book directly with the hotel.

We even have a great deal for you with the Marival 100 Free Extra Ahhs promotion.

You can get a $100 Spa Credit to relax and celebrate the brand new Marival Residences Beach World! There’s a 5 night minimum stay.

You need to know:

Hotel: Marival Residences Luxury Resort

Where to book? You can book directly with the hotel.

Online Reviews: TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Address: Av. Paseo Cocoteros Lt 53 Villa 8, 63732 Nuevo Vallarta, Nay., Mexico

Location: Half-hour drive from downtown Puerto Vallarta

Nearest Airport: 15 minute drive from Puerta Vallarta’s PVR airport, the Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport

Phone: +52 322 226 9740

This trip was in partnership with Marival Residences Luxury Resort and the Riviera Nayarit tourism board.

Riviera Nayarit All Inclusive Family Luxury Hotel Riviera Nayarit All Inclusive hotel ]]>
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Things to do in Isla Mujeres http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/things-to-do-in-isla-mujeres/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/things-to-do-in-isla-mujeres/#comments Sat, 25 Nov 2017 18:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15372 It’s no secret that we love Isla Mujeres on Mexico’s Gulf Coast. Warm blue waters, fantastic beaches, good snorkeling, and a great selection of restaurants all make Isla Mujeres a must see if you’re on Mexico’s Mayan Riviera.

Located only a short 20 minute ferry ride from Cancun, Isla Mujeres makes a great day trip and an even greater longer mini escape from your Cancun vacation.

Oh yeah, have I mentioned you can drive the entire island on a golf cart, in half a day? We did it the first time a few years ago and it’s still one of our favorite family travel highlights.

Beach in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Likewise, if you find yourself down in Playa Del Carmen, Akumal, Tulum or even staying on Cozumel, then Isla Mujeres is pretty easy and inexpensive to get to. We’ve done the trip from Playa del Carmen more than a few times now and have enjoyed our trip to Isla Mujeres every single time.

Now, we’ve written about Mexico‘s Isla Mujeres a few times over the years and, to be honest, not much has changed. Of course it’s grown, but that only means more golf cart rentals and more options. We don’t find that it’s gotten any busier and it seems there’s just more to do there these days with a lot more places to rent from.

Isla Mujeres

Things to do in Isla Mujeres Mexico

So, without any further ado, here are our things to do in Isla Mujeres.

Rent a golf cart on Isla Mujeres

Haha, if you read our previous Isla Mujeres post you don’t think I’d miss this one. There are now dozens of golf cart rental companies on Isla Mujeres, and though they do still occasionally run out during the holidays and busiest times of the year, most days you’re fine as long as you arrive before noon.

You can pretty much drive to every place on the island, and if you’re there for multiple days, you can spend lazy afternoons on different beaches every day. You can walk or take a taxi most places on the island, but if you want true freedom, rent a golf cart and enjoy yourself.

Sea birds at Isla Mujeres

Relax on the beaches on Isla Mujeres

Since we just talked about beaches, there are around six semi-official major beaches on Isla Mujeres and a bunch of smaller ones. Some, like Playa Norte, feature bars and beach chairs and on many you can rent SUPs, kayaks, water toys and even snorkeling equipment.

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres

Playa Norte (North Beach) is by far the most popular and is often rated one of the best in the Caribbean. Playa Norte is just minutes from downtown, and the palm trees and luxurious white sand make Playa Norte muy hermosa. Playa Norte has almost no current, and kids and adults can wade pretty far out and the water will only reach their waist.

Playa Posada, found along the west side isn’t as crowded, however the water isn’t as clear, and Playa Media Luna is a beautiful crescent shaped beach but the water can be rough.

Playa Indios, Playa Paraiso and Playa Lancheros are all more secluded beaches found on the west side facing Cancun. You can rent beach chairs and umbrellas there, and open air restaurants, gift shops and public bathrooms are close by.

kids playing in the sand in Isla Mujeres Mexico

Stay in one of the many lovely hotels in Isla Mujeres

There are lots of hotels to choose from on Isla Mujeres, and they cater to every taste and budget. You can stay on the beach or off, with a family or as a couple, at places like Beloved Hotels, an Adults-Only Boutique All-Inclusive. With swimming pools and all inclusive plans, staying at a hotel in Isla Mujeres can be a great way to start or end a long day seeing the sites.

La Tortuga Granja (The Turtle Farm)

Love sea turtles? So do we, and that’s why we always stop by the Turtle Farm in Isla Mujeres. Since large sea turtles have made Isla Mujeres their breeding ground for generations, the Turtle Farm gathers up the eggs it finds along the beaches and incubates them at the Turtle Farm thereby greatly increasing their chances of survival.

It's turtles all the way down at La Tortuga Granja

It’s turtles all the way down at La Tortuga Granja

Depending on the time of year you’re there, you can see hundreds of turtles in the tanks growing up in the large tanks around the property. There is a great celebration the day they’re released back into the wild.

Hands on at the Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm

In the main building there is also a small aquarium with sea horses, lobsters, crabs, tropical fish and even an octopus. There are also a few land turtles and family of iguanas who hang out along one side of the building.

Sea Turtles at Tortugranja

Sea Turtles at Tortugranja

The Joysxee Floating Bottle Island

If you’re looking for quirky things to do in Isla Mujeres, you can check out the Floating Bottle Island. Created a few years back by Richart Sowa, this floating recycler’s dream is completely built using used plastic water bottles and recycled materials, including a three story house and an outdoor bar. You’ll need to talk to the locals about its current location, since the floating house moves around the island from time to time. There is a small entrance fee.

Punta Sur

Located at the far southern edge of Isla Mujeres, Punta Sur features not only the highest elevation in all the Yucatan, but it’s also the easternmost point in all of Mexico. That’s right, the sun hits Punta Sur before anywhere else in Mexico and we’ve heard that it’s a glorious sight.

Punta Sur on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Featuring an ancient Mayan temple honoring the Mayan Goddess Ixchel, it also boasts a lighthouse and dozens of modern sculptures around the property. Due to some of the most dramatic sea cliffs in all of Mexico, Punta Sur makes a great place to grab a bite to eat while looking out to sea.

Punta Sur Coast

Punta Sur

MUSA Underwater Sculpture Museum

Conceived by Jason deCaires Taylor, Isla Mujeres is home to the largest underwater museum on earth. The clear waters off Isla Mujeres make a great place to scuba dive or snorkel while seeing how thousands of underwater sculptures change in time in regards to coral growth and marine interaction. The scope of the project is mind blowing and the combination of art and marine conservation is great to see.

Garrafon Reef Park

The Garrafon Reef Park is a great place to spend an afternoon. Its all-inclusive packages include a buffet lunch and an open bar. Not only do they feature zip lines over the clear aquamarine waters, you can rent kayaks, snorkel equipment, life jackets and they have plenty of hammocks to lounge on as well as relax in their infinity pool. Admission includes bathrooms, lockers, showers and entrance to the Sculpture Garden and Punta Sur.

Garrafon Natural Reef Park

Garrafon Natural Reef Park

Garrafón de Castilla

The Garrafón de Castilla is right next to the Garrafón Reef Park at the south end of the island, and your entrance fee includes lounge chairs with beach umbrellas, restrooms and shower areas. You can rent snorkel gear and lockers here. They have a small snack bar and a restaurant right on the property.

The Zocalo (Town Square)

Located in the center of town, the Zocalo or Town Square comes alive most evenings as celebrations, dances and events kick up with local Mexican families and tourists alike sharing in the celebrations. You can eat tacos and pastries from the vendors lining the park, as well as pick up souvenirs from local artists. The kids will enjoy the small playground.

Isla Mujeres Mexico pier

Fun on the water in Isla Mujeres

We’ve talked about the beaches, but there is also world class deep sea fishing in the water of Isla Mujeres. From deep sea fishing for marlin, sailfish and dorado to spear fishing tuna and barracuda, Isla Mujeres has some of the best sea fishing in the Mexico. Tours and guides can be hired for the day or the week.

Isla Mujeres with Cancun in Background

Look closely! You can see Cancun on the horizon.

Fun under the water on Isla Mujeres

Being surrounded by water means some of the fun things to do in Isla Mujeres occur under the water. You can snorkel and scuba dive all around the island and there are dozens of companies that will take you out on a scuba or snorkel tour to see many types of corral and colorful tropical fish including sailfish from December to June.

From June to September you can swim with giant Whale Sharks and anytime of the year is great to swim in the National Park that’s filled with the MUSA Underwater Sculpture Museum’s sculptures. Most tours include lunch buffets as well as snorkel gear.

Have you been to Isla Mujeres? Do you have any tips? Let us know!

 

Things to do in Isla Mujeres Mexico. We've written about Mexico's Isla Mujeres a few times over the years and, to be honest, not much has changed. Of course it's grown, but that only means more golf cart rentals and more options. We don't find that it's gotten any busier and it seems there's just more to do there these days with a lot more things to do and see. Isla Mujeres Mexico things to do plus tips secrets and photography. ]]>
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Tips For Getting Great Family Video and Photos with the GoPro HERO 6 Black and Sport Chek http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/tech-2/tips-for-getting-great-family-video-and-photos-with-the-gopro-hero-6-black-and-sport-chek/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/tech-2/tips-for-getting-great-family-video-and-photos-with-the-gopro-hero-6-black-and-sport-chek/#comments Mon, 20 Nov 2017 22:10:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15287 So, you’re a regular person and not an extreme athlete or a pro surfer, and thinking of getting a GoPro video camera? Spoiler alert, you probably should.

I’m sure everyone has seen those amazing GoPro videos of surfers on a perfect wave, snowboarders carving down a mountain side, bikers taking 50 foot jumps or those extreme athletes jumping out of perfectly good airplanes or the side of a cliff. I love those.

Honestly though, if anyone needs a compact, hands free camera, it’s a parent. I find myself wishing daily for another set of arms, so carrying around a big, bulky camera just doesn’t work.

Family pool fun taken with GoPro HERO6 Black

Poolside in Mexico. Photo taken with GoPro HERO6 Black

So, it’s probably no surprise that we get a lot of questions from fellow parents about the GoPro who want to know is it waterproof? Is it easy to use? How much does it cost? Does it take photos, too? Those are a lot of questions for one tiny camera.

So when Sport Chek reached out to us to review the new GoPro HERO 6 Black, we jumped at the chance. It’s a perfect opportunity to answer all of those questions and more.

First impressions

Before we got our new HERO 6, we owned the GoPro HERO4 SILVER. It’s a great little camera and we’ve gotten some great footage the past few years, but I always disliked how we had to keep it in an external casing.

That’s changed with the newer GoPros, namely the HERO 5 and Hero 6. Unlike older GoPros (like the GoPro Hero 4 and earlier) the HERO 6 doesn’t need an external case to make it waterproof. This is my favorite feature, as it makes the GoPro HERO 6 so easy and convenient to use, and I never have to worry about putting it in a waterproof case.

GoPro Photo of the GoPro-8406

GoPro HERO 6 Video and photo quality

The GoPro takes great photos and videos. Even better, this tiny camera takes stunning 4K video, which means your family memories will be preserved in stunning detail.

Photo of Jasper, Alberta taken with GoPro HERO6 Black

Jasper, Alberta. Taken with GoPro HERO6 Black

To give it a real try, we took the GoPro HERO 6 Black with us on a early family winter vacation to Mexico and it was the perfect chance to test the GoPro Hero6 in a real world situation.

Take a look at the video below, filmed in 4K on our little GoPro HERO 6 Black. The video is raw and unedited, taken straight out of the camera. We didn’t always have the new image stabiliser on (our bad) and we’ve added titles and music, plus cut out some footage, but we haven’t done anything else. The video quality is just a sample of what you’ll get from this camera.

GoPro HERO6 Features

There’s a lot to like about this camera, and I’m especially fond of the burst feature for photos.

Like a lot of you, I always seem to just miss that perfect moment, like when my kids actually smile at the camera. With the burst mode, I just click the button, and the GoPro takes a burst of photos over several seconds. No more missed photos or that perfect smile.

The GoPro HERO 6 is waterproof to 33 meters. We’ve snorkeled with it, played with it in the pool, and even carried it with us as we boogie boarded in the waves. I let the kids carry it around half of the time, and they dunked it in the pool and the ocean dozens of times. Despite all of this, it remained perfectly waterproof.

Tip! We use a GoPro floating handle to hold the GoPro. This keeps it from getting lost in the surf, or sinking to the bottom of a pool.

underwater with the GoPro HERO 6

Underwater pool photo. Taken with GoPro HERO 6.

How to use the GoPro Hero 6

Is the GoPro easy to use? Well, it’s not hard to use, but using a GoPro is a little different than a smartphone or other camera. If you take ten minutes to learn how to use the GoPro at the beginning, you’ll pretty much know everything you need to.

Thankfully, there are only a couple of buttons: a shutter button, and a mode/power button. There’s also a touch screen in back, which makes getting through the menus pretty easy. Unlike the older models, you can see the photos and video as you’re taking them on the LCD screen just like a regular camera.

You can also download the GoPro app and connect the GoPro to your smartphone to take remote shots or to easily control all the settings. It can also save the videos and pictures directly to your phone so you can easily share them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

GoPro HERO6 Black touch screen

GoPro HERO 6 Voice Recognition

The GoPro HERO6 even comes with voice recognition, which we found works really well. Talk about hands free!

You can use voice recognition to turn the GoPro on and off, take photos and videos, and a lot more. It really makes mounting the camera to your helmet or chest strap easier than ever. Just tell it when to start and stop recording no matter what your hands are up to.

GoPro HERO 6 Video Quality

What’s the quality like? Video quality with the GoPro HERO 6 black is an impressive 4K video shooting at 60p, or 60 full frames per second. Those high frame rates per second also mean that it’s excellent at capturing slow motion video. As well as 4K, you can record in 1080p240, 1080p120, or the more classic 1080p60. What that means is that you can still record in high definition and still enjoy top rate quality with varying compression. This means that if space or extended recording is important, you can lower the resolution and not lose a great deal.

Jasper, Alberta taken with the GoPro HERO 6 Black Action cam

Taken with GoPro HERO 6. Jasper, Alberta.

Here are a few nerdy facts about video compression for you. The GoPro HERO 6 Black uses a new video codec called High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) H.265. It means that the video size can be smaller than the older H.264 protocol, but still retain higher 4K quality. Unfortunately, because H.265 is so new, many video editing software and devices can’t decode its advanced compression at the moment. Luckily, most of the newer Androids and iPhones can play H.265 natively, so wider support is guaranteed as more people get on board with using it. YouTube already supports the new H.265 codec.

Drumheller, Alberta hoodoos taken with the GoPro HERO 6 Black Action cam

Taken with GoPro HERO 6. Drumheller, Alberta.

GoPro HERO 6 Image Stabilization

The GoPro HERO 6 has digital image stabilization making for steadier video. Because it’s so tiny, we did find that we got some shake when the HERO6 was handheld, but there was less when it was mounted on something like a helmet, or the buoyant floaty handle grip we use. We also didn’t realize that we had turned image stabilization off for part of our trip until we had later watched the videos. For smoother motion, especially when it’s handheld, you’ll want to leave image stabilization on.

Jasper, Alberta. Taken with GoPro HERO 6

So is the GoPro for you?

Well, if you’re looking for a camera with 4K video, then yes, the GoPro HERO6 definitely does 4K video well and with it’s wide field of view or the new Superview, you won’t be missing anything as long as you have lots of good natural light.

Want a rugged, waterproof camera that you can take almost anywhere? Well, the GoPro HERO6 definitely fits that bill as well. With it’s small frame and rugged waterproof abilities, as well as the built in image stabilization, the GoPro can take what you’re giving and keep on recording.

Love playing with new technology? With it’s small touchscreen interface, voice recognition and it’s ability to connect seamlessly with your existing smartphone, the GoPro definitely ticks all the boxes when it comes to new tech. There’s a small learning curve, but it’s nothing that a few minutes watching how-to videos or a little reading can’t cure.

The GoPro HERO6 Black HD Action Camera transforms your adventures into incredible QuikStories directly on your phone.

Shopping for a GoPro in Canada? Sport Chek is an official supplier and carries all the latest GoPro devices and accessories.

The Platinum Floating GoPro Camera Mount is designed to ensure your GoPro camera floats if you happen to drop it. We use ours every time we take our GoPro in the water.

Looking for a deal?

Get 10% off your first purchase and free shipping on orders over $49 if you join the SportChek.ca email list here.

Get free shipping on orders $99+ at Sport Chek here!

Thanks to Sport Chek for providing us with the GoPro HERO 6 Black for this review. It was on the wishlist and we definitely enjoyed using it.

Shop Sports Equipment, Apparel, Footwear and more at Sport Chek! Click Here!
GoPro HERO 6 Tips and Photos | GoPro HERO 6 tips | GoPro HERO 6 photos | GoPro HERO 5 Black #gopro #goprophotography

GoPro Hero 6 Photo Tips for family photos | GoPro HERO 6 tips | GoPro HERO 6 photos | GoPro HERO 5 Black #gopro #goprophotography The GoPro HERO 6 Black tips | GoPro HERO 6 tips | GoPro HERO 6 photos | GoPro HERO 5 Black #gopro #goprophotography ]]>
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Top 10 Things to do in Athens Greece with Kids http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/top-10-things-to-do-in-athens-with-kids/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/top-10-things-to-do-in-athens-with-kids/#respond Fri, 17 Nov 2017 21:49:52 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15340 Today we have a guest post from Chrysoula Manika. She is a fellow travel blogger and tourism professional based in Athens, Greece, so she definitely knows a few things about what to do in Athens with kids. Enjoy!

With perfect weather, good family hotels and many activities for children, Greece and its capital are a great destination for family holidays. In summer, a city visit to Athens can be combined with the beaches along the Athenian Riviera or the islands nearby.

Athens in August is almost empty as most Greeks go to the islands for their holidays. In winter time, Athens is an ideal destination for a weekend escape or city break. So take the kids, put on some comfortable shoes and explore one of the oldest cities in the world.

Things to do in Athens Greece with Kids

Looking for some family fun? Here are the 10 things to do in Athens, Greece with kids:

Climb up the Acropolis

On top of the list and a definite must see when visiting Athens with your family is the Acropolis. Travel back to ancient Athens and show your kids the birthplace of democracy. If you enter the Acropolis archaeological site from the main entrance, you will see not only the world-famous Parthenon but also the Theatre of Dionysus and the Odeon of Herodes. The Acropolis is suitable for children starting from 3-4 years old; it is not easy to use strollers inside the site. 

Visit the New Acropolis Museum

Combine your visit to the Acropolis rock with the exhibits in its nearby museum. The impressive New Acropolis Museum offers family back packs with educational games and organises family tours. A family-friendly restaurant, a kids’ reading corner and a Lego model of the Acropolis guarantee a fun family day visit.

Take a Mythology Tour

Do your kids love mythology? Then a specialised interactive family tour around the ancient monuments of Athens is a great way to explore the city and its history. Under the guidance of a dedicated educator, your kids can become actors in the ancient Theatre of Dionysus, picnic in between the olive trees, search for goddess Athena inside the museums or draw like an ancient architect at the Parthenon. These tours are suitable for children from 5 years old.  

Ride the Athens Happy Train

Are the kids tired of walking around or do they just love Thomas the Train? The little red or green toy-like street Athens Happy Train makes a 40 – minute tour in the historical centre of Athens and the most famous ancient sites and monuments. You can hop-on-hop-off from different points in the city and see Athens as you please at your own pace.

Coffee and snack at the Little KooK cafe

No other place in Athens appeals more to kids than this fairy tale themed cafe in Psiri neighbourhood. Little KooK transfers your family to fantasyland and is amazingly styled around Halloween and Christmas. Enjoy delicious cakes and (savoury) crepes in a fairytale setting and don’t forget to wander around the beautifully decorated streets in hip Psiri.

Admire amazing views from Mount Lycabettus

A unique experience for all kids and adults is the cable car that goes up Mount Lycabettus. There are also telescopes guaranteeing views as far the island of Aegina. Buy an ice cream at the cafe on top and enjoy a panorama over the city.

Syntagma Square and the Parliament

All children will love feeding the pigeons and watch the impressive changing of the guards at the central square of Athens. These ‘Evzones’ are members of the Presidential Guards wearing traditional Greek outfits. They stay completely still next to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Parliament building until the moment that they can move for the change of the guards.

Get lost in the National Gardens of Athens

For a picnic or an escape from the summer heat, go to the National Gardens or Royal Gardens right next to the Parliament Building. A very stroller friendly place that is also suitable for kids of all ages. Inside the National Gardens, you will find a small zoo with farm animals, a turtle pond, a large shaded playground, lots of grass areas for babies to play on and a section with botanical gardens.

Discover Street Art

Travelling with teenagers and tired of ancient monuments? Athens has a blossoming street art scene. Many hip neighbourhoods have transformed into an open art gallery with stunning graffiti that places the city into the top places to see street art around the world. Several tour companies offer guided Street Art Tours.

Taste a traditional Greek sweet

Buy a ‘koulouri’ from one of the street vendors on Syntagma square. Young kids will love nibbling on this healthy large bread-ring with sesame seeds. And don’t miss a chance to try ‘loukoumades’, a small Greek doughnut covered with honey. You can find them in any bakery or ‘loukoumades’ shop.

Athens for the family

Athens is a fabulous place for a family vacation or a weekend trip with kids. It is a safe city to visit with an excellent public metro system, many hotel options, lots of sun and warm winters. Your family will enjoy being outdoors surrounded by historical monuments, good family food choices and easy to visit activities.

Chrysoula Manika bio:

Chrysoula Manika is a travel blogger and tourism professional based in Athens, Greece. She writes in both English and French for Travel Passionate, her blog focusing on luxury travel around Europe. She’s traveled extensively throughout Europe for the past 25 years and has no intention of slowing down. She loves to explore the local culture and gastronomy of the places she visits.

Things to do in Athens Greece with kids as a family things to do in Athens Greece with Kids ]]>
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West Coast Suites UBC and our Vancouver Family Vacation http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/west-coast-suites-ubc-and-our-vancouver-family-vacation/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/canada/west-coast-suites-ubc-and-our-vancouver-family-vacation/#comments Tue, 03 Oct 2017 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15135 Being so close to Vancouver, it can be hard for us to figure out the best places to stay in Vancouver for a family vacation.

So while we’ve stayed downtown for a quick Vancouver family vacation more than a few times, and though there are some fantastic hotels in the area, there are two big disadvantages to a downtown Vancouver family stay.

The first is cost. Hotels in downtown Vancouver can be quite expensive, especially if you look at getting a suite with a bedroom or kitchenette, or if you’re booking in peak season. Parking can also be crazy expensive if you’re by the water and some of the nicer hotels require you to pay extra for WiFi, sometimes even per device.

Second, downtown Vancouver accommodations can be quite busy, and it’s not always the most kid-friendly place, especially around the bars on Granville Street. Though Vancouver is a great walking city, staying downtown still requires you to be careful, especially with little ones in tow.

So when UBC’s West Coast Suites, located on the quiet and stunning University of British Columbia (UBC) lands, reached out to us about a stay, we were excited to give it a try.

The view at UBC

We planned to use the fully furnished suites, perched on the quiet and expansive green campus, as our base for exploring Vancouver with kids. Not only are the world class Museum of Anthropology, the impressive Beaty Biodiversity Museum, the fantastic Botanical Gardens and more within easy walking distance at UBC, there’s an abundance of great food right on campus.

The best part is that downtown Vancouver and many of the city’s other major attractions are just a short car trip or bus ride away.

See prices and availability here. Check out reviews on TripAdvisor.

West Coast Suites UBC

As we drove through busy Vancouver, and on through the quiet, lush, green oasis of the enormous UBC property, we were sure we’d made the right choice. On one side we could see the spacious UBC campus on the left of us and we kept getting peeks of British Columbia’s stunning Pacific Coast on the other.

Bedroom at West Coast Suites UBC

After the easy drive to West Coast Suites, we checked in at the next door Walter Gage Residences. The helpful front desk staff promptly got our key card, and pointed out some of the fun things to do with kids on the UBC campus. More on the details of our Vancouver family vacation later!

Within a few minutes, we’d whisked our stuff up the elevator, and I was relaxing on our couch, overlooking the trees in the courtyard, and enjoying a fresh Starbucks coffee from the single serve coffee maker in our cozy kitchen.

Our Suite

All of the suites at West Coast Suites are large, quiet one bedrooms with balconies and full kitchens.

West Coast Suites UBC kitchen

There’s no oven in the suites, but there is a stove top, a microwave, and most importantly, a dishwasher, plus a full kitchen table and mini-fridge. The kitchen was fully kitted out, including everything from pots and pans, glassware, cutlery, and even a corkscrew and bottle opener.

All the suites at UBC’s West Coast Suites are one bedroom, with a king bed in the bedroom plus a sofa bed.

There’s a LED TV, an in room safe, plenty of quality toiletries, and high quality linens.

West Coast Suites UBC living area

 

Amenities

At the top of my list for hotel amenities is always WiFi. WiFi here is fast, free and reliable, with speeds at well over 35 mbps. That’s far better than the WiFi you’ll find in most homes.

There’s even free long distance in North America, making it easy to connect with friends and family.

View of bedroom at West Coast Suites UBC

Room Amenities at West Coast :

  • Free Canada/USA calling
  • Large LED TVs with cable channels
  • Parking is $10/day plus applicable taxes
  • 24 hour front desk
  • Guest launderette
  • Complimentary newspapers at reception
  • On-site vending facilities
  • Open year round

See prices and availability here.

Check out reviews on TripAdvisor.

What’s nearby?

We were pretty busy around the University of British Columbia itself, before we even headed into Vancouver proper for our downtown Vancouver family day trip. There’s a full list of what we did on campus below, but our highlights included the Museum of Anthropology, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and the Greenheart TreeWalk at the UBC Botanical Garden. Click here to skip to our list of fun family activities and attractions near UBC.

There’s also a lot to eat on campus at the UBC, with dozens of cafes, restaurants and food trucks. Click here to see all the great eats on the UBC campus.

Family walk at the Museum of Anthropology

West Coast Suites at UBC is a short drive from downtown Vancouver, but located on some of the most beautiful land in Vancouver. The University of British Columbia pretty much owns the entire western tip of the Point Grey Peninsula. Within walking distance, there are rose gardens, Japanese rock gardens, botanic gardens, canopy walks, regional parkland, hiking trails, plus all the amenities below. The Museum of Anthropology is a ten minute walk from West Coast Suites, and Pacific Spirit Regional Park is two and a half kilometers (one and a half miles) away.

Shopping

One thing we were a little uncertain of was if there was shopping nearby for groceries and other necessities. Luckily for us, it’s a short drive (or even walking distance, if you’re so inclined) to Wesbrook Village shopping center, which has a Save on Foods grocery store, plus plenty of shops.

Vancouver with kids – at UBC Campus

We had a blast being in Vancouver with kids at the UBC Campus. There’s a lot to do on the University grounds, and we’ve listed some of our favorites below. You can check out the other UBC attractions here.

Tip! If you’re planning to visit several UBC attractions, look into the UBC Museums and Gardens Pass. You can buy adult, concession (senior, youth or student) or family passes. The pass gives you admission to the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, the Nitobe Memorial Garden and the UBC botanical garden. It also gives discounts on food, books, clothing and the canopy tree walk.

On campus events and the Eclipse!

We were lucky enough to visit UBC during the 2017 solar eclipse. The astronomy society was handing out free eclipse viewing glasses just a short walk from our hotel at West Coast Suites, with displays and plenty of folks on hand to help.

While the eclipse was the big event when we visited (the people in the picture below were all gone an hour later), be sure to check what’s going on at UBC during your visit. There’s almost always something fun and interesting happening on campus.

Viewing the eclipse at UBC pinhole projector

Watching the eclipse through a pinhole viewer

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

The first thing you’ll notice at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum is the blue whale skeleton that looms over the entire facility. There’s an interesting documentary to watch inside about how the fossil was found, unearthed, cleaned and installed. Inside the vault-like downstairs, there are more than two million specimens of plants, marine invertebrates, insects, birds, fish, vertebrates, fungi, and fossils.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

Museum of Anthropology (MOA)

We were especially taken by the stunning displays of First Nations totem poles inside the main floors of the MOA. It’s an impressive collection, as the MOA houses 38,000 ethnographic objects, as well as 535,000 archaeological objects inside. It houses collections from multiple cultures, but is best known for the large and impressive collection of art from First Nation band governments of the Pacific Northwest. The MOA building was designed by famed architect Arthur Erickson.

Tip: Don’t miss the outdoor longhouse recreation behind the museum building.

Museum of Anthropology Vancouver

UBC Botanical Garden

Lovers of botany will adore the UBC Botanical Garden, as it covers nearly 110 acres (44 hectares) and has over 8,000 different plants.

We loved the long, serene winding trails under great big, shady trees, as it gave the kids (and us!) a chance to burn off some energy.

UBC Botanical Garden bee on yellow flower

Greenheart TreeWalk

While you’re there, don’t miss the Greenheart TreeWalk! The kids had a blast tearing along this 310 metre (1,000 foot) long canopy walkway. The walkway is suspended from looming cedars, Douglas firs and grand firs (many of them over 100 years old), and reaches a height of almost 20 metres (65 feet). This isn’t for the faint of heart, or lead of foot, but our eight year old managed it beautifully, even taking the lead and egging us on.

Tip! The Greenheart TreeWalk is not included in the UBC Museums and Gardens Pass; the pass offers a 10% discount on the treewalk.

Greenheart TreeWalk at UBC Botanical Gardens

Nitobe Memorial Garden

The Nitobe Memorial Garden is a traditional Japanese Tea and Stroll garden. It’s officially part of the UBC Botanical Garden, but it’s located separately, close to Wreck Beach.

UBC Aquatic Centre

New in 2017, the UBC Aquatic Centre has a kids area, diving pool, swimming pool, whirl pool, hot tub and a sauna. It’s also only a two minute walk from West Coast Suites.

Farmer’s Market

UBC farmer’s markets serve up farm fresh produce at a weekly on-campus market from late spring to fall. We stopped by the pop-up market at the UBC bookstore, but there are also farm gate sales. Dates and details change, so check here first before you go.

Tip! There are also seasonal u-picks for blueberries, pumpkins, hops and more. If you’re around on the weekend, the UBC Farm offers free public tours at 11:00 am each Saturday. Check the UBC Farm page for details

UBC farmers market

More UBC attractions

There are plenty of other attractions on campus, including the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts and the UBC School of Music. Check out the UBC attractions page for more.

Wreck beach

Well, what to say about Wreck beach? There are a few things you need to know before you go.

First, it’s absolutely stunning, and well worth a look. Second, it’s clothing optional, so do with that what you will. Third, the most popular access is by Trail 6 by a steep and difficult set of 473 stairs.

Fourth, it has quite the reputation around Vancouver for it’s alternative culture, which includes the clothing optional scene, but also extends to a hippie culture of body painters, beach casinos, and a relaxed attitude toward pretty much anything. Read into that what you will but everyone we talked to said it was a cool place to hang out on a hot day and the unobstructed Pacific Ocean views from the beach are breathtaking.

Vancouver Family Vacation

There are hundreds of other things to do on a family vacation in Vancouver. I’d say the top, don’t miss family attractions, are the Vancouver seawall, the Vancouver Aquarium, Science World at TELUS World of Science, Stanley Park, the Capilano Suspension Bridge (or the free Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge) and Granville Island. Our comprehensive post on family things to do in Vancouver is coming soon!

While at West Coast Suites, we took the car downtown (it’s a short 15 minute drive if traffic is good) a few of times to visit friends, and check out a few downtown attractions. Most people just jump on a bus and grab the Skytrain around town.

Vanier Park 

Vanier Park is in the Kitsilano neighborhood in Vancouver, and home to the Museum of Vancouver, the Vancouver Maritime Museum, the City of Vancouver Archives, and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. There’s a lot of green space here, making it perfect for a relaxing day under the trees.

If you go during summer, check to see if the International Children’s Festival is happening in the park.

English Bay from Vanier Park Vancouver

Kitsilano Beach Park

Kitsilano Beach Park is just to the West of Vanier Park (you can easily walk from one to another). It’s a long, lovely stretch of sand that faces picturesque English Bay.

Yaletown

We even got a chance to check out a little nightlife in Yaletown, when we popped out for supper with a friend. Yaletown is one of the busiest parts of Vancouver, and packed with trendy restaurants and bars in old warehouse buildings.

Food at UBC

Food on the UBC Campus is divided into two main groups: outlets owned by the Student’s Union, and outlets under the ubrella of the University’s Food Services.

UBC Food Services

UBC Food Services has over 40 outlets on campus with everything from chains like Starbucks and Tim Hortons, to mini marts, to full service restaurants, to food trucks. Many get their ingredients from the on campus UBC Farm, and fresh seafood is 100% Ocean Wise certified. We couldn’t try all 40 places to eat (unfortunately!), but we did get a chance to check out a few.

The Hungry Nomad

Where else would us Barefoot Nomads go to eat than the Hungry Nomad?

This food truck serves up delicious vegan poutine, with large portions for around $6. We bought two poutine as a snack, but there was far too much for the four of us (two adults and two preteen kids) to eat. Great value.

Hungry Nomad Food Truck UBC

Harvest

We came in quite late one night after a long walk around the UBC Botanical Gardens, and wanted nothing more than to put our feet up and relax in our room. Luckily, Harvest was on the way home, and we grabbed a rotisserie chicken, roast vegetables, a tasty chickpea sandwich, and two bean burritos for the kids. Perfection!

Mercante

This is the place to go on campus if you’ve got a craving for authentic made-to-order traditional Italian pizzas cooked in a hot stone hearth oven. Each pizza is a great value at about $12, and we only needed two to stuff two adults and two preteen kids to the gills.

Mercante pizza UBC

AMS Student Union

UBC’s student’s union (AMS) has several foood and drink eateries located in the Nest (the main student’s union building), including the Grand Noodle Emporium, Uppercase, Honour Roll, The Pit, Palate, and Ph Tea.

Being the coffee and baked goods lovers that we are, we made a quick beeline for Uppercase, which had an impressive display case of baked goods and bagels. Was it good? Let’s just say that I was contemplating a move to the UBC campus so that I could make this a daily staple.

Uppercase coffee and pastries at the UBC Nest

UBC Vancouver Accommodations

We found West Coast Suites one bedroom suites to be perfect for our family, but UBC has other accommodation choices as well.

Pacific Spirit Hostel at Place Vanier Residence

With rooms starting at $39 a night, this is a fantastic value in sometimes expensive Vancouver.

The Pacific Spirit Hostel has private single rooms or private twin rooms. There’s a shared lounge with LCD TV and on site laundry. Linens, towels and bath amenities are provided. Parking is $10 a day plus taxes, or you can buy a weekly permit.

Ponderosa Residence and Walter Gage Residence

Studio suite at Ponderosa Residence with kitchenette and a view

Private suites at Ponderosa Residence and Walter Gage Residence are only available from May 15 to August 25 each year. There’s a wide range of places to stay here, including studios, one bedroom and two bedroom units.

Units have a full kitchen with complimentary high speed WiFi, LCD TVs and free Canada/USA calling.

Accessible suites are also available. Parking is $16/day plus applicable taxes at Ponderosa. Parking is $10/day plus applicable taxes at Gage.

What you need to know

West Coast Suites is on the UBC Campus, at 5961 Student Union Blvd, Vancouver.

West Coast Suites is easily accessible by car, but can also be accessed by transit, with a major bus exchange located on campus.

Have you stayed at West Coast Suites UBC? What did you think? 

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LEGOLAND Florida Tips and Secrets to Save You Time and Money http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/family/legoland-florida-tips-and-secrets-to-save-you-time-and-money/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/family/legoland-florida-tips-and-secrets-to-save-you-time-and-money/#comments Mon, 25 Sep 2017 17:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=13177

Earlier this year, we had a chance to team up with LEGOLAND Florida and checked out their amusement park and waterpark as a family. We’ve been huge LEGO fans for years, and we have the bins of LEGO pieces in our living room to prove it, so we were thrilled to visit!

While it’s not as big as the Universal or Disney parks in Orlando, there’s still a lot to see and do in LEGOLAND. It can be a bit confusing and overwheming, honestly, so we spent our time at the park looking for helpful tips and tricks to help when you visit LEGOLAND Florida. You’ll find everything in here, including the best rides and attractions, how to save money, where to stay, and where to eat in the park.

LEGOLAND Florida tips and secrets that will save you time money and trouble

Read on for our…

LEGOLAND Florida Tips and Secrets

How to Save Money

First, let’s get you the best deal we can for LEGOLAND. Generally, you’ll save money buying tickets online, rather than at the gate. Plus, you’ll avoid having to wait at the gate to buy tickets!

Undercover Tourist

If you’re looking for a great deal on park tickets, check out Undercover Tourist first, which offers a significant discount over gate admission. They also don’t charge sneaky delivery fees or extra taxes like some sites. Delivery is instant, as these are electronic tickets sent to you by email.

For example, when we looked, the Undercover Tourist price for adult 1 day park and waterpass admission was $95.91. At the gate, the price was $113.99.

See prices for a single day ticket.

See all discount LEGOLAND tickets on Undercover Tourist.

... the trusted name in attraction tickets

Get a Kids Go Free Coupon on Amazon

Check to see if you can pick up a kids go free coupon for LEGOLAND on Amazon here. They run around $18 (including shipping) for a coupon for Kids Go Free with a full price one day adult Ticket to Legoland Parks or Legoland Discovery Centers. Check the terms and conditions, but these can be a great deal if you’re booking ahead of time.

Go Orlando Card

If you’re looking at doing multiple other attractions in Orlando, a Go Orlando Card might save you a good chunk of money.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find passes that combined LEGOLAND with the other large parks at Disney and Universal, but there are some great combo deals for LEGOLAND and smaller Florida attractions.

Click here to save $10 & visit four attractions, including LEGOLAND Florida!

See the Go Orlando Card discounts here.

Groupon and Living Social

You never know when a good deal will pop up for LEGOLAND on Groupon or Living Social, so be sure to check before you go!

See deals here.

What to Bring

It’s pretty easy to spend the whole day at LEGOLAND, so pack accordingly.

  • Camera. We took most of our photos with our smartphone, but you may want to bring a waterproof camera for the waterpark.
  • Sunscreen. We like water resistant spray sunscreen.
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Jacket, if it’s cool
  • Comfortable shoes. The park is a lot smaller than Universal or Disney, but there’s still a lot of walking.
  • You can’t bring coolers, food and beverages into the park. However, there are exceptions for infants and if you have special medical needs. Bottled water is allowed. Alcohol is not allowed.
  • An emergency poncho (great for The Quest for CHI water ride, trust us). Get a 5 pack at Amazon for less than 2 on site.

LEGOLAND Tips and Tricks You Need to Know

LEGOLAND Florida is not open every day during the low season, so check hours and dates before you go.

If you adore LEGO, look at getting a two day pass, as it’s only about $10 more than going one day on the Undercover Tourist site. See 2 day pass pricing on Undercover Tourist.

Bring minfigures to trade. All LEGO employee wear minifigures on their name tags, and they’re happy to trade. Just don’t bring your rares though since most of fairly standard issue. There’s also a minifigures ambassador with hundreds of minifigures who’ll trade, if you can find them!

LEGOLAND

If it rains, indoor activities like LEGO Mindstorms, building a minifigure, the Imagination Zone and the LEGO NINJAGO ride will keep the kids busy.

There’s a lot of walking, so if you have young children consider bringing a stroller. You can rent strollers, but they’re first come, first serve with no reservations.

There’s no free WiFi in the park, unlike at larger parks like Universal Orlando.

LEGOLAND entrance family photo

Raising the roof at LEGOLAND

What age is best for kids at LEGOLAND Florida? The LEGOLAND best age for kids is probably under 12. Our son was 11 turning 12, and while he still enjoyed himself, I think he would have loved LEGOLAND even more when he was a little younger. That said, we saw plenty of teens and older adults having fun!

Wait times vary a lot, depending on weather, peak season, and even time of day. Almost all the rides had a sign at the front listing the current wait time, and we found them pretty accurate. If you have limited time or you’re visiting during peak days like Christmas, you can buy a Premium Play Band that offers front of the line access. You can buy it when you arrive on the day of your visit.

Is there a LEGOLAND Florida app? Nope. Unlike Universal or Disney, the LEGOLAND Florida Park doesn’t have an official app yet. We looked through the app store, and there are a few unofficial apps, but they got horrible reviews, so we decided to forgo the app. You really don’t need one, as the park is not overwhelmingly big, and we found the wait times and lines much more manageable than the larger Orlando Parks.

Best things to do at LEGOLAND Florida

There’s a lot of fun to be had at LEGOLAND, but these were our favorite rides and attractions.

Build your own LEGO character at the Minifigure Market

This was one of our kids absolute favorites of our LEGOLAND Florida secrets. Well, it’s not really a secret, it’s more of a don’t miss! At the minifigure market, the kids can build their own customized LEGO character.

It costs $9.99 to build a set of 3 mini figures, which includes 3 heads, 3 torsos, 3 legs, 3 headgears and 3 accessories, plus a handy holder to bring them home.

LEGOLAND Florida Minifigure Market

LEGO NINJAGO The Ride 

Make sure you try the Lego Ninjago ride!

It’s one of LEGOLAND’s newer rides, and a lot of fun! Lines were long when we passed it when we first entered the park, so we waited until the end to try it. Such a mistake! We only had time for one ride as it was closing on the way out, but we wish we’d gone on it several times. The good news is there wasn’t a single person in line in front of us so we just walked directly on.

To play, you put on 3D glasses, and practice your ninja moves while the computer records your movements.

LEGO NINJAGO The Ride 

Loved this ride! This is a snap of the scoreboard at the end.

The Quest for CHI

This ride was an absolute blast! It’s an interactive boat ride with water cannons, where you shoot bystanders and other boats with water guns. When we were there in March mid-week, the wait was only about five minutes.

You will get soaked! If you want your clothes to stay dry, LEGOLAND does sell ponchos for around $5.99 at different places around the park. If you want to save a few bucks, grab a poncho at a dollar store on the way or order one directly from Amazon before you go.

LEGOLAND Orlando The Quest for CHI

The Battle for Brickbeard’s Bounty

Full disclosure here: this about about as cheesy as they come. That said, we all had a lot of fun watching this live water show at the site of the old Cypress Gardens. As it’s set on the water, you’ll see lots of acrobatic water skiing with plenty of live LEGO action. We especially loved Miranda, the head of the Imperial Navy.

Just a note, though, if you’re in the front few rows you’ll likely get wet but the crew definitely gets the crowd going.

LEGOLAND The Battle for Brickbeards Bounty

Imagination Zone

The Imagination Zone was one of our kids’ favorites. There’s a lot to do here, including free play with a huge number of LEGOs. The kids loved the Flight Zone and Wheels Zone where you pick up parts to make your own flying or racing machine.

In the Imagination Zone, the kids can also build skyscrapers, virtually build water creatures, or even take a LEGO Mindstorms course. You have to sign up to take the course since it fills up every day so we decided to skip it to our son’s displeasure.

Imagination Zone car at LEGOLAND

Flying school

This looks like an upside down roller coaster, and gives you the feeling of flying through the air.

It’s especially lots of fun for the older kids (and us too). Our eleven year old son had a blast here, but our eight year old didn’t want to ride. The minimum rider height is 44 inches, and kids below 52 inches tall need to be accompanied by a responsible rider of this height or taller.

Flying school LEGOLAND

Dragon Coaster

We all tried the Dragon Coaster, and honestly had fun. It’s a smaller coaster, so don’t expect terrifying thrills and drops. There was only a 15 min wait when we went in March.

Attractions we didn’t love as much

In the LEGO Driving school, the kids go through driving instruction, and then drive around a track in a LEGO-themed mini car. This was really cute, but the driving portion only lasted about five minutes, and the line up took about half an hour.

Did you know there are LEGOLAND locations all over the world? You can visit LEGOLAND in Florida, California, Denmark, Dubai, Malaysia, England, Germany and more! There are also LEGOLAND Discovery Centers all across North America. See all LEGOLAND Discovery Center locations here.

Miniland USA is a large outside area dedicated to LEGO displays, most of them USA-based. It’s a pretty impressive display that takes up a good chunk of the park, with detailed recreations of scenes in LEGO miniature, like Daytona Speedway, Las Vegas, and the White House. While it’s cute and shows a lot of imagination and creativity, many of the scenes are fading and showing a little wear.

LEGOLAND Joust is ride where kids sit on the back of LEGO-themed horses that pretend to joust. It’s honestly an adorable ride, but our kids, at eight and eleven, were just too big to fully enjoy it. Little kids should love it.

LEGOLAND Royal Joust

Our 11 year old on the Royal Joust. Just look at that enthusiasm, lol. He perked up pretty quickly when we visited the Flight School, though.

Where to stay near LEGOLAND Florida

There’s a cute, new LEGOLAND hotel right outside the LEGOLAND front gates! This is our top pick if you’re visiting LEGOLAND in Florida.

That said, you have two options for staying at LEGOLAND: the LEGOLAND® Florida Resort and the LEGOLAND® Beach Retreat. Because we were based in Orlando, we didn’t get a chance to stay here during our visit, but they would have been our first choices for a hotel near LEGOLAND.

The bonus is that people staying at one of the LEGOLAND resorts get early access to LEGOLAND Park! That’s right. Hit the park before anyone else and then sneak out during the afternoon rush for a quick dip in the pool (or a nap) and then enjoy the park again until it closes.

The LEGOLAND® Florida Hotel

The Legoland Florida Resort is within walking distance of Legoland Florida Theme Park. Rooms are LEGO themed, and there are plenty of fun surprises for the kids!

More than two million LEGO bricks make up over 2,000 LEGO models throughout the hotel.

See prices and availability now.

LEGOLAND Florida Resort - Outside

The LEGOLAND® Beach Retreat

The LEGOLAND Beach Retreat is about half a mile from the park itself. It has 83 themed bungalows, each with its own whimsical LEGO décor inside and out. There’s a pool, a kid’s outside play area, and lots of fun activities for the kids.

Click to see prices and reviews

LEGOLAND Beach Retreat 

Holiday Inn Winter Haven

The Holiday Inn Winter Haven

This is a good family choice, with good reviews and a pool. It’s only about a nine minute drive to LEGOLAND Florida, and walking distance of Winter Haven Amtrak Station.

See prices and reviews.

Holiday Inn Winter Haven

Airbnb

When we travel, we often stay at an Airbnb, because it gives us a full kitchen and more room to run around. Since we were spending two days visiting the Universal Studios The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (check out our post on it here), we picked an airbnb closer to Universal, and we drove out to LEGOLAND for the day.

Click here to get a $35 credit on your first airbnb stay!

Where to eat at LEGOLAND Florida

There are plenty of places to eat at LEGOLAND. You probably won’t find five star dining here, and prices are generally on the expensive shade of reasonable (as are all theme parks), but we found the food to be decent.

Granny’s Apple Fries

We heard great things about Granny’s Apple Fries, so we tried them for our first snack. Honestly, they were good, but I don’t think they were as good as their reputation. The apples were a little sour for our taste.

They come with whipped cream, which is a huge plus. The combo with a drink was the best deal we saw, at $2 more.

Granny's apple fries

Fun Town Pizza and Pasta Buffet

FunTown Pizza and Pasta Buffet is a great alternative if you’re a big eater or absolutely starving. It’s all you can eat and drink. Prices are $9.99 for children plus tax, and $15.99 for adults plus tax and they include beverages.

Firehouse Ice cream

We were pretty much sold at ice cream. This is a great place for sundaes, floats and coffee.

Firehouse Ice Cream

Panini Grill

Looking for something healthy? We ate at Panini Grill for our main meal, and it was pretty good, especially for amusement park food. I’d give it a solid C+.

Our meal at Panini Grill ended up costing $45 for two adults and two kids. The $10 adult panini meal has an option of roast beef, ham and white cheddar, chicken Florentine, and the vegetarian panzanella. Drinks are extra. For kids, the $6.99 kids panini meal includes a drink, fruit and chips. Kids’ choices are ham and cheese, or ham only, or cheese only. There are free fountain drink refills so it’s a good place to quench your thirst. The Panini Grill is in the Imagination Zone.

There are also plenty of other food options at LEGOLAND Floride, including the Fried Chicken Restaurant, Castle Burger, Sunshine Sweets and more!

LEGOLAND water park

We were pretty tired after an almost full day of rides and attractions at LEGOLAND, so we almost skipped the water park. However, we decided to buckle up and spend an hour and a half here, and I’m glad we did. It’s a fun place to hang out.

We started by building a LEGO raft on the lazy river. The water was just a little too cool for us in March, but once we were in we had a blast. We ended up going around the lazy river three times.

After that, it was on to the wave park and water slides. Charles and Cole had a blast taking the tubes down the Twin Chasers tube slide and careening down the giant dual Splash Out slides while Jordan and I enjoyed the wave park.

Water Park at LEGOLAND Florida

Locker rental at the LEGOLAND waterpark

We didn’t want to wander around all day at the main park in our swimsuits, so I was happy to find out that you can rent lockers inside the LEGOLAND waterpark. We used them to stash our clothes and valuables while we were having fun in the water.

It’s $7 for a small, but the small truly tiny. It would work for a single person, or two people without much gear. A large is $10, and this was plenty big enough for clothes and shoes for the four of us. It costs $13 for a jumbo, which would work for a larger group.

Water Park at LEGOLAND Florida end rental button on locker

 

You pay using an automated system, where you pay with credit card at the automated kiosk. You’re then given a code and locker number to match.

This part is a bit tricky. To end the rental, there’s a RED END RENTAL Button at the bottom of the locker keypad. The problem is that it’s virtually impossible for an adult to see, as it’s tucked away under the keypad. Luckily, our eight year old daughter pointed it out to us.

How to get to LEGOLAND Florida

Driving to LEGOLAND Florida

LEGOLAND Florida is approximately 45 minutes away from Disney World, an hour from Universal and around an hour from the Orlando Airport. It’s address is 1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, FL 3388.

Parking at LEGOLAND Florida

Parking at LEGOLAND Florida costs $15 online and $17 on site. Most of the parking stalls are only a few minutes walk from the front gate and there are plenty of stalls with shade. Parking opens 30 minutes before the gates open and there are handicapped parking spots right outside the front gate.

LEGOLAND Florida Shuttle Bus

If you don’t want to drive, there’s a $5 shuttle to LEGOLAND Florida that picks people up at I-Drive 360, the massive entertainment complex at 8401 International Drive, Orlando, Florida 32819. Parking in the garage is FREE.  The LEGOLAND shuttle bus pick up area is outside the parking deck by the back entrance of the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye on the Universal Boulevard side.

The LEGOLAND Shuttle bus picks people up at 9 AM and drops them off after the park closes. You need to book the shuttle at least 24 hours beforehand and arrive 30 minutes before the shuttle leaves to be guaranteed a seat.

Final Thoughts on LEGOLAND Florida

All in all, we had a great day at the LEGOLAND Florida amusement and waterpark. Unlike the bigger parks, there’s definitely more room and shorter lines to deal with however, that said, it’s more geared for those under 12 or for people that are huge Lego fans. We had both so it was resounding good day for all of us.

Have you been to LEGOLAND Florida? Do you have any LEGOLAND secrets or tips to share? We’d love to hear them. Leave us a comment below!

UPLOADING 1 / 1 – LEGOLAND Florida Tips and Secrets.jpg ATTACHMENT DETAILS LEGOLAND Florida Tips and Secrets LEGOLAND Florida Tips and Tricks

 

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Fun Family Things to Do in Cañon City Colorado http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/fun-family-things-to-do-in-canon-city-colorado/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/fun-family-things-to-do-in-canon-city-colorado/#comments Sun, 20 Aug 2017 01:06:28 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=14636 What do you get when you cross a mountain town with a fast moving river? That’s right, good times!

My son Cole and I recently had the opportunity to check out some activities around Cañon City, in the heart of wild Colorado, and to be perfectly honest, we both had an amazing time.

Quick facts about Cañon City, Colorado

First off, let’s talk about the town’s name. It seems a few years back they added a tilde over the Ñ so the town is actually pronounced Canyon City as opposed to Canon City. Didn’t realize that? Well, neither did I until we talked to some locals on the plane ride down there and they couldn’t figure out where Canon City was either.

If you’re looking at a map, Cañon City is around 2 hours due south of Denver, Colorado and an hour southwest of Colorado Springs down long gorgeous highways. The city has been around since the mid 1800’s and has quite a nice historic downtown.

Charles and Cole on the Arkansas River in Colorado

Since it has the warmest year round temperatures in the state, thanks in part to its high elevation (5,300 feet or 1,600 m) and the mountains to the West that protect it, Cañon City is also known as the “Climate Capital of Colorado”.

When we were there at the beginning of summer, temperatures were already starting to soar in the high 80’s (that’s low 30’s in Celsius), however, luckily for the residents and visitors alike, there’s always a breeze in the valley and there isn’t much humidity so it’s a very dry heat.

Family Things to Do in Cañon City Colorado

For anyone who hasn’t been to the area, Cañon City is famous for two things. The first is its many long-standing penitentiaries (there are 13 in the area) and the second is amazing whitewater rafting, climbing and exploring just west of the city.

This means that Cañon City is a fantastic place to take in outdoor pursuits for the whole family, from white water rafting to checking out dinosaurs at the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience.

Royal Gorge Cabins: Where to stay and eat near Cañon City

We were fortunate to be able to raft the amazing white waters of the Arkansas River with the region’s biggest whitewater company, Echo Canyon River Expeditions. Not only that but we also had the opportunity to stay onsite in their brand new Royal Gorge Cabins. They have both one and two bedroom bungalows with lofts, so Cole got his own king sized bed, while I got mine. Needless to say we both had a great night’s sleep.

Some of the new cabins at Royal Gorge Cabins

I can go on and on about the amazing views at the Royal Gorge Cabins, the understated luxury, the comfortable beds, good showers, nice kitchens and the beautiful outdoor living areas, but I think a few pictures might be better suited for this.

Upstairs loft in 2 bedroom at Royal Gorge Cabins

Living Room with two way fireplace

Kitchen area

Main floor master bedroom at Royal Gorge Cabins

Our cabin at Royal Gorge Cabins

To put it simply, if I was doing a review on the new Royal Gorge Cabins at Echo Canyon it would rate five stars. Both the buildings themselves, as well as the people, were first class. I especially loved the extended outdoor area with its two way glass fireplace. It would make the perfect place to sit around with friends after a long day spent rafting on the river.

Lovely outdoor area

For those that truly love the outdoors,  Royal Gorge Cabins even has some gorgeous glamping tents for rent for those if you’d like to have a few s’mores around the campfire, but still want to sleep in a comfortable bed at night.

Typical glamping tent at Royal Gorge Cabins

Not only that, we had some delicious fare across the street over at Echo Canyon’s 8 Mile Bar & Grill. Their fresh fried waffle chips were worth the trip in themselves, and everyone raved about their fried pickles. We ended up eating there for both lunch and dinner and both times we left satisfied.

Outside 8 Mile Bar & Grill

Waffle chip fries and fried pickles

Kids Mac & Cheese at 8 Mile Bar

For those that like their beer cold after a day on the water, 8 Mile Bar & Grill also has 16 draft beer options. Throw in a king sized firepit, some beach volleyball courts and lawn games to occupy the little ones and what more could anyone ask for?

Fire pit outside 8 Mile Bar & Grill by Echo Canyon Rafting

Echo Canyon River Expeditions white water rafting near Cañon City, Colorado

For anyone coming to white water raft the Arkansas River, there are several whitewater companies to choose from just to the west of Cañon City.

If your goal is to spend your day or half day on the river like we did, Echo Canyon River Expeditions is the biggest and highest rated over at TripAdvisor. All the guides, boats, buses and equipment were top notch.

On top of that, we had the pleasure of meeting Andy, the owner of the company, who was both extremely friendly and highly knowledgeable on the river and the area in general. What’s more, even with up to 50 boats running a day during high season, he still manages to get out and guide a few times a week so he’s always in touch with every aspect of the company.

Outside Echo Canyon River Expeditions

Entrance sign at Echo Canyon River Expeditions

Equipment rentals at Echo Canyon River Expeditions

Echo Canyon River Expeditions bus and rafts

Waiting area at Echo Canyon River Expeditions

Due to the Arkansas River still being high from the late Spring thaw, and because we wanted to do a Colorado family rafting trip versus the more adventure filled one, we ended up going the Upper Arkansas River run. After being fitted for lifejackets, wetsuits and helmets, we all waited for the bus to take us to our location.

30 minutes or so later, and after the guides set up all the rafts for us, we jumped into the boats and set off. Along with Mack, our guide and seven other boats, we hit some class three and class four rapids and everyone on our boat had a great experience. Not only were the rapids fun, we even saw a black bear running along the river beside us!

On the Bus to Raft Arkanasas River in Colorado

About to launch our rafts on the Arkansas River

Our 2 groups of 4 post launch on the Arkansas River with our guide Mack in the center

Our group rafting on the Arkansas River with Echo Canyon

We enjoyed white water rafting so much in Cañon City that Cole and I both want to go back and raft the famous Royal Gorge canyon section of the Arkansas River. After numerous tales from the owner and some of the experienced guides, the class 4 and 5 rapids sound like an exhilarating ride filled with breathtaking scenery.

Charles and Cole on the Arkansas River in Colorado

There are also some gorgeous views from the Royal Gorge Bridge, which is one of the highest suspension bridges in the world, and some good zip lining in the area, which we didn’t get to try, so yes Colorado, we will be back!

Dinosaurs in Cañon City, Colorado

After our morning on the water and another quick tasty snack at Echo Canyon’s 8 Mile Bar & Grill, we headed next door to the newly opened Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience. If you or your kids love dinosaurs then this place shouldn’t be missed. Not only does it have some great indoor exhibits with plenty of information, including castings of some locally found fossils, but it also has a collection of full sized animatronic dinosaurs just outside to get a feel for just how big dinosaurs were back in the day.

Triceratops and more at the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience

Big dinosaurs and big exhibits inside

Life sized animatronic dinosaurs outside the Royal Gorge Experience

As well as the guided exhibits, the kids really loved the three story rope course outside. Ever adventurous, I decided to liberate the child within me and walked the heights as well. I think I enjoyed it more than a few of the kids but that’s another story. I will say the wind can really gust near Cañon City so that coupled with the heights made the climb that much more exciting.

Ropes Course at Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience

The cool part about Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience is that they have a miniature rope course designed for three to five olds and a dinosaur dig area where kids can unearth their own dinosaur fossils. Rope courses are becoming popular the world over, but this was the first time I saw one aimed perfectly for the toddlers complete with safety gear especially designed for them.

Toddler rope course at Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience

Family Fossil dig area

Besides for the indoor and outdoor exhibits, there’s also a small canteen and a very generously sized dinosaur shop at the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience with more dinosaur merchandise than I think I’ve ever seen in one location. We walked away with tshirts, mugs, gems and dinosaur candy. All perfect to bring back to my daughter Jordan who was at home.

We also had the pleasure of meeting the family that built the Cañon City Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience. Not only were they super friendly and knowledgeable, their love for all things dinosaur related was quickly evident. I’m curious to see what they add next to their ever growing Dinosaur Experience.

Colorado Springs and area attractions

Overnighting in Cañon City was only one small part of our Colorado tour, so stay tuned for my forthcoming review on Colorado Springs and the many things you can do in that great little city.

These include riding a cog train up Pike’s Peak, checking out the beautiful Garden of the Gods, visiting the giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, eating s’mores and going on a MagiQuest at Great Wolf Lodge, descending to the depths in the Cave of the Winds, having breakfast and a pint in the Ivywild School and relaxing in comfort at the sprawling Cheyenne Mountain Resort.

Many thanks to Colorado Tourism, who hosted us. 

Family activities in Canon City Colorado, including white water rafting with Echo Canyon River Expeditions and visiting the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience. Family things to do in Canon City Colorado, including white water rafting with Echo Canyon River Expeditions and visiting the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience. things to do in Canon City Colorado with kids ]]>
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What To Expect On An Ecuador Amazon Tour With La Selva Lodge http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/south-america/what-to-expect-on-an-ecuador-amazon-tour-with-la-selva-lodge/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/south-america/what-to-expect-on-an-ecuador-amazon-tour-with-la-selva-lodge/#comments Thu, 22 Jun 2017 17:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=13774 Thinking of taking a tour in the Amazon rainforest? Think you need to fly into Brazil or maybe Peru to make it happen?

The truth is, the Amazon jungle is a giant ecosystem running through 9 countries in South America, and, though Brazil accounts for the largest share of it, it’s not the only way to experience the Amazon rainforest. Like more and more people are doing, we chose to see it while visiting Ecuador.

Honestly, the Amazon isn’t the first thing I think of when someone says Ecuador. My first thought of Ecuador is of the famed Galapagos Islands and that’s a shame, because Ecuador is a wonderful, accessible way to visit the mighty Amazon rain forest.

During our Amazon jungle tour in Ecuador, we saw almost everything we’d dreamed of in the Amazon, including monkeys, bids, piranha, plus plenty of exotic insects and creepy crawlies galore.

Canoeing expedition at La Selva Lodge

We visited the Amazon as a family of four, with our two kids, ages eight and eleven, so we wanted to stay somewhere comfortable for the kids (and honestly, comfortable for us as well).

We wanted to be able to do all the activities we dreamed of and still have a clean shower at the end of the day. We also wanted good food and a comfortable bed, so we chose to stay three nights/four days at the highly rated La Selva Lodge (see reviews on TripAdvisor here). La Selva included transportation, all activities, and gourmet meals, but did not include airfare from Ecuador’s capital city, Quito (though that can be arranged).

Click here to see La Selva Lodge prices and availability.

First, I’ll tell you all about our Ecuador Amazon Tour. Spoiler – it includes blow darts, monkeys, jungle hikes, and even piranhas! If you’re interested in checking out the food and our room, scroll down or click here to skip directly to our review of La Selva Lodge Ecuador.

Our Ecuador Amazon Tour

Our four night Amazon tour at La Selva Lodge definitely kept us busy from the very beginning, when we arrived at the lodge in a dugout canoe (you can read our journey into the Amazon here) via tranquil Heron Lake (it’s also known as Garzacocha Lake).

La Selva Lodge is located deep in the jungle, about an hour plane ride from Quito to the small town of Coca (also called Puerto Francisco de Orellana), followed by an almost two hour journey on a motorized canoe, a 10 minute walk through the rain forest, and then a half hour paddle in a dugout canoe down a small creek and then across Heron Lake to the Lodge.

approaching La Selva Lodge on the lake

Our first peek at La Selva Ecolodge in the Amazon in Ecuador

La Selva itself is located deep in the Amazon basin, on a tranquil lake that’s connected to the Amazon River system. The Lodge is a stone’s throw from Yasuni National Park, which is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. At La Selva Amazon Eco Lodge, they take care of all the excursions with in-house guides so there’s no need to book another company for activities.

During our  stay, we hiked through the surrounding rainforest, fished for piranha, spotted birds from a 100 foot treetop canopy tower, took a night paddle and even took a night hike through the awakening jungle. When we were done, we relaxed in our fully equipped cabana. We saw more wildlife than I thought possible, including monkeys, birds, black caimans, butterflies, amphibians, insects, and tarantulas.

Tip! We visited independently, but you can also visit La Selva Ecolodge as part of an all inclusive La Selva Lodge tour with G Adventures. The G Adventures tour includes flights from Quito and other transportation, as well as the standard La Selva package of accommodation, activities and gourmet meals. See prices and availability on G Adventures.

All of our jungle activities were guided by both an English speaking guide (the incredibly knowledgeable Daniel) and a local native guide (patient and helpful Medardo, who grew up a stone’s throw away from the Lodge in a local tribe). As a family with two kids, we wanted to make sure that we were in good hands in the jungle. Both Daniel and Medardo were attentive, knowledgeable, careful, and a lot of fun.

With two kids in tow, fishing for piranha was high on our must do list.

piranha fishing in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Medardo, our native guide showing off his piranha catch

Our native guide Medardo prepared traditional bamboo fishing poles, and loaded us up with raw meat as bait, and we set out in a dugout canoe.

English speaking guide taking us piranha fishing in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Daniel, our English speaking guide taking us piranha fishing in the Ecuadorian Amazon

It was definitely unnerving to see how the raw meat bait disappeared from our hooks within a matter of seconds!

catching piranha in the Amazon

Look at those teeth!

In the end, we ended up reeling in several piranha, most of them less than six inches long, but a few larger than our heads (eek!). Our guide, Daniel, even caught a catfish.

Dad and daughter fishing for piranha in the Amazon

Charles and Jordan fishing for piranha in the Amazon

One of our day trips took us to a local Amazon tribes village (the Pilchi village). We spent most of the afternoon there, learning about their way of life, eating food prepared by the local women, and learning about how they use local plants and animals. Stay tuned, as we’ll be writing an entire new article about our time at the local Amazon tribe!

traditional food at local village in the Amazon in Ecuador

Traditional food at local village in the Amazon in Ecuador

While the whole trip was memorable, our son Cole especially loved the chance to try his hand at using an authentic blow dart gun. Traditionally, the men of the Pilchi tribe used the poison tipped blow dart, to take down wildlife to eat. Our darts, of course, weren’t poisonous but we did enjoy testing out our aim regardless.

Medardo, our local guide, was taught how to use the blow dart by his father who was one of the last of his tribe to use the blow dart as an everyday hunting tool. They had very strict rules on who could use a blow dart and when, so it was a special treat that we had an official expert with us on our trip.

Boy learning to shoot a blow dart in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Cole learning to use a traditional blow dart gun with our guides Daniel and Medardo

Another one of the highlights of staying at La Selva was climbing to the top of their own 10 story observation tower, deep in the heart of the jungle.

On our first attempt to climb the tower, we were surprised by a booming thunderstorm during our walk. Luckily, Daniel and Medardo had thought to equip us in comfy rubber boots and rain ponchos. They even had boots and ponchos to fit the kids, though if your little one is younger than Jordan (age eight), you may want to bring a raincoat for them. The smallest poncho was pretty big on her.

A rainy walk on an Amazon rain forest tour in the Amazon in Ecuador

We chose not to climb the tower that morning because of possible high winds and lightning, and instead went back later in the day when the storm had eased however it highlighted the fact that when you’re in the rainforest, sometimes it’s going to rain.

looking up at the 35 meter tall observation tower at La Selva

The observation tower as the rain began to loom, turning the jungle an eerie shade of yellowish grey.

Despite its location deep in the jungle, the observation walk was only about 10 minutes away from the lodge. When we made it back when the weather cleared, we were greeted with this view from the top of the observation tower. It felt like we could see all the way back to Quito!

view from La Selva Lodge observation tower

During all of our hikes and activities, it was only the four of us and our two guides. This is the standard at La Selva Lodge, with one or two guides per group of four or five people.

That ratio meant that we got a personalized introduction to the rain forest, which was perfect as our English speaking naturalist guide Daniel was patient with the kids’ questions and quick to change our schedule if the weather or an opportunity presented itself.

Family on a nature walk in the Amazon in Ecuador

Family hike through La Selva Lodge rainforest

For the most part, we walked on raised platforms and paths through the jungle, although some of the trails were on dirt. All of the trails were well marked, though I was glad to have guides along to guide us home!

Looking at a troupe of monkeys at Yasuni National Park in the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador

Looking at a troupe of Capuchin monkeys in the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador

Parrot Clay Lick

One of the most unique experiences we had at La Selva was visiting the exposed clay riverbank where brightly colored parrots gather to eat clay every day. The parrot clay lick is inside Yasuni National Park along the fast and large Napo River. The clay apparently neutralizes toxins in many of the nuts and foods the birds eat and the three species of parrot common to the area gather in large groups in the mornings to digest the clay.

Parrot licks Yasuni National Park in the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador

From La Selva, visiting the clay lick is a 10 minute motorized canoe ride as well as the 15 minute paddle up the lake and down the creek to get to La Selva’s Rio Napo dock.

We did have to wait about 15 minutes before the birds appeared, but we saw well over 30 parrots. The majority of the parrots we saw were green Mealy Amazon Parrots, but the Blue-headed Parrot and Yellow-crowned Amazon Parrot also visit the salt lick and they could be seen in the surrounding trees.

If you’re really lucky, you’ll see hundreds of parrots at one time.

We spent a lot of time in the water on our Amazon tour in Ecuador. La Selva’s lake Heron is connected to the mighty Napo River by a small creek and many tributaries. We paddled along on the water, watching monkeys scurry overhead, birds flying through the trees, and even saw large black caiman crocodiles lounging along the shore.

canoeing in the Amazon Jungle

At the dock at La Selva

In addition to scheduled and guided excursions like jungle hikes, piranha fishing and visiting the local indigenous community, the lodge offers many independent activities. If you’re so inclined, you can take one of the canoes or kayaks out on the lake, grab a massage, or even enjoy a yoga class on the water.

dock at La Selva Lodge

Charles was the only one brave enough (or is it crazy enough? I’m not sure) to do this, but you can even swim off the dock at La Selva. You’ll be swimming with caimans, electric eels and piranhas, so use caution!

Swimming with piranhas in the Amazon at La Selva Lodge

Charles swimming with piranhas in the Amazon at La Selva Lodge. Yup, still has his toes.

We all had a fantastic time during our family yoga class. Daphne, our yoga instructor, gives personalized or group classes in the Gazebo overlooking the lake. Our class was aimed to entertain the kids, but you can also get classes customized to your needs.

Family Yoga at La Selva Lodge Amazon Ecuador

Wildlife in the Ecuadorian Amazon

La Selva Lodge is perched beside Yasuni National Park, which is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, and home to millions of species of plants, birds, insects and mammals.

We were lucky enough to see several monkey species in the park, including black capuchin monkeys, white-fronted capuchin monkeys, spider monkeys, and howler monkeys.

Yasuni is home to at least 596 bird species. We didn’t quite see all 596 species, but we did see so many that I lost track. Our favorite place to bird watch was up in the lodge’s observation platform above the restaurant and lounge. From there, we could look over the lake and into trees in the surrounding jungle.

La Selva Lodge bird watching in the jungle

The lodge had some quality binoculars and equipment for bird watching, which made it fun and easy. The trees were honestly teeming with birds like toucans, parrots and the comical hoatzin (which locals call the stinky turkey).

Looking at birds through binoculars at La Selva Lodge Amazon \

bird in the trees at La Selva

bird nest at La Selva

Huge hanging bird nest at La Selva

This is truly the wild, so experiencing and seeing animals is really up to nature. La Selva was fantastic about getting us out to see local wildlife, and took us on canoe rides, and nature walks, including a night walk through the jungle. Our english speaking naturalist, Daniel, was very informative on each species we saw and Medardo, our native guide, knew exactly how to close we could get without scaring it away or being in danger.

cool little tree frog at la selva lodge

During our night walk, we saw a tailless scorpion, two tarantulas (one in a tree, and another in a ground burrow), and plenty of frogs and other invertebrates.

If creepy crawlies aren’t your thing, we also saw a tiny (and adorable) little opossum, plenty of birds, and a troupe of Capuchin monkeys that night. The monkeys were a bit feisty, throwing stuff at us from above, including bean pods they’d just eaten. They would eat the sweet white fluff around the beans, and then throw down the bean and pod.

monkey in the trees at La Selva through binoculars

creepy crawly in the jungle at La Selva

that's a tarantula in a tree

Yes, that’s a big tarantula in a tree

Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park is also home to countless plant species. Everywhere we looked, the jungle was covered in lush green, and a profusion of flowers, ferns, and orchids.

tropical plant in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador

At home in Canada, we only see the bird of paradise flower in high-end, expensive florists. Here in the jungle in Ecuador, they grew wild almost everywhere.

Bird of paradise flower at la selva lodge

Bird of paradise flower at La Selva Lodge

During our visit to the local Pilchi tribe’s village, the village women showed us crops they grew for food, as well as local jungle plants shamans use for medicine.

flower at local village in the Eucadorian Amazon

cocoa pod growing in the Amazon jungle in Ecuador

Cocoa pod growing in the Amazon jungle in Ecuador

A Review of La Selva Lodge

Just being in the Amazon itself is a bit of a trial, as it can get oppressively humid and hot, and plenty of activity can quickly lead to heatstroke. We had our children with us, so we wanted to stay someplace where we could be comfortable, with a cool place to rest, as well as decent food. La Selva delivered that in spades, and more.

From the start, when the La Selva team met us in the Quito airport with boarding passes already printed out, helped check our luggage, and handed us a gift for each of the kids, we knew we were in good hands.

Lounging in a hammock at La Selva Lodge Amazon Ecuador

Charles’ favorite place to hang out at La Selva

The La Selva Lodge is a big place, with private bungalows dotting spacious, landscaped grounds, surrounded by jungle on all sides.

Looking over the rooftops at La Selva Lodge

From our cabin, it was a two minute walk to the secluded spa with its outdoor Jacuzzi, and a short 30 second hop to the main building with a large restaurant, viewing area, lounge and dock.

the docks at La Selva ecolodge

La Selva Lodge front desk and lounge

La Selva Lodge front desk and lounge area

We had a family suite, with a king bed in one one room and two double beds in another. Outside, we had a private porch, hammock and a sunken tub in the deck. The rooms had a lot of nice little extras, from a dry box to keep electronics free of moisture, to mosquito netting over all the beds. There was also a washroom with double sinks and warm showers.

La Selva ecoLodge tub in deck

La Selva Lodge king bed in room

La Selva ecuador bathroom

La Selva Amazon kids beds

Meals at La Selva

Our stay at La Selva included all meals and snacks. Dinner, supper and breakfast are served at specific hours, but there are light snacks available from friendly Marcello, the bartender, any time of day.

Breakfast our first day started things off right, with a delicious fruit plate, cheese and meat plate, tiny corn tamales in corn husks, coffee, tart orange juice, pineapple juice and an offer of eggs.

We especially loved the chef’s willingness to accommodate us, as me and the kids are vegetarians. They were happy to whip up kid-friendly veggie meals, and asked us what we’d like best.

vegetarian appetizer at La Selva ecolodge

seafood appetizer at La Selva ecolodge

They also offered up great fish and meat meals which Charles was thankful for after early days and long nights hiking and going on adventures.

supper at La Selva lodge

They also offered some great desserts which everyone was thankful for.

dessert at La Selva Lodge Amazon

Shrimp and traditional Ecuadorian food at La Selva Lodge

Family in the dining room at the lodge

Dinner menu at La Selva

Weather: We went in early March, and found it warm and with humidity never dropping below 80% any time. When it rained, which it did at some point every day, the humidity got even higher. I set out some pants to dry from a walk one night, and in the morning they were wetter from the overnight humidity than they’d been the day before. Damp everything is pretty standard Amazon rainforest fare so pack accordingly. That said, the staff at La Selva does offer a laundry service.

Bugs: Well, it is the Amazon jungle, so there are bugs. Surprisingly, we found that there weren’t a lot of mosquitoes when we visited in March. Charles was surprised that there were way fewer mosquitoes in the Amazon jungle than in his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba however it’s still a good idea to bring mosquito repellent, especially on the night walk. We also didn’t find any creepy crawlies in our room, much to our eight year old daughter’s relief and each bed has a netting that we made sure we used.

WiFi: Yes, there is WiFi at the lodge. The WiFi is via satellite, so it’s enough to check email, but don’t count on streaming Netflix or uploading your photos with La Selva Lodge Ecuador WiFi.

Hot water: There are hot water showers. We did have our hot water go out once, but we told the front desk, and they had it up and running in a couple of hours.

Drinking water: La Selva gets its water from an underground well. There’s filtered drinking water available at all times in the main lounge, and they bring a pitcher of filtered water to your room every day. Guests are also given personal refillable water bottles to use while they stay at the lodge.

Location: The La Selva Amazon Ecolodge is in Ecuador’s Amazon region, bordering Yasuni National Park and the mighty Napo River. To get to it you need to get to Coca where they’ll take you down the Rio Napo River for a few hours to their private docks and then you need to take a canoe up a small creek and across the Garzacocha (Heron) Lake.

La Selva Lodge reviews: Click here to see reviews for La Selva EcoLodge Ecuador.

How to Book La Selva: You can book La Selva Lodge through Booking.com or compare prices on TripAdvisor here.

Click now to see prices and availability.

G Adventures La Selva Lodge Amazon Adventure: We visited independently, but you can also visit La Selva Ecolodge as part of an all inclusive La Selva Lodge tour with G Adventures. The G Adventures tour includes flights from Quito and other transportation, as well as the standard La Selva package of accommodation, activities and gourmet meals.

See prices and availability on G Adventures.

What To Expect On An Ecuador Amazon Tour With La Selva Lodge | Touring the Amazon in Ecuador | Ecuador Amazon rainforest | Ecuador Amazon Lodges | Ecuador Amazon tour | Ecuador Amazon jungle
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