Bright Nights in Springfield, MA is a great holiday activity for a cold night. Since we went a few days after Christmas, it wasn’t super busy – we arrived about five minutes before it opened for the evening and only had a few cars ahead of us waiting to get in. The last time we came to Bright Nights was about three years ago, and it seemed to have grown considerably since then. We were able to drive steadily at our own pace, and spent about 30 minutes enjoying the many detailed light displays.
If it hadn’t been such a brutally cold night, it would have been nice to take advantage of the place to park, get out of the car, and ride a carousel and enjoy warm drinks. Maybe next year!
On a cold winter New England day, a warm, humid butterfly house is just the place for me.
The Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens, in South Deerfield MA, is a great change of scenery and climate during the winter. You’ll find yourself immersed in beautiful flowers and greenery, with butterflies flitting all around you (and sometimes even landing on you).
In the main butterfly room you’ll also see uncaged birds (including a hummingbird and parrot), a tortoise in a large open pen, and a small koi pond. An adjoining room contains numerous terrariums housing many species of amphibians, reptiles, and insects.
On our Christmas vacation, we visited the Springfield Museums. This museum complex includes five museums and a sculpture garden, so you could definitely spend the whole day exploring (if you can handle that much museum time in one day). The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden has been here since the 1990s. In 2017, it was joined by the newest museum in the complex, the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss.
Housed in a beautiful old home, the first floor of this museum includes many rooms with interactive kid-friendly exhibits and lively, colorful representations of characters and scenes from popular Seuss books such as The Lorax, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, and Horton Hears a Who!.
The upstairs of the museum has more adult-oriented biographical and historical information about Seuss himself, and the basement offered some hands-on craft opportunities for children.
I went to Phoenix, Arizona for a few days in October for a conference. First of all, the short flight from Denver to Phoenix was beautiful. As we flew over the mountains in Colorado, I could see Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Shortly after arriving at my hotel, I went for a walk to Nami, a vegan ice cream and pastry shop. The menu was full of enticing options, but I settled on a decadent “fluffernutterin tSoynami.” This amazing vegan and gluten-free treat was made of swirled chocolate and vanilla soy/coconut soft serve ice cream with peanut butter, banana, rice mallow fluff, and toasted marshmallow syrup stirred in.
Throughout most of my conference, I ate at or got take-out from Kaleidoscope Juice. Despite the juice-centric name, this restaurant has all sorts of great food. The protein bowl with tofu, brown rice, and ginger miso dressing was fantastic, and so was the gluten free protein waffle with fruit and coconut whipped cream.
I also enjoyed several kinds of Kaleidoscope’s gluten-free muffins (almond, blueberry, and pumpkin) and one of their smoothies. It was a relief to find a restaurant in downtown Phoenix that worked so well with my dietary restrictions.
We had a nice day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park at the beginning of October. It turned out to be one of those fall days that brought some rain, some snow, some sun, and some clouds. We didn’t mind the changeable weather since days like this often mean fewer people and more wildlife out and about. I meant to bring my camera that has a zoom lens, but I forgot it and almost didn’t need it because we were lucky to see so many animals up close. These bighorn sheep were snacking right next to the road as we drove through the Big Thompson Canyon.
As always, the scenery in Rocky Mountain National Park was beautiful. The higher elevations had just been dusted with fresh snow.
And we saw several large elk. Can you spot them in these photos?
I love mountains that give you options of how to get to the summit. Prospect Mountain in Lake George can be a great hike if you have the time and motivation, or a relatively quick drive if not.
On a sunny afternoon in mid-August, we drove up and enjoyed the beautiful view of Lake George and the mountain ranges beyond.
We headed homeward from Dinosaur National Monument by driving through Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. This whole area of the northeast corner of Utah was beautiful to drive through, and we saw a lot of deer. We stopped at Red Canyon to go for a short walk and enjoy the amazing views, which even panoramic photos do not do justice.
We had a great day visiting Dinosaur National Monument in July. The huge park stretches from western Colorado to eastern Utah, but we only visited the Utah side since we really wanted to focus on the dinosaur bones and petroglyphs.
Our first stop was the Quarry Exhibit Hall, shortly after it opened for the day. It was awesome to see the exposed dinosaur bones as they were discovered in the quarry, and to even touch some of the fossilized bones! There were also some nice reconstructions of dinosaur skeletons.
The landscapes outside of the Quarry Exhibit Hall were also incredible.
The Green River flows through the park, and rafting down the river would have been a fun adventure.
After a short drive from the Quarry Exhibit Hall, we stopped to see petroglyphs and pictographs left by the Fremont people that lived in this area about a thousand years ago. We then continued driving to see more of these ancient carvings and drawings at another location farther from the Quarry Exhibit Hall, and enjoyed a picnic in a nice shady spot near a historic homesteader’s cabin.
After our weekend in Steamboat Springs, we continued west to Vernal, Utah (our home base for exploring Dinosaur National Monument). My favorite thing about Vernal was this gigantic pink dinosaur that welcomes you to the small city.
If you stop to admire her, you’ll notice that her eyes move.
Fish Creek Falls is a short waterfall hike in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. We didn’t have much time to linger there, but this area seemed to be a very popular picnic destination.