The Matthew Shepard Foundation Gay Ski Week in Crested Butte, CO

January 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Entertainment, Travel

Brought to you courtesy of The Seattle Lesbian

gay ski week

This spring, the Matthew Shepard Foundation Gay Ski Week will make its grand debut! With the sunshine and snow, there will be a full series of fun ski events and parties.  This will all bring attention to the foundation’s mission and expand its message of tolerance, advocacy and education.

Butte 11 will take place from March 19-26 in beautiful Crested Butte, Colorado. The Crested Butte area is a great place for celebration and recreation.  To top it off, Crested Butte Mountain Resort offers a large variety of accommodations that will meet anyone’s budget.

Read more here: The Seattle Lesbian

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Hawaii Series: Visiting Oahu

January 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel

This article is brought to you courtesy of The Seattle Lesbian

gay travel Hawaii

What to take:

The plans were complete, however the packing was not! Being a person who hates to be caught unprepared, I packed all of those just-in-case items –you know, just in case I’d need them. When it’s 36 degrees in Seattle, it’s difficult to even imagine what 80 degrees feels like, so of course my REI Wheely Beast was jam-packed with anything I might need for sun, rain, wind, heat, cold, or comfort.  I would come to regret this later, so my advice for those who have not yet made the journey: pack light, but don’t forget your sunglasses, sunscreen and chargers.  If you enjoy the water, you are likely to spend most of your time in swimwear.  Not to worry, if you forgot something you can probably find it at the ABC Store.  You can find them on nearly every block.

Flight:

Let’s talk about flights. Nobody wants to arrive in Hawaii after dark; somehow it feels like you’ve already wasted a day of your trip. Which is precisely why taking the 6am flight and arriving by noon in Honolulu makes sense. That being said, rising at 3am and hitting the road to the airport by 4am is a difficult thing, not to mention that asking for a ride to the airport really tests a relationship, so pay a driver.  I usually prefer non-stop flights, but made an agreement with myself that this would be a trip that had a low impact on my savings account.  The connection through San Francisco was tolerable, and upgrading to economy-plus seats for extra leg room from San Francisco to Honolulu made the trip much more comfortable. Using air miles and making at least one stop will help to reduce the cost of your trip if you can handle sitting the extra hour or so.  Don’t forget to bring a book/kindle/ipad/ipod on the flight to help pass the time, and earplugs if you are bothered by the sound of chatter or screaming children.

Read more of the story here: The Seattle Lesbian

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A Vacation Fit For Parents

October 24, 2010 by  
Filed under Healthy, Travel

By: Susan Howard

Tucked away and surrounded by rolling hills sits La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, CA (near San Diego). As a private trainer, I am often concerned that my clients will lose headway when they go on vacation. High fat foods, an abundance of cocktails, and nowhere to workout except the one stationary bike left there from the 70’s in a room full of mirrors and a broken bench –not very appealing. Therefore, I am constantly on a quest to find the best vacation destinations in which to luxuriously relax and stay fit.

I undoubtedly found it in La Costa Resort and Spa. San Diego is one of the healthiest cities in the country and the vacation spots reflect that. With a stellar 8,000 square foot gym, up to the minute classes, and the Chopra Yoga center right on the premises, how could you not workout?

La Costa has 8 pools. The family pool area consists of two huge, fast watersides that will awaken the kid in any adult, a little slide for the toddlers, a big spray water station, and a beach that fades into a wading pool. Two-year-olds will have a heyday just walking from the beach to the wading pool then back out to the beach as the very kind waitress offers overtired parents delicious Bloody Mary’s.

Our room was spacious and well designed, including wooden trim and clean lines and a luxuriously large bathroom with marble floors and a spa-sized sunken tub. The bed was comfortable, pillows just right. They also have villas that you can rent if you want to go with another family or bring the in-laws –always a plus for more workout time.

At the gym I sifted through the varied class schedule and picked the trendy Kettlebell Cardio Crunch class. I got to experience some cool new moves from a veteran instructor working on the BOSU ball and balancing the bell overhead then onto the row machine for a 5-minute blast. They also offer Zumba, spinning, and pilates classes, to name a few. The gym, which overlooks a huge golf course, is equipped with tons of cardio machines, a full strength room with free weights, and cable machines.

Oh yeah, La Costa has a full PGA 18-hole golf course. Seems very impressive –not our thing, but if one of you enjoys golf this could definitely be a selling point. They have 17 tennis courts as well, 4 of them clay.

I also went to the mediation class and omm’d in a very peaceful and unifying setting with gong and all. Brandy, my wife, took a yoga class. When the bouncy San Diego blond instructor with the squeaky voice started talking Brandy thought, “oh well, can’t leave now,” then proceeded to take one of the best yoga classes she’s had in a while. There is something centering and calm at the Chopra Center, based in Deepok Chopra’s philosophy. The adjoining shop has all the books and soothing music you could ever want.

The spa has great amenities: steam, sauna, outdoor whirlpool, and a quiet area with fireplace. The pool has a waterfall that pounds down on your shoulders, giving you a massage before you even get to the treatment. When I went it was a popular weekend for the spa and most of the women wore their swimsuits, so be warned. (I am a prude from the Midwest, but even I go naked in a spa.) I got the signature Spanish Herbal Body Rub, which is 100 minutes of exfoliating massaging bliss. It starts with a salt scrub and then lavender tea leaves; I was scrubbed from head to toe. Then I rinsed off and went back to the table for a deep massage. My skin felt soft and my spirit as easy as Sunday morning.

Each meal we tried was delicious. The first night we ate out on the patio of Blue Fire Grill surrounded by fire pits and live jazz. The setting was beautiful with a family-friendly atmosphere. Brandy had a seafood trio that was amazing, fish caught locally, and I had the roast chicken with polenta and veggies, both meals were flavorful and light. Little Sophia skipped her hot dog and went straight for the ice cream with sprinkles. It is vacation, after all. The menu even delights the children with a milk flight- chocolate, strawberry and regular.

The next night we ate at Legends Bistro on the patio right beside the crackling fire. I was struck by the bountiful vegetarian selections. This menu featured some meals inspired by the Chopra Center. Lentils over basmati rice, vegetable risotto, and butternut squash ravioli were a huge welcome from the standard steamed veggie plate option. They also have a delicious buffet brunch each morning.

We took long, beautiful, late night stroller walks through the vast lush property and still didn’t see everything. The grounds are well manicured and filled with succulents and flowering plants. The staff was very friendly and accommodating.

For families, the resort offers a kid club called Kidtopia, which is a huge supervised playroom for children 6 months to 12 years old. So while you and your mate head out to workout, or drift to the spa or just chill in your room, your child will have just as much fun as you. They also take care to give kids a little goody box full of healthy treats and toys upon arrival. Our daughter hung tight to her box most of the trip, oh the little things that really do matter.

La Costa has thought of basically everything for a family to have a fun active vacation. Once you get there you likely won’t leave the grounds, as there is a ton of stuff to do. Once you do leave you will likely be back the next chance you get.

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Behaving Like Grown-Ups at San Francisco’s Clift

September 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel

By: Tosha Woronov

We are parents, which means our recent family getaways always seem to involve some over-blown resort with a swimming pool, water-slide, splash zone. I had grown tired of it, and missed the vacations my husband and I used to take, in those halcyon days before having our son –exploring a city through day and night, untethered by lunch restrictions or nap schedules.

I wanted to travel like grown-ups again, and for our son to be a part of that.

I simply could not don another adhesive wristband required for pool entry; I wanted to travel like grown-ups again, and for our son to be a part of that. And so we three headed to San Francisco, the city that inevitably causes me to lament the youth I never spent there. To shake things up we booked a two-night stay at the Clift in Union Square.

Once one learns that the Clift is the lovechild of designer Philippe Starck and hotel genius Ian Schrager, it’s pretty easy to conjure up advance adjectives to describe it. Trendy, funky, edgy, sleek? Yep. It’s all those things. The stone exterior is (almost) unmarked, just minimal letters whispering to you among the blaring Geary Street traffic, “Pssst. Hey – I’m the Clift. Come inside. You know you want to”. Very cool.

The valets are stylishly dressed and beyond charming (which seems fair, since parking is $50 a day). Just as one doorman-model entreated us to enter the dark and purple-hued lobby, I hesitated –suddenly wishing we’d chosen a place less…hip. Peeling a Swedish Fish off of my son’s t-shirt, I thought: We don’t belong here…must find a kid-friendly, pool-soggy hotel right NOW.

“Mom! You HAVE to come see this. It’s the biggest chair in…the…WORLD!”

But the staff was surprisingly warm and friendly. No one noticed or cared that my 5 year-old was wearing candy, nor did it seem to matter that he was announcing, in his terribly un-chic, outside voice: “MOM! You have to come see this! It’s the biggest chair in…the…WORLD!” And so it seemed. So big in fact, that he could not – but still tried – to climb atop it (much to my horror), which also seemed to be an acceptable activity as far as the lobby staff was concerned.

And so I relaxed, and had a look around. The lobby is very very dark, which makes it all the more fun to explore. It’s more of a functional art gallery, with furniture pieces by Salvador Dali and Ray and Charles Eames, a dramatic floor-to-ceiling fireplace decked out in bronze, and a sofa with steer horns. I was suddenly Alice (in Wonderland), had she the good fortune to drink from a bottle labeled “Vogue Me”.

The Living Room adjacent to the lobby is fun too, particularly the whimsical black and white photographs of plastic animals dressing its mood-lit walls. People were actually lounging in here –reading the paper, playing backgammon –although I couldn’t help feeling that they were planted; it was all too perfect.

I’m a sucker for a beautiful bar, and the Redwood Room really did me in.

Ah…and then I wandered into the Redwood Room. At night, this space becomes a standing-room only “nightclub” packed with hipsters and the beautiful set. Yikes. But I got to hang here on a late and still quiet Friday afternoon, which allowed me to drink in not only its grandeur, but also an artfully crafted $20 sidecar. I’m a sucker for a beautiful bar, and the Redwood Room really did me in. Its backdrop is a breathtaking 30-foot lightbox illuminating sparkling bottles of booze. Story has it that a single 2,000 year-old tree gave its life for the rich redwood paneling adorning the walls and hand-carved bar. The crunchiest of tree huggers would be hard-pressed to find a more noble sacrifice for the tree. Entranced by the hand-etched Venetian mirrorwork lining the bar’s surface, I understood immediately that here is where the Clift’s (near) century-old history is preserved. Even the multimedia digital art show, which does nothing for a girl like me, can’t mar its timeless elegance.

Primed as I was by all I had experienced in the lobby and its environs, I was disappointed once we got to our room. It was small –which might be expected in an old, city hotel – but shockingly so, for a deluxe room (2 tiers up from standard). And where the Starck design succeeds so beautifully downstairs, it comes off cold in the guest rooms. The lavender walls appeared almost tacky in the late afternoon light, as did the orange acrylic sidetables. Having the word “Ikea” run through my mind as I unpacked in our “luxury” hotel room was unsettling.

Our little room on the 7th floor became a welcome recharging station.

BUT…

I will say this about the room: the beds are very nice, which is a big deal to me. After a restful night spent on perfectly firm mattresses and delicious 400-thread count Italian percale bedding, we were pretty close to forgiving the room’s shortcomings. In fact, once we drew the drapes (blocking out the not so lovely view of a rooftop), lit a few lamps, and allowed the light purple walls to do their thing, the décor started to grow on me. There were no real amenities in our deluxe room to speak of, which was ok. After all, we were here to experience the city, not to lay around all day in fluffy robes, chowing on room service. (We did enjoy an early morning buffet in the hotel’s stunning Velvet Room, which included fancy schmancy pastries, delectable meats and cheeses, and photo-worthy slices of fresh fruit, $28 per person.)

In the end, over two day’s time showing San Francisco to our son (Pier 39 and the sea lions, Golden Gate Park, trolley cars, Chinatown, a ride over the bridge, Lombard Street, and several random and funky meals around town), our little room on the 7th floor became a welcome recharging station.

Clift (Stay)
Redwood Room (Drink)
Velvet Room (Dine)
495 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

CLIFT Hotel Package

-   Two-Bedroom Suite Package (sleeps 2 adults in king bed and 2 kids in double/double beds)

-   Including continental breakfast for up to 4 ppl per day

Includes a choice of 4 tickets to either the Walt Disney Museum, Exploratorium or California Academy of Sciences (4 tickets max per stay)http://disney.go.com/disneyatoz/familymuseum/index.htmlwww.exploratorium.edu; or  www.calacademy.org

Rates starting at $500.00 per night ($60 extra per night per additional child or adult)

Valid until December 30, 2010, based on availability.

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Summer, San Diego, SeaWorld

July 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Kids, Travel

By: Brandy Black

In my ongoing search for the ultimate family getaway, I found it just off vacation road in San Diego.  Through the Birds of Paradise, past the hibiscus and beyond the lily pad pond lays a bayside bungalow perched on a secluded beach.  Fling open your French doors and let the children comb for seashells while you kick back on your Adirondack chair and watch the sailboats float by.

Paradise Point Resort has thought of everything -from the shallow pool for tots to the S’more package and fire pits.

The days are filled with bicycle excursions, boating, skiing, putt putt golf, croquet and tennis and the night is welcomed with tiki torch-lit pathways with live music seeping from the restaurants on the cove.

You may choose from the casual dining experience at Barefoot Bar and Grill or the fine dining at Baleen- both with equally gorgeous bayside views.  With our toddler in tow, we enjoyed a delicious two-hour dinner chock-full of insatiable lobster and signature cocktails.  I don’t remember the last time we were able to sneak a meal like that in but the sea creatures and live music kept her entertained for the night.  I must admit that I was impressed with how good the food was for a 44-acre resort.  They certainly didn’t overlook the cuisine.

We could barely rip ourselves from the beach the next morning to go to SeaWorld (and that was supposed to be the main attraction) but we swore we’d sneak back to the resort in the afternoon.  A mere two-minute ride in the car and we were parked and ready for our big day.

Shamu was a big hit with our little one, but beware not to sit in the “Splash Zone”.  Our daughter was worried for the rest of the day after getting soaked once.  The show that really charmed our toddler most was “Blue Horizons”, with the dolphins and, most importantly, the main character Marina (or as we like to call her “the princess”), whose imagination comes to life as she dives through her window into the sea.  There was so much to do with a 2 year-old -from the Cirque Du Soleil show to Toddler Zone, which included Sesame Street characters, water areas, bouncy rooms, rides and climbing areas, to feeding the sea lions (aggressive little buggers).  10 hours later with no break in between we were done with a fantastic day.

We were slated to leave the next morning but couldn’t possibly rob ourselves of kite flying on the beach and boating on the water.  After playing hooky for one more day we had a truly wonderful vacation and fun for all.

The Family Plan:

Destination: San Diego

Transportation: Plane, Train or Automobile

Stay: Paradise Point Resort

Play: Seaworld

Day 1


Paradise Point Resort (arrive early)

Pool

Beach

Dinner at Baleen

Day 2

Day: Seawold

Night: S’mores on the beach at your firepit

Day 3

Morning tennis

Afternoon Pool

Late Afternoon Boating

Dinner on the dock (live music)

Day 4

Morning walk on the beach and kite flying

Bicycle ride

Departure

Paradise Point Resort Room Rates:

Low Season = $219 – $419

High Season = $359 – $995

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The Life Of Luxury

May 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel

By: Brandy Black

Recently we went on an incredibly lavish little get away to Ritz Carlton in Laguna Beach.  This resort is a family gift, a real treat, and spoiled us from start to finish.  The hotel overlooks the ocean and the beach is your backyard. .  They really don’t miss a beat from the color-coordinated flowers that are bunched in oversized vases throughout the hotel to the impeccable service to the greatly appreciated kid friendly experience.  I even overheard an 8 year-old at the pool explaining to his parents how “kid friendly” the hotel was and I had to agree.  With a toddler, changing venues is a necessity and the Ritz provides just that with 2 pools, the beach, a mini playground for kids accompanied by ping-pong for the adults, and large vast halls decorated with sparkling chandeliers and plush velvety chairs.

I must also mention the dining experience because oftentimes when you have a young one you can’t always sit at a lovely ocean view table in a stunning restaurant among the masses (although my wife and I often try).  We were thrilled with the cozy marketplace restaurant that offers casual dining.  Sitting on the comfy couch by the fire with our daughter between us eating an array of sushi, mac-n-cheese, paninis and steamed broccoli we were able to relax and watch the news on the flat screen while Sophia nibbled and scribbled on the paper the server provided for her entertainment.  We saved the fabulous Oceanside restaurant for our special date that night once the babysitter arrived and let me tell you, it was amazing. Our 3-hour dinner then led us into a lovely glass of wine at Eno- the wine, cheese and chocolate restaurant a few steps away.  We were surrounded by delicious bottles of vino and provided international cheese and gourmet chocolate.

Our days were spent going from beach to pool to playground to nap and back again.

It was a lovely vacation for all and a truly amazing getaway.

The Club


To club or not to club?  The real question is whether club level with a child at a place like this is truly worth it.  There were some real perks to being a club guest.  When we slipped our specially programmed key into the elevator slot, we were delighted when the doors opened to a friendly greeting from our club hostess and our daughter gleamed at the shelves with jar after jar of colorful candy just beyond her reach.  Penni, our lovely concierge for the weekend, showed us around the club lounge explaining that the complimentary food and top shelf alcohol would be available to us from 7AM to 10:30PM daily. Our eyes sparkled at the delicious treats that lay before us: luscious fruit and cheese spreads, dainty sandwiches, miniature bowls of couscous, eclairs, cookies, coffees and wines of all flavors, and a view of the ocean from the balcony windows.  We sat by the fire on that chilly afternoon  –Sophia sipping milk, Susan with a bloody mary, and me a margarita and magazine. It was perfect.

Throughout the weekend the club lounge was our landing spot between activities; it was a chance to rejuvenate before going out to play again.  We met many other couples in the lounge and a few kids as well.  Sophia was in heaven with all the attention from the concierge, kids to play with, and non-stop food throughout the day.  I must mention that I was curious to see if our being gay would be well received.  I was pleasantly surprised that not only were all the staff and people we met truly wonderful and embracing, but there was also another gay couple (without a kid) there as well.  Maybe in this day and age in California this is not even worth mentioning, but I always find it affirming as one of two moms to hear that again and again.

My final analysis of being a part of the Ritz Carlton club level is that if you can afford it, it’s worth it.  I especially found it nice with a toddler. We were steps away from milk in the morning and food throughout the day, which is important with a little one that snacks every two hours.

The cappuccinos in the morning, cookies in the afternoon, wine at sunset, and cognac at night were hard to leave at the end of the trip.

The rooms are the same –club or no club –so you are paying for the wonderful staff, delicious food, drinks o’ plenty, privacy, luxury, and utter convenience (not to mention that it feels pretty fabulous to be doted on and pampered for the weekend).  If you have traveled with a toddler you must know by now that at the end of a vacation you are ready for another vacation and I must say at the end of this one, I was revitalized.

Make Your Life Easier

  1. When traveling with a kid, since you are already getting up insanely early, take advantage of it and claim your place at the pool by setting up your stuff at the best shady location.
  2. If there are two sunny locations such as the pool and the beach, be greedy and set up camp in both spots.  Eeverybody else does it and you have an excuse; you’ve got kids.
  3. Always ask the concierge or hotel staff what is available for children.  We got umbrellas, chairs, beach toys, and a ball provided by the hotel.  Get your facts straight before you start your day.
  4. Get a room with a balcony if possible so that once your child is down, you can step out on the balcony and have a romantic dinner for two.
  5. Vacation in your own city– it’s so much easier with kids.
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Gay Ski Week- Wild West Style

April 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel

By: K. Pearson Brown of Out With Mommy

We got a taste of the Rocky Mountain spirit when my partner Kira, our toddler Stephen, and I first arrived at the tiny Montrose Junction Airport, about an hour and a half’s drive from our destination of Telluride.  As we loaded into the shuttle, I reminded our driver that we had requested a child car seat.

“Here’s what we’ve got,” he said, handing me a tattered booster seat.

“This is actually a booster,” I told the driver, trying not to sound too much like an LA diva. “My son is only two.  He needs a car seat with a harness to keep him in.”

“No worries.  This is Colorado. He can join us for a drink later if he wants,” the driver said with a laugh as he heaved our bags into the back of the van.

OK, it was time to let loose.  I strapped Stephen into the booster with the lap belt and held him in with an arm across his chest.  “Here we go.  We’re in the Wild West now,” I told him as his eyes lit up looking at the magnificent mountain peaks surrounding us.

Onward and upward we went up the icy windy roads to Telluride, an old mining town that has become a winter wonderland for skiers and a year-round playground for hikers, rock climbers, mountain bikers and lovers of the great outdoors.

The region is also known for its Wild West anything-goes live-and-let-live attitude, which for us meant we would be welcome as a gay family without a second thought.  Sure enough, from our entrance into the lobby at the Peak’s Resort & Spa we felt at home right away.  When I checked us into our king-bed room, for two women and a child, the friendly front-desk clerk not only didn’t blink, she asked if I would like an extra key for my partner.

Just through the grand foyer was the Peak’s spa, a world-class facility, a full fitness center with state-of-the art cardio room, Cybex machines, a yoga studio and even a rock-climbing wall.  The spa also offered massage, mani-pedis, tanning, sauna, Roman tubs and a eucalyptus inhalation room.  None of that mattered to Stephen, but he could hardly contain his excitement to see not one but two heated pools and an indoor water slide.  No wonder the resort was selected by Parent’s magazine as a top 10 family winter resort.

The resort has also been ranked as the premier gay ski week host, and each year at the end of February an estimated 1000 GLBT skiers attend the Telluride Gay Ski Week, which is what brought us to town.  While we were traveling by shuttle to get to the resort, we learned from our driver that

Gay Ski Week is an event that townspeople look forward to all year, not only because the attendees are known to be big tippers, but as one local told us, “Every bar in town puts on a special party during Gay Ski Week, and it’s always the best party of the year.”

Although the event itself is primarily for adults, there are plenty of activities in town for kids while Mommy and Mama or Daddy and Papa hit the slopes, including story time at the local library, music, dance, craft activities, and of course ski lessons, sledding, ice skating and even trampoline acrobatics.  The Peak’s Resort also has a list of local nannies that can babysit while parents get a little time out, and the nannies don’t just sit around in the hotel room.  By request, they will take kids outside to play in the snow!

The best part of getting around Telluride is that the town is small, and despite the snow, it’s easy to traverse from the hotels into the main part of town via a free gondola. A true delight for a toddler — and adults — the gondola whisks commuters up into the air and high over the trails where skiers and snowboarders whoosh by underneath.  We learned that the gondola is the only free transit of its type in the US.  It takes visitors and locals back and forth over the mountain at 11 miles an hour, all day from 7 am until midnight, from the town of Telluride to the shops and restaurants of the Mountain Village Plaza, with an optional stop midway at St. Sophia Station, where Allred’s, the town’s premier fine dining establishment, is perched at 10,000 feet above sea level for the best food and best views in town.

Other than the gondola, another indispensable mode of transportation we discovered was the plastic toboggan.  We learned the hard way that holding a 30-pound kid on your hip or even in a backpack carrier across icy walkways can be hazardous to everyone involved, so we got a tip from a local: the best way to get around town with a toddler in tow was to literally tow him.  We picked up a small sled and some twine to make an extra long pull cord at the local ACE Hardware.  It was the best $16 we ever spent.

Dragging our little one behind us, we set off to explore the many adorable shops, galleries and restaurants.  The town itself defines quaint.  The snow-covered streets are lined with storybook cute chalets and small independent boutiques.  A couple local snowboarder girls who we shared a gondola cab with informed us that

Telluride does not permit chain stores, so you will never see a Starbucks or Pottery Barn or any of the stores that populate Every Mall USA littering the landscape of this purist town. How refreshing.

While there are plenty of cultural scenes in town, including theaters and music venues, the main attraction of Telluride remains the great outdoors, where visitors can enjoy all sorts of activities year round, from fly-fishing and horseback riding to paragliding and hot air balloon rides.

While downhill skiing is why most winter tourists come to Telluride, the resort offers a host of other snow-capades, including cross-country and Nordic skiing, heli-skiing, dog sledding, sleigh rides and snowmobiling.  The latter was the adventure of choice for us.

Our friendly Telluride Snowmobiling Adventures guide, Sam Haury, suited us up with warm boots and goggles, and we hopped on our machines and sped off in the freshly fallen snow high into the mountains.  Sam stopped along the way to give us an educational tour of the historic spots, such as the Alta Ghost Town where miners and their families once lived.

Sam also told us how he was thrilled that it was Gay Ski Week.  He told the news among the locals was that protestors were coming to town because Judy Shepard would be speaking as part of a fundraiser for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, on organization founded in memory of her late son who was killed in a gay hate crime.  Sam said he and his friends wanted to attend to show the protestors how the townspeople support Judy Shepard.  Very cool, considering Sam and all his friends are straight.

That’s the sort of spirit we found everywhere in Telluride, a town built on individualism, cooperation, and open mindedness, and that attitude lives on today.

Our adventures in Telluride were a blast, though our four-day visit was much too short to do all that we wanted to do during our stay.  But just because the snow will be melting soon, that won’t stop us from returning in the near future, because as the locals kept telling us, “You can always come back, and the summer season is even better!”

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My Heart Belongs In San Francisco

March 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel

By: Brandy Black

Back to the city I love the most, the city I crave, the city that makes me feel chic and fabulous – San Francisco. This time rather than adorning shopping bags and lattes I was sporting a diaper bag and a toddler with the wife by my side. The family trip did not make my experience any less pleasant than the last; in fact we had a blast. We arrived atop Nob Hill at The Huntington Hotel after having been delayed for 3 hours in Los Angeles.

Grumpy and hungry I checked in while my wife chased Sophia around the lobby. The woman at the front desk handed me a tray with warm towels for the three of us and we were baptized; it was just what we needed to press reset on our weekend getaway to my all-time favorite city.

If you are a travel enthusiast, trips with a toddler require special planning and most importantly a little help from the babysitter.

We used the hotel-recommended service for both nights of our stay. I highly advise this; it allowed us to go the amazing Nob Hill Spa just off the lobby. The menu of services are vast and incredible, you can’t go wrong. We basked in the hot tub together and read by the fire.

Once dressed, we walked to the other end of the lobby and up the stairs to Big 4 Restaurant. We sat fireside once again, listening to live piano music and eating delicious food prepared by previously awarded “Chef of the Year” Gloria Ciccarone-Nehls.

What better recipe for romance than being softly serenaded in a dimly lit room with a cocktail in hand?

Waking up bright and early is not usually on my agenda for a vacation, but I have yet to convey this to my daughter. So the family arose for a 7AM breakfast in bed accompanied by none other than Dora on the flat screen TV. By 8:30 we were out the door and hiking the San Francisco hills in search of a quaint coffee shop for a pick-me-up. Beverages in hand, we were off to the California Academy of Sciences. This museum includes an aquarium, a natural history museum, a planetarium, and even a 4-story rainforest environment; it is truly a treat and must not be missed. If I have learned anything about traveling with my daughter it’s that she’s on vacation too and including entertainment for her is sure to make one big happy family.

We topped the afternoon with a cable car ride up and down the hills of San Fran and a late afternoon snack at Yank Sing, notably the best Dim Sum in town. The three of us will vouch for that; we couldn’t resist as the servers rolled past with their bamboo dishes of delectable rolls.

Hands on our bellies, we stumbled out of the Chinese eatery to roam the streets once more.  

After walking off our delicious meal, we hailed a cab to Union Square for a little shopping. Zipping around in the taxi may have been my daughter’s favorite part of the trip. I don’t know if it was the walkie-talkie, or that she was huddled tightly between her two moms pointing at the scenery out the window, but she talked about it for hours.

Once the evening came upon us, our daughter was exhausted and we were ready for another night out on the town. Our agenda was simple: drinks at Farina and dinner at Delfina in the Mission District. This is my new favorite part of San Francisco. Bustling with lively locals, this hip neighborhood has a New York style flair that is irresistible. We sipped fresh original cocktails at the Farina bar on our spin top stools and drooled over the menu, hoping we made reservations at the right place. I spun around to eye the patrons and felt as if I were in Soho. The re-purposed hand-hewn Genoese marble sinks along the bar topped off the simple yet edgy design. We could barely tear ourselves away when the clock chimed ten and we were due for our date with the well-known Delfina.

Our hesitations were quelled immediately when we read that Chef and co-owner Craig Stoll won the James Beard Award. We peeked around and the packed restaurant maintained a cozy atmosphere that begged for a bottle of wine accompanied by rousing conversation taking us well past our mommy-prescribed bedtime. The scrumptious meal spoiled us much beyond our expectations. Dungeness crab salad with ruby grapefruit, linguine with reduced sea urchin that melted in my mouth like butter and a parsnip carrot ginger soup that paired perfectly with our wine. It was a delicious evening and a well-needed getaway to my very favorite city –San Francisco!

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travel tip iconTravel Tips for the Parents:

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- Hire a babysitter and get out and enjoy your part of the vacation.

- If you have a little one, put the crib in the bathroom so that you have your time and the baby has a dark bedroom of their own to sleep peacefully.

- Use your concierge; they will introduce you to the neighborhood favorites that are more intimate and less touristy.

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STAY:

Huntington Hotel: $385 and up

EAT:

Delfina- $25 and up

Farina – $25 and up

Yank Sing- $15 and up

 

PLAY:

Academy of Sciences- Adults $24.95/Children (12-17)- $19.95

Golden Gate Park- Free

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[San Francisco photo- flickr member: Alan Picard]

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Slip Away To Seattle

February 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel

By: Brandy Black

Space Needle

We drove down the hill in search of our hotel, Inn At The Market for our weekend getaway in Seattle.  Our bags were light and the car toddler-free.

We pulled up to the valet and were literally a stone’s throw away from the famous men in orange rubber suits tossing fish and yelling at one another.

Inn At The Market

The sea salt air and aroma of baked pastries beckoned us to the bustle of Pike Place Market.   The hotel is tucked away in a warmly lit square of restaurants and shops right in the center of it all.  We tugged our coats in tight and followed the bellman in to the inviting lobby with comfy couches and a fireplace.  The view in our room was the perfect postcard snapshot of the Pacific Northwest overlooking the glistening water. We jumped in our bed and kicked back to soak in the scenery that lie beyond our windows.  After a few minutes of basking in our newfound freedom and a call to the grandparents to make sure our daughter was happy, we were off to taste our way through town.

First on our agenda was coffee for the fabulously brisk afternoon.  Just steps from the hotel is the first ever Starbucks.  I know, I know, there are many other amazing coffee houses in Seattle with much better beans than this, but who doesn’t want to take a few snapshots of the once nascent caffeine prodigy.  Along the way we stopped for a nibble of fresh crabmeat with a squeeze of lemon, then on to one of my personal favorites: Piroshky,Piroshky.  These Russian morsels of insanely delicious combinations are the very essence of the market experience.  With our bellies full of warmth we were ready to do a little boutique shopping.

Strolling through the cobblestone alley we found our way into an adorable children’s store to pick up a gift for our little one.  Miniature hipster t-shirts reminding us of our sweet bundle of joy called to our touristy hearts.  We thumbed through raincoats and petite dresses and took a moment to mourn the weekend away from our daughter.

It was an ideal toddler-free vacation, roaming aimlessly down Seattle’s charming winding streets and ending our afternoon with a glass of wine on the rooftop deck of our hotel overlooking the Puget Sound.

Deck Shot 2

Dinner could not have been more fitting to cap off our perfect day.  Just across the street from our Inn, down a set of stairs, tucked away under the Pike Place Market sits Il Bistro.  We felt as if we had arrived in Tuscany.  We were greeted by a friendly host who showed us to the candlelit bar where I ordered my all-time favorite 20’s drink- a Sidecar.  We sat sipping our old-school drinks, soaking in the fabulous arches and exposed brick that warmed the place and stole our hearts.  We could have skipped dinner and sat at our window table in the bar all night sampling their vast menu of tequila and stumbling back to our hotel, but we chose to go the distinguished route and partake in Chef Nathan Luoma’s fine cooking.  The wine menu wasn’t as enticing as the food; personally I would have liked to have a wider selection of full-bodied reds, but that certainly wouldn’t stop me from coming back to “Il Bistro” again.

The next morning we went to Le Pichet for a chocolate croissant and coffee and meandered around the market as the hum of people began to descend upon the merchants.

Pike Place market is known as “the soul of Seattle”

throwing fish

The market has been around since 1907 and is now home to roughly 200 commercial businesses.  It is internationally recognized as America’s premier farmer’s market.  Walking around the various vendors, sniffing flowers, surveying fish, and sampling wines made me wish that I lived in this lovely city. I imagined myself shopping each morning for our family dinners and bringing home fresh calla lilies every day.

We got our exercise in –walking up Seattle’s finest hills to Pacific Place Shopping Center.  Downtown Seattle is everything you want it to be: twinkling lights, street musicians, local art, restaurants and shops galore.

We could have easily stayed another night to explore the museums, Experience Music Project, Seattle Center, a cruise on the water, and much more, but we are new parents with a toddler and could not keep ourselves away from her.  Had I had another night, I would have loved to check out 94 Stewart, a quaint little restaurant across the street from Inn at the Market that won me over while window-shopping.  I would have also taken the complimentary car service from our hotel to Belltown for dinner at Flying Fish.  The food prepared by Chef Christine Keff is known to be nothing short of fantastic.

My requirement in a vacation as a new parent is location, location, location.  Make it easy on yourself and let the fun come to you.  The Inn At The Market located in Pike Place with a Tuscan bistro across the street is just what this mommy ordered.

Although it was short, we experienced the charm of Seattle in every second of our time there.  I encourage anyone to cruise out for a lovely stay and enjoy this fine city’s delicious food and coffee that will surely toast your toes.

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travel tip iconTravel Tips For Parents:

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-If  it’s your first trip away from your little one -make it easy on yourself -go on a vacation in the same city.  A hotel 15 minutes from home is still a vacation for a parent

- We all know that you want to check on your kiddo while you are away- don’t call- text!  This way you get the update without the guilt of hearing your child’s voice in the background

- Call in the evening once your child is asleep so that you can get all the details of the day

- Ask the sitter/grandparents to text you a picture a day

-If you can’t bear to leave your child/children- take them with you- The Inn At The Market has Town House Suites that are two levels- perfect for a family.

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[Travel tips photo credit: Flikr- Rosweed]

[Head's up photo credit: Flikr- POD]

[Space Needle photo credit: Flikr- Papalars]

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