The Icefields Parkway drive within an hour of Lake Louise

In researching our trip to the Canadian Rockies, I knew that the Icefields Parkway was something we had to cross off of our list.  However, we were short on time, so we knew we couldn’t travel too far from our base in Lake Louise- so these sites on the Icefields Parkway drive are all within an hour of Lake Louise.

The Icefields Parkway is an iconic drive, maybe lesser-known to Americans than California’s Highway 1 or the Blue Ridge Parkway, but lacking nothing in jaw-dropping views.

Icefields Parkway is also known as highway 93 and it begins just north of Lake Louise.  The parkway itself is free, but you do need to have your National Parks Pass for admission.  We paid $80 CAD for a 4-day pass to the parks.  You can take the Icefields Parkway all the way to Jasper, AB but our short getaway just didn’t allow us the time we needed to do this.

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The road is well-maintained and has numerous pull-over spots.

Icefield Parkway Stop
They were obviously out of neutral colors at the rental counter.

The first place I knew I wanted to see was Bow Lake.

For the best view, don’t pull over at the lookout- but look for the signs for the Num Ti-Jah Lodge.  The Lodge was not open while we were there (it appeared to be under renovation), but you can still park there and walk right up to the lake.

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If it would have been a little warmer, I’d been happy to sit on this bridge with a good book.  The reflections in the lake are gorgeous, if you can get past the tour bus crowds arriving every so often! 🙂

Just a little more north of Bow Lake is Peyto Lake.  This is the stop I’d been waiting for, as the photographic image I’d placed in my mind begged me to see it in person.  The electric blue water against the snow-draped mountains is a highlight for travelers from all over the world (trust me, you’ll see all the tourists even on a snowy day)!

Those not arriving by bus have to park about 1/4 mile from the viewing platform and walk up the hill (err, mountain).  The walk is well-paved but it is steep.  This is where Mr YT and I determined that we were either dealing with some altitude-related struggles OR we really needed to hit the treadmill when we got home — the answer is probably both!

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Thinking this view alone was worth the hike- not realizing what I was about to see.

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Snnoowww

From Peyto Lake, we returned south towards Lake Louise.  We really wanted to get settled in at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise before dark so we could have a look around the property.  I’m so glad we did because we had about zero visibility the next two days!

So friends, you don’t have to have an entire day to enjoy some spectacular Canadian Rockies views.  I’d easily do this drive again!

Read more about our Canadian Rockies adventure HERE & HERE.  Interested in Travel Hacking a trip to Canada?- CHECK THIS OUT.


Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Have you been to the Canadian Rockies?  Maybe the US Rockies?  Where can I find blue water as bright as this?!

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A walking tour of Pittsburgh – with kids

{Bus and Subway is optional}

Andrew Carnegie said, “Pittsburgh entered the core of my heart when I was a boy and cannot be torn out.”

It only took a foot tour of Pittsburgh with kids in tow to fall in love with the architecture, the city scape, and the river views.  A city that has survived the rise and fall of steel is one that charmed our young family on our weekend stay. My hope is that I can give you a taste of this modern city, one that surprised me.

Here’s your starting map:

 

The Allegheny County Courthouse was a great place for us to begin because it was a brief walk from our room at the Doubletree by Hilton.  Designed by H.H. Richardson, one of the most prominent American architects of the late 19th century, the courthouse reminded me of a building you’d see in London or Oxford, not in a midwestern city.  Tours are provided of the interior during weekdays, but we arrive until Friday evening.

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Take a glance northeast and you can’t help but see the US Steel Building.  The 64-story tower is Pittsburgh‘s tallest building- and the COR-TEN steel used on the exterior causes the rusty color.

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Next up is the City-County Building.  Here you’ll find a statue of Richard Caliguiri, who was Pittsburgh’s mayor from 1977 until his death in 1988.  They decided to put his statue on the steps of this building because he was often seen here talking to people.  The entry way to this building really is breathtaking.  Don’t forget to look up!

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If you position yourself to walk down Forbes Ave to the west, you’ll eventually run into Market Square.  This area was just renovated in 2011 and contains one of Pittsburgh’s most noteworthy dining locales, Primanti Brothers.

Primanti Brothers has been in business since the 1930s and now has 17 locations all over the city of Pittsburgh.  They are famous for appearing on Man v. Food because of the way they stack their coleslaw and french fries ON the sandwich.  I’ll be honest, my husband and I weren’t impressed with the Pittsburgher (their #2 best seller- after beer), but I’ve heard good things about the sandwiches made from cold cut meats.  So, maybe we should give it another go?  I see there are now 3 Ohio locations (no way!)

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When you’re on this corner by Primantis you follow a alleyway that opens to the PPG place.  PPG Place is a 6 city block complex and obelisk.  The PPG buildings have over 231 glass spires all covered in mirror glass.  The spires are to represent the way three rivers come together at Pittsburgh.  In the winter, this area houses an outdoor skating rink, and in the summer it’s the perfect place for children to cool off in the fountains.  Our boys loved the rhythm of the fountains, it was definitely a highlight!

fountains- Pittsburgh with kids

From here I’d recommend heading towards the Gateway Metro Stop- but instead getting on a bus and taking it to W Carson/Duquesne Incline.  Buses in the city cost $2.50 per adult and we’re free for our kids.  $5 to save your legs (and let your Primanti Bros settle)!

The Duquesne Incline is a must-do for families visiting Pittsburgh.  There are actually two inclines, the Monongahela and the Duquesne, but I’d researched that the Duquesne offers the better views. Oh, it did not disappoint.  The trip up was a little hairy.  I may or may not have told my husband to stop pointing out how old the incline was or how rotten the boards were (aaahh), but the view was so so worth it.  Also, total cost- $12.50.  (Adults were $5 each, our 6 yr old was $2.50 roundtrip).  You won’t find anything else this cheap in Pittsburgh.

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Now it’s time to burn off your Primantis so when exiting the Incline, cross the road and walk towards the Fort Pitt Bridge back into the city.  Pittsburgh is truly a city of bridges and crosses one of these giants makes you appreciate the city a little more (and maybe understand all the traffic drama we had getting into the city?).

After crossing the bridge, take the ramp down into Point State Park.  This area is designated as a National Historic Landmark.  The land was considered a strategic location in the Ohio Valley.  The French built a fort here.  The English built a fort here.  The Native Americans were here first (obviously).  The park was renovated in 2006 and now contains an outline of Fort Duquesne and Fort Pitt into the grassy area.  Our boys loved the fountain, especially when the wind would pick up and we’d all get a good soaking!  It really is a pretty area.  If we weren’t running after 3 little ones, I think Mr Yoder Toter and I would lay around on a blanket and… read a book (;)).

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After you enjoy the park (and maybe take a nap), work your way back to the Gateway Metro Stop.  From here you can take a free subway ride to the North Shore.  It will save you more walking– and it’s FREE.  We used the T to get from our Steel Plaza stop to the North Shore. On a Sunday morning it was nearly vacant, so much so that at first we worried it was closed!

Geek alert- Forget Heinz Field and PNC Park, I wanted to see Mr. Rogers.  The 2009 Sculpture and Arch is called “Tribute to Children” and now takes the place of where a bridge was removed.  Mr. Fred Rogers was from nearby LaTrobe, PA. There’s even a speaker in the arch playing music and stories from Mr. Rogers.  I wish I could put a heart eye emoji, I definitely got verklempt when it started playing, “It’s you I like.

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I can’t think of a better way to end your evening in Pittsburgh than walking by PNC Park when there is an evening home game.  I’m a sucker for the sounds and smells of the ballpark, anyhow, and this is one of the best.  Even better if you pay for admission and can watch the sights of the city as the sun fades.

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If you get back to the Wood Street Metro stop you could either continue walking to your hotel or take the subway to the nearest location.

If you go:

Stay

We enjoyed our stay at the Doubletree by Hilton.  The room was huge and the beds were comfortable for the cost.  If you’re budget allows, I’d stay somewhere closer to Market Square that includes breakfast, like the Embassy Suites or Hilton Garden Inn.

Eat

We had a yummy pizza dinner at Milano’s on 6th Street.  The place was casual and affordable, perfect for kids.  Try the garlic knots!

With the kids

This was another trip that proved to us that the best $100 we ever spent was this lightweight, affordable, double umbrella stroller.  It says it’s only rated for 40 lbs per seat but we can easily push our 46 lb, 6-yr-old (plus another kiddo) and the thing is still in one piece!  It also made it to Australia and back in the underside of the plane!

 

Much of the information on Pittsburgh’s architecture and art came from a FREE downloadable guide provided by the Pittsburgh Art Council.  You can find that guide HERE.

Have you ever been to Pittsburgh?  Maybe you have an emotional soft spot for Mr. Rogers?  What’s your opinion on Primanti Bros?

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*This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own*

Belterra Hotel and Casino (sans kids)

A mini-Vegas on the Ohio River

Confession:  I have been to Las Vegas three times and probably gambled a total of $40.

However, when my sweetheart of a hubby told me I could tag along to his business trip to Belterra Hotel and Casino, I jumped at the chance to take a night away with the kids and see what the Belterra had to offer!

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Photo courtesy of Pinnacle Entertainment

First impressions

Driving from Ohio, it’s a little like where ARE you taking me?  (I watched too much Snapped in my pre-kid life).  We went from Ohio to Kentucky to Indiana.  But the location is perfect, on the steps of the Ohio River, away from the hustle and bustle and the cacophony of Teletubbies and Mike the Knight. 😉  The grounds are clean and well-manicured.

I helped Mr YT carry in all of his samples for the show and then checked in.  Check-in was quick and our room was ready at 10am although we weren’t technically supposed to get in until 3!

I sent my hard-working hubby a picture of this bathroom with the word:  SOLD!  A good bathroom is enough to woo me for life.

The room was priced under $100.  Where else can you watch TV from the tub for under $100?

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Food

We ate at numerous restaurants at the Belterra Hotel and Casino.  You’re 10 minutes away from the closest town so eating on-site is a must.

Lunch was at Out of Bounds Bar & Grill next to the pool and golf course.  The fried chicken salad was ginormous and fresh.  My only complaint was we got there right at 11 and the lights were still off and they were filling the ice machine.  Not a great first impression.

Dinner was at Stadium Sports Bar and Grill.  Think BW3s and Applebees having a baby.  Get thyself a giant pretzel.   Bread and cheese lovers will both be happy, as the cheese dip is finger-licking good, too.

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Blurry phone photo- blah.

Breakfast was at the Nosh cafe.  I grabbed a maple bacon donut before we left.  (Before you start worrying about my heart disease, I did hit the gym that morning, lol).

Pool

Sunshine was everywhere – so while Mr YT worked on making the Benjamins, I worked on getting some tan lines.  #keptwoman

The pool is small, but sufficient.  There were tons of people there and chairs were hard to come by.  (I think a lot of other spouses were tagging along to the convention).  My only complaint was that many of the chairs were literally sitting inches from the pool, lining the sides. It was nearly impossible to get in and out of the pool without brushing shoulders with the sunbathers.  I need a little more space when I’m wearing two feet of spandex on my entire body.  I digress.

That said, there is a pool boy (is that politically correct?) fetching drinks and towels.  And a pina colada at the pool bar was $5 (those will set ya back about $10 in Vegas).

Casino

We only went into the casino looking for food.  Belterra now hates this blog. 😉

The casino was clean- and there’s a non-smoking area if your lungs hate smoke the way mine do.

Room

The bed was comfy.  The bathroom gets 10,000 points.  And we had a sweet view of the Ohio River.

Resort

Overall, I think this would be a fun place to get away for a night or two if you’re close to Indianapolis, Cincinnati, or Louisville.  It’s quiet, the rooms are fairly posh, and the restaurants have yummy food for a reasonable price.    It’s also oh-so-close to Kentucky Speedway- so NASCAR fans- book ahead!

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Have you been to Belterra?  Maybe you’ve been to Las Vegas?  Maybe you’ve eaten a maple bacon donut and decided that you don’t want to eat anything else ever again?  Speak at me!

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Life is either a daring adventure…

A Mother’s Day Well-Lived

I’d been in a funk with a capital F the past few weeks and the mundane of life was getting to me.  So when I woke up yesterday and Mr YT asked what I wanted to do that day I said, “Maybe take a road trip.  Or go for a walk.”  “You don’t want to just rest or get out alone?”  He asked a little bewildered.  “I don’t know…let me think about it.”

The sun was shining and the post-church nap by Miss C was complete so we loaded up for a drive.  There is a small Ohio town we wanted to check out (more on that, later) so we headed an hour away and promised the kids ice cream and a park if they took the drive with ease.

We found a McDonalds – not a hard feat- and gave the kids the joy of eating inside.  I laughed to Brian that our kids were more excited to eat inside at the McDonalds of small-town Ohio than they were to go to Australia (notevenkiddingonebit).  Then we found a park and the kids enjoyed all the new slides and swings and playground equipment they’d never been on before.

We left the park with smiling, wind-blown faces.

“I mother better when I’m out of the house,” I said to Brian.

daring adventure

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I’ve joked with friends that most days I would consider it easier to put my kids on an airplane than get them all ready and through the doors at the Y.  It’s easier for me to do something different than to do something typical.    Going places- seeing new things and new faces, is what fills my cup.

Beyond that, the kids were different, too.  They were on an adventure with mom and dad.

Somedays I’m so worried about “using my time well” that I forget that the time I have is meant for living.

My family took a Sunday drive most spring/summer Sunday afternoons.  I always thought this was an excuse for my parents to look at used cars and get ice cream (ha!) but I realize now it was more about changing life up a little, finding something new, getting out of our comfort zone, maybe having a conversation without TV and cassettes (hey, 1990) competing for our attention.  Oh, yeah, and Mom & Dad wanted ice cream.

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I’m thankful for these kids, for the sleepless nights, for the early mornings, for the long days indoors and the adventures far away.  They’ve taught me so much.  They make me die a little bit to self every day.  I hope for so much for them- in the least that they continue to let me take them along on excursions- big and small.

xo

 

Yes, you can visit the Biltmore with kids

We spent this past weekend in Asheville, North Carolina.  It was a quick trip, but a fun one for our family.  The main highlight of our trip was to be the Biltmore Estate.  I was a little nervous about taking our kids there (ages 5, 3, and 1) but it was actually much easier — and more family friendly than I could have imagined!

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Some tips-

We specifically planned our visit for a Sunday because it did not require a timed visit.  Getting anywhere on time with three little ones is intense, and I didn’t want to be tied down.  Check the website for days that require a timed arrival, this varies by season.

In hindsight, I wish we would have allowed for two days on the Biltmore grounds.  I didn’t do enough research to indicate this, but after the house tour (approx 2 hours) our kiddos were pretty tired and hungry.  We headed over to the Antler Hill Village for a late lunch at Cedric’s Tavern and promised the kids they could play on the playground depending on their behavior.  I think with a 2-day pass – signs on the property said this was $10 extra per adult- I would have done the same but come back a second day to explore the gardens and spend more time in the Village.

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Small strollers and baby carriers are permitted in the Biltmore.  We had Olen (3) in the umbrella stroller and C was in the baby carrier.  There are stairs, but the staff is super accommodating.  We used the elevator on the way up and carried the stroller down the stairs- O had escaped anyhow!  The elevator is original to the home- so it’s also pretty exciting for the parents to see how it works!

There is an audio tour available using a headset.  We didn’t get them because we figured it would be too hard to listen and deal with the kiddos.  If we only had Jackson with us, we would have picked up the kids audio- I think that would have been helpful for him.

When the boys got a little anxious we played I-Spy with them! We may have annoyed some of the people around us, but it kept them occupied and made them notice certain things in the house.

I bought our tickets at AAA prior to departure.  They saved us a few dollars off of the gate price, but more importantly you don’t have to stop at the gate, you just show your tickets and keep on rolling through!  Call your local AAA before departing to make sure they have them in stock.

Last, as you’ll probably notice, you can’t take photos inside the house.  (But you can take your camera along and take photos outside).

 

More information-Homewood Suites by Hilton - Asheville

We stayed at the Homewood Suites by Hilton on Tunnel Rd.  This hotel was great for our family.  More info on our stay HERE.

Biltmore Estate website

AAA website

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