A city with an odd mix of tropical palm trees and desert surroundings.  We knew going into Phoenix that this is a very large city but we didn’t imagine things being quite as spread out as they were.  The land of 70* weather and pools was upon us.

Finding reservations at a camping spot proved to be a challenging task.  As it turns out, there are a lot of 55 and up communities and campgrounds and not a lot of other options for us young whipper snappers!  We ended up going with a KOA that was 45 minutes out of the city.  Not ideal by any means, as it meant lots of driving, but really our only option.

Apache Junction / Mesa KOA Campsite

Day 1:  Pool/Cleaning Day

We chose the use the day of arrival as a slower paced day.  I stayed in the pool with the girls while Justin used our new vacuum to clean out Dimes and Wobbles.  He had been itching to put that thing to work since we ordered it!

We have noticed that we are almost always on the go.  It makes sense that when we are visiting new places we get out and explore what the new location has to offer.  However, more and more we have been missing slow paced days where we can do some of the every day things we used to do back at home such as crafting with the girls, playing house (for the girls mostly but I also love watching the sweetness that goes on during their play), tidying up, organizing, repairing things and other odds and ends.  Some of these things may seem like ridiculous tasks to want to take part in but most of the time they are enjoyable for us and necessary to keep us sane.  I am brainstorming how we can get in some of this time in without missing out on exploring new places.  The answer may be as simple as boon docking away from attractions on a regular basis to force ourselves to stay put.

Relaxing pool day

Day 2:  Exploring downtown Phoenix by foot

Justin and I looked at a number of restaurants that were kid friendly in downtown Phoenix as well as the science museum that we would get in for free due to our Portland science museum membership card.  We wanted to park in the heart of things so we could be on foot for the day.  However, we were having trouble finding parking garages that were tall enough.  

We finally found one that said max height was 8’6″ and $10 for the day.  Great!  As Justin pulled into the lower level parking garage we realized we wouldn’t fit without first taking off our antenna.  Luckily, there was a very sweet attendant who helped us back up, instructing the line that had formed behind us to back up as well.  Ha!  Oops!  Everyone was very gracious about our brainless mistake.  Justin took the antenna off and we payed and parked.  After doing so, we realized we had parked in a catholic parking garage.  This was supposed to be parking for the catholic basilica who’s service was apparently beginning soon.  Oops again!  The girls and I were dressed in our “Sunday attire.”  Justin, on the other hand, quickly snatched up his Sunday shirt, aka a button up sun shirt, and off we went.  On the way to the elevator out we met many very friendly church goers who wished us well.  Very sweet and also made us feel guilty about parking in their garage. 

Dressed in our Sunday best, clearly ready for church

Off we went on foot to The Tea Pot which was rated one of the most kid friendly restaurants in Phoenix with a giant outdoor play area and delicious food.  We were all thrilled for some down time and a tasty lunch.  We even saw pictures of pastries in their Yelp so we were hoping for a scrumptious dessert as well.  Turns out, a mile of city walking is not NEARLY as pleasant as a hike through the great outdoors.  Though, the girls still found plenty of 
“treasures” along the way including an old newspaper, some flowers, pieces of palm trees and, my favorite, an empty chewing tobacco container.  

So many city treasures!

The girls were tiring of the long walk and Justin and I were getting desperately hungry.  We were so relieved to finally get to The Tea Pot only to find they did NOT have regular food.  In fact, they hardly had ANY food at all!  In their tiny glass display case there was a miniature glass cover containing 4 measly donuts for $3.00 each and 2 scones for $4.00 each!  What?!  Were we in a doll house?  We were starving and getting a little hangry!  What a disappointment!  We thought we’d better get some of their food to tide us over and give the girls a chance to play.  I asked for 2 donuts since they were cheaper than the scones and begrudgingly gave the cashier my debit card.  The total came to $10.  Why?  Because he forgot to tell me you have to PAY for your kids to play here.  Of course you do!  Starve the families and charge them to play.  I was just a tad underwhelmed.  Oy!

The Teapot play area

The girls had a fun time playing with their half broken toys and barely noticed they were broken.  Justin and I kept it cool while we inhaled the $5 donut leaving the second for the girls.  After all, we didn’t want any of us to spoil our lunch.  There were so many great places to eat that we had researched.  If we held out, we could try anther place!

We wrapped things up at the Sells No Food place and went onto a place only 4 blocks from where we were that had great reviews AND and a menu online.  They served an amazing array of brunch items and if we hurried we could get there before it ended!  We scooped up the girls and high tailed it to The Vig.  As we got close we could hear the pumping music of the restaurant and see a great cozy set up.  Looking around it was odd to find that the majority of the people who came for brunch were dressed as if they were going to a night club!  Haha, it was very interesting.  The thumping music definitely reflected a club and their outfits as well but somehow Sunday brunch does not fall into a category anywhere near that for me.  Ah, oh well, it looked like a fun place to be and though I had left my skin tight, crotch length dress and fake eye lashes elsewhere, we were excited to be there.  Finally, food!  We had chosen ahead of time so we could order food when they delivered waters to speed the process along.  

We checked in with the hostess and she informed us that it was an hour and a half wait for inside and a two hour wait for outside!!  What?!!  Our hearts sank, our bellies growled and our frustration elevated.  When the sweet hostess saw the looks on our faces, she did offer a suggestion of another place down the street that served Sunday Brunch as well.  As we departed she said, “Your family looks so cute!  Did you all go hiking?”  Ha, yes, we hiked all the way from our van. :P. I’m guessing the backpacks gave us away. 

Off we went on another walk down a handful of blocks where a sign greeted us that read “State 48 Brewery; Sunday Brunch.”  Hurray!  Food!!  Breakfast food!  We sat down, glad the inside of the restaurant was a lot nicer than the outside.  The server came over with some menus and asked if we had any questions. Our first was, “Could we please have your brunch menu?”  What do you think his answer was?  They stopped serving brunch a half hour ago.  Oy!  But, they had a menu complete with all the classics; grilled cheese, Mac n’ cheese, pretzel, hamburger…  Why is it that when my body needs food most I get pickier?  Being overly hungry and being picky is not a very good survival skill.  I swallowed most of my annoyance and ordered a $10 beet salad, Justin got tacos and we ordered the girls a sausage board to share.  We were fed, and that’s what mattered.  

State 48 Brewery

We decided it would be best to carry the girls to the science museum to save time and their energy.  On the walk back, our sweet little one fell asleep in my arms.  She hadn’t slept much the night before.  So, she got a little nap in until we arrived at the museum.  

This is a side note but I can’t not say this: Having a little one sleep on you is just so sweet!  When our oldest was little and required all her sleep to be in my arms it did feel like prison sometimes but for the most part, having a little one sleep on you is just one of the sweetest things in the world.  I will definitely miss that as the girls get older!

We all played at the museum for a little bit.  It seemed like their bottom floor was the part that was included in admission and half of their 2nd and 3rd floors you had to pay extra for.  After we realized this, we stayed on the bottom level.  The girls played with giant blocks for 20 minutes or so building an intricate city as they had the whole room to themselves.  However, two young boys with their dad knocked the whole city down in less than 2 seconds.  Our oldest stood in shock then came rushing over to me sobbing.  Yup, we all learn to deal with destructos in life.  Hard lessons.  

Arizona Science Center

The museum also had a meditating room that the girls wanted to take part in.  It was a guided meditation with a little video of a cartoon person on the screen.  The girls were really enjoying the quiet and were following the meditation so I thought I would guard the door so that nobody interrupted.  The door was supposed to click shut but didn’t quite work.  Soon the destructos came pounding on the door and pulling with all their might to open it.  Oh boy!  We were about done anyway.  

Back to the church parking lot we went!  This city wasn’t a total flop like Salk Lake City was.  I’m not sure we saw this city to it’s fullest potential.  I think we kind of stink at exploring cities.  Our prep to exploring a city is finding desirable neighborhoods, looking at walkability scores and looking up destinations such as places to eat, museums to visit and things to see.  But, I’m not sure that plan is working out too well. 

45 minute drive back to the KOA

Day 3:  My birthday celebration and Camelback Mountain Hike

What a great birthday day!  We all got a good night’s sleep, our kiddos had NO melt downs, we got to go on a great hike and Justin and my girls were such sweethearts.

I woke up to my oldest sitting bolt up right in her bed with her eyes as big as golf balls!  “Are you excited Mama?” she asked me.  Our youngest also had just woke up and needed to use the potty very badly.  Groggy, I was trying to help our little one get to the bathroom swiftly while wondering why I should be excited and why it looked like our oldest had recently drank a pot of coffee.  Then I realized, it was my birthday!  Our oldest had been awake for quite some time anxiously waiting for me to wake up so she could give me her gifts.  What a little sweetheart!  

The first gift she gave me was some beautiful rocks she had collected and wrapped up for me.  They were rocks like I had never seen before and oddly enough, smelled like…bacon.  Bacon??  Wait a second, these were dog treats she had found!  Hahaha!!  What a sweetheart.  They certainly looked like rocks!

She also made me a coupon book (these things are like gold!) and a sewing kit.  How very thoughtful!  Justin, knowing that the girls and I love Christmas cheer created a box filled with cheery lights for us to put up!!  What a festive, fun and beautiful morning with tasty apple omelets to fill our bellies with.  

Coupon book gift
Cheery lights

We spent the afternoon hiking up Camelback mountain on a “double black diamond” trail marked “extremely dangerous.” The first mile of it was easy peasy but after that there were parts that were a climb as vertical as climbing a ladder!

The girls showing their strong muscles before the hike

It was very challenging and at times a bit scary! The girls did great!! Every time the trail leveled off again they’d say, “Let’s do more climbing! When does the trail get to more climbing?” Once again there were adults that turned back when these two brave monkeys kept going.

Hiking the steep parts of Camelback Mountain

It was a nice hike that gave us some neat views of the city. On the way down the steepest part, Justin carried our 3 year old down (it would have been dangerous for her to try to get down on her own) and I held my 5 year old by the armpit as I braced myself on a metal guiding pole. Slow and steady to be extra careful of our sweet little ones. We would have liked the do the whole hike but we had to turn back to have time for more birthday celebrations.

View of the city from Camelback Mountain

When we got back to the campground, I took the girls to the pool while Justin made me raspberry pie (my absolute favorite) for the first time ever and prepared a delicious huge salad for my birthday dinner. It was all quite wonderful.

Day 4:  McCormic-Stillman Railroad Park and the spa

For my birthday, my sister and Mom gave me a very generous gift to a local spa.  Thank you!  So, for the beginning of the afternoon I went to enjoy some relaxation while Justin brought the girls to the Railroad Park.  

The park was free to enter and had two amazing play structure for the kids to play on.  The one the girls enjoyed most was covered overhead with sun shades.  Much needed in the crazy hot 120* summer days they get but also quite nice on the 74* day we got to experience as well.  The park had a railroad museum that toured the inside of an old rail car.  You had to pay extra to do this so we skipped it this time but it looked like it would be neat to explore.  

Justin and the girls took advantage of both the carousel and miniature train ride the park offered for a small fee.  The mini train was modeled and scaled after the full size trains of the past.  It toured the park grounds with both kids and adults in tow.  I was told it was a pretty fun ride!  

Train ride at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

There was also a free model train museum to explore.  It was really pretty amazing all the time and effort that was put into these train scenes.  It appeared as if the scenes were forever changing panel by panel as we saw some in the beginning stages of being built as well as some Christmas cheer in some as well.  Throughout the museum there were hand sensors the kids could touch to trigger certain objects to move.  In some it was a train or trolly that would go around the tracks.  In others the sensors would trigger Native American’s to do their traditional dances with song or make a set of carnival rides light up and move.  It was really fun to see and interact with these mini train engineers. I would recommend this park for sure if you are in the area!  

Model train museum

Overall, exploring in this city felt like a lot of work due to the time it took to get anywhere from our campground.  It was at least a 30 minute drive to get to our destinations.  I realize that doesn’t seem like a lot but, when you have two young kiddos with a minimum of an hour commuting time each day, it’s not very fun.  I’m sure Phoenix has some great features but we’ll wait for our girls to be a bit older to check them out again.