My yearning to travel goes way back as far as I can remember.

School field trips were one of my favorite things to do because our class visited places that were sometimes taken for granted, especially if they were in our town or city. We’d visit museums and interesting places like the Houston Planetarium, the Intercontinental Airport and Hermann Park Zoo—these field trips stick out in mind more than anything. Someday, I will venture back to Houston, TX to revisit the places of my school days! My grandchildren would appreciate visiting some of these places as well.

Now, many years later, as an adult and an avid traveler, before leaving for a trip, I search out every museum in the town or city of our upcoming trip destination beforehand. We fill every day with tons of educational activities (some of which are free or inexpensive), and all the while, we’re making memories as a family.

The Internet is a luxury I never had back in the seventies. Had it been around back those days, there’s no telling where I’d be today! Maps are easily at our disposal and GPS makes traveling so much easier. Nowadays, before arriving at a destination, I know exactly what we’re going to do and when we’re going to do it. Nothing bothers me more than to hear a bunch of teenagers whining about being bored and not having anything to do! Especially on my trip! So I plan every day ahead of time, and make sure that slack times are in the evenings where we gather around the pool and enjoy a good swim. Or if we’re camping out, we all gather around the fire where we can roast wieners or marshmallows, make s’mores and have family time and share our thoughts and pictures of the day.

We’re not the perfect family and no, we don’t always have a perfect vacation…but we make memories and have fun trying and that’s what makes it so good! We are not rich and have to vacation on a shoestring budget every year, which makes us appreciate the things we do and see, and the places we go! It’s not all about theme parks, glitz and famous places—there’s something good even in the smallest museums. You just have to know ‘what’ and ‘where’ it is! If you travel with teens, nine times out of ten they carry cell phones. Keep them busy on Google looking for fun activities in the town you’re visiting. You’ll never know what you may find!

Let me tell you about our trip last year.

Day one, we started off here in the South, drove to Amarillo, where we spent the night in an affordable room that served breakfast. In the evening before retiring for the night, we ate sandwiches and chips, and swam for a while and ended the evening with a movie or two. The next day we spent the biggest part of our day driving on to Colorado Springs, CO where we spent the next few days having a blast before going on to the next destination on our itinerary.

Day three, while we were in Colorado Springs, our first visit was to the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park, CO.

They have a wonderful display of dinosaurs, prehistoric marine reptiles, pterosaurs and fish of North America’s late Cretaceous period. In addition to vibrant graphics and life-restoration sculptures, visitors could venture around the museum reading the stories of each specimen. They also have a working fossil laboratory where important, recently-discovered paleontological specimens are being freed from their rock matrix and undergoing restoration. There also is a children’s area where they can brush off fossils in the dig box, find books to read, draw their own imaginative dinosaur on a magnetic board, and make colorful drawings of dinosaurs at a rubbing station. Everyone in the family will enjoy the Dinosaur Resource Center. If you have a few extra dollars to spend, there is a gift shop for souvenirs.

Later that evening we had dinner, swam at the pool at our motel and spent the remainder of the evening getting baths, and getting ready for bed so we could have a decent start the next day. Since we always travel in groups (two or more families), we had to have multiple rooms where everyone wouldn’t be too cramped and could enjoy a good night’s sleep after the long drive the day before and the outings each day. Our motel isn’t always the best or fanciest but if it provides the essentials we need at an affordable price, and if it’s clean and quiet, we’ll stay. Being on a budget is hard, but we’d rather make memories and have fun that spend a whole lot of money on a room we may stay in for less than eight hours. As long as it is cool and clean.

Back to our trip—the next day, we packed a picnic lunch and headed off to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings located in Manitou Springs, CO, five miles west of Colorado Springs. We toured the Anasazi Museum. Impressive dioramas depicted the daily life of the Pueblo Anasazi. At the museum, we saw exhibits of tools, pottery, weapons, and informative videos that offered a glimpse of the mysterious people who left a remarkable architectural legacy on mesa tops and in cliff walls like the one at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. Scientists still are unsure why the Anasazi left their cliff dwelling homes hundreds of years ago, but when you tour the dwellings and museum you’ll also become intrigued with finding out more about their lives as I certainly have.

The Manitou Cliff Dwellings was an all-time favorite. My grandchildren spent hours roaming through the cliff dwellings and climbing in and out the dwelling windows and outlets as the Anasazi children probably did hundreds of years ago. It was something we all found in common and most of the older grandkids are still in search of unanswered questions about the Anasazi of the Colorado Springs area that dwelt here many years ago.

Day five, we were on our way to Cripple Creek, CO for a one-night stay. We had a train ride the next day aboard the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge train is small in comparison to the ones that we’ve ridden in the past, such as the Cumbres & Toltec or Leadville Train, but it was a huge blast with the kids as we took a scenic tour up the mountain. They took turns helping the conductor steer the train up the mountain. The younger children were excited and talked about their experience driving the train for days. We had to drive about twenty-five miles to get there, but it was worth it in the end.

Related: America’s Most Beautiful Train Ride: A Trip on the California Zephyr

Day six, we headed over to Sugarbush Campground located in Howard, CO just a few minutes from Salida, where we’d spend the next three days camping out and touring the countryside. We drove over to Canon City to the Royal Gorge Bridge, which has had the honor of being America’s highest suspension bridge since it was built back in 1929.

You’ll find some surprising adventure awaiting you at the bridge—a miniature train, a theatre and historical expo, a skycoaster, zip line, gondola and the bridge’s newest addition, a children’s play land. Your admission ticket allows you peruse the entire park. It may seem a little scary but it is truly worth the visit. Personally I am afraid of heights and walking the 1,257 planks across the Royal Gorge over 950 feet above the Arkansas River really wasn’t my cup of tea. I walked across in the middle with my eyes shut with grand kids on both sides leading me on! I frantically made my way across without looking through the cracks! The quiet and scenic views made the walk memorable but being the scaredy-cat that I am, I wasn’t ready for the return trip back across. It’s a little pricy for my taste but if you’ve come this far, it’s a place you won’t want to miss.

Day nine, we left the Salida area and ventured over to Leadville. We rode the Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad later in the afternoon. Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, this scenic train trip lasted about two-and-a-half hours. We traveled about 1,000 feet above the headwaters of the Arkansas River Valley. We chose the open car because the afternoon was cool and the kids enjoyed not being cooped up for the journey.

Day ten, we drove up to Lake City where we spent the next five days at Texan Resort. We had a two-story, three bedroom cabin large enough that we could all spread out and stretch without bumping into each other at every turn. With all the comforts of home at our fingertips, we rested and enjoyed ourselves. While we were in Lake City, we had a picnic downtown at the park while the little ones played with the other kids. We grilled hamburgers in the evenings back at the cabin while the kids played horseshoes with some of the other guests at the resort. We were fortunate enough to meet up with some children who lived there year-round, and who showed our clan some fun and adventure while we were there. The mornings were rather cool but sitting on the front porch wrapped in a cozy blanket and sipping hot coffee while the family slept on soothed my nerves. I wasn’t ready to go home. I’m not sure I’d really want to be in Lake City in the dead of winter but at this moment when all was well with me, it was a wonderful thought!

The Texan Resort has become a family tradition for us and we come back year after year. They have cabins to of different sizes and for different budgets. Be sure and tell Arlen and Phyllis Barksdale (owners) that I recommended them to you when you call. If you like to fish, hunt, hike or just want to get away for a few days, then The Texan Resort is the place to be.

While we were in Lake City, we took the kids to the park downtown, and we eased up the mountain to the Hard Tack Mine Tours & Museum. The tour into the mine shaft was cool and educational to say the least, but the gift shop caught the kids’ eyes immediately. I handed out rolls of quarters and let them spend a few dollars on rocks and magnets, etc.

Later in the week on Friday, we went to the Mountaineer Theatre downtown. As always, we felt welcomed and right at home.

Lake City is a relaxed, laid-back little town. There are a few horseback outfitters in the area as well as backpacking, ATV rentals and rafting if you’re into that kind of thing.

Our trip didn’t end there though.

On day sixteen, we left Lake City and decided to take a little longer getting home so we drove over South Fork, CO—camped out five days at River Bend Resort. Chevy Chase made a hit movie here back in the eighties and it is a family place. If you’ve got kids, be sure to notice the rules. It is filled with camper trailers and with that comes the older generation who don’t tolerate kids well while they’re relaxing and fishing. We were comfortable and all that in our tents and with our air mattresses but the manager came down and threatened to make us leave if the kids kept throwing rocks in the water.

Since there wasn’t a lot to do in South Fork, I drove the grand kids over to a little town called Mosca—we went to the Colorado Gators Reptile Park. Now, that was more their cup of tea!

On Friday evening, we took the kids to the Star Drive-In theater in Monte Vista about fifteen miles from South Fork. If you’re in the area, and want a real old-fashioned drive in experience, this is the place to be. There are two large screens and two different movies playing on the weekends. This also has become a family tradition.

We left South Fork and decided to stay several days in Blanding, UT. We liked our motel, the Four Corners Inn. Although they don’t have a pool, we made the best of our stay finding a mini water park in town that was fairly reasonable and the kids loved it there. It stayed open from 1pm in the afternoon until 7pm. We took a picnic lunch every day and the kids had a wonderful time at the mini water park.

The kids enjoyed an outing at the Dinosaur Museum in Blanding as well.

We finally left Blanding and headed home. Not because we wanted to, but budget was getting slim and school would soon be starting back in the South. I always tell the kids ‘there will be another exciting trip next year!’

Our trips are sometimes long and lengthy but never boring. The only part I don’t like is going home. My favorite motto is: HAVE GRANDCHILDREN, WILL TRAVEL. WE’LL SEE YOU THERE!

About the Author

Marcella S. Meeks has been writing since 1988 and has articles and stories published in several publications and newspapers around the country such as The Logansport Tribune, The Mansfield Enterprise, Light and Champion Newspaper and the Bossier Press Tribune; other credits include magazines such as Adelaide Literary Magazine, Funds for Writers, First Writer, Authorship (National Writer’s Association), Primary Treasure (Pacific Press), Guide Magazine (Pacific Press). Smarty Pants for Children, Christian Educator, and God’s Word (Pentecostal Publishing House) to name a few. She graduated from WRITER’S DIGEST SCHOOL of Nonfiction Writing; and ICS School of Short Story/Journalism, as well as The Institute of Children’s Literature: Writing for Children and Teens. In addition to writing, her next greatest passion is traveling around the country with children and grandchildren.

Featured image by Lucas George Wendt on Unsplash

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