Oklahoma, Travel

Our Visit to Echo Canyon Spa and Resort in Sulpher, Oklahoma

EchoCanyon

Last year I decided I wanted my husband and me to have a romantic weekend getaway for our Anniversary.  I love visiting new places and wanted to do something just for us, since generally most things we do revolve around the kids.   I don’t remember how I discovered the resort, but I believe it was in one of those, “Only in Your State” posts.  I do know that you can find several articles on Echo Canyon Spa and Resort, plus they have been on Discover Oklahoma. The crew was actually there filming while we were visiting, though we never saw them.  One of the top reasons I wanted to go, besides the spa, was the food!  Lot’s of fabulous reviews, and it appeared to be delicious and perfect for both of our tastes.  The rooms were also very appealing, along with the atmosphere and surroundings.  It sounded like a perfect little anniversary getaway for us in mid-November in Oklahoma.  Make sure to make a reservation for dinner the nights you stay.

When we got there

We left early that morning with a stop in Oklahoma City for a doctor’s appointment.  We ate lunch and did a little shopping in the city before we headed to the spa.  I wish now we would have headed to the Spa & Resort earlier.  It was almost dark when we got there.  Everyone we met was very friendly, and I wish I would have remembered names!  The lady who walked us around and showed us our room, and where everything was, was very sweet.  I believe she was the concierge.  We stayed in the Merlot Canyon View.  She walked us into our room and showed us where everything was and how to use the jacuzzi tub.  The room smelled so clean and sweet.  There was a candle burning when we walked in to add to the romantic atmosphere and to leave a great scent to welcome us.

A few pictures of our room.  It was fabulous, and we had a great balcony with a beautiful view.

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Our Evening

That evening we had dinner in the Baron of Beef Restaurant.   The 4-course candlelight meal is served with three entrees and a great view of the canyon.   The setting was very romantic and service was fantastic.  You can check out their restaurant on their website for the menu.  It is different each night, so if we stayed Saturday we would have been served a different meal.  The food was delicious and so was the fresh Peach Hibiscus drink with champagne added.   We only had one issue and that was a couple at the neighboring table.  They were very condescending and dropped a lot of cuss words.  They kind of killed the romantic mood for us.  After we ate we went to the Bar, which is in a separate building.  It is very nice and filled with comfy seating.  We sat at the bar and visited with one of the owners.   He was very friendly, but a little pretentious.  He talked a little too much about himself and how well off he was, and how he could kick anyone out who misbehaved, referencing the rude couple we dined next to. I honestly thought the guy could have offered us a free drink after dealing with the too near dining companions, especially since he had so much money he could afford to kick them out.  Even after that, we still had a great evening and night.

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Breakfast and Massage

We got up the next morning and had breakfast in the restaurant and explored the beautiful property.  The food was delicious once again.  A little later I had a 30-minute Sweedish Massage scheduled in the Aloha Spa.  They offer several massages, facials, body treatments, manicures, and pedicures.  My massage was so relaxing and very much needed!  I loved it. Make sure to tip well.  You can also wait and tip everyone when you check out and sign your bill.

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Exploring other Areas

We checked out shortly after my massage and headed to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.  There are so many places to pull over and hike and explore.  We went to the Niagra Falls area first.  It was a pretty cool day, in the 50s, but still pretty nice.  The sun was out and it wasn’t to bad to explore and hike in those temperatures.  We drove around and stopped at several other spots to walk around and take photos.  We also drove up to an overlook, I believe it was called Sulphur Overlook because you could see the town from the top.  It was beautiful with all the fall colors.  We got out and hiked around for awhile in the area.  It was a good way to work off our breakfast and make us hungry again, so we headed into Sulpher for lunch. We stopped at the Bedre Cafe which is near the Artesian Hotel, Spa, and Casino.  The Artesian looks like another fabulous place to stay in the area.   The Bedre Cafe serves sandwiches, soups, chips, ice cream, and shakes. They also have chocolate from their chocolate factory just a few miles from town near the interstate.  It is fashioned like an old time diner.  The food was excellent, and so was the service.  It was a great quick meal and hit the spot after hiking the Chickasaw area.  We headed out of town and towards home after we ate.  We made a stop at the Bedre Chocolate Factory right before we got on the interstate.  They give you a free sample of chocolate and they offer lots of chocolate to buy!  I love raspberry chocolate, so I got several of those.  Their chocolate is delicious and I have made a point to stop at the factory anytime we pass it on the interstate since our first visit, which is not often.

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Free Stuff, Kid Approved, Travel

Garden of the Gods

We made our way to the Garden of the Gods after our visit to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and Helen Hunt Falls.  Garden of the Gods is Beauty 360 degrees!  The red mountains and with the green trees and grass was stunning!  Garden of the Gods is also perfect for the budget because it is free!

 Visitors Center

 We stopped by the visitors center before we entered the park (that’s where my featured image was taken).  There is a great view of the park from there and you can get a map of the Garden of the Gods fromt there.  Of course there’s a gift shop too for all the fun memorbilia to take home with you.

The Drive

The drive alone is worth a visit!  There are winding roads throughout, so you can drive and see the beautiful sights without even getting out of your car.  

Hiking and More

Of cours we wanted to go for a short hike, that turned into a long hike.  The path was paved, and very easy to hike with an 18 month old. We were lucky there was nice cloud cover, which made for a cooler hike in the early evening. There were quite a few other people hiking and taking photos, but it was not too crowded.  There were a few rock climbers high up with their ropes and equipment.  They are pretty impresive, nothing that I’m willing to do. 

There is so much to see, so you should really make a good amount of time to explore the park especially if you like to hike.  We were pretty tired from our busy day, or we might have stayed longer.  We were also anxious to get back to our retreat and relax in the hot tub.

Where’s your favorite place to hike or explore in Colorado?

Free Stuff, Kid Approved, Travel

Helen Hunt Falls

After some time at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo we decided to go to Helen Hunt Falls.  A couple of years before we had been to Seven Falls, but I wanted to go somewhere different this time, plus Helen Hunt Falls is Free!  

Finding Helen Hunt Falls

I found out about Helen Hunt Falls through TripAdvisor.  TripAdvisor is a great app (or website) with information you sometimes can’t find normally.  A lot of reviewers leave great tips!  I’m not sure I would have known about Helen Hunt Falls if it had not been for searching for free things to do on TripAdvisor.  

We drove on a winding road to reach the falls through North Cheyenne Canon Park.  There were several picnic areas and people pulled over hiking, playing in the water, exploring, etc.  We had to park on the road and walk a little to reach the falls. We had a nice hike up the falls.  You really must climb to the top to get the full experience and spectacular views.  It’s not a bad hike and we had already been all over Cheyenne Mountain Zoo earlier in the day, so we were pretty tired.  Yes, it was hot and humid!  

Visitors Center

They also have a visitors center and everyone was very friendly. The falls were not crowded at all, especially for being later in the day, so that was very nice.  I don’t know that they have a website, but you can google for more information or search on TripAdvisor.  

Our next stop was The Garden of the Gods, then we headed back to our little retreat at the base of Pikes Peak for some time in the hot tub, some fresh cool mountain air, and a good nights sleep.

What’s your favorite free thing to do in Colorado Springs? 

Kid Approved, Travel

North Pole – Santa’s Workshop

While we were in Colorado Springs (July 2014) we visited the North Pole – Santa’s Workshop at Pike’s Peak.  I visited as I child, I think I was about 7 or 8-years-old.  I remember having a lot of fun as a youngster.  I was excited to take my kids, and hoped it was still as neat as I remembered.  

Go on a Weekday

Santa’s Workshop did not let us down!   It was great because the park was not crowded, no wait in line for rides, food or bathrooms.  We went on a Thursday, so I’m sure that helped to make it less crowded.  

What to Expect

The entire place is so quaint, friendly and clean. We really loved it! Our oldest (13-years-old) said this was her favorite place we visited in Colorado Springs.  There are rides for young and old.  You pay an entrance fee which covers all of the rides, then they give you a card and you charge everything else on it.  When you leave the park they total up your expences, and then you pay.  This can be a little dangerous!  We kind of lost track on what we were spending.  There are lots of good eats, and many cute little shops.  Everything is Christmas themed.  If you are a Christmas lover you must visit Santa’s Workshop.  They have a palethra of Christmas ornaments.  We ended up getting several custom ornaments.  There is a shop that will paint names on any ornament you want.  I got one for each of the girls, they picked their’s out.  I also got one for my Mom and put all of her grandkids names on it. 

 We headed to Meade, Colorado after we left to go visit and stay with friends.  Our plan was to visit Rocky Mountain National Park at least one of the next 2 days.

Have You been to Santa’a Workshop?  What did you enjoy most?

Kid Approved, Travel

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

On our vacation to Colorado Springs, we decided to visit Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.  I have a cousin who lives in Denver and she and her family met us there in the morning.  We wanted to get an early start before it got too hot outside.  Even though we were in Colorado, it can still get very hot in the summer.  Especially if you’re not way up in the mountains.     Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is actually on a Mountain, so there was a lot of hiking up and down hills on our visit.  We rented a stroller for our youngest, but she was just getting feet mobile and wanted to do lots of walking herself.

Animal Encounters

One of the first things we did was the giraffe feeding, they are pretty close to the entrance.  They are super friendly and it’s fun to watch their long tongues reach out for food.  Both girls enjoyed feeding the giraffes.   My cousin’s two girls are a little older and they both had fun too.  We also fed several birds in the bird sanctuary they have.  That is always neat for kids to do, and I enjoy it myself along with my husband.  If you go to the zoo’s website you will find several “animal feeding experiences” listed.   You have to pay extra for all of the animal feedings.

Rides

My cousin’s husband, her girls and my oldest road the Mountian Sky Ride.  It is a like a ski lift that goes high over the zoo.  It looked pretty cool, but I’m not sure how I would have handled the height!  I was never scared of heights until I got older.  I think I was in my late 30s that heights started making me a bit dizzy.  You do have to pay extra to ride.  My youngest had to ride the carousel while we were there.  Always a good ride for the younger kids and even the bigger kids enjoy it.

Visit the Zoo’s website for current pricing on all of the extras.  The food at the zoo was pretty good.  Your standard zoo food.  We had some delicious ice cream.  It may have tasted so good because we were all hot, sweaty and tired when we ate. The views were fantastic!  Everywhere your turned were beautiful views of the mountains.  My biggest negative for me was the zoo set up is not user-friendly.  You go into one section, then have to circle back out before you can move on to the next section. We still had a very good time.

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is a fun little zoo to visit with family.  Be prepared for a lot of up and down hill hiking!

Have you been to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo?  What was your favorite part?

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Sharing ice cream
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Feeding the giraffes
Kid Approved, Oklahoma, Travel

Tiger Safari in Tuttle, OK

After hiking and exploring the Wichita Mountains area we headed to Tuttle to visit the Tiger Safari.  We had visited once before when my oldest was about 7 or 8 years old.  I thought this would be a fun experience for both girls.

What to expect.

Tiger Safari is a neat interactive Zoological Park down a country road near Tuttle, OK.  We went in May 2014, so I know there have been some changes since then.  We bought my oldest the ticket to interact with the animals, and my youngest husband and I just bought the tickets that provide a guided tour.  That is one of the things I really liked about this zoo, the guides are great and have lots of information on the animals their likes, where they came from, how long they’ve been there, etc.  You can tell they really like their jobs!  This was my 3rd visit (I went several years earlier with my cousin and her children), and I have always had a really good time, including the tour guides.  You can walk the park on your own, but I recommend a guide and the interaction experience if you have little ones that love animals.  There is almost always a new animal to interact with, but they have Tiger feedings every time.  My oldest was pretty brave holding animals.  Especially the Python!  She would not hold the owl though, so I did that one. He was pretty heavy so she may not have been able to hold him. I can’t remember if I had to pay extra to do that or not?  It was pretty cool though.  Check out their website for additional information and pricing.

What is your favorite animal park in Oklahoma?

 

This photo is from our first visit to Tiger Safari about five years earlier. My oldest holing a fox.
My oldest, 5 years earlier at Tiger Safari holding a baby fox.

 

Kid Approved, Oklahoma, Travel

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

The Wichita Mountains is a pretty spectacular sight to see.  You are driving along the prairies of Oklahoma, we came from Oklahoma City on the turnpike, then suddenly there are mountains in view.  Huge stacks of boulders seem to be piled on top of one one another to form mountains.  It’s a beautiful sight, with flat prairies between the mountains.  I have visited, hiked and camped at the Wichita Mountains many times before I moved to NW Oklahoma.  There are so many places to hike, explore and rock climb.  You could go 50 times and discover something new each time.  They have camping sites, a visitors center, hiking, rock climbing, prairie dog town, lakes, lake recreation, animal sitings and more.  This visit was the first time I took my girls, and it was not long enough.

About the Wichita Mountains Wildflife Refuge

A little about the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.  The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge was established to protect wildlife species that were in grave danger of extinction, and to restore species that had been eliminated from the area. Bison were reintroduced, along with elk and wild turkey. More recent reintroductions include the prairie dog, the river otter, and burrowing owls.  The refuge provides habitat for large native grazing animals such as American bison, Rocky Mountain elk, and white-tailed deer. Texas longhorn cattle also share the refuge rangelands as a cultural and historical legacy species. More than 50 mammals, 240 bird, 64 reptile and amphibian, 36 fish, and 806 plant species thrive on this important refuge.  You can learn more at their website.

Hiking and Exploring

After breakfast in Medicine Park, we headed to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.  We stopped by The Holy City first, it is pretty close to the entrance.  The hiking there is relatively easy, not a lot of hills or rock climbing.  There are several structures including a small chapel.  Pasion Plays are performed there annually.  You can see video and photos of past Pasion Plays.  I just find it to be a fun and easy hike, with lots of structures and small hills for the girls to explore.  They have a little gift shop, and there were hummingbird feeders hanging outside.  We witnessed quite a few of the tiny birds fluttering around and my girls really enjoyed seeing them, as did I.

Visitors Center

We drove to the Visitor’s Center next and walked around in their nice cool air conditioned building.  The Center is pretty informative and is interactive also.  It is a neat place to visit, and a great way to cool down, refill water bottles, learn, and purchase some souvenirs.  Our next stop was Prairied Dog Town.   We got a kick watching these sweet little dogs run, play and communicate with each other.  It was fascinating!

I would have loved to hike a lot more and stay longer, but our next stop was The Tiger Safari in Tuttle.  I know we will visit again in the near future.  There is just too much to see not to visit this place many times.

 

Kid Approved, Oklahoma, Travel

Medicine Park, OK

We decided to take a short weekend vacation when my daughter was still under a year old to Medicine Park, Oklahoma, the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge and the Tiger Safari in Tuttle, OK.  We also did not have a lot of money to spend, so we wanted to go somewhere close.  I lived in Chickasha for several years before I was married and it is close to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.  It is a fantastic hiking and rock climbing area.  One of my very favorite places to go hiking!  I miss being less than an hour from the Wichita Mountains.  I decided it would be great to stay in Medicine Park, a very quaint little town just a few minutes from the Refuge and the first tourist resort in Oklahoma.  I wanted to share this area with my family.  I knew my oldest would love all the rocks, the cobblestone building in the town of Medicine Park and the rock mountains in the Wichita Mountains!  She has always been a fan of rocks.

I did some research, as usual!  And found a cabin in Medicine Park I liked and that we could afford.  Also, we were only staying one night, and not all cabins/houses would let you reserve for just one night.  I had a doctors appointment in OKC that Friday.  After the appointment, we went to Meers to have a meersburger.  Meers Store & Restaurant is a hole in the wall kind of place.  In the middle of nowhere and nothing fancy, but they have the best burgers and cobbler. Their menu has lots of tasty selections, and BBQ to go.  We ordered 2 longhorn burgers, and I ordered their fries.  My oldest and I shared a burger because they are huge! The meal was great, as always.  For dessert we all shared peach cobbler over homemade ice cream, it is beyond words.    After lunch, we headed to Medicine park and checked into Margie’s Cabin and it was perfect!  There were drinks, snacks, and a Keurig coffee maker.  There were also beach towels in one of the bedrooms.  It was set off from other houses and had a cute patio area.  We absolutely loved it, and I wished we had booked two nights instead of just one.

 


Just across the street, there is a walk way that leads to the center of Medicine Park.  The girls got in their bathing suits and we headed down the path and to the swimming area.  My oldest made friends quick and had someone to play with.  My husband, youngest and I just explored the area and watched the ducks, geese, fish and turtles.

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We drove to the Wichita Mountains and to the top of Mount Scott later in the day.  Such a great view from the top of the mountain.  It’s alway a little bit windier and cooler at the top.  The next morning we sat on the patio and just enjoyed nature and the quiet.  We walked to the town center after we all got around in the morning.  There was a little bakery with pastries and donuts, so we stopped there and had breakfast at a table outside.  Later that morning we went to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

Mount Scott
Mount Scott

Kid Approved, Travel

Dixie Stampede in Branson, MO

We decided to see the Dixie Stampede while we were in Branson.  My husband mostly does not have much of an opinion on what we do.  He usually says, “Whatever you want honey.”.  I knew that all of us would enjoy the show and the food, so I was pretty excited.  After we Rode the Ducks, visited the Titanic Museum and ate lunch we went by Dixie Stampede to pick up tickets for the show that evening.  Luckily there was no line!  I had a coupon from Ride the Ducks but did not end up using it, because I paid extra for preferred seating.  I will tell you, all the seats are great, and if you want to save money, you can purchase regular seats and see everything just fine.

 

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At the Dixie Stampede.  Really, we all had fun!

When we got there, there was a huge line!  I’m so glad I got my tickets early.  We went into the preshow area and sat down, this is a separate room from the arena.  We were confused at first, but a waitress explained that we would be seated in the arena after the pre-show.  They had a juggler.  Her was really good and funny.  After that, we all went into the arena and found our seats.  We were on the 2nd row and had great seats.  The way the seats are set up is perfect because no one’s head would block your view.  We got seated, and they asked us what we wanted to drink.  The seating is a bit crowded, but luckily none of us were next to any large people.  Before the show started, our waitress asked if my youngest could participate in the show.  She said she would let me know when she needed her to come down, and where she needed to be.  I said sure.  The food was great, and our waitress was too.  We had no silverware, so we had to eat everything by hand, which wasn’t that bad.  We had biscuits, a small roasted chicken, a strip of pork loin, corn on the cob, and an apple turnover for dessert.  The show was excellent and kept us entertained.  When it was time for Ragan to go down (we just went to the first level of the audience area), she did great.  She had to swing a little lasso, and the waitress helped her. It was adorable and made the visit even more worth it.  I think they pick newbies to participate.

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Swinging the laso.

 

 

Kid Approved, Oklahoma, Travel

Black Mesa Preserve

To continue our journey through the Oklahoma Panhandle we went to “Black Mesa Nature Preserve” after our visit to “Black Mesa State Park”   This is where you can hike up to the top of Black Mesa which is generally a 4-hour hike round trip.  It was after 3 pm when we got there, but I knew we wouldn’t do the hike before that.  There was no way our toddler could get through it, and I’m not sure the rest of us could either. Our youngest said she needed to use the bathroom even though we had just gone to the bathroom 15 minutes earlier.  They have an outhouse type potty, but she did not like that.  It was actually pretty clean, but the big hole is pretty scary.  We hiked a bit up the Mesa to see the rocks and plant life.  We found several cool lava rocks and a rock that was shaped like a small chair!  Even just hiking a tiny bit up the mesa, provided great views. My toddler was getting pretty whiny and tired, so we headed back to the car after about 30 minutes.  It is a really neat place, and I would love to come back at night.  It is supposed to have one of the most fantastic views of the stars in the US.  It’s pretty far out and away from everything so I can see why.