Since becoming a mom and working part-time rather than full-time, I've discovered new and exciting places that Tucson has to offer, while also visiting well-known landmarks more often.
Being able to spend more time at home with my 15-month-old son, Zachary, I find myself planning "mini-field trips" throughout the workweek. These outings are not only fun, but they come without the hectic and busy atmosphere of the weekend. Here's what we've done recently:
• My family has a membership to the Reid Park Zoo, and Zachary and I visit often with our friends. We look forward to strolling through the zoo at our leisure. The kids get a kick out of feeding the giraffes, and the grassy play area is wide open for our toddlers to run around without losing sight of them. What tends to be a congested attraction on the weekend is calm during the week.
• From one animal stop to another: As part of a local moms group, there are a variety of events to attend. One of them is TRAK - Therapeutic Ranch for Animals and Kids at 3230 N. Craycroft Road (traktucson.org). I'd never heard of TRAK, and I definitely look forward to going back.
Upon arriving, we were greeted by friendly dogs before catching a hayride around the farm. Visitors were free to get an up-close look at furry and feathery friends. We petted horses, goats and sheep, were awed by the ducks and got close to a cow and a pig. Rabbits were in walk-in cages, and the kids fed and petted the friendly animals. They could also play with young chickens.
With a great environment and very knowledgeable staff, TRAK, which hosts field trips, is fun and educational for adults and kids.
• Park dates are always exciting. Some of our favorites on the east side are McDonald, Udall and Agua Caliente. Agua Caliente Park doesn't have a playground, but it does have a natural spring, ducks and turtles, and it makes for a great picnic site.
Bring a ball to throw or watch the dogs run with their owners - that sure brings joy to my toddler.
• Snow on Mount Lemmon is a seasonal favorite. Take a day to enjoy the frigid temperatures while playing in the fluffy white stuff. My husband, Shane, Zachary and I, along with Shane's parents, trekked up the mountain on a recent Friday morning. We came across only a few cars, and once at Ski Valley, we easily found parking. Hopping out to play in the snow, we enjoyed our own private patch to play in. Service at the Iron Door Restaurant for lunch proved speedy and pleasant.
• Another fun destination is the pet store. We've walked up and down the aisles of nearby shops, checking out tank after tank of colorful fish, cages of rabbits and pens full of pouncing puppies. Once inside a pet store, many opportunities await for learning about various animals.
• Who could forget the mall? Zachary likes riding in his stroller, and he also loves walking. We stroll up and down, stopping in at a store here or there. Roaming with me while watching shoppers is entertaining for my toddler.
• The city's Parks and Recreation Department offers a nearly endless array of classes. Zachary and I have a great time at Movers and Shakers, which includes circle time with music, obstacle courses, gym equipment, a giant parachute and tumbling fun.
• If you're looking for a quiet place, head to your nearest library. A couple of my friends and I took our toddlers to check out the kids section recently. Puzzles were available to put together, and we flipped through a few board books. The library must have a calming effect on those who enter - our tots were quiet, chattering in soft voices, while inside.
I hope this sampling of local mini-field trips is helpful to parents looking for new things to do and fun places to go.
Email Sarah McKeown at firstname.lastname@example.org