Big Sky, Montana Adventure at Lone Mountain Ranch

Friday August 16, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 0 Comments

Lone Mountain Ranch porch

Kick back on the porch at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana

Disclosure: I’m a California girl, in love with Montana!

I know why they call it Big Sky, Montana. At night, the stars shine brighter than a brand new penny and during the day, your eyes will be hard pressed to find a focal point, as everything around you seems miles away. Big Sky country is where the deer and the antelope and the elk roam and the skies are cloudy and might even open up and rain down upon you. But that’s okay, because you can scurry into the dining room at Lone Mountain Ranch and grab yourself a steaming cup of coffee or hot chocolate, along with a fresh baked cookie and all is right with the world.  Wait ten minutes and the weather will change from wet to wild with color, with rainbows arching over tall, grassy meadows and hillsides bursting with flowers. It is summer time in Montana’s rocky mountains.


Kurt Dehmer Fly fishing

Kurt Dehmer Lone Mountain Ranch fly-fishing guide

Family camp for kids and adults at Lone Mountain Ranch

While our kids grew up making life long memories vacationing at Sunriver Resort in central Oregon, I wish I had known about Lone Mountain Ranch when they were younger.  Watching the children swarm the camp counselors, eager to learn a new activity or climb on the open wagon, the jungle gym of a Big Sky dude ranch, I’m reminded of how quickly time passes.

Our teenagers, one in college, the other a senior in high school, would certainly enjoy a family vacation at Lone Mountain Ranch. There’s nothing like watching your kid ride a horse or shot an arrow into a target for the first time. Maybe I should have them fill out job applications for seasonal work at the guest ranch? I’ve heard more than one story of staffers finding love at Lone Mountain Ranch.


Lone Mountain Ranch outdoor activities

I tried my hand at fly-fishing on the Gallatin River with a professional Orvis endorsed guide, but the fish were not biting.  Mine was an abbreviated visit for review purposes, so I didn’t have a chance to try all of the activities the ranch had to offer.  As I mentioned, the kids program looked wonderful and all of the parents I talked with had nothing but praise for the program and staff.


Lone Mountain Ranch horseback riding

Horseback riding at Montana’s Lone Mountain Ranch

Horseback rides at Lone Mountain Ranch

One of the highlights of my trip was horseback riding through Montana wild flowers and crossing crystal clear creeks on horseback. The horses were good, the wrangler was friendly and knowledgeable and the landscape – a show stopper.


Lone Mountain ranch steak

All-inclusive dining at Lone Mountain Ranch includes Montana beef

All inclusive Lone Mountain Ranch

I think I speak for all mothers when I say that all-inclusive resorts mean that mom gets a vacation, too. Typically, on our family vacations, I still end up shopping for groceries, as well as planning and preparing the daily meals. At Lone Mountain Ranch, three meals per day are included in the cost of the vacation.

Breakfast is served buffet style, but menu items such as eggs cooked to order are available. Typically, guests are out and about during the day, hiking, kayaking, fishing or rafting, so picnic lunches are packed and ready in the morning. Dinners are enjoyed in the dining room with menu items and chef’s specials. I loved the filet mignon of local Montana beef and the next night I ordered the farm-raised bison steak – an excellent choice.


Bald Eagle cabin, Lone Mountain Ranch

My review of Bald Eagle Cabin at Lone Mountain Ranch

Big Sky, Montana log cabins

Ranch stays are typically 4-7 nights with lodging offered in 24 cozy log cabins situated around the property, or in the Ridgetop Lodge for family reunions, corporate retreats or wedding parties.

The guest ranch is open during the summer and winter. My cabin, Bald Eagle, is one of the original one room cabins with a queen bed, fireplace, desk, bathroom, coffee maker and electric heater. I kept the bathroom window open at night to hear the creek behind me.


Yellowstone National Park Tour

While I have had the opportunity to go horseback riding in Yellowstone National Park, my stay at Lone Mountain Ranch afforded me the chance to see the park through a local’s eye. Our guide brought his spotting scope along with us in our small van to shows us newly hatched chicks in an osprey nest, as well as elk in the velvet hidden among the trees.

This family-friendly dude ranch is only 18 miles from the Yellowstone National Park entrance. This is an all day trip that is available to guests in the summer, with snow coach trips offered in the winter.

With its Nordic ski trails and sleigh ride dinners, I truly hope to experience Lone Mountain Ranch in the winter!

Need to know:

Guests will either drive to Big Sky, Montana or fly into Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN.) Transportation is available to the ranch. Check the website for details.

Check-in time: flexible

Check-out time: 10:00 a.m.

Lone Mountain Ranch nature trails

All trails lead to Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana

Insider Tip

Lone Mountain Ranch is located at 6,500 feet in Big Sky, Montana. Carry your water bottle with you to all activities and keep hydrated. Drinking more water than you usually do will help you adjust to the high mountain elevation and give you more energy.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and Lone Mountain Ranch on Facebook.

If You Go:

Lone Mountain Ranch  (406) 995-4644 or (800) 514-4644

750 Lone Mountain Ranch Road

Big Sky, Montana 59716

Article written by, video and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of Lone Mountain Ranch.

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Insider Tips to Coimbra, Central Portugal

Wednesday August 14, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 4 Comments

Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha, Coimbra, Portugal

Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha in Coimbra, Portugal

Are you visiting Central Portugal for the first time? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in Coimbra, the capital of tradition and knowledge.

If you’re planning a trip to Coimbra and the rest of Central Portugal, try and make some time to see the University of Coimbra, one of the oldest in Europe. While you’re at it, take in the Santa Clara-a-Velha Monastery for a local, authentic experience.


Portugal for Little Ones, Coimbra, Portugal

Portugal for Little Ones, Coimbra

Traveling with kids?

Need a little peace and quiet? If you want to escape some of Central Portugal’s tourists, check out Coimbra’s botanical garden.

If this is a romantic trip, I recommend Quinta das Lágrimas Gardens Hotel and Pedro & Inês Bridge for kissing with a view.

Museums are wonderful, but if you are traveling with kids, you’ll want to visit the Exploratorio and Portugal for the little ones (Portugal dos Pequenitos).


Portuguese food in Central Portugal and Coimbra

While you’re in Portugal, you should find some authentic Portuguese cuisine. If you are looking for typical Coimbra’ cuisine, try leitão à bairrada – suckling pig. For a drinkable taste of Coimbra, try bairrada, a sparkling wine that is a specialty of the region.

The best place to go for coffee & a breakfast treat is Café Santa Cruz. They have a wide selection of pastries and coffee. If you want to bring home a memory of central Portugal, I recommend Amor de Biscoito, I was introduced to these little gems after dinner at Villa Pedra Natural Houses.

Looking for cheap food in Coimbra? Choose one of the bistros downtown or go to the Cafetaria of the Santa Clara’s Monastery – they make great sandwiches.

If you’re looking to splurge a little, go to Arcadas Restaurant by Quintas das Lágrimas Hotel. The Fangas Mercearia bar is a great spot for late night dining.  Just outside of Coimbra you can visit Aveiro, and have lunch at the Bairro restaurant.

University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal

University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal

Things to see and do

Seeing a lot of young people in the area? Coimbra is best known for the academic life and fado music, making it a great European “college town.”

Coimbra has some spectacular views and vantage points. When you come to Coimbra, get your picture taken at Pedro & Inês’ Bridge. The best vantage points are seen by walking to the top of the tower of Coimbra’s University.

Want to dine with a great visual backdrop? The Loggia restaurant at Machado de Castro National Museum (Coimbra’s best museum) offers great views to the roofs of the uptown area of Coimbra.

Looking for a little exercise? You’ll  work up a sweat walking up and down the cobble stone streets of old Coimbra. Walk along the Mondego River at Parque Verde do Mondego or Choupal.

Are you a night owl? Experience some of Coimbra’s exciting night life and go dancing at Rock Planet or NB Club or Rock Bar for live music – all within walking distance of  Praça da Républica’ square.

Old Cathedral, Coimbra, Portugal

Old Cathedral of Coimbra

Seasonal activities in Coimbra

Coimbra is great to visit at any time of year. Visiting in the winter? Take a Portuguese class at the University. You must visit the library with its many books and gold painted walls.

In the spring, take a day trip to Slates Villages (Aldeias do Xisto), just outside Coimbra. In the summer, you can enjoy the annual art festival, which takes place in the second half of July.

What are your favorite things to do in Coimbra and Central Portugal?

Photos and YouTube video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Portuguese National Tourist Office and Centro Portugal.

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Home2 Suites by Hilton, Huntsville, Alabama

Wednesday August 14, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 2 Comments

Research Park Lake, Huntsville, AL

Sunsets behind Home2 Suites in Huntsville, Alabama

Looking for an environmentally-friendly, affordable hotel in Huntsville, Alabama? Have you tried Home2 Suites by Hilton? A fairly new brand, Hilton has rolled out 17 Home2 Suites since 2012, with 70 more Home2 Suites in the pipeline. The Huntsville, Alabama hotel opened March 15, 2013 with 77 rooms, some of them pet-friendly.

Home2 Suites by Hilton, Huntsville, Alabama

Located near the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Bridgestreet Town Center – with shopping, restaurants and a movie theater, and Red Stone Arsenal, the army base in Huntsville, there is plenty to keep you busy in this part of Alabama.

Families will like the large rooms and casual atmosphere of these Home2 Suites – as well as the free hot breakfast. Kids will like the yogurt bar with all the different toppings, unlimited juice and hot chocolate. On a hot Alabama afternoon, everyone will enjoy the outdoor swimming pool.


Home2 Suites hotel room, Huntsville, Alabama

King room in Huntsville, Alabama at Home2 Suites

Eco-friendly Home2 Suites hotel

If environmentally-friendly lodging is important to you, Home2 Suites is certainly an ecologically-minded hotel. With Energy Star rated appliances, dual-flush water conserving toilets, Neutrogena shampoo and body soap dispencers in the shower and micro-fiber, quick drying bed sheets and pillow cases, the all-suite hotel is doing its part to lessen its footprint on the environment and reduce plastic bottles in the landfill.

Home2 Suites swimming pool

Relax at Home2 Suites pool in Huntsville, Alabama

Home2 Suites accomodations

The Huntsville, Alabama all-suite, extended stay hotel caters to families, the business traveler, as well as sports teams and military personnel. With the average stay ranging from five days to two weeks, there are several pricing options available for the traveler. My room, #351, a king suite looking onto the lake behind the hotel, rented for $129. per night – check the website for details.



Insider Tip

If you are staying at the Home2 Suites in Huntsville, Alabama, you’ll want to be sure to visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Home to Space Camp, the U.S. Space & Rocket center is one of the most comprehensive U.S. manned space flight museums in the world.

For additional insider tips follow Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and @Home2Suites on Twitter.

Home2 Suites patio, Huntsville, Alabama

Outdoor patio & firepit at Home2 Suites, Huntsville, Alabama

If You Go:

Home2 Suites  (256) 489-8295

7010 Governors West Drive Unit 3

Huntsville, Alabama 35806

Article written by, video and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. Photos courtesy of Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Home2 Suites by Hilton.

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