travel-section

Category : Travel

When your family consists of more than one child, life can oftentimes feel like a survival series. Once school is back in session — with the constant stream of after-school activities, homework and getting ready for the holidays — life can seem like a tornado coming at you full speed ahead. Slow down and connect with each of your children by planning a one-on-one travel date and you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn about your kid and how much fun you can have.

kid travel ideas travel date

I have been lucky enough to take each of my kids on a one-on-one travel date and to some pretty cool spots, too. On these trips, I have had the MOST fun connecting with each of my boys and I hope to make this a regular event.

Planning your one-on-one kid vacation

When you’re coming up with kid travel ideas for your one-on-one travel date, it’s really important to focus on what your kid likes. If your kids are anything like my kids, they have completely different interests. My older one is more adventurous and athletic, while my younger one is inclined to take things more slowly. Needless to say, each of our trips will be completely different, and it’s important to plan accordingly.

Here are some tips:

  • Include your child in the planning process. What activities does he want to do? Where would he want to go? How does he want to spend his one-on-one time with you?
  • Coordinate with school. Your kid will survive a few days out of school – you’ll make it educational anyway, right? Ask your child’s teacher any work you can take along with you on the trip and carve out time daily to complete it.
  • Prep your other child(ren) for your special one-on-one time and simply remind them that their time will soon come, too. You may also need to prep your spouse (you can encourage him/her to enjoy their own special time with the kid who is staying).
  • In fact, you should encourage your spouse to take his own travel date with the kids. He will give them a totally different, completely memorable experience.
  • Choose a destination that will give you a variety of activities, and give you maximum flexibility. I  know in both of my one-on-one travel dates, I had all these grandiose plans for how things would go, but something inevitably happens. Must. Be. Flexible.
  • If you’re heading out of the country (and might I recommend Mexico or the Bahamas?), you should go ahead and order your child’s passport. Actually, go ahead and order their passport anyway (we should all have an up-to-date passport!)
  • Also, when traveling without the other parent, it is required by law to bring a notarized letter acknowledging the trip is ok. Read more about this on the US Border Patrol and Customs Protection website.
  • Record as much as you can; video, photos, journaling. Then, when you get home create a hard copy photo album and an online album, too.

I found that traveling one-on-one with each of my kids incredibly eye-opening. Come to find out my oldest is not nearly as aggravating when his little brother isn’t around, and my youngest is much more self-sufficient than I give him credit for. I was able to get to know my kids individually without the distractions of everyday life.

one on one travel date collage

Getting away with one of your kids is totally fun and incredibly rewarding. Look at that face!

Kid travel ideas

Plan a BIG trip for a particular birthday, such as Hawaii, Europe, or even a long road trip and plan to go on big adventures. (Your spouse may be jealous, but you and your special guy will have the trip of a lifetime!).

Can’t do a big trip? No problem, stay stateside. Our friend Tonya of Letters for Lucas, recently took her guy to Chicago, Keryn of Walking on Travels took her little guy on a boat in Seattle and I was able to spend a few days with my little one here at Snow Mountain Ranch in Colorado. The point is, that there are so many options for adventure when you consider the what kind of stuff your kid is into.

So, what if you don’t have the budget to fly somewhere? Consider a stay-cation in your very own community!  I have not done this yet, but I love the idea of taking one of my boys to a local hotel (that has a pool) and staying the night. We would consider local “adventures” and I would let them run the show.

Really the possibilities are endless when thinking about kid travel ideas. They enjoy the one-on-one time as much as we do.

one on one travel date collage

A one-on-one travel date will create lasting memories. I sure do love this kid!

Your family is a precious commodity and investing in life’s moments not only adds a richness, it also creates a deeper connection when you take the time to create memorable one-on-one moments. It just goes by too quickly!

What are your favorite kid travel ideas for a one-on-one travel date?
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Issian

Photo credit: Keryn Means

Remember when you used to go out for a long meal with friends, savoring every last bite and sip of wine? Now that you are a parent you get to sit through nuggets, fries and happy meals, right? Wrong! Just because we are parents doesn’t mean we can’t eat well, and there is no better place to eat than Seattle restaurants. Fresh fish, fluffy pastries, salted caramel chocolates, pork products of every shape and size; we have it all. There are few places in Seattle that you can’t bring your kids, but here are a few of my favorites when it comes to dining out with the toddler (baby and older kid) set.

raspberries

Photo credit: Keryn Means

Breakfast

Pancakes are a staple in many children’s diets here in the USA, and you just can’t go wrong with the blueberry pancakes at the Hi-Life. Order up a platter with eggs and bacon and you will have one of the best breakfasts in town.

If you are looking for a few toppings, head to Portage Bay Cafe for their toppings bar. It comes with every order of pancakes, French toast or waffles. You can also order it on its own to dive into those bowls of berries, pears, syrup and more.

Traveling outside of the city isn’t always on everyone’s agenda, but you will want to visit Malty’s Café in Maltby, WA, about 20 minutes northeast of the city. The California scramble is what breakfast dreams are made of, with a side of raisin toast and gigantic cinnamon buns (I’m not kidding. They are bigger than my kid’s head!) to share with your table.

Salmon-Burger

Photo credit: Keryn Means

Lunch

The noon meal is all about food trucks, burgers and Farmers Markets here in Seattle. If you are visiting on a Sunday, make sure you head to the Ballard Farmers Market where you can find tamales, salmon burgers, wood fire pizza and crepes on any given Sunday throughout the year. Pick up some fresh produce and a bouquet of flowers for $5 and you will be good to go.

If tacos are what you crave, you can pop over to one of El Camion’s two taco trucks in the city, or their brick and mortar establishment in Ballard. The fish tacos are a must, and your kids will devour the carnitas burrito with black beans. My five-year old has been eating them since he started solids as a baby.

Redmill Burger has been featured on multiple food and travel shows and for good reason. That pile of bacon they show off is worth every minute you will wait in line. The Bacon Deluxe with Cheese is a family favorite, along with a side of fries, onion rings and Oreo shake.

La-Isla-Cuisine

Photo credit: Ben Lindbloom

Happy Hour

La Isla is the place for mojitos and all things pernil (slow roasted pig). Their happy hour is especially great for parents and kids because almost all of their appetizers are discounted and you can easily make a meal of the pork wings, pernil sliders, maduros (sweet plantains), sweet potato frieds and empanadillas. You don’t need to save room for dessert here, just more pernil!

For those who enjoy meat on a stick, Issian has got you covered. Their $1 Yakitori and Yakiton will have your kids begging for more. Select appetizers are also discounted, and it is worth a look at the dinner menu so you can sample a few hot stone grilled dishes.

Oto Sushi does not mess around with their happy hour menu. All of our favorite rolls are discounted, along with appetizers like gyoza, spring rolls, and hot bowls of udon. Kids are welcome in this little east side joint, and parents will love that an order of edamame comes out as soon as you sit down. This place knows that kids need to eat pronto!

Veraci-pizza

Photo credit: Keryn Means

Dinner

Veraci Pizza has been the reason people move to Seattle. OK, well maybe that is just my family. Their woodfired ovens have been carted to the farmers markets of Seattle for over 8 years, and they finally got a brick and mortar location a few years back. They aren’t afraid to play with toppings (artichokes, olives, clams, etc.), but also make one heck of a cheese pizza for the picky eaters in your family.

Head to I Love Sushi for views of Lake Union and a few tasty rolls your family will adore. We always order the Marin Roll (cream cheese, crab, scallions, avocado and cucumber topped with seared salmon and wasabi aioli) plus tempura, miso and a snow crab salad. There are loads of teriyaki dishes if your crew isn’t into raw fish, but try to slip some onto their plate to try either way.

Cupcake-Royale

Photo credit: Keryn Means

Dessert

You can’t come to Seattle without trying a cupcake. We have more than a few spots to choose from, but Trophy Cupcakes and Cupcake Royale have been in a battle for the top spot in this city’s heart for years. You will never find a group of people who can agree. Trophy has their epic s’mores cupcake and a seasonal strawberry lemonade that will have you gobbling up two in under five minutes. Cupcake Royale has a heart stopping salted caramel and a lavender vanilla cupcake that have us saying “more please!”

If you don’t like cupcakes (gasp!) Hot Cakes can give you your sugar fix in a variety of ways. Their chocolate cakes baked in mini mason jars are their signature item, especially when paired with a homemade marshmallow and graham cracker. Mom and dad can slurp up boozy shakes while the kids eat grilled nutella sandwiches (that counts as dinner, right?) or sip on drinking chocolate or caramel. Can you say sugar rush? Sure you can.

As you can see, there is no end to the dining possibilities with your kids in Seattle. I’ve only scratched the surface of the spots we love. If you don’t like the same old food at chain restaurants, Seattle is the place for you. We have more independent restaurants than chain shops in the city than you could imagine, and I can only think of a handful I wouldn’t feel comfortable walking into with my kids. So what are you waiting for? Bon appetit!

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Blue Tree Resort Orlando Florida Pool

While visiting all the Orlando theme parks this summer we stayed at The Blue Tree Resort, which is one of the best Orlando hotel and condo style resorts near Disney World. We all know that if you are heading to Orlando on a family vacation things can get pretty expensive, so finding a great Orlando hotel that doesn’t break is essential. All of the rooms at the Blue Tree Resort are condo type rooms that have a dining area and a kitchen.  These types of rooms are great for family’s with kids, if you are staying for a week or more and want to save some money by making a few of your own meals.

BlueTreeResortBedroom

Great Family Vacation Condo

We booked this hotel stay through our timeshare company that has a trade in program, but anyone can book directly through the resort or on third party sites like Hotels.com or Tripadvisor.com.  You can book either a one bedroom studio which has a pull out couch for the kids or a two bedroom suite, which has a large master bedroom and a second bedroom with two twin beds. We ended up booking the one bedroom suite because the two bedrooms were already sold out.  They go fast in the summer, so book early!

We loved having the kitchen to make our own breakfast in the morning (I got my coffee instantly)and it was nice to make easy lunches for the kids and a few light dinners. We were also able to bring any food and drinks down by the pool, which is also so convenient and you don’t have to worry about paying $15 for a lunch for your kids.

BlueTreeResortLivingRoom

BlueTreeResortKitchen

BlueTreeResort2ndBedroom

Perfect Orlando Location

The Blue tree Resort is very close to Disney World and they even have a shuttle service to Disney World.  THey are also close to so many other Orlando attractions, mini golf and the outlet malls.  It is also walking distance to a few restaurants, a Walgreens and a Winn Dixie. We shopped at the Winn Dixie to stock up on water, snacks and fruit.  Both the Walgreens and the Winn Dixie also have large Orlando souvenier sections that will cost a fraction of the price then buying things at the theme parks.

Fun places to eat in Orlando with the kids!

Blue Tree Resort Kids Activities
Kids Activities and Amenities

The property has a small mini golf course, shuffle board, an arcade and a little market for buying some snacks. They also have a variety of kids activities throughout the day to keep the kids (and parents) happy. There is sand art, chalk art, decorating sunglasses, build a friend, movies and dance parties. There is also BINGO almost every day, my kids loved playing this with their Grandmas. They can win small prizes and even gift cards to some of the local restaurants. They also had $1 snow cones by the pool everyday.  Some of the activities cost a small fee but there are some that are free. The activities coordinator was super friendly and so nice to my kids and made all the kids and parents feel welcomed.

Not only is this a great budget friendly place to stay in Orlando and a central location but it was a nice place to come back to after a long day out at the parks. There are a few pools on the property that are open late into the night and there are a few jacuzzi’s to relax in too.  Some days you will want to just skip the theme parks and stay on the property to just relax by the pool and chill out. The staff was helpful and friendly and when we needed something for our room or had an issue it was taken care of right away.  We liked staying here so much that we ended up canceling our other hotel and stayed here longer!

This was a multi-generational trip and everyone was happy, something that can be hard to accomplish. I highly recommend the Blue Tree Resort for traveling families, extended family’s or large groups.

*This was not a complimentary stay and I was not given a media rate or any other discount. I share this with you because it is a great property for families vacationing in Orlando, Florida.

 

 

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The United States has 29 National Memorials spanning 14 states. These national landmarks have been a part of our nation since the first one (Washington Monument) was designated in 1884; they range in structure from statues to buildings to natural settings. All are spectacular in their own right, but few are as breathtaking as Mount Rushmore.

celebrating america a visit to mt rushmore

I have been dreaming about a trip to Mount Rushmore for longer than I can remember. Before I had kids, I would envision the whole family road tripping to this iconic landmark. Finally, this summer, my dream became a reality. Our Mount Rushmore vacation was everything I dreamed it would be, and more!

Little did I know the Black Hills area around the monument was so packed full of wonderful family activities. If you have ever considered a Mount Rushmore vacation, plan to stay a while and check out the beauty and family-friendliness of South Dakota.

Here are my Mount Rushmore vacation travel tips.
Where to Stay

First off, if you plan a Mount Rushmore vacation, you’re going to camp, right? If there is no camping in your future, you may consider checking out this site for a long list of hotel-ish lodging options.

For a camping family like ours, I cannot recommend highly enough Custer State Park. There are more than a dozen campgrounds to choose from: from group to waterside to wooded sites, there are a variety of campsite choices for every style family. Our campground was nestled in the woods. The kids enjoyed running through the trees with other kids at the campground.

celebrating america a visit to mt rushmore

Another great campground, which is a bit further from Mount Rushmore (about 1.5 hours), is at Angostura State Recreation Area. We loved our waterfront campsite and the kids thoroughly enjoyed riding bikes on paths next to the reservoir.

You may also like: 7 Off-the-beaten-path National Parks you must visit this summer

What to Do

Learn the history of Mount Rushmore. An awe-inspiring, larger-than-life sculpture, Mount Rushmore is a sight to behold. You cannot help but to feel your national pride as you approach these four stone faces whittled into the mountainside. The history of how it came to be, why these particular presidents were chosen and the lives of the men who helped create it, helps to connect us to the rich heritage we share. Take time to enjoy the presentation offering once you are there.

Watch a guy wrestle a gator. Reptile Gardens recently won the Guinness Book of World Records as being the World’s Largest Reptile Zoo, and boy, do they have a TON of reptiles! If you’re not squeamish (and some of us in this family are), you can enjoy a sneak peak into the lives of thousands of lizards, bugs, tortoises, crocodiles, alligators…the list goes on and on. Needless to say, for two certain boys, this was the coolest thing EVER! Oh, and gator wresting shows are scheduled five times a day. Those guys are crazy.

celebrating america a visit to mt rushmore | reptile gardens

Visit the city of presidents. The bronze presidential statues in historic Rapid City are hidden gems of South Dakota. Take a stroll through downtown and challenge your kids to guess the president and era they were in office. Good educational fun!

See a live paleontological dig. The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs is an undeniably unique experience. More than 26,000 years ago a spring-fed pond claimed hundreds of mammoths and other animals of the era. The earth shifted and bones were buried. To date, more than 61 mammoths have been identified. If you think these enormous animals are the product of a movie writer’s imagination, think again! This live dig is a spectacular treat into prehistoric times.

celebrating america a visit to mt rushmore

Get your hat blown off. Wind Cave National Park, about 45 minutes from Mount Rushmore, is spelunker heaven. Tucked beneath rolling, Bison filled prairies, lie hundreds of miles of underground passageways, rooms, and geological gems – with more being discovered daily. Wind Cave gets the name from the wind pressure that comes from the caves only natural opening. Stick your head in the hole and your hat blows right off.

You may also like: Summer travel pinspiration

Make it Fun

We love, love, loved the Jr. Ranger Program offered at all National Parks, as well as Mount Rushmore. Custer State Park also had a similar program called Junior Naturalist Program. The Jr. Ranger Program is activity-based and jam-packed with fun facts and info that is easily digestible for short attention spans. Our kids loved the activity books, the trivia questions, and fact-finding on-site activities.

Our favorite activity was during the Junior Naturalist Program of Custer State Park which included an 18-mile Wildlife Loop drive with a State Park Ranger. We learned all about Bison, were able to feed wild burros and enjoy a wild-raspberry lined hike.

Celebrating america a visit to mt rushmore

A trip to Mount Rushmore is so much more than a trip to Mount Rushmore! Dive into the culture, the history, and the beauty that South Dakota has to offer.

You may also like: Family fun in Cannon Beach, Oregon

Have you ever been? What were your favorite Mount Rushmore vacation activites?
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Last week I shared my take on some of the popular Orlando theme parks and what to do with kids in Orlando, but this week is all about the food. Finding fun places to eat in Orlando that both you and the kids will enjoy can be a bit of a challenge. When on a family vacation you should always try to eat out at some restaurants that you might now have back home. There are plenty of fast food and chain restaurants so finding some healthier options is always nice too. So here are my six fun places to eat in Orlando!

Fun places to eat in Orlando with kids

Cafe Tu Tu Tango Orlando Florida

Cafe Tu Tu Tango Restaurant Orlando Florida

Fun Places to eat in Orlando Florida Cafe Tu Tu Tango Tu Tu Tango Pork Sliders Orlando Florida

Cafe Tu Tu Tango

Cafe Tu Tu Tango was hands down my favorite place we ate. It is a very unique restaurant and bar that looks like an artists studio. The vibe is funky, eclectic and creative, and has a great atmosphere. We celebrated my mother-in-laws retirement here, she was an art teacher for 32 years! So clearly this was a perfect place to celebrate the occasion. The food was really fantastic, all small plates meant for family style sharing. The Pork Sliders were by far the family favorite, we ordered another round of those!  All the food was great and even the kids got into sampling most everything that we ordered. They do make small pizzas if your kids are a little pickier.

There was even a fortune teller at a small table and both the Grandma’s went and had their fortunes told! There was also a belly dancer that was dancing around the restaurant later in the night. This restaurant gets pretty busy with large parties and people celebrating Birthdays and other special occasions, so make a reservation!

Dicks Last Resort Orlando Florida
Dicks Last Resort Orlando Florida Party Hats
Dicks Last Resort Beergarita Orlando Florida

Dicks Last Resort

Dick’s Last Resort is a riot. Do not come here unless you are in a good mood. The servers are sarcastic and a little rude, on purpose. The entire restaurant is a party so it is a bit loud and there is a lot going on. At one point they had one of the large groups that was there do a limbo challenge in the middle of the restaurant. Everyone at your table will get a bib and a silly paper hats put on their heads.  They write a funny description of you on the hat that the server randomly makes up or perhaps observes about your personality.

We had to order the Beergarita just for fun. It is a large margarita with a beer dumped inside of it I ended up drinking drank most of it and so my husband drove us all home.The food is a bit expensive for what you get, but you go here more for the obnoxious experience and to have some great laughs. Relax and your family is sure to have a good time at Dick’s Last Resort.

Sea Dog Brewing Company Orlando Florida
Sea Dog Brewing Company Beer Flights

Sea Dog Brewing Company Orlando Florida Connect For

Sea Dog Brewing Company

We stumbled upon Sea Dog Brewing Company by chance. We were ina sea of chain restaurants and then we saw this sign spinner on the corner spinning a sign for the Sea Dog Brewing Company, we turned to give it a try.  We also happened to go on Trivia night and during Happy Hour – so food was a great price and we had a lot of fun testing our knowledge.  We sat in the bar area with our kids, it was totally fine. They have a large

Salad

Photo credit

Sweet Tomatoes

Sweet Tomatoes, yup a salad bar. It’s not exactly “fun” per se but traveling with kids means eating out a lot and when you find a place that has healthy food that everyone likes, you go there, maybe even twice! Farm fresh vegetables and an all you can eat salad bar was rather refreshing to us after a few days of theme park food, i literally had an ice cream cone for lunch one day, so seeing a variety of green vegetables was very exciting. My daughter loves salads so she was thrilled and happy to make her own. Of course my son not a huge fan of veggies we got him chicken noodle and some of the cold pasta salads they offer. And while you can eat very healthy here, there is still a desert station if you want to indulge a little or use that as a bargaining chip with the kids. They liked making their own sundaes.

Winter Park Farmers Market Orlando Florida

Winter Park Florida Park Avenue Shopping Dining

Head to Winter Park

We hit up the Farmers Market in Winter Park on Saturday for some off the beathen path food and local finds and did a little shopping on South Park Ave. There are also plenty of restaurants on South Park Avenue for you to choose from, everything from Panera Bread to trendy restaurants, wine bars and even a Sassafras Sweet Shop. Don’t miss the kids toy store Lighten Up! we spent a long time in there.

Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory Kissimmee Florida
Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory – Kissimmee

Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory is located right before you get into the Old Downtown of Kissimmee, which is right next to Orlando. This is a MUST SEE and EAT. I heard about this ice cream shop via Twitter, so naturally I had to check it out. When you walk in it feels a bit more like a science lab because of all the nitrogen floating around in the air.  They make your custom ice cream flavor in a bowl right in front of you by using nitrogen! If the show isn’t enough to convince you, don’t worry the ice cream will. It is A – mazing! Probably some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had and worth all the calories.  They also have a playground and a few jump houses out back for the kids to run off their sugar high!

Share your Orlando city gems – where did you eat?
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I have to be honest, I was having nightmares about visiting Orlando in the summertime. It can be very overwhelming and a bit crowded to say the least, but our epic summer road trip started in Orlando so we had to brave the heat and crowds regardless. As one of the most popular family vacation destinations in America I owed it to my kids, myself and you to see what Orlando was all about, so here are some of the best Orlando theme parks and some of the highlights for us.

Orlando Theme Parks & Attractions

Aquatica Orlando Florida Family Travel

Aquatica Orlando FloridaAquatica Raging Rapids
Aquatica

Aquatica was my absolute favorite family theme park in Orlando. This was by far the most fun we had as a family.  It is a classy water park that has so many fun water slides, splash parks rivers and thrill seeking slides too. My kids absolutely LOVED the Roa’s Rapids, not to be confused with the lazy river, which they have too, but the rapids requires no tubes, you can opt to wear a life jacket or go without, as long as you are a strong swimmer of course. The water literally pushes you around the river and there are a few sections that really take you on a little ride.  We could not get my son out of this, we must have went around 25 times, giggling and laughing all the way.

They have plenty of areas for toddlers with the splash parks, smaller water slides and two large wave pools with shallow walk in entries. They also have the Dolphin Plunge which is a water slide that goes through a large pool with swimming dolphins. We worked our kids up to even try some of the bigger water slides that our family could go on all four of us together or in tubes for two people. Aquatica is definitely a water park not to miss and truly a memorable day for us.

Fun Spot Orlando Florida
Fun Spot Orladno Florida
Fun Spot Orlando Kissimmee Florida

Fun Spot USA

Fun Spot is a fantastic place to take the kids! There are two locations, one in Orlando, which was just had a huge renovation and a smaller one in Kissimmee. We hit up the one in Kissimmee and had a blast. This park was the perfect place for some pint size fun. Our kids do not like a lot of the big rides so the classic rides and the toddler sized ones were perfect for them. We went mid-day and so our kids practically had some of the rides all to themselves. They also have a great arcade that is a perfect spot to sit and cool off.

Fun Spot is not just for the little ones, they have multi-level Go Karts, plenty of thrill rides and roller coasters. In fact, the Orlando Fun Spot has the only wooden roller coaster in all of Orlando. If you are a adrenaline junkie then you’ll want to check out the World’s Tallest SkyCoaster, which is pretty much a human pendulum swing, 300 feet in the air. Our daughter refused to let us go on this. Fun Spot is absolutely a great way to spend a day in Orlando, it’s a little bit like a classic carnival but modern and more exciting.

WonderWorks Orlando Florida

WonderWorks Bubble Room 2 Orlando Florida
WonderWorks Neon Ropes Course
Wonder Works

We kept driving past this upside down building and my kids kept saying “Can we go there!” and “When can we go there!?” WonderWorks is a really fun interactive playground for kids and adults. Its a little bit like a science museum but with a lot more things for kids to participate in. We spent the most time in the bubble room, the kids loved making bubbles and even being put inside a bubble.

My kids and husband did the neon ropes course which was high above the arcade inside WonderWorks. You need closed toed shoes to do this, so I was not able to participate, so I stayed on the ground to take pictures. It was a fun atmosphere with music and all the lights glowing. My daughter got very scared when she was up on the ropes course and the guide really helped her conquer her fear and walked with her through the course. I really appreciated him taking the time to help her. We also played laser tag and was one of my favorite things we did as a family, the kids loved running around, hiding from us and shooting us!

Most Unique McDonalds Orlando Florida

The Most Unique McDonalds in the World

McDonalds. Yes, I said it, McDonalds. We went here twice and this is under theme parks because we didn’t go there to eat – well okay, I did have a cheeseburger, coffee and an ice cream cone. BUT, my son had the most fun here and pretty much said this was his favorite thing to do in Orlando.  He’s a bit of a arcade junkie and well, the entire second level of this McDonalds has an arcade. In fact this McDonalds also has a small bowling alley, indoor playground and a variety of activities happening through out the week!  The best part, it was air conditioned, no 1/2 hour lines, coffee and my kids were happy.  WIN.

Universal Studios Orlando Florida Family Travel

Universal Studios

Universal Studios is a really great theme park and probably one of my favorites. This is a great park for families that have teenagers to toddlers, there is really something for everyone! There are plenty of thrill rides for the older kids but if you have young ones there is plenty of rides to entertain them as well. Our favorites rides were the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Shrek 4-D, the classic E.T Adventure and Spiderman. My son did get a little scared on the Spiderman ride, but after it was over he thought it was “awesome”. My sons very first roller coaster was Woody Woodpeckers Nut house coaster, and he still talks about it!

There is also an adorable area for younger children that is all about Doctor Seuss. We rode the Seuss Trolley Train ride and loved seeing the park from up high in the sky. If you have toddlers this area is made for them. If you have Harry Potter fans of course the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a MUST see and do.

*Editors Note: We did not go to Universal this trip due to the new Harry Potter opening, but we were there a year before for the Minion Mayhem ride press opening and absolutely LOVED it.

Disney World Fellman 2014Tea Cups Disney World with The White Rabbit

Its a Small World Disney World Orlando Florida

Disney World

I do not recommend going to Disney World in the summer, it is HOT and crowded. The best time to go is January or February, but we braved the heat and had some fun anyways. My favorite is the classic Tea Cups so this was our first ride and The White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland sat with us in our tea cup!  It’s a small world is another family favorite of ours, seeing all the countries represented is so much fun, we can ride that one over and over again. It was our first time riding the Pirates of the Caribbean and what my kids actually loved the most was the Scavenger Hunt around this area of the park. They got a map and had to find hidden clues that lead them to their next clue. This was a great activity for them to do and a nice break from standing in lines waiting for rides.

Pirates Cove Adventure Golf Orlando Florida

Pirates Cove Mini Golf Orlando Florida

Pirates Cove Mini Golf Orlando Florida SSM

Pirates Cove Miniature Golf

This is not necessarily a theme park per se, but there are so many places to mini golf in Orlando Florida and it’s a great activity for all ages, we took both the Grandma’s and had a great time! The best part, it doesn’t cost a lot of money either. I do suggest going right away in the morning before it gets too hot or head there closer to sunset for cooler temperatures.  We went to Pirates Cove and the course was really nice and a lot of fun.

As you can see, we had a lot of fun at each park and they all have their unique personality. However, if you ask me which were my top two and ones I want to visit again, I’d say Aquatica and Universal Studios.

 

Disclosure: This was a self initiated trip to Orlando, however @VisitOrlando supplied me with a press pass for some local attractions and I was given media tickets to Disney World, Fun Spot and Aquatica. However, all my savvy thoughts and sassy opinions are my own.

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The City of Trees between the rocks of the foothills

The City of Trees between the rocks of the foothills

I’ve had the good fortune to spend some quality time exploring Boise, Idaho. As I’ve said to anyone who’ll listen, there is so much more to Idaho than potatoes (which are delicious, by the way). I’m so pleased to share some of my favorite city gems from super-friendly Boise.

Foodie Favorites
Tasty blackfish tacos and asparagus fries at The Fork

Tasty blackfish tacos and asparagus fries at The Fork

The Fork restaurant is a local favorite in the downtown, with an emphasis on locally-sourced food, craft beer and wine. Try the grilled jumbo artichoke as an appetizer, followed by a perfect steak with creamy mashed Idaho potatoes. On Tuesdays they sell out early on the fried chicken and waffles special – you’ve been warned.

Casual and still family-friendly is The Dish. It has a more eclectic fusion menu, with such items as bahn mi fries, watermelon gazpacho, and beet salad with fennel and candied apple slices. You can still order traditional burgers, fries and pastas. Iced tea is the drink of choice in summer.

Pink, green and delicious at the Westside Diner

Pink, green and delicious at the Westside Diner

The Westside Diner is a traditional drive-in diner offering an extensive burger, shake and malted shake menu. It’s also the home of Chef Lou’s famous Ice Cream Potato. The pink and lime green diner decor is an unmissable landmark.

The Basque Market in downtown Boise celebrates the Spanish heritage of early settlers to this region. The Market offers unique Spanish food items, wines, gifts to take home, and $8 Paella every Wednesday and Friday.

Family Time

Rent a bike and ride along the Boise River Greenbelt. This flat and shaded pedestrian and bike-friendly path runs 25 miles along the Boise River, just 5 minutes from downtown. It’s a gorgeous and gentle ride that is rightly beloved by Boise residents and downtown commuters. Boise State University is on its path, home of the incredibly popular Boise Broncos football team. You can stop and visit the NFL-worthy stadium and its unique blue turf field.

Bike the 25 mile Boise River Greenbelt on this sweet ride

Bike the 25 mile Boise River Greenbelt on this sweet ride

The Greenbelt lives up to its name, as it routes through many parks and greenspaces. Stop at the MK Nature Centre to see 8-foot long sturgeon and trout in the pond, and learn about beavers, birds and other wildlife.

Try your hand at Paddleboarding on Quinn’s Pond, or if you’re feeling really brave, kayak the river rapids at Boise River Park. These areas are located along the western portion of the Greenbelt, and are very popular with locals for outdoor recreation and cooling off in the hot summer.

A bridge in the Meditation Garden, Idaho Botanical Garden

A bridge in the Meditation Garden, Idaho Botanical Garden

Walk in the cool green of the Idaho Botanical Garden. The Garden is an oasis in the high desert, and includes meditation, rose, native plants, and children’s activity gardens, as well as a very interesting Lewis and Clark exhibit. From here you can pop next door for a tour of the Old Idaho Penitentiary, a 19th century decommissioned prison. The Marked Men Tattoo Exhibit is fascinating.

Beauty in the city
Artwork at the Zenergy Spa

Artwork at the Zenergy Spa

Tired from all of your biking, paddle-boarding and sight-seeing? Enjoy a soothing hot stone massage at Zenergy Spa. If you need more intensive body work, let therapists walk all over you, literally, from suspended wooden bars with an Ashiatsu massage.

Hotels
A cosy king sized bed at Hampton Inn & Suites

A cosy king sized bed at Hampton Inn & Suites

The Hampton Inn & Suites is a business and family-friendly hotel, in walking distance to downtown Boise. Free wifi, freshly-baked cookies, complimentary breakfast, and spacious suites are just some of the reasons to stay at this well-situated hotel.

For families looking for a more traditional resort-style stay, book at the Riverside Hotel in Garden City. This is large hotel on the banks of the Boise River has an outdoor pool, gym, excellent buffet breakfast, Sandbar riverside restaurant and bar, and free wifi. The property feels a little dated, but its clean and the staff is very friendly.

 

Claudia Laroye writes the travelling mom, a modern mom’s guide to travel sanity with your family. She’s passionate about the value of traveling as a family, and shares travel tips, advice, and destination guides on her site. She also writes as the Curious Travel Mama on San Diego-based TravelMamas.com. She lives in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and two teenaged sons. Find Claudia also on TwitterFacebookInstagramPinterest, and Google+.

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Grand Cypress Hotel Orlando

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

A few weeks ago we stayed at the Hyatt Regency Grand Hyatt in Orlando and I cold not have been more impressed! If you are planning a family vacation and are searching for hotels near Disney World, then this is the place to stay. Not only is this the perfect location near many of the theme parks, but there is actually so much to do at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress that you may want to skip some of them and just stay and play at the hotel all day!

Hyatt Regency Pool with Bridge Orlando

The Hyatt Regency Pool and Waterfalls

The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress has essentially one gigantic continuous pool that is connected through a narrow river-like pool enclosed by a large cave with waterfalls which then opens up to a large pool that has a bridge extending across it. There are a total of twelve waterfalls around the pools and they also have a water slide that empties into an additional pool. For those of you with little toddlers they have a splash pad area as well. You are allowed to bring flotation devices into the pool and they have some for sale at the towel stand for purchase as well. The pool is definitely one of the things that impressed me the most at this hotel.

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando Pool and Caves
The pool is open 24 hours and I highly recommend a night swim with the kids. The pools are lit up and the caves are even more magical at night. Inside the cave there are lounge chairs for people to get out of the sun and perfect for any napping babies or husbands;) Inside the cave is also where the fitness center is located, probably one of the most unique places to get a workout in I’ve ever seen. They also have a fire pit for roasting marsh mellows and making s’mores. They sell a s’more’s kit, or you can bring your own s’mores ingredients in yourself.

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Family Activities Orlando

Grand Cypress Water Activities Orlando Florida, hotels near disney world

Plenty of Family Activities

Since this hotel sits on 1,500 acres and there is a small lake there is plenty to do!  They have three jogging trails, tennis courts, and a pitch-and-putt golf course. They have two rock climbing walls, one for smaller kids and one for older children and adults. Down by the water there is a beach with lounge chairs, a volleyball court and tether ball. On the lake you’ll find paddle boats, paddle bikes and paddle big wheels! You can also take out kayaks and canoes. Throughout the day there are also a variety of kids activities to participate in; a scavenger hunt, feeding the ducks, sand castle building, and a treasure hunt.

Other kids’ activities that have an additional fee are sand art, mermaid class, the arcade and Camp Hyatt, which is a drop-off kids’ club. The kids’ club schedule can vary so you’ll just want to call ahead and make a reservation.

hotels near disney world, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando, mermaid school

The Mermaid Academy was an absolute must do for my daughter. It is an hour-long class and could not be any cuter. They do also offer shark fins for the boys to participate as well.

CascadesGrandCypressHotelFood

Dining Options

There is a very nice buffet-style breakfast each morning, but this is not included in your stay. Or you can go to the grab-and-go coffee bar in the morning to pick up pastries, fruit, yogurt, juice, chocolate milk and other lighter options. Cascades is the restaurant that serves lunch and dinner, we ate here twice and were very pleased with our meals each time. I loved my crab cakes and my husband loved his steak but you MUST order the s’mores brownie sundae, it’s pretty much sin in a jar.

There is the Beach Grill outside by the pool for your typical poolside sandwiches, burgers, fish tacos and kids’ meals. Hemingway’s is their fine dining restaurant on the property, if you can get away for a night without the kids then I would suggest this for a little date night.

hotels near disney world, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando
hotels near disney world, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando

The Hotel

The atrium of this hotel is beautiful and even comes with a hotel lobby ambassador, a talking parrot. The lobby has plenty of seating areas for you to lounge, grab a coffee and even get some work done. In the afternoon the lobby bar opens and you can grab a drink as well — and they have a late-night menu, too. The rooms are pretty standard hotel rooms with modern furnishings, we were on the 15th floor and had a great view of the entire property and a lot of Orlando, we even saw a few of the Disney fireworks from our room.

hotels near disney world, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando
I really can’t express enough how much fun my kids had and how much my husband and I enjoyed staying at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. When I vacation with my family I don’t want it to only be about the kids, I want to be on vacation too! This hotel literally has something for everyone no matter the age and is a fantastic place for a family vacation. I am already thinking of a reason to go back to Orlando just so we can stay here again! With so many hotels near Disney World, it can be tricky to find the one that’s perfect. We’re thrilled that we found this fantastic property!

So, where will you be staying for your next family vacation in Orlando?

 

All photos taken by me and should not be used without my consent.

Disclosure:  This was a media stay for me to review the hotel.  I was comped one night and given a media rate for the rest of my stay. This also included one dinner at Cascades.  All of my savvy thoughts and sassy opinions are my own. I share this with you because it is an exceptional property and I would absolutely stay here again.

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The kids are back in school after a fun-filled summer of family time. What better way to celebrate – ahem, I mean grieve – than to plan a little weekend getaway with the hubs.

grownup getaways | couples vacation

Fall is a great time to plan a couple’s vacation; there are travel deals galore. In order to start planning your grownup getaway, first you should decide what type of vacation you want. Do you want to lie leisurely on the beach? Seek thrills? Party in Vegas? Go on a cruise? Whatever you decide get started with your plans now.

Making Your Grownup Getaway Plan

In order to get your ball in motion, you need to make a plan. Here are some quick tips for moving forward.

  • Download your favorite travel apps and start your research.
  • Determine whether you want a luxury couple’s vacation or if you need to stick to a limited budget.
  • Maximize your leisure time together by choosing a destination within a couple hours (plane or drive time) away.
  • Commit to a digital detox during your special time together. There is nothing less romantic than constantly checking your phone.
  • Open your mind to new experiences and be flexible in your grownup getaway plan.
  • Just because you have planned a couple’s weekend, doesn’t mean you can’t take the kids with you. Many resorts offer wonderful kid programs and babysitters onsite.
Getaway Ideas for a Couples Vacation

grownup getaways | couples vacation

Go on an urban retreat

Heading to a larger city can be a great way to stimulate all the senses; Broadway shows, cultural exhibitions, museums and a wide array of restaurant offerings. The sights, sounds, smells and activities in a bustling city can be just the thing you need to reconnect on a wonderfully adult, kid-free level.

You may like: City Gems: Seattle, Vancouver, BC, Date Night in Chicago or Toronto in the Fall.

Romp at a ranch

On the opposite end of the spectrum from an urban retreat, is an adults-only weekend at a wide-open ranch. If you spend much of your time around a lot of people in a tech-filled environment, you’ll love the solace a ranch can offer. Imagine horseback riding through a prairie or rounding up cattle during the day, and enjoying a relaxing spa treatment before a chef prepared meal in the evening. When you see your man being all “manly,” you’ll love him that much more (trust me).

Must Consider: Adult Only Week at Vista Verde Luxury Ranch Resort outside of Steamboat Springs, Colorado

You may also: Exploring Colorado in the Fall 

Relax on a beach

Probably the most common and desired couple vacation is a beach vacation. Fruity drinks, dreamy sunsets, and a cool ocean breeze are the perfect concoction for romance, in my mind. By choosing an all-inclusive resort, you can spend more time relaxing with the hubs and less time dealing with logistics.

Places to consider: Le Blanc Spa Resort in Cancun, Grand Lucayan Resort in the Bahamas, The Saguarao Hotel in Palm Springs, Sheraton Hacienda Del Mar in Cabo San Lucas or the Westin in Los Cabos.

What will you be escaping to on your couple’s vacation this fall?
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Boulder, Colorado Flatirons

Image Source: Colorado.com

A family trip to Boulder, Colorado can be packed full of activity, food, and fun – as many top 10 lists will tell you. Find out where Boulderites like to hang out, and how you can cram in a weekend of fun in this vibrant Colorado community.

Where to Stay

Where to Stay in Boulder Boulder is home to two distinctly different, completely awesome hotels that are note-worthy. So, depending on your style and desired experience, you can choose between the two. I would recommend visiting Boulder at least twice so you can try each of them.

St. Julien Classy, sophisticated, modern and home to a world-class spa, the St. Julien is a true luxury experience. I love sipping Chardonnay in the super-comfy and oversized lobby or lounging on the patio while listening the live music. The halls are peppered with artsy-local photos, the views are spectacular and the beds are heavenly.

Hotel Boulderado Hotel Boulderado has been a Boulder staple for more than a hundred years. The historic details are simply stunning; designed to be a combination of Italian Renaissance-style with Spanish Revival features. It also has a mosaic tile floor, a stained-glass canopy ceiling and the original, still-working elevator. Taking the historical experience to the next level is easy-to-do with the recently revamped onsite lounge, License No. 1. You can access this swanky lounge through a secret door inside (password required!) or from the street. I love the throw-back vibe of the décor and the super-fancy cocktail options. Grab some apps at the onsite Corner Bar or sit down for dinner at the brand-spankin’ new restaurant Spruce (opening Aug 2014). Truly, you won’t have to leave.

Where to Eat

Where to Eat in Boulder

The bigger question is where DON’T you eat in America’s Foodiest Town (another reason to visit twice). Experience more in less time when you sign up for a Local Table Tour - you can sample several restaurants at a time – or here a few suggestions…

Aji for apps. You would not necessarily think about coming to Boulder for Latin American cuisine, but Aji can change that. I love their happy hour menu which includes a nice selection of empanadas, street tacos, and bacon wrapped dates, all topped off with a refreshing house-made Sangria. A delightful way to spend an afternoon in Boulder!

Kitchen Next Door for family-friendly dining. Sister restaurant, The Kitchen, has been a foodie favorite for years, but reserved for date nights and client dinners. When they opened up the more laid back and family-friendly Kitchen Next Door (located, next door, of course) I was thrilled. Not only do they have wine on tap (say what?), they have a delicious farm-to-table entrees, a robust kids menu (of which they donate a portion of sales to fund local kids agricultural programs) in a fun, bustling atmosphere.

Piece Love & Chocolate for dessert. Pure decadence! Sometimes I just go to Piece, Love & Chocolate to absorb the rich, earthy, sweet chocolate aroma into my system. Floor to ceiling shelves of chocolate makes this mama’s paradise on earth. Pick up some chocolate candies, a slice of decadent cake or try out a petite pastry. You won’t go wrong with any of these options.

Tip: Boulder is home to more than 20 breweries and tasting rooms. If you like beer, you can arrange your entire trip around craft brew and it will not disappoint!

You may also enjoy: Top 7 Family Friendly Restaurants in Boulder

Where to Shop

Where to Shop in Boulder McGuckin Hardware Did you forget something on your trip? No worries! McGuckin likely has whatever it is you need … they have everything. And, even if you don’t need anything it’s a great place to people watch. McGuckin, the local’s hardware – and so much more – store, is a Boulder icon. Heck, there was even a wedding thrown in the tool aisle recently.

Boulder Bookstore Thousands upon thousands of books, from floor to ceiling and wall-to-wall; Boulder Bookstore is a bibliophile’s dream. Exploring three floors of books are just the beginning. Settle in for some great local conversation or set your child free in the expansive kids section and you’ve got an afternoon of entertainment set!

Emilia Ceramics When you’re in Boulder, you’ll likely want to bring home something beautiful for yourself and Emilia Ceramics will most certainly have something you cannot live without. A quaint little shop at the east end of Pearl street, you can bring home the Old World Charm of hand-painted ceramics that have been meticulously selected from artisans in Mexico and Europe.

Where to Play

What to do in Boulder

Pearl Street Street performers, shops, restaurants and street vendors pepper four full blocks of a pedestrian mall downtown Boulder. Some would say that Pearl Street is the heartbeat of Boulder; a place to experience all the great (and crazy!) things this vibrant city has to offer.

Bike the City With more than 300 days of sunshine, and an equal number of bike paths, there is no better way to dive into the city than by bike. Rent a bike at Boulder Bikesmith or at one of many rent-by-the-hour bike-share stations, then head out on the trails (many of which go right along the creek) and you can get anywhere in town.

Eldorado Springs Swimming Pool I really should not be talking about the Eldorado Swimming Pool, because it a true hidden gem of our community and part of me wants to keep it that way. Located south of Boulder, Eldorado Springs Pool has a rich history. Rumor has it even the Eisenhower’s frequented this turn of the century favorite; in fact in 1910 it was the largest pool in U.S., and folks came from across the globe to experience it. Sadly, a 1928 flood knocked out most of the resort, but we still have an awesome spring-fed pool to splash around in today, and it is spectacular.

You may also enjoy: Best Colorado Towns for a Summertime Family Getaway Boulder is unique, vibrant, outdoorsy and fun. This list of gems is just the tip of the iceberg. Come for hiking, kayaking, eating, or to simply enjoy the sunshine … activities abound!

Have you ever visited Boulder, Colorado? What were your favorite things?
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