travel-section

Category : Travel

I have never been to the South but have always wanted to visit and soak up some of that good ol’ southern charm! This past summer we went on a seven-city road trip and one of the places I was most excited to experience was Savannah, Georgia. I’m not really sure exactly why, but I pictured it to be a charming old city with a small town vibe. I also stumbled upon this Savannah blog, Life on the Squares which got me even more excited to see this fine little city and discover all its historic squares.

Savannah Georgia Travel

Savannah Georgia City GemsEllis Square Savvanah Georgia Splash Fountain

Savannah Georgia Historic Squares

The city of Savannah is set up on a very easy-to-navigate grid that connects to 22 historic squares. We stayed at the historic Inn at Ellis Square which is in a great location right across from the Market Square splash fountain, perfect for the kids to cool off on a hot southern afternoon. This is also where you’ll find the Shops at Ellis Square and the popular City Market, a pedestrian-only street filled with restaurants, shopping, and outdoor entertainment.

Savannah Candy StoreSavannah Candy Kitchen Family Travel City Gems
Savannah’s Candy Kitchen

The original Savannah’s Candy Kitchen is down on River Street, but we wandered into the City Market location. “Beware of Flying Taffy” the sign says when you enter and you can feel the sugary goodness seeping into your pores the minute you set foot in this place. I think my kids thought they had officially died and gone to sweet treat heaven.

You can watch the candy makers making their famous Pecan Pralines, a popular confectionary treat in the South. They’ll give you a sample too, and when in Savannah… you must try the Pecan Pralines! There is also a conveyor belt that sends salt water taffy on a track all around the store, my kids could not take their eyes off of them and the giant barrels of taffy where they ended up.

Savannah Old Town Trolley Tours
The Old Town Trolley Tours

I definitely recommend the Old Town Trolley Tour. Sure it’s touristy, but it is a great way to see the city and hear all the historic facts from a local tour guide. My daughter and I did the trolley tour together, it was a perfect way to spend a day — just the girls! The trolley tour is hop-on hop-off, so you can take your time taking pictures and visiting different city stops you want to spent more time at.

If it wasn’t for this tour I may have missed a few scenic places, like the park where Tom Hanks sits in the opening scene from Forest Gump and says “Life is like a box of chocolates,” I might not have known I could step inside the stunning Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, or I may have missed where the very first Girl Scout Headquarters was or missed hearing about the history of The Pirates House. This trolley tour not only gave me the history of Savannah but a great overview of what a wonderful city it is today too.

The Coffee Fox Savannah Georgia
The Coffee Fox

Whenever I am in a new city, I always try to find the local coffee shop.The first morning I was in Savannah I stumbled upon The Coffee Fox and I went back two more times while in Savannah. I got up early and snuck out to get some work done and this was a fantastic place to wake up and work. Not to mention the coffee was fantastic! Finding a local coffee spot is also great for people watching, you can get a vibe for the place and the people that make up a city.

Red Clover Savannah Georgia The Paris Market and Savannah Bee Company Savannah Georgia
Shopping in Savannah

The very first shop I walked into was the cutest boutique, Red Clover, located on Bull Street near Chippewa Square (which is the Forest Gump film location I mentioned). This fashion gem is a mix of bohemian chic and southern sophistication. The collection of clothing, shoes, handbags and accessories are right on trend and you’re sure to want everything. But if you can’t get to Savannah, they sell online so you can shop Red Clover from anywhere!

If you stroll down the main street of Broughton Street you will find many shops and restaurants, (including the Coffee Fox) but do not miss the Savannah Bee Company and The Paris Market, both are worth taking a peek inside! The Paris Market is a gorgeous, eclectic store filled with beautiful furniture, home goods, books, gifts, toys and so much more! I could have spent all day in here browsing for treasures. The Savannah Bee Company has honey samplings daily and carries a variety of honey flavors and an entire line of bath and body products.

The Funky Brunch Cafe Savannah Geoorgia City GemsFunky Brunch Cafe where to eat with kids in Savannah

The Funky Brunch Cafe

The Funky Brunch Cafe, I liked it so much here I ate here twice! My daughter and I had lunch here and the Tuna Sandwich was spectacular and that is when I found out about the tables for “Make Your Own Pancakes” and so we had to come back to do that. The tables have a warm griddle center that heats up. The kids get to squeeze out the pancake mix, add a variety of toppings to their pancakes and flip them!  I have never been to a restaurant that does this, the kids loved it.

The Olde Pink House Savvanah Georgia City Gems

If you came to Savannah for that some of that traditional southern cooking then head to either the famous Paula Dean’s restaurant, Lady & Sons  - where I tried Shrimp & Grits for the first time! Or you can dine in a historic mansion at The Olde Pink House. Both restaurants will serve you all southern fried chicken, black eyed peas, mashed potatoes and grits you could ever want. Then if you have had all the fried food you can take, then go to Aroy-Jung Sushi for some fantastic sushi! Sushi in the South? I know, but this sushi was really spectacular!

Savannah Childrens Museum

The Savannah Children’s Museum

The Savannah Children’s Museum is brand new museum to Savannah and is extremely unique. It is literally built in and around the old railroad storage yard. This is an outdoor museum, so you may want to visit before it gets too hot outside. The Children’s Museum is located right next to the Georgia Railroad Museum and the Savannah History Museum. You can easily visit all three in one morning or afternoon and you can take the kids to eat inside a train car at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

Leopolds Ice Cream Savannah Georgia City Gems
Leopold’s Ice Cream

There are some things worth waiting in line for and Leopold’s Ice Cream is one of them. In fact, the day we went to Leopold’s there was a line out the door and it stayed out the door the entire time we sat and enjoyed our ice cream cones. I am pretty sure this is the best damn Ice Cream I’ve ever had in my life! For real. Leopold’s is a ice cream parlor legend from 1935 and was recently re-opened in 2014. With their secret ice cream recipes and a famous Hollywood background it’s no wonder people line up around the block.

Savannah Georgia Riverfront Shopping
The Riverfront

If you do one thing, you must walk down by the water at the Riverfront, we went at sunset and before we boarded the Ghosts and Graveyards tour. There are plenty of places to grab dinner and do some shopping, but just sitting by the water watching the sunset and ships passing by was enough. This is also a perfect place to go for a morning walk or jog.

The Ghosts and Gravestones tour takes you through Savannah and tells you about all the stories of paranormal activity in the area and tells the unfortunate tales of many murders that took place many years ago. Our kids were 7 and 9 and weren’t too scared but it does have some mature content.

Savannah Georgia Riverfront DistrictSavannah Georgia Riverfront Sunset
I could go on and on about Savannah but I had to stop somewhere. The city of Savannah is just as I thought it would be, a small historic city with big time charm! Traveling as a family, this city was the perfect size with plenty to do and see, great food, unique shopping, friendly people and you can literally walk the entire city – with good shoes of course. Be sure to put Savannah on your list of American cities to see!

What did I miss? Have you been to Savannah, Georgia?
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Halloween at Disneyland

Halloween, like only Disneyland can do it

A visit to Disneyland Resort is pretty special any time of the year; however Halloween at Disneyland Resort is an especially spectacular time to visit. Every Fall, (September 12 to October 31, 2014) the Disneyland Resort is transformed for the Halloween season with magnificent decorations, special “spooky” attractions and Halloween sweets galore at every sweets shoppe. We were invited to Disneyland as members of the media, all opinions are our own. Halloween is magically celebrated at Disneyland Resort like only Disney can do it.

Disneyland HalloweenTime Candy Corn Cotton Candy

Candy Corn Cotton Candy

It’s all about the Sweets

The Disneyland Resort is becoming quickly infamous for their culinary delights, from the Mickey-shaped pretzels to the gumbo bread bowl at the Royal Street Veranda (and so much in between), the Halloween Time sweets at Disneyland are no exception. Found in any sweets shoppe in California Adventure or the Disneyland Resort, the Halloween Time sweets are stunning works of art. I stopped in to several shoppe’s to get a glance at them and without fail, I drooled every time. I got to personally taste the candy corn cotton candy, Mickey Pumpkin Cupcake, apple twist, pizza twist, Mint Julep and Gibson Girl ice cream in a Halloween waffle cone. I have heard very good and yummy things about the pumpkin Mickey beignets from Café Orleans and the piping hot banana fritters from Royal Street Veranda.

Disneyland Halloween Time Sweets and Treats Special Halloween Time Attractions

Without question, the quintessential icon of the Halloween season is the Haunted Mansion Holiday. The 2014 Halloween Time Haunted Mansion Holiday is decorated inspired by Jack Skellington, from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and the spooky residents of Halloween Town. I snapped the picture below of the Haunted Mansion Holiday during sunset, giving the Mansion an extra spooky glow. We didn’t get to ride the Haunted Mansion Holiday this year (my kids are too little and are easy frightened!) but I have heard the entire ride is decorated for Halloween. Space Mountain becomes Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy during Halloween Time at Disneyland. Although the queue time is a bit longer to ride during Halloween Time it is worth it. Pick up a fast pass so you won’t have to queue too long! Haunted Mansion at Disneyland during Halloween

More Halloween Time Special Attractions

Big Thunder Ranch, which is known as the Halloween Carnival during Halloween Time at Disneyland Resort offers several special events during the Halloween season. Meet your favorite Disney characters in special Halloween garb, see the amazing hand carved pumpkins that are true works of art, the kiddies can do some Halloween crafts and catch a glimpse of popular Disney villains. Observe Dia de los Muertos with a traditional skeleton display in Frontierland too! Halloween Time at Disneyland Media Reception with Jack and Sally

Magical Holidays at a Magical Place

A visit to Disneyland is always special however, the ability to celebrate a holiday at the happiest place on earth is made even more magical due to the unique attention to detail Disneyland can do. My older children and I had the best day ever at Disneyland, my kids loved the special decorations, the special treats and most especially the Halloween Time sweets. It was a magical, happy day. I mean, just look at these faces:

Happy Kids at Disneyland

My kids

Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort is every day now until October 31st, 2014. Head on over to Disneyland to purchase Halloween Time tickets now.

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Our City Gems Series travels to Baltimore…with the kids

The urban seaport of Balitmore, Maryland is one of the most colorful and interesting cities on the East Coast. Its cozy city center makes for a manageable and enjoyable adventure to explore with kids. Packed with American lore, industrial history and hubs of science, parents will find loads of exciting family friendly outings. Everyone in the family will revel in the delicious food and beautiful Chesapeake Bay views. Here are one Savvy Sassy Mom’s must-do stops in Charm City.

What to DO

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Baltimore National Aquarium

501 East Pratt Street

One of the world’s most extensive aquariums, kids can view a living collection of more than 17,000 marine-dwelling animals. The new Blacktip Reef exhibit replicates an Pacific reef and features a school of blacktip reef sharks. Kids can also visit with the aquarium’s eight Bottlenose dolphins and their expert staff. Private dolphin encounters for children age eight and up are available for an additional cost.

Where to PLAY

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Port Discovery

35 Market Place

Baltimore’s children’s museum truly lives up to its name, providing kids with a day’s worth of activities for discovery. Exploring art, science and technology become ridiculously fun thanks to the engaging exhibits. Kids will particularly love the giant KidWorks three-story urban treehouse with rope bridges, “secret” passages and slides.

What to SEE

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The Walters Art Museum

600 North Charles Street

This world-renowned (and completely free) art museum is packed with works by Monet, Manet, artifacts from ancient Egypt and Rome and more. But parents know the museum’s master stroke was the establishing of a Family Art Center that provides kids with interactive gallery materials like drawing kits and art books. Saturdays and Sundays the museum hosts ever-changing, but always free, art activities for kids.

What to EAT

Station-North

Joe Squared Pizza

133 West North Avenue

This urban joint always appears on food critics’ lists for best pizza places in the country and it was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. But you will not see any Italian papis or red-checkered tablecloths here. Instead you get eclectic art and celebrated sourdough coal-fired pizzas baked in the out-of-the-ordinary square shape. Kids can customize their own pizza creations or choose from the interesting cheese and topping choices. Gluten-free eaters will appreciate the wheat-free pizza and pasta options.

Where to TREAT

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Pitango Gelato

802 South Broadway

The freshest, only locally-sourced ingredients make up the finest scoops of heaven at this Fells Point gelato shop. Freshly-squeezed tangerine juice, hand-ground pistachios and an entire pint of raspberries are expertly folded into each artisan cup. The cappuccinos and affogatos are crafted by baristas trained in the Italian art (complete with perfect latte art “leaves.”) Sure, this place will cost you a little more than the ice cream shop at the mall, but you will remember it for freaking ever. Take your gelatos out to watch the boats on the harbor while you savor.

Where to SHOP

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Sassanova

805 Aliceanna Street

OK, I will admit it: This final Baltimore pick is not for the children but for the women who are raising them.

The coolest boutique in town is stocked by the savviest buyers. Shelves and racks overflow with treasures by Calypso St. Barth, Tory Burch, DVF and loads of up-and-coming designers. Handbags and jewelry choices are always totally on-point. And the shoes! Sisters, the shoes picks are exquisite. Frequent sales, trunk shoes and awesome clearance racks make finding a little something special attainable.

Are you a Baltimore fan? What is your fav thing to do in Baltimore with kids?
Photos courtesy the destination websites and Getty images.
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Toyota Highlander

When Toyota challenged me to trade in my gas-guzzling SUV for a week with their Highlander Hybrid, I was skeptical. But, little did I know how cool this car would be.

On going hybrid

Toyota Highlander Hybrid Features

My family and I took the Toyota Highlander Hybrid on a week long adventure to Seattle. We were excited to leave our SUV parked for the week — as Seattle is known for its killer, gas-consuming hills — and try out a car that was actually quite similar to what we own in both size and features, but its hybrid counterpart.

To be honest, I was skeptical. I couldn’t imagine a hybrid, of all things, being able to withstand my lead foot and my city-driving tactics. And, there was no way that it would save me that much in gas over the week, especially with all of the driving we were planning on doing during our visit.

And, of course, I was wrong. From the moment my foot hit the peddle, I could tell that everything I thought I knew about hybrids (which was next to nothing) was wrong. There was no lag. I didn’t feel like I was driving a slug. In fact, it was quite zippy, even surviving what Seattleites lovingly call the Mercer Mess, a particularly hairy bought of traffic downtown that leads to the freeways. We tackled it at rush hour, with stop-and-go traffic for nearly an hour and it was a breeze in the Highlander.

Looking for something a bit smaller? Check out A look at the savvy Kia Sorento SX.

I admit that I was pretty obsessed with watching the power gauge on the dashboard, pictured above. I didn’t realize that a hybrid actually only charges (shown in blue) when you are moving, then put on the brakes. There were also times when the car would switch from hybrid to gas power when we were sitting in traffic for a long time, giving me a fun display of what was happening as it did. It took me a couple of days to adjust to that switch — the car is so quiet when it’s in hybrid-mode that I jumped every time the engine kicked on!

Over the course of the week, which would have guzzled at least a full tank of gas in my own SUV (brand withheld to protect the environmentally unfriendly), the Toyota Highlander barely used a quarter of a tank. I kept waiting for the gas gauge to drop, but it never did, and I was so impressed… as was my wallet.

6 Things I loved about this car

Other than it’s hybrid features, here are some other things my family and I loved about the Toyota Highlander Hybrid:

1. The roomy backseat: I have to admit that the Highlander Hybrid took out my car, hands down, on space, when it came to the backseat. Both of my kids — one in a car seat and one in a booster — both had ample room, which means that I didn’t have little feet kicking my seat while I drove.

Toyota Highlander Cupholders Down

2. The easy-access third row: We put the third row into use on the Highlander Hybrid and we  loved how the center console easily folded away to allow my oldest daughter to sneak into the back.

Visiting Seattle like we did? Take note of the Best Seattle restaurants for the whole family.

Toyota Highlander Dashboard

3. The sneaky dash compartment: It sounds silly, but I really loved the long, slim, open compartment that went along the length of the dashboard in the front seat. It would be perfect for stashing papers that need to go into school with the kids or for an extra book for long school pick-ups.

Toyota Highlander Sun Roof

4. The awesome sun roof: The entire roof seems to slide back on the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which the kids loved.

Toyota Highlander Trunk

5. The roomy trunk: Even with the third row up, there was a ton of space in the trunk for all of our gear and we put it to the test, multiple times, during that week!

6. The size, inside and out: While I’ve shared how much I loved the spaces inside the car and how roomy they seemed, it’s equally important to share that this car isn’t huge. They’ve maximized every spare inch on the interior, but the car itself is small-ish and sporty and very easy and smooth to drive.

Do you have a hybrid? Do you love it?
If not, would you switch your gas-guzzling SUV for one? 

 This car was provided for review. All sassy opinions are my own.

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Fall is a spectacular time of year to travel. In some ways, I enjoy fall travel more than summer travel. It’s cooler outside, the leaves are changing and there is a cozy feeling in the air. There are usually less crowds and a long weekend is often a welcome respite from the initial back to school craziness.

long weekend travel ideas

From where to go to beat the crowds to navigating school obligations, here are your long weekend travel ideas.

Deal sites for travel deals

If you’re not sure where to go on your long travel weekend, check out deal sites. Living Social and Groupon offer a travel section, and other popular travel sites (Kayak, Travelocity, Hotwire, Last Minute Travel, etc) have entire pages dedicated to long travel weekends. Go in with an open mind and flexible travel dates and you’ll be surprised at how many options there are for long weekend getaways.

Social media for travel ideas

Chances are you have friends who like the same things as you do. Reach out through social media to find out what some of your friends favorite long weekend travel ideas are. My group of mommy friends has talked about putting together a shareable document for each person to add little travel tips and tidbits to (such as awesome campsites or kid-friendly resorts). A Facebook Group and/or a group Pinterest board are additional spots to share travel ideas.

Prepping the school for your long weekend

If your family decides to travel on a designated long weekend, obviously no prepping is needed. However, some families may want to extend a weekend on a non-school-designated long weekend in which case it’s a good idea to prepare. Tell (don’t ask) the school and the teachers; find out what work your kids need to take with them in order not to fall behind and prep your children that they will need to set aside some time for school work during the long weekend.

Enjoying your time away

Of course, you want to squeeze in as much family and relaxation time as possible on your long travel weekend, so here are some tips for making the most of it: only book non-stop flights, try to pack only carry ons, stay in a hotel close to the action (or in an all-inclusive resort), pre-plan the “bigger” activities and don’t plan the rest (so you can plan TO rest) and make sure you’re prepared with your clothing… fall is an unpredictable season in most parts of the US.

Now that you have some long weekend travel ideas, it’s time to book your trip! Let me know how your trip goes.

 

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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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