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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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When I was offered a car to review for a week, I was like “Heck yeah! Bring on the Beamer!” but then, when they told me it was a Kia Sorento SX. I have to admit, I had a brief moment of disappointment. I thought to myself, “a Kia, really?” Boy, was I in for a nice surprise! kia sorento review The Kia Sorento SX is classed as an affordable midsize SUV, in other words it’s got mini-van features without being a “minivan.” Now, after a few days of driving this thing neither the “affordable” nor “minivan” descriptions seemed to fit. I mean, this Kia is surprisingly luxurious (smart and fun, too). It reminded of the shy, nerdy guy in high school that grew up to be the hot, well-dressed millionaire. Yep, the 2015 Kia Sorento SX is like that.   Here is a breakdown of what I loved about driving the Kia Sorento (and would still be driving it, if they didn’t have to peel me out of that fine leather drivers seat).

kia sorento

Cargo space galore

When the split-level third row seat is down, you can fit tons in the back of the car. I loaded it up with firewood for a camping trip, and couldn’t believe I could also fit all our groceries and water too.

Um, hello sunroof

Driving through the mountains was a completely different experience when you can look up from anywhere in the car — even in the backseat! — and see the amazing views. The kids thought this was a pretty sweet feature.

Built in window shades

Maybe all new cars have this feature?! I thought it was pretty nifty to have back seat window shade built into the door. I was wishing that was a feature when I had little babies riding back there. That is pretty cool and totally family friendly.

Channel 8 on Sirius

Ok, I know this is not a Kia-specific feature, having Sirius, that is. But, between the super-fancy, connected-to-everything, voice-controlled data center that easily connected to my iPhone (officially called Voice-Command Navigation with 8″ Display & SiriusXM Traffic) and the side mirrors that flash when someone is in your blind spot, this car is definitely smarter than my current car. Did I mention all the ’80′s music I enjoyed this week, too?

Manual shifting option

The Kia is an automatic, which is fabulous on a normal driving day. However, if you’re in a line of traffic going down a steep hill, having a manual option can literally save your breaks. I loved being able to downshift, quickly and easily when driving through the Colorado mountains. There are six gears to shift through. I need this car in the winter here!

Smooth ride

We took the Kia on bumpy dirt roads in the mountains, but you would never have known. I was struck not only by how smooth it drove, but by how solid if felt. THIS is a car I can feel safe with my family in, and I like that. The Kia Sorento SX is a surprising option that I would have previously never considered. It’s comfortable, roomy, easy to drive, and has some really great family-friendly features. When I look at new cars next year, this will certainly be on my list of choices! The 2015 Kia Sorento starts at a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $24,995 and climbs to just shy of $42,600 for the Nappa-leather-clad SX Limited specialty trim.  While I was invited to test drive the Kia, all opinions are my own.

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Tracking PixelWyndham Vacation Rentals Summer travel is well underway and with July being National Vacation Rental Month, we’re celebrating with a few savvy travel tips and why you should consider staying in a Wyndham Vacation Rental. Our family has booked vacation rentals several times and I think it is one of the best ways to actually enjoy your family vacation. You can find homes all over the country and in popular summer destinations such as Myrtle Beach, Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, Charleston Islands, the Emerald Coast and Hilton Head Island.

The biggest decision when planning a family vacation is, where are you going to stay? Especially if you are staying somewhere for a longer period of time or if you are vacationing with extended family or friends.

A few years ago we spent two weeks in Breckenridge, Colorado and rented a fabulous log cabin home that was big enough not only for us but for a variety of family and friends that came as well. Renting a vacation home allows you to really unpack, relax and settle in somewhere. Our family and friends were able to schedule and coordinate the days they wanted to stay within the two weeks. We cooked dinner every night and the adults relaxed in the hot tub on the porch while the kids watched movies inside. It was one of our most memorable vacations ever.

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One of the biggest reasons we choose to stay in a vacation rental is for the amenities many of them offer, such as fully-equipped kitchens, in-unit washers/dryers, private pools, and plenty of space so we don’t have to feel like we are all on top of one another. Traveling with kids, especially younger kids, there also tends to be a lot of gear that comes with them — not to mention clothes. Being able to do a load of laundry lets you pack a little less or saves you when your kids get sick, spill or make a mess out of their clothing.

You can experience all of those benefits this summer and still get the added bonus of hotel-like amenities at many Wyndham Vacation Rentals properties such as shuttle service, a concierge desk, and housekeeping. It’s truly a win-win and you can also save up to 35 percent off at WyndhamVacationRentals.com.

Savvy Sassy Travel Tip:

Watch this video and hear my #1 tip when staying at a Vacation Rental.
For more information on Wyndham Vacation Rentals visit their website and start planning your next amazing family vacation! 14383469936_208f538ab2_m

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Wyndham Vacation Rentals.

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The 2010 U.S. Census reveals a draw-dropping statistic… dogs are outnumbering kids, by the millions! Not only are we adding four-legged friends to the family, many of us are treating them like – or even better than – our kids. But, with 89% of Americans planning a family vacation this summer how do we prepare for dog friendly summer travel?

dog friendly summer travel

Photo credit: Rollan Budi https://flic.kr/p/6pgXNf

In a recent study performed by DogVacay, the service connecting traveling dog owners with a pet sitter in their neighborhood, 60% of dog owners stated that arranging accommodations for their dog has an impact on their vacation plans.

  • Half (50%) say finding a good kennel or pet sitter has affected planning for their vacation.
  • Over a quarter (27%) say financial challenges such as kennel fees or paying a pet deposit at a hotel have impacted their vacation plans.

Findings reveal dog owners have delayed or skipped vacations altogether, find it harder to enjoy their trip whether they’re traveling with or without Fido and face added complexities when planning a trip

So what are summer travel options when considering our furry family members?

Getting Fido There

However you’re planning to get your dog to the desired destination, make sure he has plenty of exercise right before you leave. If you’re driving to your destination, having your dog ride along is a no-brainer. Things to consider, however, are:

  • How hot will it be? Never leave your dog alone in a hot car! Even 78 degrees can get up to a sweltering 100-120 quickly. Options are to make sure to stop at places (restaurants, shops, etc) that are dog-friendly or have someone outside with the dog during that time.
  • Consider crating your dog for the car ride so that it’s safer for you and your pet. If crating is not an option, just be sure he can have a comfortable place to lie down.
  • Do not feed your dog a lot of food prior to a long car ride.

If you’re flying. Check with the airlines on their requirements. A few pet-friendly airlines are: JetBlue, Delta, Air Canada, Southwest and United.

Dog Friendly Accommodations

Booking accommodations with your dog can be tricky. If staying at a hotel, first you need to find one that will actually take the dog, then you have to read the fine print as there are often restrictions (size, weight, etc). Some of the home share sites such as HomeAway, AirBnB, and HomeExchange.com offer the pet-friendly choices.

A few sites to consider for pet-friendly accommodations are http://www.petswelcome.com and http://www.bringfido.com.

Here is a sample list of hotel chains that are dog friendly:

Dog Boarding

While boarding your dog is an obvious option, who wants to board their furry family member? Not me! Not only is it pricey, I would much rather have my pet with me on our summer travel adventures. However, if you have no other choices, then this isn’t a bad option. Questions to ask when choosing a spot to board your dog during summer travel:

  • Is the kennel certified? To find out if a kennel has been certified, ask to see a Voluntary Facilities Accreditation (VFA) certificate.
  • Could I tour the facility? To gain the utmost confidence in Fido’s stay during your family vacation, make sure the kennel is up to par to your standards. Is it clean? Is there a large play area? Is the staff “into dogs”? The last thing you want is for the family pet to be crated the whole time.
  • What immunizations should my pet have?
  • What kind of play/exercise time do you offer?
Dog Sitter

There are two options here; find a local dog sitter to come stay with your pet at your house or find a dog sitter at your destination. DogVacay.com (the AirBnB for dogs!) is a pretty new service that offers either of these options. Now, either of these choice can be good as long as there is a level of trust. When inviting a dog sitter to come into your home, be sure to ask for references. DogVacay.com not only offers dog sitting services (with pre qualified candidates), they also have a dog boarding option where your pet can stay in the home of a pet sitter (either in your home town or at your destination).

Once There

So, if you’ve decided to take your pup along on your family vacation, you may still need to consider a few things. For example, are you planning to explore your vacation area? Are dogs allowed? If not, you may not want to keep him in the hotel room all day. Plan ahead for a dog sitter (using DogVacay.com?) on the days that the family will be out and about. Be sure all shots are up to date, and you may even consider an additional Bordetella shot (aka kennel cough).

No matter what you decide to do with your dog for summer family travel, educate yourself on your choices and be prepared. Fido deserves it!

Do you travel with your dog? Or leave him at home? Share your stories below.
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Coronado Beach

When visiting the Southern California coast, you really can’t go wrong when it comes to finding somewhere amazing to stay. From Malibu to San Diego and everything in between, there are plenty of options to make the most of your next family beach vacation.

There is absolutely no doubt that you will fill up your Instagram feed with memories of sun-kissed faces, beach bonfires and incredible ocean sunsets. From hotels and timeshares, to private rentals and camping on the beach, Southern California has something for everyone’s budget.

Here are a handful of a few of my favorite stops situated along the coast:

Malibu: The ‘bu

Malibu is the real “boho-chic” deal. It’s the stretch of California sand that many daydream about during east coast winters. It’s where Barbie has lived her whole life, where hunky celebs surf every morning and where Sandy and Danny Zucko said what they thought would be their last good-bye before senior year of high school.

Dream getaway: Pull-up in a vintage Airstream and spend the night at the beach. Leo Carrillo State Park has back-country hiking, tide pools, coastal caves and reefs for exploring. The great outdoors not really your cup of java? The Malibu Beach Inn will tickle your fancy.

Tide Pools at Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu

Tide Pools at Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu | Photo credit: National Park Service

Santa Monica: Route 66

Santa Monica is glitz and glam by the sand. Where the beautiful people live, work and play, while enjoying the vibe of a city only feet from the surf. With electric neon carnivals and concerts, amazing cafes and the iconic Santa Monica Pier, it’s a town where nothing beats a good morning bike to sunrise yoga.

Perfect location: When it comes to resting your pretty little messy beach waved head, you really cannot beat The Shore Hotel. Across the street from the Pier and a short walk from the Third Street Promenade. If you are looking for something a little different and out of the ordinary, the Venice Beach Boardwalk is always a trip.

Newport Beach: The Real OC

There are beach towns and then there is Newport Beach. With beautiful homes, dreamy neighborhoods, amazing shopping, and impressive restaurants, it’s no wonder why seasons of ‘Real Housewives’ have built and lived in homes here. Where to stay? The Balboa Bay Resort is a full-service waterfront property with short and long-term rentals, it’s the perfect place to learn how to stand-up paddle. While in the OC, be sure to also swing by Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach – for possible visits the next time you’re in town.

If you dare: It’s the home to The Wedge, a popular surfing and bodyboarding spot located on the Balboa Peninsula with waves up to 30 ft. high. But do yourself a favor, it’s better to spectate even on the calmest of days.

San Diego: Coronado Island

Coronado Island is truly a very special place for family beach vacations. In fact, it might be the place in Southern California. Clean and safe beaches, quaint town-vibe, it’s the summer vacation at the beach you remember fondly as a kid. After a day of boogie boarding and collecting shells, rent a bicycle and head for ice cream in Coronado Village or moonlit bike ride on the beach path at Silver Strand State Beach.

Book now or forever hold your peace: Loews Love Kids and we’ve heard the Loews Coronado Bay Resort has it all for families — even teens! For more info, make sure to contact their concierge for stress-free family travel planning.

Photo credit: Flickr / Jarrel Jimmerson and Santa Monica State Parks

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