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Category : City Gems

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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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

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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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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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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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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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A memorable family trip to Washington, D.C. means striking a balance. You need to embrace the history and eighth-grade-class-trip-ness of it all, but you also can break away from the marble monuments to enjoy the hip, unique offerings of the United States’ capital.

As a Washington, D.C. ‘what to do with your kids’ local blogger at A Parent in Silver Spring, I’m honored to share with you how to experience both sides of the (Presidential profiled) coin when you visit with your family.

What to DO 

washington d.c. family travel guide

VIP U.S. Capitol Tour

First Street SE

Sure, you can wait in the massive line for a generic tour of the United States Capitol Building. But why wait when Members of Congress’s staff members provide weekday tours for constituents? Once you chose your trip dates, contact one of your Senators – they have larger staffs to handle tours.

washington d.c. family travel guide

White House Tour

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Hard to believe, but it is possible to take a tour right through the public rooms of the place where the leader of the free world works and lives. When you call that Senator’s office for a Capitol tour, also ask to schedule a White House tour too. Requests can be submitted up to six months in advance. If you are citizen of another country, contact your embassy in Washington, DC to process your tour request.

What to SEE

washington dc family travel guide

Washington Monuments Cruise

3050 K Street NW – Washington Harbour – Georgetown Dock

The most pleasurable, and easiest way, to see those massive marble temples of democracy is to view them from the breezy decks of a tour boat. Much like the touristy cruises along the Seine in Paris, you get a beautiful view of the sights. I like to catch my tour boats from the Georgetown Dock. Various operators mean that a boat tour leaves every 15 minutes or so from 11:30am until 10pm or so. Evening cruises are especially cool. After your cruise, Georgetown provides loads of dining and shopping options.

Where to PLAY


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National Building Museum

401 F Street NW – Gallery Place

DC locals love this dream of a play-space-heavy museum for crawlers through elementary schoolers. From indoor miniature golf, a huge room of imaginative play areas, various LEGO rooms and more, your child will be in hands-on heaven.

Where to LEARN


Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History  - 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum - Independence Avenue at 6th Street SW

Smithsonian National Museum of American History - 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW

The three museums above are those that most people think of when they hear the words “Smithsonian.” Although there are more museums in the Smithsonian family located along the National Mall, these are the most popular and the ones that best cater to children. Since there’s no admission fee, feel free to breeze in and out and simply check out the things your family will find most exciting.

What to EAT


Good Stuff Eatery

303 Pennsylvania Avenue SE – Capitol Hill

Chef Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef fame has several DC-area restaurants, and Capitol Hill’s Good Stuff Eatery will provide you with one of the best burger/fry/shake meals you have eaten in your life. There is a reason that Spike has won Rachael Ray’s burger challenge! The french fries with mayo bar and hand-spun shakes are delish. Mom and dad can get a Belgian beer on a tap, often a necessity after a day spent sight-seeing with kids.

Where to SHOP


Violet Boutique

2439 18th Street NW – Adams Morgan

Mom deserves some ‘me time’ after a playing Mrs. Griswold in DC all day. Head to Violet for the on-point styles, bright colors and unique accessories. The owner prides herself on curating a collection of tops, bottoms, dresses, handbags and jewelry that are accessibly-priced (almost everything is less than $100.) Yet with every item in the store, you feel as if you are in the coolest, most high end, funky boutique of your dreams.

Are you a Washingtonian or DC-tripper? Share your recs in the comments!


Images courtesy Jessica McFadden, the Architect of the Capitol, WhiteHouse.gov, Violet Boutique and Lil’ El and rubyshoes on Flickr via a Creative Commons license. 

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I’m extremely lucky to have made my home sunny Tampa, Florida. I should probably thank my mom for that, actually, since she moved us down to the Tampa Bay area from Ohio when I was ten, but I digress…Tampa is so rich in history and such a beautiful part of our country! OK, I may be a bit biased about how wonderful Tampa is, but my hometown really IS flush with fun things to do with your family. So if you have been mulling over a trip to our fair city, I say go for it! It’s under an hour away from Florida’s finest beaches and a little over an hour from Disney World. If you need any more convincing, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite local, family-friendly, spots!

Ballast Point Tampa

Family time

I have two kiddos and when the second one came along, I struggled with the guilt I know all of you fellow mamas can relate to. I worried that my lil’ lady bean was missing out because she wasn’t getting all the one-on-one time that her brother got with us. One day it finally clicked with me that we can’t beat ourselves up over things we can’t change and although, she might not get to experience what being the sole focus of our attention is like, she does get to experience having her big brother as her fiercest ally…and that’s priceless!

little girl at Florida aquarium

After I had my epiphany, I decided that when my son was at school I was going to make the most of my alone time with my daughter, so we started taking mommy and me jaunts to various places around our city. She’s a little over 1 year old, and considering how fleeting this stage is, I want to make as many memories as possible with my lil’ bean. I used to take her brother everywhere when he was a toddler because he was my first baby and life just wasn’t as busy then. Considering that it is probably going to be quite a while before life slows down again, I’ve resolved to fit in quality time with my bambino whenever I possibly can. We may do something as simple as getting ice cream, but those memories of her going to town on a cone will last a lifetime! And speaking of ice cream…

Dairy Joy Tampa

Sweet treats

Our favorite neighborhood ice cream joint is Dairy Joy. Nestled in the heart of south Tampa, Dairy Joy is a low-key kinda place whereyou can expect to run into your friends and neighbors at any given point in time. It has been around for ages and has a very loyal following. I’ve been scoring my cones at Dairy Joy since long before my kiddos were born and I love that I get to share the experience with them now!

Ballast Point Tampa

Play time

Not too far away is Ballast Point Park. Ballast Point has everything from a pier with an insanely beautiful view of downtown Tampa, to a seafood shack, to even a playground and water play area. My lil’ lady bean just loves to race up and down the pier. It’s the perfect spot to let wee ones run off all that energy they seem to have endless amounts of!

Bayshore Boulevard Tampa

Next up is the longest continuous sidewalk in the world. Bayshore Boulevard is quintessential Tampa. It runs right along the Bay and makes for one of the prettiest sunset walks you will ever take.

Florida Aquarium

Nearby, in downtown Tampa, is The Florida Aquarium. There you’ll find tropical fish galore, fierce sharks, adorable penguins and more. Plus, they have a large-and-in-charge water park that includes a life size pirate ship with water cannons! My lil’ dude may have soaked a parent or two with said cannons. Haha! Pirates are a big part of Tampa history and each year we have a huge celebration called Gasparilla! So, anything with a pirate theme is a hit with us Tampanians.

Holy Hog BBQ Tampa

My final city gem is Holy Hog BBQ. It is tough to find good BBQ outside of the hot spots like Texas, Tennessee and the Carolinas, but Holy Hog has brought a deliciously authentic taste to Tampa. It can sometimes be hard to choose a restaurant that the whole family agrees on, but Holy Hog is always a hit with the ‘rents and our cherubs!  Try the pulled pork. It’s out of this world good!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little rundown of Tampa and if you’re ever in the area, keep my favorite spots in mind! Your kids will thank you!

About our City Gem author

bonbon rose girls-headshot-smallKristin Swenson is the fashion-obsessed founding partner of BonBonRoseGirls.com and contributing fashion editor for Momtrends.com. She lives in Tampa, FL with her husband and two children,  enjoys styling, writing, and is on a constant hunt for ways to help the girls next door — whether they’re busy career gals or harried mamas — stay hip and fashionable.

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Headed to Chicago for BlogHer 2013? Bring your comfy shoes, extra cash and schedule time for shopping. Serious shopping. Hitting the infamous Michigan Avenue is a must and designer haven with fabulous retailers like Gap, Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, H&M, Cole Haan and more….

Where you’ll really experience Chicago’s premiere shopping is in our quaint neighborhoods, just a short taxi ride from downtown. Amazing boutiques line the streets in Old Town and Lincoln Park – a savvy shopper’s paradise, whose shop owners take great pride in curating national, local and up and coming designers.

Be adventurous and venture off the beaten path to a few of my favorite shops. Short on time? Our friends at Hailo Taxi are ready to get you there in minutes. Use code SUMMERCHI for $10 off your first ride!

Sassy Moms Shop…..

Langford Market: 851 W Armitage Ave 77.327.9815

A national retailer with a boutique vibe, Langford Market offers trendy, one –of-a-kind clothing and accessories under $100. They only order six of each piece, so items rotate quickly with new shipments weekly. Filled with bright colors, fun, flirty and eye catching prints, there is something for everyone. Weekly promotions are ridiculous offering buy 2 items get 2 FREE! Say what? Yes you can walk out with four new dresses and only pay for two. Sign up for their in-store VIP program and receive member only promotions delivered to your inbox.

Disclosure: I’m so obsessed with Langford they agreed to dress me for a few BlogHer events. Follow me on Instagram @SassyMomChicago to see what I’ll be wearing.

langford market chicago

Handle with Care

1706 N. Wells Street 312.751.2929

Once of Old Town’s most popular boutiques for contemporary clothing and accessories, Handle with Care features new, up and coming designers, great denim, jewelry, handbags and gifts. Just a few clothing lines are Smythe, Alice and Olivia Camilla and Marc, KLD Signature (my go-to for trendy dresses), Free People, J Brand (best fitting skinny jeans), Rebecca Taylor, Michael Stars, Paige Denim, Nanette Lepore. You’ll find everything from going out to staying in: causal, day, night, evening, work.

Shop 857

857 West Armitage 773.525.1180

Kelli Kincaid opened Shop 857 to bring her love of New York fashion to Chicago. Find unique clothing from national and up and coming designers including Parker, Joie, Rory Beca, Addison, Amanda Uprichard and Nicole Richie’s House of Harlow.

Lori’s Shoes

24 W Armitage Ave 773.281.5655

Shop owner Lori takes shoes very seriously and spends a significant amount of time curating her collection of shoes, boots, bags and accessories shopping the markets in New York, Chicago and L.A., Paris, Florence and Milan. If you love shoes make the quick trip to Armitage, it’s worth it. Plus there are always amazing sales!

Pretty Quick

My go-to resource for booking last minute beauty appointments like manis, pedis, blow out, massages and more. How does it work? Simply tell Pretty Quick what beauty service you’re looking for and they’ll alert the best Chicago salons & spas. Think of PrettyQuick.com as your personal beauty concierge!

Visiting Chicago? Use code summerchi to enjoy $10 off any salon or spa appointment!

Sassy Kids Shops….
Zara Kids

700 N Michigan Ave 312.255.8123

Zara Kids has Über hip clothes for your mini fashionista. Sure you can shop online, but pop in while you’re cruising Michigan Avenue.

Spoil Me Kidz Boutique

2nd floor of Water Tower Place 835 N. Michigan Ave 312.448.8128

Spil Me Kidz is a kids place with the coolest selection of clothing, shoes, accessories, toys, books and many more great stuff for boys 0-10 and girls 0-14.

chicago kids boutiques

Psycho Baby

1657 West Division Street 773.772.2267

Psycho Baby is your one-stop shop for cool, crazy kids’ stuff! Specializing in bringing the world the coolest personalized clothing & gifts, ages birth to hip adult. Want a rockin’ onsie or hip t-shirt for your stylin’ kid? This is the place to shop.

Madison and Friends

43 Oak Street 312.642.6403

Madison and Friends has been a long time hot spot for celebrity parents visiting Chicago to score some of the hottest designer kids clothing. Another added bonus? Moms can shop at The Denim Lounge, located upstairs, for favorite brands including: J Brand, 7 For All Mankind, Appaman, Aviator Nation, Ella Moss and Splendid.

 

About our City Gem Author

indexAn award-winning Certified Meeting Planner, Alison has over fourteen years experience as a professional meeting & event planner and eight years as the CEO of Metropolitan Marketing & Event Group and now So Chic Media. As the Managing Editor of Sassy Moms in the City, Alison has been featured in Chicago Baby Magazine, named “The Sassiest Mom” by TCW Magazine, Oprah LifeClass Blogger and 2011 CBS Chicago Most Valuable Blogger Nominee. Producing sold out events with 50-600 influential women in attendance at each event, Sassy Moms in the City/So Chic Media has raised over $40,000 for charity partners.

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