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Category : City Gems

City Gems: Top places to visit in Miami

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Are you looking for a short trip to sunny Miami? We’re sharing our favorite places when visiting with your family and when you’re on the town on your own!

A Miami Boutique for original finds: Big Drop NYC

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Big Drop NYC is a boutique that personifies the personal shopping experience. The well appointed, honest team will help you shop! They’ll offer their opinion while helping you find unique and interesting pieces that adhere to your personal style. They know how to steer the client in the right direction. We love that they’re not afraid to refer you to neighboring stores to assist you when searching for that key item you are lusting after. Big Drop NYC offers a myriad of experiences including; beauty, vintage finds, accessories, curating looks just for you and the ultimate private shopping experience (by appointment only).

If you are a Savvy Sassy Mom and are heading to Miami, stop in to Big Drop NYC and share that you are a reader of savvysassymoms.com and receive 10% off your purchase.

Rooftop Bar in Miami: Watr

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While visitng South Beach Miami, if you have time alone with your significant other, I highly recommend you visit the Watr, rooftop bar at the 1 Hotel. The unique bar is inspired by Polynesia and Japan has a warm and lively ambience. Whether indulging in a healthy snack or a toast to your evening out, this is the place to be on a warm evening.

Pop-up store in Miami: Sojara
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Sojara is a pop-up shop that uses flannels, cargo and jean jackets to host inspiring messages and your favorite rock and roll bands. This store inspired by the love of music and fashion is an ode to comfort and has a vintage feel with a rock and roll twist. I have not taken my “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” flannel off since I got it!

Take the kids

There are so many fun and exciting things to do with kids in Miami. So much so, in fact, that we can never get to all the places we love!

For the adventurer: Jungle Island

Jungle Island

Spend the day in the jungle with the monkeys and kangaroos! Jungle Island will you have entertained for a day of fun with the animals and engaged staff who put on shows throughout the day. You can pet the kangaroos, feed the calves and watch the lions in a thrilling show! Let your kids unleash their inner animal at Jungle Island!

Miami Seaquarium

Miami Seaquarium

The Miami Seaquarium is one of our favorite places to go! While the whales are huge, the seaquarium itself is the perfect size. Spend the whole day there viewing all of the under water creatures, playing in the big park and petting the stingrays.

On the cold and rainy days: Miami Children’s Museum

Miami Children's Museum

We know how chilly it can get in Miami in the winter, so we found ourselves at the Miami Children’s Museum a few times! This entire space is designed for kids to wonder and explore. Each room opens their eyes to a different experience such as the fishing area, the fire truck and fire fighter outfits, the doctors office, the music area and arts and crafts. Their imagination will run free in this very engaging and child centered environment.

Have you ever been to Miami? What are some of your favorite places?
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Spring and summer breaks are right around the corner. Whether you’re local to the Phoenix area, or just coming to visit, don’t miss this brand new attraction. At the beginning of March, we were invited to check out the all-new Dolphinaris Arizona. Dolphins in Arizona? Yes, ma’am, and my 7-year-old considers it a life changing experience. Find out why Dolphinaris Arizona is the place for families this summer.

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The facility

Dolphinaris Arizona is a federally licensed facility (like all zoos and aquariums) smack dab in the middle of the desert. But if you’re concerned for their well-being in such a difficult climate, don’t be. Dolphinaris Arizona is first and foremost about the care and treatment of the 8 dolphins in their care. Personally, I was so impressed with the facility, from the temperature controlled pools to this amazing retractable glass wall that goes around the entire inner pool to protect the dolphins from dust storms or rough Arizona weather. I could tell so much attention went into the planning of the facility.

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Education

Before going near the water, the Dolphinaris Arizona team sits everyone down for a quick Q&A and ocean conservation education. Dolphinaris strives for a great experience in the water, but I was so happy to see they were also educating people on how to make the world’s oceans cleaner for these amazing animals. Did you know the #1 pollutant in the ocean is pesticides? I didn’t until they told me. After making all these new friends, I have personally made it a point to buy more organic. My already eco-conscience daughter now mentions the dolphins every time she recycles. She always reminds us — and anyone in ear shot — to do the same.

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The experience

Dolphins are some of the smartest animals in the world. Because of that, the Dolphinaris Arizona staff treats them with immense love and respect, which I got to witness first hand. This facility houses 8 dolphins — 4 boys and 4 girls from 2 facilities in Hawaii and California. However, at any given time only 3 are interacting with the people. The other 5 play and hang out. The facility uses only positive reinforcement during training. So if they don’t want to do anything, they don’t have to, which we saw first hand.

At one point during our session, I happened to look across the pool to the back pool where the “off duty” dolphins were playing basketball! I wasn’t the only one who saw this. It didn’t take long for Chloe (our dolphin friend) to take notice and join them. We all hung out and waited for her to decide to come back, which she did 5 minutes later. This highlighted that the dolphins are free to do as they want, which makes for healthy dolphins and happy interactions.

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Interaction

The actual time you spend interacting with the dolphins will depend on the experience you purchase. However, I found them all to be worth the price of admission. Whether it be from dry land or a full-on in the deep end of the pool interaction — or even be a trainer for a day — you’ll find an experience to suit your sense of adventure and your comfort level. You can make online reservations (discounts for online reservations!) or feel free to just walk in. Keep in mind the last experience of the day happens at 2:45.

You can even make an entire day of your time at Dolphinaris Arizona. Depending on the package you buy, you will have access to the “human pool” — a beautiful people-only pool situated right next to the dolphin pool. Lounge, have a snack or get cocktails from the adjacent bar! The staff told me the dolphins like to come visit the glass partition between the human and dolphin pools. Dolphins sometimes play ball with the swimmers!

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Upcoming events

We enjoyed visiting Dolphinaris Arizona so much my 7-year-old has talked about going back non-stop. Thankfully, this summer Dolphinaris Arizona launches the Dolphin Explorer Summer Day Camp. At camp, kids will get to interact with the dolphins and learn about ocean conservation on a deeper level. At Dolphin Explorer Camp your child will spend the day with a dolphin trainer where they will interact with the dolphins in the water and from land while learning about dolphin intelligence, behavior, how to care for the dolphins, ocean conservation and more! Camp sessions are Monday through Friday starting June 5th through August 25th, for grades 5th through 12th. For more details and reservations for what has to be the world’s best day camp, contact Dolphinaris Arizona.

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I may be a little biased, but if you’re planning a family trip this summer (or fall), add Portland to your list. Often called “the other Portland”, I assure you our quaint little city in Maine will not disappoint. You’ll find a foodie paradise, with top notch restaurants serving up fresh seafood. With gorgeous beaches, lighthouses, and sightseeing for days, your biggest problem will be fitting it all in.  While this list doesn’t scratch the surface, I’ve rounded up a list of 10 family friendly activities you’ll want to check out when you’re in town:

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Experience Lobstering

You can’t leave Maine without eating a lobster. If you come in the summer or early fall, I also highly recommend checking out how that lobster was caught. Jump aboard Lucky Catch and Captain Tom and his crew will show you the ropes. I guarantee this is an experience your kiddos won’t forget.

Take a Train Ride Back in Time

Hop aboard The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad and take a ride along Portland’s waterfront with beautiful views of Casco Bay.  The train will stop halfway through, so kids can explore the engine car and learn about the antique cars. Before and after the 45 minute ride you can let the kiddos play inside the small museum with train tables and wood trains, retired cars to walk through and other fun for little ones.  Maine Narrow Gauge is typically open May through October and then again at Christmas for the Polar Express – check out their Facebook page for details.

Visit the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine

If you find yourself with a cold, rainy or sweltering hot day (yes those all happen in Maine), definitely put the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine at the top of your list. It’s really a fantastic space with something for a wide variety of ages including a baby/toddler play area and some really cool locally inspired exhibits/activities like a lobster boat, farm, discovery woods and so much more fun.

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Head to the ballpark

If you’re visiting the area during baseball season (April – September) be sure to head to Hadlock field and experience a Portland Sea Dogs ballgame.  A mini Fenway, this park offers fun for all ages with mid inning entertainment, fireworks, ad yummy park food including their famous Sea Dogs Biscuits.

Shop at L.L. Bean

Visiting the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport is a right of passage when visiting the area.  Head just 20 minutes north to Freeport, take a picture at the giant Bean boot, check out the fish, buy yourself a pair of signature Bean boots and if you’re visiting on a summer weekend, take in a free concert on the lawn.  Leave plenty of time to shop all the deals at the Freeport outlet and then head to head to the town dock for a yummy lunch at Haraseeket Lunch and Lobster.

Enjoy science and a slice

Nestled in the heart of the waterfront district on Maine Wharf, the Portland Science Center is a relatively new but well loved spot for learning and exploration.  The rotating exhibits keep it innovating and fresh and will keep you coming back – on your next trip.  After you get your science fix for the day, grab a slice (or two or three) of pizza at Flatbread. It’s right next door, the wood fired pizza is delicious and it couldn’t be anymore family friendly.

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Lobster roll at the lighthouse

Just 10 minutes from Portland, visit Maine’s oldest and most photographed lighthouse, Portland Headlight, in Cape Elizabeth. Take time to visit the actual lighthouse, walk the seaside trails, and explore Fort Williams. Then be sure to grab a lobster roll from Bite into Maine, and enjoy lunch with a view at the picnic tables.

Take a drive up the coast to Boothbay

If you’ve rented a car and have the time, take a drive up the scenic coast. Boothbay is just over an hour drive with lots to offer along the way. Your drive with take you through picturesque communities like Bath & Damariscotta, and kids will beg you to stop at Monkey See Monkey Do. Once in the Boothbay area, you’ll want to check out Boothbay Railway Village, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, and explore the harbor area. Don’t forget to stop for a craft beer and delicious food in a relaxed atmosphere at the Watershed Tavern & Brewery.

Hop a ferry and explore Peaks Island

Casco Bay lines offers frequent ferry service to Peaks Island. Just a 15 minute scenic cruise from downtown Portland, and you’ll find a relaxed island vibe. The island has a lot of fun to offer families, but you can do as much or as little as you want. Spend the day at the beach, walk with a stroller around the island, rent bikes or a golf cart and adventure, rent kayaks or head over for dinner. If you don’t want to leave, spend the night at the charming Inn on Peaks.

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Pick the fruit of the season

One of the great things about Portland is that we have so much so close. Beaches, mountains, countryside and farms are all within a short drive from the city. Picking our own fruit is also an opportunity right at our fingertips and always such a highlight. While it might be hard to travel home with your fruit, I still recommend giving it a try. You can still experience the atmosphere, the fun and — of course — the samples. If you visit in early summer you’ll hit strawberry season, later in the summer you’ll get to pick blueberries. If you come leaf-peeping in the fall you’ll get to pick apples.

Do we have you looking up travel arrangements yet?  If you’ve been to Portland, Maine, what are some of your favorites stops?

 

This post was contributed by Rebecca Spear as part of Savvy Sassy Moms Product Scouts. You can find more from Rebecca on her blog, Mainely Mama.

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Living in the very upper left part of the U.S. has its perks. One of the major ones: We’re within a short drive of the beautiful lower mainland of British Columbia, Canada. Rare border-crossing hassles aside, we get easy access to all of the awesome kid fun in Vancouver, without having to endure the cost of living in this spendy little part of the world.

Taking Kids to Vancouver, BC

Here’s a collection of some of our favorite affordable kid-friendly spots in the Vancouver metro area:

The Stanley Park Miniature Train

 

City Gems: Stanley Park Miniature Train in Vancouver, BC

Built in 1964, the Stanley Park Miniature Train carries more than 200,000 passengers each year. It runs year-round but in the late fall changes to a Halloween Ghost Train (save that trip for your older kiddos!) and during the holiday season becomes the widely-popular Stanley Park Bright Nights Christmas Train. We rode the little circuit it travels on last summer and it was a blast!

The SkyTrain

Kid Fun in Vancouver, BC: Riding the SkyRail

From kid-sized train to big one. Large-scale events like the 2010 Winter Olympics and well before that, Expo 86 (the 1986 World’s Fair) boosted the need for public transportation from parts of the lower mainland to Vancouver’s downtown area. Enter the Skytrain. Above ground in the suburbs and underground in the city, just the experience of riding this train can be an adventure for little ones. We park in Richmond, BC and take the train straight to downtown, watching the sights as we go.

Vancouver Aquarium

Visiting Vancouver with Kids: Don't miss the aquarium!

A list of kid-favorites in Vancouver wouldn’t be complete without including the Vancouver Aquarium, located in Stanley Park. While you can see most of the aquarium in a few hours, it’s well worth it to visit this spot again and again. The educational shows, held in different areas throughout the aquarium, are entertaining and informative. The highlight of our last trip to the aquarium for my girls? High-fiving a scuba diver while he was swimming in the shark tank.

The beaches

The Best Vancouver Beaches for Kids

We’ve dug our toes in the sand at both Kitsilano Beach (Insider Tip: Call it Kits’ Beach to sound like a local) and Second Beach in Stanley Park. Sandcastle building for the kids; amazing people watching for the adults. Both have playgrounds located adjacent to the beach for some bonus sand-free fun.

Granville Island

How to get to Granville Island in Vancouver

Touristy? Yes. Worth it? Yes. Granville Island is a spot we visit over and over again, both with kids and without. Part of the fun is getting there: From downtown, hop on one of the tiny foot ferries to take you across busy but beautiful False Creek. Visit the Granville Island Public Market to sample of variety of Canadian goodies and pick up lunch from one of the numerous food vendors. In a separate building, the Kids Market has a giant indoor play area with kid-centric shops and eats. Granville is home to the biggest free water park in North America, complete with water slide, plus an awesome playground.

Side note: A few weeks ago, on a very hot Saturday, we decided to go on a big adventure to visit Granville’s splash park. We endured a longer-than-usual border crossing, parked in Richmond, took the Skytrain to Yaletown, boarded the Aquabus to Granville, ate lunch in an extremely-crowded spot and finally walked to the splash park only to turn the corner and find it shut down due to water restrictions resulting from the bad forest fires in Northern BC. Word to the wise: Check the website before you make this sort of trek. Both kids were toast by the time we got back to the Skytrain.  (Read: #parentingfail.)

Sans-kids bonus: Granville Island is also home to one of our favorite date-night spots, The Sandbar. There’s yummy food, a great local beer selection and best of all: an incredible view of the city from the rooftop patio. Read more about it here.

Watermania

Taking Your Kids to Watermania in Vancouver

Watermania is one of those places that’s soooo good that I almost want to keep it a secret. A hidden gem tucked less than a mile kilometer off of the freeway in Richmond, Watermania is our go-to spot in Canada for rainy days. While it has an Olympic-size pool for lap swimming, a giant hot tub, a full fitness center and two water slides, the crown jewel is the large wave pool, complete with a toddler-sized play area right in the middle of the shallow end.

We seriously love this place. It’s super clean, with family-friendly changing areas and huge locker rooms. And, it’s a great value – admission for our family of four is $15 Canadian. On our last visit, my 4-year-old went down the slide approximately 45 times. Watermania is located in Riverport Sports and Entertainment Complex which also includes an ice rink, bowling alley, IMAX movie theatre, trampoline park, laser tag area and an Old Spaghetti Factory. It’s also conveniently around the corner from the Richmond Ikea. We’ve been known to spend the morning at Watermania, do lunch in the Ikea cafeteria and enjoy a quiet ride home with two exhausted kids konked out in their car seats.

Our list of favorites continues to grow as we explore more of the Vancouver area, but these family-friendly City Gems that can’t be missed!

This post was contributed by Jessica Spencer who is part of the Savvy Sassy Mom Product Scouts program. You can find more from Jessica on her blog, The Average Jess.

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You may have heard of the Indianapolis Colts or the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, or maybe you have never heard anything about Indiana. I was born and raised a Hoosier, but only truly fell in love with Indianapolis when I graduated college and moved to Indy with my husband. Since becoming a stay-at-home mom and having my son, I have only grown to love the city more. I truly love how Indy gives off a “small town” vibe while being a big city. In my opinion, it is the best of both worlds! This city has a lot to offer so check out some of my favorite local spots to visit in Indianapolis with kids.

Where to PLAY

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The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

The world’s largest children’s museum is located in Indianapolis and it is a stop you don’t want to miss! The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis features five different floors of fun learning experiences and exhibits, one of my favorite’s being the Dinosphere. Children are sure to love the Playscape area where they can play and create with water, sand, musical instruments, art supplies, and more!

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Mulberry Fields Park

In every area of Indianapolis you can be sure to find incredible parks and splash pads. One of our favorites is located in a suburb northwest of downtown (Zionsville) at Mulberry Fields Park. It has a park play area, picnic tables and shelters, paths, a skate park, and a splash pad. The best part, however, is the man-made creek that the splash pad water trails off into. You can splash around in the splash pad area and play in the creek! My little guy spends all of his time exploring the creek and collecting rocks and I can’t really blame him.

Monon Trail

Indianapolis has a lot of fabulous trails. In fact my entire suburb is connected by them. However, the Monon Trail definitely tops the list. Connecting downtown Indy to northern suburbs, it is great for walking, cycling, jogging, or whatever you prefer! There are multiple unique restaurants and attractions that line the trail, making it easy to hop off wherever.

Where to EAT

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Bru Burger Bar

Bru Burger Bar is my favorite place to grab a burger! Dare I say the BEST burgers in Indianapolis? There are countless burger options on Bru’s menu made fresh and cooked to order, and you cannot go wrong with any of them. This is a great spot to stop and eat if you are exploring the Mass Ave. Arts District downtown.

St. Elmo Steak House

St. Elmo’s is my very favorite restaurant in Indianapolis. Known for their famous spicy shrimp cocktail sauce and delicious steaks, it is absolutely worth dropping in for a night out. It is Indy’s oldest steakhouse in it’s original location and it is located right in downtown Indianapolis.

Scotty’s Brewhouse

Scotty’s has several locations located throughout Indiana and you can find serval in the Indy area alone. They have a huge selection of food and a very impressive menu. Scotty’s Brewhouse is very family-friendly and kids eat free on Tuesdays and Sundays at all locations! If you have any picky eaters in your family, they are sure to find something on the menu they will enjoy.

Where to EAT and PLAY

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Traders Point Creamery

Come visit and explore Indiana’s first organic dairy farm at Trader’s Point Creamery! You can enjoy delicious hand crafted ice cream from The Dairy Bar or grab a nice meal at the rustic and unique restaurant, The Loft. The Loft features on-site fresh farm-to-table food. You can tour the farm and watch the cows get milked daily.

Where to TREAT

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The Flying Cupcake

Treat yourself to the most delicious cupcakes in Indy! With a couple of locations around Indy and tons of amazing flavors you can be sure to cure your sweet tooth. “Here Comes The Bride” is always my go-to flavor because who doesn’t love wedding cake? The Flying Cupcake has an adorable atmosphere and you can often find their food trucks around town.

This post was contributed by Amy Gene of O’Leary Love.

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We have lived in Atlanta pretty much our entire lives, so we hold this city very near and dear to our hearts. From the big city lights to that friendly Southern feel, Atlanta offers so much for tourist and locals alike.

One thing that this city is not lacking are things to do as a family. There are countless delicious kid-friendly places to eat and numerous top-notch attractions to visit. No matter what your tastes or interests, Atlanta has it all!

Where to PLAYAtlanta City Gems: Olympic Centennial Fountain Park

Centennial Olympic Park: This park, in the heart of Atlanta, was originally created as a gathering spot for visitors and locals to enjoy during the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Perhaps the most iconic and recognized part of this park is the Fountain of Rings. It is an interactive fountain representing the Olympic Rings symbol and there are four free shows daily, put to music, that combine water and music in a way you would not think possible — the water literally dances in front of your eyes! When the Fountain of Rings show is not taking place, you will find children (and adults with a child-like spirits!) running and splashing in the fountains.

Fernbank Museum of Natural History: Named one of the top 10 places in the world to learn about dinosaurs, this museum has exhibits all about natural history and it entertains as well as educates. They present hands-on exhibitions perfect for kids and also have an IMAX theater featuring the biggest movie screen in Atlanta.

Braves games: Do you have a little (or big) baseball fan? The Atlanta Braves are one of America’s most historic baseball teams and with their stadium located right in downtown Atlanta, it makes for an easy attraction to visit. It doesn’t even matter if the team is playing in town when you’re visiting — there are tons of activities, even in the off-season. Turner Field offers tours that will take fans through the Braves Museum and Hall of Fame, press boxes and the dugout. The Coca-Cola Sky Field features large over-sized Adirondack chairs that afford you excellent views of Atlanta’s sky-scape and a base-line that children (both young and old) can run to test out their speed. To enhance your base running experience, kids can participate in the Kids Run The Bases program where they get to run on the actual field.world.of.coke.Collage

World of Coca-Cola: This Atlanta attraction celebrates one of the most famous brands in the world, Coca-Cola. Not everyone knows, but it all began from a secret recipe originating in Atlanta. This fun museum features brand favorites and memorabilia from Coca-Cola’s beginnings, pop-culture and even the Olympics. Also not to be missed is the fun 4-d movie and a tasting room featuring Coca-Cola products from around the world.

Where to EAT

Fox Bros. BBQ: You can’t come to the South and not visit one of our famed BBQ joints! One of our favorites is Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q. Located in the beautiful Candler Park neighborhood, this finger-licking BBQ with a Texas-twist is a huge hit. From ribs to pulled pork to their Fox-A-Roni, you can’t go wrong.Googie.burger.shakes

Googie Burger: While you are at Centennial Olympic Park, be sure to stop by this fun burger place. They have no freezers in-house, which means everything is made fresh. Their menu offers delicious burgers with creative sauces and hand-spun shakes that you can enjoy in the outdoor seating area while you take-in the sights and activity of the park.

Fellini’s Pizza: While New York and Chicago might lay claim as the pizza kings, the South does offer a few challengers. Fellini’s Pizza has several locations throughout the city of Atlanta and makes one of the best pies we have ever tasted. Their restaurants have large outdoor seating spaces and the atmosphere is always enjoyable with kids. You can order full pies or pizza by the slice to sample a little bit of all the cheesy goodness offered.King.of.pops.Collage

King of Pops: This unique Popsicle company was started by two local brothers and has grown into a successful business that is an Atlanta favorite. In addition to their permanent location and their availability in local restaurants, you can find their carts all over town at special events, farmer’s markets and food truck events. Their pops are made with fresh ingredients, are all-natural and their flavors are truly unique. Some of our favorites are Chocolate Sea Salt and Watermelon Lime!

Where to EAT and PLAY… in the suburbs

Here’s the deal with Atlanta… most people you’ll meet that tell you they are from the ATL do not technically live in Atlanta. Most of us live outside the city limits, in sprawling suburbia. However, because of the massive suburban sprawl of Atlanta, our ‘burbs also have some really fantastic places to eat and things to do, so we wanted to be sure to share a few of our local favorites!american.girl.Collage

American Girl Boutique and Bistro: If you have doll obsessed little girls, the American Girl Boutique and Bistro is a perfect way to spend some time. With one of the few locations nationwide, North Point Mall, just north of Atlanta, hosts a store that is almost like a museum where you can shop in doll heaven followed by a delicious meal or even tea in the adjacent bistro. Not only will you and your girl enjoy the tasty treats, but their dolls will too! The American Girl Bistro has thought of it all, including doll sized seats, cups and saucers for them to use during your meal.tellus.Collage

Tellus Museum: About 45-minutes north of Atlanta in Cartersville, Tellus is hands-down one of the best museums in the Atlanta metro area. Tellus is a hands-on interactive museum for kids of all ages. Exhibits feature dinosaurs, gemstones and jewels, a solar house, mind puzzles and a planetarium.

Stone Mountain Park: One of the most popular attractions in the state is just 10-miles northeast of downtown Atlanta. Stone Mountain is the largest exposed mass of granite in the world and the park offers numerous family activities as well as thousands of acres of natural and historic sights. You can hike to the top of the mountain or take the Summit Skyride. Some other family favorites are the SkyHike adventure course, the Scenic Railroad ride around the mountain and viewing the state of the art digital graphics Lasershow as a way to end your day.McEntyres.Collage

McEntyeres Bakery: This friendly neighborhood bakery entices you with its impressive display of sweet treats and boutique goods the moment you walk in the door! It is a great place for lunch, as it offers an impressive selection of yummy sandwiches and soups. The Kickin’ Chicken sandwich is our favorite and you can leave with out some cheese straws and a Petit Four.

Moxie Burger: This great burger place just north of Atlanta was created as a neighborhood gathering place for families and it has become just that. It is a hidden gem, tucked into a shopping village, but doesn’t deter the crowds as it is a favorite amongst the locals. Everything is delicious and the atmosphere is warm and perfect for a family-friendly meal. They have toys on-hand for children and a fun patio with a chalkboard table for kids to play and get crafty pre- or post-meal. Also, for Mom and Dad, they have a fabulous wine and beer list!

Have you ever been to Atlanta? What are some of your favorite places?

This post was contributed by The Magnolia Mamas as part of the Savvy Sassy Moms Product Scouts program.  You can find more about their adventures in and around Atlanta on their blog.   

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St Louis Arch

I’ve lived in St. Louis nearly 15 years and never have I loved this city more now that I have children.  St. Louis has so many amazing attractions and events for kids, most of which are completely free! This affordable, drivable, small city is packed with fun activities, beautiful parks, amazing museums and some of the best food in the Midwest. We are more than just a baseball and brewery town (although we really like those, too). Welcome to my city!

Where to PLAY

City Gems: Exploring St. Louis with Kids: Grant's Farm

Grant’s Farm: This unique St. Louis attraction combines the appeal of a zoo with the local history of the Anheuser-Busch legacy. Free to the public, admission includes a tram ride through an animal preserve, animal shows and even free beer (for adults only). This is also where you can meet all the famous Budweiser Clydesdales. Mom tip: Buy the $5 pass so your kids can feed the goats, take a carousel ride and get a snow cone. If you don’t do all three, the card can be redeemed on your next trip.

CityGems: Exploring St. Louis with KidsEckert’s Country Store & Farms (Belleville): Eckert’s is a great place to take kids and fill your grocery cart at the same time. Located about 25 minutes from downtown, it’s open year-round, but go during “Pick Your Own” season, which begins with strawberries in May and continues through fall with vegetables, apples, blackberries, peaches and pumpkins. Picking is easy for kids of all ages and they love the tractor ride to the fields.

City Gems: St. Louis Forest Park Forest Park: I don’t think anyone can do a St. Louis feature without mentioning Forest Park. One of the 100 largest parks in the country (over 1,300 acres), it houses our world-class St. Louis Zoo, the History Museum, Art Museum, Muny Amphitheater and Science Center… all of which are free to the public.  And if that wasn’t enough, it has an ice skating rink, a tennis complex, an 18-hole golf course, a boathouse (with paddle boats), multiple playgrounds, lakes, streams, running trails and wooded areas (perfect for family photos).

City Gems: St. Louis Magic House

Magic House: The St. Louis Magic House is truly one of the gems of our city. It’s packed full of fun and interesting science and problem-solving exhibits, which create a hands-on learning environment for kids of all ages. Some of our favorite exhibits are the imaginary shops, art center, outdoor construction area, 3-story beanstalk, bubble room and the giant electromagnet ball that will make your hair stand on end! Mom tip: Leave for lunch and come back to play for the rest of the day — try Dewey’s Pizza in downtown Kirkwood.

Yucandu Art Studio: This is a unique retail store and interactive art studio in Webster Groves, which is interesting for both children and adults. They provide the materials (paint, beads, paper, ribbon, tiles, etc.) and teach you the steps so that “yucandu” the projects yourself. They offer mosaic, collage and/or paint projects for a small hourly studio fee, which includes staff guidance, use of tools and brushes and complete clean-up!

Creation Station at the Museum of Transportation: The Creation Station is a hands-on learning environment dedicated to introducing children (ages 5 and under) to all modes of transportation while focusing on play, imagination and interaction. This large brightly-lit room is filled with train tables, play houses, books, costumes, cars and racetracks. Mom tip: There’s almost always a Groupon available for discounted entry.

Citygarden: Located in the heart of downtown St. Louis, Citygarden is two square city blocks long, filled with sculptures, gardens and trails, as well as fountains, waterfalls, spray parks and wading pools perfect for splashing in on a hot summer day. Within walking distance of Busch Stadium, Ballpark Village, the Gateway Arch, the Old Courthouse, Peabody Opera House, Scottrade Center and a variety of shops and restaurants.

City Gems: Ices Plain & Fancy in St. Louis

Where to TREAT

Ices Plain and Fancy: This is St. Louis’s first (and only) made-to-order, liquid nitrogen ice cream parlor. The process is totally amazing — an ice cream base and your add-ins go into a mixer, followed by liquid nitrogen and they’re quickly blended while clouds of cold smoke pour out. The mixture gets so cold it has to be blow-torched from the bowl!  Mom tip: Make dad drive and get one of their boozy drinks if you’re having one of those days.

Jilly’s Cupcake Bar: Jilly’s has won Food Network’s Cupcake Wars two times and is hands-down the best cupcake shop in the Midwest. Flavors change monthly, but some of my favorites include Key Lime Gooey Butter, Chocolate Thunder and 24-Karat Carrot Cake.

This post was contributed by Sara McCarty as part of the Savvy Sassy Moms Product Scouts program. You can find more about Sara on her blog Running from the Law

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Palm Springs sits like an oasis in the desert of Southern California. Its proximity to Los Angeles has made it a go­-to escape and retreat for decades, including for well-known Hollywood celebrities whose homes are on tour maps and whose names line the streets of the greater Palm Springs area. But, you don’t have to have a Screen Actors Guild card to enjoy Palms Springs with kids. This desert retreat welcomes everyone, including families, and there are myriad city gems for families to explore.

Where to EAT

Where to eat with kids in Palm Springs

Palm Springs has some great family-­run, independent restaurants that offer a welcome change from franchises and fast food. El Gallito is an historic Mexican eatery that has been a local Palm Springs favorite for 36 years. They offer an extensive menu of delicious specialties that your family already loves, like ­burrito especial, beef or chicken tacos, quesadillas, chips with salsa and yummy guacamole. The line-­up out the door attests to the tasty food, great service and comfortable atmosphere of this super family-­friendly restaurant.

Blu Ember is an upscale, family-­friendly restaurant at the Rancho Las Palmas resort in Rancho Mirage. Make reservations to ensure a seat on their large outdoor patio and enjoy a delicious, if pricey, selection of excellent cuisine featuring local ingredients like dates and beets.

In old Palm Springs, Birba is all the buzz for an Italian pizza dinner. They have a wide selection of thin ­crust, wood ­fired pizzas, as well as salads and pastas. It is a very busy restaurant, so reservations are highly recommended.

Where to PLAY

Exploring Palm Springs with Kids

Just south of old Palm Springs sits the expansive Indian Canyons conservation area. There are a variety of walking, hiking, cycling and horseback riding trails for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy. We chose the two-mile loop hike in Andreas Canyon, just past the entrance gate into the conservation area. The hike was a fairly level pathway, with some small elevations from the creek bed into the hillside, but nothing too strenuous. Arrive early in the morning to enjoy cooler temperatures before the desert canyon heats up during the day. The hiking trail in Andreas Canyon is in partial shade from the many fan palms that our unique to this area. Stop to admire the rock formations along the creek bed. Their unique colors and shapes represent a geological journey through time that is interesting to rock fans. Hike safely: Don’t forget to pack along some water and a hat in this dry desert environment.

The Palm Springs Air Museum is a must for any aviation fan or military history buff… or simply for your little airplane enthusiast. The large museum is staffed by knowledgeable Air Force veterans and is divided into a Pacific and European Theatre, showcasing World War II history and battles. The indoor plane collection is extensive, and the outdoor planes date from the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Take time to enjoy the informative history displays and don’t by shy of asking questions — ­the volunteers love to share their incredible military and aviation knowledge.

Exploring Palm Springs with kids

For incredible views of Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, ride up the Palms Springs Tramway, just 30 minutes from the city. The rotating gondola takes just 10 minutes to travel to 8500 feet at Mount San Jacinto State Park. Pack a jacket as the temperature will be much cooler than in the valley! The Tramway station has restaurants, facilities, and a state park nature interpretation display. The 1-1/2 mile Desert Trail is an easy loop hike (it’s stroller ­friendly) with five lookout points, called notches. They offer beautiful views of the valley and the mountains, and even the San Andreas fault.

Where to SHOP

To the east of old Palms Springs, in the town of Indio, is the Shields Date Garden. Growing and selling dates since 1924, this date farm offers tours of its extensive grounds, date tastings, date movies in its vintage theater, and a store selling every kind of date you can imagine. Don’t leave without trying their famous date shakes made with date sugar crystals. They’re very sweet but very delicious!

To the west of Palms Springs sits the enormous Desert Hills Outlet Mall, part of the Simon Premium Outlets family. This outdoor shopping mecca has many high-end fashion labels, including Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Prada and Saks Fifth Avenue, along with trendy and popular shops such as Forever 21 and Polo Ralph Lauren. If you’re a shopper, you’ll probably want to plan at least a half-day visit.

Where to STAY

Where to stay with kids in Palm Springs

Palm Springs is filled with beauty and history. The Waldorf Astoria property of La Quinta Resort & Club dates back to 1926. It was built as a refuge for Hollywood celebrities to escape and relax in the desert and the guest list has hosted the best of Hollywood history from ­Bette Davis and Marlene Dietrich to Greta Garbo and Errol Flynn. La Quinta Resort remains a very popular destination for film stars and discerning guests of more humble stature, with or without family in tow. The property boasts 41 pools, private haciendas, villas, fitness facilities, a kids club and professional tennis courts that host celebrity and charity tournaments year round. Enjoy breakfast of fresh fruit or eggs benedict at Twenty 6 Cafe and a gourmet dinner of surf and turf at Morgan’s in the Desert.

Palm Springs City Gems: Where to stay

Rancho Mirage is centrally located in the greater Palm Springs area, and home to many family-friendly hotels. The Hilton Garden Inn has spacious rooms, comfort adjustable beds, in­-room Keurig coffee machines and a lovely pool area surrounded by palm trees and fragrant flowering jasmine. The hotel is close to restaurants, shopping and tourist amenities, including the impressive mid-century Sunnylands estate of the Annenberg family. Book tickets in advance to tour Sunnylands, as it is a very popular destination.

Upscale, mid-­century modern chic comes with cute valet car service and posh surroundings at this boutique hotel property in Palm Springs. Tucked away behind high walls and lush landscaping, The Parker offers luxury, privacy and full modern amenities on its 13 ­acres. The property includes two pools —­ one for kids and the other for adults ­only —­ tennis courts and a couple of swish restaurants that offer the ultimate, top­ drawer Palm Springs experience.

This City Gems post was contributed by Claudia of The Travelling Mom

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City Gems: Exploring Nashville with Kids

Nashville, also known as Music City, USA. Most think it’s just a bunch of honky-tonks and cowboy boots, but Nashville has so much more to offer — even if you don’t care for country music. Of course, if country music and cowboy boots are your thing, you’ll have a great time, too! Nashville is quickly growing and evolving every day, which means this guide will probably be out-of-date before it even posts! But that’s a good thing because in Nashville, there is always a new place to shop or restaurant to check out. Here are some of my favorites.

Sweet treats

Las Paletas has become a Nashville staple. They make their gourmet popsicles using fresh fruit, veggies, nuts and herbs so the popsicles taste just like they should. They have cream popsicles, which are more like an ice cream bar, and fruit popsicles, which taste more like a traditional ice pop. You can also get them dipped in chocolate! They have around 20 different flavors each day and while they always serve your normal strawberry or chocolate, you’ll also find avocado (my favorite), hot chocolate with chili peppers and so many other interesting flavors. You’ll wish they didn’t melt so you could take more home with you!

City Gems: Exploring Nashville with Kids

If you don’t make a stop by the Goo Goo Clusters shop, you’re missing out! Those amazing candies are made right in downtown Nashville and you can even watch them work while you’re in the shop. There are usually samples out of the different flavors. I have yet to try one that I didn’t like, but the classic will always have my heart. Grab a box to take home for some friends, or hoard for yourself.

Date night & girls’ night out

City Gems: Date Night in Nashville

Pinewood Social is a very unique place. It’s a full-service restaurant, bar, coffee shop, bowling alley and even has a pool outside. If you want to bowl, you’ll definitely need to call ahead to reserve a lane, but it’s worth it. The bowling alley is made from reclaimed wood using old bowling lanes. The pool area is 21+, but has its own menu and is great option for a girls’ night. Even if you only have time to stop by for a drink, Pinewood Social is worth it. The atmosphere is awesome and you will fall in love the vintage-industrial feel inside.

City Gems: Where to have a date night in Nashville

Arrington Vineyards is the perfect place to visit for picturesque views of rolling vines and a relaxing and welcoming atmosphere. All of the vineyard wines can be tasted and purchased on-site and visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic to accompany their wine. While I recommend this as an adults-only outing, kids are welcome. There are spacious areas overlooking the vineyards that are perfect for children to explore while the adults relax. Several nights each week in the spring and summer, the outdoor patio features live music and a visit at dusk offers spectacular views of the sunset over the Middle Tennessee hills that can’t be beat.

Foodie favorites

Edley’s BBQ is a must when visiting Nashville. I mean, you can’t go to Nashville and not have barbecue, right? Edley’s knows how to do it right. They have your typical pulled pork sandwiches, but they have so much more than that. You can get BBQ nachos, quesadilla or perhaps one of their best dishes — the Tuck Special. I would suggest going for a walk after that meal on the streets of 12 South, one of the awesome neighborhoods in Nashville.

City Gems: Where to eat in Nashville

Batch Nashville is a great stop to make if you want to be able to support the amazing local artisans in this town. They carry many of the food products that are made here in Nashville. Some of our favorites (that you can totally pack to take home with you): Willa’s Shortbread Cookies, Bluebird’s Biscuit Mix, Olive & Sinclair Chocolates and Eli Mason Cocktail Mixers. The Batch store itself is located inside of the Nashville Farmer’s Market, so make sure to save time to walk around and see all that they have to offer. You can also grab lunch while you’re there at some of the great restaurants.

Family time

City Gems: Exploring Nashville with Kids

The Frist Center is a true privilege to have in Nashville. A sophisticated art gallery and museum for Mom and Dad to enjoy, but there’s a twist. Upstairs, there is an entire area (Martin Artquest) dedicated to the kids. It’s hands-on fun that teaches kids about principles of art. I have to admit, you can usually find me pretending to help my kids with the activities, but really just doing them for myself. It’s tons of fun! The Frist is always free for children under 18, so you won’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy it.

City Gems: Fun in Nashville with Kids

Cheekwood Botanical Gardens is another family favorite that seems more adult than child, but really is family-friendly. Sure, there are amazing exhibits for Mom and Dad to admire, but there are also special things for the kids to enjoy. They have the trains set up where Thomas and his friends drive through an elaborate track setup. They also have an amazing tree house that the kids can climb up and play in. The exhibits change periodically, so make sure to check what is going one before you visit.

Nashville locals, where are you favorite city gems?

This post was contributed by Lindsey McPherson as part of the Savvy Sassy Moms Product Scouts program. You can find more about Nashville from Lindsey on her blog, The Nashville Mom.

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Exploring Cannery Row Monterey California
Weekend in Cannery Row

If you aren’t already familiar with the area, Cannery Row is a street that runs parallel to the coastline of Monterey Bay in the middle of California, made famous by American author John Steinbeck, who captured the lives of workers and residents who worked in the fish canneries that gave the area its name. Once the area was fished out, the bay was made into a marine sanctuary, but the canneries remained.

Following a period of revitalization, this little section of Monterey now boasts beautiful hotels, restaurants, shopping and other activities, as well as opportunities to explore the water and coastline. Some of the original canneries are still standing, and you can see and even walk in the iconic “crossover” bridges that joined the canneries to the old shipping houses across the street.

Just an hour and a half drive from San Jose airport, Monterey is also home to Monterey Bay Aquarium, the famous scenic 17-Mile Drive, and a marine sanctuary for sea otters, elephant seals, sea lions, and many species of birds. The area enjoys a temperate climate, so it’s a perfect place to bring your family during the summer for a road trip stop or a final destination.

Visiting Monterey Bay in CaliforniaWhere to STAY

The Victorian Inn is located just blocks up the hill from Cannery Row itself, and the higher floors offer views above the rooftops to Monterey Bay. Centered around a large Victorian home built in 1907, the decor of the inn reflects the style of the period. Rooms are spacious and comfortable and each one has a gas fireplace which is nice when it gets chilly at night. There’s free continental breakfast and daily wine receptions in the lobby, complimentary in-room internet, and in-room massages if you need one. There’s no pool at this hotel, so your kids will have to get their swimming fix in the ocean.

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Monterey Bay Inn

A little bit more upscale for adult travelers, the boutique Monterey Bay Inn is perched above the ocean at the southeast end of Cannery Row, adjacent to San Carlos park and beach. Rooms have sleek updated decor and each has a small balcony overlooking the coast – binoculars are provided, too. The bathrooms have double sinks, private toilets, and large showers. With two hot tubs on site, the hotel also provides comfy spa robes ready for you in the closet when you arrive. In-room breakfast is complimentary, as long as you hang your order on the door by midnight.

What to-do in Monterey, CaliforniaWhere to PLAY

When at Cannery Row you’ll definitely want to visit the oceanside. A great way for an active family to see the sights and get some exercise is to rent some equipment from Adventures by the Sea and either paddle around the bay or ride around town. I rented an adult-sized cruiser for maximum comfort (braking by pedaling backwards, which I haven’t done in decades, took some re-learning) and there are also two-person surreys available to rent in three locations along the coast.

The recreational trail that runs 18-miles along the Monterey Bay coast was once a rail line, and you will even see old railroad crossing signs still standing as monuments to an earlier era. In fact, there is an old train car that is now parked right on the trail that is now a bookstore.
lovers point beach

There are many spots to stop and run around and take in the natural beauty, and Lover’s Point Park is a perfect one: a calm beach for young children with crystal blue waters, a spacious green park, a large rocky outcropping perfect for climbing, and a restaurant for dinner at the end of your day.

What to do with kids in Monterey Bay, CaliforniaBecause of the temperate seaside climate, mornings can be foggy or even drizzly in the area, so some indoor activities might be good to have in your back pocket. The aquarium is an obvious choice but if you want to avoid summer crowds, check these out. Monterey Mirror Maze, Lazer Challenge, and Highway 1 Black Light Mini Golf are all within feet of each other right on Cannery Row. Set up like a small Chuck E. Cheese minus the animatronic cartoon characters, these attractions let kids run amok while providing entertainment, as long as they have the tokens! The mirror maze feels like an extended creep inside a fun house, and the lazer challenge can be tough for the awkward adult (okay, me) but still fun.

On the way into the Cannery Row area as you approach from the airport, you’ll pass by El Estero Lake and a colorful children’s play area named after Dennis the Menace – his creator donated much of the money that built this park. Dennis the Menace park is no ordinary park. It has a hedge maze, a climbing wall, an old steam engine, a zip line, and a giant wiggly slide. In the surrounding complex you can rent a paddle boat to cruise around the lake.

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Where to EAT

Almost every restaurant at Cannery Row has a spectacular view of the water so I’ll just go in order of where I ate! Schooner’s Coastal Kitchen & Bar is a full-service restaurant located in the Monterey Plaza Hotel, a spacious throwback in the classic grand hotel style. Local food is the star of the “farm to fork, sea to table” menu, and the locally grown artichokes make a great appetizer.

Servers will kindly suggest a perfect local wine to go with your meal: my grilled scallops, served over etouffee and brown rice risotto, went perfectly with the crisp and fruity Carmel Road “unoaked” Chardonnay. Our party tried several desserts and the standout was the unusual butterscotch banana pudding with housemade “Nilla” wafers. Every table looks out over the water. Before or after your dinner, stroll the patio or enjoy a cocktail by the modern fire pit. Schooner’s is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Fish Hopper Monterey
The Fish Hopper


The Fish Hopper
, open for lunch or dinner, is perched on the far end of Steinbeck Plaza, where a monument to the historical figures that made Cannery Row famous claims center stage. You can stand outside in line to just grab a cup of their rich and creamy clam chowder to go, or enjoy a glass of white peach sangria in the bar before going out to the deck to enjoy a meal. Given where you are dining, right above the waters that supplied fish to the entire world at one time, you’ll probably want to try some seafood, but there are plenty of meat and vegetarian options too.

For lunch, I had a poached pear salad with seared scallops, a perfect light dish with just enough protein to keep me fueled for more walking around this colorful town. Paired with another local wine, a Blackstone Sauvignon Blanc, it was perfect. The kids’ menu includes some nice choices like grilled chicken and fish & chips along with the usual suspects of burgers and fries.

Where to eat with kids in Monterey: Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Company

Great for families with kids who don’t like to be quiet or necessarily sit still at the table, the well-known Bubba Gump Shrimp Company is full of things to see and touch, all in homage to the award-winning movie “Forrest Gump.” Naturally, one orders the shrimp. To keep it real I had Mama Blue’s Southern Charmed Fried Shrimp with French fries (and stole my dining companion’s remoulade dip), and I paired it with a signature cocktail, Tennessee tea (iced tea with Jack Daniels served in a pedestal Mason jar glass). Mama’s Bread Pudding was the favorite dessert, and the kids’ menu has popcorn shrimp on it. The servers make it fun by grilling you with Forrest Gump-related trivia. Our table was tough to stump.

Taking one for the team

Taking one for the team

This isn’t just another tourist trap – it was the very first location of this restaurant, so it’s worth checking out the water’s edge view, the gift shop, and the kitschy photo op – put yourself in Gump’s shoes.

Where to eat in Monterey: Cannery Row Brewing Company
Cannery Row Brewing Company

My favorite of the restaurants we tried was Cannery Row Brewing Company, which is one block up the hill from the main drag. Once a popular barbecue joint, CRBC has preserved its original smoking oven and still serves smoked barbecue wings – which are pretty spicy and delicious. The restaurant has an extensive beer list, although none are brewed on site, and a tasting flight includes a surprisingly ordinary choice of Sam Adams’ cider. Still, the Seadog Blueberry wheat ale and the Youngs & Co. Double Chocolate stout made it eclectic enough. But this is a post about family travel, so for the kids in the house, CRBC has an open, chill vibe that makes it great for dining with your children.

Outdoor seating includes a large round fire pit if your kids are old enough to be trusted not to throw themselves into the flames, and room to move and spread out. There is a children’s menu but it’s not on the website – it has a long list of choices including PB&J and chicken noodle soup. Overall, the food is satisfying and unique. In fact, the restaurant’s tasty giant pretzel has been featured on the Food Network show Diners, Drive-in’s, and Dives (although I wouldn’t characterize CRBC as any of the three). The cheddar bacon biscuits with chipotle-maple butter are a must-try, and the burgers are juicy and delicious, and customizable.

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For a splurge – come on, you’re on vacation – you must visit The Chart House at the southeast end of Cannery Row for a luxurious dinner. This location of the small chain of fine dining restaurants is true to its waterside nature here in Monterey Bay – a seat at the best table in the house feels like you are suspended over the ocean itself, and affords a prime view of the stunning sunsets here. The service is impeccable and the food lives up to the Chart House tradition. A trio of flavored hummus comes with plaintain chips and pita bread.

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One dining companion declared the coconut shrimp the best she’d had in the area – and she had sampled it almost everywhere we ate. The salad bar was a popular option for this party. You can choose it as your entree or as an addition to a main meal. If you’ve had enough seafood during your seaside stay, the Chart House filet mignon will be a nice counterpoint. Served with mashed potatoes or steamed fresh vegetables, it’s decadent and delicious. Desserts include the signature lava cake, which at our meal came out overcooked (but still chocolatey).

Where to shop on Cannery Row in MontereyWhere to TREAT

Shopping and sightseeing up and down Cannery Row can take a long time because there is so much to see and do and buy. The olive oils and balsamic vinegars at Monterey’s Tasty Olive Bar are sourced from all over the world and you can taste them before you purchase. Gifts and body care items at La Dolce Vita in Steinbeck Plaza make great souvenirs for the adults in your life. And candy stores abound – inside the Monterey Canning Company building, The Candy Factory makes their chocolate covered bacon right there in-house! (Only one sample of fudge per person, be warned.)

ghirardelli chocolate ice cream shop monterey

To take a load off, enjoy the endlessly beautiful water view, and indulge in an old-timey treat, visit the Ghirardelli Chocolate & Ice Cream Shop. Resistance is futile, really, since the aroma of baking waffle cones pulls you in as you pass by the entrance. The ice cream itself is delicious but the combination sundaes, like the sea salt and caramel sundae topped with a truly remarkable fresh whipped cream, will make you battle for the last bite, if you’re sharing at all.


Have you been to Monterey or Cannery Row? DO you have a favorite I missed?

 


Disclosure: I enjoyed most of the above attractions and restaurants as a guest of the Cannery Row Company. All opinions (and full tummy) are my own.

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