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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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City Gems: The local places moms love

This is a special time of year for families. Yes, it’s a busy time of year, but summer vacation is what childhood memories are made of! It’s definitely one of the things your children will remember most about their childhood. Summer is all about those classic road trips, picnics and BBQs with family, and heading to the beach or the lake on a whim. Taking a summer family vacation does not have to mean jetting off to some luxury resort in Mexico or taking a fancy European tour. In fact, most family vacations are just a few short hours drive from home and just as special as trips that take them countries away from home.Findery Travel App

Since so many families hit the road in the summer, visiting cities right here in the USA, I just created a City Gems Notemap on Findery with some of the best family-friendly City Gems for each city. I love getting to know cities through the eyes of other moms — who better to tell you where to go out for breakfast, which parks to got to, and where to fill up on coffee and cupcakes!?

After I rounded up some of my favorite moms from around the country for this assignment, we created a bit of a USA Love List, which was featured over on the Huffington Post Travel section. Find them here:

Local Places Moms Love: Featuring Nashville, Austin, St. Louis, Chicago, Raleigh

Five Great Local Summer Adventures:  Featuring Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Indianapolis and Seattle

Follow these moms on Findery

Be sure to follow the moms who contributed to our Summer City Gems posts on Findery for even more family-friendly summer adventures from coast-to-coast:

Jo-Lynne Shane in Philadelphia
The Magnolia Mamas in Atlanta
Lani Derrick in Austin
Amy Gene O’Leary in Indianapolis
Lindsey McPherson in Nashville
Sara McCarty in St. Louis
Angela Amman in Detroit
Erin Lane in Raleigh
Katie Kavulla in Seattle
Alison Ray in Chicago

Document your summer travels with Findery

You can create your own City Gems Notemap on Findery to share your favorite local spots or the places you discover this summer, too. It’s a great way to document your travel so you don’t forget the details of a special place. And, you’ll be helping other families that are traveling this summer by sharing your Notemaps and pictures along the way.

We’ll be sharing more City Gems right here on Savvy Sassy Moms this summer, so stay tuned!

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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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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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