Wrigley Field Turns 100

April 23rd, 2014 by Lissa No comments »

No matter what team baseball fans across the country root for, all can agree that Wrigley Field, home to the Chicago Cubs, is a grand ballpark of days gone by. The nation’s second-oldest operating ballpark (behind Boston’s Fenway Park), Wrigley was built in 1914 and today celebrates 100 years.

Wrigley is one of the smallest ballparks, holding just over 41,000. It’s famous for its brick wall of ivy and in keeping with its traditions, the park was one of the last to add lights for nighttime play (holding out until 1988) and still employs men to turn the scoreboard (men only, as there are no bathrooms in the box, which can get to more than 100 degrees on a hot summer day).

Today, to mark the anniversary, the Cubs will take on the Arizona Diamondbacks in throwback uniforms. The Cubs will be in the uniforms of the former Chicago Federals, and the Diamondbacks will be in the uniforms of the Kansas City Packers, long forgotten teams that once played Wrigley during the first season. Throughout the 2014, the Cubs will host a total of 10 anniversary games in throwback uniforms to represent each decade of its history.

If you have a baseball-loving kid, this is the summer to make the trip to Chicago to visit Wrigley, as well as all of the many kid-friendly attractions the city has to offer.

Click here to see the 10 Best Ballparks to Watch a Game, which includes Wrigley.

–Lissa Poirot

Family-Friendly Highlights of Ocean City, Maryland

April 22nd, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

If your family loves a lazy week at the beach, Ocean City, Md., is a great choice in the summer season, with 10 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline and a highly-rated boardwalk more than two miles long. Our recent getaway was too early for swimming, but perfect for enjoying several of the area’s other family-friendly offerings.

Ocean City Boardwalk
The action is concentrated along the 2.25-mile boardwalk, which separates the beach from a line of shops, eateries, and attractions. There’s also a path for bikes, and bike rental outfitters are located at nearly every cross street feeding into the boardwalk. In additional to traditional two and three-wheelers, you can find recumbent bikes and four to six-passenger surreys. During the summer, the Boardwalk hosts regular entertainment, including fireworks, concerts, movies and bonfires on the beach.

Ripley’s Believe it or Not
We’ve never been inside one of these “odditoriums” before, so this time, we succumbed to temptation. Robert Ripley was an eccentric collector of artifacts from around the world, many of which are on display here, alongside newer pieces collected in recent decades. This is the only place you’ll ever see an authentic concrete section of the Berlin Wall displayed near a five-foot depiction of pop star Rihanna depicted in Lite Brite pegs. Our teenager was enthralled by nearly everything, but a few of the displays were too gruesome for our 6 year old. They both enjoyed posing with a statue of the world’s tallest man.

Life-Saving Station Museum
At the southern end of the Boardwalk, this small museum is housed inside the 1891 building which once served as the Ocean City Station of the United States Life-Saving Service, a precursor to the United States Coast Guard. Kids get a scavenger hunt worksheet at the entrance to bring around the two-story structure on your self-guided tour. The main room houses the Wreck in the Offing exhibit of artifacts from the Life-Saving Service on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia from 1878 to 1914. In another room, the Davy Jones Locker collection features artifacts recovered from East Coast shipwrecks. I personally enjoyed the Sands of the World Exhibit, a collection of sand samples from beaches all over the world.

For kids, the highlights are the Aquarium Room, a saltwater exhibit that contains two 250-gallon tanks, and many smaller aquariums, filled with interesting creatures indigenous to the Ocean City waters. Also, a new children’s room is opening this season, which will have a few interactive elements, like dress-up, telescopes, and the chance to “rescue” a teddy bear.

Mini Golf
For my family, a beach vacation isn’t officially underway until we’ve hit the links of a miniature golf course. Along the Coastal Highway, you’ll find several indoor and outdoor courses which are open late into the evening. We tried one of the Old Pro Golf locations with an indoor underwater adventure theme, which brought us through an eel cave and a submarine. Outside, there was a fun dinosaur course with a volcano. In our travels, we saw several other themed courses, including a Medieval castle, African safari, and a dragon temple.

Find a hotel in Ocean City by clicking on Ocean City Family Hotels.

–Traci L. Suppa

Traci L. Suppa drags her small-town family to see a quirky array of the world’s largest, longest, or tallest things, and blogs about it at Go BIG or Go Home.

Mother’s Day Getaway Treats

April 21st, 2014 by Lissa No comments »

When it comes to moms, we all want a little R&R. If you’re looking to treat mom to a getaway where she can relax and get pampered, take a look at these specials around the country.

Fountainebleau Miami Beach
The oceanfront hotel is providing three Mother’s Day specials that pamper mom. Celebrate Her packages include a 25-minute massage, mineral soak and pedicure at the spa for mom. Mommy & Me packages provide a manicure and pedicure and a leisurely brunch at Vida on Sunday. Finally, A Day at Fontainebleau provides mom with a 50-minute massage and lunch at La Cote.

Loews Regency Hotel, New York
Let mom enjoy a weekend in New York City with a stay at the Loews Regency. The new Julien Farel Restore Salon & Spa on the ground floor provides head-to-toe pampering.

The Rittenhouse, Philadelphia
Treat mom to a weekend getaway at the Rittenhouse, and enjoy a special Mother’s Day brunch or afternoon tea, or both! Mom can also enjoy the new Rittenhouse Spa & Club.

Westgate Hotel, San Diego
Located in the Gaslamp Quarter, the Westgate is offering mother-daughter afternoon teas and Mother’s Day Sunday Champagne Brunch, guaranteed to bring a smile to mom’s face. Upgrade to the Be the Beauty Queen and mom will also receive a room upgrade and a $100 resort credit.

Sea Crest Beach, Cape Cod
For a seaside retreat, bring mom to the Sea Crest Beach Hotel, which is featuring a Mother’s Day Brunch overlooking the beach and Buzzard’s Bay.

–Lissa Poirot

Beyond the Big City: 10 Fun Farms for Families in New York State

April 20th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Beyond New York City, the Empire State offers rural sites with stunning vistas, pretty pastures and some of the most fertile farmland in the United States. First-time visitors might be surprised to learn that nearly 25 percent of New York is farmland, and that the state is a top producer of several popular products, from apples to dairy.

Plan a trip to New York’s big cities, then take a peaceful detour to these family-friendly farms.

Hudson Valley
If you’ve never taken the kids apple-picking, you’re in for a treat at Harvest Moon Farm & Orchard in New York’s Hudson Valley, just outside of New York City. Fall is prime time for apple-picking, and every weekend during the season, the family-run farm hosts a kid-friendly festival. Fill a bag with your favorite apple variety, watch the kids jump on a giant pumpkin pillow, and then enjoy farm-fresh treats like apple cider and fresh donuts. Leashed dogs are welcomed!

Buffalo/Niagara Falls
After you’ve gazed at Niagara’s majestic waterfalls, take a detour to family fun in Waterport, N.Y. For a host of Western New Yorkers, an annual pilgrimage to Brown’s Berry Patch, the entertainment-oriented division of a 200-plus-year-old family-owned fruit farm, where you can make a day of picking produce, playing in the Barnyard and visiting with the animals, is an annual tradition. Situated along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, a 518-mile-long National Scenic Byway, which runs from Erie, Pa., to the Thousand Islands region, Brown’s Berry Patch is a great spot to visit in summertime, when you can load up on fresh, juicy strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, or during the fall, which is prime time for pumpkin picking.

Travel 30 miles west to Murphy Orchards, a former station on the Underground Railroad, where you can pick your own fruit, veggies and flowers in season, then visit the historic barn and peer beneath a trap door to see the secret room where fugitive slaves were once hidden before making their way to Canada and freedom.

Rochester/Finger Lakes Region
Sure, Rochester and New York’s Finger Lakes Region have rockin’ rollercoasters, fragrant flowers, and what many claim is the best children’s museum in the U.S. But did you know the area also boasts some of the most fertile farmland in the country? In Wayne County, the number one apple -rowing region in New York State (and the second in the U.S. behind the state of Washington in terms of overall apple production), you can take the kids on an Apple Tasting Tour, then “get lost” in a maze of epic proportion.

Just a stone’s throw from the southern shores of Lake Ontario, start your agricultural adventure at Lagoner Farms or Burnap’s Farm, both of which offer pick-your-own fruit and wholesome family activities.

Travel 30 minutes southwest to the Erie Canal town of Macedon, home of Long Acre Farms, a third-generation farm and fun land, where families can get lost in a 5-acre corn maze during the fall, and enjoy a variety of spring to fall farm activities, including a giant “jumping pillow,” gemstone panning, an expansive play area for the kids, hayrides, ice cream, baked goods and even sampling for adults at an onsite farm winery.

Nicknamed the Salt City, the central New York city of Syracuse plays host to the annual New York State Fair in August, and is home to Destiny, a mega-mall and entertainment center that is a popular destination for upstate New Yorkers, as well as Canadians.

While Syracuse’s annual snowfall figures are practically legendary, it’s the season prior to winter that is perhaps the prettiest time to see the sights surrounding New York’s “snowiest” city. Take in the fall foliage on a Sunday drive to Apple Hill at Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards in Lafayette, where you can pick apples, sip cider and eat donuts with the kids, then set them loose in a sprawling play area. At Critz Farms in Cazenovia, you can enjoy hands-on family fun practically year-round, from maple syrup sampling in late winter /early spring to blueberry picking in the summer to a host of traditional fall harvest activities.

Pay a visit to the state capitol, then venture 30 minutes west to Indian Ladder Farms in Altamont, where you can have lunch and spend the afternoon picking fruit, petting cute barnyard animals and enjoying seasonal farm activities. The farm and market are open to visitors from April 30 to December 30.

If you have animal lovers in the family, consider venturing one hour north of the capital city to Greenfield Center, where, on Saturdays, you can hang out with horses on a tour of The Old Friends at Cabin Creek – The Bobby Frankel Division a unique homestead for retired racehorses, many of whom spent a portion of their careers at the nearby Saratoga Race Track.

—-Jackie Perrin

Kidcation Week in San Antonio

April 19th, 2014 by Lissa No comments »

This summer, San Antonio, Texas, is rolling out the red carpet to kids for a Kidcation Week to close out the season. From August 8 through 17, special kid-friendly programming, workshops, demonstrations, and free entertainment will be offered across the city.

Some of the highlights of the week include:

• Bat Loco Bash. With more than 50,000 bats living under the I-35 bridge and taking off every evening at dusk, San Antonio’s bats are a sight many visitors make time to witness. The bash is the final bat event of the year and features educational activities, live music, bat presentations, and food trucks. The bash takes place at the intersection of Camden and Newell Streets.

• Art Crawls and Parties. On August 14, a 45-minute tour of the San Antonio Museum of Art includes an adult tour with art selections selected to engage kids. The tour end with playtime and refreshments. On the same day, the McNay Art Museum is hosting a Kidcation Art Party with art making activities and a concert. On August 16, the children’s museum will offer free admission and fun activities for Kidcation Week.

• Institute of Texan Cultures. During Kidcation Week, entry into the institute is just $6. Every Sunday and Wednesday, Texas Cowboy Culture is the focus during the “Vaquerocation” activities.

Hotels are getting in on the special week, including the Hilton Palacio Del Rio, which is offering a special package in conjunction with the San Antonio Zoo. The two-night package includes accommodations, two adult and two kid passes to the zoo, a Zootennial amenity, Barrel of Monkeys game, animal crackers, a fruit basket, free self parking, and free breakfast for two adults and two children.

Kidcation Week also happens to fall on Texas Tax Free Weekend, where clothing, school supplies and other kids’ needs are exempt from sales tax. The weekend takes place August 8 to 10.

–Lissa Poirot

Get Outdoors During National Park Week

April 18th, 2014 by Lissa No comments »

This week, tomorrow through April 27, is National Park Week, a week to celebrate America’s national parks and monuments. On opening weekend, Saturday the 19th and Sunday the 20th, all national parks are offering free admission.

Throughout the week, parks will provide history talks, wildlife tours and special events. Tuesday, April 22 is Earth Day, so the parks are offering ways families can volunteer. Kids can also enjoy the special Ranger programming offered on April 26, National Junior Ranger Day. Visit the National Park Service’s website to find more information on events occurring in a park near you.

Disney is releasing its new nature film, Bears, today, and for every person who sees the film between April 18 and 24, Disneynature will make a contribution to the National Park Foundation.

For more on National Parks, read National Parks Family Vacations and see our slideshow of 10 Best National Parks for Families.

–Lissa Poirot