SeaWorld Orlando’s Christmas Celebration

November 22nd, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

The Shamu Show at SeaWorld OrlandoSanta joins Shamu this season at SeaWorld Orlando’s Christmas Celebration and families should jump into the festive fun, too. On select dates from Nov. 22 to Dec. 31, 2014, enjoy special events, attractions, activities and savings.

SeaWorld’s Christmas Family Fun Tour
This special three-hour walking tour takes kids and parents through the park’s favorite attractions and activities, including the penguins, plus a meet and greet with the birds; Elmo’s Christmas Wish show; a meal at Santa’s Fireside Feast; and front-of-the-line access to the Polar Express Experience. Tickets start from $59 for adults and $49 for children.

SeaWorld Christmas Shows
During the holiday season, special Christmas shows will be offered at SeaWorld. See your favorite Sesame Street friends at Elmo’s Christmas Wish; sing a long to more than 30 carols at O Wondrous Night; walk through the magical area of glistening trees as the lights dance to music at Sea of Trees; watch Shamu and friends splash at Shamu Christmas Miracles; and see skaters dance on ice at Winter Wonderland on Ice.

The Polar Express Experience
Board the train to the North Pole via the Polar Express. Hear the story, see the sights and listen to the sounds of the season as you make your way to see Santa Claus.

Santa’s Fireside Feast
Dig into a holiday meal with Santa and Mrs. Claus at Santa’s Fireside Feast. The exclusive dinner features an all-you-can-eat buffet of festive dishes and desserts. A complimentary family photo is included and the perfect way to end the feast. Tickets start from $29 for adults and $19 for children between 2 and 9 years.

Special Holiday Savings
During SeaWorld Orlando’s Christmas Celebration, families can save by booking shows in conjunction with dining experiences. Book the SeaWorld Orlando Christmas Show Seating with Santa’s Fireside Feast and tickets start from $44 for adults and $29 for children between 3 and 9 years. Book the SeaWorld Orlando Christmas Show with Dine with Shamu and tickets start from $49 for adults and $39 for children between 3 and 9 years.

Additionally, there are two other ways to save on the holiday experience at the park. With the Kids Free Ticket deal, families can save up to $90 by getting one free child’s admission ticket (ages 3 to 9 only) with each paid adult ticket. These tickets must be used by Dec. 31, 2014. The Kids Free Package deal includes one free child’s admission ticket (ages 3 to 9 only) with each paid adult ticket, accommodations at a SeaWorld Orlando hotel, free admission for kids to Santa’s Fireside Feast (if booked before Dec. 1) and one free Cup that Cares for beverages. The Kids Free Package can save families up to $235.

Lastly, save by purchasing the All-Day Dining Deal, where for one price, families can eat all day long in the park. Tickets start from $30 for adults and $15 for children ages 3 to 9 years.

Admission to the park is required for all events and activities and is not included.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

6 Festive Activities at the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

November 21st, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Families riding in a sleigh through snowA national park might not be at the top of your list of places to visit for festive holiday fun, but it should be. Yosemite National Park in California offers year-round activities, including magical winter ones at the Tenaya Lodge. This year, enjoy ice skating, craft workshops, sleigh rides, visits with Santa, and so much more!

Ice Skating
Tenaya Lodge’s ice skating rink opens on Wednesday, Nov. 26, at 5 p.m. with complimentary hot holiday beverages being served all evening long. Lace up your skates, sip hot cocoa, make S’mores and get in the holiday spirit.

Gingerbread Decorating Workshop
Bring the whole family to Tenaya Lodge on Nov. 28 and 29, or Dec. 20, for a Gingerbread Decorating Workshop. You’ll learn how to make your very own edible masterpiece before winners are announced. Afterwards, sip on hot holiday beverages while enjoying live entertainment into the evening. Gingerbread houses are $60 each.

Tree Lighting Ceremony
Light up your family’s holiday season with the Lodge’s annual tree lighting ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 29. Live entertainment kicks off the evening at 5 p.m. with holiday beverages and cookies being served until the tree is lit at 6:30 p.m. Finish off the night with a family photo with Santa and a performance by the Sugar Pine Trio.

Ornament and Stocking Decorating Workshop
Kids will love decorating their own ornaments and stockings at the workshop on Dec. 20 and 23, this year. Enjoy an afternoon of arts and crafts, beginning at 3 p.m., before enjoying holiday drinks and snacks in the lobby at 5 p.m. Ornaments are $30 for a package of six and stockings are $10 each.

Kids Dinner With Santa
Children between 4 and 12 years can dine with Mr. Claus this holiday season on Dec. 22 and 23. Elves will help kids have fun with planned activities, crafts and more before they sit down for dinner with Santa. Dinner is from 6 to 8 p.m. and can be purchased in conjunction with the Kids Dinner With Santa Package or a la carte.

Sleigh Rides & Snacks
Visit the Tenaya Lodge on any day of the week for sleigh rides and complimentary holiday beverages and snacks. Sleigh rides are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, weather permitted, now through the end of the year, and drinks and snacks are served from 5 to 8 p.m. every evening now through the end of the year.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Asheville Breweries for Families

November 20th, 2014 by Amanda Geronikos No comments »

“I’ve never seen so many babies in bars.”

That’s what we overheard a woman say at Green Man Brewery, one of 20 breweries in Asheville, North Carolina. What she didn’t realize — and many others don’t know — is that breweries are a big part of local culture in Asheville (the town, though small, has more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city). No, you won’t find toddlers crawling around bars at 11 at night (some breweries aren’t even open that late), but you can expect to see families meeting other relatives or friends for lunch or even happy hour. Many breweries cater to them, too, with toys, games, and entertainment and events just for kids. These are some of our favorites:

Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company
Families sit in the Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company near a movie theatre and arcade gamesThe town’s namesake brewing business has three locations, though the one on Merrimon Avenue is especially fun for families. Outside, the building appears as if a space ship has crashed into it! Inside, families find arcade games and a movie theater — kids’ movies are usually played in the afternoon. There’s also a restaurant that serves casual, kid-friendly fare — pizzas, chicken fingers, burgers — you name it.

Highland Brewing Company
Exterior of Highland Brewing Company in AshevilleHighland Brewing Company is huge in terms of size — it’s the largest brewery in North Carolina — as well as offerings for families. The brewery offers themed events throughout the year, including The Haunted Trail, a not-so-spooky maze that ends with arts and crafts, food trucks and of course, beer. On any given weekend, families can expect to find live entertainment, balloon artists and more in a grassy meadow behind the building. In fact, many families bring blankets and outdoor games to play there.

Toy chest for kids at the Green Man Brewing Company in AshevilleGreen Man Brewery
Aside from some of the best beer in Asheville, a toy box awaits young patrons at Green Man Brewery. In the near future, guests can also expect to find an outdoor beer garden with views of the surrounding mountains.

– Amanda Geronikos



How to Tour the White House

November 19th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

White House in Washington, D.C. in the springThe White House is always a must-see attraction when visiting Washington, D.C. with kids. However, viewing the President’s home through a large fence may not be as gratifying as if you could get an insider’s perspective. Many families might not be aware, but you can tour the White House, and for free! Here’s how to do it on your next trip to the nation’s capital.

Request a Tour Through Congress
Families who want to take a public tour of the White House need to first submit a letter of request to their Member of Congress. Include your name, address and contact information in the request, as well as the dates that you plan to visit Washington, D.C. Requests must be submitted at least 21 days in advance, but no more than six months in advance of your planned visit. Families are urged to write to their Member of Congress as soon as they can. Visit the House of Representatives website to find your state’s representative and their contact information. For families who wish to see the White House, but who are visiting from another country, can contact their nation’s embassy office in Washington D.C. to request a public tour.

Have Valid Identification
Adults and children 18 years and older are required to present a valid, government-issued photo ID before touring the White House. Valid ID’s include driver’s licenses, military ID’s and passports.

Know What Not to Bring
Certain items are prohibited during tours of the White House. These include cameras or recording devices; handbags, backpacks and purses; food and beverages; tobacco products; personal grooming items; strollers; any pointed object; aerosol containers; fireworks and weapons of any kind. We suggest leaving everything in the car or hotel room except for your forms of ID, money and cell phones prior to your visit. Note: Cell phones cannot be used inside the White House and the U.S. Secret Service has the right to confiscate them as needed. Silence them before the tour, but keep them handy incase anyone gets lost.

Tour Times
Public tours of the White House are offered Tuesday through Thursday, from 7: 30 to 11:30 a.m., and Friday and Saturday, from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tours are not available on federal holidays, unless otherwise noted. Hours will be extended when possible. Tours are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Prepare With a Virtual Tour
After you’ve scheduled your tour, prepare the kids with a virtual tour via the White House website. Enjoy 360-degree views of the rooms that are featured on the public tour. It will get children excited for when they can see them in person.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

4 New Amenities & Services at Family Resorts

November 18th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

They say necessity is the mother of invention. Apparently, that mother travels with her kids, based on the new amenities and services introduced this month at the International Hotel, Motel, and Restaurant Show (IHM&RS) in New York City. I spotted several innovative products, services, and amenities that show promise in making family travel easier and less stressful. I can’t wait for these to be in every hotel we visit!

SnappyScreen Pod at a beach resortRaise your hand if you love spending time on vacation applying sunscreen on your children. SnappyScreen is the world’s first touchless sunscreen application system. Nozzles within the booth disperse a fine mist that completely covers the user with sunscreen from head to toe in seconds. All you do is select SPF 15, 30, or 50, select your height, and turn around when prompted. Because of the even spray, you don’t have to worry about missing a spot and getting sunburned. You’ll find SnappyScreen at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas in January 2015.

It’s one of my most memorable travel nightmares — my son left his stuffed animal behind in our hotel room, and after several phone calls, I couldn’t get it back. Chargerback is a new online service that helps automate the entire lost and found process when you leave something behind in a hotel, rental car, airplane or event space. You go onto the company’s website, fill out an online form to describe the item and provide contact information, and they take it from there. You get an e-mail notification when the item is found, and you use the system to pay the nominal fee to have it mailed to you.

Kallpod on a table with a menuWouldn’t you love to be able to get a waiter’s immediate attention if your kid is having a meltdown and you need to pay the check? Or order drinks by the pool without having to leave your kids unsupervised? Kallpod is a wireless communication system for hospitality businesses used in more than 30 countries around the world, but has only been in the U.S. for one year. The Kallpod device includes one, three or six buttons, which are programmed by the hotel or restaurant to let your server know that you need a menu, a drink, the check, etc. You’ll already find them at select Starwood and InterContinental properties.

Quiet Night BalmI love collecting the complimentary shampoos and lotions in hotels. LATHER has added a new product to its collection that could really help families — the Quiet Night Relaxing Balm. When your child is having trouble settling down in unfamiliar surroundings, you can apply this product on their neck and chest. The all-natural ingredients, primarily lavender and ylang ylang essential oils, have calming properties to promote a better night’s sleep.

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.

– Traci L. Suppa

4 Holiday Happenings in New York City

November 17th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Rockefeller Center at ChristmasThe holidays in New York City are unlike anywhere else. The magic of the season seems to be heightened with the glowing lights and chilled air that fill the Big Apple in December. Visit with kids this year before or after Christmas and enjoy one of these 4 festive events.

Winter Village at Bryant Park
Oct. 21, 2014, to Mar. 1, 2015
Besides the holiday market at Bryant Park, families can ice skate at the rink that is open now through Mar. 1, 2015. Admission is free, unless you rent skates. The holiday market runs through Jan. 4, 2015.

Holiday Train Show
Nov. 15, 2014, to Jan. 19, 2015
Head to the New York Botanical Garden for the annual holiday train show. Model trains will weave in and out of spectacular flower and plant displays that are decorated for the holiday season. Included with admission to the garden.

Holiday Market at Grand Central
Nov. 17 to Dec. 24, 2014
Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal will be decorated with festive lights and holiday flare for this year’s holiday market. Purchase gifts for friends and family or just browse the various booths to see what vendors are selling. Other holiday markets can be found at Union Square, Central Park and Bryant Park through Dec. 24, 2014. Admission is free.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting
Dec. 3, 2014
If you’re not afraid of crowds, visit Rockefeller Center on Dec. 3, from 7 to 9 p.m., for its annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. This year, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennet will perform, along with Sara Bareilles, LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood. The tree will be lit through Jan. 7, 2015. Admission is free.

Other great holiday happenings include New York’s GingerBread Lane and holiday plays and musicals in and around the city.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz