Archive for the ‘Family-Friendly Destinations’ category

Save the Date: 5 Holiday Events In & Around NYC

October 24th, 2014

October is the best time to buy your tickets for all your favorite holiday spectaculars. Plan a trip to New York City with your family and include one of these five events that are in Manhattan or just outside, for a truly memorable and magical experience with the kids.

Left: Exterior view of Radio City Music Hall in New York City; Right: The Radio City Rockettes on stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City

Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Nov. 7 to Dec. 31, 2014
Your kids will love seeing the famous kick-line of the Rockettes at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Now in its 81st year, celebrate the season with holiday songs, scenes and Santa at Radio City Music Hall! Opening night is November 7 and the show runs through New Year’s Eve. The show is approximately 90 minutes long, with an intermission. Times vary per day, with options in the morning, afternoon and evening. Tickets start from $45 per person, and children under 2 are free. Visit RadioCity.com for dates, times and tickets.

NYCB: The Nutcracker
Nov. 28, 2014 to Jan. 3, 2015
The New York City Ballet’s famous performance of The Nutcracker is celebrating 60 years and is coming to the David H. Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center on November 28, with performances through January 3, 2015. The whole family will enjoy the classic ballet and kids will love seeing the toy soldiers dancing with the ballerinas. You’ll leave with a magical feeling. Show times vary per day, with times in the afternoon and evening only. The ballet is 90 minutes long, with an intermission in the middle. Tickets start from $40 per person. Visit NYCBallet.com for dates, times and tickets.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical
Dec. 5-28, 2014
The classic Dr. Seuss story is perfect for the holiday season. How the Grinch Stole Christmas opens at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden on December 5. Sing along with kid-friendly songs like “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas.” The show is kid-friendly and parents will be transported back to their childhood. Show times vary per day, but are offered in the morning, afternoon and evening. Tickets start from $40 per person. Visit TheatreAtMSG.com for dates, times and tickets.

Max and Ruby: The Nutcracker Suite
December 20, 2014
Families with young children should buy tickets to the Max and Ruby holiday special The Nutcracker Suite for a night filled with fun. Join Max and Ruby and their friends, the Sugar Plum Fairies and Gingerbread Men, as they dance and sing on stage Saturday, December 20, at the Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, New Jersey, located just 45 minutes (by car or train) outside New York City. The show is geared towards children from infant to 6 years, and is 90 minutes long, with a 15-minute intermission. Tickets start from $40 per person. Show begins at 1 p.m. Visit TheWellmontTheater.com for tickets.

A Christmas Carol
December 21, 2014
See the Charles Dickens’s classic at the Bergen Performing Arts Center on Sunday, December 21, with the entire family. Teach your children what the true meaning of Christmas is and leave feeling grateful and ready for the holiday season. The show is suitable for all ages and is about 60 minutes long. The Bergen Performing Arts Center is in Englewood, New Jersey, about 40 minutes (by car or train) outside of New York City. Tickets start from $30 per person. Show times are 1 and 4 p.m. Visit BergenPAC.com for tickets.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Year-Round Whale Watching in Orange County

October 23rd, 2014

People on a boat watch the tail of a whale come out of the water during a tourWhen I was 9 years old, my family went on a whale-watching excursion in Cape May, New Jersey. I remember it being cold (so much that we bought souvenir sweatshirts to keep us warm), but I also remember seeing dolphins swim next to the boat and whales jumping and flopping into the water in the distance. It was a memorable experience and I recommend that families do it at least once.

While many whale watching companies are on hiatus for the winter season, a few warm-weather destinations offer tours year-round, including Orange County, California. Newport Landing Whale Watching is one of the few companies that take guests into the ocean in search of blue whales, finbacks, dolphins and other aquatic creatures during the cold season, between November and February.

Tours depart from Newport Beach, which is conveniently located in the middle of Orange County, just minutes from the John Wayne/Orange County Airport and about 50 miles from the Los Angeles International Airport. And with year-round weather steady at sunny and 75, families won’t be cold like I was on my first whale-watching tour. Tours are offered daily – on weekdays and weekends – so you can easily fit it in to your Southern California vacation. And the boat, Nautilus, offers an indoor snack bar and restrooms.

Tours are scheduled three to four times daily, year-round, with times varying according to season (November to February and March to October). Tickets are $32 for adults (age 13 to 59) on weekdays and $36 for adults on weekends and holidays. Juniors (age 12 and under) and seniors (60 and older) are $26 on weekdays and $30 on weekends and holidays.

For more information and to reserve a whale-watching tour for your family, visit the Newport Landing Whale Watching website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

How to Save at Universal Studios Orlando

October 22nd, 2014

View of rides at Universal's Islands of AdventureTheme park admission can really break the bank. But for a limited time Universal Studios Orlando is offering a deal that families shouldn’t pass on. Play and ride all of the games and thrills at Universal Studios Orlando and Universal’s Islands of Adventure in three days, while paying only for two.

Book the Park-To-Park Admission promotion now and you’ll receive park admission good for three days, while only paying for two. Original one-day, one-park tickets for Universal Studios Orlando or Universal’s Islands of Adventure are $96 per adult and $90 per child. And the price of original two-day, two-park tickets cost $175.99 per adult, and $165.99 per child. But with this promotion, receive a third day free with your two-day, two-park ticket price.

The three-day tickets must be used within a 14-day period, but are valid for visits now through June 20, 2015. Black out dates apply during the holiday season and tickets must be purchased by June 7, 2015.

Plus, you can save even more in the Orlando area with these four packages and deals:

Family Room Package at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes

From $149 per night at the Villas of Grand Cypress

From $71 per night at the Tuscana Resort Orlando

Up to 30 percent off at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

5 Kid-Friendly Activities in Winnipeg, Canada

October 20th, 2014

An ancient meeting place of Native American tribes, an immigrant hub and the largest French-speaking population in the West, the Canadian prairie city of Winnipeg has an abiding sense of diversity, deep roots and the kind of global ingenuity that creates matchless ideas. It’s the proud hometown of Winnie the Pooh and Canadian rock band The Guess Who, and that right there might explain the eclectic appeal.

My family of five has diverse interests, both urban and wild, and we were thoroughly engaged by what we found to do and see in Winnipeg, a place brimming with marvels for us all.

The Forks National Historic Site
Exterior view of The Forks Market at nightThe Forks National Historic Site of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers is an eons-old historic meeting place, an urban sanctuary, and a favorite for foodies and shopaholics. With restaurants, boutiques and a splendid indoor market, there are oodles to look at and plenty of green space to roam. Don’t miss the Sugar Mountain Express, housed in a restored 1920’s rail car with everything from nostalgic treats to the latest in candy couture. My family rented a pedal-powered buggy contraption for six and looped over the spectacular nearby Esplanade Riel Pedestrian Bridge to Winnipeg’s French Quarter, St. Boniface, and back again.

A young girl pokes her head through the hole of the large coin at the Royal Canadian MintThe Royal Canadian Mint
It’s totally worth the price ($6 for adults, $3 for kids 5 to 17) to tour the surprisingly fascinating Royal Canadian Mint. Housed in a gleaming 110-foot glass tower, and surrounded by the flags of 75 countries whose money is minted inside, the Mint produces more than 55 billion coins for Canada and the world. See how massive strips of metal meet 50-ton presses to produce more than 1,000 coins per second. Find out your weight in gold, platinum or other precious metals, and buy a “blank” and watch as a machine stamps it into a nifty keepsake. A must for coin collectors, the Mint holds the attention best of kids 8 and up. My family never looked at the modest quarter the same way again, and yours won’t either.

Fishing for Monster Catfish
A young girl stands with a fishing guide on a boat as he holds a large catfishEach member of our family can now proudly say we are master anglers, thanks to Todd Longley, the long-haired, tattooed, “rock n’ roll fishing guide,” who showed us a good time on the Red River just outside of Winnipeg. Fabled for its monster cats, the Red River teems with the hefty “beauties,” but you still have to know where to find them. Thankfully, our guide is a Catfish Whisperer, not to mention hilarious company and great with kids. We each caught two master angler catfish (34 inches or more in size), with our 9-year-old daughter hauling in (with help) a whopping 37-inch catfish. A four-hour tour costs around $400 for a family.

Journey to Churchill at Assiniboine Park Zoo
A white polar bear swims near a rock in the tank at the Assiniboine Park ZooChurchill, Manitoba, is the “Polar Bear Capitol of the World,” and a 48-hour train-ride from Winnipeg. Thankfully, you can skip the trip to the arctic and see the next best thing: the Journey to Churchill exhibit at Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo. At the exhibit, which opened in the summer of 2014, rocks, tundra wildflowers and scrubby bushes mimic the subarctic habitat that flourishes in Churchill. The “landscaping” is decidedly legit, which adds authenticity to the largest and most comprehensive arctic life zoo exhibit in the world. Not only did we gape in awe at Kaska and Aurora, the two young polar bear pals who splashed and frolicked for 45 minutes in the underwater viewing tunnels, but we also learned about ways we can help save these magnificent bears from extinction. Arctic seals, foxes, hares and wolves are fun to watch, too, but the roly-poly polar girls stole the show and our hearts. Zoo admission is $18.50 for adults; $14.81 for youth, 13 to 17; and $10 for children 3 to 12; kids 2 and under are free.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights
Exterior view of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights at nightIt’s safe to say there is nothing like the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), which opened in September 2014. First, there’s the architecture. An iconic glass “cloud” envelopes the building, evoking dove wings, and luminous ramps of alabaster zigzag up to the Tower of Hope. The design sets world standards for universal accessibility, surpassing the Smithsonian. Second, there’s the concept. This is the only museum in the world entirely devoted to exploring human rights as an idea. Can families wrap their minds around such a lofty notion? Absolutely. The CMHR invites children to participate in the conversation about erasing barriers for all. Exhibits explore women’s rights, labor rights, children’s rights, disability rights, racism and the struggles of various ethnic groups. We were blown away by the building, storytelling, immersive multimedia and digital interaction. More importantly, the ideas expressed, like peace, justice, and lasting change, made a deep impression. Adult admission is $15; youth ages 7 to 17 are $8; and a family with two adults and up to four children is $42.

– Lorilee Craker

A Fall Afternoon With Kids at Wave Hill

October 19th, 2014

Kids play in leaves at Wave HillIf you live in or near New York City and want to get away from the craziness of everyday life, head to Wave Hill — a botanical garden and nature center in Riverdale, New York. It’s absolutely gorgeous in the fall, with views of colorful foliage, the Hudson River and New Jersey Palisades in the background.

The park hosts 28 acres of gardens and hills, and it’s truly a magical way to spend an afternoon with the kids. They can explore flowers and plants in the greenhouse, run through open greenery, join projects in the classroom especially created for them, have a picnic or just sit peacefully gazing out at the view.

The really cool thing about Wave Hill is that visitors are invited to explore every inch of the park. When my family visited, we sat on lounge chairs and gazed out at the river, walked through the green house, roamed the garden and observed the most exotic flowers.

Wave Hill has a lot of programming to offer families, free with admission to the park. They have art projects for kids every weekend that revolve around nature. Art and history are woven into the educational experience in ways that reflect the unique nature of Wave Hill as both a public garden and cultural center. Kids will learn how to make plant jewelry, fairy wands and tiny houses, cornhusk dolls and more. They also offer an interesting assortment of activities such as history walks and concerts overlooking the river. Guided tours of the gardens and art exhibitions are offered, too, and are suitable for both adults and children.

Wave Hill is open Tuesday through Sunday, year-round. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. March 15 through October 31, and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. November 1 through March 14. Admission is free to members and children under 6; $8 for adult; $4 students and seniors 65 and older; and $2 for children 6 and older. Target’s sponsorship makes it possible for Wave Hill to offer free admission every Tuesday and Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to noon year-round, too. Parking is $8 per car.

– Holly Fink

Holly Rosen Fink is a mother, marketing consultant, writer and blogger for a number of sites, as well as her own, The Holly Chronicles.

Top Dog Weekend Package in Vermont

October 18th, 2014

Exterior view of The Essex, Vermont's Culinary Resort & SpaLeaving your pet behind while going away for a family vacation can be heart wrenching. Rather than worry about your puppy this fall, bring them along for a truly relaxing trip that the entire family can enjoy. The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa is hosting a Top Dog Weekend event and is offering its R & Arf Package for families with dogs who want to give their four-legged friend a chance to relax, too.

Top Dog Weekend will be held Friday, Nov. 7 to Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014, and aims to bring owners and furry friends closer together. The weekend package includes a two-night stay in a Traditional room, a dog treat cooking class on Saturday morning, an afternoon self-guided walk and off-leash play time at the Mills Riverside Park and passes to the Indian Brook Reservoir for a self-guided hike. Plus, guests receive room service one evening (for the dog, too!) and a custom dog toy and bowl to take home. Package rates start from $499 and include all taxes and fees.

After all of the fun with Fido, be sure to enjoy the plethora of onsite activities, like golf, tennis, biking (rentals available), indoor pool, hiking trails, adventure course (with zip lines and rock climbing!), hot air ballooning, bonfires (think S’mores!) and more. And that’s all without leaving the resort!

For more information, see our review of The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa. And to book, visit the resort’s website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz