Archive for the ‘Family-Friendly Destinations’ category

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

6th Annual Halloween Spook-tacular in Myrtle Beach

October 15th, 2014

Kids and adults sit on the pool deck of the Dunes Village Resort and watch a magic showThe Dunes Village Resort is on our list of Family Favorite Hotels and it’s really no wonder. The Myrtle Beach resort offers a plethora of activities and comfortable accommodations for families – including its annual Halloween Spook-tacular event in October. Join the party next week on Saturday, October 25, and let the kids tie-dye t-shirts, wear costumes, play carnival games and more around the resort and its indoor water park. Here’s this year’s itinerary:

Mummy Wrap Contest – 10 a.m.
Head to the Palmetto Water Park and see who can become a mummy the fastest. Then break free of the wraps and head for the waterslides.

Tie-Dye T-Shirts – 11 a.m.
Make a tie-dye t-shirt and bring it home as a souvenir or wear it as your costume for the rest of the day (hippies anyone?). The artsy activity will take place at the Palmetto Water Park.

Pick & Decorate a Pumpkin – 12:30 p.m.
Help the kids pick out their own pumpkin on the Palms Lawn and then let them decorate it with their own personal style in the Palmetto Water Park. Bring them home as souvenirs, too. ($5 fee applies)

Personalize Your Trick-or-Treat Bag – 2 p.m.
Before filling them with candy, kids can decorate their own trick-or-treat bags. Get creative with this activity in the Palmetto Water Park. ($2 fee applies)

Magic Show – 4 p.m.
Dress up in your best Halloween costume and see magic done right before your eyes on the Palms Pool Deck.

Party Activities – 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The fun really starts in the evening with trick or treating, carnival games and refreshments. The costume contest takes place at 7 p.m. and is divided into age groups so that all can participate. Be sure to stick around for the Monster Bash Glow Party on the Palmetto Indoor Putting Green at 8 p.m. Glow items will be for sale so all can light up the night!

Hotel Package Deal
If your family really wants to make the most of the Dunes Village Resort’s Halloween event, book the Crowds Are Gone package. Enjoy up to 20 percent off all one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom condos, or book a hotel guestroom for a little as just $79 per night. Offer valid now through Nov. 21, 2014.

For more information on the Halloween Spook-tacular event and for reservations, visit the Dunes Village Resort’s website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

New Interactive Bat Exhibit at the Orlando Science Center

October 14th, 2014

The bat exhibit at the Orlando Science Center gets kids up-close and personal with the speciesThis month, the Orlando Science Center welcomed a new species into their home. Just in time for Halloween, the newest traveling, interactive exhibit “Bats: Myths and Mysteries” brought bats from around the world into the center. Guests can get up-close and personal looks into the lives of the little creatures of the night.

Now through January 4, 2015, kids and adults alike can participate in activities that will educate them on the lives of bats. Experience hearing like a bat with sensitive, giant bat ears; try to match bats to their preferred foods; and see if you can spot bats in a variety of habitats. The exhibit includes bats from Egypt, North America, Africa and South Africa, all of which look and act differently. Plus, kids can watch the feeding of the bats at 11 a.m. daily before really learning about the species at the 1 p.m. enrichment class.

The exhibit and bat activities are available to guests daily between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. (closed Wednesdays) and are included in admission to the Orlando Science Center. Admission to the center is $19 for adults and kids 12 and older, and $14 for children ages 3 to 11; children 2 and under are free.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz