Archive for the ‘Family-Friendly Destinations’ category

New Things to Do in the Adirondacks With Kids

August 31st, 2015

If you’re planning a fall trip to the Adirondacks region of New York State, two new attractions should be on your itinerary. Of course, it depends on where you’re actually going to be in this vast region, since the Adirondacks covers more than six-million acres. With some strategic planning, we were able to fit both of these in on a recent visit.

Wild Walk at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, N.Y.

Wild Walk at the Wild Center
The Wild Center, a nature museum in Tupper Lake, New York, opened a new attraction this summer called the Wild Walk. This outdoor network of elevated boardwalks, bridges, and platforms connects a 40-foot tall tree trunk with a bear’s den exhibit and several amazingly creative stations. You can stand in a life-size Bald Eagle’s nest as you peer over at nearby mountain ranges, or bounce across the giant spider’s web made of bungee cord that’s suspended 25 feet above the ground. My daughter especially loved the bird-watching lookout points.

After you’ve tried the Wild Walk and explored the butterfly gardens and outdoor trails on the property, head inside to the interactive exhibits and animal habitats, such as the Otter Falls and Trout Stream. In the Planet Adirondack theater, my daughter was mesmerized by the floating globe, and spent a lot of time in the Moments Studio working on a water color creation.

Fort Ticonderoga

Seasonal Corn Maze at Fort Ticonderoga
Fort Ticonderoga is an 18th-century military installation overlooking Lake Champlain that was once controlled by both French and British forces. Today, you can tour the restored fortification, museum exhibitions, Carillon Battlefield, and King’s Garden. What makes it especially fun for kids are the costumed interpreters, who demonstrate historic trades, display and shoot old artillery, and perform fife and drum corps marches. There’s a Family Guided Tour twice daily that provides an overview, gives families a chance to work together to complete tasks as they explore, and rewards kids for helping the soldiers with their daily duties.

The Heroic Corn Maze is an additional seasonal attraction that you can enjoy through late October at no additional fee. The 6-acre corn maze, located near the King’s Garden, runs a total of two winding miles and is designed in the shape of Fort Ticonderoga. There are eight stations to visit and two phases, with the average journey taking about 20 minutes for the first phase, and up to an hour for the second phase.

— 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.

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Loveland’s Benson Park Sculpture Garden

August 28th, 2015

Most families only visit Loveland, Colorado, because the town is the last stop on Highway 34 before you reach the gorgeous Rocky Mountain National Park, just 30 miles away. But if you’re heading into the national park, or simply driving through Colorado on Interstate 25, Loveland makes for an interesting stop along the way — if for no other reason than to see the statues. Loveland has hundreds of them!

Benson Park Sculpture Garden in Loveland, Colorado

There are over 300 pieces of public art, mostly sculptures, spread all over town, in front of city buildings, dentists’ offices, schools, and private homes. You can drive around town, playing a game of “spot the statues,” which might be fun for your passengers, but not for the driver. Instead, you should go directly to where the bulk of the artwork is on permanent display, at the Benson Park Sculpture Garden.

The 10-acre park is a dazzling site, with 148 sculptures of all shapes and sizes placed around three large ponds. When I first took my kids there, their initial response upon exiting the car was, “Oh no, do we have to walk?” But once they spied their first statue, a boy playing marbles with a dinosaur, they were immediately hooked. Aching feet were completely forgotten as they discovered new surprises around every corner.

My kids found life-size alligators, gigantic rabbits, dancing fairies, abstract swirls, and proud Native Americans — all on display in beautifully crafted sculptures that will have you wishing your town could pull off the same artistic miracle as Loveland. Have your camera ready for memorable poses of your kids with the various sculptures. They’ll plead with you to take a picture of them with every strange and whimsical creature they see!

Benson Park is located at the corner of 29th and Beech in central Loveland, a quiet, residential area that enhances the peaceful nature of the place. On the spring day we were there, it was practically free of people and it felt like we had the park to ourselves.

This is a city park, and is absolutely free to visit. There are picnic tables, benches, bathrooms, and drinking fountains, so don’t worry how long you stay. We were surprised to find two hours go by in a flash. And, still, the kids wanted to make another round of the park trails to see every statue a second time.
Granted, we were not in any kind of hurry; Loveland was an overnight stop for us on our way through the state. I highly recommend the new Holiday Inn Express just off I-25, which features the usual indoor pool but with a kid-pleasing, giant red waterslide.

Colorado is an amazing state with majestic mountains and stunning scenic vistas. It’s easy to overlook the little things, but next time you’re traveling through the area, you’ll find it well worth your time to add Benson Park Sculpture Garden to your list of places to see.

— Phil Corless

Phil Corless is an at-home dad of two living in the Pacific Northwest. Since 2004, he has been writing about fatherhood and family at the Idaho Dad blog. He believes the best way for kids to learn about the world is to travel through it.

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11 Upcoming Sesame Place Events

August 21st, 2015

Haven’t made it to Sesame Place yet this summer? Plan a visit in the fall or winter, when the one-of-a-kind park — which turned 35 this year — will offer more themed events for families. Note: The park will be open on weekends only, September through to December, plus Dec. 28, 29, 30 and 31.

Elmo and Friends Perform in Spooktacular Concert at Sesame Place

Back to School Bash
Aug. 29-30, 2015
School may be starting soon, but families can finish the summer off in style at the Back to School Bash on Aug. 29 and 30, 2015. The Bash includes singing and dancing with characters, plus one meal per person. Reservations are required. Party times are 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $29 for kids and adults ages 10 and older, $18 for children ages 2 to 9, and free for tots ages 23 months and younger. Park admission is not included and is required.

Labor Day BBQ
Sept. 5-6, 2015
Celebrate Labor Day with a BBQ and all your favorite Sesame Street characters on Sept. 5 and 6, 2015. The BBQ includes food and fireworks. Reservations are required. The BBQ is at 5 p.m. on both days. Tickets are $29 for kids and adults ages 10 and older, $18 for children ages 2 to 9, and free for tots ages 23 months and younger. Park admission is not included and is required.

Labor Day Weekend Fireworks
Sept. 5-6, 2015
Who doesn’t love fireworks? Visit Sesame Place on Sept. 5 and 6, 2015, for a fireworks display each night beginning at 8:25 p.m. Kids will enjoy the bright colors while dancing with their favorite characters. The fireworks are free with park admission, but for an even more fun time, families can purchase the all new Fireworks Grab Bags. Grab Bags include two souvenir cups filled with the beverage of your choice, one souvenir popcorn bucket filled with popcorn, two fiber optic glow wands and one souvenir tote bag. Fireworks Grab Bags are $25 each.

The Count’s Halloween Spooktacular
Weekends, Sept. 26 through Nov 1, 2015
Halloween isn’t scary at Sesame Place — it’s silly! The Count’s Halloween Spooktacular runs from Sept. 26 through Nov. 1, 2015, and includes special events and performances like Elmo The Musical Live!, Who Said Boo?!, the Not-Too-Scary Road Show and the Neighborhood Street Party. All events and performances are included with park admission.

Zoe’s Monster Mash Dance Party
Sept. 26-27, 2015
Zoe’s birthday is a time for fun and with her Monster Mash Dance Party, families can move and groove with their favorite character. Zoe’s party is on Sept. 26 and 27, 2015, and includes singing, dancing and an all-you-can-eat buffet. Reservations are required. Party times are at noon and 5 p.m. each day. Tickets are $29 for kids and adults ages 10 and older, $18 for children ages 2 to 9, and free for tots ages 23 months and younger. Park admission is not included and is required.

The Count’s Batty Birthday Bash
Oct. 3-4, 2015
Reservations are required for those who want to attend The Count’s exclusive birthday party, which includes singing, dancing and a buffet. Tickets are $29 for those ages 10 and up, $18 for ages 2 to 9 and free for children under 23 months. Regular park admission is required; party times are at noon and 5 p.m.

Grover’s Not-So-Spooky Birthday Bash
Oct. 10-11, 2015
If you miss The Count’s birthday, visit Sesame Place the following weekend for Grover’s special day (and don’t forget to wish The Count a happy belated birthday). Grover’s birthday also includes a meal, plus singing and dancing, with the exact same rates. Celebrations take place at 12 and 5 p.m.; reservations are required, as is regular park admission.

Monster Mayhem Dine
Oct. 17-18, 2015
Prepare to do the Monster Mash with your favorite characters and enjoy a delicious buffet afterward. You can make a reservation for 12 or 5 p.m. Rates are the same as those for the birthday celebrations — $29 for adults, $18 for kids ages 2 to 9 and free for little ones under 23 months. Park admission is required.

Elmo’s Silly Bones Spooktacular Dine
Oct. 24-25, 2015
This is your chance to dine with the one and only Elmo! Wear your costume — you’ll have an opportunity to get your picture taken with Elmo (who will be wearing a costume, too). Dining experiences are offered at 12 and 5 p.m. both days and require park admission, plus additional rates of $29 for adults and $18 for kids ages 2 to 9.

The Count’s Halloween Party
Oct. 31 to Nov. 1, 2015
Wear your costume for the ultimate Halloween event at Sesame Place: The Count’s Halloween Party. The special event includes dancing, singing and a meal. The event takes place at 12 and 5 p.m., and costs $29 per adult and $18 per child age 2 to 9. Park admission is required.

A Very Furry Christmas
Weekends, Nov. 21-Dec. 27; Dec. 28, 29, 30 & 31, 2015
At Christmastime, Sesame Place is transformed into a winter wonderland, with lights, decorations, and themed shows to put families in the holiday spirit. Kids can visit the rides at Cookie’s Monster Land before visiting Santa in the Furry Workshop. All the fun is included in standard park admission.

Looking for a place to stay when you visit? See our picks for the 10 Best Sesame Place Hotels for Families.

–Hilarey Wojtowicz

6 Things to Do in Austin With Kids

August 19th, 2015

Austin, the state capital of Texas, is a really cool and proudly weird city. The official city motto, “Keep Austin Weird,” perfectly sums it up. Consider a visit to these fun and funky attractions for families.

Lemonade Stand in Austin

The Cathedral of Junk
Once upon a time in 1988, Vince Hanneman decided to build a clubhouse in his backyard — unlike any clubhouse anyone had ever seen! This clubhouse contains 60 to 100 tons worth of stuff. It has bicycle wheels, car bumpers, ladders, and everything you can imagine (and some you can’t). It has changed over the years as the creator’s taste has changed, and it serves as proof that art comes in all forms. After the shock of seeing this fantastic creation wears off, try a scavenger hunt! Look for skis, phones, Barbies, Maggie Simpson, a horseshoe, helmet, iron, snowman, rocking horse, crutches, set of 4 matching tea cups and more. Add anything to your scavenger hunt list.

This amazing artistic creation is in the backyard of a private home, so you must call (512-299-7413) to make sure Vince will be there to show you around. The cost is $10 per group.

Bat Conservation International
Hidden from view under the Congress Avenue Bridge is the largest urban colony of Mexican free-tail bats in the world. The 1.5-million winged mammals migrate here each year in the spring and fly out each evening to eat up to 10 tons of insects per night. The best time to see them is late summer when their babies go flying, too. The black cloud zooming out from under the bridge is something amazing to see!

South Congress Street
Only in Austin could a regular street be so much fun. There is so much to see and do in just a few blocks! Window Shop in the store Uncommon Goods — kiddos and adults alike find this store amazing. It has just a little bit of everything. Give each person a mission: Vote for your idea of the weirdest thing there and then take a photo next to it. What will you choose?

Visit a food truck, and be sure to stop at the lemonade stand that is shaped like — what else — a lemon! Be sure to visit The Big Top Candy Shop, too. You haven’t visited a candy store until you see this one. Not only is the decor fascinating, but the variety of candy is awe-inspiring. They have real soda jerks, too, that make a huge list of sodas.

The Thinkery
Austin’s amazing children’s museum, The Thinkery, is a fun way for the kiddos to learn and explore using math, art, and science skills. Use computers to manipulate and display your photo. Build a foam plane and see how it flies in the wind lab. Paint with wax using magnets to make the wax flow. Prepare to spend half a day at this educational, hands-on museum, and plan ahead. Only a certain number of tickets are sold each day and while there are a few walk-up tickets available, we wouldn’t chance it.

Lake Travis Zipline Adventures
If your idea of fun leans towards an adrenaline rush, you need to see Texas’ longest zip line! Lake Travis Zipline Adventures has a 3-hour adventure that zips you five times all the while enjoying views of the Texas Hill Country and Lake Travis. The very last zip line experience is 20 stories high and takes you 2,400 feet over Lake Travis. This is an experience you can’t match anywhere else because “everything is bigger in Texas!”

Mt. Playmore
Mt. Playmore boasts 3,000 square feet of indoor jungle gym fun. Think climbing tubes like the ones at McDonalds or Burger King, but on a much grander scale than you can imagine. It has to be the cleanest one around, too, as it is sprayed down with a hospital grade germ killer regularly. Climb with the kids or sit nearby to relax and watch the fun.

For more ideas for things to do in Austin, plus hotel and restaurant recommendations, visit Austin Family Vacations.

–Natalie Tanner, The Educational Tourist

Natalie Tanner, The Educational Tourist, has hundreds of thousands of miles under her belt — business trips with her geologist husband to places like Scottsdale, Jackson Hole, New York and Denver — and family adventures to far-flung destinations like Rome, Paris, Tangier, and Istanbul. When she isn’t traveling, The Educational Tourist stays busy planning the next adventure while being mom to two kids, three dogs, Sushi the fisand a hamster. Follow her adventures at The Educational Tourist.