Archive for the ‘U.S. Travel’ category

Five Last-Minute Labor Day Events for Families

September 1st, 2014

A young boy and young girl sitting in front of an American flagIf you didn’t make plans in honor of Labor Day, then you’re in luck! We’ve found a few great last-minute events across the U.S. for you and the kids to attend in celebration of the last weekend of summer.

Bucks County, Pa.
If you’re not already invited to a Labor Day barbecue, head to Sesame Place in Bucks County, Pa., for a special kid-friendly cookout! Make your reservation now for the 5 p.m. BBQ with all of your kids’ favorite Sesame Street characters. Enjoy a fun-filled day in the park and then head to dinner ay Big Bird’s Riverside Pavilion, with music, activities and fireworks. Prices start from $27 for all guests 10 and older, and from $17 for children between 2 and 9; kids under 2 are free. Park admission is also required. For more information, visit the Sesame Place website.

San Diego
The U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge has been going on all weekend long in San Diego and today is the last day! If you haven’t already visited the amazing sand art, then head there today. Sculptors come from around the world for this annual competition. Enjoy live music, dancers, circus performers, magicians and other kid-friendly activities. All events and activities begin at 9 a.m. at the B Street Pier and admission is affordable at $10 per adult and $7 per child. For more information, visit the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge website.

Asbury Park, N.J.
Head to Asbury Park, N.J., along the Jersey Shore, for a day of live music and food at the Labor Day BBQ, hosted by the Boys and Girls Club of Monmouth County and The Passion Group. Entertainment, games, rides, food and more will be going on all afternoon, from noon to 6 p.m., at Bradley Park, right across from the historic Asbury Park Convention Center. Plus, stay for the fireworks spectacular over the water at 9 p.m. Admission is just $5 and children under 12 are free. For more information, see the event listing here.

Fort Worth, Texas
Enjoy an educational and fun-filled day outdoors with the animals of the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge today. The center is hosting four animal meet and greets today at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., where visitors can learn about the animal ambassadors and their natural history. A few of the animals that you and your family might see include alligators, snakes, birds and butterflies. Enjoy hiking one of the center’s many trails before or after the meet and greet, too. The event is on a first-come, first-served basis, and is free for guests with general admission to the center. Admission is $5 for adults and kids 13 and older, and $2 for children between 3 and 12; kids 2 and under are free. For more information, visit the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge website.

Tampa, Fla.
If you live in or are visiting the Tampa area today, head to the neighboring town of Brandon, Fla., for the Labor Day Picnic and Bluegrass Festival. Enjoy live music from two different bluegrass bands, plus affordable drinks and food all day long. A bounce house, arts and crafts, games and more are available for kids, too. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Brandon Elks Lodge and admission is free for everyone! For more information, see the event listing here.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Four Fun Ferry Rides for Families

August 31st, 2014

Lake Express Ferry crosses Lake MichiganWhile on my way from Stone Harbor, N.J., to Chincoteague Island, Va., this past July, my boyfriend and I decided to take the route that allowed us a break from driving. We crossed the Delaware Bay on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry and enjoyed the experience so much. Families with children lined the outside deck and pets were allowed onboard, as well. A snack bar kept everyone full during the 90-minute ride and parents could even order a cocktail at the (affordable) bar. It was a great break from driving and it offered scenic views that were definitely picture-worthy. Here are four other family-friendly ferries to ride with your kids during your travels this fall.

Lake Champlain’s Scenic Crossing
Board the ferry in Burlington, V.T., or Port Kent, N.Y., and take the 10-mile trip across Lake Champlain, complete with scenic views of the surrounding mountains and fall foliage. The ferry has a gift shop with souvenirs, T-shirts, sweatshirts and more for both Vermont and New York, as well as a snack bar with hot and cold drinks. The trip will take approximately one hour and vehicles are permitted (fee). Ferries run daily and passenger prices are $8 for adults and $3.10 for children between 6 and 12; kids under 6 ride for free. For more information, visit the Lake Champlain Ferries website.

Hyannis to Nantucket Ferry
If you’re exploring New England this fall, take the ferry from Hyannis to Nantucket, or vice versa, and take in the views of fall foliage, lighthouses and more with your family. Choose from Hy-Line Cruises or Steamship Authority ferry rides, both of which operate from the same port, but only the latter offers transportation for vehicles. Both have onboard refreshments and souvenirs. Special packages are offered where children can ride for free and the ferries often host special events or themed-cruises across the water, such as a Sunday Ice Cream Float, where passengers can build their own Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sundaes! Rates vary for Hy-Line Cruises and Steamship Authority. The traditional ferry ride from Hyannis to Nantucket takes a little more than two hours one way, with the high-speed ferry rides lasting about one hour. For more information, visit the Hyannis to Nantucket Ferry website.

San Francisco Bay Ferry
If you’re visiting San Francisco this fall, hop on a ferry across the bay for a fun trip to another area of the state. The Ferry goes to eight different places along the bay, including Vallejo, Angel Island, Pier 41, Oakland, AT&T Park, Alameda, Harbor Bay and South San Francisco. Passengers can grab a bite to eat or a drink at the onboard bar and snack shop and can relax while cruising the bay in style. Bicycles are allowed, but cars are not. Rates start from $6.25 for adults and $3.50 for children 5 to 12; kids under 5 are free when accompanied by an adult. Trip lengths range from just 10 minutes (Alameda to Oakland) to one hour (San Francisco Ferry Building to Vallejo). For more information visit the San Francisco Bay Ferry website.

Lake Express – Lake Michigan High-Speed Ferry
Make the trip from Milwaukee to Muskegon across Lake Michigan on the Lake Express Ferry. Families are welcome and the ferry offers spacious seating, snacks and drinks, and free wireless Internet. Take in the views of Lake Michigan during the 2.5-hour trip and take a break from driving – vehicles are allowed onboard (fee). Passenger rates start from $139 for adults, round-trip, and from $44 for children between 5 and 17, round-trip; kids 4 and under are free. For more information, visit the Lake Express website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

14th Annual Library of Congress National Book Festival for Families

August 30th, 2014

The 2014 Library of Congress National Book Festival logoThis weekend the U.S. is observing a national holiday – Labor Day – but families can celebrate something else today, too. The 14th Annual Library of Congress National Book Festival celebrates favorite authors and titles from every genre. From poetry to young adult novels to non-fiction, families of all ages are invited to meet authors and listen to new stories that have yet to be read.

This year’s festival begins at 10 a.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. More than 100 authors will be stationed around the center at various pavilions devoted to the individual genres. The Library of Congress will also have a pavilion where guests can get a behind-the-scenes look at how the department works to distribute resources to people all over the country. A Pavilion of States is another must-see area and families can learn of the various literary traditions of the 50 states and territories. Kids can even pick up an interactive map where they’ll get a sticker every time they visit a different state or territory’s table (see if you can get all 52!). Pavilions will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Evening events, such as a poetry slam and author panel, will also take place, beginning at 6 p.m.

Let’s Read America is where every family will want to take the kids. The Washington Post will host a bookmark-making station and the newspaper’s mascot, Ned the Newshound, will be available for photo-ops between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Right next to the Let’s Read America exhibit is the PBS Explorer Zone, with even more fun activities for children. Meet the characters of The Cat in the Hat, Curious George and other classics; spin the PBS Kids Wheel for a chance to win a prize; and create your own puppet show.

The 14th Annual Library of Congress National Book Festival begins at 10 a.m. today, with doors opening at 9 a.m. Admission is free and food and drinks will be for sale; no outside refreshments are allowed into the venue. For a full schedule and more information on today’s event, visit the Library of Congress website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Labor Day Weekend Fun for Families

August 29th, 2014

Two young boys hold sparklers in front of American flagLabor Day is Monday, September 1 this year and that means we should start celebrating the American labor movement today! Kick off the last official weekend of summer with one of these fun family events in one of these six major cities across the U.S.

Philadelphia has so much American history for families to explore. While visiting the city this weekend, watch a free movie, take a train ride or check out the fireworks display.

Friday, Aug. 29, 2014
Free family movie in Hawthorne Park at 7 p.m. with activities for kids beforehand.

Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014
Fireworks at Longwood Gardens at 8:15 p.m.

Saturday to Monday, Aug. 30 to Sept. 1, 2014
Franklin Square family activities from noon to 3 p.m., including carousel rides, mini-golf, food, drinks, and more, plus rides on Lightning Bolt Express Train.

If you’re in the southeast this weekend, head to Atlanta for two family-friendly festivals.

Friday to Sunday, Aug. 29-31, 2014
Callaway Gardens Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival at Pine Mountain from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with live music, a Kids Zone, car show and more.

Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014
Annual Labor Day Weekend Catfish Festival in Kingsland, Ga., from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a parade, arts and crafts, a children’s amusement area and more.

Check out a circus in a park or fireworks over the pier in Chicago this weekend with your family.

Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014
Fireworks over Navy Pier at 10:15 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 30-31, 2014
Circus in the Park at Grand Crossing Park at 2 p.m. daily, with proceeds benefitting the upkeep and improvement of the park.

Los Angeles
Enjoy Labor Day in southern California this weekend, with parades and fairs for families in Los Angeles.

Friday to Monday, Aug. 29 to Sept. 1, 2014
Los Angeles County Fair at the Fairplex in Pamona, with rides, music, livestock, food and more, beginning at noon on Friday and at 10 a.m. on all other days.

Monday, Sept. 1, 2014
The LA/Long Beach Labor Coalition Labor Day Parade at 10 a.m. from Broad Street to Banning Park in Wimington, with food, music and more at the park.

Celebrate Labor Day in Seattle with free movies and a delicious festival.

Friday, Aug. 29, 2014
Free outdoor showing of “Frozen” in Tacoma at 5 p.m. at Stewart Heights Park.

Saturday to Monday, Aug. 30 to Sept. 1, 2014
25th Annual Blackberry Festival at Bremerton Boardwalk, beginning at 10 a.m. daily, with music, food, drinks and fun.

Boston will be full of patriotism this Labor Day weekend with an arts festival and fireworks.

Saturday, Aug. 30-31, 2014
The Boston Arts Festival at Christopher Columbus Park, beginning at noon daily, with live music, art and sculpture displays, refreshments and more.

Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014
Fireworks over Boston Harbor at 9 p.m., with spectacular views from every spot along the waterfront.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

A Visit to Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Vermont with the Kids

August 25th, 2014

Two boys peek through the Ben and Jerry's Factory sign in VermontOn a recent visit to Vermont, we were excited to find out we were staying just a few miles from the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury, V.T. I’m a long time fan of the ice-cream company myself, having grown up watching their business expand while devouring their awesome flavors. I also have a tremendous amount of respect for their involvement in local and global issues. I was not only eager to learn about their humble beginnings but I was anxious to see the factory. My kids were equally curious and eager to taste a few flavors, so it was indeed a “family-approved” fieldtrip.

The factory offers 30-minute guided tours led by fun people who truly love working for Ben and Jerry. We happened to be given a tour on Pajama Day, so our guide was decked out in her favorite PJ’s. We learned that Ben and Jerry met when they were both kids in gym class. They started the business after taking a $5 course in the 1970’s on Long Island and moved to Vermont to open their first scoop shop in a renovated gas station. They have created hundreds of flavors, many of which no longer exist and are given homage to in the factory’s “Flavor Graveyard.” It’s an actual graveyard with headstones dedicated to their long gone flavors with engraved poetry saluting their legacies. We were given a sample during the tour of their Strawberry Cheesecake flavor and naturally stopped for scoops in their scoop shop at the end of the tour.

The factory itself is really something to see and my kids really learned about the ice cream manufacturing experience. We saw where the milk and cream are pumped and stored and how the mix is made in a 100-gallon stainless steel mega-blender, adding sugar, egg yolks, cocoa powder and natural stabilizers. The completed batch is taken to the surge tank where the mix is stored until pasteurization begins. Then it enters the homogenizer before being pumped over to the Tank Room (a 36-degree (F) room with six 5000-gallon storage tanks). Who knew there was so much involved in getting a scoop of ice cream made?

Our guide explained that in 2000, Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever, but Ben and Jerry remain advisors. They still buy milk from Vermont dairy farmers who aren’t allowed to use any growth hormones on their cows. They also still contribute more than $1 million annually to employee-led Community Action Teams and their Ben & Jerry’s Foundation. I liked having my kids find out about successful people who help people with their money. It was both an educational and inspiring day, topped with a scoop of Chunky Monkey (my favorite flavor)!

The factory tour is affordable at just $4 per adult, $3 per child, with kids 12 and under free. They also have a tour package for $20 that includes a T-shirt with factory tour admission. The factory is open year-round, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, with extended hours June through October.

– 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.

Four Family Hotel Packages in Honor of National Grandparents Day

August 24th, 2014

Grandparents and grandchildren pose for a picture together at homeNational Grandparents Day is September 7 — just two weeks away! — and hotels around the United States want to honor our wise relatives with special hotel packages. Pack up the entire family and take a multigenerational vacation during the month of September as a way of saying thank you to Grandma and Grandpa.

Fairfield Inn Anaheim Disneyland Resort
The Create Magical Moments with Grandparents and Kids at Disneyland Package at the Fairfield Inn Anaheim Disneyland Resort will allow the whole family to have fun. Package includes a $25 Disney gift card, daily parking for one vehicle and Disney’s Magic Morning admission for one day. The Disney’s Magic Morning experience allows guests to enter Disneyland early and interact with their favorite characters before it opens to the public. Rates start from $194 per night. Offer valid for stays of three or more nights, now through Sept. 30, 2014. Use promo code THM when making your reservation.

KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort
Celebrate your grandparents at the KeyLime Cove Indoor WaterPark Resort this September with a special rate all month long! The Gurnee, Ill., resort’s special rate includes overnight accommodations, admission to the Lost Paradise Indoor Waterpark, a 15 percent discount on food and beverages during your visit and daily “fun-tivities” at Leapin’ Lizards. Rates start from $110 per night. Offer valid now through Sept. 30, 2014.

Nickelodeon Suites Resort
Book the Grandparent Package at the Nickelodeon Suites Resort in Orlando this September and celebrate with special amenities and more. Package includes one coffee mug with unlimited refills, discounts at Cravings on specialty beverages, 15 percent off accommodations, 10 percent off cabana rentals, 10 percent off food, drinks, snacks and other items at the onsite store, 10 percent off all 4D experiences and $50 off the Ultimate SLIME Experience. Rates start from $102 per night. Offer valid for stays Sept. 1 through Sept. 30, 2014. Use promo code GRAND when making your reservation.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort
Stay connected with the grandparents at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort with the Grandparents and Families Connect Package in honor of National Grandparents Day. Package includes 50 percent off a connecting room when booking one guestroom at the standard price. Plus, when your family stays at this resort, they receive special Disney benefits, like early entry to each of the Walt Disney World theme parks, complimentary transportation, character dining and more! Rates start from $145 per night for the first standard room, with connecting room rates starting from just $109 per night. Offer valid for stays Sept. 1 through Sept. 30, 2014. Call 888-828-8850 and mention promo code GRPRNT to make your reservation.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz