Archive for the ‘U.S. Travel’ category

Zip-Lining Through the Great Smoky Mountains

May 26th, 2015

For an adventure that will really get the entire family’s adrenaline pumping, visit Foxfire Mountain Adventures in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. The Sevierville park’s new 10 Extreme Adventures package allows families to enjoy a number of zip lines and courses for one all-inclusive price.

Boy zip-lining at Foxfire Mountain Adventures

Home to the tallest zip line in the South, Foxfire Mountain Adventures is an exciting place for families to stop for an afternoon. The 10 Extreme Adventures Package includes access to the Gorilla Climbing Wall, Head Rush Plunge, Rattlesnake Aerial Ropes Course, Lava Ridge Obstacle Course and the Goin’ Bonkers Bounce House, plus five more.

“Other zip line companies offer multiple adventures, but we are the only one in the Smoky Mountains that offers 10 Extreme Adventures in one destination location,” said Stephanie Postlewaite, Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park General Manager in a press release on May 20. “We think our guests will truly love this new theme park experience.”

Foxfire Mountain Adventures new 10 Extreme Adventures Package is $89.95 per person. Minimum ages and weight restrictions may apply.

Start planning your Great Smoky Mountains family vacation now – check out these family-friendly hotels!

— Hilarey Wojtowicz

Summer Fun for Families in Wildwood, N.J.

May 25th, 2015

There’s really no debate as to which boardwalk in New Jersey is the best – it’s the Wildwood boardwalk, of course (it’s on our list of the best beach boardwalks again this year!). Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Water Parks offer rides, slides and fun for all ages. This summer, the area is hosting a plethora of events and activities that families won’t want to miss. Here’s what you can expect this June, July and August in Wildwood, New Jersey.

Wildwood Boardwalk

June

Hereford Inlet Lighthouse Maritime Festival
On Saturday and Sunday, June 20 and 21, 2015, families are invited to the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse Maritime Festival. Admission is free and activities include tours of the historic lighthouse, music, food stands and activities for kids. Event begins at 10 a.m. on both days.

Curley Fry Festival
Sunday, June 21, from noon to 2 p.m., families are invited to the Curley Fry Festival at Surfside Pier. Admission is free, and activities include face painting, stilt walkers, boardwalk food and more.

Morey’s Piers Father’s Day Celebration
On Sunday, June 21, bring dad to Surfside and Mariner’s Piers for family fun. Fathers get free admission to all of the amusement rides all day long. Event runs 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Wildwoods Restaurant Week
Sunday, June 21, through Friday, June 26, Wildwoods Restaurant Week offers families four-course meals at select restaurants for just $30 per person.

North Wildwood Italian-American Festival
Friday, June 26, to Sunday, June 28, celebrate Italian-American heritage with food, music, craft vendors, dancing and children’s games at the North Wildwood Italian-American Festival. Admission is free. The event starts at 4 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. on Sunday.

July

Fourth of July Weekend Boardwalk Craft Show
Friday, July 3, to Sunday, July 5, families can enjoy finding unique pieces for their home at the Fourth of July Weekend Boardwalk Craft Show. The event begins at 9 a.m. each day and is free for all to attend.

Patriotic Pooch Parade
On Saturday, July 4, watch dogs show off their U.S.A. spirit in honor of Independence Day in the parade. Prizes will be awarded for the best-dressed dogs. Parade and participation is free. Check-in starts at 8:15 a.m. and the parade begins at 9 a.m.

N.J. State BBQ Championship & Anglesea Blues Festival
Friday, July 10, to Sunday, July 12, dig into some of the state’s best BBQ while listening to smooth sounds of blues at the N.J. State BBQ Championship and Anglesea Blues Festival. Admission is free. The even begins at 4 p.m. on Friday, and 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Wildwood Crest Sand Sculpting Festival
On Saturday, July 11, families can see amazing sand sculpting while listening to live music right on the beach. Event begins at 9 a.m. and prizes will be awarded to the best sculptures.

N.J. State Crab Festival
Enjoy crabs, crabs and more crabs at the N.J. State Crab Festival on Saturday, July 18. The event begins at 11 a.m. and families will enjoy kids’ activities such as the crab race. Admission is free.

Christmas in July With Santa Claus
Celebrate Christmas in July with Santa Claus on Saturday, July 25. Music, candy canes and more will be available on the beach starting at 1 p.m. Admission is free.

The Wildwoods Baby Waddle
Visit the Wildwoods Convention Center on Tuesday, July 28, for the Wildwoods Baby Waddle. Starting at 10:30 a.m. little ones ages 2 and under will enjoy activities just for them. Register your baby for the waddle contest and win prizes! Registration starts at 9:30 a.m. Admission is free.

August

Around the Island Row
On Tuesday, Aug. 11, watch as families row around the island in boats of every size. Event begins at 7 a.m. and admission is free.

United Way County Rubber Ducky Regatta
Watch as thousands of rubber ducks race in the water at the Raging Waters Waterpark on Morey’s Piers for a good cause on Sunday, Aug. 15. Admission is free and the event begins at 6:30 p.m.

Wildwoods Restaurant Week
The second Wildwoods Restaurant Week runs from Sunday Aug. 23, to Friday, Aug. 28, with four-course meals available for just $30 per person at participating eateries.

Monster Truck Beach Nationals
From Friday, Aug. 28, to Sunday, Aug. 30, families can watch as huge monster trucks take to the beach in the Monster Truck Beach Nationals competition. Races begin at 4 p.m. on Friday, with more races on Saturday and Sunday (times are to be determined). Food and souvenirs will be for sale. Ticket prices will be announced in the summer.

All Summer Long

Downtown Wildwood’s Farmer’s Market
Every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. through Sept. 5, 2015. Admission is free.

Doo Wop Back to the 1950’s Neon Night Tours
Every Tuesday and Thursday through Sept. 3, Doo Wop Back to the 1950’s Neon Night Tours will be offered from the Doo Wop Experience Museum, with guides dressed in old-fashioned clothing, educating guests on the architecture and lifestyle of the decade. Admission is $12 for adults and $6 for kids.

Wildwood Crest Summer Music Series
On select Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays through Sept. 5, families can enjoy free music at the Centennial Park Entertainment Pavilion in Wildwood Crest.

Fireworks on the Beach
Fridays through Sept. 4, families can enjoy a spectacular fireworks show on the beach in Wildwood. And don’t worry, the view is great no matter where you watch!

Plan your summer stay in Wildwood now — check out the area’s family-friendly hotels!

— Hilarey Wojtowicz

Loews Hotels & Resorts Invite Families to “Summer Like a Local”

May 24th, 2015

This year, stay at a Loews Hotel with your family and enjoy native experiences and attractions in your destination. The family-friendly hotel brand is offering a special “Summer Like a Local” package to all guests who want to explore more of the city or area that they are visiting. Here are six of the properties offering the promotion this summer.

Loews Miami Beach Hotel

Loews Miami Beach Hotel
Enjoy Miami’s tropical city and stay at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel in South Beach to enjoy all that it has to offer. Book the Summer Like a Local promotion and enjoy a four-night stay with your fourth night free; one $75 resort credit; free Wi-Fi; one $25 discount at the spa; one 20-percent discount on SOAK cabanas and daybed rentals; free admission for one child to the SoBe Kids Camp or 50 percent off two children for the SoBe Kids Camp; one Summer Like a Local passport; and free meals for children ages 12 and under from the kids’ menu during your stay. Rates start from about $247 per night. Offer valid through Sept. 30, 2015.

Loews Coronado Bay Resort
San Diego has so much for families to discover – don’t miss Balboa Park, which celebrated 100 years in 2015 – and when you book the Summer Like a Local promotion at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort, families will be able to save while seeing more. Package includes two adult tickets to the San Diego Zoo and one $50 breakfast credit daily. Rates start from about $309 per night. Offer valid through Sept. 7, 2015.

Loews Regency San Francisco
Ride the cable cars of San Francisco for free this summer when you book the Summer Like a Local promotion at the Loews Regency San Francisco. Package includes a One-Day Visitor Passport for two to ride the cable cars and breakfast for two guests daily. During your trip, don’t miss seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf. Rates start from about $479 per night. Offer valid through Sept. 7, 2015.

Loews Chicago Hotel
Don’t miss Chicago’s famous “bean” in Millennium Park during your stay in the Windy City this summer. Book the Summer Like a Local promotion at the Loews Chicago Hotel and enjoy two tickets to the Chicago Architectural Boat Tour and breakfast for two at Rural Society per adult, per day. Rates start from about $369 per night. Offer valid through Sept. 30, 2015.

Loews Vanderbilt Hotel
Music City has so much for families to see and do, from shows at the Grand Ole Opry to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Book the Summer Like a Local promotion at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel and enjoy more of what Nashville has to offer. Package includes two tickets to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, one $25 food and beverage credit to use during your stay and complimentary parking for one vehicle for one night. Rates start from about $229 per night. Offer valid through Sept. 7, 2015.

Loews Don CeSar Hotel
St. Petersburg has 22 separate beaches for families to relax and is a year-round destination with warm clear blue waters. Stay at the Loews Don CeSar Hotel and book the Summer Like a Local promotion to enjoy more than just the beach during your family vacation. Package includes breakfast for two in Sea Porch and two tickets for a sunset cruise sailing at Dolphin Landings (maybe leave the kids behind for this part!). Rates start from about $332 per night. Offer valid through Sept. 7, 2015.

— Hilarey Wojtowicz

Branson, Missouri With Kids 10 and Under

May 22nd, 2015

On a recent solo trip to Branson, Missouri, a popular destination for leisure tourists in the Ozark Mountains, I was pleasantly surprised by all of the family-friendly attractions, activities and entertainment. I was told that many people have a misguided assumption that Branson is the “Vegas of the East,” but I soon realized that Branson is overall more wholesome and much less glitzy.

There is enough to fill an entire week in Branson, with sites that appeal to all age ranges. Here’s a re-cap of the highlights for younger children, ages 10 and under:

Fireman's Landing at Silver Dollar City

Silver Dollar City, an 1880’s themed park, has more than 40 thrill rides and attractions, as well as live shows and craft demonstrations. For younger children, the best part is Fireman’s Landing, a new themed area with six rides and four play zones. The theme is based around a firefighter volunteer recruitment fair, and the rides are training adventures for recruits in fire spotting, pole sliding, and height and drop training. Specifically for kids up to age 7, Half Dollar Holler is a separate play area with treetop funhouses and climbing nets, box crawls and slides, mini-wave swings and truckloads of sand, with a hand-carved carousel at its center.

Ride the Ducks tour

You many have seen the Ride the Ducks in other cities like Boston, but here in Branson, these amphibious vehicles offer 90-minute land and water sightseeing tours of Branson and Table Rock Lake or Lake Taneycomo. The vehicles resemble the WWII DUKW military trucks enclosed in a water-tight shell. As you approach the ramp to the water’s edge, the driver picks up speed and plunges in; it’s a thrill! Part of the show are the very charismatic captains; our Captain Smokey led us in songs and passed out “Wacky Quacker” whistles to all the passengers. While we were on the lake, he allowed every kid the chance to drive the slow-moving vehicle around an island. Kids who drive get an honorary captain’s license at the end of the tour.

'IT' Show at the Hughes Brothers Theatre

For more than 50 years, live shows have been a major part of the Branson experience, with performers ranging from singers to comedians to magicians, and even acrobats. While some of the shows are scheduled at night and can run past bedtimes for young kids, the shows themselves are generally appropriate for all ages. A good choice for families is the “IT” show by the Hughes Brothers, since the performers are all part of one family, and their children participate in most of the numbers, which include Broadway, country, patriotic, gospel and rock music. The five Hughes brothers perform with their five wives and all 34 of their children make it out on stage at some point! The oldest teens really show off their talents with drum and violin solos, plus fun dance routines set to mash-ups of current popular hits.

Silver Dollar City's White Water water park

There are many other attractions and shows that I didn’t have time to personally experience, but definitely would if I had the chance to return with my 8-year-old daughter, including the White Water water park, the Butterfly Palace, Branson’s Wild World animal encounter, Branson Scenic Railway rides and the Grand Country Fun Spot. There are also several mini-golf courses around town, with themes like pirates, dinosaurs and outer space.

— 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.