Archive for the ‘U.S. Travel’ category

11 Events at the Children’s Museum of Houston

August 1st, 2015

With hands-on exhibits, educational activities and so much more fun for little ones, children’s museums really are must-visit attractions during any family vacation. If your family is headed to Houston this summer or fall, the city’s children’s museum has a few events that you won’t want to miss.

Children playing at the Children's Museum of Houston

Super Slime
Aug. 8, 2015
Learn how to make and play with slime. It’s green and it glows, too. Kids can take it home as a souvenir. The Super Slime event is from 2 to 5 p.m. and is included with museum admission.

BASF Kids’ Lab
Now through Aug. 10, 2015
Every Monday now through Aug. 10, families can learn about science and world wonders at the BASF Kids’ Lab. Chemistry experiments and demonstrations will teach kids about DNA, filtration, energy and more. Activities and special events are included with museum admission.

“Forces Unite” Play
Now through Aug. 15, 2015
Don’t miss the daily performance that shows how the museum’s superheroes will beat Dr. Boredom who has stolen their powers! Kids will love the chase scene and the musical number. Performances are daily now through Aug. 15, and are included with museum admission.

Hardware Ice
Aug. 15, 2015
Make necklaces, bracelets and other “ice,” aka jewelry, to bring home. Kids will make their souvenirs out of washers and other hardware that can easily be found around your own house! The Hardware Ice event is from 2 to 5 p.m. and is included with museum admission.

Summer of Epic Adventure
Now through Sept. 9, 2015
Enjoy daily superhero activities, performances, character meet-and-greets and more, all included with museum admission, now through Sept. 9, 2015.

Arena of Awesomeness
Now through Sept. 9, 2015
Kids can soak Dr. Boredom with water balloons and more in the Arena of Awesomeness. Activities are included with museum admission and are offers now through Sept. 9, 2015.

Get Your Gear On
Now through Sept. 9, 2015
Make capes, masks and more for superhero costumes! The event is offered Monday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. It is included with museum admission.

Home School Day
Sept. 21, 2015
Home school students are invited to the museum on Sept. 21, 2015, for Home School Day. Activities include lessons in science, technology, history, culture, health, engineering and more. All are hands-on and educational. Admission is $8 per person and pre-registration is required.

Sensory Friendly Day
Oct. 19, 2015
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders are invited to the museum for Sensory Friendly Day on Oct. 19, 2015. All museum areas will be open, but they will be altered to help children feel more comfortable. Outside food and drinks are permitted during the event. Sensory Family Day will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and admission is $5 per person. Pre-registration is required.

Explore Abilities
Nov. 16, 2015
Children with learning differences are invited to attend Explore Abilities on Nov. 16, 2015. All museum areas will be open, but they will be altered to help children feel more comfortable. Outside food and drinks are permitted during the event. Explore Abilities will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and admission is $5 per person. Pre-registration is required.

Girl Scout Sleepover
Nov. 20, 2015
Girl scouts and chaperones are invited to spend a night in the museum on Nov. 20, 2015. The event includes a late-night snack, continental breakfast, unlimited access to state-of-the-art interactive exhibits and activities that will help girl scouts meet their badge requirements. Admission is $50 per girl scout and $25 per chaperone. Pre-registration is required.

The Children’s Museum of Houston is open daily. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with extended evening hours on Thursday until 8 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Admission is $10 per person.

Interested in our museums like this one? Check out our list of the Best Children’s Museums.

— Hilarey Wojtowicz

New Offerings at the 20th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

July 31st, 2015

Families visiting Walt Disney World this fall will be able to enjoy all that the annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival has to offer. Now in its 20th year, the festival will feature four news tastings and events for visitors to enjoy.

Family at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

The Future World area will be home to the new Artistry of Wine & Cheese with the new Cheese Studio and Wine Studio, while the Next Eats area will feature the new Sustainable Chew and the new Chew Lab.

The Cheese Studio and Wine Studio areas are geared toward adults, with cheese platters served on artists’ palettes and premium wine samples offered in a colorful art display.

At Sustainable Chew, families of all ages will be able to try dishes inspired by the co-hosts of ABC’s “The Chew.” And at the Chew Lab, technology and food innovation is paired to create crazy concoctions like the Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel.

New events not to miss include the Rockin’ Burger Block Party on Sept. 25, Oct. 8 and Nov. 6; the first-ever Yelloween Masquerade Parade for the Senses on Oct. 31; and the new Spotlight on Dominican Republic cultural displays every Monday through Thursday. Reservations are required for the Yelloween Masquerade and the Burger Block Parties, and are now open to guests.

The 20th annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival will run from Sept. 25 to Nov. 16, 2015. Most events and activities, plus all park attractions, are included with regular Epcot Admission, which is $105 for children and adults ages 10 and older, and $99 for kids ages 3 to 9. Admission is free for children ages 2 and under.

For an even more magical Epcot family vacation, stay at one of the best hotels in Walt Disney World.

— Hilarey Wojtowicz

New Exhibit Invites Families to San Francisco Zoo

July 30th, 2015

On July 11, the San Francisco Zoo opened its newest exhibit. The South American Tropical Rainforest and Aviary is home to a realistic rainforest ecosystem, with birds flying freely throughout the exotic plants and trees that fill the space.

The South American Tropical Rainforest and Aviary

In addition to the birds and plants, the exhibit will have a two-toed sloth and the zoo’s first herpetological collection, which will include a 15-foot anaconda, tree frogs, turtles, lizards and snakes.

Families who visit will learn about the environment in which all of these animals and plants live, too. The exhibit discusses environmental threats that rainforests and South American wildlife face on a daily basis.

The new exhibit is open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The rest of the San Francisco Zoo is just as inviting and interesting for families. During your next visit, be sure to check out the Fisher Family Children’s Zoo area, complete with a nature trail, red panda, insect zoo and more, as well as the Elinor Friend Playground, where kids can climb and play on three different ecosystems made for their age groups. In the playground, kids ages 6 months to 2 years will enjoy the River Play Area, kids ages 2 to 5 will like the Polar Zone, and the Banyan Tree is for kids ages 5 to 12.

The San Francisco Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $20 for teens and adults ages 15 to 64, $17 for seniors ages 65 and older, $14 for children ages 4 to 14, and free for kids ages 3 and under. Onsite parking is $8 on weekdays and $10 on weekends.

For help planning your next family vacation to the area, check out our San Francisco Family Vacation Guide.

— Hilarey Wojtowicz

Seeing Southern Utah for the First Time

July 29th, 2015

I intentionally kept the beauty of Southern Utah under wraps as we prepared for our cross-country road trip because I wished for my daughters to be in awe of the natural beauty; I didn’t want them to recognize it from a Google image. And so shortly after abandoning the relative safety of Highway 70 for the eerie desolation of Route 128, a moment when it looked as if there was the potential to become a hungry vulture’s next al fresco dinner, and after I’d called my parents to half-jokingly say “just in case this is the end, I want you to know how much I appreciate everything you’ve done for me”, we came upon the Colorado River and a massive red riverbank wall. I slammed on the brakes of our Toyota Sienna, red clay spraying forward in reply, and we climbed down into the muddy water, the same water that runs through the Grand Canyon and gets bottled up at the Hoover Dam, two sights we’ve already experienced together. My girls were flabbergasted at this information. We’d barely scratched the surface of what Southern Utah offers adventurous families and they were already aglow.

Dramatic Sky Above Arches National Park

Arches and Moab National Park
We’d eventually dry off and make our way to Arches and Moab. The former was my number one most anticipated destination and the vast area of spires and, of course, arches didn’t disappoint. Having already been in water, my daughters were itchy to climb on something, anything, as they once had in the Valley of Fire outside Las Vegas a couple of years ago. They got their wish as the sun dipped and painted Arches National Park with a set of deeper hues. I pulled over to the side of the road, while the light of day was still strong enough for us to avoid cacti and spot any snakes or other creepy desert crawlers. My daughters attacked the rocks (not the fragile arches, of course, although many people were busy ignoring the emphatic ‘FRAGILE-KEEP OFF’ signs), sneaking into enclaves and climbing up high to enjoy a bird’s eye view.

Moab, a small desert town just south of Arches, was described to me as freaky and strange — so naturally I had to see it — but the string of budget chain hotels on the drive in and kitschy gift shops lining the main drag quickly convinced me that if Moab was once a haven for oddballs, it’s now just another tourist destination with cheaply made junk for sale at every turn. Still, the breakfast-for-dinner we enjoyed at the Moab Diner and the amazing ice cream from The Spoke on Center (try the Pralines and Cream) were worth the very short detour.

Two People Walking Uphill in Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park
We didn’t open the door to our deluxe cabin at the Cannonville/Bryce Valley KOA until very late, but were excited to see an air conditioner, shower, toilet, and bunk beds for the kids. This is how I like to camp — in comfort and in some modicum of style. The girls have become fond of these non-hotel accommodations, too, and the prime location of this one made exploring Bryce Canyon the next day super easy.

The Bryce Canyon hike we took is 3 miles long — Queens Garden to the Navajo Loop trail — and has been described as the “best hike in the world.” While I admittedly have very few hikes under my belt to compare with it, this was certainly an outstanding way to spend three hours with my wife and two kids, challenging ourselves physically (but not too much) and experiencing the temperature and topographical changes. We saw chipmunks, Stellar Jays and prairie dogs, and had so much fun singing Okee Dokee Brothers adventure songs and telling corny jokes to keep our spirits up as we rationed water and pretzel Goldfish.

After I posted photos from our day hiking at Bryce, a few Facebook friends commented that they like that national park better than the Grand Canyon. The contrarian in me wanted to agree straightaway — I mean, who doesn’t cheer for the underdog — but those discerning online pals of mine have a point on merit alone. Bryce Canyon National Park is ridiculously stunning! It’s a deep canyon filled with a forest in some spots and hoodoos in others (picture dripped wet sand at the beach, and how it makes those lumpy towers in all kinds of curious shapes — and now picture all of those in bright orange and super tall!) Bryce is one of a kind.

Two Girls in Zion National Park

Zion National Park
The finale of the Southern Utah National Park trilogy was Zion National Park, on our way to Vegas, but we got yet another late start (a bad habit we’d picked up on this exhausting road trip) and didn’t have time to find a parking spot outside the park, catch a shuttle in and then board another bus to cruise the scenic Zion byway no cars are allowed on. We saw a lot of Zion but not the famous bits, but even without the full experience, we all knew this was a magical place that deserves a proper visit.

Our few days in Southern Utah provided many jaw dropping moments for each member of my family. The contrasting colors, deep canyons, sharp mountains, rushing rivers below and dramatic skies above impressed us like nothing else we’d ever seen before or since (including Yosemite National Park, where this post was written). A Southern Utah encore is definitely in our future, and should be in yours, too.

— Jeff Bogle

Jeff Bogle is an at-home dad of two pre-tween daughters. He writes about parenthood, family travel and all things childhood on his site He considers himself one of the luckiest guys in the world. Jeff also writes for PBS.