Archive for the ‘U.S. Travel’ category

Year-Round Whale Watching in Orange County

October 23rd, 2014

People on a boat watch the tail of a whale come out of the water during a tourWhen I was 9 years old, my family went on a whale-watching excursion in Cape May, New Jersey. I remember it being cold (so much that we bought souvenir sweatshirts to keep us warm), but I also remember seeing dolphins swim next to the boat and whales jumping and flopping into the water in the distance. It was a memorable experience and I recommend that families do it at least once.

While many whale watching companies are on hiatus for the winter season, a few warm-weather destinations offer tours year-round, including Orange County, California. Newport Landing Whale Watching is one of the few companies that take guests into the ocean in search of blue whales, finbacks, dolphins and other aquatic creatures during the cold season, between November and February.

Tours depart from Newport Beach, which is conveniently located in the middle of Orange County, just minutes from the John Wayne/Orange County Airport and about 50 miles from the Los Angeles International Airport. And with year-round weather steady at sunny and 75, families won’t be cold like I was on my first whale-watching tour. Tours are offered daily – on weekdays and weekends – so you can easily fit it in to your Southern California vacation. And the boat, Nautilus, offers an indoor snack bar and restrooms.

Tours are scheduled three to four times daily, year-round, with times varying according to season (November to February and March to October). Tickets are $32 for adults (age 13 to 59) on weekdays and $36 for adults on weekends and holidays. Juniors (age 12 and under) and seniors (60 and older) are $26 on weekdays and $30 on weekends and holidays.

For more information and to reserve a whale-watching tour for your family, visit the Newport Landing Whale Watching website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

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

Halloween Happenings at Kalahari Water Park Resorts

October 21st, 2014

Little boy decorates a cookie with icing and sprinkles at a Kalahari Water Park ResortHalloween is just 10 days away. Now that your children know what their costumes will be (Elsa anyone?), it’s time to plan some fun for the whole family. Kalahari Water Park Resorts in Wisconsin Dells and Sandusky, Ohio, are offering days of fun for everyone. Besides the usual water park access (which never gets old!) the resorts are offering activities like arts and crafts, movies, coloring contests, cookie decorating and more. Here are all of the Halloween happenings at the Kalahari Water Park Resorts:

Kalahari Waterpark Resort, Ohio
Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, 2014
Start the weekend off on Thursday with an all day Halloween coloring contest. Enjoy arts and crafts where kids can decorate pillow cases, T-shirts and more, from noon to 2 p.m., and then make creepy cookies from 3 to 4 p.m. Enjoy a pumpkin bean bag toss, candy corn bingo and more arts and crafts in the evening until 6 p.m. End the night with story time at the Big Five Lounge Area from 6 to 6:20 p.m.

On Friday – Halloween! – enjoy all the same activities, but finish the day with an hour of trick or treating at 7 p.m. Kids can wear their costumes and stop at 15 stations for a variety of sweet treats. Enjoy story time at the Big Five Lounge Area from 8 to 8:20 p.m.

Over the weekend, in between arts and crafts, cookie decorating, candy corn bingo and more, be sure to slide and splash at the indoor water park. Halloween activities conclude at 4 p.m. on Sunday, November 2 with a cookie decorating activity.

Special Package: Haunted Weekends
Stay Friday, October 31 and Saturday, November 1, and enjoy a room for up to four guests, admission to the indoor water park, $50 in food and beverage credit, a $50 token card for the Big Game Room, and all of the Halloween events and activities. Rates start from $350 for the two-night package.

Kalahari Resort Wisconsin Dells
Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, 2014
Halloween kicks off with a coloring contest and a day full of decorating everything from T-shirts and bags to bobbleheads and pumpkins on Friday, October 31. Decorate cookies from 3 to 4 p.m. and then get in some time on the waterslides before the movie starts at 6 p.m. – snacks will be provided!

On Saturday, try your luck again at the coloring contest before making and stuffing your own pillow. Arts and crafts, like painting a magnet or pumpkin, are offered throughout the day and trick or treating starts promptly at 6 p.m. See whose costume is the best at the Kalahari Costume Contest at 7 p.m. and then enjoy a night of bowling from 8 to 9 p.m.

End your weekend with arts and crafts on Sunday. All of the events conclude with a game of Deal or No Deal at 5 p.m. – the prize is 100 tokens!

Special Package: Fantastic Family Getaway
Enjoy a two-night stay in a room for up to four guests, with admission for four to the indoor water park, admission for four to Timbavati Wildlife Park, breakfast for each guest each morning, one 14-inch pizza with four fountain drinks, four indoor theme park ride passes, four games of bowling for four people, and a $20 credit towards the spa. Plus, all of the Halloween activities and events! Rates start from $589 for the two-night package, when staying October 31 to November 2.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

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

Missouri State Penitentiary Tours for Teens

October 16th, 2014

The grounds and units of the Missouri State PenitentiaryEvery region has its haunts. From ghost tours to graveyard walks, all are frightening, yet perfect for families with teens and ‘tweens who like to be scared. But the Midwest is known for its authentic experiences unlike any other. The Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Missouri, is particularly scary. With five public tours, plus an overnight investigation, families can choose which experience is right for them. Be scared a little or a lot and then try to find your way out.

History Tour
The two-hour history tour takes guests through the various sections of the 1836 prison. Closed just 10 years ago in 2004, the penitentiary was home to Civil War convicts and other felons throughout the years, eventually becoming the largest prison in the United States by 1932. The History Tour guides visitors through Housing Unit 1 (Control Center) and A Hall, the oldest building that remains on the grounds. Plus, see the dungeon cells, the Upper Yard, Housing Unit 3 and the Gas Chamber. Listen to the story of the prison throughout the tour and keep your eyes peeled for the ghosts of past inmates.

Admission: $12 per person
Minimum Age: 10 years old

In-Depth History Tour
Like the History Tour but one hour longer, the In-Depth History Tour takes guests beyond the areas in the History Tour and through the Women’s Unit, the Deathrow Cells, and Housing Unites 2 and 5. You’ll also learn about the industry area and even more of the history of the haunted prison.

Admission: $25 per person
Minimum Age: 10 years old

Ghost Tour
Learn the history of the penitentiary and then listen to the stories of the strange and unusual occurrences that took place within the walls during the two-hour Ghost Tour. See Housing Unit 1, A Hall, the Dungeon Cells, the Upper Yard, Housing Unit 3 and the Gas Chamber.

Admission: $25 per person
Minimum Age: 14 years old

Ghost Hunt
Grab your activity-finding device and head out on this Ghost Hunt in search of ghosts of inmates that still lurk behind the walls. The three-hour tour takes guests through Housing Unit 1, A Hall, the Dungeon Cells, the Upper Yard, Housing Unit 3 and the Gas Chamber.

Admission: $35 per person
Minimum Age: 14 years old

Ghost Hunt Class
Guests will be trained to hunt ghosts during this three-hour class and tour of the haunted penitentiary. One hour is spent learning how to use the equipment and then two hours of the tour are spent hunting for paranormal activity. Use your activity-finding devices and search Housing Unit 1, A Hall, the Dungeon Cells, the Upper Yard, Housing Unit 3 and the Gas Chambers.

Admission: $35 per person
Minimum Age: 14 years old

Public Overnight Investigations
For families with high school seniors or college students, the Public Overnight Investigations are a great way to enjoy a haunting experience they’ll never forget. Begin the evening with a History Tour and then search for paranormal activity. Tours range from five to eight hours and take place during the night, of course. See if you can make it until morning.

Admission: $65 for five hours, $95 for eight hours
Minimum Age: 18 years old

Tours take place late April through late November and are offered on select weekdays and all weekends. Reservations are recommended. For more information and reservations, visit the Missouri State Penitentiary website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz