Archive for the ‘U.S. Travel’ category

Summer Magic Tree House Experience at The Plaza Hotel in New York City

July 13th, 2014

New York City’s famous luxury hotel is once again offering families summer activities that are fun and educational. The Plaza Hotel is partnering with Random House for the third year in a row to offer the Magic Tree House Experience starting July 1 and running through Sept. 30, 2014.

Inspired by the Magic Tree House book series, the experience includes family-friendly activities centered around author Mary Pope Osborne’s newest book, “Midnight on the Moon” and the hotel’s history and surrounding landmarks. Book the Magic Tree House Experience Package, pick up your Magic Tree House passport and Fact Tracker and set out on a journey through the Big Apple with your family this summer.

Magic Tree House Experience Package
Offered year-round, with activities and events changing quarterly, the Magic Tree House Package includes luxurious accommodations, one Magic Tree House Passport per person, a special Magic Tree House pin for young adventurers to wear and a New York City welcome amenity. Guests can also get a Space Fact Checker and are encouraged to visit the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. Remember to get your passport stamped at every attraction in order to remember your adventure! Pick up a Magic Tree House Fact Tracker for even more activities and family fun centered around the book series. Package rates start from $825 per night.

Families who cannot participate in this summer’s Magic Tree House Experience can look forward to booking the package in the fall and winter when the experience will include all new activities and Magic Tree House themes.

For more information on The Plaza Hotel, read our hotel review. For more information on the Magic Tree House book series, visit the Magic Tree House website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Mohonk Mountain House Celebrates 145th Anniversary

July 11th, 2014

The Mohonk Mountain House is celebrating 145 years of family traditions this year with travel packages, new activities, amenities and more. The Victorian-style resort has been owned and operated by the Smiley family ever since it was founded in 1869. The National Historic Landmark is located 90 miles north of New York City in New Paltz, New York in the Catskills region. Families who visit this year will not only enjoy the in-room fireplaces, balconies, kids’ club, pool, barn museum and afternoon tea, but many more new amenities and activities, as well.

Visit the Mohonk Mountain House and honor the resort’s 145th birthday by enjoying one of these new and old traditions this year:

Dress Like a Victorian
Play dress up and travel back in time to the Victorian era when the Mohonk Mountain House was originally founded. Owner Albert Smiley will be at the resort on select days and will gladly take a photo with each costumed-guest.

House History Tours
Take an educational and interesting tour of the resort and get a look at the private Smiley Family Victorian Parlor.

Meals Inspired by Mohonk History
Try something new — or old — at the Mohonk Dining Room. Executive Chef Jim Palmeri cooks up cuisine inspired by the late-1800s, such as mushroom-stuffed chicken breast and braised short rib with warm tri-color potatoes. A special pomegranate champagne cocktail will also be available for adults.

Meditate at the Mountain House
Nina Smiley, Ph. D. is co-author of the book and CD “The Three Minute Meditator” and will lead workshops and private sessions this year for Mohonk guests. Relax and truly unplug during your vacation.

Timeless Traditions Massage
With a mix of old-fashioned and new-age massage techniques, guests can enjoy a relaxing and healing experience at the Spa at Mohonk Mountain House.

Overnight Packages
Save on your stay with an overnight package that is inspired by the resort’s birthday. Receive up to 20 percent off all-inclusive packages with the 145th Anniversary Getaway Package. Enjoy accommodations, three meals daily, afternoon tea and cookies and most resort activities. Rates start from $240 per adult, per night and the offer is valid now through Aug. 28, 2014.

And if traveling now through the end of July, book the Kids Stay and Eat Free promotion.

For more information on the Mohonk Mountain House, read our hotel review.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

New Kid-Friendly Activities for Summer at the Chatham Bars Inn

July 9th, 2014

Located on the white-sand beaches of Chatham, Massachusetts, the Chatham Bars Inn is a luxurious property with classic seaside charm and a quiet environment removed from the crowds. Renowned for its kids programs, the Inn offers families a perfect place for a summer getaway to Cape Cod. Parents can enjoy the waterfront pools, boat rentals, whale watching excursions or the spa, while kids take part in daily scheduled activities that will challenge and excite.

This summer, after celebrating its 100th Anniversary on June 9, 2014, the Chatham Bars Inn announced new additions to the Beach Buddies and Clam Diggers Kids’ Clubs. If your family is headed to New England this summer, be sure to stay at the Inn overnight and let the kids take part in one of these new activities that will be both fun and educational.

Beach Buddies Activities
For children ages 4 to 7, the Beach Buddies Club offers annual activities such as swim and tennis lessons, a Pirate and Princess Hunt and IN-Tents Camping. New to the program this summer is KABOOM, Eco-Chefs and a Halloween House Party.

KABOOM allows children interested in science to experiment with pop-rock volcanoes and elephant toothpaste. Kids will use the candy to create a colorful explosion or will bubble with excitement as the “toothpaste” rushes out of the bottle (good for elephants, but not humans!). Eco-Chefs teaches children how to prepare a meal using fresh ingredients straight from the Inn’s own Brewster farm. And when all the kids are done, they can come together to celebrate Halloween a little earlier with a party that includes trick-or-treating and costumes.

Clam Diggers Activities
For older children and tweens between 8 and 12 years, the Clam Diggers Club schedules pool parties and sports lessons, and hosts the annual Cardboard Boat Regatta. But this year, kids can also take part in the iScavenge — an interactive media scavenger hunt that will have everyone completing wacky tasks and challenges. Baseball with the Chatham A’s is another new activity for the sports fan in your family. Kids can meet and discuss America’s favorite pastime with the Chatham A’s baseball team. Other events include a Trip to Tween Beach — a private boat ride and trip to North Beach Island for the Clam Diggers — and the Crack the Case mystery dinner where everyone’s a suspect.

Beach Buddies and Clam Diggers Kids’ Clubs are open seasonally from late-June to mid-September for morning (9 to 11 a.m.) and afternoon (2 to 4 p.m.) sessions starting from $25 per child, per session, and evening (5:30 to 9 p.m.) sessions, which include dinner, starting from $60 per child, per session. More activities will be available to both kids’ programs throughout the summer and for more information on the Chatham Bars Inn, read our hotel review.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Get Lost in Lancaster: The Amazing Maize Maze at Cherry Crest Adventure Farm

July 8th, 2014


You don’t have to wait until autumn to get lost in a corn maze; at Cherry Crest Adventure Farm in Ronks, Pa., just outside of Lancaster, the fun begins each July. The Amazing Maize Maze encompasses two and a half miles of pathways, bridges and plenty of clues. Perfect for families, it also offers three levels: Easy, Intermediate and Difficult. The Easy Path takes 20 minutes, while the Difficult Path might require an hour (or more) of time. Maze Masters are also available to assist visitors along the way.

Maze Masters are on hand to spin tunes, as well, perfect for this year’s theme, “Music Through the Ages.” The maze actually resembles a guitar – you’ll get a bird’s-eye view atop one of the bridges!

Flashlight Mazes are also offered, as is a plethora of other family-friendly fun in The Courtyard and The Barnyard, where you’ll find wagon rides, a petting zoo, giant sliding boards and more.

Cherry Crest Adventure Farm is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays, through Nov. 8. Admission is $15 (children under 2 are free to enter the farm).

– Amanda Geronikos

5 Sailing Schools for Kids in Rhode Island

July 7th, 2014

Sail along the coast of Rhode Island this summer with your children and let them do all the work. With sailing schools throughout the state, kids will learn to hoist sails, bear away and come about (and what those terms mean). While visiting the Ocean State this summer, sign your kids up for one of these five sailing schools.

Community Boating Center
Located in Providence, the Community Boating Center is a not-for-profit organization that offers sailing lessons for children and teens between 8 and 17. Kids will gradually progress from beginner to racer at a speed perfect for them. Four, nine-day sessions run Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., from June to mid-August. Course rates start from $510 per child. For more information visit

Edgewood Sailing School
Visit Cranston, Rhode Island this summer and sign the kids up for lessons at the Edgewood Sailing School. Whether your child has no experience or a lot, the school offers different courses for all levels. By the end of the session, children will have a new love for sailing and an appreciation for Narragansett Bay. Ten-day classes run Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., from June to August and rates start from $295 per child with a $25 registration fee. For more information visit

The Herreshoff Seamanship Camp
Kids can learn problem-solving and sailing skills, along with confidence on the water, at Bristol’s Herreshoff Seamanship Camp. Children between 7 and 17 can sign up for full- or half-day courses aboard a 16-foot Herreshoff sloop. Ten-day sessions run Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (noon for half-day sessions), from June to August. Rates start from $310 per child for the half-day program and from $540 per child for the full-day program. For more information, visit

Sail Newport
Located in Newport, Sail Newport is a not-for-profit sailing school that teaches kids and teens to really enjoy the sea sport. Kids 5 to 17 can take part in the lessons that are focused on the fun and safety of sailing. Courses run from June to August, with sessions lasting between four and 10 days (depending on age of child) and 2.5 to six hours. Rates start from $125 per child, but vary by age. For more information, visit

URI Sailing Center
Send your kids to a college this summer for sailing lessons — the University of Rhode Island Sailing Center will take them from beginner to racer in no time. Children between 10 and 16 will sail the Great Salt Pond in Wakefield and will learn how to sail, dock, steer and take care of a boat. Courses run for four weeks, from May to August and offer various three-hour time slots each day for beginner, youth and intermediate level sailors. Rates start from $350 per child. For more information, visit

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Readers Weigh In: Best Places to See Fireworks for Independence Day

July 4th, 2014

In preparation for the Fourth of July, we asked our members and our followers on Facebook where they’ve seen the best fireworks in honor of our country’s birthday. Today, celebrate the 238th anniversary of the United States of America with fun activities throughout the day and be sure to see the sky light up with red, white and blue at night at one of these great family-friendly destinations — all recommended by Family Vacation Critic fans from across the country.

Facebook user and FVC member Kate S. saw fireworks near Norris Lake in Tennessee. If you can’t get to the small town area for its fireworks and summer festival, check out the spectacular lights show in Nashville tonight:

Nashville Symphony and Fireworks
Time: 9:45 p.m.
Location: 1st Ave. and Broadway
Cost: Free
For more info, see

Facebook user and FVC member Wendi B. likes the light show in Utopia, Texas. If you’re not close to Utopia, check out the fireworks in Houston tonight:

4th of July Weekend at CityCentre – Fireworks
Time: 9:30 p.m.
Location: CityCentre, 800 W. Sam Houston Parkway North
Cost: Free
For more info, see

Facebook user and FVC member Philana D. has been looking forward to today’s Fort Dalles Fourth Festival in Oregon all year. If you can’t get to that celebration tonight, see the fireworks in Portland instead:

Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival Fireworks
Time: 10:05 p.m.
Location: Tom McCall Waterfront Park
Cost: $10 donation
For more info, see

Facebook user and FVC member Marissa B. is a New Jersey native who likes to watch the fireworks with her family over the water in Sewaren. If you’re not close to that north Jersey city, head south to the Shore for fireworks tonight:

Point Pleasant Beach Fireworks
Time: 9 p.m.
Location: Jenkinson’s Boardwalk
Cost: Free
For more info, see

Facebook user and FVC member Shannon B. says that Huntington Beach has the best fireworks for the Fourth of July in California. Check out where you can see the lights show tonight:

Waves of Freedom Fireworks
Time: 9 p.m.
Location: Huntington Beach Pier
Cost: Free or VIP Pier Seats – $10 per person
For more info, see

Facebook user and FVC member Jennifer W. saw amazing fireworks in Cincinnati and the city has so many options for families. Find a good spot that will allow you to see the Cincinnati sky tonight:

Ault Park Independence Day Fireworks
Time: 10 p.m.
Location: Ault Park
Cost: Free
For more info, see

Facebook user and FVC member Brandon G. has seen fireworks light up the sky in Philadelphia. See where the City of Brotherly Love will set off fireworks tonight in honor of the U.S.’ birthday:

Philly 4th of July Jam and Grand Fireworks
Time: 10:30 p.m.
Location: 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Cost: Free
For more info, see

Like us on Facebook for more family travel ideas and information.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz