Archive for the ‘U.S. Travel’ category

How to Tour the White House

November 19th, 2014

White House in Washington, D.C. in the springThe White House is always a must-see attraction when visiting Washington, D.C. with kids. However, viewing the President’s home through a large fence may not be as gratifying as if you could get an insider’s perspective. Many families might not be aware, but you can tour the White House, and for free! Here’s how to do it on your next trip to the nation’s capital.

Request a Tour Through Congress
Families who want to take a public tour of the White House need to first submit a letter of request to their Member of Congress. Include your name, address and contact information in the request, as well as the dates that you plan to visit Washington, D.C. Requests must be submitted at least 21 days in advance, but no more than six months in advance of your planned visit. Families are urged to write to their Member of Congress as soon as they can. Visit the House of Representatives website to find your state’s representative and their contact information. For families who wish to see the White House, but who are visiting from another country, can contact their nation’s embassy office in Washington D.C. to request a public tour.

Have Valid Identification
Adults and children 18 years and older are required to present a valid, government-issued photo ID before touring the White House. Valid ID’s include driver’s licenses, military ID’s and passports.

Know What Not to Bring
Certain items are prohibited during tours of the White House. These include cameras or recording devices; handbags, backpacks and purses; food and beverages; tobacco products; personal grooming items; strollers; any pointed object; aerosol containers; fireworks and weapons of any kind. We suggest leaving everything in the car or hotel room except for your forms of ID, money and cell phones prior to your visit. Note: Cell phones cannot be used inside the White House and the U.S. Secret Service has the right to confiscate them as needed. Silence them before the tour, but keep them handy incase anyone gets lost.

Tour Times
Public tours of the White House are offered Tuesday through Thursday, from 7: 30 to 11:30 a.m., and Friday and Saturday, from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tours are not available on federal holidays, unless otherwise noted. Hours will be extended when possible. Tours are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Prepare With a Virtual Tour
After you’ve scheduled your tour, prepare the kids with a virtual tour via the White House website. Enjoy 360-degree views of the rooms that are featured on the public tour. It will get children excited for when they can see them in person.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

4 Holiday Happenings in New York City

November 17th, 2014

Rockefeller Center at ChristmasThe holidays in New York City are unlike anywhere else. The magic of the season seems to be heightened with the glowing lights and chilled air that fill the Big Apple in December. Visit with kids this year before or after Christmas and enjoy one of these 4 festive events.

Winter Village at Bryant Park
Oct. 21, 2014, to Mar. 1, 2015
Besides the holiday market at Bryant Park, families can ice skate at the rink that is open now through Mar. 1, 2015. Admission is free, unless you rent skates. The holiday market runs through Jan. 4, 2015.

Holiday Train Show
Nov. 15, 2014, to Jan. 19, 2015
Head to the New York Botanical Garden for the annual holiday train show. Model trains will weave in and out of spectacular flower and plant displays that are decorated for the holiday season. Included with admission to the garden.

Holiday Market at Grand Central
Nov. 17 to Dec. 24, 2014
Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal will be decorated with festive lights and holiday flare for this year’s holiday market. Purchase gifts for friends and family or just browse the various booths to see what vendors are selling. Other holiday markets can be found at Union Square, Central Park and Bryant Park through Dec. 24, 2014. Admission is free.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting
Dec. 3, 2014
If you’re not afraid of crowds, visit Rockefeller Center on Dec. 3, from 7 to 9 p.m., for its annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. This year, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennet will perform, along with Sara Bareilles, LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood. The tree will be lit through Jan. 7, 2015. Admission is free.

Other great holiday happenings include New York’s GingerBread Lane and holiday plays and musicals in and around the city.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Take the Ferry to the North Fork for Family Fun

November 16th, 2014

Ferry boat in New YorkIf you live in New York or New England and are looking for a scenic, relaxing, cost-effective trip for the family, you must take note. The North Fork area of New York, a popular tourist destination, is more accessible than ever before. I recently traveled to the North Fork via the Cross Sound Ferry. My expectations were surpassed. It was efficient, restful and a great value. I charged my phone and watched families happily make the no-fuss journey.

It’s just an 80-minute sail from Connecticut to Long Island and back. Ferries depart every day from New London, Connecticut (just a few miles off of I-95) and drop off in Orient Point, New York (also known as the North Fork). You can take your car for just $51, plus $14.50 for additional adult passengers. Children ages 2 to 11 are $6 one-way or $10 round-trip. Children under 2 are free.

Once on board, there is a concession stand, TVs and kids get an activity book with crayons. You can even pick up a pair of kid-friendly binoculars. The trip itself is extremely scenic and the views are stunning. The best part about it is missing the traffic on the always busy I-95 and Long Island Expressway.

Once you reach the North Fork, your options are plentiful. You can explore a few vineyards, hit a hands-on aquarium, take the kids on a barnyard adventure at the Harbes Family Farm, or do something completely unusual – visit Gingerbread University and decorate a gingerbread house, man or another edible shape offered at the bakery attraction. There are small museums, farm stands, delicious restaurants, quaint shops to roam around and loads of family-friendly places to stay including the Harborfront Inn in the town of Greenport, just 15 minutes from the Cross Sound Ferry port.

Check out the Cross Sound Ferry schedule for assigned vessels, dates and times. For reservations, visit the Long Island Ferry website.

– 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.

Free DreamWorks DreamPlace for Families

November 15th, 2014

Shrek and Fiona dressed for the holidaysGive your children the chance to meet Santa Claus and Shrek this holiday season with the free DreamWorks DreamPlace attraction. With eight locations across the country, families can hopefully find one close to home. The magical experience is free and runs now through Christmas Eve.

First, parents should download the free DreamWorks DreamPlace App to their Android or iPhone. The app allows parents to create a wish list for their child in advance of their visit with Santa. Once arrived at the DreamWorks DreamPlace, Santa will magically know what your child really wants under the tree this year. Additionally, the app can be shared with family and friends who may need ideas while holiday shopping.

The DreamWorks DreamPlace attraction includes a 15-minute festive experience with Shrek and his friends. Afterwards, families can take a sleigh ride to the North Pole, where Santa will be waiting to discuss your child’s list and to take a photo with the entire family. All activities are free, too!

The DreamWorks DreamPlace can be found at the following malls across the United States:

Glendale Galleria
Glendale, California

Victoria Gardens
Rancho Cucamonga, California

Fashion Show
Las Vegas, Nevada

The Parks at Arlington
Arlington, Texas

Oakbrook Center
Oak Brook, Illinois

North Point Mall
Alpharetta, Georgia

Cherry Hill Mall
Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Ridge Hill
Yonkers, New York

For more information and to make a reservation at a mall near you, visit the DreamWorks DreamPlace website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

An Asheville Christmas: 3 Unique Events

November 14th, 2014

You’ll find a “winter wonderland” with lights, hot cocoa and Santa Claus just about anywhere you go (including Asheville, at the North Carolina Arboretum). However, you won’t see Santa Claus practicing his chimney climb — at Chimney Rock Sate Park — anywhere else. You also won’t find a gingerbread competition as impressive (or big) as the one that pops up at Omni Grove Park Inn annually, and there’s nothing as grand as Christmas at the Biltmore Estate — it is “America’s Largest Home,” after all.

Candlelight Christmas Evenings
The banquet hall at the Biltmore Estate, decorated for the holidaysCandlelight Christmas Evenings feature self-guided, candle-lit tours of the Biltmore Estate, which is decorated for a traditional Vanderbilt Christmas — complete with a 35-foot tree. The nightly event also includes same- or next-day visits to the estate’s gardens and winery. Plus, Santa Claus appears at Antler Hill Village (also located onsite) every weekend, from 1 to 5 p.m., until Dec. 21, 2014. Candlelight Christmas Evenings take place through Jan. 11, 2015. Rates are admittedly steep — starting at $69 per adult and $34.50 for children ages to 10 and up (9 and under are free) — but worth the cost for the once-in-a-lifetime experience. You can also opt for a regular daytime pass and still enjoy the holiday décor and visits with Santa (plus, it’s slightly cheaper).

Santa’s Chimney Climb Practice
Santa Claus climbs the rocks of Chimney Rock State ParkHead to Chimney Rock State Park in December — you’ll see Santa Claus practicing his chimney climb! Practices will take place on Dec. 6 and 13, 2014, and onlookers will have a chance to meet him afterward, along with Mrs. Claus. Other highlights will include complimentary hot cocoa, arts and crafts, and live entertainment. Admission to Chimney Rock State Park is $15 for adults and $7 for kids ages 5 to 15, but there’s no additional fee to see Santa!

Try to spot Dancing Santa — also known as B-boy Santa — while you’re in town, too. He takes to the streets to show off his seriously impressive skills — expect to see him everywhere from the beloved breweries to the Biltmore!

National Gingerbread House Competition
Family gazes at the Gingerbread House at the Omni Grove Park InnStarting on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, and running through Jan. 1, 2015, the annual National Gingerbread House Competition is hosted at The Omni Grove Park Inn (which actually resembles a gingerbread house itself). The event, open to the public Sunday to Thursday (Fridays and Saturdays are for guests only), includes fantastical, sugar-coated structures, from traditional homes to castles; at least 75 percent of each creation is built with real gingerbread. Admission is free, though a $10 parking fee is required.

– Amanda Geronikos

4 Holiday Packages at the Kingsmill Resort & Spa

November 13th, 2014

The Kingsmill Resort & Spa during the holidays in Williamsburg, VirginiaAs the holiday season begins, families looking for festive events should visit Williamsburg, Virginia. Besides the colonial villages all dressed in lights and holiday colors, resorts in the area are offering special packages for families who really want to celebrate together. This season, book one of these four holiday packages at the Kingsmill Resort & Spa for a magical, mini-vacation with kids.

Christmas Town
Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Christmas Town is a sight to see this season. Book the Christmas Town package and enjoy overnight accommodations, multi-day tickets to Christmas Town, breakfast for each guest, each morning, and complimentary transportation to and from Busch Gardens and other Williamsburg locations. Guests can also take advantage of the resort’s onsite amenities like the fitness center and indoor pool. Rates start from $261 per night, for two adults and one child. Package available for stays Nov. 20 to Dec. 31, 2014. Room upgrades are available starting from $40 more per night.

Let someone else trim the turkey this year by booking the Thanksgiving package at the Kingsmill Resort & Spa. Package includes a two-night stay in a resort guestroom, a breakfast buffet daily for all guests, a Thanksgiving buffet on Thursday, Nov. 27, and complimentary shuttle service to and from Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Colonial Williamsburg on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. Rates start from $365 per night for a family of four. Package available for a two-night stay, Nov. 25 to Dec. 1, 2014. Additional nights may be added and room upgrades are available starting from $40 more per night.

Fireworks in Williamsburg
See the sky light up during your stay with the Fireworks in Williamsburg package. Package includes a two-night stay in a one-bedroom suite, a breakfast buffet daily for all guests, a 2 p.m. late check-out on Sunday and/or Monday and complimentary shuttle service to and from Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Colonial Williamsburg on Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday. Stay on Dec. 7 and enjoy the Grand Illumination at Colonial Williamsburg, with musical performances and a spectacular fireworks display. Rates start from $219 per night for a family of four. Package available from Dec. 5-9, 2014. Two-night minimum stay required.

Holiday Traditions
Open presents under the tree at the Kingsmill Resort & Spa this year when you book the Holiday Traditions package. Package includes a two-night stay in a two-bedroom suite, a breakfast buffet daily for all guests, Christmas stockings, a decorated tree with lights, milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve, a Christmas buffet dinner for all guests and complimentary shuttle service to and from Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Colonial Williamsburg on Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday. Rates start from $602 per night for a family of four. Package available from Dec. 23-27, 2014. Two-night minimum stay required.

Offer based on availability. Additional restrictions and blackout dates may apply.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz