Archive for the ‘U.S. Travel’ category

American Girl Doll Dining Experiences

December 7th, 2014

Little girl and her American Girl Doll smilingIf you’re planning on purchasing your child accessories for his/her American Girl Doll this holiday season, then maybe you can add in a special experience, too. American Girl Doll stores are located throughout the U.S. and offer memorable shopping experiences. But did you know that you can also dine at the retail locations? Cafes and bistros offer snacks and dining experiences for you, your child and their doll, too.

American Girl Cafes
Located in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, American Girl Cafes offer a fun and fancy dining experience. Sit at a table and use the Table Talkers to get the conversation flowing while you wait for your meal. Dolls also receive their own place setting and seat. Plus, if your child didn’t bring their doll with them, you can request to have one of the dolls in the café to join you for your meal. American Girl Cafes serve brunch at 9:30 a.m., lunch at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., and dinner at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. All seating times last 60 minutes and are offered daily.

American Girl Bistros
Located in Charlotte, Columbus, San Francisco, St. Louis, Houston, Miami, Orlando, Seattle, Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Minneapolis and Washington D.C., American Girl Bistros offer slightly less fancy dining experiences for families. Enjoy brunch, lunch, dinner or just dessert with your child and their doll, who also gets a place setting and seat at your table. Brunch is served on Saturdays (with additional days at select locations) while lunch and dinner are served daily. Times vary per location. Afternoon tea is also available on weekdays between 2 and 4:30 p.m. at American Girl Bistros and includes a craft activity.

BeForever Dining Activity Package
Both American Girl Cafes and Bistros offer the BeForever Dining Activity Package. The package includes a story about inspiring young girls, an activity booklet and girl- and doll-sized crafts to take home. Geared towards children ages 8 and up, the package is a perfect add-on to any American Girl Doll dining experience. The package is not offered on weekdays, and it is not available in Denver, Kansas City, Hawaii, Charlotte or Orlando.

Special Holiday Happenings
Throughout the month of December, American Girl Doll stores around the U.S. are offering special holiday events for families. Make a gingerbread house with your doll and then enjoy the sweet treat together, or create festive doll-sized crafts with the Wonder of Holiday Memories event while dining together at the café or bistro.

The gingerbread house event is for children ages 8 and up and will be held at the following locations this month:

Atlanta – Dec. 12 and 19
Boston – Dec. 14
Columbus – Dec. 7 and 20
Dallas – Dec. 12 and 22
Denver – Dec. 13 and 20
Houston – Dec. 14 and 23
Kansas City – Dec. 13
Los Angeles – Dec. 11
Miami – Dec. 14 and 21
Minneapolis – Dec. 12
Seattle – Dec. 14
San Francisco – Dec. 12
St. Louis – Dec. 12 and 17
Washington, D.C. – Dec. 12

The Wonder of Holiday Memories event is for children ages 8 and up and will be held at the following locations this month:

Atlanta – Dec. 12 and 19
Boston – Dec. 7, 12 and 21
Chicago – Dec. 12 and 19
Columbus – Dec. 12 and 19
Dallas – Dec. 7, 14 and 21
Houston – Dec. 12 and 19
Los Angeles – Dec. 12 and 19
Miami – Dec. 12 and 19
Minneapolis – Dec. 12 and 21
Seattle – Dec. 7, 14 and 20
San Francisco – Dec. 12 and 19
St. Louis – Dec. 13 and 20
Washington, D.C. – Dec. 14 and 19

For special American Girl Doll accommodations in a city near you, check out our American Girl Doll Hotel Packages.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

The Christmas Capital of Texas

December 6th, 2014

With more than 1,400 Christmas events within a 40-day span, it’s no wonder why Grapevine, Texas, is considered the Christmas Capital of Texas. Enjoy light displays with humungous decorations, animated characters, magical events and activities for families, and more. Everything is bigger in Texas, including the holiday season!

The holiday decorations at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center

Light Show Spectacular
See Grapevine light up for the holidays with the various light events throughout the holiday season. Enjoy the Light Show Spectacular at the intersection of Main Street and Dallas Road nightly from 6 to 11 p.m. The show features music and light displays. Plus, it’s free!

Christmas Movies and Concerts at the Palace Theatre
The historic Palace Theatre in downtown Grapevine will feature classic Christmas movies, like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “White Christmas,” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” among others, as well as concerts and shows during the month of December. See the Main Street LIVE Christmas Spectacular, The Nutcracker, or A Merry Little Christmas Show With Ricki Derek. Shows and concerts run on select days now through Dec. 20, 2014. Admission varies per show. Classic Christmas movies at the Palace Theatre are $5 per person, per movie.

Christmas on Main
Downtown Grapevine will be decorated for the holidays this month for its annual Christmas on Main event. Enjoy classic decorations, tractor-drawn wagon rides, and live entertainment. Downtown Grapevine is also home to restaurants and stores that are perfect for family meals and holiday shopping. Tractor-drawn wagon rides are available on Fridays from 2 to 5 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. and cost $1 per person. Christmas on Main runs now through Dec. 21, 2014.

SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium
The holidays go underwater at the SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium with holiday events and activities for families. See Santa scuba diving, meet your favorite Octonauts characters, complete a special scavenger hunt, watch holiday-themed episodes of Octonauts, and make ornaments to bring home for your tree. All events are free with admission to the aquarium, which is $20 for adults, $16 for kids between 3 and 12, and free for kids 2 and under. Holiday events and activities take place now through Dec. 21, 2014.

North Pole Neighborhood
The Cotton Belt Railroad District and Grapevine Depot are now the North Pole Neighborhood for the holiday season. Families can enjoy interacting with costumed characters, writing letters to Santa, and shopping for North Pole Express merchandise and gifts. Food and beverages are also available for purchase. Photos with Santa are on offer daily, with reservations available Monday through Thursday. The North Pole Neighborhood is open Friday through Sunday, now through Dec. 21, 2014, with additional hours on Monday, Dec. 22, and Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014.

Santa’s Wonderland at Bass Pro Shop
After buying fishing, boating, camping and other outdoor gear for the entire family, visit Santa’s Wonderland at the Bass Pro Shop in Grapevine. See old-fashioned model trains, make arts and crafts, play in the arcade and ride the carousel. Plus, guests can get a free 4-by-6-inch photo with Santa on select weekdays. Santa’s Wonderland runs now through Dec. 24, 2014.

ICE! and Lone Star Christmas
Head to the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center for a magical Lone Start State Christmas experience filled with an 8-foot gingerbread house, Santa’s Wild Workshop Snow Tubing, cookies and milk with Mrs. Claus, photos with Santa, and ICE!, a cold exhibit made from more than two million pounds of ice. This year, ICE! features Frosty the Snowman and live carvings. Admission starts from $22 for adults and $12 for children between 4 and 12 years; kids 3 and under are free. ICE! and Lone Star Christmas is open daily now through Jan. 3, 2015.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

10 Ways to Spend Days With Kids in Long Beach, Calif.

December 5th, 2014

The Queen Mary ship in Long Beach, CaliforniaIf you’re looking for a vacation with the kids that has good hotels, restaurants, a variety of activities for all ages, good weather year-round, art, culture, shopping, and more, then visit Long Beach, California. Located along 5.5 miles of beach, half way between Los Angeles and Orange County, Long Beach offers great food, cultural diversity, waterfront dining and a slew of options for families of all shapes and sizes.

Here are 10 ways to spend your time in Long Beach with your kids – this list is just the tip of the iceberg!

1. Indulge in cinnamon French toast with Nutella at The Attic on Broadway.

2. Immerse your family with underwater life at the Aquarium of the Pacific with an interactive experience that will have you all swimming with the fishes, watching sea lions get fed and gawking at penguins. Your kids will love learning about and touching stingrays, sea cucumbers, starfish and more. The Aquarium is home to more than 11,000 inhabitants of the Pacific Ocean representing some 500 different species.

3. Channel everyone’s senses during a tour of The Queen Mary, a historic ocean liner that is now both a tourist attraction and 346-stateroom hotel. It was one of the world’s most luxurious ships to ever sail the Atlantic Ocean. You can also learn about the haunted part of the ship and explore the Soviet submarine, Scorpion, which is moored adjacent to the Queen Mary. Top the day off with high tea in the ship’s famous Tea Room.

4. Take a Harbor Breeze waterfront boat tour — a 45-minute ride around the harbor, with magnificent views of the beautiful Long Beach skyline, California Sea Lions, the world-famous Queen Mary, large cargo/container ships from all over the world, seagulls, sea lions, a light house and the Shoreline Village.

5. Explore the Long Beach Museum of Art, which includes the historic Elizabeth Milbank Anderson house and carriage house (built in 1912), oceanfront gardens and a pavilion with two floors of expansive gallery space for changing exhibitions.

6. Stroll through Shoreline Village, a collection of restaurants and souvenir shops situated on a boardwalk.

7. Take a surrey ride, rented at Wheel Fun at Shoreline Village. You’ll ride down the coastline, past sailboats, condos and other bikers, giving everyone good exercise.

8. Ride the canals of Naples Island on Gondola Getaway, near Belmont Shores, a popular part of Long Beach.

9. Check out the Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA), one of the only museums in the country to focus exclusively on the contemporary art of Mexico, Central and South America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean.

10. Explore the city’s cultural diversity, from East Village Art’s District to Cambodia Town.

– Holly Fink

Holly Rosen Fink is a mother, marketing consultant, writer and blogger for a number of sites, as well as her own, The Culture Mom.

4 Christmas Cookie Tours for Families

December 3rd, 2014

A plate of Christmas cookiesYou’ve heard of holiday lights tours, but what about cookie tours? In November and December, many areas host organized tours that allow visitors to sample holiday treats as they travel from inn to inn, each one decorated differently for the season. These are a few upcoming highlights:

Saugatuck, Mich.
Sixteen establishments will participate in Saugatuck’s Christmas Cookie Tour of Area Inns, Dec. 6 and 7. Tickets are $7.50 per person, and packages with accommodations are available. The annual event, hosted from 2 to 5 p.m., will be preceded by the “Whooville” Christmas Parade at 1 p.m. on Dec. 6. On the same day, Coral Gables Annex will be transformed into Santa’s Workshop, where holiday crafts and carriage rides will be on offer.

Participating Properties: Amble Inn, AmericInn Lodge & Suites, Bayside Inn, Beechwood, Manor Inn, The Belvedere Inn & Restaurant, Blue Star Motel, Castle in the Country, Ivy Inn, Lakeshore Lodging, Rosemont Inn Resort, Saugatuck’s Victoria Inn, Serendipity Bed & Breakfast, The Seymour House, Sherwood Forest B&B, Shoreline Vacation Rentals, and Timberline Motel

Holmes County, Ohio
Take a Christmas Cookie Tour through Amish Country, Ohio, where you’ll sample Gooey Red Velvet Butter Cookies, Mocha Truffle Cookies and more. Twelve hotels and inns will participate in this year’s event, scheduled for Dec. 13 and 14, 12:30 to 6 p.m. Tickets are $35 per person, and proceeds will be donated to charity.

Participating Properties: Berlin Grande, Berlin Resort, Carlisle Inn Sugarcreek, Carlisle Walnut Creek, Garver House, Guggisberg Swiss Inn, Inn at Amish Door, Memory Lane Cabin, Ramada Inn, Sojourner’s Lodge, Wallhouse Hotel and Zinck’s Inn

Mount Washington Valley, N.H.
Mount Washington Valley hosts the Inn to Inn Holiday and Cookie Tour – the original cookie tour, and the oldest in New England. On Dec. 13 and 14, guests will be able to visit a total of 11 inns (all within 15 minutes of each other) and vote for their favorite cookie. Tickets are $30 per person, or you can opt for a package at any of the inns; packages include two-nights’ accommodations, breakfast, and tickets (and in some cases, extra perks, such as sleigh rides).

Participating Properties: Darby Field Inn, Inn at Crystal Lake and Pub, Covered Bridge House, Notchland Inn, Glen Oaks Inn, Inn at Ellis River, 1785 Inn, Eastman Inn, Old Red Inn & Cottages, Snowvillage Inn, and Admiral Peary Inn Bed and Breakfast

Start a family tradition in Baltimore, where you and the kids can stroll Union Square. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the area is decorated in holiday splendor. Residents provide tours in more than 20 homes, along with their best cookies. The event takes places on Dec. 14, 2014 and tickets are $15 per person.

– Amanda Geronikos

4 Holiday-Inspired Towns for Families

December 2nd, 2014

You’ll find holiday attractions and events just about anywhere during the month of December, but in these small towns, it’s Christmas practically year-round.

Santa Claus, Ind.
Festive holiday lights in Santa Claus, IndianaIn Santa Claus, Indiana — about an hour from Louisville, Kentucky — just about everything is named after the famous man in red. There’s Santa Claus Christmas Store, Santa’s Stables, Santa Claus Museum & Village, Santa’s Candy Castle, Santa Claus Land of Lights, Santa Claus Post Office, and even a hotel called Santa’s Lodge. Families can also take a ride down Mistletoe Drive or play mini-golf at Frosty’s Fun Center. There’s a water park in town, too — appropriately named Holiday World.

North Pole, N.Y.
Festive lights tour in North Pole, New YorkThere are a few towns named North Pole, but none of them offer what the location in the Adirondacks does: Santa’s Workshop (and by workshop, we mean theme park). The attraction is designated for youngsters, with rides like Santa’s Sleigh Coaster and Candy Cane Express. It also offers live entertainment and a festive village with shops and a reindeer farm. In late-November and December, Yuletide Family Weekends allow visitors to combine park tickets and extra perks with nearby accommodations, such as North Pole Inn.

Christmas, Fla.
Welcome to Christmas, Florida signYou won’t find snow in Christmas, Florida, but you will find a permanent nativity scene and giant Christmas tree, no matter what time of year you visit. Streets are named after all of Santa’s reindeer, too. Visit Fort Christmas Museum, a collection of historical homes, before you head to Disney World for more holiday fun — it’s less than an hour away.


Bethlehem, Pa.
The Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem in Bethlehem, PennsylvaniaAlso known as Christmas City, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is overseen by a giant star — The Star of Bethlehem — on South Mountain. The area’s biggest holiday event is Christkindlmarkt, a near-perfect replica of the real deal in Germany. Activities for families include breakfast with Santa and glass ornament decorating. Holiday entertainment at Steel Stacks arts center and Lights on the Parkway, a wonderland of lights in nearby Allentown, round out the fun for families. Plus, it’s less than one hour from Philadelphia!

– Amanda Geronikos

Disneyland Resort Undergoes a Holiday Transformation

November 30th, 2014

It’s the holiday season at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, and visitors to Disney theme parks will find special events and treats through Jan. 6, 2015.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle decorated with lights for the holidays at Disneyland

In Disneyland, popular rides receive a holiday transformation, including “It’s A Small World,” which becomes a winter wonderland filled with holiday melodies; the Haunted Mansion, which has been visited by Jack and his friends from “A Nightmare Before Christmas;” and the “Jungle Cruise,” which has morphed into the “Jingle Cruise.”

Guests walking along Main Street may be surprised to see snow falling as they make their way from the majestic Christmas tree to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, which glitters and shimmers as a winter icicle-adorned spectacle.

Disney’s popular daily parade also displays a holiday touch, as marching soldiers, favorite Disney characters, and even Santa himself, make their way down Main Street. As day ends, enjoy a nightly “Believe… in Holiday Magic” fireworks spectacular.

Just across the courtyard in Disney’s California Adventure Buena Vista Street and Radiator Springs are transformed by the holiday spirit, and kids can experience a bug’s perspective of the holidays at “A Bug’s Land,” which features giant ornaments and decorations.

Guests can also get a taste of the holidays, celebrated Latino style, in the new “Viva Navidad” special, celebrating time-honored traditions, seasonal foods, and festive entertainment and music.

Before the park closes, the magical “World of Color” show over Paradise Bay becomes “Winter Dreams,” where “Frozen” characters add their special touches to the nightly spectacular, showing twice each evening.

The holidays also carry throughout the resort with special holiday desserts and treats, souvenirs and decorations. It’s hard not to get into the holiday spirit at the happiest place on earth!

– Lissa Poirot