Archive for the ‘U.S. Travel’ category

5 New York City Fall Festivals for Families

August 17th, 2015

With summer ending, it’s easy to get remorseful, mourning the ending of everything the Big Apple has to offer this time of the year. Don’t fret; the fun will continue as the weather cools. During the fall season, the festival options are diverse and varied. There’s everything from farm festivals to Italian feasts to the ultimate street fair in Brooklyn — all out of this world and great for kids. Don’t miss these upcoming fests.

Village Halloween Parade in New York City

Feast of San Gennaro
Sept. 10 to Sept. 20
For culinary lovers of all ages, the Feast of San Gennaro is the place to go in September. It’s the area’s annual Salute to the Patron Saint of Naples. Little Italy will hold religious celebrations, colorful parades, musical entertainment, and a street fair full of food for 10 days. This area of Lower Manhattan served as the first home in America for hundreds of thousands of Italian immigrants who came here seeking to improve their lives at the beginning of the 20th century.

Queens County Fair
Sept. 19 to Sept. 20
The 32nd Annual Queens County Fair is as traditional as it gets with blue ribbon competitions in livestock, produce, home crafts, arts and crafts, and more. The fair features pie eating and corn husking contests, pig races, hayrides, carnival rides, midway games, and kids’ entertainment by Big Apple Circus To-Go. You can dance the day away at the Bavarian Garden with an Irish band and German band. At the Con Edison Ecology booth, kids can adopt a worm for the home compost or get gardening and recycling tips. They’ll also enjoy arts and crafts, a corn maze and food vendors.

Atlantic Antic Street Fair
Sept. 27
The 41st Atlantic Antic Street Fair in Brooklyn is a massive, festive street fair that stretches along two miles of Brooklyn’s centrally located thoroughfare. The entire street is closed to traffic, making way for food vendors and stalls selling clothing, artwork, jewelry, pottery, and T-shirts. Local restaurants and bars set up stalls in front of their businesses offering special deals. You’ll find great bands and music, dance performances, speeches, and raffles.

Fort Tryon Park Medieval Festival
Oct. 4
The Medieval Festival brings to life the customs and spirit of the Middle Ages. Every year, Fort Tryon Park warps back to the Middle Ages with knights in shining armor, strolling musicians, minstrels, juggling jesters and many a lady fair. Authentic medieval music, dance, magic, and minstrels, as well as jugglers and jesters, greet visitors. The afternoon concludes with a joust between four knights on horseback. The festival is free!

Village Halloween Parade
Oct. 31
Kids’ eyes will pop as they watch hundreds of puppets and dancers, dozens of bands and thousands of New Yorkers on the 6th Avenue parade route between Spring and Broome Streets during their favorite holiday of the year.

Looking for a place to stay when you visit? Consider one of the 10 Best New York City Hotels for Families.

— 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.

Cross-Country Road Trip Tips for Families

August 13th, 2015

You can prepare for months like we did, plotting and planning and thinking of every possible situation, but until you get out there on the road with your kids, it’s all hypothetical.

Most everything we had intended to do on our road trip did actually happen, which is a feat onto itself, but not everything happened perfectly. Here are some of the lessons we learned during our epic cross-country family road trip. May these guide you and your family when you’re ready to go coast to coast with kids!

National Parks Pass On Steering Wheel of Toyota

Use Up the Downtime You Planned
If you’ve built downtime into your schedule – a whole day or even just a few hours of relaxation — do that! Because afterward, when you’re back behind the wheel staring at a few hundred more miles of highway, you’ll regret not maximizing the opportunity you had to unwind.

Schedule Enough Time to See Friends and Family
If you have Facebook friends or other long lost acquaintances in the areas you’re planning to visit, be prepared to not see them for any significant period of time… or at all. I have so many dad blogger buddies who live in the greater L.A. area and I saw only two of them — the one who kindly let us crash at his Burbank home and another who so graciously stopped by with his family to say hello on his way to his Hollywood TV gig. Not reconnecting with the people I respect, admire and enjoy the company of is my biggest regret of the entire trip.

Get a National Parks Pass
Invest in the National Parks Pass. It set us back $80 before the trip started, but after visits to Yosemite, Bryce, Zion, Arches, Mono Lake, and Colorado National Monument, it ended up saving us over $40, and will ultimately save us even more as we use our pass for the next 11 months!

Download Music and Podcasts Before the Trip
If you use Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Prime Music or podcast streaming, be sure to download some listening material directly to your device before you hit one of the many dead cell patches that exist from coast to coast!

Pack Reusable Water Bottles
Bring your own reusable water bottles. All of the national parks and many urban spots have refill stations that’ll save you money and help a little bit to save the planet.

Invest in Memorable Souvenirs
Find something you love in every place you visit to enjoy while there, collect for later, or both. My wife and I love really good craft root beer so we sought out the local brews, sipped each (hers chilled or with ice cream, mine at room temperature so I could taste all those rich flavors) and collected them, too, to enjoy with our friends in California. By the time we reached the left coast, we’d amassed a full case to share!

Choose a Sturdy Vehicle
Pick the right vehicle! We went with a Toyota Sienna because of the reliability of the brand (important for drives over 12,000-foot mountains and through the 117 Fahrenheit temperatues of Death Valley!) and also because a minivan affords us tons of space inside while still being nimble enough to navigate national parks and big cities alike. That’s something an RV just cannot do.

Embrace the Unexpected
When the opportunity for an “off track” adventure presents itself, grab it with both hands! My youngest daughter’s second grade teacher had a habit of going off track, and the kids loved it. She’d lose the plot mid-lesson and wind up teaching the class far more than was ever intended, plus they would have so much fun! This is true of road trips as well. Take a local route, like 128 in Utah, and find an accessible point to get your feet wet in the Colorado River, or pull over for a strange desert sculpture park; in short, make time to do the unexpected. Your kids will remember those moments above all else you do on your road trip.

Consider a One-Way Trip
Finally, consider making your cross-country journey a one-way affair. Sure, the rental car companies hefty one-way drop off fee is a bitter pill to swallow, but driving only one coast to coast leg will afford you more time in each place and take away the dread of having to turn around and go back. Beware, though, of the stuff you put in the car and accumulate along the way, for all of that must then get into bags and onto an airplane! We ended up buying a seventh piece of luggage to bring back with us all the books, toys, souvenirs and our kids’ rocks-from-the-entire-country collections.

Follow the Bogle Family’s Road Trip:
Touring Indiana With Kids
A Weekend in Denver With Kids
48 Hours in St. Louis With Kids
Seeing Southern Utah for the First Time
Death Valley, Yosemite and a Hollywood Ending to a Cross-Country Road Trip

— 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.

Visiting the Met With Kids

August 12th, 2015

When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was “From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler” by E.L. Konigsburg. I was thrilled when my 8-year old daughter loved it, too. The story revolves around a pair of siblings who run away and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for a week, and an ensuing art mystery. It’s a great adventure, and it inspired us to recently visit the “Met” ourselves.

Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Visits to museums and historic sites can be hit-or-miss with kids. I’ve found that they enjoy it more if they can relate to it through a book they’ve read. Other popular sites related to books include the Green Gables Heritage Site on Prince Edward Island in Canada, and the Ingalls Homestead in South Dakota, former home of the “Little House on the Prairie” author.

It turns out that the Met embraces its ties to the book, and you can find a section called “A Mixed-Up” Journey on the children’s section of its website. There is a description of several places that were pivotal to the story, such as the fountain where they bathed, and the cafeteria. It also tells you where to find specific pieces of art, such as a bronze cat sculpture that impressed Claudia, the main character.

In some cases, the places and artworks are no longer on display, but they suggest close alternatives. We were able to see the jewelry of Princess Sit Hathor Yunet in the Egyptian galleries, and the Arms and Armor rooms that thrilled Claudia’s younger brother. We got to eat in the cafeteria, as they did, although the price of a sandwich is no longer 75 cents!

Even if you haven’t read this book, the Met is a fun museum to visit as a family. It’s also one of the largest art museums in the world, with more than three million pieces of art and antiquities in its permanent collection. Suffice it to say, you won’t see everything in one day, so it’s smart to choose one or two sections to cover. The Egyptian Art wing is a sure bet, with a highlight being the large Temple of Dendur. Arms and Armor, with its extensive weapons displays, is likely to be a hit, too.

Although we didn’t get to the Costume Institute on this visit, I’m pretty sure my fashion-savvy daughter would have enjoyed it. The small gallery of musical instruments is also on our list for next time. There are family programs worth looking for online prior to your visit, like story times, “Art Trek” tours, and Sunday Studio art-making workshops.

Strollers are permitted in most parts of the museum, and there are several places to buy snacks. The cafeteria even features a kids’ gallery wall, where they can color and hang their own works.

— Traci L. Suppa

Traci L. Suppa drags her small-town family to see a quirky array of the world’s largest, longest, or tallest things, and blogs about it at Go BIG or Go Home.

S’mores Services at The Resort at Paws Up

August 10th, 2015

Did you know today is National S’mores Day? Many resorts and hotels provide fire pits for making S’mores, and one of our favorites includes The Resort at Paws Up. The luxurious dude ranch also features other sweet services for guests (not to mention a 100-pound S’more that’s being made for today’s holiday).

S'mores at The Resort at Paws Up

Camp Butlers
Each of the resort’s tented campsites features a dedicated camp butler, who prepares the perfect S’more for each guest. Guests even have the option to enjoy their S’mores with additional ingredients, such as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!

S’mores Table-Side Service
Introduced in 2015, S’mores Table-Side Service means families have the option to roast marshmallows right at their restaurant table, with chocolate, graham crackers and fruit provided.

Kids Corp of Discovery
The Kids Corp of Discovery is a children’s program designed for ages 5 to 12. Children learn how to build a proper fire and create the ultimate S’more, and enjoy other activities such as horseback riding, hiking and biking.

Located in Greenough, Montana, The Resort at Paws Up features deluxe cabins and tents for “glamping,” plus guided activities (many included in rates), several restaurants and a spa.

–Amanda Geronikos

More From Family Vacation Critic:
6 Sweet Resorts With S’mores
10 Best Dude Ranches for Families