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A Day in Annapolis With Kids

September 24th, 2014

Just 40 minutes east of Washington, D.C., and home to the U.S. Naval Academy, is Annapolis — a small, quaint and family-friendly community situated right along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The streets are filled with parents walking their little ones in strollers or their beloved beasts on leashes, and there is always a plethora of fun things to do. From farmers markets filled with the freshest breads and jams to live music playing on every corner, Annapolis is the perfect place for you and your family to explore for a day or even a long weekend. Here are three things to do and see with kids while in Annapolis.

Picture of man making balloon animals in AnnapolisBalloon Man of Annapolis
Wandering around Annapolis is the Balloon Man, otherwise known as ABCtheClown. He’s been making kids laugh for more than 25 years, and he can’t wait to make yours laugh, too. In addition, he’s ready and willing to make them a balloon dog, cat or whatever they want — you just have to find him! And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll catch him on a day when he’s strumming away on his Ukulele.

Chick and Ruth’s Delly
Exterior view of Chick and Ruth's Delly in AnnapolisStop by this Annapolis staple in the midst of your day’s journeys if you’re craving a delicious and hearty meal at a fair price. From omelets to deli sandwiches to pizzas, Chick and Ruth’s Delly is sure to have something to satisfy every belly (and will serve you whatever you want regardless of the hour — I got a chicken salad sandwich at 8:30 a.m.). While you can’t bring a stroller inside, there’s plenty of space to park them on the street; high chairs are offered upon request; and gluten-free options are available. We recommend getting there as early as possible as the line almost always ends up out the door (especially on weekends).

Exterior view of water taxi in AnnapolisWater Taxi
Getting from point A to point B by foot or car is so yesterday, so spice it up and hop on the water taxi! It will take you anywhere throughout Annapolis Harbor, otherwise known as Spa Creek, and is located right across the street from the Harbormaster’s office in Ego Alley. Tickets start from $3 per person. Call 410-263-0033 for more information.

– Morgan Agesen

5 Travel-Related Crafts to Make With Kids

September 18th, 2014

Kids often make arts and crafts while in school, from cute fall decorations for the classroom to pictures of what they did this past summer with their families. Have fun with your kids at home and make one of these five travel-related crafts from souvenirs, ticket stubs, photos and more from your most recent family vacation.

Sand Ornaments
What You Will Need: sand, clear glass ornament, funnel, colorful tape, ribbon

Glass ornament filled with sand with blue ribbonIf you visited a beach in the Caribbean or some other exotic area this past summer (or maybe even just the Jersey Shore), hopefully you brought home some sand as a souvenir. If not, then plan to do this on your next trip!

Pick up clear glass ornaments from your local arts and crafts store. Have your children use the funnel to fill them with sand — any amount that they want, but know it may get heavy – and use the colorful tape to close off the top hole when done. Use matching ribbon as the string that will allow the ornament to hang. Cut it to at least 12 inches in length and tape both ends to the top of the ornament, so that it forms a loop. You can stop here and have the craft completed, but feel free to let your kids bedazzle the outside of the ornament with glitter, stickers and other fun decorations. Since the ornament is clear, they’ll be able to see the sand inside!

Ticketed Picture Frames
What You Will Need: ticket stubs, mod podge glue, paint brushes, wooden picture frames

Simple wooden picture frames are available at your local arts and crafts store and are inexpensive. Take all of those ticket stubs from your most recent trip and let the kids mod podge them to the frames. The mod podge glue can be painted right over the ticket stubs onto the frames with paint brushes – it will dry clear and the ticket stubs will be securely “stuck” to the frame. Allow the frame to dry for 24 hours and then place a picture of your family at the attraction, theme park or museum in which you visited and received your tickets from, inside the frame!

Photo Map
What You Will Need: medium-size map of the continental United States, photos of your family, scissors, glue, stickers

Map of United States with photos covering the statesHave you recently visited Florida or California? A fun way to document where your family has traveled is by making a photo map of where you’ve visited! Before passing the photos to the kids, measure them out against the map and cut them into the shape of the states in which you have visited. (Note: If your kids are old enough to use scissors, let them try, too!) Allow the kids to glue the photos to the map, having them match the photo to the state in which it is shaped. They’ll be able to see where the states are located in comparison to where you live, which will also teach them about geography.

Another fun thing to do with this map is to have the kids place stickers on the states in which they would like to visit next! (This will also give you ideas for next summer’s family vacation!)

Travel Journals
What You Will Need: journals or notebooks, stickers, paint, glue, family photos, ticket stubs, glitter, markers, etc.

A great way for kids to really connect with their family vacation is to write about it. Before your next trip, or if you would like them to reflect on this past one, pick up a journal or notebook from your local store. Allow your kids to decorate the covers with markers, glitter, stickers, photos – really anything! Have them personalize it and then allow them to draw pictures of where you’re family has gone or write about where you will be traveling next inside the journal. Travel journals can be taken on the road and will also be a way to keep the kids busy when on the plane or in the car. They’ll enjoy looking back on their family vacations years from now, too.

Homemade Disney Ears
What You Will Need: black headbands, black paper, red ribbon, glue

Black Mickey Mouse Ears and pink Minnie Mouse EarsHave your kids make their own Mickey Mouse ears before your next trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Cut out “ears” from the black paper. They should be an oval or circle shape (like Mickey’s ears!) with about a one-inch rectangle on the bottom — you will need two per headband. Glue the rectangle bottom of the ear to the inside of the headband. Do this again with the other ear and be sure they are spaced well on the headband. One ear should be secured on the upper left side of the headband, and the other ear should be secured to the upper right side of the headband. Bend the paper ears so that they stand up in the appropriate way. You’re all done with your Mickey Mouse ears!

If you want Minnie Mouse ears, use the red ribbon and cut and tie it into a bow. Glue it to the headband directly between the two ears, or make two small bows and place one in front of each ear. Allow the glue to dry before wearing.

What are a few other great travel-related crafts to make with kids? Share your ideas in the comments below!

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

What’s New at Knott’s Berry Farm

June 28th, 2014

Knott’s Berry Farm recently completed updates to the Calico Mine Train ride and the Camp Snoopy area in an effort to keep the classic attractions looking brand new. On your next trip to the California theme park, be sure to check out the revitalized experiences. Here’s what you can expect:

Calico Mine Train
Originally opened in 1960, the Calico Mine Train ride was in need of a new paint job, a new sound system and new lighting. Each train was refurbished and repainted with new colors. The figures and set design throughout the ride were also repainted and updated. New lights were installed and the music and recordings throughout the ride were re-mastered with a digital program for clearer sound. The Calico Mine Train also received a new miner figure who will greet riders as they enter the mine’s upper level. A few additional figures, such as vultures, were also added throughout. Lastly, the explosion at the end of the ride got a reboot and is now more spectacular than ever.

Camp Snoopy
With the addition of three new rides — Pig Pen’s Mud Buggies, Charlie Browne’s Kite Flyer and the Linus Launcher — Camp Snoopy is more kid-friendly than ever. The area, which opened in the 1980s, is geared toward younger, elementary children and is a popular play area for families visiting Knott’s Berry Farm. The entire area was refurbished and the Grand Sierra Railroad received a facelift and scenes of Peanuts characters playing together were added throughout.

Pig Pen’s Mud Buddies
One of the three new rides in Camp Snoopy, Pig Pen’s Mud Buddies puts riders in ATV’s that spin, bounce and bump around Pig Pen. Children must be 36 inches or taller to ride or must be accompanied by an adult.

 

 

 

Charlie Brown’s Kite Flyer
The second new ride in Camp Snoopy takes kids flying around a large tree. Riders will sit in swings and soar through the air up and down. Kids must be 42 inches or taller to ride or be accompanied by an adult.

 

 

 

Linus Launcher
The last of the three new Camp Snoopy rides, the Linus Launcher has riders lay down and fly through the air on Linus’s “blankets.” Riders are on their stomachs and the ride takes them up 10 feet in the air. Kids must be at least 42 inches tall to ride.

 

 

 

According to Raffi Kaprelyan, vice president and general manager of Knott’s Berry Farm, the park will continue to evolve and plans to revitalize other areas are in place.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

 

 

Summer Fun for the Family in Aruba

June 13th, 2014

Don’t let Friday the 13th get you down — no matter your luck today, start thinking ahead to your family vacation this summer. Have you planned it yet? If not, then you’re in luck! Consider a trip to Aruba because the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort, Spa and Casino just announced its newest “Kids Rule! Concierge” service, plus so many more family-friendly activities. Here’s what you can expect if you decide to stay at this beachfront resort this summer:

Kids Rule! Concierge Service
Check-in will be more fun for kids with this new program. Children will receive a welcome amenity with Aruba beach bags, miniature bottles of sunscreen, a beach pail and shovel. They’ll be ready to go as soon as you drop the bags off in your guestroom!

Cool Pool Snacks and More
While soaking up the sun on a lounger by the pool or splashing with the kids in the shallow end, enjoy fresh fruit skewers at 2 p.m. each day. And when the heat starts to get to you, cool down with locally grown aloe — the pool staff will gladly spray your whole family with the refreshing mist.

Games, Smoothies and Movies
If you’re up for a little competition, take part in a team-building activity like Tug-o-War and Limbo. Check the daily schedule of activities for more fun for the whole family, like token dives, shuffleboard contests, beach volleyball, bingo and more.

After breaking a sweat, head to the Kadushi Fresh Fruit Juice Bar for a seminar on smoothies. Learn how to make the resort’s most popular beverage and taste your concoctions when done to see if you’re a true smoothie master. The demonstrations take place daily at 10:30 a.m. and recipe cards are available for families to take home.

In the evening, relax with a dive-in movie. Every Tuesday and Thursday, the resort will screen family-friendly films on the main pool deck. Theatre-style seating will be available for those not wanting to get wet during the movie, but all guests are more than welcome to float in the water during the film. And don’t worry about the popcorn — the resort will provide the salty-snack and other goodies!

Dine for Less at Lunch and Dinner
The Hyatt Regency Aruba has 12 restaurants and bars to choose from when it comes to family meals and date-night drinks, but this summer, eat lunch and dinner at the Palms Restaurant, which has the “Pay Your Age” promotion for kids. Kids will only be charged the dollar amount that is equal to their age (12 years old equals $12). Menu favorites include fish tacos and Caribbean jerk chicken, but kid-friendly dishes like burgers, chicken sandwiches and hot dogs are also available.

Extra Savings Under the Sun
The Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort, Spa and Casino is also offering a family-friendly promotion that is sure to please parents. The Sunshine on Sale promotion offers families a free night during their stay! Book four consecutive nights and receive your fifth consecutive night free. And if you need more room to spread out and relax, book a second, connecting room for children 18 and under to stay in at half price. The offer is valid now through Dec. 19, 2014, but based on availability. Additional restrictions and blackout dates may apply.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz





Friday Family Hotel News

December 14th, 2012

Family Vacation Critic receives a lot of interesting news about hotels that we’d love to share with you. Visit us every Friday to find exciting news about hotels in your favorite destinations.

Hilton Opens First All-Inclusive Resort in Mexico
Families love all-inclusive (makes it easier for us to budget and not have to say “no” at every turn) and now Hilton is entering Mexico‘s all-inclusive market with its new Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort. The beachfront hotel offers 259 rooms and suites, as well as onsite dining with an international buffet and a French and Brazilian restaurant. Amenities include pools, a kids’ club and a spa. Rates will range from $180 to $350 per person, per night.


Warwick International Acquires Paradise Island Harbor Resort
Warwick International Hotels has acquired the 250-room Paradise Island Harbour Resort in the Bahamas. The resort will now be receiving a complete and extensive renovation, slated to begin in the latter part of 2013. The resort will remain open during the renovation.


Haunting Hotels with History

October 10th, 2012

My daughter is fascinated by the notion a hotel may have ghosts after overhearing a conversation about the Stanley Hotel in Colorado (of “The Shining” fame.) She has been begging me to take her to a hotel that claims to be haunted. Luckily, I received a list of four paranormal hotels that we just may have to check out together.

1. The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C.
This property claims a ghost has roamed its halls for over half a century. She is referred to as the Pink Lady because of the flowing pink gown she wears. It is believed that this young woman was a guest in Room 545 in the 1920s and that she either jumped or was pushed to her death in the Main Inn’s Palm Court, five floors below. New reports of her sightings still occur, especially by young children. Some say they just see a pink mist, others a full apparition of a young long-haired beauty in a pink gown. I’ve stayed at the Grove Park Inn (a gorgeous hotel) but never saw the pink mist.

2. La Posada de Santa Fe in Santa Fe, N.M.
This hotel dates back to 1882 when Abraham Staab built it as a three-story Victorian mansion for his family. When Julia, Staab’s wife, died in 1896 at the age of 52, her presence continued to live on throughout the home. Today, the Staab House at La Posada de Santa Fe retains its original structure and is home to a cozy bar and Suite 100, which used to be Julia’s bedroom. To honor her, the hotel staff makes sure to invite her to parties held in the house and greet her when they enter her bedroom.

3. The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va.
One of the oldest resorts in America (built in 1766) has reports about the 14th floor in the resort’s oldest wing. As the story goes, in the early 1900s, a woman was set to be married at The Homestead but on the day of her wedding her husband-to-be ran out and never returned. The bride became so distraught that she took her own life. Now her spirit roams the 14th floor of the resort asking guests and staff for the time with hopes her groom will return. Whether or not you spot the bride, this historic resort is a must-visit.

4. Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, N.H.
This resort claims the ghost of Caroline Foster roams the property. Visions of an elegant woman in Victorian dress are often spotted in the hallways of the hotel, but perhaps the most common sighting of the beloved Caroline is in room 314, where guests report seeing the vision of the woman sitting at the edge of their guest bed.

–Lissa Poirot