6 Things to Do in Austin With Kids

August 19th, 2015 by Guest Blogger 2 comments »

Austin, the state capital of Texas, is a really cool and proudly weird city. The official city motto, “Keep Austin Weird,” perfectly sums it up. Consider a visit to these fun and funky attractions for families.

Lemonade Stand in Austin

The Cathedral of Junk
Once upon a time in 1988, Vince Hanneman decided to build a clubhouse in his backyard — unlike any clubhouse anyone had ever seen! This clubhouse contains 60 to 100 tons worth of stuff. It has bicycle wheels, car bumpers, ladders, and everything you can imagine (and some you can’t). It has changed over the years as the creator’s taste has changed, and it serves as proof that art comes in all forms. After the shock of seeing this fantastic creation wears off, try a scavenger hunt! Look for skis, phones, Barbies, Maggie Simpson, a horseshoe, helmet, iron, snowman, rocking horse, crutches, set of 4 matching tea cups and more. Add anything to your scavenger hunt list.

This amazing artistic creation is in the backyard of a private home, so you must call (512-299-7413) to make sure Vince will be there to show you around. The cost is $10 per group.

Bat Conservation International
Hidden from view under the Congress Avenue Bridge is the largest urban colony of Mexican free-tail bats in the world. The 1.5-million winged mammals migrate here each year in the spring and fly out each evening to eat up to 10 tons of insects per night. The best time to see them is late summer when their babies go flying, too. The black cloud zooming out from under the bridge is something amazing to see!

South Congress Street
Only in Austin could a regular street be so much fun. There is so much to see and do in just a few blocks! Window Shop in the store Uncommon Goods — kiddos and adults alike find this store amazing. It has just a little bit of everything. Give each person a mission: Vote for your idea of the weirdest thing there and then take a photo next to it. What will you choose?

Visit a food truck, and be sure to stop at the lemonade stand that is shaped like — what else — a lemon! Be sure to visit The Big Top Candy Shop, too. You haven’t visited a candy store until you see this one. Not only is the decor fascinating, but the variety of candy is awe-inspiring. They have real soda jerks, too, that make a huge list of sodas.

The Thinkery
Austin’s amazing children’s museum, The Thinkery, is a fun way for the kiddos to learn and explore using math, art, and science skills. Use computers to manipulate and display your photo. Build a foam plane and see how it flies in the wind lab. Paint with wax using magnets to make the wax flow. Prepare to spend half a day at this educational, hands-on museum, and plan ahead. Only a certain number of tickets are sold each day and while there are a few walk-up tickets available, we wouldn’t chance it.

Lake Travis Zipline Adventures
If your idea of fun leans towards an adrenaline rush, you need to see Texas’ longest zip line! Lake Travis Zipline Adventures has a 3-hour adventure that zips you five times all the while enjoying views of the Texas Hill Country and Lake Travis. The very last zip line experience is 20 stories high and takes you 2,400 feet over Lake Travis. This is an experience you can’t match anywhere else because “everything is bigger in Texas!”

Mt. Playmore
Mt. Playmore boasts 3,000 square feet of indoor jungle gym fun. Think climbing tubes like the ones at McDonalds or Burger King, but on a much grander scale than you can imagine. It has to be the cleanest one around, too, as it is sprayed down with a hospital grade germ killer regularly. Climb with the kids or sit nearby to relax and watch the fun.

For more ideas for things to do in Austin, plus hotel and restaurant recommendations, visit Austin Family Vacations.

–Natalie Tanner, The Educational Tourist

Natalie Tanner, The Educational Tourist, has hundreds of thousands of miles under her belt — business trips with her geologist husband to places like Scottsdale, Jackson Hole, New York and Denver — and family adventures to far-flung destinations like Rome, Paris, Tangier, and Istanbul. When she isn’t traveling, The Educational Tourist stays busy planning the next adventure while being mom to two kids, three dogs, Sushi the fisand a hamster. Follow her adventures at The Educational Tourist.

5 New York City Fall Festivals for Families

August 17th, 2015 by Guest Blogger No comments »

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.

Halloween on Disney Cruise Line

August 14th, 2015 by Amanda Geronikos No comments »

It’s fun to sail with Disney Cruise Line no matter the time of year, but Halloween is extra special… or shall we say, spooky. Consider an autumn cruise in the future to take advantage of ghoulish parties, parades and more.

Minnie and Little Girl in Halloween Costumes on Disney Cruise Line

A Nightmare Before Christmas – Sing and Scream
This is a unique, interactive movie experience. After the show, families can meet Jack and Sally!

Haunted Stories of the Sea
Gather under to the stars to hear a mysterious captain share folklore of the sea.

Creepy Cabaret
Performers offer spooky music in the atrium.

Mickey’s Mouse-querade Party
Characters (and guests!) wear costumes at this party, which includes music, games, dancing and, of course, candy!

Spooky Movies
Halloween movies are presented in the ships’ movie theaters and cabins.

Ghoulish Delights
The chefs on Disney Cruise Line concoct magical potions and treats, including “Spooky Juice.”

Halloween Isn’t Just for Kids
Parents can participate in costume contests in each ship’s entertainment district.

Disney Magic: Oct. 4-28, 2015
Disney Wonder: Oct. 1-23, 2015
Disney Dream: Sept. 7-Oct. 30, 2015
Disney Fantasy: Sept. 5-Oct. 30, 2015

For information about each ship’s accommodations, activities, restaurants and more, visit Disney Cruises.

–Amanda Geronikos

Cross-Country Road Trip Tips for Families

August 13th, 2015 by Guest Blogger No comments »

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 OutWithTheKids.com. He considers himself one of the luckiest guys in the world. Jeff also writes for PBS.