10 Awesome Hotel Amenities for Families

December 12th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz 1 comment »

Girl playing an electric guitar with headphones onWe’ve already listed 10 of the best hotel amenities for kids, but CNN’s Travel section opened our eyes to more awesome extras this week. Out of CNN’s 14 ridiculous hotel amenities, we found 10 that are fun and fantastic for families.

1. Fender Guitars
Many hotel guestrooms and suites offer in-room iPod docking stations, but for the families who really want to rock out on vacation, the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago offers complimentary Fender guitars. Guests can choose from 20 different guitars, including a $1,600 Stratocaster. Floor amps and headphones are also available for loan. Guests are required to put down a credit card in case of any damages, but other than that, families can rock out during their trip to the Windy City.

2. Special Pet Treatments
Don’t leave home without your furry friend on your next vacation – just stay in a Provenance hotel and bring Fido along. Hotel Max in Seattle, Hotel deLuxe and Hotel Lucia in Portland, Oregon, Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Washington, and Hotel Preston in Nashville all offer dogs acupuncture services, pet psychologists, and dog experts to strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend.

3. Country Wake-Up Calls
The Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville offers families special country music wake-up calls. Get in the country spirit with a morning call from Vince Gill, Trace Adkins, Kellie Pickler and other famous country music artists. You are in Nashville afterall!

5. Sleep Concierge
Whether you need a bedtime story for the kids or you need to speak with the in-house sleep specialist to figure out why you can catch some zzz’s while on vacation, The Benjamin’s sleep concierge is here to help. The New York City hotel also offers kid-size bathrobes and pillows, as well as dolls.

6. Recording Studio
Let your little ones sing their hearts out in West Hollywood at the Sunset Marquis Hotel. The California hotel offers a professional recording studio in its basement that guests can use to record their very own songs. The Nightbird Studio has recorded famous artists like Katy Perry and Christina Aguilera and now your children and teens can sing there, too!

7. Pet Goldfish
We love Kimpton Hotels and we can’t get enough of the chain’s pet goldfish program! Guests who want to have a pet during their stay can request to have a goldfish in their guestroom or suite. Kids will love feeding and watching the fish swim around its bowl.

8. Owl Delivery
Need to send a note to your teen who is currently exploring the other side of the Ashford Castle property? Use the castle’s resident owl, Dingle. The owl will swoop down and drop off your message or note and your teen will feel like he/she is in Harry Potter!

9. Dream Cars
For the mom or dad who has always wanted to drive a truly exceptional (but expensive!) car, stay at the Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in California. The resort offers guests access to a fleet of Porsches. Yes, you can drive a Porsche while on vacation! Be sure to take a picture so you can show friends and family who might not believe you!

10. Fragrance Platter
Forgot your perfume? Or maybe your teen wants to try a different scent for a special occasion? Stay at a Rosewood Hotel and request the Fragrance Butler. Guests will be able to choose from five female- and five male-oriented scents, all of which come on a silver platter straight to your door. Participating properties include The Carlyle in New York City and Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Celebrate Christmas in Sunny Coronado

December 11th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Hotel del Coronado ice skating rinkEscape the cold winter weather and head to sunny Coronado this Christmas for holiday happenings at the Hotel del Coronado. Enjoy festive activities, special bedtime routines and brunch with the man in red himself.

Brunch With Santa
Dine with the man in red on Sunday Dec. 14 or 21, and indulge in delicious and festive foods. Families can also take photos with Santa and kids can tell him what they want to see under their tree on Christmas morning.

Elf Tuck Ins
Get a little help from Santa’s elves when tucking your little ones into bed at the Hotel del Coronado this year. The Elf Tuck Ins bedtime routine includes a special reading of “The Night Before Christmas” from Santa’s helpers before kids go to sleep.

Jingle S’mores
Hit the beach for a bonfire complete with S’mores that are extra special. Toast marshmallows and then create your sweet sandwich treat with cinnamon graham crackers and Ghiradelli mint chocolate. Families will even get holiday hats to wear during the fun!

Kidtopia
Children ages 4 to 12 will really go wild for the seasonal fun at the activity center, Kidtopia, at the Hotel del Coronado. Activities include beach Olympics, safari adventures, arts and crafts, and more. Kids also receive an adventure pack at check-in that includes a treasure map and compass, which leads them to a special surprise.

Skating by the Sea
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Hotel del Coronado’s outdoor ice skating rink offers oceanfront fun. In honor of the rink’s birthday, the hotel expanded the rink so that it now accommodates up to 200 skaters. Skating is $25 per person for 90 minutes on the ice.

For more information and nightly rates, read our review of the Hotel del Coronado.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Dig In at the Astro Kids Mining Co.

December 10th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

While shopping for holiday gifts at New York City’s famous toy store FAO Schwartz on Fifth Avenue this year, stop by the Astro Kids Mining Co. with your little ones for an afternoon of fun (and free!) activities.

The Astro Kids Mining Co. inside FAO Schwartz in New York City

Operated by parent company Astro Gallery of Gems, the Astro Kids Mining Co. offers families a chance to dig in and get dirty with hands-on activities that are centered on natural history and science. Try cracking a geode, sifting through sand for fossils, examining rocks from around the world, looking at gems and minerals, and more.

The Astro Kids Mining Co. is designed to look like the inside of a mine, so guests will really feel as though they are working to discover new materials. On the tumbled rocks wall, kids can learn about the properties that make up more than 30 different rocks by pressing buttons, too.

All of the activities are free, though families who want to take the natural history home with them can purchase toys and souvenirs, such as dinosaur eggs and pearl jewelry kits.

The Astro Kids Mining Co. is suited for children of all ages. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

The Carlyle: A Hotel Fit for Royalty

December 9th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, stand outside The Carlyle hotel in New York CityIf you have not been following the news or have not been on social media over the last week, then you may not be aware that Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, are in New York City for the first time ever. The royal couple landed in the States on Sunday afternoon and plans to tour the city, meet with politicians, like President Obama and Hillary Clinton, as well as attend charity events, see the 9/11 Memorial and watch a Brooklyn Nets basketball game, which they did last night.

Today is their last day and we’re interested in why William and Kate chose to stay where they did: The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel, on the Upper East Side near Central Park. According to USA Today, The Carlyle was a favorite of William’s late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, which makes the luxurious residence an easy choice for the royal couple. But, The Carlyle also has a lot to offer William and Kate, as well as families who may visit the Big Apple in the near future.

Accommodations at The Carlyle include 188 guestrooms and suites, all of which come with fully-stocked mini bars, deluxe bath amenities, DVD players and 24-hour room service. Suites even have full kitchens and space for larger families; suites can connect with guestrooms to create three-bedroom grand suites.

Although Prince George did not accompany his parents on their trip, he would have been taken care of easily through the hotel’s Rose Buds for Children program. Prior to arrival, parents can request a plethora of services and amenities for their infants and toddlers, including cribs with linens, wireless baby monitors, babysitting services, children’s menus, and more.

The Carlyle also has onsite dining options that include breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as afternoon tea, the last of which is a staple in the daily routine of the British, like William and Kate. The Gallery café serves pastries and traditional tea sandwiches along with a variety of teas for guests to sip.

Additional perks offered at the hotel include a pet-friendly policy, spa services, a fitness room and, of course, spectacular views of Central Park. With all of these details, it’s no wonder why William’s mother loved the Carlyle and why the royal couple chose to stay there, as well. It will most likely become a favorite of theirs, and can become a favorite of your family’s, too. Feel like royalty and stay at The Carlyle on your next trip to New York City.

Have you stayed at The Carlyle before? Tell us about it by writing a review here!

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

8 Festive Events in Fort Lauderdale

December 8th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

From boat parades to boulevards decorated with lights, families can enjoy a number of festive events and activities in Fort Lauderdale this holiday season.

A boat decorated with lights and holiday colors in the Winterfest Boat Parade in Fort Lauderdale

Holiday Fantasy of Lights 3D Experience
Pick up a pair of 3D glasses before driving through the Holiday Fantasy of Lights at Tradewinds Park for a memorable experience. The display is open nightly from 6 to 10 p.m. through Jan. 3, 2015, and 3D glasses can be purchased at the entrance for $3 for three pairs.

Light Up Lauderdale
Now through Jan. 10, 2015, Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale and the City of Fort Lauderdale will showcase lights across 2.5 miles of the brick Riverwalk for a truly magical experience each night. The annual event, now in its sixth year, is free and parking can be found in nearby garages, lots and at meters along the downtown area.

Winterfest Boat Parade
The 43rd annual Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, will feature hundreds of boats decorated with lights and holiday colors galore. This year’s Grand Marshall is Hip Hop singer Flo Rida and he will lead the boats from downtown Fort Lauderdale on the New River to Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano Beach. Families are invited to watch along the 12-mile stretch in various hotels, restaurants and parks along the route. The parade will run from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. and is free.

Pompano Beach Boat Parade
Watch dozens of brightly lit boats cruise from Lake Santa Barbara to Deerfield Beach on Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in the 52nd annual Pompano Beach Boat Parade. This year’s Grand Marshall will be Pompano Beach Mayor Lamar Fisher. The parade begins at 6 p.m. and is free.

Garden of Lights at Flamingo Gardens
Visit Flamingo Gardens every Saturday and Sunday now through Dec. 28, 2014, for the Garden of Lights event. The magical experience includes thousands of lights and decorations, with holiday music and visits from Santa adding to the festivities. A special lights show will run from 5 to 8 p.m. each day of the event, as well. The Garden of Lights event is complimentary with admission to the gardens, which is $18 per adult, ages 12 and older, and $10 for children between ages 3 and 11; kids 2 and under are free. Families who want to only see the holiday light show can come after 5 p.m. and will pay just $5 per person.

Skate Las Olas
Dance across the ice at the skating rink on the lawn of the Riverside Hotel on Las Olas Boulevard daily for an afternoon of fun for all ages. The 1,800-square-foot ice skating rink will be open daily from noon to 9 p.m., from Dec. 19, 2014, to Jan. 4, 2015.

Stars of David
Celebrate Hanukkah and the Jewish heritage with the entertaining musical rendition of “Stars of David,” based on Abigail Pogrebin’s best-selling book, at the Amaturo Theater at Broward Center this winter. The comedy includes songs and visits from Jewish celebrities that will have all ages laughing along. “Stars of David” runs from Dec. 23, 2014, to Jan. 4, 2015, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Tickets start from $45 per person. Show times vary per day.

Rock’n Noonyear’s Eve Party
Count down to 2015 much earlier in the day with little ones at the Young At Art Museum on Dec. 31, 2014, with its Rock’n Noonyear’s Eve Party. Kids and parents will enjoy music, art and sparkling cider as they ring in the New Year. The even begins at 10 a.m. and is included with admission to the museum, which is $14 per person.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

American Girl Doll Dining Experiences

December 7th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

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