Top Dog Weekend Package in Vermont

October 18th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Exterior view of The Essex, Vermont's Culinary Resort & SpaLeaving your pet behind while going away for a family vacation can be heart wrenching. Rather than worry about your puppy this fall, bring them along for a truly relaxing trip that the entire family can enjoy. The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa is hosting a Top Dog Weekend event and is offering its R & Arf Package for families with dogs who want to give their four-legged friend a chance to relax, too.

Top Dog Weekend will be held Friday, Nov. 7 to Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014, and aims to bring owners and furry friends closer together. The weekend package includes a two-night stay in a Traditional room, a dog treat cooking class on Saturday morning, an afternoon self-guided walk and off-leash play time at the Mills Riverside Park and passes to the Indian Brook Reservoir for a self-guided hike. Plus, guests receive room service one evening (for the dog, too!) and a custom dog toy and bowl to take home. Package rates start from $499 and include all taxes and fees.

After all of the fun with Fido, be sure to enjoy the plethora of onsite activities, like golf, tennis, biking (rentals available), indoor pool, hiking trails, adventure course (with zip lines and rock climbing!), hot air ballooning, bonfires (think S’mores!) and more. And that’s all without leaving the resort!

For more information, see our review of The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa. And to book, visit the resort’s website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Club Med Cancun Yucatan: A Flying Trapeze Experience

October 17th, 2014 by Amanda Geronikos No comments »

Many Club Med Resorts offer a unique opportunity to use a trapeze (and at no added cost). On a recent visit to Club Med Cancun Yucatan, we hesitated to try it, but were so glad we gave in, and encourage everyone – kids and adults – to give it a go, if for nothing else than the “once-in-a-lifetime” factor. It’s not everyday you get to take a vacation AND be a trapeze artist, too. Prepare for the experience with these tips.

Family Vacation Critic Associate Editor Amanda Geronikos flies through the air on the flying trapeze at Club Med Cancun Yucatan

The trapeze is available to guests daily, with morning hours dedicated to kids at Club Med Cancun Yucatan. Adults are welcome to try it out in the afternoon, 2 to 4 p.m.

What to Wear
Wear comfortable clothing – T-shirts, shorts and workout pants are best. Shoes don’t matter – you’ll take them off before the experience. Also, be sure you’ve washed off all sunscreens and lotions to avoid slipping (if your hands are feeling clammy, chalk is provided).

How It Works
Guests are fitted with a belt and given brief instructions; there’s also an area where they can practice jumping and climbing on a bar to prepare. When it’s your turn, you’re asked to climb a thin, medal ladder (it has grips), changing sides twice during your ascent. If you have a fear of heights and need to take a break halfway up, sit down on the large net that stretches beneath the trapeze. Once at the top, you’ll take a giant step (with the help of an instructor) on to a platform. He or she will help you get a hold of the bar before you leap into the air. Another staff member, gripping your harness below, will give you instructions. It’s important to listen to them – probably the most important part of the whole experience, in fact. You’ll only be in the air about a minute or so – enjoy it! (And then get back in line and do it all over again!)

Bungee Jump
Next to the trapeze is a bungee jump for anyone who needs some encouragement or just isn’t interested in trying the trapeze. This is especially nice for groups who want to be together for the experience, but have a few people who want to try the trapeze, and a few people who just want to watch or try something else.

– Amanda Geronikos

Missouri State Penitentiary Tours for Teens

October 16th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

The grounds and units of the Missouri State PenitentiaryEvery region has its haunts. From ghost tours to graveyard walks, all are frightening, yet perfect for families with teens and ‘tweens who like to be scared. But the Midwest is known for its authentic experiences unlike any other. The Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Missouri, is particularly scary. With five public tours, plus an overnight investigation, families can choose which experience is right for them. Be scared a little or a lot and then try to find your way out.

History Tour
The two-hour history tour takes guests through the various sections of the 1836 prison. Closed just 10 years ago in 2004, the penitentiary was home to Civil War convicts and other felons throughout the years, eventually becoming the largest prison in the United States by 1932. The History Tour guides visitors through Housing Unit 1 (Control Center) and A Hall, the oldest building that remains on the grounds. Plus, see the dungeon cells, the Upper Yard, Housing Unit 3 and the Gas Chamber. Listen to the story of the prison throughout the tour and keep your eyes peeled for the ghosts of past inmates.

Admission: $12 per person
Minimum Age: 10 years old

In-Depth History Tour
Like the History Tour but one hour longer, the In-Depth History Tour takes guests beyond the areas in the History Tour and through the Women’s Unit, the Deathrow Cells, and Housing Unites 2 and 5. You’ll also learn about the industry area and even more of the history of the haunted prison.

Admission: $25 per person
Minimum Age: 10 years old

Ghost Tour
Learn the history of the penitentiary and then listen to the stories of the strange and unusual occurrences that took place within the walls during the two-hour Ghost Tour. See Housing Unit 1, A Hall, the Dungeon Cells, the Upper Yard, Housing Unit 3 and the Gas Chamber.

Admission: $25 per person
Minimum Age: 14 years old

Ghost Hunt
Grab your activity-finding device and head out on this Ghost Hunt in search of ghosts of inmates that still lurk behind the walls. The three-hour tour takes guests through Housing Unit 1, A Hall, the Dungeon Cells, the Upper Yard, Housing Unit 3 and the Gas Chamber.

Admission: $35 per person
Minimum Age: 14 years old

Ghost Hunt Class
Guests will be trained to hunt ghosts during this three-hour class and tour of the haunted penitentiary. One hour is spent learning how to use the equipment and then two hours of the tour are spent hunting for paranormal activity. Use your activity-finding devices and search Housing Unit 1, A Hall, the Dungeon Cells, the Upper Yard, Housing Unit 3 and the Gas Chambers.

Admission: $35 per person
Minimum Age: 14 years old

Public Overnight Investigations
For families with high school seniors or college students, the Public Overnight Investigations are a great way to enjoy a haunting experience they’ll never forget. Begin the evening with a History Tour and then search for paranormal activity. Tours range from five to eight hours and take place during the night, of course. See if you can make it until morning.

Admission: $65 for five hours, $95 for eight hours
Minimum Age: 18 years old

Tours take place late April through late November and are offered on select weekdays and all weekends. Reservations are recommended. For more information and reservations, visit the Missouri State Penitentiary website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

6th Annual Halloween Spook-tacular in Myrtle Beach

October 15th, 2014 by Lissa Poirot No comments »

Kids and adults sit on the pool deck of the Dunes Village Resort and watch a magic showThe Dunes Village Resort is on our list of Family Favorite Hotels and it’s really no wonder. The Myrtle Beach resort offers a plethora of activities and comfortable accommodations for families – including its annual Halloween Spook-tacular event in October. Join the party next week on Saturday, October 25, and let the kids tie-dye t-shirts, wear costumes, play carnival games and more around the resort and its indoor water park. Here’s this year’s itinerary:

Mummy Wrap Contest – 10 a.m.
Head to the Palmetto Water Park and see who can become a mummy the fastest. Then break free of the wraps and head for the waterslides.

Tie-Dye T-Shirts – 11 a.m.
Make a tie-dye t-shirt and bring it home as a souvenir or wear it as your costume for the rest of the day (hippies anyone?). The artsy activity will take place at the Palmetto Water Park.

Pick & Decorate a Pumpkin – 12:30 p.m.
Help the kids pick out their own pumpkin on the Palms Lawn and then let them decorate it with their own personal style in the Palmetto Water Park. Bring them home as souvenirs, too. ($5 fee applies)

Personalize Your Trick-or-Treat Bag – 2 p.m.
Before filling them with candy, kids can decorate their own trick-or-treat bags. Get creative with this activity in the Palmetto Water Park. ($2 fee applies)

Magic Show – 4 p.m.
Dress up in your best Halloween costume and see magic done right before your eyes on the Palms Pool Deck.

Party Activities – 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The fun really starts in the evening with trick or treating, carnival games and refreshments. The costume contest takes place at 7 p.m. and is divided into age groups so that all can participate. Be sure to stick around for the Monster Bash Glow Party on the Palmetto Indoor Putting Green at 8 p.m. Glow items will be for sale so all can light up the night!

Hotel Package Deal
If your family really wants to make the most of the Dunes Village Resort’s Halloween event, book the Crowds Are Gone package. Enjoy up to 20 percent off all one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom condos, or book a hotel guestroom for a little as just $79 per night. Offer valid now through Nov. 21, 2014.

For more information on the Halloween Spook-tacular event and for reservations, visit the Dunes Village Resort’s website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

New Interactive Bat Exhibit at the Orlando Science Center

October 14th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

The bat exhibit at the Orlando Science Center gets kids up-close and personal with the speciesThis month, the Orlando Science Center welcomed a new species into their home. Just in time for Halloween, the newest traveling, interactive exhibit “Bats: Myths and Mysteries” brought bats from around the world into the center. Guests can get up-close and personal looks into the lives of the little creatures of the night.

Now through January 4, 2015, kids and adults alike can participate in activities that will educate them on the lives of bats. Experience hearing like a bat with sensitive, giant bat ears; try to match bats to their preferred foods; and see if you can spot bats in a variety of habitats. The exhibit includes bats from Egypt, North America, Africa and South Africa, all of which look and act differently. Plus, kids can watch the feeding of the bats at 11 a.m. daily before really learning about the species at the 1 p.m. enrichment class.

The exhibit and bat activities are available to guests daily between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. (closed Wednesdays) and are included in admission to the Orlando Science Center. Admission to the center is $19 for adults and kids 12 and older, and $14 for children ages 3 to 11; children 2 and under are free.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

8 Halloween Happenings for Families in Baltimore

October 13th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Kids dressed in costumes celebrate Halloween at the Port Discovery Children's MuseumFall in Baltimore is filled with haunted ghostwalks and history tours. Although great for teens and adults, little ones might find these activities too frightening. Instead, enjoy costume parades, trick-or-treating and Halloween-inspired arts and crafts with your kids. Check out one of these eight family-friendly Halloween happenings that are taking place this October.

Glow-In-The-Dark Hula Hoop Making & Lantern Parade
Saturday, Oct. 18, at noon and Saturday, Oct. 25, at 3 p.m.
Kids can make a one-of-a-kind Hula Hoop on Saturday, Oct. 18, complete with glow-in-the-dark tape and decorations at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson. Return with little ones on Saturday, Oct. 25, for the Great Halloween Lantern Parade, where they can show off their Hula Hoops in a special choreographed dance before the parade begins. Admission is $70 per person and all materials are included. Admission is valid for both days. All ages welcome.

7th Annual Harbor Festival
Sunday, Oct. 19, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The free, family-friendly Harbor Festival is back again and guests can enjoy a pumpkin patch, a hay maze, live music, food and beverages, and more. Kids will love getting their faces painted, petting the zoo animals and riding a real pony. The festival will be held at the West Shore Park at the Inner Harbor. Admission is free.

Friday, Oct. 24 to Sunday Oct. 26, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is hosting its 30th annual ZooBOOO! and families can enjoy free trick-or-treating, carnival games, food and drinks, live entertainment, and more. Kids should wear costumes for the contest, too! Admission to ZooBOOO! is free with zoo admission ($18 for adults and kids 12 and older; $13 for children 2 to 11; members and children under 2 free).

Friday, Oct. 24, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Visit the Cylburn Arboretum for trick-or-treating on the nature trail, carriage rides, costume contests, pumpkin carving contests and more. Kids will love exploring the spooky garden and touring the historic mansion. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids.

Falloween Family Festival
Saturday, Oct. 25, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Port Discovery Children’s Museum encourages families and kids to dress up in their costumes for this year’s Falloween Family Festival. Make your own mummy, hear live music from Here Comes Trouble and join in on a drum jam session. Plus, the Port Discovery Children’s Museum has so much more to do! Falloween Family Festival activities are included with admission to the museum ($14.50 for guests 2 and older; infants under 2 free).

Spooky Science
Saturday, Oct. 25, noon to 4 p.m.
The Maryland Science Museum’s third annual Spooky Science event includes hands-on activities like chemistry experiments and spooky crafts. Make slime, decorate pumpkins, and trick or treat. Be sure to wear your costume. Activities are free with museum admission ($19 for adults and kids 13 and older; $16 for children 3 to 12; kids under 3 free).

Saturday, Oct. 25 and Sunday, Oct. 26, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The National Aquarium’s annual Hallowmarine will offer families arts and crafts, costume parades, animal encounters and more this year. Wear costumes and learn how to make yours more environmentally friendly. Activities are free with admission to the aquarium ($35 for adults and kids 12 and older; $22 for children 3 to 11; kids under 3 free).

Toddler Time Halloween Celebration & Costume Parade
Wednesday, Oct. 29, at 10:30 a.m.
Join Choo Choo Blue, the mascot of the B&O Railroad Museum, in his home for a morning of Halloween fun specifically for little ones. Recommended for children ages 2 to 5, activities include a costume parade, kiddie train rides and story time. Toddler Time Halloween Celebration and Costume Parade will take place at the B&O Railroad Museum and all activities are included in museum admission ($16 for adults and kids 13 and older; $10 for children 2 to 12; free for infants under 2).

– Hilarey Wojtowicz