Dream Next to Dinosaurs in New Jersey

July 26th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

The new Field Station: Dinosaurs opened on July 1 in Secaucus, N.J., and with it 32 life-size, animatronic dinosaurs for kids and families to interact with. Located just nine minutes from New York City, the attraction offers game shows, a dig site, 3D movies, hands-on workshops and more, including the special Dozin’ with Dinos sleepover event.

On August 2 and 23, families can spend almost 12 hours learning, interacting and sleeping with the 32 animatronic dinosaurs. Beginning at 7 p.m. and ending at 8 a.m. the next day, with activities taking place from 8 p.m. to midnight, guests can explore dinosaur trails, watch the Dinosaurs Alive! 3D film and snack on S’mores before bed, which consists of army-style tents and cots.

Limited space is available. Admission for the Dozin’ with Dinos event is $75 per person and $65 per person in groups of 20 or more. Price includes an evening snack and light breakfast, sleeping arrangements and admission to the 3D movie. Guests are encouraged to bring a sleeping bag, pillow, flashlight, comfortable clothing and other necessities. Children under 5 are not permitted and one adult must be present.

For more information, visit the Field Station: Dinosaurs website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Disney’s Elsa and Anna Participate in Annual Tour de Turtles

July 25th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

The Sea Turtle Conservatory’s sixth annual Tour de Turtles migration marathon, in partnership with Disney’s Animal Programs, will kick off tomorrow, Saturday, July 26, and this year, two special loggerhead turtles are participating. Anna and Elsa, named for the characters in Disney’s hit movie “Frozen,” will have satellite transmitters attached to them as part of the event which aims to gather more information about sea turtle habits and migratory patterns.

This year’s event will take place at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort in Vero Beach, Florida and guests staying at the resort will have access to the kick-off event and all of the daylong activities. Beginning at 7 a.m., Olaf’s Beach Party will kick off the Tour de Turtles. Anna and Elsa will be released from the start gate at 8 a.m. and festivities and activities will continue until 9:30 a.m. This event is for resort guests and media only. Beginning at 6 p.m., a kick-off party will offer food, drinks and live entertainment. A free, public event will be held on Sunday, July 27 beginning at 7:30 a.m. at the Barrier Island Sanctuary in Melbourne Beach, Florida, with one loggerhead sea turtle complete with a transmitter-tracking device, being released at 8 a.m.

Approximately 90 percent of sea turtles throughout the United States nest in Florida and as few as one in 1,000 of those born survive through adulthood. The Sea Turtle Conservatory works to monitor sea turtles through this annual event, which began in 2008. The research gathered allows agencies to alter conservation methods and policies so that these endangered species can be more thoroughly protected. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is a sea turtle-friendly resort and members of the Disney’s Animal Programs team will mark the nests throughout the resort to further monitor and protect the sea creatures. For more information on the annual event, and to follow the various seat turtles currently being monitored, visit the Tour de Turtles website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz





Iconic New York City Hotel & Classic Board Game Inspire Plaza-opoly

July 24th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

 

The famous Plaza Hotel in New York City recently teamed up with Hasbro’s legendary board game Monopoly to create a one-of-a-kind experience for hotel guests and families alike. The new Plaza-opoly board game takes traditional Monopoly details to new heights, with board spaces, game pieces and cards all revolving around the iconic hotel. And with historical facts throughout, parents and kids can both learn something new about the historical hotel that originally opened its doors in 1907.

Players “check in” at the front desk with their game pieces, which include a tea cup, a luxury car, Eloise’s dog, Weenie, and an apple (in honor of the Big Apple, of course), before competing for the title of the wealthiest at the hotel. Hotel spaces for rent or sale include The Fitzgerald Suite, The Grand Ballroom, The Great Gatsby and The Terrace Room. Players will even learn a bit of history when landing on Now and Then spaces, which include references to the Beatles Press Conference that took place at the Plaza in 1964 and Truman Capote’s famous Black and White Ball that took place at the Plaza in 1966. If players can stay away from Hotel Security (otherwise known as Jail), then they might be able to order room service, visit Central Park and even buy The Royal Plaza Suite.

Plaza-opoly costs $60 and is only for sale at the Plaza Hotel’s gift shop.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

For First Time, All DCL Ships Offer Halloween on the High Seas

July 23rd, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Disney Cruise Line’s Halloween on the High Seas will be available on all ships — Fantasy, Dream, Magic, and Wonder — for the first time in 2014. The program debuted on the Disney Dream in 2013.

Celebrations feature themed parties, entertainment and décor, which includes elaborate Pumpkin Trees. Displayed in each ship’s lobby, the trees transform to talk (and tell spooky stories), light up and even “grow” Jack-O-Lanterns.

Halloween on the High Seas will take place on most sailings in September and October.

Disney Cruise Line is currently offering a 20-percent discount on select 7-night Southern Caribbean voyages this fall.

 

 

– Amanda Geronikos

Cozumel with Kids: Popular Attractions in Town

July 22nd, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

On our family’s recent trip to Cozumel, Mexico, we enjoyed a variety of activities, on land and in the water. We stayed in town, as well as got off the beaten path. Here are some of the most popular things to do and see in town.

Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park
The closest thing Cozumel has to a theme park is also the most popular local attraction — Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park. You can easily spend an entire day here, enjoying activities on land and in the water. We took a guided tour of Mayan ruin replicas to learn more about this major part of the local history. There is also a crocodile exhibit, sea lion shows, gardens, a spa, and even a tequila–tasting exhibit for adults.

You can cool off in the pool, or in the calm saltwater inlet. Cozumel is known as a scuba diving destination for a reason, and you can get a better look at its beautiful underwater marine life here by renting snorkel equipment, or taking a guided scuba diving or “snuba” excursion.
Chankanaab Park is home to more than 20 bottlenose dolphins, and there are several daily dolphin shows included in the admission fee. However, for an additional fee, you can also cross “kiss a dolphin” off your bucket list by participating in the dolphin encounter, managed by the onsite Dolphin Discovery.

Dolphin Discovery
This experience was easily the highlight of our entire trip. We were separated into small groups, and Gustavo, one of the dolphin trainers, brought us onto a submerged platform within one of the dolphin pens where “Noel” and “Chek” were swimming. He provided a lot of facts about dolphins in a way our 7-year-old daughter would understand. They average 500 pounds, and have about 78 conical teeth they use to grab onto their food, although they swallow it whole. They can swim up to 25 mph, and make a variety of sounds through their blowholes.

There are different levels of “experiences” at various price points. For younger children, you may want to try the “Encounter.” The dolphins will let you rub their bellies and give them kisses. During the “Swim” experience, you get to hold on to the dorsal fins of dolphins to your left and right, and let them pull you through the water. Our daughter was just old enough to do this, with a life jacket and a lifeguard in the water nearby. You can also let them push your feet up and across the surface of the water while you balance upright for the ride of your life! Our 14-year-old loved this.

Cozumel Island Museum
I think it’s important on any family trip, even when we’re visiting a leisurely tropical island, to work in some educational attraction so my kids can appreciate the local history and culture. The Museo de Isla Cozumel (Cozumel Island Museum) in downtown San Miguel is a small, two-story museum in a beautiful historic building. The exhibits, with signage in both English and Spanish, include the island’s history, from Mayan to present time, as well as work by Mexican artists. The section my kids enjoyed the most was about the native eco-system, and featured a wide, black light diorama of underwater marine life.

You’ll only really need about an hour here, and plan for the morning or late afternoon when it’s still relatively cool, as there’s no air conditioning in most of the building. The museum also includes an onsite café with specials, so you can have lunch or dinner there.

From the museum, you’re just a few blocks away from San Miguel’s main plaza. From the square with its historic yellow clock tower, several good shopping streets fan out in all directions. You’ll find all types of arts and crafts, silver jewelry, apparel, local specialties like vanilla and habanero hot sauce, and all the typical souvenirs. You can pay in either U.S. dollars or Mexican pesos. On slow days, when there are no cruise ship passengers in town, the market vendors may be willing to negotiate prices with you.

– 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.





FVC Members Weigh In: Friendliest Airlines for Families

July 21st, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Prior to the start of the summer, Airlines for America predicted that 210 million people would travel by plane for their summer vacations — about 1.5 percent more than last summer and the most in the past six years. Now halfway through the hot season, we wanted to know which airlines our Family Vacation Critic and Facebook members thought were the friendliest for families. Here’s what they told us on our Facebook page:

JetBlue
“Free TV, good snacks for kids and one free bag at check-in.” – Christine S.

The airline also offers Fly-Fi, broadband Internet that allows fliers to surf the web while flying the sky. Currently in its beta stage, this service is free for everyone and is great for young children. Play games on tablets or laptops and watch kid-friendly programs rather than the in-flight movie.

United
“United has always been my pick when traveling with my three crazy kids. Bring the ear buds, ensure Wi-Fi service of some sort and be able to plan ahead where we sit.” – Lyndsey G.

The airline also offers a Young Travelers Club for children traveling alone. Children have their own designated area at airports to sit and wait for flights or for their parties to pick them up. While waiting, kids will be supervised by United employees and will have books, TV’s, games and toys to play with and keep themselves entertained. Plus, snacks will be provided so they’ll never go hungry. The Young Travelers Club is available at select airports and children must be at least 5 years old.

WestJet
“WestJet has the friendliest staff.” – Shelley S.

The airline also offers a tablet rental program. Now families flying for more than three hours and 20 minutes have the option of renting a tablet pre-loaded with early-release movies and popular TV shows for both adults and kids, like Disney’s “Frozen” and Disney Channel’s “Jessie.” Rental prices range from $5 to $5.75 (tax not included) and all tablets come with basic ear bud headphones.

For more information on family-friendly flights and airlines, see our Air Travel section.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz