Airline Celebrates 7th Anniversary with Virgin America Day and More

August 14th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Virgin America Airlines plane taking off on runwayVirgin America Airlines is celebrating its seventh birthday this year with Virgin America Day on Saturday, August 16, at the AT&T Ballpark in San Francisco. The California-based airline first launched in 2007 and has since become known for its luxury service and low rates. As the official airline of the San Francisco Giants, the airline will host Virgin America Day at AT&T Park and invites families to attend with the chance to pick up a flight discount during all of the fun. The first 40,000 attendees to the ballpark for the game against the Philadelphia Phillies will receive a two-for-one flight voucher, which can be used when booking your next domestic flight.

When traveling on Virgin America, families can expect sleek leather seats, on-demand entertainment with live TV, kid-friendly movies, music and more, personal outlets and on-demand Wi-Fi, and snacks and drinks. The airline is also currently offering deals from San Francisco to a number of cities in the U.S. Book by midnight tonight for select trips from the New York area or by Monday, August 18, for all other cities and regions, and enjoy airfare from just $73 per person, per way. For more information, visit the Virgin America website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

New York City By Land and Sea: 4 Free Ways to See the Big Apple

August 13th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Staten Island FerryIf you associate expensive activities with New York City family vacations, think again. The Big Apple has so much for families to see and do, some of which take you through the city streets and some that have you cruising the Hudson. Here are four free and fun ways to experience New York City with your kids:

Staten Island Ferry
Live like a local for an afternoon and take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. The free trip takes about 25 minutes and runs from the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island to the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan, crossing the New York Bay. Cars and pets are not allowed on the ferry, which runs every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you never thought of taking an afternoon to visit Staten Island on your vacation in the Big Apple, take the ferry for a fun boat ride and visit the Staten Island Children’s Museum before heading back to the city that never sleeps. Snacks and drinks are available for purchase on the ferry. For a schedule and other helpful information, visit the Staten Island Ferry website.

UNIQLO Free Fridays at the Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) is a great attraction for families visiting New York City. With colorful artwork and interesting sculptures from around the world, plus the free audio program for kids, the MOMA is more family-friendly than you may think. And now, with UNIQLO Free Fridays, visit the museum for free. Every Friday between 4 and 8 p.m. guests of all ages receive free admission. Children ages 16 and under are always free at the MOMA, but with the UNIQLO Free Fridays, families can save even more — up to $25 per adult! Tickets are not available in advance. For more information, visit the MOMA website.

Free Tours by Foot
Want a tour of New York City for free? Free Tours by Foot takes families through the famous neighborhoods while providing interesting facts and unique information — all while asking those in the tour group to pay their own price, which can also mean free! Guests are asked to determine what the tour is worth after it is complete. Free bike and bus tours are also available. For more information, visit the Free Tours by Foot website.

The Downtown Boathouse Free Kayaking Programs
See Manhattan from the New York Harbor by kayak for free. At The Downtown Boathouse families can rent kayaks for free and can paddle through the harbor for a fun experience. The Boathouse is a volunteer, non-profit organization that encourages safe public use of the harbor. The organization also provides free classes and three-hour kayak trips. For more information, visit The Downtown Boathouse website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Los Angeles Sans Celebrities: 3 Inexpensive Attractions for Families

August 12th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Most people think of Los Angeles as sun, palm trees and celebrities. Alas, most toddlers aren’t too impressed with star wattage. The good news is that the city has lots of kid-friendly (and world class) museums and exhibits that can be worked into your travel schedule — without blowing the budget.

Here are three must-see, perfect-for-kids places when you need an antidote to the Hollywood glitter:

Noah’s Ark at the Skirball Cultural Center
Three kids holding part of exhibit at Skirball Cultural CenterThe story of Noah’s Ark goes interactive with this exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center, which is an enormous wooden boat stuffed with interactive animals, fun nooks and crannies to explore, and plenty of levels for climbing (and wearing out little ones). Kids can do everything from conducting their own storms to making music and reveling in a rainbow mist. And the animals on the ark are made from recycled and repurposed materials ranging from bottle caps to baseball mitts.

While Noah’s Ark is a deal at $10 for grown-ups and $5 for kids between 2 and 12 (that admission fee also covers all other exhibits at the Skirball), try nabbing tickets for a Thursday, when the experience is entirely free.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Day view of the lights at LACMAThe massive Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) offers free admission to all kids 16 and under. Plus, the museum’s NextGen program extends free membership to one accompanying adult. Covering a full city block and multiple buildings, as well as outdoor art installations, LACMA has masterworks from around the world and a special spot just for kids — the Boone Children’s Gallery.

Voted the Best Free Art Studio for Kids by Los Angeles magazine, the Boone Children’s Gallery a great place for kids to draw, color and relax after running around statues or taking in the kimonos at the Pavilion of Japanese Art. Of course, that’s assuming you can get them away from the outdoor art. Kids love running around in Jesus Rafael Soto’s “Penetrable,” also known as the “Spaghetti Factory.” The nickname is a perfect fit for the display of rubber tubing that hangs from a tall, metal frame. It’s a great place to burn off some energy.

Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits
Day view of exterior of the Page Museum at La Brea Tar PitsAny dinosaur-crazy kid will be thrilled to take in the more than 1 million, Ice-Age fossils on display, as well as see real paleontologists working on important finds behind the glass walls of the fossil lab. But if the ticket prices aren’t to your liking (kids 3 to 12 are $5, youths 13 to 17 are $9 and adults are $12), consider walking through the tar pits (part of Hancock Park) for free right next door.

Not only can you visit the Pleistocene Garden, a recreation of a real prehistoric landscape, you can also see actual excavations taking place as you wander the grounds immediately behind the museum (another bonus: Page and LACMA are next door to one another, so you can park once and see both in the same day). Kids can even climb over life-sized Ice Age animal statues and watch others writhe in the bubbling asphalt pit along Wilshire Boulevard.

– Lianne Bonin Star

A Visit to the Living Desert with Kids in Tow

August 11th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Young boy in Living Desert in Palm Springs looking at cactiIf you’re planning a trip to Palm Springs in the near future, be sure to include the Living Desert on your itinerary. Kids will love exploring this live zoo and botanical garden that spreads across 1,200 acres. It’s also a great way to experience the desert with its well laid-out trail ways, 450 types of wild animals, live animal shows, kids’ play park, beautiful gardens, a model train exhibit, hiking trails, tram rides and more. My own son was a cynic before we entered the park, thinking he was too old to go to a zoo (He’s only 9! Go figure.), but nonetheless enjoyed the experience just as much – or more – than me.

We got there in the early morning, just before the heat broke, and started our walk around the grounds. My son was thrilled to come across various kind of cacti, some of which we accidentally bumped into (I told him we got “prickled”). Please note that it’s important to stay on track, unlike the silly writer writing this blog. We saw short cacti, tall cacti, thin cacti, fat cacti, curvy cacti, straight cacti. He was absolutely riveted by their beauty.

When we got tired and realized we didn’t have enough time to walk the park, we jumped on a tram, which took us all over. We came across animals from Africa to North America including giraffes, birds, tortoises, lizards, warhogs, zebras, goats, meerkats and cheetahs. The animals are close to the walkways and neatly arranged in specific regional areas. He really liked the giraffe feeding.

When we got really hot, we nipped into the Animal Hospital for a demo. They help a reported 1,000 animals a year. He also liked our stroll around the G-Scale Model Train Exhibit, complete with miniature desert trains

I really appreciate Living Desert’s focus on desert preservation and conservation and really feel that after our visit, some of it rubbed off on my son.

Find hours, directions and entrance fee info on the Living Desert website.

– Holly Fink

Holly Rosen Fink is a mother, marketing consultant, writer and blogger for a number of sites, as well as her own, The Holly Chronicles.

6 Sweet Resorts with S’mores

August 10th, 2014 by Amanda Geronikos No comments »

Young boy eating a S'more outsideDid you know today is National S’mores Day? Many restaurants and resorts are celebrating the snack with special events, though just as many celebrate year-round, adding campfires, sing-alongs and even themed packages to the mix. These are our favorite places to eat S’mores:

Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa – Beaver Creek, Colo.
Chocolate marshmallows and graham crackers are celebrated via S’mores Happy Hours at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa (4 to 5 p.m. during the winter months; 7 to 8 p.m. in the summer). Handmade marshmallows add to the fun, and include vanilla, toffee, and orange flavors.

Hotel del Coronado – Coronado, Calif.
Organize a private bonfire on the beach at Hotel del Coronado, which offers “Classic Roasts,” with traditional Hershey chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers, or “Upgraded Roasts,” in which families enjoy Ghirardelli chocolate, candy toppings, and even bacon.

Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort – Orlando
It might seem like an unlikely spot, but Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which opened in March, features a large fire pit for S’mores, surrounded by comfy chairs. Plus, it offers a good view for dive-in movies by the Cabana Courtyard Pool!

Stowe Mountain Lodge – Stowe, Vt.
After a day on the slopes, families appreciate hot cocoa and S’mores at Spruce Peak Fire Pit. Plus, Stowe Mountain Lodge Bakeshop offers several S’mores-inspired treats, such as S’mores Cupcakes, S’mores Cookies, and, most famous, S’mores Panna Cotta (it’s so popular, the chefs have posted the recipe online).

Rancho Bernardo Inn – San Diego
Part of the “Kids Rule, Parents Drool Package” at Rancho Bernardo Inn, Snores and S’mores includes an in-room tent, sleeping bag, glow stick, stuffed animal and all the ingredients for S’mores, which can be made at one of several fire pits on the expansive property.

– Amanda Geronikos

Carnival Cruises Unveils New Kids’ Program

August 9th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Kids playing in the new Carnival Cruise Line's Camp Ocean areaThis spring, Carnival Cruise Lines unveiled its new Camp Ocean kids’ program on its Freedom cruiseliner. Replacing Camp Carnival, the new program offers new spaces and new programming, and will appear on all Carnival cruises within the next two years.

What’s Different? The cruise line’s Youth Director, Ana Klacinski, says this program truly feels like a camp, rather than a daycare. Kids will find more age-specific areas to keep younger kids from older kids (the programs are for kids 2 to 11), so kids are more comfortable in their environments.

Ages 2 to 5 will now enjoy the Penguins area, the only play area sectioned off with a security gate. Here, kids can play on igloos and iceberg climbing structures, and activities include story hour, crafts and arts. Parents receive cell phones when their kids are in this area, so counselors can easily contact them in case of any trouble. Counselors can change diapers on children 42 months and younger, at an additional fee, but parents won’t need to return to change diapers.

Kids 6 to 8, the Stingrays, have their own space, with more room to play. In this area, kids have sports activities, video games and board games, and also do arts and crafts, albeit they more advanced.

The Sharks, ages 9 to 11, have their own refined space, as well. Video games are of course prevalent, but this group gets more involved in organized games and play, including excursions to play mini golf and participating in their own Olympic games.

Camp Ocean is included in the cruise, as is Kids Only dinner, which is provided most evenings at 6 p.m. A Night Owls program is available at an additional charge from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. This babysitting service is for infants through age 11 and is $6.75 per hour, per child. In-cabin babysitting service is not offered.

– Brittany Chrusciel