Majestic Mountain Loop: 3 National Parks in 3 Days

April 23rd, 2015 by Amanda Geronikos No comments »

Many families visit Yosemite National Park without exploring nearby Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, just two hours away. If your family is considering a visit, plan to travel the Majestic Mountain Loop, a three-day, do-it-yourself tour that covers all three parks (and is manageable enough that nobody will feel overloaded).

Sequoia National Park
Day 1: Sequoia National Park

Stop 1: Giant Forest Museum
Begin your trip with a brief visit to this museum, which provides interactive exhibits and an introduction to the history of Sequoia National Park.

Stop 2: Climb Inside a Sequoia
Just before Moro Rock (your next stop), you’ll find a burned, hollow sequoia tree.
Climb inside and look up at sky! Be sure to have the kids peer through a hole in the tree for photo ops, too.

Stop 3: Moro Rock
Best for families with tweens or teens, Moro Rock provides views of the High Sierra and Great Western Divide. If you can’t make it to the top, there are plenty of places to take pictures of it from afar.

Stop 4: General Sherman Tree
The General Sherman Tree is the largest tree, by volume, in the world. It is the most popular attraction in Sequoia National Park.

Hotel Recommendation: Wuksachi Lodge

Kings Canyon National Park
Day 2: Kings Canyon National Park

Stop 1: General Grant Tree
The General Grant Tree is the second largest sequoia tree in the world. It’s also nicknamed the “Nation’s Christmas Tree.”

Stop 2: Boyden Cavern
Go underground to discover even more beauty in Kings Canyon. You’ll see rare formations, a “bat grotto” and more at Boyden Cavern.

Stop 3: Roaring River Falls
Roaring River Falls is one of many beautiful waterfalls within the park. This one descends 40 feet over a small ledge.

Stop 4: Zumwalt Meadow
Stop at Zumwalt Meadow to enjoy more fantastic views and a picnic lunch.

Hotel Recommendation: John Muir Lodge

Yosemite National Park
Day 3: Yosemite National Park

Stop 1: Wawona Pioneer Village
Located by the storied Wawona Hotel, Wawona Pioneer Village provides a peak into yesteryear, with stagecoach rides, living history reenactments and more.

Stop 2: Glacier Point
Glacier Point is one of the most iconic attractions in Yosemite National Park. During the summer months, you can drive to the top (via Glacier Point Road) for spectacular vistas.

Stop 3: Tunnel View
After you descend a hill and drive through a tunnel, the skies seem to open up on this iconic view, worthy of a stop and pictures — lots of them.

Stop 4: Yosemite Valley
Continue on to Yosemite Valley, where you’ll find Curry Village — a hub for lodging, restaurants, outdoor sports rentals (we recommend a bike ride) and more.

Hotel Recommendation: Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

– Amanda Geronikos

Morey’s Piers May Events for Families

April 22nd, 2015 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

The East Coast is finally getting better spring weather and families looking for something fun to do with kids this May should consider a visit to Wildwood, New Jersey. Morey’s Piers is hosting two large family weekend events that you won’t want to miss.

Family walking on Morey's Piers in Wildwood, New Jersey

Boardwalk Bunk-Down
After hosting the first Boardwalk Bunk-Down last October and receiving such positive feedback, Morey’s Piers decided to do it again this spring. Sign up now for the Saturday, May 2, 2015, sleepover event and start packing your camping gear. Families will enjoy admission to the Mariner’s Pier amusement rides from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, tent accommodations right on Adventure Pier Saturday night and a continental breakfast and coffee station Sunday morning. Saturday evening activities include a movie on Adventure Pier at 8 p.m., with complimentary popcorn; pay-as-you-play games on Adventure Pier from 8 to 11 p.m.; and S’mores kits for $2.50 each to cook between 7 and 8 p.m.

Tickets are $55 per person and must be purchased by May 1, 2015. Season pass holders receive a discounted rate of $35 per person. To reserve your spot, visit the Morey’s Piers website.

And if you can’t make it this May, mark your calendar now for Oct. 3, 2015, when the Boardwalk Bunk-Down fall event will be held.

Mother’s Day Tea Party
Visit Morey’s Piers on Sunday, May 10, 2015, and celebrate Mother’s Day with a special tea party at the boardwalk’s iconic Tea Cups ride. From noon to 5 p.m., all mothers will ride the amusements on Mariner’s and Surfside Piers for free. Between noon and 2 p.m., families can enjoy complimentary tea and cookies at the Tea Cups ride, where kids will get to customize their own sugar cookie creation! To commemorate the day and to honor mom, the Parents Pavilion will host a special photo area, complete with props, for the family to take pictures. The complimentary event is open to all families.

Mother’s Day Weekend Package
For even more family fun, book a weekend stay at one of two Morey’s Piers hotels and resorts. The Port Royal Hotel and the Pan American Hotel are offering three-days and two-night stays from May 8 to 10, 2015, with comfortable accommodations for two adults and up to two children, one-day admission to the rides on the boardwalk and one free breakfast for each guest during their stay. Rates start from $350 per family for the two-night package.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Visiting Howe Caverns With Kids

April 21st, 2015 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Over spring break we took a regional road trip, stopping for a fun afternoon at Howe Caverns, the largest show cave in the northeast U.S. This year-round attraction is located in upstate New York, about 40 miles west of Albany in a small town called Howes Cave.

Right: The entrance sign to Howe Caverns. Let: Inside the caves.

Discovered by a farmer, Lester Howe, in 1842, Howe Caverns is an extensive cave system with a lake running through it, both of which lie 156 feet below ground. You’ll take an elevator down with a tour guide – ours really knew her stuff! Besides learning all about the history of the place, she also shared some scientific information that my kids could understand, including how different minerals like iron, manganese and copper change the color appearance of the calcite growing underground.

She also told us how to remember the difference between stalactites and stalagmites —and I wish I learned this years ago, it’s so easy. Stalactites, with the letter “t,” grow “tight” to the ceiling. Stalagmites, with a “g,” “grow” up from the “ground.”

The massive boulders and flowstone formations are dramatically lit, but because they’re still growing, you’re asked not to touch them. There are two pieces on display, called the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Praying Hands because of their shapes, which you can touch to feel the smooth, glossy calcite.

While the entire 90-minute experience was great, there were two highlights we all enjoyed. The first was a quarter-mile boat ride — underground! — on the shallow River Venus. At the end of the journey, the staff turn off the lights and let you experience total darkness for a moment. The second was walking through the Winding Way, a narrow (18-inches wide) limestone corridor that you have to walk through single-file for 300 feet.

Before you visit Howe Caverns with your family, consider these five tips:

  • Wear a jacket; it’s a constant 52 degrees Fahrenheit underground.
  • The caves are well-lit during the traditional tour, so don’t worry about buying one of those colorful kids’ mining helmets in the gift shop; unless you really want to!
  • If your kids are more adventurous (and 5 years or older), there is a Family Flashlight Tour offered on Sundays. That’s when you would need the helmet.
  • While the cave tour is open year-round, if you go any time Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, leave time to experience the Howe High Adventure attractions above ground. They include a four-tower, 900-foot long zip line, the Sky Trail ropes course and 12-foot inflatable H2OGO balls.
  • There’s an onsite café with yummy homemade entrees like mac and cheese and meatloaf. There’s also a Sweet Shop with homemade fudge in several amazing flavors, like peanut butter and pumpkin. Be sure to stop for lunch and for sweet souvenirs!

More family-friendly U.S. caves and caverns to explore with kids:
Missouri Show Caves
La Jolla Caves
Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves
Timpanogos Cave National Monument
Cave of the Winds
Talking Rocks Cavern
Marvel Cave
Lurary Caverns
Natural Bridge Caverns
Louisville Mega Cavern

– 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.

Daytona Beach Offerings for Families

April 20th, 2015 by Hilarey Wojtowicz 1 comment »

Daytona Beach, Florida, offers families 23 miles of sand, the Daytona International Speedway, a plethora of oceanfront accommodations and Florida’s tallest lighthouse. With all of these offerings, plus new ones for 2015, families planning a vacation to this destination can’t go wrong. This year, add these activities, attractions and events to your itinerary for even more family fun in Daytona Beach.

Daytona Beach oceanfront and pier

Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art
Recently opened in February 2015, the Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art offers families 26,000 square feet of art to explore with children. The facility houses 2,700 paintings that date back to the 1800’s and center on Florida state history. This collection of Florida art is the largest in the world. The Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum is located at the Smithsonian-affiliated Museum of Arts and Sciences, which is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $11 for adults, $9 for seniors, $5 for kids ages 6 to 17 and free for children ages 5 and under.

Daytona Tortugas Minor League Baseball Team
The city of Daytona Beach has a new team for residents and visitors to cheer for. The Daytona Tortugas minor league baseball season is in full swing and families can catch a game at the Jackie Robinson Ballpark on City Island. Kids will love watching the fireworks after the games and parents won’t mind the ticket prices either, which start from just $8 each.

Free Bandshell Concerts
The Daytona Beach Bandshell concerts may not be new, but the musical entertainment is and this year tribute bands from all over will honor the classics. Every Saturday from May 23 through Sept. 19, 2015, families can head to the Daytona Beach Oceanfront Bandshell to hear the sounds of Bruce Springsteen, U2, The Eagles, Journey, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John and more. Plus, every concert is free!

Coke Zero 400
Now in its 57th year, the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coco-Cola NASCAR Sprint Cup Series invites families to the Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, July 5, for an evening of family, friends and fast cars in honor of the Fourth of July. The Speedway has nearly completed its $400-million refurbishment and families won’t want to miss out on the new concession stands, new neighborhood areas and classic Speedway tours. Tickets for the Coke Zero 400 start from $55 per person. Speedway Tours are offered daily and tickets start from $16 for adults and $10 for kids ages 6 to 10, and children under 5 are free.

Start planning your Daytona Beach family vacation now by finding comfortable accommodations from our list of hotels.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz