Take the Ferry to the North Fork for Family Fun

November 16th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Ferry boat in New YorkIf you live in New York or New England and are looking for a scenic, relaxing, cost-effective trip for the family, you must take note. The North Fork area of New York, a popular tourist destination, is more accessible than ever before. I recently traveled to the North Fork via the Cross Sound Ferry. My expectations were surpassed. It was efficient, restful and a great value. I charged my phone and watched families happily make the no-fuss journey.

It’s just an 80-minute sail from Connecticut to Long Island and back. Ferries depart every day from New London, Connecticut (just a few miles off of I-95) and drop off in Orient Point, New York (also known as the North Fork). You can take your car for just $51, plus $14.50 for additional adult passengers. Children ages 2 to 11 are $6 one-way or $10 round-trip. Children under 2 are free.

Once on board, there is a concession stand, TVs and kids get an activity book with crayons. You can even pick up a pair of kid-friendly binoculars. The trip itself is extremely scenic and the views are stunning. The best part about it is missing the traffic on the always busy I-95 and Long Island Expressway.

Once you reach the North Fork, your options are plentiful. You can explore a few vineyards, hit a hands-on aquarium, take the kids on a barnyard adventure at the Harbes Family Farm, or do something completely unusual – visit Gingerbread University and decorate a gingerbread house, man or another edible shape offered at the bakery attraction. There are small museums, farm stands, delicious restaurants, quaint shops to roam around and loads of family-friendly places to stay including the Harborfront Inn in the town of Greenport, just 15 minutes from the Cross Sound Ferry port.

Check out the Cross Sound Ferry schedule for assigned vessels, dates and times. For reservations, visit the Long Island Ferry 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.

Free DreamWorks DreamPlace for Families

November 15th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Shrek and Fiona dressed for the holidaysGive your children the chance to meet Santa Claus and Shrek this holiday season with the free DreamWorks DreamPlace attraction. With eight locations across the country, families can hopefully find one close to home. The magical experience is free and runs now through Christmas Eve.

First, parents should download the free DreamWorks DreamPlace App to their Android or iPhone. The app allows parents to create a wish list for their child in advance of their visit with Santa. Once arrived at the DreamWorks DreamPlace, Santa will magically know what your child really wants under the tree this year. Additionally, the app can be shared with family and friends who may need ideas while holiday shopping.

The DreamWorks DreamPlace attraction includes a 15-minute festive experience with Shrek and his friends. Afterwards, families can take a sleigh ride to the North Pole, where Santa will be waiting to discuss your child’s list and to take a photo with the entire family. All activities are free, too!

The DreamWorks DreamPlace can be found at the following malls across the United States:

Glendale Galleria
Glendale, California

Victoria Gardens
Rancho Cucamonga, California

Fashion Show
Las Vegas, Nevada

The Parks at Arlington
Arlington, Texas

Oakbrook Center
Oak Brook, Illinois

North Point Mall
Alpharetta, Georgia

Cherry Hill Mall
Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Ridge Hill
Yonkers, New York

For more information and to make a reservation at a mall near you, visit the DreamWorks DreamPlace website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

An Asheville Christmas: 3 Unique Events

November 14th, 2014 by Amanda Geronikos No comments »

You’ll find a “winter wonderland” with lights, hot cocoa and Santa Claus just about anywhere you go (including Asheville, at the North Carolina Arboretum). However, you won’t see Santa Claus practicing his chimney climb — at Chimney Rock Sate Park — anywhere else. You also won’t find a gingerbread competition as impressive (or big) as the one that pops up at Omni Grove Park Inn annually, and there’s nothing as grand as Christmas at the Biltmore Estate — it is “America’s Largest Home,” after all.

Candlelight Christmas Evenings
The banquet hall at the Biltmore Estate, decorated for the holidaysCandlelight Christmas Evenings feature self-guided, candle-lit tours of the Biltmore Estate, which is decorated for a traditional Vanderbilt Christmas — complete with a 35-foot tree. The nightly event also includes same- or next-day visits to the estate’s gardens and winery. Plus, Santa Claus appears at Antler Hill Village (also located onsite) every weekend, from 1 to 5 p.m., until Dec. 21, 2014. Candlelight Christmas Evenings take place through Jan. 11, 2015. Rates are admittedly steep — starting at $69 per adult and $34.50 for children ages to 10 and up (9 and under are free) — but worth the cost for the once-in-a-lifetime experience. You can also opt for a regular daytime pass and still enjoy the holiday décor and visits with Santa (plus, it’s slightly cheaper).

Santa’s Chimney Climb Practice
Santa Claus climbs the rocks of Chimney Rock State ParkHead to Chimney Rock State Park in December — you’ll see Santa Claus practicing his chimney climb! Practices will take place on Dec. 6 and 13, 2014, and onlookers will have a chance to meet him afterward, along with Mrs. Claus. Other highlights will include complimentary hot cocoa, arts and crafts, and live entertainment. Admission to Chimney Rock State Park is $15 for adults and $7 for kids ages 5 to 15, but there’s no additional fee to see Santa!

Try to spot Dancing Santa — also known as B-boy Santa — while you’re in town, too. He takes to the streets to show off his seriously impressive skills — expect to see him everywhere from the beloved breweries to the Biltmore!

National Gingerbread House Competition
Family gazes at the Gingerbread House at the Omni Grove Park InnStarting on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, and running through Jan. 1, 2015, the annual National Gingerbread House Competition is hosted at The Omni Grove Park Inn (which actually resembles a gingerbread house itself). The event, open to the public Sunday to Thursday (Fridays and Saturdays are for guests only), includes fantastical, sugar-coated structures, from traditional homes to castles; at least 75 percent of each creation is built with real gingerbread. Admission is free, though a $10 parking fee is required.

– Amanda Geronikos

4 Holiday Packages at the Kingsmill Resort & Spa

November 13th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

The Kingsmill Resort & Spa during the holidays in Williamsburg, VirginiaAs the holiday season begins, families looking for festive events should visit Williamsburg, Virginia. Besides the colonial villages all dressed in lights and holiday colors, resorts in the area are offering special packages for families who really want to celebrate together. This season, book one of these four holiday packages at the Kingsmill Resort & Spa for a magical, mini-vacation with kids.

Christmas Town
Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Christmas Town is a sight to see this season. Book the Christmas Town package and enjoy overnight accommodations, multi-day tickets to Christmas Town, breakfast for each guest, each morning, and complimentary transportation to and from Busch Gardens and other Williamsburg locations. Guests can also take advantage of the resort’s onsite amenities like the fitness center and indoor pool. Rates start from $261 per night, for two adults and one child. Package available for stays Nov. 20 to Dec. 31, 2014. Room upgrades are available starting from $40 more per night.

Thanksgiving
Let someone else trim the turkey this year by booking the Thanksgiving package at the Kingsmill Resort & Spa. Package includes a two-night stay in a resort guestroom, a breakfast buffet daily for all guests, a Thanksgiving buffet on Thursday, Nov. 27, and complimentary shuttle service to and from Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Colonial Williamsburg on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. Rates start from $365 per night for a family of four. Package available for a two-night stay, Nov. 25 to Dec. 1, 2014. Additional nights may be added and room upgrades are available starting from $40 more per night.

Fireworks in Williamsburg
See the sky light up during your stay with the Fireworks in Williamsburg package. Package includes a two-night stay in a one-bedroom suite, a breakfast buffet daily for all guests, a 2 p.m. late check-out on Sunday and/or Monday and complimentary shuttle service to and from Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Colonial Williamsburg on Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday. Stay on Dec. 7 and enjoy the Grand Illumination at Colonial Williamsburg, with musical performances and a spectacular fireworks display. Rates start from $219 per night for a family of four. Package available from Dec. 5-9, 2014. Two-night minimum stay required.

Holiday Traditions
Open presents under the tree at the Kingsmill Resort & Spa this year when you book the Holiday Traditions package. Package includes a two-night stay in a two-bedroom suite, a breakfast buffet daily for all guests, Christmas stockings, a decorated tree with lights, milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve, a Christmas buffet dinner for all guests and complimentary shuttle service to and from Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Colonial Williamsburg on Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday. Rates start from $602 per night for a family of four. Package available from Dec. 23-27, 2014. Two-night minimum stay required.

Offer based on availability. Additional restrictions and blackout dates may apply.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

The London Pass for Families

November 12th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

London Tower BridgeIf your family plans to visit London any time soon, there’s really only one way to see all of the sights: the London Pass. Many cities around the world offer attraction passes like this and purchasing one for each member of your family helps make your trip easy. The budget-friendly pass offers access to all of the main attractions in London, like the Zoo, Westminster Abbey and more. Purchase it prior to your vacation and save time and energy when sightseeing.

What’s Included
The London Pass offers guests free access to more than 60 attractions in London. Family-friendly and must-see attractions that the pass grants you access to include the Tower of London, the National Portrait Gallery, the ZLS London Zoo, Kensington Palace, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Westminster Abbey, Thames River Cruises, Tower Bridge and more.

Additional perks of the pass include free shopping and restaurant discounts and benefits and a free, colorful guidebook that is available in seven languages. The guidebook includes information about each attraction, directions to each attraction, opening and closing times, and tips on how to make the most of your visit.

Purchase the pass for one, two, three or six days, in order to make the most of your trip to London. Prices vary per pass length, but all save families time and money. With the pass, you can skip the lines to most attractions and you save money by not paying the per-person-per-attraction fee to each one.

Pass Prices
The London Pass for one day is 47 Pounds (about $75) per adult and 31 Pounds (about $49) per child, ages 5 to 15; children age 4 and under are free.

One adult and one child who purchase the London Pass for one day can save at least 122 Pounds or $193 just by visiting the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Kensington Palace, ZLS London Zoo, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the London Bridge and by taking a Thames River Cruise during their stay.

For more information and to purchase your London Pass, head to visitlondon.gttix.com now.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

U.S. Memorials That Honor Veterans

November 11th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

American flags waving in the windVeterans Day became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938 and every year we honor military and service members, both current and retired, with parades, services, events and activities. This year – and for years to come – visit memorial attractions like these around the country with your kids in order to teach them more about the history of those who have fought and those who are currently fighting to protect our nation.

American Revolution
The Freedom Trail in Boston takes families through famous areas that were involved in the American Revolution in the late 1700s. See the Paul Revere House, the U.S.S. Constitution, and the Old State House. There are 16 official sites on the trail and all are within walking distance of one another. Follow the trail with kids and teach them more about the history of the U.S.

War of 1812
Although Fort Mackinac dates back to the American Revolution, it also played a part in the War of 1812 when the British captured it. It was returned to the U.S. after the war and is now home to demonstrations and tours, which families will surely find interesting. The Mackinac Island memorial has hands-on displays and interactive games that kids will enjoy, as well.

American Civil War
The American Civil War involved numerous towns, cities and states. A few commemorative sites to see include the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the historic ships that reside in Baltimore’s harbor and Fort Delaware State Park, which is home to a former Union Civil War Prison. All sites are filled with history and information that will teach kids while honoring those who fought in the war.

World War I
Your children may learn about World War I in their history books, but taking them to see sites like the Indiana War Memorial in Indianapolis and the National World War I Museum in Kansas City will offer first-hand looks into history. The former has artifacts like gas masks on display and the latter is home to Liberty Memorial – a 217-foot tower that honors WWI veterans, as well as amazing views of the city.

World War II
The 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor will never be forgotten and families should see the Pearl Harbor Memorial Museum and Visitor Center and the USS Arizona Memorial – both of which are in Oahu, Hawaii. If you can’t make it to the islands, visit the Palm Springs Air Museum in Palm Springs, California, for a look at WWII aircraft carriers, plus other educational exhibits.

Korean War
The Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. honors those who served in the 1953 war. The Memorial pays homage to all of those who were wounded, went missing or were killed. Statues of 19 soldiers stand near the Pool of Remembrance and will really catch the attention of children and teens, who should know the history of the Korean War.

Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was and is a controversial topic for many, but families and children can learn about those who fought by visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The site is humbling and a powerful reminder of the soldiers who risked their lives in the Vietnam War.

September 11
Children may not be old enough to remember or even know what really happened on September 11, 2001, but many are still haunted by the sites of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers falling on that day not-so-many years ago. To honor those military soldiers, firefighters, police officers, emergency squads and so many others involved in the New York City terrorist attacks, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum is now home to every name of every person who died that day, as well as a museum with artifacts, like a portion of the stairs from the World Trade Center.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz