Sesame Place Celebrates 35 Years in 2015

April 17th, 2015 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Sesame Place is celebrating 35 years of family fun in 2015 and with the park’s opening on May 2 comes three new rides, a new parade and a renovated restaurant. In honor of its anniversary, the Bucks County, Pennsylvania, theme park will be decorated with brightly colored balloons, garland, a giant, inflatable birthday cake and large candles lining the sides of Sesame Street. Additionally, new character photo opportunities will be located around the park with your child’s favorite friends wearing their best birthday outfits!

Little girl meets Elmo at Sesame Place

New Must-Ride Attractions
New for 2015, the Count’s Fly By, the Castle Swing and the Count Around mechanical rides will debut near the Count’s Splash Castle in early spring and will be open through the spring season, as well during the Halloween Spooktacular and A Very Furry Christmas.

The Count Around takes riders in six colorful hot air balloons up and around as they practice their counting skills. The Castle Swing is a double-sided swing that takes riders high into the sky. The Count’s Fly By let’s riders steer one of the colorful planes around in circles as they fly above the park.

New Neighborhood Birthday Party Parade
In honor of the theme park’s birthday, the new Neighborhood Birthday Party Parade will get all guests moving and grooving with the characters of Sesame Street three times a day. The parade will feature a new birthday song, as well as balloons, sparkly cupcakes and, of course, birthday candles!

Newly Renovated Elmo’s Eatery
Updated for the 2015 season, Elmo’s Eatery will remain the park’s largest restaurant, but will now feature a bright, colorful interior, additional seating areas and table delivery service. With the new service, families will order food at the counter and a team member will bring it to their table when it is ready. The park believes this will make it easier for families with small children to dine.

Spring Savings
Buy your tickets to Sesame Place now and save with two online exclusive deals. Buy one Any Day Ticket now through June 21, 2015, and save $10, plus receive a free second visit with free general parking during that visit through Dec. 31, 2015. Tickets start from $55 per person. Additionally, guests who buy one Spring Single-Day Ticket now for visits between May 2 and June 21, 2015, will pay just $45 per ticket. That’s a savings of up to $20!

Read about all of the attractions at the park and book your hotel now for a fantastic family vacation to Sesame Place.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

7 Attractions to Explore With Kids in Boise, Idaho

April 16th, 2015 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Boise, Idaho, used to have a reputation as a sleepy, boring kind of town. That’s all changed over the past 20 years as the population of the city and surrounding metropolitan area has boomed to over 600,000 people. It may be a big city now, but there’s still a part of the downtown that evokes that relaxed, small town feeling. Boise is a family-friendly city, with a great number of sights and activities that kids will love. Here are seven things to do with kids in Boise, Idaho.

Downtown Boise, Idaho

Zoo Boise
Inside Julia Davis Park, which stretches out along the banks of the Boise River, is one of our favorite little zoos, Zoo Boise. It’s big enough to keep an exotic assortment of animals, like tigers, bears, giraffes, and bald eagles, but small enough to see everything without wearing down the youngest members of the family.

The best part, at least according to my kids, is the extensive children’s area of the zoo. It’s where my son first came face to face with a Komodo dragon, and my daughter first felt the tickle of a butterfly landing on her nose. There are plenty of slides, tunnels, and hands-on activities to keep kids busy for a few hours. Myself, I could just sit and watch the meerkats for most of an afternoon.

Idaho State Capitol Building
Boise is the capital city, and the building that houses the state legislature is an impressive structure. Modeled after the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., its dome rises over 200 feet above downtown. You can freely wander around inside and gawk at all the granite and sandstone, but I recommend taking a brief tour to learn a little more about the history of this 100-year-old building.

MK Nature Center
The Morrison-Knudsen Nature Center is a 5-acre fish and wildlife experience that features a mountain stream, waterfalls and wetlands. There are multiple viewing windows for the kids to see how fish develop from tiny eggs into full-grown trout, whitefish or kokanee. You’ll even see nesting geese, turtles, beavers and wild ducks.

The Center also has a large education building where kids can learn about all the different animals that make their home in Idaho. There’s no better way to show the circle of life, at least in the fish world, than in a place like the MK Nature Center.

Idaho State Historical Museum
Also inside Julia Davis Park, not far from Zoo Boise, is the Idaho State Historical Museum. I can probably trace my children’s love for history back to the vivid displays found here. The museum is small, but packed full of relics and recreations that tell the story of Idaho’s past from prehistoric times through to the pioneers coming west on the Oregon Trail and straight into the 21st century. On the grounds of the museum is a pioneer village, showing how settlers lived in the 1800′s. Many weekends feature historical reenactment groups.

Camel’s Back Park
This is where your kids can run and climb. Camel’s Back Park features trails winding up into the foothills above Boise, affording some of the best views of the city. Wear sturdy shoes, because that first hill, like the hump of a camel, is a steep one.

When you’re done exploring, find a patch of cool grass under a shady tree to enjoy a picnic, while the kids use up the rest of their energy on the play equipment.

Old Idaho State Penitentiary
For more than 100 years, the Old Idaho Penitentiary was home to some of the worst convicts in the state. It’s been closed, to prisoners, for over 40 years, but it still stands as a reminder to kids to be on their best behavior. History buffs will revel in how little changed in the prison from the late 1800’s to the 1970’s. No wonder it had to be shut down after prisoners rioted for better living conditions. Kids will get a kick out of being “locked up” in solitary confinement, and they will definitely be a little creeped out when they see death row and the gallows.

Floating the Boise River
If you’re visiting Boise during the scorching months of July and August, one of the best ways to cool off is by floating the Boise River. You can rent inner tubes and rafts in Barber Park, to the east of town, then float the gently flowing river for 6 miles as it takes you right through downtown and to the take-out spot in Ann Morrison Park. It’s an easy three-hour float, with several “rest areas” where you can get out of the water if you need a break. There’s no better way for kids to view the flora and fauna of the river than from right in the middle of it.

– Phil Corless

Phil Corless is an at-home dad of two living in the Pacific Northwest. Since 2004, he has been writing about fatherhood and family at the Idaho Dad blog. He believes the best way for kids to learn about the world is to travel through it.

Adventures by Disney’s New Danube River Cruise Itinerary for Families

April 15th, 2015 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Adventures by Disney already offers amazing itineraries for families around the world, but at a media event on Monday night the company announced a brand new venture in partnership with AmaWaterways. The new, first-ever Danube River Cruise Adventure takes families on the 170-passenger AmaViola through eight cities across four European countries. The itinerary will be available five times in 2016, with four sailings departing in July and one in December, the latter a holiday-themed adventure. If you’re considering this for a family vacation, here’s what you can expect during the eight-day, seven-night cruise:

The Danube River

Day 1: Vilshofen, Germany
Families will tour the Alderbasbach Brewery, which is also home to a museum and Cistercian Monastery, while enjoying local food, music and folk dancing with costumed entertainers. After the afternoon party, families will board the ship for an elegant dinner as they set sail from Vilshofen, Germany. Finish off the night with the soothing sounds of a live piano player.

Day 2: Passau, Germany
Enjoy a guided walking tour of the city by a local expert dressed in clothing reminiscent of the 18th Century. Families will see St. Stephen’s Cathedral and even make their own marzipan to take home.

Next, families will choose from two excursion options. The first option includes a guided tour through 41 connected, treetop towers and rope bridges, with a giant slide and playground for kids to enjoy after. The second option includes a tour through the 900-year-old Hohenwerfen Castle with a live falconry show for families to see exotic birds up close.

After the day’s activities and dinner on the ship, families will have time to explore Passau on their own, or they can join their children at the Junior Adventurer movie night.

Day 3: Linz, Austria
Local tour guides will take families through Salzburg where they’ll also indulge in a meal at St. Peter Siftskellar, the oldest restaurant in the city.

Next, families will choose between an excursion to Mondsee for a tour of the Mondsee Abbey, where “The Sound of Music” was filmed, or a journey to the Salt Mines of Hallein, where rafts will take them underground and down a mineshaft slide while everyone learns about the history of the mineral. Families will also be able to see other famous sights in town, such as the Mirabell Gardens.

Back on board, guests will enjoy dinner and a spirited sing-a-long to the soundtrack from “The Sound of Music.”

Day 4: Melk and Krems, Austria
First explore the Melk Abbey with kids before swimming in the Danube River and trying cultural activities like marmalade making, wine and juice tasting and traditional Austrian dance lessons. Families will then choose from two excursions. Option one takes families on a three-hour bike ride from Melk to the town of Krems, Austria. Option two allows families to stay on board the ship and make pretzels with kids, which they also get to eat afterward! Other ship activities include board games and wine tastings (for adults).

During the afternoon, families who stayed on board rather than biking can choose from three activities. The first takes guests on a hiking tour of Duernstein and the Burgruine Duernstein castle. The second takes families on a one-hour bike ride along the Danube River. The third takes families to a working apricot farm where they’ll get to taste the various products made there.

Additionally, families will have time to explore the town of Krems on their own. Kids will enjoy another movie night aboard the ship while teens can sing their hearts out at karaoke in the lounge after dinner.

Day 5: Vienna, Austria
Tour the city of Vienna and stop at the Schoenbrunn Palace for an additional tour of the property, including the underground kitchens. Kid-specific activities will also be offered at the Palace, such as a historical dress up area and visits to the onsite children’s museum. Families will also get to enjoy a marionette show and hands-on strudel making demonstration.

For lunch, guests can choose from lunch on the ship or one of the many restaurants in Vienna. In the afternoon, families have three activity options. The first is to explore the famous Spanish riding school at the HofBurg castle; the second is for a bike ride through Klosterneuburg Abbey; and the third is for free family time to explore the city.

After dinner on the ship, families get to choose from two activities. Sample Viennese wine at a local tavern while enjoying live music and entertainment, or listen to the classical sounds of Mozart and Strauss at a private concert.

Day 6: Bratislava, Slovakia
Explore Bratislava via a guided tour with stops at St. Martin’s Cathedral and the Dukla battlefield, as well as time at the Devin Castle, where kids can try archery, make candles and create a custom Adventures by Disney coin souvenir.

After lunch on board the ship, families will get to discover Schloss Hof, the estate of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Stories, culinary tastings, dance lessons, a petting zoo and more will be offered for families to enjoy.

Dinner is enjoyed on the ship in the evening before the family-friendly karaoke night begins.

Day 7: Budapest, Hungary
Take a carriage ride and see a horse show at the Lazar Equestrian Park in Budapest before lunch right onsite, accompanied by Hungarian folk singers. Families can even make their own ghoulash to enjoy for lunch! The afternoon is for touring the city before a Captain’s Farewell reception and dinner on board the ship. The evening is filled with a magic show for all ages and views of Budapest from the ship as it makes its way further down the Danube River.

Day 8: Budapest, Hungary
On the last day of the adventure, families will enjoy breakfast upon the ship with Budapest surrounding them. Airport transfers will be offered for all guests who plan to make their way back home.

Bonus Days
In addition to the initial eight-day itinerary, families can opt to add on a three-day, two-night stay, pre or post cruise, in Prague, Czech Republic. During these additional days, families will explore gardens, taste Czech delicacies, explore the city on a guided tour and enjoy a smaller river cruise through Prague along the Vltava River. Additional fees apply.

Rates for the eight-day, seven-night, all-inclusive Danube River Cruise Adventure start from $4,539 per adult and from $4,319 per child (ages 12 and under). The minimum age requirement is 4 years, though Adventures by Disney recommends this trip for children ages 8 and older. For more information and to book, visit the Adventures by Disney website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Visiting the Empire State Building With Kids

April 14th, 2015 by Guest Blogger 1 comment »

It was embarrassing, really, that my New York-born-and-raised children had never visited the iconic Empire State Building in New York City. We corrected that oversight during spring break this year with a trip into Manhattan. This beautiful Art Deco landmark, which was once the world’s tallest building from when it opened in 1931 through 1970 when the World Trade Center’s North Tower was completed, rises 1,454 feet over Fifth Avenue.

Three kids looking out from the Empire State Building observatory deck

Your regular admission ticket gets you to the outdoor observation deck on the 86th floor. An upgraded ticket will add the enclosed 102nd floor’s deck to your experience. You also have the option to pay for an express ticket to bypass the lines. The wait can be long, with hundreds of people lining up to get into the elevators. We went with the least expensive ticket option available, and even at that, this was an investment of about $120 for the four of us.

On your way up, your first stop is the 80th floor, where exhibits and displays showcase the building’s history, with a lot of compelling photos. Included with the cost of your ticket is a multi-media handheld device that looks like a cell phone, accompanied by earphones. My kids loved these, even though the 7-year old wasn’t that adept at using it. From the touch screen you can take a self-guided audio tour by matching the numbers on the displays to the number on the phone display. There are also other categories, like nearby restaurants and fun facts, such as the Empire State Building is 75 times taller than the world’s tallest giraffe!

From the 80th floor, you can either take an elevator, or walk six flights up to the 86th floor observatory. While you can see the views from inside, it’s worth it to brave the weather and go outside, around the deck that circles the building, so you can view the city from all directions. My kids liked watching the boats on the Hudson River, while I enjoyed seeing landmarks like the Chrysler Building, Freedom Tower and Statue of Liberty.

Planning to go with your family? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Save time by purchasing and printing out your tickets online in advance. Kids ages 6 and under are free, too! Tickets can be used any day, which is good because you may want to change plans at the last minute depending on the weather. Tickets start from $32 for adults and teens ages 13 and older and from $26 for children ages 6 to 12.
  • Go on a clear, sunny day for the best views. We didn’t have any flexibility with the date, so it was drizzling and very windy out on the observation deck. At least there wasn’t any fog, so the views of New York City were still good.
  • You will have to go through the security checkpoint, which is a lot like an airport, with an x-ray machine for bags and a separate one for people to walk through.
  • The best times to go to avoid crowds are from 8 to 11 a.m.

– 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.