Lancaster Whoopie Pie Festival for Families

September 5th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Pumpkin flavored whoopie pies stacked on a plateCelebrate a classic snack this weekend at the Whoopie Pie Festival in Lancaster County. On Saturday September 6, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., families can enjoy sweet events and kid-friendly activities (most are free!) at the Hershey Farm Restaurant and Inn in Strasburg, Pa., in honor of the sweet treat. Try more than 100 unique flavors (pumpkin and coconut anyone?), take part in a whoopie pie eating contest or play a game of checkers with whoopie pies as the game pieces!

Here’s everything you can do at the festival tomorrow with your family:

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Largest Whoopie Pie Ever Made
Imagine a whoopie pie that weighs more than 250 pounds…that’s what this year’s team is aiming for! See history being made as they attempt to create the largest whoopie pie ever.

11 a.m. — Whoopie Pie Treasure Hunt
Think you can find all of the whoopie pies? Hundreds wrapped in brightly colored foil will be hidden around the farm. Hunts start every 15 minutes and kids of all ages are encouraged to participate.

12 p.m. — Whoopie Pie Race
Grab a pie and race to the finish while spectators cheer you on.

1 to 3 p.m. — Whoopie Pie Checkers
Use the sweet treats as game pieces in a unique game of Checkers. Don’t just play with them — eat them, too!

2 p.m. — Whoopie Pie Yell Off
Can you “whoopie!” the loudest?

3:30 p.m. — Amateur Whoopie Pie Eating Contest
How many whoopie pies can you eat? Show off your love for the snack in this contest!

4 p.m. — Create the Most Creative Whoopie Pie
Pay $2 to participate and see if you can create the most unique whoopie pie in just five minutes. Prizes will be awarded at 4 p.m.

Other all day events and activities include live music, pony rides, face painting, train races, whoopie pie making stations for kids and more. Local food and craft vendors will be stationed with goods for sale throughout the day, as well, and the Hershey Farm Restaurant will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The rain date for the event is Sunday, September 7, 2014. Admission to the festival is free.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

6 Reasons to Visit Puerto Rico With Kids

September 4th, 2014 by Amanda Geronikos No comments »

View of beach and ocean on Palomino Island at the El Conquistador Resort in Puerto RicoWant a tropical vacation that won’t break the bank? Go to Puerto Rico. On a recent trip there, we discovered just how easy it is to get to and from the island (and how enjoyable it is while you’re actually there).

No Passports Required
Because Puerto Rico is a territory of the U.S., your family won’t need passports to get on the island; a standard photo ID will do the job. That’s a savings of nearly $200 for a family of four (the going rate for passports is $55 per adult and $40 per minor).

No Currency Changes
Also, because Puerto Rico is a territory of the U.S., the U.S. Dollar is the standard form of currency. That’s another savings for travelers, who will find high exchange rates on other islands, such as Grand Cayman.

No Language Barriers
Both Spanish and English are widely spoken in Puerto Rico. During our visit there, we didn’t encounter anyone who couldn’t speak English, regardless of location.

Ease and Expense of Transportation
It’s easy to find a direct flight to Puerto Rico; many major airlines — such as American Airlines, Delta, and JetBlue — provide non-stop service. Plus, fares are reasonable, particularly during the summer months (you’ll actually pay more in the winter).

Affordable Hotels
Even at the island’s biggest resort, El Conquistador, rates start as low as $149 per night. In San Juan, you’ll find them even lower — rates start at $99 per night at The Condado Plaza Hilton and $72 per night at Dream’s Hotel Puerto Rico.

Free Beaches
You don’t necessarily have to pay money to enjoy the sand, surf and sun in Puerto Rico. In fact, several free beaches can be found in San Juan. We especially like Condado Beach, situated next to The Condado Plaza Hilton — it’s surprisingly calm.

– Amanda Geronikos

Family Packages at the Breakers Palm Beach

September 3rd, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz 2 comments »

Arial view of the Breakers Palm Beach in Palm Beach, FloridaConsider Palm Beach, Fla., for your next family getaway. The South Florida destination is filled with resorts that are family friendly and luxurious, all at the same time. And one of our favorites is the Breakers Palm Beach. With its eight onsite restaurants, daily scheduled activities and in-room amenities like DVD players, mini-bars and movies, the Breakers Palm Beach is a great option for your next family vacation. And this year, the resort is offering three packages that you won’t want to miss. Book one of these packages for the ultimate getaway in 2014.

Exclusive Vacation Savings
Enjoy complimentary and enticing benefits and amenities when you book the Exclusive Vacation Savings promotion at the Breakers Palm Beach this year. Families will receive a complimentary full American breakfast buffet daily; complimentary meals for kids age 12 and under, when accompanied by an adult; unlimited tennis and fitness center classes; and unlimited Wi-Fi. All is complimentary during your stay. Plus, you can save even more with additional discounts on golf at the Ocean Course or the Breakers Rees Jones Course, and on the kids’ camps. Rates start from $400 per night. Offer valid for stays now through Dec. 17, 2014.

Thanksgiving Holiday Celebration
The holidays at the Breakers Palm Beach are magical. Kick off the holiday season with the resort’s Thanksgiving Holiday Celebration. Families will enjoy complimentary benefits like free breakfast, free kids meals for children 12 and under, free Wi-Fi and unlimited tennis and fitness classes during their stay. Plus, enjoy complimentary access to special events like the Harvest Festival, bonfire on the beach, a movie under the stars and the Thanksgiving carnival. Rates start from $550 per night. Offer valid for stays Nov. 26 through Nov. 30, 2014.

A December to Remember
Whether you choose to visit the Breakers before Christmas, on Christmas or for New Year’s, make it a vacation to remember. The December to Remember package offers families exclusive rates with benefits, such as festive hotel activities and complimentary kids’ meals. Plus, enjoy a free American breakfast buffet daily, complimentary Wi-Fi access and unlimited tennis and fitness classes. Take photos with Santa and ring in the new year with live music and delicious food. Rates start from $369 per night. Offer valid for stays Dec. 1 through Jan. 4, 2015.

And now through Sept. 16, 2014, you can enter to win a free family vacation at the Breakers Palm Beach by writing a review of your last family vacation!

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

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

A Day in the Port of Nassau With a Teenager

September 2nd, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

The Disney Dream cruise ship in the Port of Nassau in the BahamasOur family’s recent four-day cruise on the Disney Dream brought us to the port of Nassau in the Bahamas. Like any other cruise, there was a multitude of shore excursions offered, for a fee, including visiting the Atlantis resort, touring Ardastra Gardens, visiting Graycliff Chocolatier, or enjoying a beach day on Blue Lagoon Island. I didn’t want to spend an entire day on Nassau, since we really enjoyed the amenities onboard and only had a few days to do so.

Instead, my 14-year old son and I spent three hours exploring the vicinity near the port on foot. We got to see a few local sites, find a Wi-Fi hotspot at the local Dunkin’ Donuts, and be back on the ship in time for a late lunch.

Pirates of Nassau Museum
I wanted to visit the Pirates of Nassau Museum, which takes up two large floors at the intersection of King and George streets. This self-guided attraction tells the story of local pirate history by recreating scenes on a pirate ship from 1720.

Exhibit inside the Pirates of Nassau MuseumYour eyes need time to adjust to the dim light in the first cavernous space you enter, and then you realize that you’re looking down the long side of a pirate ship’s hull. It’s a recreation, obviously, but a really well-made one. You enter at the end, and walk through several rooms—the mates’ cabins, kitchen, tavern, etc.—set up with mannequins and props. Signage provides the background on what happened in these rooms, as well as the pirate lifestyle.

Heading upstairs, we walked through a short collection of artifacts, and thought the exit was near, until an actor dressed in pirate costume jumped out from behind a black caption yelling “Arrrrr!,” and taking two years off my life. He directed us into a room with another dark set of Blackbeard’s ship, and, still in character, told the tale of this infamous pirate who sailed through this part of the Caribbean.

To supplement the sets, there are also galleries of artifacts and entertaining “Did you know?” games along the walls providing the truth behind pirate lore. I found out that yes indeed, pirates often kept parrots as pets. But I also found out that it’s a falsehood that pirates created treasure maps with “X” marking the spot.

We both found this attraction well worth the price of admission ($12 for adults; $6 for children ages 4 to 17), but we agreed that my 7-year-old daughter would not have liked the part where the pirate jumped out at us. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday; and 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday.

Nassau Straw Market
Overhead view of the Straw Market in Nassau, BahamasOn the way back to the ship, we walked back down Bay Street to the main entrance of the famous Nassau Straw Market; a collection of vendors that fills several aisles in a stuffy indoor space. You’ll find souvenirs such as hand-woven straw hats, bags, mats, dolls, conch shell jewelry and wood carvings. You can pay with U.S. or Bahamian money, and vendors are willing to negotiate. It’s open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. My daughter would have loved the purses made with images of Disney princesses and Hello Kitty on them. While I love to shop for locally-made crafts, my son was not as willing.

Our last stop was a souvenir shop on Bay Street for a quick hit of glorious air conditioning, a snow globe for my daughter’s collection, and a Christmas tree ornament. We buy one wherever we travel!

– 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.

Five Last-Minute Labor Day Events for Families

September 1st, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

A young boy and young girl sitting in front of an American flagIf you didn’t make plans in honor of Labor Day, then you’re in luck! We’ve found a few great last-minute events across the U.S. for you and the kids to attend in celebration of the last weekend of summer.

Bucks County, Pa.
If you’re not already invited to a Labor Day barbecue, head to Sesame Place in Bucks County, Pa., for a special kid-friendly cookout! Make your reservation now for the 5 p.m. BBQ with all of your kids’ favorite Sesame Street characters. Enjoy a fun-filled day in the park and then head to dinner ay Big Bird’s Riverside Pavilion, with music, activities and fireworks. Prices start from $27 for all guests 10 and older, and from $17 for children between 2 and 9; kids under 2 are free. Park admission is also required. For more information, visit the Sesame Place website.

San Diego
The U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge has been going on all weekend long in San Diego and today is the last day! If you haven’t already visited the amazing sand art, then head there today. Sculptors come from around the world for this annual competition. Enjoy live music, dancers, circus performers, magicians and other kid-friendly activities. All events and activities begin at 9 a.m. at the B Street Pier and admission is affordable at $10 per adult and $7 per child. For more information, visit the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge website.

Asbury Park, N.J.
Head to Asbury Park, N.J., along the Jersey Shore, for a day of live music and food at the Labor Day BBQ, hosted by the Boys and Girls Club of Monmouth County and The Passion Group. Entertainment, games, rides, food and more will be going on all afternoon, from noon to 6 p.m., at Bradley Park, right across from the historic Asbury Park Convention Center. Plus, stay for the fireworks spectacular over the water at 9 p.m. Admission is just $5 and children under 12 are free. For more information, see the event listing here.

Fort Worth, Texas
Enjoy an educational and fun-filled day outdoors with the animals of the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge today. The center is hosting four animal meet and greets today at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., where visitors can learn about the animal ambassadors and their natural history. A few of the animals that you and your family might see include alligators, snakes, birds and butterflies. Enjoy hiking one of the center’s many trails before or after the meet and greet, too. The event is on a first-come, first-served basis, and is free for guests with general admission to the center. Admission is $5 for adults and kids 13 and older, and $2 for children between 3 and 12; kids 2 and under are free. For more information, visit the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge website.

Tampa, Fla.
If you live in or are visiting the Tampa area today, head to the neighboring town of Brandon, Fla., for the Labor Day Picnic and Bluegrass Festival. Enjoy live music from two different bluegrass bands, plus affordable drinks and food all day long. A bounce house, arts and crafts, games and more are available for kids, too. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Brandon Elks Lodge and admission is free for everyone! For more information, see the event listing here.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Four Fun Ferry Rides for Families

August 31st, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Lake Express Ferry crosses Lake MichiganWhile on my way from Stone Harbor, N.J., to Chincoteague Island, Va., this past July, my boyfriend and I decided to take the route that allowed us a break from driving. We crossed the Delaware Bay on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry and enjoyed the experience so much. Families with children lined the outside deck and pets were allowed onboard, as well. A snack bar kept everyone full during the 90-minute ride and parents could even order a cocktail at the (affordable) bar. It was a great break from driving and it offered scenic views that were definitely picture-worthy. Here are four other family-friendly ferries to ride with your kids during your travels this fall.

Lake Champlain’s Scenic Crossing
Board the ferry in Burlington, V.T., or Port Kent, N.Y., and take the 10-mile trip across Lake Champlain, complete with scenic views of the surrounding mountains and fall foliage. The ferry has a gift shop with souvenirs, T-shirts, sweatshirts and more for both Vermont and New York, as well as a snack bar with hot and cold drinks. The trip will take approximately one hour and vehicles are permitted (fee). Ferries run daily and passenger prices are $8 for adults and $3.10 for children between 6 and 12; kids under 6 ride for free. For more information, visit the Lake Champlain Ferries website.

Hyannis to Nantucket Ferry
If you’re exploring New England this fall, take the ferry from Hyannis to Nantucket, or vice versa, and take in the views of fall foliage, lighthouses and more with your family. Choose from Hy-Line Cruises or Steamship Authority ferry rides, both of which operate from the same port, but only the latter offers transportation for vehicles. Both have onboard refreshments and souvenirs. Special packages are offered where children can ride for free and the ferries often host special events or themed-cruises across the water, such as a Sunday Ice Cream Float, where passengers can build their own Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sundaes! Rates vary for Hy-Line Cruises and Steamship Authority. The traditional ferry ride from Hyannis to Nantucket takes a little more than two hours one way, with the high-speed ferry rides lasting about one hour. For more information, visit the Hyannis to Nantucket Ferry website.

San Francisco Bay Ferry
If you’re visiting San Francisco this fall, hop on a ferry across the bay for a fun trip to another area of the state. The Ferry goes to eight different places along the bay, including Vallejo, Angel Island, Pier 41, Oakland, AT&T Park, Alameda, Harbor Bay and South San Francisco. Passengers can grab a bite to eat or a drink at the onboard bar and snack shop and can relax while cruising the bay in style. Bicycles are allowed, but cars are not. Rates start from $6.25 for adults and $3.50 for children 5 to 12; kids under 5 are free when accompanied by an adult. Trip lengths range from just 10 minutes (Alameda to Oakland) to one hour (San Francisco Ferry Building to Vallejo). For more information visit the San Francisco Bay Ferry website.

Lake Express – Lake Michigan High-Speed Ferry
Make the trip from Milwaukee to Muskegon across Lake Michigan on the Lake Express Ferry. Families are welcome and the ferry offers spacious seating, snacks and drinks, and free wireless Internet. Take in the views of Lake Michigan during the 2.5-hour trip and take a break from driving – vehicles are allowed onboard (fee). Passenger rates start from $139 for adults, round-trip, and from $44 for children between 5 and 17, round-trip; kids 4 and under are free. For more information, visit the Lake Express website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz