A Day at the Mohonk Mountain House With Kids

October 9th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Exterior aerial view of the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New YorkAs a Hudson Valley resident, one of the items near the top of my bucket list was Sunday brunch at the Mohonk Mountain House in the Catskills in New Paltz, New York. This past weekend, I got to check it off, having spent a wonderful day there with my husband and two kids. Mohonk Mountain House regularly appears on lists of North America’s best all-inclusive properties. However, if overnight accommodations are beyond your budget, you can still enjoy it by purchasing a meal, spa treatment or grounds pass. We ate, did a little hiking, explored the beautiful gardens, and even took a boat ride.

Celebrating its 145th anniversary this year, this National Historic Landmark is a Victorian treasure set into a Shawangunk Mountain ridge. It’s surrounded by thousands of acres of preserved land. Brunch was served in the Main Dining Room, with expansive windows overlooking the mountain ranges. The buffet items were varied and plentiful, with a station for omelets and other breakfast foods, as well as stations for hot foods, salads and desserts. There was a small children’s station with chicken nuggets and fries. This is not an inexpensive meal, but the atmosphere lends itself to special occasions.

The hiking is fantastic, because there are numerous, well-manicured trails. There are choices for all ages and ability levels, and everyone will have their fair share of amazing mountain and lake views. One of the most popular is the steep, 300-foot trek up to Sky Top lookout tower, which takes about 30 minutes. We chose instead the Pine Bluff, which offered my kids the experience of climbing and exploring the interesting nooks and crannies built into the rock cliff, with stops at several rustic wood gazebos.

View of the dock at the Mohonk Mountain House where families can rent boatsWhile only overnight guests are allowed to swim in Lake Mohonk on the property’s small sandy beach, day guests can still enjoy the water by renting a rowboat, paddleboat, canoe, or kayak. We chose a paddleboat, and my daughter and I quickly claimed the back seat, leaving “the boys” to do the paddling. All children 12 and under are required to wear provided lifejackets, and everyone else is required to bring one aboard. We thoroughly enjoyed the views from the lake, and found this to be one of the more affordable activities, at $13 per 30 minutes.

Although our original plan included horseback riding at the property’s stables, we found the scheduling system to be inflexible and disorganized, so we skipped it. Though we weren’t able to fit it in our schedule, there is also a Barn Museum on the property, with items dating back to the 1800s, including farm and kitchen equipment, carriages and automobiles, which families visiting Mohonk should see.

– 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.

‘Frozen’ Package for Families at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

October 8th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Elsa and Anna of Disney's Frozen stand and watch as Elsa lights up the skyDisney’s blockbuster hit ‘Frozen’ has already won over the hearts of families around the world. This year, parents can make the holidays even more special for children who are superfans of the movie with the ‘Frozen’ Holiday Premium Package at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The package includes reserved seating for the ‘Frozen’ sing-a-long dessert party; a ‘Frozen’ pin for kids to wear; and a holiday lithograph. Plus, families will enjoy reserved seating for the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights event.

The package will be offered on select dates now through 2016, which is when the long-anticipated ‘Frozen’ attraction at Epcot will open in place of the park’s current ride in Norway, Maelstorm.

Tickets for the ‘Frozen’ Holiday Premium Package are $89 for adults and children 10 and older, and $39 for kids between 3 and 9 years. Admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is not included in the package. Tickets for the park are $94 for adults and children 10 and older, and $88 for kids between 3 and 9 years. Current available dates for the package include Nov. 7 to 19, 2014, Nov. 21 to Dec. 9, 2014, and Dec. 11 to Jan. 4, 2015.

To book the package, call 407-939-1854. Accommodations are not included with the package. See our list of Disney’s Hollywood Studios hotels for information on where to stay.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

5 Reasons Why You Should Cruise With Your Family

October 7th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Until my family took its first cruise this summer, I wasn’t entirely convinced that it was for us. But ask my kids to tell you about the highlight of their summer, and they will excitedly describe in detail our August Disney cruise. If you haven’t taken your family on a cruise before, I’m telling you – take a chance!

There are certain cruise lines that are more family-friendly than others. We recommend Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, and, of course, Disney Cruise Line. Plus, our sister site, Cruise Critic, would agree.

Cruising is a great way to vacation with your family – here are just five reasons why:

1. Multiple Ports, One Room
This can’t be underestimated – going on a cruise means you unpack once, yet you get to visit multiple destinations when your cruise stops at each port. When you’re packing for four or more people, this eliminates a lot of hassle. On the flip side, your accommodations in a ship’s cabin are going to be compact in all but the largest of suites.

2. Vacation Value
It’s the same formula that makes all-inclusive resorts on land so appealing. You pay one fee, in advance, and mostly everything is included (gratuities, premium beverages and onshore excursions being the main exceptions). This includes the supervised kids’ club, evening entertainment and all your meals and snacks.

3. Togetherness (To a Point)
The whole point of a family vacation is spending quality time together. Or is it? A cruise ship with a good kids’ club offers the chance to go your separate ways for chunks of time, so grown-ups can relax and do their own thing. I love my kids, but I also love the occasional spa treatment. Not only are the clubs open during the day, but most are open late into the evening, so you can go out for a quiet dinner or dancing.

4. There’s Something for Every Age Group
My kids are 14 and 7 years old; a huge age gap. On our cruise, there were programs appropriate to their specific age ranges, and activities they both enjoyed. There are also options for adults of every age group, from Millennials to Baby Boomers, so cruises naturally suit multigenerational trips with grandparents. I loved that there were kids-only spaces, as well as adults-only areas.

5. Kids are Never an Afterthought
Your kids will never be bored on a cruise. Never. Family-friendly cruise lines incorporate children’s needs and wants into the facilities, entertainment and cuisine. You’ll need to pry them away from the Aqua Park on the Norwegian Breakaway, which includes five multi-story waterslides. In the Oceaneer Club on the Disney Dream, they can play in a life size Andy’s Room, explore the Nemo Sub, or dress up near the pixie dust tree. They can order Green Eggs and Ham or a Belgian Waffle so good it should be unlawful” for breakfast on several Carnival ships with the new Seuss at Sea program introduced this year. And you will always be able to get a photo of your kid with a character – whether it’s Minnie Mouse on the Disney ships or Dora the Explorer on the Norwegian Breakaway.

– 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.

Hotel Happy Hours for Kids

October 6th, 2014 by Amanda Geronikos No comments »

A trail mix bar and games for kids are offered at Kimpton Kids HoursYou might know that Kimpton Hotels and Resorts offer Wine Hours, complimentary to parents, but did you know the boutique chain also offers Kids Hours?

Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, for example, hosts Kids Hour every Saturday, 2 to 4 p.m. (Wine Hour starts at 5). During this time, youngsters enjoy board games and a make-your-own trail mix bar. They’re also given activity booklets, crayons and stickers.

At Hotel Monaco Alexandria, Kids Hour — which occurs at 4 p.m. daily — begins when a wagon rolls into the lobby with games, including Wii. Coloring Book Marathons are also part of the fun, and juice and snacks are served.

At Hotel Monaco Portland, kid and adult fun is combined in one hour, 5 to 6 p.m. While mom and dad sip wine AND beer (beer is a big deal in Portland), kids enjoy juice and snacks, plus games and art supplies.

While Kids Hours are only available at select properties, we hope to see them pop up in other places soon.

– Amanda Geronikos

4 Family-Friendly Halloween Events in NYC

October 5th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Three kids hide behind pumpkins at the Haunted Pumpkin Garden at the New York Botanical GardenThere is no place like New York City during Halloween. From a Haunted Pumpkin Garden at the New York Botanical Garden to GrowNYC’s Halloween Costume Swap, there are Halloween events all month long where kids of all ages can celebrate one of their favorite holidays of the year. Here are four for you to attend this October with your children:

The Haunted Pumpkin Garden
Now through October 31, The Haunted Pumpkin Garden at the New York Botanical Garden will treat visitors to scary Halloween fun. Children can experience the thrills and chills of the season with a garden full of intricately carved pumpkin sculptures, bugs, bats, parties and parades. Tickets are $15 at the door, but $10 in advance.

The Gravesend Inn
Produced by TheatreWorks, The Gravesend Inn
is a high-tech haunting attraction full of jumping skeletons, pirate ghosts and more. You can visit the Inn on October 23, 24, 25, 30, 31 or November 1 at the New York City College of Technology, Voorhees Theatre. Tickets are $5 for students (with valid ID) and $8 for all other guests.

GrowNYC’s Halloween Costume Swap
Come find a fun new-to-you costume or donate your clean, gently used costumes at GrowNYC’s Halloween Costume Swap. It is free to participate and you can take and give as much as you’d like! This year’s swap will take place on Saturday, October 25, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the St. George Theatre on Staten Island.

Halloween Haunted Walk and Carnival
The Annual Halloween Haunted Walk and Carnival takes place on Lookout Hill in Prospect Park this year on Saturday and Sunday, October 25 and 26, and is a weekend full of zombies, wolf men, headless horsemen, good (and bad) witches, plus other creepy characters. The Halloween Haunted Walk is suitable for young children accompanied by parents/guardians or older siblings. Be sure to leave plenty of time to visit the carnival before you head home, which offers a haunted carousel, skeleton cut-outs and a scary story time.

– 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.

Party With Sesame Street at Beaches Resorts

October 4th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Sesame Street characters on the beachIn honor of their 10th anniversary, Beaches Resorts are celebrating with your kids’ favorite Sesame Street characters! Come party with Elmo, Big Bird and Cookie Monster at one of the brand’s three resorts this year. If you haven’t planned your fall getaway to the Caribbean, now is the time – you can save up to 65 percent off at all three resorts, too!

Families who stay at the Beaches Turks & Caicos, Beaches Negril or the Beaches Ocho Rios Resort & Golf Club this fall will be able to party with Sesame Street characters while enjoying other family-friendly activities, too. Be crafty with Burt and Ernie and make puppets; learn how to draw and sketch with chalk with Sesame Street artists Louis Henry Mitchell and Barry Goldberg; sing along with characters at the Fall-O-Ween stage shows; dance the night away at the Glow Party; and finish off your vacation with fireworks on Friday nights.

Other activities that will be available year-round, include the Sesame Street Carnival Celebration Parade, the Stage Show “Celebrate Friends,” and the Pop-Up Adventure Play Activity.

The Sesame Street Artist Workshop will only be available on select dates:
Oct. 15-21, 2014 – Beaches Turks & Caicos
Oct. 27-28, 2014 – Beaches Negril
Oct. 30 – Nov. 1, 2014 – Beaches Ocho Rios Resort & Golf Club

For more information on the Sesame Street Celebration, visit the Beaches Resorts website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz