Sesame Street Celebrates 45th Birthday

November 10th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Little girl with Grover from Sesame StreetElmo, Big Bird, Grover and all of your other favorite Sesame Street characters are joining the Count von Count as he counts up to 45 in honor of the show’s 45th birthday today! Families can celebrate this year or next by visiting one of these theme parks, attractions or exhibits with kids.

Sesame Place
The theme park dedicated to the show, located outside of Philadelphia, is, of course, the first place families can expect to celebrate the anniversary with all of their favorite characters. Before the end of the year, enjoy the Very Furry Christmas event, from Nov. 22 to Dec. 31, 2014, or ring in the New Year with The Count’s Countdown to New Year’s Celebration and the New Year’s Eve Fireworks on Dec. 31, 2014. Special shows, music, attractions and dining events are available for guests of all ages. Reservations are required for all events and rates vary.

New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
Check out the “Somebody Come and Play” exhibit dedicated to the TV show at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts now through Jan. 31, 2015. Families can see and learn how episodes of Sesame Street were created. See behind-the-scenes footage, show highlights, international versions of the show and more. A child-friendly area is perfect for little ones, with Sesame Street books, art projects, games and more. The New York City exhibit opens at noon, Monday through Saturday, and is closed Sunday. Admission is free.

Sesame Street Safari of Fun
Visit Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and fly with Grover, eat with Elmo or Splash with Bert and Ernie in the park’s kid-friendly Sesame Street Safari of Fun area. Sign up for a lunch event with Elmo and friends for a memorable dining experience during your day of fun at the park. The lunch experience is an additional $22 per person and park admission is required. Busch Gardens Tampa is open year-round.

Sesame Street Bay of Play
SeaWorld San Diego’s Sesame Street Bay of Play offers rides, games, water play areas and events all centered on the TV show. Kids can spin with Abby, fly with Elmo, rock with Oscar and more. See the Sunny Days Celebration show and stick around – many of the characters will pose for pictures with kids afterwards! SeaWorld San Diego is open year-round.

Sesame Street Forest of Fun
Although currently closed for the season, visit Busch Gardens Williamsburg in the spring for the park’s Sesame Street Forest of Fun area. Kids and families can enjoy rides and games with their favorite characters, as well as water play areas and the Sunny Days Celebration show. Be sure to get a photo with your favorite character! The park is open seasonally.

Sesame Street Celebrations at Beaches Resorts
If you can make it to the Caribbean this year, stay at a Beaches Resort and enjoy special Sesame Street amenities, activities and events. Families can enjoy complimentary events like the Sesame Street Carnival Celebration Parade or can upgrade their all-inclusive package to include other memorable experiences, like having kids be tucked into bed by Cookie Monster, taking photos with Abby, Elmo and others, eating breakfast with all of the Sesame Street characters, making crafts with Oscar and more.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Celebrate the Season at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

November 9th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Exterior view of the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess at nightSnow may not be in the forecast for Phoenix and Scottsdale often, but the holiday season is still in full swing at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. The resort’s annual Christmas at the Princess festival kicks off Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, and guests can expect magical lights, ice skating, train rides and more.

Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony
Nov. 20, 2014
Start your holiday season with the resort’s tree lighting ceremony at 6:45 p.m. and then enjoy ice skating, twinkling light displays and the Princess Express Train.

Desert Ice Skating Rink
Nov. 20, 2014, to Feb. 1, 2015
Arizona might be warm, but the ice is cold and ready for skaters starting Nov. 20, 2014. Enjoy afternoon and evening sessions for $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. Skate rentals will be available for $5 each. Fire pits, S’mores and blankets will also be available on the sidelines during the sessions for guests to keep warm.

Lagoon Lights
Nov. 20, 2014, to Jan. 4, 2015
The light display is bigger than ever with more than two million lights spread across 130 trees, menorahs, arches, 3D giant reindeers, a 20-foot snowman, 14-foot poinsettias and more. There will be a pirate ship, teddy bears, toy soldiers, Santa Claus and a candy cane forest, too. The area can be seen via the Princess Express Train.

Princess Express Train
Nov. 20, 2014, to Jan. 4, 2015
Enjoy complimentary rides through Lagoon Lights every night via the Princess Express Train. Open to all ages, guests on the train are greeted by falling snow and singing carolers on weekends, too.

Christmas Carousel
Nov. 20, 2014, to Jan. 4, 2015
Ride galloping glitter horses on the new Christmas Carousel. Rides will be offered nightly to guests of all ages and are complimentary.

Santa’s Workshop
Nov. 28 to Dec. 20, 2014
Take photos with Santa on Friday and Saturday evenings in his workshop in the La Hacienda Plaza. Photos are $10 each and will be available from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Friday and Saturdays, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 20, 2014.

Christmas at the Princess is open to the public. Parking is $30 per car for self-parking and $40 per car for valet after 5 p.m. Valet is complimentary when dining at any of the resort’s restaurants. All activities are complimentary, except for ice skating, photos with Santa, shopping and dining.

For an even better experience, book the Magical Memories Package and enjoy a festive family getaway in honor of the holidays.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

How to Save at Hershey’s Christmas Candylane

November 8th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Hershey's Christmas CandylaneThe holidays really come to life in Hershey when its annual Christmas Candylane and Sweet Lights kicks off for the season in November each year. There’s so much for families to do during the event that it can add up and not seem so sweet. Rather than worry about breaking the bank before Christmas, save with these tips and tricks before your visit to Hershey with your family this holiday season.

Purchase an admission package. Rather than pay for each event and activity separately, purchase combination tickets for Christmas Candylane, dining options, games and more.

The Ride, Dine and Play package includes one Christmas Candylane ticket, one meal voucher, and one single game voucher at the Goblet Toss for just $22.80 per person. The Snack Pack package offers the same, but with a snack voucher instead of a meal voucher, for just $17 per person.

Buy the day before. Plan on seeing the Christmas Candylane the next day? Buy your ticket on that current day no more than 2.5 hours before closing and receive free admission to the park for the remainder that day. If the park closes at 8 p.m., purchase your next-day ticket and get free admission from 5:30 p.m. until closing. If the park closes at 10 or 11 p.m., purchase your next-day ticket and get free admission from 7:30 p.m. until closing. That’s at least 2.5 hours of free time in the park!

Add the Sweet Lights to your order. Purchase your admission tickets to the Hershey Sweet Lights in conjunction with your Christmas Candylane order and pay just $18 for the second attraction.

See it twice. If you’re planning a weekend in Hershey, don’t cram the Christmas Candylane into just one day. Purchase a regular price ticket for your first day and keep it. Present it at the Ticketing Services Building the next day and pay just $7 for admission to Christmas Candylane for that day.

Find a Giant Food store near you. Buy your Christmas Candylane tickets at a participating Giant Food Store and receive a discount on general admission rates. Giant Food Stores are located throughout Pennsylvania.

Go as a group. Get your friends and family all together for a big, sweet visit to Hershey and purchase your tickets as a group. You can save up to 40 percent off admission the Christmas Candylane. Offer valid for groups of 20 or more people.

Hershey’s Christmas Candylane opens at 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, and runs through Dec. 31, 2014. Parking is $8 per car, per day. The Hershey Sweet Lights opens at 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, and runs through Jan. 1, 2015.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Off the Beaten Path in Niagara Falls With Kids

November 7th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

There are plenty of things to do and see in Niagara Falls that don’t focus on the actual falls, which is what makes this city such a great three- or four-day destination. When my family and I visited in October, we went off the beaten path so my two kids, ages 14 and 7, could have different experiences.

Clifton Hill
View of Niagara Falls from the Niagara SkyWheelThis busy street is where you’ll find all the expected tourist attractions, like the Dinosaur Adventure miniature golf course, a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! “odditorium,” the Guinness World Records Museum, Brick City, the Movieland Wax Museum of the Stars, and the Great Canadian Midway, a 70,000-square-foot arcade with an XD theater.

Admission to all of these quickly adds up, but we found coupons in the brochures in our hotel lobby, and on some of the attractions’ websites. The Clifton Hill Fun Pass is also a good option, offering a package price for five attractions, with midway tokens. One of the best attractions included on the Fun Pass is the state-of-the-art Niagara SkyWheel, a 175-foot Ferris wheel. Heights are not my thing, but the 360-degree views from the top were amazing. During the 10-minute ride, we had plenty of time to take birds-eye-view photos of Niagara Falls through the gondola’s low-glare glass windows.

The Clifton Hill Fun Pass starts from $25.95 CAD per adult and from $19.95 CAD per child.

Bird Kingdom
Bird at the Bird Kingdom in Niagara FallsWe were intrigued to visit this indoor aviary, billed as the largest in the world, located in a renovated corset factory on the north end of town. You can easily spend an hour or more going through the three floors of exhibit space, themed as a “lost kingdom,” the largest being an open-air tropical rainforest with a 40-foot waterfall where hundreds of birds representing 70 species fly freely overhead. If your family is into bird watching, this is the place to check the Scarlet Ibis and Silver Pheasant off your list! Other exhibits feature small birds and nocturnal creatures, and in the Explorer’s Base Camp, you can pet and talk to several birds and animals, including Jackie, a 28-year-old blue Macaw.

Admission to Bird Kingdom is $13 CAD per adult and $9 CAD per child (4 to 15).

Guests pet a beluga whale at Marineland in Niagara FallsThis seasonal theme park and zoo is an entertaining mix of rides, animal shows, and marine life exhibits. There are gentle rides for little ones, like the Boat Carousel and Tivoli Wheel, as well as intense rides like the Sky Screamer. Marineland features the largest collection of beluga whales in the world, with 45 of these sweet creatures, all of different ages, on view from the underwater glass wall at Arctic Cove and at the tank surface. For a nominal fee, you can have the memorable “encounter” experience of petting and feeding one. We fed herring to Gemini, while her baby swam close by her side.

Marineland is open seasonally and is currently closed until May 16, 2015. Admission rates are not currently available for the 2015 season.

– 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.

11 Holiday Events to Kick Off in Chicago

November 6th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

View of the Christkindlmarket ChicagoStart the holidays on the right foot in Chicago this year. Eleven family-friendly events kick off this month and will surely get the entire family in the holiday spirit.

Macy’s Great Tree Lighting & Holiday Window Display
Nov. 8, 2014
See the 45-foot Great Tree in the store’s onsite restaurant, the Walnut Room, light up for the season on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014. The tree contains more than 1,200 ornaments and more than 25,000 twinkling lights. On your way out, see the various window displays with festive themes and traditional holiday stories told through decorations.

McCormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink in Millennium Park
Nov. 14, 2014, to Mar. 7, 2015
Visit Millennium Park on Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, to be one of the first ice skaters to grace the McCormick Tribune rink. Open daily, guests can celebrate the season with friends and family on the ice for free. Skate rentals will be offered for $10 each.

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Nov. 21 to Dec. 24, 2014
The 19th annual Christkindlmarket Chicago kicks off on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, and will run through Christmas Eve. The market will be located on Daley Plaza between Washington, Clark and Dearborn Street. Pick up holiday gifts and goodies at the market, which opens daily at 11 a.m. Admission is free.

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
Nov. 22, 2014
Enjoy free family-friendly activities, live music, a tree-lighting parade with Mickey and Minnie, a spectacular fireworks display over the Chicago River, holiday shopping and more at the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014. The event begins at 11 a.m. on Michigan Avenue.

Randolph Street Market Festival
Nov. 22-23, 2014
The annual Randolph Street Market begins on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, and will host its eighth annual holiday market Saturday and Sunday. A Family Package is offered and two adults and up to four kids will receive discounted admission, drinks and snacks, and will have access to face painting, tattoos and more. The package in $25 and must be purchased in advance. General admission is $8 per person, in advance, or $10 at the door; kids 12 and under are free.

Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
Nov. 25, 2014
The 101st annual tree lighting will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014, at Daley Plaza. Enjoy live music leading up to the lighting at 5 p.m.

Santa House at Daley Plaza
Nov. 25 to Dec. 24, 2014
A brand new Santa House will be on display at Daley Plaza starting Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. Kids can take pictures with Mr. Claus and tell them what they want for Christmas. Admission is free.

McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Nov. 27, 2014
Gaze at gigantic balloons and elegantly decorated floats in this year’s McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade begins at 8 a.m. and runs from Downtown Chicago on State Street to Randolph Avenue. Special guests scheduled to appear include the Harlem Globetrotters, Miss Chicago and Santa Claus. The parade is free for all viewers.

Wreathing of the Lions at the Art Institute of Chicago
Nov. 28, 2014
Watch the 23rd annual wreathing of the lions at the Art Institute of Chicago on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014, at 10 a.m., and then let the kids make their own. Families are invited to decorate wreaths at the Ryan Education Center after the ceremony until 3 p.m.

Caroling at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park
Nov. 28 to Dec. 19, 2014
Enjoy local carolers and chorus groups at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park at 6 p.m. on Fridays from Nov. 28 to Dec. 19, 2014. Performances last about one hour, and admission is free.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
Nov. 28, 2014, to Jan. 4, 2015
See the colorful light display that is ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo beginning Friday, Nov. 28, 2014. Festive activities will include photos with Santa (through Dec. 23, 2014), animal encounters, holiday gift shopping, live ice carving, ice skating, and more. The holiday event and activities are free.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

New York City to Unveil New GingerBread Lanes for 2014

November 5th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

GingerBread LaneThree brand new versions of the Guinness World Record-holding GingerBread Lane villages will debut in New York City this November. This year mark’s GingerBread Lane’s 21st season, with its 30th, 31st and 32nd villages. The completely edible villages – made from gingerbread, icing and candy – will be on display at three different locations in New York City, starting on three different dates this month. Families and visitors are invited to see the masterpieces, as well as take part in workshops and sign up for giveaways.

GingerBread Lane, Queens
Nov. 14, 2014, to Jan. 11, 2015
Visit the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens on Nov. 14, 2014, for the unveiling of the largest village. Gaze at the 1.5-ton, 450-square-foot village that contains 1,000 houses, all completely made from edible ingredients. Creator Jon Lovitch took one year to develop and complete the village. Gingerbread workshops will take place on Nov. 22, Dec. 13 and Dec. 27, 2014. On Jan. 11, 2015, Lovitch will give away all of the houses, too. Admission is $11 for adults 18 and older, and $8 for kids between 2 and 17 years.

GingerBread Lane, Manhattan
Nov. 20, 2014, to Jan. 5, 2015
A slightly smaller version of the GingerBread Lane in Queens will be on display at The Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan from Nov. 20, 2014, to Jan. 5, 2015. It’s free for all ages. The display at the hotel will include all of the favorite GingerBread Lane areas, including Eggnog Bay, Gum Drop Row and Candy Cane Place.

GingerBread Lane, Brooklyn
Nov. 27, 2014, to Jan. 4, 2015
The second, smaller version of the original GingerBread Lane will be on display at the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge from Nov. 27, 2014, to Jan. 4, 2015. It’s free for all ages and visitors can expect to see Peppermint Central Park and Toffee Boulevard, as well as the other classic candy- and New York City-inspired areas.

Plus, book an overnight stay between Nov. 14, 2014, and Jan. 19, 2015, at one of The Algonquin Hotel or the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, and receive up to $50 per night to use at the hotel. Rates vary per hotel, per night.

For more information on the displays, visit the GingerBread Lane website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz