6 Sweet Resorts with S’mores

August 10th, 2014 by Amanda Geronikos No comments »

Young boy eating a S'more outsideDid you know today is National S’mores Day? Many restaurants and resorts are celebrating the snack with special events, though just as many celebrate year-round, adding campfires, sing-alongs and even themed packages to the mix. These are our favorite places to eat S’mores:

Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa – Beaver Creek, Colo.
Chocolate marshmallows and graham crackers are celebrated via S’mores Happy Hours at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa (4 to 5 p.m. during the winter months; 7 to 8 p.m. in the summer). Handmade marshmallows add to the fun, and include vanilla, toffee, and orange flavors.

Hotel del Coronado – Coronado, Calif.
Organize a private bonfire on the beach at Hotel del Coronado, which offers “Classic Roasts,” with traditional Hershey chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers, or “Upgraded Roasts,” in which families enjoy Ghirardelli chocolate, candy toppings, and even bacon.

Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort – Orlando
It might seem like an unlikely spot, but Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which opened in March, features a large fire pit for S’mores, surrounded by comfy chairs. Plus, it offers a good view for dive-in movies by the Cabana Courtyard Pool!

Stowe Mountain Lodge – Stowe, Vt.
After a day on the slopes, families appreciate hot cocoa and S’mores at Spruce Peak Fire Pit. Plus, Stowe Mountain Lodge Bakeshop offers several S’mores-inspired treats, such as S’mores Cupcakes, S’mores Cookies, and, most famous, S’mores Panna Cotta (it’s so popular, the chefs have posted the recipe online).

Rancho Bernardo Inn – San Diego
Part of the “Kids Rule, Parents Drool Package” at Rancho Bernardo Inn, Snores and S’mores includes an in-room tent, sleeping bag, glow stick, stuffed animal and all the ingredients for S’mores, which can be made at one of several fire pits on the expansive property.

– Amanda Geronikos

Carnival Cruises Unveils New Kids’ Program

August 9th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Kids playing in the new Carnival Cruise Line's Camp Ocean areaThis spring, Carnival Cruise Lines unveiled its new Camp Ocean kids’ program on its Freedom cruiseliner. Replacing Camp Carnival, the new program offers new spaces and new programming, and will appear on all Carnival cruises within the next two years.

What’s Different? The cruise line’s Youth Director, Ana Klacinski, says this program truly feels like a camp, rather than a daycare. Kids will find more age-specific areas to keep younger kids from older kids (the programs are for kids 2 to 11), so kids are more comfortable in their environments.

Ages 2 to 5 will now enjoy the Penguins area, the only play area sectioned off with a security gate. Here, kids can play on igloos and iceberg climbing structures, and activities include story hour, crafts and arts. Parents receive cell phones when their kids are in this area, so counselors can easily contact them in case of any trouble. Counselors can change diapers on children 42 months and younger, at an additional fee, but parents won’t need to return to change diapers.

Kids 6 to 8, the Stingrays, have their own space, with more room to play. In this area, kids have sports activities, video games and board games, and also do arts and crafts, albeit they more advanced.

The Sharks, ages 9 to 11, have their own refined space, as well. Video games are of course prevalent, but this group gets more involved in organized games and play, including excursions to play mini golf and participating in their own Olympic games.

Camp Ocean is included in the cruise, as is Kids Only dinner, which is provided most evenings at 6 p.m. A Night Owls program is available at an additional charge from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. This babysitting service is for infants through age 11 and is $6.75 per hour, per child. In-cabin babysitting service is not offered.

– Brittany Chrusciel

7 Festivals for Families in Honor of National Peach Month

August 8th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Cute little girl eating peach on grass in summerAugust is National Peach Month and the sweet, fuzzy fruit is being celebrated all across North America through festivals, 5K’s, sidewalk sales and more. Here are a bunch of peachy-keen and family-friendly festivals to attend in honor National Peach Month.

Peach Festival and Sidewalk Sale – Lahaska, Pa.
August 8-10, 2014
The 2014 Peach Festival and Sidewalk Sale at Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, Pa. in Bucks County plans to be better than ever. The Sidewalk Sale begins today at 10 a.m. with discounts at all the local favorites, ranging from clothing shops to home décor shops and more. The full Peach Festival begins tomorrow at 10 a.m. Enjoy peach pie, peach butter, peach cakes, peach tarts, peach muffins…. the list goes on and on! The Peach Pie Eating Contest will take place at 3 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. The Peach Festival and Sidewalk Sale have free admission and musical entertainment will be provided throughout the weekend. For more information, visit the Peddler’s Village website.

Linvilla Orchards Peach Festival – Media, Pa.
August 9, 2014
Pick peaches bright and early at the Linvilla Orchards Peach Festival in Media, Pa. this weekend and celebrate National Peach Month with your family. Starting at 8 a.m., families are invited to pick peaches at the orchards, as well as other fresh fruit and vegetables. Musical entertainment begins at 11 a.m. with a performance by Jammin’ with Judi, and activities, such as story time, a scratch art activity, Hula Hoop contest and singing competition are scheduled until 4 p.m. Hayrides, train rides, face painting and more will also be available for families during the festival. Admission to the festival is free. For more information, visit the Linville Orchards website.

Peach Festival – Niagara Falls, Ontario
August 9-10, 2014
Pay tribute to the local peach farmers in Canada at the Peach Festival in Niagara Falls this weekend. Families can enjoy live music, historic displays, entertainment, fun and, of course, lots of peaches and peach-related dishes. On Sunday, St. Vincent de Paul Church will offer a Kids Corner with face painting, balloon animals, crafts and more, plus food and jewelry vendors with items for sale. The festival begins Saturday at 11 a.m. and runs through Sunday at 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit the Niagara Falls Tourism website.

26th Virginia Peach Festival – Stuart, Va.
August 15-16, 2014
Kick off National Peach Month with the 26th Annual Virginia Peach Festival in Stuart, Va., on Aug. 15, with an evening of music and the Peach Cook-Off Contest. Enjoy peach shaved ice, peach fried pies and more. Then continue the family fun on Saturday, Aug. 16, with a day of craft and food vendors, horse and buggy rides, heritage demonstrations, a corn maze and peach butter making, plus so much more. Admission is free and events will run from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. For more information, visit the Patrick County Chamber of Commerce website.

Annual Lafayette Peach Festival – Lafayette, CO
August 16, 2014
Families in the Rockies region should head to Lafayette, Colo., on Saturday Aug. 16, for the 15th Annual Lafayette Peach Festival. Live music will entertain and face painting will keep the kids happy while everyone can try various dishes made with peaches and purchase even more goods at the Farmer’s Market. A Kids’ Stage will be set up from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. with performances for children, including Circus of Art with Jim Jackson and entertainment by Birgitta De Pree. The festival will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is free. For more information, visit the Lafayette Chamber website.

Winona Peach Festival – Winona, Ontario
August 22-24, 2014
Celebrate peaches with everything from a peach-colored car show, to the Peach Queen and Princess Pageant, to a Grand Peach Ball at the Winona Peach Festival in Winona, Ontario, Canada. From Aug. 22 to 24, families can enjoy musical entertainment, peach pies, peach ice cream, peach crepes and more, including cultural dishes from around the world. Check out the arts and crafts vendors and then let the kids hop on all the rides at the Midway. The Winona Peach Festival will begin at 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 22, and will come to a close on Sunday, Aug. 24, at 6 p.m. Admission to the festival is free, but rides and food will cost extra. For more information, visit the Winona Peach Festival website.

Fort Collins Peach Festival – Fort Collins, CO
August 23, 2014
Visit Fort Collins on Saturday, Aug. 23, for the Fourth Annual Fort Collins Peach Festival. The day begins with a 5K run or walk and a Peachy Breakfast at 8:30 a.m., with the full festival starting at 9 a.m. At 9:30 a.m. kids can participate in the Healthy Kids Run. And after all of the exercise, families can enjoy musical entertainment, activities for children and lots peaches and peach dishes until 4 p.m. Admission to the festival is free and parking is $5. For more information, visit the Fort Collins Peach Festival website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Four Water Park Events for Guests with Special Needs

August 7th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Traveling with a special needs child, teen or adult family member may require more advanced planning. Rather than scheduling a weeklong getaway, try a day trip to a water park this summer. Here are four water parks around the country that are hosting special events this month specifically for guests with special needs.

Hawaiian Falls Waterparks
Take part in Champions Day this Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, at one of the seven Hawaiian Falls Waterpark locations in North Texas. Guests with special needs are invited to enjoy the park prior to all other guests from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. During the Champions Day hours, the music at the park will be turned down to a level that is more pleasant for those with special needs and additional staff will be helping all guests enjoy the slides and the various water play areas. Children with special needs will also receive free admission, while family members can get in for just $5 per person with the Champions Day coupon. For more information, visit the Hawaiian Falls Waterparks website.

Whirlin’ Waters Adventure Waterpark
Enjoy the second Special Needs Swim Night at the Whirlin’ Waters Adventure Waterpark in North Charleston, South Carolina on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, and splash, swim and play on all of the slides and water areas in the park. Only guests with special needs and their family members or friends will be allowed during these hours. The Night Swim will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and all guests receive a discounted admission rate of $9 per person. In case of rain, the Special Needs Swim Night will be rescheduled for Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. For more information, visit the Whirlin’ Waters Adventure Waterpark website.

Lions Junction Water Park
Special Day for Special Needs will take place Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, at the Lions Junction Water Park in Temple, Texas. Enjoy access to the slides, rides and pools at the water park between 9:30 and 11 a.m. before it opens to the public. Children with special needs receive free admission and other guests will pay a discounted price between $4 and $7 per person. For more information, visit the Lions Junction Water Park website.

The Springs Water Park
Have fun in the water during Special Swim hours at the Springs Water Park at the Country Springs Hotel, Water Park and Conference Center in Pewaukee, Wis., just outside of Milwaukee. Every Monday between 4 and 7 p.m. now through Aug. 25, 2014, the water park will host a Special Swim for children and adults with special needs. The Special Swim is just $6.50 per person and includes admission for the special needs individual, as well as two other people. Additional participants are $7.50 each. For more information, visit the The Springs Water Park website.

See our Special Needs Travel section for more information on planning a trip with a special needs child or family member.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Orlando Magical Dining Month for Families

August 6th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Family Dining in OrlandoIf you live in Orlando or have a theme-park vacation scheduled for September, you’re in [extra] luck. The city will host Orlando Magical Dining Month, Sept. 1 to Sept. 30, when many top-notch restaurants will offer pre-fixe, three-course menus for $33 per person.

While some of the restaurants are on the too-fancy-for-families side, many provide kid-approved entrees (at standard prices during Magical Dining Month) in casual settings. These are our recommendations:

Disney World
Hawk’s Landing Steakhouse & Grill – World Center Marriott
Mikado Japanese Steak House – World Center Marriott
Siro Urban Italian – World Center Marriott
Il Mulion New York Trattoria – Walt Disney World Swan
Todd English’s bluezoo – Walt Disney World Dolphin
Kobe Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar

Restaurant Row
Seasons 52
The Melting Pot
Morton’s The Steakhouse
Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Universal/City Walk
Islands Dining Room – Loews Royal Pacific Resort
Bice Ristorante – Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
Mama Della’s Ristorante – Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
Trattoria del Porto – Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

Convention Area
Ming Court
The Capital Grille
Tommy Bahama Restaurant and Bar
Kobe Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar
Spencer’s for Steaks & Chops – Hilton Orlando

Maxine’s On Shine
The Boheme – Grand Bohemian Hotel

Proceeds will be donated to the Foundation for Foster Children; for more information, go to VisitOrlando.com.

– Amanda Geronikos

FVC July Contest Winner: How Camping Brought Our Family Closer Together

August 5th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Group of young girls smiling in front of tents at campsiteOur recent July contest, in partnership with KOA Campgrounds, brought in more than 160 camping stories and tips from families around the United States. Shannon P. of Brockport, N.Y., was randomly selected as our winner and her story made us smile. Although originally not a “camper,” Peterson explained that her heart is now in the outdoor adventure and she cannot wait to experience it again. Here’s her story on how she became a camper and how it brought her family closer together:

“We recently started camping in 2013. I must say my first trip with my husband and two daughters, now 8 and 9 years old, was a disaster. I boldly stated a ‘no camping for me’ rule on the first day of arrival and the nightmare started because we never read the “how to camp” guide. I packed the wrong food, the wrong clothing and the wrong necessary items one should have to survive camping. I wanted to go back home. Our friendly neighbors suggested we keep a journal of every time we camp and that it would make us laugh and help us learn from previous mistakes. ‘Yeah right,’ I thought.

However, after watching my kids make their first S’mores (yes, that’s right, not until they were 7 and 8 years old!), watching their faces as they played laser tag, plus boating, fishing, driving a golf cart, making fires, singing campfire songs and doing so much more together, I decided to do it again.

We have a limited amount of free time, but camping has brought our family closer together. I don’t even allow TV watching while camping. Even when we recently camped a few weeks ago and it rained most of the time, we still swam outside in between lightning, made fires with an umbrella over us, and cooked S’mores (yes, we are now pros at making S’mores!).

I am now a camper. We shower a little (my kids favorite), smell like campfire smoke, proudly sport bed head for a week, eat S’mores, host cook-outs, play and (most importantly) spend quality time together.”

For more information on camping, see our Beginner’s Guide to Family Camping and look for new information on camping and KOA Campgrounds for families coming to Family Vacation Critic soon.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz