Grapevine: Christmas Capital of Texas

November 6th, 2015 by Amanda Geronikos No comments »

Did you know Grapevine is the Christmas Capital of Texas? Located just outside of Dallas, the city hosts some 1,400 holiday events in November and December. If you live near the area, are traveling to the area, or are looking to plan a holiday-themed getaway, consider a visit to this festive town. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Lone Star Christmas at Gaylord Texan Resort

Lone Star Christmas – Gaylord Texan Resort
Dates: Nov. 12 to Jan. 3

Visit the Gaylord Texan Resort for a holiday celebration like no other. The resort features grand lighting displays, ice-carved creations, and even snow tubing! There’s also The Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt, Gingerbread Decorating Corner and plenty of opportunities to enjoy milk and cookies with Mrs. Claus. You don’t have to stay at the resort to take advantage of the events (though it certainly adds to the appeal).

Snow Land – Great Wolf Lodge
Dates: Nov. 28 to Jan. 3

At Great Wolf Lodge Grapevine, you can eat in a life-size gingerbread house… and that’s just part of the fun included in the brand’s holiday event, Snowland. There’s also Santa’s Letter Writing Depot, plus holiday-themed storytime and shows. And did we mention the indoor snowfall?!

Lone Star Christmas at Gaylord Texan Resort

North Pole Express – Grapevine Vintage Railroad
Dates: Nov. 27, 28 and 29; Dec. 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 21, 22 and 23

All aboard! On select dates in November and December, families can ride the North Pole Express at Grapevine Vintage Railroad. Once riders reach the North Pole, Mrs. Claus greets them and guides them to the Christmas Tree Trail, where Santa makes an appearance that’s complete with photos and Frosty Chocolate Snow Milk.

Hot Chocolate Tastings – Dr. Sue’s Chocolate
Dates: Nov. 27 to Dec. 3

You’ll find plenty of places for wine tasting in Grapevine, but head to Dr. Sue’s Chocolate for a festive winter treat: hot chocolate tasting! Flavors include Peppermint and Mexican Hot Chocolate, and tastings are just $4 per person.

For a complete listing of events, visit

–Amanda Geronikos

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Visiting Milwaukee With Kids

November 4th, 2015 by Guest Blogger No comments »

I grew up in love with Detroit, infatuated with Chicago, and in awe of the communities who support the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs — so I’ve always had a bit of a thing for the Midwest. And yet, until this past summer, I’d never been to Milwaukee. Once there, I realized how terrific the city is for families, especially if you and your kids love root beer, live music, grilled sausages, baseball, motorcycles and root beer (okay, regular beer, too, but as a non-drinker, I’ll leave you to discover that side of Brew Town!) Here’s what’s on tap for you and your kids in this surprisingly great Midwestern city.

The Fonz in Milwaukee

Miller Park
Miller Park is a feast for the senses, with the aroma of sausages coming from every corridor, a robust right field play space for kids within view of the action on the field, and of course Bernie the Brewer’s slide and the famous 6th inning sausage race. Pulling into the parking lot early before a Brewers baseball game with a portable grill, sausages, and gloves and a ball to play catch should be on any sports fan’s bucket list. After the game, treat your kids to Leon’s Frozen Custard!

The Fonz in Milwaukee

The Fonz and Beer Tours
Have you introduced your kids to Happy Days or Laverne & Shirley yet? If so, a quick stop for a photo with The Fonz statue along the Milwaukee River is a must as is a tour of Lakefront Brewery. Now, it might seem odd to take a child through a brewery tour, but the process of making beer is rather intriguing and at the end of the tour, there is a very familiar bottling line for Laverne & Shirley fans. Plus, every tour ticket nets you a few samples, including Lakefront’s Golden Maple Root Beer. Yum!

I may never have indulged in an adult beverage, but I DO know my way around a frothy root beer and Milwaukee has several craft root brews you and your kids must try, including the incredible Dang! It’s Butterscotch Root Beer (which tastes like a mix of root beer and Harry Potter Butterbeer) and Sprecher’s Root Beer, which may just be the best in the world. Take a tour of that brewery too and dive into unlimited free soda samples — flavors include orange, ginger ale, red cream and root beer of course.

Sign at Harley Davidson Museum

Harley Davidson Museum
The crown jewel of Milwaukee’s tourist attractions is the Harley Davidson Museum. This sprawling, immaculate campus houses a massive collection of old Harleys and motorcycle parts. There’s a kids’ zone, the opportunity to sit on a number of bikes, and you can even design your own custom hog! Even if you aren’t a biker, you and your kids will love this place.

Hotel Recommendation
A stone’s throw from Harley Heaven is The Iron Horse Hotel, a gorgeous boutique hotel perfect for a weekend stay in Milwaukee. You can even bring your dog to stay with your family, and they’ll be greeted with their name on the doggy guest arrivals board that sits alongside water and a dog treat bowl next to the front desk. While there, order anything to eat out on the hotel’s patio restaurant — all of it is outstanding.

Restaurant Recommendations
Proving that there’s more to eat in Milwaukee than cheese curds and sausages, and because your doggy won’t be the only one hungry for a bite, head to Engine Company #3 for a plate of S’Mores Pancakes, Organ Piper Pizza for the pizzas (go ahead, get sausage on top!) and the Wurlitzer pipe organ, and Holey Moley for incredible craft doughnuts.

Outdoor Adventures
If visiting Milwaukee in the summer, you must catch at least one concert with your kids at Summerfest AND make the one hour drive north to see the Porshe, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Kia racing teams do battle on the magnificent Road America track. On the way to or from Road America, a stop in Sheboygan for the remarkable Bookworm Gardens, a free, grass-roots community play area inspired by 60 children’s books.

Outdoor adventure seekers will want to stop by one of the three Milwaukee area Urban Ecology Centers to go on a bird walk, climb a rock wall or borrow some outdoor recreational equipment.

Crazy House With Green Cadillac

Roadside Attraction
On the way to or from the airport, make a quick stop at the roadside residential attraction known at 4531 S. Lake St. in Cudahy, Wisconsin (a pleasant 15 minute drive along Lake Michigan from downtown). This crazy house, with a green Cadillac buried in the front yard, Bob’s Big Boy statue in the back and dozens of other pop culture memorabilia pieces scattered about, may end up being your kid’s favorite memory from your weekend in Milwaukee!

— Jeff Bogle

Jeff Bogle is an at-home dad of two pre-tween daughters. He writes about parenthood, family travel and all things childhood on his site He considers himself one of the luckiest guys in the world. Jeff also writes for PBS.

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Disney On Ice: 100 Years of Magic

November 2nd, 2015 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Parents are allotted a short — precious — window to cram in kid-fun before those darlings grow up and go all eye-rolly on you. Take Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic. I missed my window. But did that stop me? Not one bit. Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic hit Atlanta and my heart soared. Nevermind that my boys are 12 and one is closing in on six feet. I secured tickets for my husband, myself, and my tweens. Oh sure, there was some whining, but at this point? I’m immune.

Anna and Elsa

As a little girl I was taken to the Ice Capades and was entranced by the sophisticated ice dancing and glittering costumes. I wanted my boys to see the action. So, one evening, scores of little Elsas and Annas decked in princess couture from their tiny crowns to their little clip-clop “glass” slippers and my large male family made ourselves comfortable in Atlanta’s Philips Arena and waited for the show to begin.

The First Hour
The performance opened with our host and hostess, Mickey and Minnie, giggling and welcoming everyone to the show. More giggling. More welcoming. My husband glanced at me. (Uh, oh. I’d seen friendlier looks.) As the show unfolded, one Disney character after another held court on ice. We’re talking princesses, Toy Story friends, Elsa and Anna and about fifty famous Disney characters. A few beloved Disney characters danced alone. Many danced in pairs. And one group ice-danced an entire Disney story. All danced to the beautiful Disney music that many of us can recite from memory: “Tale as old as time, true as it can be…” The first hour closes, giving the Elsas and Annas a 15-minute break.

The Second Hour
The second hour begins and I wondered what could be left. Hadn’t we seen the main Disney celebs? No spoilers here, folks. I won’t go into specifics because second hour surprises are part of the excitement. And the grand finale? Put it this way: I glanced over and saw my husband and two towering boys clapping wildly as the ice dancers bring the show to a powerful conclusion.

Toy Story Characters at Disney On Ice

Best Ages
The show is designed for kids ages 2 and up. My boys advise that kids 4 to about 10 are the perfect age to see the show. I agree. As we were leaving the arena, I noticed many toddlers asleep on their parents’ shoulders. It turns out they’d caught the first hour and then fell asleep.

Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic is performing into 2016 and possibly beyond. In late October, November and December 2015 the show is on the East Coast and travels into North Carolina. In 2016, the 100 Years of Magic heads into the Midwest, back to the East Coast and then into the South. Check for further locations and dates at All guests ages 2 and over must have a ticket.

Other Tips
1. Arrive an hour early for good parking.
2. Bring a jacket or a sweater. Ice arenas gets chilly.
3. Feed kids well before you arrive (easy on the liquid): the venue won’t allow outside food or drinks.
4. Save big by purchasing LED-based wands online and neon bracelets and necklaces at a discount store weeks before the show.

— Wendy Irvine

Wendy Irvine is a homeschooling mom of twin 12-year-old beach fanatics. Follow Wendy’s family travel tips on Twitter @WendyIrvine.

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6 Creepy Museums to Visit With Kids

October 30th, 2015 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Did you know you can actually see a real merman and pieces of Albert Einstein’s brain? These museums are especially creepy at Halloween, but great for a weekend visit any time of year.

Mutter Museum in Philadelphia

The Mutter Museum – Philadelphia
Here, you can see exhibits on surgical instruments and Jordan Eagle’s artwork, which uses blood for paint. Visit “The Soap Lady,” whose body has been preserved entirely in a fatty substance called adipocere — a soap mummy! On display, you’ll peer at slices of Albert Einstein’s brain and a skull collection with 139 specimens! Do you know any kids who have put a bean in their nose or ear? If so, you’ll appreciate the Chevalier Jackson Collection exhibit of 2,374 foreign bodies removed from throats, esophagi, and lungs by Dr. Jackson during his 75-year career. Fancy the unusual? The body cast of Chang and Eng Bunker, the world’s first Siamese twins, will fit the bill!

Vent Haven: Ventriloquist Museum – Fort Mitchell, Ky.
What word would you use to describe a ventriloquist dummy? Creepy? Weird? Odd? This museum is the only one in the world dedicated to ventriloquism, the act of changing your voice to make it appear to come from a place other than you! William Berger collected hundreds of ventriloquist dummies as a hobby, along with writing a magazine for ventriloquists and serving as President of the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists. He knows the art! See dummies that are lifelike and… not so lifelike. Watch videos and then try your hand at ‘throwing your voice’ while using a puppet just for visitors. Call at least three days ahead to schedule a time to visit this appointment-only museum with 750 dummies.

Zwaanendael Museum – Lewes, Del.
This museum is dedicated to the history of the area, which includes an early Dutch settlement. Enjoy the seafaring artifacts and information. The real (and creepy) draw to this museum, however, is the Zwaandael Merman. Yes… a merman is on display here! The mummified creature is about 1 foot long and lies on a velvet cushion. Is it real? Well, also known as the Fiji Merman, it is an example of sailor’s art. Back in the mid-19th century, sea captains visited places far and wide and often brought back things that were quite exotic to the locals. Supposedly, the merman was caught near Fiji and was exhibited by P. T. Barnum himself, the original showman!

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum – New Orleans
You won’t find any Tylenol, but you will find exhibits on how bloodletting and leeches were just a part of the mid-19th century apothecary shop. This pharmacy is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because it was also home to America’s first licensed pharmacist. You’ll see bottles filled with all sorts of early drugs, which were mixed by the pharmacist on the spot. See potions and gris gris bags and magical charms often in the shape of people, used by real voodoo doctors.

International Cryptozoology Museums – Portland, Maine
Cryptozoology is a really big word for the study of hidden animals — those not yet verified by science. What does that mean? There is lots of fun information on Yeti, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster! See the temporary exhibit on the Minnesota Iceman and enjoy the museum brought to life by Loren Coleman, who has studied cryptozoology for many years. The staff at this museum — the world’s first museum of its type — love to share their passion for all things mysterious. Have your photo taken with an 8-foot-tall Bigfoot model and look at casts made from footprints from something very, very large — maybe Bigfoot himself!

International UFO Museum – Roswell, New Mexico
This museum in Roswell, New Mexico, where the most famous UFO was spotted in 1947, is home to a large collection of records of sightings and details on subjects like the infamous area 51. Take photos with the exhibit of life sized aliens and their space ship! Go hungry for knowledge as this collection of recordings of eye witnesses and details on UFOs. Do you believe in aliens? This will give you plenty of creepy food for thought.

–Natalie Tanner, The Educational Tourist

Natalie Tanner, The Educational Tourist, has hundreds of thousands of miles under her belt — business trips with her geologist husband to places like Scottsdale, Jackson Hole, New York and Denver — and family adventures to far-flung destinations like Rome, Paris, Tangier, and Istanbul. When she isn’t traveling, The Educational Tourist stays busy planning the next adventure while being mom to two kids, three dogs, Sushi the fisand a hamster. Follow her adventures at The Educational Tourist.

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