Independence Day in Newport Beach

June 30th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Orange County, California is known for its beautiful, 70-degree weather year-round. Enjoy the sun, sand and surf this 4th of July, plus so many awesome events that are taking place in the area. The boating community of Newport Beach is hosting a plethora of family-friendly events that you won’t want to miss. Here’s what you can do in Newport Beach for Independence Day this year:

Concert Area Events

Food Truck Wars, Noon to 4 p.m.
Taste the different flavors at the various food trucks and vote for your favorite — the winning food truck receives a $1,000 cash prize.

Family Fun Zone, Noon to 6 p.m.
Games and rides will keep little ones busy all afternoon until the music and fireworks start in the evening. (Additional admission fees apply).

Artisan & Merchant Booths, Noon to 8 p.m.
Check out jewelry, clothing, toys and more at more than 20 artisan and merchant booths.

Wood Fire Grill Buffet, 3 to 9 p.m.
Pay one price and enjoy food all evening: $45 for adults, $22.50 for children 10 and under. Advanced reservations required.

Musical Entertainment, 3 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.
Enjoy four different music acts on the Red, White and Blue Stage, including Pickle Back Shine (3 p.m.), Fusion Beat (4:30 p.m.), Reflexx (6 p.m.) and headliner KC & the Sunshine Band from 7:30 to 9:15 p.m.

Fireworks Extravaganza, 9 p.m.
Watch the sky light up over the bay with fireworks in honor of the holiday.

Concert area events can be accessed with tickets. Prices and packages are as follows:

VIP Package – $150 per person
Includes complimentary parking, VIP reserved seating, cocktail service, Wood Fire Grill Buffet access from 3 to 9 p.m., a one-hour paddle board rental, one Family Fun Zone wristband for unlimited visits and one goodie bag.

Family Pack – $200
Includes complimentary parking, access to the picnic area and two Family Fun Zone wristbands for unlimited visits.

General Admission – $25 to $50 per person
Includes access to the picnic area.

Parking is $50 per car or $5 per bicycle.

For more information on Newport Beach, see our destination guide and for event listings in Newport Beach for the 4th of July, go to

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Walt Disney World’s 4th of July Events

June 29th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Walt Disney World has so much magic year-round, but it truly sparkles and lights up for the Fourth of July. This Independence Day, enjoy one or all of these spectacular events at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We’ve put together a list of events with their times so that you and your family can plan which patriotic programs you will attend this year.

Magic Kingdom Events – July 3 and 4, 2014
Holiday Park Hours: 8 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade
Time: Noon and 3:30 p.m.


Disney’s Celebrate America! A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky
Time: 9 p.m.

Main Street Electrical Parade
Time: 10 p.m. and Midnight

Epcot Events – July 4, 2014
Holiday Park Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Disney Patriotic Characters
Time: All Day

Voices of Liberty 4th of July Concert
Time: 12:30 p.m., 1:45 p.m., 3 p.m.

Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corp
Time: 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.

Sounds Like Summer Concert Series with Don’t Look Back
Time: 5:15 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:45 p.m., 9 p.m.

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth Heartbeat of Freedom Fireworks
Time: 10 p.m.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios Events – July 4, 2014
Holiday Park Hours: 9 a.m. to midnight

Rockin’ 4th of July Celebration
Time: 6 p.m., 7 p.m., 8 p.m., 9 p.m.

Rock n’ Roll Fireworks
Time: 10:15 p.m.

Time: 11 p.m.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – July 4, 2014
Holiday Park Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

There will be no special events for the holiday at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

For more things to do in Walt Disney World year-round, see our Disney Family Vacations page.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

What’s New at Knott’s Berry Farm

June 28th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Knott’s Berry Farm recently completed updates to the Calico Mine Train ride and the Camp Snoopy area in an effort to keep the classic attractions looking brand new. On your next trip to the California theme park, be sure to check out the revitalized experiences. Here’s what you can expect:

Calico Mine Train
Originally opened in 1960, the Calico Mine Train ride was in need of a new paint job, a new sound system and new lighting. Each train was refurbished and repainted with new colors. The figures and set design throughout the ride were also repainted and updated. New lights were installed and the music and recordings throughout the ride were re-mastered with a digital program for clearer sound. The Calico Mine Train also received a new miner figure who will greet riders as they enter the mine’s upper level. A few additional figures, such as vultures, were also added throughout. Lastly, the explosion at the end of the ride got a reboot and is now more spectacular than ever.

Camp Snoopy
With the addition of three new rides — Pig Pen’s Mud Buggies, Charlie Browne’s Kite Flyer and the Linus Launcher — Camp Snoopy is more kid-friendly than ever. The area, which opened in the 1980s, is geared toward younger, elementary children and is a popular play area for families visiting Knott’s Berry Farm. The entire area was refurbished and the Grand Sierra Railroad received a facelift and scenes of Peanuts characters playing together were added throughout.

Pig Pen’s Mud Buddies
One of the three new rides in Camp Snoopy, Pig Pen’s Mud Buddies puts riders in ATV’s that spin, bounce and bump around Pig Pen. Children must be 36 inches or taller to ride or must be accompanied by an adult.




Charlie Brown’s Kite Flyer
The second new ride in Camp Snoopy takes kids flying around a large tree. Riders will sit in swings and soar through the air up and down. Kids must be 42 inches or taller to ride or be accompanied by an adult.




Linus Launcher
The last of the three new Camp Snoopy rides, the Linus Launcher has riders lay down and fly through the air on Linus’s “blankets.” Riders are on their stomachs and the ride takes them up 10 feet in the air. Kids must be at least 42 inches tall to ride.




According to Raffi Kaprelyan, vice president and general manager of Knott’s Berry Farm, the park will continue to evolve and plans to revitalize other areas are in place.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz



First Hyatt Place Opens in Washington, D.C.

June 27th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Washington, D.C. has so much for families to do. After visiting with friends back in February for a couple of days, I realized that a weekend was just not enough. I can’t wait to go back and when I do, I might just stay at the brand new Hyatt Place that opens today.

The Hyatt Place Washington, D.C./U.S. Capitol is the first Hyatt Place in Washington, D.C. The 14-story building is located near the U.S. Capitol in the NoMa neighborhood and offers family-friendly accommodations and amenities.

A few highlights of the brand new hotel include:

- Guestrooms with king or queen beds and sofa beds;
- Free Wi-Fi throughout the entire property;
- Complimentary breakfast each morning;
- Mini-fridges in every room;
- Outdoor pool open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.;
- And a 24-hour fitness center.

The new hotel currently offers two packages that allow families to see more of the city while saving money:

DC Metro Package
Book this package and receive two SmarTrip cards valid for one day of unlimited Metrorail rides. There are no time restrictions, though the pass expires at the end of the day that it is used (3 a.m. on weekends and midnight on weeknights). Rates start from $129 per night. Offer valid July 1 through Dec. 31, 2014.

Newseum Package
Enjoy two tickets to the Newseum and a guaranteed late check-out time of 2 p.m. when you book this package. See the history of journalism and news at the popular museum and save up to $46. Additional tickets can be purchased at the Newseum for $23 per adult and $14 per child age 7 to 18; children 6 and under are free. Package rates start from $164 per night. Offer valid July 1 through Dec. 31, 2014.

For more info on what to see and do in Washington, D.C., visit our Washington, D.C. Destination Guide.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

The Great American Backyard Campout

June 26th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

Want to go camping? You don’t have to go far. Saturday, June 28 is the National Wildlife Federation’s Great American Backyard Campout. In conjunction with National Outdoors Month, the annual event encourages families to get outside and connect with nature. Plus, it’s a budget-friendly option for a weekend “getaway,” and a good excuse to unplug.

How to Participate: Visit the Great American Campout website and pledge to camp in your backyard, neighborhood, or local campground. If you’re unable to participate on June 28, simply pledge to get outside another day this year.

Additionally, select locations, listed on the event’s website, offer added features for campers. For example, Schuylkill Center, located in Philadelphia, provides breakfast and dinner to participants, along with tent rentals.

The Great American Backyard Campout is celebrating its 10th year in 2014; in 2013, more than 200,000 people participated.



– Amanda Geronikos

Family Traditions at St. Regis Hotels and Resorts

June 25th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

St. Regis hotels and resorts offer guests luxurious accommodations and amenities unlike any other brand. If you’re like me, you hear the name “St. Regis” and a penthouse suite, with big comfortable beds, flat-screen TV’s and a mini bar with snacks galore, comes to mind. And if you’re like me again, you might also think that the chain isn’t exactly kid-friendly. However, I recently learned that St. Regis hotels and resorts offer a program called Family Traditions, with smaller programs within known as Memorable Adventures and Thoughtful Touches, plus exclusive family suite offers.

With locations across the country, from Aspen to New York City, and around the world from Rome to Beijing, the St. Regis will allow your family to make new traditions and memories everywhere. Here’s what you can expect from the St. Regis Family Traditions program:

Memorable Adventures
Each St. Regis around the world has its own activities and adventures available for families. From swimming with dolphins in Kauai to taking a private tour of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, let the St. Regis set up an experience that your family will never forget. The staff will be sure to help families select activities that are fun for everyone, no matter what age.

Thoughtful Touches
From in-room amenities to dining experiences to the children’s clubs, the St. Regis works to have every detail organized and beyond guests’ expectations when they arrive. Enjoy child-size robes, in-room treats, souvenirs and keepsakes and convenient extras in luxurious accommodations. Menus are filled with kid-friendly meal options, such as pizza and grilled cheese, and room service is available 24 hours per day for whatever time the little ones get hungry. Every hotel has a children’s program (fee) that schedules daily activities for those between 5 and 12 and when needed, babysitting and childcare is available, too. And when staying at a St. Regis, worry less about what to bring — the hotels and resorts offer strollers, cribs, rollaway beds, baby wipes, diapers and more.

SPG Kids Pass
Starwood Preferred Guests receive extra special offers like the SPG Kids Pass. Children 12 and under can enjoy eating and drinking all day long from the children’s menus for one all-inclusive daily rate. Parents will save and kids will feel like VIP’s. And if you’re not a Starwood Preferred Guest, sign up at the front desk upon arrival — it’s free!

Exclusive Family Suite Offer
Book the Family Traditions package at a St. Regis and enjoy suite accommodations, complimentary children’s club access, a late check out time of 4 p.m., SPG Kids Passes and a daily hotel credit for activities and hotel services. Rates and availability vary per hotel and location.

Read our reviews of St. Regis hotels and resorts in Aspen, New York City, Kauai, Park City and Houston.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz