6 Fall Festivities for Families in Pennsylvania

September 22nd, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Parents and kids ride in a horse-drawn wagon at the Apple Butter Frolic event in Harleysville, PennsylvaniaMontgomery County, Pennsylvania, located just 18 miles west of Philadelphia, offers beautiful fall foliage during the autumn season. Families won’t want to miss the breathtaking scenery and can enjoy fall activities along the way. Here are seven fun festivities for families to enjoy in Valley Forge and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, this fall.

National Public Lands Day
Get the kids outside while the weather is still fair for National Public Lands Day on Saturday, September 27, at Valley Forge National Historical Park. Families can help clean up the park and can take part in projects to help maintain the popular area. When the work is done, enjoy a guided nature hike before the barbecue starts. Events run from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Families should sign up in advance if looking to volunteer.

Upper Perkiomen Bird & Wildlife Festival
Educate the kids on birds and wildlife at this annual outdoor event on Saturday, September 27, at Green Lane Park. Live demonstrations will take place and hands-on activities and games for kids, like nature crafts and hayrides, will be offered. Food and drinks will be for sale, as well. Admission is free, and the event runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Asher’s Chocolates 17th Annual Fall Fest
Enjoy live music, moon bounce houses, games, face painting and more at the 17th Annual Fall Fest, hosted by Asher’s Chocolates of Souderton, Pennsylvania. Hot dogs and drinks will be free, too! The fun starts at 11 a.m. and runs through 3 p.m. on Saturday, September 27, at the retail store on Wambold Road. Admission is free.

Annual Apple Butter Frolic
Enjoy all things apple at the 41st Annual Apple Butter Frolic hosted by the Mennonite Heritage Center in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, October 4, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Kids activities, an apple baking contest, horse and wagon rides and more will take place and excite guests of all ages. Admission is $8 for teens and adults 13 and older, $2 for kids between 6 and 12, and free for kids 5 and under.

Scarecrow Making
Do you want to make a scarecrow? Learn how at Norristown Farm Park in East Norriton, on Sunday, October 5, at 1 p.m. Families and kids can have fun making and dressing their very own scarecrow (be sure to bring clothes from home!), which may even be featured in the Park in the Dark night hike event on October 17. Admission is free, but costs $5 per scarecrow. Pre-registration is required.

Skippack Days
Head to Skippack Village on Saturday, October 4, and Sunday, October 5, for the 41st annual Skippack Days event. Enjoy food and craft vendors, as well as kids’ activities and live music during this annual town wide celebration. Activities start at 10 a.m. and end at 6 p.m. on both days.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

7 Banned Books Week Events for Families

September 21st, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Three young boys read books outside in the grassToday kicks off the 32nd Annual Banned Books Week and events for the young and old will be held throughout the country, with readings and storytime for babies to celebrations in honor of Lord of the Rings with costumed characters for teens. Here’s a list of family-friendly events taking place in large cities around the U.S. this week in honor of all those banned books!

Banned Books Week

Sept. 21-27, 2014
Glen Ellyn Public Library

All week long kids in grades four through eight can stop by the Glen Ellyn Public Library in Chicago and have their picture taken with their favorite banned book, which will also be featured in the library’s special Facebook album. Readings will also take place daily.

Providence, R.I.
Free Tattoo with Checkout of Banned Book

Sept. 21-27, 2014
Providence Community Library

Families who check out a banned book this week in Providence will get a free temporary tattoo!

Hobbit Day Celebration

Sept. 22, 2014 at 6:30 p.m.
Coffee County Lannom Library

Located about an hour from Nashville, the Coffee County Lannom Library in Tullahoma, Tennessee, is hosting a celebration in honor of Lord of the Rings and Middle Earth’s very own Bilbo and Frodo! Families can enjoy costume contests, scavenger hunts, riddles, trivia and hobbit snacks.

Portland, OR
Celebrate Banned Books at Wild Lilac

Sept. 24, 2014 at 11 a.m.
Wild Lilac Child Development Community

Listen to parents and teachers as they read from their favorite banned children’s books in Portland this Wednesday.

Charleston, S.C.
Banned Books Week DIY Festival

Sept. 25, 2014
College of Charleston – Addlestone Library

Families can make their own buttons, magazines and more at this DIY Festival in Charleston this week. A photobooth will be available all week long for photos with your banned book, too.

San Francisco
Baby’s First Banned Book Club Meeting

Sept. 25, 2014 at 3 p.m.
Books Inc. in the Marina

Sing songs, clap your hands and read books that have actually been banned for the little ones in San Francisco this week! Who knew storytime for baby would or could be banned?

Book Bites Banned Books Storytime
Sept. 25, 2014 at 3:30 p.m.
Books Inc. Laurel Village

Bring kids ages 6 and up to this event, which offers little ones who are just learning to read a storytime of banned books.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

#AllStarParents: Results From Embassy Suites Fall Sports Travel Survey

September 20th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

The kids are back in school and fall sports are upon us. Are you a team parent? If so, then you’re also what Embassy Suites likes to call an All-Star Parent. According to the chain’s most recent survey on sports-related travel, which was released on Sept. 10, 2014, away games and tournaments require parents to travel about 1,000 miles and to spend more than $1,400 on hotels, meals and more.

The survey also revealed that parents tend to be just as dedicated to their children’s teams as the athletes themselves. Ninety-three percent of parents surveyed said they have skipped one of their own obligations for a child’s game and 92 percent are willing to give up a family vacation or gathering for their child’s sports travel, too. Additionally, 95 percent of parents surveyed said they even use the away games or tournaments as a way to turn the sports-related travel into a family getaway and 64 percent have even taken days off from work in order to travel for their child’s team.

In an Embassy Suites’ Twitter chat with celebrity team parent Brooke Burke-Charvet on Thursday, September 18, parents shared tips on what to pack, what to do and what to look for when booking a hotel. Here’s what we found #AllStarParents saying during the discussion:







The number one response for why parents travel with their child and the team was because it is a bonding experience for the whole family.







The number one response for what to pack in order to be prepared was healthy snacks and lots of them.







When looking for a hotel, parents answered that free breakfast, free Wi-Fi and a pool were on their list of must-have amenities.







When the game or tournament is done, parents said they like to relax by the hotel pool and watch a family-friendly movie together.






And in order to guarantee that the weekend is a win for everyone, parents said they always try to do one fun activity or visit one attraction, like a museum or zoo, on which the the whole family can agrees.

All-Star Parents can enter to win weekly prizes through Embassy Suites Facebook contest, which runs through Oct. 10, 2014. Enter to win by nominating yourself or another parent who is dependable, reliable, knowledgeable and always prepared when it comes to traveling with their child’s team. See if you fit one of the three profiles – The Road Tripper, The Mommy/Daddy Poppins or The Unofficial Official – and you could win a VIP getaway for two at an Embassy Suites in the U.S. Plus, your child’s team will receive a complimentary stay at an Embassy Suites on their next road game or weekend tournament. Enter to win on the Embassy Suites Facebook page.

Are you an All-Star Parent who will be traveling with your child and their team this season? If so, what tips do you have for making it a successful getaway? Leave your tips in the comment section below!

Disclosure: Embassy Suites surveyed 400 parents between Sept. 2 and Sept. 9, 2014, via an e-mail invite and online form. The survey was conducted by Wakefield Research. Results from any survey are subject to sampling variation.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

9 Pirate Ship Adventures for Kids

September 19th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Kids play limbo aboard a pirate ship cruiseAhoy, mateys! Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day and mateys everywhere should don their eye patches and wooden peg legs all day long while speaking with their best swashbuckling accents. Don’t let the fun stop tomorrow, though. Board one of these nine pirate ship cruises with the family for an adventure on the high seas in search of buried treasure. Argh!

Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise
Join Captain Fearless Phil and his crew onboard the Sea Dragon in Panama City Beach, Florida, this year for a voyage to remember. Sing along to pirate songs while sword fighting, swabbing the deck, hunting for buried treasure and more. Tours last about two hours. Prices start from $24 for adults ages 15 and older, $14 for kids 14 and under, and $12 for infants and babies between 1 and 2 years; infants under 1 year are free.

Pirate Ship Tour Puerto Vallarta
Set sail on an authentic Spanish galleon in Puerto Vallarta, where you’ll take part in a pirate show before reaching Majahuitas Beach, where families can try water sports, beach games and more. Food is served and parents can enjoy an open bar on the ship. Afternoon and evening tours are available. Tickets start from $42 for children 3 to 12, and from $84 for adults and teens 12 years and older.

The Pirate Ship Royal Conquest
Set sail in Tampa Bay, Florida, for a true Royal Conquest. The two-level, 56-foot pirate ship offers music, water gun battles, treasure hunts, limbo, face painting and more. The cruises last about two hours and are offered in the morning, afternoon and at night. Prices start from $35 for adults between 21 and 64, $25 for kids between 2 and 20, and $10 for toddlers and infants under 2 years.

Capt. Jack’s Pirate Ship Adventures
Board the Lost Pearl in Virginia Beach and set sail on an authentic Spanish galleon ship. All hands will be on deck during this adventure. Enjoy a pirate show while snacking on seafaring food, and see who wins the sword fight. Tours run for approximately 1.5 hours and prices start from $26 for adults and $22 for children between 3 and 15; the cruise is free for kids 2 and under.

Captain Memo’s Original Pirate Cruise
Buccaneers are invited to board Captain Memo’s Original Pirate Cruise in Clearwater Beach, Florida, for an afternoon of food and drinks while searching for treasure. Face painting, water gun games, stories, dancing and more are offered onboard. Prices start from $36 for adults, $31 for teens 13 to 17, $26 for kids 3 to 12 and $11 for babies and infants 2 and under.

Big Bear’s Pirate Ship
The Time Bandit Pirate Ship is modeled after a Spanish galleon and brings families around Big Bear Lake, California. Tours educate families about the lake and last about 90 minutes. Morning and afternoon tours are available. Prices start from $22 for adults and $14 for kids 12 and under.

Buccaneer Pirate Cruise
Join a voyage with other pirates through the waters of the Emerald Coast of Destin, Florida, on the Buccaneer Pirate Cruise. Enjoy singing, dancing, water gun battles, a sword fight, treasure hunts and more. Prices start from $34 for adults, $19.50 for kids 4 to 14, and children under 3 are free.

Boomerang Pirate Ship
Navigate the Potomac River on the Boomerang Pirate Ship in Washington, D.C., and help protect the Nation’s Capital while on board. Enjoy treasure hunts, face painting, pirate games, dancing, water cannons, limbo and more. Prices start from $20 per person and advance reservations are required.

Black Raven Pirate Ship
Blackbeard will visit your family while on board the Black Raven in St. Augustine, Florida. Kids must be ready for battle, with water cannons, sword fights and more. When it’s over, enjoy tasty booty with the other mateys while celebrating. Prices start from $35 for adults and $25 for kids 3 to 12; children under 3 are free.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

5 Travel-Related Crafts to Make With Kids

September 18th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Kids often make arts and crafts while in school, from cute fall decorations for the classroom to pictures of what they did this past summer with their families. Have fun with your kids at home and make one of these five travel-related crafts from souvenirs, ticket stubs, photos and more from your most recent family vacation.

Sand Ornaments
What You Will Need: sand, clear glass ornament, funnel, colorful tape, ribbon

Glass ornament filled with sand with blue ribbonIf you visited a beach in the Caribbean or some other exotic area this past summer (or maybe even just the Jersey Shore), hopefully you brought home some sand as a souvenir. If not, then plan to do this on your next trip!

Pick up clear glass ornaments from your local arts and crafts store. Have your children use the funnel to fill them with sand — any amount that they want, but know it may get heavy – and use the colorful tape to close off the top hole when done. Use matching ribbon as the string that will allow the ornament to hang. Cut it to at least 12 inches in length and tape both ends to the top of the ornament, so that it forms a loop. You can stop here and have the craft completed, but feel free to let your kids bedazzle the outside of the ornament with glitter, stickers and other fun decorations. Since the ornament is clear, they’ll be able to see the sand inside!

Ticketed Picture Frames
What You Will Need: ticket stubs, mod podge glue, paint brushes, wooden picture frames

Simple wooden picture frames are available at your local arts and crafts store and are inexpensive. Take all of those ticket stubs from your most recent trip and let the kids mod podge them to the frames. The mod podge glue can be painted right over the ticket stubs onto the frames with paint brushes – it will dry clear and the ticket stubs will be securely “stuck” to the frame. Allow the frame to dry for 24 hours and then place a picture of your family at the attraction, theme park or museum in which you visited and received your tickets from, inside the frame!

Photo Map
What You Will Need: medium-size map of the continental United States, photos of your family, scissors, glue, stickers

Map of United States with photos covering the statesHave you recently visited Florida or California? A fun way to document where your family has traveled is by making a photo map of where you’ve visited! Before passing the photos to the kids, measure them out against the map and cut them into the shape of the states in which you have visited. (Note: If your kids are old enough to use scissors, let them try, too!) Allow the kids to glue the photos to the map, having them match the photo to the state in which it is shaped. They’ll be able to see where the states are located in comparison to where you live, which will also teach them about geography.

Another fun thing to do with this map is to have the kids place stickers on the states in which they would like to visit next! (This will also give you ideas for next summer’s family vacation!)

Travel Journals
What You Will Need: journals or notebooks, stickers, paint, glue, family photos, ticket stubs, glitter, markers, etc.

A great way for kids to really connect with their family vacation is to write about it. Before your next trip, or if you would like them to reflect on this past one, pick up a journal or notebook from your local store. Allow your kids to decorate the covers with markers, glitter, stickers, photos – really anything! Have them personalize it and then allow them to draw pictures of where you’re family has gone or write about where you will be traveling next inside the journal. Travel journals can be taken on the road and will also be a way to keep the kids busy when on the plane or in the car. They’ll enjoy looking back on their family vacations years from now, too.

Homemade Disney Ears
What You Will Need: black headbands, black paper, red ribbon, glue

Black Mickey Mouse Ears and pink Minnie Mouse EarsHave your kids make their own Mickey Mouse ears before your next trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Cut out “ears” from the black paper. They should be an oval or circle shape (like Mickey’s ears!) with about a one-inch rectangle on the bottom — you will need two per headband. Glue the rectangle bottom of the ear to the inside of the headband. Do this again with the other ear and be sure they are spaced well on the headband. One ear should be secured on the upper left side of the headband, and the other ear should be secured to the upper right side of the headband. Bend the paper ears so that they stand up in the appropriate way. You’re all done with your Mickey Mouse ears!

If you want Minnie Mouse ears, use the red ribbon and cut and tie it into a bow. Glue it to the headband directly between the two ears, or make two small bows and place one in front of each ear. Allow the glue to dry before wearing.

What are a few other great travel-related crafts to make with kids? Share your ideas in the comments below!

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

6 Activities for Kids in Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge

September 17th, 2014 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Little boy pets a black goat at the zooIf you haven’t been to Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge yet, then fall is the perfect time to visit with your family. The mild weather, sunny skies and fall foliage make it a beautiful sight to see. Plus, there is so much to do both indoors and out. Here are just six of the fun activities that you can do with kids this fall in Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge:

Adventure Park at Five Oaks
Children of all ages can zip line at the Adventure Park at Five Oaks in Sevierville, Tennessee, just outside of Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge. Zip lines range from 450 to 2,000 feet in length and offer beautiful views of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Five Oaks Riding Stables
After zip lining through the fall foliage, ride your own horse down a trail at the Stables at Five Oaks. You and the kids can walk, trot and gallop through the Smoky Mountain area. Rides last between 30 minutes and one hour and little ones can be paired with mom or dad. Packages are available, which can save the family money on zip lining, too.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Kids will get a kick out of seeing octopuses, jellyfish, crabs, sharks and other sea creatures at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. There’s a Penguin Playhouse, too, where visitors can crawl through tunnels to see the colony of penguins up close. Hands-on activities are also offered, such as a stingray touch tank and a Discovery Center where kids can hold horseshoe crabs.

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Museum
Located just a few minutes from the aquarium, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Museum is another sight to see when in Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge. Check out more than 500 unique exhibits, which include a two-headed cow and a shrunken human head. Combination tickets can be purchased for other attractions, too, including the Ripley’s Aquarium.

Lazerport Fun Center
If the weather isn’t exactly fit for an outdoor adventure, head to Lazerport Fun Center for indoor fun. Play an afternoon round of black-light mini golf; get the adrenaline flowing with a game of laser tag; or show off your NASCAR skills on the go-kart track. An arcade also offers games for kids of every age.

Smoky Mountain Deer Farm and Exotic Petting Zoo
Have you ever seen a zonky? Well you can at the Smoky Mountain Deer Farm and Exotic Petting Zoo (it’s a mix of a donkey and a zebra, by the way). Kids will love petting the deer, goats, camels, sheep and other soft animals, as well as seeing the pot-bellied pigs and reindeer. Pony rides are offered and horseback riding is available at the Deer Farm Riding Stable across the way.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz