Cozumel with Kids: Off the Beaten Path Attractions

July 29th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

While we visited Cozumel, we wanted to get off the beaten path after a day seeing the nearby attractions. We had the opportunity to leave the terra firma of Cozumel twice. We took a boat to the neighboring Isla Pasion, and we explored the underwater world off its shores in a real submarine.

Passion Island / Isla Pasión
Some of Cozumel’s best beaches aren’t on the hotel properties. Instead, you can visit beach clubs on both the west and (less crowded) east side of the island. For a fee, you’ll get access to the water and beach chairs and hammocks, and changing facilities. In many cases, there will also be a playground and water play equipment, and a bar or restaurant. One of these — Passion Island — is actually a small private island one mile off the coast of Cozumel, and only accessible by boat. It’s also one of the best beaches you may find anywhere, and completely worth the excursion.

When you arrive on Passion Island, either by a leisurely catamaran sail or a heart-pumping speed boat, you pass through a small collection of thatched-roof structures, including a casual restaurant and bar, a few shops for souvenirs and hair braiding, and even a small “spa” dispensing massages. Beyond that are rows of covered palapas with hammocks swinging underneath. From there, it’s about 50 feet across cool white sand to the calm aquamarine water.

Once you’re in the clear Caribbean Sea, there are even more hammocks hanging low enough so that you end up lying indulgently in the water! For the kids, there are inflatable structures you can climb on. My teenage son loved the challenge of trying to get across its long arm, although he looked like a competitor on the show “Wipe Out,” and quickly ended up in the surf.

The best feature for younger kids is the supervised play area on the beach, which included a play house, basketball nets, a row of painting easels, and even some hoop toss games.

Your admission fee to Passion Island is actually a daily “all-inclusive” fee, which includes food and beverages. The attentive wait staff will bring you drinks on the beach. When it’s time for a bite, the chef prepares not only basics like burgers and chicken fingers, but delicious fish dishes and fresh guacamole.

Atlantis Submarine
Cozumel has become one of the world’s most popular scuba diving and snorkeling destination, due to its location on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, a 13-mile-long, 11,000-acre protected coral reef system. It’s the world’s second largest barrier reef, second only to the great reef in Australia.

If you want a different vantage point than what you can see through a pair of goggles, consider taking a ride on the Atlantis Submarine, a true submersible vessel that brings you to depths of more than 100 feet to get up close views of the reef’s underwater life.

Your submarine dive adventure begins on board a boat that takes you along Cozumel’s west coast to the dive site, where you climb into the submarine. Inside, the vessel seats nearly 50 people, and it’s completely climate controlled. The crew will explain, in both English and Spanish, what you’re seeing during the 45-minute excursion. There are also helpful illustrated cards hanging near each window with pictures identifying the most common fish that live in these waters. Through the large circular windows, we saw sponges, colorful fish like Red Snapper, Queen Angle Fish, and Yellowfin Grouper, eels, giant hermit crabs, and so many different types of corals. Depending on the season, you may see sharks and stingrays.

The visibility is amazing, especially when there are no clouds and the sunlight reaches the bottom. We reached El Pared, or “The Wall,” a drop off where the depths reach 2,000 feet, then turned around. A high point was gliding alongside the shipwreck Felipe, through which several scuba divers were swimming, their location obvious by the stream of bubbles from their tanks.

– 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.

Four Resort Restaurants That Will Cook What You Catch

July 28th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

If your family loves to fish, then these are the resorts for you. Resorts along the Southwest Gulf Coast of Florida and the Gulf Shores of Alabama are encouraging guests to reel in their own dinner. Whether you have your own boat and bait, or you tag along on a fishing trip for a day, stay at one of these four resorts and let the onsite restaurant cook what you catch on your next vacation.

The Hyatt Regency Sarasota’s You Catch ‘Em, We’ll Cook ‘Em program allows families a chance to fish for the day before enjoy their catch for dinner at night. The Sarasota resort’s onsite eatery, Currents Restaurant, has a new Fresh Catch program, which offers guests the chance to relax while the team of chefs prepares the fish to their liking.

Enjoy surf fishing on the beach at The Beach Club and see what you can catch. Bring your fish to the Village Hideaway — the onsite restaurant at the Gulf Shores, Ala. Resort — and allow them to prepare it any way you like.

The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village offers its Hook N’ Cook program for families and fishermen alike. See what you can catch off the Southwest Gulf Coast and have one of the chefs at one of the two, onsite restaurants — Marker 92 Waterfront Bar & Bistro or the Nauti Mermaid Dockside Bar & Grill — cook it for you.

Cruise through the water of the Gulf Shores of Alabama on a fishing trip or catamaran and try to catch a fish! The Café Palm Breeze at the Perdido Beach Resort will cook it for you. Enjoy your fresh fish for lunch or an early dinner.

Cook what you catch program process vary per resort, but average around $17 each.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

The Roosevelt New Orleans Celebrates 120 Years with Special Rates and More

July 27th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

The Roosevelt New Orleans kicked off its 120th anniversary celebration on May 1 and the special events, treats and rates are lasting through the end of the year. The New Orleans hotel originally opened its doors in 1894 and has hosted famous celebrities over the years, such as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe. After a large restoration is 2009, the Roosevelt is better than ever and going strong. Here are a few special ways for you and your family to celebrate with the hotel this year:

For the Kids
Now through Dec. 31, enjoy a special dessert in Teddy’s Café. The Apple Charlotte is a legendary treat made with ladyfingers, caramelized apples and vanilla bean custard. And in honor of the five-year anniversary of the hotel’s restoration, it will only cost $5 to enjoy!

For the Adults
The Grunewald cocktail is the hotel’s signature cocktail now through the end of the year. Be sure to try the spirit named for the founder of the hotel, Louis Grunewald. And before or after, take advantage of the special Happy Hour in the Fountain Lounge, which offers $6 snacks and $6 drinks from 4 to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, now through Dec. 31.

For Everyone
If you’re planning a vacation to New Orleans, stay at the Roosevelt between Aug. 21 and 28 for special rates. In honor of its 120th anniversary, guestroom rates will start from just $120 per night.

For more information, read about The Roosevelt New Orleans.

Dream Next to Dinosaurs in New Jersey

July 26th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

The new Field Station: Dinosaurs opened on July 1 in Secaucus, N.J., and with it 32 life-size, animatronic dinosaurs for kids and families to interact with. Located just nine minutes from New York City, the attraction offers game shows, a dig site, 3D movies, hands-on workshops and more, including the special Dozin’ with Dinos sleepover event.

On August 2 and 23, families can spend almost 12 hours learning, interacting and sleeping with the 32 animatronic dinosaurs. Beginning at 7 p.m. and ending at 8 a.m. the next day, with activities taking place from 8 p.m. to midnight, guests can explore dinosaur trails, watch the Dinosaurs Alive! 3D film and snack on S’mores before bed, which consists of army-style tents and cots.

Limited space is available. Admission for the Dozin’ with Dinos event is $75 per person and $65 per person in groups of 20 or more. Price includes an evening snack and light breakfast, sleeping arrangements and admission to the 3D movie. Guests are encouraged to bring a sleeping bag, pillow, flashlight, comfortable clothing and other necessities. Children under 5 are not permitted and one adult must be present.

For more information, visit the Field Station: Dinosaurs website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Disney’s Elsa and Anna Participate in Annual Tour de Turtles

July 25th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

The Sea Turtle Conservatory’s sixth annual Tour de Turtles migration marathon, in partnership with Disney’s Animal Programs, will kick off tomorrow, Saturday, July 26, and this year, two special loggerhead turtles are participating. Anna and Elsa, named for the characters in Disney’s hit movie “Frozen,” will have satellite transmitters attached to them as part of the event which aims to gather more information about sea turtle habits and migratory patterns.

This year’s event will take place at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort in Vero Beach, Florida and guests staying at the resort will have access to the kick-off event and all of the daylong activities. Beginning at 7 a.m., Olaf’s Beach Party will kick off the Tour de Turtles. Anna and Elsa will be released from the start gate at 8 a.m. and festivities and activities will continue until 9:30 a.m. This event is for resort guests and media only. Beginning at 6 p.m., a kick-off party will offer food, drinks and live entertainment. A free, public event will be held on Sunday, July 27 beginning at 7:30 a.m. at the Barrier Island Sanctuary in Melbourne Beach, Florida, with one loggerhead sea turtle complete with a transmitter-tracking device, being released at 8 a.m.

Approximately 90 percent of sea turtles throughout the United States nest in Florida and as few as one in 1,000 of those born survive through adulthood. The Sea Turtle Conservatory works to monitor sea turtles through this annual event, which began in 2008. The research gathered allows agencies to alter conservation methods and policies so that these endangered species can be more thoroughly protected. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is a sea turtle-friendly resort and members of the Disney’s Animal Programs team will mark the nests throughout the resort to further monitor and protect the sea creatures. For more information on the annual event, and to follow the various seat turtles currently being monitored, visit the Tour de Turtles website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Iconic New York City Hotel & Classic Board Game Inspire Plaza-opoly

July 24th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »


The famous Plaza Hotel in New York City recently teamed up with Hasbro’s legendary board game Monopoly to create a one-of-a-kind experience for hotel guests and families alike. The new Plaza-opoly board game takes traditional Monopoly details to new heights, with board spaces, game pieces and cards all revolving around the iconic hotel. And with historical facts throughout, parents and kids can both learn something new about the historical hotel that originally opened its doors in 1907.

Players “check in” at the front desk with their game pieces, which include a tea cup, a luxury car, Eloise’s dog, Weenie, and an apple (in honor of the Big Apple, of course), before competing for the title of the wealthiest at the hotel. Hotel spaces for rent or sale include The Fitzgerald Suite, The Grand Ballroom, The Great Gatsby and The Terrace Room. Players will even learn a bit of history when landing on Now and Then spaces, which include references to the Beatles Press Conference that took place at the Plaza in 1964 and Truman Capote’s famous Black and White Ball that took place at the Plaza in 1966. If players can stay away from Hotel Security (otherwise known as Jail), then they might be able to order room service, visit Central Park and even buy The Royal Plaza Suite.

Plaza-opoly costs $60 and is only for sale at the Plaza Hotel’s gift shop.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz