Travel With Kids: Captiva Island Cruise

Ever since I was a little girl, I've been traveling. My parents would take us on spontaneous road trips. In college, I hopped around Europe during study abroad. Now, it's fun to enjoy new experiences with my own family.  But, I'm usually a 'one and done' type of girl. I don't envision myself revisiting the same place over and over when there's a new adventure waiting somewhere else.

Finish Reading This Post: Florida Fun With Kids: Captiva Cruises Review

 

A Spontaneous Trolley Ride, Trader Joe's and Speculoos With My Little Guy

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For me, the best days often include a spontaneous adventure.  Those are the days that are filled with unexpected giggles and smiles. Those are the days where the sun shines brighter and everyone seems happier.  There are no expectations and everyone just goes with the flow.  Life is good.

 

 Sometimes, you just need to hop on a trolley with your 4 year old just for fun.  Stroll around town in the sun with absolutely no purpose or destination...

Get lunch from Trader Joe's and watch him slurp up the noodles. Don't worry about the time.  Just sit and enjoy the moment.  

Try Speculoos {a.k.a. cookie butter} for the first time. Do you really need to spread it on something? Eating it from the jar works just fine.

One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure. - William Feather

Linvilla Orchards Mini Golf Review- Media, PA

Everyone wants to go to Linvilla Orchards when the fruit is in season and the sun is shining. But, now, Linvilla is luring us back to the orchard this winter with a new miniature golf course called "Fore! The Planet"

Fore! The Planet is a bright and modern museum exhibit created by the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. But, this exhibit is much more interactive than most. Fore! The Planet pairs important environmental issues with miniature golf, so you can relax, have fun and learn about the planet along the way.

The Fore! The Planet golf course is located in Linvilla's new garden center. Even though it is completely enclosed to protect you from the elements, it has a great indoor/outdoor feel. 

This course is fun for kids, but it's also educational too. Each hole teaches you about a different environmental topic, and it's all beautifully designed.

You can learn about everything from the life cycle of a butterfly, to spawning salmon and the rainforest.

My kids have already been to this mini golf course twice, and they are begging to go back! It's nice to see Linvilla Orchards and the Academy of Natural Sciences team up to bring us an exciting and educational family activity. Hopefully, more local businesses will follow their lead!

Review: Homewood Suites Baltimore Inner Harbor

Some people love traveling with kids, others, well... not so much.

If you read my post about our overnight getaway to the Baltimore Inner Harbor, you know that we really had an amazing time exploring Baltimore over winter break. But, the one thing I didn't mention, was how much we absolutely LOVED the hotel we stayed at. From the moment we checked in, until the moment we left, the Homewood Suites by Hilton® was wonderful!

 

Sometimes, I'm skeptical about overnight getaways, because it's usually easier just to have everyone in their own beds. But, having a one-bedroom suite with a separate living and sleeping area made it easy for us all to spread out and feel much more comfortable compared to an average hotel room.

It was our first time staying at a Homewood Suites hotel by Hilton® and I have to give my husband all of the credit for finding this hotel.  He did his research on-line, read the reviews and felt confident about the location, price and family friendly atmosphere. He was right.

We had a gorgeous view from our room (shown above). By the look of this view, you would think we paid top dollar for our room, by it was actually really reasonable. The location was within a short walking distance of the  Baltimore Inner Harbor. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful. You could tell that all of the other guests were happy too. Plus, the hotel offers a complimentary hot breakfast every morning and a Welcome Home® Reception featuring a complimentary light meal and beverages Monday through Thursday evenings. 

The next time we decide to stay overnight in Baltimore, we are definitely going back to the Homewood Suites by Hilton®!  And, if you stay there, tell them localfunforkids.com sent you! (Just dont expect them to have any idea what you're talking about!)

Baltimore Harbor: National Aquarium & Inner Harbor With Kids

When I think of a vacationing on a harbor, I think of warm breezes, ice cream cones and outdoor entertainers - not winter jackets, cold air, hats and mittens.  But, the Baltimore harbor was an amazing winter escape. The National Aquarium, historic ships, and museums kept us busy for 2 days and left us wanting to come back for more.

It's been a while since we last went to Baltimore, and I forgot how scenic the harbor was. It's a great size for families with kids - not too big, not too small. Not only is it bursting with shopping and restaurants, but there are so many educational opportunities and lots of history. Did you know Baltimore's Inner Harbor was once the second leading port of entry for immigrants to the U.S.? It's also the largest seaport in the Mid-Atlantic United States.

The kids loved having an adventure on an old submarine and sailing ship. We learned about how people ate, slept, communicated and lived in such small quarters. Even though my sons are both young, my husband and I could really see them take it all in and try to understand how things worked back in the "old'n days" as my 6 year old would say.

To say the National Aquarium was busy would be an understatement. It was absolutely jam packed. They were even assigning entry times to guests who were purchasing their tickets that day. We really should have purchased tickets ahead of time, but, the staff was very friendly, they tried to make everything as seamless as possible. Once we got in, the kids were completely fascinated by the scuba diver who was swimming with the sting rays.  I actually think my 3-year old was more intrigued by the scuba diver than the fish.

The dolphin show was amazing! We sat in the splash zone, and yes, we got splashed.  This was absolutely the best part of the aquarium. The dolphins and trainers really put on a great presentation, and it was another chance for the kids to learn about protecting the Earth.  If you go to the National Aquarium, you have to go to the Dolphin Show

Thank you, Baltimore. We wish we could have stayed longer and we will be back!

What should we see next time we go?

Sesame Place ~ A Very Furry Christmas Review

If you've ever been to Sesame Place, you already know that it's a popular destination for rides, water slides and entertainment during the summer months. But, now, it also transforms into a winter wonderland from late November through the end of December.

I wasn't sure what to expect when we went for 'A Very Furry Christmas'.  I knew it would be fun, but I was surprised that I actually preferred this more mellow, starlit version of Sesame Place compared to the hustle and bustle from our summer-time visit.  It was a great way to kick off the holiday season!

Decorations and large Christmas trees greeted us as we walked up the path. Once we passed through the gates, my kids quickly decided we should go on the Vapor Trail roller coaster. My 3 year old wanted to ride again and again (which we did.) And, my husband and I had just as much fun on this roller coaster as the kids. We were able to walk right onto the ride over and over again which was nice.  Let's face it, waiting in amusement park lines with kids is not fun, but all of the rides we went on had little or no wait.

We got caught up in the moment and made the mistake of spinning way to fast on Big Bird's Balloon Race.  We kept spinning, faster and faster, but when we returned to solid land we knew we should have slowed it down a little. The kids weren't phased by it at all, so they continued to hop from one ride to the next until it went dark and we decided it was time to grab a bite to eat.

After dinner, the park was beautifully lit up with Christmas trees in every color you could imagine, huge wreaths, and lots of other decorations. They have many different shows scattered throughout the day including the Neighborhood Street Party Christmas Parade and the 1-2-3 Christmas Tree Show. Both of these shows were filled with cheerful music and familiar Sesame Street characters which everyone really enjoyed. We also walked through Sesame Neighborhood and the kids were so excited as the faux snow fell from above.

The park was filled with perfect amount people and all of the employees were so helpful. It's not often that you see people who clearly enjoy their work and have a good time doing it. I was so impressed by the staff, and their energy rubbed off on the visitors. We felt so welcome and had a great time!

For more information about A Very Furry Christmas click any of the following links:

General Information / Frequently Asked Questions  / Purchase your Christmas tickets today!

Disclosure

Adventure Aquarium Review

When I first walked up to Adventure Aquarium, the first thing that struck me was the fabulous view of Center City Philadelphia.  I've lived in Philadelphia my whole life, but I don't think I've ever had the chance to take a step back and really enjoy such a beautiful view of the city.

I've been to other aquariums in the past, but it was our very first trip to this one, and  it was non-stop excitement from the moment we walked in the door.  The very first exhibit we walked into was the West African River experience. I knew Hippos liked water, but I never expected to see them at the aquarium, so that was a fun (and a little smelly) surprise! From that point forward, my sons were excitedly pulling my husband and I from one exhibit to another. They were completely intrigued by the touch a shark room and the sting ray beach club, where we could all get our hands in the water and touch real sharks and sting rays.

The other thing I loved about the aquarium was the interaction between their staff and the visitors. They were willing to answer as many questions as the kids could dish out. Everyone at the Adventure Aquarium was warm and friendly, and they really tried to get as many kids as possible in the spotlight for demonstrations. The staff wasn't just there telling you about the animals, they wanted the visitors to get involved and learn more about the animals featured at the aquarium.

It's a great time to visit Adventure Aquarium and those who visit now through December 24 receive a FREE 4X6 photo* - Adventure Aquarium's way of saying, "Happy Holidays!" to one and all!

CREATE YOUR OWN SCUBA SANTA MOMENT
SEE RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER
MEET BUMBLE, THE ABOMINABLE SNOW MONSTER
BOOGIE DOWN AT GILL'S HOLIDAY DANCE PARTY

To learn more or to reserve your tickets to Adventure Aquarium's Christmas Celebration online, visit www.AdventureAquarium.com and let the ADVENTURE begin! This New Year’s Eve, enjoy an unforgettable evening of music, dancing and fireworks at Adventure Aquarium’s New Year’s Eve Deep Sea Splash.  For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.AdventureAquarium.com or call (856) 365-3300

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Fun for Kids ~ Hockey Games on a Budget

Like my own family, most families are on a budget when it comes to entertainment.  Luckily, there are many ways to have local family fun for a lot less money than you'd think!

A couple of weeks ago, my husband asked me about taking the kids to a Philadelphia Flyers pre-season game.  My 5 year old has been asking to go to see the Flyers and a pre-season game was a lot cheaper than waiting until the official season started. Our tickets, from StubHub.com, were about $4 each and then with shipping, taxes and some other fees came to less than $40 for our family of 4.  If you've ever been to a professional sports event or any stadium event, you know that $10 a person is ridiculously inexpensive.

We had a blast at the hockey game!  Since it was a pre-season game, it was less crowded than the regular games which made it easier to get around with the kids. The food and drinks at the stadium very pricey. so, if you're on a tight budget, come prepared with some snacks for the kids. I also bought the kids Flyer's t-shirts ahead of time so we didn't have to pay top dollar at the stadium.

The stadium was filled with such contagious positive energy and the Flyers won the game which made the night even more fun.  If you can't make it to a pre-season game for your favorite professional sports team, it's also fun to cheer on your local minor league, college, or high school team.  You can even go to your local ice skating rink and watch the figure skaters or hockey teams practice there - for free. 

"Never fear spoiling children by making them too happy. Happiness is the atmosphere in which all good affections grow" 

- Thomas Bray

In the Orchards: Apple Picking Family Fun

The Guinness World Records reports that the heaviest apple on record weighed 4 lb 1 oz and was grown in Hirosaki city, Japan in 2005.  That's one BIG apple! 

We didn't find any apples that big when we went apple picking at a Linvilla Orchards, but we we still left with over 15 pounds of apples to enjoy in the weeks to come. Before we went apple picking, I found some helpful tips from Pickyourown.org that I wanted to share with you:

  • After you pick your apples, don't throw the apples into the basket.  You need to  place them gently, or they will bruise and go bad more quickly.
  • If you want to help prevent your apples from spoiling, don't wash apples until just before using them.
  • If you bought way too many apples to eat right away, feel free to share with friends.  Any extra apples should be kept cool either in a refrigerator or a cool, dark spot where they won’t freeze.
  • Use care when picking apples. It's okay to give the apple a little twist, but don't pull straight away from the tree.
  • Don't shake the trees or branches. And, remember to pick up any apples off the ground that may fall when you're trying to pick it.
  • Apples are cholesterol and fat free, high in dietary fiber, Vitamin A and niacin.  They are low in calories - one-half cup of apples is only 42 calories!
  • Apples are high in antioxidants which help fight aging, cancer and heart disease.
  • According to Wikipedia, the apple tree originated in Western Asia, where its wild ancestor, the Alma, is still found today.  Most of the apples grown in the world come from China.

This is a great time to head to an orchard or a fun fall festival with your family. Check out the Best Blogs for Local Fun to find something in your area. If you don't see anything there, you can go to PickYourOwn.com to find an apple orchard near you! 

Happy apple eating!

I'll be linking up here.

Fishing with kids at the Newlin Grist Mill

I have to admit, I know nothing about fishing. And, there are some things that my boys love that I'll probably never understand. But, fishing is not one of them.  Pond fishing at the Newlin Grist Mill was something that we all loved!  They have a stocked Trout pond, so you don't need to know a darn thing about how to fish.  You just show up, pay, grab a pole and go!

If you're going to go fishing with kids, this is a great place to go.  Here's why:

1) They provide fishing poles for free.  It's basically just a large cane pole with some fishing line and a hook.  You don't need anything fancy.  This will do the trick.  Also, you don't need to worry about gross bait.  For $1, you could buy a small piece of yellow cheese that the trout love.

2) The water was pretty shallow.  This was good because we could actually see the fish, so we knew where to put our bait.  Kids are driven by their senses, so the fact that they could watch the fish swimming in the water made it even more exciting.

3) The fact that is was a very small pond also provided me with major peace of mind.  Being a mom, I'm always worried about kids being near water.  But, since the ponds were small and the water was pretty clear and shallow, I wasn't as worried as I would be near a huge deep pond, vast lake or the ocean.  It was the perfect size for us.

Our spur-of-the-moment family outing to the Newlin Grist Mill was a huge success! In about an hour and a half, we caught 4 trout, had a great time, and were one step closer to dinner. Win, win, win!