Archive for September 2011
September 28th, 2011
In my years of travel I’ve learned kids and water are usually a good combination. The kids don’t even necessarily have to be in it, just close enough to see it.
Richmond, British Columbia
Maybe it’s the sounds of water or the cries of seagulls. Whatever it is, I’ve found a new place that has it – Canada’s Steveston Village. Families lucky enough to live nearby already know it. But I bet there’s many traveling families who don’t. I didn’t. The historic fishing village has a comfortable seaside charm. It’s a place families like mine could easily call home.
Where Is it?
Steveston is located in Richmond, BC, where the Pacific Ocean and the Fraser River meet. It’s neighbor to better known (and often overshadowed by) Vancouver.
My first trip to Vancouver was just a few months ago. I was in town solo for a work conference and honestly wasn’t expecting to have a whole lot of fun. Instead, I was charmed by the city and left hoping someday I’d be back with my family. So when the folks at tourism Richmond invited me to come to visit with my daughter, I jumped at the opportunity.
“What am I worth (if I were a fish)”
Loaded with History
There ‘s a fine line between sneaking some history into a trip and making it feel like a history lesson. The Gulf of Georgia Cannery makes it easy for parents to be sneaky. In its heyday, the cannery was the leading producer of canned salmon in British Columbia. Kids are invited to punch in a time-card in the Cannery time clock and then get to work learning Steveston’s fishing history.
The tour paints a vivid picture of how dangerous and hard life was for fisherman and cannery workers. The museum offers a variety of exhibits where kids are encouraged to reach out and touch. My daughter went running when the tour ended to the back of the cannery to learn how to sort different types of salmon. (In this case plastic and not smelly).
Don’t miss the large scale that tells anyone willing to weigh in how much they’d be worth if they were a fisherman’s catch of the day. My 10 year-old would bring in $25 if only she were 90 plus pounds of sockeye salmon.
Before you leave check out the display of old salmon can labels, specifically Gold Seal Seafood’s cartoon mascot “Sammy” Salmon. It was created in the early 1940’s by Walt Disney.
Fresh catch at Steveston Fish Market
Catch of the Day
After exploring the cannery the kids may need space to run so head outside and wander down Moncton Street. The main drag is lined with shops and restaurants. Splash Toy Shop and the Candy Dish will probably get the kids attention. Village Bikes is an option if you want to roll through town.
Make your way toward Fisherman’s Wharf and head down onto the docks where the day’s catch is sold fresh off the boat at the Steveston Fish Market. Along with the salmon, halibut and shrimp look for the live sea urchins.
Though the thought of eating one did not sit well with my 10 year-old, she enjoyed seeing the prickly sea creatures up close and personal.
Famous fish & chips at Pajo’s
Don’t Skip Lunch
By now someone in the family has to be getting hungry. Look to the right of the dock. Is there a crowd forming? I’d recommend you head down, before the line gets too long. Pajo’s Fish & Chips is known to need employees for crowd control. This famous for fish & chips eatery fries up crispy fish on its own floating dock. (I don’t think of myself as a foodie, but the last time I had fish & chips this good I was in Northern Ireland).
Choose from halibut, cod and salmon. Hamburgers, hotdogs and grilled cheese are available for land lovers. If the weather is crummy, call or double check their website to make sure fish is still frying before you head over.
Wind Waves sculpture at Garry Point Park
Take a Stroll
After lunch take a walk and explore the waterside. It’s just a short stroll to Garry Point Park. You’ll know you’re close when you start to see a colorful selection of kites dancing in the sky. The windy, but comfortable park is ideal for kite-flying.
Thanks to Richmond’s Public Art Program there is art scattered throughout the city and Garry Point Park has piece that brings instant smiles to kids faces.
“Wee, it’s like a playground in here,” said 7 year-old Xavier from nearby Burnaby, Canada as he starting climbing up the vibrant red ball known as Wind Waves. The sculpture is a kid magnet, serving double duty as a play structure like no other.
Put Your Toes in the Sand
When the kids finally jump off of Wind Waves real water waves are just steps away. Beaches hold all sorts of fabulous treasure. Garry Point Park beach is really a playing beach, not a swimming one. Driftwood, sea glass and on this day an old dock piling was transformed into a teeter-totter!
Even with the promise of ice cream, my daughter was slow to leave the sand. She even stopped to explore the Japanese garden at the end of Garry Point Park as we headed back into Steveston.
Ice cream and the beach go hand in hand. We worked our way back into what I would describe as the downtown area of Steveston and hit Screamers Soft Serve and Treats. It’s located almost directly in front of the Gulf of Georgia Cannery and its claim to fame is the Screamer. It’s a fruit flavored slurpee layered with vanilla soft serve ice cream. I’m not the biggest slurpee fan so I was a little skeptical, but the combination of the vanilla soft serve and pineapple slurpee was pretty tasty. My daughter went for orange and her’s tasted just like an orange creamsicle.
A sweet ending to a sunny day on the water front. Next visit I’d love to jump on bikes in Steveston and check out the many dyke trails that loop around the city. Sounds like the type of adventure that would call for a family picnic, and maybe even a great fish & chips dinner.
Dana Rebmann and her daughter received complimentary airfare, lodging, and activities in Richmond, BC courtesy of tourism Richmond. She was not asked to express any particular opinion or point of view.
Ciao Bambino recommended Canada family hotels
Family travel Vancouver
Things to do in Vancouver BC with kids
Toronto top 5 kid-friendly excursions
, British Columbia
, North America
September 26th, 2011
Amie from Ciao Bambino
My good friend and author of the Ciao Bambino! book series, Danna Leahy, visited us in Switzerland this summer with her 7 and 10-year-old kids in tow. As part of her itinerary, she planned a four-night stop in Paris.
When Danna explained what she planned to cover during her time in Paris, I laughed. I know the Type A mom personality — ahem — well, as I look in the mirror each morning. Our husbands tell us that we pack too many activities into short periods of time. True.
Danna determined what she wanted to cover in Paris six months before her arrival. She meticulously worked through every detail to ensure she would leave the city satisfied and this is exactly what happened. The Leahy family had an extraordinary time in Paris, covered an unbelievable amount of ground, and had fun doing it. Impressive!
I invited Danna to share tips for the Paris version of our 72 hours series (so far we’ve covered Rome, London, and Amsterdam). These are incredible tips!
Essential Paris with Kids Planning Tips
This itinerary is based on a visit with school-age kids. If you are visiting Paris with toddlers and little kids, the itinerary may change significantly.
Big splash on arrival: I wanted to give my kids a big splash Paris attraction on arrival so we headed straight for the Eiffel Tower. From the top of the tower the kids had a birds-eye overview of the entire city and this got them excited for the their visit.
Refine see and do list: There’s an endless number of things to see and do in Paris. Create a top ten list and know that you may only visit seven of the attractions, particularly over the busy summer months.
Incorporate variety in the daily schedule: I was careful to balance iconic sights, museums, and outdoor activities into each day instead of doing too much of any one thing. Use a map to plot what you want to see geographically. This is easier to do once you arrive and have a feel for the lay of the land and what the distances mean.
Take advantage of the Metro: We never took a cab in Paris except from the train station on the day of our arrival. I recommend getting a Metro map and multi-ticket books (adult and youth available) soon after arrival. We purchased the 10-pack book which saves money and allows you to avoid buying tickets each time you want to use the underground.
Buy Paris Museum Pass: The Paris Museum Pass is a no brainer for value and time savings, particularly if you expect to visit two or more attractions per day. At that point, you’ll at least break even and more importantly, you won’t have to stand in line at the majority of sights which is a huge benefit during busy tourist periods. Go to the Paris Museum Pass website to determine what is and is not covered.
I found that I was more forgiving about leaving attractions early when they were not engaging my kids with this kind of ticket (vs. digging my heels in when I just forked out money for individual entrance tickets). In addition, the pass allows you to revisit museums like the Louvre. This is huge! It takes the pressure off seeing everything at once and makes re-entrance seemless.
Eat a big breakfast at your hotel: We had an amazing all-inclusive breakfast each morning at our hotel, the Brighton Hotel. It’s much easier to have stamina for a busy tour schedule when everyone is well-fed. Our nutritional breakfast allowed us to feel good about a grab-and-go lunch and avoid multiple sit-down meals each day.
Paris is perfect for quick meals as street vendors and bakeries selling crepes and sandwiches are plentiful. Kids — even picky eaters — can find things they like. Sweet treats for breaks are easy to find too.
Don’t count on helpful front desk staff for tour advice: Unless you’re staying at a 5-star hotel with a dedicated concierge desk, don’t count on your hotel staff for insight.
Paris with Kids in 72 Hours Itinerary
Day One (1/2 day)
We arrived in the early afternoon and had half day to get acquainted with the city. We kicked off our tour at the Jardins des Tuileries — a perfect spot for people watching and settling in. Then we headed out for the 45-minute walk to the Eiffel Tower from there.
A long walk across the city works well to get an idea of directions and distances in the city. We pre-booked our tickets at the Eiffel Tower which I highly recommend! There is a weather risk in this strategy, but we saved an hour of waiting in line. The reservation (no additional fee) allows you to head straight to the platform where you take a second elevator to get to the summit. At that point, you still need to wait in line to get to the top (45 minutes), but we still saved an hour of time.
Finally, we ended our day with a stroll and dinner on the Champs-Elysées. We were lucky to find Bistro Romain that night with nice outdoor seating, a kids’ menu, and value-oriented pricing.
We started our day at Notre Dame. If you’re interested in religious relics, there’s a fantastic special exhibit (for an additional fee) with a chalice, medallions from the Pope, and the crown of thorns. We also liked the crypt.
We walked back via the Conciergerie, a former royal palace and prison. It’s not a must-see attraction, but my kids enjoyed it, particularly Marie Antoinette’s cell.
We continued our day with a Louvre tour with Paris Muse. We all enjoyed this engaging tour; my recommendation for parents is that if there are specific things you want to see, be sure and reserve time to revisit the museum. The Paris Muse tour follows a specific agenda and your “list” may not match theirs. After multiple visits to the Louvre, we found that the afternoon is less crowded than the morning.
We concluded our day with an evening Bateaux-Mouches tour. This was a hit for all! We all appreciated not walking at that time of day and the seeing the sites in the evening is an entirely new perspective. You get a particularly great view of the Eiffel Tower — the lights on the tower start twinkling every hour on the hour in the evening.
Hall of Mirrors at Opéra de Paris
We spread out our iconic Paris monuments and on day three, the Arc de Triomphe got a close inspection. We walked right in with the Museum Pass and headed to the top. The view is slightly different than what you see from the Eiffel Tower; it’s not a must-do but if you have the ability to skip the line it’s worthwhile.
We did some Right Bank wandering and included stops at the Opera House and Madeleine. We proceeded to the Musée d’Orsay. One nice thing about this museum is that the kids recognize the Impressionist art. It’s a more intimate museum focused on painting versus antiquities; I’d recommend using an audio guide to keep kids engaged.
A surprise hit for all was the Musée de l’Orangerie featuring Claude Monet’s masterpieces. The huge scale of the paintings at eye-level enables kids to see all the intricacies and get close to the action.
We wrapped up our time in Paris with a visit to Montmartre and the incredible Sacré-Cœur Basilica. In a 72 hour itinerary, you’d be out of time. With an additional half day (which we had), we opted for another visit at the Louvre and wandering at the kid-friendly favorite, the Jardin du Luxembourg.
I thought Paris would be more about shopping, but my husband and kids had zero desire to do any of that with so many other things to see and do.
Photo Credit: Danna Leahy
Ciao Bambino recommend family hotels in Paris
Ciao Bambino recommended kid-friendly hotels in France
Paris Muse Scavenger Hunt in the Louvre
Visiting the Musée des Arts et Métiers with kids
Loire Valley highlights for kids and their parents
How not to visit Versailles with kids
Off-the-beaten-path things to do in Paris with kids
Favorite online resources for Paris with children
Savoring the simple pleasures of Paris with children
Information for Paris expatriates – InterNations
September 23rd, 2011
Kristi from Ciao Bambino
I’m at the new Aulani resort on Oahu this week with travel writers from around the country checking out Disney’s latest family vacation hotspot.
Stay tuned for a full report on the blog … In the meantime, I’ll share a few photo-friendly moments from our surf lesson with Hawaiian Fire, a local Honolulu-based surf school run by area firefighters for Photo Friday.
Guests of Aulani Resort and Spa can book off-property activities with Adventures by Disney, who in turn partners with high-quality local guides and service providers to offer activities and excursions.
“Hey, I’m surfing!”
Hawaiian Fire Surf Lessons
Our surf lessons were with real firefighters. Yes, I said firefighters and yes, they looked like all the women in the group had secretly hoped they would. And no, they don’t have a calendar (I asked).
But this was no macho beefcake surf school. I am a “seasoned” surf lesson tourist after taking lessons in Maui two years ago. The location at Kalaeloa Beach — just 15 minutes from Aulani — is gorgeous and not crowded. We only saw two or three other surfers over the course of our lesson.
The surf lesson is very well-organized and begins with a safety talk followed by dry land instruction.
Practicing on the sand before heading out to the waves
After they led us through a safety talk (much of it aimed at teaching us how not to injure ourselves or our fellow surfers as most beginner surfer injuries are a result of collisions with other beginner surfers), we practiced on the sand before heading out into the ocean.
Safety is a priority here and Hawaiian Fire uses foam and rubber boards that minimize impact in case you or your board end up in an unplanned location.
There were twelve people in our surf lesson with five instructors in the water. The day of our lesson was windy with a nice sized shore break. They helped each person get past the break and then we paddled to an instructor who was treading water.
The instructor held onto our board, waited for a good wave, gave us a big shove and told us to “paddle”. We did this many times and the paddling was really tiring. We only spent 35-40 minutes in the water, but most of us were exhausted and exhilarated when we finished.
It’s really exciting to get up on the board and to see your classmates do the same!
Ameila from TheKnot.com learns the right way to fall
If you go:
The minimum age is 5 years old and all kids 5-10 have a private instructor. Pricing for adults for the three-hour program which includes all equipment needed, water, snacks and transportation is $154 for adults and kids 5-10 are $184. If you are not staying at Aulani, you can reserve directly with Hawaiian Fire.
Head over to Delicious Baby for more Photo Friday posts.
Disney paid for our surf lessons as part of the press discovery trip at Aulani. They didn’t ask us to express any particular point of you.
Best of Hawaii photo tour
Big Island of Hawai’i with kids
Oahu with kids
Kauai with kids
Maui with kids
10 Surprises on the Disney Dream
Preparing for Disney Dream Cruise
Disney Cruise Line vacation review
Tips for an optimal Disney Cruise
Kudos to Disney for allergy-friendly practices
, North America
, Photo Friday
September 22nd, 2011
Our summer trip to Washington, DC was designed to be an introduction, not a whirlwind tour. We only spent a few days. My thinking, as the girls get older and more and more US history comes their way, DC would be timely.
I knew the trip would be a learning experience, but overall I wanted it to make sure it was fun. When planning the trip, one of the hardest things was figuring out what the kids and I would truly enjoy; I didn’t want the entire trip to come off as a giant history lesson.
Even the average person who’s never been to DC came name more than a handful of worthwhile sites. In So Many Washington DC Museums for Kids to See, So Little Time, I explained how I decided what museums to attack.
Sometimes you don’t know how many are too many until it’s too late. The same can be said for tours. Just like luggage, less is more. A trip is a success in my mind if when it comes time to go home, the family is wishing they had time to do more.
Kid-Friendly DC Tours
Kid-friendly DC tours are everywhere. Choose carefully, and reserve before you go. You do not want to be lining up with the kids at the crack of dawn to get tickets. Lines are long. Think lines that put the most popular ride at Walt Disney World to shame.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
We arrived at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing early, hoping we might be able to change our tour time. As luck would have it, our request to tour the White House has been approved, but it conflicted with our tour at the money factory. One look at the line and I knew the answer.
Choices had to been made and when next thing you know the kids were standing next to a million dollars, beautifully stacked behind some thick glass in the lobby of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. (I didn’t give up on the White House though.)
The tour entrance is located around the corner from the long ticket line. Don’t be surprised if the doors are closed. You’re not getting in until employees know you’ve got a reservation or a same day ticket. To get a ticket you have to stand in line. To get a reservation contact your local United States Senator or Representative. Regardless of how you get your foot in the door, the tour is free.
Be ready to go through security. The BEP doesn’t have strict rules in regards to things like water bottles and food, but you will go through a metal detector before entering the lobby. Strollers are allowed in the lobby, but not on the tour. Same thing with cameras. You can take pictures in the lobby area, but have to put them away once you are in motion.
The tour begins with a short opening video. It gives good background information and is short enough to hold kids interest. (There are also large, family-friendly bathrooms to use before you start making your way toward the production floor). The BEP tour is fun and upbeat. You’ll learn great tidbits like some bills removed from circulation by the Federal Reserve System wind up as recycled stationary!
The entire tour takes place on an enclosed, elevated walkway that runs through the production floor. The minute you lay eyes on the production floor it’s pretty clear folks here like their job and have a good sense of humor.
A worker named Hollis was all waves as my girls and I peered down at him examining currency paper. Behind him, on the wall is a sign, “Imagine how I feel, I just printed my lifetime salary in a few minutes.” Another reads, “Free samples tomorrow only.”
During our visit the BEP was printing 100 dollar bills. Bills are printed in large sheets and checked before being cut to the size we know and love. A worker inspecting a fresh stack, picked up a sheet of 100′s and held it up to the glass for us to see. The stacks of finished $100 bills next to her were almost as tall as she was.
I don’t think it matters how old you are, stacks and stacks of hundreds of dollars is a fascinating sight.
The tour is fast, 30 to 40 minutes and ends in the gift shop. Be sure to find the height chart that tells you how much you’re worth in money. Kids will love the shredded money knick knacks for sale. There’s also a useful information desk in the gift shop. It’s not staffed, but I picked up some helpful handouts. Everything from great places to eat, best places for kids and a kids’ crossword puzzle all about money.
Library of Congress
I went back and forth on this one, before I finally decided to go for it and request a tour of the Library of Congress. My kids are big readers, but the tour screamed of a potential for bored, unhappy kids. Just like the BEP, my Representative’s office reserved the tour for my family. That said, the Thomas Jefferson Building Tour seemed considerably easier to get into without a reservation than any other tours we took in DC.
I knew the tour was a good choice when the guide happily informed us the Thomas Jefferson’s recipe for vanilla ice cream is still kept (and made for special events) at the Library of Congress.
Why should you go on the this tour? There are so many reasons.
The building is built to impress. During the Clinton administration, Russian President Boris Yeltsin came to visit and reportedly asked, “How did you build this without a czar?”
The Library of Congress collects everything. Books, maps, the rough drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights and even tweets. They apparently have 3-thousand of them, but haven’t quite figured out what to do with them yet.
The ultimate sign of victory came when my soon to be 8th grader couldn’t get close enough to the Gutenberg Bible. “We spent two weeks on this last year. I can’t wait to tell my teacher I saw this,” she said.
The National Archives is home to the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. You can wait in line at the general public entrance on the corner of Constitution Avenue and 9th Street and then wait in line again inside, or you can make a reservation.
We were part of the first group of visitors in the door. Sure, it was nice not having to wait in line for security, but the real reward was standing in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom — in front of the Declaration of Independence — without anyone else around. It took about 10 minutes for the start of the crowd to find their way, but those 10 minutes were incredible.
Did you know there is a hand print on the lower left hand corner of the Declaration of Independence? Once you know it’s there, it’s hard to miss. The docent on duty told us it most likely happened in the 1940′s, before we knew what we know now about handling aging documents.
We spent at least half an hour in the Rotunda, reading, looking and talking to the docent. By the time we left, another long line had formed just outside viewing area. Security limits the number of folks in the room at a time. Another reason to go early.
It’s hard to top the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence, but the Public Vaults are worth a visit. The permanent exhibit is used to display some of the fascinating things that are part of the National Archives. Documents, photographs, maps, drawings, film and audio clips. You can see the patent drawing for the pencil by Orestes Cleveland done in July of 1864, listen to one of FDR’s “fireside chats” or see the Homestead Act form filled out by Charles P. Ingalls. Father of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House book series.
I did tell you I wasn’t giving up on the White House. Being organized is important, but a little luck can go a long way on a trip. Coming soon — what you need to know about visiting the White House with your kids.
Photo Credit: Dana Rebmann
Ciao Bambino recommended kid-friendly hotels in Washington DC
Exploring Washington DC museums with kids
Washington DC family trip planning tips
10 new ways to experience Washington DC with kids
Washington DC with kids, top planning resources
Washington DC attractions, favorite family activities
, North America
, Washington DC
September 20th, 2011
Amie from Ciao Bambino
Stunning views from The Cambrian hotel in Adelboden
I have yet to meet an expat in Switzerland who is familiar with Adelboden at first mention, although I know the resort is popular with Swiss ski fans as it hosts the FIS Ski World Cup in January (2012 dates are January 7-8).
Adelboden is in the Bernese Oberland, a mountainous area packed with natural beauty. I’ve covered Mürren and Grindelwald on the blog; Adelboden is in the valley before the Lauterbrunnen/Mürren/Grindelwald exit as you head down the motorway towards Interlaken.
Adelboden is less iconic than these other attractions and subsequently much quieter from a tourist perspective. The scenery is slightly less “wow” than staring at the north face of the Eiger; that said, it’s stunning and an excellent addition to an itinerary in this area if you have a few additional days to spare.
Kid-friendly hiking galore
Summer Activities in Adelboden
The road ends in Adelboden although the lift system extends to Lenk. The atmosphere is relaxed with zero flash. Everyone here seems to be interested in one thing and one thing only: enjoying the outdoors.
I can’t comment much on winter sports in Adelboden as I have yet to experience them, however, my sense is that skiing is epic as there are 185 acres of skiable terrain between Adelboden and Lenk. We’ll be heading back there this season for sure.
Summer highlights include the usual suspects: hiking, mountain bike riding, and mountain climbing. A few kid-friendly suggested activities include:
Valley leading from Adelboden center to Engstilgenalp
Adelboden to Engstilgenalp
Engstilgenalp falls are the third highest in Switzerland. The walk from town takes 60-90 minutes through a relatively flat, idyllic valley (you can bike through the valley too). There is a cable car that can take you to the top of the falls where there’s a circular wheelchair/stroller-friendly trail in a high mountain meadow.
There are restaurants on the top and bottom of the falls if you decide not to pack a lunch and want a hot meal.
Trottiland is a network of 45 km (28 miles!) of routes for motorless Trotti/scooter bikes. We experienced this activity at Grindelwald — it’s a blast for all ages and requires little exertion as you go down only and use gondolas for the up.
My only caveat is that the routes in Adelboden are shared by cars in the lower elevations so it’s essential that an adult be present for kids under 12.
World Cup Trail
We lost the time to do this, but you can follow the World Cup route on Chuenisbärgli on foot where there is an interactive guide to the race. As we discovered, this trail is not for very young kids as it is 8.5 km, but it would certainly doable with school age and up kids used to hiking.
See Adelboden’s family guide for more ideas, but there is quite a bit of terrain here to explore.
Kandersteg is in the adjacent valley and can reached in 45 minutes from Adelboden via Frutigen.
We are throughly enchanted by this hiker’s paradise. I can’t believe what little attention Kandersteg gets in the standard Swiss guidebooks given the staggering alpine beauty here. A short excursion brings you to eye-popping glacier-covered peaks and an emerald green lake I’m still dreaming about, the UNESCO-protected Oeschinensee.
The kid-friendly bonus here is that you can take the gondola up and choose from an ample supply of amazing hikes — either a short 20-minute walk to the lake or you can continue on and make the day more challenging. Either way, you feel like you’ve hit alpine gold and are miles away from civilization.
We were there on a warm day and the lake was filled with families swimming, paddling, and relaxing on the shore. There’s a hotel by the lake and a number of Swiss Alpine Club huts in this area too (although they appear to be up steep slopes and decidedly not for young kids).
There is also a summer toboggan run at the top of the gondola which is ideal for pre/post hike bribery.
Reception at The Cambrian
The Cambrian Hotel
I found The Cambrian before I found Adelboden (in fact, The Cambrian led me to Adelboden). It’s one of Switzerland’s few rural Design Hotels and when I saw that they catered to families, I had to give it a whirl.
The hotel is deceiving from the outside as the exterior appears traditional. It’s also right in town so at first glance it’s hard to fathom how the views can be so phenomenal.
When you walk into the reception, however, you are transported to fresh, modern, and exceptionally designed hotel. High-quality furnishings, fixtures, and art are at every turn. Massive windows highlight a show-stopping panoramic view of peaks and the Engstilgenalp falls.
Guest rooms are equally impressive. An essential note is that only south-facing rooms have the extraordinary view. You pay for this so if budget is an issue, you may want to opt for a non-view room and know you’ll take plenty of it in from public areas. Spacious Junior Suites, bi-level Family Suites, and connecting Double Rooms all work for families.
Room with a view at The Cambrian
There are plenty of places to hang out inside including indoor/outdoor lounge areas, a bar, and billiards room. Our 8-year-old was addicted to their afternoon tea service from day one as he realized it included “free cake”.
The onsite restaurant is excellent and offers fresh and inventive Swiss cuisine featuring local products. There’s a kid’s menu available. Although the atmosphere is upscale, it’s relaxed with plenty of families, particularly for the early seating.
Service at the restaurant can be a uneven during busy periods like breakfast, but overall, it’s friendly and everyone at the hotel is eager to please.
The spa area is another design highlight. An appealing indoor pool welcomes kids until 5p. There’s an outdoor whirlpool-style “hot” pool that looks straight at the mountains. It’s small but glorious. There’s not much room for lounging outdoors during summer months (and no room for kids to run around), but it’s well worth an all-family stop at the end of the day.
A full spa treatment menu is available for parents that need pampering. Read the complete family-friendly review of The Cambrian Adelboden and check availability (note, our requests go directly to the hotel for best available rates and specials.
Ciao Bambino recommended Switzerland family hotels
Top Swiss attraction, visiting Trümmelbach Falls
Kid-friendly hiking in Mürren, Switzerland
Lake Geneva, Switzerland boat tours
Switzerland tourist attraction resources
Things to do in Grindelwald with kids
September 19th, 2011
Margaret from Enrout
This is a guest post from Margaret Wong, a mom of a one-year-old and co-founder of Enrout, a revolutionary alternative lodging search engine where you can discover charming family-friendly vacation rentals, hotels, and bed and breakfasts off-the-beaten-path.
Eating through San Francisco with my baby son has been one of the biggest joys of parenthood for me because there are so many restaurants to explore that offer delicious food that appeals to both baby and mommy taste buds.
When Amie asked me to share my picks for five family-friendly restaurants in San Francisco, it was really tough to pick my favorites out of so many amazing eateries in the city. Nevertheless, here are the five restaurants that I consider the best places to take your kids to eat in the city:
American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in SOMA
My son loves the grilled cheesy goodness, and the kid-sized stools in the side of the restaurant. The staff is incredibly friendly and accommodating, and there is plenty of outdoor seating that makes for a pleasant atmosphere in the sunny side of San Francisco.
The only caveat is that they have only one high chair and there is no changing table in the bathroom.
Park Chow in Inner Sunset
Sunset moms in the neighborhood love bringing their kids here for weekend brunch. This eatery is very kid-friendly with lots of high chairs, and serves food made of only the finest local organic ingredients.
If you look around during your meal, I guarantee you that half of the tables in the restaurant will be families with young children.
Shanghai Dumpling King in Outer Richmond
Shanghai Dumpling King is a family favorite, and our go-to restaurant for Friday night dinners. They are known for their “Xiao Long Bao,” or Shanghai Soup Dumplings, which everyone in my family loves … especially my son!
A lesser known but equally amazing dish it the powder sugared cream puffs that you can order for dessert. Those puffs are so fluffy and light, it almost reminds me of the best beignet I ever had in my life in New Orleans. Like most Chinese restaurants, Shanghai Dumpling King is ideal for kids because there are plenty of high chairs, and the staff doesn’t even blink an eye if the little one is just a tad messy when he eats.
Il Cane Rosso in the Ferry Building
The Ferry Building is perfect for kids because there are lots of interesting things going on and plenty of space to run around. And the best place to eat in the Ferry Building is Il Cane Russo … why, it’s where I had the best warm egg salad sandwich in my life!
My son loves the beef brisket sandwich there. You can order your food to go and sit on a bench overlooking the bay, or you can opt for outdoor seating.
There is an amazing farmers market at the Ferry Building on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, so you and your kids can wander around and taste samples of the freshest local produce in the city!
Cafe Zazie in Cole Valley
I love this Cole Valley establishment because it’s so homey, not too pricey, and I’ve had some of my best meals in San Francisco here. The restaurant is small, but my son and I often see other young children or infants here.
I recommend getting the pancake sampler, poached eggs, or French toast. Get there early though, because this place gets packed quickly!
Photo Credit: Cafe Zazie
If you have any questions or would like more ideas on traveling with your family, please contact me at email@example.com. I would love to hear from you!
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September 15th, 2011
One of the toughest parts about traveling in Washington DC with kids is that there’s so much to see and do. Even when you narrow down the “must see” there’s still a great deal of physical ground to cover. Getting to and from so many monuments and memorials takes time and can wear on travelers young and old. So when I discovered Bike and Roll, I ran, or should I say rolled, with it.
Bike and Roll runs a number of tours in the Washington, DC area. I booked my family on their Monuments@Nite Bike Tour the first night we were in town.
Biking through Paris was a huge hit with my family, and along with having a blast, it really helped give us a good sense of direction in Paris. I hoped for the same in DC and I was not disappointed.
Monuments@Nite Bike Tour
After checking to make sure everyone was comfortable on their bikes and donning oh so attractive reflective vests, we were off. A great deal of biking is done on walkways, so know in advance there will be some do-able people dodging, but we didn’t get going until about 7pm so the monuments are less crowded and the temperatures are cooler.
National WWII Memorial
Our first stop was the National World War II Memorial. It honors the 16 million who served in the U.S. armed forces and the more than 400,000 who died. Our guide, Jas, gave just enough background information, then set us loose to explore.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors the men and women who served in the controversial war. Visitors leave thousands of items at the Memorial every year. All items are collected and kept by the Smithsonian and are anything but typical. A former Army chaplain left his Medal of Honor, and a group of motorcycle enthusiasts from Wisconsin left a custom-built Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
The Einstein Memorial
We never would have visited The Einstein Memorial on our own and it turned out to be the kids’ favorite. Go stand in the middle of the Memorial facing Albert Einstein and say something. A fun echo will bring smiles to kids and adults alike.
Don’t be surprised if you see more than one person climb up Einstein’s body to rub his nose. I haven’t been able to track down how it started, but rubbing his nose is supposed to bring knowledge and luck. Either way, the kids will have fun on the upward expedition.
It was just starting to get dark when we made it to the Lincoln Memorial. The massive marble statue is impressive any time of day, but has a certain wow factor at dusk.
The statue of the 16th U.S. President stands 19 feet high and weighs 175 tons. Rather than just take the stairs back down to her bike, my 10 year-old got creative.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
It was a treat to see this presidential memorial at night. Lit up, the Jefferson Memorial dominates the southern end of the National Mall. From its steps there’s a great view of the White House, across the water a mile to the north and the can’t be missed Washington Monument.
More than half a dozen monuments and memorials in just three hours. That includes a snack break. Fun family travel doesn’t get anymore streamlined than that.
For more Photo Friday posts, head over to Delicious Baby.
Photo Credit: Dana Rebmann
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September 15th, 2011
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa
The Maldives is the exotic paradise I’ve always imagined with palm trees, white sand beaches, and water the color of a Tiffany box.
What is often perceived as an ideal honeymoon destination or couple escape proved to be one of our most memorable family holidays to date. I mean, why wouldn’t you take your kids to paradise?
Our time in the Maldives was divided between two resorts: Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa and Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru.
Four Seasons greeting
Four Seasons Resort at Kuda Huraa
They had me at hello. We were greeted at Kuda Huraa, the first resort we visited, by a warm and friendly staff offering us cool, tropical drinks. As soon as we checked in, a kids’ club staff member came over and welcomed the girls to the resort and presented them each with a beach bag with games, a t-shirt and the thing that would ingratiate my children to them for life – a stuffed animal.
We were taken to our room on one of the golf carts that zip around the island and which would prove to be a source of much amusement during our stay at both Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru.
When we opened the door to our room, my 9-year-old daughter inquired, “How many stars does this place have? 5? Or maybe 6?!”
How many indeed … the disappointment I felt when I learned that we couldn’t stay in the water villas (the houses on stilts in the water) with children quickly dissipated when I saw our luxurious accommodations.
Personalized treats for kids are always a hit
While my older daughter was busy soaking up the fabulous surroundings, my 7-year-old was much more impressed with the sweet welcome treat waiting for them, all personalized and smiling. Fortunately, there was still time for them to go to the kids’ club to bounce off some of that sugary goodness.
The spacious beach bungalow at Kuda Huraa came with its own garden and plunge pool that looked out onto a semi-private beach. Inside there was more than enough room for the four of us, even with the additional beds added for the girls.
There was also a spacious walk-in closet, and the thing I look forward to most in a hotel, a magnificent bathroom. It was one of those open plan deals, with nooks and corners instead of doors; in addition to a large shower with a rainfall showerhead, there was a shower outside! It was completely closed in and private (remember, this is a family-friendly resort), so no worries for those of us who are a little modest or might be concerned about our little one seeing a bit more of paradise than we intended.
The Kuda Mas (“little fish” in Dhivehi) Kids Club was a big hit with my daughters. They spent their days at the club looking for stingrays and sharks, going on lizard walks and discovered that several fish from “Finding Nemo”, including “Gill” (Moorish Idol), “Dory” (Powder-blue Surgeonfish) and of course, “Nemo” (Maldivian Clownfish) could be found in the waters around the resort.
Hermit crab hunting
Daily fish feedings on the pier would attract not only fish, but also baby sharks hoping to catch some of the chunks of meat the kids would toss into the water. But lizards, baby sharks, stingrays, even Nemo himself could not compete with the hermit crabs the kids in the club would hunt for then pit against each other in the daily hermit crab races.
The lukewarm waters surrounding the Maldives are teeming with marine life, and consistently have great visibility; this is one of the reasons the Maldives one of the world’s top diving destinations. My husband took advantage of this and did his open water dive while in The Maldives, completing his diving certification.
Although the girls and I didn’t dive, we snorkeled with schools of fish and were able to get close up views of the colorful coral and a variety of fish.
Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giraavaru
Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giraavaru
We left Kuda Huraa, taking a seaplane the short distance to the other Four Seasons Resort, Landaa Giraavaru. The soundtrack for the short ride was a series of gasps and sighs as we enjoyed a birds-eye view of the islands. A cheerful staff again greeted us, offering delicious tropical drinks, this time served in a coconut. Our accommodations were just as amazing – another beach bungalow with a patio and private beach – keeping us in the lavish style we’d become accustomed to at Kuda Huraa.
The girls quickly made their way to the kids club, making new friends who they hoped enjoyed hermit crab hunting and racing. But our time at Landaa Giraavaru was also spent at The Marine Discovery Center (MDC) whose goal is to educate visitors about the local marine ecosystem and the efforts to conserve it through interactive exhibitions, lectures and environmental projects.
One of the projects is the preservation of the green turtles. These threatened creatures return to the beaches of Landaa Giraavaru every 2-3 years to nest. It was at the Marine Discovery Center that we met Sasha, the baby turtle who’d been recently rescued by a member of the hotel staff and April, the giant turtle had lost a fin and was at MDC for rehabilitation.
Rubin family coral frame for Reefscapers
Another project is the reef propagation effort, Reefscapers. Reefscapers is one of the most successful coral propagation projects in the world and we had the opportunity to participate in the project by building a coral frame during our stay at Landaa. This was a great opportunity to “walk the talk” and a fun and educational way to practice what we preach about the importance of taking care of the environment.
Building the frame involved attaching pieces of coral fragments onto a specially designed frame, with the hopes of boosting existing reef habitats and encouraging the growth of new ones.
After we finished building the coral frame, it was time to plant it. We carried it over to the jetty and gently tossed it into the shallow water where it stayed for a couple of days until biologists took it to deeper water.
A few weeks after our return from the Maldives, we got word that April the giant turtle had been released back into the ocean. Remembering what she’d learned about turtles returning to Landaa Giraavaru every so often to nest, my 9 year-old suggested that we should return in a couple of years with the hopes of being reunited with our friend April. I am so there.
Editorial Note: We were invited by Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru to participate in the Reefscapers project. Photo Credit: Four Seasons for hotel photos. Monique Rubin for family and Reefscaper photos
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September 13th, 2011
Mara from Mother of All Trips
This is a guest post from Mara Gorman, the mom behind the award-winning family travel blog MotherofAllTrips.com. Mara is also a featured expert on BestFamilyTravelAdvice.com.
Williamsburg, Virginia is a cultural gem, a place of living history, a lovely colonial smorgasbord. As such, it rightly bills itself as a place to step back in time. That’s a great idea of course, and the costumed interpreters there do a wonderful job of engaging their visitors and explaining the significance of the place. But what if you child isn’t inherently interested in colonial American history?
Never fear – there are lots of ways you can make sure that a trip to Colonial Williamsburg is fun for everyone in the family, history buffs or not. Here are a few tips:
Planting seeds in the Colonial Garden
Let them dress up
What better way to get into the spirit of things than to put on the clothes? You can rent a costume for your child at the Visitor Center. Children in costumers are invited to participate in some of the interpretive fun of the city including picking up a letter at the post office and delivering it to its rightful recipient, planting seeds in the colonial garden, and mustering near the guard house with a brusque and burly sergeant who will have your boy children presenting and firing their wooden rifles like crack revolutionary soldiers by the time all is said and done.
If your child doesn’t want to wear a full costume, you might instead just purchase a hat or a toy rifle or colonial doll to help encourage the colonial mood. All of these are available in the open air Market right in the middle of Colonial Williamsburg.
Exploring tools of the trade
Help them learn a trade
There are numerous opportunities for kids to interact with tradespeople engaged in actually making things “the old-fashioned way.” The blacksmith hammers out nails right, the cobbler sews together shoes, the printer is hard at work producing playbills and newspapers. In many shops kids can either help or at least interact with some of the materials.
At the wigmaker, children are invited to touch the various kinds of hair used and to explore the blockheads and other tools of the trade. The cabinetmaker shows off chair legs in various stages of completion to demonstrate how the carving process works. And at the brickmaker (which was my kids’ favorite) children can not only help to mold and dry bricks – they can walk around in a huge pit of mud.
Be warned – they wash off the old-fashioned way as well – in a large barrel of dirty water.
Writing with a quill pen in the post office
Take a walk
There are two approaches you can take to strolling around Colonial Williamsburg. You might just grab a map from the Visitor Center and start walking around Duke of Gloucester Street where for several hours each day costumed interpreters take over the center of town (which during this time is called the “Revolutionary City”). Hear the townspeople talking as if they have just received the news from Lexington and Concord or the victory at Yorktown. Benedict Arnold and his troops may occupy the town or you may encounter General Washington reviewing his troops.
All of the programs are short and dramatic. While you’re doing this, let your children decided which shops they want to wander in and out of. You’ll likely find chances to do things like writing with a quill pen in the post office.
If you prefer something a bit more organized, you might try one a guided walking tour. Most of these are recommended for adults, but there are children’s orientation walks each morning. Another option is to stay into the evening and go on a Tavern Ghost Walk – just spooky enough for kids of all ages.
Note that the times for Revolutionary City and the walking tours change regularly – be sure to check the Colonial Williamsburg website to find the most up-to-date information.
Wythe Candy and Gourmet
Stop for a treat
A five-minute walk from the museums and other sites you’ll find the modern day Merchant’s Square, which houses numerous restaurants and shops including Wythe Candy and Gourmet. With homemade chocolates, fudge, candied apples, and just about every kind of sweet your kids can dream up (including the biggest jawbreakers I’ve ever seen) a visit here is a fun diversion and might also give your child a sugar boost that will carry him or her through a colonial afternoon.
Mara Gorman lives in Delaware and loves to travel up and down the East Coast and beyond. She shares her adventures at her blog The Mother of All Tips. Her trip to Colonial Williamsburg was generously sponsored by Acura, who also loaned her family an MDX to get there. For more information about family travel to Williamsburg see her tips for visiting Colonial Williamsburg with kids.
Photo Credit: Mara Gorman
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September 12th, 2011
Amie from Ciao Bambino
This is a guest post from Carole Yu, one of our Italy giveaway winners. Carole offered to share a bit about her trip, as her story touched us all.
Thanks for sharing tidbits from your travels with us Carole. Reading your story makes me want to get back to Tuscany!
In March 2010, I was estatic to find out that our family jointly won the Ciao Bambino Family Vacation Photo Contest. The grand prize was a week-long stay at Casa Cornacchi, an upscale, gorgeous country house in Central Tuscany located 1.5 hours from Florence and 30 minutes away from Siena.
Our Italy: Home Away From Home
Our family previously had both lived and traveled to Italy numerous times. We were first there in 2000, when my oldest daughter attended first grade at the public Scuola Elementare.
We came back in 2002, and 2004. By that time, my husband had been diagnosed with a rare form of non-smoker’s lung cancer, and so our last trip as a family to Italy was in 2006, when he was asked to be the keynote speaker at an architectural conference in Cosenza, in Southern Italy. George passed away in July 2007.
So last year, when we found out we had won the Ciao Bambino contest, my daughters and I had very mixed feelings of excitement and nervousness. We love Italy so much, but we knew when we went back it would be an emotional trip, as our memories of George are so strongly tied to our lives there with him.
But, I knew that enough time had passed that the trip would be one that would help us travel further along the grief path. We took a twenty-one day trip spending two days traveling back and forth to Italy, five days in Rome, two in Milan, five in Venice, ending with our stay in Tuscany at Casa Cornacchi.
After traveling and moving around Italy for two weeks, we were happy to finally land at Casa Cornacchi.
The view from the top of the hill where the resort sits extends out to rolling green hills of olive trees overlooking other former palazzos, and guard houses situated along a former trade path to Siena and Florence. Giacomo, the property manager, gave us the entire Casa and area history, and was very helpful in regards to suggestions for day trips. At the bottom of the residential property is the pool and jacuzzi.
Our beautiful “Appartamento Niccolo” was located in the main building. We had a bi-level apartment with kitchen that would have been a perfect party space as the large table seats eight people. The furnishings in the apartment are rustic and comfortable, the living room contains an old church pew, and a lithograph of the local wild boar that we were told to watch out for. The two bathroom facilities are modern, clean and equipped with rain showers.
Day Trips in Tuscany from Casa Cornacchi
With seven days at our home-base in Tuscany, we had plenty of time to explore the numerous small villages within an easy drive of the villa. Highlights on our trip included:
Siena and Monteriggioni
Only twenty minutes to the west from Casa Cornacchi is the beautiful piazza in Siena where the bi-annual Palio takes place, a bareback horse race where the seventeen “sections ” of the town compete for top rider. We climbed the Torre del Mangia and saw the decapitated head of Saint Catherine, whose body is in another church in Rome.
We drove to Monteriggioni for dinner. It is a small walled city with only thirty occupants. It takes only about two minutes to traverse the town from wall-to-wall.
Halfway between the Casa and Florence lies Montevarchi, a town with the only modern architecture that was evident in our three weeks’ travel. It is the home of the Prada Outlet “SPACE.”
Bonci Chocolate Factory
We drove the ninety minutes to Florence through Montevarchi, where we stopped at the Bonci chocolate factory with hopes of seeing artisan chocolatiers in action. The free samples made up for the fact that the factory was in an Easter rush, and couldn’t accommodate visitors.
San Gimignano and Rapolano Terme
San Gimignano dates back to the 11th century and was one of the oldest towns we visited. On the way back after a lunch in Piazza Cisterna, we stopped at Rapolano Terme, a modern hot springs spa. There are three hot springs and the warm heat paired with watching the local Italians enjoying themselves was in itself worth the reek of sulphur.
The site of Orvieto is one of the dramatic in Europe. It rises above almost-vertical faces of cliffs that are finished defensive walls built of the same stone. There are areas of artisans that can be found wandering the streets, along with the Well of St. Patrick described earlier.
Climbing Towers in Italy
Kids love climbing. We hadn’t planned on ascending every tower possible in every town or village that we visited, but we did.
Duomo in Florence (463 steps): This climb includes views of the river, and the city, and and a close up look at the impressive painting in the dome of The Last Judgement.
Tower at Chiesa San Giorgio de Maggiore in Venice: This climb provides beautiful views of the islands of Venice and the Doges Palace and Piazza San Marco
Torre del Mangia in Siena (500+ steps): This winding staircase was the most narrow pathway, perhaps about two feet wide.
I thought the view from the top of this tower was the most spectacular of all the climbs, overlooking the beautiful curved streets and rooftops. The girls got a kick out of the fact that the bell rang, and made all of us jump, while we were at the top platform.
Torre Grossa in San Gimignano – This view down on the city shows a town much older than any of the others. (10th century) It is small and organized in straight rows. At one time, there existed seventy-two towers.
Duomo in Milan - This climb to the first roof provides a close-up view of the amazing gothic architecture, 135 spires, and 3400 statues. Then, you climb up a very steep and narrow path to the very top gable of the pitched roof. On the last staircase to the top, you can view down to the pigeon filled piazza and see people the size of ants, enjoying the sun, and watch the matchbox cable cars run through the square.
Pozzo di San Patrizio in Orvieto – Although not a climb up, but down, this was one of the most interesting places in Italy. A well that was constructed in 1527 goes down 53 meters and is 13 meters wide, with 248 steps large enough to accommodate donkeys who were used to carry water to the surface.
A few of our most memorable meals in the area around Casa Cornacchi …
Alla Corte di Bacco: This restaurant in Ambra serves wonderful homemade garganelli with artichokes and zucchini, and pici pasta with duck breast sauce.
Osteria al Prato: This restaurant in Castelnuovo Berardgna serves a wonderful chef with Naples-style grilled meats and battered fried vegetables, polenta with wild funghi sauce, and vegetable souffle
Carole Yu owns BAOStyle, an accessories company that uses vintage kimono in our one-of-a-kind designs; purses, home décor, and custom clothing. Her daughters, ages 10 and 16, love exploring the globe, and they travel together as as a family as much as school allows.
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