Archive for September 2012
September 27th, 2012
Seeing the sights in San Francisco is an family adventure waiting to happen. Cable cars climb steep hills so you don’t have to. Segways glide through Golden Gate Park, bikes roll along the waterfront, and now classic VW Beetle convertibles will have you turning heads during a family visit to San Francisco with kids.
Seeing Coit Tower in style
The Bugster Experience
I love finding new ways to explore San Francisco. I’ve called the Bay Area home for almost twenty years and every visit to San Francisco I still find or learn something new.
Touring San Francisco takes on a whole new level of fun when you’re in a fully restored VW Bug convertible. It’s called The Bugster Experience and it doesn’t matter whether you’re 6 or 60, seeing a shiny VW Beetle brings a smile to you face. Driving one leaves you grinning for hours, maybe even days. Sitting in the back of one is something that teens text their friends to brag about.
And be ready to feel like a movie star. Comments commonly overheard from walkers at traffic lights include “sweet car,” “great car” and “cool!”
How long you cruise the streets of San Francisco is up to you, but two to three hours is a good stretch for most families. My 13 and 11-year-old fit pretty comfortably in the backseat.
Hair blowing in the wind
These VW Bug Convertibles are over 50 years old and stunningly restored; they still look like beauty queens. The hardest thing to get used to was the seatbelts that buckle only across your lap. When’s the last time you’ve been in a car without shoulder belts? I don’t think my girls ever had. The feeling of freedom is a funny thing to get used to.
Forgot your sunglasses? There are extras in the Bugster just in case.
On that note, you’ll also have to get used to a clutch again. Driving a Bugster requires knowing how to drive a stick shift. If it’s been a while, have no worries, ten minutes into your drive and it’ll be old habit again.
If you’re worried about those San Francisco Hills, know that probably 90 percent of where you’ll want to go isn’t anywhere near all those hills you’ve seen on television. Bugster owner, Stan Hatfield’s happy to steer worried drivers in the flattest direction possible. He’ll also pick you up and take you back to your hotel.
Each Bugster is equipped with a GPS loaded with popular San Francisco sightseeing destinations. Just touch a button and go. If you have somewhere special you want to go, enter the address and you’ll be on your way.
Bottom of San Francisco’s Lombard Street
It’s a labor of love for Hatfield. “I drive them everyday,” says Hatfield. “They’re just a kick to drive. People come back.. and they’re just over the top.”
Each Bugster also has a remote controlled video camera mounted to the windshield to record your tour of San Francisco. At the end of your time behind the wheel, you’ll get a SD card with all of your driving exploits to share back home with family and friends. Get the popcorn ready!
You can check out a snippet of my family’s adventure below.
Dana and her family received a complimentary Bugster Experience, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own. Photos by Dana Rebmann.
Ciao Bambino recommended San Francisco family hotels
Visiting Golden Gate Park in San Francisco with kids
Review of CA Academy of Sciences with kids
Things to do in San Francisco with kids
Tips for checking out San Francisco’s tourist spots
Zeum San Francisco, a museum your kids will love
Things to do in the Presidio with children
Visiting Angel Island with kids
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September 24th, 2012
Kristi from Ciao Bambino
The St. Regis Monarch Beach, located in Southern California between Los Angeles and San Diego, sits on a rolling hill overlooking the resort’s winding golf course and the Pacific Ocean. The hotel is wonderfully designed to keep all eyes focused on this magnificent ocean view. If you’re looking for a California family vacation, the St. Regis Monarch Beach offers an activity for every age. And for those that want to explore, there are a plethora of things to do with kids in Laguna Beach, just a short drive from the hotel.
Poseidon watches over the fountain
The Mediterranean Meets Orange County
The ambience at the resort is Mediterranean elegant with statues, fountains and cascading staircases dotting the grounds. Ask your kids if they can name the famous Greek god who stands guard at the main fountain. There is an endless amount of green space, which may be one reason why there are so many families with toddlers and babies at this resort.
Modern Guest Rooms with St. Regis Butler Service
While the grounds feel Mediterranean, the rooms are modern with brown and gold tones. We stayed in one of seventy-five suites at the hotel which come with St. Regis Butler Service. St. Regis butlers provide a variety of services like packing, unpacking, and garment pressing; however, the amenity my kids like best is the morning beverage service with hot chocolate and mini-marshmallows.
Suites have a master bedroom and living area with a pullout sofa plus enough space to set up a rollaway bed. There’s also a second full kids’ bathroom so parents don’t need to share theirs.
Modern rooms with private balconies
Date Night at Sandcastle Kids’ Club
The resort has a year round daily kids’ club for ages 5-12 from 9a through 5p and a Friday date night from 6 through 10p. While the kids’ club room is not large, the counselors make it a point to take the kids out to play or to the pool with your permission. My kids played soccer during date night and then settled in with a movie although my son noted that they had a good video game selection too. Each child leaves with a backpack filled with vacation goodies.
Pools for All Sizes with Ocean Views
The Lagoon Pool area has a four feet deep family pool and a smaller kiddie pool that is one-and-a-half feet deep. The Main Pool welcomes supervised kids and is surrounded by statues and fountains. It has a quieter ambiance and just looking at this pool relieves tension.
Quiet pool exudes a feeling of relaxation
Service and Sunsets at Monarch Bay Private Beach Club
Sometimes on vacation there is one standout highlight that makes your trip. For us, it was the time we spent at the Monarch Bay Private Beach Club. St. Regis Monarch Beach guests can visit this club during their stay and enjoy private lifeguards on duty daily, clean bathrooms, and a tranquil beach.
Dinner at the Monarch Bay private beach club
Guests access the beach club via a skinny European-looking tram that leaves from the hotel and winds its way through the golf course to the beach club; total transit time is five to seven minutes.
Guests arrive at the club and either head down to the beach where the beach butlers set up chairs, towels and umbrellas or to the restaurant for lunch or dinner. I live here and have never had a more gorgeous dinner watching the sunset with the birds flying around. Best of all for parents, there’s a grassy area and the beach for kids to run around while waiting for the food to be served. Service is outstanding.
A good ride during boogie board lessons
Through the hotel’s Orange County Wave Rider program guests can reserve paddle boards, surf boards, boogie boarding or kayak equipment and take lessons and tours.
We chose to do a boogie boarding lesson. The surf butler was in contact with us several times during the weekend regarding wave conditions; safety is a priority and if there are large swells the lesson will be rescheduled. Our instructor, Keoni, focused first on safety and the local wave breaks and rip currents with the kids before taking them out and showing them proper boogie boarding form. At 6 years old, my daughter had a tougher time than my older son, but both kids loved this. After an hour lesson, we retired to the beach to catch sand crabs — a favorite beach activity for local kids.
Room rates for a family of four at St. Regis Monarch Beach begin at $355.
Catch some waves and highlights from our weekend video.
Kristi and her family were hosted by the St. Regis Monarch Beach as part of the Starwood Hotels Love Your Family promotion. At the St. Regis Monarch Beach this promotion includes adjoining rooms (based on availability) and a daily resort credit of $100. Guests can also take part in the SPG Kids Pass which is $25 a day and allows kids to eat and drink from the kids menu at Motif Restaurant, dine-in only. Photos by Kristi Marcelle.
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Kid-friendly museums in Los Angeles
, Los Angeles Area
, Luxury Family Travel
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September 19th, 2012
Amie from Ciao Bambino
One of the best parts about living in Switzerland was our easy access to the best skiing in Europe. And yes, I do think it’s worth the time and expense to travel across an ocean for a family ski holiday. Ski experiences vary greatly from country to country and just like any travel adventure, the fun is in understanding and appreciating a different approach to this beloved winter sport.
Dreaming about a ski trip to Europe this season? It’s not too late! Here’s what you need to know:
Wide open ski terrain with views to die for in Zermatt
Scour the web for the best fares that get to into the main European hubs. Compare flights on Flights24.com. In addition to standard searching via destination and dates, Flights24.com has a nifty page linking directly to destinations that displays the “best price” options for different routes.
Note, Geneva and Zurich are both excellent hubs for skiing in Europe. You don’t have to ski in Switzerland to make use of these cities from a flight perspective. Swiss Rail is amazing and can get you easily to Austria, Germany, France, and Italy, or you can take a smaller connecting flight for the final leg of the trip. Europe has many low-cost carriers. The trick is to find the best fare for long leg and then using local resources at competitive rates.
Dramatic mountain scenery paired with epic Italian food and wine in the Dolomites
Pick A Country
All the main ski resorts in Europe have programs of some kind for children. Some are better than others and this is where the research comes into play. To avoid being overwhelmed by all the options, choose the country you want to experience and then worry about where to ski.
Given the logistics involved in skiing, focus is essential. If you only have one week, choose one country. If you have two weeks, you can add a second country and so on.
Surreal alpine vistas in St. Moritz
Find the Right Ski Package … Or Not
Package holidays are popular for skiing for good reason as a ski trip can be logistically challenging. Moreover, packages can be a good value once you add in transportation, lodging, dining, lessons, and lift tickets.
My issue with packages is that many are not tailored for families, particularly those with young children who are too young to ski or need a childcare/ski lesson combination. There are a few UK-based operators that offer family specific programming including Scott Dunn and Mark Warner. Although I haven’t had personal experience with these agencies, they have an excellent reputation.
We selected Ski Famille for our trip to the French Alps over Christmas two years ago and had a tremendous experience. They offer upscale catered ski chalets outfitted just for families with full childcare and meals included. Talk about stress free skiing with kids! I highly recommend Ski Famille. Read my review of Ski Famille’s family ski holidays for full details.
The kid-friendly terrain and activities in Davos is an all-age crowd pleaser. Our post skiing bliss was prolonged at least two hours as we could sip a beer while our 9-year-old went down this half pipe. Again and again …
Book the Best Family Ski Resort
Packages offer a fixed number of options to specific ski resorts and this may drive where you decide to ski. Otherwise, if you are booking an independent holiday you still have to decide where to go. Or, someone in the family may have a ski dream to an iconic ski destination like Zermatt or Chamonix in mind.
Note, there are many small and medium sized resorts in Europe that you may not have heard of but are still fantastic with and without children. Don’t judge quality based on name recognition.
That said, the really large areas have brand names you are likely to recognize. These resorts offer extensive services. The tradeoff is that they can be intimidating to navigate given language barriers and the sheer size of the mountain terrain. It’s not uncommon to have a single ski resort where you drive (or shuttle) between “mountains” — Davos and Chamonix are both like this.
For me, the size doesn’t make these resorts any less kid-friendly, it just takes more time and effort to get around; this is why if we opt for a larger resort, we usually choose to stay in a full-service hotel with the staff and services that make getting around a breeze. For this reason, we recommend an array of amazing kid-friendly ski hotels and resorts on Ciao Bambino that work perfectly for independent travel outside of a ski package. Top big name destinations where we recommend family-friendly accommodations include Zermatt, Chamonix, Mürren, Davos, Alta Badia (Dolomites), and Val Thorens (France).
Excellent ski instruction in English courtesy of Altitude Ski School in Verbier
Ski lessons run very differently in Europe than they do in the US. Some resorts offer only week-long options and no standalone weekend lessons. It’s critical to ensure you understand the ski lesson set up in your target area before booking your trip!
It’s also common for a single resort area to offer a long list of lesson providers. Some may be the “official” country ski school and others may be privately owned. We’ve tried both with success. In Verbier we loved our season-long experience with Altitude Ski School and in Zermatt we had a terrific weekend experience with Summit Ski School.
The main thing to think about is the infrastructure you need for the age and ability of your kids. For example, larger resorts like Davos have very developed family-focused features including dedicated play zones for young kids. Resorts that specifically cater to families like Crans-Montana, differentiate runs based on age and ability; Crans-Montana also has an incredible standalone beginner zone away from all those scary fast skiers.
Skiing is truly a family activity in Europe and the choices are endless. It takes some work to narrow down what you want, but it’s well worth it in the end!
Editorial Note: Flights24.com paid us to include their link in this post. That said, I haven’t used it to book airfare yet, but it looks like a great resource. All photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy.
Skiing in Davos with kids
Skiing in Zermatt with kids
Skiing in Verbier with kids
Skiing in Grindelwald with kids
Skiing in Crans-Montana with kids
Kids’ ski school best practices
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September 18th, 2012
Kristi from Ciao Bambino
La Jolla is located twelve miles north of downtown San Diego and is a California postcard-perfect town with cascading bluffs, beaches, and boutiques. This is a trendy, upscale neighborhood but the vibe here is casual with a few classic surfer-dudes. If you’re traveling to San Diego with kids and want a family-friendly beach scene bustling with activity, La Jolla makes a great home base. Our top hotel pick in this area for families is La Jolla Shores Hotel. Here’s why:
Gorgeous sunsets are included in the room price
The hotel is located in La Jolla Shores, less than a ten minute drive from downtown La Jolla, and popular with locals and tourists year round. It’s easily accessible off the freeway and every type of water and beach activity imaginable is going on here – scuba diving, kayaking, nighttime bonfires, beach barbecues and best of all, just plain relaxing. There is also a large playground and public park next door. You decide how much or how little you want to do but it’s an area that works well with toddlers as well as teens.
Parking is very challenging all over La Jolla, particularly on weekends; if you don’t need a car leave it at the hotel. La Jolla Shores has a compact downtown three blocks from the hotel with several streets of surf and beach shops, restaurants and my kids’ favorite, a frozen yogurt shop.
Variety of Room Options for Families
The hotel offers several types of rooms with views and kitchenettes. The coastal view rooms are remodeled; renovations are ongoing in the garden view rooms. We stayed in a Beachfront Deluxe room with a patio large enough for kids to play on — a dream for toddlers and little kids.
Beachfront deluxe room with a huge patio
While there isn’t a “bad room” at La Jolla Shores given that the beach is so close, the location of your room can be important depending on you plan on putting the kids to bed. Our first floor room (one flight above the ground level beach boardwalk) was next to the pool and restaurant where parties are hosted. It may be load on event nights although per the hotel’s policy, the pool and party area must shut down at 10p.
One Restaurant, Several Areas to Dine
The Shores restaurant has inside and outside dining and is casual during the day and upscale at night. It has large floor-to-ceiling windows that provide excellent views of the ocean and is particularly beautiful for breakfast. Go figure but our kids loved the fresh juices here with kale and cactus.
Breakfast with a view
If you want something even more casual, try the popular beach barbeque. Tables are set up in the sand and guests can have all the food prepared and served picnic-style on paper plates. Or for only $25, the hotel staff will set up a grill and table and chairs for up to ten people and you provide the food.
Kayak the La Jolla Ecological Reserve | Swim with Leopard Sharks
The La Jolla Ecological Reserve and nearby reefs, which minimize onshore waves, make the area in front of La Jolla Shores Hotel ideal for kayaking and snorkeling. Since there is no fishing in the reserve the area is teaming with marine life and sea birds. Kayaking to the nearby sea caves is a hugely popular activity on the weekends.
We chose to go on a sea cave kayaking tour with OEX La Jolla. These ninety-minute tours work well with small children because they are short and end just before the whining might begin.
Our guide pointed out landmarks like Dr. Seuss’ house and helped us search for marine life. We saw bright orange Garibaldi fish darting in and out of the kelp beds, a group of California sea lions lazily sunning themselves, bat rays and other little fish. It’s common to see dolphins and in the summer, leopard sharks hang out here.
We didn’t see them on our tour but afterwards we went swimming in front of the Marine Room restaurant at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club and saw hundreds. This was clearly exciting for all the kids around as they shrieked “shark!” knowing that these guys have no teeth and are harmless. Bring snorkel gear as it’s an unforgettable experience to see a six or eight foot shark swimming by you.
Harmless leopard sharks cruise around La Jolla Shores during summer
The sea cave itself can feel like rush hour on the weekends as kayakers queue up to enter the small cave and it was not very exciting until a large male sea lion swam past our kayak and jumped up onto the rocks. You never know what you’ll see and that’s what makes this activity so fun.
If you‘ve ever wanted to try tennis this is the place to do it. The hotel has two courts located on the grounds of their sister property next door, The La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, a private tennis club that has been hosting national championships for over 75 years. I’d highly recommend a lesson for kids. Instructors use the USTA Quickstart program for kids ten and under which makes learning tennis easier and more fun. We’re avid tennis players and our kids regularly take tennis lessons; these ranked high on the list as the instructors know how to work with kids and siblings.
Rates for a family of four at La Jolla Shores Hotel start at $199 for a garden view room.
Kristi and her family received complimentary accommodations, some meals and tennis lessons from La Jolla Shores Hotel and complimentary kayak tours from OEX La Jolla but as always, Kristi’s opinions are her own. Photos by Kristi Marcelle and OEX La Jolla.
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Review of Legoland’s water park
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, La Jolla
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, San Diego
September 14th, 2012
Philadelphia’s historic roots run deep. From celebrated landmarks like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, kids aren’t the only ones who’ll learn a thing or two during a family weekend in Philadelphia. I spent a weekend at the Omni Hotel at Independence Park with my kids and I couldn’t have picked a better launching point to explore all of the historic sites.
The Liberty Bell
1. Independence Hall | There’s history on practically every corner of Philadelphia, but you can’t visit Philadelphia and not go to Independence Hall. Free, timed tickets are available to tour the building where the Declaration of Independence was adopted and the United States Constitution was debated, drafted and signed.
2. Liberty Bell Center | Located directly across the street from Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell is the easiest historic landmark to visit. Tickets are not required. You simply clear security to gain access.
3. Betsy Ross House | Visit the home of the woman credited with sewing the first American flag. Betsy often makes appearances in her sewing room. Find out why she convinced General George Washington to make some design changes.
4. National Constitution Center | The National Constitution Center is the only museum dedicated to the history of the United States Constitution. Start your visit with the Freedom Rising theater show. Using multimedia, a live actor tells the compelling story of “We the People.”
5. Franklin Square | Located just one block from the National Constitution Center, Franklin Park is the place to go when the kids need to run. Getting them to leave might be tough though. Along with a couple playgrounds, there’s a carousel and mini golf where you can putt through famous Philadelphia icons like the Liberty Bell and Elfreth’s Alley. The burgers at SquareBurger are tasty too!
6. Reading Terminal Market | While we’re talking about food, the Reading Terminal Market is one of America’s largest and oldest public markets. Opened in the late 1800′s, today you can eat your way through this historic farmers market, sampling Philadelphia favorites like soft pretzels, cheese steaks and so much more.
7. Independence After Hours | Make friends with a colonist. Meet Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and John Adams. Eat dinner at City Tavern, the unofficial meeting place for the First Continental Congress, and sneak into Independence Hall after hours and see where history was made without the crowds.
8. Liberty 360 | Hosted by none other than Ben Franklin, Liberty 360 is a 360-degree, 3-D panoramic movie. See it early in your visit as opposed to later. Liberty 360 gives a great overview of Philadelphia and will help give you and the kids a better understanding and appreciation of the historical sights your visiting.
9. Barnes Foundation Philadelphia | Kids and art museums don’t typically mix, but this is no ordinary museum. When kids arrive they’re challenged with what is essentially a museum-wide scavenger hunt. My kids were engaged from the minute they began, until they finished about an hour later.
10. The Franklin Fountain & Shane Confectionery | The Franklin Fountain is an old-fashion ice cream counter scooping up amazing ice creams, sundaes and phosphates. Shane Confectionery, now owned by the same brothers who created The Franklin Fountain, is America’s oldest candy store, established in 1863.
Dana and her family received complimentary accommodations at the Omni Hotel at Independence Park and a Philadelphia VIP Pass from the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation that allowed complimentary admission to Liberty 360, Independence After Hours, the National Constitution Center, the Barnes Foundation and the Betsy Ross House. But as always, her thoughts and opinions are her own. Photo by Dana Rebmann
Family weekend in Philadelphia at Omni Independence Park
Camp Omni San Francisco Style
A family weekend getaway at Omni Los Angeles
Mother-daughter family fun at Omni Berkshire Place Hotel New York City
Kid’s Fantasy Suite at Omni Mandalay Los Colinas
Ciao Bambino review of Omni Mount Washington Resort
Ciao Bambino review of Omni San Francisco Hotel
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September 12th, 2012
Amie from Ciao Bambino
Most people associate travel to Switzerland with two things: 1) mountains and 2) chocolate. The former is easy to experience as wondrous mountain scenery can be enjoyed in practically every corner of the country. A meaningful Swiss chocolate experience, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated.
Of course, Swiss chocolate is everywhere including at the airport should you not make it a special store while on the road. The point is that experiencing Swiss chocolate in an impactful way entails more than buying a wrapped bar of chocolate. There are two very different options to weave into a trip. One is to visit one of the oldest chocolate factories in Switzerland, Maison Cailler in Broc, and the other is to get your hands dirty in a chocolatier’s workroom in Lausanne.
The fairytale setting of the village of Gruyères
Why is Swiss chocolate so good? Happy cows! The reason for that in the case of Maison Cailler is clear; the factory is located in Broc, part of the Gruyère district (also famous for the well-known fondue cheese), and features endless grass-filled pastures.
Maison Cailler is now part of Nestle; this iconic Swiss company has created a state-of-the-art visitor experience. Disneyland meets chocolate-making. Visitors are whisked into a dynamic tour of the factory with animated storytelling around the history of chocolate-making in Switzerland.
Beware, a chocolate hangover is likely after the free sample room at Maison Cailler
The full one to hour-and-a-half visit is just the right length for young children. In this case the best is last when you can visit the all-you-can-eat tasting room. Beware, a chocolate hangover is likely, although there is a small playground for kids to burn off the sugar overload.
Maison Cailler is open seven days a week except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Check the website for seasonal hours. 10 CHF per adult and children under 16 are free. Maison is a 45-minute drive from Lausanne.
A drink from this faucet of chocolate is mighty tempting!
Durig Chocolatier Lausanne
Durig specializes in certified organic and fair trade chocolate and they make all of their goodies from their shop in Lausanne. The shop organizes an array of chocolate making demonstrations and workshops in English for adults, as well as children.
Chocolate Moulding Workshop
I participated in the Chocolate Moulding Workshop where we created and decorated a figurine. I won’t quit my day job just yet but this hour-and-a-half class is very entertaining. A visit includes a lesson about chocolate production and all the crazy (and delicious) ways to pair chocolate with expected and unexpected treats.
While the factory visit is a more elaborate presentation, the Durig shop is small and the intimate setting gives participants the opportunity to get up close and personal with the chocolatier and his goods.
Workshop pricing starts at 15 CHF and up. Check the website for options and hours. Advance reservations are required.
Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy
Ciao Bambino recommended Switzerland family hotels
Grindelwald ski holidays with kids
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Verbier ski holidays with kids
, Preferred Family
September 10th, 2012
The kids are back in school and hopefully a nice routine is settling in. But less freedom to get up and go, makes me even more determined to put family getaways on the calendar. Folks count the days until Lake Tahoe gets its first blast of winter. Stop counting and start packing for a fall family weekend in Lake Tahoe at Squaw Valley.
Views that make you forget all about snow
Less to Pack
Dreaming of winter is fine, but no snow is no problem, and makes packing a breeze. Hiking boots and swimsuits take up much less room than snow gear. We arrived under the cover of darkness and my 11-year-old reminded me for the umpteenth time how she wished she could go snowboarding. Not the most enthusiastic way to get a family weekend up and running.
Up You Go
The eight minute ride up 2-thousand feet to High Camp on the Aerial Tram is a good way to get a family weekend up and running. At an elevation of 8200’ there’s more than a few options waiting to entertain you for the day.
On a Lake Tahoe roll
Boogie with Your Baby
Roller skating was all the rage when I was a kid, but it never really caught on with my girls. I guess it’s not a huge surprise. The last time I was in a roller rink it was stuffed full of sweaty skaters swaying to the beat of 80’s music and a disco ball. At High Camp, the outdoor rink has music to get you moving, but who needs a disco ball when you’ve got panoramic views of Lake Tahoe to roll with.
Did I mention we had the rink all to ourselves for about an hour? A fantastic perk that comes along with fall weekends. Don’t forget a good pair of socks. You can get skates and helmets at the rink.
If lacing up your hiking boots sounds more your style, make sure you double knot the bows. All the snow you’re used to seeing covers numerous trails for you to roam on when the sun’s shining. If you’re the organized type, it’s worth checking Squaw Valley’s website to see if any free guided hikes are scheduled during your stay.
I don’t know how he did it, but somehow my husband talked both of my girls into paintball at High Camp. Which meant for the sake of teams and family togetherness – at least that was how the full family press went – I also was playing paintball.
Masks on, ready to play paintball
Somehow the thought of shooting at my children just didn’t seem right. The thought of my children shooting at me wasn’t incredibly appealing either. I got over my reservations, quickly. We had the “Speedball” course to ourselves, and at the sound of the whistle, the paint started flying along with screams and laughter. Let’s just say we could all use a little work on our aim.
Children must be 10 or older to play. And be forewarned, even though you’re wearing a full body protective jumpsuit of sorts, getting hit still has a sting to it. Expect a bruise or two.
Cool Off with a View
It’s just steps to Squaw Valley’s Pool and Hot Tub, so there was no question about out next activity. The poolside café has a nice kids menu to grab lunch or an early dinner. Towels are provided with admittance to the pool and hot tub area. There are also lockers, showers and changing rooms so no one’s soggy for the ride back down to base.
We stayed in a two bedroom, 2-bath condo at The Village at Squaw Valley. Having space to stretch is always a plus. But after an action packed day, having a full kitchen was the best perk of all. Some pasta and a movie and the entire was family was happy. Another successful family getaway to add to the books and photo albums, no snowboarding required.
Rooms at The Village at Squaw Valley range from $139 USD to $245 USD per night.
Dana and her family received complimentary accommodations and activities at Squaw Valley, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.
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Ciao Bambino’s family-friendly ski vacation recommendations
, Lake Tahoe
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September 5th, 2012
Holly Rosen Fink
Atlanta, the town I grew up in, has a diverse palette for children and adults of all ages. On a recent trip with my children, we explored everything from museums to parks to historical sites to theme parks. Depending on your interests, you can fill your day with something fun, something educational and something active. Here is a short list of “must see” things to do in Atlanta with kids, all from a born and bred Atlantan’s point-of-view:
The World of Coca-Cola
The King Center
Start with a bit of history at The King Center. After his death, Coretta Scott King worked hard to have this center built to educate the public about King’s work and to continue their work of nonviolence to achieve equality. Your children will learn not only about his life but the civil rights battle in the 1960s and how the fight translates to our present lives today in this amazing multi-media exhibit.
My kids and I read about the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, the Albany Movement, “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, the Poor People’s Campaign, Rosa Parks, Gandi’s influence on his beliefs and more. Nearby you can visit where he and Coretta are buried, see where he grew up and sit in the church that he grew up in. 449 Auburn Avenue, 404/526-8900, free admission for all ages
Anne Frank in the World
Continuing the theme of humanity, another good stop is Anne Frank in the World. The exhibit starts out with photographs of Anne and her family – how they lived a normal life in Munich in the 1920s before the trouble started throughout Europe and how they fled to Amsterdam, where they went into hiding in a secret annex above her father’s business, thanks to his gracious colleagues who tried so selflessly to save their lives. She was a young, precocious girl who plastered her bedroom walls with movie stars, just as I did as a child and my own daughter does now.
She was not that different to my own daughter – curious, wide eyed, intelligent, social, brave, and beautiful. The exhibit features 600 photographs and more than 8,000 words. For children ages 10 and up (my daughter just made the cut). 5920 Roswell Road, 770/206-1558, free admission for all ages
The High Museum of Art
Introduce your kids to the world of art at The High Museum of Art. The High was remodeled in 2005 with a new addition by famed Italian architect Renzo Piano. It’s an amazing structure with permanent and temporary exhibits. They have the Greene Family Learning Center where kids can play in a spacious room divided into the following sections: Building Buildings, Making a Mark, Telling Stories, Sculpting Spaces, and Transforming Treasure.
The museum has an abundance of activity for kids listed on their web site. 1280 Peachtree St., 404/733-4400, $18 adult, $11 child, $15 senior
Pay a visit to the Georgia Aquarium as it’s one of the world’s largest aquariums. With more than 8.5 million U.S. gallons of marine and fresh water fish, the Aquarium houses more than 100,000 animals of 500 species. Your kids will see many amazing creatures – sharks, whales, manta rays, stingrays and so much more.
The highlight of our visit was show called Dolphin Tales. We saw dolphins leaping high in the air through showers spouting from each side of the theater, with others dancing fin-in-hand with their trainers or swimming at lightning speeds around the giant tank, stopping to pose on the edge or wave at the audience and my kids were temporarily spellbound. They also loved touching and feeling many of the fish on display. Thumbs up all around for this amazing attraction. 225 Baker St., 404/581-4000, $26 adult, $19.50 child, $21.50 senior
Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta
Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta is an ideal way for kids to spend the afternoon. It’s a hands-on museum and is one big interactive playground for kids to wander around and explore. This attraction is perfect for toddlers and pre-school aged children. 275 Centennial Olympic Park Dr., 404/659-KIDS , $12.50 per person, kids under age 2 are free
Center for Puppetry Arts
Learn the history of puppetry at the Center for Puppetry Arts or your kids can build your own puppet while you’re there. The museum includes 2,000 objects from all over the world. We saw all types of puppets in this exhibit from wooden to fabric to animatronic (remote control).
We went into a storage room and learned about string puppets, hand & glove puppets, shadow puppets and body puppets. We saw old puppets, as well as more contemporary puppets. The museum also does a terrific job of celebrating Jim Henson’s legacy. I absolutely loved introducing my kids to the Swedish Chef, Dr. Teeth and all my favorite muppets from the series and films. 1404 Spring St., 404/873-3391,$8 adult, $6 child, $7 senior
The World of Coca-Cola
Explore The World of Coca-Cola is located right across from the Georgia Aquarium. It showcases the 100-year history of coca-cola with paraphernalia, documentaries and a 4-D film. The self-guided tour starts with a mock documentary called the “Happiness Factory,” where animated creatures who live inside the Coke machine tell how they feel about Coke.
We especially enjoyed the refreshment room where it’s possible to sample various coca-colas from around the world — even my son, who has never tasted a drop of coke in his life. When we left, we were each given an old-fashioned bottle of coke as a souvenir. 121 Baker St., 404/676-5151, $15 adult, $9 child, $13 senior
Head to Stone Mountain and it just may be a trip highlight. The southern mountain is 1,686 feet and depicts 3 figures of the Confederate States of America: Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis.
My kids adored Sky Hike, one of the nation’s largest adventure courses, where my children put on a harness and hiked across ropes, poles and climbed higher and higher, sending me into shock mode that my kids are so brave. Their view of Atlanta will never be the same again! At Geyser Tower, which are literally multiple levels of suspended rope bridges and net tunnels connecting visitors to towering platforms that overlook a gushing geyser, my kids laughed and got soaked and were exhausted all the way home. 1000 Robert E. Lee Drive, 770/498-5690, $28 per adult adventure pass, $22 per children’s adventure pass for all access
Photos by Holly Rosen Fink. Holly is the editor and founder of TheCultureMom.com. She is also now founder of MamaDrama Consulting and WestchesterIRL and contributes to FamilyVacationCritic.com, CBS New York, Kidzvuz and Travel Savvy Mom. Last year she edited Come Closer: How Tourism is Shaping the Future of Nations. She lives in Larchmont, NY with her husband and two children.
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