This past weekend our family journeyed to Boston for a short surprise mini vacation to see Sesame Street Live. My husband was the lucky winner of the grand prize Sesame Street Live Boston Bound Sweepstakes sponsored by Chrysler Pacifica. We had entered on a whim when we had been searching for something fun to do over vacation that would be good for both of our kids especially our daughter who is obsessed with Sesame Street. No one ever thinks they are going to be the winner, but someone does have to win right? This time it happened to be my husband and lucky for me and the kids he decided to take us along with him!
The event was towards the end of April vacation which this year we had decided to not travel, so it was a great surprise and a nice way to end vacation week. The kids were excited to go and stay in a hotel for two nights while enjoying the pool, an amazing view of Fenway Park (and the Army Navy game), breakfast and more! Mom and Dad were excited to not have to worry about cleaning a house.
Over the course of the weekend I realized just how much we needed this time as a family. Things had been super busy for the past few months and we really had not had a chance to unplug and enjoy some serious quality time together. We do enjoy daily and weekly family things together but to be able to take the time to spend a family focused weekend together with no working was truly a blessing.
Before the show started we made sure to go up and get some refreshments and stop by the bathroom. Having been to the Agganis Arena before for a family member’s graduation I knew the best bathroom to use is the one down at the furthest end with no line. We also stopped by the Chrysler Pacifica activity table and checked out some of the awesome features in the Pacifica including the vacuum and the screen games on the backs of the seats. The games had everything from Tic-Tac-Toe to the license plate game and more! I honestly didn’t know much about the Pacifica before the event and thought this kid friendly feature was a pretty awesome touch and would benefit families especially on road trips.
The show itself was well done and creative and although we weren’t on the floor, I enjoyed our seats up higher better as we could see everything going on. The kids danced and sang along. My personal favorite part of the show was when Oscar the Grouch made his appearance and sang his “I Love Trash” song. Oscar has been one of my favorite characters for a long time and while today we don’t see characters like this anymore, Oscar teaches important lessons to us and to our children. He reminds us it is okay to be different and to embrace that difference. He teaches us how confusing emotions can be and that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. My daughter’s favorite has always been Elmo and Abby (who flew across the stage) but Cookie Monster sure made her and my son super happy when he came on stage! And of course she loved dancing along with her favorite friends in the neighborhood!
After the show was over we went back to the hotel courtesy of transportation that was provided which definitely took some stress away from our lives after leaving a really fun show but can leave kids feeling a little over stimulated which can be hard to deal with as parents. Not having to hurry back to parking and deal with traffic certainly made the afternoon a little bit easier. After returning back to the hotel we were so tired we just ordered some dinner, snuggled down and watched a movie together!
The next morning we enjoyed some breakfast and packed our things. We spent a few hours in the pool prior to check out and then headed back to the Cape with our sleeping children mid afternoon. Sesame Street Live is currently touring across the United States and they will return to our region to Providence in November. Special thanks to Sesame Street, Chrysler Pacifica and of course the universe for all coming together to make this happen in our lives.
While we were lucky enough to have won this fun weekend away, it got me thinking that a short local vacation can be fun and often we overlook these options as parents especially during vacation week. We are definitely considering another fun mini local vacation for the future. It can be nice to stay some place like Boston or even here locally on Cape Cod and just unplugging with the family for 2-3 days! Find a local event taking place or a fun activity like Duck Boats, ice-cream or mini golf and just relax and enjoy one another. We don’t get long to enjoy our children when they are young so be sure to take what moments you can and soak it all in.
Verizon GoPro Hero 5 Session Ensures Long Lasting Memories
A few months ago, our family had the opportunity to check out Verizon GoPro Hero 5 Session in time for Back to School. We had some amazing adventures and fun with the camera and you can read our review here. More recently we had a chance again to take a GoPro Hero 5 Session with us on a parent only vacation in exchange for sharing what we thought about it. It was an amazing opportunity to record memories from vacation to share later with friends and family!
This time we were supposed to check out the GoPro Hero 5 Black, which has a screen in order to be able to see what you are recording versus the Session. Unfortunately there was a little confusion during the shipping process and we were sent the Session again. Verizon had the Black sent overnight to us and it arrived the night before we left however the camera was missing one of the waterproof plugs for the cord connection to the computer so we could not use it in the water. Verizon did everything they could to ensure our positive experience with the camera. But as we know as parents, sometimes things just happen and we roll with it!
Having used the Session before I knew how to secure it and use it, making me a pro this time. It’s so easy with one button operation and voice control and perfect for snorkeling adventures which is our favorite thing to do on vacation. Our most recent vacation we finally took our honeymoon sans children thanks to the grandparents! We traveled down to the beautiful country of Grenada, which is the furthest south we have ever been. One of the reasons we picked Grenada was due to the country’s beauty and underwater snorkeling. There is an underwater sculpture park which is a concept that combines art and coral protection with 68 different attractions dispersed along the shallow waters off Moliniere Point. It’s a great place to go snorkeling. It was created by the British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor. The aim of the project was to build an artificial barrier where the coral and other marine life could migrate to and find a new home in an area that was highly devastated by the Hurricane Ivan in 2004. This has helped ocean life return to the area as well as helped stimulate the economy for the region. Due to the very active hurricane season, our trip kept getting pushed back all week and almost didn't happen due to water visibility issues. Lucky for us by the day before we left, they took us out and off we went with our GoPro in hand!
This excursion was the perfect way to get full use of the Session. The camera takes 4K video and 10 MP photos. It has the ability (again only 1 button!) to take single photos or a burst of photos depending on your setting. The session really does a lot despite being tiny in size it even has the ability to stabilize your videos. The pilot your own boat trip out to the snorkeling was so much fun! I love zipping across the water with the wind in my hair! I easily secured the GoPro to the front of our boat and recorded the sights as we traveled. When we arrived the underwater park took my breath away, it truly is amazing. Each set of sculptures has a story behind it representing the local culture and we learned so much about the Grenadians. I set the GoPro on record and just took video the whole time knowing I could edit upon our return home and the results were spectacular as you can see from the photos and video.
We were also given a rare chance to see a baby turtle release which as you can see from my video below I was able to catch up close with the GoPro. This was pretty amazing to see close up and the GoPro was super easy to get set up near them as they raced to the ocean! There were lots of other people with a GoPro at the resort however 99% of them had special cases for their cameras. Many of them were fascinated with the fact that the Verizon GoPro Hero 5 Session did not need one as it is waterproof up 33 feet!
Overall I think the Verizon GoPro Hero 5 Session is a great camera and perfect for families especially with the holidays quickly approaching. It is small, easy to use and gets fantastic video. My only negative was that I couldn’t see any of the pictures or videos on the camera that I was taking until we arrived home. As a result there were a few photos that I wish I could have retaken and would have had I known. There is an app to use with it however being a frugal mom I did not purchase an international plan before the trip so the app would not work for me out of the country. The session does have the ability to automatically upload your content directly to the cloud for viewing, editing and sharing or can make videos quickly via the app. Personally for me I like being able to quickly see what photos I am taking as I do them, but for convenience and all the features this camera really is great and an affordable option for families. I am so glad we had this opportunity from Verizon to capture these memories of a beautiful place and our first vacation without the kids!
Dr. Seuss Museum
This past Sunday my family and I had the opportunity to head out to Springfield, MA for a complimentary visit in return for an unbiased review of the museum. The Dr. Seuss Museum is part of the Springfield Museums which are open Tuesday–Saturday: 10–5 Sunday: 11–5 Monday: Closed and are located at 21 Edwards Street Springfield, MA 01103. There is a small free parking lot by the entrance to the visitors center. Admission is as follows Adults: $25, Seniors (60+): $16.50, Youth 3–17: $13, Children Under 3: Free and Students: $16.50 which gets you into all the Springfield Museums.
We arrived at the museum at 10:30 so the kids could play in the sculpture garden before the museums opened. They had a great time running around the Horton Court sculpture and looking at the Grinch and Lorax sculptures. At 11am we entered the Dr. Suess Museum where we spent 90 minutes. We started in the Fairfield Street room (where Seuss grew up) where the kids liked ringing the bell to hear the zoo animals and checking out the Howard Street Armory. In Young Ted in Springfield you can play in a bakery like Ted did in his grandparent's bakery as a child. You can also create your own virtual fish, and build your own zoo out of Duplos. In Readingville you can build a turtle tower, play ABC games of a computer, do Green Eggs and Ham word play, and make your own story with story blocks. On really neat feature that can be found in the Oh the Places You Will Go is you can write down a goal, desire or what you want to be when you grow up and place it in the Things You Can Wish wishing boxes. The last room on the first floor is the pet shop where you can watch old animated Dr. Seuss stories and play with lots of stuffed animals in the pet bed, cat climbing structure, animal carriers and put hats of them.
In the basement you can enjoy reading all different Dr. Seuss books, do crafts, and play games. The basement is setup much the way a preschool classroom might be with an easel that has a sign that tells what the three activities are that day. On Sunday the actives were an apple craft, Fall tangram puzzles, and apple matching game. My seven year old's favorite part was the apple craft and she would have spent lots of time making lots of different apples if we had stayed at the craft room for an hour.
The second floor is less interesting for young children as it is mostly history and artifacts from/about Ted Geisel’s life plus information about the making of the sculpture garden. I didn’t really get an opportunity to look at because the kids were done with being in the museum and wanted lunch. But my husband said there were lots of interesting information and artifacts to look at.
You could definitely make a day at the museums. I would recommend going to the Luxe Burger Bar that is 6/10s of a mile from the museum and has something for everyone from vegan to carnivore.
Have you been to the Springfield Museums? What was your favorite exhibit?
Local Family Vacations Are A Perfect Way to Make Memories
In our home, we are firm believers in creating experiences and quality time with our kids because these are the things our children will remember. So recently when we were offered a chance to go up to North Conway and check out the family friendly Red Jacket Inn Fox Ridge Resort and StoryLand we were thrilled to have a mini family vacation in order to create some memories with the kids. Both businesses generously offered complimentary stay and admission to help facilitate this review.
North Conway is only a 4 hour drive coming from Cape Cod. We got an early start though and decided to go via Lincoln, NH so we could drive the Kancamagus highway on the way since check-in for the hotel was not until 3pm.
This did add travel time to our trip up however it gave us a chance to take our time on a Friday and enjoy the trip up taking some breaks and enjoying the scenery. The kids LOVED seeing the mountains and scouting for moose along the way and at one point we actually saw one walking down the side of the road!
My sister and her family joined us on the local family vacation and we all arrived at the hotel around 3pm. Upon driving in the kids were immediately excited about the giant hill that the resort sits up on as well as the colorful miniature golf course! Our rooms both had great views of the hill and mountains out back with a long patio perfect for us adults to enjoy the view. Our room also had a small room off of the main room with two small kid beds and a tv. This was PERFECT for the kids as they felt they had their own space and I highly recommend booking this room if you have little ones! After relaxing for a bit we decided to head out for an early dinner at Moat Mountain Brewery. If you have never had a chance to eat here then add it to your MUST TRY list right now! The food is absolutely amazing and if you enjoy local beers they have some of the best! It is also a louder restaurant so having the kids there is not an issue.
TIP: Get there early as it fills up fast due to how popular it is
The next morning we got up and enjoyed the complimentary breakfast offered by the resort. There were a lot of other families there most likely also planning on going to StoryLand for the day so we did have to wait a little bit for a table. The kids wanted to play mini golf and visit the pool but we reminded them we could do this after our visit to StoryLand.
TIP: Avoid the popular times of 8:30-9:30am for breakfast. Either plan to go earlier or after the rush so you don’t have to wrangle your minions while fighting off hunger pains and your need for coffee.
When we arrived at StoryLand, the line was already pretty extensive, we already had our tickets and my sister and her family had pre-purchased them so we were able to go into a faster moving line. We started by heading out to the antique cars to beat the lines and then off to my personal favorites of the water rides including the Bamboo Chute which we road 7+ times as well as Dr. Geyser’s Remarkable Raft Ride!
After we had sufficiently drenched ourselves and quickly changed we walked on over to the Loopy Lab, another parent favorite. Whoever came up with this attraction idea is a genius and we honestly could have spent our entire day here. The Loopy Lab consists of 2 floors where kids get to gather and fire foam balls across the whole place. Personally we love to go up to the second floor and fire foam balls down at people as well as gather them so they all blow up at once via the vacuum.
Next we headed out to do a few more rides before lunchtime. My nephew who is obsessed with trucks of all kinds loved the farm tractor ride and the dig play area while my son loved the crazy barn, riding it twice! We then took a little break for lunch beating most of the crowd to the World Pavilion.
The kids were re energized after having some food and we continued on to check out a few more rides and games before we headed to the swan boats and Cinderella. The line to see the princess was not as long at this point which was perfect!
As the kids began to tire out we entered into the shady part of the park and we were able to start to decompress by visiting the animals, visiting Mother Goose and checking out some of our favorite fairy tale houses. The pumpkin house, three bears’ house and the school house were our favorites. The kids enjoyed a nice story with Mother Goose herself, which was the perfect way to start to end our visit. We also spent a few minutes on the now much less crowded grandfather tree (making it easier to keep an eye on the kids), chatting with Humpty Dumpty (no line), and another one of my favorites: Farm Follies!!! We also got a chance to see Christopher Robin and his gang (again no line) on our way out.
The last thing we always do prior to leaving is get our annual license photo! This is a must for us as we love to see the kids grow each year in the pictures. Our son has collected several at this point and proudly displays them on his wall while this was a first for our daughter. This is a perfect way to have a unique little momento from your visit.
Parent PRO TIPS for StoryLand:
After a very busy day at StoryLand we headed back to the hotel to recharge. We decided to brave the fun outdoor pool for a bit and although it was a little cool, the kids had a fantastic time just floating and playing. Meanwhile I enjoyed the view and snapped some fun pictures of the kiddos while researching a good dinner choice for all of us!
The pool bar was open and had adult beverages as well as juice and soda options available for purchase. We spent about an hour relaxing and swimming around before we headed out as a group to the Muddy Moose, which is a wilderness themed restaurant that was just perfect for all of us to eat at with kid friendly options and tons to look at for the kids!
After dinner we all decided to enjoy some family mini golf at the hotel which we highly recommend taking advantage of if you can. The kids loved loved the course which features a windmill, an antique car and a teacup which tied in very nicely with our StoryLand visit from earlier in the day!
Our daughter thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the course and set up her camp on a tiny bridge so she could cheer her big brother and cousin on as they played the course,
After our golfing session we again enjoyed the pool for a bit before heading back to the room for bedtime. The baby was out like a light while the boys enjoyed some movie time in the kid cave again. The kid cave room has windows that overlook the porch and my sister's room was adjoining to ours. The adults then sat out on the porch for a bit relaxing and enjoying the view while still being able to peek in on the kids who promptly fell asleep exhausted from all the fun they had.
The next morning we took a few quick pictures before checking out of the kids to send to the grandparents. The kids loved the giant fox chair and I have to say I kind of wish I had one of these in my yard at home too! I would totally sit in it all day as the kids played around!
After checkout my sister headed back to Cape Cod while we headed on over to the Red Jacket Mountain Resort (sister resort of Fox Ridge) to enjoy Kahuna Laguna Water park for a few hours!
We had planned ahead to do the water park on our way out of town because it was a Sunday and would be less crowded plus we could spend through lunch there and then the kids could nap during the car ride home. Our family is all about making the car ride easier on mom and dad!
We basically had the entire water park to ourselves all morning and until we left. Again this was the perfect way to end our vacation as we were able to have some fun, enjoy all the slides and activities with no crowds plus get the kiddos good and tired for the long car ride home.
Dad played water basketball with Ethan while the baby jumped in the fabulous water swings! Ethan also loved the raft slides and went down repeatedly with Dad while the baby and I watched their excitement!
Overall our weekend was absolutely fantastic and we had a ton of fun. As we drove back to Cape Cod (always the worse part of any trip) I glanced at their sleeping content faces in the rear view mirror and knew that our weekend was a success. Years from now as they grow they will remember the fun we had as a family and I hope they will do things like this with their kids too! Sometimes going on vacations, even local ones can be stressful but with a few tweaks and changes to how we plan out the trip, it can be made a little easier! We will definitely be going back next year and can't wait to create new memories with our family. We hope you find our review and tips helpful and we would love to hear your tips and tricks if you are willing to share them with us!
Cafe Gratitude Review
Cafe Gratitude has six locations all of which are sadly in California. I discovered the location in Newport Beach, CA on a recent and very relax 4 day kid free get away. As many of your know my husband and I eat a mainly Whole Foods Plant Based diet; this diet can making being away from home some what difficult and stressful. So travelling to California I was hopeful but a little apprehensive about dining out. Our first night in Newport Beach I asked at the hotel if there were any good vegan restaurants around and they recommended Cafe Gratitude. We look at the menu and decided to try it out in the morning.
We arrived at Cafe Gratitude at 10 expecting it to be open and serving their lunch menu but it turned out they didn’t open until 11am so we went around to Gratitude To Go and decide to come back to the cafe for an early dinner later. On the To Go side of the building is a small store front and about four tables outside (which when the wind blows the wrong way smells of garbage). We ordered Content which is a Cast-iron quiche. Garbanzo flour frittata, Kalamata olives, tomato, red onion, cashew Feta, toasted almond romesco, gluten-free crostini for $12 and Bonita a Breakfast taco plate. Sprouted probiotic brown rice or quinoa, black beans, pico de gallo, avocado, cashew nacho cheese, spicy pepitas, corn tortillas for $13. The Content was amazing with a quiche like texture and satisfying flavor. The Bonita came with a plate of fillings and 4 corn tortillas on the side so you could make your own tacos. It was nice but I would prefer to eat tacos at lunch or dinner and have the Content for breakfast. I also tried some of the other To Go goodies over the next few days. The Holy a gluten free donut ($5) was wonderful with a rich chocolate sauce and blueberries topping a flavorful sponge textured donut that paired excellently with a cup of coffee with almond milk. The Beautiful a gluten free muffin which one days was blueberry lemon and the next day raspberry chocolate were large and delicious, I preferred the blueberry lemon one. These are large muffins and cost $5.50 but because it was vacation worth every penny. I also tried a cookie and piece of coconut pie neither of which were to impressive and the cookie was a little burnt.
As we enjoyed breakfast so much we came back for early dinner the next three afternoons. Between 4-6 they have happy hour specials. During these three trips we tried the following $6 apps Sharing Nachos. Black beans, cashew nacho cheese, pico de gallo, avocado, spicy pepitas, escabeche. Fierce a Crispy tortilla bites. Jerk marinated portobello, roasted garnet yams, cashew queso fresco, pinto beans, roasted tomatillo dipping sauce. And Intuitive a Pomme frites. Purple potato and sweet potato fries, moked salt, gremolata, choice of chipotle ketchup or spicy cashew aioli. All of which were yummy my favorite was the Fierce with its cornie crisp outside and sweet mushy inside. For entrees we tried Magical ($16.00) CG Double Double. Housemade black bean patties, tomato, red onion, chipotle ketchup, cashew macadamia Cheddar, gluten-free amaranth and millet bun, roasted garnet yams. Smokin' ($16.00) Chili bowl. Smokey red bean and tempeh chili, cashew sour cream, crumbled jalapeño biscuit, spicy chopped pickle, scallions. Elated ($16.00) Mole Abuelita enchiladas. Black beans, grilled portobello mushroom, braised butternut squash, salsa verde, avocado, Mexican coleslaw, escabeche. Resolved ($16.00) Southern soul food. Red beans and dirty rice, blackened jerk tempeh, smashed maple yams, spiced collards, coleslaw, jalapeño Cheddar biscuit. And Bountiful ($16.00) Blackened tempeh Bolognese. Quinoa shells, cashew Mozzarella, Brazil nut Parmesan, spinach. My favorite was the Elated with the rich sauce covering the outside and the moist flavorful filling of the enchiladas it really hit the spot. My husbands favorite was the Bountiful the shells were cooked but not mushy and the cashew mozzarella really complemented the sauce; his only complaint was more tempa in the sauce would have been nice. I also really enjoyed the cheddar biscuit and cashew sour cream. All of the dishes were delicious and I would order all of them again!
I wish there was a Cafe Gratitude or the like in both Chatham and Cambridge! Have you been to Cafe Gratitude before or know of any good vegan restaurants on Cape Cod?
Team Leader and Educational Consultant
Usborne Books & More
With school vacations rapidly approaching traveling with the family can feel daunting and you may feel like you are overlooking something (hello mommy brain). Thankfully, Daniel from Kensington's in Mashpee Commons has shared a Traveler Tip & Checklist for us! Underneath the pictures there is also a link to download this as a pdf.
As I sit on the beach on this beautiful beach day I wish summer was not coming to an end. The kids are happily playing with their beach friends without a care in the world. I am sitting in my chair enjoying the gentle breeze and late afternoon sun (the only thing missing is a glass of wine). This is how my families Staycation began. My husband was able to take off a little over a week leading up to Labor Day this year.
We started our Staycation by spending the first few days at the beach. As Summer Vacation draws to a close less beach friends are at the beach each day and we wanted to make sure the kids enjoyed the last few beach days with their friends. Sitting by the bay basking in the late Summer sun was a great way to start vacation.
On Monday after swim lessons I packed a picnic lunch and we head to P-town to the Pilgrim Monument. Since it is the last week of August we didn’t hit traffic on RT6 and made good time getting there. Upon arriving we discovered parking at the Monument was $15 (you do get one person in free to the Monument and museum a $12 value) so we opted to find free on street parking and walk .6 miles to the Monument (and left the picnic lunch behind so I didn’t have to carry it). Admission to Pilgrim Monument and Museum is $12 for adults and $4 for kids 4-12 but we got in free with a pass from the Orleans library. We started by climbing to the top of the Monument a combination of 116 steps and 60 ramps. My three and five year old did a great job climbing all the way to the top and back down with no complaints. They also enjoyed the view from the top but were not very interested in the museum. We ended up taking our lunch to the Province Lands visitors center where we ate up on the observation deck while watching whales breaching and spout in the distance. If you can get a free pass I highly recommend taking your kids for the walk up Pilgrim Monument.
On Tuesday we had some friends other and hung out at the beach again.
Wednesday we headed to the Wellfleet Audubon Sanctuary for a hike. We arrived at around 10:30 unfortunately high tide was at 11 something so we could not hike out to the beach (if you want to hike out to the beach make sure to arrive closer to low tide). Admission is free for Audubon members otherwise $5 for adults and $3 for children 2-12. Today at the admission desk there were 6 newly hatched terrapin turtles that the kids and I enjoyed watching; they are beautiful looking creatures. Also in the visitor's center are a handful of tanks with both salt and freshwater creatures to observe and learn about in addition there is a bird observation area, puppets, books, coloring sheets and scavenger hunts to do out on the grounds. The kids lead the hike so we started by walking around Silver Spring where we observed frogs, turtles and lots of lilly pads in the water. Then we headed over to Goose pond where there were a few wading birds (the pond is very low due to lack of rain this summer usually there are lots of birds) and turned around at the observation deck as the kids had had enough walking. On the way out we look at the terrapins again. We really like visiting audubon sanctuaries and all nature lovers should definitely check them out!
Thursday it was raining which was a perfect reason to finally go to one of the Chatham Orpheum Theater’s Summer Family Film Series. Everyday during the summer the theatre shows a movie at 9:30am and only charges $5 per person. Todays movie was The Pirates! Band of Misfits (not my top choice but my kids were excited). When we arrived at 9:20 the movie had sold out but as we were going to leave we lucked out and they moved the movie to the bigger theatre making more seats available. The big theatre’s seats were comfortable and they even have boosters for young kids to sit on for better view. The movie was silly and rather boring for me but the kids loved it and $15 for all three of us to see a movies was a great rainy day activity deal! We also visited the toy store, Rubber Duck store plus Candy Manor where the kids got free fudge samples that they really enjoyed.
On Friday we all ventured out early to Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge Center in Chatham. We arrived at around 9am parking is limited there but there was plenty. Upon arriving we walked along the boardwalk down to the beach and took a right onto the beach. The kids had a great time wading in the water (the tide was low but coming in at high tide you may have to walk in the water to get back to the board walk), exploring the tide pools and collecting shells as we walked. The kids walked for about 40 minutes round trip. As you walk you can take in the beautiful beach/water landscape. Back at the parking lot we visited the visitors center (open usually 10-4) where there are a few small exhibits about native wildlife plus a nice kids area with coloring sheets, activities and nature guides as well as exploring backpacks with nets you can borrow. Monomoy is a great place to take kids an hour or two for a short walk and exploration.
Labor Day Weekend has arrived and the streets and beaches are busier now. We decide to have a low key rest of vacation with some quiet beach days and friends for a cookout. What a great way to end our vacation.
What places would you like to visit on a Staycation?
Usborne Books & More Independent Educational Consultant
I am always looking for people to join my Usborne team, host parties (Facebook or home), or just share these wonderful books! For more information visit my website or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Plus follow me on Instagram www.instagram.com/mollyhubnersusbornebooks/
Getting Ready for Our Road Trip
Early Saturday morning my husband and I will be loading the three and five year old into the minivan and starting on our road trip to Pennsylvania. I have the novel snacks like goldfish in small bags, trail mix and granola bars plus squeezes packed with access from the front seats. The DVD players are charged and ready to go. Plus the brand new Usborne activity packs ready to go. I am very impressed with these activity packs I got Sticker Dolly Dressing Activity Pack which contains mini versions of Princesses, Fairies, Dolls and Ballerinas and Fairy Activity Pack which contains Fairy things to make and do, First coloring fairies, First sticker fairies and Lots of things to find and color in fairyland for my five year old daughter. For my three year old son I got Sticker Dolly Dressing Activity Pack which contains mini versions of Knights, Pirates, Soldiers and Sports and 1001 Pirate Things to Spot Sticker Book. Also hidden away is 100 to do on a Trip wipe clean cards just incase.
Our first stop (other than a bathroom break) is the Crayola Experience in Easton, PA which is about a 4.5h drive without traffic. Hopefully the excitement of seeing the Crayola factory and making their own crayons will make the drive easier. We plan on spending about three hours at Crayola and then heading on to Lancaster, PA where we will be staying in an airbnb for two nights.
Our second day in PA we will be staying locally in Lancaster as my husband and I have a 4pm wedding to attend. But during the day the kids are looking forward to our visit to Dutch Wonderland. The kids are excited about the Adventures of the Frog Prince show, Exploration Island - Where Dinosaurs Come to Life!, Duke’s Lagoon Water Play Area and trying out some rides. If you want to save on tickets click here!
On Monday before heading back to Massachusetts we are going to Visit Sesame Place. We plan on getting there right when it opens and hope that the kids will sleep some of the 4.5h ride back home! The kids are looking forward to checking out Cookie’s Monster Land and Elmo’s World.
Be on the lookout in the coming weeks for my reviews on The Crayola Experience, Dutch Wonderland and Sesame Place! What are your tips to surviving long drives with your kids?
Usborne Books & More Independent Educational Consultant
I am always looking for people to join my Usborne team, host parties (Facebook or home), or just share these wonderful books! For more information visit https://w4728.myubam.com or contact me at email@example.com
Coco Key Water Park & Double Tree by Hilton Review
After the long winter and the kids being cooped up, we knew we needed to take a little mini vacation with the kids to kick off the spring and summer. So when we were recently offered a chance to come up and visit the Double Tree by Hilton North Shore and Coco Key Water Park in Danvers in exchange for our honest review, we jumped at the chance.
We arrived shortly after check-in time with two very excited children who were eager to immediately go and check out the water park. When we arrived in our room we were delighted to find a fruit and cheese plate, which was a very welcome sight after having sat through Boston traffic on a Friday afternoon. The kids were more than thrilled to get their own Coco backpacks complete with a parrot. They quickly changed into bathing suits at lightning speed.
The water park was a huge hit with the kids. The park is designed well with age levels and abilities considered. There is an area for young children with two small slides, waterfalls and spouts and parents can interact with the kids easily. Only children can use the slides but you are allowed to catch your child at the bottom. The area gradually becomes deeper so there are plenty of places for kids of all ages to play and interact.
This area also has a pirate sail utilized as a movie screen, which at night you can see really well and enjoy a family favorite while splashing around. This is also where the family seating and the cabanas are located.
We decided to purchase a cabana the second day we were there so that the kids had a quiet place to rest. The cabanas had a table, chairs, couch and tv for everyone to use. We enjoyed a delicious pizza from Gator’s, which was recommended by staff. They have a bar inside the park that sells both cocktails as well as smoothies. Guests can also rent lockers to store valuable items in as well as utilize locker rooms to change and use the restrooms.
The center of the water park consisted of a splash pad, with more advanced slides and water toys while surrounded by the lazy river. This area was designed so that kids as well as parents can enjoy the slides together. One of the biggest hits was the giant water bucket which would fill over the course of 5 minutes and then dump over the entire structure. The kids had a great time getting dunked and riding the “big boy” slides!
The water toys were a lot of fun and allowed for children to experiment as engineers with how water flows. This area was a huge hit with the kids as they explored the different types of slides and activities.
In the back there was a basketball pool, which sadly only had 2 balls that could be used. It looked pretty when it was lit up at night but was always crowded. We ventured in here only once and luckily a big kid passed the Tiny One the ball about ten times in a row to give him a chance at trying to score a basket. There was a small section behind this that had inflatable lily pads that kids could cross while holding onto roped netting from above. This area was closed, but we it looked like fun.
In the opposite corner, just past the hot tub section, were the most advanced slides. We climbed all the way up to the top of the facility and were able to choose between two sets of slides that both utilized a tube and ones that did not. We chose the ones with the double tube and were quite impressed at how fast and fun the slide was. The slides themselves exit the building, twisting and turning all the way down to reentry into a large pool. While the kids were not tall enough currently to ride these, all of the adults found them fun.
We balanced our time between the water park and the hotel pool which was our quiet sanctuary. Having young children, we needed a place where we could have down time, free from the over stimulation that often leads into a meltdown. You could choose to do laps, relax in the hot tub or just lazily swim around with your kid. We all really loved this option which was a benefit to staying at the hotel. It is essential to all our sanity to have decompression time and a quiet place to swim and practice our skills.
There is also an arcade with availability for birthday parties. We allowed the kids to play with money they had saved in their piggy banks. It was a fun way to transition between the water activities and the hotel. They had small rides for the kids, air hockey, video games for various ages and even a photo booth. We spent a little time here and were sure to get a family picture in the photo booth on our last day.
We noticed quite a few birthday parties taking place which would definitely work for local families looking to host a fun combination of water and video fun!
The Double Tree by Hilton is a great hotel. The staff very clearly cares a lot about their guests and hotel. Our room was great, and big enough for six of us (2 couples and 2 children) including having a separate section for the kid beds and their own tv. The family rooms are located around the perimeter of their event rooms, which allows for easy access to the water park. The second evening we were at the water park there was an accident in the kids pool so we left back to our room early. As we went to our room, friendly staff asked about our day and we told them how much fun we had but it had ended on a poopy note. As we were getting ready for bed, we were surprised by a knock at the door and were treated to a sweet surprise of three hot fudge brownie sundaes. the Tiny One was more than a little excited to end the day on such a positive note and we were grateful to the staff for making the day even better. By going the extra mile the staff shows just how much they care about guest comfort and happiness even when things happen that are totally beyond their control.
The hotel provides a brunch, a Starbucks cafe, a sit down restaurant and room service as options for meals. During our stay we enjoyed service at all these places. Breakfast included both a cold and hot breakfast options depending on your appetite. The hostess stand also offers children a coloring page that if they turn in post meal they can pick from a prize box. I appreciate this little extra as it gave the kids a purpose to work towards while the adults could enjoy their meal and coffee quietly. Our first evening there, we ordered pizza to our room for dinner as we were all too exhausted from all the excitement of the water park. The food was delivered promptly and with a smile and the kid pizza’s made two young boys very happy. The Starbucks cafe had the majority of all our favorite items and was a nice way to wake up with a treat. The hotel restaurant was also pretty good. They had a delicious salmon salad with candied walnuts that really hit the spot and the Tiny One was happy with another personal pizza, but we would have loved to see more affordable lighter options for a meal.
Our only comment for improvement pertains to the water park. There seemed to be way too many people in the lazy river at certain points to the point where some teenagers were racing through the river running over families and young children. While the lifeguards are attentive in terms of safety and trying to ensure everyone has a water tube, they also need to address this as it becomes a safety issue. There were several times some of these older kids were swimming over my 5 year old and roughly passing me which at times caused discomfort as they shoved past me. I finally had to address it myself and that particular group seemed to back off, but this is an area the waterpark staff definitely needs to show more authority and ensure it is safe for all and not just a race track for teenagers.
Overall, we would highly recommend the Double Tree by Hilton North Shore and Coco Key Water Park in Danvers as great choice for a local vacation for Cape Cod Moms and families. It is both affordable and fun. The kids will be happy and it won't break the bank so it is a great option for school vacations or just as a weekend mini vacation. The attentive staff at the hotel truly care about their guests and always aim to improve. Even the kids think this place is pretty awesome, just check out their thoughts in the video review below!
Smuttynose Brewery and Hayseed Trip
Smuttynose has lots of great memories for my husband and I. When we first started dating most weekends we would take day trips around Massachusetts and New Hampshire as well as weekends away. Most of these trips involved visiting breweries, brew pubs or restaurants with great beer lists. It was one winter Saturday in Late 2007 that I had my first Smuttynose Big Beer a Smuttinator at the old Smuttynose brewery location and it was amazing and I wanted to get my hands on more. So in 2008 we joined the Smuttynose BIg Beer Series and in doing so we committed ourselves to 8 cases of Big Beer a year. Fast forward to 2010 I am now pregnant with our first child and the household beer consumption has slowed down but we continue to subscribe to the series and go the release parties. We continued to subscribe and attend release parties through around our second child's first birthday when it became to difficult to contain both kids at the release parties and we had more than enough big beer stockpiled (my daughter really enjoyed going to the parties and eating all the great food). Smuttynose has since moved from its little brewery in Portsmouth, NH to a large state of the art brewery and restaurant in Hampton, NH and our family still loves going there to enjoy the brewery and good food.
Today (Sunday) we head up after lunch. We first head to the brewery as we have done so many of the free tours we choose not to do one but I highly recommend doing a tour if you have never been before (they are kid friendly and both the kids enjoy going on them). We get our tasting cards at the gift shop for $3 for 4 tastings which is a great deal plus you get a 5th pour at the restaurant. Today I got two samples of the big beer Really Old Brown Dog which was delicious, and tried a cherry beer which I didn’t like and a Finest Kind IPA which is always pleasant. While we enjoy the beer the kids like to watch the vats of fermenting beer out gas into big buckets and bubble foam everywhere.
After the tastings we walk across the parking lot to Hayseed for an early dinner. When we sit down I pull out the kids 1001 Things to Spot in Fairyland, 1001 Pirate Things to Spot and some wipe clean cards to keep them happy and busy while they wait for their hamburgers. I also end up reading a chapter of The Secret Mermaid to my daughter( as she really wanted to find out what was going to happen next) while we waited for the food to come. The restaurant is roomy and loud enough that kids fit right in and today there were a few other families at the brewery and restaurant (they also have boosters and high chairs). Food wise there is something for everyone with daily specials and the service is good. I ordered a Sturdy Burger medium rare (if you want it pink make sure to order it this way) with cheddar cheese and fries. There were three other adults plus the two kids everyone but one adult got a Sturdy burger and she got a Super burger. When the food arrived in a timely fashion the kids jump right in and devoured their burgers and fries happily. I enjoyed my burger as it was better than most available burgers but not the best one I have had at Hayseed; my fries were cool as if they had been sitting for a while unfortunately and I enjoyed the Big A IPA beer. My dad enjoyed his burger, onion rings and cask conditioned Old Brown Dog, my husband though the burger was a fine burger and the Farm House side salad was tasty and my mom’s Super Burger was surprising delicious and plentiful and the kale side salad tasty. Today no one got dessert but they have a nice dessert list!
Our trip to Smuttynose and Hayseed was an enjoyable experience today and I hope to go again soon to try some of the other local food Hayseed has to offer! When the weather is nice there is Batchelder Park right down the road from Smuttynose for a kid size hike and you can also walk around the Smuttynose land and enjoy frisbee golf. Plus if you want to make a full day of it you can head to Kittery, ME for some outlet shopping or Portsmouth, NH and checkout the Strawbery Banke Museum (I have not actually been there when they are open).
Usborne Books & More Independent Educational Consultant
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Cape Cod Moms