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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By: Rebekah Thomson, Pediatric Sleep Coach
Planning a family trip over the holidays or for the upcoming school vacations? Wondering how to prepare for airplane travel? Not sure what to pack? Hopefully these suggestions will alleviate some of your pre-travel stress.
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Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season!
By: Rebekah Thomson, Pediatric Sleep Coach
For those of you who are planning to travel over the holidays, here are suggestions to make your family adventure as smooth as possible, sleep-wise.
Prepare a sleep-friendly environment. Whether you’re staying in a hotel, rental house, or with family, try to create a sleep-friendly environment for your little ones. Bring along unwashed crib sheets (the familiar scent will be soothing), favorite loveys and blankets, white noise machine, and night light. If you’re not sure the window shades will be dark enough, pack black trash bags and masking tape or thumbtacks for makeshift blackout shades. The Phil & Teds “Traveller” cot is a great alternative to traditional pack n plays; it is small and light enough to fit inside your suitcase, has no uncomfortable crossbars, and has the added advantage of an optional top in case you’ve got a climber on your hands.
Respect your child’s need to sleep – even on vacation. Yes, your child may miss a few naps due to travel and bedtime may be a little later due to older cousins. But try to not abandon your child’s schedule altogether, particularly if you are away for more than a few days. If normal crib naps are not possible, plan to drive during nap times, squeeze in catnaps to take the edge off, and opt out of a late dinner if your little one is showing signs of fatigue. You’ll be glad you made the sacrifice – over-tired children usually don’t make the best travel companions anyhow.
Maintain the rituals. Try to maintain your family’s pre-sleep routine, or at least an abridged version of it. The familiar books, songs, and other positive sleep associations will be especially comforting to them as they adjust to their new environment.
Talk to your children. Even one year olds often understand a lot more than we think. Let your little ones know that you are doing things differently than usual because you are traveling. “Today we are going to take our naps in the car because we have a long drive to grandma’s house. You can rest in your car seat, and we will wake you up as soon as we get there!”
Avoid using the same crutch you just broke. Sure, some sleep regressions may happen during travel. However, if you have recently worked hard to stop nursing your baby to sleep, try rocking her or patting her down instead. It’s less confusing and less intermittent reinforcement, which means ultimately it will be easier to undo.
Nip bad habits in the bud. Let your little ones know that once you are back home, it’s back to business as usual. So if you had a co-sleeping nurse-athon in order to keep her quiet at your in-law’s house, the “open bar” officially closes when she kisses grandma goodbye. It’s much easier (i.e. less crying) to tackle new sleep issues before they are fully engrained.
Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season!
Cape Cod Mommies is Excited to Welcome the Newest Mom to our Blogging Team: Ryan Beck! Check out her first post of many to come below! We look forward to her stories!
By: Ryan Beck
In 2009, my husband was transferred out of the Army during the new-age recession. We made the bold choice to move from Germany to the Stable-Economy-Mecca: Fargo, North Dakota. We were young and adventurous and our only possessions were the dog and bed. The ‘excitement’ of the Midwest’s unknown allured us (and we were promised only two years max in that location), so we were naively confident in our decision. Flash forward a few very cold winters, stormy, hot summers, and a couple more pieces of furniture: I am now the mom of two beautiful young boys’ ages 15 months and 3 years. Since we live half the country away from our family, like so many others, we have the wonderful privilege of airline flights with our little tykes. Through our extensive experiences, I now know there is a direct correlation between the geographical distance between generations and stress of travel days.
I wish the amount of times we have traveled with our children would make us travel experts. Instead, it still looks as though we just unpacked our Uhaul in front of the ticketing counter. As it probably appears that we are taking everything but the kitchen sink. But to the parents that stand in travel-family solidarity – they know -We quite possibly may have the kitchen sink and will try to have it gate checked with no fee. But the only consistent thing about baggage fees are the inconsistencies with them. We have found that when traveling with children, baggage fees often differ between airlines, travel day, agent, seasonal solstice, and even wind direction.
I am fully convinced that travel days are just tiny, beautiful, moments during our lives where we are given opportunities to build our own character.
This recaps our latest encounter between me and the ticketing agent.
Ticketing agent: “Your bag is 5lbs overweight. You will need to pay the extra weight fee.”
Me: “Excuse me my dear, dear, sweet ticket agent. Your airline canceled my flight yesterday after I had packed up what seems like my entire house, travel crib, double stroller, dissembled and unloaded two car seats (in the snow), waited in the terminal for 8 hours with an excited 3 year old and a 15 month old who wanted to nurse the entire time, an a husband out a vacation day. I therefore had to turn and crush my three year olds excitement and directly turn around, reload the car, head home, and try again at the crack ass of dawn. So now, as I stand here before you with my overtired, hungry, confused, kids, scratching at my legs and calling my name -Are the 5lbs REALLY a big deal?
That fee was waived.
But, let’s rewind time a little. Let me tell you about the travel days before I had children, and even after I had my first until the age of about 2. I would read about the healthy snack choices you can pack to set your child up for success which wouldn’t result in a sugar-crash tantrum. My husband and I brought all the time-consuming activities, coloring books, NEW toys, even an iPad – with all the new apps. Those were great for the immediate moment. But now I can separate my parenting airline travel into 2 distinct chapters: BEFORE the epic all-flight tantrum and AFTER the epic all-flight tantrum.
What embarrassing, challenging, or beautiful breakthrough moment have you encountered during airline travel days? What works for you?
*Cape Cod Mommies received complimentary admission to Storyland and hotel stay at Red Jacket Inn in exchange for an honest review.
Mamas, what happens when you have a vacation planned? Someone always gets sick or injured before you leave or during your trip, right?! Okay, maybe that’s just my family! We were about to head off on another family adventure (part of our continued quest to fill the 6 week gap between leaving our old house and moving into our new place) - but this adventure was almost derailed! The day before we were set to leave, my 5 year old slammed her head onto a stone counter top and needed to get stitches. Aaaahhh! She is a dare devil, risk taking, high-flying, tree climbing adventurer. However, she almost always lands on her feet and has never had stitches before. Instead, her downfall was a simple slip in the bathroom with no high risk maneuvers! The ER doc did an amazing job and Fiona was very brave (though the medical assistant
whose wrist she sprained while he was trying to hold her down, may not agree).
Fortunately we were cleared to move forward on our adventure and the next morning we piled into the car and drove over the bridge and up to North Conway, NH. Armed with fairy and pirate movies the nearly 4 hour ride was much easier than I expected, and my cave in to technology in the car was clearly for the best!
Let me start this blog by first staying that Story Land and Red Jacket Mountain View Resort offered our website a free visit in exchange for an honest review. Now, I know what you’re thinking, every time I see that on a blog I’m like “Oh yeah, I’m sure this will be honest, bwahahaha!” But truly, I really, really am giving you my honest opinion on how this trip went and if there was anything bad to share I would share it, but there wasn’t - fortunately, because that might have been awkward, right?!
So, we were thrilled to be staying at the Red Jacket Resorts Mountain View Resort. Davenport Companies who owns Red Jacket Resorts is one of the Cape’s largest employers and I have been to many of their local properties, so I was excited to try out their North Conway hotel.
As we pulled into town, we spotted the hotel perched high on a hill. The grounds were lovely and the hotel picturesque. We were greeted with bottles of water and cookies and a warm welcome. The front desk staff also provided us with a very long list of activities being held at the hotel during our stay (lawn Olympics, Wii competitions, Ice cream at the pool, marshmallow roasting, and story time to name a few!). There is clearly no shortage of fun to be had at the Mountain View!
Our room was nicely furnished and very comfortable, but best of all was a balcony with the most
tremendous view of the White Mountains.
After quickly settling in, we hurried to Story Land which was right down the road, so convenient especially since the kiddos were not up for MORE time in the car. We arrived right at 3:00pm, this is important because
Story Land allows guests who enter after 3:00pm to return for a full day anytime in the same season. We planned to use our return trip the very next day!
As we entered the park, the kids squealed in delight at the surroundings! My kids are 5 and 3 and they are at the absolutely PERFECT ages to enjoy Story Land. The rides are exciting to them, they loved meeting the
characters, and the shows truly delighted them.
Apparently Sundays are the slowest day for Story Land attendance, and this proved true during our visit. Seriously, there were NO lines, we walked right onto almost every ride. Since we only had three hours on our first day (Story Land closes at 6:00pm) we focused on riding the most popular rides that first day when there were so many less people. Further down in this post, you will see my ideal Story Land itinerary brought to you through diligent research and personalized testing – you’re welcome.
That first day was amazing; the girls met Mother Goose, rode most of the fast, hair-raising rides, and generally had the times of their lives.
It was just enough time to leave them excited and exhilarated for the next day’s adventure. We returned to
the Mountain View and since we were all exhausted from our travel and adventure at Story Land, we grabbed dinner at the hotel’s Palmer’s Red Ridge Grille. It was very fast, yummy, and attached to a lounge with kids toys and children’s books, which was perfect for the kids to run around in and allow us to eat without feeling terrible that our kids weren’t sitting politely at the table. I have allergies to gluten and dairy, so dining out for me is always stressful and I don’t do it that often. Our waitress and the chef at the Red Ridge Grille were very informed and aware of allergies and cooked me up a big meal that I didn’t have to worry about.
We timed dinner perfectly because just as it ended, one of the hotel’s staff came into the lounge for Story Time with the kids. Sitting by the fireplace on couches, the staff brought cookies and the kids snuggled up to hear Curious George stories. After that we went back to our room for bedtime, where we all actually SLEPT, a true miracle for my kids!
The next morning the kids popped up early, I had my coffee on the balcony while I admired the view, then
we dressed quickly and headed out for our second day at Story Land. Knowing that we had already done the most in-demand rides gave us a little breathing room in terms of planning our day at the park. We breezed through a very short line for return ticket holders, laughing at the suckers standing in line to buy their
tickets to get in! We turned left to go towards the bigger rides, instead of turning right to go towards the younger play area. Most people turn right when they enter the park, so turning left helps you go against the crowd and spend more time having fun, less time waiting in lines.
Mondays, are also not as busy as other weekdays, but this Monday seemed to be more crowded than usual according to staff. The wait time for rides was still totally manageable and we spent the morning re-riding some of our favorites including the Antique Cars, the Bamboo Shoot (which you’ll see below my youngest just LOVED), and the Polar Coaster.
At 11:15 we had reservations to have tea with Cinderella. This costs a little extra money, I think it ended up being around $10 for each of them, but in addition to meeting Cinderella, it got the girls out of the sun for
about 20 minutes, let them have a snack, hear Cinderella read a story, and have some down time to refocus in the midst of the excitement that is Story Land. Best of all, the girls felt so special having tea with a princess, I was really glad we decided to spend the extra money.
After tea time, we visited the Oceans of Fun section of Story Land, with rides on the Flying Fish, the Splash Battle, and other ocean/water themed rides. Nearing lunch time, we grabbed some food at the Food Fair and
World Pavilion, which is basically a cafeteria style dining area with kid friendly food, hot dogs and hamburgers and salads for the grown-ups. I was pleasantly surprised to see gluten free food was available by special request, and I was able to enjoy a hamburger with my family, which was nice since I forgot to pack anything more significant than a Luna bar.
With full bellies we decided to go catch the Circus show. I was not expecting much from Story Land’s resident circus but it really was a great, fun show! It was about 30 minutes which is about as long as my kids can sit still for a live show and they had a fantastic Argentine family of jugglers who really were first class. They had us all cheering and screaming! There was a cute dog act, a woman with tremendous hula hooping skills, and finished with the return of the Argentinian family for some amazing high risk balancing and acrobatics. The kids were thrilled, my youngest loved the sparkly dresses, and my oldest found some new high risk maneuvers with which to freak me out. Again it was a nice break from the sun and the go, go, go of the park.
After we left the circus, my eldest caught sight of two characters, Little Red Riding Hood and Alice in Wonderland, walking through the park. She wanted to catch up to them, so we did. They were heading to another show – Fairy Tale Follies. I thought we should go try some more rides, but Fiona was really excited to see it and I have to say I’m glad we stayed. Because seriously, the show was one of the highlights of the trip! It starred Alice, Little Red, and Peter Pan (who you may be surprised to learn is actually my daughter’s brother. One of those mysteries of childhood that she has believed since she was about 4) So imagine her thrill when Peter Pan picked her to come on stage with him to help decorate for Cinderella’s ball. At that
moment the entire audience disappeared for her and it was only Peter and Fiona in that room. Look at this:
She is floating, she is so happy! Anyways, the show was short and sweet and my daughters loved it. Go see it! We then spent the rest of the afternoon riding our favorite rides, visiting the Let’s Pretend Costume Shop
where the girls each picked out a special souvenir, and making our way through the fairy tale section of Story Land. We rode the Pirate Boat, the Carousel, and the Tea Cups. We stayed until the very last minute Story Land was open. Upon leaving the girls were still asking to go one more day. They just loved it SO much and I’m so glad we were able to bring them at these ages when the park was the right size with age appropriate rides and attractions.
After we left we grabbed pizza in town at the Flatbread Company which was awesome! The waiting room has kids toys, a chalkboard, and cozy couches. We didn’t wait long because we had called ahead to let them know we were on our way and put our name on the waiting list - this is a great tip I found on the internet and was super helpful – seriously do it – (603) 356-4470. The restaurant is open and airy, with huge, stone pizza ovens that everyone can see and pizza makers throwing dough in front of it. The kids loved watching the
chefs work and the food is cooked quickly. The food is organic and most of it is local including the lemonade sweetened with local maple syrup – yum! To my delight, I ordered a gluten free, vegan pizza which probably sounds horrific to most of you, but to me was like manna from heaven. It tasted great and had delicious veggies. The rest of my fam had traditional pizza which they also enjoyed.
Upon our return to the Mountain View we were excited to see that we were just in time for one of the hotel’s great activities – marshmallow roasting! The campfire was near the hotel’s playground (yes that’s right, they
have an awesome playground) which meant the kids could have their marshmallow desert and then run off the sugar and crazies in the playground before we headed in to get ready for bed.
The next morning we had planned to check out Mountain View’s amazing indoor water park – Kahuna Laguna, unfortunately because of the stitches the doctor said Fiona couldn’t go underwater for a week. So, the water park was out. I did sneak in to take a peek at it though and it looked amazing. We were sad not to be able to play in it but it gives us a great reason to come back next year!
Instead the girls decided to spend the morning rolling down the hill with Daddy, while I packed us up and got ready for check out. The hotel has an amazing rolling hill, check it out!
We had breakfast at the hotel’s Champney’s restaurant where they had a delicious breakfast buffet. There was a TON of food and the kids were so excited – I don’t think they’d ever seen so much food at once and they were like “We can just TAKE that?!”. The waiter and chef were awesome again about my food allergies and made sure I had plenty to eat and soy milk for my coffee. So appreciated! We then checked out and said goodbye to our awesome hotel.
So often family vacations are not all I hoped they would be, kids end up fighting, activities that should be exciting just aren’t, and everyone ends up disappointed and grumpy. This trip was NOT like that, the entire trip was so much fun. The hotel was a perfect place for us to stay, so kid friendly and with so many activities for all ages. Story Land was even better than we expected. I felt like this was one of the first trips we took where it was all we had hoped for and even more. It was a great escape and we definitely plan to do it again next year!
So, without further ado, here is my North Conway/Story Land Itinerary for your future trip pleasure. First a few notes, I suggest arriving on Sunday, but you go ahead and do what works best for your family, I’m not a schedule taskmaster or anything. Also, I suggest spending at least one night there, I felt like two nights was perfect, there are loads of affordable hotels campgrounds, and condos to stay at in the area. I LOVED the Mountain View Resort because of the cleanliness, convenient location, friendly staff, and so many on site activities –I can’t recommend it enough. Another note – and this is an IMPORTANT one – most of the rides at Story Land (at least the fast, zippy ones) require you to be at least 36 inches tall. My 3 year old is 36 inches on the dot, she’s a very small 3 year old! If she had been a half an inch shorter, this trip would have been much less fun. Fair warning so you’ll know what you can and can’t ride on before you go, check out the list of attractions at Story Land.
Best North Conway Itinerary Ever!
3:00 – 6:00pm - Arrive at Story Land at 3 to enjoy the park right when you arrive and receive a free return pass for the next day. Hit all the rides that usually have the longest rides during early afternoons because the crowds have usually thinned out by 3pm mainly the Antique Cars, the Polar Coaster, the Bamboo Shoots, and Dr. Geyser’s Raft Ride.
6:30pm – Grab dinner at your hotel/campsite/condo, or if you’re not too tired at Flatbread Company (remember to call them as you’re leaving Story Land so you can get your name right on the list to be seated – less waiting is always good).
If your kids stay up later than feel free to grab ice cream at Trail’s End Ice Cream (conveniently across
the street from the Mountain View Resort on Rte 302). They have great ice cream and a playground too!
Day 2: (Pack bathing suits in case your kids want to wear them for some of the water rides and splash areas )
7:30am – We went to the Glen Junction Restaurant for breakfast and I recommend it, it’s cute with trains running around the ceiling and yummy food. It starts to get busy by 8, so if you can get there before hand (like we did because my kids wake up at the first, tiny hint of sunlight) you’ll have better luck getting a seat quickly.
9:00am – Arrive at Story Land and go through the special passes line with your free return ticket. Go LEFT at the entrance and enjoy the popular rides first. There are lots of food options available in the park, but you are also allowed to bring food in and there are many spots to picnic. Take some breaks during the day by attending the Circus and other shows at the park. Spend the end of the day in the right-hand side of the park where the crowds are now gone, since most people start their day at that side of the park. Ride the Swan Boat, the Carousel, and the tea cups at your leisure.
6:00pm – Story Land closes, head to dinner. Another suggestion that I didn’t have the chance to try is the
Red Fox Bar & Grille which is supposed to be very kid friendly.
Day 3 (if you’re staying 2 nights):
8:00am – Breakfast, head into town to explore some of the cute restaurants and stores. Peaches comes
highly recommended and the food looked delicious!
9:30am – Head to Diana’s Bath, which are a series of small, shallow pools with waterfalls fed from Lucy
Brook which runs down from Big Attitash Mountain. It’s an easy 6/10th of a mile hike leading to this great spot to explore rocks, ledges, falls, and pools. The pools are a bit slippery, so if your kids have water shoes, this would be an idea spot for them to wear them. Though we didn’t have them and we managed to have a good time without needing anymore stitches. Diana’s Baths are part of the US National Forest System and there is a $3.00 fee payable in the parking lot. We had a picnic lunch at the Baths, then hiked back down and changed out of our bathing suit into our traveling clothes.
12:00pm – Head home! Bring on the pirate and fairy movies!
So, I truly hope you go, it was so much fun and if you have questions or need advice please leave a comment and I’ll help if I can!
Cape Cod Moms