Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when this adorable back-to-school pic of my friend Gina’s daughter, Lili, popped up. Until I read the comments, I didn’t realize that what she’s standing next to isn’t merely a cute flower decoration. It’s actually a “reading vine” of the books that the family has enjoyed recently. “When Lili finishes a book, we add a pink paper flower to the vine,” Gina told me. “My husband and I put on a leaf for our books.” The family started making the vines when Lili was in kindergarten because she was a reluctant reader. “My husband and I are big readers and we wanted Lili to be as enthusiastic about books as we are,” recalls Gina. “We told her that we’d work together to make a vine to reach the ceiling.” Now entering fifth grade, Lili devours books. Her faves include the The Last Dragon Chronicles series and the Harry Potter books while Gina is challenging herself to read all 14 books in the Wheel of Time series. I’m inspired to start a reading vine in our house this school year. How about you?
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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
Last weekend, I took my daughter, her cousin, and two friends to check out the Crayola Experience in Easton, Pennsylvania, about an hour north of Philadelphia and 90 minutes or so from New York City. Formerly known as The Crayola Factory, the children’s museum-like space closed its doors last winter for a complete makeover. The once-snoozy story about how crayons are made got an animated twist, a two-story play structure was constructed, and the arts and crafts became way cooler.
Our group loved the machines that molded a crayon into a shape—like a heart or a fish—and the ones where crayons are melted and spun to create funky spin-art designs shown in the picture. (For the record, the Crayola Experience supplied the image, but our “non-professional” versions looked almost as good.)
The kids also enjoyed drawing a picture and then turning it into a puzzle, doodling on glow-in-the-dark boards mounted to the wall (I want one for my family room), and personalizing a crayon label. Call me dorky, but I couldn’t resist making Parents Magazine Pink and Goodyblog Green to take home. We ran out of time to do the Coloring Page Photobooth (where kids get an image of themselves to color) and Modeling Madness (featuring Model Magic), but they looked cool.
While my crafting foursome ranged in age from 8 to 11, I think the “sweet spot” for visiting the Crayola Experience is 5 to 9, though kids from age 2 to 12 would certainly enjoy it. After five hours, each of the girls left with a bag stuffed with their creations as well as free crayons and markers. Sound like fun? The Crayola Experience is offering Parents an exclusive discount of $4 off each admission if you buy tickets by August 23, 2013 using this link. With the discount, tickets cost $11.99 for visitors age 2 and up. Kids 1 and under are free. Maybe I’ll see you there. My daughter and her friends are already asking to visit again!
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Monday, July 15th, 2013
Instead of buying individual admission to all the family-friendly attractions in a city you’re visiting, it’s much easier and cheaper to purchase a CityPASS booklet. In Philadelphia, for instance, if you bought adult admission to the five attractions in the booklet—the Franklin Institute and Adventure Aquarium among them—you’d shell out more than $100. The Philadelphia CityPass booklet, on the other hand, costs $59 for adults (and $39 for kids 12 and under). But my favorite thing about it is actually priceless: You gain VIP admission to attractions so you don’t have to wait in a long line with the kids.
Now the great news: To celebrate my 10 Best Cities for Families to Visit story in the August issue of Parents, CityPASS is giving away a chance to win a four-pack of passes to one of our “best” cities—Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, or New York City, between July 15 and August 11. Four winners will be chosen. To enter, simply leave a comment about which our 10 Best Cities you would most like to visit. For full rules, click here. Good luck!
Congratulations to our winners: JaNae Pritchett, Amy Griffin, Jen Gold, and Kara Haning!
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Thursday, July 11th, 2013
I’m a fan of Clare Crespo’s cupcake creations and her kids’ cooking series YummyFun. So when Breyers hired her to come up with fun treats for events it’s hosting tomorrow, July 12, in Richmond, Virginia and on July 26 in Raleigh, North Carolina, I couldn’t wait to see the results. This Mint Chocolate Chimp doesn’t disappoint. It’s easy to make (even if you’re not Clare): Cut an Oreo Fudge Cremes cookie in half. Arrange on plate to resemble ears. In the middle, add two overlapping scoops of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Press two blue candies into ice cream for the eyes. Press on another cookie and draw a mouth and nostrils on it with decorating icing. Dot the eyes with icing as well. If you’re making more than one chimp, pop the plate back in the fridge to prevent melting. Think you have a great sundae creation of your own? Post it on Facebook.com/Breyers for a chance to win a prize—the page also has details on the events.
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Thursday, July 11th, 2013
If you still haven’t booked your summer getaway, here’s a great last-minute deal: Wyndham Vacation Rentals is offering up to 35 percent off on U.S. vacation rentals when staying of four or more nights between July 1 and September 3, 2013. You must book the rental by July 31, 2013 using the promo code CELEBRATE. Wyndham has condos, villas, and large homes in seven states, including South Carolina (home to Parents best beach towns pick, Hilton Head Island) and Florida (in beach towns and Orlando).
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Monday, July 1st, 2013
Thinking about taking a trip with the kids this summer, but don’t have anything booked yet? Then read my new story on the 10 best cities for families to visit. Not only will you get a list of must-see attractions, you’ll also find exclusive deals and perks for hotels in many of the top cities. $1,500 worth of savings! To make it more convenient for you, we’ve put the details on all the offers below. Which place are you dying to visit? Chicago is on my bucket list for this summer!
Omni San Diego Hotel
Get 10 percent off and free parking with promo code PARENTS; Book from June 30, 2013 to January 20, 2014. Subject to availability.
Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel (shown at right)
Enter promo code PMAG for free kids’ meals with the purchase of an adult meal at Vela Restaurant. The offer is valid July 1, 2013 to September 30, 2013. Based on availability. Certain restrictions apply.
Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa
Use promo code P15 for a 15 percent discount; book by August 1, 2013 for stays that occur between July 8, 2013 and September 30, 2013. Offer is not available August 30, 2013 through September 1, 2013. Subject to availability.
Use the promo code PARENT for a 10 percent discount; book by December 31, 2013. Subject to availability.
Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek
Book at www.wyndham.com/hotels/florida/orlando/wyndham-grand-orlando-resort-bonnet-creek/information-parents-magazine for 15 percent off a two-night stay plus a $50 resort credit. Book by September 1, 2013 for stays between August 1, 2013 and October 31, 2013. Subject to availability.
Call the hotel at 855-514-8112 and mention Parents for a 10 percent discount. Book by December 31, 2013 for rooms from September 1, 2013 to April 30, 2014. Subject to availability.
Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile
Use promo code PARENTS to receive a 10 percent discount for stays between July 1, 2013 and September 6, 2013. Subject to availability.
Radisson Fisherman’s Wharf
Stay 3 nights or more and receive 2 percent off your room rate using promo code PARMAG. Promotion is available for select dates between July 1, 2013 and December 30, 2013. Subject to availability, black-out dates apply. Advance reservations are required. Maximum occupancy is 4 guests per room with 2 double beds and 2 guests in a room with 1 king bed. Not valid with any other discounts or promotions. Cancellations must be made 24 hours or more before arrival. Cancellations made less than 24 hours prior to arrival will be charged one nights room and tax charges.
Mention Parents magazine when you check in at Hotel Diva from July 1, 2013 to September 30, 2013. Your kids will receive a goody bag while you’ll snag a special welcome amenity. Subject to availability.
NEW YORK CITY
When making a reservation, use the code PARENTS to get Jacques Torres chocolates at check-in. Valid for stays between July 1, 2013 and September 30, 2013. Subject to availability.
Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa
Rooms with two queen beds start at $169 per night with promo code PARENT. You also receive a free breakfast daily for 4. Book by August 31, 2013 for stays between August 1, 2013 and October 31, 2013. Subject to availability.
Embassy Suites San Antonio Riverwalk-Downtown
Go to embassysuites.com/parents to book a room with a 10 percent discount. Book by December 31, 2013 for rooms from June 12, 2013 to December 31, 2013. Subject to availability.
SpringHill Suites Indianapolis Downtown
Book at room at marriott.com/specials/mesOffer.mi?marrOfferId=815075&displayLink=true for a 15 percent discount. Book by December 30, 2013 for rooms from August 1, 2013 to December 30, 2013.
Loews Philadelphia Hotel
Get a 10 percent discount by using the promo code READER; book and use between now and December 30, 2013. Subject to availability.
The Rittenhouse Hotel
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Use the promo code N28C between July 1, 2013 and September 8, 2013 to receive a 10 percent discount. Subject to availability.
Friday, June 28th, 2013
Last year, Parents ranked Embassy Suites as one of the best hotel chains for families. It was the only chain in our survey where all the accommodations are two-room suites with a door that separates the master bedroom (your digs) from the living area with a pull-out couch (the kids’ space). Free made-to-order breakfast and a fridge and microwave in the room sealed the deal.
Now the chain has a cool partnership with the Association of Children’s Museums. On July 8 and August 1, Embassy Suites’ guests will receive perks—like VIP line access and gift shop discounts—at 18 children’s museums around the country. The company is also giving out a limited number of free children’s museum passes to guests on these days. If you happen to be staying in Houston, be sure to visit The Children’s Museum of Houston, which was Parents‘ top pick in our children’s museum survey. For a full list of all the participating locations, click here.
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Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
When Hurricane Sandy blasted the Jersey Shore last fall, my thoughts immediately went to Cape May. I took a family vacation there the summer before and was completely charmed by the town. After seeing news footage and Facebook photos of the devastation of the New Jersey coast, I had assumed the worst had happened. Fast-forward three months: I’m researching a Parents magazine story on the 10 Best Beach Towns for Families. I’ve narrowed my picks to a “short list” of a hundred or so towns that have great water quality. Cape May is on the list. So I made a call to find out what shape the town is in now. And much to my delight, I learned that Sandy largely spared Cape May, taking a last-minute turn in the other direction.
Cape May stayed in the running to be included in the story, and when other factors—like inland family fun and nature activities—were considered, it ended up being number five on Parents best list. Here are a couple of highlights from my family’s long weekend in Cape May, and you’ll find many more family-friendly activities in my story on the town.
My daughter’s favorite memory from the trip was an inexpensive program we signed up for at the Nature Center of Cape May. Staff cast a net in the ocean to see what creatures they could find, and then told the kids about them. The kids got to touch the little critters before safely returning them to the water. By the looks of it, all the kids in the program that day had a blast and learned quite a bit from this hands-on experience.
We went to the beach that was across the street from Congress Hall, where we stayed. Even though we were there in mid-August (peak season!), it didn’t feel crowded. And it was very clean!
At night, we checked out the shops at Washington Street Mall, a three-block outdoor promenade filled with adorable, independent shops like Bath Time (where we bought custom-blend bubble bath). For a treat, we ended up enjoying egg creams (a combo of chocolate syrup and seltzer) from Dellas 5 & 10.
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