Thinking about a quick getaway for Memorial Day weekend? Before you finalize your plans, explore family-friendly places by using Google Maps Street View. If you’re not familiar with this free tool, it gives you a 360-degree street level look at popular U.S. and world destinations (zoos, amusement parks, public parks, landmarks, museums, etc.). From the comfort of your own home computer or smartphone, preview places to determine if you want to visit them in person.
Get a panoramic look at these following U.S. destinations:
You know how a typical vacation glow tends to vanish as soon as you dump all the dirty laundry from the trip on your basement floor and begin sorting it? Or maybe that’s just me. But not this time! It’s been two weeks since my five-year-old son, Julian and I headed to Grand Bahama Island, courtesy of the kind folks at the Grand Lucayan, and we’re still feeling chill. Julian has declared that he won’t remove his orange resort wristband (“until I’m an old man and die”—yipes!) and I’m still smiling thinking of all the happy little moments over our three-day trip that I hope I never forget.
Julian’s beach experience so far had been limited to summers at the Jersey Shore, so with all due respect for Snooki, he was totally blown away when I pointed to that backdrop of blue beyond our resort and told him it was the ocean. “What? Are you kidding me?” he yelled. I’ve seen my share of islandy-beaches, but the view made me as giddy as my little guy. As soon as we unpacked in our spacious, marina-view room (one of 519 at this huge yet totally low-key haven) we quickly switched into a slow-as-honey pace that was such a departure from the daycare-work-home-bath-dinner-bed routine of our usual weekdays that the whole getaway now feels kind of like a dream. After dinner at Irie’s Restaurant, where I had a yummy mahi mahi stuffed with crabmeat and Julian split the lobster-topped pasta with one of two little boys on the trip who were nearly his age (two vacay playmates? jackpot!), we returned to our room to find giant chocolate chip cookies and milk had been delivered with the turndown service. Sweet! This place clearly knows kids (and carb-loving moms!).
The next morning, we experienced one of the highlights of our trip: the Unexso Dolphin Experience. We dangled our feet in a lagoon while two incredibly charming bottlenose dolphins performed like Broadway stars with fins for us. Julian laughed his head off every time they flipped or dove, yet when it was our turn to enter the water and pet the adorable Andros, my guy simply shook his head. Not happening. After the encore though, as we headed off the dock, he spotted a macaw, ran to it, and even dared allow his little arms to be used as a perch (see the pic?). Then he looked at me and said, “Do you want to live here? Because I’m serious, I want to move here.” Me too.
The next day, more water fun. We had a picnic on Gold Rock Beach, a little slice of paradise where Pirates of the Carribbean was filmed. Mother nature seems to have made this place for kids. You can walk into the aquamarine sea for the length of a football field and still the water only comes up to a tot’s waist. Exquisite. But the water at Grand Lucayan was pretty amazing too—four pools, including two infinity pools. Julian loved sitting on a chaise lounge in our favorite of the bunch (yes, a lounger in the pool—how fantastic is that?).
We didn’t want to leave. No, that is a massive understatement. There were big, fat tears and hysterics involved. Our last night, after an outrageous Asian pupu (queue the laughter from three little boys) platter feast at China Beach, we finished packing up. Which is when a crying Julian proceeded to try to hide the boogie board we couldn’t fit in his suitcase under the bed, “so I can find it when we come back with Daddy and Celeste!”
I kind of wanted to cry, too—it was just so special to have a few unhurried days together. Time to float in beautiful waters and meet sea critters, yes. But also time to answer my son’s 42-questions-an-hour (like, “Hey, why did those people put their dishes on the floor in this hallway? That’s not nice!” “That’s called room service, Julian” and “What is this cereal? It’s so good! Is it Cheerios with colors in them?” “They’re Froot Loops, my friend, and they’re only for special occasions!” “What’s occasions?”) without being distracted by the concerns/smartphones/chaos of our inland life. And I hope we return, because the Grand Lucayan’s kids’ club, anchored by an open-air classroom and boasting an area for babies called Grandma Lucaya’s, opens after renovations in a couple months and looks fantastic. But in the meantime, I need your help: How will I ever get this kid back to the Jersey Shore?!
Grand Lucayan, Rates in season start at $259; off-season start at $159.
I was with parents of my 6-year-old daughter’s friends over the weekend, and an interesting question came up. One mom asked, “Would you ever go away without your kids?” My answer: “Would, have, and will.” The mom explained that while she and her husband have had lots of overnights without their daughters, ages 6 and 4–thanks to their own parents–they haven’t actually left town to go anywhere. She simply cannot, she says. You can guess her big fear: What if something happened to her and her husband while they were away?
I get that; the same thought has crossed my mind every time I’ve boarded a plane since becoming a mom (whether my husband is with me or not). I told her about a friend who’d felt the same way she did, and how when her sons were 4 and 7, she had the chance to join her husband on a free and pretty lavish business trip to Europe. She decided to do it. She was a wreck leading up to the trip, but forced herself to go. And everything worked out just fine. But this mom was unconvinced: “Can’t do it,” she said, smiling and shaking her head. “I just can’t.”
Recently, I spent two days with a special out-of-town guest, taking her sightseeing around New York City. We navigated Manhattan with ease, taking on diverse areas such as Gramercy Park, Flatiron District, Midtown East, Times Square, and the Upper East Side. My guest, part of the Flat Stanley Project, never made a fuss or complained — being made of markers and laminated paper.
For parents who are unfamiliar with The Flat Stanley Project, it was started in 1995 by Dale Hubert, a teacher in Ontario, Canada, and was inspired by the Flat Stanley children’s books series by Jeff Brown. The project involves children making paper cutouts of themselves (their personalized versions of Flat Stanley) and then mailing them to friends and family around the world. The goal is to encourage literacy as kids write about Stanley’s adventures through his visits, and to promote pen pal exchanges. Over 6,000 schools in 88 countries have participated in the project, and even famous folks such as President Obama and actor Clint Eastwood have been photographed with a Flat Stanley.
My friend’s young daughter sent me her Flat Stanley (from Georgia!) and my inner host and shutterbug went all-out visiting Big Apple landmarks (Empire State Building, Times Square, Rockefeller Center), historical sites (Theodore Roosevelt’s birthplace, Fifth Avenue Public Library), and some children’s paradises (Toys “R” Us, FAO Schwartz, American Girl Place). It was really fun soaking up familiar sights I wouldn’t normally visit as a New Yorker, and I’m ready for my next Flat Stanley visitor.
Parents, learn more about how to get your school involved in this global literacy project at FlatStanley.com, and make sure to download the (free) Flat Stanley app from iTunes.
Befriending a guard outside FAO Schwartz
Resting at the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park
It’s my turn to host the entire family for Christmas this year. Don’t tell anyone, but I have secret fantasies of packing up and flying off to an exotic place where all the cooking, hosting and entertaining is done by someone else! A great place that is offering just that this holiday season is a resort my husband and I visited last year: The Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa in New Mexico near Albuquerque, New Mexico. And even better, the kind folks at Tamaya have offered YOU, Parents readers and blog visitors a special family plan rate which includes a second room half off! Because is it really a vacation to stuff everyone in one room?! It’s not for me anyway! The promotion will be valid December through the end of February and the offer code will be PARENT. Click here to book.
Here are just some of the fun stuff that will be offered this holiday at the Pueblo Style Resort.
Tree Lighting Ceremony. On, November 26 children from the Pueblo of Santa Ana will sing around the holiday tree in the resort’s living room, festive decorations and a traditional display of luminarias as well as holiday-themed pastries and beverages.
Pueblo-style Gingerbread Making Classes: Every Sunday, guests will take part in an instructional course with a member of the Tamaya’s pastry team to learn how to construct their very own Pueblo-style gingerbread home.
Santa-drawn Carriage Rides: Each weekend, Santa and his reindeer will take guest on a carriage ride through the indigenous Bosque forest and along the Rio Grande River. Guests will receive complimentary hot chocolate and holiday cookies.
Santa Paws: Travelers are encouraged to bring their four-legged friends to celebrate the holiday season. The pet-friendly resort will host the “Santa Paws” event on December 3 which will provide guests with a complimentary photo of their pet with Santa Claus upon a donation of one pet food item to a local animal nonprofit organization.Artisan Market: On December 10, the resort will showcase the culture of the Pueblo of Santa Ana with arts, crafts, and jewelry available from several Native American tribes throughout New Mexico. In addition, the event will feature performances from Native American dancers and musicians.
Christmas Eve Book Reading: Resort guests will gather around the large holiday tree in the resort’s Living Room for a reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Santa Claus will make an appearance after the book reading as he makes his way through New Mexico. The resort will serve a traditional New Mexico-style Christmas Eve dinner including pasole, tamales, and biscochitos in its Santa Ana Café and Corn Maiden restaurant.
Wow. What a trip! Madelyn, my nearly 5-year-old daughter, and I are on our way home from an amazing adventure. Yesterday, we arrived at Kensington Gardens in London for the Disney Rapunzel party. (Click here to read my previous posts explaining the event). The park was swarming with families: It was 80 degrees and sunny (in October!) At The Princess Diana Memorial Playground–the most extraordinary playground I’ve ever seen, btw. Madelyn spotted little girls carrying little blue flags with a simple sun decal. “Rapunzel flags!” Madelyn squealed. Ah, the sun emblem was from Tangled; it was an insidery nod that you were here for Rapunzel. As we left the playground, we saw more flags and more little girls dressed up as princesses. Hundreds were standing along the park road where all 10 Disney princesses proceed by carriage to Rapunzel’s party at Kensington Palace. Madelyn and I went through the palace gates to watch from the entrance. Madelyn squealed at every announcement as each arrived in order of their Disney debuts: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, and finally, Rapunzel. (Check back later for video of some of the princesses arriving–even Max, Rapunzel’s horse, made a special appearance).
We spent the afternoon sipping lemonade, eating tea cakes, and other dainty apps. Madelyn got a Rapunzel hair extension that was so long it grazed the ground and a butterfly face paint. Nicole Richie’s little girl got her face painted in the chair next to her (other celebs like two of the Spice Girls and some international celebs I couldn’t spot were also supposedly there).
Due to a scheduling snafu, we missed the musical performance, but because Madelyn was only one of five girls shut out, they let her in to have a private meeting with all 10 princesses. Madelyn was bummed to miss the singing (and an appearance by Flynn Rider), but felt pretty special to get to meet the living dolls. (Rapunzel especially looked like she was off the shelf–take a look at the pic). When Madelyn walked on stage Jasmine took her hand. She was starstruck! When we left she said, “Mommy, this was the best day EVER!” Ah. It was worth it.
Madelyn and I have arrived in London for the Disney event honoring Rapunzel. Oddly Madelyn is less jet lagged than I am. When I wanted to nap today, she pulled me up saying she wanted to go to the park. So we took the tube a couple stops to Hyde Park, where we found horses, gorgeous gardens and a nice playground. At the playground, there was a flier posting the celebration for Rapunzel’s party and inviting London families to attend! The flier said the best place to stand to watch the procession — wow, can’t imagine it’ll be that packed. But maybe? In any case, it got Madelyn even more worked up!
Here, she is playing on the new app (made especially for Rapunzel’s big day) at a little Italian restaurant off Oxford street. Meanwhile, Rapunzel was further downtown at Big Ben. Tomorrow we hope to hit the Tower of London and Hampton Court for even more Princess mania.
MyFox Orlando reported hat Beard saw the child dangling from the balcony and ran to a location underneath the child before she fell. The toddler struck the third floor balcony before being caught by Beard. The child still slipped through Beard’s arms and landed on the ground, but didn’t suffer any injuries. The local hospital determined the child to be in good health and the sheriff’s captain deemed Jah-Nea’s rescue to be miraculous.
When taking a trip with your child, Parents suggests calling the hotel beforehand to ask questions and determine if it’s kid-friendly location. Ask about renting a crib or stroller, the hotel’s crib safety requirements, and any available child-friendly activities, pools, and playgrounds. Most hotels also offer free childproofing kits or will childproof the room for you upon request. Just make sure to ask. Once you’re at the hotel, look for any possible dangers such as open balconies, stairs, and railings, uncovered outlets, sharp furniture, fragile objects, loose curtain or electrical cords, and unlocked cabinets. Above all, keep your child safe no matter where you stay.