Gulf Shores Bird

Triggering Vacation Memories with Scents #SensationalMemories

Gulf Shores Bird

Have you ever been going about your business when all of a sudden you stop in place because you are struck by a certain smell that brings back all of these memories? This has happened to me a few times and it’s not surprising because scents are a very powerful trigger. My favorite memories triggered by scents are always ones that bring me back to certain family vacations.

For our family, we tend to go to two different places for our vacations – Walt Disney World and Gulf Shores. A few months ago, my husband and I were outside in the evening. It was a cool night, the breeze shifted a different way and all of a sudden I was overcome with memories of the beach. Something about the breeze combined with a smell in the air brought on these memories and I didn’t want to let go – I was ready to book another trip to the beach!

Gulf Shores Bird

The same has happened to us with memories of Walt Disney World. My husband and I will be overcome with a scent in the air – whether it’s rain coming or the strong smell of popcorn making us think of Main Street and we will be transported right back to the Happiest Place on Earth.

SCM Disney

I love that certain scents can transport you to another place and time with memories! Arm & Hammer Laundry knows that and for the first time, they have launched a collection with scents inspired by nature in partnership with the National Park Foundation.

The newest Arm & Hammer Clean Scentsations line gives your clothes the pristine freshness of the great outdoors. All three options include Arm & Hammer Baking Soda to help power out dirt and odors – at a fraction of the cost. Find out more about the products here!

Win a Trip to Yosemite National Park!

Do you have a scent that brings you back to a favorite family vacation? Arm & Hammer and Scholastic have teamed up and are giving away a family trip to Yosemite National Park!

Scholastic is also partnering with Arm & Hammer to provide families with 20 Great Outdoor trip ideas on it’s Smart Family Travel platform. Find out why to go, what to do and where to stay at each destination. Also included are fun activities for kids! Each destination comes with a printable to teach them a thing or two about where they’ll be.

Enter the Sensational Memories Contest!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Arm & Hammer. The opinions and text are all mine.

Traveling to Egypt with Toddlers

Taking Toddlers to Egypt

Traveling to Egypt with Toddlers

 

 

Traveling with toddlers always proves to be a bit of a challenge for most moms, and further problems present themselves when taking them to hotter climes. Holidays to Egypt invite families to explore its beautiful and intriguing lands. The high temperatures and longer flight haul might put you off it flying with young children, but here are a few tips to help you out and ease any hassle.

Traveling to Egypt with Toddlers
What to pack

Toddlers usually need a lot of items when travelling, with the essentials being wipes, diapers, changing pads, medicine, plastic bags and extra clothing. If you are a first-time traveller to Egypt, packing more than enough is the better strategy as you never know. It’s possible, for example, that you could arrive late at night only to find, that most of the shops at your destination closed for the day, when you badly need another set of diapers for the baby.

Moreover, you should remember to pack an umbrella stroller as it will help immensely, especially during those long waiting periods at the airport. A backpack is also recommended as it will free up your hands enabling you to manoeuvre the stroller more easily.

Don’t forget the entertainment 

Entertainment is a huge part of any toddler’s life and once they start squirming from discomfort due to the noises, strange surroundings, not to mention new faces, you automatically expect a trip predominated by tantrums and screams, and that’s when you know it’s time to rack it up a notch. You can achieve this by simply picking them up and being playful, which they’ll love, or offer them a favourite toy to play with. Be sure to take along their favourite teddy! These little distractions will go a long way. The amazing sights of pyramids, tombs and shrines will also surely grab their attention, for a moment or two at least.

Choose the right time to travel 

The weather in Egypt is a defining factor if you are looking to go there on holiday with your toddler. It is generally hot and sunny most of the time, but has a cool winter, which lasts from November to February, with temperatures during the day being generally mild and around 20 C cool at night. On the other hand, summer temperatures are 35 C on average with intense humidity, which can make things very uncomfortable, especially for the toddler. As such, the best time to travel to Egypt is in between the months of October and May, when temperatures are medial most of the time.

The most important thing is that you and your toddlers have a fun trip, exploring all that Egypt has to offer.

Have you ever visited Egypt with kids? 

 

Guest Post

 

164663E7-1FE0-46C6-A539-A7359744B8AF

Disney Studios, Here I Come! DVD & Blu-Ray Releases #PirateFairyBloggers #FrozenBluray

164663E7-1FE0-46C6-A539-A7359744B8AF

 

 

Next week I will be taking a short plane ride to sunny Los Angeles for a quick but incredibly magical three day trip and I can’t wait to tell you about it! Melissa is amazing to let me step in for her and I promise to do my best in sharing with you all of the amazing Disney coverage. Trust me, it’s going to be a really, really good time. You will want to keep up with the party on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with the hashtags #PirateFairyBloggers and #FrozenBluray!

I’m not going to deny it, we have seen FROZEN in the theater three times. The first time was a fun night out when Dad had to work late. We all fell in love with Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and the rest of the characters. My kids adored Olaf so much that my five year old son declared in a very serious (and not open to any discussion) tone, that from now on all of our snowmen must be named Olaf! The second was because Dad hadn’t seen it and the third was my daughter’s choice for her birthday night. I guess I don’t have to tell you that we have already pre-ordered FROZEN!

Frozen Blu-ray

Walt Disney Animation Studios presents a chilly twist on one of the most humorous and heartwarming stories ever told. “Disney Animation’s best since The Lion King” (William Bibbiani, CraveOnline) will melt your heart.

Fearless optimist Anna sets off on an epic journey — teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven — to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom.

Did you see the exclusive preview of The Pirate Fairy during the Super Bowl? I missed it too! Here is a peek into the new adventure starring Zarina:

 

Pirate Fairy Blu-ray

From the world of “Peter Pan” comes “The Pirate Fairy,” a swashbuckling new adventure about Zarina (voice of Christina Hendricks), a smart and ambitious dust-keeper fairy who’s captivated by Blue Pixie Dust and its endless possibilities. When Zarina’s wild ideas get her into trouble, she flees Pixie Hollow and joins forces with the scheming pirates of Skull Rock, who make her captain of their ship. Tinker Bell (voice of Mae Whitman) and her friends must embark on an epic adventure to find Zarina, and together they go sword-to-sword with the band of pirates led by a cabin boy named James (voice of Tom Hiddleston), who’ll soon be known as Captain Hook himself. With laughter, heart, magic and thrills, “The Pirate Fairy” sets sail April 1, 2014.

Back to this exciting Disney trip… here is what is on the tentative agenda:

Monday, February 10th 

  • Travel to Los Angeles and check in at the Sheraton Universal Hotel.

Tuesday, February 11th

  • Travel to Walt Disney Animation Studios for a behind the scenes look at the making of FROZEN including:  
    • Q&A with Director, Chris Buck and Producers, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
    • Hands-on demonstration of the Rigging process lead by Character TC Supervisor, Gregory Smith
    • Voice-over recording session with FROZEN’S Audio Engineer, Gabe Guy

Wednesday, February 12th 

  • Travel to the DisneyToon Studios for a look at THE PIRATE FAIRY including:
    • Advance screening of the THE PIRATE FAIRY
    • Sit down with THE PIRATE FAIRY Director Peggy Holmes and Producer  Jennifer Magee-Cook
    • Walk through the creation of “Zarina”, The Pirate Fairy from story to character design to animation

Did you catch the part about the voice-over recording session? VOICE-OVER! Aghhh! I’m going to be standing in the same studio where all of the biggest talents have made Disney’s most loved characters come to life. And if I happen to get the chance to do a voice-over for a character, and you happen to hear it, you have to promise to not laugh!

And on Tuesday we will also be visiting Walt Disney Studios to… I can’t tell you yet! It’s a surprise! So make sure you stay tuned in so you don’t miss it.

Okay, well… I am off to make my trip-list. Yes, I do this before every trip. Nerdy, I know. But tell me, what questions do you have for me to ask the film makers and creative teams behind FROZEN or The Pirate Fairy?

Disclosure: Disney is providing an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles including travel, accommodations and activities. All thoughts and opinions are honest and my own. 

CoCo and Friends

CoCo Key Hotel & Water Park is a Family-Friendly Getaway!

CoCo and Friends

 

 

My family recently got the opportunity to stay at the CoCo Key Hotel & Water Park in Orlando, on International Drive (which, as you may know, is a very popular and fun area of Orlando to visit and vacation).  After dropping off the twins with both sets of grandparents in blustery Indiana, the three of us (Me, Husband Keith and son Isaac) headed toward the sunny skies of sweet, sweet Orlando.

ExteriorImage

Our first impression was that we drove past the hotel.  Oops.  From the photos online, it didn’t seem like there could be a cool tropical hotel smack-dab amongst all these buildings, but yes, there it is!  We drove in, went to the front desk and were greeted by an extremely friendly young lady who set us up with our room keys and welcomed us to the hotel.  The lobby is a welcoming place with things to do for kids and adults of all ages.  It’s a very relaxed atmosphere and I cannot begin to convey how absolutely friendly and helpful ALL the staff were to us.  Very gracious hospitality!

There is a business center (out in the open so kids can be monitored), a corner TV station, a nice open layout lounge area and a kids play area called Club Key!

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CoCo Key Business center

CoCo Key TV Lounge

coco keyOur room, which was actually a suite with 2 queen beds, was just as was pictured.  It has clean, updated décor and extremely comfortable Serta Perfect Sleeper beds.  Truthfully, it was at least 10 times more comfortable than my bed at home!  It was clean, comfortable, and spacious.    There was a mini fridge, digital safe, flat screen TB, desk, coffee/tea maker, hairdryer, full ironing board and free Wi-Fi.  Regretfully, I did not take a picture of the bathroom so the third image is a stock photo.  I did take the photo of our beds and the couch as part of our suite.  Ignore the bed bumps, we had already taken a nap in it! LOL!

COUCH

ROOM

Bathroom

I just loved this sign!  It felt like vacation!  Isaac was holding up a bowling pin keyring he got from a local bowling alley for his first time bowling!  So cute.

direction sign

 

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Because we were here during off-season, the water park was closed the days we were there.  Isaac was disappointed but the weather was just not warm enough.  We did see people swimming in the pool, but our thin Texas blood just didn’t allow for swimming in 70 degree weather!  Too cold!  Despite is being closed, we were able to walk around and look at everything and it looks AMAZING!  The photos I took were not as true-to-life as the stock photos, so I will share these instead.  There is a LARGE canopy-covered water park area (the only one in Orlando!) so kids who can play without the harmful rays of the Florida sun.  VERY nice!

Aerial View

Under the Canopy

Bucket

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There is also a HUGE (6500 sq. ft.) arcade with a mini bowling alley and cool games!

Key Quest Arcade

We ate dinner at TradeWinds restaurant next to the arcade and it served affordable, family-friendly meals.  There is also a food court featuring Pizza Hut Express and Callaloo Grill, as well as the Wet Rooster Tiki Bar for Mom and Dad to grab some adult beverages.

Tradewinds Restaurant

You may even run into CoCo (the namesake of the hotel and water park) himself!

CoCo and Friends

Whether or not your stay is part of a larger visit to Orlando (2 miles to Universal Orlando Resort, 4 miles to SeaWorld, and 10 miles to Walt Disney World) or a one-stop family vacation, I think CoCo Key Hotel and Water Park can fit just about any family’s idea of a fun getaway!

Make sure to check them out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Disclosure: I was provided free accommodations at CoCo Key Hotel & Water Park Orlando.  All thoughts and opinions are my own, as always.

Universal Heath

Opening Soon: The Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Studios

Universal Heath

 

 

When my family visits Orlando, Florida, one of our favorite places to visit is Universal Orlando! We love visiting both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, there’s so much fun for each member of the family!

Universal Heath

 

I’m so excited to share with you about their latest resort, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort!

Swizzle Lounge - Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort

The Cabana Bay Beach Resort is Universal Orlando Resort’s fourth on-site hotel with striking color schemes and nifty, nostalgic details throughout the décor. The new 1,800 room hotel features moderately priced family suites available this spring at the special preview price and value-priced guest rooms available in summer of 2014 along with a wealth of recreation. When complete, guests can experience a 10-lane bowling alley and enjoy two massive pools with sand beaches, a lazy river, waterslide and more!

Doesn’t that sound amazing?! We can’t wait to get down to Orlando to stay here because with our family of 5, it’s definitely an affordable option for us!

The all-new family suites sleep up to six, surrounding guests with bold design, period colors, neon and a cool retro feel. The suites also feature a kitchenette with microwave, mini-refrigerator and sink. Combining affordability with convenience, the hotel’s location is within walking distance of both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Plus, hotel guests enjoy Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter one hour before the theme park opens. With three kids, it’s worth it just being able to get into the parks early!

Right now, there is an awesome rate that you’ll want to grab up!

This limited time offer includes:

• Incredible rates for the entire family to enjoy all-new family suites

–   Seven-night stay: as low as $104 per night

–   Five-night stay:  as low as $108 per night

–   Three-night stay:  as low as $134 per night

• On-site convenience – the hotel is within walking distance of Universal’s two theme parks and Universal CityWalk

• Early Park Admission to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (when guests purchase theme park tickets)

 

**Package is available for purchase now through January 31, 2014 for travel March

31, 2014 through June 14, 2014.

**Theme park tickets are not included.

**Blockout dates may apply.

Connect with Universal Orlando

Facebook: Universal Orlando Resort

Twitter: @UniversalORL

Instagram: @UniversalOrlando

Will you be checking out the Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando?

ILoveMemphis

Why I Love Memphis: Food, Baseball, Music and Justin Timberlake!

ILoveMemphis

 

 

Living in St. Louis, there are a few cities within easy driving distance. While we’ve been to Chicago, Louisville and Kansas City, there’s one city that’s only 5 hours away that’s on our Bucket List to spend time in.

ILoveMemphis

That’s right, Memphis, Tennessee! We actually have passed through Memphis a few times. Once, we drove to Memphis to see Weezer in concert and then drove right back. I’m not quite sure why we didn’t spend a few more days there but hey, we were young and broke. The second time, we were driving through Memphis on our way to Gulf Shores, Alabama and heard that we had to stop and try some of that famous BBQ at Rendezvous – and it didn’t disappoint. It was one of the best lunches I’ve ever had. Now, I’m ready to get back to Memphis for a few days and while there’s a ton of stuff drawing me there like the music, food, shopping, attractions and more….there’s one thing that I’m ready to put my blue suede shoes on for….

JT

Justin Timberlake!

Memphis is the hometown of Justin Timberlake and he still keeps close to the city. He owns a golf course called Mirimichi and is a minority owner of the NBA team, the Memphis Grizzlies. He also has his own tequila – 901 (area code of Memphis). Justin Timberlake is performing in Memphis on Monday, Nov. 18 at FedEx Forum and I would love to be there! I bet you would too, so sit back and read some other reasons you should visit Memphis and then see how you can have a chance to see him perform live in Memphis!

Read on for my JT songs themed tour of Memphis!

“Strawberry Bubblegum”

My husband and I love to eat, so Memphis is the place to be! Memphis may be known for their BBQ, but that’s not all they have. Memphis was named by Travel + Leisure as one of the best cities for barbecue (of course) as well as burgers, pizza and dive bars. I’d love to try Lunchbox Eats, a school cafeteria-themed restaurant with dishes like a chicken-and-waffle sandwich or the broken rib bones sandwich. Sounds like an experience in itself!

If it’s desserts you’re looking for, you came to the right place. At La Michoacana you’ll find only the most authentic paletas (Mexican popsicles). At Jerry’s Sno Cones, try the red wedding cake supreme and a stop at Muddy’s Bake Shop is also a must – try the Prozac chocolate cupcake!

We’re also fans of craft beer and Memphis is the home of craft brews like Ghost River, High Cotton and Wiseacre.

Red Wedding Cake Supreme Sno Cone at Jerry’s Sno Cones

“Dress On”

Shopping! If you’re looking to pick up some eclectic items or art, Memphis is the place to go. There are so many interesting neighborhoods to spend time in where you’ll find everything from clothing to art. The South Main Arts District sounds like a great place to spend a day – there’s a strip of local clothing boutiques marking this area as the newest fashion district.

Shopping in Memphis

“Winner”

My husband and I are huge fans of the St. Louis Cardinals and I still can’t believe we haven’t gotten down to Memphis for a Memphis Redbirds game! Right now, the Cardinals are rocking thanks to some of the players who came from the Redbirds and it would be so exciting to see a game there.

If baseball isn’t your thing, there’s a ton of other sports to see. There’s golf at JT’s golf coure Mirimichi and of course the Memphis Grizzlies. With no NBA team in St. Louis, I say Go Grizzlies!

Memphis Redbirds Game

“Let the Groove Get In”

In addition to the food, the shopping and sports, there is of course – the music! Memphis is home to Sun Studio (birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll) and the funky Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Both have hosted music legends who recorded the music that changed the world – Johnny Cash, Otis Redding, Booker T & the MGs, Isaac Hayes and Elvis Presley.

If live theater is your thing, you can catch a live theater show at Playhouse on the Square. There’s also the National Civil Rights Museum and of course, Graceland! So many things to see, so little time!

There’s so much to do in Memphis and here’s a great list of reasons:

  1. Funky, historic and world-famous cultural attractions like the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Sun Studio and the National Civil Rights Museum
  2. Vibrant music scene. Live music at the Levitt Shell, which hosts 50 free concerts a year at this famous outdoor amphitheatre. The Hi-Tone another Memphis landmark just opened its new location in the Crosstown Arts neighborhood.
  3. Eclectic neighborhoods like Cooper-Young, Overton Square, Broad Avenue Arts District and South Main.
  4. The local beer palate is expanding with craft brews like Ghost River, High Cotton and Wiseacre (just opened a taproom and patio in August 2013).
  5. Nightlife at Raiford’s Disco, Rumba Room
  6. Fine attractions like the Dixon Gallery and Gardens or Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
  7. Food – Soul Food, Barbecue, nationally renowned chefs
  8. Memphis in May International Festival – Beale Street Music Festival, World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest and Sunset Symphony
  9. Hotels – keep it classy with The Madison or The Peabody. Get closer to the Mighty Mississippi at the River Inn.
  10. Experience the Grit & Grind of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum or watch the future stars of the St. Louis Cardinals play at Autozone Park – home of the Memphis Redbirds.
  11. Golf at Mirimichi (owned by Justin Timberlake) located in his childhood neighborhood.
  12. Memphis Fashion Week (March 27-29, 2014)
  13. Indie Memphis Film Festival (October 31 – November 3, 2013)

 

Okay, I’m ready to GO to Memphis! Are you ready, too? If you’re in St. Louis, you will want to enter this AMAZING giveaway courtesy of ALIVE Magazine and I Love Memphis.

One lucky winner will receive the following prize package:

-A two day stay at the famous Peabody Hotel (Nov 17-18)

-Two tickets to the Justin Timberlake show on Monday, Nov. 18 at FedEx Forum

-A round of golf at Justin Timberlake’s Mirimichi Golf Course (If your golf game is a little rusty, no biggie, enjoy a complimentary lunch and tour the club instead! We heard JT often makes an appearance while he’s in town.)

-Tickets to your choice of local music attractions like the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, Graceland, Sun Studio or the Stax Museum.

 Head over to ALIVE Magazine to enter, St. Louisans!

 

Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post, but have the chance to win a trip to Memphis!

GT Resort - pedicure

Fun-Filled Weekend at Grand Traverse Resort

GT Resort - pedicure

 

 

Michigan is full of beautiful places to visit, never ending sandy beaches, amazing restaurants, top-notch golf courses, wineries, and there are but a few areas in Michigan that can boast all of those at once.

Traverse City is one of the top destinations in Michigan and around the country and recently I spent the weekend up there with my family at the Grand Traverse Resort. If it weren’t for the beautiful area I probably would have never left the resort! They had everything that I needed and more to occupy me for the weekend.

GT Resort 1

The resort, which opened in 1980, is situated on 900 acres just a mere 6 miles northeast of Traverse City and is along the shores of Lake Michigan’s East Grand Traverse Bay. Complete with 585 rooms, suites, and condo’s there is room for just about every occasion available. But… I’d recommend booking well in advance because the resort does fill up fast!

Our room was in the Tower on the 12th floor and overlooked the East Bay and the Peninsula. The view was spectacular! I spent a great deal of time just sitting there looking out the window at the area and thinking how much more beautiful it would be in the fall when the leaves start turning the deep reds, bright yellows, and orange.

One thing that I notice about hotel rooms is the bathrooms. I think that this is because I really hate mine at home and am always looking for ways to get rid of it and start over. Ours was very spacious! Both myself and my daughter could get ready at the same time without bumping into one another ever. And the jacuzzi whirlpool tub… well that was calling my name for sure!

Our first evening at the resort we had dinner at the Aerie Restaurant which is on the 16th floor at the top of the Tower. I’ll be honest… it was an incredible restaurant and there was nothing about it that we did not love. The food was superb, service was amazing, and the view we had overlooking the Bay & Peninsula with the sun setting in the sky was perfect. But the cost of eating there is high and not something that we would do on a regular basis. Special occasions? Most definitely!

The resort is perfect for a Michigan family getaway too!

  • They have three distinguished 18-hole championship courses plus a driving range for you to use. And just in case your game isn’t all that perfect you can check out the Spa Golf Academy and take a few private lessons.

  • Pools! Indoor with a splash pad area and water slide and an outdoor one when the weather is nicer. Of course there are hot tubs inside and out to help you relax.

GT Resort - Pools

  • Health Club where you can use workout machines, sit in the sauna, or take a yoga class.

  • Indoor and outdoor tennis courts.

  • Children’s Center. The Cub House is a 2000 square foot daycare that is fully supervised and licensed by the state of Michigan. They also have 24 hour babysitting available.

 

I saved the absolute best for last though. The Spa.

GT Resort - pedicure

I could spend all day at the Spa Grand Traverse! It’s two floors, 7000 square feet, and a full service spa with 23 treatment rooms. Of course, cherry-themed services are the signature thing at the spa too.

I opted for the cherry infused pedicure. Pure bliss. It was an hour of being totally pampered.

It’s very similar to a regular pedicure but then they use a cherry infused scrub that is made locally and followed by a cherry lotion. Then your feet are dipped in paraffin and wrapped in plastic bags, then damp hot towels, and then finally covered in a larger dry towel. All of this helps the pedicure last longer and leaves your feet feeling super smooth and pampered.

You can learn more about Grand Traverse Resort by visiting their website and following them on Facebook and Twitter.

Disclosure: Accommodations were  provided complimentary by Grand Traverse Resort but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

MU Premiere El Capitan

Tailgating Party at the Hollywood Premiere of Monsters University #MonstersUPremiere

MU Premiere El Capitan

This week, I had the once in a lifetime experience of walking the blue carpet. That’s right, I said blue carpet! I had the chance to attend the World Premiere of Monsters University in Hollywood at the El Capitan Theater.

MU Premiere El Capitan

I was with my old college pal Lolo from Crazy About My Baybah. Of course, we had on our school colors of royal blue and white and had to stop and take a picture while we got our roar on with some very enthusiastic MU cheerleaders. {Thanks to everyone for the input on which outfit to wear! While I loved the dress, I’m glad I went with jeans because it was so comfortable and perfect for tailgating!}

MU Premiere MyBaybah

MU Premiere

The event kicked-off with a tailgate party on Hollywood Boulevard, complete with the MU pep squad drum corps and cheerleaders, the Disneyland All-American college band, and an appearance by Mike and Sulley! Also, ESPN College Scareday provided play-by-play commentary on the blue carpet.

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

I had such a fun time at the tailgating party. There were food tents from local restaurants like Hard Rock Cafe, Baked By Melisa and Subway serving delicious food and fun carnival type games to play – I felt like I was back in college again!

Monsters University Cupcakes from Baked By Melissa

Monsters University Cupcakes from Baked By Melissa

Photo by Jeana of Surf and Sunshine

Photo by Jeana of Surf and Sunshine

I also had the chance to get my scare on when I took my picture for my official Monsters University ID Badge – and guess what? You can make your own MU badge too! MU ID Badge

Of course, there were lots of celebrities attending and I had a great time spotting all of my favorites that are in Monsters University!

MU Premiere Wayne Brady

Wayne Brady

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

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Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

This was truly a once in a lifetime experience that I’ll never forget – I feel like I’m still soaking in all of the great memories! Walking into the gorgeous El Capitan to watch Monsters University was amazing. Make sure to check back soon for my review of Monsters University – you’re going to want to see it for sure!

Disclosure: Disney provided an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles including travel, accommodations and activities. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monsters_university_logo

I’ve Enrolled for the Hollywood Premiere of Monsters University #MonstersUPremiere

Monsters_university_logo

 

 

I’ve got some big and exciting news for you! After talking it over with my family, I’ve decided to go back to school! Where, you may ask?

Monsters_university_logo

That’s right, I’m packing my bags and headed to Hollywood! I’ve been invited to attend the Hollywood World Premiere of Monsters University at the El Capitan Theater and I absolutely can’t wait for you to follow me along on my adventure.

Mike Monsters University

Before the party, there will be a fun tailgating party where we will be sporting the school colors, royal blue and white! Like Mike, I’ve got my EYE on a few different outfits that I’ll be sharing soon – I’ll need your input! I can’t wait to meet my fellow sorority sisters {and brother!} and party with them before we see Monsters University!

My family and I have been counting down the weeks until Monsters University is in theaters and the time is almost here – June 21st! I’ll be sure to share my review here with you as soon as I can but I already know this movie is going the be the must-see movie of the summer for families!

A week from today, I’ll be all ready for school! In addition to seeing Monsters University, I’ll be learning about some other exciting Disney projects that I can’t reveal just yet! I’ll be in Los Angeles from June 17th through June 19th, so be sure to follow along for some fun details and photos!

Follow Along On My Monsters University Adventure

Follow Sippy Cup Mom on Facebook

Follow Sippy Cup Mom on Twitter

Follow Sippy Cup Mom on Instagram

– Get all of the details of the Premiere by following #MonstersUPremiere on Twitter

Scream Along with Monsters University

Monsters University Online 

Follow Monsters University on Facebook

Follow Monsters University on Twitter

Are you excited to see Monsters University in theaters?

 

Disclosure: Disney is providing an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles including travel, accommodations and activities. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

MiniTime

Plan Your Family Vacation With #MiniTime

MiniTime

 

This is a sponsored post on behalf of The Motherhood and MiniTime. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Summer is almost here and for our family, that means lots of traveling! Whether it’s for a week or just a weekend, we like to get away for some family bonding time. Whenever I start to research a future trip, I always spend time on numerous websites making sure that there are plenty of family friendly activities to do, not to mention accommodations that are child friendly. Now, I no longer have to visit several sites to plan my family vacations, I only have to visit one – MiniTime!

MiniTime-logo-square-500x500

MiniTime launched 6 months ago and is the first family travel site to make travel recommendations based on the ages of your children. In just once place, parents will be provided the tools to help plan, book, and share their family travel experiences.

MiniTime is free to use and browse reviews of destinations. You can also easily register via Facebook and have full access to all of the features. We plan on visiting Branson, Missouri this August so I decided to create a Trip Plan, a new MiniTime feature that allows you to create custom vacation itineraries. I absolutely loved this concept and it was so easy to use and share with my husband so he could see it too.

Once I search for our destination, I was able to input the ages of my children, how long we would be gone for and the total number of travelers on the trip. You even have the option of making the trip private or public.

MiniTime

Planning your trip is easy when you use the interactive Trip Planner. It allows you to drag and drop places to see, stay, and eat into your interactive itinerary like I did below.

MiniTime2

I was able to search through attractions, accommodations and restaurants and then add them to my Trip Planner. Even though we visit Branson frequently, I came across lots of places that we haven’t visited before. I liked seeing the ratings that places were given in relevance of my kid’s ages in addition to reviews and photos submitted by parents who have been there, done that. You can also print up your Trip Plan or access it via mobile which is great while you’re on the go!

Why MiniTime is Perfect for Parents

MiniTime conducted a survey on family travel and found:

  • In 90% of households, moms are the key decision makers for vacations
  • One in three parents consult more than nine online resources
  • More than half of parents are spending nine or more hours planning a vacation
  • 63% of parents would like to save time by researching and booking on the same website
  • 88% of parents trust recommendations from parents with kids the same ages
  • 65% trust sites offering comparative pricing from multiple online travel agents

Favorite Features of MiniTime

– Over 1000 hand-picked destinations, accommodations and attractions, recommended for your family based on the ages of your kids

– Printable games and activity sheets for kids

– Printable packing lists specific for your type of trip (road trip, beach vacation, etc!)

– Reviews from parents with kids the same age as yours

– Daily map with turn-by-turn directions to guide families on their way, as well as a journal, calendar and the ability to store family photos.

Learn More at the MiniTime Twitter Party

Make sure to join me at the #MiniTime Twitter Party on Thursday, June 6th at 1pm EST. We’ll be chatting about summer travel, facts, tips and more! Four winners will receive a $75 VISA gift card and a MiniTime hoodie. One grand prize winner will receive a $100 VISA gift card and a MiniTime hoodie.

TweetGrid for the Party: http://bit.ly/11j7vQP

I’m a huge fan of MiniTime and I know this is going to be by go-to website for planning all of our future family vacations. Where are you headed this summer?

 

 

Gulf Shores Plantation View

Having Fun in Gulf Shores!

Gulf Shores Plantation View

 

 

Right now we are in Gulf Shores, Alabama staying at Gulf Shores Plantation. It has been a gorgeous week so far and we are having a lot of fun – I’ll definitely have some posts coming up on vacationing with infant twins! Here’s a few pictures from our trip so far!Gulf Shores Plantation View

Gulf Shores Plantations Beach

 

Gulf Shores Beach

Boba Wearing on Beach

twins napping

Disclosure: Accommodations are being provided complimentary by Gulf Shores Plantation but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

coast

Guest Post: Family Vacations on the Gulf Coast

coast

 

 

Are you trying to plan your next family vacation and don’t know where to start?  Are you looking to take your family somewhere new that the kids will not only remember, but enjoy?  The answer could be right under your nose!  Often overlooked by many, the Mississippi Gulf Coast has remained one of America’s hidden gems for years.  Located between Louisiana and Florida, the Mississippi Gulf Coast harbors a subtropical climate with temperatures rarely dropping below 60 degrees during the coldest months of the year.  Whether you’re looking for a once in a lifetime fishing trip, a luxurious resort experience, world class golf, or some good ole family fun, the Mississippi Gulf has affordable family vacations for people from all walks of life.

With 26 miles of white sandy beach, the Mississippi Gulf Coast is bound to have something fun for everyone in the family!  For Mom, how does a much needed day at the spa or full body, deep tissue massage sound?  You must not forget the numerous amounts of fine dining restaurants in the region either.  For Dad, how does a full day of action packed salt water fishing sit with you?  Are you trying to show off your talents on the golf course?  Then check out one of the many world class golf courses on the Mississippi “Golf” Coast!  If you’re feeling like more of an outdoor adventure, then perhaps you should look into exploring the Gulf Barrier Islands or go surfing or kayaking in the warm rich waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Bringing the whole family and worried about the budget!  No need to stress!  The Mississippi Gulf Coast has attractions such as the Gulf Islands Water Park and numerous Eco Reserves that are not only kid/family friend, but are friendly on your wallet as well!  Not to mention that many restaurants always have specials on great local food and drinks.  So whether you’re booking a weekend getaway or a trip of a lifetime, you should seriously consider the Mississippi and experience one or multiple Gulf Coast vacations that you have been missing out on!

Turtle Talk with Crush

Turtle Talk With Crush at Disney California Adventure #DisneyInHomeBloggers

Turtle Talk with Crush

One of my favorite places in Disney California Adventure at Disneyland Resort is the Disney Animation Building.  It’s a hidden gem, especially on a hot day or when you just want to decompress for a little bit.  The Disney Animation Building is filled with some great, interactive exhibits, including the Animation Academy (where you can learn to draw Disney characters), the Sorcerer’s Workshop (my favorite room in the Workshop is Beast’s Library where you can discover which Disney character you’re most like.  I always get Tinker Bell), and the Animation Courtyard (an amazing place to sit and watch the projections and enjoy a little quiet).  The projections in the Courtyard constantly change and show the evolution of several Disney films from first sketches to final animation.  It is definitely worth sitting down and watching the entire sequence of clips.

Animation Courtyard at Disney Animation Building

The main focus of our Disney Animation Building tour was Turtle Talk With Crush, an interactive show staring none other than the Disney*Pixar Finding Nemo star, Crush the sea turtle.  Guests sit in the “human tank” and get to ask Crush anything and everything they can think up.  We’ve visited Crush in his East Coast tank at Walt Disney World and we’ve definitely heard a wide range of questions from “How many kids do you have?” to “What does a turtle smell like?” (that one got lots of laughs).  Crush also loves to learn about humans so he can relay the info back to his youngest offspring,  Squirt.

Turtle Talk with Crush

Well, when you put a bunch of bloggers together in one room with a microphone at our disposal, you know we’re going to ask lots of questions!  Being the uber Crush fan I am, I just had to jump at the chance to ask him a question.  Whenever you ask Crush a something, he gives you an awesome sea turtle name.  I am now known as “A-Frame Ashley”.  I kinda dig it.  I asked Crush if they still celebrated birthdays after 150 years.  His response?  “Sometimes, dude. Sometimes we forget, but we do totally love celebrating turtle hatch days.  My father, Mr. Turtle, is close to 200 years old, dude.”

Turtle Talk With Crush

Crush likes to teach guests all about the life of a sea turtle, too.  For example, we learned sea turtles can go around fifteen minutes without going to the surface for air.  If they need to sleep, they can lower their heart rates and stay under for up to five hours.  How cool is that, dude?  They also get their green color from all of the green sea kelp they eat on the ocean floor.  I had no idea!  He can even name all of his little turtle offspring, but I’d fill up an entire blog post trying to write them all down for you.

Turtle Talk With Crush is a totally awesome experience.  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly Crush comes up with the answers to questions and you’ll definitely laugh a lot.  If you’re at Disney California Adventure at Disneyland Resort or Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort, make sure you stop by and say hello to Crush.  He so totally rocks!

Ashley at Turtle Talk With Crush

Catch Crush in Finding Nemo 3D, in theaters today! 

I attended the #DisneyInHomeBloggers event on behalf of SippyCupMom.com.  Disney provided my transportation, accommodations and other incidentals in exchange for coverage of the events.  While talking points were suggested, all thoughts are my own.   All photos are property of Disney, unless otherwise indicated by watermark. 

Flo's V8 Cafe Cars Land

Buena Vista Street and Cars Land at Disney California Adventure with #DisneyInHomeBloggers

Flo's V8 Cafe Cars Land

As part of our amazing #DisneyInHomeBloggers trip to celebrate the releases of Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Nemo 3D”, Cinderella Diamond Edition, and Disney Fairies’ new film “Secret of the Wings”, we were treated to an amazing day at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California.

Disneyland Resort consists of Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park as well as three hotels (Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, Disneyland Hotel, and Paradise Pier Hotel) and the Downtown Disney District.  Unlike it’s Florida counterpart, all areas of Disneyland Resort are within walking distance of each other and traveling between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure is as simple as crossing through the Esplanade.  I really enjoy the close proximity of the parks and resorts.  It definitely saves you a lot of time you might otherwise have to spend on a tram or bus.

But don’t let the compactness of the area fool you…Disneyland Resort packs a ton of attractions, entertainment, shopping, and dining into their magical location.  In fact, even after a four day stay in April, I still hadn’t experienced all Disneyland Resort had to offer.

Our morning began in Disney California Adventure, with a stop at the Animation Building to visit Turtle Talk with Crush (more on this soon!).  Then we headed over to Buena Vista Street, the newly remagined entrance to Disney California Adventure (DCA).  You really feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the days of Hollywood in the 1920’s-30’s.  This is my absolute favorite part of the DCA expansion.  I could spend hours on Buena Vista Street watching the Red Car Trolley go by or talking to the Citizens of Buena Vista Street.  (Coffee lovers will rejoice at the new Starbucks location inside of Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe)  Be sure to grab your copy of the Buena Vista Bugle when you arrive.  It contains all of the latest news and happenings at DCA and makes an amazing collectible souvenir.

Buena Vista Street is also home to the Carthay Circle Theater which houses the Carthay Circle Restaurant, the newest choice for fine dining at Disneyland Resort.  This building is modeled after the site of 1937 world premiere of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.

  I had the opportunity to dine at Carthay Circle in April and while the service left a little to be desired, the food was absolutely incredible and the atmosphere couldn’t be beat.  The classic Hollywood themeing continues inside the restaurant, all the way down to the cocktail menu.

Carthay offers private dining rooms which would be perfect for a special occasion.  In fact, my dream birthday celebration would take place in one of those rooms.  With all of my friends and family decked out in their dapper 30’s outfits.  Dare to dream, right?

After our tour of Buena Visita Street was complete, we headed to Cars Land, a 12-acre expansion where Disney-Pixar’s film “Cars” comes to life right before your eyes.  If you’ve ever seen “Cars”, you’ll stand in the middle of Route 66 and think to yourself “I’m actually IN Radiator Springs”.  And it’s true.  You really do feel like you’re in the movie.  Cars Land doesn’t feel like a recreation of the film, rather it feels like you’re on the actual set of the movie.

Cars Land offers three attractions, dining and shopping.  You can fuel up with a complete meal at Flo’s V8 Cafe (which I did in April and loved it) or grab some hand-held snacks to-go at the Cozy Cone Motel.  Each building in Cars Land is modeled as an exact replica of the location in the film.

The marquee attraction at Cars Land is Radiator Springs Racers, a mix of the traditional Disney “dark ride” (meaning a story-based ride in a dark setting) and an outdoor speed track experience.  While I didn’t get the opportunity to experience the attraction this time around, I did ride it in April and I was blown away.  I can see why park guests are waiting two hours or more in line to get their turn on the Racers.  You can check out my video of a small snippet of the attraction (which happens to be my favorite part.  The music is perfectly timed and you really get overwhelmed at the sheer beauty of the experience when you see the waterfall in person) for a little taste of the experience.


Incredible, right?

Cars Land and Buena Vista Street have really made Disney California Adventure a place everyone should visit at some point in their lives.  I can not wait to return to Disneyland Resort, and especially Disney California Adventure, again.  While I was born and raised on Walt Disney World, Disneyland truly has a special place in my heart and always will.

I attended the #DisneyInHomeBloggers event on behalf of SippyCupMom.com.  Disney provided my transportation, accommodations and other incidentals in exchange for coverage of the events.  While talking points were suggested, all thoughts are my own.  

Cinderella Bling Tee and Collectabilitees Old Navy Tee

Cinderella-inspired Shopping with Disney Consumer Products #DisneyInHomeBloggers

Cinderella Bling Tee and Collectabilitees Old Navy Tee

As part of the #DisneyInHomeBloggers trip last week, I got the exciting privilege of checking out some of the newest offerings in the Disney Consumer Products line in honor of the Diamond Edition release of “Cinderella” and the all-new Disney Fairies film “Secret of the Wings”. {more to come on the Disney Fairies products in a later post}

While I know my little princess is going to go crazy over some of the new product lines, it was very exciting to see Disney’s latest fashions for adults.  After all, we’re always a princess, no matter what our age, right?  I’m hesitant to wear character gear, but these offerings definitely made me change my opinion.

(August 24, 2012, Los Angeles, CA) Mommy bloggers attend Disney Consumer Product’s glamorous Cinderella Showcase Dinner at The London Hotel in Los Angeles to experience the new assortment of products celebrating the release of Walt Disney’s classic animated film Cinderella on Blu-ray. The event provided guests with the royal treatment, including pampering and accessorizing with Cinderella-inspired cosmetics and jewelry followed by a showcase of the latest Cinderella fashions set to release this fall.
Photo by: Kayvon Esmaili for Disney / Location: The London Hotel

I really dig this Cinderella tee.  I’ve always been a huge fan of a vintage tee with a blazer (it’s so Carrie Bradshaw) and I can totally see myself rocking this outfit in the Fall!  This shirt is available at Disney Stores and DisneyStore.com.

And who doesn’t love bling?  Every princess knows a little bling goes a long way and this Cinderella slipper tee is the perfect hint of bling (also available at Disney Stores and DisneyStore.com).  Check out the shirt on the adorable mini model.  It’s one of Old Navy’s new line of “Collectabilitees.  We received a sample to bring home and my daughter was smitten!  It’s going to be getting a lot of wear at school this year for sure.

The girls were also rocking some insanely stylish shoes from Stride Rite’s new Stride Rite for Disney Princess and Cinderella Collections.  I’ll have a full review on that line coming up in a future post over at MamaOfAllTrades.com.  Let’s just say they made our must-own list for back to school, y’all.

Ok, so brace yourselves for the cute that’s about to happen.  Are you ready?  Are you sure?

Ballet apparel by Capezio for Disney Princess

Bam.  Disney Princess by Capezio.  Bunny is taking ballet for the first time this Fall and I can not wait to see her decked out in her Disney Princess by Capezio gear.  It’s super affordable and available at Toys r Us, Amazon and online at Capezio.com.

Last, but most certainly not least, we were treated to a peek at the Disney Fairy Tale Weddings line by Alfred Angelo.  I was fortunate to see the brial gowns at the 2011 Disney Social Media Moms conference so it was a real treat to see some of the bridal party offerings at this event.

The bridesmaid dress shown could be worn for a variety of events and we were even talking about how it would be so cute to shorten the dress and add some pockets after the wedding.  I am all about special occasion dresses that can be worn more than once.  The flower girl dresses were certainly something out of a fairy tale.

And, of course, every bride needs to feel extra special on her big day, right?  Well, the Fairy Tale Weddings jewelry line by Kate Aspen is the perfect icing on the cake (the wedding cake, that is).  You can learn more about the Fairy Tale accessories at DisneyBridal.com.

This Cinderella-inspired line draws from the shapes of the famous glass carriage that carries Cinderella to the ball.  When I got my earrings home I noticed a really cute feature…on the back of one of the earrings was a little, blue gemstone for a built-in “something blue”.   How sweet is that?

So, now you’ve seen some of the fab clothes, but what else do you need to complete your princess transformation?  Make-up.  Yes, Sephora has teamed up with Disney to launch a Cinderella-inspired beauty line this October.  (I know, I’m pretty giddy about this, too)

 

I received a sample of the perfume (some of the other ladies received the nail polish line).  I’m not a huge perfume person, but this was light and very feminine.  I’m excited to see the rest of the collection when it debuts this Fall.  The line will include the perfume, nail polish, shadow and color pallets, lipstick, and mirrored compacts all inspired by the classic film.

As you can tell, there are SO many amazing things coming out from Disney Consumer Products!  Which of the above items are you most excited about? Leave a comment and let me know!

I still have a ton of previews to show you over on my site, so definitely stay tuned!

Look for the Cinderella Diamond Edition, available on Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack October 2nd.

I attended the #DisneyInHomeBloggers event on behalf of SippyCupMom.com.  Disney provided my transportation, accommodations and other incidentals in exchange for coverage of the events.  While talking points were suggested, all thoughts are my own.  

Cinderella Secret of the Wings Fining Nemo Blu Ray Boxes

Fish, Fairies, and a Glass Slipper…#DisneyInHomeBloggers Trip Announcement

Cinderella Secret of the Wings Fining Nemo Blu Ray Boxes

In a little over a week, I’ll be travelling to the Los Angeles Area as part of the #DisneyInHomeBloggers Press Event.  I can not begin to explain how excited I am to be covering this trip for Melissa and SippyCupMom.com (and I’m still totally giddy over her recent announcement).

Over three days, we’ll be attending screenings of Disney·Pixar’s “Finding Nemo 3D” and the new Tinker Bell/Disney Fairies movie “Secret of the Wings”.   Not only that, but we’ll get to tour the Disney California Adventure Animation building (one of my absolute favorite spots in all of Disneyland Resort), interview the one and only Crush (duuuuuude), and tour Walt Disney Animation Studios and Disney Toon Studios where we’ll meet with filmmakers and get to see the  Animation Research Library’s prized collection of Cinderella memorabilia and artifacts!  Can you hear my heart pitter-pattering?

This trip kicks off the celebration of the releases of Disney·Pixar’s “Finding Nemo 3D” (In Theaters September 14th & Available on Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack December 4th), “Cinderella: Diamond Edition” (Available on Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack October 2nd), and “Secret of the Wings”: an all-new Tinker Bell/Disney Fairies adventure (Available on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack & HD Digital Download October 23rd).  You can bet all three of these Blu-Rays will be under our Christmas tree this holiday season.

If you haven’t seen the trailer for “Secret of the Wings”, you definitely have to check it out!

 

 

 

You can follow along with the trip in a variety of ways! I’ll be posting updates on the Sippy Cup Mom Facebook page, the Mama of All Trades Facebook page and under the @SippyCupMom and @MamaOfAllTrades twitter accounts Be sure to also follow along with the #DisneyInHomeBloggers hashtag to get updates from all of the amazing bloggers attending.  And, of course, I’ll be posting a full report of the trip here on SippyCupMom.com!  You’re definitely going to want to stay tuned!

I’ll see you in LA!

 

Disclosure: Disney is providing an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles including travel, accommodations and activities. All thoughts and opinions are my own

Skillet Meals - Photo Courtesy of Silver Dollar City

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Silver Dollar City in #Branson, Missouri

Skillet Meals - Photo Courtesy of Silver Dollar City

 

 

If you live in the Midwest, one of the best places to visit for the whole family is Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. Even if you’re not in the Midwest, it’s a fun destination to visit (especially since they have an airport now!).

My husband and I have been visiting Silver Dollar City ourselves for about 10 years now. That’s right, we went all the time even before we had Hayden! Now that we have Hayden, it’s one of the best places to go as a family!

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Silver Dollar City

 

Festivals

We visited during the last weekend of National Kids Fest, a favorite of ours now that we have Hayden. During Kids Fest, there are a ton of fun shows geared directly toward children, in addition to some of your favorite characters walking around! Hayden loved seeing Sccoby-Doo and Shaggy!

But Kids Fest isn’t the only Festival we love at Silver Dollar City! Another one of our favorites is the Bluegrass & BBQ Festival, where they have great music to enjoy and delicious food to EAT!

There really is a Festival for everyone to enjoy – from Southern Gospel Picnic and World Fest to National Harvest Festival and Old Time Christmas! My family and I can’t wait to visit during the Old Time Christmas Festival one year to see all of the lights.

 

Rides

There are fun rides for everyone in the family! For adults, there is WildFire, a roller coaster where you drop 15 stories and travel at 66 miles per hour and Powder Keg, where you launch from 0 to 53 miles per hour in just 2.8 seconds! My husband and I both absolutely love these rides.

My husband and his friend Dave on WildFire!

 

There are also rides that are fun for the whole family like Fire-in-the-Hole and the Frisco Silver Dollar Line Steam Train. Visit The Grand Exposition where there are 10 fun rides for families or Half Dollar Holler, a play area designed just for children ages 3-7!

 

Heath and Hayden on The Elephant March

 

 

Food

One of my favorite things about Silver Dollar City is the FOOD! We always make sure to visit the park with an empty belly so we can fill up on all of the deliciousness there is to offer.

We usually always come early so we can eat from the Breakfast Buffet at Molly’s Mill Restaurant, which includes items like ham, sausage, biscuits and gravy, grits, fresh fruit and so much more!

Throughout the park you’ll be treated to usual theme park favorites like popcorn and pretzels but there are also treats like turkey legs, BBQ, fried chicken, fried potatoes and homemade ice cream! I’m hungry just thinking about it all!

Skillet Meals – Photo Courtesy of Silver Dollar City

 

Shopping and Crafts

Silver Dollar City offers an amazing shopping experience. From home-made apple butter to hand-carved baseball bats and walking sticks, you’ll find something for everyone!

There’s shops where you’ll be able to see a blacksmith in action and a glassblower making gorgeous cut glass items. Quilts, jewelry, homemade jerky, fudge…you’ll love looking at all of the shops!

Glass Blowing

 

Marvel Cave

One of our favorite things to do in Missouri is to visit caves, since one of Missouri’s unofficial nicknames is “The Cave State”. One of the most fascinating things I find about Silver Dollar City is that it’s built on top of a cave called Marvel Cave.

Tours of Marvel Cave depart every half hour, weather permitting. Travel 300 feet below the surface and enter the breathtakingly beautiful Cathedral Room, which is the largest cave entrance room in the United States. The trail consists of stairs and ramps and the tour lasts approximately 60 minutes, with most of that time spent climbing nearly 600 stairs. A trained cave guide hosts your journey and provides interesting and entertaining anecdotes of historical or geographical importance. To get back up to the surface, you ride a cable train for the 1070 foot climb back to the surface!

Marvel Cave

 

There are way more reasons that you should visit Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri but those are just a few of my favorites! It’s a wonderful place to go to spend time with your whole family!

 

Have you ever visited Silver Dollar City?

 

 

Disclosure: We received complimentary park tickets to Silver Dollar City. All thoughts and opinions are our own.

cruise

Kids Sail Free on Norwegian Cruise Line!

cruise

 

 

We love traveling with Hayden and have been hitting the road with him since he turned 4 months old. He’s been to a lot of different states in his 4 years and one thing I have been itching to do with him is take a cruise. I think it’s such a safe and easy way for a child to experience a trip outside of the country! My husband and I went on a cruise for our honeymoon and we had such a fantastic time!

Right now, Kids sail free this fall on Norwegian Cruise Line! That means when you book a select Fall 2012 cruise between now and July 7th, kids under 18 sailing as a third or fourth guest in the stateroom sail free. Imagine your family on board a Norwegian Cruise Line ship this Fall, sailing to destinations such as The Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii and more! Like all good things, this promotion won’t last forever. In fact, you have to book your cruise before July 7th in order to take advantage of this incredible offer.

Don’t wait, book your cruise today! My family and I hope to do so soon!

Disclosure: I was entered for a chance to win a Norwegian Cruise Line vacation exchange for this post.  No monetary exchange took place.

indianapolis-zoo-logo

Tuesday Travels: Indianapolis Zoo

indianapolis-zoo-logo

 

Zoos.  The perfect place to enjoy wild animals without the nagging fear of being savagely eaten.  My wife and I have a love for zoos, that fortunately, our four year old son shares with us.  Before my son was born, we would make a habit, when on vacation, to  visit the local zoo.  We have been to eight different zoos since we began this tradition.  Our son has been to three of them, the St Louis Zoo, the Omaha Zoo and now the Indianapolis Zoo.

We recently went to Indianapolis for the weekend and made sure to visit the Indianapolis Zoo.  Our expectations were definitely exceeded.

First let’s get the details out of the way.  Admission price was $16.50 for adults and 11.50 for kids. Parking was $6 dollars.  Then you buy tickets for certain activities.  It is $2.50 for a single ticket, 8 tickets for $15.00, or 14 tickets for $25.00.  I recommend the 8 tickets. Not too many tickets and a good deal.  The activities range from feeding animals to riding the train or roller coaster.

You may be saying, “Hey, I paid to get in and now I have to pay to do stuff?” But slow down, it is really  a good idea.  We only did three of the six or so activities that require tickets.  So, if all of that were made “free” I would bet admission would be more than what we spent choosing what we wanted to do.  Also, everything that requires a ticket is well worth it!

Back to the fun stuff.  The entrance is colorful and very welcoming.  Once inside the zoo, the trees and pathways make you feel more a part of the zoo, than a visitor of the zoo.

The first thing we did was go to the Oceans exhibit.  A few things really impressed and surprised us.  We actually thought from a distance that the jellyfish exhibit was a cool graphic.  But to our amazement, it was real!  I have never seen a jellyfish in person and the way the tank was lit and colored, made them mesmerizing to watch.  We love seeing variety in zoos and this was definitely unique to us.

 

 

Another cool “hands on” exhibit was the Shark Touch Pool.  I have never pet a shark and my son flat out told us this was a bad idea.  Once I quelled his fear, I warily slide my hand across the smooth back of the shark, my wife and son jumped right in.  We were able to spend quite a bit of time here, watching the sharks swim.  Every once and awhile, the sharks swam close enough, allowing us to reach out and touch them.  My son still thinks you should only pet cats and dogs, but really enjoyed this experience.

 

 

The penguin exhibit did a tremendous job of showing off the aquatic speed and agility of these delightful birds.  My son laughed a few times and really enjoyed watching them whiz around.  He kept saying, “whoa, did you see that!” We spent a good five to ten minutes in awe of this.

Then we happened upon the polar bear exhibit.  The underwater viewing space is a fantastic way to get a view of them underwater.  I have never seen a polar bear chilling out on a ledge underwater.  As we made our way outside you could see them above water too.  We enjoyed the different point of views, very cool.

 

 

The walrus exhibit was laid out the same as the polar bear.  I have never seen a walrus in person and have wanted to for a very long time.  We first enjoyed watching the walrus swim laps underwater.  The we went up top to see the walrus from above.  It was really interesting because the pattern it was swimming was so exact.  My son unfortunately does not share my love for walruses, even though he ended up picking a stuffed one out at the gift shop.  I have to admit that I may have planted the idea of how cool a stuffed walrus is, and no I am not ashamed of this.

We missed the dolphin show, but still saw the dolphins in the Marine Mammals area.  It was a glass domed 360° viewing space that my son loved.  He ran around the room acting like he was swimming with the dolphins.  Which segues nicely because you can actually swim with the dolphins here, go to their website for details.  We did not have enough time to do this, but may actually come back.  We live in the Midwest and this is one of only a few places that allow you to do this.

 

 

Being surrounded by all that water prepares you for the dry heat that welcomes you in the Deserts Biome.  This exhibit is very well done.  A trail leads through a desert landscape that is themed and designed to keep the mindset that you are actually in a desert.  It was fun to try and find all the animals.  There is also a darkened room full of snake cases that do a great job of highlighting  them.

We skipped the roller-coaster, which looked cool but was no match for the train calling out to my son from the train station. The train requires a ticket but we feel was worth it.

 

 

So we bought some tickets and boarded the train.  While sitting in the train, music starts up that sets the ambience for a safari.  The only problem is, once the train leaves the animal areas, it travels around what feels like, and probably is, the outside of the zoo.  It’s kind of neat to see the behind the scenes buildings but all you really see are the buildings.  We still enjoyed it and would probably ride it again because let’s face it, trains are cool.   We would prefer to see more animals on it though.

The animals in the Plains Biome feature your standard enclosures that are well designed and meet one of our main criteria for a zoo; have a space that the animals enjoy and feel is open and inviting.  This zoo does a great job of this.  The last thing I want to explain to my son is why all the animals are kept in small dingy places.  Also, you can feed the giraffes (this also requires a ticket) and race a cheetah!  Not a real cheetah, which I wouldn’t recommend doing, but a track that electronically lets you know how fast you went.   Also, the rhino and elephant areas were nice and open and were some of the most active elephants and rhinos we have seen.

 

 

As we  made our way to the new exhibit, Flights of Fancy: A Brilliance of Birds, we weren’t sure if our son would like it.  Every time he has seen birds, he just walks by.  The big difference here is the open space aviary that allows you to walk amongst the birds.  We went through the Out of Africa aviary and he seemed to like it but still hurried us through it.  Before entering the Budgies aviary we decided to buy a feed stick to, well, feed the birds.  It was one ticket and definitely worth it!  As soon as the birds started flocking to our son he was smiling ear to ear.  Then, one of the birds jumped onto the stick!  He really enjoyed holding the bird and seeing his joyful face made this a memorable experience.  We definitely recommend getting the feed sticks!

 

 

We surprisingly loved this new exhibit.  We are definitely not bird people, but the design and flow of the exhibit makes you feel like part of the space while allowing you to interact with the birds in a fun way.

Also in this area is a children’s playground.  It is a nice way to let him run wild and burn off the energy these animals give him.  Next to the playground is the Dora the Explorer 4D theater.  This looked really neat but my son does not like 4D theaters.   We went to Disney World last year and saw the bugs life theater, which we had to leave in the middle of.  So unfortunately we did not get to experience this but maybe next time.

 

 

One thing he does love is an animal themed carousel.  He ran straight to the dolphin and hopped right up.  He loved it.  As we exited the carousel, we ran smack into a strategically placed airbrush tattoo station.  Since he was being such a good boy all day we obliged. He couldn’t decide between the monkey and elephant, so like any reasonable parents, we got both!  They looked great and he couldn’t have been happier.  They artist was really nice and did a terrific job.  They stay on for about 3 days so he was able to show them off at school.  A pretty cool souvenir if you ask me.

It was starting to get late so we skipped the Splash Park, also we didn’t pack swim trunks so maybe next time.  If you do go, make sure to bring swim trunks  because all the kids were loving this area.

We made our way to the exit by way of the last walking trail.  The Forests Biome has american eagles, bears, and our favorite sea otters.  The bummer was the lack of sea otters.  They must have been on vacation or something, but that’s okay, you can’t expect to see every animal at a zoo, there are just to many variables at play.  I must admit, I liked the walking trails and the quaintness of it all, but felt that the enclosures were too small.  This was the only time I even came close to feeling this, but understand that when space is limited, this becomes  an unavoidable compromise.  Also, they wisely chose animals that prefer small enclosures so in the end, it’s not really a problem but a matter of personal preference.

After a quick stop at the gift shop to bring home the aforementioned stuffed walrus in all it’s brilliance, we headed off.  It was a fantastic day that we rank at the top of our list of zoos to visit.

 

Disclosure: We received complimentary tickets to the Zoo. All opinions and thoughts are our own.

 

 

David Callahan is currently a media producer, Oliver’s Dad and Tracie’s Husband.  He is constantly in search of all things that blend education and entertainment, which led him to co-found Mitchléhan Media, an educational/entertainment app development company.

Chevy Equinox

Touring St. Louis with the Chevy Equinox #KeysToSTL

Chevy Equinox

 

 

 

My family and I love St. Louis so much – I was born and raised here and honestly don’t think that we will ever leave. There’s so much to do here from date nights to fun-filled days with your family. On weekends, we are usually out and about exploring the best that St. Louis has to offer! Last week I had the chance to drive a 2012 Chevy Equinox all around town where I had the best time having a date night with my husband and exploring the best family friendly places with my son.

Animals, Animals Everywhere

My son loves to see animals and there are plenty of places to find them! We started off our week with visiting Grant’s Farm, 218 acres of land that belong to Busch family and also the former home of the 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. With over 900 animals, shows and a day that starts off with a tram through the park, you and your children will enjoy learning about the history of the park and the animals that live there.

Since we had this awesome ride for the week, I knew we had to go to Lone Elk Park. It’s a drive through park where you can come across bison, wild turkey, waterfowl, elk and deer. Lone Elk Park is also steeped in history as it was once a part of the 2,400-acre Tyson Valley Powder Plant used for the testing and storage of ammunition during WWII. While we didn’t see any bison which is what my son wanted to see, we did spot plenty of deer!

One of my favorite places to visit is the St. Louis Zoo, a a day long adventure where you’ll come across more than 19,000 animals! There are so many things to do and see here from the Children’s Zoo, a train ride and the chance to pet stingrays! We love spending the day at the zoo and the best thing about it is it’s free!

Date Night

It’s not often that my husband and I get the chance to go out for a Date Night, but we did last week! Right away I knew I wanted to visit Schlafly Bottleworks for dinner and their weekly Farmer’s Market. Most of the food served is from local farmers and businesses and it is DELICIOUS!

We also had fun shopping the Farmer’s Market which occurs every Wednesday night in the summer. We stocked up on bread, honey and veggies – all local!

Foodie in St. Louis

We also had fun driving around in the super smooth Chevy Equinox headed to places to eat! I had a fun mother/son date at Fro-Yo, a search for the best coconut macaroons at a local bakery and a trip to pick up some fresh peaches at the St. Louis location of Eckert’s!

This is just a sampling of what we did last week while exploring St. Louis! Stay tuned for later in the week for when I share what I consider to be the 3 #KeysToSTL!

What’s your favorite thing about your city?

Disclosure: I received the use of a 2012 Chevy Equinox for a week in addition to a gift card. All thoughts and opinions are my own.