Kidventurous http://kidventurous.com Making Family Travel an Adventure Wed, 22 Feb 2017 13:03:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.2 Cool Road Trip Book: 50 States, 5000 Ideas http://kidventurous.com/cool-road-trip-book-50-states-5000-ideas/ http://kidventurous.com/cool-road-trip-book-50-states-5000-ideas/#respond Wed, 22 Feb 2017 13:00:51 +0000 http://kidventurous.com/?p=10819 I love a good road trip. In fact, I’m already planning our next summer adventure – a three-week road trip to explore bits of Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota (hello, Mount Rushmore). So naturally I was excited about checking out NatGeo’s new book, 50 States, 5000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to See, What to Do. It […]

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I love a good road trip. In fact, I’m already planning our next summer adventure – a three-week road trip to explore bits of Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota (hello, Mount Rushmore). So naturally I was excited about checking out NatGeo’s new book, 50 States, 5000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to See, What to Do. It was right up my alley.

For every state, as well as all 10 of Canada’s provinces, you’ll find four to six pages dedicated to what, when and where for that state or province. You’ll also find a snapshot of major cities, as well as popular festivals, little-known facts, books and movies featuring the state or province, and great drives in each one. For some states, you’ll be able to read up on hidden treasures and the best local flavors.

Since South Dakota is in the plans for this summer, I skipped over to the section on South Dakota to read up on Sioux City, Rapid City, the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore, all stops we’ll make in July. I learned about a couple of great drives to add to my itinerary, including Wildlife Loop Road at Custer State Park. I also added Dances with Wolves to my Wish List on Amazon.

The book is filled with lots of great photos, which makes me even more excited about some of the stops we’ll be making this summer. The photos are also helpful when deciding just where to go, especially if you’re deciding between a couple of states or major cities for a family road trip.

What I also like about this book is that the sections on each state and province give you enough of a jumping off point to determine where you want to go and what you want to do. It’s a great place to start, though once you decide where you want to go, you may want to get a travel book with more detail, like NatGeo’s Guide to National Parks of the United States, particularly if you’ll be doing a deep dive into our parks.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I do. If you’re thinking about picking this up for your summer travels, you’ll find 50 States, 5000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to See, What to Do at a discount on Amazon. Right now, it’s just $16.34 (list price: $24.95). Have fun. 🙂

Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of 50 States, 5000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to See, What to Do. There are affiliate links within this post. All opinions here are my own.

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10 Things to Know Before You Go to Grand Cayman http://kidventurous.com/know-go-grand-cayman/ http://kidventurous.com/know-go-grand-cayman/#respond Thu, 16 Feb 2017 22:27:53 +0000 http://kidventurous.com/?p=10800 There’s nothing better than a few days in the Caribbean to fight the winter blues, though one look out into the crystal clear water and any cares you may have will be washed away regardless of the season. I recently had the opportunity to go to the Cayman Islands and I will tell you, it is paradise. Located just below […]

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There’s nothing better than a few days in the Caribbean to fight the winter blues, though one look out into the crystal clear water and any cares you may have will be washed away regardless of the season. I recently had the opportunity to go to the Cayman Islands and I will tell you, it is paradise.

Located just below Cuba, there are three islands that make up the Cayman Islands, including Cayman Brac, Little Cayman, and of course, Grand Cayman. I spent my time on Grand Cayman, and yes, I’m ready to go back. However, before I go, I wanted to share a few of the things I learned from my first visit to the Cayman Islands.

1. You want to stay on the west side of the island. For one, that’s where you’ll see a fantastic sunset, but it’s also where you’ll find famed Seven Mile Beach, which is where all the top resorts, like the new Kimpton Seafire Resort and the Comfort Suites Seven Mile Beach are situated. The airport and George Town, the capital city of the Cayman Islands, are also on the west side.

2. Nearly everything is closed on Sundays. You’ll find some restaurants open on Sundays, but everything else is closed. I walked into George Town on a Sunday and saw one cruise ship, but every shop was closed for the day. Just a few restaurants where open. It was practically a ghost town, but it was quite nice since the town is bustling every other day when the cruise ships are in.

3. There’s no pier in Grand Cayman. Sure, you’ll find lots of cruise ships – Carnival, Holland America, Disney – making stops in Grand Cayman, but there is no pier in George Town. Grand Cayman is a “tender port,” meaning that to get to shore you need be ferried in a tender boat. On a busy day, you may find as many as dozen ships parked away from the town ferrying passengers in by boat.

4. You can do the Cayman Islands on a budget. When value-seekers think of the Caribbean, Jamaica and Bahamas are usually top of mind, but a trip to the Caymans does not need to break the bank. The Comfort Suites Seven Mile Beach, a well-known value brand, is situated on the beach, offers free breakfast and even gives an extra discount to Choice Privileges members who book online at ChoiceHotels.com.

5. Stingray City is just a sandbar in the middle of the water. I knew about Stingray City (it’s featured in Frommer’s 500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up), but I didn’t realize it was a sandbar in Grand Cayman’s North Sound. I took a boat tour with Six Senses Cayman Adventures and was surprised when it was time to hop out in waist deep water, but there they were, dozens of friendly stingrays.

6. The Mudslide hails from Grand Cayman. I always thought the Mudslide was born in Jamaica (or TGI Friday’s), but nope, it hails from Grand Cayman. More specifically, the first one was mixed up more than 40 years ago at the Wreck Bar & Grill at Grand Cayman’s Rum Point. You’ll make a stop for lunch at Rum Point on the Six Senses Eco Tour, so be sure to order one with a side of conch fritters. Yum.

7. There aren’t as many starfish as you’d expect at Starfish Point. Honestly, Starfish Point is awesome. I’d suggest this as a must-do to anyone. However, I expected to see dozens of starfish in the water. I saw maybe eight or ten. It was very, very cool, but unfortunately, so many starfish were taken from the water by tourists and that was that. Now it’s illegal to remove starfish from Starfish Point.

8. They drive on the left-side in Grand Cayman. The Cayman Islands are a British colony. More specifically, they are a part of the British West Indies. That noted, they drive on the left-hand side of the road, just like they do in the U.K. You may not need to rent a car while in Grand Cayman, but be sure to look the correct way when preparing to cross the street so you don’t step out into oncoming traffic.

9. Save your must-sees for after the cruise ships sail away. The cruise ships leave by mid-afternoon, or at the very least, the cruisers are on their way back to their ships, so plan to visit must-go spots, like Stingray City and Rum Point at that time. We went to the Cayman Turtle Centre around 4 pm and had the place all to ourselves. There are turtles, of course, but there’s also a predator reef and an aviary.

10. It’s easy to get around the island by bus. It’s just $2.50 to ride the bus to popular spots, like Rum Point, Cayman Turtle Centre and Hell. There are signs along the main road where you can wait for a minibus. I never saw any signs, but from what I hear, it’s not hard to flag one down. However, many ground tour operators will pick you up at your hotel and bring you back so you don’t need to navigate on your own.

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Choice Hotels while in Grand Cayman. However, I was not compensated for this article and all opinions expressed here are my own.

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What to Do in Orlando (Besides Walt Disney World) http://kidventurous.com/kids-orlando-walt-disney-world/ http://kidventurous.com/kids-orlando-walt-disney-world/#respond Mon, 13 Feb 2017 17:29:15 +0000 http://kidventurous.com/?p=10786 This may sound crazy, but you can go to Orlando and not go to Walt Disney World. There’s so much to do – some things you didn’t even realize you could do – that you may not even find time for Mickey Mouse. From zipline adventures to airboat rides to stand-up paddleboarding, even professional football, you won’t be wondering what […]

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This may sound crazy, but you can go to Orlando and not go to Walt Disney World. There’s so much to do – some things you didn’t even realize you could do – that you may not even find time for Mickey Mouse. From zipline adventures to airboat rides to stand-up paddleboarding, even professional football, you won’t be wondering what to do next in Orlando.

My 9 y.o. daughter, Molly, and I flew down to Orlando in late-January for the Pro Bowl. The Pro Bowl. I seriously had no idea you could watch an NFL game in Orlando (the closest team is in Tampa), much less a game played by all the very best players in the league, but Molly is a major football fan, so we had to go.

This is the first year that the Pro Bowl was played in Orlando and it was a huge to-do. There were loads of fan-friendly activities at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, like the 40-Yard Dash and Run-A-Route where you had to dodge around players (cardboard cut-outs) before catching a pass. So much fun.

We even got to watch the NFC and AFC teams practice, which was a must for Molly since she’s a massive Kirk Cousins fan and he was picked to play in the Pro Bowl. He was an alternate, but when a couple of other Redskins players dropped out due to injuries, he was in. Incredible. And, of course, there was a Pro Bowl parade at Magic Kingdom (so yes, we did end up going to the Walt Disney World).

We also didn’t stay on-property at Walt Disney World during our stay in Orlando. We camped out at the Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek for a few nights. I just wish we had more time to play while at the hotel given they have several swimming pools, a lazy river, waterslides and mini golf. Next time, for sure.

But seriously, what else can you do in Orlando that does not involve Mickey Mouse? Here you go.

Fly Down a Zipline. A couple of years ago, I took my older girls (then 9 & 11) to Forever Florida. It’s not far from Orlando and we had the best time flying down seven ziplines. For an extra $19.99, you can have a GoPro camera attached to your helmet to record it all.

Bike Ride All Around Orlando. It’s not always possible to bring your own bike, especially when flying to Orlando, but thanks to Juice Orlando Bike Share you can rent bikes all across downtown Orlando. Just look for the orange bikes at the Juice Stations around town.

Stay at the LEGOLAND Hotel. We love LEGOLAND and now that the LEGOLAND Hotel is open next door to the park, it’s even more reason to go to LEGOLAND. Kids will love the pirate- and medieval-themed rooms, and the Disco Elevator is a favorite. As a bonus, you can make s’mores every single night.

Learn About Pioneer Life. Make a stop at Fort Christmas Historical Park to explore seven historic homes and learn how early pioneers lived. Watch a short video on the Seminole Indian Wars and learn more about cattle, hunting, fishing and trapping.

Explore a Botanical Garden. Enjoy free admission to the Harry P. Leu Gardens the first Monday of each month. Look for palm trees, azaleas and various tropical plants. Also, keep your eyes open for various sculptures on display throughout the gardens.

Go on a Family Hike. There are several parks and forests that are ideal for easy hikes as a family. Grab a water bottle for each member of the family and head to Ocala National Forest or Enchanted Forest Nature Sanctuary. Or, hop on the Florida National Scenic Trail.

Watch a Musical Fountain Show. Head to Lake Eola Park in Downtown Orlando for a nightly fountain show at Lake Eola Fountain. Also, be sure to bring along some bread so you can feed the swans that make Lake Eola their home either before or after the show.

Go on a Helicopter Tour. Sign up with Air Florida or Air Force Fun for a fun way to explore the area, including the theme parks, lakes, even celebrity homes. My daughter, Kate, and I did a helicopter tour in Niagara Falls and can vouch for the fun and amazement of an aerial tour by helicopter. It’s a must.

Go on a Gator Tour. Whether you choose airboats or swamp tours, let your adventurous side come out and see the natural flora and fauna. The gator tours can be done in nature or you can find one of the many mini zoos that operate in and around Orlando. One to try is Spirit of the Swamp Airboat Tours.

Try Stand-Up Paddleboarding. This is been on my list for ages, and Paddleboard Orlando can help me cross off stand-up paddleboarding. They’ve got alligator-free (thank goodness for that) SUPing, including lessons, tours, even paddleboard yoga.

If you plan to fly to Orlando on Southwest, don’t forget about Southwest Check-In online. It’s a great way to ensure a good flight boarding position, which is a must when flying with kids. Many flights also have Southwest WiFi and you can check ahead of time on their website.

Photo Credits: L. Sloan (Harry P. Leu Gardens), Michael Schroeder (Lake Eola Park), Ed Schipul (Florida Gator)

Disclaimer: My daughter and I were guests of Visit Orlando. However, all opinions expressed here are my own and I was not compensated for this article.

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Carnival Vista: 13 Things I Learned About Cruising http://kidventurous.com/cruising-carnival-vista-12-learned-cruising/ http://kidventurous.com/cruising-carnival-vista-12-learned-cruising/#respond Tue, 24 Jan 2017 20:28:22 +0000 http://kidventurous.com/?p=10775 I have a confession to make. Up until mid-December, I had never been on a cruise to the Caribbean. I wasn’t a total cruise newbie. I cruised from Vancouver to Anchorage back in 2006, but so much has changed since then. And really, it’s impossible to compare an Alaska cruise to a Caribbean cruise. Hello, waterslides. So when I had […]

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I have a confession to make. Up until mid-December, I had never been on a cruise to the Caribbean. I wasn’t a total cruise newbie. I cruised from Vancouver to Anchorage back in 2006, but so much has changed since then. And really, it’s impossible to compare an Alaska cruise to a Caribbean cruise. Hello, waterslides.

So when I had the opportunity to sail on the brand new Carnival Vista with two of my kids, I was on board. It was a five-day cruise out of Miami with stops in the Dominican Republic (Amber Cove) and Turks & Caicos (Grand Turk).

I really didn’t know what to expect from a big ship cruise, and to be honest, I’m still confused by some things, like why you need to pay extra for soda (fortunately, my kids and I don’t drink sodas). Also, why do you check in for dinner on one deck when your restaurant is on an entirely different deck?

Here are 13 things I learned on-board a cruise:

1. It’s better to go to the waterpark on port days.
Our first day at sea, Carnival WaterWorks (the on-ship waterpark) was a total madhouse. Kids everywhere. Fast forward to our first port day and it was empty. We got there at 9 am and had the waterslides all to ourselves. We went to the port in the afternoon as everyone else was walking back on the ship.

2. You will eat ice cream with every meal (even breakfast).
One of the perks of a Carnival cruise is that soft serve ice cream is available 24-hours a day. Of course, that meant that we stopped for a cone after every meal. And then we got ice cream as a between-meals snack, too. On the second half of the cruise, we literally had ice cream several times a day.

3. Mini golf is easy, free fun on a sea day.
On the top deck, there’s a nine-hole mini golf course. Despite there being, I don’t know, a few thousand passengers on-board, we never had any trouble getting on the greens. It’s free to play and it was a great way to pass the time, especially before and after dinner. If you want to spend money, bowling is $2 a game.

4. It’s okay to drop your kids off at Camp Ocean.
I felt bad at first dropping my kids off at the on-ship kids’ club (Camp Ocean). However, I quickly learned that my kids would rather be at the kids’ club than walking around the port with me. They loved meeting other kids, playing video games and all the arts and crafts. Well, there you go.

5. You’ll want to wake up for a sunrise.
I love a sunrise and I’m totally willing to wake up early to see the sunrise. Nearly every morning of our sail I woke up early to get up to the outdoor track for a walk or a run just before sunrise. It was seven times around to equal a mile, but I didn’t mind seeing the same views over and over.

6. The family scavenger hunt on the last day is a must-do.
On the last night of our sail, Camp Ocean held a Family Digital Hunt, a scavenger hunt that required each family to read clues, do different activities (e.g., go down the waterslide at WaterWorks, start a conga line) and document it all in photos. So much fun. It really was one of the cruise highlights for me.

7. You don’t want to attempt the ropes course on a sea day.
On the very top deck (even higher than the top deck), there’s a ropes course (SkyCourse). We’ve done several ropes courses and love them. However, my advice to you is to save the ropes course for a port day. We went on an at-sea day and it was way too windy, which made it much less fun.

8. Save dining faves for port days.
There’s always a line on the Lido Deck for Guy’s Burger Joint, but the lines are somewhat shorter on port days (though the hours are limited on port days). We went a couple of nights for dinner just before it closed to avoid the super long lines. Don’t even bother getting a burger on the first day of the sail.

9. Pay attention to excursion details before you book.
In Grand Turk, we got off the ship for a sail on a catamaran and a snorkeling adventure. The catamaran was just steps away from the port and it was a short sail to the reef, so it was perfect. At Amber Cove, some friends booked an excursion that involved a bumpy 90-minute bus ride to the destination. No thanks.

10. “Cruise Elegant” is neither elegant nor required.
Each day of the cruise you’ll receive a FunTimes activity guide that outlines all of the day’s activities, the hours of all the restaurants and entertainment highlights. It also lets cruisers know the attire for the night, either Cruise Casual or Cruise Elegant. I was nervous about Cruise Elegant night but it’s not formal gowns and it’s also not required if you want to eat at a quick-service restaurant, like Guy’s Burger Joint. Phew.

11. A cruise port may be just a stop to get off the boat.
I thought each port would be a stop at a cute town, a place to explore the history and culture of the island, but that’s not necessarily true. Amber Cove, for example, has a swimming pool, ziplines and a handful of stores. It’s also where you depart for excursions. But it’s not a town or a place worth exploring.

12. Some of restaurants on the ship have upcharges.
I honestly thought that a cruise ship was a floating all-inclusive. That’s mostly the case. Many restaurants on-board are included, but others require an extra fee of $15 or $25 per person, like Bonsai Sushi and Cuban Bites. Fortunately, the FunTimes is good about noting which ones require you to plunk down extra cash.

13. Cruise ship staff love making towel animals.
Every night after dinner you’ll find a towel on one of the beds in your stateroom transformed into an elephant or a monkey or a bear. On the third morning of the cruise, there were towel animals on every deck chair across the Lido Deck. Seriously, so cute.

Disclaimer: My kids and I were guests of Carnival on board the five-day Carnival Vista sail. However, I was not compensated for this article and all opinions expressed here are my own.

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10 Things to Do as a Family at Death Valley National Park http://kidventurous.com/10-things-family-death-valley-national-park/ http://kidventurous.com/10-things-family-death-valley-national-park/#respond Fri, 20 Jan 2017 17:54:46 +0000 http://kidventurous.com/?p=10757 I love Death Valley. Especially in November. While temps can easily rise into the 100s (even 110s) in the summer, it was a balmy 69 degrees when I was there in late-fall, at least according to the thermometer display set up just outside the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. I stayed in Beatty, NV and entered the park from the east […]

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I love Death Valley. Especially in November. While temps can easily rise into the 100s (even 110s) in the summer, it was a balmy 69 degrees when I was there in late-fall, at least according to the thermometer display set up just outside the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

I stayed in Beatty, NV and entered the park from the east side where there is a lot to see, like the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and Artists Palette. Still, I had less than a day to explore and was jealous of my friend Karilyn who was just there and was able to see and do so much more. You can see her itinerary here. If you plan a visit to Death Valley National Park, here are 10 things to see and do. Have fun. 🙂

1. Stay Near the Park Entrance. I stayed in nearby Beatty at the Stagecoach Hotel & Casino. It’s about 45 minutes to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. It can get very dark after sunset, so it’s best to stay close, if you can. Stop at the Goldwell Open Air Museum on your way into the park. It’s very cool.

2. Go Sledding at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Bring along a snow saucer to sled down the sand dunes at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes (though I’m sure a flat cardboard box would work too). While I didn’t get a chance to sled here, I did go sledding at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico and can attest that it is so much fun.

3. Walk Across Badwater Basin. At Badwater Basin, you’re 282 feet below sea level, the lowest point in North America. You can even see a sign marking sea level way up high on the cliffs. Walk across the salt flats. It’s a vast expanse and you’ll want to get out far enough to see the salt crystals across the flats.

4. Cruise Along Artists Drive. Go early to drive the one-way route along Artists Drive. The colorful rocky landscape is worth the drive, and if you get there early enough (especially in the off-season), you may have the road to yourself. That way it’s easy to hop out and take photos without causing a back-up.

5. Take in the Views from Zabriskie Point. One of my favorite stops at Death Valley is Zabriskie Point. These badlands are just incredible. I could have taken a dozen photos. If you have time, hike along the Badlands Loop, a 2.5 mile trail that goes down, in and around the badlands.

6. Become a Junior Ranger. My kids love earning badges and patches at various national parks through the Junior Ranger program. You can pick up a free activity booklet at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.  There’s both a summer booklet and a winter booklet. Earn a badge upon completion of the activities. 

7. Take a Photo with the Thermometer. Outside the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, look for the thermometer display (it’s not hard to find). It was just 69 degrees when I was there. Not especially impressive, but I think it would be fun to snap a pic there when temps are in the 100s.

8. Attend a Ranger-Led Program. As always, attending a ranger program is a must. You and your kids can learn about wildlife safety, geology, history and native animals. Pick up the park newspaper when you arrive or go online ahead of time. The morning Golden Canyon Walk with a ranger is a must-do.

9. Listen to the Silence. When I arrived at Death Valley, it was around 6:30 am. No one else was around and it was completely silent. No car noises. No wind rustling. No wildlife moving. Total silence. It was almost eerie, but the sun was getting ready to rise and it was beautiful.

10. Stamp Your Passport. Getting stamps in my Passport to Your National Parks is always my favorite part of a national park visit. Keep your eye open for cancellation stamps at every visitor center. You’ll also want to buy the official park sticker to add to your passport.

 

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25 Most Instagram-Worthy Roadside Attractions http://kidventurous.com/25-most-instagram-worthy-roadside-attractions/ http://kidventurous.com/25-most-instagram-worthy-roadside-attractions/#respond Mon, 16 Jan 2017 16:37:56 +0000 http://kidventurous.com/?p=10741 There’s just something about road trips and stopping to take photos at fun and quirky roadside attractions, like Cadillac Ranch in Texas and Foamhenge in Virginia. One of my personal favorites is South of the Border, a road stop in South Carolina. You’ll see colorful billboards, like “Pedro’s Weather Report: Chili Today, Hot Tamale!,” for miles and miles. If you’re planning […]

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There’s just something about road trips and stopping to take photos at fun and quirky roadside attractions, like Cadillac Ranch in Texas and Foamhenge in Virginia. One of my personal favorites is South of the Border, a road stop in South Carolina. You’ll see colorful billboards, like “Pedro’s Weather Report: Chili Today, Hot Tamale!,” for miles and miles.

If you’re planning a family road trip this summer, check out RoadsideAmerica.com, which highlights roadside attractions worth a visit all across the United States. There’s even a Roadside America mobile app to help you find must-see roadside attractions and points of interest.

If you like to snap photos in front of wacky statues, museums and attractions (who doesn’t?), then take a look at the 25 most Instagram-worthy roadside attractions (in my opinion) that you and your kids will love.

1. Idaho Potato Museum
How can you not love a museum dedicated to the potato? Located along I-15, we made a stop at the Idaho Potato Museum on our way from Boise to Yellowstone National Park in 2015. And yes, I had to snap a pic of the kids standing next to the giant baked potato in front of the museum.

2. Wall Drug
My daughter, Clare, and I spent a few days in South Dakota a few years ago. I’d never heard of Wall Drug before we arrived in the state, but now I want to go back, like right now. Ride a jackalope, see the T-Rex roar, splash around in the outdoor fountains and try the maple-frosted donuts. Yum.

wall drug

3. Cadillac Ranch   
Located in Amarillo, Texas, if I could have squeezed in a visit to Cadillac Ranch during our cross-country road trip, I would have, for sure. It’s a bunch of brightly painted old-school Cadillacs, half-buried nose down in the dirt. It’s probably one of the most photographed roadside attractions in the country.

cadillac ranch

4. Foamhenge
If you’re planning a visit to Natural Bridge in Virginia, which is a must on its own, make a stop at nearby Foamhenge. It’s a replica of England’s Stonehenge, only made out of foam. Why travel to the UK when you can snap a selfie with this world-known attraction so close to home?

foamhenge

5. Corn Palace
Listed as one of 500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up, it’s clearly a must to make a stop at Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. Look for free guided tours during the summer, murals made out of corn, even a festival in August with carnival rides, food trucks and entertainment.

corn palace

6. South of the Border
We traveled by car along I-95 from Virginia to Florida several times when I was in elementary school, and once, we even stopped at South of the Border. Just south of the North Carolina-South Carolina border, I love Pedro, the billboards for miles, mini golf and everything about this “highway oasis.”

south of the border

7. Four Corners
Where else can you stand on four states (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico & Utah) at one time? Yup, at Four Corners. Run by the Navajo Nation, it’s not far off the highway and may be worth a quick pic, but be prepared to pay $5 per person (cash only). Children six and younger are free.

four corners

8. Leaning Tower of Niles
No plans to travel to Italy? No problem. Take your photo with the Leaning Tower of Niles. Originally built to store water for outdoor swimming pools, the Leaning Tower of Niles is a half-size replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa located just minutes from Chicago.

leaning tower of niles

9. Big Beau
On our way from New Orleans to Galveston, we stopped for a quick pic with Big Beau. This 135-foot alligator welcomes visitors to Beaumont, Texas. Located on the grounds of Gator Country, we even got to wade with baby alligators (yikes).

big beau

10. World’s Largest Baseball Bat
In Louisville, Kentucky, look for a baseball bat taller than the adjacent five-story Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. For baseball fans, it’s a must-visit. You’ll also want to stop in the museum to check out the exhibits and take a short factory tour to see how Louisville Slugger bats are made.

worlds largest baseball bat

11. Chloride, Arizona
If you plan to make the drive between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, it’s a must to stop in Chloride, Arizona. The oldest mining town in Arizona, it’s been a wild west ghost town since 1944, though you will be able to find a restaurant, convenience store and several gift shops today.

chloride

12. Santa’s Workshop
Less than 25 minutes from Lake Placid, you’ll find Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, New York with plenty of Christmas-themed rides, games and shows. Enjoy Breakfast with Santa all summer long, as well as rides like the Peppermint Swings and Santa’s Sleigh Coaster.

santas workshop

13. Southernmost Point
In Key West, Florida, strike a pose with the huge buoy that marks the Southernmost Point in the United States. It’s just 90 miles to Cuba and offers fabulous views. You may need to wait in line, but you’ll find plenty of people willing to snap your photo.

southernmost point2

14. Cathedral of Junk
In a small backyard of an Austin, Texas home you’ll find a work of art made out of ordinary junk, like TVs, bicycles, glass bottles and toys.  Take your time exploring the “junk” and don’t forget to take a few pictures. The Cathedral of Junk is open weekends and by appointment on weekdays.

cathedral of junk

15. LOVE Sculpture
Take a break at John F. Kennedy Plaza (also known as LOVE Park) for a few selfies with the famous LOVE sculpture. Perfect for the City of Brotherly Love, right? It’s no surprise that this iconic sculpture is one of the 10 most photo-worthy spots in Philadelphia.

love sculpture2

16. Make Way for Ducklings
Yup, make way. Less a traditional roadside attraction since it’s in the middle of a park in Boston, it’s a must to snap a pic with your brood posing atop the bronze duckling sculptures from Make Way for Ducklings. You’ll find them in the Boston Public Garden. 

make way for ducklings

17. World’s Largest Cowboy Boots
In San Antonio, Texas, look for the World’s Largest Cowboy Boots just outside the North Star Mall (next to Saks Fifth Avenue). Since they’re the “world’s largest,” you shouldn’t have trouble spotting them for a quick snapshot.

worlds largest cowboy boots

18. Fremont Troll
Not so much a grumpy old troll as a friendly concrete giant who’s been living under the Aurora Bridge in Seattle since 1990. He may be clutching a Volkswagen Beetle, but don’t worry, the Fremont Troll is harmless. There’s plenty of area parking, so spend some time climbing and taking pictures of the troll.

fremont troll

19. Welcome to Las Vegas Sign
There’s a lot to do with kids in Las Vegas, and if you go, it’s just kind of thing to snap a selfie with the world-famous Welcome to Las Vegas Sign. For more neon, take a guided tour of the nearby Neon Museum, which offers one-hour tours every morning and evening.

las vegas sign

20. World’s Largest Thermometer
People just love the World’s Largest Thermometer in Baker, California, a small town considered to be the “Gateway to Death Valley.” At 134-feet tall, the thermometer is a tribute to the 134-degree temperature record set in Death Valley in 1913. It’s also next to Bob’s Big Boy. Yum.

worlds largest thermometer

21. ET Fresh Jerky
Take a drive along the Extraterrestrial Highway in Nevada, but before you hop on, make a stop at ET Fresh Jerky in Hiko. It’s basically a small convenience store, but the real attraction is the cowboy alien mural adjacent to the shop. It’s practically begging for you to take a selfie.

22. LL Bean Boot
Just outside Portland, ME, it’s a must to stop at LL Bean’s massive flagship store in nearby Freeport. Before you go inside, be sure to take a photo of the 16-foot tall duck boot out front. Sign up for a class, like archery or fly fishing, with the LL Bean Outdoor Discovery School.

23. Phantastic Phils
Take a weekend and head to Punxsutawney, PA, home to the world’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil. While in town, pick up a map and take photos with more than 30 six-foot tall ground hog statues around town that are a part of the Phantastic Phils public art project.

24. Big Blue Bear
This past summer, I hooked up with Mile High Bike Tours in Denver for a guided bike ride to see all that’s great about the Mile High City. Along the way, we made a stop to see Big Blue Bear, a 40-foot tall blue bear sculpture that’s been peering into the lobby of the Colorado Convention Center since 2005.

25. Seven Magic Mountains
Located 20-30 minutes from Las Vegas, the Seven Magic Mountains are worth the quick trip and the diversion. When you arrive, dial into the free audio tour to learn more about this public art, which represents Las Vegas and is a cross between the natural and the artificial.

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10 Awesome Things About the LEGOLAND Hotel http://kidventurous.com/10530-2/ http://kidventurous.com/10530-2/#respond Mon, 09 Jan 2017 21:01:16 +0000 http://kidventurous.com/?p=10530 Two years ago, my kids and I spent the day at LEGOLAND Florida. This was our first visit and, as you can imagine, it was awesome. We loved everything – the rides, the shows, the attractions – even the fact that LEGOLAND Florida has more than 180 benches, each made from 800 recycled milk jugs. Awesome. So, as you can […]

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Two years ago, my kids and I spent the day at LEGOLAND Florida. This was our first visit and, as you can imagine, it was awesome. We loved everything – the rides, the shows, the attractions – even the fact that LEGOLAND Florida has more than 180 benches, each made from 800 recycled milk jugs. Awesome.

So, as you can imagine, we were beyond excited to be able to stay the weekend at the LEGOLAND Hotel about a month ago. The hotel was six months from completion when we were at the theme park in late-2014, and of course, it had been on my mind ever since.

There’s no question that the LEGOLAND Hotel lived up to my expectations (they have a disco elevator…need I say more…). Take a look at 10 things about the LEGOLAND Hotel in Florida that make it so incredibly awesome.

1. There’s an In-Room Scavenger Hunt. When we first entered our hotel room, the kids were greeted with a short scavenger hunt. Use the clues in the room to solve puzzles and open the safe. Inside the safe, kids will find juice boxes, snacks and small packets of LEGO sets.

2. The Free Breakfast Buffet is Amazing. A hot breakfast buffet comes with your stay at the LEGOLAND Hotel. It’s not make-your-own waffles and blueberry muffins. Instead you’ll find a massive spread of hot foods including omelets, potatoes, French toast and fruit cups. And oh so much bacon. Yum.

3. The LEGOLAND Times is a Must-Read. The first morning of your stay, look for a copy of – not USA Today – but The LEGOLAND Times outside your front door. It looks like an actual newspaper and has all kinds of LEGO-related “news” stories inside. Don’t forget to bring it downstairs to breakfast.

4. The Hotel is *This* Close to LEGOLAND. Seriously, it’s like 50 feet away. No shuttle bus. No need to drive and park. I literally could have gone back to my hotel room to use the bathroom if I didn’t want to use the restrooms in the park. We were that close to the hotel.

5. You’ll Be Awed by the Themed Rooms. At the LEGOLAND Hotel, there are four different themed rooms, including Pirate, Adventure, Kingdom and LEGO Friends. We had a Kingdom themed room. The bunk beds, the shower curtain, the “surveillance video.” The room was so well thought-out.

6. You Can Book Mindstorms Classes from the Hotel.  No need to go into the park to book one of the Mindstorms workshops that let you build computerized LEGO robots. You can book from the kiosk in the hotel lobby. No need to worry about classes getting booked up before you reach the Imagination Zone.

7. There is a Disco Elevator. The elevator is cute and colorful, what I would expect from the LEGOLAND Hotel. When the doors open, typical elevator music plays. But…when the elevator doors close, it’s a whole new scene. The lights dim, the disco ball spins and “YMCA” starts to play. So. Much. Fun.

8. You Can Make S’mores. Did I have you at s’mores? Yum. On the property of the LEGOLAND Hotel, there’s a fire pit and staff are out there every night with marshmallow-roasting sticks. You can buy a s’mores kit from the Bricks restaurant for $10. Totally worth it.

9. You’ll Enjoy Early Entrance. Guests of the LEGOLAND Hotel enjoy early entrance to the theme park. That means you get in 30 minutes before every other guest. While not every ride is open before the official park opening, you can take a spin or two on the Lost Kingdom Adventure before everyone else.

10. There are Free Character Meet & Greets. Check the schedule when you arrive to find out when the characters come out to play. During the morning hours, LEGO characters meet and greet breakfast guests in the restaurant at 9 am.

Disclaimer: My kids and I were overnight guests of the LEGOLAND Hotel in Florida. However, I was not paid for this article and all opinions expressed here are my own.

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Best Places to Travel with Kids in January http://kidventurous.com/places-travel-kids-january/ http://kidventurous.com/places-travel-kids-january/#respond Fri, 06 Jan 2017 23:18:32 +0000 http://kidventurous.com/?p=10508 The holidays have come and gone. Everyone in the house is back to work and school. Already you’re starting to hear an “I’m bored” here and there (now that the novelty of holiday gifts has worn off), so now is the time for a getaway. Here are 10 of the best places to visit with kids in January. Have fun. […]

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The holidays have come and gone. Everyone in the house is back to work and school. Already you’re starting to hear an “I’m bored” here and there (now that the novelty of holiday gifts has worn off), so now is the time for a getaway. Here are 10 of the best places to visit with kids in January. Have fun. 🙂

New Orleans
Head to New Orleans to ride on a streetcar for a look at antebellum mansions and historic monuments before learning to cook with insects at the Insectarium. Explore the history of Mardi Gras at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World. As a bonus, you’ll get a free slice of King Cake. Yum.

Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands
Home to fantastic ski resorts, like Seven Springs and Hidden Valley, there’s a lot for snow lovers in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands. There’s even a Snow Days road trip itinerary to help you make the most of a long weekend in the region. And, don’t forget to sign your 4th or 5th grader up for a Snowpass.

Miami
I love South Florida, especially in January. Once the holidays are over and there’s nothing left to do but wait for snow (then shovel snow), I love to head south and Miami is a great place for a getaway with kids. Explore sea life at the Miami Seaquarium or go on a safari at Jungle Island. Plus, there’s the beach. 🙂

Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs just this week saw more than two feet of snow, making it an ideal time to head out for skiing, snow tubing and snowboading. Even better, thanks to direct flights from a dozen cities, including Atlanta and San Diego, you and the kids can reach the slopes more quickly than ever.

Puerto Rico
While airfares are relatively low, hop a flight to historic San Juan in Puerto Rico. Pay a visit to the old forts, including Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristobal. Try a 45-minuted guided Segway tour around town or simply wander the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan’s pastel colonial neighborhoods.

Austin, TX
There’s a lot to do in Austin and the weather should be perfectly pleasant in January. Wander the Cathedral of Junk, take a pedicab tour of the murals around town or take a dip at Barton Springs, which is always a delightful 68 degrees. Climb Mt. Bonnell at sunset for 360 degree views of downtown.

Quebec City
We loved exploring Quebec City over the summer, but a getaway in January can be just as fun. That’s when the Hotel de Glace opens back up for the season. Each year, this ice hotel is re-created, enabling the curious to snuggle into a Nordic sleeping bag for the night. During the day, enjoy ice skating and dog sledding.

Belize
For eco-adventures, Belize is the place to go. The Lodge at Chaa Creek offers an all-inclusive Eco-Kids Rainforest Adventure that your kids won’t soon forget. Children will learn all about the tropical rainforest, explore Maya temples and canoe on the Macal River to meet a local family in the village of Christo Rey.

Long Beach, CA
Just south of Los Angeles and west of Disneyland, you won’t want to overlook Long Beach as a must-visit destination to spend time as a family. From whale watching to renting bikes to splashing on the beaches, there are a lot of things to do in this Southern California town. Book a stay at the Queen Mary. It’s a must.

Iceland
It’s so deliciously cheap to fly to Iceland, especially if you can book a flight to Reykjavik with WOW. Take a trip around the Golden Circle, making stops for geysers, waterfalls and volcanic craters, and of course, enjoy a soak in the famed Blue Lagoon. As a bonus, there’s no better time to seek out the Northern Lights.

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‘Frozen’ Norway: 7 Places to Visit as a Family http://kidventurous.com/frozen-norway-7-places-to-visit-as-a-family/ http://kidventurous.com/frozen-norway-7-places-to-visit-as-a-family/#respond Mon, 19 Dec 2016 13:00:02 +0000 http://kidventurous.com/?p=5890 It may be more than three years since the release of the movie Frozen, but Frozen fever is still alive and well. In fact, I was recently at Walt Disney World and the new “Frozen Ever After” ride at Epcot is one of the most popular (as in, book your FastPass+ now). This new ride replaced “Maelstrom” in Norway. Still the same […]

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norway

It may be more than three years since the release of the movie Frozen, but Frozen fever is still alive and well. In fact, I was recently at Walt Disney World and the new “Frozen Ever After” ride at Epcot is one of the most popular (as in, book your FastPass+ now). This new ride replaced “Maelstrom” in Norway. Still the same floating logs, but now with a brand new story.

So, it’s no surprise that Norway continues to see growth from visitors from the United States. Adventures by Disney even has an eight-day/seven-night tour across Norway just for families. Or, you can create your own itinerary, taking in fjords, mountains and classic architecture along the way. Here are seven places to visit in Norway to feed your love (er, your children’s love) of all things Frozen.

akershus fortress

1. Akershus Fortress. Located in the center of Oslo, Akershus Fortress is a lovely place to explore the history and culture of Norway’s capital city. Guided tours take place between May and August. As a quick side note, Akershus is also the name of a popular restaurant in the Norway pavilion at Epcot (good to know if a trip to Orlando is a bit more manageable than a getaway to Oslo).

nidaros cathedral

2. Nidaros Cathedral. While not a short distance from Oslo, you may enjoy relaxing and taking in the Norwegian countryside on the scenic seven-hour journey to Trondheim to explore Nidaros Cathedral. The cathedral is the largest in all of Scandinavia and it’s built over the tomb of St. Olav. Take a guided tour or simply stand back to take in the beauty of the stained glass windows that make up Rose Window.

bryggen

3. Bryggen. Bryggen, the wharf of Bergen, is one of the town’s most popular attractions. You’ll find artists’ studios, boutiques, gift shops and tasty seafood restaurants. Located seven hours from Oslo, this town has two museums that hosts art works and themed exhibitions. In the town of Bergen, children will also enjoy the Bergen Aquarium, VilVite (a science center) and Vannkanten Waterworld.

naeroyfjord

4. Naeroyfjord. The inspiration for Arendelle, the name of the kingdom in Frozen, Naeroyfjord is one branch of the Sognefjord, the largest fjord (a narrow inlet between high cliffs) in Norway. A few must-dos here include fjord cruises, hiking and kayaking. You may also want to take a ride on the Flam railway, one of the steepest rail lines, which goes past waterfalls and in-between mountains.

viking ship museum

5. Viking Ship Museum. For Frozen fans, no trip to Norway would be complete without seeing and learning more about Viking ships at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. The museum displays two well-preserved wooden Viking ships, as well as a variety of smaller boats and tools used to build and maintain the ships in the 9th century. The museum is open daily and children under 16 enter for free.

borgund stave church

6. Stave Churches. You’ll find unique wooden churches dotted throughout Norway. Norway’s oldest wooden church, Urnes Stave Church, is located in Luster (near to Naeroyfjord) and has a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Or, check out Borgund Stave Church, which is likely one of the most photographed stave churches.

fjord horses

7. Tjostheim Farm. Head to Tjostheim Farm in Ryfylke (210 miles from Oslo) to ride on a fjord horse. They are easy to ride and you can take lessons and go on trips through mountain scenery at Tjostheim Ridesenter. While in Ryfylke, there are also a variety of other activities to explore, like kayaking and cruising on the Lysefjord.

Photo Credits: Michael Gwyther-Jones (Norway), Darcy (Akershus), Cristina Schultz (Nidaros Cathedral), Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho (Bryggen), Jean-Baptiste (Naeroyfjord), CeBepuH (Viking Ship Museum), xynt4x (Borgund Stave Church), Jennifer Slot (Fjord Horses)

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10 Stops to Make on a Vermont Road Trip http://kidventurous.com/10-stops-make-vermont-road-trip/ http://kidventurous.com/10-stops-make-vermont-road-trip/#respond Wed, 14 Dec 2016 13:00:47 +0000 http://kidventurous.com/?p=10485 For such a small state, there’s a lot to see and do in Vermont. Make your own teddy bear at Vermont Teddy Bear Company, sample some of the best apple cider donuts in the country at Cold Hollow Cider Mill or hike to the Stowe Pinnacle Summit for incredible views of the Green Mountains. And don’t forget to stop in […]

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For such a small state, there’s a lot to see and do in Vermont. Make your own teddy bear at Vermont Teddy Bear Company, sample some of the best apple cider donuts in the country at Cold Hollow Cider Mill or hike to the Stowe Pinnacle Summit for incredible views of the Green Mountains.

10 Stops to Make on a Vermont Road Trip

And don’t forget to stop in a sugar house for maple syrup and all kinds of maple-flavored concoctions. Fall is a great time for a road trip across Vermont, so take a look at 10 stops to make as you explore the Green Mountain State.

Vermont Teddy Bear Factory (Shelburne)
Kids and adults alike will love the Vermont Teddy Bear Company in Shelburne. The 30-minute tour with a Bear Ambassador costs just a few dollars, but be ready for loads of bear puns. The behind-the-scenes tour shows visitors how the teddy bears are made, dressed, even repaired at the on-site teddy bear hospital.

10 Stops to Make on a Vermont Road Trip

Lake Champlain (Burlington)
From biking to hiking to exploring the coastal wine trail by way of a self-guided driving tour, there’s a lot to see and do in the Lake Champlain region. On the lake itself, there are plenty of opportunities to get out on a stand-up paddleboard, a sailboat or a canoe. One popular past time is to island hop, taking the ferry to Burton Island or kayaking to North Hero Island.

Ben & Jerry’s Factory (Waterbury)
Of course, it’s a must to stop in the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury. Take a free 30-minute tour of the factory to learn how the ice cream is made before scooping up a full-size sample at the end of the tour. Before you leave, snap a selfie with the “Cowmobile.” In winter, add on a 45-minute snowshoe tour to work up an appetite before finishing up with a sample or a visit to the Scoop Shop.

10 Stops to Make on a Vermont Road Trip

Cold Hollow Cider Mill (Waterbury Center)
For apple cider donuts, Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury Center is the place to go. You’ll also want to sample the apple cider and the array of mustards set out upfront with oyster crackers. For lunch, walk across the driveway to the Apple Core Luncheonette. Order “Vermont to the Core,” a grilled panini topped with local bacon, cheddar, cider jelly and apple slices.

Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa (Stowe)
Stay the night in Stowe at Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa. Plan to hike, bike and swim in the summer, then ski and snowshoe in the winter. Look for the Stoweflake Discovery Programs, which includes llama walks and farm tours. Charlie B’s is a great pick for on-site dining. It’s also a very short drive to Stowe Golf Park for mini golf and Stowe Bowl for family bowling night.

10 Stops to Make on a Vermont Road Trip

Stowe Pinnacle Summit (Stowe)
For incredible 360 degree views, hike the Stowe Pinnacle Trail. It’s a relatively short, but steep, hike up to the summit but you will be awed by the views of the Green Mountains. Take a lunch and sit on the rocks to enjoy the views. If you’re eager to get to the top, you can take off about a mile from the hike by parking at the Pinnacle Meadows Parking Lot further up the trail.

Bragg Farm Sugar House (East Montpelier)
When in Vermont, visit a sugar house, even if it’s out of season (sugaring season usually lasts six weeks sometime between February and April). At Bragg Farm Sugar House in East Montpelier, you can taste maple syrups, take an educational tour and hike along the maple walking trail. There’s also an ice cream parlor on-site where you can get a milkshake or a maple creemee (a soft-serve cone).

Vermont State House (Montpelier)
The smallest state capital in the country may have the most beautiful state capitol building. The gold-domed Vermont State House in Montpelier offers guided tours from July through October, but you can explore the legislative chambers and visitors galleries on your own. Wander the streets of this quaint town, including the Vermont Historical Society Museum, which is next door to the Vermont State House.

10 Stops to Make on a Vermont Road Trip

Killington Mountain Resort (Killington)
Regardless of the season, there’s plenty to do at Killington Mountain Resort. When the weather is warm, look for all kinds of outdoor activities at the Adventure Center, including an alpine coaster, ziplines, scenic lift rides and a ropes course. There are also plenty of trails for hiking and mountain biking. In winter, there’s skiing and snowboarding, but there’s also fat biking, sleigh rides and snowmobile tours.

Downtown Rutland ArtWalk (Rutland)
In Rutland, loads of oversized murals decorate buildings all across town, primarily along Merchants Row. Murals range from a beautiful garden of flowers to a colorful depiction of the town and prominent buildings, including Christ the King Church. There’s even a giant mural of Batman. Before you go, print out locations of each mural from the Downtown Rutland website so you know where to find each one.

10 Stops to Make on a Vermont Road Trip

Have you been to Vermont? I’d love to hear about some of your favorite must-stop places on a road trip across the Green Mountain State.

10 Stops to Make on a Vermont Road Trip

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