Showing posts with label Baltimore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Baltimore. Show all posts

Go Wild! - Planning Your Visit to The Maryland Zoo

Visiting The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

"The zoo is an amazing place to be." 

My son looked up with a big smile on his face and said those words during our visit to The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.  There is always something special about visiting a zoo.  I don't care if it's your first visit or your hundredth - new animals, a new angle, a special feeding - each visit can feel unique.  My family and I headed to The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore in the beginning of July.  It wasn't our first visit, but it was a great experience all around.  Let's take a look inside the zoo and see how some things may be different during your visit in 2020 thanks to coronavirus precautions.

What to Pack for Your Visit to The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore



If you're like me, I always pack a backpack for my kiddos whenever we ever travel regardless of how short or how long the day might be.  At the Maryland Zoo you are welcome to bring in your own food and drinks so we take advantage of that convenience to pack water and a snack.  I don't like to pack a big lunch and have to carry a cooler around so if we're visiting over a meal, I typically plan to grab food there though.  Don't forget to pack LOTS of water in the summer.  It gets hot out there as you're walking around all day.  We also bring sunscreen to reapply during our visit.  Lastly, you may want to consider bringing a stroller, even if your child doesn't alway use one anymore.  My youngest is 5 and can handle hikes and such without it, but The Maryland Zoo features a good bit of walking and some decent sized hills.  On a hot day, and particularly on this visit where he had a broken collarbone, the stroller was a lifesaver.


Our Favorite Animal Exhibits at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore



There's a lot to see and love at The Maryland Zoo, but below are our top 5 animal exhibits that you won't want to miss.  We spent roughly 3 hours at the zoo and had a chance to pretty much see everything that was open right now.  
  • Giraffes - The viewing for them is almost 360 as you walk the path on the African Journey so don't worry if they're not in a great spot for you when you first approach their area.  I bet you'll get a good look as you walk around!

  • Penguins - These were our FAVORITES!  They are so cute waddling around and there always seems to be zoo staff hanging around to answer questions so we got to know a lot about them.  They also do feedings twice a day where you can hear a more formal presentation from zoo staff.  Don't forget to go inside their exhibit where you can get some pretty cool underwater viewing!
  • Polar Bear - I think we were so happy to watch him playing because it was such a hot day and we were jealous of his swim time in his polar bear pool!  He looked so chill and like he was having such a great time.

  • Chimpanzee Forest - I've always enjoyed monkey exhibits at zoos, but this particular visit was even more special as their were two babies in the exhibit.  Watching them play was totally adorable.  And I really felt like I related to the parents who looked exhausted and like they were just trying to take a rest but the little ones kept pulling on their hands, arms, and feet.  Mom life, am I right???
  • Elephants - There is nothing quite as majestic as an elephant!  These guys are huge and they have a huge area to roam at the zoo meaning you have a number of places to view them.  One of our favorite things is to grab an ICEE at the Oasis and watch the elephants below!

Health and Safety at The Maryland Zoo during Coronavirus


Our summer fun plans look very different this summer due to coronavirus and many travel destinations are working hard to adjust their protocols to safely reopen.  As we are making choices about where to go and what to do, outside venues are really important to us which makes the zoo a perfect place to visit.  Here's a quick summary of some of the safety protocols in place at The Maryland Zoo.  For the most up-to-date information, please visit their website at http://www.marylandzoo.org



Staying in a hotel this summer? Check out what it's like to stay in a hotel during coronavirus.


  • Timed Entry - All guests, whether members or not, need to reserve a timed entry to the zoo.  Plan to arrive at your assigned time.  If you're early, they have a place outside of the main gates where you can wait while social distancing.  This system worked well.  Our entry time was 1:00 and we arrived at 12:59 so we were able to go right in.  It did what it was designed to do as there was no wait at the ticket booth to enter and crowds were light for a summer day.  All tickets also need to be either printed at home or displayed on your smartphone for easy, no contact scanning.
  • Masks - Masks are not required everywhere in the zoo.  When you are exploring outdoors and social distancing can be maintained, you don't have to wear a mask.  "Mask Zones" are clearly marked and include tight spaces, indoor areas, bathrooms, and places that a line form.  In those zones, all guests 9 and over are required to wear masks.  We opted to wear ours even at some of the outdoor exhibits that didn't require them if their were other families nearby and, even though it wasn't required, we opted to bring them for both of our children as did most families we saw.  To help with social distancing, the zoo has instituted a one-way traffic flow.  There were employees helping to point guests in the right direction and answer questions along the way.
  • Increased Cleaning / Sanitation - You'll be happy to know that zoo staff is EVERYWHERE cleaning.  I was really impressed by the friendliness and hard work of the whole staff during our visit.  High touch surfaces in particular were wiped down frequently.  There is also hand sanitizer throughout the entire zoo with easy-to-locate signs.  

  • Temporary Closures - There are some activities at the zoo that are not currently available including the carousel, train, climbing features, playground, certain programming, and some food locations.  While my kids asked about a few of these that they remembered from our previous visits, these closures didn't dampen our fun.  Not everything is cancelled though!  We were really excited to catch the penguin feeding which happens twice a day.  One of the biggest closures to note is that the shuttle is not running from the entrance to Zoo Central.  Getting to the zoo won't be a problem, but you will have a big hill to climb to the exit.  
Overall, throughout our visit we had a great time and felt safe exploring The Maryland Zoo.  I would definitely recommend heading outside, seeing some animals, and having fun with some furry friends!  

Thank you to The Maryland Zoo for hosting my visit so I could share these updates!


Port Discovery Children's Museum At Home Activities


Regular readers will know that my family and I have been longtime fans of Port Discovery Children's Museum in Baltimore.  With everything being shut down and families at home trying to make their own fun, I was delighted to see that Port Discovery was posting fun and educational activities for young kids.  And the best part?  Usually the amazingness that is Port Discovery is something only my Mid-Atlantic readers get to experience, but these resources and activities can bring the learning and fun to all of you, regardless of where you live!

Want to check out fun to be found at Port Discovery? Check out some of the newest attractions!


Below is a list of the themes for the next several weeks.  If you want to receive more details about specific activities, sign up for their e-newsletter and give them a follow on Facebook!

  • Week of April 19 - Poetry
  • Week of April 26 - Theater
  • Week of May 3 - Health & Wellness
  • Week of May 10 - Early Education
  • Week of May 17 - STEM
  • Week of May 24 - Health & Wellness
  • Week of May 31 - Theater
They are also sharing activities and projects you can do with your children on their website and I have a few printables they shared with me that you can download here!

Did you know we had a birthday party at Port Discovery a few years ago?  Find out more about the party here!


I can't wait for things to get back to normal and have my kids playing again soon at Port Discovery Children's Museum!  You'll find activities for your little ones to enjoy all year long and special seasonal programs too.  But for now, enjoy these at-home resources and have fun learning with your little ones during this unprecedented time.  



Baltimore Running Festival - Things to Know Before You Go!

I just wrapped up my third Baltimore Running Festival and it was less than a great showing from a performance standpoint.  I went into the weekend undertrained and well aware of that fact so I ran some and walked liberally to my 2nd slowest half-marathon time yet.  But, I finished and still had an amazing time - that's what's important!! So instead of making this the typical race recap post, I'm going to shed a little insight to things you should know about the Baltimore Running Festival in case you decide to run in the future!

Registration - Registration is easy and on the relatively inexpensive side if you do it early enough.  This race is organized by Corrigan Sports Enterprise (CSE), which organizes several other races around Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic.  When you register for the Baltimore Running Festival, you'll also see this race connected with several other.  You can register for the Maryland Double or the King Crab Challenge as well if you're interested in competing in multiple races during the course of the year.  For the Baltimore Running Festival, you can find a race distance regardless of your ability - 5K, Half Marathon, Marathon, Team Relay, and even the BaltiMORON-a-thon (running both the 5K and Half in the same day).  Thinking about registering?  Keep your eyes open during the holiday season as previous years have seen race discounts as deep as 25% for a 24-hour period during the holiday shopping season!!

Premiums & Bling - Each year the Baltimore Running Festival provides top notch premiums from one of our favorite Baltimore companies, Under Armour.  Runners for the 5K and Team Relay each receive short sleeved tech shirts, while half and full marathon participants get long sleeved tech shirts.  And then, there are the medals!  In recent years, the Baltimore Running Festival has celebrated Maryland's unofficial state symbol, the crab, with their designs.  As the final leg in the Maryland Double and the King Crab Challenge, you'll hear lots of runners walking around with "clanging" medals after the race.

Getting Around - In each of my three Baltimore Running Festivals, I've had different transportation experiences on race day.  My first year, I ran the 5K and was on the road into the city in the early morning hours.  Traffic was backed up and it took a while to get into the city, but there was ample parking at M&T Bank Stadium that was free.  Getting in and out of the city isn't super easy on race day with road closures though so plan with ample time on both sides of the race.  The second time I ran, my husband and I got a hotel room at the Hilton the night before.  This was the year I ran the BaltiMORON-a-thon and was a fabulous option.  We could sleep in a bit on Saturday morning, walk right out of our hotel just a few steps to the 5K start and had a warm place to hang out and relax between the 5K and the half.  This year, I was only doing the half and opted to take the Metro into the city.  This was a super easy and effective option.  If you know me at all, you know I despise city driving so I couldn't have been happier to park in Owings Mills and take the subway in from there.  This may not be a good choice for 5K or full marathon runners though depending on how early you need to get into the city and when the Metro begins it's service that morning - be sure to check the schedule!

The Course - Is it just me or does Baltimore get more hills every time I run there???  You will certainly find your fair share of hills throughout the course.  The fist half of the course trends uphill so be sure to train for them.  On the plus side, what goes up must come down, so the the back half of the course trends down hill.  One of the prettiest parts of the course is the run around Lake Montibello.  This is such a serene half-way mark on the course and features the best aid station - energy gels!  Well, maybe that's the second best aid station.  Who can forget about the munchkin mile presented by Dunkin' Donuts?!?  I usually pass on donuts during the race, but decided to stop and smell the sugar this year with any time goals being nonexistent anyway.

The Best of Baltimore - This may be my favorite part of this race.  Baltimore doesn't always get the best press, but this event brings out the best in the city!  First of all, the support from the police department and other first responders is top notch.  There were countless cops who not only worked to block intersections throughout the city to keep runners safe, but they also joined in on the cheering and the fun.  Neighborhoods came together to throw some of the absolute best block parties - from music screaming from speakers, to costumed dancers, to children giving high fives, and endless cheers and applause, it was certainly a sight to be seen and helped motivate everyone regardless of how fast you were running.

Despite the tough terrain, Baltimore is one of my favorite running events - for all of these reasons and much more!  I hope to see you in Charm City sometime soon!!

Top Tips to Beat the Mid-Atlantic Heat AND a New Giveaway!

Summer has certainly set in throughout the Mid-Atlantic and temperatures are rising fast!  No need to fear though, your Mid-Atlantic Moms team is here with our favorite ways to beat the heat this summer.  Keep reading through our tips too, because we have an AWESOME family giveaway opportunity to share with you as well!
Learn more about Duke's Lagoon at Dutch Wonderland!

From Mid-Atlantic Mom Rachel (@prettyinbabyfood)While I am not really a hot weather kind of individual it seems like where I live it keeps getting hotter every summer. Haha! Usually we cool off in our own pool, but this year that wasn’t an option. Before school let out we would get out of the heat by going to the local library, but with school out for the summer the Library has been pretty busy. Haha! So, we have been trying to go to some water parks. Like Mid-Atlantic mom Kristi, we love to go to Duke's Lagoon at Dutch Wonderland, and to keep cool while walking around the park in the heat we LOVE to pack our rechargeable stroller fan and cooling towels. These two items have been a lifesaver on many occasions. They are great for any indoor/outdoor occasion where it will be hot. Our stroller fan can rotate to cool whoever is in the stroller, or the person pushing the stroller. The cooling towels can be used for hours once wet. Above all when out and about in the heat stay hydrated. Lots of water!


From Mid-Atlantic Mom Kristen (@genymama) - My favorite ways to beat the heat? I like taking my girls to the local pool club/splash pad, beach or water park! I also enjoy cool treats like ice cream or frozen yogurt while strolling on the boardwalk, (and an iced adult-beverage when we’re at a BBQ!) On super hot days nothing beats the cool, air conditioned rooms of a children’s museum! Loads of energy can be burned without anyone getting sunburned!


From Mid-Atlantic Mom Kristi (@dsnyrunrgrl) - Our family has become huge fans of beating the heat at water parks.  At 4 and 7, both of my boys love splashing, swimming, and sliding their ways to summer fun.  Many theme parks now have water parks as part of their attractions. It means one extra bag to pack of swimming clothes, but those water play areas can be really refreshing on a summer day!  One of our favorite spots at a theme park is Duke’s Lagoon at Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, PA. All of the attractions are perfectly sized for little ones to enjoy so no worries about bringing floaties or dangerous water depths for parents!  If it’s too hot to even go outside, a stay at an indoor water park resort like Great Wolf Lodge might be just the ticket! If you’re looking for us, we’ll be racing down the water slides!

Click here to learn more about Port Discovery!

And speaking of keeping cool, indoor activities are another great option to beat the heat - like Port Discovery Children's Museum in Baltimore! Which brings me to our giveaway I mentioned earlier! I am so excited to share that we have a family 4-pack of tickets to Port Discovery Children's Museum that will be going to one lucky winner!!! Wanna win??? It's super easy!

  • Like the video and comment "I want to go to Port Discovery!"
  • You can even earn a bonus entry for each person you tag in the comments.
  • Giveaway entry period opens July 4th and closes at 9PM on Sunday, July 7th
  • Winner will be announced after the entry period closes!
So don't wait! Head over to Instagram and follow these simple directions. Don't forget, Port Discovery just opened some brand new exhibits in June so it's a perfect time to go and visit this great destination to enjoy a fun day with your kids! Good luck and stay cool this summer!

New Exhibits Setting Sail at Port Discovery

Port Discovery Children's Museum in Baltimore's Inner Harbor has been delighting families for years with entertaining exhibits that foster creativity and learning.  Whether you are visiting for the day, taking a field trip, or planning a birthday party, there is a lot to see and enjoy at this Charm City destination.  It has long been a favorite of our boys and I was delighted to join the fun opening weekend of two new exhibits that have provided a dramatic facelift to the museum.

My family and I received complimentary admission into the museum to share the excitement of these new exhibits!  As always, opinions are honest and my own.

What's New - The two big updates to Port Discovery are Sky Climber and The Port.  You can't miss either exhibit as you enter the museum on the first floor.  Past visitors of the children's museum will remember the large KidWorks climbing and sliding structure that spanned all three floors.  While my oldest always loved playing in KidWorks, it made this mom a little nervous as it was hard to keep track of little ones in the maze of cargo nets, slides, and tunnels.  Parents will be happy to hear that Sky Climber is much easier to keep an eye on little explorers as there is one way up on each side and then everyone comes down the slide.  Kids will be happy to hear that this is a challenging and fun climb that goes up four stories before taking the super fast twisty slide all the way back down to the first floor.  Grown-ups can join the fun too in this exhibit - although I will warn from personal experience that there are some tight squeezes, especially earlier on, and the climb may leave you feeling every bit of your age!  Guests may only wear socks on Sky Climber so come prepared!  They also have socks you can use at the base of Sky Climber, but even though they have a spot for clean and dirty socks, I still have a weird thing about sharing socks with someone else.

Learning about navigating a ship!

The other new exhibit is The Port which is again a multi-level experience for children.  Little minds can learn about the various operations that take place in a busy port - just like Baltimore!  Here they load and unload cargo, navigate a ship, and go through port security. . .and that's just the start.  The boys loved loading cargo and watching it climb up the lift.  On the lower level of the exhibit, young guests can explore the engine room.  There were several Port Discovery staff members around this exhibit to help guests navigate the new area and make sure kids were able to see and enjoy all there was to offer.

Old Favorites - If you've been to Port Discovery before, you'll be happy to know that many of your favorite exhibits are back and feature some fresh updates.  Our boys have always enjoyed Tiny's Diner where they can cook food and serve it to us in a restaurant.  The jukebox is working and the kitchen has received some new items.  The Adventure Expeditions exhibit has also gone through a quick makeover - not changing the contents of the exhibit, but getting everything working again.  The other favorite place for the kids to play was in the Water Works area where they could have fun, practice some engineering, and, of course, get a little wet!  My kids have outgrown the Tot Trails area which is designed specifically for children 3 and under, but this used to be a regular hangout for Caleb and I while Brody and Dan would be off playing elsewhere.  This large room features several sensory friendly environment for children and recently was updated with a private nursing areas for mothers.  I think one of my favorite things about visiting Port Discovery is that each time we go, the kids find new things to enjoy!

Will these objects sink or float? Let's make a hypothesis!
Thinking About Visiting? - Here's what you should know!
  • Admission is $17.95 for guests 1 and over.  I know parents with young children might be used to children under 3 getting into places for free, but believe me when I tell you that your littlest family members will have just as much fun here as older explorers.  
  • Parking is available throughout downtown Baltimore, but I recommend parking at the Harbor Park garage which is located right next to Port Discovery.  You can also have your parking validated for a reduced rate inside the museum so bring your parking ticket!
  • There is no dining option inside the museum, but there is a designated area to eat snacks or food that you bring with you and vending machines are located onsite.  Within a block radius of the museum there are ample restaurant choices from sit down locales to quick service options.  We like visiting Blaze Pizza and then grabbing an ice cream from Lucky's located in the old Power Plant on Baltimore's Inner Harbor, right next to Phillip's Seafood.
  • Lockers are available at Port Discovery and are FREE to use - parents with diaper bags rejoice!  You can set a combination to lock your bags up for the day and enter / lock as much as you need throughout the day.  I will say the code locks were a bit fickle, but after a few attempts we were able to get them working just fine.  
  • Port Discovery takes family safety very seriously.  When you enter, your entire family will receive wristbands with a unique code for each member.  Upon leaving the museum, staff will check wristbands at the exit to make sure that no kid is leaving with an adult they didn't come with - love this!
  • I would plan on your visit taking at least two hours.  Anything less than that and I think you'll be missing out on some exhibits your family may really enjoy.  I would say at a maximum you're looking at 4 hours roughly here.  Beyond that, I believe your children would be running out of steam despite the many rooms to explore.  The more that your family wants to participate in story times, music classes, and such, the longer you'll want to plan for your visit.


I hope that you enjoy planning a visit to Port Discovery Children's Museum with your family!  It's a perfect destination for early elementary and younger to play, learn, and explore for hours of fun.  For more information on planning your visit, be sure to visit www.portdiscovery.org.    I'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!  

Meet the Carnival Pride!

When it comes to cruise ships, bigger doesn't always mean better.  In 2017, my family and I sailed on the Carnival Paradise from Tampa to Key West and Havana and were very impressed with the Carnival experience and the small ship atmosphere.  For 2018, we decided to stay closer to home and sail on the Carnival Pride from our home port of Baltimore.  There was obviously a lot to love about sailing from just 45 minutes from your house, but it wasn't just the ease we enjoyed about our recent Carnival cruise.  While the Carnival Pride isn't the newest or largest ship in the fleet, it certainly has a lot to offer families and guests while on board.

From the moment we stepped on board, we felt right at home.  We purchased Faster to the Fun and were among the first to board.  A towel animal character greeted our children and helped build their excitement for all of the activities that were waiting.  When you have Faster to the Fun, your stateroom is ready earlier than others so we were able to head that way right away to drop off carry on items and check out our room.  Friends of ours had surprised us with the Bon Voyage package which added decorations and a few presents to our room.  We had a stateroom on Deck 6 which featured an extended balcony.  There was plenty of room for our family of 4 to spread out throughout the length of the cruise.

The pool areas on board were our next stop as we were anxious to "jump" right into the fun!  There were two pools on Lido deck for the whole family to enjoy and another small pool in the Serenity "adult only" area.  If you're a fan of waterpark fun, don't miss the slides and play area above the pools.  Little cruisers will love the small slides and spray ground, while older children and adults will certainly enjoy the two water slides - yellow for milder fun and green for more extreme adventurers!  

Cruising on the Carnival Pride certainly features fun for all ages!  My littles were 3 and 6 on our most recent cruise vacation and had a blast playing in Camp Ocean.  Carnival Cruise Line kids club activities start at age 2 - the youngest in the industry!  Children our separated into appropriate camps by age and there is plenty of security while checking kids in and out of camp that you can feel safe having your kids play there.  It's great to have this option while cruising as our kids often were begging to go to the fun and games that awaited in Camp Ocean so mom and dad got to enjoy some adult time on the ship!  When the whole family is ready to play together, the Dr. Seuss at Sea activities like story times, parades, and the Green Eggs and Ham breakfast as well as Build-A-Bear at Sea will create many family memories.

One of the best parts of cruising though is the food!  In addition to the main dining room and Lido Deck Buffet, Mermaid's Grille, you won't want to miss Guy's Burger Joint and Blue Iguana Cantina.  All of these are included in your cruise fare ensuring that you won't go hungry while on vacation!  If you're looking for even more flavors, you can also visit Bonsai Sushi, David's Steakhouse, and The Chef's Table for fine dining options at an additional cost.  Want to try some of these premium options without paying premium pricing?  Check out one of the cooking demonstrations!  I went to the cooking demonstrations for both Bonsai Sushi and David's Steakhouse during our first day at sea.  While I enjoyed learning about how they prepared some of their signature dishes, I enjoyed tasting all the items even more!  These cooking demonstrations are free, but fill up fast.  Check out your Fun Times on board the ship to find out when they take place.  And speaking of the the Fun Times, did you know that you can access all of these activities and much more for free on the Carnival Hub app??  Download the app prior to boarding the ship and then connect to the WiFi once on board.  You'll be able to access your Fun Times for free on the app without purchasing an Internet package!

The Carnival Pride is a great ship and the itineraries from Baltimore are wonderful options for those of us in the Mid-Atlantic area.  I can't wait to see what updates occur during the scheduled refurb in February 2019, because I'm sure this ship will only get better with time!  

What Carnival Cruise Line ships have you sailed?  Which are your favorites?  We can't wait to try more as a cruise loving family!  To check out more of the fun waiting for you on the Carnival Pride, see our You Tube video below!


Happy Birthday Brody and Caleb!

It's a big week in our house as both Brody and Caleb celebrate birthdays - Brody is turning 5 and Caleb is turning 2.  Each year when I plan their birthday party, I try to work in a little Disney magic.  This time around, I broke out some creative energy to throw a Figment themed birthday party at Port Discovery Children's Museum in Baltimore.  Port Discovery has three floors of interactive fun for kids of all ages.  It really is a place for imaginations to run wild, which is why I thought Figment would be perfectly suited.  It turned out to be an amazing day with a lot of fun, some creativity, and a little touch of Disney magic.

The Invitations - I designed custom invitations for the birthday party using the HP Card and Invitation Kit that I received as a sample as part of the HP Millennial Influencer Panel.  The HP website made it easy to pull up a template and create the invitations.  I used an image of Figment in the background and a Disney font that I downloaded to my computer to inspire the look.  To draw in an extra piece of nostalgia from Epcot's Journey Into Your Imagination ride, I made Dr. Nigel Channing of The Institute, our special guest host.  This also played well with the mad scientist theming that Port Discovery offers for parties.

The Decorations, Food, and Cake - We were fortunate that Port Discovery is an amazing venue and they were providing balloons and table cloths.  I purchased purple, orange, and yellow paper goods to mimic the colors of our imaginative dragon.  The colors that Port Discovery used just happened to correspond perfectly with our inspiration.  I wasn't sure how much table space we would have in their party room, so outside of a framed invitation, I really didn't bring other Figment decorations.  I did however Disneybound with a Figment look for the day!  We decided to keep food simple - ordered some pizzas, served bags of chips, grapes, GoGo Squeeze applesauce pouches, juice boxes, and bottles of water.  The cake was truly out of this world.  Brody came with me to Starry Night Bakery in our hometown to help pick out what he wanted.  I originally was going to do white icing with a picture of Figment, but Brody wanted purple icing with orange writing and borders.  I think his idea turned out better than what mine!  The cake didn't just look good, but it was delicious too.  Brody is a chocolate lover so the cake was chocolate with Oreo mousse filling.  It was a big hit!




The Venue - If you haven't been to Port Discovery and live around the Baltimore area, you should definitely check it out.  They have a coloring room, water room, pretend Royal Farms store, indoor soccer field, and a whole half of a floor devoted to soft play areas for babies and toddlers just to name a few.  The favorite spot though for my oldest is the three story indoor playground - complete with rope ladders to climb, bridges to cross, and big slides!  They also have some areas of the museum that feature visiting activities.  The current visiting attraction is a Thomas the Tank Engine play area - perfect for my little boys.  Kids can dress up as engineers, load the train, play interactive computer games, and even enjoy a expansive toy train layout.  We bought a family membership to Port Discovery last year after our first visit because we knew we would enjoy coming back time and time again.  As members, we received a discount off of our party package and our membership for the upcoming year was renewed.  The party package featured a make your own slime activity that gave everyone their own bag to take home.  Port Discovery also gave BOGO admission tickets out to party guests as favors.

Overall it was a wonderful day!  We again had the chance to show our Disney side with a Figment inspired party while enjoying all the fun that Port Discovery Children's Museum has to offer.  Can't wait until next year when we can plan another memorable birthday party for the boys.  Happy Birthday Brody and Caleb!      

I'm a Baltimoron!

Under Armour Race Premiums - Yes, please!
Everyone knows runners can be a little crazy.  And those of you who know me, probably know that I love my race bling.  So when the time came to sign up for my 2016 racing schedule, I decided to go all out.  Those of you who have been following my blog, have seen race recaps from the first two legs of the King Crab Challenge.  In May, I completed the Nut Job Challenge at the Frederick Running Festival which included a 5K on Saturday night and a half-marathon on Sunday morning.  Just 3 weeks later, I ran the hot, hilly, and humid Baltimore 10 miler.  The final part of the King Crab Challenge came with completing the Baltimore half-marathon last weekend.  I decided to take the Baltimore Running Festival one step further and signed up for the Baltimoronathon - a 5K and a half-marathon with start times just two hours apart.

The hubs and I sporting our 5K medals
I was excited to have my husband join me for this race weekend.  We decided to get a hotel room in the city the night before so that we wouldn't have to get too early of a start on Saturday morning.  Our hotel, the Hilton Baltimore Inner Harbor, happened to be just a few steps from the start line for the 5K - perfect!  Just a few days before the race, I convinced my husband to sign up for the 5K as well.  After a light breakfast of oatmeal and a banana, we headed down to the start line for a 7:30AM start.  Since I knew I was tackling two races in the same day, I decided to take it easy on the 5K and walked most of it with my husband.  The 5K course is almost entirely uphill the first half and then turns around to go downhill the second half.  We added some jogging in to the second half of the race, which helped to loosen me up for the half.  We finished the 5K in about 47 minutes, collected our bling, and headed back to the Hilton lobby to meet up with my friends who were going to be running the half.

So much bling!
The half was slated to start at 9:45AM, so we started heading down to Inner Harbor for the start around 9:15.  The Baltimore Running Festival also features a marathon that day.  Along the way to the start, we were able to cheer for the marathon runners passing by and were keeping a look out for a friend who was completing the full.  The start of the half is right next to the Inner Harbor and features self-seeded waves.  My speedier friends headed off in Wave 2 and I lingered back to the end of Wave 3 of 5.  I don't know why, especially after the Baltimore 10 miler, but I was surprised how hilly the course was - particularly the opening miles.  Despite the hills, I felt really good the 5-6 miles.  It typically takes me a few miles to hit my groove on a long run, but I think the 5K earlier took care of that for me.  Around mile 7 the course flattened out and circled Lake Montebello where a DJ kept runners dancing and smiling as they entered and left the lake.  The Lake Montebello portion and 33rd Street, mirrored a few miles of the Baltimore 10 miler.  However, while that race ended with a large uphill portion back into Druid Hill Park, the Baltimore Half Marathon finished with a downhill run to finish through Eutaw Street and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  I'm really glad the race finished downhill, because by about mile 11, I was dragging and needed all the help I could get.  I finished the race with a smile and collected my bling!  That day, I earned my 5K, half-marathon, and Baltimoronathon medals.  I also was able to collect my Maryland Double medal for finishing the Frederick and Baltimore Half Marathons.  And the King Crab Challenge award this year was a fleece blanket.  My training had been a little lax for this half, so my goal was to finish in under 3 hours, and I clocked in at 2:57.  

The spoils from my 2016 race season!
So for those of you thinking about the Baltimore Running Festival - I would definitely recommend it!  The race is well supported - both officially by Corrigan and unofficially by the people of Baltimore.  The residents and spectators who come out to cheer runners along the course offered high fives, music, costumes and some pretty funny signs.  The Baltimoronathon was certainly an added unique challenge.  Now it's on to the next race - runDisney's Wine and Dine 10K on November 5th!

Happy Running, Friends!

Tips for Preschoolers at MLB Games

My husband and I love going to Orioles games at Camden Yards here in Baltimore.  There have been plenty of games that we've gone to on mommy/daddy date nights, but we also enjoy bringing the little guys to the games.  On their best days, preschoolers can sometimes be a handful so it's always a good idea to have a plan when heading out on an adventure with them.

Food - With so many snacks and sweet treats, it's easy for kids to go overboard on cotton candy and ice cream.  Try talking with your child before you even leave the house about the plan for food.  If they are going to be allowed to have one snack after they finish their lunch, tell them that and then they'll be less likely to ask over and over again at the stadium.  You can also check your stadium's policy on bringing food into the stadium.  Brody is a really picky eater so we're lucky that Oriole Park lets you bring in food to the stadium.  Packing Brody his granola bars, goldfish, fruit and veggie pouches, and other favorites not only ensures that he has something to eat that he'll enjoy, but also saves money.

Souvenirs - Whether it's a stuffed Oriole bird, a baseball bat, or a foam finger, souvenirs are everywhere around the stadium and little kids will flock to them like the seagulls in Finding Nemo saying "Mine! Mine! Mine!" Again, I've found the best strategy to talk to Brody about a souvenir before we leave the house.  You can even give them their own money to be responsible for and then they get to pick whichever souvenir they want that fits in that budget.  You may be able to avoid the whole souvenir argument all together if you're able to pair up your game with a giveaway where your child will already feel like they're walking away with something just for entering the gates.

Take Breaks - Nine innings can be a long time for an adult attention span, but it's brutal for a preschooler.  Check out if your local ballpark has a play area for kids.  Camden Yards features a play area with sliding boards and climbing equipment as well as a spot to throw and hit like a big leaguer.  Brody loves going here to play during the game, but we also don't want to spend our whole game watching little kids play on the playground.  When we're at the game with Brody, we again set up a schedule ahead of time and communicate a plan to him.  After the first three innings, mommy will take him down for a play break.  Then during the seventh inning, daddy will take him down to play.

Preschoolers thrive on routine and knowing what to expect.  A baseball game is definitely a break from the norm of their daily lives so prepare them ahead of time as much as you can with what to expect so that they'll be ready to enjoy a fun-filled day!

Baltimore 10 Miler Recap

I can basically sum up the 2016 Baltimore 10 miler in three words - hills, heat, and humidity.  Leg 2 of the King Crab Challenge proved to be much tougher than the Frederick Half Marathon that took place just 4 short weeks earlier.  While the run was certainly not one of my best, it was a great course and took you through some beautiful parks in downtown Baltimore.  Runners should be prepared with an early June race that Maryland weather can be brutal this time of year.  Humidity at the 7:30AM start time was already 84% - I think I was sweating while I was waiting to start.

This was the first time that I've run the Baltimore 10 so I didn't know much going into the race.  The race begins at Druid Hill Lake Park which is also home to the Maryland Zoo.  There was plenty of parking for the race, even if traffic was backed up for quite a distance as parking is not the easily accessible large lots that you'll find by M & T Bank Stadium for the Baltimore Running Festival.  The race begins with a steady downhill as you wind down the park and towards 28th Street.  I was hoping that some part of the race would take us through the zoo, but that didn't happen.  The run through downtown didn't offer much scenery, but it was well supported with ample water stations and plenty of locals out to cheer us on.  

The race is an out and back course.  Runners enter Lake Montebello around mile 4 and exit near mile 5.  Adding to the excitement of passing the halfway point, there was a DJ blasting fun music to keep you motivated as you enter the mostly uphill second half of the race.  

Then comes mile 8.  

Oh, mile 8.  

The brutality of mile 8.  

Mile 8 is a tough uphill battle when your legs are burning and your chest is about to explode and the humidity is suffocating you.  Luckily, mile 9 flattens out and you finish back at the start line where a cold towel, fruit, and a few beers await all finishers.  This race is also well known throughout the area as having one of the best premiums around.  Between the nice jacket, fun medal, and challenging course, runners will walk away feeling a great sense of accomplishment.  


Next up in the King Crab Challenge is the Baltimore Running Festival in October.  I only need to complete the Baltimore Half that day to achieve my King Crab status, but I've decided to go for Balti-moron status and run the 5K and the Half in the same day.  Time to crank up my training!!

The Baltimore Running Festival - 2015 5K Race

I was back and forth in the weeks leading up to The Baltimore Running Festival on whether or not to sign up for the 5K race.  Ultimately, I decided to register for two main reasons.  I hadn't raced since May 2014 when I became pregnant with my second child and I was in need of a "big time" race feel prior to the runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon in November.  The Baltimore Running Festival 5K was a great experience and I was so happy that I made the decision to join the fun!


If you're unfamiliar with race day, Baltimore features a Kids Fun Run, 5K, Half Marathon, and Marathon.  This means that over 20,000 runners descend upon Charm City and take to the streets of Baltimore.  Race organizers highly recommend public transportation, but that's not a good option from where I live in Maryland.  The good news is that there is plenty of free parking in the lots surround M&T Bank Stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  

The 5K shared a start line with the marathon runners so I spent the morning with friends who were going to be running the marathon.  The marathon runners began at 8:00AM and then those of us running the 5K started at 8:20AM.  The start of the race was well organized and featured music, the mayor of Baltimore, and much more!  I was glad for the chance to start a busy race as that was quite the experience.  I know that I'm not one of the fastest runners out there so I was hanging out towards the back of the start.  I was shocked how much bobbing and weaving had to take place over the first half mile until the crowd thinned out a little bit.  

The first mile and half was up Camden street and featured mostly uphill terrain.  I had planned to run this race at my half marathon pace and kept to that plan during this part of the race.  I've been training using Galloway intervals of 30:30, so it was a "choppy" 5K.  After the block turnaround, the race proceeded onto Eutaw Street and it was truly "all downhill from here!"  At this point, I was feeling like I had too much energy (is there such a thing??) and really felt silly running such short intervals in a 5K so I picked up the pace and ran the rest of the way in.  The finish of the race takes you through the Eutaw Street gates at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and into the parking lot of M&T Bank Stadium.  


One of the best aspects of the race was the tremendous support from the people of Baltimore.  There were citizens literally everywhere along the course cheering us on, waving signs, and playing music in the streets.  It was great to see the city come together for such a fantastic purpose.    Between the well organized race, nice expo, great support, and bling for a 5K race, the Baltimore Running Festival  was a fantastic way to re-enter the wonderful world of racing!

The Baltimore Running Festival Expo 2015

Last weekend, the streets of Baltimore were filled with tens of thousands of runners participating in several different races.  And for the first time in the 15 year history of the event, I was one of them!  The Baltimore Running Festival features a marathon, team relay, half-marathon, 5K, and fun runs as it aims to have something for everyone.  With my training for my first half-marathon taking place, I opted for the 5K race as my first "race" after the birth of baby #2 and a chance to get that "big race" feel before my runDisney event in a few weeks.  

Expo
The expo preceding the running events on Saturday was held at M&T Bank Stadium (Home of the Baltimore Ravens) on Thursday and Friday evening.  The event was well organized and easy to navigate with plenty of helpful volunteers along the way.  When you made it upstairs to the club level area where all of the vendors were set up, participants had to walk all the way to the left to claim their bibs and then turn around and walk all the way to other side of the stadium to claim their race premium - ensuring that you had to walk past every vendor along the way!  The vendors ranged from apparel and shoe sales to registration for other running events and everything in between.  You can also keep your eyes open for Blue, the official mascot of The Baltimore Running Festival.  When I stopped for a picture, he wasn't even "crabby!"





While the expo was busy, it didn't feel crowded.  Parking for the expo was free in lots F, G, and H around the stadium and there seemed to be plenty to support everyone who was arriving.  You can also use the Baltimore Light Rail.  Whether you're just stopping by to pick up your race materials, or spending a few hours shopping the expo, you will not be disappointed!  

Why B-less When You Can B-more?

www.thebaltimoremarathon.com
This week marks the 15th anniversary of the Baltimore Running Festival and I'm excited to be joining the fun for the first time.  The big day includes a 5K, Half Marathon, Marathon Relay, and Full Marathon which are all preceded be an expo spanning two days at M&T Bank Stadium - Home of the Baltimore Ravens.  I'll be running the 5K on Saturday morning as a "big race" tune up for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon next month.  The last time I ran a large scale race was back in May 2014 during the Frederick Running Festival and Baltimore promises to be even bigger.  Hopefully the field of roughly 4,500 5K runners will begin to slightly prepare me for the almost 15,000 runners I'll be joining in Orlando in November.

If you're interested in following along with the festival activities this week, check out #BaltRunFest, #RunHon, and #RunforPride on social media.  I'll be sharing pictures and tweets throughout the week @dsnyrunrgrl and here on the blog too!