Showing posts with label family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family. Show all posts

Biking the GAP Trail with Kids

Cycling the Great Allegheny Passage - Finishing in Cumberland, MD

Cycling has become a big part of our family's lives during this pandemic.  Both of our boys (ages 5 and 8) learned how to ride a bike at the start of COVID and before long we were hitting up trails and racking up the miles.  They even convinced their old mom to get back on a bike for the first time since I was a kid!  We spent weekends cycling the York Heritage Rail Trail in PA, the C&O Canal in Maryland, and some local neighborhood trails.  My 8 year old became especially enamored with the sport and started challenging himself with longer and longer rides.  By July, he was ready to tackle a big challenge - riding all 150 miles of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP Trail) with his dad over 5 days.  Since our vacation plans were cancelled this summer, we pivoted and decided to make it a family road trip.

If you're not familiar with the Great Allegheny Passage, it's a 150 mile trail from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD where it then connects to the C&O Canal.  Planning a trip like this, my husband and I mapped out segments they would ride each day - ranging from 18 to 44 miles depending on the day.  There are long stretches of this trail that do involve up hill grade so you'll want to check out the maps on the GAP Trail website for more details about where to expect those.  Despite the climb, the trail is incredibly well maintained so you won't be spending time or energy fighting poor conditions.

Biking the GAP Trail? See how to make the most of your time in Cumberland, MD!


We opted to stay in two different hotels over the 5 nights we were away.  We spent the first two nights in the Hilton Garden Inn in Uniontown, PA for the northern part of the trail and then moved to the Hampton Inn in Somerset, PA for the remaining three nights.  These locations kept travel reasonable to trail access points.  They also gave us the opportunity to visit some other cool areas in Western PA including Ohiopyle, Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, Laurel Hills State Park, Flight 93 National Memorial and Fort Necessity Battlefield.  The day that Brody and Dan rode in Pittsburgh, my youngest and I visited the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.  Needless to say, there were plenty of outdoor activities to do keep us busy when the boys wrapped up their biking each day!  When you end in Cumberland, there is a ton to do including a great little restaurant in The Crabby Pig, a cycling shop, winery, and ice cream. . .all directly at the trail's end.

Staying in a hotel during COVID? Read more about our first COVID travel experience here!


To hear more about biking and the Great Allegheny Passage, check out what my son had to say about the experience!


Want to donate to the C&O Canal as part of Brody's 50 mile ride fundraiser? 



Cycling is a great way to get outside, burn some energy, and stay active - especially during this time of social distancing!  We look forward to highlighting more cycling destinations as we travel and sharing our adventures with you.  Happy riding!

The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot - Cute Craft Ideas!

Amethyst Dig from The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot

If you've read my review of The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot, you are well aware how much our family enjoyed this delightful children's chapter book.  Full of adventures, life lessons, courage, and heart each page brings something new to celebrate.  Now, I'm excited to share with you these craft ideas that go along with the story designed by the creative mind of Amy at As The Bunny Hops!

Looking for coloring pages for The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot? Find them here!







Coincidentally, my 8-year old son has been fascinated by studying rocks this summer and he instantly took to Rockford's Amethyst and I know he'll want to make his own dig!

Looking for fun in the kitchen?  Check out these recipes that go with The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot!


Have fun reading this summer and creating your own adventures!  Be sure to share your crafts on social media with the hashtag #RockfordTHoneypot!


The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot - Recipes To Enjoy with the Book!

Hazelnut Pancakes Recipe from The Healthy Mouse


The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot is now available and trust me when I say this book is one that you'll enjoy with your kids!  

Missed my review of The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot?  Find it here!


But we all know reading is only part of the adventure.  I really enjoy doing activities with my kids that make the book come to life and create memories for both of us.  That's why I was really excited to see my friend Jessica from over at The Healthy Mouse created some Rockford T. Honeypot recipes.  Check them out!











Looking for more family fun? Click here to head to my preview of the book and download FREE coloring pages.


Which ones are you excited to try?  I think I see some Hazelnut Pancakes and Lemon Sorbet in our future!  If you give any of this recipes a try, be sure to tag me on Instagram and Twitter @dsnyrunrgrl so I can see your creations.




The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot: Three Important Themes for Children



I just finished reading The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot by Josh Gottsegen with my 8-year-old son and there is so much that hit home with us.  The book is told by an aged Rockford T. Honeypot who is recounting his adventures in a busy market.  It is obvious that he is clearly famous, but readers will have to dive into the pages of this book to find out why he is so well known in his old age.  While the book is a children's adventure story at it's core, there is so much more that young readers will relate with along the way.  

Learn more about the book and the author here! 


Teasing


Too many young people today know what it's like to be teased and jeered by peers simply for the sake of being mean.  In Chapter 2, we hear a pretty gut-wrenching tale of how mean the neighborhood bully and Rockford's own brothers were to him growing up.  Rockford found solace in his mother's arms, but these experiences being bullied stayed with him throughout his life.  He even shared a strategy he used as a child with his mother when he was upset.  They had their minute limit.  

"After sixty seconds, we would take a deep breath, and just like the sun burns the clouds away, let it all go without giving it one more thought." ~ Rockford T. Honeypot


The pain didn't stop with peers his own age.  Rockford also had to grow up with a father that saw him as a failure.  My heart broke as Rockford shared his story about his family leaving him.  The poor little chipmunk was all alone in the world and had to find a way to make it on his own. 

Overcoming Fears


Rockford has a lot of fears and insecurities for a little chipmunk. While he craves adventure and dreams of doing daring new things, his own worries about the world around him can be a lot for him to overcome.  My son has dealt with his own struggles battling some mild anxieties and he really related to Rockford in this respect.  It's natural for kids to worry about things they haven't seen or tried before.  Rockford T. Honeypot puts this into action for kids to see that they are not alone in being scared and, perhaps even more importantly, when they face their fears, some amazing things can happen!

"Curiosity is an extraordinary ingredient in our lives.  It can lead to new ideas, new friends, and to the orchids hidden deep in the swamp." ~ Rockford T. Honeypot



The Power of Friendship


Having true friends - friends who believe in you and help you along the way - is a rare and beautiful gift.  Along the way in his adventures, Rockford meets a number of friends who help him along the way and allow him to learn more about himself.  While Rockford had difficulties in his youth with relationships with his peers and his father, he quickly finds that all animals aren't the same.  Some people are there to offer you an opportunity to come work in their restaurant while others rescue you on a mountainside and the care for you as one of their own.  Along the way of life you meet people who will pass quickly in and out of your life and others who are with you for the long haul, but each lives footprints on your soul and become a part of your story.

Looking for some fun coloring pages of Rockford and his friends to enjoy along with the book?  Find them here!


My Final Thoughts 


We really enjoyed following along with Rockford T. Honeypot on his adventures!  At 8, my son was probably a little too young to read the book independently as it is a bit long for his age, but he looked forward to our nightly read aloud sessions and the book had many valuable lessons that we were able to talk about as we read together.  If you're considering this as an independent read, I would say upper elementary school should be able to handle it without a problem.  While it's a children's book, parents will become engrossed in the stories of Rockford T. Honeypot as well and maybe be reminded of a few lessons we've learned along the way too.

Check out these recipes and crafts to go along with the book too!


"Beauty is everywhere. Sometimes you just need to look from a different angle." ~ Rockford T. Honeypot


The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot by Josh Gottsegen is now available wherever you buy books - Paperback, iBooks, and Kindle.  Be sure to share your adventures in reading this story with your family using #RockfordTHoneypot!  

I received a copy of this book to enjoy with my family so I could share my review! As always, thoughts and opinions are my own!

At Home Summer Fun - The Summer of COVID

Image from Sunshine Whispers DIY Summer Camp

I don't know about life in your house, but it doesn't quite feel like the same summer were used to for my family.  Typically the end of the school year is met with a celebration and time to start heading to beaches, theme parks, and pools.  Things are starting to reopen around the country, but life is far from back to normal.  With phrases like "safer at home" being the norm now, here's a wrap up post of fun things to do around the house with your kids if your usual summer plans are derailed.

Do-It-Yourself Summer Camp



Summer camps seem to be all over the place this year with some having their programs cancelled and others operating with new guidelines in place.  We're kind of in a hybrid situation in our household.  Our summer camp / daycare option isn't cancelled, but we're not super keen on sending the kids if we don't have to do so.  And right now, working from home is still a reality so we've got the kids at home - at least to start the summer.  That means that we're looking for LOTS to keep them entertained.  Here are some links that you may enjoy if you're planning your own "summer camp" at home:

  • DIY Summer Camp Printables - My friend Sara who has a Facebook group you can find called Kid Friendly Maryland has designed a "Summer Camp Bundle" printable that you can purchase and download to create your own themed summer camp weeks.  Her outlines and ideas included make it super easy to customize for your family.  (Affiliate Link)

  • At Home Play from Port Discovery - My friends over at Port Discovery Children's Museum in Baltimore have been providing fun content throughout this stay-at-home time including science experiments, readings, family activities and more.  Check out ALL of the fun they have for FREE here.

  • Have a Movie Inspired Day - I created a Pirate Day for our boys back in March when all of this started and put together ideas in a post.  I see more of this in our future and already have a Toy Story day planned soon that I'll share!

What to Watch


There are so many great things to watch right now for families and some new releases bypassed theaters and came out in recent weeks that you may have missed.  Here are some of my favorites we've been watching lately that you may also want to check out:

Image Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

  • Disney+ Roundup - Did you know that Disney+ is home to not only fun, but also educational content?  Check out some of my favorites we've been tuning into for a little taste of both over the past several weeks.

  • Sonic The Hedgehog - This movie has consistently been at the top of Digital Entertainment Guide's list of most viewed movies each week.  It's easy to see why!  With appeal to parents who grew up playing Sonic on our SEGA Genesis systems to the kids who will enjoy the action and humor, there's something for everyone in this film.

  • SCOOB! - My boys LOVED this movie. . .and they weren't Scooby Doo people to begin with.  There's a great overarching lesson on friendship and lots of comedic action along the way!

  • Think Like a Dog - So this movie isn't getting the respect it deserves in my opinion.  I haven't seen much advertising this like the direct to streaming releases of Trolls and SCOOB!, but this is a new movie from Lionsgate and again was a big hit with our boys.  The concept of being able to communicate with your dog is something I think every kid (and some adults) dream of and, with lots of heartwarming family moments along the way, this movie is a true feel-good option.

Bring a Vacation Destination to You


If you're a little hesitant to venture out, why not bring a vacation destination to you?  During COVID-19 closures, family vacation destinations were quick to share many ways to bring the fun to you.  Here are two of my favorites that I found:


  • Hershey, PA - Roller coasters in your living room?  Why not! Check out Hersheypark's famed roller coasters, relax with some sweet coloring pages, and try a recipe for Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Brownies. . .yeah, they're as good as they sound!  

  • Great Wolf Lodge - We loved visiting Great Wolf Lodge last year and I was excited to see them bringing some fun family activities to your house including their popular Yoga Tails! 

With so many things to enjoy at home, summer just got a lot brighter!  Enjoy!

Coming Soon: The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot


It's always a good time for adventure, right?  

My boys and I love good adventure stories and I'm excited to have the opportunity to receive an advanced copy of The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot by Josh Gottsegen to review.  Let's take a look at what adventures await!

About The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot


As a young chipmunk, shy, bookish Rockford T. Honeypot had dreams of thrilling adventures across the forest.  However, timid of danger and germs, his only adventures were found in books and his imagination.  Until one day, he sets off on a legendary journey beyond his wildest dreams! From exploring cuisines with a famous
 chef, training with ancient warrior monks, flying on giant hawks, finding true love, and much more, Rockford recounts his epic origin story of hardship, perseverance, and fortune.


I'm excited to hear how Rockford overcomes his fears as a young chipmunk.  My son struggles with some mild anxiety that sometimes keeps him from trying new things.  It sounds like this book may help him learn a bit about facing his own fears to seek the adventure that undoubtedly awaits him.  

We are just beginning the book and look forward to sharing a review soon!  In the meantime, you can pre-order this book before it's release on June 23rd at the links below.


You can also check out these FREE downloadable coloring sheets to introduce your kids to the characters of the story.  




Stay tuned for all of the excitement and adventure that awaits Rockford T. Honeypot as well as our family as we enjoy the book!

About the Author


Los Angeles native Josh Gottsegen has a background in filmmaking and digital media and is the author of "Joosh's Juice Bar," an early elementary school children's book series that encourages healthy eating habits through vivid illustrations and Dr. Seussian-style rhymes.  Earning his BA in Film Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara, Gottsegen has won numerous awards for his short films and video productions.  Starting professionally at NBCUniversal Interactive, later Josh Gottsegen moved into editing as well as other creative projects for the Walt Disney Company, Fox Corporation, IMG, and the NFL.

Follow The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot on Social Media


#RockfordTHoneypot


I received a copy of The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot in order to provide a review to my readers.

Disney+ Game Show: The Big Fib

The Big Fib (Image from Disney+)

Family game night has long been a favorite in our house - now even more than ever!  While we enjoy a variety of board games and playing cards, we also have fun watching game shows together as a family.  Disney+ is bringing more original content to their streaming service with the new game show, The Big Fib.  Join host Yvette Nicole Brown as kids try to uncover who is telling the truth. . .and who is a big fibber!

Did you know I got to meet Yvette Nicole Brown? Check out my interview!


Review of The Big Fib on Disney+


After watching the first episode, it's easy to see why this will be a favorite among kids.  As the show begins, round one features a pretty obvious fibber.  The focus of round one is more about comedy then about being a real challenge.  On the first episode, this fibber will have you laughing about her career as a hairstylist.  The child contestant identifies the fibber in the first round as a warm-up and then round two gets much harder.  The first episode has two "experts" on jellyfish and the contestant needs to figure out who is lying.  Both "experts" present in a professional manner so it is really difficult to tell who is actually lying.  C.L.I.V.E., the robot assistant, provides clues to the contestant along the way to help test the knowledge of the "experts" and the rapid fire round of questions aims to separate the real expert from the fibber.  At the end of the episode, the contestant presses the Fib Foam button for the person they think has been lying.  If the contestant is right, the liar will be foamed!  I won't spoil the ending of the first episode, but I'll just say that Malachi was right and I was wrong!!

Yvette Nicole Brown on The Big Fib on Disney+
Yvette Nicole Brown on The Big Fib (Image from Disney+)

In addition to the humor in this show, I enjoyed the fact that kids can learn something along the way.  Even in the silly first round, the real hairstylist shared a bit about her career.  Yvette Nicole Brown is funny, charismatic, and entertaining as the host of this show.  My kids really enjoyed it and are excited for the next episode!

Have you seen Yvette Nicole Brown in the Disney+ reimagining of Lady and The Tramp?


Want more family fun on Disney+?


About The Big Fib (From Disney+)


Ever thought you could spot a fib better than a kid?  Find out on The Big Fib.  A new Disney+ game show, hosted by Yvette Nicole Brown and featuring Rhys Darby as her robot sidekick, C.L.I.V.E. In each episode of this comedy game show, a kid starts by playing a warm-up round where a silly liar and an authentic expert share fabulous fibs and fun facts.  Starring up and coming comedic talent, this round is played for laughs as well as always having a nugget of real information about the topic be it ice-cream, tree-climbing or toy design.  Next our kid contestant plays the main round where they question an expert who's paired with a really good liar on the same topic.  It's up to our kid to find the fibber.  There are visual cues, fascinating props, a hot seat round of rapid-fire questions and various topics, including jellyfish, venom and killer plants.  The show culminates with the expert and liar standing under the Fib Foam machine to await their fate.  If our kid chooses correctly, the liar gets foamed.  The Big Fib is full of outrageous truths that sound like lies and audacious lies that sound like the truth.

The series is hosted by star Yvette Nicole Brown and will feature kid contestants.

"The Big Fib" is produced by Haymaker TV with Aaron Rothman, Josh Halpert, Irad Eyal, Leigh Hampton and Yvette Nicole Brown serving as producers.

"The Big Fib" premieres May 22nd, streaming only on Disney+.

Disney+ Series: It's A Dog's Life With Bill Farmer

It's A Dog's Life With Bill Farmer (Image from Disney+)

Ever wondered what it's like to take a look at the day in the life of some of the hardest working dogs in America?  Well, wonder no more.  Bill Farmer, the famed Disney legend and voice of some of our cartoon favorites like Pluto and Goofy, is taking Disney+ subscribers on a look at some of the jobs dogs do to help humans in their work.

Review of It's A Dog's Life With Bill Farmer



I watched the first episode and thought this was a cute show the whole family can enjoy.  In the episode, Bill first meets Eba, a dog in Washington State that sniffs out whale poop.  Yes, you read that right. . .whale poop.  Eba works with researchers to track whale poop which the researchers than analyze to learn more about the whales themselves.  While this may sound like a job that may be hard for young ones to conceptualize, the creators of It's A Dog's Life use cartoon depictions and phrases like "food in tummies" to make it something very accessible for kids to understand.  Bill's second stop on the first episode is a ranch where he meets sheep herding dogs.  Here he learns not only about the job they do, but how dogs are trained for this work.  Throughout the episode, Bill uses some of his cartoon voice talents to also add humor and enthusiasm for the work.  It's clear to see that he enjoys the company of these dogs and learning about them.  


My kids really enjoy any shows that include animals, but will especially enjoy this unusual look at how some dogs spend their days.  It's A Dog's Life With Bill Farmer is another great option for families to watch together on Disney+.  

About It's A Dog's Life with Bill Farmer (from Disney+)



The iconic voice of Goofy and Pluto for more than 30 years, Disney Legend Bill Farmer steps out from behind the microphone to meet his own favorite characters - dogs! Join Bill as he crosses the country meeting dogs doing all kinds of incredible jobs that make our lives better.

It's a Dog's Life With Bill Farmer is produced by Dog Tale Productions, Inc and GRB Entertainment, Inc. The series is executive produced by Bill Farmer, Jennifer Farmer, Steve Duval, Gary R. Benz and Phil Kruener.

Looking for More Disney+ Content to Enjoy with the Kids?


Disneynature's Dolphin Reef Review featuring downloadable activities


Fun and Educational Disney+ Content


Great Things from Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge - Niagara Falls

Last summer we enjoyed our first visit to Great Wolf Lodge and had an incredible 3 night stay at the Niagara Falls location.  We were hoping to go back this spring, but you know a global pandemic kind of threw a wrench in those plans.  Fortunately for our family (and yours!) Great Wolf Lodge is offering some great family fun to have at home. . .and a great way to support our frontline heroes during this difficult time.

Great Wolf Lodge at Home


Like many other family travel destinations, Great Wolf Lodge is providing a number of family fun activities you can do at home.  Whether you're looking for something educational or something fun, there is a little bit of everything on their website.  Below are a few of my favorites:
  • The Bouncy Egg - Take a look at this cool science experiment with your kids.  Who knew you could make an egg bounce?
  • Yoga Tails - My kids need a physical outlet AND a chance to calm their busy minds.  This at home version of the popular Yoga Tails offered at Great Wolf Lodge locations does both!
  • Outdoor Scavenger Hunt - Now that the weather is turning warmer, we're spending even more time outside.  Take a look at this quick and easy backyard scavenger hunt you can do with you kids!
You can find the complete list of activities HERE on their website.  And don't forget to check back often or sign up for their emails as new additions are coming to this page often.

Support Our Frontline Heroes


In honor of National Nurse's Month, Great Wolf Lodge is offering a pretty amazing deal.  Book a stay from May 11 - May 17 and you can save up to 50% off your future stay (stay 7/6/20-10/29/20), but that's not the best part.  For every room booked during this promotion, Great Wolf Lodge will donate a FREE night to a registered nurse.  What a great way to say "thanks" while also planning some family fun to use in the future.  If you want to learn more about their commitment to guests as they re-open this summer, you can find their Paw Pledge HERE.  

Want to Know More About Visiting Great Wolf Lodge


5 Things We Loved About Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls


Should You Buy a Paw Pass at Great Wolf Lodge?



At Home Pirate Day Family Fun

Have a pirate day of fun!

Looking to bring a little magic to a day at home?  I love creating Disney themed days for my kids and thought I would share my latest one here.  We're all missing the magic of Disney right now so we took advantage of some of our leftover goodies from our recent Disney Cruise Line vacation to plan a pirate themed day at home.  Here are a few ideas to recreate your own pirate experience with your little buccaneers.

Pirate Costumes 


We started off the day getting dressed in our pirate-y best.  On our recent Disney Cruise Line vacation on the Disney Dream, our whole family had makeovers at The Pirate's League on Pirate Night.  I saved all of our take home items - sashes, bandanas, eye patches, swords, etc. - and we used them to get dressed up.

Read more about The Pirate's League on Disney Cruise Line here!


If you don't have pirate costumes at your house, see how creative you can get.  Do you have any material you could use to make your own bandanas?  Can the kids draw their own swords on a recycled box and cut it out?  You could even cover it in aluminum foil to make it look more real! And don't forget, eye makeup can easily give a few pirate touches to anyone's face.

Pirate Activities


While we are social distancing / learning from home, coming up with educational activities during the day was a must.  My youngest son who is in Pre-K chose a Jake and the Neverland Pirates book from his collection to read with me that day.  We laughed at silly Captain Hook and Mr. Smee while counting Gold Doubloons with Jake and his crew.  For my older son in second grade, he found a book about pirates in one of his reading collections online from his school that he read independently.  We also practiced some pirate-y problem solving skills with this scavenger hunt that I found on Pinterest.  The boys LOVED it and have been begging me for more activities like this.  Of course, not ALL of our learning activities were pirate themed, but I did the best I could to add a little swashbuckling adventure to the day.  There are tons of pirate themed craft ideas online too that a quick s

Pirate Themed Dinner & A Movie


We wrapped up the night with an easy dinner from under the sea.  With kid favorites like fish sticks and popcorn shrimp, it was an easy crowd pleaser.  We also decided to break the rules a bit and do dinner in the living room while we watched Pirates of the Caribbean on Disney+.  If you're not sure if your kids are old enough for pirate stories starring Johnny Depp, you can end your pirate day with Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  I'm not sure about you, but I think he is one of the most underrated pirates out there and I'm so glad we can watch him again on Disney+ since he stopped airing on Disney Junior!

For more information on educational and fun content on Disney+, check this out!


So that's it!  A few easy ways to add some pirate fun to your stay-at-home day with kids.  I was able to pull this off with just the things I had on hand at the house, so it was simple, but fun.  If you try out your own pirate night, be sure to tag me on Twitter and Instagram @dsnyrunrgrl so I can "sea" your adventures!  Ahoy!!

Family Guide to Sesame Street Land at SeaWorld Orlando

Bert and Ernie
SeaWorld Orlando has been a popular family destination in Central Florida for many years now, but the recent addition of Sesame Street Land gives young families even more to love.  This new land opened in Summer 2019 and adds so much fun for little ones when visiting SeaWorld.  Before our visit, I had a lot of questions and I want to share answers to some of those questions that may be on your mind too as you plan your visit!

What is in Sesame Street Land?


A lot!! In this relatively small corner of the park, you'll find 6 rides - all perfectly sized for pint sized visitors, a playground area, a splash pad, shopping, interactive displays, food trucks, character greetings, and a parade.  See. . .it's a lot!  At the time of our visit, my boys were 4 and 7 which was perfect for visiting.  Throughout most of the rest of SeaWorld, my youngest was too little for almost all of the rides, but here he could do everything.  His favorite was the Cookie Drop.  My oldest is still a little shy when it comes to roller coasters, but the Grover themed roller coaster here had him all smiles - he rode it 3 times in a row!  The interactive displays are all very well done too.  You can actually walk along Sesame Street ringing doorbells, knocking on Oscar's trashcan, racing bicycles, and building monsters.

Free in DC - Family Fun That Won't Cost You a Penny

Our family is on year two of what I hope will be a new tradition - the Christmas break staycation.  We are blessed to live in the Mid-Atlantic where there is a large number of destinations for families to enjoy.  So rather than spending a small fortune to fly somewhere and travel during the school break we have in December, our family has opted to keep it local but get away from it all and become tourists in our backyard.  Last year we spent one night in a hotel in Baltimore and took the boys on a tour of WBAL television station and then visited the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center in the Inner Harbor.  This year, we headed to our big city neighbor just to the south - Washington D.C.  It's the first time our boys visited the nation's capital and we spent three nights thanks to the Hilton points we have acquired downtown at the Embassy Suites.

My goal was to put together a three day itinerary of things to do in D.C. that required no admission charge.  That's right. . .zero, zip, zilch! If you have never traveled to D.C. before, you may be surprised to find that there is SOOOOO much to do for free that you can easily fill several days.  We had so much more that we could have done, but here's a quick summary of what we accomplished!  Keep in mind that my boys are 4 and 7 so that played into what we did and how much time we spent in each location.

U.S. Government Buildings


We began our trip with taking a peek into several locations that would show our kids where the work of our national government takes place.  Tours of the U.S. Capitol, White House, Supreme Court, and Library of Congress are all available free of charge.  The White House is the most coveted tour and does require reservations through your Congressman so you will need to plan several weeks ahead and may need some flexibility on your day and time.  You can also reserve a U.S. Capitol tour through your Congressman (which we did), but we learned this wasn't really necessary as they have an amazing number of tours offered each day which you can secure a ticket for simply by walking into the U.S. Capitol Visitor's Center.  The tour does not take you to see the inside of the Senate and the House so if you want to see that you need to request gallery passes from your Congressman in addition to reserving a tour.  As far as the Supreme Court and Library of Congress, there are free self-guided tours throughout the day and also free guided tours at select times.  You are unable to reserve these ahead of time, but might be able to luck into one when you stop by.  We simply walked around the stunning Library of Congress building without a formal tour, but at the Supreme Court we did join a lecture inside the courtroom so we could see where the Court does their work.  Be sure to visit the children's area of the Library of Congress.  There are several activities just for kids as well as some quiet, cozy reading spaces and, of course, lots of books to snuggle up and share with your little ones.

Know Before You Go - Security at the U.S. Capitol is VERY tight.  No food or liquids (even bottles of water).  I always pack snacks and bottled water when going out for the day. . .and then promptly had to throw them away at our first stop.  Hoping to save you from the same mistake!

The National Mall


Lining the National Mall, you will find a host of Smithsonian Museums perfect for family visitors.  Lines can be long to go through security and enter so pack your patience for these free attractions.  One of my favorite museums, and the one we happened to visit on this particular trip, is the Air and Space Museum.  Take an in depth look at NASA, space, flight, and exploration in this hands on museum.  You can see some amazing things here - including having the ability to touch a legitimate moon rock and see the spacesuit worn by Neil Armstrong when he walked on the moon.  There is so much for kids to see, do, and touch here including an entire kids play area where they learn the physics of flight and becoming a flight director in Houston during a mission to outer space.  If you're looking to upgrade your experience, there are several add-ons that come with a price tag including IMAX movies and audio tours.  Air and Space is not the only Smithsonian Museum available - there is really something for everyone ranging from art to Native American History to Natural History and everything in between.

As you work your way down the National Mall from the U.S. Capitol and past the Smithsonian Museums, you find the other great free attractions along the National Mall - a series of national monuments.  While there is nothing to really "do" at these, they are truly breathtaking to see in person.  Even my little guys LOVED spending hours walking D.C. and looking around at them.  Three not to miss (actually they're really hard to miss anyway. . .) are the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the World War II Memorial.  The size, scale, and grandeur of these will captivate your children.  While there are many other memorials of great importance along the way, for example the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, it's a bit harder for little kids to understand what they are looking at and the significance of that conflict.

Know Before You Go - D.C. is a very walkable city, but it's much bigger than you may realize if you plan on walking EVERYWHERE with your kids.  We decided to Uber from our hotel to our starting point in the morning, then walked away from museums to memorials throughout the day as we leisurely made our way back to our hotel.

The National Zoo


Another Smithsonian "museum" featured on the outskirts of D.C. is the National Zoo.  If you're staying downtown, you will definitely need to Uber or take the Metro up to the zoo as it's quite a walk from other D.C. area attractions - but well worth it!  Like everything else in the article, this zoo if FREE.  Lions, tigers, and panda bears - oh my!  The zoo is good sized and easily takes 2-3 hours to visit but can take much longer if you have animal lovers or want to extend your stay.  There are many great presentations by animal experts throughout the day that are worthwhile to check out.  Probably one of the highlights of your zoo visit will be seeing the Giant Pandas.  You can also find specific feeding times so you can be sure to see them up close in the Panda House.  My personal favorite though are the gorillas!

Don't forget to check out any special events that you might be able to catch while visiting.  We were there over the holiday break which meant that Zoolights was going on in the evenings.  This is again FREE - where else can you catch a day at the zoo and a holiday light exhibit without paying admission?

Know Before You Go - The zoo is surprisingly hilly!  Be prepared and consider bringing a stroller for older toddlers and preschoolers who may not typically need one anymore.  We were sure glad to have ours!

Has your family visited DC?  What have been the best finds for kids that you've seen along the way?

Yippee TV - Streaming You Can Trust for Kids

If your kids are anything like mine, they love independence on their tablets - feeling like big kids even though they're several years away from their tween and teen years.  And if you're a parent like me, you feel stressed sometimes finding content you can trust for your kids to enjoy while giving them a taste of that independence.  Yippee may be the answer that everyone in your family has been looking for! As they say in their mission statement, Yippee strives "to build character in kids by transforming them with world class media that is safe, values based, and FUN."

As a partner with Yippee, my family and I received a free trial of this service to share our experiences with you!

We have only been checking out content for a little over a week now and it's been perfect for my 4 and 7 year old boys.  Yippee provides content that is both fun and builds a character foundation for the little ones.  Currently, you'll find familiar favorites like Veggie Tales (45 episodes!) and original content like The Yippee Show where hosts Cameron and Noel compete in challenges - just like what kids love to see on YouTube.  It feels good as a parent to know they are getting quality content that is safe and promotes our values while also seeing them enjoy what they are exploring.

I'm excited to see what lies ahead for this service too as they have plans to unveil even more original content in the near future and will become the only place to find exclusive new Veggie Tales episodes beginning in February 2020.  With so many options out there for families to choose from, it's easy to get overwhelmed.  If you're looking for values-based family-friendly content for the littlest members of your family, look no further than Yippee!

Interested in learning more?  Find Yippee online:

Website - www.yippee.tv
Facebook - www.facebook.com/yippeetv
Instagram - www.instagram.com/yippeetv

Want to Explore Yippee Yourself?


I'm excited to have partnered with Yippee to offer my readers the chance to win a prize pack from Yippee including 3 FREE months of streaming!  So how do you enter?  It's easy and can all be done from the comfort of Facebook!  Head to Running on Pixie Dust on Facebook and do the following:
  • Like this post on Facebook - Get one entry!
  • Comment on the post - Get one entry!
  • Tag your friends - Get one entry PER TAG!
  • Are you following me on Facebook? - That gets you one extra entry!
  • Share this post on Facebook - Get another bonus entry!


Each household is only eligible to win Yippee Prize Pack via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.  Entry period will open at noon EST on Monday, 12/30 close Friday, 1/3 at noon EST and the winner will be notified by Facebook!

Easy peasy!  I can't wait to share my excitement about this service with the winner and hope all of you - winner or not - give Yippee a try with your kids!  

Family Guide to Winter Wonderland at Dutch Wonderland

Our family had the pleasure of being invited by Dutch Wonderland to enjoy opening day of Winter Wonderland during the holiday season.  Even though Dutch Wonderland is not a new destination for our family (check out my coverage of past visits here!), this was our first time enjoying the park during the holidays.  Staying true to it's slogan as a "Kingdom for Kids," there is plenty for families to enjoy together.  We were delighted with so much during our visit and I can't wait to share some of my tips to make the most of your day at Winter Wonderland as well.

We arrived just a few minutes before park opening and were among the first to enter.  I wasn't sure what to expect crowd wise for the day - it was opening day of the season but there was also a chance of rain throughout the evening - so we tried to think of a plan that would maximize our time in the park.  Upon entering, we headed straight to Merlin's Restaurant where we had the chance to meet the big guy himself - SANTA!  In fact, we had the distinction of being the very first guests of the season to meet Santa.  It was a fabulous visit.  Not rushed at all and several photos taken throughout the time with him.  When it comes to purchasing photos, you have a few options to consider.  If you purchase a day long photo pass for the price of $25, your Santa photos are not included, but digital downloads can be added at just $5 each.  If you don't want to purchase all of your photos from around the park for the day, you can purchase your Santa photo for a $15 digital download price.  I thought this was a great bargain compared to the pricing in malls around us!  Before we leave the topic of visiting Santa, I will say that we were in Merlin's Restaurant later on in the evening too and, again, never saw a line of more than a 2-3 families waiting to meet him.  Maybe we just had a light crowd day, but I was impressed with how easy it was to say hi.  In fact, my boys went back a second time in the evening to talk to Santa and they bought him a hot chocolate because they said "he's been working hard all night!"
First ones of the season to meet Santa!

After stopping by to see Santa first, we headed towards to the back of the park.  This is one of the my common strategies when visiting theme parks - start from the back and work your way forward.  Honestly, there was never a crowd to speak of all night (I think the threat of rain was holding some people off), but we definitely were one of only a few that headed to Exploration Island and were able to walk right on several rides.  Those that we did have to wait for were never more than a 5 minute wait.    You obviously won't find water rides open, but besides those and the larger roller coasters, Merlin's Mayhem and Kingdom Coaster, most everything else was open to ride.  We covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time and worked up an appetite by the time we hit almost every ride and made our way back to the front of the park.  Want a quick way to see what the whole park has to offer?  Don't miss the Wonderland Special train ride or the Sky Ride - they are especially beautiful with the lights!

The lights were beautiful!
This was the perfect time to stop back into Merlin's Restaurant for a treat.  When we were here earlier visiting Santa, the cookie decorating station caught my eye and we decided to give that a try along with having cups of hot chocolate to warm up on the chilly November night.  Cookie decorating is $3.99 per person.  You get a very large cookie and then can head to the "buffet" of icing and sprinkles to create your own masterpiece.  My boys had a lot of fun making their cookies and even more fun eating them!  Fun bonus - you even get a cute apron to wear during the experience!

Once we were done, we ventured back outside to find the rain had started up.  We took a quick stroll through the park again to get a final look at the Christmas lights in all of their nighttime glory.  The Christmas light show with dancing lights to music was a lot of fun, but my favorite lights were found on the trees.  There is one tree with gorgeous blue lights and lighted icicles on it as well.  Don't forget to venture back to Exploration Island and walk through the dinosaurs at night too!

We spent 3 hours in the park before the rain really started to dampen the evening, but we pretty much got to see and do everything except the two stage shows that are offered.  This is a great way to celebrate the holidays and have a fun-filled family evening.  Remember, Dutch Wonderland is truly a Kingdom for Kids so most of the rides and attractions here have your youngest family members in mind.  At 4 years old, Caleb couldn't have been happier all night long! Ready to check it out? Season pass holders for Dutch Wonderland have access to Winter Wonderland included.  If you need to purchase tickets for this event, check out my blog reader discount here (Promo Code: DWWBlog19) to save $3 off of the gate price - only $12.99 per person!!  Enjoy and happy holidays!



Website - www.dutchwonderland.com

Twitter - http://twitter.com/funatdw

Instagram - www.instagram.com/dutchwonderland

Facebook - www.facebook.com/dutchwonderlandpa

My family received complimentary admission to Dutch Wonderland's Winter Wonderland so we could share our fun adventures with you! As always, thoughts and opinions are my own!

The Call of the Wild Trailer Reaction

The first trailer for The Call of the Wild dropped and it offers us a glimpse into this latest interpretation of Jack London's classic story.  Honestly, this movie wasn't even on my radar screen, so I didn't know what to expect when I viewed the trailer today.  As soon as I saw the poster and the trailer began, I knew that having Harrison Ford involved in this project meant that it was going to be something that would pique my interest.  But will kids be interested?  Let's watch it together.



I'm excited to hear more about this film in the weeks and months ahead.  This first look at the trailer gives me a lot of hope for this film.  Harrison Ford seems poised to deliver a strong performance as always and the scenery has me wanting to plan my own trek into the Yukon.  My husband will enjoy the fact that it's set during the Gold Rush and my kids will fall instantly in love with Buck.  I hope that it delivers as a family friendly movie that elementary and up will enjoy when it releases in February 2020.

About The Call of the Wild


Adapted from the beloved literary classic, 20th Century Fox’s THE CALL OF THE WILD vividly brings to the screen the story of Buck, a big-hearted dog whose blissful domestic life is turned upside down when he is suddenly uprooted from his California home and transplanted to the exotic wilds of the Alaskan Yukon during the Gold Rush of the 1890s. As the newest rookie on a mail delivery dog sled team--and later its leader--Buck experiences the adventure of a lifetime, ultimately finding his true place in the world and becoming his own master. 
 
As a live-action/animation hybrid, THE CALL OF THE WILD employs cutting edge visual effects and animation technology in order to render the animals in the film as fully photorealistic--and emotionally authentic--characters. Directed by Chris Sanders from a screenplay by Michael Green, based on the novel by Jack London, the film was produced by Erwin Stoff, with Diana Pokorny serving as executive producer and Ryan Stafford as co-producer and visual effects producer. THE CALL OF THE WILD stars Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Karen Gillan, Bradley Whitford and Colin Woodell.

Facebook - www.facebook.com/callofthewildmovie
Instagram - www.instagram.com/callofthewild
#CalloftheWild

Give the Gift of a Family Vacation!

This holiday season, why not give the gift of a family vacation to the ones you love?  What better way is there to celebrate the season then creating family memories that will last a lifetime?? You've heard me share about the specials my friends at Get Away Today have had in the past, but Black Friday deals keep getting better and better!  Check out information below on specials for not only California, but Florida travel too.

Disneyland Travel - Get Away Today still has Adult's at Kid's prices on 3 day or longer tickets for Disneyland.  This is good on a variety of tickets including park hoppers or one park per day and can be used with or without MaxPass.  There are no blackout dates and they are good through the end of 2020!  Purchase your discount tickets to Disneyland Resort here.

Southern California Combo Ticket - Looking to plan a longer visit to Southern California?  You can combine the above Disneyland ticket deal with savings on other popular SoCal attractions like Universal Studios Hollywood and LEGOLAND, plus get an EXTRA combo discount to save even more on these tickets.  No promo code is required - you'll see the savings pile up in your cart! Check out the Southern California Combo savings here.

And For The East Coast - No need to fear!  We get included on the fun with this Black Friday Sale!  You can save an extra $10 off tickets for Florida attractions like Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld Orlando off of the already discounted prices offered through Get Away Today.  Use code BLACKFRIDAYFL to access this savings.  For more on Florida deals, click here.

Don't forget to use my special code PIXIEDUST to save even more when you book a vacation package including tickets and hotel stay.  Visit soon though!  There is limited availability on some of these deals and they ALL expire on December 2nd!  Happy traveling my friends!

I'm an affiliate partner with Get Away Today.  That means that while you're saving money on some amazing vacations, I may also earn a small commission.

Spies in Disguise: Agents on the Run Game Sneak Peek

While I was in California attending The Geekly Retreat, we were among the first to see the new movie Spies in Disguise which will be heading the theaters on Christmas Day (Check out my review here!).  Following our screening, we had the chance to play the all-new Spies in Disguise: Agents on the Run game which will also be available Christmas Day for mobile devices via the Apple App Store, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store.  Before we talk about the game, here's what the studio has released about the upcoming movie:

Blue Sky Studios presents “Spies in Disguise,” an animated spy comedy adventure set in the slick, high-octane, globe-trotting world of international espionage. Super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is...not. But when events take an unexpected turn, this unlikely duo is forced to team up for the ultimate mission that will require an almost impossible disguise –transforming Lance into the brave, fierce, majestic...pigeon. Walter and Lance suddenly have to work as a team, or the whole world is in peril. “Spies in Disguise” is directed by Troy Quane and Nick Bruno from a screenplay by Brad Copeland and Lloyd Taylor and a screen story by Cindy Davis inspired by the animated short film “Pigeon Impossible” by Lucas Martell. The film stars Will Smith, Tom Holland, Rashida Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Reba McEntire, Rachel Brosnahan, Karen Gillan, DJ Khaled and Masi Oka. The film is produced by Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping and Michael J. Travers with Chris Wedge and Kori Adelson serving as executive producers.


So What About the Game?



From Denali Publishing, the mobile game allows you to play as one of the lead characters from the film. Once you assume your identity, you begin running through the city - jumping and sliding along the way to collect points. There's an awesome car mode too where you get to show your skills navigating traffic instead of always being on the run by foot. Each spy also has unique gadgets that you can use to help you on your mission.

Confession - I was terrible at playing this game. But, I'm terrible at playing most mobile games! My oldest though as loved playing during our special preview and is already having much more success than me. The design of the game is easy to use and visually appealing with the characters and design blending perfectly with the movie itself. Both my 7 year old and 4 year old will be able to easily navigate the features of this game. In fact, the general premise is similar to some other games they have played before where they have characters race to the finish and try to collect coins and prizes along the way. This is the perfect way to bring the action of Spies in Disguise home with you from the movies!



Can't wait to check out this game with your family? You can pre-register at SpiesInDisguiseGame.com. The game will release alongside the movie on December 25th!