Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

What It's Like To Stay In A Hotel During Coronavirus

This past weekend we did something we hadn't done in months. . .stayed in a hotel.  As you know, my family loves to travel and we are always on the go having new adventures.  But coronavirus has sidelined us, as well as everyone else, from our "normal." So for Father's Day we decided that we were going to load up the bikes and head on a quick road trip up to Jim Thorpe, PA in the Pocono Mountains for some trail riding.  Along with that road trip, would be our first hotel stay in the era of coronavirus.  Long story short, travel fans can rejoice that while hotel stays are different thanks to COVID, they are still doable in my opinion.

Where did we stay?


Readers of my website will know that we are a Hilton family thanks to their great loyalty program and the amount of Hilton points we accumulate.  We used our points to stay at the Hampton Inn-Lehighton for two nights.  This hotel is just a few miles outside of downtown Jim Thorpe and provides a convenient location for cyclists and families that may want to check out the Lehigh Gorge Trail, part of the much larger D&L Trail.  The hotel staff could not have more friendly!  They were accommodating even before we arrived, talking us through some questions we had about the area and bike storage in the days leading up to our visit.  The room was a nice size to accommodate our family of four and there was easy access to the highway.

Hotel Cleanliness During Coronavirus



Top on everyone's list of concerns right now is keeping this clean and sanitized wherever you go, so traveling to a hotel can feel like a big decision.  You'll be happy to know that we were really pleased with the efforts of Hilton as a brand and this Hampton Inn location in particular.  When we arrived, the check-in area was blocked with sheeting so that germs could not pass back and forth.  Even with the barrier in place, employees wore masks and guests were required to wear masks in the lobby area.  The employee who checked us in was warm and welcoming.  She explained that with concerns about transmitting germs, they have currently opted guests out of daily housekeeping - that way once you enter your cleaned and sanitized room, no one but your family will be in there until you check out.  I really liked that option.  Now, if you're someone who isn't worried about having someone enter your room and you really like a "freshen up" each day - you could opt in to housekeeping, but you need to request it and alert the front desk.  If you have an extended stay and would just like fresh towels on different days, you can also call and request them from the front desk and they will be delivered outside your door in a sealed package.



Despite all the measures that were in place, we still brought our own Clorox wipes and wiped down high touch surfaces like the vanity area, dresser, nightstand, desk, etc. before be began unpacking and settling in.  I will also say that every time we were in the lobby, we saw employees wiping surfaces and cleaning.  It's easy to see that Hilton is taking the precautions seriously and we felt good about how clean everything was being kept.

Hotel Amenities During Coronavirus


Something worth noting as you decide whether or not to travel is that some of your typical hotel amenities may not be operating or may be different than what you're used to seeing.  In our case towards the end of June, the indoor pool, fitness center, and business center were all closed.  The commons area also featured socially distanced seating which means less seats available.  We went down to the lobby to eat delivery our first night and were the only ones there and both mornings we ate breakfast in our rooms so we never felt crowded or like seating was an issue during our stay.


One of the biggest changes worth noting is modified breakfast service.  Hotels that typically offer breakfast to guests may have some modifications in place.  Usually, Hampton Inn offers continental options and a daily hot option to guests on a buffet.  This trip, we found the experience to be different - which we expected and is completely understandable.  They had three types of cereal in individually wrapped bowls, a few types of pre-packaged muffins, one hot option individually wrapped in a warmer, and then fruit, yogurt, juices, and milk in a small refrigerator.  Coffee and hot tea were also available with coffee cups individually wrapped in plastic and stirrer / sweeteners also offered in one prepackaged set.  We anticipated that options may be limited so we took advantage of the fact that we were driving and brought some items with us - the kids' favorite cereals, protein bars, and protein shakes.  We grabbed drinks from the lobby each morning, but otherwise ate breakfast in our room.

While these experiences were in one hotel, I have a feeling that you could expect similar realities wherever you travel.  My best advice, call your specific hotel and ask questions ahead of your arrival so you know what to expect!  Happy Travels!


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?



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.

Disneyland Tickets - Beat the Price Increase!

In case you missed it, tickets for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort increased overnight and those who have been thinking about planning a vacation may now be second guessing themselves.



But, have no fear - my friends at Get Away Today are here to save your vacation budgets!  For a limited time you can buy your Disneyland tickets at the old prices.  That's right. . .get your tickets by February 20th and you can beat the price increase.  That's up to a $75 savings PER TICKET.  Let's break it down:

The Pirate's League on Disney Cruise Line

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me. . .

Each Disney Cruise Line vacation in the Bahamas and Caribbean features a special Pirates in the Caribbean night where scalawags of all ages are invited to party aboard the ship.  For this special night, the usual Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on the ship also transforms into The Pirate's League.  We had done this experience twice before in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, but not on one of our cruise vacations yet.  On our recent trip, we decided to make reservations for the whole family - yes, that's right - all 4 of us!

Before we start, let's go over some basic information you need to know.  This experience can be booked online in your cruise planning section on the Disney Cruise Line website.  We didn't have a problem getting a reservation and there were still some available even on Pirate Night itself, but for the best times and to ensure your reservation, I recommend doing it when your window opens if you're interested.  You can always cancel or change your reservation if needed closer to the time.  The cost is $44.95 (as of January 2020) for a variety of makeover options - 3 piratey options that are more for the boys (Jack Sparrow, Blackbeard, and Captain Hook) and 2 options for the ladies (Empress and Redd).  For an additional fee you can also purchase a costume, but I recommend bringing one from home to save on cash.  Money Saving Tip - Check your local stores in the days following Halloween for deep discounts on costumes and accessories.  You also want to carefully pick your time during the day to schedule your makeover.  We chose to do ours at 4:45 because that allowed us all day in port to enjoy the beach and pool, but still have the whole evening to enjoy our new looks.

When you arrive, you'll check in at the front desk and roll the dice to find out your new pirate name.  After confirming your pirate selection, the buccaneers in your family will be whisked away to your chair for your swashbuckling makeover.  The makeover is quick - roughly 15 minutes - but the memories will last much longer.  The cast members entertain both the person getting the makeover and the family with jokes, stories, and songs.  At the end of the makeover, the newest pirate takes the pirate oath and officially becomes part of the league.

While it may be obvious that kids will have fun at The Pirate's League, the bigger question may be if adults can have fun there too.  Unlike the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, adults are welcome to participate.  The makeovers are the same as the ones offered for kids.  I didn't find my makeover to be overly impressive from the actual make-up side of things (could have been much bolder in my honest opinion), but I had just as much fun as my kids.  In my opinion, I think the male makeovers pack a bit more punch and thought my husband made quite the impressive pirate.

After you leave The Pirate's League, you will have a night to remember.  We used the remainder of the time before dinner to meet a few pirate characters including Pirate Mickey and Captain Jack Sparrow.  We then enjoyed our pirate themed dinner inside Animator's Palate.  Our night then continued with Mickey's Pirates in the Caribbean Night Deck Party and the fireworks at sea later on in the evening.

Dressing up for Pirate Night makes the night even more fun for the whole family and I'm so glad we made the decision to book The Pirate's League on the Disney Dream.  Would we book it again?  I think I would definitely consider booking it again for our boys - at $44.95 I feel like it was well worth the price.  It's much more reasonable than the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and a fun way for the boys to  get in on the excitement.  Be sure to check it out on your next Disney Cruise Line vacation!  Ahoy mateys!

Kennedy Space Center For Kids

Kids are often captivated by the idea of visiting faraway places and space travel is about as faraway as it gets!  If your kids are anything like mine, dressing as astronauts and learning about space are favorite activities of theirs so when we planned our cruise vacation out of Port Canaveral we knew we had to plan a visit to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.  My husband and I had visited Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in the past, but seeing it through the eyes of our children was even more enjoyable.  Here are a few must-do activities when you visit:

KSC Bus Tour - Included in your admission to KSC is a bus tour which takes you "behind the gates" and gets you closer to launch areas.  From the bus, you'll see the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) where rockets and shuttles are assembled prior to space travel.  The building is so large it will hold more than 250 BILLION ping pong balls (that was a favorite fact of my son's that he's still telling everyone!).  You can also see the crawler that transports assembled space vehicles to the launchpads and get as close as possible to the launch areas.  The 20 minute bus tour ends at the Saturn V/Apollo Center where you take a step back to the beginnings of NASA and relive the excitement of JFK's challenge to go to the moon and the success of Apollo 11.  Here you can even touch a piece of the moon!  You also can experience the launch from the perspective of the control room and feel the excitement as countdown to liftoff happens.  When you're finished exploring the center, you board a bus back to the main visitor complex.  No worries - busses run continuously so you can stay for as long as you want.

Meet an Astronaut - One of the highlights of visiting KSC is the chance to interact with part of history. Beyond touching the moon, many days there are opportunities to interact with an astronaut as part of your visit.  We booked an additional experience while we were there called Dine with an Astronaut.  During the buffet lunch, we were able to hear from Astronaut Mike Baker about his time in space and the audience had the chance to ask questions.  My boys had a chance to each ask a question - one being how to do you become an astronaut and the other asked the ever popular "how do you go to the bathroom in space" question.  Following the lunch, each family was offered the chance to get a picture with him.  Later on in the day, he was also in the gift shop for an autograph signing.  This opportunity was free and open to everyone.  We went back to say hi again and had him autograph the NASA hats that the boys had with their spacesuits.

Journey to Mars: Explorers Wanted - After learning about NASA's past, why not take a look at it's future?  There is much to see and do in this exhibit where kids can have hands on experiences learning about the next frontier in space travel - Mars.  There is a free stage program offered several times throughout the day which ignites young imaginations about what their generation may be doing in space in the years ahead.  You can also see what vehicles look like that have been and will be exploring Mars.

Atlantis Exhibit - By far, my favorite exhibit at Kennedy Space Center is the Space Shuttle Atlantis.  The tour opens up with a video history of the creation of the space shuttle program and ends with the big reveal of the actual Space Shuttle Atlantis in her final resting place at KSC.  Guests will marvel at this amazing shuttle, but that's only the beginning.  This has a TON of fun activities for kids to interact with during the visit.  They will have the opportunity to crawl through a play space shuttle, slide down a large slide, and play computer simulation games about docking and landing the space shuttle.  Also included here is the Shuttle Launch Experience.  This simulator ride gives guests the chance to feel what it would be like to "lift off" from Kennedy for your own mission to space.  My youngest was SO excited to do this, but he had to miss out as the minimum height is 44 inches.  However, my oldest and my husband had a great time and highly recommend this for everyone.

Still looking for more space adventures?  There are addition tours, the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and other exhibit buildings to check out that we simply didn't have time to explore everything.  If you are short on time, make the Bus Tour and the Atlantis Exhibit your priorities - it's the best way to get the most out of your visit.  With so many hands on experiences, your little ones will feel completely at ease as they explore and learn about the wonders of space.  Whether your visiting Orlando, Cocoa Beach, or enjoying a cruise vacation out of Port Canaveral - don't miss visiting Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex during your Florida vacation!



My family and I received complimentary admission to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex so we could share our experience with you. 

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?

Celebrity Treatment in Burbank, California

The Geekly Retreat was my first visit to California and what a memorable experience it was! We had some amazing times during the retreat and it all took place in and around fabulous Burbank.  Visit Burbank was one of the sponsors of our retreat and they treated us well from beginning to end.  Let's take a look at some of the places we enjoyed while in town.

Safari Inn 


Feel like you've seen the Safari Inn before?  Well, you probably have!  This hotel has been used in a number of blockbuster Hollywood films and television shows.  I instantly recognized the Safari Inn from two of my favorite movies when we received details about our stay.  The first film I recognized the hotel from was Apollo 13.  Remember the scene on launch day when Lovell's wife is at the hotel and drops her ring in the drain?  Yep, the outside footage there is of the Safari Inn.  It may also look familiar from Incredibles 2 when the protection program for supers is dissolved and they are forced to figure out their next steps.  There are also many more Hollywood cameos for this famous location too.

Inside the room at Safari Inn
The hotel itself combines a classic feel with some modern upgrades. While the exterior probably hasn't changed much over the years, the rooms themselves have clearly been renovated in recent years, featuring a clean and contemporary color scheme.  The room we were in featured two double beds, a sink and vanity in a dressing area, and a separate bathroom.  There is no official closet in the room, but there is a rack that you can hang clothes on if you need to during your stay.  There is a restaurant "on-site" at the neighboring partner hotel, Olive's Bistro.  From there you can order room service or take the few steps to enjoy a meal in the restaurant.  Another great perk is the free Burbank shuttle.  You need to prearrange your time and destination, but you can get service to a number of area destinations including the airport.  You'll also find a small pool on property along the road and located right next to the parking lot.  To learn more about staying at the Safari Inn Burbank, check out their website here!

Urban Press Winery


Our first night in Burbank, The Geekly Retreat attendees were hosted at Urban Press Winery for drinks and dinner.  Our evening began in the lower level tasting room which featured a bar and high top tables.  The room was equal parts cozy with warm colors and wood tones as well as contemporary with high ceilings and grand statements like the wine bottle doorway.  After enjoying tastes downstairs, we moved up to a private area overlooking the lower level where tables were set up for us to enjoy a speaker dinner.  Lastly, we moved out to the patio.  I know I was in California which was much warmer than Maryland in November, but I wads still happy to find they had portable heaters out there as it was chilly that evening.  The seating outside was more dining tables which allowed us to sit in large groups, mingle, and enjoy conversation with one another.
Enjoying the wine tasting at Urban Press Winery

So on to the important stuff - what about the food and wine?  Well. . .it was all delicious!  My husband and I enjoy visiting wineries around the Mid-Atlantic and I was very excited to visit my first California winery.  The wines were a bit drier than what I'm used to on the East Coast, but that's actually my preference so it was a rather enjoyable assortment - from the reds to the whites, and everything in between.  Quite surprisingly to me, my favorite wine of the night was the Rose.  I'm typically not a Rose fan, but this was made with Pinot which didn't make it as sweet as some others I've had.  The food was equally good.  My favorite was the simple meat, cheese, and bread that we had at the beginning.  That's always one of my favorite things to eat when enjoying a wine tasting!
If I find myself in the Burbank area again, I'd be happy to return to Urban Press Winery for more wine, food, and fun!  Check out more about this Burbank hot sport here!

Porto's Bakery & Cafe


I had heard that Porto's was THE place to go in Burbank when it comes to quality baked goods, but tasting truly was believing when we had the chance to experience Porto's on two different occasions.  During our work day at the Team Click offices, Porto's provided lunch to us which included sandwiches, salads, and sides.  The following morning, we had the chance to head to Porto's downtown Burbank location for a visit and to enjoy breakfast.  Now we had known how good Porto's was after the lunch on Friday, but seeing the line that had stretched outside of the building on Saturday morning let me know that the quality of their food was not a secret to the locals.
Lunch from Porto's Bakery - YUMMY!

When we entered the bakery, it was truly an overwhelming scene of people and pastries.  Our group was led upstairs to a conference room where we had our own assortment of breakfast waiting.  I selected a fruit topped pastry which looked (and tasted!) fabulous along with a fresh, delicious cup of orange juice.  While we ate, we had the chance to learn the history of Porto's.  What an incredible story!  The bakery was founded by Rosa Porto, an immigrant from Cuba who began baking prior to her arrival in the United States and then turned her passion into a business for her family.  Over the years, the family bakery has remained true to it's belief that "quality is the number one ingredient in everything we do."  To find out more about the story of the bakery and discover the menu, check them out here!

Visit Burbank


I'd like to thank them for being a sponsor of some of our activities during The Geekly Retreat!  For more information on planning your visit to Burbank, California, head on over to the Visit Burbank website.  Be sure to follow #VisitBurbank on social media for the latest and greatest news from this popular entertainment destination.

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.

Disneyland Black Friday Sale from Get Away Today!

Who doesn't love a vacation for the holidays?  Or giving a vacation as a special holiday surprise for your family?  If you're thinking of planning a trip to Disneyland, now is the perfect time to check out my friends over at Get Away Today!  They have an incredible Black Friday sale that starts next week for the public, but my readers get EARLY ACCESS to this incredible deal.  That means more availability to choose from when booking!

So what's the deal?? 


  • Adults at Kid's Prices on 3-Day and longer Disneyland tickets
  • No blackout dates!  Valid for travel through 12/31/2020
  • Valid on Park Hopper or one park per day tickets with or without Max Pass
  • Can also be combined with extra night free hotel deals and 25% off at Disneyland Resort Hotels (select dates)
  • Use promo code PIXIEDUST to save an additional $10 off your vacation package!
WOW!  For anyone looking to book this incredible deal, check out my affiliate link below to get started.  


I'm an affiliate partner with Get Away Today. You save money and I may earn a small commission - everyone wins!

Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls - 5 Things Your Family Will Love


Our last family vacation found us visiting Niagara Falls, Canada for the first time.  After a few days exploring the local area and seeing the natural wonder that is Niagara Falls, we headed over to the nearby Great Wolf Lodge for our first stay at this popular family destination.  We had an amazing 2 night, 3 day stay!  There was so much for our family to enjoy, it was hard to fit it all in!  Check out why Great Wolf Lodge was a fabulous vacation spot for our family - and it may just be a great fit for your family too!

I was gifted a Paw Pass for each of kids and some free meal vouchers to enjoy during our stay!  Thank you Great Wolf Lodge for your partnership!

Chipmunk's Cove at Great Wolf Lodge - Niagara Falls
1. The Waterpark - Let's start at the most prominent feature of any stay at Great Wolf Lodge. . .Bear Track Landing! This waterpark is perfect for EVERY member of your family.  Our 4 year old felt confident and comfortable in Chipmunk Cove where the water depth was only 18 inches and he had slides sized just for him as well as spray features.  For our more adventurous 7 year old, he spent more time in the deeper pool, playing basketball with new friends, and riding water slides throughout the indoor water play area.  At 49 inches, he was able to ride just about everything - except the Wolf Tail slide which he was perfectly content not to try!  His favorite - Niagara Rapids Run which is a water coaster featuring up AND down parts of the slide.  There was also an outdoor pool area, but we honestly had so much fun playing inside that we barely stepped outside.
Wolf Den Suite at Great Wolf Lodge

2. The Rooms - Great Wolf Lodge features some amazing rooms for families to enjoy.  With a variety of options for families large and small, there is something for every family at a variety of budget points.  We ended up staying in a Wolf Den Suite because we thought the kids would enjoy the extra special theming and the bunk beds in the room.  The room was spacious for our family of four and even had a balcony for added space.  The bathroom was on the small side, but for our purposes it worked out just fine.  I'd rather have the extra living and play space than a big bathroom for a family vacation.
Breakfast at Antler Shanty

3. The Food - Being totally honest, I had heard mixed reviews on the food at Great Wolf Lodge and wasn't too excited about this part of the trip.  However, I was pleasantly surprised!  There are several different spots within Great Wolf Lodge - Niagara Falls, and we tried many of them.  One of our favorite spots was the buffet, Antler Shanty.  We had breakfast there each morning and dinner there as well.  The variety of food offered something for everyone in the family with a lot of kid friendly choices.  Around the waterpark, there were several options for quick bites from burgers to hot dogs, fries to chicken fingers, and everything in between!  There were even some great spots around the hotel to find some sweet treats.  The gluten free chocolate cake was one of my favorites!  If you're looking for gourmet dining, it's not here.  But for a family friendly vacation venue, the food is good, fresh, and well varied.

Great Wolf Lodge? There's an app
for that!
4. The Free Extras - Around the hotel, there are many activities for kids and families to enjoy that are included with your stay.  Young ones can enjoy a morning yoga session, meet Great Wolf friends at character greetings during the afternoon, and even end the day with story time featuring a talking display.  Don't be surprised to also find dance parties and other fun popping up all over the lobby throughout the day.  There's even an app that you can download to use during your stay to keep track of all of the events happening around the hotel that day!

5. The Extras with a Price Tag - Beyond the waterpark and the free activities, there are also many paid activities and extras that can be added to your resort stay.  My 7 year old absolutely loved MagiQuest and sometimes preferred that over time in the water!  You can create stuffed animal, bowl, play arcade games, participate in mini-golf, enjoy a spa treatment, and much, much more!  If you're looking to bundle experiences together and save some money, definitely check out the Paw Pass - it has a little bit of ALL of the fun at one low price!

When we booked our Great Wolf Lodge stay, I really thought we were going to simply get a waterpark experience, but we found a lot more fun.  Our 2 night stay could have easily lasted another night or two to make time to squeeze in everything this property has to offer.  We hope to visit more Great Wolf Lodge locations in the years ahead and my boys are anxiously awaiting our next opportunity to catch some waves and ride the slides!

I'm Going! - The Geekly Retreat 2019

Whether we have heard that "a dream is wish your heart makes" or "dream big princess," I've always believed that anything is possible.  And this past week, I had some very exciting news land in my inbox!  Proving that dreams really do come true, I'm happy to share that I've been invited to attend the first ever Geekly Retreat.

So, what's the Geekly Retreat?  This is an incredible opportunity that was organized by the talented ladies over at The Geekly Show.  These women have joined forces to become a powerhouse group of bloggers and influencers when it comes to entertainment news.  They have put together a retreat that is allowing several lucky bloggers to join them on an adventure in California that will include networking, writing workshops, and some pretty incredible entertainment opportunities!

My blogging journey began almost 6 years ago (can that possibly be right?!?) and I never thought it would take me this far.  I began sharing as Adventures of a Disney Loving Mom in 2014 where I really created this space as purely a spot to share Disney vacation planning information and reviews of hotels, restaurants, and attractions at Disney Parks locations.  The first big boost for my blog was in 2015 when I was invited to a Disney Social Media Moms On-The-Road Celebration in New York City.  It was here that I heard from social media experts and met with a number of likeminded men and women who helped me see a bigger future for myself.  I decided to re-brand my blog as Running on Pixie Dust as my content began expanding to more than just Disney vacations which has brought me to where I am today - sharing all of my favorite details related to family, travel, fitness, and Disney!  Of course, entertainment content is a part of what I share and I look forward to learning more at this retreat to grow that area of my coverage even more!

And, now, here we are!  I am so humbled and honored to have been invited to this retreat and still find that I'm pinching myself waiting to wake up from this dream.  Just as incredible as the itinerary is the list of bloggers attending.  I've had the pleasure of meeting several of them in person, and have been excitedly following many others for years.  In fact, one of my fellow founders of the Mid-Atlantic Moms-On-The-Go Community is also attending!  Take a minute to meet Rachel over at Pretty in Baby Food!

I started blogging around 3 years ago. As a new mom, I needed a creative outlet, and I also wanted to help other parents who were just like me. It may surprise you but I started out writing about cloth diapers. Haha! As my blog grew, and I grew as a blogger, I branched out into more topics such as lifestyle, travel, and entertainment. Through the years my blog has expanded and now I am apart of the Mid-Atlantic Mom's and also an entertainment writer for Geek For E. My goal as a writer is still to help parents whether that be through travel and movie reviews or just talking about life. One day I hope to be invited to a Disney Social Media Moms On-The-Road Celebration as Kristi has and to continue to work with amazing brands as I have been. I am so humbled and excited about this Geekly Retreat opportunity, and I hope you will follow along with me over on my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

I hope that you are as excited to follow our adventures as we are to grow, learn, and network with other amazing entertainment bloggers in California this November! Make sure you are following @thegeeklyshow and #thegeeklyretreat for all of the latest buzz!

A Day at Margaritaville on Grand Turk

On our most recent Carnival Cruise vacation, we traveled from Baltimore to the Bahamas on the Carnival Pride with stops in Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Freeport.  While planning our cruise excursions we were torn on what to do in Grand Turk.  Traveling with a three and six year old meant that we needed a kid friendly activity to enjoy the beautiful island.  We had read prior to the trip that there was a free beach right at the cruise terminal, but then were drawn to Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville.  We decided to rent a cabana for the day and give it a go.  Without a doubt, this was a perfect day for us and I definitely recommend giving Maragaritaville a try!

Maragaritaville is a free, yes you read that right, FREE pool complex located right at the cruise terminal.  While it doesn't cost anything to use the pool there, you can "upgrade" your experience by renting VIP seating or a cabana for the day.  The cabana was advertised as an excursion on Carnival's website and we decided to go for it as this was the only port that we were booking anything so the cost wasn't prohibitive to us on this trip (I believe it cost $240 for the day for our whole party).  The cabanas feature indoor seating which includes a comfy couch, a refrigerator, and the ability to lock the door so you can feel safe leaving any belongings in there.  There are also lounge chairs on the covered front porch that you can use if you just want to get out of the sun for a bit, but still enjoy the warm outdoor air.  The cabanas also include wait staff that will take care of your eating and drinking needs throughout the day!  We loved having this option to go and cool off at during the day, but it's also a "luxury" at Margaritaville and I'm sure you can have a wonderful time without one too.  If you are looking for a less expensive option, they do offer free seating by the pool as well as some VIP seating.  This VIP seating option wasn't advertised on Carnival's website so we didn't know about it ahead of time and may consider this in the future.  With this option, you have chairs closer to the pool, a locked safe, an umbrella, and waitstaff.  Of course, there are free chairs around the pool area and on the nearby beach if you want to use them as well.
Inside of our poolside cabana

Margaritaville is also a restaurant and bar which offers restaurant seating and pool service.  With our cabana, we ordered food through out waitress and she delivered it directly to our cabana so it was waiting for us when we were ready to take a break from swimming and playing.  There was also a swim up bar so you could get your drinks without ever needing to leave the pool!  Drinks and food are expensive, but servings are HUGE - definitely consider sharing with others.  We ordered several appetizers off the menu and split them instead of ordering our own meals.  They also offer drink specials where you can save money by purchasing souvenir glasses that offer cheaper refills throughout the day and buckets of beer that can save some money.
Wasting away again in Margaritaville!

With our Faster to the Fun option, we were among the first ones off the ship in Grand Turk and were among the last to board in the evening.  Margaritaville was a perfect place for our kids to play, featuring a huge pool, zero entry option, and fun music as well as offering a relaxing place for the adults in your group as well.  If you have older kids, they may enjoy taking a turn on Flow Rider at this location too.  I would definitely plan to visit Margaritaville again on a future trip to Grand Turk or in one of their other destinations.  If you need me, I'll be looking for my lost shaker of salt!

All Aboard for FUN at Strasburg Railroad

"All aboard!" Can't you just hear the train whistle?!?  When you travel to Ronks, Pennsylvania in tranquil Lancaster County, you won't have to use your imagination because trains are all the rage in this small town.  Ronks is home to the Strasburg Railroad, America's oldest railroad still operating under it's original charter - dating all the way back to 1832!  Still an active rail yard, Strasburg is a popular destination for families throughout the Mid-Atlantic to learn a little bit about trains while having a whole lot of fun!

My family and I were provided complimentary tickets for the train ride and fun extras pass to share with you all the fun at Strasburg Railroad! 

The main attraction at the Strasburg Railroad is a 45-minute roundtrip train ride through the farmlands of Lancaster County.  Guests can select from a variety of options including coach, dining, and luxury choices to travel the rails.  Tickets are purchased at the station and passengers board the train from their assigned platforms.

Train Tip: Seats on the train can be flipped so that you can always be riding "forward" if you are someone who doesn't handle riding backwards well.  This is especially helpful on busy days so you don't have to worry about changing seats!

During the ride, guests will learn a bit about the history of the railroad and the Amish farm community that surrounds the area.  If you chose to purchase tickets on the dining car, you can enjoy a meal during your ride.  More into packing your own food?  Not a problem at all! The train actually stops at a picnic destination where guests can hop off and enjoy a picnic lunch and play time on some playground equipment.  When you're ready to return back to the station, your family can just pick up the next train.  My boys loved riding the rails and especially loved the ghost story that was shared when we passed a certain spot on the ride. . .don't worry, it's not too scary!! There are also themed train rides and special events throughout the year including a Day Out with Thomas, holiday train rides, and much, much more!  To learn more, visit Strasburg's Events page of their website here.

History of the Strasburg Railroad
Train Tip: Purchasing your tickets ahead is a great timesaver for a visit any day of the year, but is very important for those busy special event trains!

But the fun at Strasburg Railroad isn't limited to the train ride itself!  Guests can purchase a "fun extras" pass which gives access to three attractions in the yard.  First up is the Pint-Sized Pufferbelly.  This "junior" train ride takes you on a brief journey on a small train.  Next, you'll want to head on over to the Cranky Cars for a chance to power your own little engine around a small track.  This was the favorite of my boys as they worked hard to see just how fast they can go!  Finally, the fun extras pass includes a turn powering your own pump car.  My kids were too short to participate in this activity, but look forward to trying it in the future! These three attractions certainly add to the excitement of the day for little ones!

Don't miss fun events like the Day Out with Thomas!
Train Tip: There's a special play space that's a bit of a "hidden gem" if you have extra time before or after your train.  Check out the playground which features slides, swings, and it's own train to climb and play on!  It's tucked back behind the bathrooms and the pump car - don't miss it!

While you're waiting for your train and enjoying the fun extras, there are also gift shops and a small diner option.  The restaurant is small on the inside, but also includes outdoor seating.  Here, you'll find some classics like hot dogs, chicken tenders, and grilled cheese along with smoothies and ice cream to cool off on a hot day!  Train enthusiasts young and old can also find plenty of toys and model trains to purchase as well in the gift shop.  During your visit, you can also purchase a picture from the train ride with your family or pose for an "old time" photo before or after your ride in a studio.

All in all, we spent about 3 hours at Strasburg Railroad and had plenty of time to see and enjoy everything.  Special events, like the Day Out with Thomas, can bring larger crowds and may impact the amount of time it takes to be able to do it all at the tracks.  We have loved visiting the Strasburg Railroad for several generations now in our family and look forward to continuing to make memories there for years to come!  



Know Before You Go: Camp Ocean on Carnival Cruise Line

The cruise industry has adapted and continues to make changes to meet the needs of families as more adults are choosing cruise vacations that include little ones.  Let's face it - a cruise is a great family vacation.  There is so much to do on the ship, lots of food, and incredible ports of call.  Cruising is even more family friendly thanks to the kids clubs that most cruise lines offer now.  Our two most recent cruises have been on Carnival Cruise Line - the Carnival Paradise out of Tampa and the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore.  On each of these trips we had kids under 6 and I'm here to answer some questions you may have about Camp Ocean on Carnival!

What ages are able to go to Camp Ocean?

Camp Ocean is open to young cruisers from 2 through 11.  This is great news for parents!  Most cruise lines don't accept children until age 3 in kids clubs and several require that children are potty trained.  The fact that Carnival accepts 2 year olds and there was no potty training requirement was a big part of our decision to sail with Carnival in 2017.  Camp Ocean is divided into different age groups to make sure that activities are age appropriate and little ones don't have to worry about being with 11 year olds all day long.

Is there a cost for Camp Ocean?

Camp Ocean is included with your cruise fare so no extra fees.  Well, maybe a few for some extra activities if you choose.  Camp Ocean closes in the evening at 10PM, but if mom and dad want to stay out and party later, you can enroll your child in Night Owls for a small fee and they will keep care of them until 1AM.  The counselors have a variety of activities and also offer quiet space for kids who are ready to sleep.

Sample Schedule from Carnival Paradise - 2017
Speaking of hours, what hours is Camp Ocean open for use?

This will definitely vary day-by-day.  During embarkation, Camp Ocean is open for an "open house." You can't drop kids off during this time, but it's a great opportunity to see the space with your children and meet the camp staff.  They are super friendly and can answer any specific questions you have.  On at-sea days, the camp is typically open in the AM for some time, closes mid-day and then re-opens in the evening.  Throughout the mid-day, there tends to be some family-friendly entertainment planned on ship including the Seuss At Sea activities, Build-A-Bear, and much more!  The kids staff tends to lead these events for younger cruisers so it makes sense why they are close during this time.  For more information on kid-friendly activities on board a Carnival Cruise, check out my older post about Seuss At Sea.  During port days, you can usually find Camp Carnival open the duration of the time in port.

Wait. . .I can leave my kids in Camp Ocean while off the ship?  Is that a good idea?

Yes, you can check your kids into camp then disembark and enjoy some more grown-up excursions.  Some excursions do have age requirements so if you are traveling with toddlers and preschoolers, this may be an option for you.  As far as if it's a good idea, that's up to you.  Personally, I have never opted to do this and don't see myself doing so in the future.  There's so much to consider here in my opinion that the risk (while admittedly slight) of something going wrong far outweighs the benefits.  I would be a nervous wreck that something terrible would happen and I wouldn't make it back to ship - then my kids are on board and I'm not.  I also really believe in family travel.  While we love Camp Ocean and enjoy using it for mom and dad to take a nap on the Serenity Deck or grab an upscale dinner one night, I don't want to have my kids spend our entire vacation away from us.  We have never had a problem finding excursions that our whole family will enjoy!

You mentioned dinner.  Will Camp Ocean feed my kids?

Yes and no.  You cannot send food with your kid into camp.  On at-sea days, camp will always be closed for lunch so you'll be feeding your own children.  If your child is in camp on a port day, lunch will be provided.  A great option offered nightly though, especially for parents looking to enjoy some of the more upscale dining options on board, is a Kids Only Dinner.  You can drop your child off at the Lido Deck buffet with camp staff and they will feed them dinner before taking them up to camp for the evening.  The only downside to the meal is that it is pre-selected and can't be changed for picky eaters.  We took advantage of this on two nights and it worked well.  One of the nights was a chance for us to do the Chef's Table which was incredible!
Inside Camp Ocean on Carnival Pride 2018

What about safety?  How do I know others won't have access to my kids?

Great minds think alike as this is always one of the top priorities I look at when talking childcare anywhere for my kids!  And you can rest assured that we felt Carnival took great care of keeping our kids safe.  When you register your child for Camp Ocean, you designate who can check your child or children in and out.  These authorized adults must present sail and sign cards which will be scanned and reviewed at check-in and check-out.  You can even give adults permission to access your children who are in other staterooms which is perfect if you're traveling with extended family or friends.  If you kids fall in the 9-11 age group, you can choose whether or not to give them the ability to check themselves in and out of camp.  I'm still a few years away from that decision yet, but I find myself leaning towards keeping control of their time in camp.

Last, but not least - will my kids have fun??

While I certainly can't guarantee this for every child, I will say that my boys have LOVED their time in Camp Ocean.  Both of them were a little nervous the first time at drop off, but after that couldn't wait to return each day for some play time with their new Camp Ocean friends.  They even enjoyed seeing their friends throughout the ship when they weren't in camp and playing in the pool together.  The activities are well organized and they bring home lots of goodies - crafts, prizes, etc.  The staff has always been amazing and we felt our boys were well cared for.

As with any program that is offered across a large company, there will be variations from ship-to-ship.  You can always find out more information at www.carnival.com and look for specific details about your ship.  If you have questions that relate to the Carnival Paradise or Carnival Pride, feel free to drop them in the comments below and I'll do my best to give you my experiences! Happy sailing!

Is a Paw Pass Worth it at Great Wolf Lodge?

Our family headed to Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, Canada for our first visit to this popular family resort.  Great Wolf Lodge has locations across North America, and we decided to pair our visit to GWL with a family trip to see Niagara Falls as well.  After several days exploring the natural beauty of the area, we checked into Great Wolf Lodge for 2 nights and 3 days of family fun.  Many people think of a fabulous indoor water park when they think of Great Wolf Lodge, but did you know there is so much more for your family to enjoy?!?  Enter the Paw Pass!  With activities around the lodge including bowling, a stuffing station to build your own stuffed friend, MagiQuest game, an arcade and so much more, the Paw Pass provides an opportunity to purchase access to many of the popular activities at a discounted price.  Let's take a look at what's included and the break down when this is a good choice for your family.

My boys were provided complimentary Paw Passes from Great Wolf Lodge - Niagara Falls so that we could share our experiences with you!  As always, thoughts and opinions are honest feedback from our real experiences!

Before we begin, it's important to note that each Great Wolf Lodge location has a slightly different Paw Pass deal.  Pricing and activities will vary from location to location as what each lodge offers also varies.  The Paw Pass at Great Wolf Lodge - Niagara Falls runs each wolf $69.99 and includes the following:

  • One MagiQuest game and classic wand or topper
  • Two games of bowling at Ten Paw Alley or one game at Wacky Wilderness Mini-Golf
  • One animal at Great Wolf Stuffing Station (outfit not included)
  • One 5x7 Paw Prints Water Slide Photo
  • One gift at Scoops Kid Spa
  • 1/4 lb of fudge at Bear Claw Cafe
  • One Great Wolf Kids Color-Your-Own item in Cub Club
  • One pair of wolf ears from the Trading Post Gift Shop
  • 30 Paw Points and game card for Northern Lights Arcade
Caleb and Wolf-Wolf
So is it worth it?  My boys would absolutely say yes!  While you can certainly go to Great Wolf Lodge and have a wonderful family vacation enjoying your room and the water park which are all included in your rate, these activities really enhance your experience.  Both of our boys couldn't wait to get to the Trading Post not long after we arrived and get their wolf ears and new stuffed animal.  They made sure to have their new friend made the first evening we were there so they could sleep with him in bed that night.  We decided to space out our other activities and used them as some breaks from the water park.  The stuffed animal was Caleb's favorite part of the Paw Pass.  He loves his new Wolf-Wolf and carries him everywhere!

Brody's favorite activity hands down on the Paw Pass was the MagiQuest game.  For this game, young wizards use a wand to visit interactive objects, pictures, etc. around the lodge and complete various quests.  It sounded confusing at first, but with the help of the friendly staff at the Quest Cottage and our handy guide book, it became pretty intuitive very quickly.  It's important to note that this game is probably best enjoyed by 1st graders and up.  Since Caleb had a Paw Pass, we had him get a wand and tried to have him play along with Brody, but his attention span at 4 years old as well as his ability to comprehend what the quests were, just didn't lend itself to this activity.  At 7 though, we couldn't pull Brody away from this!  I saw many older elementary kids running around completing quests as well.  The older the child, the more they are going to be able to do independent from adult help.
Brody on one of his many MagiQuest adventures!

The boys also really enjoyed their evening in the arcade.  Dan decided to rest in the room after a busy first day so I had both boys in the arcade by myself.  We took turns picking games and the 30 Paw Points per kid lasted our family about 45 minutes or so.  You can purchase more arcade points if you'd like as well.  The Northern Lights arcade was also where you could claim your game of mini golf or have the two games of bowling loaded onto your arcade card.  We opted to bowl and this was the final activity our boys completed before leaving the lodge to return home.

At the end of the trip, I would say that we would definitely buy a Paw Pass again.  While the boys claimed the fudge, free slide photo, gift from Scoops spa, and the color-your-own activity at Cub Club, those are not items we probably would have purchased without the pass.  When you add up the cost of the other items, the Paw Pass definitely is a cost savings for families who plan to enjoy the extra activities at Great Wolf Lodge.  For another look at our family trip, check out the video below and keep your eyes open for another post on the blog that will recap the entire experience at Great Wolf Lodge including the waterpark, room, food, and free activities around the property.  Until then, have a Great Wolf Day!




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!