Category: Travel with Kids

Don't Avoid Travel with Kids: How to Have Fun with Young Kids at Museums

5 Ways to Keep Kids Happy At Museums

Guys, I love museums. I mean, I really love museums. During a college trip to Italy, I dragged all my friends to the tiniest, most obscure museums I could find just to see one or two specific pieces of art. By day three, they revolted and went shopping. Granted, I am an art history minor and my legal interest is in cultural property law so I am definitely biased, but museums are a great place to learn about and interact with world cultures. They are often the highlight of my family vacation. And yet, when I suggest bringing the kids to museums like the Louvre or the Rijksmuseum, I often hear, “They’ll be bored,” or “You should wait until they are older and can appreciate the art,” or “They’ll only have fun at children’s museums.”

Well, the heck with that, I say! There are a lot of ways to engage young kids at museums to set the foundation for a love of culture and learning. Living in DC, my kids happily spend rainy days at the Smithsonians exploring all the exhibits. Here are my top five ways to keep kids happy at museums!

5 Ways to Have Fun with Young Kids at Museums

1. Kids Activity Rooms

Many museums have a dedicated area to for kids to play with crafts, climb around play equipment, and explore interactive kid-friendly exhibits. Almost all the Smithsonians in Washington, D.C. have kids rooms, for example. Some of our favorites include the National Museum of the American Indian’s imagiNATIONS Activity Center and both the Draper Spark!Lab and the Wegman’s Wonderplace at the National Museum of American History. These are great places to go to midway through our day to blow off steam, let kids get messy, and run around.

  • Tip: Double check the hours of the kids’ rooms before visiting because they are often closed at least one day a week.

2. Guided ToursFive Ways to Keep Kids Happy at Museums

Don’t assume that self-guided and guided tours are just for adults! Many museums offer family kits for self-guided tours which include family friendly audio and games or family guided tours to engage kids. The Rijksmuseum offers a family guided tour daily for only 5 euros/person plus the cost of admission (which is free under 18 years of age!) They also offer a family multimedia mystery game which you can download for free and play on your own phones.  The Guggenheim has free family activity packs you can pick up at the Family Activity Kiosks. They also offer Sunday Family Tours for all ages and Stroller Tours once a month.

  • Tip: Check the websites of museums you want to visit for family tours or free apps with kids activities. Bring your own devices/headphones to the museum to save money.

3. Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger hunts are a great way to get kids excited to go to museums! If you have a prize at the end even better.  Sign up to receive free general scavenger hunts suitable for any museum as well as specific hunts for the National Gallery of Art in DC and National Museum of Natural History in DC! These are guaranteed to keep your kids happy and busy during your day at the museum.

  • Tip: bring a small prize for kids to “win” at the end of the scavenger hunt!

4. Photography Challenge

Kids love taking pictures. Hand over your iPhones or buy kids their own disposable cameras and challenge them to take photos of their favorite exhibits. It’s fun for the kids and fun for the parents to see the exhibits from a kid’s perspective. My son goes with his friends to museums and it’s always exciting to see what he most enjoyed. Of course, we get some wacky angles and lots of giggles over nude statues. (“It’s his butt, Mom. HAHAHAHAHAHA.”)  We print out the favorites on a Portable Instant Mobile Photo Printer and add them to his travel journals.

5. Prepare Before Going and Be FlexibleFive Ways to Keep Kids Happy at Museums

There is no substitute for preparing before you go. Doing three things before you go can make all the difference in your day:

  •  Talk to your kids before and after your trip about what they will see and what they liked the most.  Tell them about the exhibits you will be seeing and make sure to visit the ones they are excited about. Show them examples online. Most museums have online kids sections to help engage kids at home.
  • Bring snacks to avoid those hangry tantrums. Bringing your own snacks also saves money on the often expensive museum cafes.
  • Take breaks during the day.  Museums can be large and overwhelming. Take breaks periodically so kids have time to process what they’ve seen.  Most museums have fountains, gardens, or at least benches throughout the museum. Search them out and rest for a while. Bring coloring paper and crayons and let them copy the art work or artifact they like the most.

You don’t have to avoid visiting museums with young kids! Make sure to prep your kids in advance, give them plenty of time to rest, and engage with them through the museum and you will have an enjoyable day exploring a new museum.How to Have Fun with Kids at Museums

What is your favorite museum? What do you do with your kids to engage them at museums?

 

How to Keep Young Kids Happy at Museums

Kid Friendly Cape Cod: Heritage Museums & Gardens and The Adventure Park

photo from https://heritageadventurepark.org

The kids and I are on Cape Cod for two weeks. We have gone to the beach, played mini golf at Pirate’s Cove, eaten more ice cream than we should, and jumped at the inflatable park multiple times. So when I asked William what new activity he wanted to try, he immediately said The Adventure Park at Heritage Museums and Gardens.

The Adventure Park at Heritage Museums and Gardens

The Adventure Park is an aerial, forest adventure for ages 7+ in Sandwich, MA. There are five separate climbing trails of varying difficulty. Participants are given harnesses and a brief tutorial before they head out on the trails.  Yellow trails are easiest, green trails are harder, blue trails are intermediate, and black trails are the hardest. Younger kids are limited to the yellow and green trails.

William is 8 years old, so he is allowed to do the one yellow, and two green trails. His ticket allowed two hours of climbing. The website claims that you can make it through a trail in about 20 minutes but we found that to be a bit misleading. You might be able to make it through if there is no one ahead of you, you are familiar with the equipment and how to use it, and everyone is in great shape. It took William, my brother, and my sister-in-law two hours to make it through all three trails. Partly because the people in front of them on one of the trails were a bit slow and afraid of heights.

Tickets are expensive! It is $45 for a combined Adventure Park and Heritage Museums and Gardens pass. However, I’ve seen deals on Groupon and other local coupon sites so it’s worth doing a quick search for discounts before going. The price is totally worth it! William has been talking about this nonstop since we went.

The Climbing Trails

Each trail has different obstacles and is at different heights. The yellow trail’s obstacles are the easiest and the trail is lowest to the grounds. The black trail is most difficult and highest.  The black trail is the only one without a zip line.

The zip lines were my group’s favorite obstacles! Probably because they were the easiest to do. William loved some of the more difficult obstacles including one that involved crab walking across narrow boards while bent over-an obstacle that caused one member of the group in front of them to cry!

Even though the yellow and green trails are the “easy” courses, my brother and sister-in-law were exhausted at the end of the two hours. They reported that the course requires a lot more upper body strength than they anticipated. William, of course, would have gone on another four trails if allowed! Nothing slows this kid down and he never admits to being tired

A few more notes: there are no bathrooms over at the Adventure Parks. There are only porta potties. There are hydration stations throughout the park, which is very helpful on hot days like today. You can also walk the very short distance across the street to the Heritage Museums and Gardens entrance to use an actual bathroom.

Heritage Museums and Gardens

While William, my brother, and my sister-in-law were climbing at the Adventure Park, my mother and I took Ania across the parking lot to the Heritage Museums and Gardens. Tickets to the Heritage Museums and Gardens are $18/adult and $8/child. It is a separate entry free from the Adventure Park.

I could have spent all day at here. The gardens are amazingly beautiful.  Dotted around the landscape are museums like the Automobile Gallery with a large collection of classic cars. The garden hosts special exhibits around the property as well in some of the buildings and on the grounds.

Flowers at Heritage Museums and Gardens

The first time we came here, I thought the kids would be bored, but it’s very family friendly! Many paths meander around the grounds. Ania called some of them “secret paths” because they wound between and through the flowers and trees. There is also a maze and labyrinth both of which the kids enjoy. There are several flower exhibits and interesting water features and fountains. The main kids’ attractions though are the Hidden Hollow play area and the American Art and Carousel Gallery.

Hidden Hollow

Hidden Hollow is nestled in a small valley near the center of the gardens. If you have kids, it alone is worth the price of admission and I recommend leaving a lot of time to play here.

Heritage Museums and Gardens

Treehouse in Hidden Hollow

It’s not a playground in the typical sense. It is a natural play area with lots of activities. There is a large treehouse, amphitheater, outdoor musical instruments, art area, and a water play area. William tends to gravitate straight to the water area, which consists of many steel buckets, an old-fashioned water pump, and a few water troths. It doesn’t sound like much, but I watched kids play in there for hours!

Hidden Hollow at Heritage Museums and Gardens

Hidden Hollow

This trip, Ania went straights for the blackboards set up in a circle. There was colored chalk on each one and a paintbrush to erase your work. She immediately got a bucket of water to both erase and paint with the water.  She also spent some time playing with the musical instruments while I watched other kids use tubing to create a ball run down a hill.

After an hour of watching Ania draw and play, we were extremely hot, so we dragged her way to go to the American Art and Carousel Gallery that was, thankfully, air conditioned.

A few more notes: Plan to spend some time here. The kids always want to stay longer than I think they will. Also, while they do their best to shade the Hollow, make sure to have sunblock because it can get quite sunny.

American Art and Carousel Gallery

This was our first time to this gallery and it was so cool! My mother loved the art, but Ania and I loved the Carousel. Okay, she loved the carousel. I get dizzy on rides that go in circles, but I loved the air conditioning and the numerous benches to sit and watch her.

The Carousel was hand carved by Charles Looff in 1908! You can read more about the history here, but it’s a truly gorgeous antique.

A few more notes: Rides are included in the price of admission and there is an actual bathroom in this building.

Exhibits

Hidden Hollow at Heritage Museums and Gardens

Hidden Hollow

The museums and gardens’ exhibits change seasonally so it’s worth checking out the website to see what’s going on. In the summer, Heritage hosts family concerts and in the winter, it’s decorated with lights and open select weekends. We love Heritage Museums and Gardens! I definitely recommend you take time away from the beach to visit this special place.

The Adventure Park and Heritage Museums and Gardens on Cape Cod!

Vacation

Guys, I had great plans for my two week vacation to Cape Cod! On the schedule was blogging three times a week, planning out the next month of posts, researching the homework debate and the education method articles I started, and making a social media plan. Lofty goals and I was excited to start on them.

But then we got here. And I realized that this is finally my chance to spend time with my two kids. At 8 and 4.5, they are changing so much, so quickly. They go to school full time, they are involved in an increasing number of activities, and I work full time.  Time to just be with them is rare. We squeeze conversations into car rides and playing together is often put off so I can make dinner or vacuum the floor.

Though I love writing, I am taking this chance to play with my kids, to cuddle with them, and listen to their stories about their lives, to learn what they find funny right now. I’m delighting in my daughter’s  creativity and my son’s energy. The blog will still be here when I get home.

Disney World: Tips to meet the Disney Princesses!

Disney World

(This post may include affiliate links to amazon)

 

We love Disney World. Well, the kids and I love Disney World. T tells me he needs a vacation whenever we get home from our “vacation” at Disney! He prefers the beach. Perhaps my daughter, A, who is 4.5 years old loves Disney the most though. And her love is all for the Disney Princesses.  So when I plan our Disney itinerary I included these Top Places to see Disney Princesses at Disney World!

Planning Tip

Have you planned a Disney trip lately? I’ll do another post about it, but planning for Disney is completely necessary. You MUST take advantage of FastPasses in order to make it to all the attractions you want to see. This is especially important if you have kids of different ages and interests so you want to see and ride a wide range of attractions. I’ll mark which attractions we FastPass and when we usually book them.

Epcot

The name of the game is to see as many Disney Princesses as possible and the Princess Breakfast at Akershus Banquet Hall in Norway is the way to do it! I HIGHLY recommend this breakfast which will satisfy both your little prince or princess and any other family that is with you.  Here is where you will knock out seeing Cinderella, Ariel, Snow White, and Belle. The food is good but the main draw is the princesses who come to every table for a hug and a photo. They also do a princess parade around the restaurant which is adorable.

You MUST make reservations as soon as possible to attend this breakfast. If you are staying at a Disney Resort, you can make reservations starting on the 180th day before your trip.  In the past, I’ve made reservations for 8am, 8:30 am, and this past year, 9:20 am.  I was worried about doing a 9:20 am breakfast but it worked out really well. Here’s why.

Next to Akershus Hall is the Royal Sommerhaus, where you can meet Anna and Elsa, AND the Frozen Ever After ride. Epcot typically doesn’t open until 9 am. At 8:45 am, I was at the entrance and they let me in because I had a breakfast reservation. I then went straight to the Royal Sommerhaus so when Anna and Elsa arrived at 9 am we were second in line. (A line that quickly grew!) We leisurely thrilled my daughter with Elsa and Anna and then strolled over to get in line for our 9:20 am reservation for the Princess Breakfast.

I also booked a FastPass for the Frozen Ever After Ride for 11 am. After our princess breakfast, we used the restrooms, glanced in the shops, and got in line for our fast pass.

That’s right. In one morning, we knocked out the top ride my daughter wanted to go on in Disney and met SIX princesses. It was my daughter’s dream day!

TIPS for your princess morning at Epcot

  1. Book early both the breakfast (180 days in advance for people staying at the resort), the Frozen Ever After ride (60 days in advance for people staying at a resort).
  2.  You can enter Epcot early with a dining reservation. Technically, I think this only applies to reservations before the time it opens, but I’ve found they will let you in a few minutes early for reservations that are within a half hour of opening to accommodate walking time.
  3. Pack a Disney Princess outfit. We don’t pack actual costumes, though you certainly could if you wanted, but we do stock up on what I call Daytime Princess Clothes any outfit that is styled like a Disney Princess  or features a Disney Princess.
  4. Go STRAIGHT to the Anna and Elsa meet and greet when you enter the park. This line gets long and they seem to spend a few extra minutes with you if you are there early.

Magic Kingdom

Just like Epcot, the key to seeing Princesses at the Magic Kingdom is to get there early. If you are a resort guest, plan to get to MK during the magic hour when the resort is only open to resort guests. If you are staying off property, you can book a breakfast at the MK (there are several character breakfasts, including at Cinderella’s castle) so you can enter the park early. Otherwise, get to the park for the opening as early as possible and try for one of the entry lines at the edges farthest away from the buses where there should be fewer crowds.

Once in the park go straight for Fairytale Hall. Ideally, you will have an early morning fast pass to see either Cinderella and Elena or Rapunzel and Tiana. Hopefully, you will be early enough to get in the other line. Then once you see those princesses, you can switch to your fast pass line. Remember, you can use your fast pass up to an hour after the time of the FastPass.

The only other princess experience we always go to in MK is Enchanted Tales with Belle. This is an interactive show in which all the kids participate.  At the end, every child meets Belle and has her picture taken. It’s very cute and a great chance to meet Belle.

If lines are short, or you have a big fan, definitely go meet Tinkerbell at the Town Square Theater. Or you can see Tinker Bell before going to a fast pass at the Fairytale Hall.

TIPS for princesses at the Magic Kingdom

  1. Get there early!
  2. FastPass one of the two pairs of princesses at Fairytale Hall. When you arrive at MK either go to the OTHER set of princesses OR go to see Tinker Bell at Fairytale Hall.
  3. FastPass the Enchanted Tales with Belle experience. Have your camera ready to take pictures!
Belle, Snow White, Cinderella

By mydisneyadventures (Flickr: Beast and Princesses) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Hollywood Studios

There aren’t many princess experiences at Hollywood Studios. However, it is the only park to meet Princess Sofia the First! There are two ways to do this:  Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine at Hollywood and Vine and meet and greet at the Animation Courtyard. We always opt for Hollywood and Vine because Doc McStuffins is also there. (And we know I like to kill two bird with one stone!) We also chose the breakfast because it allows us to enter the park prior to opening time, eat before the park is open, and thus hasten over to Rockin’ Rollercoaster to ride without a FastPass before the lines get long.

Hollywood and Vine has a large selection of breakfast options and the food is pretty good. Besides Princess Sofia and Doc McStuffins, both Jake and the Neverland Pirates and Handy Mandy come to your table. This is a must character meal for anyone with Disney Jr. fans.

Tips for princesses at Hollywood Studios

  1. If you visit the Animation Courtyard, make sure you don’t plan on visiting Sofia near the time of the Disney Jr. performance. She goes inside during the show.

And there you have it! My guide to how to meet TWELVE princesses at Disney World with minimal lines! Which princess is your favorite?

Tips to Meet the Disney Princesses at Disney World

Top 10 Things To Do With Kids on Cape Cod This Summer!

Top 10 things to do with kids on cape cod

My family has been visiting Cape Cod every summer for my whole life.  Now my parents live full time on the Cape and I bring my kids for at least two weeks a summer. There is no shortage of things to do with kids on the Cape in the summer! Below is my list of the top activities and places to visit while on vacation.


  1. Go to the Beach

No visit to Cape Cod is complete without a visit to the beach. From the National Seashore to the Salt ponds, Cape Cod is famous for the variety of beaches to visit. Families with younger kids will love Yarmouth and Dennis town beaches.  Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket protect these beaches so they stay relatively calm with no riptides or large waves.  Kids will enjoy the warm water, soft sand, and abundance of hermit crabs. Amenities include lifeguards, concessions, and bathrooms.

Looking for waves? Visit Nauset Beach or Coast Guard Beach both part of the National Seashore.  Here you’ll find the quintessential large dunes, sandy beaches, and big waves you probably associate with Cape Cod. Warning though, it does get busy during the summer and the parking lots fill up quickly. Plan to go early or wait until the crowds dissipate in the late afternoon. Amenities include lifeguards and bathrooms. Remember to bring these 7 essentials in your beach bag!

 

  1. Mini-Golf

There are many, many places to play mini-golf on Cape Cod ranging from old-fashioned putt-putt to modern behemoths complete with waterfalls and sound effects. By far our favorite is Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf in South Yarmouth, Ma where we have our annual family mini-golf battle. Pirate’s Cove is so popular that there are two courses. I prefer the front course, but both are equal in difficulty and creativity. If you really want to avoid the crowds go during a sunny day when everyone else is on the beach. Otherwise, prep your kids for a bit of a wait. There is so much to look at, though; I find most kids are fine with the brief delay.

If the crowds are just too much for you, we also like Skull Island, which is just down the street. It’s not quite as detailed as Pirate’s Cove but it’s still a fun mini-golf experience.

  1. Cape Cod Inflatable ParkCape Cod Inflatable Park

This only opened a few years ago and it quickly gained a massive following. Cape Cod Inflatable Park has four areas: toddler area, dry inflatables, wet rides, and the American Ninja Warrior-esque challenge course. My kids go so often we buy the season pass that pays for itself in three visits.  There are several great things about this park. First, the kids are exhausted when we leave. Second, they sell beer and wine to parents. Yes, your kids can play while you kick back and sip a glass of wine! Third, the attendants have always been attentive and polite. This is definitely one of my kids’ favorite places. Plan a visit for a cloudy, cool day or later in the afternoon after the beach.

  1. Eat Ice Cream 

You can’t leave Cape Cod without sampling at least one of the many homemade ice cream shops. In fact, you should probably eat ice cream every night you are there. You know, for research purposes. 🙂  We have three favorite ice cream shops on the Cape: Cape Cod Creamery, The Lil’ Caboose, and Sundae School.  All three serve amazing, creamy ice cream in about a thousand different flavors!

  1. Watch a Cape Cod Baseball League Game

The Cape Cod Baseball League is the premier amateur league in the country. Founded in 1885, over 1100 CCBL alumni have played in the MLB. We love going to CCBL games to meet tomorrow’s baseball stars. For years, my brother would have every player he could sign a baseball for him. Many of those players went on to play on his favorite MLB teams! We always make time to go to at least one CCBL game per trip. The games are free, low-key entertainment on a nice evening.

  1. Bike the Cape Cod Rail Trail

The Cape Cod Rail Trail follows 22 miles of the former railroad through Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet. The route is paved and any street crossings are well marked. The first three miles from the South Dennis (Rte. 134) entrance offer plenty of opportunities to picnic, stop for an ice cream or detour off the trail to explore towns. Most of the route is shady and the scenery is beautiful. My kids especially love seeing the cranberry bogs near the South Dennis entrance. If you don’t want to bring your bike, you can rent one right on the trail.

  1. Go on a Whale WatchWhat Watch

Who doesn’t want to see whales on their vacation? Whale watch tours remain one of the most popular attractions on Cape Cod.  Two of the most popular tours are Dolphin Fleet from Provincetown and the Hyannis Whale Watch tours from Hyannis. Both offer tours multiple times a day and have comparable rates.  I lean toward Dolphin Fleet from Provincetown only because it gives me an excuse to visit Provincetown, which is a colorful, eclectic town with a number of adorable shops.

  1. Cape Cod Pirate Adventures

If you have young kids who aren’t quite ready for a three to four-hour whale watching tour, I highly recommend the Cape Cod Pirate Adventures in Hyannis. Crew decorates each child with temporary tattoos and pirate vests before embarking on a swashbuckling adventure on board the Sea Gypsy of Hyannis Harbor! There are lots of activities for little ones on board including water cannons and maps to decipher. The crew really makes the adventure fun with their energy and enthusiasm.

  1.   Visit Chatham Lighthouse and Nauset LighthouseChatham and Nauset lighthouse

Chatham Light was built in 1808 as two wooden lighthouses.  They were replaced in 1877 by towers built of cast iron rings and one was moved to Eastham to become Nauset Light in 1923.  Today, Chatham Light is a functioning Coast Guard office.  They offer tours seasonally every Wednesday from 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm. The views alone are worth the trip to see this Lighthouse and you can visit the small beach here as well.

Nauset Light was originally located in Chatham and moved to Eastham in 1923.  The Nauset Light Preservation Society successfully petitioned to have the light moved again in 1996 to protect it from coastal erosion. Both Nauset Light and Chatham Light are registered on the National Register of Historic Places. It is open for tours seasonally on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at 4:30 pm. Tours are free!

  1. Watch a Movie at Wellfleet Drive-in Theater

There are only 330 or so drive-in theaters left in the United States. Thankfully, the Wellfleet Cinema Drive-In has survived the passage of time! It offers a double feature every night in the summer. The first movie is at about 8:20 pm and is usually suitable for kids. The second movie starts around 9:55 pm. Bring cash. They do not accept credit cards for the entry fee.  I advise you to get there early to get a good parking spot! There is a playground and grassy area to play in while you wait for the show.

These are my Top 10 things to do with kids on Cape Cod in the summer! Have you been to the Cape? What are your favorite things to do there?

 

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