Welcome to IOWA!

Ever consider visiting Iowa? If not, maybe you should. There are some great family stops and a lot to do.  These are a few of our favorite stops on our recent visit.

iowa

Amana Colonies

Located 20 miles from Cider Rapids are the Amana Colonies, 7 villages that were originally German settlements in Iowa. Settled in 1855 the colonies remained self-sufficient until the 1930’s. The Amanians operated independently as a community by farming and handcrafting to maintain their own local economy. Today you can visit the villages and shop at their craft stores, eat local fair, or drink a glass of wine or beer. Antiques, furniture, home decor, clothing, and gifts you will find nowhere else create a unique shopping adventure.

iowa food

The Colonies tradition of great food is available for visitors to explore in the restaurants or specialty shops. The Amana Meat Shop and Smokehouse has over 160 years of experience offering ham, bacon, sausages, beef, and pork to visitors and online.  The Ox Yoke Inn is a fantastic place to stop for lunch, and has amazing German style food. The staff is gracious and the food is affordable and filling. The Broom and Basket Shop is exactly what you might expect, a store dedicated to selling locally handmade brooms and baskets. Another interesting stop is Iowa’s Largest Walnut Rocker, at over 650 lbs. and 11 ft. tall. Great for a family picture. These are just examples of some of the interesting sites you can wander through on a visit to the Amanas.
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Winter Fun at Okemo

Is your family’s idea of the perfect holiday gift several feet of fresh powder beneath their feet? At a time of year when cabin fever attacks, the freedom and exhilaration in skiing is the perfect antidote. When you drive up with your folks or the kids, you want the rest of your vacation to be spent having fun – not more driving around. A resort with all the amenities to please everyone fits the bill: Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont.  We had a great time checking out all that the resort had to offer- and there was quite a bit to do.

ski vermont

Nestled in the heart of the Green Mountains, they offer 8 different styles of accommodations – many with ski in-out availability. Choices range from classic mountain lodge rooms to multiple options for larger families – perfect for those family reunions.

At Jackson Gore Inn, thoughtful amenities like deep soaking tubs to loosen up sore muscles after a run down the slopes. An indoor pool and game arcade keep the kids occupied during inclement weather or after skiing.
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Heroes and Legends of Kennedy Space Center

 

“To sit back and let fate play its hand out and never influence it is not the way man was meant to operate.”

~John Glenn

space center

The passing of the iconic John Glenn – astronaut, Senator, and American hero – served as a reminder to us all of who and what’s truly admirable in life. Mind numbing apps, mediocre professional athletes who make headlines for all the wrong reasons, C-list television personalities famous for reasons no one really knows . . . these are the kinds of people who have been influencing our children (and let’s face it- many adults as well). But we’re in a position to change all that, to instill the values we hold dear.

Inspiration can be thrilling! There’s no better place to experience that than a visit to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida with the new Heroes & Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® presented by Boeing. This multimedia collection of interactive exhibits includes the Kennedy Space Center Tour featuring the Apollo/Saturn V Center with an actual Saturn V moon rocket, Space Shuttle Atlantis®, Shuttle Launch Experience®, IMAX® A Beautiful Planet 3D and Journey To Space 3D films, Astronaut Encounter, Journey To Mars: Explorers Wanted, Science on a Sphere®, Rocket Garden, Cosmic Quest, and much more. These exciting parts of the complex lead to the stunning rotunda celebrating our country’s fearless space explorers.

rocket garden

Located next to the Rocket Garden, the new exhibit begins with a 360 degree movie featuring clips of NASA, the lives of astronauts, and some memorabilia. Listening to the journeys that were made, watching the work that was done, hearing how humble these brave men and women are about the entire thing was both moving and humbling.  As you move through the Heroes and Legends, you head into large area that hangs a rocket overhead, and houses space shuttles as well as personal items of the astronauts . Characteristics that one would require to journey into space title each display, such as “Selfless”, “Inspired”, “Courageous”, with items that an astronaut felt inspirational to the person they became or an important representation of how they became the man or woman that they did. Many chose to include toys, comic books, and scouting or sports memorabilia in their representative items, reminding us that what we do as children (and what we expose our children to) really does mold who they become.
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Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts in Punta Cana

When it comes to family vacations, the bar is always being raised. Let’s face it: families want something that’s quite a step above camping in the backyard for their getaways. This time of year, most of us are craving warm temps, sunny skies, and lots of opportunities for a swim. Exotic and different are icing on the cake. That’s why Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts in Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) is sure to inspire memories that last forever. I was happy to be hosted to experience it.

dominican resorts

The resort’s luxurious accommodation includes the Swank Swim-Up Suite. Imagine a private, VIP-style wrap-around terrace that’s adjacent to the pool, along with sunbathing beds. You’ll feel like the resort’s all your own. There are other configurations and sizes of swim-up rooms as well, to suit different needs and family sizes.

resorts punta cana

You’ll find the décor bright and cheery, but with simple, modern lines to feel more relaxed – rather than formal and uptight. Kid friendly, but still chic.

spongebob pineapple house

The ultimate in luxe accommodations, and still able to fit a larger family is The Pineapple, inspired by SpongeBob Square Pants’ home under the sea. Two bedrooms and three bedrooms in a loft configuration are looked after by your own personal butler. Special activities can be booked for guests staying here, such as a moonlight beach dinner prepared by a world-class chef, wine tasting, an in-suite afternoon tea party, pizza party, or pajama party.

dominican republic resort

So, if you crave more water than swimming in the pool, they have the beautiful Uvero Alto Beach available and just steps away. There are plenty of lounge chairs and even beach beds available for guests to use, you won’t need to scramble for them or search around in vain. The beach is lovely, quiet, and very clean. You will want to spend quite a lot of time there, if you are like me. You can order drinks while on the beach as well, which makes staying longer even more appealing. Other outdoor games and activities, such as tennis, are found at the resort, along with playrooms for the kids and the opportunity to run into – and take photos with – your favorite Nickelodeon characters, including the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Indoor activities include the fitness and dance studio.
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New York’s Lake Placid Holiday Stroll

If you are seeking a great place to get into the holiday spirit, you need look no further then Lake Placid, in upstate New York.   During one magical weekend a year, the area holds a “Holiday Stroll” where the entire town celebrates Christmas with a wide array of activities and festivals, many of which are free, and almost all are family friendly.

dec 16 020

The Lake Placid Holiday Village Stroll is amazing for the holiday season- you will find yourself  in an Adirondack Winter Wonderland. The volunteer run committee plans a wonderful weekend of art, music, gourmet foods, and boutique shopping. It’s a fun and festive alternative to  big box store options, and the intimate setting makes the Village Stroll appealing to couples and families (not to mention you gift the local flavor as well- take home a bit of the Adirondacks and give a taste to your friends and family).

There is much to see and to in the area, well known for winter activities and sports, as well as formerly hosting the Olympics. Families will love the ice skating party and Holiday Story Time at the Mirror Lake Inn. Couples will enjoy the wine tastings and art displays. Children will delight in the matinee showing of the Polar Express, the craft workshops and breakfast with Santa at participating hotels on Sunday morning.
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Sweet Welcome: Dining and History in Hershey #HersheyPA

Just when you think Hershey couldn’t get any better, think again. You’ll want to eat while at Hershey. In fact, you’ll want to eat a lot when you’re in Hershey.  If you want a holiday themed dinner and a show you could try  Holiday with Dickens at The Hotel Hershey Sunday, December 4 at 3:00 PM Holiday Tea ($40) and 6:30 PM. Holiday Dinner ($99).

Hershey Holiday Show

This heartwarming show-of-the-season is performed by Gerald Charles Dickens, the great, great grandson of literary master, Charles Dickens. During his energetic one-man show, Dickens brings A Christmas Carol to life. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 717-534-8800.

If it’s just you and your significant other, put on your best outfit and eat at The Circular, at The Hotel Hershey. I love The Circular breakfast because of the omelet station and the fresh squeezed orange juice. The decor is so breathtaking, restored to look as glamorous and beautiful as it did in the 1920s. Also? Chef Cher Harris was crowned Pastry Queen in the World Pastry Championship in Italy. She’s the chef for The Hotel Hershey so no matter what restaurant you eat at The Hotel Hershey, it’s sure to be delicious. While at the spa we noshed on an array of desserts that were awesome.

There are four other restaurants at The Hotel Hershey: Trevi 5 featuring Italian, Harvest, featuring American, the Cooca Beanery for your breakfast needs and the Iberian Lounge, which is a dark after hours bar, that looks like someplace Hemingway might enjoy.
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A Sweet and Spooky Halloween in Hershey, PA

hershey park halloween

Halloween isn’t quite the way it was years ago, but in some ways — in some places — it’s better! Today, when it comes to the little ones, parents are hesitant to let them wander throughout the neighborhood at night. City dwellers and those who live in remote areas can’t trick or treat. As for older kids – and these days, they’re growing up faster and faster – the holiday should be celebrated on a larger, more exciting and engaging level. What more memorable way for the whole family to get into the spirit (!) than a stay in Hershey, PA. Hersheypark After Dark is the epicenter of all the festivities.

hotel hershey park

Accommodations: There are two different excellent choices to stay, adding to your immersion in the Hershey experience. For that super comfy, homey feeling, there’s Hershey Lodge. High wood beams, warm candy ambient fragrance as you enter, a crackling fire to welcome you and relaxing environment adds to home away from home feeling. The brand new indoor pool complex has two interactive indoor pools, Twizzlers Twists Slides, Reese’s Water Walk, water play structures and the Cocoa Cabana dining location with a full bar. To that end, complimentary shuttle service to all Hershey attractions, the spa and dining spots takes away the stress of driving.

hershey park rides

For an elegant and sophisticated experience, The Hotel Hershey is considered a world-class resort. The tints and hues of the hotel’s “soft goods” harken back to the colors of fine chocolates and caramels. Inside the main building is a shopping arcade that has everything from candies, souvenirs, as well as chic clothing and luxury items. Different themes can be seen in the interior, reflecting upon different aspects of Milton Hershey’s life. An indoor courtyard with recessed bar, lounging areas, Moorish architecture, warm lighting and plants hint at old Spain and the Havana, Cuba to which the Hersheys traveled and conducted business. The hotel has daily activities for both children and adults, incorporating chocolate tastings, making things and other fun past times. Complimentary transportation to all Hershey attractions and local destinations is easy to arrange.
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Save On Your New York Vacation With The New York Pass

museum of natural history

New York is definitely a spot that should be on your vacation bucket list – and great things are coming to New York! With a newly updated New York Pass, the City’s largest attraction pass card – the first of which is the inclusion of a free double-decker bus tour with every New York Pass purchased (thanks to a new partnership with the Big Bus New York) – now is the time to start planning that New York vacation you have always talked about.  With the New York pass it will make your Big Apple visit fast and easy as your ride along on the double-decker bus and enjoy the sights and sounds.

visit new york

Not only will you get to ride the double decker bus and tour the Big Apple, but you also get admission and discounts to over 90 must-see New York attractions. You can hop-on or hop-off at any attraction or sight that catches your eye, and then be back on your way in a matter of minutes to a new and wonderful destination of your choosing. With the New York pass, you will get more bang for your buck by saving up to 70% all while skipping the lines at several of the busiest attractions in the Big Apple area.
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