Astronaut Training Experience® (ATX) at Kennedy Space Center

Your Child’s Dream of Space Travel is HERE!

We have all imagined what it might be like to go into space, to land on Mars, to be an astronaut. Now at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida you and your family can live it.

Learning about science and space is important, but experiencing the trials and actively participating in simulations of life on another planet gives education a whole new perspective. There are two parts to the new program, the Astronaut Training Experience (ATX) and Mars Base 1. These are both are pretty much all day events, though there are shorter options available should you prefer. Keep that in mind because you will want to give yourself plenty of time for each, and time to explore the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

space center

Astronaut Training Experience® (ATX)

The virtual reality Walk-on-Mars, Land-and-Drive-on-Mars full-motion simulator, Launch Mission and Spacewalk Training are all part of the ATX. This experience is hands on and high tech. If you or your children already love science and have a fascination with space, this will bring that passion to life. Prepare for your mission to Mars by training like a real NASA astronaut headed to space. Once you have been through ATX, Kennedy Space Center has taken it one step further with Mars Base 1. Ever wanted to take a space walk? How about a zero-gravity experience, where you fix space equipment like a real astronaut would? You and your team are strapped into special seats just like the real thing and you are handed tools to maintain the equipment you need to function day to day in space, using NASA techniques to solve problems. Navigate Mars terrain to deliver needed goods in your own space rover- be careful, it can get very bumpy. Don’t worry, you receive training so your skills are up to par before you are sent on these harrowing missions.
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Summer Fun In New York With the Family

There is a lot to do in New York with the kids this summer, no matter what your interests are. From waterparks to Broadway shows, indoor or outdoor activities, you and your crew will find much to do in the Empire State.

When it’s hot, but you still want want to be outdoors, why not consider a water park? Splish Splash Waterpark is a great place to spend the day as a family in the heat of the summer. Waterparks should be high on the summer “to do” list, and this is one of the best spots in the area.  There are lots of options for kids of all ages, with smaller splash or wade pools for smaller kids (scaled down pools and slides, little swings, spray parks, etc) in several varieties so that everyone can have fun and enjoy themselves. The bigger the kid, the more places they can play- but of they are too big, they can’t play in the small kid areas, so that the little ones don’t have to worry about being trampled.  Some favorites were Mutiny Bay, which puts your family in brightly colored boats, letting riders use water-spray “cannons” to blast other boats while those outside the ride can blast those inside the boats- and get sprayed themselves. Abyss Tube Slides were a favorite with all the kids, twisting and and turning your way down the enclosed slides. So was Bootleggers run, which holds up to four at a time in a tandem raft.  “Climb aboard a four-man raft that actually goes uphill with new generation hydromagnetic technology. It flies like a roller coaster without rails. So much fun, it just may be illegal!”says the park.  It really did seem as much like a roller coaster as it did like a tube ride, it was very cool. There are also favorites like wave pools and “lazy rivers”, and so much more.  Head over to SplishSplash.com and get your tickets soon, summer will be over before you know it.

luna park

 

Coney Island, a “must” for locals and tourists alike, is a great place to beat the summer heat, or at least lean into it somewhat gracefully. A go to spot for generations, each season changing slightly, adding more rides, keeping new and fresh while still appealing to the nostalgia of days past. Just steps from the boardwalk, there is a beach with a clean shore and big open ocean.  For the animal lovers, there is the New York Aquarium just a little ways down, which also has a wonderful seal show that should not be missed.  For the adventurous types, there are big thrill rides at Luna Park which include 7 roller coasters like the classic wooden Coney Island Cyclone.  For the littler park goers, there are tons of attractions and rides at Luna Park like the Happy Swing and Magic Bikes. This year, Luna Park has also opened new rides Cozmo Jet and Coney Clipper, so even if you have been before, there is a great excuse to go again.
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Everything from the practical to the sublime: Le Blanc Spa Resort, Los Cabos

mexico vacation

With what limited time we have for vacationing, when we run off, we want our romantic voyages to exceed our wildest imaginations. We want the best of the best, with everything as soothing and simple as can be. Le Blanc Spa Resort, Los Cabos, Mexico, has already been awarded the AAA 5 star status. That’s the pinnacle of luxury destinations, with many strict requirements to qualify for your best vacation ever, assuring your pleasure and enjoyment. The property is located right on the beach, but still has 4 pools – including an infinity pool – along with swim up bars, a massive and sumptuous spa with hydrotherapy and special couples’ treatments. Speaking of water, their drinking water is purified – so no worries there, you don’t need to worry about “bottled water only”, saving both your sanity and the environment. 

le blanc

Leave your extra stuff at home! With Bulgari toiletries, Chi hair appliances, top shelf liquors, bathrobes,  slippers and umbrellas, you can lighten your load (and not pay ridiculous airport fees) in luxurious style. You can leave your change at home, as well: taxes and tips are included. But should you want some cash, there’s an ATM and currency exchange on site. For those who may require them, there are rooms available for those who are physically challenged and wheelchairs are available, as well as a 24 hour doctor on call.

le blanc mexico

For many of us, the best part about traveling is the wonderful and exotic food that you don’t have to cook. As part of the included indulgence, 24 hour room service allows you to stay ensconced all cozy in your room. Sometimes, you just want to lie in. When you want to head out, there are a dozen restaurant options, serving almost anything you could be craving. Whether you want to explore the local Mexican traditional fare, freshly caught seafood, a cornucopia of buffet choices, classic steakhouse cuisine or even a simply perfect pizza, it’s all yours for the asking. Vacation time is the perfect splurge time and Le Blanc makes it worth your while: the world-renowned and award-wining pastry chef, Antonio Bachour, curates all of their menus, cakes, desserts, pastries, breakfast pastries, etc. He was named one of the ten best pastry chefs in America, so you know that your caloric intake sacrifice will be worth it.  Then, of course, you can atone the next day at one of their juice bars if you feel guilty- but I suggest that you leave THAT baggage at home as well. There is a gym on site with state of the art equipment as well as classes that include yoga, spinning, (even a water spinning class, which we tried and loved) and many more that rotate on a daily basis. Check the schedule on the weekly calendar when you arrive, your workout routine doesn’t have to suffer if you don’t want it to.  It’s also a great time to try something new, why not?
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Pageant of the Masters, Laguna Beach Ca.

Living Art in California

The Pageant of the Masters in the artistically inclined Laguna Beach California is an oasis by the sea for art, music, and food. Running from July 5th through September 1st this Festival of the Arts stands out from any other you may have experienced before. This is more than art you stroll up to like a gallery or art walk. This is art that fills a whole stage! Accompanied by live music and narration, works of art are brought to life for crowds filling the outdoor theatre. If that was not on a grand enough scale there is the fact that parts of the painting are played by live models!

Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach California sign.

How? Well the models too are painted, their clothes, every detail to match the style of the piece they are a part of. Part of the fun is picking out the real from the painted two dimensional portions. The scale of this event is huge, from the stage filling backdrops, the painted models, the costumes that blend in seamlessly. Even the lighting that adds so much to each scene. This year’s theme is “Under the Sun”, Impressionists from the early 20th century. These artists spent their time under that sun while creating works that are still appreciated today and you couldn’t pick a lovelier place to do the same than The Pageant of the Masters.
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Underwater Adventures at the Downtown Houston Aquarium with CityPASS

Home to over 200 species of aquatic life, the Downtown Houston Aquarium is an impressive & entertaining place to visit with the entire family. You can truly spend an entire day watching the adventures of your favorite sea creatures under 500,000 gallons of wonderment, dining within a full service restaurant and enjoying a variety of amusement rides to thrill kids of all ages. Grab your Houston CityPASS and save 49% off your visit to the aquarium and four other top attractions in the city at just $59 for adults and $49 for kids.



As you make your way through the Louisiana swamp you’ll spy gators, snapping turtles, crayfish, bullfrogs and more that will make you feel like you’re really exploring the bayou. Within the Shipwreck exhibit you’ll view a colorfully diverse array of coral, tangs, groupers and moray eels.

 

 Aside from the red bellied piranhas and venomous freshwater stingrays they featured in the Rain forest exhibit, we were all happily surprised by the handful of other inhabitants to view, like the emerald tree boa, vibrant birds and tree frogs.

If you’ve ever found yourself curious about the day to day travels of a shark, OCEARCH‘s global shark tracker enables scientists, explorers and even families at home to follow the tagged sharks in real time.

Discovering that the Downtown Houston aquarium has 4 majestic white tigers named Nero, Marina, Coral and Reef in the Maharajah’s Temple was an unexpected surprise. Coral had just awaken from a nap but we were told she’s normally quite the feisty firecracker. The state of the art exhibit is temperature regulated with multi-level areas for the tigers to climb, a large pool for water play and is one of 230 exhibits that have been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

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Taste Of Houston Food Tour: 4 Must Try Montrose Restaurants

Ranked as one of America’s top three most ethnically diverse cities, Houston is well known for its variety of award winning culinary experiences. On a recent trip to Houston, courtesy of CityPASS & Visit Houston I had the chance to experience the array of restaurants and multi-cultural dishes that make the city a must visit destination. Just make sure you bring your appetite and walking shoes to work off all those good eats because there’s no shortage of places to dine at in between checking out the family friendly sites like the Houston Zoo, Space Center or the museum district with your CityPASS in hand.

 

Staying downtown at the Marriott Marquis Houston was the perfect location because everywhere we ventured off to eat was either in walking distance, or no more than a twenty to thirty minute drive away. After unpacking and taking in the view of the hotel’s larger than life, Texas shaped lazy river, our group headed out on a Taste of Houston Tour through the neighborhood of Montrose with our knowledgeable guide Lisa. When visiting a city for the first time, I’d highly recommend signing up for a food tour like this because not only were we able to try out some of the most popular  and innovative dishes, we learned a lot about the history and culture of the city over the years.

Montrose reminded me in many ways of hanging out in New York City, with a mix of flavorful places to eat & drink, shops, art galleries and more – there’s something to do that will appeal to everyone your traveling with.

 
Did you know that Tex-Orleans cuisine was a thing? I had no idea until we made our first stop at BB’s Cajun Cafe, where menu offerings include: crawfish, boudin balls, gumbo and 15 varieties of Po’boys. Inspired by his grandmother {Maw Maw}, Brooks Bassler founded BB’s in 2007 and a unique blend of Southern Louisiana style cooking fused with a Texas twist was created. If you’re planning to try the Crawfish, don’t let those juicy little suckers intimidate you! Tie on a bib, slap on some gloves {if you really want to avoid getting those sauces and spices all over} and prepare to dig in. Also note that the only dessert on the menu is Maw-Maw’s bread pudding and trust me, that’s ok. It’s light, sweet, addictive and you may not want to share.

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Niagara Falls- Ontario, Canada

Niagara Falls is nature at its mightiest. More than just a look at a waterfall, a visit is a full vacation surrounded by the natural beauty of the area and the luxury that has drawn tourists from around the world.

A great introduction to the Niagara Falls is from the water with tour from Niagara CruisesVoyage to the Falls boat tour visits Great Gorge, American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the most famous, Horseshoe Falls. Whether you decide to see the Falls in the daylight, illuminated at night, or both, there is no better way than floating up close to the massive wall of moving water. You will almost certainly get wet if you are on the open/outdoor areas of the boat, make sure you wear your (free with purchase of ticket) parka they hand out. If you don’t take the night cruise, make sure you take the time to see the falls lit up at night- it’s a beautiful sight, and one you will be glad you took the time for. Before or after your ride, take advantage of “access to the Lower Landing and Falls viewing area” for a whole different viewpoint of Niagara Falls.

There are plenty of options to get close to the water on foot with the White Water Walk. Viewing platforms and a wooden boardwalk offer an up close look at the trillions of gallons of water that make the “Niagara River’s Class 6 white water rapids”. Rising above you are the walls of the Niagara Gorge, cut down by the power of the river to reveal “410-million-year-old rock layers”. The views you will get on your walk next to the raging waters are breathtaking and like none you will see anywhere else. It’s also a lovely stroll, one that anyone at any age can take.

niagara falls

 

If you are looking for a different angle to view the river, try the Whirlpool Aero Car. Over a century old (just celebrating it’s centennial in 2016) the trip takes you over “3,500 feet across the Canadian side of the Niagara River”. You will cross the international boarder between the USA and Canada during your trip. From the antique cable car, you look down over the Niagara Whirlpool, like seeing the eye of a storm from above.
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John Glenn Astronomy Park in Ohio

Study the sky night or day!

What does it take to make for ideal astronomy viewing? Exactly the conditions you will find in Ohio’s Hocking Hills. That is why it is now the home of the John Glenn Astronomy Park. The Hocking Hills State Park is located forty miles from Columbus, easy to get to but far enough to have excellent visibility without light pollution getting in the way of star gazing.

Clear night skies have drawn many astronomy enthusiasts and now the John Glenn Astronomy Park takes that to the next level. The Solar Plaza welcomes visitors to study the daytime features of the sky. The Sun, Earth, and the North Celestial Pole are just a few of the features on display before the night time show begins. The enclosed 540-square-foot observatory allows for viewing the night sky with its retractable roof.

If you want to spark some excitement in nature and science this is a great destination. So many of us get a diluted view of the stars that it is easy to forget how magical and inspirational they are. This park offers visitors the experience of the near pristine night sky through a large telescope and with their bare eyes.

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