For many families, Las Vegas is an inexpensive and easy destination for travel, but are there enough kids activities in Las Vegas? I believe that kids can learn and have fun in any destination as long as parents are attentive to their needs and do a bit of homework. While smoky casinos and shooting ranges may be off the activity lists, there are loads of kids activities in Las Vegas that are thrilling for the whole family.
Here are a few Sin City activities that I’ve experienced that make me itch for a family trip!
1. Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay features tropical fish, sharks and turtles.
2. The fountains with lights and music at Bellagio (you may want to watch Oceans 11 first!) Image: Flickr via Tim Parkinson
3. A gondola ride at the Venetian is way less expensive than a trip to Italy.
4. M&M’s World encompasses four floors – just make sure you set candy limits!
5. Duelling Pianos at the bar at Times Square at New York, New York if a favourite of mine and any little budding musician is sure to love it.
6. The Mob Museum is a gorgeous building filled with gangster lore.
7. The Big Apple Coaster at New York New York, and hop over to the arcade while you are there. Photo credit: Roig61 on Flickr
8. Big Shot at the Stratosphere
After many jogs while training for a Run Disney event, I finally figured it out – Paradise Point Resort in San Diego, California was named after the bird of paradise flower! Because they are everywhere. And I must be blind as a bat. This expansive resort on an island across from the Sea World is perfect for families.
Paradise Point Resort is a private 44-acre island tucked away on gentle Mission Bay in San Diego. Resident turtles and ducks stroll right to your patio door and the beach around the perimeter of the property offers firepits that are ideal for the ‘S’more’ kit available at the resort store.
Direct access from the property to Sea World allows for an easy commute, but if you would rather stay on property there are plenty of marine life in the lagoons to satisfy.
The housekeeping staff has an epic sense of humour and one day when we returned to our room they had set up all of the Star Wars Lego in fighting stance on the bed. There were
Caveman Pizza Company delivers on-site via bicycle, and yet the kitchenettes in each room offer a fridge and microwave in order to appease snack-happy kids. The pools were full of life and ideal for little ones.
Disclosure: UrbanMommies was not compensated for this review.
En route home from the ROAR Retreat in Cost Rica, I did a wee stop in Las Vegas to save one flights (which was promptly negated by my trip to the outlet mall). Wanting to try a newer boutique hotel, I picked the Cromwell Hotel Las Vegas. It’s one of those warm, posh places with masculinity oozing from each view.
As with other intimate spaces, the bartender knows every name and the rich red drapery in the casino make you feel as if you’re being wrapped in a warm velvet blanket. Even The Cromwell Hotel hallways were symmetrically perfect and warm. Though I had only a few hours in Sin City, I did make it to my favourite Premium Outlet Mall. Ted Baker was beckoning, and my husband was texting with his sizes..
Though I had a phenomenally successful shopping trip, my carry-on bag wasn’t quite large enough to sustain the wardrobe additions. The Cromwell Hotel front desk manager and bellman called around the city until he found an inexpensive luggage store open until midnight only two blocks away. That is service!
The biggest ‘secret’ about the classy rooms, is that the mirror looking into the shower from the bed isn’t, well… really a mirror per say. Just a note in case you bring a friend into your suite…
Although the shopping cut into my dining time (I wasn’t able to experience Giada) and Drai’s Nightclub was closed, I loved the hotel so much that I will make more time away from the stores on my next visit!
The weather becomes crisp and you’ve finally finished filling out mounds of paperwork for kids’ activities and school. Photos are done, pumpkins composted and you sit down for a steaming cup of orange pekoe when it hits – you need a holiday. But with the bustle of December looming, a holiday will have to wait. Panic rises from somewhere in your belly that you haven’t exercised in a while and deep breaths don’t seem to impact a racing mind that is compiling to-do lists faster than a room full of monkeys can type.
Calm yourself. This year it will be different. You’ve got a secret weapon that constantly reminds you of travel to come. This holiday season my family is using our five tips for maximizing your AIR MILES so that we can get away together in 2015.
This year I plan to do my usual over-the-top holiday décor – three themed spruce trees, a minimum of 5 holiday squares and cookies at the ready and way too many vegetables at Christmas dinner. The light at the end of the tunnel for me is always travel, and the collection of AIR MILES for my family helps facilitate our trips – either by using our reward miles for flights, or helping the budget by getting cash redemptions at AIR MILES Cash Sponsors.
My mantra? More travel = more educational opportunities. More savings = less stress!
We have a few tricks for maximizing the AIR MILES we earn and I want to let our readers in on the secrets!
1. Check the fliers at your local grocery store that issues AIR MILES on purchases. Better yet? Get on their email list so that you always know when you can earn bonus miles on the items you have to buy.
2. Ensure your spouse and any other family member who wants to help the cause have a duplicate AIR MILES card in their wallet. Sponsors always ask if you are a Collector, so you won’t miss any chance to accumulate miles! Our whole family uses the same account for flexibility and ease.
4. Use that same credit card to earn rewards miles on all of your everyday purchases. I use the American Express AIR MILES Reserve Card to earn one mile for every $10 I spend at AIR MILES Sponsors but I also earn one mile for every $10 spent at other eligible stand-alone grocery stores, gas stations, and drugstores in Canada and one mile for every $15 spent everywhere else.
5. The AIR MILES website is full of special offers and promotions. When you need to rent a car, do the things that keep every family afloat on a weekly basis, be sure to check the bonus offers, as you can accumulate hundreds of bonus AIR MILES by being a savvy shopper.
American Express is currently hosting their #MoreAIRMILES contest to let AIR MILES members answer the question, “What would you do with more AIR MILES?”. Once answered, you’re entered into a draw for a weekly prize. Invite a friend and each one who participates in the contest lands you an additional entry.
Remember: AIR MILES + Amex = MoreAirMiles and You + Daily Entries + Your Friends = More chances to win! Check out the contest here.
Whenever I see Oil of Olay I think of my grandmother. Her skin was perfect and smooth and I always wanted to smell like her. During a tour of the Procter and Gamble archives I was thrown back in time as I saw the exact bottles that graced her dresser. And the Pampers that I would have worn as a baby. The Tide my mom used as I lay in a laundry basket as a toddler while she folded and watched ‘Soaps’. The company began in 1837 by William Procter, a candlemaker, and James Gamble, a soapmaker.
In 1911, P&G began producing Crisco, a shortening made of vegetable oils rather than animal fats. During the 1920s, radio was gaining popularity and the company sponsored advertisements on radio programs. This is why these shows, and later their TV counterparts became known as “soap operas.”
There were four P&G products on the space shuttle Columbia. Can you guess? Oral-B toothpaste, Charmin toilet paper, Old Spice Deodorant and Gillette razors.
In 1926 Camay was introduced to meet the demand for perfumed beauty soaps.
The first detergent-based shampoo was called Drene in 1934.
Tide was introduced in 1946 and was so superior to anything on the market (and so reasonably priced) that it became known as a ‘washing miracle’ and was the leading US brand by 1950.
1961 was the year that changed all years for Moms…. Pampers were introduced.
The history of such a huge, successful company can’t be taken lightly, and the archives were a testament to positive corporate culture and pride. I could have spent hours touching the bottles, seeing the progress and losing myself in history.
Portland by train is possibly the best idea I could ever have had. Kind-of. Participating in the Travelocity ‘Go Seize the Summer’ challenge, I was given a credit towards travel with the family and tasked with a summer excursion. As readers know, I like to do educational trips and was in a conundrum as to what to do. My husband was away for most of August whilst climbing Kilimanjaro so I had a number of opportunities for the boys and I. In the end we decided on three nights in a Portland, Oregon hotel and we would pay for an Amtrak train and expenses ourselves. Booking the hotel was simple. We chose the city and dates, and I selected different options on Travelocity.ca to fit into our price range. It was confirmed immediately and very easy to do. (When I was contemplating a cruise for the same period I actually called and the customer service was very good as well.) With a few hours of relaxation on the train, my boys helped put together this list of 12 tips for taking kids to Portland, Oregon.
What we did:
1. Mummies: The OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) brought in an incredible exhibit of actual mummies – even animals. After watching an IMAX film about Egypt, we toured the mummy exhibit and the kids were in awe of the preservation techniques and rituals. The Theory Eatery was a huge industrial space in which the kids learned more about food. They put drinks in order according to how much sugar was in each beverage and were shocked by the results. Theory champions sustainable practices and healthful eating and was the healthiest and boasted the tastiest menu I’ve seen at a museum todate.
2. Submarine: The USS 581 (BlueBack) at OMSI is a permanent exhibit. Not only used in the film ‘Hunt for Red October’, it was the longest serving sub in the US Navy and the last non-nuclear submarine used by the US Navy. We toured her kitchen, torpedo room, sleeping quarters and 2 showers for 30 men. Bunks were tiny and used 24/7 by the shift workers. There was also the option to sleep on top of the torpedoes, which gave more air circulation. I’m glad I live in a house.
3. Zoo: The Oregon Zoo featured a fantastic pacific northwest exhibit as well as African animals of all sizes. And bats. And snakes and bugs and things. The kids loved the zoo ‘keys’ that they inserted into a box at each exhibit in order to hear a recording about the animals they were seeing.
4. Food Trucks: This is a Portland experience that defines living. One morning the kids and I set out and everyone chose their own ‘brunch’. Thai, fish and chips and chocolate Belgian waffles. We dined happily together on a bench and the kids experienced choice and diversity. There are three main areas of the city (essentially parking lots with food trucks on the outer edge) where you can find this diverse cuisine.
5. Finnegan’s Toy Store is one of the best educational and classic toy stores I’ve ever seen in my life. Vintage picks mixed with new inventions, we all (ok it was me) went in with the decision that Mommy was buying nothing. $200 later we emerged after I insisted we needed a rock tumble, crystal growing apparatus and Schleich figures. Hmm..
6. Mother’s Bistro was our favourite for families. With a play area, sophisticated décor and phenomenal food, it appealed to all of us. We met the owner Lisa Schroeder, who was youthful and excited. ‘Like Mom’s cooking but only better’ is their slogan and the menu is packed with slow-cooked comfort food. It was so good I wasn’t even bitter. And we returned. And returned. This is absolutely a must-do in Portland.
7. The thought of taking the boys to the Ground Control Classic Arcade made me feel like a rock-star mom. Unfortunately, we tried one day but it was too late. The arcade had turned to a bar and kids weren’t allowed in. It seemed so cool to me, though, that we went back the next day in the early afternoon. I wanted to show my boys pinball, Pac Man and Donkey Kong. And I did. And we were all like little kids. I cut them off at $6 and we had the times of our lives. The ‘classic’ part applies to prices too, so you can still chase ghosts for $0.25.
8. Pedicabs: From the train station we caught a pedicab that was the same price as a taxi (bring carry-on). It was the best open-air experience for the kids and they learned the benefits of hard work as well as getting a good sense of the city’s layout.
9. Happening upon Voodoo Doughnutswas a coup. A Portland institution, the lineup is crazy but so are the donuts. I know now why they are world famous, and I will buy a dozen next time. The line can be long and we waited for about 20 minutes behind a bicycle courier. I kept wondering when would be a good time to explain transvestites. I figure with kids of 5 and 7 I have a few years.
10. The Portland Art Museum was (as art museums always are) among my favourite things. This time around they had a bicycle exhibit as well as beautiful sculptures. The boys thought they were ‘bum bums’ but they were actually vaginas. I pled the 5th on that one. We’d had enough learning during the trip! When single parenting on vacation I have the right, yes?
11. There are fountains all over the city that make re-hydration easy. But as you stop, the kind people of Portland are likely to ask if you need help finding anything. Best people ever.
12. Streetcars / Trimet Max (or ‘light rail’ as they call them) are way better than trying to walk for blocks on end with the kids and much more efficient. Kids under 7 ride free. In the end we bonded and talked about things I would never think of at home. That’s the beauty of family travel. Taking a few risks. All three of us are better for it and we learned about food trucks, naval submarines, mummies and naked sculptures together. We’ll always have Portland.
Disclosure: The hotel portion of this experience was sponsored by Travelocity.ca
International Woman of Mystery: elusive and mysterious. The goal of any urban mommy I would think. If this is how you define yourself and insist on introducing your kids to the funky and luxurious accommodations, you must stay at the Gansevoort Park. The new Gansevoort Park is in Manhattan’s NoMad district is the second property in the chain. The original meatpacking district location frequented by A-list celebrities who party on the roof has helped to define downtown and flanks our favourite strolling place: The Highline Park. This newer property is like an uptown oasis with a twist of sass.
The lobby is extraordinary, rooms palatial (especially for New York), with tubs to die for. I could have hung out in the lobby all day. Oversized chairs, benches and great music welcomed me upon check-in. My room was slick and filled with clean lines, minimalist taps and luxurious bath products. Art-wise, I was stunned and even tried to duplicate a photograph so it could be my screen-saver.
Gansevoort Park Tips:
1. The roof is THE place to be – for parties and instagramming awesome shots of racing NYC cabs.
2. Rooms have a minimalist almost masculine feel with a huge tub for bathing.
3. Rainbow coloured shampoos made me smile and would have delighted my kids.
4. The Gansevoort offers a Cutler color-coded shaving kit for the urban dad.
5. Rooms feature the BOWERS & WILKINS Zeppelin mini iPod docking station.
6. Provocative artwork and fuscia curtains just make you feel, well.. Sexy.
7. The rubber ducky in the bathroom was a great touch.
8. It’s a quick subway ride to Century 21.
9. Breakfast in the ASELLINA restaurant has an incredibly expansive menu that would appeal to the pickiest eaters.
10. The hotel offers complimentary cribs, protective bumpers, pack and plays, disposable diapers, bath amenities including body wash, lotion, powder and diaper cream. Not that I forget all of that stuff on EVERY trip. Ok I do.
The roof pool area, with lemon/cucumber ice water and monogrammed towels was the spot to be in the New York heat. I took neat photographs of the stunning bar area and the New York streetscape beneath, with yellow taxis racing past. When in New York, this is where you’ll find me. The only danger is that I may not leave my room.
Almost December and the flowers still bloom. Beds of yellow leaves cover the sheep meadow and children run through, producing whirling dervishes in their wake. It’s a blast to watch kids in Central Park on a Sunday, with families are doing what families should be doing. Memories are being made, laughter is prevalent, and the merry-go-round plays happy show-tune-inspired tunes to a full house of horses and children.
The park, totalling 843 acres in the middle of Manhattan, houses a pond, Poet’s Walk, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boathouse and loads of spectacular trails, vegetation and street performers. Central Park runs north to south from 110th street to 59th street and east to west from 5th Avenue to Central Park West. Whether you take your kids to explore Belvedere Castle, play at one of the many playgrounds, ride a horse-drawn carriage, hang our at the Swedish Cottage Marionette theatre or do some catch and release fishing, the kids will be smiling!
Not planning a Big Apple trip in the near future? Get outside in your own city! We often take for granted the nature around us, and can easily spend more time indoors than the New Yorkers living in tiny apartments with concrete and fire escapes. Complacency is not an option when you have kids. For your health and theirs, go outside.
Imagine your happy place. If you need one, check out the lounge at Soniat House New Orleans, a quaint and luxurious 30-suite hotel in the French Quarter of New Orleans frequented by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. (And it’s not just about the honour bar with great wine). I found myself lolling over coffee table books about the great city’s architecture, and realized the room was more relaxing than most spas. The art, many pieces loaned by the New Orleans Museum of Art is incredible, and the antique furniture throughout the townhouse hotel is exquisite. The carriageway entrance, with it’s flickering lanterns and stone walls feels like you are entering one of America’s secret treasures. Perhaps you will meet a free mason, or maybe the ghost of a US President. We did run into Nicolas Cage on the street, but he wasn’t searching for a National Treasure.
Rooms are all unique, and our suite was breathtaking. A hallway with a crystal chandelier, king canopy bed draped in lace, and.. oooh.. that ruby red silk sofa. Sitting on it was a sacred experience. The traditional windows slid up, revealing a balcony graced with wicker that overlooked Chartres Street. Gracious sliding doors separated the bedroom from the sitting room, and if the city of New Orleans hadn’t been so fabulous, I would have stayed in the room all day. I did do a mini-excursion to the antique shops nearby and found incredible mardi gras costumes (including a 20 foot silk cape handpainted with Jack and the Beanstock motifs). Of course I bought it. Did you really wonder? The room was the perfect setting to model my finds for my husband.
The courtyard provided a breakfast oasis under banana trees and sugar cane. Classical music is piped throughout, and the staff ensure that candles are lit on each table at dusk.
One of the highlights of our stay was Jessie – a 71 year-old porter, with a huge smile and kind eyes. He has worked there since he was 19, and makes the biscuits every morning. (The recipe is secret but we’ve been trying hard to replicate it). Breakfast is served in your room or the courtyard on a silver tray and the preserves are homemade.
Families traveling should request the carriage house. With it’s private courtyard, kitchen and exclusivity it would be perfect for the little ones who are learning about the graciousness of the south. Take them to City Park and the Louisiana Children’s Museum and they’ll sleep like kings – as will you in the softest linens you’ve ever felt.
One evening before our short trek to swing dancing and original jazz on Frenchmen Street, we spoke to a few staff members about their beloved city, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Their southern manners combined with their passion for all affected people held us in a trance. We left the hotel, passing horse-drawn carriages and lanterns at each door thinking that there was nowhere more authentic and heartfelt than New Orleans. And if you are lucky enough to experience the warmth of Soniat House, you will be touched by the enchantment the minute you creak open the heavy doors and step into the carriageway.
Don’t even think of leaving your stilettos at home when you visit the Morgans Hotel Group – The Mondrian South Beach Miami. And be prepared for some serious pool lounging time. The white and black and the funky female images are still riveted in my mind. Opened in 2008 in the chic Biscayne Bay neighborhood, Mondrian was envisioned by Marcel Wanders as “Sleeping Beauty’s castle.”
My room overlooked the pool area with lampshade-inspired cabanas, giant throw pillows and stunning women in maxi dresses.
Much fun was had in Sunset Lounge with its sleek shape and great cocktails. A huge black spiral staircase anchors the space. Beach Boy types in white shorts and military belts valeted my car, and Ocean Drive was a short walk away, though the room and lobby were so inviting it was difficult to leave the Mondrian.
All I can say – when I checked in on Foursquare and tweeted my whereabouts, the comments and responses certainly signaled that I had settled into very special (and well-known) accommodations.