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Your Guide for Family Vacations & Traveling with Kids
Updated: 25 weeks 6 days ago

Fun and education on the beach in Clearwater FL

Thu, 11/17/2016 - 03:30

Seabird at sunset on Clearwater Beach

By Eileen Ogintz

CLEARWATER, FL (Day 2) — Let’s join the fun.

We just have to decide what we want to do on the six-mile long Clearwater beach just before Sunset.

There’s a beach volleyball game going on, couples canoodling, kids building sand castles, fathers and kids fishing at the end of famous Pier 60 lined with artisans selling everything from Conch shell lamps to all varieties of candles, holiday ornaments and jewelry with a beach theme. Every day from two hours before sunset to two hours after, the artisans are there. There is music and street performers, a giant blow up slide on the beach, play scape…everything a family might need for a carefree few hours in a beautiful, pristine spot where the sun shines most every day of the year and the white sand beach stretches for six miles.

“The kids love the water,” said Beata Jones from Cleveland OH. She explained she spent childhood holidays here and wanted her three kids to have that same experience.

We met on a wildlife boat safari from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a unique marine life rescue center most famous for saving Winter the Dolphin, the subject of the hit movies Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2.

Winter was so entangled in ropes from a crab trap that circulation was cut off to her tail which ultimately needed to be amputated. As Dolphins use their tails to swim, a special prosthetic tale was developed, the technology ultimately helping humans who need prosthetics.

There is an entire Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure exhibit a short free trolley ride away that shows the sets of the movie. It was disappointing to learn that the “human” story –the boy who found Winter and along with the daughter of a marine scientist fought to save her—were Hollywood fiction.

The important message is that the Clearwater Marine Aquarium has rescued and rehabilitated hundreds of sea creatures—sea turtles, river otters and dolphins—and released them back into the wild.

Only those who no longer could survive in the wild remain here, like Bailey, the Green Sea Turtle who suffered spinal cord damage, and Hope, who was brought here as a two-month-old Dolphin after being found trying to nurse her dead mother, or Madame, a rare Kemp’s Ridley turtle who was born here as part of a captive breading program. These endangered sea turtles almost became extinct in the 1980s because of hunting and harvesting of their eggs in Mexico, the main hatching area. Today, Mexico has joined the US in helping to protect the turtles.

Sea Life Safari

Visitors here can see an animal hospital, surgical suite, how food is prepared and take a variety of behind-the-scenes experiences (for an extra fee of course) like kayaking in Clearwater Bay or feeding Ricky, the African Great White Pelican who had a star turn in Dolphin’s Tale as Rufus and today serves as a kind of ambassador for sea birds.

“Winter’s story has brought a lot of people here,” says Kelsey Lindblom,17, one of the large corps of volunteers the Aquarium relies on.  “But there are so many cool animals here.”

On the SeaLife Safari that goes about three miles out into Clearwater Bay, with a stop at tiny Compass Key for the kids to gather shells, there are families from Nebraska and Washington DC, Ohio and Arizona.

Kids touching jellyfish at Clearwater Marine Aquarium

The kids touch jelly fish, the egg shale casing from a Lightening Whelk, and get to see up close a weird looking “shark sucker” Remora, Sand Perch and others that are brought around in tubs of water by the volunteers.

Ironically, we barely see Winter. And she’s not wearing her famous prosthesis—she only does for exercise and physical therapy, aquarium volunteers tell us. But families are enthralled with the antics of Cooper the River Otter who came as a baby in 2001, believed to have been partially paralyzed by getting hit by a car. He can move around, but not enough to survive in the wild.

Kids learn how small things they can do—picking up trash on the beach—can help protect sea life. Even filling in the holes they dig in the sand might help new sea turtle hatchlings make it to the ocean.

A good first day in Florida, Beata Jones smiles, thinking of all the memories she hopes to make with her three children, just as her parents did with her and her siblings.  “A lot different than when I was a kid,” she said, but in a good way.

We end the day at the popular Palm Pavilion on Clearwater Beach overlooking the bay that has been in business for 90 years. People come for the live music, the cocktails and seafood—fried grouper cheeks, shrimp tacos, coconut shrimp, snow crab…as well as an assortment of burgers, ribs and chicken.

For desert, there’s what else—key lime pie and the restaurant’s famous DoNachos–donut holes, chocolate, caramel and vanilla sauces all drizzled with brown sugar.

Another donut hole anyone?

Catch your fish and bring it to Nauti Nancy’s in Clearwater FL

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 10:09

Naugti Nancys in Clearwater FL

By Eileen Ogintz

CLEARWATER, FL (Day 1) — Ready to Hook and Cook?

At the popular Clearwater restaurant Nauti Nancy’s, families bring their catch–which the restaurant prepares blackened, lemon picata or beer battered—along with sides for $10.

The best part: after a few hours on a boat, the kids can run around playing Wiffle ball or horseshoes while parents sit at picnic tables nursing a beer or owner Nancy O’Neill’s famous Sangria. “We do a lot for kids,” says owner-chef O’Neill, a contractor turned successful chef and restaurateur. Nauti Nancy’s was packed on a recent Saturday night, with live music in the patio—a mix of locals and tourists, she explained, drawn by the casual vibe, excellent, well-priced food (shrimp-n-grits for $14.99; southern fried flounder dinner with fries and coleslaw $13.99; burgers for $7.99, with sugar coated piping hot beignets for desert.

It’s easy to see why this unassuming place ranks high on Yelp for all of Tampa Bay. A pretty good second act for a 62-year-old former wallpaper contractor who came to Clearwater in her early 20s to help an ailing grandfather and never left. The restaurant, she explained, came about after the recession tanked her business.

Nancy

She knew how to cook… the building a few blocks from Clearwater’s famous beaches was available… and here she is seven years later. “We’re a fun place,” O’Neill said, surveying the crowd.

The restaurant kitchen is tiny—just a six burner stove. There is a big patio festooned with colored lights and live music every night and the field beyond with the picnic tables.  Inside, the walls are decorated with painted mermaids and fish. “The good news is that our food is good. The bad news is that the kitchen is small,” which means waits can be long. No one seemed to mind—certainly not us as we dug into a huge platter of a smoked fish spread served up with hot sauce, onion, jalapenos and banana peppers and some ceviche.

The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and apparently is busy all the time, seating 40 inside, another 60 on the patio and more on the picnic tables in the field beyond. The seafood is fresh daily “Nothing is cooked until you order it,” O’Neill said.  No one seems to mind the wait. The crowd is a happy mix of tourists and locals, couples, families and groups of friends.

Kids will eat fish and chips, or burgers, grilled cheese or pasta.

O’Neill had a close friend she often visited in New Orleans—thus the touches from the New Orleans hot sauce, the grits and of course, beignets.

“You have to come back for my gumbo and jambalaya,” she says.

We will.

Scope Out the New Scenery in Scotland

Tue, 11/15/2016 - 03:30

Do you have #ScotSpirit? There is something always new in Scotland: the land of myths, legends, bustling cities, stunning landscapes and more. Edinburgh will mark its 70th anniversary as the Festival City, bringing the greats such as Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Every year is is the time to study history, heritage and archeology. Ancient monuments, historic battlegrounds and hidden gems are waiting to be discovered. Do you like Harry Potter? See where J.K. Rowling wrote some of the amazing stories in The Elephant House and the Balmoral Hotel. If you want to keep to tradition, give a try of eloquence at the Bladnoch Distillery. There’s more to discover with #ScotSpirit.

Kids’ Night on Broadway: Free Admission for Children

Mon, 11/14/2016 - 03:30

The Broadway League is bringing back Kids’ Night on Broadway on Tuesday, February 17th, 2017! This annual event is when kids 18 years and younger can attend participating Broadway shows for free when accompanied by a full-paying adult. While participating shows are to be announced soon, know that many local eateries are offering free entrees for kids! This event will take place not just in New York City but other cities across the country, too. Tickets go on sale on December 6th, 2016 at 10:30 AM ET. Visit their website for more updates.

Happy New Year from Quebec City!

Sun, 11/13/2016 - 03:30

Welcome the new year in celebration at Grande Allée in Québec City! From December 27 to 31, enjoy traditional music, an urban zipline, a ferris wheel, heated terraces and outdoor bars. This is all leading up with fireworks to welcome the new 2017 year–the 150th anniversary of Canada! Can’t get enough of the holidays? There is plenty more to do this holiday season in Québec City. Explore more on their website!

Surf’s Up: Hawaii’s Hanalei Bay Reaching New Heights

Sat, 11/12/2016 - 03:30

Shane Nelson of Travel Weekly shared his experience on Kauai’s North Shore at Hanalei Bay. The adventure started with introductory classes from Hawaiian Surfing Adventures at Hanalei Bay, noting that everyone was having fun giving it a go. While beginners can take a group class, more experienced surfers can take a private lesson. Nelson took on the challenge, finding himself at 10 foot waves. While the winter months may be coming, the waves are high and perfect for those who dare to try.

Rail Europe Bringing French Travel with Comfort This Holiday Season

Fri, 11/11/2016 - 03:30

Rail Europe is the largest distributor of European rail products worldwide. This December, the French National Railroad (SNCF) will launch the TGV Océane, a new fleet of high-speed trains. TGV Océane will serve routes between Paris, Bordeaux and Toulouse. The new trains feature a clean and modern design that will fully roll out in July 2017. However, bookings are available now for mid-December departure dates with assistance from Rail Europe online or by phone.

Taking the kids to Germany’s famous Christmas markets

Thu, 11/10/2016 - 03:30

Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin

By Eileen Ogintz

Tribune Content Agency

Check out the Prune People!

You’ll find them at Frankfurt’s Christmas Market — Germany’s oldest, locals claim, which dates back to 1393, though those in Nuremberg dispute that. The tradition of having a big Christmas tree didn’t make its appearance until the beginning of the 19th century, back when locals typically bought their holiday toys at the Christmas Market. Later, kids would raise money to give their teachers giant Santa Claus gingerbread figures.

Nuremberg’s famous Christmas Market, dates to the beginning of the 17th century. Today you’ll find some 2,500 Christmas Markets around Germany — 60 in Berlin alone — that are open mid- to late-November, typically closing right before Christmas. Some, however, re-open right after the holidays for a few more days.

Some markets are in unique spots. For example, the small wooden hut village that comprises the Ravenna Gorge market in the Black Forest, about an hour from Freiburg, is surrounded by the gorge’s steep cliffs under a 130-foot railway viaduct. The popular market at Fort Konigsstein in Saxony has major kids’ attractions, including a fairytale grotto in one of Europe’s biggest fortresses.

Germany has the most holiday markets in Europe, drawing tourists from around the world, though you’ll also find them a popular holiday tradition in neighboring Austria, Switzerland and Czechoslovakia. German-style holiday markets are also very popular in American cities, including Baltimore where the Christmas Village is modeled after the famous Christkindl Market in Nuremburg, Philadelphia, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Denver and in smaller cities, including Bethlehem, Pa., where the market draws thousands every holiday season.

We found each market we visited in Germany unique and charming as we sailed down the Main River last December aboard a special family Uniworld Christmas Market River Cruise from Frankfurt to Nuremburg (kids are half price on special family sailings), which stops in towns, including Bamberg, Wurzberg and Rothenburg, which also boasts a bona-fide Christmas Museum filled with historic decorations. (Read more about the cruise and the industry’s new efforts to offer family-friendly itineraries here.)

The custom of the markets dates back to when — once the main river froze — people weren’t able to get any supplies, local guide Rebecca Hajek explained to Uniworld passengers. These markets began, she said, to make sure people wouldn’t be left without enough food to celebrate Christmas, selling lots of preserved meat, nuts and cookies that remain popular today.

Christmas Market at Domane Dahlem

The smiling salespeople seemed to be having as much fun as we were as we made our way from one traditional wooden hut to the next under the holiday lights, buying cookies in one and perusing nutcrackers in the next. The kids aboard our cruise were enthralled. Certainly these are noisy places with so many happy people and affordable souvenirs and snacks, like big German pretzels or grilled sausages, a welcome respite after touring churches, fortresses and castles.

It was fun the grown-ups too. They sipped Gluwein, the traditional hot mulled wine, along the way and collected ceramic Gluwein cups as souvenirs, each cup different at each market and sold for just a few Euros (less than $4) beyond the cost of the drink.

Every region has its own variation of Gluhwein, as well as treats and crafts. Nutcrackers, for example, were invented in the Ore Mountains in Saxony and today the Striezelmarkt in Dresden and the Christmas market in Nurnberg are the most well-known Christmas markets for wooden ornaments and especially the nutcracker soldiers. At the Bamberg market, a historic printing center, there are tiny cookie cutters in every shape. In Munich, there are handmade Glockenspiele music boxes because the city’s most iconic site is the huge Glockenspiel in Marienplatz.

The prune people — Zwetschgemannia — are fashioned out of prunes, sticks, figs and nuts and date back to Medieval times when children would play with them in dollhouses, only to be taken out at holiday time. They were prominently displayed among the toys and decorations — everything from tiny German half-timbered houses, nutcrackers and carved Santas, handmade lace, advent calendars and wreaths, traditional candle arches (the tradition dates back to German miners hanging their pit lamps at the mine entry the last shift before Christmas) and all varieties of tree decorations. (The German town of Lauscha is the birthplace of Christmas tree decorations.)

It was easier to resist souvenirs — we were mindful of the weight of our luggage — than the special holiday food — local Hutzelbrot spiced fruit bread and Lebkuchen, gingerbread topped with chocolate, sugar, white chocolate, as well as a wide variety of local sausage. The 150-stand Nuremburg market alone attracts 2 million visitors a year and there is even a Christmas Market solely for children, complete with a carousel and a few other rides.

We sampled every variety of candied almonds, bratwurst and sauerkraut, the local marzipan cookies (marzipan figures traditionally are exchanged at New Year’s), and Schmalzkuchen, popular diamond-shaped “fluffy pillow” pastries sprinkled with powdered sugar and popular all over Germany.

A visit even proved an ideal antidote to jetlag after we arrived in Berlin. We wandered over to the traditional Christmas Market at the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt square downtown. Others may be trendier, even focusing on sustainable gifts, but this market was iconic and close to our hotel.

The Konzerthaus and the French Cathedral were lit up with the market’s small tent city built in between with vendors selling crafts, sausages and, of course, Gluewein. The holidays were a few weeks away, but no one seemed stressed. People were smiling and joking even while waiting in line to get inside.

Maybe we can all de-stress the holidays with a visit to a local holiday market. Have a glass of Gluwein for me.

(For more Taking the Kids, visit www.takingthekids.com and also follow “taking the kids” on www.twitter.com, where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.)

© 2016 EILEEN OGINTZ
DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Celebrate the Holiday Season in San Diego

Thu, 11/10/2016 - 03:30

ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station in San Diego is bringing a variety of activities and events for everyone this holiday season. Fantasy on Ice launches mid-November to bring the ice rink to California while benefiting Rady Children’s Hospital. Staying in the area, participate in shopping for Holiday Gifts with a Creative Twist through historic buildings, galleries and museums. Watch out for the free Friday Night Liberty walk featuring open studios and performances on December 2nd. Stick around a little longer for the Holiday Block Party on December 10th–an event for all ages!

Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City Giving Back to the Troops This Thanksgiving

Wed, 11/09/2016 - 03:30

The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City is giving back to military members and their families this year with “Service-Giving.” Partnering with The National Military Family Association (NMFA), five families will be selected to receive a complimentary Thanksgiving Brunch and overnight accommodations at The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City. Also, The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City’s ‘Service-Giving’ Brunch will donate $10 from each adult reservation to benefit NMFA’s advocacy programs. Thanksgiving Brunch is offered at $84 for adults and $40 for children ages 4 through 12.

Hotel Deals: Fourth Night Free at The Palms Turks & Caicos

Tue, 11/08/2016 - 03:30

The Palms Turks & Caicos is offering a promotion: Book before December 15th for a stay between now and December 19th and you will receive every fourth night free, plus a $50 resort credit each day! The 72-suite luxury resort offers complete relaxation with pools, spa, fine dining and casual restaurants and much more. This deal is perfect for guests looking for a price friendly but ultra-luxe Caribbean escape!

Planning a Trip to Arizona: List of Events for January 2017

Mon, 11/07/2016 - 03:30

If you’re looking for a trip early next year, consider checking out the many festivals and events in Arizona. Start the year off right with a First Day Hike in Lost Dutchman State Park, Kartchner Caverns State Park, Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cattail Cove State Park or Lake Havasu State Park. Music lives on, so check out The Garth Guy – Garth Brooks Tribute Concert, the 11th Annual Village Jazz Series: Yuma Big Band or 8th Annual Arizona Bach Festival 2017. For some exploration in art, check out the 13th Annual Arizona Fine Art Expo, the 25th Annual Litchfield Park Native American Arts Festival or the 12th Annual Woodcarving Expo. For a full, preliminary list of events going on, click here.

Let’s Get Every Teen on a Train

Sun, 11/06/2016 - 12:09

By Kyle McCarthy, creator of Family Travel Forum

A prominent member of the European Union Parliament is proposing that every 18-year-old receive a free trans-Europe train pass so they can get to know Europe better. We should do the same and give every 18-year-old American an Amtrak pass to explore the Lower 48.

This great idea began with Manfred Weber, Chairman of the EPP Group and a leading member of the EU government. German by birth, and a very satisfied gap year traveler in his own youth, his words are authentic and carry weight.

Mr. Weber says the EU should support offering every 18-year-old European a free Interrail pass, to “create a positive perception of the EU among younger generations.”

“The aim of offering every 18 year-old a free pass is that participants will feel more European after coming back from their trips to their home countries,” insists Mr. Weber, “as it can be a gateway to exploring the geographical, historical and cultural richness of Europe at first-hand.”

Studies from the U.S. Travel Association have praised the educational value of travel. Parents love trains because they are safe and environmentally efficient. Let’s pair learning with safety and eco-friendliness to make this travel experience easier.

The Eurail Pass – a brand name synonymous with ‘backpacking’ – is a perfect example. The Eurail concept debuted in 1959 to encourage foreign travel to Europe after WWII. Boomers who came of age during a youthful European rail adventure may well be responsible for the sophisticated, well-traveled millennials who are changing the travel landscape now.

Nadine Koszler PR & Communications Manager, Eurail Group G.I.E., acknowledges the transformative effect of the Eurail experience.

“As part of its mission, Eurail Group G.I.E. strives to provide our international guests with a unique and life-changing travel experience by offering freedom to travel flexibly across Europe, discovering its cultural, geographical and historical richness and diversity and connecting them with local people and fellow travelers.”

Dozens of other studies affirm that exposure to new cultures is highly educational and “fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,” as Mark Twain put it in Innocents Abroad. Why shouldn’t American teens have this life-changing experience on our own trains?

Amtrak is the official U.S. railroad system connecting more than 500 destinations and 46 states. I asked Chelsea Kopta, Amtrak Media Relations, how Amtrak sees the role of rail travel. “Delivering intercity transportation,” she said, “with superior safety, customer service and financial excellence,” is their stated mission.

But Amtrak can be the change agent we need in this country. We should demand more from public transportation, and support that demand.  Since one-third of all Amtrak passengers travel the Northeast Corridor, it sounds to me like much of Amtrak’s other service is underutilized.

Why not give a free USA Rail Pass (it allows passengers to book 18 train travel segments within a 45-day period) to all 18-year-olds in the U.S.? After all, there’s no cost to Amtrak in filling empty seats on trains that are running anyway.

Additionally, in Amtrak’s 5 Year Budget and Business Plan (FY2015-2019), the company announced its strategic goal to “appeal to a new generation of passengers to sustain the business.” Given the stated interest in attracting millennials and their younger siblings, wouldn’t a free USA Rail Pass be a sound investment in marketing rail travel and guaranteeing its future?

Investing in youth and travel are no-brainers.

The ROI of giving our 18 year-olds a chance to experience America for themselves — and appreciate the diversity of its people, the scenic beauty of its many regions and the states’ rich variety of cultures – is exponentially higher than the value of a few train tickets.

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017 Topped by Canada

Sun, 11/06/2016 - 03:30

Lonely Planet keeps track of the hottest destinations, trends and experiences for the year ahead. Canada ranked as the number one country to visit next year. Canada is celebrating 150 years of culture and community next year. Ottawa, the nation’s capital, will be hosting world skating competitions, fiery pop-ups and major block parties all year long. If you’re looking for a more natural experience, Parks Canada is offering free admission all year long in 2017. As Canadian prices go down, travellers should have plenty of spending money on their fusion food and underrated wine.

Follow the North Star: What it Meant Back Then, What is Means Now

Sat, 11/05/2016 - 03:30

A Conner Prairie program launched its 18th year of “Follow the North Star.” This museum theater experience recreates the impact that fugitive slaves experienced on the Underground Railroad in Indiana. This program is open to the general public Nov. 10-12 and 17-19. No horrors of slavery are depicted and no vulgar language is used, but this is a historical re-creation. Participants must be age 12 or older; anyone under age 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets are $20 for non-members and $17 for members; Tickets are available online at connerprairie.org or by calling (317) 776-6000.

Election special discount and polling for cocktails at Omni Hotels & Resorts

Fri, 11/04/2016 - 03:30

Next Tuesday is the last chance for guests to Stay Like a President at Omni Hotels & Resorts at 20.16 percent off luxury suites. In addition, the luxury hotel brand is now offering a complimentary appetizer on election night to restaurant guests who show proof of voting (“I voted” sticker) when they order a beverage from the “Polling for Cocktails” menu. As of Nov. 2, Republicans were in the lead at 42% with Democrats close behind at 38%, according to Omni’s Polling for Cocktails votes: https://www.omnihotels.com/culinary/polling-for-cocktails .

Cruise Line Association offering veterans discounts and more

Thu, 11/03/2016 - 03:30

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, is celebrating the service of U.S. military men and women this Veterans Day by highlighting travel discounts and appreciation programs from the organization’s Global Cruise Line Members. Veterans and members of the armed forces can take advantage of a variety of deals, discounts and programs to see the world, spend time with loved ones, and enjoy much deserved downtime on a cruise vacation to a variety of destinations within a range of budgets. Travelers can connect with a CLIA Certified Cruise Agent at http://cruising.org/cruise-vacationer/cruise-travel-guide/clia-agent-finder.

Inspired by “Frozen,” families flock to Norway for adventure tours

Thu, 11/03/2016 - 03:30

Norway’s Sognefjord

By Eileen Ogintz

Tribune Content Agency

Let’s hear it for girl power!

Not only have spunky Princess Anna and ethereal Queen Elsa stolen the hearts of little girls everywhere, but they’ve significantly contributed to the increasing number of tourists visiting Norway, especially Americans, since 2013, when the Disney megahit “Frozen” premiered. In fact, Norway tourism officials report, tourism from the United States is up more than 60 percent.

But visiting Norway is no bargain, though the exchange rate is far better than it was a few years ago (roughly 1 USD equals 8.6 NOK). That’s why many opt for all-inclusive trips like Disney’s own Adventures by Disney land tour with destinations inspired by “Frozen” and the 11-night Norwegian Fjords and Iceland Disney Cruise with “Frozen”-inspired port adventures (Anna, Elsa and Olaf, that loveable snowman, join guests in Alesund, the land that inspired their story, for a summer celebration.)

If you are more about discovering the “Frozen”-inspired sites yourself — the story that showcases the power of sisterly love was inspired by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen’s tale “The Snow Queen” — it’s not difficult. You can snag a bargain flying low-cost carrier Norwegian to see the Northern Lights this winter with flights to Oslo starting at just $169 from JFK and Boston and $199 from San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Once you get there, a good bet for both winter and summer is Hurtigruten Cruises — expedition ships that enable you to have a memorable adventure experiencing the famous Fjords and Northern Lights. (Winter six-day cruises heading south to Bergen start at just under $1,000 per person.)

Have some fun in the snow with your own little ice queens. Christmas festivities last all December with special dishes, holiday concerts and the Santa Lucia celebration on Dec 13. February and March are the best months to see those fantastic Northern Lights — better than in the movie — and you can take your pick of snow sports — even the chance for a ride in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

Architecture in Balestrand, Sognefjord

You’ll also find your fill of trolls (including the Norwegian Troll Park, an amusement park located just a few hours north of Oslo), folk costumes, Viking history, the unique stave churches and more.

Anyone who has seen “Frozen” will want to spend time in charming Bergen, the UNESCO World Heritage City and gateway to Norway’s fjords. The pretty harbor, historic wood houses with their peaked roofs painted in rainbow colors proved the inspiration for Arendelle, the fictitious Norwegian kingdom that is home to Queen Elsa and Princess Anna.

Bergen is one of the best known cities dating back to the Middle Ages and there’s no greater fun than to wander the narrow alleyways filled with small shops and galleries. Can you fit some reindeer antlers in your duffel?

The open-air markets sell everything from wool hats and sweaters to plush reindeer to honey, jams, reindeer sausage and delicious-looking fish. This is where locals come to buy their fish — king crab and lobster still swimming in a tank, glistening snapper and monkfish, oysters, mussels and salmon. Have you ever tried whale?

You also won’t want to miss:

Akershus Fortress/Castle in Oslo dates from medieval times (completed in the 1300s). This is the place to experience 700 years of history — and perhaps imagine the outside of the castle where Anna and Elsa lived. Come celebrate the holidays. There is also the Norwegian Armed Services Museum and the excellent Norway’s Resistance Museum, which tells the story of the tireless Norwegian resistance fighters who fought the Nazis during the five-year occupation of World War II. Here’s what I wrote about touring Oslo museums, including the Fortress with the Oslo Pass that provides admission to more than 30 museums. (If the name sounds familiar, that’s because at Walt Disney World, the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at Epcot is where you can dine with Disney princesses.

Stiftsgarden in Trondheim (the royal residence) is the king’s official residence and one of the largest wooden buildings in Scandinavia.

Sognefjord is in the middle of Norway’s fjords and it’s the place for some of the most dramatic scenery in the world, from strep mountains, the clear blue water and tiny villages. There are winter and summer day cruises and the chance to hike on a glacier. One waterfall is bigger than the next.

The St. Olav’s Church near Balestrand inspired the church in which Princess Elsa was crowned, but the real church has a memorable love story of its own. It was built in memory of Margeret Sophie Green Kvikne, a vicar’s daughter from England, who came to Norway as a mountaineering pioneer and married a Norwegian. Her husband promised her when she was dying that he would build an Anglican church in her honor. It was completed three years after her death.

Hungry? The Bergen market was crowded with locals when we visited, sampling food along the way — a lamb sausage dished up on a flat potato cake, some smoked salmon, etc. A big plus for Americans here, everyone speaks some English.

If you can’t make it to Norway, there’s more than enough to entertain your young “Frozen” fans at Walt Disney World, Disneyland and onboard Disney ships, including the “Freezing the Night Away with Anna, Elsa and Friends” deck party and the new “Frozen, A Musical Spectacular,” which is scheduled to premiere aboard the Disney Wonder next month:

Head to Disney California Adventure for “Anna and Elsa’s Royal Welcome,” a hug from Olaf the snowman and the chance to draw a snowman with the help of an artist at the Royal Academy before you watch the stage interpretation “Frozen, Live” at the Hyperion.

In Orlando, Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios features “A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration” and the sisters also figure in “Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire” musical celebration at the Magic Kingdom. At Epcot, the Norway pavilion has expanded with the “Frozen Ever After” attraction, which gives you a change to tour Arendelle, meet Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhaus just outside a “Norwegian village” and peruse souvenirs at the Wandering Reindeer, housed in a split-log shop.

Hopefully, some day you can take the kids to see the real thing.

© 2016 EILEEN OGINTZ
DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.