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Your Guide for Family Vacations & Traveling with Kids
Updated: 1 day 3 hours ago

Family Fun in Panama City, Panama

Wed, 05/02/2018 - 10:23

Street art in Old Town, Panama City

By Allison Tibaldi, Taking the Kids correspondent

Panama is a destination that seems to be on the tip of every traveler’s tongue. Panama City is the gateway to this country’s beaches, rainforest and diverse flora and fauna.  My family and I recently had the opportunity to explore this colorful city, where the 21st century mingles with the old world. It’s very well connected to most of North and South America, so nonstop flights from many cities into the capital’s modern airport are the norm. We boarded a plane at JFK in NYC and five hours later we were swimming in our hotel’s pool.

The Santa Maria Hotel & Golf Resort

 The new Santa Maria Hotel & Golf Resort is only 10 minutes from Tocumen International Airport and 15 minutes from the city center. The neighborhood has a swanky suburban feel but it’s close to top attractions.

The 182 guestrooms and suites feature authentic Panamanian design celebrating the country’s artisan traditions. Each spacious room is decorated with Panamanian crafts including the Guna Yala traditional Mola blankets that adorn the beds, baskets hand-woven by the Embera community and furnishings constructed from wood mined from Gatun Lake. Handmade masks and colorful paintings by Panamanian artists mesh with upscale global touches such as Italian marble accents in the bathrooms and European high-thread count sheets.  The rooms are comfortable and uncluttered. The common areas are equally welcoming with an indoor-outdoor flow that encourages exploration of the lovely grounds.

Swimming Pool-Santa Maria

Hotel Activities

 For families, the gigantic pool with views of the 18-hole golf course means there’s plenty of kid-approved fun after a long day of sightseeing. Three restaurants, spa and high-tech fitness center round out the options.

If your family likes to golf, the hotel is the place to swing a club in Panama City. It is home to the only Championship Nicklaus Design 18-holes, 72-par golf course in all of Panama City.

Panama Canal

Don’t miss the Panama Canal

The Miraflores Visitor Center is the best land-based platform to see this engineering marvel. You’ll view mega-cruise ships squeezing through the lock, watch the informative short video and explore the museum.  You’ll leave with a better understanding of the canal’s history and the people who came to Panama to build it.

 Explore the Old Town

Strolling the revitalized historic district, known as Casco Viejo or Casco Antiguo, is a must. Now a World Heritage Site, it was a decaying neighborhood only a generation ago. Today, it’s Panama’s hippest and most vibrant neighborhood. The charming architecture includes plenty of wrought iron, Juliet balconies and cobblestone alleys. The visuals reminded us of New Orleans or Charleston. Restaurants, colorful street art, chocolate shops and galleries are plentiful.

Biomuseo

The Biomuseo

The stunning Frank Gehry-designed Biomuseo highlights Panama’s natural and cultural history. The interactive galleries give visitors a good sense of how human ingenuity shaped this country as well as the importance that preserving Panama’s natural environment has on the canal. The long-reaching effects of the canal are explored as are Panama’s indigenous peoples.

Parque Natural Metropolitano

This 265-hectare city park is a rambling urban escape. It offers well-marked hiking trails through the tropical forest and the chance to see titi monkeys, sloths and iguanas right near the city center.

 Biomuseo image courtesy of Visit Panama

The Kids Food Festival is returning to the Oculus at Westfield Trade Center NYC

Wed, 05/02/2018 - 03:30

Kick off Mother’s day weekend by enjoying food, family and fun! The Kids Food Festival is a celebration to educate families about making balanced food choices that create wholesome lifelong eating habits. It will take place in NYC on May 12th and 13th. Festivities include hands-on cooking classes in collaboration with the James Beard Foundation (hosted in Épicerie Boulud), the Balanced Plate Scavenger Hunt, family-friendly entertainment, and much more. The Kids Food festival is also seeking interns for culinary and event planning. For more information, please email VolunteerOutreach@KidsFoodFestival.com.

Eileen quoted in Forbes on Mount Desert Island, Maine for summer vacation

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 14:44

Eileen’s is quoted in Forbes in an article about inexpensive summer vacations. “You can go out on a lobster boat, see tiny lobster hatchlings at the Oceanarium in Bar Harbor and eat all kinds of seafood and every variety of lobster dish — even lobster ice cream — at Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium in Bar Harbor.” More here.

KC Coffee Trips, Outdoor Adventures and Barbecues with the Family in Kansas City

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 03:30

From foodie stories to sports and history, Kansas City is filled with things to do this spring season. KC Coffee Trip was designed to feature the most popular coffee shops in the KC metro area, while showcasing the area’s best kept secret attractions. There are multiple getaways options for all occasion whether it is with the family or with a significant other. Events this month include the Cider Hill Apple Blossom Festival on April 14-15. For animal lovers, there is also a Barnyard Babies Family Festival on April 21st from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tickets are $5. For more information on planning your next trip or for more event details, be sure to visit their website.

 

FINAL WEEK OF FAMILY SUMMER TRAVEL DEALS FROM U.S. TRAVEL ASSOCIATION’S DAILY GETAWAYS

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 03:30

The U.S. Travel Association’s Daily Getaways sale is now in its last full week – make sure to take advantage of these great, family-friendly savings and get a head start on your summer trip planning from now through May 8! Daily Getaways is the U.S. Travel Association’s annual initiative offering up to 60% off loyalty program points, as well as hotel stays, gift cards and Vegas getaways from more than 20 top travel companies. Limited quantities of each deal go on sale daily at 1pm ET at DailyGetaways.com. This week’s deals include Marriott eGiftCards, hotel deals in Austin, San Diego and Las Vegas, and the final two days include World of Hyatt Bonus Points and vacation packages from Caesars Entertainment properties.

Sponsored by Daily Getaways

Tour Americus and Sumter County, Georgia

Sun, 04/29/2018 - 03:30

Think outside of the theme park this spring and go to Americus and Sumter County, Georgia. This off the beaten path destination is three hours away from Atlanta and will expand your family’s understanding of the world through hands-on fun! The top three can’t miss experiences are:

  • A train ride through the rural landscape of Southwest Georgia on vintage train cars
  • Tour the 15 Habitat for Humanity Global Village homes
  • Explore Plains, the small town that became the Jimmy Carter National Site. Indulge in the delicious peanut ice-cream before taking a tour

More information is here

Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels – special summer rates

Sat, 04/28/2018 - 03:30

Seven Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels are offering Spring into The Incredible Summer discount rates through June 15, 2018. The room specials provide an excellent way to take in the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival and The Garden Rocks Concert Series at Epcot. As a bonus, guests at these hotels also get the 2018 Disney Springs Passport: booklet that features discounts and specials from Disney Springs merchants on shopping, entertainment and dining. Notably, Disney Springs was recently named by the New York Times as one of the 52 Places to Go in 2018. More information is here.

The Dalí Museum’s Jr. Docent Art Camp Returns for 2018 Season

Fri, 04/27/2018 - 03:30

This summer, The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg FL enhances its anticipated week-long Junior Docent Art Camp with new activities and more art experiences. Offered to children ages 9-14, campers create their own art as they explore Salvador Dalí’s techniques and learn about his life. Campers will learn the fundamentals of landscape drawing and composition along with surrealist techniques to create their very own dreamscapes. There are four weekly camp sessions which run daily (Monday through Friday) from 9:30am to 3:30pm with Friday extended to 5:30pm to include the finale tour & reception for families. For more information on dates or to  register, visit TheDali.org/camp

Taking the Kids — shopping on vacation

Thu, 04/26/2018 - 03:30

LL Bean main store

By Eileen Ogintz

Tribune Content Agency

The next time you get caught in the rain on vacation, remind the kids how vacation missteps can actually be life-changing — in a good way.

Consider Leon Leonwood Bean. He came home from a Maine hunting trip in 1911 with cold, wet feet — and an idea on how to keep his feet dry next time. He got a local shoemaker to stitch leather uppers on rubber boots, launching one of America’s most successful family-owned companies and one of Maine’s top attractions — the gargantuan L.L. Bean campus in Freeport, Maine. The campus gets more than 3 million visitors a year in a town of less than 10,000 — more than double the population of Maine.

Remind the kids that things don’t always go smoothly, even with a great idea. The first hundred pairs of the iconic Maine Hunting Shoes — still sold today — were returned because the tops and bottoms split. Bean issued refunds, thus ushering in the company’s lifetime product replacement policy, which has only recently been amended. (You now have a year to return something with a receipt.)

The 200,000-square-foot flagship store, complete with trout pond and freshwater aquarium built to look like a stream bed, is on the site where Bean first opened his shop in 1917. Fans of his boots started to stop by for advice and gear, and Bean allowed late-night visitors, which is why, today, L.L. Bean is open 24/7. There are also outdoor discovery schools with dozens of activities and locations and stores across the country, and as far away as Japan.

L.L. Bean has become so synonymous with Maine that when I asked Maine kids interviewed for my just-released “Kid’s Guide to Maine,” they suggested L.L. Bean as the perfect place to souvenir shop, whether kids want a sticker for their water bottle (or a new bottle with an L.L. Bean logo) a new backpack, rain jacket, bathing suit, dog collar or those Maine Hunting Boots. Today, you can also buy anything from monogrammed duffels and towels to kayaks, canoes, fishing rods and snowshoes.

And an entire shopping town with nearly 70 stores, many of them outlets and including an L.L. Bean Outlet, has grown up around the main store. (Kittery, Maine, incidentally has even more outlets — 90 at last count.)

In Maine, or wherever families go on vacation, shopping plays an ever-increasingly important role — just look at the emergence of the themed Disney Springs at Walt Disney World, which offers the largest Disney store in the world, as well as dozens of other shops, restaurants and street entertainment.

According to research presented at the TMS Family Travel Conference I co-chair, 28 percent of families heading on a getaway weekend say they want to go shopping — more than plan to go to the beach, a theme park or visit a national park or historic site.

And more than half of those polled for the Portrait of American Travelers, count shopping as a desirable vacation attribute — more so than watersports, nightlife or attending sporting events.

Even if your family members aren’t typically big shoppers, bringing home the right souvenir is as much a vacation ritual as that perfect selfie or family photo for next year’s holiday card.

Portland Headlight at sunrise

But how many times have you brought home an (expensive) pile of junk? Once in France, my daughter Mel, then about 7, insisted on getting an umbrella hat — literally a hat with a little umbrella on top — that she decided would be ideal on rainy days. Of course, it broke before we even got home.

It’s wise to have a conversation with the kids in advance of the trip. How much can they each spend on souvenirs? Would they prefer one “big” souvenir or several smaller things? How can they save for souvenirs? Some families put loose change in a big jar for months, and then divide up the amount. (Kids can do extra chores to earn souvenir money or ask grandparents for money for their birthday to go into their souvenir fund.)

Discuss as a family how much time you want to spend shopping. Perhaps the family can split up (as mine does) allowing the dedicated shoppers to browse as long as they like while the others opt for another activity, so that no one is whining or waiting impatiently.

Even kids suggest it’s smart to be strategic in making souvenir choices, those I’ve interviewed for my Kid’s Guide books have said:

— Choose something you can only get where you are visiting, or something that will remind you of your experience — a T-shirt from a Broadway play, a Cubs hat from the baseball game you saw in Chicago or a miniature cable car in San Francisco.

— Choose something you will use every day, like a key chain with a lobster on it from Maine, or one with a surfboard from Southern California.

— Browse craft markets where you can meet local artisans.

— Start a collection — national park patches, pins from different cities or theme park attractions; magnets.

— Buy a picture frame emblematic of where you are and print out one of your favorite selfies when you get home.

— Ask your parents or grandparents to allow you to choose a souvenir Christmas tree ornament — the funnier the better. We have bears on skis from Colorado, pirates and glittery fish from the Caribbean, miniature canoes from Minnesota and Eiffel Towers from France, among others.

— If you aren’t flying, bring home something you’ve enjoyed eating on vacation — blueberry jam from Maine, salsa from the Southwest or pralines from New Orleans. Bring enough to share with your friends!

Don’t forget a present for your pet. Happy shopping!

© 2018 EILEEN OGINTZ
DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Launch your spring adventures with Appalachian Mountain Club

Thu, 04/26/2018 - 03:30

Want to try something fun with the family this spring break? Appalachian Mountain Club helps you gain that outside perspective with many activities to offer something to everyone. You can access some of the best hiking, paddling, biking, camping, skiing, and snowshoeing in the Northeast. After a day of fresh mountain air, step into a warm atmosphere with the best comforts of home – including a private lodge room/private bath or a private bunk room/shared bath. Hearty 4-course, family-style dinners and breakfast buffets come with your stay, as do vegetarian and kid-friendly options. For more information, make sure to visit their website.