Bring Your Kids​ to the College Football Hall of Fame!

When preparing to visit the Chick-Fil-A College Football Hall of Fame recently, I’ll be honest. As a mother of two girls and a moderate sports fan, I was not expecting much.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about what my experience would be like and I highly recommend anyone with preschoolers, or kids of any age for that matter, visit if you are in the Atlanta area.

The Museum itself sits right downtown off Centennial Park, next to all the well-known spots like the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coke. You can’t miss the entrance because it’s in the shape of a giant football and has a huge LED screen. The location is beautiful for a picnic after your time spent inside. There also are several playgrounds nearby for the kids to run off some energy before or after your visit. I recommend visiting on a day with good weather so you can take advantage of the parks and outside areas. Not to mention there are great views of the City of Atlanta, so it’s a great spot for photos!

Here is why the College Football Hall of Fame is GREAT for children (and adults) of all ages!

The Wall of Helmets: When you walk into the Museum there is a three-story wall of college football helmets! When you buy your ticket, they give each visitor a tag that is registered at the entrance. When you register your tag, you select your favorite college. As you do so, the helmet representing your college will light up on the wall. It is super cool and fun for the kiddos to find the helmet. Just the sheer visual of the giant wall of helmets is exciting and entertaining.

Indoor practice field: On the first floor of the museum, they have a fun interactive practice field set up. They also stream live games in there and have tailgates and a bar set up for the adults. You can practice your field goal kicks or show off your best touchdown dance. There is something for everybody in this space.

Interactive EVERYTHING: The exhibits are upstairs and when I say interactive, I mean interactive and personalized. Your team, the one you selected when you registered your bag, is connected to your bag so as you experience the museum, they pull the stats and info from your school throughout the experience. You can even sing your fight song and have it recorded and connected to your account so when you get home you can look back at all the fun stuff you did that day. Sensory Friendly.

Lots of things to see: The exhibits themselves are very visual and fun for kids to view. So, younger kids can still enjoy them even if they can’t read the information provided. Caroline thought the old-school tailgate set up was super cool!

Time spent: You can spend the day or just a few hours here and you will get something out of it! With younger kids you might only need 2-3 hours to get your money’s worth, but if you have a group of older kids or adults you could literally spend the entire day experiencing all the fun displays, and participating in the interactive things they have throughout the museum. We spent a few hours in the museum and afterward took a walk in the park to the playground.

Fun Photo Ops: Because it is so interactive it is also a super fun place to take photos of your kiddos! So, bring a camera (or your cell phone) and be ready to snap some cute pics of your “littles.”

The College Football Hall of Fame is a spot you want to visit if you are looking for things to do in Atlanta with kids. So add it to your list of things to do the next time you are planning a day downtown! We can’t wait to go back and bring Daddy; he will LOVE this place.

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12 Atlanta Events to Kick off the 2018 Holiday Season!

Looking for family-friendly events around the Atlanta area to kick off your holiday season? Here is a list of twelve events and holiday tree lightings going on around town that are guaranteed to put you in a holly jolly mood.

1. Light the Station 2018 — Atlantic Station– Nov. 17, 1- 8 p.m.; lighting at 7:45 p.m.

Don’t miss the season’s biggest event as we officially kick off the holidays with Light the Station!  This year’s event will be held in a new location on WINTER WONDER LANE – just off Market Street and adjacent to Dillard’s. Enjoy the Atlanta Christkindl Market also opening on Nov. 17!

For more info: Light the Station

2. The Lighting of Avalon —Nov. 18, from 1-8 p.m. Tree Lighting at 7 p.m.

A celebration for the season you won’t want to miss! Get in the holiday spirit with festive music and free activities for the whole family. From the annual opening of Avalon on Ice to the magnificent tree lighting, and an appearance from Jolly Old Saint Nick himself, there’s something exciting for all to enjoy.

For more info: Lighting of Avalon

3. Avalon On Ice —Nov. 18– Dec. 21

‘Tis the season to lace up your skates and glide into the holiday spirit at Avalon on Ice.  The Rockefeller-inspired ice skating rink is open Nov. 18, 2018 through Jan. 21, 2019.

For more info:Avlon On Ice

4. Marietta Square Christmas Tree Lighting —Nov. 30, 4-8 p.m.; Tree Lighting at 6 p.m.

Join Santa and Mrs. Claus for the kick-off to the holiday season in charming Marietta Square. Festivities start at 4:00 pm in Glover Park in Historic Marietta Square. Local choruses will perform Christmas carols on the main stage. Santa will light the giant Christmas tree at 6 pm.

For more info: Marietta Square Tree Lighting 

5. Children’s Christmas Parade —Dec. 1, Peachtree & 11th Street at 10:30 a.m.

The Children’s Christmas Parade will step off at Peachtree Street and 16th Street and end at Peachtree Street and 5th Street. Watch as Midtown Atlanta is transformed into Santa Claus Lane with the sights and sounds of the season. Your kids will love this Atlanta tradition and enjoy the large floats and performances in the parade. It is the largest of its kind in the Southeast! Can’t make it to Peachtree Street? You can tune in to WSB-TV Channel 2 to view the Children’s Christmas Parade live.

For more info: Atlanta Children’s Christmas Parade

6. Season of Celebration – Light the Night City of Alpharetta —Dec. 1, 4-8 p.m.

Enjoy the charm of the holiday season at the lighting of the Christmas tree and other holiday festivities in Alpharetta.

For more info: Season of Celebration 

7. Rudolph and the Center for Puppetry Arts —Nov. 15 through Dec. 30.

Enjoy a classic story told a classic way at the Center for Puppetry Arts.  Your ticket will include the performance of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer™, a Create-A-Puppet Workshop™ your children can build and perform with their very own King Moonracer™ Rod Puppet, and admission to the Worlds of Puppetry Museum.

For more info: Putter Show Rudolf

8. Candlelight Nights at the Atlanta History Center —Dec. 15 and Dec. 22, from 5:30-8 p.m.

Santa Claus will welcome kids, and families can enjoy the Holiday Market filled with local crafts and artists’ creations. Visit each of the three historic houses to experience how Southerners celebrated Christmas during the Civil War era (Smith Family Farm), the 1930’s (Swan House) and pioneer days (Wood Family Cabin). Timeless holiday music will resonate, and interpreters will bring characters from the pages of history to life at these historic abodes, each handsomely dressed in period holiday decorations and featuring activities of the season.

For more info: Candlelight Nights

9. Winter Wonderland at the Fernbank —Nov. 16 through Jan. 6

Visit the Fernbank Museum and enjoy holiday décor, sparkling trees showcasing celebrations around the world in the enchanting Winter Wonderland exhibition. Their displays recognize the diversity of celebrations, holidays, traditions and events from around the world. So, come to enjoy the Museum, the decorations, and the holiday cheer!

For more info: Winter Wonderland 

10. Garden Lights and Holiday Nights at the Atlanta Botanical Garden —Nov. 17- Jan. 6

Each year the Garden adds something new to its botanical-inspired light display. The wonderland goes throughout the 20-acre Midtown attraction. Enjoy the always beautiful Atlanta Botanical Garden adorned in holiday cheer.

For more info: Atlanta Botanical

11. Christmas at Callanwolde —Nov. 23 to Dec. 9. Daily from 12-8 p.m. (Closed Nov. 29 for the Callanwolde Holiday Gala.)

Christmas at Callanwolde has been an Atlanta holiday tradition for 40 years, and begins with the Christmas at Callanwolde Designer Show House, a 27,000-square-foot historic mansion decorated by Atlanta’s top interior and floral designers. Visitors of all ages can enjoy a self-guided tour of the mansion and enjoy elaborately decorated holiday displays, an artists’ market, and other holiday themed activities for the entire family. See the website for daily activities and events and bring a new toy for donation to Toys for Tots.

For more info: Callanwolde

12. Holiday Lights of Hope 2018 – Woodstock —Dec. 7-23, 6-9 p.m.

Family light show that befits the Anna Crawford Children’s Center. The event includes an awesome walk-through light display featuring more than TWO MILLION LIGHTS, along with entertainment for families with kids of all ages. I’ve also heard the Santa there is great for pictures!

For more info: Holiday Lights

There are so many great events going on in the Atlanta area for the 2018 Christmas Holiday season! Make sure to check back for more Atlanta family friend holiday events on the blog!

HolidaySeasonATL

Why Tampa Should be Your Next Family Vacation destination

Why the Tampa Bay Area Should be your Next Florida Family Vacation Destination

When visiting Florida, most people think of Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Naples, and Miami first. Orlando is known for its theme parks and the others are known for their beautiful beaches. However, when planning a family vacation there is one place in Florida that has something for everyone and that’s Tampa. There is literally something for everybody whether it is the beach, theme parks, waterparks, shopping, museums — the list goes on.

The Tampa Bay Area is my favorite part of Florida by far and here is why.

The Beaches: Tampa is near some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida like Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Indian Rocks, Honeymoon Island … the list goes on! You can pick the type of beach experience you want and there is a beach nearby to fit those standards.EllaBeachTent

Pirates: Yes, I said Pirates! Tampa has a deep-rooted tradition of celebrating the city’s mythic pirate invasion at the Gasparilla Pirate Fest. The great thing about Gasparilla is there is an entire separate weekend parade and celebration just for children and families. The next one will be on January 19, 2019. The adult celebration is on January 26, and if you can get away from the kids and have an “adults only” get away, the family-friendly weekend is the perfect opportunity! After all, what kid (or adult) doesn’t enjoy beautiful bay views, nice weather and dressing up like a pirate for the day?

Gasparilla

More info: Gasparilla 2018

Glazer Children’s Museum: This recently renovated children’s museum is a must see. It sits downtown on the beautiful Hillsborough River next to the Tampa Museum of Art. This interactive children’s museum is one of the most well-done museums of its kind. There is literally something for all ages. My four-year-old daughter could play in the same spot that her baby sister could. While you’re down there, check out the Art Museum, the beautiful Tampa University of Tampa campus, and the River Walk that features parks and restaurants along the river.

More info: Glazer Museum

The Florida Aquarium: Located in the beautiful Channel District, the Florida Aquarium is worth a stop when visiting Tampa. The venue is beautiful, fun and engaging for all ages. They even have an outdoor restaurant with a view of the channel and an outdoor water splash pad for kids. So if you go, plan to stay all day and enjoy the indoor exhibits and shows, then relax and watch your kids play as you enjoy a cold beverage with a view.

Pro Tip: Since they have a splash pad and water play area make sure to bring swimsuits or a change of clothes for your kiddos.

More info: Florida Aquarium

Sparkman Wharf: Formerly know as Channelside is located on the Ybor and Garrison channels is Channelside (or Channel District), a vibrant and fun place to spend the afternoon. You can watch huge cruise ships set sail and enjoy some great food and shopping. They even have a bowling alley and IMAX theater if you are looking for more fun activities for the family. You can ride a water bike or rent a regular bike, take a Segway city tour or one of the many local boat rides, and more. Just steps away from the Florida Aquarium and Tampa Bay History Center, Sparkman Wharf has it all.

More info: Sparkman Wharf

Busch Gardens: You don’t need to fight the crowds in Orlando to experience a Florida theme park. Tampa is home to Busch Gardens and Adventure Island (Waterpark) and on my recent visit, I learned they have fun for all ages! The great thing about Busch Gardens is they not only have the thrilling roller coasters, but they have interactive and educational animal exhibits. At one point in our visit, there was a tiger pacing over our heads, seriously! The other great part is in the Florida heat you need time to cool off and unlike Disney, Busch Gardens provides several opportunities to cool off in fun splash pads designed for adults and children.

Read more: I Was So Wrong About Bush Gardens!

More info: Busch Gardens Tampa

ZooTampa at Lowry Park: The zoo in Tampa is one of the best I have ever visited! We love it so much we got an annual pass and we live in Atlanta, Ga.  ZooTampa at Lowry Park has something for everybody. They even have a new water log ride to help cool you and your family off on a hot day, and several splash areas for the kiddos. Read more about our experience at Zoo Tampa here: Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park

More info: Zoo Tampa

The Dali Museum: If you are in the Tampa Bay Area, taking a drive over to St. Petersburg is a must. Whether you stay there a night or two or drive over or the day you need to check out the Dali Museum. It is a fun experience and who doesn’t love looking at the wonderful artwork of Salvador Dali? While you are there don’t forget to take a selfie and family photo with the big Dali mustache!

More info: The Dali

Ybor City: This historic neighborhood in Tampa, founded in 1880 by Cuban immigrant Jose Marti, once was home to many cigar manufacturers. Now Ybor is home to shops, restaurants, and other local business but is worth the visit. Make sure you plan your time there at a mealtime so you can enjoy the wonderful food available. Whether it is brunch at Hamburger Mary’s or dinner at The Columbian you will love all the charm and history Ybor has to offer. But you can still get a traditional hand-rolled cigar at Tabanero Cigar Factory on 7th Avenue.

More info: Ybor City

Ballast Point Park: This hidden gem sits where Bayshore Boulevard becomes Interbay Boulevard in South Tampa. It borders Hillsborough Bay and you can enjoy the water views on the fishing pier and nature walk during your visit. They have a great playground and splash pad. The entryway is lined with old oak trees and across from the entrance to the park is Perennial Farm Stables, on the Tampa Yacht Club & Country Club property and open to the public.

Balacepart

More info: Ballast Point

Great Shopping: Tampa is home to The International Plaza, Hyde Park and the New Prime Outlets, Wiregrass, Westshore Plaza and more. So, if you are looking to kill some time shopping on your trip they have what you are looking for whether that’s upscale, indoors, outdoor or boutique. Not only is the shopping great but there are also tons of amazing restaurants for the foodie in your family to enjoy.

Less Crowded: Overall the Tampa Bay Area is far less crowded than other tourist spots in Florida, making it more relaxing and enjoyable for everyone in the family.

There is so much entertainment diversity for all ages in Tampa and literally, this list could go on and on. So, if you are looking for a new Florida spot or just something different than your typical family beach vacation make sure to add Tampa to your 2018-2019 family travel plans.

Cabbage Patch Babyland General Hospital: Making Magical Memories

Nostalgic best describes how our recent visit to the Cabbage Patch Babyland General Hospital was for me personally. As a kid, my family visited the original location and I still remember watching a Cabbage Patch baby being born out of the magical cabbage tree! I was a tad confused then, but it was a magical and exciting place to be!

And it STILL is a magical place to be. The new location opened in 2007 and sits on a beautiful lot with mountain views. Outside, the property looks like an old southern mansion and has huge white cabbage patch statues throughout the grounds. When you walk in they have you sign in as a visitor just like you would visiting a baby in the hospital. In the main lobby, they take you through the history of the Cabbage patch doll and even have a giant cabbage you can sit in to take your picture.

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You walk down a hall with the nurseries and rooms set up like hospital rooms into a large room that has the magical cabbage tree inside. My four-year-old daughter LOVED it! She was so entranced by the cabbage baby being born and all the fun things inside to see. She spent her time going around looking at all the dolls they have set out around the store.To me, it was just a very nice and BIG doll store, but to her, it was a magical place, and that’s all that matters.

If you are driving into the mountains or visiting Helen, GA, AND you have girls, visiting Babyland General Hospital is worth it. We somehow managed to visit without buying a single thing – another bit of magic in and of itself! However, they have several different price ranges of dolls and some other small toys you can purchase if you’re not looking to spend $80- $250 on a Cabbage Patch one-of-a-kid doll.

Some tips if you are planning to stop in:

  • Around the holidays, they decorate the building making it an even more magical and exciting experience for the kids.
  • Make sure to bring your camera for the many photo ops they have throughout the experience.
  • Plan on spending at least an hour there so you can look around snap photos and “witness” a “baby” being born.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practical Traveling Family

When first deciding I was ready to have a child, it was a big deal. I was a world traveler and not the backpacking Euro type. I was the exploring journalist who went to South Sudan and picked Istanbul as my five-year wedding anniversary trip during their riots type of traveler. To me, traveling was all about the rush of immersing yourself in an unfamiliar, unpredictable culture while capturing that experience with my camera.

To be honest, it was this aspect of my life I was not ready to give up. When I WAS ready, it was with hesitation and a lot of promises to myself and to my husband that we wouldn’t give up our adventuring.

Of course, the reality of having children, paying bills, and a “normal” life set in a few years later and we travel to exotic places less, but we have yet to stop exploring and adventuring. We just do it now with our children by our side.

I use this blog as a resource for families like us; ones who are looking to experience things, to travel, but maybe not sell everything and live nomadically.

We are a practical traveling family.

I Was So Wrong About Bush Gardens!

I want to start this post off by saying we basically spent the last year of our lives at Disney World as Annual Pass Holders (Our Year of Disney) and are always encouraging parents to take the plunge and take their toddlers to Disney (Stop Making Excuses – Take Your Toddler to Disney). However, when it came to Busch Garden’s I will be the first to say it was not on the top of my list.

When thinking about Busch Gardens, the first things that come to mind are all those huge (awesome) roller coasters. Those are the last things I want to be doing with a four-year-old and one-year-old in tow. I also think about the animals but the sheer size of the park is less motivating than a visit to ZooTampa.

This September I decided to test my theory that Busch Gardens was more for big kids and adults and I brought the girls for the first time. To my surprise I was very wrong and here’s why:

1. Sesame Street Safari of Fun truly is fun for any preschool-aged kiddos and their younger siblings. Our four-year-old had a blast on all the rides in this part of the park. They also put on an adorable interactive song and dance show with your child’s favorite Sesame Street characters. They had rides appropriate for all thrill levels including a roller coaster. Caroline tried out a roller coaster for the first time and loved it but despite all the fun she had, she was reluctant to get on again. While they are riding, and playing they can interact with their favorite Sesame Street Friends as the characters walk through the area greeting everyone.

 

 

 

 

2. Tree Top Trails is another great spot for the kids to climb and play. There are two splash areas — one for bigger kids and one for the itty bitties. The treetop play area is in the shade, making it a great spot to cool off on those hot Florida summer days.

 

 

 

 

3. Splash pads in every corner of the park! Unlike Disney, Busch Gardens Tampa did a great job at adding water features to help patrons stay cool in the Florida heat. The park is huge, so there is a lot of walking around and in Florida, about 11 months of the year are — hot, hot, HOT!

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4. They have designated Kids’ weekends depending on the season where there are more fun interactive activities for young children.

5. The animal hospital is a great way for young children to learn about caring for animals up close but also how NOT to treat wild animals. There are several close encounter options throughout the day (in the air conditioning, I might add) that allows kids to see animals up close and talk with the experts. This was such a fun experience for Caroline. She got to learn about surgery on large animals and see a Screech Owl close up.

 

A few things to consider when taking small children:

Age Limit, things like the feeding the kangaroos and the safari have an age limit so children under 5 years old, for safety reasons, cannot participate. However, outside of the Kangaroo feeding area the woman behind the counter gave us food to feed the ducks and that was more than enough of a distraction for my girls. My oldest daughter (4) was bummed but kept telling everyone how she was going to come back when she is five.

Another thing to consider is the cost: the ticket prices after taxes even for a kid under 5 are more than $100 — yikes! So even though you are not at Disney, you are still not saving much on the ticket. Food and beverages are also on the high end. One thing about Disney is the ticket price is high but the food in the park is always surprisingly affordable, at Busch Gardens this is not the case.

Overall we would recommend visiting Busch Gardens with preschool-aged kids! Our baby tagged along and even she loved her visit. Her favorite thing was the Skyride — she loved having the wind in her hair and yelling at everything below us.

 

Visit the website for more information on all the Kid Friendly aspects at this park: Bush Gardens Tampa

BuschGardens

Oktoberfest with Kids! Helen, Ga. 2018

Last weekend my family and I visited a small Blue Ridge Mountain town in the Northwest area of Georgia originally developed to model a Bavarian Alpine village — Helen, GA­. I know what you’re thinking, “What?” Yes, an Alpine village in North Georgia. So, in true fashion every October the town of Helen celebrates Oktoberfest.

This year was Helen’s 48thAnnual Oktoberfest and for those of you unfamiliar with this celebration, here is a brief description of the festivities:

“German-style bands from around the country and around the world play on the stage for your listening and viewing pleasure. See the Alphorns blown, the Cowbells rung and the Accordion squeezed. Grab your partner and take a spin on the dance floor to the timeless tunes of the Polka. The Festhalle is set up with rows of long tables so you can eat and drink while watching the show.”

At first thought, kid-friendly was the last thing that came to mind when envisioning Helen’s Oktoberfest. However, after speaking with a seasoned local we figured we would give it a try.

The Chamber sets up the festivities in their Festhalle with kid-friendly amenities, such as their own dance floor. Around town, all the bars and restaurants are celebrating too, and since the town is already designed to look and feel like you are in Bavaria, the beer tents and extra outdoor seating puts the icing on the cake.

On our first day we walked the charming village and ate an early dinner at the Heidelburg, a German restaurant nestled in a multi-level building overlooking an Oktoberfest beer garden and the charming shopping area of Helen. We were lucky to get a spot on their balcony. This enabled us to take in the sights and sounds of the festivities while enjoying a beer and some German food with the kids in tow.

Our oldest daughter (four) enjoyed watching the festivities and dancing next to our table. We ordered German pancakes and the Heidelburg’s sausage sampler to share. The food was good and seemed authentic. German food tends to be heavy and less flavorful than I’m use to, so if you get bad German food it is REALLY bad. On our last night we ate at the Bavarian Inn and discovered just how bad German food can get! If you are visiting Helen make sure to eat at the Heidelburg at least once and try to get there for early dinner so you can grab a balcony table.

Another spot worth noting is the Alpine Pretzel Haus on the other side of the street but still on the main strip of Helen. The pretzels come out piping hot and the Beer cheese is some of the best I’ve ever had. My advice would be to splurge and spend the extra $1 for one more cheese — you will thank me later.

Our visit showed us Oktoberfest can be fun with young children. Helen offers plenty to do with kids, while still coming away with an authentic Oktoberfest feeling.

Aside from all the Oktoberfest, we were also able to get some hiking in at Dunes Creek and it was absolutely beautiful. We wore our Osprey carrying pack to tote our one-year-old, but our four-year-old daughter lasted the entire hike on her own! The views were stunning and the weather was perfect. We can’t wait to go back and explore more trails as a family in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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Fall in Georgia is a little later than up north but the leaves started to change in Helen during our visit. If fall leaves are on your must-have list, make sure to wait until the last week of the Fest to visit. We stayed at the Loreley Resort, a charming condo style resort right on the river and within walking distance to downtown Helen.

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The property was beautiful and the accommodations fit right in with the Bavarian theme, with enough cabin feel to make it a perfect fit for your family’s getaway to Helen.

We loved our stay in Helen and cannot wait to return to experience the Christmass holiday festivities this year!