Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Our summer travel adventures

I've been quiet on the blog this summer :) They are now 9, 7, 6 & 5 which is still a very full time job! 
Summer. It's an awesome thing. It's a frightening thing. My kids don't do great with extended periods of time without a consistent routine. So summer can be a challenge at times. This summer I started a new! Although most of the time I lament that our extended families all live far away, the one advantage is that travel to see them gives us some new adventures + a free place to stay! So this summer's agenda became visits to family in 4 states:

North Carolina
New York

The first two states were individual trips, the second two states were put together in a 55 hour road trip! Our saving grace? Kid's podcasts! (More on that later.)

First stop was The Outer Banks in North Carolina. 9 cousins + surf + sand = win win!

Our next trip was to NYC. We had a very special reason for our trip there! As you can see, two of our children joined our family through adoption. But we have worked hard to maintain personal connection with their first family and so it was a joy to travel there and spend some time with some of them, including their sister.

Governor's Island was an awesome find! It's a $3 ferry ride (free for kids) to a car-free island with playgrounds, slides, a 30-park hammock, food vendors + a great view of the Statue of Liberty.

Maintaining connection with their first family is a whole blog in itself, but it is a beautiful gift to see these siblings spend time together!

Next it was off to Minnesota! I grew up in Minneapolis and my siblings all still live there. My kids had a great time with all their aunts & uncles. Also, travel tip....scooters are great! They fold compactly, but are great for saving little legs on treks. 

One more 15 hour car ride and we arrived in Denver, where my parents now live. The beauty of the mountains is so spectacular!

We did tons of biking and hiking in was the best!

My husband was able to fly out and join us in Denver, just in time for the 25 hour ride home. :) Which we stretched out into a 5 day drive to make it less difficult.

Riding the street car in Kansas City, you never know what creatures you'll run into!

Our next stop was St. Louis which had lots of fun options. I think if we do this drive again, we would definitely stay longer in this city. The City Museum was highly recommended!

Our final destination on the way home was the Ark Encounter. It's a life-sized ark according to the Biblical record and wow, it was big! They also have a small zoo outside, restaurants, zip line tour + more. Tickets are a lot for adults ($48!), kids are more reasonable at $15. But overall, it was an interesting experience!

 So, a 55 hour car does everyone keep their sanity? 😉 That is the question! We definitely had our moments of insanity. The biggest difference in our travels now is simply that our kids are getting easier in travel as they get older.
We try not to rely on screen time, but we did get a kindle for each of our kids in traveling. The thing I love about kindles is that you can do a variety of activities on them - movies, music, books & podcasts. So we would rotate activities on them. Our kids really fell in love with podcast listening this summer - and actually learned some cool stuff! Their favorite podcasts are:

Brains On
Wow in the World
Smash Boom Best 
Story Pirates
Short & Curly
Fierce Girls
Stories Podcast
Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian
This Podcast Has Fleas
Highlights Hangouts 
Eleanor Amplified 

Travel is one of my favorite things to do with kids. I know that my travels throughout high school and college really helped expand my world view and I want my kids to experience the same. We don't have unlimited funds and often look for free things to do in the places we visit. We try to pack a lot of our food or stop at grocery stores. We're definitely always looking for ways to cut costs and save money. The more we are able to do this, the more places we'll be able to travel. Everyone had their own rolling suitcase which they were able to manage on their own. The nice thing about summer travel is that summer clothes don't take up as much space as bulky winter items!

So, till next summer, when I hope we'll be able to experience more travel adventures!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Kennywood Adventures + Discount

We've hit a big milestone in our family.....that's right, our kids are out growing Kiddieland! 😅 I love that my kids are getting older and bigger and ready for new adventures. So this year, Kennywood was a different experience as we didn't even enter the kids area. It's a little bit tricky, because they're not all tall enough or ready for some of the big rides, but we found a balance with the "medium-sized" ones. :) 

As my kids get older and into faster rides, I'm also getting older and into much slower rides. 😰 This was my one and only time on this one. 😂

 Um, no thank you. But this ride does provide the best photos!!

 My kids loved, loved this ride!!

This is a classic!

The brand new Thomas the Train exhibit wasn't open for us, but I'm hearing it's going to be great! (Opening at the end of July.) We've got a discount on tickets for anyone that is looking for a family fun day this summer. Go here to purchase!

My family received tickets in exchange for a review. All opinions remain my own as I don't promote venues that my family doesn't love!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Countdown to Summer Fun!

If you have school-age kids, no doubt you have been counting down the days till summer break! In our household, we're down to single digits which is both exciting and terrifying. :) It will be awesome to have a break from the early morning routine of school, but at the same many hours to fill! 😌 My kids love school and so I am probably more excited than they are at the break from school routine for a few months. But with four kids ages 5-9, I also know it's important to keep routine to our summer as well.  Summer is a great time to schedule less, hang out more and enjoy fun activities together. I am excited to use as a resource for our family this summer. We chose not to do many summer camps and will be traveling a bit throughout the summer, so this website is going to be the perfect resource for me to find daily activities on our free days.

We say a big thank you to Mayor William Peduto, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, the United Way’ of Allegheny County's Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time (APOST) and all the various child-serving organizations who are teaming up for Summer18 Dream! Explore! Do! The youth-centered campaign will provide thousands of local children, grades K-12, with fun, educational learning activities. 

I love that summer is a time to experience new activities, check out new (or new to us) venues, and most of all, have all the art projects done outside my home! (#amiright? 😅)

What is on your summer bucket list? Ours includes:

{Don't forget that kids under 15 can swim for free at Pittsburgh city pools when you register for a Recreation Center Membership pass.}

So here is to many happy summer memories! I hope you and your family have a great summer and find fun, unique and creative ways to enjoy our great city! Don't forget to stay updated with the PghSummer18 calendar for great ways to engage with your kids.

This post sponsored by the Summer 18 campaign. All opinions remain my own as I do not endorse venues that my family does not love!


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

EQT Children's Theater Festival Ticket Giveaway

Happy May! We are so excited it's May because we *think* it has to warm up eventually. 😃 Besides the prospect of sunshine, my second favorite reason for excitement in May is the EQT Children's Theater Festival. We have loved going to this Festival each year as a family. There are always unique shows that come from around the world and we love seeing our kids enjoy these interesting options. This year there are 6 sensational performances with a Sensory-Friendly performance of The Rainbow Fish as well. 

  • Who and What: The Cultural Trust presents the 32nd annual EQT Children's Theater Festival which continues to bring the best international theater for children of all ages to Pittsburgh.
  • When: May 17-20, 2018 | Thursday, 10am-2pm, Friday- Sunday 10am-5pm
  • Where: Downtown Pittsburgh's Cultural District

Here is a list of some of the great shows in this year's line up. Tickets are only $9 and kids 2 and under are free (a lap pass is still required). 

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Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience

Terrance Simien

In Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience, audiences will take a multicultural tour of the world and will feel the spirit and joy of Creole country.
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Panda's Home

Compagnia TPO

In this imaginary and interactive journey, audience members will explore China’s stories, tradition, and culture, following the footprints left by a panda. They’ll encounter bamboo forests, fireworks, kites, and more.
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The Rainbow Fish

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia

The Rainbow Fish will enchant even the youngest child with his silver scales and heart of gold in this award-winning book about the beautiful fish who learned to share his most prized possession.

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Barrowland Ballet

This warm-hearted performance uses live music, clapping rhythms, and comedy to engage the youngest audience members in an imaginative and adventurous exploration with Poggle, a friendly woodland creature.

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The Young King


The language of Oscar Wilde joins internationally-acclaimed theatre company Slingsby as we journey to faraway lands in this interactive experience.

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Born In A Taxi

From Born in a Taxi in Australia comes a dazzle of rare chatty zebras sure to delight and amuse children and families of all ages!

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Sunjata Kamalenya

Experiential Theater Company

Sunjata Kamalenya is a completely interactive show about a magical world filled with sorcery and enchantment, celebrating the hero of West African legend, Sunjata Keita.

Besides the shows, there will be a ton of FREE activities for kids to enjoy! Imagination Playground, Free Mini Music Lessons, Play Boxes, Sticker Hut, Improv Workshops, Musical Entertainment, Eyeball Art, Hands-On History, Photo Booth Fun, Frog Stop Scavenger Hunt + so much more! 

Be sure the check the Children's Theater Festival website for all the info regarding Parking, Transportation, Food Options, Festival Guides, Restrooms, FAQ's + more. 

We are excited to giveaway a family 4-pack of tickets to one show to one lucky family! 
(The vouchers are not redeemable for The Rainbow Fish or The Young King.)

This post sponsored by The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. All opinions remain my own and I don't endorse venues that my family doesn't love!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Vacation Giveaway with Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest

My family had the chance to stay at Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest two years ago and my kids have been talking ever since about the fun memories we created! So it was with GREAT excitement that I told them we had been invited back to stay at their fantastic campground. They were so excited and talked about it nonstop....I actually began to fear that it wasn't going to live up to their expectations! 😆

But after our weekend away, I shouldn't have worried at all, they had just as great a time as they had anticipated! Even though it ended up being so COLD (winter, winter, go AWAY!), we loved having a cozy cabin for our home base. I'm a huge proponent of glamping, because I love the experience of being at a campground, but I also love having a bed, bathroom, and indoor kitchen. 😊 So cabins are a win-win for our family! I also love that it's only an hour away from Pittsburgh which means that you feel like you're far away, but don't have to spend much travel time. 👍

Kozy Rest is such an ideal vacation spot for families! They have a ton of free activities that are included in your stay such as bikes, mini golf, jump pillow, playground, pool (in season), fire truck rides + more. Each day also has a changing schedule of activities that might include a scavenger hunt, painting, crafts, dancing with the Bears, movie nights + much more!

Each weekend holds a different theme and activities will be based on that theme. Your kids will not be bored! We had a superheroes and fairy tale weekend. 👸 Go here to check out themes throughout the summer. 

Hands down my kid's favorite activity? The bikes! These are borrowed at 1/2 hour increments and can accommodate up to 4 people. The campground is safe and secure with minimal traffic, so the bikes take over the roads on Saturdays! And hey, if you want to get in a workout during the weekend, these are perfect! :) 

Last, but not least, the cabins are great! Rooms have bunk beds for those with multiple kids, they have a kitchen, bathroom and sitting/eating space. You are responsible for clean up at the end, so always be sure you left it in the same great shape it was at the beginning! You provide your own food, bedding, towels and toiletries. Thankfully, there is also a great camp store that has anything you may have forgotten (it was coffee for me!) and has some yummy treats as well.  

Also perfect for games when those rains come!


I'm so thrilled that they are extending a vacation giveaway to one of my followers as well!

We are offering a 2-night stay (up to 6 people) for a Sunday-Thursday, April 15 - October 31, 2018. Subject to availability and excluding holidays. 

Cabins are filling fast for the summer, so if you're interested in a stay over the next few months, book it as soon as possible! 

Thank you, Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest for the opportunity for a great weekend with my family and allowing us to share this great resource with others in our region! This post sponsored by Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest. All opinions remain my own as I don't endorse venues that my family does not love!