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Zumanjaro Drop of Doom Opens at Six Flags Great Adventure

I am super disappointed to miss the press preview of Zumanjaro Drop of Doom tomorrow at Six Flags Great Adventure. It opens to the public on Friday, and to season pass holders on Thursday. My kids are not going to forgive me for missing this one.

This is the world’s tallest and fastest drop ride, at 415 feet and 90 miles per hour. It’s 41.5 stories high, and is nestled into the middle of Kingda Ka (the world’s tallest and fastest roller coaster). Eight riders go up for 30 seconds on three gondolas. The ride down is 10 seconds, and the gondolas descend together as well. In case your little ones are wondering if they can go, the minimum height requirement is 48 inches. And no, you can’t wear your mountable GoPro camera on it.

Zumanjaro

Zumanjaro Drop of Doom at Great Adventure is the world’s tallest and fastest drop ride.

Continue reading Zumanjaro Drop of Doom Opens at Six Flags Great Adventure

Weekend in Philly

My family went to Philadelphia over our fall break (i.e. NJ Teachers Convention break) last November. It was a whirlwind of sightseeing and an awesome trip (I wrote a ton of posts on what to see in Philadelphia with kids here). But when a friend was organizing a girls’ weekend in May, I jumped at the chance. Though we had one overlap in activity (the Barnes Foundation), the entire weekend was a different experience than traveling there with kids, and even my visit to the Barnes was completely different.

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My girls’ weekend group, after the evening tour at the Barnes Foundation followed by free cocktails

Coming from the Northern NJ area, people here don’t think about spending the weekend in Philadelphia, given that the much larger New York City is so close. But Philly is close too – and there is so much to do and see there that you can’t cover it all in a weekend – or in a weekend plus the November break. Here’s how we spent our almost-48 hours. Continue reading Weekend in Philly

Review: Blue Man Group with Kids – Win Tickets

It’s been about 15 years since I saw the Blue Man Group, at a theater in Chicago. I remember the drums and I remember the toilet paper. And I remember changing into my skirt in the front seat of the car ride from Wisconsin to Chicago. And I recalled that the Blue Men’s faces and hands were painted blue. That may have been true. Or perhaps they had some kind of rubbery skin covering like they do now.

—Want to win tickets? Details at the bottom.—-

Well, now I have kids. And Blue Man Group has been performing for 23 years at the same Astor Place Theater in New York City, plus a year at another NYC location, and a year performing as a street act. They  have five permanent shows across the country (Chicago, Miami, Las Vegas, Orlando, Boston), plus a touring group, plus a Norwegan ship show.

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I know that not everyone who is blue looks the same, but I could not figure out how they could tell each other apart. They’re around the same size, all wearing the same thing, all covered in their blue skin. And they don’t talk. Or smile. Or laugh. Continue reading Review: Blue Man Group with Kids – Win Tickets

Review: Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in New Jersey

We chose the perfect day to go to Hurricane Harbor (albeit, a weekday might have been even better). It was warm, in the mid-80s, but not too hot. We hit no traffic on the way there (going home was a different story). We didn’t get sunburned! I didn’t leave with a headache from motion sickness. All in all, a great day at Hurricane Harbor, our first time at this water park.

The entry bridge to Hurricane Harbor. Photo courtesy of Six Flags Hurricane Harbor.

The entry bridge to Hurricane Harbor. Photo courtesy of Six Flags Hurricane Harbor.

If it weren’t for my husband’s contact lens emergency, we might have been shaved 15 minutes off our wait in the first line. Lesson learned: if you wear contact lenses to the park, bring a spare set AND a bottle of saline solution, neither of which my husband did. Continue reading Review: Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in New Jersey

Avoid the Nightmare Rental – Tips to Choosing a Vacation by Owner Property

Recently I spent a girls’ weekend in Philadelphia with other travel writers. With six in our group, we wanted a place we could hang out, and a good location. It didn’t have to be luxurious, but it should be nice. Instead of going the hotel route, we went the rental by owner route. We hated our rental.

How can you avoid the mistakes we made when renting from an owner? Here’s how, using an in-depth review of the Perle Mesta Inn B&B in Philadelphia as our example.

One of the house perks: an alligator skin from Thailand

One of the house perks: hanging out with the alligator skin from Thailand

How the services work

Several established companies offer room/home rentals by owner. These companies act as a listing service and do some vetting (but do not manage the properties, nor do they physically see them).

When I looked at how it works on FlipKey (disclosure: they paid for our rental), owners can create a free listing. They upload all the details and photos, and can take payment through the site. They pay FlipKey a 3% charge for each booking. Guests booking pay a 5-10% booking fee.

We’ve been very happy with our VRBO.com rentals both domestically and internationally. Paige from Alloverthemap.com used airbnb.com extensively during her 11 month family trip around the world, and was happy with their services.

The key is to ask lots of questions. Don’t assume that the rentals are heavily vetted or inspected personally.

How are the rentals vetted? Continue reading Avoid the Nightmare Rental – Tips to Choosing a Vacation by Owner Property

Sleeping with the Fish: Overnight at Adventure Aquarium in Camden

We joined the scouts for an overnight at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden. This was our fourth overnight, so we’ve had lots of experience seeing how they’re run in different facilities. This one was very well organized, and we slept better than at others. Even if you have no intention of sleeping over at the Adventure Aquarium, read on because there’s lots of great information about the animals in this post, and some awesome pictures too, if I say so myself.

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View of Philly from the Adventure Aquarium.

Continue reading Sleeping with the Fish: Overnight at Adventure Aquarium in Camden

Review: The Other Josh Cohen

I have to admit, it was fun going into the Paper Mill Playhouse to see The Other Josh Cohen and knowing nothing about it. So if you want to do the same, skip the review, but know that it’s a really fun show.

We went on press night, though we were not there as official press (we bid on our tickets at a silent auction). Paper Mill Playhouse – please put me on your press list! And I have a few recommendations for Paper Mill, but I’ll put those at the bottom.

The plot

The musical is about a NYC man named Josh Cohen who is trying to get his life together. He’s underemployed, loveless, poor and feels the world is out to get him, but he’s also a mensch. In a quirky twist, the narrator is an older version of Josh Cohen (and it’s not the OTHER Josh Cohen). Josh Cohen gets a big check from a mysterious person, possibly a relative, possibly a mistake. What will he do with the check? I won’t spoil that for you.

The Other Josh Cohen at Paper Mill Playhouse; Photo by Jerry Dalia

The Other Josh Cohen at Paper Mill Playhouse; Photo by Jerry Dalia

Why it’s unique Continue reading Review: The Other Josh Cohen

Philadelphia: Max Brenner and City Tavern

–This is part of our series on Philadelphia with kids. See all the posts in the series at the bottom.–

This post might easily be called a Tale of Two Restauants. Totally different vibes. Totally different menus. First let me say that it’s really hard to pick restaurants in Philly. There are a lot of good choices, and a lot depends on what part of the city you want to explore. Our first choice was something kid-friendly, and the second was something more historic.

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Getting ready to douse the mac and cheese with marinara sauce via a large syringe at Max Brenners.

 Max Brenner is a chain. I went for an afternoon snack with a friend last summer in Boston. I had a frozen chocolate coffee drink in a really cute cup (see the Drink Me cup below) and my friend had a salad. Both were good. Since Max Brenner focuses on chocolate desserts and funky presentations, we thought the kids would enjoy it. And they did. Continue reading Philadelphia: Max Brenner and City Tavern

Philadelphia: 5 Ways to See the Barnes Foundation with Kids

–This is part of our series on Philadelphia with kids. See all the posts in the series at the bottom.–

I thought the Barnes Foundation wouldn’t be kid-friendly. Surprisingly, it was.

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The museum is organized in a different kind of way, with each gallery containing ensembles – groups of pictures and utilitarian metal tools that looked decorative, designed to make you think about the art in unique ways, to see how they relate to each other. You won’t find only Renoirs in one room, or paintings from a certain time period displayed together. Plus there are no signs on the walls with the names and artists, nor any explanations at all on the walls. Many of the frames do have the artist’s name on them, though, if you look carefully. Find a gallery guide at the benches in each room.

Vincent van Gogh, Dutch, 1853–1890. The Postman (Joseph-Étienne Roulin), 1889. Photograph © 2012 The Barnes Foundation.

Vincent van Gogh, Dutch, 1853–1890. The Postman (Joseph-Étienne Roulin), 1889. Photograph © 2012 The Barnes Foundation.

Barnes continually changed his ensembles around, and the displays you see are the same ones (in the   same order) as when he died. He never wrote up explanations as to why they were put in those orders, nor is anyone sure what he hoped viewers would see in them. Continue reading Philadelphia: 5 Ways to See the Barnes Foundation with Kids

Philadelphia: Mutter Museum with Kids

–This is part of our series on Philadelphia with kids. See all the posts in the series at the bottom.–

Let’s start out by saying this is not the Mutter Museum, pronounced like it looks. The “u” should have an umlaut over it – two dots next to each other. Say it like “Mooter Museum.” This museum was on my list to visit for a long time, and I figured the kids would find it strangely fascinating. They did, but they also found it unsettling enough that they sat out out a good portion of it because they couldn’t stomach looking through it all.

Of note, you can’t take pictures inside. These photos are all courtesy of the museum. Dr. Mutter collected these strange specimens to use in teaching. The museum is part of  the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

The Main Gallery of Philadelphia's Mütter Museum George Widman, 2009, for the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

The Main Gallery of Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum
George Widman, 2009, for the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

When we first walked in Continue reading Philadelphia: Mutter Museum with Kids