Review: Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour in Vermont

When we told people we were going to Vermont, they all asked “are you going to Ben & Jerry’s?” And given how much I love factory tours, we went.

The tour was really short. After watching a sanitized (but cute) several minute video, we went into a viewing area above the production floor. Though they’re supposed to be producing ice cream on the weekdays (we were there on a Friday at 2 p.m.), unfortunately they had already finished the batch for that day, so we got to see them cleaning the equipment. Sigh.

The kids didn’t understand much about the ice cream making process, and didn’t really like the actual viewing part. But then again, that part took only about 10 minutes.

“I liked the eating part the best,” said Zachary.

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Review: Smuggler’s Notch in Winter with Kids

When we found out the kids had President’s Day Week off, we started looking into vacations. The kids hadn’t yet learned to ski properly (a two hour lesson three years ago didn’t count). We figured they should learn to ski at a place specializing in teaching kids. And after a lot of research, we booked our vacation at Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont. We don’t know the East Coast resorts very well, but this one was highly rated as both a family resort and a great place to learn to ski. I’ll cover all that!

Bottom line – we had a great time and the kids learned to ski. There was plenty to do off the slope, and on. The best way to sum up the resort is that it’s like a cruise on land. Or a quasi all-inclusive (lots of free activities, pay for your own food and lessons).

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Family-Friendly Hotels in Manhattan

When my friends visit Manhattan, they often don’t want to stay in our lovely guest room, even though it’s free and comes with breakfast (and happy hour). After all, it’s in New Jersey, and getting in to see the sights involves a train or bus ride. Not so convenient after an evening Broadway show or for families wanting afternoon naps.

So I compiled a list of resources of where they can look for the best family-friendly hotels in Manhattan. And I’ll share them with you.

We had the treat of staying in Manhattan after seeing Billy Elliot recently with the family. The Kimberly Hotel in mid-town hosted us in a one bedroom suite. It’s hard to go back to a one room hotel after staying in a suite. With kids. Read my review of the Kimberly Hotel on Travel Savvy Mom.

–Read my review of the Muse Hotel in Times Square

–Read my review of Hotel Giraffe near Madison Square Park, where we stayed in a suite.

–Read my review of Yotel near Times Square, which my kids loved.

The king suite at Hotel Giraffe. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
The king suite at Hotel Giraffe. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Oyster.com has a good list of family-friendly hotels (which includes the Kimberly).

Travel Savvy Mom, where I’m a contributor, also has some first-hand reviews of family-friendly Manhattan hotels.

–Check Ciao Bambino as well, as they have a few posted with good details about what makes them kid-friendly.

–Mommy Poppins has a list of family-friendly hotels on the Upper West Side

–Another option is to rent a timeshare apartment.  The extra space and separate bedrooms are perfect for families.

–One mom recommends the Element Hotel because it has a small kitchenette. The Element is a Westin hotel, near Times Square (39th Street, between 8th and 9th).

–One mom I know of recommends Affinia 50, on 50th and the East Side (and several other in the city, including the Affinia Gardens which has a 2 bedroom). She said “the rooms were HUGE. We had a one-bedroom with living room, large kitchen and bathroom for approx $300/night. The downside is that it is far from “fancy” and has no room service, but a really nice lounge, clean enough (not dirty, just not posh) and great location. We would stay there again.” Not all the rooms are one bedrooms.

Last, let me know where YOU like to stay in Manhattan, or where you recommend.

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4 Ways to Explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Kids

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is so big, you won’t see it in one trip. So don’t try. Here are 4 ways to explore the Met with your kids.

THROW A DART

Henry the VIII's armor and Zack

On our first visit, we gave the kids the regular map and told them to pick two things they each wanted to see. And then we had them lead the way. The kids picked the Temple of Dendur and the Egyptian wing, the instrument room, the swords and armor, and I can’t even remember the fourth. We had a fabulous time exploring…until Zachary had a melt-down at the end, in the instrument room. He was tired. He was hungry. It was time to go. We were there almost two hours, and considered that visit highly successful.

FAMILY PROGRAMS

Art Trek program at the Met

The next trip was with Alison Lowenstein, author of City Kid New York: the Ultimate Guide for NYC Parents with Kids ages 4-12 (plus she’s the author of City Weekends: Greatest Escapes and Weekend Getaways in and Around New York). She’s a pro at visiting the Met with kids. For this visit, Alison led us to the lower level, where the (free with admission) tours and programs for kids are held. We did an Art Trek, where the Met guide took us to several works of art, and discussed them a kid’s level. At the end, they got to draw one of the pieces. The program lasts an hour, and is for kids ages 5-12 (they divide them into age-appropriate groups). The kids liked the program, though that guide didn’t leave enough drawing time for them at the end.

The Met offers hundreds of family programs each year, including drop-in drawing sessions, festivals, the “Discoveries” program for learning-disabled and developmentally disabled kids, holiday programs (including select Mondays), story times and more.

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Billy Elliot the Musical – a Kid-Oriented Review

In the search for kid-friendly Broadway shows, Billy Elliot was on the list. After all, it centers on a pre-teen boy, with plenty of peers in the cast.

But would my 7 year old son want to watch a boy doing ballet? Would he fall asleep during the three hour production? Would he understand the plot about the British coal-workers’ strike? How would he react to the curse words used during the production?

I needn’t have worried. Both he, and my 9 year old daughter, loved the show, and so did I. Even in nose-bleed seats.

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NYC Holiday Fun with Kids

New York City is such a great place to visit in December. If you’re going to New York City with the kids, here are our ideas for what to do to make it festive.

HOLIDAY LIGHTS

Of course you’ll want to see the tree at Rockefeller Center.

Just outside you’ll find Sak’s Fifth Avenue, with sparkling snowflakes (coordinated to music) and window displays. Also with winter window displays: Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdales, Barneys, Macy’s and more.

ICE SKATING

Rockefeller Center has a tiny rink, but it’s so picturesque. Enter from 5th Avenue, between 49th and 50th. Skating is first-come, first-served and you can skate for as long as you stay there. Expect waits up to 90 minutes, unless you skate in the weekday mornings. They’re open on Christmas Day. Continue reading “NYC Holiday Fun with Kids”

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Tips, and What to Do in NYC on Thanksgiving Day

This post has been updated for 2011.

It’s time for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. If you want to be one 3 million on-site viewers, you’ll want to do some research first. Jersey Kids has some places for you to start. And once the parade is over, we have ideas for what you can do in New York City.

Where to watch:

It’s most congested around Macy’s, at the end of the route. The parade starts at 9 a.m. but takes about 90 minutes to get to Macy’s. The performers apparently don’t stop along the way to perform, but do in front of the viewing stand. Most suggestions we got are to get to your viewing spot at 6:30 a.m. and wait in the cold like idiots. Look for us! We’ll be those idiots. Best viewing spots are in the 60s and 70s along Central Park West. You can watch the balloons get deflated right by Macy’s. So if you’re late, maybe head over there.

this is where you stand if you arrive at 7:30 a.m.

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15 Things I Learned at Disneyworld

1. Disneyworld’s Speedway is much more exciting if you let go of the wheel and don’t steer. But you may need an Advil after.

 

 

2. The Disney Magical Express bus from the airport is neither magical, nor express. But it is free.

3. There’s a reason there’s no line for Splash Mountain when it’s 10 a.m. and 60 degrees.

4. If you tell your husband to pack the ponchos for Splash Mountain, make sure he actually does it.

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Preparing for Disneyworld – with Kids

While I consider myself a Disneyland expert, I’ve never been to Disneyworld. Preparing for our upcoming trip has been an education to say the least. I’ve read book upon book, talked up frequent visitors, queried travel agents, and read, read, read. Given the amount of time I’ve spent researching, I thought I’d share some tips on how to plan the trip. I’ll fill you all in on the results when we get back – telling you what worked, and what didn’t.

WHAT TO READ – WHERE TO START
Allears.net – This site features detailed hotel info (including reader reviews), Disney restaurant menus, tips, guidelines, info on all things Disney (including Broadway shows). They offer a free email  newsletter with tips and discounts.

Mousesavers.com – This site also features tips, discounts, insider info for all things Disney. Read through the all applicable parts of the website before booking anything. They also have a free monthly emails with articles and discounts – don’t miss this because some of the discounts are really helpful.

Disboards – To me it sounds more like they’re “dissing” Disneyworld, but that’s not what’s meant by their url. The site came highly recommended to me by a friend writing a book on Disneyworld. Lots of info and reader forums. Plus restaurant menus.

DISNEY DISCOUNTS
Sign up early for Disney emails on their official site and look for pin codes and discounts in the emails. Consider signing up with several email addresses to extend your chances of getting those discounts/codes. After we booked and paid for our trip, I got an email from Disney offering 25% savings off the standard rates (we had already paid in full). While the promotion was listed on the official website, I wouldn’t have known to look for it. That new rate saved us $75 on the hotel we initially booked, and $125 off at a sister hotel in the same value category (we switched to the cheaper hotel). There was a $50 change fee. Continue reading “Preparing for Disneyworld – with Kids”

New Jersey Corn Mazes and Pumpkin Patches

I did a corn maze for the first time last year, and am making it a yearly tradition. The kids are now old enough to last in there for more than 10 minutes. We wandered around for probably two hours (maybe an hour longer than was really fun for the kids).  Interestingly, I was dizzy when we got out.  So many twists and turns.  I let them take turns picking the direction.  If it weren’t for the staff positioned at one spot in the maze, we never would have made it out.  Even after getting directions out (it was something like – turn right at every turn until after the bridge, then turn left at every turn), it still took us 15 minutes to exit! I look forward to the day when my husband and I go together, and we compete, Survivor style, to see who can make it out first.

Let me share some corn maze tips with you, before giving you a list of New Jersey corn mazes to consider!

Alstede’s 2009 maze

CORN MAZE TIPS WITH KIDS

–Before you go in, use the bathroom. This cannot be stated enough.

–Bring food and water. Your kids will need some nourishment during their breaks. Bring your own, or buy something on site. Most farms sell food too.

–Wear comfortable shoes – that can get muddy.you can't see over it!

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