Review: Hotel Elysee

When I headed into New York City for a conference recently, I wanted an adult hotel – since my kids wouldn’t be with me. I wanted something boutique. And I always prefer something with free wi-fi and breakfast included.

I got so much more than that at Hotel Elysee . Haven’t heard of it? It only has 92 rooms, and it’s part of the Library Collection, with four hotels in New York City. The location was perfect for my midtown conference, as the hotel was on 54th Street, between Madison and Park.

This is why it’s part of the Library Collection! Part of the club room. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan.

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Treat of the Day: Ralph’s Ices

We first discovered Ralph’s when in Staten Island, eating at Denino’s Pizza. Ralph’s was just across the street. Since we’re relative newcomers to the East Coast, the concept of Italian Ices was rather new to us too. Turns out that Ralph’s is quite popular in the area, with many NY locations, and many in New Jersey as well. On every trip home from Sandy Hook, we stop at Ralph’s, which is heavily represented in the Garden State.

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It’s always a toss up between the water ices, the creme ices and the ice cream. Here’s why:

Water ice flavors: cotton candy, grape, blue Hawaii, black raspberry, Malibu bay breeze, root beer, red raspberry, sour cherry and strawberry margarita.

Creme ice flavors: cappuccino, canolli, coconut raspberry tart, crazy coconut, cremalata, mocha chip, peanut butter candy bar, peanut butter cookie dough, pina colada, vanilla fudge brownie and more.

Here’s what we ended up with:

2 malted milk shakes (black/white and chocolate), a java chip creme ice, and a brownie sundae. We felt a bit ill after finishing them all.

Ralph’s has lots of locations.

Review: Sandy Hook with Kids

Sandy Hook is a great place for those who don’t want the boardwalk experience, and want more to do than just sit on the beach. Plus it’s only $15 entrance for a whole carload of people. Parking is free and the money goes to the National Park Service. Sandy Hook is a “barrier spit” that’s 6-7 miles long, a mile wide at some points, and accessed via bridge.

What to do at Sandy Hook:

Ride a Bike: Bring your  own or rent one (there’s a rental place at Beach B – first right after the pay station). Lots of trails – 7 miles of them starting at the park entrance, out to Fort Hancock at the end.

Fishing: fishing is allowed at all beaches without lifeguards on duty.

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Review: Once on Broadway (and is Once appropriate for kids?)

Once was just nominated for a slew of Tony awards: Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, Best Direction in  a Musical, Best Choreography, Best Orchestration, Best Scenic Design of a Musical, Best Lighting (and Best Sound Design) of a Musical.

What makes Once different? When you enter the theater, you’ll notice something different from every other Broadway show. The stage is not only lit, it’s populated with the actors and musicians playing music (which started about 15 minutes before the official showtime). You’ll also see other people up there – audience members. Yes, you can go on stage before the show (and during intermission) to listen to the music and buy drinks at the on-stage bar. And you can bring those drinks (wine/beer in plastic cups with lids and straws) back to your seat. I would love to have taken a photo but they were making a lot of announcements prohibiting photography, even before the show started.


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Review: Terracotta Warriors at Discovery Times Square

The Egyptians had their pyramids and burial chambers filled with goods they thought they’d need in the afterlife. Chinese emperors were buried with a full size army. Fortunately this army was made of terracotta, but 8,000 soldiers strong.

Terracotta Warriors exhibit. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

(Tickets and discount ticket information at the bottom)

The army is thought to include 130 chariots and 520 chariot horses and 150 cavalry horses (2 of which are on display at this exhibit), and nonwarriors like acrobats and musicians. The soldiers formed a large army in complete battle formation. They were buried in three pits, which are not fully excavated. You can see details and a lot of pictures of the ongoing Terracotta Warriors archeological excavations here. Continue reading “Review: Terracotta Warriors at Discovery Times Square”

Sleepover at the Philly Zoo

Many zoos have sleepover programs you can attend with a group (like scouts) or on your own. We went to the Philly Zoo with our Cub Scout pack and thought we’d share our experience here. One of the great things about the sleepover program, is you can get a lot more “show and tell” type of experiences. Animal shows, some behind-the-scenes activities, early access to exhibits, and additional tours. By the way, the Treehouse is open to the public at some times, and only to members at others. You can see some grand arches inside – the building was designed by a church architect and is one of the oldest zoo buildings.

Our host talks to the kids

We spent much of the evening in the Treehouse (one of two indoor spaces you can sign up for). The space was awesome, with a large tree the kids could explore, dinosaur shells they could climb into, a large-scale beehive they could climb in, and more. Our host for the evening, Kaitlyn, was excellent at keeping the boys in line (something we parents have a hard time doing). Continue reading “Sleepover at the Philly Zoo”

Review: Disney Wonder Mexican Riviera Cruise – the Details – Part 2

As mentioned in yesterday’s post this part 2 in a 3-part series on the Disney Cruise. Read on for very extensive details about the cruise. Part 1 was an overview. Part 3 is special Hidden Mickey photos. Here I break the cruise into categories. If you’ve taken a Disney Cruise, please post about your experiences!

Glad we didn’t need one of these. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

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Review: Disney Wonder Cruise to Mexican Riviera – part 1

When we returned from our Disney Cruise, our friends had a lot of questions, the main one being, “should we book one too?” The answer to that question is of course, individual. In this 3-part series on the Disney Cruise, I’ll give an overview (here), then go into specifics about the cruise (activities, food, kids’ club, entertainment, etc.). Part 3 is special Hidden Mickey photos.

The Disney Wonder – copyright deborah abrams kaplan

We had a fabulous time on our Disney cruise, and went with an extended family group on the Disney Wonder. Our 7 night cruise was the Mexican Riviera itinerary, going into and out of Los Angeles, with port calls in Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta (the Mazatlan stop was cancelled ahead of time due to violence there). Disney will add New York City as a starting/ending port, in 2012, which is the talk of everyone at school. They have will Canada and New England coast trips, as well as visiting the Bahamas and going to Disney World in Florida. This was our second cruise (the first was an Alaskan cruise when my daughter was a toddler, and Disney didn’t do Alaska then). Continue reading “Review: Disney Wonder Cruise to Mexican Riviera – part 1”

Review: Dead Sea Scrolls with Kids

The Dead Sea Scroll exhibition tells the story of the foundation of three religions, in terms of ancient texts and times. The scrolls are more than 2,000 years old, written mostly before Jesus’s time.

The entrance to the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition

When you enter, you’ll be in the room above, pictures/movies that change depending on what your guide is telling you. You’ll hear about the three jars – their origin and times, while seeing scenes of Israel and the area in historical context – the Dead Sea, digging at an archaeological site, the Western Wall, and more.

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Review: Arlington, VA Family-Friendly Suite Hotels near Washington D.C.

This is part of a series on Washington D.C. with kids. Most of the attractions in Washington D.C. are free, making a trip like this much less expensive than trips elsewhere (after factoring in hotel costs!).

After two trips to Washington DC in two years, I feel like a hotel search expert. I spent hours trying to find the right combination of things I wanted for our meager budget. If you can get a hotel that works for you in Washington D.C., by all means go for it. When we went the rates were too high (not to mention parking costs). We opted for Arlington, VA, which is very easy (and quick) to get to on the Metro system.

Here was our criteria for a hotel: Continue reading “Review: Arlington, VA Family-Friendly Suite Hotels near Washington D.C.”