A Visit to The Adirondack Experience

*I received complimentary admission tickets.  However, all opinions are my own.

Recently, our family visited the Adirondack region of New York. Spanning more than 6 million acres, seeing all of the region in one visit is impossible.  When researching our trip, one of the places that I wanted to visit was Adirondack Experience (formerly known as the Adirondack Museum), located in Blue Mountain Lake, NY. Encompassing over 121 acres, it includes  24 galleries and historic buildings with tons of hands-on learning and fun. An “experience” it is!

We arrived at Adirondack Experience at the 10 AM opening.  We made sure to take the activity book they offered, since the kids (and I) are big fans of these.  This gave the kids some focus as we wandered around and they were motivated by the small prize they’d receive if they completed it.

The first building we entered was The Great Outdoors. This is a play and adventure exhibition geared specifically towards children.  Here the kids did some fishing, climbed a rock wall, walked in a pair of snow shoes and so much more.  We spent a lot of time in here as the kids explored.

Next, we visited the Work in the Woods building.  We learned all about logging in the Adirondacks, from past to present.  Outside the building there is a climbable fire tower, relocated here from Whiteface Mountain, New York’s fifth tallest peak.  From the top of the tower, you can see great views of the mountains.

The highlight of the visit was the new “Life in the Adirondacks” exhibition which opened in the beginning of July.   The exhibit includes 19,000 square feet of interactive fun.  When we first entered the exhibit, we saw a short film about the Adirondacks.  There are hundreds of artifacts housed here, including a canoe, stage coach, snow mobiles, a totem pole and many objects used in everyday life.  We walked through the Oriental, a private railroad car, and the kids dressed up in time period clothing, blasted a rock in the mine, cleared a virtual log jam and rowed a guide boat.

When leaving the “Life in the Adirondacks” exhibition, we made sure to pause and take in the beautiful view of Blue Mountain Lake!

The only scheduled activity on the day of our visit was the trout feeding at 12:30 PM.  The kids really enjoyed throwing the food pellets into the pond and watching the fish pop up and eat them.

After feeding the trout, we were getting hungry ourselves.  Adirondack Experience has a great eatery right on property, the Lake View Cafe.   David, owner of The Well Dressed Food Company and his culinary team provide a great dining experience.  They have an espresso bar and serve bagels and breakfast sandwiches for those eating earlier in the day.  We arrived at lunchtime and had difficulty choosing from the selection of flatbread pizzas, burgers, salads, sandwiches and more.  My daughter ordered the White Garlic Basil, Chicken and Broccoli Flatbread pizza ($9.95/individual pizza), my son had the Fried Cod Sandwich ($9.95) and I opted for the Gyro Wrap ($9.95).  Portions were generous and everything was delicious.  They have a children’s menu for kids 12 and under with choices of a hot dog, chicken nuggets or grilled cheese served with chips and pickle ($6).  They also serve a selection of wine, domestic and imported beer and craft beer and cider.

After lunch we headed to the Reising Schoolhouse and Kids’ Cabin.  Here the kids played old-fashioned games, like top spinning, Jacob’s ladder and ring toss.  Then they helped with Wash Day, scrubbing pieces of cloth and hanging it to dry.  Afterwards, they played in the cabin kitchen. Before wrapping up our visit, we did a quick walk-through of the Boats & Boating exhibit and the recent art acquisitions in the Lynn H. Boillot Art Gallery.

If you have the time, I highly recommend taking advantage of the second day free admission.  There was plenty more that we didn’t see and time-wise I focused on kid-friendly exhibits and activities. There is really not enough time in one day to fully see and do everything that Adirondack Experience has to offer. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to spend another day visiting and we had to rush through the end of our visit to make sure we got to see everything before our target 4 PM departure.  After six hours of walking around, the kids were pretty tired.  I would have loved to have done the self-guided hike to Minnow Pond if we had more time and energy.  Fortunately, this gives us a reason to go back for another visit!

The Details:

The Adirondack Experience
9097-NY 30
Blue Mountain Lake, NY 12812
(518) 352-7311

Hours: 10 AM – 5 PM, seven days a week (May 26-October 9, 2017) 10 AM – 7:30 PM Mondays in July and August
Parking:  Free, large parking lot
Admission:  $20/adults, $18/seniors, $12/students (with ID and children 6-17), Free/children 5 and under Active Military Personnel are free
*Free second visit with paid admission within a one-week period
Food:  Available for purchase at the Lake View Cafe or you can bring your own food and drinks.

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The Road Trip Begins….

#NYSummer2017 is starting as we head to Albany, Lake George, Saratoga and Lake Placid

#NYSummer2017 has begun!  As you are reading this, the kids and I are on our way up to Albany for the first leg of our New York State road trip!  On this leg of our road trip we will be visiting Albany, Lake George, Saratoga and Lake Placid.  It will be quiet around the blog until we get back.  However, feel free to follow NY Foodie Family on Instagram and Twitter to get updates on our #NYSummer2017!!

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#NYSummer2017

When people think of New York, I’m pretty sure NYC is the first place that comes to mind.  However, having lived in the suburbs north of the city all my life, I can tell you that there’s so much more to this wonderful state.  A couple of months ago, my husband and I agreed that this summer was the perfect time for me to take our two children, ages 8 and 11, on an epic road trip of New York state.  Before we take on any more distant travels, we thought that it was important that the kids see as much of New York State as possible.  Planning this trip also made me realize how much of the state that I have never visited.

After several months of planning, I’ve narrowed down our road trip into four separate itineraries.  State parks, amusement parks and historical sites are all mapped out.

Our first leg will start July 19, after we spend 4th of July with my family in Rhode Island and celebrate my son’s 9th birthday. The kids and I will head to Albany, Saratoga, Lake George and the Lake Placid area. My husband will be joining us for a long weekend, but for most of the trip I’ll be traveling alone with the kids.

After a few days back home, my husband will be joining us for our second leg during the first weekend in August. All four of us will be traveling to the Buffalo/Niagara area and visiting Niagara Falls.

The third leg kicks off the second weekend in August, when the four of us will be heading up to Binghamton and Ithaca.  Part of this trip will include visiting Binghamton University and Cornell University, our alma maters.

The final leg of the trip will be in mid-August when I will take the kids to visit Corning, Rochester and Syracuse.

In between road trips, we will be exploring local attractions in Westchester and Dutchess counties as well as the Catskills.  Although we will be seeing a lot this summer, I know that this is only a small portion of all that there is to see and do in New York State.

This is going to be a memorable adventure for our family.  Not only am I breaking out of my comfort zone by taking the kids solo for most of the trip, but most of these places are new to me as well!  You can follow us on our adventures on social media.  I’ll be using #NYSummer2017 and #NYFoodieFamilyRoadTrip in all my travel posts.  And since there’s about a month before our first leg of the trip, please leave any suggestions or must-see attractions in the areas that I mentioned we’re visiting!

Your Guide To the NYC TKTS Booths


Do you love the theater and seeing Broadway shows?  If you are a fan, then seeing at least one show is a must when visiting New York City.  After all, Broadway is famous for showcasing the best of the best!  There are currently 45 Broadway shows selling tickets.  Some of these shows have previews beginning in March, but allow you to purchase your tickets now.  If you have your mind set on seeing Hamilton, I wish you lots of luck in getting tickets.  If you really want to take your kids to see Frozen or the Lion King, then you should definitely pre-purchase tickets based on your travel plans.  However, if you are more flexible in what Broadway show you see, then I highly recommend you visit one of New York City’s TKTS booths.

TKTS Times Square

There are four TKTS booths in New York City located at Times Square (pictured above), South Street Seaport and  Lincoln Center.  The Times Square ticket booth only sells same-day tickets.  The other three ticket booth locations sell same-day evening tickets or next-day matinee tickets.  They all sell tickets to a variety of Broadway shows and plays at up to 50% off!

Here are some tips for purchasing tickets from the TKTS booths.  First off, check the site for each locations hours, since they differ.  Matinees are usually performed only on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Second, plan on getting in line at your ticket booth location of choice approximately one hour before the booth opens.  Yes, you heard me, one hour in advance.  If the booth opens at 10 AM, I’d aim to get in line by 9 AM for best ticket choices.  Bring a book, your phone (with a portable charger!) or a friend to entertain you while you wait.  This ensures that you get the best selection of shows to choose from.

TKTS Show Board

All of the shows with tickets available for purchase that day are listed on the monitor located near the TKTS booth.  You can also download the TKTS mobile app to see the current show listings.  Ticket availability changes daily.  Just because you saw tickets available for a show yesterday does not mean that they will be available at the booth today.  Keep in mind that you will not find tickets available at the TKTS booth for shows like Hamilton, Frozen, or Mean Girls among others.

It is recommended that you have at least 5 different show selections ready.  Depending on your place in line, you may sadly watch your first, second or even third choices disappear from the screen as they sell out.  If you have your heart set on seeing a specific show that is listed, be prepared to sit separately from your party.  Often times, the more popular shows that have tickets at the TKTS booth only have single seat availability.

Plan on spending at $75+ a ticket.  From what I’ve been told and my personal experiences, TKTS only sells Orchestra seats.  This means you are getting amazing seats at up to 50% off regular price.  Keep in mind that regular orchestra seats can run upwards of $350+ depending on the show!  If you have a large party, have more than one person wait in line, as they will only sell six tickets per person.

Please remember, depending on location, you are purchasing tickets to that day’s matinee or evening performance (or the next day’s matinee, depending on which location you purchased your ticket from).  These tickets are also non-refundable.  Before you leave the window, double check you have the correct number of tickets and that they are for the correct show, date and time.  While recently standing in line to purchase tickets I overheard a woman telling an employee that she wanted to exchange her tickets that she had purchased earlier in the week.  Unfortunately, she was out of luck!

While holiday vacations are popular times for visiting New York City, they are also busy times for Broadway as well.  I recommend not trying to get tickets from the TKTS booth during these times.  We learned the hard way, attempting to get tickets over the Christmas break.  The line was super long and by the time we made it up to the window, there were no family-friendly shows available that had four seats together for a matinee show.  We ended up getting back in line later the same day (an hour and half before the booth opened!) and were able to purchase tickets to an evening performance.

While standing in line, there are several TKTS Patron Service Reps walking around, ready to answer any questions you may have.

Finally, no matter how desperate you are for show tickets, it is highly recommended that you do not purchase tickets from scalpers (the guys and gals on the street trying to sell you tickets).  There is no way to tell if the tickets are legitimate or not.

The TKTS booth may not be for everyone.  As I mentioned, if you are visiting New York City and have a specific show that you want to see, I recommend purchasing tickets prior to your visit.  However, if you love musicals and are flexible in what you see, (and don’t mind giving up time to stand in line) then I’d give the TKTS booth a try.  For theater fans, it’s a great way to see Broadway shows at an affordable price.

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Warwick Valley Bed and Breakfast

Warwick Valley Bed And Breakfast

Located in Warwick, New York, only about an hour’s drive from New York City is the Warwick Valley Bed and Breakfast.  Conveniently located in the historic district at 24 Maple Avenue, this bed and breakfast is housed in a restored Colonial that was built in the early 1900’s.

I recently visited this bed and breakfast with my husband, as a surprise weekend getaway to celebrate his 40th birthday.

Warwick Valley Bed and Breakfast

The bed and breakfast has seven different rooms to choose from.  Each room has a name and unique decor, with varying bed sizes and arrangements.  All rooms have a small seating area, a desk and a private bathroom.  Rates range from $144 to $229 a night, depending on the day and season.  Children are welcome at this bed and breakfast at an additional cost.

Reservations can be requested online and a confirmation e-mail will be sent to confirm your selected dates and price.  In our confirmation e-mail, Loretta, the Innkeeper also noted that she could help arrange appointments for massages or facials and make dinner reservations as well.

Back Entrance

When you pull into the driveway of the bed and breakfast there is ample parking around back.  You then enter through the back entrance.  The bed and breakfast has a no shoes policy.  Upon entering, there are shelves to store your shoes.  Slippers are available to wear.

Paisley Room

I booked the Paisley Room, which as you can see is named for the Paisley bedding.  This room has a Queen-sized bed and overlooks the back driveway.  It’s on the second floor, that is shared with two other rooms.

Sitting Area

I took Loretta up on her offer and had her arrange for an in-room massage for my husband as part of his birthday present. While he had his massage, I went down to the sitting area and read a book.

A benefit of staying at a bed and breakfast is that a homemade breakfast is included in the cost of your stay. There are two dining areas in the bed and breakfast.  We ate in the main dining room, pictured below.

Dining Area

We only stayed one night, so I’m unsure if the breakfast menu changes daily.

Breakfast

Loretta cooks everything herself in the kitchen adjacent to the dining room.  During our stay, breakfast began with a bowl of cinnamon-spiced fruit and nut mix.  We then had a choice of french toast, an omelet, or eggs cooked in any style of our choosing.  Sides included roasted butternut squash and bacon.  You could have any combination (or all!) of these breakfast options. I ordered the french toast with a side of bacon and butternut squash.  It was delicious!

I love that the Warwick Valley Bed and Breakfast is conveniently located in the historic district.  It is within reasonable walking distance to the nearby shops and restaurants.  The day of our arrival, the weather was beautiful and on our walk into town we discovered the Craft Beer Cellar and Taco Hombre.  The next morning we woke up to snow but still trekked back into town to check out the last weekend of the outdoor, local farmer’s market.

Iron Forge Inn

Saturday evening we had dinner at the nearby Iron Forge Inn.  This is a farm-to-table restaurant located in a revolutionary era home built in 1760.  Chef/owner Erik Johansen is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and provides a menu of Modern American cuisine that changes seasonally.  We had an amazing dinner and I highly recommend dining here!

On our way home we stopped at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets to enjoy some child-free shopping!  Other nearby attractions include Mountain Creek and the Warwick Drive-in Theater.  Several wineries including the Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery and Applewood Winery are nearby as well.

My husband and I enjoyed our stay at the Warwick Valley Bed and Breakfast.  It was great to get away to celebrate his birthday and we loved the town of Warwick.  This was a perfect parents only get-away, as we decided our children wouldn’t appreciate the history and architecture of the village, that we found so charming.  There is enough that we didn’t get to see and do that we’d like to make a return trip soon!

 

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Carnival Sunshine {A Review}

Overview:
The Carnival Sunshine was previously the Carnival Destiny.  In April 2013 the Destiny underwent an $155 million renovation and was renamed the Sunshine.  The ship weighs 102,853 tons and carries 3,006 passengers.  There are over 1,040 crew members coming from over 50 different countries.  The ship currently departs from Charleston, SC, New York, NY, Norfolk, VA and Port Canaveral, FL and cruises to the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada/New England and the Caribbean.

Review:
Last week, my family cruised on the Carnival Sunshine out of New York City. We traveled to St. John and Halifax on a five night cruise.  My husband and I had previously cruised on the Carnival Fantasy almost eight years ago.  This was the kids’ second cruise, but first time on a Carnival boat.  We drove into the city and parked at the terminal for $40/day.  The check-in process was smooth, but very slow.  Arriving at the port, checking in and finally boarding the ship took over two hours.

Carnival Sunshine Inside Cabin

Once onboard we visited our stateroom.  We chose an inside cabin that slept four.  We were surprised to see that the kids’ beds were directly above us!  They loved sleeping in an “upper bunk.”  However, the setup of the room made the room feel especially small.  Space on a cruise ship is at a premium and cruise ship rooms in general are not very roomy.  This isn’t usually a big deal for us, as we tend to just use our room for sleeping and changing.

This was our first time cruising to Canada.  The weather was a bit chilly and since we were heading north to even colder weather, we knew this was not going to be the kind of trip where you lay out at the pool.  However, we were surprised to discover that the main pool on the ship is heated.  My son took advantage of this on both sea days.  My daughter wasn’t feeling well and she agreed she shouldn’t swim with the weather being so cool.

Each evening on the boat we received the FunTimes which provides an activity, music and dining schedule for the next day.  This was helpful in planning our days on the ship.  Carnival Cruise Lines has a reputation of being the “fun and party” cruise line.  However, unless you like trivia or Bingo, we found the indoor planned activities onboard tended to be limited.  This was especially noticeable on our first fun day at sea when the weather was cold and rainy.

Carnival Sunshine WaterWorks

Granted, if the weather was warmer, we would spend the majority of our time outside.  The Sunshine has a WaterWorks area with three water slides.  However, they are not heated!

Carnival Sunshine SkyCourse

Up on the SportsSquare our family played miniature golf and also completed the SkyCourse, part of which is pictured above.  I was surprised at how well the kids did completing the course and how scared I was!  But we all finished it and my husband and kids even did it a second time on our trip.

There is also a basketball court, foosball tables, pool tables, shuffleboard and a giant Twister game board and Checkers board on the deck.  A jogging track circles the SportsSquare as well.

Carnival Sunshine has Camp Carnival, a kid’s club for children ages 2-11.  Groups are normally broken down by ages (2-5), (6-8) and (9-11).  Because of the low number of children registered during our trip, they combined sections and had one large (6-11) group.  However, our kids didn’t participate in many of the Camp Carnival scheduled activities, opting to spend time doing things with me and my husband.  Even though the camp is open until 10 PM at night free of charge, we only made use of this one evening so my husband and I could go see the Love and Marriage Show!  Otherwise, the kids came with us to the evening shows.  Late night babysitting is available until 1 AM for a $6.75 per hour fee, though we didn’t make use of this service.  One of our favorite  Camp Carnival activities was a family digital scavenger hunt.  It was lots of fun!

Carnival Sunshine Fitness Center

My husband and I visited the gym once while onboard.  Cloud 9 Spa offers massages, facials and more at an additional cost, which we did not partake in.

A casino operates onboard when the cruise ship is at sea.  There are lots of different slot machines as well as tables.  There are also more than nine different bars on board the Carnival Sunshine.  Unfortunately, alcohol is not included in the price of a cruise.  Luckily, my husband and I are not big drinkers.  For those that do enjoy drinking, the ship offers CHEERS!, an all-inclusive beverage package that can be purchased.

Each evening there was plenty of entertainment.  Playlist Productions put on three different shows while we were onboard, with Epic Rock being my favorite.  There were also two different comedy shows, karaoke, the Love and Marriage Show as well as Hasbro Family Game Night.

The Carnival Sunshine has a shopping area known as the Fun Shops.  Here you can purchase clothing, souvenirs, liquor, jewelry, watches and more.  There’s also Cherry on Top, a candy shop onboard. Next to the candy store is the 24 hour arcade.

And last, but not definitely not least, we need to discuss food.  The wonderful thing about cruising is that there is ALWAYS food available and most of it is included in the price of your trip.  The Carnival Sunshine has several dining options.

There are two assigned dining times in the main dining room for dinner at 6 PM and 8:15 PM.  However, for those cruisers who don’t want to be tied down to a set dining time, Carnival also offers My Time Dining.  When we booked our cruise we were assigned to the 8:00 PM dining time.  However, with two children who are normally in bed at 8 PM on a school night, I didn’t want us eating that late.  The first evening we were able to dine during the 6 PM seating and by the next morning the maitre’d we spoke with had assigned us to the My Time Dining.  This dining program allows you to check-in at the desk anytime between 5:15 and 9:45 PM and be seated within 15 minutes in the dining room.

Carnival Sunshine Dinner Menu

Each day that night’s dining menu was available to peruse outside the dining rooms.  If a three course, sit-down dinner is not your thing, the Lido Restaurant offers a buffet for all meals.  The Carnival Sunshine also has Cucina del Capitano (Italian), JiJi Asian Kitchen (Asian), Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse and Bonsai Sushi restaurants which require an additional cost to dine.

Our family found that the BlueIguana Cantina and celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s Guy’s Burger Joint offered some of the tastiest food on the ship.  The BlueIguana Cantina had made-to-order breakfast burritos as well as tacos and burritos during lunch hours.  Guy’s Burger Joint, available for lunch/early dinner offered a selection of burgers served with fries.

There is a 24 hour Swirls frozen yogurt and soft-serve station.  For an additional cost JavaBlue Café offers coffee and pastries and the Shake Spot sells all kind of shakes, including some “grown-up” shakes that contain alcohol.

Overall, we found the food on the Sunshine to be just okay.  There is plenty of food available in terms of quantity on the ship, however the taste and quality weren’t impressive.

Our family had a great time on the Carnival Sunshine.  A vacation where this mom didn’t have to worry about the cooking and cleaning is a good one!  Unfortunately, we didn’t have control over the weather, which wasn’t great for a majority of our trip.  While what we saw of St. John and Halifax was beautiful and when we cruise again, it will be to a warm location!

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Sahara Sam’s Oasis – New Jersey

I had won passes to Sahara Sam’s Oasis from a blogger giveaway.  I didn’t realize that the park, located in West Berlin, New Jersey, was 2 1/2 hours away from our house in Westchester County, New York.  So, when we recently took a trip to Philadelphia over the kids’ spring break we planned a stop at Sahara Sam’s on our way home.

We arrived pretty close to the 10 AM opening.  We had to use the Route 53 entrance, as the facility is in the process of expanding the outdoor water park area, and is slated to open this Memorial Day weekend.  We had our complimentary passes, however, one day tickets cost $29.95 and twilight tickets, valid after 3:30 cost $24.95.  If we lived closer to the park, we’d purchase an annual pass, which is currently on sale for $59.95.

Lockers

While at the desk, we rented a small locker to store our things.  The locker cost $7 to rent but we also needed to pay a $20 deposit, which we got back when we returned the key.   The lockers, pictured above, use keys, but they give you a waterproof key holder that you can wear around your neck.  The small locker was big enough for us to store a book bag that held changes of clothes for the four of us.

The water park was pretty empty when we first arrived.  We threw our towels on some chairs, but very little sitting was done on this visit by anyone except me!  Indoor cabanas are available to rent for $85 a day.  They honestly were pretty small, and like I mentioned, our family is not one to just sit and hang out, so this wasn’t a useful option for us.

We first headed to Congo Bongo, the lazy river that spans almost the entire length of the right side of the park.  There are a couple of waterfalls that I managed to avoid, as I was not quite ready to be soaked at this point!

Water Slides

After the lazy river we decided to try some slides.  Mount Kilimanjaro is the family slide, where the four of us were able to slide together in a giant tube.  There are two different Snake Eyes tube slides which you can ride in either a single or a double tube.  As there were super short lines, we rode these slides a couple of times.  Be warned that except for the family slide, you must carry your tube up the steps to the other slides.   None of us opted to try the Nile Mile body slide.

Tim-Buk-Tu, the large play area, pictured at the beginning of this post, is in the center of the park.  The kids loved being soaked by the water bucket and playing on the structure.  I liked that there’s plenty of seating in front of it, so I could sit and keep an eye on them while they played.

Crocodile Flats

The kids had a fun time crossing Crocodile Flats.  You have to hold onto the ropes as you traverse the lily pads to cross from one end of the pool to the other.  They also enjoyed Sam’s Slamdunker aqua basketball area, located adjacent to Crocodile Flats, and spent a lot of time in this area with my husband.  Unfortunately, there is not an inside wave pool, though one is being built for the outdoor expansion.  The aqua basketball area got pretty crowded with parents holding toddlers and little kids trying to swim.  So, you had to be super aware of the basketballs being thrown.

Flow Rider

I was super surprised that my daughter wanted to ride The Flow Rider, surfing simulator.  Waivers need to be signed prior to riding and riders need to be at least eight years old, so unfortunately, my son couldn’t ride.  After signing the waiver, which required a photo ID, my husband and daughter were given special wrist bands.  Riders are given approximately five minutes of “surf” time.  They both rode a couple of times and had a blast!

For little ones, Lizard Lagoon offers slides and bucket seats perfectly sized for infants and toddlers.

Desert Palm Cafe

Outside food is not allowed into the park.  The Desert Palm Café Food Court offers something for everyone.  They have pizza, sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs and more.  We found there to be plenty of seating inside the food court, but if it is crowded, food is allowed to be taken into the park.

Menu

We found the prices to be on the more expensive side.  Burgers were $11 + and Italian Sausage or Polish Sausages were $10+.  The four of us ended up sharing a Family Fun Bucket for $32.  This came with 9 chicken fingers and way too many fries for the four of us to eat.  They accept credit cards but require a valid ID with it.  This policy held up the line as people had to run back to their lockers or bags and get their license.

Arcade

If you didn’t have enough fun in the water park, there’s an arcade that you can play in either before or after your visit.  The arcade is accessible without water park admission tickets.

As I mentioned earlier, the Beach Club Outdoor Water Park opens this weekend (Memorial Day Weekend) and stays open until Labor Day.  The outdoor park includes a pool, splash zone and wave pool.  The recent expansion also includes outdoor water slides and an indoor pool leisure pool.

We had a fun time visiting Sahara Sam’s Oasis and enjoyed getting in some water park and pool fun during the winter.  However, the park is open year-round with outdoor attractions available from Memorial Day through Labor Day.  The park is located in Southern New Jersey and is easily accessible from the Philadelphia and New York City areas.

Philadelphia Hotel Review: Holiday Inn Express – Penn’s Landing

Holiday Inn Express Penn Landing

We decided about a week before Spring Break to visit Philadelphia.  At that point, we were scrambling to find a hotel room for our trip.  The last time either my husband or I visited Philly was in our childhood, so we were unfamiliar with the size of the city or the locations of the various points of interest.  When perusing expedia.com and tripadvisor, the Holiday Inn Express (HIE) Penn’s Landing popped up with some of the most reasonable rates.  The hotel is conveniently located in the historic Old City on Christopher Columbus Boulevard, right off the highway.   We booked our room a week in advance directly via the hotel website and took advantage of their “Book Early and Save Price.”  This price was even cheaper than the AAA rate.  However, this rate is available only for those stays booked at least 7 days in advance and is non-refundable.  We were going to make it there no matter what!  After researching hotels we realized that almost all hotels charge for parking.  At the HIE Penn’s Landing, it costs $30 per night to park your car or $20 per day.  What ultimately sold us on this hotel was the free Express Start Breakfast and the free shuttle.

We left our house in Northern Westchester County, New York around 6:30 AM and with a couple of rest stops make it to Philadelphia around 9:30 AM.  We drove directly to the hotel and parked the car, but check-in was not available until 3 PM.  We walked from the hotel to the historic district and started our day.  We didn’t return to the hotel until close to 5 PM, when we checked in and relaxed in our room for a bit.

When you enter the hotel there is a fireplace and seating area, with the check-in desk to your left.  There is a decent size dining room with tables and chairs, as well as a separate Express Start Breakfast room with taller tables and stools.  (On a side note:  Sunday night it ended up raining and then snowing.  When we got back from dinner, a family was sitting in the dining area with some takeout Chinese food that they had ordered. I thought this was a great idea and great use of the dining room, instead of trying to eat in a hotel room!) The hotel also has a fitness room, which we didn’t visit.  The kids were disappointed that the hotel had no pool, but we were so busy, that they wouldn’t have had time to swim.  Plus, they were unaware that we were visiting Sahara Sam’s Oasis on the way home.

Two Queen Bed Room

We reserved a two queen bed room, which we found to be spacious enough.  We were only staying for two nights, and in general we don’t need a lot of room (just more space for the kids to leave/lose their things!)  I especially enjoyed sitting in the corner arm chair and ottoman to read and the kids liked laying on the bed to watch television.

Toiletries

While I normally bring my own shampoo and conditioner, since this trip was so short I didn’t bother.  My daughter was super excited that the hotel had Bath & Body Works toiletries, since she’s a big fan of the store.

Express Start Breakfast

The Express Start Breakfast is served daily from 6 -10 AM.  This was one of the best staffed hotel breakfast bars that we have experienced.  The breakfast selection included hot items like sausage, bacon, eggs, western omelets, biscuits and gravy, and a pancake machine, cereal, bagels, toast, muffins, fresh fruit, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs and the kids’ favorite, cinnamon rolls.  There was also a juice machine and a coffee, tea and hot chocolate bar.  While eating, we saw a mix of people staying at the hotel including families, older couples and several school groups.

Free Shuttle

We used the free shuttle only once when headed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Our driver was super friendly and took us all the way out to the museum, even though they normally don’t drive out that far during morning and evening rush hour.  The driver was a great resource on food recommendations – ordering your cheese steak with cheez whiz is a tourist thing to do and a must-try at Reading Terminal Market is the pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and provolone (we had already eaten this before his recommendation!).  and the location of points of interest – where we could find the famous “Love” sign, though we didn’t get a chance to see it.

Holiday Inn Express Penn's Landing Night Picture

Overall, we were very happy with our stay at the Holiday Inn Express Penn’s Landing.

*This post was not sponsored by Holiday Inn Express.  We just had a great experience and wanted to share it!

More Philadelphia Foodie Finds

Philly foodie finds

This is the third post about our recent family trip to Philadelphia.  In the first post I wrote about our food finds at Reading Terminal Market.  In the second post I wrote about our 2-day itinerary of Philly with the kids.  Today, I sharing some of our additional foodie finds while on our visit.  Philadelphia is a great city for foodies and we barely sampled all of its great eats.  Which of course gives us reason to go back to visit!

Franklin Fountain Stock Market Crunch

Franklin Fountain:  The Stock Market Crunch – Located at 116 Market Street, the Franklin Fountain has been featured on television shows like Man vs. Food and Best Thing I Ever Ate.  Although it was established in 2004, this ice cream parlor has the look and feel of times past, with the “soda jerks” dressed in “old-timey” garb.  The four of us shared “The Stock Market Crunch” sundae, which consists of rocky road ice cream, peanut butter sauce, salted pretzels, whipped cream and a Bordeaux cherry.  For $11, it was definitely worth it!  Please note, this is a cash only operation.  Although we were there on a pretty cold and rainy day, the place was still crowded!

Cuba Libre Tostones

Cuba Libre Grilled Baby Octopus

Cuba Libre – This restaurant, located on 10 S. Second Street, was walking distance from our hotel.  After a long day of walking through the historic district, we were looking for something close by but different.  We don’t get to eat Cuban food often.  We didn’t realize until sitting down that this restaurant is a chain.  We ended up ordering a couple of appetizers including Cuba Libre Chicharrones and Empanadas and some tapas including Grilled Baby Octopus, Coconut Crab Fritters and Bruschettas de Tostones.

Logan Square Pizza & Grill Margherita Pizza

Logan Square Pizza & Grill  – Instead of eating at the cafeteria-style Franklin Foodworks eatery at the Franklin Institute, we opted to walk to Logan Square Pizza.  This pizza place is located at 161 North 21st Street, just a short walk from the Franklin Institute.  They offer a variety of different specialty pizzas, sandwiches and other eats, including gyros and tacos.  Unfortunately, unlike most New York pizzerias, we couldn’t order specialty pizzas by the slice.  So, we ended up splitting a 16″ Margherita pizza.  While tasty enough, this was no New York pizza, in either taste, or size!  However, it was reasonably priced and in our opinion, much better than eating “cafeteria-style” museum food.

Nine Ting Korean BBQ

Nine Ting – I saw pictures of the Korean BBQ at Nine Ting on Instagram (#phillyeats) and had to go!  All you can eat Korean BBQ for under $30 a person.  That is just unheard of in New York for that price!  We had short ribs, chicken curry, corn, two types of steak, pork belly and pineapple, although there were lots of other bbq choices available.  We were just too stuffed to try them!  They have a make your own sauce bar and gave a small selection of banchan (small dishes).  Surprisingly, they didn’t give us kimchi!  If we ever visit again, we will have to try the hot pot!

T-Swirl Crepe Chocolate Nut Party

T-Swirl Crepe:  Chocolate Nut Party – While we were walking to Nine Ting, we passed T-Swirl Crepe and both of the kids mentioned that they might want a crepe for dessert.  After stuffing ourselves with Korean BBQ, we stopped in to check out the crepes.  The crepes are made with gluten free rice flour and are made to order.  The kids chose Chocolate Nut Party, which is almond, crushed pistachio, chocolate gelato, chocolate truffles, chocolate sauce, whipped yogurt, chocolate custard cream, chocolate pearls and Pocky sticks.  There were so many tasty looking crepes (I’m looking at you Blueberry NY Cheeesecake!) and they serve both sweet and savory crepes.  The Chocolate Nut Party crepe was super delicious.  The crepe was about $7.   There are several T-Swirl Crepe locations in New York City, but we were super excited to learn that they will be opening up a T-Swirl Crepe right near my husband’s office in White Plains.

Vivi bubble tea - Peach Ice Jelly

Vivi bubble tea – For those of you who aren’t familiar with bubble tea, it’s a Taiwanese tea-based drink, usually mixed with fruit or milk, in which tapioca balls or fruit jellies are added.  I am not a fan of bubble tea…(it’s a texture thing) but wandering through Chinatown, my son really wanted one.  He chose the peach ice jelly, which he shared with his sister.  We ordered the regular (smaller size) which cost about $4.  This is a franchise, with locations throughout the United States, including many in New York City.  The Philadelphia franchise is located at 145 N. 10th Street in Chinatown.

Sonny's Famous Steaks

Sonny’s Famous Steaks – Located at 228 Market Street, we stopped here on our last night since we hadn’t had a cheesesteak yet, and I wasn’t leaving Philly without having at least one!  We ordered a Cheesesteak with provolone and grilled onions.  Hand-sliced rib eye on a sub roll, topped with melted provolone and sweet, grilled onions…..deliciousness all for just $9!  The four of us split one and enjoyed it.  We were full from our dinner earlier, but all had room for this sandwich.

2 Day Philadelphia Itinerary with Kids

Over spring break, our family took a short two day trip to Philadelphia.  We live in the suburbs of New York City, so it’s only about a three hour drive for us.  We knew we had limited time and wouldn’t be able to see everything we wanted to in two days.  We had a great trip though and wanted to share our family’s two day itinerary in Philly.  Please be advised that we did a lot of walking on this trip!  Our kids are used to walking long distances and Philadelphia is very walkable.  There is plenty of transportation options available if needed, although parking for a lengthy amount of time can be hard to come by and expensive.

Day 1:
We got up at 5:30 AM so we could be on the road by 6:30 AM.  With breakfast and restroom stops it took us about three hours to get to Philadelphia.  We arrived at our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Penn’s Landing at 9:30 AM, but couldn’t check in until 3 PM.  We ended up leaving the car in the hotel lot and walking into the historic district.

Elfreth's Alley

We walked by Christ Church, founded in 1695 and also known as “The Nation’s Church.”  We then walked down Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest residential neighborhood in the country.  It was very cool to see residents living in the same houses that had once housed people from the Colonial era.

Betsy Ross House

We walked to the Betsy Ross House at 239 Arch Street and paid the $5/adult admission and $4/child admission to take a self-guided tour the house.  For two dollars more per ticket you could take an audio tour.   We got there a little after the 10 AM opening and there were only a few other visitors that we saw.  The kids enjoyed the hands-on kitchen displays in the basement and meeting Betsy Ross in the upholstery shop.

Independence Hall Visitor Center

After the tour of the Betsy Ross House we walked past the Christ Church Burial Ground, where Benjamin Franklin is buried,  and headed to the Independence Hall Visitor Center.  We visited the gift shop and bought a liberty bell Christmas ornament to add to our collection.   We reserved 3 PM tickets to tour Independence Hall and were able to pick them up so we had them.   The visitor center has a phone charging station, rest rooms, and lots of tour desks if you want to book a tour.  There are also displays and a movie theater as well as a small food stand.

Liberty Bell

After our quick stop at the visitor center we headed to the Liberty Bell.  We stood on line for about a half hour to get in.  They do a security check in which all belongings, including jackets, are run through a security conveyor.  This was the cause of most of the line wait.  We walked through the display and saw the liberty bell.  The last time I visited the Liberty Bell I was in elementary school on a trip with my girl scout troop!  It was nice to be able to visit the bell again and have the kids see this national symbol of freedom.

Reading Terminal Market

After visiting the Liberty Bell we walked to Reading Terminal Market to grab some lunch.  After lunch we walked back toward Independence Hall.  Since our tour wasn’t until 3 PM we toured through Carpenter Hall first and then headed over for our tour.

Independence Hall

Entrance to Independence Hall is only by a ticketed guided tour.  Tickets are free, but are timed entry and must be picked up at the visitor center.  A limited number of tickets are available the day of and it is advised to be at the visitor center early to try to get them.  Since we weren’t sure what time we’d get into Philadelphia and wanted to make sure we had tickets, we reserved our tickets online and paid the $1.50 each surcharge. Our tour guy Ray, was very knowledgeable and we learned a lot during our tour.  While there we also toured Congress Hall, which has free admission.

Franklin Fountain

By the time we finished the tour we were exhausted and headed back to the hotel.  We stopped at Franklin Fountain for a quick ice cream sundae treat before checking into our hotel.  We then relaxed for a bit before heading out again for a late dinner at Cuba Libre.

Day 2:
We woke up early, took advantage of the free breakfast at the hotel and headed out by 9:30 AM. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until Sunday evening that the Philadelphia Museum of Art is closed on Mondays.  The hotel had a free shuttle and our driver was nice enough to drive us out to the museum, even in morning rush hour. We decided that we were still wanted to run the famous “Rocky steps” and take some photos.  (The kids had no idea what we were talking about, but watching Rocky together is now on our to-do list.)

Amor Sign Philadelphia

We ran the steps and took lots of pics with the “Amour” sign and the Rocky statue.

Rodin Museum

We then did a quick walk around the outside of the Rodin Museum, viewing the statues and taking pictures on our walk to the Franklin Institute.

The Franklin Institute

We heard about the Please Touch Museum, but thought our kids, ages 7 1/2 and almost ten, were a little old for it.  Instead, we opted to visit the Franklin Institute.  We purchased the $39.99/adult and $34.95/child tickets which included admission to The Science Behind Pixar special exhibit, the Lost Egypt special exhibit and admission to the Franklin Theater (with a choice of either an IMAX or 3D show).  We planned on spending the day and thought we’d get the most out of our visit with these tickets. The only thing I did not like is that all of the special exhibits and movies are timed entry.  While at the desk purchasing tickets, we had to choose the times of our entry for the Pixar and Lost Egypt exhibits as well as the 3D show.  The museum employee was super helpful in assisting us plan our day.  I just didn’t like being put on the spot and having to make decisions right there.  We loved the museum and it was perfect for the kids’ ages.  It is very interactive and the kids (and adults!) had a lot of fun exploring all the exhibits.  We spent the entire day there, arriving a little before 10:30 AM and leaving at 6 PM.  We saw all three levels of exhibits, including the special exhibits, the Walking with Dinosaurs 3D show and The Sky Tonight planetarium show.  You get an admission bracelet and can leave and enter the museum throughout the day.  We left to grab a quick lunch at a local pizza place around the corner from the museum and then came back to continue our visit.

Philadelphia China Town Gate

After our long day at the museum, we walked to Chinatown to grab dinner before heading back to the hotel.

We had a quick, but very enjoyable trip to Philadelphia.  We look forward to visiting again soon!

California Globetrotter