By Claudine Kurp
I recently took a trip to Club Med Sandpiper, which is located in Port St. Lucie, Florida. This is my 4th trip to a Club Med resort and I was really excited to be able to experience Club Med stateside. After going to the Dominican Republican on a previous trip with my family (read story here), I was ready to try something a little lighter in terms of travel. I wanted to avoid customs and I wanted a shorter flight. I also wanted the ease of an all-inclusive with childcare for my kids. I am happy to report that we had a wonderful time!
Here is my “fact sheet” on our trip to Club Med Sandpiper.
By Amy Suski
I come from boat people -- my grandparents were yachtsmen, my father raced sailboats and owned a sailboat company, one uncle is a deep sea fisherman, and another uncle built his own ship a sailed his family around the world. As a kid growing up along the New England coast we were often on the water -- cruising in the Atlantic, paddling in a lake or sailing in the Long Island Sound. The biggest lesson I learned from all this is that boating may be exciting and fun but it can also be very dangerous. When you spend enough time on the water (or watch enough episodes of Deadliest Catch), you learn that accidents, storms and engine failures are bound to happen. At various times over the years members of my family have been near drowned (white water rafting), shipwrecked (while deep sea fishing), and seriously injured (when the mast of a sailboat fell on my sister's head). Our most infamous accident involved my brother and sister in law being shipwrecked at sea and swimming 14 miles to shore. Based on my family's harrowing experiences, I approach boating trips with my own kids with a great deal of caution and share a few tips to increase the safety of your family's trip.
By Amy Suski
Whether you're a longtime fan of the Newseum or a first-timer, the Summer Fun Deal is a terrific opportunity that you won't want to miss. Through September 7, 2015, the Newseum is offering free admission to their interactive museum of news for up to four kids ages 18 and younger with the purchase of at least one general adult or senior admission. Named one of TripAdvisors' Travelers' Choice Top 10 Museums in the United States, the Newseum is the perfect educational outing for your family.
At the Newseum kids will learn about history and the front page news of the day through interactive exhibits and activities. Special exhibits this summer include "President Lincoln is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination," and "Reporting Vietnam." Plus, in celebration of the new exhibit "Nationals at 10: Baseball Makes News," the Newseum is hosting a Family Day of ballpark fun on August 1. During the exhibit's opening weekend, adult and senior tickets will be just $10. Special family day activities include decorating baseball keepsakes, racing across a giant gameboard identifying sports milestones, and learning about the National's 10-year history with sports writer James Wagner.
If you love a steal-of-a-deal, now is a great time to beat the summer time blues with a trip to the Newseum! Tickets are available online or at the Newseum. Tip: The Nationals is offering fans who visit the new "Nationals at 10" exhibit a special discount on select game tickets purchased online. Discount is available beginning July 31, based on availability. For details visit http://www.newseum.org/2015/07/14/nationals-at-10-opening-weekend/
by Micaela Williamson
After living in apartments and townhomes, this is the first time in eighteen years that I have had a "real" backyard. I couldn't wait to show it off to my closest friends and decided to rent an inflatable water slide to celebrate my son's birthday. After scouring the internet, one local company, Astro Jump of Metro DC, continuously stood out. They have rave reviews online for safety, customer service and cleanliness. Plus, they are pre-approved by Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, DC, and Prince George's County Public Schools. Their rental prices, while they may not be the absolute lowest, are very competitive and reasonable. For me using a company with high standards to safety and customer service is far more important than saving 25 or 30 bucks.
From start to finish, our Astro Jump of Metro DC experience was seamless. I spoke with the owner, George Williams, and he explained everything to me in great detail. Since I was a newbie to the party rental scene, I appreciated their patience in answering all my questions. Then, I put down a security deposit and immediately received an email confirmation with a contract. Before the party, Astro Jump contacted me twice to make sure I knew their inclement weather policy. (Luckily we had a sunny day!)
On the day of the party, the delivery was easy and professional. The inflatable was in pristine condition. The driver set up the water slide and took time to secure it to the ground. He instructed me on the unit's safety (keep it inflated at all times, no food or jewelry on the slide, only one kid on the ladder and down the slide at a time, etc.) and made sure I was comfortable with the water slide before he left.
Once the kids arrived, it was non-stop fun. During the entire party, the water slide was in constant use. Since the party, I have gotten many messages and texts from friends telling me how much fun they had and asking for the rental company's information. At the end of the day, Astro Jump of Metro DC picked up the slide at the time they said they would. (They even texted me when they were 15 minutes away.) Everything was packed up neatly and taken away. We would definitely use Astro Jump of Metro DC again and highly recommend them for party rental needs.
About Astro Jump of Metro DC:
Astro Jump of Metro DC has a huge selection of inflatable moon bounces and water slides in a variety of characters, sizes and themes. However, they also have many other party rentals such as obstacle courses, a mechanical bull (um...this sounds like a must next year for my husband's 40th birthday party!,) laser tag parties, carnival games, a selfie photo booth, fun food concessions, and giant inflatable movie screens.
Astro Jump of Metro DC only rents the cleanest and highest quality moon bounces, inflatable slides and other amusement rentals and is locally owned and operated by George Williams.
"Before owning Astro Jump DC, I was a first grade teacher with Teach for America," says George Williams, "While I no longer teach reading or math, my team and I work hard to bring fun to thousands of children in the DC Metro area."
Astro Jump of Metro DC provides free delivery, set up, and pick up for moon bounce rentals in Washington, DC and most Northern Virginia (VA) and Maryland (MD) suburbs. For more information, visit them online at http://www.astrojumpdc.com/
Disclosure: I received a discounted package with Astro Jump of Metro DC for sharing this information. No other compensation was received. This review contains my honest opinions.
by Micaela Williamson
When PBS KIDS asked if I wanted to host a summer reading party for 25 kids, I hopped at the opportunity. As an early childhood educator, I love to promote literacy. This summer, PBS KIDS is encouraging families to learn together with its “Summer Safari” initiative. PBS KIDS’ Summer Safari includes specials and new episodes from DINOSAUR TRAIN, WILD KRATTS, CURIOUS GEORGE and WORDGIRL, free digital tools for parents and kids, and partnerships with AARP Foundation Experience Corps, I Can Read books published by Harper Collins Children’s Books, Reading Is Fundamental and National PTA that bring learning activities directly to communities.
“Research shows that it is critical to support children’s learning during the summer months to help prevent learning loss while they are out of school,” said Lesli Rotenberg, General Manager, Children’s Media, PBS. “PBS KIDS and our member stations are committed to making summer a fun and enriching time for all kids. Through this year’s Summer Safari programming, national partnerships and community activities, we will provide free PBS KIDS resources to families, helping them learn and explore during the summer months.”
To get our party started, we set out all the supplies: Harper Collins I Can Read Books, PBS Kids activity packets/fun books, Wild Kratts bookmarks, reading charts and certificates. Since the theme was "Summer Safari," we decided on using animal print decorations. I also love how these PBS Kids summer fun books are easy to stick my purse and provide educational activities and entertainment that we can use in waiting rooms, restaurants, or anytime we're on the go this summer.
My family has long been fans of the Harper Collins I Can Read Books, specifically geared towards young readers. There are hundreds of titles with classic stories like Little Bear or the Josefina Story Quilt, beloved characters such as the Berenstain Bears, Amelia Bedelia, Pinkalicious, Splat the Cat and even books based on kids' favorite films. There are also many high interest "I Can Read Books" for children, like my rising third grader, who are already proficient and independent readers. We paired each child with a book to match his/her age and interest level. The children were so excited about the new books that many of them started to read them before they even went home!
At our party, we paired promoting reading with outdoor summer fun, and the kids had a blast with outdoor water play, bubbles, and sidewalk chalk. Of course there was food too. Check out these adorable Summer Safari animal print cookies by my local favorite J&J Bakeshop.
Many of the materials I discussed in this post are available online for free. Here are some ideas:
For more information, Click on the PBS KIDS SUMMER SAFARI image below:
Special thanks to PBS Kids for providing the promotional materials and a Target gift card to get party supplies (food, drinks, and papergoods) for this party. Also a big thank you to Harper Collins for gifting 25 new "I Can Read Books" to send home with each child. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own. I am a PBS Kids VIP Ambassador.
by Jenny L.
Since 2008, the Washington Kastles have been playing professional tennis with the WTT league, attracting big name tennis icons like Venus and Serena Williams, Rennae Stubbs and Martina Hingis. I recently had a chance to attend a press conference and match with my tennis loving, 8 year old daughter.
Getting to the Venue:
The Kastles play at the Smith Center at GWU, which is metro accessible by the Foggy Bottom/GWU metro stop, but driving there was a breeze, and there are many affordable parking garages. From Fairfax, VA it was about a 40 minute drive during rush hour and most of that traffic cleared up by the time I got past Alexandria on 395N. The Smith Center was very easy to find, and since it's right in the Foggy Bottom/GWU area, I felt perfectly safe and comfortable, even at night. For directions and parking garages, see this information on the official Washington Kastles website.
The stadium isn't very big so the view is pretty good in terms of the size of the players and viewing the action (we were in the far, top corner of the bleachers.) I'd recommend sitting on the long side of the court or if those tickets are not available, sitting on the short side of the court but not as far up along the bleachers. We couldn't really see the side of the court near us, we could only see the side facing us. However, with tickets starting at just $10 for many matches, it is a great affordable professional sports outing for the whole family.
by Micaela Williamson
I was first introduced to the amazing goodness that is J&J Bakeshop at a charity event in early 2012. Since then, I have been a loyal customer, ordering cookies for kids' birthday parties, baby showers, favors and more. J&J Bakeshop continues to impress me with their detailed artisan work. Each cookie is crafted to perfection with focus not only on design but also on taste.
"You’d think I was one of those people with an Italian grandmother who taught me how to cook or have fond memories of decorating sugar cookies every Christmas with my family, but I’m not. We rarely baked anything. I was lucky to get slice n' bake cookies! shares owner Jessica Firestone.
After college, Jessica got a job working as a restaurant health inspector for Fairfax County and took some cake decorating classes for fun. She was introduced to decorated cookies by a friend, and it quickly became her creative outlet.
"I baked for every gathering," she said, "Any excuse to make cookies and practice, I took it!"
Friends noticed Jessica's talents and urged her to start her own business. In 2011, J&J Bakeshop officially became a business. Just eight months later, Jessica quit her "real" job and joined the "other side" of the restaurant industry, making cookies and working at a few bakeries to gain industry experience.
"I got pregnant in 2013 and lifting bags of flour and sugar got harder and harder and buttoning my chef jacket was impossible," jokes Jessica, " So I decided to become a full-time mom by day and part-time cookie maker by night and nap time!"
J&J Bakeshop is a home-based bakery located in Centreville, VA specializing in hand-decorated sugar cookies. Offering platters or individually wrapped favors, decorated sugar cookies are the perfect touch for special occasions like birthday parties, baby showers, wedding events, holidays and corporate gifts. The images included in this article are just a small sampling. For more information, please visit www.jjbakeshop.com.
Disclosure: I have been a customer of J&J Bakeshop for years but was offered a discounted cookie package for sharing this information with my readers. No other compensation was received, and I highly recommend their products for any special occasion.
by Micaela Williamson
Living in Boston for six years, I have had the opportunity to visit The New England Aquarium on an number of occasions. In fact, my husband and I went their for our second date. Recently, we had a blast going back to experience the aquarium with our own children. Plus, it was the perfect venue for our large multi-generational group of children, teens, adults and seniors.
Upon entering the aquarium, you can't miss the massive Penguin Exhibit. These showstoppers provide entertainment for guests as they dive, "fly" under the water and interact with each other on the rocks. The aquarium has more than 80 African penguins in its colony, and my children never got tired from watching their antics. Fun fact: the African penguins are known as the "jackass penguins" for their loud call, which sounds just like a donkey’s bray.
The central focus of the aquarium is a multi story reef where you can walk up and down and see the layers of sea life. From reef sharks to turtles to giant fish, visitors can step up close to the glass and feel like they're diving under the ocean.
On each floor, there are several side exhibits with creatures such as eels, a coral reef of colorful fish, an octopus, seahorses, amphibians and much more. There are also two unique touch tank opportunities for children to get up close and personal with aquatic life. Children can interact with rays and sharks at the The Trust Family Foundation Shark and Ray Touch Tank or visit with sea stars, horseshoe crabs and sea urchins at the Edge of the Sea touch tank.
by Melissa Moore
On July 1st my family made the short, convenient drive to Tysons Corner Center to experience Peter Pan in Threesixty Theatre. In its Washington area premiere, this innovative theatrical performance utilizes stage, sky, and screen to retell the familiar childhood tale of Pater Pan. While most of the story is told through dialogue, there is a bit of music, acrobatics and puppetry thrown-in that will keep the kids on the edge of their seats.
The unique three sixty staging affords endless opportunities for creativity. Flight, the hallmark of a Peter Pan stage production, is immersive and thrilling. As my five year old son watched John, Wendy, Michael, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell fly off into the sunset he exclaimed in an excited whisper, “When do we get a turn?”
The age recommendation given by the theater is five years old and up. I heartily agree with this recommendation due to the many fight scenes and loud noises that mark the performance from beginning to end. Captain Hook is no cartoon caricature in this rendition of Peter Pan — he’s a living, breathing, somewhat scary pirate who often does not say the nicest things. My reptile-loving son stared wide-eyed in amazement as Tick-Tock the crocodile made his first appearance on the stage, but I saw a few parents with toddlers exiting the theater in order to calm down their little ones after that particular scene.
From mermaids to crocodiles, both my five year old boy and six year old girl enjoyed every minute of the show. When I asked my kindergartner about her favorite part, she enthusiastically responded the “the beginning, middle and the end!” When it came time for the curtain call, I reminded my kids, as I always do, to clap if they enjoyed the show. Both my sleepy children, awake past their bedtime, perked up, sat straight up in their seats and began applauding and cheering enthusiastically with the crowd.
What you need to know if you’re going to see the show:
Ticket Information: Tickets for PETER PAN in the Threesixty Theatre are on sale now. Prices start at $25 for weekday performances and at $35 for weekend performances. Premium and VIP ticket packages are available. Tickets are available for purchase on site at the Threesixty Theatre box office, online at peterpan360.com or Ticketmaster.com, at any Ticketmaster retail location, or by calling (800) 745-3000. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more by calling (877) 407-8497. For more information, visit peterpan360.com.
Disclosure: The author’s family was provided with four complimentary tickets to Peter Pan in Threesixty Theatre at Tysons Corner Center. All opinions are entirely her own. For more family travel adventures, follow the author, Melissa Moore, on Twitter and Instagram as @DCTravelMom
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