10 Reasons Everything Is Awesome at the LEGOLAND Hotel

Our five-year-old's birthday wish was to spend the night at the new Florida LEGOLAND® Hotel. And quite honestly, I was pretty pumped to check it out myself. We took advantage of the Florida resident rate (35% off) and were set. There are always extra deals and promos here. I Read more

Park City, Utah Skiing With The Family

It's been awhile since the entire family went west, but it was time! I had a few snickers when I announced our plans to embark on a ski adventure with the entire family to Park City, Utah during the Sundance Film Festival. But, then again places that people don't Read more

The Newest Vacation Rental in Orlando

I'm so excited to share my most recent article in PLAYGROUND magazine. Friends from my hometown in Pennsylvania have created the most amazing vacation rental space here in Orlando. Click through to read about the inspiration behind this awesome home and how you can book your stay.   Follow our family Read more

Family Getaway Postcard Inn St. Pete Beach

A few weeks ago, our family, along with two other Orlando families,ventured to St. Pete beach on the Gulf Coast to celebrate a little friend's 8th birthday at the Postcard Inn. I was attracted to the aesthetics of this trendy spot since it was transformed from a Travelodge in Read more

Best Play Spots in Paris

It's almost three weeks since we returned from Europe, and I've finally sifted through my photos. I felt like my first post should talk about the fun playgrounds/parks in Paris. What an awesome experience to see the girls jumping right into the mix at playgrounds many miles from their Read more

Travel

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort

I am not one for scary movies or anything remotely scary for that matter. This is why EVERYONE was surprised to see photos popping up of me at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights last year.

Truth is, our friends had extra passes and I was feeling a little adventurous so… We ventured out on the second weekend of the festivities. Let me say, that this event is done to the max as far as costuming and staging of the haunted houses (9 houses to visit in total). I was frightened out of my mind, but enjoyed the challenge of making it through the houses without using the escape routes.

This is definitely not an event for kids so get a sitter (or hotel Kids Club if you are visiting Orlando) and make it an adults only night out.

We are planning to go again this year second week in October, but I just had to share some of the highlights from last year’s event.

We had two shows that were favorites: Bill and Teds Excellent Halloween, a hilarious play on pop culture and Jack’s The Carnage Returns, which is horrifyingly intriguing. Get your ear muffs ready if you are offended by foul language.

We did the Scareactor Dining Experience, which allowed you to stick around in the park and be the first to hop in line at the houses (where lines can get long!) We also were able to get great pics with some of the scareactors.

Halloween Horror Nights The Mamma Mia Blog

Day of the Dead! Halloween Horror Nights 2015

 

Halloween Horror Nights The Mamma Mia Blog

Die In Move Halloween Horror Nights Orlando

 

Halloween Horror Nights The Mamma Mia Blog

Enjoying a Jack’s Carnage adult beverage. Yum!

 

Halloween Horror Nights

The Undertaker

You can get your 2016 tickets online here. Keep your eyes out for other offers throughout the Horror Nights season.

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10 Reasons Everything Is Awesome at the LEGOLAND Hotel

Our five-year-old’s birthday wish was to spend the night at the new Florida LEGOLAND® Hotel. And quite honestly, I was pretty pumped to check it out myself. We took advantage of the Florida resident rate (35% off) and were set. There are always extra deals and promos here. I do a lot of linking in my travel posts so that you can hop direct to the spot to learn more!

LEGOLAND HOTEL

We planned for an early arrival on check in day so we could take advantage of onsite hotel activities. Day two we planned to spend at the park

Typically when I get overly excited about something, it doesn’t necessarily deliver. This instance was different. I was definitely excited and there was no let down involved. Hooray!

Here are the 10 reasons we think everything is awesome at the LEGOLAND Hotel Florida.

  1. Imagination is Everywhere – The 5-story, 152 room resort immerses guests of all ages in creativity. More than two million Lego bricks make up over 2,000 Lego models throughout the hotel.The center of the lobby and the lobby play area have giant bins full of Legos inviting kids to play at every turn.
  2. Friendly Staff -Every hotel staff member we encountered was genuinely happy to be part of the LEGOLAND team and went above and beyond to make our birthday girl feel special. Everyone had tips and advice to share too!
  3. Early Park Entrance – As a hotel guest, you get access to LEGOLAND a half hour earlier than the general public. It might not seem like a lot of time, but you can fit a lot of rides in before the parkingLEGOLAND HOTELlot fills and tickets are purchased by non-hotel guests. The park entrance is just steps from the hotel. No monorail, bus or transport needed!
  4. Hotel Fun – We signed up for a free class with a LEGOLAND Master Builder. The intimate classroom was perfect and the kids were all given a set of Legos to build with. They followed along with the Master Builder and created their own koala. There was also a Lego building competition later in the day and a Lego pajama party at 8 pm. The lobby boasts a casual bar area (tables to relax at nearby the kids areas) with a tasty drink and food selection.
  5. Accommodations – I cannot rave enough about this. The standard room, which you can select one of three standard themes, sleeps five and kids have their own enclave with bunk beds, trundle and their own television already set up to play the LEGO Movie. Themes include Pirate, Adventure and Kingdom. There are also Lego Friends Suites, which are considerably more expensive, but sleep more and are in high demand.
  6. Scavenger Hunt – The kids loved the in-room scavenger hunt. They had to figure the numbers to the code on the treasure box where goodies and Legos were waiting for them. 
  7. Disco Elevator – We couldn’t help but dance in the Disco elevator when the light started flashing LEGOLAND HOTELand YMCA or Dancing Queen began to play. We were on the second floor, but there was really no chance we’d be taking the stairs.
  8. Floating Legos – The pool, which is definitely smaller than the big resort pools in the Orlando area, is stocked full of large floating Legos meant for building anything your heart desires. This put a whole new spin on pool time and I don’t know where else you’d get a similar experience. While the pool was small in comparison, it did not appear to be overly crowded.
  9. S’mores – At 7 pm, the hotel offered family packs of S’mores to take to the camp fire near Lake Lake Eloise. A Legoland staff member assisted us near the lake and we had a fun family S’mores adventure before settling in for the night. Packs were $10 for a family 4-pack (which fed our group of five with leftovers).
  10. Breakfast – Now as someone who spends the majority of her day planning on how to promote fruits and veggies to families, I have to say Bricks restaurant is top notch. It’s evident Fresh from Florida is a LEGOLAND partner as you notice fresh mango and strawberry smoothies, tri-color potatoes, made to order omlettes and more. This is not your typical hotel buffet breakfast. The kids were energized and ready for the day ahead.

Hear Charli’s 60 second review in this video clip!

Sometimes…. the best adventures are right in your backyard! Follow our family adventures live on Instagram and Twitter!

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This is not a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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A Trip To The Brevard Zoo

Over spring break, we spent a few days just south of Cocoa Beach on the East Coast of Florida. We had a pretty cloudy afternoon in the forecast so decided to forego the beach and check out the Brevard Zoo.

Trip to the Brevard Zoo

The zoo was a quick trip from our beach condo just south of Cocoa.

Our first pleasant surprise was the admission cost, which was very reasonable – $13.95 for children 3-11 and $17.95 for adults.

The staff was exceptionally friendly and extremely knowledgeable and the animals were in spacious habitats. The girls loved the Paws on Play area where they interacted with an African Tortoise, Horseshoe Crabs, goats, frogs and stingrays.

We loved the meerkat exhibit and the giraffe feeding area in Expedition Africa was amazing! We spent a good thirty minutes laughing and watching the meerkats play in their habitat. The giraffes were not hungry by the time we got to their area, but there is a tall structure where guests can feed the giraffes sweet potatoes from the height of the overlook.

On our way out, the girls took some time to get their photos at the Quarters for Conservation Selfie Station where they learned a little about a few animals currently facing extinction. They also got their faces painted (for free)!

If you are planning a summer trip to the Cocoa Beach area, there are also summer camps and programs offered weekly. Cocoa Beach is about an hour from Orlando. We can’t wait to go back!

 

Brevard Zoo

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We paid full admission to visit the Brevard  zoo. All thoughts and opinions in this post are our own.

 

 

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Florida Ocean Adventure

Mia is doing really well in school, and some parents may disagree, but I believe hands on experiences are a great way to reward a child that meets their goals. Plus, I needed a day to reconnect with the girls and a Florida ocean adventure was calling our name. We had plans to head south from Orlando to visit friends in Jupiter, FL Friday afternoon. I felt like there had to be a fun stop off on the way.

A quick Google search “Marine Centers on Treasure Coast” provided me with a link to the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center in Hutchinson Island, FL… About 2 hours south of Orlando. Perfect!

The website said stingray feeding was at 1 pm, followed by a turtle talk at 2 pm and so we were on our way.

Touch Tank Florida Oceanographic

First stop, the Touch Tank!

 

Florida Oceanographic Center

Next stop, the lagoon to say hi to friends.

The volunteer staff on hand were great with the kids and extremely informative. We went on a Friday afternoon so we were three of about 12 folks there around 1 pm for stingray feeding. The volunteers even urged me to get more involved holding a sea urchin or two instead of just taking pics.

Florida Oceanographic Center

Then lots more learning disguised as fun.

Hutchinson Island

Perfect end to a perfect day!

Lucky for us the Oceanographic Coastal Center is right on the beach at Hutchinson Island! The beach was deserted (but had lifeguards). We opened our picnic lunch and played tag with the waves.

So, the details – this is a 57-acre marine life nature center located on Hutchinson Island in Stuart, FL situated between the Indian River and the Atlantic Ocean. As a leading state and nationally recognized environmental organization, Florida Oceanographic offers Educational Programs to people of all ages and conducts Research and Restoration programs that lead to healthy coastal ecosystems.

The cost to enter is minimal and I encourage anyone traveling or living close by to visit this amazing place and make a donation to preserve our Florida oceans.

Just about 40 minutes south is the Loggerhead Marine Life Center in Juno Beach. You can read about it here.

Follow our family travel & food adventures live on Instagram and Twitter! Happy travels!

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Park City, Utah Skiing With The Family

It’s been awhile since the entire family went west, but it was time! I had a few snickers when I announced our plans to embark on a ski adventure with the entire family to Park City, Utah during the Sundance Film Festival. But, then again places that people don’t think of as typical family travel locations, festivals or events are what draw me in.

The Mamma Mia Blog Park City Utah

Charli’s first glance out of the gondola

Our trip was quick – four days, but packed with fun. The Canyons was an awesome place to rest our heads and enjoy lots and lots of onsite activities. We opted for a two bedroom, three bathroom full kitchen condo at the Silverado Lodge. It was perfect for the five of us and reasonably priced too. We found a package deal through AMEX Travel.

Snow play in the village at The Canyons

Snow play and face painting  in the village at The Canyons

The girls were able to partake in ski school and I took a refresher course myself. I caution the ski school prices seemed high, but in comparison to other ski resorts, they are pretty much standard. I have to add that ski school was totally worth the investment.

The layout of this place is absolutely incredible, with eclectic food and drink options around every corner, but relaxed enough to pop in with the entire family. Plus, crazy, amazing views everywhere you look! Shuttles run regularly, which was important because the Silverado Lodge was a short walk to the main lodge.

The Mamma Mia Blog Park City Utah

Soaking in the beautiful scenery

We were in town during the Sundance Film Festival and were able to explore the town of Park City and soak in the hustle and bustle of the festival. We didn’t catch a flick (I wanted to get on a wait list), but our time was limited and the ski weather was just too good to miss. Truly our favorite area for relaxing at The Canyons, was the Ski Beach. This was the prime location for food and drink as well as snow play and catching all of the action.

The Mamma Mia Blog Park City

The Ski Beach at The Canyons

We’ll be back to The Canyons next year for sure! On our return, we plan to exploring more of downtown Park City… if we ever leave the Ski Beach that is.

The Mamma Mia Blog Park City

Until next year!

Follow our family travel & food adventures in 2016 live on Instagram and Twitter! Happy travels!

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Summer Kick Off At Enchanted Evenings Waldorf Orlando

Enchanted Evenings Waldorf Astoria Orlando

Enchanted Evenings Waldorf Astoria Orlando

If you are looking for a fun Orlando family staycation or are visiting the area this summer, you must check out Enchanted Evenings at Waldorf Astoria Orlando.

We kicked off our summer again this year at the Waldorf. The entire crew was over the top excited to not only count down to end of school, but count down to Waldorf weekend 2015. (It’s now a tradition)

Our absolute favorite thing about the Waldorf is the pool area that features lawn games and cozy places to lounge. All summer during Enchanted Evenings, there are special activities at the pool like scavenger hunts, lawn games, derby car building and racing, fun fireside stories next to the humungous fire pit, smore’s night and Kids Club Astoria After Dark. The zero entry pool is awesome and Aquamarine has a great selection of food (for everyone in the family) and cocktails.

The new texting concierge service is now my favorite perk at the Waldorf. Sitting poolside with a question about dinner and all I had to do was text the concierge!

Enchanted Evenings Waldorf Astoria Orlando

Mamma Mia Blog Kicks off Summer!

Parents who are looking to get away at the spa or the amazing onsite restaurant Bull & Bear can make a reservation through the concierge and automatically get a $50 credit per child for Kids Club Astoria After Dark (which is $75 per child). Now, that’s a hard offer to turn down.

The kids love, love, love Oscar’s for breakfast. This buffet is huge and everything is fresh and pretty much just awesomely delish. There are fresh squeezed juices like carrot orange and melon juices, cheeses, fruits, pastries and an entire hot bar with cooks preparing crepes and omelettes to order.

Our room had a pool view this year and we were able to kick back, relax and enjoy the Disney fireworks display both evenings! I’ve seen those fireworks from many a location and this might be my favorite – on the balcony with a glass of wine surrounded by my family.

Enchanted Evenings runs through September 6 and rates start at $199. A full line up of activities is listed here.

As always, happy travels!

Follow our family travel & food adventures in 2015 live on Instagram and Twitter!

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We were provided with a complimentary stay at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, but all opinions and views shared are my own.

 

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The Newest Vacation Rental in Orlando

I’m so excited to share my most recent article in PLAYGROUND magazine. Friends from my hometown in Pennsylvania have created the most amazing vacation rental space here in Orlando. Click through to read about the inspiration behind this awesome home and how you can book your stay.

Orlando's Newest Vacation Home

Orlando’s Newest Vacation Home

 

Follow our family travel & food adventures in 2015 live on Instagram and Twitter! Happy travels!

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Mamma Mia 2014 Year in Travel

Today, as we are planning our first adventure of 2015 to Park City, Utah, I took some time to reflect on our 2014 year in travel. What a year of discovery it has been!

This year our adventures took us across the pond. We explored all of the play spots Paris has to offer and mastered navigating the metro. We even found our way to Roland Garros for my little tennis fan and explored the Louvre, Eiffel and Notre Dame. We definitely took in Paris.

Mamma Mia 2014 Year in Travel

Paris 2014

This non-Harry Potter fan was transformed after tagging along on a Harry Potter black cab tour through London. I escaped through an emergency exit in the London Dungeon, giving everyone a good laugh, and was mesmerized and forever changed by a morning at Westminster Abby.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

Back in the states and on the lovely west coast of Florida, we experienced the eclectic Post Card Inn in St. Petersburg and Mia was able to master the long board at surf school. An anniversary weekend away in Sand Key near Clearwater Beach led to a new appreciation of shell searching.

Mamma Mia Surf School St. Pete Beach

Surfing in St. Pete Beach

The Waldorf Astoria Orlando was the perfect locale to kick off our summer and our first ever Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas was one to remember (and learn from – stay tuned for future post on that experience).

Myrtle Beach in South Carolina gave us a week of family fun with our family from Pennsylvania. We found fall (and maybe a future vacation home location) in picturesque Dahlonega, GA and introduced the girls to Piedmont Park and the Flying Biscuit in Atlanta.

Finding Fall in Dahlonega - The Mamma Mia Blog

Finding Fall in Dahlonega

I witnessed the best that LA food trucks have to offer and was able to catch a glimpse of Disney Land during a quick solo trip to California.

We closed out 2014 with a trip to Seven Springs near my hometown in Pennsylvania to partake in snow tubing and roll around in the fluffy white stuff that we don’t get back in Florida.

Snow Tubing Seven Springs

Snow Tubing Seven Springs

As we forge ahead into the new year, I once again hope to become more minimalistic when it comes to material things and spend what we have on experiences that we will remember for a lifetime.

Best wishes for a very Happy (and adventure filled) New Year!

Follow our family travel & food adventures in 2015 live on Instagram and Twitter! Happy travels!

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Mamma Mia 2014 Year in Travel

Mamma Mia 2014 Year in Travel

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Orlando Staycation Family Favorite Winners

Local parents voted on their fave Orlando staycation spots and the results have been released!  I wrote about the winners in this issue of PLAYGROUND magazine.

Take a look at the top spots from local families who know. From best resort pool to best resort on a budget and best family suite, this list is for locals for sure, but also great info for visitors to Orlando.

Orlando Staycation Picks

Staycation Picks 2014 PLAYGROUND Family Favorite Awards

 

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Finding Fall in Dahlonega

Living in Florida, the girls don’t get a real taste of fall weather. We travel to snow every winter, but have never traveled to experience fall. This year, when Mia asked where we could go to see fall, I knew we needed a road trip. Their dad had been camping several times in North Georgia and suggested we pack our bags and get on the road for Dahlonega, GA – about 7 hours from Orlando.

As we drove, we began to see and feel changes in the air and trees. It was quite amazing to watch the world transform. (Especially for me, who tries to steer clear of driving trips over 4 hours!) What we discovered and experienced once we arrived in the Dahlonega, puts this adventure on my top 5 list of my favorite weekend trips. I’m not sure if it was being immersed in the beauty of a season I barely recognized after 12 years living in Florida or if it was the happiness on the girls faces as they basked in all the glory fall has to offer.

Monteluce Winery - The Mamma Mia Blog

First stop Monteluce Winery for lunch and fun in the vineyard

 

Dahlonega, GA - Travel with Kids

Dahlonega has a quaint downtown area with great restaurants, cafes and shops.

 

Amicolola Hike - Travel With Kids The Mamma Mia Blog

We stayed at the Amicolola Lodge, which was perfect for hiking and family adventure.

This trip will remain etched in my memory in a way I never could have imagined. I’m already making plans to go back next year. This is what family travel is all about.

Follow our family travel & food adventures live on Instagram and Twitter! Happy travels!

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