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

Fun Travel Prep for Kids - Paris & London

It's not everyday you travel over the pond to such amazing places like Paris and London. I decided to start the journey for me and Mia long before we packed our bags for the airport. Here are a few fun things we did to get ready and excited! My brother sent Read more

Hidden Gem: Sand Key Florida

My other half planned a short getaway for our nine year anniversary. I wasn't exactly sure where we were headed, but knew it was somewhere around Clearwater Beach. As we drove over the bridge to Clearwater, I kept expecting a turn off at one of the many beach hotels. To my surprise Read more

Westin Cape Coral Weekend Getaway

Most of you who follow my Instagram or Twitter know that we had a fabulously fun weekend at the Westin in Cape Coral, FL a few weeks ago. The property became a Westin in December of 2013 and underwent a plethora of renovations, which I believe puts it in the best Read more

Disney's Art of Animation Resort

We finally had the chance to visit Disney's Art of Animation Resort this week for a little staycation. It is located where construction on the unfinished half of Disney's Pop Century Resort was started, but later abandoned after 9/11. The resort is the first to be built in the complex Read more

Meeting Winter - Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Most of the world has seen (or at least heard of) the movie Dolphin Tale. The story highlights the rescue of a wounded dolphin who ends up losing one very important important thing... a tale! The Clearwater Marine Aquarium works hard in the movie to create a prosthetic tail just Read more

Travel

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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Little Passports – A Ticket To A Global Adventure

Little Passports Review

Exciting package from Little Passports

I love to read about far off places. When I have the chance, I love to travel to far off places. My kids seem to have acquired this same passion for exploring the globe, which is why I am pretty obsessed with Little Passports.

Last year, we traveled to Paris and London. While it’s not in the budget to travel internationally often, that doesn’t mean we have to stop exploring.

Sign up for a Little Passports subscription and your kiddo can follow Sam and Sofia on their exciting adventures around the US and the world. This is a super fun way to inspire love and understanding of the world while learning about geography, history, culture, and language in a fun and memorable way.

Here’s how it works – Each month kids follow characters Sam and Sofia as they embark on a new country adventure. The first month’s Explorer Kit arrives in a suitcase and contains everything your child needs to get started: a letter from Sam and Sofia, a map, a passport, stickers, access to online games and more. Country specific packages filled with fun souvenirs, letters, stickers, photos, activity sheets and more arrive every month thereafter.

Our first destination was Brazil. Mia spent hours looking through the contents of her Brazil package. There was even an amethyst from mine in Maraba. Now she is asking where Sam and Sofia will go next.

Most of us don’t have the budget, or time, to go trotting across the globe, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop exploring! This is my new “go to” gift for kid’s birthdays and holidays for sure.

Happy Exploring!

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DK Travel Guide Giveaway – London, Paris, New York & Italy

Win 4-Pack of Travel Guide Books!

Win 4-Pack of Travel Guide Books!

The DK travel guide covers are recognizable to just about everyone. Hard to believe that DK’s Eyewitness Travel guides have been around for 20 years. This summer, guides to iconic destinations like Italy, Ireland, London, Paris, and New York City received a makeover.

As many of you know we embarked on a journey to Paris and London a few months back. We pulled from multiple resources for our trip, but this new revamped London guide is definitely a perfect one stop shop for your London travel. Mia had a great time perusing the book reminiscing about our London trip.

I love to give away books on Mamma Mia, but especially travel related books! I’m excited to give away a 4-pack from DK including the new London,Paris, Italy and New York City guide books. Perfect for planning a trip or just dreaming about one! The pack is valued at $100.

Travel Guide Book Giveaway

4 Travel Guides Worth $100

How to Win:

  • Leave a comment letting me know which location you’d most like to visit out of the four books.
  • Follow DK Travel (@dk_travel) on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know you did.
  • Like DK Travel on Facebook and leave a comment letting me know you did.

I’ll select a winner on Monday, August 4 at 3 pm.

Happy Travels!

This contest is open to residents of US/Canada only. I was provide with a copy of the DK London guide for review. All opinions on The Mamma Mia Blog are my own. Photographs and text reproduced by permission of DK, a division of Penguin Random House ©2014 by DK.

 

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Enchanted Evenings At Waldorf Astoria Orlando

Waldorf Astoria Enchanted Evenings

Waldorf Astoria Pool Entrance

The Waldorf Astoria in Orlando, near Disney, has an unimaginable amount family fun going on this summer during Enchanted Evenings. Enchanted Evenings schedule of events happen every weekend through Labor Day.

We had the chance to stay at the Waldorf Astoria, in a two bedroom suite perfect for families, during the kick-off of Enchanted Evenings. The girls finished school on Wednesday so it was the perfect way to celebrate summer.

Enchanted Evenings at Waldorf had fun poolside activities for the kids including Water Walkers. (Take a look at this video of Mia taking advantage.) She never stopped laughing. Other family friendly activities taking place around the hotel were a Weird Science Ice Cream Social, Regatta Sailboat Decorating, Kids Club Astoria After Dark and Family S’mores Night. The full schedule of events is here.

We spent a lot of time at the zero entry pool, perfect for the girls. I heard several guests raving about the Lime In he Coconut poolside cocktail and had to try it out. This drink was heavenly! Just a five minute walk from the Waldorf pool is the Hilton Bonnet Creek (where there’s another schedule of family activities for Summer Blast) pool and lazy river. I’ll have a post coming ASAP on Hilton Bonnet Creek’s festivities, which you are welcome to enjoy as a guest at Waldorf.

Ice Cream Social Waldorf Astoria

Ice Cream Social Waldorf Astoria

Oscar’s for breakfast was the highlight of our mornings. The breakfast buffet left us full through lunch. I couldn’t get enough of the fresh squeezed juices like – carrot and watermelon. The girls had to be carried away from the pastry display.

Service, in true Waldorf style, was impeccable and even Mia commented on the friendliness of the staff. As a testament to the family fun we had, our 3-yr-old cried in the lobby saying she never wanted to leave.

Summer rates during Enchanted Evenings start at $249. This location is perfect for your Orlando staycation (like us) or families visiting Orlando on summer break.

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Waldorf Astoria

The girls in the Waldorf lobby looking out to pool

Enchanted Evenings Waldorf Astoria

Relaxing after a fun filled day! 

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Family Getaway Postcard Inn St. Pete Beach

Postcard Inn

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 2009 and was super excited to finally check it out in person.

Postcard is extremely unique with a 70s style hipster Florida ambiance… think faded photographs of surfers and other beach scenes on the walls of the rooms and  couches and chairs that look like they’ve been handpicked from a thrift store. This is not your run of the mill beach property.

The kids loved the outdoor movie on Friday evening in the garden. The birthday girls’ mom had the necessities to make S’mores so our the crew was able to enjoy sweet snacks while watching a kiddie flick. A local surf instructor, recommended by the front desk, gave the girls an hour long surf lesson Saturday morning. This was the highlight of their weekend for sure.

The hotel pool is huge. Nothing fancy, but reminisce of your 70s beach side pool with the perfect view. Wait staff circle the lounge chairs to take Postcard Inn St. Pete Beachfood and drink orders, but during busy times, I recommend popping over to the snack window or stopping off at the bar to order.

The clientele was a mix of locals hanging out at the beach side bar, families and couples. The beach on the spring Saturday we were there was definitely more calm and family friendly during the morning hours from 9 am – 12 pm. After that, it was bustling with locals and early 20 somethings who wanted to be stationed near the beach bar on a Saturday afternoon.

Rates are reasonable and Florida resident rates are almost always available. The garden rooms were we stayed went through a complete overhaul last year and the poolside cabana rooms will be updated next fall.

If you are looking for the swank surroundings and service you’d receive at the Ritz, this isn’t the spot for you. However if you are looking for an eclectic laid back beach weekend, I say this is the place to be.

Postcard Inn

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PS – The giant swan float traveled with our group from Orlando. Not property of Postcard Inn.

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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 home. We only had three days in the City of Love, but found some awesome kids spots to share and recommend.

Jardin Du Luxembourg – Or as Mia calls it “the largest playground in the world.” Check out this kiddie zipline in our video. It was 1 Euro to enter, but totally worth the minimal cost. The park is in the garden of the French Senate located within the Luxembourg Palace.

Luxembourg Palace

Luxembourg Palace

 


Jardin des Tuileries – Perfect stop after visiting the Louvre. This garden was created in 1554 and located between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde! Grassy areas to picnic, a cool playground, food vendors (including cotton candy) and a trampoline park in the midst of it all.

Jardin des Tuileries near the Louvre

Jardin des Tuileries near the Louvre

Jardin des Tuileries near the Louvre

Jardin des Tuileries near the Louvre

Gardens surrounding the play area

Gardens surrounding the play area

 

Parc de Bercy –  Right near our hotel in Bercy Village was the huge Bercy Parc area connecting 12 beautiful gardens. The girls loved the winding paths and of course the fun play area. The parc is situated on the bank of the Sienne so you can take a peek at the famous river and the city.

 

Just minutes from our Hotel Kyriad Bercy was this quaint park

Just minutes from our Hotel Kyriad Bercy

These trees were just days away from blooming

These trees were just days away from blooming

Taking a glimpse of the Sienne

Getting a glimpse of the Sienne

 

Check back for more posts from our Europe adventure! I promise I’m getting through these photos and memories and will have lots to share to help you plan or dream about your next family trip.

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Fun Travel Prep for Kids – Paris & London

It’s not everyday you travel over the pond to such amazing places like Paris and London. I decided to start the journey for me and Mia long before we packed our bags for the airport. Here are a few fun things we did to get ready and excited!

Kiddie Travel Journal

Kiddie Travel Journal

My brother sent an awesome kids travel journal so Mia could document her first international trip. She created her packing list, wrote down what she thinks will be her favorite things and even drew in pictures of what she imagines will happen on her trip. There are pages for pre, during and post trip. The journal is simplistic and is an easy and great way to document the adventure through your child’s eyes.

We visited our local library and found multiple gems like Kidding Around London and Count Your Way Through France. Books that talk about landmarks and quirky facts are the best. For instance did you know a baguette can be up to three feet?

The library also had a London and Paris DVD from the series Travel With Kids that we were able to check out.

Mia received the book Charlotte in Paris, from my sister. While in Paris, Charlotte dines at a cafe on the Champs-Elysees, watches a marionette show in the Tuileries gardens and celebrates her birthday at the Eiffel Tower. Mia will celebrate her 8th birthday at the Eiffel Tower as well! Perfect.

Charlotte in Paris

Charlotte in Paris

Last but not least, Mia has been working on the fun kids language app Duolingo for weeks. She is not speaking fluent French just yet, but she definitely knows more than me and is going to have fun recognizing and hearing words she knows.

I can’t wait to share the fun details of our upcoming travels.

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Hidden Gem: Sand Key Florida

My other half planned a short getaway for our nine year anniversary. I wasn’t exactly sure where we were headed, but knew it was somewhere around Clearwater Beach.

Marriott Sand Key

Marriott Sand Key

As we drove over the bridge to Clearwater, I kept expecting a turn off at one of the many beach hotels.

To my surprise we headed over a bridge away from Clearwater Beach and turned into the Marriott Sand Key.

We only had Saturday and Sunday to spend in the area, but I can tell you this was pure paradise. Close enough to Clearwater tourist area to enjoy the pier and shops if you wanted, but far enough that you are amongst residential condos and free to enjoy a beach undergoing a nourishment project that welcomes a plethora of amazing shells.

Sand Key Beach

Sand Key Beach

The Marriott Sand Key has an amazing pool area, kids club (We’ll be back withthe kids), restaurants (on location and nearby), fun water sports, tiki bar, great room views and friendly staff.

We will definitely be back!

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Orlando Parents Vote On Their Local Hotel Favorites

Living in one of the most visited locations in the world means that families living in Orlando have a plethora of options when it comes to a staycation. Readers of PLAYGROUND magazine voted on their top staycation choices in town and I had the pleasure of writing about the results. I was also able to throw a few faves of my own in there. I think it’s a must read for Orlando parents and really any family traveling to Otown. Click below for the full article (pages 32-34)

Staycations in our backyard!

Staycations in our backyard!

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Florida Turtle Adventure

During a recent trip to visit friends in Jupiter, FL, we stumbled upon the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. This place is amazing. We knew it was amazing when we saw the designated “after hours turtle hatchling drop off” area at the entrance. The girls wandered through a small aquarium area before heading out near the beach to the state of the art turtle rehabilitation area.

Intrigued with this turtle's story...

Intrigued with this turtle’s story…

Each tank had a different turtle with a unique rescue story. An educator stood at each tank to talk to guests about the turtle’s situation and plan for rehabilitation. From the rehab tank area, you can peek into the indoor medical care area to observe turtles being looked after or undergoing medical testing.

Most all of these turtles will be returned to their natural habitat within days or weeks. Others that are not fit to be released back into the wild will remain or be sent to larger aquarium environments were they will thrive.

New turtle friends.

New turtle friends

The Loggerhead Center is a hidden gem and a wonderful place to take the family. Be sure to stop off on your next trip to South Florida.

 

If you can’t make it to Florida, go to the Center’s website where you can track the progress of their turtles, adopt a turtle of your own or even view a live turtle cam.

Guests are recommended to make a donation upon entering, but there’s no set admission cost.

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