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

Healthy Lunchbox Ideas

Mia has a book called Samantha's Silly-icious Sandwiches. Samantha gets sick of having the same boring sandwich in her lunch everyday and decides to create her own unique sandwiches. Her "Silly-icious Sandwiches" turn into a hit at school and a booming business, which she soon hands over for her 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

Family Travel

Rosen Orlando Holiday Happenings

I can’t even wrap my head around the many fun holiday happenings in Orlando this year. I really need two months of December to fit it all in.

One of my favorite hotel groups here in Orlando, Rosen Hotels, is hosting a slew of fun holiday events for every age. From lunches and dinners with Santa and the Winter Wonderland Festival to the European Winter Fair and Christmas Wagon, there has to be something to put your family in the holiday spirit.

Rosen Centre Holidays

Rosen Centre Holidays

This weekend, we will be taking part in ice skating fun at the Rosen Centre. It’s the first year for ice skating at the hotel and we are super excited. What could be more fun than ice skating in Florida! Plus, the skating is paired with face painting, balloon art, photo booth a DJ and more holiday fun.

Next on the agenda… Mia and I are attending the Nutcracker Tea at the Rosen Shingle Creek complete with a performance of the Nutcracker, traditional tea and photos with the Sugar Plum Fairy. Shh… I’m surprising her with this little mommy daughter holiday date. She is hard pressed to get my full attention these days. Follow my Instagram or Twitter for the play by play of her surprise.

Cost for each holiday activity is listed here. Prices are reasonable for memorable holiday family fun close to home!

Come back to The Mamma Mia Blog to read about more holiday happenings in Orlando.

Be sure to follow more of our family travel & holiday adventures on Instagram!

Instagram

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr

Posted on by Amanda in Holiday Travel Series, Orlando Leave a comment

My Birthday Party Boycott & Disney Character Celebration

This year, I decided I was not putting myself through Pinterest stress to create the perfect birthday party for my three-year-old. I was on a mission to find an alternative that would bring just as much fun for us as a family to overshadow the lack of birthday party. My solution was a Disney character dinner. I came upon my solution about two weeks prior to her actual birthday… In desperation mode to figure out a plan. She is obsessed with her Disney pals so why not take advantage of the character dining that Disney does right in our backyard.

I was a little late on the planning and as Disney would have it, there weren’t a whole lot of openings for the celebration.

Party guests

Party guests

(Guests can book 180 days out from their visit so reservations were slim pickings.) I called the Disney reservations line and the helpful planner identified an opening at the Swan Hotel’s Garden Grove. I was hesitant as I know the Swan Hotel to be a convention/meeting focused property, but thought we’d give it a shot.

The restaurant was not buffet style so we were able to order from a menu. Score!

There was a soup and salad bar where I had thebest clam chowder I’ve ever tasted and the most delicious bacon vinaigrette dressing. The kids loved their meals. Our adult entrees were salmon and chicken. There’s was a dessert bar where we observed the pastry chef creating a chocolate nutcracker while we were selecting our desserts. We also had an amazing server who made sure the birthday celebration was complete.

Of course the greatest part of our dinner was the personal interaction she had with Pluto and Goofy. Not her first choice of characters, but they are definitely high on the list and she was a happy girl.

So Orlando moms, if you are stressing about an upcoming birthday and have a Disney character loving child in the house, I completely recommend one of the character dining options.

 

This mom is #winning

This mom is #winning

 

Follow more of our family travel & Orlando adventures on Instagram!

Instagram

 

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr

Posted on by Amanda in Orlando Leave a comment

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.

Follow our family travel adventures on Instagram!

Instagram

 

 

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr

Posted on by Amanda in Travel Leave a comment

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 hotel category on the West Coast of Florida.

Ready to set sail.

Ready to set sail.

The hotel is tucked away off of I-75, south of Sarasota and in the small canal filled town of Cape Coral. The drive was three hours from Orlando and from what other guests at the resort said, it was around two and a half hours from West Palm airport. The property is not beach front, but it is on the water with access to Fort Myers beach via water taxi direct from the resort. We took advantage of the water taxi and even spotted a few dolphins on our journey.

Our room was a two-bedroom suite with two bathrooms, a full kitchen plus a washer and dryer. Perfect set-up for a family. All the Westin’s rooms have private screened-in balconies with views of the Gulf of Mexico or the river. Your stay includes a ton of amenities including guest access to three pools, bike rentals, tennis courts and daily resort activities.

Westin Kids Club

Westin Kids Club

The Westin Kids Club, for ages 4 to 12, was definitely a high point of Mia’s trip. Parents can opt for a half-day ($40) or a full day ($70). She did the half day session, which included lunch (bonus!) and crafts.

Not a shabby coffee view.

Not a shabby coffee view.

She made a cute little beach themed tote bag and a colorful flower pot. The Kids Club takes the older kids on outdoor excursions when the weather permits.

The Westin staff was extremely friendly and helpful. From Taylor at the front desk to the wait staff at Marker 92, the onsite restaurant. Taylor was actually one of the main attractions for my kids as they requested continuously to go by and say hi.

 

I spoke with several guests who had scored a variety of room rates. A couple was staying in a room with two double beds for $85 per night. It looks like our two-bedroom suite was going for $195 in October. The fall is the slow season for Florida hotels, but the weather is amazing.

Beautiful views are everywhere!

Beautiful views are everywhere!

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a mom of two, well let’s say highly energetic girls, the Westin Cape Coral was perfect and fun for all of us.

Follow our family travel adventures on Instagram!

Instagram

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary stay at the Westin Cape Coral to review their new Westin Kids Club. All thoughts and opinions about the Westin Cape Coral are my own. 

 

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr

Posted on by Amanda in Travel Leave a comment

Family Fun At Idlewild Park

I’ve been meaning to post about a summer day trip we took while at my parent’s house in the Pittsburgh area. We had the chance to visit Idlewild Park, just about an hour outside of Pittsburgh.

Family fun at Idlewild

Family fun at Idlewild

I grew up going to Idlewild, and remarkably, not a whole lot has changed. However, this park somehow manages to keep the new generation of kids just as entertained as the one before. Not to mention the park was just awarded the Golden Ticket for Best Children’s Park by Amusement Today Magazine

Storybook Forest, Jumping Jungle, Olde Idlewild and Soak Zone are the main areas at Idlewild. The park is just big enough to not be exhausting. As a parent, this is VERY important. We all loved strolling through Storybook Forest and interacting with the nursery rhyme characters. Charli tried desperately to remove the sword from the stone. Jumping Jungle had all of us, grown ups included, jumping into the ball pit and rope climbing like champions. We were ready for our picnic lunch after all the jumping. We brought a cooler (yes, you can do that at Idlewild) and left it at a picnic table near our car.

Idlewild Park and Soak Zone

Idlewild Park and Soak Zone

After lunch, we broke apart – little kids went to ride Olde Idlewild’s kiddie rides and the kids at heart went on some of the more thrilling rides in Olde Idlewild. We didn’t make it to the Soak Zone during this trip, but you can get all the details here. From what I’ve heard, the Soak Zone aligns with the rest of the park and has areas that are fun for every age.

Often, there are deals at Giant Eagle or other local businesses in the Pittsburgh area so keep an eye out. The park is a summer family favorite, but they are also open for weekends in September and October and have family Halloween activities. Campgrounds are close by and if you are visiting the Pittsburgh area, it’s just a short drive.

I wanted to post this info because so many friends had asked about my Instagram and Facebook photos from our trip. It really lives up to its accolade as Best Children’s Park. Next summer seems far off, but keep Idlewild top of mind when you start to plan!

Keep up with our family adventures through my Instagram.
Instagram

 

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr

Posted on by Amanda in Travel Leave a comment

Adventures of Bella & Harry Giveaway

Our family loves to travel, but we haven’t had the opportunity to get to far away places like the adorable Chihuahuas Bella & Harry who visit Rome and Edinburgh in their two newest adventure books. Someday we will get there!

Bella & Harry Let's Visit Edinburgh

Bella & Harry Let’s Visit Edinburgh

The Bella & Harry series was developed to inspire young readers to embrace the world and encourage its exploration. This is creatively done through the funny yet informative adventures of cute sibling Chihuahuas Bella and Harry, while traveling through various countries.

Bella & Harry Let's Visit Rome

Bella & Harry Let’s Visit Rome

Whether you are planning a trip or just in the mood to take an imaginative journey, these books are great way for kids, and parents, to learn about these far off places in a fun way. I definitely felt a little more worldly myself after reading the books with the girls.

I am obsessed with this series because it aspires to stimulate children’s imaginations and helps them to  understand the world in which we live.

I have both Bella & Harry Let’s Visit Rome and Bella & Harry Let’s Visit Edinburgh to give away to one (1) lucky reader.

 

 

How to Enter:

  • Leave a comment below letting me know what far off place you hope to visit with your family someday. 

Extra Entries:

I’ll announce the winner on Monday, August 26. Happy discovering!

I was provided copies of Bella & Harry Let’s Visit Rome and Bella & Harry Let’s Visit Edinburgh for review.  

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr

Posted on by Amanda in Giveaways, Travel 27 Comments

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 Lobby Art of Animationconstruction 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 in over seven years and the fifth to be placed in the value-priced category, along with Disney’s All-Star resort family. Family suites opened in May 2012, and standard rooms opened in September 2012. It took us some time, but we finally made a visit last week with my mom in town.

I wasn’t keen on visiting any of the parks in mid-July at the height of tourist season and heat in Florida so I felt a stay at Art of Animation might just do the trick. Upon arrival, there was a sketch artist sketching away and the lobby was decorated with sketches from popular Disney films. I knew right then as my daughters sat mesmerized watching the artist, that we had made a great decision.

We stayed at The Little Mermaid building, which was perfect for the girls and our short staycation. The entire room was themed after the popular Disney movie. Even the bathtub was painted to represent Ariel’s treasure trove. The Little Mermaid pool area is surrounded by large characters from the movie.

Nemo's Splash PadThe other resort themed buildings include Lion King, Finding Nemo and Cars. My girls had a blast walking through the center area between the resorts and bonding with the extremely well-done characters from the movies and replicated atmospheres.

At Nemo’s Big Blue Pool, my mom and I indulged in a signature cocktail, which was a reasonable $7.50 and the girls swam around in the beach entry pool under the large water spraying jellyfish. There’s a splashpad where my two-year-old spent a huge amount of time splashing around and poolside activities kept the kids entertained all day. Did I mention this is the largest Disney resort pool? There was even a showing of Cinderella under the stars poolside.

The Landscape of Flavors eatery had a wide variety of food to select from and healthy side selections like grapes, apples and yogurt for the girls. I had a Screen shot 2013-07-19 at 1.05.47 PMdelicious veggie burger. For four of us (two adults and two children) our dinner came to about $35. That’s a great price for a meal on Disney property.

In total, there are 1,984 rooms, of which 1,120 are family suites capable of housing up to six people, featuring living rooms and bedrooms. Our room for one night was $148 (prices vary) plus tax. Check on prices here.  As a mom on a budget, this price is super attractive for family fun.

Art of Animation

This was definitely a memory with Nana that will last a lifetime. We had a blast. I can say for sure, we will be going back sometime in the fall for Charli’s birthday!

 

Check out more photos from our most recent Art of Animation visit and other family adventures on Instagram. Be sure to follow me!
Instagram

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr

Posted on by Amanda in Travel Leave a comment

Sea Creatures, Tricks and Treats Oh My!

We’ve been doing Sea Word’s annual Spooktacular for a few years now and each year seems just a little more Spooktacular!

Sea World Halloween Spooktacular

The Spooktacular festivities are taking places weekends in October (now) from 12 – 8 pm and entry is included with admission. We take advantage of the annual pass offer every year so the Spooktacular is a no-brainer when it comes to Halloween activities for us in Orlando.

The fun colorful characters and scenery really make  Spooktacular for me and my girls. Oh, and the bubbles… There are bubble machines in every direction. The elaborately costumed sea creatures are super friendly and I’ve never run into a long line for a photo opp. This year, the Spooktacular fun spills over into Happy Harbor, where kids can partake in the usual Harbor fun and hop on a Spooktacular train ride.

We had a chance to catch  Sesame Street Countdown to Halloween, which you can see at different times daily, before we started our trick-or-treat adventure. My little one was mesmerized by her Sesame Street friends all dressed up for Halloween.

Coming from a Spooktacular expert, here are my top tips:

Sea witches!

  • Don’t do Spooktacular right at noon. Waiting till late afternoon is best – cooler and less crowded.
  • Sea World provides treat bags for collecting goodies so leave your trick or treat bags at home unless you really want to lug them.
  • Make sure you take the path for Penelope’s Party Zone – lots of crafting fun and a dance party (think top fun dance hits, limbo and hula hooping waterside) your little ones will love.
  • Bring a change of clothes if you are going in costume and plan on seeing some other sites. Not fun being splashed by Shamu in costume.
Go forth and be spooky!

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr

Posted on by Amanda in Orlando, Travel 3 Comments

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 like you would for a human. All the while the characters are in the process of saving the aging Aquarium, which they do with Winter’s help.

That's Winter behind Mia's big smile!

We decided this summer would be a great time to meet Winter in person. Only about 1.5 hours from Orlando is beautiful Clearwater Beach and the somewhat small Aquarium. Staff at the Aquarium give you the feeling they are family and all have a vested interest in the success of the facility. Mia likes to talk and the staff there took the time to answer EVERY SINGLE question she had with no sign of annoyance. There are no bells and whistles here, but in a good way. Just fish, sharks, dolphins, stingrays, turtles, otters, local shell and geography exhibits and daily educational shows that incorporate the marine life.

Mia & Charli checking out the prosthetic tail

After the success of Dolphin Tale, the Aquarium now has a new facility located just a trolleyride away that is dedicated to the making of the movie – Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure. We weren’t able to get to this facility, but it was included in our entrance price and the trolleyride is free! Winter calls the main Aquarium home.

I highly recommend visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for an authentic marine life experience. Prices are reasonable. $19.95 for adults and $14.95 for kids. Teachers and active military get in free!  There are often coupons available like this one on TampaBay360 for $2 off each ticket purchased.

If you can’t make it to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium just yet, you can follow Winter on Twitter or even view Winter through the online webcam! 

The operating room from the movie

 

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr

Posted on by Amanda in Travel 3 Comments

Weekday Pass At Aquatica!

Great news! There’s a new Weekday Pass from Aquaticathat allows you and your family to enjoy unlimited weekday access through Dec. 31, 2012.

Aquatica

We are big Sea World fans so Aquatica is basically a shoe-in on our local favorite activities list.  Aquatica takes guests in, over and under the water with some super cool water rides and animal encounters with Commerson’s dolphins, exotic birds and more!

I know as a full-time working mom, weekday passes to attractions aren’t always worth the money, but Aquatica is open until 7pm and even 8 pm most weekdays during the summer!

 With the Weekday Pass, guests can play every weekday this summer, and for the rest of the year, for just $59.99 plus tax. There’s even an option to purchase a weekend day for just $15 when you show your Weekday Pass at the front gate. (This is an awesome option!)

Guests can experience Aquatica’s 38 thrilling water slides, rivers and lagoons, side-by-side wave pools and two interactive water playgrounds designed for the littlest of swimmers.

For more info visit Aquatica’s website.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr

Posted on by Amanda in Orlando, Travel Leave a comment