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Saturday, April 19, 2014

My Williamsburg Wish List

My Williamsburg Wish List
In the fall, Eric and I will be heading to the East Coast to spend some time in Williamsburg, Virginia, Washington, DC and Virginia Beach. It's been over 20 years since I've been to Williamsburg, so I'm quite excited to return to places I visited many times when I was a kid and show Eric around an area that I spent a good chunk of my childhood. Here are some of the things on my list.

This photo of Busch Gardens is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Busch Gardens
I used to go here every summer. Though it is a theme park with fun rides, I love the international aspect of it and it's probably why I love EPCOT so much. You can visit several European countries in this park. I remember the drive up to it smelling of the Budweiser factory across the parking lot, which might be a funny way to remember childhood memories, but every time I see a brewery, I think of those (beer-free) summers.

This photo of Colonial Williamsburg is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Colonial Williamsburg
It can be fun to take a step back in time. I remember being incredibly interested in watching the blacksmith and the basket weavers. So many old-timey jobs are either done by machines now or totally unappreciated. As are modern conveniences and technology. Aren't you glad you can just pick up butter at the store now instead of having to churn it for hours?

This photo of Historic Jamestowne is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Historic Jamestown
The very first English settlement in America is found in Jamestown. You can view the fort, the museum and the excavation site and learn about what it was like to live in the 1600s. I always feel like interactive tours and exhibits are better than a regular museum. Even the kids love Jamestown.

This photo of Public Hospital Museum is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Public Hospital Museum
This is a place I've never been to. It claims to be the first mental institution in North America. You can see how the mentally ill were taken care of in the 1700s. I'm sure it won't be uplifting at all, but it's always interesting to view how far we've come (or not) in hundreds of years.

This photo of Craft House is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Craft House
Who's interested in Colonial items? I am, obviously. If you are, too, you can head to Craft House and pick up some reproduction historical goods to take home with you.

This photo of Haunted Dinner Theater is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Haunted Dinner Theater
I'm a fan of eating while being entertained. This may take some coaxing into, but I'm not sure who can say no to a fun night out with a buffet of delicious food. 

This photo of Yorktown Battlefield is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Yorktown Battlefield

While not actually in Williamsburg, Yorktown is close enough to immerse yourself in yet another piece of history. The battlefield gives you a sense of what the war must have been like, and a tour guide will explain more about it and even demo a cannon for you! For a few bucks, you can purchase a driving tour CD and take a self-guided tour as well. 

Have you been to Williamsburg? If so, what are your recommendations for our visit?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Visiting Las Vegas with Kids

It’s called Sin City for a reason, but Las Vegas is not just for grown-ups. You don’t have to bet against the house to be a big winner. Away from the casinos and hotel pools there is a jackpot of family fun just waiting to be had.

Seigfried & Roy Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat
There’s so much kid-friendly fun happening right on The Strip. The Mirage is home to the big cat collection of magic act Seigfried & Roy. Walk through at your own pace, admiring the tigers, panthers and other felines and then watch dolphins frolic and play right next door.

Las Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame Museum
What kid doesn’t like to play a video game? Bring them down to E. Tropicana where they can both see some of the greatest pinball machines from the 1950s to 1990s and also play with pieces of history. This 10,000 square foot museum is open daily and is totally non-profit. All quarters you pay to play that don’t go toward upkeep go to various charities, like the Salvation Army.

Circus Circus Adventuredome
Among the hopeful thrills of slots and table games are more certain thrills at the Adventuredome amusement park at Circus Circus. Big kids have a choice of roller coasters and other adventure rides, while little ones can ride more tame rides and experience fun 4D movies. And if you’re looking for more affordable activities, Circus Circus holds free circus acts throughout the day.

Fremont Street Experience
Not all the glitz and glamour in Vegas is reserved for the casinos. The Fremont Street Experience downtown is seven blocks of entertainment, lights and more. Fremont Street had the first hotel in Vegas and the first paved street and now features one of the most popular attractions in the city. Live performances compete for attention with a four-block-long lighted canopy that uses 12.5 million LED lights to create patterns and videos to music once the sun goes down. Plus it’s all free!

If the rest of Fremont Street hasn’t quite delighted all their senses, then perhaps ziplining above the crowd will do the trick. Zip 110 feet from the ground, soaring over the heads of the visitors and right under the lighted canopy of the Fremont Street Experience.

Mob Museum
If you’ve ever wondered how Las Vegas got started and it blossomed into the city it is today, you’ll be surprised to know that it never would have happened without the mob. The Mob Museum is located directly across the street from Fremont Street, spans three floors in a former federal courthouse and U.S. Post Office. Kids will learn the history of the mob while also learning fun facts about how the mob works and how they spread across the country. There are some graphic images here and quite a bit of reading, so this may not be suitable for small children.

Shark Reef Aquarium
Just like the zoo, almost everyone enjoys a trip to the aquarium. The Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay has over 2,000 underwater creatures, including 1,000 sharks of 15 different species. Come face-to-face with exotic fish, reptiles and the rare golden crocodile. The aquarium has a touch tank – which all kids think is exciting – and two walk-through underwater tunnels to experience marine life all around you.

Mardi Gras Show in the Sky
Who doesn’t love a party? Multiple times per day the Rio throws an amazing Mardi Gras party for guests with floats that run on a track along the ceiling. Kids aren’t allowed on the casino floor, but there is a fabulous view from the balcony of the second floor where the shops are located. Dance to the music and maybe even score some beads, without having to take off your shirt.

All cities can be family-friendly if you look for attractions suitable for the different ages in your travel group. With the addition of endless buffets and pools to choose from, there is something to make everyone happy in Las Vegas.

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