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A Road Trip to Pittsburgh is a Must for D.C. Families!

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My family recently went on a road trip to Pittsburgh and found out exactly why Pittsburgh is kidsBURGH – the ultimate destination for family fun! We had never visited before so naturally we were excited to explore some place new. It was a fairly quick drive from D.C.; we made it in a little under 4 hours which included 2 stops. It felt like an easier trip than driving to the beach since traffic was not an issue. Once we arrived in the city, it was non-stop fun and so easy to keep the kids happy and entertained. The team at Visit Pittsburgh put together an amazing itinerary for us. Read on to see why you should start planning your family’s next summer getaway to Pittsburgh!

Day 1

We left D.C. at 7:30am and arrived at our hotel by 11:30am. After we checked in and unpacked we headed off to lunch at Primanti Bros. – a Pittsburgh classic. Founded in 1933, the chain is known for its signature sandwiches of grilled meat, an Italian dressing-based coleslaw, tomato slices, and French fries between two pieces of Italian bread. It was delicious and definitely a must! We visited the original location in the historic Strip District neighborhood.

Primantis

After lunch we went to the Carnegie Science Center and experienced the world’s largest exhibition of LEGO art. The Art of the Brick exhibit showcases the incredible artworks by artist Nathan Sawaya.

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After touring the awe-inspiring exhibit, kids get to discover their inner architect in the free-play and hands-on activity area, Science of the Brick!

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There are so many other areas in the museum to explore too. We could have easily spent most of the day here but we only had 2 hours so we just scratched the surface. After the LEGO exhibit, my girls choose to tour the USS Requin Submarine and also check out the fantastic H2Oh! Why Our Rivers Matter exhibit.

We ended the first day of our tour with a Pittsburgh Pirates game at PNC Park. It is located along the shore of the Allegheny River and from the park you can enjoy amazing views of the downtown skyline and riverfront. Inside the park there is a playground area where you can take your little ones if they get restless in their seats.

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Day 2

We started Day 2 with Breakfast at Kelly O’s in the Strip District. This diner has been featured on the Food Network and is known as a one-of-a-kind greasy spoon that is a classic Pittsburgh spot for breakfast. Everyone in my family loved the food! My girls devoured their pancakes and bacon, my husband enjoyed his breakfast sandwich on Italian bread, and I had excellent eggs and home fries. We also tried their famous grilled cinnamon roll and that was incredible! You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu here – it was all delicious!

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After breakfast we headed to Pittsburgh’s North Side and visited the Children’s Museum. This is one of the best that we have been to and I can definitely see why it was named one of the nation’s top 15 children’s museums by Parents magazine in 2015. There are three floors of innovative experiences where kids can play and inspire joy, creativity, and curiosity. Also, this summer there are two other fantastic exhibits on view: Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails and The Pigeon Comes to Pittsburgh: A Mo Willems Exhibit.

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The day just kept getting better! After the Children’s Museum we were off to Kennywood – known as America’s finest traditional amusement park. This was the stop on the tour that my girls were most excited about. Rides and games, plus fried food and sugary jumbo treats is a dream come true for them! Kennywood opened in 1898 and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1987. It has a mix of the old-school favorites and the new thrill rides like Black Widow.

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Kennywood was so much fun, it was really hard to leave but we needed to head back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner at Hofbrauhaus in the South Side neighborhood. The restaurant is modeled after the legendary 400+ year-old Hofbräuhaus in Munich and it really felt like we were in Germany. When we walked into the bier hall there was a musician playing the accordion and it had such a unique ambiance. The food was delicious and the kids menu offered up plenty of the popular dishes like cheese pizza, hot dogs, and chicken tenders. The restaurant is located on the bank of the river so after dinner we walked along the South Side Riverfront Trail and took in the amazing city views during sunset.

Hofbrauhaus

After dinner we stopped at The Milk Shake Factory for treats. At this premier dessert destination you can create your own milkshake from the extensive list of flavors or choose one of the classic or signature milkshakes on the menu. This was a sweet ending to fun-filled day!

Day 3

We started the day with a delicious breakfast at Waffles Incaffeinated in the South Side. My girls were super excited to build their own waffles from the large list of signature ingredients. We all left happy with full bellies!

Our next stop was Mount Washington where we took in the panoramic skyline views of the city. USA Today named the view from Mt. Washington one of the 10 most beautiful views in America. And we agree – it’s simply stunning!

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MtWashington

The original plan for the next destination was a visit to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium but with rain in the forecast we played it safe and instead went with an indoor option – the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. This is a great museum for kids with an incredible dinosaur exhibit including T.rex and other towering fossils. Our time here was short but we also made sure to see the Hall of African Wildlife, Hall of North Amerian Wildlife and the Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt where my girls were fascinated with the mummies!

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Our last stop on the tour was brunch at The Porch at Schenley Plaza. The menu features local and fresh ingredients used in new recipes as well as the classics with a twist. The food was amazing and the location was perfect too! After dining you can take your kiddos over to the nearby PNC Carousel for a spin or enjoy the beautiful green space.

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My family had the best time in Pittsburgh and didn’t even get to see everything on our first visit. We will most definitely make a return trip to spend more time at the places we loved and also check out the places we didn’t have time for like the zoo, the National Aviary, and the Duquesne Incline. We were pleasantly surprised with all the family friendly and affordable attractions Pittsburgh has to offer!

Disclosure: My family was hosted by Visit Pittsburgh for the purposes of this post. All opinions are my own. 



Dora & Diego Exhibit at Port Discovery + Ticket Giveaway!

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Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor offers three floors of interactive, educational exhibits and ever-changing programs for children ages birth through 10. I’ve been taking my girls here for a few years now and they always have the best time! We visited last weekend to check out the new Dora & Diego: Let’s Explore exhibit that is open now through February 19th.

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It’s time for adventure when children and their families come to explore Nickelodeon’s Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore!  This interactive exhibit takes visitors on an active adventure in the enchanting world of Dora the Explorer, her animal-rescuing cousin Diego, and their friends. Explore Isa’s Flowery Garden, help Tico gather nuts, join the Pirate Piggies’ crew to uncover pirate treasure, and help baby animals in the Rainforest Maze.

My girls headed straight for the Rainforest Maze once we entered. In this part of the exhibit kids can locate rainforest animals, swing across monkey bars, jump and hop across River Rocks and more.

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In the Animal Rescue Center, little ones can care for baby animals. If your child likes to role play, they will love this area. They can scan an animal to find out if it needs their help. Or if the animal needs a check-up they can listen to its heart, look inside of its ears, or apply a cold pack.

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In another part of the exhibit, kids can help Tico collect nuts to power his family car. My girls loved scooping up the acorns that were falling into the basket and then loading them up in the gas tank. Swiper, the sneaky fox makes an appearance here as he tries to swipe the nuts!

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Next to this area is the Pirate Piggies ship where kiddos can pretend to sail the high seas. There are even pirate clothes that the children can wear to dress the part as they play!

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Parents are encouraged to help their children count the Pirate Piggies treasure in both English and Spanish.

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In the Flowery Garden, kids can help Isa tend to her garden. This area has a padded floor, so its a good space to explore if you are visiting with a baby who might want to crawl around.

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In the rocket ship, little ones can put on a spacesuit and pilot the ship!

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Just across from the rocket ship is the Purple Planet, where kids can climb up and slide down.

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There’s also an area where children can form a constellation with glowing stars.

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There is so much to do in this exhibit, your kids can easily spend an hour playing in just this one area of the museum. I love the educational aspects of this exhibit and its opportunities for role-playing, problem solving, and learning words in Spanish.  Make sure to get to the museum to see the exhibit while its on view through February 19th! It would make for the perfect outing on a rainy or cold day this fall or winter!

And if you haven’t yet visited the museum and are interested in finding out more about all it has to offer, check out this article we wrote for Mommy Nearest.

GIVEAWAY ALERT! I’ve partnered with Port Discovery to give away a family 4-pack of tickets to Port Discovery which includes admission to the Dora & Diego exhibit. To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post. I’ll draw and notify a winner on Tuesday, October 10th. Good luck!

Good to Know:

• The exhibit is best for ages 1 to 7.
• Admission to Dora & Diego: Let’s Explore is included with general admission tickets to Port Discovery. $14.95 for adults and children 2 and up, and free for Museum members.
• The best place to park is Harbor Park Garage – 55 Market Place. Ask for validation before leaving the museum to get a discounted price.
• Port Discovery is a stroller friendly museum.
• Food and drinks are prohibited in all exhibit areas, but there is a designated eating area available.
• There are also lots of different restaurant options right outside the museum where you can get lunch or dinner.

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Great Wolf Lodge – Williamsburg, Virginia

Great Wolf Lodge
549 E Rochambeau Drive
Williamsburg, Virginia 23188
http://www.greatwolf.com/williamsburg/waterpark
 

We just returned from a mini vacation at Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, Virginia. This year for Clara’s fourth birthday we decided to take a trip instead of having a big birthday party for her. Last year we did the big party with all her preschool buddies at My Gym, so we wanted to do something different this year. It was our first time at the resort and we (especially the girls) had a great time!

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After we checked in we hit up the water park.

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I was really impressed with the cleanliness of the water park and the attentiveness of the lifeguards. There are several different areas in the water park that accommodate all ages of kids.

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Clara’s favorite part of the water park were the big slides that you ride down on an inner tube.

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After our first round at the water park, we grabbed dinner at the Loose Moose Bar & Grill, which was actually a not so great buffet. The food at the resort was my least favorite part. I would research some local dining spots nearby if we were to visit again. They do have a Dunkin’ Donuts inside the resort, which was nice to get much needed coffee for my husband and I in the morning.

After dinner, Clara got her face painted as a wolf in the hotel lobby and then we headed to the Northern Lights Arcade. It was the birthday girl’s lucky night – she hit the jackpot!

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We took the girls to story time in the main lobby and then it was time to get them settled into the Kid Kamp for the night. The nice thing about the room is the little private kids area with bunk beds and their own TV.

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The next day we spent more time at the water park with lots and lots of rides down the water slides! We also checked out the Ten Paw Bowling alley.

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As a special treat for Clara’s birthday, we went to Scoops Spa for Momma-Daughter mani-pedis. The spa has an ice cream theme and is super cute but a little pricey.

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We enjoyed our first adventure at Great Wolf Lodge! Clara is already asking if we can go back! It is really a great kid focused resort with a lot of different fun activities.

Good to Know:

•Sign up to become a member (it’s free) on the Great Wolf website for the best rates on rooms.
•The water park has puddle jumpers and life jackets available.
•Beach towels are provided in the water park.
•The Scoops Spa is by reservation only, so make sure to book a reservation ahead of time.



Girls Trip to Florida

We spent last week in the Jacksonville, Florida area visiting Mimi & Papa (as the girls call my parents) and thoroughly enjoyed the sun and warm weather. It was so nice to spend time outdoors after a few really cold weeks in DC.

This was only the second time I’ve taken both girls on flight by myself and the last time little miss Mae was only 6 months. Now, at 18 months she is obviously a much more active and sometimes feisty toddler so I was a little bit more worried. Thankfully it went really well! I made sure to pack a carry-on full of new travel-sized toys, stickers, activities, books, and of course the iPads to keep the girls occupied during the two hour flight.

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Here are a few of the kid friendly places we visited while exploring the Jacksonville area:

Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary

The Catty Shack Ranch is dedicated to the rescue and care of big cats. They provide the sanctuary to cats confiscated by the state for illegal ownership, improper enclosures or maltreatment. Their passion is educating the public on these amazing wild cats.

We went on a 45 minute guided tour of the sanctuary and it was a fun and unique experience, much different than a zoo. The guide was very knowledgeable and it was amazing to see the lions, tigers, and leopards up close. Definitely a must-see in the Jacksonville area.

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Historic Fernandina Beach

One beautiful day we spent exploring historic Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. We started out with lunch at Timoti’s Seafood Shak. This is a great place to take kids since they have a pirate ship playground. Parents can enjoy their meal while the kids play (win-win)!

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After lunch we walked down to the harbor marina and did a little shopping at the cute stores, admiring the Victorian-era architecture. I recommend stopping by the Villa Villekulla Toy Store if you have little ones with you.

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Jacksonville Zoo

I love this zoo because it has several interactive exhibits which are a lot of fun for the kids. At the Giraffe Overlook, you can get eye to eye with the giraffes and may even get a chance to feed one. Clara was lucky and got the opportunity to feed this friendly guy.

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This zoo also has a Lorikeet aviary where visitors can feed the birds, an Animal Care area where kids can pet the pygmy goats, and a Stingray Bay where guests can pet and feed the stingrays.

Fernandina Beach Day

It reached 70 degrees one day, so we went to the beach to play. It was of course too cold to get in the water but the girls loved collecting sea shells in their buckets, flying a kite, feeding the seagulls, and playing a little beach soccer. I love how peaceful and relaxing the beach is in the winter.

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Playgrounds

We put in lots of hours at playgrounds. It was evident that my girls have missed their playground time this winter. Floridians have it so good!

One playground that we love is Goffinsville Park in Fernandina Beach. It’s located right next to the Nassau river, where you can sometimes see manatees and dolphins splashing around.

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This park also has a paved nature trail through the woods, where the mossy oaks dangle above your head.

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Another great playground is the Pirate’s Playground in Fernandina Beach. It has some really fun musical, water, and sand features that make it unique.

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Museum of Science & History

We decided a visit to the MOSH would be a good indoor activity during a rainy day. This museum is great for kids and specializes in science and local history exhibits. My girls especially liked The Body Within exhibit, the Atlantic Tails exhibit, the Florida Naturalist Center, and the Kidspace.

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So that is what we were up to last week! A lot of memories were made! Getting to play with my girls for a week straight without having to think about any to-do list, organizing, cooking, cleaning, or planning was amazing. Just what I needed after the rush of the holidays. It was also so fun to watch my girls with their grandparents since they only get to see them a few times a year.  I’m already looking forward to going back next January!