Our family of four just spent a relaxing weekend at the Omni San Antonio at the Colonnade. We went for a short weekend getaway with our kids, ages six and eight. We wanted to do a little bit of sight-seeing around town, but mostly we just wanted to enjoy the hotel and the unique experience of staying in a large suite with an entire room aimed at keeping the kids entertained. The kids really felt like they were some place special in the Aquatica family suite, and truly the room itself was the highlight of the weekend. Here is the quick lowdown:
• Tons of room to spread out and play in the suite
• Nice indoor pool for fall/winter swimming
• The surrounding area is convenient but, being right on a major interstate (I-10), lacks charm and local flavor
The Omni is located in north central San Antonio, about 20 minutes from Sea World to the west and Brackenridge Park to the south. The San Antonio Zoo, the Witte Museum and the Doseum (Children’s Museum) are in Brackenridge Park, just north of the famous San Antonio River Walk. Six Flags Fiesta Texas is about 10 minutes to the north of the Omni, so the hotel is pretty centrally located if you want to hit all of the big ticket items in San Antonio. The hotel is right on I-10 and the surrounding area is a busy retail area, so it is very easy to grab a meal or anything else you might need outside of the hotel, but it isn’t pedestrian friendly or an especially charming area. I-10 is lined with chain restaurants and car dealerships for miles in either direction. However, it was easy to self-park and navigate the local area by car. We arrived at rush hour on Friday when the traffic was very slow, but it was fine the rest of the weekend.
We enjoyed the Aquatica family suite immensely. It is a full 2 bedroom suite, with one room for adults connected through a door in the wall to one room for the kids. The adult room has a comfortable king bed in the bedroom, a full bathroom and a sitting room with a TV. The sitting room doesn’t have a door to separate it from the bedroom but if feels very private because the bathroom is in between the bedroom and the sitting room. I really liked this arrangement because my husband stays up a lot later than I do, so he had his own space late at night. The only downside to this setup is that the sitting room has very limited natural light as a result, which this sun worshipper actually noticed although I don’t think anyone else in my family did. There is a fully stocked refreshment fridge in the room (items sold individually) and comfy robes in the closet, but there is no coffee in the room.
The kid’s room and bathroom are completely decked out in an ocean theme. One wall has a 3D coral reef covering it, which is probably the most visually exciting aspect of the room. There is also a fish tank in the corner, blue wave lighting on the ceiling, bubble tubes in the corners, two huge stingray bean bags on the floor, kid’s books and stuffed animals to play with and a game console with a Wii, a PlayStation, two large screens and games and movies. Some of the games were not working and they didn’t have more available at the front desk, so the room was showing a little wear and tear in that regard. There are two twin murphy beds that fold up into the wall in the kid’s room that were comfortable and all the bedding fit the ocean theme as well. Since both beds could easily fold up, the room felt huge during the day and my kids could have easily stayed in there all day playing. The practical perks of everyone having tons of room and their own bed was my personal favorite part about this trip; no bed sharing, floor sleeping or pretending a sofa bed is comfortable this time! There is definitely room for an air mattress on the floor in the kid room if needed for a third child, or even the couch in the adult sitting room could work as a potential sleeping place for larger families.
Needless to say, my kids loved this room. I think we will be hearing about “that time we stayed in the ocean room” for a long time to come.
The lobby felt open and inviting with lots of fresh flowers, places to lounge and complimentary fruit and flavored water available. There is an outdoor pool as well as an indoor pool that, unlike a lot of indoor pools in a dark basement room, was on the main floor and filled with light and actually pleasant to sit around while the kids swam. The exercise room was a decent size right off of the indoor pool room and had nice equipment and light as well. There was also an indoor hot tub and sauna accessible to anyone and massage available by appointment only. The hotel restaurant (Rolo’s) serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. We did not try lunch or dinner there, but enjoyed the full breakfast buffet both mornings. The breakfast was not complimentary, although kids younger than five eat for free with an adult. There is also a Peet’s Coffee in the lobby where you can buy coffee and breakfast pastries.
Service at the hotel was excellent, from the wait staff in the restaurant to the concierge and doormen in the lobby. Everyone was especially friendly with the kids. They really rolled out the red carpet for the kids with little backpacks upon arrival and cookies and milk brought to the room at night.
Disclosure: This review is based on a complimentary visit to The Omni San Antonio at the Colonnade. I received no other compensation and these opinions are entirely my own.
Theodore Roosevelt Island is a welcome respite in the middle of the Arlington area. Trails meander around the island with rocks to climb, river to view, and lots of trees and leaves. Kids will love scouring the huge boulders to see who can get the highest and parents will love that although usually very populated the trails are relatively quiet. A wonderful way to burn some kid energy. A cool bridge spans the Potomac to enter the island which really makes the “island” hit home for the kids. At the middle of the island, there is a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt as well an some inoperable fountains which a great place to take a rest/have a snack while visiting. One thing to note, the paths do curve quite a bit, so it could be easy to lose sight of the kids if they run ahead. Parking here can be tricky and fills up quickly on the weekends. While we were able to find a spot quickly when we arrived on a Sunday afternoon, there was a line 20 cars deep upon leaving of folks waiting to get in/find a vacant spot.
This Native American Museum Café has a huge cafeteria full of food goodness that is sure to please everyone in the family. From chicken tenders and typical kid food to a variety of Native American dishes, lunch can be found here. They also have a large seating area so it is a wonderful place to stop and take a rest from sight seeing in DC. The prices are a bit high (hot tea is $4.25 per cup), but not any higher than other museum eateries and here you have a long list of options. Seating can be a bit tricky and you may be sitting next to someone you do not know on busy days. Additionally, you cannot leave with food items, so make sure to only purchase what you can eat there.
My family visited the Children's Museum of Virginia on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Both my kids, ages 5 and 6, had a lot of fun at the museum. If we were local, I would not hesitate to purchase an annual membership.
It would take a long time for my kids to tire of the Children's Museum of Virginia. They were really the perfect ages to enjoy the museum when we visited. At ages five and six, they were still young enough to enjoy the pretend play areas downstairs and old enough to understand the more complex exhibits upstairs. I loved how all the signs were simple enough for my first grader to read; this is the first museum that we've been to where she could independently read her way through the exhibits.
I'd say that kids ages 3-8 years old will really enjoy the Children's Museum of Virginia. Younger toddlers and older children up through age 12 will enjoy visiting with siblings.
How does it Compare?
We've been to a lot of children's museums from the massive Children's Museum of Indianapolis to many of the local museums in Virginia. While the Children's Museum of Virginia simply can't compete with some of the larger museums throughout the country, it is one of my favorites. It is clean and well-maintained. Our family really had a lot of fun at the museum.
The museum has many standard exhibits for pretend play- like a vet, doctor's office, fire engine, boat, and grocery store. But, each exhibit went above and beyond what is typically expected. The doctors office has explanations for burps, boogers and smelly feet. The boat exhibit ties in with the local Hampton Roads history describing the different types of sailing vessels found in the local waters.
The downstairs area is home to many pretend-play sorts of exhibits. Kids can maneuver cranes to learn about the local shipping industry, be a vet taking care of stuffed cats and dogs, watch model trains speed through a vast exhibit, explore a kid-sized bank, pretend to go shopping at a tot-friendly grocery store, and hose down a "fire" like a fire fighter.
My first grader played happily with her brother and could even read most of the exhibits.
There are three main exhibits upstairs focusing mainly on art and science. Many familiar physical science demonstrations are highlighted featuring a circus-themed twist. So much fun! Great for ages 5-10. There is a creative exhibit inspiring children to think about home energy usage. Finally, there is a large art section providing examples of different types of art through hands-on activities.
I loved how the Children's Museum of Virginia has taken many familiar, tried-and-true children's museum exhibits and put a twist on them to make them just a bit more fun. If you're looking for an indoor activity in the Hampton Roads region, I highly recommend the Children's Museum of Virginia.
Disclosure: My family received complimentary passes to the Children's Museum of Virginia for the purpose of this review.
My family and I spent the Sunday after Thanksgiving in Portsmouth, Virginia; we took a ride on the Elizabeth River Ferry, played at the Children's Museum of Virginia and said "hi" to Santa at Winter Wonderland.
Old Fashioned Holiday Displays
There are three rooms at the museum featuring the Coleman Nursery Yuletide Displays. Upon entering the displays, visitors are given a paper with a few specific items to find.
While my kids are more likely to remember our visit to Busch Garden's Christmas Town, I'm glad that we took a bit of time to see the simpler decorations at Winter Wonderland. These dolls have been enjoyed by generations of children over many decades. It's important to me that my kids have the opportunity to see the displays that their grandparents (or even great-grandparents) would have enjoyed.
The scavenger hunt helped my kids stay focused on the details of the exhibit. This particular scavenger hunt seems to have been used in years past and could use a bit of updating. But, it still served it's purpose well.
Of course, the kids loved visiting with Santa. I enjoyed being able to take photos without the commercialism that is found at the mall.
Crafts and Face Painting
On weekends, various activities are available for families coming to Winter Wonderland. My kids enjoyed decorating a Christmas ornament to remember their visit and getting their faces painted.
Winter Wonderland should be a Christmastime tradition for families living in the Hampton Roads region. The simple, old fashioned holiday fun nicely compliments the flashier, more commercialized light displays elsewhere in the area.
We enjoyed spending a day in Portsmouth. There is so much to do in the Hampton Roads region - especially during the holiday season - but Portsmouth is certainly worth a visit too.
Disclosure: My family received complimentary passes to Winter Wonderland for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.