Reviews & Photos
March 27 2013
Craig Thomas/Moose Discovery and Visitors Center
1 family found this helpful
"Gorgeous New VIsitors Center in Grand Teton NP"
The Moose Visitors Center should be a must-stop for families driving from Jackson Hole. The gorgeous center offers interpretive displays, a Junior Ranger Program, an art supply backpack lending program, and many short and beautiful hikes nearby.
Kids will love the backpacks, chock full of cool activities, paints, paper, and modeling compound so kids can make impressions of animal footprints to take home with them.
The visitors center is just a short walk away from Dornan's Pizza- another great family friendly find near the Moose entrance.
July 28 2012
0 families found this helpful
Helen Diller Playground at Mission Dolores Park
16th and Dolores,
"Brand new fun for mix of ages"
MissIon Dolores is situated in the warmest corner of San Francisco, away from fog and wind. Kids Ages 4 and up will love the climbing wall, fast slides, and spider nets. Younger kids will love the super clean sandbox and kiddie climbing structures.
Park is brand new so feels very clean.
Added bonus is the proximity to Bi Rite Creamery on the corner (best ice cream in SF)
August 31 2011
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The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City
1250 South Hayes Street,
"Affordable and Convenient Luxury Near D.C."
The Ritz Carlton is ideally located at the Pentagon City Fashion Centre, 2 metro stops from downtown DC. It is an ideal base for families who are looking for convenience and luxury at affordable weekend rates. Families will appreciate being able to walk out the hotel and into the fashion centre, which has over 170 stores including Nordstrom, BabyGap and GapKids, and The Children’s Place. Additionally, there is another shopping center directly behind the hotel with a Harris Teeter market. The metro station is literally across the street from the hotel, making trips to DC a breeze with kids.
As an added convenience, the hotel provides a computer kiosk in the lounge where guests can print out their boarding passes at no charge. It was fast, easy, and simple; I had my boarding passes printed before my kids had time to get squirrely. While I was printing them out, one of the doormen offered my kids lollipops to keep them occupied while I checked out. I was so impressed with the level of service from him and every single member of the Ritz staff. They truly go above and beyond to make travel as easy as possible for families.
ROOMS AND CLUB LOUNGE
Our 400 square foot Deluxe Guest Room was comfortably appointed with 2 double beds with 400 thread count Egyptian cotton linens, a flat panel television (I didn’t watch TV, so I cannot comment on the quality), Italian marble bath with deep soaking tub, and wireless internet. The beds were deep, crisp and heavenly as I knew they would be. The bathroom was sparkling clean, and well stocked with amenities.
Families will find that weekends are the ideal time to visit the Pentagon City Ritz Carlton. Deluxe Guest Rooms, which costs $350 on a weekday, can be had for $199. The Ritz also offers Bed and Breakfast packages for $250, which includes breakfast for 2 at Fye as well as valet parking (otherwise $30 per night).
We were given access to the Club Level, a private oasis on the 18th floor of the hotel. Club Level guests are provided with breakfast, snacks, and hors devours throughout the day at their convenience. We enjoyed the Club Level complimentary breakfast buffet, which included smoked salmon bagels, yogurt parfait, cold cereals, muffins, and other baked goods. I really appreciated being able to bring my children here to get a complimentary snack at any time of day. I highly recommend paying a little extra for the Club Level benefits.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Pentagon City is located in Arlington, which in my opinion, has the best food in the entire DC area. If your family craves the familiarity of large chain restaurants like PF Chang’s or Cheesecake Factory, there are plenty to choose from in Northern Virginia. The allure of Arlington’s food scene however, is the myriad tiny ethnic and independent eateries which crowd the town. Turkish, Greek, and Persian food is especially good here. My daughters both love gyros, hummus, and kabobs so we were all well fed and happy. The concierge at the Ritz Carlton is knowledgeable and helpful, and is a tremendous resource for great food suggestions.
Disclosure: Although I received complimentary lodging and Club Level access, my review reflects my honest opinion and was not influenced by the Ritz Carlton or its affiliates.
August 22 2011
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The Homestead, A KSL Luxury Resort
7696 Sam Snead Highway,
Hot Springs, Virginia
"Southern Gentility and Gracious Hospitality Welcome Families"
The 500 room Homestead Resort is nestled in the Allegheny Mountains, a 4 hour drive from the Washington DC area. The magnificent Georgian revival buildings are graced with a stunning clock tower, a beautiful and eye catching example of colonial revival architecture. As we drove up to the resort, my children thought we had arrived at a palace and said it was “the most beautiful hotel” they had ever seen. As we stood in the Grand Hall, I was amazed to be in the same gracious foyer that has welcomed presidents and princes for over 100 years.
Our spacious 1 bedroom Homestead Suite had two double beds and a separate living room with a full sized pull out sofa. Rooms are decorated in a warm and comfortable southern style, with smart plantation shutters, beautiful Virginia art work, and colonial style furnishings. Our magnificent beds were plush and cozy, with crisp down comforters, luxurious linens, and plenty of deep soft pillows. When we arrived in our room after dinner, our beds had been turned down, and the sofa bed was made up without us even having to ask. I am a huge proponent of staying in hotel suites, because the extra space and privacy go a long way to ensuring a relaxing vacation for both parents and kids.
Both the living room and bedroom had 40 inch LCD televisions, so I could relax and watch TV after the kids went to bed. I purchased an on-demand movie for my older daughter to watch while my younger daughter took her afternoon nap. The living room TV had very poor image quality and the movie was difficult to see, so the hotel staff graciously refunded the $16 charge with no problems.
The bathroom was spanking clean and beautifully appointed in a sleek plantation style. We loved the deep soaking tub, luxurious bath amenities, and window overlooking the park-like grounds. Rack rates for the Homestead’s Classic rooms are about $225. The one bedroom Homestead Suites are about $500 night, which I felt was reasonable for the amount of space and privacy they afford families who desire extra room.
POOLS AND ACTIVITIES
Bath County is home to the largest hot springs in Virginia, and the Homestead offers two different hot springs experiences for families. The beautiful Georgian revival indoor pool is entirely hot spring fed, and the water felt like a comfortable 75 to 80 degrees. It was perfect for my children, and we spent many hours swimming here. Lots of kids and families hang out in the indoor pool, but it never felt crowded. There were plenty of large bath sheets for drying off, and there is a beautiful locker room with shower facilities down the hall. The depth ranges from 4 – 7 ft., so I strongly recommend bringing inflatable flotation devices.
The Homestead also manages the Jefferson Pools, about a 15 minute drive away. There are shuttle buses that run throughout the day, which we found very convenient. Admission to the Jefferson Pools is rather expensive- $17 per hour, regardless of age. The wooden, hot-spring fed pools have never been significantly remodeled and it is a rustic experience. They were designed to be a therapeutic soaking treatment, and swimming and loud talking is discouraged. Instead, guests are meant to float and “take the waters”, using provided pool noodles. While my children enjoyed the relaxing soak, they had a hard time not playing and splashing. I think the Jefferson Pools would be best for older children.
Lastly, the resort has a large outdoor pool which is heated but not hot-spring fed. The pool ranges from 3-5 feet, and is perfect for families. There is also a pool bar, so families can grab lunch and eat around the pools while the kids play. Beautiful locker rooms are mere steps away, with shower facilities and bathrooms.
The Homestead does a great job of catering to families, and offers many free activities. There is a bouncy house that is open in the afternoons and evenings on the lawn game area adjacent to the Casino Club Restaurant. My kids loved this! My older daughter also had a great time playing bean bag toss and watching the shuffle board games. Additionally, there are myriad hikes in the mountains, which we did not have time to experience. The Allegheny Mountains are sublime, so I am sure the hiking is wonderful.
I recommend booking dining reservations, because the restaurants fill up quickly. We dined at the Casino Club Restaurant, and while securing a table at lunch was not a problem (plan to arrive at 11:30 if you don’t have a reservation), dinner seating was more difficult. We ordered food to go and ate al fresco on the gorgeous wrap around porches. It was relaxing just to have a quick family dinner without worrying about my kids getting fussy. For breakfast the first morning we grabbed a quick bagel and hot chocolate from Martha’s Market, which was easy, inexpensive and very kid friendly. The second day, we experienced the glorious breakfast buffet in the main dining room. The buffets costs $25, but kids 5 and under are free, which I felt was a very good value.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
The Homestead is a bastion of southern gentility, and children should be clean, well-dressed and on their best behavior when dining in the Main Dining Room or enjoying daily High Tea in the Grand Hall. Parents should pack resort wear and plan to dress up for dinner.
Disclosure: While I received complimentary lodging and passes to the Jefferson Pools, my review reflects my honest opinion and was not influenced by the Homestead or its affiliates.
July 28 2011
Yellowstone Valley Lodge
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3840 Us Highway 89 South,
"Tidy Cabins By The Yellowstone River"
The 10 tidy cabins of Yellowstone Valley Lodge are perched above the Yellowstone River, with pastoral views of the valley of the beautiful Absaroka Mountains. The lodge is also home to Paradise Valley Grille, one of the most spectacular new restaurants in Montana.
The lodge is located less than an hour’s drive from Yellowstone NP. Families will love the quiet, peaceful riverside setting, especially after a day of exploring the park!
The Yellowstone River is gorgeous for fly fishing as well, and the YVL staff can recommend the best spots! It is never too young to start your kids learning to cast- my 5 year old daughter, Gaby took a fly fishing and casting lesson and caught two fish in the first 30 minutes!
Cabin rates vary from $159 -$399 per night, depending on the season.
Our clean and quiet double queen bedroom was comfortably appointed with high thread count sheets and plenty of cushy pillows. Sliding glass doors open on to a shared patio, which overlooks the river and bucolic pastures. Each patio has its own ice chest, to keep beverages cold while you lounge. Rooms do not have televisions, but there is a large flat screen TV in the community lounge area, which guests can access at any time. In room wifi is free and simple to set up.
Bathrooms have nice massaging shower heads and plenty of fluffy white towels. The sink is separated from the shower and toilet, which is convenient when you have a family sharing 1 room.
A meal at Paradise Valley Grille should be a requirement for anyone traveling to Montana. This is quite simply one of the best restaurants in the west. The contemporary dining room is tucked below the lodge, with sweeping views of the mountains and river. Food is impeccably presented and the chef sources local and organic products whenever possible. While they don’t offer a kids menu per se, my daughter was perfectly content to share my salmon. Reservations are essential. For more details, see my full review of PVG.
or breakfast, YVL provides guests with a $10 voucher that can be used at Howlin’ Hounds Café, about a 5 minute drive down 89. Howlin’ Hounds serves excellent home style breakfasts, along with real hot chocolate and locally made ice cream. For more details, see my full review of Howlin’ Hounds.
The Gardiner entrance of Yellowstone is about a 50 minute drive away. The town of Gardiner has many great little cafes and restaurants, so if you plan to explore the park all day, Gardiner would make a good stop on the way back to YVL. Gardiner is also the starting point for many white-water rafting trips on the Yellowstone- a great family adventure!
In addition to the endless hiking opportunities for families in Yellowstone, there are many good hikes closer to VYL. The front desk staff are a great local resource for the best hikes to suit your family.
For a 4-legged adventure, Kipp and Heidi Saile of Rocking HK Outfitters will put together an amazing Yellowstone riding adventure for your family. They are the parents of 3 beautiful children themselves, so they are a wonderful choice for trail rides and pack trips with kids. They own many quiet horses that will take care of even the smallest riders, and Heidi is excellent at making nervous riders comfortable. Their barn is located about 15 minutes from YVL, although most of their trips take place within Yellowstone NP.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
YVL is ideal for families looking for a quiet and relaxed getaway in the country, but may not suit families who are looking for a full service resort. Currently, PVG is only open for dinner and reservations are required. The closest full service restaurants are about 10 minutes away.
Disclosure: Although I received complimentary lodging and dining, my reviews are always my own opinions are not influenced by hotel staff or its affiliates.