Let’s face it, Las Vegas is an adult playground, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring the kids and have a great time exploring everything the city has to offer. We’ve been doing this for years whether piggybacking on business trips or visiting friends who call the city home.
Up and down the Strip, and all around the city, there are many attractions to photograph 24 hours a day. I’m not saying you need to bring Junior out in the wee hours of the night to score the quintessential Vegas Instagram, but whether the sun is up or down, Vegas is a place you won’t get tired of featuring on your feed.
Instagram Scavenger Hunt: 9 Best Things to See in Las Vegas
✔ Neon Museum: The Neon Boneyard is one of the coolest places in all of Las Vegas. It’s here you will have access to some the best Instagram backdrops in all of Vegas. They offer day and night photography tours which are awesome for capturing a photo that will gain tons of likes. Tip: Tours have limited availability so definitely book in advance if this is one of the top items on your Las Vegas list.
✔ Luxor Pyramid and Sphinx: During the day, the Luxor Pyramid and Sphinx is a great spot for a Instagram or family photo, but don’t forget to feature it at night as well. Fun fact: The Luxor Sky Beam is the strongest beam of light in the world and can be seen up to 275 miles away in Los Angeles and all the way from space. It’s so powerful that the FAA designated the beacon of light as a navigational landmark for aviators.
✔ Bellagio: The Bellagio on the center of the Strip remains one of my most favorite places to Instagram. There is something IG worthy around every corner whether it be the decor, the dancing fountains outside, the Chihuly glass flowers in the front lobby, or the seasonal garden in the atrium. Not to mention, the food is exquisite to photograph as well.
✔ Eiffel Tower: You may not be in Paris, but the Eiffel Tower is still a great landmark to photograph. With many different angles, you can artistically capture one of the most iconic structures on the Strip from many different vantage points.
✔ Welcome to Las Vegas Sign: Plan accordingly because there is always a line here, but you simply cannot leave Vegas without stealing a quick shot of this iconic spot.
✔ Venetian Gondolas: With the sweet sounds of gondoliers crooning Italian love songs, there are prime spots both inside and outside at this location to snap the property’s must-see attraction.
✔ High Roller Wheel: Head over to The LINQ where you’ll find the world’s largest Ferris wheel. Standing 550 feet tall, this Ferris wheel is a must-Instagram when visiting Vegas.
✔ Freemont Street: Fondly referred to as “Old Vegas,” there’s nothing old about it. In fact, the original casino space has been modernized with bright lights and even a zip line!
✔ Nom Nom Food: Las Vegas might be my favorite city in the country when it comes to embarking on a true culinary adventure. Every superstar chef worth noting has set up shop in Vegas offering dazzling dishes that look just as amazing as they taste.
The holidays shine in Nashville. From the twinkling lights on Broadway to the holiday tunes that fill the air, Music City, U.S.A. makes for a great pre-holiday escape. Here are six ways to celebrate the season in Nashville, Tennessee.
6 Fun Things to do in Nashville for the Holidays
1. Tap your toes to the beat of your favorite holiday songs
Country music icons Amy Grant & Vince Gill’s annual holiday tradition, Christmas at the Ryman, is the hot ticket of the season. Expect all your favorite holiday classics with a country twist on stage at the “Mother Church of Country Music.”
The music will definitely fill the air. The Ryman has the second best acoustics in the world (after the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Utah) and has welcomed all the legends, from Loretta Lynn to Johnny Cash. There’s no better time of year to visit the historic Ryman.
2. Set off on a Cumberland River holiday cruise
Step aboard the General Jackson Showboat for a holiday cruise to remember. Twelve multi-talented musicians, singers and dancers will hit the paddleboat’s Victorian stage to present holiday classics like Sleigh Ride, Jingle Bells and Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song as you indulge in a southern-inspired dinner. You’ll enjoy a new perspective on Nashville as you cruise down the Cumberland River.
3. Tour Tennessee’s twinkling lights
Gray Line of Tennessee offers two holiday coach tours. Twinkling Tennessee Christmas takes you for a ride through Nashville and nearby Franklin to see some of Tennessee’s most spirited neighborhoods, including the Lotz House, which is decorated in mid-1800s majesty.
4. Shop for holiday gifts at the Country Music Hall of Fame
A visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame is a Nashville must-do. As the world’s largest museum and research center dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of American vernacular music, it’s the place to connect with all of your favorite country music icons. The huge gift shop makes for a fine holiday shopping destination, too. You’ll find clothing, jewelry, home goods, accessories and more, all created by some of Nashville’s best designers and makers.
Here are a few others that occurred in early December that you can plan for next year:
5. Prep for holiday treats with a calorie-burning, holiday 5K
Put on your running shoes and get into the (healthy!) spirit of the season with a fun, family friendly 5K. Rudolph’s Red Nose Run is a beloved Nashville annual tradition. Whether you’re an experienced runner or just looking to enjoy a casual stroll, you’re bound to burn some calories and warm your heart knowing that you’re helping families and seniors stay warm this winter: 100% of proceeds benefit NeedLink Nashville.
6. Welcome Santa at a holiday parade
Santa rides into town on his sleigh every year and Nashville welcomes him with a spectacular holiday parade. Musical entertainment and fanciful floats take center stage on busy Broadway. Expect to see plenty of celebs marching in this iconic parade, but the real treat is catching the Man in Red as he rides in on his sleigh, direct from the North Pole.
If you’re looking to stay in the center of all the action, check into Hilton Nashville Downtown. Located steps from the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Johnny Cash Museum, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and all the fun on Honky Tonk row, this hotel delivers comfort, class and convenience.
Visiting Stone Mountain Park during the holiday season is an Atlanta tradition for many southern families. Our family has gone every year for the last five years, and this old-fashioned holiday celebration is something we look forward to every single year.
7 Favorite Things to do at Stone Mountain Christmas
1. Singalong train
Bundle up for a musical train ride through Stone Mountain. Not only will you get to sing along to all your favorite holiday tunes, but you’ll also be treated to festive light displays along the way. The train ride ends with the heart-warming story of the first Christmas.
Tip: The train is an open air train, so make sure to bundle up before hopping aboard! On extra chilly nights, we bring a blanket just for this ride.
2. Christmas Parade
Grab some hot cocoa and join Rudolph, Clarice, Bumble, Santa and friends as they welcome the holiday in this nightly parade.
3. Stone Mountain Christmas Shows
Get in the holiday spirit with live performances throughout the park, including The Littlest Christmas Tree, ‘Twas the Night Before…A Holiday Cabaret, and A Christmas Carol. Our favorite is always the Holiday Cabaret.
4. Lights, Lights, and more Lights
Stone Mountain goes all out with lights every year. All of the buildings are decked top to bottom in beautiful lights. In addition to the lights on the buildings, there are also immersive experiences like the light tunnel.
5. Character Meet and Greets
Getting to meet with Rudolph, Bumble, Clarice, the Snow Angel, and more character favorites is a highlight for my kids. They look forward to getting pictures with them every year.
6. Visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus
No holiday celebration is complete without a visit and pictures wth Santa. Don’t forget to bring your list so you can mail it to the North Pole directly from Santa’s Christmas Corner. After visiting with Santa, make your way over to the Gingerbread House for Mrs. Claus’s MistleTales.
7. Snow Angel Snowfall Finale
Every evening wraps up with a fireworks show, snowfall and a magical appearance of the Snow Angel as she flies across the sky and makes it snow. Don’t miss this event! Your kids will love playing in the “snow” and watching the spectacular fireworks show.
Tips for attending Stone Mountain Christmas
Best days to visit
Stone Mountain Christmas is open through January 3, 2018 on select nights. Saturdays tend to be busier than the other days. Sundays will be your best bet if you are looking for smaller crowds.
Where to stay nearby in Atlanta Hilton Atlanta Northeast, also know as the “Castle on the Hill,” is the perfect place to stay after your Stone Mountain Christmas adventure! If you find yourself in Atlanta around the holidays, you need to find time to visit Stone Mountain Christmas and experience the magic with your family.
Imagine cruising one of Louisiana’s eerie swamp landscapes then time traveling through its nearby plantations in the same day. Just a short drive from Hilton New Orleans/St. Charles Avenue, you’ll find these two unique experiences and pique your kids’ interest in history in the process.
Day Trip: New Orleans Swamp Tour + 2 New Orleans Plantations
CAJUN PRIDE New Orleans SWAMP TOUR
Take a swamp tour to see Louisiana’s alligator population in its natural setting. We chose Cajun Pride Swamp Tours to get us close to these animals, and they delivered on that and so much more. During a 90-minute tour of the Manchac Swamp, a private refuge where hunting is not allowed, our guide “T Tom” used marshmallows to lure gators to the boat. They swim so quietly, more of them show up before you have the opportunity to notice them.
As the gators waited for more treats, T Tom showed us the power of their jaws and the force of their jumps by stepping out on a platform and prompting them to go for chicken chunks tethered to a fishing pole. Raccoons in the area also seemed to know the Cajun Pride boats as well. They stood on their hind legs begging our guide to cast a marshmallow in their direction.
T Tom also regaled us with some great stories about Cajun life. We heard tales of alligator hunting, fishing competitions, cabin living and so much more. It was almost as if he was presiding over a fireside chat on a boat! He conducted his tour in both English and Cajun French. Even though I only understand a word of French here and there, I could have listened to him all day! He told us about the Cajun town of Frenier, which stood in the swamp area until it was wiped out by a hurricane. All that appears to be left of it is a graveyard from 1915.
As if the tour wasn’t exciting enough, each passenger had the opportunity to hold a baby gator. T Tom gently taped the creature’s mouth shut and passed it around the boat. Despite my dislike for anything scaly, I held it. I’m still shuddering from the thought of having done so!
Two New Orleans PLANTATIONS
While Cajun Pride Swamp Tours offers a swamp and plantation tour package, my family opted to head out on our own for our plantation visits. A peek into Louisiana’s antebellum past was an easy 30-minute drive from the swamp tour site. While there are several amazing plantations out in this area known as River Road, we decided to focus on just two of them.
Oak Alley Plantation
It will look familiar to you the minute you see it. Known as the Grande Dame of the River Road Plantations, Oak Alley peeks out onto the road from the end of a quarter mile alley of 300-year-old Virginia Live Oaks. The plantation has made appearances in movies like Interview with the Vampire, a Beyonce music video, two soap operas, and a reality show on the Sci-Fi Channel.
We toured the Big House, a gift from a wealthy Creole sugar planter to his young bride. Our guide did a fabulous job pointing out many interesting aspects of the house including the lack of a kitchen; kitchens back then were located outside of the home to limit the possibility of burning down the place.
Visitors can buy an entry ticket and check out many interesting stops at their leisure: a Confederate tent, a blacksmith shop and about 10 simple cabins that call out aspects of the daily life of the plantation’s slaves. Topics covered in the exhibit include healthcare, punishment, and life post-emancipation.
Laura Plantation Laura is far from the gleaming, white pillared plantation home many think of when they imagine such places. Its distinctly colorful exterior and raised “Big House” are classic points of Creole architecture and make it a stand out from other plantations in the River Road area.
The only way to see Laura is to join a tour. Look into the cellar underneath the house and marvel out how it was painstakingly restored after it was almost lost in a modern day fire. Peek into the groomed garden. See where the kitchen used to stand and walk through the thriving vegetable garden that once supported what was produced there.
As we explored them all, our informed young guide unpacked the stories of love, greed, family tensions, and business that went on in this place, many of them straight from the detailed memoir of owner Laura Locoul Gore called Memories of the Old Plantation Home: A Creole Family Album.
One of the most poignant parts of the tour was a visit to the 160-year-old slave cabins where the West African folktales of Compare Lapin or Br’er Rabbit were first recorded. En route to the cabin there was a spot where our guide gathered us to talk about the life of slaves. It included a look at papers showing the cost and inventory of slaves, all listed as if they were any other property. It was stunning.
As we headed back to the hotel, our car was filled with excited conversation about the gators, slaves, soldiers, sugar barons, and even a ghost that wanders one of the plantation big houses. There was no question that this excursion through history sparked great interest in my kids.
Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.
Cajun Pride Swamp Tours and the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau hosted Kristine’s family. Although she received complimentary tours to facilitate this story, she was not asked to express any particular opinion. Her thoughts are her own.
Getting a gift for a traveler can be a difficult task. There are a multitude of really cool gadgets, but with baggage fees getting larger and space at a premium, do you really want to give another item that someone will need to pack in a bag on a trip?
Rather than focusing on another gizmo, you can give a travel service that can make a trip more enjoyable or exciting without having to give something wrapped up in a box.
6 “Out of the Box” Travel Service Gifts
1. AAA membership
While not the most exciting of gifts, for around $80 per year, AAA offers plenty of discounts on hotels (including Hilton), flights, vacations, attractions and other services that most travelers can use. We have used our discounts to get cheaper rental cars at our favorite destinations.
In addition, you are giving the piece of mind in knowing that, if someone’s car breaks down either on vacation or in regular life, AAA will tow the car or give a battery the jump start it needs. Members also receive various discounts on other fun experiences like movie tickets, restaurants and museums.
2. Ski Pass
Winter is coming, and what could be better than to give ski passes to your loved ones who love the snow? In the northeast there are several different mountains that offer a variety of different packages. If you have a skier or snowboarder in your family, I’m sure that they will love someone covering their lift pass. On top of that, if you have someone who has always wanted to ski or snowboard but hasn’t gotten out on the slopes, you can also consider paying for lessons at the mountain of their choice.
With the cold weather coming, it’s going to get harder and harder to get out and get some fresh air. Ski passes and lessons are perfect gifts for getting your family and friends off the couch and on the slopes.
3. TripIt app
The TripIt app is one of the best travel apps around. It helps you organize your itineraries, searches your inbox for travel reservations and automatically uploads them into your app. For a heavy traveler I would suggest the Pro version which costs $49 a year and provides alerts on cancellations, delays, gate changes and baggage claim locations. The Pro version can also help you search for alternative flights and track your fare refunds, if you have any.
4. TSA Precheck application fee
If you have waited in super long lines for security (I am looking at you JFK and LGA travelers), then applying for TSA Precheck is a must. All it takes is a quick online application and an even quicker in-person appointment for a background check and finger printing at an enrollment center, often found at most major airports.
For $85 you are covered for five years of membership. TSA Precheck allows you to go through a separate security line with fewer actions like taking things out of your baggage or removing your shoes or jacket. The lines are usually significantly shorter than the ones at regular security and certainly much less stressful, especially if you are late for your flight. If you have an international traveler on your list, consider Global Entry, which allows you to quickly speed through customs coming into the U.S. and also includes with TSA Precheck.
5. Airline miles
Airline miles are an interesting gift. You either have enough miles to earn tickets, or, more than likely, you are in the horrible middle ground of having a decent amount of miles but not enough to get a free flight. If you don’t fly enough, your miles may expire and it can cost money to reinstate them. So instead of wasting them, why not give them to someone who can use them? You can also buy miles or points for someone and help them get out of that ugly gray area.
6. Surprise them with a Hilton Getaway Hilton has hundreds of hotels all around the world, and some of the best presents we have given our family have been one- or two-night stays in hotels. This gift offers your loved ones a chance to step away from their busy lives and truly enjoy a vacation. You can also find a number of packages available at Hilton hotels which can include experiences and meals depending on the package to make an even more complete and fun gift. Plus, there’s always the Hilton gift card!
Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.
If you visit Washington D.C., you’ll probably try to catch a glimpse of the White House. Even as a local, I really enjoy walking through Lafayette Square on the north side of the White House. You can get the best views and photos from here. If you’re touring Washington D.C., this is probably not your only stop and perhaps your family is reaching that tipping point where a respite from crowds and the weather may be welcome. Have I got a place for you!
The Renwick Gallery Location
On the same block as the White House at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue NW and 17th St NW, is a small museum called the Renwick Gallery that’s part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and houses its contemporary crafts and decorative arts. It’s free and has some unique and unusual artwork that will be of interest to all ages.
Exhibits at the Renwick Gallery
As you walk in the main door, you’re greeted with a grand staircase. At the top, you can catch a glimpse of an exhibit. When we were there, we could see a glow of orange and red. I guarantee your children will fly up the steps to see what’s there.
In that upper gallery, we joined the other visitors in laying on the floor to better view the exhibit above our head. Created by Janet Echelman and titled 1.8 Renwick, it represented the tsunami from 2011, and was composed of layers of brilliantly colored netting. The exhibits in this gallery change, so expect something different when you visit.
The rest of the gallery contains many other unusual artworks which circle the building. My daughter particularly liked the jewelry and the reclining glass dress pictured below, while my favorite was the ghost clock.
The Renwick Gallery Gift Shop
The gallery also has a gift shop, which I can’t recommend for those with young children. We walked in the store and quietly tiptoed out, hands in our pockets. A scarf for $300 just makes me nervous. I was afraid to find out how much the more fragile items were.
It’s a relatively quick trip to view this museum, but it’s a wonderful respite from the busier side of Washington, D.C. Capital Hilton is just a 10-minute walk from this interesting gallery and the White House.
If you are considering a trip to Colombia, a stop in the charming city of Cartagena on the country’s northern coast, is a must. Once a Caribbean port of major importance for the Spanish, the city remains a true colonial jewel and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Its history, beauty and culture make it one of the top destinations in Colombia.
5 Fun Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia with Kids
1. Enjoy the splendor of the Old Town
The old town of Cartagena inside the city walls is simply gorgeous. Think cobblestone streets, colorful historic buildings covered with even more colorful flowering vines, statuesque churches and quaint plazas. One immediately feels transported back in time.
Our family loved simply wandering around and taking in all the history and prettiness, occasionally stopping by street vendors offering interesting souvenirs or tasty arepas stuffed with cheese. Many tourists opt for a horse-drawn carriage ride which, along with a tour of the San Felipe Fort and the old city wall, seems like one of the most popular choices for visitors.
If you like museums, there are several, from art to emerald and naval. Kids will likely be most interested in the Chocolate Museum, which will educate you on the history and production process of chocolate free of charge and also offers several hands-on workshops.
There are many different options for families in Cartagena. For example, younger kids will enjoy a treasure hunt; older ones might like a bike or Segway tour of the old town. For great views, visit La Popa, a beautiful monastery on the hill just outside the city and Cartagena’s highest point.
Locals claim no visit to Cartagena is complete without a ride on Chiva, a colorfully painted bus with loud, lively and irresistible music. You might be dancing along with other tourists in no time, but you are in Colombia, after all.
2. Take an Excursion to the Islas del Rosario
As beautiful as Cartagena is, it does not have many great beaches. Luckily, it is close to the Rosario Islands, a beautiful archipelago located about 60 miles north of the city, consisting of 30 small islands and part of Colombia’s national park system.
Stay for a few nights or simply go on a day trip from Cartagena to enjoy swimming, snorkeling, fishing and more. We did just that and had a nice relaxing day on the beautiful Isla Del Sol. In order to access the islands, which are protected, you will need to purchase a permit, but most tour operators include it in the price of their excursions.
Tip: The ride to Isla del Sol and back on a fast boat was considerably bumpy. While some passengers enjoyed it and found it thrilling, a few got sea sick. Make sure to take some Dramamine before your ride if you or your kids are prone to sea sickness.
3. Have a mud bath at Totumo Mud Volcano
For the adventurous types, there is another unique Colombian experience waiting about an hour outside Cartagena. Visit the extinct Totumo Volcano and climb inside to take a bath in its famous warm mud. Legend has it that a long time ago a priest sprinkled holy water over the molten lava of the volcano, which transformed it into the therapeutic mud bath it is today.
Once inside the small crater, you can choose a therapeutic massage by one of the attendants, then rinse off in one of the nearby lakes. However, if you are visiting during the region’s dry period, you will instead be met by a group of women who provide large buckets of warm river water to help you clean off the mud.
The Totumo Volcano can be reached by a taxi, but the easiest and most economical way is to sign up for a tour which picks you up at your hotel and provides round trip transportation through the picturesque Bolivar region, as well as a guide. Our tour also included a lovely lunch of freshly caught fish, coconut rice, plantains, yucca and tropical fruit, served beach-side on the return trip to Cartagena. It was delicious!
Tip: We saw several families with children, even very small ones, visiting the mud bath. Know that the experience could be a touch scary for some. You have to climb into the crater on a steep ladder, relax in the bottomless mud pool where you will float for a short period (rest assured, you cannot sink or drown), and share a small space with several other tourists. Despite having mud-phobia at home, I found the mud bath and my massage very enjoyable, but it is not for everybody. The hardest part was getting back up via the crater’s wooden ladder which, covered with thick and slippery mud, was an adventure in itself. Still, definitely a highly memorable experience!
4. Enjoy Great Restaurants in Cartagena
There is no shortage of great food in Cartagena. From a long list of restaurants with sophisticated or simple authentic cuisine to delicious street food which can be found on every corner, there are dining options for every palate.
For a taste of regional Colombian cuisine, I highly recommend Candé, a restaurant which was established to showcase the unique cultural and culinary history of Cartagena. In addition to fantastic food and cocktails, it also has Cartagenian dance shows every night. Not to be missed!
Just around the corner is Gelateria Tramonti, a great gelato place run by an Italian. Yes, that’s right; its owner fell in love with Colombia during his travels around the world so he decided to make Cartagena his home.
We also enjoyed La Vitrola, less Colombian, but one of the city’s most famous restaurants. It’s known for its heavy Cuban influence, which can be noticed in dishes, decor and seductive salsa beats delivered by a live band every night.
5. Where to Stay in Cartagena
We loved our stay at Hilton Cartagena, an extremely welcoming and family-friendly property with a nice private beach, a rarity in Cartagena, and a great pool area, which we thoroughly enjoyed.
The resort is located in Bocagrande, a peninsula to the northwest of the town center. Known as the “modern Cartagena,” it is lined with many shops, galleries and restaurants and just a short taxi ride away from Cartagena’s Old Town.
Our family recently enjoyed a fantastic week at Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort, and we loved every minute of it! The combination of beachfront views, warm weather and days by the infinity pool, punctuated by some amazing action adventures, made for a happy family experience for all.
While there, we experienced a number of outdoor adventures we highly recommend for families with kids.
4 Fun Things to do in Los Cabos, Mexico with Kids
1. Zip Lining
Feeling the need to stretch from days lounging by the pool, we signed up for a zip line tour with Cabo Adventures. Truth be told, we didn’t look at the tour details closely and were glad to be surprised; not because it was shocking or scary, but because it was sooooooo fun! Our kids have been on zip lines since they were little and are old pros at latching in and jumping off into the air. But this experience had some great twists to make it even better.
In addition to the traditional zip lines across the canyons of the Boca de la Sierra mountains, we loved The Pendulum, which was basically a giant swing with a 20-foot free-fall and a wide arc across the ravine. Another highlight was Superman, the final zip line ride spanning more than a mile in length. For this one, riders are strapped into a harness lying on their stomachs with hands out front and feet behind, flying at more than 60 miles per hour, Superman style!
2. Dolphin Encounter
Another day was spent swimming with the dolphins, again courtesy of Cabo Adventures. As with the zip lining tour, they picked us up at the Hilton and brought us to their nearby facility, where we suited up for our Dolphin Swim & Ride Encounter.
The keepers were very thorough and informative, helping us understand how dolphins socialize and learn. It was amazing to touch their soft, rubbery skin and kiss their salty noses. We even had the chance to swim with them, holding their fins while they raced through the water. The kids opted to dive with them to the bottom of the pool, while we adults chose the surface option. Both were amazing experiences we will never forget.
3. Flora Farms
Farming organically in this same plot for more than 20 years, a family created Flora Farms as a break away from the rigors of the daily American grind. Now a flourishing organic farm, restaurant and events space, Flora Farms is not to be missed. The younger kids will enjoy the turtle pond teeming with fish and swimming turtles, and kids of all ages will love the butterflies and colorful birds attracted to the sunflowers and gardens nearby. A highlight is walking the rows and rows of vegetables, planted to supply the nearby restaurant.
And wow, that restaurant! Serving some of the best dishes we had during the entire vacation, Flora Farms is truly farm-to-table with lunch creations like braised pork sandwich, mesquite roasted chicken, fresh arugula pizza with Parmesan and lemon olive oil. Love this place! (Oh, and Adam Levine from Maroon 5 got married here, so there’s that too.)
4. Thursday Night ArtWalk
After the feast at Flora Farms, we felt a good walk was in order. We headed down the hill to the cobbled streets of San Jose del Cabo, a quaint town not over-run with tourist shops and dive bars. On Thursday evenings from November to June, entire blocks in the Arts District are closed to cars so visitors can stroll through the art galleries and boutiques. Restaurants serve up bites, food trucks offer their wares, and shops open up to showcase their wares.
We wound our way through a number of the smallish streets, wandering into galleries whose art enticed us for a closer look. Some of this art is quite good — world class even — and some is created by local artisans. Whichever you prefer, the San Jose del Cabo Art Walk experience is a great one, and we came home with a few choice handmade items.
Something For Everyone
With all these activities to keep you entertained, along with the beaches, swim-up bars, deep sea fishing and more, the Cabo San Lucas area has much to offer families regardless of ages or interests. Hope you have a blast!
Vibrant, hyper-organized, pulsing, historical, stylish, futuristic Tokyo oozes fun and excitement! This city abounds with quirky, kitschy and (at least to our American family) often bizarre bucket list activities that you can only do in Tokyo! This is our family’s list of highlights in the Land of the Rising Sun!
This bustling city abounds with things to do, places to see and food to eat! Your family will flip over uniquely Japanese pop-culture devotion with wacky “cosplay” (costume play). Everyone knows the traditional sites that you are expected to visit in Tokyo: the Meiji Shrine, the Imperial Palace, the Tokyo National Museum. This list is meant to shake things up! My family wanted to experience the other side of Tokyo – the wild, the kitschy, the down ‘n dirty.
After arriving in Tokyo at our perfectly located home base, Hilton Tokyo, we set out to experience Japanese culture and fall in love with all that is distinctly Tokyo. Hold on tight and get ready for a trip of a lifetime for you and your family. Writing this article makes me want to return there again and again!
Here are our family’s Top 11 Must-Do Tokyo Activities!
11 Best Things to do in Tokyo with Teens
1. Experience Fuerza Bruta Fuerza Bruta WA! Wonder Japan Experience is the pinnacle of interactive entertainment. With productions in over 30 countries around the world, this show WOWs in every possible way. This Japanese-themed production is a visual delight featuring pulsating techno music, geishas who defy gravity, spectacular samurais and uber-cool ninja performances. Our highlight was the transparent pool of water suspended over our heads full of dancers. You have to see it to believe it! My gang can’t wait to rock out at another Fuerza Bruta production somewhere else in the world!
Tip: If you get the main area tickets, then be prepared to stand the entire show, move and groove, get wet by spraying water, and feel energized by the cool music! This area is best for kids who don’t mind loud noises and dark spaces. And yes they can take pictures and videos and post directly to Instagram and Snapchat! There are also second floor VIP lounge balcony seats available if you prefer a less interactive experience.
2. Check out a Maid Cafe
Cosplay (costume play) cafes are all the rage in Tokyo! All of our friends who previously visited Tokyo told us we had to check out a maid cafe. For the ultimate in kawaii (cute) fun, visit top-rated @homecafe Maid Cafe located in electronics center of Akihabra. (By the way, kids into anime and manga will flip in this area.)
Our English-speaking maid made the experience so much fun and magical! They chanted Japanese gibberish spells when mixing our drinks and drew Pokemon on our lattes. From watching the maids singing and dancing to playing silly games and taking pictures with them, we all let loose and had a blast!
Select the package that works best for your family. Some include drinks, meals, and desserts, as well as photos and games. Our desserts — the Cute Bunny Cheesecake and the Cutie Toy Poodle Pancakes — were delicious, but we didn’t want to eat them because they were so super kawaii!
3. Go See That’s ZENtertainment!
Action, suspense, humor, creativity, acrobatics…That’s ZENtertainment! is a totally non-verbal 30 minute show that is appropriate for the whole family. These supremely talented wizards at imagery will captivate everyone in your group.
Take a break and escape to this cozy intimate theater in one of Tokyo’s traditional neighborhoods. With six shows a day, it’s easy to find a time that works for you. This clever troupe, who performed on America’s Got Talent, features a variety of mesmerizing acts including a super-high tech Ninja projection-mapping battle, Geta tap dancing, amazing Kanji shadow puppetry, and, much to your kids’ delight, an interactive photo performance featuring the audience members.
4. Eat Your Way through the Tsukiji Fish Market
No visit to Tokyo is complete without a visit to the world famous Tsukiji Fish Market. This market is tremendous and can be overwhelming to explore. We greatly benefited from discovering this mammoth landmark with our expert guide on our private three-hour kid-oriented walking tour with Context Tours.
Our guide, an American-born college professor, led us through the inner and outer markets weaving in many topics of interest including history and religion. And if you adore sushi, this is the mecca of the freshest fish in the world. We enjoyed our lunch in a quaint restaurant among locals, where we sat at a counter and watched our sushi and sashimi being prepared.
As we toured the outer market, our tour guide bought us all kinds of tasty treats, from samples of juices we have never heard of before, to a huge towering shaved ice, to tasty coffee treats. A highlight for us was meeting a friendly fishmonger who was closing up shop, but took time out to skillfully carve a tuna in front of us and then generously hand us a bag full of the freshest fish.
Tip: Wear closed toe shoes and pay close attention to your surroundings at all times when touring the chaotic market. There are plenty of moving vehicles!
5. Take Part in the Shibuya Scramble
Grab a much-coveted spot on the second floor of Starbucks overlooking the busiest intersection in the world and watch thousands of people hurry and scurry across the five-way crosswalk below. My husband headed down to the street level with our two girls who had a blast hamming it up in the midst of the crowds while I photographed them from my bird’s eye view.
If you are in the mood for a French inspired meal, head to the beautiful L’Occtaine Cafe across the street from the Starbucks. Request a seat at a table next to the fabulous bay windows that enable you to watch the madness below while peacefully enjoying delicious soups, salads and sandwiches.
6. Play Ball!
Seeing a baseball game in Japan is a must! We used the concierge services of JapanBall who expertly recommended the perfect game for our family and sent the tickets directly to our hotel. We watched the Tokyo Yakult Swallows play at the historic Meiji Jingu Stadium.
Your kids (and you) will love observing the differences between attending American baseball and Japanese baseball. There are adorably dressed beer girls strap kegs to their backs! The cheerleaders (yes, baseball cheerleaders!) entertain between innings while fireworks light up the sky. And you can even bring your own food to the stadium. The lady sitting next to me was chomping on fried octopus balls and edamame. And when the home team scores a run, the fans open up their mini-umbrellas in unison as they sing the Tokyo anthem. What a show!
7. Take a Food Tour & Learn Origami
Spend time at the Omotenashi Nihonbashi Information Center which offers expert tours and activities to acquaint your family with Japanese culture and cuisine. We donned traditional Japanese robes and joined our well-informed guide on a 90-minute indoor gourmet Best of Japan Food Tour in the gorgeous Coredo Muromachi shopping complex. Learn about new foods as you sample Japanese regional specialties such as wagashi (sweets) and candied sweet potato fries. You even get to make and taste your own katsuo (skipjack tuna or often called bonito) shavings.
Next we took an introductory origami class where we had a blast creating our own souvenirs to remember our time in Tokyo. Using beautiful multi-colored washi paper, we learned how to craft goldfish, a ninja star and a kimono. A fabulous way to jump into Japanese culture and cuisine!
8. Stroll Teen Heaven: Takeshita Dori in Harajuku
The center of all things kawaii and pop-culture, this fun neighborhood offers delicious crepes (stuffed with heaping scoops of ice cream and gobs of whipped cream), mega-servings of rainbow cotton candy, cat cafes, owl cafes, retail stores and more. My girls loved this short and extremely crowded, funky, hip, colorful pedestrian street. This teen paradise is situated just blocks from the famed Meiji Shrine.
A highlight for my girls was a Purikura parlor packed full of elaborate photo sticker booths where kids can pose for pictures and then edit and add embellishments. Explore the streets of Harajuku and Omotesando, full of vintage and trendy shopping, including Kiddyland, a multi-story toy store, and Laforet, the ultimate teen department store. On a weekend, this area is chock full of teenage girls dressed in identical outfits having a blast!
9. Explore Odaiba
Hop on the front car of the Yurikamome driverless train in Shimbashi (like a kiddie ride in itself) and head to ultra-modern Odaiba. Unfortunately, we only had a half-day to visit this futuristic island surrounded by spectacular views, cutting-edge architecture and so many family-friendly things to do!
We loved the interactive Panasonic Center (free) where the kids were able to learn about technological advances in the Olympic Games and future high-tech products. Then we visited the mega Aqua City mall with its huge arcade of uniquely Japanese games, strolled along the beach area and snapped pictures with Japan’s replica of America’s Statute of Liberty. Other family-friendly activities include the towering Daikanransha Ferris Wheel at Palette Town, LEGOLAND Discovery Center, the Trick Art Museum, and the hot baths set in a festival atmosphere at the Ooedo-Onsen Monogatari.
We ended our day with one of our favorite dinners of our two weeks in Japan at the beautiful waterfront Sakura Japanese Restaurant at Hilton Tokyo Odaiba. Watch the sun set on the colorful Rainbow Bridge as you leisurely dine at Sakura which features a sushi bar, Teppanyaki and a Tempura counter. This traditionally Japanese-designed space includes private rooms, garden terrace dining, plenty of dishes for your whole family and world-class service. Hilton Tokyo Odaiba is a great choice for families planning to spend extended time in the kid-friendly Odaiba area.
10. Visit Posh Department Stores
Arrive at a department store minutes before opening and be treated to Japanese hospitality and culture at its best. Impeccably dressed hostesses bow and greet you at the entrance promptly when the store opens for business. As you enter, rows of employees bow respectfully to you as you whisk by them, waiting to engage with their first customers of the day. So NOT like in the U.S.!
There are plenty of shopping options, but our favorite stop in every department store was easily the basement food floor with courteous staff offering gourmet samples galore. We bought some of our favorite souvenirs here. Challenge your kids to find the most expensive fruit item on display. We found a $62 box-shaped watermelon!
11. Check out the View
Take your family way up high to appreciate the vastness of this mega-tropolis. Zip up the elevator to the main observatory of the Tokyo Tower, a huge steel structure resembling the grandeur of the Eiffel Tower. Have your children find a tiny Shinto Shrine, shop for souvenirs and grab some green tea ice cream. We loved gazing at the sparkling lights in the night sky. Check the website for special events. Other high-up views include the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (free) or the Tokyo Skytree.
Where to Stay in Tokyo
We loved Hilton Tokyo! Located in lively Shinjuku and a short walk to the bustling Kabukicho district, Hilton Tokyo is the perfect choice for families who want to explore all of Tokyo. Surrounded by restaurants and entertainment options, you will never run out of things to do while staying at this hotel.
This full-service family-friendly hotel has everything you could possibly want: a fabulous executive lounge, many dining choices, an indoor pool, a sauna, a Japanese bath, tennis courts, and an impressive 24-hour gym. There is also a free shuttle to the Shinjuku Station and a subway entrance connected to the hotel. What’s more, Hilton Tokyo has the friendliest, most helpful staff. We adored our Japanese-styled room with fabulous views of the city.
Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.
Lisa’s family was provided with discounted and/or complimentary admission to some of the attractions so that she could try them and review them for your information. Lisa chose the above attractions based on their reviews and recommendations from friends.
While a visit to the happiest place on Earth and mingling with Mickey Mouse is high on every Orlando visitor’s must-do list, there is a wealth of other fun activities outside the theme parks. From golfing with the gators to living the life of a pirate, there’s something for every family. If you’re looking to fill up a free day in Orlando, we’ve got you covered with 5 fun family adventures.
5 Fun Things to do in Orlando Outside the Theme Parks
1. Golf with the gators
At Orlando’s Gator Golf Adventure Park, the 18-hole mini golf course winds around a lagoon teeming with over 200 alligators. As you make your way around the course, you’ll also encounter a variety of animal exhibits. Gator shows and even gator wrestling round out the reptilian fun at this most unique miniature golf course.
2. See Orlando from a whole new perspective Air Florida Helicopter Charters offers one of the most unique views of Orlando by far: from the comfort of a helicopter, over 1,000 feet in the air. You’ll soar high into the Florida skies in an expertly piloted helicopter. We recommend Tour #7, a 30-mile trip over Orlando’s prized theme parks. You’ll fly above Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Wet & Wild Water Park, Downtown Disney, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Sports Complex, Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, Blizzard Beach Water Park, Sea World, Discovery Cove, Aquatica Water Park and more.
3. Swing with the pros
Looking for the best golf school experience in the world and the results that come with it? The renowned David Leadbetter Golf Academy offers hourly, full and half-day instructional programs, all taught by leading, certified instructors. Many of the small group classes (4:1 student to teacher ratio) are taught by former pros. Classes can be tailored for beginners and pros, adults and kids. You’ll cover the mental, physical and mechanical aspects of the swing.
4. Step into the fast lane I-DRIVE NASCAR is where racing dreams are born. Drive an electric kart at a speed of up to 45 miles per hour on the half-mile indoor track and see if you can outrace your other family members. A four-lane bowling café and arcade complete with 60 state-of-the-art games also offer hours of family fun.
5. Yo-Ho! Living la vida pirate
Step aboard a replicated 18th-century Spanish galleon and get ready to live the pirate life at the Pirate’s Dinner Adventure. Anchored in a 300,000-gallon indoor lagoon with night sky lighting, the ship is commandeered by a cast of a dozen actors, singers and stunt performers. Expect plenty of action-packed exploits, cannon blasts and pyrotechnics as the evil Captain Sebastian the Black leads his crew of renegades (and you!) on a swashbuckling adventure.
Toledo is only 30 minutes from bustling Madrid but feels worlds apart. Its rich history was a blend of three cultures and religions with the Jews, Muslims and Christians co-existing here for centuries. This UNESCO World Heritage site was Spain’s former capital. The walled city has been well-preserved and made for a fascinating day trip from Madrid with kids.
6 Fun Things to do in Toledo, Spain with Kids
1. Take a tour
We recommend going on the double decker bus tour that starts at the Toledo train station. We’re usually not the tour types, but since we had limited time here, this was a great orientation. The tour included prerecorded information about some of the attractions we passed. It took us within the city walls and to a lookout near Puente del Alcantara. The panoramic view of Toledo was stunning here. The bus dropped us off at the historic center to wander on our own afterwards.
2. Walk everywhere
Strolling through the city’s meandering and charming cobblestone streets was the best way to see Toledo. We felt like we had stepped into a medieval ages time warp. Toledo is a small city, and its distinct religions and architecture offered something interesting at every turn.
3. Visit places of worship
Synagogues, mosques and churches may not be the most kid-friendly attractions, but they offer a lesson in diversity and tolerance, especially for older kids. Many of these religious structures, as well as convents and monasteries, were open for visits.
The Gothic Toledo Cathedral is worth visiting regardless of your religious affiliation. My kids enjoyed exploring this massive and amazing cathedral that took over 250 years to build. We loved seeing the glass cabinets filled with relics and jewels lining the walls of the treasury. There were over 700 stained glass windows to entertain the kids with history, art and an I Spy game here. Don’t miss visiting the cloister and climbing the bell tower.
4. Explore Museums
Despite its compact size, Toledo has a fantastic collection of museums and art galleries. We visited the Army Museum that was housed inside the former Alcazar fortress. It was interesting to see part of the old castle walls inside. My husband and son really liked the weapons exhibit here, which included various swords and weapons used by the Spanish Army through the years.
Another popular attraction is Museo del Greco. One of Toledo’s most famous residents was the artist, El Greco. This museum in his honor displays some of his masterpieces and work, as well as what life looked like inside a traditional Toledo house during the 17th century. The museum also offer educational workshops for various ages.
5. Ride the train
The Toledo Train Vision Zocotren is sure to entertain the kids. Catch it at the city center’s Plaza Zocodover for a 45-minute tour of the city along some of its attractions with a stop at the lookout. An audio guide is available in multiple languages. It’s a great value for less than 7 Euros. The train is quite popular so book early.
6. Watch a sword maker
For the budding knights in your family, Toledo offers plenty of armors and swords, from toys to intimidating weapons in many sizes. The city was once known worldwide for its high quality and well-made weapons and swords. If you’re lucky, you may get the chance to see the sword smiths and craftsmen who still make some of these swords at Toledo Sword Shop or Mariano Zamorano Swords.
Where to Eat in Toledo, Spain
Toledo cuisine is mainly made up of small game meat including quail, rabbit and partridge. Try the carcamusas (braised pork and potato stew in tomato sauce). It was delicious! Spanish staples like tapas, jamon (ham), paella and suckling pig were also available. We recommend La Malquerida de la Trinidad by the cathedral for their varied and great value menu.
Toledo is also famous for its marzipan: confections made of almond paste, sugar and honey. They were mouthwatering, addicting, and sold at many places. Some convents sold them too but were closed during our visit. Confiteria Santo Tome has been family-operated since 1856 and was the best we tried. These were great snacks as we strolled around the city. Bring some home!
Tips for Taking a Toledo, Spain Day Trip
Renfe trains run every hour from Madrid’s Atocha station. Tickets can be purchased up to 15 minutes before departure. We didn’t make any reservations and went to the train station during the day of our visit.
There is a Toledo Visitor’s Center at the Atocha Station in Madrid where we received maps, brochures and wonderful recommendations.
Many museums and monuments offer FREE admission on Sundays. Keep in mind that the cathedral also gets very crowded on this day.
Our tour bus included admission to the cathedral, which bypassed the lines and the opportunity to climb the Bisagra gate tower. The tours started outside the train station.
Look into the Toledo Card. It’s a tourist card that offers various packages with discounts to museums, monuments and tours.
Have you visited Toledo and have some other tips and attractions to add? You may also enjoy:
One of our main reasons for visiting Dallas was to see our favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys. Depending on when you visit Dallas, you may be able to catch a game, but if not, AT&T Stadium is open for tours and visits almost all year round, even during the off-season. So while we were in the area, we had to go and check out the stadium for ourselves.
Below are some tips that we learned during our trip that will help you out when you come out and visit the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas Cowboys Stadium Tour Tips
1. CALL AHEAD
AT&T Stadium hosts a number of events, so it is quite possible that field access or tours all together are cancelled for the day. Save yourself and your family any heartbreak and call ahead just to make sure.
2. TAKE THE VIP GUIDED TOUR
If you pick the self-guided tour, you miss out on going up to the suites and don’t get access to a number of places that you don’t usually see, including the Jones’ private suite. (They are the owners of the Cowboys.) The self-guided tour keeps you primarily in the locker room and the field.
If you are coming from a long way away or if this is your first time at the stadium, I would recommend the VIP guided tour, it is only a little bit more expensive but lets you see more of the stadium. The guided tour is about an hour and a half and requires quite a bit of walking. Strollers and wheelchairs are allowed but require you to take elevators.
3. BRING A FOOTBALL ON THE FIELD
Prior to starting the tour you have a chance to shop at the Dallas Cowboys Pro Shop. If you haven’t brought a football with you, I would recommend purchasing one there to play with when you get on the field. (It doesn’t matter what size.) Throwing the football makes for a fun afternoon and great pictures in the Dallas Cowboys stadium.
4. MAKE THE MOST OF THE FIELD ACCESS
The highlight of our time at the stadium was getting to play on the field. Again, be sure to call ahead to check if it is open. If it is, you are free to play as long as you want. We threw the football around and scored plenty of touchdowns. There are also photo opportunities on the 50-yard line Dallas Cowboys star with a professional photographer. I also recommend taking photos at the end zone with the Cowboys name displayed on the goal posts.
5. TIME YOUR ARRIVAL TO AVOID THE CROWDS
The stadium is open all day. However, if you want to avoid the field trips, you may want to time your arrival for 2 pm or later, as that’s when most of the school children and other groups have left for the day.
6. FUEL UP BEFORE THE TOUR
Prepare to eat before or after tour since food is limited during the tour.
Luckily, the well-situated Hilton Arlington is just minutes away from the stadium and offers restaurants and pools to refuel and relax after your tour.