Top 10 Things to Do in AZ for Spring Break… besides Baseball

For the past 5 years we have loaded up the munchkins in the wee hours of the morning for a road trip out to Arizona during spring break training.  Like many travelers the initial trips were solely based around watching the major league baseball games during their cactus league games.  But, as the years have passed we have found that Arizona has a lot more than baseball to offer young families.  Here is a list of our top 10.

1.  Arizona Grand Water Park

The Arizona Grand Resort and Spa is a luxury hotel situated in Pheonix AZ.  In 2014 it was voted as the #1 Staycation Spot in Arizona and it is also the only AAA Four Diamond All Suite Resort in Arizona.  Although, better known by our munchkins as “The Water Slide Hotel”  for good reason too as Arizona Grand is home to their very own Oasis Water Park, voted by the Travel Channel as one of the country’s Top 10 Water Parks.  Our kids could spend ALL day going up and down the slides, floating around the lazy river, playing in the wave pool and just hanging out in the splash parks.  And, it doesn’t end when the sun goes down.  On certain nights the hotel offers movies at dark so the kids can float around the pool and watch a movie plus they have been known to offer s’mores certain nights as well.  Definitely, a munchkins dream and we all know when the kids are happy… mom and dad are happy too!

IMG_8032 IMG_8047 IMG_8041 IMG_8060 IMG_8065 IMG_8063 IMG_3830 IMG_3841

2.  Dinner & a Movie

I know many cities have dine in movie theaters now that offer full menus however we have not found one as affordable as the AMC Dine-In Theatre Esplanade 14.  The kids get a kick out of pressing the red button on their counter and ordering refills of their sodas.  Me and the hubs love some of the healthier and tasty menu items like the hummus tray and salads.  Plus, the seats are nice and cozy too.  This is a great way to take a break from the heat and relax.

IMG_8016 IMG_8011

3.  Hockey Game

Yes… the town is painted with baseball fans but Arizona is also home to the Coyotes -a major league hockey team.  We love to take a break from baseball and chill in the ice rinks (pun intended- ha!).  The Coyotes fans are pretty into the game and so the arena has a great family friendly atmosphere.  I highly recommend catching a game while you are in town.  Maybe you can score an awesome free shirt that your munchkin will insist on wearing repeatedly.  Gotta love his style!!<<sarcastic wink>>

IMG_8087 IMG_3579

4.  Rustler’s Rooste Restaurant

While staying at the Arizona Grand make sure to stop by the Rustler’s Rooste -while I would not rate their food very high- it is worth a visit if you are traveling with munchkins.  The restaurant sits on the top of a hill so it has some gorgeous views around sunset.  But, its not known for its views… people go there specifically for the entertainment.  It has a live steer out in front of the restaurant to greet you, they pop paper bull horn hats on the kids as they come in and then they send the kids down a slide to enter the dining area.  I mean seriously… what kid doesn’t want to go down a slide… IN A RESTAURANT???  Once inside you hear the live band playing their western music and you often see magicians and balloon artists making their way around all the tables.  Then as if the kids weren’t having enough fun they end the kids meals with a can of homemade cotton candy.

IMG_3849 IMG_0325

IMG_3847 IMG_3850 IMG_3851 IMG_3862 IMG_3856 IMG_0336 IMG_3868 IMG_3870

5.  The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa Pheonix-Scottsdale

We like to move around during our visits and another great hotel option for us has been the Westin Kierland Resort.  This resort offers Villa accommodations as well as traditional rooms which make it super easy for larger families to fit comfortably.  Kierland also has a water area.  Theirs includes a 110 foot waterslide, FlowRider, lazy river a shallow pool for the wee little ones and water splash area.  They offer cabanas to rent too but, I have found plenty of shade without having to pay.  It also has an adults only pool for those traveling without littles 😉

Another great aspect of staying at Kierland is all of the activities they offer.  From Princess & Pajama parties to yoga, hiking and golf.  They print out a handy guide called a “Pathfinder” weekly and they usually have it posted ahead of time online here

 kierland 3 kierland 2 kierland

6.  CHURN Ice Cream

Anyone that knows me knows I am S.E.R.I.O.U.S. about my ice cream eating- ha!  But, seriously… I LOVE ice cream and I am hard to please unless you’ve made it from scratch.  So, you can bet I was S.T.O.K.E.D. when I found a homemade ice cream shop in Phoenix AZ.  Churn is part of the Upward Projects Restaurant Group.  They feature delicious freshly churned ice cream, coffee, baked treats and novelty candies.  The BEST part is all of their yumminess comes sans the nasty additives, chemicals etc… that many ice creams have these days  (2 fist pumps in the air).  If you fancy yourself a visit I highly recommend making your own ice cream sandwich creation with their fresh baked cookies.  It will not disappoint!

IMG_3803

7.  The Farm at South Mountain- Morning Glory Cafe

Speaking of deliciousness- minus the bad chemicals- why not have a super tasty farm to table breakfast on a local Arizona farm.  Amazing setting and a delicious monte cristo sandwich… its a little slice of heaven.  You need to get there early as it doesn’t take long for a line to form.  However, if you do catch the crowd you can always take the munchkins on a walk around Maya’s Garden and see the gorgeous flowers.  Or take them near the kitchen coop for a lesson on where real food comes from 🙂  Our munchkins love to bring a ball and play some football while we wait as there is plenty of room to play.  *Note the restaurant I mentioned is open seasonally, so check their website before you go- http://www.thefarmatsouthmountain.com/morning-glory-patio/

IMG_3883

8.  Shopping

SHOP til you drop… and you can with all the lovely shopping malls I found in Scottsdale.  There seem to be malls all over the place.  Indoor, outdoor you can find both.  And, while the munchkins may not last long there seemed to be enough to keep them entertained for me to get my shop on.

Scottsdale Fashion Square, Kierland Commons and Scottsdale Quarter just to name a few 😉

IMG_8023

9.  Downtown Scottsdale

Downtown Scottsdale is pretty charming.  There are shops, galleries, bars and tons of dining options.  If you have your munchkins with you I definitely recommend the Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor for a fun dessert.  The games have seen better days (think chuck e cheese type) but the pink booths and giant sundaes will keep smiles on everyone’s faces.

IMG_0374IMG_0382IMG_0388 IMG_0390

10.  Okay… Baseball makes the list

It is spring training for pete’s sake and its pretty cool to see the players on their off season.  Make sure you arrive extra early to the games and line up along the fence with some new baseballs and ball point pens.  We have been pretty fortunate and have gotten autographs from players almost every time we visit!!!  We also prefer sitting on the lawn where you can chat with the outfielders.  The kids get a kick out of it!!  Just make sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and shade.  It will be H.O.T.!!!!!  You can look up the cactus league schedule here

IMG_1948

IMG_1951   IMG_3759 IMG_3757 IMG_3758 IMG_3768 IMG_3782

Costa Rica- Days 3 & 4

IMG_4100After escaping death by crocodile successfully (read more about that here) we were off and ready to explore all that Guanacaste had to offer.  First stop was a boat tour that was right down the road.  Oddly enough after learning about the crocodiles we were all super intrigued and wanted to see one for ourselves.  (Hey I never claimed to be normal).

There was a boat tour through the estuary where the crocs were supposed to be.  Now… in our heads we were picturing nice big boats that placed the passengers up high and away from harms way but just close enough to be fun.  Well… As we would soon learn Costa Rica has lots more tricks for us up its sleeves.

IMG_4087We walk over to the hotel.  Try to speak our broken Spanish and explain what we are looking for (thank goodness our niece had just returned from a semester in Spain).  The waitress nods and points to the right.  We walk down the path to find a tough looking man with a rickety VERY tiny little boat who gestures for us to all hop in.  We look at each other like “Is this man for real?? Surely we will sink this boat.”  But, he says we will all fit so we laugh and start climbing in.

IMG_3328 IMG_3329 IMG_3333 IMG_3334 IMG_3337 IMG_3339

As you can see the estuary was beautiful

IMG_3340 IMG_3341 IMG_3342 IMG_3344

But after seeing a ton of trees, water and birds we were starting to think this was a waste of money.  A few minutes after that thought crossed our minds the driver pulls up to a bank.  This is not the start… we were not told we would be making any stops.  What is this guy doing???  He climbs out, pulls up one of the fence posts to create a gap between the barbed wire, whips out a machete from his belt and starts cutting a path.  He looks back and gestures for us to follow.  Reluctantly (stupidly… depends on how you look at it) we follow.  After about two minutes of walking behind our boat driver turned guide as he slashed a trail he tells us to stay and wait.  We watch as the guide disappears into the thick brush in front of us until we can no longer see him.  We all look at each other and realize we are idiots!  IDIOTS!  We are in the middle of who knows where, in a place where crocs are supposed to live and now we are all ALONE!  Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

IMG_3350 IMG_3351

After our total freakout (about 5 minutes) we see our guide making his way back through the brush.  We are all assuming he just went to take a pee.  We tell him we were scared and he assured us we were fine and we continued on.  The trail was a bit scary with what looked like snake holes at our feet complete with crab skeletons and mounds of black hair around them.  I was completely freaking out having the kids walk through it all.  Especially, since most of us were in flip flops (again idiots).  But, finally the guide got excited and pointed up.  There were monkeys in the trees.  That is why we were up here.

IMG_3357 IMG_3358

We all calmed down and enjoyed watching these monkeys up close in their natural habitat.IMG_3360

After we were done with the monkeys we walked back to our boats and continued on.  Until we heard my oldest munchkin and niece yell “CROCODILE”… we all swing our heads and the driver puts the boat in reverse.  Up on a bank (identical to the one we had just hopped out on to take our monkey stroll) was a baby croc.  Our boat driver wanted to give us a better view so he drove right up to the bank.  Remind you we were literally 4 inches off the water in our rickety old boat.  The croc didn’t appreciate our closeness so he opened his jaw to show us his rows of pointy teeth.

IMG_3364 IMG_3366 IMG_3370

Our driver can tell we are scared and he thinks its funny.  We tell him to go.. and he laughs and drives closer.  That croc literally jumps in the water… we SCREAM!!!  And, the driver again laughs and then S.L.O.W.L.Y. pulls away from the bank.  Our hearts our racing.  Part of it is excitement… we just saw a live crocodile up close and the other part was complete panic.  The driver had mentioned how baby crocs are often not too far from their mamas.  I couldn’t get that thought out of my head.  “Was mama chasing us?”  Then I took out and notice we are heading right for what looks like the top of a crocs head.  I look around and it seems like everyone is so preoccupied talking about the baby croc that no one sees what I see.  I feel like I have to warn the driver so I point straight head and yell “CROCODILE!!!  CROCODILE!!!… coconut.”  Yes, instead of being the hero and saving our lives from this mama croc I completely made a fool out of myself as it was no croc… just a coconut floating in the estuary (so embarrassing!).  The kids do NOT let me live that down.  It’s been almost a year now and they have all written about the “crocodile, crocodile coconut story” in school and they love to bring it up in random conversations- ha!

IMG_3374 IMG_3376 IMG_3378

Day 3 we had booked a super fun excursion that included zip-lining, horseback and kayaking.  So, once again I was going to be a stress ball the ENTIRE day- yay!!!  Let me tell you this trip is a lot more fun to blog about than it was to live through.  Mama’s do NOT like watching their babies swing like tarzan across the jungles, kayak through huge boulders and fast moving waters or on top of horses that are spooking.  This trip was some test in trusting my kids and letting go.  But, seriously… how cool are these pics!!!  A trip my kids will never forget for sure and a great bonding experience for our whole family!!!  In case you are wondering we always hop onto tripadvisor and read reviews before we booked places and we gathered pamphlets from the local shops around town.  For the adventure shown we used: Guanacaste Vieja Tours and we LOVED them!  Their guides were great… and funny too.

I was just thankful that all the activities usually ended with some sort of sauna, volcanic mud bath etc…  Mama always needed a good soak by the end of the day.

DSC_0023 DSC_0033

I mean seriously… my kids hanging high off the ground… upside down- AHHHH!!!DSC_0042 DSC_0051 

But you know what they say… “If you can’t beat them… Join them!”  So, I did.  That’s me in my pink tank upside down.

DSC_0045  DSCN9317

Cuteness Alert!!!

DSCN9325

DSC_3549 DSC_3573 DSC_3581 DSC_3588 DSC_3643 DSC_3702 DSCN9352 DSCN9368

Do you see the spec in that pic above on the right.  Yes, that is one of my children.  You know… just zipping across a ravine- No big!

DSCN9385

Super cool bridges!!!  My kids are SO lucky!

DSCN9396DSCN9411

Now I LOVE horses and have owned them in my youth so the horseback was something that I thought we be no big deal.  However, these horses were super skinny and not anything like the horses I was used to.  I was nervous with my kids just hopping on and heading out to the trails.  I would not recommend the horseback for begineers as we had several horses spook along the trails.  And, they put my little munchkin on a horse with me.  Just sharing a saddle trying to keep her on and hold the reigns.  I was sweat’n it the WHOLE time.  But, the kids impressed me.  They did great!!!  Next up was kayaking…

DSCN9429 DSCN9432 DSCN9433

Off we went… it was gorgeous and super fun!!

DSCN9445 DSCN9449

We stopped along the way and jumped out.  They let the kids swing into the water off the rope swing.  Another moment I wasn’t sure we would all live through.  The kids just laughed at me and my panicky self.  They LOVED it and the guides assured me they would all be fine.  Then back in the water where things started getting rougher…

DSC_4954 DSC_4967 DSC_4972 DSC_4992 DSC_5017

Do you see those pics… yes super cool but leaving through that and watching as the kids boats went in between the rock- AHHHHHHH!!!  Crazy.  They LOVED it though.  One of my favorite pics from that trip is above where the kayak is horizontal on the rocks… I was sure they were going DOWN and there I see my munchkin with a huge smile and flashing his classic “hang loose” hands as I am yelling- “HOLD ON!!!”

Classic!

DSC_5035

If you liked this post you may want to visit-

Costa Rica Day 1

Costa Rica Day 2

Costa Rica- Day 1

The trip of a lifetime… or a trip you will need a vacation from once your done.  Depends on who you ask- ha!  If you ask any of my munchkins what their favorite family vacation was the response will unanimously be- COSTA RICA!!!!  Which is amazing bc we can’t get them to agree on anything… EVER.

It all started when my little sister decided she wanted to go somewhere different for her senior trip.  I suggested Costa Rica because 1) It was somewhere different 2) It was affordable and 3) the flights weren’t that long.  Little did I know that the trip would be the hardest trip of my life.  And, simultaneously everyone else’s best trip E.V.E.R.

Why?  Well… this trip was daunting every day.  Think of your kids boating in lakes full of live crocodiles, on horses, flipping over in kayaks, zip-lining upside down, zip-lining in thunderstorms, driving in the rain up and down super steep cliffs, near live volcanoes… need I say more?  I mean the list could go on and on.  Costa Rica is definitely NOT for the faint of heart (me).  I literally woke up EVERY morning praying we would all live… and went to bed every night thanking God for letting us all live.  It was EXHAUSTING!

However… with all that said after the trip was over and looking back.  It was an extraordinary vacation.  We learned so much together, experienced so many new things together and we definitely bonded a bunch too.  It is something I wouldn’t change and I actually think the next time around I would relax and have a lot more fun.

Let’s get to the fun stuff…

Day 1:

We rented a house through VRBO for the first time and it was a fantastic experience.  Super cool way to hang out together since we went with my mom, sister, two nieces, my brother and his wife plus all the kids except the baby.  We paid a little extra to have our maid also make us breakfast.  It was SO cool to wake up in this gorgeous tropical place, listening to the birds and monkeys.  I’d head out take a dip in the lap pool and then come in to the kitchen and see this yummy spread of homemade food and fresh squeezed juice to kick off the day’s adventures.  Some days as noted below I just went and hung out in my pj’s… I LOVED that backyard!!

I had to throw that pic of one of my munchkins in with the glasses- he’s too cool!

I loved all the wildlife the kids could explore right at the house.  We had tons of lizards, crabs and butterfly’s.  Huge iguana’s and we could hear the monkey’s although we were never up early enough to see them.  The house also had all the comforts of home, a little market, restaurant and ice cream hut right next door.    The kids wasted no time hopping up at the ice cream bar the night we arrived 😉

IMG_4035


IMG_4047

IMG_4045

IMG_4053     IMG_4048 IMG_4038

to be continued…

Dubai with a Munchkin… Day 1

Our first real “adventurous” type trip with our munchkins was to Dubai.  It was a crazy emotional trip bc we were on our way to meet and bring home one of our son’s who was born in Ethiopia.  At that time we already had three biological munchkins and with such a long trip my mama heart just couldn’t bear leaving them all.  So, like any super crazy wise parent would do we decided we would take the oldest along for the journey.  And, boy what a journey it was.

There were no direct flights into Ethiopia so we took a flight that had a layover in Dubai.  We figured we would stay a few nights to help catch up with the jet lag before meeting our son and beginning that emotional journey.  I was so glad that we made that choice as Dubai was a really amazing place to explore.

Here is us getting ready to go.  I used to be SO scared of flying so the 16 hour flight had my nerves in a tizzy 😉  All that luggage was mostly donations for the orphanage our son was from… I know you what you were thinking’ “That women is CRA-zay to lug all those suitcases and tubs half way across the world with her.”  But, see now you can just chill.

IMG_4351 IMG_4352

The flight went surprisingly well.  We flew Emirates and they took great care of us.  They had a wonderful complimentary kids entertainment backpack filled with goodies that kept my munchkin happy and I remember feeling like they were serving us food, beverages and snacks constantly.  I highly recommend flying with them.

IMG_4359 IMG_4362

Next up we arrived at our hotel- The Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai we were in a rush when we booked the hotel (in adoption you are so focused on the child and getting all of the legal work done when you pass court you realize that you should have booked your trip weeks ago) so we weren’t really sure what we were going to get.  My hubby’s dad had points that could be transferred to this Jumeirah Beach Hotel so that is where we ended up.  Little did we know what a fantastic choice that was.  We arrived in the room all haggard after our flight.  We walked towards the window to check out our view and low and behold there was the Burj Al Arab Hotel– the symbol of modern Dubai right in front of us.  SO cool!!!  Do you know it has a helicopter pad… optional chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce.  I mean that place is the pinnacle of luxury.  It was amazing just to look at it to be honest.  And, super fun to take pics in front of- ha!!

IMG_4372IMG_4125

IMG_4133IMG_4382

I am not sure why they had these camel statues all around Dubai… looked like some sort of art display as they were all uniquely painted.  Something else we weren’t sure of was what was up with breakfast.  We had trouble finding any restaurants open early for a traditional American timed breakfast (8-11am).  What we did notice was that the buffet lines mid morning/ early afternoon were C.R.A.Z.Y. so I am thinking that must be the thing to do.  We were there for such a limited time though that we didn’t make it to any.  Plus, you could pay about $75 USD to eat a buffet breakfast/ lunch or $75 USD to go on a Dune Ride, Camel Ride and Dinner Show.  So, we chose the later.  The pic below was us ALONE at a restaurant (the entire time we were there we didn’t even see another guest in the restaurant or walking around) catering to I am thinking only American guests who wanted to eat earlier than the buffet that most were attending.  The hubs and my munchkin in the ocean in front of the hotel.  And, yes!  I allowed my munchkin who almost never is allowed any fast food let alone McDonalds… to get a happy meal (ahhh!!!  Don’t tell anyone) but he loved seeing their Arabic writing on his little happy meal box.  It’s the little things when it comes to kids- ha!

Burj Al Hotel- eh… whatever mom (insert eye rolls)!

McDonald’s in a different language- B.E.S.T. T.H.I.N.G. E.V.E.R.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 IMG_4114 IMG_4379 IMG_4120 IMG_4392

Did I mention they have INSANELY HUGE malls… so big they can fit an entire ski slope with chair lifts in it.  Snow in the desert… it’s crazy cool!!

Our hotel also had a water park (Wild Wadi Waterpark) which was super cool.  And, in case you are wondering bikini’s are fine for westerners on hotel property.  I had read conflicting things about dressing in Dubai before we left.  It seems like you should dress conservative (cover shoulders, nothing too short, don’t show tummy) around town and hotel property your pretty safe in whatever.

IMG_4395 IMG_4141 IMG_4151

I loved the gorgeous mall right across from our hotel.

IMG_4401

We used Arabian Adventures while in Dubai for a sunset Dunes Tour, Dinner & Show and I cannot say enough good things about this company.  They are amazingly prepared and all of their equipment is top notch.  Every employee tried to ensure you were having the time of your life.  They were funny, spoke excellent English and were so concerned with your happiness.  It was the highlight of our trip for sure!!

Even the camels were amazing.  They were super friendly and their caretakers actually live with the animals so it was amazing to see that connection firsthand.  I don’t recommend sitting in the third row seats as my hubs and munchkin felt sick after the dunes.  But, otherwise I think you should be fine!

The dinner was SO cool.  They had all sort of amazing dishes set up buffet style.  I felt as if I walked onto a movie lot… there is nothing but your camp, the sand and the stars.  SO… SO… SO… incredible!!!!

They had henna tattoo artists which the munchkin was all over.  His first choice was a butterfly… until he realized that might be a tad feminine.  He went back for a scorpian- ha!  And, the traditional belly dancer was fun to watch too.

I would love to go back to Dubai someday as it was such an amazing experience.  I don’t think we were there long enough to capture all it had to offer.

IMG_4166 IMG_4407 IMG_4411 IMG_4422 IMG_4434 IMG_4436 IMG_4438 IMG_4447 IMG_4465 IMG_4467 IMG_4479 IMG_4487

What to do in Oahu

IMG_6568 - Version 2

If you have been following my blog you will remember that one of our favorite resorts is Disney’s Aulani- see here.  We have already visited that resort 5 times in the short amount of time it has been opened.  So, we have rounded up some of our favorite activities OFF property just for you:

1) Waimea Valley-

We love Waimea Valley for several reasons.  1) The path is paved so strollers are welcome, 2) There is a waterfall at the end complete with complimentary life vests and lifeguards and 3) It is absolutely GORGEOUS!!!

You can read more about it on Yelp here.  Note there is an entry fee for this hike.  Below are some pictures of us at Waimea this past November.

IMG_4979

See the gorgeous Peacock behind the kids… I missed getting him when he opened that gorgeous tail up.  I think I was drawn in by the beauty of those feathers.

IMG_4614

Tiny lizard… love the kids getting to see all the wildlife up close.  There were also a ton of beautiful butterflies.

IMG_4639

Above is the waterfalls at the end of the walk.

*Tip- bring a few dollars for the guards working so hard to keep everyone safe.  They have a tip jar up there.

IMG_4603

Do bring your brother to entertain your children… definitely!

IMG_4601

Don’t take a picture next to said brother who happens to be 4 years younger yet towers over you.

I often forget how short I am until I see myself standing next to other adults ;)

2) Turtle Beach (really Laniakea Beach)

This adorable little strip of beach is super cool.  If you go mid day you are likely to see sea turtles either swimming in the waves close to shore… or climbing out to beach on the sand.  There are amazing volunteers who watch over them and keep records on each turtle.  These volunteers are amazing people and they have always been super informative.  This is a great hands on educational experience.  Just be very cautious when parking, crossing the busy street and climbing down to the sand.  For directions and more info view it on Yelp here.  Here are some pics:

IMG_2291

Dad was pointing out the sea turtles bobbing in the waves.

IMG_6677

3) North Shore-

As long as the weather permits you should be able to hang out and watch some amazing surfers doing what they do best.  My boys could sit and watch those surfers for hours.  Just make sure to grab some Matsumoto Shaved Ice before you hit the beach.  View on Yelp here

14

Yum!

4) Food Trucks by North Shore

Great food… try the infamous Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck.  Read what others say about Giovanni’s here on Yelp.  But, be warned there are wild chickens running around and a fair amount of flies- yuck!

5) Manoa Falls

This hike is a little more work and not for those with super little munchkins as the path is muddy, slippery and not fit for strollers.  But, if you are a more adventurous family this is a fun (super muddy and messy) gorgeous hike.  I would recommend old sneakers and a change of clothes and shoes for when you are done.

See more on Yelp here

IMG_6759

IMG_6783

IMG_6796

17

*I do NOT recomend not listening to the warning sign by the waterfall.  As you see I am NOT on the other side of this.  I am the spazz yelling at them and taking their picture 😉

6) Waikiki Beach

Great food, history and a beach… ‘nough said!

7) Ala’ Moana Mall

Gorgeous mall with everything from high end boutique shops, name brands and little mom and pop shops.  You can walk the mall and several blocks around it.  Don’t forget to stop by the Hawaiian Cookie Store for some free samples 😉  My only complaint is that they recently shut down our favorite open air International Market right there next to the mall.  Heart breaking really.  So many memories from my own childhood there (sniff!)  See more on Ala Moana here

8) Dole Pineapple Plantation

This one is a love/ hate thing.  It is fun to go here once I think.  The kids get a kick out of seeing how pineapples grow, riding the train, eating the soft serve Pineapple treat etc…  However, it is a complete tourist trap with ridiculous prices, pushy sales people and cheap trinkets.  But, if you know it going in at least you will know what you are walking into.

* I also would recomend Pearl Harbor.  We unfortunately have not had the chance to take the kids.  However, I have heard it is a MUST do.  So, it is on our list.  You can read what other people are saying about Pear Harbor here on Yelp.

What do you do with your family when you visit Oahu?  I would love to hear from those of you who have a favorite zip line or horse back adventure that you would recommend as those are also on our list for next time 😉

Disneyworld… a schedule that works!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooks like we got brave and traveled with just our immediate family back in 2005.  And, we liked it SO much we went TWICE to Disneyworld in one summer.  Or maybe we are just crazy?

DisneyPhotoImage27

DisneyPhotoImage11

Our kiddos were 2  & 4 and we were starting to realize we liked when they said “Welcome Home” what an affordable trip Disneyworld was when we booked the hotel with our Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points.  We actually liked it SO much we purchased more points that summer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I know people often think we are just insane to take the kids all the way to Disneyworld and multiple times.  But, look with Disney we knew we were guaranteed a good time.  We knew that everything was going to be clean (A type- yup that’s me), kids would be happy, grown ups would have good food & drinks etc… (and, yes you read that right… there are delicious grown up bevys served in the parks)  Plus, we just knew how to do it!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When you travel to Disneyworld with munchkins (or any theme park) there are a few things you can do to ensure you have a great trip:

  • Keep visits in the park to 4 hours MAX
  • Go SLOW
  • Keep expectations low
  • Don’t let rides be the main focus
  • Pack snacks and bubbles- just TRUST me 😉

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • Our schedule is usually to wake up early, eat a quick breakfast in the room and then go to which ever park has extra magic hours that day (don’t know what that means?- click here).
  •   We then go back to our hotel for lunch and to swim in the pools (depending on the weather and time of year).
  • The kids are usually pooped after that so we go back to the room to nap and relax.  Then we clean up, head out to dinner and a different park. *We don’t like extra magic evenings bc they get SUPER packed!

This schedule makes your days last SO long in the best way.  It makes sure everyone is fed, on a schedule (which munchkins thrive on) and well rested = less meltdowns.  YAY!!!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My Aulani Review… Recently Rated #1 Family Beach Hotel

Initially I intended to handle this blog chronologically… but I just don’t seem to have the patience- ha!  Story of my life.

I ran across this article from Travel & Leisure and just had to weigh in on why WE LOVE AULANI!!!

1) FREE ChildcareYes I said it.  Just like the cruise… kids 3-12 can be checked in to Auntie’s Beach House for free play or some of the scheduled activities like Building a Volcano, Stitch’s Space Goo and a Hula with the characters.  This allows mom and dad to sneak next door to Ama’ Ama’ for a delicious cocktail and some yummy fish tacos.

2) Hawaii- I mean obviously. The scenery is unbeatable.  It takes my breath away EVERY time and we have already visited 5 times and plan to go back this year again.  Plus, Oahu has SO much to offer between the shops and history of Waikiki, Pearl Harbor, Ala Moana, Dole’s Pineapple Plantation, Turtle Beach, North Shore and that is just to name a few that popped into my head.

3) The Cast Members– Seriously… Disney has this ability to find the most amazing employees.  We were lucky enough to meet Alyssa on our first trip and over the years have stayed in touch with her… now I would consider her a very dear family friend.  On one of our more recent trips she invited us into her home and served us tons of traditional food.  Absolutely an amazing experience.  And, well you can not expect that amazing service from every cast members you CAN bet on fantastic service.  In fact this alone has made Aulani or resort of choice trumping our old fav- Grand Wailea.  They definitely need to work on their customer service skills.

4) Kids Activities– Besides Auntie’s Beach House there are a ton of activities on property that will keep your munchkins entertained.  Snorkeling in the private lagoon, riding down the body or tube slides, floating around the lazy river, attending the family challenge (although if we are there we will beat you-ha!), getting wet in the menehune splash park, attending one of the free craft activities, watching one of the free movies on the lawn, attending the complimentary Starlit Hui, Fire Pit Stories, Star Gazing… geesh!  I feel like I could go on forever.  To be honest we haven’t even covered it all in our 5 trips!!!

5) The Villas– Okay… maybe I am biased but I have not been able to find nicer rooms that Disney’s Vacation Club Villas.  They are PERFECT!!!  And, we have stayed in some of the World’s Nicest Hotels people, so I feel justified making such a BOLD statement!  Disney knows what they are doing.  We love the 2 bedroom villas.  They have a washer and dryer so we are able to pack light, two bathrooms, two full bedrooms, couch bed in the living room and a full kitchen (you can even ask for a blender and rice cooker) *Costco is one exit down the highway 😉  Thank me later!  So, yes perfect set up, immaculately clean and the views are out of this world!!

Don’t believe me… I added some pics for proof.  Just GO!  Like book it now… I promise you will not regret it.  This and the Disney Cruise are the ONLY 2 vacations where I feel I actually fully unwind and relax.  Not that I don’t love Dubai, Ethiopia and Costa Rica… but those I call adventures.  Aulani is a true VACATION for EVERYONE- INCLUDING MOM!!!!

Snorkeling in the Private Lagoon

IMG_6501

One of the Pool Parties with Characters

IMG_6548

Family Challenge- we ROCK’d it!!

IMG_6880

Character Breakfast- I highly recommend it!

IMG_1024

Jumping in the pool over looking the beach

IMG_1107

Visiting our Family Friend (cast member) Alyssa for some Traditional Hawaiian Food- YUM!

IMG_2279

Tube Slides

DSCN9041

Just bc these two are cute!!

DSCN9046

On your 5th visit… make sure you bring as many extended family members as you can

IMG_4681

Seriously… the cuteness… I just can’t stop!!

IMG_4548

Memories like these are worth it… Go… Book it!!

IMG_4571

Thank you Aulani!