Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Light Extravaganza

Christmas light displays can be so much fun for the whole family to enjoy. What a wonderful time for the family to appreciate Christmas together and make memories for years to come.There are several around the southwestern Ohio area that are great for adults and kids alike.While I have focused on several of these events, you can use the Christmas light finder website to find local displays in your area.

I really enjoy Woodland Lights. The lighted path, rides, reindeer,carriage rides and visits with Santa add to the Christmas spirit, plus it is reasonably priced.

Clifton Mills is another beautiful light display and while a little more expensive, it truly is unique with a dancing light show synchronized to music. They also have a miniature village and Santa museum.

Whispering Christmas in Eaton, Ohio is yet another option for Christmas lights and the good news is that it is free. Go to the link below and it should be mentioned as you scroll down to the December events.

Of course, there is always the Cincinnati Zoo Festival of Lights. It is a very beautiful display; however, it can also be very crowded, particularly on the weekends. If you can arrive earlier in the afternoon and enjoy the animals while already being in the zoo before it gets dark, your chances of encountering less crowd and stress will be greatly reduced!

The Christmas Ranch near Cincinnati was featured on Good Morning America and HGTV. Visit the website for more details on all they have to offer.

In Sharonville (near Cincinnati), you can enjoy a drive-thru display at The Holiday In Lights at Sharon Woods. There is also a Santaland where you can venture out of your car and enjoy some Christmas festivities.

Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park also hosts a beautiful lights display. You will be amazed at the 2 million lights used to make hundreds of light displays.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

5 Things: Must-See Attractions at Disney's Animal Kingdom

If you are visiting Disney World, each park has some must-see attractions that should not be missed. My kids love the Animal Kingdom at Disney World and I have listed our top 5 rides/shows that you will not want to miss. Some people do not have an entire day to devote to each park, and if you only have a small amount of time or are there on a extremely crowded day, hitting a few of the highlights will make your time seem very well-spent.

1) Kilimanjaroo Safari Expeditions-
Ride jeeps into the African savanna for some real-life encounters with animals such as lions, giraffes, rhinos, zebras and the list goes on. It is a wonderful attraction with such attention to every detail and probably the closest that most of us will ever be to a real African safari.
There are fast passes for this ride and I recommend getting one upon arrival if the lines are already getting long.

2) Festival of the Lion King-
A 30-minute Broadway-style musical show based on the music and characters from The Lion King. Even though it is 30 minutes in length, the action and colors will definitely keep the attention of younger children. My kids really enjoyed this show and asked to go back and see it again. 

3) Expedition Everest-
Cleverly themed Mt. Everest-inspired high-speed roller coaster with a fun twist: an encounter with a very realistic Yeti. This ride is not for young children or those who do not enjoy high-intensity rides; however, for thrill seekers, this is a must.
Fast passes are available and I highly encourage getting one early in the day. 

4) Finding Nemo-The Musical-
This musical experience is definitely one of my favorites at any of the parks. The show is 30 minutes in length and fashioned on the Pixar film, Finding Nemo. I loved the positive energy and colorful artistry of the show and my kids enjoyed seeing their favorite characters come to life. 

5) Tree of Life-It's Tough To Be A Bug-
The Tree of Life is the centerpiece to the whole park and is so unique with the numerous animals carved into it. There are trails encircling the tree so that you can walk at your own pace to look at the carvings and take pictures. The show, It's Tough To Be A Bug is a 3-D movie based on the film, A Bug's Life. I really like the special effects involved with the movie, although I will say that my toddler was a bit afraid as were a few others in our showing.There are also fast passes available for the 3-D movie.

Trying to catch all of these attractions in one day does not have to be difficult as long as you take advantage of the fast passes and keep an eye on show times. I will have a list of slower-paced and less crowded attractions around the park in a later post.
If you are planning a trip to Disney, don't overlook this awesome park. It is a great park for younger kids and they will love the myriad of animals that can be viewed up close and personal.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Visit the Home of Dum Dum Pops

If you are traveling through northwest Ohio, make a stop at Spangler Candy Co., home of the Dum Dum pop. They also make candy canes, circus peanuts and Saf -T pops. There is a great tour of the facilities aboard the Dum Dum trolley. The kids as well as adults will enjoy learning about the process of making the candies as you ride around the factory. A small museum houses some unique candy memorabilia. We were able to taste test the new flavors of Dum Dum pops that they were working on and the kids scored lots and lots of free pops. Perhaps a few too many! It was a quaint stop and so interesting to see the home of Dum Dums!  Check times as they vary depending on the time of year.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Can Kayak Help My Travel Planning?


What is Kayak and can it help me in planning my next trip? Kayak is a website that will provide a rundown of the flights, hotels, vacation deals and car rentals in a format that will allow you to compare prices across several sites for purchasing travel. I usually will check Kayak to get a broad picture of the price range of whatever travel item I am looking to buy. It is a simple way to get travel quotes from the major travel suppliers such as Orbitz, Travelocity , Expedia, etc. in just a few easy clicks rather than going to each individual site and typing in the same travel request multiple times. As a busy mom, any tools to help narrow down the time involved in booking travel is much appreciated.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Entertrainment Junction: Calling All Train Fans

If you have a train lover in your family, Entertrainment Junction is a must-see attraction to visit in the Cincinnati area. This museum/train extravaganza houses the world's largest indoor train display. Walk through a historical tour represented by lots and lots of miniature trains running along tracks beside, above and all around. Steam locomotives, trolley cars, today's diesel locomotives and subway trains run through the mini towns, cities and countryside of our nation's history. The American Railroad Museum is also housed within the building and explores our country's railroading history with interesting and interactive exhibits. Imagination Junction is a railroad-themed playland for the younger set. My kids could literally spend an hour or two just playing within this area.

During the warmer months, there are some small-scale trains to ride outside and special seasonal activities for Halloween and Christmas are also part of the fun. Whether you live in the area, are coming for a vacation or just passing through, this is a unique, fun and educational place to visit.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Featured Post at Our Everyday Harvest

Thanks to Kelly at Our Everyday Harvest for featuring my blog on the weekend blog hop. Check our her site for the latest coupons, deals, freebies and giveaways.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Check Out A Zoo Overnight

How many people are aware that their closest zoo might actually offer zoo overnights for families? Well, I was not until last year. We had been members of our local zoo for many years and I had never noticed the zoo overnight advertised in the newsletter we receive quarterly.

I am so glad that I finally read and researched about our zoo overnight offerings. It was an awesome experience for my daughter and one that we will definitely repeat. From San Diego to Houston and Atlanta, most zoos now have some type of family overnight. We picked the manatee experience- what a way to wake up in the morning with a manatee pressing its nose up to the glass watching you sleep. It was extremely economical for what we received. A special night tour of the zoo, animal shows, breakfast in the morning and behind the scenes tours of some of the animal buildings.  This may not be the case at all zoos, but we were able to just sign up as a family and did not have to attend with a larger group in order to participate.

Check it out, what a wonderful memory for your kids and something they will always remember!! We are already planning our next overnight trip and looking forward to it!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Travel Resource: Awesome Packing Lists

If you are like most moms, taking the actual family trip is fun, but the leg work involved to get ready for the trip: not so much fun! Laundry has to be done, clothes and toiletries packed, toys and activities for the car ride sorted out. It never fails that something will be inevitably left behind, especially if you have young children.
I recently found a wonderful packing list, courtesy of the website. The list heading is for babies and toddlers, but it is really a comprehensive list for the whole family. It is already in PDF format, so it just needs saved to the computer and printed out for the next trip. I guarantee following this list will save A LOT of time in your next packing adventure.

                                       "Mom, did you remember my toothbrush this time?!"

Friday, November 2, 2012

Welcome to Lovin' The Weekend Blog Hops with your co-hosts:

Thank you to every one who has stopped by, whether this is your first visit or you have been a faithful ongoing participant!

We would love for you to stop by each of the co-hosts and follow us, then feel free to add your links to any or all of the following linkies.

 We also randomly choose a Featured host each week from the Lovin' The Readers linky. This week we are featuring Erin from Traveling Kids on the Go.

Here's what she has to say:
"I actually started blogging about 6 years ago as a way to chronicle our adoption journey. I kept it up for awhile and then took a little break from blogging. 
Fast forward to now: I have always loved to travel and really enjoy doing so with the kids (ages 6 and 4) so we get around a lot! Plus, since we homeschool, there are more opportunities to travel and explore at the off-season times of year. Many of my friends ask for tips and advice about traveling with kids and places to take them, deals, etc. so I decided I would start to put information into an ebook format. After finishing one mini-ebook and currently working on a second, I thought it was a good time to go back to blogging. There are not a ton of blogs that focus on travel with kids, but I hope people can get some new travel ideas and ways to make traveling with children a little more of a smooth process. "

Please take the time to check out her blog, let her know you are visiting from the Lovin' The Weekend Blog Hops. 
Don't forget to link up to the Lovin' the Readers Hop if you would like a chance to be a Featured host next week. Please comment with a way to contact you, especially if there is not an obvious way mentioned on your blog. We would love to include a little write up about you and your blog in the next week's Lovin' The Weekend Blog Hop post, including a link to your blog. And you will get to include the linky codes on your blog. Sound fun? We're looking forward to getting to know our readers better.

Here's how this blog hop works. We would appreciate it if you would follow Tots and Me, Adventures of a Mommy Homemaker and An Ordinary Housewife then please head on over to our Featured Host and follow as well. If you no longer have GFC please follow in some other way. After that there are three different linkies you can link to. Whichever one you choose to link to, please grab that button and share it on your blog (the codes are on Tot's and Me's sidebar). We'd love it if you could tweet or in some other way share about this blog hop, the more people who know about it, the more potential visitors and new followers of your blog. We'd love to meet some new friends this weekend.  

Some people are more interested in just increasing their numbers, while others really want people who appreciate their blog and want to keep up with their posts. So, there are two separate linkies. The third linky is for you to link up your giveaways.

If you are interested in increasing the number of followers to your blog via GFC, Linky Followers, email, Twitter, Facebook or Google+ link up here. We will follow you back if you follow us (just note which one you are linking to):

Tots and Me

If you are interested in gaining followers to your blog who will read and comment and truly find an interest in your blog, link up here:

Tots and Me

If you have family friendly giveaways to link up, here's your spot. Please make sure to include an end date for your giveaway.

Tots and Me

We are so glad you stopped by. Please leave a comment if you link up and we will be sure to stop by and follow back.

Don't forget to check out my "Blog Hops" page for other great weekend blog hops!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

5 Things To Know Before You Go: Chicago with Kids

Chicago is such an awesome city to visit: full of history, world-class museums, shopping, fun dining options and kid-friendly attractions. If you are thinking ahead to spring break or summer vacation, Chicago is definitely a place to keep on the list of musts for family trips. I have visited Chicago at least a dozen times over the years. Some trips were for business, some for a girls' only weekend, a few have been a one-day up and back Chicago day trip and, of course, the family vacation.
I have listed 5 top kid attractions that are great fun for the entire family and are sure to be a highlight of your Chicago vacation.

1) Shedd Aquarium- One of the finest aquariums in the country, the backdrop for the Shedd is Lake Michigan. Take a trip to the Amazon, Carribean, and the Artic all in one afternoon. An awesome aquatic show complete with dolphins will top off a fun afternoon. My daughter thought it was so cool to actually see beluga whales up close and personal.

2) Take a Trolley Tour of Chicago- This tour will give the most bang for your buck, traveling all over the downtown area. Get all kinds of Chicago information while enjoying easy and low stress transportation to the top attractions, dining and shopping areas. My kids love riding on the top of the double decker buses for the best views, that is just the ultimate in fun for young ones and will keep their attention while the adults can listen to the tour narration. We purchase a 3-day ticket for unlimited on and off transportation. This ticket also included some Chicago neighborhood tours, taking in the sights of Chinatown, Wrigley Field and the Lincoln Park area.

3) Navy Pier - Kids will love Navy Pier! Between the gigantic ferris wheel, carousel, Chicago Children's Museum, 18-hole miniature golf course, lots of fun restaurants and old-fashioned swing ride, you could spend at least half a day or more just hanging out at the pier. It will also give you some perfect picture taking opportunities with the beautiful Lake Michigan as the backdrop.

4) Museum of Science and Industry-This museum is the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere and is filled to the brim with exciting exhibits that kids will love. Space exploration, a World War II sub to explore, trains, fairy castles, coal mines, streets of yesteryear and the human body are just a few of the areas to explore in this huge museum.
The Museum of Science and Industry is listed in the ASTC program so if you have a reciprocal membership you will be able to get free or reduced admission to this attraction.

5) Take a Boat Ride- I love boating on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. There are many options when considering what type of boat ride to take with kids. A Lake Michigan shoreline cruise, Chicago River architectural tour or a combination of the two are the main options for boat rides. Any of the options will give your kids a bird's eye view of the skyline, buildings and excitement of the city with a little historical education thrown in for good measure.
The following website will list comparisons of the various boat tours in the city:

For a comparison of the two main Chicago discount cards that will allow you to visit many attractions at much lower prices, visit:
Many of the attractions are listed on the discount cards.

The attractions above are just a few of the kid-approved Chicago attractions. Chicago is a a great city to explore with your children!