They do have complimentary life jackets for infants through 90 pounds, but you may want to bring your own if not arriving early - when we were leaving at 3pm they didn't have any available.
Looking for a kid-friendly indoor waterpark near NYC or Philadelphia? We just took a day trip to Sahara Sam's Indoor & Outdoor Waterpark in West Berlin, NJ and simply cannot recommend it enough. We received our tickets free in exchange for an honest review, but don't worry - I'm no sellout and always tell it like it is haha!! Be sure to watch our quick highlights video (below) and then keep reading for more details!!
Just a quick 90 minute drive from Brooklyn, Sahara Sam's couldn't be a more perfect kid-friendly day trip from NYC! They're open year-round with the indoor waterpark, arcade, and birthday parties, and the outdoor waterpark area opens in summer.
Bring your bathing suits and towels, no outside food or drinks, and pack smartly as you can fit a good amount of stuff in the large locker ($15), or possibly the small locker ($10) - they take credit card, don't worry. The lockers are good all day, you can go in and out of them as much as needed which is great if you're like me and want to take some quick photos or videos here and there and then keep your camera safe (and dry) in between, or grabbing your wallet as needed for lunch and snacks!
They do have complimentary life jackets for infants through 90 pounds, but you may want to bring your own if not arriving early - when we were leaving at 3pm they didn't have any available.
The food was standard kid-friendly amusement park type food - pizza, hot dogs, chicken fingers etc. We got the 16" pizza, about $16, which fed our family of 5. Great price, and delicious! The restaurant room does not require you to get dressed or wear shoes, which lets families keep their lunch break as quick and painless as possible haha! They also have a full bar within the water park room, and a large arcade, although you do have to be dressed with shoes to go in the latter.
Their Lizard Lagoon (baby & toddler area) has a wading / splash area, some small fountains, a double slide, and a wall around it that parents were all hanging out on. Very cute and all 3 of our kids spent a lot of time in there.
The Tim Buk Tu Adventure Playland in the center of the main room was awesome, with one of those HUGE buckets that dumps water every couple of minutes, a few small to medium sized slides, and various water play activities.
Their lazy river is GREAT!!! When we went early in the morning, there was no line and we could actually board our tubes in the zero entry part making it super easy for an adult to get on and load a child in your lap. Later in the afternoon it got really busy and actually made me a bit nervous doing it with our party of 5. Once you get a tube and get yourselves on it's nice to float around, but the getting on and off amidst all that chaos, with 3 little ones to worry about, it's really tough (unless the adults in your party outnumber the kids, then it's no problem)!
They have a bunch of large water slides, all minimum 42" to ride, which meant we had to take turns going with our 6 year old so that someone could stay behind with our 3 year old twins. But the slides were awesome - SO much fun!!!! Our favorite, we nicknamed the "Superman" slide but it's actually called Tut's Twisters and it's 2 slides where you go head-first tummy down on a mat, very unique and thrilling!!
The entire indoor waterpark was nice and balmy, 84 degrees year round! I was nervous about water temperature, as that can make or break a waterpark trip in my opinion. But the water was actually super nice, luke warm, not chilly at all (except for a separate room that held Tut's Twisters and a large pool - that room and the water were quite cool) - everything else, from the lazy river to the kiddy pool, were really nice temperatures! No shivering - phew!!
Tickets will run you about $30-40 per person (get a discount when purchasing in advance online) and if you plan to go at least twice in a year (you will, trust me) get the season's pass, which is a GREAT deal!! They're on sale now for $47.99 (regularly $84.99). Use code SSBUY3 to buy 3 or more and get them for $44.99 each
What do you think? Have you been to Sahara Sam's before? Do you have another amazing family-friendly day trip from NYC to recommend? Check out my massive list of the best getaways from NYC with kids here (many include links to my personal reviews and YouTube videos)!
When searching for a family-friendly hotel to split up our long drive from NYC to Montreal, I happened across Six Flags Great Escape Lodge and Indoor Waterpark. We are all familiar with Six Flags - we think roller coasters, theme park, fun summertime day trip for the family. But did you know they have an amazing lodge with a HUGE indoor water park just 3.5 hours north of NYC, in the heart of the Adirondacks and Lake George area!! Click below to watch our YouTube video for a tour of the facilities and to see our crazy kiddos having a blast!!
It's quite affordable, too, with room rates from just $199/night, including waterpark access (if not staying overnight, you can also purchase day passes for the waterpark for $44.95 per guest and under age 2 is free, and seasonally of course also tickets for the amusement park). They have lots of kid-friendly activities going on during the day, including a Kids Klub with arts and craft and story times, a huge arcade, and 2 full-service restaurants on site (including Johnny Rockets). Something we didn't do, and I regret (so there WILL BE a next time...) is their Adventure Trek - basically you rent a wand and venture around the hotel on a mission of unlocking games and adventures, and all your points accumulate and will be there when you come back for your next stay! Sounds super fun!!
They had the lodge beautifully decked out for the Holidays, and have an adorable set up for photos with Santa. While it's brutally cold outside, it's summer year round at Great Escape Lodge and the perfect time to schedule your getaway!
The lodge is great, in a beautiful area with lots going on, but the indoor waterpark is what really makes Great Escape Lodge stand out as a great family vacation destination in my opinion. There's a little toddler area with baby swings and slides, a kid's area where you must ben 36-54" to ride the slides, and several body and raft slides for taller kids and adults (most were 36 or 42" and taller), a group raft slide (2-4 people per raft), and even a wave machine where you can boogie board or surf!!! I was too scared to try it but deeply regret that, so yet another reason we'll have to go back soon!! (Be sure to watch our YouTube video to see my hubby giving boogie boarding a go!!)
The lazy river was probably my favorite, a bit awkward to manage with toddlers but we figured out a way to kind of perch one on each of our tubes, and our 5 year old floated along alone with or without a tube - they have free life vests for the kids to borrow! There were showers and changing rooms down there, but the lockers cost $17, so my recommendation is to leave valuables up in your room and just bring the bare minimums down to the waterpark. Also, they said the room is 82 degrees, but the water was a tad chilly, so just keep that in mind, especially if anyone in your family is very temperature sensitive, you may need take quick breaks to dry off or warm up with a hot shower. Though, we were there during a record breaking cold spell, so I'm not sure if the water/air temperatures were typical or not. Despite the shivers, we had an absolute blast!!
Looking for more family vacation and weekend getaway from NYC ideas?? Check out my massive list here!!
Family vacations are so important, for making memories and experiencing new things together, but if I'm being honest, as a mother of 3 small children, they sometimes don't quite feel like vacation to me. I just kinda feel like I'm parenting in another location, and deserve a vacation after coming back from the vacation! But this past weekend, we found the answer to our vacation woes. A super duper family-friendly ALL-INCLUSIVE resort near NYC that includes, wait for it, CHILD CARE!!! This amazing place is none other than Rocking Horse Ranch in Highland, New York, just a quick 2 hour drive north from New York City (or hop on Amtrak and they'll have a shuttle pick you up from the station!).
Full disclosure, we were provided our stay free of charge in exchange for our review and promotion. But don't worry, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased - I'm no sell out!!!
Watch our fun video here and keep reading for details on the Rocking Horse Ranch accommodations, activities, food, and more!!
The main grounds of Rocking Horse Ranch are pretty compact, which made everything super convenient! Our room was located in the Main Lodge and we could get to the pool, dining room, arcade, and theater without going outside! And it was just a quick walk outside to the other areas including the playground, stables, day care, fun barn, etc.
They have rooms accommodating 4 - 6 people. We got the "Main Lodge AA" room for 6 people, which included 2 queen beds and a bunk bed, which my kids were over the moon for!!! Our 5 year old took the top bunk (which has built in rails) and our 3 year old twins shared the bottom bunk (I simply pulled 2 wooden chairs over to use as a makeshift rail and it worked like a charm. But frankly, everyone was so exhausted after a full day on the ranch that they crashed quickly and slept like the dead. The room was spacious and included a TV, fridge, shower/bath, toilet, 2 sinks, coffee table, dresser, and tons of hanging / storage space.
The room, like the entire hotel, had a fun ranch / cowboy / Wild West theme, and seemed newly renovated. Everything was in immaculate condition, super clean, and honestly impressed the heck out of me!
As you would expect at an all-inclusive resort, all meals were included. Breakfast and Lunch were buffet style, and dinner was sit down and order off the menu, however there was no limit on how much you could order. On your first day, you must make a dinner reservation and that same time will remain your dinner time for your entire stay. We struggled with what time to sign up for, not wanting it to cut into our fun activities and also not make us rushed to get to the 8pm nightly entertainment! We settled on 6:30PM and it was perfect. The dining area itself, just like the rest of the hotel, has a beautifully decorated rustic cowboy type theme, complete with dozens of antler chandeliers, views of the surrounding forest, and a gorgeous fireplace (bring your cameras, this is one of the many great spots in the hotel for some family photos)!
Breakfast was delicious, featuring eggs, pancakes, french toasts with strawberries, bacon, eggs, danishes, oatmeal and yogurt stations, tons of fresh fruit and individual cereal boxes, bagels, etc. You can also order eggs anyway you like, we got a bacon and cheese omelet that was ah-may-zing (be sure to scroll through the food gallery above)!!
Lunch had some standards like hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and DIY sandwiches, pastas, make-your-own bar like tacos, sloppy joes, etc. The fun part about lunch is the Character meet-and-greet. Even though they weren't well-known characters from TV, our kids were so excited to hug and high-five Betsy the Horse, a Prospector, and a Cowboy (see below)!
Dinner consisted of a soup, a salad, 2 appetizers, 6 or so main dishes, and 2 sides. Menus of all meals are posted before each meal outside the dining room, just in case you want to go over it before sitting down at the table, which can be a crazy time for families like mine! You could order as much as you wanted, and even order basics not on the menu that might be more picky-kid-friendly, pizza for example. As hard as it is with all that endless food to devouer, I encourage you to SAVE ROOM FOR DESSERT because they have a to-die-for selection of pies, as well as soft serve ice cream sundae bar, cookies, etc. YUMMMMMMM!!!!!
There are two self-serve drink bars in the dining room, with all kinds of sodas, whole milk, chocolate milk, water, and flavored waters. A separate server comes around in case you want to order alcohol at dinner, which is not included. There is also a 24-hour coffee / hot chocolate / pastry station located in one of the common areas near the lobby - all free, of course!
At Rocking Horse Ranch, child care (or "day camp" if you prefer) is free of charge for ages 3 - 12, and $12 per hour per child under the age of 3! No reservations needed, just drop-in between 9am - 5pm and pick them back up whenever! Use as long or as often as needed during your stay! It was SO AMAZING, I don't ever want to go on "vacation" again without a child care option LOL! Not only was it great to get some (free) alone time with my husband, but the kids LOVED it there! They actually begged to go back!! They have 2 rooms, one for ages 0-5, and one for ages 6-12. They have tons of age-appropriate activities in the rooms, but they also give the kids the option to go on trips outside to the various activities. They took our kids moon jumping, to see the animals, to the play ground, etc!
PONY RIDES & HORSE BACK RIDING:
Now, it wouldn't be a RANCH without some horses and other animals, and they are certainly in abundance here! With over 100 horses to ride, they're able to guarantee a free daily trail ride to every guest (must be 48" and above, under 48" can take pony rides). You'll need to select a time (same daily) for your ride, but you can also get extra rides waiting standby at other ride times. We met some girls who were riding 3 times a day! They accommodate any level, from first-time beginners (like us) to intermediate (walk-trot) and advanced (walk-trot-canter). You can attend a demonstration to learn more about the horses, the stable, and how to ride, or you can wing it as we did - the staff will give you a 30-second instruction about how to hold the reins and control the horse, and then you're on your own to keep your horse in check as you head out with a group on your 45 minute trail ride.
I'm not gonna lie, I was rather terrified. Those horses are huge and while they're tame and more or less know what to do because they do the same trail ride several times a day, you had to be careful not to let your horse get too close to the next horse or else they might spook each other or bite or whatever, oh my gosh it was very nerve wracking for me. There are wranglers riding along with the group though, and they gallop over to come to help out within a few seconds (nothing major happened on our ride, just a few horses got out of line to munch on some grass and occasionally a rider needed help getting back in line). I'm very proud of myself that I did it, despite my fear, but we decided not to go back for a second ride haha! My sore butt thanked me.
Our kids, on the other hand, were absolutely in love with their pony rides!! The last time Emi had a chance to ride, a year ago at 2 years old, she was so petrified she wouldn't even touch the horse. But this time, she was so happy to be up on that pony. All of them were. And my heart nearly exploded with the cuteness of it all!!!
Rocking Horse Ranch has a great indoor water park area with a big pool in the lower section (with a fun bobbing platform area to walk across), a nice splash area for the younger crowd in the upper section (with 1 small and 2 medium sized slides), and a MONSTER of a water slide for the older kids and adults. That slide is 250 feet long, and let me warn you, you go FAST!!! It is really really fun!!! I was shocked my 5 year old was brave enough to go it alone, but he did and he loved it, rode it about 5 times during our stay!!
The water and air temperatures in there are kept at a balmy 85 degrees fahrenheit, so no chills to worry about, and they also have great life jackets for the kids to wear (for 30-50 pounds). Down one flight of stairs (which isn't kept as warm, so you'll need to dry off or bundle up) you'll find bathrooms, showers, changing rooms, and saunas. Or you can run through the hallways from your room to the pool in your bathing suits, as we did haha!
ACTIVITIES, ANIMALS, & ENTERTAINMENT:
No matter your age or interest, you will find plenty to do at Rocking Horse Ranch, and nearly all of it is free of charge for guests (the only things I ran across that cost extra were alcohol, arcade games, and mining camp, but anything that costs extra will be noted so on the daily activity guides).
In the indoor Fun Barn (pictured above) you'll find a bouncy house, large jungle gym with lots of foam ball shooting devices, badminton, ping pong, and electric rock climbing. Outside of that, you'll find 3 moon jumping trampolines (pictured below) and a rock climbing platform.
Near the stables, you'll find an enormous playground (pictured above), indoor BB shooting range & archery, Highland Cattle, zebra, camel, pigs, donkeys, and goats. You can watch a silversmith make horse shoes (they have over 100 horses, each needing new shoes every 6-8 weeks - be sure to watch our video to see them putting new shoes on a horse, it's fascinating!!).
Our favorite activity was definitely the mountain tubing. They have a "Magic Carpet Lift" that brings you and your tubes up, and fly down down the huge hill at super speed!!! You cannot double up in one tube, but even our 3 year olds were fine riding solo. Sometimes they'll let you go double with 2 tubes (1 person in each) and 1 person holding the leash of the other tube. We enjoyed that as well. At night they light it up in fun colors and it brings it to a whole new level of fun!
Inside the main lodge, in the basement, you'll find the Lucky Horseshoe Arcade with pay-to-play machines as well as 2 lanes of free mini bowling, and a fun interactive floor game.
Down the hall from the arcade, you'll find the Silverado Saloon where they have daily activities such as scavenger hunts, trivia games and nightly live entertainment (we saw a great magician there).
In the summer they have more outdoor activities open up including an outdoor pool and water slide, and in winter they have snow tubing and skiing! They also have a softball field, tennis courts, horseshoe pitching, basketball courts, shuffleboard courts, horse-drawn wagon or sleigh rides, and you can take a shuttle to a golf course and the Walkway Across the Hudson!
Seasonal, of course, they make a killer haunted house, with nighttime tours as well as "not as scary" (but still super creepy and gross) day time behind the scenes tours, which my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed. They tell you how they made it, how they mange from above the crowds, use trap doors etc. Be sure to watch my video for some of the cool behind the scenes tour!
So there you have it, our family vacation at Rocking Horse Ranch in a big amazingly fun nutshell!! I'm not going to sugar coat it, this is not a low-budget vacation. But you can find deals and make a splurge, because honestly, it's SO worth it!!! Prices I've seen on their booking page range from about $349 - $979 per room per night, but don't forget, this includes EVERYTHING during your stay!
What do you think?? Is this on your list of places to visit? Have you been before? Have another place to recommend for us to try out? Be sure to head on over to our great FAMILY-FRIENDLY DAY TRIPS & WEEKEND GETAWAYS FROM NYC page for some other great destinations!!
We enjoyed our weekend in Lancaster last summer so much (see here) we decided to pretty much copy cat our own trip again this year! As far as budget-friendly family vacation destinations within a few hours drive of NYC go, this is one of the best. A MUST for any NY / NJ / PA family with kids in the range of about 2-10 years old.
In exchange for our honest reviews, we were provided free admission to Cherry Crest Adventure Farm & Dutch Wonderland, and complimentary accommodation at Bird in Hand Family Inn, but don't worry, all opinions are unbiased - we don't sell out guys! Read on for details on each place, and don't miss our 2 great videos below!!
Cherry Crest Adventure Farm is one of the most unique places we've ever been. It's outdoors, set on 15 acres of peaceful beautiful Lancaster farmland, chock full of 50 kinds of activities, games and rides that encourage movement, creativity, and teamwork! Children 2 and under are free, and others can get a day pass for $17 ($30 ticket allows you to come back an unlimited amount of times in the year - open from end of May til start of November!), and there are a few other passes that include extras such as apple launcher and shooting range, which are great but not necessary for families with young kids in my opinion.
Here are my families' personal favorite things to do at Cherry Crest Adventure Farm:
Starting July 3 you can visit their 23rd Annual Amazing Maize Maze, "a gigantic, 5-acre Board Game Madness design created from 2.5 miles of paths and tricky turns!! This sounds SO COOL and we hope to go back later this summer to finally check it out (the past 2 times we've been was technically "spring" seasons, before the maze opens).
**Edited: We finally went during Labor Day Weekend!! Check out our video highlights from the Amazing Maize Maze and more!
CLICK BELOW TO WATCH
highlights from Cherry Crest Adventure Farm!
Whether seeking thrill rides, toddler & baby friendly calmer rides, animatronic dinosaurs, water park, or shows - Dutch Wonderland has got them all!!
We found our 36" 2.5 year old twins could ride a ton of things this year, compared to last year. And our son, now 46" could ride all but 1 ride that he wanted to, except for wooden Kingdom Coaster (minimum 48"). You can see the height requirements for all rides here, and at each ride they'll have a sign up so you can quickly see if your kids can ride.
I was shocked that my son was tall enough for the new hanging Merlin's Mayhem rollercoaster, but the way the seat is built and with the backup old-school lap belt, it felt super secure and i wasn't the least bit nervous of him flying out. If you have a kid tall enough (minimum 39", under 48" must ride with a "responsible rider") definitely prioritize it, that ride is super smooth and crazy fast. SO much fun!!
I'm totally bummed both times we've been, late May last year and early June this year, it wasn't quite warm enough to use their water park, which looks amazing. So, we're hoping to go back later this summer! Also very unlucky was the massive rain storm that met us at the park - it started pouring after just 3 hours. After checking the radar, we called it a day at 1pm and heard later they ended up shutting down the park at 2:30pm.
We did squeeze in a show and were very impressed with the level of entertainment. The story was the "Adventures of the Frog Prince", and included lots of silly but skilled divers. My son enjoyed sitting in the front row (by himself) and getting soaked! Don't worry, they paint the benches by color code so you can sit in a dry or wet section, as per your heart's desire! You can check out showtimes before visiting here.
Kids 2 and under are free, but don't worry, there's still plenty they can do as many rides allow children of any height as long as they can walk (but keep in mind, not many allow lap babies). For ages 3+ you can get a day pass for $45 or a season pass from $97~, and you can even get a season pass that combines Dutch Wonderland and Hershey Park!! Also, keep your eyes peeled in the spring for early bird discounts!
CLICK BELOW TO WATCH
highlights from Dutch Wonderland
& Bird in Hand Family Inn!
Last year we stayed at the Doubletree, which was wonderful - we especially loved their indoor splash zone at the pool. But this year we wanted a bit more of a local experience and we were HIGHLY impressed with Bird in Hand Family Inn, our new recommendation for the best family-friendly hotel in Lancaster!!
Featuring 2 indoor pools & a jacuzzi, a zero-entry outdoor pool, one of the most impressive playgrounds I've ever run across, a delicious breakfast buffet and dinner smorgasbord (with ala cart menus as well), live evening entertainment (not included), free tours of Amish farms, set in an incredibly quiet and beautiful backdrop, you really can't go wrong with the Bird in Hand Family Inn. All this and rooms go for under $200 a night!! Total win!!
We got a double queen room with a view of the pool - it was clean, modern, and comfortable. We did have a bit of hallway noise at one point, but nothing too bothersome (we're New Yorkers, don't forget haha). The buildings are a bit spread out but we enjoyed walking around to explore, there's farm land all around, you'll hear Amish riding by in their buggies, and Waters Edge Mini Golf is right on site as well! They also sell different packages and experiences, such as hot air balloon rides, wine tastings, and talks on Amish History and Beliefs.
Live close by or are considering a longer Lancaster vacation than just a weekend? Here are some other great places to check out:
Amish / Pennsylvania Dutch Experiences & Activities:
Pennsylvania Dutch Smorgasbords:
Other Local Dining Experiences:
Have you been to Lancaster or any of these places? Planning to go soon? Have another place to recommend? Be sure to leave a comment below!! And if you live in New York City or the Tri-State area, don't miss my massive list of the best family-friendly destinations with 3 hours drive of NYC!!
We were just hosted for a long weekend at the family-friendly all-inclusive Woodloch Resort in The Poconos and had THE BEST TIME!! Not being a cold weather kinda girl, I was a bit nervous, but it was just as awesome as when we went in summer (see that review here). For a taste of what activities and food to expect, keep reading, and don't forget to watch our highlights video on our YouTube channel!
OUR RIDE THERE:
Last time we journeyed to Woodloch, we took the bus and got a complimentary shuttle from the station to the resort. This time, we rode in style!! We were provided a beautiful 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE from Toyota for the weekend. With seating for 8 passengers and producing a 280 hybrid system net horsepower with 30 city mpg and 28 highway mpg, the Highlander was just what we needed for our familiy of 5. Using the LATCH system for our twins' Combi Coccoro car seats (affiliate link) and our 5 year old sandwiched between them in his Mifold booster (my blog review here), we were able to easily fit all 3 in the center row. This meant I was able to hand them snacks and screens, and it was extremely helpful when my son got super car sick on the way home. Thankfully mama had thought ahead and brought some metal bowls just in case the Dramamine didn't do its job!
The 2018 Highlander has great cargo space, especially with the back row folded down (or you can utilize the back row's 60/40 split). It earned the "Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle" (SULEV) rating, which is surprising for a SUV, and its electric on-demand all wheel drive with intelligence (AWD-i) made driving on curvy mountain roads a dream (except for aforementioned carsickness...). With a MSRP starting at $36,670 it's a great option for families needing safety and space!
OUTDOOR WINTER ACTIVITIES:
There was a lot of snow, but we didn't cross a single slippery step. They do such an amazing job of clearing paths and roads, even the go carts were safe to race around the track! My kiddos loved simply playing in the snow, but we all had a blast on their complimentary Snow Tubing run!! It's a hike up the hill lugging the tube (especially with a toddler bumming a ride) but a great way to burn off that morning's breakfast LOL! We didn't partake in their "Winter Olympics" but watched others for a bit and it looked like a lot of fun!
Some of their outdoor activities are seasonal and thus closed during winter (such as lake and outdoor pool activities, horse-drawn wagon rides, and snow covered play grounds) but others are year round, weather permitting. We had a blast driving the go carts, even our twins got to ride along this time!! They also have a new outdoor covered 9,000 square foot synthetic ice skating rink, with skate rental ($5 per 2 hours) and walkers for little ones to learn to skate with.
INDOOR YEAR ROUND FUN:
Our go-to indoor activities at Woodloch are the bumper cars (1 rider per car, 40" and up can drive - this was the first time our son was tall enough and he looooooooved it!!!), Woodloch Forest Indoor Playground (a multi level climbing structure for ages 3+ though our 2.5 year olds did ok with our help, with zip line, slides, rolling barrels, you name it - SO fun for the kids and parents, you'll have to watch our video to get a better feel of it; they also have a 5 and under section for the littlest ones), and the Toddler Room (a small play room with TONS of toys, and parents can kinda sit back and relax). Our kids love the "kiddie cars" (electric kid-sized SUVs) but to be honest they make me really anxious since the kids are HORRIBLE drivers and crash into each other and parents as they try to supervise. It's hilarious, but nerve wracking haha!
And of course, the indoor pool complex!!!! Be sure to set aside at least 2 hours for this on the daily. There's a huge room with a big pool, a few hot tub options for various ages (one is adults only because it's so hot, one is 1' deep wading/infant pool), and one is an all ages not-too-hot hot tub LOL). In another section is a decent sized kid's area with lots of little water jet activities, and 2 teeny water slides. In a completely separate room, and not to be missed, is the Splash Zone with a huge double cork screw water slide (you must be 42"+) and 300 gallon bucket that tips over every couple of minutes!! They have a rack of PuddleJumpers and life vests to borrow (though I didn't notice any for under 30 pounds, so you may want to bring your own baby float or be prepared to carry babies and smaller toddlers)!
There were some new activities we didn't get a chance to do, but definitely worth mentioning!!! They have a new Escape Room (ages 13+) and mini bowling (extra charge for both).
You don't have to get a meal plan at Woodloch, but I highly recommend splurging for it (you can get a 2 meal or 3 meal plan). The food is phenomenal and meals are a highlight of our trips there!! A different character greets your children at the entrance for each meal, 2 of our 3 kids were over the moon about this, I loved seeing their faces light up as they run over and give hugs and high fives to them (our more reserved child was terrified of all except the "human" characters i.e. Minion was a no-no, but Captain America was great!).
Breakfast doesn't start til 8:30AM though, and if you have early 5-6AM risers like we do, it's pure torture waiting for food, and none of the activities open til 8-10AM, so consider bringing snacks to munch on and activities to kill time in the early morning - or make use of their cable TV and free wifi.
I can't even go into all the yummy food we had, so I'm including a slide show of some of the meals below. You're given a table that will be yours for the entirety of your visit, which is cool because you don't have to figure out seating and where to put the high chairs and all that, and the kids enjoy being the leaders and taking the family to your table each day!!
Each breakfast you'll have a HUGE crumb cake waiting for you on your table. Lunch and dinner have a selection of entrees to choose from, but each meal is all you can eat, so you can select multiple entrees or custom order such as a half size of 2 different ones. Some side items are family style, and Sunday lunch is a buffet. They also have a selection of kid-friendly staples such as pizza, chicken tenders, PB&J, and grilled cheese. They have crayons and coloring booklets if you ask, and their high chairs are really great, escape proof for my little Houdinis!!
We were provided 2 nights in an Edgewater Suite in Springbrook on the main Woodloch Pines property. It was the perfect location in winter because we could get to the pool complex without going outside! And it was just a 5-10 minute walk to the dining area, indoor playground, and bumper cars, and a 10-15 minute walk to the go carts and ice skating area.
They do have a shuttle that goes around the property every 20 minutes or so, but mostly we walked because we were lucky with beautiful, albeit cold, weather and enjoyed walking around the property. Last time, we had our double stroller with us and found it doable, though some of the paths are quite steep!
The room was spotless, with gorgeous lake views from the living room (with balcony) and bedroom! A sleeper sofa and matching love seat, and they installed bedrails on both of our queen beds so we could co-sleep with our kids without worrying about anyone falling out! Every plug not in use had a baby proof cover on it - they really think of everything! The room also had 2 bathrooms (one with a shower, one with a tub) which was a treat since our own home only has one bathroom!!
So, pretty ahhhhmayzing, am I right!? It should go without saying that Woodloch is by no means considered a "budget" vacation. But you get what you pay for, and you get a LOT at Woodloch! You could spend well over a week here without doing all of the free activities they offer! With a 3 meal plan for a family of 4 during peak vacation times, you could easily spend over $1K for 2 nights (but don't forget, that covers your room, food, and activities!). That said, there are certainly ways to score a better deal, so check out the "exclusive offers" page on their website occasionally - off peak rates start at $159 per adult per night (plus tax and 15% gratuity that gets divided by all the staff).
Some offers they currently have going on include:
Have you been to Woodloch or any other family-friendly resorts or destinations? Leave a comment below and let us know!! And don't forget to check out our fun highlights video of our trip below (be sure to subscribe!)
DISCLAIMER: While we were provided complimentary room & board by Woodloch and a complimentary vehicle by Toyota in exchange for our reviews, all thoughts and opinions are our own - completely honest and unbiased - we're no sellouts!! We only share what we truly loooooove!!
With family so far away and not having much time off of work, traveling home for the holidays just isn't feasible for us, so 5 years ago we started a new family tradition of going on a small weekend getaway! This year, we got a car (courtesy of Drive Shop and Mitsubishi) which made our getaway much easier, no longer limited to places on a train line! We searched for a good hotel deal, requirements being that they had a Thanksgiving buffet, an indoor pool, and cost under $200/night.
Here's our vacation highlights in video form (keep reading below if you prefer the written form haha!)
I was a bit nervous if the Mitsubishi 2018 Outlander Sport we were provided by Drive Shop for the week would be big enough for us - it's just a 5 passenger SUV and we had to fit 3 kids across plus luggage and a double stroller. But, it was actually no problem with our 2 Combi Coccoro car seats (only 15.5" wide, affiliate link) and Kenzo in his RideSafer Travel Vest! Mia ended up getting car sick and I was thankful to have her right behind me, not sure what we would have done if she was way back in the third row!
Beside it being a super cute car providing just enough space and a smooth ride, we all thoroughly enjoyed the ginormous sunroof, and hubby and I made good use of the heated seats on the cold mountain nights! We also loved the video assisted back up, that the side view mirrors automatically fold in when you lock the car - so cool (and smart), and the iPad's audio could be pumped throughout the car via bluetooth - this totally saved us as we'd never used an iPad in the car for the kids before, and it wasn't loud enough on its own. (We bought the GoGear Tablet Holder (affiliate link) for the head rest, it was so easy and worked perfectly!) The Outlander's leather seats were gorgeous and comfy, and the back seats have a 60/40 fold, not that we could use that feature what with the 3 kids in back and all. And of course, the dual USB ports helped us keep our phones and tablets all charged up! Getting an average of 25MPG with an MSRP of about $26K, the Outlander is a fab SUV and now a top runner in our search for a family ride!
We previously stayed at Woodloch all-inclusive Poconos resort during summer over a year ago (see my review here) so we were eager to check out another family-friendly Poconos property during Fall season! We found a Groupon for Pocono Manor that included breakfast and jumped on it! The hotel, rooms, and facilities were outdated but charming, what you'd expect of a mountain lodge type place. The breakfast buffet was outstanding, definitely worth including in your package!! There were lots of rooms to explore and hang out in around the hotel, including an arcade and a "movie room" that had 2 pool tables, ping pong, and puzzles and blocks and other activities for kids. They had great playgrounds and an indoor pool, but no Jacuzzi or kiddie pool unfortunately. If you want an indoor water park, you'll have to pay major moolah for a day pass at H20ooohh!, Aquatopia, or Kalahari next door (which we did stop by to check out and ate lunch there twice), or stay at Woodloch, Kalahari, Great Wolf Lodge, Camelback, or Split Rock Lodge.
Pocono Manor had some activities that were included in the $20/night resort fee (such as bb gun shooting) and others that were an extra fee, such as archery, fishing, and trap shooting. We splurged on the $10 pony ride - it was our almost 5 year old's first time on a horse, so cute!
They also had a really cute "Magical Fireside Christmas" set up across from the main hotel. Through December 24, you can explore the decorated building, visit with Santa, decorate cookies and ornaments, and more!
About an hour north, not on the way home but a worthy detour nonetheless, we hopped a ride on the Stourbridge Line's Santa Express in Honesdale! Grab some complementary cookies and hot cocoa as you board the vintage train (make reservations and get there early or you'll have a hard time finding seats together!!). The cars are heated and decorated very cute for Christmas. They'll read a story and before you know it, Santa makes his way through the train sitting with each family for a couple of minutes to talk to the kids, take pictures, and give them a small gift (be warned, ours was a little jingle bell, my 4 year old was super disappointed (watch his face in our YouTube video), I guess he was expecting a Transformer or something LOL but for real, take care to prepare them so they don't get their hopes up, mom fail over here!!).
Overall it was a really fun ride, about an hour total, and the train goes very slow so don't worry about motion sickness or anything. Honesdale is a cute town, as well, with lots of little shops to explore. We ate at a pizzeria across the street. The car ride back to Brooklyn from there was about 2.5 hours, so possible for a day trip, but more realistic as part of a longer Poconos weekend getaway!
We had a great weekend getaway - as "easy" and "relaxing" as any vacation can be with 3 kids under the age of 5!! Do you have any tips for family-friendly spots in The Poconos? Or a great getaway from NYC we should try out next (you can see ones we've done previously here)? Leave a comment below!!
DISCLAIMER: We were provided the car, SafeRider Travel Vest, and Santa Express tickets for free in exchange for promotion, but hey, I'm no sell out - all thoughts and opinions are my own, honest and unbiased!
Whether you're exclusively pumping, mixing it up with breast and bottle, or traveling away from your little one for a while, the idea of flying while pumping and possibly dealing with days of milk storage and transportation can be overwhelming, to say the least! But don't worry, there are some amazing state-of-the-art products and accessories to help you out. And yes, there's even an app for that. Actually, more than one! So, keep reading for my guide to traveling with a breast pump (with some affiliate links to help fund the blog), and also a GIVEAWAY of the amazing new travel-friendly Motif Curve breast pump (ending 10/30/17 @ 11:59PM!!!
Light Weight Breast Pump: Motif Curve
Looking for a breast pump for moms-on-the-go? Weighing in at less than 1 pound with a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts 2.5 hours, the Motif Curve is where it's at! Other fab features include 9 suction control levels, automatic shut off, a BPA-free closed system, LED screen and one-handed control, the option for single or double pumping mode, and a discreet quiet motor. They retail for around $179 (though we've seen it on sale from $109 - $139) on Motif's website and Amazon, but don't forget mamas, most insurance plans cover 1 free breast pump per pregnancy!! Click here to fill out a form and have a rep from Aeroflow Breastpumps (carrier of Motif Curve) contact you to see if you qualify! Unfortunately I haven't been able to test this one out myself as I weaned my twins 6 months ago. Whomp whomp... If you have one or get one (or win the one in this giveaway - enter below!!!), please come back and leave a comment with your thoughts!
Pump in Private: Mamava Lactation Suites
It's one thing to be breastfeeding in public and be faced with the dilema of just whipping out your boob, covering up, or finding a private space. It's another to be faced with using a breast pump while traveling. That's why we are SO in love with Mamava Lactation Suites, popping up in more locations by the day!! Basically, it's a stand alone private pod with a bench, table, and outlets designed for nursing and pumping mothers on-the-go. You can find them at many airports, stadiums, college campuses, hospitals, museums, you name it! Click here to download their app (iOS or Android) or check out their list of locations.
Ship Your Breast Milk: Milk Stork
We all know how strict airport security is with those 3-1-1 rules on liquids. They have exceptions when it comes to babies and small children, but you never know when you're going to be faced with someone having a bad day and taking it out on you, and the stash of milk that you worked on accumulating so hard while away from your little one (check out TSA's website, you can carry on a "reasonable amount" hmmm thanks for clearing that up, guys!!)! It happened to Alyssa Milano at Heathrow, don't let it happen to you! If you don't want to risk it, ship it! There's actually a service specializing in the shipping of breast milk - it's called Milk Stork! They'll deliver the cooler to your hotel, pick it up after you've packed it full of your liquid gold, and ship it overnight to your home, with fees starting at $139. It also sounds like an ah-may-zing option for moms away for an extended period who don't want to wean prematurely - you can ship home your stash regularly so you keep your supply going and baby gets all that nutrition while you're away!
Hands-Free Pumping: Simple Wishes Bras
Simple Wishes' Signature Hands-Free Pumping Bra has been a long time beloved staple for pumping moms, but they've just launched an amazing new product that is a MUST-HAVE for all nursing moms, whether exclusively or part-time pumping! The SuperMom All-In-One Bra looks like a regular bra but features two layers that unclip down - one for hands-free pumping (with an additional support halter if you need) and one for nursing. It also features 6 rows of hook and eye in the back closure to allow for up to 2" ribcage expansion during pregnancy, as well as sewn in foam cups to provide a seamless t-shirt fit. Buy some for yourself and as a baby shower gift for all your mom-to-be friends! Those mamas will thank you!! They run for around $55 on SimpleWishes.com or Amazon (though it doesn't look like the SuperMom has hit Amazon just yet).
Find a Place to Pump, on an App
Moms Pump Here - The most popular Nursing Room Locator app on the market, with over 5000 rooms or pods found and shared by nursing mothers since 2012! You can download their app for free on iOS and Android, and you can also access the locator on their website.
Pump Spotting - An app where nursing moms can connect with one another and find the best locations to pump, nurse, and nourish their babies.
Mommy Nearest - A trusted app for parents looking to discover family-friendly places across the nation, you can filter your search by category, even "nursing friendly", which may or may not always mean pumping-friendly, but hey, it's an awesome app for parents with amazing content too, and I don't just say so because I write for them (read my past work here!).
Discreet & Chic Nursing & Pumping Wear: Loyal Hana
You can't exactly rock up to a business meeting in a nursing tank that could double as pajamas. So what's a mama to do? Shop Loyal Hana, of course!!! Their tops and dresses feature concealed zippers, so no one would have a clue they're meant for nursing and pumping moms!
Phew! I told you this would be a helpful post, was I right?? But now, for the gooooood stuff... the GIVEAWAY!!!!
Enter to win a Motif Curve Breast Pump in the Rafflecopter box below!!
Giveaway open to US residents ages 18 and over. Giveaway ends at 11:59PM EST on October 30, 2017. A winner will be contacted by e-mail and have 48 hours to confirm before a new winner is chosen.
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Motif Curve. I was compensated for writing this article and hosting the giveaway, but all thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased. Cuz hey, I'm no sell out!
Sponsored by Visit Williamsburg.
I recently attended Momtrends Moms Night Out 2.0, where I was blown away by the amazing variety of family-friendly things going on in the Greater Williamsburg area. If you follow my blog, you know we are all about family vacations (see our travel blog pieces here!), so I was excited to learn more and share with all of you!
Whether you're seeking thrills, nature, or living history, Greater Williamsburg (Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg) has got it all. It's a good 7-8 hour drive from NYC, and we don't have our vacation there officially scheduled just yet, but I had fun exploring their website and planning a potential visit for next summer! Here are some of the family-friendly (and kid-free dates) that sounded the most appealing for my family and me!
Take your family not just on a vacation, but actually back in time, to learn first hand what life was like back in 18th Century America! They have tons for the whole family, as well as interactive hands-on programs geared toward children. Tour houses, plantations, armoury, hospital, and the market square. Watch craftsmen in action, including apothecary, brickmakers, blacksmiths, and carpenters. Learn about slavery, Colonial government, the Indian Delegation, and much more!
Featuring world-class roller coasters, exciting shows and performances (even some with Elmo and the Sesame Street crew), special seasonal events (Howl-O-Scream, Christmas Town, & Food and Wine Festival), and character meet and greets! They use a color coded "KIDsiderate" system to mark rides and attractions that kids can enjoy, or you can check their list of rides by heights here before your trip.
Water Country USA
This 43-acre outdoor water park (open May - September) features water slides, lazy rivers, tube rides, a wave pool, loungers & cabanas, and even a few areas geared toward smaller children.
Go Ape Treetop Adventure
Their treetop course for ages 10+ include 37 exciting crossings (the Big U, Trapeze, 2 Tarzan swings and 5 exhilarating zip lines), and their Treetop Junior course is for 10 years and younger, with age appropriate adventures including obstacles and zip lines.
Williamsburg Tasting Trail
Whether you are a lover of micro-brewed beer, wine, mead, or distilled spirits, check out the Williamsburg Tasting Trail Map and make a stop at one or all 7 distilleries, wineries, breweries, and meaderies!
Hiking, Biking & More
With thousands of acres of beautiful woodlands and wetlands, Greater Williamsburg is a wonderful destination for lovers of the great outdoors! We're talking kayaking and paddleboarding, horseback and bike riding, fishing and golfing, even segways - they've really got it all!
Great Wolf Lodge
Not just a wonderfully family-friendly hotel, Great Wolf Lodge is actually a destination of its own! Featuring a massive indoor water park, spacious accommodations, a bowling alley, MagiQuest, and Scooops Kid Spa!
I think I've only scratched the surface here of all the amazing things Greater Williamsburg has going on for families!! Be sure to head over to their website to learn more and plan your next vacation!
And, of course, stay tuned to my blog for more great product & travel reviews (hopefully we'll be heading to Williamsburg in the next year!), giveaways, and more! Be sure to follow us on Instagram to see how crazy my daily life is with 3 kids under the age of 5 (including 2 year old twins) as well as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Visit Williamsburg. I was compensated for attending this Momtrends event and writing this article, but all thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased. Cuz hey, I'm no sell out!
Have you ever booked a car service, perhaps a ride to the airport, having specified in detail what kind of car seat you need for your child - the age, weight, even the direction the car seat should be installed... only to be picked up in a car with the wrong kind of car seat thrown in the trunk - stained, beat up, and not even installed?? Or perhaps you've even been picked up with no car seat at all?? And of course if you call around for another ride, you'll miss your flight. So you jump in, hug your child dearly, and hope for the best. Yep, it's happened to the best of us and IT SUCKS!!!
But, families of the greater NYC area, I have AMAZING news for you!!! There's a new high end car service catering to families and it's awesome! I'm very pleased to introduce you to, Kidmoto!
Not only does Kidmoto provide cars with top of the line car seats, they actually train their drivers to install their car seats quickly and correctly. So, whether you need an infant car seat (NOT provided by UBER Family, btw), rear or forward facing toddler seat, a booster seat, or all of the above, they've got you covered!! You just download the app, make the reservation, and put your worries aside!
We recently booked Kidmoto, a new Queens-based transportation service, for our ride home from the LaGuardia after a long 24-hour journey back to the US from Japan (read more about our Japan trip and see our fun recap videos here). We got our ride free in exchange for providing this review for them, but you're in luck because you can get $10 off unlimited rides with code "USJAPANFAM" (valid through June 2, 2020), and one lucky winner will receive up to $500 in credit for roundtrip anywhere in the greater NYC area to a local airport (enter to win below)!!!!
The app is easy to use, allowing you to select the pickup and drop off locations, type of car (sedan, minivan, or SUV), number and type of child seats (rear facing 5-15 lbs, rear facing 15-40 lbs, front facing >40 lbs, or booster seat). Our driver, Nelson, texted us when he arrived at the airport and we let him know exactly where to pick us up, and he was there waiting when we walked out of the terminal!! He had a beautiful SUV, and two gorgeous top-of-the-line Diono car seats, installed (rear facing) and ready to go for our 1.5 year old twins (we brought our own Mifold booster for our 4.5 year old). The experience was seamless, safe, comfortable, and just what we needed at the tail end of a very very long journey!
Don't get me wrong, a ride with Kidmoto doesn't come cheap (over $100 for a ride from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to LGA or JFK, for example), but with the price tag comes safety, professionalism, and peace of mind, which can be well worth the splurge!
If interested in trying out Kidmoto, just download the app for free (available for iPhone and Android) and don't forget to use code "USJAPANFAM" to get $20 off each ride - no limit! They specialize in transport within the NYC Metro area to JFK, Newark, LGA and Teterboro airports.
Enter to win in the Rafflecopter below for a FREE ROUNDTRIP transport from the NYC area to any of the local airports (JFK, LGA, EWR; up to 7 passengers and up to 4 car seats) - up to a $500 value (valid until January 1, 2019)!! Giveaway ends at 11:59PM EDT on Tuesday, September 5 and a winner will be randomly chosen and e-mailed the next day.
We recently journeyed from our happy home in NYC (with our 3 kids under the age of 5, including twin toddlers) to Japan for 10 days to visit my husband's family in the rural valley of Yamaguchi-cho Nishinomiya (about an hour from Osaka). We lived (barely) to tell the tale!
In case you missed it, I'm embedding our 4 ten-minute long YouTube videos below for your viewing pleasure! (Links at very bottom to products and other things mentioned / recommended in the videos!)
Featuring our 30-hour travel day to Japan via 3 flights (2 of which got rescheduled during our travel!) and the beginning of a horrible stomach bug (i.e. me being puked on for 4 hours of our 2nd flight, yippee!)
Featuring our first few days in Japan (with no clothes, thanks to our flights being rescheduled our luggage didn't catch us for 3 days!!), a tour of a 7-11 convenience store (I LOVE Japanese "Combini"), the beautiful scenery of mountains and rice fields near my husband's home, and a typical experience at a "kaiten" (conveyor belt) sushi restaurant! (The nasty stomach bug that hit our youngest on the flight returned to hit 3 more of us the night after our sushi adventure, and 3 more family members in the next couple of days...)
Featuring our adventures after recovering from the stomach bug, including a fun afternoon at the Anpanman Children's Museum in Kobe (Anpanpan is a Japanese superhero just about EVERY Japanese toddler is OBSESSED with, including all 3 of my kids), a nature walk near my husband's home (we found frogs, kiwi, tomatoes, pumpkin, a praying mantis, and more!), shopping at the mall (always a tricky endeavor with toddler twins!!!), library and children's play center, and how amazing a typical Japanese public toilet is (with electric bidet toilet and child seat on the wall to contain your little one while you do your business!)
Featuring our visit to neighboring natural hot spring town of Arima Onsen, a big family and friends BBQ at my husband's home (and my first odd and exciting experience with "Nagashi Somen" / "flowing somen noodles" / "water noodles"!!), a tour of the amazing bathrooms and nursing rooms at Kansai International Airport, and our 24-hour door-to-door travel home back to NYC, including our sweet ride with the kid-friendly car service Kidmoto that provides top of the line car seats and drivers TRAINED to install them properly (get $20 off all rides using code "USJAPANFAM"!!)
So, the stomach bug put a major damper on our time, taking us out of commission for a good 2-3 days. On the bright side, it kept us more local and relaxed, giving us more chance for good quality family time rather than running around trying to jam in as much touristy stuff as possible! We plan to take the kids every 2-3 years, and eventually they may start going and spending summers over there, even going to local public schools for a month or so! That's the plan, anyway... we'll see how things pan out!!
So, what do you think? Did you enjoy following along with us!? What's the furthest you've traveled with your kids? Any hilarious horror stories, or fabulous tips to share?? Leave a comment below!!!
About Me ^_^
I'm a NYC mom blogger, Influencer, YouTuber, & Entrepreneur living in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1)! My blog is chock full of humor, honesty, family travel, product reviews & giveaways, galore!