Whether you're looking to escape New York City for a day trip with the kids or a weekend getaway with the whole family, Norwalk Connecticut is one of my favorite destinations so far. If you have a car, well, good for you - easy peasy to go just about anywhere! Without a car, Norwalk is about as easy, cheap, quick, and fun a getaway as it gets - just hop on the MetroNorth from Grand Central and you're there in just over an hour! The MTA even has a rail & aquarium package that will save you big bucks.
We brought our double stroller to give it the ultimate test of stroller-friendliness and it passed with flying colors (with the exception of our elevator-free subway station in Bay Ridge). We found elevators and stroller-friendly walking paths at Grand Central, South Norwalk Station, and throughout the town of Norwalk - hooray!!
HOTEL: Hilton Garden Inn Norwalk
Without a car, finding a central hotel or one with free area shuttle was key. We went with the Hilton Garden Inn at Norwalk because they offer a complimentary shuttle within a 5 mile radius (you just call and they come pick you up within about 15 minutes), and we made good use of it!!
The hotel itself is currently under renovation but they're doing it in small stages so it's not really noticeable. Toddler (and hubby) loved the pool and jacuzzi, and I ate my body weight in hot buffet breakfast - yum!!! They have great open spaces for eating and relaxing, had nice clean pack 'n plays, and a very helpful staff! They have complimentary coffee station (though there is a Starbucks across the street if you must) and free cookies and lemonade in the evening. Good stuff!!
ATTRACTION: Stepping Stones Museum for Children
In a word? AWESOME!!! We spent a solid 4 hours there and our toddler was still not ready to go. The place was enormous, clean, and full of hands-on imaginative play for kids of all ages and abilities! A water-play area, outdoor building blocks, an interactive musical floor-pad, and room after room of different-themed learning toys and activities that kids and parents alike will enjoy.
They had a large area dedicated to children under 36 months, and within that an area for pre-crawlers where I spent 2, count 'em, TWO HOURS hanging with our 8 month old twins. It's rare that they have a large space to crawl and explore, so they really went to town!!
Strollers are not permitted in most of the museum, but they have a large stroller parking room. We were there on a holiday and it was not crowded at all - we wouldn't have had a problem getting around with our double if they allowed it, but actually it was nice to not bother with a stroller at all. They have a cafeteria with decent options and high chairs, changing tables in all the mens and women's bathrooms, and I even found mom and child potties in the handicap stall - how cute!!
ATTRACTION: Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk
For the amount of hands-on activities, this aquarium gets two thumbs up! Kids and adults can pet jellyfish, sting rays, sharks, and more! Their meerkat exhibit is probably my favorite - the little creatures are so fun to watch, and kids can poke their heads up in a dome to feel like part of the pack! They have a great little play area for kids to get out some steam upstairs, and a huge IMAX that is included in admission! We saw the new film, A Beautiful Planet, featuring footage filmed by astronauts at the International Space Station (giving us a very interesting peak into their life up there - from how they wash their hair to how they have to exercise 2.5 hours a day!) and narrated by THE Jennifer Lawrence. It was both breathtaking and educational, and our 3 year old made it through without a problem!
The indoor Harbor Seal show is cute and definitely not to be missed, so check the schedule before your visit or at the start so you can be sure to catch it. It gets VERY crowded on both floors, so you probably want to find a good spot at least 10 minutes before the feeding time.
We were excited to check out the newly opened Flutter Zone (open through September 5) outside. It was small but fun to be among so many butterflies and watch them land on your clothes! Insider tip: your toddler may not be so interested in the butterflies if they catch a glimpse of the HUGE sandbox on your way to the Flutter Zone... either plan to give them time in there or figure out a distraction as you walk out!
They didn't have a stroller check, but they did have a large open coat room where we were able to keep our double (though the door wasn't wide enough so we had to collapse it to get it in there). Many people had their single strollers with them throughout the aquarium, and some had double-wides but it looked a bit cumbersome so I wouldn't advise it. Babywearing is the way to go, if you ask me.
FOOD: Burger Bar & Bistro
Yelp helped me out with this one - they have Burger Bar & Bistro rated as Norwalk's #1 family-friendly eatery. They have a large outdoor space where they set up rocking toys and corn hole, and on Sunday's from 5-7pm they have a free balloon animal artist. Just so happens that was EXACTLY the timing of our visit. SCORE!! Not only did they have tons to entertain my toddler with, they also had amazing food and a large selection of kids and toddler meals! YESSSSS!!! They had outdoor and indoor seating, with board games and books, coloring - basically tons of stuff for kids of all ages.
It is located fairly close to the aquarium, but we actually WALKED here from Stepping Stones. It was almost a mile and nobody else was walking, but it was very pedestrian friendly with stroller-friendly sidewalks and cross walks. We didn't have our stroller with us, so even our toddler walked! Such a city kid, I couldn't be prouder! So, if you're sans car and the weather is nice, don't waste your money on a taxi, just hoof it!
And now, the pièce de résistance, my video and photo collage of our 2-day 1-night weekend getaway to Norwalk, Connecticut! Enjoy!! (Don't forget to like, comment, share, and subscribe!!!)
DISCLAIMER: I was provided complimentary admission to Stepping Stones and Maritime, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. I only post reviews of places, products, and services I love and stand behind - I'm no sell out!
South Bay Ridge, Fort Hamilton, FoHa... There are many names for this quickly gentrifying area and this Memorial Day weekend will see the Grand Opening of what is likely to become one of the newest favorite local spots for families.
Raine and Riley's is an online children's boutique opening its first brick and mortar right here in Ba(b)y Ridge. Owner and Creative Director, Sarah Oszust (Bay Ridge born and bred!), always wondered, "Why are stores so quick to put kids into ONE category, ONE box? Why should all children look the same way. Kids aren’t supposed to dress ONE way. Act ONE way. Be ONE kind of person. They have the rest of their lives to do that - to figure out who they really are. They’re all so beautifully unique with so many different gifts to offer the world. Why isn’t there a store that let’s them express themselves in a way words can’t?"
That question led Sarah to create Raine & Riley's. She explains, "It’s a place for kids to be kids. To find themselves lost in Capes, Tutu’s, Cartoon Ties, Animal Overalls, Elephant Suits, Masks, Band T-shirts, Bell Bottoms, Leotards, Sushi Onesies, Winged Sneakers, Zipper Bracelets, Custom Outfits.. You name it.. We got it!"
Sizes range from Newborn to 16 and almost 75% of their items are handmade in the United States. They're planning to open this coming weekend at 276 91st Street, but be sure to check their Facebook page for updates on the opening. You can also follow them on Twitter and Instagram, of course!
While you're down in FoHa, don't forget to drop in on these other local family faves:
When my son was a baby, we were pretty strict about the no screen time thing. But somewhere down the road we realized it was A) rather unavoidable, B) extremely helpful in certain situations, and C) both educational and entertaining! The iPad became my knight and shining armor during my pregnancy and first few months with newborn twins. I seriously don't know what I would have done without it to "babysit" my toddler here and there! Now, things are back to normal but we are still in love with the iPad and excited when we find awesome apps to play around with. We recently worked with MomSelect on a promotional program to review a brand new one, which turned out to be pretty darn fantastic, so without further ado, here's our review of Peter and the Wolf in Hollywood!!
They've taken the classic story and made it modern **SPOILER ALERT** (skip to next paragraph if you don't want the story recap) - Peter flies over from Russia (after his parents died, which is obvious to parents but my 3 year old didn't catch on) to live with his hippie grandpa in the service quarters of a Hollywood star's estate. The wolf escapes from the nearby zoo, Peter captures it and becomes famous with paparazzi and a movie made after him and all!
The graphics are pretty cool - I thought it was simply animated but when you watch the bonus behind the scenes footage you see they actually made all the backdrops and scenery. Also cool? The narrator... Alice Cooper!! HA!
There are several interactive additions, including 8 games, within the story - you "turn the pages" by swiping your finger across the screen, you help Peter build a robot and then watch him chase after the wolf in it. You help connect stars in the sky to see beautiful constellations, and you play with a duck to dive and swim in the movie star's pool. These all help break up the story to keep your little one completely engaged. Love it! They're actually fun for the grownups, too. No, I'm serious! Especially the duck diving one, my little one and I crack up so hard playing that one!
Another thing to note is the music - beautiful classical music from Prokofiev, Wagner, Mahler, and more playing throughout the story and games, performed by the National Youth Orchestra of Germany.
You can see my quick video review below including clips of some of the games!
The immersive musical storybook is available NOW for download on iPhone and iPad! Check it out!!
Disclaimer: Although I was compensated to review this product, all thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased.
This was my fourth time attending the New York Baby Show, which carries a lot of sentiment for me - 2013 was my first visit and was the show that started my wonderful relationship with the app and digital parenting magazine, Mommy Nearest! Every year you see a lot of similar faces and brands with oldie but goodie products as well as newly launched ones, in addition to a ton of brand new up and coming businesses, ones just launching in the US from abroad, and the underdog small mom and pop shops.
This year we started at the Momtrends Blogger Lounge (where we dropped my son off at The Nanny League's play center), fueled up (lunch for us and milk for my girls), and then took off to the expo floor! Here are some of the products that really stood out as the latest and greatest this year - I think you'll agree! Prepare for your mind to be blown!!
GB Pockit Compact Stroller (#1 Pick)
If you read my highlights post from last year's NY Baby Show you might remember I featured GB's Qbit stroller, which was the first stroller I'd seen to fold down super small (13” by 21” and under 15 pounds). Since then, a few strollers have come into the game, but GB is once again at the front of the race with their latest, the Pockit. It has the smallest fold on the market (actually holding the 2014 Guinness World Record for most compact stroller), weighing 9.5 pounds and folding quickly down to 11.8" x 7" x 13.8" to be exact. It's small but strong, holding a child up to 55 pounds with a basket holding up to 11 pounds. It doesn't recline and has a minimalist canopy, but this thing is bad assssss!
Cheeky Chompers (#2 Pick)
I am a big fan of bandana bibs, and the fact that these also have a silicone teether on the bottom. Ummm... YES!! LOVE IT!!! I am all about teethers than can't be dropped or thrown from a stroller, especially when they're as cute as these!
Nourish Nursing and Beyond (#3 Pick)
I have over 2.5 years (and counting) of breastfeeding under my belt and am a bit jaded with my closet. To be breastfeeding-friendly, dresses have to be v-neck or wrap style, which usually exposes more cleavage than I'm comfortable with. Nursing tanks generally have a smaller shelf than will fit my twin-feeding milk monsters, so again, major cleavage. MAJOR. Also, they tend to be maternity / nursing tops so they are baggy and ill fitting once you are no longer pregnant. So, when I came across Nourish, it was like HALLELUJAH. They have nursing-friendly tops and dresses that don't look like nursing wear. They have discreet panels which pull aside or unbutton to allow for breastfeeding, but seriously, no one would suspect it was a nursing top! So, you could wear these items well beyond weaning. Seriously fashionable, and practical. LOVE!!
First of all, look at those amazingly adorable bento style stainless steal plates. They even have lids so they can be packed for school lunch (something on my mind currently since my toddler will be off to Pre-K in the fall!!). I'm also loving their various sizes of storage containers - freezer trays with half ounce or 3 ounce cubes, stackable and twistable containers, not to mention their cute baby teethers! Innobaby has tons of good stuff, you can see more on their website!
We don't have a car, but if we did, this might be on my shopping list. Basically it's a system that hooks up to your car seat and connects to your phone. It tells you things like the temperature in the back seat (the dad behind the app showed me an example of the outside temperature being 85 degrees but the inside temperature reading 115 degrees before the AC kicked in - WOW!!). It will send you an alert if your little stinker unbuckles himself. And if your little one is still in the car after x-amount of time passes without the car moving, you'll receive an alert. If you don't respond within x-amount of time, it'll automatically notify your list of emergency contacts.
We've all tried a million and one of same-same-but-different snack cups. All "spill-proof" but really, our toddlers somehow still manage to spill... But the Munchie Mug has a very unique top that really sets it apart. It's actually made of food grade polypropylene/spandex blend fabric, and you can see from my photos above it is completely closed when your fingers aren't reaching through. It's all dishwasher safe, to boot! Pretty cool!!
Not that I have the time for baby books, but I love the idea of making them for each of our kids. So Savor really caught my idea - not only are their keepsake boxes and storage systems beautiful and a great way to stay organized, they can handle actual 3D objects. Their Baby Edition Keepsake Box has 9 drawers to hold things like baby teeth, lock of hair, baby shoes, etc. It also holds 8 vertical files, personalizing initials, and a birthday survey to document yearly highlights.
We want what's best for our babies, and baby food is no different, whether we make our own or buy jars and pouches. But is it possible we are being misled by the big brands out there? It is suggested that the way most food (baby and adult) is processed through heat, a good amount of the original nutrition is lost, and then added back in with with things that may or may not be absorbed as well by our bodies. A relatively new process out there called HPP processes food by pressure instead of heat, thus maintaining the original nutrition. Once Upon A Farm is a new baby food company using this HPP technology. You can find them in the refrigerated section, because they do not contain the preservatives that allow other baby foods to be shelf stable for months or years. They also have really gourmet blends, packed with nutrition and helping your baby to develop their palate.
There are a few reasons these toys made my list. 1, it's a huge Japanese company just launching here in the States. In fact, it's the same company behind the uber popular Magna-tiles (LOVE them!!) 2, their Mochi by People line of baby toys (pictured on left) are made of rice, how cool! 3, their "Brain Builder" toys (pictured on right) feature different toys specifically designed for each month of a baby's development. From textures and sounds to twists and whistles, they'll keep your baby interested and learning. 4, They make some really cool magnetic blocks which are perfect for babies and toddlers alike.
Disclaimer: I was provided complimentary access to this event and a "swag bag" but all thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased - hey, I'm no sell out!
I was beyond psyched to finally see for myself what all the fuss about Big City Moms' "Biggest Baby Shower Ever" was. With ticket prices ranging from $65-$475, it had to be ah-may-zing, right? Well, let me tell ya, it was!!! Keep reading for my recap and best-in-show picks!
You walk in and are greeted right away with a fun photo op (complete with prop signs such as "ready to pop"), and then bam - the expo floor. Row after decorated row of the best brands of baby, juvenile, and products out there - over 140 of them to be exact! Some were national, some were local, some had freebies or demos, some even had massages and yummy food samples!
They had great seminars: "Benefits of Baby Wearing and Must-Have Registry Items", "Adjusting to Parenthood—All The Secrets No One Tells You ", "Preparing For Your Arrival Part 1—Sleep Tips, Nursery Safety, Newborn Skincare", and "Preparing For Your Arrival Part 2—Breastfeeding and Nutrition" - all with expert speakers and great giveaways. Unfortunately I was on a tight schedule because I didn't bring a pump and had to get home to nurse the twins before bedtime, so I had to buzz my way around to see all the vendors (took about 1.5 hours!) and then hightail it back to Bay Ridge.
So... what products and brands blew me away? Here are a few!
This one is like... hello, genius!! Basically, it's a system where you skip all the silly storage bags. You pump your milk directly into a pouch that stores your milk in the fridge or freezer, then twist a nipple right onto that same bag when baby is ready to drink! Later when it's baby food puree time, you guessed it - same pouch and a snack spout twists on top this time. Fast forward to toddlerhood? You're still using them for yogurt, applesauce, smoothies, etc! FREAKING BRILLIANT!! They have all kinds of extra accessories to go along with the system as well: cleaning brushes, pouch shelving, cooler bag, bottle/milk warmer, pouch holders (to make it more sturdy like a bottle), etc etc!
Project Nursery's Baby Monitor
What makes this one so unique is the mini monitor that comes with it - all of 1.5" in size. Hook it on your belt loop and be hands-free while still being able to monitor your sleeping angel from anywhere in the house!
Deepy Deepy Pacifier Holders
Pop just about any ol' pacifier in the holder, twist it 90 degrees, and bam - it's locked in a safe clean place. What's more? These containers also have a strap so you can wear them on your wrist, place on the stroller or car seat handle, diaper bag, etc! Love it! I wonder at what age a baby could learn to stow their own pacifier... probably after it's time to say bye-bye to the binky I'm guessing. Oh well, still a cool product!
Babyzen YOYO Stroller
This bad boy collapses small enough to fit in the overhead compartment on the plane (20.5"x 17" x 7")! It weighs all of 13 pounds and has a handy shoulder strap, making it an AWESOME choice for fellow NYC moms (if you follow me you know my hatred of the MTA bus policy that requires you to collapse all strollers)! It's a damn sexy stroller. I'm just waiting for them to come out with this in a double, but still only 13 pounds. HA! A girl can dream...
If I were a formula-feeding mom (which there is nothing wrong with by the way, I'm just a straight-from-the-tap-cuz-I'm-too-lazy-for-bottles girl myself) this is definitely something that would have been on my registry or perhaps a splurge later on. It's basically k-cups for formula. WHAaaaaat!? The formula comes in little bpa-free pods of powdered formula, with nutrients and amount based on age. You pop it in, the machine reads the bar code and automatically knows how much water to go in (which is filtered, by the way), and boom, the formula comes pouring out into the bottle mixed and at the perfect temp. All in under 1 minute. You don't have to wait for boiling, cooling, nothing! It's so freaking cool!
BÉABA Babycook Pro
I didn't make baby food for my son, but this time around with twins I have been and it's quite the process! So, I seriously had to wipe the drool from my chin as I came across the BÉABA Babycook Pro table. This thing does EVERYTHING for you - it steams, blends, reheats, and defrosts. And the parts? Yeah, they're dishwasher safe. No biggy. Of course they also have cute silicone storage trays and spoons. Hey BÉABA, if you're looking for a mom blogger to review this, well, this is me waving frantically at you!!! PICK ME, PICK ME!!! :)
So, did Big City Mom's Biggest Baby Shower Ever live up to the hype? YES YES and more YES! I had a blast, found out about tons of new and awesome products, and got a 25 pound bag of swag to bring home and have fun with. Woohooooo!! Hubby, on the other hand, maybe not such a fan of the event. He was on his own at home with our 3 littles for 4 hours straight (a record, by far) and passed out cold within 10 minutes of me getting home and relieving him! HA!! Props to him though, they all survived!
Disclaimer: I was provided complimentary access to this event and a "swag bag" but all thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased - hey, I'm no sell out!
You encounter many difficulties while traveling or going out to eat with a baby or toddler. So, I'm excited to be working with Totseat to review and introduce their solution - a portable high chair!
In a nutshell, Totseat is an adjustable fabric unit that fits onto most types of chairs and wraps around your baby to keep them comfortably in place. It folds up nice and compact so it's easy to stow under the stroller or in the diaper bag. Here are some of the reasons I'm loving it:
With 3 children ages 3 and under, dining out has gotten quite hard for us here in Brooklyn. Small places generally only have 1 or 2 high chairs, and our babies are only 6 months so they don't fit in the public high chairs yet anyway (they would totally slide out through one of the leg holes). What's more? Most city restaurants don't have space for our double stroller to be at the table with us, so basically we're stuck holding the babies during the meal, which is less than ideal (they're grabbing at our food, pulling the tablecloth, etc etc). So... Totseat to the rescue!! I haven't had a chance to snap pix of us using them out and about yet, but here's one of my little models helping me test it out at home.
What do you think? How do you secure your littles when dining out? Share in a comment below!
Disclaimer: Although I did receive this product and service free of charge, all thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased.
The most luxurious of all of the baby expos, Big City Mom's Biggest Baby Shower Ever is an extremely popular event held at the Metropolitan Pavillion in New York City several times a year. Over 2,000 expecting and new moms and dads meander through 2 floors of event space, filled with demonstrations, seminars, games, mocktails, snacks, and over 140 reps from the top brands in the baby, maternity, and juvenile industry. They even have a pampering lounge with mini manicures, hair stylists, and a brow bar! YES, PLEASE!!!
What: Big City Mom's Biggest Baby Shower Ever
When: Thursday, May 10 from 6:30-9:30 PM ("ultimate pass" entry at 5, "super pass" holders at 5:30, "standard pass" entry at 6:30)
Where: Metropolitan Pavillion (125W 18th Street, Manhattan)
Tickets: $65 - $475, purchase here ($15 off with promo code "Special")
Tickets are a tad pricey, but the amazing goodies in the overflowing gift bags more than cover the entrance fee. We're talking hundreds of dollars worth of baby essentials!! Some of the tickets even include a Britax B-Ready stroller, Beco baby carrier, Quinny Yezz Stroller, and/or 4MOMS Rockaroo!
But wait, there's more!!! You can WIN one standard couples pass (Admits 2 people, Includes 1 gift bag, access to seminars, samples, shopping, treats & mocktails; does not include a bingo card) right here on my blog!! That's right, just enter in the Rafflecopter box below!! Giveaway open to US residents age 18 and over and will end at 11:59PM EST Friday, May 6. A winner will be randomly selected, emailed on Saturday, May 7, and will have 24 hours to respond before another winner will be chosen.
The following is a sponsored guest post by a company I'm pretty excited about - Fittedtot.com!!
Fittedtot.com is a baby and toddler clothes rental service that allows you to have unlimited pre-styled outfits delivered right to your door. Our little ones grow so fast but unfortunately those adorable yet pricey outfits you buy them do not. Don’t get stuck with the of clutter of outgrown clothes with next to no resale value. With fittedtot.com, you will pay a monthly fee and we will send you a box full of outfits that you can have your child wear as much or as little as you like. When you’re done with those clothes, just send them back and we’ll send you a new box! You can update your child’s size at anytime. Please visit our site for more information!
About Me ^_^
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1). This blog is chock full of product reviews, family travel guides, and giveaways galore! It's also home to Bay Ridge Families, and several guides focused on kid-friendly activities and guides to South Brooklyn, Hudson Valley, and New Jersey, as well as family-friendly destinations beyond the NYC area (check the menu bar!)