Escape to Crested Butte’s Scarp Ridge Lodge

I toured Eleven Experience’s flagship property, Scarp Ridge Lodge—in the heart of downtown Crested Butte, CO—this past summer and loved it! I can only imagine how comforting it must be to stay here after a long day of skiing in the winter. Perhaps even “snowcat skiing” via their partnership with Irwin Guides (more on that).

A former Croatian saloon, with its Western façade still in tac, this European ski chalet-meets-Rocky Mountain lodge makes for an ideal place to stay for private groups and families.

Eleven Experiences

You may be wondering, what is Eleven Experience? Eleven Experience is an exclusive accommodation and experiential travel brand which seeks out unique and authentic places and properties around the globe. They tend to be off the beaten track, and are mostly all-inclusive, full buy-out type properties. Think 5-star accommodations, but in the comfort of a private home. In addition to seeking out these special properties, Eleven Experience also provides customized experiences with private guides.

 

Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, COPin this image on Pinterest

 

The bar at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte ColoradoPin this image on Pinterest

Eleven Experience has a few properties in Crested Butte, Scarp Ridge Lodge being its lead property. I visited the lodge this summer, when I was in Crested Butte, and had a wonderful tour. The property is fabulous.

 

Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested ButtePin this image on Pinterest

 

Scarp Ridge Lodge—The Flagship

Scarp Ridge Lodge, with its 5 King bedrooms and bunk room with 7 beds (including a nanny’s room), functions as a retreat for private groups during the winter, and as an upscale B&B during the summer. During winter, Crested Butte is known for its excellent skiing, as well as a plethora of other outdoor winter sports. Think Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, snowmobiling, fat biking (extra fat tires to allow you to bike on the snow), and cat skiing.

 

Scarp Ridge Lodge living roomPin this image on Pinterest

The lodge has its own, custom snowcat that comes each morning and takes guests to exclusive ski terrain in nearby Irwin. This is part of the “experience” Eleven Experience offers its guests here. Along with a private snowcat, private guides, amazing terrain, and two mountain cabins for eating and apres skiing, guests of the lodge can enjoy a completely unique and plush experience.

 

Rooftop hot tub at Scarp Ridge LodgePin this image on Pinterest

 

Indoor pool at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, COPin this image on Pinterest
Relax and Unwind

After a long day on the mountain, Scarp Ridge Lodge itself is the perfect place to relax and unwind. With a rooftop hot tub, indoor hot tub, indoor salt water pool, sauna and steam room, gym, and media room, there’s not much the lodge doesn’t have. It even has its own oxygen-enriched air system for those who are having a hard time to adjusting to the high altitude. There is a bar for post-skiing drinks, and an open kitchen with fully stocked fridge accessible 24/7. And no worries about cooking – a private chef will do that all for you. Though I must say – the restaurants in Crested Butte are pretty great! You can dine out too.

 

Bedroom at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, ColoradoPin this image on Pinterest
Playing in the bunk room at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested ButtePin this image on Pinterest
Bedrooms

Each of the 5 bedrooms has its own en-suite bathroom and is uniquely decorated, with rustic touches in a contemporary setting. We were able to see a bunch of them, all cozy and inviting. The lodge really does feel like a home. The bunkroom, with its 7 beds, is awesome – it had my kids grinning from ear to ear. Based on the board game Chutes & Ladders, it’s adventurous and fun, and just plain cool. There is a loft you can climb up to, and if the kids are young and need some watching after, no worries – there is a nanny’s room right next to it. My kids have been begging to go back. I keep telling them, we will.

 

Hanging out in the media room at Scarp Ridge LodgePin this image on Pinterest
The kitchen at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte Colorado

 

As I mentioned, we toured Scarp Ridge Lodge during the summer, when it is a B&B. Not only a ski town, Crested Butte is amazing to visit during the summer. Known for its mountain biking, hiking, flower festival, a happening downtown, and gorgeous scenery, Crested Butte is a special place to visit any time of the year. The lodge is conveniently located in downtown, making it a very easy and accessible home away from home.

—Corey Cook, Luxury Travel Advisor at Elli Travel Group and founder of Fifi+Hop Travel Blog

 

See also: Rocky Mountain Resort Towns

 

Having a Wild Time at Sting Ray City

One of the great things about visiting Grand Cayman in the Caribbean is the various day trips it has to offer. North, South and East of Seven Mile Beach, there are a number of scenic spots to visit and places to explore, including secret coves, underground caves, snorkeling and diving spots, botanical gardens, and pretty beaches.

One of our favorite day excursions was a boat tour to picturesque Rum Point, with a stop at Stingray City, Grand Cayman’s #1 tourist attraction (and for a reason), along the way.

 

Day trip to Stingray City in Cayman Islands

 

My family and I knew that we wanted to visit Stingray City to swim with the stingrays, and we knew that we wanted to check out another part of the island; Rum Point is on the north end of the island in a serene setting away from it all. So, a boat excursion to both seemed like a good fit.

 

Red Sail Sports

We booked our tour with Red Sail Sports directly through the Westin Hotel the day before, and it couldn’t have been easier. Depending on which hotel you stay at, you will have several options of tours to book. Some include Rum Point with snorkeling near the coral reef, while others include Stingray City with Rum Point and Starfish Point, while some focus on diving. And if you’re not staying at a hotel, you can just book through a local operator, such as Red Sail and Captain Marvin’s.

 

Red sail Sports Catamaran in Grand Cayman

 

“Public” Catamaran

We decided to book our tour on a catamaran. As it happened, friends of ours told us they went on the Red Sail catamaran the day before and said it was an amazing experience. So that’s what we did. We went with another group of friends and about 20 other people on the “public” catamaran (not a private charter), and it was perfect for us. Though it’s bigger than a private one, it still felt fairly small, and we even had a corner of the boat to ourselves where our girls could lie on the “trampoline”.

Let me begin by saying, from beginning to end, this day trip was perfect. The weather was fantastic, the Red Sail staff were great, and everything ran along seamlessly. From the moment we boarded the shuttle to the marina and onto the catamaran and throughout the entire day, there were no hiccups.

 

Part of the reason why the day went so smoothly was the Red Sail staff was superb. It was about 4 or 5 people, including a photographer for Stingray City, and they were all knowledgeable, fun, funny and engaging. They gave us a run-down of the day and informed us on how to handle the stingrays, and off we jetted into the sea.

WHAT IS STINGRAY CITY?

Our first stop, and about a half hour from the Seven Mile beach area, was Stingray City. What is Stingray City, you may be wondering? It’s a group of sandbars out in the middle of the sea, some very shallow at 3-4 feet, some much deeper (where the divers go). The shallow ones you can obviously stand on, and that’s where many of the tour boats go.

 

red-Sail-Stingray-City-tour-Grand-CaymanPin this image on Pinterest

It is said that in the 1970’s fishermen would clean their fish and dump the fish guts into the sandbars, and that the stingrays caught on and would frequent the fishermen whenever they were there. That turned into the fishermen and divers feeding them, and the stingrays swarming them every time they came. They were very docile and adapted to being around humans, and eventually the tours started. The stingrays are still completely in the wild, only now they’re used to being around humans.

 

Playing with a stingray at Stingray City in Grand CaymanPin this image on Pinterest
Swimming with the Sting Rays

Visiting Stingray City was a unique experience – we swam with them, touched them, and with the help of the staff, held them. All out in the middle of the turquoise water in the middle of the sea. It was pretty spectacular. My girls, ages 12 and 10, were a bit shy and nervous, but the Red Sail guys helped them with every move. All of us were able to hold a stingray, and even give it a kiss! As I mentioned, there was a photographer on board, so we were able to get pictures with the cute rays as well.

 

Touching a stingray at Stingray City in the Cayman IslandsPin this image on Pinterest

 

Stingray City will definitely go down as one of my girls’ favorite vacation activities of all time, for the playfulness and sheer joy of it. Once we re-boarded the boat (after about 45 minutes), we were on our way to Rum Point, where we were to spend the remainder of the day.

—Corey Cook, Luxury Travel Advisor at Elli Travel and founder of Fifi+Hop Travel Blog

A Travel Advisor’s Take on Family Travel in 2021

I work in the travel industry as both a travel advisor and a travel writer. I’ve owned the travel blog, Fifi + Hop, for the past 6 years, and write mainly about family travel, as I have two kids. Between my conversations with other family travel bloggers and my colleagues in the travel agency world, there are certain trends that will no doubt play a part in family travel in 2021. We’ve seen them already, and they will continue for a while.

 

The first one is family vacations to national parks, such as Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Acadia and the Great Smoky Mountains. They offer wide open space in nature, and are much more easy to socially distance in than a city. The vaccine is encouraging news, but as it will take some time to distribute, people are still going to be more inclined to travel to places where they can be outdoors. The U.S. national parks have always been a favorite for family vacations—now more than ever.

Road trips, RV’s, and glamping were huge in the summer of 2020. They will continue to be big in 2021 as well. Families can be outdoors and socially distanced, and simply by themselves. It’s a great way for East Coasters to discover the west, and vice-versa. Speaking of “by themselves”, private home and small hotel rentals are going to continue to soar. With the onset of COVID-19, many hotel groups ramped up their villa and home offerings—simply by building more. There is a vast array of hotel homes to stay in, either with just your family or a group of families (or friends). A great example of a small hotel to rent out is Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, CO. Want all the luxuries of staying in a 5-star hotel, but don’t want to be around a ton of people?  Lodges like this provide the perfect solution.

Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, CO is a family ski vacation dream spot with all the amenities and Colorado style.

 

The bunk room at Scarp Ridge Lodge is like none other—perfect for kids.

As 2021 moves along, and so does the vaccine, international travel will undoubtedly pick up. It may be slow in the beginning as people adjust to the idea of long-distance travel, but one thing is for sure—once the vaccine is distributed and the country has “herd” immunity, international travel is going to come back with a vengeance—especially with those who like to travel a lot. Big trips will be a form of compensation for many, for the long hiatus.

 

As far as which places will be most popular first, that of course depends on the administration of the vaccine, and which countries open first. I don’t have a crystal ball, but it is generally considered that places such as Mexico, Costa Rica, the Caribbean and Bahamas will be hugely popular. Mexico and Costa Rica, for one, don’t require a COVID test to enter. That is appealing to some, and not appealing to others. While these countries may be easy to get into, they may also become more risky. But we are already seeing Mexico as a hugely desirable destination.

Grace Bay in the Turks and Caicos is another family friendly dream spot with tons of hotels at different price ranges.

Another trend that is and will be big—even for families—is wellness travel. People have been put through the ringer in 2020, and what they really want is to relax, recharge, and renew…get a treatment, get a massage, get their body in shape. People (parents included!) want serenity and tranquility. Places such as the Caribbean, Costa Rica and Mexico can provide them with a sense of total relaxation among white sand beaches and turquoise blue water. And the kids won’t complain.

 

Europe is a bit hard to predict at this point, but Greece will most likely be a hot spot. It did well with COVID, and opened in 2020, just not to Americans. Much like the Caribbean being a place of beauty and peacefulness, so are the Greek islands. The sea, beaches, healthy Mediterranean food are all tonics for the soul. The Greek islands provide a sense of adventure too – they are in Europe and you can hop around from one island to the next. And the Greek culture is extremely family-friendly.

Mykonos Island, Greece. The Greek isles should be a hot destination when international travel bounces back.

Another European country very much in a similar vain is Italy. Italy is the mother of family-friendly destinations, and I have written a lot about the country, as I have taken a few family vacations there with my kids. Yes, Italy did not do well with COVID, but once the vaccine is in full-effect, Italy will be huge for family travel. Simply put, it always has been, and always will be.

 

Rounding out Europe, I suspect that Portugal, Spain and Switzerland will be popular for family vacations as well. Portugal has the Algarve, with its dramatic coastline and beaches; Spain has its beaches and islands, such as Mallorca, Menorca and the Canary Islands; and Switzerland of course has its mountains and stunning scenery—a nature lover’s paradise.

 

It will be interesting to see—as the vaccine takes shape—how each country progresses. No one can predict what will happen, and things are ever-changing, but I believe these trends give us an idea of where things are headed.

—Corey Cook, Luxury Travel Advisor at Elli Travel and founder of Fifi+Hop Travel Blog

Kid Friendly Restaurants in NYC’s Times Square

When you think of all the restaurants in the theatre district, there surprisingly aren’t that many kid friendly restaurants in Times Square, or at least not the kind we typically like. There are a lot of upscale and fine dining restaurants in Mid-town, and then there are a lot of big chains and theme-style restaurants. But if you’re like us and don’t want to head to Applebee’s or Olive Garden, and certainly aren’t taking your wild childs with you to fancy Le Bernardin, what are you left with? There is a lot of sifting to be done in the mighty Times Square area to find the right place to eat for you and your family.

Here are 8 great kid friendly restaurants in Times Square to help you plan a pre- or post- theatre meal if you’re visiting the city or seeing a show.

 

Carmine’s

This always-popular Italian is a NYC institution and is great for big groups. It’s all about family-style sharing, so bring your appetite along with friends and the kids, and get down to business. Antipasto platters, garlic bread, any pasta you desire and their delicious chicken parm will leave you fully satiated and ready to take on a Broadway show! 200 West 44th Street, New York 10036/ 212.221.3800

Shake Shack

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Times Square would certainly not be complete without a Shake Shack! Considered by many to be the best “fast” burger in the city, eating at this Danny Myer chain is a win-win for kids and adults alike. Apart from their mouth-watering burgers and fries, their shakes are insanely good as well, especially the caramel and malted vanilla flavors. 691 8th Avenue, New York 10036/ 646.435.0135

 

Virgil’s Real BBQ

For years Virgil’s has been a well-known NYC BBQ joint. And after dealing with the masses of Times Square you just might be in a little need of some comfort food! Think pulled pork, bbq chicken, hush puppies and mac ‘n cheese. Make sure to book a res, and come hungry. 152 West 44th Street, New York 10036/ 212.921.9494

Havana Central

Who knew that this lively Cuban night spot had a kids menu? I certainly didn’t – last time I was there was over mojitos before a Dead show! But they do, and with lots of games to keep the young ones occupied. My older daughter had chicken fingers while my younger one had a heaping plate of rice and beans, followed by brownies and chocolate filled empanadas with whipped cream and ice cream. It’s their new favorite place to eat before a show. 151 West 46thStreet, New York 10036/ 212.398.7440

 

Patzeria Family & Friends

If you’re looking for pizza, try this low-key family-run restaurant. A bit of a hole in the wall, but Broadway posters all around make it fun. And sometimes a slice of pizza is just what you need. Pastas and other dishes on the menu as well. 311 West 48th Street, New York 10036/ 212.245.4343

 

Junior’s Restaurant

Photo: TripAdvisor

This famed Brooklyn restaurant – serving the “best cheesecake in New York” – has an outpost in Times Square and has a full menu beyond cheesecake, including things like wings, hummus, potato pancakes, salads and soups. And my favorite kind too – split pea soup. 1515 Broadway, New York 10019/ 212.302.2000

Ellen’s Stardust Diner

Ok, so the food may be overpriced for what it is – diner food – but how can one resist the singing waiters at this swinging retro 1950’s style diner? Known as the Stardusters, the singing wait staff, many who continue onto Broadway, are sure to entertain the kids and keep them at bay – half the battle while eating out as a family. People come back to this hopping diner again and again for a reason – it’s just so much fun. 1650 Broadway, New York 10019/ 212.956.5151

Becco

For a more upscale experience, but not necessarily so that you can’t bring the kids, try this popular Italian restaurant. With items such as lasagna and spaghetti on the menu, as well as paillard and pan-seared salmon, there’s something for everyone. A nice little retreat from the Times Square chaos outside.

35 West 46th Street, New York, 10036/ 212.397.7597

Hard Rock Hotel Orlando

Hard Rock Hotel Orlando (With Kids)

Planning a trip to Universal Orlando and not sure which hotel to stay at? Looking for and deciding on a hotel can be a tough decision.

 

There are so many variables to be considered, especially in relation to visiting a theme park, and you don’t want to leave a vacation feeling like you wish you had done your research better and stayed somewhere else. We recently stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando, which was fabulous. I would recommend it to anyone considering planning a trip to Universal Orlando.

 

WHY WE CHOSE THE HARD ROCK?

We chose the Hard Rock because it’s an on-site hotel and the closest of the hotels to the Universal parks. We had grandparents with us and figured this would be the best option. But of course I loved the location just as much for us as I did for them. So, for starters, this was a big selling point for my family. Each morning we would walk out of the hotel and hop on a path that took us through bamboo trees and up to the entrance. It’s no more than a 10 minute walk and a calm, nice way of entering – no parking lot madness!

 

There is also a complimentary water taxi, which in theory is a great idea, but in reality (at least in our experience), usually includes a wait for the next taxi. Every time we went it was a 10/15 minute wait. But if you don’t mind that, then go for it – it did look fun if we were willing to wait.

 

 

In my Guide to Planning a Trip to Universal Studios, I discuss why I think it’s best to stay at an on-site hotel, due to their many benefits. There are 5 main on-site hotels in Universal in three different categories -Premier, Preferred, and Prime Value (the Hard Rock is Premier) – and the benefits they all have in common are: they all offer Early Park Admission, including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, before the parks open to the public (this is very key! The Harry Potter lines are no joke!); they are all within walking distance to the parks (though some much closer than others hint hint!); they all offer Complimentary Transportation to the parks and CityWalk, should you need it; and they all offer Room Key resort-wide charging privileges (no credit card necessary).

 

KEY BENEFITS OF STAYING AT THE HARD ROCK

The Hard Rock, being a Premier hotel, has some additional key benefits: the most important one being, it gives you a free Universal Express Unlimited Ride pass so you can skip the regular lines. A serious bonus! This is huge, and the most key benefit of them all, and what sets it apart from most other hotels. These days lines at Universal and Disney are so out of control that your experience is truly compromised. Who wants to wait in line for 1-2 hours for 1 ride? You can spend half the day waiting in line for just a couple of the really popular rides. It’s not worth it in my opinion. So I loved that this pass came with staying at the Hard Rock.

The other perk the hotel offers is priority seating at select restaurants throughout the resort, including CityWalk. Some of these restaurants happen to be some of the most popular, like Antojitos, a delicious Mexican restaurant with killer guacamole. Having the ability to sit down with not much wait is a great perk – especially with a margarita after a long day on your feet all day!

 

THE POOL AT THE HARD ROCK – ROCKS!

 

What was it about the Hard Rock specifically that we liked so much? Well, apart from it being the closet hotel to the parks, we loved the pool. The pool ROCKS. It’s big and fabulous (12,000 square feet) with a sand beach and surrounded by lush green vegetation, and most noticeably it has an underwater sound system. The music never stops! My kids loved this feature. Their favorite part, though, was the awesome water slide. They went down it for hours (as if the theme park wasn’t enough). I couldn’t write this review without mentioning how phenomenal the life guards were. They were ON it. At one point there was an incident in the pool and before I knew it the life guard was in the pool at the rescue. They were very present and vigilant which made it all the more relaxing.

 

Other features of the pool include a kids play section, water fountains and two hot tubs, one which is kid-friendly, and one for adults only. And of course it goes without saying the Hard Rock pool has a bar with chair and bench service. There was nothing we needed more after an exhausting day than a beer poolside while the kids were entertained by the slide and underground music. I really loved the pool at the Hard Rock – it was so relaxing to come back to and felt like a little slice of the Caribbean.

 

ADDITIONAL PERKS TO NOTE

If you want to take it to the next step and really get a break there is Camp Lil’ Rock, a kids activity center for ages 4 -14. We never used this, as it was a short stay, but good to know it’s there with late night hours for those wanting to go out for dinner sans kids. Note they do require advanced reservations. There are movies by the pool, character meals and more – you can read more about the kids’ activities here.

As for food and drink, there are a few different dining and bar options including The Palm steakhouse as well as the Velvet Bar, among others, if you don’t feel like leaving the premise. We ate at a restaurant called the Kitchen a couple of times and it was good. Not amazing but fine enough. CityWalk is nearby so there are plenty of options for eating out, and we never felt stressed by “what are we going to do for dinner?. That’s another great thing about the location of the Hard Rock – CityWalk and restaurants are just a stone’s throw away.

 

THE ROOMS AT THE HARD ROCK – ROCK!

 

Last but not least – how were the rooms? Loved them! Modern and hip, with plush, comfortable beds, we slept like babies. Our room was medium size, not huge but not tiny either. It was quiet and cozy and exactly what we wanted to come home to after a busy day out. The rest of the hotel is very nice and spacious, with fun rock memorabilia all over the place. And contrary to what I had imagined leading up to our stay – it wasn’t noisy or chaotic!

 

All in all, The Hard Rock met all expectations and we were completely satisfied with our stay. It’s a very nice hotel with helpful staff, convenient, relaxing and fun. All four of us loved it.

 

This article originally appeared on fifi + hop. Republished by permission.

house of parliament

10 Free Things To Do In London With Your Family

London is one of the greatest cities in the world and such a wonderful place to visit as a family. But like any city, London can be very expensive so when we visit we’re always on the look out for great things to do that don’t cost us anything.

The good news is that there are loads of fantastic free things for families to do in the city. Some of London’s greatest museums are free and have a range of superb activities for children, there are wonderful parks and so many of London’s most iconic sights like the Changing of the Guard and the Ceremony of the Keys won’t cost you anything to watch. Here are our ten favourites:

 

Discover more by walking around

 

What do you picture when you think about London? Most people’s lists of must-see sights include places like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London. London is a fantastic city to walk around and you can see all these iconic sights by doing just that. From Trafalgar Square you can walk down the Mall and up to the gates of Buckingham Palace. A pleasant stroll through St James’s Park takes you almost to Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.

Further to the south east, the South Bank of the River Thames is another great place for a walk. Here you can see Shakespeare’s Globe and pick up something to eat from one of the fantastic stalls at Borough Market. Then walk past HMS Belfast and make your way over Tower Bridge and up to the Tower of London.

 

Watch the Changing of the Guard

 

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Most people talk about the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace but we prefer the Changing of the Queen’s Life Guard at Horse Guards Parade.  It’s much less crowded and there are no railings so you can see much more clearly. What’s more, it’s the Household Cavalry so the soldiers are on horseback with swords drawn and plumed helmets on their head.

The ceremony takes place every day at 11am (10am on Sundays). Click here for more information about Changing the Guard ceremonies.

 

Visit the dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum

 

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© Natural History Museum

 

The Dinosaur Gallery is rightly one of the biggest draws of the Natural History Museum but there is so much more for children to see and do here whether they’re into dinosaurs and furry frogs or cursed amethysts and duck-billed platypuses.

You can feel the earth move in the Earthquake Machine, play detective games around the museum and visit the growing fox cubs in the Wildlife Garden. The hands-on Science Centre is a great place for children to examine specimens from the natural world for themselves, using microscopes and other scientific tools.

 

Have a picnic in a park

 

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When we’re in the centre of London we often have a picnic in St. James’s Park where we can feed the ducks and watch the pelicans being fed. But if you want to make more of an outing of it, head for Kensington Gardens where there are some great picnic spots, the Peter Pan statue and the wonderful Diana Memorial Playground with its huge wooden pirate ship, giant sandpit and teepees. There’s even a tree house encampment with walkways, ladders and slides. For added fun, cross over the road into nearby Hyde Park for a splash around in the Diana Memorial Fountain.

 

Do an activity trail in the British Museum

 

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My kids love going to the British Museum. The mummies in the Ancient Egypt section are a particular favourite. There’s so much to explore whether you’re into the Aztecs and the Incas, the Vikings or Ancient Greece. It’s best to pick just one area to visit each time you go or it’s too much to take in.

On our last trip we went round the Roman Britain rooms with an activity backpack filled with artefacts, dressing up clothes and things to do. It made our visit even more enjoyable than usual. You can pick up backpacks, art materials and activity worksheets for specific areas from the Families Desk. Children can also take part in object handling sessions, digital and film-making workshops.

 

Follow in the footsteps of Harry Potter

 

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Even Muggles can now visit Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station where Harry Potter boarded the train to Hogwarts. You can queue up to have your photo taken under the sign, complete with trolley, scarf and wand. There’s no charge for taking your own photos. Platforms 4 and 5 at the station were used for filming and the neo gothic exterior of nearby St Pancras International was used in the films to stand in for King’s Cross.

Now head down to Leadenhall Market, a covered market in the City used as Diagon Alley in the film of the Philosopher’s Stone. The blue door of the optician’s in Bull’s Head Passage was used as the entrance to The Leaky Cauldron.

 

Do a workshop at the National Gallery

 

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© The National Gallery

The National Gallery is a great place to visit with children but did you know that they run free art workshops over the school holidays? The workshops are led by artists and inspired by paintings in the gallery. We’ve made flowers and drawn portraits but the workshop my two most enjoyed was making a sound picture with musical instruments of Paolo Uccello’s The Battle of San Romano, a 15th-century painting of knights on white chargers. All the children sat in front of the painting making the noises of horses’ hooves clopping, swords clashing and drums beating. Utterly brilliant!

The workshops are aimed at 5 to 11 year olds and take place on Sundays at 11am and 2pm and over the holidays. Children under 5 can do the Magic Carpet Storytelling on Sunday mornings.

 

Watch the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London

 

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© Historic Royal Palaces

The traditional locking up of the Tower of London has taken place every night for over 700 years. At 9.52pm exactly, the Chief Yeoman Warder comes out carrying a candle lantern in one hand and the Queen’s keys in the other. He walks to Traitor’s Gate to meet the Foot Guards and the ceremony takes place.

Forty to 50 visitors are admitted into the Tower to watch it every day from 9.30pm. This can get booked up months in advance so be sure to book well before your visit. Book online here.

 

Dress up as an astronaut at the Science Museum

 

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© Science Museum, London

There is so much for children to do at the Science Museum from morphing your face to see what it will look like when you’re older to investigating climate change and dressing up as a WWII fighter pilot. This is also the place to come if you want to see the Apollo 10 command module and Stephenson’s Rocket.

The interactive areas for young children are fantastic, from the Pattern Pod, a multi-sensory area for 5 to 8 year olds to the interactive Garden Gallery for pre-schoolers. There are also drop in experiments for all ages throughout the day at the Science Stations.

 

Watch the street entertainers in Covent Garden

 

You can see some of London’s best street performers every single day of the week on the famous piazza at Covent Garden. It’s so much fun joining the crowds to watch acrobats, mime artists, clowns and opera singers. Covent Garden is a wonderful place for wandering around the numerous shops, restaurants and market stalls – there’s a craft market six days a week and an antique market on Mondays.

 

This article originally appeared on fifi + hop (via Suitcases and Sandals). Republished by permission.

The New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show

With December flying at us at lightning speed – I think it caught everyone by surprise this year – and families scrambling to squeeze in favorite Christmas traditions and past times, don’t forget to go to the New York Botanical Garden’s annual Holiday Train Show.

 

We go to the train show (located in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory) every year. It’s always a beautiful show, with meticulously crafted trains, tracks, landmarks and other sites, all made out of bark, leaves, pine cones and other natural materials – a true “wonder” of a site; the artistry behind it is amazing. My mom, who was born and raised in New York, loves going to this show every year just to marvel at all the famous landmark miniatures, taking in the history of the city as she wanders around from track to track. And the kids, well of course this is train heaven for them! And this year, with the added space and almost a ½ mile of tracks to explore, there are a lot of trains for the young ones to watch mesmerizingly, waiting for the next one to zip by.

 

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There are 150 Landmarks to see – from Rockefeller Center to the Brooklyn Bridge to (the original) Penn Station to Yankee Stadium to the Empire State Building. This year’s exhibition features 3,000 square feet of additional exhibition space, making room for dozens of new trains, bridges, and tracks; a captivating short film of the show’s behind-the-scenes magic; and a stunning multisensory finale of light and sound. It’s a stunning show, and fascinating for all ages. If you can’t make it this month, no worries! – it’s open until January 18th. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for kids ages 2-12 (under 2 free) during the week days, and $30 for adults, $18 for kids ages 2-12 during weekends. For Members, which we are, the show is free. Might I add that if you’re not a member and live in the area, you may want to consider purchasing a membership, which is almost the same price. Also, it’s best to reserve tickets in advance online to avoid potentially long lines.

 

Finally, don’t forget to hit the Gift Shop on your way out. It’s a fabulous shop, especially this time of year, with delicious looking holiday décor, and a great kids section. It’s one of my favorites. Whether you’re in your 80’s or in your toddler years, the NYBG’s Holiday Train Show will not disappoint!

 

2016 train show facts:

— All displays can be seen from 360 degrees
— 25 large scale model railway trains and trolleys
— Some trains are 2 feet long and weigh as much as 10 pounds
— More than 150 replicas in the train show
— Finale includes sound and light display in the Reflecting Pool in the Palms of the World Gallery

 

New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx, New York, 10458

New York’s Transit Museum

When people think about the New York City museums they love to take their kids to, usually the same places come up: the Museum of Natural History, the Met, MoMA, the Children’s Museum. Indeed, my girls love all these too. What’s not to love. But one of our favorite museums, one that’s smaller and not as well known, is the New York Transit Museum. Located in Downtown Brooklyn, it is off the beaten path, away from the tourists and crowds. Which in many ways is a good thing, because almost every time we’ve been there we’ve practically felt like we’ve had the place to ourselves. No crowds = happy kids.

The Transit Museum is located in what used to be an old subway station. In fact, finding the museum for the first time can be difficult – I literally did think the entrance was a subway entrance and not the museum itself. I hear that’s common. Once you enter it, however, you’re taken into the underground world of everything transit, including old subway trains, buses, and trolleys. Kids love to run around and try their hand at “driving” one of the buses or hopping on and walking up and down one of the trains. There are many of them actually, making the museum deceivingly much larger than one would think upon entering. In fact, it is the largest museum in the United States devoted to urban public transportation history. Who knew?

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The museum has a variety of exhibits, including a popular one on the building of the 100 year-old NYC subway system, as well as highly interactive exhibits, such as “On the Streets”, which focuses on NYC’s trolleys and buses. With all the interactive activities the museum offers, there is plenty for the kids to do. What child does not like trains, trolleys and buses? It is also, simply, a place to take your children on a rainy day (the last two days in the New York area saw rain and clouds straight through, which prompted me to write this) and let them walk and run around. Though I probably shouldn’t say “run”, as they discourage that, but you get the point. An interesting place where your kids will both learn something as well as stretch their legs on a day you would otherwise be cooped up inside. And the parents love it just as much.

The New York Transit Museum is a really neat, under the radar museum, not to mention with an awesome gift shop! We love it there so much that we even had my older daughter’s birthday party there years back. And at $7 for adults and $5 for kids 2+, it’s a no-brainer. Next time the weather is not cooperating and you need to entertain your little ones, you know where to go.

 

This article was originally published on fifi + hop (Travel and Adventure, with Kids)  and has been republished by GoodLife Report by permission of fifi + hop.