9 Family-Friendly Museums
As the carefree days of summer start to dwindle, clothes shopping and school supply lists often dominate busy parents’ days. But don’t let the stress of the impending back-to-school schedule make you waste these last few weeks away. There’s still time to soak up the last bits of summer and take the whole family on an educational and fun trip before that dreaded first early morning is here. Get kids ready to learn by heading out to one of the several museums across the country that can stimulate the minds of young and old alike. And if you’re already in budget mode heading into the fall, consider joining the Extended Stay America rewards program to earn perks toward your next vacation.
American Museum of Natural History—New York, New York
Located at Central Park West at 79th Street in New York, the American Museum of Natural History is easily one of the best family friendly museums on the East Coast. One of the largest museums in the world, you are sure to be entertained throughout the 1,600,000 square feet of space. The museum is home to 45 exhibition halls where you can see fossils, animal dioramas and ocean life exhibits.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis—Indianapolis, Indiana
When it comes to family friendly museums, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has received national attention for being so family oriented. As one of the largest children’s museums in the world, you can see 120,000 artifacts across the museum’s American, Natural Science and World Cultures Collections.
Henry Ford Museum—Detroit, Michigan
Located in Detroit, Michigan, the Henry Ford Museum presents yet another not-to-be-missed family museum in the U.S., especially for car and history lovers. The museum boasts some of Henry Ford’s own personal collections. Other wheeled notables in the museum include the Kennedy Presidential Limousine and the Rosa Parks Bus.
USS Constitution Museum—Boston, Massachusetts
Detailing the famous ship and the early days of the U.S. Navy, the USS Constitution Museum in Boston definitely makes the list as one of the best museums for the family, the whole family that is. The interactive galleries are designed to keep adults and children entertained and take all parties on a 200-year voyage.
Musical Instrument Museum—Phoenix, Arizona
If you find yourself in Phoenix in the next few weeks, and you simply can’t take the heat for one more second, you can retreat to the cool indoors and hit up the Musical Instrument Museum. The museum is a favorite for families who love music, especially as it offers the chance to play a number of instruments from around the globe. Exhibits include instruments from around the world and even instruments and styles played and worn by celebrity favorites from the past and present. Taylor Swift even has a gown there!
Please Touch Museum—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Set up in Philadelphia, the name says it all at the Please Touch Museum. There, you don’t have to worry about whisking your kids quickly through down the middle of each room, muttering under your breath “don’t touch!” over and over. Everything in the museum is fair game and incredibly interactive. Kids will delight in taking a ride on the restored 1908 carousel.
Exploratorium—San Francisco, California
One of San Francisco’s top attractions is easily the Exploratorium. With more than 600 hands-on exhibits, the museum details art, science and human perception. The Exploratorium truly delights imaginations, especially with additions like the world’s largest toothpick sculpture.
Center for Puppetry Arts—Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is a hot spot for family fun activity, and you don’t have to search too hard to find a great family-friendly hotel room either! If you have a few performers in your family, a visit to the Center for Puppetry Arts is in order. Set up in Atlanta, the museum remains solely dedicated to the art of puppetry. A fixture in town since 1978, visitors can learn all about the wonder and art of puppetry, including seeing exhibits on some of their favorite famous puppets.
Museum of Science and Industry—Chicago, Illinois
Out of all of the museums in Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry just might be the one to keep all parties in your family entertained. Across 14 acres, you can explore thousands of interactive exhibits. Some highlights include a German U Boat, a replica coalmine and a miniature castle. The museum sets out to, and accomplishes the task of bringing science to life. With the abundance of hotels in this charming city, finding one to call home for a few nights won’t be a problem, either.
From Phoenix to Philadelphia, the country is crawling with family friendly museums. Before your kids have to hit the books again for a new school year, consider making a last hurrah weekend out of these cities and visit one of these museums.
The 6 Best Affordable Golf Courses in the US
National Golf Month is in full swing, golf aficionados everywhere are heading to the closest links. Many travelers make golf their very reason for going, seeking out the best golf courses in the U.S. However, many of the most exclusive courses across the country carry expensive fees or memberships. If you want to celebrate National Golf Month without breaking the bank, there are a number of esteemed golf courses in the U.S. that don’t cost an arm, leg and possibly a putter to play. We’ve rounded up some of the best for you.
Located just north of Memphis, Tennessee, Mirimichi boasts 7,400 yards of course at a very affordable price. Tennessee native Justin Timberlake originally bought the course and put $16 million into revamping it back in 2009. While the singer-songwriter sold the course in 2014, Mirimichi still maintains its status as one of the most eco-friendly courses in the nation. Mirimichi also boasts having the Audubon Sanctuary and the rare Golf Environmental Organization certified status. You can play 9 holes here for as little as $30.
Pacific Grove Golf Links—Pacific Grove, California
If you can’t afford to play at nearby Pebble Beach, the Pacific Grove Golf Links offers affordability and stellar Pacific Ocean views. Located in Northern California in the Monterey Peninsula, Pacific Grove Golf Links features an entire back nine with breathtaking views. Just adjacent to the famous 17 Mile Drive, Pacific Grove Golf Links originally opened in 1932. The 18-hole course sits on the Pacific Ocean, providing the feel of Pebble Beach without the price. For 18 holes, you’ll pay roughly $62.
Country Club of Miami—Hialeah, Florida
If you’re looking for a Miami hotel room, you have plenty of affordable options, which will leave some cash in your wallet so you can hit the courses. Country Club of Miami offers rounds of golf for as low as $25 to $40 per person. Located in Hialeah, Florida, Country Club of Miami features two beautifully manicured Florida golf courses for a total of 36 holes. Founded in 1961, many golf legends have played the Robert Trent Jones designed course. Perhaps the Country Club of Miami’s most famous member was Jackie Gleason.
Wild Horse Golf Club—Gothenburg, Nebraska
In the unsuspecting location of Gothenburg, Nebraska, you’ll find another affordable golf course. Wild Horse Golf Club has been rated as one of the best golf courses in the country, right in the heart of Nebraska. The Scottish style golf course sits close to esteemed Sandy Hills but doesn’t require a membership. Wild Horse Golf Club was even built by some of the same architects, lending a similar vibe and playing field as the private course has. Wild Horse Golf Club costs roughly $60 per player for 18 holes.
Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club—Sandia Park, New Mexico
Set up in Sandia Park, New Mexico, Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club is surrounded by picturesque mountainous terrain and vegetation of the New Mexican high desert. As New Mexico becomes an up and coming member of top golf course destinations, the 27 hole public golf course rests just 20 minutes from Albuquerque and about 45 minutes from Santa Fe, making it conveniently located. To play 9 holes at Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club, you can expect to spend $50 to $60 in the regular season. The 18-hole fee in the regular season runs at $92.
The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa—Grand Junction, Colorado
Travelers in Grand Junction, Colorado can take advantage the Golf Club at Redlands Mesa. Nestled in between looming rock formations and lush mountain ranges, the 18 hole golf course provides enough challenge but also eye candy with views of Grand Junction. Designed by award winning golf course architect Jim Engh, the course features a number of elevation changes for that added challenge. For 18 holes, you’ll spend roughly $50.
Playing some of the best courses in the U.S. doesn’t have to break the bank. These golf courses provide the perfect excuse to take a vacation golf trip without maxing out credit cards to do so.
Whale-watching in Alaska
Alaska is a wildlife lover’s dream, where bears, bald eagles, sea lions and of course, whales are spotted not just daily, but by the minute. Particularly in the summer months, the state comes alive with road warriors seeking to see massive and strangely delicate whales. August is one of the peak times for whale watching along the Alaskan coast. Thousands of whales have made their way up to Alaska by this point in the year, and visitors can watch them in action. If you and your family want to see just how spectacular these creatures are, there are a number of whale watching tours available. And you don’t have to embark on an extravagant 7 day cruise to see the whales, as all of these companies offer hourly, half day and full day whale watching opportunities. So find a good deal on a hotel in Alaska and hop on board one of these whale-watching tours.
Alaska Tours, Anchorage
Based in Anchorage, Alaska Tours offers perhaps some of the longest daily whale watching tours. Many of the company’s tours span from 6 to 9 hours. Within those hours, guests visit the waters of Resurrection Bay, the Chiswell Islands and Kenai Fjords National Park. All of these areas are known for hosting whales come summertime. Tours start and end near Juneau and Anchorage, making them easy to reach if you are staying in either city.
Major Marine Tours, Anchorage
Also out of Anchorage, Major Marine Tours has convenient three hour, half day and full day cruises focused on finding Alaska whale populations. The company’s whale watching tours provide the chance to see blue whales, gray whales, fin whales, humpbacks and orcas. Cruises travel across Prince William Sound and near Kenai Fjords National Park. The family-owned business makes tours special by having National Park Rangers on board. These rangers can provide additional information to further educate you about the whales making the trip to Alaska.
Juneau Whale Watch, Juneau
If you are staying in or near Juneau, Juneau Whale Watch offers several different types of whale watching tours. Some of these tours offer a bit more than whale watching with city and glacier highlights also included. However, true purists can join the company’s classic Whale Watching Tour. Departing from Juneau, the tours take roughly three hours. In addition to seeing humpback whales and orcas, tours also often see bald eagles, seals, sea lions and much more Alaskan wildlife. Once a whale is spotted on the tour, the captain slows down the boat so that riders can head out to the viewing deck. You’ll want to bring your camera on this tour as the whales almost always come close to the boat once the engine has been turned off for viewing the whales.
Rugged and raw, Alaska provides one of those few opportunities in today’s world to truly marvel at nature, undisturbed. As many vacationing families plan their summer around the whales, you will want to be sure you have the chance to get up close and personal with these remarkable mammals. Vacation tours can be hit or miss at times, but these whale watching excursions provide the chance to be in awe of massive whales with every turn of the boat.
Best French Restaurants in NYC
With Bastille Day falling on the 14th, it’s no wonder July tends to leave many people craving the best French fare. When a French fry simply won’t do, appetites for French cuisine would certainly be satisfied with a trip to France. However, if you can’t make it all the way across the pond, New York City actually remains a great stand in for the real thing. New York City has become known for its French restaurants, largely thanks to French chefs who’ve moved to the Big Apple to showcase their cuisine. So if you’re in town this summer, try to get a table at one of these acclaimed French restaurants.
La Grenouille on East 52nd Street
Led by the Masson family, La Grenouille has been serving New York fine French food since 1962, offering city dwellers classic French haute cuisine. A number of celebrities have graced its tables over the last several decades for traditional French fare with a decidedly modern twist. In addition to its dishes, many come to take advantage of the stellar wine cellar. And after a meal of overindulgence, and perhaps some fine French wine, you’ll be glad you decided to get a hotel in New York.
Buvette in the West Village
If you’re seeking more of a neighborhood spot in New York City, Buvette supplies, right in the West Village. Inspired by European traditions, Buvette opened its doors in early 2011 by Chef Jody Williams. Buvette has quickly joined the ranks for New York’s best French restaurants with a strikingly more casual vibe. The space is part restaurant, part bar and part café in one. It brings the elegance of an old world café and the comfort of a casual neighborhood eatery.
Brasserie on East 53rd Street
Those searching for the best French restaurant New York has to offer might just be able to end their search at Brasserie. Led by executive chef Luc Dimnet, Brasserie keeps things traditional in the kitchen. You can find classic dishes like onion soup gratinée and crème brûlée. Opened in 1959, Brasserie is one of New York’s long-standing French restaurants, sure to not disappoint even the most discerning French critique.
Le Bernardin on West 51st Street
Le Bernardin lets its name speak for itself. Considered among the best French restaurants NYC offers, Le Bernardin has won Zagat’s Best Food award and earned an esteemed four stars from The New York Times just three months after opening. The French restaurant is appropriately the work of a French sibling duo, Maguy and Gilbert Le Coze. Along with its seven James Beard Awards since 1998, the proof is in the dishes at Le Bernardin, where you can enjoy French fish staples like caviar, oysters, tuna and snapper. But beware; if you don’t like seafood, it might not be for you, as Le Bernardin specializes in fish.
Daniel in the Upper East Side
Shortly after its initial opening in 1993, the Central Park restaurant Daniel found acclaim. Known for its impeccable French fare, the French restaurant in New York has become a fine dining institution. While Daniel received a redesign in 2008, the restaurant still upholds its fine dining reputation. Located in the heart of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Daniel boasts contemporary French cuisine inspired by the seasons. As to be expected, world-class wines are paired with meals. Need more convincing of Daniel’s French fare? The restaurant is one of the few in the area to have earned the rare and coveted two-star Michelin rating.
4 Must-see Boardwalks in the US
Boardwalks are a beloved and quintessential piece of the American summer. Featuring a wealth of attractions, activities and characters, there’s never a dull moment on these planked stretches along U.S. coastlines. Summer is an ideal time to explore boardwalks, especially these must-see boardwalks we’ve found across the country.
Venice Beach Boardwalk in California
If you are booked to stay at a boardwalk hotel in Venice Beach, you certainly won’t be bored. Venice Beach Boardwalk is one of the most unusual boardwalks in the country. World famous and located in the Los Angeles area of Southern California, the boardwalk provides some of the best people watching in the U.S. Stretching 1.5 miles, the boardwalk hovers above the gorgeous sands of the Pacific Ocean. Street vendors, performers, mimes and musicians line the stretch of Venice Beach, adding a certain color to the boardwalk unlike anywhere else.
Myrtle Beach Boardwalk in South Carolina
One of the best boardwalks in the country for families is easily the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. The 1.2 mile-long oceanfront perch stretches from the 14th Avenue Pier to 2nd Avenue Pier. During the summer months, the boardwalk transforms with plenty of concerts, fireworks and carnivals. In addition, families can find an arcade, zipline and plenty of scoops of ice cream. And if you’re a ride-lover, you won’t want to miss the Sky Wheel, the largest Ferris wheel on the East Coast. It whisks riders up 175 feet to a stunning view of the ocean.
Atlantic City Boardwalk in New Jersey
When it comes to the best boardwalks in the U.S., Atlantic City’s Boardwalk is always on the list. Considered the first boardwalk of its kind in the world, the Atlantic City Boardwalk was built in 1870. Local business owners were tired of all of the sand tracking into their hotels. A solution was presented by creating a long stretch of planks. Today, the Atlantic City Boardwalk covers 8 miles of the New Jersey beach. Visitors can stroll and enjoy ocean views from the planks or take advantage of high end and retail shopping. Acting as the backbone of the seaside resort city, the boardwalk also features a number of piers, like Garden Pier where you can visit the Atlantic City Art Center. In addition to shopping, ocean viewing and attractions, the Atlantic City boardwalk is also known for its many casinos where you can try your luck at going home a little richer. And you don’t have to worry too much about losing some cash, because it’s always comforting to know that when you book a suite at an Extended Stay America, kids stay free to soften any blow experienced at the slots.
Coney Island Boardwalk in New York
With nearly three miles of sandy beach, the Coney Island Boardwalk is truly an iconic American destination. One of the must-visit East Coast boardwalks, the Coney Island version boasts a wealth of recreational activities like volleyball, handball and basketball. If you aren’t the active type, the boardwalk area also features more than 50 rides, including the one that put the area on the map, The Cyclone. The Coney Island Boardwalk is also a prime location for visitors who want to head to the New York Aquarium or feast on a Nathan’s Famous hotdog. And since Coney Island is so close to the city, you can always stay in New York and visit the boardwalk on a day trip.
Cotton candy in hand and the crashing waves at your feet, there really is nothing quite like strolling a good old-fashioned boardwalk. If you’re out of ideas as to where to take the family for summer vacation, one of these boardwalks just might provide the backbone for the perfect family trip.
3 Frozen Treats Around the US
With sweltering temperatures often rising into triple-digit territory in many places across the country, beating the summer heat isn’t always so simple. Especially if you’re on vacation, knowing where to go to dodge the sun can be a challenge. Luckily a number of cities across the U.S. are known for their frozen, sweet, cold wonders that somehow keep those summer temperatures at bay. Before you head out on your summer vacation, be sure to mark these frozen treat purveyors and best ice cream parlours on your map for pit stops along the way.
#1. Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis can be downright miserable in the summer months, but there’s one redeeming aspect to summers in Middle America - frozen sweet treats. Known for its tasty frozen delights, Ted Drewes Frozen Custard boasts two locations in the St. Louis area. Ted Drewes has been selling frozen custard for over 80 years, and to much acclaim. The popular spot is especially loved for its Concrete, a creation from 1959. The malt or shake is so thick, it’s served upside down and has become known as a must-have part of any visit to Ted Drewes.
#2. Ben & Jerry’s Waterbury Factory in Burlington, Vermont
Ben & Jerry’s ice cream needs no introduction. The fan favorite began with two guys, Ben and Jerry, in 1978, in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont. The pair became known as some of the best ice cream makers in the country, in part due to their colorful and humorous names like Cherry Garcia. Since those early days, Ben & Jerry’s has developed an empire. Today, you can make a pit stop at the Ben & Jerry’s Waterbury Factory and have a guided tour where you’ll learn all about the manufacturing process and then make a stop at the full service scoop shop where you’re invited to try all of your favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavors.
#3. Hansen’s Sno-Bliz in New Orleans, Louisiana
Started by Ernest and Mary Hansen in 1939, Hansen’s Sno-Bliz is a New Orleans institution. Ernest invented the first ice-shaving machine while Mary created her own flavored syrups to drizzle over the ice. Today, Hansen’s Sno-Bliz still makes it own flavors from Mary’s secret recipes all while using the original machines. The fluffy ice and homemade syrups bring in crowds. Every summer, the masses flock to Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, which was named a 2014 American Classic by the James Beard Foundation. One of the best things about Hansen’s is that it’s still all in the family, now owned and operated by Ernest and Mary’s granddaughter. And while you’re in New Orleans sampling Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, you can always extend your trip and book a room at an Extended Stay America. Not only will you enjoy a tasty frozen bite, but Extended Stay America sweetens stays with a kids stay free policy.
So this summer when the temperatures swell close to and well above the nineties, finding the best ice cream shops is a priority. It’s a necessity, really, and if you’re on summer vacation, you can quiet a carload of kids with those two magic words, ice cream.