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Family-Friendly New Year's Eve in Los Angeles

December 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Year's Eve is a time of celebration, of beginnings and endings, of gratitude and anticipation. While some insist there's nothing like New York City's Times Square, for a family-friendly vacation spot with just as much magic but without the crowded subway trains, book a vacation to spend New Years Eve in Los Angeles!

If you're looking New Years Eve family events in Los Angeles, the best place to start is by checking out the traditional Tournament of Roses Parade. Held on New Year's Day (so you'll have a good incentive to keep a steady head the evening before!) the Rose Parade is the precursor the world famous Rose Bowl Football game, which has been an American tradition since 1902. Most of the floats are made exclusively from flowers, so while your children can enjoy the excitement of seeing some familiar faces come to life, you can marvel at the craftsmanship of the creations, which take a combined 80,000 hours to construct. The parade also includes marching bands, live music, special surprise appearances, and, best of all, the chance for some fabulous street fare food.

If some of the younger members of your family aren't quite ready to stand and wait in line for hours leading up to the parade, there are plenty of rooftop restaurants where you can catch a glimpse of the floats, like the aptly named French bistro, Perch LA. Another option for viewing the floats? The city offers a Post-Parade viewing of all the floats you may have missed — or accidentally slept through! Head to Sierra Madre Boulevard and Washington Street to check out the floats in all their glory. Your children will love having the chance to get up close and personal with some of their favorite characters, while you'll appreciate not having to wake up at the crack of dawn on New Year's Day.

If you're looking for another type of New Year's Eve engagement, there's no better way to really feel like you're among the stars than by visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame! Home to over 2,500 of the famous stars celebrating Hollywood's legends, your whole family can have fun finding their favorite celebrities, posing for pictures with Hollywood impersonators, and, since it's New Year's Eve, partaking in many of the miniature booths and festivities set up along the avenue! If you're really dedicated, you can even pick up a "Star Map" and take a tour to see the outside of some of your favorite celebrities' homes!

Los Angeles is home to many kid-friendly New Years Eve events, from the thrill of the Rose Parade to the joy of the Hollywood walk, there's no reason to hold off on a memorable celebration because you're worried that the city won't offer something for every member of your family. Ring in the New Year with your children and loved ones alike, by celebrating in sunny Los Angeles!

Crafts to Entertain the Little Ones at Home or Away

December 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

This holiday season when you're on the road or staying in a hotel room for the night, keeping your children busy, safe and entertained can be a challenge. But if you're looking to book a vacation with your little ones, you shouldn't have to worry so much that you won't be able to enjoy your time off. That's where we come in. We've compiled a list of easy paper crafts for kids that are transportable and creative. Best of all, our selections of art and crafts for kids requires little cleanup, to keep your child entertained both on the way to and once you reach your destination.

A Peaceful Trip Peace Chain

If you have more than one child, you probably already know that the key to keeping them focused and quiet is to make everything a competition. Before you go on the road, cut out tons of thin paper strips, grab a tape dispenser, and put a few colored pencils or markers in a box. Whichever child can make it to a certain number of paper chain loops, wins. If you're looking for seasonal holiday crafts for kid entertainment, you can have them inscribe each paper chain strip with a festive message, Christmas wish or special phrase.


Origami

Looking for a transportable craft with absolutely no cleanup that will help your children work on their precision and keep them entertained for hours? Origami is one of the most fun and easy paper crafts you can think of. Buy a basic origami book, or simply let your children watch instructional YouTube videos on your iPad, and within no time, you’ll have them folding pretty paper into almost anything! Make sure you've selected a variety of colors and patterns for your origami paper, and encourage your children to really be creative and write special messages inside.

Let It Snow!

If you're in the mood for some holiday festivities, take a minute to crank up some Christmas tunes and let your children create their own snowflakes. Use sheets of plain white paper and safety scissors show your children how to snip their way to unique snowflakes that they can hang on a tree or give to their friends or teachers. Line the floor of your car with newspaper so you can quickly gather up the paper scraps and toss them out at the next rest stop. If you’re really brave, pack some glue and glitter so they can embellish their one-of-a-kind masterpieces once you’re settled in at the hotel.

Don't let your fear trying to keep your kiddos entertained, calm and quiet while on the road and at your destination stop you from traveling this holiday season. Whether you're looking for crafts that can be done in the car or in your hotel room, we've got you covered.

The Ultimate Guide to New England's Best Clam Chowders

December 18, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Planning your dream vacation to Boston? After you've booked your hotel room, it’s time to start penciling in what you’ll do during your trip. Among many other famous hot spots, Boston is well-known for Fenway Park, the Freedom Trail and the bar from the hit television show Cheers — but beyond these famous landmarks, it's also known for its famous, irresistible clam chowder! Read on for our top picks of where you’re sure to find some satisfying bowls of Boston’s best clam chowder.

Legal Sea Foods

If you're on the hunt for a bowl of the best clam chowder in New England, look no further than Legal Sea Foods, the birthplace of one of America's most popular chowder recipes. We recommend getting a taste of history by visiting the flagship location in Boston's Seaport. The restaurant is celebrated for its fresh ingredients, a tradition carried on from the very beginning — the father-son team ran both a fish market and, right next door, the first Legal Seafoods — so customers always get the absolute best catch of the day. It's so popular that Legal Sea Foods has opened up several restaurants across the United States — and their business is only growing.

Island Creek Oyster Bar

Looking for the best clam chowder in Bostom? Residents adore Island Creek Oyster Bar, located on Commonwealth Avenue. Owned by Skip Bennett and Jeremy Sewall, part of the goal of the restaurant is to give customers the feeling that they’re sampling from tried and true family recipes — so expect to see some dishes named after the owners’ close friends and family. Though the menu switches almost every day, depending on what was freshest at the seafood markets, you can always find clam chowder. Bonus? It’s served with a side of a buttermilk biscuit and adorned with slabs of the most irresistible bacon. Monday through Friday, the restaurant is open only for dinner, between four and eleven in the evening, but on the weekends, Island Creek’s doors are open all day.

Union Oyster House

A staple of the Boston restaurant scene since 1826, Union Oyster House has had over a hundred years to perfect their clam chowder recipe — and it shows. Whether you’re looking to host a banquet for friends, or are just interested in finding a historic place to dine with your family while on vacation in Boston, Union Oyster house has a table for every type of customer. A favorite of politicians, including J.F.K. and Daniel Webster, the restaurant may be famous for its oysters, but it’s celebrated for the clam chowder. Made with potatoes, pork and a few more secret ingredients, it’s a delight. Even better? For those who can’t yet make it to Boston, the recipe has popped up online, provided to star chef Bobby Flay by the chefs at the Union Oyster House themselves. Open nearly all day, every day!


Whether you're a foodie or just someone who appreciates a good meal, enjoying a steaming bowl of Boston’s best clam chowder should be a must-do on everyone's list! So book a flight, call your friends, and get ready to chow down!

The Best Christmas Markets in NYC

December 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

What if you found a way to get all of your holiday shopping done in one place — without the hassle, parking spot-fights and stress of a shopping mall? Enter the Christmas Markets of New York City, where artisan craftsmen, painters and mini booths from major retailers alike all come together to make one of the best Christmas markets in the US. So book a New York hotel room for a few nights in December, and get ready for a shopping experience you'll never forget.

Some of the best Christmas markets in New York City are directly across from The Shops at Columbus Circle, on the West Side. Whether you're looking for a customized Christmas ornament, the perfect candle to gift to your coworkers or neighbors or some stunning jewelry for the special sparkly one in your life, head to the Columbus Circle Holiday Market where you’ll find something for everyone on your list — and of course, a few little things for yourself. Afterwards, you and your family can even take a carriage ride across Central Park, and check out the incredible holiday window displays of Fifth Avenue.

If you're looking for something for the fashionista in your life, another great option to find local designers and more is a trip to the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park. Open from the end of October to January 3, the shops here cater equally to those who want to get their shopping done early as well as those who are chronically late. The Bryant Park Winter Village is especially loved for its international flair, so if you're looking to impress the people on your list, you don't actually have to fly all the way to Istanbul to find the perfect gift. Afterwards, you can go for a spin on the famous Bryant Park Ice Skating Rink, where, best of all, admission is free.

Are you looking for German Christmas markets in the US? Luckily for you, Manhattan still has a thriving and welcoming German community. Check out the Upper East Side neighborhood of Yorkville, home to some of the earliest immigrants to Manhattan, whose descendants still sell the holiday wares their grandparents taught them to make. And you can enjoy traditional treats such as Stollen cake and gingerbread cookies while sipping on a cup of Christkindl’s Winterdrink at any of the four German Delights Christmas stands across the city. Also, be sure to check out the one and only Schaller and Weber, where you can pick up the best in German Christmas fare to take back to your hotel room for snacks when you’re too tired to go out again!

Holiday shopping doesn't have to be exhausting, even in New York City, home to the best Christmas markets in the US. You’re sure to find what you're looking for, whether it's one-of-a-kind jewelry, a craft from an international artisan or even some handmade soaps from a local vendor, you're sure to actually enjoy your Christmas shopping this year at the holiday markets

 

'Tis The Season For...Santacon!

December 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The holiday season brings last minute shopping, the chance to catch up with friends, and a pass on all those extra sweets we indulge in over the course of a couple months. For many of us, it also brings a certain amount of stress into our lives. But for those in the know, taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday and spending a day in celebratory cheer can be just the thing that the doctor…err, Santa, ordered. If you're in New York City or San Francisco this December, you'll have the chance to participate in one of the most fun-filled events of the Christmas season — the annual Santacon!

While there are hundreds of towns throughout the world hosting the cheery event, a couple locations are known for an off-the-charts good time. If you're planning a trip to the Big Apple over the holidays, be it for work or for pleasure, take advantage of one of the many amazing deals on hotels and mark your calendar for December 12, when Santacon New York City takes over! According to the event's website, participants can "paint the town red and white" by dressing up in a full Santa costume (you won't be allowed in with just a hat, so enjoy the chance to really go for it) and joining others on a day-long pub-crawl around the city. Meet new people, bring a crew of your closest friends, and get ready for an event you'll never forget! It's much better than the hours-long wait at Macy's for five minutes with the Big Guy, and who wouldn’t want to partake in a gathering with thousands of fellow Santas?


The level of secrecy and excitement is another part of what makes Santacon so much fun. As a part of the rules, the bars and pubs that are opening their doors to Santacon revelers are not revealed until the night before — mum's the word until Santacon Eve!

For our friends on the West Coast, don’t feel left out…Santacon San Francisco is actually the birthplace of this 21-year tradition. The rules are similar to those in New York, except for the fact that you might be a bit warmer in your Santa suit in Sunny California! You are sure to have fun — within reason, the Golden Rule still applies — and you can take advantage of this opportunity to really get into the spirit.

Best of all? Since Christmas is, after all, the Season of Giving, both Santacon locations allow you to crawl for charity, helping to feed the hungry by giving you the option to donate on their website. In the past three years, Santacon has raised $150,000 for charity. Now you can do good for others while enjoying your day, and step in Santa's shoes!

Whether you're a native New Yorker who wants to plan a festive staycation, or a first-time visitor to San Francisco, make this Christmas one for the books. Enjoy great drinks, stellar company, and, best of all, a totally ridiculous and fun day by signing up to participate in Santacon New York or Santacon San Francisco!

The Nutcracker Comes Alive this Winter

December 7, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

No Christmas is complete without a family outing to see Tchaikovsky's breathtaking ballet, "The Nutcracker." From the Russian nesting dolls to The Rat King to Clara's dance with the handsome doll that’s come to life, even people who normally wouldn’t consider themselves fans of dance or classical music tend to love this ballet. But for those who are sure they couldn’t possibly enjoy a 2 hour dance performance on stage, luckily many versions have been created to appeal to even the most modern of audiences. Still not quite convinced? Think about these acclaimed takes on the traditional performance — you can now enjoy an über chic rock or hip-hop version that is sure to impress. Regardless of if you love the classic Nutcracker, rock version or hip-hop version, we’re sure these two performances will leave you jumping out of your seat to give a standing ovation at the end.


San Francisco, California: Celebrate the City
One of the best Nutcracker performances we’ve found is the classic one by the iconic San Francisco Ballet Company in northern California. If you're planning to spend Christmas vacation with your family in San Francisco, be sure to book tickets to this performance of the world famous ballet. Under the direction of famed choreographer and artistic director Helgi Tómasson, this version takes place in contemporary San Francisco — so when you’re not in awe of the stage, you can hit the roads and explore attractions like The Golden Gate Bridge and The Aquarium of the Bay. Book your vacation to San Francisco for the Christmas holidays between December 16th and the 31st to be sure you don’t miss this ballet.

 

New York, New York: The Rap Nutcracker
It's no secret — there's nothing like a family Christmas vacation in New York. The city is known for innovative dance and theatre productions that combine the classics with new cultural influences, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that The United Palace of Cultural Arts has created "The Hip-Hop Nutcracker" to reach a wider audience. Since its debut last year, the version has garnered international attention for its updates to the classic score. With additions like the electric violin, onstage DJs and backbeats and even special appearances with stars like The King of Rap Kurtis Blow, choreographer Jennifer Weber has created a version of the ballet that uses break dancing, contemporary costumes and even urban rapping to bring a new audience closer to the magic of the story. The ballet has toured around the country in eleven different cities, and was even given the rare and prestigious opportunity to perform as a part of the Moscow Ballet in Russia. For the most impressive and memorable performance, be sure to book your Manhattan vacation for November 20th, when Kurtis Blow will revive his role in the ballet. And don’t forget to stop by the magical Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center while you’re in the Big Apple!

No matter how many times you've seen The Nutcracker, and whether you’re a true traditionalist at heart or dying to see one of the new innovated versions of the performance, you aren’t going to want to miss the familiar and beloved childhood tale of Christmas. If you plan to travel to San Francisco or New York City for the holidays this year, be sure to check out at least one of these performances. 

A Winter Wonderland — The Best Ice Skating Rinks In America

December 3, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The winter months mean steaming mugs of hot cocoa and marshmallows, indulging in delicious holiday treats and, best of all, traveling with family. If you're heading to any one of these beloved cities, be sure to take your loved ones to some of the best ice rinks in America while you’re there.

Rockefeller Center, New York City
Looking for exceptional holiday ice rinks? The setting for many romantic comedies, including the film Serendipity, there's no better place than New York City's iconic Rockefeller Center Skating Rink. With the giant Christmas tree in the background, nestled in between the 30 Rock building and The Lego Store, your family can capture the perfect photo for a holiday card while spinning circles — sometimes alongside professional skaters — at one of the city's best outdoor ice rinks. Afterwards, why not visit The Top of the Rock, where you and your family can take in breathtaking views of Manhattan's skyline. To end your perfect New York night, enjoy a mug of the famous frozen cocoa at the world legendary restaurant, Serendipity Three — and after you can head back to your comfy hotel room to unwind and relax.

McCormick Tribune, Chicago
If you're spending a long winter weekend in the Windy City, one of the best ice skating rinks in the country is right at your fingertips. Tucked inside the city's beautiful Millennium Park (home to the famous Cloud Gate Statue, also known as “The Bean”), the outdoor skating rink sees over 100,000 guests each year during the winter months. The rink is especially loved for its ample size and free admission. There's plenty of room for those who want to perfect their figure eights. A fun fact? If you'd like to come back to Chicago during your summer vacation, the McCormick rink transforms into the city's largest outdoor restaurant, seating close to two hundred guests at a time! But for this trip, after you’ve been out there on the rink as long as you can stand it, when you just can’t take the cold any longer, warm up for a cozy winter meal at The Gage, which boasts not only an enormous menu and creative and fun cocktail creations, but also offers unbelievable views of the park.

Ice House, Hackensack, New Jersey
If the winter weather is simply too much to battle, or if you're looking to host a birthday party for your child, you're sure to win at the Ice House, one of America's best indoor ice skating rinks. Loved for its central location, family-friendly environment and even their support of local ice hockey teams, (why not take in a game while you’re there?) the Ice House provides lessons to those who are just getting the hang of things on the ice. The rink is also a wonderful place to pick up some figure skating lessons, so you can feel like you're having your Tara Lipinkski moment! Master a double axle with ease.

It doesn’t matter if you're a new skater or an expert on the ice, nothing says celebrate winter as you travel across America more than enjoying the country's best indoor and outdoor ice rinks. Make memories that will last you well beyond the New Year.