San Diego Family Vacation

MissionBayCA

San Diego is a perfect family vacation. The weather is the best in the country, the beaches are great, the people are friendly, it is easy to get around and tons to do for kids of all ages.

Here are my travel tips and recommendations for a great family vacation in San Diego.

Where to go:

San Diego

La Jolla 

When to go:

Anytime of the year but I recommend going in October for some of the best weather and no crowds.

How long to go:

A week

Where to stay in San Diego:

Mission Bay Near Seaworld

Recommended: Stay at The Dana on Mission Bay. Request a Water’s Edge Room for extra space and wonderful view of the bay.

The rooms in the older building, poolside have a nice patio and easy access to the pool. Free shuttle to Seaworld and close enough to even walk there (15 minutes).

Paradise Point Resort & Spa

Bahia Resort Hotel

  

Pacific Beach Area

Crystal Pier Hotel & Cottages is very unique since all of the cottages are on the Pacific Beach Pier. The views are amazing and you could not be any closer to the beach plus you have your own kitchen.  Must stay here at least once! 

Best Western Plus Blue Sea Lodge 

Pacific Terrace Hotel 

 

La Jolla

The Lodge of Torrey Pines 

San Diego Marriott La Jolla 

 

Or check out a condo or house rental through VRBO or VacationRentals.com

 

Things to do in San Diego:

San Diego Zoo – start your day off with the guided bus tour to see 70% of the zoo in 35 minutes. 

San Diego Zoo Safari Park 

Seaworld – highly recommend the Breakfast with Shamu, perfect way to start your day and up close view of the whales and the breakfast is very good, nice variety.

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park 

Catch a ballgame at Petco Park 

Visit the USS Midway Museum and step onto a real naval aircraft carrier 

Balboa Park 

Mission Beach and Belmont Park is a very busy, fun place. Lots of restaurants, shops, people watching and even rides.  

Old Town is filled with history. Fun place to explore.

Gaslamp Quarter for dinner otherwise more for adults after dark. 

Pacific Beach or PB as they call it is great for sunsets, shopping and biking along the boardwalk. Very beautiful beach. 

 

Things to do in La Jolla:

Shell Beach Tide Pools 

Children’s Pool Beach is very scenic and home to hundreds of seals. It is also open to the public to swim. 

La Jolla Caves for access into the cave. You can rent snorkel gear during the summer months.

La Jolla Cove for the real life zoo. You can see dolphins, sea lions, seals and sharks. There is a strong smell but this is the natural smell of sea animals and birds. For a real up close adventure, try the kayak tour.  

 

Family Friendly Restaurants:

San Diego is full of family friendly restaurants so it shouldn’t be too hard to find one but here are some of the top, more unique options to check out:

Corvette Diner – fun waitstaff, an arcade, rock & roll, burger and shakes. Of course your kids will love it.

El Indio – Birthplace of the taquito and great authentic Mexican food.

Station Tavern – it may be a bar but there is an outdoor playground for the kids to play at while you enjoy a burger at the picnic benches.

In-N-Out Burger – you can’t enjoy these burgers everywhere.

Mamma Mia – In Pacific Beach, great Italian food.

Ghiradelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop or Heavenly Cupcake in the Gaslamp Quarter for a sweet treat.

 

Enjoy your family vacation to San Diego! Contact me for any help planning your trip.

 

   

Duluth MN

Lutsen

Winter Family Exploration Vacation to Lutsen and Duluth MN

 

Take a family trip to Lutsen and Duluth MN along Lake Superior.

 
A Must-Do in the Winter, only the strong and brave can survive but your kids will talk about it for years.
Duluth is located on Lake Superior and an outdoor haven for those who love to ski – downhill or cross country, snowshoe, dogsled, skijourn, hike, skate and play in the winter snow. Lutsen is 2 hours north of Duluth, towards Canada and along Lake Superior. Lutsen has the best downhill skiing in Minnesota in a beautiful, almost untouched area of the country. You will feel like you are a million miles away from it all in Lutsen. Plan your next winter family vacation to Duluth MN.
 

Here are my travel tips and recommendations for a vacation to Duluth and Lutsen:

Where to go:
Duluth, Minnesota
Lutsen, Minnesota
 
When to go:
December – February for a true Northern Minnesota winter experience
 
How Long to stay:
4-7 days
 
Where to stay:
In Duluth MN
The Suites Hotel is my family favorite since every room has a kitchen and you are right in Canal Park.
Note: Don’t get an inside room, very noisy.
 
What kids don’t want to stay at a waterpark!
 
The Mountain Villas at Spirit Mountain are great yurts for a real family experience.
 
In Lutsen MN
Eagle Ridge for ski-in/ski-out. Condos available.
Or one of the Lutsen Resort accommodations.
 

 

Winter fun to do in Lutsen:

Skiing and snowboarding at Lutsen Mountain
 
 

Winter fun to do in Duluth:

Contact me for your next winter family destination, I can help you plan.

Orlando Travel Information

Orlando Travel Information for a Perfect Family Vacation

Are you looking for Orlando travel information for your next family vacation?

There is so much to do in Orlando it can be overwhelming for anyone. I have put together recommendations to help you plan your Orlando vacation.

Here are my travel tips and recommendations:

Where to Go:

Kissimmee or Orlando

When to Go:

Fall or Spring

We went in October and had perfect weather and it was not too crowded.

How long should you stay:

Depends on how many days you want to spend at the theme parks. I would suggest adding a rest day for each day spent at the theme park so you can still relax and enjoy other fun things to do in Orlando.

Recommended places to stay:

Disney Resorts =Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge for the families that want the kitchen and extra room.

Or Disney’s Wilderness Lodge or Animal Kingdom Lodge if you don’t need the kitchen but want to stay at one of the deluxe resorts at Disney.

The top moderate resort at Disney is Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter

Or check out the new value resort – Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

 

Outside of Disney Resorts = Emerald Island Resort

Minutes from Walt Disney World

We rented a house for 7 adults and 4 kids in Kissimmee. It was a great location and perfect getaway after a long exhausting day at the parks. We had our own pool which after being around so many people at the parks was ideal.

Note: If you have the option to heat the pool in October, I would recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are the top things to do:

Makahiki Luau – SeaWorld’s Polynesian Feast and Celebration

Very entertaining for kids and adults.

Expensive but a unique experience.

Don’t expect too much from the food, the experience is what you are paying for.

Disney Theme Parks

My favorite is Epcot, not a surprise since I love to travel, Epcot is all about travel from country destinations to space travel and beyond.

Epcot is the largest theme park, you definitely need two days to cover it.

 

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort.

Really fun for the whole family.

The dinner entertainers are great, very funny and they get the crowd involved.

The food is good and there is plenty of it.

Make sure to tell them if you are celebrating a special occassion.

 

Top travel tips:

  • Stay at a place with a kitchen. When you have young kids it saves time and sanity not sitting in restaurants.
  • Go to the grocery store and buy snacks and waters to bring into the theme parks. Then you don’t have to buy everything in the parks.
  • Parking at the Parks is for all day and you can come and go as needed. You can also park at all of the different parks in that one day so if you need to park at another place for dinner you won’t have to pay anymore. The parking lots are run so efficiently and are very easy to use. There is always a shuttle ready to take you into the park as soon as you get out of your car.
  • Pick your top must-do rides in each theme park before you go. Map out how you will go through the park. You will probably only get to half the rides you want to but at least you didn’t waste your day wandering around with no set purpose.
  • Fast pass the top rides if long waits.
  • Get the Disney app on your smartphone that tells you how long the waits are.
  • Downtown Disney for those that can’t get enough of Disney. There are lots of shops and restaurants.
  • If you are planning on having your kids do the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, do it at the Downtown Disney location instead of at Magic Kingdom when there is so many other things to be doing. Then your prince or princess will be ready to meet their favorite characters.
  • Must do for young girls or girls of any age that love the princesses = Cinderella’s Royal Table for Brunch at Magic Kingdom. It is the perfect way to start your day at Magic Kingdom and you can meet all the princesses. The princesses come around to each table and you can take pictures with every one of them during the brunch instead of trying to find them throughout the park. Added benefit – no lines.
  • Here are a few great options for quick dining at DisneyWorld – Columbia Harbor House, Pecos Bill Cafe or Pinocchio Haus
  • Watch the afternoon parade at Magic Kingdom in Frontier Land or Liberty Square
  • Watch the Magic Kingdom night parade across the street from Country Bear Jamboree or in front of the Hall of Presidents.
  • Watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks along the path to Crystal Palace or on the bridge to Tomorrow Land near the walkway to Rose Garden.
   Make sure to bring your own princess dress up for this event!                      Note: Must book 6 months prior to your trip. If you can’t get reservations for Cinderella’s Royal Table, try the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at Epcot.

Contact me if you have any questions or would like additional information. I am here to help plan your next family travel destination.

Minneapolis Travel Guide

Minneapolis Travel Guide

Your Minneapolis Travel Guide

Traveling to Minnesota would not be complete without a trip to Minneapolis & St Paul. It is a top family destination in the Midwest.

Minneapolis is full of outdoor activities with lots of Minnesota lakes, culture, great food, and the Mall of America in Bloomington.  And yes, it is where I call home!

If you can’t imagine what 0 degrees feels like then you need to plan a summer trip here. But Minneapolis is a winter wonderland for the hearty travelers.

 

Here is your Minneapolis Travel Guide tips and recommendations:

Where to go:

Minneapolis, mn

When to go:

Summer or Fall or Winter

Note: Spring weather is varied and not predictable – it could be snowing in April

How long to stay:
5-7 days

 

Where to stay:

Downtown Minneapolis

Hilton Garden Inn Minneapolis Downtown – great for familes

The Grand Hotel Minneapolis – includes access to the Lifetime Fitness next door.
Residence Inn Minneapolis – includes The Depot indoor waterpark and indoor ice skating next door.
Bloomington (where the Mall of America is located)

Must stay at the Radisson Bloomington Hotel attached to the Waterpark of America – the kids will love you

Or try the new hotel connected to the Mall of America – Radisson Blu

Note: the light rail will take you to the Mall of America and you can take it downtown Minneapolis

 

Things to do in the Summer and Fall:

Lake Calhoun is the summer hotspot in Minneapolis

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden an outdoor art gallery

Walker Art Center   – after the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden head to their neighbor for more incredible art

Minneapolis Institute of Arts – Free and filled with great exhibits for the whole family

See a play at the Children’s Theatre

Target Field – home of the MN Twins, great outdoor ballfield

Stone Arch Bridge – one of the most beautiful and scenic spots in Minneapolis

Mill City Museum – Right by the Stone Arch Bridge, a museum that was built into the ruins of the world’s largest flour mill.

Minnehaha Park and try Sea Salt for delicious seafood and fish

Lake Nokomis is great to jog, bike, walk or enjoy the beach and playground. A lot less busy than lake Calhoun

Uptown for fun and delicious dining

Mall of America – who doesn’t want to go to America’s largest mall

Minneapolis farmers market – Great place to pickup some of our locally grown food and anything else you could be looking for.

MN Zoo in Apple Valley (20 miles south of Minneapolis)  – Don’t miss the Minnesota Trail to see the animals from around MN.

Visit Ft Snelling State Park (day use only) for a picnic, beach or bike ride.

Things to do in the Winter:

Minneapolis has a skyway system so you don’t even have to walk outside downtown.

Ice Skate indoors at The Depot Skating Rink

Mariucci Arena for a MN Golden Gopher hockey game

Mall of America it is always nice in there

Midtown Global Market has some great food to try and fun place to shop.

Ski Buck Hill in Burnsville (15 miles south of Minneapolis) or Highland Hill in Bloomington

Tubing at Theodore Wirth Park

Waterpark of America – indoor waterpark where it feels tropical

Cross country ski or snowshoe at many of the parks in Minneapolis

Ice fish on one of our many lakes or rent an ice house on Lake Minnetonka (only 15 miles west of Minneapolis)

Sledding in Theodore Wirth Park or Columbia Golf Course or Powderhorn Park for some of the best sledding spots.

Snowkiting at Lake Calhoun

 

 

Festivals in Minneapolis & St Paul:

Summer

Minnesota Fringe Festival – an eleven day festival in August has many stage performances including dance, performance art, puppetry and spoken word at over 20 venues in Minneapolis.

MayDay Parade and Festival at Powderhorn Park

Basilica Block Party – Downtown Minneapolis music festival (they even have a Family Day on Sunday)

Lyn Lake Street Festival – local restaurants setup street food and local artists have craft booths and the art cars are a must see. Lots of kids activities too. The festival is run one Sunday in May as a fundraiser for the YMCA, Lyn Lake Business Association and Joyce Food Shelf. 

Uptown Art Fair – The annual event is held the first weekend in August in the heart of Uptown. Over 350 artists, food, drink and entertainment.

Grand Old Days – Is held the first Sunday in June in St Paul. It is the kickoff to summer festivals and the largest one-day festival in the Midwest. Definitely fun for all ages and don’t miss the parade!

Stone Arch Bridge Festival – one of the largest outdoor art and music festival held over Father’s Day weekend.

Aquatennial – 3rd week of July in Minneapolis for a 10 day water festival pays tribute to Minneapolis being the City of Lakes

Minnesota State Fair – The Great MN Get-Together is held every summer for 12 days at the end of August through Labor Day. Food, rides, music, animals, campers, farm equipment and everything on a stick!

St George Greek Festival – annual summer event in St Paul celebrates all things Greek. Fun for the whole family.

Twin Cities Pride – The third largest Pride celebration in the nation held in Loring Park. It is a two-day festival in June with lots of activities from family fun to beer gardens and commitment ceremonies.
Fall

Oktoberfest at Gastof’s in NE Minneapolis
Winter

Holidazzle Parade – in Downtown Minneapolis lights up downtown with all the lighted floats and costumes. It runs the day after Thanksgiving for a month.

City of Lakes Loppet – cross country ski through Minneapolis in the race or do the luminary ski/snowshoe with the whole family.

St Patricks Day Parade in Minneapolis (St Paul had a really large parade and festival for St Patricks Day)

St Paul Winter Carnival – it is called “the coolest celebration on Earth” where all things ice and snow are enjoyed.

 

Travel to Minneapolis for your next family vacation and use your Minneapolis Travel Guide to help plan your trip!

Ft Myers Beach and Sanibel Island

Ft Myers Beach

Ft Myers Beach and Sanibel Island

These are at the top of my favorite family destinations for our family vacations in Florida.

The “Sunshine State” seems to be exactly what we need when we need a break from the Minnesota winters.

Florida Sunset Video

Here are my travel tips and suggestions for your next family vacation to Ft Myers Beach and Sanibel Island:

Where to go:

Ft Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva Islands

When to go:

Fall or Winter is the best time to go

How long should you stay:

A one week vacation on the beach is perfect!

Recommended places to stay:

Budget place on Ft Myers Beach: The Outrigger  The Outrigger has a beautiful and very large white sand beach. Perfect for families. They have efficiencies with full kitchens which I always opt for when traveling with kids. I suggest the Beach Front Efficiency – the views are worth it.

Note: Make sure to check the size beds in the room you are booking if you are tall. The standard guest rooms only have double beds.

High End on Ft Myers Beach: Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina The Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina is a large resort with all the amenities you could need: spa, marina, watersports, kidds kammp, sailing and shopping to list a few. The beach is amazing and the pool is what a kid dreams about. This resort also offers kitchens in all of the villas.

Mid-Range Options: VRBO or Vacation Rentals I have always had good luck finding a vacation rental property through a private owner.

The price is always better than a hotel plus you get the convenience of a kitchen or entire house. You may not always have all the amenities of a resort but you will like you are in a home away from home.

Note: Most Sanibel Island condos has a minimum booking of one week.

Check the reviews for all of these recommendations on www.tripadvisor.com

What are the top things to do and travel tips:

Beaches, beaches and beaches!

Ft Myers Beach Pier has great white soft sand. It is wonderful family beach.  Good family food option = Citrola’s Times Square Grill & Pizzeria

Sanibel Island is world renowned for shelling and the secluded beaches. There are no mega resorts here and no huge beach crowds. Parking is sometimes tricky and you do have to pay $6 to go over the Sanibel Causeway but it is well worth it!

One of the most beautiful is Bowman’s Beach. There are a lot of shells in the sand here, bring your watershoes to protect your feet when walking on the beaches.

Arthur Frommer’s (Frommer’s Travel Guides) Favorite Travel Destination Sanibel Island, Florida
This destination topped Bali and Paris, that says quite a lot from a guy who has been everywhere!

Sanibel is a wonderful quaint island with great restaurants (no fast food), shopping, and no traffic lights. Speaking of traffic, it can get really backed up. Get on the island early in the morning and don’t leave the island between 4-6pm, stay and enjoy the sunsets!

Our favorite family restaurant on the island is Cheeburger Cheeburger or the Bubble Room. Our favorite place to shop (no young kids or you will need to keep a close eye on them) is She Sells Sea Shells. Must go through the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge – spectacular birds in the refuge. There are a few alligator lookouts but we didn’t see any.  

Captiva Island is very similar to Sanibel and you just have to keep driving on Sanibel-Captiva Road to get to it.
This island is even less crowded and more secluded. Some of the beaches on Captiva have pretty big waves, you can even surf. If you want to get away even further, head to North Captiva Island. After a day at the beach, The Green Flash Waterfront Restaurant on Captiva is great for lunch or dinner.

Lovers Key State Park has a beautiful two mile long beach that you can ride a tram to the different beach areas or walk on a boardwalk. The beaches are great for swimming and there are many picnic areas. You can rent kayaks, canoes and even bikes.  There is a small gift shop with snacks and ice cream treats but you should be sure to pack a picnic and make it a day trip with so much to do here.

Lakes Regional Park is one of the top things to do in Fort Myers that is not at a beach. Great family park for all ages of kids. Free entrance, you only pay for parking. There are two splash water areas, one is geared for smaller kids and the other for older kids (under 12). There are two playground areas. There are two ice cream stops. Go to the one by the train, real ice cream is served there and don’t order ice cream if you are going to rent a bike because your time will start but you can’t use the bike until the ice cream is gone. The bike rentals are a fun way to get around the entire park.

Go on the miniature train ride through the north end of the park. We even saw an alligator in the lake while riding on the train. You can go in the Train Museum with a purchase of a train ticket, it has a lot of history in it and the kids love to see all of the train sets. Check out the reviews on Trip Advisor for Lakes Regional Park

Have a great family vacation to Ft Myers Beach and Sanibel Island!

Contact me if you have any questions or would like additional information. I am here to help plan your next family travel destination.