Category: Things To Do

The Disney Dream – Five Magical Days Part 1

About a year ago, my husband announced that the time was right to take the kids on a Disney Cruise. Um, Ok, no arguments here. I did some research and the plans were made.

Me: “When should we tell them?”

Him: “The day we leave.”

Can I just tell you how hard it is to keep a secret of THAT magnitude? Amazingly, we pulled it off. Here’s where the kids found out they were going on a Disney Cruise.

Let me start by saying that the number one objection I hear to Disney vacations is that they cost too much. It’s true, that they aren’t cheap, and a year later our finances weren’t as robust as they had been, but we made the trip anyway and I’m really glad we did. Disney has incredible standards of service that make any vacation with them a wonderfully memorable experience.

Ship: Disney Dream

Departure Port: Port Canaveral Florida

Cruise Length: Four nights/Five Days.

Ports of Call: Nassau, Bahamas, Castaway Key, Bahamas (Disney’s private island).

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Accommodations

My Daughter waking up (slowly) on the bottom bunk The thing about Disney is that they get the important stuff right. Our room was tight, but comfortable, we had opted for a room with a balcony, something I highly recommend. We had a queen sized bed and the kids had bunk beds. One dropped out of the ceiling and the other was the couch converted into a twin bed. Both kids said they were comfortable and our mattress was fantastic. The bathroom was in two separate rooms, a shower and sink and then a second space for a sink an the toilet. I’ve cruised before and one of my big complaints is the size of the shower. This one was down right spacious in comparison. It even had a little bench.

Disney Cruise Food

Food is a big factor for us when we travel. Fish is intolerant to gluten, eggs and dairy and allergic to red food dye. The combination means we rarely eat out at home, but Disney is amazing at handling food allergies. The staff went out of their way to accommodate her needs, even planning ahead to have an extra, sushi style appetizer on hand when they knew she’s love it. I may have been a little jealous that I didn’t think to order two myself. It was THAT good.

My one complaint was that outside of meals it was sometimes hard to track down snacks. On other cruises I’ve been on something has been open 24/7. But there were times when I just wanted a little nibble and couldn’t find even a strawberry. Truth is I probably saved myself a few pounds. I never starved, I was just looking to fill in a few cracks here & there.

Disney Cruise Activities

Fish is 13 and Mim is 9. Neither child participated in the planned activities as much as we thought they would, but in hindsight I attribute that more towards their personalities then a flaw in the programming. Her age group was automatically given the right to enter and leave the activities as they pleased. Their activities mostly started at 4pm. It’s a hard age to program for, but there was a variety of events, including cooking, movie making, movie viewing, video games and dance parties.

3 pictures horizontally, Mim & Mike from Monster's Inc. In the Oceaneers Lab, A snap of The Edge, teen hang out, The Sail Away party on the big screen on the ship's funnel.

Mim’s group, The Oceaneers, had a two spaces just chock full of fun all day long. There was a Toy Story themed toy room, a craft room a dance floor, a science lab and gobs of video game stations. There were plenty of staff available to organize games and trouble shoot where necessary. We opted to give Mim the same freedom to sign in and out of the activities as he desired, with the understanding that if he didn’t behave responsibly, he would be glued to our sides. Some people were aghast that we’d let our 9 year old run around the ship unattended, but we know our kid.Close up of my Son & Daughter in a porthole window. He was great about making sure we knew where he was at all times. It was actually nice to be able to feel comfortable enough with the environment to give him that taste of freedom, and even nicer that he lived up to our expectations.

Our schedule leading up to the cruise precluded a lot of family time, so the kids were keen to stay with us or do things as a family and that was fine with us. They even sought each other out to spend time GASP together! One highlight was a scavenger hunt that took them all around the ship. A-Man and I also managed to snag a few minutes to ourselves in the 18+ sections.

Ports of Call: Nassau. Bahamas

Here we opted for an excursion to the Atlantis Resort. Where we paid an exorbitant amount of money for access to Aqua Adventure (their water park), a lunch voucher and a tour of the aquarium. I should say we started off this trip by visiting Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon. In comparison, Atlantis Aqua Adventure has fewer attractions and longer lines that Typhoon Lagoon and we were at TL a sunny Saturday in August. The only attraction Aqua Adventure had that was better than Typhoon Lagoon, was the river ride. TL’s is actually a relaxing lazy river. AA’s is a river rapids adventure. There are calm parts, but there are also narrow passages and with rapids and waves. There are several paths to follow, on one, you are transported via conveyor up into the tower of one of the water slides. Where you then go down a series of slides until you are eventually released back into the river. That was fun and it was the last ride we rode, so we left with a pleasant feeling. The aquarium is small and in my opinion, not worth the trip. Atlantis is like a mini Las Vegas in the Carribean complete with gambling and high end shops. Nice, but not really my scene. If we hadn’t visited Typhoon Lagoon we might have had a more favorable impression of Aqua Adventure, but having visited both in such a short space of time, Typhoon won hands down.

I also feel the need to say that overall, I wasn’t impressed with Nassau. There are a lot of empty storefronts down town and in hindsight, I wished we’d picked an activity that supported the local economy rather than a mega-corporation headquartered thousands of miles away.

3 Frames My son & husband floating in a calm section of the river ride, a wave headed right for my daughter, the conveyer to the tube ride

 Stay tuned for part two later this week!

 

Bouncing Off The Walls, Literally – Sky Zone

It’s February vacation around these parts.  A whole week off from school.  Oh, yay. I mean OH! YAY!

Mim mid-air at Sky ZoneWe had no grand travel plans for this week. So that meant a week of little trips here and there in an effort to stave off cabin fever. In my research of new, exciting and reasonably priced adventures, I found a place where they could literally bounce off the walls.

Sky Zone is an indoor trampoline park with independently owned locations around the country.  Our closest location is an hour and twenty minutes away.  The trip was originally scheduled to coincide with a visit with family, but when the plans fell apart, I had already let the cat out of the bag, so we went anyway.  I can honestly say it was totally worth the trip.

This location has 5 courts, a kids area for those under 40”, two dodgeball courts (during our visit one was for big kids and one was for little kids), Foam Zone, where you bounce from trampolines into a huge pit of 3-D foam shapes, and an Open Court where everyone bounces in their own trampoline rectangle . At 48” Mim was tall enough to bounce with the big kids, but they still divide jumpers by size, so while I could see him and jump next to him, he was on different side of the court. We were separated a open mesh curtain.  This didn’t phase him in the least, but some kids might not be so happy with this arrangement.  

Fish bouncing into the Foam ZoneSince we’d traveled a bit, we opted to bounce for 90 minutes at a cost of $16 per person. As much fun as we had, 90 minutes was a little too long. Mim loved dodge ball even though by his own admission he wasn’t very good at it.  Fish & I alternated between the Open Court and the Foam Zone.  She tried Dodge Ball a few times, but her teammates were bigger, faster and more competitive.

The facility was clean and well staffed.  Before bouncing, you must have a waiver signed by a parent or guardian and you must meet with a staff member to go over the rules.  There are court monitors at ever court and they kept things under control without harshing the groove.

You are not allowed to bring in any food from the outside, but they have water and healthy snacks available at relatively reasonable prices. We all had a blast and will definitely head back again.  For locations and details, visit the Sky Zone web site.

This review was not requested nor was I compensated in any way. The words and opinions are my own.

Weir’s Beach

“What Are We Going to do For FUN today?”

That is the question I hear most mornings during summer vacation. Some days it is pretty cut and dried. 99 Degrees? 100% humidity? We’re heading to Aunt Jane’s and swimming in the pool.

Top A Winnepesauki Railroad car, Row FunSpot Sign and Token Cards, Third row, me playing PacMan,Fish playing Pin ball and Mim riding a motorcycle video gameLast Friday was less clear. It was a beautiful summer day, a few puffy clouds, minimal humidity, highs in the low 80’s and a light breeze. I had a deadline in the morning, but the afternoon was ours. I lobbied for a bike ride on a local bike trail, but I got out voted. After consulting our list of things we wanted to do this summer, my son proposed Weir’s Beach.

I grew up with the Jersey Shore, within reasonable driving distance. So, the beach and the boardwalk are not foreign too me. Weir’s Beach is kind of like a mini Jersey Shore. There is a beach, the MS Mount Washington sails from the pier and there is a boardwalk and arcades.

Before our trip, I scouted things out and identified a specific location for treats and also found a coupon for FunSpot, a year round bowling/mini-golf/arcade located just up the road from the boardwalk.

Fish kiboshed the beach right off the bat apparently we’d been swimming too much this week. I didn’t realize that was possible. We got a late start so her brother & I agreed to this condition and we set off (A-Man had to work). We explored the boardwalk and were able to just glance at the arcades because I promised a full service arcade at FunSpot. While at the board walk, the Winnepesauki Railroad pulled in and we agreed that would be a fun trip for another day.

We picked the perfect time for Fun Spot. Everyone else was enjoying a perfect beach day (not such a great thing for a family with albinism). Between the  WOKQ Buyers Club and an online promo code, I was able to get $50 worth of tokens for $22. We played video games, skee ball and air hockey. I got my annual Pac Man fix and we still have tokens left! The kids cashed out their tickets for the requisite junk and we headed on to the Kellerhaus for treats.

My daughter hit the sundae bar and Mim & I hit the candy shop. The Sundae bar looked amazing, but my logic was that a Pecan Turtle was fewer calories than an ice cream sundae with all the fixin’s. My caloric math, might be flawed, but the Turtle was yummy. 🙂

I like being a tourist in my own backyard. I can imagine we’ll head back to FunSpot when the weather turns cold. They offer two kinds of bowling (candlepin AND ten pin) and we still have about $25 worth of tokens burning a hole in our collective pocket.

Cub Scout Camp

Mim with his day pack and his Blue peaking out of the pocket.

Mim is off to his first Cub Scout Camp adventure this week. It five nights and four days of non-stop action. He was mostly excited, but I think a small part of him was nervous too. In other words, he was a typical little boy.

He’s there with his pack, so he knows the leaders and the other boys he’s camping with. I have no doubt, that both he AND the leaders will come back with some wacky tales to be told.

It rained like Noah was about to show up yesterday and a I cringed, and prayed that my not-so-detailed-oriented little boy remembered to put the top back on his rubbermaid bucket and close his tent flaps. Alas, I guess that what’s overnight camp is all about, experiential learning. 🙂

Mim packing his tub.  Ready to go and  a picture of their site

Take THAT mother Nature

A column of pictures Smells like snow logo on a t-shirt, One compressor, Some of the fittings, The snow gun in action, Mim sledding, Fish sledding

Despite getting off to a fantastic, albeit early, start this winter in New England has been very brown. It’s been cold enough for the ski areas to make snow, but there is nothing like a fresh coating from Mother Nature right outside your window to really get the blood pumping.

The last few years, my neighbors have thrown a sledding party to celebrate their daughter’s birthday. With temps in the 40’s on a fairly regularly basis, Mother Nature was threatening to squelch tradition. What is a father to do? He can’t let his little girl down on her birthday can he? No of course not! Especially when his neighbor (ahem A-Man) has sent him a link to detailed plans for making snow in your own backyard (literally).

http://www.instructables.com/id/Home-Snowmaker-Snowgun-internal-mix/

The necessary parts were acquired (it’s funny how we suddenly “needed” a new compressor and convenient that Tractor Supply had one on sale!) and a few nights before the party they set about putting the pieces together.

B and I sat and chatted while the men assembled the pieces. We heard the pressure washer fire up, but it was a false start. I looked over a few minutes later and squealed. Seriously, you’d think I’d never seen snow before. They did it! Two compressors, one pressure washer and a bunch of pipes and fittings later, it was snowing!

It ran for 10 hours a night for two nights and made enough snow to cover the hill the kids would use for sledding. It was not the luge of previous years, but it was fast and the kids loved it!

A-man said, it was worth it for the bragging rights alone. Way to go guys!!

 

Touch-a-Truck

The PTA sponsored a Touch-a-Truck event as a fundraiser last weekend. We took Mim and had a blast. Trucks are COOL!

A boom Truck with an American Flag on Top, AMan helping Mim into a truck, Mim driving and Mim in front of a Giant tractor wheel.The weather was perfect allbeit a little breezy.  They had an awesome turn out and raised some money.  There is talk of making it an annual event.

 

Skate Escape

Pictures of the kids skating at Skate Escape in Laconia, NHIt was winter break, first there was Christmas and then the blizzard and oh my after four days in the house, Mama needed an escape! I’d had enough of shopping, and while the kids got gift cards for Christmas, I wanted to hold those in reserve for when the newness of the bounty they’d just received had worn off. Ice skating started to early (my kids had no interested in being dressed, fed and out the door by 11am over Christmas break). It was too windy to sled or snowshoe, and we couldn’t agree on a movie. Hmmm, what to do?

How about a Skate Escape? Skate Escape is a indoor rollerskating venue on Court Street in Laconia. Once we found the door, we had a blast!

Skate Escape is a converted store front, a quick Google search shows it used to be an Aubuchon’s Hardware. There’s plenty of parking, but we walked back and fourth several times before finally finding the main entrance (the old service entrance), located on the side of the building (away from Little Caesar’s).

Depending on when you skate, the cost is between $5-$8 per person and that includes admission, skate rental and protective equipment (available only on a first come, first served basis). Non-skating supervising adults pay $2. If you have your own skates (quad or inline), you can bring them, but wheels are checked at the door. They should be clean and smooth and Skate Escape reserves the right to prohibit the use of skates they deem unsafe or a damaging to the skate floor. I have a pair of inline skates. I washed the wheels with warm water and a paper towel before we left and I had no trouble.

I was really stoked for the opportunity to go rollerskating. When I was a kid, the nearest skating rink was Rollerama. The PTA sponsored a skating party in the fall and in the spring. On Saturday’s we’d go for free skate. I have some great memories tooling around the smooth wood floor. I can remember the rush to get in, get your skates and get on the floor. It seemed more often than not that I’d no sooner finish tying the last lace and head for floor when the song would change and the DJ would announce couples skate or Adult skate. My luck didn’t change this time, we got laced up and headed for the floor only to be turned back by a boys only skate. “I can go.” my son announced, but when I asked him if he really wanted to skate for the first time without me, he thought maybe he’d wait for an all skate.

Neither of my kids had roller skated before, so the first few trips around were a learning experience for sure. They have pint-sized chairs with tennis balls at the end of the legs that helped to keep Mim upright. Fish took a doozey of a spill the first time around and was a combination of hurt and embarrassed. She’s ice skated before, she rides a bike and skateboards so I think she was surprised roller skating was more of a challenge. It took a few more laps, but they got in the groove. and I even got a lap or two on my own. There was a skate guard on the floor at all times making sure everyone played safe. She was very kind and a great help to me trying to keep my eye on two kids. The DJ even gave a shout out to my mad skatin’ skillz when my son crashed to the floor in front of me and I was forced to quickly change position so I could pass over him rather than running into him.

When all was said and done the kids had fun and we all burned off some energy. We will definitely go back. When we do, I think we’ll bring our own safety gear (Fish said she wished she’d had a helmet). The walls and lolly columns are padded, but the concrete floor is unforgiving. Not that wood is a cushy, but there is some give, that just isn’t present in concrete. It is worth noting, that this isn’t an “official sized” rink, it really is a converted store. While support columns are not common place in a skating rink, they work especially with a crowd of in experienced skaters.

Public skate times are typically in the evenings and on weekends, they recommend checking their Facebook page for updates.  You can also visit their website They also host birthday parties and the rink is available for private rentals.

If you are looking for a different activity to stave off cabin fever, I highly recommend Skate Escape.

I received no compensation for this post, these are my words and opinions.