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Finding Neverland, Finding Neverland Giveaway, Giveaway, Morris Performing Arts Center, Peter Pan, Captain Cook, J.M. Barrie, Broadway musical, Disney

As you know, my family loves the theater. Broadway shows are some of our favorites. The next show on our list is Finding Neverland. Spoiler alert (disclosure) through the generosity of the American Theatre Guild, I’m hosting a Finding Neverland giveaway. You can win a family 4 pack of tickets.

Finding Neverland is the Broadway Musical that tells the fascinating story of how Peter became Pan. Based on the Academy Award®-winning film of the same name, this breathtaking show follows playwright J.M. Barrie as he summons the courage to become the writer – and the man – he yearns to be. Barrie finds the inspiration he’s been missing when he meets the beautiful widow Sylvia and her four young sons: Jack, George, Michael and Peter.

READ ALSO: Les Miserables a Must See

I fell in love with the story of J.M. Barrie when I saw the movie with Johnny Depp. Finding Neverland is a charming account of the period in the life of author J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) that reveals the real relationships and events that served as the basis for the author’s most iconic work, “Peter Pan.” After Barrie developed a platonic relationship with the widowed Sylvia (Kate Winslet) and her four sons, he was inspired to write a play about a group of children who don’t want to grow up. The work proves a hit and winds up bringing Barrie and the children together in a way he had never expected.

Finding Neverland, Finding Neverland Giveaway, Giveaway, Morris Performing Arts Center, Peter Pan, Captain Cook, J.M. Barrie, Broadway musical, Disney

Finding Neverland is the beautiful backstory of Peter Pan that everyone needs to know.

My daughters have never seen the movie Finding Neverland but they are very familiar with Peter Pan, the lost boys, Nana and Tinker Bell from countless times watching the animated movie. In truth, just last summer we saw Peter Pan the Musical as part of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s family series. It was remarkable. It’s time for my girls to know the whole story of how Peter became Pan.

J.M. Barrie was born in 1860, the son of Margaret and Alexander Barrie, in the Scottish town of Kirriemuir. He had an older brother, David, who was known to be one of those beautiful children who everyone adored. In the winter of 1867, David was hit by a fellow ice-skater while skating. He fell, hit his skull and died. Barrie’s mother never recovered from the loss, and was said to find comfort in the fact that David would remain a boy forever. This is where Barrie’s lifelong obsession with boys and the preservation of their innocence became anchored in his psyche.

Finding Neverland, Finding Neverland Giveaway, Giveaway, Morris Performing Arts Center, Peter Pan, Captain Cook, J.M. Barrie, Broadway musical, Disney

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

How Peter Pan came to be.

Barrie moved to London, and, in 1894, married an actress named Mary Ansell. As a kind of wedding present, he gave her a St. Bernard dog ( Nana). The couple never had children. The marriage between J.M. and Mary did not last, and they divorced in 1909.

Finding Neverland, Finding Neverland Giveaway, Giveaway, Morris Performing Arts Center, Peter Pan, Captain Cook, J.M. Barrie, Broadway musical, Disney

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

 

In 1898, Barrie met a pair of little boys in Kensington Gardens, near London’s Hyde Park. George and Jack Llewelyn Davies, aged 5 and 4-years-old, were walking with their nurse. Barrie saw the boys there frequently and befriended them. Soon after, he met their parents, Sylvia and Arthur. Three more sons were born: Peter, Michael, and Nico. The Davies family let Barrie into their lives, and gradually he became their beloved “Uncle Jim.”

 

READ ALSO: Phantom of the Opera Tour Needs to be Seen to be Believed

Finding Neverland at the Morris Performing Arts Center, May 3-5,2019. But no fear, if you can’t make it there, it will be touring through a city near you.

Bring the whole family to experience Finding Neverland, the story of how Peter Pan came to be. Packed with mesmerizing visuals, irresistible songs and plenty of laughs.

Finding Neverland, Finding Neverland Giveaway, Giveaway, Morris Performing Arts Center, Peter Pan, Captain Cook, J.M. Barrie, Broadway musical, Disney

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

If you’re in the South Bend area, I’m giving away a family four-pack to the May 3 performance. All you have to do to enter my Finding Neverland giveaway is leave a comment below telling me what your favorite Broadway Musical is. Enter via the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win 4 tickets to Finding Neverland.

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Travel the World on a Budget, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral, visiting Paris,

My new life mantra is eat the cake and travel the world! Yesterday’s burning of Notre Dame Cathedral has me reassessing my life choices. Visiting Paris and seeing Notre Dame was on my travel bucket list for as long as I can remember but I took for granted that it would always be there and now, I will never get to see the original spire or the forest of latticework that was the ceiling of the cathedral. That opportunity is gone and I can’t get it back. Today, I’ve decided not to wait anymore but to go for it. Life is not about things being perfect, it’s about getting things done. It’s better to travel the world on a budget than not at all. The thing is this life lesson applies to more than just travel.

When I was a little girl, I loved traveling. I still do. It is my favorite thing to do. My biggest dream was to travel the world and see as much of it as I could. It started with books of far off places and my imagination took it from there.

Travel the World on a Budget, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral, visiting Paris,

READ ALSO: Five Ways to Have an Amazing Spring Break on a Budget

When I was in middle school, around 12-years-old, I was assigned to write a report about the place I most wanted to go. Most of the kids in my class chose the closest metropolis, some chose New York City, Los Angeles or San Francisco. I chose Paris, France.

After researching Notre Dame Cathedral, The Louvre, Sacré Cœur of Montmartre, La tour Eiffel, le Musee D’Orsay and the catacombs, I fell deep in love with the people and the culture of Paris. I decided that I need to speak the language and eventually, live there. But first, visiting Paris was a priority.

By the time I was 14-years-old, I was actively working on making the dream a reality. I learned the language. Ate the food. Became a Francophile. Dreams of putting a padlock on the bridge of love and throwing the key into the Seine, walking the city at night under the stars and writing about it all, permeated everything I did. But I never did it. Any of it.

Travel the World on a Budget, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral, visiting Paris,

READ ALSO: Why RVing is the Best Family Vacation

Instead, I got married after graduation and never made it to Paris. The bridge of love has been dismantled and the Notre Dame Cathedral has burned and I’ll never get to see the forest within or the original spire. But I’m not going to wait anymore. I’m going to plan the trip, eat the croissants and drink the espresso.

My girls are getting older now and I want to share the world with them. That is a gift that, as a parent, you can’t top. The experience of seeing the world is priceless. But how do you literally give your kids the world when you live on a budget? It’s possible with some careful planning, smart shopping and frugality.  Think about it this way, is it better to see Paris now, maybe not the way you imagined it, or to wait until everything is just right and never get to see it?

Travel the World on a Budget, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral, visiting Paris,

I did some research and where there is a will, there is always a way. 

How to Travel the World on a Budget

Travel at Night

By traveling at night, via train or airplane, you save yourself the cost of a night stay and red-eye flights are often more economical. This is a great way to save money.

Explore the Great Outdoors

We all know that staying in a huge metropolis is more expensive than staying in more remote areas. Take the chance to explore the amazing national parks of the USA. For $80, a National Park Pass allows you entry to every park in the country for a year, creating the perfect route across America for a road trip. Discover the world in a deeper, more natural and meaningful way. Enjoy the desert parks, the cool redwoods, beaches, mountains and forests for a fraction of the cost of visiting the cities.

Buy Foods at the Supermarket

No matter where we travel, we always hit the grocery store for water, snacks, fresh fruit and yogurts. You can save a lot of money by not eating out for every meal and then enjoy one nice meal out a day.

Plan ahead and have a budget

Shop for flights on Sunday and Tuesday nights, at least 3 months in advance or watch for specials. Often, there are flight specials to Europe for fractions of the cost, if you are flexible in your travel dates.

Use Points for Flights and Hotel Stays

Make sure that you have points cards for every hotel and airline that you use. I use my favorite airline and hotel chain regularly and accumulate points to use for future trips. Also, acquiring credit cards with your favorite airlines, hotel chains and Chase Sapphire offer lots of points when signing up, sometimes for several flights and stays.

Use Student and Other Discount Cards

Are you a student, teacher, or under 26-years-old? Welcome to the world of 50%-off attractions and a whole lot of discounts. Get a student/teacher/youth card and save half on your travel. Always ask if there are discounts available for students or youth because you never know.

Pick Budget Friendly Destinations

Visiting budget-friendly destinations like Asia and South America where your money goes further. Exploring India or making your way across South America can be surprisingly cheap. With a little research, you can find out where the best places to visit are. Save your money for the more expensive countries. Balancing them with cheaper destinations means you can spend a little more, without burning through your entire budget.

Travel the World on a Budget, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral, visiting Paris,

Get City Tourist Cards

If you plan on seeing a lot of sights in a city, you should get a city tourism card. It’s a great deal and will save you lots of money.

Most importantly, eat the cake and travel the world. Stop waiting for the time to be right. Just go.

Travel the World on a Budget, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral, visiting Paris,

What is your ultimate travel bucket list destination? Whether you’re visiting Paris or the Taj Majal, what is your number one tip for how to travel the world on a budget?

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Things to do in Banff with Teenagers, traveling with teens, travel Tuesday, Banff, Alberta, visit Canada, Visit Alberta, Things to do in Banff with Teenagers and tweens, family travel

If you want to take your children or teens someplace that will leave them speechless, visit Banff, Alberta. If you’re a parent, you already know how rare that can be. Children and teenagers are always in a hurry to get to the next place, the next thing and are easily bored and not afraid to tell you. If you prefer not to be serenaded by choruses of, “Are we there yet?” and “I’m bored” then Banff is for you.

I’m a talker who is easily bored and when I found myself standing at the mouth of Lake Louise, I had no words. I’m a city girl.  Grew up in Chicago. Love the city. I feed off of the hustle and bustle of people in a hurry. Kinetic energy gives me life. Standing in the stillness surrounded by all of that natural beauty, embracing the quiet is an inexplicable kind of breathtaking.

READ ALSO: Things to Do In Portland Maine with Kids and Teens

In my opinion, Banff is one of the most stunningly beautiful places on earth. The moment that I set eyes on Moraine Lake, I knew that I needed to share this place with my girls and the Big Guy. It’s a gift I want to give them.

There are certain things in life that have to be seen with your own eyes, felt with your heart and experienced to be believed. Banff is one of those places. You have to stand there and soak it in to believe this kind of beauty exists. I don’t want to oversell it, but then again I don’t think that is possible.

READ ALSO: Best Things to Do in Boston with Your Tweens and Teenagers

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains in the province of Alberta, Canada, Banff has mountains, rivers, valleys and glaciers. If your family loves exploring new places and going on adventures while being 100 %present, this is the perfect family vacation for the teenager or child who can’t sit still.

Things to do in Banff with Teenagers

Things to do in Banff with Teenagers, traveling with teens, travel Tuesday, Banff, Alberta, visit Canada, Visit Alberta, Things to do in Banff with Teenagers and tweens, family travel

Moraine Lake

This might be my favorite spot in all of Banff. I may or may not have requested upon returning that my ashes be scattered there one day. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of all of that beautiful? Moraine Lake’s blue waters are surrounded by towering mountains, including 11,500-foot Mount Temple, the third highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Located a 15-minute drive from the quieter more serene Lake Louise, popular Moraine Lake, can be crowded in summer. My suggestion, arrive early to enjoy canoeing and hiking before the crowds arrive.

Things to do in Banff with Teenagers, traveling with teens, travel Tuesday, Banff, Alberta, visit Canada, Visit Alberta, Things to do in Banff with Teenagers and tweens, family travel

Lake Louise

Lake Louise, located within Banff National Park, is absolutely stunning. The emerald green lake is spectacular and the region has a range of hikes from easy lakeside strolls to more difficult ascents. The town of Banff is located 35 miles from the lake, so you will not be immersed in the crowds. The Lake Louise region has a sightseeing gondola and horseback riding.

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in Banff National Park, provides classic Canadian Rockies scenery. As the park’s only lake to allow motorized boating, Minnewanka is popular and crowded. Make reservations and arrive early to take a 1, 2, or 3-hour cruise around the lake. Lake Minnewanka is located a 20-minute drive from the town of Banff.

Banff Hot Springs

After a day of adventure seeking with your teens, what’s more relaxing than winding down in the Hot Springs? A natural hot spring provides an invigorating mixture of minerals to soothe your family’s sore muscles after a day of hiking, skiing or mountain biking. The Hot Springs are open seven days a week and well into the evening.

Banff Hiking

With more than 1,000 miles of trail, Banff National Parks offers path options for every level hiker. For an easy hike, try the Tunnel Mountain trail. Accessible from the town of Banff, the 1.4-mile trail leads to the mountain’s summit, with great views of the Bow Valley. Both Emerald Lake and Lake Louise offer additional easy family hikes with little elevation gain but with gorgeous scenery. In July and August wildflowers lace the Garden Path Trail, at Sunshine Village ski area.

Several outfitters offer guided hikes within the park, including the Mountain Heritage Guide Program at the Chateau Lake Louise.

Ice Climbing Banff’s Frozen Waterfalls

If your teen really wants to explore Banff like an adventurer, using an ice ax to climb a frozen waterfall is about the most exciting way to do that. Get yourself a guide for this excursion this winter and impress your teens with your adventurous spirit. You’d be hard pressed to find a cooler way to explore Banff’s creeks and canyon.

Climb Banff’s Majestic Walls

Banff has more than just fresh powder and raging rivers to offer. Being in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff has numerous cliffs and crags to rock climb. Hire a guide to bring you along on a multi-pitch trek in Bow Valley or the Ghost River area. Whether you are looking for traditional top roping or pushing your limits with sport climbing, your teens will be safe as you explore. Banff boasts some of the best limestone formations that give you the most accessible and remote areas of Alberta to enjoy.

Ski the “Big Three”

Skiing is a year-round possibility in Banff. I was there in August and it snowed. The big three resorts to go to are Sunshine Village, Mount Norquay, and the Lake Louise Ski Resort. These three mountains, give you access to 8,000+ acres, 26 chair lifts, and 30+ feet of annual snow fall. There is something for everyone, whether your teens are first timer skiers/ snowboarders or black diamond ready or simply want to take in the majestic mountains, Banff is an excellent choice.

Things to do in Banff with Teenagers, traveling with teens, travel Tuesday, Banff, Alberta, visit Canada, Visit Alberta, Things to do in Banff with Teenagers and tweens, family travel

Banff Trail Rides

Biking Banff will give you the ultimate Canadian choose-your-own adventure with all the scenic views and the opportunity to stop at will and take it all in. The best time for cycling through Banff is May through October for milder temperatures.

Banff Horseback Riding

Trail rides are a fun way to take in the scenery for those who prefer horses to hikes. Horses carry riders 2,000 feet up the mountain to the 7,000-foot-high tea house. After a break, you mount up and head back down. More experienced riders can sign on for longer expeditions that takes you through the forest, up mountain trails, to the banks of a waterfall and then high above the tree line for a panoramic view.

Banff Gondola

An eight-minute, enclosed gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain gifts you with panoramic views. At the summit, stroll the Banff Skywalk or try the more difficult South East Ridge Trail hike depending on your family’s skill level.

Snowshoe through the Rocky Mountains

If you want to take your teens on the ultimate backcountry adventure, snowshoeing might be for you. Depending on how outdoorsy you and your teens are and your skill levels, you can choose a half-day to multiple day excursions. These adventures could include climbing the Continental divide, snowshoeing across frozen lakes or seeing Banff from a mountain peak. Possibilities for thrills is endless.

Rafting the Chinook River

Rafting is something that I’ve always wanted to do and that I think my teens would really enjoy. Banff offers several different rafting routes to choose from. Two of the most thrilling river rides are Horseshoe Canyon and Kicking Horse River. These rides will leave you exhilarated and soaked after a day on the rapids. On Horseshoe Canyon, you even have the option of cliff jumping if the rapids are not too fierce. Some excursions offer a BBQ lunch and professional photos of your family in the rapids!

Canoe or Kayak the Bow River

The Bow River is almost magical, born from snowmelt from the peaks of the Canadian Rockies. It winds through Banff flowing south. You can rent a boat and go exploring alone or hire a local guide.

Columbia Icefields

On this adventure, you and your teens will board giant buses with tires the size of adults that can handle moving through the ice on the Athabasca Glacier. You are left atop a glacier where you can stand on ice created by snow that fell 400 years ago. Holy wow! Your children of all ages will love this. Imagine a snowball fight made of centuries-old snowflakes. The Columbia Icefields cover nearly 200 square miles, the Athabasca Glacier is one of the most easily accessible. Tours take place mid-April to mid-October. Reservations are recommended.

Icefields Parkway

This is where you can really get some quiet time, save for some gasps of OMG! Stretching for about 143 miles between Lake Louise and the town of Jasper, the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) delivers breathtaking scenery. You’ll pass forests, river valleys, mountains with peaks reaching 10,000 feet and Peyto Lake, the bluest in the Canadian Rockies. This bluer than blue color is a result of fine particles of ground rock scattering the sun’s rays. Bighorn sheep, elk, mountain goats and ravens can often be seen along this drive.

Sunshine Meadows Gondola

Kids, teenagers and adults will love this scenic summer gondola ride up the Rocky Mountains in Canada’s oldest national park, Banff. Begin your adventure by hopping inside an eight-person gondola at the base of Sunshine Village and enjoy a 20-minute scenic mountain ride. At the top, you will arrive at Sunshine Village.

A short walk from the gondola, visitors can hop on a four-person chairlift to reach the top of the mountain. This brings you to the magnificent viewpoint at the top of the mountain. There is a short, gravel walking trail to reach an elevated viewpoint. As you walk along the trail, you will enter the Canadian Provence of British Columbia and then cross back over into Alberta. The kids will think that’s cool.

Take your time and enjoy the breathtaking mountain and lake views from the summit and take tons of photos. Though I literally took thousands and it still wasn’t enough. Photos cannot accurately capture the magic that is Banff. These views have to be seen to be believed. Several hiking trails begin at the top of the mountain and head back to the village or you can take the chairlift and gondola back down the mountain. It’s up to you.

These are just a few of the things that you can do with tweens and teenagers in Banff. The possibilities are endless. The adventure begins with you and the feeling of experiencing it all together as a family will last a lifetime.

What’s your favorite place to travel as a family and why?

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Austin, Texas, How to stay weird like a local, DIrty Sixth, East 6th street, Things to do in Austin Texas, places to eat in austin, places to drink in Austin Texas, Places to listen to live music in Austin, How to enjoy Austin like a local

Have you ever visited Austin, Texas?  Do you know all the things to do in Austin, Texas? I haven’t been but it’s one of those places that I’ve always wanted to visit. Any city whose catchphrase is “Stay weird” is my kind of town. The Big Guy and I are big foodies, we love live music and trying new craft beers is sort of our thing. What’s not to love?

Next month, I’m attending Mom 2.0 and it’s in Austin, Texas this year. The conference falls the week before the Big Guy’s birthday. We haven’t been on a trip alone since having our girls. It’s long overdue. I’m bringing him with me and we are going to experience Austin like a local because this gal has a cousin and a few amazing friends who live in Austin, Texas. I’ve asked for some best of recommendations and made a few play dates for the Big Guy and I.

READ ALSO: Things to Do in Portland

Favorite places to eat in Austin, drink in Austin, listen to live music and stay weird like a local in Austin Texas

Jester King Brewery

Jester King Brewery is a world-renowned brewer of farmhouse ales and barrel-aged wild ales located on 165 acres of farmland on the outskirts of Austin, TX. Established in 2010, Jester King is an authentic brewer of farmhouse ales whose philosophy is to work in partnership with nature to create beer unique to our natural surroundings.

Whisler’s

Whisler’s is a rustic-chic watering hole featuring handcrafted cocktails & a patio with frequent live music shows. For a really authentic visit, venture upstairs for some Mezcal tasting.

The Last Straw
“Serving vacation by the hour on East Sixth,” is the mantra of  The Last Straw. I may have to move to Austin with philosophies like that being thrown around. Last Straw is a first come, first serve establishment so get there before you can’t. Rumor has it from locals that the Last Straw has amazing tiki drinks and snacks.

Cosmic Coffee and Beer Garden

Cosmic Coffee and Beer Garden features specialty coffee, locally brewed beer, craft cocktails, food trucks + live music in a permaculture inspired garden setting. Kids welcome before 9pm (21+ after 9pm please). Pets always welcome.

Radio Coffee and Beer

Radio Coffee and Beer was voted best coffee shop 2016, 2017 and 2018 by a local reader’s poll. It is known to the locals for a good beer selection but the highlight is the Vera Cruz tacos. I also hear that you must get yourself the mole taco because it is amazing.

Easy Tiger

Easy Tiger Bake Shop and Beer Garden feature artisan bread, locally roasted coffee, house made meats, a full bar and more than 30 local and boutique draft beers. All of their breads, meats, sausages and charcuterie are prepared in house, as well as is their accompaniments, from Sauer kraut to mustard.

Craft Pride

Craft Pride is a unique Texas-only craft beer bar serving up the highest quality beer from regional breweries. Promoting the community’ commitment to supporting local business and sustainability, everything from the design, décor and construction to the local beer and wine selections. Craft Pride is a fun space for dedicated beer lovers and casual drinkers alike. It has an impressive 54 taps featuring Texas craft beers. The selection is said to be great. Also, Via 313 truck is in the back and has some of Austin’s finest pizza.

Bangers Sausage House and Beer Garden

Bangers Sausage House and Beer Garden has 30 House made Sausages and 200+ Beers on tap. At the end of the day, Banger’s is all about being a wonderful place to eat, drink and hangout. Not too rowdy, not too laid back, just a good old fashioned good time.

Homemade sausage, craft beer, pig roasts, beef jerky, pickled vegetables, spring days in Texas, Sunday brunch, and all forms of Americana and country music are a few of our favorite things.

They have a commitment to excellence and believe in the principle of hospitality. Located just a couple doors down from Craft Pride.

Licha’s Cantina

Licha’s Cantina is located in the heart of East 6th Street. Licha’s was named after the owner, Daniel Brook’s mom, Alicia “Licha” Rivera who was raised in Mexico City. The atmosphere is casual and familiar, like going home. When you’re there, they take care of you.

Inspired by the Mexican soul food that he grew up eating, Daniel Brook delivers fresh, thoughtful and authentic meals. According to my source, she’s obsessed with this place and everything on the menu is great. She recommends the queso fundido and vouches for the authenticity.

Suerte

The menu at Suerte combines local ingredients, thoughtful cooking techniques and the flavors of Mexico.  If you love authentic Mexican, Suerte is worth checking out. The set-up is charming with a full bar and a patio overlooking East Sixth Street. Suerte is the perfect place for everything from date night to big fiesta.

Hospitality prevails above all else, homemade masa reigns supreme and every day at Suerte is a lucky day.

Brewers Table

Brewers Table has beer as good as food as good as beer. It starts and ends there. Brewer’s Table aims to provide a place where food and beer share the spotlight.

With a considerate approach to the food and beer experience, creating a conversation between chef, brewer, and community, Brewer’s Table features 26 guest taps starring a few friends and favorites, a thoughtfully selected wine list and a full bar punctuated by craft cocktails inspired by the kitchen and brewing process. Sounds amazing to me and the locals agree.

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya

“Every bowl is like a warm hug from your mama telling you life is going to go your way.” – Kelsie Laing

Kemuri  Tatsu-Ya is winner of the 2017 Eater award for restaurant of the year.

Chefs Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto know what they’re doing when it comes to Japanese food. The evidence? Soothing warming bowls from Ramen Tatsu-ya. I have a foodie friend who said this is a MUST EAT.

For their follow-up trick, they decided to marry what they know best: Texas and Japanese techniques and ingredients. The result was funky, fun, and thoughtful Texan izakaya Kemuri Tatsu-ya, home to mash-up dishes aren’t gimmicky at all, like the rich Frito pie made with octopus fritters. As an homage to the address’ former tenant Live Oak Barbecue (whose smoked-stained walls remain part of the decor), the duo ventured into smoked meats. Because of Kemuri’s roots, that means everything from brisket (which even gets dressed up in a bowl of ramen) to ginormous fish collars. The restaurant rightly captured the attention and stomachs of Austin.

St. Elmo’s Brewery

St. Elmo’s Brewery was started by Tim Bullock and Bryan Winslow. Self-proclaimed not beer bigots, who like ALL the beer. They believe that every style of beer has a special place in life. St. Elmo is Bullock and Winslow’s effort to take you to all of those in places, in your mouth. Their motto is every day is made better with beer.

Soursop food truck is here for food. Soursop specializes in Pan-Asian bites.

Austin, Texas, How to stay weird like a local, DIrty Sixth, East 6th street, Things to do in Austin Texas, places to eat in austin, places to drink in Austin Texas, Places to listen to live music in Austin, How to enjoy Austin like a local

There’s lots of live music on East 6th Street or the “Dirty 6th” as the locals call it. This street is best on Thursday and Friday night. There are lots of rooftop bars and they shut down the street to traffic. Also, I’ve got it on good authority that The White Horse is a good time if you like country/bluegrass music with lots of dancing. From what I’ve been told by the locals, if you’re looking for a good time, Austin is the place to be.

What’re your favorite places to eat in Austin, drink in Austin, listen to live music and stay weird like a local in Austin Texas?

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Olga's Cantina, Galaxy's Edge, Star Wars, Millenium Falcon, Kat Sakas Kettle, opening day, Disneyland May 31st, DIsney World, August 29, Walt Disney World, Disney Creator Days, Disney Parks, Disney Resorts, Disney Cruise

In 1999, I got married. We honeymooned at Walt Disney World. It was my first trip. It also happened to be the same week Episode 1 hit the big screen. Star Wars Episode 1 happens to be the first Star Wars movie I ever saw of the series. It happened on my honeymoon at Walt Disney World. It feels like fate that Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge will be opening while my family is there celebrating not only our 20th wedding anniversary but my birthday. Happy Magical birthday to me!

Today, Disney Parks made a big announcement and we.are.thrilled. We’ve been planning our trip for a few months and we thought for sure we were going to miss the opening of Galaxy’s Edge but we were wrong. When I heard the news, I felt like we had been blessed by the Disney World Gods.

OPENING DATES Announced for STAR WARS: GALAXY’S EDGE in Disneyland AND Walt Disney World

In anticipation of high guest interest, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products announced today it will open Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge ahead of schedule at Disneyland Park in California on May 31 and at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida on Aug. 29th. WAIT! WHAT? Yes, you read that correctly. Opening ahead of schedule!

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On opening day for phase one, guests will be transported to the remote planet of Batuu, full of unique sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Guests can become part of the story as they sample galactic food and beverages, explore an intriguing collection of merchant shops and take the controls of the most famous ship in the galaxy aboard Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. My husband and girls have been so excited about Galaxy’s Edge and the Millennium Falcon : Smugglers Run opening. When I told them the news today, actual joy broke out in my house.

READ ALSO: Free Tips for Maximizing Your Disney World Vacation

Phase two, opening later this year, will be Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, the most ambitious, immersive and advanced attraction ever imagined, which will place guests in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance and will blur the lines between fantasy and reality. In light of tremendous demand, Disney made the decision to open the land in phases to allow guests to sooner enjoy the one-of-a-kind experiences that make Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge so spectacular.

Guests planning to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Park between May 31 and June 23, 2019, will need valid theme park admission and will be required to make a no-cost reservation, subject to availability, to access the land. Information on how to make a reservation will be available at a later date on Disneyland.com and the Disney Parks Blog. Guests staying at one of the three Disneyland Resort hotels during these dates will receive a designated reservation to access Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge during their stay (one reservation per registered guest); valid theme park admission is required.

READ ALSO: 25 Top Secret Tips to Rock your Disney Family Vacation

Once guests step foot on Batuu, they will be part of the action as it unfolds around them, and their interactions with the Play Disney Parks mobile app* will deepen their engagement with the land. They may choose to aid a smuggler, join the Resistance or pledge their loyalty to the First Order. In this all-new environment, guests can make choices about their experience that could impact their adventures as they travel throughout the land by using the Play Disney Parks mobile app in a whole new way. This depth of storytelling is part of the total immersion that will distinguish the two, 14-acre lands – the largest and most technologically advanced single-themed land expansions ever in a Disney park – from any other themed land in history. Is squeeing appropriate at this point because I’m pretty sure that is exactly what this moment dictates?

The new lands build off decades of collaboration between Walt Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm Ltd., a global leader in film, television and digital entertainment production, including the Star Wars franchise. The work on Star Wars between these two creative powerhouses dates back to 1987, when the groundbreaking Star Tours attraction opened at Disneyland Park in California.

READ ALSO: Best Tips to Beat the Heat at Walt Dinsey World

Batuu is a far-flung destination along the galaxy’s Outer Rim, on the frontier of Wild Space – the uncharted region beyond all known star systems. Batuu is home to Black Spire Outpost, an infamous port for smugglers, traders and adventurers wishing to avoid any unnecessary … entanglements with the First Order. Along the way, guests may encounter some familiar faces, from Rey, Finn, and Poe to BB-8 and Chewie.

For more than four decades, Star Wars fans have imagined what it would be like to blast across the stars inside the Millennium Falconor race through the halls of a Star Destroyer. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will feature two signature attractions that turn those dreams into reality.

Olga's Cantina, Galaxy's Edge, Star Wars, Millenium Falcon, Kat Sakas Kettle, opening day, Disneyland May 31st, DIsney World, August 29, Walt Disney World, Disney Creator Days, Disney Parks, Disney Resorts, Disney Cruise

Set to open at Disneyland Resort on May 31 and at Walt Disney World Resort on Aug. 29, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, will take guests into the cockpit of “the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.” They will take the controls of the Falcon in one of three unique and critical roles as the ship hurtles through space. Some will be pilots, some gunners and some flight engineers, creating multiple ways for guests to experience the attraction.

READ ALSO: Everything New at Disney in 2019

Set to open later this year, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance places guests right in the middle of the Rebellion and gives them an active role in the fight against the First Order, including a faceoff with Kylo Ren. Their journey takes them inside a full-size starship and aboard a nearby Star Destroyer.

What does Blue Milk actually taste like? That question and more will be answered when guests visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and experience the new land’s expansive array of food and beverages. Guests will walk through a bustling street market, where vendors offer various local delicacies, including an Outpost Mix of uniquely flavored popped grains from Kat Saka’s Kettle, a unique popcorn snack with a combination of sweet, savory and spicy flavors.

Olga's Cantina, Galaxy's Edge, Star Wars, Millenium Falcon, Kat Sakas Kettle, opening day, Disneyland May 31st, DIsney World, August 29, Walt Disney World, Disney Creator Days, Disney Parks, Disney Resorts, Disney Cruise

At Oga’s Cantina, even the blaster-bolt scorches on the walls tell a story. Here, guests will gather to share their tales from around the galaxy as they enjoy exotic beverages served in unique vessels and listen to spirited musical entertainment provided by DJ R-3X, otherwise known as Rex, the former Starspeeder 3000 pilot droid from the original Star Tours. Rex re-invents himself as the cantina’s DJ, and he’s as quirky and talkative as ever.

Olga's Cantina, Galaxy's Edge, Star Wars, Millenium Falcon, Kat Sakas Kettle, opening day, Disneyland May 31st, DIsney World, August 29, Walt Disney World, Disney Creator Days, Disney Parks, Disney Resorts, Disney Cruise

A multi-purpose transport shuttle docked on top of a large hangar will beckon guests into Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, a designated location for traveling food shuttles. Chef Strono “Cookie” Tuggs is in much demand for his culinary skills, so he moves from site to site in a modified Sienar-Chall Utilipede-Transport that becomes a mobile kitchen and restaurant. His travels across the galaxy allow him to fill his pantry with exotic ingredients he uses to make new and unusual dishes. He is proud to present Tuggs’ Grub, a “traveling diner for diners traveling,” inspired by dishes he created during his time working for Maz Kanata on Takodana.

In the Black Spire Outpost market, Ronto Roasters will draw attention from passersby with its large podracing engine firing up a barbecue pit for mouth-watering Ronto Wraps. When hungry customers queue up to order, they will encounter a former smelter droid, carefully turning the spit of meats. Guests will also be able to choose from a variety of exotic non-alcoholic drinks like the Sour Sarlacc or Tatooine Sunset.

Olga's Cantina, Galaxy's Edge, Star Wars, Millenium Falcon, Kat Sakas Kettle, opening day, Disneyland May 31st, DIsney World, August 29, Walt Disney World, Disney Creator Days, Disney Parks, Disney Resorts, Disney Cruise

Elsewhere in the market, the Milk Stand will offer two local favorites – Blue Milk and Green Milk. Blue Milk was first seen in “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” when Luke Skywalker sat down for a family meal. Green Milk was introduced in “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi.”

Food is one of many discoveries just waiting to be made while wandering the lively market of Black Spire Outpost, where guests will encounter a robust collection of merchant shops and stalls filled with authentic Star Wars creations.

READ ALSO: Secrets to Experiencing Magic Kingdom like an Insider

The Droid Depot will invite guests to construct their own astromech droids. Patrons will pick pieces and parts off a conveyor belt to build one of two core models (R-series or BB-series) and they can customize their droids with various parts and colors. These droids will be capable of interacting with elements in the land. Additional programming chips and accessories can be added to further customize these new friends. In addition, the Droid Depot will offer pre-built droids, droid-inspired products and more.

At Savi’s Workshop – Handbuilt Lightsabers, guests will have the opportunity to customize and craft their very own lightsabers. In this mystical experience, guests will feel the Force as they build these elegant weapons from a more civilized age.

Inside Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, guests will find a selection of rare and mysterious items for sale representing different eras of the Star Wars galaxy, including holocrons, ancient Jedi and Sith artifacts, lightsabers and more. As they explore the nooks and crannies of the shop, guests will also see Dok at his desk as the large Ithorian checks his inventory, takes incoming calls and barks the occasional order at his assistants.

READ ALSO: Everything You Need to Know about Disney Cruise

In addition to these special experiences, the Black Spire Outpost market will feature the Creature Stall dedicated to the plethora of rare and fascinating creatures that populate the galaxy, as well as Black Spire Outfitters, showcasing the latest in accessories. Guests will also find the Toydarian Toymaker, a stall full of toys crafted by a Toydarian (the flying alien species first seen in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace”).

Guests can also demonstrate where their loyalties lie with the gear and accessories they purchase within the land. Resistance Supply is a “makeshift” supply location at the Resistance’s hidden command area. The stall sells Resistance pins, badges, hats, and other accessories to help guests feel like part of the cause. First Order Cargo, meanwhile, is a temporary First Order storage dock near the market. Easily identified by a never-before-seen First Order TIE echelon, the cargo location will offer guests a chance to pledge their loyalty by purchasing pins, caps, gear, model ships and more.

READ ALSO: What is Disney Creator Days and How You Can Get Invited

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is the first land within a Disney park designed to integrate with the Play Disney Parks mobile app, which debuted last year and offers interactive adventures and experiences that bring surrounding environments to life at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort. When guests use the app, it will provide new opportunities for them to engage with the land, such as translating a galactic language, learning what’s hidden inside crates and containers, or accomplishing certain tasks by participating in missions.

Olga's Cantina, Galaxy's Edge, Star Wars, Millenium Falcon, Kat Sakas Kettle, opening day, Disneyland May 31st, DIsney World, August 29, Walt Disney World, Disney Creator Days, Disney Parks, Disney Resorts, Disney Cruise

Guests also can use the Play Disney Parks app to interact with a variety of elements in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, such as droids, ships, media screens, door panels and antenna arrays.

Music has been an integral part of Star Wars from the moment the iconic themes of Academy Award-winning® composer John Williams first introduced us to this galaxy. The music for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge continues that tradition with a suite of all-new Williams-composed themes written especially for the land and its attractions. Along with a collection of original cantina songs created by composers and songwriters from around the globe, this new music will deepen guests’ connection to the land as Williams complements and builds upon the iconic fanfares he created for the Star Wars films.

Olga's Cantina, Galaxy's Edge, Star Wars, Millenium Falcon, Kat Sakas Kettle, opening day, Disneyland May 31st, DIsney World, August 29, Walt Disney World, Disney Creator Days, Disney Parks, Disney Resorts, Disney Cruise

More details about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will be released in the coming months. Visit DisneylandNews.com, WDWNews.com, DisneyParksBlog.com and StarWars.com for the most up-to-date information.

Capacity is limited. Access to the theme park, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and its experiences may be restricted or unavailable depending on guest demand and other factors.

Olga's Cantina, Galaxy's Edge, Star Wars, Millenium Falcon, Kat Sakas Kettle, opening day, Disneyland May 31st, DIsney World, August 29, Walt Disney World, Disney Creator Days, Disney Parks, Disney Resorts, Disney Cruise

Photos courtesy of Disney

Are you looking forward to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opening day? Will you be visiting Disney Parks this fall to check it out? What are you most excited about?

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#DisneyCreatorDays #DisneySMMC Walt Disney creator, Disney social media moms celebration, Disney Creator Days, What is Disney Creator Days, Walt Disney World, Disney Corporation, cinderella's castle

Wondering what Disney Creator Days is? If you’re an influencer, especially if you’re one who loves Disney, your dream collaboration is to partner with the Walt Disney Company. For years, the most coveted influencer invitation was to be invited to the annual Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, #DSMMC. This year that celebration is on hiatus. Enter Disney Creator Days. But what is it? It’s a new immersive influencer event. It’s not the same as Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.

I’ve been very fortunate and been invited to Disney events and, for me, it felt like winning the lottery. We visit Disney World yearly so being invited to Disney hosted events is icing on the cake. Disney World is the first place we visited as a couple (on our honeymoon) and have continued to do so as a family for the past 20 years. 20-year anniversary coming at you this May.

#DisneyCreatorDays #DisneySMMC Walt Disney creator, Disney social media moms celebration, Disney Creator Days, What is Disney Creator Days, Walt Disney World, Disney Corporation

READ ALSO: Tips from Disney on how to get Invited to Disney Social Media Moms Celebration

Growing up, my family loved Disney but visiting Walt Disney World was never an option for us. My mom stayed home with us and my father worked a blue collar job. They had 6 kids. Our vacations consisted of saving everything we could to visit grandparents in Tennessee and Mexico. I’m not complaining, we saw lots of states on our drives to these places (in fact, I’ve seen most of the United States and Mexico by car) but Florida was never “on the way.”

Every time I step foot on the grounds at WDW resorts, it feels special. I’m sure it has a lot to do with who I’m with but where I’m at makes it absolutely magical and has secured Walt Disney World as one of our favorite places to visit as a family. Disney is a feeling for me and I know I’m not the only one. Walt Disney World means dreams coming true, in so many different ways, for so many of its visitors.

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READ ALSO: Free Tips for Maximizing Your WDW Vacation

When I’ve been invited to Disney events, my whole family celebrates because, for us, it is a big deal. The Disney Social Media Moms Celebration was particularly exciting for me as an influencer because not only was I invited, which is an honor in itself, I was able to bring my family along with me. While there, I heard some of the most talented people in my field speak. Not only did my family get to share this experience with me, but Disney also provided me with tools to grow my website and brand. And on top of all of that, I had the opportunity to meet and network with some of my fellow influencers and their families.

This year, when Disney announced that Disney Social Media Moms Celebration was going on a “hiatus” of course I was disappointed because last year’s event was so meaningful to me but, in our field, stopping, reassessing and changing to fit the evolution of social media is what has to be done to stay current. It’s doing what’s best in the long run.

space mountain, #DisneyCreatorDays #DisneySMMC Walt Disney creator, Disney social media moms celebration, Disney Creator Days, What is Disney Creator Days, Walt Disney World, Disney Corporation

READ ALSO: Is Disney Vacation Club for You?

When I heard they were hosting an event called Disney Creator Days I had no idea what that was because it’s a brand new adventure but I was excited to find out more. There wasn’t a lot of information out there but there was a lot of speculation. I don’t like to gossip so I did what I always do, I went directly to the source. I asked my contacts at Disney.

#DisneyCreatorDays #DisneySMMC Walt Disney creator, Disney social media moms celebration, Disney Creator Days, What is Disney Creator Days, Walt Disney World, Disney Corporation, mickey mouse, minnie mouse

What is Disney Creator Days?

Disney Creator Days is an invitation-only event being held at Walt Disney World Resort and Disney Cruise Line in March.  It is a familiarization type experience for influencers to showcase these incredible Disney vacation experiences.   

Disney Creator Days is not the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.

It is something completely new. From my research online, reading posts by those invited, Disney Creator Days is a week-long land and sea adventure that will be hosted by Walt Disney World Resort and Disney Cruise Lines. It’s a very small event for just a few select influencers and their families. It will be on March 5-11, 2019.

It sounds like it’s going to be awesome and include everything you could ever need for the ultimate Walt Disney World vacation.

  • 4 Days at Walt Disney World including park hopper passes and media Fast Passes.
  • 3 Night stay at a Walt Disney World Resort
  • 3 Night cruise with Disney Cruise Line
  • All Flights and Transportation
  • Unlimited internet both on land and sea
  • Most meals
  • Exclusive access, first-looks, events, one-of-a-kind special experiences, and surprises.
  • All of the above 100% paid for by Disney.

It seems to me that the key difference between the Disney Creator Days and Disney Social Media Moms Celebration is that Disney Creator Days is to showcase the Disney vacation experience.

#DisneyCreatorDays #DisneySMMC Walt Disney creator, Disney social media moms celebration, Disney Creator Days, What is Disney Creator Days, Walt Disney World, Disney Corporation

Whereas when at Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, influencers attend a conference to grow their brand but are allowed time and encouraged to experience the Disney magic with their families in the parks. The focus is different for each event.

Another key difference, when you attend #DSMMC you pay a very reduced rate for the experience including the conference, lodging and parks. Disney Creator Days is 100% paid for by Disney. Either way, totally worth it.

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READ ALSO: Tips to Rock Your Disney World Vacation

Last difference, when you attend #DSMMC there are no clearly defined sharing obligations. Most influencers in attendance share a lot while we are there because the nuggets of wisdom are so great. Why wouldn’t we? Also, we’re are Walt Disney World and who doesn’t love to share family and travel adventures? So when you attend #DSMMC sharing is encouraged. When you attend Disney Creator Days there is a clearly defined expectation to create unique and engaging content about The Walt Disney Company and the experience itself before, during and after on all channels. Each influencer is expected to use their voice to provide a unique and honest perspective on the event. This is typical expectations of any press event with any company.

#DisneyCreatorDays #DisneySMMC Walt Disney creator, Disney social media moms celebration, Disney Creator Days, What is Disney Creator Days, Walt Disney World, Disney Corporation, castaway cay

The next question on everyone’s mind is how do I get invited to Disney Creator Days?

As I mentioned earlier, those invited were hand selected. Here are the tips that I have gathered over the years from Disney on how to be considered for any Disney press event.

Go to conferences where Disney will be at and connect/network with Disney PR. Write strong, engaging content about Disney and send the links to the WDW PR department.

Qualities that Disney looks for in the influencers they work with?

It really depends on the initiative that they have going on. But it is helpful if bloggers have an up-to-date blog, have great social reach and engagement across the different social platforms, Disney-friendly content on social and their blogs, and a good Travel section.

How does Disney choose who to partner with for press events? Do bloggers need a certain amount of traffic to be invited to hosted events? How important is the audience fit?

Disney does not host very many influencer events so they have to be super selective with invitations. A lot of it is based on a variety of things such as brand fit, reach, audience, specialty, engagement, niche, diversity, quality of followers and whatever product Disney is promoting, etc.

#DisneyCreatorDays #DisneySMMC Walt Disney creator, Disney social media moms celebration, Disney Creator Days, What is Disney Creator Days, Walt Disney World, Disney Corporation, space mountainThere you have it, everything I know about Disney Creator Days.

 

Disney Creator Days sounds absolutely amazing and I’m thrilled for everyone who got the invite. I can’t wait to follow along on the inaugural event. Who knows, if they continue this event, maybe one of these days I’ll get some pixie dust. Either way, my love for family travel and Walt Disney World will keep my family coming back year after year. See ya real soon!

 

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Best Things to Do in Boston with Teens and Tweens, things to do in Boston, Boston Commons, Georgetown Cupcakes, Signature swings

Boston is one of our favorite cities to travel to as a family. We fell in love with it on our first trip when the girls were just preschoolers and we’ve found new things to do and places to check out on every subsequent visit. It’s one of those places that you can go back to 100 times and still find new and exciting adventures to be had. Virginia might be for lovers but Boston is for families and the proof is in my things to do in Boston with teens list that I’ve compiled.

We’ve done the typical things like go whale watching, visit the children’s museum and walk the Freedom Trail. We’ve visited Harvard and explored every inch of the commons. As the girls grow older, from toddlers to teens, what they want t do and what interests them changes. Lucky for us, Boston is a city with endless options.

READ ALSO: Things to Do in Boston When Traveling with Children

One of my favorite things about Boston, and I’ve said this many times, part of what makes it such an amazing family destination is that the people of Boston are so kind and welcoming to their city. Every time we’ve been, it never fails, if I need to stop and ask someone for directions or for a recommendation of places to eat or things to do, without fail they stop and answer my questions. This plays a big part in why I feel safe in Boston and return every year.

If you’re looking for a city to visit that offers something for all ages where you and your family can explore, Boston may be for you.

Best Things to Do in Boston with Teens and Tweens

Shopping

Primark

Shopping on Newbury Street

Newbury street is more than just a shopping center, it’s a cultural epicenter with all varieties of food and .

Anthropologie

Intermix

Eating

Pret a Manger

We only discovered this gem last year when I was sick and we needed something quick. Pret a Manger is literally, ready to eat. My girls are obsessed with grilled ham and cheese.

Cheers Boston

This is one of our favorite places to go with the girls. They love getting Shirley temples and Boston Creme pie and the Big Guy and I love the casual atmosphere and pub food.

Best Things to Do in Boston with Teens and Tweens, things to do in Boston, Boston Commons, Georgetown Cupcakes, Signature swings

Georgetown Cupcake

Most delicious cupcakes ever with a fantastic flavor variety.

Eating in Chinatown

Any place you try, it will be good.

The Q

Come for the hot pots and stay for the sushi.

The Gourmet China House

The Gourmet China House is a quaint, unassuming restaurant that serves up some of the tastiest Chinese food I’ve ever eaten.

Stoddards

Gastropub serving vintage cocktails & craft beer in a historical building & former corset shop

New York Pizza

It’s a little bit of New York in Boston. If NYC style is your favorite pizza, you’ll love it.

Legal Sea Foods

Places to Stay 

Westin Boston Waterfront

The Westin has the most comfortable beds and attentive staff. If you are in town for a conference, the Westin is attached to the conference center. It’s also within walking distance to downtown.

Hyatt Regency Boston

The Hyatt is a modern, clean hotel located in the theater district within walking distance to the Commons, Chinatown and Newbury Street. Also, the customer service at the Hyatt is wonderful.

Boston Park Plaza

Entertainment

Best Things to Do in Boston with Teens and Tweens, things to do in Boston, Boston Commons, Georgetown Cupcakes, Signature swings

The Swing Park at the Signature

This is such a fun thing to do for people of every age. We spent hours there from sunset until it was dark out swinging on those glowing swings.

Faneuil Hall

Exploring Boylston neighborhoods around the Public Garden Park

Catch a show at the Paramount Center

The Swan Boats at the Commons

Visit Harvard University and Cambridge

If you’ve never been, you have to go. It’s a beautiful campus with so much to see. Plus, it’s never too early to introduce your kids to the possibility of Harvard.

READ ALSO: Ogunquit Maine the Perfect Beach Getaway

These are just a few of the many places to go and best things to do in Boston with teens and tweens but there are several more. We’re going back this June and I’ll have even more things to do and places to go then.

What’s your favorite city to visit with your family?

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Interview with #DWTS Pros, Pro Dance L.A., Interview with Dancing with the stars, #DWTS, #DWTS juniors, Gleb Savchenko, Alan Bersten, Brandon Armstrong, #DisneysNutcrackerEvent, Disneys Nutcracker and the Four Realms, #ABCTVEvent, DAncing with the stars, DWTS, DIsneys NUtcracker, My #DWTS Experience Inspired by Disneys Nutcracker

Thank you to Disney and ABC for inviting me to Los Angeles on an all-expense paid trip, in exchange for coverage of Disney’s the Nutcracker and the Four Realms and the #ABCTVEVENT event. I was hosted by Disney for the #DisneysNutcrackerEvent and given the opportunity to Interview with #DWTS Pros but all opinions are my own.

You’ve heard of Dancing with the Stars (DWTS), right? Who hasn’t? But have you ever dreamed of being on dancing with the stars or wondered what it would be like to dance with one of the coaches on DWTS? Me neither because I’m not a celebrity and that’s just not something that would happen in my normal everyday life. But it did. I still can’t believe this is my life sometimes.

In October, I was in Los Angeles for Disney’s the Nutcracker and the Four Realms Red Carpet premiere, which in and of itself was something I never thought I’d say or do. I mean, who am I? Lady Gaga? But there I was in L.A. living my best life doing my best impression of someone who was keeping calm, walking red carpets and rubbing elbows with celebrities.

On our first night in L.A., we had the surreal opportunity to receive dance lessons at Gleb Savchenko’s dance studio, Pro Dance LA. I’ve always loved dancing. I’m the queen of impromptu kitchen dance parties with my girls going back 13 years but I’ve never had any formal training. I pretty much dance like Elaine Benes and Frankenstein had a sweet little pirate baby. It’s not graceful or pretty. So even though I was excited, I was quite intimidated.

The hour we spent “dancing with the stars” was one of the most fun I’ve ever spent on a press trip. Our teachers? None other than #DWTS pros and “Dancing with the Stars: Juniors” mentors Brandon Armstrong, Alan Bersten and Gleb Savchenko.

First, we had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing the guys and they answered all of our DTWS questions. All three of the coaches were friendly, outgoing, funny and handsome. It wasn’t enough time.

Then, the pros gave us a lesson on the dance moves and taught us a choreographed dance for the song “Fall on Me” by Andrea Bocelli Featuring Matteo Bocelli from The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. It’s a beautiful song- be sure to listen for it when you watch the movie!

Interview with #DWTS Pros, Pro Dance L.A., Interview with Dancing with the stars, #DWTS, #DWTS juniors, Gleb Savchenko, Alan Bersten, Brandon Armstrong, #DisneysNutcrackerEvent, Disneys Nutcracker and the Four Realms, #ABCTVEvent, DAncing with the stars, DWTS, DIsneys NUtcracker, My #DWTS Experience Inspired by Disneys Nutcracker

After all of us learned the dance, we then broke down into three smaller groups, based on the realms in the movie, each with our own dance pro. I was part of the snow group. Alan was the pro for my group and we had a blast.

Guess what?

You can get your very own #DWTS experience by attending the Dancing with the Stars Tour.

My family and I are going next weekend and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

You can catch the DWTS Pros on the road in a city near you, with “Dancing with the Stars: Live! – A Night to Remember”. You can see if they’re coming to your city and buy tickets HERE.

Interview with #DWTS Pros, Pro Dance L.A., Interview with Dancing with the stars, #DWTS, #DWTS juniors, Gleb Savchenko, Alan Bersten, Brandon Armstrong, #DisneysNutcrackerEvent, Disneys Nutcracker and the Four Realms, #ABCTVEvent, DAncing with the stars, DWTS, DIsneys NUtcracker, My #DWTS Experience Inspired by Disneys Nutcracker

The tour will be a spectacular night of show-stopping dance performances from world-renowned dancers including Brandon Armstrong, Alan Bersten, Witney Carson, Artem Chigvintsev, Val Chmerkovskiy, Sasha Farber, Jenna Johnson, Gleb Savchenko, Emma Slater, Hayley Erbert and Britt Stewart, with more surprise casting to be announced.

Also, don’t forget that  Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms arrives home instantly with never-before-seen extras and deleted scenes on Digital and Movies Anywhere, and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray™ and DVD Jan. 29, 2019.

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Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Science and Industry, Field Museum, Adler planetarium, art institute of chciago, broadway on Chicago, navy pier, chicago shakespeare theater, Things to do with teens and kids in Chicago, Things to do with teens in Chicago, Chicago, Things to do in Chicago, travel to Chicago, travel with teens, teens, family travel

I’m a Chicago girl and there is nothing I love more than sharing my hometown with my daughters. I love taking my children to visit my family and introducing them to the city I love. It’s nice because while I’m figuring out all the best things to do in Chicago with teens and kids, I get to play tourist.

Chicago is one of my favorite cities but when you live somewhere you never play tourist because you.live.there. When you’re young, you’re like no way, I’m not wasting my time because you think you’ll always be there. Everything tourists come to Chicago to see, we saw on field trips a zillion times with school. You couldn’t pay us enough to go willingly.

READ ALSO: Chicago Ten Things to do Before You Die

But then you grow up and you realize OMG, all of these amazing museums, art galleries, Planetariums, Zoos, Aquariums and theater were right her and I took it all for granted. You realize that there are amazing things to do, food to eat and different cultures all around and you took it all for granted. But no more.

Here is a list of things to do in Chicago during the Winter months

Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Science and Industry, Field Museum, Adler planetarium, art institute of chciago, broadway on Chicago, navy pier, chicago shakespeare theater, Things to do with teens and kids in Chicago, Things to do with teens in Chicago, Chicago, Things to do in Chicago, travel to Chicago, travel with teens, teens, family travel

The Museum of Science and Industry

During the winter months, November through January, Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light is displayed. Explore rich holiday traditions from around the globe while creating your own traditions with loved ones in Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light.

It began in 1942 with a single tree. Today, the Museum’s beloved annual celebration features a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree, surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent the holiday traditions from cultures around the globe. On the weekends, you can also enjoy live holiday performances. It’s the one-of-a-kind experience that brings a whole world of holiday joy under one roof.

READ ALSO: Spring Break Make It Yourself at MSI

This has been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl. This year, I took my parents and my daughters and it was truly magical. My only piece of advice, it is very busy over the holiday break between Christmas and New Year.

Also, if you are going during a busy season or when a popular exhibit is at the museum, be sure to get tickets for the exhibits that you want to see. There are some free exhibits that are very popular and so tickets are given on first come first serve basis, plot your plan and get your tickets as soon as you get there so you don’t miss anything.

Free admission days: The Museum of Science and Industry is free for Illinois residents with valid ID on the following dates in 2019: January 7–10, 14–17, 21–24, 28–31, February 4–7, 11–14, 19–21, 25–28

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Shedd Aquarium

If you are looking for a leisurely day to spend with children of all ages, the Shedd Aquarium is perfect. You are inside from the elements, whether it be the sweltering heat of the summer or the brutal cold of Chicago winters, and children (and adults alike) love the serene beauty that surrounds you.

Discover Aquatic Animals from around the World. You can purchase tickets online and save time. Encounter Penguins. Meet Beluga Whales. Award Winning Exhibits. Hands-On Activities. Watch Shark Feedings. Shows: Shark Feeding Tour, Behind-the-Scenes Tour, Beluga Encounter, Penguin Encounter. Our favorite was the Dolphin show and the Beluga Whales. It’s a great day of exciting aquatic fun.

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Don’t forget about the free admission days January 17-21, February 1, 4-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-28 more will be added to the shed aquarium page free admissions page at a later day. Check back frequently because it’s a great deal.

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Field Museum

Who can forget the iconic shots of Kevin Bacon in She’s Having a Baby at the Field Museum? If your child or teen is into history at all, Field Museum is the place to visit. Even if they aren’t, I think the FIeld Museum could convince them to be. The Field Museum fuels a journey of discovery across time to enable solutions for a brighter future rich in nature and culture. It’s where real science, dinosaurs, and world-class exhibits inspire fun for all. My girls and nephew loved the mummies exhibit, Sue the T-Rex and Maximo the Titanosaur.

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There are Free Admission Days, which is free basic admission for Illinois residents with proof of residency. Discounted passes are available in person and cannot be purchased online in advance.

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago, located in Millennium Park, is a hub for summertime festivals like Lollapalooza, the Blues Festival, and Taste of Chicago but it’s really a great place to visit during the winter months as well. There are many pieces to be adored and to give your family something to think about Wood’s American Gothic, Matisse’s Bathers By a River, Monet’s Water Lilies, Rivera’s Weaver and even Renoir’s Two Sisters. There are O’Keefe, Toulouse-Lautrec and Warhols. All these I remember seeing as a child. But even among the Dali’s and Van Goghs, the piece I love the most is Picasso’s The Old Guitarist. Having a place to go and share these pieces with my daughters, feels a little bit like going to church at the Sistine Chapel. We are overcome with awe and wonder. The art Institute is a must visit when you’re in Chicago.

Just like all the other amazing museums in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago has free admission days.

Adler Planetarium

Chicago’s Adler Planetarium is America’s first planetarium and a premier resource for inspiring the next generation of space explorers and bonus, it is right next door to the Shedd Aquarium so you can make a day of it with the kids. If your child is interested in astronomy or space in general, how it works, what’s out there, or just connecting the constellations in the night sky, they will love the Adler Planetarium.

Countless galaxies, unfathomable distances, exploding stars, diamond planets, black holes, there’s no way around it, space is freaking awesome! Come learn more at the Adler Planetarium during our Illinois Resident Discount Days—where Illinois residents receive FREE General Admission to the museum. General Admission provides access to all exhibitions and experiences (excluding the historic Atwood Sphere Experience and sky shows.*) 2019 Illinois Resident Discount Days

January 21-22, 29-31
February 5-7, 12-14, 18-21, 26-28
April 2-4, 9-11
June 3-5, 10-13
September 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27
October 7-9, 14-16
November 8, 11
December 2-3, 7, 12-13

Navy Pier

If you’ve never been to Navy Pier, make sure to visit on your next trip to Chicago. Originally completed in 1916 as part of Daniel Burnham’s plan for Chicago, Navy Pier is an iconic city landmark inspiring discovery and wonder. Since its reopening in 1995, more than 180 million visitors have come to enjoy the Pier’s 50 acres of unparalleled attractions and experiences. As Navy Pier enters its second century, the venue is evolving into an accessible, year-round centerpiece for Chicago’s diverse arts and cultural treasures.

There is so much to do at Navy Pier. There are restaurants, art, shopping, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and even rides. Navy Pier is home to one of Chicago’s most iconic attractions: the magnificent Centennial Wheel, offering soaring views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan. And let’s not forget about the Pepsi Wave Swinger, carousel and more. Honestly, there is so much to do…just add teens and instant good time.

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Medieval Times Schaumburg

If you’ve never been to a Medieval Times, you are missing out. I always wanted to go but never made the drive ase I said, when you live in Chicago, you don’t do the touristy things). A couple of years ago, I found myself at a work event with my family and guess where we ended up? Medieval Times. We loved it so much, this past holiday season when I was home visiting my parents, we took them to Medieval times in Schaumburg (just north of the city) and they loved it and so did my kids.

For the first time in Medieval Times 35-year history, a woman is in charge. All hail Queen Dona Maria Isabella. Enjoy an electrifying show featuring heroic knights on spirited horses displaying the astounding athletic feats and thrilling swordplay that have become hallmarks of this unique entertainment experience. Enjoy a “hands-on” feast as the dynamic performance unfolds before you. A sweeping musical score and brilliant lights provide a fabulous backdrop for this spellbinding experience that blurs the boundary between fairy tale and spectacle!

Yes, there is a blue knight and a red knight and you eat with your hands but so is everybody else and it was magical and splendid and I can’t wait to go again. There is a 2-hour medieval jousting tournament, 6 competing knights with real weapons, beautiful horses and a live flight of the royal falcon. Medieval Times is like nothing else you’ve ever experienced.

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Save BIG 40% off adults and teens & 20% off kids. Use code HOL4020. Valid for shows through 1/31/2019. Restrictions apply.

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If you love the theater, Broadway in Chicago is the place to be. Hamilton, anyone? The theater district is vibrant and located within walking distance of so many great restaurants and entertainment opportunities, including the Joffrey ballet. There is no shortage of things to see and places to be while experiencing Broadway on Chicago. There is a constant assortment of plays and musicals to see on the stage, something for everyone, even the most discerning critics.

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There are so many more things, these are just a few and the list gets longer during the warmer months. What is your favorite thing to do, see and eat in Chicago? The best part is that all of these places are great for just adults too.

READ ALSO: The Aladdin Experience

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What is your favorite thing to do in Chicago with teens or kids?

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What's New at Walt Disney World in 2019, walt disney world, disney world vacation, 10 tips for maximizing yoru walt disney vacation for free, magic kingdom, happily ever after, mickey mouse, pandora, #disneySMMC, Toy story land, epcot, astro orbitor, rose gold ears, disneyfamilia, familia first, disney family, family travel

Are you a Walt Disney World fan? Is your idea of the perfect family vacation packing up the kids and heading to Orlando, Florida to spend all the time with Mickey and his friends? Does the thought of spending a week at the parks with your family make you get all giddy and go into full-on my Disney Experience mode? Do you get excited to find out what’s new at Walt Dinsey World?

I wasn’t always a Walt Disney World fan. I wasn’t not a fan either. I just never had the opportunity to visit the happiest place on earth. Growing up with 6 brothers and sisters, a stay-at-home mom and a dad who was a blur collar factory worker, we didn’t get many vacations and the ones we did were reserved for traveling to see family. I just assumed Walt Disney World was not in the cards for me and you can’t miss what you’ve never had so I was alright with it.  Then I met my husband.

Our love story was a whirlwind one and after 4 months of dating, the Big Guy resolutely declared to the world (and his mother) that I was his soul mate and he asked me to marry him. I was shocked, or as the kids say, I was shook! Was I ever.

READ ALSO: 25 Top Secret Tips to Rock Your Disney World Family Vacation

I took a chance and said yes because I couldn’t imagine my life without him in it. Yes, after only 4 short months, even I knew that much. He wanted to give me my dream wedding and he only asked for 2 things, 1) we walk into the reception with the Star Wars music playing in the background 2) we honeymoon at Disney.

I wasn’t super pumped about Walt Disney World as a honeymoon destination. I was thinking more along the lines of the French Riviera, Santorini, Rome or Paris. I either wanted a beach or a romantic city full of little nooks and crannies for us to get lost in. That was my dream. But, he only asked for those 2 things and he assured me that Walt Disney World could be romantic. In fact, he promised me that it would be.  And it was.

It was my first trip to Walt Disney World ever and it was magical. We may not have gone to Europe but at least with Epcot, I got to eat like we did. And maybe we didn’t get to lay on an exotic beach but the sand bottom pools at the Yacht Club resort where we stayed concierge was actually amazing. It’s crazy but even though there were thousands of people around, when he held my hand and we walked through those gates, I felt like there was no one else there except the two of us. It was as romantic a place as any I’d ever been to or have been to since, well, with the exception of New Orleans.  That was pretty romantic.

READ ALSO: Free Tips for Maximizing Your Walt Disney World Vacation

All this to say, we love Walt Disney World. It is our home away from home and boy, am I homesick. We have gone almost every year since we’ve gotten married. I’m in the beginning stages of planning this year’s trip. It will be our 20th wedding anniversary this year and we want to go back to where it all began so every time I see one of those #NowMoreThanEver commercials, I get a little choked up and really excited about what’s to come this year at the most magical place on earth, Walt Disney World.

I did a little digging and talked to my friends at Walt Disney World and got the scoop. Now, more than ever is a great time to plan a vacation to Walt Disney World Resort, with new parties, shows, character experiences and more debuting Jan. 18, 2019, at all four theme parks. Excitement is building as a new countdown clock at Disneyworld.com/nowmorethanever is ticking down to the launch of all of these new experiences!

Here is what’s new at Walt Disney World this January

New Parties, Shows, Characters and More Debuting in January 2019 at Walt Disney World Resort

Mickey & Minnie’s Surprise Celebration Arrives at Magic Kingdom Park

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Mickey & Minnie’s Surprise Celebration will honor those true originals, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, with new entertainment, merchandise and specialty food and beverages at the Magic Kingdom.

JUST ANNOUNCED New at Walt Disney World!

Mickey and Minnie will greet guests together inside Town Square Theater, wearing all-new, colorful outfits for their special celebration.

JUST ANNOUNCED New at Walt Disney World!

Guests will enjoy Celebration Station inside Town Square Theater, where they may sign a guestbook to let Mickey and Minnie know, personally, how much fun they had during the party.

READ ALSO: Everything You Need to Know about the Disney Dream Cruise

JUST ANNOUNCED New at Walt Disney World!

An all-new song, “It’s a Good Time,” will play several times daily as part of the new “Move It! Shake It! MousekeDance It! Street Party.” During this high-energy bash, singing hosts will invite guests to join in the fun with Disney pals including Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, and many others.

JUST ANNOUNCED New at Walt Disney World!

Mickey’s beloved dog, Pluto, will meet guests under the big top at Pete’s Silly Sideshow in Storybook Circus. Party with Pixar Pals and More as Disney’s Hollywood Studios Marks 30 Years.

Wonderful World of Animation – a new nighttime spectacular coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in May 2019 – will use state-of-the-art technology to take guests on a magical journey through more than 90 years of Disney animation. (Disney)

JUST ANNOUNCED New at Walt Disney World!

May 1, 2019, marks the 30th anniversary of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The park will celebrate this milestone all year long, starting Jan. 18 with the reveal of a new 30th-anniversary logo. Pixar Avenue will be the place for guests to show off their inner Supers with The Incredibles. Guests will celebrate the heroic deeds of Mr. Incredible, Mrs. Incredible, and Frozone, who will make appearances throughout the day during a party featuring lively music, dancing, interactive games and more Super fun. Guests will meet super-suit designer Edna Mode and see some of her greatest creations. They may also spot signs for the whereabouts of the youngest Incredible – the mischievous and multi-powered Jack-Jack.

A door to the monster world will open inside Walt Disney Presents, inviting guests to visit with Mike and Sulley from Disney•Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.”

(Steven Diaz, photographer)

Guests will feel like honorary toys in the new Toy Story Land. Based on the beloved Pixar Toy Story films, the playful land features two new attractions – Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers – as well as fan-favorite Toy Story Mania!

In addition, the new high-energy live show “Disney Junior Dance Party!” will feature characters from Disney Junior television series, including Vampirina, Doc McStuffins and many more.

READ ALSO: Secrets to Use Disney World Tickets to Experience Magic Kingdom like an Insider

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More Broadway Music Than Ever at Epcot International Festival of the Arts

The Epcot International Festival of the Arts comes to life Jan. 18-Feb. 25, 2019, where guests will indulge in world-class culinary, visual and performance arts.

The Disney on Broadway Concert Series expands to seven days a week during the festival, providing more opportunities than ever before to hear pairs of Disney on Broadway stars sing favorite tunes from award-winning productions. The lineup will rotate regularly, featuring music from “The Lion King,” “Frozen,” “Beauty and the Beast” and other hit shows.

The festival will include 13 Food Studios, plus additional creative food and beverages around Epcot, featuring an expanded selection of delicious new tastes to savor.

Art collectors and Disney enthusiasts alike will find artwork for sale throughout the park, from the Art of Disney store to Festival Markets. In addition, special festival merchandise will be available at Mouse Gear and other Epcot locations.

The 2019 festival provides fun every day for the whole family, including performance artists, complimentary seminars, hands-on activities and Figment’s Brush with the Masters Scavenger Hunt.

READ ALSO: Best Tips to Beat the Heat at Walt Disney World

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While experiencing all the Epcot International Festival of the Arts has to offer, guests will want to spend another evening around World Showcase Lagoon taking in “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth,” which will be ending in the second half of 2019 to make way for an all-new nighttime spectacular.

Feel the Love During ‘Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Guests will take a walk on the wild side at Disney’s Animal Kingdom during the “Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party,” featuring Timon and Rafiki from Disney’s “The Lion King.”

Each day on Discovery Island, the dance party will encourage young adventurers to let their inner animals roam free on the dance floor as a street band plays a fiery soundtrack in a World Beat style.

All this excitement will be here in two shakes of a mouse’s tail! To make sure no one misses a moment, you will find a new countdown clock online at Disneyworld.com/nowmorethanever. It’s rolling down to when the fun begins on the morning of Jan. 18, 2019!

More Walt Disney World Magic Tips

What to Pack for Disney

Disney Vacation  Tips for the Budget Conscious

So Your Planning a Trip with Friends, 5 Tips from a Disney Mom

Desserts Around the World at Epcot

Disney World Tips and Tricks – Over 50 Disney World Secrets 2019

Walt Disney World’s  Toy Story Land with Woody and Friends is Now Open for Play

What are you most excited for that is New at Walt Disney World in 2019?

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