Santa Barbara must be one of the most beautiful cities in the United States.  We love the Spanish revival architecture, beaches lined with palm trees, amazing cuisine, and of course the laid-back California vibe.  We lived in Santa Barbara in the 1990s and we still have family there, so we get to return regularly.  It’s always exciting to visit and so very hard to leave. We spent a week there this winter, which is out of the peak tourist season in summer, but the weather was very moderate.  There were no crowds and getting into restaurants was easy. We stayed at The Fess Parker: A Doubletree by Hilton Resort, which is a wonderful family (and pet) friendly hotel.  Located across the street from the beach and within walking distance from the pier, it’s in a perfect spot.  The resort has some great restaurants and relaxing pools! ” order_by=”sortorder” order_direction=”ASC” returns=”included” maximum_entity_count=”500″]  Running through the middle of Santa…Continue Reading
Nestled in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa is a gem of a hotel.  Built in 1865, the Grand Resort operated as a hotel for 122 years, but had fallen into disrepair in the 1980s.  In 1998 it was purchased out of bankruptcy and completely remodeled by 2002 as a 4 star destination hotel and spa.  We spent 4 glorious days at the Mountain View Grand Resort and our only disappointment was that we were unable to stay longer.  It’s a very special place.     ” order_by=”sortorder” order_direction=”ASC” returns=”included” maximum_entity_count=”500″]   The Resort is situated on a rise in the middle of a valley near the town of Whitefield, NH, with unobstructed views of the White Mountains, including Mt. Washington.  The grounds are gorgeous! ” order_by=”sortorder” order_direction=”ASC” returns=”included” maximum_entity_count=”500″]   The resort offers plush, spacious rooms, with modern appointments and excellent room service.  Our family of 5…Continue Reading
This week thousands will be traveling to Houston for Superbowl Sunday, but there is so much more to Houston than football. Our family loves art and museums, and Houston has a lot to offer visitors. Here are a few of our favorite things to do in the Bayou City! Visit the Houston Museum District Southwest of downtown you will find Houston’s museum district, which is an association of 20 museums, galleries and cultural centers. Some of the highlights include the Holocaust Museum Houston, Houston Museum of Fine Arts and The Houston Museum of Contemporary Art.  Its tree-lined streets are easily walkable, with restaurants, cafés and several parks. ” order_by=”sortorder” order_direction=”ASC” returns=”included” maximum_entity_count=”500″] Our favorite museum in Houston is the Museum of Natural Science. It features an IMAX, a planetarium, a butterfly hall and a fantastic array of exhibits. Right now their exhibits include: Mummies of the World, Amber Secrets: Feathers from the Age…Continue Reading
Our family loves amusement parks!  So when we found out that Rich needed to be in Florida for a few months for work, we made a beeline for Orlando and purchased season passes to Universal Studios Orlando.  We love Universal Orlando!  It has the perfect mix of Roller Coasters, 3-D thrill rides and immersive experiences.  It also has Harry Potter! Universal Orlando is made up of two amusement parks;  Universal Studios Orlando and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.  They also own some water parks, but that’s for a different post. The parks are connected by the ride “Hogwarts Express”, which is an immersive Harry Potter train ride (and has a different experience each direction, so go both ways!).   Park admission prices vary, but start at $105 for a single park adult (10 yrs. and up) ticket.  To enjoy both parks we recommend a minimum of a 2 day park-hopper, which costs $219.99 per adult and…Continue Reading
Nosara, Costa Rica was rated one of “World’s 20 Best Surf Towns” by National Geographic, so Rich and the boys decided to give it a try!  Based on Yelp reviews, we chose to take lessons at Coconut Harry’s (okay, maybe we choose them because they have a yummy taco shop at their main location.  It’s called Taco Taco and it was delicious).  Coconut Harry’s offers group and private lessons for all levels of surfers.  Rich hadn’t been on a surfboard in 20 years and this was our boys’ first time.   We decided to book a group lesson, which ended up being just our family.  The one-hour group lessons were $45 per adult and $35 for kids under 10.  They also have packages with 5 days of group surf lessons for $200 (U.S. Dollars) but we wanted to give it a try first.  All the instructors spoke English and are ISA Certified.  The lesson…Continue Reading
Ring of Beara Shipwreck
The Beara Peninsula is a beautiful stretch of the west coast of Ireland.  Just to the south of the more famous (and overrun) Ring of Kerry, it offers a less crowded, but no less scenic adventure.  We spent a week exploring Beara with our boys.  All of us fell for its charms, and we wanted to share some of our favorite parts. Drive the Ring of Beara To start your adventure on the Beara Peninsula, begin with a drive around the Ring of Beara and take in the beauty of cliffs meetings the sea.  Give the kids disposable cameras and roll down the windows.  Our boys loved the steep cliffs covered with sheep, calmly eating grass and watching us.  The full ring is about 195 km long, but we just drove from Kenmare to Castletownbere, and that alone was a great day.  Stop at the Copper Mine Museum and Garnish Beach.  Castletownbere has several restaurants and…Continue Reading
Nice is known for being a romantic destination and a relaxing getaway by the Mediterranean.  But it also is a lot of fun with kids, as we found out. We started with a train ride through Nice on the Petit Train de Nice (Little Train), which is just a series of cars connected to a lead car shaped like a train that takes you around the city.  It took us through the streets of the old town and to the Chateau on the hill (or Castle Hill), which has gardens and amazing views of the city and sea.  The kids enjoyed the ride, and it gave Rich and me a chance to understand the layout of the old town of Nice. Train rides last about 45 minutes with a ten minute stop at the Chateau on the hill. A headphone commentary is available in French, English, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian and Japanese.  Get on…Continue Reading
Effile Tower
We only had a few days left before we met up with a family member in Germany, so we decided on a whirlwind tour of Paris.  We rode the bullet train from Nice and booked a cute loft in the Latin Quarter.  It’s a dangerous spot: there are multiple Boulangeries full of decadent treats within a minute’s walk! On our first day in Paris we heard something from the boys that we never thought we would hear.  “That was so much fun!” they said.  They were not talking about a visit up the Eiffel Tower or a Ferris wheel ride in the park.  They were talking about the our visit to the Louvre! We went on a private family tour with “Paris Muse,” which bypassed the awfully long line and took us on a top-secret mission through the museum.  Our guide, Anya, was a young New Yorker who was great with the kids.  She kept…Continue Reading
Puxley Mansion, Castletownbere, Ireland
Our drive from County Clare to the Beara Peninsula was amazing!  The landscape is absolutely gorgeous. The highlight was driving through the Ring of Kerry.  Around every corner we discovered waterfalls, vistas, sheep and fog.  We stopped at Ladies’ View (it was named after Queen Victoria’s Ladies in Waiting who were there in 1861) to take in the view and have an ice cream.  I was thrilled to discover that they had Bailey’s and Coffee to go — I love Ireland! Then we drove off into a thick fog band to discover County Cork.  Our rental house is on a working farm on the Beara Peninsula.  The woman who owns the house recently remodeled it.  It was a farmhouse from the 1800s that belonged to a relative.  It is new and beautiful but still maintains its original 3 foot thick walls.  Our neighbors are cows that love table scraps so the…Continue Reading
Stonecutters Kitchen, Luogh North, Doolin, Ireland
We said goodbye to Scotland and caught a flight to Shannon, Ireland (Glasgow to Shannon on FlyBE…. highly recommended!).  Shannon Airport was immaculate and friendly.  One of our youngest left his iPod on the plane, and when we called the main line to check on it, they already had it and were holding it for us.  An airport worker walked it out to us in the terminal and gave our son a smile and a happy “you be more careful now, lad!” Our first glimpse of Ireland was an amazing rainbow when leaving the airport.  Perfect Irish welcome!  The twins wanted to search for the gold at the end of the rainbow, but dad was exhausted and wanted to find our home for the week.  We had rented a house at the last-minute so the owner, Seamus, gave us an amazing deal.  We were thrilled to drive up and find such…Continue Reading