Fall Family Fun

Last weekend the kids and I truly enjoyed ourselves at the Upper Arlington Fall Festival. It was so much fun and it helped ring in my favorite time of the year. Fall brings the PERFECT weather, crunchy leaves underfoot, Halloween (best holiday ever), pumpkin and apple eeeeeverythaang, and gorgeous multi-colored leaves. Considering my main obsession is going on fun, outdoor adventures with the kids, what better time of year than fall to do them in!  

Its almost the middle of October but if you haven't made your way to the pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and festivals yet, here are some awesome resources from our friends at Columbus Moms Blog and What Should We Do Today Columbus. The tough part is choosing which ones to go to!! 

 

 Apple fritters, kettle corn, salted caramel, oh my! 

Apple fritters, kettle corn, salted caramel, oh my! 

 Toddler Rodeo

Toddler Rodeo

 Sibling bonding <3

Sibling bonding <3

 Paintball fun! 

Paintball fun! 

 So happy that even kids young as my son could participate. With parental supervision of course! 

So happy that even kids young as my son could participate. With parental supervision of course! 

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 Even baby had fun on the hayride  

Even baby had fun on the hayride  

What to Do & Where to Eat with Kids in Washington D.C.

I can't say enough about D.C being the ultimate long weekend vaca with the kiddos. I know, I know. Obviously it's a kid friendly city since, let's face it, we have all taken the junior high field trip there. But to me, this is a city you can take your children to at various ages and discover new things to do every time you visit. I find this vacation to be very unassuming and not something most families would think of as a fun option. I'm a personal fan of mixing the year up with a variety of long weekend trips in various states and one long tropical vacation. Many times the stateside trips are much more adventurous than laying out on a beach every day. 

First things first, all sixteen Smithsonian Museums are free. FREE! As a mom of toddlers, this is amazing. It's always kind of risky to venture into a museum because you are not sure if it's really going to be age appropriate / kid-friendly and you don't want to waste the money if it is not going to work out. In D.C. you can wander in and out and enjoy what works for you and your family. They are all accessible via the Metro and most of them are clustered together in the National Mall. 

Ideal way to visit? Pop the kids in the stroller, bring snacks, and stroll the National Mall. Work your way from one end to the other by starting at Capitol Hill and making your way through the Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, Reflecting Pool, Korea and Vietnam Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. 

 

 Running amuck in front of the Washington Monument

Running amuck in front of the Washington Monument

 Made our way to the Lincoln Memorial! I look terrible but lets not kid ourselves about the "glamour" of being on vaca with three kids. #amiright

Made our way to the Lincoln Memorial! I look terrible but lets not kid ourselves about the "glamour" of being on vaca with three kids. #amiright

 WWII Memorial

WWII Memorial

The National Mall and the Smithsonian Museums are definitely a good two days of the trip thus far, but there is so much more. The Smithsonian National Zoological Park  is always a big hit with the kids. Who doesn't want to see a giant panda? Only the cold hearted if you ask me. The U.S. Botanic Garden is the oldest, continually operating, botanic garden in the U.S. and a great place to head to rain or shine. The International Spy Museum is a really neat place for parents and kids alike. It features the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display and I bet older kids would get a big kick out of it. If you are interested in walking in the footsteps of George Washington, take some time to do the Alexandria Colonial Tours' Kids' Scavenger Hunt.  The tour is self guided and you can purchase your map at The Christmas Attic on Union Street. 

Curious about where to eat? D.C. has some truly amazing restaurants for expanding the palate of your children. 

  • Pizzeria Orso
    • The kids can play with a ball of pizza dough while waiting for the food. Great distraction!
  • Trummer's On Main
    • Treat the kids to a five course Petite Gourmand menu. Mocktail included!
  • Härth

    • Treat your ‘foodie in training’ to an elevated kids menu at Härth, with a focus on fresh ingredients and kid-friendly mock-tails. Our own Chef Luc has designed a healthy menu for the discerning palates of kids ten years and younger, featuring truffle fried mac and cheese, meatballs, and seasonal salads and soup. Kids also receive a ‘Foodie in Training’ certificate that can be signed by the chef that day.

  • Firefly

    • The kids can decorate sugar cookies while they wait for their food and then they will be baked by the kitchen and provided as a warm dessert afterwards. 

  • Pinstripes

    • Play bocce ball and bowl while you eat!

 

I am so excited to return here next year and find even more new and exciting experiences to have as a family. 

“Adventure, yeah. I guess that's what you call it when everybody comes back alive.” - Mercedes Lackey, Spirits White as Lightning

What to Do & Where to Eat with Kids in Milwaukee, WI

So you have found yourself in the great state of Wisconsin! Don't worry, there is a lot more to do here than you might think. In fact, this is a very family friendly city and there are not too many places that you might find your tots completely out of place in. Certainly the options are more vast spring through fall, but don't find yourself discouraged if you find yourself visiting in the wintertime.  

Number 1 on the list is hands down, the Betty Brinn Childrens Museum.    

 Enjoying time in Pocket Park. (The baby/toddler area) 

Enjoying time in Pocket Park. (The baby/toddler area) 

The museum is perfect for kids of all ages and a fantastic option to wear the rugrats out before nap all year round. If you have never been there before, parking can be a little confusing but just make sure you find either the O'donnell garage or the US Bank garage to make sure you get the discounted parking. You'll pay for the parking along with your admission ticket.  

 

Just a short walk away from the childrens museum, is the  famous Milwaukee Art Museum . No need to be scared off at the thought of bringing your demon progeny into an art museum because this is by far one of the most kid friendly ones. I would probably still keep the suckers strapped into their strollers whilst meandering down certain art installations, but if not, that is okay too. We've all played the "don't touch that" game and it can be more exhausting and embarrassing in some locations over others. The MAM was one of our more succesful outings with little fear of my children causing me to be involved in some type of destruction of property lawsuit.

Quadracci Pavilion at the Milwaukee Art Museum by Santiago Calatrava. 

 Photo credit: Travelwisconsin.com

Photo credit: Travelwisconsin.com

Just south of the aforementioned museums is Discovery World. Fantastic for children 5+ but even your tot can have some fun there.

And if the weather is great? You are right at the lakefront so why not take a pleasant stroll along Lake Drive. If your kids are old enough, take them to the paddle boats or the kite shack. If some beach time is what you are after, I say skip Bradford Beach and drive down picturesque Lake Drive to either Atwater Beach in the Shorewood area or keep on going until you reach Fox Point. Doctors Park has everything you could possibly need from the playground and picnic area right by the parking lot, to gorgeous trails alongside ravines. If you make your way down into the forested area you will soon find yourself at a cute little beach that will be much less crowded than Bradford. And no worry of drunken college students and broken beer bottles.

 

 The beach is even a family favorite in the fall! 

The beach is even a family favorite in the fall! 

Of course, not everything has to be just about the kids and a majority of tourists to Milwaukee are interested in the brewery tours. My personal favorites are the Lakefront Brewery and Sprecher Brewery. Probably something that will be more enjoyable with older children but children are welcome at all of the below brewery tours. (Must be 21 to drink). While you enjoy a tasty brew, your children can enjoy a fantastic root beer at Lakefront and a myriad of flavored sodas at Sprecher.  

Here are all the breweries that offer tours:

 

Now, where to eat? The list of potential restaurants is practically endless. And honestly, you can feel comfortable (well, as comfortable as you can be with children) at almost any of them. Especially if you are going to eat earlier in the evening. Something I highly recommend when going out to eat with kids. It is always going to be a risk taking the rugrats out in public, but sometimes timing is everything. You are asking for trouble if you are out in public during the "witching hour." AKA naptime or bedtime.  

The Third Ward is an excellent area to both walk around and enjoy some good eats. In this area you will find:

  • The Milwaukee Public Market
  • Cafe Benelux
  • Wicked Hop
  • Lucky Ginger

Walkers Point has same fantastic restaurants as well.

  • Stack'd (burgers & milkshakes) 
  • Screaming Tuna (sushi) 
  • Movida (amaaaazing Spanish Tapas) 
  • La Merenda (tapas) 

Heading out to the burbs you get increasingly more family friendly.

  •  Blues Egg (always busy but an amazing breakfast/brunch option)  
  • Cafe Hollander
  • Le Reve (our families #1 pick) 
  • IL Mito  
  • Ted's Ice Cream and Restaurant (dine like your grandparents did!) 

Some additional Milwaukee area favorites: 

  • Story Hill BKC
  • Trocadero
  • Original Pancake House

 

 

 

 Try not to drool all over your monitor, but these are the famous desserts at Le Reve in Wauwatosa. 

Try not to drool all over your monitor, but these are the famous desserts at Le Reve in Wauwatosa. 

 Fruit snacks to keep the inner wild child at bay whilst dining at Le Reve. 

Fruit snacks to keep the inner wild child at bay whilst dining at Le Reve. 

Hopefully I have given you lots to choose from as you make your way around the Milwaukee area. It's a small city with a lot to offer for both you and your children.  

 

Happy travels =) 

What to Do & Where to Eat with Kids in Chicago, IL

So the origin story of this blog is our families experience in Chicago. Chicago is one of my favorite cities and for years I have celebrated my birthday by getting a hotel room downtown and spending some time in the city. This was a tradition long before children and once we had more than one, babysitting was a lot harder to come by. I mean, crickets. As relaxing as it can be to have some time away from the kids, I always miss them and we just end up talking about them the whole time. On top of that, my husband and I are not big drinkers or people that want to stay up late "clubbing" so there is nothing that should impede us from having our children share these types of experiences with us. Really, the only frustration is that we cannot try out all the restaurants we would normally want to for fear of how the children will behave. But more than that is finding out whether a particular restaurant even accomodates children.  

When we decided to bring the kids with us to Chicago, my extensive google searching was really not helpful. Places to eat with kids in Chicago gave me suggestions such as Portillos, Rainforest Cafe, and Giordanos. All places I love, but not how I want to spend a special weekend. My husband and I love to try new restaurants and I don't believe that is an experience that has to be only for adults. I'm not saying that you should drag a screaming toddler to the fanciest restaurant in town. That would only ruin the experience for everyone involved. But so many more restaurants than you think are perfectly okay to bring children and my mission was to find out what they were. And if things start going awry? Box up your food and head back to the hotel. It's not the worst thing in the world and a little trial and error never hurt anybody.

I am from a suburb of Chicago so this particular blog will have many future addendums as we return and try out more places. But I am eager to share with you the places we have been to so you can feel comfortable sharing a culinary experience with your children sans anxiety.  

Where to go: 

  • Millenium Park
  • Navy Pier
  • Chicago Children's Museum
  • Shedd Aquarium
  • Museum of Science and Industry
  • Field Museum
  • Adler Planetarium
  • Willis Tower Sky deck
  • Lincoln Park Zoo (free) 

I recommend purchasing a CityPASS ahead of time. You get VIP admission to the top 5 Chicago attractions. If you are looking to do everything on the above list anyways, the pass will end up saving you money from buying admission to each attraction separately. 

In the summer there is almost always something going on in Chicago. Make sure to take the time and Google if there are any festivals going on that you might want to check out. 

 

 What kid doesn't love an aquarium? Safe bet for any vacation. 

What kid doesn't love an aquarium? Safe bet for any vacation. 

 Making friends with a sting ray &lt;3

Making friends with a sting ray <3

 My daughter loved the Field Museum. It's a one of a kind experience for a small child with everything being so much larger than they are. And of course an educational experience for older kids. 

My daughter loved the Field Museum. It's a one of a kind experience for a small child with everything being so much larger than they are. And of course an educational experience for older kids. 

The famous Bean.... 

 Photo credit: Steve Gadomski

Photo credit: Steve Gadomski

I highly recommend researching your hotel. Look at what activities you want to do and pick a hotel location that will allow you to easily walk / push the stroller to those destinations. If your kids are older and carseats aren't as much of a concern, then by all means take advantage of cabs and Uber. Think about what type of room will suit your needs. With us having toddlers, we need to have some type of suite for separation. None of the members of our family can fall asleep when we are all in the same room and lack of sleep equals crankiness the next day. It just comes down to whatever works best for your family. Some super family friendly options are:

  • Hotel Lincoln: Family suite offers bunkbeds and childrens table and chairs
  • Hotel Palomar: Welcome gifts for kids, safety supplies such as outlet covers, kid sized robes, etc
  • Omni Chicago: Spacious two room suites
  • Hilton Garden Inn: Good sized suites at a good price. Be wary of the windows if you have small children as they completely open up to the outside.  

 

Where to eat: 

There are not enough words to describe how much we loved one particular restaurant in Chicago. Little Goat Diner is directly across the street from the wonderful Girl and the Goat. Both fantastic restaurants from Stephanie Izard of Top Chef Season 4 fame. We stumbled upon this diner because we couldn't get reservations for Girl and the Goat and were just blown out of the water. Not only is this place family friendly, but the food is amazing. Not just good, AMAZING. Even the kids meals were fantastic. We ate a full dinner there and then made sure we ordered breakfast food to go so that we could enjoy it in the hotel the next morning. This is hands down my favorite place in the world. I'm obsessed and getting hungry just thinking about it. Just go here. It's great. Do it. 

 

 Tuckered out because we made the unfortunate decision of walking from Navy Pier all the way to Randolph Street. They woke up about 30 min post arrival and loved their kids meals. And c'mon, those cute kids cups are everything.  

Tuckered out because we made the unfortunate decision of walking from Navy Pier all the way to Randolph Street. They woke up about 30 min post arrival and loved their kids meals. And c'mon, those cute kids cups are everything.  

 Kobe beef with kimchi. I got a Banh Mi Style burger (not pictured). 

Kobe beef with kimchi. I got a Banh Mi Style burger (not pictured). 

Au Cheval is also amazing and located on Randolph Street. I would definitely feel comfortable bringing the children but the wait can be very long. For any restaurant, aim to eat dinner as early as possible so that the kids don't start getting cranky and the restaurant isn't packed. And since kids get so exhausted when traveling, they will probably start the overtired craziness at least an hour earlier than they would at home.  

Also on Randolph (see a pattern?) is Urbanbelly and BellyQ. They are connected and share the same kitchen from renowned chef Bill Kim. We went to Urbanbelly for lunch but BellyQ looked just as feasible for dinner. The ramen was pretty good and the pork belly was tender. The Phat rice there was great. I don't know that it is the most authentic spot in Chicago for ramen, but I thought it tasted great and it worked out really well for the toddlers. They were obviously too young for their own bowls but they do have a kids menu. Even on the kids menu, if you have very young kids the table could get a little messy since the items were not super easy for the kids to eat. But the large table made clean up easy and I don't necessarily depend on restaurant meals to fill up the kids. It's more about the adults being able to enjoy the food and letting the kids try new things and nibble. I always try and fill the kids up with food they are used to beforehand or that I can whip out of my purse if things are going south. If they are already nearly full, then there is no need to get frustrated if they aren't eating and hopefully they won't get cranky. They can try some of what you are eating or try their own food and it's just an added experience. Our kids have had everything from spicy Thai food to seafood, but I don't need them to finish a meal of it. Chicken nuggets back at the hotel is still a go to meal to fall back on. 

Another area to check out is Chinatown. We have to stop here every time we are in Chicago. The kids loved running around the central area and checking out the statues, and my son loved the tower like staircases and "bridges." One of my favorite restaurants, Joy Yee, has a location there and the menu is so large that there is something for everyone. And the portions are large and meant to be shared. Don't be surprised if there is a long line. Most people are just waiting to grab one of their delicious smoothies and bubble teas. I have never waited an excessively long time to sit and eat, even when they are busy. Which they usually are. Because they are amazing.  

 

Kids enjoying China Town in Chicago, Illinois
Kids enjoying dinner in China Town in Chicago, Illinois

Obviously there are hundreds more amazing restaurants in Chitown and I will update with more family friendly options and our experiences there. In the meantime, if you want to check a place out and you have your kids with you, just try it. The worst that can happen is you need to leave earlier than you intended and that's why it's best to dine at off peak hours. 

 

Happy travels =)