<![CDATA[FAMILYTRAVELSUSA - Blog]]>Fri, 16 Mar 2018 06:55:23 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Walking Through the Fascinating Art World of Washington DC]]>Mon, 12 Feb 2018 19:38:24 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/walking-through-the-fascinating-art-world-of-washington-dc
Walking through the fascinating art world of Washington, DC. So many free museums with a diverse art collection from around the world.
Did you know that the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC is often ranked as one of the top 20 museums in the world? In addition to this fabulous museum, the art scene in DC constantly amazes me, with world class art and cutting edge exhibits found on the National Mall and beyond. As part of of my resolution to “explore local” in 2018, I’m looking forward to spending more time visiting these national treasures. With free admission, it’s easy to pop in and out every few months and enjoy the latest exhibits, not to mention the unique shopping opportunities found in the museum gift shops. So come along as we take a walk through some of the free art museums that call DC home.   
The National Gallery of Art. DC is filled with history and the National Gallery of Art  has a great story to tell. Development began in 1936 when Andrew Mellon offered then President Franklin D. Roosevelt his amazing art collection and the funds to build a national museum to house these works. As the collection grew over the years, the original museum building, now known as the West Building, was later joined by the East Wing, dedicated on June 1, 1978 (and built with funds from Andrew Mellon’s children). The current collection is quite extensive, and I was excited to see famous works from Degas, Monet, Raphael, Matisse and Picasso, to name a few. Visitors might be surprised to know that the National Gallery is home to the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in North America. If you are short on time, try one of the various audio tours, or follow along on a free docent-led tour. Before or after your visit, be sure to stroll through the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, which houses an outdoor ice skating rink during the winter months. It’s always fun to see the larger than life artwork in the garden.
The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is a fun place to take a stroll in DC.
The National Portrait Gallery. Take a short walk from the National Mall to the National Portrait Gallery and you won’t be disappointed. Start with the “America’s Presidents” Gallery, where visitors will find the only complete collection of Presidential Portraits that can be found outside of the White House. Visitors with kids can download the Self-Guided Family Tour, or check out a Portrait Discovery Kit. The kits are available during select times on  weekends, and are suggested for kids 4-14. The building is shared with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where you’ll find a vast collection of art including the work of Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keeffe and Jackson Pollack. Be sure to wander into the Kogod Courtyard during your visit, where you can relax and grab a bite to eat. 
The Renwick Gallery. Not far from the White House, is the colorful Renwick Gallery, where the exhibits are never boring! The building itself is a National Historic Landmark and was the first building in the USA that was specifically built as an art museum. 
Walking Through the Fascinating Art World in DC. Don't miss the Renwick Gallery!

​Several months ago, my daughter and I visited and saw two unique exhibits, Parallax Gap and 
Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained DeathIn the latter exhibit, we examined a series of true-crime dioramas about the size of dollhouses, each recreating a crime scene right down to the miniature corpses. We learned that the dioramas were actually created to train real-life homicide investigators. It was definitely not something you would expect to find during your average art museum visit! Don’t miss the beautiful glass chandelier from Dale Chihuly on the upper floor. The gallery will be closed beginning February 20, until March 30th, when it reopens with No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, which will fill the entire building. Looking forward to checking that out later this spring. 
Walking Through the Fascinating Art World of DC. Don't miss the Renwick Gallery!
The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.  Back on the National Mall, these two spaces are also part of the Smithsonian complex and contain a vast collection of Asian and American Art. The Freer was the first Smithsonian Museum to open in 1923, and contains the famous Peacock Room, Download the free Freer Thinking Audio App  before you go, and then no matter which way you wander through the exhibits, the app will use your location to point out highlights along the way. Other cool things include regular programs for teens, age-appropriate family workshops and sketch pads that are available to borrow while visiting. 

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Love contemporary art? Then head to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, another no-fee museum on the National Mall where visitors can explore the modern art scene. Don’t miss the Sculpture Garden, which offers a year-round display of more than 60 pieces of art. The circular design of the building has received both praise and criticism over the years, and it definitely stands out among many of the other historic buildings in DC.

One more gem worth mentioning in the Smithsonian collection is the National Museum of African Art. Along with its unique collection of African art, the museum shop is not to be missed if you are looking for unique items reflecting the culture of Africa. The Smithsonian website is a helpful resource for planning a visit to any of its museums, with the most current information regarding exhibits, hours of operation and tips for when to visit, such as early on weekends or late on weekdays.

Finally, there’s been a lot of local buzz lately about ARTECHOUSE, opened last summer and described as “an interactive digital art gallery.” The current immersive exhibit, Parallel Universe, is running now through March 4, 2018, and does have an admission fee. From what I’ve heard, it’s definitely a unique experience! 

Visit the Guide to Visiting Washington, DC on this website for all kinds of helpful information, including  places to eat and stay during your visit.  

Walking Route Map

Walking Through the Art Museums in DC.
<![CDATA[7 Reasons Why Leesburg Virginia is Awesome for Foodies]]>Mon, 29 Jan 2018 04:52:04 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/7-reasons-why-leesburg-virginia-is-awesome-for-foodies
What do oysters, doughnuts, apple pies and grilled cheese have in common? They are just some of the delicious local flavors elevated to new heights in historic downtown Leesburg, Virginia. Located just over 40 miles west of Washington, DC, Leesburg is filled with a vibrant local restaurant scene, history, and unique shopping opportunities. From early morning to late night, there’s no shortage of delicious food and drinks in this small town that packs in big flavor! So come for a few hours or spend the day, but one thing’s for sure, you won’t leave hungry! 
Before you eat, you should know that Leesburg has a fascinating history, dating back to settlement in 1722, and is a featured stop on the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, which runs from Gettysburg, Maryland to Charlottesville, Virginia. As the seat of government for Loudoun County, the historic courthouse (the 3rd built on that spot) has been standing since 1894. Fun Fact: It was during the War of 1812 that the town of Leesburg was a temporary home to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and other important documents.

Today, not only does the small town charm draw both locals and visitors, but the variety of innovative new restaurants and re-designed old favorites keeps them coming back. From breakfast to dinner, to a nightcap relaxing in an outdoor garden, here’s a roundup of 7 of our foodie favorites.

1. B Doughnut. What happens when you take the Hawaiian-style malasada and add a touch of Asian Pacific influence? Visit B Doughnut early in the morning to find out (otherwise they might be sold out!) You can’t go wrong with any of their flavors, but my hands-down favorite is the Everything Bagel doughnut, a soft version of the popular everything bagel with a chive infused cream cheese. From the pastry cream filling to the real fruit jam, all the doughnuts are incredibly fresh. You’ll find a few B Doughnut locations in the DC area, but be sure to check the website for hours, as they aren’t open every day. The Leesburg location often sells out early, so you take a risk if you show up at noon!  If you love doughnut photos, follow them on Instagram to get all the latest flavors!
2. Churrology. In the afternoon, head back to the doughnut shop location, where you may be surprised to find a whole different menu! The space is shared with Churrology, and whether you prefer the traditional cinnamon and sugar churro, or something out of the ordinary, it’s worth the few minute wait for this delicious handcrafted dessert. My son and I recently tried two “Churr-eos” that came standing upright in a cup of soft-serve ice cream, which I highly recommend. The store is currently open 2-6, Wednesday - Sunday. 
3. Bites Wine & Grilled Cheese Bar. What’s not to like about a restaurant with a name like that? Bites is a grilled cheese bar for grown-ups (although kids like it too!), with 12 grilled cheese sandwiches to choose from, like The Hamilton, with Brie, Gruyere and fontina fig spread on cranberry walnut bread. In the warmer months, enjoy sitting out front of the cheery yellow restaurant with a glass of your favorite Sangria or one of their new craft beer flights. 

4. King Street Oyster Bar. Have you heard of the Virginia Oyster Trail? It includes over 40 locally owned establishments that feature the Virginia Oyster, including restaurants like the popular King Street Oyster Bar. Each day the menu features a variety of fresh oysters from Virginia and other locations on both the east and west coast. Visit during happy hour (3:00 pm - 6:30 pm), when the prices are a little cheaper. My latest favorite appetizer is the large, New Orleans style oyster appetizer, covered with parmesan and garlic, and the King Street Po Boy, filled with plump, fried oysters, is my go-to sandwich. 
5. Döner Bistro. Cozy and friendly are the words I would use to describe the small Döner Bistro location in Leesburg. It’s a fun spot to get a taste of Germany, especially if you visit during their annual Oktoberfest! Try the famous Döner Box, with a serving of their specialty Döner meat and hand-cut fries along with a beer from their huge collection. During the winter, they serve traditional Glühwein (spiced hot red wine) or Heisser Cider (Spiced German Cider). Locals appreciate the fact that the Mighty Midget Kitchen is still in use by the restaurant.  

6. Shoe’s Cup & Cork Secret Garden. When the weather is warm, find the alley next to the entrance to Shoe’s Cup & Cork, and make your way to the Secret Garden. Grabbing a spot in the outside garden will feel like you are hanging out on a friend’s patio on a warm summer night. The inside is also unique, retaining its charm from the early 1920’s when Vincenzo Ranieri first set up his shoe repair and hat cleaning business. The  menu includes breakfast, along with an all day selection of food and drinks. Stop by for a cup of house-roasted coffee and homemade dessert, and stay for a game of bocce ball or an old fashioned family board game. 
7. Mom’s Apple Pie. As you head west on Route 7 towards Leesburg, look for Mom’s at the fork in the road. This tiny shop packs a ton of flavor, with some of the best pies in the area!  Much of the fruit used is locally grown, and you can’t go wrong with any of their amazing pies including the Virginia Blackberry Pie or Mom’s Own Rhubarb Pie. If you think I’m kidding, show up on Thanksgiving morning when the line is halfway down the street! The Butter Pecan Apple Crumb Pie is one of my favorites! 

The list could go on and on, with other casual spots like Senor Ramon Taqueria and Delirium Cafe, and the fancier Lightfoot Restaurant (housed in a historic landmark) and Tuscarora Mill. While you are visiting, be sure to try one of the many locally crafted beers and Virginia wines, and pick up fresh roasted coffee beans from LoCo Beans little red silo at Market Station. And come back to visit during one of Leesburg’s numerous old-fashioned, family friendly events, including parades on Independence Day, Halloween, and Christmas time, along with the popular Flower & Garden Festival that brightens the streets with spring color every April. And last but not least, Leesburg’s First Friday, (every month except for January) is when the whole town opens up its doors with live music and special events. Enjoy! And be sure to read 5 Ways to Spend the Day in Loudoun County, Virginia for other things to do in while you are in the area. 
<![CDATA[7 Helpful Tips for Your Next Road Trip]]>Sat, 06 Jan 2018 18:16:23 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/7-helpful-tips-for-your-next-road-trip
Ready to take a road trip? Check out these 7 helpful tips before you go.
Are you ready to plan a road trip but don’t know where to begin? Taking a road trip vacation is something that most people will do at least once in their lifetime, but in today’s world, seems a bit more complicated. It wasn’t that long ago that you could just pile the kids into a car, pack some food, grab a few maps and go. While we all have visions of well-behaved kids singing family friendly songs in the back of the car while Mom & Dad cheerfully drive for hours, there are always the moments when you take the wrong turn, get stuck in a storm, or just want to jump out of the car for 5 minutes of alone time!  A few years have passed since I first wrote 5 Tips for Planning Your Next Road Trip Adventure, and technology has certainly impacted the way we travel. So here’s 7 more tips that I hope you find helpful for your next road trip.
1. Read, Read, Read. Each time we make a decision about where to go on our next vacation, I spend a great deal of time reading everything I can get my hands on about the destination. Even in this digital age, who doesn't love having a good travel book to flip through and dog-ear the pages? I often visit my local library to browse through a variety of travel books before making a purchase. The DK Eyewitness Travel Guide USA is perfect to have on hand, especially if you want to explore the USA but are not sure where to go. I love that the book is laid out by regions, which is helpful when planning a road trip. It’s filled with clear and easy to read maps, from A Tour of Central Park to a map with highlights of Skyline Drive. One of the first sections of the book, Discovering the USA, even offers suggestions for two and five day trips in cities and regions all across the country. 
Travel books are a great place to start when planning a road trip. More on the blog - 7 Helpful Tips for Your Next Road Trip
2. Plan to Vary Your Accommodations. As you begin mapping out your trip, finding accommodations is often the most time-consuming part. Most people tend to favor their favorite hotel chain when booking in an effort to maximize loyalty points. But also consider lower-priced alternatives, such as cabins, farms and the like, and which tend to work well with larger families. When my kids were younger, sometimes I think they were more excited about where we were staying than our actual destination for the day, and everything was judged by the quality of the swimming pool! Places like KOA or other family-owned campgrounds often can provide fun alternative accommodations at a fair price, including fully-stocked cabins and swimming pools. As a bonus, kids can get some outdoor time in nature and there are often evening activities for both kids and adults (we once did a local wine tasting at a KOA in South Carolina).  KOA offers unique accommodations around the USA, such as a restored train caboose or an Airstream. Also consider vacation rentals, although these often come with a 2 or 3 night minimum. Be sure to book any National Park accommodations well in advance, as these popular spots are often reserved up to a year in advance. 
3. Stock Up On Audio Books & Movies. Whether you download audio books or podcasts on a device, or rent a book on a CD from your local library before you leave, there is nothing like a good story to pass the miles and keep everyone in the car entertained. Titles that we have enjoyed over the years with our kids include the Percy Jackson series (The Lightning Thief, etc.) and A Series of Unfortunate Events. Consider renting a DVD/video games from Redbox, where you can rent and return movies at any location in the USA. With over 40,000 kiosks, you are sure to spot the big red box as you travel across the country. 

​4. There is An App for That.  From finding cheap gas to having a personal tour guide, there are so many helpful apps to make your journey run smoothly. We recently discovered the GyPSy Guide while traveling on the Road to Hana in Maui, and it was the best $4.99 ever spent. Not only did we have our own personal tour guide, no data connection was required once the app was downloaded. With over 25 tours in the US and another 16 in Canada, it’s worth a look. Roadtrippers is another website that I love to use for exploring a route. Start with your desktop computer, then download the app when you are ready to hit the road. When visiting a city or a venue with large crowds, we have found Parking Panda to be super helpful to reserve a parking spot in advance.  My husband loves the Gas Buddy app, helpful when you are always looking for the cheapest gas on the road, and Yelp, for finding highly rated places to eat that are nearby. Just remember that technology is not always 100% reliable when you are in the middle of nowhere, so traveling with an old fashioned road map is always a good idea.
Apps can be super helpful on a road trip. More on the blog - 7 Helpful Tips for Your Next Road Trip
5. Pack for Several Days at a Time. On our first big road trip, we had no organization with our luggage. Often, all 5 of us shared suitcases and it became an ordeal packing and unpacking at every stop. Since then, we’ve learned to pack for several days at a time, organized in one or two bags. Even if you aren't comfortable leaving suitcases in the car overnight, you won't have to dig through all the bags at each destination. Many travelers recommend packing cubes for even better organization. For longer trips, keep one central bag for dirty laundry to make it easy to wash clothes along the way (packing a travel size box box of laundry powder and bringing a supply of quarters also helped). 

6. Plan for the Unexpected. I’m throwing this in here, even though my family would tell you that for several of our big road trips, there wasn't much extra time built into our schedule. My biggest lesson learned was in Utah, where my itinerary skipped over picturesque Canyonlands National Park, and we didn’t have any extra time to stop even though we passed right by on our way to Arches. Building in some down time can help for both kids and adults. Also, having a cooler filled with snacks and drinks in the car will allow more flexibility and help out in the event of an unexpected traffic jam or weather related driving delays.   

7. Be Strategic When Visiting Popular Spots. Each time I planned a road trip, I found myself laying out the schedule on a calendar, which made it easier to plan travel between destinations. With the most popular national parks and other tourist spots, there are always certain days of the week that are less crowded. Check park or attraction websites to see if this information is available. National Parks in summer are often most crowded in the middle of the day, so getting an early start is a wise choice. While in Yosemite, for example, we found that an early morning start made all the difference between having a popular trail to ourselves for the first hour versus hiking with a hundred of our closest friends. 
And if you are looking for some classic road trip ideas, take a look at my Get Up & Go Road Trip Ideas and Itineraries, which includes 4 family-tested road trips, like a 13 day road trip through the Southwest, or 19 days in California. You’ll find a general itinerary for each trip so that you can see the places we visited along the way.  Safe travels!
Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of DK Eyewitness Travel Guide USA. This post contains affiliate links. As always, all opinions are my own.
<![CDATA[3 Days on Oahu: A Photo Blog]]>Mon, 18 Dec 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/3-days-on-oahu-a-photo-blog
Travelers to Hawaii always face a tough question - which island should I visit? For us, it was a tough choice to decide how we wanted to spend our first family vacation in paradise. While we ended up with Maui being our primary destination, I knew we couldn’t travel all the way to Hawaii without spending a few days on iconic Oahu. Island hopping is relatively cheap and easy, but with five of us, a one way trip to Oahu on the last 3 days of our vacation seemed like the best option. We knew that Waikiki would be a bit crowded in early July, so we decided to stay in a vacation rental in laid back Kailua. The location, just 3 miles from a beautiful beach, gave us easy access to all the popular sites, and we found the highways to be pretty straightforward. It was an action packed few days, ending with fireworks on the beach in Kailua on the 4th of July. Check out some of our favorite spots that we enjoyed during our visit, and get inspired for your next trip to Hawaii!

Pearl Harbor

The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument was top on my list & the primary reason I wanted to spend a few days on Oahu. We started at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, and spent some time in the two galleries - Road to War and Attack. Make sure you book tickets for the USS Arizona tour in advance, or plan to arrive when the park first opens to try to get one of the 1300 timed-admission tickets which are distributed first-come, first-served. Just know that with the same day tickets, your admission may not be until much later in the day. 
Crossroads of the Pacific at Pearl Harbor. 3 Days on Oahu: A Photo Blog.
Crossroads of the Pacific
The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum at Pearl Harbor.
The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum
The Tree of Life at Pearl Harbor. 3 Days on Oahu: A Photo Blog.
The Tree of Life design used on the USS Arizona Memorial
Visiting Pearl Harbor - 3 Days on Oahu: A Photo Blog.
Exploring the grounds at Pearl Harbor

Chief's Luau

Loved our special evening at Chief’s Luau!  This highly acclaimed attraction is in a fabulous location in the Makapu’u Meadows at Sea Life Park, which turned out to be a scenic 15-20 minute drive from our rental house.  Watching the entertaining show with the gorgeous Hawaiian backdrop was quite memorable. 
Beautiful view on Oahu. 3 Days on Oahu: A Photo Blog.
Scenic view on the way to Chief's Luau
Chief's Luau - Oahu, Hawaii
One of my favorite pictures from the pre-luau activities
Chief's Luau - Oahu, Hawai
Enjoying the show with the gorgeous Hawaiian backdrop
Chief's Luau - Oahu, Hawai
Plenty of colorful dancers during the Journey Through the Polynesian Islands show

Dole Plantation and the North Shore

It wouldn’t be a trip to Hawaii without a stop at the Dole Plantation to try the famous Dole Whip! Spent some time strolling through the beautiful gardens and gave the famous Pineapple Maze a try. Impressed that my husband and I made it out before our two daughters! After, we continued on to the North Shore, stopping to grab some garlic shrimp at the famous Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck (the shrimp was so good we forgot to take a picture!) and enjoying lunch by the water. The North Shore is a place I would definitely spend more time in on our next visit to Oahu. 
Loved the colorful flowers in the Dole Plantation Garden.
My favorite photo from the Dole Plantation Garden
Fresh pineapple at the Dole Plantation on Oahu.
Pineapple plant at Dole Plantation
Dole Whip is the perfect treat on a hot summer day at the Dole Plantation, Oahu.
Fresh pineapple treats including the famous Dole Whip
Loved the laid back vibe of the North Shore on Oahu.
Laid back vibe of the North Shore

Makapu'u Point and Waikiki Beach

Started our last full day in Oahu with a morning hike up the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse trail. Just off the Kalanianaole Highway, the 2 mile trail leads to several stunning overlooks, where during the winter months you can often spot migrating humpback whales. It’s also home to the historic Makapu‘u Lighthouse, but don’t expect to go inside, as it is off-limits. The views from the top, as captured by my husband in this panoramic photo, make you want to linger and just stare! Our plan was to also hike Diamond Head later in the morning, but we were turned away at the entrance as the parking area was at capacity. Next stop, Waikiki, where we stumbled upon Duke’s Waikiki, the perfect lunch spot with the famous Hula Pie!
Panoramic view from the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse trail
Beautiful view of Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse - Oahu.
Beautiful view of Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse
The walkway to the beach in Waikiki is lined with surfboards!
Walking to the beach in Waikiki
Canoe races on the beach in Waikiki.
Canoe Races on the 4th of July
Don't miss the Hula Pie if you are visiting Oahu!
The famous Hula Pie at Duke's Waikiki
Colorful street art in Waikiki. #streetart
Street Art in Waikiki

Kailua Beach

The water at beautiful Kailua Beach
It was hard to say goodbye to beautiful Hawaii, but I know that we will be back someday soon!
Do you have a favorite spot on Oahu? Feel free to share in the comments below. 
<![CDATA[6 Ways to Experience the Holidays in Washington DC]]>Mon, 20 Nov 2017 14:34:10 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/6-ways-to-experience-the-holidays-in-washington-dc
The weather is turning colder and holiday music is in the air. If you are looking for festive fun, Washington, DC has so much to offer. With temperatures generally in the 40’s and 50’s and mostly sunny days, I think it’s perfect weather for some of the unique outdoor activities that happen during the month of December, like the Downtown Holiday Market. For those that prefer to be warm and cozy, there are also plenty of indoor options for holiday fun. I've offered a bit of both with these 6 ways to experience DC during the holidays.
1. Stroll Through the U.S. Botanic Garden. Most people who visit DC are familiar with the popular attractions like the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum or the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall, but don’t realize that the U.S. Botanic Garden sees more than a million visitors per year. Last year I had an opportunity to visit in December and was amazed by all the natural creations in the National Parks and Historic Places exhibit. This year, Season's Greenings features Roadside Attractions, and it was exciting to see plant-based models of iconic places like Cadillac Ranch in Texas and South Dakota’s Corn Palace. The exhibit runs between November 23, 2017 and January 1, 2018, but you can expect crowds during peak holiday times. We arrived 20 minutes prior to opening on a Sunday morning and the line grew quickly. Learn more about what to expect when visiting the United States Botanic Garden in December. Tip: If the line at the Model Train entrance just seems too long, it’s still worth entering through the Conservatory to see the rest of the garden.  
2. Take in a Show. New York City has the Rockettes, but DC has the long running A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre. It’s a Washington favorite that has been showing for over 35 years. Throughout the city and surrounding suburbs, you can find plenty of other holiday musical presentations. For a different perspective on a holiday favorite, the Kennedy Center is offering Second City’s Twist Your Dickens, the comedy take on the classic A Christmas Carol on select dates in December.  It’s recommended for older teens and adults. Or take advantage of the free shows offered everyday at 6 p.m. on the Millennium Stage. Another unique place to enjoy festive holiday music is the beautiful Washington National Cathedral, which offers several special choral presentations during the month of December.

3. Shop at an Outdoor Holiday Market. Grab your scarf and head outside for some holiday shopping. It’s the 13th year for the Downtown Holiday Market, which will be open from noon to 8 p.m. daily, starting with opening day on November 23rd and running through December 23rd. It’s a festive place to find unique gifts or just get into the holiday spirit. I’ve enjoyed shopping there for the last three years and it always puts me in the holiday spirit! Be sure to try Migue's Mini Donuts, the perfect warm snack on a wintry day. Located at 8th and F Street, N.W., it’s easy to get to via the Gallery Place metro stop.
4. Enjoy Holiday Trees & Light Shows. Visit the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse, which is open to the public on December 1st. Nearby you’ll find 56 state and territory trees that are each decorated with unique handmade ornaments.  Check the website for the schedule of nightly entertainment, which runs for a two week period in December. If holiday light shows are your thing, the DC area has many choices, but ZooLights at the National Zoo is a local favorite. This free event is happening from November 24 to January 1st (except for December 24, 25, and 31). Another favorite is the half mile stroll through the Winter Walk of Lights at the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia. If you don’t have a car, take the Metro to the Spring Hill Station in Tysons Corner, where it’s just a short 10 minute ride to the garden. 
5. Strap on A Pair of Ice Skates. If outdoor ice skating is on your holiday list, there are several options to explore when the weather gets cold. One to check out is the new ice rink at The Wharf. We had a chance to visit The Wharf about a month ago, and I can tell you there are plenty of restaurant choices to warm up and grab a drink afterwards. Other options for outdoor skating in DC include the popular Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery, and the ice rink at Washington Harbour.  New this year you’ll find a unique experience, probably best suited for older teens and adults, at the infamous Watergate Hotel.  Rooftop ice skating, with a fabulous view along with a skate-up bar, will be available select hours Wednesday through Sunday.  

6. Visit Arlington Cemetery. Just a short walk across the Memorial Bridge from DC brings you to the entrance of Arlington National Cemetery. On December 16th, thousands of volunteers will descend on Arlington to pay their respects as part of National Wreaths Across America Day. Our family has volunteered on several occasions, and it is always an honor to be a part of the laying of Remembrance wreaths during the holidays. It’s a humbling sight to see the dark green wreaths contrasted against the thousands of white headstones that cover the rolling hills across the cemetery. While you are there, visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and experience the Changing of the Guard ritual. Volunteers are always welcome, especially when the wreaths have to be removed in January. 
No matter how you celebrate the holidays, it’s the perfect time to experience Washington, DC in a whole new light!
<![CDATA[Backpacking in the Enchantments - A 6 Day Adventure]]>Mon, 16 Oct 2017 23:42:13 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/backpacking-in-the-enchantments-a-6-day-adventure
The Enchantments is a spectacular place for backpacking in Washington State.
Picture a series of pristine alpine lakes nestled between mountain peaks and jagged ridges. There’s a small slice of wilderness in the central Cascades of Washington known as the Enchantments, and hiking-in is the only way to access this area of astounding natural beauty. My husband Rick recently spent 6-days backpacking through the area with 3 other hiking buddies on an adventure that began and ended at the Snow Lake trailhead near Leavenworth.  Although I’m not a backpacker, I’m really excited to share some of his pictures and stories from this special place.

Why Did You Choose the Enchantments?

All the hiking forums praise the Enchantments! My cousin has been backpacking sections of the Pacific Crest Trail over the last 14 years, and I was fortunate to be able to join him on two previous occasions, both epic! After last year’s 80 mile PCT adventure through the Goat Rocks Wilderness, plus the bonus of hiking to the summit of  Mount St. Helens, we decided to look for something a little different. Hiking in the Enchantments met all our criteria with its challenging terrain, spectacular scenery, and proximity to Seattle. Due to the increasing number of visitors, the Forest Service adopted a lottery permit system (between May 15th and October 31st); we were fortunate to get one for the Core Enchantments, which enabled us to set up camp in any of the 5 permit areas.
6 Days in the Enchantments - View of Perfection Lake Flowing into Sprite Lake.

Give Readers an Overview of Your 6 Day Adventure 

Our adventure began early Monday, with our departure from the Snow Lake trailhead (elevation approximately 1400 feet), around 9 a.m. We hiked about 6 miles to our first overnight camping spot at Nada Lake. Nada, like all the lakes in this wilderness area, was clear and cold! Day 2 was a pretty strenuous hike up to Leprechaun Lake, where we established base camp for the remaining 5 nights. As a group, we had decided that Leprechaun Lake was a good central spot enabling us to maximize our day hikes. After the steep elevation gains from days 1 & 2, the day hikes from base camp were easier, and ranged from 4-6 miles. Day 3, we hiked to Prusik Peak, where our clear day was overtaken by the smoke pouring into our valley from western forest fires. Day 4, after much route discussion, we summited Little Annapurna (approx. 8400 feet) for an amazing view of Mount Rainier and smoke plumes from several forest fires. Day 5 took most of the group to Dragontail Peak and the precipitous view down Aasgard Pass (approx. 7800 feet) onto Colchuck Lake. The last day was reserved for our long hike out (see below for why this day was so challenging). 
6 Days in the Enchantments -View of Colchuk Lake from the top of Aasgard Pass.

Talk About the Most Challenging Day of Your Trip

Easy! Our last day we hiked out 12 1/2 miles with over a mile of elevation loss on a varied-terrain trail. Even though we had been hiking every day for the last five, hiking 12 miles downhill was pretty grueling on our legs and especially my 55 year old knees! Our choice to hike that far in one day was based on our earlier decision to spend as much time as we could in the more picturesque, higher lake region. I don’t regret having the opportunity to look down into Aasgard Pass, where the view of  Colchuck Lake, and far-off Glacier Peak surrounded by nameless mountains was something I’ll always remember, and the long hike definitely made our last day’s pay-off of beers and a burger even better! 

​Were There Any Unexpected Animal Encounters?

When you are out in the wilderness, you can always count on something unexpected sneaking into camp. Our first encounter happened after only about three hours of hiking. While sitting on the side of the trail enjoying our first snack, we heard a branch snap, but the 2nd ”SNAP!” really caught our interest. That’s when we  noticed two hikers down the trail looking back and forth between us and “something” in the valley;  cameras at the ready, we investigated. Down the trail and into the valley, the tall bushes were thrashing back & forth, and a minute later out popped the head of a 300-pound black bear foraging for huckleberries. He looked at us, we stared back at him. After as many pictures as we could get (none of mine perfectly clear as I knew not to get too close), he foraged and popped out again, only to disappear into thicker bushes. At one point we realized the bear was now… on OUR SIDE of the creek, and ambling towards us! We made quick work of getting up the trail, loaded up and on our way out of there!  
Wildlife encounter on a 6 day backpacking adventure in the Enchantments.
As with many animal encounters, another unexpected one happened on a star-speckled night when I stepped outside my tent to enjoy the 2 a.m. Milky Way over the mountain. As I was focused elsewhere, I nearly startled out of my unlaced boots by a twig snap right behind me. Three feet away was mama-goat and kid looking for their daily salt-lick! There were plenty of mountain goat sightings AND encounters during the daylight hours, but those weren’t quite so unexpected!
6 Days in the Enchantments - so many mountain goat encounters!

Share Some of Your Favorite Places in the Enchantments

There were so many beautiful sights and places, it’s hard to pick favorites but here’s a few. The hike up the valley was dry, hot, and sun exposed. Catching glimpses of the rushing stream below only heightened our drive to push on. I was expecting the upper lakes, our destination, to be the epitome of wilderness sights.  Yet only 2-hours from the trailhead, and soon after our bear, we rounded onto an early picturesque surprise - a cedar forest grove campsite right next to a crystal stream. Placed just for us (not really), a fallen tree gave us THE respite and view - cool shade, a lively cool stream, and the whole place carpeted with cedar needles. I could have stayed right there (but that’s the East Coaster in me talking)! It’s was also our first goat encounter - two kids along with a mother and a billy goat.
Another favorite place was right in camp, overlooking Leprechaun Lake with Little Annapurna in the distance. After hard hiking,  dinner and clean-up, we’d enjoy evening time together relaxing on a small ledge, our backs warmed by the granite, enjoying the sunset, cashews and cocktails! 

In addition to the views west atop Little Annapurna, as well as straight down 3000 feet into the valley, and the view up Dragontail Peak and into Aasgard Pass, my favorite sunrise morning moments were atop the elevated-dome view looking down into Leprechaun and Vivian Lakes.
Beautiful sunrise view from our campsite in the Enchantments. Read more about a 6 day backpacking adventure.

Any Advice to Share with Novice Backpackers?

Just go! And when you do go, pay attention to what you REALLY need. The bane of any backpacker is carrying too much pack weight. One of the best ways to drop pounds is have a light pack, one that's 2 pounds or less. Gather smaller gear into stuff sacks for organization. Don’t always default to pre-packaged meals, there’s lots of Pinterest boards for meals and recipes, including the familyTravelsUSA Camping & Hiking board. 

What’s Next on your List for Backpacking in the United States? 

I’ve been wanting to go backpacking in Zion National Park ever since I visited with my family almost 10 years ago. Also on my list, Glacier National Park in Montana and the Olympics in Washington. 
View of Crystal Lake
View of Prusik Peak
Sunset from base camp with the forest fire smoke
Hiking out on the last day!
One of many beautiful waterfalls!
Atop Little Annapurna
Another gorgeous sunrise from base camp.
Sunrise over Leprechaun Lake
For more information about the Enchantments, visit the Washington Trails Association website. 
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<![CDATA[Why We Loved Staying at the Kihei Sands Condominiums on Maui]]>Fri, 22 Sep 2017 14:43:31 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/why-we-loved-staying-at-the-kihei-sands-condominiums-on-maui
Hawaii has always been on my travel bucket list. But with a family of five and the long distance  from the DC area, there were many reasons to put off the trip. Several months ago, I realized that time for our family vacations together was dwindling, so my husband and I made the decision that this was going to be the summer of Hawaii!  As I began searching for accommodations in late March, I quickly realized how popular Maui is during the summer, particularly near the 4th of July. To make it more difficult, many of the more affordable, larger accommodations were already booked. So I was excited when I came across Kihei Sands Condominiums, and now that we have returned from our trip, I have to say that it made for the perfect first vacation to Maui.  
The location right on Sugar Beach in the middle of Maui couldn’t have been better, and we found out quickly that being centrally located made our daily activities much easier. Our family travel style tends to be on the active side, so while we did spend lazy time hanging by the beach and pool, we also spent a good portion of our time away from the condo exploring Maui. Located just 20 minutes from the airport, it was an easy drive to our new favorite town of Paia, convenient to Maalaea Harbor for our snorkeling trip, and close to a wide range of restaurants. I would describe Kihei as a laid back beach town, home to low rise condos along with shopping areas and beaches mixed in. It is not a high end resort town, like Wailea to the south. It’s about a 45 minute drive north to Lahaina, but the one evening we tried to drive there, we quickly turned around when we hit bumper to bumper traffic. Instead we made the easy drive to Paia to have a casual dinner and watch the sunset. The location on Maalaea Bay was tranquil, the sand was super soft, and the calm water perfect for swimming. The other plus was you could walk on Sugar Beach for miles in either direction, a nice bonus in the early mornings when we were still on east coast time.
With 3 teenagers, it’s often difficult to find spacious accommodations at big resorts, without breaking the bank. While we love all the amenities that large resorts offer, we have found that having space (and extra bathrooms!) is a bigger priority for our family. The difficulty is that unless you book far in advance, finding larger resort properties such as a villa with 3 bedrooms is often difficult. And purchasing two rooms a night at a Hawaiian resort was not really an affordable option for us. Our unit was one of two 3 bedroom units, with a downstairs bedroom and bath, a King bed in one of the upstairs loft areas, and 2 twin beds in the 2nd upstairs loft area. The loft style worked out really well for the kids, with enough privacy for everyone, along with a separate bathroom. The unit was comfortably furnished, with a small balcony, along with a dining table perfect for card games. We had the ability to spread out, access a full kitchen, and quickly and easily walk out to the pool or beach area. One of the features I really liked was the key less entry, which made it easy for all of us to come and go without having to worry about carrying or losing keys. 
Amenities We Loved
I can’t say enough about all the amenities that came with our rental, especially since there were no daily fees or extra charges other than for the washer and dryer. Here’s a few things that we really loved:
 First and most helpful, about a month before our trip, we received an email from our personal concierge, Mona, who was available by phone or email to help us plan activities. It was nice to have a point of contact, especially since I learned that several activities needed to be booked in advance. Each email contained helpful tips and a suggestion for a fun activity, and we did chat by phone several times. The office staff was also friendly and helpful during our stay. 
We found plenty of restaurants close by, along with several grocery stores. Some of our favorites were Kihei Caffe for breakfast and Coconuts Fish Cafe for fish tacos. But our best discovery was that Ululani’s, world famous for it’s Hawaiian Shave Ice, was just a short walk down the beach. Stand in line no matter how long it is, it’s definitely worth the wait.
Having access to grills and outdoor tables for the one or two nights we didn’t go out to eat was perfect! Our place had two grills, and it seemed like one was always available. As we strolled down the beach, we noticed that many of the rentals in this area had outdoor grilling areas. 
Did I mention the miles of soft, sandy beach & beachside pool? One of the best parts was that the pool and lounge area were never really crowded. 
The big, fluffy beach towels that were in our unit. These are provided by each owner, so can vary from unit to unit. There was a also a centrally located bin near the pool that contained items like boogie boards and beach chairs that you could borrow at any time (or contribute extras to when you were leaving). And no matter what time of day, we never had a problem in finding open lounge chairs.  
Watching the sky turn pink behind the swaying palm trees was also a favorite. It was so relaxing at night to sit outside and watch the clouds change colors. 
And finally, the fact that parking was free was an added bonus. Although we were visiting the last week in June, we never had difficulty finding a parking spot no matter the time of day. I will add that the parking lot was small, and the spaces somewhat tight. 

If you are looking for a big resort with fancy pools, daily maid service, and on-site restaurants and bars, then this is probably not the place for you. But if you want a great location to explore Maui, easy beach and pool access, and clean, comfortable, affordable family-friendly accommodations, check out Kihei Sands. I also think it would be an awesome place for a multi-generational gathering. We certainly hope to get back there in the future. 

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<![CDATA[Weekends in the Mid-Atlantic Region: 5 Ways to Celebrate Fall]]>Wed, 13 Sep 2017 00:06:52 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/weekends-in-the-mid-atlantic-region-5-ways-to-celebrate-fall
September is here, and it’s my favorite time of year! Fall is already in the air, with cooler temperatures in the evenings and some of the leaves already starting to turn. What I really enjoy about fall in this area are all the fun outdoor activities. Every weekend between now and Thanksgiving, there is an opportunity to get outside and enjoy the fall weather. Check out these 5  ways to celebrate fall that are within a 3 hour drive from DC.  
1. Step Back in Time to the Year 1527. If you live in the mid-Atlantic area, chances are you’ve attended the Maryland Renaissance Festival. Now in it’s 41st season, it’s one of the biggest fairs of its kind around the country. True renaissance fans will appreciate the continuous story line that follows the reign of King Henry VIII, and the 27 acre Village of Revel Grove. Both kids and adults enjoy dressing up, so you’ll see plenty of period costumes. With 10 stages for entertainment, jousting, artisans and a variety of food, it’s a fun way to get outside on a crisp fall day.  We’ve gone several times over the years, and some of my favorite activities are watching the jousting and glass blowing, and eating foods on a stick, although the novelty of eating the turkey legs has worn off as I’ve gotten older!  Catch the fair on weekends now through October 22, 2017. 
2. Walk Through the Ultimate Haunted House. If you are looking for the ultimate haunted Halloween experience, head to Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. Considered by many to be the #1 haunted attraction in the US, it’s a walk through haunted house like no other. First off, the prison itself is believed to be haunted, and with its crumbling walls and dark corridors, it’s creepy enough when you visit during daylight hours. Plus visitors to the haunted attraction can decide how interactive they want the experience to be (think being grabbed and possibly removed from your group as part of the action!) Every year we talk about going but chicken out. Could this be the year?  Even if you don’t visit during the fall, touring Eastern State should be on your Philly to do list. We took a tour several years ago, and I would highly recommend it. The penitentiary has a fascinating history and unique architecture, along with a record of notable inmates like Al Capone. You can read more about why I think you should visit this historic attraction, at least during daylight hours.  

3. Hit a Bike Trail for Leaf Viewing. Fall is the perfect time to explore one of the the area’s many bike trails, with cooler weather and colorful scenery. To me, there is nothing more relaxing than pedaling along a trail lined with vibrant red, orange and yellow leaves. Some favorite spots we’ve found for enjoying the beautiful fall foliage are the W&OD Trail in Northern Virginia, and the Mount Vernon Trail that follows the Potomac River between Roosevelt Island and Old Town Alexandria. Both are paved trails, with options for side adventures. If you are on the W&OD in Loudoun County, Virginia, check out the  Brews by Bike Trail, with options for lunch at local breweries just minutes off the trail. In Old Town Alexandria, you can enjoy a picnic lunch by the Potomac River.
4. Celebrate Oktoberfest. Most of us won’t be able to make it to Germany for Oktoberfest, but you can find many Oktoberfest celebrations in the DC area during the months of September and October. Das Best Oktoberfest has two big celebrations, one at National Harbor in Maryland on September 30th and one at the M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on October 14th. If a small town celebration is more your thing, visit the 24th Annual Lovettsville Oktoberfest on September 23rd in Loudoun County, Virginia. With music, dancing, free admission and kids activities, it’s the perfect way to spend a fall afternoon. Philadelphia also offers a variety of Oktoberfest celebrations along with Fall Festivals. Find the complete list at Visit Philly

5. Stroll through THE GLOW. Looking for a new way to get into the Halloween Spirit? This fall, experience THE GLOW, a Jack O’Lantern Experience, at locations in Philadelphia, Northern Virginia and Nashville. Visitors will be able to take a stroll past thousands of hand-carved jack o’lanterns, some made from single pumpkins, and other larger creations. Advance tickets are required, and can be purchased on-line. It looks to me like a great way to get inspired to go home and create the best jack o’lantern ever!

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<![CDATA[You'll Want to Try One of These 8 Food Tours in the USA]]>Thu, 31 Aug 2017 01:33:27 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/youll-want-to-try-one-of-these-8-food-tours-in-the-usa
Nothing captures the true flavor of a city like its food. Can you really travel to Memphis without eating BBQ, or Key West and not have Key Lime Pie? To me, spending time with a local expert on a food tour is one the best ways to truly learn about the rich cultural heritage of a place. Not only do you come to understand how foods become regional favorites, it’s also an opportunity to learn about history and local traditions. Best of all, you enjoy a sampling of foods that take you to the roots of a city, while socializing with fellow travelers. I’ve reached out to family travel bloggers in the USA to round up some of their favorite experiences. 
Old Pasadena Food Tasting Tour - Melting Pot Food Tours
Old Pasadena Food Tasting Tour - a great way to get to know the city of Pasadena. One of 8 food tours across the USA.
Photo: Courtesy of Everything Mom
Cafes down artsy alleys. Sweet treats in refurbished warehouses. Mom and pop shops for local flavor. Melting Pot Food Tours is the local friend who knows the best spots to eat while sharing a glimpse into the area's culture and history. My tip: plan a tour at the start of your trip to get a lay of the food land in Pasadena.

Contributed by Carrie at EverythingMom 

Grabbing a Bite in Old Pasadena

Wooster Square Tour - Taste of New Haven
Wooster Square Tour - a great way to get to know New Haven, CT. One of 8 food tours across the USA.
Photo: Courtesy of Family Travel Magazine
New Haven, CT may be known as the home of Yale University, but it’s also famous for its delicious food. On a press trip to New Haven, I had the opportunity to go on a food tour of New Haven with the Taste of New Haven. Their Wooster Square tour makes stops at the City Seed Farmers Market, Frank Pepe's, G Cafe, and more. Our knowledgeable tour guide provided us with lots of colorful commentary about the city’s history. It’s definitely worth a trip to the city to sample all of these delicious foods.

Contributed by Jodi at Family Travel Magazine
A Weekend In New Haven: Things to Do
Key Lime Pie Hop
If you love Key Lime Pie, check out the Key Lime Pie Hop. One of 8 food tours to try across the USA.
Photo: Courtesy of Along for the Trip
Each year around the 4th of July, Key West celebrates with their annual Key Lime Festival and part of the festival is the Key Lime Pie Hop - a must for anyone in love with this zesty dessert. Participants are led on a guided walking tour of Old Town Key West where they sample pie entries from local businesses. It's a gluttonous affair that's totally worth it!

Contributed by Carrick at Along for the Trip
Things to Do in Key West with Kids
Downtown Southern Food Tour -  Atlanta Food Walks
Take a food tour with Atlanta Food Walks where you sample food and learn about the Civil Rights Movement. One of 8 food tours to try across the USA.
Photo: Courtesy of We3Travel
The Downtown Southern Food tour with Atlanta Food Walks is the perfect way to combine learning about the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta with sampling delicious southern specialties. The tour starts out at Paschal’s, where Civil Rights leaders like John Lewis and Martin Luther King, Jr. used to meet to plan rallies, marches and eat their favorite fried chicken. We also sampled BBQ, meat pies, soul food, and pralines, all while learning about the African, Native American, and Creole influences on Southern food. And, to show that not all greens need to be cooked with pork fat, we even visited a healthy juice bar for amazing green juice and kale chips. When we were done, it was a short walk over to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site to continue our history lesson.

Contributed by Tamara at We3Travel
A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours - Brooklyn Pizza Tour
New York
A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour is more than just pizza! It's a great way to get to know Brooklyn. One of 8 Food Tours to Try Across the USA.
Photo: familyTravelsUSA
Who doesn’t love pizza, and what better place for a food tour than Brooklyn, New York! From the moment you board the bus in downtown Manhattan, A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour is an entertaining few hours sampling pizza, taking a few Instagram-worthy photos and learning some history about this well-known city. Compare the flavors of the Neapolitan-style pizza from Grimaldi’s with the Sicilian-style at L&B Spumoni Gardens. Watch the famous John Travolta walking scene from Saturday Night Fever while visiting the movie location, and stop at the boardwalk at Coney Island to round out your tour. 

Contributed by Kath at familyTravelsUSA
Why You Should Add a Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour to Your NYC Bucket List
Sweet Stroll Through Over-the-Rhine - Cincinnati Food Tours
Take a Sweet Stroll in Cincinnati with this popular walking tour. One of 8 food tours to try across the USA.
Photo: Courtesy of MommyTravels.net
Take a Sweet Stroll in Cincinnati, Ohio is a walking tour around the popular Over-the-Rhine neighborhood highlighting sweet foods. From the most popular donut destination in town to hidden gems only a local would know, you will make many stops to enjoy treats while learning the rich history of this part of Cincinnati. This tour is only $20 - $45 per person and incredibly informative and tasty. The tour guide has lived here her whole life and can tell you the history and future of almost every building you walk past.  

Contributed by Meagan at MommyTravels.net
Take a Sweet Stroll with Cincinnati Food Tours

East Nashville Food Tour - Walk Eat Nashville
Walk Eat Nashville is a fun tour of East Nashville. One of 8 food tours to try across the USA.
Photo: Courtesy of We3Travel
We recently took a food tour with Walk Eat Nashville of East Nashville, which was recently named one of the coolest neighborhoods in America. Since this neighborhood is across the river from downtown Nashville, it is probably an area many visitors would skip, and they would be missing out. We sampled everything from fine dining to street food, southern specialties like pimento cheese biscuits in a restaurant that started the food movement in East Nashville, to locally-made ice cream “Mondays” at a shop owned by a YouTube star. When you go to Nashville, there are two things you can’t miss — country music and good food!

Contributed by Tamara at We3Travel
Exploring the East End on a Nashville Food Tour
Gourmet Seattle Tour - Savor Seattle Food Tours 
Savor Seattle Food Tours are a great way to get to know the city. One of 8 food tours across the USA.
Photo: Courtesy of Lisa@obsessedwtravel
Seattle is culinary delight just waiting to be explored and there is no better guide through this food town than joining a Savor Seattle Food Tour. My family and I couldn't believe the quantity and quality of the various gourmet dishes this tour provided, and for the adults we loved the wine and cocktail pairings (don't worry, the kids aren't left out - they try fun bubbly and fruity concoctions). Our highlights included ORFEO Restaurant's slow-roasted wild boar with grilled polenta, Serious Pie's roasted mushroom truffle cheese pizza & margherita pizza, Cha:n's spicy Korean pork slider and braised short rib, Noi Thai Cuisine's crispy garlic chicken, Steelhead Diner's Razor clam chowder with truffle oil and so much more!!!

Contributed by Lisa 
Top 10 Things to do in Seattle with Kids | Hilton Mom Voyage

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<![CDATA[In the City: 3 Interesting Things to Do in DC]]>Fri, 18 Aug 2017 18:18:19 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/in-the-city-3-interesting-things-to-do-in-dc
Back in February, I wrote about 10 fun ways to experience DC, with ideas to help you see the city from a different perspective. The nation's capital offers so many opportunities to explore food, art and culture throughout the city, not to mention all the free Smithsonian museums and historic monuments. Even though I’ve spent a lot of time in DC over the years, I’m always excited when I discover a new place to see or activity that I haven’t tried yet. Several weeks ago, my daughter and I went on a food and street art adventure, visiting a few neighborhoods that we previously hadn't spent much time in. Here’s what we discovered, along with a few unique tour ideas for the next time you are visiting DC. 
1. Check out a Local Food Market.  I’ve been downtown so many times, yet had never heard much about Union Market. I was surprised to learn that the market has quite a story. Historians date the market back to 1871, when Centre Market was opened to the public. Originally centrally located between the White House and the Capitol Building, in 1931, the building was torn down so that the National Archives could be built. Union Terminal Market took its place, but once again in 1962, the market was closed, due to the city ban on the sale of eggs and meat outdoors. The year 1967 brought a new indoor market, and that same building has evolved into the present day Union Market.  

We visited Union Market on a recent Sunday, and as expected, it was packed! Outside were picnic style tables, along with two ping pong tables, and people of all ages. Inside, we found over 30 food vendors, so we had to wander around a bit before we decided what to try. I tried to follow my own advice of eating from the place with the longest line (in this case, TaKorean - known for Asian style tacos), but the line was just a bit too long and the market had so many other delicious choices. My daughter and I enjoyed Shrimp ‘N Grits with an amazing tomato butter sauce at Puddin’, deep fried tequenos at Arepa Zone (think Venezuelan fried cheese sticks) and washed everything down with a healthy smoothie from South Block.  Expect crowds on the weekend, with popular food items at some vendors sold out by late morning.
2. Search for Street Art. If you wander around DC off the National Mall, you’ll probably be surprised at all the street art. Some of it stems from the formation of MuralsDC in 2007, which was created to help revitalize communities by replacing graffiti and encouraging community engagement. To date, they count 65 murals in 44 neighborhoods scattered throughout DC.

There has been a lot of local publicity recently about the new mural that was unveiled outside of the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl, so my daughter and I decided to go check it out. Known as The Torch, the new mural highlights a number of DC legends, like Barack & Michelle Obama, and recently deceased popular local newscaster Jim Vance, along with cultural icons & sports figures like Prince and Muhammad Ali. The mural was done by artist Aniekan Udofia with Mia Duvalia, and in a short time has become quite the hotspot for photographers.  Unfortunately for us, we were just too stuffed from Union Market to try the food at Ben's Chili Bowl, so we’ll save that for another time.  

Another nearby mural worth seeing is the Living Timeline: Paul Robesonwhich captures the life of this world famous civil rights activist, singer and actor. If you don’t have a car, you can take the Metro to U Street and you’ll find quite a bit of art in a 3 or 4 block radius around Ben’s Chili Bowl. Check out the MuralsDC website, where you can learn more about the artists involved and use the mural locator to find some amazing creations.
3. Take a Unique Guided Tour. Did you know Georgetown has a haunted past? Do you want to learn more about the night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated? Taking a guided tour is one way to get the inside story and this fall I plan to try some of the unique offerings by Free Tours by Foot, like the Eastern Market History & Pastries Tour or the Ghosts of Georgetown Tour.  The walking tours are name your own price, which can be a great cost-saver for families. There are a few exceptions, like the Ghosts of Georgetown, considered a specialty tour, but I think the $20 fee seems low compared to most other guided tours I’ve been on. Advanced reservations are required, and you can find the complete schedule on-line. I’m looking forward to taking the Ghost of Georgetown Tour sometime soon. Free Tours by Foot offers tours in select cities nationwide.

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