Our Family Excursion with Belmont Shore’s Gondola Getaway

Our Family Excursion with Belmont Shores' Gondola Getaway pin

Many people know Venice, Italy for its romantic gondolas. But many don’t know that they can get the gondola experience in Southern California! Gondola Getaway is a gondola experience through the canals of Long Beach around Belmont Shore. Families and children alike will have a wonderful, relaxing time at this unique venue.

Our Family Excursion with Gondola Getaway top

History

Back in the 1920s, the canals used by the company today were built to resemble the iconic Venetian canals and staffed with gondolas. The gondolas back then helped show the local properties in a unique and fun way. In 1981, company founder Mike O’Toole was a USC student who knew of the history of the Long Beach gondolas and canals and started working out the details of his own business. After he graduated the following year, he decided to initiate the business, and thirty-four years later Gondola Getaway is still going strong. Currently, the company runs the first and largest American gondola fleet of twelve gondolas.

Our Family Excursion with Gondola Getaway water

What You Will See

We had a great experience and considered this to be a hidden gem of Long Beach. The water was smooth the day we went, and our gondolier was Fabio, a Sicilian young man who talked to us a lot as he practiced his English.

Fabio detailed how the gondolas can quickly tilt at faster speeds and how it takes a lot of skill and technique to row a gondola properly.

Our Family Excursion with Gondola Getaway gondolier

We saw several interesting sights as we journeyed through the canal.
First, we saw a hydro bar/peddle bar, a floating bar where patrons could peddle as they drank to move around the canal.
Fabio pointed out the oldest house on the block, a home formerly owned by the Hersey family.

Surprisingly,Belmont Shore had lots of people doing various sports like kayaking, surfing, and swimming the day we visited. Everyone we passed by was incredibly friendly. We even saw a lab catching a toy in the water while wearing a life jacket!

Our Family Excursion with Gondola Getaway canal

After the trip, Mike gave us a picture of us in the gondola. The owner also told us a fun fact! Every year, for the past 31 years, O’Toole has taken his team of gondoliers from CA to Venice, Italy to participate in the twenty-mile-long Vogalonga race, usually early in summer. This way, the gondoliers can see where the practice started, learning how it is done in Italy so they can bring back authentic techniques to the states.

Other Unique Features

Guests can request the Message in a Bottle service for an additional $20.
This service means the gondolier will take any given message, put in in a wine bottle, and “find” it during the trip to read aloud. While advertised to couples, this can be a fun event for parents and kids as well.

Our Family Excursion with Gondola Getaway boat

Visitors can also request the Brunch on a Boat service for $40 per person. Guests ride the gondola as they dine on various Italian foods such as meats, cheeses, and pasta salads. Those interested need at least eight people in their party to request the brunch, with a maximum of twelve.

For those who love pizza, Gondola Getaway also offers a pizza cruise for $40 per person. Travelers get to ride a private gondola set up with a table, plates, and table cloth. Kids and parents can enjoy fresh pizza from Domenico’s Ristorante as well as salad and garlic bread. Like the Brunch of a Boat, this option is available to parties between eight and twelve people.

Our Family Excursion with Gondola Getaway boats

Location, Cost, and Hours

The Gondola Getaway is located near the resort area of Belmont Shore in Long Beach, California. The boats run from eleven AM to eleven PM, seven days a week. Visitors can pay $130 for a four-person gondola, paying $20 for each additional person. They can also reserve the large “Carolina” gondola for $413 which seats seven to fourteen guests.

Our Family Excursion with Gondola Getaway rowing

Autism Travel Tips:

  • If one’s trip ends later in the day, the staff offers guests blankets. This option is useful for kids who deal with temperature sensitivities.
  • Guests should arrive fifteen minutes before their departure time.
  • Parents should make sure kids don’t lean over the side of the gondola.If kids don’t know how to swim parents should ask for a life jacket for them.
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  • The ride typically lasts about an hour. Families can request a shorter route if their kid is antsy.
  • Space on the gondola is tight, so parents of children who might have a problem with this should prepare their kid.

Exploring LA’s Grand Central Market with Family

 Exploring LA's Grand Central Market with Family pin

Los Angeles is a mixture of cultures, and one of the best places to highlight this fact is Grand Central Market. At Grand Central Market, visitors can enjoy all sorts of different cuisines in one location. There’s something for everyone in this busy marketplace.

History

For almost a century, Grand Central Market has provided for Los Angeles. The market opened in 1917, supported by the popularity of Broadway and the residents of Bunker Hill. The market has evolved with the times and has always featured a wide variety of vendors. Developer Ira Yellin bought the market in 1984, and today his wife, Adele Yellin, continues his dream of a bustling, attractive downtown.

Exploring LA's Grand Central Market with Family red

What You Will See

The Market has lots of various vendors selling wares, mostly foods. We saw an ATM near the entrance, though all the vendors do take credit card. We also saw plenty of places to sit along the way.

The Market has lots of places to get a bite to each. One of our favorite places is Eggslut, where diners can get breakfast or lunch of egg on a brioche. There’s plenty of places to get a slice of pizza, and one of the best is Pizzaria, where they make the food fresh in front of guests and even offer fried bananas. Of course, there are plenty of places to get a good burger, like Bel Campo Burgers, a famous restaurant in LA.

Exploring LA's Grand Central Market with Family sign

While there are lots of restaurants, most people will recognize in the Market, the real draw of this location is the vendors featuring fantastic foods one can’t easily find elsewhere. There are lots of places featuring Mexican, Salvadorian, Jewish, Thai, and Japanese cuisines. Tacos Tomas, for example, was the most favorite restaurant at this location, and the only one with a sign for corralling the line. Ramen Hood featured vegan ramen and pho. At Sticky Rice, one could get pineapple fried rice and other Thai foods. Bento Ya served Japanese bento boxes for their diners. Roast to Go served Mexican-based roasts. One vendor was just called German Sausages and served what was expected.

Exploring LA's Grand Central Market with Family food

Another draw of the Market is the fact that one can buy groceries here as well as to go meals. Chiles Secos and Valeria’s both sell specialty spices and chilis for Mexican and Salvadorian dishes. Most people probably don’t know how many types of chilis there are, and there are so many different kinds sold at these two vendors. Many of the vendors also sell veggies, fruits, meats, fish, and cheeses. For example, Bombo, which sells fish dishes and refreshing flavored lemonade, sells many different types of fresh fish to take home and cook. Wexler’s Deli offers all sorts of various meats.

Exploring LA's Grand Central Market with Family mound

For sweeter foods, snacks, and drinks, this Market delivers. We passed by the PressBrother’s Juicery, which sells organic pressed fruits and vegetables. Valerie Confections sells different baked delicious baked goods and puddings right on the counter. Valeria’s offers Mexican candies and candied fruits along with their other Latin products. We also passed by a row of fridges with different cold drinks. Finally, we saw Courage and Craft, a vendor for spirits and alcoholic beverages selling some drinks by companies not available in most other places.

Exploring LA's Grand Central Market with Family chrome

When we went, we talked to some of the people working at Knead & Co. pasta bar. At Knead & Co., guests could buy unusually shaped pasta and fresh sauces. When we went, we got to watch them making the fresh pasta as they do every day.

Exploring LA's Grand Central Market with Family knead

Location, Hours, and Admission

The Grand Central Market is open from eight AM to ten PM for all seven days of the week. It is located in downtown LA near Port Street, on 317 Broadway. The nearest parking garage entrance is on 308 S Hill Street.

Exploring LA's Grand Central Market with Family pasta

Access to the market itself is free, but of course enjoying anything the vendors have to offer costs a variable amount of money.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The market does play music which can be loud in parts. Also, areas of the market can also get noisy with people talking and vendors calling out orders. Parents of noise sensitive kids should be aware of this fact. This is an open space venue so smells from different cooking areas mix.Parents to smell sensitive kids should be aware of this.
  • It wasn’t incredibly crowded when we went. However, the market can become crowded and claustrophobic in the tighter halls.
  • Most of the vendors are indoors, and there are plenty of places to sit.
  • There are some small stairs to climb to get to some areas.
  • The Market does have their bathroom downstairs.

 

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum pin

Last summer when we visited the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, we decided to stop by the Baraboo Circus World Museum. This small venue played a significant role in the history of circus life in the US between 1884 and 1918.  The site, which hosts circus performances daily in the summer, showcases several of the original buildings used by the Ringling Brothers for their winter housing as well as an enormous amount of artifacts and memorabilia. Open year-round; it is under the auspices of the Historical Society of Wisconsin who promotes the history of North America, so we planned for an educational experience.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum sign

History

In 1954, John M. Kelley, a former attorney for the circus, decided to start a museum of the Ringling Brothers Circus and Circus history in general. After extensive fundraising and acquiring the circus’ former winter housing the museum finally opened in 1959. Nowadays the museum features several buildings filled with displays as well as an area that visitors can see circus acts and explore reconstructed circus wagons. Even though the museum doesn’t look like much from the outside, it is quite vast and has a rather large outdoor area boasting various circus performances and animal encounters.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum wagon

What to See

Many travelers come to see the shows in the Hippodrome big top, which showcases events like interactive kid’s shows, animal encounters, and a magic show. However, there are many different building and exhibits to see at this location.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum elephant

“Caught in the Act”

The ‘Caught in the act’ indoor display displays the extensive Ringling Brothers Circus history. The brothers started out from this exact location in 1884. The first two rooms are decked with turn-of-the-century colorful posters, programs, old newspaper clippings and even old photographs detailing the museum as it looked when it first opened.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum mini

Ringlingville

This section displays the remaining buildings of the Ringling Brother’s Circus. Today, the site exists as a National Historic Landmark. These buildings include the Animal House, Wardrobe Department, and Ring Barn. One can also take a tour of Ringlingville to get more information about how the Ringling Brothers prepared for their shows.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum back

Irvin Feld Exhibition Hall

This Hall, the largest building in the museum, features nine forced perspective dioramas detailing the history of the Ringling Brothers Circus. These Jean Leroy dioramas from the 1960s advertised the circus in towns. The dioramas were discovered two years ago in a New Jersey attic. Museum volunteers then meticulously refurbished them to their original glory. There are also other sections that detail general aspects of circus life and history.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum goat

W.W. Deppe Wagon Pavilion and C.P. Fox Wagon Restoration Center

This section features an important aspect of circus life. Here, visitors can see over fifty antique circus wagons, recovered from all over the US and restored by the museum. Many of these wagons were retired and turned into chicken coops and coal bins. One can also view wagon restorations in progress at the nearby C.P. Fox Wagon Restoration Center.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum circus

Robert L. Parkinson Library and Research Center

This research facility houses various collections related to the circus fandom. These include books, photographs, and periodicals. One can visit this fan’s paradise at no charge.

 Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum wheel

Other Attractions

The next two buildings are filled with circus costumes, large props like Cinderella’s carriage, musical instruments and even old circus wagons. One can spot odd trinkets like old-fashioned souvenirs and fascinating mementos like an elephant tusk and a chair that a lion trainer used to protect himself. There is even a flea circus complete with flea high-wire act and tiny wagons.

For those itching to get that circus ‘selfie’, there are several displays to pose with. These displays include a high trapeze wire and a side booth where visitors are turned to gorillas.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum giraffe

The outdoor area looks like a mini carnival and is primarily geared towards the youngest visitors though older children might like it too. It includes a play area with swings, inflatable bounce house, and petting. There is also a carousel with miniature ponies and elephant rides. Kids can even pretend they are riding a unicycle or walking a tightrope in some areas.

As in all family based attractions, the museum has a food venue with the usual fair grub of funnel cakes, cotton candy, ice cream and hot dogs. There is also the obligatory souvenir shop for those who wish to collect mementos of their travels.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum post

Cost

The entrance fee is a bit hefty at twenty dollars per person but does include circus shows throughout the day from ten am to five pm.

The venue does feature some rides that cost extra, like the pony and elephant rides. Visitors can stop by the big elephant to get tickets to these attractions.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum gold

Autism Travel Tips:

  • We recommend this museum to those highly interested in circus memorabilia or turn of the century posters.
  • Everyone in the family should wear closed shoes as the terrain is uneven.

Family Fun on New York’s Coney Island

Family Fun on New York's Coney Island pin

Visitors from all around the United States and the world stop by every summer to soak up the sun on Coney Island’s beach. However, besides  the sand and water, New York’s Island boasts old-fashioned amusement parks along with a popular boardwalk that all family members will like to explore. For those who haven’t visited yet here are our recommendations on how to have some family fun while visiting the iconic area.

Family Fun on New York's Coney Island duck

History

Coney Island was originally slotted to become a beach resort area after the construction of the Coney Island Hotel was completed in 1829. The island likely got its name from an old Dutch word for rabbit, “conyn,” which makes sense with the many rabbits that once roamed around the island. Other possible sources of the name include the island’s Native American tribe, the Konoh, or the  family surname of the first Dutch settlers in the area.

Family Fun on New York's Coney Island walk

The island saw wealthy vacationers in the 1830s and 40s who used Coney Island as a way to spend a holiday without actually need to travel far. By the 1880’s the area became a local attraction with three large parks – Luna Park, Steeplechase Park, and Dreamland operating. Today, Coney Island still has the Luna Park as well as Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park- a nod to bygone glory days.

Family Fun on New York's Coney Island wheel

What to See

As mentioned, Coney Island’s two amusement parks Luna Park and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park are still operational. The island also features several rides that aren’t a part of either park, as well as other attractions and events.

Historic Rides

The Parachute Jump a  bonified New York City Landmark. The ride, originally constructed as the Life Savers Parachute Jump during the 1939 World’s Fair, was the first of a long line of similar rides. The ride has been closed since 1968 but is still a landmark worth gawking at when visiting the Island.

Family Fun on New York's Coney Island face

Another Luna Park  landmark is the Cyclone,one of the country’s oldest operating wooden roller coasters built in 1927. Wonder Wheel is the third ride that is a protected landmark, constructed in 1918. The Ferris Wheel, located in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, features stationary and rocking cars. Visitors at night can see the Wonder Wheel lit up in bright neon lights.

Family Fun on New York's Coney Island tower

Furthermore, visitors can take a ride on the B&B Carousell, purposefully misspelled by its builder William F. Mangels who built the frame in 1906. This ‘carousell,’ considered the last of its kind, was auctioned off to the city of New York after the death of its operator. During its restoration, painter Theresa Rollison mixed over 80 colors to replicate the original colors of the carousel. She even used brushes made from squirrel, badger, and hog hair to imitate methods likely used during the carousel’s original construction. Today, the B&B Carousell sits at the entrance to Luna Park surrounded by furniture stores.

Modern Attractions

The central section of the park includes the usual roller coasters, tower drops, swings, and even an area with milder rides for young children. Families can enjoy three separate bumper car rides throughout Coney Island, on 12 Street, Eldorado’s Arcade, and in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. There are also two haunted houses, Spook-a-Rama at Deno’s Wonder Wheel and Ghost Hole on 12th street that families can ride through.

Family Fun on New York's Coney Island carousel
Thrill seeking family members can try the Thunderbolt. The Thunderbolt roller coaster opened in 2014. It was based off the original Thunderbolt constructed in 1925. The coaster features a 90-degree drop, 100-foot loop, and zero-gravity roll. Visitors not interested in coasters can still enjoy arcade games like skeeball, shooting, and ring tossing.
Family Fun on New York's Coney Island shops

Beach 

After all the fun at the amusement park, visitors to Coney Island can enjoy the local beach. Coney Island’s sandy beach runs from West 37th Street all the way to Manhattan Beach, for 2.5 miles. The city keeps the beach clean and facilities stocked. Visitors can enjoy full access at any time of the day, with no charge.
Coney Island’s Riegelmann Boardwalk runs the entire length of the beach. The boardwalk was named for Edward J. Reigelmann, a politician who opened the boardwalk in 1922. Most of the areas famous attractions can be accessed from the boardwalk, including the Wonder Wheel, Aquarium, and MCU Park. Families can enjoy its many water fountains, restroom facilities, benches, and restaurants.
Family Fun on New York's Coney Island beach
In the winter, travelers might see members of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club swimming the ocean. The club is made up of people who swim around Coney Island usually on New Year’s Day. The beach is also the training grounds for the Coney Island Brighton Beach Open Water Swimmers, who host open water races all year round.

Other Unique Features

Families can enjoy the MCU Park, home of The Brooklyn Cyclones. Visitors can watch short, budget friendly games in the small stadium.

Family Fun on New York's Coney Island balloon

On some summer nights, visitors can see fireworks in some areas of Coney Island. The beach and boardwalk areas have shows from June 24th through Labor Day Weekend starting at 9:30 pm around Deno’s Wonder Wheel.

Though it was mostly devastated by Hurricane Sandy, visitors can still see parts of the New York Aquarium with reduced admission. The admissions are a great way for guests to show support and help with renovations.

Family Fun on New York's Coney Island candy

Families can also enjoy the Coney Island Museum, with its many kitschy exhibits. The museum hosts a 3D-printed to scale model of the original Luna Park by Fred Kahl. Kids can enjoy the funhouse mirrors and check out the thermos collection dating back to the 50’s.

Next to the museum, families can explore the Circus Sideshow with fire eating and sword swallowing performances. Moreover, younger kids can enjoy the “Magic at Coney” show every Sunday at noon.
Family Fun on New York's Coney Island beach

Restaurants

There are many options for food on the boardwalk, making it easy to find something for everyone!
Just about everyone has heard of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. This venue got famous by hosting an annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest. Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs offers  plenty of topping options for all hot dog lovers.
Family Fun on New York's Coney Island RUBY

Other food venues are Tom’s for traditional diner food, Ruby’s for State Fair cuisine and Rippers for burgers. Also, families can head over to Totonno Pizzeria Napolitano for a slice of traditional thin crusted New York pizza.

 

Not to be missed is Williams’ Candy conveniently located next to Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. Here, travelers can finish the day off with a Coney Island ice cream.
Family Fun on New York's Coney Island HOTDOGS

Cost 

Entrance to the beach is complimentary. The Luna Park attractions are a bit of a money pit with each ride costing a few bucks. Parents can buy a punch card with a few credits to get a discount. However, they should expect to shell more than planned by the end of the day.

Family Fun on New York's Coney Island RIDES

Autism Travel Tips:

  • There are well kept public restrooms with showers to clean off after being in the sand and water.
  • There are also certain sections that have water fountains that shoot up out of the ground to cool off kids (or adults) on a hot day!
    This fact could be surprising to some children. Therefore, parents to special needs kids should warn them or have them watch the other children first to know what to expect.
  • At one part of the beach, there is a palm tree fountain that shoots water into the area. Many kids love it, but it makes a very wet sandy/muddy area that some kids might not like.
  • The beach front itself is clean, and there is plenty of room for families to set up a picnic or umbrella.

Family Fun on New York's Coney Island distant

  • There are fireworks every Friday night at 9:30 pm from the last weekend in June until Labor Day. Parents of kids who are afraid of fireworks might want to avoid the area at this time.
  • The boardwalk itself is broad. While it can get crowded on the summer weekends, there is lots of room for wheelchairs, strollers, etc.
  • Families who want to see The Cyclones play should plan ahead and buy tickets ahead of time, as the team is popular.

 

Experiencing Dallas Perot Museum of Nature and Science with Family

Experiencing Dallas Perot Museum of Nature and Science with Family

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science opened in 2012 and quickly became known as a “living science lesson.” The museum, located in Downtown Dallas, Texas, was created to give children an opportunity to explore science, math, and technology through hands-on exhibits, multimedia, and excellent displays.

Experiencing Dallas's Perot Museum of Nature and Science with Family fish

How to Get There

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is located at 2201 N. Field Street
 Dallas, Texas. Travelers can find the museum just off Highway 366 at N. Field Street. The standard hours are Monday-Saturday 10 am–5 pm, with the last exhibit entry at 4 pm. The museum is also open Sunday noon – 5 pm

 

Experiencing Dallas's Perot Museum of Nature and Science with Family cell

What You Will See

As soon as guests arrive, they should download a digital visitor’s guide on their mobile devices or get a Samsung tablet pre-loaded with fun, interactive features. The Samsung tablets are available to borrow for free while visitors walk around the venue.

The museum boasts eleven permanent exhibits, featuring everything from energy, fossils, the human body, the universe, animal life, weather phenomena, and engineering. The venue  displays are hands-on and interactive, so visitors will get to experience their body in motion, earthquake magnitudes, open a geode to see the crystals inside and more!

Experiencing Dallas's Perot Museum of Nature and Science with Family world

The Moody Family Children’s Museum is designed to be an interactive wonderland for families with children under five years old. There are opportunities for exploration, arts & crafts, sensory experiences, digging for dinos, and learning about Dallas.

The films at the theater vary, but include both 2D and 3D videos. Viewers can explore the world of dinosaurs, the deep sea, or learn more about meerkats or airplanes in 3D! Visitors should check out the website for daily show times.

Experiencing Dallas's Perot Museum of Nature and Science with Family cells

Our Favorites

The building features a 54-foot continuous flow escalator housed within a 150-foot glass casing that extends diagonally outside the building cube. It was fun traveling up and down the escalator while looking out at the surroundings.

Experiencing Dallas's Perot Museum of Nature and Science with Family interact

In the ‘Being Human’ section, our son got a kick out of viewing cross sections of real human bodies, trying out a prosthetic hand, recording his heartbeat, and dissecting a fruit fly larva to see its giant Polytene chromosome.

Tickets and Hours of Operation

Visitors can purchase tickets online before visiting the museum. Parents can either purchase tickets for General Admission or for one of the two special exhibits.

Experiencing Dallas's Perot Museum of Nature and Science with Family bird

General Admission is $17 for an adult, $12 for seniors, and $11 for kids. There is parking available on-site for $8 per vehicle.

Experiencing Dallas's Perot Museum of Nature and Science with Family skeleton

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The Dallas City pass is well worth the money for those  wishing to see this  museum and other tourist hot spots.
  • All public entrances to the museum are wheelchair or elevator accessible. Visitors cannot rent strollers or wheelchairs, but they are permitted in any exhibit hall.
  • On busy days, strollers may not be allowed in the Moody Family Children’s Museum, and strollers/wagons are never allowed in the theater.
  • The museum only allows Certified Service animals.
  • Wi-Fi is available in the lobby, and on the plazas and roof deck area, so parents with a child who may need to take a break can bring a personal tablet!
  • There is a café for those who might want to eat lunch or have a snack at the museum.

Experiencing Dallas's Perot Museum of Nature and Science with Family kids

  • Parents will likely see school groups between 9:30 am – 2:30 pm  during the school months and the summer. These groups can overwhelm some children with autism so parents  should plan their visit accordingly.
  • Parking across from the museum can fill up quickly, so parents should get here early.
  • Parents should buy their tickets online. Tickets have entrance times to regulate traffic.
  • We highly recommend bringing wipes. After all, the museum is hands-on for kids.
  • Families should wear comfortable walking shoes.
  • The museum has a cafe for those who get hungry.
  • There are plenty of outdoor play areas for kids to have fun and adults to relax.

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids pin

As the third largest city in the United States, Chicago has no shortage of things to do. Chicago has plenty to offer everyone, including families. For traveling families planning a trip to the Windy City, we’ve created a list of our top eight things to do in Chicago .

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids view

 

Eat at the Greek Islands Restaurant

Chicago is known for its large Greek community. For the best Greek food, Greek Islands on 200 South Halsted is a well-known restaurant that imports extra virgin olive oil, wine, cheeses, seafood, olives, herbs, and spices directly from Greece. The restaurant started when a group of friends opened their own business in 1971. The restaurant still has the same owners to this day.
Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids greek restaurant

 

The three most popular cold spreads of Greek Islands include Taramosalata (cod roe with potatoes, onion, and olive oil), Melitzanosalata (fresh roasted eggplant with garlic, potatoes, and olive oil), and Tirokafteri (feta cheese with red peppers).

Other popular menu items include Grilled Octopus, Home Made Gyros, Keftedakai (meatballs), and Flaming Saganaki Cheese (which is flambeed at the table).

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids greek restaurant dishes

Take a Selfie at The Bean

While best known as the Chicago Bean, the structure is best known as the Cloud Gate. British artist Anish Kapoor created The Bean, inspired by liquid mercury. It was constructed between 2004 and 2006 and is nicknamed The Bean because of its beanlike shape. What is most astonishing is that The Bean has no visible seams.

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids bike

Located at the AT&T Plaza, the structure is 66 feet wide by 33 feet tall and reflects the Chicago skyline and clouds. The 12-foot arch underneath the structure allows visitors to get up close and touch The Bean as well as take any photos of their reflection!

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids bean

Explore Rock N’ Roll McDonald’s

McDonald’s is a staple of American food that anyone can now find in nearly every city around the world. The first McDonald’s was built in  the Chicago, area but has since been torn down and turned into the McDonald’s Museum. The Rock n’ Roll McDonald’s, on the other hand, is McDonald’s flagship restaurant, and one of the most famous in the world. Located at 600 N Clark Street, it is about three times larger than a typical McDonald’s has a mini museum with  memorabilia spanning five decades.

 

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids Mcdonalds

 

Chicago Architecture River Cruise 

Chicago is a city with a lot of fascinating architectural history. During this 90-minute cruise, visitors will learn about over fifty different buildings throughout the city. The journey starts at the Michigan Avenue Bridge and takes travelers all along the Chicago River. Drinks are available on board, as well as outdoor and air-conditioned seating. The company also offers other specific tours, like the Twilight River Cruise which offers the same itinerary as travelers watch the sun set over the city.

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids cruise

Art Institute of Chicago

With a variety of art ranging from sculptures to photography to Byzantine exhibits, the Art Institute of Chicago has something for everyone. The Art Institute was founded in 1879 in Chicago’s Grant Park on 111 South Michigan Avenue. It is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the country and was even rated #1 museum in the world on TripAdvisor in 2014.

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids mickey

The Art Institute features a collection arranged like an encyclopedia. The museum offers gallery walks, art making, picture books and more for families. It showcases works by Picasso, Georges Seurat, and Grant Wood.

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids greek restaurant buildings

Chicago’s Original Gangster Tour

Anyone interested in crime history or the Mafia should jump on a Mafia Tour when visiting Chicago. The almost 2-hour bus tour will take visitors through all of the Mafia “hot spots” where the drama went down in the 1920s and 1930s. The guides will talk about these places as well as Capone, Moran, Dillinger and the rest of the gangsters who ran Chicago.

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids greek restaurant mafia

 

Pizza at Giordano’s

No one can visit Chicago without trying the famous deep-dish pizza. And the best place to get deep-dish pizza is Giordano’s.

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids pizza

They also have thin crust pizza, as well as salads and sandwiches, and French fries (garlic parmesan anyone?) but everything has that traditional Italian taste. There are several locations around Chicago, so it is easy for any family to try it while exploring. The restaurant even offers a service that can ship a pizza to patrons’ homes!
Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids pizza

Have Fun at the Navy Pier 

Navy Pier, which opened in July of 1916, extends 3,300 feet. Famous architect Charles Frost built the pier originally as a dock for freights and passenger traffic. At one point, in 1918, the pier was a jail for draft dodgers.

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids wheel

Today, the pier one of the most visited attractions in the midwestern United States. More than just a typical dock, this landmark on Lake Michigan features over 50 acres of parks, gardens, shops, restaurants, attractions and exhibitions. There is always something going on at the pier, whether it is a movie showing, daily cruise, something fun at the Children’s Museum, or Shakespeare in the Park performance.

 

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids greek restaurant fishing

Autism Travel Tips:

  • We highly recommend visiting the Greek Islands Restaurant for lunch. This is because during lunch time the food is cheaper and the restaurant is less noisy.
  • Parents should make sure they book the Chicago Architecture River Cruise in advance. Also, we suggest arriving at least half an hour ahead of time. Otherwise, families will have a long wait.
  • For the Original Gangster tour, we highly recommend booking in advance as many of the tickets sell out.Furthermore, the bus had no air conditioning which may be challenging for some.

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences pin

Full of wildlife and vegetation, history and art, Fort Lauderdale is an exciting destination. Sometimes referred to as the Venice of America, Fort Lauderdale in the state of Florida is surrounded by beaches, swamp land and nightlife. With constant warm weather throughout the year, this city is a lovely vacationing area that all families can enjoy. For parents planning a visit here are our top five family experiences to try.

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences sign

Anne Kolb Nature Center

Fort Lauderdale has plenty of places to explore for animal and nature lovers. One such place is the Anne Kolb Nature Center. This location features about 1,500 acres of coastal mangrove wetland. It is home to a variety of plants and animals including some threatened and endangered species. Their Exhibition Hall holds a series of interactive and static displays that help explain to kids the West Lake Park’s Mangrove ecosystem and significance. There is also an Eco Room where kids and parents can enjoy hands-on nature experience. They can also observe the 3,500-gallon saltwater aquarium. Visitors can enjoy different trails such as a fishing trail, bird observer trail and a trail designed for walking/bike riding.

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences water

Sea Experience

Sea Experience is a scuba diving, and snorkeling shop open to the public all year round. They provide diving lessons and are welcoming and encouraging of beginners. The staff takes travelers out on the water in a glass bottom boat so they can view the underwater world. Sea Experience has a variety of diving sites, and experienced divers can suggest a site to the crew. A couple of the diving sites include shipwrecked areas.

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences beach

Museum of Discovery and Science

This museum is very interactive and makes learning fun. The Museum of Discovery and Science has its own AutoNation IMAX that presents 3D films in fantastic quality. There are also a couple of flight simulators that will take visitors on an incredible journey to Mars or have them soaring through the skies on a jet. What is also amazing is that the museum often has animal-centered demos that allows kids and adults to connect and get closer to animal life. Their new exhibit Powerful You is all about the human body and uses fun interaction to learn about the human body and the technology used by health professionals.

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences pool

Young At Art

The Young At Art Museum is the perfect place for creative travelers. There are regular events held at the museum, so there’s always something to do. Visitors can check out the ArtScapes exhibit and learn about the history of art and how it crosses time, culture and place. In this exhibit, travelers can wander through The Cave, a human-made cave, and view 5,000 years of images of art and its histories set to music. While exploring The Cave people are encouraged to leave a message on the walls for future visitors.

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences bird

At Avenue A, visitors can “ride” a New York subway and explore the world of graffiti and its history. Guests can also visit the Portrait Gallery which allows them to create a self-portrait inspired by artists through the ages.

We highly recommend taking some time to check out the CultureScapes. This exhibit honors the artists from different cultures that make up America. They display art from cultures such as Haiti, Latin America, Cuba, Africa, Native American, and Asia, etc.Moreover, kids can learn how the artists interpret their culture and tradition and how it influences their art.

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences jeff

Everglades Airboat Ride

Lastly, for those up for a little adventure, we suggest a ride in Everglades Park. Here, travelers can see the local alligators in their habitat. There are plenty of venues that offer airboat rides as well as information about alligators and their habitat. One of the more famous sites is the Holiday Parks which also invites travelers back to the park to meet rescued alligators and witness events held by the park staff.

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences gator

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The Museum of Discovery and Science is highly interactive and recommended for kids who are tactile and energetic.
  • Parents should make sure kids know how to conduct themselves safely during Airboat Rides. Getting up close and personal to alligators can be dangerous.
  • For the nature center, parents should pack hand wipes as it is a hands-on wild experience.
  • Parents should bring either earplugs or phones when visiting some of the exhibits like the Subway exhibit for Young at Art if their kids are noise sensitive.

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences park

 

Taking Kids to the Hemingway Home Museum

Taking Kids to the Hemingway Home Museum pin

Key West is known for its quirky atmosphere. However, it was also the home of writer Ernest Hemingway. Built in 1851, and then occupied by Ernest Hemingway and his family in 1930’s, many of the original furnishings and collectibles from the Hemingway estate still decorate the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. For any Hemingway fan, this location is a must-see when exploring Key West.

Taking Kids to the Hemingway House Museum sign

What You Will See

 The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum was the home of the famed author and his family after they returned from Europe Those visiting the house will likely see over sixty cats roaming the property. Some of these cats are rumored to be descendants of Hemingway’s original cat who was polydactyl (extra toed.)

Visitors might notice that some of the furniture isn’t from the 1900s. That is because Hemingway was an avid collector of seventeenth and eighteenth-century Spanish furniture. As he was often gone on a safari or working as a war correspondent, visitors will find quite a few collectibles from his travels.

Taking Kids to the Hemingway House Museum house

The property features a unique pool. Hemingway dug into solid coral to create this pool. Also, at the time, Hemingway owned the only pool within a hundred miles. There are also the gorgeous gardens where guests can relax or discover flowers such as Plumbago, Star Jasmine, Hibiscus and Bleeding Heart.Throughout the home, there are multiple rooms to explore, slow down and even snap ‘selfies’ with the cats.

Historical Significance

Ernest Hemingway was a well-known American writer. His most famous works include novels such as The Old Man and the Sea and Farewell to Arms. Hemingway also wrote many short stories, like “Hills like White Elephants” and “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.” The author is known, to this day, for his honest, straightforward writing style and his eccentricities. There are many interesting stories of the author like as the time Hemingway opened fire with a machine-gun on a group of sharks. Unfortunately, in July of 1961, Hemingway took his life with a shotgun.

Taking Kids to the Hemingway House Museum sitting

The Ernest Hemingway Home is where the author spent ten productive years writing his novels. Supposedly, he found the seas around Key West both peaceful and physically challenging. Today, the home is a National Historic Landmark, Literary Landmark, and a Historic American Building.

Location and Hours

The Museum located at 907 Whitehead St., Key West, is open daily from nine AM to five PM, including holidays. General Admission for adults is $13.00, for children is $6.00. However, children five years or younger get in for free.

Taking Kids to the Hemingway House Museum cat

How to Get There

Travelers should follow US-1 South (I-95 South turns into US-1), and keep right as they enter Key West. After a while, US-1 South will turn into North Roosevelt Blvd, and then it will turn into Truman Ave. After this, travelers can continue straight on Truman Ave., and turn right onto Whitehead St. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum will be on the right. To identify the property, one can see its distinctive brick wall surrounding it.

Taking Kids to the Hemingway House Museum rooster

Autism Travel Tips:

  • This place could be a great educational trip for a school-aged child.
  • There are lots of cats on the property, which could stir up allergies or be frightening for a child who does not have a lot of experience with cats. That said, other kids might love a four-legged friend following them!
  • The gate to the property must be closed at all times and closed quickly behind visitors. This gate is the only thing keeping the cats on the property and away from the wild roosters that roam Key West.
  • Weekends are busier than weekdays. Therefore, parents with children who are quickly overwhelmed should try going during the week.

Taking Kids to the Hemingway House Museum pool

  • The museum only accepts cash. Therefore, parents should plan accordingly, especially if anyone in the family is a Hemingway buff and plans to purchase some of his books or collectibles in the bookstore!
  • We highly recommend taking the 30-minute tour to get an overview of the house. This recommendation is because the tour guides have a wealth of knowledge about Hemingway, his family, and the grounds, and love sharing this knowledge with visitors.

 

 

 

Las Vegas Yay or Nay for Families with Autism

Las Vegas Yay or Nay for Families with Autism pin

The traveling experts at Autistic Globetrotting are often asked whether  Las Vegas is a safe travel destination for families challenged by autism. Like in many of  cases, the answer isn’t clear cut.

Although Vegas is famous for drinking and adult entertainment, it is a surprisingly great family destination. However, there are pros and cons associated with visiting the city that we will examine here.

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Pros

Budget-friendly lodging options

Las Vegas has huge resorts capable of accommodating families, including those with autism. Many properties offer large rooms and great hotel amenities like pools, spas, water slides, and lazy rivers Moreover, most have rooms facing the quieter areas like the gardens and conference halls that are suitable for noise sensitive patrons.

Las Vegas Yay or Nay for Families with Autism sky

Many properties offer budget friendly  mid-week rates, off-season rates, and wholesale warehouse discounts.
There are high-end accommodations and discounted rates at properties like Excalibur, a favorite with families because of its medieval-themed attractions.

In fact, the city offers such a wide range of price points that most  families can find something affordable, which is better than in other major US travel destinations.

Plentiful food options

Las Vegas features many family-friendly dining venues from dinner theater shows, fast food, and luxury dining to lavish buffets. The buffets provide a good way to introduce picky kids to new foods with different aromas and textures in a non-threatening manner.

Las Vegas Yay or Nay for Families with Autism food

Free shows and attractions

The  street shows and odd attractions on the popular Strip  draw thousands of visitors each day.

The shows provide an excellent way to introduce children to loud noises and strobe lights in a more laid back way that most sit-down shows don’t allow. Visitors can choose to stand close by for a better view or far away. If the attraction gets too stimulating  one can easily slip away without anyone noticing which is helpful for families with autism.

Las Vegas Yay or Nay for Families with Autism shack

The odd attractions like  replicas of iconic European landmarks,  exotic animals exhibits and Carnival rides provide an inexpensive way to educate and entertain kids with autism. In addition, the city offers  multiple other ways to entertain kids like themed museums , water parks and plenty of shopping malls.

Day Trips

Another pro to Las Vegas is  its close to proximity to several National Parks and Geographical landmarks. In fact, the city is less than an hour and a half away from the Grand Canyon, Lake Meade and the Hoover Dam. Families can base themselves in Las Vegas  and  just take day trips to the different landmarks.

Las Vegas Yay or Nay for Families with Autism lights

 

Cons

Yes, there’s drinking and smoking in public

In the State of Nevada ,consuming alcohol in public is allowed  so visitors will see people drinking freely on the street. In fact, while walking around the Strip it isn’t uncommon to see people tipsy, noisy and boisterous.
Another con particularly for conservative families, is the fact that  prostitution is legal and travelers are likely to encounter scarcely clad women on city streets. Furthermore, in most hotel-casinos ,patrons are still allowed to smoke heavily .

 

Las Vegas Yay or Nay for Families with Autism outside

 

Outlandish Behavior

Las Vegas is notorious for outlandish and promiscuous behavior by visitors. Traveling families may witness certain acts which, while still illegal in public areas, are more commonly attempted by individuals visiting “The City of Sin.”

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The noise factor

The city is quite popular, especially on weekends with the younger crowd.  Younger visitors in their 20’s and 30’s tend to crowd the streets on the weekend. The streets become packed and noisy which is not the best environment for kids with autism who are noise sensitive or feel uncomfortable around  crowds.

Las Vegas Yay or Nay for Families with Autism party

In summation

All in all, Las Vegas is a very fun place to visit with family members of all ages. With its plethora of activities and food venues , the city can be a good fit for most families. Since most of the partying takes place during weekend days, families with autism should consider visiting on weekdays.

Exploring Yellowstone National Park with Family

 

Exploring Yellowstone National Park with Family

During his presidency, Teddy Roosevelt pushed for protecting America’s pure, beautiful wilderness, a goal towards which previous presidents such as Grant had already made progress. Today the United States has fifty-eight national parks across the country. Of all these national parks, Yellowstone is perhaps one of the most famous and visited. Any family traveling through the states of Wyoming, Montana, or Idaho should not miss this wonderful park.

Exploring Yellowstone National Park with Family sky

Location and History

Yellowstone National Park sits in the state of Wyoming, extending slightly into Montana and Idaho. In March of 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant established this national park with Congress. Yellowstone is considered the first National Park in the United States and possibly the world.

Hundreds of flora and fauna species make their home in Yellowstone. This fauna includes the oldest public bison herd in the country. As a result, Yellowstone is considered the largest megafauna location in the United States.

Exploring Yellowstone National Park with Family land

Old Faithful

People visiting Yellowstone often come to see its most famous area, the Old Faithful geyser. The Washburn Expedition of 1870, the first official expedition to Yellowstone, originally named Old Faithful. The people of the team were impressed by its size and its frequent, powerful eruptions.

Exploring Yellowstone National Park with Family geyser

Old Faithful erupts every 35 to 120 minutes for 1 1/2 to 5 minutes. Its maximum height ranges from 90 to 184 feet. It has been erupting in nearly the same fashion throughout the recorded history of the park. Through the years, it has become one of the most studied geysers. One result of this close observation is that the Park Rangers can predict its eruptions fairly accurately. Therefore, Old Faithful geyser is one of the easiest geysers in Yellowstone to visit.

This famous geyser is part of the Old Faithful District with the nearby Old Faithful Inn, a Yellowstone hotel done in a National Park Service Rustic style.

Exploring Yellowstone National Park with Family edge

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

While the famous “Grand Canyon” lies along Arizona, visitors to Yellowstone can still experience the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. There are plenty of trails and hikes throughout Yellowstone, and this Grand Canyon is certainly a challenge. The trail extends roughly 20 miles as measured from the Upper Falls to the Tower Fall area.

Erosion of the Yellowstone River flowing over soft rocks formed the canyon over thousands of years.

Exploring Yellowstone National Park with Family falls

The Upper Falls is upstream of the Lower Falls and is 109 ft. high and can be seen from the Brink of the Upper Falls Trail and Uncle Tom’s Trail.

The Lower Falls is 308 ft. high and can be viewed from Lookout Point, Red Rock Point, Artist Point, Brink of the Lower Falls Trail, and from various points on the South Rim Trail. The Lower Falls is often described as bigger than twice the size of Niagara, although this only refers to its height and not the volume of water flowing over it.

Exploring Yellowstone National Park with Family tree

A third Falls, Crystal Falls, is located the canyon between the Upper and Lower falls. Crystal Falls is the outfall of Cascade Creek into the canyon and can be seen from the South Rim Trail just east of the Uncle Tom’s area. The canyon was a barrier to early travel but later became a tourist attraction when roads made the park more accessible.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Visitors can also hike to the natural hot spring called the Grand Prismatic Spring. This place is the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third-largest in the world, after Frying Pan Lake in New Zealand and Boiling Lake in Dominica. The spring is famous for its fantastic bright coloration.

Exploring Yellowstone National Park with Family springs

In 1839, a group of fur trappers from the American Fur Company crossed the Midway Geyser Basin and made a note of a “boiling lake,” most likely the Grand Prismatic Spring. The Grand Prismatic Spring was later officially recorded by geologists working on the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871, and named for its vibrant colors. Its colors match the rainbow dispersion of white light by an optical prism: red, orange, yellow, green, and blue.

Exploring Yellowstone National Park with Family hotsprings

Artist Point

Lastly, guests can take some time to visit Artistic Point. Artist Point is one of the marquee overlooks on the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, with an excellent perspective of canyon’s most famous feature, the Lower Falls. The viewpoint juts out from the south wall of the canyon and is just a short 0.1-mile walk from South Rim Drive.

Exploring Yellowstone National Park with Family woods

Frank Jay Haynes originally named this point in 1883 because he incorrectly identified this point as the place painter Thomas Moran sketched his 1872 depictions of the falls. Later work determined that the painted made his drawings from the north rim, but the name Artist Point stuck.

Exploring Yellowstone National Park with Family ground

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Yellowstone is a wild national park. Parents should make sure their kids stay close and on the path at all times. It might also be good for parents to discuss with their children how to deal with wildlife respectfully and keep themselves safe.
  • Lots of high, unguarded cliffs make up Yellowstone. Parents should watch their kids carefully, especially while hiking.
  • The eruptions of Old Faithful can be loud, which can be upsetting for kids with noise sensitivities. The rumbling of the geyser can also be frightening for some children. Parents who want to take their child to see Old Faithful should prepare them ahead of time.

Exploring Yellowstone National Park with Family roadblock

  • This location has a lot of walking. Families should wear comfortable, closed-toed hiking shoes and weather appropriate, protective clothes.
  • Many of the locations, especially Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring, can become crowded with tourists, especially during the summer.
  • In certain areas, especially the Grand Prismatic Spring, it can get very windy. Parents and kids should hold on to any loose items like hats or sunglasses because if they blow off and over the railing, the park rangers will not let you retrieve them.

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