Archive for the ‘World Travel’ Category

London’s Calling

Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee and the approaching date of the summer olympics make London the place to be in 2012.  Three short years ago my son and I visited the capital city of England and were left with fond memories.  I have been recounting these memories lately every time I see an image of a red phone booth or Big Ben on television and now have a desire to return to one of my favorite cultural cities.  Unfortunately, London is not on my summer travel plans and the closest I’ll be getting to a taste of England is visiting the Lost Colony when we travel to the Outer Banks, North Carolina in August!  For now, I’ll be happy reliving the memories of this fascinating city while sharing some of the highlights of our trip through this post.

Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus

On our first day in central London, we visited Trafalgar Square which has served as a public space from when it was first opened in 1844 to commemorate the great naval battle of 1805 (the Battle of Trafalgar) when the English defeated the French Fleet under Admiral Lord Nelson during the Napoleonic War.  Nelson’s column dominates the square and stands at 170 feet and is guarded by bronze lions. After we checked out some of the statues and fountains, we spent some time on the north side of the square at the National Art Gallery which houses some of the world’s greatest European art collections.  I thoroughly enjoyed viewing many of the masterpieces of art, my son however, had more fun “people watching” at one of the open air Cafe’s afterwards when we stopped for lunch.

Another public space is on London’s west end, Piccadilly Circus.  Piccadilly Circus is a road junction at the bottom of Regent Street.  The bright neon signs on the corner buildings reminded me of Times Square.  There is no shortage of stores to shop, restaurants and entertainment in what has been dubbed “the hub of London”.

Parliament and Big Ben

The best way to visit Parliament is by a guided tour.  Tours are available on Saturdays and six weeks in the summer.  The tour is a little over an hour and you get see places like the Commons and Lords Chambers, the Queen’s Robing Room, the Royal Gallery and Westminster Hall.  Since both my son and I love history the tour was a great way to learn about what Parliament does and its history over different times.

The clock tower of Parliament, more commonly known as Big Ben can only be toured by UK residents.  Although we couldn’t tour Big Ben, we still found it exciting to be standing in front of London’s most famous landmarks.

The London Eye

The London Eye was created by a husband and wife team, David Marks and Julia Barfield to celebrate the millennium and give visitors a unique view of the city.  The London Eye is the world’s tallest observation wheel and  has 32 large capsules rotating constantly.  The long line was well worth the wait to enjoy the panoramic view.  At night the Eye is lit up with different colored lights.

Cruising the Thames

Cruise the Thames

After getting a bird’s eye view of the city, we decided to get a closer look by cruising the Thames River.  We boarded one of the city cruises that left from the London Eye Pier.  We enjoyed taking in the views of the iconic Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Millennium Footbridge and the HMS Belfast.

Tower of London

The Tower of London was amazing.  It has been associated with so many important events in English history.  We learned that it had served as a citadel, palace prison, mint and menagerie.  There was a lot to see like the White tower which was built in 1078 (now that was a long time ago), 500 years of royal armor, the prisoners exhibition, the ravens and of course the Crown Jewels.  We really enjoyed all the different exhibits, but it was a little overwhelming and if I had to do it again, I would definitely join the Yeoman Warder tour.

The Iconic Symbol of London

The Tower Bridge Exhibition brings you inside the world’s most famous bridge.  The original hydraulic machinery is now housed in the museum.  The upper walkway is another great place to take in the view of the Thames and the Tower of London.

St. Katharine Docks and Fish & Chips

East of the Tower Bridge are the St. Katharine Docks which was built in 1827 and is now converted into a yacht marina.  There were several restaurants and shops and we found it refreshing because even though we were in the heart of historic London we didn’t feel like we were in a tourist trap.  We enjoyed watching the boats arrive via the lock bridge and enjoyed some fish and chips over an early dinner. Of course, we couldn’t leave London with out sampling some British food.

Our visit to London is one of my favorite trips.  I had traveled out of the United States many times, but this was the first trip that I traveled internationally with my son.  Another reason why the trip was special is that we were able to visit one of my best friends who at the time was living in London, but has since moved to Singapore. I loved being entrenched in history and being from New York, I found it easy to get around. There was so much to see that of course we couldn’t see and do it all!  We will definitely have to make another trip some day soon.  In the meantime, I’ll be watching the Olympics remembering our days in London.

Do you have plans to head to London this summer?

Enjoyed this post?  You might like other related post – A Tale of Two Palaces, Hamleys and Hyde Park, An Afternoon of Child’s Play and A Trip to a Prehistoric Monument

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Our road trip through Western New York state and Canada included many exciting pit stops. We were very excited for our two days in Toronto because we planned on cheering on our beloved New York Yankees that were scheduled to play the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.  We were also excited because we had planned to check off three more places from Frommer’s 500 places to take your kids before they grow up – The CN Tower, the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Toronto Zoo.  Here are some highlights from Toronto’s must see family attractions.

Taking in Toronto

The CN Tower

1.  MLB at Rogers Centre – Our visit  to Toronto was actually planned around the fact that the New York Yankees would be in town for an away game.  My son and nephew are HUGE Yankee fans and if asked, they will tell you that going to the game was their favorite part of the road-trip. They were so excited that we arrived at Gate 11 of Rogers Centre at 5:30 p.m for a 7 p.m. game.  Since we were so early, we watched some of the warm ups and stocked up on your typical ball park food.  Rain earlier that day had kept the retractable roof closed, but the boys cheered loudly next to the Blue Jay fans throughout an exciting game that included a crazy fan running out on the field.  Unfortunately, the Yankees were not able to end up with the win, but the whole experience made the boys proud that they were “loyal fans” that followed their team on the road.  Needless to say, I’ll be checking the Yankee schedule this year for our planned road trip down the east coast.

2.  CN Tower – Standing at a height of 1,815 ft, 5 inches, the CN Tower defines Toronto’s skyline and is the most recognized icon in Canada.  It is actually the world’s tallest free-standing structure and serves as a hub for telecommunications across the city.  The only way to the top of the world’s tallest tower is by riding glass-faced high-speed elevator.  I am not kidding when I say high-speed because it is only took 58 seconds to reach 1,136 ft .  No wonder why it has earned the world’s title as the #1 elevator ride by National Geographic Journeys of a Lifetime.  Of course the boys loved the elevator ride, but they had an even better time giving me a heart palpitations as they walked across the glass floor 113 stories above the ground.  I personally enjoyed the four lookout levels that offered spectacular views of Toronto and Lake Ontario that just got better the higher we went up.

3.  The Hockey Hall of Fame – I know that Canadian’s would find this hard to believe, but our family really is not huge hockey fans.  This however didn’t keep the boys from having a great time and we were excited to add it to the list of our other Hall of Fame visits (the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame).  The Hockey Hall of fame was more than a sports museum.  The boys really enjoyed the interactive exhibits, the NHLPA Be A Player Zone, the broadcast pods and the replica of the Montreal Canadians dressing room. Of course getting up close and personal with hockey’s Holy Grail, the Stanley Cup was one of the more memorable moments as you can see from the picture below!

4.  Toronto Zoo –  The Toronto Zoo was listed as one of the 7 Great Zoos in the world by Frommer’s 500 places to take your kids before they grow up.  I have been to a lot of zoos (including the Bronx Zoo and the San Diego Zoo which also made Frommer’s list), but I have to say the Toronto Zoo really is one of my favorites.  Yes it is big, but I found it really easy to navigate.  The “Follow the Footprints” offered three trails that were approximately an hour and included opportunities to meet the zoo keepers.  There is also a kid’s zone that is divided into biomes – the prairie and the wetlands.  In addition, there is also a Waterside Theater where you can catch a bird show and splash island where the kids can cool off.

Toronto is a great city to explore with kids.  There were so many other places we would have liked to check out if we had more time like the Royal Ontario Museum and the Ontario Science Center.

Are you planning to go to Toronto?  What will you see?

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The Maid of the Mist

Visiting Niagara Falls by far has been one of my family’s favorite memories from our road trip through Western New York state and Canada.  The fact that my son and nephew loved Niagara Falls most probably had something to do with getting wet. Really wet!  The excitement of splashing water had them shrieking with joy when we stood on the Niagara Falls viewing platform and felt the mist on our faces.  The shrieks became louder when we cruised on the Maid of the Mist which required ponchos.   Spending the day at Fallsview Indoor Waterpark and running under the 1,000 gallon tipping bucket topped off our stay and honestly there is no words for their excitement.

Most people have had an opportunity to view a photograph of Niagara Falls, but let me tell you there is nothing like seeing it in person.  Niagara Falls actually is the name known collectively for the Horseshoe Falls in Canada and the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls in the United States.  The combined falls of the Niagara River forms the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world.  Niagara Falls forms the international boundary between the United States and Canada and flows between the twin cities, Niagara Falls Ontario and Niagara Falls, New York.

On the viewing platform in Ontario.

The American Falls

Ready to get wet!

Breakfast at the Fallsview Restaurant.

The best way to check out the falls and “explore the roar” is on one of North America’s oldest tourist attractions, The Maid of the Mist.  The Maid of the Mist has been in operation since 1846 and departs from either shore.  Since we were staying in Ontario at the Crowne Plaza we departed from the Canadian side.  The half hour cruise sails upriver right up to the base of both the American and Horseshoe Falls. Of course with any tourist attraction there is an opportunity to learn something new from the tour and in this case interesting facts revolved around the formation the falls and a quick geology lesson about the gorges.  We also learned about hydro-electric power that is generated by the falls and shared by both eastern United States and Ontario, Canada.   As much as I love having the boys learn something new, these facts were overshadowed by getting wet and there was absolutely no way of avoiding getting drenched to their delight.  I am just happy ponchos were provided!

The boys thought cruising under the “big spill” was cool, but spending the day at North America’s largest indoor waterpark and hotel complex in their eyes was AWESOME!  Atop The Crowne Plaza Hotel was an amazing indoor waterpark that offered over three acres of indoor water fun.  The boys loved the massive indoor wave pool.  Of course they made sure they slid down all sixteen water slides. The giant plunge bowl was also a favorite.

Fallsview Waterpark

All smiles on the one of the many slides.

Niagara Falls was captivating and I am glad the boys were able to see the second largest waterfall on Earth.  (The first is Victoria Falls in southern Africa.)  My son shared that bringing him to see one of our planet’s greatest natural wonders made me a cool mom, but staying at hotel with not just an indoor pool, but an indoor waterpark made me the “COOLEST GREATEST MOM” ever!

Has your family gone on a vacation to Niagara Falls?  Did your clan get wet and wild under the falls?

Niagara Falls

Fallsview, atop the Crowne Plaza Hotel

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Riding the train in Essex, Connecticut. I forgot what I looked like as a brunette 🙂

When my son was little we occasionally took vacations.  Often times we made day trips to places like Sesame Place or riding “Thomas the Train” in Essex, Connecticut.  Outside of quick day trips we would once in a while head down south to visit family.

It wasn’t until my son entered the third grade that we started to travel on a regular basis.  Our travels often times would stem from what he was learning in school.  Of course living outside of New York City made many trips reasonable from a time and cost perspective.  It was so much fun spending time in Boston when he was learning about the American Revolution or in Gettysburg when he was studying about the Civil War.  It was after trips like these that I really began to make an effort to explore any opportunity where we could learn something new.

These opportunities resulted in really unforgettable experiences like when my son briefly drove the Duck Tour Boat in Boston on the Charles River, learning how to blow glass at the Corning Glass museum, meeting a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London, exploring caverns in Virginia and making a stop action animated film in New York City.  I have watched his confidence grow when he would eagerly answer questions about Teddy Roosevelt that the park ranger asked during the tours of Sagamore Hill and when no other adult was brave enough to speak out and answer questions from one of the trainers when we enjoyed the dolphin encounter in the Bahamas.

Exploring Boston- Spring Break 2010

Tower of London

There  were also times when our travels didn’t go as planned, and usually revolved around getting lost.   It was these times that we had to work together to get out of a “pickle”.  For instance there has been many times my son needed to read the emergency map quest directions when the GPS lost a signal and he was quick to point out when we were going in the wrong direction on the tube of London’s Underground.  Not only did we have to work together, but these situations taught us the importance of staying calm and the realization that we could resolve any problem.

As a mother I really do want to show my son the world because there is more to life than routines and chasing society’s expectations.  I hope every new opportunity makes him curious to know more and provides him with the realization that the possibilities are endless in whatever path he chooses.  I am excited that our travels that started out as fun adventures have led to unexpected gifts of courage, knowledge, new skills and an increased awareness and perspective of other cultures not just for my son, but for me too.   As wonderful as these gifts have been, the best gift  has been the precious bond between my son and I.

As a single parent my life is really busy.  Juggling a career, keeping up the home and navigating everything that accompanies school and extracurricular activities can sometimes be demanding.  There are days that sometimes blend together.  Traveling allows me to focus on my son without all the distractions of everyday life.  When traveling I feel an inner calmness which allows me to share genuine happiness with my son.  With today being Mother’s day I can’t help but think how wonderful it is that travel has provided such happiness that has been intertwined into the fabric of everlasting memories for me and my favorite travel companion, my son.  Traveling has truly been a gift and has provided another link in the bond of our relationship.


What unexpected gifts have you discovered while traveling with your children?

I follow many other traveling families via the blogosphere.  One of my favorite sites to visit is Mother of All Trips!  Today Mara is promoting a linkup for all travel moms, so click and read on to see how travel is the gift that doesn’t stop giving for many other families.

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When traveling with kids it is always important to take a break from sightseeing and just let them play.  When my son and I were in London I found that the best playground was Hamleys on Regent Street and Hyde Park in central London.


Established in 1760, Hamleys is the oldest toy store in the United Kingdom.  It is also one of the world’s largest toy shops.  There are seven floors  packed with nearly every toy imaginable. The staff often dress up in costumes, but the best part is the hands-on toy demonstrations.  After seeing a demonstration of the Jiayun helicopter take flight in the store, my son had to have it!  So with the remote control helicopter in hand we decided to give it a test run in Hyde Park.

Hanging in Hyde Park

Hyde Park allows you to experience the countryside in the middle of the city.  The park is a grand oasis and there are many activities for kids.  In the summer you can take a boat or swim along the beach of the Serpentine.  There are three playgrounds and rolling hills for playing ball,  flying kites or in our case, flying a helicopter!  After testing out my son’s new toy, we decided to grab lunch at The Lido, which reminded me a little of the Boathouse Cafe in Central Park in New York City.

The park was really beautiful and we enjoyed taking in the fresh air, playing and hanging with the locals.  We ended the day with some ice cream from one of the refreshment points and headed to the underground where we continued our child’s play by pretending not to be tourist.

What do you do when your kids need a break from the museums and monuments? Do you head to a green space or a toy store?  What are your favorite travel detours to get the “ants out of their pants”?

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I love summer vacations!   Choosing that place that you always had a desire to see and wanted to learn about by first hand experience is exciting!  Right now I am in the midst of planning where I will be headed in the summer of 2012 and it is not surprising that I am filled with anticipation.  What I am surprised about is the joyous feeling I have thinking about the memories of a past summer vacation in London. The lasting memories really are one of the best parts of traveling!

One of my most fondest memories of  London was visiting Buckingham Palace.  Like many American women, I am fascinated with the Royal Family and I couldn’t wait to see the Queen’s official London residence.  Luckily when we visited London, Buckingham Palace was open to visitors.  I say luckily because Buckingham Palace is only open to visitors at the end of the summer when the Queen makes her annual visit to Scotland.  During this time visitors can tour the State Rooms which house treasures from the Royal Collection.  Two other areas that you can visit  is the Royal Mews and Queens Gallery.  We toured all three and purchased “The Royal Day Out” package in advance on-line, which I highly recommend.

Feeling important, we entered the palace through the Ambassador’s Entrance and found ourselves transformed in time,

Buckingham Palace Gate

but yet still in the present.  It was amazing to stand in the Quadrangle where the Queen’s carriage procession forms for the State Opening of Parliament.  Far more amazing though, was the Grand Entrance and State Rooms, which are the heart of the working palace. Both my son and myself will never forget the Grand Staircase and still can’t believe that we walked upon the red carpet without being royalty or a celebrity!

There were numerous rooms to visit, but a few stand out.  I was particularly drawn to The Picture Gallery, The State Dining Room and the Music Room.  I loved the Music Room because although it was large, it still felt intimate and it overlooked the garden.

The garden was magnificent and was decorated with temporary tents for tea service and refreshments for visitors. In the midst of the city, it felt like an oasis with countless beautiful flowers.

Changing of the Guards

The tour of the palace took about two hours and we toured it in the morning, which worked out perfectly because upon our completion we were able to see the Changing of the Guard.  At 11:30 a.m. everyday in the summer, visitors can watch the New Guard arrive at Buckingham Palace from the Wellington Barracks led by a band.  During the transfer of duties the band plays a selection of music.  At 12:05, the Old Guard leaves Buckingham Palace for Wellington Barracks accompanied by the band.

Before ending our time at the palace we enjoyed the Queen’s Gallery which exhibits changing royal collections.  Afterwards we made our way to the Royal Mews where we were able to see the Queen’s horses and carriages. I was thrilled to see Princess Diana’s Wedding Coach.

Princess Diana's Wedding Coach

Royal Mews

I was excited not only because it was Princess Diana’s Coach that I had only seen on television and pictures, but because it was the ONLY thing that I saw in reference to the late princess.  I wonder how could that be, where was the respect?  I was informed by an employee at the gift shop in the Queen’s Gallery that I would have to visit Kensington Palace to see any collection related to Princess Diana and was reminded that Princess Diana didn’t live at Buckingham Palace and that was the simple reason why I couldn’t even find a postcard with her picture on it.

So this is where the tale leads to the second palace, the former home of Princess Diana and the birthplace of Queen Victoria.  Some of Kensington Palace is off-limits to the public, but we were able to visit the State apartments and enjoyed two exhibits.  The first exhibit was “Diana, Fashion and Style”.   Finally, what I wanted to see!  There were seven dresses on display that charted the development of the Princess’s style.  Another exhibit that we enjoyed was “The Last Debutantes 1958, Season of Change”.  I was in heaven taking in all the beautiful dresses. It was also fun teasing my son about the rules of etiquette and watching one of my best friends teach him the box step in part of the exhibit titled “I Could of Danced All Night“.

Kensington Palace

Monique teaching my son the Box Step

Of course Kensington Palace also had beautiful gardens that was filled with its own history.  The sunken garden and lily pond is a must see.  Also, don’t miss the Diana Memorial Playground and Queen Victoria’s marble-fountain Italian garden where you can see the Peter Pan statue.

Garden at Kensington Palace

Learning that Queen Anne liked have lunch with her friends at the Orangery Restaurant, we decided that we would end our day in similar fashion.  Over tea and scones, my friend Monique, my favorite little guy and I shared our favorite parts of the tales of two palaces.  Have you visited the palaces?  What did you enjoy?  What are your thoughst of Princess Diana being ostracized at Buckingham Palace?  Let me know your thoughts!   CHEERIO!
Enjoying Afternoon Tea

Enjoying Afternoon Tea at The Orangery

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Dreaming … I do a lot of it!  One of my more frequent dreams is about moving to an island in the Caribbean where I can kayak everyday, be surrounded by history and culture and enjoy laid-back attitudes and tropical breezes.  My dreams often vary about what I would do with my time and how I would make a living.  Ideas have ranged from really taking my artistic side seriously and painting landscapes of the island to sell in a small art gallery, to being a tour guide or a freelance writer.  After watching one to many episodes of International House Hunters set in St. Croix,  I thought St. Croix could be “that island”  I had been dreaming about!  I liked the idea that it is part of the United States Virgin Islands and was intrigued by the “Big Island’s” geographic mixture of rain forests, rolling farmlands and beaches.  Plus, if it was good enough for Christopher Columbus to explore in 1493, why not me!

Carambola Beach, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Deep in the Rain Forest

The hills of the North Shore

Once I touched down on the island, I learned that there were many vastly different things that were unique to St. Croix and I had a fascinating adventure!  Here are the places I explored and would recommend to anyone who plans to visit.  If you decide to set out on your own exploration of this pristine paradise, you will quickly realize why I now plan on making my dream a reality in the future!

Exploration Guide:

1.  St. Croix Heritage Trail – This 72-mile self-guided driving tour stretches across St. Croix connecting over 200 historic and scenic sites.  Some highlights of the trail is the Whim Plantation Museum, the Lawaetz Family Museum, and the St. George Village Botanical Gardens.  A surprise on the trail is Point Udall, which is the easternmost point in the United States.

The influence of Denmark is visible in the architecture and windmills throughout the Big Island.

2.  Buck Island ReefBuck Island Reef National Monument is an underwater National Park and a premier snorkeling site. Once on the island, there is two beaches and two picnic areas and a great place to hike.  Since it is an island the only way to get there is by boat.  We had a great time on Big Beard’s Adventure Tour.  They provided snorkel gear and the full day tour included a beach barbecue.

3.  Take a Walking Tour of ChristianstedChristiansted is also a National Park Service site.  The park encompasses seven acres around the waterfront area and includes five historic structures:  Fort Christiansvaern, the Danish Custom House, the Danish West India & Guinea Company Warehouse, the Steeple Building, and the Scale house.  For a fee, tours are available at the Scale House Bookstore.

4.  Salt River Bay – This is where Christopher Columbus anchored his fleet in 1493.  Here you can paddle through lush mangroves on luminescent water and see wildlife and listen to historical lore along the way.  You can learn about the history and ecology of the Salt River  on a kayak tour offered by Caribbean Adventure Tour.

5.  Horseback RidingPaul and Jill’s Equestrian Stables at Sprat Hall Plantation offers Rain Forest Nature Tours including a ride along the beach.  The tour is about an hour and a half and they have excellent horses for kids.  An added bonus is that you can sample the fruit from the exotic orchards.

Tropical Trail Ride

6.  Walk a Dozen Art Galleries on Art Thursdays Art Thursday in Christiansted gives you  an opportunity to stroll along the streets and alleyways and visit nearly a dozen galleries that show the work of local artist between 5 and 8 pm.

7.  Scuba Diving at Cane Bay – Cane Bay is gorgeous!  It is also the home of the Cane Bay Wall (it drops over 13,000 feet) which is considered one of the top dives in the Caribbean and Atlantic.  In addition there is also a thriving reef terrace.  Cane Bay Dive Shop offers flexible diving schedules and is a PADI 5-Star Dive Center.

Swimming with the Fishes

8.  Shop in the Danish Brick Courtyards and King’s Alley Walk – There are many unique stores in Christiansted, but I really enjoyed the checking out the jewelry stores.  I had to go into Sonya’s cute little store on Company Street to pick up a Hook bracelet.  I also picked up a beautiful little watercolor painting at Yellow House Gallery.  When shopping on St. Croix, US citizens can enjoy duty-free allowance of $1,600 per person every 30 days whether buying to pack or mail.

9.  Head to the Beach – All beaches in the U.S. Virgin Islands are open to the public, although access through private property may have restrictions.  I personally enjoyed the beaches on the North Shore like Cane Bay and Carambola Beach.

10.  Check out La Reine Farmer’s Market on a Saturday Morning The Farmer’s Market at Villa La Reine is a Saturday morning tradition for locals.  This fun, sociable event always has fresh market produce and sometimes it is harvested the day before or even the same day the market is open.  Here you will have an opportunity to try many fruits and vegetables.  Make sure you try the Star Fruit, also known as Carambola.  Also look for homemade jams, jellies, chutney tarts, pies, cakes and local juices.  The market is open from 7 am to 3 pm and is run by the Department of Agriculture.

11.  Taste the Tropics – There is great food in St. Croix!  Here are my favorites.  You can eat with the locals at Rowdy Joe’s or enjoy magnificent views at Off the Wall and The Waves at Cane Bay.  I also loved EAT @ Cane Bay!  The atmosphere is awesome as well as their brunch.  Another place that was recommended to me by a local was Blue Moon in Frederikstead.  It was great and you can enjoy some cool jazz music.  For a different type of atmosphere you can head over to the Fort Christian Brew Pub for live music and on Mondays you can catch the Crab Races where hermit crabs crawl and you cheer them on!  Another fun place we enjoyed was the Spratnet Beach Bar on Cane Bay.  Make sure you go on a Sunday for their Pig Roast, you’ll be sure to have a great time!

Crab Races at Fort Christian Brew Pub

Spratnet Beach Bar

12.  Tour the Cruzan Rum Distillery or visit the home of the Famous Beer Drinking Pig – Obviously this is not a kid-friendly activity, but I had to throw something in for Mom and Dad while the kids were hanging at the Kid’s Camp at the Buccaneer.  Tour the rum factory and learn how the popular local rum, Cruzan is made.  You will walk away with knowledge on what the difference is between white rum and gold rum and how the proofs are made.  You can also sample the rum for yourself.  Tours are only offered during weekdays.  You also won’t want to miss Mt. Pellier Domino Club which is the home of  the World Famous Beer Drinking Pigs!  Located in the heart of the rain forest you can stop for some great food and a cold drink and be entertained by JJ and Oreo as they enjoy a round of beer, non-alcoholic of course!

Are you ready to explore St. Croix’s wonderous landscapes and downtown area that tells a story of rich culture and history?

The Beer Drinking Pig

Touring the Rum Factory

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Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas

The gorgeous Caribbean

The weather today is damp and dreary here in New York.  It is hard not to daydream about a tropical and sunny place; therefore, my mind keeps wandering back to memories of one of my favorite vacations with my son.   Ah, the Atlantis!  When we arrived at Paradise Island in the Bahamas we were overwhelmed with the beauty and thrilled to take in everything it had to offer from the beach and water park to unbelievable learning experiences.

Of course you can’t be at a beautiful resort in the Caribbean without relaxing in the sun and enjoying the entertainment.  We had a great time on the lazy river, shooting down the challenger slide and taking a swim in ten different pools!  An unexpected surprise was that there were so many events and opportunities for my son and I to learn something new!  I discovered five ways kids can return home from Atlantis with some great hands-on learning experiences and not just a sunburn and braids.


Get up in close with the marine habitat 

Playing with the Dolphins

Atlantis actually has the largest exhibit of marine species in the Caribbean and one of the largest in the world.  There are many ways to explore the collection of marine

A friendly dolphin!

habitats and aquarium exhibits. One of the most exciting things to do is spend a day at Dolphin Cay.  Here you can swim and interact with dolphins, interact with the sea lions, snorkel  alongside exotic fish, and even sharks in the Ruins Lagoon. Kids can also have a hands-on encounter with the stingrays or feed the sea turtles at Hibiscus Lagoon.

The Dig

Another fun thing to do is visit Paradise Island’s The Dig which is an amazing aquarium experience that is modeled after the famous lost city with habitats like piranhas, eels, jellyfish and multitudes of colorful fish.  There also is an interactive touch tank and an a chance to meet Hannah Mermaid.

King of the Atlantis

Predator Tunnel

Feeding the Sea Turtles

The Stingrays are hungry too!

On the catamaran before snorkeling.

Scuba Diving

 Dive In – Atlantis offers several ways to get close to marine life under the waves.  Families can snorkel in the ruins of Atlantis or arrange for a reef snorkel excursion on a catamaran adventure.  Atlantis also offers scuba lessons in a pool and scuba adventures that allows certified divers to explore reefs and wrecks.

If scuba diving is not for you, there is always snuba.  Here you can enjoy the ease of snorkeling with an opportunity to experience breathing underwater.


Lights, Camera, Action 

Kids will have a great time getting their hair and make-up done and picking out costumes for their fifteen minutes of fame.  They can make a 60 second movie, jam out in a rock session, put on a skit or get their picture taken for a magazine cover shoot.

Culinary Adventure 

Here kids will have the opportunity to become a “Top Chef”.  With two programs to choose from, kids will be whisking and mixing fun creations like chocolate cake and  candy pizzas.

Get Creative

In the arts and craft room at the Atlantis Kids Adventures (AKA), kids will be able to do traditional crafts like create an undersea map or download photos and send virtual postcards.  Another cool thing is that kids can play on the iWall or iTables.

At Atlantis Pals, kids can create their own stuffed animal from scratch.  Here they can choose to make anything from a bear to a flamingo.  Once they have made their stuffed animal and outfitted them with accessories,  they  can officially adopt them to take them home.

At the Earth and Fire Pottery Studio you will be able to create a one of  kind masterpiece.  The studio offers an opportunity to design and paint pottery, create art with glass fusing, or even scrap-booking.

The Atlantis Kids Adventure is one of the best kids clubs I have ever seen at a Caribbean resort.  It is nice to know that while I was getting a little “Mommy time” at the spa, my  son was having a great time and learning something new.  In addition to the activities that I already mentioned, the club also has areas like imagination station for younger children, that includes Lego construction, a Victorian doll house and a grocery store that rivals any children’s museum.  Older children will enjoy the game room and computer room.

Indiana Jones (AKA, my son)

With so many places to see in this world, I often don’t like to go back to the same place.  The Atlantis is the exception.  This resort is such a fabulous place to spend with your family and it truly allows you to “get-away from it all” and experience countless things to do.  We did so much on our trip to the Atlantis it is hard to pick our favorite experience.  Have you traveled to the Atlantis with your kids?  What was your favorite experience?  I might check it out when I go again because their current ad “Turn Your Winter Blues  into Ocean Blue” is calling me!

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Today I noticed on the Yahoo homepage that Stonehenge was listed under “trending now”.  I immediately thought the surge in searches had to do with the winter solstice considering tomorrow is December 21st.  It turns out that researchers have confirmed the exact origin of the bluestone Stonehenge rocks.

My son at Stonehenge.

On a past trip to England, my son and I ventured out to the World Heritage site.  It truly was amazing!  We did an audio tour around the perimeter and started to ponder the many questions that so many people before us have asked.  “Why was Stonehenge built?”  “How much do the stones weigh?”  “How were they moved?”  Of course the beauty of an audio tour is it was filled with facts and answers to many of the questions that were running through our heads.  I was surprised that it was believed that the bluestone had come from Wales which was 150 miles away.  That was really hard to fathom, because of the weight of the stones and lack of  a realistic way to move them.

Well, according to the recent discovery by the geologist that has been studying mineral content and texture relations, it has now been determined that the stones indeed came from Pembrokeshire, which is a country in the southwest of Wales.  Amazing!  Of course there has been many theories of how they were moved, like humans moving them by planks or possibly being moved by ice transport.  Hopefully, now that the specific source of the stones have been determined, archeologist will be able to come up with answers to the debate of how the stones were moved.

Until then, I will reflect on my memories of the day trip to Stonehenge from London.  Tomorrow I will celebrate that the days will stop growing shorter and will soon grow longer, so I can actually walk my dog in the daylight when I get home from work.  Maybe on the walk, I’ll decide what my next world heritage site visit will be….maybe we’ll go to Easter Island (in my dreams) or maybe we will stay in the US and head to the Mammoth Caves.  With 936 sites to visit where would you go?  Check out the list here and let me know!

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