Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • Wow! We had such an awesome response to our Busch Gardens Williamsburg Giveaway. Thanks to everyone who entered and even to those of you who just came by to visit TravelingMamas.com.

    It looks like a good number of you are still out there traveling which is a good thing.

    We told you we had a few surprises during our Boycott, so we are adding a few random items to this awesome giveaway. So, congratulations to our winner, Kayce C., who boycotted the Staycation by visiting Atlanta. You’ve won:

    • 2 nights lodging at Embassy Suites Williamsburg
    • 2 Season Pass vouchers to Busch Gardens Williamsburg
    • 2 $25 Exxon Mobile Cards
    • 2 T-shirts
    • 2 Watercountry USA Visors

    And as a special bonus

    • 1 Gift Certificate for dinner for 2 at any Cracker Barrel Restaurant
    • 1 GetRoadReady.com Pack from Prestone to help you get better gas mileage on your road trip
    • 4 Cds to help you enjoy the ride, compliments of Kirt Webster and Associates

    Be sure to check your email for how to claim this fantastic getaway and again, thanks to all our readers. If any of you get a chance to visit Busch Gardens for Howl-O-Scream, send us your pics and you just might see yourself on TravelingMamas.com.

    Keep checking back at TravelingMamas.com for more tips and information to get you inspired to travel.

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  • A while back I was searching for something small and easy to use that could record snippets to provide content for our TravelingMamas YouTube page. A wise family travel blogger I know, Sheila of BootsNAll’s Family Travel Logue, mentioned that I should try the Flip Ultra Video. She claimed it was so easy and simple that a kindergartener could use it. So, the research began.

    I found the Flip Ultra Corporate Site that listed its predecessor and also a newer model, the Flip Mino. I compared all of them, including available accessories, such as a mini tripod and even an action mount for catching those skydiving trips. Both the Ultra and the Mino looked really cool with just a few differences. The Mino is a little smaller and has a rechargeable battery, whereas the Ultra can still fit in a pocket and uses two AA batteries. The Mino is also more expensive at $179.99US MSRP and only comes in black or white. The Ultra is listed at $149.99 and comes in a variety of cool colors.

    So, I searched on eBay. I checked out Amazon. I even went to Target and Walmart searching for this elusive gadget. I wanted to see it in person before I purchased it. I had given up my quest that day and continued on to Sam’s Wholesale Club to satisfy my inner bulkaholic before calling it a day. Imagine my delight when I saw, illuminated under fluorescent lighting, a large pyramid stack of Flip Ultra Videos for $124.99 each. What a steal! Of course, I added it to the grocery bill.

    I couldn’t wait to check out and open my treasure in RedBugg. My son was so excited, he tore at the plastic casing with his teeth like a puppy with a new peanut butter filled Kong. He placed the batteries in it and began recording with one touch. When we arrived home, we popped out the USB arm and plugged it into the computer. The easy to load software comes pre-loaded in the camera and is super easy to use.

    So far, we’ve taken that little find and filmed numerous travel memories which will soon be available for viewing. This fun, easy, and affordable little gadget definitely gets the On the Move Approved seal from me. Thanks for the tip, Sheila!

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  • Busch Gardens Williamsburg LogoWilliamsburg, VA is the first REAL vacation this Traveling Mama ever experienced. My brother was too young to go, so I had my parents all to myself as I experienced Colonial Williamsburg with its living history. In fact, I still have the Martha Washington rag doll I begged my parents for and I recall sleeping many nights in my Colonial mop cap that I refused to part with. So, I am very excited to announce our Ultimate Boycott the Staycation Giveaway. The folks at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Embassy Suites really want to help a lucky reader and family spend some quality time AWAY from home.

    Busch Gardens in Williamsburg is a European-themed park bursting with adventure at every turn. Busch Gardens took roller coaster design to bold new heights in 2007 with the debut of the world’s tallest and first floorless dive coaster, Griffon. Situated on 100 action-packed acres, Busch Gardens boasts more than 50 thrilling rides and attractions, ten main stage shows, a wide variety of award-winning cuisine and world-class shops. With something amazing around every corner, your family will come together like never before.

    Busch Gardens Williamsburg Roller CoasterWith this great giveaway, you can experience Howl-o-Scream at Busch Gardens Williamsburg as a romantic escape, a girlfriend getaway, or with a few dollars more, the entire family can enjoy. Don’t be scared to bring the entire family during this fun time at Busch Gardens. The official Howl-O-Scream site rates rides and events for families so you’ll know if something might be too scary for the littlest ones.

    Double Suite at Embassy Suites WilliamsburgThe whole family will enjoy two nights at Embassy Suites Williamsburg, one of the area’s premier lodging choices for families or couples. Their extra large rooms provide plenty of space for all members of the clan.

    So, what’s the big giveaway?

    • 2 Season Passes to Busch Gardens Williamsburg
    • 2 $25 Exxon Mobile Cards
    • 2 Busch Gardens Tee Shirts
    • 2 Water Country USA Visors
    • 2 Nights Lodging at Embassy Suites Williamsburg (must be redeemed by Oct. 31, 2008)

    Isn’t that an awesome giveaway? So, what do you have to do to win? Just leave a comment on this post telling us how you’ve Boycotted the Staycation so far this summer. As Traveling Mamas, we’ve been doing our best to Boycott the Staycation by visiting Florida, California, Puerto Vallarta, The Grand Canyon, and of course Hawaii, just to name a few places. So, leave a comment and make some plans to enjoy Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Maybe you can even visit Colonial Williamsburg and bring home a mop cap. The park’s annual festival of fright begins Sept. 19 and runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Oct. 26.

    For more information or for planning purposes go to VisitWilliamsburg.com, BuschGardens Williamsburg Official Site, and Embassy Suites Williamsburg Official Site.

    Eligible entries are for US Residents only. Immediate family members of Traveling Mamas are ineligible for this contest. Leave a comment on this post, with up to one entry per calendar day, per email address. Contest ends midnight August 26, 2008. Winner will be announced on Winning Wednesday, August 27.

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  • Monkey Billboard by Ed Westcott, courtesy of Oak Ridge CVB
    When I first heard of Oak Ridge, TN, I thought of the country group, The Oak Ridge Boys. Back in my younger years (11?) we would all go around singing “Elvira” in the deepest voice we could manage. Well, the Oak Ridge Boys aren’t even from Oak Ridge, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. Oak Ridge is really one of the US Government’s Secret Cities that were all part of the Manhattan Project.

    Visiting this city is not only a lesson in US history, but it also is one of the most scientifically advanced laboratories in the world (did someone mention an invisibility cloak?). It is hard to imagine that a rural farm town was eradicated by the government and built into a city in mere weeks, all without anyone outside knowing about it. I visited Oak Ridge a few weeks ago and then stopped by again so my family could experience what I continually talked about. So here is a mini guide of Oak Ridge and the surrounding area.

    Where is it? Oak Ridge is located about 30 minutes northwest of Knoxville.

    Where can a family stay overnight? The Hampton Inn Oak Ridge met with my clean inspection and offers spacious rooms with mini fridge, indoor pool, free wifi, and a hot breakfast daily. There are other lodging choices in the city, but this is the only one I’ve stayed in.

    What is there to do? The American Museum of Science and Energy is definitely a first choice for families. Mr. CajunMama insisted that we could only stay about two hours, but five hours into our visit, we had to drag him away from the hands-on exhibits so that we could eat a very late lunch. There is a public bus tour that runs M-F but my suggestion is to go adult-only for that ride. If your kids are interested in seeing some of the older building in the original secret city, then the K-25 Overlook is your best bet. However, the public tour takes you inside some high-security sites that you can’t see on your own.

    Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge is a former elementary school turned cool place to visit. Don’t let the name fool you, as I was quite surprised and how entertaining the facility is for adults too.

    Secret City Excursion Train is a 12-mile tour through the K-25 site.

    Kids listening to music at Museum of Appalachia by Shannon Hurst LaneThe Museum of Appalachia is this wonder set in the nearby town of Clinton. Word cannot even describe the wonder of this place. It is a 65 acre complex that is dotted with 30 log structures from Appalachian history. One building, The Hall of Fame, contains some of the most bizarre yet interesting items about pioneer life. Founder, John Rice Irwin, painstakingly wrote by hand the history of each item collected at this museum. This place deserves a post all to itself.

    If you are looking to kick back and enjoy the countryside, River Ridge Farm offers horse-drawn wagon rides around their farm for families. Be sure to give Bill and Nell (the horses) a big wet one for me!

    Musuem of Appalachia Gardens by Shannon Hurst LaneWhat if we get hungry? If you are still at the Museum of Appalachia, then lunch here is a must. One of the ladies, Ms. Faye, makes a banana nut cake that made me want to weep when I tasted it. The menu varies daily, with most items being grown in the museum garden.

    Big Ed’s Pizza is a popular eatery that serves just pizza and drinks. This no-frills joint was so good that I had to bring the entire family back just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming up how good it is. They all agreed that Big Ed’s is a must-eat in Oak Ridge.

    The Soup Kitchen serves up a multitude of soups to please every palate. I ordered some bread with my soup and was surprised to be served up a fresh mini loaf that was delicious.

    Hot Bagel is a good choice for breakfast. I know it is a bagel shop, but the blueberry scone I ordered rivaled the ones I enjoyed in London.

    If you plan to visit Oak Ridge or just want to learn more about its history, visit their official site here.

     

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  • I’m hooked on Key West. There. I’ve admitted my problem. I went for the first time in May and then decided I needed a return trip to make sure the magic of the Keys was real. So, I used a mother/daughter getaway as an excuse, and guess what? It is still awesome! Now I get it. Everyone I meet there is from somewhere else. It is one of those places that calls to the soul, begging you to return again and again until you finally move there for good.

    So, here are a few things to do in the Florida Keys that are family friendly.

    Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square1. Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square – Each evening at sundown in Key West, the area is filled with street performers, vendors, and palm readers. Families can stroll the pier and see sights such as a catch jumping through a ring of fire, or a kooky lady swallowing an entire balloon. Don’t try this one at home!

    2. Snorkeling – The clear waters of the Florida Keys are the perfect place to take the family on a snorkel trip.

    3. Feed the Tarpon at Robbie’s – This Islamorada stop is located at mile marker 77 and half at Lignum Vitae Bridge. This insane experience will make the kids squeal when dad dangles a cigar minnow and one of the tarpons jump up to get it. Be sure to take a picture of his hand INSIDE the mouth of the fish. And hold on to the minnows or the pelicans will scoop them up before you even know what happened.

    4. Kayak in Key Largo – Guide Bill Keogh shares his knowledge with visitors as he takes the entire family on trips through the mangroves or out in the ocean. Kids learn about the flora and fauna without realizing they are learning.

    5. Introduce the kids to Hemingway – I love Hemingway, so of course this is on the list. The Hemingway House in Key West is a must for lovers of literature and this larger than life author. You may even get a glimpse of the descendants of his polydactyl cat. If you look around enough, you might even see Hemingway’s “last” penny near the concrete in the pool. Be sure to ask Diamond Dave the story behind this coin.

    6. Buy a pair of Kino Sandals – Okay, I know how this sounds. Buy sandals? These are no ordinary sandals, my friends. I little birdie told me about this place (thanks, Sheri) where these cute little old ladies make sandals. Yes. HANDMADE LEATHER SANDALS from Key West. Wanna guess how much they are? Try less than 20 bucks a pair. They have sandals for the entire family and you can even watch the ladies sewing them.

    7. Feel like a fairy at the Butterfly House – This magical stop will have parents and kids gasping in delight. I know I sure did. When I walked in, all these colorful beings were flitting around. I felt as if I was in a fairy wonderland (or Lord of the Rings).

    Blue Heaven Restaurant in Key West8. Eat breakfast with the chickens at Blue Heaven – This colorful Key West restaurant is open aired and a delight in the morning. Their lobster eggs benedict is to-die for, but the pancakes are pretty awesome, as well. The roosters and chickens hop around from roof to table umbrella. Every once in a while they hit the ground and walk amongst the customers. It is a delightful place to start (or end) the day.

    9. Take a fishing trip – There are so many charter services out there, but I did notice that Cheeca Watersports was taking out a lot of father/son groups and even a few families. I wish I would have had time to take LCM fishing when we were there.

    10. Enjoy the sunset on an evening cruise – This is quite simply, the ultimate way to enjoy a final evening (if not every evening) in the Florida Keys.

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