Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • The Kentucky Derby is happening this weekend at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. If you choose to bring your family to this storied racing venue, here are some tips to keep in mind:

    Consider visiting on dates other than Derby Day. There will be more than 150,000 people at Churchill Downs the first Saturday of May, but there is live racing at the Churchill Downs spring meet each weekend from late April through July 4. While nothing can match the excitement of being there for the Kentucky Derby, you and your family will have a more relaxed day, and get more of an introduction to the place, by checking it out at another time.

    Plan to move around the track. A visit to a horse race is not the same as other sporting events, where you enter the arena, take your seat and stay for the entire event. Be sure to move around Churchill Downs to view what’s happening all around the venue. The paddock area out front is where you will be able to get closest to the horses before each race. Watch a race or two from the grandstands, of course. And it’s a different experience to watch a race inside Churchill, where the last-minute gamblers walk up to the window and place their bets seconds before the race starts, turning with their tickets to watch the race on TV.

    Buy a racing form. You can pick up racing forms at many convenience stores around Louisville for $5 or $6. They may even be available at your hotel. A racing form can be fun reading during your time at the track – you will get the back-story on the horses that you won’t learn at the track.

    Learn what the different races mean. While the Kentucky Derby is the premiere horse race in the U.S., 10 or so races are run each racing day at Churchill Downs. They will each have different rules as far as which horses can be entered. Brush up on the different races with your family before coming to the track. It’s interesting to know which races deal with horses who have never won before, and which races require their owners to put the horse up for sale just to enter.

    Place a bet or two. Even if you’re not a gambler, place a bet during your visit to Churchill Downs. It’s a whole new experience to cheer on your horse with a potentially winning ticket in your hand. So give everyone in the family $2 (the minimum bet) and the chance to pick a winner. Study the racing form and make an educated guess. Bet the longshots. Or have each person pick their favorite horse name of the day and bet on that one.

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  • I somehow coaxed my daughter into riding her first extreme coaster during a family vacation to Branson, Missouri. The ride, Wildfire, is located at the family friendly theme park attraction Silver Dollar City. This park offers shows, rides for all ages, good food, and a place to make memories worth repeating. Silver Dollar City is celebrating it’s fiftieth anniversary of providing wholesome fun for the entire family.

    My daughter and I definitely made a memory that will last, although judging by her expressions in the video, she may not want to repeat this one! Hopefully we’ll return for another family vacation and will ride Wildfire once again.

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  • One thing I love about cruise travel in a suite is the VIP treatment at breakfast every morning. My favorite part of each morning was sitting in the private dining room and enjoying a cup of coffee served in a Chambord French Press. I will admit that while I’m a world traveler, some things are still new and exciting for me – including having coffee served to me in a Chambord French Press. I guess it’s the simple things that make life grand for me.

    When I return from a super-duper amazing trip, I sometimes stop for coffee and a chat with my friends at Community Coffee when I’m out running errands (the main office is located conveniently near Mall of Louisiana). They love to hear about my adventures and we catch up on the latest in the social media world and fun things going on in Louisiana. Of course when I mentioned the Chambord French Press part of my cruise, my friends were surprised that being such a coffee lover, I didn’t use one of these already.

    Being the sweethearts that they are, they put together and sent me a Community Coffee Mother’s Day Gift Basket that includes a Hiraca Palm basket filled with a 34 oz. Chambord French Press, 12 oz. of their Private Reserve Founders Blend, and a cute little Community Coffee signature coffee scoop.

    I absolutely loved it and in full disclosure, I begged Community Coffee to allow me to host a giveaway of the same item on TravelingMamas.com. It retails for $44.95 US and until April 30, 2010 is can be ordered with no shipping charged in the continental US if you use the promo code: MOM.

    I have the basket sitting on my counter and I’ve placed cute little napkins in it. I love how Community Coffee supports the communities that it works with. I guess that’s why I’m such a big supporter of this company (who does NOT pay me to write about them FYI). Here’s a snippet about the baskets from the company site:

    In Valle del Cauca in Colombia, young families who are eager to develop their farms and build a future for their children are cultivating coffee. To help build a renewed sense of hope and a brighter future for those young families, we agreed to pay them for their coffee beans at a price substantially above world market prices. Additionally, these hardworking families make beautiful baskets. Community Coffee Company purchased some to share with you. We thank you for helping us craft a brighter future for coffee farming families.

    How do you enter to win one? Just leave a comment stating where you would like to enjoy a cup of coffee for Mother’s Day (whether you are a mom or not). You have until April 30, 2010 at 11:59 pm CST to leave a comment. Winner will be randomly chosen and announced sometime over the weekend. Sorry, but this particular contest is only open to US residents (shipping rules) 18 years of age or older. One coffee comment per email address, please. Bonus entry: Tweet this contest and leave the status as different comment.

    Winner Update: Congrats to Catherine!

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  • This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of St Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches, Florida. All opinions are 100% mine.

    St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, and The Beaches is an area I am well acquainted with. I included this romantic destination in my latest travel guide – Civil War Sites in the South – not only for her history, but for her beauty and old world charm. It has been a tourist destination for many generations. The downtown area is pedestrian friendly with cobblestone streets and carriage rides. Here are some ideas for planning a romantic escape to the area:

    Lodging

    Lodging is one of the most important aspects of any getaway. The place where you stay can make or break your experience. The ultimate romantic accommodation for me is a bed & breakfast. One of the places included in my guide is the St. Francis Inn, in the downtown area and includes free amenities. Many of these amenities are: breakfast, dessert hour, a special Sunday Champagne brunch, and access to Our Beach, their exclusive cottage on the beach.

    If you are searching for a hotel with a boutique feel, the Hilton St. Augustine Historic Bayfront has the intimate feel for romantics yet offers modern day amenities that savvy travelers are looking for. There are 72 rooms and includes an outdoor pool and the perfect location in the heart of St. Augustine.

    Dining

    Couples searching for a gourmet meal can’t go wrong with a three course meal at Bistro de Leon at 12 Cathedral Place. Fifth generation Chef Jean-Stephane Poinard transports diners from the US to a cozy bistro in Lyon with his cuisine and atmosphere. Everything is homemade, including delicious pastries to please those with a sweet tooth.

    Attractions

    St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, and The Beaches offer so many attractions and activities for any type of traveler. Me – I prefer the beach! Be sure to visit St. Augustine and check out all the romantic ideas to plan your own visit to this historic destination.

    Visit my sponsor: Endless sands. Boundless waters.

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  • Los Cabos. The name fits the destination. Simple. Relaxing. Romantic. Translated, it means the capes and takes its name from three capes: Cabo san Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, and Cabo del Este. These capes lie at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, the world’s longest peninsula and is a wonderful choice for a romantic escape or girlfriend getaway. Families are also welcome at this destination, but I would prefer to visit sans kids.

    El Arco is a famous image of the Baja Peninsula in Cabo San Lucas, MexicoThis is where romance is as passionate as Lover’s Beach, a place at the tip of the Baja Peninsula at El Arco, where the sand is only revealed once every six years. This is where the Sea of Cortez mixes with the Pacific Ocean, in a blend of senses. Some couples wait to be married until Lover’s Beach is revealed under the famous arches of Cabo san Lucas.

    I was fortunate enough to visit the area, lodging outside of the city, in an area called The Corridor. It’s an 18 mile stretch of beach between Cabo san Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. The flight into Cabo was uneventful and I was the first to get through customs because I only had a carry-on. I was being host by the Hilton Los Cabos Beach and Golf Resort, who had arranged for an airport pickup. A thing to know before going is that the time-share solicitors will try to trick you into telling you they are your ride. A savvy traveler will know that their driver is not allowed inside the airport and will be waiting with a sign outside the glass doors.

    The dramatic drive though The Corridor sets Cabo apart from other beachside retreats. On one side of the road you can’t miss the mountains and rocky hillsides. On the other side, you glimpse the shore, the turquoise waters, and of all things, the cacti on the beach. If you are fortunate enough to visit Cabo in the winter, you may catch a glimpse of a majestic whale.

    Lodging
    The Hilton Los Cabos Beach and Golf Resort was not what I expected and was my first experience at a resort-style Hilton Hotel. The entrance was fabulously massive with marble floors throughout the entire property. My room was a junior beachside suite and included a soaking spa tub with marble shower, a sitting room, plush bed, and relaxing patio area overlooking the beach. I felt like a princess in a beachside fairy tale.

    Hilton Los Cabos Beach Resort and Spa Suite PatioThe resort is self contained and couples can spend time here without having to leave. The infinity pool is the main pool located near the whale watching area with towel service provided and numerous beach chairs for sunbathers. The beach is just below and is accessible by a pathway of landscaped concrete making it easy for those of all abilities to enjoy the beach. Snorkeling and other water activities are available onsite by a private vendor. Note: The hotel has experienced a renovation since my visit.

    Nightlife
    Although there is no need to leave the resort, there are many nightlife options available in Cabo san Lucas. My group took a sunset cruise on the Caborey which offers dining and entertainment. The drinks were free-flowing as the ship cruised past El Arco at sunset. This is definitely a romantic kissing moment for those on a romantic escape. As the sun was setting, I could barely make out one of Madonna’s homes, set on an Oceanside cliff. Then it was time to step inside the cabin for dinner and a show.

    After the sunset cruise, my companions and I hit the nightlife of Cabo. We headed first to Cabo Wabo Cantina, known for wild times and crazy parties with Sammy Hagar and his friends, such as Kenny Chesney (hello, my favorite singer), Nickelback, and Smash Mouth. Cabo Wabo was closed for a Cuban Jazz Festival that night. With heads drooping in disappointment, we walked across the street to a little place called, The Giggling Marlin.

    What a blast! This is a cheesy, touristy bar that made me crack up laughing when the waiters busted out dance moves to “Macho Man.” If you need to spice up your life, get one of the waiters to pull you on the dance floor where you can salsa the night away. One of the main attractions of this fine establishment is getting Hung upside down like a Marlin. Imagine that your feet are tied up and pulled towards the ceiling for a shot of tequila. (Tip: Don’t wear a skirt to the Giggling Marlin)

    I don’t remember what time we left, but there are memories of a conga line with tequila. Fortunately, the cab fare back to the hotel was not as expensive as I thought it would be.

    Day Trip
    A day trip on any vacation is a good way to experience the surrounding areas. We went to Todos Santos, an small community located about an hour’s drive north of Cabo san Lucas. Todos Santos is located on the Tropic of Capricorn and is one of the only places in the world where Mangos are in season twice a year.

    Along the desert highway, you can glimpse the area where Troy was filmed. Once arriving in the town, I visited a local contemporary artist, Gabo. I purchased a small canvas of his work to take home (which now hangs in my office). As I walked the streets shopping, I had to stop and look again. There, across the street, was Hotel California. Could it be THE Hotel California? Locals say it is, but Don Henley denies the rumor.

    Spa
    Beach at Hilton Los Cabos Beach Resort and SpaThe day was pleasant, but I was ready for some true relaxation. I enjoyed a massage at the Hilton Los Cabos Spa. The spa was well appointed with a separate area for men and women. Couple’s treatments are available, as well. After an hour of pampering, I took my jellied self back to my room and sat on the patio to read. I listened to the waves splashing along the beach as they crashed on the shore, only to be sucked back into the Sea of Cortez to repeat nature’s process. What a way to end a visit.

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