Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • Spring means the start of the Florida family vacation season, and it’s when theme parks here roll out what’s new to draw families in.

    One of the most exciting additions this year is the Sesame Street Safari of Fun at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

    Cookie Monster at Busch Gardens Tampa BayCharacters abound at Florida’s theme parks, of course, but this is the first place in Florida where families can meet many preschoolers’ first love: Elmo.

    The new children’s area is a whole theme park within a theme park, with its own rides, shows, play areas and dining options. It’s all themed with the familiar Sesame Street characters, but to fit in with Busch Gardens’ African theming, Bert and Ernie and the gang are dressed in Safari garb and exploring African culture.

    I have been able to watch the Sesame Street Safari of Fun from the construction phase right through to its opening, and I have to say if you have a preschooler in your household, it’s definitely worth the trip.

    Here are the highlights:

    • Air Grover – This is brand-new junior roller coaster, where you can ride a plane (piloted by Grover) over the Mojave desert. It’s designed to be your child’s first roller coaster. But Air Grover is not a lightweight – the twists and turns will give you and your child a thrill. The ride takes about 30 seconds, so even if your little one does get slightly scared, it’s over quickly. I recently rode Air Grover with my 4-year-old niece. As you can see in this video, she wasn’t scared at all!

    • Dine with Elmo and Friends – To get the most up close-and-personal time with the Sesame Street characters, you should plan to have breakfast or lunch in the newly built character dining venue at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. The food is buffet style, and judging by the breakfast I had there, there’s something for everyone. The highlight, of course, is when the characters arrive to mix and mingle with your table. I recommend making your dining reservations online, in advance of your trip.
    • Sunny Day Theater – This is another chance to see the Sesame Street characters in action, as they perform African tales live on stage several times each day.

    Sunny Day Theater at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

    • Elmo’s Treehouse Trek – Gigantic 3-story playground that’s big enough for parents, too!
    • Sesame Street Safari of Fun splash play areaBert and Ernie’s Watering Hole – This is a huge splash play area, so be sure to bring swimsuits. I recommend water shoes, too. I love that Busch Gardens thought about the parents when building this – the whole area is ringed with benches that are close enough to keep an eye on your kids without hovering.

    For those of you planning a Walt Disney World trip this summer, I think it’s worth the drive to Tampa if your kids are Sesame Street fans. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is less than 90 minutes from Disney, so it’s an easy day trip.

    If you are a Florida resident, Busch Gardens is offering a free “preschool pass” to kids ages 5 and under. It’s good for admission through the end of 2010. You must sign up for this offer in advance online, though. It’s not available at the gate.

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  • Deep in the heart of Utah lays a destination of adventure, culture, and history. Romantics looking for active vacations can also find epicurean delights for the discerning palate.

    Moab, located in Grand County, is a gold mine in the west that has been discovered by many for its adventure, but has a hidden quality that few visitors are just beginning to enjoy.

    It is not just a summer destination, but a year round place that can be enjoyed by all pleasure seekers. Winter and early spring are the best times to find solitude in the area parks and quiet contentment at local ranches.

    Colin Fryer, owner of Red Cliffs Lodge and Castle Creek Winery, has made the decision to run his lodge year round. Located on the Colorado River, Red Cliffs Lodge provides the perfect setting for a romantic getaway. King rooms overlook the river where occupants can enjoy a bottle of the winery’s award winning libations.

    Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab, Utah“This is not just a job, this is my dream,” commented Mr. Fryer during an interview. He is has expanded that dream with newly constructed cabins on the river, complete with kitchenette, fireplace, and soaking tub for two. What a romantic dream.

    The on-site Castle Creek Winery offers various blends, making the ranch a must-stop for any wine lover. The Lily Rose White is a blend of their Chardonnay, a fruity dry white, and the Chenin Blanc, a semi sweet white. This was my personal favorite.

    Near Red Cliffs Lodge, located on the Colorado River Scenic Byway, is Sorrel River Ranch. Sorrel River Ranch offers lodgers elegant rustication on the river. Each room offers views of the Colorado River and seating for two to enjoy the evenings in a relaxing atmosphere.

    Sorrel River Ranch has fine dining on-site as well as a spa that offers couples treatments. Couples looking for relaxing getaways can’t go wrong with either property.

    Colorado River near Moab, UtahFor couples seeking a bit more activity, Moab offers 4X4 Hummer rides with High Point Hummer Tours, day trips and other adventures with Tagalong Expeditions, or just enjoying a day of discovery visiting wineries, shopping, and searching the areas for Native American rock art.

    If choosing to explore on your own, at the junction of Main Street and the Colorado River Scenic Byway, romantics can partake of a local tradition, drinking from Matrimonial Spring. Legend has it, that any visitor who drinks this water is sure to return to Moab. If something stronger is a bit more your style, check out Spanish Valley Wineries for a boutique blend.

    The Moab Official Website offers a calendar of events, a complete listing of lodging, dining, and activities. If you want to escape the summer crowds, winter and spring are a good time to make a visit.

    How to Get There
    You could drive, but I flew Salmon Air, which runs daily flights from Salt Lake City during the summer and has other scheduled flights the rest of the year. The small planes are intimate and offer ample opportunity for taking aerial photographs of the beautiful landscapes. www.salmonair.com

    Where to Stay:
    Best Western Moab www.bestwesternmoab.com
    Red Cliffs Lodge www.redcliffslodge.com
    Sorrel River Ranch www.sorrelriver.com

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  • Kids grow up so fast. My son is now 14 years old and my 12 year old daughter has changed overnight. She went camping with her dad on their annual camp out. Fifteen dads and 21 kids spent the entire weekend fishing and telling jokes. During the first hour at the camp site, my daughter found cell coverage and managed to send me a text message begging to pick her up so she could take a bubble bath. I have a feeling my husband is about to lose his little tomboy because she turned into a young lady overnight.

    Like our children change, so do many other things. We’ve continued with the spring cleaning on the site in order to make room for added features to help you plan your travel. Hopefully you’ll find these new features useful as we gradually roll out the changes.

    What’s New

    You may have noticed, we’ve started adding lodging reviews and itineraries to TravelingMamas.com. The first itinerary will help you plan a visit to the Great Smoky National Park and Sevierville, Tennessee for a girlfriend getaway. Feel free to save or print out the itinerary for future travel planning. There are many itineraries being added. If you have any requests, we’ll be glad to oblige you. Just send an email.

    This past week, ThemeParkMom reviewed the Gaylord Opryland and tells us about Monell’s, a great dining venue in Nashville. MommyMusings continues with the Gaylord theme and writes about what it’s like to experience the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, Florida. I was feeling patriotic and shared a review about my stay at Gaylord National, a wonderful home base while exploring Washington, DC.

    Site of the Week

    Have you checked out The Spy Mom? I think her logo and site is fabulous. Plus, she sneaks into hotels and restaurants to review them.

    Deals

    Speaking of Gaylord properties, a special package for families is Mom Prom and the Family Experience which include fabulous rates and special activities for families to celebrate Mom in style. Here are the details for Gaylord National, Gaylord Opryland, and Gaylord Palms.

    Giveaways

    Mother’s Day is right around the corner and we’ve got some great giveaways lined up. The first is a LUSH Mum Hatbox giveaway full of yummy bath goodies.

    Want a getaway to New Orleans? Community Coffee is giving away a trip to the Crescent City valued at over $5000. Sign up on their website.

    Nothing is worse than going on a trip and returning home to a messy house. MommyMusings is giving away some cleaning supplies that may help one lucky person.

    Who’s a fan of Glee? Want to win a trip to LA and attend a Glee photo shoot? BuzzSugar.com is giving a trip away. You’ll have to fill out a few polls to enter the contest.

    Adventure Center is holding a trip of a lifetime giveaway. You have to be on Twitter and the details are all here.

    I’m off for a secret adventure this week and plan on attending the Baton Rouge Blues Fest with my family over the weekend after I return. Next weekend we’re following the festival route and will head to New Orleans for Jazz Fest. Will you be attending any of those events? What are your upcoming travel plans?

    As always, thank you for your support and continue to make wonderful travel memories.

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  • Sevierville, TN is a destination conveniently located near the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It’s a fantastic place for family travel, romantic escapes, and even girlfriend getaways. I love this area and experienced a girlfriend getaway itinerary to help you plan a great trip with a group of your friends. Each place included in the itinerary has been personally visited and approved for TravelingMamas.com readers. Feel free to print this out or save it for personal use and trip planning. The most important part? Be sure to have fun and enjoy some time with your friends!

    Evening of Arrival

    Dinner at Chop House

    Day 1

    Applewood Grill Sevierville TennesseeBreakfast at Applewood Farmhouse Grill followed by a tour of the Apple Barn Complex. Take some time in the morning to shop at Five Oaks Tanger Outlet Center and play a morning round of mini golf at Old MacDonald’s Mini Golf. A light apres mini golf lunch can be found in the complex at Country Ritz. The girls just might need a little afternoon relaxation, so head on over to Utopia Day Spa for a waterside outdoor massage. Enjoy dinner and a show, Dolly-style, at Dixie Stampede where  you’ll either cheer for the North or the South. If you still have some energy left, enjoy a few hours at the NASCAR SpeedPark and race your friends in NEXTEL Cup style cars.

    Utopia Day Spa Outdoor Massage Sevierville Tennessee

    Day 2

    The Great China Circus in Sevierville, TennesseeStart the morning with breakfast at Flapjacks and then opt for some scrapbooking time at Scrapbook Superstore. Spend the rest of your morning exploring Historic Downtown Sevierville and all the neat little shops in the area. Be sure to get a Girlfriend Getaway group picture in front of the Dolly Parton statue in the town square. A great stop for lunch is Damon’s Grill for a char-grilled meal. All that shopping means it’s time for another girlfriend afternoon at The Spa at Oak Haven. Be sure to check out The Great China Circus before enjoying an evening meal at the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant.

    Day 3

    Cataract Falls Smoky Mountain NPStop for a quick to-go breakfast that you can enjoy on the way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Sugarlands Visitor Center is located at the entrance and offers a walk through nature museum and film about the park. Arrange for a step-on guide and local storyteller for girlfriend story time of the amazing women who are part of the park’s history. Spend your afternoon catching some shows and thrill rides at Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s 118-acre Smoky Mountain escape. In the evening freshen up at your hotel before enjoying a fantastic meal at Taulbee’s, located in the Sevierville Bus Stop, yet serves some of the finest meals in the area. Be sure to toast to your girlfriends and a wonderful getaway at the end of the evening.

    Day of Departure

    If you have time, enjoy breakfast together and say a parting good-bye to your girlfriends. Have a safe trip back home!

    Where to Stay

    There are so many places to choose from in the Sevierville area. I’ve stayed at the Resort at Governor’s Crossing, which offered some personal space while traveling with a group. More intimate groups may want to rent one of the many cabins available either through HomeAway.com, VRBO.com, or a reputable cabin rental company.

    How to Get There

    Most visitors opt to drive to this destination, but if it is more convenient to fly, be sure to book your flight into Knoxville Airport. Sevierville is a bit too far for a taxi, but you can rent a car or get one of your gal pals to pick you up for your getaway.

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  • Well, it’s that time of year in the US –  The time when every single one of you should go out and show Mama just how much she means to you. Many mothers out there will say they’re just fine and don’t really need anything for Mother’s Day. They may not NEED anything, but they sure do WANT something (like a really nice travel watch or pink camera bag. Hint, hint).

    Remember, when Mama is happy, everyone is happy. We act like martyrs when this time of year comes around, but truly inside we want you to figure it out on your own and get us something super special that we can brag to our friends about.

    We can’t always travel, but one item that helps me recreate a spa at home is LUSH organic good-for-the-planet products. I’ve been using these for years, ever since my mother put my first lotion bar under the Christmas tree. In fact, I’ve spread the LUSH Love around my family by gifting various members with pretty wrapped LUSH gift sets.

    TravelingMamas.com wants you to have a LUSH experience for Mother’s Day, that’s why we’re giving away a special LUSH Mother’s Day Gift Set that’s all about Mum. Here’s the company description:

    Considering just how much a mum does, how many cuddles given, kisses better and scrapes mended, we decided it was time to create an extra special gift and fill it with enough bath and body products to keep her happily lavished in LUSH from head to toe. She can bathe with a flower-shaped Sakura, go over the rainbow with the new Dorothy Bubble Bar and continue Happy Blooming with our newest melt. Miranda and Porridge soaps are just right, and our strawberry cream wash will make her a very yummy mummy. Top it all off with decadent Vanilla Dee-lite and a gorgeous box to keep them all in and you’ve got yourself a happy mother. (The best kind to have)

    Doesn’t that sound lovely? I want one and will have one for myself as a backup Mother’s Day gift just in case I don’t get one from my family. Plus, I’ll have even more LUSHiousness in my bath cabinet!

    How can YOU win one? Just leave a comment telling us what you REALLY want for Mother’s Day. Even if you aren’t a mama you can still enter. One entry per email address. Contest ends 11:59pm April 24, 2010 with winner  being announced sometime afterwards. Don’t plan on giving this to someone for Mother’s Day because there is no guarantee it will arrive before then. US entries only (postage and customs rates) 18 years and older.

    Bonus entries: 1. Tweet the contest and leave link to tweet status as one comment. 2. Become a fan of TravelingMamas.com on Facebook and leave as one comment (current fans just comment that you’re already a fan). 3. Sign up for our newsletter and leave as one comment.

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