Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • What is a romantic escape? Does it really have to be about time with your significant other? Does is have to be a honeymoon trip or anniversary journey? Is it who you are with or is it about where you go?

    My affair with Ireland began before I visited this magical place. I read about it as a child, with stories of fairies and legends like The Blarney Stone. I read about the mists in history books and her heroes in my romance novels. When the offer was made to travel across the ocean and actually step foot on this island, I jumped at the chance to meet one of my crushes.

    My entire being began to change when I stepped off the plane. My hair curled up, and I longed to start my exploration of the land that inspired so many writers. I visited faery rings, wondering if any of these places were portals into other worlds, like C.S. Lewis’ Narnia. I enjoyed dinner at a private residence overlooking the inspiration of Lake Isle of Innisfree by W.B. Yeats while my host read the poem aloud in between courses.

    I visited a seaside spa in Sligo and floated in a seaweed bath, imagining myself as a mermaid. I walked the streets of Dublin late one night, in search of Bram Stoker’s residence where he penned Dracula. I enjoyed a pint of Guinness at Davy Byrnes on Grafton Street, the place where James Joyce used to frequent.

    I learned about my name, Shannon, and the river my mother named me after. I also learned that the Irish don’t name their children Shannon, as it would be like an American naming their child Mississippi or Rio Grande, but the legend of Sinaan and how the river was named is a fascinating story in itself.

    I danced with friends and I danced with strangers all over the island, from Sligo, to Donegal, to Dublin. I enjoyed the food and the drink and the people. I fell in love with Ireland and I discovered a new depth in my soul and even fell in love with myself. I knew that when I returned home to my family I would be able to hold the memories of Ireland dear to my heart whenever I thought my life was dull with dishes, laundry, and carpools.

    Every once in a while, when life gets still, one might be able to find me listening to a bit of Celtic music, drinking a hot cup of Irish Breakfast tea, and flipping through photos or reading the poetry of Keats. My romantic affair with Ireland will always be in my heart, never to be forgotten.

    Ireland is a welcoming destination for families, romantic escapes (with or without spouse), girlfriend getaways, and definitely soul-oh trips. When you find the real Ireland, you find yourself. For more information visit DiscoverIreland.com or find your own romantic escape closer to home.

    This article was originally published here on October 26, 2008

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  • Picture yourself at Walt Disney World, pushing a stroller around, possibly on a multi-generational family trip, and you find nap time is quickly approaching – for everyone. You just want a little Me Time. There’s nothing wrong with that. Parents need to stay sane and take advantage of down time, or even treat themselves to a visit to the parks WITHOUT the kids. Family travel can get crazy, so why not
    ask a family member to watch the kids, giving you and your spouse a few moments of adult time.

    Did you know there are nearly 400 places to dine across Walt Disney World Resort? And that’s not counting the portable food carts. In all, more than 6,000 different food items are available. And chances are, if the restaurants aren’t in the Magic Kingdom, they just might have an adult beverages on the menu for you to enjoy. If wine is your poison of choice, then you’ll want to know that more than 600 sommeliers have been awarded the Court of Master Sommelier Introductory Certificate at Walt Disney World Resort, with more than 300 sommeliers currently in restaurants.

    With so many restaurants and dining choices, where should you go for that “special” drink? Here are just of few of our top choices for a cocktail, beer, or wine while at Walt Disney World.

    Epcot’s World Showcase 

    United Kingdom – The Rose and Crown Pub and Dining room brings visitors into Victorian England with its etched glass panels, dark mahogany bar and authentic dart board. If you are looking for hearty ale, this place offers specially designed ale warmer can heat your Guinness to 55 degrees, should that be your preference.

    Mexico – The pavilion features a festive and colorful celebration of the beauty and culture of Mexico that is fun for guests of all ages. “Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros” is an excursion by tour boat through the vibrant, eye-filling sights and lively music of Mexico. If you’re interested in margaritas, you should check out ThemeParkMom’s review of inventive margaritas at La Hacienda de San Angel, a new restaurant in EPCOT.

    Japan – In the Matsu-no-ma Lounge, visitors see a majestic view of Future World across the lagoon while sampling sushi, Japanese pickled vegetables, tempura and exotic specialty drinks.

    Germany – Biergarten, an indoor German “courtyard” featuring a German Oktoberfest buffet. At lunch and dinner time, yodelers, dancers and other lederhosen-clad musicians perform an Oktoberfest dinner show. Guests are invited onstage to join in the musical fun. The wine shop nearby offers samples of Ice Wine for a few bucks. Definitely worth a try.

    French Champagne and Wine cart at EPCOT World ShowcaseFrance – Want a glass of vino but don’t want to wait in the long line inside the wine shop? Across from the front of France there is a wine cart serving Champagne, wines, and frozen blends.

    Want more? Check out our extensive list of wine, beer, and cocktails at Epcot’s World Showcase.

    Other Venues at Disney with Alcohol

    Victoria Falls at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Down a flight of stairs from the lobby, this mezzanine lounge serves wine and spirits imported from Africa, including Windhoek beer from Namibia and Imoya Brandy from South Africa. The specialty drink is a Victoria Falls Mist, with tangerine, melon and banana liqueurs. Animal Kingdom Lodge has the largest offering of South African wines anywhere in the US. Be sure to check out Jiko, The Cooking Place, too!

    The Wave at Disney’s Contemporary Resort – Trendy cocktails are served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Start the day with a Pomegranate Splash (vodka, pomegranate liqueur, cranberry juice and soda water) or the Ultimate Bloody Mary (organic vodka, Bloody Mary mix and a dash of red chili sauce). The Pure-tini mixes organic vodka with organic mango and passion fruit liqueur. The Antioxidant Cocktail features wild berry vodka, black raspberry liqueur, açai juice with agave, lychee, aloe juice and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

    Tune-In Lounge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, next door to 50’s Prime Time Cafe, looks like a family den from the ’50s, with black-and-white TVs and campy retro furniture. You can choose kitschy drinks from “Dad’s Liquor Cabinet” such as Uncle Tim’s Melon Margarita, Scooter’s Long Island Iced Tea or an Electric Lemonade. Beer and wine is offered, too. My personal favorite is a Magical Star. Check out this video of inside Tune-In Lounge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as part of our Cocktail Series.

    Dawa Bar adjacent to Tusker House Restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Sit in the shade and sip a hard-to-find Tusker Beer from Africa or Safari Amber, brewed just for Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. South African wines are on the drink menu, too, along with cocktails like Lost on Safari with rum and fruit juices.

    Dawa Bar at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

    Mizner’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – A live orchestra plays nostalgic Big Band sounds just outside the doors of this lounge tucked away on the second floor of the hotel. The lounge’s namesake is architect Addison Mizner, whose designs launched a “Florida Renaissance” in the 1920s, so the sophisticated drinks are apropos: champagnes, caipirinhas, mint juleps and cosmopolitans, along with nine vodkas, seven different single malt scotch whiskeys and after-dinner cognacs and ports.

    There are more than 50 lounges in Walt Disney World hotels and three theme parks (no alcohol in Magic Kingdom. Again I stress. No alcohol in Magic Kingdom), making this list just a sampling of the many great place for big kids like parents to have their own magic time at Walt Disney World. If there’s a place you’d like us to know about, be sure to leave a comment, helping our readers discover new places to sample adult beverages.

    If you find yourself wandering around looking for a place to buy alcohol at Disney, all you have to do is ask one of the friendly cast members, who can point you in the right direction.  Be sure to drink plenty of water while you’re in the parks also, as alcohol is dehydrating. Designate a driver or take advantage of Disney’s resort transportation. Cheers!

    All Disney venues selling alcohol have a limit of two beverages per sale per person to limit overindulgence on property. Remember, cocktails can be fun, but this is a family friendly destination and not a place to act inappropriate.

     

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  • If you are looking for a tropical getaway with the family, the Mayan Riviera is a wonderful option. It is located on the east coast of Mexico and spans an area moving south from Cancun. The resorts are generally quite large with multiple dining options, entertainment, miles of white sandy beaches, a number of pools and many activities to keep your family occupied.

    Azul_Beach_ResortMany families opt to book a vacation with a resort that is geared towards families, like Beaches Resorts, Breezes and Club Med. These are great options and include lots of activities for kids, babysitting services and day care. We stayed at Azul Beach Hotel on our last trip and were thoroughly impressed with what they had to offer, including 24-hour room service, beach butlers and gourmet cuisine.

    It is worth it when you stay on the Mayan Riviera to experience some of the amazing Mayan ruins. Depending on where you are there are many locations that accept visitors. Remember to consider the weather (heat) and amount of walking involved when you visit the ruins. Bring a baby carrier for infants and note that most places are not stroller accessible. Make sure to pack lots of water and snacks and leave early in the morning.

    A wonderful park to explore with the kids on the Mayan cost is Xcaret Park. It is an ecological park where you can not only see the ruins, but they have shows, demonstrations, a lazy river, hammocks, snorkelling, and swimming with the dolphins. It’s a great park for families and helps you get away from the resort for a change.

    Playa del Carmen is a beach city with lots of shopping. If you are in the need to get away from the resort, this is a nice place to visit. Over the years the shopping has become rather expensive there, but the food and beach is still exquisite. There are also many shopping options in Cancun. You can have the hotel concierge arrange a taxi to take you into town to some of the many outlet shopping malls. Adults can enjoy the night life there as well.

    When planning a trip to a tropical location with the family, it is important to ensure you keep your child’s schedule similar to what it is at home. Plan your day according to when your child normally takes naps. Head to the pool or beach for the morning and then take a mid-day break after lunch. This will ensure that dinner time goes smoothly.

    Here are some of my parent tips for surviving a resort vacation with kids.

    Parent Tips:

    • If you have a picky eater, try asking for substitutions on the menu at restaurants. Most places will accommodate kids.
    • Ask what the resort offers for children like strollers, cribs, foot stools, etc.
    • Find out ahead of time what activities or sports the resort has for children.
    • Use gate check-in for your stroller at the airport and ask about bulk seats on the plane so you can have more room with the kids.
    • Take along pool and beach toys.
    • Consider bringing a portable DVD player with your kids’ favourite movies for a family movie night at the resort.

    Rachna ClaveroRemember to always be safe and enjoy your vacation!

    Rachna Clavero lives in Canada and is a busy mom of three boys. She writes about fun family ideas including vacations, local attractions, toys, games, crafts and more on her blog The Fun Family Site.

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  • Las Vegas isn’t just a place to gamble, but has also become one of the foremost culinary destinations in the world. TravelingMamas.com recently visited this city that never sleeps and explored the variety of dining options around the city while on a Las Vegas girlfriend getaway.

    One fine dining option in Las Vegas is Sage, a Shawn McClain Restaurant at ARIA Casino and Resort at CityCenter. Sage serves Contemporary American cuisine with an infusion of global influences in each dish. ThemeParkMom, MommyMusings, and myself enjoyed an early dinner before a planned show. The atmosphere of the restaurant is contemporary chic and the whole experience is more than just fine dining – it’s an event in itself.

    Appetizers

    CajunMama – I enjoyed the Foie Gras Custard ‘Brulee’ topped with Bing cherries, toasted cocoa nibs, and salted brioche. It was divine. Simply divine. It was a light, heavenly concoction that was buttery, creamy, and should be placed on the dessert menu. I felt like I needed to go to Confession after enjoying such a delightful experience.

    MommyMusings – It’s not every day that Wagyu Beef Tartare is on my menu. I just had to try this starter, which was mixed with crushed caper aioli, pickled mustard seeds, crispy chocolate and topped with a slow poached egg. The combination melted in my mouth.  While my app. was delicious, CajunMama’s Foie Gras Custard ‘Brulee’ was the star of the show. The two bites that I had were pure indulgence.

    ThemeParkMom – It’s hard for me to pass up risotto anywhere, and Sage’s version was studded with butternut squash, pine nuts and lobster mushrooms. It was a great mix of earthy, nutty and sweet flavors, and the risotto was perfectly cooked and creamy. I also tried the amazing Foie Gras Brulee that CajunMama ordered and was blown away. That has to be one of the absolute best things I have ever put in my mouth. I have literally dreamed about eating it again.

    Entrees

    MommyMusings – I couldn’t get enough beef and ordered the Mishima Ranch Kobe Flat Iron with blue cheese potato pave, glazed heirloom carrots and shaved black truffles. My steak was cooked a perfect medium-rare and was extremely tender. The baby heirloom carrots were the best I’ve ever tasted.

    ThemeParkMom – I indulged in beef cheeks, which were served in a silver dish, braised with root vegetables. They were tender and well-seasoned. The dish was rich and comforting, like an over-the-top holiday meal.

    CajunMama – Our server sold me on the ‘special’ of pasta in a cream sauce topped with freshly delivered white truffles after describing the dish in such an entertaining manner. I couldn’t imagine anything could top my appetizer, but after finishing the entire dish of pasta, I felt very expensive. I tasted both ThemeparkMom and MommyMusings dishes and the beef cheeks were so tender they melted in my mouth.

    Dessert

    ThemeParkMom – In keeping with the holiday meal theme, I ordered winter-spiced donut holes. They came hot and coated in sugar, flavored with spicy nutmeg and ginger. The donut holes came with a cranberry sauce for dipping and a tiny vanilla milkshake to sip. Forget pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving – I want more of those donut holes for dessert!

    CajunMama – I don’t know if I should admit this, but I had a hard time going for something traditional like a bread pudding or something decadent and chocolate. I ended up with two desserts and a big smile on my face.

    MommyMusings – Since I had two courses of beef, I was looking for a light dessert. I ordered the Lemon-Thyme Semifredo, which was silky and refreshing. A perfect ending to a decadent meal.

    Recently Legalized Absinthe

    Sage offers Absinthe served in a signature style. The Absinthe is prepared tableside in a manner worthy of the destination we were visiting. It was a show in itself and offered entertainment not just for our table, but for the entire restaurant. ThemeParkMom was our Guinea pig and we all sampled the prepared concoction which tasted like root beer candy.

    Overall the experience of dining at Sage is not one we will soon forget. Our server was knowledgeable and attentative. I’d even go as far as to say he spoiled the three of us on our Las Vegas girlfriend getaway. We had faith in his wine pairing abilities and I wondered if he wasn’t really a sommelier after enjoying his superb selections.

    The price is in keeping with the level of service and cuisine at other fine dining establishments in Las Vegas and there are even options to help diners stick to a budget. The Chef’s Menu offers a four course meal for $79 with optional wine pairings at an additional $30. If I have the chance to return to the area, I definitely have Sage on my list to visit again.

    Special thanks to ARIA Casino Resort and Sage for hosting this outstanding meal.

    Sage (Aria) on Urbanspoon

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  • Rainbow Tower at Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort and Spa (c) Hilton Hotels and ResortsHawaii always seems to be in the top choice of destinations on almost any travel list. It definitely was one of those places I could only dream about from my house in Louisiana. A few years ago, Hilton Hotels in Hawai’i invited me to experience one of their most iconic properties in the world. I was excited at the opportunity and felt like I was dreaming when I stepped off the plane in Honolulu and entered the world of Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa – a perfect place for a family vacation in Hawaii, a gathering of gal pals, or a Hawaiian honeymoon.

    I spent every second of my visit exploring this 22 acre property and getting LOST on the island of Oahu, which recently had a cameo appearance in the new Hawaii 5-0. Here are some of the top things I loved about the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa:

    The Beach – Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa boasts the largest hotel beach area in Waikiki and I have to admit that there’s plenty of room to catch some sun. Onsite is also the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, a 5-acre saltwater lagoon with activities and tons of chairs to relax and catch some sun. Each day at 11am is Surfing 101, a fun, 30 minute complimentary session by surfing experts to entertain and inform about the history of surfing.

    Blue Hawaii invented by retired Hilton Hawaiian Village bartender (c) Hilton Hotels and ResortsThe History – If knowing that Elvis stayed here and threw albums off the balcony isn’t enough to pique your interest, how about those Blue Hawaiians and Mai Tais? The Hilton Hawaiian Beach Resort and Spa sits on the site of the 1928 Niumalu Hotel. A retired Hilton Hawaiian Village bartender invented the famous cocktail, Blue Hawaii.

    The Penguins – Who knew that penguins liked Hawaii? On the hotel property, catch a glimpse of these waddling cutie pies. The penguins and turtles are fed each morning at 8am. Be sure to meet at the Penguin Pool next to the Ali’i Tower to watch.

    Ocean Crystal Wedding Chapel at Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa (c) Hilton Hotels and ResortsThe Wedding Chapel – If I were getting married again, I would have to put the Ocean Crystal Wedding Chapel on my shortlist. The chapel is set in a lush tropical garden and seats up to 70 guests offering panoramic floor to ceiling views.

    The Activities – There are daily cultural activities for all ages scheduled throughout the day and week. Learn about the history of the Hula, how to make a Lei or Haku Lei wristlet (extra charges apply), and even take Ukelele lessons (minimum age 12 years old). Camp Penguin is a chance for kids ages 5-12 to learn about Hawai’i and her culture through supervised fun and educational activities. There is a charge for Camp Penguin and sometimes there are off-site excursions planned giving parents a chance to enjoy some downtime while the kids are entertained.

    Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa Paradise Pool (c) Hilton Hotels and ResortsThe Pools – The Paradise Pool is the newly re-opened aquatic fun area at Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa. The pool is for registered guests wearing a wristband and offers four waterslides (one a whopping 72-foot lava tube), lava rock formations, three waterfalls, and two heated spas. This is only one of the many pools available at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa.

    The Fireworks – Each Friday at 7:45 pm fireworks light up the beach and sky at the finale of the Rockin’ Hawaiian Rainbow Revue. Poolside seating can be reserved for $20 per ticket (includes one Mait Tai punch or non-alcoholic drink). My suggestion is to grab a blanket and sit on the beach to watch a spectacular ending to a beautiful day in a gorgeous destination.

    The Cuisine – There are so many dining venues to choose from, that visitors to Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa many not even want to leave the property. I was fortunate enough to dine each evening of my stay at a different venue and explore the other dining options onsite. There’s even a Starbucks for those of you who can’t live without this brand, but I opted to enjoy a fresh steaming cup of Kona Coffee with my breakfast each morning.

    The Rooms – I stayed in The Rainbow Tower in a corner king room with a view of the lagoon area and ocean. The room was spacious, clean, and offered amazing views. I was greeted in my room with a gorgeous ginger lei and the ingredients for a Mai Tai. There are five towers to choose from for accommodations with the Ali’i Tower being the most exclusive and private. Each tower has it’s own personality and decor, with keeping in the standard Hilton line of luxury furnishings and bedding.

    The SpaMandara Spa is a destination in itself, as one of the largest spas in Waikiki. I enjoyed a Balinese Body Polish with Massage and was totally relaxed during my stay. The mosaic tiled private outdoor pool is a perfect spot for a personal retreat away from the every day world.

    A Mama Moment – Sure, there are so many activities and things to do at Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa, but nothing beats just being in Hawaii, sitting on the beach, listening to the waves lap the shore as children giggle and play nearby. A Blue Hawaii in hand completed my mama moment as I dreamed about pineapples, volcanos, and exotic flora.

    Special thanks to Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa for providing this experience.

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