Family Fun At Kalahari Waterpark, Resorts & Convention Center in the Poconos

Kalahari-Waterpark-PA

I didn’t think that I was the waterpark getaway type of mom.  Or at least not the sort of parent who views chasing children around in her bathing suit, while flying out of massive waterslides like an exploding mom-cannon, as a legitimate vacation.  Boy, was I wrong.  After a long weekend adventure, just two hours outside of NYC, at Pennsylvania’s largest indoor waterpark, Kalahari Waterpark, Resorts & Convention Center, set in Pocono Manor, the entire family (yes, adults included!) can’t wait to plan our next trip back.

We knew that we were somewhere special as soon as we pulled up to the sprawling African-themed property. A Kalahari vacation is indeed magic; here’s why:

Lobby-Kalahari-Water-Park

Waterpark + Family Entertainment Center

With a massive 100,000-square-foot, indoor waterpark boasting a retractable roof, several raft and tube waterslides, a designated little kiddie area and so much more; it’s difficult to adequately capture the playful utopia that is Kalahari.  The resort truly offers something for everyone.  The little ones find fun in Tiko’s Watering Hole with mini slides, swings, water play tables and a pint-sized lazy river.  The Lost Lagoon features a pool for shooting hoops and adults even have their own kid-free spot at the Thirsty Turtle Swim Up Bar.  We all enjoyed the indoor/outdoor hot tub, and my eight-year-old daughter was lucky enough to experience one of the resorts newest offerings in both Mermaid Swim School and FlowRider private lessons. It’s also important to note that the resort is immaculately clean and new! We noticed repeated water checks and tons of staff assisting in keeping everything in order.  Our entire waterpark experience was elevated with private cabana access featuring comfy chaise lounges, a flat screen TV and security safe, food service and other convenient amenities. To say that the entire family had a blast is truly an understatement!  Pinning for the twist and turns of the big waterslides, my husband and I took turns shooting down the slides with our daughter, while our little guy couldn’t get enough of the splash areas and mini slides.  The entire family had so much fun gliding down the lazy river together without a thought of what was going on outside of the resort.

Kalahari-Resorts-Waterpark-Slides-Water-playKalahari-Water-park-Tips-ReviewKalahari-Indoor-Waterpark-PAKalahari-Resorts-swimming-Lazy-Rivertubing-Kalahari-Resortsmermaid-lessons-swim-school-Kalahari-PAswim-school-mermaid-lessons-Kalahari-Resorts-PAWater-slides-Kalahari-Resorts-PAlazy-river-kalahari-waterparkSurfing-Flow-Rider-Kalahari-PAFlow-Rider-Surfing-Kalahari-Resorts-PAFlow-Rider-Surfing-Kalahari-Resorts-PAWaterpark-Kalahari-Review-PA

This was our first experience in an arcade of this magnitude (30,000-square-feet!).  The children’s eyes widened with wonderment as they racked up tickets to redeem for special trinkets through a kaleidoscope of colors and lights.  I’m fairly certain that my husband had as much fun in Kalahari’s Family Entertainment Center as the kiddos did.

Arcade-WonderKalahari-Waterpark-ArcadeArcade-Kalahari

The Food

With nine dining options including three full-service restaurants to grab and go cafes, there’s extensive family-friendly dining options for everyone.  We found our personal favorite in Brandberg, a classic tavern with a modern twist featuring excellent food, one-of-a-kind drinks and a fresh and savvy wine list.  On Saturday mornings, Brandberg is transformed into an interactive breakfast party at Kenya’s Surprise Birthday Character Breakfast including a dance party with Kalahari’s characters. The kids also enjoyed having a go at candy apple making at the the Last Bite, where their homemade fudge is out of this world!

drinks-bar-Kalahari-Resorts-Brandbergbreakfast-food-Kalahari-Waterpark-BrandbergKalahari-Resorts-Food-For-KidsCandy-Making-Class-Kalahari-ResortsCandy-Apples

Accommodations:

With 457 guest rooms and suites, we experienced Kalahari from a ground level Two Room Family Suite, including two separate attached rooms with a king size bed, two queens size beds, two full bathrooms, a fireplace, queen size pullout sofa and backyard patio area.  The ground level placement was key for quick entry to the waterpark and arcade.  And we appreciated the convenient wristband system allowing access to our room and facilities. The children adored the many thoughtful Kalahari touches including animal safari configured towel placement in their rooms, and milk and cookies at night. And we all loved the convenience of two showers! After evening story time with Kenya in the lobby, we looked forward to collapsing into the comfiest of beds to start our adventuring bright and early.

Ground-Floor-Room-Kalahari-Waterpark-PAKalahari-Waterpark-Rooms-Ground-FloorKalahari-Suite-RoomsStorytime-at-Kalahari-Waterpark-Visitor-tips

With visions of holding my little boy’s hand down waterslides, more “again mommy!” pleas than I can possibly count, and all around wholehearted family fun, we are truly grateful for the collection of memories added to our family story.

All aspects of this press trip were provided by Kalahari for editorial consideration, however, opinions, as always, are my own

Share

A Manhattan Weekend

There’s no way that we’d abandon family getaways just because the fluidity of summer is over.  At the start of a new school year, we may not have sunny-season spontaneity  – but we do have staycations!  And vacations in our own magnificent city allows us to better appreciate all that New York City has to offer.

On the first official after-school Friday, we barreled down the subway steps, with bags in hand to enjoy a long weekend at the beautiful Omni Berkshire Place. Located in the heart-of-the-city, with access to everything, and a unique Omni Sensational Kids Program to make tiny travelers feel special (hello milk and cookies room delivery!).

Omni New York

“Look at at these goodies!” the kiddos, declared upon receiving backpacks at check-in.  We could have lingered in our luxe 5th Avenue Corner Suite all evening amidst newfound comforts and the fun contents of sweet new packs – but we had city adventuring to do.

Omni Kids

Just a few blocks away is The Sony Wonder Technology Lab.  It’s one of our favorite FREE activities to explore with kids in NYC.  The interactive exhibits merging technology and creativity make for really neat learning experiences. The kids mixed beats with a virtual Alica Keys and learned how sensors and cameras sense body movements to control characters in the Motion Capture Digital Studio.

Making Music Sony WonderSony Wonder Motion Capture

We spent the good portion of Saturday meeting lemurs, snakes, grizzly bears and more at the  Central Park Zoo. It had been a while since our last visit and seeing wildlife in such proximity never ceases to blow our minds. We were all quite taken with the animal rescue stories – including that of bears Betty and Veronica, rescued from Montana and Yellowstone National Park after becoming too bold in their interactions with humans.

central park zoo bearcentral parkCentral Park Zoo
Although the evening forecast held a possibility of rain, we couldn’t miss the annual Feast of San Gennaro.  We hopped the subway, just steps away from our hotel right down to historic Little Italy.  The streets were brimming with spirit and all things Italian, and the kiddos stayed up way past their bedtimes taking it all in.

Feat of San Gennaro Little Italy Feast of San Gennaro

After a delicious dinner (including my favorite stuffed artichoke!), we hopped back on the subway for a short trip “home”.  Upon arriving to a torrential downpour, we appreciated our comfortable accommodations more than ever.  Hot showers, ample room to unwind and disintegrating into dreamlike beds provided the perfect antidote to our long day traipsing all over Manhattan.

Sunday was filled with leisurely time in Central Park, shopping on 5th Avenue and visiting The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Again, all in convenient walking distance from the Omni Berkshire Place.

central parkNYC Apple StoreMET fountainMetropolitan Museum of Art Chuck Close

Nestled between 52nd Street and Madison Avenue, The Omni Berkshire Place’s convenient location also provides what felt like a sound-proof barrier to the typical urban-soundtrack expected in New York City.  My husband and I kept mentioning how quiet and peaceful it was, late at night into the early mornings. I loved escaping to their state-of-the-art fitness center and also enjoyed getting up before everyone else to jog on a practically empty Madison Avenue.

The convenient location and ways in which the Omni prioritizes family travel quickly made it among our favorite city spots to stay.  The bedroom in our 20th-floor corner suite had two double beds with the option of using a pull-out couch in the living room area.  We’re grateful for the warm welcome and imagine that the children will remember the rich experiences added to our family story and the little luxuries that make hotel visits so incredibly memorable in childhood.

A photo posted by Monica (@marinobambinos) on

Omni Berkshire Hotel NYCFullSizeRender(5)IMG_5766

Special thank you to the Omni Berkshire Hotel for the hosted stay. Opinions, as always, are my own.

Share

A City Staycation

Summer Monica, my husband coined, in response to my perpetual pleas to adventure and travel as a family as much as possible.  There’s something about the fleeting summer months that stir up a strong sense of wanderlust.  The children aren’t bound by school commitments, and the beautiful temps lend way to spontaneity in plans.

We took off for a beach vacation the day that school ended – igniting our favorite season in the best way possible.  Since that time, my husband’s business is busier than ever and on most nights he’s not home to tuck in the kids, or join us to catch the local beach sundowns that colored our summers past.  So when an opportunity arouse for a sponsored Marriott staycation in the heart of New York City via Influence Central – we were certainly up for the getaway.

Marriott East Side Hotel

Determined to tackle the weekend like consummate tourists we mapped out the best ways to celebrate childhood, experience culture and famous city spots relatively close to home at the Marriott’s East Side location. Beginning in Central Park, the kiddos were elated to spot the kaleidoscope of colors approaching Victorian Gardens.  We had never been so early on a weekend, when rides were met with no lines and requests of “one more time!” were always met with “yes!”.

Victorian Gardens NYC Central Park Amusement Park

A first for us all was a visit to the Top of The Rock, where the choppers fly so incredibly close, even the tiniest of tourists can see the passengers waving.  I let myself get over the barrage of selfie-sticks to feel the palpable collective excitement buzzing through that iconic spot way up high in the sky. We took in unobstructed views of New York City landmarks unlike we ever had before and enjoyed walking around Rockefeller Center’s greatest hits including the massive LEGO store.

NYC-top-of-the-rock-kidsTop of the Rock Central ParkTop of the rocktop of the rock with kidsRockafeller Center FamilyRock Center NYC

Family art days are always a priority, and there are so many incredible opportunities to nurture creativity here in New York City.  We took another walk through the Guggenheim’s Storylines exhibit and finally made our way to the Cooper Hewitt where we all had a go at designing wallpaper in the Immersion Room.

GuggenheimCooper Hewitt Wallpaper

Despite all the fun we had traipsing around the city, I suppose that we all would have been content simply hanging out at our comfortable digs at the Marriott.  The children certainly made themselves right at home in lightning speed.

A photo posted by Monica (@marinobambinos) on

The sophisticated family-connect rooms elevated our hotel experience with ample space (two rooms and bathrooms!) met by a connecting door. Since the kids are little, we chose to keep the adjoining door open – and when they awoke like clockwork on their super-early schedule the TV in THEIR room (complete with Netflix!) was a parents’ saving grace.

From Aruba to Connecticut we’ve stayed at several Marriott locations, and their East Side location proved to be a gem in this city saturated with hotels.  We indulged in an amazing dinner at 525LEX Restaurant & Lounge located inside the hotel and looked forward to collapsing in the comfiest of beds after walking all day.

drinksMarriott East Side ReviewMarriott NYC L flyingNYC Marriott Hotel

The staff made us feel like true vacationers and the amenities like free WiFi, a great gym, healthy breakfast and business center allowed us to take care of the details that we couldn’t neglect over the weekend.

The ways in which experiences are contextualized in the minds of my children is what the crux of family travel is all about.

Family Travel NYC

Upon tiny notes that fill up books that tell our family story.

Special thank you to the Marriott East Side Team (including manager Daniel W.) and Influence Central for the hosted stay. 

Share

Family Glamping at Firelight Camps

When are we ever going to sleep in a tent, mama?” my seven-year-old pleaded after sifting through shoe-box photos from my New England childhood.  There’s something about the impending end of the school year that stirred up a sense of adventure in all of us –  but I was unsure about my overall confidence in successful family camping. Adjusting rocks under sleeping bags and schlepping all the proper gear perhaps just isn’t my speed anymore.

So when we were invited to go “glamping” (aka glamorous camping) at Firelight Camps, in Ithaca NY, we couldn’t wait to experience this rising travel trend.  We’d get to sleep in a tent with luxe amenities and be immersed in the outdoors – without roughing it on our own in the dirt.

Firelight Camps Safari Tent King Bed Glamping Glamorous CampingGlamping Safari Tent with King Bed Firelight Camps IthacaFirellight Camps Glamping Glamorous Camping

Located on the lower grounds of La Tourelle Resort & Spa, our large canvas tent (#15) came equipped with elevated hardwood floors, a king-size bed with 300-thread-count-linens, a private balcony, personal lanterns, mesh screening, and serious safari style.  A bathhouse, showers, and central lounge tent are just a short walk away with complementary locally-inspired breakfast and wine hour in the evenings. From girls glamping getaways to family summer camp experiences, and primitive pursuits Firelight Camps offers so many ways to experience an unforgettable fill of the outdoors in serene comfort.

We didn’t realize how badly we needed a family escape – disconnected out in nature – until we were in the midst of it.  With a direct path to the picturesque Buttermilk Falls State Park, we spent the majority of our time wandering around the property, and off in the trails admiring the lush forests, waterfalls and gorge-laden beauty of the Finger Lakes.

hikeing with kids glampingButtermilk Falls WaterfallsIthaca Firelight Camps GlampingButtermilk Falls Waterfalls Ithaca New York Trails_edited-1

I suppose that I went into this trip excited to teach the children about my love of nature with experiences gleaned from my childhood and time spent living on Oahu.  But as life often goes the kids are the ones who guide and lead us.

They remind us to stop and look up.

hiking with kids

And take as much time as needed to explore and pause and collect our thoughts.

Glamping Firelight Camps Ithaca NYnature exploring with childrenFirelight Camps glamping  luxury campingexploring with children in natureadventuring with kids IthacaFirelight Camps

The beauty in this trip was found in the simplicity of being together, unplugged.

glamping nature flowersButtermilk Falls Waterfalls Ithacanature kidsFirelight Camps glamping camp groundsfeet in waterfallGlamping with Kids Firelight CampsGlamping campgrounds Firelight Campsbuttermilk falls waterfalls new york Ithaca

And watching excitement over new discoveries and experiences.

firelight camps luxury campingroasting smoars glampingglamping s'mores

S’more-making experts by visits end.

glamping roasting marshmallowsfirelight camps glamping smoress'mores glamping

We had great conversations with our fellow glampers around the campfire well into the evening hours.  Over glasses of local wine, we made instant friends – meeting people who also found humor in my husband’s poncho.

Firelight Camps Glamping Ithaca New York Wine Hour

At night, we returned to our tent with a lantern in hand, admiring nature silhouetting on our massive canvas walls.  We laughed until our bellies hurt after I lost my cool over an Olympic-sized daddy long legs.  While the kids told stories of big hawks, jumping frogs and walking through real-life waterfalls.  Cocooned in our tent, we fell asleep to the tranquil sounds of the wind whistling through the trees and the hum of an epic downpour.

Safari Tent Glamping Firelight CampsGlamping Safari Tent with Porch

Elevated camping indeed.

 Accommodations provided by Firelight Camps.  Content and opinions, as always, are my own.

Share

Traveling With Kids | Tropic Of Candycorn

It never ceases to amaze me how incredible it is to connect with amazing people via blogging. As soon as I met with Erynn from Tropic Of Candycorn during her last visit to NYC, I wanted to know more about her incredible platform and family’s commitment and passion for family travel.  Tropic Of Candycorn’s inspiring website will leave you with a swift dose of wanderlust along with tips and confidence boosting stories to see the world with kids in tow. It’s an honor to appear in her dispatch series, and we’re thrilled to have her share a guest post today.

Tropic of Candycorn

Tropic of Candycorn started before I had kids. Back in the years when John and I traveled alone, we repeatedly heard, “Enjoy it while you can. You won’t be able to travel like that once you have kids.” We didn’t like that idea, and conspired to continue to travel once we had a family. Back then, I was the CEO of an international humanitarian organization. I traveled a lot—for work, and to get away from work. We would save up all our vacation time and beg to take it all at once—up to a month at a time, sometimes without pay. We liked to take our time, allowing the culture and flow of a destination to sink in.

I thought that was the origin of Tropic of Candycorn, but it wasn’t.

The idea didn’t occur even after our first trip with six-month-old Cora when we traveled to Portugal, Spain, and Italy for four weeks.

The real moment TOC was born was in February 2006, 22-months after I became a mom, when my commercial banker husband quit his job to run a luxury travel company. My second child was only a few weeks old, and he was traveling up to three weeks each month. I must have been complaining as we talked one night by telephone—me stateside and he in Brazil. He said, “If you can meet me in Argentina, we can have two weeks together.”

“You want me to bring a 22-month-old toddler and a 2-month-old newborn to Argentina by myself?” I asked. “Sure. You can totally do it!”

His confidence never wavered.

I recall with perfect clarity that I thought, “How the hell am I going do that?” At that same moment, my mouth replied, “I’ll see you there.”

I didn’t have time to listen to naysayers or back out. The tickets were purchased, and I was committed. I dug into parenting and travel books seeking ideas and inspiration. How do you travel with small kids, especially alone? Most of what I found was didactic and less than encouraging. I quit reading.

Those travel stories were like birth stories, which relayed tales of suffering and anguish. I remembered the joy of birth, which far outweighed the pain. I’ll never forget a neighbor who said, “Oh, no one wants to hear my birth story, it was so beautiful.” “Perhaps the same could be true for travel,” I thought.

I think it is. Traveling with children is birth of a different kind. It’s the birth of new ideas, new places, time together, and undiscovered memories. Traveling with children is beautiful. I knew that if we created a place like Tropic of Candycorn for people to share their stories, others would be inspired and encouraged too.

Peru Pisac Fam 2013Peru MP Cora and Hero View 2013

Sure, there are some moments where you may wish for a travel epidural (for me it’s gelato), but most of your child’s happiest moments occur away from home, don’t you want those moments to be with you?

Tropic of Candycorn Costa RicaTropic Of Candycorn Travel with KidsTropic of Candycorn Family Travel Peru

I admit it. I was an absolute spectacle when I arrived in Buenos Aires. I don’t speak Spanish and am unaccustomed to accepting help, even when it’s offered. I brought way too much stuff. A wrap to wear the newborn, a backpack for the toddler, a stroller (mostly to hold the infant car seat I thought I needed for the long drives), another car seat for the toddler that I had draped over the stroller, and one giant bag full of impractical clothing that I rolled behind me.

John was standing right outside customs zone, ready to receive us. His instinct was to snap photos. My instinct, was to shoot him a glance that said, “Put that damn camera down right now and help me with your children!”

But I did it. I made it through 30 hours of airports and airplanes with my daughters. And as I was walking off the plane, the captain stopped me and said something that I will never forget. Something that made me think I was gonna be okay. He smiled and told me, “We’ve been talking about you during the flight. When we saw you coming we geared up for a long flight and started assigning tasks based on what we thought you would need or demand. Thanks for proving us wrong. It was a pleasure.”

Traveling with kids shouldn’t be horrible. I knew John believed I could do it. I want parents everywhere to know that we believe in them too. There is a whole community of families who believe that time and money together exploring the world is time well spent.

Tropic of Candycorn Peru vacationFamily Travel Peru Tropic of Candycorn

Don’t wait for the right time; just go. Make the memories that you will cherish and then come back to tell us about them to inspire others.

Erynn Montgomery is the ringleader behind Tropic of Candycorn. Before kids, she was the president and CEO of an international humanitarian organization with special focus on South America. She and her husband pinky swore that they would continue to travel with children, but never imaged that kids would make the experience better. In addition to Tropic of Candycorn, they own a boutique travel company and take their four daughters (ages 2, 5, 9, and 11) around their beautiful state of Utah and the world. Erynn continues to travel alone – if you can call being with four children alone – for four weeks of every year. She still doesn’t speak Spanish, but says she’s learning poco a poco. COMMUNITY OUTREACH Tropic of Candycorn is especially interested in the journeys that discover meaning and purpose. After families form personal meaning from family travel, we hope to inspire outreach beyond the family—to communities near and far. TOC recently coordinated a special Mother’s Day Giveaway for a single mother. Single moms are the least likely to travel with their children, but we think they need and deserve it most.  For inquires and to share your family travel experiences get in touch with TOC at cornelius@tropicofcandycorn.com.

Share

Hilton Garden Inn Garden Getaway Tour

From exciting family adventures far away from home, to romantic weekend getaways and spontaneous staycations – Hilton Garden Inn has set out to inspire travelers to make those vacations happen. They’ve just kicked off a national Garden Getaway Tour offering amazing giveaways, including an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii!

To showcase the vibrancy and garden theme of Hilton Garden Inn’s 600 plus locations, alongside amazing travel destinations – tour visitors will be greeted by Garden Getaway Greeters, adorned in live floral fashions, representing iconic travel spots.  We joined in on the excitement at their first stop in NYC, and the floral garments are impressive!  Intricately comprised of flowers, leaves, seeds and bark – we left dreaming of our next adventure.

Hilton Garden Inn Garden Getaway TourJoin in on the fun and enter to win that luxe Hawaiian vacation by catching the tour in New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles and Chicago.  Simply snap a photo with a Garden Getaway Greeter using #HGIGardenGiveaway and #entry, and share on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to be automatically entered for a chance to win.  Find all details on the Official Rules Page.

Best of Luck!

Marino Bambinos received a complimentary stay at Hilton Garden Inn.

Share