Kinsale, Ireland

Kinsale
Kinsale, Ireland
Kinsale, Ireland
Kinsale, Ireland

Kinsale is a lovely medieval village on the southern coast of Ireland in county Cork, and the beginning point of the Wild Atlantic Way or the ending, I guess, depending on the direction you are travelling 🙂 Each building in the town center is painted a different vibrant color, and there are sailboats galore lining the mouth of the River Brandon. This historic port and fishing town also is home to a 17th century fortress that offers sweeping views of the surrounding area! Kinsale is also referred to as “The Gourmet Capital of Ireland”, and they host a Gourmet festival every October or so said the brochures in the town’s tourist information center!

We visited Kinsale with our daughter as a day trip on our route thru Ireland from Cork heading to Killarney, and I highly recommend adding Kinsale to your Irish itinerary!

Travel: Kinsale is appx 25 km south of Cork, and the drive took us appx 35 minutes. When departing the drive took us appx 1 1/2 hours to Killarney. Other near by hot spots is the town of Cobh which is appx 45 minutes away or Blarney for a kiss on the Blarney stone which is appx 40 mins away.

Activities:

Kinsale Village: The village of Kinsale is full of shops, eateries, and winding interesting streets and squares! We enjoyed meandering through the narrow streets, and popping into the shops. We loved the Kinsale book store, and the ice cream shop. There are also lots of sail boats and kayaks lining the front of town in the harbor, and you can check out the Kinsale portal to explore water based activities. There is also a farmer’s market every Wednesday in the town center from 9 am until 2:30 pm. And definitely don’t miss the park:

Kinsale Town Park: There is a great park right in the center of town which is ideal for little ones!

Wild Atlantic Way Passport: Kinsale is the beginning of the Wild Atlantic Way. You can pick up a Wild Atlantic Way Passport at select post offices and visitor centers along the route. As you make your way along the Wild Atlantic Way you can get your passport stamped at each scenic spot. There are 188 discovery points listed in the Passport that are divided into 6 zones. The cost of the passport is 10Euro. Our daughter loved her passport and obtaining her stamps at each stop along the way! This is a great way to get kids engaged in the route! The visitor center is right in the middle of Kinsale on Pearse Street.

Wild Atlantic Passport
Get your Wild Atlantic Passport stamped at each stop along the route!

Charles Fort: Charles Fort is a 17th century star shaped fort that is located 3km from the base of Kinsale town. The fort charges admission of 5Euro per adult and 3Euro per child. This is a great family stop as the history is incredible and the views are gorgeous, but it also offers lots of fun for kids. You walk across a drawbridge to enter the fort, and then our daughter enjoyed rolling down the grassy hills with several other children, climbing on the stone walls, and racing through the ruins and discovering all of the coves, etc. Sometimes historical places do not allow for a lot of freedom, but there is lots of free range exploration inside the fort which is thrilling for adults and kids alike!

Don’t miss this charming Irish town!

Sailboats in Kinsale
Sailboats in Kinsale

Kid Friendly Irish Castles

Our 3 favorite Kid Friendly Irish Castles

Dromoland Castle
Dromoland Castle Estate

Birr Castle

#1 on our list! Birr Castle dates back to medieval times, and is still occupied! The castle is the private residence of the Parson Family who arrived at the castle in 1620. The family opened the castle to the public in 2014, and now offers inside guided tours of the castle thru pre-booking during May – August. We were not fortunate enough to be visiting during this time, but the castle grounds are still worth the trip! The gardens are stunning, and host a wide variety of rare plants. There is also a treehouse adventure area with Ireland’s largest tree house, a bouncy pad, hobbit hut, sand pits, play gyms, snack hut, and picnic tables. There is a cafe on site and an ice cream stand. Birr Castle also has a science center and the historic great telescope. The telescope was built in the 1840s and was the largest telescope in the world at that time. Scientific and creative minds from around the world came to Birr to learn and observe space! The inventor of the computer, Charles Babbage even visited Birr! Birr Castle is a pretty unique and inspiring place to visit! This lands it on our list as our favorite Irish castle estate, and our favorite for kids!

Birr Castle is located in County Offaly. We traveled to Birr Castle from Galway, and the drive took us appx 1 hour 20 mins. From Dublin the drive is appx 1 hour 30 mins, and from Limerick appx 1 hour. There is no parking on site at Birr Castle, but there is a paid park and display car park across the street. The parking machine only takes coins so we walked 1 street over into the main hub of town to get exact change. The town was lovely as well with lots of shops and eateries. Tickets are 9Euro per adult, and our daughter was free. Children 5 and older are 5Euro. If you are lucky enough to visit the castle interior then tickets cost 18 Euro, but is only suitable for children 12 and above.

Dromoland Castle

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Dromomland Castle’s history dates back to 1014, and was the ancestral home of the O’Brien family who were the Kings of Thomond. When the castle grounds were comprised of more than 2000 acres, the O’Brien’s Tower located at the Cliffs of Moher was actually part of the original estate. The castle was converted in 1962 to a luxury hotel, and today encompasses more than 400 acres. We actually stayed on site at this hotel, and loved it! The estate has so many kid friendly activities that it is no wonder the castle is part of the “Adventures by Disney” itineraries. We participated in the falcon walk where we all, including our daughter, got to have a falcon land on our arm. This experience was brilliant, and our guide named Colin was wonderful. He spent a lot of time educating us on the art of falconry, and took us back to view all of the falcons/owls afterwards. The hotel also prepared a teddy bear picnic for us upon request complete with a teddy bear and miniature sandwiches/tarts for our daughter. There is a beautiful fairy garden, a lake with boats and ducks for feeding, lots of hiking/walking trails, tennis courts, swimming pool, spa, and golf course! Upon check in, we were all treated in the lounge with complimentary tea, coffee, and hot chocolate for our daughter with marshmallows! 🙂 Our daughter also received coloring pencils and an activity book at check in! We were impressed by all of the special touches personalizing this stay for our daughter. All of the staff referred to her as “princess” while on the premises! 🙂 The room was equipped with a junior robe and slippers, and during the nightly turn down service fruit worms were left for our daughter on her bed! The breakfast served in the main dining room is also amazing and enjoyable, and has lots of kid friendly options!

Dromoland Castle is located in County Clare. We arrived at Dromoland from Killarney, and the drive took us appx 1 hour. Drommoland is located 8 miles from Shannon airport; is accessible via car to Galway in appx 1 hour or 20 mins to Limerick. Upon departing Dromoland we headed for the Cliffs of Moher, and the drive took us appx 45 mins.

Kylemore Abbey:

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Kylemore was originally built as a castle in 1868 by the Henry family. Margaret and Mitchell Henry visited the ground of Kylemore in the mid 1840s on their honeymoon when there was nothing more than a hunting lodge in the valley of Kylemore. Mitchell Henry bought and built Kylemore for his wife Margaret as an act of love, and they enjoyed building their life and family of 9 children in the Connemara Highlands. Tragedy struck when Margaret died from dysentery while traveling in Egpyt in 1874. Today the estate is the Abbey and home of  the Benedictine community of nuns who arrived in 1920. The main rooms of the castle are open for viewing, but the gardens are really where we enjoyed spending our time. The gardens are very pretty, and there is a cafe next door. We also appreciated there are children’s activities along the walk to the gardens with various musical instruments available for play along the way. Kylemore is strikingly beautiful, and in my opinion the most beautiful castle I visited due to its location in the Connemara National Park. In front of the house there is also a paved pathway that will take you along the lake and there is access to a little sand beach with benches and picnic tables. Also on site is another restaurant and store which had great souvenirs! I can’t describe the beauty of this place and the feeling of serenity present. This was a great day trip with our daughter in tow!

We traveled to Kylemore Abbey from Galway, and the drive took us appx 1 hour 30 mins. The drive is beautiful thru Connemara National Park. The entrance fee includes access to the house and all of the estate and the cost is 13Euro per adult. Children under 10 are free, and tickets are discounted online!

Do you have a favorite Irish castle?

Dingle, Ireland

Best 2 week Itinerary thru Ireland with kids
Our Route thru Ireland

We have returned from Ireland after just shy of 3 weeks tripping about the beautiful country. Ireland was stunning, and we made so many wonderful memories with our family! Over the next 6 weeks I will be exclusively covering Ireland. Today, I am starting with an entry I made about Dingle, Ireland written on April 22nd.

Dingle, Ireland: We have been in Ireland for about 10 days now, and we have 1 more week to go. Unfortunately today, I am bed bound fighting a stomach bug missing out on the adventures. 😦 However, it provides time to write which I guess gives me something to do 🙂 So today, I am reminiscing about our day trip to Dingle!

We have set up base camp in Killarney, Ireland for 5 nights, and we are taking day trips from here. We visited Dingle yesterday, and it was a fabulous destination! Our daughter had such a blast the entire day!

Dingle is a seaside town that sits on Dingle Harbor on the Southern Peninsula of the Wild Atlantic Way. It is the only town on the Dingle Peninsula, and a lovely day trip from Killarney with kids!

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Dingle, Ireland
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Dingle, Ireland

Travel: Dingle is accessible via 2 main roadways, the N86 and the R561, and will take you appx 1 hour from Killarney which is where we set up base. There are also tour companies that offer day trips to the Dingle Peninsula from Cork, Killarney, etc. One reputable company that I have heard recommended, and who has great reviews is here!

Activities:

Fungi Dolphin Cruise: Living near the coast we see dolphins routinely, but this dolphin is special and very interesting as he has made his home in Dingle Harbor since 1983. Other dolphins have come into the harbor, and Fungi sometimes interacts with them but he has chosen to never leave Dingle Harbor. The boat tours only observe Fungi in his natural environment, but are so sure to see Fungi that the cruise is free if he is not seen. Fungi seems to thrive on the enthusiasm and applause of his spectators, and some fishermen in Dingle have spent a life time alongside Fungi. A very special creature indeed. The cruise in itself was beautiful as viewing Dingle from the water was stunning! Our daughter was very excited to see Fungi, and is still talking about it very enthusiastically. She kept saying he was playing “hide and seek” with her. It is noteworthy to mention due to the weather in Ireland and the water entering the harbor we experienced some choppy seas. I recommend a water proof jacket for a child especially. There was one point when a sailboat sailing near us capsized, and a huge wave splash onboard our boat and drenched a mom and her baby from the neck down. We booked with Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours, and were very pleased!

Dingle Town: Dingle town looks like a child designed it with every building a different color. This could make for a very interesting game of “I spy” 🙂 We shopped around town, and then headed for lunch and ice cream. My favorite store in Dingle was The Strand House It had a lovely selection. Don’t miss the upstairs women’s section and café! I also was very impressed with Dingle Artworks on Green Street. I bought a handcrafted wooden sheep with sheep wool from local artist Ian Buckett. We ate lunch at The Boatyard Restaurant, and I cannot recommend it enough. It was a great atmosphere for families and the food was on point! Then we made our way for ice cream at Murphy’s which is famous in Ireland! Murphy’s sources fresh local ingredients from local Kerry cows and free range eggs and offers unique flavor combinations. I had the Dingle Sea Salt flavor which is their best seller and made with salt sourced from the harbor in Dingle. My husband had the caramel with fresh cream and caramel on top and our daughter had strawberry and cream. All were delicious!

Wild Atlantic Way Passport: You can pick up a Wild Atlantic Way Passport at select post offices and visitor centers along the route. As you make your way along the Wild Atlantic Way you can get your passport stamped at each scenic spot. There are 188 discovery points listed in the Passport that are divided into 6 zones. The cost of the passport is 10Euro. Our daughter loved her passport and obtaining her stamps at each stop along the way! This is a great way to get kids engaged in the route! The visitor center in Dingle is adjacent to where the Fungi boat trip offices are at the base of the harbor.

The Wild Atlantic Way Passport
Get your Wild Atlantic Passport stamped at all of the stops along the way!

Inch Beach: Also located on the Dingle Peninsula off N86 between Killarney and Dingle is Inch Beach. We chose to stop at Inch Beach after our day in Dingle on our drive back to Killarney. The beach is accessible by car and you are allowed to drive directly onto the beach for parking in the designated areas. This beach is really quite stunning, and offers a great opportunity for little ones to run wild in beautiful scenery. The tide comes in far and creates wading pools which our daughter loved splashing in. The right side of the beach also has an abundance of shells which she loved discovering. There is a restaurant and café on site as well as surf rentals and lessons. Don’t miss this beautiful spot!

Inch Beach, Ireland
Inch Beach, Ireland

More Ireland posts coming soon… Next week I will be covering the best Irish castles/ houses with tots!

Art of Animation Resort

Art of Animation Resort
Art of Animation Resort, Disney World, Florida

During our most recent trip to Disney World, we stayed at the Art of Animation resort, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share my thoughts/reviews of the property. This marks the third time I have stayed at Art of Animation Resort. The first time I stayed in the Cars family suite with a group of 6 fun loving girls on a bachelorette trip! The second time was with my family of 3 plus my mom+dad+and sister when our daughter was newly 2. We stayed in 2 adjoining Little Mermaid standard rooms. And this last time was just my family of 3 and our dear daughter was 2 (almost 3), and we again stayed in a Little Mermaid Standard Room!

Resort: The Art of Animation is a value resort hotel, and opened in 2012 making it the newest value resort on property. Art of Animation celebrates the animation and fantasy of 4 beloved Disney movies: Cars, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid. The resort is divided into sections with The Little Mermaid section offering standard hotel rooms. The Cars, Finding Nemo, and Lion King sections offer family suites with interior halls/doors. In addition, the family suites are in closer proximity to the resorts main hub, Animation Hall whereas The Little Mermaid section is a bit of walk. It took us appx 10 minutes each day to walk from our hotel room to the buses with a stroller and tot in tow from The Little Mermaid section. The hotel also features 3 pools (more comments later), an arcade, a quick service food court: Landscape of Flavors, a souvenir shop: Ink & Paint Shop, a playground with slide for bambinos, and standard Disney amenities including Disney bus transportation to/from parks, Disney’s Magical express transportation to/from airport, and Movies under the Stars.

Rooms: The family suites can sleep 6, and have a designated bedroom with a door in addition to 2 full sized pull out beds in the living area of the suite (1 in the couch, and 1 pulls out from the wall and doubles as a table/bed). The suites also offer a kitchenette and 2 bathrooms! The Little Mermaid rooms have 2 full sized beds, and can hold a max of 4 people, but if you get adjoining rooms like we did you can technically fit 8, although I think it would be extremely tight. The rooms are fashioned after the themes of each movie and are fun and vibrant. If you are not into animated Disney decorum then you may feel the furnishings are cheap and cheesy, but we found them to be whimsical, and our 2 year old loved every second at the hotel!

The property: In addition to the rooms, each section is designed on the outside to reflect the movies’ setting. The Cars section has the cozy cone motel sign as well as cars parked outside. The Finding Nemo section has my husband’s favorite touch, the squalling seagulls that caw “mine, mine, mine” from the humorous dialog on Finding Nemo at set times throughout the day. This really brought out the inner kid in him as he would want to wait to hear their very loud caws 🙂  The Lion King & Little Mermaid sections have your favorite character statues including a rather scary over sized statue of Ursula – might need to give little ones a head up on this!

Little Mermaid Art of Animation
Ursula Statue, Art of Animation

Pools: There are 3 pools at Art of Animation. The Big Blue Pool, The Cars Pool, and The Little Mermaid Pool.

The largest pool at Disney World is the Big Blue Pool in the theme of Finding Nemo. There are underwater speakers in the pool for music. The pool has a splash pad area for younger kids as well as a poolside bar and beverage station. The hotel also hosts weekly activities at this main pool including outdoor movies and games, etc. The pool is located directly behind the Animation Hall providing convenient access to the food court as well.

Big Blue Pool, Art of Animation
Splash Pad Area, Big Blue Pool

The Cars Pool is the smallest pool at Art, but it has cabanas which are first come/first serve.

The Little Mermaid pool is a good size, but nothing extra special about it. It is a nice pool area, and has laundry facilities (fee), bathroom facilities, and vending machines in the poolside buildings.

There is not a pool area in the Lion King area; however, I do not view this as negative since there is no pool noise to work around. When we stayed in the Little Mermaid rooms once it was April and once it was January. For January we had a room overlooking the pool, and it was lovely as it was cold during our visit and not too many people were swimming. However, in April every evening once people would return from the parks the pools would be packed out with tons of noise. My tip for this is to request a lake view room if staying in the Little Mermaid section! When we stayed in Cars it was also cold during the month of February, and we also experienced no pool noise so I am not sure how loud this pool area gets during peak months.

Restaurant: Landscape of Flavors is a great quick service counter restaurant as it has multiple options, and a good variety in terms of food fare. There are 5 service areas. There is a dedicated build our own salad/ sandwich counter, build your own pasta counter, a pizza counter, a burger counter that offers a wide variety of options on burgers and toppings, and the last counter is international fare options including chicken tandoori, chicken curry, ribs, and fish. There is a wide variety of kids meal options, and they also have an entire wall of coolers which contain pre-made pastries, sandwiches, fruit & veggie cups, on the go snack and drink options. You also have the option to order pizza in your room! For breakfast, there are lots of options ranging from a breakfast platter, build your own omelette, pancakes, Mickey waffles, etc. Most of the time the lines were manageable; however, I will say, if at all possible avoid eating dinner here right after the park closes. It is a mad house. The set up is that you order your food and then go thru a cafeteria style line to pay for what is on your tray. One night we opted for this, and once I got my food I stood in line to check out for 20 minutes. By the time I checked out, all of our meals were cold. 😦

Ink & Paint Shop: We think this is a fabulous little souvenir shop. We have found some souvenirs here that we did not find elsewhere in the parks so definitely check out what they have. Also, if you purchase something at another store in the park, you can always return here as well so that is extremely convenient as well. You can also have anything you buy in the parks sent back to your resort hotel, and you can pick up inside this Ink & Paint Shop.

Fun Extras:

Draw Class: Art of Animation offers an area where kids can learn how to draw their favorite characters with a Disney artist. This is held in the little activity center adjacent to the check in area 3 times a day: 11am, 2pm, 5pm.  You also have the opportunity to bring your sketch of your favorite Disney character to the front desk to enter a contest as the hotel picks a winning sketch daily. You can also get art supplies from the front desk.

Jogging and Biking: There is also a free jogging trail around Art of Animation that links it with Pop Century. You also have the opportunity to rent a single or double bike from the property.

Coming Soon: Sky high Gondola: Construction was already underway when we visited last month (Jan 2018) for the new gondola transportation system which will allow you to enjoy an ariel view of Disney World. This system will link Art of Animation, Pop Century, and Caribbean Beach Resort with Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at Epcot. This is something exciting and unique for these 3 resorts!

Overall: We have really enjoyed staying at Art of Animation, and highly recommend it! We have chosen to visit this property repeatedly because we really feel while our daughter is still little this is a really fun atmosphere for her! She loves all of the attention to Disney films. Some of her favorites are:

  • The shower in the Little Mermaid rooms is is designed to look like Ariel’s grotto where she hides all of her treasures. It has all of the treasures printed on tiles in the bathtub which is a blast for a 2 year old.
  • The cawing seagulls in the Nemo section just like her father.
  • The slide/playground area in the Nemo section

    Playground Art of Animation
    Playground, Art of Animation
  • The chance to draw on easels in the nook inside reception.
  • The outdoor movies
  • The statue of Rafiki in the Lion King section which we discovered last trip has now been removed. 😦
Art of Animation Directory
Art of Animation Directory
Hourglass Lake, Art of Animation
Hourglass Lake, Art of Animation Resort

The Beaches of 30A

Rosemary Beach, FL

Scenic 30A is an appx 20 mile stretch of road in Florida that runs parallel to the beach through charming seaside towns and alongside the Timpoochee Biking Trail.

We have visited 30A numerous times staying in multiple locations. We have stayed at Gulf Place near the beginning of 30A. At Rosemary Beach at the end of 30A, and at Watercolor and Seaside in the middle of 30A. We have booked directly through Watercolor Resort and Gulf Place, and we have also booked through VRBO and cottage rental agencies throughout 30A.

The beaches along 30A are a great place to make memories with little ones that will last a lifetime! I will never forget when my daughter giggled when she saw a crab on the beach the first time, or how she begged us to go crash into the waves with her. She and her cousins had a sand castle building contest and a sand burying contest! She collected nearly 45 seashells which are displayed in mason jars on my bathroom shelves and she filled our hearts with laughter and joy! 30A is where our favorite beaches are located, and I hope these tips help you enjoy 30A with your little bambinos in tow!

Logistics: 30A is an approximate 30 minute drive from Destin, Florida or Panama City Beach, FL. If coming from Panama City Beach you will hit the beach community of Rosemary Beach first. If coming from Destin, you will hit the communities / resorts located at the western end first beginning near Sandestin and hitting Gulf Place, Blue Mountain Beach, Grayton Beach, Seaside, etc first.

Activities:

The Beaches: Beautiful stretches of white sandy beach, sand dunes, clear bright blue waves, and beautiful sunsets are abundant along the beaches of 30A. The majority of our time is always spent enjoying the beach and activities beachside.

We love paddle boarding the waters of 30A with our daughter, and have found Surf Sup Rentals to be a great rental company. They deliver and pick up your board when you are done, and we find the prices more reasonable than the companies located directly on the beach especially for a full day rental! If you are only wanting to try paddle boarding for an hour or so then the companies located directly on the beach are much more convenient.

 

 

If your little one wants to try their hand at surfing, 30A adventures hosts daily surf camps from their Seagrove location in both the morning and afternoon during the warmer months! And if you are visiting outside their normal camp offerings, you can always book a private lesson.

Biking: We always book bikes for our trips to 30A. Normally the bikes are included in our rentals, and they are either on the property premise or we are provided vouchers to go to the rental company, and pick up our gear. We always purchase a child carrier as well. Our daughter enjoys riding in a child seat and the pull behind wagon so it is always a tossup as to which we book! We enjoy riding our bikes to the beach, and through the charming towns that dot 30A. We also have tried our hand at some bike trails located throughout 30A. A great guide to the Timpoochee Trail can be found here! Also there are some great trails specific to each development along the way. One such example are local trails located throughout Watercolor Resort that allow you to bike around the lake, etc.

Beachside Communities: Beginning at the Eastern end of 30A in Rosemary Beach, our favorite stops along the way with kiddies are as follows:

The Sugar Shak (Rosemary Beach): Kids LOVE this place which is stocked from floor to ceiling with stacked rows of CANDY! Every candy imaginable is housed here from old school candies to imported candies from Europe. They also have an extensive ice cream bar, and I must say the ice cream is great! This is a fun little shop for kids, and very memorable. Our daughter still talks about the Sugar Shak!

Playground Park (Rosemary Beach): This park is located on the beach side of 30A in Rosemary Beach accessible right off the biking/walking path nestled in between mature trees! It is a great little playground with wooden equipment including swings, slides, monkey bars, and family swings to sit on and watch the kiddies play! We rode our bikes here one evening before heading to dinner!

Camp Rosemary: Created for kids ages 5 – 12, Rosemary Beach offers Camp Rosemary which runs from end of May to beginning of August! The camp is a drop off program with daily activities planned for kids. However, Camp Rosemary also offers kids activities/crafts throughout the week for any kids staying in Rosemary! You can pick up a local calendar of events upon arrival or check their website here!

Rosemary Pools: Rosemary Beach has 4 pools: Coquina Pool, Sky Pool, Barbados Pool, Cabana Pool. The Cabana Pool has a separate kid’s pool and kid’s playground adjacent to the pool which makes it our favorite. The Sky Pool is also great as it is indoors for a brief reprieve from the sun or if you happen to get a bit of rainy weather in sunny Florida! More info on the pools here!

30A Farmer’s Market (Rosemary Beach): On Thursdays and Sundays from 9 am – 1 pm located on the green at Barrett Square. This is a great farmer’s market with so many wonderful local foods, vegetables, fruits, breads, and specialty items! My favorite vendor is “Matt’s Mom’s Mustard”! I did not expect to spend $18 on mustard on a random Saturday morning in Rosemary Beach, but this mustard is so amazing! We purchased the “original mustard”, “pineapple mustard”, and “Russian mustard” We also got a fourth free for buying 3! They give free samples so if you find their stall, definitely stop in for a try!

Cowgirl Kitchen (Rosemary Beach): Love their pizzas!!! Menu here!

Fonville Park & Press (Aly’s Beach): Fonville is a fantastic kid’s park, outdoor seating area, and coffee bar and café located in Aly’s Beach! This is one of our favorite stops on 30A! We love going for breakfast, sitting outside, and watching our daughter enjoy the park! It has a fantastic green space!

 

 

Charlie’s Donut (Aly’s Beach): We enjoyed riding our bikes to this donut food truck located in Aly’s Beach! They open daily, but often sell out quickly especially during the peak summer months. They have amazing donuts with some unique flavors such as red velvet or my favorite the sour cream pound cake. We enjoyed our donuts, and then our daughter played in the splash pad located directly in front of the donut truck! This is a great morning stop for kids! And don’t worry about cash, they accept cards!

 

 

Seaside Outdoor Movies (Seaside Amphitheater): Enjoy Seaside’s Outdoor Movie Series during the Summer Months at the grassy Seaside Amphitheater right in the middle of town! Movies are on Friday nights, and begin at 8:00 pm! Be sure to check the summer schedule seasonally! Our daughter loved this, and my suggestion is to get food from either Modica Market in Seaside which has great takeaways and specialty foods such as cheeses, coffees, cakes, etc or the nearby food airstreams which leads into…

Food Airstreams (Seaside): Enjoy food truck fare right in the middle of the cute, charming town of Seaside which is where the 1998 movie the Truman Show was filmed! There are so many great options, but our favorites are Barefoot BBQ and Meltdown on 30A. Meltdown has some quirky spins on a traditional grilled cheese, and my husband loves the spicy BBQ Pork from Barefoot! And mine and my daughter’s absolute favorite food airstream is FROST BITES for all of your snow cone/ice cream needs! Order the piggly wiggly: custard on the bottom, shaved ice in the middle, and cream on top. My favorite flavor is vanilla custard, peach shaved ice and cream for a spin on peaches and cream!

 

 

Duckies Fun Shop (Seaside): Duckies is a great toy store in the middle of Seaside with fun, unique toys! A favorite of our daughter! We first took her here when she was 6 months old, then at a year, and then again at 2! Every time it was a hit!!!

Sundog Books (Seaside): Sundog Books is a great local book shop for adults and kids located right in the middle of Seaside. All of the books are arranged by categories which is so fun! They showcase popular books up front, and then have similar genres grouped together so that if you are a fan of say Jane Austen books then you would also quite likely enjoy the books grouped with the Jane Austen books! And who doesn’t love a good read at the beach!

Seaside Farmer’s Market (Seaside): Seaside also offers a local farmer’s market similar to the one located at Rosemary Beach although Seaside’s Farmer’s market is a bit bigger! The market is every Saturday from 9 am – 1pm and you can find everything from organic meats, vegetables, fruits to specialty cakes, breads, and crafts!

Watercolor Outdoor Movies: (Watercolor Resort): Watercolor also hosts an outdoor movie and concert series for guests running from end of May through early September. Movies are hosted normally on Thursday nights with concerts on Wednesdays at Marina Park! Be sure to check the seasonal schedule at Watercolor!

Watercolor Pools: If guests of Watercolor resort, you have access to 6 resort pools!!! One pool is an adult’s only pool so for kid friendly options there are 5 pools to choose from! All of the pools are fun and beautiful. We love the Beach Club Pool due to its proximity to the beach and food service; however, we also enjoy the frog and dragonfly pools located further back in Watercolor as they are very kid friendly!

Western Lake (Watercolor): A plus of staying at Watercolor Resort is access to the boathouse where you can kayak, paddleboard, or fish. We have kayaked the lake, and find it extremely relaxing and fun!

Camp Watercolor (Watercolor): Watercolor also offers a kids camp similar to Rosemary Beach. Geared towards children ages 5-12, the drop off camp offers daily activities and crafts!

The Red Bar (Grayton Beach): The Red Bar is an iconic, unique venue located in the heart of Grayton Beach. They schedule live performances weekly, and during the summer months the wait to eat here can be quite lengthy as they do not accept reservations! With smaller children lunch would be a great option, but with older kids in tow they would no doubt enjoy the eclectic mix of furnishings and live entertainment!

Blue Mountain Beach Creamery (Blue Mountain Beach): Located right off 30A on county road 83 in the community of Blue Mountain Beach is the creamery. This place has amazing ice cream made fresh daily, and an amazing amount of flavor variety! The line at this place is sometimes wild, but definitely worth the stop!

Beach Horse Back Riding: (Gulf Place): Just north of Gulf Place on 30A is Arnett’s Horse Ranch where you can enjoy horseback rides along the beach!

Artists at Gulf Place (Gulf Place): The colony of artists at Gulf Place hosts art camps for kids during the summer months at Gulf Place on 30A! The cute little huts in the center of Gulf Place development feature work from various local artists daily! Be sure you check the schedule for which kid’s workshops will be presented during the next summer offering! Visit their webpage here!

For my favorite beach items with a tot in tow, please read my post here!

Rosemary Beach

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Rosemary Beach Sunset

Yosemite, CA

Yosemite

Having been to Yellowstone twice, I did not do research on Yosemite as I thought since both were National Parks that they would somehow be similar. I was wrong, and never have I been more disappointed in my lack of trip preparation. I love both parks, and while they do have some similarities they are also vastly different.

Yellowstone seems to have the upper hand when it comes to wildlife, thermal springs, and more easily accessible 2 lane paved roads making travel in Yellowstone more efficient. Yosemite seems to have more hiking trails and varied terrain. Yosemite is also home to the famed sequoia trees. Both parks boast gorgeous landscapes, but Yosemite, only in my opinion, is more majestic and truly a marvel to behold. Yosemite is full of natural, rugged terrain that is awe inspiring. It seemed around every turn there was another postcard view waiting. Yosemite is big (roughly the size of Rhode Island), but it is still smaller and more compact than Yellowstone. Yosemite 1190 square miles appx compared to Yellowstone appx 3,468 square miles.

I traveled to Yosemite in October with my 2.5 year old. We only spent 2 days in Yosemite which is not enough time!!! We loved Yosemite so much that my husband and I are already planning a trip back with our daughter to Yosemite, hopefully within a year, to stay at least a week in a camper van!!! What an adventure that will be!

Entrance to Yosemite is $30 per car. A yearly Yosemite visitor’s pass is $60 which is a great deal if you plan on visiting the park more than once or for longer than the 7 days allowed in the $30 entrance fee. Info can be found here: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/fees.htm

Travel: The closest airport is Fresno, and the drive will take you an appx 1.25 hours to the South Entrance. Public transit is also available from Fresno airport via Yosemite Area Regional Transit System (YARTS). From San Francisco the drive will take you appx 2.5 hours to the Big Oak Flat Entrance. We actually traveled via car from Lake Tahoe, and the drive took us appx 2.5 hours via the Tioga Pass to the Eastern Entrance. However, the Tioga Pass is closed during various times of the year as the road is not safe so this will need to be checked prior to route planning. You can call the National Park’s service for a daily update about road conditions at 209-372-0200. From the Eastern Entrance, we had to drive 2 hours to the Valley Floor where the more popular sites are, but we did stop at several stops along the way.

Logistics: The roads in/out of Yosemite are very windy. The Tioga pass was especially curvy. We were, after all, driving across a mountain. My daughter and I suffered from car sickness, and had to pull over several times on the side of the cliffs to allow ourselves to re-calibrate. This increased our travel time. Yosemite has a network of one lane roads which can be problematic if you pass your destination so keep this in mind, and mark your map beforehand.

Hotel: We chose to stay at The Yosemite Valley Lodge directly across from Yosemite Falls. The property was very family friend as is convenient right in the middle of the Valley. It has a cafeteria style restaurant on site, and a dining room with a proper menu. I found the options in the cafeteria to be very good and enjoyable. Someone travelling with us also ate in the dining room, and raved about the salmon. For breakfast they also have a simple self serve express lane in the dining room with barista made coffees in addition to the full selection in the cafeteria. The shuttle also picks up/ drops off at this hotel.

Activities:

Little Cub Program: You can buy the handbook at the visitor’s center, and it encourages kids to complete the activities to earn a button as a little cub!

Junior Ranger’s Program: Geared towards children ages 7-13, you can be pinned as a junior ranger. You can purchase the handbook at a visitor’s center. Your child must complete the book, collect a bag of trash, and choose one of the seminars they offer to attend. I saw some kids really engaged in this endeavor, and serious about that pin!

Tenaya Lake: Near the eastern entrance of Yosemite on Tioga Road is Yosemite’s largest natural lake, Tenaya Lake. Due to its location appx 1.5 hours from the Valley Floor, we found this lake/area to be much less populated. The lake is absolutely stunning, and our daughter enjoyed climbing on lots of the rocks present. We also enjoyed a picnic here. There are 2 picnic areas available, but we chose to picnic on the rocks! This lake is easy to get to as well with a tot in tow as it is steps off the main road. You can also kayak and swim in this lake! The water is crystal clear! This was my favorite stop in Yosemite!

Tenaya Lake, Yosemite

Sentintel Meadows: We enjoyed watching the sun set here in the meadow. My daughter also found it amazingly fun to run up and down the wooden foot paths. You can see a great views of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome! This meadow was close to our hotel which made it a convenient stopping point for burning off energy before heading into the hotel!

Sentinel/Cooks Meadow, Yosemite

Yosemite Falls: The largest waterfall in North America! A must see in Yosemite! And luckily for us, right across from our hotel. We found this hike to be easy. The entire path is paved, and we pushed the stroller the entire way. My daughter also walked for a good portion. We spent a good amount of time in this spot. Children will need constant supervision as the rocks present are very slippery. With help from my father, my daughter was able to climb to the bottom of the rocks and play in the stream and rocks for at least an hour!

Bridal Veil Falls: The stunning waterfall that you see in all of the tunnel view photos! This was an easy hike for the 2 year old and took appx 30 minutes round trip with her. We did not take the stroller. And the leaves were all falling while we were there in October, and this was the biggest hit. She collected tons of leaves and carried them with her to the falls! She kept proclaiming “beautiful” looking up at the waterfall!

 

Mirror Lake Hike: Due to my lack of research beforehand, this ended up being a bit of a challenging hike for us. I did not realize that there is a completely paved road that you can hike all the way to Mirror Lake which is stroller accessible. Instead, I ended up taking the stroller and daughter on the wooded hiking path, and abandoning the stroller appx 1/2 way in. My father, being gracious and benevolent, went back for the stroller and crossed the woods to bring the stroller to me on the paved pathway. So many people passed us trying to yank that stroller up rocks and rugged terrain. Now realizing the paved road runs parallel to the wooded trail makes me realize they thought us crazy.  This hike took us way longer than needed, but it states the full round trip hike can be completed in 1 hour. Mirror Lake was low during our visit since it was fall. The lake has the highest water level in spring after all of the snow melts! The reflections on Mirror Lake though were still beautiful, and we could see the full reflections of the cliffs.

Mirror Lake, Yosemite

Swinging Bridge Yosemite Valley: This is a great easy hike across the bridge, and down to the Merced River. This is a great spot for picnicking, swimming, or wading. There is also lots of room to run. This attraction was also close to our hotel which was a perk. The bridge doesn’t actually swing though. In order to visit an actual swinging bridge in Yosemite, you would need to go to the Wawona Swinging Bridge.

Valley Visitor Center: Beware! This is quite a long walk from the parking lot! I was ill prepared for this, and did not bring the stroller. Bring your stroller if you have tots! Otherwise the visitor center is nice with a great history display. My daughter actually loved this area and spent a great deal of time climbing under the rocks and looking at all the exhibits. There is also an Indian village in the back and museum to view that is free. You can also collect your official US Parks “Yosemite” Passport stamp here!

Also of note: you can rent bikes during select times of the year at the Yosemite Valley Lodge with bike trailers! In the winter there is ice skating at Half Dome Village! We also found the Half Dome Village Gift and Grocery to be great. We were able to get lots of groceries and souvenirs including snow globes in this store!

We covered a lot of ground for 2 days in Yosemite with a 2 year old, but we also missed SO MUCH. Next go around, a definite on our list is Tunnel View. Since we entered via Tioga Pass, we missed this iconic view. Also next time, we will not miss the Sequoias! Please offer up your favorite activities with kids in Yosemite as I would love to include them in our next camper van trip!

2 ADDITIONAL TIPS: BEARS ARE A LEGITIMATE CONCERN. Pay attention to all of the warnings and information. They told us to remove even scented chap stick from our vehicles while staying at the lodge. They have videos playing of bears breaking into cars!

BATHROOMS AND HIKING WITH A TODDLER: As any parent knows, a potty trained toddler may need to potty in the middle of a drive around a cliff or during a hike where there are no facilities. My absolute favorite contraption is my toddler’s portable potty with bag liners by “Potette Plus”. It has made our life so much easier. The potty folds up small enough to fit in a purse or backpack. The liners are absorbent and easy to throw away. Do yourself a favor, and buy this potty. This is by no means a paid endorsement, I really just love this travel potty that much! The things that excite a mom!  🙂 http://potette.com/how-it-works/

 

Mirror Lake Hike, Yosemite