Category Archives: off the beaten path

Gone Glamping

Primitive.  That’s the term that is used to describe the camping experiences of my youth. Dad sparking the fire with flint. Mom cooking over the open flames. Not an outlet in site – did they not understand the urgent necessity of blow drying?  Where was glamping when I needed it?

I harbor no delusions, camping in the traditional sense is not for me. Though I do love to be out in nature, sleeping on the ground just doesn’t appeal to me all that much. Give me a quality bed, a respectable thread count and an actual bathroom and I’m a happy non-camper.

When the trend of glamping (glamorous camping) started to pop up, I knew it was for me.  A romantic “Laurence of Arabia” style tent, real furniture and a proper powder room… what’s not to love?

Firelight Camps Glamping

All that and more can be found at Firelight Camps in Ithica, New York.  Reserve one of their six safari-style tents equipped with hardwood floors, a private balcony, a king or queen size bed, and hotel-quality linens, and you’ll know we aren’t in a Coleman anymore.

Set up on the grounds of the iconic La Tourelle Hotel, this gorgeous “tent city” is within hiking distance of the Finger Lake Trail system and Buttermilk Falls State Park.  Head out on a trek to a picturesque waterfall, then come back to relax in the spa. Top it all of with a glass of the famed local vintage and indulge in gourmet s’mores.

Firelight Camps Gourmet Glamping

Charging stations, a bathhouse that includes a sauna, gorgeous linens and lovely furnishing all make for a happy Glamper!

Firelight Camps also strive to maintain lodging with a lighter carbon footprint and elevating Eco-Tourism to a luxury level.

© Allison Usavage

The Details

Address: 1150 New York 96B, Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: (406) 852-2476

Website: www.firelightcamps.com

Rates: Start at $170 nightly for a weekday reservation and range up to $230 nighty for weekends.

Reservations: Are open for through November 2, 2014 and will be opened up again in May 2015. (it gets a bit cold to camp after NovemBUR in upstate New York)

Notes: Though this experience is geared toward the grownup set (ah, kid-free travel) they are also a family-friendly property. Dogs are welcome as well. 

 

 

Visiting Annapolis, Maryland with Kids

Annapolis Maryland

From the hallowed halls of the United States Naval Academy, to the quaint City Dock, and dozens of points in between, Maryland’s charming and historic capital makes for a perfect day-trip (or longer) with the family. 

U.S. Naval Academy Museum

 Moon Rock housed at U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland

 This hidden gem of a museum welcomes over 100,000 visitors from around the globe every year. Located in Preble Hall on the gorgeous grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy, the museum offers two floors of exhibits about the history of seapower, the development of the U.S. Navy, and the the history of U.S. Naval Academy. Exhibits include artifacts from historical figures, battles and events. Touch a piece of the actual U.S.S. Monitor, read letters penned by Admirals and presidents, see sand from the island of Iwo Jima as you take a walk through the history of our Navy – and country. There is even an actual moon rock donated to the museum by Apollo 14 astronauts. 

The best part? Admission to the museum is FREE!

Address:  118 Maryland Avenue, Annapolis, MD 21402. Phone: (410) 293-2108. Website: www.USNA.edu/museum  Hours: Monday – Friday from 7:00am to 3:30pm

Annapolis City Dock

Visting "Ego Alley" at City Dock in Annapolis Maryland

Rest here for a spell and have Alex Haley “read” your kids a story. The author of “Roots,” is immortalized in a sculpture that invites you to listen at his feet. I took along some books to read to my kids and soon found I’d started an impromptu story time for a few others.  Directly behind Mr. Haley is the City Dock Market House. Inside you’ll find food stalls serving up seaside favorites, and day-trip delicacies like famed Maryland Crab cakes and decadent gelato, perfect on a warm, sunny day. Walk off some of those calories with a stroll down “Ego Alley” where beautiful pleasure boats are docked. 

Don’t forget to bring along a little something to feed the ducks!

Parking: There is metered parking near City Dock, you’ve got great luck if you can snag one of those. If not, the Noah Hillman parking garage is just off Main Street in the Historic District at 150 Gorman Street.

Chick & Ruth’s Delly

Famous "Ben Cardin" Double Ruben at Chick & Ruth's Delly Anapolis Maryland

Speaking of eating! I say -with some authority as both a traveler and a foodie – that everyone MUST make the pilgrimage to the Delly at least one time (if not dozens.) Don’t let the cramped quarters, layer of grease or the fact that they call it a “Delly,” deter you. Chick & Ruth’s is a Maryland institution for good reason.

  • Crab Cakes as big as your head (okay, maybe a little smaller)
  • Matzo Ball Soup any Bubbe would envy
  • House-made dill pickles, a complementary treat you’ll pucker up to
  • A huge of menu items to choose from – many named after the local politicians who come down the street from the Capital Building daily
  • And the famed Colossal Challenges like the SIX POUND SHAKE (no really, it’s six pounds of milkshake) infamously conquered by Adam Richman of “Man vs Food” fame

Address: 165 Main St, Annapolis, MD 21401. Phone: (410) 269-6737. Website: www.chickandruths.com 

Pirate Adventures of the Chesapeake

Ahoy all ye adventurous scallywags! Really, what trip to an historical port city like Annapolis would be complete without a pirate adventure? Mysterious messages in bottles, hidden treasure, and an epic adventure await those who embark upon a voyage aboard  The Sea Gypsy. This fun, family-friendly ship sails from Annapolis Harbor seven days a week during the summer months and on weekends through October 26th. Your ticket to ride will cost you $20 for those over three and $12 for those under. 

Be sure to arrive early to get gussied up in pirate finery!

Address: 311 Third St, Annapolis, MD 21403. Phone: (410) 263-0002. Website: www.chesapeakpirates.com 

Annapolis Maritime Museum

If you’re making Annapolis a stopover during a trip to DC you might think you’ve been museum-ed out, but trust me you’ll want to make room for one more – THIS ONE! Why? Because of the hands-on history lesson your family will get. This small museum is set on the picturesque mouth of Back Creek, with a unique view overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. The museum takes advantage of the fact that it is housed in the last oyster-packing plant in Annapolis, engaging visitors in a fully interactive experience that takes them on a journey through the role that the water and they oyster industry played in the shaping of the area. You’ll also learn about the ecology of the area through a 850 gallon aquarium and exhibits that highlight the importance of conservation efforts.

An afternoon at the Annapolis Maritime Museum is FREE family fun!

Address: 723 2nd St, Annapolis, MD 21403. Phone: (410) 295-0104. Website: www.amaritime.org

Galleries, Eateries and Shopping… Oh, My!

Down Town Annapolis Maryland

My kids happen to be gifted browsers. They love to shop. It may be genetic. Annapolis is wonderland for those who love to stroll in and out of shops and galleries, searching for treasures and inspiration. Though there are some chain stores to be found on main street, they are out numbered by smaller, more unique and locally owned boutique stores. Annapolis boasts a thriving art community and you’ll find a number of places that feature locally produced items. One of our favorite shops is Annapolis Pottery. Though not all of their items are produced locally, 95% of their products are produced in the U.S. and many of them are sourced directly from the artists who produce them. 

Hungry? Annapolis is the place to be! I polled the kids for recommendations. Here is what THEY recommend;

  • Potato Valley Cafe – A tasty elevation of the humble spud 
  • Castlebay Irish Pub – This one gets on the list for the rose shaped salmon and the fish and chips. Our picky eater loves salmon – go figure!
  • Miss Shirley’s Cafe – A Baltimore staple now found in Annapolis, my kids would hurt you to get at a stack of their lemon-blueberry pancakes
  • Chick & Ruth’s Delly – They’re begging for that 6 pound shake, but happily settle for pizza bagels make on fresh, full-sized bagel halves and burgers from the kid’s menu that are big enough for a grown up. You’ll never leave this place hungry! Plus their kid’s menu prices hover around $5!

Don’t miss the chickens. Really, we know how I am about chickens. Annapolis is flocking full of the foul in the form of 5 foot tall fun, funky and thought provoking sculptures found through out the city.  If you go, snap a photo and I’ll be happy to add it to this post with photo credit.

Parking: There is both metered parking and several public parking garages, as well as valet service at City Dock. You can find a map of the garages here.

Up next… where to STAY in Annapolis if you aren’t lucky enough to live 20 minutes away… or even if you are… hello staycation!

 

 

(photo credit – Annapolis Waterfront m01229)

Infiniti QX56 Road Trip (Nuggets Style)

Ah the family road trip. Did we learn nothing from The Griswolds? Okay, so maybe I’ve never had an elderly aunt pass away in the car, but I’ve sure had my fair share of, “She’s touching me!” and “Are we there yet?!!!” , close calls with the demise of my sanity. Frankly, anything further than a jaunt to the drive-thru can provoke car cacophony. Could the car itself have something to do with this?

Recently my larger family -six in all, plus one stray- spent a week putting the 2012 Infiniti QX56 4FWD to the test for She Buys Cars & Traveling Mom. I would be remiss if I did not start by sharing what might be the best first impression exclamation ever uttered, courtesy of my seven year old son, “Mom, it’s like a tank for families!”. If such a thing did exist, this would be it. (only far more luxurious than any tank this former Naval Airman has ever laid eyes on)

Sitting behind the wheel of this seven passenger luxury SUV you get a sense of serenity, partially from the posh interior, Bose 13 speaker premium sound system, and what feels like a 360 degree view, ultimately for this self-proclaimed “Car Girl”  the power surging from the 5.6 liter V8 engine was near Nirvana.

A Few of My Favorite Things

  • Leather wrapped, heated steering wheel. Warm and toasty, instead of blue and frozen fingers on those cold morning carpools.
  • Hard Drive Navigation System. With this feature you can even search for restaurants by their Zagat rating. Foodie heaven!
  • Push Button ignition. No more fumbling with the keys.
  • Hands-free Bluetooth phone and streaming audio via Bluetooth as well.
  • USB connection, for my Geekery.
  • Rear entertainment system for the kids, nearly as important as the tethers and anchors for the child safety seats. (okay, not really, but you know what I mean)
  • Blind Spot Warning System. This is an awesome feature! A little light near the sideview mirror blinks when there is something in your blind spot. Try to change lanes when the light is on and alarm sounds.
  • Remote Tip-Up second row seats. GREAT for big families, making clamoring over the seats a thing of the past!
  • 10-Way power driver’s seat with 2-Way power lumbar support. I drove for three hours and twenty-seven minutes without any nagging reminders from my back.
  • Backup Camera with an aerial view as well. This was simply space-aged awesome.
  • Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA). This active safety feature continuously monitors and analyzes closing speeds to a vehicle ahead. If the you do not respond to the Forward Collision Warning and a collision cannot be avoided, this system automatically engages the brakes to help reduce collision speed and impact, which could save you and reduce damage in an accident.
  • Power Sun/Moonroof. This feature makes me feel cool when I’m driving and when I wasn’t, I could just gaze out the window (see photo below)

Things You Need to Know

  • Total “sticker price” of the model we tested: $75,340.00
  • This model gets an EPA estimated 14 MPG City and 20 MPG Highway, though I averaged 26 MPG on our road trip which was 97% Highway travel.
  • The engine is a 5.6 liter V* with 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque.
  • The model I drove was “fully-loaded”, base models start around $63,100.00
  • You need to have the key fob on you (or in your bag) in order to unlock the car. This isn’t a bad thing, it just took some getting used to.
  • With the third row of seats folded down there is a ton of cargo space. Fold down the second and you pretty much have a flat-bed truck. That said, with all the seats up, there isn’t much room for cargo in the rear. We still managed to get all our gear stowed, but having little people, with feet that didn’t touch the floor, helped.
  • Because this car does pretty much everything but drive itself, you really need to spend time learning how everything works. The owner’s manual comes in volumes! They have a great website and yes, there is an app for that. Just know that you will have lots of homework to do.

So let’s answer the burning question… can’t we all just get along, or at least get into the car?

Infiniti QX56 Traveling Mom Review from Lara DiPaola on Vimeo.

Lauderdale By The Sea: Not the Lauderdale You’re Thinking

I was 19. It was Spring. We had a car and Ft. Lauderdale wasn’t that far from the Naval training facility in Orlando. So, this California girl took her first trip to an East Coast beach. Really, what teenager with a car, a paycheck and a swimsuit wouldn’t go? It was a weekend to remember.

Fast forward more years than I care to count.  Traveling Mom reached out to me to ask if I’d like to bring the brood “down the shore” to cover the annual Family Fun Week events in Lauderdale By The Sea. Florida. My first thought? Oh heck no, what if I left my “mark” in Lauderdale and they found out?! Okay, it wasn’t that dramatic. It was more of a “Hmm” moment. I couldn’t fit the picture of my kids into my memories of the Ft. Lauderdale I knew. Ah, but you see I wasn’t exactly paying attention to the offer. Did you know that Ft. Lauderdale and Lauderdale By The Sea (LBTS) are two different places, close on a map but worlds away?

I sure didn’t.

LBTS is an adorable little village, harkening back to the golden days of giant floral print shirts, women in cat-eye glasses and The Flamingo Kid. Dotting the nearly pristine shoreline are boutique hotels like the Tropic Seas, where we spent one wonderful night and a day tromping the 50 yards from the front door of our brightly painted room to the shore.

During Family Fun week, the village is chocked full of great activities and discounts that make the stay that much more memorable.

The kids can take skim-boarding classes at Alley Oop Skim, have a blast at a chocolate making demonstration at Kilwin’s, or fish from the pier in the annual fishing competition. The whole family can explore the wonderful world of “Crush” and company on a Sea Turtle walk (best for older kids). Many of the shops and vendors offer discounts for families who have purchased the Family Fun Week Discount Card. There are also tons of FREE activities, from live music to movies, and more.

The food? Amazing! We enjoyed an amazing breakfast at Athena By The Sea <—um… imported Feta. HELLO. AWESOME.

The best part of our visit was our stay at the charming, homey and simply sublime, Beachside Village Resort. A slice of The Cape in South Florida, staying here was more like coming home to visit family than staying at a resort. The rooms are each inspired by cities on Cape Cod, decorated in bright white and infused with welcoming style and outstanding amenities. With two pools, a welcoming fire pit, shaded outdoor seating and even grills for you to fire up, this place has it all. PLUS it’s only a hop across the street from the beach!

As grand as all that sounds -and is- the very best part of the stay is the people who run the place. Talk about family-friendly! They treat you like their own. Every need anticipated and met. The owner of the resort also owns three of the villages best eateries and he welcomes you to dine with his “family” by providing a free breakfast at The Village Grille. Ah but dinner at this place is simply mouth watering, a perfect marriage of foodie-fabu and family-friendly.

The sushi at The Village Sushi bar was OUTSTANDING (and my family is a bunch of sushi snobs)

If you’re looking for lots highrise luxury hotels or hopping night life, this isn’t the beach town for you. However, if you’re looking for great beaches, friendly people, businesses that do it right when it comes to family fun, or even an awesome place for your family dog to vacay (this place is the picture of dog-friendly), Lauderdale By The Sea is where you need to be planing your next Florida stay!

Want to learn and see more about LBTS? Visit the LTBSevents page on Pinterest!

 

Disclosure: I was invited, through my affiliation with Traveling Mom, to visit Lauderdale By The Sea during their Family Fun Week promotions. I was compensated for my honest review. AS ALWAYS, my opinions are my own, because YOU deserve no less!  

 

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