Review: The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman

Visiting Grand Cayman with your kids and looking for a family-friendly luxury resort? You can’t go wrong with The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman.
Looking for Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman reviews? We've got the scoop on this lovely Caribbean hotel.
Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman

Facts

Hotel Class: 5 Star
Rates: From $549-$2,070
Address: West Bay Road, PO Box 32348, Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

Accommodation Options

363 Rooms & Suites, 69 Residences

Things for Kids to Do

Ritz Kids Club, Golf Clinic, Tennis Clinic, Yoga, Pool, Ambassadors of the Environment Program, Watersports, Snorkeling, Scuba Diving

Childcare

The Ritz Kids Club offers supervision and activities. There is no in-house babysitting. However, the hotel can provide recommendations upon request.

Amenities for Kids

For Infants: Crib, High Chair, Swim Diapers
For Toddlers: High Chair, Books, Crayons, Kid Sized Dining Table, Bean Bags, Pool Toys, Swim Diapers, Kid Sized Picnic Tables, Kid Sized Lounge Chair
For Older Kids: Pool Toys

Pool

In addition to the main pool, the hotel also has a little kid water park.

Beach

Right on the Seven Mile beach, the hotel offers beach bars, private cabanas, and lounge chairs.

Food and Drink

The hotel boasts four restaurants: a seafood restaurant called Blue by Eric Ripert, an Italian restaurant called Andiamo, a Caribbean restaurant called Seven, and a Japanese restaurant called Taikun. There are also two bars, Silver Palm and Bar Jack.

Video Tours


Source: Ted McIntyre


Source: IrixGuy’s Adventure Channel


Source: The Ritz-Carlton

Four Seasons Resort Nevis opened in 1991 and it was actually the Four Seasons’ very first property in the Caribbean, so it has a pretty long and storied history among the brand’s properties. In April 2018, the resort began a massive, multi-year, multi-million dollar renovation. We were fortunate enough to visit just a couple months after this huge project was completed. Many thanks to Four Seasons Nevis for hosting us on this trip! Here's a detailed video review of the resort:

Getting to the Resort

One of the most unique aspects of Four Seasons Nevis is how you actually get to the resort. Nevis does have its own airport, but it can only accommodate smaller aircrafts and private jets. So most visitors to Nevis actually fly into St. Kitts instead. From the airport, you take a taxi to the pier, and from there, you take a ferry to Nevis. This may sound like a lot of steps, but it actually feels like a fun adventure, which our girls absolutely loved. Also, the ride from the St Kitts airport to the pier is incredibly scenic, and made me want to explore St Kitts more on a future trip! As soon as we stepped foot onto that boat, it felt like all the stress from our everyday lives in New York City melted away. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the crew members mixed us up some delicious rum punch while we waited for the other passengers to board. Sean and Ella enjoyed their Ting soda all the way to the resort. We were greeted on the pier, and whisked off to our villa by golf cart.
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Accommodations

This is where Four Seasons Nevis really shines. The resort has a total of nearly 200 rooms available, ranging from standard rooms to suites to villas. We were fortunate enough to stay in a 3-Bedroom Pinney's Beach Villa. Here's a detailed video tour of our villa: At nearly 3,300 square feet, this was easily the largest and most luxurious villa we’ve ever experienced. The open-plan great room has a massive kitchen, dining area, and a living area with floor to ceiling glass doors that can be opened for an indoor-outdoor feel. Just outside the kitchen is an outdoor dining room, complete with a grill, as well as a private pool and a sprawling lawn. On the other side of the ground floor are two of the three bedrooms. There’s a bedroom with two queen beds and an en-suite bathroom, as well as a king room with an outdoor patio, and a pretty epic bathroom with an outdoor shower. On the ground floor, there’s also a powder room and a little courtyard. Upstairs is the master suite. There’s a massive walk-in closet, a bathroom with another outdoor shower, another outdoor patio, and a spacious master bedroom with soaring vaulted ceilings. One more fun perk about staying in a villa is that you get your very own golf cart to use for the duration of your stay! Anytime we stay at a resort where you get around by golf carts, the girls love it, but having our very own just totally made their day.
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Dining

If you’re looking for cocktails, there are two main bars at Four Seasons Nevis: Crowned Monkey Rum Bar and Kastawey Beach Bar. In terms of dining, there are three signature restaurants, and they all serve a mixture of Caribbean and American cuisines. You have On the Dune, Mango and EsQuilina. Now because we were staying at a villa and had a kitchen stocked full of groceries, we cooked a lot of our own meals. So out of the three restaurants we only tried EsQuilina, since that’s where the breakfast buffet is served. And what a breakfast it was. We absolutely loved all the fresh fruit, the salad, the cheese and cold cuts, and the omelette station was excellent too. Not surprisingly, the girls’ favorite station was the pancake and waffles station. Mostly because the topping included M&Ms and gummy bears, and they took full advantage!
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Pools

There are actually three different pools at Four Seasons Nevis, but we mostly hung out at Limin’ Pool. This is the resort’s signature infinity edge pool. As part of the resort’s renovation, it was completely reconstructed and raised so that when you look out from the lobby, you see one long sight line straight from the pool out to the Caribbean Sea. If it’s in your budget, I definitely recommend renting a cabana for the day. The service is very attentive, and the lunch options were excellent. I think cabanas can be especially useful if you’re traveling with younger kids who still need a midday nap. They can easily nap on the sofa in the cabana, and that way you won’t have to go back to your room or villa and miss out on the sunshine. Four Seasons Nevis also has a long, lovely beach with soft sand. But on this trip our girls were more into the pool, so we spent most of our time there instead of the beach.
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Tina Papies
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Tina Papies

Kids Club

One of the updates made during the resort’s renovation is that the Kids for All Seasons club was moved to a new location, next to the family-friendly Calypso Pool. Use of the kids club is complimentary, but there are certain special activities on the daily schedule that require an additional fee, ranging anywhere from $15 to $65. These are things like cooking classes or certain arts & crafts classes. The design of the kids club is colorful and modern. There’s a small splash pad right outside and a climbing wall inside - those are great options for more active kids. There are plenty of arts & crafts supplies, as well as toys and books. I’d say that compared to other Four Seasons properties, this kids club here is pretty basic. I think that toddlers and pre-schoolers would be pretty content, but if you have older kids like us, they may get bored easily and not want to stay that long. That said, it’s still great to have a place to drop your kids for a couple hours if, let’s say, you want to check out the spa.
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Fitness & Spa

One area in which Four Seasons Nevis really shines is the plethora of fitness options. If you’re a golfer, you’ll enjoy the 18-hole, par-71 course. You’ll often see green vervet monkeys scurrying around, which I imagine would make playing golf that much more fun! There’s a well-equipped fitness room, daily yoga and pilates classes, and you can even work with a personal trainer if you’d like. If you’re a tennis player, you’ll really enjoy the fact that the resort has four red-clay courts, four hard courts and two AstroTurf courts. We took a family tennis lesson and Dave, our coach, was fantastic. It was the girls’ first time playing, and he made it so much fun.
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Tina Papies
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Tina Papies
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Tina Papies
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Tina Papies
After you get your workout in, you’ll have to check out the spa, which is really top-notch. The treatments are all done in individual little huts. Before or after your treatment, you can relax in the cold and warm water outdoor plunge pools. Serge and I booked a couple’s massage. It was the Signature Nevisian Massage, which starts with a cleansing foot ritual in which our feet were bathed in warm, lemongrass-infused water. The spa technicians then applied an aromatic scrub made of brown sugar, cinnamon, coconut and nutmeg. Then it was time for the main event. We got to choose from four different scents for our massage oil. And the massage itself was fantastic. We were already pretty relaxed when we got to the spa, but after the massage we were like putty! So I highly recommend you check out the spa when you stay here.
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
four seasons nevis with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

How to Make the Most of Your Stay

If you plan on visiting Four Seasons Nevis, here are three tips to make the most of your stay. 1. Stay in a villa If you don’t mind a bit of a splurge, staying in a villa at Four Seasons Nevis is really the ultimate way to experience this resort. The villa we stayed in can sleep up to 8 adults, so if it’s a stretch for you budget-wise, you can save some by splitting the cost between 2 or 3 families, or a big group of friends. 2. Book a cabana It’s always nice to have a home base for a day at the pool, and a private pool cabana just can’t beat. If you’re more of a beach person than a pool person, you can book a beach cabana instead. You’ll get a personal hammock, which is pretty fun. 3. Book a spa treatment If you can only pick one thing on this list to do, make it a visit to the spa. The indoor/outdoor feel of the spa is pretty unique, and the quality of the treatments are top-notch. If you're looking for a kid-friendly, luxurious resort in the Caribbean that feels like a private hideaway, Four Seasons Nevis is a fantastic choice.

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About Carmen Sognonvi

Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel and lifestyle digital influencer at Top Flight Family. Her insights on travel have been featured in Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, Seatrade Cruise News and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Click here to read Carmen's articles

If you're looking for a kid-friendly, luxurious resort in the Caribbean that feels like a private hideaway, Four Seasons Nevis is a fantastic choice.
Some posts on this site may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, Top Flight Family may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Read the site's full disclosure and privacy policy here.
If you're looking for a ski resort that combines luxury, fine dining and family fun, Deer Valley Resort in Utah is a great choice. In this article I'll break down what makes Deer Valley stand out from other ski resorts, the accommodations options, the ski instruction and the great dining that's available here. Many thanks to the team at Deer Valley for hosting us!

The Deer Valley Difference

There are several key areas in which Deer Valley stands out from other ski resorts you may visit in North America. 1. It never gets overcrowded Deer Valley Resort limits the number of tickets they sell each year. Because of this, they do a fantastic job at limiting the number of people visiting, so you never worry about it being overcrowded. That means you can spend more time actually skiing instead of standing in line waiting for the lift. On top of that, it helps with dining options because you’re not as worried about beating the crowds.
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Jessica Weyerts
2. You can bring little kids, even infants! Another thing that’s great about Deer Valley Resort is that they offer ski lessons for kids as young as 3 years old. The resort even offers state-certified childcare for infants as young as 2 months old! So if you’ve got babies with you, you can still spend a day on the slopes.
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Jessica Weyerts
3. Beginners can ski all over At many ski resorts, beginner skiers are stuck near the base. But at Deer Valley Resort, five of the six peaks have green trails for beginners. And six out of six have blue runs. Which means that if you're beginners like us, you can ski around the whole resort! Also, if you have a mix of abilities in your family, you can all ride the lift up together but ski down different runs, and meet at the bottom.
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Jessica Weyerts

Spacious Accommodations

We stayed at The Lodges of Deer Valley, which is about a 3-minute shuttle ride from the base. We had a spacious two-bedroom condo with a full kitchen and three bathrooms. It was so nice to snuggle up in front of the fireplace each evening after a long time on the slopes. deer valley resort with kids Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
deer valley resort with kidstext here

Ski School

Deer Valley is renowned for its ski school, and we got to see why. Serge and I took two half-day private lessons, while the girls joined group lessons. The ski school for kids breaks its program down by age group: The Fawn Special is for 3-year-olds, The Bambi Club is for 4-year-olds, The Reindeer Club is for 5- and 6-year-olds, and The Adventure Club is for ages 7-12. The girls absolutely loved their instructor, nicknamed "Mrs. Bumblebee," and progressed a lot on this trip. Serge and I learned a lot as well from Tom, our instructor. Getting to go down green runs on so many different peaks was exhilarating!
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Dining

Deer Valley is known for being a pioneer in transforming the food culture within the ski industry. They were probably the first resort to start emphasizing gourmet food created with the freshest ingredients, and their dining options continue to shine today! Fireside Dining at Empire Canyon Lodge We had a fantastic dinner at Fireside Dining, a European alpine-inspired restaurant where they prepare the food in rustic stone fireplaces. Not only is it a great way to warm up after a long day on the slopes, but the food is delicious. You walk around to the different food stations and watch the food cook and let them carve or serve it right then and there! ⁠
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Seafood Buffet at Snow Park Lodge The Seafood Buffet at Deer Valley is pretty much legendary, and we could see why. This was one epic meal full of many crab legs, oysters and more. From poke to clam chowder, from sashimi to grilled shrimp, we sure were happy campers at this buffet. For those who are not into seafood, they offer veggie specialty dishes and prime rib too. And there's an extensive dessert bar too! My favorite was the bread pudding.
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Royal Street Cafe Most restaurants on the actual slopes of a ski resort are cafeteria-style joints. But if you'd prefer a sit-down experience, Deer Valley offers Royal Street Cafe. We particularly enjoyed the appetizers here. The Dungeness Crab Tower was fantastic, and the Street Corn Guacamole took flavor to the next level with dashes of guajillo chili powder.
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
The Brass Tag The Brass Tag is a restaurant at The Lodges of Deer Valley, where we stayed. It pays homage to the region's mining industry past. Each miner was assigned a number which appeared on a metal tag that was taken off a board by the miner as he entered the mine and replaced on the board when he exited the mine. This let the company know how many miners were in the mine at any given time, and who they were. deer valley resort with kids Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
deer valley resort with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
We had such a great time at Deer Valley. Serge and I are finally starting to feel like "real" skiers! Being able to do so many runs on different peaks was nerve-wracking, but also exhilarating. We can't wait to see how we improve even more next winter!

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About Carmen Sognonvi

Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel and lifestyle digital influencer at Top Flight Family. Her insights on travel have been featured in Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, Seatrade Cruise News and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Click here to read Carmen's articles

If you're looking for a ski resort that combines luxury, fine dining and family fun, Deer Valley Resort in Utah is a great choice.
Some posts on this site may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, Top Flight Family may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Read the site's full disclosure and privacy policy here.
This post is sponsored by Visit California When most people hear "California," they immediately think of palm trees, sunshine, and beaches. But there's so much more to this state! California might be the one state where you can go skiing in the morning and surfing in the afternoon, all in the course of a single day. We recently got a chance to see what a winter vacation in California is like. Many thanks to Visit California and their partners for hosting us on this trip! Here's how it went:

Day 1 - Dinner in Downtown Disney

As huge Disney fans, we were excited that we'd be starting this California adventure at Disneyland! We've been to Walt Disney World in Orlando so many times, but this would be our first time visiting the park where it all started! We checked into the Anaheim Marriott Suites, a very family-friendly hotel located just minutes away from Disneyland. The one-bedroom suite configuration worked well for our family, and though our transportation on this trip had been pre-arranged, it was good to know that the hotel had its own shuttle that runs hourly back and forth from Disneyland.
Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California. Photo: Max Whittaker
We headed to Downtown Disney, a dining and shopping destination right outside the parks, very similar to Disney Springs in Orlando. We had eaten at the original Manhattan location of Black Tap Burger once before, so the girls were very excited to see that we'd be dining at their Downtown Disney location. We enjoyed juicy burgers and huge, over-the-top milkshakes. It was fun getting to know the other families on the trip, who came from all over: London, Sydney, Mexico City and even Arkansas!
The Cake Shake at Black Tap Craft Burgers in Downtown Disney. Photo: Max Whittaker

Day 2 - Disney California Adventure

The next morning, we headed to Disney California Adventure Park. We started our day with a meet-and-greet with one other than Elsa from Frozen! The Disney team was kind enough to gift us special Frozen-themed ears, which the girls loved.
Ella and Sean at Elsa's Royal Welcome at Disney California Adventure. Photo: Max Whittaker.
After a quick breakfast at Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe, we headed to Animation Academy in Hollywood Land. Here, we got to learn from an animator how to draw Olaf from scratch! I'm not particularly gifted artistically, so it was a credit to our instructor that my sketch came out pretty convincingly!
Drawn to Animation Class at Disney California Adventure. Photo: Max Whittaker
Sketching Olaf. Photo: Max Whittaker
Then it was time for more Frozen! This time, we went to see the live show at the Hyperion Theater. Even after having seen the Frozen Broadway musical here in New York, we were seriously impressed by this show at Disney California Adventure Park. It was like a mini-version of the Broadway show, but with costumes, stage design, special effects, and performances that honestly rivaled the big show!
Frozen, Live at the Hyperion. Photo: Max Whittaker
We spent the afternoon doing thrill ride after thrill ride (yes, my girls love to live on the edge). Our favorite attractions were the Incredicoaster, Radiator Springs Racer, and Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout!
Exploring Disney California Adventure. Photo: Max Whittaker
After dinner at Flo's V8 Cafe, we headed to watch World of Color, the park's nightly outdoor show. During the show, scenes from a variety of Disney and Pixar movies are projected onto fountains, with lots of cool fire, fog and laser effects.
World of Color at Disney California Adventure. Photo: Max Whittaker

Day 3 - Downtown Anaheim and Disneyland

The next morning we headed to Anaheim's Center Street Promenade, part of Anaheim’s Center City. There's a farmer's market there that's popular with both locals and visitors.
Farmer's Market in Anaheim. Photo: Max Whittaker
We visited Okayama Kobo Bakery, a Japanese bakery that bakes all its breads and pastries using a special blend of Hokkaido wheat flour imported from Japan. The end result is unbelievably soft and fluffy! The girls had so much fun decorating their Anpan buns with icing. And all of us loved the bakery's savory sandwiches and Japanese-style hot dogs.
Decorating emoji bread at Okayama Kobo Bakery in Anaheim. Photo: Max Whittaker
After lunch, we headed to Disneyland. It was so exciting to see the Sleeping Beauty Castle! Being in front of the castle felt extra-special knowing that Walt Disney himself put his stamp on it! We spent the afternoon on more thrill rides, with Big Thunder Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure and Matterhorn Bobsleds being our favorites.
Exploring Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Photo: Max Whittaker

Day 4 - Galaxy's Edge and Mammoth Lakes

The next morning, we were in for a very special treat. We got to Disneyland super-early, before it opened to the public, and got to explore the Star Wars-themed Galaxy's Edge before any other guests arrived! We had a special meet-and-greet with none other than Chewbacca himself, and rode Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, which was just as fun as we remembered from Disney World.
Sean and Ella meeting Chewbacca in Galaxy's Edge. Photo: Max Whittaker
Riding Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run in Galaxy's Edge. Photo: Max Whittaker
We enjoyed a lovely character dining breakfast at Plaza Inn, and had so much fun interacting with all the characters who stopped by! Chip and Dale were both adorable, and Serge and Captain Hook bonded over how tall both of them were! Then we got an important call: the Resistance needed us, so it was time to head back to Galaxy's Edge! I was beyond excited that the Disney team was able to arrange for our group to ride Rise of the Resistance - the brand-new attraction at Galaxy's Edge. I don't want to spoil it for you so I won't give too much away here, but suffice it to say that this attraction more than lived up to its hype. I can't wait to ride it again!
Rise of the Resistance at Galaxy's Edge. Photo: Max Whittaker
After this incredibly eventful morning, we headed to LAX to get on our flight to the mountain destination Mammoth Lakes. It's incredible that you can go from the middle of Los Angeles to a snowy mountain in less than an hour's flight! We checked in to our spacious 2-bedroom condo at The Village Lodge at Mammoth and enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner at Campo Mammoth. It was the perfect way to end a long but fun day, and fuel up for fun in the snow the next day.

Day 5 - Mammoth Lakes

We started our day at Toomey's, a casual baseball-themed eatery with lots of hearty breakfast options. Then we headed off to our first adventure of the day: snowmobiling! A few weeks before this trip, we had spent a pretty epic day snowmobiling for 8 hours through Yellowstone National Park as part of our trip to Big Sky, Montana. Serge and I had loved the experience, but the girls were not as thrilled about it as we were. So I knew going into this snowmobiling experience in Mammoth Lakes that it probably wasn't going to go that smoothly. Sure enough, Ella wasn't thrilled about doing it, and to be honest, I felt a bit nervous too as the trails were narrower and the terrain more bumpy than I had experienced before. So Ella and I decided to end our tour a bit early, while Serge and Sean completed it with the rest of the group.
Serge and Sean snowmobiling at Mammoth Mountain in Mammoth Lakes. Photo: Max Whittaker
After snowmobiling, we had lunch at The Yodler, a German Bavarian-style restaurant and bar with a beautiful outdoor deck. By this time the temperatures had gotten up to about 60 degrees, so we didn't even need our jackets. Skiing in California is definitely a very different experience than in other states!
Lunch at the Yodler in Mammoth Lakes. Photo: Max Whittaker
Then it was time for more fun in the snow. We headed to Woolly's Tube Park & Snow Play and the girls had an amazing time tubing down the hill. Coming down was fun, of course, but they enjoyed the trip up just as much! Unlike the slow-moving magic carpet that many other snow tubing attractions use, Woolly's has a lift where you sit in your tube, it's hooked up to a cable, and it whisks you quickly up the hill!
Ella and Sean snowtubing at Woolly's Tubing & Snow Play in Mammoth Lakes. Photo: Max Whittaker
That evening, we enjoyed dinner and bowling at Mammoth Rock N Bowl, and finished our night by roasting marshmallows and making s'mores at a fire pit in the village.
Bowling at Mammoth Rock 'n' Bowl. Photo: Max Whittaker
Making S'mores in the Village in Mammoth Lakes. Photo: Max Whittaker

Day 6 - Back to Los Angeles

The next day, we were originally supposed to take an afternoon flight back to LAX. However, because there was inclement weather that was likely to cause our flight to be cancelled, we ended up doing an impromptu road trip! Instead of flying, we actually drove all the way back to Los Angeles. Though I'm usually not the biggest fan of road trips, this one was actually very enjoyable. It was pretty spectacular to be able to watch the scenery change gradually from snowy mountains to desert and rock formations. We also enjoyed our brief stop in Lone Pine, a tiny town of just 2,000 residents that, with its rugged terrain, looks like something straight out of a cowboy movie. And in fact, many movies have actually been filmed here, from classic Westerns like How the West Was Won to more recent hits like Django Unchained.
Road tripping through Southern California. Photo: Max Whittaker
Lone Pine, California. Photo: Max Whittaker
We got into Santa Monica that evening and checked into Hotel Shangri-La. I was thrilled with the hotel's beachfront location, and the girls went nuts for the oversized jacuzzi tub in our suite's bathroom! We enjoyed a room service dinner before going to sleep.

Day 7 - Santa Monica

The original plan for the next morning was to do some surfing. However, a serious cold front had moved in while we were in Mammoth Lakes. So with the temperatures in the mid-40s and the water being very choppy, we opted for plan B: biking around Santa Monica!
The iconic Route 66 sign in Santa Monica Pier. Photo: Max Whittaker
Now I'm embarrassed to say that the girls and I are... let's just call it "bicyclally challenged." So Serge joined the rest of the group to do a bicycle tour of Santa Monica beach, while the girls and I explored on our own two feet. They had a great time playing on all the swings, monkey bars and exercise equipment on the beach. (By the way, did you know that the original Muscle Beach was in Santa Monica, not Venice? This is an interesting article about that history.)
Exploring Santa Monica California, February 3, 2020.
After lunch at Seaside on the Pier, we headed to the Heal the Bay Aquarium, a marine education facility that promotes conservation of Southern California coastal waters. We got a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility, and all the kids in the group were absolutely riveted by the marine life there. And they loved getting to feed the baby shark!
Visiting Heal the Bay Aquarium in Santa Monica. Photo: Max Whittaker
We spent the rest of the afternoon doing rides at Pacific Park, the amusement park located on the Santa Monica pier. Even though the roller coaster "was way too slow," according to the girls, they had a lot of fun running around with their new friends trying ride after ride.
Pacific Park in Santa Monica. Photo: Max Whittaker
Sean, Ella and their new friends riding the attractions at Pacific Park in Santa Monica. Photo: Max Whittaker
After Pacific Park, we walked over to Third Street Promenade, a lovely shopping and dining area. We visited The Void, a virtual reality attraction that was a lot of fun. We tried two of their experiences: one was Jumanji-themed, and the other was Star Wars-themed. They were both incredibly realistic and entertaining. So realistic, in fact, that it got a bit too real for Ella, so she ducked out early! We ended our day... and our trip, with a dinner at The Gallery Food Hall, an indoor food court with lots of innovative restaurants under one roof. We really enjoyed the build-your-own bento concept of Supertoro, but couldn't leave without trying some tacos from Azulé Taqueria as well.

California: An Alternative Winter Destination

If your family is somewhat interested in a snow or ski trip, but you're not sure you want to commit a full vacation to it, adding a few days in the snow the way we did is a great way to ease into it. Many thanks to Visit California for hosting us on such an eye-opening trip! We can't wait to explore more of this beautiful state.

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About Carmen Sognonvi

Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel and lifestyle digital influencer at Top Flight Family. Her insights on travel have been featured in Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, Seatrade Cruise News and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Click here to read Carmen's articles

When most people hear "California," they immediately think of palm trees, sunshine, and beaches. But there's so much more to this state! Here's what a winter vacation in California is like.
Some posts on this site may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, Top Flight Family may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Read the site's full disclosure and privacy policy here.
This post is sponsored by Paramount Pictures Have you ever dreamt of attending a real Hollywood movie premiere? We recently got a chance to do this when Paramount Pictures invited us to Los Angeles to attend the premiere of the new animated feature, Sonic the Hedgehog, based on the character from the classic SEGA video game. It was so much fun to get to explore both modern-day Hollywood, as well as its rich 100-year history.  Many thanks to Paramount for hosting us on this trip! Here's a look at what our experience was like:
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
We flew into LAX on Alaskan Airlines, which was actually our very first time flying this airline. We checked into the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, a property whose history is intimately intertwined with the movie industry itself. Opened in 1927 by a group movie industry executives, it hosted the first ever Academy Awards. The hotel has a three-level, 3,200 square foot penthouse where actors Clark Gable and Carol Lombard carried on a secret love affair in the 1930s. Fittingly, this suite is now called the Gable & Lombard Penthouse. Another room of note is the Marilyn Suite, where Marilyn Monroe herself lived for two years in the late 1940s. It's located just steps away from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Grauman's Chinese Theatre, so it's in a great location if you want to be close to those attractions.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
The next morning, we headed to Paramount Studios, where we started the day with a tour of the studio. We started by visiting the prop warehouse, where we got close-up views of props used in some of the biggest hit movies and TV shows, including Bumble Bee and Optimum Prime from Transformers, and the transporter from Star Trek.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Then we headed to the New York backlot. It was both funny and jarring to go in just 24 hours from the real New York City, where we live, to the pretend New York City of this studio. Everybody Hates Chris is a favorite show of ours, and it was cool to see that the Bed Stuy brownstone shown at the start of every episode is actually one of the buildings on this lot!
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
There's a ton of history at Paramount Studios (it was amazing to see Stage 19, for example, where Orson Welles' classic Citizen Kane was filmed) but there are lots of current productions that are now shooting there too - everything from Grace and Frankie to The Blacklist. We visited the soundstage where Dr. Phil is filmed, and it was fun seeing the trailers of the This Is Us cast as we walked through the lot.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Then it was time for the main event! The Paramount Pictures team created a really amazing setup. It was a sea of bright blue (the color of Sonic himself, of course) and there were so many fun games and activities for kids to do. The girls loved eating blue Sonic-shaped cotton candy and playing in the ball pit.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
sonic the hedgehog movie premiere
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
We stopped by the blue carpet to snap a family photo, before heading in to watch the movie, which we absolutely loved! Jim Carrey, no surprise, steals the show with his performance as archvillain Doctor Robotnik. James Marsden and Tika Sumpter bring a lot of heart to the story. Ben Schwartz, whom I absolutely adored as Jean-Ralphio on Parks & Recreation, did a great job of bringing Sonic the Hedgehog to life through his voicing performance.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Thanks again to Paramount Pictures for such a fun trip. It was the girls' first time in Los Angeles, which made it all the more special!

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THE 10 BEST VACATIONS FOR KIDS
IN THE U.S.

Enter your email below to receive The 10 Best Vacations for Kids in the U.S. You'll also be subscribed to our weekly newsletter, filled with luxury travel inspiration for you and your family!

About Carmen Sognonvi

Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel and lifestyle digital influencer at Top Flight Family. Her insights on travel have been featured in Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, Seatrade Cruise News and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Click here to read Carmen's articles

Some posts on this site may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, Top Flight Family may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Read the site's full disclosure and privacy policy here.
piano piano
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
This post is sponsored by PianoPiano A little known fact about me is that I’ve been playing the piano for nearly my entire life, and actually taught piano lessons throughout high school. I’m ashamed to admit that it’s taken me so long to get around to arranging music lessons for Sean and Ella! Though, as my readers know, the girls have had plenty of other amazing opportunities in their young lives, but I digress… Enter PianoPiano, an NYC-based, family-owned, piano rental company that’s been in business for close to 50 years. Until now, it hasn’t really been easy to let a kid try their hand at playing the piano. If they don’t have one in their home, they can’t practice, but getting one into the home can be a challenge (both financially and physically speaking). PianoPiano makes trying the piano affordable and easy. They help you choose the right piano, they deliver it, tune it, and take it away when you’re done! They even have rent-to-own options. Here’s how it works: 1. Pick either an upright, grand, or silent piano Yes, they make pianos that can be played without disturbing others, which is especially great when you live in an apartment building! Clueless about picking the right piano for your family? Take their Perfect Piano Quiz to figure out where to start! And, you get unlimited exchanges for a small fee, if for any reason you’d like a different one. 2. Choose a rental plan Pianos can be rented for as little as $38 a month! You can keep renting for as long as you want after your plan is up, without an increase in your monthly fee. PianoPiano offers the lowest prices with no surprises. 3. Schedule set up and delivery Delivery fees for an upright piano up to 100 miles from New York City are $195 each way, including one flight of stairs. If you live further than that, they may be able to arrange delivery for an additional fee. PianoPiano delivers as far east as Hartford, CT and all over the Philadelphia metropolitan area. 4. Get initial tuning at a discounted rate by a professional technician afterward And if you’d rather have an actual human being walk you through the process, just call or visit the showroom. All the pianos are new and like new. Many are actually brand-new from the manufacturer/refinishing factory and have never been rented before. When a piano does come back from rental, PianoPiano's team goes over it to get it into like-new condition. I love that PianoPiano offers a "rent, then own" option. With this option, you can decide to buy at any time. The first 12 months of rental fees go towards purchase no matter when you decide to buy. This program gives you ultimate flexibility, as you are not locked into a purchase from the beginning. You can decide when it’s the right time for you to buy the piano, keeping the same low monthly payment as long as you keep renting. You never have to buy and can keep renting forever (most customers do this). When you’re ready to buy, just let PianoPiano know and then you have 12 more months to pay off the balance with 0% interest. If you pay all at once by check, then you get a 3% discount. I’m so excited to have a piano in my home again, and to share my love of it with my girls. I’m even happier that I didn’t have to break the bank to get it, and I didn’t have to do any of the heavy lifting! PianoPiano makes the process painless. So tell me, have you ever played the piano? Would you consider renting one?

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Enter your email below to receive your free guide to the 10 travel products every traveling family should own. You'll also be subscribed to our weekly newsletter, filled with luxury travel inspiration for you and your family!

About Carmen Sognonvi

Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel and lifestyle digital influencer at Top Flight Family. Her insights on travel have been featured in Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, Seatrade Cruise News and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Click here to read Carmen's articles

Some posts on this site may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, Top Flight Family may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Read the site's full disclosure and privacy policy here.
Our family’s latest adventure took us to Baha Mar in the Bahamas! This tropical getaway couldn’t have come at a better time, since we’re in the middle of a cold, gray winter here in the Big Apple! The iconic Baha Mar is a fun resort for families, with lots of different pools and restaurants, and no shortage of hands-on activities that allow visitors to learn about local marine and wildlife. Many thanks to Baha Mar for hosting us on this memorable vacation. There were so many picture-perfect moments on our trip that it’s hard to know where to begin! Let’s start with an introduction to the expansive resort itself. Baha Mar is located on Nassau’s Cable Beach, and it’s actually made up of three distinct hotels: Rosewood Baha Mar, a quiet and laid-back luxury hotel; SLS Baha Mar, a lively Miami-style hotel with a youthful vibe; and the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, a modern and upscale hotel that's great for both kids and adults. In this way, visitors can return to Baha Mar year after year and have a different experience each time. Connecting all three properties is Baha Mar Casino, the largest casino in the entire Caribbean, and the only casino in the world with an ocean view. The resort also boasts a par-72, 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, as well as a world-class racquet club, a full-service spa, a nature sanctuary, an impressive kids’ club, and over 40 different bars and restaurants. Guests staying at any of the three hotels can access all of Baha Mar's bars, restaurants, pools, beaches and other amenities. The only exceptions are The Rosewood's kids club, pools and beach areas, which are reserved just for guests of that hotel.

Getting there (in style)

baha mar with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
We flew direct from New York City to Nassau on Delta. Once at the airport, we were treated to a truly luxurious welcome. You see, each resort has its own booth in the ground transportation area of the Nassau airport, and that's where visitors go to get from the airport to their respective hotels. This is usually an unremarkable moment, but Baha Mar sent a Tesla Model X to pick us up, with the cool Back to the Future-style falcon wing doors that open up toward the roof! The girls were delighted to ride in such a fun, futuristic car.

A room (or two) of our own

We stayed in rooms 1500 and 1502 in the west tower of the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, and had two adjoining rooms: the Grand Suite King and the Ocean View Balcony Queen. The Grand Suite King provided 694 square feet of opulence, with a king Hyatt Grand Bed, a pristine bath, and a separate living room. The Ocean View Balcony Queen was a bit smaller, but still provided 412 square feet of space, two queen Hyatt Grand Beds and bathtub. (The high-end bathroom products by Balmain smelled so good!) Both rooms had an interactive tablet, giving us all the information we needed about the resort. We were even able to make dining reservations from the device.

(Wild) things to do

If anyone in your family is an animal lover, they will really enjoy the animal encounters offered at Baha Mar. This is where the resort really shines! Here’s a breakdown of things to check out: The Aviary: This small space has lots of different local bird species. It’s free to enter, but I'd highly recommend that you pay the $10 for the feeding activity. You’ll receive two seed sticks to hold in your hand and the birds will flock to you to eat the seeds!
baha mar with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
The Sanctuary: This is the resort's marine life center, where you'll find sea turtles, stingrays, nurse sharks and many different species of fish. You can do a close marine encounter experience for $75 per person, and for the memories alone, it’s totally worth it! For about 30 minutes, you can get up close to stingrays and can feed sea turtles with lettuce! Plus, friendly nurse sharks swim around you as well.
baha mar with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
The Flamingos: The flamingo is the national bird of the Bahamas, and is a big part of the Baha Mar experience. You can do a flamingo meet and greet experience that allows you to touch, feed and take photos with a special group of flamingos that were hatched on property. We had so much fun meeting Baha, Lynden, Luca, Indy! It was also cool to see how Bimini, the youngest bird of the flock, is just starting to turn pink from the white/grey color it was born with. This activity is not only fun and educational, but of course, the perfect photo opportunity!
baha mar with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
The Explorers Club: The girls absolutely loved the Explorers Club at Baha Mar, which is the resort's kids club. They were only supposed to do one half-day session, but they ended up doing three sessions over the course of our stay! The facility is actually brand-new and really impressive. In addition to beautiful, vibrant decor, it's incredibly well-stocked with all types of crafts materials. The girls amassed quite a collection of crafts they created after the three sessions. We left with everything from tote bags to key chains, and from colored sand to shell art! The kids club has a state-of-the-art theater room where kids watch movies and play dance-based video games. Counselors will also take the kids on "field trips" around the property to visit the animals. The Explorer's Club programs are divided into three daily sessions: 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Each session costs $65 per child. Note that these sessions are fairly structured, with counselors leading the kids in organized activities. That may be a plus or minus for your family, depending on your kids' personalities.
baha mar with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Cooking Class: One of our favorite experiences was taking a family cooking class at the Explorer's Club. The club has an ultramodern learning kitchen that's a really impressive facility. We worked with Chef Michael Davis. Serge and I made seared tuna tacos with him, while the girls worked with his sous chef to make red velvet cupcakes. After the class we dined in the garden just outside the kitchen, which is also where they grow their own herbs and vegetables. The experience was memorable and fun!

Soak up the sun

baha mar with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
baha mar with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
There's no shortage of pools to choose from (Grand Hyatt alone has 11 of them!), but the girls' favorite was definitely Dean's Blue Hole, a mini-sized recreation of the famous attraction on Long Island in the Bahamas. Sean loved getting to cliff-dive into the pool. There is a high and a low "cliff" you can choose from, and the lifeguards are very good at timing everyone's jumps so that it's very safe. This pool is extra special because it also has a grotto with windows inside that offer a glimpse into the tank of stingrays and nurse sharks at The Sanctuary.
baha mar with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
baha mar with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
The whole stretch of beach at Baha Mar is beautiful, but for a real treat, check out Baha Bay Beach Club. It’s managed by SLS, but is available to all guests. This brand-new beach club has two beautiful infinity pools overlooking the beach, with a beautifully designed terraced area of lounge chairs and cabanas. We were lucky enough to have a cabana for the day, which was an amazing experience. The servers were extremely attentive, and you can order food from 25 North, the California-inspired signature restaurant on-site there.

Eat, drink & be merry

There are over 40 different bars and restaurants at Baha Mar, and we tried many of them during this trip. Here are our top picks: The Swimming Pig: In addition to lunch and dinner, this English gastropub serves breakfast too, though I don’t think many people realize this, based on how light the breakfast crowd was! It's a great place for a hearty breakfast or brunch of steak and eggs, French toast, or chicken and waffles. 3 Tides: This was probably my favorite dinner experience. 3 Tides is an elegant space with an open kitchen that specializes in seafood. I especially liked the appetizers. (The grilled oysters and ceviche were particularly good.) Streetbird: This casual concept by Chef Marcus Samuelsson is one of several food trucks at Baha Mar housed in vintage Airstream trailers. The chicken sandwich here is delicious, as are their conch fritters. (A quick note to anyone new to vacationing in this region: Because most food and beverages have to be shipped or flown in, dining while in the Caribbean can be pricey. Don’t let it hinder your experience; just plan ahead, check out the menus online before your trip and add to your budget accordingly.)
baha mar with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
baha mar with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
baha mar with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
baha mar with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
baha mar with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Baha Mar treated us to a vacation unlike any other from the moment they picked us up at the airport. Typically, resorts are either family friendly or luxurious. They’ve either got lots of entertainment for adults to enjoy or they really shine when it comes to entertaining the kids. And I’ve rarely seen a resort with so many fabulous ways to get up close and personal with wildlife! Baha Mar provides it all. Bring your appetite, your camera, and your sunscreen…and leave room in your suitcase for all the handmade souvenirs you’ll be bringing home!

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10 TRAVEL PRODUCTS
EVERY FAMILY SHOULD OWN

Enter your email below to receive your free guide to the 10 travel products every traveling family should own. You'll also be subscribed to our weekly newsletter, filled with luxury travel inspiration for you and your family!

About Carmen Sognonvi

Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel and lifestyle digital influencer at Top Flight Family. Her insights on travel have been featured in Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, Seatrade Cruise News and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Click here to read Carmen's articles

The iconic Baha Mar is a fun resort for families, with lots of different pools and restaurants, and no shortage of hands-on activities that allow visitors to learn about local marine and wildlife.
Some posts on this site may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, Top Flight Family may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Read the site's full disclosure and privacy policy here.
Big Sky Resort in Montana is exactly the majestic winter wonderland you would expect. You know the photos you see of those stunning snowcapped mountains and others of tree-lined trails right off of picturesque Christmas cards? The ones where you can practically hear the eerie and beautiful silence that only comes after snowfall? I can now officially say there’s nothing filtered about those pictures! Our family recently visited Montana and we were so impressed, not only by the landscape, but by the way it pushed us out of our comfort zones. Our trip was full of firsts, from snowmobiling across Yellowstone Park in single-digit temperatures, to dogsledding through the forest with 75 Alaskan huskies. We went snowshoeing for the very first time and went skiing on our first real ski runs. We’re so grateful to Big Sky for hosting us and designing such a thoughtful and well-planned itinerary for us! If you’ll be traveling there soon, consider using our 5-day itinerary below. Before the fun could begin, however, we had to get from point A to point B. We flew Delta from New York City to Minneapolis, and then from Minneapolis to Bozeman. There's a direct flight United from Newark to Bozeman, too, if you prefer not to have a connection, but of course we are a Delta family, so we preferred this option. Now, here’s what we did once we got there:

Day 1: Bozeman

Bozeman is a small, charming town that's experienced a ton of growth recently. Since 2010 the population has grown by 25%. You'll see a lot of construction projects around, and a Kimpton property is slated to open in the next couple years. We found it really funny that long-time Montana residents affectionately bemoan that the town is turning into "Boze-angeles." With all the new shops, restaurants, and hotels opening up, it's clear that Bozeman is on its way to becoming a hot spot city like Austin or Portland. We spent our first night at RSVP Motel, which is a super cute property. It used to be a run-down motel, but they renovated it into a very stylish motel, with a retro flair. The check-in process is fun: Adult guests are served champagne as a welcome drink and children get muffins! Our room was a queen-queen suite, with a massive bathroom, complete with pretty floral print robes. The room also had access to a patio area outside with a fireplace, but since we were there in the winter, we didn't use that feature much.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
We had lunch at Roost Fried Chicken, a delicious, Tennessee, fried chicken joint. The girls especially loved the boiled peanuts; they couldn't get enough! The fried chicken was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The collard greens, mac and cheese, and baked beans (which had a bit of a kick) were also really good. Serge had the fried chicken sandwich, which came topped with lettuce, pickles and the restaurant's proprietary "Come Back Sauce," which was a really great mix of flavors.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Day 2: Heading to Big Sky

We started the day with breakfast at RSVP Motel's restaurant, called The Farmer's Daughter. It's a gem of an eatery, and it’s extremely Instagrammable with stylish touches everywhere and lots of millennial pink and pastel. The menu is great for health-conscious folks, with lots of Paleo-friendly and gluten-free options.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Once at Big Sky, we learned there are lots of different lodging options, with the two main hotels being The Summit and Huntley Lodge. There are condos located around the resort as well. We stayed at condo 32 at the Big Horn Condominiums. Many of the condos at Big Sky are privately owned, but almost all of them are managed by Big Sky itself, which makes the booking and check-in process seamless for travelers. We checked in at the Summit Hotel's front desk, where they gave us our keys. Then one of the bellmen at the hotel gave us a ride down to the condo, which was one of the great features of staying at a Big Sky condo. You can call the Summit hotel front desk anytime and request a complimentary ride up to the base, down to the town center, or wherever you need to go. (The bellmen just work off of gratuities.) Because of this, we didn't feel hampered at all by not having a car. The girls absolutely loved the bellmen at Big Sky because they're dressed like cowboys! And at least a few of them we chatted with actually are cowboys in the off-season, which the girls were very impressed by. We had a 3-bedroom condo that probably could have fit another two families! There was a ton of space to spread around in, beautiful vaulted ceilings in the living room, a real wood-burning fireplace, and our favorite feature was the giant picture window in the dining room that overlooked a ski slope, giving us an amazing view.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
We had lunch at Montana Jack, a fantastic place if you enjoy burgers and craft beers. I had The Bae, a beef patty topped with sharp cheddar, bacon, avocado, and a fried egg. Serge had the Montana Bison Burger, which was amazingly tender and juicy. As you would imagine, beef and bison in Montana is incredibly flavorful, so while you're here you can't go wrong order those options on any restaurant menu.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Afterward, it was time for something I have always wanted to try: snowshoeing! I was so excited to learn that this was one of the activities Big Sky arranged for us. We headed down to Lone Mountain Ranch to get outfitted with our snowshoes and poles, and then we set off into the forest. Snowshoeing is a lot more challenging than it looks, as it takes a while to get used to walking with the wider gait that you need with the snowshoes on. So it's one of those activities that can be as relaxing or as intense as you choose. We went at a moderate pace, which was still pretty challenging for us. It was great getting to explore this beautiful scenery. When we were done, the girls got to see the horses on the ranch and feed them apples!
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
When it was time for dinner, we took a quick walk over to Horn & Cantle, a fantastic fine dining restaurant on the premises of Lone Mountain Ranch. It’s in a spacious log cabin, with lots of Western touches in the decor like cowboy boots, mounted deer heads, saddles. I’d highly recommend dining here, since it was probably my favorite meal of the whole trip! We started with a beet and citrus salad, and the steak tartare, which were both excellent. Since we had a heavy lunch, Serge and I both decided to go with seafood for entrees. Serge had the crispy skin Montana trout and I had the bouillabaise. The girls both had mac & cheese from the kids menu and enjoyed their meals, too.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Day 3: Skiing

We started the morning with breakfast at Peaks restaurant at Summit Hotel, which has a breakfast buffet, and then spent a couple hours doing a photo shoot. Even though it wasn't yet open for the season, we took the covered chair lift up to Everett's 8800, an elegant, rustic restaurant at the top of the mountain. The deck has really incredible views of Lone Mountain, so it's worth the trip for that alone.
Photo: Justine Esslinger
Photo: Justine Esslinger
After grabbing a quick lunch of great gourmet hot dogs from Yeti Dogs, we began our ski lessons. The girls took a private lesson with their instructor Hannah, while Serge and I took our private lesson with Kurt. (Both were fantastic!) Kurt took us down White Wing, our first official ski run. Up until this trip we'd mostly just stayed on the ski school bunny slopes, since we're still beginners. To be honest, I was completely terrified, but also so proud of myself that I got all the way down! Big Sky Mountain Sports is super family-friendly. (Kids under 6 years old even get to ski for free! Book your lift tickets online for the best savings.) It’s safe and fun for the whole family, with the instructors really making sure your experience is tailored to your abilities so that you have the best possible experience. With more than 5,000 acres of skiable terrain, there’s something for everyone. There are even guided experiences, like Everett's First Tracks Breakfast and Headlamp Night Skiing.
Photo: Justine Esslinger
Photo: Justine Esslinger
Once we’d worked up an appetite, it was time for dinner at one of the newest restaurants on the mountain: Blue Buddha Sushi. The restaurant serves entrees too, but the main attractions are the specialty sushi rolls. Two of our favorites were the Dam Roll, made of seared beef tenderloin, yellowtail, scallions and topped with wasabi aioli; and the Spicy Crunchy Lobster roll, made of spicy lobster, avocado and cucumber, and topped with spicy aioli and tempura crunchies.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Day 4: Skiing and Dogsledding

The fourth day was one of the coldest of our entire trip, so the slopes felt a little more challenging. The snow felt icy and crunchy, and my joints felt stiff, too, but with Kurt's patient instruction, Serge and I ended up going down White Wing, just as we had the day before. This time I was much less scared, and felt much more confident going down. I even ended the run by skiing over some of those big snow bumps! That afternoon, we drove over to Moonlight Basin, where we'd try dogsledding for the first time with Spirit of the North Dogsledding. This had been a bucket list experience I'd wanted to try for a long time, so I was really excited! Unfortunately, Ella is pretty scared of dogs, and this ended up being too overwhelming of an experience for her. Before the dogsledding begins, the dogs are super excited about going for a run, so they're all jumping, barking and howling. If it was just a couple dogs, this might not have been that bad, but here were 75 Alaskan huskies there, all going crazy at the same time. And because a couple of them were not on their leashes (though they were very sweet and totally safe), Ella freaked out big-time. She was crying and terrified, and refused to go. Seeing Ella so scared got Sean scared too, so she decided to sit it out as well. Luckily at the last minute, Sean changed her mind and decided to join Serge in his sled. Dogsledding was a really great experience. The scenery was amazing, and once the dogs start running, they are completely silent and focused. It's a pretty amazing transformation. About halfway through, we took a break to warm up with some cookies and hot cocoa, and I got to play with the dogs, which were all super sweet. It was also sweet to see how loving and playful the guides were with all the dogs.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
That night, we had a really fun dinner experience. We took two snowcats (named Rosie and Ginger!) up the mountain the Montana Dinner Yurt. When we arrived, there was French onion soup waiting for us, perfect to warm up after the cold ride up. While they got the entrees going, we got to play outside in the snow. Sean did some sledding, while Ella and Serge warmed up by the outdoor campfires. After entrees, there was more time for socializing and stargazing, before the dessert of chocolate fondue was served.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Day 5: Snowmobiling in Yellowstone

This was our last day in Montana and by far the most epic experience. We checked in at Backcountry Adventures, where we got fitted with boots, helmets, and warm snowmobile suits. These suits were really amazing because it was in the single digits that day, but it didn't feel that way at all with these suits on! After a quick tutorial on how the snowmobiles worked, we headed off towards Yellowstone. Snowmobiling through Yellowstone was truly incredible. It was like driving from one perfect landscape painting into the next perfect landscape painting. I was awestruck through the entire ride! Between the snow-covered trees, the steep mountains, and the river winding gracefully through the landscape, the beauty was just unreal. Every once in a while, our guide would stop to show us wildlife. We saw everything from bison to coyotes to bald eagles. We got to see Old Faithful, probably the most famous geyser in the world, erupt. We also really enjoyed exploring the hot springs area. I've never been there in the summer, but in the winter it's really striking how intense heat and intense cold co-existing in one place. Some parts of the landscape really felt like we were on Mars, with the strange bacteria, gurgling geysers and red mud!
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Before we knew it, we had to head back to the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle, which seemed so very far from the tranquil beauty of Big Sky. I’ve rarely felt as one with nature and so lucky to be able to experience it, as I did during those five days in the snowy mountains of Montana. Between the snowy adventures, the confidence-building activities, the breathtaking landscapes, the spacious accommodations, and delectable dining, Big Sky will be hard to say goodbye to. If you can whisk your family away for a few days, I would definitely recommend it!

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About Carmen Sognonvi

Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel and lifestyle digital influencer at Top Flight Family. Her insights on travel have been featured in Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, Seatrade Cruise News and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Click here to read Carmen's articles

Some posts on this site may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, Top Flight Family may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Read the site's full disclosure and privacy policy here.
If you’ve been following our family’s adventures for a little while, you know we’re big fans of Gaylord National Resort. We’ve been there three times during various times of the year and it never gets old. We especially like visiting in the winter because Gaylord celebrates the holiday season like no other! In fact, on our recent visit over Thanksgiving weekend we got to experience the official kick-off for all of their scheduled Christmas festivities. Many thanks to the property for hosting us.
gaylord national
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
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The hotel itself is situated on the shores of the Potomac River, and the views are absolutely breathtaking! While you’ll have plenty to do and see right there on the property, Gaylord National is conveniently located near many of Maryland’s best attractions, like the Capital Wheel and MGM National Harbor. Once inside the resort itself, you’ll be captivated by the 19-story glass atrium overlooking the river. Inside that atrium is where all of the action happens, but more on that later. Gaylord has a luxurious spa, an indoor pool, a state-of-the-art fitness center, several restaurants, and a posh rooftop nightclub, but what will really keep you coming back is their signature attraction ICE! that takes place every winter. The resort celebrates Christmas on the Potomac with more than 2 million lights and acres of stunning decorations, on top of their super fun holiday activities that kids of all ages will love! From the moment you step out of your vehicle, you’ll know you’re entering a holiday wonderland!
gaylord national
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
gaylord national
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
gaylord national
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
In the past, ICE! has used different themes, like A Christmas Story and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, making attending each year a new and exciting experience. This year, ICE! features How The Grinch Stole Christmas, which is brightly colored and whimsical, setting the tone for all the fun you’ll have! Visitors can walk through interactive ice sculptures and displays to watch the story unfold. (These incredible hand-carved sculptures are made from more than 2 million pounds of ice!) Also new this year is the Reindeer Rush Ice Tubing that lets friends and family race each other down a 15-foot-high, four-lane ice tubing hill! We had a blast on these super-fast slides! The ice skating rink in Winter Square is also a new addition that my girls loved. There’s a character meal option, allowing kids to eat with the Grinch himself; a gingerbread decorating corner; a scavenger hunt; a Build-a-Bear Workshop center; photos with Santa; and a train ride just for kids! If that’s not enough, visitors can watch Cirque Dreams Unwrapped, a Broadway-style acrobatics show, in the atrium (I couldn’t look away watching some of these death-defying acts!). If you’re not in the Christmas spirit by the time you leave Gaylord National, I don’t know what will get you there! The grand finale of the night is the atrium light show, when laser lights, a dancing fountain, and indoor snowfall captivate audiences to the sounds of Christmas music. If you go, grab some hot cocoa or an adult beverage at Tinsel Tavern to end the magical evening.
gaylord national
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
gaylord national
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
gaylord national
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
gaylord national
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Each of these activities is open to the public and tickets to the various events can be purchased separately or in bundles. But wait! There’s more! The holiday fun continues for overnights guests, and honestly, there is so much to do without the special perks I’m about to mention that it’s impossible to do it all in one day. Gaylord National provides exclusive experiences and activities to its guests that are not open to the public. A VIP Carver Showcase allows hotel guests a behind-the-scenes look at how blocks of ice transform into stunning sculptures. During these private demonstrations by artisans from Harbin, China, guests can even ask questions about the tools, training, and skills of the trade. The Silent Disco on Ice is another fun activity for families, where each person can dance to holiday music delivered to personal, wireless headphones. Finally, Pajama Story Time with Snowflake the Elf is an adorable tradition that gives guests special access to Mrs. Claus’ living room in Christmas Village just before bed.
gaylord national
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
As you can see, you’re going to want to stay the night, and the rooms are so beautiful that Gaylord National would be worth staying at even if ICE! were not taking place! When we went over Thanksgiving weekend, we stayed in a gorgeous, 1-bedroom suite with views of the atrium. The room décor is sophisticated and the balcony overlooking the atrium is a really unique feature to Gaylord. The 1-bedroom suite offers a spacious living room, dining area, a desk, a separate bedroom, and a fabulous marble bathroom. For maximum holiday cheer however, you can upgrade to a Christmas Dreams Suite, which is adorned with garland, wreaths, lights, and holiday stockings! Guests are treated to in-room goodies from the resort’s pastry chef and a one-hour private photo shoot with a professional photographer at the hotel!
gaylord national
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
gaylord national
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
gaylord national
Photo: Gaylord National
If you’d like to venture outside the Gaylord National for a bite to eat, we’ve got a few recommendations for you. Succotash puts a modern twist on classic Southern dishes and it’s my go-to for brunch. James Beard Award nominee Edward Lee combines his Korean roots and expertise with Southern cuisine to Succotash’s unique menu. Thai Pavilion is elegant, but comfortable, using high-quality ingredients to create authentic Thai dishes. Nando’s Peri-Peri is the home of Portuguese flame-grilled Peri-Peri Chicken. If you’re unfamiliar, the restaurant is known for marinating fresh chicken for 24 hours in Peri-Peri sauce before grilling it over an open flame and basting it to your requested level of spiciness. (The spice is Bird’s Eye Chilli, which grows in Africa, and is so nice it was named twice!) I don’t think I could name a favorite aspect of our Gaylord National visit if I tried! There is so much to see and do that every member of your family is guaranteed to have fun if you go. The upscale accommodations are inviting, the nearby dining options and proximity to Maryland attractions are unbeatable, and ICE! is hands-down the best holiday party ever!

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From ice sculptures to reindeer tubing, your family is sure to love the holiday fun at Gaylord National Resort in Maryland.
Some posts on this site may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, Top Flight Family may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Read the site's full disclosure and privacy policy here.
Have you ever been to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Disney World? If not, trust me, the key to having a great time really lies in the details. Two families can have two totally different experiences based on when they go, what they prepare in advance, and what they prioritize while at the party.
Photo: Daniel Cortes
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Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a special Christmas-themed party that takes place inside Magic Kingdom on select nights from early November all the way till right before Christmas.⁠ It’s a ticketed event that runs from 7:00 p.m. to midnight.⁠ Prices range from about $99 to $139 per person, depending on the age of the guest and the night you're going. You don't need a separate park pass in addition to your ticket, unless you want to spend all day inside the park leading up to the party (which I don’t necessarily advise). I’ve compiled our top 10 tips for making the most of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party after checking it out in person. Grab your Santa “ears” and take notes! Or if you'd rather watch these tips in video form, check out this YouTube video:

1. Choose the right night

These holiday events are getting more and more crowded as the years pass. Earlier in the season and non-holiday weekdays will be less crowded. There are only 23 dates for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in 2019 versus the 36 dates designated for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in 2019, so availability is definitely limited. It’s important to note that tickets do sell out on some nights, so don’t wait to buy them. We went on November 12th, which was a Tuesday and only the third party in the series, so it wasn't very crowded at all. This made it really comfortable to get around the park.

2. Bring your own light-up necklaces

There are official Disney light-up necklaces, complete with Mickey-shaped bulbs, that you can buy in the parks, but if you like to save a couple bucks like we do, buy some Christmas light necklaces on Amazon before you go. We got four of these for just $20!

3. Wear something festive

Dressing up for the occasion can really enhance your enjoyment of the party, so get in the Christmas spirit and wear something festive! Because we're so extra, we actually had two different Christmas outfits for the event. Our first outfits went with a plaid theme. We wore plaid ears from the Etsy store BriarsPatches, with our light-up Christmas lights from Amazon. Our second outfits were all about Santa and his elves. The girls had elf pajamas and Serge and I wore Santa t-shirts. Our light-up holly ears were from the Etsy store Best Day Evear. Check the forecast in Orlando beforehand, since the weather can be anywhere from the 50’s to the 80’s depending on when you go (and sweating hot or freezing cold children can put a damper on the fun).

4. Get there early

The event starts at 7:00 p.m., but if you have a ticket for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, you can actually enter Magic Kingdom as early as 4:00 p.m.! Take advantage of those extra three hours. They're a great time to get some photos with the Christmas decorations while there's still daylight, and to ride some rides before the actual party starts. As you may know, Jungle Cruise gets a special overlay during the holiday season. It transforms into Jingle Cruise, and you'll see Christmas decorations among the animatronics and also the skippers tell lots of corny Christmas jokes. This ride is better during the day than at night so the 4:00 to 7:00 window is a good time to ride it.

5. Go on the rides with a holiday twist

You can experience the Jingle Cruise Christmas overlay at any time during the holiday season, but there are some rides that get a special holiday twist ONLY during the party itself (once the clock strokes 7:00 p.m.). It's worth prioritizing these during the party. They are: Space Mountain, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, Mad Tea Party, and Tomorrowland Speedway. Want to watch a vlog from our experience? Check out this YouTube video:

6. Limit time at the holiday treat stations

Throughout Magic Kingdom you'll find holiday treat stations set up where you can get complimentary cookies and beverages. You can recognize them because they'll have a big blow-up candy cane outside. Some of the lines can get really long during the party, and while I didn't try every single cookie, the ones I tried were mediocre to bad. So personally I don't really think it's worth spending valuable time during the party lining up for the treats. (If you’re into treats, the Holiday Cookies Stroll at Epcot might be more your style!)

7. Buy holiday merchandise

If you enjoy shopping for Disney souvenirs, be sure to look out for certain exclusive items that are only sold during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. These include spirit jerseys, T-shirts, magic bands, mugs and Christmas tree ornaments. But it's not just party-exclusive merch that's great to pick up. For us, since this would be our only day in Magic Kingdom during the holiday season, we spent the time shopping for holiday items that are actually available outside of the party itself. We bought a Christmas tree popcorn bucket that was so adorable and even lights up! It took us forever to find the red Jingle Sipper, but we finally found one at Sleepy Hollow in Liberty Square. And of course there's tons of other cute holiday items in the parks, so have a look around and see what you can buy to enhance your outfits!

8. Meet some characters

If you love characters, then you'll really enjoy the meet and greets during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, because you'll get to see many of them in their holiday outfits! If you're a fan of Nightmare Before Christmas, you'll also get to meet Sally and Jack, with Jack dressed up as Sandy Claws. If you want to avoid long lines, try going during the parades, or right after. You can also try waiting till the last hour of the party. We stopped in to see Mickey at the Town Square Theater as we were walking towards the exit after the last parade, and there was no line at all!

9. Watch the parade on Main Street

One amazing thing that you'll only experience during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is seeing it snow on Main Street! Main Street is already so pretty and quaint, but seeing snow fall there is just so special. For that reason, I recommend that you grab a spot on Main Street to watch Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. We didn't do that, since we watched the parade from the hub in front of the castle, but we did get to experience the snow on Main Street as we were walking towards the exit at the end of the party.

10. Prioritize the parade, castle stage show and fireworks

The party is only a few hours long, and the time goes by really quickly. Understand that there's no way you'll be able to do everything. Your best bet is to go into the party with a bit of a plan. I'd recommend prioritizing the parade, the stage show and the fireworks, because these three attractions are completely unique to the party, and not something you can see outside of the event. Then, build the rest of your schedule around those three things. Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade happens twice a night, once at 8:30 p.m. and once at 11:00 p.m. My favorite part of the parade was seeing Vanellope driving around in her race car! It was so cute and different from the other floats. Another great feature is that you see all the princesses with their princes! Mickey's Most Merriest Celebration is the stage show that happens right in front of the castle. You can catch this four times during the party: at 7:40 p.m., 9:25 p.m., 10:30 p.m. and 11:55 p.m. This is a really fun show where Mickey, Minnie and tons of other characters sing and dance. For me, the highlight was definitely seeing Clarabelle go into full diva mode as she sings Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You." This was SO much fun! Minnie's Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show only happens one time during the party, at 10:00 p.m. If I were to compare it to the fireworks show at Mickey's Very Scary Halloween Party, which we also went to this year, I'd say that at Halloween there's more of an emphasis on the projections on the castle. During the Christmas fireworks show, there are still castle projections, but the emphasis is really on the fireworks themselves, and they're pretty spectacular. So there you have my top 10 tips making the most of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party! There are so many unique things to be aware of during this event that it pays to create a little bit of a plan before you go. Simply knowing what’s worth waiting for and what you can skip makes a huge difference. Dress the part, buy your tickets in advance, and try to book a date that will likely be less crowded for the best possible experience. Now excuse me while I blast Mariah Carey and do my best Clarabelle impression! What advice do you have for making the most of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party?

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Have you been to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party? The key to having a great time lies in the details. Here are 10 tips to make the most of your time.
Some posts on this site may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, Top Flight Family may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Read the site's full disclosure and privacy policy here.
This post is sponsored by Delta Air Lines Our most recent family adventure was about more than just jet-setting to fabulous destinations, though that was certainly part of it! Visiting Belgium and France reminded me of the power of travel to connect us to our heritage. Allow me to explain: I actually lived in Belgium for a couple years as a kid because my father was Belgian. He died a few years ago, and was estranged from his family for decades before that. I myself hadn’t been back to the country in 15 years before this trip and wanted to reconnect. Since we've already taken the girls to Hong Kong, where my mom is from, we thought it was important to bring them to Belgium, too, as that’s where my dad is from. While we were in Europe, it only made sense to scratch Paris off Sean’s destination bucket list, and if we were going there, why not check out Disneyland Paris, too?! So our whirlwind vacation ended up being the perfect combination of fun and family, lighthearted joy and deep rootedness all at once.
brussels with kids
Photo: SweetEscape

Getting to Brussels

We flew Delta One and it was fantastic! We were treated like celebrities from the time we entered the airport. We had access to the Delta Sky Club and accelerated check-in, security and baggage handling service. When it was time to board, we were able to board early. Our seats easily adjusted for dining, working, and resting. The 180-degree flatbed seat with Westin Heavenly In-Flight bedding is one of the best features. The food, served on extra-large tray tables, was fantastic, as was the wine selection. The girls especially loved the ice cream sundaes that the flight attendants made from scratch! The TUMI amenity kit allowed us to freshen up mid-flight, and the noise-cancelling headsets made the in-flight entertainment extra enjoyable.
brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

24 Hours in Paris

From Brussels, we took the high-speed Thalys train to Paris, where we spent the next 24 hours. Bringing the girls to see the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night on our first evening was our magic! We had some great meals at bistros and brasseries, and dined on plenty of our favorite French foods, like escargots, baguettes, crepes, croissants, steak tartare, and foie gras.
brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Getting to Disneyland Paris

While visitors can take a train to Disneyland Paris, we skipped the hassle and took a car there. The roughly hour-long drive is about $110 by taxi and about $80 by rideshare. We stayed at The Radisson Blu Hotel Paris, Marne-la-Vallée, which is inexpensive but still has a pretty sophisticated vibe. We especially appreciated the hotel’s direct shuttle service to the parks. Many other off-site hotels have shuttles, but they stop at multiple properties, so it takes a lot longer to get there.
brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Exploring Disney Village

We spent the first evening exploring Disney Village, which is sort of like Paris's version of Disney Springs. Expect lots of shopping and dining options. Out of all the restaurants, we decided to try Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and ended up having a great time! The concept is just what it sounds like: diners can see for themselves how the West was won in a gun-slinging, live arena show with lots of horses and covered wagons. We watched as Buffalo Bill, Chief Sitting Bull, Annie Oakley and the Rough Riders, re-enacted legendary moments from the frontier . Mickey and friends are on-hand to help you cheer on the action! We're veterans of Medieval Times, so we’re not shy about cheering for our team and booing the opposing teams. Yes, it is totally cheesy, but if you get into the spirit, it's a really fun family outing!
paris and brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
paris and brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Our Day at Disneyland Paris

It rained the entire day we had earmarked for the parks, but we had expected that, having checked the weather as the trip was approaching. And as Walt Disney World veterans, we came with rain ponchos and made the best of it. The Ratatouille-themed area is unique to Paris (though the ride is coming to Epcot soon), so we headed there first. The girls loved the ride, and we had lunch at Bistrot Chez Rémy. To be honest, the food is nothing to write home about, but the theming in the restaurant is brilliant. It feels like you're the size of a mouse because you're surrounded by oversized plates and cutlery. It's adorable! We had dinner at Yacht Club, an elegant seafood restaurant at Disney's Newport Bay Club restaurant, which is a great choice if you want to incorporate a fine dining experience into your Disneyland Paris trip.
brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Traveling Back to Brussels

We took another rideshare from Marne-la-Vallée to the train station in Paris, and then took the high-speed Thalys train from Paris to Brussels. We checked into a gorgeous 3-bedroom apartment provided by Sweet Inn. The company combines the best of both worlds when it comes to rental homes and hotel suites. Stylish vacation apartments are offered in 15 European cities, each with in-person check-in at a street-level lobby, complete with a full concierge and business center. Thanks to Sweet Inn for hosting us!
paris and brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
paris and brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Exploring Brussels

First, we had a fantastic traditional Belgian lunch  at Le Bistro with a couple different kinds of stew. The dishes reminded me of a childhood memory, which I shared with the girls. Every Sunday my family and my aunt's family would go over to my Belgian grandparents' house. I really enjoyed going there because they had a mini-farm in their backyard, and I loved playing with the many bunnies and rabbits they raised. My grandmother would whip up the same delicious stew for lunch each time we went. When I asked my parents what kind of stew it was, they would tell me it was "wild chicken." One day, my cousin Serge (yes, coincidentally the same name as my now-husband) was mad at me about something. Over lunch, he suddenly blurted out, "It's not wild chicken! It's rabbit! Why do you think they have so many rabbits?" I was devastated to learn the truth about my beloved stew, and vowed never to eat it again. But the next week, I was overcome by the delicious aroma of that stew and couldn't resist eating it again. So apparently, I got over it pretty quickly! At the restaurant in Brussels we enjoyed both stoofvlees (Belgian beef stew) and rabbit stew. It wasn't as good as my grandmother's, of course, but it was still a very enjoyable meal. After lunch we went to see Manneken Pis, the famous bronze statue of a naked little boy urinating, which was just as underwhelming as I remembered from my childhood! We then walked around Grande Place and explored the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, which is a covered shopping mall with lots of great chocolate shops. Then it was time to meet up with a friend from kindergarten and first grade, if you can believe it! My friend, An, and I only see each other once every 15 years, but our visits are always as if no time has passed. When I moved to Belgium as a 6-year-old, I didn't speak a word of Dutch, but she was one of the kids who befriended me immediately and I'll always appreciate her for that. We enjoyed a fantastic dinner at the Mediterranean restaurant Strofilia.
paris and brussels with kids
Photo: SweetEscape
paris and brussels with kids
Photo: SweetEscape
paris and brussels with kids
Photo: SweetEscape
paris and brussels with kids
Photo:  Carmen Sognonvi
paris and brussels with kids
Photo: SweetEscape
paris and brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

A Day in Antwerp

The following day, we took the train into Antwerp. My father is from the Flemish side of Belgium, so I have more memories and more of a connection to this area of Belgium than I do to the French-speaking Brussels. Seeing the Antwerpen-Centraal Station is a must-do! It was recently nominated as one of the world's most beautiful train stations, and it's not hard to see why. We met with Lucy, who's been a friend of my family since I was a kindergartener. Her family owned a Chinese restaurant in our hometown of Sint Niklaas, and as one of the few Chinese people in that town, our families grew close. We had dim sum in Chinatown, just a block from the train station, and spent the day exploring Antwerp. We went to the Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp, which brought back fond memories of my lighting candles in cathedrals while traveling throughout European during my childhood. It was really special to see the girls continue that family tradition by lighting a candle and saying a prayer for a friend of ours currently battling an illness. The girls were very taken with the sculpture of the young boy Nello and his dog Patrasche, based on the popular children's book A Dog of Flanders. Later, we saw the Brabo statue, which has an interesting backstory, and then it was time for delicious waffles!
paris and brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
paris and brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
paris and brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
paris and brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Visiting My Old Hometown

The next morning, Lucy took us to see my aunt, whom I haven't seen since I was 13. She lives in Lokeren, which is the town where my father grew up. When the door opened, I was surprised to see my cousin Serge - the same cousin who told me about the rabbit stew! I had no idea he would be there, so it was a very pleasant surprise. We had a wonderful visit, and it was great for them to meet my family. I think they were all surprised to see how different Sean and Ella were from me as a child. I was a quiet, shy child who always had my nose in a book. Quite the opposite from the girls, who chatted a mile a minute and reveled in demonstrating their gymnastics and karate moves to my aunt, uncle and cousin! After all the hurt and conflict my family has been been through, this felt like a first step towards healing some of those old wounds. It was a profound moment for me, and I felt very grateful that I could share it with Serge and the girls. After that, Lucy took us around Sint Niklaas, the town I lived in as a child, and it was really fun to see how everything looks now. I saw my old apartment building, my Catholic school, and even the music school where I took piano lessons! I was flooded with warm feelings and really enjoyed sharing this moment with the girls.
paris and brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Flying Out of Brussels

As Delta One customers, we received access to the Fast Lane security screening, which greatly reduced the amount of time we spent standing in line. While there is no Delta Sky Club in the Brussels airport, we were able to access the British Airways lounge. This lounge was spacious, modern and comfortable, and had a selection of breads, pastries, fruit and cereal available for breakfast.
paris and brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
paris and brussels with kids
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
This trip was full of both Disney magic and the kind of magic that only nostalgia can bring. We all have complicated backstories, which actually make up rich and colorful tapestries worth sharing. It’s easy to get caught up in the new lives we’re living, and to forget where we came from. Our trip to Paris and Belgium was about sightseeing, reconnecting, and healing. Travel has this tremendous power to build bridges, after all. As a kid, I didn’t have a say in where we went or when, but now, I am in charge of the narrative I tell my children. And I’m grateful to have so many beautiful chapters to share with them.

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About Carmen Sognonvi

Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel and lifestyle digital influencer at Top Flight Family. Her insights on travel have been featured in Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, Seatrade Cruise News and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Click here to read Carmen's articles

This trip was about more than jet-setting to fabulous places. Visiting Paris and Belgium reminded me of the power of travel to connect us to our heritage.
Some posts on this site may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, Top Flight Family may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Read the site's full disclosure and privacy policy here.
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