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

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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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.
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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.
This post is sponsored by Delta Air Lines We just got back from a trip to Brussels and then onto Paris… and then back to Brussels again, so before we left, I was in full planning mode! Our European vacation was going to be packed with activity this time around, so there was a lot to consider. I went through the usual process of asking myself what should we wear, what should we bring, how will we be getting around, and where should we stay? Is your family preparing for a trip to Europe, too? Take advice from a seasoned traveler! Here are some important things to consider for a trip to Europe.
trip to europe
Photo: Casey McPerry

1. Set yourself up to earn miles

Flying roundtrip from the U.S. to Europe can really help your family rack up some valuable airline miles, so make sure you sign up for your airline loyalty program before you leave. We're big fans of Delta's SkyMiles program, as it's free to join, the miles never expire, and you can use your miles to travel to more than 1,000 destinations around the world!

2. Pack appropriately for the weather

Summer is the best time weather-wise, to travel to Europe, but everyone else thinks so, too! This translates to heavy crowds, long lines, and expensive accommodations. Winter in Europe is freezing, with shorter days, and lots of closed attractions. Spring and fall have generally mild temps, but can be rainy. Plan on packing layers for travel during either of these two seasons, since the days are nice, but the evenings can get chilly. It’s possible to experience temperatures anywhere from the 30’s to the 60’s on any given day during spring and fall in Europe.
trip to europe
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

3. Bring enough electrical adapters and converters

If you’re new to international travel, you might not know that other country’s electrical systems run differently from ours. If you try to plug your electronics in their outlets, you might kill your devices (if they can even be plugged in to begin with). Newer appliances might work just fine using a simple, inexpensive, continental adapter, but they don’t convert electrical voltage. To avoid confusion, I like universal all-in-one adapter and converter units. They cost a little more, but ensure you’ll be able to use any outlet, anywhere in the world. If you plan to travel often, it’s a worthwhile investment that erases any concern you might have.

4. Be careful with your valuables

One of the nightmares of travel is losing important documents and currency, or having them stolen from you. To avoid becoming a victim, be intentional with where and how you carry these valuables. Choose a cross body handbag, a fanny pack or a backpack (but only store important items in the innermost compartments that can’t easily be accessed) and keep it on you at all times when you’re out and about. These options might not be as stylish, but being stuck in a foreign country should be a bigger concern than committing a crime of fashion!
trip to europe
Photo: Casey McPerry

5. Make a transportation plan

It’s fairly simple and common to travel from city to city, and even country to country, while visiting Europe. There have always been tons of options for getting around the continent, but in today’s age of the “sharing economy,” the possibilities are endless! Of course there are long and short distance trains, ferries, and plenty of buses. Do your research. Read reviews. Check out the routes and fares. Take some time before your vacation to figure out the best ways for your family to get from point A to point B. Bonus: if you save on transportation, you can splurge on accommodations, activities, or travel upgrades.
trip to europe
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

6. Consider all lodging options before booking

Hotels are not your only options when it comes to where you should stay. For example, we’ll be staying in a hotel for part of our trip and an apartment for the remainder of our trip. You’ll need to consider your family’s preferences. If you’ll need daily housekeeping and want the convenience that hotels can offer, the choice is clear. Hotels tend to cater to their guests’ every need, offering amenities like spas, childcare services, and restaurants among other things, but it’ll come at a cost. If you’d rather save money on food and resort fees, and feel more like a local at the same time, look into renting an Airbnb. This is also a great option to give kids a better sense of routine. It’s not as scary as it seems! Of course there are online websites you can use to book, but there are also fully screened rental agencies for this very purpose. A little research into various accommodations ahead of time can really pay off toward a better vacation.
trip to europe
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

7. Expedite your security screening process

We're huge fans of CLEAR, an expedited security screening program that saves a ton of time when we travel. CLEAR is now available at over 25 airports where Delta flies, so see if it'll be available at your home airport when you leave for Europe! You don’t need an appointment and you can complete your enrollment in just minutes. Take these seven things into consideration when preparing for a trip to Europe and you’ll have a carefree vacation once you get there! Set yourself up to earn miles, always pack for the weather; don’t forget electrical adapters and converters; be extra cautious with how you carry your valuables; make a transportation plan, remember you have more than one option when it comes to where you lay your head at night; and look for expedited security screening at your home airport. If you've been to Europe before, what would you add to this list?

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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

Is your family preparing for a trip to Europe? Take advice from a seasoned traveler! Here are 5 important things to consider when preparing for a trip to Europe.
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.
Waldorf Astoria Orlando sits on a 482-acre nature preserve surrounded by the Walt Disney World, making it an idyllic spot to soak up the magic! Our family found a lot to love at this award-winning property. Between family-friendly activities, luxurious amenities, fantastic dining options, and incredible access to Disney, it really was the perfect resort for our vacation. Many thanks to the property for hosting us!
Waldorf Astoria Orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
To begin, Waldorf Astoria Orlando is an official Walt Disney World partner hotel, which means visitors can take advantage of exclusive perks normally reserved for guests staying at Disney resorts. These include access to Extra Magic Hours and the ability to reserve FastPass+ 60 days ahead of your stay. Certain guest rooms offer views of Disney’s nightly fireworks shows, and there’s even Disney merchandise for sale right next door at Hilton Bonnet Creek.
waldorf astoria orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
The rooms at Waldorf Astoria are perfect for families, with several different, expansive suites available ranging from one to two bedrooms and up to two bathrooms. We stayed at a Deluxe Suite, which has a spacious living area with an island and tall stools, perfect to enjoy a meal together, plus a comfortable bedroom and 1.5 bathrooms.
waldorf astoria orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
You might know Waldorf Astoria as a luxury hotel, but it’s also very family-friendly. The WA Kids Club is especially welcoming to little ones, offering kids-only adventure and fun, and a chance for grown-ups to go explore on their own. Each experience begins with a color-your-own WA Kids Club “Waldy” tee shirt. From there, kids ages 5 to 12 can make other crafts, play poolside games, and roast marshmallows, depending on the program you choose. The Day Escape is offered daily from 10:30 am to 2:30 pm by the pool, while Astoria After Dark is offered Fridays and Saturdays from 6:00 pm till 10:00 pm at the Kids Club (each costs $75 for one child, $25 for each additional). Families can enjoy a complimentary snack and $5 activities each day at 3:00 pm in the Kids Club.
waldorf astoria orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
When it’s time to cool down and take a break from the parks, guests have several options: Enjoy the Waldorf Astoria’s two tranquil pools, complete with poolside attendants, and access to the bar and grill; play with little ones in the zero entry pool, where a daily poolside Scavenger Hunt will keep the good times rolling; or head next door to the Lazy River Pool and water slide at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek! The girls absolutely loved that the hotel provides giant floaties for kids to play with! To upgrade your experience, rent a cabana for the day. It's great to have a shaded place to relax, and the complimentary fruit-infused water and other beverages will keep you nice and cool.
waldorf astoria orlando
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
waldorf astoria orlando
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Feeling hungry? There are 12 different restaurants and lounges, ranging from casual to elegant. We dined daily at Oscar’s Brasserie, which serves up a breakfast buffet in a casually elegant setting. The menu includes made-to-order omelets, crepes and pastries, plus re-interpretations of classic dishes, like Waldorf Astoria’s famous eggs benedict. We also tried the steakhouse Bull & Bear, which has a fabulous reputation and it did not disappoint! Named Diner’s Choice Top Restaurant by Hilton and Best Fine Dining by Orlando Home & Leisure this restaurant is modeled after the original Bull & Bear in Manhattan. Expect large portions of dishes like escargot & gnocchi, fried chicken, and the signature 32-Day Dry-Aged Tomahawk Rib Eye. The setting is warm and upscale, and the staff provides highly personalized service. You can even watch Epcot’s fireworks from certain tables while dining! To finish out the meal, order the Bull & Bear beignets.
waldorf astoria orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
waldorf astoria orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
If your vacation calls for a little relaxation, the Waldorf Astoria Spa is known for its luxurious therapies in a soothing atmosphere. Their menu of services even includes locally-sourced ingredients to enhance any facial or massage. Looking for a unique experience? Try Himalayan Salt Therapy, which is said to provide relief from asthma, allergies, jet lag, and skin conditions to name a few. Waldorf Astoria Orlando Spa is the one of only seven resort spas in the United States to have its own Himalayan Salt Room. Afterward, relax in the spa’s tea lounge, steam room or Jacuzzi for the ultimate pampering experience. If all of this isn’t enough, the hotel also offers jogging trails, a 24-hour fitness center, and 18 holes of championship golf. The family can even rent bicycles to explore the resort’s expansive property!
waldorf astoria orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
waldorf astoria orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
waldorf astoria orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
Between convenient access to Disney, a truly entertaining kids club, incredible pools, award-winning dining and revitalizing spa experiences, there’s plenty to love while staying at Waldorf Astoria Orlando. This resort manages to combine luxury, tranquility, and family-fun seamlessly, making it a clear choice for families looking for a memorable and upscale Disney vacation. Have you stayed at Waldorf Astoria Orlando? What was your favorite part? Top Flight Family received complimentary accommodations, meals and cabana service for purposes of this review. All opinions are our own.

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THE 10 BEST VACATIONS FOR KIDS
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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

With family-friendly activities, luxurious amenities, fantastic dining, and incredible access to Disney, the Waldorf Astoria Orlando 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.
The Four Seasons Resort Orlando is the perfect combination of luxury and Disney magic! This AAA Five Diamond resort is stunning with its Spanish Revival architecture and opulent finishes at every turn. It’s a fabulous choice for families looking for an upscale experience away from the crowds of Disney World, while still being in the heart of it all. Many thanks to the property for hosting us!
four seasons orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
This elegant lakeside property is situated in a secluded, residential setting within Walt Disney World. The resort is a Disney partner, meaning guests get many of the same perks of staying at a Disney resort, such as access to Extra Magic Hours, and FastPass+ up to 60 days prior to arrival. Have your theme park and Disney Springs purchases conveniently delivered back to the hotel so you can continue the fun without keeping track of everything. Park view rooms even allow guests to skip the traffic and watch the nightly Magic Kingdom fireworks show from the comfort of their own rooms. Guests can take advantage of all of the amenities offered in the Disney Planning Center in the lobby, including scheduling Disney’s famous In-Room Celebrations to make a hotel stay even more magical for kids.
four seasons orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
Our favorite Disney perk was the character dining experience available right there at the hotel. The resort’s restaurant Ravello offers the Good Morning Breakfast with Goofy and His Pals on Thursdays, Saturdays, and select Tuesdays. It’s a buffet-style meal featuring traditional breakfast fare plus an omelet station. A photographer is onsite to capture the memories.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
We also enjoyed dinner at Ravello, which was an entirely different experience once the characters went to sleep! We were really able to see the beauty of this modern, Italian restaurant with its tall, arched windows and romantic outdoor terrace when we visited in the evening. You’ll find delicious, creative, Italian and Mediterranean dishes, including house-made pizzas and pastas, on the menu. Kids can fill up at the special children's buffet, which has kid-friendly options like veggie sticks, pizza, chicken tenders and cookies. In total, there are six restaurants and bars onsite, so there’s something for every palate. We stayed in room 1428, one of the property's Grand Suites. We've stayed in a lot of amazing luxury hotel rooms, but by far this 1,700 square-foot suite was the most impressive one we've experienced. There's a massive living-dining area with a butler's kitchen to the side, and a breakfast bar that's a great place for families to gather for a casual meal. The master bedroom is luxurious, but the real showstopper is the marble bathroom. The girls loved taking baths in the giant bathtub under a glamorous chandelier. Two huge furnished balconies run the the length of the room and offer views of the fireworks at Disney World.
four seasons orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
four seasons orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
four seasons orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
four seasons orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
If you’re wondering what you’ll do with the kids while you’re on a date, The Four Seasons offers complimentary childcare at the Kids For All Seasons program. It’s open to children ages 4 to 12 from 10am to 6pm daily. There they can experience an interactive volcano, play on the playground, or enjoy any number of other supervised activities. Evening programs are available on Saturdays for an additional fee, and babysitting services are also available separately for an hourly fee.
four seasons orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
four seasons orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
Need a resort day away from the parks? Explorer Island is where guests go for fun in the sun! This five-acre water park has waterslides, splash zones, a lazy river, interactive fountains, and a tranquil, adults-only oasis. (Can’t you just imagine lounging in a cabana with a cocktail in hand?) As if all of this wasn’t enough, you’ll also find three boutiques and a full service salon and spa onsite. At the spa, guests can enjoy a high-tech experience shower (think rainfall shower head, nine surrounding water jets and a touch-screen monitor, plus a light show and sound effects) to go with any number of incredible treatments. I  had a Swedish massage and especially enjoyed the spa's signature oil, that has a fresh citrus scent. The spa even has “royal treatments” for kids! Makeovers like the Belle of the Ball and Shining Knight experiences will leave your little ones feeling like characters straight out of their favorite fairy tales.
four seasons orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
four seasons orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
If you’re considering a stay at Four Seasons, the winter holidays are the perfect time to visit! Expect holiday gelato flavors, peppermint s’mores, and a chocolate, holiday-themed display in the lobby. The spa will also have special offerings, like Vibrational Sound Therapy and Cryo Toning. Ring in the New Year with a family-friendly party (complete with a DJ and champagne for the adults) in Grand Ballroom East. This, of course, is all on top of the festive celebrations happening throughout Walt Disney World, which guests of Four Seasons Orlando have access to.
four seasons orlando
Photo: Elle Baez
Our family thoroughly enjoyed our stay at The Four Seasons Resort Orlando. We had a relaxing vacation, complete with delicious food and family-fun in an opulent setting, while still getting to experience the magic of Disney. Have you ever stayed at The Four Season Resort Orlando? What was your favorite part? Top Flight Family received complimentary accommodations, meals and a spa treatment for purposes of this review. All opinions are our own.

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THE 10 BEST VACATIONS FOR KIDS
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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

Four Seasons Orlando is the perfect combination of luxury and Disney magic! The AAA Five Diamond resort provides an upscale experience you won't forget.
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 Boston is a city with such a rich history. We recently took the girls there for a quick trip and had an amazing time reconnecting as a family. From touring the city to sampling some of its best seafood offerings, here's a look at everything we did!

Day 1

Getting There

We flew out of JFK and as always, stopped by the Delta Sky Club for some breakfast before the flight. This lounge really feels like a second home to us, since we start just about every family vacation here! The staff is always so friendly and welcoming, and reaffirms how connected we feel to the Delta brand. Our flight was a little over an hour, getting us into Boston at around 10:30 am that morning.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall Marketplace

After dropping our bags at the hotel, we decided to take a walk around the area. We went to check out Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Quincy Market. If you're a foodie, you'll love exploring all the little stalls and shops. We enjoyed some fantastic clam chowder at Walrus & Carpenter Oyster Bar. So fun that it's served in a bread bowl! The girls also loved exploring Quincy's Place, an old-fashioned candy store and ice cream parlor that's sure to bring back some nostalgic childhood memories.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Boston Duck Tours

Sometimes the most touristy thing you can do is also the most fun, and by far one of the top touristy activities in Boston is taking a Boston Duck Tour! The "Duck" in "Duck tour" refers to a World War II-style amphibious landing vehicle. These ducks played a crucial role in the allied invasions in Sicily, the Pacific, and during D-Day. The tour starts on the streets of Boston, but about halfway through, the duck actually rolls into the Charles River and the rest of the tour is by water! This transition was so much fun, and the girls squealed with delight as the vehicle started "swimming." As if that wasn't fun enough, each of the kids on the tour got a turn coming up to the front and driving the duck!
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Boston Sail Loft

We'd heard great things about the seafood at Boston Sail Loft, so that's where we headed for dinner. This casual restaurant literally sits on a dock over the harbor. It's famous for its overflowing cups of clam chowder, and its lobster rolls that burst at the seams! The clam chowder was as good as advertised. It took all my willpower not to order a second mug! The fish and chips were excellent as well - fresh, flaky and delicious. Steps away from the restaurant is a big playground. The girls loved letting off some energy here and getting dirty in the sand pit!
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Day 2

Museum of Science

The next morning we headed to the Museum of Science. The girls love museums with hands-on exhibits, and they really enjoyed this once. Sean got to learn how to write code to make robots "kick" a soccer ball into the goal, and Ella loved playing astronaut in the full-size model of the Apollo capsule!
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

GaGa Seafood Restaurant

We spent most of the day in Lynn, MA helping to build a playground with KaBoom! and Delta Air Lines (read more about that here) so we definitely built up a good appetite. If you follow our Instagram stories, you know that we love a good Chinatown, so we went off to explore what Boston's Chinatown had to offer! We'd tried lots of European-American takes on seafood, but now it was time for some Chinese seafood. GaGa Seafood Restaurant is a great choice if you love authentic Chinese food (with the authentic, no-frills decor service it always comes with)! The lobster sticky rice is fantastic, and I was happy that dou miao, or pea shoots, were in season so we got a plate of that, stir-fried with fresh garlic.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Day 3

Breakfast at Popover King

There used to be a really cute eatery in Manhattan called The Popover Cafe, but alas it closed its doors a few years back. So I was excited to see that there was a place just a few blocks from our hotel that specialized in popovers! If you're not familiar, a popover is a puffed-up, eggy type of roll that is hollow, crispy on the outside and deliciously moist and airy on the inside. Popover King serves both sweet and savory popovers. The girls shared one of the chocolate popovers, while Serge and I had a shepherd's pie-inspired savory popover.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Fenway Park

After breakfast it was time to explore the iconic Fenway Park baseball stadium, home to the Boston Red Sox. (I convinced Serge to leave his Yankees hat at home, thankfully!) We didn't have time on this trip to catch a game, but we explored the area and snapped some fun family photos!
Photo: SweetEscape
Photo:SweetEscape
Photo:SweetEscape

Boston Children's Museum

I'd heard great things about the Boston Children's Museum, so that's where we spent our afternoon. Whether your kids enjoy being active and burning off some energy, or whether they prefer more quiet activities, you're bound to find something for your family to love. Sean and Ella were immediately drawn to the massive climbing structure that starts in the lobby of the museum and extends several floors up. As fans of the Arthur books, they absolutely adored the Arthur and Friends exhibit, which allows you to walk through the world of the books. One of the coolest things about this museum is the 40-foot tall Hood milk bottle that's in the plaza outside! The bottle was originally located in Taunton, Massachusetts. It was created by an entrepreneur as a roadside attraction in which he could sell his homemade ice cream. After changing owners many times, it was finally purchased by the Hood company and donated to the museum in 1977.⁠
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo:SweetEscape
Photo:SweetEscape
Photo:SweetEscape
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Dinner at State Street Provisions

State Street Provisions is an upscale restaurant with a touch of rustic charm, located next to the Long Wharf and the Aquarium. If you sit outside, it's a nice place to enjoy some people-watching and soak in some sunshine. The restaurant serves a good variety of fish and seafood dishes.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Day 4

Breakfast at The Paramount

It just so happened that our friend Danielle Cooper, also a Delta Air Lines social media ambassador and fellow New Yorker, was in Boston the same weekend as us! We made plans to meet for breakfast before our flight back home. We headed to The Paramount, which has been a fixture in Boston's historic Beacon Hill neighborhood since 1937. As one of the city's top brunch spots, it's known for its pancakes, affordability, and charm. Though we talk often, I hadn't seen Danielle in person since March, when we were in Atlanta together kicking off this partnership with Delta. It was great to reconnect and hear about her engagement to her gorgeous fiancee, and about their upcoming travel plans. It's moments like these that make travel so special.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Flying Home

While we waited for our flight home, we relaxed in the stunning Delta Sky Club at Logan International Airport. I'm a big fan of the new Sky Bowls they offer. These are bowls that you can customize with grains, greens, proteins and vegetables. It's great to see Delta offering such fresh and healthy options, in addition to the more traditional snacks they still carry.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
This trip was a great reminder of the many fantastic destinations that are just a 1-hour flight from our home base in New York! We loved getting to explore Boston, and spending some quality time together as a family.

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THE 10 BEST VACATIONS FOR KIDS
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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.
This post is sponsored by Experience Grand Rapids If you love spending time at the lake, but you also appreciate the energy of a city, Grand Rapids, Michigan should be at the top of your family's destinations list. We recently spent four fun-filled days in Grand Rapids, and came away with an appreciation for the abundance of outdoor activities, the fantastic food and of course, the warmth and friendliness of the people. Many thanks to Experience Grand Rapids for hosting us on this trip! Here's a breakdown of what we did in Grand Rapids:

Day 1

Lunch at San Chez

Our flights from New York got in quite early, so understandably our hotel room wasn't ready yet. We dropped our bags and headed to San Chez Bistro, a Spanish tapas bar and restaurant just a few blocks away from our hotel. The dining room has high ceilings and is a cheerful, sun-filled place to enjoy a meal. We ordered a few different tapas that we enjoyed, including empanadas, sauteed shrimp, and beef tenderlion. The hearts of palm salad was quite good too. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Check In at JW Marriott Grand Rapids

After a brief stop at the iconic "Love" sculpture by artist Robert Indiana, we headed back to the JW Marriott Grand Rapids and checked into our rooms. We booked an adjoining king and double room, both of which were extremely spacious, with lots of storage space. If you're going to stay at this property, I highly recommend springing for a water view room, as you'll enjoy floor-to-ceiling views of the Grand River and its famous Blue Bridge.
Photo: Dionel Fisher
The hotel is very family-friendly. There's a Starbucks right in the lobby, which is great if you prefer to grab a quick bite for breakfast. But if you prefer a sit-down breakfast, six.one.six, the restaurant in the lobby, serves both breakfast buffet and a la carte options daily. The girls also really enjoyed the indoor pool, which had lovely views of downtown Grand Rapids.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Grand Rapids Public Museum

After lunch we walked across the Blue Bridge to the Grand Rapids Public Museum. This is a must-visit if you're coming to the city with kids. One of our favorite exhibits was the Streets of Old Grand Rapids, which recreates the downtown area as it looked in the 1890s and even stocks real merchandise from the era in its grocery stores! The girls also loved the TOYS! exhibit, which included an overview of vintage and modern toys, everything from the erector sets and paper dolls that baby boomers grew up with, to the Hot Wheels and Holly Hobbies that Gen Xers played with, to the Super Mario and My Little Pony toys favored by millennials. But by far the highlight for us was getting to ride this flawlessly restored antique Spillman Carousel, originally manufactured in 1928. There are 44 horses to choose from, plus two chariots and some other fun animals like a giraffe, whale, deer, goat, tiger and camel!
Photo: Dionel Fisher
Photo: Dionel Fisher
Photo: Dionel Fisher
Photo: Dionel Fisher

Dinner at The Green Well

That evening we headed to The Green Well for dinner. This gastropub has a spacious patio, so is perfect for outdoor dining in summer months. We ordered a variety of dishes to share, including avocado toast, fried calamari, Cobb salad, chicken vegetable soup, and chips and guac. Everything was fresh and flavorful, and we loved the lively atmosphere!
Photo: Dionel Fisher
Photo: Dionel Fisher
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Dessert at Furniture City Creamery

After dinner we walked a few blocks over to have some ice cream from Furniture City Creamery. This ice cream shop is housed in a tiny 500-square foot building, but every batch is hand-made on premises using natural, locally-sourced ingredients. Wondering about the shop's name? Grand Rapids used to be known as "Furniture City" because it developed a reputation for manufacturing high quality wooden furniture, as its location near Lake Michigan made it a major center for the state's lumber industry. Over time the prevalence of lumber diminished, but furniture still continues to play an important role in the city's economy, as it's home to many high-end office furniture brands including Steelcase and Herman Miller.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Day 2

Retro Boat Rentals

The next morning we headed out to Saugatuck, a charming beach town just 40 minutes from Grand Rapids. We visited Retro Boat Rentals, which specializes in renting out rare classic runabout boats. These boats have that classic jet-age design from the late fifties/early sixties, but they've been retro-fitted with completely modern electric engines, so they're quiet as a whisper! The team at Retro Boat Rentals even hooks you up with a cooler for your drinks and a bluetooth speaker you can connect your phone to. The girls loved blasting "Old Town Road" while we were out on the lake!⁠ It was such a great taste of what a Michigan summer is all about.
Photo: Dionel Fisher
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Lunch at The Southerner

After docking, we headed to The Southerner for lunch. This relaxed lakeside restaurant serves Southern-style dishes and cocktails. They're particularly known for their fried "hot" chicken, which you can customize depending on what level of heat you're comfortable with. We ordered half of our chicken mild (no spice) and the other half with the mildest hot sauce, and really enjoyed both flavors. The chicken was great, but the biscuits were fantastic! They're served with honey butter and jam, and are really worth a try.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Oval Beach

After lunch we drove over to Oval Beach, and here's where I have to make an embarrassing confession: I've always thought all lakes are still bodies of water. So when we saw the big, rolling, surfable waves of Lake Michigan I was both confused and shocked! The water was refreshingly cool, and while I still love the ocean, I now have an appreciation for how fresh water doesn't sting your eyes and dry out your skin!⁠ It's much more fun to splash each other with! We spent a lovely afternoon here soaking up sunshine and enjoying the soft sand.
Photo: Dionel Fisher
Photo: Dionel Fisher
Photo: Dionel Fisher

Dinner at Ando Sushi

After showering and changing back at our hotel, we headed to Ando Sushi + Bar for dinner. This stylish, modern restaurant offers Asian-fusion dishes, as well as an extensive selection of craft cocktails. We ordered some California rolls to share, and each enjoyed a bowl of ramen. As New Yorkers, we're a bit snobby when it comes to ramen but I'm happy to say that the ramen at Ando was really solid! The slices of roast pork were nicely cooked and seasoned, and the broth had a good flavor and consistency.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Dessert at Mayan Chocolate & Ice Cream

Our Uber driver recommended that we try the ice cream at Mayan Chocolate & Ice Cream, just a few blocks away, so that's where we headed after dinner. The colorful decor gives the shop a tropical feel, and there are a tremendous number of flavors to choose from, including some unusual combinations like Mexican Chocolate Chipotle.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Day 3

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

I'd heard amazing things about the Frederik Meijer Gardens, so we made sure we visited it before we left Grand Rapids. This 158-acre botanical garden and outdoor sculpture park is a beautiful place to admire both nature and modern art. I highly recommend taking a narrated tram tour, which departs every half hour and runs for about 45 minutes. The park is massive, so if you've got young kids with you or anyone with mobility issues, it'll be hard to see it all. The tour gives you a nice overview of the main works in the gardens, and the volunteers who narrate offer interesting background information on each sculpture and artist. The girls absolutely loved the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden, which has a tiny kid-sized gate on the side that's super-fun for children to duck through. The garden has several water-based exhibits that allow kids to splash and have fun, and there's a gorgeous network of treehouses that the girls absolutely loved exploring! We had lunch at the James & Shirley Balk Café in the main building. The dining room has lots of natural light, and features a stunning glass ceiling sculpture by renowned artist Dale Chihuly. The girls ordered from the kids menu, which had many inexpensive kid-friendly selections. Serge and I ordered sandwiches, which were very well-prepared. It's a great place to get a fresh, simple meal while you power up to explore the gardens further.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Sky Zone Grand Rapids

After the gardens, we knew it was time to let the girls burn off some energy, so off to Sky Zone we went! This enormous facility has everything from trampolines to aerial silk trapezes and even an entire ninja warrior course! We spent several hours here and the girls were absolutely in heaven!
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Dinner at Hancock

After the girls were sufficiently tired out, we headed to the Wealthy Street Historic District for dinner at Hancock. I highly recommend checking out this part of Uptown Grand Rapids, as it has an energy and fun design sense that reminds me a bit of Austin. Hancock's tagline is "Nashville Heat meets Michigan Neat." Housed in a former historic service station, the restaurant specializes in Nashville-style fried chicken. They also have a nice variety of frozen drinks, so if you enjoy drinks like Frosé and slushies, be sure to try out their selection. The restaurant is a great place to dine at with kids. Not only is the atmosphere very casual and lively, but there are a few cornhole boards that the girls had a lot of fun with.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Dessert at Brown Butter Creperie and Cafe

After dinner, we took a leisurely stroll down Wealthy Street and checked out Brown Butter Creperie and Cafe. Located in a historic windmill-shaped building that used to be home to a flower shop called Windmill Floral, this restaurant serves delicious sweet and savory crepes, as well as Belgian waffles. Half the fun of eating a crepe is watching them make it of course, and the girls were delighted to be able to watch the crepes being prepared at the front counter. Serge and I ordered the France, made with Nutella, fresh strawberries and bananas, and whipped cream; while the girls shared the Camp Fire, made with peanut butter, graham cracker, torched marshmallow, chocolate sauce, whipped cream.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Day 4

Breakfast at The Littlebird

We were flying out the next day, but we got up early to try out one more Grand Rapids eatery. We'd heard rave reviews of The Littlebird, just a few blocks from our hotel, so we walked over to try it out. The French toast was definitely a highlight for us. Made with Japanese milk bread, sour cherry and citrus cream cheese, it was a great blend of tangy and sweet flavors. If you like breakfast sandwiches, definitely try The Littlebird, which is a ham, egg and cheese sandwich served on a delicious bun, with garlic mayonnaise that adds a flavorful kick.
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Overall, Grand Rapids is a really fantastic place to visit with kids. The city itself is fairly compact so easy to get around, but its proximity to Lake Michigan also means there are so many great places nearby to check out, like Saugatuck. There is definitely an interesting, burgeoning food scene in Grand Rapids, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if in another five to ten years, it becomes a foodie destination like Portland or Austin.

Receive Your Free Guide:
THE 10 BEST VACATIONS FOR KIDS
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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.

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If you love spending time at the lake, but you also appreciate the energy of a city, Grand Rapids, Michigan should be at the top of your family's destinations list.
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