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Insider Secrets

shhh-insider-secretsIt seems that no matter where we go, some things stay the same. Naptimes, mealtimes, and playtime at the park, for example. Here you’ll find our favorite insider tips for day-to-day activities, as well as some for major attractions. You can find more detailed reviews and tips by searching our site by location.

Kid Friendly Attractions and Events

Going to Walt Disney World? Search for the perfect Disney attractions to suit your preschooler. Download and print park maps to take with you. Download and print their recommeded packing list before you go. Check out Disneys travel tips and suggestions to print and take with you.

Going to Disneyland? Magical Beginnings is a program highlighting the perfect attractions for your preschooler. You’ll also be able to download maps, packing lists and tips direct from the Disney site.


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Kid Friendly Day-to-Day Activities:
Some of our favorite day-to-day activities include:
-visiting the local children’s museum
-local parks (search Goodle Earth for one near your hotel)
-zoos and aquariums
-local libraries
-even construction sites can be fun to watch!
-in a pinch, don’t forget about the indoor playgrounds in fast food restaurants.

Most of these day-to-day activities are free! If you have a membership to your local children’s museum, zoo or aquarium, check here to see if you qualify for free or discounted admission at your destination. The main thing is, get out and explore the city!

Tip: To help really little kids remember the trip, talk about where you are while you’re there. Ask them, “Where are we today? That’s right, we’re in Houston, TX!” And when you get home, “What did we do in Houston, TX?”, and recap some of the highlights. Small souveniers that they choose can be a fun way to spark a memory, too.

Tip for visiting a fine art museum: You can visit fine art museums with your preschooler. The information desk may have a predesigned program you can follow. You can ‘treasure hunt’ for ‘red flowers’ or the paintings from Disney’s ‘Little Einsteins’. Or, just play ‘I Spy’ with the art that’s around you. Alternatively, if you happen to have an aspiring ballerina, a Degas exhibit may be right up her alley. Either way, keep it short… only a half an hour at a time. And stop at the gift shop on your way out to let your child choose a postcard to take home.

By Location:
tip: Talk to the locals before you get there. If you’re a member of your local MOMS Club or Meetup.com, contact the chapter in the city you’re visiting. Nick’s ParentsConnect.com is another great resource for local activities.

Aruba:
I was surprised how many kids we saw in Aruba! We had gone before actually having kids, but noticed how many fun things for kids to do. –read the full article–
Tip: It’s pretty windy there, so you don’t feel the sun. Be sure to use sunscreen liberally – especially on little ears.
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California:
San Diego
San Diego Zoo
A ‘must see’. This zoo is great for little kids because the animals are so close. Kids can see almost every type of animal; elephants, monkeys, giraffes, even a panda! This is not the Wild Animal Park. That one is better for older kids.
Coronado Island
Great place for the stroller. The Hotel Del Coronado has a fantastic ice cream stand right off the beach.
SeaWorld
What’s not to love about an acrobatic orca? You’re pretty much guaranteed to get wet, but the higher in the stands you sit, it’ll be more of a drizzle.
Disneyland Resort
The original House of Mouse. A 90-minute drive from San Diego, but worth it in spades… or is that ears?
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Colorado:
Denver
Dinosaur Ridge

Any budding archeologist will love this place. See actual dinosaur bones and footprints. Little ones can do a dinosaur ‘dig’ in the sandbox complete with ‘skeletons’ to uncover.
Childrens Museum Denver
Kids can play grocery store, restaurant, hear animals hearbeats, paint, dance, and explore a rabbit hole and a fire engine. we lucked out and got the Blue Man Group traveling exhibit exploring sound waves.
Denver Zoo
Another great zoo for kids. Peacocks roam proudly displaying their plumes. See a family of gorillas in Primate Panorama. Ride a kiddie train or carousel.
Denver Museum of Science and Nature
This museum has a great dinosaur exhibit as well as a planetarium on it’s long list of things to see. Take a breathtaking photo of downtown Denver from the steps outside. Make a day of this and the zoo… it’s right next door.
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Florida:
Miami
Miami Seaquarium

This is less of an aquarium and more of a theme park. With the $30 admission price, I should have guessed. Still, my toddler loved the dolphin/orca show. Other highlights included petting a Macaw, the manatee tank, and the crocodile park.
Key Biscayne
We took a short drive to Key Biscayne and got off the bridge at the first or second place you could before actually getting to Key Biscayne. Here’s where locals camp and sailboard. We found lots of little shells here, and it was very quiet. Further down into Key Biscayne is a neighborhood park by the beach that is a bit more touristy, but has playground equipment.
Miami Children’s Museum
Here kids can drive a cruise ship, play in the grocery store complete with food group puzzles, learn about doctors, dentists and vets, etc. The visiting exhibit while we were there was all about football. Kids were tackling, passing, and kicking field goals and having a blast!
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Orlando
Universal Studios Orlando, Islands of Adventure
Two great parks and both great for all ages. The Florida sun can be brutal, but both parks have an abundance of misting fans. At Universal Studios, the Curious George water park was by far the biggest hit. At Islands of Adventure, Suess Landing was crazy fun!
Tip: use your AAA card inside the park for 10% off all meals and souvenirs.
Walt Disney World
If there’s one thing Disney knows, it’s families. Definately not to be missed. Each of the parks have something special for little ones, even Epcot. No misting fans here, so bring your own, and a stroller umbrella for shade.
Monkey Joe’s
An indoor inflatable playground may be just the thing on a day too rainy for the theme parks. Located in Festival Bay mall and near many outlet centers, there’s plenty for the whole family nearby.
I-Ride Trolley
A fun diversion for all ages. You can take the trolley to get to a destination, or the ride itself can be the destination.
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Minnesota:
Minneapolis / St. Paul
Mall of America
Tuesdays are Toddler Tuesdays with special events and special pricing at many restaurants for small children. Kids of all ages will love the indoor theme park, Nickelodeon Universe, featuring favorite characters such as SpongeBob and Dora.
Underwater Adventures Aquarium
The world’s largest underwater aquarium is located near the east entrance of the Mall of Amercia. Sharks are the main attraction, but thousands of sea creatures can be viewed while walking through the glass underground tunnel.
The Minnesota Zoo
A great walking zoo complete with a farm. The dolphin show is a favorite year round attraction. There is a large rainforest section that is indoors to keep it climate-controlled. Truly a rain or shine place to go.
Como Zoo
A personal childhood favorite. This zoo is free to the public (donations appreciated). This small zoo is great for kids because the animals are easy to see. Watching the polor bear swim is a local favorite attraction. They also have a lively sea lion show called the Sparky Show, better than most I’ve seen. Other kid friendly ammenities include a carousel and ComoTown amusement park featuring rides and attractions for kids ages 1-12.
Minnesota Children’s Museum
This place is crazy fun! Kids get to make paper (like, take a gooey mess and turn it into paper), do face painting, play grocery store and restaurant. There are story times, an age-3-and-under room, featured exhibits of favorite characters and so much more! Parking can be confusing, but is pretty well marked once you know where to look, so download the map.
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North Carolina:
Charlotte
Charlotte Nature Museum
This, too is a good one for the little ones. It is also attached to Freedom Park, which is really nice. They have a Butterfly Pavilion, live animal room, nature trail, puppet theater, and other exhibits relating to urban nature. The first part is a little odd, being full of taxedermy-type exhibits; but when you get to the back, the play area is great for kids under 6!!
Parks
There are so many great parks in Charlotte. This one, near 700 Romany Rd, has a free splash park for really hot or humid days. Check Google Earth or your hotel concierge to find one near where you’re staying.
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Texas:
Houston
The Houston Zoo
Great zoo for little kids. The animals are easy to see. Great selection of animals; elephants, giraffes, lions, monkeys, etc. There’s a reptile house that, surprisingly, my toddler loved, and an entire children’s area complete with splash park and carousel that, not surprisingly, my toddler loved. Our reciprocal memebership made entrance to this zoo free.
Children’s Museum of Houston
My little guy loved the Oaxaca exhibit and playing in the Mexican village. This was a traveling exhibit. He also loved the grocery store and watching baby chicks hatch from the eggs. They have an outdoor area that is really fun with nature hunts, water fountains, painting rooms, and a kid-sized summer house.
Nottingham Park
This park is in the western suburbs. It’s great because it’s fenced in, there’s a big kid playground and separate tot-lot, newer bathrooms, motion-sensor fountains for splashing (we found out the hard way), a shaded atrium in the center, and it’s all free.
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