Archives for November 2016

Music and libations at a fun trip to Ace Hotel New Orleans

ace-hotel-new-orleans-5Some hotels you choose for the luxury and others you choose for the location but a special few hotels you choose for the fun and Ace Hotel in New Orleans is one of them.  New Orleans is a city of fun and revelry so a lot of times you just need a hotel with clean rooms where you can get a couple of winks of sleep before the next run.  With that in mind I was a little reluctant about choosing Ace as it was not directly in the French Quarters and I was unfamiliar with the brand.  My friend, who has more contacts in New Orleans, assured me that Ace Hotel was the new place to be in New Orleans with a poppin lobby and party atmosphere so we decided to give it a go…Best decision of the whole trip.

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As soon as we pulled up to Ace Hotel with their casual mix of bellhops and lingering guest I knew it would be something different.  The lobby of Ace Hotel is a very long list of cool kids.  With libations flowing and music bumping it feels like you have magically stepped into an eclectic bar in the French Quarter.  Ace reinforces the lively atmosphere with a music schedule of local performances that escalate the room to a concert venue.  Even with the short ride to the French Quarters we found there were nights that it was never necessary to leave the hotel.

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Night time fun is one thing but when a hotel can captivate your days in New Orleans too you have confirmed you are to something special. The pool at Ace is amazing and a quick trip up to get some fun became a whole day of fun with locals, visitors, musicians and everything in between.  The drink specials at the pool bar are delicious but also really pack a punch that gets you in the lounging kind of mood.  The guest and locals that come still give off the cool kids and we quickly joined some locals in lively chats about everything from Vegas to sugar daddies to topless bars in New Orleans.  The food, while limited to grill options, was delicious and had me daydreaming about their salad the rest of my trip.  While Ace may not be the best choice if you are a room fanatic, with very dorm like starkness, if you are going to have a great time moving around and partying then without question Ace is in your top picks.

Marriott Lakeshore Reserve Hotel Review

rosen-shingle-creek-7The Marriott Lakeshore Reserve Hotel offers a great home away from home option with visiting Orlando.  Being the USA theme park central has made visiting Orlando synonymous with family travel.  Having access to amenities as well as home conveniences like a fridge and microwave can be invaluable to making sure you stay on budget and get the most of your experience.  The Marriott Lakeshore Reserve hotel operates as a timeshare property/hotel so it is a great in between for bring together groups at a central starting point for exploring Orlando.

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The trade off on some of the homey amenities is restaurants and some of the high end comfort of other hotels rooms. This tradeoff is forgettable, however, for a family that wants to stay on the move.  The pool and lazy river in the property have the perfect mix of relaxation and fun and the property store serves snacks and quick bites.  My favorite part of the property was actually the grounds themselves.  Even outside the pool and slides the opportunity to have fun was woven in and out the property.  With games, ping pong, outdoor tv’s, and a setting on a scenic lake you couldn’t ask for more if your goal on vacation was to actually spend time with your family and not just cooped up in a hotel room staring at the tv.  While not the most luxurious choice, the variety of room options and great opportunities to get out and have fun the Marriott Lakeshore Reserve gives you the opportunity to do what is most important on a family vacation, spend meaningful, attentive time with your actual family.

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Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel Review: family fun in Orlando

rosen-shingle-creek-8Hotels that have it all can promise a lot but deliver only a little; Rosen Shingle Creek, however, serves as a shining example of how to give great service, in a beautiful hotel with top notch amenities.  When last minute booking, if you find a hotel with a great price you can be a little suspicious that you are indeed really getting a great deal.  As soon as Rosen Shingle Creek was in my sight in the horizon I knew I gotten everything I paid for and a little more.  The hotel’s large and welcoming reception area is grand enough to fit the huge conferences the hotel often hosts while still peaking the interest of small families and groups of all different age ranges.  The focus on quality does not stop there as the rooms continue the spacious luxury vibe of the lobby and grounds.

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While the hotel did remind me some other large hotels that I loved, some of the things I found unique about the feeling of a Caribbean all-inclusive without the long distance travel and cost involved. Everything you needed was on site and not just one but several options to give you just want fits for you.  The hotel offered a lot of great restaurants from sushi to Mexican with ambiance choices equally expansive for family dining and for some grown up fun. If you wanted to be more on the move there was a store where you could pick up snacks for your room or pool area or get a quick lunch from the preset menu or sandwich bar.

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Outside of eating and relaxing in your room the hotel pool was also a hit with the kids. While the Rosen does not offer the most features or space I have seen in a family focused pool, the wade in opening made it easy to have fun with the kids of all ages.  The kids and families at the hotel were friendly and ready to play so the older girls quickly got lost in a game of Marco Polo while Bronx practiced his dance moves and I enjoyed a Pina Colada.  I even got a chance to sneak away to their posh spa and get some real relaxation time in.  All in all it was a day that would be hard to top at a hotel that is definitely at the top of my list when visiting Orlando.

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Checking off the family wish list with a trip to Universal Studios

universal-studios-14With entertainment, rides, and a chance to step into the movies all around, Universal Studios offers a rare opportunity to entertain kids and adults alike of all different ages. Over the summer I took on the challenge of taking three teenage girls and an infant all to a theme park with the hopes of all having a great time or at least making it through the day with more smiles than tears.  In making a decision to go with Universal Studios my first concern was traveling with a one year old.  With a lot of theme parks having rides that are not inclusive of small children I did not want to end up with nothing for my son to do except join in all the waiting that is usually involved in visiting theme parks.  With so many movie themed attractions and not just rides I knew that being able to sit through a 3D movie short would break up some of the line waiting and give the teenagers a chance to knock off things they wanted to do on their visit list.  All in and all I was crossing my fingers for the best of both worlds.

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Universal Studios held up to my expectations perfectly. With line waits ranging from 45 minutes and more we started the day off with the teenagers doing the waiting and giving me and my young son a chance to hop into a movie attraction and get a break from the sun.  I quickly learned my first lesson with Universal, the quick pass pays for itself.  If you are only visiting for a couple of days spending hours of your day online prevents you from getting a lot of bang for your buck.  Being careful of the types of passes you buy (for instance for one park or all three) can help you minimize cost and get the most of the extras you are spending.  With passes in hand now we were ready to keep the party going and I became on a mission to bang the heck out of my buck.

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Many of the rides at Universal have a similar 3D feel, with some adding more action with rollercoasters or more moving parts. There are some that are definitely better than others, but they usually correspond to the movies that inspired them and also inspire you as a rider.  We loved the Transformers ride with the action and movement and also the ties and references to a movie series and cartoon that we love.  The 3D experience can be stationary or action packed depending on the ride, with the opportunity to opt out of the action for some rides if you are working with young travelers.

 

 

With me busy trying to stuff in as many rides as we could I am happy that Universal had some buffers that made the park about more than just rides. As you walk through the movie set themed sections you are transported to your favorite movies and TV shows.  Sponge Bob happy pops through the street in the character parade and you are whisked to Hogwarts as you journey to the Harry Potter themed sections.  Between action heroes, Dr. Seuss and even Indiana Jones you are surrounded by action and as a bonus you have a chance to pop in on the fun.  After 8 hours, several rides, lots of my money, we ended the night on a high at the Universal City Walk with some great food and memories that are sure to laugh a life time.

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