Tropical family fun in Cancun Mexico

Yes Cancun is a party paradise, but this tourist mainstay is also a beautiful tropical paradise that works for family fun as well.   My trip to Cancun began because I wanted something a little more festive than Cozumel in my short weekend getaway to Mexico.  Admittantly the access is not as straight forward as I would like, with a 40 minute ferry and hour bus ride to get there from Cozumel, it is more than a trek to get there.  After such a long trip with kids though we found Cancun to be a great haven for water fun with a little something for everyone.

For the more adventurous crew the options abound while in Cancun. From trips to pyramids to ziplines to tours that include snorkeling marvels they have it all.  Planning is a bit of a factor as some of extended tours require an early departure time and previous day scheduling.  As we failed on both of these counts we had to do something that could be done immediately and had a shorter trip time.  In the end we wound up with the perfect mix as we took the Jungle Tour, a snorkeling/boating trip, which lasted only about four hours.  Driving the boat was the main draw for me as this definitely put a bit of the adventure in your hands.  As I hopped in the boat with my daughter and revved up the engine the excitement was real.  The tour takes you through the Cancun coastline to a snorkeling destination at the end of the Cancun strip.  Once you arrive you hop right off your boat and take a quick snorkeling tour full of both friendly fish and cool underwater statutes.  It was a great time to spend some one of one time with a loved one and get a real since of exploration.

For the more laid back or even the younger or older crowd there are still tons of options but in my opinion there are few better than the beach. A day at the beach, is filled with things that lend themselves to family time.  Be it crashing in the water, taking a sun soaked nap or even exploring the sand for treasures it gives you the perfect opportunity to do one of lives greatest treasures, one on one time with the ones you love.

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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A show the whole family can love with Toruk – The First Flight

Toruk The First Flight Cirque Du Soliel (10)Cirque du Soleil has built its foundation on revolutionizing the circus by combining it with breathtaking acrobats and theatre quality showmanship. This effort was again in full force with the Toruk – The First Flight show that touched down in Houston.  Finding shows that you can take on as a family is difficult, especially with kids of different ages.  You have to consider if it will be enough to keep the hyper ones still and the loud ones quiet and the scary ones from screaming while also thinking about what you as an adult would like to see.  Delivering in perfect harmony and with Cirque du Soleil building on the Avatar movie phenomenal the Toruk – The First Flight had us thrilled at first mentioned and kept everyone spellbound throughout the show.

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Of course if you love Avatar you will love the show as the visual beauty and out of the world story line continues from the movie. If you are not familiar with the movie, however, there is still so much beauty and intrigue in the Toruk show.  I love how Cirque is able to intertwine a story with great singing, visual and technical performances.  While one second you lose yourself in a song the next you are on the edge of your seat watching soaring jumps and twists.  For my daughter and I, we loved hearing the story of a Avatar prequel and seeing the different tribes all showcasing different aerial feats.  For my young son its bright and ever-changing effects kept him surprised and occupied throughout the show.  It was truly like escaping to a magical world and so good I think it’s hard to really think of it as a show.  The Toruk experience gives you all the oohs and aahhhs you would expect from Cirque and gives the kids and family some of their first taste of the arts that should be enough to get them interested what else there is to offer.

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Amping up the fun for Mother’s Day with the Pleasure Pier

Pleasure Pier kids and IMother’s Day is a day filled with flowers, cards and hopefully appreciation of everything that mom’s do to make your life special.   As I found out this year though, as much as we try to fight it as mothers part of our joy is seeing our kids happy and having fun and building memories together.  On a day where others show their appreciation, it is a great time to reflect on the how much we appreciate not just the kids we have but the sacrifices made by the mother before us.  So as I began to plan my weekend, making memories with the kids that I appreciate was definitely part of my plan.  Good for me, Galveston is just a hop away and like that I whisked the kids to Galveston and set off for some adrenaline packed fun at Pleasure Pier.

Pleasure Pier (4)Pleasure Pier does a great job at combining an old school carnival feel with some action packed rides.  Without question the best things about a carnival is the food and with such great options is something that mom is sure to enjoy.  With funnel cakes, turkey legs, banana splits all at arm’s reach it is easy for her to pick her pleasure and proceed in celebrating her special day.  If none of those options strike her fancy she is right in the middle of a great selection of seafood delights offering the best the gulf has to offer.

Pleasure Pier (3) Pleasure Pier (1)Running a close second to the food is the fun.  As AstroWorld is a distant memory the roller coasters and thrill rides at Pleasure Pier are some of the closest outlets thrill seekers have as a go to.  From giant swings to looping dragons they have a small taste of everything but the fan favorite was definitely the Iron Shark rollercoaster.  With a jaw dropping descent the ride was on repeat throughout the day.  Once you get an all access pass to the pier you can put the rides on repeat so the fun stops only when you do.

Pleasure Pier (6)Taking the kids out to Pleasure Pier brought back tons of memories for me of going out to Galveston with my mom.  No back then the rides and adventure of the Pleasure Pier was nonexistent but the memories of riding bikes and walking along the boardwalk still stay with me to this day.  It is a great reminder of what endures when it comes to family, the memories you build together.  I hope this Mother’s Day, no matter what route you choose is filled with memories that can last a lifetime with your mother or as you mother your children.

By the way, if Pleasure Pier looks like a pretty good choice then this Mother’s Day they have a buy one get one on passes so you can double the fun with your mom at half the cost!

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Texas Renaissance Festival Fun

IMG_9397Since time machines have yet to come about there is no better way to get the best of the entertainment and fun of Old England than a Renaissance Festival.  I don’t think it’s better done that at the Texas Renaissance Festival, where you are quickly transported to a town of kings, queens, fairies, Vikings and almost everything in between.  IMG_9390The Texas Renaissance Festival has become a tradition for my family where we always find something fun and new for everyone to do or try.  Here are my top five favorite things to do or see at the Texas Ren Fest:

IMG_93515. Games and Rides: I love the medieval twist that the Texas Ren Fest throws on games and rides to give it a new spin.  Yes some things like horse rides are a little more common but a four person swing is cool no matter how you look at it.  If you are up from more of a challenge check out their archery station, rock climbing or trampoline to add some adrenaline to the fun.

IMG_93964. Pictures: Pictures are definitely worth 1,000 words and when your picture is you as a pirate, king, or fairy you can probably double that number.  The history themed picture vendors are always a lot of fun to play dresses up in a group and really take on the role of your costume, even if it is just for a second.  For me these fun pictures normally wind up on my Christmas card.  What better way to show my love for life than a quick pic of me as a fairy or queen or maybe even both?

IMG_93943. Playing Dress Up: So the first couple of years I watched as those who walked up in costume came into the festival and got absorbed in the merriment of it all.  I decided I had to get in on that action and every year since I add my own twist on my festival attire.  As the weekends are themed you can keep it simple and just add some pieces to match the theme or go all out in whatever character or time intrigues you the most.  This year I just went with a cloak and ended up with more of an elf/Lord of the Rings vibe.

2. The food: As the Renaissance Festival is divided into regions you can get a taste of the globe all in one fair.  From pizza to Brats to fried pickles it is the ultimate fair food paradise.  I have my go too favorites like roasted corn and loaded chips but every year I branch out to try a little something different.  The fact that the stalls are established and not portable gives me a little more comfort that what I am eating won’t kill me or assault my stomach later. By the end of the festival between the different stalls and the wine we frequently picked up I was beyond stuffed and feeling pretty silly.

IMG_9392 IMG_93841. The shows: Part of the reason the Renaissance Festival is an all-day affair, besides the expansive grounds, is because the assortment of shows they have.  From sword school to the Pirate Auction to even seeing the king and queen in the jousting match, entertainment abounds at the Renaissance Festival.  What I love most is how the much the characters get into their roles, so even just a quick walk around the festival usually ends up in some impromptu performance or conversation that defines the time jump you experience at the Texas Ren Fest.

 

 

 

Spreading the love with family dates

Enjoying some quality family time at the ballet

Enjoying some quality family time at the ballet

It’s not just prayer that keeps a family together.  For me the family that plays together can stay connected and building strong memories of love and laughter that define what family is.  As a mother to an only child it is easy to focus on spending time with her as it does not come with the extra hassle that come with making arrangements with adults.  With one child it is more of a grab and go scenario, but when you mix in different generations and preferences and time schedules things can be a lot more difficult to coordinate.  Even worst when all of the coordination is said and done some of the carefree nature and fun can be sucked out of the plans.  When done right, however, it is a great reminder of the lessons to be learned from both young and old alike.

I am blessed enough to have both my mom and grandmother to be able to spend time with.  Making plans for an age range from 12 to 86 is no small feat, however, in sticking to simple events like parks and movies and museums you open the door to real discovery.   This is not just a look into the assigned family role, mother, sister, daughter, son, granny, but also who the person really is.  Learning what the likes and dislikes and personal experiences of another person can change not only how you view the person but also how you view yourself.

It is a powerful thing to get a deeper understanding of the sacrifices those before you have made to provide for you and that as unique you may feel your story is, others have faced similar challenges and survived and thrived.  Plus there is something fun about seeing your parents or grandparents or even kids just being a person.  Once they let this guard down you see them just as someone who tries and fails, has loved and lost, and has endured more struggles then you can imagine if they remain for you just in their role in the family.  This experience is especially valuable to the youth as with age comes perspective it is difficult to gain from friends or TV or the internet.  Making these connections in not just in formal gatherings but in casual scenarios as well gives me the quality time I want with my daughter and insight to my village of the tools and efforts we need to jointly raise the child and sometimes even raise each other.

Houston Children’s Festival Fun

Painting at the Houston Children's Festival This weekend the Houston Children’s Festival rolls in to town again.  With the weather clearing up and the heat holding off it looks to be a perfect weekend to get the family out for festival fun.  I have a special love for festivals as the vibe in a good festival makes it almost impossible for you to not have a great time.  When you work in an office, most of what happens outside passes you by, making the time you get to spend outside is precious.  With people having fun and smiling all around you it is difficult to not just give into enjoying yourself and leave the stress of the life behind, even if only for a day.  The Houston Children’s Festival features a cornucopia of things kids love, from the Discovery Zone to the rides to the performances.  One of my favorite things to do is always the arts and crafts.  Taking time out to really just enjoy the short time where kids are kids and letting them express themselves through the various projects in the festival reminds us as adults exactly where our priorities should land.  Real quality time with kids can be hard to come by and this festival is a great way to share food, fun, and laughs and an overall great family experience.  Best of all this festival benefits Child Advocates.  This charity focuses on neglected and abused children and finding ways to make their environment safe and nurturing.  The fun and laughter of the festival really is a great platform for a charity that fights so every child can have periods of fun and laughter where they can just be kids.  Don’t miss the chance to get out and enjoy great fun for a great cause!

Check out the Entertainment Schedule Here

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