On our visit to the Big Island of Hawaii we stayed at Halii Kai at Waikaloa which is more of a vacation rental with separate bedrooms, living space, and kitchen. Kitchen of course is convenient for cooking and families. Their Ocean club area has a pool and hot tub that overlooks the ocean.
Of course the top most visited location on the Island is Volcanoes National Park with one of the largest active volcanoes on the planet named Kilauea. We ate at the Volcano House which provided quality food and an amazing view of the active volcano. We then proceeded to explore the park and got a closer look at the outlook and then walked through a lava tube
The best beach that we found was at Waialea bay. Less crowded and tons of shade. The water is aqua marine on both ends for swimming while the middle of the beach has shallow rocks and a natural breaker great for snorkeling.
The best location for snorkeling for families has to be at the Hilton Waikaloa village where they have a natural salt water lagoon. Safe from rough waves and life jackets available, turtles and a variety of marine life frequent here all day including jumping fish that will jump right into you. The lagoon is free to use if you stay at the Hilton hotel or sister locations, however you can purchase a day use pass for $100 per person.
Located in Downtown Disney is the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, though the price is hefty you are paying for the location and walking access to Disneyland and California Adventures. The hotel itself is themed after California redwood forest with hints of Disney character inspired Chip and Dale. The pool is one of the highlights of the property with spacious pools and a waterslide as well as complimentary life jackets for kids.
One of the newest rides at Disneyland is the Star Wars based Rise of the Resistance located at the Galaxy’s Edge. It is a technological innovations with its trackless platform and merging of video displays, animatronics, and special effects. The entire experience has you traveling from one Star Wars world to another and so much fun many consider it the best ride at Disneyland.
Note: Must download and sign up for the virtual queue precisely at 7am the day of your visit.
Another new ride highlight is the Smuggler’s Run which is a virtual simulation and interactivity that allows your group to pilot and ride along the Millennium Falcon.
But along with the new rides, enjoy the classic roller coasters like Big Thunder Mountain and the Matterhorn.
Yosemite is one of the best National Parks in America. We went during the month of August and most of the waterfalls are dried up by this time. But you can still enjoy the grandeur of the iconic views of El Capitan, Sentinel Dome, and Half Dome as well as taking a swim or jumping into the Merced river.
When traveling to Yosemite we stayed at the Pines Resort at Bass Lake in California. This cabin style lodging is located adjacent to the lake and has kitchen, living room, and balcony among some of their accommodations.
The lake has fishing and swimming and an assortment of watersports. We rented a couple of jet skis at the Bass Lake Boat Rentals and Watersports. I would highly recommend making reservations in advance as same day rentals can be very difficult during summer season.
Throwback to our trip last year to the island of Kauai in Hawaii. This twin waterfall was featured in the 80s TV show Fantasy Island. The hike down is difficult at parts and not recommended for everyone.
Also on Kauai we spent a lot of time snorkeling at Poipu State beach which is extremely family friendly. You can often find giant sea turtles laying on the beach and in just a few feet of water you will find a variety of tropical fish.
While on the island of Kauai, we stand at the Koloa Landing Resort for families is ideal. Had 2 bedrooms, open kitchen, dining room, and living room with floor to ceiling windows that slide open completely. Well maintained grounds with multiple swimming pools and slides.
If you love animals or wildlife parks, then Bearizona is for you. We traveled to Williams, Arizona where just outside this small town is a self-driving wildlife park featuring roaming black bears, wolves, deers, bisons, and so many more wildlife in an open environment. You must keep your windows shut and car doors locked especially in the bear and wolves area. The experience is amazing to see the animals in a more natural habitat, playing, climbing trees, and sometimes fighting amongst themselves.
Every time you drive through it is a different experience. Sometimes the animals can be lazy, other times playful, and sometimes mischievous. This is a completely unique experience compared to your standard zoo. They also offer a guided tour bus at no additional fee that has open air windows and a guide talking and feeding animals along the way.
They even have a separate walking area that features smaller animals like the bear cubs, foxes, white peacocks, and jaguars. Another highlight was their Bird of Prey show in which various owls and hawks fly just inches above the audiences head. They have added a huge new gift shop and indoor restaurant that is beautifully decorated like the caverns of the Grand Canyon.
Bearizona is truly a gem and we drove specifically from California to spend 2 days there. We went on the tour of the park numerous times each day and we never knew what to expect. Great for kids and worth the price.
One of our favorite places to visit while in Orlando, Florida is Gatorland. We returned for our second visit and it delivered again. Some newly added features were the feeding of the smaller gators with a pole. Similar to fishing they would attach the fish to a string on a stick and would untie once the young gators took a hard enough bite and pull.
The gator wrestling was enjoyable as an audience member picked a feisty one named Shrek that gave the wrangler all that he could handle. Once again to see these creatures so up close is always exciting and awe-inspiring. Don’t forget to journey beyond the breeding grounds to see the deers, nile crocodiles, and many other assortments of gators.
We took a Carnival cruise and journeyed to Nassau Island in the Bahamas, there we visited the world famous Atlantis Resort and Waterpark. Among the most popular and scariest waterslides is the Leap of Faith, which is a 6 story drop that ends in a tube through a shark lagoon. My 2 kids age 12 and 13 took the leap and had a blast!
For those who are looking for a less extreme version, you can go on the Serpent Slide which requires 1 or 2 passengers to sit on an inflatable tube and go through a dark windy slide that ends with floating through the shark lagoon where you can take time to enjoy the sharks swimming all around your view.
Atlantis is filled with many other pools and slides of various shapes and sizes and includes a younger kid waterpark. Another hidden gem is the adjacent beach which features white sands and clear aqua blue waters. Life vest are provided here and if you have snorkeling masks you will be able to spot tropical fish in the waters too.
Tip: the admission price is expensive if you are not staying at the hotel, but you can look for some 3rd party vendors who sell the tickets online for a discounted price.
World famous chef, Gordon Ramsay, has just opened up a Hell’s Kitchen themed restaurant modeled after his reality TV show. This is a restaurant that plays upon the success of his hit show and designed with Red vs Blue kitchen and decor inspired by the studio set. As a family, we have been long time fans and was surprised to see it open just outside Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. We were able to just walk in and dine as it was a week before the official Grand opening.
Recommend making reservations as we heard that they already had over 12,000 reservations made in advance. The food itself was amazing as I got the chef meal for $60 which included the Pumpkin Soup, Ramsay’s signature Beef Wellington, and Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert. FYI, they don’t actually film the show here so you can expect professional chefs and service. Overall, a fun and entertaining meal for the whole family located right in the middle of the Las Vegas strip.
Seems everyone loves Mermaids. While in Las Vegas you can swing by the Silverton Casino where there aquarium features a free live mermaid showing at specified times throughout the day. While swimming they interact with the children and audience making heart bubbles and other fun tricks. Also they have the Bass Pro Shop adjacent to the aquarium so it is a great way to keep the kids busy in Vegas on a budget.
Over the summer took my kids to SeaWorld in San Diego and it was a blast. So many interactive shows and exhibits, my kids really enjoyed feeding the batrays, seals, and flamingos. There is an additional cost to purchase the food. The shows were great as well including the Orca Encounters show and Dolphin Days show that will get you soaked if you are sitting in the soak zone.
Other shows include the Sealion and Otter comedy show which was funny and entertaining, but this past summer they had the Cirque Electrique show that was amazing. Only showing at night, these acts performed in the amphitheater that faced the bay and the performers had incredible circus stunts over the water.
Tips: We purchased the weekday ticket to save money and avoid the crowds. We also got the All You Can Eat dining pass, which allows you to get an entree, dessert, and drink once every hour.