15 Unique PB&J Recipes Kids Will Love

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School is on the horizon, and if there’s one thing you can bet kids will eat, it’s a PB&J. It might not be the most exciting combo in the world, but the good news is, there are a bunch of inventive peanut butter and jelly recipes out there to help you kick it up a notch. To keep things fresh, we’ve found 15 new ways you can enjoy this classic treat for breakfast, snack, and dessert.

Breakfast

Peanut Butter & Jelly Crepes

Here's an American sandwich with a French twist from Super Healthy Kids. Roll up the crepes or fold them over to make them easy for little hands to grab and watch them dig in. What will your kids notice the most? How about the fact that the peanut butter is mixed with both jelly and cream cheese? Delicious!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Swirl Bread

As much as we'd like to have a sit-down breakfast every morning, sometimes we just have to grub on the go. That's where this tasty breakfast bread from Cookie Monster Cooking comes in super handy—no messy knives and no sticky fingers, just a hearty slice of heaven to start your day. A word of warning: do NOT try and toast this bread, it will make quite a mess!

 

PBJ Banana Waffle Sandwich

Ditch the maple syrup, because these waffles don't need any more sweetness than the flavor combo of PB&J. The banana waffles sound mouth-watering all by themselves, making this PBJ&B sandwich the ultimate breakfast meal. Thanks to Liv Life for this great idea!

PB& J Pancake Sandwiches

Using pancakes instead of bread? Why not? Before you go thinking you're spoiling your little jelly monsters, take a look at this recipe from Weelicious—it's healthy! We're pretty sure you won't hear many complaints, as your kids will be too busy snacking on their new favorite way to eat PB&Js.

 

Snack & Lunch

PB&J Pizza

Our kids are already big fans of the cheesy variety, so we're pretty confident that they'll be beside themselves when they hear you're making them Nicole's special PB&J pizza for snack. They'll be even more excited when you let them pick a topping or two—banana slices for pepperoni, coconut flakes for shredded cheese, get creative! Major style points if you can pipe the jelly out onto the pizza like this.

PB&J Wrap

Sure, white bread is pretty much a given when you're making a PB&J, but we believe in thinking outside the box, and this healthy alternative from Fitness by Alicia gets two thumbs up from our little munchers. Throw in granola, banana and strawberry slices and that's a wrap!

PB&J Sushi

How do you make a sandwich even more finger food-y? Roll it up and cut it into sushi rolls. These would be great for feeding a bunch of little rugrats, as they could just pop a few of these in their mouths. We love Brit + Co.'s idea of topping them with fresh fruit to compliment the flavors of the jelly.

Peanut Butter Quesadillas with Jelly Dipping Sauce

This PB&J from Home Cooking Memories goes south of the border. Reducing the jelly down to a sauce makes a sweet, syrupy mixture that is great for dunking. Another great snack choice for multiple hungry mouths, whip up a few of these and lay them out for an afternoon snack.

Dessert

photo: Peanut Butter & Co.

The Banana Dog

Could the banana dog be any more fun? The perfect way to use up those leftover hotdog buns, this dessert combines PB&J with a banana AND sprinkles for the ultimate fun take on the classic sandwich.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Milkshake

Sounds good, looks good, tastes great. This Chocolate-Covered Katie recipe uses a mixture of milk and vanilla extract instead of ice cream, so it's at least a little healthier for you. Adding in frozen berries for jelly also makes this shake extra smooth without the extra guilt. Best enjoyed with a crazy straw.

photo: Peanut Butter & Co.

Dark Chocolate Dreams Sandwich

After this treat, you may never want to sink your teeth into plain ole PB&J again! Peanut Butter & Co.'s Dark Chocolately Dreams spread, preserves and coconut is all it takes to make the sandwich of your dreams a reality. 

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake

Sweet and savory is a classic flavor combo, and no two things bring together these tastes like peanut butter and jelly. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Jessica of How Sweet It Is thought to create a PB&J-inspired dessert. Using whole wheat flour makes this cake a little more healthy, so you don't have to feel guilty about eating it for dessert...and next morning's breakfast.

PB&J Pops

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a PB&J pop? We're not sure, but we know of a few little ones who wouldn't mind being our guinea pigs for this little experiment. Thanks to Catherine of Weelicious for another great PB&J recipe.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints

These little guys would pair perfectly with a tall glass of milk. This Martha Stewart recipe has scoops of jelly resting on atop peanut butter pillows that simply can't be denied. We can't imagine a plate of these lasting very long in front of our cookie-crazy kids.

 

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes

We love bite-sized desserts almost as much as our kids do. Plus, desserts always seem that much more adorable when they're just pop-able enough to warrant eating at least two or three. Jamie of My Baking Addiction makes these cupcakes with white cake in lieu of white bread, and have a hollowed-out center filled with sweet jelly, then topped with peanut butter frosting. Simply decadent.

—Scott Wardell

Featured image: Pixabay via Pexels 

 

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Make This for Dessert: Frozen Chocolate Bananas

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Need a cool dessert that doubles as an activity? Turn to these frozen chocolate bananas. Opt to make them exactly like the recipe below or sub in sprinkles or other toppings in place of the pecan halves. Either way, this deceptively simple dessert will be a hit.

frozen bananas

Ingredients
2 large bananas, peeled
4 popsicle sticks
1 c milk chocolate chips
3/4 c pecan halves, finely chopped

Method
1. Cut each banana in half, and insert popsicle sticks into bottoms of each half. Freeze bananas for 1 hour until solid.

2. Place chocolate in a small microwave-proof bowl and heat on medium heat for 15 seconds at a time until well melted and smooth. (You can also use a double boiler to melt the chocolate down if you have one.)

3. Dip the frozen bananas in chocolate so they are completely coated, then generously roll in chopped nuts. Serve immediately or re-freeze for a few hours later.

Note: You can fashion a working double boiler by using a small pot of water and a Pyrex bowl.

recipe and photo courtesy of Veronica at the vegetarian ginger.

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Truthtell: Food on a stick just tastes better. Go beyond the cake pop and serve up something sweet—from rice crispy treats to a deconstructed pina colada—that will please your whole crew. Just put down your forks and click through the gallery of treats perfect for pint-sized palates. 

Royal Brownie Pops

Brownies go sophisticated with this fun recipe from The Cookful. Just whip up a batch using your favorite recipe (or a boxed mix), and dip them into a simple ganache to up the fancy factor. To see the full recipe, click here.

photo: The Cookful

 

Which one is your favorite? How would you transform your kiddo’s favorite sweets into a fun dessert on a stick?

—Susie Foresman

Glimpse the Great Gray Whales

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Thar she blows! Ready for a whale of an adventure? Whale watching season is in full swing when the great gray whales are migrating south down the coast to Baja. As late as Apr. you can catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures by land, by sea or at a festival. Here are 3 ways your wee ones can see these gentle giants.

whale

photo credit: Renata Kanclertz

Since your little captain goes gaga over the guppies in the pond at the park, imagine their delight when you spot a spouting 50 foot, 40 ton gray whale! And the story behind why the whales are so visible from Jan. to Apr. along the SoCal waters makes your own pregnancy discomfort memories pale—the gray whale is pregnant for a year and makes a 10,000 mile round trip journey from Alaska to Baja to deliver her 1500 pound baby. Now that’s a birthing story.

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photo: Ryan Harvey via Creative Commons

Have a Whale of a Time at the Whale Festival
The biggest festival for whales in the area is back. The Dana Point Festival of Whales takes place every Mar. when 40–50 whales pass by Dana Point each day, using the Dana Point Headland’s 200-foot cliffs as a landmark to check their migration path. On this festive weekend, you can find the perfect whale watching excursion for everyone, from several whale watching boats with tours of varying length (and price) to the opportunity to get a glimpse of these amazing mamas from land by hiking through the Headlands Conservation Park.

There are also tons of activities that entertain the kids while the whales are submerged, like a Rubber Ducky Race, Classic Car Show, Fishing Clinic, Diamond Dig (for treasure!) and more.  Check the schedule of events for details.

l-1

photo: Barry Curtis/dolphinsafari.com

Hit the High Seas
If you’ve got your sea legs, the best way to see whales is to go to them. While no company can guarantee that you’ll see whales, it’s pretty much a given that if you keep peepers peeled, you will at least get up close and personal with some playful pods of dolphins and barking seals and sea lions. Most companies offer special rates for kids as well as tons of information about whale migration patterns, characteristics, and other interesting facts that will make your kid a whale expert.

IMG_7109

photo credit: Renee Flanagan

Over the years, we’ve found that these are the best companies to trust with your first whale watching trip. Davey’s Locker and Newport Landing Whale Watch both depart from Newport Beach. Harbor Breeze Cruises is located in Long Beach, Captain Dave’s out of Dana Point is well worth the drive, and if you’re looking to stay closer to the LA area, Marina Del Rey Sportfishing Cruises is our local pick.

Remember, when you’re on the boat, you’re stuck (in the best possible way), and there’s no turning around for snacks or jackets or anything else you might need. As always, when traveling with tots, it’s best to be prepared, and we have found these tips invaluable when sailing over the bounding main:

  • Bring sunscreen and layers. Sunshine reflects off the water on the most overcast of days, and even when it’s hot as blazes on land, it’s a good 20-30 degrees colder when you are on the water. Little fingers get cold; if you have ski mittens, now’s a good time to get extra use out of them.
  • Bring a waterproof jacket, because the spray from the ocean can get you wet.
  • If you’re worried about upset tummies on the water, go early. The seas tend to be calmer in the morning.
  • Forewarned is forearmed! Talk to the kids about all the animals they might see, so they’re as excited to see seagulls as the grays. Even in high season, you might not see a whale. But bring a notebook to record everything you do see, and treat each viewing with raptures and they won’t be disappointed. (We’ve never gone without at least seeing a load of dolphins!)
  • That notebook does double duty as a tic-tac-toe board or drawing pad. Bring it and/or something else to entertain the youngest members of your expedition who can get bored if there’s a long stretch with no sightings.

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photo credit: Cash Burton via yelp

Landlubbers, Unite!
You’re the type that glamps, not camps, and your idea of a nautical adventure is Ralph Lauren boat shoes. Rocking is for chairs, not the deck you walk on. We’ve got two spots where you never have to leave land to catch sight of enough whales to satisfy Ahab.

Elegance with Mimosas & Sea Mammals
If hotels were sea creatures, Terranea would Moby Dick. It’s the big one, the one that stands out from the crowd.  Years ago, the area was home to the largest oceanarium in the world, but now it’s the lap of luxury.  It’s also a front-row seat to the migration show where you can lap up food and drinks while you peruse the pacific for the great grays. Here’s how we play it: park in the lot (for a fee) and explore the walking trails post-brunch. Keep your eye on the water—whales swim right past the point.

Terranea Resort
100 Terranea Way
Rancho Palos Verdes

Online: terranea.com

point vicente lighthouse

photo: Rancho Palos Verdes Parks & Recreation Department

Point to the Point
If your budget or timeline doesn’t allow for a hotel trip, grab your binoculars and follow the trails to Point Vicente Lighthouse. Right next door, you’ll find the Point Vicente Interpretive Center, one of the best shoreline spots for whale watching.  It’s so good, in fact, that it’s where the Los Angeles chapter of the American Cetacean Society conducts its annual whale migration census. Every day from December to May, trained volunteers record the number, species and behavior of migrating whales, so you’ll find loads of people who can answer your budding mammologists questions.

Point Vicente Interpretive Center
Hours: Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

31501 Palos Verdes Drive West
Rancho Palos Verdes

Online: palosverdes.com

Can’t squeeze a whale watching adventure into your packed spring schedule? (We get it! It’s t-ball to tutu’s all weekend, all spring.) May brings the start of the big blue whale season with the warmer waters.

We’d love to hear your tips for spotting these magnificent creatures! Let us know where and how you go whale watching.

-Meghan Rose

22 Sensational Hotel Rooms That Are Worth the Trip

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Book a hotel stay on the next vacation that really screams “you’ve arrived.” With the help of a few outrageous themes—spaceship, LEGO bungalows, or a caboose, for starters—your tiny travelers will be thrilled to head back to the room at the end of the day. Scroll down to see our collection of the best, most incredible hotel rooms for kids from around the globe.

photo: Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana

The Pineapple Suite at Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana

Ever wanted to stay in a pineapple? Is Sponge Bob your family's mascot? If you answered yes to all of the above, the pineapple suite at  Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana is right up your alley. Upon entrance, you'll be transported to Bikini bottom. With two bedrooms and three bathrooms, two levels, a private garden and infinity pool, plus a butler on call, this luxe lodging is pretty sweet. Find out more about the resort in our insider's guide here

photo: Wendy Altschuler

Hotel EMC2 - Chicago, IL

At Hotel EMC2, robots are at your beck and call, ready to deliver an extra toothbrush, or whatever you might need. How do the robots get around from floor to floor? The elevator buttons are on the outside of the wall, instead of in the elevator’s interior, which aids the robots in their travel.

You'll find a gold trumpet-looking device to amplify the sound of your cell phone so you can play your music loud and proud. The art throughout the space is funky and cool—including shifting digital art in all of the hallways. Kids will notice the floor-to-ceiling bookrests, made out of every material you can imagine, housing thousands of titles. Hotel EMC2 is tech-forward and thrilling to experience—there's even a glass-box shower located in the middle of the room!

228 East Ontario St.
Chicago, IL
844-205-3939

Online: hotelemc2.com

— Wendy Altschuler

photo: courtesy LEGOLAND Hotel

LEGOLAND California Castle Hotel - Carlsbad, CA

The new LEGOLAND Hotel opened in May 2018, with over 250 medieval-themed rooms (think princess, knight, wizard and dragons. Each room sleeps up to five, and the kids' quarters even comes with LEGO bricks! There are also suites available, and each room has a celestial perk: the ceiling lights up like the night sky after dark! 

One LEGOLAND Dr.
Carlsbad, Ca 92008
888-690-5346
Online: legoland.com

photo: Graduate Hotel

Graduate Hotel, Madison, WI

Last summer, Graduate Hotels teamed up with Camp Wandawega and Land of Nod to create their own Camp Wandawega inspired suite. Never heard of Camp Wandawega? What began as a speakeasy in the 1920s in now . . . well, basically an adult summer camp. The suite features a large main room with an entertainment area, sleeping area with king bed and a workstation, as well as an adjoining semi-private kids room with bunk beds and a library stocked with summer camp-themed movies. Original camp artifacts such as an antique troop-master hat, custom Sanborn canoe paddles and Faribault Woolen Mills blankets, as well as Camp Wandawega for Nod accents and décor, are found throughout the space.

601 Langdon St.
Madison, WI
608-257-4391
Online: graduatemadison.com

photo: Amber Guetebier

LEGOLAND Beach Retreat - Winter Haven, FL

The LEGOLAND Beach Retreat, which opened in early April of 2017, is located near the LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Winter Haven, Florida. It’s like a little Florida village that is designed to look like it is built out of giant LEGO bricks (or to make you feel like a minifig family. You decide).

Each bungalow room can sleep up to five people: there’s one king-sized bed for parents (and let’s be real, whoever else climbs in at 3 a.m.) and a smaller nook that has bunk beds for the kids. The bottom bunk also has a trundle so you can get three kiddos in there. You’ll have a small sitting area outside your room, but the highlight is that each cove of the Beach Retreat has bungalows all facing a central grassy area and play-structure. That means you can relax with your morning cup of coffee (or evening glass of wine) and the kids can keep the party going with their fellow Bungalow buddies.

Bonus: You’ll find lots of little amenities in the room built with kids in mind. Parents will appreciate the toilets with seats that convert to a smaller size; low-hanging hooks for towels and the little signs letting kids know the room has been cleared of sea monsters.

Copy by Amber Guetebier

photo: Fantasyland Hotel

Fantasyland Hotel - Edmonton, Canada

Fantasy comes to life at the Fantasyland Hotel. The Space Room features out-of-this-world lighting, a modular bed, and a command center that are sure to send your kids into orbit. Or, try out the hotel's other rooms with equally kid-friendly themes like Polynesian, truck stop, igloo, Roman, and water park.

17700 87 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5T 4V4, Canada
780-444-3000
Online: fantasylandhotel.com

photo: Adventure Suites

Adventure Suites - North Conway, NH

At Adventure Suites, you can stay outdoors, indoors, or perhaps opt for the cave room, the safari suite, or the motorcycle club. Rooms are packed with fun, especially the Treehouse Suite, where kiddos can picnic while mom and dad relax in the two-person jacuzzi.

3440 White Mountain Hwy.
North Conway, Nh 03860
888-626-6929
Online: adventuresuites.com

 

photo: Jumbo Stay

Jumbo Stay - Stockholm, Sweden

Parents, prepare flight crew for take-off because your little aviation aficionados are going straight into orbit when they see this amazing hotel made out of a jumbo jet, just a few miles from the Stockholm Airport. Offering hostel-type accommodations in some rooms with a shared shower and restroom, the Jumbo Stay also has three suite options that allow guests to sleep directly behind the cockpit, near the infamous black box located at the back of the plane, or with window views along the side of the plane. All suites include restrooms, showers, and byo-happy kids.

Jumbovägen 4
SE-190 47 Stockholm Arlanda, Sweden
+46 (0)8-593-60400
Online: jumbostay.com

photo: Featherbed Railroad

Featherbed Railroad - Lake Clear, CA

Each of the nine vintage caboose bedrooms is specially themed, from a beach cottage on wheels to a wild west cabin, and include a private restroom, shower, and goose-down featherbed. In addition to the thrill of sleeping the rails, the location—in Northern California's wine country on the shores of Lake Clear—can't be beaten for a family getaway. With an on-site private beach, pier, and boat launch, your conductors will remember more than their room.

2870 Lakeshore Blvd.
Upper Lake, Ca 95485
707-274-8378
Online: featherbedrailroad.com

photo: The Plaza

The Plaza - New York, NY

In the Eloise Suite, named for The Plaza's famous resident in Kay Thompson's Eloise books, your capricious kiddo will love the outrageous and fun decor by Betsey Johnson, full of an Eloise-approved palette of pink and black, and stocked with Eloise books, dolls, and Eloise's name in big neon lights. Outside of the suite, you can continue to the fun at an Eloise-themed tea, spa service, or children's activity. Just be sure to check the Eloise calendar so you don't miss any opportunity!

Fifth Avenue at Central Park South
New York, NY 10019
212-759-3000
Online: theplazany.com

photo: Treehotel

Treehotel - Harads, Sweden

For an out-of-this-world experience, head to the Treehotel in rural Sweden for an unforgettable stay in a suspended UFO in the woods. The UFO is built for five people and can accommodate two adults in a double bed and three children, with separate beds, and a bathroom and living area.

Edeforsväg 2 A
960 24 Harads, Sweden
+46 (0)928-103 00
Online: treehotel.se

Adobe Grad Villas - Sedona, AZ

If you have any wild west types, a trip to the colorful desert landscape around Sedona, Arizona must include a stay in the Wagon Wheel Suite at Adobe Grand Villas. With a king bed fashioned out of a covered wagon, a bathtub that's complete with a pump-handle water spout, and en suite swinging doors, your cowpokes will think they've struck gold.

35 Hozoni Dr.
Sedona, Az 86336
866-900-7616
Online: adobegrandvillas.com

 

photo: Loews Portofino Bay Hotel

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel - Orlando, FL

Little minions will get to play in Gru's laboratory and sleep like Margo, Edith and Agnes in their custom-designed missile beds. The kid's rooms are separate from the parents for privacy, which means a whole lot of free space for little ones to romp around and play with their fluffy unicorns.

5601 Universal Blvd.
Orlando, Fl 32819
407-503-1000
Online: universalorlando.com

photo: LEGOLAND Hotel

LEGOLAND Hotel - Carlsbad, CA

At this Hotel California, your LEGO lovers won't mind if you don't ever leave. Located inside LEGOLAND California Resort, this hotel with interactive LEGO features throughout—including guest rooms that are all LEGO themed—features accommodation with a separate kid's sleeping area (hello, bunk beds!), early access to LEGOLAND, nightly children's entertainment, and a buffet breakfast that's included in all reservations. The rooms are themed Kingdom, Pirate, Adventure or LEGO Friends, and that goal of blowing your master builder's minds? Consider it done.

5885 The Crossings Dr.
Carlsbad, Ca 92008
877-534-6526
Online: legoland.com/california

photo: Dog Bark Park

Dog Bark Park - Cottonwood, ID

Climb up the steps to this bed and breakfast and you'll soon be resting comfortably inside the world's biggest beagle. Named "Sweet Willy," there's room for four, a loft room, and an alcove hidden in the muzzle that offers you a dog's eye view of the surrounding countryside. The dog-inspired artwork found within this furry B&B is the handiwork of chainsaw artists (yes, chainsaw artists) Dennis and Frances.

2421 Business Loop 95
Cottonwood, Id 83522
208-962-3647
Online: dogbarkpark.com

photo: Frank Hopper courtesy of V8 Hotel

V8 Hotel - Stuttgart, Germany

So Route 66 might be a little closer to home, but if you find yourself near Stuttgart, a stay at the V8 (think engine, not tomato cocktail) Hotel is in order. The classic car-themed rooms will really rev their engines, and the nearby Mercedes-Benz museum will keep their motors running when they're not lounging in their coupe de'beds.

Graf-Zeppelin-Platz 1
71034 Böblingen
+49 7031 3069880
Online: v8hotel.de

photo: Winvian Farm

Winvian Farm - Litchfield Hills, CT

Take your kids to the idyllic Winvian Farm where each cabin features stunning interiors that'll make you never want to leave. There's a treehouse, a greenhouse, maritime cottages and more. For your campers, be sure to check out the aptly named Camping cottage, where beds come with tent canopies, ceilings are domed and painted to look like the sky, and windows are framed by tree limb shaped sashes.

155 Alain White Road
Morris, Ct 06763
860-567-9600
Online: winvian.com

photo: Disneyland Hotel

Mickey Mouse Penthouse at Disneyland Hotel - Anaheim, CA

Bursting at the seams with everything Mickey, Disney fanatics will find rare photos and sketches from the Disney library and all sorts of Mickey paraphernalia. Mouseketeers will certainly feel right at home at this swanky mouse pad. For families who want the ultimate Disney experience, this room is a guaranteed hit.

1150 West Magic Way
Anaheim, Ca 92802
714-778-6600
Online: disneyland.disney.go.com

photo: Kokopelli's Cave

Kokopelli's Cave - Farmington, NM

True explorers won't get enough of living in an actual bed and breakfast cave. Built on vertical cliffs, the cozy rooms have all the top amenities you expect: A master bedroom, a living area, a waterfall shower and more. Adventurous families won't stop snapping photos of the beautiful sunsets over the La Plata River either.

5800 Hogan Ave
Farmington, Nm 87402
505-860-3812
Online: kokoscave.com

photo: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort - Saariselka, Finland

If watching the Northern Lights pass over the glass roof of your own private igloo sounds like a dream come true, then book a stay at the Hotel Kakslauttanen. Their Igloo Village, complete with overhead insulated glass roofs, offer unparalleled views of the Northern Lights from late August to late April. During the day, you can look out over the wild and exotic snow-draped landscape.

Kakslauttanen, FI-99830
Saariselka, Finland
+358 16 667101
Online: kakslauttanen.fi

photo: Georgian House Hotel

The Georgian House Hotel - London, England

While Hogwarts might be a hard reservation to land, a stay at The Georgian House Hotel's Wizard Chambers might be an even better option. Perfect for your Harry Potter people, this family-run hotel also makes it easy on the parents, with baby monitors, baby baths, high chairs, LEGO sets, games, and a professional babysitting service onsite.

35 - 39 St George's Dr.
London SW1V 4DG
+44 (0)2 07 834 1438
Online: georgianhousehotel.co

photo: Bass Pro Shops

Big Cypress Lodge - Memphis, TN

There are so many things about Big Cypress Lodge to marvel at. First, the hotel is located inside the largest US replica of a pyramid (as in Egypt), on the banks of the mighty Mississippi. Second, the main floor of the pyramid is the largest Bass Pro Shop—specializing in all things, well, outdoors—in the world. Why is that unique? Because they've recreated outdoor habitats so shoppers get the sense of things. Finally, the Governor's Suite is an adjoining room set-up that overlooks the Cypress Swamp on the ground level of the pyramid. The room itself is decorated like a hunters lodge, but the view of the fish, gators, and stuffed grizzlies below makes this one a solid bet for your outdoor adventure types.

1 Bass Pro Dr.
Memphis, Tn 38105
800-225-6343
Online: big-cypress.com

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— Shelley Massey, Scott Wardell, & Christal Yuen

 

The Best Aquariums in the US

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Dive into some family fun with a visit to one of our favorite aquariums in the US. From coast to coast, there are lots of amazing institutions that offer up-close animal encounters and conservation education. A few of our favorites are the Georgia Aquarium, the Shedd Aquarium, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the National Aquarium in Baltimore, but you’ll have to keep reading to find out which other spots should be on your must-visit list.

Texas State Aquarium – Corpus Christi, Texas

This Texas hot spot is well worth a visit, focusing mainly on plants and animals that live in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. It’s home to more than 13,000 animals, from macaws to stingrays to bats.

Star Attraction: Check out the Caribbean Journey, where you can walk through an underwater tunnel and watch sharks swim overhead, see schools of fish in a coral reef and watch 4D movies in a state-of-the-art theater.

2710 N. Shoreline Blvd.
Corpus Christi, TX
Online: texasstateaquarium.org

Birch Aquarium at Scripps – La Jolla, California

Located in scenic La Jolla, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps is a must-visit the next time you’re in Southern California. It’s filled with hands-on and interactive experiences and encounters, like shark feedings and starfish petting. Step into the Infinity Cube, where you’ll see cool bioluminescent creatures that shine in the dark. Click here to see our insider’s guide to making the most of your visit.

Star Attraction: Be sure to catch the Kelp Forest Dive show, during which you’ll get to watch divers feed the animals and answer kids’ questions. Head to the show early to snag a good spot.

2300 Expedition Way
La Jolla, CA
Online: aquarium.ucsd.edu

Aquarium of the Pacific – Long Beach, California

Home to over 11,000 animals, there’s no shortage of things to do at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Ooh and ahh at the two-story tank right at the aquarium’s entrance, head over to the smaller touch pools to get hands-on with aquatic life and participate in parent-and-me classes that teach littles all about a certain animal.

Star Attraction: You can purchase access to Animal Encounters experiences ($109 per person), where you’ll get a behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium and some of its most in-demand inhabitants, including the penguins, sea lions and even sharks for a feeding.

100 Aquarium Way
Long Beach, CA
Online: aquariumofpacific.org

Oregon Coast Aquarium – Newport, Oregon

With seabirds, marine mammals, fish and other animals native to the Oregon coast, this gem overlooking Yaquina Bay is the perfect spot for an educational day trip. Interact with critters like sea stars, anemones and crabs in tide pools, ooh and ahh at moon jellies and check out a submerged shipwreck where lots of different species hang out.

Star Attraction: Take a stroll through the shark tunnel, which will make you feel like you’re walking beneath the sea as you get 360-degree views of the creatures.

2820 SE Ferry Slip Rd.
Newport, OR
Online: aquarium.org

North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores – Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina

Over a day at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, you can follow the journey of loggerhead sea turtles, watch divers swim with the fishes and sharks and say hello to friendly sea otters, and that’s just scratching the surface. Be sure to check out their special events too, from summer camps to scavenger hunts.

Star Attraction: If you need a break from the exhibits, head outside to the nature play area, where kiddos can explore two slides, a climbing net, a treehouse platform and a swinging bridge.

1 Roosevelt Blvd.
Pine Knoll Shores, NC
Online: ncaquariums.com/pine-knoll-shores

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium – Sarasota, Florida

Located in Sarasota, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is home to world-class marine scientists committed researching and educating the public on conservation and sustainable use of our oceans. Say hello to manatees, sea turtles, river otters and other critters, and learn how the scientists take care of them.

Star Attraction: Mote is home to the only Center for Shark Research recognized by the U.S. Congress, where, believe it or not, they’re doing cancer research. Check out their 135,000-gallon Shark Habitat and learn all about the ocean’s top predators.

1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy
Sarasota, FL
Online: mote.org

Alaska Sealife Center – Seward, Alaska

While primarily dedicated to marine research and education, the Alaska Sealife Center is also the only permanent marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation facility in the state. During your visit, you’ll have the chance to get up close and personal with puffins, octopus, harbor seals, sea lions and other marine life.

Star Attraction: Cozy up to the touch tanks to learn about sea anemones, shrimp, urchins and sea stars. Be sure to chat with staff members to find out more about each of the creatures you’re feeling.

301 Railway Ave.
Seward, AK
Online: alaskasealife.org

Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters – Marathon, Florida

It’s easy to fill up a day at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters—go on a guided tour with a marine biologist, watch sharks, grouper, and eels in the coral reef tank and touch various shallow water marine species in a tide pool.

Star Attraction: For an extra fee, you can participate in a cool animal encounter, where you’ll get to pet stingrays, snorkel with fish or feed and interact with sharks.

11710 Overseas Hwy
Marathon, FL
Online: floridakeysaquariumencounters.com

Newport Aquarium – Newport, Kentucky

Hop over to the Newport Aquarium for a day of nonstop fun. Kids will get to touch sea stars and other creatures in the Touch Pool, see frogs as they climb through tunnels and tubes in the Frog Bog jungle gym and even get up close and personal with stingrays.

Star Attraction: Don’t miss the new exhibit Ring of Fire: World of the Octopus, where you’ll get to see and learn about the giant Pacific octopus, moon jellyfish and Japanese spider crab.

1 Dave Cowens Dr.
Newport, KY
Online: newportaquarium.com

Waikiki Aquarium – Honolulu, Hawaii

This small but mighty aquarium is totally worth a visit the next time you’re on Oahu. Geared toward the unique aquatic life of Hawaii and the tropical Pacific, you’ll have the chance to see everything from jellyfish to giant clams.

Star Attraction: Check out the vibrant Coral Farm, home to lots of colorful fish. The water here is ideal for coral growth, so scientists grow colonies here that are then carefully transferred and shipped to other aquariums and researchers around the world.

2777 Kalakaua Ave.
Honolulu, HI
Online: waikikiaquarium.org

New England Aquarium – Boston, Massachusetts

The New England Aquarium is home to thousands of animals, from northern fur seals to giant Pacific octopus to African penguins. Learn how sharks have evolved over the years, check out the birds and crabs that live in the Gulf of Maine and get up close and personal with sharks and rays in a touch tank.

Star Attraction: The four-story Giant Ocean Tank is the centerpiece of the aquarium, and you’ll see lots of creatures inside, like Myrtle the green sea turtle, moray eels and hundreds of colorful reef fishes.

1 Central Wharf
Boston, MA
Online: neaq.org

photo: South Carolina Aquarium

South Carolina Aquarium – Charleston, South Carolina

At the South Carolina Aquarium, you’ll get to venture through the state’s different regions and see each one’s animal inhabitants: bald eagles and river otters in the mountain forest, alligators and rattlesnakes in the coastal plain and sea turtles and fish off the coast.

Star Attraction: Be sure to visit the Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery, which is both a hospital and a guest experience. You’ll get to watch as sick and injured turtles are nursed back to health and eventually released.

100 Aquarium Wharf
Charleston, SC
Online: scaquarium.org

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas – New Orleans, Louisiana

Located along the banks of the Mississippi River in the historic French Quarter, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is home to 10,000 animals of 400 species, including rare and endangered species. Walk through a 30-foot tunnel surrounded by lion fish, yellowtail snapper and moray eels, and see rescued southern sea otters in a specially designed exhibit.

Star Attraction: Check out the aquarium’s behind-the-scenes encounters, giving you a chance to pet penguins, snorkel with fish and more.

1 Canal St.
New Orleans, LA
Online: audubonnatureinstitute.org/aquarium

Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium – Bloomington, Minnesota

You might not expect to find an aquarium right in the Mall of America, but you’d be surprised! At Sea Life, you’ll see stingrays, sea turtles, sharks, jellyfish and lots more sea creatures—not a bad way to take a break from shopping.

Star Attraction: Pay a visit to the Ray Lagoon. For a fee, you can feed the rays yourself and watch as they gobble up their treats.

East Side, Level 1
120 E. Broadway
Bloomington, MN
Online: visitsealife.com/minnesota

Monterey Bay Aquarium – Monterey, California

Home to both delighted marine animals and a waterfront view, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a tranquil space for water lovers to stroll through 200 exhibits—from their stingray petting tank to their plexiglass splash cove—and learn about ocean conservation. This aquarium does amazing work for local water-loving creatures by helping out sea otters, bluefin tunas, albatrosses and more with their rescue and release program. Click here to see our insider's guide to making the most of your visit.

Star Attraction: Who can resist feeding times? Younger visitors will love watching penguins gobble down their meal and exploring the kelp forest as divers hand-feed sharks, fishes and other animals. Take a peek into the aquarium now by watching the live web cams here.

886 Cannery Row
Monterey, CA
Online: montereybayaquarium.org

Georgia Aquarium – Atlanta, Georgia

Frontrunner for "Largest Aquarium in the World," the Georgia Aquarium is a stunning facility that boasts a huge deep water tank, an award-winning dolphin exhibit and a 4-D theater for a truly unique underwater experience. And when it comes to ocean life, this aquarium is all about rescue, research, rehabilitation and responsibility. Their conservation program extends around the world to help marine mammals all the way in Mexico, Africa, the Amazon and more. Get all our insider tips and tricks by clicking here.

Star Attraction: Their absolutely mind-boggling 6.3 million gallon Ocean Voyager tank is home to four (yes, four) Whale Sharks. And since the Georgia Aquarium is the only place outside of Asia that has successfully been able to house Whale Sharks, it’s definitely a must-see exhibit.

225 Baker St. NW
Atlanta, GA
Online: georgiaaquarium.org

Tennessee Aquarium – Chattanooga, Tennessee

As Chattanooga’s top attraction, the Tennessee Aquarium is a gem. Their River Journey highlights freshwater species around the country,  and the more recent Ocean Journey exhibit includes a large variety of hands-on encounters with rays, macaws, and even has its own butterfly garden. There's even a 3D IMAX movies with features like “Flight of the Butterflies” or “Great White Shark” for some jaw-dropping entertainment.

Star Attraction: The River Journey exhibit, which earned the title of largest freshwater aquarium in the world, and showcases their collection of river otters, turtles, alligators, and giant catfish.

1 Broad St.
Chattanooga, TN
Online: tnaqua.org

Mystic Aquarium – Mystic, Connecticut

Mystic Aquarium is way more than a huge fish tank. It's also an oceanography institute that studies the Earth's waters beyond its living things. There's even a theatre where audience members can talk to crew members under the sea directly! And of course, there are plenty of marine animals, from Beluga whales to penguins, for little eyes to enjoy.

Star Attraction: As the Mystic Aquarium has an animal rescue program, it's best to visit one of their rescued friends! Ziggy Star is the Northern fur seal who was found starving and barely alive. After her rehabilitation period in California, she then became a permanent resident of the Mystic Aquarium.

55 Coogan Blvd.
Mystic, CT
Online: mysticaquarium.org

Shedd Aquarium – Chicago, Illinois

A popular destination for native Chicagoans and tourists alike, Shedd Aquarium homes over 1500 species of fish, marine mammals, birds, snakes, amphibians and insects. Pint-sized patrons can get their hands wet at the touch pool filled with starfish or, through their informative exhibits, become a know-it-all in aquatic ecosystems and the Great Lakes. Click here to see our guide to making the most of your day at the aquarium.

Star Attraction: Meet the belugas, the only all white whales in the world. Their tank has viewing options both above and below the water for different vantage points. And if you’re willing to part with $250/person to meet them, then Shedd Aquarium is the place to do it.

1200 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL
Online: sheddaquarium.org

National Aquarium – Baltimore, Maryland

With over 2,200,000 gallons of water, 17,000 specimens and over five floors of themed displays, the National Aquarium is one great way to experience the sea. Each exhibit teaches viewers about different aquatic animals, their survival tactics and environment. The National Aquarium also regularly rescues, rehabilitates and releases marine mammals, so the flipper friend you saw last time may not be there the next! Get all our insider's tips and tricks by clicking here.

Star Attraction: Calypso, a 500-pound sea green turtle, is a rescued friend from Long Island when her front left flipper had to be amputated to save her life. She now lives in the Blacktip Reef exhibit.

501 E. Pratt St.
Baltimore, MD
Online: aqua.org

Seattle Aquarium – Seattle, Washington

Be on the look out for this amazing aquarium in the upcoming years. It's currently expanding (with a goal of doubling in size!) to wow visitors and become Seattle's centerpiece to the waterfront. There are six major exhibits that cover not only underwater life, but also birds that depend on the shores, which includes an impressive 120,000 gallon viewing tank.

Star Attraction: The dive show at Seattle Aquarium is pretty interactive. The divers wear special masks that let them talk to the crowd and even answer their questions—all while underwater!

1483 Alaskan Way, Pier 59
Seattle, WA
Online: seattleaquarium.org

Is there an aquarium that didn’t make the list? Share your favorite fishy encounter in a comment below!

—Susie Foresman, Christal Yuen & Scott Wardell

Lookin’ Sharp: A Stylish Barbershop Birthday Party

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Complete with a nail painting station, fake mustache bar, and a vintage photo booth, designer and party planner mama Stacia pulled out all the stops to make her kids’ joint birthday party a super stylish event. Click through the sideshow to find out how she pulled off this part barbershop, part beauty shop party for her little dapper dan and glam gal.

A designer by trade, Stacia didn't have to look beyond her own backyard and garage in order to find the perfect party space for her daughter, Ava (turning 4), and her son, Ethan (turning 1), who were celebrating a joint birthday party. Using a red, white, and teal color scheme, Stacia recreated a beauty shop for Ava and her party guests, and an old school barbershop for her little man and his friends.

What vintage retro party would you throw for your kiddo’s next birthday?

— Scott Wardell

Special thanks to Stacia and her friend Megan Sanders for all the amazing photos

Check out other cool birthday party ideas by clicking HERE

Easy Pasta Primavera

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Nothing says “Yum” on the tongue like a hearty scoop of pasta packed with different textures and flavors. Filled with delicious spring veggies like broccoli, peas, carrots and more, this Pasta Primavera from PDXfoodlove is easy to recreate or remaster to any particular taste bud. Serve this dish either hot or cold–it’ll be a favorite either way.

pasta

Ingredients:
1/2 lb pasta
3-5 large garlic cloves, minced
half a large white onion or one shallot, diced
1 c frozen pea and carrot mix
2 c of diced broccoli (very small chop – measure the cup AFTER chopping)
1/2 c of heavy cream
1/2 to 1 c chicken or vegetable broth
4 tbsp butter
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp fresh thyme (can be substituted)

Method:
1. Start by getting the pasta cooking according to the package directions.

2. While it’s boiling, heat a pad of butter in your largest skillet and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the broccoli, garlic, peas and carrots and bring the mixture back up to temperature.

3. Add in the butter and the chicken stock to the skillet and bring to a simmer, then stir in the cream.

4. Season with salt and pepper. Keep the mixture at a simmer and reduce the liquid by about half, until it coats the back of a spoon. You can add more broth or cream if you think you need it.

5. Add in the Parmesan as you stir, and then finally add the pasta in the pan and toss to coat. Sprinkle with extra pepper and fresh herbs before serving.

Do your kids love pasta? Will you try making this dish?

Few people can say they boast a passion for food like Rebekah at PDXfoodlove. Whether it’s reading about food, thinking about food, reading about food, Rebekah can never satiate her hunger for all things food. A graphic designer and outdoor enthusiast by day, once in the kitchen, Rebekah dons her apron and whips up seasonal dishes that boast some serious homey comfort. Check out her food blog, PDXfoodlove, for more of her recipes (and her awesome photography!).

Recipe and photo courtesy of Rebekah at PDXfoodlove

Ginger Ale Braised Beef

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When it comes to braised beef, what’s the secret ingredient to melt-in-your-mouth tenderness? Ginger ale! Not only will this fizzy addition make the meat unbelievably tender, but the pickiest eaters will get a kick out of knowing there’s soda in their meal. Recipe creator, Liza of Salu Salo Recipes, decided to simmer the meat instead of grilling, which gives you an hour and more to play the kids or do a little cleaning. Now that’s perfect meal planning.

braised beef

Serves 4

Ingredients
2 lbs. boneless beef short ribs, cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 c ginger ale
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sea salt
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c vinegar

Method
1. Place all ingredients in a heavy pan and bring to a slow simmer. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the beef is very tender. Stir constantly and add more water as needed. If preferred, skim off excess oil before serving.

2. Serve with steamed rice.

Simple to cook, easy to find ingredients, and delicious dishes. These are the criteria that Liza uses when she’s in the kitchen. Food and family go hand in hand for this cook, so that’s why she started a food blog all about sharing in communal meals. Salu Salo Recipes is Liza’s way of cataloging and sharing the recipes of her own childhood, with influences from the Philippines and China. Find more of her culinary creations over at Salu Salo Recipes

Recipe and photo courtesy of Liza at Salu Salo Recipes

Roasted Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives

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One pan, (about) one hour, one meal –  this roasted chicken dish is #1 in our book for taste, texture and time with its juicy tomatoes, crispy chicken skin and minimal prep and clean up. Read on for the delicoius recipe.

Ingredients:
1 lemon
2 pints grape tomatoes
1 head garlic, cloves separated
1 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 3-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 loaf fresh bread (optional)

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 425° F. Using a vegetable peeler, remove strips of zest from the lemon. (Save the lemon.)

2. In a large roasting pan, toss the tomatoes, garlic, olives, thyme, and lemon zest with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

3. Nestle the chicken, skin-side up, among the vegetables and drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Season the chicken and vegetables with ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Roast until the chicken is cooked through, 35 to 40 minutes.

4. Remove the chicken from the hot roasting pan. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into the roasting pan and add the wine. Gently stir, scraping up any bits stuck to the pan. Serve the chicken and vegetables with the pan juices and bread (optional).

recipe courtesy of Kate Merker via real simple