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Archive for September, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Cooling off in Las Vegas

September 30th, 2010 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Las Vegas Adventures

Flamingo Splashdown, Las Vegas

This is the second summer that our family has been crazy enough to head to Las Vegas in August.  Visiting during this steamy season requires some creativity, but it still can be a fun family vacation.  The secret to is pick a hotel with a great pool and bring plenty of sunscreen.  A trip or two to a museum or a bowling alley are also fun.  Throw in plenty of yummy buffets, some time to hang out in the room and watching plenty of Nick Jr. and you have the recipe for a super affordable summer getaway.

Visiting with the Flamingos, Flamingo Hotel Las Vegas

Since we were spending a whole week, we broke up our stay into two sections.  First we stayed at Mandalay Bay.  We spent our days floating down the lazy river and body surfing in the wave pool. (Although only Justin, age 11 met the height requirement).  We attended the Tournament of Kings at the Excalibur on night.  The kids loved shouting “Huzzah! ” for their favorite knight and swigging soda from beer steins.  Destiny and Jared even had a chance to pet the horses.

Later in the week, we headed to the Hilton Grand Vacation Suites at the Flamingo.  I loved this resort.  The two room suite was just what we needed after life in a single room at Mandalay Bay. We could use the smaller, quieter Hilton Grand pool as well the fun but rowdy Flamingo Pool complete with very little kid friendly water slides.  We ate deli food outside around the Hilton Grand pool for most meals.  The last day, after checking out, we were able to take a final swim, and play ping pong  until it was time to head home.

Mommy and Jared Relaxing at the Flamingo Hilton Grand Vacation Resort

Can hardly wait for next summer!

Happy Trails,


Family Adventure Guidebooks participates in Spotlight Thursday on the Talking Trekaroo.  Stop by to read about fun family adventures.


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How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Favorite Museums in Juneau, Alaska and Washington D.C.

September 24th, 2010 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Alaska, Washington DC

Saturday September 25th is Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day.  Households throughout the nation can download a coupon good for two free entries to participating museums.  Museums are always a favorite stop during my travels.  I love learning about the history and culture of the region I’m visiting.  More and more museums are offering kid friendly exhibits to engage your little ones as well.  On this busy Friday, I have to get studying for a test, but I wanted to take a few minutes to share some museum favorites from my summer travels. 

Washington DC 

International Spy Museum Washington DC

International Spy Museum 

The International Spy Museum is so top secret, they won’t let you take photos inside the museum!  It was eleven year old boy heaven with James Bond cars and plenty of concealed weapons.  I loved the section on female spys.  We sprung for the Operation Spy Experience  and are so glad we did!  Justin enthusiastically took part in this covert operation simulation.  It’s for ages 12 and “up”, but they didn’t “card” our very tall eleven year old. 

In the International Spy Museum gift shop I discovered two fascinating books George Washington, Spymaster and Harriet Tubman, Spymaster that teach kids about US History in a thrilling way. 

National Postal Museum 


National Postal Museum, Washington DC

I stumbled upon the National Postal Museum while waiting to meet a friend at Union Station.  It does a great job sharing the history of the US postal service and has some fun and quirky exhibits.  I also like the small scale of this museum.  You can see the whole thing in about an hour, and it doesn’t overwhelm like many of the Smithsonian museums.

Postal Museum Mailboxes, Washington DC

Juneau Alaska 

After my Labor Day visit to Juneau Alaska, I’m determined to return and visit with the kids next summer.  This beautiful capitol city has plenty of kid friendly museums to escape the frequent rain showers.  Best of all admission for kids is free at most Juneau Museums!  Here are three museums that I enjoyed on my last visit: 

Alaska State Museum 

Mining Exhibit Alaska State Museum

 If you want a great overview of Alaska history and culture this is the place to go, from a charming collection of dolls crafted by native Alaskan artisans to Sarah Palin paraphenilia, the Alaska State Museumhas it all!  There is a children’s area as well as kid oriented activity  such as a scavenger hunt availiable for the rotating exhibit. 

Juneau Douglas City Museum 

Children's Area Juneau-Douglas City Museum


I almost passed up a visit to the Juneau Douglas City Museum, but I am so glad I stopped by.  It is a beautiful kid friendly hands on little museum.  Highlights include a rotating children’s exhibit and an interactive multi-media exhibit produced by local Juneau students.  Be sure to stop by if you have young ones in tow! 

Last Chance Mining Museum


Last Chance Mining Museum Juneau Alaska

 This hidden gem as a highlight of my trip to Juneau.  The Last Chance Mining Museum  is brimming with old mining equipment and guarded by a friendly fuzzy white dog.  I loved Ms. Renee the curators single rule, “Touch anything you want, just don’t drop it on your foot!” During the summer local kids act as docents.

 Still trying to decide which San Diego Museum I’ll be heading to tomorrow.  Have a great weekend.

Happy Trails,


PS For more  on my DC adventures, check out my Mount Vernon with Tween  post on Uptake.

PPS Family Adventure Guidebooks participates in Trekaroo’s Spotlight Thursdays.  Stop by to discover some amazing family travel blogs.




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Photo Friday: San Diego Zoo Galapagos Tortoise Exhibit Relaunch

September 17th, 2010 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in San Diego Zoo, Uncategorized


New Galapagos Turtle Enclosure San Diego Zoo

Yesterday I had the chance to catch the preview of Reptilemania Days at the San Diego Zoo.  The zoo is celebrating the opening of  a beautiful new enclosure for the Galapagos Tortoises with four days (September  16-19) of reptile oriented fun.  I spoke with a zookeeper and learned that this new environment is really benefiting the tortoises.  Their shells are much cleaner, and they are exhibiting mating behavior that hasn’t been seen among these animals in quite some time!  I’m hoping to cover the hatching of some baby tortoises in the future.  If that happy event does occur, the zoo has a special baby enclosure to keep those young ones from being stepped on and increase their chances for survival. 

Feeding the Tortoise, San Diego Zoo

The Galapagos tortoises are pretty much the oldest residents of the zoo.  One tortoise was 100 years old when he arrived at the Zoo in the 1930′s!  New tortoises have been added to the collection by breeding and donations from other zoos.  With this new exhibit,  Zoo visitors have an  opportunity to get up close and personal with these amazing animals.  When a docent is present, visitors can feed the turtles carrots and give them a good scratch under the chin.  They love that! 

San Diego Zookeeper and Tortoise

The Zoo’s amazing staff and volunteers are hard at work making  Reptilemania memorable for the Zoo’s visitors.  The Zookeeper for the Reptile Area was happy to share her wealth of knowledge regarding tortoises.  The Zoo landscaping staff had a booth set up to teach visitors about what tortoises eat.  Zoo Ambassador Rick Schwartz had just returned from the Galapagos.  Check out the  San Diego Zoo Blog for more information about his adventures. 

SD Zoo Staff Share What's On the Menu

San Diego Zoo Staff Share What's on the Menu

 I can hardly wait to bring my kids to Reptilemania this weekend! 

Family Adventure Guidebooks participates in Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday Blog Round Up.  This week Debbie muses about the power of a Waikiki beach to sooth her kids into slumber.  Might have to try out the Carlsbad version of that remedy! 

Happy Trails,



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Photo Friday: Couples Getaway to Juneau Alaska, Day 1

September 10th, 2010 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Alaska, Autumn Adventures

Mist Over the Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau Alaska

This week I was lucky enough to catch the last few days of summer in Juneau Alaska.  The cruise lines stop running September 15th, so it may be too late for you to head to Juneau this year.  Still, I would highly recommend putting this breathtaking vacation destination on your itinerary for 2011.  Ken and I had so much fun, we contemplated moving there. Not really an option however due to the house, the grandparents, the lack of jobs for Radiation Safety Officers…well you get the picture ;)

 If you are looking for an active outdoor family vacation that is completely different from anything you have ever experienced, Juneau is your ideal vacation destination.  Here are  some of my favorite pictures from our first day in Juneau.

Enjoying Breakfast at the Sandpiper Cafe, Juneau Alaska

 We started out our day with breakfast at the unexpectedly elegant  Sandpiper Cafe  in Juneau.  This cafe is connected to the Driftwood Lodge, an economy hotel with basic  comfortable accommodations located in the midst of downtown Juneau.  Ken and I felt like we were walking into another world when we entered this flawlessly decorated   Juneau oasis.  The menu was fresh and innovative with an Alaskan twist.  You could order venison, wild boar, and antelope burgers.  The specials of the day included a $150 dollar ostrich egg omelet.  Needless to say that wasn’t in my budget!    Still, I was very pleased with my delicious  Italian omelet, and I know that the kids would have adored the M&M pancakes.   The prices were mid level and generally reflected the price of a meal out in Juneau.  My Monday breakfast of waffles topped with fresh seasonal fruit and  a side order of sausage with  coffee ran about $20 with tip.

Captain Toni from Hi-Time Charters, Juneau Alaska

My husband Ken was determined to catch a big one, and we were glad we hired Captain Toni from Hi-Time Charters  to help us in our search.  Toni is one of the only female fishing boat charter captains in Juneau.  Her boat was clean and exceedingly well maintained.  Toni even loaned us  rain pants which came in handy during our blustery fishing adventure.  She entertained us with stories of her work as a boat captain , commercial fisherman, and cook for  the Alaska State Legislature.  We reeled in a variety of  fish including halibut and salmon, but unfortunately all of them were either too small or not good eating.  In September, the fish can be rather elusive  in Alaska, and we had a bum day.  Ken plans to buy some smoked salmon to bring home so we can enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor.  Toni  also does custom  whale watching and wild life photo charters, so be sure to keep her in mind if you are considering an Alaskan adventure.

My Little Salmon, Juneau Alaska

Despite our lack of luck in the fishing department, I wouldn’t trade that day on the water for any other adventure.  We shared our charter with  Becky, a student from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Our long fishing tour gave Becky and Toni plenty of time to talk about life in Alaska.  The scenery was breathtaking. Every moment you were out on the water begged to be captured on film.  Reeling in fish from the bottom of the bay was also a rush!

Eagle in Flight, Juneau Alaska

 I’m looking forward to sharing more of my Alaskan adventures  in the coming weeks.  I will be also contributing some posts to UPTAKE  with tips on how to make the most of your trip to Juneau and how to eat like a local.

I’m also playing catch up with my posts from summer vacation.  If you want a preview of our Washington D.C. adventures be sure to check out my UPTAKE post on  Exploring Mount Vernon with Tween.  For the inside scoop on the LEGOLAND  Water Park check out my review on Trekaroo.  Warm Carlsbad weekends mean this may be an ideal time for a visit to LEGOLAND

Family Adventure Guidebooks  is always happy to participate in Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday Blog Roundup .  This week Debbie has a beautiful picture of music on a Hawaiian beach.  Maybe that should be the Smith Family’s next travel destination?

Happy Trails,


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