October 12, 2017

Direct Flights From Omaha

This fall, Frontier Airlines announced it will be adding more direct flights from Omaha, with new destinations being Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Fort Myers (Florida). The flights won’t start until spring/early summer 2018.

An even more recent news came from American Airlines last week, who announced it would add a direct flight next year to Philadelphia. The airline already has nonstop service to Chicago; Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; Los Angeles; Miami; and Phoenix.

I love this news of more non-stop flights from Omaha. I try to avoid layovers when traveling with the kids. I’ll gladly pay more for a direct flight.

You don’t have to pay more, though. Allegiant Airlines is a budget airline with direct flights from Omaha to sunny destinations, too. I’ve tried that airline a couple times, with a mixed result. Here are my tips on what to expect when flying Allegiant Air.

Cocoa Beach is about an hour drive from Seminole County, Florida, where the Orlando Sanford International Airport is located. There is a direct flight to Sandord/Orlando via Allegiant Airlines.

But it can be done, and flying on one of these low-cost airlines makes for memorable trips! Read about my quick trips to Tampa Bay and Orlando flying with Allegiant. If you’re schedule is flexible, you just can’t beat the price.

Direct Flight Options From Omaha

Thinking back to those Florida trips makes me all wistful for winter vacation to a warmer city. Nothing is planned. Yet. But a travel blogger can dream. Here are a few of the warmer destinations with direct flights from Omaha that, I think, would be a great escape this winter:

Fort Myers, Fla.

Las Vegas

Miami

Orlando

Phoenix

Punta Gorda, Fla.

San Diego

San Francisco

Tampa

Here’s the complete list of direct flights from Omaha:

Atlanta

Charlotte

Chicago

Dallas

Denver

Detroit

Fort Myers, Fla.

Houston

Los Angeles

Las Vegas

Miami

Milwaukee

Minneapolis/St. Paul

New York City

Orlando

Phoenix

Portland, Ore.

Punta Gorda, Fla.

Salt Lake City

San Diego

San Francisco

Seattle

St. Louis

Tampa

Washington, D.C.

This list only involves flights out of Eppley Airfield in Omaha. The direct flight map was last updated Oct. 4, 2017. To see any updates later, be sure to check here.

 

Where would you fly directly to if given the chance this winter?

Stay in the know!

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

September 5, 2017

Visiting Grand Ole Opry With Kids

You can’t pass through Nashville and not visit Grand Ole Opry. It’s just not done.

My family was on our #ohmyepicroadtrip this summer and our path led us through this great Tennessee city and I had one stop, and only one stop, that I insisted we make.

Grand Ole Opry. 

The entrance to the Grand Ole Opry is one big photo opp. Bring your camera.

We did it. With tired kids who’d been in the car for several hours. We received complementary tickets so I could tell you all about the experience.

Here’s why you have to visit the Grand Ole Opry…even with kids:

  1. Everyone is in awe – The Grand Ole Opry is the radio show that made country music famous. If you’re a fan of country music, you kinda have to make a pilgrimage there. But if you’re not, you still get goose bumps there. It has that kind of power. Even performers get a little starstruck by the building. When Aaron Lewis was on stage, he admitted to being overwhelmed by the venue, in spite of having performed to far larger crowds.
  2. Variety of music – Country has a big umbrella and I wouldn’t lump most of the performers we saw on the night we attended into that broad category. My favorite performer, the lady I was most excited to see when I read the lineup, was the award-winning bluegrass star, Rhonda Vincent. The lineup thoughtfully balanced the variety, scattering hit-makers of today’s country radio among gospel, Western swing and what my father-in-law calls “Country Western,” the performers your parents grew up listening. Each play about three songs and most chatted a bit between songs. It is a live radio show, after all.

    My favorite performer of the evening was Rhonda Vincent, a Grammy-winning bluegrass singer.

  3. Snacks – When going anywhere with kids, this is important. Popcorn and a little heartier fare like pizza and hot dogs are available, as well as beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). The prices, like it is at any concert venue, are more than you’d expect.
  4. Celebrities – You never know who’s going to be in the audience or a special guest on the show. On our night, a well-known race car driver was there. The likes of Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Stevie Wonder, and John Fogerty are among the list of famous people appearing there.
  5. Tours – I’m disappointed that our road trip was off-schedule and meant that we had to miss the afternoon tour of the Opry. This place has a storied history, and you can choose three tours to learn more about it, as well as visit Ryman. FYI, if you want to be on stage when that famed red curtain rises, book the VIP Tour.

 

About bringing children to the Grand Ole Opry

The Grand Ole Opry is family-friendly.

I brought two young children to the show and you may be wondering if it’s good for kids.

Totally. It is a radio show, so there isn’t much of a chance of hearing anything inappropriate, if that’s a concern. And you can come as you are. Some people dressed up a bit, others wore jeans.

BUT.

It’s an evening show and if you have small children who get tired easily, you may have to weigh the pros and cons of bringing them. Grand Ole Opry shows start at 7 p.m. My youngest was 5 and she started to get antsy and cranky before intermission. 

Expect the show to last about two hours, including the intermission. On the night we were there, there were four performers in the first half, and four in the second half.

FYI: Any child younger than 4 does not need a ticket as long as they can sit on your lap.

 

If you go

Grand Ole Opry House

Where: 2804 Opryland Drive, Nashville, Tenn.

https://www.opry.com

 

Disclosure: I was provided complimentary tickets to the Grand Ole Opry so I could write about it. I was not paid to write this post. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Opry With Kids

 

Get travel inspiration delivered to your inbox!

Subscribe to the FREE bi-weekly e-newsletter featuring Omaha, Midwest & more family-friendly destinations! Subscribe here.

August 28, 2017

Visiting Missouri Botanical Garden With Kids

I knew Missouri Botanical Garden was considered one of the best in the country (USA Today’s Readers’ Choice Top 10 in 2016, Conde Nast’s Top 9 Beautiful Gardens in the US. I just didn’t understand what that meant until my family visited this summer.

Best means the most beautiful. Best means the grounds are impressively huge. And best means there’s a lot to see.

Unfortunately for us, we were on a tight schedule trying to take in the best of St. Louis in 24 hours. So we hit the kid-friendly garden highlights and left knowing there was more to see on a return visit. Our visit was hosted by Explore St. Louis.

 

Mi

Highlights of Missouri Botanical Garden With Kids

Children’s Garden

The Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden is a seasonal garden that’s an additional cost to visit, but if you’re at Missouri Botanical Garden with young children, you’re going to want to include this on your visit. Keep in mind, YOU don’t have to pay for a ticket as the adult (anyone over 13 is FREE in the children’s garden, as is anyone younger than 2). The price for children ages 3-12 is $5 if you’re not a member.

My daughter loved playing with the boats and waterways in the shaded pond in the children’s garden.

My daughter gravitated toward the water features, particularly the pond with little boats and, briefly, the sprayground. I recommend bringing a towel and having your child wear a swimsuit if you think yours will head for the same areas!

My son, on the other hand, was all go go go, and loved climbing, sliding, and exploring the tree house and limestone cave.

Looking down one of the rope bridges at the children’s garden inside the Missouri Botanical Garden.

 

Japanese Garden

My kids love koi ponds wherever we go (the one in Wichita was pretty memorable). They enjoyed feeding the koi at Missouri Botanical Gardens, as well as finding other waterlife in the 4-acre lake. They were delighted to spot several turtles.

The overall, sweeping views and the tiny details found in the Japanese Garden made it a favorite of mine.

This was one of my favorite areas of all. It was peaceful and so beautifully designed, with traditional Japanese bridges, waterfalls, lanterns and sculptures. It’s a large space to walk – 14 acres in all!

 

Climatron
The Climatron is a greenhouse designed to create a rainforest atmosphere for visitors, complete with a waterfall and tropical fish. When we visited, there was an additional fee to enter because of a glass sculpture show called “Garden of Glass.”

We weren’t expecting a waterfall inside the Climatron!

 

Tram Rides

If you’re traveling with littles, it’s going to be tough to see it all unless you have a stroller or get tram tickets. The tram rides are pretty insightful, so I recommend getting tickets for it. It is a hop-on hop-off kind of thing, but you aren’t guaranteed a seat if you try to hop on at a later stop.

The view of the Climatron as seen from the tram.

There is no need to take the tram to go to the children’s garden. It’s not a far walk from the entrance.

FYI: You can rent strollers at Missouri Botanical Gardens. Just a note, these are for truly little kids. My 5-year-old did not fit into it.

 

Other Notable Areas

We passed through some absolutely stunning gardens the morning we visited. Among them were the Carver Garden, the English Woodland Garden and the Boxwood Garden.

My kids never miss a chance to run through a maze.

If you’re familiar with Missouri Botanical Garden, you know then, that we missed a lot! However, given how young our children were and how hot a July morning can get, we picked the best gardens that our children would love.

Admiring the reflections seen in the water feature of the Carver Garden.

Plan on spending at a minimum three hours here and not seeing it all.


If you go

Missouri Botanical Garden

Where: 4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis, Mo.

When: Open year-round, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (with a few exceptions). Closed Christmas Day.
Cost: $12, adults (age 13 and over); FREE for children (age 12 and under) and members.

Website

Time your visit to coincide with one of their special events

 

* * * * *

Want a St. Louis adventure for your family?

 

 

Read more about our awesome visit to St. Louis this summer! Here are some more posts about St. Louis with young families in mind:

– Spoil Your Kids at Four Seasons St. Louis

– 5 Tips To Make The Most Of Your City Museum Visit

 

Get travel inspiration delivered to your inbox!

Subscribe to the FREE bi-weekly e-newsletter featuring Omaha, Midwest & more family-friendly destinations! Subscribe here.

August 21, 2017

5 tips to make the most of your City Museum visit

City Museum in St. Louis is a rare find. It’s an epic attraction for the entire family, and one I swear I’ll never grow tired of visiting. It’s fun, it’s crazy, it’s beautiful, and it looks a little dangerous. And I love it.

We visited this summer during a whirlwind 24-hour visit to St. Louis. We packed a lot in, and if I could do it all over again, I’d allow more time for City Museum. Our visit was hosted by Explore St. Louis. 

Want to plan your visit to the City Museum? I’ve got some advice for you:

Tips For Visiting City Museum in St. Louis

 

  1. Dress comfortably

The City Museum is not the place to dress fashionably. You’ll likely be crawling through some tight spaces, climbing up some metal ladders, and sliding down some pretty gnarly slides. Tennis shoes, pants, and a shirt that won’t have you flashing everybody is smart choice. And you’re going to get sweaty. You might not want to wear a shirt that’s going to tell the world just how big of a sweater you are.

Time to slide at City Museum in St. Louis.

People in the know bring knee pads (or you can buy them in the gift shop). If you think of it, bring those flashlights kids can wear on their head. There are some dark spaces there.

 

  1. Go up to the rooftop

If you visit when the rooftop is open, splurge and spend the extra few dollars to see it. It’s a marvel, with a ferris wheel, the school bus, slides and more.

It gets hot up there, so if you can manage it, go out there early in the morning rather than in the heat of the day.

Check it out – a ferris wheel on the roof!

And, don’t make the same mistake we did: Take the elevator. There’s a sign to use the stairs, that it might be faster…don’t do it. It’s a loooong way up. Unless you’re a regular stair racer, you’re going to be tired by the time you reach the roof.

There are a few moments at City Museum when you wonder if you should’ve brought a change of clothes for a child. This water feature was one of them.

 

  1. Pair up

If you visit with more than one child, aim to play man-to-man parenting defense. Our kids, ages 5 and 7, usually follow directions when I ask them to not leave an area without me or my husband. All rules go out the door when they set foot in the City Museum.

True story: One kid headed for the huge ball pit while the other was still playing a story above us. Visiting the City Museum with more than one child begs for a man-to-man parenting defense.

It’s like a wonderland and they hit the floor running. I follow one kid, Mr. Wonderful tracks the other. Or we attempt to. Good luck if you’re outnumbered by your kids.

Have you ever tried crawling through the tunnels there? Oy.

 

  1. Have a meeting place

Try as you might, there’s a chance your child is going to outrun you in the City Museum. The building is quite cavernous. We picked out a meeting spot on the first floor, should we lose part of our group. We went with the information desk as the meeting spot.

The City Museum in St. Louis.

Make sure your kid knows your phone number. If not, I highly recommend these kid safety tatsWe put them on the kids when we went to Disney World and they stayed on our entire vacation.

 

  1. Be a kid again

You don’t need to have kids to visit City Museum. If you are there with kids, don’t just watch. Get out there and have fun. Do the slides. Cram yourself into the tunnels. Sit on one of those spinning top thingys. Jump in the ball pit. Delight in the circus. It’s so much more fun.

Adults and kids had fun playing on these over-sized tops.

By the way, there’s a 10-story slide at City Museum. It sounds epic, but it’s my least favorite thing to do there. I just wasn’t able to slide well, so it was 10 stories of scooting.

The view from the bottom of the legendary 10-story slide at City Museum.

* * * * *

Want a St. Louis adventure for your family?

 

 

Read more about our awesome visit to St. Louis this summer! Here are some more posts about St. Louis with young families in mind:

Spoil Your Kids at Four Seasons St. Louis

Missouri Botanical Garden For Families

 

Love this travel post?

Get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox twice a month. Subscribe to the FREE e-newsletter sharing giveaways, new posts and updates to travel posts like this one! Subscribe here.

 

August 14, 2017

Spoiling Kids At Four Seasons St. Louis

I have a hotel recommendation to make your next St. Louis visit extra? Stay at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis. Your kids aren’t going to forget this hotel.

We stayed at Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis on the first leg of the #OhMyEpicRoadTrip adventure this summer. I’d spent a long time daydreaming about St. Louis—what I’d do if time and money were no matter. One thing on my list: A view of the Gateway Arch. I found that and more at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, which hosted my family’s stay.

 

Spoil the kids

From the moment you arrive, your kids get special treatment at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis. At check in, they wheel out a wagon full of toys for kids to select a present.

They had my two kids hooked at that moment.

Then, it’s up to the room. I’d requested a room with a view, and they delivered. I could spend all day looking out from this window.

St. Louis view

Night or day, this view from our room at Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis never got old.

If you can get them to step away from the view, there is a surprise waiting for your kids in the room. The hotel asks for your kids’ names ahead of time to personalize things. Our kids’ welcome treat were huge chocolate dipped marshmallows, jellybeans, and our favorite, a chocolate arch. Nice touch!

Not that my kids need help relaxing, but there are even kid-sized robes and slippers in the room (as well as full-size ones for us). Even more thoughtful, organic, kid-friendly toiletries and rubber ducks wait in the bathroom.

Organic, kid-friendly products (and rubber duckies) were waiting for my kids.

About the rooftop pool

I’ve never found a hotel pool with this kind of view in the middle of a city’s busy downtown area. The kids had fun splashing in the pool, wading pool, and hot tub, no doubt. We forgot goggles, but the pool attendants found extra for us.

Four Seasons St. Louis pool

Cabanas are available for rent at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis rooftop pool.

The pool area had cabanas for rent, as well as lounge chairs for guests. Attendants prep the chair for you, and bring you towels…and drinks. It’s an adults’ happy place. There were definitely more childless adults relaxing by the pool than families, though, so I felt compelled to keep reminding my kids that cannonballs were frowned upon.

Feeding the kids

Don’t skip the Four Seasons’ complimentary gelato or pizza-making experience offered to kids younger than 12. Held in the kitchen of the hotel’s restaurant, Cielo, kids get one-on-one time with an executive chef and ends with a tasty treat.

Chef Saul with my kiddos after they made gelato sundaes together in the kitchen of Cielo. This experience is free for hotel guests under the age of 12!

My kids made gelato sundaes with the executive pastry chef, Chef Saul, who showed them how the restaurant makes its own gelato, and had a prepped food area for them to choose the toppings for their sundaes. I might have nudged my daughter in the direction of adding some chocolate-covered strawberries to her sundae so I could sample. It lasted about 20 minutes and ended with a happy sugar high for all of us.

When you let a 5-year-old build her own sundae with a chef’s help, you get this creation.

Cielo faces the pool area, and if the weather is right, offers great al fresco dining for families. Kids younger than 5 eat for free, and there is a kids menu there.

We had breakfast outdoors, facing the Gateway Arch. If you want some recommendations, definitely order the chicken and waffles and fresh juice. I haven’t had fresh orange juice. I had french toast, which was as good as it looks, but I admit to stealing more off my husband’s chicken and waffles plate than is probably socially acceptable.

 

What’s near Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis

When you leave the hotel, you’ll find a lot of family-friendly attractions nearby. Here are the distances to a few of notable attractions:

  • Gateway Arch – Less than half a mile, you could walk this!
  • City Museum – 1 mile
  • Busch Stadium (home to the Cardinals) – 1 mile
  • Union Station – Slightly more than 1 mile
  • The Dome at America’s Center (home to the Rams) – 1.5 miles
  • Forest Park (St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Science Center) – Less than 6 miles
  • Missouri Botanical Garden – Less than 6 miles

And, not family-friendly at all, but it’s worth noting that the Four Seasons St. Louis is right next to (pretty much connected to) a casino.

 

If you go

Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis

Where: 999 N. Second St., St. Louis, Mo.

Cost: $$$$ (parking and valet parking is an additional fee)

Website

 

* * * * *

Plan your St. Louis family adventure! Start with some inspiration with this St. Louis Bucket List and a 24-hour St. Louis Itinerary for Families. Then read more into our favorite stops:

5 Tips To Make The Most of Your Time at City Museum

Missouri Botanical Garden For Families

 

Need more ideas? Check out my St. Louis With Kids board on Pinterest:

Liked this post?

Get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox twice a month. Subscribe to the FREE e-newsletter sharing giveaways, Omaha-based posts and travel-inspiring posts like this one! Subscribe here.

August 7, 2017

24-Hour Guide To St. Louis With Kids

St. Louis is a city that begs for more than 24 hours to explore it, but you can see a lot if that’s all you have.

My family visited this summer for a quick 24-hour adventure while on our epic road trip (check it out #ohmyepicroadtrip). It wasn’t our first visit – we’d been there in the winter and enjoyed some indoor activities and a cool day at the zoo.

This time, our mission was to see the outdoor things that aren’t ideal (or open) in the winter. To plan it, I started with a bucket list of fun things to do in St. Louis. Explore St. Louis and Four Seasons St. Louis hosted us on our visit.

Here’s the resulting 24-hours of fun in St. Louis:

Fun Stop 1: Missouri Botanical Garden

We arrived early in the morning to Missouri Botanical Garden. If visiting in the summer, you pretty much have to do this; by midmorning, it gets hot and humid in St. Louis.

One small area of the Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden. There is a koi pond nearby where, for a quarter, kids can get some fish food to feed the koi.

Highlights for our children included the 14-acre Japanese Garden and koi pond and children’s garden.  The Japanese Garden is one of the largest in North America, and it tired us out.

If you visit before Aug. 21, you can also see a cool glass sculpture exhibit called Garden of Glass inside the Climatron. It’s pretty in the day and kids definitely will like the water features. If you can time it, though, I suggest visiting in the evening to see it lit up. FYI: This exhibit is an additional charge to the gardens.

We spent a good two hours at Missouri Botanical Gardens and didn’t get to see it all. It’s large! Read what we thought the kid-friendly highlights were here.

 

Lunch: Blueberry Hill

The landmark restaurant, Blueberry Hill, opened in the Delmar Loop neighborhood in St. Louis in 1972. The restaurant helped launch the revitalization of the neighborhood.

We headed to The Loop to dine at an iconic restaurant called Blueberry Hill on Delmar Avenue. It’s not the closest thing to the gardens, but I wanted to see this cool neighborhood and I love Chuck Berry.

FYI: Chuck Berry fans can look for his star on the sidewalk in front and find a statue of him across the street.

The restaurant is full of memorabilia and will help pass the time while you wait for your burgers to be cooked. They’re known for their hamburgers, so order one to find out why.

If you have time, you can ride one of the trolleys that pass by Blueberry Hill.

 

Fun Stop 2: Sundae experience at Four Seasons St. Louis

The kids got to make their own huge gelato sundae creations in the kitchen of Cielo. It’s a complimentary experience for hotel guests aged 12 and under!

We spent our afternoon at our hotel, the Four Seasons St. Louis. First, the kids got to go into the kitchen of the hotel restaurant, Cielo, and make gelato sundaes with the executive pastry chef. The hotel offers two types of food experiences for the kids: pizza making or gelato, and well, we’re all sugar fiends, so it was an easy choice for us. They are FREE for children under the age of 12, and I recommend trying to schedule it before you arrive.

Once the kids had enough of their sundaes, we hit the rooftop pool to wind down.

The hot tub and pool, in the background, on the rooftop of Four Seasons St. Louis.

 

Dinner: Pappy’s Smokehouse

For top notch Memphis-style barbecue in St. Louis, we headed to Pappy’s Smokehouse. Word was that food can run out at Pappy’s so, we got there early. It was a short wait for our meal, and well worth it.

Once Pappy’s Smokehouse runs out of an item on the menu, they’ll cross it off the chalkboard. We arrived early enough to have a full selection.

Our evening ended right after dinner because the inevitable happened: One kiddo started feeling sick. We had factored in enough time for an evening trip to the Gateway Arch, and it would’ve timed out perfect. Tours of the Arch can be booked ahead of time, and I’m told early evening is a great time to do it. If you’re planning a 24-hour whirlwind tour like ours, aim for 8 or 8:30 p.m. to go to the Arch.

 

Breakfast: Cielo at Four Seasons St. Louis

Nothing beats a meal with a view, so the next morning, our breakfast was at the rooftop restaurant, Cielo, at the Four Seasons. This place has a nice view of the Gateway Arch. I recommend the fresh squeezed orange juice and chicken and waffles.

 

Fun Stop 3: City Museum

Everything at the City Museum is magnificent to see but always on the verge of danger (in this case, wet danger)…which is why everyone in my family loves it. This is a water feature on the rooftop.

We’re no strangers to City Museum – it’s quite possibly my favorite museum in the entire world. However, this was our first time visiting when the rooftop was open. For an additional charge, you can play up top in the summer season (which includes a school bus hanging over the edge of the building, a ferris wheel, and a number of crawly spaces).

It’s hard to describe the City Museum, so just trust me when I say you need to visit with or without children. It’s an architectural marvel/playground/tunnel labyrinth. It’s beautiful and overwhelming, and taking just three hours to explore (like we did) is not enough. Plus, there’s a circus there.

But, wouldn’t you know it, the other child started feeling sick and since we were due at our next stop in a few hours, we had to cut our visit short.

 

Want a St. Louis adventure for your family?

Read more about our trip! Here are some more posts about St. Louis with young families in mind:

Spoil Your Kids at Four Seasons St. Louis

– 5 Tips To Make The Most of Your Time at City Museum

Missouri Botanical Garden For Families

 

Love this travel post?

Get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox twice a month. Subscribe to the FREE e-newsletter sharing giveaways, new posts and updates to travel posts like this one! Subscribe here.