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Old Montreal is something special. The rich history of this heritage district comes alive as you amble down its cobblestone streets, happen upon its squares, wander into its neo-Gothic churches and take a stroll along the St. Lawrence River at the Old Port. Housed within the historic walls are exquisite restaurants, fancy chocolate shops and bakeries, and boutiques. In the middle of all this is Le Saint-Sulpice Hotel, one of Old Montreal’s first boutique hotels and the perfect home base for families looking to explore the area. With a prime location, chic elegance, spacious suites for families and a staff that knows the historic district inside and out, this is the place to stay in Montreal.

Le Saint-Sulpice is located adjacent to one of Montreal’s most iconic landmarks, the Notre-Dame Basilica Family-Friendly Review and Highlights of Le Saint-Sulpice Hotel Montreal Unbeatable Location in Old Montreal

There are a dozen ways to rave about Le Saint-Sulpice, but my favorite aspect of the hotel is its location. The only way to experience Old Montreal is on foot, and staying here lets you do just that. Upon arrival, valet your car. Walk the cobblestone streets to soak in the history and character of this French-Canadian town. Le Saint-Sulpice is mere steps from the famous Notre-Dame Basilica, a major religious and architectural icon of Montreal. It is near the Centaur Theater, the city’s first stock exchange, and the Aldred Building, Montreal’s first skyscraper. It is smack dab in the middle of some of the city’s best restaurants, bistros and pastry shops. It is a stone’s throw away from the Old Port, which is home to the Montreal Science Center, La Grande Roue de Montreal (the tallest ferris wheel in Canada) and Voiles en Voiles — a family aerial adventure course set upon 18th-century pirate ships.

What’s more, the hotel itself is a special part of the old city’s history. Le Saint-Sulpice was once the home of successful 17th-century fur merchants. The home’s stone walls have been preserved and restored, and can be seen throughout the hotel hallways and lobby. They add a great deal of character and charm to this centrally located boutique retreat.

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Suites offer families plenty of space to spread out Accommodations

Le Saint-Sulpice offers 108 full-size suites that allow families to spread out and relax. The suites are not simply hotel rooms; they are luxurious living spaces. Our family of six fit comfortably into a Deluxe Double Queen Suite, which was outfitted with two queen beds (one in a separate bedroom) and a sofa bed. The hotel gladly brought in a pack ‘n play for our infant as well. All suites have a kitchenette equipped with a stove, microwave, sink, fridge and utensils, and spacious bathrooms with plush bathrobes and beauty products from L’Occitane en Provence. Our room boasted an electric fireplace, a welcome respite from the cool, crisp Montreal spring air. Other suites are available with balconies.

Stylistically, the rooms take on a chic European look that mixes classic with modern. The luxury suites feature shades of red, beige and white, and have large marble bathrooms.

Skipping all the way to breakfast at the hotel’s Sinclair Restaurant Dining

Le Saint-Sulpice is home to the Sinclair Restaurant and Bar, an upscale bistro that offers fine dining in a casual atmosphere. The Sinclair’s emphasis is on quality food made with locally inspired ingredients.

Our family enjoyed the continental breakfast each morning, which was a generous array of sliced fruit, decadent yogurt with granola, grilled bread or a basket of danishes, and Quebec cheese. Simple yet sophisticated, it kept us full and happy until lunch. The Sinclair also offers an a la carte breakfast menu if you desire a wider selection.

On the lunch and dinner menu you’ll find items such as a grilled cheese and duck confit burger, a raw bar and poutine, of course. If these offerings sound too foreign for your little ones, have no fear. The Sinclair’s approach for children is to ask them what they like to eat, and then customize a menu suited to them. How’s that for service?

The restaurant hosts a beautiful terrace, which is perfect for alfresco dining when the weather allows.

Continental breakfast temptations Amenities

Rather than compromise and offer a minimal array of in-hotel spa services and gym facilities, the Le Saint-Sulpice partners with high-end spa and gym services situated steps away. These privileged partnerships give hotel guests access to a full-size gym and special rates at the upscale Spa Scandinave du Vieux-Montreal. Guests can also arrange for an in-room massage.

What kid doesn’t want to ride a Ferris wheel? This one, the tallest in Canada, offers great views of Montreal Local Area

For a lesson in history, visit Notre-Dame Basilica, the Place d’Armes and the Bonsecours Market. With kids, you’ll want to visit the Old Port and amble down the boardwalk along the St. Lawrence River. Our favorite family-friendly restaurant, as recommended by Le Saint-Sulpice, was Modavie; a Mediterranean and French bistro with live jazz music in the evenings, friendly service and a great menu. The Boutique Chocosina, a chocolate and candy shop, is adjacent to the hotel and is certain to delight kids. Just around the corner from the hotel is Maison Christian Faure, a pastry shop run by a well-known French chef, where the macaroons are simply out of this world. We also enjoyed Delices Arable & Cie, a bistro that offers every Canadian maple product imaginable. The tasting table, from which we sampled different types of maple syrup, maple butter, maple mustard and more, was a huge hit with the kids. 

Experiencing the wonder that is maple syrup on snow … a memorable experience

If you travel to Montreal in March or April, you must visit a traditional Canadian sugar shack, a special and memorable experience for the whole family. We spent the afternoon at Sucrerie de la Montagne (reservations highly recommended) learning about how sap water is tapped, collected, boiled and made into syrup; sampling maple taffy (maple syrup on snow); and dining at an all-you-can-eat country Canadian-style cabin with live music, where bottles of maple syrup were available for sampling on all types of food. And yes, some people were even adding maple syrup to their pea soup!

The concierge and staff at Le Saint-Sulpice are highly knowledgeable about the area, and will steer you in the right direction during your visit when it comes to family-friendly activities, restaurants and sugar shacks around Montreal.

Relevant Links:

Exploring Montreal with kids

10 secret places to visit on a Quebec vacation with kids

Walk on the wild side in the Quebec backcountry

Escape to Europe without the jet lag in Quebec City

5 epic places to visit in Canada with kids

Editor’s Note: Loren was hosted by Le Saint-Sulpice in order to review the property. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Loren Braunohler.

The post Le Saint-Sulpice Hotel: A Tranquil and Historic Home Base in Montreal for Families appeared first on Ciao Bambino!.

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An hour’s drive from Las Vegas, the otherworldly Valley of Fire State Park comprises 40,000 acres of Aztec sandstone rock formations rising from and contrasting against gray and tan limestone beds. The park is also notable for its innumerable petroglyphs, some dating back more than 2,000 years and serving as evidence that humans have long lived in the region.

While the petroglyphs were, admittedly, a hard sell with our two children, the rocks were not. Both our 4-year-old and 8-year-old were eager to scale and climb their way to the tops of the dramatic formations, solving the jigsaw puzzle that Mother Nature had posed before them. We explored both the 3/4-mile Mouse’s Tank trail and the White Domes area, and found them to be easy for little legs and also fun for grownups. 

The highlight of our visit, though, was spotting a group of bighorn sheep just as we were entering the park. Is there any greater thrill for children (and even some adults) than seeing animals in the wild? We watched the sheep graze and nonchalantly hop up and down the rocks. Along with the sheep, roadrunners, coyotes, kit fox, jackrabbits and the rare desert tortoise all call this desert terrain home.

For younger children especially, the park’s dramatic landscape is a great introduction to outdoorsy exploration, a perfect stepping stone to an eventual Grand Canyon visit.

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Browse all accommodations and things to do in Nevada with kids on Ciao Bambino

Kid-friendly things to do in Las Vegas

Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas highlights with kids

Hello Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe for families

Editor’s Note: Photo by Tanvi Chheda.

The post Postcard from Nevada: Valley of Fire State Park appeared first on Ciao Bambino!.

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Parents of teenagers know that as our kids grow up, it gets harder to spend quality time together. Social media, friends, sports, academics and summer jobs often take priority over family time. So how do you get your teen excited about family vacations and use those opportunities to create lasting memories? Plan a trip you know they will love.

Morocco is an increasingly popular destination for families looking for a culturally immersive experience. While children of all ages enjoy this North African country, it is slightly better for older kids. Teens tend to be able to handle long car rides more easily and have (hopefully) gotten past the picky eater phase. Most of all, they’re equipped to appreciate cultural differences and will even find these experiences worth sharing with friends back at home. Morocco has just enough “wow” moments and bucket list-worthy activities to engage even the most reluctant of teenagers.

Camel trekking at sunset is a surefire way to bring a smile Best Things to Do in Morocco with Teens Sunset Camel Trek

Most Moroccan itineraries will include a visit to the Erg Chebbi desert in eastern Morocco. These Sahara-like sand dunes offer plenty of opportunities to play and many desert camps to stay overnight — a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

You will arrive before sunset and have a choice of transferring to your camp by 4-wheel-drive vehicle or camels. The camel trek is definitely the way to go. As the sun begins to dip, the shadows lengthen and you can experience the glory of a desert sunset from the vantage point of a camel’s back. This is Instagram gold!

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Sliding down the dunes — unforgettable teen fun! Sandboarding on the Dunes

After a night of music, drumming and stargazing in the desert, plan to get up early to catch the sunrise and spend time playing on the dunes before you break camp. For thrill seekers, giving sandboarding a try is an absolute must! Be sure to assign someone to take photos and videos, because this is a moment your teen will definitely want to share with their friends back home.

Hands-on activities like a cooking class are a good bet for keeping kids engaged Moroccan Cooking Class

Activities don’t have to be exotic or adventurous to be fun for teens. For those who enjoy cooking (or just watching it on TV), a Moroccan culinary class is a great way to learn the cuisine and immerse yourselves in the culture.

In Marrakech, you can take a private family cooking class that includes a shopping trip to a souk for ingredients. Each family member gets a shopping list and money to make purchases — quite an adventure! After buying what you’ll need with help from your guide, you’ll gather in a home with local ladies to help prep and supervise the cooking. Meal preparation even includes a trip to the local bakery. As soon as they enjoy the fruits of your labors, teens will realize that nothing tastes as good in Morocco as what they’ve made themselves.

Say cheese Instagram-Ready Photo Tour

Now that most teens walk around with a camera in their hand at all times (aka their phone), they have become a bit more snap-happy. And that isn’t just for Snapchat either.

If your teen loves artsy photography or just likes taking selfies in cool places, sign up for a photo tour of the Fes medina. There are endless sites to photograph, from beautiful architecture to donkeys walking through the souk. The photographer can make suggestions on finding cool angles or subject matter. Plus, you’re guaranteed to find spots worthy of an Instagram post.

TIP: When taking photos in Morocco, avoid capturing people’s faces, which is not culturally acceptable.

Motorcycles are a popular local mode of transport, so hop in a sidecar and explore with a guide. Photo by Nicolas Aix Marrakech by Motorcycle Sidecar

If you are looking for unique ways to explore Marrakech while learning about its history and culture in the process, try out a motorbike sidecar tour with your teen. Now that isn’t something you see in every city! With one passenger in the sidecar and the other on the back of the bike, you can explore the main attractions around town, visit the more remote neighborhoods or even get into the palm grove outside the city.

Families Should Know

Unlike European vacations, which tend to be about history, architecture and art, or an African safari, which is all about the animals, a trip to Morocco is about experiencing a different culture. This blend of North Africa and the Middle East offers immersion into a Muslim country with a touch of French influence.

There is a direct 7-hour flight from New York City to Casablanca, making it as easy to get to Morocco as it is to get to Europe from the East Coast. Yet Morocco feels so much farther away and offers such a unique experience.

Relevant Links:

Tangier, Morocco: An easy day trip to Africa from Spain

Tips for planning a trip to Morocco with kids

Family-friendly sustainable tourism in Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains

La Sultana Marrakech: Sleep inside a luxurious UNESCO world heritage site

Tips for visiting Marrakech with kids

Editor’s Note: Photos by Tamara Gruber except where noted.

The post 5 Outrageous Things to Do in Morocco with Teens appeared first on Ciao Bambino!.

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Subdued yet elegant, The Stafford London is like many quiet people and places: full of surprises and hidden delights. Located in the historic St. James’s area, this is an excellent hotel for families who want to enjoy classic British charm with American flair as well as the feeling of a luxurious country estate in the heart of the city. Best of all, there are secrets to discover around every corner of its storied walls, as the building dates to the 17th century and has operated as a hotel since 1912.

The Stafford is housed in three combined buildings with centuries of history Family-Friendly Review and Highlights of The Stafford London

One of the first surprises is the convenient yet hidden access to The Stafford. You can make a dash from St. James’s Street via a pretty arched entry, and you can cross the street and take an inconspicuous narrow passage to enter Green Park quickly and get to the tube. The park offers lots of space for little ones to roam free and explore.

Another surprise: the beautiful, cobbled mews courtyard just behind the main building, where the staff hosts American-style barbecues and cocktails during the warmer months. The courtyard is a great place for kids to stretch, though they need to be supervised as small delivery trucks sometimes enter the property at this point.

Deluxe King room Accommodations

Rooms at The Stafford embody classic English elegance done with a light and graceful touch. The hotel’s unique configuration, with three distinct sections, gives families a lot of options when it comes to choosing the best setting for their individual needs. The Main House exudes grand Victorian elegance, while the Carriage House (once onsite stables for nobility) has been newly refurbished with modern English opulence and a countryside air. The Mews, with its contemporary yet classic décor in a secluded building, offers luxurious all-suite living with the peace and quiet that families will appreciate.

The Game Bird restaurant, elegant enough for parents and accommodating for kids Dining

The Game Bird Restaurant offers up excellent British cuisine. Its free-range chicken Kiev, which comes with a leather bib to protect the diner’s clothes from the juices, is incredibly popular with kids, teens and adults alike. The Game Bird’s classic English breakfast is perfectly executed, and the staff does an excellent job accommodating food allergies or intolerances. The restaurant team is always at the ready with a newspaper and more tea or coffee.

When it comes time to unwind, enjoy a legendary cocktail in The American Bar just like the Queen Mum did for many, many years. Yes, the Stafford was her “local,” and she was known to enjoy  a little tipple. You can order a QM and feel, or at least drink, like royalty. In keeping with the theme of small surprises, The Stafford’s specialty cocktails are all named after hidden gems and secrets of the St. James’s area.

TIP: Be sure to arrange for a tour of the wine cellar, which has been in use since the 17th century and functioned as an air raid shelter during WWII.

Amenities and Activities

The Stafford takes guests’ comfort very seriously — it’s one of the areas where the staff shine. The legendary Frank Laino heads up a concierge team that is second to none in the City. There’s also a selection of board games for families to enjoy, and young guests will receive an adorable Stafford teddy bear on arrival. Little slippers and bathrobes are provided in the rooms; tubs include a sweet yellow rubber ducky to make bathtime fun. The staff can also arrange milkshakes, cookies and freshly cut fruit.

The concierge team really shines with their children’s activities: They’ve prepared an exhaustive document of family-friendly pursuits based on type, age, interest and more. And, of course, they are happy to assist with coordinating any of these wonderful experiences.

Relevant Links

Editor’s Note: Jen was hosted by The Stafford London in order to review the property for families. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by The Stafford London.

The post The Stafford London: Classic British Elegance with an American Twist appeared first on Ciao Bambino!.

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The Amalfi Coast in Italy has long been known as the vacation spot for the jet set — not the tot set. But its seaside towns carved into limestone cliffs, buildings dripping with vibrant purple bougainvillea, and gorgeous vistas of the Tyrrhenian Sea make the Amalfi Coast an ideal location for a luxury family vacation. Situated on the southwestern coast of Italy, the Amalfi Coast is three and a half hours south of Rome and an hour south of Naples by car.

Since so much of a family trip to the Amalfi Coast is about relaxation, it is nice to add in a little history and learning with a stop in the ancient cities of Pompeii and/or Herculaneum on the way to or from the coast. Last summer we were fortunate to spend a week on the Amalfi Coast with our ten-year-old daughter, with stops in Pompeii, Positano, and Capri.

Overlooking Positano harbor Tips for Visiting the Amalfi Coast with Kids Getting There

When flying into Rome or Naples, there are a few options for getting to the Amalfi Coast. From Naples, you can take a hydrofoil ferry to either Sorrento or the island of Capri and then connect via ferry to other towns along the coast including Positano and Amalfi. There is also bus service between Rome or Naples and many of the towns along the coast. Of course, renting a car is also an option, but be warned that the highway along the coast is extremely narrow and serpentines its way along sheer cliff dropoffs and hairpin turns, with busses and trucks barreling in the other direction – not for the faint of heart! Since we were coming off of five days in Rome, we hired a car and driver to take us first to Pompeii and then on to Positano.

Where to Stay

There are many small towns to explore along the coast, but since getting to many of them is easy via ferry, it is best to pick a home base and explore from there. If you want plenty of options for hotels, restaurants and shops, the more popular towns of Sorrento or Positano will be a good fit. You can always do a day trip to the island of Capri, but if you have the time, I’d highly recommend staying overnight. Capri is a very different place when the daytrippers have gone!

The CB! Hotel Collection Includes Parent-Vetted Kid-Friendly Accommodations on the Amalfi Coast

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Pompeii Pompeii

A visit to Pompeii is best done early in the day, before the sun reaches its peak, as there is very little shade to be found. While it is possible to find a licensed guide at the gate, the better choice is to make arrangements in advance for a guided tour, otherwise you never know what you are going to get (trust me!). When traveling with kids, you’ll probably want a tour that avoids the brothels and mention of the “signposts” that so graphically point the way there. If you decide to explore on your own, it helps to download the Pompeii augmented reality app from Kreisa before you go.

Plan on spending at least a couple of hours exploring the amphitheater, public baths, forum, and various well-preserved houses and shops. It is amazing to see how large Pompeii is, especially when you climb to a higher vista and get a sense of the amount of the city that’s still covered. Because facilities within the site are limited, it is best to use the restrooms and stock up on water before entering. The sun can be brutal if you are visiting in the summer, so don’t forget sunscreen, sun hats, and comfortable shoes for walking over cobblestones.

Looking up at Positano from the Grand Spiagga Positano

Only the most jaded teenager wouldn’t be awed when arriving in Positano. An architectural feat, the entire town is built into the cliff with one road winding its way from the top to the bottom. Unless you are staying at a hotel very close to the beach, be prepared for lots of climbing – not the best choice for strollers or legs that tire easily – but the views and homey feel of staying just above the town center are worth the work! Our family rented a two-bedroom apartment, Casa Cicogna, with amazing views from both bedrooms and a full terrace overlooking the beach and town below.

While it is simple enough to take day trips to explore Sorrento, Amalfi or Ravello, it is also easy to relax the days away at the beach. There is a small public beach if you want to bring your own chairs and towels. But if you don’t want to carry them up the stairs, you can also rent chairs and towels daily for about $15 per person at the beach club. Each day we asked the attendant to reserve our spots by the water’s edge and we enjoyed our days lounging in the sun and bobbing in the gentle waves. Just be aware that the beach isn’t just rocky – it is entirely rocks and pebbles – so water shoes are a necessity!

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Because Positano is situated right on the water, it is no surprise that the seafood is superb. However, Positano is also known for its lemon dishes, like the famous delizia limone (lemon cream-covered sponge cake), and one of my favorites, grilled mozzarella between lemon leaves at La Pergola at Buca di Bacco Bar. The teeny-tiny clams in the spaghetti vongole at Ristorante Le Tre Sorelle were the sweetest and tastiest we’ve ever eaten. Even though we filled up on pasta, gelato and pastry, we at least started our days off with healthy fruit smoothies and green juice at Casa e Bottega on our walk down to the beach.

The famous Faraglioni Rocks from the Tragara Viewpoint Capri

Capri has been a summer retreat for the ruling classes since the times of Emperor Augustus and Tiberius, who built the famous Villa Jovis there in the first century A.D. Today the streets of Capritown are lined with upscale boutiques, designer brands and famous hotels. Some posh hotels don’t welcome children, but others, like Casa Morgano (where we stayed), sister hotel to the famous La Quisisana, are more tolerant.

Looking down at the water through the Natural Arch

The town fills up from 10a to 4p with cruise ship passengers and daytrippers from the coast, so it is best to get an early start when exploring the island and spend the middle of the day by the pool. If your family is up for a walk, the Pizzolungo Trail is one of the prettiest hikes you will ever take. Head out of Capritown from the Piazzetta along Via Longano to Via Matermania, following signs for the Natural Arch.

This magnificent rock formation towers hundreds of feet above the coastline, affording the most spectacular natural views. After gawking at the arch, follow the steep staircase 500 steps down to the Grotti di Matermania. In ancient times, this cave was used to honor the gods of the wood, but today you’ll feel as if you’ve stumbled into the set of an Indiana Jones movie and are about to discover a hidden treasure. Luckily, very few people make this trek, so you can enjoy your views in relative peace.

From here, continue through the woods and along the coast to the Tragara Viewpoint, offering stunning views of the famous Faraglioni Rocks. As you make your way back to town on Via Tragara, follow your ears to the singing lemon granita maker for a refreshing drink. Or head back to town and follow your nose to the Buonocore gelateria, where the aroma of freshly made waffle cones will make your mouth water.

Outside the Emerald Grotto

Of course, Capri is best viewed from the water. If you can, take a boat tour around the island, with stops at the famous Blue Grotto as well as the Emerald and White Grottos. Or, do what we do: splurge on a private boat charter and spend the day swimming and exploring all around the island.

In Capri, the food is as good as the shopping, and a couple of experiences not to be missed are dining in the lemon grove at Da Paolino and the garden at Villa Verde. The enchanting lemon grove alone is worth the taxi ride down to Da Paolino, but the food won’t disappoint. From the immense antipasto display to the amazing lemon pasta and fresh fish with lemon, to an entire room’s worth of a dessert buffet – you will not go home hungry.

At Villa Verde, the waiters are as fun as the food is good, making it a favorite of celebrities like Mariah Carey and Magic Johnson (who we saw twice during our stay). They have the best fried zucchini flowers I’ve tasted, but I also suggest you order the pasta fagioli and watch what happens when they bring it to the table.

Outside Casa Morgano with memories to last a lifetime

A family vacation to the Amalfi Coast is bound to be a trip to remember and makes a perfect counterpart to a week spent sightseeing in Rome, Tuscany, or Venice.

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Relevant Links

Editor’s Note: Photos by Tamara Gruber.

The post Planning a Family Vacation on Italy’s Amalfi Coast appeared first on Ciao Bambino!.

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Ski season is in full swing and as the flakes fall, families everywhere are wondering where to go for the perfect family ski vacation.  Before we look ahead to our beach vacations during the summer months, it’s not too late to pack up and enjoy the winter wonderland that is Keystone, Colorado.  Owned by Vail Resorts, Keystone Village is one of the most family friendly ski venues on the planet, with so many amazing activities for the most killed skiers and non-skiers alike.  After a recent trip with my non-skiing Kindergartener, I was amazing how much there was to do without every strapping on our skis.

The Colorado Rockies are a breathtaking sight and Keystone is nestled in perfect terrain for world class skiing and very easy access from Denver.  Besides the overwhelming aesthetics of Keystone, the true beauty is the true wealth of activity options that are perfect for the old as well as the young.  Tubing, snowshoeing, ice skating, sleigh riding and world class night skiing are just the tip of the iceberg.

Breathtaking views from 12,000 feet

Keystone excels at pretty much everything, but none more than its family friendly program aptly entitled Kidtopia.  Not only are there many of these amazing programs happening every single day, but most of them don’t cost you a thing!  Programs you can enjoy throughout the season include cookie making, live music, wildlife education, snowshoeing, face painting, art classes and much more, offering a wide array of fun on and off the slopes.

While Keystone mostly features rental properties for accommodations, one of the newest hotels in Keystone is the rebranded Hyatt Place Keystone, perfect for families who want to relax after a full day on the slopes.  With over 100 modern and comfortable rooms and suites, the Hyatt Place Keystone is perfect for families.  It also has outdoor hot tubs that look directly back to the mountain and 24/7 dining.

TIP: Ever wanted to try night skiing?  Keystone is one of just a few places to shred after the sun goes down.  Our recommended family adventure is taking the gondola up to the Summit House, where you can sip on hot chocolate and enjoy a perfect Colorado sunset.  Once the sun is down, hit the slopes for this unique Keystone moment.

The post Postcard from Keystone: Mountain Fun for Everyone appeared first on Ciao Bambino!.

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I had dreamt about taking a trip to Portugal long before I actually got to visit. When I spoke with people about my plans, the response I often got was that Portugal with a toddler seemed like it would be difficult with the hills and the cliffs. Not only was it not difficult, but it was one of the best and easiest trips I have ever taken, which is saying a lot given that I was traveling alone with a 2-year-old!

Chasing shadows on the walking trail at Guincho Beach

We based our vacation out of Cascais, on the coast roughly 20 miles west of Lisbon, which was the perfect spot to explore with young kids and would be a great base for families with older kids as well. The draws of this beautiful town are its rich and interesting past, pedestrian-friendly center, sandy beaches and ideal location.

Highlights of Cascais, Portugal with Kids Centuries of History

Cascais, originally one of Portugal’s largest port towns, is the place that started the beach tourism boom when King Luis I chose it as his summer home. Our wonderful tour guide, Andre, regaled us with stories of kings and queens on summer holiday in the area.

If 20th-century history is more your style, you will love learning about the WWII events that took place here. Since Portugal was neutral, the Cascais/Estoril area was often a meeting point for spies to trade secrets. James Bond wrote Casino Royale in Cascais, and many of the stories he tells were inspired by personal experiences in the area.

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Views of the Santa Marta Lighthouse Museum in the museum quarter Small-Town Feel in a Stunning Setting

Cascais and its surroundings combine for an outstanding family holiday. You can explore the Museum Quarter with one ticket. Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães was our personal favorite; the architecture and details of the building are beautiful. The biggest draw of this museum with young kids? The gardens. You could spend a full day enjoying the green space — kids will love running around playing with the peacocks and chickens that reside there.

The town itself is charming and friendly, large enough to fill days of exploration and small enough to enjoy on foot. Its pedestrian square is tiled to look like the waves of the ocean and the streets are lined with shops and restaurants that will make any wayfarer happy. The flat streets are incredibly walkable, even with a stroller!

Kids have room to run in the pedestrian center of Cascais

Seafood lovers will rejoice in the local cuisine, but those a little weary of eating fish every day have plenty of alternatives. A famous hot-dog stand (Roulote Hot Dogs Cascais) sits on the coastline, appealing to young travelers and foodie parents alike. There are great dining options with incredible views and outdoor seating for relaxed meals. Just make sure you leave room for dessert: Grab a buttery, flaky pastéis de nata (custard tart) from NATA Lisboa or gelato from Santini’s (the very same spot you may have found an exiled king enjoying a frozen treat during WWII).

Enjoying the unique scenery of the Guincho Beach area Easily Accessible Beaches

Cascais has multiple stretches of beautiful, sandy shoreline — some with outstanding waves for surf lessons, others with calm water perfect for new swimmers. Most are simple for families with young children to access (read: you don’t have to go down 100 steps while balancing your gear to get to them).

Guincho Beach is just north of the city, and easy to pair with a stop at Cabo Raso (the most western point in all of Europe). With views of the Sintra mountains, its position makes it one of the windier locations in Cascais. This is fantastic for those who are interested in surfing, and it’s a great beach for families as it doesn’t get quite as crowded in the summer as those nearer the town. It does require a drive or bike ride to reach, and has about 20 steps down to the sand, so it is more appropriate for families with older kids. The nearby footpath makes this a great spot for hikers as well.

Conceição and Duquesa Beaches are easily accessible from the town of Cascais. With great views of the architecture, restaurants nearby and tepid waters, these are just right for travelers with toddlers.

A beautiful day on nature’s playground

Father south in Estoril lies Praia do Tamariz. Grab a spot here if you want to beach with a view of the casino that inspired Casino Royale.

TIP: If you are visiting in the summer months, arrive early to nab the best spot on your beach of choice.

A baby carrier is ideal for Lisbon’s hilly, cobbled streets Convenient Location and Transport

One appealing reason to visit Cascais, especially with younger kids, is its location. It’s just 40 minutes outside of Lisbon by train or car, so you don’t have to travel hours from the airport to enjoy some beach time during your Portugal holiday.

Its proximity to Lisbon means you can easily visit this iconic city, but without having to base there. It is wonderful to have a retreat to return to with plenty of space for littles to run around after time in the capital.

The magical town of Sintra is also nearby. Here you can visit beautiful palaces, soak in the history of the hilltop fortress or play in the parks that must have inspired a fairy tale or two. Sintra is best explored with a driver and guide — the walk up is steep and winding, and not suited for young kids. Having a driver handy to whisk you from spot to spot makes for an efficient day of exploring this beautiful area.

Playing peek-a-boo at Pena Palace, Sintra

Accessing Cascais has never been easier thanks to TAP Air Portugal’s stopover program. If your long-haul flight has a layover in Lisbon, you can extend the stopover by up to 5 days at no additional fee. TAP Air Portugal has flights originating from all over the world. Even better, they have made the booking process for this stopover user-friendly … it all can be done online.

Full in-room kitchen at the Sheraton Cascais. Photo by Sheraton Cascais Resort Where to Stay

There are a few different areas of Cascais that make a great base for exploring with families. We stayed at Sheraton Cascais Resort, which was perfect for enjoying the area with a toddler.

Sheraton Cascais is just outside the main town in a more residential area that is quiet during the day (good for naps!), and has lots of space within the property. We spent the mornings after breakfast running around the grounds and playing on the playground before heading into town.

A huge draw of the resort is the room setup; they have configurations with full kitchens and multiple bedrooms, meaning you have the benefits of staying in a hotel (breakfast, concierge, room service) with the convenience of your own apartment.

The property has a climatized pool, but if it is a bit too breezy out to enjoy it (not likely with the mild local weather), there’s an indoor pool in the spa with family hours. My daughter loved playing with the jets and I loved how adorable she looked in the swim cap.

Enjoying the kids’ club at Sheraton Cascais

The resort also has a fantastic playground area. It is fully staffed during the summer months, which means parents can enjoy a date night while their kids have fun exploring.

Service was warm and welcoming. We had a later flight and arranged room service prior to our arrival so we didn’t have to worry about waiting for food while getting settled with a tired and hungry toddler. This was a huge treat and proved that the property understands the needs of traveling families.

Martinhal Cascais is similarly located. For families who prefer staying closer to the town center, Pousada Cascais is an interesting property in the Art District. Kids will love that they are staying in an old fortress; parents will love the modern but comfortable rooms. If you want to be closer to the sand, Hotel Albatroz fits the bill. Walking distance from both the beach and the town, the sea view rooms here truly make you feel like you’re on vacation.

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Editor’s Note: Katie received a media package from Visit Cascais in order to review the area and accommodations for families. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Katie Brown except where noted.

The post Cascais, Portugal: A Beach Haven That’s Perfect for Young Kids appeared first on Ciao Bambino!.

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Family-friendly and laid-back, Los Angeles boasts beachy weather, cultural gems aplenty and great eats. Admittedly, though, the sprawling metropolis of four million can be tough to wrap your head around (read: cranky voices from the backseat asking, Are we there yet?). Plan smart and explore one section of the city at a time so adults and kids alike can enjoy the outdoorsy, cultural and culinary riches and spend less time on the freeways.

Compared to other U.S. cities like New York, San Francisco or Chicago, L.A. has few must-do sights, which helps to take some pressure off. Families can pick and choose activities based on interests and ages to create a diverse 72-hour itinerary that could easily be stretched to a week or even two if you add in some of the nearby theme parks.

Leo Carrillo State Beach. Photo by Marc Cooper Best Things to Do in Los Angeles with Kids Day 1: Beach Day

Regardless of age, most visitors to La La Land look forward to some restorative beach time — that combination of sunshine, sand in your toes and water never grows old! And with 75 miles of coastline stretching from Malibu down to Long Beach, there’s a fair share of beaches to choose from.

Malibu’s Zuma Beach and Leo Carrillo State Beach feel especially dramatic with rock formations, but Santa Monica and Venice beaches remain the most popular. With its carnival-like atmosphere and small amusement park, the Santa Monica Pier is a favorite of families. The historic carousel along the pier, which allows riders to catch glimpses of the boardwalk and shoreline, is especially fun. Older kids may like renting bikes and cruising along the beach paths as well.

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Santa Monica Pier. Photo by Ilirjan Rrumbullaku

While L.A. is generally a car city, the Santa Monica and Venice communities feature some of its more stroll-worthy streets. Amble along Santa Monica’s Main Street and stop at local favorite Urth Caffe for coffee, sandwiches, salads and more. Voted the coolest block in America by GQ, Abbot Kinney in Venice is a mix of high-end design boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants, as well as Blue Star Donuts and Salt & Straw (two Portland imports wholly embraced by Angelenos nonetheless).

Griffith Park Observatory. Photo by Jim Crocker Day 2: Cultural Highlights

There’s so much more to L.A. than the beach: The city is home to a whopping 108 cultural institutions, gardens and a zoo. With older ones and teens, consider joining the superb hour-long architecture tour at the Getty Center to learn more about Richard Meier’s travertine-wrapped marvel. Meanwhile, Noah’s Ark at the Skirball, an interactive and brilliant menagerie of animals made from recycled materials, is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. (Be sure to purchase timed tickets for Noah’s Ark in advance.)

Skip touristy and overrated Hollywood Boulevard and head to the Griffith Observatory, from which you can get a great view of the iconic Hollywood sign and peer up at celestial bodies through the Hubbell telescope. Families with younger children may just want to make a day of picnicking and playing in Griffith Park.

Balloon Dog (Blue) by Jeff Koons at the Broad Museum. Photo by Amaury Laporte

Long derelict but now on the rise, downtown L.A. is also home to many cultural attractions. Kids will giggle at the sight of Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog (Blue) at the Broad Museum, an ambitious contemporary art museum opened in 2015. Or grab tickets to the Toyota Symphonies For Youth, held on weekend mornings throughout the year, at the futuristic-looking Disney Concert Hall. Similarly, the LA Opera runs great family programming too, including Saturday Mornings at the Opera, a wonderful introduction with abbreviated, kid-friendly productions for 3- to 9-year-olds.

Dodger Stadium. Photo by David Swinney Day 3: Baseball, Gardens and More

Take those little ones out to a ballgame at Dodger Stadium, where kids 14 and under can also run the bases after Sunday home games. Beware that day games during the summer can be quite hot, so buy seats in the shade in sections under overhangs.

Alternatively, make a day of stopping to smell the flowers at the gorgeous Huntington Botanical Gardens, spread across 120 acres near Pasadena. Start at the children’s garden, where there are topiary animals, plenty of pebbles and water play, and an adorable child-size trellis house with vines crawling up the exterior. If the kids still have steam afterward, hit the Japanese garden and watch the koi fish.

Huntington Botanical Gardens. Photo by Simeon Moss

Two of our favorite L.A. eats are close-ish (this is L.A., after all!) to Dodger Stadium and the Huntington. If your day allows for lunch or dinner at family-run Pine & Crane, it’s well worth it. There’s usually a line out the door at this casual Silverlake joint for potstickers, scallion pancakes, dan dan noodles and mapo tofu. Follow with soft-serve at cult favorite Magpie.

Where to Stay in L.A.

Dozens of hotels across L.A. offer suite configurations (some even have kitchenettes), but Santa Monica’s walkability and family-friendly vibe makes it a great home base to explore the city. The Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows and Casa del Mar are two favorites.

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The post 72 Hours in Los Angeles with Kids appeared first on Ciao Bambino!.

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When you arrive on the Indonesian island of Sumba from the hustle and bustle of Bali, you realize you have stepped back in time to an untouched nature-lovers’ paradise with a sense of remoteness that is hard to find nowadays. Sumba has one traffic light, several stunning waterfalls, blue lagoons, empty beaches and lush valleys. The biggest surprise is its intact caste society and ancient animist religion, which uses megalithic burial sites for funerals with expensive animal sacrifices. The tall, conical thatched roofs you encounter while visiting the local villages are meant to provide a space for ancestral spirits to reside.

The luxurious Nihi Sumba beach resort is a wonderful home from which to explore the island. Bring a sense of adventure and a willingness to engage with the locals in meaningful ways (and good insect repellent). Even after you’re back home, you will still feel the pull from both the resort and Sumba in your heart.

Nihi Sumba Family-Friendly Review and Highlights of Nihi Sumba A Vacation with Purpose

I am often asked why I love traveling with my child to remote places with a distinct culture. My answers is that I aim to raise an adaptable, compassionate child who is not afraid of differences, a.k.a. a global citizen. Interacting with local communities and local children in a meaningful way is great, but the question is often how to achieve this while you travel.

Interacting with local children is a key part of the family volunteer experience through Nihi Sumba

Sumba provides a unique opportunity to do so due to the fact that the Nihi Sumba resort partners with the Sumba Foundation, whose mission is to empower the people of Sumba while preserving and respecting their cultural traditions. The projects of the foundation are wide-ranging and encompass nutrition, education, health, clean water and economic development programs.  The foundation’s impact is vast. For example, they have built and staffed four health clinics, reduced malaria by 93% in core areas, and built 65 water wells and 260 water stations. Additionally, they support 22 primary schools and provide supplies to students, and 2,600 children receive a nutritious school lunch three days a week.

Guests at Nihi Sumba contribute to this success with donations as well as their time. Guests can volunteer at the health clinics, distribute school lunches or help with other school-related volunteer opportunities.

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Rush hour in Sumba: water buffalo on the beach Location

Nihi Sumba, formerly known as Nihiwatu Resort, sits at the pristine, 1.6-mile-long Nihiwatu beach with a world-famous surfing break. The resort is surrounded by 567 acres of tropical forest, rice paddies and grassland, of which only 65 acres are (and can ever be) developed. You really can’t get any closer to unspoiled nature.

Marangga Villas have their own pools, outdoor bales and dining/lounge areas Accommodations

Nihi Sumba has only 30 unique rustic-luxe villas spread out on a hillside, all with sea breezes and breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean. Each villa has the characteristic Sumbanese conical thatched roof, minibar, Nihi Sumba natural toiletries, canopy beds, a private garden, an outside dining area and its own private pool.

There are one- and two-bedroom villas and three- to five-bedroom estates, each with individual charm. You may decide to stay in one of the Marangga villas right at the beach, with your own outdoor bale (a pavilion that contains a king-size daybed), or you can choose a treehouse villa with an upstairs bedroom build in the style of a Sumbanese house. There’s an option for every family.

The open-air Ombak Restaurant Dining

Nihi Sumba’s gastronomical heart is the Ombak (meaning wave-front) Restaurant with sweeping ocean views and a relaxed sand-between-your-toes atmosphere. Ombak serves breakfast and dinner; special dining experiences during the week include an elaborate Indonesian buffet night and a spectacular BBQ. A plus for families: The kids’ menu is varied and also serves breakfast for dinner! The Ombak Bar provides a meeting point after dinner for guests and staff alike to share their adventures from the day.

Kaboku (Sumbanese for fish) is the beachfront sushi bar, limited to six people per seating for a seven-course menu of freshly caught seafood prepared omakase-style.

Lunch is either served at Nio Beach House or at the pool, and everybody meets at the Boat House to watch the epic sunsets over a drink. Additionally, private bespoke dining experiences in remote and exotic spots can be arranged and room service is available from 6a to 10p as well.

Chris & Charly’s Chocolate Factory onsite Amenities

Nihu Sumba has everything you could wish for to make everyone in the family happy, starting at the beach with watersports facilities, a beach cinema and an over-the-edge pool. Other pursuits include a spa, horse stables, a yoga pavilion, a gym room, pool and table tennis and last but not least, a chocolate factory.

Little ones can get a taste of riding via the kids’ pony club Experiences

I was truly impressed by the variety of experiences offered, especially the thought that went into creating the kids’ activities. You can easily spend the whole day at the pool or on your outdoor bale; however, there is so much to explore and see that it’s hard to choose. Nihi Sumba classifies its plethora of experiences as water, wellness, trekking, equestrian, cultural and kids’ experiences, and you will find many different options in each of these categories.

One of the experiences that stands out is stand-up paddle boarding on the river and getting splashed by the local kids that jump into the water when they see you. Another is horseback riding at sunrise or sunset, galloping along an empty beach. My personal favorite was the Nihioka Spa Safari, a 90-minute hike through a local village and past splendid lookouts to the spa pavilions. Upon arrival, you can indulge in breakfast and your treatments of choice.

Three kids’ experiences are included per day, and the items to choose from are fishing, a pony club, children’s yoga, visiting a local village (with a soccer ball in hand), weaving and basket making, Sumba bracelet making, releasing turtles, chocolate making, a scavenger hunt, rock painting, cookie making and cupcake decorating, and coconut beach games … just to name a few!

Getting There

Our adventure started at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar (DPS) with a 60-minute flight to Sumba Island’s Tambolaka Airport (TMC). Luckily, our trip included VIP service with an airport concierge who accompanied us to our gate before the flight. Upon arrival at Sumba’s airport we enjoyed a meet and greet at the gate followed by a transfer to the resort with an open-top Land Rover that provided an Africa-meets-Asia experience.  The 90-minute drive to the resort went by quickly as we relished fresh coconut milk in the car along with just-baked brownies. We really enjoyed the drive through the Sumba villages, waving back to smiling children.

Alternatively, you can also fly to Sumba from Java, connecting through Kupang.

Relevant Links

Editor’s Note: Nicole received a media package to review Nihi Sumba for families. As always, all opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Nihi Sumba and Nicole Schick.

The post Pure, Pristine Luxury on a Remote Indonesian Island at Nihi Sumba appeared first on Ciao Bambino!.

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Big Sky Resort in Montana is a great place to take your family for winter fun. Whether you are non-skiers or simply want to take a break from downhill skiing, there are many other wonderful things to do in the Big Sky area. These activities allow your family to experience the great outdoors in a variety of ways while being surrounded by the beauty of the mountains. On a recent trip with our family of five (boys ages 11, 16 and 18), we tried out some of the non-ski winter activities in Big Sky — perfect for families to enjoy together while creating unique and memorable experiences.

Dogsledding in Big Sky is fun for families of all ages Best Family-Friendly Winter Activities in Big Sky, Montana Dogsledding

An unforgettable highlight while visiting Big Sky was a morning of dogsledding with Spirit of the North Dogsledding, who provided an educational, hands-on, fun experience. Prior to the sledding, we met the trained dogs, all Alaskan huskies. The leaders explained the process of preparing the sleds for the run and how to connect the dogs to the harness and sled. They also instructed us on how to drive the sleds. If interested, and if you’re old enough with the proper weight, you may volunteer to be a driver of your sled! Our oldest son was instructed on this and had a fantastic time driving.

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Dogsledding with a beautiful view of the mountains

After all the preparation, it was time to go. The dogs up until this point were restless and whining, wanting to take off; as soon as we did, they were absolutely silent. They were in their “zone,” happy and content to run along the trail. My younger son and I enjoyed the brisk ride while I took pictures and videos to capture the experience. We stopped midway through the journey to enjoy a hot cocoa and cookie while the dogs took a brief rest. This experience was a perfect way to try a new activity while enjoying the incredible beauty of Big Sky country.

Meeting the Alaskan huskies who pulled our sleds Snowshoeing

After a full morning of downhill skiing, two of my kids and I headed over to Lone Mountain Ranch for an afternoon of snowshoeing. Lone Mountain Ranch is a quick 10-minute drive from Big Sky Resort and is the perfect year-round get away for families to enjoy time together in an Old West heritage ranch setting. It was a mild and quiet day with fresh powder that had recently fallen, ideal to enjoy a nature walk in the woods.

The onsite nature expert and National Geographic-certified guide, Randy Hall, helped us with our snowshoes and poles and led us on a 1.5-hour hike on the picturesque property, which has more than  18 miles of snowshoe trails to explore. Randy pointed out sights of interest in the woods and explained how nature is at work around us. The snow was deep, but with our snowshoes we were able to access all parts of the trail. We enjoyed the quiet beauty of the winter woods and learned so much about nature, wildlife and Native American folklore.

After a fabulous day of snowshoeing, we returned to Lone Mountain Ranch for a delicious meal at the cozy Western-style lodge onsite, Horn and Cantle.

Nordic skiing at Lone Mountain Ranch. Photo by Visit Montana/Elements Mixed Media Nordic Skiing

Another winter activity at Lone Mountain Ranch is Nordic skiing — in fact, it is one of best places to ski in the U.S. Rent gear from the outfitter onsite and enjoy more than 50 miles of groomed, nationally ranked cross-country ski trails. Lone Mountain Ranch also offer guides and lessons for you and your family.

The scenic trails wind through spectacular pine forests, covered in deep snow. The beauty is breathtaking!

Snowmobiling near wildlife in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by NPS/Jacob W. Frank Yellowstone National Park

Big Sky Resort is only 40 miles from the iconic Yellowstone National Park. In addition to its many amazing geothermal features, Yellowstone teems with wildlife, especially in the winter, when the animals are driven into the valleys and are more visible to park tourists.

A snowmobile tour is a great way to visit the park in the winter. There are several suppliers that can arrange this fun and active experience for your family. If you prefer seeing the beautiful park in a more relaxing way, opt for a Snow Coach tour. This sled-type vehicle is fully enclosed and climate-controlled, and offers visitors a way to view and photograph the natural beauty. With the Snow Coach, visitors have access to more trails than the park-regulated snowmobile tours and many trips are offered throughout the day.

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Editor’s Note: Melissa received a media package to review activities in the Big Sky area for families. As always, all opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Melissa Rosdahl except where noted.

The post Best Off-the-Slopes Winter Activities in Big Sky, Montana appeared first on Ciao Bambino!.

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