Hotel heaven is perfect setting for family friendly fun in Gran Canaria

EVERY day during our trip, breakfast ended with my daughter Isabella, eight, shouting: "Let's go swimming!" It was the first time the two of us had been away as a pair so she was really excited — and in love with the life aquatic. It turns out Gran Canaria really is the perfect destination for family holidays.It has beautiful sandy beaches with safe waters and lots of child-friendly activities. We spent four nights in Bahia Feliz at the Orquidea Hotel, a Family Life By Tui resort on the south coast of the island, right on the beach. The all-inclusive package holiday took all the stress out of the trip and the hotel was only 20 minutes from the airport. We spent most of our time at the pools. In fact, I couldn't get Isabella away from them. There were six in total, including a large splash pool for young children with slides and a canopy to protect them from the sun. Isabella enjoyed splashing around with the massive inflatable dolphin she bought on-site. Although we went at peak season during the school summer holidays, the hotel never felt crowded. There were always plenty of sunbeds near the water's edge, so I could relax while keeping an eye on Isabella. The Orquidea is a very family-friendly hotel. Our room was big with a terrace that overlooked the sea and it had recently been refurbished. The hotel's grounds were surrounded by palm trees, offering plenty of shade. Scattered all around are children's play parks for every age as well as hang-out zones for teenagers. The great thing about Bahia Feliz is that you are near so many other beaches, including Maspalomas, just a ten-minute taxi ride away. This huge, wide, sandy beach is a paradise for sea lovers. There are sand dunes (1,000 acres' worth) to explore and shallow waters that (of course) Isabella loved splashing in. More travelNOT STRICTLY RELIGIOUS Strictly star Debbie McGee sets off on 500-mile Spanish pilgrimage All systems Montego Jamaica is still the perfect spot for both adventure and Continue Reading

End of year family-friendly fun in and around North Jersey

The kids are off from school for the next week. The days will likely be spent assembling toys, making returns and trying to figure out what to do with all those holiday leftovers.If you're having post-holiday fatigue and finding you're one of those parents who "can hardly wait for school to start again," here are 10 family-friendly things to do and places to go while it's still looking "a lot like Christmas." Ride the Polar ExpressChristmas may be over, but the Polar Express is still running through Whippany Station through Dec. 31.Powered by the Morristown & Erie Railway, passengers aboard the Polar Express embark on a magical one-hour trip to the North Pole, inspired by the Chris Van Allsburg book and movie of the same name. Each ticket includes hot chocolate, cookie and a keepsake sleigh bell to bring home. First Class passengers also take home a collectible ceramic mug.Families are encouraged to wear their pajamas for the ride as characters on each car lead passengers in caroling, onboard entertainment and a read-along of the picture book "The Polar Express."Ticket prices vary and range from $45 to $75 for adults and $40 to $70 for children ages 2 to 11. Passengers are required to arrive approximately 45 minutes before their listed departure time to park and check in.Go: 1 Railroad Plaza, Whippany; 973-419-6255, whippanythepolarexpressride.comSee the Turtle Back Zoo holiday lightsIn December the Turtle Back Zoo features a different type of animal — over 50 light up critters and winter characters made of over 100,000 lights. Take a stroll through the 15 acres of parkland, explore the aquarium, reptile house and Essex Farm, or take a ride on a pony, train or carousel.The exhibit is open 5 to 9 p.m. through Jan. 1, 2018. Admission is free, but visitors are encouraged to bring donations of non-perishable food items, new toys and gently used coats.Go: 560 Northfield Ave., West Continue Reading

Poseidon’s Parade, a family-friendly version of Mermaid Parade, coming to Rockaway

A G-rated version of the Coney Island Mermaid Parade is coming to Rockaway on Saturday. The first-ever Poseidon's Parade is designed to be a family-friendly celebration of the ocean and the community that is still feeling the impact of Hurricane Sandy. It starts at Beach 106th St. at 11 a.m. “Poseidon is a symbol that speaks to the resilience of Rockaway,” said Casey Brouder, one of the organizers of the event. “After all we have been through as a community, we can pay homage to the strong and beautiful ocean we can't seem to live without.” Members of the Rockaway Mermaid Brigade — who march annually in the Coney Island event — wanted to bring the fun closer to home. The Rockaway version emphasizes the artistic feel of the Coney Island celebration — without much of the nudity and raunch. The parade ends at Beach 95th St. with an “Under the Sea Lounge” where there will be face-painting and crafts for kids. For more information, visit Continue Reading

GrassLands brews its own take on family friendly workplace

At GrassLands Brewing Company, the traditional sense of a family first workplace flies out the window.Employees aren't chained to a cubicle. There aren't drawn shades for nursing moms, although the president and founder Gabe Grass said the startup is willing to accommodate whatever needs employees have.The mindset is 'we're already a family', tight and strong, but let's have fun, too. Grass said if his brewing company treats employees like family then retention isn't an issue. Grass said only two employees have left the startup since it opened in 2015, one of whom had to move back home."We're kind of proud of that," he said. "That's something we care about."So the staff finds time to unwind and mingle, especially after monthly meetings that take place at GrassLands or someone's house. Those gatherings offer a chance to bring spouses and kids. Gabe and his wife Saralyn, a co-owner, have an adopted 17-year-old daughter and another employee has two children under the age of 10.Everyone embraces them like they're their own."Those three kids are like the GrassLands babies,” he said.GrassLands Brewing Company is one of 10 Tallahassee-based companies highlighted for going above and beyond to foster a family-friendly workplace. The series is a partnership between the city of Tallahassee and the Tallahassee Democrat that stems from the Family First Initiative launched in 2015 by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.The Family Friendly Workplace and Culture Task Force —  a cross-section of business leaders, parents and childcare providers from the private and public sector — wants local businesses to answer a 67-item yes-or-no questionnaire. Take the survey at Southern Scholarship Foundation strives for 'strong work-life balance' Taproot Agency fuses faith, family Rogers, Gunter, Vaughn Insurance bridges home, office life Toddlers, babies common sightings at BowStern Mainline Information Continue Reading

York County History Center to hold family friendly event Saturday

Step back in time on Saturday for a chance to celebrate York County's past -- and be a part of its future.York County History Center will hold a day of free history-themed, family friendly events at the Colonial Complex. More: This long list tells where to learn York County history Listen to Civil War music, tour the Golden Plough Tavern and General Gates House, take a swing dance lesson or play a game of "old time" baseball the way they did in the 1800s.The day will also include guest appearances by Benjamin Franklin and the Marquis de Lafayette. More: York warehouse offers surprises Visitors will also get to see the plans for the York County History Center's museum, archives and library scheduled to open in 2020 at the site of the former Met-Ed steam plant, and make a donation to the center's capital campaign.The event will be held rain or shine. More: 100-year-old light bulb discovered in York If You Go:What: York County History Center holds a day of fun, family friendly activities focused on area historyWhen: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, rain or shineWhere: Colonial Complex, 157 W. Market St., YorkAdmission: FreeParking: Free at Susquehanna Commerce Center, 221 W. Philadelphia St.For more information: Continue Reading

Memories buoy family, friends of 3 college students killed in Phoenix wrong-way crash

As devoted sisters and best friends, Kelsey and Karli Richardson were upset when they realized that scheduling would keep Kelsey from attending Karli's college graduation this semester.Instead, they devised a plan in its place: Kelsey, 18, would take her college's five-day break for Easter and fly from North Carolina to spend time with Karli, 20, in Phoenix.As soon as they walked into Karli's apartment on the Grand Canyon University campus Tuesday night, they filled it with laughter and chitchat. The sisters had dinner with Karli's three roommates Wednesday, where Kelsey cracked jokes and won them over easily.The sisters planned to drive to the Grand Canyon Thursday night to see the sunrise together. About the same time, another GCU student, Keaton Allison, was having a silly-face-making contest over dinner with fellow leaders from Young Life, a popular Christian ministry that reaches out to adolescents.Allison, 21, had found a new life through Jesus less than two years ago and was "on fire" for God, passionate about evangelizing to or praying for anyone who would listen.The sisters were, too – Karli had a tattoo on her foot of a black mountain and "Psalm 121." "I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip — he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you — the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm — he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore."Karli and Allison don't appear to have known each other.The sisters started driving north early Friday morning and were less than 15 minutes away from campus when Allison, driving the wrong way on Continue Reading

Family-friendly earth science night

Students and their families as well as community members joined together Monday at Valley Academy Charter School to kick off National Earth Science Week with a variety of presentations from professionals in the Earth Science field.The idea to put together a family-friendly Earth Science Night was thought of by Marisa Monger, who works for the BLM and is PTO vice president at Valley Charter.“We wanted to do something where the kids could realize all of the fun that happens in the Earth sciences,” she said. “We want to help them create an appreciation of the sciences and wanted to bring in a variety of presentations.”The presentations included information on honey bees from a bee keeper, Bryce Canyon National Park’s planetarium presentation and a dinosaur dig from Dixie National Forest.The event kicked off Monday night with a Leave Your Own Fossil presentation to celebrate National Leave Your Own Fossil Day where each of the kids were able to leave a handprint in wet cement in the back of the school near the newly created play yard for the students.“We were so lucky to have all of the presenters come here,” Monger said.The presentations were done in an open-house fashion around the school so parents and students could travel from room to room to learn about the various topics.Charlotte Potter, PTO president, said she was excited to share this event with the community.“We want people to come and see that science is super fun,” she said.Parent Shelley Hodge said she was happy to take part in the family Earth science night at the school.“It’s a great idea,” she said. “Kids are so naturally curiously that if you give them an opportunity to learn in a fun way they will.”Second-grade Teacher Mark Zwahlen said he was thrilled the PTO put together the event.“It’s a good way for these kids to show their parents what we do in school,” she said. “We want to get these Continue Reading

The zoo’s restaurant, Bean Sprouts, caters to families with fun, healthy, kid-focused food

You know how your kids are about 7,000 times more likely to eat a sandwich when you cut it into a dinosaur shape? Or broccoli when you arrange it on the plate to look like a forest? Or a pancake when you give it a face?Well, Shannon Seip and Kelly Parthen, two Madison-area mompreneurs, took that piece of kid-feeding wisdom and ran with it. Ten years ago, when the new moms met at grad school in Madison, they commiserated over the lack of restaurants that were both kid-friendly and had something on the kids menu that was healthier and more interesting than chicken nuggets and fries. Seip says, "We envisioned a place where parents had a delightful guilt-free, anxiety-free experience, and kids were just thrilled with the options, and they could order whatever they wanted, where the food tastes good and is fun. We wanted to empower kids to make their own wholesome choices."And that's exactly what's on the menu at Bean Sprouts, which opened at the Milwaukee County Zoo in July. RELATED: 3 things you didn't know about the Milwaukee County Zoo Seip's and Parthen's vision is on display at the kid-level counter with full-color pictures of the imaginative menu, where kids can order their own food.And this kids menu is drastically different than at regular restaurants, even restaurants at family-friendly places like children's museums and science centers. Seip explains, "All kids menus are afterthoughts. They're always on the back of the menu, and they're always the same things. You go to these places and the kids have these great imaginative experience, and then the food is a letdown. They're not living up to what they're trying to achieve with their children's experiences."At Bean Sprouts, on the other hand, making healthy food kids will want to eat is not an afterthought; it's the first consideration. The Imaginibbles menu includes things like a Do-Re-For-Me sunflower butter and jam sandwich made in the shape of a sandwich, a Grilledzilla Continue Reading

Rated K for Kids: 6 family-friendly films to enjoy at the Milwaukee Film Festival

Watching movies with your family is fun.But it's more than that; film is also a form of art, which makes seeing movies with kids a type of edu-tainment. RELATED: Family edu-tainment: 16 places to have fun and get smart The organizers of the annual Milwaukee film festival, taking place Sept. 28 through Oct. 12 in theaters throughout the Milwaukee area, have planned several family-friendly movies in their Rated K: For Kids program, allowing children to take part in this cultural event with their parents.Check out this year's offerings for kids:This is a collection of mostly animated short films for the youngest of kids that includes animals, music and bright and colorful imagery.Sept. 30 at 10:30 a.m. at the Avalon TheaterOct. 1 at 10 a.m. at the Oriental TheatreOct. 7 at 10:30 a.m. at the Downer TheaterFor all those medium-sized kids, this collection of short films is a mixture of live-action and animated stories all about family and art.Sept. 30 at 11:15 a.m. at the Downer TheaterOct. 7 at 11 a.m. at the Avalon TheaterOct. 8 at 10:30 a.m. at the Oriental TheatreThis collection of shorts for older kids is a combination of live-action and animated stories about children fighting to overcome challenges and solving problems.Sept. 30 at 11 a.m. at Times CinemaOct. 1 at 10:30 a.m. at the Oriental TheatreOct. 7 at 10 a.m. at Fox Bay Cinema GrillThis highlight of the film festival is a showing of the classic Disney film to celebrate its 25th anniversary.Oct. 8 at 2 p.m. at the Oriental TheatreThis movie is about an 11-year-old girl who works to solve a mystery during a summer visit with her grandma.Sept. 30 at 10 a.m. at the Oriental TheatreOct. 1 at 10:30 a.m. at Fox Bay Cinema GrillOct. 7 at 1:30 p.m. at the Avalon TheaterIn this film described as a combination of "Moana," "Avatar" and "Hercules," we follow the adventures of a magical creature tasked with protecting the world's dreams.Oct. 7 at 10 a.m. at the Oriental TheatreOct. 8 at 10:30 a.m. at the Avalon Continue Reading

Learn about Mexican culture with these family-friendly Day of the Dead celebrations

Fall is the perfect time to explore Wisconsin for its vivid changing colors and cultural festivals. Autumn especially lends itself perfectly to the colorful revels of El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which occurs this year from October 31 to November 2. RELATED: Fall family festivities: More than 25 metro Milwaukee events to enjoy fall with the kids Across southeastern Wisconsin, families, friends and communities will be participating in special prayer and remembrance celebrations that pay tribute to their deceased kin. Festivities usually involve the building of ofrendas (altars), plenty of food and colorful, vibrant decorations like marigolds and papel picado (ornate paper cut-outs).According to the state’s Fall Color Report, southeastern Wisconsin will be at its peak from mid-October to the end of the month, just in time to provide the perfect, colorful backdrop to this beloved celebration.Here are a few local ways you can celebrate El Día de los Muertos festivities: Visit the Milwaukee Art Museum, which was created by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava on the shore of Lake Michigan, for a Día de los Muertos celebration. On Sunday, Oct. 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., you can experience Mexican folkloric dance and explore traditional Day of the Dead symbols through hands-on art activities. Learn from visiting artists and contribute to the community ofrenda. Participation is free with Museum admission, and kids 12 and under are free every day the Museum is open. RELATED: Fishing fun, Zoo events, Art Museum Day of the Dead and dinosaurs are October's top picks Make your way to the south-side of Milwaukee and visit the Latino Arts Auditorium and Gallery. This year’s fall exhibits include work by Latino artist Pedro Velez and his exhibition "Emojis, Lies, Instagram Muses, and Headline News." The gallery will also feature a special Día de los Muertos Ofrendas exhibit featuring a dazzling array of Continue Reading