Missouri

Margaritaville

What do you picture when you think of the perfect summer getaway? Fun for the kids? Blue lake water lapping nearby? A margarita in one hand by the pool? If these check your boxes for a relaxing and fun-filled weekend, try booking a stay at Margaritaville Lake Resort, Lake of the Ozarks! Margaritaville is known for its casual-luxe design feel and has recently undergone a huge renovation from the previous Tan Tara resort.

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Margaritaville Lake of the Ozarks

This is the first full-service lake resort for Margaritaville. With this recent addition, there are now 18 Margaritaville-branded lodging locations. Margaritaville is all about fun for the whole family!

Margaritaville Lake of the Ozarks

Margaritaville has tons of amenities onsite, all within walking distance for a #nostressweekend! There is something for everyone at this resort, and we tried it all. Here are some of our favorite activities we did while at the resort that we highly recommend.

Margaritaville Lake of the Ozarks

On property amenities:

  • Three outdoor pool complexes. One has a swim-up bar and another has a toddler splash pool and waterslide. My boys had a blast cannonballing, diving for rings, and splashing non-stop. They could not get enough of all the swimming areas!
    •  Mom tips: Save your luggage space because the resort offers towels!
Margaritaville Lake of the Ozarks
  •  A fitness center, and basketball and tennis courts.
  •  Jolly Mon Indoor Water Park. This indoor water park has 600 feet of water slides, a lazy river
    for tube floating, a hot tub, water basketball, and a three-story beach house play area. This place is perfect for rainy or cooler days when the weather is unpredictable. There’s also a snack bar area on site. It’s $17 pp, 2 and under free, $5 observation fee to watch your kids if you don’t want to slide. Towels provided.

    • My boys had an absolute blast at the water park and we spent a good 4-5 hours here. It’s an awesome way to spend the day when the weather won’t cooperate.
    • Good news if you are not staying at Margaritaville, you can still come for the day to the waterpark.  Special fees apply.
Margaritaville Lake of the Ozarks
Margaritaville Lake of the Ozarks
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Margaritaville Lake of the Ozarks
  •  Fin City Arcade features state-of-the-art video games, classic favorites, and electronic simulators. I normally don’t let the boys spend too much time in arcades but for excellent behavior, my boys earned a video game card and they were in heaven!
Margaritaville Lake of the Ozarks
  •  Fin City Bowling is the resort’s eight-lane bowling alley, which can be set up for bumper bowling and hosts cosmic bowling nights.
  •  Port of Indecision Marina offers watercraft rentals, such as wave runners, pontoon boats, ski boats, paddle boards, and paddle boats.
    • ○  If you want to rent a boat but have no clue how to drive one the marina suggested to Google “Lake of the Ozark Charters” and enquire to hire your own driver from the area.
    • ○  If you are under 36, you have to have a MO boaters license. If you are over 36, you just have to have a MO license.
    • We opted to cruise the lake in the paddle boats. The boys loved looking for the ducks, large carpe, and geese. Bring your quarters for fish food
Margaritaville Lake of the Ozarks

●  On-site spa, call 573-348-3535 to schedule a spa appointment

●  Harbor Master Mini-Golf Course is the resort’s onsite mini-golf course and fun for the whole family!  As if my boys are not competitive enough, they wanted to play some mini golf! It was super fun, on-site and kept them busy.

Margaritaville Lake of the Ozarks

●  Daily Scenic Cruises on the Tropic Island Yacht allows guests to get out on the water and enjoy picturesque views of the Lake of the Ozarks. For reservations call 573-348-0083. The boat leaves Tues-Sun at 3:00.

●  Horseback Riding gives guests the opportunity to explore the resort grounds in a unique way.  I’d recommend making the reservation in advance because they fill up fast. The ride is approx 1 hour in length. If your kids are small they have pony rides too!

Restaurants options on property:  

There are so many amazing restaurants on property.  I was impressed with the amazing food and atmosphere of them all.

●  LandShark Bar & Grill. This newly opened flagship waterfront restaurant features delicious classics like nachos, wings, and signature LandShark burgers. This restaurant overlooks the lake and has a swim-up pool bar for even more fun! There are approximately 40 slips (2 docks) open to boaters who wish to dock and dine at LandShark Bar & Grill. They’re available on a first come-first served basis.
FYI- Boaters welcome. If you are at the lake you can drive your boat over to enjoy eating at Landshark. We would highly recommend the fish tacos. They were absolutely amazing.

●  JB’s Boathouse Grill boasts classic nautical décor with bright blues and crisp whites and is the perfect spot for diners to enjoy breakfast fare, sandwiches, salads, steaks, drinks and more.

○ There is an additional package when you book your room where you can add the breakfast buffet, which features all kinds of fresh fruit, cereals, sausage, waffles, and more. You can also order off the menu for breakfast like I did. I opted for a tropical fruit parfait. Yum! This restaurant also has a stunning view of the lake and marina with an outdoor patio out front.

●  Frank & Lola’s Pizzeria. Pizza night is something my family can all agree on. This family-friendly casual dining option is ideal for families and friends looking to grab a fresh pie while enjoying a game of pool or darts. My boys went crazy for the dessert pizza. So yummy!

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●  Windrose Marker 26 Lakeside Dining is the resort’s beautiful lakeside restaurant, serving exceptional seafood, steaks and more.

●  License to Chill Bar & Grill is the resort’s lobby spot, immediately welcoming guests to paradise upon arrival. The perfect place to grab a margarita to start your trip off right.

Margaritaville

●  The Tiki Hut Pool Bar is located at the resort’s Lakeside Pool, offering tropical beverages for those enjoying fun in the sun. The kids can even get frozen smoothies. My boys would recommend the mango.

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●  Margaritaville Coffee Shop which is located in the lobby serves freshly brewed coffee from signature blends, as well as blended frappes, tea, smoothies and hot cocoa.

The shop also has breakfast pastries and breakfast sandwiches, fresh fruit cups, and yogurt parfaits. I ordered a skinny vanilla latte and smoothies for the boys.

Quick Shop is a convenience store on site where you can get ice cream, fudge, wine/beer and all sorts of snacks.

Margaritaville felt like a true escape. With amazing restaurants, tons of fun amenities, and everything right at our fingertips, it was a no stress family weekend close to home. My boys had an absolute blast. Logan’s favorite thing was the Jolly Mon Indoor Water Park, while Mason’s was the arcade and the slide at the outdoor pool.  My favorite by far was that everything we needed was on property- swimming, entertainment, restaurants.  

Margaritaville is a state of mind, centered on fun and escapism. The brand adapts to a variety of locations and is sure to be fun for travelers of all ages! It embodies paradise in every way, whether that’s on the sandy beaches of Florida, or at the Lake of the Ozarks! Happy travels!

If you are looking for other Missouri getaways check out Branson, St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, St. Charles.

Where are you off too this weekend?

Holiday Staycation

This holiday season, the boys, grandma and I took a holiday staycation in St. Charles! Every year the city holds the St. Charles Christmas Traditions featuring tons of festive events for the whole family. It’s a great way to reconnect with loved ones and take a break from the distractions of daily life. And you don’t need to take a plane or train to get there! I wanted to share with you some of our favorite events we attended, where we stayed, and a few of my favorite places to shop downtown; all in time for this holiday season.

What we did

 The St. Charles Christmas Traditions filled with all sorts of fun events such as parades, caroling, Christmas characters, and card collecting and more!

St Charles Christmas Traditions

After we got all settled and checked into the Drury, we decided to take the trolley that night into the downtown area to catch some fun holiday festivities. We used the Ride Saint Charles app to find out the trolley route and times which show you when the trolley will be in your area. It was free and best of all we didn’t have to park.

When we got onto Main Street in the downtown area, I felt like I had stepped straight into a Hallmark Christmas movie! Everything was so festive and jolly, with carolers, music, lights, decorations and even Christmas characters. They had Santas and Magical Legends of Christmas, who were in character all over Main Street. They give you a brief background of who they are, and even carry around cards with their name and a little picture of themselves, with a description on the back so you can remember them! Some of them were jokesters and others seemed to take a page straight from Ebenezer Scrooge himself. My boys got really into meeting and talking to all of them, especially the Christmas Angel who was Logan’s favorite.

St Charles Christmas Traditions

Another great event that everyone from 1 to 92 will get a kick out of is the Santa Parade! Every Saturday and Sunday during the festival, the Santa Parade rolls on down Main Street with music, floats, and even international Santas. The grand finale features Santa and Mrs. Claus riding in their horse-drawn carriage. The Ice Block Party is also a fun way to end the day with a bang. It starts every Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

St Charles Christmas Traditions

After strolling around for a bit, we took a horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets to take in all the holiday cheer.  

The horse-drawn carriages are parked along the street.  You can take a short or long ride and they are equipped with cozy blankets to keep you warm.  We could not resist this cute horse.  I mean look at the glitter hoofs.

St Charles Christmas Traditions

St Charles Christmas Traditions

My Favorite Places to Shop on Main Street

No visit to the historic downtown area of St. Charles is complete without a little shopping! I love perusing the locally owned stores that line the brick streets for gifts and goods you really can’t find anywhere else.

Grandma’s Cookies

If you’re in need of a quick and delicious pick-me-up, make sure to stop by Grandma’s cookies. They have a holiday special:  Cookie and Cocoa for $2.00. With classic flavors like chocolate chip, sugar sprinkle, snickerdoodle, and coconut, Grandma’s cookies is sure to please all sweet tooths in your family. Not to mention the cute little location the bakery calls home is the same building where all the cookie magic started in 1976 with the Grandma herself, Charlotte Thompson.

Bathhouse Soapery and Caldarium

Get ready to treat your nose, because Bathhouse Soapery and Caldarium has soaps and bath products that smell good enough to eat. Spiced cranberry bar soaps, pumpkin spice latte bath bombs and apple mint oatmeal sugar scrub are just some of the indulgent creations this one of a kind soap shop whips up. They also make for great gifts!  My favorite-The bath bombs.  

Happy Camper

This shop makes me happy.  It’s the only shop you need for the best graphic T’s.  My current favorite T-shirt says Hallmark Movies and Christmas Cookies!  Yessss. They have loads of cute T’s for adults and kids.

Main Street Books

This cute little red brick building is every book lover’s dream. Stop by for a new book or a gift for your loved ones. The shop also has unique greeting cards, children’s toys, journals and more. Sometimes, just getting lost in the bookshelves the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Candle Fusion

If you are looking for a fun hands-on activity you can create your own candle at Candle Fusion.  They have over 100 different scents to choose from and you create your candle from beginning to end.  This would be the perfect girls night or fun to do with kids to create the perfect gift for someone special.

Holiday Lights

If you’re in the area of St. Charles, O’Fallon isn’t a far drive away and worth visiting for its “Celebration of Lights,” which you can experience from the comfort of your own car. The event is held at Fort Zumwalt Park and runs from Thursday to Sunday 6-9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 6-10 p.m. You can also make your visit a little more special by reserving a horse-drawn wagonette, a train, or a sleigh hayride!

We decided to drive around and catch some holiday light displays in the area! To limit our time trying to find houses all over the area, we used the website, Holiday Light Hopping, which lists an easy to use guide of all the best home light displays. 

Bass Pro Shop

If you’re in the area of St. Charles, a visit to Bass Pro Shop is a free fun indoor spot for kids. My boys love to come here for Santa’s Wonderland.  There are tons of fun activities for the kids inside the store like video games, kids shooting range, write a letter to Santa, play with remote control trucks, and even Santa photos for free.  

When you arrive you’ll get a pass for a specific time to see Santa.

Bass Pro St Charles

Where we ate

Looking for a pizza joint that offers delicious pies while also being completely customizable? Then Pieology is your new favorite spot! This week, the boys and I headed over to Pieology to try a slice (or a few) from the restaurant’s six new crusts. Not only were they super yummy, but we also got to choose exactly what we wanted. With tons of choices and individual sized pizzas, there’s a little something for everyone at this not your average pizzeria.

Pieology recently released six new premium crusts that you can choose from when building your pizza. The menu features Artisan Thin, Artisan Thin Hearty Wheat, PieRise® Thick, Hand-Crafted Deep Dish, Cauliflower Crust and Gluten Free. I ordered my boys the Cauliflower Crust as a base for their cheese pizza, and they absolutely loved it! They ate every bite and had no clue they were eating something good for them. I’d call that a win. I tried the Hand-Crafted Deep Dish and the Artisan Thin Hearty Wheat which were both delicious.

Pieology lets you create any type of pizza you want, but if you get a little overwhelmed with all the choices like I sometimes do, the menu also has Chef Inspired Pizza. One of the most popular choices on the menu is the “Butcher’s Choice” which features house red sauce, pepperoni, sausage, meatball, mozzarella and olive oil blend. The other favorite is the Margherita Da Vinci, which is a classic margherita pizza. The restaurant also has delicious salads, such as the Elevated Caesar, and the Classic Italian, and even beer and wine for the adults in the family.

Pieology

Another great feature that Pieology offers is their app, “Pieology Pie Life Rewards,” which makes it super easy to order and pick up your pizza. Although you can’t get delivery through the app, you can still order Pieology pizza using Grub Hub or Door Dash. With the restaurant’s app, you can easily customize your pizza any way you want just like in the restaurant, and it even has loyalty reward points and exclusive offers for an added bonus. You can pay through the app, and every 100 points earned is a free pizza!

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Pieology is perfect for kids, family friendly and in a great location in the streets of St. Charles. They also hold great fundraisers for organizations raising money for a charitable cause. It’s great food, with a great message. Give Pieology a visit today!

Where We Stayed

For our holiday weekend, we stayed at the Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis St. Charles. It’s fun meets convenient! TripAdvisor lists the Drury as excellent, and it’s not hard to see why with amazing amenities to make your stay comfortable and completely stress-free.  This hotel is modern and new and is the only Drury with a mini convenience store

Drury St Charles

The boys loved the indoor/outdoor pool, and I loved hitting the jacuzzi after a long day spent out in the cold. But what was definitely an added bonus was our suite. Comfortable and roomy, the suite had a private bedroom separated by a door so the kids go could go to bed early and I can stay up binge watching Christmas movies.

Drury indoor outdoor pool

The free, hot (and delicious) breakfast the Drury features is sure to please even the pickiest eater in the family. With biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, Belgian waffles, sausage, fresh fruit, coffee and more, it’s the perfect way to start your day before heading into town.

Drury hot breakfast

In addition to the breakfast, what really sets the Drury apart from other hotels is their free “Kickback” hour. Yep, free food and drinks! Starting every day at 5:30 and running to 7, the hotel offers 3 free drinks per adult and yummy “snacks.” The snacks include chili, baked potato, hot dogs, and nachos as well as their main dish of the night which varies from chicken, tacos, or pasta. It’s perfect for kids (and adults) who want a little bit of everything without the formal setting or expenses of a sit-down restaurant.

Drury kickback hour

This hotel is just minutes from downtown St. Charles and is walking distance to the free trolley service that shuttles you into town for all of the holiday events. (No parking hassles-yeah)

So gear up for the holidays and create some long-lasting memories by visiting all the festivities in St. Charles! It’s a close to home holiday adventure, perfect for your family this Christmas.  We have posted more of our favorite St Louis metro holiday traditions here.  

If you are in St Charles check out my adult Ameristar staycation post too.

Have you been before?  Tell me your favorite Christmas tradition.

**  Thank you to all the businesses we partnered with to bring you this story.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I am so excited to share some insider tips on all things STL! As many of you know, I love to get out and about and explore my native St. Louis and I believe you can have a blast in your own backyard. You don’t have to stray far from the Lou to find adventure.

Recently I took the boys for a St Louis staycation.   I want to share with you all the inside scoop on what to do with your kids for a fun St. Louis trip. This is a roundup of sorts. From fairytale carriage rides to rooftop cocktails by the Arch, there’s really something for everyone to enjoy in this awesome city! Here are a few of my favorite spots and activities.

Getaway near the Gateway

For our recent weekend trip downtown, we stayed in the Drury Inn and Suites situated in the heart of St. Louis. TripAdvisor named Drury as the number one hotel downtown and it’s easy to see why! Only steps away from the Gateway Arch grounds, this hotel is the perfect place to stay with family when you’re looking to plan a little getaway that offers both convenience, history and value. The Drury attracts both locals and tourists for its many unbeatable amenities. It’s in a great location for going to a Blues or Cardinals game, attending a show downtown, or simply for taking in the sites. With a recent historic renovation, Drury Inn and Suites offers a few unique architectural touches that make you feel as if you were on a luxurious vacation. For the best view in town, simply take the elevator up to the 8th floor to their new observation terrace where you can enjoy a glass of wine from the daily kickback hour and take in the sites.  Location!  Location!  Location!  

Historic Drury showing arch proximity

Speaking of wine, what really sets Drury apart from other hotels in the area is their amazing dining options. From 5:30-7pm, enjoy Drury’s Kick Back Hour with 3 free drinks (yes 3 per adult) and “snacks.” These “snacks” include chili, salad, loaded baked potatoes, hot dogs, nachos and their main dish of the night which is chicken, tacos or pasta. This is perfect for traveling with kids who aren’t great at sitting still in restaurants for too long. Just grab your food and dine in style in their elegant dining space or head to the terrace.

Drury terrace kickbackIn the morning before a big day of sightseeing, start your day off right with a healthy and delicious breakfast downstairs. At Drury, you don’t have to worry about mediocre continental breakfasts. This truly is the breakfast of champions with a massive variety of options. Indulge your sweet tooth with a stack of fresh pancakes or fuel up on something hearty likes eggs and potatoes. We made our own waffles and I enjoyed some oatmeal and yogurt with a cup of freshly brewed Kelso Bros coffee.

Drury also has a state of the art fitness center to work off those pancakes. 😉 You don’t have to miss your daily workouts while traveling.

 

If you want to save 15% off your next Drury hotel stay use the code:  HAPPY at checkout.

STL must-see sights

The St Louis Arch

Now, I’m sure if you’ve lived in St. Louis for long enough, you’ve probably been to the Arch at least more than once, but you may not be aware of some of their new and improved features.

Arch museum

Their recently renovated high-tech museum is filled with rich Lewis and Clark history and has lots of interactive, educational exhibits for kids. It’s a great place to learn the story of the Native Americans, explorers, pioneers, and rebels who made America possible. They also offer private tours which is definitely something to try if you haven’t already.

The tram ride itself takes about 4 minutes to the top and 3 minutes down.

Arch to the top

Tips to know before you go:  The best way to buy tickets is online at http://www.gatewayarch.com/buytickets. Tram rides sell out early and often, so online is the best option for purchasing.

Be prepared to go through security.

For a discount, check out the coupon here

 

The Riverboats

The St. Louis Riverboats are a great way to sightsee in a relaxing setting. It offers spectacular views of the Arch, Old Courthouse, and city skyline from the Mississippi on a replica 19th-century paddle-wheel boat. You can travel day or night.

St Louis Carriage Company

This was definitely a favorite activity with my boys, Logan and Mason! We cruised the streets of downtown in a cozy carriage led by our magnificent horse, Jett! Check him out on Facebook…he’s pretty awesome.

Drury and carriage

We made advance reservations and were picked up right outside our hotel. It was so convenient! It was a chillier day, so we were given cozy blankets upon arrival. Logan asked if he could sit up with our driver, Gina who was super friendly. She even let him take the reins for a bit!  #wesurvived lol.  

This is such a fun way to explore downtown and your kids will absolutely love it. Keep this in mind for date night too. It’s a romantic and charming way to see the sights.

Tip: You can request the Cinderella carriage too.

 Brookdale Farms

You can spend the day at Brookdale Farms.  They have events year round.  We love going in the Fall.  You buy a wristband that gets you unlimited access to the corn maze, bounce houses, hayride, kids zip line and play area, pumpkin patch, animals and more.  For an additional fee, you kids can slingshot pumpkins or do Logan’s favorite the Pumpkin chunkin!

Brookdale Farms

During the summer months, you can take a float trip or reserve a private hayride and bonfire for up to 20 people year round.

Brookdale Farms is also the home for the lantern fest along with rodeos, light shows, a balloon glow and so much more.

Mom tip:  Have your kiddos wear their old shoes so they can run free on the farm.

Brookdale pumpkins

City Museum,

If you have limited time in St. Louis, add this to the top of your list! This is a MUST for kids. This is no boring museum. The entire place is made of recycled materials including the gigantic bus on the rooftop — it’s the ultimate playground. Your kids will be begging you to stay. Mason’s favorite was the rooftop Ferris wheel and the bus and Logan’s favorite was the TEN…yes ten story slide.

City museum rooftop

 

Tip: Make sure you establish a meeting space with your kids no matter how old they are. There are so many nooks and crannies in this amazing space, so you will need it just to check in.

What to wear: I’d highly recommend wearing shorts or pants and comfortable shoes. When I took my boys, I had a dress on and flip flops…the worst possible idea because I think I flashed some kids below me on the airplane while climbing up to help Mason!

Parking: I’d recommend parking in the City Museum parking. The cost is $10 and cash only, but it’s worth it.

Children’s Garden and Botanical Gardens

I absolutely love the Botanical Gardens for its natural beauty and outdoor fun for kids. In the garden, kids can learn about plants, nature, and sustainability through hands-on activities. The park is open April-October and in the warmer months, there are plenty of opportunities to cool off in the Splash Area. Make sure in the cooler months to check out the Climatron for a toasty tropical experience.

Mo bot garden climatron

Tips:

-St Louis city and county residents get in free on Saturday and Wednesday mornings. It’s a little more crowded on these days, but it’s worth it!

-There is also an indoor kids area if it gets too hot or cold with interactive things for kids.  

-There are also splash pads during the summer months for kids who love to get in the water.  Come prepared with swimsuits and towels.

Magic House:  

This place is fun from top to bottom. My boys love the 3 story slide and the ball that makes your hair stand up. It’s also great for birthday parties!  

Tip: On the first Friday night of each month, they have family fun nights where you can get in free. For a discount coupon check out the link here

 

Big Joel’s Safari

This place is worth the trip if your kids love animals. My boys got a kick out of riding the camel and feeding the birds. You can buy a stick with peanut butter and the birds will eat it off!

Myseum

Myseum is an indoor play place perfect for rainy/extreme hot or cool days when your kids get restless. The great thing about Myseum is it’s a manageable size place to keep an eye on your kids without wondering where they ran off to. My boys favorite attraction is the Spaceship.

Tips:

-Don’t forget your socks.  Everyone must have socks or you can buy them for $2.00

-You can bring in your own food and drink.  They have an area of tables you can relax while the kids play so stock up on snacks!

Boathouse at Forest Park with paddle boats

The boathouse is a must if you are visiting St Louis. You can rent paddle boats, canoes, paddle boards or kayaks and cruise through the canals of Forest Park seeing the world’s fair museum, all kinds of birds and turtles and end up on the grand basin looking up at the beautiful art museum.  

Tip:  You can get fish and turtle food out of a coin cranked vending machine. This kept my boys entertained while we were waiting for the boats.

St Louis Zoo:  

My kids would go to the zoo every weekend if they could.  This place is a MUST.

Tip:  For parking all the local park on the street outside the zoo.  Even near turtle playground and walk over the highway bridge to save the parking fee.  If you can find Oakland and Tamm avenues, you’ll save some $$ and get to walk across the bridge above the highway.  You can also drive past the South parking entrance and past the stop sign there is free parking on the street but get there early.  

The early bird gets the worm. Tip 2: The zoo opens at 8:00. If you can get there when they open, you can go to the children’s zoo, pet the stingrays and ride the carousel for FREE. These are all typically paid exhibits. This is a hidden gem, so make sure to set your alarm and make the most of the freebies.  This is also for the last hour the zoo is open each day.  

Don’t miss the Tiki Fruiti hut with cored out pineapple with Pineapple whip.  Sooo refreshing. One of the only places besides Disney World that serves this tasty treat.  

Tip: One of our favorite spots to picnic in all of St Louis is Art Hill so after you leave the Zoo I recommend picnicking on Art Hill and you can watch the paddle boats cruise around the grand basin.

 

Eckert’s Family Farm

My family loves going to Eckert’s. It’s across the river in Belleville IL, but totally worth the trip. Our favorite activity is taking the tractor to the fields to pick fruit. Depending on the season, you can pick strawberries, blackberries, peaches, vegetables, flowers, apples, pumpkins and more. They have a massive market where you can buy produce and many other food items already made.

We also LOVE going to the country restaurant.  They serve fried biscuits with fresh apple butter that are off the charts amazing.  They are worth the trip alone!!! (Promise)

Grant’s Farm

This is a must for animal lovers! On the tram ride, you’ll see bison, deer, geese, and ostrich.

Once your at the end, you can walk through animal shows, ride the carousel and feed the baby goats.  You can get a fun pass for your kids: 2 goat bottles or food, carousel ride, and a snow cone for $6.  

The courtyard transports you to a German town center. There are free Anheuser Busch samples at the food and drink pavilion.  I tried the Golden Light and it was perfection.

This attraction offers free admission, but you pay $12 for parking unless you want to park at Gravois and McNary and take a 5-10 minute walk to the entrance. On nice days this is a good option since there’s a lot of traffic waiting to get into the parking lot.

 

St Louis Science Center

The Science Center is fun and educational experience for kids (and adults) of all ages and many of the exhibits are free! We love seeing shows at The Imax Theatre. It’s such a treat. My boys especially love the outdoor Grow exhibit where they can climb in an actual combine, see chickens, and get an idea of what it’s like to milk a cow. Important life skills, people.

My boys also like to walk across the bridge that goes over highway 40.  You can wave at cars below and see how fast they are driving.

Admission is free but some special exhibits have a fee.  In the discovery room, your kids can play and explore in a room full of fun hands-on attractions to keep them entertained. They only allow a limited number of kids in at once and have all sorts of exhibits.

For discounts check out the link here

Laumeier Sculpture Park

This park is an exciting treasure hunt. There are so many interesting sculptures to check out. My family loves the trails and all the interesting gems to see along the way.  

Tip: Print out a map of the trails and a scavenger hunt here

City Garden

This city garden has so many unique and fun sculptures the kiddos can climb on.  My boys loved the waterfalls and walking over the water path…never mind Mason put his foot in the water and completely submerged his foot.  

If you want to get a description of the sculptures and do a fun audio tour, you can get the info here.

St Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium,

At Centerfield, there is a family pavilion for kids 12 and under where they have a massive jungle gym to climb on, a virtual reality game to play, Yadi bobblehead to get some pics with, radar guns, and a soft play area for little kiddos.  

Fred Bird photo ops are in the Family Pavilion from 1st pitch to the bottom of the 2nd.  

The family pavilion also has their own kid meals with milk, apple juice and kid-friendly food that you will not get at other parts of the park, so make sure you get your kids the food at this concession stand if they are picky eaters like my boys.  

Tip: If it’s not a busy game and if you don’t mind sitting separate or if there are only two of you, you can get 1st pitch tickets through the ticket lottery the day of for $5.50 for TWO tickets. This could be fun if you just want to take your kids for the experience but don’t plan on sitting in the seats.

Here’s the scoop:  The ticket window opens at 9:00 am. You buy two tickets for $5.50 and then come back at first pitch and are handed an envelope to see where your seats are.  They can be anywhere in the arena.

For other discount, promotions check out the link here.

The Muny

The Muny is an iconic outdoor theatre in Forest Park that offers amazing Broadway shows from mid-June to mid-August. I love exposing my kids to the arts and The Muny is a pressure-free way as a mom to kids

Tip: You can always picnic around the theatre, bring icy towels to stay cool,

If your not sure how your kids will like it try the free seats first to test it out but bring binoculars.  

Transportation Museum

This museum is super fun if your kids are into all things trains, planes, and automobiles. They even have a little room called Creation Station filled with train tables. You must purchase tickets for this and times fill up fast, it’s best to book ahead.  

My boys love the miniature train outside that lets you ride around the property.  Check out groupon.com for discounts. 

Where to get good grub in the Lou:

Sugarfire at the Boathouse in Forest Park

Fitz’s Root Beer in the Loop

The Fountain on Locust

Bailey’s Range

Dewey’s Pizza

St Louis foods you must try while in St Louis.  

Imo’s St Louis style pizza

Toasted Ravioli

Gooey Butter Cake

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard

These are all our favorite spots.  Tell me what you love in St. Louis.
We want to say a huge thanks for all the businesses who partnered with us to bring you this post.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

XOXO  Sarah~

To see other fun trips with kids check them out here:
Branson Mo
Cape Girardeau, MO
Nashville TN
Gulf Shores AL

Soccer, karate, tee-ball, cooking classes, guitar, swimming, gymnastics, dance. If you’re a mom, chances are, your kids have tried one of these activities. The real question though, is did they stick it out?

Little Mason, my younger son mentioned an interest in soccer so, I thought I’d try it out with him. I’ve been a little hesitant to sign Mason up for so many things like I did with Logan, my eldest after Logan refused to participate. In several classes, Logan initially showed interest and then quickly lost the desire to participate so, I didn’t want to repeat the same mistake with Mason while wasting time and money.

I expressed my concern to Vetta Sports after Mason said he wanted to try soccer and they were very understanding. Vetta, unlike other sports places we’ve tried, host an open house in the fall and the spring where kids can participate in a mini session to see if they like it or not. That way, you can gage whether or not it’s a good fit before making a full-time commitment. They also offer a free trial class before you sign up for the season! You can do this at any time of the year. Yeah!!

Mason’s progression with Kickaroos

Mason’s progression with Kickaroos at Vetta Sports has been surprising and fun to witness as a parent. During week 1, as I predicted, Mason did not want participate. With that being said, I was so impressed with the coaches and their patience with him. He was able to stay close to me which made him feel a little more comfortable, and they made sure not to pressure him too much but tried to include him and make the experience as fun as possible. Week 2 was a little better. Mason was a little shy at first, but started to come out of his shell near the end. He wanted to carry around a toy with him and the coaches were completely accommodating. Mason had a breakthrough during weeks 3 and 4 and actually wore his Kickaroos jersey and participated without any hesitation. He was having a blast and was a completely different kid from where he started. By the end, he had a big proud smile on his face and finished practice with energy and eagerness.

Little boy learning soccer
Mason’s first week. As you can see, he’s being a little shy.
Funny soccer coach teaches kids
Mason was able to warm up to the coaches early on. It’s easy to see why!
Little boy playing soccer
This is week 4 Mason sporting his Kickaroos jersey!
Little boy in soccer practice
Here’s Mason with a big proud smile on his face after finishing practice and receiving his special stamp!

Building confidence

This program really builds Mason’s confidence which is more important to me than whether or not he ends up a star soccer player. When it comes to deciding which activities should be priority for our kids, it’s important to pay attention to their growth and progression and listen carefully to their feedback. It’s not really about whether or not your child excels from the get-go. There may be times when something just fits so naturally with their talents and interests, but most of the time it’s a gamble with younger kids. Encouraging them to stick with it no matter what is also important. They may not remember how to dribble a ball or make a perfect pass in their adult lives, but the perseverance and confidence building skills are going to make a lasting impression.

Focus on the joy

As a mom, I think it’s important to focus less on obligation and more on the joy of the activity. Vetta is great at this. Every single one of the coaches were so sweet and so patient with Mason’s progression. He was introduced to the sport in a way that was comfortable for him. So, rather than associating negative feelings about the sport, he was able to embrace it at his own pace.

Kids soccer practice

Kids soccer practice

Kickaroos is an active and simple introduction to sports that allows kids to discover soccer in a pressure-free environment. The program offers sessions for tots at 18 months all the way up to six year olds. There are kids of all different levels building both their soccer and social skills and it’s a fun way for your kids to make new friends. I also love Vetta’s unique approach to teaching the sport. The Kickaroos program makes learning fun. It’s child centered by putting instruction into a context kids can actually understand. And it’s not just about developing them into soccer masters. While the fundamentals of soccer are introduced, Kickaroos helps develop social and cognitive skills that are important both on and off the field. I am a 100% behind this approach!

If you’re interested in checking out a Kickaroos soccer class, visit their website for more information on each program here. Signing Mason up was a big win in my book!

***We are so thankful to partner with Vetta on this blog post but all thought and opinions are my own.  

So, I have this thing with wall murals. I drive around the city during the work day and love stumbling upon big, bright and colorful works of art. There are so many unique murals in St. Louis and it’s always a fun surprise to come across new ones. Here are some of my favorites along with where to find them next time you’re in the city in search of some great street art!

Peacock pianist 

The Grove.  Manchester Avenue St. Louis, MO

St. Louis wall mural in The Grove

Greetings from St Louis

The Garcia Properties building at 3537 Kingshighway St Louis Mo  63139

Greetings from St. Louis wall mural

 

Psychedelic vibes on Cherokee 

STyLe House Cherokee and Compton 3159 Cherokee St. St Louis Mo 63118

Colorful wall mural in St. Louis

This way to antiques

 The Little Shop Around the Corner 4474 Castleman  St Louis Mo 63110

Antiques in St. Louis

 

Color me happy

SOHA Art gallery 4915 Macklind Ave St Louis Mo 63109

Soarin’ in STL

Koho Boutique 5433 Hampton Ave St Louis MO 63109

Nashville wings in St. louis

Little birdie

The intersection of Macklind and Sutherland in SOHA neighborhood. 

A true triumph

In between The moto museum and Triumph Grill. 3441 Olive St. St Louis MO 63103

Pantone perfection

Right by SLU and FOX. Turn right down the alley before getting to The Best Steakhouse 516 N Grand Blvd.  63103

Catch ya later in the Lou!

Lou Realty Group, 4600 Loughborough Ave. 63116

I’ll keep you in the loop

The Loop.  Delmar Blvd, University City, MO 63130

 

Groovy murals in The Grove

Bwok Bwok Chicken Chicken, Grace Meat + Three

IMG_3713.jpg

Bye Bye Birdie, Sanctuaria

IMG_9542-2.jpg

Compassion wings, Urban Chestnut brewery

IMG_8265

There is no black and white situation, corner of Newstead and Manchester

IMG_3078

Rad robo

‘Nest’led in the grove

Bird mural in St. Louis

Cute cardinal 

Cardinal mural in the grove

Grab some grub in the groove

Life’s a beach

 

 

 

Back in the day, I was all about taking trips to Mexico and the Dominican Republic with my girlfriends. Now, I’m lucky if I can break away for one afternoon. That’s why I was over the moon with excitement when I discovered Ameristar in St. Charles. I immediately called my girlfriends.  

The goal was simple: find a spot with a pool, spa, good food, tasty cocktails, shopping and nightlife. What we stumbled upon exceeded our expectations with the hidden gem Ameristar. Now, I know Ameristar is really no “secret” to St. Louisans…I mean everyone knows it’s there. It’s hard to overlook the glitzy building stationed across the St. Charles river. The reason I call it a “hidden gem” is because of the unexpected surprises offered to visitors. I would have never considered going to a casino for the weekend, but Ameristar is the perfect destination for fun girls getaway with everything you could ever possibly want and need for a stress-free St. Louis staycation.

I’m going to be sharing my experience staying at Ameristar and my top recommendations for a carefree and luxurious getaway. Just grab your girls, your favorite pair of shades, and a bathing suit. Get dad to take the kids on for a couple days and get ready to have some fun. No passport necessary.

Ameristar St Charles

 

Unwind at the Ara Spa

Ara spa

Named by St. Louis Magazine as one of the best spas in Missouri, Ara spa is truly a magical place that creates a personalized experience for each one of its guests. Ara offers VIP treatments, a luxurious steam room, sauna, hydro-pool, fitness center, Vichy Shower, spa boutique and two pools which we’ll touch on in a bit. You don’t have to book a room at the Ameristar in order to enjoy a day at the spa. Just book a treatment, and you’ll have open access to all spa amenities and pool for the entire day.

Ara spa

Ara flip flops hydropool

There are several relaxing treatments to choose from at Ara spa, but I decided to go with the soothing Dream Weaver and Seasonal Body Treatment. The Dream Weaver was a calming 25-minute hot oil head and face massage. The nourishing oils were used to gently massage my forehead, temples, and scalp relieving me of some tension and congestion I was experiencing earlier that week. The oil used contained keratin which is great for dry hair (which I have) and helps to smooth and bring out a healthy shine. A cooling eucalyptus towel was placed on my forehead as well which I learned can easily be made at home when you need a little zen time to decompress. Simply take a clean cool towel and apply 10% oil and 90% water and voila!

Shortly after the dreamy Dream Weaver, I went in for my Seasonal Treatment in the Vichy Shower. The treatment is broken up into three steps. First, you receive a scrub which is like a facial, but for your entire body which is then rinsed with the Vichy’s seven relaxing shower heads. In the second phase, a mask is applied and then covered with a warming blanket. A foot massage is also offered. Finally for the third step, you’ll receive a moisturizing treatment for your whole body. The whole experience took about 50 minutes and was absolutely amazing. 

My girlfriends opted for facials and massages.  They have so many options.

For lunch at the spa, we had some refreshing champagne, an assortment of fine cheeses, crackers, sausages, fresh fruits, a variety of hummus and veggies with grilled pita, yogurt parfait, a grilled chicken salad and a platter of chocolate covered strawberries and homemade banana bread. We enjoyed our mid-day meal inside the spa and our healthy and delicious treats were delivered by Falcon Diner, one of the many restaurants inside Ameristar.

Spa lunch

To make a day out of it, I recommend arriving early before your appointment and utilizing the state of the art fitness facility to squeeze in a little workout before heading into full on relaxation mode. Then, slip into your robe and slippers and unwind in the steam room, sauna or hydrotherapy tubs. You can also sit and relax in their waiting room and chat with friends, read or just decompress with a cold eucalyptus towel. They seriously smell like heaven.

Pamper yourself by the pool

When I first caught glimpse of the Ameristar pool, I thought for a moment that I might be at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. It was as if I had stepped into a European courtyard, only it was hot and I couldn’t wait to catch some rays and sip on some frozen cocktails.

Ameristar Pool

 

Pool side couch

Ameristar offers two gorgeous pools, one indoor and one outdoor and both are heated so that you can treat yourself to a swim rain or shine, summer or fall. There are no kids allowed after 6 pm or on weekends so, if you plan to make this getaway a truly relaxing occasion, worry not. Screaming babies and frequent cannonballs are replaced with adult conversation and tropical beverages. If you’re feeling adventurous and fancy a dip in the deep end, you can jam out to your favorite tunes underwater with the pool’s advanced speaker system or doggy paddle back and forth between the indoor and outdoor sections.

STL Staycation at the Ameristar

Ameristar pool #poolside

On Sundays, Ameristar hosts something called Liquid Society during summer months which is as big and bougie as it sounds. Liquid Society is essentially a giant Las Vegas-esque pool party where you can hang out with friends and enjoy the pool amenities. It’s fabulous.

If it’s full-on luxury you crave, you can rent a poolside cabana for the day starting at $100 which includes a fridge to store pina coladas, complementary sparkling fruit infused water, and those heavenly eucalyptus towels. You can also order from the spa and pool’s enormous menu with specialty dishes prepared by Chef Josh and Chad who we got to meet on our trip. Some of their most popular items include the Impossible Burger, a 100% vegan treat that’s quickly becoming one of the trendiest modern dishes in the food industry. I am not a vegan and this was just downright delicious. The menu also includes flatbreads, wraps, salads and dessert items. The bar offers lighter bites for poolside snacking. The Fruit Platter drizzled in decadent honey sauce was a favorite of mine as well as their savory Chicken Spinach Salad with homemade strawberry vinaigrette. And what native St. Louisan could pass up Gooey Butter Cake for dessert? Yum!

Poolside lunch in bento boxes

Girls pool side much Ameristar

 

 

Stay the night in one of Ameristar’s dreamy hotel rooms

Hotel ameristar

I would highly recommend booking a reservation for one of the casino’s beautiful hotel rooms even for just a night. The standard room is spacious and elegant. Walk in and to the left, you’ll see a full sized bathroom with a tub, shower, double vanities and a TV…yeah a TV in the bathroom to watch your favorite shows while you get ready for a night out! There’s also a living room complete with a mini fridge, cute seating area and a window with full view of the Ara pool. Upon arrival, we were brought bottles of chilled wine and chocolate covered strawberries which was a nice touch.

One of the best reasons to stay a night (or two) at Ameristar is the opportunity to enjoy the sites around St. Charles in the most convenient way. The hotel offers a trolley service which makes several stops around the area including Main Street, St. Charles where you enjoy a day of shopping and sightseeing around the historic and charming little town. You can also spend a few hours riding bikes on the famous Katy Trail if you’re looking for a little outdoor fun. Across the highway, there’s a movie theater and tons of restaurants and boutiques at the Streets of St. Charles. You’ll never run out of things to do!

Ameristar hotel #vacay #hotel

Wine (or sake) and dine in one of Ameristar’s fabulous restaurants

I cannot begin to tell you how impressed I was with the dining options at Ameristar. Everything was simply exquisite. St. Louis foodies will love the artistry and complexity of each carefully prepared dish. While there are endless delicious options to choose from, I’m going to highlight what I ate on the trip.

Asia Ameristar

To say the chefs at Ameristar are passionate about great food, would be an understatement. Each dish is inventive and modern and incorporates high-quality ingredients that are both locally sourced and nutritious. For our first dinner at Ameristar, we choose Asia, a restaurant that takes you through a culinary excursion with exceptional dishes from all around the far east. Everything from the wok-tossed noodles to the fresh sushi rolls are made authentically. Asia takes pride in their sous chef who spent years mastering his culinary craft in several Asian countries like Japan, China, Korea and Thailand.

We began our trip through Asia with some bubble tea followed by what they call a “Sake Flight” where we were able to sample three different kinds of sake which was super fun. One of their most popular sakes is called The Wandering Poet. I preferred a smooth blend called The Snow Maiden which incorporated a unique and flavorful combination of honey dew and pumpkin. We then moved on to some tasty appetizers. From their extensive menu, we opted for the famous must try Wonton Wrappers, Crab Rangoon and Eel Sushi Rolls. For our main entrees, we went with Hong Kong Noodle Lemongrass Chicken, Szechaun Style Beef, Salt and Pepper Shrimp and a sea bass dish that looked like a piece of art on a plate. We were offered warm hand towels before and after our incredible meal and the atmosphere and ambience was both pleasant and exciting.

Asia Bubble tea

 

Asia appetizers

Side note on Asia: The restaurant is open until 2am on weekends so if you’re looking for a five star quality meal late at night, this is the place to go!

Asia Ameristar

sake flight

Start your day right with a memorable breakfast at Falcon Diner

As a busy working mom who spends most of her mornings sipping a smoothie on the go, indulging in a big breakfast is a real treat for me. The Falcon Diner offered more than just great grub. It was an experience. This isn’t your typical side of the road pit-stop. It is a bit retro, but it’s elevated and somewhat elegant in both its chic Art-Deco interiors and presentation of food. We were excited to get a visit with Chef Chad.  

We decided to go all out with the Chicken and Waffle Tower which included cheddar bacon waffles, fried chicken, and a yes, you guessed it, a tower of onion rings topped with a sweet bourbon maple syrup. To complement this hearty meal, I also ordered a power bowl (I’m obsessed with granola) and a decadent salted caramel oatmeal brulee. Is your mouth watering yet? While I would have liked to try everything on the menu, I was stuffed to say the least, but their farm fresh quiche and loaded skillets definitely caught my eye.

chicken and waffle tower Falcon diner

power bowl Falcon diner

Chef Chad stopped by our table for a quick chat where he made sure that we were having a great time. With mouths stuffed with bourbon maple waffles, we simply smiled and nodded our heads in delighted appreciation. Chad’s determined to make every visitor’s experience memorable and I don’t think he needs to worry.

 

If you’re looking for a place within driving distance of St. Louis where you can just get away for a bit, Ameristar is the destination for you. It’s Disneyland for adults combining three of my favorite things: amazing food, shopping and relaxing with friends! You can also make it a romantic getaway for two.  It’s a great way to vacation without getting on a plane or dropping thousands of dollars on a Mexico beach trip. My younger globe-trotting self is nodding in approval. I was able to save more money and enjoy myself without the guilt of being away for too long from my kids.

***I was thrilled to partner with Ameristar on this post but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re a family with young kids living in the Midwest, you don’t need to look very far for a fun-filled vacation. Turns out, my family found the perfect getaway when we booked a trip to Branson, Missouri this summer.

Branson Road Trip with Kids #notyourgrandmasBranson! #

Branson Road Trip with Kids

I know what you’re thinking: “Branson, Missouri?! Isn’t that a senior citizen hot spot?”

Why yes, yes it is, but trust me, our trip was nothing like a seniors tour. This was #notyourgrandmasBranson! We had an amazing time, and I can definitely say that there really is something for everyone in this bustling little midwestern town. My family loves being outside in nature, finding lots of adventurous activities for the kids, and spending quality time together. We found all that and much more in Branson, and here, I’ll share all of our favorite recommendations with you.  

We can’t wait to go back!  

First things first: when you arrive in Branson, be sure to make the Branson Tourism Center (off Branson Hills Parkway exit) your very first stop. They have tons of information on tickets and local attractions, and local tour guides can help you plan an incredible trip. Or, if you’d like to plan your trip ahead of time, visit them at http://www.Branson.com or call (800) 785-1610.

For our family’s trip, I told them my boys love nature, adventure and animals. All of their agents live in the area and have great ideas!

Here’s what we did:

Wolfe Mountain Branson

It may not snow much in Branson, but that won’t stop your family from enjoying an amazing day of snow tubing at the Snowflex Tubing Hill. It’s the largest synthetic tubing hill in the world, and this was definitely one of the most exciting things we did—the kids absolutely loved it! According to my 7 year-old son, “it’s scary looking from the top, but once you go one time, you’ll want to go over and over again!”


Tickets are $35 for adults and $29 for kids, which gets you one hour of tubing, and there’s a conveyor belt that takes you to the top of the hill so you don’t have to climb each time.

This is a fun MUST.

Tubing at Wolfe Mountain in Branson #hosted #bransonzipline #snowflexmountain #tubing

The Track Family Fun Parks

What kid doesn’t love go-karts? I know mine do! And so do I, which is why we made sure to check out the Track Family Fun Park. Forget everything you know about go-karts, because this is a next-level experience! This park has several different go-kart tracks for every level of experience. They’ve got super-simple karts for kids as young as four, all the way up to a “wild woody” track that’s basically a wooden roller coaster for go-karts…and grown-ups! In addition to the tracks, they have bumper boats where you can spray the other boaters—that was Logan’s favorite, and of course, classic karts where little ones can ride alongside a driver—Mason’s personal favorite since he’s not quite ready to drive yet.

This popular Branson attraction made for a whole evening of family fun, so I definitely recommend that you add it to your Branson bucket list, especially if you bring your kids.

go-karting in Branson #hosted #Branson.com #gokarts

Shepherd of the Hills Inspiration Tower

If you want to see Branson from above, I recommend you check out Inspiration Tower, which as my kids aptly pointed out, looks like the “Paw Patrol tower”. For just $8, you can take the elevator to the top of this 230-foot concrete tower and take in sweeping views of Branson and the surrounding areas. And for those of you adventure-seekers with older kids, know that the tower is also the jumping-off point for the Vigilante Extreme Ziprider, a thrilling half-mile ride through the sky on the highest zipline in the state of Missouri. Bring on the adventure!  

Two boys looking out over Branson in Inspiration Tower #hosted #branson

Silver Dollar City Amusement Park

No family-centered vacation to Branson with kids can be complete without a trip to an amusement park, right? That’s why we took a whole day to hit the Silver Dollar City amusement park. It’s a theme park designed to be reminiscent of an 1880s silver mine. There’s lots of fun rides and attractions for kids of all ages, and you can even get discounted tickets if you take a 20-ounce bottle of any Coke product to the ticket window.

Here are some inside tips we learned that you can take advantage of when planning your trip to Silver Dollar City:

  • SDC has free parking! It’s one of the few theme parks in the country to offer this.
  • Download the Silver Dollar City app  

The app uses GPS to show you exactly where the nearest restrooms and restaurants are, along with up-to-the-minute wait times for all attractions. It also has a feature where you can create a wishlist of attractions you’re interested in. So handy!

  • SDC allows outside coolers, food and beverages, so stock up to save!
  • There are phone charging stations at Fireman’s landing.  
  • Take advantage of smaller crowds immediately after the park opens by enjoying breakfast at Molly’s Mill restaurant, which opens at 8:30 AM.
  • Go to Grand Expo during lunchtime, since it’ll be much less crowded then.
  • Lie down on the bed in grandfather’s mansion to see a hidden message

Silver Dollar City Theme Park #silverdollarcity

The Amazing Pet Show

If your kids love animals (and honestly, what kid doesn’t?), be sure to stop by this fun pet show. It takes place in the Grand Country Music Hall, and tickets can be purchased at the Branson Travel Office website. You’ll find lots of cats, dogs and parrots performing cool tricks as part of the show, and here’s a fun fact – many of the pets in the show are rescue animals! During the show’s intermission, your kids can get a photo with a poodle, which Logan couldn’t wait to do. I’m personally excited to have this photo to show the first girlfriend Logan brings home.  My boys still talk about this show. It was one of their favorites.

Little boy with poodle at Amazing Pets in Branson

Fun Spot Farm Mini Golf

Experience life “down on the farm” at this fun, family-centered mini golf center right on the strip in downtown Branson. My boys love anything farm-related, so they were right at home here. The 18-hole course was fun and just challenging enough that the kids could enjoy the game without feeling frustrated.

If the afternoon sun gets a bit hot, there’s an adjoining game center that has lots of video and arcade-type games for kids. Load money onto game cards and let them play for as long as they want.

Mini golf in Branson, MO #hosted #minigolf

Top of the Rock, Lost Canyon Cave & Nature Trail

For a fantastic outdoor adventure, a tour through Lost Canyon Cave simply can’t be beat. This two-mile, golf cart tour leads you on a paved path through the amazing geological features of Lost Canyon in the Ozark mountains. You’ll see incredible rock formations and beautiful waterfalls. The tickets are a bit pricey ($28 for adults and $12 for kids) but trust me, it’s totally worth it! This was one of our favorite attractions of the entire trip.

 

Where we stayed:  

The Hilton Branson Convention Center

For this trip, we decided to stay at the Hilton Branson Convention Center. You’ll recognize it by the Welcome to Branson mural located directly outside the hotel. 

Branson Roadtrip with Kids

Aside from being a beautiful, well appointed hotel, the Hilton was fabulous for its convenient location. In fact, location is the name of the game here, with the hotel centrally located within walking distance to historic downtown Branson. There’s lots of great shows it’s also right across the street from Branson Landing, which boasts great shopping and dining. If you don’t feel like walking, you’re in luck, since the trolley drives right by the hotel and offers rides to all of these attractions.

There are two fabulous pools—one indoor and one outdoor—that are big enough for a large crowd, and cabanas can be reserved in advance for $75.

Lobby inside Hilton Branson, MO

Ride Sparky the Trolley

And speaking of trolleys, you can’t visit downtown Branson without taking a ride on Sparky, the town’s resident trolley. #RideSparky. Sparky’s free, and offers 13 stops that take you all around downtown Branson. My boys love trolleys, so this was a must-do for us!

The Branson Landing

Since our hotel was directly across the street from Branson Landing, we definitely had to spend some time there. There’s so much to see and do! There’s Parakeet Pete’s, which is a zipline that takes you up over the waterfront and allows you to get a birds-eye view of the entire downtown area. At night, the zipline lights up for a trippy, zippy ride in the dark.

Other fun Branson Landing attractions include Steampunk Balloons, where you can experience what it’s like riding in a hot air balloon without the dizzying heights, and Buster’s Old Time Photos, because who doesn’t love dressing up like an outlaw every now and again? We loved Branson Landing, and found something fun for the whole family here. They even have a  Bellagio-style Water Fountain Show, every hour on the hour.

Wondering where we ate on our kid-friendly Branson vacation? Here’s the lineup!

Rocco’s pizza –fantastic New York-style pizza which tons of different recipes.

Cantina Laredo, Landing – easily the best queso and fresh guacamole made right at your table!

Mr B’s Ice cream parlor – a cute 50’s-style ice cream parlor within walking distance from the hotel.  

Cakes-n-Creams 50’s Diner – another retro spot, serving delicious burgers and shakes, with authentic juke boxes at each table.

Billy Gail’s Cafe – Wonderful, country-style breakfast joint on the way to Silver Dollar City with pancakes larger than a plate.

hot air ballon in Branson, MO
Steampunk Balloons
Two boys eating cookies #bransonlanding
Cookies at the Hilton!

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Brunch Bunch

On Sunday, May 6th, with the help of my fabulous co-hosts Jen Znosko, Amy Schuster, and Julie Fowler, I hosted a Mother’s Day brunch to benefit Westchester elementary.  It was a fun way to raise money for the school while also taking time to celebrate moms who work so hard for their families and communities. The goal of the party was to allow moms to have fun and celebrate Mother’s Day free of distractions for a few hours.

Just like the selfie scavenger hunt we hosted back in April, this was also a fundraising sign-up party. In honor of the beautiful spring weather, we created a light brunch menu. First up were some cute “mom-osas” served with pink-and-white straws and “spa” water (fruit-infused water). Along with plenty of brunch finger foods, a simply decadent chocolate tasting courtesy of Bissinger’s Chocolates was a perfect way to round out the menu.

Mom-osa brunch

We wanted to keep the brunch menu simple yet delicious, so we chose finger foods and appetizers that everyone was sure to enjoy. Nothing is more simple and scrumptious brunch food than skewers. You’ll see there were several on the Mother’s Day brunch menu, and they certainly didn’t disappoint!

Here’s what was on the menu:

“Mom-osas”

The perfect fun brunch drink to celebrate amongst fellow hard working moms.

Mother's Day Brunch

 

Mothers Day Brunch

Momosa brunch

Spa Water

Mother's Day Brunch

We loved having two different types of infused water to keep things fresh and light. My favorites were Detox Cucumber (cucumber infused water) and Citrus (oranges, lemons, and basil).  These H2Os were beautiful and refreshing!

Veggie Cups and Dip

Mother's Day Brunch

Veggie cups

The veggie cups with dip were simple, delicious and healthy; a can’t-miss brunch food idea!  Simply put some dip in the bottom of clear plastic cups, then place carrot and celery sticks, broccoli and a tiny skewer of grape tomatoes in the cup on top of the dip. These made such a bright, colorful, and fun addition to our brunch food.

Bacon Skewers

Bacon Skewers

If you want an amazing brunch item that looks simple but is anything but simple in the taste department, then trust me—these bacon skewers MUST for your next gathering! They were spicy, sweet and simply amazing! Amy found these taste bud electrifiers on Pinterest, and I couldn’t stop eating them. Get the recipe here

Yogurt parfaits with Irene’s granola

Irene's granola parfait

Here’s another simple brunch food idea that was beautiful and easy to assemble. For our yogurt parfaits, we simply layered yogurt over fresh-cut fruit, then topped it off with Irene’s soft granola for a little bowl of heaven!  Irene’s granola is made locally in Kirkwood and is amazing.

Quiche

Momosa brunch

You can’t host a brunch without serving quiche, right? It’s a great brunch food since it’s filling, but pairs perfectly with finger foods and appetizers. For our quiche, we decided to offer some variety with a two-pack from Costco. We chose the spinach-artichoke and cheddar-broccoli flavors from La Terra Fina, and we were super pleased.  They were healthy and delicious!  Check out their site for a coupon.  My friend Jen said the spinach-artichoke dip is amazing.  I can’t wait to try that too!

Fruit Kabobs

fruit kabobs

Who doesn’t love a fruit kabobs?   These little gems were on our brunch menu! So light, so delicious, and so easy! Cut the fruit and skewer.

Donut Hole pops

Donut Pops

This was an easy brunch treat to assemble and provided such a fun presentation.  My friend Julie bought a box of Munchkins donut holes from Dunkin Donuts.  We skewered each one and served.  Perfection!

All these foods were super easy for a busy mom who doesn’t have time to be slaving away in the kitchen.  These would be great ideas if you are hosting a baby or wedding shower, graduation parties or having brunch with your favorite girls.  Whatever your event, this easy and simple menu will give you more time to toast with your friends.  Cheers!

XOXO

Sarah~

Special thanks to my co-hostesses Jen, Amy, and Julie.
The businesses who made this party special:  Elizabeth from Gladly designs for all the beautiful signs and food tents, Irene’s granola for the amazing granola.

Plus all the amazing businesses that donated to the Mother’s Survival Kit swag bags:

Swag Bag
Kidzxplor, Yoga 6, Fit Flavors, Chick fil a- Des Peres, Bissinger’s,  Marley Lilly, The Daily Bread Cafe, Wee Tutoring, Kendra Scott, Shine Tan, European Wax, Soap Box and Prana Yoga.

We did a self-care accountability activity check out that post here.

Photos from @missverajeanae_

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Mom to Mom-Angela co-creator of Kidzxplor

Angela Sandler

Background of Kidzxplor

Angela Sandler is the Co-Founder/CEO of Kidzxplor– a revolutionary app and web-based membership that connects families with local activity & experience partners. Kidzxplor strives to help kids find their passion by making parents lives a bit easier. Kidzxplor is a subscription-based B2B and B2C partnership that works in tandem with local business owners to manage their activity open inventory and redistribute it via Kidzxplor where consumers can attend a variety of activities, all on one platform. Kidzxplor takes the stress out of the search and discovery of activities- often a daunting task for parents. By utilizing technology, Kidzxplor is a one-stop-shop for all activities kid. Parents can purchase Passes through Kidzxplor on a monthly basis or via a la carte packages. There is never any commitment and flexibility is key.

Angela is a business manager with over 19 years of proven results in brand management, new product development, strategic planning, marketing, and sales. An intuitive marketer with a keen sense of timing to identify and capture emerging market opportunities. Angela started her career at May Department Stores and has worked for a variety of companies launching new brands, and developing existing brands such as Victorinox Swiss Army, Timberland, Carhartt, Jonathan Adler and BMW. Angela was recognized as one of 200 female founder startups selected by Rent the Runway Foundation and UBS, to participate in the 2017 Project Entrepreneur intensive.

Angela was born and raised in St. Louis and attended the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss).  She is married to her husband, Andy, and lives in Creve Coeur with her daughter Joie, and a son, Grant.  In her free time, Angela enjoys spending time with family and friends, running and doing yoga, and traveling wherever and whenever she can.

Kidzxplor currently operates in St. Louis, Missouri and Houston, Texas.

Angela’s goals for Kidzxplor in the balance of 2018 is to continue to grow the events side of the business, network with more businesses, and continue to connect parents to opportunities in their community.

Social handles:

IG: http://www.instagram.com/angela_sandler

FB: http://www.facebook.com/angelawecklsandler

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mrssandler & http://www.twitter.com/kidzxplor

Email: angela@kidzxplor.com

Business Questions

Why/ When was the Kidzxplor app created?  The Kkidzxplor concept was created in September of 2015 on Miami Beach.  Attending a mutual friends 40th birthday celebration, after a walk on the beach complaining about how much we were spending on kids activities and the commitment involved- we felt there had to be a better way.  We were all ClassPass users and felt that the same concept could easily be adapted to kids activities and that the concept made even more sense since kids are finicky and often must try many things before they find their passion.  After the trip- we started the process of developing the technology and then launched to the public in August of 2016.

What is your favorite thing about being a woman-owned business?  The comradery.  I love working with different women business owners as we all really support each other.  We all face struggles in life that men don’t experience- the balancing of both the business, our families & children, running a household, and also trying to keep ourselves happy and healthy.  There is a lot of struggles in finding a balance or happy medium and women understand this.  We all can commiserate and help each other find solutions and support together.

How has your business evolved?   Our business has evolved very much from the beginning.  From the start, we have always been passionate about offering families experiences- and those experiences have now grown to include events, birthday parties, and finding unique experiences you cannot find anywhere else- much more than just taking an art or music class.  Initially, we were 100% focused on the child, and now we are moving towards being more focused on the whole family- mom, dad, and kids.  We also, in the beginning, were very focused on the consumer, but as we have developed- we find that the businesses are also a big part of the equation.  ALL businesses are looking to bring families in their doors – we have found that these businesses include retail, restaurants, services, etc.- much more than just the original kid’s activity providers we started with.

What’s the biggest challenge about creating an app?  The biggest challenge with building an app being a startup is budget.  App’s and tech can be very expensive and as you grow as a company- there are always additional improvements and updates you would like to make to improve the experience, which can be very costly.

What are your favorite mom apps?  I love Apps!  I use so many to help!  My favorites include Blinklist, kidzxplor (of course!), Mind/Body, Apple Music, Venmo, Open Table, Postmates, Shine, and The Skimm.  I don’t know if those are all Mom-App’s- but they sure help me manage my life!

You recently hosted an amazing Mod Mamas event.  How did you get the idea?  Moms today are so busy and rarely have a day to themselves to help nourish their mind, body, and spirit.  Mod Mama’s was created as a one-stop-shop for busy Mama’s to help them experience community, education on key topics for Mama’s, fitness, food, and friends all in one place.  It really was developed out of what we personally felt that we would like and enjoy and how we felt we could bring the best information these Mamas in small bites.

What do you want people to know about Kidzxplor?  Great question!!!  I think there is still a lot of confusion about kidzxplor and what it offered and how it works.  I think the main thing is that its such an incredible savings over retail!  You can pick and choose, on your schedule, what works for you and your child.  You can purchase credits that allow you to drop-in to whichever activities you want – there is no commitment, no membership, and it’s completely flexible to your needs.

Mom Life

Angela Sandler

How do you balance work and family?  I am not sure there is ever a balance- it’s more of an ebb and flow.  Some weeks are busier with families, some weeks are work heavier, some weeks you can breathe.  I do a lot of outsourcing to help.  I want to be having fun and enjoying my children when I am around them- so I try to offload the things I don’t like doing so that when they are home- I can be with them.  I hire someone to do our families laundry so that is taken care of, I order all my groceries online, I use a lot of app’s to have streamline processes, and I use my calendar to schedule everything to make sure that everything has it’s place- particularly exercise so it doesn’t get lost.

What are qualities you try and role model for your kids?  Kindness 100%.  There is never a reason not to be kind.  Thinking positive and looking for the good in most things.  I also really try to make my kids self-reliant.  I don’t do a lot of things for them that they can do themselves and I tend to let them manage their time and their actions- I don’t fight their battles and I look forward to opportunities for them to make mistakes (in reason) so that they can learn from them.

What would you tell your younger self? It’s all going to be OK.

Who inspires you?  I am really inspired by my business coach Erin Joy- and also female entrepreneurs that are making their dreams happen.

The advice you’d give to other working moms?  Take a deep breath- and outsource, outsource, outsource.

Personal

What is your guilty pleasure? Hmmmm… probably alcohol.  Truth.

What do you put in your coffee?  Hazelnut creamer from Trader Joes at home, half and half at coffee shops

Favorite workout?  Shred415 – hands down.

What is one thing you cannot go to bed without doing?  Checking Instagram

Best place in the world you have been?  There’s too many to mention!  Hong Kong, St. Lucia, Bangkok, Venice, Barcelona.

Your bucket list is The Maldives, Phuket, Galapagos’, Canary Islands

 

If you missed the other Mom to Mom check out:

Mom to Mom with Stephanie Pohlman Designs:
Mom to Mom Meet Sarah

 

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