Sep 14

Family Vacation on the Gulf Coast

Kelly Blumenthal is a long time Mom Mapper and an advocate for finding the best places for the family when traveling.   As both a parent and artist, she has made paintings for the Breast Cancer Auction – Komen Foundation. This past summer Kelly and her family visited the Gulf Coast region.   She has been kind enough to write a blog about this amazing place.

Families from the Mid-south flock to the cooler breezes of the Gulf Coast Region in the summertime. The refreshing salt air, leisurely pace, and family togetherness make a win-win for travelers.

From the Fort Morgan Peninsula to Pensacola, this region offers a variety of activities for serious beach goers to families who like experiential travel.

You can take excursions to beach trails in a variety of habitats, or enjoy touristy fun in Gulf Shores. My tween, teen, and techie husband enjoyed the mix of beach time and excursions. Whether we were searching for Ghost crabs at night, or using a fishing net to study the fish swimming under our feet, all provided hours of fun. Here are some of our favorite places to visit:

kids, travel, fun

Mobile Bay Ferry – Noted as “the Gulf-Coast’s most scenic drive”:   Ferries run across Mobile Bay connecting the Fort Morgan Peninsula and Dauphine Island. The trip is about 40 minutes. The ferry is great for bird watching and dolphin spotting.


Fort Morgan, Alabama:  If you are history buffs or have children that enjoy studying the American Civil War, this is a must see. Located on the tip of the Fort Morgan Peninsula, across from the ferry port. Fort Morgan is a historical settlement with original buildings. You can explore the large fortifications, bunkers, and tunnels.  They have an excellent gift shop and museum building on site, as well.

Fort Morgan

Fort Morgan

Dauphine Island, Estuarium at the Dauphine Island Sea Lab:   A research based museum featuring the unique wildlife of this estuary habitat.  Experience films, exhibits, and hands on stations with sea creatures. Complete the visit thru a salt marsh via a stroll on the boardwalk outside.

Lulu’s Restaurant at Homeport Marina, Gulf Shores:  Situated by a marina and is a complex with restaurants, live music, hula hoops, and balls in large sandy outdoor play area. It is also a farm to table restaurant, started by Lulu Buffet, the sister of musician Jimmy Buffet. There is the Mountain of Youth, a four level climbing extravaganza for kids. It spoke to their inner pirate.  You can even walk the plank, at the very top, if brave enough.

Gulf Coast Trapeze

Climbing structure

Gulf Shores Park:  Recommended as a must see by locals. This is a system of greenways connecting Orange Beach & Gulf Shores to the beautiful Gulf Shores Park. It is a wonderful trail system to bike ride as a family. Choose from 14 miles of paved paths in 6 different ecosystems.  We took the Rosemary Dune Trail which leads to a Butterfly Garden and Boulder Park, a climbing rock play area. The path is flanked by a pine forest. The trail passes through an alligator viewing swamp. We encountered vibrant dragon flies, a gopher tortoise, and  butterflies.


Gulf Coast Back Country Trail

Sea & Suds, Gulf Shore, AL:   A family tradition for many years. A cozy yet open eatery built over the water. Pure and simple, with friendly service. The kids will be entertained by walking on the giant decks that encapsulate the restaurant. Sit at the oyster bar and enjoy watching the oyster shucking, first hand.

Lillian’s Pan Pizza, Perdido Key, FL:  A pizza restaurant that serves a wide variety of delicious pizzas in addition to pastas, Italian specialities, salads, sandwiches, and desserts. Kids and adults will both be happy with the selections. An original restaurant enjoyed both by locals and tourists.

Visit the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida: A FREE 350,000 SQ FT  museum of exhibit space. Visit this historical museum if you have time, or make it your number one priority. Spend a morning or afternoon here, exploring many facets of aviation history. There is also a space exhibit and a restaurant on premises if you need to refuel.

Most of all, make time to soak up the beach sand and waves.  On our last night, our family enjoyed studying the constellations. The stars shone bright, without the glare of city lights, and appeared limitless in their number and density.


Nov 10

Get Outside! Tip Sheet for Kid-Friendly, Cold Weather Fun

Photo by Tony the Misfit (Flickr Creative Commons)

Even when the weather turns cold and wet, there’s no end to the activities and places you can explore with kids. You can, of course, opt for staying warm and toasty by browsing our growing list of indoor play areas on the Mom Maps iPhone app or on the Kids Play Guide website. (Also be sure to check out our recent post: “Kid-Friendly Fun on Rainy or Cold Days: Our Favorite Places to Get the Wiggles Out“.).

If, however, your family is up for braving the elements, this just might be the time to discover a new place to explore. Our community of mom and dad mappers has made it easy to find kid-friendly places for outdoor fun in your area and on the road. Browse the “Parks” and “Playground” categories on our iPhone App or website, and you’re sure to find a great new family destination.

To add to the fun, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite links and resources for winter and cold weather activities. Now bundle up, get outside and play!

  • From The Grass Stain Guru: Try a fall color walk or check out some other ideas from her Fall Play video
  • Try these winter nature activities for kids on eHow
  • Download this free Winter Activity Guide from Nature Rocks, chock full of games, activities and safety tips.
  • Our friend Erin (@AKontheGo) recently shared this great article from Wild Backpacker on Staying Warm While Backpacking the the Coldest Weather
  • Did you know? Winter can be the best time of year from some outdoor activities, like exploring tidepools. Here’s a good round up of theBest Tidepools for Kids in California from Trekaroo
  • If you find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area (where Mom Maps/Kids Play Guide is based), ready the rain shield for your stroller and find a great place to a walk on the Stroller Hikes website.
  • We like this list compiled by National Wildlife Foundation/Wildlife Promise on favorite Outdoor Blogs by Parents.
  • Our friends at Fun Orange County Parks have created the first and last resource you need for outdoor fun in Orange County from beaches to parks to playgrounds.
  • For all you Twitter fans, the #PlayOutdoors hashtag is one of our favorites for the best news on outdoor family fun, year round.


Take Our Skinny Scoop Poll: “When the weather turns cold, what activities get you outside with your kids?”

Nov 10

Video: Featured Kid-Friendly Place, Hapuna Beach (Big Island, Hawaii)

Kids Play Guide Mapper Stacie shares this video from a recent trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. This is one of the best (and only) big sandy beaches on the island. It’s on the Kohala Coast which home to many resorts (Hapuna Beach adjacent to the Hapuna Prince and Mauna Kea Hotels). Hapuna Beach has lots of amenities: big parking lot, lifeguard on duty, bathrooms, picnic areas, grills, snack shack.  It’s a great place for boogie boarding, although (beware!) the conditions can be rough at times. Overall, a great place to spend the day with the family.

In addition to mapping some of her favorite kid-friendly places on the Mom Maps iPhone app and Kids Play Guide website, Stacie writes a blog called “A Little Yumminess“, which covers family recipes and kid-friendly food adventures in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. And… if you’re interested in kid-friendly food on the Big Island, click here to view her “Big Island Food Adventure” video post.

Looking for more kid-friendly fun from parks, to playgrounds, museums to indoor play places and restaurants? Click over to www.kidsplayguide.com and browse our growing list of more than 25,000 kid spots or take Mom Maps on the go with our iPhone app. It’s quick and easy to map and review your own favorites, too.

Nov 10

Featured Mom Mapper: Road Trips for Families

So how did we find the more than 24,000 kid-friendly places mapped in our Mom Maps iPhone app? We’ve been building  a vibrant community of parent Mappers who love to share their favorite picks and places for outdoor and indoor play, learning places, family dining and more. We’d like to introduce you to Road Trips for Families, and in particular, their “Feed Me” and “Geocaching” editor, Julie Henning. Julie is also the creator of the the very handy Milwaukee Love Kids and Madison Loves Kids iPhone apps.

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Road Trips for Families brings you travel information and advice from real families who love to hit the road every chance they get. It’s a great resource for planning your next family road trip because you’ll find expert itineraries, information on what’s along the way, gadgets — plus a whole lot more. Julie’s specialty is dining out with kids — and as a mother of three she can appreciate that this is no small task, especially when you’re on the road. You need convenience, clean bathrooms, and a place to burn off energy—not to mention prices that don’t break your travel budget on the first day. Julie loves to venture little off the beaten path to find and share unique, family-friendly restaurants that feed your appetite and your sense of adventure . She’s also a great resource for geocaching, “the nation’s high-tech treasure hunt”.

We’re proud to team up with Julie Henning and Road Trips for Families to map some of their favorite roadside attractions and kid-friendly destinations. So now you can take Road Trips for Families’ kid-friendly travel picks and recommendations “on the go” using the Mom Maps iPhone app (or browse online at www.kidsplayguide.com.)

Follow Julie and Road Trips for Families

  • www.roadtripsforfamilies.com
  • @RoadTripsEditor (Road Trips for Families on Twitter)
  • @roadtripsfeedme (Julie Henning on Twitter)
  • Facebook: Road Trips for Families
  • Find out more about Geocaching

Nov 10

Featured Video: Totland (Berkeley, CA)

Mom Mapper Shayla shares this video from a recent trip to the Totland Playground in North Berkeley, CA. Totland has the goods from sand to swings to lots of “donated” toddler toys — shade, water and tables aplenty, too. It’s totally fenced in which parents of wee ones will appreciate and pssst… we’ve heard it’s a good place for a park birthday party or play date.

Check out this video from Shayla of “Me Turned Mom“, where she blogs about parenting, cool stuff, and interesting places….. and find more kid-friendly places in Berkeley and beyond using the Mom Maps iPhone app, or by browsing www.kidsplayguide.com.

Now get out there and play!

Sep 10

Featured Mom Mapper: Fun Orange County Parks

So how did we find the more than 24,000 kid-friendly places mapped in our Mom Maps iPhone app? We’ve been building  a vibrant community of parent Mappers who love to share their favorite picks and places for outdoor and indoor play, learning places, family dining and more. We’d like to introduce you to Fun Orange County Parks and Michele Whiteaker. She’s a KaBOOM.org Playmaker and self-proclaimed playground blogger who considers it her community service to share the scoop on outdoor play in Orange County.

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We love Fun Orange County Parks! It’s an incredible resource for outdoor play covering playgrounds and parks from Anaheim to Fullerton, Newport Beach San Clemente and everywhere in between. The best part is that the the information comes straight from parents who live and play in Orange County . What we also love about the site are the sections that feature ideas for nature-based play, kids activities, and family road trips — and even some music playlists to keep you going. You won’t want to miss the “Super Search” section where you’ll find handpicked lists in categories ranging from Park Birthdays, to Sand-Free Parks, Water (Puddles), and Beat the Heat.

We’re thrilled to team up with Fun Orange County Parks to enable you to browse hundreds of their Orange County park and playground recommendations and photos on-the-go using our Mom Maps iPhone app.

Now get out there and play!

Follow Fun Orange County Parks

  • www.funorangecountyparks.com
  • @OCPlayParks (on twitter)
  • Facebook: Fun Orange County Parks
  • If you’re a Twitter fan you may also want to check out the great hastag “#playoutdoors” where you can get your daily dose of links and resources for outdoor play culled from around the Twitter-sphere.

Download the Mom Maps iPhone app or search our library of kid-friendly places online.

Sep 10

Featured Kid-Friendly Place: Waterfront Park, Louisvile KY

Mom Mapper Julie Henning, Feed Me and Geocaching Editor for Road trips for Families and expert on kid-friendly Milwaukee and Madison, brings us a great kid-friendly spot for the whole family in Louisville, KY. Waterfront Park is a relatively new addition to Louisville — an 85 acre park that unites the waterfront along the Ohio River with the city. Think multiple playgrounds (with water play area in summer), picnic areas, walking trails, expansive lawns, outdoor concerts and events, and river views. Whether you’re out for a day at the playground, kicking the ball, going for run or just taking time to stop and smell the flowers, there’s something for everyone. Julie and her family give this one a thumbs up!

Thanks Julie!!

Aug 10

Parents Pick: Shira’s Favorite Manhattan Playgrounds (and Discount on NYC Babysitting Services)

Mom Maps has now mapped more than 2,000 kid-friendly spots in the greater New York City area (and 23,000 across the US, and counting!). Find something new in your neighborhood or feel like a local when you’re just visiting — Find parks, playgrounds, museums, indoor play places and restaurants.

Of course, we couldn’t find all these great places without our wonderful community of Mappers: moms and dads, family travel experts, parent bloggers who love to share their favorite places for family fun. Shira, a NYC mom (and Mom Mapper), shares 3 of her favorite Manhattan playgrounds (find these and more NYC play places on the Mom Maps website .

Bryant Park: “A great park with a large lawn, an awesome carousel ($2 a ride) and a kids reading area (open spring through fall). All at the back of the main New York Public Library.”

Tompkins Square Playground: “A newly renovated playground with swings, sandbox, and everything a kid needs… within a nice large square/park.”

Union Square Playground: “A great large playground in the north side of Union Square. divided to a younger toddlers area with sandbox and swings and a wide space for bigger toddlers/kids. Brand new playground with cool facilities.”

(Photos: Bryant Park by ktylerconk, Tompkins Square by edenpictures, Union Square by timstock_nyc)

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AND… when you’re in need of a sitter in the Big Apple, we recommend Creative Sitters. They focus on weaving creativity through your child’s everyday routine in order for them to have a positive and happier childcare experience. Serving the New York City and Hoboken areas. Mention “Mom Maps” when you book a sitter and you’ll receive a 15% discount on your first sitting.


Jul 10

Guest Post: Exploring More National Parks with “Pitstops for Kids”

Our friend Amy Whitley at Pitstops for Kids has been on whirlwind, multi-state family road trip this summer. Her “Pit Stop A Day” series follows her 22-day “mega” road trip, touring four national parks, six family-friendly resorts, eight states. Luckily for the rest of us, we can go along for the ride (without all the potty stops) and take advantage of her many tips and recommendations when planning more modest itineraries. Visit her site to read the whole series and browse her reviews and recommendations for kid-friendly pitstops across the US.

Easy Hikes and Great Views at Arches National Park

UTAH — Moab is home to both Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, which showcase some of the most stunning geological formations we’ve ever seen! Arches in particular is breathtaking, and offers many easy hikes and vista points for kids to explore. (General Tip: whatever your activity, get up and go early; later in the day, temperatures can be unbearable in summer.) Read the full story on Pitstops for Kids.


Ancient Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park

COLORADO — With so much to see, families can easily plan to spend 2-3 days exploring this park! Mesa Verde is home to more than 600 ancient cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. Kids can hike right down to the ruins (some self-guided, some in group tours) and walk through ancient doorways, climb wooden ladders, and see how Mesa Verde’s first inhabitants lived firsthand. (General Tip: don’t let the high desert landscape fool you; Mesa Verde is at high elevation. Be sure to bring jackets and watch for altitude sickness when spending the day out in the elements.) Read the full story on Pitstops for Kids.


Hiking at Zion National Park

UTAH — The Emerald Pools is a great hike for kids because you can adjust it to your needs/abilities. There are three pools on the trail: the lower pool is only .6 mile from the trailhead (although it does climb quite a bit), or the second pool is only 1 mile. From either of these, ambitious families can continue to the third pool (another .5 mile) or return. When we visited in July, the pools weren’t much to look at, but the dripping water from the overhangs of rock were very impressive (and a great way to cool off!).Weeping Rock is another easy hike for kids. This trail is short (.4 mile) but steep, and very beautiful. Definitely worth a stop! Read the full story on Pitstops for Kids.

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Jul 10

Guest Post: “Pitstops for Kids” Explores National Parks

Our friend Amy Whitley at Pitstops for Kids has been on whirlwind, multi-state family road trip this summer. Her”Pit Stop A Day” series follows her 22-day “mega” road trip, touring four national parks, six family-friendly resorts, eight states. Luckily for the rest of us, we can go along for the ride (without all the potty stops) and take advantage of her many tips and recommendations when planning more modest itineraries. Visit her site to read the whole series and browse her reviews and recommendations for kid-friendly pitstops across the US.

Zion National Park

A unique hike kids will love: “We hiked the short Riverside Walk (paved and fairly even terrain) to the start of the ‘Narrows’. At this location, the trail simply ends and you continue up the canyon by wading through the river. It’s slow going, but tons of fun. The kids loved this style of ‘hiking’ because they had to pick and choose their own route up the river, and every step was an adventure.”

Glacier National Park

Kid-friendly activities galore at the historic Many Glacier Hotel: “Beautiful views in every direction. Over 700 miles of hiking trails criss-cross Glacier National Park, many of which fan out directly from the hotel. We sampled six miles of them, and saw a moose, rabbits, and bighorn sheep! Boat tours of Swiftcurrent Lake and other surrounding lakes depart regularly from the hotel’s dock. Also on-site is a stable and a kiosk at the dock where you can rent canoes, kayaks, and rowboats. At the front of the hotel is a departure location for the park’s famed Red Bus Tours.

Yellowstone National Park

An easy hike for kids: At Artists’ Paintpots, you’ll find a well-maintained loop trail taking you to steaming and bubbling ’pots’ in the earth, as well as mud-holes that gurgle and spew (my kids’ favorite!). The hike is easy, and you get much closer to these interesting geothermal wonders than you can at nearby Geyser Basin.”


Collaborating with adventurous real-world parents like Amy is the heart and soul of what Mom Maps is all about. We’re proud to offer you the inside scoop on family fun and kids’ activities: what to do, where to eat and what’s cool – all for parents, by parents. Use Mom Maps on the web or download our free iPhone app. Join our great community of Mom Mappers (dads too!) and share some of your favorite kid-friendly places.