Santa HQ is coming to Northern Virginia November 14th {and Nine other Locations in the US} #DCNoVAadventures

Usually you won’t hear a peep out of me about Christmas until after Thanksgiving; but I’m willing to make an exception when it comes to making sure you have the perfect Santa experience with your little ones. And one of the coolest places to visit that jolly man in red is coming to Tysons Corner!

For seven weeks, Nov 5th – December 24th, you can visit with Santa at Santa HQ, brought to you by HGTV. Take your picture with Santa, take an ‘Elfie Selfie, star in your own music video and use Elf-Ray vision to explore Santa’s Workshop. HGTV and DIY Television stars will also be present at certain locations. Alison Victoria, from Kitchen Crashers, will be at the Tysons location on November 20th. Before you leave make sure you enter to win HGTVs $10,000 Spreading Holiday Cheer Sweepstakes! What is probably the coolest thing about the Santa HQ experience is that you can make reservations. For a mom of three I think that is pretty darn cool. For a military spouse mom it’s probably the best thing ever, especially if your spouse is gone. Make sure to visit Santa HQ on the web for more information and to grab your slot to see the big guy.
See below to find the dates and locations nearest you!! And for all my DC/NoVA readers, we’ll see you November 14th. Make sure to use #loveHGTV and share you pictures on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!
Arizona:
Chandler Fashion Center, Chandler, opens Nov. 7
Scottsdale Fashion Center, Scottsdale, opens Nov. 14 

California:
Vintage Faire, Modesto, opens Nov. 5
Los Cerritos Center, Cerritos, opens Nov. 7
Lakewood Center, Lakewood, Calif., opens Nov. 7
Colorado:
Flatiron Crossing, Broomfield, opens Nov. 7

Connecticut:
Danbury Fair, Danbury, opens Nov. 6
New Jersey:
Deptford Mall, Deptford Township, opens Nov. 5
Oregon:
Washington Square, Portland, opens Nov. 7
Washington D.C. area:
Tysons Corner Center in Virginia opens Nov. 14

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Must See Sites in Delaware City, Delaware {Kid Tips Too!}

Everyone once in awhile you find yourself in cool little town. And if you’re like me you have your own little “Gilmore Girls” moment, while in said town. That’s what happened to me when I visited Delaware City, Delaware! I fell in love with this small town, with his big history, adorable shops, white gazebo and amazing food! Here are some must see sites and things to do in Delaware City!

1. Fort Delaware – of course its at the top of the list because I would venture to say its the main tourist attraction here in the town. You come for the history, but stay for so much more. This fort was probably the coolest of all the ones I’ve ever been to {and I’ve been to a ton, and on both coasts!}. The docents and actors were amazing. The kids were super involved. There were areas to run around, stairs to climb and crevices to peak into. They saw a cannon, blast, rifle demonstrations, and actually got to blacksmith. NO JOKE! I’ve never ever seen that before anywhere. With the assistance of some docents my two oldest got to make an “S” hook and a spoon. For five dollars my eight year old got to actually have a dream, wish type of experience. Ever since he was six and went to Coloma (Northern California) for the first time he’s been absolutely obsessed with blacksmithing. Plus, riding a ferry to get there was pretty cool.

~ Parent note: you can pack a lunch and bring it on the island with you. There are picnic tables and grassy areas (watch out for the goose poop!). Souvenirs and snacks are also ridiculously reasonable in prices! I snagged a bonnet and two civil war hats for $6.00 each. They are awesome!

2. GeoCaching and Boat Watching in the Square – As a geocaching family we, of course, had to see what was what! Unfortunately it started to pour rain on us the first day so we could only snag one; but there is one right in the square.  Huge boats come right by the square and the kids had a marvelous time watching the boats and laughing as the water splashed up on them!!! They could have stayed longer but we had to skidaddle.

3. Lewinsky’s On Clinton  – Yup, you read that right! A restaurant that cleverly uses the name of the main street in town, ‘Clinton Street’ in its name. It was a must-see place that we didn’t have time for. Since the hubby was only able to be with us on one of the days there we had to make the most of our time. We didn’t get a chance to swing in and check it out, but you better believe it is on my bucket list. I don’t even care if the food sucks, I want to go just so that I can say that we ate there!

4. Cordelia’s Bakery and Cafe – This adorable Cafe and Bakery would be the place I would be hanging out, or going to every day if I lived in Delaware City. With bread and desserts made fresh daily and the sweetest staff ever, Cordelia’s is the perfect stop for lunch during your visit here.

5. Ice Cream Parlor – its simply called ‘Ice Cream Parlor’ and is located at the end of Clinton Street near the water. This is a no-frills, old fashioned ice cream shop. They have lots of fun flavors and the servings are huge. There are some places to sit, but this is a take and go, walk around the square, go sit in the grass type of area. 
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Thomas the Train comes to Baltimore {Baltimore, MD} #DCNoVAadventures

A Day Out With Thomas is coming to the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, and while it is an expensive outing, this penny-pinching mom thinks it is well worth every penny!

We first heard about A Day Out With Thomas last year, at the height of our Thomas obsession. The stars aligned – hubby was home, we loved Thomas and I had a special coupon code. I hesitated for half a second only because it isn’t cheap, but I knew this would be a special family day experience. We had never been to the museum there, however I had heard that it was a pretty cool place to visit for train loving people. There are several vintage trains to venture into, a hands on station for the kids, lego and train building stations and docents. As part of the special “TDO” events there were pictures with Sir Topham Hat and story times. These were both organized extremely well, with fast moving lines and pleasant workers. We weren’t forced through the lines either. The kids got to hug him, high-five him and we took our own pictures! That was a pleasant surprise.

The fun didn’t stop there. Once you headed outside there was a whole world of fun waiting for you! There were several rides for the kids (that usually cost money but were included in the special admission). They had bounce houses set up as well as musical entertainment. Outside they had food vendors that were fairly reasonable and places set up to eat.


The ride on Thomas was an in and out type deal, and actually the policeman on their motorbikes were quite the entertainment. The kids loved them!!

There was plenty of staff, lots of security and the organization was fabulous!

If you are looking for a very special experience in your hometown you can’t find anything better than this. It was a wonderful time and I would absolutely, four star, recommend this event to you. Grab your tickets soon!

Thomas is coming to Baltimore April 24-26th and May 1=3rd
You can purchase tickets here 

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More Cheap Date Nights in Washington, DC

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Washington DC, and the surround DC Metro Area, can be ridiculously expensive. There is also a ton to do here. There are so many amazing places to eat, museums, history (or otherwise) sites to see. Some days Mr. Air Force and I think that we could see something different every day and never repeat anything for years. It can be overwhelming and a little intense on your wallet. So how can you get away with some time together on the cheap, or for the least amount of money.
1. DC By Foot – This is a really cool concept. This is a “no-fee upfront” tour guide company. Yes, you heard me. It’s basically free! Theoretically you could take the tour, say good bye and that would be the end of it. Pay what you think the guide deserves, earned, or tip them. You have so many options and I absolutely love it. There are your typical Arlington Cemetery, National Mall and Capitol tours. This company also does more unique tours including food and photography ones. There’s a calendar on the website so you can see what is coming up.
This is a Georgetown self-guided tour that we’ve personally done ourselves. On that night the hubby and I ventured to Martin’s Tavern ( one of my favorite places to eat in DC ) and then kept up the Kennedy theme by checking out the local landmarks associated with the Kennedy family. You can find out more about this in my first “Cheap Date Nights….” post.
 

3. Geocaching is one of our newest discoveries. We haven’t been doing it for very long but it is a lot of fun, and Mr. Air Force is really good at it. You can do this basically anywhere, so even if you don’t live in DC, you are good to go. We even did it while on vacation. Apple has an app, and I’m sure other carriers as well. The free membership is perfectly suitable for anyone, but you can upgrade to the premium version for a small subscription fee.

one of our first caches
4. Embassy Tours from CulturalTourismDC

There are tons of events held in different embassies all across the city.  If you wanted to see the inside of some of these places, now’s your chance!

5. Sittercity for Military

Have you ever heard of sittercitty? If you haven’t you’re missing out! I’ve been using them since my oldest was little. It has saved us when we were somewhere without family or friends to help us out. I love the program, I love the background checks that are included in the free membership. The people at Sittercity are amazing as well. They are always looking for ways to improve this program and it is just so cool. Use it!

All that being said, I wanted to also encourage you to rely on your friends, especially when you are in a place without friends or family. I remember my parents doing that and its always been a part of who I am. It creates a better community and encourages relationships that are deeper and more amazing. I whole heartedly encourage you to do that!

**update, Sittercity is no longer free for military, but both Sittercity and Care.com offer great military discounts, as well as having a USAA member discount.

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Visiting Busch Gardens with Kids *Williamsburg* #BGMomAmbassador2014

 

This year I am so honored to be a MomCentral Ambassador for Busch Gardens here in Williamsburg, Virginia for the 2014-2015 year. We have never has the pleasure of visiting the park, although I had heard from many people (including my mom) how wonderful it is. Having not been on a “family” vacation for almost eight years – you know, the kind where you are just going away as a family and not going to visit family – we thought that this was the perfect time to do it. Our summer was rather crazy so we settled on an “End of Season” getaway to Williamsburg. We stayed at the lovely Williamsburg La Quinta with our Military Gold Card and set out on our adventure to the park.

Before I get on to my tips for visiting with kids, lets start with talking about the theme park itself. Its a beautiful park, with probably the most amazing customer service/attendants I have seen since first discovering Chick-Fil-A. They were wonderfully kind to my children, helpful and fun. One of the most surprising parts was the carnival games sections. We never felt cheated or taken advantage of and the pricing wasn’t overkill. The attendant even switched out our winnings when some of the kids realized they had a different kind or color they wanted, no questions asked.

The park is extremely clean, the food areas great (although the bees, sheesh, so many bees in one place), and even the cost of the on-site food wasn’t absolutely terrifying. There were enough rides to keep everyone happy and the rentable strollers were pretty cool. We also happened to be in the park just at the beginning of their Hall-O-Scream! *scary!* It was actually really cool and made me wish that hubby and I could have stayed for that part. It was obviously meant for adults, but again we were pleasantly surprised how the actors curbed their behaviors when small children were around. A+++ job Busch Gardens!


 on the tram from parking to the park
 getting our heights checked for the rides – BG’s color guide makes it so easy

 the kids’ first ride in Seasame Street Place

 Can’t believe my cautious first-born went on this!

 yet another ride I’m amazed he went on!

 the park is sectioned into “Country” themes. They are beautiful to look at.

 some of the gardens in England. Beautifully designed and decorated

some of the fall/Halloween decorations
Tips for Visiting Busch Gardens with Kids and On a Budget
1. Stroller rental, while convenient is kind of expensive. With lots of scheduled breaks even my two-year old 
walked around for the eight hours we were there. So bring your own or chance it. If you are economizing the rest of your trip, springing for the rental could fit into your budget.
2. While food is available, I love that Busch Gardens has taken into consideration budgeting for families. In each of the parking structures there are picnic tables that are lovely. These are easily accessed with the tram system. So bring your cooler and take a break from the park to eat your homemade meals.
3. Visit on a Sunday. While we went at the very end of the season, after Labor Day, apparently Sunday is
a great day to go. The park isn’t quite as busy as it is Saturday, and we didn’t really have to deal with lines. So attending in the off season, and on Sunday will be our MO from now on, at least until the kids are older.
4. Study the park map and circle all the rides you will be able to go on. We didn’t do this ahead of time and we walked around to some locations where there really weren’t any rides for us to go on. The park is great
and measures the kids, bands them, and then gives you a color-coded paper with the names of the rides you can go on. Save walking time by figuring this out before-hand.
5. Take advantage of some of the built-in rest areas! Through-out the day we took advantage of the play areas, with benches, or places for us to watch the kids get out some energy and hang out. There’s a air tram that goes between the different countries and a climbing area in the Sesame Street Place. There is also a splash park in Sesame Place that we didn’t know about. Bring a swimsuit and towel for the kids and take a splash break!

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