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Las Ramblas Restaurant – Delicious Dining on the RiverWalk

We received meals at Las Ramblas to facilitate our review. This post was not compensated monetarily. All opinions are honest and are our own.

Earlier this month we went on a mini-vacation to San Antonio. We loved it, and will probably go back again next year – the Riverwalk area is a fun, laid-back, very  walkable place to be, with all sorts of attractions nearby. We stayed at the Hotel Contessa & I wrote about our great experience here

When I planned our trip I thought about three things – lodging, entertainment, and meals. When we’re on vacation I love trying new places, but when we’re traveling with kids we have to also think about places that have kid-friendly environments and kid-friendly food offerings!

Our first night in town we kept things incredibly easy and ate in the Hotel Contessa’s restaurant, Las Ramblas. It was really nice to be able to just take the elevator down to river level and be at the restaurant within minutes of leaving our hotel room.

Las Ramblas’ aesthetic feels modern and elegant. My favorite touch in the whole space is their beautiful black & white floors, and the kids thought the spiraling column was amazing. You can see both in the photo below.

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And of course since Las Ramblas is a part of Hotel Contessa it’s located right on the Riverwalk. We had great views out the windows by our table. You can’t really see the view in the photo below, but you can see there was a whole wall of windows & doors along the river. There’s also a patio area for eating outdoors if you prefer.

Boys-LasRamblas

Las Ramblas feels very upscale so I was a little concerned about kids’ options before we went. I was pleasantly surprised to see they had many choices for our kids to pick from! E & C both had mini corn dogs and J picked (as always) chicken tenders. Our waiter was great (the service at Las Ramblas was consistently helpful, happy, and friendly each time we ate there) and put their food orders in at the same time as our appetizer so they didn’t have to wait as long to get started eating.

Speaking of appetizers… we had their spinach artichoke dip, and OH MY GOODNESS it was seriously, no joke, the best spinach artichoke dip I’ve ever had. It had caramelized onions, goat cheese, and bacon in it, which elevated it to a whole new level from other dips we’ve had before.

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I had to slide the plate over by Brian or I seriously could’ve eaten the whole thing.

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For my meal I ordered the beef filet. It came with charred tomatoes, cipollini,  onions, potatoes, and Texas mushrooms. The plate also had a red wine jus that perfectly complimented everything in the dish. I was really impressed with my food. I am the rare Texan that likes my steak cooked medium-well, and that can be a challenge when it comes to filets. My steak from Las Ramblas was cooked perfectly. It was tender and juicy (even my medium-rare-steak-loving husband agreed). I’ve been to many steakhouses having lived in Texas my whole life, and this steak made my top three, for sure.

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Brian had the Texas striped bass with English peas, summer squash, sweet corn, and was topped off with corn butter. His dish was plated beautifully and really felt summery.

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For dessert the kids had ice cream and Brian and I split the molten chocolate cake.

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The cake was rich with a fruit sauce, chocolate sauce, and fresh berries accompanying it. It was a great end to a really decadent meal!

We ate at Las Ramblas for breakfast both mornings of our trip. Their breakfast buffet is the perfect choice for families because there’s something for everyone. They had plenty of hot food items like scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, and oatmeal along with pastries, fresh fruit, yogurt, and cereal.

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We loved it because we were all able to get plenty of fuel to energize our day with a big, hearty breakfast!

If you’re visiting the Riverwalk and are looking for a special spot, be sure and check out Las Ramblas. You can view their menu – and make reservations – online here

Our Stay at Hotel Contessa on the San Antonio Riverwalk

We received one free night & one media-rate night to facilitate our review. This post was not compensated monetarily. All opinions are honest and are our own.

We have been on the road a LOT the past year – we traveled to Mississippi and Florida in November, and to Alabama and Illinois in April. After all these long drives, we knew we wanted to vacation somewhere fairly close and keep things laid-back. San Antonio was the perfect place – we hadn’t been there in several years (E had never been) and the whole vibe of the Riverwalk is just relaxing.

I researched hotels before we traveled, because I’ll fully admit up front that I’m kind of a hotel snob. I want the place we stay to be high-quality and feel like a treat… but with three kids, we also need someplace that is family friendly. That can be a hard balance to strike! My internet search quickly revealed an ideal option – the Hotel Contessa.

Photo courtesy of hotelcontessa.com

Photo courtesy of hotelcontessa.com

The location is perfect. It’s right on the Riverwalk, and it’s near to a lot of attractions (we walked over to the Alamo our first night and it was just a 10-minute walk). You can see where it’s located on the map below – it’s marked with a red circle.

RiverwalkMap

The hotel is beautiful. The lobby is bright, modern, elegant, and welcoming – and you’re greeted with a painting of Contessa herself.

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There’s a lounge area on the river level with a bar and Las Ramblas restaurant (I’ll be doing another post about that soon, so keep an eye out!). Here’s a view of the lounge area:

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There are great views from the hotel, too:

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The kids loved that the hotel is equipped with glass elevators – you’d almost think they were an attraction themselves!

Here’s E super excited and ready to go up to our room:

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Now let’s talk rooms. Location is key, but you also want a room that has enough space, right? Our room was perfect for a family of five. It was actually a suite with a living area and bedroom separated by the bathroom and a snack area with mini-fridge. And the decor is just perfect. It’s modern and urban feeling, but the art provides a Texas touch. I especially loved the exposed brick wall!

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This chair was the coveted spot in our suite. The kids LOVED it and took turns spinning each other in it (and, let’s be real, they totally fought over who got to sit in it)!

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The bedroom was bright and airy – and we had a river view.

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There were beautiful wooden French doors leading into the bathroom. And seriously, whoever did the lighting design in this bathroom was genius. It was cozy and warm, and the whole space felt like a spa.

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There were two beds in the bedroom, but our kids all ended up sleeping out in the living area. The couch had a fold-out bed and the other portion of the sectional worked perfect for our daughter to sleep on. They thought it was really cool to have their own sleeping space (and we liked being able to watch TV late at night without accidentally waking them up).

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I’ve saved the best for last – the rooftop pool. If that doesn’t sound luxurious, I don’t know what does! The views from the pool were spectacular, especially at night when we could see the lights of downtown. We spent time in the pool both nights and had the best time.

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One thing to know when staying at Hotel Contessa is that valet parking is the way to go. It does cost $36 a night, but the convenience in the middle of downtown San Antonio is worth it (there are parking garages nearby if you prefer not to do valet, though).

We will definitely stay at the Hotel Contessa again. The kids have already been asking when we can go back! Find out more & book your stay on the Hotel Contessa site here.

ICE! at Gaylord Texan is the Perfect Family Getaway

We received tickets to ICE! to facilitate our review. All opinions are honest and are our own.

We, like most other families, feel like we’re busy all the time – and especially so during the holidays. It seemed, then, like the perfect idea to get away and do something fun for the whole family. The Gaylord Texan is less than three hours away, and we set our sights on going to the ICE! exhibit.

We stayed one night at the Gaylord as part of our trip, and I can’t recommend enough adding this to your itinerary. It was so nice getting back to our room at the end of a busy day and just relax. I’ll tell you more about our room in a bit (spoiler alert: it was amazing), but first let’s talk about the whole reason we went – ICE! The theme this year is Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, a classic theme that was nostalgic for the adults and charming for the kids.

If you’ve never been to ICE! before, you should know that there are lines to get in – as with anything that’s immensely popular, there are a lot of people that want to go. We knew this ahead of time and were prepared, which made the waiting much more pleasant. Our solution? We bought a huge bag of popcorn and a big bag of cotton candy for the 5 kids to share. This worked great! You might also want to bring along a book for each child (something Christmas-themed would be perfect) to read while you’re waiting.

The Gaylord does a wonderful job of decorating the areas so that it feels magical and fun. In one waiting area, you’re surrounded by what looks like various machines for toy making. In another, there’s a giant rotating ice mountain and mist floating down with snowflakes shining on it.

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Once you get very close to entering the exhibit, everyone receives a thick blue parka to wear. Another tip is to bring along your own gloves, hats, and scarves – this helps keep everyone warmer! The kids looked adorable in their parkas.

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Brian and his mom looked pretty cute, too!

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Once we got into the exhibit area I was really pleased with how easy it was to see each exhibit. It didn’t seem crowded at all, and we were able to go through at our own pace without feeling rushed. We could stop and look at all the details, and could take as many photos as we wanted – and trust me, there are so many things to take photos of! The attention to every aspect of the experience is beyond what you’d even expect. It was utterly impressive, and we were all wowed by the artists’ work.

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Check out the beautiful nativity, too:

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At the end of the exhibit there is a whole room filled with ice slides the whole family can go down – the kids thought this was a lot of fun and wanted to go down several times!

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If you want to check on tickets or get more info on ICE! click here – it’s running through January 1!

Once we left the exhibit we went and got hot chocolate – the perfect treat to warm up with after being SO cold! Afterward we went over to the adjacent area, which had all sorts of activities to choose from. We got to meet some characters:

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We also did the snow tubing, which was a hit with everyone. We got to go down the slopes 12 times, and the lines moved pretty quickly for this attraction. Living in Texas our chances for tubing down a snowy hill are pretty slim, so this was especially fun for all of us!

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There are so many activities to choose from! We already decided we want to go back next year and try out some of the other options, like cookies & milk with Mrs. Claus, an elf scavenger hunt, and throwing real snowballs!

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We really enjoyed walking around the vast atrium of the Gaylord and looking at all the different decorations. It is absolutely beautiful, and we had fun taking photos at various settings.

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We did photos with Santa, too!

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I’ve got to talk about our room a bit, too, because it was honestly a huge highlight of the trip for the kids too. We walked into the suite and all three of them said “Wow!!!” – I decided to do a little video tour so you can see for yourself what a perfect setup this is for families:

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The kids loved the view outside our room and spent a ton of time hanging out on the balcony, looking at lights and watching people walk by. This was our view at night – so pretty, isn’t it?

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This was an absolutely wonderful getaway for our family – the kids loved it and didn’t want to leave! They shared their favorite parts of our stay:

We can’t wait to go back and stay at the Gaylord again – they have fun things all throughout the year so we’ll be looking for opportunities to go and have another wonderful weekend getaway!

Ski Trip Tips

I’ve been on a bit of a travel-related post kick lately, with posts on Texas road trips, a Hurst, Texas staycation… and now tips for taking the perfect ski trip.

The Ken Garff dealership had a promo recently for getting ski passes, so I was inspired to write about ski trip planning – I hope these tips will be helpful for you as you plan any spring getaways!

  • Make a list (and check it twice). There’s gear you need for skiing, and you want to make sure you come equipped. You’ll need skis, poles, goggle, a helmet, boots, gloves, a ski jacket, pants, and more.
  • Be an early bird. If you’re renting gear instead of bringing your own, reserve everything ahead of time online or  be sure and get to the store as early as possible to beat the lines and get first dibs on what you need. Get to the slopes early, too, and avoid fighting for a parking spot.

For more tips on planning your perfect ski trip, visit my guest post on the Ken Garff dealership blog.

Staycation: Hurst, Texas

I wrote yesterday about road trip ideas for Texas – there are so many places you can go around the state that make for a great weekend or week-long trip. Of course, you don’t always even have to leave your city to have a great vacation! I wrote a guest post for the Holt Fiat of Hurst dealership blog all about how to have a staycation in Hurst. If you live in the DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth) area, I hope these ideas can help you have a fun weekend with your family:

  • Get in some culture and see a play at the Artisan Center Theater – this is a great spot for couples and families to enjoy.

For more ideas of things to do, check out my post on the Holt Fiat of Hurst blog!

Three Texas Road Trip Ideas

My family and I love to take road trips – and living in Texas, we have a lot of options as far as places to go. Texas is a huge state, of course; you could go to west to El Paso or east to Tyler, north to Amarillo or south to Houston.

If you’re one of my Texas readers, or if you’d like to do some Texas travel, you’re in luck – here are some ideas for places to go and things to do:

  • Waco: Roughly 90 minutes away from Dallas/Fort Worth, this city has gained popularity recently due to a popular show on HGTV. People are flocking to Magnolia Market, and it’s a fun stop for shopping – and dining, too. The store sits alongside a plot of land that houses food trucks and benches with tables, and a big patch of faux grass for kids to run and play. You can visit the Cameron Park Zoo for a less-crowded animal-viewing experience, stop by the Dr. Pepper museum, enjoy a stroll across the suspension bridge, and even take the kids to see a real mammoth excavation site.

Read more about Texas road trip destinations in my guest post on the Holt Fiat of Fort Worth dealership blog.

Family Fun at the Thinkery in Austin, Texas

We received passes to the Thinkery to facilitate our review. All opinions are honest and our own! 

We’ve been looking forward to a family getaway ever since school got out. We went on a big vacation last year so we decided to keep it simple with a long weekend road trip this year; the first part of our trip took us to Austin.

We knew we wanted to try something different, and we wanted to look for something that would be a lot of fun for the whole family. We began researching kid-friendly Austin attractions, and when we visited the Thinkery’s website, we read this and knew it was a place we wanted to go:

The Thinkery is Austin’s home for “why” and “how.” A place where science and families play side by side. Where people connect with ideas by doing, making and experiencing. It’s a foundry for a new generation of innovators and creative problem solvers. And it’s a heck of a good time.

When you walk in the doors, you instantly get a vibe for how your experience will be. It’s not a quiet, sterile place. It’s vibrant, colorful, and full of happy noise. This chalkboard in the front part of the museum gave us an idea of all that was going on that day:

Thinkery-Chalkboard

We decided to start out upstairs and work our way back down; the water room was our first stop. First of all, loved that they provide aprons and Crocs for kids and parents to wear, so you’re not wet the rest of the day! The water room was so fun for all three kids.

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Make Traveling Headache-Free with a Free Trial of the CLEAR Airport Security Pass

It’s going to be 80 degrees this weekend, so summer has basically already arrived in Texas. There’s about a month of school left, which means summer vacations are right around the corner. I’m sure you can hear the collective sigh of relief heard ’round the country – we all look forward to getting away as a family!

As any parent knows, though, traveling with children (especially young ones like ours) can be stressful. There’s so much to pack (which, seriously, how can such little people require SO much stuff?) and if you’re flying there are even more things to navigate before you’re on your way to relaxation. It’s important to have some travel tools up your sleeve, and thankfully, programs like CLEAR exist to make flying a much more pleasant experience. CLEAR is a membership-based service that allows travelers to get through airport security faster.

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My Dream Puerto Rico Getaway

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Puerto Rico, The All-Star Island for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

Do you ever dream of traveling to an exotic place for vacation? I know I do! Summer will be here before we know it, and it’s a lot of fun thinking about where I’d like our family to go on our next trip. Puerto Rico would be an amazing choice – did you know you can travel there with no passport needed or foreign money required?

Puerto Rico is filled with world-class attractions that will turn any trip into a 5-star vacation story. Live your own 5-star vacation story in Puerto Rico. When I go on vacation I want it to feel like an escape, and want everything to be great quality. Puerto Rico delivers, and is a dream destination for getaways.

Here are just a few of the cool things that would be on my dream must-do list for a trip to Puerto Rico:

  • Puerto Rico has 270 miles of coastline and featured in the Top 10 beaches from Travel Channel — including Flamenco Beach in Culebra, often cited as one of the best beaches in the world. Our family loves to go to the beach, and I know a good part of our vacation would be spent on the Puerto Rican coastline.
  • Glow like an angel in the water in the Bioluminescent bays. The kids would absolutely love this!
  • Visit the only rainforest under US national park service, El Yunque, and climb to the clouds. Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This would definitely be an escape from dry Texas weather!
  • Enjoy old world charm of San Juan and pick up some history tidbits along the way – I think it’s great when we can inject some fun learning moments into vacations with the kids.
  • Go horse back riding (even better: horse back riding on the beach!) or trek through the magnificent Camuy caverns that runs through the 3rd largest subterranean river in the world.
  • Give in to my foodie tendencies and experience the delicacies of Puerto Rican gastronomy. I can only imagine what kinds of great foods there are to experience! Puerto Rico is also famous for their Rums, so that would be a must-try, too.

Here’s a great video to check out:

Visit See Puerto Rico and find out even more about what you could expect from a getaway to Puerto Rico, and get started planning your summer vacation! Follow @PRTourismCo on Twitter and Like SeePuertoRico.com on Facebook to stay up on all the latest.

Visit Sponsors Site

Embassy Suites is a Win-Win for Families!

Note: We received a stay at the Embassy Suites in Atlanta to help facilitate this post. All opinions are honest and are our own. 

We took a road trip from Texas to Florida to Georgia this past summer, and it was a blast.

Did I mention we traveled with a nearly two-year-old? She and our 5- and 7-year-old sons were our companions, which made for quite a loud trip, but it mostly just a lot of fun, and we made all sorts of wonderful memories.

If you’ve ever traveled with small children, you know that navigating the time on the road is only part of having a successful family vacation. You’re staying away from home, out of routine, and you’ve got to find hotels that make this a smooth experience.

We spent the last part of our vacation in Atlanta – the kids and I had never been, and they had plenty of family-friendly activities, so it was a perfect city for us to visit. We stayed at the Embassy Suites near the Centennial Olympic Park, which ended up being a perfect home base while we explored the city. Check out our view, and you can see just how close we were to everything:

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A family-friendly hotel right in the heart of downtown? Win-win! 

As the name suggests, the hotel sat right on edge of the Olympic Centennial Park. One night we walked around the park and discovered the water fountain, which was one of my very favorite memories of this trip. The kids were dressed in regular clothes, but the boys were thrilled at the sight of the fountain so we just let them hop on in to have fun, and they loved it. One thing I learned is that you can plan all sorts of fun things (and we did!) but spontaneous moments like these are ones you’ll always cherish.

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We weren’t just close to the park, though – we were within walking distance of great shopping and restaurants, too. One of the Embassy Suites employees actually walked a block with us to make sure we could find Max’s Pizzeria, which was absolutely delicious.

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MaxPizza-Appetizer

Needless to say, I’d highly recommend this hotel as your place to stay when in Atlanta. We learned, though, that Embassy Suites is a perfect chain for family travel – and it’s definitely one we’ll seek out again and again. Why, you ask?

1. Free snacks and drinks for two hours every single day at their evening reception:

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Here, in the atrium of the hotel you can see people gathering to get snacks and drinks; the kids thought this was SO cool! Free snacks that keep the kids happy & adults happy too? Win-win.

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We brought our snacks up to the room to let the kids munch while we got ready to go out.

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This brings me to another reason we loved staying at Embassy Suites:

2. A separate living and sleeping area – with a TV in each! We loved that we had a living room to hang out in – and at night the living room transitioned into the kids’ bedroom, with the couch converting to another bed. The kids liked having their own space and thought it was awesome that they had their own TV to watch cartoons on in the morning – and Brian and I liked having a quiet space to be able to watch what we wanted to on our own TV back in the bedroom. Happy kids and happy parents? Totally a win-win. 

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3. Absolutely amazing breakfast – free. I think we’ve all stayed at hotels that have touted free breakfast and then offer you boxed cereal. Embassy Suites goes above and beyond, offering a spread that is sure to suit any tastes in the family. There’s even a made-to-order omelet station. Check out some of the offerings:

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As you can see, everyone had different things, and everyone was happy. Total win-win. We loved it because we knew the kids would have plenty of energy to get out and sight see for the day after having a big breakfast. And thanks to the lovely location, we chose to eat outside one morning with the Centennial Park to look out on. So nice!

4. Refrigerator and microwave in each room. This is a lifesaver for families. It means you can keep milk on hand for the little ones, you can bring inevitable leftovers back from meals out, and you can pop popcorn to enjoy while you watch a movie in the living area.

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5. Incredibly friendly staff. Everyone from the bellhop to the front counter to the parking attendants were all so nice and helpful. I mentioned above that one of the employees helped us find a restaurant we were looking for. He went above and beyond, and was happy to do so. Things like this really add to the overall experience at a hotel, and were just another reason for us to love our stay at Embassy Suites. Yep, you guessed it – another win-win.

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We really loved our Embassy Suites experience in Atlanta and you can bet that we’ll be staying at an Embassy Suites on our next road trip because we know it’s a perfect place for our family.

World of Coca-Cola

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Note: We received complimentary tickets to World of Coca-Cola to facilitate our review. We were not compensated monetarily and all opinions are honest and our own.

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Brian and I both love Coke products – I like Coca-Cola Classic and he’s a big Cherry Coke fan – so we thought it would be fun to visit the World of Coca-Cola while we were in Atlanta. And our kids very rarely get to drink soda, so the idea of getting to taste a lot of sodas in the “Taste It!” room was pretty thrilling to them!

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We enjoyed getting to see all sorts of behind-the-scenes things about the history of Coke and how it was made (and even got to see the vault where the top-secret recipe is stored), along with all sorts of Coca-Cola merchandise that’s been marketed over the years. We got to meet the Coca-Cola polar bear, too!

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We even went to the gallery where we saw all sorts of Coca-Cola inspired art:

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But of course the boys’ favorite part was getting to try Coca-Cola products from all around the world! We had planned to try every single flavor but ended up not quite making that goal. It was still a lot of fun, and we survived the ensuing sugar rush after the fact, too. :)

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We spent about two hours here and that was plenty of time to see everything and spend some time in the gift shop, too. We all had a lot of fun! This is a great place to tack on to your Atlanta itinerary, and you can find all sorts of fun gift items for the Coke-lovers in your life. Visit their website for more information and to plan your visit!

Georgia Aquarium is Fun for the Whole Family

Note: We received tickets to the aquarium to facilitate our review. All opinions are honest and are those of myself and my family.

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We’ve been to aquariums before, but I had no idea what to expect before we walked into the Georgia Aquarium. This place, in a word, is awesome. 

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You walk into a central lobby of sorts, and everything branches off, making it easy to navigate. The lighting sets the mood and gives the whole place an aquatic, other-world feel.

We arrived just in time to attend the dolphin show, which we weren’t allowed to film at – but trust me, it was a blast! There is a theatrical element to it that I wasn’t expecting, but the kids really enjoyed it. We couldn’t get over how talented the dolphins and their trainers were.

After the dolphin show we went to one of the several areas allowing visitors to touch some of the sea life. We spent a lot of time here – the kids LOVED touching the manta rays and wanted to keep trying to touch one of the sharks in the tank, too (they weren’t ever quick enough, but Brian and I both managed)!

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The interactivity of the aquarium is really what sets it apart and makes it a stellar experience. If you’re not able to touch things, you’re able to get right up close and personal, or in some cases you’re even able to feel like you’re a part of the exhibit:

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The kids loved the 4D movie, complete with water spraying! And who doesn’t love the chance to wear some 3D glasses?

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There are so many larger-than-life tanks, and we couldn’t get over all the many fish we were able to see up close. The tunnel was one of the boys’ favorite parts, and I can see why – we were practically surrounded by fish!

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I’d highly recommend you plan a visit to the Georgia Aquarium next time you’re in Atlanta.  And now, I’ll leave you with my very favorite photo from our time there:

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