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Bridget Ratlief

Houston, Texas

MY KIDS

My Travel Style

As a family we like to travel all over, mostly in the family van. We very rarely fly as we believe that driving is part of the travel experience, plus it gives us the freedom to see and do things on our own schedule. Also, as a family of 5 airfare can be expensive and renting a car at our destination tends to add a lot to the overall cost as well. The money we save by driving can go to unique experiences rather than an airline and the best part? We don't pay baggage fees! I would say our top two favorite vacation destinations include the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and the Smoky Mountain National Park near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We have been to Washington, D.C., out West including Carlsbad Caverns, Saguaro National Park, San Diego, Los Angeles and Anaheim, Durango, Co. and Albuquerque, NM. We often getaway to New Orleans and Pensacola for long weekends and enjoy San Antonio and Austin for quick getaways. This summer we will be adding international travel to our list of destinations with a vacation to Germany and France. Yes, this time we will be flying!

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San Diego Zoo

2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, California

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  • Little kids (3-5)
  • Big kids (6-8)
  • Tweens (9-12)
Visited: July 2012 | Submitted: Dec 26, 2012 | I traveled with little kids (3-5), big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

The well known San Diego Zoo

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We spent a fantasically gorgeous summer day at the San Diego Zoo. I live in Houston and the weather in San Diego was like a perfect Spring day for us, but it was July! We enjoyed our day at the zoo, but overall I have to say that it didn't live up the hype for us. There was a lot of walking up and down hills and not a lot of animal activity. Now I know that we are talking about wild animals and they are allowed to do their own thing, but there were a lot of closed exhibits and a lot of sleeping animals! Beyond the Polar bears (who were sleeping) and the Panda bears (also sleeping) there wasn't much there to see that we can't see at our own zoo. I am glad we went, but I don't think we will go out of our way to go again and it is defintely a one day activity!

Tips for Families

Get the all inclusive ticket. Once your kids ride the skyway they will want to do it over and over. You pay for each one way ride unless you have the all inclusive ticket. Save the tour bus ride for the later afternoon when everyone needs to rest their feet! Bring a stroller for children under 4. My 3 year old almost never rides in a stroller anymore, but it was a life saver that day!

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly accommodations

We stayed at the Comfort Inn and Suites Hotel Circle Sea World area. I originally reserved a room with bunkbeds, but when we checked in we were upgraded to a two room family suite. Each room had a bed, there were two bathrooms, and a kitchenette. The complimentary breakfast was very good too.

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Children’s Museum of Houston

1500 Binz St, Houston, Texas

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  • Tots (0-2)
  • Little kids (3-5)
  • Big kids (6-8)
  • Tweens (9-12)
Visited: July 2012 | Submitted: Dec 26, 2012 | I traveled with tots (0-2), little kids (3-5), big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

Get a Family Pass if you live in Houston or nearby!

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We have a family membership for the Children's Museum so we usually choose one or two parts of the museum to explore each visit. There is so much to see and do that you can easily spend an entire day there.

Tips for Families

The Tot Spot on the third floor is best for the under 2 age group. While older siblings are allowed in, it really isn't a great place for them to spend a lot of time. If you have 2 or more adults in your group, plan to split up for a little while. The Basement level is a great place for older sibs to go while baby sibs are in Tot Spot. The outdoor Waterworks area can be potentially drenching! You may want to bring a dry set of clothes if your child is especially adventurous. The climbing tower in the middle of the museum has multiple entrances and exits. Plan accordingly! There are free lockers at the front of the museum (near the Fiddlesticks Gift shop). Drop your purse or diaper bag before exploring and free up your hands to play!

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Houston Museum of Natural Science

1 Hermann Circle Dr, Houston, Texas

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  • Little kids (3-5)
  • Big kids (6-8)
  • Tweens (9-12)
Visited: October 2012 | Submitted: Dec 26, 2012 | I traveled with little kids (3-5), big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

The Dinosaurs have arrived!

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We went to the museum one afternoon to see the new dinosaur exhibit that was recently opened. All three of my kids were impressed as was I. The dinosaurs are well placed with lighting that adds to the atmosphere. We spent about two hours looking at the different exhibits and learning about the different dinosaurs. We also checked out the Butterfly exhibit at the museum. If you walk slow and take your time a butterfly may land on you. Bright colors and big hairbows attract the butterflies best!

Tips for Families

When looking at the dinosaurs, be willing to follow your child instead of a certain path. I let my 3 year old lead the way and we eventually saw everything. He was much more patient and willling to stay longer by "being in control" of what we saw. If you want to see a particular IMAX movie, get there early. Many shows sell out on busy days. You may encounter field trips during the day, but most leave by 2pm which leaves the museum much quieter so stick around!

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park

107 Park Headquarters Rd, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

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  • Tots (0-2)
  • Little kids (3-5)
  • Big kids (6-8)
Visited: June 2011 | Submitted: Dec 26, 2012 | I traveled with tots (0-2), little kids (3-5) and big kids (6-8)

Outdoor fun for all!

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The Great Smoky Mountain National Park outside of Gatlinburg, Tn is a frequent vacation destination for my family. When we go we include grandparents, adults, and kids. The best thing about this park is that there is something for everyone. Short hikes, long hikes, driving tours, beautiful scenery, historical buildings with learning opportunities, swimming and fishing in the rivers, waterfalls, and BEARS! Without fail we see the iconic black bears everytime we visit. Elementary age children can earn a Junior Ranger Park badge at no cost by completing certain activities. We like to earn the Junior Ranger badges at each National Park we visit. It makes for a fun souvenier and a (hidden) learning opportunity at the same time! Because you are at your own pace, this is a great vacation for any age!

Tips for Families

Pack a picnic lunch and a swim suit. Chimney Tops picnic area or Little Greenbriar Picnic area are our favorites and have shaded picnic tables and a river to get wet in! Don't forget the sunscreen and a lawnchair, you will be there all afternoon! Visit one of the visitor centers on your first day to get maps and suggestions from the park rangers on what is appropriate for your group's skill level. You can also pick up information on the Junior Ranger Program and start working on a Junior Ranger badge. The Cades Cove driving tour is the most popular activity in the park. Plan to arrive early (by 10:00am) to avoid the traffic that builds as the day goes on. This will probably take most of the day so pack a picnic lunch. There are evening hay rides through Cades Cove which offer great wildlife viewing opportunities. Reserve your spot in advance. Be sure to read the park's newspaper which lists ranger led activities for the month. We have seen a school house presentation, been on salamader hikes, watched fireflies come out, and sat around campfires learning about the people who called the Smoky Mountains home.

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly accommodations

We like to rent a house with washer and dryer, full kitchen (for easy breakfasts), and hot tub. We can get enough bedrooms we can spread out and everyone can have their own bed. Lots of the homes have extra amenities, like pool tables, free internet, porch swings with a view, and more! I use Moutain Rentals of Gatlinburg, but there are many others out there.

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly restaurants

Don't miss the Old Mill Restaurant in Pigeon Forge for dinner one evening. Be sure to arrive early (by 5pm) or risk waiting an hour or more for a table. Great homestyle cooking with portions large enough for 2-3 people (or save the leftovers and have dinner the next night too!) The Smoky Mountain Brewery in Gatlinburg has awesome microbrews and is family friendly. They have coloring menus with crayons for the kids and kid friendly food too!

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Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort San Antonio

9800 Hyatt Resort Drive, San Antonio, Texas

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KID-FRIENDLY AMENITIES

  • Rollaway beds available
  • Smoke-free property
  • Babysitting
  • Kids' club
  • On-site restaurant(s)
  • Refrigerator in room
  • Microwave in room
  • Kitchenette or kitchen in room
  • On-site convenience store
  • Cribs (infant beds) available


Average user rating (37 Reviews)

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  • Tots (0-2)
  • Little kids (3-5)
  • Big kids (6-8)

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  • Cleanliness
  • Customer Service
  • Comfort
  • Location
  • Value
  • Pool
  • On-site/nearby restaurants
  • Other kids' amenities

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Visited: August 2012 | Submitted: Dec 26, 2012 | I traveled with tots (0-2), little kids (3-5) and big kids (6-8)

Perfect last minute weekend getaway

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The available water activities for the kids made this resort a perfect last minute getaway for our family of 5 last August when we had to unexpectedly cancel our beach trip. The kids enjoyed digging in the sand, floating down the lazy river in inner tubes, and watching movies under the stars on the lawn at night.

Tips for Families

Visit the Concierge Desk and ask for wristbands to visit the time-share property a few miles away. The time-share property has some awesome water slides, an indoor pool with waterfall, and a lazy river as well. The change of scenery made the second day feel like a new adventure without having to go very far.


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Other kids' amenities

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly attractions

San Antonio Sea World, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, The Alamo, San Antonio Riverwalk

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