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Planning the Ultimate Winter Break? Check Out These Hotels with Cool Kids’ Amenities

Traveling with kids can be both amazing and exhausting. On the one hand, you get the joy of seeing your kids experience novel places and things. On the other hand, it’s hard to explain to a toddler that they are now in a different time zone and should stop waking up at 4 a.m.


Luckily, many hotels around the country have amenities that appeal to younger travelers – including unique kids’ activities and experiences. These places offer a range of options for kids with different interests including art, animals, and the outdoors. There are also plenty of perks for parents – making any of these spots good destinations for the whole family.

1 | Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail, Vail, CO

Many Four Seasons locations have perks for kids including welcome gifts and child-sized bathrobes. The Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail, located near the base of Vail ski resort, and is a relaxing mountain retreat for the whole family. The hotel can pitch a tent in your room throughout the year at no additional cost, giving kids a chance to camp by the gas-burning fireplace in the room. The location also has a year-round outdoor heated pool where families can swim (even in the winter) and then warm up with complimentary hot chocolate and brownies. The location also has a kids’ club which hosts rotating events like a kid-friendly après-ski party.

Perks for parents

Parents can enjoy the spa which has unique treatments like a high-altitude adjustment massage or a Colorado beer foot soak (the yeast from the beer purifies and cleanses your feet). The Remedy bar also serves a collection of unique cocktails to help parents unwind at the end of a long day of skiing or sightseeing.

2 | Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel, Portland, OR

Surprise! It’s the Bedtime Butler.

Kimpton’s boutique hotels have kid-centric amenities that vary by location. Some sites offer “Guppy Love” – a program that allows kids to have a pet fish during their stay (that the hotel staff feeds and cares for). The Kimpton Muse in New York offers kids a welcome toy upon arrival and hosts a daily hot chocolate bar.

At the Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel in Portland, kids will love the Bedtime Butler – a cart that makes the rounds several nights a week carrying a rotating selection of complimentary treats like cookies or books for kids and nightcaps for parents. Guests can’t order the butler – the cart visits rooms at random, so kids have to listen for the surprise knock at the door. The Kimpton RiverPlace is also pet friendly and has complimentary in-room tent camping for smaller kiddos.

Perks for parents

Parents can enjoy evening social hours featuring local craft beer or Oregon wines and take advantage of complimentary coffee in the morning and yoga mats in every room.

3 | Sundial Beach Resort & Spa, Sanibel, FL

Sanibel Island, located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, is a great beach vacation option for families. Everyone can enjoy wildlife viewing, beaches with a large variety of shells, and the bike paths located throughout the small island. The beachfront Sundial Resort has rooms with kitchens, making it easy to prepare snacks or meals for kids (and you can pre-order groceries to have your room stocked when you arrive). Kids can play at the pool or take advantage of complimentary sports equipment rentals or activities like scavenger hunts and seashell necklace making. The Sanibel Sea School is a program that gives families a chance to interact with marine educators to learn about some of the marine life on the island like sea turtles, manatees, and dolphins.

Perks for parents

While kids are engaged with some of the resort activities, parents can take advantage of the full-service spa and restaurants, or even reserve a dinner on the beach.

4 | Resort at Squaw Creek, Lake Tahoe, CA

This Lake Tahoe resort, located at the base of Squaw Valley ski area, offers a variety of amenities to keep kids entertained year-round. In the winter, families can ski, enjoy the private ice rink, or go on a dog sled tour. The summer season offers hiking and swimming and a chance to take a tram to the top of the ski area to a museum commemorating the 1960 Olympic games that were hosted at the site. Kids can also enjoy perks like 30-minute spa treatments designed especially for them and seasonal events like a holiday Gingerbread Village and a kid’s New Year’s Eve bash.

Perks for parents

Parents can unwind at the spa or enjoy a nice meal at the contemporary steakhouse Six Peaks Grille, which uses produce from the resort’s on-site hydroponic garden.

5 | LEGOLAND Hotels, CA and FL

Aargh! Go to bed.

The hotels adjacent to the LEGOLAND locations in California and Florida are designed to delight kids. Rooms have different LEGO themes like Pirates, Friends, or Ninjago, and kids can complete a treasure hunt to unlock a treasure chest surprise in their room. There are also pools and play areas and a variety of LEGOS to play with throughout the hotels, and guests get a complimentary breakfast buffet and early access to LEGOLAND parks. In addition to the existing locations, the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat opened in Florida in 2017, and a castle-themed hotel is set to open in California in 2018.

Perks for parents

Rooms are set up so that the kids area is separated from the adult area giving everyone their own space. But the best perk may be that with so much to entertain the kids, parents get a chance to actually relax.

6 | Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach Walk, Honolulu, HI

Hawaii is a great family-friendly destination, but accommodations can get pricey. The Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach has some great amenities at a good value. As with other Embassy Suites locations, the room price includes a complimentary evening reception and a hot breakfast buffet. The suite rooms feature living spaces separated from the bedrooms, which can come in handy for kids that go to bed early. There is also a separate kids’ pool and free Hawaiian entertainment at the poolside reception, and the hotel is just a short walk to the beach.

Perks for parents

The hotel hosts free poolside yoga some mornings and the evening reception has complimentary cocktails and snacks.

7 | Omni Berkshire Place, New York, NY

This hotel in Midtown Manhattan has an excellent location near a lot of popular New York City attractions like Rockefeller Center, Central Park, and The Museum of Modern Art. They are also one of the hotels across the nation that offer an American Girl Package. The package at this location comes with breakfast, a special American Girl-sized doll bed, and an evening treat. The location also has the Omni Kids Crew program which includes kid-friendly amenities like a welcome backpack filled with games, crayons and binoculars.

Perks for parents

Parents can take advantage of the fitness center with a view of midtown, in-room massages, and the on-site steak house restaurant.

8 | The ART Hotel, Denver, CO

Little art aficionados will appreciate the Denver ART Hotel, which is located within walking distance of some of Denver’s museums. Kids can play or sleep in the complimentary children’s Teepees that the hotel provides or visit the adjacent Denver Art Museum, which is always free to kids under 18. The hotel is also housed in a unique modern building and features over 50 pieces of artwork.

Perks for parents

Parents will appreciate the hotel’s modern, refined feel and can enjoy a cocktail at The Living Room lounge bar, which offers cocktails and a complimentary selection of old-fashioned candy.

9 | Great Wolf Resorts, Various Locations

Great Wolf Resorts is an extremely kid-friendly chain of indoor waterparks for kids of all ages. In addition to the waterparks, kids can keep busy with arcades, magic wand quests, and character appearances. Some rooms also come outfitted with cave and cabin themed sleeping areas with bunk beds for kiddos. With several locations across the country, visiting a Great Wolf Lodge can be a kid-friendly vacation of its own.

Perks for parents

Some locations offer a “Wine Down” service for parents – a wine and food pairing delivered as room service in the evening for parents to enjoy after the kids are in bed.

Image Credits: All images came from their respective properties.

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We've seen the tired old trope in articles, commercials and television shows so many times: working moms just have too much to do. They're chauffeuring kids around to evening practices, making lunches after said kids go to bed and staying up till the wee hours of the morning catching up on their relentless and stressful jobs. The message is clear: working moms are tired and burnt out. They don't get enough time for themselves because they're so busy giving it all to their families and their jobs. But does this really line up with the working mothers you know?

Here's a secret many working mothers have figured out: less really is more. The minimalist movement—simplifying your life and stuff to gain more time—has revolutionized life as a working mother. The minimalist mom gets a full night of sleep, has time with her kids and, importantly, has time for herself. Here's how:

1. She says no.

A minimalist mom knows her limits, her interests and what the tipping point is for herself and her family. So, she limits volunteering to what interests her and what she can reasonably fit into her life. She guards her Wednesday nights—the night she always takes off from family duties to hit a yoga class or do something for herself—fiercely. She also says no to her kids: it's one out-of-school activity at a time and Sunday mornings are always for family. She's also mastered saying this at work: No, I can't take your work on. No, I won't be staying late to finish your last-minute request.

2. She knows where to spend her money for increased quality of life.

She would rather hire a bi-weekly cleaner than buy a pair of designer jeans. Weeknight meals are easy and from the slow cooker or just a simple spread of crackers, cheese and fruit. Fast food and takeout is expensive, and she'd rather spend that money on a babysitter and three courses at that new trattoria for date night. She is happy to buy the expensive snow boots for her oldest so they last through all three kids—saving not only money, but also time shopping. The kitchen renovation can wait until the youngest is out of daycare. Until then, she'd rather use fun money to buy an extra week of vacation and road trip as a family. Her spending aligns with one of her biggest values: having time for the things and people she loves.

3. She doesn't care what other people think.

Her workwear is five outfits for each season and no more. It's professional, flattering and easy. No one notices if you've worn the same outfit for seven Tuesdays in a row. She doesn't care what grandiose delicacies are brought for the school bake sale: She brings the same delicious butter cookies (the ones that they can freeze a quadruple batch of dough for) to every event requiring a cookie or baked good. Keeping up with the Joneses—who are stressed out and broke—isn't her thing.

4. Her kids do some things, not everything.

The family lives by a shared Google calendar and there are set rules around weekend playdates and kids' activities. Their kids have a healthy mix of structured activities and unstructured play time. She is a person first; chauffeur, playdate arranger and sideline soccer mom second.

5. She delegates like the boss that she is.

She hasn't done kid laundry since her oldest could reach the stacked washer dryer on his own. Her husband alternates meal planning and grocery shopping with her every week and makes all the kids' dentist appointments (she does the doctor appointments). She only takes the dog for a walk when she wants to; otherwise the kids do it. When an older kid forgets his or her lunch at home, they know that they have to figure it out for themselves: raiding their stash of granola bars in their locker or borrowing money from a friend for lunch. She understands she can't do it all, but rather, she and her family can do the basics together.

6. She knows what she and her family need (and want).

Her non-negotiables are her running group that has met every Saturday at 7 A.M. for a decade, a long weekend away with her spouse every fall and bedtime stories with the kids at least three nights a week. She knows what people and things fuel her—this makes it easy to say no to things that don't. She has a rule for friends that invite her to those kitchen gadget/jewelry/leggings parties: if she knows the salesperson well, she'll buy one item but won't attend the party. Every other invitation is a no.

7. She has hard and fast rules around taking work home with her.

Her team knows that if they have something urgent after 6 P.M. they better call her. She doesn't check email once she has left the office until 6 A.M. the next morning. When she gets home from a week of work travel, she takes a four-day weekend. Her schedule is blocked out from 4 P.M. onwards. so she isn't scheduled into end-of-day meetings that could run long. She meditates for 10 minutes at the end of her shift so she can leave the work stress at work. She guards her personal time and mental space fiercely.

8. She views work as a break from family time and family time as a break from work.

Being mentally present and engaged at work and at home means no guilt over enjoying her balance of work and family life. She cheerfully enjoys that there's no diapers to change for nine hours a day Monday to Friday, and when she's home she revels in being out of her office and untethered from her phone and laptop. Learning to quickly switch gears from work, family and personal time is a skill she has mastered to simplify her life.

The minimalist working mother doesn't do it all: she does the things that are important to her and to her family. Her list is unique to her and no one else. How she spends her time and her money directly aligns with what she values. This ethos of living her values makes it clear, fast and easy to make decisions. She knows that time is her most valuable resource and she spends it wisely at home and at work.

Originally posted on Working Mother.

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When I was pregnant I worried about what would happen if the baby cried for me while I was in a deep sleep. Like so many pregnancy worries, though, blocking out my baby's cries was something I didn't really need to be concerned about. An alarm clock can go off inches from my head and I'll sleep through it for hours, but if my baby cries at the other end of the house, I'm wide awake.

It turns out, the sound of my baby crying impacts my brain very differently than a beeping alarm.

I'm hardly the first parent to make this observation, and science is on to it, too. There's plenty of research about how a baby's cries impact its mother on a physical level. A study of mother mice published in Nature found that adding oxytocin (a hormone released in strong doses during labor and lactation) to the brains of the mamas changed the way they processed the sound of crying pups—and helped them learn how to recognize and respond to the sounds.

A dose of this “motherhood hormone," it seems, leads to increased sensitivity to the sound of your child in distress.

According to Robert Froemke, that study's senior investigator, this suggests oxytocin amplifies the way the auditory cortex processes incoming cries from our own babies. He says the same seems to be true for female mice as female humans: The sound of a crying baby stirs up a great sense of urgency.

This physiological reaction allow us to develop rapid, reliable behaviors to our babies' cries, says Froemke. In time, it also helps us learn what the cries mean—and how we can respond in a helpful way.

When our babies cry, “[as parents, we] don't know what's really going to work, we just try a bunch of stuff. Let's change a diaper, let's feed the baby, let's do a little dance," he says. “Eventually we learn this repertoire of parenting skills because we're all in, we're all invested and that baby depends on us absolutely to take care of it."

Researchers believe that it may be this hormonal shift in the brain that alerts a mother to the sound of her child's cry.

Mothers' brains have a different level of sensitivity to crying babies

In humans and in mice, dads often respond to a baby's cries, but the brain chemistry is a little different: According to Froemke, extra oxytocin doesn't speed up the reaction to crying pups in male mice the way it does for females.

"There is a difference in terms of [ a father's] sensitivity to oxytocin. We think that may be because the male oxytocin system is already maxed out," he explains, adding there is something about living with a female and child that contributes to a natural oxytocin increase in mouse dads. (Further proof moms aren't the only ones to deal with big hormone changes.)

But when it comes to the brains of human parents, there is more evidence that the brains of men and women respond to crying babies differently. A study published in NeuroReport looked at the brains of 18 men and women who heard a baby crying while inside a brain scanner. The women's brain activity suggested an immediate alertness, while the men's brain activity didn't change.

That study suggests there are gender differences in the way we process baby sounds, but a lot of dads will tell you they can't and don't sleep through a baby cries. And that's for good reason: According to Froemke, it's no biological accident that babies signal distress in a way that can pierce parents brains even when our eyes are closed.

"Parents have to sleep, too," he says, but, "Sounds penetrate our brains, they tap into something deep and we can quickly rouse from a deep slumber, jump out of bed and tend to infant needs."

Just as my son is biologically wired to be my personal alarm clock, I am biologically wired to hear him—even if I can still sleep through everything else.

[Originally published October 18. 2017]

[Editor's note: This story is a letter from a woman to her husband. While this is one example of one type of relationship, we understand, appreciate and celebrate that relationships come in all forms and configurations.]

To my husband,

We met when I was 22. We started building a life together. We became each other's best friend, cheerleader, guidance counselor, and shelter from the storm. We laughed together, cried together, and stood up in front of all the people who matter to us and vowed to stay together until one of us dies.

We said the words without irony or hesitation, knowing that while we weren't perfect, the problems we could face in life would never be enough to break us.

And babe, I had no clue what our future held. But I knew I wanted to experience it only with you.

Then we got pregnant! And when our son was born, I marveled at the fact that we made a person. You and me. It honestly still blows my mind even five years later.

I'd heard women say things like, I fell in love with my husband all over again once I saw him as a daddy. I love watching you be a daddy, too—but just like becoming a mother has been transformative for me, becoming a father has been transformative for you, too. And it has taken us some time to get to know the new versions of ourselves.

We worked together—mostly on the same team—and have shared so many beautiful lessons and experiences together. Everything is new when you're a first-time parent! And this new dynamic of three definitely threw us for a loop—I wasn't used to sharing your attention with someone else, and I wasn't used to sharing my attention with someone other than you.

It took a few years to hit our stride. I think maybe we never had big things to disagree on before we became parents. It threw me off to be anything but harmonious with you. But just like we said we would on that gorgeous September wedding day, we found our way back. We stayed on each other's team.

And then I got pregnant again.

We were planning a huge life change already— moving across the country to start anew, restart your business and make a new future. I didn't have an easy pregnancy this time. And generally, for many reasons, life seemed harder than ever.

Our daughter was born and it didn't take long for postpartum depression to steal me away, for far longer than I should have allowed it to. I was scared to get the help I needed and I let it get the best of me. I'm truly sorry for that. I'm mostly sorry that I sometimes let it get the best of us.

It's easy to love a partner when it's just the two of you. Our priorities were never tested then—you were at the top of my to-do list, and I was at the top of yours. But—funny thing—this whole parenting thing seemed to make life a little more complex. And when your kids are little, and completely dependent upon you, there are many days when there just isn't much left over for anything or anyone else.

Babe, we're in it right now. Really in it. These are the parenting trenches. The baby years. These years can make or break us. And can I be so bold as to say: I think they're making us.

They're making us learn how to communicate better. How to find common ground when we disagree about real stuff, like the ways we want to raise our children. We're invested in not only the outcome but the short term effect. We're a team.

They're making us think about the future. Not just the fun stuff, but the difficult stuff like estate planning, life insurance, and college funds for the kids. They're making us challenge ourselves to provide our children with comfort and opportunities. We've always worked hard but the stakes have never been this high.

You know I'm the optimist, the dreamer, while you consider yourself the realist—but I think we can agree on this: going through some of the tough stuff with you by my side has shown me that we are stronger than the tough stuff. We can get through it. We can get through anything. As long as we hold on to each other.

Motherhood transformed me. Fatherhood transformed you. And having kids completely transformed our marriage. We'll never be who we were on our wedding day again.

Time marches forward—only forward. I miss the carefree version of "us", but I love this version even more. Because we know what we're made of now, and in so many ways we didn't before.

I'm sure that in our lifetime, many more obstacles will arise that will transform our marriage. But I've never been more confident that whatever may be, we'll find a way through it—together.

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Baking Christmas cookies together is a family tradition for many, but the Centers for Disease Control is warning parents that if your recipe contains raw flour or raw eggs, you really shouldn't sneak a bite before it is cooked, and neither should your kids.

The CDC is warning people not to eat raw cookie dough, cake mix or bread as we head into prime baking season.

The agency acknowledges the appeal of a spoonful of chocolate chip goodness but asks that we "steer clear of this temptation—eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be cooked, such as dough or batter, can make you sick."

Salmonella from raw eggs is, of course, a concern, and so is the raw flour. According to the CDC, flour needs to be cooked in order to kill germs like E.Coli. That's why the CDC is asking parents to "say no to raw dough," not just for eating but even for playing with.

"Children can get sick from handling or eating raw dough used for crafts or play clay, too," the CDC posted on its website.

On the Food and Drug Administration's website, that agency advises that "even though there are websites devoted to 'flour crafts,' don't give your kids raw dough or baking mixes that contain flour to play with." Health Canada also states that raw flour should not be used in children's play-dough.

The warnings follow a 2016 E.coli outbreak linked to contaminated raw flour. Dozens of people got sick that year, and a post-outbreak report notes that "state investigators identified three ill children who had been exposed to raw flour at restaurants in Maryland, Virginia, and Texas. Restaurant staff had given them raw dough to play with while they waited for their food to be served."

The CDC worries that with flour's long shelf life, products recalled during the 2016 outbreak may still be in people's pantries (although the CDC notes that any raw flour—recalled or otherwise—should not be consumed).

If your kids do have flour-based play dough, don't worry.

Some parents are still choosing to use flour-based craft dough to make Christmas ornaments or other crafts this holiday season and are reducing the risks by A) making sure the kids aren't eating their art, and B) thoroughly washing little hands, work surfaces, and utensils when the dough play is over.

Other parents are choosing other types of craft clay over flour-based dough.


During the 2016 outbreak, the FDA called for Americans to abstain from raw cookie dough, an approach Slate called "unrealistic and alarmist," noting that "the vast, vast majority of people who consume or touch uncooked flour do not contract E. coli or any other infection."

Two years ago, 63 Americans were made sick by E. coli infections linked to raw flour, according to the CDC. We don't know exactly how many Americans ate a spoonful of cookie dough or played with homemade play dough that year, but we do know that more than 319 million Americans did not get sick because of raw flour.

Are there risks associated with handling and consuming raw flour? Yes, absolutely, but it's not something to panic over.

Bottom line: Don't let your kids eat raw dough when they're helping you bake cookies for Santa, and be mindful of raw flour when choosing crafts for kids.

(And if you have just got to get your raw cookie dough fix, the CDC notes that cookie dough flavored ice cream is totally safe as it "contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful bacteria." Sounds like mama's getting Ben & Jerry's tonight.)

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