5 things your preschooler will LOVE at the Mall of America

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in Adventures, Life as a Toddler, TODDLER, TRAVEL

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Towards the end of winter, I decided to take Lexi with me to Minnesota for a week. I wasn’t sure what we would do there but I wanted to go somewhere with her and since I was already planning a trip there, I took her along. My one goal for the trip was to show her snow. She had been asking about it and we just hadn’t had a chance to make it to the north that winter, so this trip came in handy.

She did see snow and actually managed to get on skis and do some snow tubing which was an absolute blast, but the most unexpectedly memorable experience was Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America.

 

I am not sure what I was expecting… I guess being spoiled by Disney just three hours away, I didn’t think some indoor amusement park was going to impress me. Or Lexi, for that reason.

But wow the Mall was fun!

Here are the 5 things that Lexi and I both loved at the Minneapolis’ Mall of America

1. Lego Store and play area

Oh boy! That spells both danger and glorious moments of freedom. The Lego Store at the MOA is equipped with tables full of random legos and at any time you can see crowds of kids sitting at the tables assembling Legos with their bored parents staring off into the distance. I made the mistake of taking Lexi there before dinner and needless to say, I could not get her out. If you’re planning on visiting the mall, make sure that you bring your laptop or a book and go there right after a meal. This way your lego obsessed kiddo can happily ignore you while building with all the other kids and you will actually be able to relax and do something for yourself while watching from the side.

 

A video posted by E @ The Art Of Making A Baby (@prebabyblog) on

2. American Girl Bistro

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Wow! This was really cool. For any girl, whether she is interested in dolls or not, whether she is an American girl fan or not, this experience is a MUST. Lexi has never been into dolls and she certainly didn’t know what American Girl dolls were (in fact, the only toy she picked out was a kitty, out of the whole store of dolls). Despite that, she was in 7th heaven.

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Who doesn’t want a little friend having lunch with them? She sat at the table and quietly played with her doll, feeding her cupcakes (the doll gets food too), and talking to her and enjoying their lunch together. No entertainment required, I was kind of a third wheel. Once in a while she would get up from the table and start dancing with her doll, but then sit back down and continue eating.

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The make your own cupcake desert activity was really fun too. I seriously just sat there watching her play on her own and taking pictures while she enjoyed the experience. The food was really tasty. A little too oily for what I am used to, but tasted really really good. Lexi had salmon which she loved (and I did too) and I had shrimp scampi.

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3. Pepsi Orange StreakSplat-O-Sphere

Think of these rides as gateway drugs to the rollercoaster world. If you have a kid who is like mine, who LOVES excitement and thrills but due to young age can still be tentative about something that is a little bit too jarring or scary or even exciting, then these two rides are perfect.

Pepsi Orange Streak is like a hybrid of fast adult coasters (fast, smooth, exciting), but small enough with average drops where a 4 year old will have no problem handling the excitement (unless you have a particularly cautious 4 year old). Lexi asked me to ride it 3 times in a row. Luckily, at Nick Universe, most bigger rides allow the parent to go in for free to accompany a little kid.

Splat-O-Sphere is an entry into the drop rides. I was concerned Lexi would be scared (but then who am I kidding, the girl cried when she found out she couldn’t go on Dr Doom’s Fall at Islands of Adventure), and she was nervous at first, but quickly the excitement of the drop overpowered any fear she had and just like Pepsi Orange Streak, she asked to go on it 3 times.  I love that she was able to experience somewhat adult rides that were toned down for kids who outgrew the lack of excitement of the true kiddie rides.

And then, of course, for those needing way more excitement ( height restrictions apply), there is always the Mutant Ninja Turtles ride :)

4.  Toddler Tuesdays

Now this is brilliant and I wish more parks would get a clue and do something similar.

Every Tuesday the Mall of America provides events, free entertainment and discounts for toddlers. Special character appearances, crafts, and story time are all available. Kids eat free at the participating restaurants and you can buy a Toddler Tuesday ride special for only $11.95 plus tax (good for 5 hours which is plenty to ride EVERYTHING their heart desires). Only toddler rides are included and they can ride them unlimited number of times.

 

 

5. Number of Kiddie Rides

This park is DESIGNED with small kids in mind. While there are a few more exciting adult rides around Nickelodeon Universe, this is a mecca for preschoolers. I counted 15 small kid rides plus 6-7 more that braver souls can venture on (and those who are in the higher percentile for height). One day is NOT enough here, but it’s better than nothing. I would recommend planning for at least 2 days, because you will want to return. I want to go back now, but I am probably not taking Lexi to Minnesota until later this year.

     

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO MALL OF AMERICA? If so, what is your favorite experience there?

Chattanooga, TN as a family destination, a travel story

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in Adventures, EVERYTHING ELSE, TRAVEL

CHATTANOOGA GUIDE FOR KIDS

When I first heard the name Chattanooga, I didn’t think anything of it.

“Ah, Chattanooga Choo Choo”- someone said.

“Huh?” I replied.

Where is it? In Tennessee? What’s there to do? Sounds like a middle of nowhere.

Oh boy was I DEAD WRONG! I laugh now. Seriously, I laugh out loud when I think of my first reaction to the name and its location. It shows you how our preconceived notions of things (based on lack of experience) are often very wrong.

Chattanooga, TN blew my mind. It blew Lexi’s mind. It impressed everyone who joined us on that trip. I am still in touch with the locals there and every time we speak, I long to go back there. I want to visit it again with Lexi, I want to go alone, I want to go with friends. I want to see it in the summer, spring and fall (we went during winter).

When thinking of Chattanooga, TN one can’t come up with much but trains and rarely do we think of it as a family or kid-friendly destination. It can’t be further from the truth. We spent a few days there and left wishing there was more time to explore.

If you are within driving distance to Chattanooga (and it’s close to a lot of states), plan a trip this summer. I promise, if you follow the activities I will describe here, you will not be disappointed and neither will your kids.

CHATTANOOGA GUIDE FOR KIDS

Day 1:

Our first day’s activities were my personal favorite from the visual standpoint. I have been really into nature photography as I travel to various destinations and this “wonder” was exactly what I was looking for and more.

Ruby Falls

Our first living cave experience (and Lexi’s first cave experience overall), Ruby Falls left me breathless (I am not exaggerating). It’s a cave that leads to an underground waterfall (yes, you read that right) that is 145 feet tall and is located 1,120 feet underground. The story of the discovery of the cave is phenomenal and will interest not only adults but small kids too. Lexi talked about the cave, the waterfall and the story she heard from our cave guide for months after.

After exploring the underground world and its amazing sculptures and walking for a long time (but not too long that a preschooler would get tired), we got stopped at the entrance to the waterfall to prepare for the sight. We could hear the water rushing and the humidity level rise. Then we stepped into the dark cavern. A few seconds later, the show began. A massive colorfully lit waterfall appeared before our eyes. With uplifting music and changing colors, it was glittering and glistening and dancing for what seemed like 10 minutes. And then it was over.

It left all of us in absolute awe, standing there with our mouths open. I will never forget that feeling. I walked away with a lump in my chest (and I am far from an impressionable, emotional person). I wanted to just stay there, alone, for hours. But we had to go. Wow, even describing it now, it’s making me short of breath.

Leaving the store, Lexi picked up a little lantern (thank you Candace), and has been using it at nights with her every time we travel.

We went up the stairs to the Look Out Point where you can see the Tennessee river and Chattanooga. While the kids played at the playground, we looked around the area. Apparently there is a zip line going through that part of the mountain that runs in the summer. It’s not something to be missed.

As I am writing about this and am full of emotion, I didn’t realize quite what an impression Chattanooga left on me.

Our next stop was Rock City

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A beautiful collaboration between man and nature, Rock City is like a walking trail with beautiful sights and sounds and a museum of human creativity all in one. It’s hard to describe exactly what it is and photos come closer but don’t do it as much justice either. Imagine a huge rock garden, with steep cliffs and narrow passageways, flowers, fairytales, overlooks and gazebos, swinging bridges, balancing rocks and waterfalls. That’s probably the only way to describe everything that you get to see on this little adventure.

There was so much to experience here. These are the things that really jumped out at me:

Balancing rock – A rock that looks like it is being balanced on the edge and needs our help to hold it up. See? We helped.

Fairy Garden – A beautiful creation of traditional fairy tales set in one of the caves, painted with glow in the dark paint and lit up to bring them to life. It was great walking through and trying to recognize each story based on the display

Seven States Marker – From this overlook you can see all seven states surrounding Chattanooga.

Rainbow Tunnel – No comment needed. See gorgeous photo below!

Waterfall – One of the three waterfalls we saw during our trips. They never cease to amaze me.

Fat Man Squeeze – This fun little walk isn’t for the claustrophobic. The kids loves running through it, adults are more tentative. No one wants to get stuck there but it’s fun for all.

Us, bloggers and media, doing what we do best.

 

Day 2

Animals Animals Animals

Aquarium

Chattanooga has, by far, the best aquarium we have encountered. Not being a fan of passively watching animals, whether they are sea or land ones, the Tennessee Aquarium was a pleasure to visit. From the behind the scenes tours and viewings where the girls (Lexi had a travel buddy with her) just absolutely burst into laughter over every little thing, to nicely marked exhibits with explanations that were interesting to read to a 4 year old as well as an adult.

There are three exhibits that stick in my mind as something out of the ordinary:

The Penguin Habitat – Lexi loved this one. The penguins jumped and played and raced and stopped to look at her as she watched them have fun.

The Underwater Exhibit – A cave like area with aquarium and sea life swimming all around you. They actually host sleepovers there, which sounds pretty amazing!

Jellyfish Rooms – Those rooms were unreal. The variety of jelly fish and the see-through tanks in the dark felt like something out of a movie. I wish we could have explored it a lot more before moving onto our next activity.

Chattanooga Zoo

It wasn’t anything too special. It was a good small zoo. However, one thing that did stand out was the train themed exhibits containing with the choo-choo heritage of Chattanooga.

We rode Camel, rode a carousel, and experienced some behind-the-scenes tours. It was fun, cold but fun.

Day 3

On day three we finally made it to the trains.  I’m not a train person but Lexi had a blast visiting the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. The girls sat in the train car, ate lollipops and then went onto exploring the real Choo Choo, which is a hotel and restaurant. This was the perfect activity for these little friends. Lexi wasn’t particularly interested in the museum itself. It would be more suited for older kids or kids fascinated with trains, but she had fun riding the train. It would also be fun to stay overnight in one of these cars, the girls certainly thought so.

Day 4:

Creative Discovery Museum

The Creative Discovery Museum was fabulous. It had two stories of amazing exhibits that make me want to visit Chattanooga and stay there for a week so that Lexi could truly explore it. My favorite was the Recording Studio where all the kids pretended to be recording artists (Lexi sang) and the Dino Bone Pit. Children who live in Chattanooga are certainly lucky. There was also a huge suspended maze that spanned two stories. I wasn’t yet comfortable letting Lexi run around unattended there, so she didn’t get to go all the way.

Southern Belle Boat Ride

 Southern Belle is a large river boat that takes you on a journey through Tennessee. It’s large enough that kids can walk around, exploring or pretending to be pirates like ours did. We were even allowed to go into the captain’s cabin.

Day 5

High Point Climbing and Fitness

Our last day was surprisingly exciting. We went indoor rock climbing. Apparently Chattanooga is one of the best places to go bouldering and rock climbing in the great outdoors, but since we were there with our children and we were not experienced, our trip concluded at High Point Climbing and Fitness. To say that I loved it would not even describe how much fun I had. Lexi was tentative at first, but once she fully learned that she could trust the harness, it was hard to tear her away from it. In fact, she quickly moved onto bouldering and was climbing there without the support of the harness and then jumping off. The gym had walls and walls of different climbing levels and even an outdoor climbing area where you are literally climbing around on the building’s outside wall above the busy street below. I can’t wait for our next visit there!

I truly fell in love with Chattanooga. When anyone asks me where I would recommend taking their preschooler to around the US, I without hesitation recommend Chattanooga. Yes, it might not have the beaches of Florida or the glamour of California or the excitement of New York, or hippiness of Portland, but it has the most child friendly, unique, and interesting activities that will truly engage even the youngest ones. It’s not the old and tired discovery center and farmer’s market. It’s truly educational and experiential entertainment for kids of all ages. I can’t wait to go back and I hope that you take my advice and visit the area, even if for a just a few days.

Some photos in this post are courtesy of Logan Foll via Foll Exposures

Let’s go camping in Florida and a $50 camping card giveaway

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in 52 Weeks of Experiences, Adventures, Florida, FOR MOMS, Fun as a Toddler Mom, Life as a Toddler, Other Recommendations, PRODUCTS, TODDLER, TRAVEL

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Note: Kohl’s has provided us with a $50 gift card for the giveaway and the products listed above.

The Backstory

With spring approaching and Lexi getting older, I have been thinking a lot about taking her camping. She keeps seeing camping references in books she reads and shows she watches and has become pretty interested in it. While we were in Chattanooga on a press trip ( post coming up), she bought a little lantern at Ruby Falls and has been inseparable with it, talking about camping with her lantern. Now my experience with camping equals to zero. I grew up in a city and during my adult life never had anyone who was even remotely interested in going camping (and who wants to go alone?). So I always wished I could camp, but never had the opportunity to make it happen. Andrew always said “ugh, bugs mosquitoes, why???”.

Despite all that, I have planned out all the camping spots I wanted to go to years ago and have had that on my to do list periodically looking it over.

Obviously when Lexi was little, going on my own first camping trip was out of the question. Now that she is 4 and is herself interested in it, it would be a shame not to get it going. Two females against one male. We know who wins there. So we started shopping on Kohl’s for their camping sale event.

Big Announcement!

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in 52 Weeks of Experiences, Adventures, BABY, Best for Baby, Birthdays, BUMP UPDATES, BUSY MOM TIPS, Cooking, Daily, Disney, EVERYTHING ELSE, Fashion and Outfits, Florida, FOR MOMS, Friday Finds, Fun as a Toddler Mom, FUN TIMES, GET FIT, Green Products, HEALTH, Health and Fitness, Letters to Lexi, LIFE, Life as a Toddler, Monthly Updates, My Pregnancy, New Mom Experience, Nursery, Other Recommendations, Parenting, PHOTO, Photo Stories, Photography for Mommies Tutorials, Pre-CONCEPTION, PREGNANCY, PREGNANCY FASHION, Pregnancy Q of the week, Pregnant With Style, PRODUCTS, Real Life Photos, TODDLER, TRAVEL, Tried and True, VIDEO

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BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

Some of you, who follow me on social media, might have noticed that for the last 6 months I have been working on a few projects. I am ready to officially announce the first one.

Together with a friend of mine, I started a new business, Melody Lane, a clothing store that is focused on making sure that women in all stages of their lives have access to comfortable, affordable and most importantly versatile clothing. (see below on details of a $500 giveaway!)

Pregnancy, motherhood, nursing, party, fitness, vacation, career, school – it’s amazing how many stages we go through as women that require a completely different wardrobe. So our goal is to offer clothing with versatility and affordability in mind. Items you could wear for several occasions and during several stages of your life. Clothing that is comfortable, yet still looks good, because I have to admit that since becoming a mother, comfort trumps looks, however I still want to look good.

Breastfeeding a 4 year old at the airport

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in Adventures, BABY, Fun as a Toddler Mom, Life as a Toddler, Monthly Updates, New Mom Experience, Parenting, TRAVEL

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Our flight is delayed and Lexi is crashed out. She asked for boobie before she went down.
I haven’t spoken about breastfeeding for a long time because it has almost ceased. Almost.

She is four years old. And yes she technically still breastfeeds. Mostly only at home before bed and in the mornings or when very upset or tired. 

Budding poser and a little weekend getaway

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in Adventures, Florida, Fun as a Toddler Mom, Life as a Toddler, TODDLER, TRAVEL

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Last week we took a quick trip back to Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Resort (you can read about our first trip here). Our first trip to the resort was rainy, but still fun. This time we were unlucky with the weather again. Aside from the rain, we got a cold front. While that might have stopped us from enjoying the beach and the pool, it allowed us some time to explore more of the area around the resort.

OUR VIEW:

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LEXI WOULDN’T JOIN ME IN THE TUB, SO WE WENT TO THE GYM INSTEAD. AT 10 PM.

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Since the resort has a full kitchen, I stocked up on food at Whole Foods and the next day we had croissant sandwiches and a salad.

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We took a nice drive to the local Science Museum where they had a Dinosaur exhibit. Lexi loved being at the science museum and exploring concepts that she is so interested in right now: space, lightning, extreme weather. Her favorites were the plasma ball ( I got a lot of lightning questions), nano particles table, the hurricane force wind booth and the astronaut suit. untitled--4 untitled--5

The next day I researched unique playgrounds in the area and despite the rain drove 30 minutes out of our way to see it. The playground was epic but empty which resulted in a “I have no one to play with here” breakdown. The girl likes making friends. She finally found one local boy who was about a year younger and was happily following him around trying to engage him in play. I would love to return to the playground during better weather and have her really experience all the features.

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While we were getting ready, Lexi asked to pose with her speaker and had me take some pictures with my mirrorless camera.

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Mommy and me trip to Dreams Las Mareas, Costa Rica (Part II: Experiences)

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in Adventures, Fun as a Toddler Mom, Life as a Toddler, TODDLER, TRAVEL

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In case you missed the first part, Read Dreams Las Mareas, Part I: Impressions

We arrived at the airport and were met by our driver who would take us to the resort about 2 hours away from Liberia Airport. The area we were going to be staying in is called Guanacaste region and is more remote but insanely beautiful and is known for its beaches, surfing and sportsfishing. On our 2 our road trip, we stared out of the window and counted monkeys we saw on the way, played on the Ipad and even napped. It went really smoothly.

Mommy and me trip to Dreams Las Mareas, Costa Rica (Part I: Impressions)

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in Adventures, Fun as a Toddler Mom, Life as a Toddler, TODDLER, TRAVEL

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I am addicted. Addicted to travel, but more importantly, traveling with Lexi. Being able to take her places that are different from our comfort zone of home, seeing her grow through that and develop, talk about countries I could have only dreamed of visiting when I was her age. It’s pretty darn cool.

This last year has been incredibly intense from the travel standpoint. When I look back and count the number of trips we have taken, I can’t believe it all fit into on year. We have been to Mexico (twice) and Costa Rica, on a Princess cruise to St Martin and St Thomas and to California. I personally ( alone) traveled to Hawaii, Sierra Mountains, Las Vegas, Puerto Rico. And many many local trips around Florida. There has been so much that it would be difficult to post it all on the blog. So I am relying on the power of social media to walk you through our adventures, as well as the photos that are supposed to be worth a thousand words.

What it’s like to go on a #MomsEscape…

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in Adventures, BUSY MOM TIPS, FOR MOMS, Fun as a Toddler Mom, HEALTH, Health and Fitness, New Mom Experience, PHOTO, Photo Stories, TODDLER, TRAVEL

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This is a story… A story of how every person needs to escape sometimes. And how a group of bloggers, including myself, got a chance to do exactly that.

I will start the story with introductions. Some of you might be familiar with The MOMS network, and two power women behind it, Denise and Melissa. So these two ladies got a brilliant idea of putting together a group of blogger and together with AM Resorts going on a girls only ( except for our videographer Rafi) escape. A true Mom’s Escape.

Our travel comfort items and a baby monitor giveaway

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in BABY, Best for Baby, Fun as a Toddler Mom, New Mom Experience, PRODUCTS, TODDLER, TRAVEL

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Hola, amigos!

Posting here from sporadically sunny Mexico to offer you an insight on our travel must-haves in conjunction with a Levana monitor giveaway.

As I was sitting on the balcony of my room in Generations Resort in Riviera Maya, working away on my computer and periodically glancing at the monitor where Lexi was quietly sleeping, I realized that I  had never traveled without taking my monitor with me. It was an interesting realization because something like packing a monitor has been on an autopilot for so long, I didn’t truly understand I was doing that. Yet here I was with my daughter who is almost four in a one room suite still using a baby monitor.

I looked around the room trying to figure out what other items I still bring with us whenever we travel and it turns out there are a few staples that have been traveling with us for years.