BootsnAll Travel Network

Moving Day!

August 18th, 2008


It’s time, at last….

We’re moving to a new template on the BootsnAll travel network, a new URL for the Family Travel blog and a new name, the Family Travel Logue.

The transition may take a day or two and we may break a few links along the way, but I think you’ll like our new “house.”

All of the links from the old URL should automatically redirect to the new one, once it is live. I think my RSS readers may need to re-subscribe; will let you know for sure once I figure it out.

See you on the other side!

Tags: , , , , , , ,

More than NYC: family travel in New York

August 12th, 2008

Fort Ticonderoga reenactors (courtesy Slabcity Gang at Flickr CC)

While researching 20 different educational and family-friendly New York attractions for a recent article on, my toughest challenge was ensuring that I cast a wide net beyond New York City.

Here are three highlights from outside the five boroughs:

  • Women’s Rights National Historic Park – In Seneca Falls, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (who also raised seven children) and four other women organized the first women’s rights convention in July 1848, using Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence as a model for their Declaration of Sentiments. Convention Days special events are held each July. The organizers were also abolitionists and one of their houses was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Visit the National Women’s Hall of Fame in downtown Seneca Falls; it celebrates a wide variety of accomplished women throughout history.
  • Rochester – Trade, industry and the opening of the Erie Canal put Rochester on the map. Frederick Douglass is buried here; George Eastman of the Eastman Kodak Company and Susan B. Anthony both lived in the city and their homes are National Historic Landmarks. The Eastman House is also a museum of photography and film. The Genesee Country Village and living history museum bring the 19th century to life, and kids love the place that celebrates them: the Strong National Museum of Play, which features interactive games, a massive collection of historic toys and a Butterfly Garden.
  • Chautauqua Institution – Long recognized as a wonderful opportunity for adult summer education, renewal, recreation and fine arts in a lakeside setting, the Chautauqua also offers an activity-packed Children’s School (ages 3-5,) Group One for rising first graders, the Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs for ages 7-15 and a Youth Activity Center for preteens and teens. Family entertainment and a Young Reader’s book club patterned after the venerable Institution adult book club round out the offerings, so that no one is bored.

Take a look at the rest of the article right here:  Family Fun and Learning in New York.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Scooping up ideas for you at Travel Media Showcase

August 7th, 2008

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (courtesy fotobydave at Flickr CC)

I wanted to let my readers know that I was accepted to attend the September 2008 Travel Media Showcase conference as a journalist. The chance to make lots of travel-related contacts there means more opportunities for me to learn about and visit places for the Family Travel blog.

There is a selection process for TMS journalists and travel publications to ensure a good mix of first-time and previous attendees, across a spectrum of travel writing, both in print and online.  I’m looking forward to seeing lots of fellow travel writers, like the Traveling Mamas, folks from the new planning site TravelMuse, representatives from Smarter Travel and Budget Travel, editors from and and Tim Leffel, author of World’s Cheapest Destinations and my editor at the Perceptive Travel blog.

Our schedule of events includes various receptions, familiarization tours around Kansas City (the host city) and many appointments with representatives from Convention and Visitor’s Bureaus and tourism offices from around the world.

I’m looking forward to it!

Related posts:

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Carnival of Cities for 06 August 2008 – whoops

August 6th, 2008

Welcome to the August 6, 2008 edition of Carnival of Cities, but we have doofus issues.

My good friend Pam Mandel at Nerd’s Eye View will run the Carnival next week (the August 13 edition) but I forgot to update some stuff on the main Blog Carnival site, so all the submissions since last week’s Go Green Travel carnival edition have flowed to Pam.

I thought I could retrieve them as Carnival administrator, but I can’t.

I’ll fix it later this week and get your submissions up in a “Better Late Than Never” version, but meantime, I will post the one submission that the system will let me retrieve:

That concludes this, er, exceptionally abbreviated edition. I would say that a stiff drink is in order, but this is a family publication.  🙂

Submit your blog post to the next edition of Carnival of Cities using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Technorati tags: , .

Tags: , , , ,

Travel with kids to Iowa

August 1st, 2008

Iowa State Marble Magnets (courtesy on Flickr’s Creative Commons)

(This is a guest post by new blogger Jessica O’Riley at the Iowa Tourism Office – give some travel love to the Midwest!)

With a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old at home, family-friendly attractions are high on my list of vacation locations. Luckily, our home state of Iowa is filled with many options that don’t break the bank.

Some suggestions for you:

National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque: The new “Venom” exhibit features colorful and venomous creatures including spiders, jellyfish, bugs, scorpions, poison dart frogs, snakes, lizards and fish. Visitors can zoom in on the animals with a special camera and crawl through a rattlesnake exhibit that gets them a “prey’s-eye view” of a rattlesnake. Wildlife eco cruises run through October.

Phelps Youth Pavilion in Waterloo:  The Waterloo Center for the Arts launches a world of wonder, discovery and learning. Kids can “ride” a tractor through a Grant Wood painting, travel back in time with a time machine, perform on stage and learn about creativity in other cultures.

This just opened in early April and we visited during the second weekend. My kids spent about three hours exploring the museum – especially enjoying the dress up and stage area – and I actually had to tear them away from the exhibits when it was time to leave.

Dress-up play, Phelps Youth Pavilion, Waterloo, Iowa (courtesy Jessica O’Riley)

King’s Pointe Resort in Storm Lake: Cutting-edge water slide technology takes this water park to a whole new level. At the top of the Discovery Plunge slide, riders can select one of eight adventure themes – including storms, sea creatures, hot air balloons and sharks – and experience it on their descent, complete with sights and sounds.

Honey Creek Resort State Park in Centerville: Iowa’s first destination state park is set to open this September. When completed, the park will include a 100+ room lodge, outdoor patio, indoor water park, conference center, 18-hole golf course and outdoor recreational opportunities along the shores of Lake Rathbun.

Matchstick Marvels in Gladbrook: Local resident and artist Pat Acton has glued more than three million matchsticks together to create detailed works of art ranging from the U.S. Capitol to Pinocchio. His version of [Harry Potter’s] Hogwarts was purchased by a museum in Spain. Ripley’s Believe it or Not has also purchased several of his models. He is currently working on Minas Tirith from the Lord of the Rings; it should be completed in 2009.

Fun City in Burlington: This ultra family-friendly destination includes an indoor/outdoor water park, 24 lanes of bowling, electric indoor go-karts, arcade, laser tag, restaurants and a hotel all under one roof. We visited in February 2007 so just did the indoor water park. There are lots of slides for little kids, a dump bucket and even a climbing wall. My son especially enjoyed the indoor go-karts as he was tall enough to drive his own. They also have two-seater carts so those not tall enough to drive on their own can ride with Mom or Dad. The kids have been talking about going back since we left. We’re heading back down yet this summer to do the outdoor water park.

Having the hotel connected makes it easy to take a break from all the activities and rest. You’ll want to make time to get away to visit Burlington’s most famous landmark – Snake Alley, dubbed “The Crookedest Street in the World” according to Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

Water park play at Fun City, Burlington, Iowa (courtesy Jessica O’Riley)

Ice Cream Capital of the World, aka LeMars: More ice cream is made in LeMars by a single company (Wells Dairy, makers of Blue Bunny ice cream) than anywhere else in the world.

And it’s never too early for ice cream – early morning visitors to the 1920s-themed ice cream parlor can enjoy cinnamon rolls topped with icing made from melted ice cream.

Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad in Boone: This tourist line railroad travels 15-miles round trip through the beautiful Des Moines River Valley and crosses two great bridges. Special kid-friendly rides include a Day out with Thomas (September), pumpkin express (October) and Santa Express (December). Santa Express riders, encouraged to wear their pajamas, are served hot chocolate and cookies and receive a silver bell.

We took our son to the Day out with Thomas before our daughter was born and he really enjoyed it. In addition to the train ride, they had inflatables, a large Thomas the Train set for kids to play with and photo opportunities with Thomas.

Our Iowa-based guest poster, Jessica O’Riley.

Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Sioux City: Experience a day soldiering with explorers Lewis & Clark. This one-of-a-kind interactive museum includes twelve-foot-tall murals, twice-lifesize bronze monuments to the captains and their dogs, keelboat theater and interpretive displays.

(Thanks very much to Jessica and the Iowa Tourism Office for sharing family-friendly Iowa insights and photos.)

Related posts:

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Photo of the Week: Hey, doll face!

July 30th, 2008

Dolls in period costume for sale, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia (Scarborough photo)

These dolls were in a box in an outdoor, tented market stall on Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.  Vendors in Colonial dress were selling all sorts of related gizmos – penny whistles, tri-cornered hats, butter churns (OK, just kidding on that last one.)

I have photographic evidence of my teen daughter wearing a replica of a late 1700s women’s cap, also for sale at the stall, but I can only push the Blogging Mom thing so far!

Check the Colonial Williamsburg Monthly Specials page for deals on lodging and admission, and the Calendar page for upcoming events and focused tours for children, like a chance to be a pretend trade apprentice (like a weaver or silversmith.)

Related posts:

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Root, root, root for the home team

July 29th, 2008

A young hopeful waits for a ball, Round Rock Express, Texas (Scarborough photo)Although I’m not a huge baseball fan, I’m all for taking the kids to a baseball game, especially if it’s one of the minor league teams all across the US.

As long as you can avoid the midday sun with shaded seating, or go to an evening game, it’s hard to beat for the price and it makes for an All-American family night out, with amusements for everyone.

When we travel, I look to see if there’s a local minor league team playing, because it’s a great way to get the flavor and atmosphere of a town, and the audience includes all ages and all attention spans.

The Pawtucket Red Sox, for example, are part of the Boston Red Sox organization, but they’re also the pride of tiny Pawtucket, Rhode Island, close to where my son was born.

Montgomery, Alabama has the Montgomery Biscuits; the mascot has a pat of butter for a tongue. What’s more Southern than biscuits?

Here in the Austin area, we have the Round Rock Express baseball team at the Dell Diamond (yes, that Dell – the company is based in Round Rock, about fifteen minutes north of the city of Austin, where Michael Dell attended the University of Texas.)

The Express is a Class AAA affiliate of the Houston Astros organization and a popular diversion in central Texas, averaging 9,000 attendees per game for eight years running.  Famous pitcher Nolan Ryan is part owner of this team plus another down in seaside Corpus Christi.

Local “livestock,” Round Rock Express, Texas (Scarborough photo)

As in most small ballparks, the atmosphere at Dell Diamond is decidedly local – it’s Texas, so there’s plenty of Blue Bell ice cream, BBQ, Dr Pepper, Whataburger and Shiner beer.

One billboard features the Nyle Maxwell auto dealership; he was also the mayor until very recently.

Another billboard is for Hill Country Staffing; “Your on- and off-shore hiring experts in the oil and gas industry.” KLBJ radio advertises itself as the “Rock of Austin;” President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) was born and raised in central Texas.  Bakery company Mrs. Baird’s sponsors the popular Monday night $1 hot dog/$1 drink event (presumably the bun portion.)

Paying attention to the action on the field is secondary for many in the ballpark.

Teenagers hang out on the grassy berm; “We don’t actually watch the game,” says my teen daughter – the point is to pay a minimal amount to get into the cheap seats, then visit with friends. There’s also a kid’s play section with basketball hoops, a rock climbing wall and bungee-trampoline contraption.

There’s always something to see.

  • A pause in the game brings us kids dressed in giant red felt claws, slippers and a hat with crab eyes from Joe’s Crab Shack to do some sort of crustacean “cash grab.”
  • Whenever a ball is hit out of the park, the PA system plays a variety of amusing sounds related to what the ball might hit – we hear a cow moo, the (recorded) sound of glass breaking and baaa’s from a supposedly perplexed ball-bonked sheep.
  • The “Home Run Porch” area above one of the berms has actual porch rockers to sit in, first come first served.
  • Different action on the field warrants certain snippets of songs to be played over the PA – if a player swings and misses, he might get “They Call Me the Breeze.”  When the team’s just barely hanging on against an opponent, the audience hears “Stayin’ Alive.” A ball that blows past a batter cues up “Blue Bayou.” A conference on the mound results in “The More We Get Together.” Each Express team member has a song when they come to bat – pitcher Josh Muecke gets the (rapidly annoying) “Oh Mickey, You’re So Fine.”

Looking for their seat on Boy Scout night, Round Rock Express, Texas (Scarborough photo)

The Dell Diamond is just across the road from a major railway freight line, so loud and lonely “woo-woo” train whistles occasionally cut through the crowd roar.  Those trains used to haul a lot of cotton, because before this was a snazzy modern ballpark full of cheering suburbanites, it was just a bunch of cotton fields, out in the middle of nowhere.

For bonus fun during the rest of July and the month of August, see if the traveling Family Funfest three-hour free baseball celebration is scheduled for your ballpark.

Check your local minor league ballpark for an enjoyable family outing, and if you can drop in on a game in another city during a visit, by all means do so.

What’s your favorite minor league ballpark, at home or away?

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Great Travel Links for 28 July 2008

July 28th, 2008

Scooping up those tips around the Web…

  • You’re not gonna want to hear this, but now’s the time to be nailing down fall and winter travel plans. Airfares are only going to go up, probably a LOT, and the desperate airlines are trying everything – a fee to buy a ticket on the Web, or how about removal from a search site like Kayak? So, get your tickets now if you plan to fly over Thanksgiving or any of the December holidays. This is also the time to make plans for one of my favorite lesser-noticed long weekends — take a look at my 2007 ideas for Columbus Day weekend over at, then check the sites for 2008 dates of annual events (Columbus Day 2008 is October 13.)
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Fabulous for families: California

July 22nd, 2008

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, California (courtesy nplugd on Flickr CC)

It is certainly difficult to narrow down a list of family-friendly, educational travel attractions in the massive Golden State, but I gave it a try….

Kid-friendly fun and learning in California is now posted on

Here are four of the 21 items that I featured, to whet your family travel whistle:

  • Monterey Bay Aquarium– Located on author John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, this world-famous aquarium submerges visitors into watery California marine habitats and offers close-up encounters with hundreds of sea creatures, enhanced by special programs and hands-on activities for kids. Bonus: drive some of the Pacific Coast Highway around scenic Big Sur while you’re there.
  • Butterflies – The migratory paths of the Monarch butterfly bring them to California from about mid-October through March. See them at state parks like Point Mugu, Leo Carillo, Malibu Lagoon State Beach and the town of Pacific Grove.
  • Walt Disney Concert Hall– The twisty, curvy Frank Gehry-designed metallic home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic appeals to kids not only with its looks, but also the Saturday morning Toyota Symphonies for Youth.
  • Love Your Food– The modern movement to “eat local” can be credited to Alice Waters and the Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley. Older kids might enjoy sampling the imaginative rotating menu (lunch in the more casual Café at Chez Panisse might be the best bet.) Another way to introduce great fresh food is to visit the San Francisco Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Building Marketplace on Tuesday and Saturday, when local restaurants bring samples and California farmers are out in force.

The other 17 recommendations are here on

The state has long drawn adventurers (Gold Rush, anyone?) and is famously tolerant of the unusual, but that’s precisely why I love it.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tight travel budget? Another world awaits you

July 20th, 2008

BlogHer in Second LifeNow, bear with me here.

My Mom already thinks the whole blogging thing is a little “out there,” so I can imagine what she and probably many of my Family Travel readers will think about me gallivanting off to travel through a world that doesn’t really exist.

I’ve just spent several hours over the course of yesterday and today on my computer, running around in the Second Life virtual world, dressed up as a punkish Goth avatar named Boadicea Merryman (my SL name.)

It didn’t cost anything; well, until I bought that virtual Frozen Pea Fund necklace as an American Cancer Society donation – all of about 40 cents – yes, you can spend real money there.

Sitting with my virtual/real life friend Connie Reece (green hair) in Second Life (Scarborough photo)

Since I do some Web 2.0/social media teaching and consulting work with the Every Dot Connects consortium, I make it my business to figure out new and intriguing stuff.  Since I could not attend the fabulous BlogHer blogging conference in San Francisco in person this week, I did the next best thing and attended the conference on my computer, in Second Life.

I had girly fun trying on computer-generated clothing in a virtual house with two giggling girlfriends, watched my avatar Boadicea execute some cool dance moves to an excellent DJ at two BlogHer parties,  attended a panel on how nonprofits can raise (real) money and make a (real life) impact through Second Life, and watched online with a bunch of other avatars in a sold-out Second Life virtual stadium as the Real Life BlogHer keynote speakers on 19 July (Heather Armstrong/dooce and Stephanie Klein) were live-streamed to us in video and audio from a San Francisco ballroom.

During and after each event, I met avatars/people and exchanged contact info.

Behind every avatar listening to a speaker panel is a thinking, tech-savvy person (Scarborough photo)

I feel as though I’ve had an amazing trip, really, and I didn’t have to pack, unpack or deal with security lines and airfare.

To those who would harrumph that this is all silly, and I should be writing things, like a good little writer, let me also point out that as I wandered the BlogHer SL Exhibitors Hall – with booths and displays from different companies, just like any conference – I stopped at conference sponsor’s booth (they had a virtual racetrack at BlogHer SL where you could race all kind of cars, and they sponsored the parties as well.) is a forum and information resource about women and automotive issues, and one of its editors, Brandy, is also my editor at Automotive Traveler magazine.   There was an avatar standing at the SL booth, so I introduced myself, and doggone if it wasn’t Brandy, working at the Second Life conference!

The sponsor exhibit booth in BlogHer Second Life (Scarborough photo)

We even talked about a travel-related article that I’m going to write for; never let it be said that you can’t do business in a computer-generated world (and I hope to join the next cyberspace press trip, too, while I’m at it.)

OK, so Brandy and I did geek out after that….we both opened another tab on our computer and went over to the chat/microblogging site Twitter and starting talking over there – she’s @hondagrrl and I’m @SheilaS.

There is a Second Life for teens (ages 13-17) so I’m going to see if my daughter wants to do some virtual traveling.

I’m hoping she rolls her eyes and says, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

Tags: , , , , ,