Make the Season Merry At a National Wildlife Refuge

Walk in a winter wonderland. Hear sleigh bells ring. Make the season bright at a national wildlife refuge near you. Check out some of the free, family-friendly holiday-season activities that refuges will host through the New Year. Look here for added listings as the holidays draw closer.

sleigh ride

Winter Tram Tour

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, VA (KIDS LOVE VIRGINIA, pg 192)
Take a ride on an open-air tram and see the ducks, geese and swans that make the refuge their winter home. Continue into False Cape State Park for a one-mile hike to the Wash Woods cemetery and church site. $8 per person. Reservations are required: 757-426-7128. Dates are:
November 9, 1 to 4:30 p.m.
November 23, 1 to 4:30 p.m.
December 7, 1 to 4:30 p.m.
December 21, 1 to 4:30 p.m.

Holiday Bazaar
November 15, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Patuxent Research Refuge, MD
Shop for wild and not-so-wild, new and gently used treasures. Find unique gifts that support the Patuxent Research Refuge and the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

Okefenokee Pioneer Day
November 22, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, GA (KIDS LOVE GEORGIA, pg 145)
Visit the Chesser Island Homestead to discover how people once lived in southeast Georgia. Learn how settlers made soap, brooms, butter, quilts and other everyday items. Watch a sugar cane boil and taste the cane juice.

Assateague Island Waterfowl Weekend
November 27 – 30 Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, VA (KIDS LOVE VIRGINIA, pg 141)
The refuge will host an open house and offer special events in conjunction with the festival, which marks the fall migration of waterfowl to the refuge.

Holiday Open House
December 4, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, IL
Celebrate the holiday season with refuge Friends, staff and volunteers. Sample a variety of holiday food and learn about the refuge and Friends of the Cache River Watershed.

Winter Open House
December 6, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. — Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, WI ((KIDS LOVE WISCONSIN, pg 142)
Enjoy musical performances by popular artists Ken Lonnquist and Dave Adler at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. There will also be nature crafts and outdoor activities, and discounts at the Coot’s Corner Bookstore.

Open House
December 7, noon to 4 p.m. — Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, OH
Enjoy a warm fire, festive music, kids’ crafts, good company and holiday gifts at the bookstore. Two neighboring conservation organizations, Black Swamp Bird Observatory and the state-managed Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, will also hold open houses the same day.

Snowshoe Habitat Hike
December 13, 10 to 11 a.m. — Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, WI (KIDS LOVE WISCONSIN, pg 6)
Explore the refuge and search for winter wildlife and tracks on a free one-mile snowshoe hike. Warm up with a cup of coffee or hot cocoa. Some snowshoes in adult and children’s sizes are available to borrow. If there’s not enough snow for snowshoes, enjoy a winter hike instead. Snowshoeing is a great activity for all ages.

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Eight Wild Facts about Wild Turkeys

#6. That Funny-Looking Bird is Faster Than You

So you thought there was nothing to know about turkeys except whether you liked drumsticks or white meat. Think again.

wild turkeys

  1. Enough with gobble, gobble. Turkeys also cluck http://bit.ly/1sfVooH and purr http://bit.ly/1sfVooH.
  2. Turkey droppings tell a bird’s sex and age. Male droppings are j-shaped; female droppings are spiral-shaped. The larger the diameter, the older the bird.
  3. Feather-hanger: An adult turkey has 5,000 to 6,000 feathers – count them! – on its body.
  4. Tom turkeys aren’t the only ones that swagger and fan their tail feathers to woo mates and ward off rivals. Some hens strut, too.
  5. Crunchy treats. Young turkeys – poults – scarf down insects like candy. They develop more of a taste for plants after they’re four weeks old.
  6. They may look off-kilter – tilting their heads and staring at the sky –yet but they’re fast. Turkeys can clock more than 12 miles per hour.
  7. Move over, American bald eagle. Ben Franklin called the wild turkey a “bird of courage” and thought it would make a better national symbol.
  8. Wild turkeys are not hard to find. National wildlife refuges are great places to look —while you enjoy a stroll in nature and emerge looking less like a butterball yourself. Here are some favorite turkey hideouts:

FLORIDA
St Marks National Wildlife Refuge (KIDS LOVE FLORIDA, pg 97)
To boost your chances of seeing turkeys, get out of your car and walk. “Turkeys are sensitive to the movement of vehicles,” says Ranger David Moody. Wearing camo colors might help, too. The refuge permits bow hunting the first two weeks in November. Then it closes to hunting until December 13. Almost 50 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail go through the refuge. Turkeys like the open terrain of the longleaf pine sandhill ecosystem along the trail. $5 entrance fee.

GEORGIA
Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge
Look for turkeys along 50 miles of gravel road, including five-mile-long Wildlife Drive.  You might also see them off Round Oak Juliette Road, a scenic (and paved) byway. Or try one of the refuge’s five hiking trails. No entrance fee. (Note: the refuge is closed for a deer hunt Saturday, Nov. 22.)

ILLINOIS
Wild Turkey Trail — Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge (KIDS LOVE ILLINOIS, pg 171)
Easy to moderate 1.7- mile trail leads through woods and offers a fine chance of seeing wild turkeys. For more of a challenge, take the connecting 2.2-mile Rocky Bluff Trail. Entrance fee: $2 per vehicle.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge
The 9-mile Wildlife Drive passes many woods and fields where you might spot turkeys, especially in mornings and late afternoons. Or lose the wheels and walk any of seven hiking trails along the drive. No entrance fee.

CAPTION: Wild turkeys strut and display at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, PA. Photo: Copyright Bill Buchanan. Used with permission.

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Travel Book Review: Baseball Road Trips: The Midwest and Great Lakes

The perfect travel guide for baseball fans who want to see more of the great ballparks in America’s heartland, this handy guide gives you the tips for best lodging, great restaurants, and local attractions for the Major League and minor league cities and towns that dot the Midwest. With details about every ballpark from Major League Baseball to the Frontier League, this travel companion tells you the best places to sit, the best ballpark food to eat, and the best places to go around town when you are not at the ballpark.

baseball road trips

As a huge baseball fan, I couldn’t wait to dig into this book (sent complimentary for unbiased review). I really liked the format (easy reading) and callouts (interesting sidebar notes). As a journalist, I wanted to especially compare my personal experiences at many of these ballparks to that of the authors…and I learned some stuff along the way!

Since I’m biased towards a certain MLB team, I refrained from examining the major league ballparks too much. After all, we visit those predominantly to watch our fave team play, not really for the ballpark.

But the minor league ballparks are a different story. Here’s some examples:

1. INDIANA – South Bend Silver Hawks – Four Winds Field – my review was more recent and favorable (http://kidslovetravel.com/familytravelblog/fun-in-south-bend-indiana/) but we both agree this is a resurgence ballpark finding its following near Notre Dame campus.

2. KENTUCKY – Louisville Bats – Louisville Slugger Field – now here’s where I learned something very unique – how the Pittsburgh Pirates got the name “Pirates” – when the city’s ballclub fell victim to a pirate in 1899 – not the type of pirate you may think (pg 77). This ballpark is too fun (http://kidslovetravel.com/familytravelblog/?p=2561)

3. OHIO – Columbus Clippers – Huntington Park – my adult hometown set in the heart of the Arena district and Short North arts district, this newer ballpark is also home to Dime a Dog night and Buck a Bone (ribs) night. Live bands on summer weekends and plenty of craft brews now offered make this a fun park to buy a $7 standing room only ticket and wander the park set in the heart of the city. As the author says, “The fans of Columbus also have a good view no matter where they sit.”

From taking in a AAA game with the Iowa Cubs in Des Moines and visiting the Field of Dreams to knowing how to best experience Target Field in the Twin Cities, Baseball Road Trips: The Midwest and Great Lakes is all you need to plan a dream baseball road trip.

Triumph Books, $16.95, http://www.triumphbooks.com/baseball-road-trips–the-midwest-and-great-lakes-products-9781600789694.php

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HIT THE ROAD, JACK: 75 PERCENT OF AMERICANS LIKELY TO ROAD TRIP BY LABOR DAY

Car Shopping Site Edmunds.com Sheds Light on the Great American Road Trip

SANTA MONICA, CALIF. – August 12, 2014 – Whether it’s the trip back to college, a last-minute Labor Day escape or an end-of-summer getaway, Americans find that August is a great time to hit the road. In a recent survey of 1,000 Americans by car shopping site Edmunds.com, 40 percent of drivers said that they definitely plan to take a road trip by Labor Day and another 34 percent are considering it.

In fact, the August survey found that 80 percent of drivers had road trips in mind when they shopped for their vehicle, with cargo space being the primary attractor (22 percent). The great American road trip is alive and well with many drivers planning to go the distance (500+ miles), snap selfies and pump their favorite tunes.

familybeach2

Some other takeaways include:

  • We love that open road: More than 92 percent would be willing to drive up to 500 miles for a vacation; of this group, 49 percent would drive cross-country.
  • But first, let’s take a selfie: Thirty-four percent of road trippers will take anywhere from 1-10 selfies on their journey (not while driving).
  • GPS is key: GPS, music and travel companions are must-haves for road trips (27 percent, 24 percent and 25 percent, respectively).
  • Parents WILL turn that car around: Of the respondents with children, nearly half (45 percent) will threaten to turn the car around at least once on a road trip.
  • Eyes on the road: Nearly 90 percent of respondents said they could last over an hour without checking their phones while on a road trip. Of course, no one should ever check their phones while driving.
  • Classic rock trumps pop: When respondents were given the choice of road trip anthems, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” beat out modern day heavy hitters Katy Perry and Taylor Swift for the top spot.

“It’s not surprising to us that more than 80 percent of respondents had road trips in mind when they were car shopping,” said Edmunds.com CEO Avi Steinlauf. “Road trips are the ultimate test for any new vehicle; if the car can be reliable and comfortable while handling all the loading, unloading and hauling with adequate fuel efficiency, then it’ll definitely make a great long term vehicle.”

Edmunds.com has always been a fan of testing new cars’ limits by taking the industry’s most popular and buzzworthy cars on grueling road trips. For more road trip tips and tricks, or if you are in the market for the best road-tripping vehicle, check with the car shopping experts at Edmunds.com.

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Product Review: Ditch the Spray, Non-Toxic Wristbands Keep Mosquitos Away for Days

Summertime. You have your potato salad, delicious barbeque and cool beverages. But most every summer you also end up covered in red itchy bumps. In 2013 over 2,000 people were infected with West Nile, and 114 people died. It is important to protect yourself this summer and in addition, say goodbye to itching and swelling and say hello to a worry free day of fun in the sun.

Rather than coat yourself in numerous unknown chemicals or simply forget to put anything on at all you can now wear an all-natural bracelet that works for 6 days straight.

Mosquitno Bands are all-natural, non-toxic wristbands made of silicone rubber infused with 100% citronella oil. Each Mosquitno Bands contains enough citronella to effectively repel bugs for up to 150 hours of exposure (or six days), and each comes in a re-sealable pouch to preserve effectiveness between uses.  Mosquitno Bands are available in eight solid colors, camouflage, tie-dye and glow-in-the-dark in sizes for adults and children.

Green-adults-optimized-300x300

The pleasant-smelling citronella oil infused into Mosquitno Bands works by masking human scents – carbon dioxide and sweat – that attract bugs. Mosquitno Bands are more effective than citronella candles because they are worn on the body and the citronella scent is not dissipated by the wind.

I am a mosquito magnet so my testimony to effectiveness of this product lends much credibility. (note: usually everyone likes to sit near me cause I get bit and then they don’t)

I’m at tournament ballgames for most weekends early summer. After July 4th, it’s outdoor festivals… I get welts and bumps all over my legs and arms. My sundress just doesn’t look that appealing when there are red bumps that are so plentiful you could play “connect the dots”…ugh! But this product really worked! Bottom line: when I wore the wristband, bite free. If I forgot and took it off later…bites a plenty.

It is time to take a stand against the nearly invisible birds of summer and there is a new unique way to do this. Mosquitno offers protection against mosquitos and other bugs and all you have to do is wear a bracelet or patches.

Mosquitno Bands  Spotz

Mosquitno Bands retail for $3.99. All Mosquitno products are non-toxic, chemical-free and DEET-free. Used Mosquitno Bands can be mailed back to the company for recycling in return for two new, free Mosquitno Bands (for every 10 returned). Mosquitno Bands are available at retailers nationwide or online at www.mosquitnoband.com.

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Travel Product Review: ICU Eyewear for summer reading

With summer finally here, many of us are making plans and going places. For your next summer road trip, we hope you are lounging poolside or down by the beach and enjoying a good summer read. ICU Eyewear has a fantastic creative team who have designed a great line of readers and reading sunglasses that are perfect to take on your next summer getaway.​ 

So the folks over at ICU Eyewear sent me some samples to try (note: my opinions are my own, but the samples were free for me to keep).

Light Blue Cat Eye Lifted Bifocal Reading Sunglasses ($25.95)Cat Eye frames are hot, hot, hot this summer! These frames are perfect for summer reading because they are polarized and 100% UV A and B ray protective; say hello to your anti-aging BFF.

icu sunglasses

These are my new poolside glasses! What I like best is they have all the perks of sunglasses but the readers are built in so someone looking at you can’t really see the readers built in. So…no one needs to know you’re cheating…readers are disguised. Any travel moms who still want to look youthful (cause we still feel young!) should try these!

ICU sunglass readers

Black/Tortoise Contemporary Readers ($23.95). Get your reading on with these stylish and very practical ICU Eyewear mens readers, great for all gents of all ages.

Another tester product. Ok dads/grandpas. You are the last one’s to ask for directions and the last one’s to remember to bring readers OUT (if you own some, they are probably granny glasses sitting by your favorite chair at home). One of my good friends (and mentor), Mike, was always borrowing other’s glasses or having to ask the server for advice on the menu. The best little local restaurants are often darkly lit and it can be difficult to see the menu.  Many “middle-aged” men and women hate to admit their vision is impaired enough to have trouble reading menus. But these stylish uni-sex readers are fun to pull out and use! 

icu readersICU mens readers

Oh the places you will go this summer are endless and there’s no doubt you have some great trips ahead of you. For your next summer road trip, don’t forget to pack a great book along with your favorite ICU Eyewear readers or reading sunglasses.

Be sure to download ICU Eyewear’s free mobile app today:

http://www.icueyewear.com/mobile-app.html

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Fun in South Bend, Indiana

FUN FACTS

  • The University of Notre Dame’s Main Building has 1,250 thin strips of 8 oz. 23-karat gold, 3 microns thick. http://tour.nd.edu/locations/eck-visitors-center/ (pg 93 of Kids Love Indiana)
  • The University of Notre Dame has the oldest continuously existing college band in the nation. When Notre Dame played football for the first time against Michigan in 1887, the Notre Dame Marching Band was already celebrating its 41st birthday.
  • The South Bend Chocolate Company produces more than 3,000 pounds of chocolate daily at its South Bend, Ind. factory. They invite you to “take a dip” literally – paid tours get to make a chocolate golden spoon! (pg 99 of Kids Love Indiana. www.sbchocolate.com)IMG_20140613_151753IMG_20140613_155107southbend choc tour
  • South Bend’s East Race Waterway was the first artificial whitewater course built in North America and opened in 1984.
  • The St. Joseph River flows north from South Bend into Lake Michigan. Several great walking/biking paths loop around the bends of the river. (you will cross it upteen times as you wander the city and surrounding suburbs)
  • FourWindsFieldSeatingChart_zvoo41i7SilverHawks single A baseball team is an affliate for the Arizona Diamondbacks. www.silverhawks.com. They play at Four Winds Field. The night we were there they had fireworks after the game. New are the Splash Pad water play area right behind Lawn SEating (only $6.00 for lawn seats) and the Tiki Bar, where parents can linger while their kids play in the Fun Zone.

9780615731674

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Downtown Fun in Indianapolis

I recently traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana with a youth baseball team. Since we knew we’d have time each day to check out the city’s attractions, we decided to plan some side trips within a short distance from our downtown hotel.

SUGGESTED LODGING:

SPRINGHILL SUITES BY MARRIOTT DOWNTOWN

Springhill Suites is located on a beautiful seven-acre site overlooking White River State Park and adjacent to the Convention Center. The downtown is located directly across from the Eiteljorg Museum, Indiana State Museum, the NCAA Hall of Champions, the historic Canal with miles of jogging/biking trails as well as just a 4 min. drive to the Indianapolis Zoo. With upgraded WiFi and super-fast bandwidth, guests appreciate the complimentary, new breakfast buffet served daily and the mini frig & microwave in every room. Ideally suited for families (and teen boys) with suites 25% larger than other traditional downtown Indianapolis hotel rooms, they also offer an indoor heated pool, activity kits for kids and even rentable board games and Wii! 

INDSD_ ExteriorDay1INDSD_QQSuiteINDSD_SuiteSeasons_BreakfastAreaold-world-gondoliers-1

Here’s a suggested itinerary for your next sports-themed trip to Indianapolis…

INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY: (pg 27 of Kids Love Indiana) Although recognized as a sports capital and home of the world’s largest single-day sporting event – the Indy 500, visitors will find there is a surprise around every turn…literally! We happened to visit on a day where they were not conducting Track Tours. Instead, time trials for a vintage car race were going on and we watched from the observers grassy mounds on the infield. The roar of the cars whizzing around the track in brightly shined color made our day!

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum 2014

 

INDIANAPOLIS ZOO: (PG 29 Kids Love Indiana) World’s Most Important Zoo Exhibit: International Orangutan Center. www.indyzoo.com. Features eight orangs that interact with visitors! through computer games or a 40 foot high tram ride along the recreated natural habitat of the Hutan Trail. Nightly, an orang climbs to the Beacon of Hope and flips on a light that can be seen from downtown Indy! Amazing, creative space!

Indianapolis Zoo Orangatang Center

 

NCAA HALL OF CHAMPIONS: (pg 23 Kids Love Indiana) www.ncaahallofchampions.org. Because we LIKE most college sports but LOVE baseball, we spent most of the time in that area. Mom (me) earned some cool points on the basketball half court though…made the same shot Michael Jordan did to win for Tarheels as a freshman.

NCAA Hall of Champions Baseball exhibit

Indy is at your service! You will quickly discover that Hoosier Hospitality is not a statement, but a lifestyle. Notoriously nice, helpful people are everywhere to assist you in planning and implementing a successful tour. http://www.visitindy.com and www.kidslovetravel.com/kids_love_indiana.htm9780615731674

 

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Travel Product Review: Secur Sun Power 6000 Charger

It is becoming the time of year to be outside and in the sunshine. Many people enjoy going to outdoor destinations, but are forced to leave when their electronics run out of battery power. Secur Products solves this problem with the Sun Power 6000 Charger, the fold-up solar panel designed to charge electronics.

SP-3008_cell_charge

Sitting on the beach with a drink in hand, enjoying time spent with the family or friends is the daydream of many desk dwellers, so why ruin the image with a dying cell phone? The Sun Power 6000 Charger allows you to charge your electronics without leaving the fun in the sun. This handy charger is water resistant, and perfect for seaside festivities. Now you won’t have to cut the day short simply because you can’t take that perfect “selfie” in the sand.

Or, got kids playing sports? I spend gobs of hours at ballparks all summer long. Tournaments can go all day…and I’m checking emails and updates of brackets all day. My battery always runs out at the worst times. Not now…

secur

Sun powering my charger up so I can charge up my cell phone in a little while…

Easy to use, really simple. You’ll never feel out-of-communication out n about again.
Suggested Retail Price for the Sun Power 6000 Charger is $129.00 and it can be found on Amazon.com for purchase.
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MIDWEST HOMESCHOOL CONVENTION in Cincinnati is hosting a workshop about Family Field Trips on a Budget

COME TO booth #1621 – KIDS LOVE TRAVEL at the Midwest Homeschool Convention and check out our books and show specials. (http://midwesthomeschoolconvention.com ).

ONE of the authors will be there so think of a QUESTION or two to get a JUMPSTART on your next trip!

AND, take a fun break and listen in on one of our convention workshops:

Room – Duke 235

Friday, April 25th – 1pm-2pm

Kids Love Travel – Let’s Plan an Affordable Family Day Trip!

Family Field Trips with kids can be a delight or a disaster. Two things that make a homeschool trip great: low-cost and educational fun.


1. FREEBIES? Know where to look for FREE car games to play while day-tripping? Our new books suggest online places to find and print them.

  2. INSIDE SCOOPS. What are some secrets to get the most value for your money. Where to sit to get best value? what to bring? why to get there early? Examples: on Tours-why standing in the first two rows is beneficial. What about having a picnic at a castle? Why go early to outdoor dramas?

3. EDUCATORS? There’s suggestions for finding FREE lesson plans embedded in many listings as helpful notes for educators.

4. Marriage of guidebook and the Internet.

Guidebook= organic – highlight it, dog ear pages, write notes, already organized and filtered for kids, unbiased (no fee), and accessible without a wireless connection.
Internet=  the newest discounts, web updates, extra insights can be found at the links provided on every page.

KIDS LOVE TRAVEL GUIDES can save you $$ in just 20 minutes reading just one chapter in one book! We can save you dozens of hours on the internet, too.

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