Posted in Lifestyle, Travel

Making Holiday Memories with Kennywood Park Holiday Lights

Each year, we make it a family tradition to visit a Christmas lights display near our home in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. This year, we decided to give another location attraction a try! We have frequently visited Kennywood Park for amusement fun in the summer. Once we heard they also have a Holiday Lights display, we were all in! Though many of the rides and eateries in the park are closed during the Holiday Lights festivities, there is still LOTS to do and see.

First Impression of Kennywood Park Holiday Lights

Upon arriving to the park, we were pleasantly surprised that parking was actually FREE for the Holiday Lights festivities — score! We visited on a Saturday evening and didn’t have to wait in any long lines to enter the park. We were able to order the tickets a head of time online through the Kennywood Park website. Nonetheless, we skipped the ticket lines in the park and went straight through security. On a side note, there was a military discount offered for ticket purchases for up to 6 guests when we went. Be sure to inquire about the discount if a member of your party is a veteran for some extra savings.

Light Displays at Kennywood Park Holiday Lights

When you enter the park, you are greeted by a beautiful array of twinkling and dancing lights throughout the park! Many of the trees and landscape are strung with lights. Several of the rides that were operational glowed with hues of green and red, or were also strung with lights. Our favorite “ride” that was decorated for the Kennywood Park Holiday Lights was Noah’s Ark  — super cool! Even the inside atmosphere of the rides were also decorated with all things Christmas.

Noah's Ark Kennywood Park Holiday Lights
Noah’s Ark Kennywood Park Holiday Lights

Toward the back of the park is a HUGE tree of lights that makes the perfect backdrop for family photos. My favorite light display was surrounding the lake that is situated toward the center of the park. Here, we were able to watch a light show where the lights “danced” and were synchronized to holiday tunes. This light show is performed on timed intervals throughout the evening and is something you don’t want to miss.

Nicholls 5 Kennywood Park Holiday Lights
Nicholls 5 Kennywood Park Holiday Lights

Games and Shopping at Kennywood Park Holiday Lights

There are several games open during the Holiday Lights festivities, and they, too, are holiday themed. Aside from games that are fun for all ages, there are also vendors set up in “booth” fashion around the park. One booth that we visited actually sold personalized ornaments, so our family purchased an one to add to our ornament collection of memories. Another booth had a Santa Shoppe with gift ideas for the children. Here, they could also join in the gift-giving by shopping for friends and family.

Manger Scene Kennywood Park Holiday Lights
Manger Scene Kennywood Park Holiday Lights

So What is There to Eat During the Kennywood Park Holiday Lights?

Well, there is one food place that I plan to visit EVERY time I go to Kennywood Park — Potato Patch Fries! So, are they are also open during the Holiday Lights –YES! Second score! Throughout the park, you will also find snack vendors that offer pretzels, churros, and hot cocoa, to name a few. We opted to get out of the cold and ate at Johnny Rockets restaurant located inside the park. You can’t go wrong with burgers, fries and shakes. 😉

All Aboard the Gingerbread Express Kennywood Park
All Aboard the Gingerbread Express Kennywood Park

Overall, we really enjoyed our visit to the Kennywood Park Holiday Lights display. The kids had fun riding the amusement rides that were open, and I enjoyed the light displays and the food LOL! If you find yourself in the Pittsburgh area and are looking a “something to do” on the weekend, I would recommend checking it out! While you are there, don’t forget to take a ride on the Gingerbread express. 🙂

Aboard the Gingerbread Express
Aboard the Gingerbread Express

Looking for a snack that is fun and easy to make for the whole family, check out my “Easy to Make Caramel Apples Slices” post for some yummy inspiration!

PIN ME: Kennywood Park Holiday Lights
PIN ME: Kennywood Park Holiday Lights

 

Posted in Lifestyle, Travel

Northern Chicago Gurnee Mills Area Accommodations and Dining

Navy Grad 2017
Navy Grad 2017

My oldest son recently graduated from the United States Navy Basic Training in Great Lakes, Illinois. My husband and I decided to drive to the graduation ceremony in Chicago from our home near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and had no idea where to stay or what to do while we were there. Due to timing constraints on when we needed to pick up our event tickets, we traveled to Chicago a day early and had extra time to explore the city prior to meeting up with our son for his time of Liberty (“free time” military style). Here is our experience with Northern Chicago Accommodations, Attractions and Dining that we visited while in Illinois for 2 days.

The Comfort Inn at Gurnee Mills in Northern Chicago

I have to give my husband credit on this one, as he was the one who researched (and researched what seemed like forever!) the places to stay while we attended graduation. We knew we wanted to be in close proximity to the Training Center but also wanted to be accessible to restaurants and “things to do” during our visit. We settled on the Comfort Inn located in Gurnee Mills, Northern Chicago area.

The Comfort Inn was affordably priced and offered clean rooms with a traditional flair. The room provided a mini Keurig coffee maker with all the fixins, a mini fridge and a microwave. On the premises, there is an indoor pool and fitness room. In the mornings of our stay, we enjoyed the generous continental breakfast the Inn provided.

King Bed Room Comfort Inn Gurnee, Ilinois
King Bed Room Comfort Inn Gurnee, Ilinois
Full View King Bed Room Comfort Inn Gurnee, Illinois

Personally, my FAVORITE feature of the Comfort Inn was location, location, location! Gurnee Mills is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! The Gurnee Mills mall area was quite large, with shopping and dining for practically whatever suits your fancy. And the movie theater — WOW! So many options of viewing screens and the over-sized reclining sofa-like chairs are like nothing I have ever seen before! I think it will be difficult for me to go to the movies now back in my hometown because there is no comparison to the theater that we experienced in Gurnee Mills.

King Bed Room Amenities Comfort Inn Gurnee, Illinois
King Bed Room Amenities Comfort Inn Gurnee, Illinois

UNO Pizzeria & Grill in Gurnee, Illinois

Ok, so what’s a trip to Chicago with experiencing a Chicago deep dish pizza, right!?!? During our stay in Gurnee, we decided to check out the local UNO Pizzeria & Grill restaurant for some local cuisine. And, boy did they deliver! My husband opted for a traditional Chicago pizza from UNO that was absolutely yummy and bursting with flavor. I was amazed at how thick the crust was on that pizza, and the center of the pizza was completely stuffed with meat, meat and more meat. I, on the other had, couldn’t decide on just one thing. So, I opted for two! I enjoyed the guacamole chips and dip appetizer, along with the boneless wing bites, sweet chili style. The portions were plenty and our bellies were full once we devoured these Chicago delights. If you decide to visit the Gurnee, Illinois area (or any other area, for that matter, that has the UNO restaurant), I highly recommend you give them a try. We were NOT disappointed!

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Side View Guacamole, Chips and Dip Boneless Wing Bites

Overall, we really enjoyed our visit to Great Lakes, Chicago! The Comfort Inn in Gurnee, Illinois offered the accommodations we needed while visiting our son, and the drive from the hotel to the Navy Training Center was approximately 8 miles — close enough, yet convenient to shopping, entertainment and dining. If you are planning to visit Chicago for business or pleasure, I would check out what Gurnee, Illinois has to offer.

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Considering a cruise for your next vacation but aren’t sure what to expect? Check out my blog posts regarding our recent experience on board the Oasis of the Seas with Royal Caribbean. The following posts will give you insights on our experience with the ship, on board attractions and our stateroom accommodations: Boardwalk Balcony Staterooms on the Oasis of the Seas, Teen Only Zones on the Oasis of the Seas, Adventure Ocean Kids Club Aboard the Oasis of the Seas, and Walk With Me through Central Park at Sea!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Lifestyle, Travel

Boardwalk Balcony Staterooms on the Oasis of the Seas

During our most recent cruise with Royal Caribbean International on board the Oasis of the Seas mega ship, my family traveled in adjoining Boardwalk Balcony Staterooms. Our rooms were located on the 10th floor of the ship in the Aft orientation. Traveling with a family of six, the rooms were spacious and accommodated our needs without issues. Here is an overview of our Boardwalk Balcony Stateroom.

Boardwalk Balcony Stateroom Sleeping Capacity

King Bed in Boardwalk Balcony Stateroom
King Bed in Boardwalk Balcony Stateroom

Though we had two adjoining balcony staterooms overlooking the Boardwalk, the accommodations with regards to sleeping arrangements differed. The first stateroom was equipped with a king-sized bed.  The king bed could be separated into two twin beds if desired. In that same stateroom, there was also a hideaway sofa bed. The sofa bed was approximately full sized and worked perfectly for my twin 8 year old daughters to share. The only downfall that we found was when the sofa bed was extended for the evening.  When the bed was turned down, it was difficult to walk around the bed to get to the balcony area for our room.

The second stateroom that adjoined ours also had a king-sized bed. We ended up separating the king into two twin beds. My teen sons were able to share these beds comfortably (when they weren’t arguing over the TV remote, of course!) The second stateroom also had a standard sofa. It did not contain a hideaway bed. Since the sofa was only used for extra seating, the second room was more spacious and ended up a catch-all for extra luggage during the trip.

Boardwalk Balcony Stateroom Bathrooms

Full Bathroom in the Boardwalk Balcony Stateroom
Full Bathroom in the Boardwalk Balcony Stateroom

I was pleasantly surprised of how spacious the full bathrooms were in our staterooms. The bathroom offered a large shower with a slider door. The door was curved to allow ample “arm room” while showering. The shower head was adjustable and offered great water pressure as well. There was also plenty of storage in the bathroom for personal toiletry items, and a full width counter top with sink with over-sized mirror. A downside that I experiences was there was no plug in the bathroom capable of supporting a blow dryer. For this reason, I had to blow dry my hair at the desk area in the main living quarters of the stateroom.

Boardwalk Balcony Stateroom Amenities

The stateroom offered “expected” amenities, such as an in-suite safe and telephone. The safe instructions are provided on the safe for guest use. Just a word of caution (only because I speak from experience). If you lock yourself out of the safe, you have to call guest services to have a master-key holder come open it for you. Stateroom attendants do not have access to open the safe. The telephone can be used to call other areas on the ship, such as other staterooms or room service. The clothes storage was ample, with a large closet with multiple hanging rods and shelves. The desk area also offers drawers for additional clothes storage, if desired.

Boardwalk Balcony Stateroom TV

TV in the Boardwalk Balcony Stateroom
TV in the Boardwalk Balcony Stateroom

My favorite amenity due to the convenience was the stateroom TV. Aside from a selection of general TV channels for entertainment, there are also informational channels. Each evening, we were able to watch the Captain of the ship discuss our current travel time and cruising path. He would also discuss the next day’s itinerary. Personally, I found the account information channel to be the most useful. I could check my account status with on board spending at any moment. I did this by turning on the allotted TV channel and electing which guest account I wanted to view. Here is another useful tip if you are traveling with children. If you are concerned with spending capabilities, do not activate the children’s SeaPass cards to have spending privileges.

On the evening of the last night on the ship, I was able to check my account to confirm charges and any outstanding account balance. Since all checked out and I had a credit card assigned to my on board spending account, I did not have to wait in the lengthy guest services line to settle the account. BONUS!

Boardwalk Stateroom Balcony Area

The balcony size for our room was a pleasant surprise. Over-sized patio doors opened to a private balcony area with a moderate round table and two chairs. The curved, clear acrylic design of the balcony railing enclosure served to not obstruct the Boardwalk and ocean views. From our balcony, we had a clear view of the Aqua Theater and restaurants and shops below. In the evenings, we often sat on the balcony and watched the night life below, or the performers in the Aqua Theater shows. During the day, we could take in ocean views beyond the Aqua Theater or observe children and adults alike enjoying a carousel ride.

Overall, we were satisfied with our Boardwalk Balcony Staterooms with regards to amenities, size and location for our family. Though our stateroom didn’t offer a panoramic ocean view, it did offer relaxation and entertainment from the comfort of a private balcony over the Boardwalk.

My Daughter and her New Towel Buddy
My Daughter and her New Towel Buddy

To read more about our cruise vacation on board the Oasis of the Seas, check out my “Walk with Me through Central Park at Sea!” Travel and Lifestyle post. You may also find “Teen Only Zones on the Oasis of the Seas” and “Adventure Ocean Kids Club Aboard the Oasis of the Seas” to be informational if you are traveling with teens and younger passengers.