Monday, June 29, 2020

Jurassic Quest: Prehistoric, Socially-Distant Fun in DFW!

On Sunday, the EA crew packed its bags and drove 30 minutes east on I30 to check out Jurassic Quest, a drive-thru dinosaur experience at Fair Park. We pulled in, streamed the audio tour through the minivan radio, learned some interesting facts about prehistoric creatures and snapped some great pictures... And we did it all from our vehicle!




I've seen a lot of mixed reviews on Facebook and Instagram, as well as less-than-stellar reviews from fellow influencers and bloggers who weren't blown away by Jurassic Quest 2020... So I'm going to do my best to breakdown the experience for you so you can decide for yourself whether you want to make the drive and spend $49 on the event.



First, the facts:
Jurassic Quest is running now until July 12 at Fair Park in Dallas.
It is $49 per vehicle to enter the event.
The event opens at 9 am and closes at 8 pm. When you purchase tickets, you will choose which time you would like to attend.
Allow 1.5-2 hours to get through the line and the experience.
There are souvenirs for purchase but no food. Bring snacks!
There are port-a-potties on site.
There are additional activity kits available for purchase online.
You remain in your vehicle the entire event- which means no one gets to complain about the heat because of the air conditioning!
There is an optional free digital photo at the end.

We pulled up to Jurassic Quest at about 9:15 am on Sunday morning and were surprised to see how many cars were already in line. But the line moved quickly! We left the Fair Park parking lot around 11 am, and that included a potty stop before we headed back to Arlington.

We plugged my phone into our minivan speaker and enjoyed listening to the guided audio tour. The narrators tried to make it both fun and educational (my girls loved when someone "broke in" to the broadcast to announce the T Rexes had gone missing...) The dinosaurs were spaced out quite a bit so cars wouldn't pile up too much and prolong the drive-thru experience. The narrators told us when to pause the audio so we were able to follow along from display to display and learn interesting facts about all the dinosaurs! My favorite was the ammomite- did you know these grew up to 6 feet tall?!



I'll be honest- my girls mostly loved being able to take turns sticking their heads out of the car's sunroof and telling me about the top-level view of each display. The speed limit through the event is 5 miles per hour, which is the only reason I allowed this to occur. They also loved sitting together on the captain's chairs and switching from side to side to catch a glimpse at all the animatronic dinosaurs! We allowed the girls to move throughout the vehicle freely while we were inside the event space and then stopped at the end to readjust car seats and booster seats and get everyone buckled in properly for the ride back.



Halfway through, you drive through an optional souvenir area, where you can purchase various animals. At the end, you have the option to have your photo taken and are given a QR code to retrieve it online after the event.

My girls loved seeing the meglodon at the end of the experience, although they are convinced that the one on display was not true-to-size (they tout themselves as shark experts!). We probably spent the longest time of the entire experience admiring this terrifying creature from our vehicle!

Okay, I"m going to go rogue and be perfectly honest here. Yes, I was given a free pass to this event in exchange for my honest review, and that's what I'm going to give you.

Times are different. Things are different. This is certainly not the same event I would have expected to attend one year ago. Did it lack "ambiance?" Yep. You lose a certain amount magic when you can't set the lighting and sounds to match the mood of the event. The scenes were spaced out quite a bit to allow cars to move freely without too much back up... But that also meant there was a lot of downtime while we drove from spot to spot. I can't stress enough that you should pack your snacks (and your phone charger!) so the kids keep busy between displays.



The night before I ventured out to Jurassic Quest, I went to the Garth Brooks Drive In Concert Experience at Coyote Drive In in Fort Worth. It was expensive (more so than JQ!) and certainly didn't sub in for a true Garth Brooks Concert in any way. BUT, I was able to stay in my car. I was able to keep an appropriate, socially-acceptable distance from everyone around me. I didn't have to touch any public space unless I chose to use the bathroom or visit the concession stand. I was outside or in my personal vehicle, and I did wear a mask when I went to wash my hands in the restroom. All things considered, I think it was a decent way to get out and enjoy some entertainment during this time.

So, back to Jurassic Quest... Do I think it's worth $49? To be honest? Yes. Do I recommend you bringing teenagers? Probably not. But my girls, who are 6, 8 and 10, as well as my niece, who is 4, and a friend, who is 9, all really enjoyed it. We packed the car full of 7 people (as many as my car would legally hold), making the amount per person $7. It was definitely worth that! But even if you only plan to bring one or two kids, I think you can absolutely have a good time that will keep you socially distanced and allow your kids to have a great Summer 2020 experience. Remember, we are all navigating this summer together... Don't set sky-high expectations. Honestly, I think I enjoyed viewing the dinosaurs a lot more this way than I would have if I had to fight crowds to get up close and snap a picture or pay to access the audio guide and put on headphones that countless others have had on their ears.

I thought the experience was fun and different- a nice change of pace from our normal daily routine. The EA crew recommends as long as you keep in mind that this experience may not line up with the expectations you would have had a year ago! I highly recommend finding a friend with a minivan or SUV and putting a bottom in each seat belt. You will end up paying a lot less per person this way and control the germs you come in contact with (even check-in at the event is contactless!).


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The EA Guide to Arlington-area Splash Pads & Water Parks

The Everything Arlington girls are so ready for some water fun in the Texas Sun for Summer 2020!

We rounded up all the splash pads and water parks in the Arlington area- and let you know which age of kiddos we think each spot is perfect for!


SPLASH PADS
Splash pads in Arlington are free, and they have no standing water, meaning these spots are great for the tiniest water babies! Grab your sunscreen and towel and head on over to one of these spots!

California Lane- 2001 California Lane, 76015





 Brantley Hinshaw Park- 2121 Overbrook Drive, 76014

**Don Misenheimer Park- 201 E. Lonesome Dove Trail, 76002

**Misenheimer is an EA FAVE splash pad! Complete with bathrooms and an adjacent play area, this spot will keep your kiddos happy for hours!

Splash Pads outside Arlington

Clayton Chandler Park- 1530 N Walnut Creek Drive, Mansfield. This spot has a play area and bathrooms!

Safari Splash at the Fort Worth Zoo- Spend a day at the FW Zoo and don't forget your swimsuit! Safari Splash is great for the 8 and under set- and it does require an additional fee.



We are SO bummed to see that Splash Factory in Grand Prairie is closed for the season due to construction. We love this spot- but the Website says see you in 2021.

POOLS
Arlington has some fantastic pools for kiddos of all ages.
Don't forget- you MUST sign up on line this year to reserve your time! All pools are linked below.
Tuesday is TWO FOR ONE admission! That's right... Get in two swimmers for the price of one at all open pools every Tuesday this summer!

Allen Bolden Outdoor Pool- 2800A South Center Street, 76014

**BK Family Aquatic Center- 2800 W. Sublett Rd., 76017

**BK Pool is an EA favorite! This pool has slides, a splash pad, a shallow pool and deep pools for diving. This spot literally has something for everyone!

Helen Wessler Play Pool- 2310 Greenway Street, 76010

**Howard Moore Play Pool- 1999 Bever Blvd, 76013

** Howard Moore is an EA favorite for the 5 and under set! This pool has a large play structure in the center, a beach entry and is only 18 inches deep at the deepest point. Perfect for littles!

Hugh Smith Indoor Pool- 1815 New York Ave, 76010

**Randol Mill Family Aquatic Center- 1924 Randol Mill Park, 76012

** Randol Mill is an EA Favorite! The girls love the lazy river and slide, and the froggie-focused little kid area entertains the under 5 set for hours!

                     


Woodland West Outdoor Pool- 3200 Norwood Lane, 76013

Pools outside Arlington

Tyre Outdoor Pool- only $1 admission!- 2327 Tyre Street, GP

Bowles Outdoor Pool- 2714 Graham Street, GP

McFalls Outdoor Pool- 505 Dickey Rd., GP

WATERPARKS

**Hurricane Harbor- Park Reopens June 18 for members and June 22 for everyone- 1800 E. Lamar Blvd, 76006

** EA Favorite waterpark because it is close to home- and if you purchase a season pass, you can go all summer long for a relatively inexpensive price! We pay for our passes in 3-4 visits!

Waterparks outside Arlington

Hawaiian Falls Mansfield- 490 Heritage Parkway South, Mansfield

**Epic Waters Indoor Waterpark Grand Prairie- 2970 Epic Place, GP

**EA Favorite Waterpark!! We love that this park is indoors- so we don't need to bring sunscreen! (Although, if you want to check out the new outdoor wavepool, we highly recommend bringing sunscreen! But this spot is open year-round, meaning the EA crew can enjoy the pool even in January! The slides and lazy river keep us busy for hours!


NRH2O (opens today, 6/15)- 9001 Blvd. 26, North Richland Hills



Monday, May 25, 2020

Summer Reading Incentives For Kids

With school out (almost at least!), I'm going to be back on the struggle bus with getting my kids to read. The pull of technology is simply far more exciting to them than reading a book. I'm bound for a summer of "Just one more episode, Mom!" and "But I want to watch this kid on YouTube open this obnoxious toy, Mom!"

So I've rounded up all the reading clubs kiddos can join for free this summer to encourage my young readers to turn off technology and sit down with a good book. Because, in my opinion, there is truly nothing like a good book to take you on an adventure!



1. Pizza Hut Book It Program
Kids in grades K-6 can earn a free personal pan pizza and a sticker every month for reading! (This program runs year round)

2. Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Club
Kids can complete the free reading log (linked above) and bring the completed journal to a Barnes & Noble store to earn a free book from a pre-selected list.

3. Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge
This year, kids can build their avatar, make new friends, earn virtual rewards, and help unlock donations for kids with limited or no access to books by starting and keeping “reading streaks” in Scholastic Home Base when they read every day over the summer!

4. Amazon Summer Reading Sweepstakes
Read every day for a chance to win some great prizes from Amazon!



5. Free Weekly Audiobooks for Teens!
Teens ages 13 and up can snag a new free audiobook every week to listen to (while doing chores, right?!). Score!

6. Summer Reading Challenge with the Arlington Public Library
Complete weekly challenges for a chance to win prize packs from the Arlington libraries (ages 13-17)! Kids 0-12 can earn a free book at the end of the program.

7. Half Price Books Feed Your Brain
Check back for updates on the 2020 Summer Reading Program

8. H-E-Buddy Summer Reading Club
Kids who read 10 books between now and October 1 can mail a completed form in to the provided address to receive a free t-shirt from HEB (ages 3-12 only).

9. Chuck E Cheese Ongoing Reading Incentive Program
Kids can earn free tokens to be used all summer long when they commit to daily reading!






Saturday, March 14, 2020

Local & Educational Resources for Kids

With everything that is happening in the world right now, I'm busy finding as many resources as I can to keep my kids busy while school is not in session. I'm rounding up what I can to share with everyone. Please message me if I've missed something!





FREE FOOD

Free lunch from Kennedale ISD



Free food from The Mission Food Pantry

Free lunch from Grand Prairie ISD

Free lunch from Mansfield ISD

Free lunch from El Primo's in Mansfield

Free lunch from Fort Worth ISD

(I haven't seen anything from Arlington yet, but I assume it's in the works...)




FREE ACTIVITY KITS

Raddish Kids Cooking Kits


FREE ONLINE LEARNING RESOURCES

Movement and Reading: Fluency & Fitness


Math for grades 2-5: Revolution Math (use code RMFRIEND to get the program for $1 for your first month)

Fun educational videos my girls love: Brain Pop (use code BPCVFAFB3 for free access)

Daily guided lessons: Scholastic

Reading with kids: Storyline Online

For younger ones: Noggin

Online courses: Outschool

Elementary Science Lessons: Mystery Science

Art lessons with a local mama: Lindsay's Art Cart

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Grand Canyon Adventure!

Now that my kiddos are older, I want to travel more. I grew up the daughter of a flight attendant, and traveling has always been a big part of my life. I studied abroad in college, have flown across the ocean many times, made two trips to Asia (South Korea and Taiwan), managed a tour for Jeep years ago across the South and just love anything and everything about getting out and exploring.

When my husband challenged me to find a Spring Break adventure for our family of five, I happily accepted. I wanted to find some place we had never been, some place that would get us outside, some place that would give us a fun adventure. A few google searches later, I discovered a trip to the Grand Canyon that seemed to check all of the boxes we needed it to: driveable, affordable, adventurous and fun!

Cheesing for the camera before boarding the train to the Grand Canyon.

Driving to the Grand Canyon from Arlington is actually quite easy. Hop on 287 all the way to Amarillo (about 5 hours away), then take 40 straight west. This drive will take you through Albuquerque and clear across the state of New Mexico into Arizona. We stayed our first night in Amarillo, then bee-lined for Williams, AZ, on day two, stopping for lunch in Albuquerque. The second day's drive took us about 9 hours, for a total of 14 hours drive time from Arlington to Williams, AZ. We drove almost exactly 1,000 miles from our front door to Williams.

Williams, Arizona, is a quaint two-stoplight town that is rumored to be the inspiration behind the Disney movie Cars. It is about 60 miles from the Grand Canyon and a great stop for tourists. We actually discovered this city (as many do) because of the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, a hotel that caters to folks wanting to see the Grand Canyon. (www.thetrain.com).

Ice Cream at the Fred Harvey Restaurant.

Our package included dinner our first night at the on-site Fred Harvey Restaurant, a buffet-style diner with food to delight kids and husbands alike! The girls filled their bellies, shopped at the adjacent gift shop, and then put on their bathing suits to enjoy the saltwater pool. Families from all over came to enjoy Spring Break at the Grand Canyon, and my girls loved chatting with a few kids that drove in from California and others from Colorado.

Sunday morning we got up and enjoyed breakfast at the Fred Harvey Restaurant, which was also included in our package. We prepared our suitcases for transport to the GC park and then headed over to the Wild West show at 9 am, a fun show with cowboys and horses meant to entertain guests and give them a taste of life out west in yesteryear. After the show, it was time to board the train!

Smiling with a cowboy from the Wild West show.

The train ride itself took about two hours to make the 60-mile trek to the Grand Canyon National Park. We were seated in coach class and had a guide who talked to us about the Arizona landscape, what to expect at the GC and more. Free water was provided in each train car, and passengers are able to move between cars. The favorite part for my girls was being able to walk to the dining car and buy food that was, as you can imagine, marked up quite a bit. What is it about overpriced M and Ms that makes them so enjoyable?!

Girls on the train.

Once we arrived at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, we hopped off the train and immediately onto a tour bus and embarked on the Freedom Tour. Our bus driver was great and gave us a lot of information about how the Canyon was formed. Honestly, I loved the information he provided. I didn't realize we were standing more than 7,000 feet above sea level, and that the Grand Canyon was one mile to one and one quarter mile deep. As much as we were able to see of the Grand Canyon during our hour-long tour, we actually were staring at about 1/3 of the Canyon itself! (Want to go out on that crazy glass bridge thing? I mean, I don't. But, if you do, it is actually a four hour drive from the Grand Canyon National Park. Yep. Four. Hours.)

Happy girls at the Grand Canyon!

After the Freedom Tour, which my kids loved because it meant less walking for them and less time in the windy and chilly Arizona-in-March weather, we headed over to the Blue Angel Lodge, complete with a gift shop and deli. We grabbed some snacks and then wandered over to the Maswik Lodge, where we would be spending the night. We checked into our room, explored a bit more, and then headed over to the Maswik Lodge Cafeteria for food to please everyone. (The El Tovar Restaurant came highly recommended by our train guide, but it was a sit-down restaurant and rather pricey, so we opted for the food court instead).

After wandering up toward the El Tovar during twilight, we enjoyed the calmness of the canyon at sunset. It was gorgeous! There are no swimming pools inside the park, so we called it an early night.

The view from outside the El Tovar Hotel around 6 pm.

Monday we got up and had breakfast and then decided to tour around the South Rim. We took a free shuttle (there are stops and shuttles all over the park) to the visitor's center and watched a movie about the Grand Canyon, then proceeded to walk the trails from there. The weather was gorgeous, and we amassed more than 15,000 steps on the trails! We ended at the Canyon Village Market & Deli for light bites and souvenirs. At 3:15, we boarded our train back to Williams.

Taking a break during our Grand Canyon hike!


The train ride back down to Williams was fun and enjoyable. Toward the end, some "bandits" hopped on board the train and stole high fives from the passengers. My kids loved that- but it was a bit scary for younger kids. There were also musicians on both train rides- cowboys that sang with guitars and harmonicas for entertainment. The train ride was so fun! (I would love to go back in December, when it makes a magical transformation into the Polar Express!)

Ready to board the train back to Williams!


Our entire Grand Canyon adventure was about 48 hours start-to-finish. While my husband and I would love to go back and actually go camping within the canyon, this two-day excursion is just the right length with kids. It encourages them to learn and get active and keep off the iPads. I can't emphasis enough how much we loved the train ride up and back from the Grand Canyon. If you want to go to the GC with kids, the train is a must!

My tips for a great trip:

1. Pack food. All the food. Serious mom brain on this one. We paid SO much more than we should have because I wasn't prepared. Food is way more expensive inside the park, so pack all the snacks. There is free water throughout the park, so pack a water bottle.

2. Plan to unplug. Cell service is spotty at best while you are inside the park. Hotels do offer free Wifi to guests, but it, too, is fine at best. Plan to be mostly disconnected on your adventure.

3. Skip the stroller. The pathways are not meant for strollers. If you are bringing little ones, plan to put them in a carrier. However, I honestly think this experience is best for the 5 and up set. My youngest, 6, was not loving all the walking on day two. Even my oldest, 10, at some point said "but we've already seen the Grand Canyon and I'm tired of walking." The Park does offer a Junior Ranger activity set to engage the kiddos, which is nice, but there are no play areas or strictly-for-littles activity areas within the South Rim.

4. Pick the vacay that is right for you. The vacation package we booked had two options- and out and back to the GC in one day and the overnight in the park option we selected. We loved having two days at the park to walk and explore. BUT, if seeing the Grand Canyon is something that is more of a "check it off the bucket list" item for you, the out and back in one day option may suit you. It saves you quite a bit of money, and, if you are bringing littles, it will be a lot more enjoyable for them!

5. Make it an adventure! We highly, highly recommend at stop at Bearizona while you are in Williams. This drive-through wildlife park allowed us to see bears and wolves up close. It was seriously cool! A stop on the main street in Williams is a must- it feels like a step back in time. You can easily to the trip as we did- Arlington-Amarillo-Williams, but you could also do it as Arlington-Albuquerque-Williams and plan a few stops in NM. Flagstaff is only a short drive east from Williams and offers lots of fun for kids, and Sedona isn't far, either. Stop at the Petrified National Forest if you can- its breathtaking!

6. If you have a fourth grader, don't forget your free National Parks Pass! There is an admission fee to the Grand Canyon if you don't have one. everykidoutdoors.gov

Say cheese!


What did I miss?!






Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Ultimate DFW Spring Break Bucket List 2020

We are road-trippin' this Spring Break (don't ask me how far along I am in the packing process!), but we've spent enough Spring Breaks hanging around DFW, enjoying all the awesomeness that the Metroplex has to offer. If you're staying local this year, add any (or all!) of these hotspots to your Bucket List for the Ultimate Spring Break 2020!



1. Check out one of the area's newest, free outdoor parks! Dream Park Fort Worth, located along the Trinity River off of University, is the park that will make you wish you were 9 again. With large climbing structures, a zip line, multiple swings and a large roller slide, Dream Park is entertaining for kiddos of all ages. Bonus- it's fenced in! PlayGrand Adventures in Grand Prairie, across from Epic Waters, will have your kiddos climbing, running, swinging and playing for hours. Pack a sack lunch and make a day of it! Looking for a day destination? Bicentennial Park in Southlake is also a fun spot for an outdoor playdate!

2. Catch a movie on the cheap! Head over to Movie Tavern on Green Oaks (find other locations here: Student Thursdays) on Thursday and catch a movie for $6- and that includes a free popcorn! Offer is available to students and educators, with ID. I've totally been wanting to see Onward...

3. The Arlington Public Library has some fantastic programming for Spring Break Week! Learn to make a movie using Stop Motion or learn to sew at a sewing class! The Create Studio at the downtown location is also open during the day most of the week. Likewise, the Grand Prairie Library has fantastic programming, from a free Lego build opportunity to a magic trick workshop and so much more!

4. Crayola Experience Plano has tons of special events for Spring Break, including live painting, a wild things ZOOfari and much more!

5. Get $10 off tickets purchased in advance to Epic Waters. Let your little thrill-seekers check out all the awesome slides the indoor waterpark offers, or take a relaxing float in the lazy river. The best part? You don't need to pack sunscreen!

6. KidMania in north Fort Worth will keep your kiddos busy for hours- and they will come home exhausted from all the high-climbing fun! Check the website's calendar (linked above) for special pricing on certain days of the week.

7. Michael's craft stores are offering crafts every day during Spring Break week- all free! Drop in to make a pom pom caterpillar, a beaded butterfly and lots more!

8. Ready to really soak up springtime? To me, the Dallas Arboretum screams "Spring Starts Here!" with flowers and fields and fresh air galore! They have special activities for little ones Monday and Tuesday, and then Wednesday is BOGO admissions, meaning you can save some serious cash taking your kids to the Arboretum to run around and enjoy the fresh air! Afterward, head over The Lot Dallas for a bite or a beer. With a sandbox that size, I promise your kiddos won't want to leave!

9. The Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth is holding special programming during Spring Break week. On Monday, kids even get a free lunch (hot dogs and chips)! How cool is that?

10. The Clifford the Big Red Dog display launches at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History on March 4. Enjoy this favorite character with your kiddos and stay for the childrens' museum inside the FWMSH. The mini grocery store has always been a favorite with my kiddos!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Drop-in Playcare Comes to Mansfield: Altruistic Kids

When is the last time you dropped your kids off at a playcare center and had some quality you time?

Do you even need a reason to shake loose from the kiddos and meet a friend for a coffee (or a cocktail?)? 

Now that Mansfield has an inclusive drop-in playcare center with exceptional daily rates, I don't think you need an excuse at all! Wednesday is a great excuse (or Thursday, or Friday...)



Altruistic Kids, Mansfield's new inclusive drop-in childcare center that offers Mommy's Day Out Programs as well as drop-in playcare for kids of all abilities, is the place your kiddos will beg you to bring them to. Located on Broad St. across from Mansfield Methodist Hospital, Altruistic Kids is a bright, fun hourly childcare center that will engage your kiddos while you run errands, work or simply kick back and relax!

My girls checked out Altruistic Kids Saturday night so my husband and I can go on a belated Valentine's Day date. While we threw axes at the wall (fun and not as dangerous as it sounds, mostly...) and ate tacos, my girls painted, put on a puppet show, played and hung out together with the awesome staff at Altruistic Kids. 



Altruistic Kids is one of the most affordable playcares around. And guys... we have tried them all! (We love trying out kid hotspots all over DFW!) Altruistic Kids is $9 per hour for drop-in playcare, and siblings are an additional $5 per kid per hour. That's $14 for two kids per hour and $19 for my three. And then they leave the mess at the center and not in my playroom! Seriously- everyone wins here!



My girls enjoyed their evening out so much they've already asked to go back. They all loved painting and crafting, and my younger two loved putting on their puppet show. I loved that the facility was clean and bright and offered so many fun activities for my girls.

We can't wait to go back! Learn more on their Website, www.alttx.org.

*Please note, I was given free childcare in exchange for my opinion. All thoughts and reviews are my own.*