Holiday Outing for DC Families: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at Adventure Theatre MTC


We are massive Adventure Theatre MTC groupies now, but back in December of 2007 we selected Adventure Theatre for our then four-year-old Charlie’s first stage production ever. It was a two-person telling of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, a book we had been reading to him at bedtime. We guessed that the small theater, children-centric storytelling and one-act format would be a great first foray to theatre for our preschooler.

We were so right. The outing was a success, as Charlie was awed and delighted by the experience, and riveted through the entire play. He made so many exciting connections during and after the show. He loved how his imagination was the “third actor” in the production, as he watched the two talented actors transform themselves from Lucy to the White Witch, or from Edmund to Aslan.

This past Sunday was Charlie’s 13th birthday, and was also the opening weekend of the 2016 production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which runs this month through December 31st. Our entire family attended, plus Charlie’s fellow 7th grader best friend. And all of us, from the parents in their forties to our kindergartener Alice, were completely entranced by the play as we were transported to Narnia. I love that the play was just as satisfying for Charlie at age 13 as it was when he was barely four.


The production was different, more robust in set design and even more imaginative than the one we saw nine years ago, but the acting was just as stellar. There are again two actors who through voices, mannerism and props transform themselves to all of the characters, with the core roles of Lucy and Peter narrating the story. From a whining Edmund, to a perfectionist Susan, to a prancing Mr. Tumnus, and of course a courageous Aslan, the entire holiday-feeling story came to life before our eyes.

The show is the ideal way to celebrate the season with your children. Tickets are bound to sell out for the weekend and winter vacation shows, so be sure to reserve your tickets now!

Photos by DJ Corey Photography. Review tickets received. No additional or monetary compensation. All opinions are my own. 

Best Christmas Tree Ever: Tree Classics Snap Tree


Putting up your Christmas tree should always be joyful and easy. We learned this thanks to TreeClassics and will never go back!

The first year of our marriage, Chris and I purchased a live Christmas tree from a local lot. We lugged it home atop my Jetta, scratching the car’s paint and getting sap in every crevice of our one-bedroom apartment. The next year newborn Charlie had just joined our little family, so Chris took care of the tree transportation to our Silver Spring house solo. That tree made my sister wheeze, would not balance in its stand and our cat knocked it down after we had painstakingly decorated it.

For our third married Christmas, I again sent Chris out to get a tree from the Boy Scout lot, and he returned home with a big faux tree. While I whined about how much I loved real trees, Chris assembled the fake one branch by branch. There were 75 branches in all, and they were coordinated by size and color. It took about an hour to sort the branches and then put it up, and the needles got everywhere. After the branches were on, I administered yards of lights.

The entire process took longer than going out to buy a live tree, but at least all of the labor happened at home.

This two-hour ritual happened annually for eleven years. Although we collect ornaments and love how warm and welcoming our home looks with a decorated tree, Chris and I always dreaded the bother of putting it up. The children could not be involved in the process until Mom and Dad emerged sweaty and irritated after our assembly and lighting roles.

And then this year, contacted me with an offer to review a two-piece, pre-lit, super real-looking and luxe Snap Tree.


It came in two big pieces in a box. The bottom section on a rolling stand that rolled into place, already standing straight. The second piece effortlessly snapped onto the other.  Then we plugged it in and justlikethat, it was all aglow.

It took five minutes, tops.

Almost immediately after deciding to trim the tree the children were happily hanging their favorite ornaments remembered from years past.

Our Christmas rituals are forever changed!


We chose the Tree Classics Colorado Blue Spruce Snap Tree with clear LED lights, which looks and feels so real. TreeClassics tree needles are made with Real Feel Polyethylene technology that is trademarked for its incredibly realistic-looking needles. SnapTrees also are easy to stow and store after Christmas; they come with a built-in rolling stand and custom storage bag for storing the tree upright.

This gorgeous, sets up in a snap Christmas tree has changed my (Christmas) life. Really.


Would you like to see a video of the tree so you can view those you’d-swear-they’re-real branches for yourself?

We also received from TreeClassics a fancy new tree skirt, the Satin & Sequin Tree Skirt, which adds beauty and sparkle to our tree decor.


And we were delighted by the traditional hand-blown glass Merry & Bright Ornament Collection.


But truly the most incredible items on the TreeClassics site are their SnapTrees. So many of them, including the Colorado Blue Spruce that we love, are on sale right now! You can choose the height and the width/tree style that works best for your space. You can also choose whether you would like color-changing or clear LED lights.

If you order this year during the sale, you can save up t0 50 percent off (plus free shipping) for Christmas 2016.

And most importantly, you will save yourself so much time. Join me in the land of Christmas Trees 2.0, where they are immediately assembled and look prettier than a Christmas card.


Product received for review. No monetary compensation received. 

The Inn at Pocono Manor: A Wes Anderson Style Family Getaway


Last weekend my family I drove up to Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains and went back in time to an earlier era during our three day, two night stay at The Inn at Pocono Manor. If you have ever wanted to live on the sets of The Grand Budapest Hotel or The Royal Tenenbaums, then this is the place. We had a otherworldly, magical, family-focused time. It was awesome!


The ambiance of the entire hotel is like a retro Christmas dream, with dozens of decorated trees and holiday charm everywhere.


We spent a good hunk of our time at The Inn at Pocono Manor enjoying the Magical Fireside Christmas activities for families. Magical Fireside Christmas is an onsite ski chalet for kids packed with Christmas activities. You can meet and take photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, drink cocoa, decorate cookies, admire a miniature train display, ogle a playhouse-sized gingerbread house, watch Christmas kid movies and make a huge selection of Christmas crafts. There are even deer to feed. The kids made about seven ornaments each, helped by the elf-suited staff. Chris and I enjoyed the on-site bar in this Christmas land where parents were welcome to give their hot cocoa a little kick.


Another hit with the kids was signing up for some of the outdoor activities on offer through Manor Sports. In true Anderson style, we elected to practice our aim on the BB gun and archery courses.


Our large suite had plenty of room, and beds, for the five of us. Even though we had one of most-well appointed rooms in the place with a glorious mountain view, you can snag this room for just $179 a night, and standard rooms can be booked for less than $120 (depending on your dates). What a deal!


The kids loved swimming in the indoor pool and it was the perfect bathwater temperature.


The family game room was packed with pool tables, air hockey and board games. The children made new friends in there while Chris and I read our books in front of the roaring lobby fire.


In the evening, the pub had a live guitarist and Alice took to the dance floor to dance to the ’70’s and ’80’s tunes. Charlie and Eve opted for blowing their allowance in the the arcade.


Our lazy booties loved that we did not have to leave the resort for meals. The morning breakfast and evening dinner buffets were hearty and stocked with lots of traditional and delicious choices. There are two pubs and a pizza place at the Inn as well.


We did leave the Inn for a little Poconos sight-seeing, such as The Candle Shoppe of the Poconos, which boasts The Haunted — a historical tour of an old monkey research laboratory. (This video explains.) The guided tour was simply historical, but the decorations are campy Halloween macabre. The children loved it and this outing played right into our back-in-time weekend vibe.


The Inn at Pocono Manor would be a fab place to go skiing in the winter, with its proximity to lots of ski resorts as well as its northern location making it a surer bet for fresh snow than the usual Maryland and Virginia spots. Check out the Inn’s Ski and Stay and Snow Tubing packages. There are also New Year’s Eve family promotions if you feel like celebrating 2017 immersed in charm. And in December, January and February, you can enjoy sleigh rides and more winter activities during your stay.

All five of us loved snuggling by the fires, eating the comfort food and spending time together as a family at The Inn at Pocono Manor. You should check it out! I recommend the lobby for prime people watching and fireside reading.


Our stay was hosted by The Inn at Pocono Manor. Some activities and meals were covered by us, but everything else was comped. No monetary compensation received. All opinions and  movie references are mine. 

NEW Dave and Buster’s in Downtown Silver Spring


Theres a brand new Dave & Buster’s in downtown Silver Spring! Located on the 5th floor of Ellsworth Place (formerly City Place Mall), this was the biggest and most beautiful Dave & Busters we have ever played visited. It’s 40,000 square feet of top-of-the-line video games and a modern sports-bar style restaurant.


The A Parent in Silver Spring kids and parents enjoyed playing as many of the 160 Dave & Buster’s games in the Million Dollar Midway as our $10 game cards would allow us. This amount kept us all busy for over an hour! Of course, we were there on Wednesday night, which was the awesome Half-Priced Games Night. Every Wednesday (open – close) all games are half-price.

Favorite games of the kids included the four-way air hockey table, the massive CandyCrush and Crossy Road games, blasting ghosts with the Ghostbusters and in Luigi’s Mansion, racing in the Star Wars Battle Pods.


Dave & Buster’s requires adult companions aged at least 25 to be with all guests under age 18 — no drop offs — as there is a bar on-site. All minors must leave with their parents before 11 pm. These policies are to ensure a family-friendly experience for children. You are welcome to plan your child or teen’s birthday party at D&B SS, which provides a welcome venue for those of us who like to celebrate with the kids’ friends outside of our houses.


All games earned our kids tickets in this one hour of play for them to select prizes of great quality, like emoji pillows, Bright Eyes Pets, basketballs and lots big movie-theater-size boxes of candy.


We had dinner in the Dave & Busters restaurant and everyone enjoyed their meal immensely. Chris went for the classic BBQ ribs and mac ‘n cheese, and I ordered the healthy option Cabo Chicken, grilled with veggies and brown rice. Both options were part of the Eat & Play Combo special, in which you receive a $10 game play card along with your dinner (available all day Sunday-Thursday and until 5pm on Friday and Saturday).

There are drink specials for the parents featuring lots of frozen and fruity options, as well as Thursday, Sunday and Monday Game Day Specials like $5 appetizers and $3.50 22 oz. draft beer. Other specials at the Silver Spring location include Happy Hour on weekdays 4:30pm – 7pm, and Two For Tuesday: $2 select beer, $2 tacos and 2 free game plays (open – close).

The kids loved the kids’ menu, which had cool selections like pretzel dogs and the kids surf and turf: two sliders, fried shrimp and fries.


Dave & Buster’s Silver Spring is located on the 5th floor in Ellsworth Place at 8661 Colesville Road. The hours of operation are Sunday through Thursday 11am – midnight, and Friday through Saturday 11am – 2am. Learn more.

We received review passes. No additional compensation received. All opinions are my own. 

ICE! at Gaylord National Harbor: Christmas on the Potomac


Since Gaylord National Harbor brought ICE! and the Christmas on the Potomac celebrations to the Washington, DC area, our family has made this visit a treasured holiday tradition. It’s the perfect way to get excited for the season!


This year the theme is especially magical, Christmas Around the World! Celebrate a world of cultures and celebrations, all done in amazing ice artistry.


To experience ICE!, you walk through an ice wonderland village of over two million pounds of colored sculpted ice. Donning special blue parkas over your own winter clothing, you are protected from the sub-zero temps and you and your kids are able to comfortably take in the beauty of the frozen world. This year there are five different ice slides!


ICE! opens daily from now through January 1. Tickets start at $29 for adults ages 12 and older and $21 for children ages 3 to 11 during non-peak days. Military and group ticket pricing is available. Hours vary and can be found at


For three days, Cyber Monday through Wednesday November 30, you can score 30 percent off ICE! tickets, overnight stays at the Gaylord National Harbor and Christmas on the Potomac packages! Get the deals while you can! 


Additionally, there is free and just-a-few-dollars-fun to be had at Gaylord, in addition to ICE! New this year, visitors to the resort will discover a free, immersive way to experience a variety of the holiday offerings during Christmas on the Potomac. The Village of the North Pole, located in the hotel’s exhibit hall, provides all visitors with a decorated Christmas town square, complete with holiday merchandise, a hot chocolate stand, a gingerbread decorating area (for purchase). There are indoor carousel, teacup and train rides for purchase, too.


We adore the Christmas tree suspended from the Gaylord National Harbor’s 19-story atrium. This 4,000 pound Starlight tree is comprised of 50 five-point stars that represent America’s 50 states.  The tree topper displays one large star, signifying the Capital, Washington, D.C. The tree is wrapped in handmade texturized green fabrics and illuminated garland that are designed to coordinate with the hotel atrium’s evening light show.

gaylord tree

The new Christmas tree is the star of the hotel’s nightly holiday fountain show, Sounds and Songs of Christmas, that occur at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m. now through January 1, 2017. There is also indoor snowfall and gorgeous holiday music, and this spectacle is free to all.

Get all the info and tickets at Christmas on the!


We received review day passes. No additional compensation received. All opinions are our own. 

DIAMOND GIVEAWAY from Best Shopping Destination: Disney Springs!


Disney Springs is full of family fun for all ages of kids, for sure. 

But it is also jam-packed with the best shopping in the country! 

On my recent trip to Walt Disney World Resort, shopping at Disney Springs blew me away…but I didn’t blow all of my cash. I found incredible deals while finding unique gifts, fashion and beauty items that I could not locate anywhere else. The curated selection of shops provide an exciting mix of accessible but cutting-edge retail experiences.


Pictured with fellow press trip Disney Springs explorers and new friends, Danielle Faust of and Jen Lawrence of

Levi’s Store and Tailor Shop

I was already Levi’s obsessed — the classic denim brand still makes the most on-trend, able-to-afford and figure flattering denim clothes. And I love a shop where I can pick out casual pieces for all five members of the family. But the icing on the cake is the Levi’s Disney Springs in-house Tailor Shop.levis-tailor-shopThe in-store Tailor Shop offers alteration, hemming, repairs and artistic customizations of your denim selections. This in-house service is unique to only a handful of Levi’s locations worldwide, of which Disney Springs is one. I had the chance to select a Levi’s Trucker Jacket (I went with the women’s Boyfriend Trucker in the light, vintage-feeling sunshine indigo wash) and have the Tailor Shop trick it out with any customizations I liked. They said to think of their service as a “tattoo shop” to personalize my denim and inject it with my own personality. I loved perusing the massive selection of patches and embroidery options, and settled on my nickname on the front. Check out the result and the some of the other personalization styles behind me.



Have your running gait analyzed and experts recommend the best running shoes for you, as well as find the entire line of the exclusive  runDisney 2016 collection by New Balance.


American Threads

Have you ever shopped this store? Their bricks-and-mortar locations are in the South, so I had never before shopped. Dani, Jen and I fell deeply in love with their gorgeous, cool, bohemian-inspired fashions, shoes and gifts. None of us had been in this shop before and all us ended up going home with something beautiful. They offer free transport back to your resort if you are staying on-property at Walt Disney World and free shipping home on purchases over $100. Their low prices and this convenience factor convinced me to pick up a slew of girlfriend gifts and a hat (similar to the one featured in photos here) to keep out the DC winter cold.



You will only find this luxurious land of bath bombs and all-natural body butters at Disney and in Vegas. Their prices, scents and selection are the very best in the genre.


Luxury of Time by Diamonds International

The Disney Springs store where I spent the most time in a fantasy fog was Luxury of Time by Diamonds International. It is a land of luxury watches, fine gemstone and diamond jewelry. They also provide champagne to shoppers, making it irresistible. I learned about the Crown of Light diamond cut that presents a uniquely curved faceted design that makes for amazing sparkle. I tried on tanzanite rings that looked like they should be in the Smithsonian Natural History museum next to the Hope Diamond.

And best of all, I was chosen as a winner of a $300 diamond and tanzanite pendant from Diamonds International that I have decided to give away as a holiday gift to YOU! This Diamonds International Safi Kilima Diamond and Tanzanite Pendant features an oval tanzanite (.48 ctw) surrounded by a circle of sparkling round diamonds (.10 ctw). Set in sterling silver, it includes a matching 18-inch chain. The gemstones are guaranteed to have been ethically mined. The stunning piece retails for $295.


One lucky reader winner will receive this pendant as an early present for herself or to gift to a loved one, thanks to Disney Springs at Walt Disney World! To enter to win, fill out the form below.


Disclosure: I was hosted to attend the Unwrap the Magic press event at Walt Disney World. I flew my family down with me and they enjoyed the parks while I “worked.” We received perks. Review product received. Additional days at the Walt Disney World Resort, family meals and personal shopping were covered by our family. No compensation received. All opinions are mine.

Why Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is So Worth It


Last week my family and I experienced our first Walt Disney World visit during the holiday season, and as a member of the media I was invited to check out Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. It was a Magic Kingdom experience like I have never seen before. On the party dates in November and December The regular rides are in operation, sure, but there are special surprises throughout the night that you can only experience during the party and snow machines blow beautiful flakes through the air.

See the Castle Burst Into Light: A Frozen Holiday Wish

The night begins with a performance by Anna, Elsa, Kristoff and Olaf on the Castle Forecourt Stage. This merry-and-bright seasonal show features singing of the favorite Frozen songs and culminates with Queen Elsa using her incredible powers to present a gift to everyone in the kingdom: transforming of Cinderella Castle into a glimmering ice palace for the holidays. Over half a million lights are used!


Watch a Rockin’ Christmas Show: Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration

There’s a brand new stage show for the holidays that fills the air with music, dancing, laughter and shimmering snowflakes. You’ll see Mickey, Minnie, Donald and the his Caballeros, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, Peter Pan, Alice and the White Rabbit, Woody and Jessie, Snow White and Dopey, Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket and many more surprise guests sing and dance to Christmas carol favorites and original songs, too.

Free Holiday Treats and Drinks 

Included in your ticket price are treat stations throughout the park. The hot cocoa in Adventureland and warm ginger cookies in Liberty Square were my favs.

Special Character Meet and Greets

During Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, you’re invited to share hugs, receive autographs and snap pictures with more than 15 beloved Disney Characters who are dressed in the holiday outfits they only wear this time of year. You’ll connect with hard-to-find characters such as Santa Jack Skellington aka “Sandy Clause: and Scrooge McDuck.


Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade

Everyone loves a Disney Main Street, U.S.A. parade and this one is exclusively for the holidays. There are dancing gingerbread men, elves and reindeer, along with Mickey and Minnie, Goofy, Olaf, Anna and Elsa, Pooh and Tigger, The Seven Dwarfs and a grand finale of Santa in his sleigh.


Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show

In Tomorrowland Buzz Lightyear, Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. and Stitch sing songs and wow the crowd. There’s a little kids-designated area in front of the stage.

Special Holiday Wishes Fireworks 

An exclusive holiday version of the Magic Kingdom’s Wishes fireworks takes place on Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party nights at 10pm.

Tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are for select November and December evening celebrations from 7pm- midnight, however your party ticket allows you to enter the park at 4pm.

Disclosure: I was hosted to attend the Unwrap the Magic press event at Walt Disney World. I flew my family down with me and they enjoyed the parks while I “worked.” We received perks. Additional days at the Walt Disney World Resort were covered by our family. All dining and purchases with my children were covered by our family. No compensation received. All opinions are mine. 

The Nutcracker at Metropolitan Ballet Theatre

Don’t miss Metropolitan Ballet Theatre’s 28th Annual Production of The Nutcracker! Tickets are on sale now for these breathtaking performances at the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center, Montgomery College, in Rockville.
Year after year audiences are enchanted by MBT’s performances which feature professional dancers and students, fabulous costumes and beautiful scenery including a Christmas tree that seemingly grows forever. There are magical dancing dolls, marching toy soldiers, giant mice, a dazzling blizzard with dancing snowflakes and a land of luscious sweets.

Metropolitan Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker is a fun family tradition that will lift your spirits this holiday season.

Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays December 2 – 11, evenings and matinees.

Disney Springs with Kids This Holiday Season and All Year

disney-springs-for-kidsEvery time I get together with friends in the DC area and we talk family vacations, the conversation always turns to Walt Disney World. All of us are angling to get back there as soon as we can with our kids, and we are constantly comparing notes. Where should we stay? When should we go? How should we plan our days? It’s hard not to become a bit obsessed with Disney after you realize how enjoyable and memorable it is for everyone in the family.  (And those $48-64 non-stop tickets from BWI-MCO on Southwest are tough to beat…especially to escape DC in winter!).

I love that there is a Walt Disney World destination that always gets my kids excited and does not require a park ticket: Disney Springs.

The newly reimagined Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney, but it’s completely redone, updated and different!) is a Walt Disney World family vacation must-do. Whether you are looking for world-class shopping, exciting entertainment, a ticket-less Disney destination on your arrival/departure day or fabulous dining, Disney Springs will blow you away. Our entire family enjoyed exploring the kid-friendly entertainment, activities and restaurants.


Walk the Christmas Tree Trail 

The all-new Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail is filled with the most creative Disney-themed trees! Snow machines add to the magic of a winter wonderland as you admire Little Mermaid, Tangled, Alice in Wonderland, 101 Dalmations and more clever Christmas tree creations.


Watch Starbright Holidays – An Intel Collaboration Light Show 

At Disney Springs every evening at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. through  January 8, 300 Intel Shooting Star show drones take to the sky over Disney Springs in synchronized choreography to holiday music. This is the first time a drone show of this scale has ever been performed in the U.S.!

Meet Santa Claus at Santa’s Chalet

If you thought meeting Santa was special, try meeting him at Disney! You can take a picture with jolly old St. Nicholas and tell him what you want for Christmas through December 24 at Disney Springs, and with Santa Goofy December 25 through December 30, 2016.


Holiday Performances Throughout Disney Springs

You will be treated to live entertainment all throughout the holiday season. Toy solider and snowflake stilt walkers, pop carolers, acapella groups and more perform 6-11 p.m. through January 8. Performances specifically celebrating Kwanza happen on the Waterside Stage in the Marketplace on December 26 and December 27, and songs and stories in honor of Hanukkah happen at Waterview Park in The Landing, with evening performances from December 24 through January 1.


Play at the LEGO Store 

Your kids will be able to spend tons of imaginative time at the many hands-on play tables and checking out the larger-than-life Disney models.

Ride the Marketplace Carousel

It’s a charming Venetian carousel in the heart of Disney Springs Marketplace, and it’s just $5 for two rides.

Run Through Fountains

Near Once Upon a Toy are two crazy fun fountains for interactive play. Swimsuit clad kids can get soaked, and kids in regular clothes can time their dashes to avoid the spray.

See La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil….or watch a free open practice

Walt Disney World’s own in-residence Cirque du Soleil has been updated with new acts for 2016. Experience aerial bamboo artists — bold tricks performed while dangling from a pole-like apparatus suspended from the ceiling! — as well as the world-famous B-Boy breakdancers. There are also acrobats, singers, trapeze artists, jugglers and clowns, all performed to the inspiring music of the live orchestra. The performances take place most Tuesdays through Saturday evenings at 6 and 9 p.m. at the ivory circus tent-looking Le Théâtre, located at the West Side of Disney Springs.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Disney Springs 

Your child can receive the royal treatment at the Disney Springs location of the BBB, which you might find easier to obtain a reservation at than the Magic Kingdom outpost during your vacation. Here young princesses age 3-12 (accompanied by an adult) can choose a hairstyle, make-up, nail color, accessories and a Disney princess costume. Boys can join in on the fun too, and be transformed into heroic knights. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made up to 180 days in advance by calling (407) WDW-STYLE or (407) 939-7895.

Characters in Flight – the Disney Springs Hot Air Balloon

This 10-minute hot air balloon ride provides a breathtaking 360-degree view of the entire WDW Resort area for 10 miles in every direction. The balloon is really filled with helium and can hold up to 29 people.


The dining at Disney Springs is spectacular. At every restaurant kids are welcome and kids’ menus are available. Here are some of the dining locations that my family particularly enjoys:

Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza: Customize your own fast-fire’d 11” artisanal pie by choosing from over 40 delicious toppings and sauces.

Coca-Cola Store Rooftop Beverage Bar: Come for the view, stay to recharge with one of the many refreshing bevvie choices.

Frontera Cocina: I am still dreaming about the haute Mexican cuisine presented by famous chef Rick Bayless and the Play With Fire spicy margaritas. The kids menu was particularly delicious and special.

Vivoli il Gelato: You’ll swear you’re in Florence when you taste the gelato, for this world-famous, family-run gelato shop from Florence, Italy has chosen to open its second storefront in its 85-year at Disney Springs.

Splitsville Dining Room: We had a decadent diner-style meal on the terrace of Splitsville and the kids loved the on-site balloon animal twisters and face painters, free to dining guests.

STK Orlando: We love how kids are welcomed at this chic steakhouse, and that the kids’ menu is just $10.



The array of shops at Disney Springs is of the parents shopper dreams, but the kids found their favorite stores, too!

Basin: Bath bomb and scented lotion nirvana.

Build-A-Dino by Build-A-Bear at T-Rex: Create your prehistoric pal.

Little Mismatched: Where the bright socks come in sets of three and polka dots go with everything.

Once Upon a Toy: Curate your custom Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head set and more Disney-themed toys.

Star Wars Galactic Outpost: All the Star Wars swag in the galaxy.

UNIQLO: Their Disney t-shirt and funky stuffed Mickey selection is as impressive as their affordable outfits for kids.

World of Disney: The biggest, best Disney store in the world!


More: Best of Disney Springs at Walt Disney World (aka Downtown Disney 2.0)

Disclosure: I was hosted to attend the Unwrap the Magic press event at Walt Disney World. I flew my family down with me and they enjoyed the parks while I “worked.” We received perks. Additional days at the Walt Disney World Resort were covered by our family. All Disney Springs experiences, dining and purchases with my children were covered by our family. No compensation received. All opinions are mine. 

Holiday Must-Do: Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens


It’s not the winter holidays in the DC area without a visit to Brookside Gardens’ Garden of Lights!

This gorgeous holiday outdoor walk-through light exhibit celebrates its 19th season, and my family and I have attended with our children every year since Charlie was a one-year-old, clapping his hands with delight at all of the lights.

Beginning November 25th through January 1st (except December 24th and 25th), families can enter this evening enchanted wonderland that is illuminated with more than one million lights.


The images I have captured here with my camera do not do the magical visuals justice. There are lights of all colors, flashing in sophisticated designs. The lights are added to hand-crafted, original art forms of flowers, animals and more natural elements. There are twinkling tree forms, fountains, snowflakes and gazebos full of holiday magic.


Family favorites are the lighted “squirrels” and “cardinals” that dash and fly amongst the trees, just like animals native to the park. “Bullfrogs” of lights on twinkling “lily pads” also entertain, as do wolves, roses, rainclouds, rainbows and even sea serpents, all made of tiny bulbs.


Another beloved element of the Garden of Lights experience is visiting the G-Scale model trains that speed through the Conservatory in a seasonal landscape.


My children love watching the trains and searching for hidden treasures in the provided “I Spy” scavenger hunt for kids. A favorite item often on the hunt list: a tiny Yoda.


Every night during Garden of Lights the Visitors Center hosts nightly musical performances and sells delicious hot cocoa.


The Garden of Lights is one of the area’s most treasured holiday traditions, and one that brings the A Parent in Silver Spring crew joy every year. We hope to see you there!

Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens
1800 Glenallan Avenue
Wheaton, MD 20902
November 25th through January 1st
(closed December 24th and 25th)
Sunday – Thursday: 5:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Friday – Saturday: 5:30 – 10:00 p.m.
Last car admitted 30 minutes before closing time each night.
For safety reasons, pedestrians are not admitted.

$25 per Car/Van (Sunday – Thursday)
$30 per Car/Van (Friday – Saturday)

$25 Advance Sale Tickets available at the gift shop at Brookside Gardens beginning November 1

$50 per 15-24 Passenger Bus/Van/Limo
$75 per 25-35 Passenger Bus
$120 per 36-57 Passenger Bus

This segment produced by Montgomery Community Media a few years ago provides a great overview of Garden of Lights.

Thank you to Montgomery Parks for sponsoring this blog post. All opinions are my own.