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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.
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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.

HOLIDAY FUN AT DISNEY SPRINGS 

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.

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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.

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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.

YEAR-ROUND FAMILY FUN AT DISNEY SPRINGS

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.

EATS, DRINKS AND TREATS

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.

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KID-FRIENDLY SHOPPING

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!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

Admission
$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.

Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC) on Creating Playful Family Memories

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Today’s guest post is from Brooke Shoemaker, a Museum Education Specialist at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC). SEEC is an early childhood program that I love that you may be familiar with from past pieces on A Parent in Silver Spring. SEEC resides within the Smithsonian museums and utilizes the vast collections of the museums and the community to support its curriculum. SEEC has a full-time school during the week that serves children from two months to five years, while SEEC’s outreach arm, the Center for Innovation in Early Learning, brings playful museum learning to the public through family workshops. SEEC is typically known for its work with five-year-olds and under, but they have recently expanded our programming to include exciting offerings for kindergarten through third grade. Read on for the scoop! 

When crafting our programming at SEEC, we think about how to make educational experiences playful and engaging for children and caregivers because we know play is how children make sense of their world. As play theorist Vivian Paley states, “Play is, in fact, a complex occupation, requiring practice in dialogue, exposition, detailed imagery, social engineering, literary allusion, and abstract thinking. Being both work and love for young children, play is absolutely essential for their health and welfare.”

Although the importance of play has been proven, research shows that children’s play time has been declining every year. Play is the way children learn and develop lifelong skills such as teamwork, perspective taking, problem solving and critical thinking. And let’s face it, play is fun!

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Think about a really fun and playful memory from your childhood. You are likely to remember the details of it better than something more mundane like a trip to the grocery store or a ride to school. You can probably recall the details much better, for example, what you smelled, saw, what you were wearing, what you did, and perhaps most importantly, who you did this fun activity with. We all want to create positive memories with our children, and lasting memories are created when you are engaged in an experience together.

It is with this knowledge and belief that we have created our new offerings for an older audience, which utilize this playful approach to create fun, educational and memorable experiences for families. At SEEC we know how important play is for the development of children, and we believe that play should not end in kindergarten, but instead continue throughout our lives. Play might change and look different as we grow, but it is no less essential at any age, and SEEC Celebrations and Artful Afternoons embody these ideas.

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SEEC Celebrations

With SEEC Celebrations families can choose between an ancient Egypt or dinosaur themed party, in which children take on the role of archeologist or paleontologist to discover clues about the world long ago. Children start with several themed activities to begin the fun. These activities range from sensory play, to more creative art activities, ensuring options for all different types of interests and learners.

Next, children gather to learn more about our world long ago through an interactive book reading and dig. Children will take on the role of archeologist or paleontologist as they dig for artifacts. Through this role-play children get a hands-on experience in how an archeologist or paleontologist work, and puts them in the position of problem-solver as they decide which objects warrant more investigation.

After excavating the artifacts, where better to find more information about them then at the National Museum of Natural History? Children will work in teams with caregivers to search for their artifact and gather clues about what it could be. Seeing these objects up close will give children a rich sensory experience that they cannot get from pictures alone. Who else can say they saw a real dinosaur bone or mummy on their special day?

Back at the celebration space children will share their findings with their friends and families. To conclude the SEEC Celebration, families are invited to enjoy a celebratory treat and then head out to our playground for some outdoor fun before heading home. Themed goodie bags are provided to all guests, which come with extension ideas for families to continue exploring ancient Egypt or dinosaurs after the celebration has ended.

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Artful Afternoons

As children start elementary school they become more independent. Still want to have quality bonding time as a family? Head to one of SEEC’s Artful Afternoons, a once a month open studio program, which presents maker stations for families to explore together. Each station has a challenge or question based on the afternoon’s theme, but how you approach it is up to you!

This unstructured program is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon creating with your child while learning about a topic related to art. This type of play will nourish your child’s imagination and opens a world of possibilities that leads to innovative thinking.

Families often strive to make family time and special occasions ones that children will remember for years to come. Why not join SEEC for one of our K-3 programs to ensure that your family has smooth, stress-free, fun where you can focus on your child instead of logistics? For more information visit https://seecstories.com/.

Brooke Shoemaker of the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center was a toddler and preschool educator before joining SEEC’s outreach arm, the Center for Innovation in Early Learning, as the Pre-K Museum Education Specialist.

This guest post is sponsored by SEEC. 

Rufus the Rednose Raindog at Arts Barn Gaithersburg

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Rufus the Rednosed Raindog

Performed by Blue Sky Puppet Theatre

December 3, 2016Purchase Tickets Online
December 10, 2016Purchase Tickets Online
December 17, 2016Purchase Tickets Online
All performances are at 3 p.m., tickets are $12

An entertaining and humorous puppet show to celebrate the holiday season.  A lost and lonely dog shows up at Santa’s workshop. At first he’s rejected because he has a red nose, but eventually he and everyone around him realizes how special he is. Recommended for ages 4 and up.

This post was sponsored by Arts Barn. 

Maryland Emancipation Day Weekend with Montgomery Parks

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Election anxiety got you down? Looking for educational activities with the family that teach of a time when our country righted its wrongs? The line-up of family events hosted by Montgomery Parks this weekend, November 4-6, fits the bill.

These historic learning opportunities celebrate Maryland Emancipation Day at historic sites throughout the county. On November 1, 1864, a Maryland state constitution freed all those held in bondage within its boundaries, abolishing slavery on the state level. Share these offerings with your children that thoughtfully, appropriately and significantly teach this historic landmark.

Park events on Saturday and Sunday are FREE, unless otherwise noted, and open to the public.

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SATURDAY

Underground Railroad Experience Guided Hike – 9am, 10am, 10:30am, Sandy Spring. This all-ages 2.5 hour hike is led by talented volunteer “conductors” who lead groups on a simulated Underground Railroad experience covering 2 miles from Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park along a wooded, natural surface trail to the historic Sandy Spring, then back to the park. Hikers will learn about various techniques that freedom seekers used to elude trackers, find food, and navigate their way North to freedom. Sign up details.

Woodlawn Visitor Center Open House – 10am-4pm, Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park, Sandy Spring. The newly-opened Woodlawn Visitor Center’s is not to be missed! The museum-quality exhibits in the restored stone barn tell the story of a bustling farm, its community, and those who made a bold bid for freedom on the Underground Railroad, guided by local Quakers. (See image above for an inside peek.)

Oakley Cabin African American History Museum, Farm and Park – 12-4pm, Brookeville. This home site of a free African American family will provide re-enactment learning with a Black history perspective, live music, johnny-cake making and more historic demonstrations. This is one of our family’s favorite learning trips, pictured below.

Sandy Spring Slave Museum and African Art Gallery – 11am-3pm, storytelling at 12pm, film at 1:30pm, Sandy Spring. Free admission for self-guided tours all day, food and drinks for sale. At noon storyteller Dianne Cross will present “A Long Overdue Story,” a story of the life of her great-grandfather who journeyed from slave, to Civil War soldier, to free man. At 1:30pm the hour-long documentary Community Cornerstones: African Americans in Montgomery County will be presented. This film presents reminiscences by elders from 5 historic African American churches and illustrates life during segregation.

Harper Cabin at Brookside Nature Center  – 10am-4pm, Wheaton. Step back in time at the 1870s at the Harper Homestead. Tour the cabin and experience demonstrations.

Button Farm Living History Center – 12-4pm, Germantown. Self-guided walking tours of our farm, animals and gardens. Scavenger hunt, bonfire and drinks and living history activities.

SUNDAY

Josiah Henson Park Open House – 12-4pm, North Bethesda. Open for special events only, the Josiah Henson Park is the former plantation property of Isaac Riley where Reverend Josiah Henson was enslaved from 1795-1830. It is also a historic resource of local, state, national and international significance because of its association with Reverend Josiah Henson, whose 1849 autobiography, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself, inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s landmark novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Activities at Josiah Henson Park will include guided tours, hands-on archaeology activities and screenings of the Time Team America documentary: “The Search for Josiah Henson.”

Underground Railroad Experience Guided Hike – 10am, Sandy Spring. (Info above.)

Woodlawn Visitor Center Open House – 10am-4pm, Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park, Sandy Spring. (Info above.)

Harper Cabin at Brookside Nature Center  – 1-4pm, Wheaton. (Info above.)

This is the final event weekend of the 2016 History in the Parks season. Group Tours & School Fieldtrips can be reserved year-round. The 2017 History in the Parks event season will restart the first weekend in April.

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Three Dots Women’s Deep V Tee 3/4 Sleeve $23

 

Levi’s Womens Military Field Jacket $64

 

Vince Camuto Impossible Plush (SO COMFY!) taupe pump with rockstud accent $49.97

 

Urban Decay Naked Ultimate Basics All Matte eyeshadow palette $54

 

Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg: Waterpark and Wonder

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Curious about Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg? A Parent in Silver Spring writer Guiomar Barbi Ochoa experienced the resort with her family and has the scoop for us. 

Wolves and I are not great friends. I’m a child of the ’80’s,  and I distinctly remember a fiasco where my teenage aunts were babysitting a pack of us and they thought it would be a stellar idea to pop An American Werewolf in London in the VCR. The movie terrified me and I swore off wolves forever.

That was until my kids saw a commercial for Great Wolf Lodge and begged us to take them.

I figured this place would be tamer than the movie so we gave it a shot and boy, am I glad we did!

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We went to Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg which is a relatively short drive (2.5 hours) from D.C. We knew we had a fun-filled weekend ahead of thanks to their Howl-O-Ween activities. I was a little nervous as my oldest, Anna-Cecilia (6) inherited my intolerance for anything scary, but I have to say GWL does a great job of decorating the Grand Lobby spookily without making it too daunting for kids.

The Trick or Treat Trail began at 6pm, and the kids were delighted to collect candy throughout the resort from staff members decked out in costume.

We spent the remainder of the evening experiencing awesome Halloween activities like Spooktacular Story Time, a Costume Parade and even a Monster Bash Dance Party in which kids are encouraged to wear their PJ’s, a seasonal take on GWL’s celebrated PJ parties. It was all super fun!

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For sure, the highlight of GWL is the amazing 80,000 square foot indoor water park! It’s a parent’s dream in that it’s very contained and they have incredibly diligent lifeguards monitoring every angle of the place. They also have plenty of life vests, for all sizes, for your family to borrow.

The water park has lots of options for varying ages which is fantastic. We started off serenely at the Slap Tail Pond and slowly graduated to more adventurous undertakings like Fort Mackenzie and the Totem Towers. Without fail, the funnest and most terrifying for us was Alberta Falls. We all survived but I almost hurled between the strobe lights, heavy metal music and powerful twists. The rest of my crew wanted to ride it again but I graciously passed.We spent four hours in the water park and had a great time.

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Scattered throughout the lodge is MagiQuest, a scavenger hunt which electronically saves children’s accomplishments with a tracked score. I think this is definitely and smartly geared towards tween and teen visitors but my littles (ages 6 and 3) liked it nonetheless. They both got wands that were activated and worked on objects throughout the resort like treasure chests that magically opened and fairy houses that lit up.

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If you need a little down time, the Cub Club is a craft and activity center and a really nice way to unwind from the rest of the madness. It’s also conveniently close to the Creation Station where your kid’s favorite Great Wolf character goes from floppy to stuffed  à la Build-A-Bear workshop. The sweet GWL attendant helping us let the kids stuff their wolves and they loved picking out their outfits!

We wound the night down with a visit to the Northern Lights Arcade. This place is sensory overload and can be dangerous for kids who want to rack up 1,000 tickets so they can get a Shopkins pillow. I set a thirty minute limit to the time we spent there but we all loved it including my husband who was madly trying to punch rubber duckies down in one game. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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A great aspect of GWL for families is definitely their suites. A family suite is standard and  you’ll find plenty of room to move and relax with two queen-size beds and a full-size sofa sleeper. If you really want to knock their socks off, book one of the themed suites for the family. KidKamp, Wolf Den and KidCabin suites offer memorable additions like bunk beds, colorful murals and even balconies. Premium suites are also available with multiple rooms and even a fireplace!

There was lots more to see that we didn’t get too but there’s always a next time. We saw plenty of family reunions happening at GWL, and we agreed that the site was perfect for that. All ages can hang out together and find something to entertain all stages of kids.

We give GWL two thumbs up and a mega HOWL!

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Guiomar and her family were hosted at Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg for an overnight press experience. All opinions are her own. 
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Is it time to improve our house?

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The A Parent in Silver Spring crew have been living in our 1970 split-level home since 2009. Bought from the original owners, we have been steadily working to update the house as much as we can each year.

But our list of necessary and desired improvements? It is still pages and pages long.

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Air conditioning unit that needs replacing? Gulp.

Original pink tile and fixtures in the guest bathroom? Check.

Cracked tiles in the kitchen? Yup.

Drywall lines in the living room? Jeesh.

“Finished” basement so ugly it is only used for storage and looks like a horror movie set? Cringe.

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Like so many families, our home is our largest investment, and thus we are constantly evaluating the costs and benefits of renovations and upgrades. According to a survey this autumn by Capital One, 45 percent of homeowners in the DC area plan to renovate their home in the next two years.

Taking out a home equity line of credit is an option that we utilized in our first house, a 1950’s Cape Cod that we knew we would sell after a few years. That home, also purchased from the original owners, was in need of renovations that were essential for us to put it on the market for a profit. We are considering this route again in order to once and for all complete our to-do list on the current house.

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More than half– 57 percent– of homeowners surveyed in the DMV have not taken out a home equity line of credit or loan, but 76 percent of homeowners indicated they would renovate areas of their home if they had better financial means to do so. (Raising my hand here!) 13 percent of homeowners say they have not pursed a home equity loan because the process is confusing, 10 percent indicated the rates or fees are too high and 10 percent expressed that there is too much paperwork.

The folks at Capital One Home Equity are working to make the home equity credit process simple and smarter. Capital One’s process allows us to easily learn more about and apply for a home equity line of credit with the flexibility to withdraw what is needed for our home renovation projects. I have not personally used Capital One’s home equity products, but I am exploring their current rates. We can obtain a customized rate offer and estimated loan amount with no impact to our credit scores. We can even begin the application process – it’s simple and there are no fees.

Who’s with me on getting that cracked tile out of the kitchen? Visit capitalone.com/home-equity, call 855-446-9656 or stop by any Capital One branch location for more information and to get started today.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.