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Archive for the ‘Ultimate Travel’ category

Was it on our bucket list?  Of course!  So, UltimateMama and her family took a quick (relatively at under 5 1/2 hours from NYC) flight to Iceland.

Day 1

After landing, UltimateMama picked up the rental car and headed directly to the Blue Lagoon for an 8 AM spa appointment against the volcanic landscape.  One must book visits in advance.  UltimateMama and her family were treated to the “Comfort” package which included:  entrance fee, silica mud masks, use of towels, and one drink per person.  Remember to take your disposable/water cameras for some fun pictures!

Next, UltimateMama drove approximately 1 hour 20 minutes to start the Golden Circle Tour!

First stop was Thingvellir National Park to see the Everyman’s Gorge between 2 continents-America and Europe as well as the Law Rock.

Second stop after a 50-60 minute drive was to the Geysir Geothermal Field to see Strokker.  UltimateMama and her group grabbed some pizza and did some souvenir shopping at the visitor’s center.








Third stop was a 10 minute drive to Gullfoss Falls to see the breathtaking waterfall.

Next was a 50 minute drive (in the pouring rain/sleet) to the Kerid Crater.

Finally, after a 45 minute drive UltimateMama and her family made it to lodging at the Hotel Ranga which offers outdoor hot tubs, delicious cuisine, and fabulous Northern Lights displays (if one is lucky and we were)!

Day 2

The Lava Centre, which was only a 5 minute drive from the hotel, offered a glimpse at Iceland’s active volcanoes.

Next, a 15-20 drive to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall enabled us to be fully encircled by a fabulous wonder.

Don’t miss views of Eyjafjallojokull, a glacier volcano that caused panic to air travel in 2010.

After a 10 minute dive one will reach Skogafoss Waterfall and most likely see a rainbow.








Another 10-15 minute drive takes one to Solheimajokull Glacier which is easily accessible to all. UltimateMama and her family really enjoyed walking on/around it. Be careful!

One can’t miss the black sand beach of Reynisfjara on Iceland’s South Coast, next to a fishing village called Vik, which is only another 25-30 minute drive. The basalt stacks are extraordinary!

Day 3

A one hour tour of the Lava Tunnel is worth one’s time if one wants to see layers of volcanic eruption.

Ægissíðufoss waterfall is a majestic site and close to Hotel Ranga too!

Day 4

Spend the day in Reykjavik before heading to the airport for departure.


UltimateMama and her family took a quick trip to Lisbon, Portugal and discovered the beauty of the city.  The amazing food (and wine for the grown ups) was an incredible treat!  UltimateMama’s kids still rave about the Pasteis de Belem–a MUST!















A few tips on Lisbon:

-Stay at the Sofitel Lisbon Liberdade in Lisbon, Portugal.  The rooms are pristine and the buffet breakfast (included in our room rate) was out of this world!

-Visit the Tower of Belem which is on the Tagus River

-Walk by the Padrão dos Descobrimentos which is also right on the Tagus River

-If you are visiting in the summer of 2018 don’t miss the M.C. Escher exhibit at the Museu de Arte Popular Lisboa

-Head to Pasteis de Belem and experience the sweet delights (one can buy a few and eat them while walking around the city)

-Tour the stunning Jeronimos Monastery

-Eat lunch at one of the shops in the Mercado da Ribeira Time Out (which has great canned fish you can buy to take home too)

-Explore the Bairro Alto area

-Have dinner at Petiscos no Bairro


UltimateMama and her kids thought Greece was the perfect blend of education and relaxation.  Although it was extremely hot in early June at 95 degree F, Athens was an absolute delight of a city.  A few tips to enjoy Athens with kids:

-Stay at the Hotel Grande Bretagne as it is central to everything.  The rooftop pool is perfect for a late afternoon dip and the spa/indoor pool is truly a pleasure.  In the evening hours one has a wonderful view of the Acropolis lit up from the hotel’s lovely restaurant.  The Syntagma Square was ideal for touring, eating, and catching the underground subway.

-Stroll the National Gardens, right in Syntagma Square!

-Have a quick lunch at Kosmikon in the Plaka area (and grab some inexpensive souvenirs afterwards).

-Watch the changing of the guards across the street at the Parliament Building (in Syntagma Square). Just make sure you ask your hotel for the exact times.

-For dinner visit Erato restaurant café in the Plaka area and then browse the silver jewelry in the Monastiraki flea market.








-Visit the Acropolis Museum BEFORE touring the Acropolis.  Grab a kids guide scavenger hunt to keep your children engaged!

-If you need a great kebab place try Thanasis in the Monastiraki which is near the Plaka area

-Near the Acropolis at an outdoor booth window purchase a 5 day special ticket for 30 Euro for adults (as of June 2018) which includes admission to must visit locations such as: Acropolis of Athens, Ancient Agora of Athens, Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos, Archaeological Site of Lykeion, Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos, Museum of the Ancient Agora, North slope of Acropolis, Olympieio, Roman Agora of Athens, South Slope of Acropolis

-Arrange a guided tour of the Acropolis through Context Travel, including the Parthenon, Acropolis, and the Agora.  UltimateMama’s kids enjoyed the “Acropolis for Families: Drama and Sacrifice in Ancient Athens” 3 hour long tour. The tour begins with a visit to the theater of Dionysus on the south slope of the Acropolis and goes from there!

-Have dinner in Kolonaki at OIKEIO which was a superb, traditional Greek food experience with home style cooking at the address: Ploutarchou 15

-Visit and tour the stadium of the first modern Olympic games, the Panathenaic Stadium and be amazed at all the beautiful marble that was used in its creation.








-Walk around the War Museum in Athens and see the collection.

-UltimateMama was rushed for time so briefly visited the Byzantine and Christian Museum

-A favorite dinner spot was in Kolonaki at Barbounaki which was a traditional fish tavern. Definitely a must do!

-Take the cable car to Mount Lycabettus which is the highest hill in Athens (the gift shop at the bottom was a nice surprise as was the restaurant at the top which we didn’t try but were tempted).

-Walk around the Temple of Olympian Zeus in central Athens, a spectacular temple.









-Head to an Italian dinner in Kolonaki at Malconi’s which has a chic and trendy vibe.


UltimateMama and her family hit Costa Rica in March and did a terrific day trip to Nicaragua as well.  Perfect weather, ideal scenery, and terrific food made for a great vacation for all in Central America.

A few tips:

-Stay at the Andaz Costa Rica hotel in Guanacaste and make sure you get the breakfast included in your room rate as it is expansive and delicious (monkeys even stop to take notice).

-Take advantage of the kayaks and paddleboards at the hotel’s private beach which you can reach by shuttle bus.  UltimateMama and her two kids even hit the Nature Center Papagayo Explorers Club.

-Use Tropical Comfort Tours through the Andaz to book excursions.  The Buena Vista Extreme trip didn’t disappoint with zip lining, the longest waterslide in Costa Rica, horseback riding, mud baths, hot springs, and lunch.  All near the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park.

-Look into Tropical Comfort’s day trip to Nicaragua where one can take in breakfast, Lake Apoyo (a crater lake), Mombacho Volcano, Masaya Volcano National Park (active volcano), a carriage ride in Granada, and a boat ride on Lake Nicaragua.  The Garden Café was delightful for lunch and included Thousand Cranes, a great shop for local crafts and goods.

Pura vida!


UltimateMama was bummed when one of her daughters was a bit sick on vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in April (which is an ideal month to travel to that region). Destined to have a terrific vacation, UltimateMama had to alter her plans and create a kinder, gentler itinerary that was still fun and adventure filled. Ultimately, the trip was one of the best as UltimateMama combined light exercise and adventure with amusement park fun.  Make sure you research the National Parks website to see what is open during your visit.  A few tips:

-Fly into Knoxville McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS)

-Stay at the Park Vista which has a fun pool, nice breakfast, and gorgeous setting

-Eat at The Park Grill in Gatlinburg which is a family friendly restaurant with a huge menu that will satisfy all appetites

-Visit Sugarlands Visitor Center which is part of the National Park Service and pick up some maps and souvenirs

-Hike to a waterfall called Cataract Falls which is a hidden gem and easy for all ages and great for pictures

-Drive over to Clingmans Dome Hike near the North Carolina – Tennessee boundary to explore the Appalachian Trail and learn that the Dome is the trail’s highest point at 6,643 feet (there was even snow when we visited in April)

-Visit Dollywood to let off some steam, ride roller coasters, catch some nature related shows, and make ornaments at Mountain Blown Glass


Krakow, Poland is an amazing city for kids as it is culturally rich, easily accessible, and vibrant.  From the sites to the Vistula (Wisla) River to the cuisine, Krakow offers something for everyone no matter what age.  A few family friendly tips when visiting Krakow:

-Stay at the Sheraton Grand Krakow and take advantage of their amazing buffet breakfast each morning and indoor pool each afternoon. The hotel is a 10 minute walk to the old town or market square and a hop, skip and a jump to the Wawel Castle.

-Visit the Wawel Castle and hit the Dragon’s Den too. Read the legend of the dragon to your kids before you go. Climb to see the Zygmunt Bell too

-Go shopping in Old Town at Krakow’s Main Market or Rynek Glowny Central Square and buy some beautiful foil Christmas Nativity scenes; see The Church of St. Mary too

-Walk the Royal Route of Ulica Florianska and hit a few stores along the way

-Do a half day trip via taxi to the Wieliczka salt mine and experience beautiful chapels and creations but make sure to bring a fleece and wear long pants as it is COLD and watch some lick the walls

-Learn about World War II at the Oskar Shindler factory museum

-Walk around the Jewish district of Kazimierz

-Explore Jagiellonian University which is Krakow’s oldest and boasts Nicholas Coperincus as an alum

-Have a delicious traditional Polish meal at Chlopskie Jadlo

-Search for paczki (Polish donuts) or Lody (ice cream) afterwards


Barcelona, Spain is one of UltimateMama’s favorite cities!  So much to see and do and family friendly too.  A few tips for enjoying Barcelona with the kids:

-Stay at the Hotel Arts – excellent pool, great staff, and walkable to the beach

-Visit Casa Mila or La Pedrera – UltimateMama feels the whatever day/whatever time online ticket option is well worth it to see Gaudi’s creations

-Stop at Casa Batllo – more Gaudi for the family and a great gift shop too (buy tickets online in advance)

-Tour the Segrada Familia – breathtaking Gaudi basilica that is hands down UltimateMama’s favorite place in Barcelona (buy tickets online in advance)

-Hit Park Guell – nothing better than an outside Gaudi masterpiece (buy tickets online in advance)

-Explore the Picasso Museum – such a pristine environment for the artist’s works and the gift shop earrings are so beautiful (buy tickets online in advance)

-See the animals at the Barcelona Zoo – a nice way for the kids to let off some steam too

-Take a train to Figueres to see the Dali Museum – one of the highlights of our trip buy tickets online in advance)

-Get a delicious fruit drink at the La Boqueria off of La Rambla – maybe purchase some chocolate strawberries, meats, and cheeses too

-See the Mercat Santa Caterina too – another beautiful display of edible delights


In terms of restaurants, UltimateMama suggests the following:

Cal Pep – if you don’t have a reservation you can wait a bit to eat tapas at the bar while talking to the chefs.

Gocce di latte for gelato — go after Cal Pep (in Gothic Quarter)

El Cangrejo Loco was walkable from Hotel Arts and offers some of the best seafood paella in the city (make a reservation)


UltimateMama and her family ventured to Newport, Rhode Island for some rest and relaxation this summer.  Although we had a short time to tour the city we made the most of it and had an amazing few days!

A few tips for a family friendly trip to Newport:

-Stay at Gurney’s Newport Resort and Marina on Goat Island.  Although you will want to take advantage of their shuttle service to enjoy the shops and restaurants in downtown Newport unless you want to drive and park.

-Have dinner at Scarpetta restaurant at Gurney’s. Great Italian food for all.

-Have some chowder at The Black Pearl on Bannister’s Wharf.  Best chowder ever!

-Try to finish an Awful Awful ice cream drink at Newport Creamery.

-Visit the International Tennis Hall of Fame. See the fun grass court.

-Hit the fun arcade at Ryan’s Family Amusement.

-Make a few glass paperweights or ornaments at Thames Glass.  They can ship them to your residence!

-Do the Cliff Walk to see beautiful mansions and walk the 40 Steps.  A must for all visitors to Newport.

Have a restful trip!


People often raise eyebrows upon hearing of UltimateMama’s trip to Amsterdam with the kids which is silly!  Amsterdam is chock full of culture with plenty of fun filled activities to keep the kids engaged!

A few tips:

– Stay at the Marriott Hotel Amsterdam City Center and if there is an online deal then book the breakfast buffet which is a great way to start off the day.  The hotel is situated in a nice setting and offers a 5 minute walk to the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum

– Visit the Van Gogh Museum (buy tickets online in advance) and get the kids guide upon arrival/really engaging

– Visit the Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” (also buy tickets online)

– Buy online timed tickets for the Anne Frank House (if you do not buy tickets in advance the lines are super duper long)

– Eat at a pancake house

– Head to the Amsterdam Flower Market and pick up some great gifts from Holland (slippers that looked like clogs were a favorite)

– Let your kids explore the treehouse in Vondelpark

– Spend a few hours at the NEMO Science Museum (indoors and outside)

– Climb around the “I Amsterdam” letters


UltimateMama’s big tip for those traveling to Paris with children is to be organized and book museum tickets in advance.  Most museums have websites that enable consumers to buy tickets online — sometimes one must specify a day or time of entrance.

A few fun things to do with kids in Paris include:

– A visit to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa and many other wonderful, priceless pieces

– Lunch at Pizza Vesuvio on the Champs Elysees which is yummy and central

– Shop for casual clothing for daddy at Celio

– Grab some macarons at Laduree (yes, New Yorkers you can get them on the Upper East Side too)

– Go to the merry-go-round at the Eiffel Tower

– Buy your family tickets for the Big Bus Tour Paris so you can hop on and hop off to see all major attractions (online tickets are usually cheaper) including the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Louvre, and more