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Family Friday: Villa Rentals by Kid & Coe

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Navigating the world of villa rentals is a dicey proposition. What looks incredible online (spacious rooms, gorgeous pool, state-of-the-art kitchen) often ends up being in one word—a dump. Case in point: a couple of years ago, my husband rented a house in Costa Rica and arrived to discover the place had no roof. While I have no problem camping out under the stars, it’s a different story when the kids are with me. A new villa rental company launching in October, Kid & Coe, aims to assure families that you won’t reach your dream house to discover a 50-foot cliff drop off the pool. Launched by Zoie Coe, wife of DJ Sasha, from Sasha & Digweed, the company has properties in Europe and the US, as well as a few prime vacation destinations like Sayulita, Mexico and Transcoso, Brazil. All houses are approved by the Kid & Coe team, often by Coe herself who is constantly on the road with her little ones. Stylish, functional, and safe digs are guaranteed.

Clara Sedlak is a mother of two and Special Projects Editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Kid & Coe

Family Friday: Italy Offers Free Museum Entry for Kids

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Having just got back from a family trip to Tuscany, Italy, I am deliriously in love with all things Italian–the food, the coffee, and most of all, the achingly beautiful architecture and art. So when I read that the country just called for free entry to all national museums and historical sites for kids under age 18, it made me want to pack up the twins and do the trip all over again. We didn't reap the benefits of the new law when we were there, and at often 15 euro a ticket, sightseeing became a costly venture. Now the Uffizi, Pitti Palace, the Medici museums, and hundreds of others are all gratis (see a full listing here). Who was it who said Italians do it better?

Clara Sedlak is a mother of two and Special Projects Editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credit: Caro / Alamy

Family Friday: Dallas Adventure Garden

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Why do kids get to have all the fun?  The Rory Meyers Adventure Garden is set to open in Dallas at the end of September—and it might just be the coolest interactive play space I’ve ever seen. Spread out over 8 acres, the park is a massive science learning center with 17 outdoor and indoor galleries, each themed around a particular subject. Some highlights: exploring wetlands, walking on boardwalks through grass tunnels, and hiking under a rushing waterfall. Oh, and almost everything is giant-sized, from the flowers and trees to the rabbits, spiders, and butterflies.

Clara O. Sedlak is a mother of two and Special Projects Editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo Courtesy of Dallas Arboretum

Family Friday: Paris for Petite Artistes

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“Excusez-moi Maman, pain au chocolat s’il vous plaît?” Even 3 year olds can fall in love with Paris. But taking our twin boys with us always seemed a bit daunting. Now, a new kids-program on the other side of the pond is offering to transform our enfants terribles into mini-artistes.

Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris has launched an incredible new kids program Le Petit Royal(I’m tempted to sign up myself!). At its center are workshops run by professional artists who teach kids all about art and French style—and each one is linked to a major cultural event in the city.

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Message in a Bottle Lands Irish Family a Trip to Quebec

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In a day and age where we’re constantly hounding websites, iPhone apps, and Twitter feeds for the best travel deals, it’s nice to know that serendipity still plays a role.

Eight years ago, two Québec girls threw a message in a bottle into Montréal’s St. Lawrence River, uncertain if their letter would ever be answered.

Fast-forward to 2013, and the same bottle has made it across the Atlantic Ocean and into the hands of ten-year-old Oisín Millea from County Waterford, Ireland. His spontaneous discovery (which he suitably deemed as ‘treasure’) stirred the hearts of Tourisme Québec minister Pascal Bérubé, who then invited Oisín and his family to the province for a 12-day visit, gratis. Besides meeting up with the two girls (now young women) to celebrate the bottle’s long-awaited arrival, the family trip will include visits to Montréal, Québec City, the Irish Memorial park on Grosse Ile, sleeping in a yurt, and whale watching on the St. Lawrence River.

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"Sharknado" Who? Baltimore's National Aquarium Wows with $12.5 Million Shark Exhibit

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Baltimore has a new fish in town. Twenty blacktip reef sharks will be setting up residence at the National Aquarium by early August.

The 260,000-gallon enclosure (which opened last week) contains the newly-designed Blacktip Reef exhibit, which sustains a delicate coral reef ecosystem reflective of the real deal in the Indo-Pacific environment. Visitors can observe the marine life through a 27-foot window that curves out into the exhibit—providing a 160-degree panoramic underwater view that would even impress Jacque Cousteau. “It’s a heck-of-a room with a view,” says Jack Cover, general curator at the National Aquarium. “The custom-made acrylic panel is clearer than glass. It’s the closest thing to snorkeling off the Fiji islands.”

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This Summer's Hot UK Souvenir: Royal Baby Swag

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Last summer, some of the most omnipresent souvenirs found around London featured the faces of Wenlock and Mandeville, the much-maligned, one-eyed mascots from the 2012 Olympics.

This summer, experts are predicting that the image of a more agreeable tyke will draw tourist dollars: the baby expected in July by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and her royal baby daddy, Prince William.

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Family Friday: Brooklyn's NU Hotel Partners With Stork Kids Boutique

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I'm headed to Italy next week with my kids, and it's a packing nightmare: stroller, diaper bag, highchairs, a book about trucks, and a couple trucks to hold while reading the book about trucks. So when a hotel understands your plight, you are grateful--very, very grateful. Take the NU Hotel, in Brooklyn. The property has just partnered with cute kids boutique Stork so guests can borrow cribs, tubs, outlet covers, highchairs, step stools, scooters, bikes, helmets. The list goes on. If only our hotel in Italy would do the same. 

Clara O. Sedlak is a mother of two and special projects editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Stork

 

Family Friday: Road Trip Rentals

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My dream vacation this summer? A road trip across the US Griswold-style, but in place of an overstuffed station wagon, I'd be behind the wheel of a tricked-out RV with Miles and Sebastian napping in the back as my husband attends to our dinner. So I was pretty excited to discover Airstream to Go, a new travel rental company with a small fleet of super stylish trailers (think aluminum-clad interiors; leather couches; plush beds). The best part: experienced trip planners are at the ready to help design your ideal itinerary, whether it's a journey along the Pacific Coast or a Southwestern adventure. And there's no fear of being stranded in the middle of the desert—Airstream to Go promises roadside assistance in case of flat tires or cranky kids. 

Clara O. Sedlak is a mother of two and special projects editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Airstream

Hey, Kids—Lets Go to Moe’s Tavern This Summer!

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Coming soon to Universal Orlando: long lines of middle-aged guys waiting to get their pictures taken with Krusty the Clown and Sideshow Bob.

The Orlando theme park recently announced that it will expand the area around the simulator-style Simpsons Ride to embody all that is magical about the Springfield hometown of Bart, Homer, Marge, Lisa and Maggie. According to its release, the new Springfield area of the park will open this summer and include one new ride—the hopefully-not-too-aptly-named Twirl ’n’ Hurl—as well as a line-up of Simpsons-inspired food and beverages that would make any would-be Homer swoon, such as "Krusty-certified meat" at Krusty Burger, a "Taco Fresho" with Bumblebee Man, and an array of donuts (“is there anything they can not do?”) at Lard Lad.

As proof that theme parks have become as much for grown-up kids as actual kids, Springfield will also feature a Moe’s Tavern and Duff Beer, “brewed exclusively for Universal Orlando,” according to the release. And hey, for any parent who has waited hours so their child could get an autograph from a giant mouse or princess, a cold beer with a donut may sound like a family vacation dream come true.

Photo credit: 2013 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved.

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