Candytopia in Philadelphia – A Visit with Kids & All the Sweet Fun There Is!

If you haven’t already heard…Candytopia opened this past weekend in Philadelphia. I wanted to pop on today to share with you my candy-covered experience there. Graham and I were invited to preview the event the day before it opened, which was really cool to be a part of – Brooks was invited as well, but sadly he has school every day now – he was so bummed he missed it, but don’t worry, I brought him home a special treat.

What is Candytopia?

Candytopia is an outrageously interactive candy wonderland that transports guests to an imaginative confectionary world with one-of-a-kind full sensory experiences—you can expect larger-than-life installations inspired by pure, sugary bliss throughout Candytopia’s dozen unique rooms, along with candy samples and lots of fun surprises.

Something all your senses will enjoy, especially if you’ve got a sweet tooth {like me!}

Each room – there are 14+ rooms – has a different theme or experience that is candy based. There are TONS of photo ops and interactive ways to enjoy the show and inside each room there is a different treat.

There was SO MUCH for the kids to enjoy – but I have to admit, I think Graham was sort of overwhelmed by it all {also possibly on a sugar high} and we zipped through a lot of the rooms really quick. We also went at a time when – since it was pre-show opening – we had the place to ourselves – so he could run around and enjoy everything quickly, but then wanted to move on to the next candy coated room experience.

I was LIVING for all the fun photo ops.

Seriously, this was so much better having the place to ourselves for pictures alone! So yes, I’d highly recommend checking out a non-busy time to visit for fun pics.

Aside from all the fun exhibits for the kids – a play house, slides, bubbles, jungle gym {inside a jungle} and so much more – there was lots for the adults to appreciate and enjoy as well.

Art installations everywhere – and all COMPLETELY made out of candy. I didn’t take as many pictures of this sort of stuff as I would have liked {I blame chasing around Graham and his sugar high} but it was very impressive.

And there were so many Philadelphia specific art projects – Fresh Prince, the LOVE statue, Rocky and more. I assume with each location {also in Houston and Phoenix and NYC} the project is catered a bit to the locale, which we totally love here in Philly.

Back to – Treasure trunks of candy around every corner – and we found them all.

And a not so little see saw that even the mamas can enjoy ! Sugar highs all around.

My favorite part of it all?!

Hands down the marshmallow pit. It’s filled with 300,000 mallows!

Yes, its totally for kids, but adults can 100% appreciate its awesomeness as well. I posted a slow-mo video on the ‘gram – because a slow motion marshmallow pit experience is the only kind to have.

I was living my best life.

I’d love to know your thoughts on Candytopia – Is it something you would be into? Something your kiddos would enjoy?!

Let me know what you think – it’s in town now through January 5th – so if you make your way down to this sweet part of town, I’d love to hear about your sweet adventure!

Best of Sarasota, Florida With Kids – Favorite Playground, Best Breweries, Adventure Course, A Day at Sarasota Yacht Club, Big Cat Habitat, Mini Donuts, Siesta Key and More!

After sharing our favorites of our recent visit to Disney Springs and all about our day at Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure I have to go back to the beginning of our trip. Before all our fun in the Orlando/Disney area, we spent a week in Sarasota with a good friend and her kiddo.

We’ve come to Sarasota together a few times over the years for little getaways here and there. It’s always such a treat and such a great place to go. Since it’s always so fast paced and so much is going on with the kids, I feel like I’ve never really been able to blog about our favorite places to go while we are there, and it’s such a great place to be with kids! So here is my round up from our latest trip of the best places we got to go!

First up – a little tip for the airplane ride, especially if you’ve got kids. Book the direct flight #becausekids – and Second of all, since we were going away for almost 2 weeks, I had the boys be in charge of packing their backpacks full of their entertainment while we were away. These rolling backpacks {similar} are so great for travel to give the kiddos some independence of their stuff. Highly recommend.

Now back to Sarasota!

Favorite Playground: Payne Park

So Sarasota is apparently the birthplace of the circus – because the Ringling Brothers had their headquarters here back in the day. So there are tons of circus themed places around the city. This park is one of them – but its massive, seriously huge, contained {#momwin} and a great spot for the kids to play. We’ve come here every visit – its fabulous.

Best Pub with Waterside Dining: Woody’s River Roo

We sort of stumbled upon this place by accident on our way from the airport to Sarasota, but it was a great place to stop for lunch with fun views and live music depending on when you visit.

Favorite Brewery: Calusa Brewing

We were able to hit up a bunch of different breweries during our time in Sarasota. I love trying local brews and they ALWAYS have different fun spot for the kids to enjoy while parents relax. Calusa brewing was my favorite spot + vibe.

Honorable Mention Breweries: Big Top Brewing + JDUBS

Both of these places had AMAZING outdoor kid fun for the littles. Brooks actually requested to go back to JDUBS a few times on the trip because he loved the outdoor spot. Good beer here too for sure!

Best Outdoor Activity: Tree Umph! Adventure Course

Brooks is becoming quite a little ropes course lover, so I try to find new ones whenever we travel. I love encouraging him to push himself, try new things and {literally} go out on a limb. It always impresses me how quickly and easily he takes to this, so I want to continue it when I can.

This course was BEAUTIFUL. A perfect spot in the forest, very natural and challenging. Brooks had a fabulous time. I can’t wait until Graham is tall enough to join him on these adventures!

Best Getaway: Sarasota Yacht Club

I’m not sure how much I need to explain about this. Pretty sure the picture is worth a million words of relaxing, unwinding, vacation vibes. We were lucky enough to be able to spend some time here and had the entire pool to ourselves, which was incredible.

Seriously, this day was BEYOND.

If you can get yourself here, GET YOURSELF HERE.

And get the fish tacos, they were insane.

Best SPLASH: Sarasota RV Resort

One day we are at a Yacht club, the next we are at a RV park – it’s all about balance people! There was a local even that invited us to check out the RV Resort and we had been driving by the pool all week – looked awesome and they boys were pumped to check it out. Great water slides, great splash pad, food and drinks for kids and adults – basically an incredible place to spend a day!

Best {Mini} Donuts: Meaney’s Mini Donuts

Donuts on a stick, with rainbow sprinkles?!

I’m in.

Best Animal Encounter: Big Cat Habitat

I could do an entire blog post on this place, it was SO GOOD. They rescue and rehabilitate exotic animals in need of a home. They work to educate the public about animal care and conservation – and they do a fantastic job. I was blown away by everything here and really suggest anyone in the area to go.

We saw lions, tiger, bears and LIGERS {oh my} – Graham touched an alligator {NOPE, not me}, we pet baby goats {and they literally ate my shorts} – saw a reptile show & wild animal encounter and had a ton of fun. It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Best Food Truck: Mobstah Lobstah

I had the crab cake sliders and the tater tots  w/ chipotle chili aioli and OMGGGGG. It was incredible.

Best Day Trip: Siesta Key

It’s got a reputation as one of America’s Best Beaches and it’s not lying! This place is BEAUTIFUL – and not far from Sarasota. It was so easy to drive over here to spend a day at the beach. I mean this sugar-fine, quartz-white sand and beyond gorgeous water is insane. I want to come back here and spend a week!

So that is a quick round up of some of the fun we had while in Sarasota. There is so much to do and it really is a great area to come and vacation with kids. We had another incredible visit and hope we can come back again one day soon!

Now I’d love to know – Have you been to Sarasota? I’d love to hear your favorite places to go! Please share!

Why I think Disney Springs Is the BEST {and most affordable!} Disney Property to Stay At: Plus Our Favorites Places to Eat + Play

Piggybacking today on my previous post on Universal Studios + Islands of Adventure – today I wanted to share with you all the reasons why I think Disney Springs is the BEST {and most affordable!} Disney property to stay at!

We travelled to Disney for a few days in August and this was my second time {in the past year} staying in the Disney Springs section of the Disney property.

You can check out my first experience in this post: Adults Do Disney – Where We Stayed, Disney Springs Favorites

During my first visit we stayed at the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace Disney Springs Area. It was beautiful and a 7 minute walk to downtown Disney {Disney Springs}. This time we stayed at the Wyndam Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs – a 5 minute walk to the Disney Springs area – we picked this hotel because we got an incredible rate and it had a pretty sweet pool area for the kiddos, see below.

That few minute walk is also awesome because right at the front of the Disney Springs property is the bus depot which is where all of the Disney Springs busses come to and from various properties and hotels all day long. So you can walk over there and then quickly have access to anywhere in Disney, which I think is a great perk too!

The Disney Springs properties are my favorite because if you have points or a favorite hotel brand, there are lots to choose from. They are all Disney properties within the Disney Springs resort area – so they all have access to Extra Magic Hours, Character Breakfasts, busses/shuttles to and from the parks – which is awesome.

It’s also a great location for things OTHER than Disney – like a 10 minute ride to SeaWorld, 15 minutes to Universal/Islands of Adventure or a 45 minute drive to LEGOLand. We used Ubers/Lifts and it was so easy from the location of the hotels.

I just love this area because Disney Springs is where I always love to go to spend any and all downtime walking around the Disney Springs area. So many restaurants – most way better than the hotel dining options on properties – great shops, entertainment for the kids all around, plus it’s just nice to be out and about seeing the sights.

We have a few favorite places we ALWAYS go, because they are so fun for the kids and adults – everyone has a great time.

Our first stop: Raglan Road Irish Pub

The food here is always super yummy and you can’t beat the live music and Celtic dancers. They always put on a fantastic show, plus the beer selection is top notch. This is always one of our favorite places to hit up! They have great indoor and outdoor dining options too.

Next up – T-Rex Cafe.

It’s a fan favorite for the kiddos. They have great meal choices for the littles and you can’t beat the scene. It’s a little crazy with everything prehistoric going on, but the boys love the meteor shower show and when all the dinosaurs come to life. It’s fun, I must admit.

Their favorite reason to go to T-Rex cafe, aside from all.the.dinosaurs. would have to be the dig site. They would spend FOREVER here if I let them. It usually rains whenever we go, which is fine because this is totally covered, so its a great spot to hide from the rain, or crazy sun – depending on the season.

Next up – the LEGO Store.

Sure, we frequent LEGO stores at home and go to LEGOLAND in Philadelphia fairly regularly, but the boys LOVE the LEGO store in Disney Springs. So many fun Disney lego creations and they always have special builds going on in store, which is fun. Another great way to avoid any outside elements and enjoy a little free play!

Like I mentioned before, there are SO MANY great places to stop for sips and eats while you are walking around, shopping, enjoying everything Disney Springs. Most places have Happy Hour specials during specific times for great deals on food and drink, which is awesome. And all of them have outside seating which is perfect for people watching.

This beverage from the Polite Pig was delicious on a hot summer day.

Another perk that I quickly mentioned above, but wanted to share again is that most {if not all!} of the Disney Springs properties have character dining options. This wasn’t super high on my list of things to do with the boys this trip, but it ended up working perfectly in our schedule on our last day before heading to the airport and it was a super nice ending to our trip.

Bonus – Kids 3 and under were FREE – so Graham was zero dollars, which is amazing at Disney.

The boys met Goofy and Pluto and loved every minute of it. Both characters spent actual quality time with the boys, playing with them and their toys on the floor – which they really enjoyed and it was super sweet.

Another crazy bonus perk of staying at Disney Springs – you can request, or get lucky – with a room that faces Disney Springs and THEN you can see all the fireworks at various parks at night. We were able to see THREE different fireworks displays, which was super cool. So much better being able to see the fireworks from your hotel room with kiddos about the fall asleep from a busy day! It was a nice little addition to the room for sure!

So there you have it – a few reasons why I love the Disney Springs resort area in Walt Disney World. We didn’t even do any Disney Parks at our recent visit and still had such an incredible time at the hotel pool and Disney Springs itself!

If you are a Disney Springs lover like me, let me know your favorite place to stay, eat and play when you are there – I’d love to hear it!

Our Favorite Kid Rides, Shows and More: A Day at Universal Studios + Islands of Adventure, Orlando – with Kids ages 5 & Under – using the Park to Park Pass

When I was doing research for Universal Studios with kids, I had such a hard time finding blogs or reviews about how much there would be to do for the younger kiddos. Having a 5.5 and almost 4 year old traveling with me during our time in Orlando – we’ve been to Disney a few times and I wanted to change things up a bit. I thought Universal would be a great way to spend a day, personally having wanted to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for years now – but would there be enough for my two young sons to enjoy? Would it be worth the cost of the tickets?

I am SO GLAD I took the chance and spent a day here at Universal with my boys because it was insane how much there was to do for the younger ones – maybe even more than a day at a Disney Park, dare I say!

Since I was so blown away by all the fun, rides, entertainment and more for my kids 5 and under to enjoy, I wanted to put together a blog post to share just how much we did together in one day at Universal Studios AND Islands of Adventure in Orlando! I know so many friends and family are already planning Fall + Winter trips to the area, so throughout it would be fun to share!

So first things first – I sprung for the Park to Park ticket. This means we had access to Universal Studios AND Islands of Adventure {two separate parks, side by side} – the main reason for this was that getting this ticket is the ONLY WAY to ride the Hogwarts™ Express between Hogsmeade™ Station {at Islands of Adventure} and King’s Cross Station {at Universal} with a Park-to-Park Ticket. Without this ticket, you can’t ride the Hogwarts Express between the parks – its about $50 more to each ticket to access both parks in one day and to ride the train. We ended up riding it 4 times during our day here and the boys LOVED IT. It’s a different experience going from Hogsmead to Kings Cross and from Kings Cross to Hogsmead – so it was like two separate rides each time.

Aside from wanting to experience the Harry Potter Magic myself, I knew that since the boys wouldn’t be able to do all the rides {because of height restrictions} I wanted to be able to make the most of our day at the two parks and knew there was things on both sides that they would want to see, favorites including –

/ at Universal: Despicable Me, Transformers, Curious George

/ at Islands of Adventure: Spider Man, Jurassic Park, Seuss-world

Just a few things on each side that made me want to make the day a little crazy and do both parks in one day! In the end it was COMPLETELY worth it!

Let’s Start with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Because it’s my favorite part!

So there are two separate {and different} Harry Potter themed worlds in each of the parks – one at Universal and one at Islands of Adventure. Having never been to either of these two parks before, I was slightly confused about it all at first, but now I totally get it.

At Islands of Adventure – you get to experience Hogsmeade and my favorite – Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Even more beautiful in person. It’s breathtaking.

While we were here I enjoyed a Butterbeer {non-alcoholic – and sort of gross. Way to sweet for me, but I had to try one!}

The boys and I also got to ride Flight of the Hippogriff – which is a family friendly roller coaster right outside the castle. They LOVED it. It was great for all ages and a fun coaster ride for sure.

As mentioned above, the main reason for the Park to Park pass is to be able to ride the Hogwarts Express. This has two rides on each side, which we got to see each of them twice – one which takes Harry from London to Hogwarts for the first time and one where he is coming back from Hogwarts to London and You Know Who is on the loose! It was beautifully done and a great way to get out of the heat and go from park to park.

On the Universal side of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is London + Diagon Alley. Here you get to see Gringotts, The Knight Bus and everything else that comes alive in Diagon Alley.

Here I was lucky enough to be able to go on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts {which was incredible!} and we went to Olivander’s to see the wand selection process, which was just like the movie and really neat for kids!

So that’s just a taste of all the Harry Potter amazingness I got to experience. The boys were complete fans after everything too and ever since we’ve been home we’ve been reading the books and watching {the PG} movies together. It’s been so nice to bring back one of my favorite book series for my kiddos. And if you aren’t a HP fan, I’m sure most of what I just wrote made zero sense to you!

So, onward!

Next I want to break it down by park all the rides and shows we got to experience in the 12 hours we were there, because it was so much for the kiddos, I’m still impressed with it all!

At Universal Studios:

  • 1- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • 2 – Shrek 4-D
  • 3 – Transformers The Ride: 3-D
  • 4 – The Simpsons Ride
  • 5 – Kang & Kodos’ Twirl & Hurl
  • 6 – A Day in the Park with Barney
  • 7- Curious George Goes to Town
  • 8 – Fievel’s Playland
  • 9 – Universal Superstar Parade
  • 10 – Transformers Meet & Greet: Optimus Prime + Bumblebee
  • 11 – Nighttime Spectacular Show

Also adding Gringotts + Hogwarts Express to this list as previously mentioned!

At Islands of Adventure:

  • 1- Camp Jurassic
  • 2- Pteradon Flyers {which was incredible!!}
  • 3- Me Ship, The Olive
  • 4- Spider Man Meet & Greet
  • 5 – One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • 6 – High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Ride
  • 7- The Cat in the Hat
  • 8 – If I Ran A Zoo
  • 9 – Flight of the Hippogriff

So we ended up going to Universal / Islands of Adventure the week the Orlando schools went back in session, which is very close to back to school for most of the rest of the US. This ended up being timed completely by accident but made our visit to the parks even more amazing because we didn’t wait in any lines! It was incredible and made the day so much more enjoyable – so if you are looking for a great time to go, I would most definitely recommend the second week of August during the week!

I did not expect between the two parks for there to be so much for the younger kiddos to see, do and enjoy. I always assumed that Universal was for older kids and Disney was for the younger ones, but I swear the boys went on more rides and shows between Universal and IOA in one day than they ever did with a park hopper at Disney! And while we will always love Disney – being able to see Spider Man, Transformers, the minions, Spongebob and more was such a treat for them, because they are super into all of these characters at almost 4 and 5.5 years old.

So I was blown away with the ride options, but even more so, the massive play areas at each park – we LOVED spending time in A Day in the Park with Barney, Curious George Goes to Town and Fievel’s Playland {which was awesome because it had a super secret water slide!} These areas were large and contained and a great way for the kids to get some wiggles out – where I feel some other parks are lacking spots like this!

Seriously, how fun does Fievel’s Playland look in this photo?

We LOVED the Universal Superstar Parade and we all stayed up WAY past our bedtime for the nighttime spectacular water + fireworks show as well, which was beautifully done. I wish we had time to see the nighttime show on the Hogwarts Castle, but we couldn’t fit everything in with timing.

All of this post to say – we had an incredible time at BOTH parks and I’m so happy we took advantage of the Park to Park pass and were able to enjoy both sides and everything it has to offer. I was scared there wasn’t going to be enough for my boys to do and enjoy but I was so wrong about that and so pleasantly surprised with everything they were able to do!

If you have kiddos on the younger plus some older kids that want to try out some more thrilling rides, both parks have lots of those too! I’m so happy we carved out some time to try something new during this ‘Disney’ visit because I’m not sure when we will get the chance again and it was so worth it!

Thanks so much for following along this lengthy post, but I hope it helps if you are planning a Universal/IOA trip anytime soon! And if you’ve been before, I’d love to know your favorite ride – Please share!

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