Friday, May 27, 2011

A bit of Indy in St. Pete

Indianapolis rolls out the "checkered" carpet to more than 250,000 race fans at the Indy 500 this weekend. (To read a little bit about what's new this year for the 100th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, see my post at the Indiana Insider.)

My family got to see how St. Pete welcomes its own race fans when we visited just a few weeks before the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The arrow got up close and personal with an IndyCar. Probably won't be his last encounter, given that he's growing up in Indy.

And we got to see what the road course looks like there, as it winds its way through the streets of the city. A little different experience than the gigantic Indianapolis Motor Speedway (the largest spectator sporting facility in the world). More photos from our walk around downtown St. Pete are available here.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend! Thanks to all the soldiers who keep us safe, day after day, so that we may travel, experience new things and enjoy our many freedoms.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby. Next week, I'll share some photos from last week's exciting Fast Friday practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Boston for the 4th of July

A few weeks ago, I asked for your vote to help send my family to Boston over the July 4 holiday as part of HomeAway's Blog Away contest. Boy oh boy, did you deliver! (A special shout-out to my friends and family, who were absolutely shameless in their efforts to "get out the vote." The 2012 presidential hopefuls could learn a thing or two from them.) I'm happy to report that we won the contest, our flights are booked and our HomeAway house is rented. I say "we" because while I can't pack all of you in my suitcase (darn baggage fees!), I do plan to report back on all our fun adventures and maybe help to prepare you for your next trip to Boston. Because truly, it's just one of those cities you HAVE to visit. More than once.

Want a sneak peak at where we'll be staying? I've used HomeAway several times to book vacation rentals (long before they were sending me on trips!). We've always had a great experience and I'm sure this will be the same.

Ever since my sister and I were the Grand Marshals of our neighborhood 4th of July parade at the age of 5, this has always been my favorite holiday. I'm ecstatic to be visiting one of America's most patriotic cities over the 4th this year. If you read my essay, then you know that the last time my husband and I visited, the arrow was with us, although let's just say he was as contained as he could possibly be. I have a feeling this will be a 4th of July to remember for a long, long time as we experience Boston's Harborfest, culminating with fireworks set off from the Charles River in the heart of the city.

That's what I'm dreaming of this week. I'm eternally grateful for all your votes that made this trip possible for our family. And many, many thanks to HomeAway for offering such a great contest to travel bloggers. I highly recommend entering their next contest--and I promise to pay it forward and vote for you!

In the meantime, have you been to Boston with kids? Any suggestions as I begin planning our trip?

This post is a part of Mondays are for Dreaming at The Mother of All Trips.

Disclosure: HomeAway is paying $2,000 of our travel expenses. For us, this means they'll cover all of our lodging costs and a portion of our flight costs. We will pay all other expenses. All opinions expressed about the trip, the contest and HomeAway are entirely my own and I was not asked to express a particular point of view. I am required to post a few entries on my blog about our trip, but if you spend any time around these parts, you know I would do that anyway.

Photo courtesy of Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Riding the TECO Streetcars in Tampa

The only reason I knew that a trolley car system in Tampa existed prior to our trip was because I was being a cheapskate and devising ways to avoid the $6 parking fee at the Florida Aquarium. (We still ended up parking at the aquarium.) After chasing the arrow for a couple of hours there, we were hungry for lunch and wanted to head to Ybor City (where we ate at the awesome Bricks of Ybor). Instead of navigating the streets of Tampa ourselves, we let a trolley conductor do the work for us.

Turns out, it was a relaxing way to entertain the arrow. The driver even let him toot the horn. The car itself was gorgeous--beautiful, gleaming wood and very clean.

One of the best aspects of traveling with kids--introducing them to things that can't be experienced at home. And watching them smile.

Read a complete synopsis of our trip to Tampa/St. Pete.

If You Visit
TECO Line Street Car System
Station map available here. There are stations at many of Tampa's most popular attractions.
Cost is $2.50 for a one-way adult ticket, but there are various price options depending on your travel plans.
Insider Tip: The trolley car is spacious enough to stow your stroller folded up, which makes this street car a great mode of transportation when seeing the sights in Tampa with a toddler.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.

Friday, May 6, 2011

An evening at John's Pass

I have found that one of the more challenging aspects of traveling with a small child is figuring out how to fill the evening hours. For me, it's pretty simple to plan an outing or two for most of the morning and mid-day, retreat back to our lodging of choice for naptime, and then head to dinner. But what to do post-dinner?

So many constraints in the evening: not enough time before the witching hour hits to do anything "big," the fear that the pre-bedtime crankiness will strike early, and the fact that many kid-friendly attractions close around dinner anyway. But I hate to waste a few precious hours of vacation, and particularly if you're confined to a hotel room with a toddler, hanging in the room can be rather unpleasant, also.

I really enjoyed one of our evenings during our February trip to St. Petersburg, Florida. On our way back to our condo from dinner, we saw a busy parking area and lots of bright lights. So we pulled in and strolled around. John's Pass is an old fishing village that has been converted to a boardwalk/shopping area just minutes from both St. Pete and Clearwater.

It's really nothing fancy and very touristy, with plenty of Florida kitsch (think air-brushed t-shirts and seashell jewelry), but the arrow was happy to relax in the stroller while we wandered around and ate ice cream. All the makings of a fun nighttime stroll.

We even stumbled upon a fish cleaning lesson which was interesting, although smelly, to watch.

Just one of the many wonderful memories we made on this trip.

If You Visit:
John's Pass
150 Johns Pass Boardwalk W.
Madeira Beach, FL
Open daily. If you visit during the daytime, I'd research some of the boat trip options in advance. There were all kinds of interesting choices, from pirate ships to duck boats.
Insider Tip: It does get quite crowded, so I was glad we didn't choose to eat dinner here (long waits and toddlers don't mix). Also, parking can be a little steep if you don't snag one of the free street spots.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.

Monday, May 2, 2011

May in Indy

It's officially May in Indianapolis. Perhaps one of my favorite times of the year. While the hoopla and excitement surrounding the Indy 500 has tapered off in the last decade or so, there is still so much fun to be had around here throughout the month.

We'll kick things off this weekend with a morning at the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. It's the largest mini-marathon in the U.S. with 35,000 runners and walkers. We'll be cheering on several friends and family, a few of which are participating for the first time. We can't wait to see them cross the finish line. If you're planning to attend the race, check out my tips for fans at the Indiana Insider.

The next few weekends, the activity will center around the track itself as the car tries to qualify for a spot in the big event. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a great place to visit if you're ever passing through town. Even if you're not a race fan, you'll be fascinated by the history of this place. We're excited for the arrow to get a little older to take in qualifying festivities. I remember sitting in the stands as a little girl with my dad and a stopwatch, as he taught me how to time the laps to see which driver was fastest.

So while the cars are too loud for his 2-year-old ears, I have hopes of bringing the arrow to the parade this year. It runs through downtown Indianapolis the day prior to the race, and all the drivers participate, along with colorful floats and bands. I've never been to this big parade and it's been on my list of things to do for a while now.

I don't have plans to attend the actual race this year, although I've been a handful of times. I'm sure my husband will go, but I think instead I'll listen to it on the radio and spend the day at my parent's pool (oh hey Mom, I'm inviting myself over!). The race is actually not shown on television locally, so listening to it on the radio has long been a family tradition. We usually draw drivers' names out of a hat and cheer on our chosen racers.

So it's Indy in May... can't beat it. If you don't get goosebumps when Jim Nabors belts out "Back Home Again in Indiana," then you're just not a Hoosier. Since the arrow is too young for the noise of the race cars, if you'd like one family's take on experiencing the Indy 500, check out 500 Places with Kids, a blog about experiencing Frommer's 500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up. Anne wrote about the pre-race festivities and the race itself.

This post is a part of Mondays are for Dreaming at the Mother of All Trips.