Share an Out of Gravity Experience with Your Kids.

This summer the Science Museum of Minnesota is showcasing an awesome and most enlightening exhibition about space travel, space living and space in relationship to our future.  It’s a WOW! in Earth terms.

Gigantic Spaceman Science Museum of Minnesota

A gigantic spaceman beckons earthlings to Space: An Out of Gravity Experience at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul.

The Minnesota Science Museum has always been on my list of must see museums but until last week I had never stepped inside. Six hours later with two snack breaks, much needed to quell mind overload, I know one visit is not enough. The place is amazing at every turn.

Space: An Out-of-Gravity Experience is one reason to make plans to be in St. Paul with your kids. It is an eye opener. A gargantuan spaceman guards the entrance hall of the Museum beckoning earthlings to get in line to see really cool stuff about the future of travel in space. The presence of the three-story giant is exciting no matter what your age and from the third floor landing it’s possible to see your own surreal reflection in the spaceman’s mask.

Science at Museum of Minnesota space station playhouse.

Science Museum of Minnesota space station playhouse for miniature astronauts attracts kids of all ages to engage in imaginative travel with a mission.

Space poses the question, what does the future hold for earthlings and space travel? It does not cover historic moments or status quo thinking but instead focuses on possibilities. I was enthralled at every turn. The experience begins with a well-scripted cinematic introduction which describes in easy to understand terms the huge challenges facing future explorers and shows how preparations are being made to solve the situations.

Every means of engaging visitors is used to convey concepts which are still on the edges of comprehension for most of us. Interactive stations simulate robotic tasks and consoles allow users to engage in mission planning simulating tasks essential to survival in outer space. Stacking blocks is not as easy as it seems when the task must be completed using a robotic arm. It’s possible to board a life-sized rotating space pod simulating the International Space Station, slightly dizzying but intriguing.

If you are anywhere near St. Paul Minnesota, this is the summer to have an  out of gravity experience with your kids and while you are there sample the gelato for an out of this world taste treat.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.

Vacation with Doughnuts and Share a New Age Taste Experience.

Every year for the last seven decades National Doughnut Day has been celebrated on the first Friday in June. This year is no exception. June 5 will be celebrated by doughnut lovers everywhere. Given the dramatic, inventive, creative happenings in the craft doughnut world paying homage on only one day a year doesn’t seem like enough.

You deserve a donut in Tampa.

Nicola’s Donut Shop in Tampa makes decadent donuts for dessert.

Therefore I am suggesting that family vacations include at least one doughnut day along with a bookstore visit of course. Just for the record I am not a habitual donut eater mostly because I ate way too many Krispy Crème Donuts when I was at university. But times have changed and five-star urban eating experiences often include doughnuts or donuts if you prefer.

In the last year I have visited several remarkable establishments and sampled outrageous doughnuts. While cake or raised, powdered or glazed is still the starting point, doughnut makers (many of them chefs) are creating flavorful often decadent options. New age choices include bacon and pineapple, gingerbread and caramel, sea salt and cardamom to some baked with artisan chocolates, and doughnuts topped with Oreos, Peebles, or Gummy Bears. Much like in an ice cream store the choosing may take some time. Add to the mix tasty gluten free and vegan choices and there is really no excuse not to celebrate any time especially on vacation.

Beiler’s Bakery Nutella ‘n Crème Doughnuts

Beiler’s Bakery in Reading Terminal Market serves Nutella ‘n Crème doughnuts. No more explanation is needed.

I am impressed with the amount of creative effort focusing on doughnuts. I am not describing all of my favorite selections but I am providing a nudge by naming a few of the very best doughnut spots in the country and thus reason to add a doughnut experience vacation plans.

Beiler’s Hand Rolled Doughnuts in Philadelphia – Vanilla glazed donuts topped with M&M’s or Gummy Bears.

Firecakes in Chicago – Maple-glazed doughnuts with pineapple & bacon.

Hypnotic Donuts in Dallas – The first “Evil Elvis” yeast donut with peanut butter, bacon, banana and honey.

A Baker’s Wife Pastry Shop in Minneapolis – Delightful classic cake doughnuts and exceptionally good American tea cakes.

Revolution Doughnuts & Coffee in Atlanta – Salted caramel doughnuts topped with bits of charcuterie bacon.

Donut Bar in San Diego – Home of the famous “Big Poppa Tart” donuts and  made-to-order cinnamon French toast donuts with custard.

Nicola’s Donuts in Tampa – Rocky Road, Brownie Brittle or decadent PB&J donuts for dessert.

National Doughnut Day hoices

National Doughnut Day is all about personal choice.

YUM YUM Donuts in Playa del Rey.  Topping off the baker’s half dozen, cinnamon crumb donut holes and freshly squeezed orange juice.

You deserve a doughnut any day but let’s celebrate National Doughnut Day this Friday for the fun of it. Make mine lavender glazed with sea salt.

In the meantime if you have your own favorite doughnut (donut) shop or have discovered an outrageous new age flavor, please let me know.

Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.

Coolest Campgrounds for Families – No Tents Needed.

Camping vacations still offer contact with Mother Nature but no longer require sleeping on the ground to ensure the camping experience is real. The coolest campgrounds deliver extra vacation punch either with spunky family activities or unique accommodations. It is possible to stay in a hobbit house, sleep in teepee (tipi), snooze in a covered wagon, dream in a treehouse or snuggle with your kids a railway caboose. How cool, right?

Yogi Bear Hug at Jellystone Camping Resorts

Jellystone Camping Resorts are located in some of the coolest family vacation spots and Yogi adds extra fun to everyday.


Coolest campgrounds offer the potential for unique family camping experiences and effortless fun.  Gone are the days when family camping meant a cozy tent, a collection of slightly damp sleeping bags, soggy matches and a lantern. New age family camping includes extra cool sleeping spots and plenty of unique vacation activities to share with your kids.

From teepees (tipis) and treehouses to rail cars and bunkhouses the coolest campgrounds offer families green space, unique sleeping options, and earth-friendly ways have fun with your kids.

Abrams Creek Teepee

Abrams Creek Campground in West Virginia offers teepees for the perfect family camp out.

Just as no two families are the same, no two family camping vacations will ever be the same. My list of the coolest spots favorites features variety.

  1. Maple Tree Campground in Maryland – Sleep in a hobbit house for your family and hike Appalachian Trail.
  2. Abominable Snow Mansion near Taos, New Mexico – Snuggle in a summer teepee and trek with a llama.
  3. Country Woods Inn near Glen Rose, Texas – Reserve your own Santa Fe rail car and walk where dinosaurs roamed.
  4. Rancho Oso Camping Resort near Santa Barbara, California – Snooze in a covered wagon and enjoy daily trail rides.
  5. Bruneau Dunes State Park and Observatory near Mountain Home, Idaho – Rent a frontier log cabin and stargaze with astronomers.

And for more summer family camping vacation ideas view the Camp Out folder from the homepage of

Just add the s’mores.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff


Family Vacation Camps Will Add Extra Fun to Summer with Your Kids.

No two family camp locations are the same but all guarantee family fun so expect plenty of outdoor shared activities during the daytime, with sing-a-longs and campfires at night.

Chief Ouray Family Camp

Family summer camp – fun for all!

The best family vacation camps, sometimes dubbed “multigenerational camps”, offer simple lodgings with meals included and dozens of terrific activities meant to be shared with other families at camp. In fact in many cases traditional kids’ summer camp locations designate “family camp” weeks. Family camp locations vary including lodges, hotel rooms, cottages, cabins, and sometimes tent cabins with no electricity. Some provide private baths while others offer shared bathhouses. Continue reading

Earth-Friendly Family Vacations The Greener, The Better.

Mammoth Cave National Park Family Adventure

Mammoth Cave National Park Family Adventure

Not all green family vacation ideas include a tent or sleeping on the ground, some offer luxury while others include social responsibility but all show a respect for the planet. There are many shades of green giving parents or grandparents choices. Just how green do you want your next family vacation time to be? Continue reading

WOW! Factor Family Adventure Vacations Naturally Loaded with Fun, Energy & Memory Making Value.

Whitewater rafting @ ACE Adventure Resort near Oak Hill in Southern West VirginiaFor active families summer family vacation time is precious and it is pointless to spend a minute or a dime on predictable and boring activities in vacation places without a natural WOW! Factor.

Here’s the scoop. Vacations with a natural WOW! Factor deliver not-to-be-missed moments and one-of-a-kind thrills often seen on the Discovery Channel. Things like surfing a river rapid; hearing the roar of the incoming tide; watching a geyser explode; creating echoes from a mountaintop. I know of dozens of amazing family vacation ideas guaranteed to amaze, thrill, and yield unique family vacation memories. My list includes places where Mother Nature will impress even the most jaded adults and generate a WOW! from the kids. I am sharing a few examples on a short list below. For more ideas browse our Family Adventures lifestyle folder and see just exactly who delivers adventures with a natural WOW! Factor? Continue reading

Corn mazes, apple cider, and smiles a mile wide.

This blog entry’s intro comes to us courtesy of my eldest daughter:

When I look back on my childhood, some of my most vivid memories are of attending fall festivals and events with my family. I can still remember the edge of frost in the air, the tang of the hot apple cider, and running breathlessly through a seemingly endless corn maze. There’s something magical about Fall – when the leaves change, seemingly overnight, to a symphony of fire tones, before drifting down to coat the ground like a magic carpet.

Few things capture the magic of the season like fall festivals. You can find them across the country – in numerous small towns, and family owned farms. They’re a slice of American life, truly as American as apple pie (yes, even in Canada!). No where else can you find that certain delightful combination of corn mazes, apple treats, pumpkins and Halloween festivities that you do in North America.

So this year, take your kids along and make your own wonderful fall memories.

Make it Happen: 

Because hectic schedules sustain the daily rhythm of most households mini breaks make a world of difference and we know that pint-sized fun is better than no fun at all.

Whether it’s a  day trip or a weekend escape, enjoying time together and making family memories matters. Fun, quick, and easy is the magic phrase for families. A special thanks to those who took time to “Tell Mom” labout the best corn maze or fall festival  because we have included those suggestions on the list for this year.

Check out our best-rated fall festivals and corn mazes from all over the USA here.

We are thrilled with the feedback from Canadians who love their corn mazes and pumpkin patches and took time to “Tell Mom” where to find the best. Find out what they recommended by check out the roundup here!