2015 family travel trends: The road trip is back!

Family travel trends for 2015
The road trip is back: Gas prices are at record lows making road trips more affordable. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that the national average cost of gas could drop as low as $2.65 a gallon in July 2015 — a huge drop when you consider the average in July 2014 was $3.61 a gallon. Families will be mapping out trips that take them across multiple states to top American attractions. They'll be opting to drive to favorite destinations such as Disneyland and national prices because taking the car is more cost effective than buying plane tickets for two parents and several kids.

Historical spots are hot: From the Alamo to Gettysburg, families will be visiting top historical sites to expose their children to American history. Today's parents are always looking to enrich their children's lives and deepen their educations, even on vacations. Moms and dads will be putting together themed road-trips that string together history spots.

Kids are over fast-food chains: With American kids being drawn to TV cooking shows such as Masterchef Jr. and Chopped, young palates are becoming more adventuresome and wanting more than fast-food. Families are now seeking out local eateries, whether it's an old-school burger joint serving milk shakes and malts made with fresh berries to a crab shack specializing in fresh seafood.

Families want wi-fi: Moms, dads and their kids want to log onto their computers while on the road, whether to check in with friends over email or hop online to do some trip research.

Active travel keeps families fit: America is on a health kick. The soaring popularity of FitBit is a sign of this. Today's families are keeping active on the road, whether hiking through national parks or riding their bicycles along beach boardwalks.

Popular destinations for families in 2015
Alaska: Anchorage is celebrating its centennial and planning a host of events from special museum exhibits depicting the regions rich history to hikes showing off the spectacular scenery.

Houston: The first phase of a major new theme park called Grand Texas will be opening in summer 2015. A 40-acre water park, modeled off a 100year-old fishing village harkening back to the days when Texas life was centered on the river, is included in the first phase.

South Dakota: Set in the beautiful pine-clad Black Hills, Custer State Park is celebrating 100 years of its roundup when the ground rumbles and dust flies as cowboys and cowgirls round up thundering herds of bison. Nearby visit the Badlands, Mount Rushmore and Old West landmarks like Deadwood and Wounded Knww.

Miami Beach: This resort area offers a more relaxing, less gritty taste of Miami and this year the area's celebrating 100 years. Spend your days at the beach or take day trips to Parrot Jungle, Monkey Jungle, the Miami Seaquarium and the Everglades.

San Diego, Calif.: The city of San Diego hosted a huge party in 1915 honoring the completion of the Panama Canal. The city will mark the 100 year anniversary of the Panama-California Exposition with cultural events centered around Balboa Park As the largest cultural park in America, this 1,200 acre expanse is filled with open spaces, gardens, walking paths, several theaters and museums and the San Diego Zoo.

St. Augustine, Fl: America's first city is celebrating 450 years since Pedro Menéndez landed on its shores in 1565.

Greece: American children are fascinated with the Greek Gods. We can thank author Rick Riordian for that. This young adult author wrote the hugely popular Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, about the adventures of a young boy who is half Greek god, half human. These educational and engaging books delve tweens and teens into the world of the Greek Gods.

Iceland: This geological land of fire and ice offers families a magical outdoorsy vacation with more than 200 volcanoes, 600 hot springs and endless cool rivers and streams — set in a cool spot where the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans converge.

Morocco: Safe yet exotic, Morocco offers a taste of Africa with vibrant cities and majestic mountains. Families can spend a few days shopping the souks in Marrakech, then travel only an hour to the Atlas Mountains for a multi-day trek before heading to the seaside town of Essaouira where you can ride camels on the beach.

Nicaragua: Move over Costa Rica. This Central American hot spots has the same sugary beaches, exotic wild life and zip lines flying through the jungle at lower prices — plus there are fewer tourists.
Read More

What I want for Christmas: Stylish holiday gift guide for travelers

Tis the season to treat your favorite travelers to stylish gifts. Here are some inspired gift ideas for globe-trotters.

You'll be dreaming in French with these pillow cases.
Mod Cloth, $29.99

Tuck these shimmery silvery fold-up flats into your suitcase and you'll be prepared for a fancy night out. 
Rollasole, $19.99.

These globe cufflinks have been laser cut and engraved from 2mm-thick wood veneer and are hand finished onto metal cufflink fittings. Sarah Hurley, $29.03.

This personalized map is a fun way to track your travels. NotontheHighStreet.com, $66.88

For the past decade, The New York Times has has been offering up dream weekends with practical itineraries in its popular weekly “36 Hours” column for over a decade and now they've all been compiled into this book. Amazon, $30.

Why roll a boring black bag around the airport when you can be pulling one made with this fun print designed by Orla Kiely. 28 inches. Target, $179.99.

The Grid-It Med organization system is a unique weave of rubberized elastic bands made specifically to hold personal objects firmly in place. Flight 001, $24.

This Volkswagen Camper wash bag is kitschy and sized to scale. How groovy is that? This icon of mid-century road-travel is not only cool, but functional as well so you can bring it along wherever the road leads. What on Earth, $19.98.

Designed to beat the boredom suffered by traveling tots, Trunki is a hand-luggage sized ride-on suitcase. Children can pack Trunki full of their favourite toys, whilst parents keep them in tow! Trunki, $40.

These lightweight, compact travel tooth brush with retro graphics celebrating favorite destinations vibrate 22,000 brushstrokes per minute. Violight, $14.95.
The charming, skinny houses fronting the canals of Amsterdam are captured in this necklace by artist Sarah Lambert Cook. She also has designs depicting German Bavarian villages and if you asked she could probably draw other cities. Etsy, $50.
Read More

Thanksgiving 2014: A perfect time to hit the road

Getting on a plane and flying across the country to visit relatives can be a nightmare at Thanksgiving. Hollywood did an excellent job of conveying that in the film Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Why bother dealing with delayed, even cancelled, planes. What's more this year, Turkey Day travel is bound to be hectic with Ebola checks and another Polar Vortex potentially hitting the East Coast. This might be the year to stick around home and explore drivable destinations.

Here are five mini road trip ideas from major cities across the United States. The day after Thanksgiving, pack the kids in the car and explore your big backyard.

From Boston head south for Coastal New England: Seaside beaches, wide sandy beaches, and fishing harbors dot the coastline stretching along Massachusetts, Connecticut and Road Island, all easily reached from Bean Town. Check out the famous spot where the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Mass.; tour opulent mansions in New Port, R.I.; and take in the charm of Mystic, Conn., where a pizza restaurant inspired the beloved film Mystic Pizza.

From Washington D.C. hit the Historic National Road: America's first federally financed highway that was once the gateway to the West for settlers starts in nearby Baltimore. Take a few days to explore historical spots and the landscape along the Maryland section: take a hike in Casselman River Bridge State Park, stop by Maryland's only remaining toll house in La Vale, take a canal tour in Cumberland, walk Fredrick's 50 block historic district, walk the narrow streets of Elliot City and browse for antiques in New Market.
From Miami drive the Gulf Coast: Alligators, manatees and spooky swamps, oh my! Florida's Gulf Coast is filling with sugary beaches, pretty beach towns and exotic creatures. First stop: Everglades National Park where you can rent bikes at Shark Valley Visitor Center and cruise down a path lined with alligators. Next, the tony town of Naples where you'll find fine restaurants and shops downtown and perfect beaches for swimming and sunsets. Finally, the majestic Sanibel Island where the beaches are filled with shells.

From Denver climb the Peak to Peak: The beauty of Colorado biggest city is that you can be in some of the world's most spectacular mountains in less than an hour. This drive takes you along the states oldest Scenic Byway passing through Rocky Mountain National Park. From Denver you'll head for Central City and then continue onto Estes Park. Don't miss Golden Gate Canyon State Park, the picturesque mountain town of Nederland, the Mount Meeker Scenic Overlook and the Enos Mills Cabin Museum, once home to "the father of Rocky Mountain National Park."
  • Book a room at the Best Western Plus Silver Saddle in Estes Park.
  • To help you plan your trip, visit MyScenicDrives.com.
From San Francisco cruise Highway 1: Hop on what might be America's most breathtaking highway offering jaw-dropping ocean views right in the City by the Bay. Stop in Half Moon Bay for fresh seafood and Santa Cruz for a spin on the Big Dipper roller coaster and freshly made salt water taffy at the Beach Boardwalk.  Stroll the shops in downtown Carmel and don't miss the Monterey Bay Aquarium. In Big Sur picnic at San Dollar Beach and go for a hike at Pfieffer State Park, and make reservations ahead to tour Hearst Castle. You can head home after reaching San Simeon or drive all the way to Santa Barbara, a seaside town with Spanish-style buildings that looks as if it belongs on the Mediterranean cost. For a quick trip home, circle back on highway 101, stopping at the California Missions in San Luis Obispo and San Juan Bautista along the way.
Photo: Morgue File
Read More

3 hotels where you can find sun — even in the winter

Anyone looking for some sun? Here are three hotels where you can soak up some rays, lie by the pool and get a tan even in the middle of winter.

1) Best Western Fort Walton Beachfront, Fl.
Could the decor in the lobby of this hotel be any cuter? The playful colors--flamingo pink, key lime pie green, ocean blue--recall those days in the 1960s when travelers were just discovering Florida's impossibly white beaches, turquoise waters, and fragrant orange groves. Better yet, this stylish property sits on a beach with sand that's like white sugar.

2) Best Western Beachside Inn, Santa Barbara, Calif.
The sun is always shining in Southern California. This boutique-style hotel sits across the street from the Santa Barbara harbor filled with yachts and sailboats. From here you can walk to the town’s commercial district, State Street. Or swim in the hotel's courtyard pool

3) Arroyo Roble Sedona Hotel and Creekside Villas, Az.
Escape to the Arizona desert. This hotel is set among 14 acres of parkland surrounded by majestic red rock mountains. Go for a hike, swim in the pool or relax in the sauna.

Read More

The best DIY travel-themed Halloween costume ideas

Are you a traveler at heart? Show off your true passion on Halloween by putting together a travel-themed Halloween costume. We've tracked down some of the most fun and clever ideas for you and they're all costumes that you can put together yourself. Just as you have to plan ahead for your travels, you have to plan ahead for Halloween.

Flight Attendant Costume
Travel-themed Halloween costumes
You'll be flying high dressed as a flight attendant. (photography by Suzie Reecer)
Inspired by the old-school Pan Am flight attendant uniforms, this costume requires a red or blue pencil skirt, white blouse, silk scarf, a smart pair of pumps, wing pen, and of course a suitcase. For more on how to create this look visit the What I Wore Tumblr.

Eiffel Tower Costume
Travel-themed Halloween costumes
The perfect costume for a girl named Paris or anyone who loves the City of Lights. (Amy Graff)
This was my daughter's Halloween costume when she was 9 years old. She put everything together herself. She made the Eiffel Tower from cardboard and covered it in foil. Then all you need is some French-looking clothes: a blue-and-white striped shirt and a beret were the perfect touch. It also helps that my daughter's name is Paris!

Tacky Tourist Costume
Travel-themed Halloween costumes
You'll be the laugh of the party dressed as a tacky tourist. (Goodwill)
Put on a brightly colored Hawaiian shirt and a plastic lei. Wrap a camera around the neck and hold a guidebook in one hand. You're a tacky tourist! Maybe wear some shorts and a pair of long socks and pull them up high. A straw hat is also a nice touch. For more on how to put together this costume visit the website of Goodwill — this nonprofit's second-hand stores are great places to put together costumes.

Road-Trip Costume
Travel-themed Halloween costumes
Hit the open road with this costume. (BH&G)
For this clever costume from Better Homes & Gardens, you need solid colored clothing, Matchbox cars, and some yellow tape. Making an interstate highway sign from cardboard is a nice touch. Watch a video on how to make this costume.

Hawaiian Snow Globe Costume
Travel-themed Halloween costumes
Cutest snow globe ever.
Turning yourself into a Hawaiian snow globe is a complicated project but the end result is fabulous. You're bound to win all the costume contests. Also, your globe doesn't have to feature Hawaii — you could make a mini Rome Colosseum or fill it with cardboard version of the New York skyline. Find more snow glob ideas at Coolest Homemade Costumes, known for its annual contest with cash prizes, and for how-to instructions check out JPotisch's Flickr page.

Airport Costume
Travel-themed Halloween costumes
The entire family can get in on this airport costume from the Traveling Mom blog.
All mom or dad needs is an orange vest and runway controller wands that can easily be made from cover paper towel rolls with construction paper. For the kids, make airplane costumes with cardboard boxes. For more on how to put together this costume and other travel-themed costumes for families visit Traveling Mom.
Read More

Fun and silly way to see San Francisco? Ride the Ducks!

One of the best — and most entertaining — ways to see San Francisco is on a Ride the Ducks tour, which you can pick up in Fisherman's Wharf.

On these wild and raucous tours, a group of tourists load into a World War II amphibious landing craft that whirls around the city past the top sights and then drops into San Francisco Bay, offering breathtaking views of the skyline.
Along the way a high-energy tour guide—who either drank eight cups of Starbucks before coming into work or is a close relative of Richard Simmons—shares facts about the city, plays high-energy music and cracks jokes that are laugh-out-loud funny. The tourists are all invited to enjoy the fun by singing, dancing and blowing on yellow duck-bill-shaped noise makers.

I'm pretty sure our captain, drank 10, not the required eight, cups of Starbucks. He had more energy than anyone I've ever encountered. He was dancing, hooting, hollering and rattling off jokes throughout the entire tour. Pointing out a pirate statue outside Fisherman's Wharf, "Have you seen the new pirate movie? It's rated Arghhh!"
We rolled through North Beach and Chinatown, around Union Square, past Yerba Buena Gardens, and all the way to the Giants Stadium before diving into the Bay where we motored across McCovey Cove past Giants stadium. 

Our tour guide played music throughout the adventure all of it cleverly chosen. When the Duck dove into the Bay, we listened to the theme song from Jaws. On our roll through Chinatown, I Will Survive in Cantonese blared over the speakers.  

And the best part? My 1-year-old baby got to visit the front of the "boat" as we cruised through the Bay. Check out this fun video:

Read More

Summer movie spots: Traveling to the settings of blockbusters

People from all over the world flock to the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa.
Yes, Los Angeles dazzles with it's Hollywood charm. Everywhere you turn, you see a landmark (or a person) that appeared on the big screen. But across America, many other cities and towns have starred in blockbusters, from Astoria, Ore., where Kindergarten Cop and Goonies were filmed, to Philadelphia that's known for the Rocky movies, all six of them.

Many of the scenes from the popular series of boxing movies—always a hit with teens—were filmed in Philly. In Rocky 2, Rocky proposes to Adrian at the Philadelphia Zoo and he jumps over a park bench in front of Independence Hall, best known as the birthplace of America. And then there are the "Rocky Steps" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. These were used in every film except Rocky IV. In the first film, the boxer starts a training regime that ends with a run up these steps.

Rocky filming locations

Lodging: The Best Western Plus Independence Park sits in the heart of Philly's historic district.

Astoria, Ore.
The Astoria Column has popped up in movies ranging from Goonies to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III.
This small town sits on Oregon's north coast, right where the mighty Columbia River meets the Pacific and where Lewis & Clark famously reached the Pacific during their own drama thriller. Its pretty setting has starred in a smattering of favorite family flicks: Kindergarten Cop, Goonies, Free Willy, Short Circuit, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III.

Take a stroll through Astoria's leafy neighborhoods past some famous houses: the Goonies house at 368 38th St., Joyce's House from Kindergarten Cop at 414 Exchange Street and the Short Circuit House at 197 Hume Street. Walk over to John Jacob Astor Elementary School, at 3550 Franklin, was where Arnold Shwarzenegger humorously and famously taught kindergarten. Hike to the top of the Astoria Column, a 125-foot tower with a viewing deck offering sweeping views of the Columbia region. The Column popped up in at least a half-dozen flicks. Everywhere you turn in this town, you're confronted with a movie location!

Guide to Astoria movie locations

Lodging: You can easily walk to town from the Best Western Lincoln Inn that overlooks the Columbia River.

Dyersville, Iowa
There's very little in this Iowa hamlet, except corn, tractor shops and one of the most famous baseball fields in America. The Lansing Farm, that's open to the public, was the setting for the 1989 film Field of Dreams, that received an Academy Award nomination for Best Film.

People from all over the world flock to this field in the corn fields to play a game of catch with a father, a son, a toddler. The field is open to the public at all hours and on some Sundays local townsfolk dress in old-time baseball uniforms and walk out of the cornfields into the diamond as the ghosts of famed players did in the movie.

Field of Dreams Movie site, 28995 Lansing Rd., Dyersville.

Loding: Only a half-hour away, the Best Western Plus Dubuque Hotel has an indoor heated pool under a light-filled atrium.
Read More

Spokane, Wash.: Family reunion at the Best Western Plus Airport Peppertree Inn

Spokane Washington
My family at the Best Western Plus Airport Peppertree Inn.
Every great hotel has a great lobby, a comfortable, inviting space where you can relax in an overstuffed chair and take in the bustling energy of the travelers coming and going. The staff behind the check-in counter wear warm smiles and quickly learn the names of guests. They remember that you're in town for a wedding or a graduation and ask you how the ceremony went.

My 11-year-old daughter will be the first to tell you this. We recently stayed in a grand, luxurious hotel with a lobby fit for a queen. Oriental rugs the size of small swimming pools were spread across the gleaming hardwood floors and chandeliers dripping with hundreds of sparkling crystals hung from the ceiling. The only problem: Nobody was there and the woman who checked us in looked tired and worn. Her smile was weak. My daughter declared the place depressing.
Spokane Washington
Watching TV in the lobby of the Best Western Peppertree.
The lobby at the Best Western Plus Peppertree Airport Inn immediately won my daughter's approval. When we walked through the door late in the evening, the assistant manager Megan Morgan greeted us with the sort of smile you expect from a long-lost friend. We carried our luggage and bagsful of mini cheeseburgers from a well-loved burger stand called Dick's. Megan invited us to sit at one of the tables in the lobby as if she were welcoming us into our own home. At 10 pm, my kids slurped up vanilla malts in front of a giant TV showing Disney channel. Meanwhile Megan filled me in on all there was to do in Spokane. Even late at night, a few guests trickled in and Megan made sure to say hello to them all. Life was good at the Peppertree.
Spokane Washington
Hot buffet breakfast is included with your room at the Best Western Plus Peppertree.
The next morning the lobby buzzed with activity. Aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends from afar were in town for college graduations and many carried overflowing bouquets of fragrant flowers. In a dining room off the lobby, my kids and I enjoyed the hot buffet breakfast as we waited for the "dads" (my husband and father) to arrive. The Peppertree breakfast is generous with a full spread of typical breakfast items such as bacon and eggs, a yogurt parfait bar and fresh waffles that you make yourself.

Soon the Dads arrived via the hotel's free airport shuttle. I'd specifically picked the Peppertree because my husband and father would be flying in and out at separate times. I didn't want to spend half my vacation driving to and from the airport.

Spokane Washington
Watching a World Cup game in the lobby of the Best Western Plus Airport Peppertree Inn.
We visited Spokane in the middle of World Cup season and the kids wanted to watch a soccer game. My family plopped down on one of the lobby couches to watch England play Italy while I took the baby up to the room for a nap.
Spokane Washington
Baby Julia gets comfortable at the Best Western Plus Aiport Peppertree Inn.
The rooms at the Peppertree are clean and tidy and the decor is fresh. My kids got a kick out of the decorative pillows on the beds that looked as if they were covered in green grass. Wi-fi is included with the room; a perk at all Best Western properties.  
Spokane Washington
Indoor swimming pool at the Best Western Plus Airport Peppertree Inn.
After a nap and a World Cup game, the kids were ready for a swim.  The hotel's indoor pool is heated and there's also a hot tub. Let's face it, on vacation all my kids really want to do is swim, especially with their dad and grandpa. Cannon balls!
Read More

Spokane, Wash.: Five fun neighborhoods for families to explore

On a visit to Spokane, you can easily spend all your time downtown as Riverfront Park offers an endless array of fun activities for families. But you should also check out the outlying neighborhoods where you'll find leafy streets lined with historic homes, bright blooming gardens and clusters of charming cafes, unique boutiques and hip restaurants where local chefs are using the freshest ingredients from the Spokane Valley to create inventive dishes. Put on your walking shoes and explore these enclaves!

1) Brown's Addition: Spokane's oldest neighborhood
Spokane Washington Family Travel
This was Spokane's first residential neighborhood and for years the city's wealthiest elite lived in its opulent mansions dating back to the 1800s.
Spokane Washington Family Travel
 Today many of those storied homes remain and through the Spokane Historical Society Web site you can take a self-guided tour of the neighborhood's historical buildings. Many of the big, airy homes have been divided and turned into apartment buildings, but a few have been restored to their original glory and are still inhabited by a single family. As you stroll the streets, notice the bronze plaques in front of homes offering up historical facts.
Family Travel Spokane Washington
After a neighborhood stroll, we stopped in the Museum of Arts & Culture, aka the Mac, where a well-curated display of artifacts tell the city's history. My kids had a lot of fun looking at the random assortment of items, including a racehorse blanket worn by a Kentucky Derby champ named Spokane, the mouth piece used by a famed local Trapeze artist who performed all over the world, and a case of artificial eye balls from 1900. Included in admission is a 45-minute tour of the neighboring Campbell House that's been beautifully restored to the exact condition it was in when the Campbells, one of the town's wealthiest families, lived there in the early 1900s.
You'll find a handful of cafes and restaurants in the neighborhood and our favorite was Trattoria Italia, a great Italian spot for lunch or dinner. Sophisticated yet casual, this restaurant could hold its own in any metropolitan city with its menu featuring fresh, flavorful, and light dishes. For lunch we especially liked the panzanella salad — grilled crusty bread tossed with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, prosciutto and chicken. At lunch, everyone gets a free chocolate sundae; a scoop of creamy vanilla gelato drizzled with dark chocolate sauce and topped with fresh cream comes in a cherry red dish.

2) South Perry: Spokane's hippest hood

This might be Spokane's hippest neighborhood. On a warm, balmy Friday evening we visited, the main drag, South Perry, was buzzing with young families pushing strollers and professionals getting off work early. A bright-blue-eyed musicians strummed his guitar outside the Wollnick's General Store where you can buy everything from a toy mustache for your dog to green cleaning supplies to baby blankets made from bamboo. It's basically modern take on the general store specializing in green, high-design items.

Next door, at the newly opened Perry Street Brewery, every table was taken at the outdoor patio. This pub makes its own beers and you can order food from the trucks that pull up on the curb outside. The menu will tell you which trucks come on which days.

Looking to hang somewhere cool in Spokane? This is your spot.
Spokane Washington Family Travel
My recommendation for visiting the neighborhood: Start with a stroll along South Perry where you'll find a few shops from Wollnick's to the running store Title Nine. Grab an outdoor table at the Brewery and order a sample flight of beer so you can get a taste of this pub's wide array of
Spokane Washington Family Travel
Then head over to South Perry Pizza where the cooks pull fro the oven piping hot blistery pies topped with fresh vegetables such as arugula and cherry tomatoes and salty meats like sopressetta salami.
Spokane Washington Family Travel
Before leaving the main drag, stop in The Shop for a latte or a scoop of ice cream. Try the dirt, Oreo Cookie in chocolate pudding ice cream.

4) Manito: Spokane's garden enclave
Family Travel Spokane Washington
 Spokane's tony South Hill neighborhood includes many smaller enclaves including Manito, which is the area around the Manito Gardens. Within this 90-acre Eden you'll find blooming flower beds, well-manicured lawns, a duck pond, biking paths, and playgrounds. The park is beautifully cared for and immaculate.
Family Travel Spokane Washington
The park is divided into five gardens: Rose, Japanese, Duncan, Dahlia, Lilac, and Perennial. In the Joel E. Ferris Perennial Garden all of the plants are labeled and we had fun reading the names: Lamb's Ears, Woolly Thyme, Dwarf Clustered Bellflower, Elfwort.
Family Travel Spokane Washington
At the Rose Garden, we played a family game of tag, running along the broad grassy boulevards dividing the rows of rose bushes.

5) Davenport: Downtown's history spot goes cool
Spokena Washington Davenport District
This urban hood is centered around the historic Davenport Hotel, an opulent property dating back to 1914 and filled with hand-painted frescoes, ornate woodwork and European marble.

Across the street you'll find one of the city's coolest restaurants that looks as if it belongs in downtown Manhattan. Nudo (above) was opened by Josh Hissong, who owns the cutting-edge architecture firm HDG Architecture and Design. His firm has designed the spaces for many restaurants in Seattle and the eatery right next door to Nodu, Fire Artisan Pizza (also worth a try). Hissong wanted a restaurant of his own and opened the ramen house Nodu in 2014. The walls of the narrow restaurant are covered in tantalizing Roy Lichtenstein-style pop art and diners sit in sleek gray booths and modern white chairs.
Spokane Washington Davenport District
The ramen burger at Nudo in downtown Spokane looks unusual but tastes great.
My kids slurped up bowls of steamy ramen noodles topped with meat and veggies and my father was adventuresome and ordered the burger with a bun made from compressed ramen. My father declared it bizarre but delicious.
Spokane Washington Family Travel
Ice scream you scream for ice cream at Bruttle's historic candy shop in Spokane.
Next door to Nudo, we stopped in Bruttles, an old-timey candy store with chocolates and caramels made with the same recipes that were used when the shop was originally opened 60 years ago. The businesses started as a turn-down service for the Davenport Hotel across the street and now sells its treats to the public. The store's signature candy is a soft peanut butter brittle introduced by the original owner Aunt Sophia. My kids opted for some ice cream.
Spokane Washington Family Travel
A few blocks away the Fox Theater is a sentinel in the neighborhood with it's towering sign reaching for the sky. This classic theater first opened in 1931 and was built with a full-height stage house, orchestra pit and dressing rooms to accommodate a range of movies and live performances. On opening night searchlights rose above the theater and the streets outside were packed with over 30,000 people. The world premiere of Merely Mary Ann was shown and the film's stars, Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor, attended.

In the 1970s, the audiences waned as movie-goers turned to suburban theaters and the Fox was divided into several small theaters and then slowly declined into disrepair. In 2000, the plan was to demo the theater to make way for a parking lot but local philantrhopist Miss Martin Woldson decided the theater must be saved and put $3 million toward restoring it. The community rallied and more money was raised and in 2007 the Fox, beautifully restored to its original glory, opened. It's now home to the Spokane Symphony and hosts big-name musicians from all over the world.

If you're visiting, it's worth checking to see if you can get tickets to a performance.
Spokane Washington Family Travel
Across from the Fox, you'll find Spokane's first movie theater, The Bing Crosby, originally opened in 1915. The theater was originally called the Clemmer but later named after Bing Crosby, one of the city's most famous locals. Today it hosts touring groups and performances by local music and theater groups.
Spokane Washington Family Travel
The block of Sprague Avenue just past the Fox and Bing Crosby Theaters has become a popular for unique boutiques. We stopped in Artemis a home and clothing store specializing in items by local designers.
Spokane Washington Family Travel
Next door, the shelves at Vintage Angel are filled with gently used cowboy boots that have been dusted and polished.You'll find all styles and colors but I especially loved the row of white boots. The salesperson told me the owner had been collecting the white boots for years.

Audubon: Gateway to Riverside Park
 If you follow the Spokane River northwest of downtown, you'll enter this residential neighborhood of tree-lined streets, wide sidewalks and well-kept bungalows. The neighborhood is often called the "Gateway to Riverside Park" as it borders this popular hiking spot. Also, you'll find a couple excellent restaurants, including Flying Goat Pizza and the Downriver Grill, as well as Audubon Park, where locals spread out their blankets and unpack picnic baskets to listen to live music under the pines during the summer.

Audubon Neighborhood Spokane Washington
The best Pizza in Spokane: Flying Goat
We drove to this neighborhood on our last day in Spokane and grabbed lunch at Flying Goat Pizza, where we enjoyed what was hands-down our best meal in Spokane. The menu is simple with fresh salads and thin-crust pizzas but the preparations are inventive. The Kiernan pizza is topped with a hay stack of arugula with a poached egg at its center.
A modern take on an old-school English pub, "The Goat," as locals call it, aims to embrace the surrounding hood. Pizzas are named after local streets, salvaged wood from an old grain elevator is used throughout the restaurant and an arresting image from nearby Riverside Park hangs on the wall. But what was opened as a watering hole and pizza joint for Audubon residents has turned into one of Spokane's most loved eateries. Arrive early to avoid lines!  
Spokane Washington Family Travel
After lunch, we drove less than 10 minutes to Riverside State Park. A network of trails winds through 14,000 acres that make up the second largest state park in Washington. It's a great spot for a brisk 30-minute walk or a full-day hike.
We visited the most popular Bowl and Pitcher area where a suspension bridge crosses the Spokane River. As my family hiked into a forest of towering pines, I thought about the past few days in the Washington city. We glided over a waterfall in a gondola built in a park that was originally built for a World's Fair, walked the halls of a beautifully restored 1900s mansion and dined at restaurants as good as any you'll find in Manhattan. And now here we were in pristine wilderness just minutes from all the action.

Read More

On the Go with Amy

Travel tips, tricks, and tales from a girl who knows how to travel