Saturday, August 15, 2015

Palace Playland at Old Orchard Beach

We received complimentary admission to Palace Playland to facilitate this review. 
All opinions expressed are my own.

We took a day trip up to Old Orchard Beach, Maine last weekend to visit Palace Playland - New England's only beachfront amusement park!

Palace Playland is a fairly small, but very fun, amusement park - and it truly is right at the beach! We have a five year old who loves amusement parks but obviously isn't big enough for every ride at every park. Palace Playland was perfect for her. There were very few rides that she was not tall enough to ride but the majority she could ride either alone or with an adult - even the roller coaster! If you're looking for a fun day trip with young kids, consider Palace Playland!

We went to the park on a sunny, hot, summer weekend day and were very surprised to find that it was not at all crowded - a huge plus when visiting an amusement park with a young child! No crowd, no lines, no wait, instant fun!

The park opens on weekdays at noon and weekends at 11:00 AM - and there is no official closing time! I'm actually guessing that on a hot summer day, it crowds up at night when beachgoers have had enough sun, but we arrived at about 11:30 AM and the park was practically empty... although the adjacent Old Orchard Beach and surrounding streets were full to the brim! 

There is no parking at Palace Playland but there is plenty of pay parking locally in public lots or on the street. Just head toward the beach and pick the closest lot or spot you find and you'll be good to go - just walk toward the ferris wheel!

You can walk right into the park without a ticket but you'll need to pay if you plan to ride. You'll see below that you can purchase tickets in the form of day passes or per ride. If you have a child that's taller than 42", you'll want to skip the Kiddie Pass because they are able to ride most rides - not just the kiddie rides - as long as they have a paid adult with them.

There are rides that spin...

Rides that drive...

Rides that fly...

 Rides that bounce...

And a whole bunch more in between!

There are also some big-kid rides, but only a few that are for big-kids only, like this one.

Even my littler kid could ride on the roller coaster - with a grown-up! I think she rode it six times!

And what's an amusement park without a log ride?! This is the perfect ride to end a hot day at Old Orchard Beach... just don't expect to be dry at the end!

I was quite impressed with Palace Playland. It was incredibly clean - both in the ride areas and in the bathrooms. The staff members were very polite and kind. It was small enough to not be overwhelming and large enough to keep my five year old entertained for several hours. 

There is food at the park, such as snack stands, but you're also right in the middle of a beach town with tons of little shops, restaurants, and food stands within walking distance. As I mentioned earlier, admission into the park is free - you just pay to ride - so you can leave and grab a bite to eat and then come back at your leisure.

Oh! There's also an arcade at Palace Playland. I almost forgot to mention it because we didn't use it, but it's there if that's your thing!

All in all, it was a great day for us at Palace Playland. We weren't familiar with the park before this trip but will definitely return again soon. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

York's Wild Kingdom - Great New England Summer Day Trip!

We received complimentary admission to York's Wild Kingdom to facilitate this review. 
All opinions expressed are our own.

We were so excited to head back to York, Maine for a day trip to York's Wild Kingdom again this summer! Just about an hour and a half from Boston, it's an easy ride up to York Beach for a super fun adventure. York's Wild Kingdom - New England's Only Zoo and Amusement Park has something for everyone and we always leave with new memories that are sure to last a lifetime... and we (those who are not driving...) always sleep the whole way home which is a great sign of a great day!

There are several different ticket options at York's Wild Kingdom. You can choose to visit the zoo only, the amusement park only, or purchase tokens to just ride as you wish in the amusement park. Entrance to the park itself is free but you need to pay if you want to ride or visit the animals. We definitely recommend the Zoo and Ride Pass which gives you admission to the zoo (including the paddle boats) and unlimited rides all day. There are Go-Kart and Animal Rides too but those require separate ticket purchase.

We think the combination Zoo and Ride Pass makes for the perfect day. We start our day in the zoo which opens at 10:00 AM and then transition to lunch around noon and into the amusement park after that as it doesn't open until 12:00 PM. There are lunch opens within the park - food stands and snack bars - as well as picnic tables and a covered shelter where you can eat. You're also welcome to bring your own food into the park so packing your own picnic lunch is also acceptable and a great option if you're looking to save some money, although the prices at the snack bars are not unreasonable.

You'll see that as soon as you drive into York's Wild Kingdom, the fun begins - even before you leave the car! The driveway is lined with trivia about wild animals.

There is free parking at York's Wild Kingdom, and the lot begins to fill up fairly quickly at 10:00 AM when the zoo portion of the park opens. Both times we've arrived at 10:00 AM the ticket line is already fairly long, so my suggestion is to get there as close to opening as possible! If you don't make it before the main parking lot fills up, there is parking a little farther away (still walking distance) with a free tram shuttle ride to bring you to back to the gate.

One of the first things we enjoyed in the zoo area this year was the paddle boats. The paddle boats are free with your purchase of a zoo ticket. There are lifejackets provided and you can paddle along through a little pond area with bridges and tons and tons of ducks! We even brought some duck food with us in an empty popcorn box and, needless to say, the ducks were just as excited to us as we were to see them! This was such a fun and relaxing way to start our day!

Be sure you bring lots of quarters with you to York's Wild Kingdom because you'll find these little food dispensers all over the zoo! This is one of my daughter's favorite parts of our visits.

We fed ducks...


and deer!

You can see by the pictures that one of the most fun aspects of York's Wild Kingdom is that there are lots of opportunities to get up close and personal with the animals, rather than only looking at them behind fences. 

And don't worry... there are lots of hand washing stations throughout the park!

My daughter is a ride-a-holic, so despite our fun in the zoo, she was anxiously awaiting the opening of the amusement park at noon! We found an empty picnic table and enjoyed a quick lunch with a combination of food brought from home and food purchased from the snack stand. You can see a copy of the menu here.

We then continued our adventure in the amusement park! My daughter is five years old - really a perfect age for the amusement park portion of York's Wild Kingdom. There are a lot of rides geared toward younger children and there are only a couple of rides that she is not big enough to go on without an adult. Older teens might be easily bored so purchasing individual token tickets may make more sense for them, but for younger kids who ride just about anything, this park will not disappoint. Even when the park is crowded the ride lines are reasonable and fun abounds.

There are kiddie rides, a bounce house, fun houses, the classic ferris wheel and carousel, one small roller coaster, and a few extras mixed in. We were able to enjoy all of our favorites, multiple times.

You can check out more ride pictures in last year's post! I regret not taking more pictures on this trip, but I suppose a lack of pictures indicates lots of fun, right?!

There is still time to make your way up to York's Wild Kingdom this summer, and if you're looking for something fun to do with your family, we highly recommend it. York's Wild Kingdom is one of our favorite places to visit and we can't wait to go again soon!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Celebrate Your Summer Birthday with Oriental Trading!

We received free product to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received. 
All opinions expressed are our own.

I am pleased to say that just last month we pulled off our very first "friend birthday party" right here in our own backyard. It's taken me a couple of weeks to recuperate, but I really need to tell you about one of my new party-planning best friends... Oriental Trading! Oriental Trading had everything we needed to pull off the most amazingly fun summer birthday party!

Summer Birthday Party with Oriental Trading

When a couple of months ago my preschooler declared that she was having a "friend birthday" this year, I basically froze in panic. She was turning five and had attended several of her friends' "friend birthdays" and quickly realized that they were way more exciting than our little family parties. I knew the day would come - and now it was here - and I'll admit that I had many mixed feelings about it! Most of the parties we've been to have been at big establishments with grandiose fun, often in the form of inflatable jumping equipment. I wasn't too keen on the price tag of hosting that type of party. My daughter also broke her arm twice within a six week period at the beginning of the summer, was still in a cast (waterproof, thankfully), and so safe, low-key activities were a must. We quickly began brainstorming and scouring the internet for ideas of what we could do for fun at home to celebrate a super exciting 5-year-old birthday party!

I love planning parties but wasn't quite sure where to begin when she gave me a guest list of over 20 friends! They certainly weren't going to be running through my house, that's for sure! We agreed to plan a pool party and prayed for sunshine, low humidity, and no rain on this special Saturday in July.

My daughter is fairly particular, so the menu was set in stone pretty immediately to include things like fresh fruits and veggies, chips and dip, crackers and cheese, brownies, and rainbow cupcakes. We decided to stick with water to drink to simplify things. I figured with that menu, I could easily have enough for both kids and parents (hooray!).

We planned to fill the yard with small pools, sprinklers, and other outdoor toys.

The search was on for party favors and party supplies... and wouldn't it be cool if the favors could double as the party fun instead of being an afterthought that we hand out at the end? Party favors sprinkled throughout the party so that the kids cleaned up for us as they left... a win-win for everyone!

If you haven't visited Oriental Trading's website before, you need to! It's very easy to navigate by theme, occasion, or product type. With lots of fun, creative, and colorful items to choose from, I knew we were in the right place! My daughter and I spent some time exploring all the options and here are some things we decided on.

Let me first tell you that the Assorted Colorful Plastic Bags we got were a steal. We wanted plastic because we knew things would be used during the party and would be wet when we packed them up at the end. These bags came in a pack of 50 for $4.99! Thankfully we didn't have 50 kids here, so these will last me through the next couple of years for sure. The quality was great, the colors were vibrant, and the size was perfect to fit all our goodies.

Like I mentioned above, we didn't want to hand out pre-filled bags at the end of the party. Instead, we used the items during the party and then at the end, each child chose a bag color and then filled their own bag with the items above. We did save the Rainbow Folding Fans until the end, rather than having them out with everything else. My daughter insisted on including these fans in the goodie bags because they certainly look super great, but I knew that since they were made of paper, they would likely rip easily and were better saved for the car ride home! It was a good choice on my part because several ripped prior to our guests leaving the yard. Thankfully, rips are fixed easily with some tape and the fans still work. Little hands can be reckless and although these look so cool, they are probably better saved for big kids or grown-ups. I knew this in advance so wasn't disappointed!

When the children arrived, each chose their own water bottle and labeled it with a permanent marker. I washed and filled them and threw them in a cooler with ice, so they'd be nice and cold and ready to go! The kids were able to use them throughout the party to keep hydrated and there were no certainly complaints about lack of drink options when they saw these cool treats! Oriental Trading had several different water bottle options but we chose the Hibiscus Print Water Bottles for our party. The kids loved these and several of them have continued to use theirs to bring their water back and forth to camp this summer!

We stocked up on water squirting toys and my daughter's request was that we fill the pools with them so that when the children arrived they could just start playing with them and then choose some to take home at the end. Perfect idea, right?! She's a pretty smart party planner for 5 years old! Oriental Trading had lots of different themed squirters to choose from. My daughter loves classic rubber duckies and ladybugs so she quickly, and not surprisingly, chose the Rubber Ducky Squirts and the Ladybug Squirts. As with most of Oriental Trading's party favors, these are sold in sets of a dozen. They looked great floating in our pools and the kids had a blast playing with them!

Because we knew that there might be time when children didn't want to play in the water, we wanted to have some options for outdoor fun that didn't include getting wet! 

Everyone loves bubbles so we knew we needed to have those on our list. Again, there are so many options to choose from on the Oriental Trading website but my daughter was immediately sold on these ones that smell like lemonade! I am always skeptical when I buy bubbles because I feel like they only work about the half the time so I was hopeful but not convinced that we'd get any actual bubbles out of these containers... never mind my skepticism about whether they would actually smell like lemonade. And don't even get me started on how risky it is to have bubbles shipped to you instead of buying them in the store! I was convinced I'd get a box soggy with bubble solution! Well, I was pleasantly surprised in every possible way! These Lemonade-Scented Bubble Bottles from Oriental Trading smell like lemonade, make great bubbles, and come tightly sealed so that there was no bubble solution leakage during shipment at all! Score! We set these in a bowl in the yard during the party so that anyone could use them at any time.

We also set out a bowl of these super cute Mini Rainbow Flying Discs and they were a huge hit with everyone. Fun and colorful little frisbees - the perfect size for preschooler hands that haven't quite perfected the frisbee technique!

We knew we wanted beach balls at our party - because who has a pool party without beach balls?! Again, lots and lots of options to choose from, but my daughter loved the look of these Inflatable Color Your Own Flip Flop Beach Balls! She knew that her friends would love decorating these as an activity during the party. She was totally right! They had such a blast coloring these balls with permanent markers and then playing with them in the pools. 

Anyone playing in the sun needs sunglasses! Again, another item with many options from Oriental Trading. We loved these colorful Kids' Summer Fun Icon Sunglasses! They matched our pool party theme perfectly! We handed them out to our guests when they arrived. They were the perfect fit for these preschoolers and a really fun treat for them to enjoy during the party and take home with them.

Super fun stuff right? The kids loved gathering everything up and filling their bags themselves before they left so they could continue the fun at their own homes.

Now, you've seen all the fun toys - and Oriental Trading really has so many to choose from. But they also have great paper products to add some extra fun to the eating time of your party! My daughter chose some Glitzy Chicks themed items because she felt like they encompassed all of her favorite things like sunshine, stars, butterflies, flowers, hearts, colors, and sparkle! They were the perfect fit! We chose Luncheon Napkins, Square Dinner Plates, Square Dessert Plates, and Baking Cups with Picks for our rainbow cupcakes. They were so colorful and fun and really were a great addition to our party!

photo courtesy of my sweet friend, Sheila!

We truly had such a great summer birthday party with the help of Oriental Trading, and honestly, now that we've done it once, we'll do it every year without even thinking twice! It was such a fun and relaxing time for the kids and the parents. Great weather + great friends + great party supplies made for the most perfect and memorable day!

Oriental Trading has a great variety of products and great prices to go along with them. If you're planning a party this summer, check out all they have to offer - I'm sure you won't be disappointed! We are already looking forward to our next party with Oriental Trading!
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