A Day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

We spent our summer vacation this year out on the West Coast exploring San Francisco, then driving down to Los Angeles and Orange County (post to come). I have family in both places, so it was fantastic to not only catch up with all of them but be a tourist at the same time. We had an amazing visit, and truth be told, we've been California dreamin' ever since we got home.

On the day we left San Francisco, we headed south along Route 1 to Monterey Bay and its world-famous aquarium. What an incredible visit! So many beautiful animals, interactive exhibits & feedings/demonstrations throughout the day, with a super friendly staff & volunteers to boot. See for yourself:

I must point out that this diver feeding the fish (& sharks!) is a volunteer & (wait for it) 70 years old! Incredible.

Touching a sting ray. No fear!

This aquarium is absolutely worth a visit if you find yourself on a similar-type trip along the coast of California. So many learning opportunities, and while obviously some things are geared towards children, I think Husband and I can safely say we had just as good a time as they did! If I had one complaint it's really that there is just so much to see and do, and if you want to catch certain feedings or shows throughout the day, you must plan accordingly and arrive at least 15 minutes early. Chances are a few people might have the same idea as you!

Side note; check out their Family Activities page before you arrive to help gain momentum for your visit - lots of fun ideas. 

Two thumbs up from the whole family on the Monterey Bay Aquarium!

Disclosure: I received 2 press tickets to use towards our visit. All opinions herein are my own.


Kidmoto: New Family Car Service for NYC Airports

NYC families, I feel sure you'll be able to relate to this one.

We all know airline travel can be stressful with children, but one such frustration occurs long before you arrive at your gate: the should-be-simple act of GETTING to the airport! 

Many car services do not provide infant or booster car seats, which leaves you installing one on your own (studies show a hefty percentage of us are doing it incorrectly), uninstalling when you arrive, then lugging car seat through airport and on to your destination. The same goes for families who may be traveling to NYC for vacation, except worse as they likely won't need a car seat for day to day getting around the city. They might be deterred from visiting altogether because the idea of installing and uninstalling car seats in cabs is as daunting as not using one at all (a common yet crazy practice here in the city).

Long story short, the fact that there aren't more options for families with young children traveling to/from the airport has always baffled me. So needless to say I was thrilled to learn about Kidmoto, a new service providing just that: reliable, safe transportation for your travel to/from NYC airports. Drivers are specifically trained and your vehicle arrives pre-installed and harnessed and ready to go.
With the Kidmoto app (also available on Google Play), book your travel easily by requesting exactly what kind of car seat you need, type of car, etc. Up to 4 car seats are available in a single car for those traveling with large families.

Our experience was great, and let me just mention a few extras, as Nelson Nigel, our driver and the CEO of Kidmoto, has really thought of everything. Vivian got car sick on the way to the airport (a really great way to start vacation!), which I was completely unprepared for. Nelson had bags for just this occasion in the back seat, and I was able to grab one just in time. He even had Water Wipes to aid in cleaning her up! Then, on the other end of our trip, he was ready with an umbrella to get us to our door in the pouring down rain. This is all on top of a very safe and secure ride to/from the airport.

So happy to know about Kidmoto & share with all of you! If you're interested in trying out the service for yourself, use BABYMEETSCITY and receive $20 off each ride (this code is good for a year). Safe travels this summer!

Disclosure: I was provided with Kidmoto credit in exchange for this review. All opinions herein are my own.


Big Apple Books: The Hula Hoopin' Queen

My newest Big Apple Book takes place in Harlem on West 139th & Broadway, home of The Hula Hoopin' Queen by Thelma Lynne Godin. Love this story!

Kameeka, a spunky gal who is desperate to win a neighborhood hula hoopin' contest, forgets that she needs to help her mother prepare for a birthday party for their beloved neighbor, Miz Adeline. While she helps mama with chores, she gets distracted and ends up being sent to the grocery store for a missing cake ingredient. Long story short, Kameeka ends up learning an important lesson about responsibility, while also discovering a secret that Miz Adeline has been hiding.

Love the characters and illustrations in this book. The perfect gift for a little hula hooper in your life!


New Campaign in NY Announces Children have #SeenEnoughTobacco

I am so glad that I see fewer and fewer people smoking. I hardly know anyone who smokes anymore, and that's amazing news considering I've had family members who sadly died from lung cancer. But to say that the tobacco industry is going away is a vast understatement. In fact, the way they target children in their marketing efforts is just horrendous, and as such, I'm proud to share the work of Tobacco Free NYS. Their current campaign (#SeenEnoughTobacco) is centered around children's over-exposure to tobacco promotions.

Did you know that in New York State, tobacco companies spend more than a half a million dollars every day to place promotions in stores where kids can see them? Stores located close to schools contain nearly three times the amount of cigarette promotions. There is a direct correlation here: the more children see these ads, the more they will want to try cigarettes. The average age of a new smoker is 13 YEARS OLD.

And if that wasn't enough for you, the U.S. Surgeon General calls smoking a "pediatric epidemic," directly stating that “Advertising and promotional activities by tobacco companies have been shown to cause the onset and continuation of smoking among adolescents and young adults.”

It's time to stand up against these marketing efforts towards children. You can pledge your support of Tobacco Free NYS' #SeenEnoughTobacco campaign HERE.


Thanks for doing your part!

Disclosure: I received compensation to assist in promoting this campaign by Seen Enough Tobacco. All opinions are my own.


Big Apple Books: My Story, My Dance

"The best works of art are the ones that are the most personal." - Alvin Ailey

This week's Big Apple Book might not originate in New York City, but it most definitely ends there, leaving an artistic legacy that will go on for generations. My Story, My Dance, by Lesa Cline-Ransome, tells the tale of Robert Battle, the artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

As a child, he was forced to wear leg braces, and it wasn't until Robert was a teenager that he discovered ballet was his passion. But by that point, many of his fellow dancers had been training for years -- he knew he had a lot of catching up to do. While watching a performance of Alvin Ailey's famous Revelations when he was a high school freshman, he just knew he had to be a part of this ballet company. Through the gift of amazing teachers and a supportive family, Robert went on to Julliard in NYC, where he'd received a full scholarship. Years later, hard work and an incredible talent for dance led Robert to where he is today -- right here in New York City, as the artistic director of Alvin Ailey.

The perfect book for lovers of dance and determination! And if you want to catch a performance of Alvin Ailey this weekend, June 16th-17th, at Lincoln Center, there are still several performances left. See HERE for schedule & ticket info.

This legendary company is a must-see, not only for their tremendous talent, but also for their spirit of giving back. The Ailey Spirit Gala, taking place this evening, in fact, raises funds each year to provide vitally needed scholarships for talented students of The Ailey School and support Ailey's innovative Arts in Education & Community Programs.


A Morning w/ Citizen STEM Award Winners & Good Housekeeping

I recently attended a tour of Good Housekeeping's Research Institute at Hearst Tower as part of a group from the New Jersey Center for Teaching & Learning. The NJCTL, an independent non-profit that focuses on empowering teachers & students in STEM training, hosted a contest with Citizen for 9th grade physics students in New Jersey, and the four winners & their families were invited to NYC to take part in the tour.

With four (potential) future engineers in the room, the NJCTL wanted to demonstrate the many possibilities in the engineering field, and the kind of work performed at Good Housekeeping's Research Institute is an excellent example. I found the tour fascinating; did you know that Good Housekeeping stopped taking cigarette ads 12 YEARS before the Surgeon General's report on the effects of smoking came out? Good Housekeeping's engineers & technologists are proud of the research behind their Seal of Approval, as well they should be!

the view atop Hearst Tower

Congrats to the following winners (who were also gifted with a CTO watch from the Citizen Watch Drive collection):

Gabrielle Grupenhof, River Dell High School
Desire Trudy Walker, 9th Grade Academy, Trenton
MacKenzie Szabo, Secaucus High School
Isaac Hyungwoo Yi, Bergen Tech

Interested in learning more about the NJCTL? They offer free course materials on their website that are available for download, from kindergarten through 8th grade algebra & beyond! Summer vacation is coming up, after all...

Disclosure: This post was written in partnership with Citizen.


Broadway Benefit for the NYSPCC

This Sunday, The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (The NYSPCC) will host their 5th Annual Family Benefit, which includes a reception brunch at Sanctuary Hotel's HAVEN Rooftop (for Golden Ticket level supporters), followed by a matinee of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Broadway.

The mission of the NYSPCC, the world’s first child protective agency, is to respond to the complex needs of abused and neglected children, as well as those involved in their care. Sunday's special event will directly support Safe Touches: Personal Safety Training for Children, the agency's child sexual abuse prevention program.

First launched in 2007, Safe Touches is geared towards K-3rd graders, teaching them what parts of the body are private by using colorful puppets in role-play scenarios. Specially-trained clinicians help children recognize the difference between safe and not-safe touches and identify who to tell if they have experienced a non-safe touch. With child sexual abuse a chronic, under-reported tragedy in the United States, this programming by the NYSPCC is all too important. As of last year, Safe Touches workshops reached over 5,000 students from NYC area schools.

The NYSPCC is led by Executive Director Dr. Mary L. Pulido, who has worked to help child victims of abuse and neglect for more than three decades. I'm so proud to stand with her as I help spread the word about this organization and the amazing work they're doing to benefit NYC children. Please consider Sunday's benefit (ticket information can be found HERE) -- what a special treat to be able to give back while checking out one of Broadway's most exciting and family-friendly new musicals!
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