Ten Reasons to Take THE TOUR [With Kids]

Disclaimer: Posts on this blog may include affiliate links or reviews in which I was asked to review an item or service in exchange for compensation and/or free items. All opinions, however, are 100% my own. This post is brought to you by THE TOUR.

When we were in New York City last week, one of our musts was to take THE TOUR, a bus ride through town. As you’ll soon see, THE TOUR is not just any ol’ bus ride, but an adventure on a $1.5 million bus throughout New York City. We took all four kids (yes, including the twins!) and came up with 10 reasons you should take THE TOUR with your kids.

THE TOUR

the tour

Reason 1: NYC in the summer is hot and winter is cold. These extremes don’t really make for great sightseeing (just ask Evan who cried on our walk over because his neck got hot). Instead, schedule yourself 90-minutes on THE TOUR and get a break from the weather. This experience happens rain or shine (but not blizzards), so no need to plan around the forecast. Trust me, you’ll be glad you’re not on one of those double-decker buses (been there done that in DC, oh my!).

the tour

Source: THE TOUR

Reason 2: Your kids will be amazed that they are sitting sideways on a bus that is lit up like a Christmas tree AND talks to them. THE TOUR is powered by the buses used for THE RIDE. These beauties are $1.5 million and it shows. From stadium-style seating (don’t worry, these are nice, comfy seats + carpeted floors!) to multiple LED screens and lights that move along to sounds and music, this is one seriously fun bus. Of note, there are not seat belts on the bus, so Ava and Isla mostly stayed in our laps for the duration of the trip. This was no issue at all because they were thrilled to check out all the fun around them.

Source: THE TOUR (because our bus said “THE RIDE”)

Reason 3: The Navigator, driver, and bus are extremely awesome. There’s really no other way to put it – but once you step on THE TOUR, you’ll immediately feel welcomed by the crew that is handling your trip. Our Navigator, Stina, was super personable and remembered things about the passengers on the trip (like that two parties were from Kansas City and another was from Ohio). She didn’t get thrown off by Isla’s occasional tears, either. Bernard, our driver, took some tight corners of the city like it was a walk in the park. And the bus (aka “THE RIDE”) has a fun personality, too! Note – do think ahead and have some cash for a tip. If you don’t have it, you’ll probably find yourself wishing you had. We were so glad we were prepared because they really impressed us! 

Reason 4: 90 minutes is positively perfect for enjoying the city from a bus-level view. THE TOUR is part of THE RIDE, but we picked it over THE RIDE  because it was 15 minutes longer and a little more educational / family-friendly. (THE RIDE is recommended for 6+ while THE TOUR allows all ages.) And while our ‘lil ones do get a bit antsy after 10 minutes, we parents needed the break THE TOUR gave us. It gave us time to learn about NYC and not have to worry about who was going in what direction.

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See? Greg’s bliss face. ;)

Reason 5: You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew…For instance, Arianna learned that you could get lost in Central Park because the sidewalks aren’t straight – they curve so that you can get lost and explore. And Evan learned that King Kong climbed the Empire State Building (and then he kept looking for him the rest of the day on all the towering buildings). I’d tell you more of the history lessons, but that’d ruin the surprise!

Reason 6: You might get to see the Naked Cowboy and not really have to explain because 10 seconds later you see game and TV characters and they don’t take the time to ask questions. Or maybe you’ll get a funny view like we did and then have to answer them all…

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Reason 7: You’ll get free advice on where to take the kids to lunch. Along the way (through 10 neighborhoods), we saw many different restaurant options. Stina (our Navigator) mentioned good things about some of them, but she also happened to point out a McDonald’s on Broadway that looked much more family-friendly than the one a few blocks over at Times Square did. (That’s where we had our lunch.)

Reason 8: There’s plenty of adult humor that will have you laughing your way through the day. As if seeing the Naked Cowboy wasn’t enough, we got laughs at Trump Tower (of course Fox News was there), looking at ads on Fifth Avenue, and the interactions with pedestrians (okay, other tourists – hint, they wave back).

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Reason 9: This isn’t your mama’s tour. It’s next generational, and really on point for the kids. You see, hear, and even feel the experience on THE TOUR. The kids were captivated, yet there were moments Greg and I looked at each other and knew that we had to get his dad on it ASAP because he grew up in Harlem and would connect with the way THE TOUR brings the past (and even future!) to the present.

Reason 10: Family memories will last a lifetime. Over a week later, the kids are still raving about their time on THE TOUR. We’ve got our own inside jokes and lines from Stina’s commentary on the city.  These aren’t things we’ll soon forget.

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If you are visiting New York City, we highly recommend you take a trip on THE TOUR or THE RIDE. You can find out more information on their website, experiencetheride.com. Tickets for THE TOUR are $45 per person and experiences are most days at 10, 12, and 2.

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Blogger Bash NYC 2016

What a whirlwind the last week and a half has been. Last Tuesday, after an early start to my work day, we packed the family in the van and headed to New York City for Blogger Bash NYC 2016. It was my time to work on this here blog and get inspired to keep bringing stories here.

Like last year, I had some really great moments; however, unlike last year, I’ll just share my thoughts versus going for a “top 5” list. There’s so much to tell you and we’ll let this post serve as my link up to other posts about my two days growing my blog, deal? Deal.

Blogger Bash NYC 2016

Care Bears Brunch

You guys. Next year, Care Bears will be turning 35. I can’t even find words. There are some cool things coming that I hope to share with you, but let me tell you that Blogger Bash and Care Bears picking Funshine Bear as the bear to start off our two days together was simply perfect. I was quickly reunited with some of my favorite BBNYC pals and met new friends whom either were new to the conference or I didn’t get to meet last year thanks to carrying the twins around with me. What a great start.

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Blogging Concentrated

This was almost my favorite part of the whole event. We were blessed with the opportunity to attend a shortened version of Blogging Concentrated led by Dan and Rachel. I was extremely grateful for the learning I got during this time and am ready to take this blog to new levels. Having a blog is a business, and it’s not always easy. You don’t just type words on a screen and let them stick, because they won’t. It’s work, but work I am ready to keep in my life. Thanks for the inspiration and tips!

Sweet Suite

Truly, this event is the biggest night of play. I joined the 400+ bloggers and YouTube families talking to three yacht levels’ worth of brands who brought the latest and greatest toys. After the event, we were sent a Box o’ Swag that the kids have been working on reviewing. The night ROCKED and not just because we were on the Majesty Yacht before a storm on the Hudson River. *wink*

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…more photos to come!…

Kate & Mim-Mim Breakfast

I did my homework, like any good smart kid does, the night before this event. Confession, I didn’t know about Kate and Mim-Mim. Evan (my 5-year-old) informed me that it’s “a baby show on Disney Junior” but that he likes to watch it with his baby sisters. Go figure, he was quite excited when I showed him the picture of me and Mim-Mim the next evening.

During this breakfast (which was much needed to fuel the day – I wasn’t too happy with food / drink through the rest of the event until the closing party), we heard from the creators of the show. It was cool to hear they’d based it off their own daughter and her stuffed bunny…and that the kids keep them in check when they are working on the show’s content (like one of their sons is all about continuity of the story around a child’s blanket – they speak my language because I hate when shows do this – I notice!).

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Babypalooza

Having babies, this was the event that I most looked forward to, but unfortunately liked least. The space given to it on the yacht was crammed…and there weren’t options for those who weren’t totally interested in baby products to be for about the first 45 minutes. It made connections tougher than usual, but I think I faired okay. Stand out brands I met with were Tula (swoon!), Oilogic, Potette, Evenflo, DOM, Fresh Wave, and Dolphin Organics. More to come on these!

Expo

All day, an expo was set up on the 2nd and 3rd floors. There were more brands than I was able to get to, but an AMAZING selection. At conferences like this, you really have to plan your connections. The only thing I’d have changed about this time was that I would have wanted a map of the booths and a clearer communication about the time they were ending. (The event ran until 4:30, but some booths packed up at 3:45, meaning I really couldn’t get them all in.) So many cool things to bring your way, though!

Peanuts Keynote Lunch

We got to hear from Ginger Zee (of Good Morning America) and the voices of the Peanuts Movie cast. These kids are super! The boy who is the voice of Linus brought his blankie (which stayed with mom, but I got to see it because she was seated right in front of me). This was a really cool part of the event because of the personal connections with the actors and Ginger (who is also a pretty new mom who is back to work).

Snooki and JWOWW Keynote

I’ll say it – I was fangirling when I heard that Nicole (Snooki) and Jenni (JWOWW) from Jersey Shore and Snooki & JWOWW would be speaking at this event. (Hey, I’m an MTV kid late to the game!) They answered questions about life after their shows and as married, working moms. While we don’t have a ton in common, I felt like I was connecting with their responses and that all of us moms have similar struggles.

The pair wasn’t taking the boat rocking well, so the questions were cut short, but I was selected to have a question asked, so I got to take a photo with them afterwards. You know me and celeb photo opps, so yup, I did it.

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Source: Blogger Bash / The Toy Insider

Shop Ireland

As an Irish girl, I enjoyed connecting with some brands from Ireland that were showcasing their products with us. The time was all too short and the space was tight, but I have a few fun posts coming your way in the next few months thanks to this event.

Closing Party

We were on a boat, after all, so what better way to end the event than a sailing on the Hudson River. After two full working days of smiling, connecting, and talking “shop”, it was good to let loose and enjoy some time with friends. We even went right past the Statue of Liberty just moments after Greg and the kids went by on the Staten Island Ferry.

statueofliberty

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Blogger Bash NYC 2016 was a blogging conference that I attended as professional development for my blog. I’ll be adding below links to opportunities that came about thanks to this event. Kudos to the team behind the event – it was awesome!

If you are a blogger and want to find out more, go to bloggerbash.com to keep informed about 2017!

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My Anchor

Happy Anniversary to my anchor.

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It has been an amazing 7 years, Greg. I look forward to growing old with you!

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This Could Have Been Us

I am absolutely sickened to the point that my heart hurts and my head is spinning. I was just trying to enjoy an evening scrolling through social media, releasing from the “fun” of “bill day”, when I saw my sister-in-law post that yet again there have been two senseless shootings of black men here in the United States. This could have been us, and that makes me even sicker.

If you live under a rock (or try to avoid the news like I do because so much hate and anger in this world), you might not have heard that a man in Minneapolis lost his life right in front of his girlfriend just two days before his 33rd birthday, just two days after our country celebrated its birthday (and let freedom ring). (You can see more about this current event here, there’s a graphic video that gives me the chills.)

And if you did hear that, maybe you didn’t hear about hear about Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge. I hadn’t. Then I told Greg how much the loss of Philando hurt me and he told me about Alton. Then I looked. And I cringed and cried again. Here, in case you haven’t.

So let’s not live under a rock and try to pretend these things aren’t happening around us. Let’s talk about them, hash out the things that make us angry. For me, the fact that this could have been us is the hardest thing of all, the thing that is making breathing difficult for me today.

Circle back to 2013. I’ve told this story before, but many of you are new around here. We were driving home from an annual celebration in East Brady when we ran into a routine traffic stop, a DUI checkpoint. Our evening had been full of completely sober fun with my parents at their parsonage (the home a minister and his family live in), yet Greg was asked not so nicely to step out of the car (“boy”) and was thoroughly interrogated by officers while another officer drove the kids and I away from the scene.

Now some of you are probably like, “Beck. Get over this. You guys didn’t do anything wrong. Greg’s still with you. Why make race a factor in this?”. Well, that’s just it. We didn’t do anything wrong, and I am darn lucky he’s still here. Race is a factor because he was pulled out of the truck not for suspicion that he’d been drinking or engaging in reckless drug activity but because of his skin color. Called “boy” in front of his wife and children. And this could have been us.

Like Philando Castilo and Alton Sterling (keep their names on your heart), Greg was innocently trying to do exactly what black fathers have taught their black sons to do in a traffic stop. Keep your hands in sight and do exactly what the officers ask. Disclose anything that could be a concern. Remain calm.

One thing I should mention – Greg does not carry, and has no desire to, so there is one slight difference between him and Philando (and, perhaps, Alton); however, this doesn’t change anything. One small move that the officer didn’t like, a movement of the eye, even, could have turned things from bad to worse that night.

This senseless shooting, these cold-blooded murders should not have happened. It should not be something that I have to constantly wonder – will it happen to my husband or son? Will my daughters bear witness to this hate? This could have been us.

I refuse to let this continue. I want to stand on the front lines and pledge to all my friends and family who are different – I am here and I am not going to be silent. I am going to call out inequalities. I am going to stand up against hate and anger. I am not going to just sit here on my blog and talk about the love of Xavier. Next time someone calls my son or daughter(s) a mutt or a monkey or my husband Tiger Woods, I’m going to call them out. I’m not going to vague-blog as a reaction. I don’t care about the risk. It’s what is right for my children.

I am on the front line. You have my love, support, and prayers. All of you.

Because they matter. Because this could have been us.

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When She Wakes…

…she will move mountains.

Our Ava is already moving mountains. From being “failure to thrive” to taking up most of the playpen that she is supposed to share with her twin.

This girl, our quiet yet fierce sweetheart.

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Transformation Tuesday: The Zoo

When we realized that there was a photo of Greg and Arianna from July 2, 2010 that looked exactly like what a photo of Greg and Isla would look like, we decided to go to the zoo and grab another photo.

zoocollage

One, hasn’t Arianna grown up so (way too) much?

Two, I think that Isla and Arianna are the twins, just six and a half years apart, right?

Three, don’t we all wish we could age like Greg?

Sigh.

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2016 Fourth of July

Hope you’ve had a very happy Fourth of July!

The Bigs enjoyed running around an obstacle race with their cousins…in the rain…and the Littles refused to nap. Very independent, indeed.

May you stay safe while continuing to enjoy your freedoms tonight.

Happy Fourth of July!

fourth of july

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A Zoo Day

Today was a Zoo day for us. The trip was planned basically last-minute to get a picture for a #tbt, honestly. But the kids really proved themselves out yesterday and this morning, so they more than earned this “surprise”.

Note – posts on this blog may contain affiliate links. 

Admittedly, we don’t get to the zoo enough. We had to think about it – had the girls been there yet? The answer was yes, but was the Ice Cream Fundae the first time? We still aren’t sure, sorry girls. We will be remedying our lack of zoo time with more trips because oh.my.goodness did the kids love this day.

First, we were excited to try out our freshly bought Graco double stroller (the girls have moved on up in size and the Snap n’ Go). But, as always, getting to the zoo and actually walking around with a double stroller was a bit of a pain. Though watching the girls react to the animals and seeing the Bigs light up at their reactions made it all better.

The Bigs had to get measured by the elephants, of course.

zoo day

We had to adjust Ava’s seat so she could see, and even carried her for a little bit (wishing we’d brought some baby carriers with us – but testing out the stroller was top of our list).

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Isla really enjoyed sitting out front, telling everyone (especially the elephants and monkeys) hi!

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I hung out on the beach with Ari and Evan at the Islands.

Pittsburgh Zoo Islands

And Greg got a chance to sit with all four of his kiddos in the shark tank.

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What a great day it was for a zoo day!

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Evan and His Shoes

Oh, Evan and his shoes. Somehow, the boy has grown out of shoes overnight. Like from a size 11 to needing a size 13 all of the sudden.

And of course, none of the shoes we have in the house were his size except for his soccer cleats.

And of course, none of the shoes at the store were going to be just right, either.

Take, for instance, the shoes mama brought home from the store because she knew she couldn’t manage a trip to the store with the boy with the style that he can’t explain.

The shoes that he didn’t even see before he proclaimed he didn’t like them, they were weird. The shoes that you all told him you liked, many of you sending notes and messages and even a video to tell him how awesome he is {in his shoes}.

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Evan and his shoes have had a few days together. Maybe they’re growing on him. Maybe.

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About Breathing

Breathing in. Breathing out. When it all boils down to it, life is all about breathing, isn’t it?

Tonight, after my commute home and some errands, I am glad to delay dinner and just breathe for a few minutes. Greg is outside, working on the garage. The kids are enjoying some screen time. And I am breathing.

I feel like I’m breathing differently these days. I’m breathing with lungs that are truly ready to start running again, as soon as I can drop a few more pounds with eating changes. I’m breathing with less stress. I’m breathing life into a body that is getting enough rest and not relying on coffee to get me through. I’m breathing.

It’s been seven days (plus a weekend) at my new job, and there have been a lot of breathing moments in these days. There was my high school reunion and Father’s Day without being on call. Being able to go to lunch with my kids and not feel like I needed to race a clock back to the house to get back online. Walking in the garden that my love has put his labor into. Breathing in the smell of lilies on lunchtime strolls around my office park.

It’s been a few weeks of better breathing for Arianna, too. She met with an allergist on Friday and confirmed the bloodwork (food panel) was right – no milk or peanut allergies. She does have some environmental ones, which that paired with her asthma were what’s been deemed our ‘lil trip to Children’s ER a few weeks back. She’s breathing more often with the help of her inhaler, with goals to get off that soon (except for exercise), too.

It’s been deep, labored breaths for Evan as he realizes the TORMENT of summer break. Early mornings waking with the sun paired with the desire to stay awake until the sun goes down paired with playing and Bible school and lunches and boy-life are taking a toll on his plans. The next days will likely bring the addition of a nap (or quiet time) to cut down on the sighs and side-breaths we’re getting around dinner time. Boys…they will be boys!

And Greg’s been breathing more calmly, too. His job changed as well, back to being a Stay at Home Dad full-time. It’s an adjustment, but we’re so glad breathing is a little bit easier. That Sundays are truly family days again. That I don’t have to beat the traffic home across the city.

This breathing thing. It’s pretty nice.

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