A Winter Break: Castaway Bay

We received an overnight stay and waterpark passes to Castaway Bay in exchange for sharing the post below with our readers. All opinions are 100% our own. Read all the way to the bottom to hear how you can enter to win your own #CastawayBayGetaway!

Pittsburgh, we’ve had enough of the snow and cold this year, haven’t we? I know spring is really right around the corner, but I am anxious for everything it brings with it. To help combat the season, we loaded the family up in the van and hit the road for a quick (three-hour) road trip to Sandusky, Ohio for an overnight stay at Castaway Bay.

A Winter Break: Castaway Bay

Because we left on a Friday after work and school, we didn’t get to take full advantage of the resort’s 4:00 PM check-in time, but because the indoor waterpark is open until 10 PM (check their operating hours to plan your visit), we got plenty of time in after dinner and checking in. (You can get your wristbands as early as 8:00 AM on your day of arrival – we’ll definitely do this next time!)

The 38,000-square foot waterpark is fully enclosed (always 82-degrees) and a perfect place to spend a winter break! The theme is a tropical Caribbean one and it flows from the park to the on-site restaurants to the hotel rooms. There are water attractions for all ages – slides, a toddler pool/splash pad, an indoor/outdoor Grotto spa, wave pool, and more.

Wondering where Ava was? Attached to Mama!

The Bigs especially enjoyed the waterslides and water roller coaster. They’ve both grown up so much and had the courage to try every single one. Isla (almost four) stuck to the toddler pool and the shallow waves but did go down two todder friendly slides. Ava (also almost four) is usually pretty confident in the pool felt a bit overwhelmed by the (light) crowds and stuck to mom. (I mention crowds, but it really was not packed at all – she just gets clingy in unfamiliar places.)

Pro Tip: There are lifevests for your ‘lil swimmers. I couldn’t find them at first but look for the boat by the wave pool and there your treasure will be! Arr, matey!

Pro Tip: To get great photos of Castway Bay, you’re going to want a waterproof phone pouch. I recommend this one – just order it with Amazon Prime before your trip! You’ll regret not having your phone for photos and meeting up with the family during your time at the park.

Where to Eat: Castaway Bay

All that swimming and relaxing will make you hungry. Thankfully, there are a few options right on the property for you to get your grub on and the hotel rooms have a refrigerator and microwave! The hotel features a Quaker Steak & Lube, a deli serving Starbucks coffee, breakfast buffet (we gave Mango Mike’s a 6 thumbs up for their pancake bar and visits from Snoopy), and snack shack (right in the waterpark).

Other Experiences at Castaway Bay

Prepare for some time outside of the waterpark – you’ll want the break from riding the waves as tough as that sounds! We used our spacious suite for a nap and a (chilly) peek at the birds on the bay off of the balcony. There is also a game room, souvenier shop, and our favorite spot on the resort, Club Castaway! At Club Castaway you can make your own souvenier (t-shirts, pillowcases, bags), watch movies, play games, or meet Snoopy. It was a great place to just chill and the lighting was amazing even on an overcast day.

Ready for Your OWN #CastawayBayGetaway?

We loved our trip to Sandusky and Castaway Bay and think you would, too! Try to get out there before the winter is over or combine your stay with a trip to nearby Cedar Park. (Castaway Bay is an offical hotel of the park.) For all the details on day passes, hotel stays (with park passes), and more, visit Castaway Bay’s website. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

And speaking of Instagram, let’s get you entered in a GIVEAWAY for a family four-pack of passes to Castaway Bay! To enter, head over to our Instagram and enter to win on this photo. Giveaway will end on March 13, 2019, so act quickly! >> sorry, giveaway closed in 2019. Watch our site for more fun!

Get MOVING with Kids Of Steel (March 2)

The post below is part of a series of posts about the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events for which I have been selected to be a 2019 Pittsburgh Marathon official blogger. I’ve received my race registration fee in exchange for promotion of the event. All opinions are 100% my own. 

Are your kiddos ready to run in the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon’s Chick-fil-A Kids’ Marathon? The ‘lil Burghers are excited to start hitting the trail to get their “official” training going, but first we’ll be checking out this event on March 2:

Join the Kids of Steel team from 9 AM to 12 PM on Saturday, March 2 at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex to kick off training season and get race day ready! There will be a selfie station, nutrition lessons from Let’s Move Pittsburgh, runs on the indoor track and several family-friendly training activities led by local fitness experts.

Source: P3R Events

Check out the full schedule of events and then RSVP here today!

PSST! If you still need to sign up for the Marathon or Half, make sure you do and let them know I sent you by using WILLISDSGPM19 as your code when you sign up. You’ll save $10 when you do! Register here.

Liberty Magic Welcomes “IMPOSSIBLE”

In exchange for our review and providing you with information, we received tickets to Liberty Magic to see Eric Jones in “IMPOSSIBLE”. No other compensation was received. All opinions are 100% our own.

As parents, Greg and I find it extremely important to make sure that we keep dating each other. When Pittsburgh Cultural Trust asked us to check out their new venue Liberty Magic and watch Eric Jones in “IMPOSSIBLE”, it gave us a great “excuse” to get out for an evening and leave the kiddos with Unca.

Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I mean, how many coins can be hidden and pulled from behind someone’s ears and it still wow a person? But the venue seemed cool and we have a history of meeting people from America’s Got Talent, so I was willing to give this one a go and kept the evening a surprise from Greg until we got to Liberty Magic.

The Venue: Liberty Magic

What used to be a small comedy theater on Liberty Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh is now Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Liberty Magic. Unlike other venues associated with Cultural Trust, this is an intimate (70-person/four rows of seats) venue. It is BYOB (a speakeasy feel – come in cocktail attire for fun!) and tucked into what would appear to be an old store front.

Inside, the venue is decorated with memorabilia of illusion artists, Zoltar (if you’ve been to Kennywood, you’re familiar), and some pretty incredible ceilings and light fixtures. Seating is comfortable for the 60-minute shows (chairs and bar stools). There are only four other cities with venues like this!

Liberty Magic
Some of the decor

The Show: Eric Jones in “IMPOSSIBLE”

Eric Jones brings humor to the stage with his show. It is more than hiding some coins and guessing cards. We found ourselves laughing (although the content is not all clean or kid-friendly) and wondering how he made his tricks work.

He limits his tricks to a few really good ones and keeps the audience engaged through stories of his childhood and career steps. Jones said that he “stands on the shoulders of giants” and his illusions are both original and based on his mentors’ illusions.

Following the show, Skeleton VIP Key holders are able to go to the green room and have a 15-minute chat with Jones to see some up-close tricks and ask questions, but he isn’t giving the answers to “how did you do that trick”. For example, when Greg asked him if there was anything that gave him an “advantage” in his show, he replied that proprioception – relationship to things around you – is ingrained better in some than in others so it helps with making his show work (for instance, juggling coins in his hands based on spatial awareness).

Eric wowed me with his down to earth, humble attitude. I found myself listening to his words and his passion for people and a message throughout his show that you should take what you are passionate about and make a living out of it and (frankly) ignoring the “illusion”. Eric gives back to the community that gave to him by going to inner city schools and ingraining into teens the importance of making something of yourself through your passions. As a mama who has done this, it made a few tears come to my eyes.

If you’d like to check out “IMPOSSIBLE”, you have until March 17, 2019 and then Lee Terbosic takes residency through May. For tickets, head over to Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

A New Pittsburgh Cultural District Space – Liberty Magic

This post contains information suited for our adult readers. Liberty Magic is a new Pittsburgh Cultural District Space opening in February 2019 and is recommended for ages 18+. We like to share adult events on our site when they are date-night opportunities for our parent readers. In exchange for our promotion of this event, we have received tickets for an upcoming performance. All opinions are 100% our own.

811 Liberty Avenue is now “Liberty Magic”

This February, a brand new Pittsburgh Cultural District space has opened up. 811 Liberty Avenue is now “Liberty Magic”, an “intimate, speakeasy magic arts space” that opened this past week with the nationally-acclaimed magician Eric Jones. The space will seat 70 attendees and include an option for Skeleton Key VIP Experience ticket holders to sit right up front for private tricks, be part of the show, take part in an after-show experience with the performer, and purchase exclusive merchandise.

Up first, Jones brings his show IMPOSSIBLE from February 6 to March 20, 2019. Pittsburgh Cultural Trust says Jones “will leave audiences in wonder as reality transforms into the unreal, coins multiply and cards fly. By the show’s conclusion, guests will have been left in amazement by Jones’ canny ability to blur the lines between reality and illusion”.

Source: Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Information from Pittsburgh Cultural Trust on What to Expect:


Liberty Magic seating is general admission, priced at $40 per ticket. Performances are: Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 5 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 6:30 p.m.

There is a special Skeleton Key VIP Experience for $65 reserved for the truly adventurous. The Skeleton Key VIP Experience unlocks the first two rows in our intimate theater, a chance to become part of the performance (if you wish) and an exclusive meet and greet with the artist after the show, which includes private, close-up mysteries. Members of the Skeleton Key VIP Experience also have the opportunity to purchase merchandise not available for sale to the general public.

The Liberty Magic experience is recommended for ages 18 and up, and no one under 12 will be admitted. Liberty Magic also offers a special space for private groups, corporate off-sites, staff member rewards, client entertaining, and many special occasions including anniversaries, birthdays, bachelor/bachelorette parties, and family gatherings. Student, corporate, and group sales discounts are available for select performances. Visit TrustArts.org/Groups to learn more. 

While there is no dress code, we encourage guests to dress in cocktail or party attire, making for an extra-special night out.

Liberty Magicis a BYOB speakeasy, and one of the most affordable in town! Bring your own beer, wine, cocktails, or soft drinks to sip on while you are amazed by our world-class magicians. There is a $5 per guest corkage fee.

Challenger Sports International Soccer Camp 2019

Review Disclaimer: We have a partnership with US Family Guide – they provide opportunities such as Challenger International Soccer Camp in exchange for reviews on this blog and our social media. All opinions are 100% our own.

source: US Family Guide

It might be hard to believe when we’re still in that time of year when it is 50-degrees one day and 30-degrees the next, but it is time to start planning what your kiddos are going to do when they’re off school this summer. For the last two summers, Evan has taken part in a Challenger Sports soccer camp and he’s excited to do the same this year.

Challenger Sports International Soccer Camp

You might remember that the program Evan was involved in the past two summers was British Soccer. This year, Challenger Sports is combining elements of that program with their TetraBrazil program and unveiling the all-new Challenger International Soccer Camp. Evan has had coaches from both the UK and Brazil, so I’m sure not too much is going to change other than bringing even more opportunities to get skills from coaches around the world.

International Soccer Camp will include instructional camp programs for ages 3 and up. The TinyTykes program (for ages 3-5) will include fundamental soccer activities, games, and stories, designed to enhance technical skills along with physical and social development. With the return of half and full-day programs for ages 6-16, students will get time for skill development, games, challenges, and competition each day.

challenger sports international soccer camp

Get Registered for International Soccer Camp

Challenger Sports, the leading soccer camp company in North America, is combining the most popular elements of their two existing industry-leading camp programs, British Soccer and TetraBrazil, integrating them into a collection of the most effective soccer practices used by youth teams around the world.

The new Challenger International Soccer Camp reflects the truly global nature of the sport today and provides young players with a wide variety of coaching styles, practices, and influences that will help them develop a well-rounded skill set.

We have taken the best coaching methodologies and practices from England, Brazil, Spain, USA and France and have woven them together in a multi-faceted on and off-field coaching experience.

Most camps will include a free soccer ball, T-shirt, Poster and Certificate, but please check your individual sessions on the next page to confirm this.

Any camp or clinic participant will receive the iChallenge App and 20 free skill-building videos!

Source: Challenger Sports

Interested in joining in the fun this summer? Search for the International Soccer Camp closest to you and then register. US Family Guide has shared with me that if you register 30 days before camp, your child will qualify for a free International Game Jersey!

Phantom of the Opera: Pittsburgh

Exciting news to share with you from Pittsbugh Cultural Trust – starting next week, you can catch THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA in Pittsburgh! Part of PNC Broadway on Pittsburgh, this show will be in town February 20 to March 3, 2019.

Tickets for Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA are on sale for the triumphant return Pittsburgh engagement at the Benedum Center, 237 7th Street.  With newly reinvented staging and stunning scenic design, this new version of PHANTOM is performed by a cast and orchestra of 52, making this one of the largest productions on tour in North America.  This event is a season special part of the 2018-2019 PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh series, presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and Broadway Across America. 

Source: PITTSBURGH CULTURAL TRUST AND PNC BROADWAY IN PITTSBURGH

Tickets (currently starting at $36 for select performance) are on sale now and available at the following official Pittsburgh Cultural Trust ticket sources: online at TrustArts.org, by calling Guest Services at 412-456-4800, or in person at Theater Square Box Office, 655 Penn Avenue. For groups of 10+ call 412-471-6930, online at TrustArts.org/GroupSales or in person at Theater Square Box Office. 

Pittsburgh Event Alert: Monster Jam 2019

This post is a partnership with ‘lil Burghers and Monster Jam – we received tickets to the show in exchange for sharing details about the event. All opinions are 100% our own.

It’s that time of year again…when Monster Jam comes back to Pittsburgh! The thrills return to PPG Paints Arena on Friday, February 8 through Sunday, February 10. Monster Jam 2019 will bring back some of your favorites and some new surprises. (Check out the list of scheduled performers here.)

Check out the fun we had in 2018!

Tickets start at $25 and there are four show options throughout the weekend. If you and your kiddos love trucks, dirt, and all the noise, get yourself to Monster Jam 2019. Find out more about this event on their official website.

What “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” Left Us Craving

This post is a review of the PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh opening night performance of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory“. In exchange for this review, Cultural Trust provided us with tickets to the event. All opinions are 100% our own. 

Chocolate and more theater. I’ll just cut right to the chase. The opening night performance of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” left mama and Ari craving chocolate and more theater. 

If you get a chance to attend the remaining performances of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (through Sunday, February 3), you’ll know what we mean. You know when you’ve had something before but then something better comes along and you’re like where were you all my life? That’s the kind of craving this show gave us. 

Let’s reel it back to the 1990s. I never watched much TV but movies, especially ones with a musical set to give you a lifetime of earworms, they were my thing. I probably watched the Gene Wilder “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” no less than 100 times throughout my life. I am also addicted to chocolate, so maybe it was my inner Augustus coming out?!?! Seriously though, I loved the story of how a kid from (less than) humble beginnings could have the world in his hands just with his dreams and imagination. 

And this is where my career as an Accidental Admin probably makes a ton of sense – I live for this stuff! 

And it is the stuff I want my kids to grow up knowing, so of course, they’ve seen both movie versions of this classic. When the chance to see the show in person came up, I knew that Arianna would be the ‘lil Burgher to appreciate it the most. (Note, this show is for your older kiddos – we had to have a talk about some of the jokes and one word, but my 10-year-old is pretty aware of right and wrong so I think her senses were perked and she wanted to fact check her mama.)

Boy, was I right. The kiddo was on the edge of her seat the whole 2+ hours and I was right there with her. Between the tunes, the characters being brought to today’s time and space (the Mike TV/Wonka ipod crush scene for the parenting win, btw!), and the set…it was just amazing. This was the first I’ve seen cinematic effects like the digital curtains giving the stage depth and this mom in tech was awestruck. The boy who played Charlie was so spot on and Wonka had me believing I needed to dream more. And then I swear they pumped the scent of chocolate into the Benedum Center to top it all off!

If you and your family are looking for something to do to stay warm this week, this is it. And I warn you, you’ll catch the theater bug and want to sign up for some season tickets to upcoming shows too. The lineup they have in store is pretty incredible. Check out the official ticketing site for all the details on this week’s remaining shows or head over to trustarts.org to see what else is playing in town this week and beyond. You won’t want to miss this one!

Pittsburgh Events Alert: January 2019

2019 promises plenty of family fun in Pittsburgh! Our monthly events alert post will be a place you can find family-friendly fun throughout the month. If you have an event you’d like to add, please use the mail button to the right.

Pittsburgh Events Alert: January 2019

Family-Friendly Theater

January 18-19 (various times) – Moon Shot (recommended for ages 7+, tickets and more details through the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust) – $12

January 21 (7:00 PM) – Let Freedom Sing, the 12th Annual Concert Celebration of the Martin Luther King Holiday (all ages, tickets and more details through the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust) – $2+

January 29-Feb 3 (various times) – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (recommended for ages 6 and up, tickets and more details through the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust) – $45+

Date Night Events

January 18 (7:00 PM) – Hamiltunes! An American Sing Along for Adults (more information available through the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust). Free

January 25 (starting at 5:30 PM) – Gallery Crawl in the Cultural District (more information available through the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust). Free

Theater: ELF The Musical (Pittsburgh through December 30)

Disclaimer: I received compensation in the form of tickets to this event; however, all opinions are my own. This post, ELF The Musical, is brought to you by The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

ELF The Musical

Evan and I got to experience a season special event at Heinz Hall last evening for the opening performance of the Broadway musical ELF . We were familiar with the movie, but beyond wow’ed by the songs, cast, and costumes of the in-person production. We found ourselves giggling, high-fiving, and tapping our toes along with the entire show!

Source: Pittsburgh Cultural Trust


ELF is the hilarious tale of Buddy, a young orphan child who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole. Unaware that he is actually human, Buddy’s enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth. With Santa’s permission, Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City to find his birth father, discover his true identity, and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas. This modern day Christmas classic is sure to make everyone embrace their inner ELF.
 
Based on the beloved 2003 New Line Cinema hit, ELF features songs by Tony Award nominees Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin(The Wedding Singer), with a book by Tony Award winners Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone). The production will feature direction by Sam Scalamoni and choreography by Connor Gallagher.

Info provided by Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

ELF at Heinz Hall: Know Before You Go

First things first, this show is recommended for ages 8+. I got a mama gut punch as we stood in line to enter Heinz Hall thinking – the “what if’s” about youknowwho and what questions I might get after. Buddy more than covers the magic of Santa so I made it with no questions, but you never know.

Secondly, Heinz Hall has a new security process so arrive early. We got there with 20 minutes to spare (due to just getting home from vacation) but had to wait in a line wrapped around the building for security checks. We ended up missing the first song but found out about a window that you can watch through before you are able to be seated between numbers. I was holding in mild hysterics but all turned out okay!

Performance dates and times for ELF The Musical at Heinz Hall are Wednesday, December 26, Thursday, December 27, and Friday, December 28 at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday, December 29 at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday, December 30 at 1:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. 

Tickets (starting at $31) are available at these official ticketing sources: www.TrustArts.org, by calling the Heinz Hall Box Office at 412-392-4900, or in person at either Heinz Hall Box Office (600 Penn Avenue), or Theater Square Box Office, 655 Penn Avenue.  For groups of 10+ call 412-471-6930, online at TrustArts.org/GroupSales, or by email: groupsales@TrustArts.org.

Our Final Thoughts

Evan and I highly recommend this show! It is a great treat and a way to keep the Christmas spirit going through this last week of 2018. Go and enjoy!