Why We Chose Wildwood Crest for Our Jersey Shore Vacation

Doo Wop in Wildwood, NJEvery town on the Jersey Shore has a distinct personality.

One summer, we landed in Wildwood because of our interest in neon signs and mid-century architecture.

The thing that attracted us to Wildwood  were the dozens of mid-century motels still standing, though sadly, many have been razed to build condos.

There are three distinct towns on the barrier island:  North Wildwood, Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest — where the greatest concentration of mid-century modern resorts still operate.  The motels, are themed, with Vegas-like neon signs, plastic palm trees, and fantastical architecture.

The Wildwoods
The Wildwoods — Great for a Family Beach Vacation
Photo by Joel Shprentz

Doo Wop Motels in Wildwood Crest

In Wildwood Crest, which is the family-oriented southern stretch of beach, you’ll find the Jolly Roger, the Astronaut, the Apollo, the Gondolier, the Safari, the Aztec, the Tangiers, the Viking, and many others.

The architectural style is known as Doo WopGoogie, or Populuxe.  These  terms describe the kitschy style of Wildwood’s 200 motels built in the 1950s and 1960s.

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Easiest DIY Birthday Party for Little Travelers? Japanese Origami!

Origami Party Time
Origami Party Time, by Florence Temko

When our daughter was seven or eight we spent several days in San Francisco.

The city is perfect for a family vacation because there is tons of fun stuff for kids.

We spent a full day at Exploratorium, visited the penguins at the California Academy of Sciences, saw the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill, boarded ships at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Parkand played the games at Musee Mechanique at Fisherman’s Wharf.   

We stayed in a wonderful old hotel in the heart of San Francisco that we got on Priceline for $32 a night.

Our hotel was several blocks from Japantown, and we ventured there a couple of times for sushi and sukiyaki.  Japantown in San Francisco is much less touristy than Chinatown.  

Dinner in Japantown
My Family in Japantown

There is a mall, the Japan Center, with a large bookstore, many restaurants, some boutiques, and a discount store with imported goods.  The surrounding area is several blocks of residences, restaurants, and the Miyako hotel, as well as a Japanese market, a hardware store, and other shops.  

This is the neighborhood to shop for manga and Hello Kitty merchandise!

One of the shops we visited was a stationery store, The Paper Tree,  that had a large selection of origami papers and books.  The Paper Tree is a family business, and the owner’s daughters are origami artists.

Origami Stars
Origami Stars

We must have spent two hours in that shop.

They sell origami books and all manner of origami paper, including the beautiful handmade washi paper.  One of the daughters showed us how to fold tiny origami stars from paper strips, and we picked up some beautiful origami paper and stationery to bring home.

A DIY Japanese Origami Birthday Party

When it came time to plan our daughter’s birthday party, she chose a Japanese theme.

Fishing4Deals is a travel and bargain blog but one of my most popular posts ever was the article I wrote about how to host a DIY birthday party with an airplane theme.

Travel was a common thread in many of the home birthday parties we organized for our daughter — so I thought I would share a party plan for a DIY Japanese Origami party.

Koi windsock
Koi windsock

All of our DIY birthday parties followed the same basic plan, but this birthday party was the easiest ever.  No fuss, no muss, and very little expense — just a few packs of origami paper!

Here is an easy ten-step guide to planning an over-the-top Japanese origami birthday party. You can pick and choose from these ideas and adapt the party depending on the age of your child.

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What to Do with Teens in Cedar City, Utah

Soda Fountain at Bulloch Drugs, Cedar City, UT
My Family at the Soda Fountain at Bulloch Drugs, Cedar City, UT

If you can look beyond the chain restaurants, you will find that Cedar City, Utah has its funky side.

Most people come to Cedar City for ready access to the National Parks of southern Utah.

Cedar Breaks National Monument is a stunning park just outside of town, and Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park are within striking distance.  The outdoor recreation opportunities are outstanding, whether hiking in the spring, summer and fall, or skiing, snowboarding, and tubing in the winter.CEBR 2009 4th Annual WFFest Poster 11x17 poster

What to Do in Cedar City

Beyond the abundant outdoor recreation opportunities, Cedar City boasts some fun cultural events.  Cedar City calls itself Festival City USA, so check before you go to see if any special events are happening.

Shakespeare Festival

Cedar City’s most famous festival is the Utah Shakespeare Festival held every summer on the campus of Southern Utah University.  This professional theatre festival hires equity actors and features contemporary productions as well as traditional Shakespeare plays performed in a replica of the Globe Theatre.


The best kept secret about the Shakespeare Festival is the free outdoor pre-show entertainment called the Greenshow.

The Greenshow is an re-creation of Elizabethan street theatre, with period refreshments and a crafts fair to boot.

Kannaraville Slot Canyon
Kannaraville Slot Canyon
Photo found here: http://rujinav.tumblr.com/image/45127013150

The Cabaret

There is also a post-show Cabaret every Thursday night throughout the summer season.  Company members from the festival put on a variety show at The Grind coffeehouse on North Main Street.

Acts include singing, dancing, instrumental music, impressions, skits, improv games, magic tricks, poetry, bird calls, and juggling.

Off the Cuff Comedy Club

On Friday nights, check out the local comedy and improv club, Off the Cuff.  Many of the performers are students in the  theatre department at Utah State University.

Historic Cedar Theatre

Another great year round venue is the Historic Cedar Theatre.  Movie tickets are just $3 for children under 12, and $4 for adults.  This theatre was established in 1914, and restored in 2012, bringing some vitality to the downtown area.

 Kannaraville Slot Canyon

Twelve miles south of Cedar City is is a beautiful slot canyon and a popular hiking area. The Kannarville slot canyon offers waterfalls, slides, and beautiful red rock scenery.  You can find details of the hike here.  

Where to Eat in Cedar City

Centro Pizzeria

Centro Pizzeria, Cedar City
Centro Pizzeria, Cedar City

The Centro Pizzeria serves just one kind of food but does it very well. The fresh ingredients are straight from that morning’s farmers’ market and the pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven.  The food here reminded me of the famous Two Amy’s in Washington, DC.

Old-Fashioned Soda Fountain

If it’s lunchtime, you can get ice cream for dessert at the old-fashioned soda fountain in Bulloch drugstore in the center of town.  There are not too many traditional soda fountains left, so I am always happy to find one.

Where to Stay in Cedar City

Cedar City has dozens of chain hotels, but if you are looking for a bargain, Priceline is your best bet.  I always cheek Hotwire first, to get a sense of general availability.

Our favorite place to stay is the Best Western Town & Country Inn in the center of town.  We’ve gotten this hotel on Priceline for $38 to $48 per night.

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Darn Tough Socks Make My Day

Darn Tough Vermont Socks
Darn Tough Vermont Socks

Experienced travelers know that the key to a pleasant journey is comfortable footwear.

When we were in Vermont last fall, I discovered some great Merino wool socks at a local outfitter — Sam’s in Brattleboro.

Sam’s occupies at least three buildings in downtown Brattleboro, across the street from the Latchis Hotel where we stayed.

It is one of those stores with an endless selection of hats, gloves, coats, boots, sweaters, and of course socks.

The socks — Darn Tough Vermont — are manufactured in the Green Mountain State.

I bought a couple of pairs, and now I am a convert.

There are a variety of styles for men, women, and children:  socks for hiking; socks for skiing; socks for running; and socks for everyday wear.

The socks come in different weights, sizes, lengths, and colors, and they all have an unconditional lifetime guarantee.

If our socks are not the most comfortable, durable and best fitting socks you have ever owned, return them for another pair, or your money back.

Vermont Country Store
Vermont Country Store

These socks are expensive, but sometimes you can find bargains on last year’s styles.  I wear mine around the house, for walking the dog, and when I know I’ll have to take my shoes off  at airport security.

You can purchase the Darn Tough socks directly from the manufacturer.

They are also available from outfitters like REI or on Amazon.com.

We found a huge display of Darn Tough Vermont socks at the Vermont Country Store in Rockingham.  This is a really fun store that sells all kinds of old fashioned candies, toiletries, toys, and everything else made in Vermont, from cheese to maple sugar candies, to rugged clothing.  Be sure to check out the upstairs loft for discounted merchandise!

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Busting the Myths: New York City at Holiday Time

2013 Thanksgiving Day Parade
2013 Thanksgiving Day Parade

The holidays are the best time of the year to visit New York.  There’s extra energy in the city, and the holiday lights and decorations can be magical.  Not to mention the shopping!

We visited our family in New York over Thanksgiving — and took in the best of the holiday season.

Over the course of our visit, we managed to bust several pervasive myths about holiday time in New York City.

1.  You have to arrive at 6 a.m. to see the Thanksgiving Day parade

Everyone warned us that the parade route would be packed and if we wanted to get a spot we’d have to arrive very early.  We sauntered over to 6th avenue at 50th Street at 10 a.m. and had a great vantage point with Radio City Music Hall in the background.  We weren’t in the front row, but back where there was space to move around.

2.  The best shopping deals are on Black Friday

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Miles and Points for the Sandwich Generation

I’m a member of the Sandwich Generation — with extreme challenges supporting both a child and a parent, while running a small business.  Can you feel the squeeze?

Collecting miles and points helps my family hold it together.

In 2013, miles and points coupled with some other travel tricks kept us afloat and allowed us to travel “in style.”  Our style is value domestic travel — free flights and Priceline rooms to enable family visits.

I learned a lot about miles and points by reading other travel blogs — but stories about trips to the Maldives were not relevant to my situation; there are too many other places I want to go.  Frankly, if I make it to Paris, I’d be more interested in checking into a 2 star hotel in a funky neighborhood, than in staying in the Grand Hyatt Vendome.

Fishing4Deals is blog about travel for real people and for real families who must work within the constraints of limited time and money.

2013 was a great year for our family.  Using miles and points, earned largely through travel rewards credit card bonuses, we made more than a dozen cross-country flights and several road and train trips.

Here are the highlights:

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Keene Pumpkin Fest a Smashing Success

Pumpkin Festival Keene NH 2013
2013 Pumpkin Festival Keene New Hampshire
Joel Shprentz Photo

The “highlight” of our trip to Vermont last weekend was the Pumpkin Festival in Keene, New Hampshire.

The community was competing to win the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of simultaneously lit Jack-o-Lanterns.

2013 Pumpkin Festival Keene New Hampshire
Joel Shprentz Photo

Thousands of people hauled their carved pumpkins to the town square.

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Planning a Trip to Vermont on Points and Miles

Vermont Academy, Saxton's River, Vermont
Vermont Academy, Saxton’s River, VT
Image by M. McCardle

We are headed up to southern Vermont this weekend for a family get together.

The leaves should be at their peak, and we are looking forward to visiting rural New England.

This is an costly trip for us, so we will try to use points and miles to mitigate the expense.

We are using a Southwest Visa credit card for most of our expenses because we are participating in a holiday promotion to earn bonus points.

The major elements of the trip are:  

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Point Lookout — Trystworthy?

Stateline Point Lookout
Stateline Point Lookout

If you are having an illicit affair, I can think of no better place to meet your lover than Point Lookout on the Palisades Parkway. It’s beautiful, romantic, easily accessible from New York City, yet quite isolated (at least on a weekday.)

We drove to New England one Tuesday in early September, to drop our daughter at  school.  Traveling north on I-95, the New Jersey Turnpike ends in Fort Lee, New Jersey.  You can continue on I-95 to New York City and beyond by taking the George Washington Bridge, or you can travel north above the Hudson River via the Palisades Parkway.

We wanted to avoid traveling through New York City because our car was loaded with stuff.

I couldn’t believe the natural beauty that awaited us just minutes from Manhattan!

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Five Fun Things to Do with Teens and Tweens in Salt Lake City

Tracy AviaryTeens and tweens can be tough customers to please on a family vacation.  We are back from a week in Salt Lake City where we discovered some fun attractions that appeal to this age set.

Salt Lake City and Utah in general are an outdoor lover’s paradise — but these suggestions mostly focus on quirky attractions of the urban variety.

The Tracy Aviary  

We enjoyed a stroll through this bird zoo at the southeast corner of Liberty Park.  Liberty Park is an 80 acre retreat  in Salt Lake City that offers all manner of outdoor recreation.  The Tracy Aviary displays 400 birds representing about 135 different species in a tranquil wooded setting.

The Aviary is an old-time zoo with large, attractive enclosures.  Our teen was captivated by the strange, beautiful and diverse birds on display.  Plan about an hour for a visit.  If your family includes younger children, they might enjoy the retro amusement rides,including a ferris wheel, adjacent to the aviary.

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