Jumping away the last days of summer

The trampolines at Rebounderz.

The trampolines at Rebounderz.

As much as our family loves to travel to faraway places, we also love discovering new family-friendly stuff in our own proverbial backyard.

Today we found a new fave 30 minutes south of our house: Rebounderz, an indoor trampoline park.

The place is a kids’ fantasy land with dozens upon dozens of trampolines. Plain trampolines. Trampolines on walls. A basketball court made out of trampolines. Even trampolines that enable kids to bounce themselves into a giant pit of foam cubes.

There’s also a three-story indoor playground, an epic arcade (with Pop-A-Shot), a regular hardwood basketball court, and a snack bar.

It’s been over 100 degrees here all week, so Rebounderz was the perfect place to bring L and R to blow off steam. The facility is the first West Coast outpost of an East Coast franchise. It was well-organized. It was clean. Perhaps the only downside to the place: It was SUPER expensive, as in, $48 for both girls for two hours. (It was so spendy, in fact, that I decided not to jump; if I had joined them, it would have cost us another $21.)

We went with some of the girls’ friends—five girls in all. The trip was sort of a last hurrah: The girls all start school next week.

Sure, the kids liked the trampolines, but the undisputed highpoint actually was the playground, which boasted a corkscrew tunnel slide, two platform ladders, lots of rope bridges, and a bunch of bouncy-house type obstacles. Once the kids tried all the everything else (except the basketball court ones; the kids were intimidated to try those); they insisted on returning to the playground. Afterward, that’s the part L and R remembered most fondly.

We didn’t really hit up the snack bar; I and the other parent for the day smuggled in our own (healthy) snacks but relied on the in-house options for cups of Dippin’ Dots as a special bonus for the girls. As for the arcade, I’m still not sure how much each game actually cost ($20 bought me a bunch of credits, and each game cost different amounts of those), but it felt like my money disappeared particularly fast.

Next time, I’ll take advantage of booking jump times online. I’ll also make sure we arrive right when the place opens; we got there about 30 minutes after the joint opened, but by lunchtime, it was a zoo.

Overall, I’d say our first experience at Rebounderz was a positive one. I’m not sure we can afford to visit more than once or twice a quarter, but it’s nice to know we’ve got such a fun new option so close to home.

What are your go-to daytrip spots within 30 minutes of your home?

Five signs of a kid-friendly hotel

Our Big Girl tries her hand(s) at foosball.

Our Big Girl tries her hand(s) at foosball.

We have stayed at dozens of kid-friendly hotels over the years, but I’m not sure any of them has been as fun for kids as the place we stayed during our recent family trip: The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe.

Yes, this is a luxury hotel. Yes, the rooms are uber-fancy. And, yes, if you’re traveling on a budget, it might be out of your price range (though off-season and shoulder-season rates are more affordable than you might think). But, to be blunt, the hotel is PERFECT for traveling families. Here are five reasons why.

Games galore
I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of games we played at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe. All of them belonged to the resort. Outside, next to the expansive pool area, the four of us spent copious amounts of time trying out the bocce court, two cornhole courts, oversized Jenga blocks (which the girls used to build castles), and Ladder Toss (with which I am now obsessed). Out near a small lawn, there also was a giant tub of Frisbees (for the Frisbee golf course), badminton equipment and soccer balls. Inside, when R napped, L and I raided the arcade, which had two grabby-claw games, two pinball machines, foosball (which both kids tried and disliked), air hockey (which L tried and LOVED and really was good at) and a variation on Pop-A-Shot (for the record, I notched a 229, which apparently was the second-highest score ever. #notsohumblebrag).

Ongoing kid activities
In addition to these at-your-leisure games, the resort offered a handful of organized games, too. One of our favorites: “Where is the Bear?” The rules of this game were pretty simple. Every morning, members of the hotel’s concierge staff hid a stuffed bear in secret places throughout the Living Room (which is what they call the upstairs lobby). Our objective: To find it. We spent three days trying to find that sucker, but we came up empty every time. Apparently, if L or R *had* spotted the furry little dude, they would have received prizes. Thankfully, for them, the fun of searching endlessly (and screaming, “Where are you, Bear?!?!”) was prize enough. Naturally, the other ongoing kid-oriented program that my little sweet-tooths loved was the daily “Marshmology,” during which hotel staffers doled out house-made marshmallows, Hershey’s chocolate bars and graham crackers for guests (of all ages) to make s’mores. On our first day, both kids burned their marshmallows. By our last day, they had perfected the science of getting those buggers golden brown.

Child-specific amenities
It would be easy for a hotel like The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe to take itself too seriously—during ski season, this is one of the swankiest resorts in the entire area. The reality, however, is that a handful of amenities kept the atmosphere light and welcoming for little ones. I’ve blogged previously about the “Just for Kids Indoor Campout” through which kids can spend their stays in indoor tents. We signed up for this program and the girls LOVED it—so much so that they have requested weekly “tent nights” here at home. The girls also enjoyed the Ritz Kids program; though we didn’t sign up for any of the guided programs designed by Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Future Society, we did duck inside the designated Ritz Kids clubhouse (next to the arcade) for some arts-and-crafts time. (Of course I also have blogged about how much L loved the excursion with Tahoe Star Tours, as well as about how much we all enjoyed the gem-panning attraction in Northstar Village.)

Kid-friendly restaurants
For me to describe a restaurant as welcoming to pint-sized customers, it must offer young diners a) special children’s menus and b) crayons and paper, and must bring orders quickly (so the natives don’t get restless). Many restaurants that self-identify as family-friendly come up short on at least one of these requirements. Thankfully, none of the eateries at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe disappointed us at all. All of the restaurants had unique (and healthy!) kids’ menus. All of the restaurants offered crayons. And all of the restaurants brought food to L and R quickly. On the night we took the girls to Manzanita, the hotel’s fancy eatery, the wait staff was so attentive that the girls lasted a whopping 90 minutes at the table (trust me, this is unprecedented). Still, our favorite on-site restaurant was the Backyard Bar & BBQ, which served up kid-friendly dishes such as cheese pizza, hot dogs and cornbread, and afforded us the chance to sit outside and watch clouds as we ate.

Customer service
Let’s be frank: Sometimes it’s not easy dealing with customers under the age of 6. They can be fussy. They’re often impolite. And even the most neurotic of them leave a trail of messes. For all of these reasons, I’m always aware of how rank-and-file employees at hotels treat me and my kids. And, on this point, the people at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe simply blew me away. Bellmen quizzed the girls about stuff we saw on our daily hikes. The concierge playfully teased them about their inability to find that bear. Perhaps the most notable interactions we had with a staff member were the morning visits with Jennifer, the woman who delivered our room-service breakfast every day of our stay. The girls informed her of their fairy names for each day. Jennifer, in turn, regaled them with stories about her daughter, who apparently had just graduated high school. When we checked out, we found two gift bags behind the front desk with a card from Jennifer. For that kindness alone, we most definitely will be back.

What are some of the amenities you look for in a kid-friendly hotel?

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