How About a Family Trip to Washington DC this Fall?

photo by D Sharon Pruitt

Our nation’s capital is an awesome place for a family get-away, especially in the fall when the humidity has subsided and the city is abuzz with excitement post-election. Surprisingly, Washington DC can be a relatively inexpensive family trip, as the majority of its many museums are free, and it’s pretty darn kid-friendly, too.

Need another reason to go? UrbanSitter is there! We’ve expanded to provide families in the DC area with reliable, trustworthy sitters they can book quickly and easily. Why not let us find you a sitter for a night out while you’re in the area? It’s just as easy as booking a sitter at home.

Below we’ve highlighted a few hot attractions to take the family – a couple you likely haven’t heard of – and just for you, we’ve also included suggestions for a presidential night out without the kids. Check these out:

Kids Euro Festival

You need to act quickly if you don’t want to miss this groovy international festival. It’s only running through November 14th. The festival is presented by the 27 European Union Member States, each offering a taste of its homeland. There are performances, workshops and screenings for children, storytelling, and puppet, dance and magic shows. Some performances require reservations. All are free. Check web site for schedule and to purchase tickets.


The Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities.  The museums can be overwhelming for anyone, especially kids, so do a bit of homework to determine which few you’ll visit this time and save the rest for your next visit (kinda like a trip to DisneyWorld). There are some astonishing attractions that will blow the socks off your kids. Consider a few of these:

  • A 70-million year old dinosaur egg, dinosaur skeletons and a Hope Diamond at the National History Museum, the most visited history museum in the world.
  • Live children’s theater at the Discovery Theater. Shows are Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. See the current schedule of performances. Tickets are $6 per adult, $5 per child and $4 for Smithsonian Resident members. You may purchase tickets in advance by calling (202) 633-8700.
  • The largest collection of spacecraft, awesome planetarium shows and Hubble Space Telescope test vehicle at the National Air and Space Museum.
  • The Giant Pandas and the Elephant Trails at the very kid-friendly National Zoo.

Before you go, explore with your kids the Smithsonian’s web site created for kids. It’s informative, interactive and very cool.

The Washington Monument

The white obelisk is one of the most recognized landmarks in the country. It’s especially fitting to visit near election time, since the memorial honors our first US President, George Washington. What a great visual for a mini history lesson your kids will long remember. Spend some time at the base of the building, letting kids count the fifty flags symbolizing our 50 states, then take the elevator 555 feet to the top for a bird-eye view of the city. It’s spectacular!

Historic National Theatre

The Historic National Theatre holds “Saturday Morning at the National,” a free performance series designed for kids age four and up. Performances range from puppet, magic, music and ballet. Seating is limited and tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis 30 minutes before show time. Check website for performance schedule. Show times: 9:30 am and 11 am.

Don’t Forget Date Night!

Your kids will undoubtedly be tuckered out after a jam-packed day in DC. Let a sitter put them to bed early while you hit the town. Where to go? You ‘ll feel like a real First Lady when you pick one of these hot restaurants where the Obamas reportedly celebrated Michelle’s past two birthdays:

  • The Source. This Wolfgang Puck high-end eatery located next to Newseum, hence its name, is a three-story, modern architectural wonder. It’s earned many awards for its food and dining experience. The downstairs lounge offers a more casual, Japanese Izakaya-style menu, which includes sushi, sashimi and noodle dishes (and kobe sliders diners rave about). Upstairs is a finer affair with contemporary interpretations of Asian dishes. The wine and sake menus are outstanding, as are the floor-to-ceiling windows with a view.
  • Equinox. Todd Gray’s Equinox is one of the first to embrace sustainability practices, including eating local, when it opened in 1999. Its cuisine is mid-Atlantic done clean and modern with a Northern Italian twist. Reviewers consistently mention the tasting menu and upscale comfort foods as the best picks on the menu. How does it feel? It’s minimalist and slick, but anything but cold, thanks to a glass fireplace, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a stunning marble bar. Even if you don’t spot the Obamas there, we hear it’s quite a hot spot for people watching.

What are you waiting for?! DC is calling.

Need a DC babysitter? Sign up for a free account and search by date & time to find available sitters on

Ultimate Weekend Get-Aways (Without the Kids!)

You got the kids back to school and the family back into a school-time routine. Now it’s time to think about a little R & R time away from it all.

Whether you make it a romantic weekend, a girls’ or guys’ trip, or you go solo, this is the perfect time of year to take advantage of a few days away.

The kids will survive without you for a weekend – UrbanSitter can take care of that with babysitters available for overnights – and you’ll return refreshed and ready to jump back into family life.

Where to go? We’ve done the work so you don’t have to spend hours scouring the Web for ideas. Take our word for it. These top spots come highly recommended as ideal get-away spots this fall.

Go ahead, book it… and let us know how it went!

In the NYC Area:

It’s all about fall foliage this time of year. Just a bit more than a two-hour drive from NYC is the Lodge at Woodloch, an adults-only, all-inclusive, luxury spa nestled among the trees in the Poconos.

The resort has a gorgeous spa and offers a multitude of classes, including Mind & Body, water therapies, fitness, and something they call Creative Discovery work (think watercolor painting, drawing, drumming and cooking classes). You can also golf, go horseback riding, hike, and bike or kayak on the spectacular property or just outside of it.

Dining certainly hasn’t been overlooked here. Their TREE Restaurant offers fine, gourmet dining with some of the food grown right on the property at its own Farm-To-Table Garden.

And check out this very nice extra touch – The hotel offers door-to-door transportation in a chauffeured, luxury sedan for guests coming from Manhattan and staying a minimum of two nights.  Check out their website for details and a promo code.

In the San Francisco Area:

You can never go wrong with a Napa/Sonoma weekend escape, especially this time of year, but why not try something new? And it might just be right in your own back yard –  Tiburon. Regardless of where you live in the Bay Area, Tiburon, in Marin County, isn’t far. Stay at the Lodge at Tiburon. It’s recently been remodeled, and makes for a perfect home base for enjoying the area.

You can really get away from it all, hiding in a cabana at the property’s secluded pool. And there’s no need to break the Zen by dealing with your car. Park it when you arrive and never have to use it again. Everything you need is within walking distance.

Have drinks at Sam’s on the water or dine at one of the town’s many fabulous restaurants. If you yearn for a bit of Big City, jump on the ferry and head to San Francisco for a day trip, a bit of shopping or dinner.

In the Los Angeles Area:

A quick trip to the desert to revive, recharge and reconnect is in order. Only a two-hour drive from LA is The Hope Springs Resort in Desert Hot Springs.

This boutique resort is tiny – only 10 rooms (so book fast!) – and all about its gorgeous views and three, stress-zapping mineral water pools.  The property is very minimalist, a bit retro and very serene.

When not hanging poolside or enjoying a hike on one of the many desert trails, head to the Casino Restaurant at the nearby Two Bunch Palms Resort and Spa. They offer a tasty tapas menu that’s perfect for a late afternoon bite to eat in a beautiful setting.

In the Chicago Area:

For an easy pace, head to Galena, Illinois, about 160 miles outside of Chicago. The historic town is known for its beautiful B&Bs, antique shopping, and very quaint atmosphere on the Mississippi River. It’s so pretty that it’s often touted as the only place in the Midwest to consistently appear near the top of every “beautiful places” list in the US.

Our favorite lodging picks are the Farmer’s Guest House, a charming country inn; and the Cloran Mansion, a larger, luxury bed and breakfast with a European feel. Stays at both include generous, award-winning breakfasts .

When not strolling around the restored Main Street or indulging in a big country breakfast, check out the art galleries scattered around the area. You can also try a wine tasting at Galena Cellars Winery and Vineyard or if you’re a history buff, visit the Ulysses Grant House, one of several historic sites in the region.

Looking for something a little more active, bring a bike and explore one of the many bike and hiking trails in the beautiful countryside.

In the San Diego Area:

For wine tasting and a lovely, romantic getaway without having to make a trip all the way up to Napa, head just 45 minutes outside of San Diego to Temecula Valley. The area has more than 35 wineries and a historic town with antique stores, hotels, specialty food shops, boutiques, and antique dealers.

But, really it’s about the wine tasting. Make it easy on yourself by having a plan of attack. You can choose to do a self-guided tour or take a bus tour. The Temecula Winegrowers Association has created a collection of tours that group wineries by categories, such as Reds, Whites, Familiar Favorites, Mediterranean Style, and Off-the-Beaten Path Boutiques. Pick which most appeals to you and you know you won’t be disappointed. You can find them as printable PDFs on their site.

No matter which tour you choose, make sure and visit Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyards. It’s one of our insider favorites.

There are many choices for lodging, including small bed and breakfasts, the Inn at Churon Winery for a bigger, grander b&b feel, and the South Coast Winery Resort & Spa for a luxury resort experience with all the extras.

In the Denver Area:

Fall is a superb time to visit Ouray, where the area flora is dressed in its gold-hued best. To add to the experience, there are a number of unique ways to see the fall colors in Ouray, including Jeep tours, scenic drives, hiking trails, hot air balloon rides, and hot tub perches. Be sure to pack a camera – there are many frame-able moments to be had! Check out Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs for decent rates.

If your foliage drive takes you to Estes Park, try the Estes Park Massage while you’re there. They happen to be running autumn specials now, including a 120-minute Cinnamon and Nutmeg Scrub with an hour Hot Stone Massage. Ahhhhhh.

Just outside of Steamboat Springs nestled alongside Hot Springs Creek lies one of the most spectacular mineral springs in the world. Imagine relaxing in 104-degree mineral water after hiking or biking trails the nearby in Routt National Forest. Strawberry Park Hot Springs is truly an unforgettable experience. The blending of pure natural beauty and the unique stone masonry of the pools is unlike anything you’ve seen before.

No matter where you go or how you choose to spend your weekend away, we hope you enjoy every minute of it!

Need a babysitter who’s available overnight? Browse sitters on UrbanSitter.

UrbanSitter Mobile App is Here – Book a Sitter on-the-go

Do you want to find and book a babysitter from anywhere, at anytime… in other words, when the inspiration (or an invitation) to do something without the kids strikes? Now you can!

We’ve just launched the UrbanSitter Mobile App to allow you to easily search for sitters, review profiles of those who are available, and book them from your iPhone or iPad. You get an instant notification when a sitter responds to your request and a tool that allows you manage your bookings so you are always on top of it, always organized.

And we didn’t stop there. The new app turns into a very cool messaging tool, so once a job is booked, you can easily and efficiently communicate with your sitter to discuss the details of the job–or call them at the click of a button.

It’s just as awesome for sitters, too, because it allows them to immediately see and respond to your job requests. They can also use it to communicate with you about the job and even view of map to your home.

We figured you already shop, get directions, talk with your friends, and book dinner reservations on-the-go. It’s about time you can now find and book a sitter from your phone, too!

You can find the UrbanSitter Mobile App as a free download in the Apple iTunes Store. It will be available for Android later this year.

Now go ahead and accept that last minute invitation to dinner, or grab tickets to see your favorite band before they are sold out. We’ve got your kids covered!

Get the UrbanSitter app now! Download here.

Round Up: A Luxury Vacation with More than a Little Something for the Kids

The Wall Street Journal published an article this week about luxury hotels adding more kid-friendly services in order to meet the demand of parents and grandparents who are bringing little ones to high-end hotels and resorts more than ever before.

The article reminded me of a trip we took with our then 9-month, 3 and 6 year-old children. It was a family wedding at a Beaches resort in Turks and Caicos. While I wouldn’t call it a luxury hotel experience, the place was incredibly family-friendly, our kids’ favorites being the swim-up ice cream bar and dinner-and-movie nights at the kids club. With our kids having so much fun, we didn’t feel guilty about sending them off to the “childcare,” and we were able to truly have a vacation, enjoying some quiet time by the pool and a few adults-only dinners.

The hotel industry has finally caught on. Parents today would happily step up the family vacation and pay a little more to stay at a high-end hotel, as long as they felt it was enjoyable for the kids.

Here’s our round up of the most impressive hotel offerings for kids, many taken from the WSJ and others are own favorites:

  • Hyatt just weeks ago rolled out a new kids’ menu with adult-style meals based on fresh, organic ingredients rather than the ubiquitous frozen chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. The menu was developed with collaboration from Alice Waters.
  • Costanoa Lodge outside of San Francisco bills itself as an eco-friendly adventure resort. They have a fantastic kids club centered on exploring tide pools.
  • Rosewood and some Ritz Carlton hotels offer spa services for kids, including a Princess Fizzy Pedicure at Ritz Carlton, St. Thomas.
  • You have less to pack and carry thanks to Mandarin Oriental providing baby strollers and organic crib sheets.
  • Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes, CA, offers outdoor science experiments and locally inspired art projects for kids.
  • Wequassett Resort and Golf Club in Cape Cod sports a pirate ship water park and treasure chest-shaped ball pit, in addition to twice-a-day ice cream by the pool for kids and a mini kids camp for 2-4 year olds.
  • Rose Buds Program by Rosewood Hotels and Resorts incorporates Montessori elements in its 17 kids programs world-wide, allowing them to offer truly educational fun.
  • Sea Island, a resort on the coast of Georgia, carefully recruits a special team of college students, selected for their leadership skills and enthusiasm, to serve as role models for young guests at its impressive Camp Cloister.
  • Esperanza, an Auberge resort in Cabo San Lucas, allows kids to “adopt” baby sea turtles and release them on the beach.

As an additional service to guests with kids, most hotels are willing to book a babysitter to watch your children in your room. For a more personalized, often less expensive alternative, try UrbanSitter to select and book a sitter while you’re away from home.

Contributed by UrbanSitter blogger and mom of three, Dawn Van Osdell.

UrbanSitter’s Handbook for Family Road Trip Survival

photo by D Sharon Pruitt

Before you hit the road with your kids this summer, we’re arming you with 8 Indispensable Road Trip Survival Tips.

Following these tips will go a long way in creating a memorable, happy time with your family on the road!

  1. An arsenal of Apps for Kids. It’s likely that even your preschooler knows his way around your smart phone. Preload your phone with apps that meet your personal criteria – age appropriateness, educational, or just pure attention-grabbing fun. CoolMomTech offers a whole section on Cool Apps for Kids. What if you have one phone and three children? Work on taking turns and time-telling skills by having the other kids watch the clock to see when it’s their turn or find a game that allows for multiple players.
  2. Road trip games. Go old school with the standbys from your own childhood. Have kids scout and keep track of animals or certain color cars; count state license plates; fill in Mad Libs or play “I Spy” or “Twenty Questions.” Cater to the age of your children by tweaking the games. For example, have older kids log their findings, categorize, and compete against each other.
  3. Gadgets and electronics. It likely goes without saying, but just in case – don’t leave home without videos. Whether you have DVD players in your car, a laptop, an iPad or portable players, the videos they play will buy you hours of peace. Portable game players (Nintendo DS, Leapster, smart phones) are also good bets. Don’t forget the headphones!
  4. Survival Totes. Pack a small backpack for each child. Include paper, printouts, markers, mini dry-erase boards and pens, playing and flash cards and small toys that you can wrap and dispense throughout the trip. Don’t forget hand wipes, Kleenex and, of course, a first aid kit in your own arsenal.
  5. Summer reading programs. Sign your kids up for a summer reading program through a school, local library or an online program such as the Scholastic Summer Challenge. It will keep your kids motivated to read, and what better time to hit the books than during a long road trip. Many programs offer reading lists, making it quick and easy to load up your e-Reader or iPad with something for everyone before you hit the road. Don’t forget to bring board books tots can thumb through and listen to parents read, as well as books-on-tape for longer stories the whole family can enjoy.
  6. No mess snacks. Pack individual servings of age-appropriate finger foods such as pretzels, crackers, cereal, popcorn and nuts (for older kids). To avoid the fast-food meal traps, bring a small cooler with sandwiches, fruit, pre-cut veggies, yogurt or cheese sticks. Giving each child his or her own water bottle to replenish at rest stops makes more sense than hauling a slew of juice boxes and cans.
  7. Journal or scrapbook the trip. Create a scrapbook of your family vacation. Have kids add drawings of places they’ve seen or fun facts they’ve learned along the way, and paste ticket stubs and other mementos. Put your kids on assignment with a small camera. You can print photos at your destination using an inexpensive pocket printer and paste the prints in the book on the return trip.
  8. A sitter to take over when you arrive! Let’s face it. No matter how much you’ve prepared for your road trip and no matter how much you love your children, you’re bound to need a break. Did you know UrbanSitter can help you line up a perfect sitter away from home? Log onto UrbanSitter to view trusted sitters, read local parent reviews and book a sitter in one of a dozen U.S. cities. It’s a much more personalized and often less expensive way to book childcare than booking through a hotel. Think how nice it will be to have a bit of well-deserved grown-up time in your destination city!

Family-Friendly Weekend Get-Aways – Let’s Go Camping!

This summer, City Moms are getting back to nature! According to our insiders, more and more urban families are choosing camping as their number one pick for a family-friendly weekend get-away.

We’ve gathered a list of our favorite family camping spots in Northern and Southern California, New York, and Chicago, and what to expect so you, too, can pack up your crew and spend a summer night or two under the stars.

Not convinced “roughing it” is for you? Lynn Perkins, an UrbanSitter founder and mom of twin boys insists, “There is no better bonding experience than sleeping in a tent together as a family. Camping is a great chance for parents to unplug from their jobs, get back to nature, and learn new things with their kids. It also gives everyone a much needed break from screen time.”

Not to worry, we’ve also included a few picks for those who aren’t cut out for tenting it!

Camping around the NYC Area

Both of these camping spots are about a two-hour drive from NYC.

Taconic State Park in New York’s Copake Falls region. Families choose Taconic for its convenience and safety, including a nice beach where the kids can swim and easy trails for the whole family to hike. In addition to campsites, Taconic also offers well-equipped cabins with running water, electricity and full kitchens for those who enjoy a pretty big step up from a tent. The park boasts a network of trails that are fantastic for family bike rides.

Insider Tip: Book well in advance, and if you’re hoping for one of the cabins, know that you must book 7-day or 14-day reservations during the peak summer season.

Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park in Putnam County, NY, is a big hit thanks to its large, sandy beach at Canopus Lake. It’s a great place to swim, fish, rent a rowboat, and enjoy a picnic lunch at the nearby picnic area.

Insider Tip: Keep Fahnestock top of mind for a winter getaway, too. Fahnestock Winter Park offers excellent sledding and is a great place for the whole family to try snowshoeing.

Camping in Southern California

San Elijo State Beach on the San Diego Coast provides all the thrills of camping and a day at the beach, rolled into one, easy to reach location. By day, families can build sand castles and play in the reef-protected waters. When the sun goes down, build a bonfire, roast marshmallows and teach your kids camp songs. Clean restrooms, a snack bar and camp store make it especially easy on families.

Insider Tips:
* The secret is out on San Elijo as a top choice for families. Book 6 months in advance.
* If you need a break from nature, Wan Pizza is a close-by bite to eat. The pizza is delicious, and the waiters bring kids pizza dough, instead of crayons, to play with while waiting for their food.

The Observatory Campground at Mt. Palomar in San Diego County is a top pick for its spectacular star gazing and learning opportunities, thanks to its proximity to the Palomar Observatory, a world-class center of astronomy research operated by the California Institute of Technology. But, it’s not just about seeing the stars, although star gazing is truly reason enough to visit. Plan on hiking during the day, and spending lots of time around a campfire in the evening. There’s an optimal view of the sky thanks to specially cleared camp spots. Here’s your chance to try out your campfire cooking skills. Eating around a campfire beats sitting in a restaurant with restless kids any day! Do your homework for preparing easy, kid-pleasing campfire meals. And don’t forget the s’mores!

Insider Tips:
* Bring a telescope!
* The 4.2 mile (round trip) hike to the Observatory may be tough for a preschooler.
* Remember to bring bug spray in the summer.

Camping in Northern California

Costanoa Lodge, an eco-adventure resort in Pescadero, CA, is a hands-down favorite. It’s just a bit more than an hour’s drive from San Francisco, and is situated on what is arguably the most ruggedly beautiful stretch of California coast. The property offers several levels of accommodations to fit a range of  “camping” comfort requirements – campgrounds for serious campers and tent bungalows or lodge-style rooms for the less adventurous.

This resort truly takes the planning and coordination pressure off parents by providing scheduled hikes, kids camps, horseback riding, and live music for awesome family entertainment during the summer. There’s even a general store onsite. It’s unlikely you’ll want to leave the property, but if you do, a family visit to Pie Ranch, Swanton Berry Farm, and Pigeon Point Lighthouse are short treks away.

Insider Tip: Keep your eyes pealed for wildlife sightings, as wildlife is abundant on the property, including many rare and endangered species, and they are sure to be a highlight of your family’s weekend.

Olemar RV Resort and Campground near the Point Reyes National Seashore is also just an hour outside SF, and provides a gorgeous mix of grassy, open meadows, wooded area and plenty of wildlife. There is a lot to do as a family, including hiking, biking and just exploring, whether on the grounds or the nearby shore. The campground has newly renovated restrooms and showers and a new playground for the kids. It’s walking distance or a short drive to Point Reyes Station for groceries, restaurants or shopping if you need a reprieve from your tent.

Insider Tip: Watch out for raccoons! There are many, so secure your belongings before heading to bed.

Camping near Chicago

Gebhard Woods State Park in Morris, Illinois, is the nearest campsite (about seven miles) from the spectacular Goose Lake in Goose Lake Prairie State Park. It’s true camping style with no extra hand-holding and few amenities other than the Great Outdoors. Families love it for its natural beauty and easy accessibility – just an hour outside of Chicago – and have a blast fishing and canoeing in one the several ponds and Nettle Creek, which gently flows around the park’s perimeter.

Insider Tip: While it’s very inexpensive (just $6/day to camp), the campsites aren’t a park-and-camp experience. Plan to walk about ½ mile from your car to your campsite.

Hickory Hideaway at Lake Carroll in Shannon, Illinois, is the pick if you prefer a little more luxe in your nature getaway. It offers whirlpool cottages and family country cottages, as well as luxury cabins equipped with a jacuzzi, fireplace, king-size bed and wet bar! Guests can also use a clubhouse with grills and picnic tables, along with bench swings and a fire pit. Drive time from Chicago is about 2.5 hours.

Insider Tip:  Chat with the owners while you are there. They are incredibly helpful, and can maximize the family-friendliness of your trip by providing recommendations on nearby restaurants and even providing your kids with movies and games.

Hot Spots to Take the Kids this Summer — UrbanSitter Round Up

We’re almost midway through the summer. Maybe the anticipation and novelty of the season and its associated freedom have waned a bit, and you’re starting to panic. “What do I do with these kids!?”

Chances are you’ve already taken advantage of many, if not most, of the family- friendly attractions in your area. But, if you’re lost in a summer brain fog and could use a reminder of some your area’s best bets for kids, we’ve compiled a Summer Hot Hits for Kids List.  We’ve dug deep for insider recommendations that may have escaped your radar.

San Francisco/Bay Area

The Jelly Belly Factory
Taking your kids on a tour through a working candy factory is an awesome excuse for a day trip. The factory is in Fairfield, only an hour’s drive north of San Francisco. It offers free tours, starting every 10 minutes from 9 am to 4 pm daily.

Randall Museum
One of SF’s hidden gems, few people seem to know about this fantastic children’s museum with breathtaking views. It’s educational, fun and free.

Yerba Buena Children’s Garden
The Children’s Garden (and its playground, carousel and fountains) outside the Children’s Creativity Museum (formerly known as Zeum) is a great place to play if you’re not up for a long visit or you don’t want to be indoors at the museum.

Children’s Fairyland
Perfect for young children (8 and under), Fairyland in Oakland has classic storybook sets, gentle rides, animals to pet, and live shows.  The park also has acres of beautiful gardens worth exploring, wandering and bringing a picnic to thoroughly enjoy.

The science and arts museum at the Palace of Fine Arts in SF can grab the attention of all kids.  Its mission is  to engage your child in science, art, and how the world works, and they do it through lots of interactive fun.


New York Aquarium
Find Nemo at The New York Aquarium with its daily sea lion show and interactive summer program, including a zip line and giant walk-through maze. Don’t miss the sea otters, penguins, and sharks!

Scholastic Store
Awesome, kid-focused store in SOHO offers a free Storytime for all ages. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 11 am, and special events on Saturdays.

Coney Island
Tried and true destination, no summer is complete without a trip to the iconic Coney Island. Carnival rides for kids of all ages, the famous Cyclone roller coaster for the older kids, and an old-timey boardwalk that makes everyone smile.

Sony Wonder Technology Lab
Escape the heat after an afternoon at Central Park by ducking into this midtown interactive science center. Kids love the hands-on, educational displays, and you’ll love that it’s absolutely free. Check their website for dates of special children’s screenings that are good for younger kids.

Los Angeles Area

Mother’s Beach
At Marina Park in Marina Del Rey, this beach earned its name for good reasons – gentle waves, shallow swimming area and lifeguard supervisions. It also has a grassy play area nearby.

Santa Monica Pier
Open 24 hours a day, everyday of the year, Santa Monica Pier never tires as a great option for everyone, families included. Take your dog along with the kids to watch the performers, rent bikes, have a picnic or catch the Twilight Concert Series.

Knott’s Berry Farm and Soak City
Rides for little kids, big kids and those in between. Splurge and rent a cabana for your family to get a break from the sun while enjoying the Soak City water park.

There’s arguably no better place for fun, physical activity, rainy days included. Adventureplex in Manhattan Beach is a safe, structured play space packed with mazes, tunnels, rope courses, an outdoor rock climbing walls, an indoor gym and  a modern fitness room. Though the camps and classes fill up fast, they offer plenty of  daily events and activities, including a Parent’s Night Out on Friday and Saturday evenings.


Circus Zircus at the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier
Navy Pier might be too touristy for most locals, but don’t forget about the fun exhibits at the Children’s Museum.

Story Time and Music at Farm-in-the-Zoo at Lincoln Park Zoo
Free Admission to Lincoln Park  Zoo and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is right next door. (Wednesdays and Fridays, 9:15 am and 10am)

Family Fun Festival at Millennium Park
TONS of great FREE kids programming throughout the summer.

Chicago Park District
Search their website for water playground and family swim times at outdoor swimming pools in your neighborhood.

Movies in the Park
This season’s series features 176 screenings of current and classic movies in 128 citywide parks through Oct. 26. Free admission. Screenings start at dusk.

Have your kids pick their favorite activity from the list above and let your summer sitter take them there! Visit UrbanSitter to find dozens of sitters with availability all summer long.

How Happy is Your Meal? [Infographic]

Summer is in full swing and many of you are hitting the road with your family. If you didn’t plan ahead for snacks and meals, you’re likely to find yourself and your hungry, grumpy kids dead center of the fast food trap. Once you’re there, there’s often nowhere to go but straight through the drive-through window.

Chances are, no matter how vigilant you are about healthy choices for your family, your kids know the lure of the Golden Arches or something similar. Even today, McDonald’s is the most recognized fast food chain restaurant among children.

This infographic created by Jason White of FrugalDad explores some of the reasons why McDonald’s has become so popular with kids, outlines details of the San Francisco Healthy Food Ordinance, and shows how the fast food chain has bowed to the pressure of the ordinance and others like it to offer more nutritious options.

Whether or not you think there are worse things than an occasional Happy Meal for your child, this infographic warrants a look:



UrbanSitter Round-Up: Kid-Friendly Fourth of July Activities

photo by Symic

We’ve gathered the best of the best family activities to help you plan a fun-filled July 4th holiday. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a fitness run, a pancake breakfast, a carnival or a nostalgic parade. And, of course, fireworks!

Unless otherwise stated, all activities are held Wednesday, July 4th.

San Francisco Bay Area

  • Marin County Fair (June 30-July 4): Classic fair activities, carnival rides, farm events, Chinese acrobats, and fireworks every night of the fair.
  • Berkeley Marina 4th of July: Food, live music and lots of activities for kids, including Adventure Playground, face painting, a giant slide and fireworks. 12 pm – 10 pm.
  • Orinda 4th of July Parade & Events: Events for every age group starting with the annual Pancake Breakfast, flag raising ceremony, fun run, parade, live music, food, games and booths in the park.
  • Jack London Square’s July 4th Family Fun Festival: Festival includes many activities for the whole family, including a giant slide, bounce houses, hands-on arts and crafts, magicians, hula hoops, a petting zoo, jugglers, food and shopping. 11 am – 4 pm.

NYC and Surrounding Area

  • Declare Independence in Prospect Park: Audubon Center and Lefferts Historic House? at the Imagination Playground are offering special events for the holiday. Kids can sign their own replica of the Declaration of Independence.


  • Family Fun Festival in Millennium Park (July 2 – September 2): The Family Fun Tent offers family performances and hands-on activities from 10 am – 3 pm. Free!
  • Navy Pier Fireworks: Spectacular fireworks perfectly synchronized to music on Lake Michigan. Fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday from Memorial Day through Labor Day, with a special July 4th show at 9 pm. View from the dock or onboard an evening cruise.
  • Independence Day Play at Pump It Up: $10/child provides for four hours of climate controlled inflatable fun! Includes a complimentary popsicle for each child. Reserve tickets online in advance.
  • Chicago History Museum 53rd Annual Fourth of 4th of July Celebration: Highlights include patriotic musical performances, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and a children’s costume parade led by the World’s Tallest Uncle Sam. Free admission to the outdoor event on Uihlein Plaza; free Museum admission for Illinois residents all day. 10 am–12 pm.

Los Angeles

  • Marina Del Rey Fireworks: Burton Chace Park and Fisherman’s Village are ideal spots for watching the firework’s display, shot from a barge across from the Marina’s main channel.

After the festivities are over, wind down with a night off from the kids with the help of UrbanSitter, where you can book babysitters online instantly.

Five Date Ideas in NYC (One per Borough!)

UrbanSitter logoTo celebrate the launch of UrbanSitter in NYC, we’ve come up with a list of five date ideas, one per borough. From Manhattan and Brooklyn to The Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island — history, culture, great food, fashion, and all-around amazing-ness abound, so it’s okay to leave the kids with a sitter and treat yourself to a date once in awhile!

Top of the Standard

The Boom Boom Room or Top of the Standard (no one’s quite sure of the true name…the mystery adds to the allure) is a really gorgeous spot to have a sunset cocktail (or two or three). Most people think of this little oasis as an impenetrable hot spot where only celebs dare go. But it opens to the public from 5:30-8:30 each night (barring private events), and offers sprawling views of the Hudson River on one side, city sights on the other, a gold baby grand piano and waitresses who look as though they were plucked from the set of Mad Men. Sip to your heart’s content and nibble on appetizers.

Char No. 4

A semi-new hot spot in Cobble Hill, Char No. 4 is a delectable way to have your whiskey and your southern fare, too. Named for the process of heating the oak to make bourbon barrels (No. 4 is the deepest or most charred), the restaurant is a kind of whiskey oasis where even the pickiest of drinkers is sure to find a bourbon she likes. But don’t despair–if whiskey just isn’t your style, wine is offered, too. Be sure to try the lamb pastrami, crispy cheese curds, and chile-marinated shrimp with hominy grits. You’ll end the night full and happy, and vow to come back for more. Brunch with the kids?

Spa Castle

Queens is THE borough for the diverse and interesting cultural experiences. Take advantage by starting your date with a soak at the Spa Castle in Whitestone Queens. This spa super center includes three outdoor heated pools, Japanese Hinoki bath, and swim up bar that serves cocktails. Afterwards, enjoy a casual bite at the Flushing Food Mall at Xian Famous Foods. Anthony Bourdain swears by the famous lamb burger. It will feel like you have left the country.

The Bronx
The New York Botanical Garden

The Bronx is home to the sprawling New York Botanical Garden, a 120-year old monument to plant conservation and research. The Orchid Show, now through April, opens up Saturday evenings for special events with live music and cocktails — flowers come included with this date! Return in the daylight with the kids for the Children’s Gardening Program offered throughout the year.

Staten Island
Beso Restaurant

For brunch or dinner, Beso Restaurant is an intimate spot with flavor and romance to spare. Traditional Tapas is their specialty and you won’t be disappointed with the Valencian paella, Beso chicken, and sopaipillas — an amazing Spanish dessert made of fried pastry topped with vanilla ice cream and spicy caramel-espresso sauce. The ambiance is lovely (if crowed — reservations are hard to come by) with a fireplace, hand-painted murals on the walls, and a warm vibe that is sure to give you the feeling of being far, far away…if only for the evening.

Now that UrbanSitter is available in NYC, you’ll be able to find babysitter conveniently online! The sooner you log on, the sooner you’ll be out enjoying yourself.