How to Have Actual Fun on the Family Road Trip

Cars stuck in traffic

By Meghan Khaitan,

Pretty much every family takes a road trip by car with their kids during the  holidays. And whether those kids are toddlers or teens, the actual trip itself  can be a wonderful bonding and learning experience for the entire family.  With a little forethought and preparation, you can sidestep the dreaded travel  fiascos and keep everyone content through through those stretches of  highway!

1. Make it a Fun History Lesson. Build some excitement around your trip by getting together as a family a  couple of weeks beforehand to plan your road trip path with an old-school paper map. Talk to kids about  the different cities and states you’ll be driving through. Then jump online together and do a little research  on a few that look interesting. Learn about their history and pick some prime sightseeing destinations.  This opens your trip into a journey of exploration—all the more inspiring if you give kids a disposable  camera they can later use to make a trip scrapbook.

2. Expect the Unexpected. Keeping a first-aid kit and tools for a flat tire in your car is a no-brainer, but also be sure to bring along items like a flashlight, garbage bags, paper towels, big pack of wet wipes, and cell phone car charger. If you have young children that are new to potty training, it’s a smart idea to also pack a portable plastic potty in case your little one can’t wait for the next rest stop. Kids also tend to rest better with a few items from home, like a stuffed animal and blanket. You can also pick up an inexpensive travel pillow to make car-sleeping more comfortable.

3. Pack Healthy Snacks & Drinks. Truck stops, gas stations and fast food joints are okay in a pinch, but if you bring a cooler filled with your own healthy foods, you will save time and money on the road. Think granola bars, sandwiches, fruit and nuts, yogurt tubes, pretzels, cheese and crackers, baby carrots, packs of sliced apples, cereal bars, and any of the (non-sticky) foods your family usually likes to nosh on.

4. Create a Road Trip Adventure. Instead of just looking at the trip in terms of its end destination, make the whole trip an adventure. This will give the kids something to look forward to and break up the travel time. Take a family selfie in each city or state in front of a sign with its name or something it’s famous for. Also look for rest stops with playgrounds where kids that can burn off some pent-up energy.

5. Make Each Child a Travel Activity Kit. To help pass the time, buy inexpensive totes and pack them with things like new crayons, coloring books, story books, white boards, magnetic travel and card games, and other small games or toys, like Matchbox Cars and small dolls. Anything that’s inexpensive and new to your kids is sure to please—both of you.

6. Check Out At Your Local Library. Before you embark,  head to your local library and check out DVDs, books on CD, and chapter book collections for your older reader. They’re free! You’ll have new movies to watch that your kids haven’t seen yet, and when quiet time becomes mandatory for saving your sanity, put in a book on CD for the entire family to enjoy.

7. Don’t Forget the Electronics. If ever there was a perfect time to bust out the electronics, the  car trip is it. Load up iPads and Kindles with new apps, books, and movies, making sure you put different apps on each child’s device so they can swap with for more options. And whatever you do, don’t forget the headphones! A few of my family-favorite apps: Waze (the superhero of navigation apps for parents), RoadsideAmerica (find the weird and wonderful across the U.S.), (the Netflix of audio books), MadLibs (old school road trip fun meets the digital age), and VisitedStates (kids can mark the states they’ve been to and upload photos they’ve taken).

8. Pack Classic Travel Games. Electronic games are fun, but don’t forget about the old school travel games to help fight boredom on the road: I Spy, 20 Questions, The Alphabet Game (work together as a family to find things along the road that start with each letter of the alphabet), Who Am I? (take turns trying to guess the famous person in history or pop culture), and the good old License Plate Game.

9. Pick Mile Marker Treats. If you’re okay with a little bribery, plot a few places on the map for the kids to get special surprise treats. Among other things, this will encourage them to learn to read a map. The treat can be something small, like sweets or a little something they can play with in the car. The only requirement to earning them is that kids be kind, get along with each other, and be patient for the trip. You might be handing out fewer of these than you’d feared!

10. Consider an Overnight Stay. If the trip is long enough, consider an overnight stay halfway through at an affordable hotel with a pool. If you book the stay right before you leave or on the way, you’ll find the best deals.

Photograph by Nabeel Syed, via Unsplash

5 Ways a Babysitter Can Help This Summer

find a summer babysitter

Now that the kids are home from school for the summer, you’re faced with a whole different set of childcare needs. If you need full-time childcare for the summer, you likely have it covered by now. For the rest of us who could use a hand over the next few months, here are some helpful ways a babysitter might be just what’s needed.

5 Ways to Make the Most of a Summer Babysitter:

1. Camp and Activity Chauffeur

A summer schedule that includes day camps and summer activities, such as lessons or tutoring, has the potential to turn you into a prisoner of your own car. Instead of enjoying a relaxing break from school-year routine and obligation, you’re pulling your hair out trying to mastermind the logistics of transporting numerous children to numerous locations at undoubtedly conflicting times. Hire a sitter to help with the load.

UrbanSitter has many trustworthy sitters who are more than willing to drive your children using their own car or yours. Do a babysitter search and filter to see only candidates who have a vehicle and will drive kids.

2. Mother’s/Father’s Helper

For the times when an extra pair of hands makes all the difference in the world. Hire a babysitter to play with the kids while you make an impressive dinner for guests (or even a simple one for your own family), help entertain a load of visiting friends and cousins, take over while you tackle a DIY home project that’s you’ve been itching to get to (turn the baby’s room into a big kid room, starting with a fresh coat of paint; sort and organize the clothes your kids are outgrowing at rapid pace), co-host a summer birthday party, or maybe even just help to give older siblings a bit of extra attention if a new baby has recently joined the family.

3. Morning or Afternoon Sanity Saver

It’s really fantastic to have a few hours every week you can count on to take care of life without bringing the kids along. Hiring a babysitter for Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, a morning each week or as often as you can afford is an absolute sanity saver. Imagine how much easier it would be schedule appointments, catch up with a friend from pre-kid days or just get some work done, knowing the kids are covered.

Did you know UrbanSitter allows babysitters to post their weekly availability, blocking times when they have other jobs or classes, so you can see who is available to fit your schedule?

4. Vacation Nanny

Whether you are driving to a nearby beach for a week or taking the whole crew on a plane for a jaunt across the country or over the pond, it’s infinitely easier to do it with a babysitter along to help. You might have your spouse or a grandparent to share the load, but they aren’t likely relishing 24/7 kid duty. A babysitter can help entertain the kids while you and your spouse or other adults  truly enjoy some vacation time – dining out past 5 pm, reading a book poolside, playing a round of golf or sneaking off to the spa.

Be sure to talk with your babysitter before the trip to make sure you have the same expectations for the trip, including how much time she’ll spend with the kids, when and if she’ll join in on family time, how much free time she will have, and what expenses will be covered.

5. Pool or Park Chaperone

If your summer involves a lot of time at the pool and park, lucky you, but chances are there are days when you have other places you want or need to be. It’s pretty darn nice to have a reliable, trustworthy babysitter to take the kids off your hands and take them to the pool or park. If you have more than one child, especially if one is a baby or toddler who is still napping or an older child who has other places to be, it’s valuable to  have a babysitter to split the duty. She can help while you stay home with a sleeping baby or transport an older child.

UrbanSitter lets you search for babysitters who are child/infant CPR-trained. Our blog post on Summer Safety is a great resource to share with your babysitter before she takes on summer duty.

Regardless of when you need a babysitter, UrbanSitter is an excellent resource for finding just the right one for this summer and beyond.

Check out new babysitter profiles that have been added in your area, and go ahead and try a new babysitter who’s right for you. You deserve it!



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.

10 Ways to Shake it Up this Summer!

Summer is the time of year we all dream of when we’re buried in mountains of work (or snow), lost in a maze of school schedules and activities, and numb from mundane daily routines. You can make sure you and your family take full advantage of the season just by changing the rules a bit.

Here are our 10 rules to live by this summer – kick off your shoes, dive in and create your own, too!

  1.  Loosen Up! Let your kids stay up later, eat outside, have dessert, get dirty, stay in their bathing suits (or PJs) all day, and take the time to wander, dawdle, and explore all that we’re too busy to see during the busy school year.
  2. Introduce something new. School year routines don’t often leave time to do the things we wish we could do. Summer clears our plates a bit and presents the perfect chance for you to be “That Mom” – visit a museum, take a mother/child art or yoga class, have a family fiesta night, or read your children a classic book that takes an entire summer to finish
  3. Get moving.  Unplug and play hard! Organize a neighborhood kickball game at a nearby park, start an evening bike ride routine, take the long way on your walk home, play chase, skip rope, find a spot to draw a hop-scotch game or start a relay race.
  4. Stay connected with friends and get to know new ones. Back to school transitions will be easier if there are familiar faces to share the new routine. Take the time to schedule play dates with school friends and host an afternoon at the pool or your place for new friends who will be together in the fall.
  5. Enroll in camp. Mini camps – lasting half or whole days for a week at a time – are an ideal opportunity for kids to test drive new activities and sports or improve existing skills. Better yet, they are a place to have fun and make new friends.
  6. Get outta town. Change the scenery, even if just for a night. To keep costs low and really change the pace, camp out! Or, if packing up the car seems like a daunting task, pitch a tent in the backyard for a slumber party under the stars.
  7. Celebrate the season. Nothing says summer like stopping for ice cream, catching fireflies, eating a hot dog at the ballgame, having a picnic or lying in the grass to look at the stars.  Help your kids build happy memories of summertime that will stay with them a lifetime.
  8. Keep learning. Teachers say they spend as much as the first three months of school re-teaching the skills kids lose over the summer months. Give your kids a head start by dedicating a few minutes every day to brushing up on skills. For preschoolers, coloring, cutting and tracing or writing their ABCs go a long way. For older kids, have them keep a summer journal and pick up a few workbooks to refresh and preview next year. Make it fun by playing school and taking turns being the teacher.
  9. Get wet!  Visit a pool, beach or lake, run wild in a sprinkler, play with a garden hose, host a Barbie pool party or a Matchbox Car wash on the back porch. Recycled squeeze and spray bottles are great for water fights, and also make excellent tools for writing on the sidewalk and watering anything remotely resembling a garden.
  10. Give kids a break from Mom and Dad by hiring an energetic sitter. School is out for college kids, too, so call up the neighborhood sitter or log onto UrbanSitter to find dozens of experienced college-aged sitters looking for work. Since you can also view their schedules, you can book a sitter online instantly whenever inspiration strikes – run out to catch a movie, meet up with a friend or have a date night with your husband. The kids will welcome the change of company, too!

12 Ways to Avoid the Summer Junk Food Trap

Summer gives us a chance as parents to loosen up, take a break from routines and schedules, and live a little more spontaneously with our kids. But, according to a study recently released from the University of Texas, the lack of routine, decrease in activities, and disruptions in the way we eat during the summer are to blame for our kids gaining weight 2-3 times faster than they do during the school year.

There are simple ways to keep your family’s health and nutrition on track and still enjoy the carefree spirit of summer living:

1. Keep a consistent meal schedule, much like you do during the school year. Kids should eat three square meals with two snacks in between, and they should know that mindless eating throughout the day isn’t smart.

2. Rather than giving into the ease of convenience snacks that are often processed and loaded with sugar, transform ordinary foods into special summery treats by freezing them. Try frozen grapes, cups or sticks of yogurt, homemade juice pops, and fruit smoothies.

3. Prepare and keep meals in the fridge for the sitter to feed your kids or for you to pull out instead of hitting the fast food drive-through on your way home from the pool. Having simple meals ready to go means you won’t have to cut a fun day short so you can rush home to make dinner.

4. Teach your kids about balance. It’s okay to have an ice cream sundae, as long as it’s balanced with healthier choices and plenty of exercise.

5. Limit sedentary activities like TV and electronics, and get everyone active with activities that take advantage of summertime weather. Get outside to ride bikes, go swimming, and for the little ones take the ride-ons and push toys for a spin.

6. Together, search your own kitchen for foods to make an easy, healthy picnic to take on a day-trip or eat in your own backyard. You can build a meal without turning on the stove or pushing buttons on the microwave.

7. Give everyone in your family a personalized water bottle to stay hydrated and stay away from the sugary juices, sodas and energy drinks. Research shows that even very active kids never need sports or energy drinks.

8. Sign your kids up for mini sports camps to stay active and have fun.

9. Get your kids involved with good food. Take them on a trip to the farmer’s market and use the outing as an opportunity to talk about healthy choices. Show them the beautiful array of local produce and let them choose some to try at home.

10. Start a garden – even a small container garden for the patio or windowsill – to get kids involved with growing and caring for fruits and vegetables.

11. Research proves kids are more likely to eat foods they help select and prepare. Let your kids help make a grocery list, find items in the store, and help prepare a meal by cleaning, prepping and cooking with you. Make the tasks age-appropriate so they don’t get injured or overwhelmed.

12. Find indoor activities to keep your family active when it’s too hot to head outside. Living room dance parties work just as well as indoor inflatable play centers, and are even more fun if friends are invited to join in on the fun!

Search & find sitters who will help cook healthy and nutritious meals for your children on UrbanSitter.

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.

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.