Moody Gardens: 10 tips for making the most of your Staycation!


We lived in Houston for 7 years before we decided to visit Moody Gardens for the first time!  After that trip, we were asking ourselves why we waited so long!  It was a huge hit with our entire family and we loved it so much that we bought season passes!

Here is my Moody Gardens review and some of my tips for making the most of your trip:

1.  Call ahead to ask about the day’s schedule or check it out online.  Moody Gardens is a hot spot for weddings and conferences.  On our first visit, the Aquarium pyramid was closing early for a wedding.  Unfortunately, we didn’t know and had decided to make that our last stop, so our trip was cut short and we missed out on seeing a lot.

2.  Arrive early to get the best parking!  There is a parking lot located right in front of the Visitor’s Center, but there are limited spaces and they fill up quickly!  The other parking lots are on the side and it’s a bit of a walk to get to the attractions.  This may not be a big deal at the beginning of the day when you’re just getting started, but at the end of the day with hot and tired kids, it is a big deal (we learned this the hard way!)

3.  Be aware of height requirements before you go.  The water slides at Palm Beach and the Ridefilm all have height requirements.  There’s nothing worse than waiting in line and then having your kiddos be told that they don’t meet the height requirements!  Check out the height requirements online before you go (they range from 42″ to 48″) and figure out how tall your kids are so you know what they can ride!

4.  Decide what IMAX 3D movie you want to see before you go!   It had been years since I had seen an IMAX movie, and seeing one in 3D was even more amazing!  They have several different movies available and you have to pick your show time when you get there (if you get a full day pass).  Be prepared and check out the movie schedule before you go–> IMAX 3D movie schedule  

Every seat will be full, so arrive 20-30 minutes before your scheduled start time to get the best seats!

5.  Check out The Garden Restaurant.  Moody Gardens has concessions stands in the Visitor’s Center and in the Aquarium Pyramid.  There is open seating in each of these areas, and they get very crowded during peak meal times.  You would think that a restaurant means a greater expense, but we were pleasantly surprised.  The Garden Restaurant had a full buffet, and they also had a salad and dessert bar option, which was only $5.99!  My husband and I opted for the salad bar and got the regular buffet for the kids (it was only $7.99).  We were able to feed our family of 4 and eat a relatively healthy meal for less than it would have cost us to eat in the food court, including the tip!  Plus, we didn’t have to deal with the crowds in the open areas and fight to find seats.  It was perfect for us to take a short break and recoup.

NOTE:  I don’t know if the buffet is always available and pricing may be different during the dinner hours.  You may want to check on all of this before finalizing your dining plans.


6.  If you’re planning to visit Palm Beach, go in the evenings!  We ate dinner and then went to Palm Beach and my kids had the splash pad to themselves!  There were no lines at the water slides and my daughter was able to just walk right up and ride.  The wave pool and lazy river weren’t overly crowded either.  Don’t forget about the sand toys!  My kids were disappointed that we didn’t have any toys and wanted to build a sand castle.  This was one of the highlights of the trip for my kids and is always a favorite for them when we go back!

NOTE:  Come prepared to spend some extra money to rent a locker.  Rentals start at $5 and a $5 deposit is also required.  Palm Beach hours vary based on events.  Check on this before you go.


6.  Don’t skip out on the Colonel Paddlewheel boat!  That was a highlight for us.  We were able to go on the last trip of the night and had a great view of the sunset plus we watched the fireworks from the boat.

7.  Consider the exhibit in the Discovery Pyramid before taking little ones.  These exhibits rotate and the exhibit the first time we visited showed real human bodies.  The skeletal and muscular system didn’t bother me or my five year old much, but when we got into the room where brains and other organs were on display, I had to leave with him.  I think we were both a little traumatized.

8.  Consider a season pass – The cost of a season pass for a family of 5 is $320.  The cost for a 2-day pass for a family of 5 would be $309.75.  If you live in the area, a trip to Moody Gardens is a great day trip and there are lots of special events throughout the year that make it worth going!  We have loved our season pass.


9.  Don’t miss the special events – Moody Gardens has a number of special events throughout the year including Bands on the Sand during the summer months, the Festival of Lights at Christmas, and the Curt Miller Magic Show at various times throughout the year.    We went to a Curt Miller Magic and dinner show at Christmas and then visited Festival of Lights and that is also something the kids still talk about.

We just visited the Dinos Alive! exhibit that is currently there and my kids really enjoyed it!  There was a lot of attention to detail and they especially liked the part with the baby dinos hatching.  As an added bonus, we had watched the DinosAlive 3D movie at Imax before we went, and I loved hearing my kids share facts about dinosaurs!

10.  Buy a souvenir cup – The cost for a souvenir cup is currently $5.99 and includes $1 refills.  A 20 ounce drink is $2.99, so the souvenir cup will quickly pay for itself, especially if you visit during the hot summer months or if you are purchasing a season pass and plan to visit several times!


My kids LOVE the zoo, but the heat in the summers in Houston makes trips to the zoo unbearable.  We never make it very far before the kids are hot, tired, and cranky.  Moody Gardens gives you the zoo experiences without the heat because everything is enclosed!  One of our favorite experiences in the Rainforest Pyramid was being only a few feet away from a sloth and watching him eat.  We loved the birds, plants, and flowers.  For us it was the best of the Cockrell Butterfly Museum and the Houston Zoo all in one location.  At the Aquarium Pyramid, we loved being able to see the penguins swim up close.   We can’t wait to go back!  I have a feeling that Moody Gardens is going to be our favorite Staycation destination!

NOTE:  I was not compensated for this review in any way.  My family loves Moody Gardens and I just wanted to share our experiences with others!

San Antonio Staycation: Fun and free things to do with kids!

Growing up, my aunt and uncle lived in San Antonio, and some of my favorite vacation memories are from trips to visit them.  Now that I have kids of my own, this is still one of my favorite vacation destinations!  If you live in San Antonio, but haven’t had a chance to see many of the local sights, here are some tips for becoming a tourist in your own city!  If you haven’t visited San Antonio yet and live nearby, here are some great ideas for a day trip or longer!


Sea World San Antonio is definitely our top pick for family fun!  We love it so much we get season passes every year! This is where both of my kids rode their first roller coasters, and we never get tired of watching the Shamu show!  For tips on making the most of your trip, check out this post here–> Sea World San Antonio Survival Guide


If you’re visiting San Antonio for the first time, The Alamo is a must see, but if you’re a local, consider taking a tour of some of the other local missions.  I will never forget my first trip to The Alamo, but I also remember being disappointed that so much of it had been recreated and that it really was nothing like the original version.

Give your kids a more authentic historical experience and take them to visit some of the other local missions. My aunt took me on a tour of them when I was about 8 years old, and I loved it!  (of course, I’ve always been a history buff, too!)  You really do get a feel for how the missions looked when they were originally built and used!

Here are some of the other missions you can visit: admission is FREE!

If you’re looking for more historical places to visit, you can also check out the Spanish Governor’s Palace!  

Here are some other free family activities to check out:

Brackenridge Park  – Brackenridge Park has plenty of options for free family activities!  They’ve got playgrounds, biking and walking trails, it’s a great place for a picnic, and you can even go fishing!  While you’re there, make sure you check out the Japanese Tea Gardens, which are also free to visit!  Adjacent to the park, you’ll find the San Antonio Zoo and your kids would LOVE to explore the park aboard the Eagle Train Ride!  Unfortunately the train ride is only free for kids under 3.  It’s $3.25 for everyone else.

Geocaching at the San Antonio River Walk  – If you live in San Antonio or you’ve visited before, chances are you’ve been to the River Walk.  Experience the River Walk in a new way that your kids will love and do some geocaching!  If you’re not familiar with geocaching, it’s an outdoor treasure hunt!  You use a GPS and coordinates to locate hidden geocache containers!  Find out what’s hidden along the River Walk here–> Geocaching at the San Antonio River Walk

Screen Shot 2013-05-15 at 8.30.50 PM

The Witte Museum – As a “history buff” The Witte Museum was another favorite childhood destination!  See dinosaur bones and mummies, learn about Texas ecology and see real log cabins and other historic homes from around San Antonio!  Children under 3 are always free.  Admission is also free for everyone on Tuesdays from 3-8 p.m.

These activities aren’t free but are worth checking out, too:

Image Credit: VIA Metropolitan Transit

Image Credit: VIA Metropolitan Transit

Looking for a fun new way to explore downtown San Antonio?  Check out the Via Historic Steetcars!  Get a one day pass that is good for unlimited rides for just $4!

You can also take a Rio Taxi, which includes 39 stops along the River Walk or  a River Cruise, which includes a 35 minutes guided tour.  A one way ticket on the Rio Taxi is just $5 and a 24 hour pass is $10. Children 5 and under can ride the river cruise for $2.  Adults are $8.25 and Bexar County Residents, senior citizens, and those with a military ID can ride for just $6!


Six Flags Fiesta Texas – San Antonio has not one, but TWO theme parks!  If you’re wondering if Six Flags Fiesta Texas is “worth it” if you’ve got younger kids, we took my kids for the first time when they were 3 and 6 and they had a blast!  My daughter the daredevil rode her first BIG rollercoaster there!  There are lots of kid friendly rides plus your kids will love seeing their favorite Looney Toons characters on display!  If you buy 4 season passes online, you’ll pay just $1 more per pass than you would pay for one day admission!  We love going Fright Fest in October and love all of the decorations at Christmas!  Having season passes gives us a great excuse to take a weekend getaway!

Fun Places to Eat

  • Casa Rio Mexican Restaurant – Although there are now plenty of restaurant options along the River Walk, this is the ORIGINAL!  The food along the River Walk is not spectacular, but the atmosphere makes it worthwhile!  Your kids will love being able to eat on the Riverwalk and watch the river cruises go by.
  • Chester’s Burgers  – This place is kid friendly, but adults will love the burgers, too!  Choose from a standard cheeseburger to a green chili burger!  They’ve even got salads (including a hamburger salad?!).  It’s low key and the price is right, too!
  • Dick’s Last Resort  – If you’re easily offended, this is not for you and it’s not really kid friendly, either, but if you’re looking for some adult fun, and you can roll with the punches, check out Dick’s Last Resort!
  • Magic Time Machine – Growing up, I absolutely LOVED this place!  You’ve got themed tables and the wait staff is not only in costume but they play the part, too!  Plus, who can beat a salad bar that’s in a classic car?
  • Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia  – If you’re looking for great Mexican Food, check out Mi Tierra!  Even though the food is awesome, make sure you save room for a visit to their yummy bakery, too!  Or, if you’ve already eaten, stop in for dessert!

If you’ve got time for a quick day trip

If you’ve got time for a quick day trip, here are a few more things my family loves!

Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch – Enjoy an African Safari Texas style!  This is a drive through wildlife ranch and you can feed zebras, ostriches, and more right from your car!  My kids were too scared to feed the animals the last time we went, but my husband and I loved it, and the kids enjoyed watching us!  Admission is $9 for kids and $17.50 for adults, but it truly is an experience that your children won’t forget!

Natural Bridge Caverns  – Pan for gold, take a historic cavern tour, enjoy the zip lines, and check out the world’s largest bat flight!  This is a unique experience that won’t be forgotten!  There are a variety of tour packages available with prices starting at $11.99 for children 3+ and $19.99 for adults!

NOTE:  There are lots of other great activities to enjoy with your family in San Antonio.  These are just some of my family’s favorites!  I was not compensated for this post in any way.  These are all places that I have visited and enjoyed!

LEGO® KidsFest is fun for the entire family!

LEGO-kids-fest-HoustonMy son LOVES LEGOs® and I had been planning to take him to LEGOLAND® Discovery Center in Dallas this summer, so when the opportunity presented itself for us to attend LEGO® KidsFest in Houston, (especially since we were getting free tickets) I couldn’t turn it down!

I honestly didn’t know what to expect, especially since my husband wasn’t going to be able to go with us.  I guess I viewed LEGOs® as more of a “guy” thing and figured I’d just be along for the ride.  One of the things that impressed me right from the start was that this is definitely a family experience!  I loved seeing big kids and little kids, moms and dads, and even in some cases grandmas and grandpas working together on different activities!  The entire experience is interactive and I think I had as much fun as the kids did!  Families participated in challenges together, played LEGO® games together, and built together!  In a time where I most often see parents entertaining themselves on their cell phones or tablets at kid friendly places, I can honestly say that the only time I saw parents on their phones here was to take pictures of their kids having fun!


I LOVED seeing my two kids work together to help each other on different activities!  They were so proud of themselves when they finished making these LEGO® keys (and I think my little guy was especially proud because he helped his big sister finish hers) and they loved being able to use them to “open” the treasure chest to get their own special surprise!


One of the things my kids loved was being able to see some of their favorite characters larger than life!  The detail of the displays in the LEGO® Model Museum area was INCREDIBLE!  They had Marvel action heroes, characters from Toy Story, Star Wars favorites, and even characters from Harry Potter!


Making LEGO® “snow angels” was fun, but the kids decided that being buried in LEGOs® was even MORE fun!  The LEGO® Brick Pile was a favorite with MANY kids!

I wasn’t familiar with LEGO® Chima, but my kids had a blast with them and my son informed me that some of his birthday money will be used to purchase some!  If you’re brave enough to wait out the lines at the  LEGO® Chima Arena, you have the opportunity to show off your skills and compete against others and I noticed they were giving away free sets to people as they were leaving!   My son was also fascinated by the LEGO® Master Builders and informed me that he was going to be one when he grows up!  My daughter loved the LEGO® Friends building area (my son even enjoyed that because the LEGO® Friends have so many tiny accessories and other options that other LEGO® sets don’t have!)  They also loved being able to add their creations to the LEGO® Art Gallery!

If you haven’t been to LEGO® KidsFest before, here are some tips:

  • Buy your tickets in advance:  The Houston event was sold out before it even started!  If you procrastinate, most likely you won’t get tickets!
  • Arrive early:  There is SO much to see and each area takes time!  We were there for 3 hours and still didn’t see everything we would have liked to.
  • Feed your kids before you go:  There is food available there, but who wants to stop and spend time eating when there is so much to see and do?  Plus, if your kids are fed, you’re less likely to have whining and meltdowns!
  • Watch your kids:  There are a LOT of people and it only takes a second to lose track of your kid.  There are Lost Parents Meeting Spots, but you really don’t want to have to use them!
  • Have a game plan before you go:  You can view a map and a list of activities online before you go.  Try to prioritize your activities because you probably won’t have time to see and do everything.

If you have a LEGO® KidsFest coming to your area, it’s DEFINITELY worth checking out!  If you have a LEGOLAND® or LEGOLAND® Discovery Center in your area or an area that you will be visiting, I’d say that’s worth checking out, too!  Our trip to  LEGO® KidsFest earned me the “best Mom EVER” title for the night at least and we made some great memories together!  This has been my favorite interactive kid experience since we went to Disney World as a family last summer!

*DISCLOSURE:  I was provided with a family pack of tickets to attend LEGO® KidsFest, but all opinions and experiences are 100% mine!  Please refer to my disclosure policy for additional information!

Invisalign for Teens AND Adults!


At my last visit to my dentist, she brought up the overcrowding among my bottom teeth and mentioned Invisalign.  I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with Invisalign at all, and mentioning the overcrowding and having work done on my teeth immediately took me back to my teen years when I wore braces for FOUR, yes, you read that right FOUR YEARS!  That of course led to memories of food stuck in my teeth, having to avoid certain foods, and green glow in the dark bands (what in the world was I thinking?) among other things.  I can honestly say I have NO positive memories of wearing braces and was thrilled that I finally got them taken off right before my senior pictures were taken.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a mini blogging conference sponsored by Invisalign and I have to admit admit I was convinced about the benefits of Invisalign not only for myself but also for my pre-teen daughter, who unfortunately inherited my genetics when it comes to teeth!  Those bulky braces don’t have to be a “rite of passage” for teens anymore!


  • The cost is comparable to regular braces
  • Appointment times are shorter (typically 15 minutes on average)
  • Get up to six FREE replacement aligners if one gets lost
  • It’s easier to maintain oral hygiene because aligners can be easily removed for brushing and flossing and then replaced!
  • The Blue Dot Wear Indicator helps you to know if your teen has been wearing aligners regularly so you can monitor progress!


  • No brackets and metal wires!  Show off your smile as you receive treatment!
  • You can eat whatever you want (gum and gummy bears included!)
  • Minimal interference if you play an instrument or participate in contact sports


If you’re not familiar with Invisalign, here’s the scoop:

With Invisalign® you’ll receive a custom-made series of aligners created just for you! These aligner trays are made of smooth plastic that’s not readily visible and you just wear them over your teeth! There are no metal brackets to attach and no wires to tighten. You simply pop in a new set of aligners approximately every two weeks, until your treatment is complete!

Find out more about how Invisalign works here–> How Invisalign Works

It sounds too good to be true, right?  The results speak for themselves!  Check out the difference after just 14 months of treatment:

Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 5.56.07 AM

At the conference I attended, we had the opportunity to listen to a panel of teens Invisalign users and their parents.  I loved that the teens were all so confident, and they all talked about how easy it was to use their liners!  One mom shared that there are plenty of things to argue about  during the teen years, and said that this was one thing she and her daughter didn’t have to argue about!


Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 6.09.50 AM

If you’re wondering if Invisalign is right for you and your teens, you can take the free Invisalign Smile Assessment and find out!  It only takes a few minutes!  I took it and it said I was a great candidate!  I can’t wait to schedule an appointment with a local Invisalign provider to find out if my daughter is also a candidate!  Even if your orthodontist or dentist says your child is not a candidate, make sure you get a second opinion!

DISCLOSURE:  This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Invisalign.  All opinions are 100% mine!

Home Run movie review


Cory Brand was an up and coming baseball player who was living life in the fast lane.  When he hits rock bottom, his agent provides him with an opportunity to turn his life around.  He returns to his home town to coach his brother’s little league team and has to participate in Celebrate Recovery, a “12 step program with Jesus.”

When he returns to his hometown, Cory is forced to confront his dark past, which includes an alcoholic father and childhood abuse.  Like his father Cory has always turned to alcohol as a means of coping with his problems.  Home Run is a powerful movie with a Christian theme that focuses on finding the power to change and heal through Jesus Christ.  On his journey, Cory learns how to love baseball again and more importantly how to love himself.  One of my favorite lines in the movie was when Cory told his son that “Nothing great happens when you hold back.”  This is great advice for all of us.

Even if you have not dealt with issues of abuse or addiction, you may know someone who has, and even if you don’t, there will still be issues you can relate to.  This movie is about learning not to judge others because things aren’t always what they seem and also focuses on learning to forgive and move forward.  There are also powerful themes about parenting that we can all learn from.  One of the main characters said some things that hit me as a parent:  “It takes courage to be a parent.  It takes courage to love a child.  Parenting is not for cowards.”

It’s hard to find feel good movies with powerful themes like this one, and it’s a “must see” in my book!  Find out if your local theater will be showing the movie here–> Home Run theaters

If your theater will not be showing this movie, you can request a screening here–> Home Run Screening request

Make sure you follow them on Facebook, too, for all of the latest scoop–> Home Run movie

DISCLOSURE:  I was not provided with any compensation for providing this review.  I was given the opportunity to view an advance screening of the movie and also given a prize pack with t-shirts, books, and CDS to share with my readers.  All opinions are 100% mine!