family travel

Miami Int’l gives moms a welcome amenity

MIAmamas nursing pod

The number of airports with special rooms or stand-alone nursing pods for moms continues to grow. The latest: Miami International Airport, which kicked off September by installing eight Mamava pods throughout the airport – at least one in each concourse.

The suites are made by the Burlington, Vt.-based Mamava company and are self-contained units that have benches, a fold-down table, an electrical outlet for plugging in a breast pump and a lockable door.

MIA is the 15th airport in the U.S. to get one of the lactation suites. Other airports with at least one nursing pod are: Atlanta (ATL); Austin (AUS); Boise (BOI); Burlington (BVT); Jacksonville, Fla. (JAX); Milwaukee (MKE), New York JFK’s JetBlue T5 (JFK); New York LaGuardia (LGA); Manchester, N.H. (MHT); Newark Liberty (EWR); Key West, Fla. (EYW); Oakland (OAK); Palm Beach, Fla. (PBI); San Antonio (SAT); and Spokane (GEG).

July 4th events at airports

IAD STILTS

courtesy J. David Buerk Photography

Many airports are bracing for a record number of passengers over the July 4th holiday weekend and have lined up entertainment and activities to welcome some travelers and send others on their way.

Thousands of travelers will be heading to Washington, D.C. to see the fireworks on the National Mall this weekend and both Dulles International and Reagan National Airports will be offering red, white & blue retail specials, Uncle Sam stilt walkers and interactive photo booths.

Look (up) for the Uncle Sam stilt walkers at both Reagan National and Dulles International today, July 1, from 12 – 5 p.m. and Monday, July 4 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Fourth of July interactive photo booths will be onsite at both airports today from 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. and on Monday, July 4 from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The photos booths will have a “#4th of July frame” and a selection of patriotic and Washington, D.C.-themed digital props. Once you take your picture, you’ll be able to view it on a touch screen, print it out or share via social media.

4th-of-july-uncle-sam-patriotic-flag-balloon

In Chicago, both O’Hare and Midway Airports have holiday events planned for the holiday weekend as part of the ongoing Air Carnival activities, which feature face painting, balloon sculpting, and stilt walkers in the terminals.

Carnival events take place at O’Hare today, July 1, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. And special guests Anna, Elsa and Olaf from Disney’s “Frozen” will make an appearance at ICE Dishes & Drinks near Gate L1 in Terminal 3 today from 3 to 4 p.m.

Live entertainment will be featured at Midway today (July 1) from 2 to 5 p.m. in the baggage claim area and airport ambassadors will be handing out complimentary lemonade to passengers today from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Travel Tidbits from BWI & ANC Airports

Here’s news about some nice new amenities at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgoood Marshall Airport (BWI) and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

BWI playground

BWI has this nice new playground equipment at the Thomas A. Dixon Jr. Aircraft Observation Area and park, which is part of the BWI Trail network, a 12.5 mile scenic trail that encircles the airport.

BWI VIctoria's Secret

BWI also recently added three new specialty shops: Sock it to You, a locally owned shop in Concourse C selling, you guessed it, novelty socks; Victoria’s Secret Beauty, selling makeup, fragrances and select lingerie; and Marhsall Rousso’s, offering women’s fashions and accessories.

ANC Pork & Pickle

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) had a ribbon cutting event for the grand opening of Pork & Pickle (fun to say, right?), a modern gastropub and bbq concept from HMSHost.

The restaurant smokes it meats on-site and the menu includes smoked pork spare ribs, smoked beef brisket, smoked paprika BBQ turkey breast, ‘dirty chips’ (made with BBQ trimmings), and the restaurant’s signature ‘pork & pickle’ pulled pork sandwich with bread & butter pickles.

This is Alaska, so there’s also Alaskan hot smoked salmon salad and Alaskan cod & chips on the menu and a nice variety of local and regional beers.

Not going to Alaska anytime soon? There’s also a Pork & Pickle in Kansas City International Airport, in Terminal B.

Stay at Sting’s, Cook where Julia cooked?

Thinking of where to fly to this summer? This round-up I did for NBC News of famous homes you can hang in may give you some ideas.

Fire Dragon

La Pitchoune, the 3-bedroom cottage in Provence where culinary icon Julia Child and her husband, Paul, spent their summers, is currently available on Airbnb for a minimum 5-night stay for $628 a night.
Known informally as La Peetch, in spring 2017 the cottage will begin hosting week-long cooking classes for six students at a time. In addition to “courageous cooking classes” in Julia Child’s barely-changed kitchen, the all-inclusive sessions include meals, wine, daily yoga classes and local excursions. Price: $3,250 per person.

At Il Palagio, the 16th-century Tuscan villa owned by the rock star Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, “guests can spend days touring the fields and the wine cellar, and nights drinking [the estate-made] “Message in a Bottle” Sangiovese over a meal prepared by the villa’s chef,” says Bruce Wallin of the Robb Report, “And, of course, this being Sting’s place, after dinner you can open up the onsite recording studio and cut a track.”

While there is no weekly-stay requirement, the 9-bedroom, 10 bathroom villa must be booked in its entirety and, as it is “one of the most exclusive and luxurious villas in all of Italy,” according to booking site TuscanDream.com, “is priced accordingly.” How much? You’ll have to call.

In London, groups of up to 16 people can book private tours of the Tower of London that are followed by a private viewing of the Crown Jewels with the Chief Exhibitor and dinner in the Queen’s House. Organized by IfOnly, a site that creates unusual and extravagant experiences, the tour and dinner costs $11,565 per person and benefits the Save the Children charity.

Too rich for your budget? Here are less-expensive ways to stay and/or play at the homes of other famous folks.

George Washington's Mount Vernon - All the President's Pups walking tour

At George Washington’s Mount Vernon, just south of Washington, D.C., visitors and their dogs can join the “All the President’s Pups” tour for a walk around areas of the property usually off limits to guests. (Price: $7 in addition to admission, with is $20/$17 when purchased online; pups: free). Foodies might enjoy the Dinner for the Washingtons walking tour, which visits the mansion’s gardens, food storage cellar and greenhouse. (Price: $$7 in addition to admission)

Garden tasting tours (vegetable tasting included) and archeology walking tours are some of the extra options offered at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA (day pass and house tour: $25), while a locally-sourced Summer Farm Dinner series ($85 to $125/person) is offered at Taliesin, fame architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and 800-acre architectural campus in Spring Green, Wisc.
At Taliesin West, Wright’s winter home in Scottsdale, AZ and now the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, there’s a garden walk tour, a private collections tour, a tour for photographers, a family-friendly junior architect tour and an evening tour during which a fire-breathing dragon makes an appearance.

Of course, there’s always Graceland, Elvis Presley’s mansion and sprawling estate in Memphis, which draws over half a million visitors each year.

The basic mansion tour at Graceland ($38.75) satisfies some fans, but the Platinum ($42.50) and Entourage VIP ($75) tours offer a plethora of extras, including admission to Elvis’ automobile museum and an ‘archives experience’ that allows visitors to see some artifacts not seen on the traditional tour. For those who want to get even closer to the King of Rock and Roll, the 450-room Guest House at Graceland is opening this fall with a four day, star-studded celebration that will include live concerts and celebrity appearances from October 27-30.

(My story about staying at and visiting famous people’s homes first appeared on NBC News online.)

Air Carnival at O’Hare & Midway Airports

ORD air carnival

Send in the clowns – well, at least the stilt walkers and the balloon-animal makers…

This summer Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway Airports are bringing back the Air Carnival – a program designed for children but certainly entertaining for all.

Air Carnival will feature face painting, balloon sculpting and stilt walkers at various spots in the terminals each week, as well as music, free food samples (including cheesecake and cotton candy) and appearances by Ronald McDonald, Mr. Potato Head and Anna, Elsa and Olaf from Disney’s popular movie, “Frozen”.

MIDWAY BALLOON SCULPTING

The Air Carnival will take place each Thursday in Midway Airport and each Friday in O’Hare from June 16th through August 12th from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Air Carnival kicks off today (Wednesday, June 15) at Midway with The Chicago Blues All Stars playing in the Midway Boulevard food court starting at 12:30 p.m.

You can see the full schedule for Air Carnival activities scheduled at O’Hare here and at Midway here.