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What's with the sand pails?
We are constantly working to improve our website. In order to better help parents more quickly determine what activities and adventures they should spend their time, we will give each one a sand pail rating. The rating will be at the top of each post and will be your speedy indication of an activities suitability for the entire family. In the next few weeks, we will update our older posts with the new sand pails. We realize your time is at a premium and we strive to better serve your needs.
What do the number of sand pails mean?
Grab the kids and go! You don't want to miss this adventure!
Good adventure that is worth the trip, but there are things about this particular adventure that parents may have to plan around ahead of time to make it suitable for the children.
OK adventure, but may not be suitable for the entire family. The activity may be for parents or older children only, there may be a complete lack of facilities, the content or material may not be for the family, or the conditions may make it dangerous for young children.
Let us know what you think! Your opinion counts! Mahalo!
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We just added a Hawaii Events Calendar to our website! Now you can keep up to date on all the great family events that take place throughout Hawaii! Check it out and mark your calendar. You will never miss another important family event again! If we are missing an event, please let us know so we can add it and others can enjoy! Mahalo!
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Summer is in full swing and with it comes the Fourth of July, a day to celebrate our country’s independence with family and friends! On Oahu, there will be celebrations all over the island with tons of food, entertainment, and of course, fireworks. The celebrations kick off earlier than ever this year due to the holiday falling on a Wednesday. Check out our list of events below so you don’t miss out on a great day with the family!
Sunday, July 1
The Mayor’s 4th of July Celebration Parade and Sunset on the Beach
Mayor Peter B. Carlisle invites everyone to Waikiki on Sunday, July 1 to honor our military veterans and service members at the Mayor’s 4th of July Celebration Parade and Sunset on the Beach.
The parade begins at 6 p.m. on Sunday at Saratoga Road and proceeds down Kalākaua Avenue to Kapi’olani Park. Kalākaua Avenue will be closed to vehicle traffic at 5:30 p.m. The parade will be followed by a Sunset on the Beach celebration at Kūhiō Beach featuring the movie Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Paula Patton.
Memorial Day is a time to honor those that have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our nation. For many, that sacrifice happened right here on Oahu or throughout the Pacific. Add to that historical actuality Hawaii’s high concentration of active duty military members serving throughout the islands, most of whom have served now in time of war, and Memorial Day in Hawaii becomes especially meaningful. Their are many ways that your family can pay tribute to their sacrifices and honor the fallen with events and ceremonies held through the island on Memorial Day.
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
Each Memorial Day weekend local Boy Scouts from the Aloha Council decorate every veteran’s grave with U.S. flags and more that 50,000 fresh flower or ti leaf leis hand sewn by local residents and school children. At 8:30 a.m. on Memorial Day, the Mayor of Honolulu will host the Mayor’s Memorial Day Ceremony. Events will include music by the Royal Hawaiian Band, a traditional 21 gun salute, flyovers, and speeches from the Mayor and other dignitaries. Parking is limited. The City and County of Honolulu will provide special bus service to the cemetery for the Memorial Day ceremony from the Punchbowl city bus stop on Route 15, Makiki/Pacific Heights, on Memorial Day. Free parking will be available at the Frank F. Fasi Municipal Building garage (near Honolulu Hale) for motorists boarding buses at the nearby Alapai Transit Center. Pick up at the transit center will be from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.
The Kealia Trail is on the remote northwestern side of Oahu. It is far off the beaten path and nowhere near Waikiki or Oahu’s most popular hiking trails along the Ko’olua Mountains. So the fact that most people have never heard of it is not too surprising! The trail climbs the north end of the Waianae Mountains behind Dillingham Airfield in Mokuleia and offers some of the most spectacular views of the North Shore that we have seen.
19 switchbacks take hikers up the cliffs to a covered picnic area marking the end of the trail. The trail is only about 1.5 miles long (3 miles roundtrip) but gains over 1,000 feet in elevation. The hike to the top is all uphill over some moderately rough terrain, it will take a little over an hour for most families to reach the crest. The trail is very rocky so wear sturdy hiking shoes and a large portion of the trail is fully exposed to the sun so bring sunscreen and lots of water!
With the proper preparations, the trail is doable for most families. We recommend smaller children be carried in a backpack carrier due to the terrain and potential fall hazards along the trail. Older children (5+) should do fine if they take their time and maybe a few rest breaks.
The largest and most well developed white sand beaches on the Big Island are in the South Kohala district, strung along the leeward coast between the towns of Kailua-Kona and Kawaihae. This is the oldest side of the island, where bio and mechanical erosion have had the most amount of time to wear down the rough volcanic coastline. Tucked in amid lava flows from Kohala, Mauna Kea, and Mauna Loa volcanoes, pockets of white sand now dot the coast and provide green tropical oasis’ in a landscape of harsh black volcanic lava fields. One of the finest of these beaches is Hapuna Beach State Park, considered one of the best in the entire state and frequently mentioned near the top of most lists for best beaches in the world. It is a beach lover’s delight, and a dream come true for parents seeking a family friendly beach to take the kids to for an afternoon of fun in the sun.
Hapuna Beach is a fantastic half mile long stretch of soft sand, bound by lava rock outcroppings on both ends, which boasts almost every convenience that a family could want. During the summer, the beach is a 200 yard wide expanse of powdery white sand that slopes gently into the water with waves typically calm enough for explorers of all ages to enjoy. During the winter months, the beach can be slightly narrower and high surf conditions are not uncommon. If you go during this time period, be sure to check with the life guards before swimming or letting the little ones get too close to the shore break if it looks rough and take note of any markers they post regarding beach conditions. Life guards patrol the beach year round from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Most people are well aware of Hawaii's love affair with SPAM®. The ubiquitous pink, gelatinous block of pork has become a fixture of the local diet since its introduction in World War II. The uncertainty of island life both then (in time of war) and now (subject to the mercy of hurricanes, tsunamis, and striking shipyard workers) necessitated a product that was both portable, durable, and had no need of refrigeration. A necessary staple to have on the shelf in case of emergency like bags of rice and toilet paper, SPAM® has slowly taken a prominent place on Hawaii's culinary pallet. It has replaced bacon at breakfast, ham on pizzas, and hot dogs at the local convenience stores. The saltiness of SPAM® also makes it a perfect complement to the Pacific Rim cuisine for which Hawaii is best known. It has become so popular, in fact, that it has its own festival right in the heart of Waikiki.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Waikiki SPAM® Jam (www.spamjamhawaii.com) held on April 28, 2012, from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. along Kalakaua Avenue. The Waikiki SPAM® Jam is an annual street party celebrating Hawaii's love for the canned meat covering 3 city blocks. Kalakaua Avenue will be closed to car traffic for the event, and two entertainment stages are set up on the street, one in front of the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach and the second fronting the Royal Hawaiian Center and will feature some of Hawaii's finest entertainers. Between the stages, several of Honolulu's finest chefs and restaurants will be serving up SPAM® inspired meals and products, so you can experience the enormous variety of its applications. Among the favorites are SPAM® and Eggs, SPAM® Musubi, SPAM® and Rice, SPAM® Tacos, SPAM® Lau Lau and SPAM® Poke.
Most families head to famous Hanauma Bay on Oahu’s southeastern shore for its brilliant snorkeling and pristine beach. The nature preserve is widely considered one of the best snorkeling spots in the world. Few people realize that there is a very nice hike that traverses the ridgeline above the bay and takes hikers to the end of Pai’olu’olu Point and offers some spectacular views of the bay and surrounding coastline. The trail starts near the entrance to the preserve just behind the city bus stop located on the makai side of Kalanianaole Highway near the intersection of Hanauma Bay Drive. The trailhead is the gated paved road that goes off to the right, initially paralleling Kalanianaole Highway before turning left towards the ocean. There are a few parking spots next to the gate behind the bus stop. We are not sure if these are real parking spots or not, so park there at your own risk (we saw vehicles there the day we went but decided not to risk it!). If you chose to park in the Hanauma Bay parking lot ($1.00), there is a paved walkway that leads from the lot up the hill to the park entrance and trailhead. There is also parking available at Koko Head Regional Park across Kalanianaole Highway and a dirt trail that leads back to the park entrance or lastly, there is street side parking along Nawiliwili Street (the last road to the right before the park that turns into a residential area. There may be a side trail from Nawiliwili Street to the trail, we saw one that looked like it went that direction but we didn’t follow it to verify. If you can not find it or it does not lead to the trail, head up the side of Kalanianaole Highway to the bus stop and pick up the trailhead there. Once you park and get to the trailhead, hop the gate or go around and head up the paved path. The paved path follows the ridgeline and eventually takes you to the top of the hill near some FAA and radio towers. This stretch of the hike is about a mile long and is almost all uphill. We would consider the path stroller accessible not necessarily stroller friendly because of the incline! It’s all uphill and fully exposed to the sun so it’s a workout! There are beautiful views of the bay below and, on the opposite side of the ridge, you can see Diamond Head, Hawaii Kai, and Maunalua Bay. There are also terrific views of the channel between Oahu and Molokai which is an excellent place to watch for whales in the winter time! We saw lots of tail slaps, spouts, and breaches as we hiked! Once the pavement ends, there is a dirt and loose gravel path that heads downhill to the east and out to the end of Pai’olu’olu Point. The trail makes a loop around the point before merging back into the paved road for the return hike back to parking. (Note: You can also access this portion of the trail prior to the towers and do the loop in the opposite direction, look for the red dirt trails going off to the left towards the bay as you ascend the hill near the towers.) There is a very steep section near the paved road (depends on which direction you take out to the point if it is at the beginning or end of your journey) that is extremely difficult to maneuver. Take your time in this stretch. A slip could be disastrous. Use extreme caution on the dirt loop around the point if you take your kids. Because of the loose terrain and inclines we recommend not taking the younger kids on this portion of the trail, stick to the paved portion! Better leave this to the older kids, at least in the 10+ age range. If you chose to take your younger kids in a carrier, exercise extreme caution! The hike is doable but the trail conditions make a fall a good possibility! The dirt portion is inaccessible for strollers. The trail is fully exposed to the sun, there is no shade of any kind! For this reason, we recommend doing this hike in the morning before temperatures peak for the day. Remember to pack your camera, lots of water, plenty of sun screen, sun glasses and a hat. Sturdy hiking shoes are a must on the dirt section of the trail. Walking or running shoes are fine for the paved section. There are no facilities along the trail but there are full facilities available at Hanuama Bay. The views along the trail are phenomenal and make this a worthy hike. It is little used although we did see some dog walkers and power walkers on the paved trail that seemed to be regular users. For young families, stick to the paved portion, there is still plenty to see and its still a great workout! If you are more adventurous, take the dirt trail around the point, but use caution, come prepared and take your time!
Few things conjure up images of Hawaii faster than the sweet sound of a ukulele. Its distinctive tones magically transports listeners to warm sunny beaches filled with grass skirted hula dancers draped in colorful leis gently strumming a ukulele on the beach. There are varied stories in Hawaiian folklore that describe how the ukulele got its name but they all agree that it was first introduced to Hawaii around 1879 by Portuguese immigrants who arrived in the islands to work on sugar plantations. Three of those immigrants, Augusto Dias, Jose do Espirito Santo and Manuel Nunes, were excellent craftsmen and cabinetmakers and are credited with making the first true ukuleles in Hawaii. Responding to a growing local interest in this small guitar-like instrument, Dias, Nunes, and Santo all opened their own instrument shops in Honolulu by 1886. The little instrument became an almost instant hit among the native Hawaiians. The Royal Family, including King Kalakaua, Queen Emma, and Queen Lilioukalani, began playing it and incorporating it into performances at royal gatherings. In part because of their patronage and also the use of native woods and materials, the instrument became acceptable and Hawaiians soon developed their own musical style and sound around it. The ukulele’s popularity has since grown worldwide and today many different companies manufacture them. The best, however, are still created right here in Hawaii. Today, the Hawaiian “K Brand” ukulele are considered to be among the best and most sought after in the world. The “K Brand” refers to the four main ukulele manufactures in Hawaii that still make handmade, custom, high quality ukuleles using age old building techniques. All four of these companies, Kanilea, KoAloha, Kamaka, and Koolau are located on Oahu and offer factory tours that make for an interesting and entertaining family adventure. We recently toured 2 of the 4 factories, Kanile’a and KoAloha, and came away quite impressed with their knowledge of ukuleles, precise manufacturing standards and methods, and dedication to spreading the joy of the music through the ukulele. Kanilea Ukulele in Kaneohe (www.kanileaukulele.com) is run by Kristen and Joe Souza. They give tours daily at 10:30 a.m. It is evident by the depth and detail of the tour that Joe is passionate about the ukulele and determined to make a quality instrument soon to be a family heirloom. Joe eagerly provides a wealth of information on the manufacturing process and what sets Kanilea apart from other Hawaiian “K Brand” ukulele makers. They have innovated advances in environmentally friendly finishing and engineered unique bracing methods for their ukulele. Each ukulele is a work of art, with options for ornamental accents and custom configurations. Joe will walk you through the entire Kanilea manufacturing process and you can watch these instruments being brought to life right before your eyes! To take a tour, call them at (808) 234-2868. The second factory that we visited was KoAloha Ukulele (www.koaloha.com) in Honolulu. Tours are available Monday through Friday at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., no reservation is required but we recommend you call ahead just to make sure. They can be reached at (808) 847-4911. The tour here was not as extensive as Kanilea. It was limited to the milling and assembly processes and did not include the finishing process. While there, you can see the world’s smallest playable ukulele (5 ½”) created by owner Alvin Okami who started the company as a maker of household plastic products, Precision Plastics Hawaii, before he began to build ukuleles in 1995. You can also see some of the other unique ukulele’s made by KoAloha such as the Pineapple Sunday, Sceptre, and Juke-a-lele ukuleles. Praised for their beauty, craftsmanship and sound quality, KoAloha ukuleles are selling out faster than the Okamis and their staff can make them. We have yet to visit the other two “K Brand” companies although we hope to very soon. Kamaka Ukulele (www.kamakahawaii.com) gives free guided tours every Tuesday through Friday at 10:30 a.m. The tour usually lasts about 30 minutes. Again we recommend that you call ahead of time to confirm the tour at 808-531-3165. Kamaka is the oldest ukulele maker in the islands. The original founder of the company Samuel Kamaka was an apprentice to Manuel Nunes. The last company is Ko’olau (www.koolauukulele.com) in Wahiawa. There is no set schedule for tours at Ko’olau so call them at 808-622-1064 to schedule one. They are free as well! The great thing about factory tours, besides learning about the instruments, is that all of them let you play their ukuleles in their showroom! It may be the only chance you and your family ever get to play a handmade ukulele that costs well into the thousands of dollars! This was a fun excursion for the family! Our toddler's interest waned towards the very end of the tours but he was fascinated by the showrooms and made sure that we played every ukulele for him before we left! So bring the family out and take a closer look at what it takes to make the most famous sound in the islands come to life!
Part 3 of our Parent’s Choice Awards 2012 results will focus on some of the things families like to do most in Hawaii…shopping, eating, watching a famous Hawaiian sunset, and going to a luau. We will reveal the top 3 answers to each of our questions as well as what percentage of the votes each had as chosen by our readers who responded to our online survey last fall. We think the results will give you an additional perspective on family friendly adventures that are available here in the islands and give you the added comfort of knowing that these are places that ranked highly among parents just like yourselves! Please share your thoughts on the winners or let us know who you think should have been on the lists by leaving a comment!
What is the best family friendly luau in the state?
Paradise Cove (59%) in Ko Olina on Oahu’s leeward coast is a fantastic family luau! Not only do visitors get to experience the food and show (both are excellent) that most luaus offer, but guests can also explore the Paradise Cove Hawaiian Village which includes Hawaiian games and crafts that will delight the family! Ali’i at the Polynesian Cultural Center (24%) claims to be the most authentic Polynesian luau and it does a nice job of combining the different Polynesian cultures into its luau and show. It makes a nice ending to a day spent at the Cultural Center. The Old Lahaina (12%) on Maui is another favorite luau for families and completes our list of the top 3. There are opportunities to explore Hawaiian crafts and games before the traditional luau feast begins. The Old Lahaina Luau is unique from others in that its show is focused entirely on the Hawaiian Islands and telling the story of their creation and history. It does not include the other cultures of Polynesia like other luaus do which makes it nice if you are interested in Hawaiian culture, but you may be disappointed if you want to see other popular Polynesian dances like the Tahitian fire dance.
Part 2 of our Parent’s Choice Awards 2012 results focus on the wonderful family friendly places to visit and things to do in Hawaii as chosen by the readers who responded to our online survey last fall. We asked them to complete a short survey to determine which beaches, activities, and events they thought were the best for families. We had an overwhelming response and we appreciate everyone who took the time to complete the survey. We will reveal the top 3 answers to each of our questions as well as what percentage of the votes each had. We think the results will give you an additional perspective on family friendly adventures that are available here in the islands and give you the added comfort of knowing that these are places that ranked highly among parents just like yourselves! Please share your thoughts on the winners or let us know who you think should have been on the list by leaving a comment!
What is the best family friendly hike in Hawaii?
The short hike through Waimea Valley (26%) topped our survey responses. A nice stroll along the paved pathways through the botanical garden and archaeological sites to Waimea Falls was a family favorite amongst our poll responders. Manoa Falls (21%) and the Makapu’u Lighthouse (21%) hikes tied for second in our poll. Manoa Falls is a short 1 mile hike that is easily accessible from Waikiki and rewards hikers with a spectacular 150 foot waterfall treat at the end! The trail can be muddy and there are no facilities, but its easy terrain and short distance make it a great excursion for families. The Makapu’u Lighthouse hike is a 2 mile paved (great for strollers!) hike to an observation point at the end of Makapu’u Point just above the lighthouse. It is an easy uphill climb that boasts spectacular views of the ocean and windward side of Oahu. It is a perfect location for whale watching in the winter! For added fun, families up for the challenge can scramble to the top of the point and explore some old concrete bunkers.
This week we will begin revealing our Parents Choice 2012 winners! Last fall, we asked our readers to fill out a short online survey to determine which beaches, activities, and events they thought were the best for families. We had an overwhelming response and we appreciate everyone who took the time to complete the survey. We will reveal the top 3 answers according to our survey respondents to each of our questions as well as what percentage of the votes each had. We think the results will give you an additional perspective on family friendly adventures that are available here in the islands and give you the added comfort of knowing that these are places that ranked highly among parents just like yourselves! This post, we will look at which island our readers feel is the most family friendly and which beach and water activities are your favorites! Please share your thoughts on the winners or let us know who you think should have been on the lists by leaving a comment!
Which Hawaiian Island is the most family friendly?
Photo courtesy of National Marine Life Sanctuaries
Each winter after spending months feeding in the waters of southeastern Alaska, thousands of North Pacific humpback whales migrate south to the warm, shallow waters and breeding areas surrounding the Hawaiian Islands to mate, give birth, and nurse. For Hawaii residents and visitors, this gives us a unique opportunity to view these endangered mammals known for their frequent playful displays, such as breaching or surface slapping with their pectoral fins, tails, or heads. As many as 10,000 whales visit Hawaiian waters during whale season which typically runs from November to May. Viewing peaks from January to March. Commercial whale watch cruises are very popular during whale season and are the best way to see the whales up close. Boats leave from most Hawaiian harbors daily on 2 to 3 hour whale watching cruises, several even guarantee a sighting! But many of these cruises are on boats that are not ideally suited for young children and pose safety concerns for them or have minimum age restrictions. Some travel far offshore and passengers may be forced by law or conditions to sit while the boat transits to and from known whale locations. A situation that every parent knows can be a challenge with energetic kids! If a whale watching cruise doesn’t sound like a good option for your family, there are still some terrific whale watching opportunities available. Fortunately, Oahu’s shoreline (and neighboring islands) offers some fantastic viewing options and all of them are family friendly. In recent years, there’s been such an increase in the number of whales populating the channels between the Hawaiian Islands that it’s hardly uncommon to spot them from the shore. During peak season, you’ll find lookouts full of watchers—eyes, cameras and binoculars fixed toward the ocean in search of the mammals as they frolic in Hawaiian waters. Below is a list of our favorite family friendly whale watching locations on Oahu. Remember to take your camera and binoculars and as with all outings in Hawaii we recommend taking water, sun screen, and a hat for protection from the sun and never leave valuables in your car!
Image courtesy of nfl.com/probowl
This year, the NFL’s elite players will gather once again in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. The annual contest between AFC and NFC All-Stars will take place Sunday, January 29, 2012 at Aloha Stadium. Pro Bowl related events will kick off long before then, though, with special appearances by NFL players, mascots, and cheerleaders at activities throughout Oahu during the week preceding the game. Almost all of them are open to the public free of charge! The best of these activities, and we would argue it’s perhaps even better than the actual game, is the Pro Bowl Ohana Day. The Pro Bowl Ohana Day will be held on Saturday, January 28, 2012 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at Aloha Stadium. It is a wonderful opportunity for the family to come and see both the AFC and NFC teams complete their final pre-game practice. In addition to watching teams practice, there are a host of other activities that take place including fan contests, interviews, NFL video features, and a preview of the Pro Bowl pre-game and halftime entertainment shows. The best part of the day is that many of the players roam the sidelines during and after practice and are happy to greet supportive fans, making this a unique opportunity to meet players and possibly get an autograph or a picture! Seating is on a first come, first serve basis so if you want to be in the front row where you will have the best opportunity to meet the players you’ll have to get to the stadium early. Lines form as early as 8:00 a.m. Once the gates open, it’s eerily similar to the start of the New York City Marathon with folks taking off at a dash to obtain prime seating. If you are adamant about being in the front few rows, you will have to hustle but if that is not important to you, feel free to take your time; there are plenty of good seats available. Warning: Be careful where you choose to sit! The first few rows may not be for you if you have small children. Once players start meeting with the fans, the crowds of autograph seekers and fans that form around them can be unruly and small children can easily be pushed aside or even hurt in the ensuing melee! Be sure to bring some sun screen and a hat, on a sunny day it can be very hot inside the stadium! Concession stands will not be open but you may find a cart selling limited drink items. Restroom facilities will be open. Parking is free! If you want to purchase some Pro Bowl gear there will be souvenir carts loaded with all sorts of Pro Bowl and NFL merchandise throughout the stadium. Be sure to bring your own Sharpie if you intend to seek autographs! Also, don't forget to bring a camera so you can take a picture with your favorite stars! If your family is affiliated with the military, all of the armed forces (Navy/Air Force, Marine Corps, and Army) on Oahu offer free family transportation to and from the event from the various surrounding military bases as well as special military only seating, drawings, and games. Military ID cardholders must call and reserve space as seating is limited. Click on the links above for your services reservation instructions. Be sure to call early! This is a fun opportunity for the family to see their favorite NFL players in action and possibly meet them! It is an extremely festive atmosphere both for the fans and the players both of whom are full of smiles and dreams of gridiron glory! It is a must do for all football fans but entertaining enough that the whole family will enjoy the morning! We’ll see you there!
Courtesy of www.chinatownhi.com
Chinese New Year is once again quickly approaching! The Year of the Rabbit will shortly be leaving us behind and the Year of the Dragon will arrive on January 23, 2012. Honolulu's famous Chinatown will once again host a month long celebration perfect for your family to enjoy. Wonderful cultural festivals full of food, entertainment, and fun and colorful parades full of Chinese lions and the annual Narcissus Queen Pageant are all scheduled to help ring in the new year. Chinatown is one of Hawaii's most exciting and mysterious neighborhoods. It has long been a gathering place for Hawaii's immigrants who helped shape Hawaii's past and who are now an integral part of Hawaii's harmonious cultural balance. The schedule of events will begin on January 6, 2012 with the Chinese New Year Festival presented by the United Chinese Coalition, a two day celebration at the Chinese Cultural Plaza featuring Chinese and Asian food, exhibits and entertainment, arts and crafts, martial arts demonstrations, and Chinese dancing and singing. This is a fun event for the family that we thoroughly enjoyed in years past and will be participating in again this year with lots of opportunities for the little ones to explore and learn about the various cultures represented in Chinatown. It is also the perfect time to buy your Chinese New Year gifts (Chinese lion puppets are always a hit!) and learn about traditions such as lisee, the Chinese tradition of giving good luck money placed in red envelopes. The event will be held again on January 20-21, 2012, the weekend just prior to the New Year. On January 13-14, 2012, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce will present the Chinatown Open House, another two day long celebration of the new year. On January 13, the celebration will include a traditional choy cheng, or Chinese lion dance blessing, and visits from the Narcissus Queen and her court. The following night, the streets of Chinatown will transform into a lively street fair with four main stages of entertainment, food, games, and dancing for all ages. The highlight of the month, is the Night in Chinatown Parade beginning at 3:30 p.m. on January 14, 2012. This is one of the largest and most colorful parades we have ever seen and is without a doubt a must do for your family! Hotel Street comes alive with Chinese lions, martial arts, marching bands, and a 150 foot dragon! The keiki will love the color, music, and excitement of the parade. Don't forget to bring some small bills to feed the Chinese lions for good luck and fortune in the coming year! All of these events are free and open to the public. Go to www.chinatownhi.com for more details on individual events. Be sure to bring your camera, a stroller, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. All of the events are outside. While in Chinatown, we recommend that you take the time to explore some of its great markets full of fresh flowers, seafood, vegetables, souvenirs and many other products, some of which you can only find in Hawaii as they are not imported to the Mainland. There is also an opportunity to marvel at some unique historical architecture that can only be found along its streets. We recommend parking at Hale Pauahi Parking Garage. It is the closest to the Chinese Cultural Plaza. Click here for a map of other parking alternatives in and around Chinatown. The events surrounding the Chinese New Year are a tremendous opportunity for your family to learn about a few of the different cultures that are represented here in Hawaii. It is a unique chance to present to our children the differences that exist between communities and how each one is significant and vital to our society as a whole. We highly recommend attending some of these terrific family events and help welcome in the Year of Dragon!
It is easy amid the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to forget that you are, in fact, in a tropical paradise with warm sunny beaches, cool trade winds, rugged mountains, coconuts, rainbows and palm trees surrounding you. It is difficult to keep in mind when you are fighting your way through snarling traffic to get to an overcrowded shopping mall, or struggling online to find that perfect gift for someone only to find out after purchasing that shipping to Hawaii is not free despite what the company’s website claims, that you are, in reality, wearing a swimsuit and slippers when most of the rest of the country is bundled up in snowsuits and mittens! It is in moments like this, when the frustration of the holidays and island life can reach a fevered pitch, that our family likes to step back from the modern day routine of Christmas and simply take time to enjoy the season and all that it offers, particularly in Hawaii, where there is so much to see and do that can only be experienced here. One of our favorite holiday excursions we make a point to enjoy each year to help us unwind and catch our breath is a trip to Waikiki to take a leisurely family stroll through the heart of Oahu’s tourist district to check out the holiday decorations at the many hotels and resorts that line its beaches. Each holiday season, Waikiki hotels seemingly spare no expense to transform their grounds and lobbies into holiday wonderlands that are well worth a visit, even for residents. Many even feature special Christmas themed activities and events that are not limited to guests only and most can be enjoyed for free! We enjoy the opportunity to get out of the house and walk off a few of the Christmas cookies that we snuck while baking, enjoy the fantastic weather, and set aside the anxiety over whether or not we remembered to send Auntie a Christmas card or not, at least for a few hours! All of the hotels and resorts decorate to some extent and they are all worth a look, but there are a few noteworthy ones in particular, that you do not want to miss. The Hilton Hawaiian Village has amazing displays throughout their grounds. Ocean and beach themed Christmas trees are in the main and tower lobbies and restaurants and snow flake lights adorn the palm trees. The main driveway into the resort is line with lights and some of Christmas’ most memorable characters. The Hale Koa Hotel has a beautifully decorated banyan tree in its center court surrounded by brilliantly lit palm trees. Within the resort you can find Santa’s Toyland and a Gingerbread Fantasyland. In the main lobby, there is a terrific Hawaiian “snowman” display that is sure to illicit a smile or two. The Moana Surfrider is tastefully decorated with classic decorations befitting the 110 year old “First Lady of Waikiki” and the hotels plantation style décor. The Royal Hawaiian is decorated throughout with traditional holiday trappings…all in pink of course! The nearby Halekalani is also nicely decorated and worth a look. The Sheraton Waikiki has an amazing sand sculpture celebrating Christmas and Hawaii’s gift to the world, surfing! The sand sculpture took 5 days to create and contains over 6 tons of sand! Without a doubt, the best hotel holiday display is at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel. The resort’s lobby is home to Santa’s German Gingerbread Village on display until January 2nd. The 14 foot tall and 24 foot wide edible winter wonderland made of gingerbread and other treats was the creation of the hotels Executive Chef, Ralf Bauer. The village is representative of a quaint German mountainside village complete with ski slope, carousel, skating rink, and much to our son’s delight, two working trains, but also includes a touch of Hawaii with the inclusion of local iconic structures such as the Kawaihao Mission Church, Moana Surfrider Hotel, Iolani Palace, and Aloha Tower. When completed, the entire display took over 700 hours to build and set up while consuming 140 lbs of dark chocolate, 50 lbs of white chocolate, 70 sheets of gingerbread and 225 gallons of icing. This is a can’t miss display that your family must make the time to see if spending any part of the holiday season on Oahu. It is truly remarkable to see and will delight the entire family. In addition to the hotel displays, be sure to check out the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center which is nestled among them and also is very nicely decorated for the season. Be sure to bring your camera so you can take lots of pictures! Also, bring a stroller if you have little ones that tire easily, there is quite a bit of walking to do if you visit all of the hotels mentioned. There are numerous places along the way to eat or get a drink if you decide you want something and there are restroom facilities at all of the hotels and the shopping center. There is plenty of parking near or at the hotels but we like parking at the public lots near the Hale Koa and Hilton and walking east saving the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani for last. If you only intend to visit the Gingerbread Village, then park at the public lot adjacent to the Honolulu Zoo which is much closer. The beach, zoo, aquarium, and Diamond Head are all nearby, so if you are looking for something else to do while you are there consider checking them out too. This is an excellent chance to unwind as the momentum of the holiday season mounts. It is a terrific way to get out of the house and enjoy a sunny, trade wind afternoon or a warm, tropical evening. It will no doubt put a smile on your family’s faces and get everyone into the holiday aloha spirit!
Christmas in Polynesia at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie is a memorable and unique holiday adventure for you and your family and a great way to get into the Christmas spirit. Guests of all ages will enjoy being whisked away to a Winter Wonderland complete with Christmas trees, plenty of lights, and yes, even snow...all with a Hawaiian twist of course! Visitors will board a festively decorated canoe for a 25 minute journey along the Center’s lagoon, through a live production of “Kamakana and the Five Fir Trees,” a local adaptation of the popular “The Three Fir Trees” Christmas story. The heartwarming story depicts Kamakana’s grandfather sharing with his young grandson the story of how the five fir trees became part of the Christmas nativity story. The production includes actors, live animals, and props amid a myriad of decorations and musical performances and concludes with a journey through contemporary holiday themes and icons, including a visit to the North Pole complete with a blinding snow storm! The canoe ride alone is well worth the trip to the windward side, but be sure to take time to wonder through the Center’s grounds as well. Christmas lights and decorations adorn the palm trees and live music and dance performances are performed on stage each night near the front entrance. Additionally, there are arts and crafts available, a train (in reality a golf cart decorated as a train) for keiki, and guests can catch a tram to the nearby Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors Center where they can see a grand scale Christmas tree display featuring 19 beautifully decorated trees. The event runs from December 12 to December 23 every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The box office closes at 8:00 p.m. Tickets cost $10.00 for adults and $8:00 for keiki. $2.00 off coupons are available at 7-11 Stores, 76 Gas Stations, Domino Pizza, & and specially marked Pepsi products. Parking costs an additional $5.00. For more information go to www.polynesia.com or call 293-3333. Be sure to bring your camera and we recommend a stroller or carrier for small children. It is a short walk from the box office to the lagoon and the beginning of the canoe rides. Wait times vary but are reasonable. We went on a Saturday night and only waited for about 20 minutes. While in line, you can enjoy Christmas carols, grab some milk and cookies and watch a very short video presentation that depicts the opening chapter of the storyline. Once at the front of the line, there is an opportunity to have a family picture taken with Santa (available for purchase for $10.00) and then you will be taken to your canoe. Keep in mind you will exit on the opposite side of the lagoon, so you will have to backtrack to retrieve your stroller if you take one! Restroom facilities are available throughout the grounds and food and drinks can be purchased at various stands along the way. This was a fun and uniquely Hawaiian family holiday experience and we recommend checking it out! The grounds are beautifully decorated and the canoe ride and associated story were very well done and are sure to capture and incite your family’s Christmas spirit!
Our toddler has become quite the train enthusiast this year! Fortunately, the Christmas season in Hawaii is a wonderland of holiday themed child-sized trains suitable for riding that fills the imagination with dancing candy canes and larger than life presents overflowing their neatly wrapped boxes! While there are real trains that run throughout the year on Oahu (Hawaiian Railway Society), Maui (Sugar Cane Train) and Kauai (Kauai Plantation Railway) that offer riders an authentic railroad experience, there is something enchanting about the Christmas season and the magical world evoked by a fully decorated, pint-sized holiday train traveling through a landscape of endless imaginative boundaries! Most are conveniently located so that parents don’t even have to make a special trip to the station to take their children for a ride, but are located within other traditional holiday meccas...like the shopping mall! Our family’s two favorites are the Candy Cane Train at Ala Moana Center and the Pearlridge Express at Pearlridge Center Uptown. The Candy Cane Train at Ala Moana Center (click here for video), located in the Nordstrom Wing, Level 2 is based on “The Christmas Gift of Aloha” storybook. The 30 foot long train is for keiki age 12 and under (must be able to sit up by themselves) and runs from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays daily through Christmas Eve. Tickets are $5.00 and are first come, first serve and can be purchased at the Train Depot located near the center of the mall by the Louis Vuitton store on the mall level 2. When you purchase a ticket, you will be assigned a departure time. Plan on arriving about 10 minutes before your departure time to get in line. Seating on the train is first come, first serve within your assigned departure time. This guarantees your child a seat, it just may be in the middle facing backwards if you don’t get there early enough! The train does not run on a track but is driven, like a car, by the conductor through the mall which we thought took a little bit away from the experience but that is a parent’s perspective, the kids certainly did not mind! The ride lasts about 10 minutes as the train does about 5 laps around the wing, escorted along the way by staff who are there both for the safety of the children and inattentive mall shoppers, and to sing along on with the carols on the train’s musical journey. The Pearlridge Express at Pearlridge Center Uptown (click here for video) in the Center Court is a scale model steam train that travels on its track through a magical land of giant toys! The ride costs $3.00 and lasts about 10 minutes as the train completes about 5 laps through the toy wonderland. Keiki must be under 48 inches tall to ride (and able to sit up on their own). Tickets are sold at the Pearlridge Express Ticket Booth adjacent to the ride near the elevator and Starbucks and are sold on a first come, first serve basis. Your child will be assigned a specific time and seat when the ticket is purchased. This is nice for parents because it prevents the made dash to the train to get your child a good seat when your assigned time comes! Children sit in a line, 3 to a car, so there are no bad seats. The ride runs daily from 10:00 a.m.to 8:00 p.m. (10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Sundays, Christmas and New Years Eves) now through January 8th, 2012. Also a hit with our child, this train offers the most realistic railroad experience of the two featuring a track complete with railroad crossings and sidings, and a locomotive with an authentic sounding steam whistle and the familiar “chug-chug-chug” of a real train. Regardless of which train you choose, your child will be thrilled by the experience and will undoubtedly beg you to go again and again! It is a terrific holiday adventure for your children and a great way for parents to catch their breath and get a few minutes of rest while holiday shopping!
One of the most wonderful aspects of living in Hawaii is the unique island spin put on traditional holiday events. Our family’s favorite at Christmas time is the arrival of Santa on Waikiki Beach. No reindeer or sleighs are needed in Hawaii! Instead, Santa will arrive on our shores via outrigger canoe! This is truly a sight to see as he is paddled ashore and greeted by a chorus of keiki, hula dancers, and a Hawaiian band singing and dancing to Hawaiian holiday favorites amid shouts of “Mele Kalikimaka” and “Aloha”! This year, Santa will arrive on the beach fronting the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 10, 2011. With the famous silhouette of Diamond Head in the background, Santa will arrive amid a swarm of well wishers and awestruck keiki on our sandy shore decked out in his best island palaka Santa suit complete with shorts and slippers! After a brief welcome ceremony amid the palm trees on the beach, he will proceed into the Outrigger hotel for free picture taking and will visit with keiki, giving them plenty of time to share their Christmas wishes with him. Be sure to bring your camera and arrive early as the crowd begins to form on the beach around 8:30 a.m. The event is free and there is plenty of parking at the hotel or in nearby public parking lots. There are restroom facilities inside the hotel. If you bring a stroller, we recommend the jogging type to aid maneuvering around the crowd on the beach. Once Santa arrives though, we doubt the keiki will want to stay in it! Our family has started a tradition of arriving early and eating breakfast at the Hula Grill on the second floor of the Outrigger Waikiki. The restaurant (upstairs from World Famous Duke’s Waikiki) opens at 6:30 a.m. and features a terrific breakfast menu and wonderful outdoor seating where we can watch Santa’s canoe approach and then head downstairs to the beach as he arrives. They will also validate your parking! We recommend reservations and be sure to tell them that you want outdoor seating! The Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach is located at 2335 Kalakaua Avenue. Click on here for more details about this event. This is a fantastic family adventure that will thrill the children and kick off your family’s holiday season...island style. While in Waikiki, consider going for a late morning stroll after your visit with Santa. Most of the nearby resorts feature elaborate holiday decorations in their lobbies which are well worth a visit and absolutely free to check out! We will feature a few of the best in next weeks post! Also, be sure to check out Shaka Santa and other holiday decorations at Honolulu Hale City Lights!
One of our family’s favorite Hawaiian holiday traditions is to visit Honolulu Hale City Lights (530 South King Street) and watch the Public Workers Electric Light Parade which has been delighting island families each Christmas for nearly 30 years. This year the month long celebration will officially mark the beginning of the holiday season in Hawaii on December 3rd with the lighting of the City Christmas Tree and an eye popping Griswold style light parade filled with festively decorated city fire, police, emergency, maintenance and refuse vehicles and local high school marching bands playing holiday classics as they proceed down King Street (click here for a parade route map) in Honolulu. The parade participants will serve as escort for Santa who will arrive in Honolulu on the last float just as the city tree and other holiday displays are illuminated by the Mayor. Following the parade, Santa will go to Mission Memorial Auditorium for free picture taking and all of the city’s parade vehicles will park along King Street for visiting, which the keiki (and keiki at heart) will undoubtedly enjoy checking out! Later, you can wonder over to the Sky Gate Stage at the Frank F. Fasi Civic Center for a free star-studded holiday concert (click here for a schedule and a list of artists scheduled to perform). Spread around the grounds of Honolulu Hale are holiday decorations, food booths, keiki rides and souvenir vendors in a celebration of Christmas that can only be found in Hawaii! Larger than life Shaka Santa and Aunty Mele outdoor figures are among the annual crowd favorites. Other displays include a joyful Hawaiian Snow Family and a Christmas train overflowing with presents...and Menehune. While there, be sure to go inside Honolulu Hale and check out the tree displays and wreath contest exhibit. This is also where you can find the bathrooms! Be sure to check out nearby Iolani Palace as well, which will be beautifully decorated for the holiday season! Honolulu City Lights will run through January 1st but the parade can be seen only on December 3rd. Special events will run some evenings throughout the month of December including Hot Chocolate Night, Milk and Cookies Night and a free showing of the Wizard of Oz (click here for a schedule). Opening night events will begin at 4:00 p.m. when the rides and booths open. Arrive early to get a good viewing spot for the parade and tree lighting which will begin at 6:00 p.m. with musical performances at Honolulu Hale and the start of the parade at River Street. At 6:30 p.m. events will culminate in the arrival of the parade at Honolulu Hale and the illumination of the city tree. Plan on arriving before 5 p.m. to avoid traffic delays and road closures. Parking can be found at the Smith-Beretania or Hale Pauhi parking garages (click here for street closures and parking). If you just want to see the parade, consider going to Chinatown where the parade starts and avoid the additional traffic and crowd caused by the tree lighting festivities closer to Honolulu Hale. Just be sure to arrive before the street closures start and you may have to wait a bit for them to reopen after the parade. If you go, bring a small stroller that you can navigate the large crowd with and remember to bring a camera so you can take pictures of the floats and of the kids with Santa! You can buy food and drinks (bring cash) at various locations around the grounds and there are limited bathroom facilities available. You can also purchase Honolulu City Lights ornaments for your tree, shirts, and Hawaiian Christmas cards for the family. This is a really neat holiday family outing that we highly recommend. If you can’t make the opening night festivities be sure to head to Honolulu Hale one evening during the month around sunset (about 6:00 p.m.) and check out all the displays and lights. Mele Kalikimaka!
Aloha! As parents we are always eager to hear what other parents think of Hawaii and the many activities, events, and adventures that are available for families to explore. We place tremendous value in their experiences and recommendations. We are hard at work preparing for our first ever Jack and Jill Adventures Hawaii Parent's Choice Awards! However, we need your help! We would like to know which activities your family likes the best. Please click on the link below which will take you to a very short survey (12 questions) that we hope you will complete. The survey will be open until midnight on 28 December, 2011. Your answers will determine the winners in each category. Our list of possible answers is by no means all inclusive! If the answer that you want is not in the survey's list of possible answers, leave us a comment below and we will be sure to include it in our final tabulations. Then, check back in January when we reveal your favorites!
Halloween is just a few weeks away! To help your family celebrate and capture some fun memories we compiled a list of family friendly activities and events happening throughout Oahu.
- Visit a Pumpkin Patch
Nothing says that Halloween is coming more than going to the local pumpkin patch to pick out the perfect family pumpkin for carving. Check out Aloun Farms Pumpkin Patch Festival and Waimanalo Country Farms Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze. Say hi to the Great Pumpkin for us. See our recent blog reviews of both.
2. Pumpkin Carving Festival at Neal Blaisdell Center
Watch master sculptor Ed “Pumpkin Ed” Moody as he carves two 1,000-pound pumpkins. While there, check out the Safeway Pumpkin Patch filled with pumpkins carved by chefs, master carvers and local celebrities. Participating families can get their own pumpkin for $30.00 which includes one medium pumpkin (or 2 for $55.00), carving tools, stencils, and a work table. The festival is October 22 at the Neal Blaisdell Center. Seatings at 9:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. To register your family visit www.pumpkincarvingfestival.org or call 591-7700 or 843-2502.