Yes, You Can Take Your Dog to the Movies
Sure, you could take your furry friend for a jog around the neighborhood, or let him run loose at the dog park. But what if you’re craving an indoor activity, yet dying to get out of the house? Big news: There is such a thing as a dog-friendly movie theater.
A Movie Theater for Dog Lovers
Launched as a passion project by founder Eric Lankford (with an assist from Bear, his mini Australian Eskimo pup), K9 Cinemas in Plano, Texas, is the first of its kind, and between the comfy couches and the welcoming atmosphere, the locals are lapping it up.
Of course, the free drinks certainly don’t hurt. Not only does the $15 ticket price get you and your dog in to see the second-run film of your choice, it also buys you bottomless wine (or four whiskeys, or unlimited soft drinks if you’re underage).
What's It Like to Watch a Movie With Your Dog?
Between the barkers and the booze, the whole thing has the potential to become a bit of a free-for-all, but the theater has instituted some firm guidelines to make the experience a clean, safe, and fun one for pets and humans alike. For their first visit, owners are required to provide medical records and proof of vaccinations for each pup in attendance – and at max, only two dogs are permitted per person. They must be kept on a leash at all times, except in designated areas, and any messes are the responsibility of the owner, not the management.
So far, it’s been a recipe for success. Thanks to an intermission that allows for a mid-movie outdoor break and lower volume levels to accommodate sensitive ears, the cinema’s canine clientele has been on its best behavior – aside from the odd bark or two at dogs on the screen, that is. They’ve been such good pups, in fact, that the theater has plans to screen new releases in the near future.
A former contractor with the U.S. Department of Defense, Lankford was searching for something fulfilling for the next phase of his career, and with this Texas theater, he seems to have found it. “K9Cinemas was born because I love my dog, and I love movies,” he says. “It’s truly accomplished the initial goal I set out to make myself and others happy.”
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As a child, Dolly Parton let her imagination run wild, and now, visitors to her theme park in the hills of the Smokies are reaping the benefits. Officially opened on May 10 and inspired by the iconic country singer’s youthful flights of fancy, Wildwood Grove is Dollywood’s (dollywood.com) first expansion since 2008—the largest and, with a price tag of $37 million, most expensive in the park’s history. We've got the scoop on what's new in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, from rides and attractions to characters, restaurants, and more. A Whole New World The Grove’s anchor is the Wildwood Tree, a massive spectacle with 600-plus colorful lighted butterflies, thousands of leaves, and a babbling brook that pools under its canopy. Beginning in June, the tree will play host to a series of night-time events that change with the seasons. The park’s attractions span the spectrum from kid-friendly to thrill-a-minute: On the less intense side, the Treetop Tower invites riders to take a seat in a giant acorn for a spin to the top of a sky-high oak tree, while animal lovers can mount friendly frogs and black bears for a lively jaunt through their respective habitats. Adrenaline junkies should head straight for the Dragonflier, a 1,486-foot-long suspended roller coaster, or the Mad Mockingbird, a flying scooter that zooms through the air at your command, thanks to a sail that allows riders to maneuver as they see fit. There’s also a 4,000-square-foot climate-controlled play area where the little ones can blow off steam, and a water-filled oasis with pop jets and splashing pools that provides some relief from the hot East Tennessee sun. Fresh Fare and Friendly Faces Adding to Dollywood’s cast of familiar faces are three new costumed characters: Flit and Flutter, a pair of graceful butterflies, and Benjamin Bear, an ursine ambassador with a big grin. Keep an eye out for them wandering the grounds, or pop by during a scheduled meet-and-greet to say hi. When it’s time to break for lunch, Till & Harvest serves up “Smoky Mountain Mexican flavors” across an array of entrees—think: burritos, salads, and the like, fully customizable with a variety of grilled meats and fresh veg. (Sit outside on the patio if you don’t want to step away from the action.) Looking for a souvenir to remember the day? New retailer Mountain Grove Merchants is on the premises with plenty of Wildwood-themed goods to offer.
6 Secrets for Keeping Kids Happy on Vacation
One in four American families will take three or more vadations in 2018, according to data from AAA. Furthermore, more than 70 percent of traveling families will be seeking new experiences, including places none of them has ever visited before. That’s a lot of families hitting the road and a lot of kids finding themselves in totally new surroundings. If that sounds potentially stressful for traveling parents, you’re right. With summer travel season approaching quickly, we caught up with Katherine Firestone, founder of the Fireborn Institute, a non-profit that provides parents with clear, practical, and easy-to-remember strategies to help their children thrive in school (both socially and academically). Here, her top tips for navigating family travel challenges. 1. LET KIDS BE KIDS Kids look forward to vacation just as much as you do, but they often have a completely different to-do list. “Kids have plans,” says Firestone, “and they may include more time to hang out with friends, play, read, or chill with movies.” Does that mean you have to hand over your entire vacation schedule to your little ones? Of course not. “But if there are too many travel plans, kids may feel like they don’t get to do their thing.” 2. KEEP THEM FED AND RESTED Feeding your kids and making sure they get plenty of rest is not exactly an alien concept to most parents, but those healthy daily routines sometimes fly right out the window once the family leaves the familiar environment of home. “Keep your children well fed, give them plenty of opportunities to slept, and keep them on a schedule,” says Firestone. That can mean packing healthy snacks to keep blood sugar stable, and some treats for the moments when a few, say, Oreos are the difference between a meltdown and a patient wait on line for the Haunted Mansion. And in those moments when an expected eating or sleeping schedule is unavoidably altered by vacation, let kids know what’s happening. “When your plane is about to land, talk to your kids about how you may have to wait for a rental car, check into a hotel - prepare them for the waits.” 3. PLAN YOUR DAYS “Have activities already scheduled,” Firestone says, to avoid too much unfocused downtime, which can be surprisingly stressful for kids of all ages. “You can still stay spontaneous, but you don’t want to be making up too much on the fly.” But, don’t forget to… 4. SCHEDULE DOWNTIME As mentioned above, kids want to be kids. Overscheduling on vacation can be just as stressful as unfocused downtime. “Build some downtime into each day. Kids love reading, playing, snuggling, napping, and TV, and older kids may want to be in touch with friends on their smartphones,” says Firestone. Some vacations even call for entire days of, say, relaxing on the beach or in a park, and they can often be just as memorable as the hectic theme-park and museum visits. 5. PACK SURPRISES Whether you’re traveling with a toddler prone to meltdowns or a teenager prone to angst and ennui, it will help to bring along some distractions. “Pack surprises - treats, toys, games. Especially if you know of a difficult stretch of your trip in advance, such as long plane rides, road trips, or long lines at popular attractions, have something ready." 6. ANTICIPATE ANXIETY Parents, teachers, and doctors are seeing rising rates of anxiety among children across the U.S. Pretending anxiety isn’t going to interfere with your vacation is like pretending ants won’t invite themselves to your picnic - especially if you’re taking your kids to a completely new destination, or one where crowds, loud noises, and long lines are common. “Plan for it,” says Firestone. “Talk about anxiety ahead of time and brainstorm solutions together. Have your child name what may be causing their anxiety, talk about signs that anxiety is affecting them, such as clenched teeth or a tummy ache.” Firestone also points out that saying, “Calm down!” never helped anyone, parent or child, to actually calm down. Instead, validate their anxiety, and encourage your child to take deep, relaxing breaths. Firestone also recommends “cognitive distractions” such as reading, puzzles, Mad Libs, and other activities that engage the brain.
Disney is introducing its new Disney Flex Annual Passport for $599 on May 21, which gives access to both the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks, in Anaheim, California, and comes with a set of benefits and a few rules. Defining “Flex” The Flex Annual Passport can be used with no restrictions from Monday through Thursday every week, when demand is usually lower. Then, during weekends and the high-demand months and holidays, Flex Pass holders must book a reservation via a Disneyland website or its smartphone app. With the Flex Pass, you can visit the theme parks all day or simply stop by for dinner or to take a quick spin on some favorite attractions. It also offers discounts on food, merchandise, special events and guided tours. Blackout Dates It’s worthwhile noting that the pass can’t be used at all during the two weeks around Christmas, and on other blockout dates. It also can’t be used if access to the theme parks, lands, and experiences is restricted or unavailable due to capacity. Prospective visitors should check the calendar of admission dates to see which dates are marked as “Good to Go” so no reservation is required, “Reservation Required” and “Blockout Dates,” where admission is not available. Reservations Reservations can be made up to 30 days in advance, and each Disney Flex Passport can hold two reservations during a 30-day window. It is hoped that with the new pass, guests will have more flexibility in planning their trips to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, and it will also let the theme parks have crowd control – which will be essential when the much-anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens. For further information, please see the Disneyland website here. Get inspired to travel everyday by signing up to Lonely Planet's daily newsletter.
Free & Cheap in Philadelphia: Once Upon a Nation Storytelling Benches
Kicking off Memorial Day Weekend, on May 25, Philadelphia’s Historic District brings history to life all summer long, putting present-day visitors in touch with the city’s storied Colonial and Revolutionary past. Whether you’re planning a 4th of July getaway steeped in U.S. history, or just a great long weekend in one of America’s most vibrant urban centers, Philadelphia has some fabulously free programs to please every member of your brood. Once Upon a Nation Storytelling Benches Speaking of Philly’s “storied” history, Historic Philadelphia’s entertaining and educational Once Upon a National Storytelling Benches program features professional storytellers located at 13 benches around the city’s Historic District, delivering (free!) stories (about three to five minutes long) about the people and events that helped shape U.S. history. Topics include “Balancing Power: The Constitution Creates a Government,” which chronicles how the Constitutional Convention, held in Philadelphia in 1787, debated the then-hypothetical question of how to deal with a U.S. president who commits a crime or starts to behave like a king. Other topics include “Dinner Table Diplomacy: Martha Washington Throws a Party,” and stories about female abolitionists (both white and of color) who worked to abolish slavery, and how Dr. Benjamin Rush taught the Continental Army to stay healthy by changing their socks (!). 13 Points of Interest and Free Activities The 13 Once Upon a Nation Storytelling Benches are located near some of Philadelphia’s most significant historical landmarks, and children can pick up a (free!) Story Flag at any of the benches, then receive a star for each storyteller they encounter; kids who add all 13 stars to their flag can redeem it for a History Hero Certificate and a (free!) ride on the Parx Liberty Carousel in Franklin Square. The 13 Once Upon a Nation Storytelling Benches are located at each of the following points of interest, all within the city’s compact Historic District (for a detailed schedule of events, visit historicphiladelphia.org): Independence Visitor Center Independence Square, behind Independence Hall (hear dramatic readings from the Declaration of Independence at 3:45 on select afternoons) Signer's Garden (where kids can learn military drills and musket etiquette) Carpenters' Hall The Powel House Museum of the American Revolution Franklin Court Christ Church Elfreth's Alley Betsy Ross House (catch the ceremonial flag-raising each morning at 10am, May 25 to September 2) Arch Street Meeting House (meet historians and actors portraying historic figures such as Common Sense author Thomas Paine daily from 11am to 4pm) National Constitution Center Franklin Square Guided History Tours Not free, but worth every penny, two exceptional guided tours will get visitors an in-depth look at two Colonial experiences. Independence After Hours is a 2.5-hour evening walking tour of the Historic District including Colonial characters, a three-course meal at City Tavern, and an evening visit inside Independence Hall, where several Founding Fathers discuss the creation of Declaration of Independence ($85 adults, $55 children 12 and under, $80 senior/military/student). Tippler’s Tour is a Colonial-era pub crawl complete with a tour guide and tales of 18th-century drinking traditions, including a visit to City Tavern ($50 adults, $45 senior/military/students 21 and older). For travel inspiration, know-how, deals, and more, sign up for Budget Travel's free e-newsletter.