After a little blogging break, Shawna and I are back and ready to share our latest adventures!
Right along with many of you, we’ve spent the last few weeks getting our kids ready for back to school and getting ourselves (and our little ones at home) settled into a new fall schedule. But before we kick back into full gear, we wanted to take a moment to highlight a pretty big milestone for us — our Fourth Blog-a-versary!
Yes, we’ve been documenting and sharing our mom adventures for four solid years! We’ve visited and written about over 290 destinations and covered locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and even Florida (the kids are a little obsessed with Disney). Like we have done the last few years, we wanted to take this moment to celebrate this milestone by wishing ourselves a Happy Blog-a-versary, sending our readers a great big THANK YOU, and sharing some of our favorite outings over the past year. So let’s get started!
Happy Blog-a-versary to Us!
A question we are asked quite often is, “How is the blog doing?” Well, we are happy to report that we’ve had another successful year and love getting to continue to watch the site grow and blossom! Here are a few Out and About Mom blog facts we thought would be fun to share (just like we did in 2013 and 2014!):
- We still have 5 kiddos in the OAAM crew, but this year, most of them are off to school each morning. A big change for us!
- Our readership continues to grow: Our average monthly site views have gone from ~1,000 in Year 1 to 12,000 in Year 2 to 27,000 in Year 3 to 46,000 in Year 4. That means we grew by ~70% in the last year!
- We’ve written about over 290 destinations. Wow, we have seen a lot!
- We’ve logged 585 posts (which includes destinations, Wordless Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, guest posts, giveaways, product reviews, special events, OAAM Guides, and more).
- Facebook continues to be our largest and most engaged social media platform and we now have over 5,100 Facebook followers (116% increase since last year). We’ve also been working to expand our other social media platforms including Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest!
- We had the opportunity to share some of our favorite destinations through two new-t0-us media channels: television and radio. We had over 20 media appearances during the last year including on radio station Country 92.5, the Weather Channel, Fox CT, and through our recurring role on Better Connecticut.
It was once again a year of growth and fun for the site and we are so thankful for all of the support and dedication that has brought us to this point. Which of course leads me to my next important task — thanking YOU!
Thank You to our Readers and Site Sponsors!
There is no Out and About Mom site without readers to actually check out our information-filled weekly blog posts 🙂 Many of you have been OAAM readers for quite a few years, but there are many new faces who only recently started following us. We want to thank each of you for supporting our site, sharing our site with your friends and family, and engaging with us through comments and social media. Many of you have sent us personal notes to share pictures of a new outing you discovered or details on a destination you read about on our site and enjoyed with your family. We’ve received emails from families moving to Connecticut from far away who said they were nervous about their move until they discovered our site and became excited about all of the wonderful places they would have the chance to explore. And we’ve received very personal notes of thanks from Moms, Dads, and other caregivers who say our site helps them to get out of the house and explore this great area with their little crews. We can’t even begin to tell you how much your support, kind notes, and comments mean to us. While we don’t always get a chance to respond to your messages right away, we want you to know how much your engagement with our site brightens our day. THANK YOU for believing in this site and taking this journey with us each week!
And we couldn’t complete our round of thank yous without a great big THANK YOU to our site sponsors. So many businesses have invested in Out and About Mom over this past year and their support has given us the ability to continue to write about our adventures and provide some financial support to our families at the same time. It means so much to us that these businesses continue to believe in our site and help us provide you with new content each week. Don’t forget to support the businesses that support our site!
Our 10 Favorite Destinations Over the Last Year
Each year as we reflect on another Blogging Anniversary, we like to take a moment and attempt to whittle down our numerous blog posts to a list of some of our favorite destinations. It is an extremely tough job, but somehow we do it (there are just too many amazing destinations to choose from each year!) This year we once again made a top 5 list and wanted to share with you why these places made it to the top.
So let’s get to it! Our favorite destinations from our fourth year of blogging:
Mandy’s Top 5 Posts for the Last Year:
If we are going to live in a snowy climate, we might as well embrace the weather, right? What better way to do that than to get the kiddos involved at an early age in the popular pastime of skiing. Fortunately for us, there is a ski destination not too far from where we live where they offer skiing lessons for children as young as three years of age. Ski Sundown in New Hartford, Connecticut offers a variety of programs including a parent and me program for the younger kids (starting at age 3) and independent drop-in or weekly class programs for kids ages four and up. We did a trial run with lessons last year and my kiddos enjoyed them so much that we hope to be able to sign up for even more lessons this year (I hear we are in for another snowy season)!
This destination had been on my wish list for quite a while and I’m so happy that this past year we had a chance to check it out. The Stamford Museum & Nature Center offers so many fun activities for families including farm animals to explore, reptiles to make you squirm, and a beautiful property to enjoy. The location also has a very impressive natural playground and many trails to try (most of which are stroller friendly). Kids can check out a bookbag in the nature center filled with fun activities and you can grab a pass at your local library to make the visit FREE.
Enjoy boats from land and water and explore a 19th Century village at this unique destination in Mystic, Connecticut. The Mystic Seaport provides a full day of activities and fun for visitors of any age but I was surprised to see how much it offered for young children to enjoy. Visitors ages 5 and under are FREE, so make sure to go while they are young and be prepared to return for many visits in the future!
Watch a butterfly land on your little one’s finger and then watch their eyes light up when they realize what just happened! We got a chance to enjoy that experience at the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. There we had an amazing time exploring 8,000 square feet of indoor space filled with 4,000 butterflies. Plus we got a chance to purchase a caterpillar which we brought home and watched transform into our own butterfly. What a unique experience!
Sometimes I can’t believe this place is real. I can drop my kids off for up to two hours for FREE and grocery shop to my hearts content without any little ones in tow. Where is this little piece of heaven you ask? Well, it is the Little Y Kids Club at Big Y in Avon (locations are available in Tolland and Manchester too!). My kids love going here and I love the ability to actually think about what I’m purchasing while I shop! If you want to go, there are a few things to keep in mind, though. The club is only available for kids ages 3-9 and it isn’t open everyday so be sure to call and get the latest schedule before you head over to try it out (and you should definitely try this out!)
Shawna’s Top 5 Posts for the Last Year:
It is so rare to find high-quality programs for babies that are just as enjoyable for their moms (or dads!) as well. That is why I was so excited to discover the New Britain Museum of American Art’s new class for babies and toddlers under 2-years-old: Museum & Me: Playdates with Art. For an hour on select Friday mornings throughout the year, babies/toddlers and their caregivers have the museum all to themselves to explore the galleries while also enjoying the comfort and security of a “home base” room filled with toys, books, sensory objects, and plenty of comfy seating where they begin class and can return at any time. The class is FREE with paid museum admission (and if you plan ahead, you can even use a library pass to get your admission for free too!).
Of course we LOVE free activities here at Out and About Mom, but not all of them are created equal. So when I took my kiddos to check out the monthly Kids Workshop at our local Home Depot (we went to our Glastonbury store, but this program takes place at stores nationwide), I couldn’t believe that we were having all this fun for FREE! We got to create a real woodworking project using real tools, and then had the chance to decorate it with paint and stickers. It was such a unique activity for my older son and I to do together, that we have returned many times for subsequent workshops. And even though it’s totally unwarranted, I still feel a bit like we are getting away with something that we are welcome to participate in this wonderful activity without making a single purchase!
Whether you are a Connecticut resident or a visitor to our state, The Dinosaur Place at Nature’s Art Village in Montville, CT is one of those destinations that you just can’t miss. I mean, where else can you walk on nature trails and encounter life-size dinosaurs as if you are coming upon them in their natural habitat?! There are more than 40 realistic creatures (many that you can get right up close to!), an “erupting” volcano, and of course, beautiful nature scenes to enjoy. Add in a fantastic playground, a monster-sized maze, a snack bar, ice cream stand and even New England’s largest SplashPad, and you’ve got the makings for an entire day of prehistoric family fun.
The RiverQuest Kids Cruise in Haddam, CT was one of my all-time favorite summertime finds. On select Saturdays during the season, families with small children are invited to experience a river cruise that’s uniquely designed with the little ones in mind. Features like a slightly shorter sailing time, an engaging scavenger hunt, and a supply of child-sized binoculars help distinguish this cruise from the regular version, and an always stroller-friendly, snack-friendly, easy to move about boat makes this activity ideal for the kiddos. Meanwhile, the gentle waters, lovely scenery, and distinguished landmark sightings make the cruise just as wonderful for the grown-ups on board.
I love to bake with my kiddos, but I hate to clean up the mess afterwards (don’t we all?!), so I was super excited to find out about The Cookie Workshop in Trumbull, CT. Here, we could just have fun rolling out our dough, cutting out our cookies, and even decorating them with colorful frosting– and I didn’t have to worry about any of the cleanup! This extra special bakery offers drop-in cookie-making four days a week and is also a great spot for a unique birthday party. And because it’s totally nut-free (with gluten-free, egg-free and dairy-free options as well), just about every kid can enjoy the baking experience here.
And there you have it, a snapshot of the fun we’ve had in our fourth year of blogging about things to do with kids in Connecticut! We’d love to hear from you and know what your favorite outings were over the past year. Share with us! Have you tried an outing that you heard about on our site? What was your favorite destination? Leave a comment below or share with us on social media.
Shawna & Mandy
- Connecticut Children’s Medical Center – The state’s only free-standing hospital that offers comprehensive, world-class health care to children. Based in Hartford, Connecticut Children’s also provides services at several locations throughout the state.
- Mandell JCC – The Mandell JCC, Zachs Campus, 335 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford, CT, welcomes and serves families and individuals of all ages, stages, backgrounds, and faiths. Our fitness, wellness and recreation, arts and culture, camp, early childhood education programs, classes, clubs, and services are open to all. You Belong Here!
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