Just Dance Live Coming to LA This Weekend

Just Dance Live is coming to life in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Palladium March 29-31

One of our family’s favorite video games is Just Dance – the kids love it because they can dance along with the characters on screen and earn points by making all the right moves, and I love it for those reasons plus we get to spend time together doing something physical and fun, especially when they were younger. Also maybe because I often win. I can’t help it if I’ve got the music in me.

Just Dance Live kid and mom dancing

Killing it to Cake by the Ocean

Ubisoft, the maker of the game, is bringing it to life in a traveling live show called Just Dance Live – it hits Los Angeles THIS WEEKEND! The interactive experience will feature hits from Pharrell Williams, Jessie J., Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, and many more.

Part stage show, part audience-involvement, fans play an integral role in the show—from walking the red carpet, to mingling with other JUST DANCERS, to transforming their hair and makeup looks in the “Get Ready For It” zone — all before entering a thrilling live performance that surrounds audience members.

These images from other stops on the tour are pretty amazing. It looks like the show brings the dancing characters from the game into real life!

Just Dance Live
Hollywood Palladium
6215 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90028
March 29-31

Tickets available at ticketmaster.com. This looks like a really cool chance to be IN a favorite video game!

Thursday, March 29 – all tickets $20
Pre-show starts at 7pm | Show starts at 8:30pm

Friday, March 30
Matinee $45, VIP experience, Family 4-Pack available – Pre-show starts at 2pm | Show starts at 3:30pm
Evening $49, VIP experience, Family 4-Pack available – Pre-show starts at 7pm | Show starts at 8:30pm

Saturday, March 31
Matinee $45, VIP experience, Family 4-Pack available – Pre-show starts at 2pm | Show starts at 3:30pm
Evening $49, VIP experience, Family 4-Pack available – Pre-show starts at 7pm | Show starts at 8:30pm

Nintendo Switch Preview

Kids playing video games

Last weekend my boys and I got to play some games on the new Nintendo Switch! We attended a launch event in Hollywood, and as I noted on Instagram, it was totally worth the drive. 

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We’ve been anticipating the Switch’s arrival for months, and the boys were really excited that it is finally here. I’m still super old-school, so I am content to play LEGO Star Wars on the Wii U (and let’s face it, I would have been fine playing Atari for the rest of my life if things hadn’t evolved from there) but I was definitely curious.

Mario party

The selling point of the new Switch gaming system is that it can be used as a console hooked up to your big screen TV, or taken on the road and played like a tablet. So it’s sort of a cross between the Wii U game pad and the Nintendo DS systems. When the Switch is in console mode, you use the little “Joy-Cons” as multiplayer remote controls, docked in a Joy-Con grip so you can use them like a pro controller, or just use a pro controller. When you go portable with it, the Joy-Cons re-attach to the Switch and you use them both to play your single player game.

Nintendo Switch product photo

There’s a great video to demonstrate these different ways to play here.

At the launch event, the kids and I mostly used the Switch in console mode, but I did take a moment to pull the unit out of the Switch dock to see what the graphics looked like when I was playing the new (and also hotly anticipated) Nintendo open-world video game Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The graphics were great on the big screen, but you can really see the definition on the Switch unit itself. It looks better than any hand-held and certainly better than the DS or 3DS.

Boy playing Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

The game is awesome. We only got to play a 20-minute demo version, but it was enough to make us all wish for a Switch and the game. Kit wakes up from a 100-year nap and gets a cool magic tablet that shows him where to go on his quest. But as Kit’s controller, you get to choose where to go, what to discover, and what to do. It’s like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, but in a video game.

Breath of the Wild screenshot

We also played some neat games that you control with the Joy-Cons: Arms (first person knock out game, which my kids mastered instantly but I could not seem to grasp) Poyo Poyo Tetris (like playing Tetris, but with Gremlins), Splatoon 2 (another kid-favorite: you get to move the world around by tilting the Switch in handheld mode), 1-2 Switch! (quick-draw fire at your opponent game), and Just Dance 2017:

You can barely see the Joy-Cons in our hands because they are so small. It makes dancing much easier than with the bulkier Wii U remotes. In these pictures we are totally rocking out to “Cake by the Ocean.” The kid beat me with his sick moves.

The launch event was a gamer’s theme park. It was the coolest arcade this side of the 1980’s, no quarters needed. (These kids today. They have no idea.)

woman under giant Mario hat

We need much more time with the Switch to give it a thorough review, but from this limited experience, I can see that it’s going to be a big hit. The Switch goes for $299.99 and game cards are $49.99 and up, not compatible with the Wii U or Wii. So it’s basically a platform replacement. This is a paradigm shift for the one-at-a-time console family, like we have been since getting our first system in 2009.

Not that it matters much at the moment. The Switch has sold out everywhere already! And with a game release schedule spreading out the awesome new titles for several months, I’m betting they’ll continue to fly off the shelves (and out of online retailer warehouses) as fast as they come in! Check out the Switch website for more details and videos.

Costa Rica With Kids

Costa Rica with kids is totally worth it…depending on your attitude, and your kids.

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Fishing on Lake Arenal in Costa Rica. That’s a volcano behind them!

Back in March we got our boys’ first passports. I thought I was preparing us well ahead of time, but it turned out I should have started the process much earlier. In the end, the passports came safe and sound, in plenty of time for us to travel to Costa Rica with the kids!

This was our first international trip as a family. In fact, it was the first really big vacation that we took as a family. We often travel short distances by car, and for the past few years we have traveled to Connecticut to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. But for us to fly to Central America and explore places none of us have ever been was a true adventure, a first for the Princes.

costa rica with kids map

As it turns out, even though being in a Spanish-speaking country whose customs and general way of living are very different from our own, travel to and within Costa Rica was very easy. That newness and difference was the whole reason I wanted to take my family there. Everything we did felt new and adventurous.

Directions and Driving

People warned us about driving at night, and there are certainly hazards to be aware of: un-illuminated bicyclists and pedestrians walking or cycling too close to the road, livestock, poorly marked or missing signs, etc. Maybe I’m remembering it a little more fondly because my husband was the one driving I was mainly the navigator. Or at least, I was reading the crazy treasure-map directions!

costa rica with kids spanish road sign

People in Costa Rica give you directions like this: “Over the bridge, 3 speed bumps through the town, ocean to the left… Tikis to the right. CONTINUE on paved road and take a right.” This goes on for an entire page, with gas stations, banks, and cow pastures as landmarks, but no names of roads at all. We rented a GPS unit to go in our rental car (a tiny Hyundai economy sized car) but it was basically useless, because it used the numbers of roads, and barely ever showed us the names of the towns we passed through, much less the locations of banks and bridges and speed bumps!

You can hire shuttles to get from the airports to where you are going, but it was easy and safe, at least in our experience, to drive a rental car, once you let go of feeling like you have to be anywhere “on time.” Ours ran us about $450 for the entire week.

Cell Phone and Wifi

Most hotels and even restaurants have free wifi, so if you don’t feel like you need to call anyone when you’re on the road, you don’t need to worry about having cell service when in Costa Rica. You can keep in touch with family and friends back in the States (like the people who are feeding your cat) using email or Facebook messenger. However, I wanted to make sure my husband and I could reach each other, and that we could call our friends who lived in Costa Rica at the time, in the event of an emergency. That was one extra step I really wanted to make because we had our children with us.

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Depending on your phone, all you have to do is unlock your SIM card (the process varies by carrier, but with AT&T I just had to fill out a request form online and receive the confirmation that it was done). Then when you get to Costa Rica, go to any super, or little grocery market, and they all sell SIM cards and pre-paid phone cards to load minutes onto the SIM card. With a little help with the language from the hotel front desk clerk, I was able to set up my SIM card on my phone, while my husband’s was much easier. I wasn’t very good at calculating the exchange rate, but I’m going to estimate that I spent about $15 US to get both my husband’s and my cell phones working and able to call each other and our in-country friends.

Money

The exchange rate changes, but it was about 520 colones per dollar back in June. That means a $1,000 colones bill is worth just over $2. I kept getting it backwards and overtipping wait staff and hotel helpers, but I didn’t mind. Everywhere we went, the local economy is supported by tourism, so I was happy to help with my bad math.

Costa Rican businesses accept both US dollars and colones, which was lucky, because both my credit card and debit card were newly issued chip cards, and our first hotel and a few restaurants were not reading them correctly, so we wound up paying for that first hotel stay in cash!

Food

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Complimentary breakfast includes guayabana jelly for your toast.

Typical Costa Rican food is rice and beans, chicken, and fried plantains. In fact “típica Costa Rican” breakfast, lunch, or dinner is something you’ll find on many restaurant menus, because tourists want to sample the local food. When you’re driving around in Costa Rica, you’ll see sodas in any town, or small cafes that serve up quick homemade delicious plates.

costa rica with kids soda

Being in the tourism industry, though, they all have hamburgers on the menu, but those might come with actual ham or ham and bacon on them too! My kids pretty much ate a hamburger wherever we went. Actually my younger son got sick of them after a while so he started ordering spaghetti and meatballs if he saw that on the menu. A beachside tiki bar made him a plate of fettucini at 2PM because he was so hungry and serious looking!

costa rica with kids típica costa rican meal

I loved ordering the típica meal, and sampling the different fruity blends of beverages, and drinking the Coca Cola Light (vs. Diet Coke). The boys liked the boxed chocolate milk with Spanish labels because they were so foreign looking. One favorite activity they enjoyed was strolling to the Super Wendy and getting chocolate milk and packaged cinnamon rolls, then chasing sand crabs down the street.

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Every eatery has fresh fruit: watermelon, papaya, pineapple, bananas and more. It was sweet and juicy and delicious, and probably grew within a mile of where we ate it. We also liked going into the markets and looking at all the different packaged foods, fresh meats and freshly baked breads. At a bakery in La Fortuna near Lake Arenal, we spent about $7 US on fresh breads and loaded up 2 big bags because everything smelled and looked so good.

costa rica with kids hamburger

We mostly stuck to simple family restaurants, but the funny thing is that the best food we ate in all of our travels was at the Hilton Garden Inn across from the airport in Liberia on our last night. Best hamburger, best spaghetti, best BLT (for my husband), and the best Costa Rican rice and beans with chicken. Or maybe we were just so hungry after the day’s adventures that it sat better. Either way, that’s how we remember it.

Adventures

We traveled to two different areas: Playa Potrero with a day trip to Playa Tamarindo, and Lake Arenal. At Playa Potrero, we mostly hung out with our friends who were living there at the time, so we got a warm welcome and a friendly guide to the local activities. At Las Catalinas, a beach resort area, we hiked, played in the sand, swam, swung in hammocks, and found a geocache (naturally!). Every day we strolled down to the beach and the kids frolicked in the waves, and we spent plenty of time in the pool.

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See more photos on my personal blog, where I’ll be sharing more pics of our vacation in the weeks to come.

After three nights at the beach we headed inland to Lake Arenal. This popular area for tourists features the Arenal Volcano and the lake, and hot springs that flow from the mountainous area, heated by the volcano itself. We enjoyed those hot springs, and also went ziplining, horseback riding, fishing, shopping, geocaching (that was just me), and exploring.

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Many of these activities had a cost, but we had saved money for them in anticipation. While we certainly could have spent the entire time sitting in our chalet at Arenal Lodge watching the clouds, sun, or lightning over the volcano, we also wanted to seize the day and have as much fun as we could.

IMG_6765Waiting for our flight

Even our last day, when we were supposed to depart at 9:30 AM, was an adventure. An intense thunderstorm on the previous night had knocked out the airport’s runway lights, so the incoming flight was re-routed to San Jose. When we checked in for our flight, we learned there was a 5-hour delay because the plane had to come all the way back! Instead of waiting all day at the airport, I insisted that we go back across the street and wait it out by the hotel pool. The Hilton staff was nice enough to allow it. We basically sat there all day playing on our various electronics.

Kids’ Activities

A note about the electronics. We traveled with 2 smart phones, 2 iPads, and 2 Nintendo 3DS units with plenty of games. We brought multiple charging cords and portable charging sticks. All of this came in handy on the 5.5-hour flight. That is a LONG flight, and I didn’t mind having the kids’ heads buried in screens. (They did bring along other things to do. Books, notebooks, playing cards, and small toys.)

costa rica with kids arenal lodge bedroom

Since I was so entranced by the beauty and adventure that awaited us, however, I did not want to spend my entire time in Costa Rica with kids obsessed with their video games. So after a few days of them heading straight for the tablet or even turning on the TV as soon as we got into the hotel room, we made a pact: if we’re in the room resting between activities, your screens are fine. But “hanging around the hotel room playing on the iPad” cannot be the default activity on our vacation! Given a stretch of a few hours between lunch and a party we were attending later, I rounded them all up and led them on a walk to the beach. It was gorgeous, strange, new, and relaxing. No charging cord necessary.

Sun and bugs

Bring sunscreen with you, because it’s super expensive in Costa Rica, but if you’re stuck, you can always buy some. We got long-sleeved rash guards for each kid and brought floppy hats and made them wear them. They have fair skin and the sun is very strong closer to the equator. In the rainforest it wasn’t as sunny but there were still plenty of moments when we needed sun protection.

costa rica with kids side by side

Okay the bugs are for real in Costa Rica, both by the beach and in the rainforest. We applied insect repellent whenever we stepped outside, because the hype about the Zika virus was on the upswing. In fact, we were greeted in the Liberia airport by a giant poster with the silhouette of a deadly mosquito.

Despite our precautions, our older son got bit up pretty badly. He counted over 20 bites on his back one morning. I had brought along hydrocortisone cream, but that wasn’t helping him, so when we got to La Fortuna (the bigger town near Lake Arenal) my husband and I made pilgrimage to a farmaceria, where through a combination of bad Spanish and sign language, we managed to convince the pharmacist that we needed “strong cream for the itching.”

Moral of the story: get the strongest bug spray you can find, but don’t panic. There are places where you can buy what you forgot or didn’t think to bring.

A Dream Come True

When people ask me “how was Costa Rica?” I always say the typical thing. “It was amazing,” or “we had lots of fun,” or those easy things to say. But the truth is it really was a dream come true for me to go to Costa Rica with kids. And husband. Yes, the husband too. He really wants to return there without the children, and I do too, but since they’re getting older so quickly, and they’re finally at an age when they can remember and appreciate our experiences together, I am eager to have as many of those experiences as we can before this brief window closes. Family travel can be truly magical. We have to do it while we can!

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Sunset on our last evening

The special thing about Costa Rica was the relaxed wonder we all felt while exploring there. There is a saying, “Pura Vida!” that locals say to each other and to visitors. It is a way of life, a greeting, and a wish. It translates to “pure life,” but what it really means is, “I’m doing okay and you’re going to be okay too.” At least that’s how I interpret it, after listening to so many locals tell me what it means to them. How can you not feel that way, when you’re surrounded by so much beauty?

Pura vida!