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Paddling the Palisades with Southern Tier Kayak Tours

(Thank you Southern Tier Kayak Tours (STKT), Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes and the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce for hosting us!  All opinions are my own.)

My kids have surprised me this summer with their adventurous spirit and have been all about trying new things. Although kayaking isn’t new to us (the kids love kayaking around the lake near our friends’ house) we had never taken a guided tour before.

On the day of our kayak tour we arrived at the Senator William Smith Launch in Big Flats, NY a little earlier than our expected 9:45 AM meeting time.  I wanted to make sure we had on proper foot attire (i.e. water sandals and old sneakers) and had time to apply suntan lotion.  There were eight of us on this tour, plus our professional guide, Aaron from Southern Tier Kayak Tours (STKT).

Prior to our kayak trip, we were asked heights and weights so we could be fitted with the appropriate size kayak.  We had the option of getting a tandem kayak so I could paddle with one of the kids, but they both wanted to paddle their own. STKT provides the kayaks, paddles and life jackets.  On this trip we used sit-on-top kayaks, but they also have sit-in kayaks.  Although most of us on the tour had previous kayak experience, Aaron gave us a quick paddling lesson and safety talk.  Like most outdoor and adventure excursions, a waiver must be signed before setting off.  We helped carry the kayaks down to the river and Aaron ensured everyone got into their kayak safely before our tour began.

The Chemung River was surprisingly calm and peaceful and our tour provided beautiful views of the palisades.  Aaron was a very knowledgeable guide and pointed out various killdeer, herons, ospreys and eagles.  On our journey we saw several eagles perched in trees and flying above us.  He also pointed out the invasive species of plants that are growing rampant along the river banks.

A couple miles into our paddle we stopped at a shallow area and took a stretch.  We spent a few minutes skipping stones (or in my case, attempting to).  Then Aaron showed us how you can tell the health of the river just by examining the wildlife growing under the rocks.  Picking up rocks he pointed out the variety of water pennies and snails that were thriving, indicators that the river is doing well.

After our little respite, we got back into the kayaks and continued our tour.  As you can see, some parts of the river were very shallow that day.  Paddling the river several times a week, Aaron is very familiar with it and he directed us to paddle towards certain sides of the river to avoid the rocks.  In one part of the river, there was a very small rapid we needed to navigate to continue onward.  Aaron got out of his kayak and stood in the water, ensuring that everyone made it safely through the rapid and was headed in the correct direction.

I have to note that I did not realize how tiring a five mile kayak paddle is!  By the last mile, our arms were tired!  After my son complained about his arms, Aaron took pity on him.  He attached my son’s kayak to his and towed him the last mile or so.  Although they make exceptions, these kayak tours are recommended for children 9 and up.  While my son turned 9 over the summer, I see why they have the age recommendation. FYI, this tour is usually six miles, but our tour was shortened by a mile to keep us on schedule for horseback riding (review on its way soon).

We had a great time kayaking down the Chemung River with STKT.  It is a calm paddle with beautiful, scenic views. Most of our enjoyment can be attributed to Aaron, our amazing guide.  His passion for kayaking is evident through the tour, ensuring everyone is having a fun and enjoyable ride.  If you are in the Southern Tier region, I highly recommend taking a kayak tour with STKT!

The Details:

Southern Tier Kayak Tours (STKT)
P.O. Box 293
Lansing, NY 14882
(607) 220-3642

Tours and Prices:
Paddle the Palisades (6 mile tour down the Chemung River, $55/person)
Chenango Charm (7.5 mile tour down the Chenango River, $55/person)
Sample the Susquehanna (6 mile tour down the Susquehanna River, $50/person)

Tours run April through October.  Check the STKT calendar for exact dates and times of the tours.

Tips:

Wear water shoes or old sneakers.  You will be walking in the water and it’s rocky in some areas.

Bring a water bottle.  There is a place to store a water bottle or two.  You will get hot and thirsty, especially on a warm, summer day.

Remember to apply sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses.  You are out on the water with no shade.

Bring phones and cameras at your own risk!  I put my cell phone in a Ziploc bag and then stuck it in a waterproof, athletic waist bag belt.

If you had a great trip, tip your tour guide.  Tips are not required, but your tour guide will appreciate it!

A Peek Inside Our Geocaching Bag

Our family has been enjoying geocaching for over a year now.  It’s easy to use the geocaching app on my phone and there are caches hidden everywhere from local parks to hiking trails deep in the woods.  It’s a lot of fun to go on an outdoor scavenger hunt and we never know when or where we might be in the mood to find some caches!  That is why we keep a bag packed in my car with our geocaching necessities.  With the bag easily accessible, we are always ready to geocache whenever the mood strikes. Today I’m giving you guys a peek inside our geocaching bag. Hopefully, this can help you pack your own bag so you are always ready to geocache!  We store all of our supplies in a small book bag.  Any bag or tote will do, but we like having the zippers so things do not fall out.  Here are the items we keep in our geocaching bag:

Bag of trinkets – When you find a geocache, many times there are trinkets in the cache.  We always follow the rule of take one, leave one.  So, what kinds of things do you leave?  We have a large Ziploc bag that we keep in our geocaching bag filled with lots of goody bag favors including bouncy balls and small toys, stickers and temporary tattoos.  Some of the kids’ favorite treasures to find in a cache include pretty rocks or shells.

Pen and paper – Not all caches include a writing instrument, so we keep a pen in the bag to sign logs.  We also keep paper in the bag in case a log has run out, or we want to jot down notes.

Hand Sanitizer – I’m not going to lie.  Sometimes, caches are hidden under piles of wet leaves or wedged into a crevice in a tree trunk.  I like to have hand sanitizer at the ready, especially when the kids get hungry and want to have a snack.

Bug spray –  Most of our geocaching has been done in parks and wooded areas.  Some of these caches take us off a marked trail and into wooded areas.  Our kids are mosquito magnets and the bugs are out in full force come spring and summer.  It’s always good to have some bug spray on hand.

Suntan lotion –  Especially in the warmer months, we don’t do any outdoor activities without putting suntan lotion on.  It’s also good to have on hand in the bag in case you are out longer than expected and need to reapply.

Water and Snacks – Prior to going out geocaching we also pack some snacks and water bottles.  There is nothing like hungry or thirsty kids to ruin a good hike!

Are there any other items that you find helpful when geocaching? 

Family Fun at Six Flags Great Escape

{We received complimentary tickets to the park.  All opinions are my own.}

Summer isn’t complete for me without a visit to an amusement park!  On our recent trip upstate, we surprised the kids with a visit to Six Flags Great Escape. Six Flags Entertainment Corp. is the largest amusement park company in the world and Six Flags Great Escape is their only New York theme park.  The park is an approximately 2 1/2 to three hour drive from my house in northern Westchester County.

It was a beautiful day for us to visit the park.  When we arrived near the 10:30 AM opening,  I was surprised to discover that it would cost us $20 to park, which I found to be a bit on the expensive side.  From the parking lot, it’s a short walk over a street overpass to get to the amusement park.

There are eight different areas in the park, including water park Splashwater Kingdom and International Village, the main shopping area.  Great Escape was formerly Storytown USA, and many of the historic icons are still in the park, including Cinderella’s Castle and the Pink Whale.

Even on a hot summer day, the park was crowded but didn’t feel especially so.  None of the ride lines were exceptionally long.  Great Escape is truly a family-friendly amusement park.  There are rides for everyone with Timbertown and Kidzopolis geared towards little kids and more than five roller coasters for thrill seekers.

My son loved riding all of the roller coasters and Flashback, a forward and backward looping coaster, was his favorite ride of the day.  My daughter, a fellow coaster lover, chose Steamin’ Demon, a multi-loop coaster pictured in the title photo of this post, as her favorite ride.

I have to say that Great Escape has some of the most fun ride operators that I’ve seen at an amusement park.  One of  my favorite rides was Marshal’s Stampede, the bumper car ride. Sassy, the ride operator, cheered the riders on: “Great bump #10!” and helping those who were “stuck”, directing them to turn their steering wheel.  Her upbeat attitude really helped “make” the ride.

I was really looking forward to trying out Acrophobia VR, the park’s newest ride.  It was scheduled to open in July, but wasn’t yet running during our visit.

Around 2 PM we started to get hungry and decided to eat lunch.  Since we were in Fest Area, we chose to eat at the Alpine Fest Haus. Even at a later time, this place was pretty crowded.  We opted to share a Pulled Pork Sandwich with fries ($11.99) and a German Burger ($12.99) with fries.  This burger, served on a pretzel bun and topped with Swiss cheese, bacon and mushrooms (canned) was surprisingly good.

There are many different places to eat throughout the park that serve the usual burgers, chicken tenders, pizza hot dogs and salads.  One of the more interesting eateries we saw was the Skillet Market where fajitas, quesadillas and other food was cooked in gigantic cast iron skillets!  You can also find all kinds of treats from funnel cake and ice cream to cotton candy and popcorn being sold throughout the park.

We visited Splashwater Kingdom after lunch.  The water park area has a number of slides, a wave pool (Lumberjack Splash), a lazy river (Captain Hook’s Adventure River) and two water play areas (Buccaneer Beach and Paul Bunyan’s Bucket Brigade. Since I’m not the biggest fan of water parks, I luckily found a chair and camped out with our bag and towels while my husband and kids partook in the water fun.

The trio really enjoyed Bonzai Pipelines, the newest water park attraction.  They raced each other down the colorful, twisting water slides many times.  In fact, these slides were my husband’s favorite ride in all of the park.  After a couple of rides around the lazy river, the rest of their time was spent in the large wave pool.  Many of the other water slides had fairly long lines that they didn’t want to wait on.

There are a few cons to Splashwater Kingdom. It’s not easy, unfortunately, to move between the various sections of the water park.  The walkway to the Comet cuts right through the middle. Also, empty chairs are hard to come by anywhere in this area.  While there are lots of chairs, most were claimed by towels but never actually occupied by people.  And finally, Paul Bunyan’s Bucket Brigade, pictured above, has seen better (and wetter) days.  The kids made a quick visit here, since most of the water fun aspects of the attraction (the large tipping water bucket and water guns) weren’t working.

Besides all of the rides included with admission, you can try Dare Devil Dive (Free Fall attraction) and Olympiad Grand Prix (Go-Kart ride, $8/person, $18/ride all day) at an additional cost.  Plus, there are also dance parties and live entertainment shows at the three different theater venues around the park as well as several arcades and game stands.  There is something for everyone at the park.

We spent the entire day at Six Flags Great Escape, staying until the 7 PM park closing.  We had a fun-filled day and I highly recommend a visit!

The Details:
Six Flags Great Escape
1172 State Route 9
Queensbury, NY 12804

Parking:  $20 (credit cards accepted)
Hours:  Check the site for specific dates/times
Admission:  Ticket Prices when purchased at the park – $59.99/general admission, $46.99/children under 48″, kids 2 and under/free
Lockers:  $16/Small, $17/Medium,  $18/Jumbo

Tips:  
*Purchase tickets online prior to your visit for cheaper prices.

*Parking costs $20.  Establishments outside the park offer parking at cheaper prices.  You may have to walk a bit more and I have no information on the reliability/safety/security of these places.

*Outside food and drinks are not allowed and food is generally expensive in the park.  I recommend eating a big breakfast before arriving, have a late lunch on site and then eat dinner outside the park.

*Purchase a refillable season drink bottle when you first get to the park.  It costs $15.99 but you receive a wristband for free refills on the day of purchase.

*Make sure to pick up a couple of park maps when you enter.  I found the park a bit difficult to navigate since it doesn’t all connect and you have to backtrack to get to certain areas of the park.  Refer to the map to make sure you get to all the rides you are interested in riding.

A Visit to The Adirondack Experience

*I received complimentary admission tickets.  However, all opinions are my own.

Recently, our family visited the Adirondack region of New York. Spanning more than 6 million acres, seeing all of the region in one visit is impossible.  When researching our trip, one of the places that I wanted to visit was Adirondack Experience (formerly known as the Adirondack Museum), located in Blue Mountain Lake, NY. Encompassing over 121 acres, it includes  24 galleries and historic buildings with tons of hands-on learning and fun. An “experience” it is!

We arrived at Adirondack Experience at the 10 AM opening.  We made sure to take the activity book they offered, since the kids (and I) are big fans of these.  This gave the kids some focus as we wandered around and they were motivated by the small prize they’d receive if they completed it.

The first building we entered was The Great Outdoors. This is a play and adventure exhibition geared specifically towards children.  Here the kids did some fishing, climbed a rock wall, walked in a pair of snow shoes and so much more.  We spent a lot of time in here as the kids explored.

Next, we visited the Work in the Woods building.  We learned all about logging in the Adirondacks, from past to present.  Outside the building there is a climbable fire tower, relocated here from Whiteface Mountain, New York’s fifth tallest peak.  From the top of the tower, you can see great views of the mountains.

The highlight of the visit was the new “Life in the Adirondacks” exhibition which opened in the beginning of July.   The exhibit includes 19,000 square feet of interactive fun.  When we first entered the exhibit, we saw a short film about the Adirondacks.  There are hundreds of artifacts housed here, including a canoe, stage coach, snow mobiles, a totem pole and many objects used in everyday life.  We walked through the Oriental, a private railroad car, and the kids dressed up in time period clothing, blasted a rock in the mine, cleared a virtual log jam and rowed a guide boat.

When leaving the “Life in the Adirondacks” exhibition, we made sure to pause and take in the beautiful view of Blue Mountain Lake!

The only scheduled activity on the day of our visit was the trout feeding at 12:30 PM.  The kids really enjoyed throwing the food pellets into the pond and watching the fish pop up and eat them.

After feeding the trout, we were getting hungry ourselves.  Adirondack Experience has a great eatery right on property, the Lake View Cafe.   David, owner of The Well Dressed Food Company and his culinary team provide a great dining experience.  They have an espresso bar and serve bagels and breakfast sandwiches for those eating earlier in the day.  We arrived at lunchtime and had difficulty choosing from the selection of flatbread pizzas, burgers, salads, sandwiches and more.  My daughter ordered the White Garlic Basil, Chicken and Broccoli Flatbread pizza ($9.95/individual pizza), my son had the Fried Cod Sandwich ($9.95) and I opted for the Gyro Wrap ($9.95).  Portions were generous and everything was delicious.  They have a children’s menu for kids 12 and under with choices of a hot dog, chicken nuggets or grilled cheese served with chips and pickle ($6).  They also serve a selection of wine, domestic and imported beer and craft beer and cider.

After lunch we headed to the Reising Schoolhouse and Kids’ Cabin.  Here the kids played old-fashioned games, like top spinning, Jacob’s ladder and ring toss.  Then they helped with Wash Day, scrubbing pieces of cloth and hanging it to dry.  Afterwards, they played in the cabin kitchen. Before wrapping up our visit, we did a quick walk-through of the Boats & Boating exhibit and the recent art acquisitions in the Lynn H. Boillot Art Gallery.

If you have the time, I highly recommend taking advantage of the second day free admission.  There was plenty more that we didn’t see and time-wise I focused on kid-friendly exhibits and activities. There is really not enough time in one day to fully see and do everything that Adirondack Experience has to offer. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to spend another day visiting and we had to rush through the end of our visit to make sure we got to see everything before our target 4 PM departure.  After six hours of walking around, the kids were pretty tired.  I would have loved to have done the self-guided hike to Minnow Pond if we had more time and energy.  Fortunately, this gives us a reason to go back for another visit!

The Details:

The Adirondack Experience
9097-NY 30
Blue Mountain Lake, NY 12812
(518) 352-7311

Hours: 10 AM – 5 PM, seven days a week (May 26-October 9, 2017) 10 AM – 7:30 PM Mondays in July and August
Parking:  Free, large parking lot
Admission:  $20/adults, $18/seniors, $12/students (with ID and children 6-17), Free/children 5 and under Active Military Personnel are free
*Free second visit with paid admission within a one-week period
Food:  Available for purchase at the Lake View Cafe or you can bring your own food and drinks.

Untermyer Park and Gardens {Yonkers, NY}

If you’ve ever driven on North Broadway in Yonkers, you may have sped right past Untermyer Park and Gardens and not even known it {guilty!}.  Hidden behind a gated brick wall, the entrance is unassuming.  However, once you pass through those gates, you are transported to another world.

Untermyer Park is a public park in the city of Yonkers.  It’s named for successful corporate lawyer, Samuel Untermyer, who acquired the property in 1899.  An avid horticulturist, he commissioned architect William Welles Bosworth  to design the gardens in 1916.  Untermyer opened his 150 acres of gardens to the public and intended for them to become a state park when he died.  Unfortunately, due to the high cost of this endeavor, his dream couldn’t become a reality.  Instead, in 1946 a portion of the property was given to the City of Yonkers to be used as a city park.  Today, Untermyer Park consists of 43 acres that is maintained and being restored in a collaboration between the non-profit, Untermyer Gardens Conservancy and the city of Yonkers.

I recommend picking up a brochure which is available in an outdoor case at the Community Center (bathrooms and benches to sit and rest are located here as well).  You can read about the history of the gardens and use the map to ensure that you don’t miss anything. As much as I wanted to fill this post with tons of beautiful pictures of the gardens I restrained myself. There’s nothing like seeing their beauty for the first time in person.

 

Begin your tour at the Walled Garden.  This Indo-Persian garden is based on the Garden of Eden. Divided into quadrants by waterways, some things you will see in this garden include an open air amphitheater, reflecting pools filled with goldfish and koi, marble columns, a Grecian temple, fountains and mosaic-tiled floors and walls.

Make your way toward The Vista, the staircase that takes you down towards the Vista Overlook. At the circular Overlook, you will have spectacular views of the Hudson River.  As you make your way down the steps, you’ll pass the remnants of what was the Color Gardens.

At the bottom of the Vista Overlook you can take the Woodland Trail up the the Temple of Love.  We opted to walk down past the old Gatehouse and take the longer Carriage Trail.  This trail runs parallel to the Old Croton Aqueduct and Warburton Avenue.  Hearing police sirens and cars driving by as we walked on the trail were the only reminders that we were in the midst of a city.  When we came upon the waterfalls at the Temple of Love, my jaw dropped in disbelief! Seeing the rock gardens with the water cascading down is truly a breathtaking sight.

The whole family was surprised at the history and beauty of Untermyer Park.  These gardens are truly a hidden gem in Yonkers that every Westchester County resident should visit at least once.  The beauty of the gardens is that you can come back at different times throughout the year and get a different perspective, as they change the floral displays with the seasons.

The Details:

Untermyer Park and Gardens
945 North Broadway
Yonkers, NY 10701
(914) 613-4502
www.untermyergardens.org

Admission:  Free

Hours:  7 AM – dusk (daily)
Please check the website for the Walled Garden hours

Tours:  90 minutes – given on Sundays by docents from late April through early November (focus alternates weekly between history and horticulture – check the schedule for information)
Cost:  $10/adult, free for children 12 and under  –  no reservations required

President’s Tour:  Given one Sunday a month
Cost:  $20/adult, free for children 12 and under  – no reservations required

Parking:  Two small lots at the community center next to the community center at Untermyer or street parking on  North Broadway (both metered and unmetered)

Additional Info:
There are restrooms on the property.

Pets are not allowed on the grounds.

Wear comfortable walking shoes.

Food and drinks are not sold on the property.  However, feel free to bring your own and enjoy a picnic on the grounds.

We visited with our two children, ages 8 and 11.  Walking at a leisurely pace, we were able to see all of the gardens and take plenty of pictures in about one hour.  You can make a longer or shorter visit, depending on your needs.

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Why You Need a Seasonal Family Bucket List

Recently, our family started creating a seasonal family bucket list.  By definition, a bucket list is a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before they die.  Quality family time is important to us. However, as our kids have gotten older our time together has become limited.  Social time with friends takes precedence over family time and their schedules are packed with lots of extracurricular activities. These seasonal bucket lists have become a fun way for us to enjoy quality time together.  Here are some reasons why you need a seasonal family bucket list as well!

New Experiences

How many times have you thought, oh, we should do that one day (when referring to any number of activities or events)? That was us until we realized that the “one day” would never happen unless we actually scheduled it in.  By definition, a bucket list is a list of things that one has not done before.  Therefore, each family member selects an activity or experience that is new to him/her and the whole family gets to enjoy the experience together. It’s been so much fun to see the joy on my children’s faces as they get to experience new things!  And of course we take lots of photos to capture the memories!

Seasonal Fun

Every three months we create new bucket lists and make them seasonally appropriate.  In the summer we’ve gone berry picking, been to a Renaissance Faire, gone clamming and attended a local baseball game.  In the fall we have been hiking and geocaching.  In the winter, we either do outdoor winter activities (like snow tubing) or indoor activities (like going to an ice hockey or basketball game or doing an indoor adventure ropes course).  In the spring we took a trip to Philadelphia and went to a cupcake festival.  The ideas are endless!  But the point is that you get out and enjoy them!

Limited Number of Activities

Making a seasonal bucket list means that you’re not doing something every day of every weekend (unless you want to!).  Each family member gets to choose only one activity per season that they would like to do. So, in our family of four we have four activities that we consider must-dos each season.  Weather-dependent, we try to schedule them out throughout the three months and make sure they get written into the calendar.  For the four of us, that averages to one activity a month.

Quality Family Time

In our personal experience, when the kids are home they tend to bicker a lot. Somehow, when we are out and about doing things, almost no fighting occurs.  We truly get to experience quality family time.

Can Be as Expensive or Inexpensive as You Want

Although we are big believers in experiences over things, we are still on a budget.  Our kids don’t have lots of “stuff.” We’d rather spend money having memorable experiences than buying new toys that become unused after a couple of weeks.  Even completing our bucket lists we have found ways to save money.  Instead of going to major league sports events, we have attended local ones. For Christmas, we asked our families to give us a state park pass and a membership to a local historic organization as gifts.  Other ways to stay on budget include looking on Groupon and local sites for both activity ideas and discounts!  Trying a new restaurant at lunch instead of dinner can help keep costs down too, since prices tend to be cheaper and restaurants often offer lunch specials.

Some seasons we don’t complete our bucket list.  And that’s okay, we just move the items to next year’s list.  In fact, this winter was one of the first times we completed every activity on our family’s seasonal bucket list!

I would love to hear if you create family bucket lists and if so what activities have you done or would like to do?

 

Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park

Beautiful, scenic river views, exercise, and outdoor family fun.  A visit to Poughkeepsie, New York, isn’t complete without a trip to the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park where you can experience it all!  Spanning 1.28 miles long, the Walkway is the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world.  Walkway Over the Hudson opened in October 2009 and is a New York State park.

The bridge sits 212 feet above the Hudson River and offers spectacular scenic views.  Bike riding, roller blading and skateboarding are all permitted on the bridge. Dogs on a six foot lead are also welcome.  With the beautiful spring weather we’ve been experiencing, there’s no better time to visit the Walkway!

Our family has visited the Walkway twice now.  Our first visit was in the summer and it was hot!  So hot, that there was a warning posted that dogs should not walk on the bridge, as the temperature was over 100 degrees! That first visit our daughter rode her bike while we walked.  However, we didn’t even make it across the entire bridge as we were so hot and hungry!

Our second visit was on a breezy, sunny, spring day.  It was a perfect day for walking across the bridge and taking in the views.  We walked the entire bridge and back, with a few photo stops in between.  For our family 2.56 miles was plenty of walking!  If you prefer a longer walk or run there’s a 4.4 mile loop trail that crosses the Mid-Hudson Bridge.

There are picnic tables at both entrances of the walkway if you want to bring lunch or snacks and make a longer day out of your visit.  During our summer visit there was a hot dog truck at the Poughkeepsie entrance.  On our spring visit, there was a snack stand open at the Highland entrance selling kettle corn, beverages and other snacks. There are beverage vending machines as well.

On the walkway closer to the Poughkeepsie entrance there’s a glass-enclosed 21-story elevator operated by a NYS park employee which leads down to the waterfront.

Within walking distance is the Poughkeepsie train station, the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum,the Poughkeepsie Ice House on the Hudson restaurant and more.

Other important things to note is that there are bathrooms at both entrances that house self-composting toilets with hand sanitizer only, no sinks or running water.  There were no changing tables for babies and toddlers.

Although the bridge isn’t that long, if walking it with kids be ready to take frequent breaks! Strollers and wagons are allowed on the walkway.  There are benches in a couple of spots along the bridge that are great photo spots as well as a place to rest tired feet for a few minutes.  Bring quarters and your kids can enjoy using the coin operated binoculars.  I also recommend bringing water or beverages (or be prepared to purchase them!), as from personal experience, your kids will get thirsty, especially if it’s hot!

Spend an hour or a day visiting the Walkway Over the Hudson!  As you can see in the picture below, there is lots to do in the area.  Regardless, the walkway is a Hudson Valley experience you should not miss!

The Details:

Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park

Poughkeepsie Entrance:
61 Parker Avenue
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601

Highland Entrance:
87 Haviland Road
Highland, NY 12528

Hours:  6:30 AM to sunset (varies depending on the month – check here for the schedule)
Elevator operates from 9 AM to one hour before park closing

Parking:  $5 (for four hours) to park in the New York State parking lot
Empire passes are accepted
There is a free parking lot on Parker Avenue, before the state parking lot entrance

The bridge is 1.28 miles long and is 212 feet above the Hudson River.

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Maple Weekend 2017

When you sit down to eat a hot stack of freshly made pancakes, you pour real maple syrup on top, right?!  With over 2,000 maple sugar makers, New York is a large producer of pure, all-natural syrup.  Back in 1995 the New York State Maple Producers Association organized the first “Maple Sunday” to educate the public about maple syrup production.  22 years later and Maple Weekend continues!

This year Maple Weekend 2017 will be held on March 18-19 and March 25-26.  Over 160 farms and museums will open their sugar houses for tours, samples, family-friendly activities and more.  Now is a great time to see how maple syrup is made, restock your syrup supply and maybe also purchase some additional goodies like maple sugar candy. Some sugar houses are also hosting pancake breakfasts, for an additional charge.

You can read all about our experience at Crown Maple when we visited during NYS Maple Weekends in 2015.  This is a fun, family experience that we will be participating in again this year!

5 Must-See Exhibits for Kids at the RISD Museum

We recently took a family trip to the RISD Museum in Providence, Rhode Island. Since it’s a museum on the campus of the Rhode Island School of Design, I thought it was going to be a small, dinky place to spend an hour or two.  Boy was I pleasantly surprised at what a treasure trove of art is showcased in this museum!  We visited the museum on a Sunday, when admission is free.  In a rather quick, cursory tour, we were able to see almost all of the museum exhibits in a day.  After a long day of walking around the galleries, we spent some down time in the open studio where the family relaxed and crafted.

If visiting the RISD Museum with kids, I highly recommend checking out the following exhibits that will hopefully interest your kids, like they did ours.  I did not include pictures of the pieces because I think that it’s more fun to see the art for the first time in person.  I also only included pieces that are in the permanent exhibits, although the temporary exhibits have lots of interesting and fun pieces as well!

12th Century Japanese Buddha (Asian Art Galleries)

The 10-foot tall wooden sculpture of the Dainichi Nyorai Buddha is truly breathtaking.  The Buddha was originally installed in the museum in 1936.   After a 2-year, 2.7-million dollar renovation, the Buddha has a new home in the museum’s sixth-floor galleries, in a room of its own.

Egyptian Coffin of Nesmin (Ancient Egyptian Galleries)

I think coffins and mummies interest most children.  The Egyptian Coffin of Nesmin is the highlight of the museums’s Egyptian collection. Nesmin was an Egyptian priest who lived during the Ptolemaic Period.  The details on the coffin, including images of protective deities,  are unbelievable.

Gilded Frost and Jet Chandelier (Above the East Stair)

Artist Dale Chihuly helped found the glass department at RISD and taught classes at the school until 1983.  His Gilded Frost and Jet Chandelier was created in 2008 and is comprised of 196 pieces.  This is a stand-out piece of art! Before reading the exhibition description my son thought the glass tubes were snakes!

 Marble Sarcophagus (Ancient Greek and Roman Galleries)

The Ancient Greek and Roman galleries have several marble statues on display.  Be forewarned, the nudity will get lots of giggles from the kids!  The must-see piece that will interest kids is the marble sarcophagus.  The intricately carved fragments of the sarcophagus depict scenes of the Trojan War.  The museum acquired the sarcophagus in 1921, after more than 100 pieces were assembled to recreate the coffin.

Paintings from Famous Artists (Modern and Contemporary Galleries)

The RISD Museum has a small, but impressive collection of Modern art.  Although children may not be familiar with the particular pieces displayed, many will recognize the names of such artists like Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollack, Andy Warhol and Frank Lloyd Wright.

If you go to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum:

Where: 20 North Main Street, Providence, Rhode Island 02903
You can also enter the museum at 224 Benefit Street

Parking:  Metered street parking, North Main/Steeple Streets Metropark lot, RISD faculty/staff lots on weekends only

When: The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 AM to 5 PM.  The third Thursday of every month it is open until 9 PM.

Cost:  Admission is $12/adult, $10/seniors (62+), $3/youth (5-18), $5/college students (with I.D.), free for members.  Admission is free every Sunday, 10 AM – 5 PM,  and the third Thursday of every month from 5-9 PM.

Food:  Cafe Pearl, operated by Bolt Coffee, is located inside the Benefit Street entrance and serves coffee-based beverages, pastries, salads and sandwiches.  No food or drinks are allowed in the galleries.

A Night with the Black Knights Hockey Team

Hockey Knight

Living in northern Westchester County, we are fortunate to be so close to West Point Military Academy.  Besides being a top tier educational institution, West Point is home to some pretty competitive sports teams.  This past Saturday evening, our family visited West Point to spend a night with the Black Nights ice hockey team.  This was the first time that either my husband or kids had ever been to an ice hockey game.

Attending an ice hockey game was my husband’s winter family bucket list item.  We decided to go see a West Point hockey game, since they play so close to home.  After referencing our calendar, we picked a date and purchased our tickets online via the Army Hockey website.

Tate Rink is located inside the 131,000 square foot Holleder Center.   There are multiple entrances to the building. We parked in the F lot, where there are stairs that lead directly down to the center.  Our tickets had an 8:00 PM start time printed on them.  Luckily, we arrived at the rink around 7:15 PM, thinking we were early.  We discovered that the game had started at 7 PM and we had missed almost the entire first period!

The Black Knights Hockey Team

We had purchased $15 bleacher seats that were three rows from being the last seats.  Although our seats were high up, literally almost in the rafters, I thought we had a great view of the game.

Zambonis

For those unfamiliar with ice hockey, like I was, two teams of 5 players, plus the goalie are on the ice at a time.  The game consists of three, 20-minute periods.  With time outs, ref calls, etc. and zambonis resurfacing the ice in between each period, expect to be at a game for more than the 60 minutes of active play time.

Black Knights vs. Niagara University

The evening that we attended, the Black Knights were playing Niagara University.  The game was fast-paced and exciting. I was a bit surprised at how aggressive the players were and several fights occurred throughout the game. At various times throughout the game the penalty box was occupied by players from both teams!

Black Knights final score

During the game we saw, breaks in the playing time were filled with upbeat music, an emoji camera (requesting you to flex for the cam!) and more!

These two particular teams were pretty well matched and the game went into a five minute overtime, after the third period ended in a 4-4 tie.  With less than 41 seconds remaining on the clock,  Conor Andrle scored a goal, clinching a win for the Black Knights!

Concession Stand

Thinking we were seeing a late game (8 PM) we ate dinner before we arrived at the rink.  However, there are concession stands selling food and beverages.

Overall, we had a great time seeing the Black Knights hockey team play.  I am looking forward to attending another game or two next year!

I highly recommend attending local college and or minor league sports events with your family.  They are an affordable night of family fun and are a great introduction to sporting events for kids.

The Details:

The Black Knights hockey season is usually from October through February.

When:  There are still two home games, February 18 and February 25.

Tickets:  $15-$20 ($15/bleacher seats, $20/chair seats)

Getting There:  Take 9W north to 218.  (the first exit that notes West Point) The entrance to West Point is directly across the exit ramp.  Be prepared for the driver of the vehicle to show picture ID and have your car trunk searched.

Parking:  Free parking is available in the A or F lots.

Concessions:  Food including chicken fingers, fries, popcorn, cotton and beverages are available for purchase.