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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!

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Farmstead Flatbread {Queensbury}

We were hungry after a long, fun-filled day at Six Flags Great Escape in Queensbury, NY.  In an attempt to avoid another amusement park meal, we stumbled upon Farmstead Flatbread.  The restaurant, located on Rt. 9, is only a few blocks south of Great Escape.  Originally known as Sutton’s Marketplace, after 40 years the restaurant re-branded and became Farmstead Flatbread.

When you enter the restaurant, you encounter a large bar and pool table.  It’s a great space for hanging out and grabbing a drink.  Outdoor seating is available and perfect for dining al fresco. The main dining area is spacious and has a casual vibe.  Strands of lights are strung across the ceiling and the deep gray walls are adorned with a mix of farm tools and wall hangings.

As soon as we saw the regional beer and locally-sourced dinner menus, my husband commented that this was “our kind of restaurant!”  Their extensive beer menu has 20 craft beers on tap that change regularly.

The real star of the restaurant is the hearth oven located in the dining area of the restaurant.  Guests can watch, either up close or from their table, as the chefs assemble and cook their flatbreads.  The menu features nine different flatbreads to choose from.  Or, you can create your own.  The restaurant uses organic and locally-sourced ingredients on the flatbreads including Lake George Olive Oil Company olive oil, organic tomato sauce, house made nitrate free sausage, and Nettle Meadow goat cheese.

Between the four of us, we shared the seasonal salad, and two small flatbreads. The seasonal salad at the time was a Greek Salad with romaine, Greek-style feta cheese, peppercinis, red onions and local cucumbers tossed in a house-made Greek dressing.  The salad tasted really fresh and the crumbled Greek-style feta was amazing!  If you aren’t in the mood for a salad, Farmstead Flatbread also serves wings.  They are lightly fried and made with a house rub.  You only have to choose the number of wings you want and the type of sauce (mild, medium, hot, BBQ or the flavor of the day).

The flatbreads come in two sizes, small and large.  It was difficult deciding which ones to get, but we finally agreed on a small “Cultivator” and a small “Grazer” flatbread.  The “Cultivator” (pictured at the top of the above picture) included organic tomato sauce, Italian cheeses, house-made meatballs, basil pesto and spinach.  The “Grazer” included organic tomato sauce, Italian cheese, peppers, red onions and nitrate free sausage.  Let me tell you, we were not disappointed with our decisions.  Both flatbreads were delicious with great combinations of flavors!  Unfortunately, when traveling, we can’t take leftovers with us.  So we might have finished both flatbreads.  It was a tough job, but someone had to do it!

We were too full after dinner to even think about dessert and just requested the check.  The staff were friendly and attentive throughout the meal, checking in and refilling water glasses. On Sundays, they have an amazing looking brunch menu that is served from 10 AM to 3 PM.  I wish I lived closer so I could try it out!  If you’re dining between the hours of 11:15 AM – 5:30 PM you can head upstairs and check out Starla’s Shoppe for gifts, jewelry, unique toys and more.

If you are looking for a family-friendly, delicious dining experience in the Queensbury/Lake George area, I highly recommend Farmstead Flatbread.

The Details:

Farmstead Flatbread
1066 State Route 9
Queensbury, NY 12804
(518) 741-6911

Hours:  11:30 AM – 9:00 PM, Monday – Thursday
11:30 AM – 10:00 PM, Friday – Saturday
10:00 AM – 8:00 PM, Sunday

Parking:  Free parking in lot adjacent to restaurant

Cost:  Small flatbreads range from $9.25 – $13.75, large flatbreads range from $15.00 – $22.75.  Beers range in price from $5-$7 per 16 oz. draft. (Credit cards are accepted)

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6 Reasons Why The Rockwell Museum is Perfect for Families

(We were hosted by the Rockwell Museum and Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes.  All opinions are my own.)

The Rockwell Museum sits on Cedar Street in Corning’s Old City Hall.  The brick building looks similar to many of the structures surrounding it….except for the buffalo head protruding from the front façade!  This is fitting, since the museum’s diverse collection of paintings, artifacts, sculptures and photographs tells the story of the American experience from the perspectives of American artists. The core of the Rockwell Museum’s art collection was gifted by Bob and Hertha Rockwell.  (no relation to the artist Norman Rockwell). In November 2015, the Rockwell Museum became a Smithsonian affiliate, one of only 200 affiliates nationwide and the only one in upstate New York.

My kids are big animal lovers and especially enjoyed seeing buffalo, horses, moose and other animals in various forms. Although I have visited many museums during my travels, I was sadly unfamiliar with many early American artists.  I enjoyed becoming familiar with some of the works of famous artists like John James Audobon, Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Remington.  One of my favorite paintings was Judith Lowry’s Family: Love’s Unbreakable Heaven (pictured above). Hanging on the red wall, the colors in the piece seem even more vibrant.  Besides its incredible collection of art, here are 6 reasons why the Rockwell Museum is perfect for families.

1. Size – Compared to many other art museums that we have been to, the Rockwell Museum is comparatively small. This is not a bad thing, especially for families! Encompassing only three floors, you can tour the museum in a couple of hours.

2. Art Hunts – Children can pick up an Art Hunt board at the admissions desk, located in the gift shop, upon arrival.  During your visit, they try to find the images on the board that match actual museum pieces.  Once the board is completed, they receive a small prize.  My kids enjoyed participating in the Art Hunt and were able to complete their boards without difficulty.  I like that they were getting exposed to and having to closely examine the pieces of art.  Plus, it gives them some focus as we walked around the museum.  The Art Hunt has two sides, one each for the 2nd and 3rd floors of the museum.

3. The Balcony – The third floor of the museum leads to an outdoor balcony.  If your child is getting restless, you can bring them outside on a nice day and let them burn off some of their energy!  Added bonus, you get to take in some spectacular views of Corning!

4. The Family Exploration Studio – Located on the second floor of the museum, you can literally spend hours in the Family Exploration Studio!  The space is made specifically for kids to explore and enrich their museum experience. The space includes a book nook with art-related books, a magnetic wall puzzle of one of the museum paintings, a landscape drawing game and more.  The activities change seasonally, so there’s always something new to do.


My kids spent the majority of their time working on their Paper Blanket Stories, which connects to the current, temporary exhibit Blanket Stories.

5. Alley Art – After touring the inside of the museum, be sure to take a walk down the alleyways around it.  In a partnership with the High School Learning Center of the Corning-Painted Post Area School District, students work with Rockwell Museum educators and create a mural.  I’m a big fan of street art and was super impressed with the Alley Art projects that we saw walking around the village.

6. New York State Social Studies Curriculum Connections – The former teacher in me is coming out now! The NY state 4th grade social studies curriculum focuses on the state of New York.  Units of study including Native American Groups, the geography of NY state and the Westward Movement are depicted in various art forms throughout the museum.  Children can make connections with the museum exhibits and what they are studying in school.

If you visit the museum in late November through the end of December you will be treated to the special Gingerbread Invitational exhibit.  13 artists are featured in this special exhibit, where they create historic landmarks and architecture from the Corning region out of gingerbread!  Museum visitors get to vote on their favorites.

Children 17 and under are admitted free to both the Rockwell Museum and the Corning Museum of Glass. Admission tickets are valid for two consecutive days.  You can also purchase a combo ticket at a discounted price to both museums. A sample one-day itinerary might include starting your morning at the Rockwell Museum.  Then, have lunch and walk around the Gaffer District, adjacent to the museum.  Finally, take the free shuttle to the Corning Museum of Glass!

The Details:

The Rockwell Museum
111 Cedar Street
Corning, NY 14830

Parking:  Free parking is available in the rear of the building

Hours:  9 AM – 5 PM Daily, 9 AM – 8 PM (summer hours), seven days a week

Admission:  $11/adult, $10/55+, $10/AAA and military, $5.50/local residents and students with I.D.,Free/kids 17 and under.  Admission is valid for two consecutive days.

**Combination tickets are available for the Rockwell Museum and the Corning Museum of Glass.  A free shuttle bus travels between the two museums, allowing you to park once. Combination tickets are valid for two consecutive days.   Combo ticket prices:  $27.25/adult, $26.25/55+, $25.25/AAA and military, $21.25/college students, $14.25/local residents, Free/kids 17 and under

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California Globetrotter

Touring the New York State Capitol

I’ve been a life-long resident of New York state and somehow made it to my late 30’s without ever visiting our state Capitol.  Located in Albany, it is just a two hour drive from northern Westchester County. As the mother of soon-to-be 4th and 6th graders, I wanted to visit with the kids this summer.

After parking in the visitor lot, we took the elevator up to the main concourse and entered the Capitol.  Whether you enter the Capitol through the main entrance or the concourse, you must pass through a metal detector and all bags will be scanned. We arrived at 9:30 AM and went to the tour desk to sign up for the free 10 AM guided tour.  I was surprised that we were the only family from New York in our tour group.  Only one other family had children, but my 9 and 11-year-old were the youngest on the tour.

Our tour guide was very informative and we learned a lot.   Photography is allowed and encouraged throughout the tour.  Since our group was small, our guide even volunteered to take family photos at both the elevator and the Million Dollar Staircase.


The first stop on the tour is the Senate Staircase. This staircase went through a major renovation and the final results were unveiled by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2013.  The brightened space showcases the detailed stone carvings that decorate the staircase.

 

Construction on the Capitol began in 1867 and wasn’t completed until 1899, with a final cost of $25 million dollars. This made it the most expensive government building at the time.  Although a dome was planned, one was never constructed due to financial reasons.  This leaves the New York State Capitol as one of only a few state capitols without a dome.

The tour visits both the Assembly and Senate Chambers.  The Assembly Chamber, pictured above, is the largest room in the Capitol.  The 150 members of the Assembly vote on approximately 2,000 bills and resolutions a year using an electronic voting system.

My favorite part of the tour was seeing the staircases.  The Capitol has three major staircases that are the most beautiful that I think I’ve ever seen in-person.  This staircase is the Great Western Staircase, also known as the Million Dollar Staircase.  After fourteen years, construction of the staircase was completed in 1897. The staircase cost over $1 million dollars to build and employed over 500 stone cutters and carvers.  Carved into the staircases are the faces of 77 famous people including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Susan B. Anthony.

Near the end of the tour we visited the War Room.  The ceiling murals depict important events in the state’s military history.  Located next to the War Room is the Hall of Governors, where portraits of New York’s 56 governors are displayed.  Our tour ended here with the option of independently touring the hall.

The Capitol also has a haunted history.  Nightwatchman, Samuel Abbot, died in the 1911 Capitol fire, but his spirit allegedly remains in the building.  We saw the demon that a disgruntled worker carved into stone.  In October, special Capitol Hauntings Tours take place, where those interested can learn more about the spooky legends of the building.

While I enjoyed the tour of the Capitol, the 60 minute tour was a bit much for my kids although they admired the beauty of the building. The information correlates so well with what they have been learning in school. However, I think the tour would be better appreciated if they were older.

The Details:

New York State Capitol 
State Street and Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12224

Parking:
 Metered street parking is available or there are several parking garages located throughout the surrounding area.  The V-Lot is located underneath the Empire State Plaza with a $10 fee before 11 AM or $5 fee after.

Weekday Walk-in Tours:  Free tours are given at 10 AM, 12 PM, 2 PM and 3 PM, sign-up at the Lobby.  Reservations are not required unless you have a party of 10 or more.  Visitors are welcome to take self-guided tours during building hours.

 

A Summer Visit to the Olympic Sites at Lake Placid

{I received complimentary Olympics Sites Passports.  However, all opinions are my own.}

Lake Placid, a small village nestled in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, was the site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics.  While the town may be small, there is so much to see and do regardless of what season you visit.  My family and I took a road trip up to Lake Placid this summer.  This was our family’s first time visiting the area, but will not be our last!  It’s approximately a four-hour drive from northern Westchester County and there’s enough to see and do in the area to make it a weekend visit.

{The Olympic Passport, comes with a lanyard to wear around your neck}

If you plan to visit the Olympic Sites, than the Olympic Sites Passport is your best bet.  For $35, you get one-time admission to the Lake Placid Museum, Whiteface, Whiteface Veteran’s Memorial Highway, the Olympic Sports Complex and the Olympic Jumping Complex.  Plus, you get discounts on additional activities.  The passports are valid for one year, so if you don’t get to see everything in one trip, you can come back!

{Trying to keep pace with an Olympic speed skater}

Our first stop was the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.  The museum is located in the Olympic Center, where the famous 1980 “Miracle” ice hockey game took place.  The museum is small but packed with artifacts and information about the winter Olympics.  Some of our family’s favorite exhibits were the collection of torches and fashion from the various Opening Ceremonies and the mascot collection. We even got a peek at the 2018 Winter Olympic mascot!  We enjoyed several photo ops including a medal podium and sitting in a bobsled.  The museum has several hands-on exhibits, including speed skating and curling, which my kids enjoyed.

Olympic Jumping Complex

After a quick lunch which we ate by Mirror Lake, we headed to the Olympic Jumping Complex,  located two miles away.  We rushed to get there in time to watch the Summer Jumping series show, advertised on posters all over town, only to be disappointed to discover that it was not taking place.  We parked at the top parking lot and rode the chairlift down to the bottom of the hill.  For an additional fee, you can extreme tube down the hill on the left! We watched as several people tubed, and screamed, down the hill, but my husband and I were not brave enough to try!  Although the kids would have done this in a heartbeat, you must be at least 13 to ride the 90-meter jump.  The 20-meter hill available for children 12 and under to ride is closed until mid-August.

Although the Summer Jumping series show wasn’t taking place we did spend some time watching athletes practicing their jumps into the pool.  After seeing other athletes jumping off the traditional ski jumps we rode the chairlift back up to the top of the hill.  We took the elevator to the top of the observation deck where we watched athletes ski down the hill and got to see amazing scenic views.

We then drove to Whiteface Mountain base lodge, an approximately 15-minute drive from the Jumping Complex.  We rode the Cloudsplitter Gondola from the base to the top of Little Whiteface in the enclosed gondola.  We enjoyed the scenic views during the approximately 15 minute ride to the top.

The top of Little Whiteface is 3,678 feet above sea level.  From here you can see Whiteface Mountain in the distance. There is also an observation area that offers spectacular views of Lake Placid.  There’s an Adventure Zone that includes several different inflatables including a bounce house, slides and more.  Children can play for $10 an hour or $15 for the day.  After our gondola ride we left Whiteface.

At the last minute we decided to end our day with a drive to Whiteface Veteran’s Memorial Highway.  The historic highway, opened in 1936 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, takes you to the top of Whiteface Mountain.  We are so glad that we made this decision!  After passing the Toll House it’s a five mile drive to the top of the summit.  There are nine scenic stops along the way, which we decided to pass, and instead headed straight up to the top.  Once we parked the car we first took a quick peek in the Castle, where there’s a small gift shop and a cafe.

We then opted to climb the Alpine Nature Trail, a fifth-of-a-mile-long trail with both steep steps and rocks.   I wish I was more prepared with my hiking boots, but luckily, we were all wearing sneakers!

Once at the top, we were 4,867 feet above sea level and literally in the clouds.  We were at the top of the fifth highest point in New York state!  Unfortunately, it was a pretty cloudy day.  Regardless, these were the most breath-taking, scenic views of our visit.  After spending some time up here admiring the views we opted to take the elevator down to the parking lot.

The Veteran’s Memorial Drive was our last site visit of the day.  We were able to visit four sites within the span of a day without feeling rushed.  Summer is a great time to visit the Olympic sites in Lake Placid with so much to see and do!

The Details:

*The Olympic sites are spread throughout Lake Placid and the surrounding area.  A car is necessary to get from one site to another.

Lake Placid Olympic Museum
2634 Main Street
Lake Placid, NY 12946
(518) 302-5326

Hours: Open daily 10 AM – 5 PM
Admission:  $7/adults, $5/seniors, students and children (6-12), Free/children 6 and under

Olympic Jumping Complex 
5486 Cascade Road
Lake Placid, NY 12946

Hours: Please check the site, as dates and times vary
Admission:  $11/adults, $8/seniors, juniors, Free/children 6 and under Event Days:  $16/adults, $10/seniors, juniors, Free/children 6 and under

Whiteface Mountain – Cloudsplitter Gondola Ride
5021 Rt. 86, Scenic
Wilmington, NY 12997

Hours:  Peak season (June 30 – September 4) 9:30 AM – 5 PM
Admission:  $22/adults, $15/seniors and children (7-12), Free/children 6 and under

Whiteface Veteran’s Memorial Highway 
Memorial Highway
Wilmington, NY 12997

Hours:  Peak season (June 6 – October 9) 8:45 AM – 5:30 PM
Admission:  $15/vehicle/driver, $8/additional passenger, Free/children 6 and under, $8/bicycle

Tips:
Make sure to wear sneakers, even in the summer.  There is a lot of walking and if you visit Whiteface Veteran’s Memorial Highway, rock climbing and steps (if you opt to take the Alpine Nature Trail).

Pack water!  Lots of walking makes you thirsty!

Food and beverages are sold at Whiteface Mountain, Veteran’s Memorial Highway and the Olympic Jumping Complex if you are hungry or thirsty.

You may want to bring a sweatshirt or jacket with you to Veteran’s Memorial Highway.  Remember, you are 4,867 feet above sea level!

Ravenous Creperie {Saratoga Springs}

On a recent visit to Saratoga Springs the kids and I were wandering down Phila Street looking for lunch.  Many of the restaurants have menus posted outside with most offering the usual burgers, salads and sandwiches.  When we stopped to look at the Ravenous Creperie menu, the kids unanimously voted that we eat lunch here.

Ravenous Creperie is locally-owned and serves lunch, dinner and brunch.  We visited on a Tuesday afternoon and arrived at 12:15, prime lunchtime.  The restaurant space is small and cozy and it was packed!  There are several tables in the middle dining space that can be pushed together to seat a larger group.  There is also counter seating with a great view of the crepes being made and window counter seats with views of the street.  We had to wait a few minutes to be seated and were given three seats at the window counter.

This was our first time eating at a creperie and we were not disappointed!  I told the kids that we’d split a savory and a sweet crepe and either an order of pommes frites or poutine.  
The pommes frites are a popular starter.  As I looked around the restaurant, almost every table had a paper cone atop it filled with the frites.  But, the kids opted for poutine, and I wasn’t complaining about that!   We ordered the petite-sized poutine.  The ceramic dish was filled with crispy hand-cut pommes frites topped with locally-sourced cheddar curds and a house-made gravy.  We devoured this in no time!

The savory menu has a crepe for every palate including several vegetarian options.  They also offer a daily crepe special, which was a kale and white bean crepe the day of our visit.  If I was ordering a crepe, I would have chosen the Monterey Short Rib (braised black Angus short rib with caramelized onions, diced tomatoes and Monterey jack cheese) or the Upper West Sider (Smoked Atlantic salmon, cream cheese and a choice of scallions or capers).  However, the kids decided on the Mama Mia.  Although it’s difficult to see in the picture, this crepe was filled with Herb and Romano sausage, roasted peppers and onions, mozzarella and a tomato-garlic reduction. All savory crepes are served with a salad of mixed greens that is dressed with Saratoga Olive Oil & aged Balsamic Vinegar.  This is only half the crepe and salad, as my daughter had already started eating the other half!  The savory crepes are served in what looked and tasted like a wrap, versus a traditional crepe, which wouldn’t have been able to hold all of the tasty filling.  The Mama Mia crepe is kid-approved.  My two were very happy with their crepe pick!  There was plenty of filling and the sausage was flavorful but not spicy.

The sweet crepe menu has twelve different crepes to choose from which include everything from fresh strawberries, lemon curd, chocolate-hazelnut spread, fruit jam, Ghiradelli brownie and more!  Four of the crepes come in a petite size, for those looking for just a little something sweet to end their meal.  The kids opted for the Pommes & Caramel crepe (Maple glazed apples and house-made sea salt caramel).  This crepe was delicious!  Caramel and apples are a great combo and we could taste the sea salt pieces in the caramel.  While this dessert was sweet, it wasn’t overly-so.

I shared these three dishes with my two children, ages 9 and 11.  We left satisfied but not stuffed.

Ravenous Creperie has a prix fixe menu where you can get a small pommes frites with dipping sauce, a choice of one of three different classic crepes and a petite sweet all for $16.99/person.

For those local, they have a Rewards program, where you can earn points for every dollar spent.  Online ordering is also available (with pickup only, no delivery).

If you are in the Saratoga Springs area, I highly recommend stopping by Ravenous Creperie for some tasty eats!

The Details:
Ravenous Creperie
21 Phila Street
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
(518) 581-0560

Hours:  
Closed Mondays
Tuesday – Thursday:  11 AM – 8 PM
Friday:  11 AM – 9 PM
Saturday: 9 AM – 9 PM
Sunday:  9 AM – 8 PM

Prices:  Most savory crepes are priced between $12-$14, most sweet crepes are priced between $6.59 and $8.59. Petite sweets (mini sweet crepes) cost $2.99.   Pommes Frites come in small, medium and large sizes ($3.49-$6.99) and poutine comes in petite ($5.99) and regular ($7.99) sizes.

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.

1

Cabin Camping at Moreau Lake State Park

When I was planning the first leg of our #NYSummer2017 road trip, deciding on lodging was a big concern.  Convenient location and a reasonable price were my two top criteria.  Although we were visiting several different towns, I didn’t want to have to pack up and move every couple of days.  Plus, with over 21 nights on the road throughout the summer, I couldn’t afford to spend $150+ a night for a hotel room.

I was happy to discover that Moreau Lake State Park is pretty centrally located to Lake George, Saratoga Springs and Lake Placid.  Located in Gansevoort, the New York State Park recently added six cabins as a camping option. Three of the cabins sleep four people, while the other three cabins sleep six. I grew up camping all throughout my childhood.  However, since I was going to be alone with the kids for most of the trip, I wasn’t quite up to roughing it in a tent for a week.  The cabins can only be reserved weekly, from Thursday to Thursday during the summer at a rate of $550 for the four person cabins and $575 for the six person cabins.  Reservations are made online through reserve america.  You can see what cabins, or campsites, are available during the time period you want to stay and choose your specific site or cabin.

I booked Cabin 2, Pinetree, a four-person cabin.  Check-in is 3 PM or later and I arrived close to 5 PM. Before I arrived, I pre-registered online which helped speed up the check-in process.  Only one key is given out to the cabin, with a warning that there is a $50 lost key fee.  I was also told to keep the key on me at all times, as many people have been accidentally locked out of their cabins.

It is an approximately five minute drive from the park office to the cabin loop with a 15 m.p.h. speed limit around the park.  Unfortunately, you cannot park right at the cabin.  Instead, I was directed to park in the small parking lot outside the shower house.

The women’s shower house has five showers and one toilet.  At the time of our visit, one of the shower doors was broken, as in not there at all, and only two out of the three sinks were working.  Plus, two out of the three overhead lights were out, leaving the shower area a bit dark.  There’s an outdoor sink attached to the side of the shower building as well as an eco-friendly, compostable bathroom.  The bathroom and shower appeared to be cleaned daily.  However, the room filled up with all kinds of insects, both alive and recently alive, at night.

From the parking lot there’s a hill that leads down to the cabins.  After a short walk, imagine my surprise when I saw this walk to our cabin!  For reference, out of all of the cabins, Pinetree Cabin has the longest distance from the main pathway.  I wasn’t too happy about this when making my middle-of-the-night bathroom trips!  Nor, did this make unpacking and packing up the car easy!

The cabin was cozy with both a queen-size bed and a bunk bed.  Although the cabins are only a few months old, the mattress covers were quite stained and gross.  Luckily, we had our own sheets.  There was also a small table with four chairs.  As you can see in the picture, the table has a built in checker board.  Hanging on a hook in the cabin is a small bag with checker pieces.  The cabin also has a bench to sit on, a wood-burning stove and a small refrigerator (think college dorm size).   It was small, but cozy inside and definitely beat being in a tent!  The lights had a dimmer, which I thought was a nice feature, and the windows had curtains, which helped give privacy.

How cute is this stove?! Although I didn’t use it, I definitely thought about using it a couple of nights when we were freezing cold!  I can see this being used a lot in the fall when the temps get much cooler.

We were using the cabin only as a place to sleep.  However, outside the cabin is a picnic table and fire ring.  Our neighbors had a canopy set up outside their cabin with a camp stove.  They had a fire going every night in their fire pit and were having a real camping experience.

The park has a carry-in, carry-out policy and does not do a garbage pick-up.  Instead, garbage must be taken to the garbage/recycling area near the entrance of the park.

Overall, we had a good experience cabin camping at Moreau Lake State Park.  It’s a beautiful park and I would definitely go back.  However, next time I’d pick the Bear Cabin (01), which is closest to the bathroom as well as pack heavy blankets for sleeping at night.

OUR CABIN CAMPING PACKING LIST: (some things we found useful to pack for a cabin camping trip)
*sheets and heavy blankets (queen size and (2) twins) – even in July we found it very cold at night and wish we had more/heavier blankets for sleeping
*bath towels (extra if you shower daily and are camping in the summer – we laid our towels over the chairs in the cabin to dry, but they never fully dried between uses)
*hand towels – the bathroom in the shower house only had a hand drier.  A towel was handy when washing my face, brushing my teeth, etc.
*plastic basket/shower caddy – to hold and transport all of your toiletries
*flip flops to wear in the shower
*garbage bags – size depends on how much garbage you have, we used plastic grocery bags
*disinfectant wipes – we brought a container of Lysol wipes which we used to wipe down the table before/after eating
*camp chairs (great for sitting outside your cabin or for sitting at the lake)
*flashlight(s) – although the cabin has electricity, the paths are dark at night
*bug spray – there are lots of bugs and mosquitoes in the woods
*antibacterial hand wipes – to use before eating or after applying suntan lotion when we didn’t want to make the walk up to the sink
*plastic tub for carrying and washing dishes in – if you plan on cooking/eating at the cabin
*sponge & dishwashing soap to wash the dishes
*sand toys & goggles for the beach (FYI snorkel masks with a covered nose piece are not permitted – as we discovered)

 

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.