4

A Day of Family Fun at the Strong Museum of Play

You will enjoy a full day of family fun at the Strong Museum of Play.

{Thank you to the Strong and Visit Rochester for hosting us.}

The Strong Museum located in Rochester, NY is a must-see family attraction.

Bringing out your inner kid is easy to do when you visit the Strong Museum in Rochester.  Encompassing two floors and over 100,000 square feet of exhibits, you will easily spend an entire day visiting this museum.  I visited the Strong this summer with my 9 and 11-year-old children. During our visit we saw kids of all ages, from babies to college freshman visiting with the University of Rochester as part of orientation!

The kids playing Dance Dance Revolution at the Strong Museum of Play.

This is a very popular place! When we arrived at the 10 AM opening, there was already a line at the admission desk. Every exhibit in the Strong has interactive elements.  We first headed towards the Field of Play, where the focus is on the six different elements of play.  Here the kids climbed a rock wall, walked through a giant kaleidoscope, stood in an optical illusion house and more. They loved playing Dance Dance Revolution and I may have even danced a round or two for old time’s sake!

Younger children will love the Sesame Street Exhibit where they can sit on the stoop of 123 Sesame Street, visit Elmo’s World, watch old episodes of the show and more.

The Wegmans Super Kids Market at the Strong Museum.

My kids loved the Wegmans Super Kids Market and WKID TV.  When you enter the exhibit, you can pick either a shopping basket or a miniature shopping cart to shop with.  You are allowed to shop for six items at a time and then are requested to check out.  While shopping you can choose from a variety of foods including fruits & veggies, breads, fish, meats and cheese.  My son even picked up some sushi at the prepared foods section!  Checking out was their favorite part.  You place your items on the movable conveyor belt, scan them and then get an itemized, printed receipt! When you are finished, you are asked to re-shelve your items for the next group of shoppers.  The back of the store has the WKID TV station where kids can be on television or work the camera and lights.

During our visit, “Have a Ball” was in the short-term exhibit gallery.  This exhibit showcased the importance of ball play through different zones. We especially enjoyed playing with Spheros, remote-controlled balls, in the Robot Park. Upcoming exhibits include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Sept. 16, 2017 – January 1, 2018) and Thomas & Friends (January 20 – May 6, 2018).

Superhero fans will love the American Comic Book Heroes exhibit. Young and old will see a collection of familiar superheroes.  There are several hands-on displays and a fun photo op too!

A whole room of pinball machines at the Strong Museum. For a couple of bucks you can get a ton of tokens and play almost all the pinball machines.

The kids were sad that my husband couldn’t make the trip with us. He’s a huge pinball machine fan and they knew he would have loved the Pinball Playfields exhibit. It’s a huge room filled only with pinball machines! Included in the exhibit are the early, basic pinball machines to the fancy, themed ones of today. For only a couple of dollars you can get a bunch of tokens and play to your heart’s content.

You can spend the entire day at Reading Adventureland at the Strong Museum. There is so much to see and do!

One of my favorite areas of the museum was Reading Adventureland.  You can literally spend the entire day in just this one exhibit.  There are five different areas inspired by children’s literature including Adventure Island,  Fairy Tale Forest, Mystery Mansion, Upside-Down Nonsense House and Wizard’s Workshop.  Each landscape has books, interactive elements and some even have craft areas.

We didn’t spend much time in The Berenstein Bears exhibit, but younger children will have a blast with all of the hands-on fun here.  We also didn’t visit One History Place, an interactive exhibit of toys from the past.  For $1 per person you can ride on the Strong Express Train or the Elaine Wilson Carousel.

While we were visiting the Strong Museum we stopped for a lunch break at Billy Gray's.

Before heading upstairs we took a lunch break.  We opted to eat at Bill Gray’s where the kids got a cheeseburger and hot dog kids meal and I got a mushroom swiss burger.  I shared their fries and had brought a water bottle with me.  The kids were super excited that they could get a slushie with their kids meal.

The World Video Game Hall of Fame at the Strong Museum.

After lunch we visited the second floor.  We first stopped at the World Video Game Hall of Fame, where there is a pay-per-play video game room.  There is also a Toy Hall of Fame with the most popular toys of the different decades.  Definitely a walk down memory lane for me!

The kids loved playing electronic Bingo at the Strong Museum.

Upstairs  we also visited the “Game Time!” exhibit.  The kids really enjoyed playing oversized versions of classic games like Connect Four and Battleship. There are games including Jenga, an electronic word search, an electronic big screen Bingo game and more.  We didn’t spend too much time in the other upstairs exhibits, Play Pals, Build, Drive Go and America at Play, due to lack of time.

I was most impressed with the literature connections the museum makes.  Every exhibit in the library houses a collection of books related to the featured theme.  Even better, local area residents can borrow the books!  The Grada Hopeman Gelser Library is a circulating library open during normal museum hours.  Children can borrow books and then return them either back at the museum or any other public library branch in the system.  I think this is such an amazing resource.

As crowded as the museum was on a Friday during the summer, it’s spacious enough that it never felt like it.  The kids never had to wait more than a minute or two to interact with different exhibits. As you can see, there is a lot to do at the Strong.  We visited on a Friday, to take advantage of the longer hours.  When visiting the Rochester area, a visit to the Strong is a must!

The Details:

Strong National Museum of Play
One Manhattan Square
Rochester, NY 14607
(585) 263-2700

Parking:  Free large parking lot

Hours: Monday – Thursday, 10 AM – 5 PM Friday & Saturday, 10 AM – 8 PM, Sunday 12 PM – 5 PM

Admission: $14.50/ages 2+ (does not include admission to the butterfly garden)

Food: There is a food court with a Pizza Hut Express, Taco Bell Express, Subway and Louie’s Sweet Shoppe.  Billy Gray’s Restaurant is located in the museum atrium.  Outside food is permitted but must be eaten in lunchroom C, as the dining room tables and chairs in the food court and atrium are reserved for restaurant guests.

Tips:

*Bill Gray’s has a Happy Hour everyday from 2:30-4:30 PM with 1/2 price milkshakes.  Take a break and enjoy a sweet treat!

*Bill Gray’s restaurant accepts online coupons from its website.

*To make the most of your visit, get there at opening.  Plus, it’s less crowded!

*I recommend that moms wear a crossbody pocketbook or a backpack.  Having a bag keep falling off your shoulder can be very annoying (I know from personal experience!). You will want your hands free, because you will be playing and interacting with the exhibits too!

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6

Stepping Back In Time at the Genesee Country Village & Museum

(Thank you to the Genesee Country Village & Museum and Visit Rochester for hosting us.)

Imagine living in a time when you had to grow all of your own food and go to school in a one room schoolhouse.  It’s very difficult for children today to believe such times existed! When I learned that the Genesee Country Village & Museum is the largest living history museum in New York State, I knew that it had to be a stop on our #NYSummer2017.  History is so important in understanding the present and I know my kids learn best from hands-on experiences.

The Genesee Country Village is located approximately 25 minutes away from where we were staying in Rochester.  We arrived at the 10 AM opening ready for a day of fun.  Even though we were there from opening to close, we still weren’t able to see and do everything! When we arrived we received a map and a daily visitor’s guide of all the activities.

We started our visit at the John L Wehle Gallery.  A large collection of hunting and wildlife art is housed here, including paintings and sculptures.  There is also a historic costume collection display featuring 3,500 articles of historic clothing.  They have a room especially for children that has Lincoln Logs, a play kitchen, books and more. I let the kids play while I walked around the gallery.

After leaving the gallery, we headed towards the Historic Village.  The Village is comprised of 68 buildings and encompasses three different time periods: the Pioneer Settlement (1780’s -1830’s), Antebellum Village (1830’s – 1860’s) and Turn of the Century (1870’s – 1920’s).  To visit in time period order, you must start at the left after passing through the village entrance.

Costumed interpreters are in almost every building acting the part of a 19th century villager.  We met many villagers during our visit including a blacksmith, a printer, a tailor, a tinsmith and a dressmaker.  They are both knowledgeable and informative and able to answer any questions you may have.  They actually practice their craft while you visit, building baskets, spinning yarn, making prints and more.

We enjoyed sitting at a desk in the one room schoolhouse and learned that approximately 20 students of different ages would attend each day.  The exception was during planting season, when they would be needed to help in the fields.

Another favorite building was the Pioneer Farmstead.  There we watched a woman preparing Bubble & Squeak (cabbage, onion and potato) for the lunchtime meal.  There are animals on the farmstead  including a pig, sheep and chickens that the kids especially enjoyed visiting.

At 11:30 AM we headed to the Civil War Camp for the Civil War Cooking demonstration.  There we learned about the different types and small amounts of rations the soldiers received. Since there was no mess hall, soldiers had to prepare their own food.  With limited supplies, they had to cook their meager rations to make them edible and to prolong their shelf life. Besides the cooking demonstration we were also able to peek into a camp tent.

Watching the cooking demonstration made us hungry.  After the demo we headed to lunch at the Depot Restaurant.  The restaurant serves sandwiches, burgers, salads, chicken fingers, soup, mac and cheese and more.  The chicken salad sandwich was very good and the kids liked the mac and cheese and chicken fingers.  The restaurant sells ales for those interested in an adult beverage.  Everything is reasonably priced as well.

When the kids needed a break, we headed to the village square where they played 19th century games and attempted to walk on stilts.

D.B. Munger Confectionery is located in the village square and sells sweets and homemade baked goods.

We stopped by Silver Base Ball Park to some of the match between Spring Creek and Flower City.  It was fun to sit in the stands and see them playing ball, with no baseball gloves!

At 2:30 we returned to the Gallery for the free adult-and-child art activity.  On our visit we first took a look at a Bruno Liljefors fox painting out in the gallery. Then we went into the art studio and under the instruction of a gallery staff member painted our own copy. (If you have children 10 or older who enjoy art, like my children, try to take advantage of this fun activity!)

We left the Historic Village right around the 4 PM closing time.  Unfortunately, by the time we visited the Nature Center adjacent to the parking lot, it was closed.  There is access to several hiking trails from the Center but our feet were so tired from walking all day that we opted not to.  We did stop to take some pictures of the  beautiful water gardens before heading out.

We enjoyed our visit to the Genesee Country Village & Museum.  As you can see, there is a lot to see and do here!  When you’re in the Rochester area, make time to visit this fun and educational living history museum.

The Details:

Genesee Country Village & Museum
1410 Flint Hill Road
Mumford, NY 14511
(585) 538-6822

Parking:  Free, large parking lot

Hours: 10 AM – 4 PM, Tuesday through Sunday (May through September)  Wednesday- Sunday (September & October) The Historic Village and John L. Wehle Gallery are closed for the winter months except for special holiday events.  Please check the website for more details  as well as for the nature trail hours.

Admission:  $18/adult, $15/senior citizens (62+) and college students (w/ID), $10/youth (4-18)
-includes access to the Historic Village, John L. Wehle Gallery and nature trails (please check the website for admission prices for only the gallery or nature trails)

Food:  Food and snacks are available on premise at the Depot Restaurant, Freight House Pub and Pavilion Garden Restaurant (summer only).

Tips:

*The Historic Village is very large and you will most likely not be able to do or see everything.  Make sure to check out the daily visitor’s guide to plan which timed activities you’d like to visit.  They only occur once throughout the day.

*Certain village buildings close between 11 AM and 2 PM for staff lunch breaks.  You may want to visit the village before or after those times if you wish to see all the buildings.

*There is a free trolley on weekends (or by advanced registration if needed).

*This attraction requires a lot of walking. Wear sneakers or comfortable shoes.

*These are historic buildings.  Most of them are not stroller friendly.  You may need to park your stroller outside the building and walk with or hold younger children.

*For an additional fee you can make your own punched-tin ornament or purchase prints at the Printing Office.

*Go to the gift shop at the end of your visit.  During the summer it stays open until 4:30 PM, 3o minutes after the museum closes.

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12

Family Fun at the Seneca Park Zoo

(Thank you Seneca Park Zoo and Visit Rochester for hosting us.)

The kids and I visited the Seneca Park Zoo this past summer.  Located in Rochester along the Genesee River, this 15.5 acre zoo is home to over 90 species.  If you are expecting a gigantic zoo, this is not it.  Despite its small size, it offers plenty to see and do for several hours of enjoyment.

We visited on a Sunday and arrived at the 10 AM opening.  While at the admission booth, we learned it was “Funday” and we each received a ticket for a free small popcorn.  This was a tasty surprise!

The zoo’s layout is a straight path.  As you walk from the admission booth, the first building you see is the main building.  This is where you will find animals like the orangutans, lemurs,and white rhino. During our visit we were able to see a snake in the midst of shedding its skin, something we had never witnessed before.

While visiting this area we attended the orangutan experience.  We got to see four-year-old Bella playing around outside while her mom Kumang, pictured here, sat and watched.  I might have a love of orangutans and could have stood here all day and watched these two.  Denda, the dad, was inside the main building.

After leaving the main building, you can walk the Genesee Trail, which leads to the Eco Center.  The fish, reptiles, amphibians and otters live here.

From the Eco Center, you will next visit the Rocky Coasts.  As you walk, you will pass several animals including the Spotted Hyena, Gray Wolves, and Amur Tigers.  The Rocky Coasts area houses the Sea Lions and the Polar Bear habitat.  Sadly, Aurora, the zoo’s only polar bear, didn’t make an appearance while we were visiting.

Personally, I don’t think a visit to the zoo is complete without watching the sea lion feeding. For the best view, I recommend standing along the railing above the rocks.  We got to see 8-year-old Sea Lion, Lily, being fed and given her daily check-up from the zoo keeper.  Lily’s two-month old baby, Bob, sat on a rock sleeping in the sun for the duration of her feeding.  Bob was born in June 2017 and named via an online poll.

In the Center for Biodiversity Exploration you will find the  Z.O.T. (Zoologists of Tomorrow) Zone.  This is a hands-on display with different areas of zoo exploration for kids to engage with including zoo planning puzzles and Critter Kitchen (choosing the correct diets for different animals).

The “A Step Into Africa” exhibit is at the far end of the zoo.  This is where the baboons and the zoo’s four female elephants are housed. During our visit, we were able to see one of the elephants being scrubbed clean.  It was funny to see her being fed treats of whole ears of corn, heads of cauliflower, zucchini and peppers while she was bathed.  The elephants know over 50 verbal commands, which was impressive to see in action.

We ended our visit eating lunch at the Crater Canteen.  I was impressed by the food selections available as well as the reasonable prices.  The three of us shared a Strawberry Fields salad ($8.50) and a Canteen Panini (smoked turkey with pesto, fresh Roma tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella on sourdough bread for $8.50).  For those not as adventurous, they have burgers, hot dogs and chicken tenders as well as “Little Cubs” kids meals.  In the Crater Canteen area, there are several umbrella-covered tables for eating.

For me, one of the key features of the zoo isn’t the animals.  It was the docents standing at several of the exhibits.  These volunteers are there to answer any questions and inform visitors about the animals that they are viewing.  There is also a ZooTeens program where students in grades 8-12 act as zoo ambassadors.  During the summer, the teens make presentations and engage guests in interactive learning activities.

The Seneca Zoo is currently undergoing extensive renovations, which are expected to be completed sometime in 2018.  Construction is underway for new habitats for the White Rhino and the Snow Leopard.  Plus, there will be an “Animals of the Savanna” exhibit, as well as Red Panda, Giraffe and Zebra exhibits.  A new eatery, the Trailside Cafe, will also be opening.  When all the new construction is completed, the zoo looks to be an even better place to visit.

As I mentioned, this is a small zoo.  In approximately three hours we visited all the animal exhibits,  watched a couple of demonstrations, and ate lunch. There are animal experience programs occurring throughout the day and a small playground. Depending on the attention span and temperament of your children, you can make a longer or shorter day of it. This is a great family attraction to visit when in Rochester.

The Details:
Seneca Park Zoo
2222 St. Paul Street
Rochester, NY 14621
(585) 336-7200

Hours:  10 AM – 4 PM (April – October) 10 AM – 3 PM (November – March)

Parking:  Free parking

Admission:
April – October –  $12/adult, $11/seniors (63+), $9/youth (3-11)
November – March  $10/adult,  $9/seniors, $7/youth

Food:  Two food service areas Eagle’s Landing Cafe and Crater Canteen  (most entrees cost between $5.75-$8.50, most beverages, sides and snacks are priced between $2.25-$4.75)

Tips:

*The zoo is stroller-friendly.

*You can bring your own food and snacks.

*Make sure to check out the daily program to plan out what animal encounters you want to see.  Each experience only occurs one time each day.

 

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Horseback Riding in Watkins Glen with Painted Bar Stables

(Thank you Painted Bar Stables, Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce and Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes for hosting us.  As always, all opinions are my own.)

My kids are super adventurous and really wanted to try horseback riding this summer.  They were very excited to discover that they were going to go riding for the first time on our trip to the Southern Finger Lakes region of New York.

Painted Bar Stables was established in 2003, with Erika Eckstrom taking ownership in 2008. Located in Burdett, NY, minutes away from Watkins Glen, Painted Bar is a community-oriented riding facility.  There are approximately 37 horses at the stable, including three foals not yet ready for riding. The stable has a horse suitable for just about any rider and can accommodate groups as large as 15.

When we arrived at Painted Bar Stables, Erika was there to greet us.  As with any outdoor recreation activity with a physical risk, waivers have to be signed before riding and helmets must be worn.  Once we entered the barn, Erika gave us a short, but informative, overview on horseback riding.  She told us how to hold the reins and steer the horses. She noted that the rider is in control of the horse, but if we are not diligent, the horses will take advantage. For example, they prefer that the horses not eat during the trail ride.  However, the forest is a buffet for them and they will try to sneak in snacks if they can.  She used great analogies and explanations that the kids were able to understand, which helped give them a better understanding of horses and their behavior.

Prior to our arrival, Erika had chosen horses to match our sizes and riding ability.  My 9 year-old son rode Smudge, a small tan pony, perfectly sized for him.  My 11 year-old daughter rode Captain and I rode Panda (a.k.a. “Panda Paws”), a black and white horse named after a flavor of ice cream.  Once we met our horses Erika had her assistants help us untie them and we walked them out to the paddock. Once we mounted our horses our stirrups were adjusted and we were ready to ride!

Although I have some previous riding experience, it had been years since I was last on a horse. I have to admit that I wasn’t scared for myself riding, but I was concerned about how the kids would do being on a horse for the first time. Cody, one of Erika’s assistants, accompanied us on our ride, bringing up the rear. I was riding in the middle with my son in front of me and my daughter behind.  Since I couldn’t see my daughter, knowing Cody was there to help her made me a lot more comfortable.

Our trail ride was an hour long and approximately three miles. We rode from the paddock along a pasture where we saw some of the other horses, including the foals, grazing. We then rode past a field and eventually entered the woods.  The ride was a great length for us beginners and was super enjoyable.  It was a very scenic and peaceful trail ride. During the ride, the horses navigated fallen logs and rocks.  There were a couple of shallow streams we crossed where we stopped for a moment to give the horses a water break.  As we came to different parts of the trail Erika gave us reminders on how to sit (lean back  going down a hill or slightly forward riding up).  There is one part of the trail where the horses need to trot up a hill.  While my daughter loved it, my son was a bit unsure.

Erika really adapts the ride to the riders. At the end of the trail, there’s a straight path back up to the paddock, perfect for riding with a little more speed.  She asked if we wanted to ride a little faster up the hill.  Since my son was a bit hesitant, she rode with him up the path at a comfortable speed.  Then Cody led me and my daughter up at a faster trot. It was a win for everyone!

My kids loved horseback riding!  It’s all my daughter could talk about for days.  I had to hear how much she loved Captain and how she wants a horse of her own.  Getting a horse is never going to happen, however the kids are anxiously awaiting their next opportunity to go horseback riding.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures during the trail ride.  I kept my phone in a waist bag under my shirt, afraid that I’d drop it during the ride.  Plus, this was one of those experiences that should be fully taken in and enjoyed.

The Finger Lakes region of New York is such a picturesque area with lots to see and do.  On your visit, I recommend you make some time for a horseback ride at Painted Bar Stables.  Erika and her crew will ensure you have a great ride!

The Details:
Painted Bar Stables
4093 Lake Street
Burdett, NY 14818
(607) 216-8141

Hours:  Trail rides are by appointment only, available through the online rider request form.  Please give 24-48 hours advance notice.

Price:  Painted Bar Stables offers a variety of trail rides, specialty rides and even overnight and multi-day pack trips. The basic beginner rides are listed below.  Please check the site for other rides and prices.

Scenic Trail Ride (1 hour – 3 miles) $55/person
Beginner Adventure (1 1/2 hours – 4.5 miles) $$80/person

If paying by credit card, there is a 3.5% surcharge.

Additional Info:

*Children must be at least 8 years old to ride.
*There is a maximum weight limit of 250 pounds.
*Long pants and closed toe shoes or boots must be worn.
*Arrive 5-10 minutes before your scheduled ride.  If you are late it will cut into your ride time.

Tips:
Remember to wear sunscreen and bug spray.

Don’t bring along anything that you don’t mind losing!

If you enjoyed your ride, tip your guide.  Although it’s not required, tips are always appreciated.

 

8

#NYSummer2017 In Review

Our family had an amazing summer traveling around New York State.  Through four separate road trips, we saw parts of New York that we had never visited before. During one of these trips, I discovered my love for the Adirondacks and I can’t wait to make a return visit.  This summer also made me realize that we’ve only seen a fraction of what New York has to offer.  We really do live in a spectacular state! Here is our #NYSummer2017 in review: (Links take you to the full posts on the blog.  They will be updated as additional posts are published.)

Trip #1 (Albany, Adirondacks, Saratoga)

Day 1:  We traveled from our home in northern Westchester County to the Children’s Museum of Science and Technology in Troy, NY.  After a couple of hours at the museum we drove to John Boyd Thacher State Park in Vorheesville, NY.  We stayed at the Econo Lodge in Colonie for one evening.

Day 2:  We drove into Albany and toured the state Capitol building.  We then walked around Empire Plaza, past the Egg to the Corning Observation Deck.  After riding the elevator to the 42nd floor for some amazing views of the city we headed back to the concourse for lunch.  After lunch we visited the New York State Museum before driving to Moreau Lake State Park, where we tried cabin camping for the first time.  This was our “home base” for the week.

Day 3: We visited the Adirondack Experience in Blue Mountain Lake, NY.  My husband drove up after work Friday evening and met us at the cabin for a long weekend.

Day 4:  We visited the Olympic Sites at Lake Placid.  We ate dinner at A&W.

Day 5:  We spent the day at Six Flags Great Escape and then had dinner at Farmstead Flatbread in Queensbury.

Day 6:  We drove into the town of Lake George.  Unfortunately, it was a rainy and cold day.  We played indoor miniature golf  and walked around by the lake.  After a Middle Eastern lunch at Ali Baba Express, my husband drove back home.

Day 7: The day started out rainy again.  Our first stop was to Yaddo Gardens.  Then we visited Congress Park in Saratoga Springs where we rode the carousel (pictured above) and had lunch at Ravenous Creperie.  After lunch we drove to Saratoga Spa State Park where we did some geocaching and walked the geyser trail.

Day 8: We spent the morning at Lake Moreau and the kids finally got to go swimming.  Later in the afternoon we went white water rafting with Beaver Brook Outfitters.  That evening we drove back home.

Trip #2 (Buffalo/Niagara Falls)

Day 1: We drove the 6.5 + hours to Four Mile Creek State Park.  We were tent camping on this trip.  We got there after dinner and had to set up the tent…..in the rain.

Day 2: We drove to Buffalo and had a great brunch at the Lake Effect Diner. After eating we did a quick drive around the SUNY Buffalo campus.  During our drive it started to rain so we visited the Herschell Carousel Factory Museum.  After spending the afternoon there we drove over to the Canada side of the Falls.  After taking lots of pictures of the Falls in the rain we walked around Clifton Hill.  Luckily, by evening the rain stopped. We were able to see the falls lit up and the fireworks show before heading back to the campsite. We returned to the campsite to discover our tent had caved in and the kids’ air mattress and sleeping bags were soaked!

Day 3:  After packing up the camp site, we headed to the falls area on the American side.  After lunch, we took the Maid of the Mist boat ride and then headed home.

Trip #3 (Binghamton/Ithaca)

Day 1:  We headed up to Binghamton.  On the way up, we stopped at Animal Adventure Park and got to see April the giraffe and her baby Taj!  We then drove to Binghamton University where we walked around my husband’s old college campus.  After, we visited Robert H. Treman State Park in Ithaca.  The water was freezing, but the kids braved it to go swimming.  Finally, we drove to Cortland and had dinner at Central City Bar and Grill before heading to our hotel.

Day 2: We spent the day in Ithaca visiting Cornell University, my old college campus.  We started at the Botanic Gardens, then did some geocaching and walked along Beebe Lake for a bit. We walked around the campus and headed down to Collegetown for lunch.  After lunch, we drove to the Dairy Bar for ice cream.  After leaving Cornell, we drove down to Purity Ice Cream in Ithaca for some more treats!  We ended the day at Buttermilk Falls State Park.  It took us awhile to hike down to the falls where we were disappointed to discover that there was no swimming allowed that day.  We spent a little time at the playground and then had to hike back up to the car.  We then headed back home.

Trip #4 (Corning, Rochester, Syracuse)


Day 1:  We drove up to Corning, where our first stop was the Rockwell Museum.  After a short visit to the museum, we had lunch at the Old World Cafe.  Then we visited the Corning Museum of Glass.  After our visit, we went to our hotel at the Staybridge Suites, where the kids had a quick swim in the indoor pool. Then we headed out to dinner at Hand + Foot.

Day 2:  We drove to Elmira and went kayaking down the Chemung River with Southern Tier Kayak Tours.  After a quick lunch, we drove to Watkins Glen and went horseback riding at Painted Bar Stables.  Then we visited Watkins Glen State Park and walked the Gorge Trail to see all the waterfalls.  We made a short stop at Seneca Harbor Park before heading to dinner at Nickel’s Pit BBQ.  After dinner, we drove to Hammondsport, where we stayed for the night.

Day 3:  We spent the morning walking around the Village Square in Hammondsport.  We went down to Depot Park, where only my son was brave enough to withstand the cold temps for a quick dip in Keuka Lake.  We then had lunch at the Village Tavern Restaurant before heading to Rochester.

Day 4:  We spent the day at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester.

Day 5:  We spent the day at the Genesee Country Village and Museum in Mumford.

Day 6:  We spent the morning at the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester.  We then drove to Syracuse and spent the rest of the day at the New York State Fair.

Day 7:  We got up early and drove the four hours back home.

We had a lot of fun this summer and the kids will have lots of memories.  As you can see, there is so much to see and do throughout New York. We can’t wait to continue to explore the Empire State!

What is your favorite New York State attraction?

 

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Walking Under Waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park

We visited Watkins Glen State Park on our recent trip to the Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes region. I was able to cross another New York State Park off my list AND I was able to walk under waterfalls!  Not only was this park already on my want-to-visit list, but it won 3rd place in a 2015 USA TODAY Readers’ Choice Award for Best State Park!  We couldn’t be in the area and not visit.

Watkins Glen State Park is one of the most well-known state parks in the Finger Lakes region.  Covering 778 acres, the park has an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a playground. It also has 293 camping sites, including 10 cabin sites.  However, people come from near and far to walk the trails along the gorge to see the waterfalls.

The park has three trails: Indian Trail, South Rim Trail and Gorge Trail.  The park recommends hiking the Gorge Trail for the best experience of Watkins Glen.  This trail follows Glen Creek and includes over 800 stone steps, stone bridges and 19 waterfalls.  Several labeled landmarks are situated along the 2 mile trail.  During the summer, shuttles run from both the main and upper entrances if you are too tired to walk back.

On our visit, we entered through the park at the main entrance off Franklin Street and parked by the pool.  We walked down to Lily Pond and crossed the Suspension Bridge.

The Suspension Bridge is the only bridge on the trail not built of stone. As we walked along the trail, it was necessary to constantly stop and take in the beauty of the waterfalls.

Around every bend was another beautiful sight to see.  It was such a peaceful and scenic hike.  It’s unbelievable to think that this gorge is thousands of years old.

As promised, we were able to walk under Rainbow Falls and touch the water!  Truly a memorable experience!  As you can tell from the picture, you may get wet from the falls!

We did not walk the entire two-mile trail as we were already tired out from a full day of kayaking and horseback riding.   Instead, we walked approximately 3/4 of the trail to Mile Point Bridge.  There, we crossed the bridge and walked the South Rim Trail back to the parking lot and avoided climbing the 180 stone steps of Jacob’s Ladder near the upper entrance.  FYI, the South Rim Trail is higher than the gorge and does not offer views of the waterfalls.

Watkins Glen State Park offers a day of family fun.  The trail hikes include truly amazing views and a visit to this park will not disappoint!

The Details:

Watkins Glen State Park
1009 N. Franklin Street
Watkins Glen, NY 14891
(607) 535-4511

Parking:  $8 per vehicle, which includes pool access  (fee is collected during peak times, please check the website for exact dates and times)  The Empire Pass is accepted here.

Hours:  Although the park is open year-round, the trails are only open mid-May to early November, weather dependent. Please check the park website for up-to-date information and trail status updates.

Pool is open 11 AM – 7 PM, daily during the summer (dates and hours are subject to change and it is advised to call the park office to confirm hours before visiting)

Trail Shuttle:  9 AM – 6 PM, $5/person

Tips:

*Use the bathroom, located at either of the entrances to the park before beginning the hike.  There are no rest rooms on the trails.

*Pack drinks and snacks.  There’s nothing like hungry and thirsty kids to ruin a good hike!  The upper entrance has a snack bar and gift shop if you need to buy something before your hike.

*Wear appropriate footwear.  Hiking boots are best, as the rocks get slippery from the water.  Plus, there are steps and uneven surfaces.

*Weekends, especially in the summer, tend to be the busiest.  It wasn’t too crowded when we visited on a late Thursday afternoon in August.

Visiting the Corning Museum of Glass with Kids

(Thank you to the Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes and the Corning Museum of Glass for hosting us.  As always, all opinions are my own.)

The first thing people associate with Corning, NY is the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG). There are a bunch of good reasons why so many people come to the Finger Lakes region of New York each year to visit this museum. It houses an extensive collection of glass, with pieces dating back 3,500 years. Guest artists visit from around the world and give demonstrations of their work.  Plus, there is a Changing Exhibitions Gallery with new pieces being shown regularly.

You might not think a building full of glass is a great place to bring kids.  However, after recently visiting with my two children (ages 9 and 11) I can tell you that this museum is indeed a kid-friendly destination. I will admit, visiting with kids creates a very different experience of the museum versus visiting on your own or with other adults.  You will still have a great time.  To help you get the most enjoyment from your trip, here are some tips for visiting the CMOG with kids:

1. Prior to your visit, sign up for a Make Your Own Glass project – These projects are created in The Studio, located in the building across the parking lot from the CMOG.  Projects range in price from $13 for sandblasting to $30 for hand-blowing glass ornaments, glass forming flowers, fusing picture frames and more.  There are recommended age ranges for each project.  Classes fill up quickly and if you wait until the day of your visit, they might be all booked up.  This is a memorable experience for the kids, plus they will have a keepsake from the visit to take home.

2. Visit the Contemporary Art + Design Wing – There are many glass exhibits throughout the museum.  However, if you are short on time, I highly recommend you make sure to visit this exhibit.  This wing is part of a 100,000 square foot addition that was completed in March of 2015.  This section is spacious and bright with large, colorful, eye-catching exhibits, sure to interest even the youngest children.  Although we didn’t download GlassApp, the museum’s app, there is a Scavenger Hunt available on it for this wing.

3. Participate in a Gallery Hunt in the Glass Galleries – Near the entrance to the Glass Collection Galleries, there are several different gallery hunt booklets and pencils.  While there are no prizes for completing the gallery hunt, it will help give kids a focus while walking through the galleries.  These galleries have hundreds of pieces of glass and it can be a bit overwhelming for children. My kids enjoyed the “Searching for Animals” gallery hunt.  You can also download the different gallery hunt sheets as PDFs from the museum site to have before your visit.

4. Watch at least one glass demonstration – There are many different glass demonstrations held throughout the day.  The demos range from 15 minute glassbreaking, optical fiber and flameworking demos, to 30 minute hot glass demonstrations.  Each demonstration is held many times throughout the day, in one of six different locations.

During our visit we sat and watched two different hot glass demos.  We saw one in the Courtyard Hot Shop before we even entered the museum, and the other in the Amphitheater Hot Shop.  The amphitheater demonstration has a special camera inside the furnace so you can watch the glass being heated on one of the many large screens.  The shows are narrated, so you learn about each step of the glass making process as they are happening. It’s amazing to watch a glob of molten glass turn into a pitcher or a sculpture in a span of 30 minutes! These demonstrations were one of the kids’ favorite things to do at the museum.  We probably could have sat there ALL day and just watched the gaffers (master glass makers) create different pieces.  At some of the demos, the gaffers give away some of their glass pieces.

5.  Visit Innovations – This is the hands-on section of the museum.  Here kids can look through a periscope and see a 360 degree view of the town of Corning.  They can also look through a telescope, see the difference between regular glass and Low-E glass, bend glass, try to break glass, and participate in several other activities.

6.  Make a stop at the “You Design It; We Make It” – This is a great place to take a little break and let your children’s inner artist come out.  In this little area, kids can use paper and markers to create a design.  If they are lucky, their drawing may be chosen to be recreated in glass!  Each week, glassmakers from the Hot Glass Demo team choose two drawings to recreate in the Amphitheater Hot Shop during a special “You Design It; We Make It!” demo. The Flameworking team also chooses a drawing daily to create at a special Flameworking demo.  Both of my kids sketched designs which unfortunately were not chosen.

7.  Make use of the two consecutive days –  Your ticket is good for two consecutive days and I advise you to make use of it!  Let your kids temperaments and attention spans factor into how you structure your day.  If they are really into watching the glass demos, you may want to spend a large portion of one day watching the various scheduled sessions.  Consider visiting in the morning one day and the afternoon on the next.

The Details:

The Corning Museum of Glass
One Museum Way
Corning, NY 14830
(607) 937-5371

Parking:  Free parking

Hours:  Daily 9 AM – 5 PM (9 AM – 8 PM Memorial Day through Labor Day)

Admission:  $19.50/adults, $16.60/55 Plus, AAA members, military and Students with ID, Free/children 17 and under  (**Tickets are valid for 2 consecutive days)

Tips:  

There are plenty of seasonal activities and exhibitions.  If you will be visiting during the holiday season, try to plan your visit to take advantage of the seasonal fun.

Food is available in the Cafe (open 9 AM – 5 PM).  Here you will find soups, salads, sandwiches, pizza and more. Sample prices:  $2.50 for a slice of pizza, $8.95 for a Chicken Salad wrap, $10.95 for a Southwest Steak Salad. There is also a coffee bar serving locally sourced coffee and tea.

You can bring your own food as well.  If the weather is nice, there are picnic tables to use outside.

There is a huge gift shop selling all types of glass items from jewelry to decorative items.  There’s even a section with items created in-house.  Not everything in the gift shop is expensive!  You can find glass items including ornaments, flowers and marbles for under $10.

If you need to charge your phone, there are outlets in the “You Design It; We Make It” area.

 

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!

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.