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.

 

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.

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The Road Trip Begins….

#NYSummer2017 is starting as we head to Albany, Lake George, Saratoga and Lake Placid

#NYSummer2017 has begun!  As you are reading this, the kids and I are on our way up to Albany for the first leg of our New York State road trip!  On this leg of our road trip we will be visiting Albany, Lake George, Saratoga and Lake Placid.  It will be quiet around the blog until we get back.  However, feel free to follow NY Foodie Family on Instagram and Twitter to get updates on our #NYSummer2017!!

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#NYSummer2017

When people think of New York, I’m pretty sure NYC is the first place that comes to mind.  However, having lived in the suburbs north of the city all my life, I can tell you that there’s so much more to this wonderful state.  A couple of months ago, my husband and I agreed that this summer was the perfect time for me to take our two children, ages 8 and 11, on an epic road trip of New York state.  Before we take on any more distant travels, we thought that it was important that the kids see as much of New York State as possible.  Planning this trip also made me realize how much of the state that I have never visited.

After several months of planning, I’ve narrowed down our road trip into four separate itineraries.  State parks, amusement parks and historical sites are all mapped out.

Our first leg will start July 19, after we spend 4th of July with my family in Rhode Island and celebrate my son’s 9th birthday. The kids and I will head to Albany, Saratoga, Lake George and the Lake Placid area. My husband will be joining us for a long weekend, but for most of the trip I’ll be traveling alone with the kids.

After a few days back home, my husband will be joining us for our second leg during the first weekend in August. All four of us will be traveling to the Buffalo/Niagara area and visiting Niagara Falls.

The third leg kicks off the second weekend in August, when the four of us will be heading up to Binghamton and Ithaca.  Part of this trip will include visiting Binghamton University and Cornell University, our alma maters.

The final leg of the trip will be in mid-August when I will take the kids to visit Corning, Rochester and Syracuse.

In between road trips, we will be exploring local attractions in Westchester and Dutchess counties as well as the Catskills.  Although we will be seeing a lot this summer, I know that this is only a small portion of all that there is to see and do in New York State.

This is going to be a memorable adventure for our family.  Not only am I breaking out of my comfort zone by taking the kids solo for most of the trip, but most of these places are new to me as well!  You can follow us on our adventures on social media.  I’ll be using #NYSummer2017 and #NYFoodieFamilyRoadTrip in all my travel posts.  And since there’s about a month before our first leg of the trip, please leave any suggestions or must-see attractions in the areas that I mentioned we’re visiting!