Monday, August 30, 2010

Blastown! Funtown/Splashtown USA, Scarborough, ME

To start off our Road Trip 2010 this summer we hit an ole standby (ok, we've been twice, but it's far!); Storyland.  To end our Road Trip, we hit up their main competitors in the NE, and it was close.  Storyland beats out both Funtown and York's Wild Kingdom for kid rides, and their super cool story themes.  But like York, Funtown is a two-fer.  You may get fuzzie-wuzzies at York, but you get crazy splashin' on the par of Water Country at Splashtown.  But, each of these spots was a little easier to swallow at the admissions counter with our friend the Breathe New Hampshire Fun Pass.  (Sydney got in free and it had already paid for itself our first trip to Storyland). 

We got prepped by hitting our hotel pool at 7AM, then headed off to Foodie Mommy's rec for breakfast; The Standard Baking Company.  That lady knows her prosciutto and cheese croissants.  She also seems to know her sticky buns and pain au chocolat too.  Anyway, I digress.  It was clear Lij wasn't feeling great, but we had been talking this place up to Sydney for weeks.  He and I hit the bumper cars and the Thunder Falls Log Flume.  Things were heating up.  We tried to get him on a couple of roller coasters, too short.  So, he wants to go to Casino.  Now, I'm not talking Foxwoods, this ride spins you up, down, around and then hits reverse.  The last time I was on one of these was at Canobie Lake in middle school, let's just say that time I made it to the bathroom.

Lij and Kam joined us for some great kiddie rides, especially the swings.  Then we hit Splashtown.  I thought Sydney might be more ready for the Portland Pirates Paradise, but it was a bit too shocking.  He opted for the tubes with mommy on Liquid Lightening.  Lij and I hung in the Family Fun Lagoon, but he was fading fast.  We grabbed a quick bite, got Sydney one more ride on Liquid and hit the road.  Oh, we'll be back!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Half Moon Memory; Crescent Beach State Park, Cape Elizabeth, ME

It has been over fifteen years since I combed Crescent Beach; a year out of college and temporarily east for another summer in Maine before I moved back out west.  Crescent is still one of my favs. While Portland has changed from a sleepy port town to a tourist mecca, Cape Elizabeth is still that tony suburb by the bay with miles of farms and prime oceanfront property.  Crescent changes only with geological time.  It is still a hop-skip and a jump from Two Lights, another fav state park amongst the many gems of our northern neighbors.  It is still that perfect mix of sand and rock, refreshing tide and fresh water feeders.  It is an explorers' dream.

We camped out right next to a feeder stream, winding down to the beach.  After sailing down our boats and constructing a few dams, we headed off for a walk.  Like many Maine beaches, Crescent is home to a stunning rocky outcrop, full of tide pools.  We discovered an old lobster pot, and what looked like a vertebrae of some large sea creature.  Sydney tossed old periwinkle shells off the rocks, followed by Lij.

We spent the better part of the afternoon building sandcastles and avoiding the creeping tide.  Thankfully, after a day of sun and surf, Kettle Cove Creamery and Cafe was right on our way back to the pool at our hotel.  We hit the Portland Lobster Company for dinner, which was more fun for good daddy/mommy drinks and views than it was for kids or serious lobster eaters.  All and all, a beautiful day at the beach.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

This is the End? Who Knew it was so Beachy; World's End, Hingham, MA

One of our first Dadventures in Beantown was long before there was a blog, back when Liji was just shaking off his first mommyventure.  Stroller and all, we trudged up the hill with two year old Sydney and settled in on a beautiful view of Boston.  Then the clouds rolled in and all I can remember is sprinting with a six month old, his stroller and someone carrying Sydney.  Today, was not that day.

The Trustees for Reservations spots are so incredible, it is almost impossible to imagine that they were ever in private hands.  Did the Cranes really have Crane Beach all to themselves?  Did local businessman John Werner really own this enchanted hillside on the bay in Hingham for just the fam?  Evidently Frederick Law Omstead of Central Park fame helped out a little on the design.  We love the Trustee lands, we just keep coming back for more.

This was a fitting cap to a summer of dadventures with my closest pal Adam and his daughter.  She led my boys down to the beach and spent an uninterrupted hour plus hunting hermit crabs with them while we caught up.  Covered in muck and happy as clams to get out of the heat, we headed for the tony downtown. We hit up Yelp for a local find and ran across the Square Cafe.  While our mud may not have suited the owner, the pasta sure suited us.  Thanks Hingham for a lovely day on the shore that felt a far cry from the end of the world, or the last place on earth.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Can Ice Cream Really Trump a Million Adventures?: Kimball Farm, Westford, MA

Yes, the ice cream at Kimball Farm is really worth the trip to Westford.  If you already love this 'hood for Nashoba Valley, then you just decided to tie the knot.  Mary Frawley aka "my work mom" who raised a couple of boys of her own is always a sure bet for recs.  She has been pushin' Kimball for years and we finally made it out today with our own of towners.  It was everything their exciting webpage promoted and more.

We started off with mini-golf.  We're not talking any Play Bosquet stuff we hit with them in the Berkshires.  We're talking hills, valleys, waterfalls and yes even two holes in a make-believe mine shaft.  Then we caught some bumper boats before lunch.  Sydney wasn't sure if he could handle it, but quickly decided afterward that flying solo was so the right choice.

Lunch was really no slouch either.  We had the fried clams and shrimp plates.  Perhaps no Woodmans of Ipswich rival, but it sure hit the spot after our "workout."  That's when the real fireworks began.  We hopped in the  Animal Adventures tent and caught a kinkajou and petted a python.  A quick beach volleyball Dadbreak and we were off to the cages.  Even Kam got in the swing, taking a few cracks at slow pitch softballs for the first time in her life.  She was aptly rewarded with the piece de resistance;  the kiddie cup.  Yeah, they're fooling you.  This mound of sugary, creamy wonder is not fit for kiddies, but it sure capped a fantastic dadventure.

A Rainbow of Fun; The Loker Park Tot Lot, Natick, MA

aka the "Rainbow Playground"

This playground has traditionally been more of a momventure than a dadventure, but I happened to land their with mommy and the boys this weekend after a great trip to the Natick Farmer's Market on the Commons this weekend (which you can check out at my bud Foodie Mommie's wicked awesome blog.   We were surprising her for dinner that night with some pork ribs from the Chestnut Farms CSA
stand, and as mommy often does on her way back from the Commons, she stopped for a quick hit on the "Rainbow playground."

There is plenty to conquer for both tots and preK's at this lovely spot across from the famous Walnut Hill Arts School.  Perhaps that is why on this day, one of the heros from the 2008 Celtics Championship season showed up with his kids.  Our very own Brian Scalabrine was making his way through this magical rainbow tunnel with his tots.  As if having a 6'9" red-head on your playground wasn't a tip, wifey blew his cover with a "hey Brian, if you want to do __ we need to get going."

The bigger celebrity for Sydney was his classmate Catherine, who just happened to be there.  After a romp on their awesome climbing walls, and a hard core game of rolling down the hills, we settled in for a few tire swing tangles.  Check them out on YouTube as they work on perfecting their new jams "Mary had a little HORSE."  Overall, a great stop from the Commons any day.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Peace and Quiet in the Wilds; Wildwood Community, Granville, MA

Ahhh... the sweet sounds of birds chirping in the morning.  Ok, maybe it was six AM, but that tells you just how quiet things are in the Wildwood planned vacation community.  Originally intended to be the "Chamonix of the Berkshires," Wildwood is a lovely vacation spot for owners and renters built around spectacular Cranberry Pond, with no motor boats and only limited cellur service (detox for us Crackberry addicts).  My dad picked it out for our summer vacation week as more peaceful alternative to the Cape.

We spent most of the week fishing, canoeing (although we couldnt bring our own canoe, dang Zebra mussle scare), and of course swimming.  Sydney spent most of the week swimming to and from one of the four beaches to the perfectly carpeted floating docks.  Until he realized there were fancy floating mats under the house.  Then he really got crazy mixing noodles, surfing and diving.  Daddy spent a lot of time going for long swims and built sand castles, mommy read all of Jane Austin's "Emma" and Elijah mastered the beach toys many purposes (check him out on YouTube).

After a long Road Trip south and Kami's recent trip to Manhattan to receive her Award at BlogHer, this was the perfect anecdote.  We only left the house to go to Tanglewood and for a couple of hikes in Granville and Tolland State Forests despite all the wonderful nearby adventures in the Berkshires.  So if you need to get away from it all, and you just want a couple hours in the car to do it, check out Wildwood.

A Lovely Tromp Through the Woods: Tolland State Forest, Tolland, MA

Perhaps when you think of the Berkshires, you think of Tanglewood or Jacob's Pillow.  But, just maybe you came with the kids to get away from it all.  Just maybe, you wanted to be alone with the fam, not surrounded by thousands of artistic junkies.  Then Tolland is the place for you.

While the motor boats on Otis Reservoir were a bit disconcerting while tromping in nature, this was a beautiful body of water.  We opted for the "Healthy Heart" Gillmore Trail.  Not simply because we just can't get enough of that wacky mother and daughter team.  More, because I really was hoping that if we didn't go too far, Liji could make the entire trek on his own two feet (re: the end of the daddy backpack please!).

Well, we started to climb and ole Liji's legs gave out, but he opted for grandpa's shoulders (phew).  Grandpa regaled us with that time that he and I summited like 70 peaks in three days, including Mt. Washington when I was just a few months older than Sydney is now.  (It was like 20 below one night at Lake of the Clouds people, and the dog almost froze!)  Ironically we had just been there, so I reminded Sydney what a crazy idea this was for a five year old.  Anyway, we had a lovely tromp, caught up on some more salamanders, checked out the woodpecker holes and made it safely back in time for lunch.  The perfect hike.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Salamanders Ho! Granville State Forest, Granville, MA

We are Department of Conservation and Resources (DCR) junkies.  I hate to admit it, but they put together a good party.  At our home base on Lake Cochituate they remove trees from your dock if a winter storm wanders by.  They maintain pristine beaches and beautiful lakes with flair.  They provide clear and accessible maps online and at each site.  I have visited a lot of state parks in my day, and I must say DCR rocks!

We set-up camp in the Berkshires this summer in Granville with dad and his longtime companion Allison.  This town is a small, former farming community near the Connecticut border, and our stay in Wildwood has been dreamy.  Swimming all day, fishing early and often and paddling our hearts out.  We went for a little change of pace this morning by starting with a hike, and the boys couldn’t have been more thrilled.

Every twist and turn of these well-maintained trails was littered with red spotted salamanders (they are both scientists, so we learned that this was like the tadpole stage of newts).  Last night, we were lucky to skip another night in the tent because it was two inches deep in water when we awoke.  But what a bonanza for the wildlife!  These salamanders crossed us at every turn.  Little peeper frogs hopped across the trail in droves.  There were so many types of fungus, my dad (or Mr. Wizard as they used to call him) couldn’t even keep up with all of Sydney’s questions.  So when you are done riding horses at Undermountain Farms, or splashing at Play Bosquet come on out to Granville for a taste of the wild.

Friday, August 13, 2010

All Tangled Up in Blue (Skies): Tanglewood, Tanglewood, MA

As a relative novice to the Berkshire scene, it appeared that no trip out here was complete without a trip to Tanglewood.  On our first visit this summer, we had plans to see our Cousin Philip play there with his colleagues in the Emerson String Quartet, but alas work called us back to Boston.  We had tried to get James Taylor/Carol King tickets, but please people, there was no way.

So this trip out we hit the nail on the head with an ole standby, the BSO.  Tanglewood has been the summer residence of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1937, and it is clear why.  This place is magical for adults and kids alike.  My dad and his girlfriend set-up camp on the lawn ahead of schedule for us with the requisite blanket, rented chairs, wine glasses and crackers.  Before the first tuning, the boys were full of snacks.

Sydney lasted through the entire performance of Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D which I fondly recalled from my long-night study sessions in college.  He and I silently worked our way through Uno and
Go Fish while he enjoyed the music.  By intermission, we were ready to join Liji and Kam on the overlook at the Kid’s Corner.  That’s right people, Tanglewood leaves open a huge space overlooking the lakes and mountains for kids to run, parents to listen and provides free snacks and arts and crafts.  Did I mention the kids got in free?  This was our first real outdoor concert with the boys, and we couldn’t have asked for better.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Into the Wilds of Natick; Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, Natick, MA

There are three Natick favs that separate us from your typical Beantown 'burbs; the Natick Community Organic Farm, Lake Cochituate and Broadmoor.  These were the reasons we moved from Brooklyn to Natick.  Less than twenty miles from Boston we have farm classes with cows and canoeing with Great Blue Herons.  At Broadmoor, we even see the occaisional beaver working on his dam.  Spring, winter, fall or summer, these bastions of rural New England living keep us sane and our kids grounded in ways that soccer practice just can't match.  

We love Broadmoor every season because of its incredible diversity of flora and fauna.  Like most other Audobon retreats, (our fav is Drumlin Farm) you can see it all with tons of info to spare for the kids. Like most Audubon spots too, birding is the big draw, and we have seen plenty.  We are certainly no birders, but we have caught our fair share of a myriad kinds of hawks, warblers, orioles, sparrows, finches and woodpeckers.  Enough to fill their page long list of suspects?  No, but enough to get excited when we caught glimpse of Mr. Owl perched high above the tree tops.

The winter is virtual wonderland, with broad meadows and snow covered tree-lined trails for cross-country fun.  Only ten minutes from Natick Commons, it feels more like northern Vermont than Wellesley when the winter winds arrive.  Their amazing programs continue throughout the cold months as well. They feature a diverse series of speakers to just get you prepped for spring or for a trip around the world.  The center is a model of green architecture; Sydney really loves the no flush compostable toilets; "why don't they smell?"  They'll tell ya.  So if you need a break from the city, head on down to Broadmoor.  It sure beats four hours on 93N in Friday rush-hour just to say you hit the Green Mountains.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tursitaventure #2; Spectacle Island, The Harbor Islands, Boston, MA

Remember George Bush the First calling out Mike Dukakis on his environmental record because Boston Harbor was like one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country?  Ok, you weren't an enviro dork in like middle school like me, but you know this water was nasty stuff in the 80's.  Well now it is a National Park.  Crazy, "keeping it for the kids" huh?

In fact, this Harbor is so popular now that we had missed the 1:30PM boat and had to take the 2:30PM.  We had enjoyed a fantastic train ride (that's how we roll to the Aquarium and Chinatown only for some reason, uhh Fenway anyone?) and enjoyed a lovely stroll with our cuz Michaela down the new Rose Kennedy Parkway, which we hit back for another roll on the carousel (two-for this weekend).

After a late, but spectacular departure from Long Warf we jetted past Castle Island out into the Harbor.  I am ashamed to admit that this was my first trip, and (hence my family's), into the Harbor.  Despite Logan, the gas tanks and the shipping containers, the skyline surrounded by sails is splendid.  We docked and were met with the sounds of the Save the Harbor, Save the Bay fundraising party.  This group is a big part of why the harbor is so clean, so we were quite glad to bop our way out to the beach.  We spent over an hour collecting spectacular sea glass, dreaming of all of the arts and crafts projects we would design (until we saw the sign asking us to "leave it for others to enjoy.")  We then took a tour of the boundary trail, stopping to pick blackberries along the way.  We were so excited that Jasper White had set-up a Summer Shack cart at the concession, only to discover that it's clambakes was for private parties.  So we grabbed a few hot dogs and reserved a spot in Cambridge at the Shack for after bedtime (the kids could read How I Became a Pirate, by Melinda Long instead).  We did get a few pirate party bags out of the deal anyway, even if those scoundrels had never used this beautiful island as their home base.  The cuzzes don't need to know.