Thursday, August 28, 2014

Daddy Day Camp vol. 6, 80's Dadventures at Action Park, Vernon, NJ

"Jessie's Girl" blares over the pool side radios. Ghostbusters is in theaters. Cut Jersey boys swing from vines into deep pools like Tarzan.  The only give aways that we weren't in 1984?  The hair on the girls ain't that big, "Born in the USA" has been out for thirty years and I'm no longer  enjoying my last boyhood summer before junior high. 

None of this kept me from "bookin it" up the molten sidewalk in bare feet to the High Tide Wave pool.  Sure there are a few new rides, and the resort name has changed, but little else at this water park paradise. 

 We ate the same chicken fingers my dad bought me all those years ago under the same beach themed umbrellas. Sydney rode his christening Tarzan Swing ride, soaring twenty feet in the air over a deep clear pool. Liji, just at the 48" magic number tagged along for everything else. 

But what did we return to again and again?  That magical place where the waves are perfect, the water salt free and the lifeguards aplenty.  So if need a break from the beach and a little nostalgia in NW Jersey, this is your place. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Founding Philadelphian, The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA

As a former US history teacher who was particularly passionate about the American Revolution I have a confession to make:  I love Ben Franklin! I love that he grew up in Boston. I adore his passion for public libraries. He was an amazing ambassador to the French with his coon skin cap. But mostly I love his passion for American scientific know-how. Where better to  celebrate  than in the institution committed to his work and memory. 

We began our journey in the new Brain exhibit. It had everything from optical illusions to experiments on reflexes and the senses. Grandpa Barry studies the brain and would love this place to share with the boys. 

I hadn't been since I took a junior class there in '08, but the heart exhibit still rocks! The kids got to walk two floors up through the valves and loved exploring their anatomy. They got to peddle a bike that powered opera singers belting out lyrics on fitness. 

In the Sports Challenge center we got to see how fast they could pitch, race a wheelchair and score on a soccer goal. If we had had more time would have even ridden the circus exhibit bike across the third floor of the entrance atrium. There were so many more fun, engaging activities left to do we will need to get back for more. What a great way spend a rainy day in the city of Brotherly Love. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Daddy Day (Overnight) Camp vol. 5, Backcountry Big Apple, Harriman State Park, Stony Point, NY

Harriman State Park
Stony Point, NY

As a kid spending summers in NJ with my dad, there was no better quick escape to the wilds than Bear Mountain in Harriman State Park.  Only an hour from dad's house, we would head up here for climbing, hiking, overnights and even some cross-country.

My friend Adam and I grew up heading out of cities into the wilds.  While I led Manhattan kids into the woods at Hidden Valley, he had served the camp circuit at Beckett in the Berkshires.  Both of us have been eager to take the kids on their first overnighter.  Now we have partners in crime.

Adam suggested a moderate hike near Bald rocks in the southern half of the park.  We reached the peak in an hour, then had a leisurely mile long stroll to a lean to where we ate lunch.  We set-up camp not far from there.  It was an amazing mid-week crowd, where we didn't see another person till late in the day.  We could have been in the real back country and we were only fifty miles from the city.

We spent the rest of the afternoon setting up our bear bag, exploring and making "gnome homes."  I even pulled out the ole whisper light stove to make a huge batch of mac and cheese for dinner.  After a roaring (sanctioned by the park service, don't worry) fire back at the lean to, we sent the kids off for an early bed so we could enjoy a little adult sunset.

Us city-slickers had a little trouble with all the racket that night (crickets are louder than fire engines I guess).  But we made it up and out in no time.  Just enough to enjoy the hike out and head into Tuxedo Park for a big diner breakfast!  What a great escape from the city, and home in time today for naps (for me that is!)

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Slice of the Woods' Past, Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, NY

We have not been lucky the last two summers up at Big Moose lake with the weather.  It always amazes me that whether it's Maine, the Northern Kingdom of Vermont or upstate New York, it can be 50 degrees here and 80 at home.  

We are always searching for rainy day activities that don't include things we could do back home; movies, snacking, mini-golf. Dad had the brilliant idea of the Adirondack Museum. 

The boys were captivated with the history of this adventureland. We spent ages on the antique train that used to be a Brooklyn Rapid Transit car before becoming a mile long shuttle between two lakes. 

But besides the 12:30 feeding of the trout, the highlight was the American Mountain Man Encampment.  Mountain Man Bill and his reenactor friends showed us how to skin a fox, to shoot a rifle and throw a tomahawk.   It was another great entree for the boys into our wilderness past and the history of this amazingly scenic place. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Jersey Shore Mommyventure, Sandy Hook Beaches, Gateway National Seashore, NJ

The Jersey shore. For us kids of the 80s it conjures up tides full of hypodermic needles, trashy shore rats and the venerable East Street Band. I will brush past the infamous tv show generation and move on to my own kids who have never been here. Since mommy had a hectic week at the office, I thought we would start with a "secluded" intro, most easily accessed from NYC via a ridiculously scenic but equally overpriced Seastreak ferry from Wall St. 

While incredible for our budding oceanographers, it was a little disconcerting to mommy and me to discover boundless sea treasures washing up on shore (Ahh Jersey, still having that deoxygenated river problem from pollution thirty years later?  Might I suggest tougher clean water laws like the ones we passed in Mass.)  The boys collected rays, flounder, crabs, horseshoe and more common clam shells. 

They spent most of this mommy beach day in the wonderful surf though.  The temp was perfect, the skies blue and the waves just the right height to reach her belly and the boys' chests.  Sydney is growing into a fearless boogie boarder as Liji gets more and more comfortable with big waves.  

The food trucks were pretty nice too. It's not always easy to get as good a BBQ at the beach as we did at Hog Heaven.  The Shave ice at Kona was a wonderful way to end a perfect beach day. No boardwalk, no amusement rides, just amazing views of Manhattan, Coney Island and beyond.  A pleasant first toe into the water of the Jersey Shore. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Daddy Day Camp '14 vol. 4, Mind the Gap, Canoeing at the Delaware River Gap, Dingman's Ferry, PA

As the water rat said to the mole in the "Wind in the Willows," "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."  I took this advice very seriously at a young age and hope to instill such wisdom in my own boys.  They too were drawn to the water rat in the tale, and seem to love current as much as me.  We shall see.

Dad and I put in many times at the Delaware Water Gap when I was a kid.  Our favorite spot was Skinner Falls; a class II, certainly no class IV or nothing, just a fun run on the rapids.  The boys ran their first, albeit much smaller rapids today and were squealing like piglets.  Even our friend Mouna and Courtney, our family saviour, who had never paddled before was seduced by them.

We took the requisite lunch break.  We took a few little swim breaks along the way too.  The weather was perfect; hot, breezy with a few drifting clouds.  Courtney quickly mastered the art of the paddle.  Sydney was an amazing Captain and and Liji plugged away for a solid four and a half hours.  It was quiet, stunning wilderness only two short hours from the city.  It was a simple pleasure to be "simply messing about in boats."

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Daddy Day Camp '14, vol. 3, Pop-ups & Roller Dancers, Brooklyn BridgePark, Pier 2, Brooklyn, NY

Lanyard is back, and so is the B63 bus on another Daddy Day Camp trip. This time we headed out with our neighbors/BFFs Luke and Ruby.  After two excellent weeks together at New Country Day Camp they couldn't wait for another play date.  We stayed local, but fun and headed back to pier 2

It's always fun with these guys because you never know the combos you'll get. Today Sydney skated with Luke and Ruby helped out Liji.  I have memorized the official summer soundtrack, so I was not shocked to hear it blaring in the awesome new roller rink looking over the bridge and the Manhattan skyline.  Liji and Sydney love ice skating, so roller was just a refresher. 

But even more exciting was Mayor Mike's pop-up pool campaign.  This cute little one came replete with its own beach and Lizzmonade stand of delicious drinks. If it weren't for the 45 minute time limits to deal with a 60 person capacity, we may never have left.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Daddy Day Camp '14 vol. 2, Long Island Surfers, Jones Beach State Park, Wantagh, NY

Jones Beach State Park

We launched our second phase of Daddy Day Camp today by adding in our friends Ben, Ben and Mouna.  Mouna and Liji have been BFFs since PK and Sydney has been chilling with the Bens since K.  

I took the easy route for my first solo with five kiddos.  We hoped our alternative transit jams, the corner B63 bus, to Atlantic terminal and got the MTA Family Beach pass for $22.50 for all 6 of us, round trip! (Ironically it was the Nassau county NICE bus standing us up for 30 mins. on the return that was the only week link). 

As always, Liji, Mouna and I jumped in quick to drip castling. The boys put in a request for "Hogwarts" this time.  The big kids launched into a big surf for most of the day.  It was one of those beautiful, New York summer days where it has super hot and humid in town, but a lovely breeze by us. 

There's little that beats a day at the beach with buds. Perfect weather,  traffic-free train rides and refreshing waves on a sticky day make the grade.  Thanks MTA!  Sorry we didn't stay for the show with Fogerty and Jackson Brown.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Daddy Day Camp '14, vol. 1, Great DADventures Six Flags, Jackson, NJ

Daddy Day Camp '14, Day #1
Six Flags Great Adventure
Rye 537

Today we launched Daddy Day Camp.  We decided that the most fun way to prep for Stay-at-home dad-dom would be to enjoy a summer of fantastic with the boys.  So I left my job early and the next month is dedicated to squeezing every ounce out of August.

My kids love animals.  The also love amusement park rides.  Despite our many trips to Busch Gardens to see my uncle Arnie hard at work, we don't have that luxury in the northeast.  Except for Great Adventures.  We got to the "Safari Off-Road Adventure" early before the crowds (ok, we did get in a ride on the "Runaway Mine Train" first.  As twenty of us piled into a "safari" car and tumbled across the "continents" we hung out with gnus, 'roos, dozens of species of antelopes and a number of tigers.

Things started to heat up after lunch so we circled back around to the Saw Mill Log Flume.  While not terrifying, it was a solid soak (fake sad, faces, no worries).  Then we headed to El Toro.  While the attendant at the entrance insisted Liji could make it on, the attendant at the ride forty-minutes of waiting later confirmed my fears that this was not true and we sadly headed off in search of fun.

Getting challenged to a Stampede Bumper Car duel will bring a smile back to any face.  But, even happier was cutting the line at the Dark Knight indoor coaster with our "exit" pass from the attendant at El Toro.  But the biggest smile on the face sadly came from a stuffed Bugs Bunny and giant-headed wolf that we won at the squirt gun races.  Ahhh, know that's amusement!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Bright Lights of Broadway with "Matilda", Shubert Theater, NY, NY

One of the most important reasons for living in the "Big Apple" is the access to one of the world's most amazing performing arts scenes. It has been a good year for us both with the kids "Spider-Man, Turn off the Dark" and without "Of Mice and Men" (ok Spider-Man was not that awesome, but James Franco surprisingly was). 

We racked up playbills this year like we owned the place.  But by far the best performance  has been this adaptation of the amazing Roald Dahl book, "Matilda."

Perhaps you are living on another planet and never experienced "Willy Wonka" or "The Witches," but if you have, you know that there is no greater children's author dead or alive. "Matilda the Musical" did not disappoint (and I hate musicals and book adaptations in general). From the fantastical moving "scrabble" set to the nine year old lead that nailed it, our boys were equally inspired to tryout one day for the "Great White Way."  So whether you're in town for good or the weekend, make it out to see this show before it's too late!