Boston – fab destination for a long weekend with young kids

Yet another day off school last week – this time to celebrate Columbus Day. American public holidays are completely different to the Brits’ – like only one day off for Christmas, but then a day half way through January for Martin Luther King Day. Taking advantage of the fact that this particular holiday fell on a Monday, we took the Friday off too and went to Boston for the long weekend.

Initially we thought we’d like to take the train, until we worked out the return fare for a family of four was double hiring a car. Poor old C ended up doing all the driving, since the whole driving-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road thing still freaks me out. We took the more scenic I-95 route, stopping for lunch in Mystic, Connecticut – who knew that Mystic Pizza is a real place?
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Prospect Park Zoo – good for younger kids

Prospect Park Zoo - Golden Tamarind
Golden Tamarind

It was Yom Kippur and Eid Al-Adha last week, which caused many of the New York schools to close for a few days. T and I took the opportunity to keep exploring, so we tried Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Zoo.
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Three great carousels in New York

Carousels are endlessly popular with our two girls, it is their ultimate weekend treat. In case any of you are in a similar boat, here are three of our local favourites:

Seaglass Carousel in Battery Park - Carousels
SeaGlass Carousel, Battery Park
  • SeaGlass Carousel – Battery Park, Manhattan. $5 per ride, or $45 for a pack of 10

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MoMath – perhaps Maths can be fun after all

We’re finally back in New York after a gloriously long stint in the UK.  B’s daycare is open pretty much all year round, but T’s school shuts for a staggering twelve weeks over the summer. It has been quite a challenge to keep her occupied all that time, even with our trip home, and without spending a fortune. (New York is quite extraordinarily expensive – $7 for a tiny punnet of raspberries).

One particularly successful outing was to MoMath – the Museum of Mathematics. Its strap line is “The coolest thing that ever happened to math!”, which I was v skeptical about. But actually, it really was cool. Even for me, who has to sit and concentrate to work out what 18% tip should be.
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Exploring the Bronx Zoo

We’ve lived here almost a year now, astoundingly, and realised we still hadn’t ventured north of Central Park. So we decided to go really far north, all the way up to The Bronx for the famous Bronx Zoo. And so glad we did, as it’s the best zoo we’ve ever visited.

We took the number 5 train all the way up to 180th East Street (hadn’t realised before this that the street numbers continue right off Manhattan up into The Bronx), which took well over an hour. The station was a little run down, with lots of posters warning you to ‘be smart and not to flash your smart phone around’. But just a few minutes’ walk away we reached the zoo, and were wrapped up in all the wildlife and greenery. Such a treat to escape the pressure cooker that is Manhattan in July for a few hours.
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Free kayaking on the Hudson – fantastic family outing

Another New York bucket list item ticked off today – kayaking on the Hudson River. One of our favourite weekend activities is a long walk up the west edge of Manhattan along the Hudson River Park, as the views are fantastic, you don’t have to constantly cross roads, and there are so many family friendly activities (warranting another blog post later this summer). We’ve often stopped to watch the colourful kayaks paddling about on the river. Today we decided to give it a go.

On Pier 26, near the corner of West and North Moore Streets in Tribeca, lives the Downtown Boathouse. Completely free and run by suntanned, friendly volunteers, you can introduce your kids to kayaking with a stunning urban backdrop. The Downtown Boathouse rules are simple – ‘Everything is free. The only thing that we ask for is that you kayak safely.’ Everything is provided, from child size life jackets, sunscreen and ice popsicles afterwards. All you need is to bring a change of clothes and sunglasses, as it can get v dazzling on the water.
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Best NYC museum for dads and kids – Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

With Father’s Day looming, wanted to write about what must be the best New York museum for dads and kids – the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. It is cool. ‘Top Gun’ cool. It even has Top Gun quotes dotted about.

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Our favourite playgrounds in Lower Manhattan

In a city where hardly anyone gets a garden, playgrounds are essential. Luckily, they’re everywhere, squeezed into unlikely corners between busy roads or empty building lots. The water fountains have just been turned on, so Summer is just around the corner. (Spring and Autumn are ridiculously quick seasons here). Have now added swimming costumes, flannels and suncream to the general clutter under the pushchair, ready for impromptu drenchings in the fountains.

I love this about New York playgrounds, almost all of them include water play. The kids are entertained for hours, joyfully skipping under the cold water and rushing out again with shocked expressions, before heading straight back in again. B’s nappies get so waterlogged, they drag around her knees. It keeps the kids in one place, too, so much less stressful for me trying to keep track on where each child is at any given moment. On the downside, it’s even harder to get them to leave. Resorted to striding into the water to catch slippery, giggling children and frogmarch them home for supper, covered in wet sand. At home in England I could have hosed them down in the garden, but that’s not possible on the 38th floor. Instead it’s gritting your teeth and holding them in the water stream as you get completely soaked too.
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Exploring the Liberty Science Center

Liberty Science Center
B hugging a cardboard Ernie

I’m terrible at maths. It’s like the numbers drop into a black crevasse, they just vanish. C is v keen to make sure our girls grow up with a better grasp of numbers and science than me, so he suggested a visit to the Liberty Science Center as a good, fun introduction. We can actually see it from our apartment window, across the Hudson River on the edge of Jersey City.
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The Sound of Melting Snow

Literally over night, Winter has finally shoved off and given way to Spring. About time, too. Was getting heartily sick of all the Facebook snaps of English woodland flowers, when we’re still trudging through slush and snow in freezing winds, passing men using hammers to break the ice on the pavement. But no longer, folks, it’s Spring. You can actually hear the sound of melting snow. Bang on time, as the clocks went back this weekend and the all the city’s ice rinks were duly dismantled and boxed up for another year. Continue reading “The Sound of Melting Snow”