Monday, June 16, 2014

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted...

We're currently deep in the throes of researching summer vacation options. Our goals are to keep things within a reasonable budget, but mostly to find spots that will occupy an active two-year-old (and two history- and culture-loving adults, if possible, at least once).

So, needless to say, Disney isn't on our short list. ;-)

Oh, and while I enjoy sticking my feet in sand at least once a year, my vacation doesn't have to revolve around it. The sheer number of people hitting up Cabo San Lucas or some such place, like, annually makes my head spin. Yeah, no. Not for us. I can take a day trip to hit up a local sandy-beached lake and be recharged, easy.

I happened upon a pretty cool list that helped us focus a bit better on what Hadley's level of interest might be. (Unfortunately, I totally forgot to save the link -- I'll post it if/when I stumble upon it!) I'm able to search for activities like outdoor play and children museums. His age would probably entail more animal-based outdoor things like petting zoos and farms, and environments that are more subdued and calm. Goodness knows he's active enough without adding a chaotic environment! ;-)

Here are some of our ideas beyond our local zoo (although we'll be sure to hit that up plenty) -- you know, travel-worthy endeavors.

Philadelphia seems to have lots of activities to meet our needs: 

- The Please Touch Museum (though admittedly steeply-priced, sigh - $17 each, including Hadley -- $1.50 off if I decide to renew my AAA membership, but is it really worth it?) is beyond perfect, with tactile, educational, and super fun pretend play activities designed for the under-7 set. 

- The Adventure Aquarium or Philadelphia Zoo might be good options for animal viewing. The aquarium is in New Jersey, but is one to keep in mind since it has tons of Hadley-age touch-and-feel activities. The zoo is another not-cheap joint, but the petting zoo sounds insanely cool, and considering the munchkin's love of animals, it's worth remembering.

- Plus, I've been to Philadelphia and Dave hasn't. I loved the cultural and historical activities; even just walking around the historical district would be doable for Dave and I, while towing a little guy.

And, then, there's Rochester, NY. I know, I know. From a big joint like Philadelphia to a piddly spot like Rochester? But hear me out! After all, Dave brought it up, so I have to consider it! And I can see some of the positives.

See, I've spent a bit of time in Ra-cha-cha since my two brothers attended college there and my sister-in-law is from just outside the city. But, I haven't been there in a long time, and I know my experiences there were quite isolated. So, maybe it's time to look at the city through grown-up, wife-and-mommy eyes.

- Their zoo, for example. It seems larger than our local one (gotta look into this, it might not be) and the price is cheaper for ALL THREE of us to get in compared to the Philadelphia Zoo. No kidding, whenever a kid is free, I sit up and notice. Plus, I think we may get a further discount from purchasing our Utica Zoo pass. #kaching

- Reason #1 for our gang to think about hitting up Rochester: THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF PLAY. Sorry for screaming, but yeah. It's like The Please Touch Museum only slightly cheaper (still a fee for Hadley, humph), but closer to home, JUST as cool, and (huge bonus) it has a Sesame Street exhibit (although traveling through Pennsylvania, I'm pretty sure there's a Sesame Place). Plus, if we want to shell out a few more bucks, we could check out their butterfly conservatory...that is, if we're not too exhausted by the dozen or so other activities. Side note: LOVE that they have designated spots for quiet time, partly because I know *someone* may need a nap but also because I know the need for the learning disabled kiddos who visit to have that cool-down, low excitement type of environment. Extra points, in my book, that they thought things through to this extent.

- We've got a couple of friends in the city, so we could plan to meet up. Also, I'd like to explore the city a bit, just to know what's happenin' on the western side of the state.

We're also huge Massachusetts fans. I love the history in eastern Mass (we wouldn't do Boston until Hadman's a bit older, but Lexington and Concord are my jam), and we've got some dear friends in western Mass. So, of course we could revolve our plans around an entire weekend devoted to both.

- Um, yeah, in this case hitting up the local haunts near our friends and catching up with them is kind of the main idea of the thing. We'd turn it into a weekend-long (or extended weekend) thing by planning to travel east to get my historical fix. If you haven't been, Concord not only is one of the historically significant locales regarding the start of the Revolution, but is overflowing with a wealth of other history. Several of my favorite authors lived there (shout-out, Louisa May Alcott!), and the fact that the transcendentalist movement was centered there gets me hopping with excitement. There's also a small beach that you can visit on Walden Pond (yes, THAT Walden Pond...if you don't know what I mean, we can't be friends. Kidding. Sorta.) and a nearby replica of Henry David Thoreau's tiny cabin THAT YOU CAN WALK AROUND. So. Damn. Cool. 

I don't get out much. Clearly. I mean...look at the last time I was there (I think this was the summer before we got pregnant).

I'm just awesome, aren't I? (I think I was admiring the wide-plank floor. Maybe.) Glaring super white. (Wear sunscreen, people.) Slouchy. Style for miles. Anyhoo, there's also some cute antique shops in Concord (hellooooo, Thoreauly Antiques!), as well as some neat historical spots in Lexington. Plus, knowing how much a toddler loves to run endlessly in no particular direction, Lexington Green (Lexington "Common") is perfect for that. Yep. The place where the first shots were fired in the Revolutionary War is a great place to run around, or chill with a picnic, or whatevs.

- Heading toward the Concord area, we could stop in at the Children's Discovery Museum along the way. Further westward, there's also the Children's Museum at Holyoke and the Amelia Park Children's Museum to try out. Of course, we'd check in with our friends in the area to see what their opinions are of the places and if they're worth our time and effort first. Our local children's museum is having lots of issues currently (I believe they've even closed their doors for the time being), so we'd warn our friends.

- Plus, we could stock up on some stuff for the second half of our trip at Trader Joe's (and review it, finally!) in western Mass...and there's outlet shopping nearby. Not that it's a must.

So, that's the short list. No matter where we go, I'm hoping to map out a handful of stops along the way, particularly at wide-open parks or play grounds. I'd like to find a nature walk (a super simple "hike") at a state park some place. Hopefully it'll be a relatively short one, since our guy's a in, eyes constantly down searching for a rock or a piece of bark or a leaf. We'll have to take a jar or bag, 'cuz I'm clearly an enabler.

Whatchya think? Anything we should add to our lists? Do you vote for one over the others? (We do have veto power, but it's nice to hear opinions. Might just sway us one way or another.) Oh, and while we don't eat 100% organic/natural while traveling (or ever, really...we aim for the 80/20 thing), of course we'll stop at some local eateries. However, I hope to do some research to see if there are any "local local" joints that are kid friendly and don't just serve mac 'n cheese. Plus, a cooler of food. Definitely.

What're you planning for the summer? Any fun getaways? We're also hoping to get to a local sandy spot or two, but otherwise picture me laying in a kiddie pool while Hadley stands precariously, splashing me.

Ahhhh. Summer. 


  1. Well obviously I vote for Rochester because I'm here and know 45498 things that young children & families can do in our lovely city - mostly because it's my job :P And if you decide to come out, here are two great resources that list all sorts of great family-friendly activities:
    (1) Genesee Valley Parent -
    This is the online version of the free parent magazine that is scattered around the city on a monthly basis. They. Are. Amazing. Parenting/family articles as well as lists of family-friendly festivals, farms, special events, etc.

    (2) Kids Out and About -
    The woman who started this site is a genius! She collects all kinds of family-friendly events, activities, special performances, etc. that are appropriate for a range of kids. The site is VERY useful. For example, here's a list of 20 things to do with young children in Rochester:

    And if you decided to hit up Massachusetts, you MUST check out:
    (1) The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art -
    It's located in Amherst and is on the campus of Hampshire College tucked away in an apple orchard. So adorable! There are permanent and traveling exhibits of picture book art as well as a whole interactive area where kids can create just like Eric Carle. I've been there and absolutely adore everything about it!

    (2) Forest Park in Springfield - There's tons to do there. It's a beautiful park but in addition to the green space there's a zoo, farmers market, playgrounds, carriage houses, etc. I went there a TON as a little kid and remember feeding the ducks and one of my cousins got married in the carriage house! Also, Dr. Seuss was born in Springfield so there is a cute sculpture garden. I'm sure there's tons of other things to do but these are the couple that came to mind!
    -Farmers market info -
    -Zoo review on TripAdvisor -
    -Park review on TripAdvisor -
    -Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden on TripAdvisor -

    1. Thanks sooooo much for your info!!! Of course you were on our "if we went to Rochester, we'd HAVE to hook up with..." short list! :-)

      We've actually spent a lot of time in western Mass (not as much as you, I'm sure, LOL). We went to the Carle last year when there was a Mo Willems exhibit; we look forward to going again! It's funny, we usually stay away from Springfield just because we haven't heard great things, safety-wise (I guess the same could be said of lots of places, huh?) but Forest Park sounds insanely cool!!! Thanks, again!!

    2. Oh that's right - I forgot you guys went to the Carle last year! I'm still jealous that you got to see the Mo Willems exhibit!

      And yes, Springfield isn't the best but the park is worth a stop. Even if you skip everything else in the city and just stop at Forest Park on your way to do something else :)

    3. I'm sure it'll be back SOME day soon. It must've been insanely popular for them, so I'm hoping that when Hadman's a couple years older, we'll get to go back for that specific exhibit. ;-)

      That sounds incredible. :-) And I'm pretty sure we'd do just that!

  2. Vacation planning is fun :) It sounds like you're leaning away from Philly and more toward Massachusetts or Rochester . . I say just pick one and start planning. Then if you feel reluctant, you'll know you really wanted to visit the other one. (Or, at least, that's how I know, haha.)

    1. LOL I'm so indecisive, thanks for letting me know what I'm thinking! ;-) No, really, I think we'll probably pick one of those two. :-)

  3. This all sounds like so much fun! I think for our "official" vacation, we are going to head to Chattanooga, TN and the surrounding area. It's only a 4-5 hour trip for us and there is so much to do there. I have found the page to be really helpful in finding places to visit and things to see.

    1. LOL Does it? Here I was worried we sounded like a boring bunch of crazies. That is one cool website!!! Thanks for sharing, I'll definitely use it, too! :-) (Chattanooga sounds like such a blast! You guys have fun!!)