Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Queens Museum of Art

Have you been to The Queens Museum of Art yet?  If not, you are missing out on a great day trip.

The Queens Museum of Art, located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park has something for everyone.  There are exhibits on the two New York Worlds Fairs (1939 and 1964-65) as well as an absolutely gigantic panorama of New York and all its five boroughs.

Built by Robert Moses in 1964 for the World's Fair and later updated, the panorama includes every single building ever constructed in the five boroughs up to 1992.  That is a total of 895,000 structures! The panorama takes up an entire room and is incredibly detailed with every street, building, park, airport, etc.  Visitors walk around an elevated walkway looking down on the panorama.

In addition, the Queens Museum of Art is currently running an exhibit on Tiffany glass, complete with wonderful windows, lampshades and glass pieces.

There is also an exhibition on the New York City water supply system, detailing where the water originates and how far it must travel to reach New York City.  The exhibit includes a huge scale model of the New York City watershed.  Originally built for the 1939 World's Fair, the model was deemed too large and was not shown at the Fair in its entirety.  It has since been refurbished and is now on full display.

Right next to the museum is the amazing 12-story Unisphere, erected for the 1964-65 World's Fair.  US Steel built the Unisphere as a symbol of world peace.  It's 140 feet high and weighs 900,000 pounds!

Feeling hungry after your day at the museum?  Queens is full of wonderful eats.  Click HERE to read about some restaurants near the museum.  In addition, you might want to check out Korea Town  for some delicious barbecue.

Plan Your Day:  The Queens Museum of Art is located at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, New York.  The museum is open open Wednesday through Sunday 12pm-6pm.  Suggested donations are $8 for adults and $4 for seniors, students and children.  Children 5 and under are free.  Call the museum at (718) 592-9700 or visit their website HERE.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Mountain Getaway to Mont Tremblant!

This fall is a perfect time for a mountain getaway.  Mont Tremblant has so much to do and it is so wonderfully French!

The village of Mont Tremblant
Gondola ride
The village of Mont Tremblant
We visited Tremblant over the summer and found it to be charming with plenty of activities for the whole family.  Located in Quebec, Canada, Mont Tremblant is about an 8-hour drive from Fairfield County, Connecticut and offers something for everyone.  There is a pedestrian village filled with shops, restaurants and an open-air gondola to get you from one end of the village to the other.

Village gondola
At the base of the mountain are plenty of adventure activities, including luge rides, an adventure ropes/zip line course, trampolines, and gondola rides to the top of the mountain.

Luge rides down the mountain
Adventure ropes course
Adventure ropes course
Gondola ride to the summit
Hiking and biking trails abound, all overlooking the shores of lovely Lac Tremblant.  In addition, there is mini-golf, and an aqua park (indoor swimming pool) near the base of the mountain. Further afield are plenty of regulation golf courses.  The Tremblant Activity Centre can arrange massages, raft rides, boat tours on the lake and many, many other activities for you and your family.

The immense Parc National du Mont Tremblant is just a short drive away, with beautiful hikes and stunning waterfalls.

Parc National du Mont Tremblant
Parc National du Mont Tremblant
So grab your passport and enjoy all that Tremblant has to offer!  Bonne journée!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Update: The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze 2012

UPDATE:   Tickets are now on sale for this year's exciting Jack O'Lantern Blaze at Van Cortland Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, NY!  Running for 22 nights through October and early November, the Blaze features more than 5,000 hand-carved, illuminated pumpkins, including spooky spiders, super-sized dinosaurs, flying pumpkin ghosts and so much more.  This year, be sure to look for the gourd-filled jack-in-the box bouncing up and down!  The spectacle includes atmospheric music, synchronized lighting, and sound effects. 

Tens of thousands of visitors come every year and tickets sell out very rapidly.  Advance tickets are required and can be ordered online.  

Ticket prices this year are $16 for adults, $12 for children ages 3-17 (Saturdays $20 and $16 respectively).  The Blaze is free for children under 3 and for members of the Historic Hudson Valley Organization.

Here's the article I posted in 2010 about our visit:

Last night, we went to the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze with some of our friends.

The Blaze is located in Croton-on-Hudson, NY on the grounds of Van Cortlandt Manor.  (www.hudsonvalley.org/content/view/195/198/).  The Blaze is a land-art installation featuring over 4,000 carved and illuminated pumpkins.  Included in the display this year are pumpkins carved into slithering snakes, a giant spider web, a pirate boat, super-sized dinosaurs, mummies and a pyramid.

This is a very popular event, with over 65,000 visitors last year.  The event typically runs for five weeks, and most evenings sell out well in advance.  However, when I logged onto the site today,  I noticed there are still some tickets available for the very last evening, November 7th.  So if you hurry, you can still get tickets at www.hudsonvalley.org/content/view/195/198/

Some of the pumpkins are real and some are fake, but all are beautifully hand-carved.  Carving for the art pumpkins begins in June and real pumpkins are carved throughout the run of the Blaze.

Visitors follow a gravel path that meanders through the grounds.  It took us approximately one hour to walk the entire route, allowing stops for photos.  Photography is permitted, but no tripods or monopods are allowed.  Flashlights are not necessary.

This is a great event for all ages, but it is a little spooky (eerie lighting and some Halloween music add to the ambiance).  If you have younger kids, you might want to go a little earlier in the evening when it is not quite so dark.  Strollers are permitted but the pathway is narrow in parts and crowded, so I would recommend leaving the stroller behind if possible.  Be prepared for crowds--keep the kids close at hand.

There is plenty of free parking (included in the ticket price) across the street from the Manor.

Our kids loved it and were amazed at the intricate pumpkin carvings.  Great fun!

Here's a video of the Blaze:

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Rafting the Colorado River!

If you are in the mood for lots of adventure and amazing scenery, then a whitewater rafting trip down the Colorado River is the trip for you.  We recently spent 6 days on the Colorado River, traveling 189 miles through the Grand Canyon with Western River Expeditions.  It was such a memorable trip for the entire family and our teenagers LOVED it.

Our trip started in Lee's Ferry, just south of Lake Powell.  We then rafted our way through the Grand Canyon, and stopped at Whitmore Wash, 188 miles down river.

Map of 6-day rafting route
The scenery is stunning as you wind your way through the Grand Canyon and the rapids are huge and exciting.  Grand Canyon rapids are classified from Class 1(easiest)  to Class 10 (hardest) and we rode through several Class 10 rapids!  I think this video footage from my son says it all:

The six-day rafting trip does have some aggressive whitewater so the minimum age for this trip is 12.  Weather can also be a bit extreme:  air temperatures on our trip averaged 108 degrees and the water temperature was an icy 48 degrees!  The water did warm up a bit as we headed down river, but it was never warm enough to swim in for more than a few seconds.

Families with younger children can opt for the shorter 3-or 4 day trip which starts from Whitmore Wash through the lower 100 miles of the canyon.  This trip usually has tamer rapids and the minimum age is 9.  Generally, the water is warmer in the lower part of the canyon (so there are more swimming opportunities).  Air temperature and winds may be higher.

Western River operates with J-Rig boats, which are essentially 5 huge "banana boat" shaped neoprene tubes that are connected together with separate air chambers for each tube.

J-Rig Boat

The boat has a 30hp motor that the guide uses to navigate the boat down river.  All gear and food are packed on top of the J-Rig and guests sit in the front of the boat or on top of coolers/storage boxes.  An assistant guide is also on board.

There are daily stops and hikes to sparkling streams, Havasu Falls, and ancient Anasazi ruins.

Havasu Falls
Hiking up to Anasazi ruins
Anasazi ruins

The guides prepare three enormous, delicious meals each day, so you will never go hungry.  We were always impressed by our guides ability to whip up fresh baked breads and cakes using a simple grill!

Guides prepare fantastic meals


Accommodations on the trip are rustic, but perfect for this sort of trip.  Tents, sleeping bags and cots are provided.  Guests help load and unload gear from the boat.  Each guest brings a small duffle bag for the week which is safely stowed in a waterproof bag and can be accessed each evening at the camp site.  During the day, each guest has a small waterproof day pack to hold cameras, sunblock, water bottles, and anything else needed during the day.

Setting up camp for the night

Loading up the waterproof bags

Everyone bathes in the river, and bathroom amenities are basic (go in the river, or in the portable commode set in a private spot away from the campsite).

Loo with a view

No cell phone, no computers, no TV--there's no better way to get away from it all and reconnect with nature!

Western River is one of several tour operators offering rafting trips through the Grand Canyon on boats of various sizes, including Arizona River Runners, Hatch River Expeditions, Wilderness River Adventures, and Grand Canyon Expeditions to name but a few.  So find the one that best suits you and go for it--you won't be disappointed!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Restaurant Week in NYC!

Restaurant Week is back in New York City!

This year you can celebrate the 20th year of Restaurant Week in New York City with 20 days of fantastic meal discounts.  From July 16th-August 10th (that's actually 20+ days!), you can enjoy a three-course prix fixe lunch at some excellent restaurants in New York for only $24.07, and a three-course prix fixe dinner for just $35.00.

Click HERE to view a listing of participating restaurants and to make a reservation.  There are some great restaurants to choose from including Aquavit, Butter, Colicchio and Sons Tap Room, Daniel Bouloud's DBGB Kitchen and Bar, and Nobu to name but a few.

Also, if you register your AmEx card and use it four or more times at participating restaurants during Restaurant Week, you'll get a $20 credit.

Remember that Saturdays are excluded from Restaurant Week and Sundays are optional.  Beverages, gratuities and tax are not included.

Reservations tend to fill up fast at some of the more popular restaurants so book a table soon.  Bon appetit!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July 4th Celebrations!

Happy Birthday America!  This week, there are some amazing fireworks celebrations around Fairfield County, CT.    So grab your friends and family, pack up the picnic hamper and come celebrate the birth of our country.  Here are just a few highlights (feel free to post comments about your favorite fireworks venue!).

Westport July 3rd
The Police Athletic League and the Westport Parks and Rec. put on this annual show at Compo Beach.  All parking tickets have been sold out but shuttle bus passes are still available.  Rain date is July 5th. 

Photo courtesy of westport.patch.com

Ridgefield July 4th
Every year, this fireworks display draws a huge crowd.  Located at Ridgefield High School, 700 North Salem Road in Ridgefield.  Gates open at 6:00pm (fireworks are lit at dusk) and there is $15 parking pass required to park on-site (parking passes can be purchased at Ancona's Market or the Ridgefield Town Hall).  Off-site parking is available at nearby Barlow and Scotland Elementary Schools, where shuttle buses will transport people to and from the event.  Rain date is July 7th.

Photo courtesy of the Ridgefield Press

Fairfield July 4th
Head to Penfield or Jennings beaches and watch the fireworks explode off a barge in Long Island sound.  Parking is free after 6:00pm. The warm-up bands for the big show are:
  • The Atwood Express Oldies Band playing at Jennings Beach from 5:00 - 7:00 PM and 
  • The John Stevens Doubleshot Band playing at Penfield Beach from 7:00 - 9:00 PM.
Beach Parking Permits are not required and parking is free after 6:00 PM at both the Penfield and Jennings parking lots but they do fill up early.  Jennings has more ample parking.
In cases of Inclement Weather, call 203-256-3144.  Rain date is July 5th.

Photo courtesy of Nick Benson, flickr

Greenwich and New Milford July 7th

The town of Greenwich offers two fireworks displays, at Binney Park and at Greenwich Point Park, complete with a band and dj.  Both shows begin at dusk.  Rain date is July 8th.

New Milford offers fireworks in downtown New Milford (Fort Hill/Still Meadow).  There will be carnival at Young's Field, music, and a giant birthday cake constructed by the Women's Club of Greater New Milford.

photo courtesy of Greenwichtime.com