Category Archives: Places To Go

Great places to go with boys

Feed the Birds While They Fly

This post is so long overdue – I’ve been planning it since last Chol Hamoed!

If you haven’t been to the New York Aquarium recently, it’s worth a trip.  There was much damage from hurricane Sandy, so many exhibits are closed, but the sea lion show is so fantastic that it makes the trip worthwhile.  In fact, when we were there on Succos, we watched the show twice.

Of course, no trip to Coney Island is complete without a stroll along the boardwalk, and a detour to the beach.  One of the boys threw a crumb to a sea gull, and soon there were hordes of the white birds hovering around, clamoring for more.

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Diggerland USA

I had seen the ads for Diggerland several times.  The originality of the tractor theme appealed to me, but there were too many reasons not to go: I prefer to take my children to somewhere that is at least marginally educational, even if the extent of the education is to see a new corner of Hashem’s universe,  Diggerland is relatively expensive, and besides, it’s far.

So why did we finally go? Maybe it was the fact that our Pesach guests brought four more boys under age ten into the house – I knew we had to go somewhere that would be boy-heaven!  The fact that they had come from Israel also helped me look away from the high cost, as our guests wanted to experience America as fully as possible.

So, what’s the dig on Diggerland?  It was absolutely fantabulous!  Everyone had a grand time, from age 4 to 44!

What did we like?

1. You can see almost the whole place from just about anywhere.

During the first few minutes, I tried hard to keep everyone at my side, so I could keep track of where everyone was.  But after a while, I realized that due to brilliant planning, it really wasn’t necessary.  You can see almost the whole park from any spot, and it’s pretty easy to find your kids when you need them.  The rides in the center are adjacent to each other, take up less space and cutting down on the places where a person can get lost.  Also, all the rides in the middle are low to the ground, so nothing blocks your view.  The  taller rides are around the perimeter of the park.  There is just one ride that is entirely on the other side…not too bad for a theme park.

Of course, you can always ride the Sky Shuttle up into the sky for the best view!

2. There’s so much to do!  Tractors, tractors everywhere!

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Floyd Bennett Field – A Gem Close to Home

For years, our Chol Hamoed motto was “an extra half hour in the car to save two hours on line,” and we traveled far and wide in every direction from NYC.  We did Mystic Seaport and Norwalk, Philadelphia, Lancaster, Scranton, and NJ from North to South and East to West. Then Itty was born.  Itty got nauseas in the carriage when I drove it over pebbly concrete as a newborn.  She threw up in a car ride to my niece’s graduation, and again when I headed out by car to thirteenth avenue to run some errands. Since then, we go where we can  get with a carriage.

Occasionally, we prepare for the inevitable (bags, towels, bibs, wipes, air freshener, change of clothing), and head out for the closest attraction we can get away with, while still satisfying the older children’s craving for excitement.  To our surprise, we’ve found an inordinate number of things to do rather close to home, and they were not nearly as crowded, even on Chol Hamoed, as I had expected.

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5 Trips for Boys on the Way to the Country

We have a family tradition of sorts of stopping off on the way to the country for a rare family trip.  It’s often our only chance, as the rest of the summer the boys have a full schedule, and there’s no time to take them anywhere.

Here are some of our most successful trips.

1. Sterling Hill Mine, Ogdensburg, NJ

This mine of semi-precious stones is no longer active, but the tours and museum are fascinating.  You get to go down the tunnel into the mine shaft, and the guide gives a true-to-life description of the mining experience during the mine’s heyday.  Be on time for the one tour a day at 1:00 pm, and take along a sweater – it gets chilly down there!

2.  Philipsburg Manor, Sleepy Hollow, NY

This is an 18th-century estate, and it’s considerably well-preserved.  The tour of the manor house includes many interesting gadgets and household items that were typical of those times but surprising to a 21st-century child, such as the washing cup and matching chamber pot!  The working mill, the barn where they can winnow wheat or card wool, are all part of the experience.

Our first impression of the place was that we would be done in fifteen minutes…after two hours, my boys still had questions for the guides, and were still asking to go back to the barn ‘one more time.’

3. Wild West City, Stanhope, NJ

Like with everything in the Wild West, attend this attraction at your own risk!  I cannot vouch for the suitability of the shows; most were fascinating, but some had (what else?) shooting.  The shows are not on screen, but rather take place live in the center of Main Street.  You can work out your day to visit the Mountain Man, the school house, or other stores and sites of interest during the shows you prefer to miss.  But don’t miss the carriage ride into the woods…and better watch out for bandits!

This place ranked five-stars for my boys, but girls might not appreciate the atmosphere!

4. Space Farms Zoo and Museum

Don’t let the name throw you off.  Although the zoo is located on the original farm of the Space Family, these are not your typical barnyard specimens!  Gear up to meet numerous varieties of lions, tigers and bears, in addition to some tamer species.  If you’ve ever been to animal feedings in other zoos, you know about standing around for a twenty minute lecture before watching the penguin eat three fish.  At Space Farms, if you are there at feeding hour, you can chase after the golf cart and watch the zookeeper toss enormous steaks to salivating carnivores, one after another.  All action, no speeches.

There is also a substantial museum whose collection includes scores of antique cars, motorcycles and farm equipment, plus old toys and much more.

5. Park Ruach Hachayim, Monroe, NY

This summer, if it works out, we’d like to visit the park in Monroe, NY that we’ve heard so much about.   It’s called Ruach Hachayim, and it’s operated by the kehillah in Kiryas Yoel, with separate play areas for girls and boys.  It’s just over a year old, and from what we’ve heard, it is massive and has amazing climbing equipment.  The park is not open all the time, so it’s important to call first for information.


Trip Tips for Chol Hamoed, Summer Fridays or Anytime

(To see the article as it appeared in Hamodia, click the link below)

Dread the Chol Hamoed refrain of ‘where are we going today’?  Just as you prepare your menus and groceries in advance, and you make sure everyone has fresh white shirts and new hair bows, it’s worthwhile to take the time during the weeks leading up to Yom Tov and plan your Chol Hamoed.

I remember leaving a place at 3:30 pm.  We had been there since 11:00 am, and had enjoyed immensely.  I couldn’t help noticing the long lines of frum families waiting to enter.  Entrance fee was over ten dollars per person, and the place closed at 5:00.

It was a shame that they had traveled so far, and would be paying so much for such a short time.  If you’re going to take your family out, you might as well be smart about it!

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