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This mine of semi-precious stones is no longer active, but the tours and museum are fascinating.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.