Freenotes Harmony Park – Moab

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Last summer, I wrote a post about Fun Playgrounds around the state of Utah. They were spread all over the state and I didn’t know if we would ever have the chance to visit any of them in person. We spent last weekend in Moab, Utah and while I was planning our itinerary of activities, I remembered the post and the playground in Moab! I actually had to search through my archives and find the reference so I could be reminded of what exactly the playground was. And we made it!

The Freenotes Harmony Park in Moab is a part of their Rotary Park and is tucked away from the main town of Moab. It is quiet and relatively lush (green grass and trees) which is a contrast from the red rock and sand you see everywhere else. As soon as Theo saw the large musical instrument structures, he exclaimed, “This is awesome!”

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The philosophy behind the Freenotes Harmony parks (there are several around the country) is that recycling materials into aesthetically pleasing (both visually and aurally) structures in a natural setting can produce educational opportunities for kids. There were a lot of different types of “instruments” to play — from banging on drums to using the provided mallets to hit chimes and pipes. It was beautiful to hear all of the kids playing, even as we were walking away from the park back to our car.

I’m so glad we got the chance to try out something that I had once recommended on this website but hadn’t actually tried — and to discover that we indeed loved it! We had a great time in Moab (perhaps a post for another day) but it was a special treat to stop by this park.

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Field Trip to Provo: Origami Exhibit

We don’t often go down south to Utah County on our adventures, but we took the opportunity to head to Provo yesterday to visit the wonderful “Folding Paper” exhibit at the BYU Museum of Art. We recently went to an activity at our local public library where they had the Origami Lady show the kids how to do various simple origami projects. Theo loved it and we ended up folding origami hearts for him to give out as Valentines to his classmates. When I saw that there was this exhibition so close to us, I wanted to check it out.
It was my first time at this museum and I was really impressed. It is a beautiful space and the other exhibitions were also lovely to see. The Folding Paper exhibit met all of our expectations. We saw amazing examples of origami, and beautiful displays about the history and art of origami. Everything was made out of paper and they were incredible.

One of our favorite parts of the exhibit was this station where they set out iPads and origami paper, so that we could try folding some of it ourselves. (I admit, while you’re looking at all the art, you’re thinking to yourself, “I want to try this!”) The iPads had a great app on them where they had videos and illustrations walking you through how to fold various projects. The app is available to download for iPhones and iPads on the iTunes store and is called Folded BY-U. I love that origami is a combination of art, geometry, fine motor skills and really is a fun activity. Try it out, either at home or by visiting the museum!

New York City Adventure

We went on a family trip to New York City last week and it was Theo’s first time there! It is one of my favorite cities in the world and I was excited to share it with Theo and experience it through his kid perspective. We found a great deal on JetBlue (nonstop: redeye on the way there [Theo slept through it all] and late evening on the way back) and decided to go at this time of year since we would be able to see all the Christmas decorations and the city all decked out for the holidays.

Macy’s Store Windows

We had a great time and Theo was a trooper to walk many, many blocks and ride the subway and go along for the adventure. We also got to try some new things like waiting in a line around the block to get into FAO Schwarz, which was definitely something I had never experienced before. 🙂 We went to the American Museum of Natural History and saw the big dinosaur bones and the huge whale replica.

Enjoying Central Park on a sunny day.

We bought weekly subway passes for each of us that gave us unlimited rides. Towards the end of our trip, we discovered that Theo actually didn’t need one. A fellow rider said that he was free, and when I went to double-check with the subway attendant (ever the rule-follower), they told me that there wasn’t an age restriction, just a casual height restriction, meaning that as long as the child could duck under the gates easily, they could just pass right through. Well, that was a tip we wish we had known earlier!

Big Floor Piano at FAO Schwarz

Before our trip we had looked at some architectural pictures of famous buildings in the city and Theo had fun seeing the real life Empire State Building and Chrysler Building. He also got to experience getting jostled around on the streets (the busiest I’ve ever seen it was trying to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center; I held onto Theo’s hand so tight).

Pro subway rider

The trip was so fun but the best part was coming home and having refreshed understanding and gratitude for everything we have here: our beds, our house, our cars and wide, non-trafficky streets… There are benefits of every place, and being able to travel and see for ourselves what those benefits are is one of the best things in life.

Free Museum Day – Thanks, Smithsonian!

I’ve written before about how much I love the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. It is amazing that we have these resources available for FREE. And now we can thank them again, as they offer their “Museum Day Live!” program, which is a day that museums around the country are offering free admission. This year, it is on Saturday, September 27 and two local (SLC) museums are participating:

Once you register, you can download a voucher for 2 free admission tickets (which you can conveniently show on your smart phone — printing hard copies is so last decade). On the Smithsonian site is also a comprehensive list of other museums around the state that are participating, but I thought these two were the most relevant to a SLC and child-oriented audience.
For your consideration, here are the detailed comparisons between the two options:
  • Discovery Gateway
    • Open from 10am-8pm on Saturday, Sept. 27
    • Usual Admission price: $9.50 for anyone over age 2
  • The Leonardo
    • Open from 10am-5pm on Saturday, Sept. 27
    • Usual Admission prices: $9 for adults, $7 for children age 6-11, Free for children 5 and under
    • The Leonardo has special exhibitions that you can “upgrade” to see by paying an additional fee
We have been to both museums and I think they are both great. Being value-minded, I tend to consider which one is the most “bang for your buck” in terms of getting free admission. So it will of course depend on the size of your family and the ages of your children, plugging in the formula of how much it would cost you to pay on a regular admission day vs. this free museum day.
But I think it is a great opportunity to check out a place you may not have been before, or take advantage of a favorite and visit it again!

Long Train Journey

Last month we went on a true Adventure when we took the Amtrak train (the “California Zephyr”) from Salt Lake City to Colorado (Glenwood Springs). Our final destination was Snowmass Village, Colorado (which is near Aspen) where we attended the Utah Bar convention.

The train trip itself went very well — even though it was 9 hours each way. We brought our portable DVD player (along with several “new” DVDs we borrowed from the library) and busied ourselves with napping, watching the scenery along the way, and stopping at the cafe cart for snacks.

The Snowmass Village area was beautiful and we enjoyed taking several gondola rides and going on hikes in the area. We went swimming every day at the hotel pool and had some great meals. We even stumbled upon an outdoor concert with a great view of the entire valley.

Although we had a great vacation, there was definitely a downside to our grand train adventure. The trains were insanely delayed both times. By several hours. Train travel in the US is definitely not for people who are on any kind of schedule or timeframe — it is only best enjoyed if you have no pressing need to arrive at your destination at any particular time. We also had to deal with leaving and arriving in the middle of the night (3-4am). Theo was a trooper and took it all in stride, but this means of travel may not be in our future ever again. Perhaps this is only what it’s like in the Mountain West (we’ve taken Amtrak on the East coast without any problems lots of times) but if you need to travel between California and Chicago (which is the route our train took) be prepared to do a lot of waiting and be very relaxed about your schedule.