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.

Park City Escape

A few weeks ago we went on a short 24-hour getaway to Park City with some friends, and it was a great little escape. We went up for the Deer Valley Music Festival’s Disney concert and arrived early on a Friday evening. We stayed at a great condo in Deer Valley and were able to eat dinner and settle in before the concert.

The kids loved the concert! They wanted to stay until they could hear the songs from “Frozen” which meant that we stayed until the very end, which was around 10pm. We still had to navigate the packed parking lot, but were happy to only drive a few minutes until we got to the condo. The kids went to bed immediately and we were all ready to relax and rest.

The next day, we woke and ate a casual breakfast at the condo and then headed out to Park City’s Main Street for the Kimball Arts Festival. The traffic going into Park City the day before had been really terrible since they blocked off lanes for the exclusive use of shuttle buses. We took advantage of these (free!) buses on Saturday and were able to get in and out of Main Street easily without having to worry about parking.

There was a special kids area with activities and we watched a pottery demonstration. The adults enjoyed looking at all the various artists’ work while the kids focused on things like snow cones. We had a nice lunch at a restaurant on Main Street and then headed back to the condo. The kids took a quick dip in the hot tub while the adults finished packing up and then we said goodbye to Park City!

It was a great little respite from the heat of the Salt Lake valley and felt like we were really away from the daily grind. So glad that we live near someplace that can feel like we’re so far away!

Homestead Resort Summer Concerts

To celebrate the Summer Solstice, we looked for a fun activity where we could spend the evening outdoors enjoying the longest day of the year (which was of course way past Theo’s bedtime). We met some friends in Midway, Utah to go to the Summer Concert series at Homestead Resort.

It was perfect outdoor concert weather and a very mellow, relaxed atmosphere. Much like many other outdoor concerts, it is BYOB and bring-your-own-blankets/chairs. We found a shady spot and the kids ran off to explore the area while we chatted, listened to music and had some wine and dessert.

The boys also went to explore the crater and I enjoyed having the Homestead hotel lobby nearby (with clean indoor bathrooms). They have a package where you can order a picnic dinner and even spend the night, but we opted out of this and brought our own food. At the end of the night, we changed Theo into his pajamas for the ride home (which took about 1 hour) and marveled at the sky still being illuminated by the sun at close to 10pm. He fell asleep on the way and transferred into his bed at home without a peep.

The Summer Concert series runs throughout the summer on Saturday evenings and is free, so head this way if you need a relaxing summer escape!

A Curious Destination

Today we went to visit the new Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point. To make it even more of an Adventure, we took the Frontrunner train from Salt Lake to Lehi to the museum.

I’ve mentioned the Frontrunner train on this blog before, when I mentioned taking it to the Treehouse Museum in Ogden. I have been a frequent traveler on many public transport systems while living in Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C. but I have never encountered a more pleasant commuter train ride than the Frontrunner here in SLC. It is always exactly on time, pristinely clean, and never crowded. You can take it as north as Ogden and south as Provo. We’ve ridden the entire line and I’m so glad it is an option. Anyway, kids 6 and under are free, and adults can buy a group pass that pays for itself if you have 2 adults riding roundtrip.

When we arrived in Lehi, we had to walk about 1 mile from the train station to the museum itself. It was a scenic walk along a golf course for most of the way, with sidewalks available. Once you reach Thanksgiving Point itself, there is a stretch of road into the museum where there aren’t any sidewalks so we had to walk carefully along the side of the street. It is still paved, so a stroller would be doable, but I was surprised that they wouldn’t provide a sidewalk along the main thoroughfare into the children’s museum.

It’s in sight! We made it!

The museum only opened a few weeks ago, and even on a weekday morning, it was very crowded. Like wait-outside-in-a-line-just-to-get-in crowded. I’m used to doing that going into a concert or something like that but to have restless kids involved is not as much fun. We eventually made it inside and took a look around!

We hit up every area of the museum with the exception of the high ropes course, which was an additional fee. Everything was bright and new but nothing really jumped out at me as exceptional, or unique to the museum. In fact, one of our favorite parts was going into the Children’s Discovery Garden (which they thoughtfully planned to be connected to the museum). I tend to think the most impressive part of Thanksgiving Point is still the outdoor gardens.

Overall, it was an enjoyable day trip since we involved the fun of taking the train back and forth, but it probably won’t be a very frequent destination since it’s pretty far away for what it is and about double the price of the children’s museum we have close to home. But I’m always glad to see more infrastructure being built for children and families and I’m sure it is a welcome addition to the Utah county area.

The Great Salt Lake Nature Center

If you haven’t been able to tell from my previous blog posts, I tend to prefer going on adventures that are of the indoor/climate-controlled kind. So when I kept hearing about this “Nature Center” that everyone was talking about, I was a bit hesitant, but figured I could check it out for the purpose of research for the blog. You’re welcome!

We went to the Great Salt Lake Nature Center on a day when there were barely any other visitors so we had the place to ourselves. The overall atmosphere was very tranquil. The Center is pretty much just a couple of indoor exploration rooms:

We didn’t see any staff the whole time we were there, so could’ve probably learned and gotten more out of the experience if it was guided. The larger part of the Center consists of paved trails into the Farmington Bay area of the Great Salt Lake.

Theo has this great pop-up book of bird landscapes including different bird calls. Standing in the middle of the trails, you could hear so many different kinds of birds calling out. It was like a real-life version of the book. (Yes, I know this is a ridiculous statement, but the closest thing I could relate to.)
The Pros of this activity are:
  • Large, easily navigable trails
  • Experiencing the native Utah landscape (we saw a snake)
  • Ability to hear and connect with nature
I’ll try not to focus on the Cons of this activity, but will summarize with just one word: GNATS.
Theo had a fun time and enjoyed walking along the trails and looking out over the water. And I will admit that even though I didn’t have high expectations for this activity, I did have some moments to myself that were meditative and very peaceful.