Spend a Couple Hours »Ravenna Park

ravenna5520 Ravenna Ave NE

When I catch a glimpse of the mountains in the distance I realize we’ve barely begun to understand and experience the beauty of this part of the world.

Ravenna Park, just one of many parks in the city, for example, not only has a playground where Van has made his first mud cakes but trails leading into old growth forest. Within a couple minutes you feel like you are in the woods because, well, you are. We’ve only delved in briefly but felt transported.

The half mile of greenery is all that remains of a large forest that was almost logged into non existence. Thankfully it was saved and is now a welcome quiet spot for hiking, picnicking and playing.

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Posted on April 27, 2013

Spend a Couple Minutes »Jane’s Carousel

56 Water Street  Brooklyn

This morning was perfect for an impromptu trip to Jane’s Carousel in Dumbo with Van’s buddies Leo and Everett.

The ferry is really the easiest way to travel the city with small kids and we were lucky enough to catch them just in time.

The carousel, a lovely classic that was painstakingly restored by artist Jane Walentas is set in a glass structure along the water offering nice views of the city.
Great 4th of July activity.

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Posted on July 4, 2012

Spend a Couple Hours »Mystic Aquarium

55 Coogan Blvd. Mystic, CT

Sorry for our absence but we were on vacation.

Part of the trip took us to the delightful Mystic Aquarium where we spied beluga whales (my favorite), jellyfish, sharks, penguins and poison dart frogs (Van’s favorite – by far).

While admission is pricey, it’s worth it for kids to see animals up close they’d otherwise rarely get a chance to. It’s a clean, pleasant place that doesn’t feel too crowded even when it is and has staff on hand to give information about all the animals.

We skipped the 3D movie but it would likely be fun for older kids.

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Posted on June 26, 2012

Spend a Couple Hours »East River State Park

Kent Ave. between N. 7th and N. 10th

Not everyone will agree with me because it’s over grown, is adjacent to construction, and frankly, rather odd, but I find the playground at the East River State Park charming and strangely dreamy.

It’s like a faraway, mixed up childhood memory: abandoned tracks lead to a wooden child sized train, ancient looking ruins from jut up beside pint sized hidden bridges.

It’s especially special on overcast mornings when no one else is around and as for the construction, well, nothing could make a playground visit cooler to Van than the view of a real live digger.

As it’s nestled among a larger park, I didn’t even know about it until fairly recently. It’s a neighborhood gem and, selfishly, one I hope stays a bit hidden.

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Posted on June 13, 2012

Spend a Couple Hours »Free Children’s Concert at McGolrick Park

Music, Puppets, and Sidewalk Chalk

As is in evidence in the above photo, the seeds of Van’s rock and roll dreams made have been planted thanks to one Mike Messer of The Dirty Sock Funtime Band.

Today’s Free Concert for Kids at McGolrick Park featured the singer as well as puppets and chalk drawing.

The park and the Open Space Alliance are making great efforts to make the lovely park more involved in the community and especially the local kids and hope to have more events like this in the future.

A similar show is scheduled at Cooper Park June 15th.

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Posted on May 18, 2012

Spend a Couple Hours »Prospect Park Zoo

450 Flatbush Ave, Prospect Park

The city offers so much for babies and kids.. so long as you can manage getting from A to B with baby, a days worth of stuff, stroller and sanity.

But nothing helps get you out of your comfort zone better than a new, adventurous friend, so thanks Rachel and Spike for inviting Van and I on a day long excursion (and our first time with the stroller solo on subway) to the lovely little Prospect Park Zoo!

The park is intimate and small, just like I like them. Kids get to see all the animals pretty close up, and as you can see, Van’s reaction to seeing a real live monkey for the first time was priceless.

There is a great petting zoo complete with food to feed the llamas, sheep and goats as well as a wooden milking station that kids were queuing up for.

The sea lions get center stage in their giant pool and we were there just in time for a feeding, which Van specifically woke up from a hard earned nap to watch.

My favorite though, had to be the Pallas Cat, which looks like a real life version of Grizabella. She was elusive (hence no photo) but it was amazing to see the line of babies go nuts when she made an appearance.

This is an excellent park for young kids, not too big or exhausting with the beauty of Prospect Park just outside its walls for additional strolling.

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Posted on September 1, 2011

Places to Visit »Battersea Park

London, Guest Written by Dana:

I have been coming to Battersea Park at least once a week, if not 3-4 times a week for the past 4.5 years of my life in London. a few cafes, a children’s petting zoo, ducks and swans in the lake, huge playground with areas fenced off by age group, big fields, beautiful gardens, fountains, ice cream.. probably the most underrated London park and my favorite.

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Posted on June 9, 2011

Places to Visit »Jacob Riis Beach

Rockaway Beach Blvd. at Channel Dr.

Jacob Riis was a fearless photographer who used muckraking tactics and his camera to enact major changes in the slums of New York City. The beach named for him is a lovely stretch of south shore sand in the Gateway National Recreation Area that is a quick drive out of the city. It’s popular with families, boom box toting kids, and an eclectic crowd of sunbathers.

One of the parks most popular attractions are the barbecue fields that were absolutely swarming with grilling sausages, bananas (what a great idea!), and burgers and large extended families making the best of the hot summer. Come early if you want to claim a spot.

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Posted on July 25, 2010

Places to Visit »Grand Canyon

In The Northwest Corner of Arizona

It was one a road trip from Las Vegas to Texas when Jim, Stacy and I saw the epic natural National Park, The Grand Canyon. It was not a clear, technicolor dream day like the one in the photo, but a chilly, foggy day that didn’t make the stunning site any less amazing and memorable. Unfortunately, I can’t currently find my photos from the day, but I plan to return as there is nothing parallel to the view.

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Posted on June 27, 2010

Places to Visit »Clarence Fahnestock State Park

Rte 301, Carmel NY 10512

While Jim and I wimped out and only opted for day camping (a four month pregnant belly and ground sleeping don’t equal happiness), I must say the Clarence Fahnestock State Park is a lovely spot to get in tune with nature, build a comforting and perfect smelling wood fire, throw hot dogs (in this case, incredible ones from Schaller and Weber) on the grill, laugh with friends, and roast some mega sized marshmallows.

While eating and relaxing under a canopy of high trees plus a few games of bocce ball was about all we took part in, the nearby State Park (only about an hour and twenty minute drive in regular traffic) offers lots of hiking trails, and ponds for canoeing. Our camp mates even found some caves on a short hike nearby the camp site. Unlike the better known Bear Mountain across the river, here beer is welcome (of course so long as you are respectful and clean up after yourself). Once I am in more rugged mode, this would be a great place to return to for a couple nights of real, if not too tough (other campers are within shouting distance, the highway’s only a short ride away and running water bathrooms are available nearby) nights of roughing it in the kind-of wild.

Stop by Stew Leonards on the way up for provisions, make sure to bring along someone as handy with a tiny stove and a dutch oven as our friend Mike (who made a kicked up chicken chili verde and a blueberry cobbler with little more than a knife and ingredients) and make sure to pack some seats (which was the one of the only comforts we forgot).

Click here for the rest of Clarence Fahnestock State Park

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Posted on May 23, 2010

Spend a Couple Minutes »The Highline

from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues

With 50 mile per hour winds, it may not have been the most brilliant day to bring my family to the Highline Park, but even the threat of getting whisked away didn’t damper the experience (well, except for my nephew Bixby, who found the threatening winds to be not at all to his liking). It’s taken me this long to finally see the lovely park that itself took so long to be realized. Once a functioning freight rail the structure sat unused and rotting for decades until The Friends of the Highline saved it from destruction and helped to build the new, sprawling park that offers great views, lots of room to relax, and various wild flowers. It also “offers a hopeful model for industrial reuse for other cities around the world.” I certainly will be trying to make more visits as the weather continues to improve.

Click here for the rest of The Highline

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Posted on May 9, 2010

Places to Visit »Park Guell, Barcelona

park guelldesigned by Gaudi

Park Guell, designed by the inventive architect Antoni Gaudi, was originally intended to be an aristocratic housing development on the outskirts of the city but the houses never developed and the city ultimately bought the land back and turned the area into a public park; it’s one of the most spectacular places to visit in Barcelona. After a long uphill amble, we spent the better part of the day exploring the winding paths, nooks and crannies, wizard-like structures, vibrant mosaics, and gorgeous views.

We didn’t come in through the main entrance, with its tile dragon and sprawling staircase, but rather through a side passage near the terraces; a peaceful area where birds nest and there are many quiet spots to sit and enjoy the Mediterranean weather (it was in the mid sixties).

From a distance we spotted an ancient looking cross atop a nearby hill that we eventually made our way toward. This is the Turo dels Tres Creus (the Hill of the Three Crosses) a spot originally slated to host a church but now looms over town like something out of a Pasolini or Bunuel film and offers 360 degree views of the city.

There’s a main square where the public can lounge on magnificent mosaic benches and nothing is more spectacular than looking out on Gaudi’s totally sci-fi wizard tower-meets-Dr Seuss constructions; Gaudi truly transformed the city with his whimsical and wild creations and Guell is one of his crowning achievements. If you plan on going, give yourself lots of time to explore and enjoy this most beautiful park. This was one of the highlights of our recent trip.

Click here for the rest of Park Guell, Barcelona

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Posted on January 10, 2010

Spend a Couple Minutes »McCarren Park Farmers Market

greenpoint farmers marketretfully, we have just not taken advantage of the weekly McCarren Park farmer's market until this summer. Fresh produce and other treats are such a great thing to have access to.

The Ronnybrook stall is probably the most exciting with their ice creams and pints of delicious milk but Jim is thrilled about the apple cider from Red Jacket Orchards and I got some great looking dill, carrots, and radishes today.

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Posted on August 10, 2009

Places to Visit »Whiteface Mountain and The North Pole

On my first foray into the beautiful Lake Placid region of the high peaks of the Adirondacks we made two stops. The first was the regionally well advertised North Pole. In retrospect, to avoid seeming like creeps with a video camera, I'd save the excursion for when I have a child.

They'd appreciate the three little piggies in the petting zoo, the pole made out of real ice, the dismal little train ride, and the teenage productions of the first Christmas a bit more than an adult might. We did however make the teen's day that as in charge of speaking as “Tennenbaum” the talking tree and the wishing well gnome. He got lots of chances to riff on Jim's beard.

Just further along the road you can drive up to the summit of Whiteface Mountain. Even on a foggy day like the one we went offered spectacular views at various stopping points. At the top you can either climb or take a cave elevator to the castle at the very top. We opted for the easy way out.

Our summer vacations seem to be haunted by fog and consequently we again (just like in Block Island) experienced nature in a unique way. The mountain top seemed eerie and otherworldly with ghost like wisps of cloud traveling across them.

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Posted on July 27, 2009

Places to Visit »Inwood Hill Park

inwood hill parkInwood Hill Park is home to the real New York of old, back when the island of Manhattan was all trees. The peaceful, quiet, and very green park that featured wide, winding trails for walking is an oasis within the city and one of the nicest parks I've been to in the area. Hard to believe that busy highways and giant hamburgers (served on the rare side at the sports bar circa 1970 Piper's Kilt around the corner) surround the serenity of these huge and ancient trees.

We only explored a portion of the paths, which immediately give you the sense that you'll become lost forever with the myriad splitting of trails and lack of any signs, but really, it ends up being pretty easy to navigate so long as you keep the river (with lovely views of the Bronx) and the city of Inwood as your guides.

It's Manhattan's second largest park next to Central, but fairly unknown and forgotten. Use that to your advantage and enjoy secluded walks in the shade of nature this summer.

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Posted on June 1, 2009

Places to Visit »Twin Island Nature Hike

You really doesn't have to travel far from the heart of the city to feel like you've entered another world. After a meal of clam strips and milk shakes at Jonny's Reef on City Island, friends and I took a gray, hazy day walk through the Twin Islands Nature Hike at Orchard Beach. The trek began with a rare glimpse of a black squirrel and a shoe-destroying muddy path that eventually lead through the trees to an apocalyptic looking beach.

Broken down boats litter the rocky marsh and huge horseshoe crabs cry out in distress in the Bronx. Fortunately Jim and Mike were there to save them (after using an iPhone we found out that horseshoe crabs are often in need of assistance – a campaign called “just flip em” even began in the area – we also learned that their stingers are not poisonous, but it was still unnerving to watch them being picked up since they look like alien spiders on the inside).

More paths (speckled with poison ivy, so do be careful) lead to more strange landscapes and views. From a stone hill you can look out at both the city's Potter's Field and an island with what looks like a huge grounded boat right off its shore, Mike discovered this is actually a decommissioned naval training center.

While the nature trail (which we sort of crisscrossed parts of) is not a difficult walk, it can be a bit tricky with all the mud and uneven footing, so do wear appropriate footwear.

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Posted on May 18, 2009

Spend a Couple Minutes »Newtown Creek Park

newtown creek parkGreenpoint's Newtown Creek Nature Park is a hard park to love. The entrance walkway, if you can manage to find it down eerie industrial streets with only the aid of a huge rock to point you the way, gives one a sense of what it might be like to walk towards your own execution. It offers glimpses of the huge sewage plant that it surrounds and dying rusted out bulldozers with metal for windows.

Once you get to the water front, strange text greets you carved in stone. I don't know what “O Jik Ha Da Ge Ga” means but with the fog and the spacey shit tits in the distance it felt like it was some ancient outer space druidic ritual text. It's the kind of place that, at least on a dreary gray day, makes any signs that “others” have been there creepy. Maybe it was the fact that who ever was there before us had left (again) alien looking swirls in the sand and had blown up a bird (sorry, I took no photos of that). The park designers dangerously decided to make most of the marble go straight into the polluted water with no railings or barriers. I believe it could have been designed for the purpose of easy body disposal.

Still, it's our park or as it claims “nature walk” and neighborhood pride is a funny thing so we love it. Like a bold attempt in Sim City to clean up a major industrial part with one square of park, the city's made me a little less unhappy about the huge and smelly sewage plant.

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Posted on March 30, 2009