Navigating the Paul Smiths VIC

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Before moving to the Adirondacks, I always had my “go-to” activities to entertain Flynn and Nola. I knew how to navigate the situation with two under two from bathrooms, to length of time, to what to pack and when to eat. When we were first living in Lake Placid, Flynn, Nola and I created a few places to hang and set about a new rhythm that matched the (at times limited) offerings of our new town. (read about our new normal here) Fast forward two years and two more kids, we have a list of places that I know I can either navigate alone with all the kids or where we can get a good number of hours and keep everyone happy on the rare chance we are all together. I will admit winter is a hard one for us because the bulk of fun active activities often require a second adult to keep everyone engaged, but winter is when Dominique is least available. I have high hopes for this upcoming winter now that I am not pregnant and won’t have an infant in tow, plus the big two are getting a tad more self-sufficient. We shall see.

Today (the other day because never post on day I actually start writing) the whole crew headed out after Navi’s nap to the VIC. When we lived on campus, we often could just walk over there to kill a few hours on the weekend or before dinner. Having moved off campus this past year, I often forget about the VIC as an option and figured today we would head back to our old stomping grounds.

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The VIC is a place I can navigate on my own – even with all four kids. Parking is easy, there are clean bathrooms to use before/after we hit the trails, plus a small indoor area with books, coloring and a few hands-on activities that add a complete extra minutes of entertainment for my kiddos. Additionally, there is a small playground which often is where we start while we apply bug spray, use the bathroom and fill up any water bottles at the water fountain. Inside there are a couple of tables setup where you can enjoy lunch and take a break from the sun/bugs etc if needed.

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As for the trails themselves, there are a variety of trails to pick from ranging from an easy terrain mile and upwards. Today we hiked Heron Marsh trail, which was about 3 miles and while at points a tiny bit muddy, we were able to navigate with our Thule stroller with relative ease. Pre-Navi we often would just head out with Quince in the carrier and the big kids on their own, however, when I go alone or if I am uncertain of the kids stamina, the stroller was nice to have – even if a bit shaky at the muddy parts. We did someone walking with a non jogger style stroller and while I am sure they survived, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a few adults who want to lift the stroller at points.

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If you are looking for something to do the VIC is always a great, kid-friendly option to get outside for as long or as short as needed and with the bathrooms and added playground I can also adjust based on the kid’s moods.

Pros: Well-maintained kid friendly trails at a variety of lengths, clean bathrooms and indoor facility, small playground area and deck or indoor tables to eat lunch.

Cons: Kids on hikes are unpredictable :), if you don’t plan food/eating or time things wrong there really isn’t much around and so you could potentially endure a 15-20 minute drive of kids whining they are hungry. Not that has happened or anything.

Meacham Lake

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When I first ventured into the blogging world “Brunching with Babes” was a story of all the restaurants Dominique and I frequented with baby Flynn in tow. However, shortly after we moved to Philly and this space was sort of a round up of all the fun places in Philly with kids coupled with random nonsense.

Now that I am nearing almost 3 years up here (yea not sure how that happened) I figured I would share some fun kid places we end up and my kids take on the event.

Last summer when I was very very VERY pregnant with Navi and had a 1 year old Quince bulldozing his way through life, I knew that the next few months were going to be a bit of “hibernating”. And while I am not usually a fan of being trapped inside, I knew that it would be a bit of a challenge for the first few months. However, the hibernation has ended and getting out and about is a lot less stressful – or shall I say worth the stress.

Today the kids were off from school so we headed about 30 minutes from Saranac Lake towards Malone to a the Meacham Lake Campgrounds. While the day pass is $8, I am a fan of hitting up Meacham because the access to bathrooms, the really nice playground, easy parking/access to my car and of course the beautiful lake is worth it in the end. We have been here a number of times, especially back when we were living on campus, and my kids often fixate on the lake and beach or get wrapped up in some game in the playground. Either way we usually can last a really long time here and I never have to worry about taking all the kids off the beach to run another kid to the bathroom.

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In the Boone kiddo opinions, this place is worth the bit of the drive and we will continue to dream that Saranac Lake (or Brighton Park) add a Bears Playground to the area.

Couple of notes:

Cost: $8 per car

Playground: Listed as 2-12 – some parts are higher or require climbing, but this is where Nola learned to the lower monkey bars last summer. There are also swings, but they are off the side so never have to worry a kid is going to run into swings.

Lake Area is a fine size, nothing huge, but plenty of space.

Also, has covered pavilion and bathrooms near by.

Typical to up here in the spring/early summer, the bugs can be annoying, but not the worst I have seen (May 2018).

 

Grange Fair and Other Weekend Fun

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What shall we do this weekend, friends?

As many of you already know, I hate being inside. It’s torture. And this week I have been trapped inside with a teething, now mobile 9 month old and a toddler who throws more tantrums than Justin Bieber and Alex Baldwin combined. Oh and a ton of work because of course I would have a ton of work the week we return from traveling. 

When Dominique arrived home this evening, I threw some sweatshirts on the kids and hurried out of the house to nearest kid-friendly activity we could find. The Middletown Grange Fair it was. Despite the annoying traffic heading to the fair (which I was quite baffled by because I figured we’d be the only people there…apparently I was wrong!), the evening was a lot of fun. Flynn loved the rides. Nola loved the live country music (I knew the girl was suppose to be raised in the south!) Dominique loved the people watching and I loved the lemonade. and cheese fries. and funnel cake and…let’s not relive every calorie. my thighs will showcase them for us all tomorrow. 

So if you are looking for something fun (and at times smelly) to do this weekend check out the Grange Fair. There were little kid rides, big kid rides, contests, food, live animals, live music, people with interesting hair. A good time. 

If you are looking for more than just a little kid making a sheep prance around in a circle here are some other fun things happening this weekend:

Franklin Flea 

10-5 at McCall Schoolyard

Come check out some flea market finds while your kids hit up the newish McCall playground. 

Spruce Street Harbor Park

11-3 A few weeks back we hit up the Spruce Street Harbor Park for some beer, arcade games and park activities. It was a great night. Now add some Art Star Pop Up shopping to the mix and you made for a perfect Saturday afternoon, especially one with temperatures in the low 80s! 

ShadyBrook Farm Festival Field

11-4 If you read this blog (which there are like 4 of you) you may recall I talked about the blueberry festival and Shadybrook’s festival field. This weekend (Saturday and Sunday) festival field will be open form 11-4 with hayrides heading out to pick peaches and of course the bouncy houses, go carts and new playground. 

What are you guys up to this weekend? Anything fun? 

Sister Cities Park

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I was standing at the zoo watching Flynn stare down the escaped goats he was trying to pet, when I overheard two woman talking. They were talking about how they sad they were that summer was almost over and they hadn’t done all the things they planned. I was a tad baffled and confused. Summer? Over? It wasn’t even the middle of July! We still have all of August and then it is still nice out in September. Heck, I was at the beach in October last year! Slow down people and stop wishing away my favorite time of year. Summer doesn’t end officially until September 22.  With that being said, I do want to make sure to get in as many fun summer events as possible before Target tells me to back to school shop. Since that already happened with amazing One Direction folders galore, the goal is now before the Halloween decorations get put out!

For a lot of people in or around dinner time is known as the “witching hour”. Cranky kids, impatient parents, meltdowns, undone to-do lists, toddler tantrums…you get the picture. However, for this little family of four, witching our is 9:30 AM. If we are still in the house at 9:30 AM things get ugly. Really ugly. There are numerous requests for Cars Dvd (which doesn’t even exist in this house anymore as it has been returned to the library). When that fails, there are demands for some sort of SNAAACK, like morning ice cream with sprinklers. And by the time Flynn starts in on wanting an Ipad I about lose it, grab the pool bag, throw the kids in the car and head to the pool until nap time.

Because she loves the pool.

Because she loves the pool.

Some days we throw in the park or a quick trip to the zoo. Last week we returned to a park I loved in cooler months and found it to be even more amazing in the summer. Sister Cities Park is located in Philadelphia near Logan Square. It is a small park, but provides hours of fun between the pond, garden, cafe and fountain.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon around 3:30 and found a one hour parking spot right out front. We definitely stayed longer than an hour, but I could see the car from the park and was thankfully able to beat the ticketing people.

The Boat Pond

The Boat Pond

This smaller park packed a lot in with tons to do for the youngerish crowd (5 and under, maybe a tad older). You can purchase a cute little wooden boat for $5 (a larger one was $7), the cafe was open and there was plenty of tables open. I set up shop at a table with Nola, while Flynn ran around the garden, sending his boat down the water trail. I had known this place had a fountain and boat pond, but didn’t realize that the pond was like a kids swimming pool. Nola was not quite dressed for the occasion, but she eventually kicked it in the pool with a swim diaper while Flynn splashed about.

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The afternoon was easy, fun and aside from a meltdown over some other kid’s Mater and Francesco car, a perfect afternoon. We will definitely be returning to Sister Cities Park soon and hope to make the most of it before the summer ends and the pond is replaced with Imagination Playground equipment and the fountain shuts off weeks before it really should (ie Labor Day shouldn’t end all the fun!)

We will be returning this evening for the weekly Thursday night Pairings on the Parkway , a night of music and much needed wine in the park. Don’t let summer end without trying out a day (or evening) at Sister Cities Park. Bring a blanket, pack a lunch (or dinner) or pick up some good cafe food at the reasonably priced Logan Cafe (click for Thursday event menu).

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A few notes:

There is a life guard attendant who just monitors the pond/garden.

It is open until 8 PM daily.

The fountain is on one side of the park and the rock garden/pond are on the other with a cafe in between.

The cafe is open, plus there is plenty of grass areas to picnic.

Wear swimsuits and bring a towel or two. If your kid isn’t potty trained you want to bring some swim diapers as they require it for the pond.

 

Shady Brook Farm: Strawberry Festival

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Flynn is currently cruising the house in a stolen plasma car crashing into his train set pretending to be a spy car from Cars 2. When he interrupts my blogging I use phrases like “McQueen you have to find Francesco before he blows up the race.” This buys me about two minutes before I say things like “Oh watch out, Holly. Here comes Acer and Grem”.

While this fun game of riding around Radiator Springs the kitchen occurs Nola is sleeping, wrecking our plan to get  to a play time at the library. The girl never sleeps when you want her too. It’s like she uses sleep to torture us all. You have a work deadline … no thanks I will stay awake. Oh, big plans for a library Stay and Play … I think I will take a nice 2+ hour nap. I think she hates leaving the house, which really doesn’t jive well with Flynn and me.

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However, since Flynn is ruining the hard wood floors driving his plasmacar and Nola using sleep to ruin our day, I decided to blog about the sunny weather ahead by sharing a fun weekend event, The Shady Brook Strawberry Festival. Since I am the product of my mother I like anything “festival” and Shady Brook events are always fun for the kids. Any chance I can get to use the outside Festival Field area is worth it due to the multiple inflatables and the awesome jumping pillow. There is also a wagon ride out to pick strawberries for $1.99 a pound, a playground and go carts. I would say kids of most ages could be easily entertained for a few hours in this place.

The last time we went for the Easter Bunny Event, it was a great time. They had food vendors for an additional cost and some  art activities setup. There was a longish ride for the hayride out to hunt for eggs (and since Flynn really didn’t care about that we skipped it), but the lines for the inflatables were not too bad (and cleared out later in the day) and the jumping pillows had no line! So, if you are looking for something to do this weekend head over to Shadybrook Saturday or Sunday from 11-4 for a fun, family event. The cost is $5 per person.

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*If you cannot make this weekend, check out Shadybrooks Event Schedule here. It is definitely worth going to use the jumping pillows, inflatables and hang around inside of the Festival Field.

 

Mason Mills Park

Mason Mill Parks

This park is decent. - Nola Dorey

This park is decent. – Nola Dorey

Playground visits are a regular around these parts. I have my go-to playgrounds and just recently I wanted to tape a sign on my dashboard that says “stay local” because I often end up driving far to a playground just for the hell of it only to end up sitting on 95 in some random traffic because traffic always finds me. Like the time my nanny had to be fired and I had to drive Flynn 45 minutes away (so 90 minutes roundtrip to work) to be babysat by Dominique’s family and ended up sitting on a highway for 3+ hours due to an not so pleasant accident.

Anyway, Flynn wanted to take his stolen Plasmacar (thanks Grace) to the playground. I didn’t really feel like apologizing for Flynn clipping kids ankles at Roberts Ridge, so we headed to Mason Mills because they have a built in “Safety Town”. If he clips kids ankles in Safety Town I’ll apologize, but maybe not feel so damn bad because you are suppose to be in there in a bike.

Ankle Clipper

Ankle Clipper

Back to Mason Mills and its greatness.

Mason Mills have three play structures. One is a smaller one great for the littler crowd. It is low to the ground, as small slides and only one open area for the kid to jump out of (that is low enough that no serious injury would occur). The second is a pirate ship that is almost perfect for the middle of the road kids. Flynn liked the ship a lot. It is a tunnel slide and a big Pirate wheel. The third structure is huge and has some really awesome slides. One was really scary and went straight down. Flynn had a good time in this huge area, but Dominique did have to do some stalking. Nola of course helped herself to not one, but two feedings during this time.

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Scary Slide (Yes that is Dominique)

Scary Slide
(Yes that is Dominique)

In addition to the three great play structures, Mason Mills has Safety Town. Safety Town is pretty much a mini town to ride your bikes around. The sign states that the bikes should be big wheel style, but there were kids in there on regular bikes and riding scooters. I am sure on a busy day – illegal bikes may get kicked out as I did see some park attendants floating around.

The park has a few pavilions with charcoal grills, tennis courts, basketball courts and a bunch of fields plus a running trail. There were a number of parties setting up when we were there. You can reserve the Pavilions and Safety Town, which somewhat sucks because on Saturday Safety Town was reserved starting at 12 for much of the afternoon. That being said – this would be a cool place to have a party.

It wasn't misting weather, but that didn't stop Flynn.

It wasn’t misting weather, but that didn’t stop Flynn.

Notes about Mason Mills

  • Bring a scooter, bike or big wheel to use in Safety Town, although Flynn sometimes just likes to play hide and seek in there.
  • They have bathrooms. (Never used them – but I am sure once this Potty Training nonsense goes full blown they will be helpful).
  • Not sure if there is  way to check Safety Town before going, but be prepared on weekends especially for the mini bike town to be reserved. (You could probably call the Rec at 215.659.3100 x1039) There are never rentals on Tuesday & Thursday.
  • Safety Town Traffic signals are suppose to be on daily form 10-2.
  • There is a water mister there. It is not a full fledge sprinkler, but you can cool off using the big mister.
  • They have water fountains.

 

Franklin Square

Oh Franklin Square. I'll smile for that.

Oh Franklin Square. I’ll smile for that.

There have finally been signs of spring and I did not hesitate to try out or revisit some of our favorite outdoor venues. Two years ago I would have been frequenting outdoor drinking establishments with the good craft beer and now I am constantly searching for the next best playground. My dream is to someday merge the two – awesome playground (perhaps partially indoors for winter months), good beer and throw a burger in the mix and I would be there multiple days a week. Stephen Starr if you are reading – please go ahead and make this happen.

In the meantime there is one place that comes pretty close to hitting that mark is Franklin Square. It is pretty much Philly’s version of NYC Shake Shack with Stephen Starr’s Burger Up, a playground, fountain, carousel and mini golf course. This place has always been a good trip: never too crowded, easy to navigate park and parking has never been too big of a challenge, although it may take a trip or two around the block.

The playground is great for big and little kids. It has a Tot Lot area great for the smaller crowd. Not too high. Not too many open spaces to jump off of. On the other side of the playground is a big kid space with some neat climbing devices that you don’t find in many playgrounds. After a recent visit and a conversation with a posible Tiger Mom, she stated those play features were great for working some ab muscle that I wasn’t aware young kids needed worked. That being said – Flynn made sure to get a few spins in, although Nola is really the one needing a workout. The playground is also gated in, which I always find is a plus because my kid likes to run in random directions and so a fence makes my life a tad bit easier.

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The carousel spices things up and provides additional fun to the trip from watching the carousel to riding it a time or two. It is a really cute carousel and not overly expensive charging $2 for kids over 2 and $3 for adults. Kids 2 and under ride free with an adult ticket. I also felt like this carousel doesn’t skimp on the time compared to some other carousels we have been on. It goes long enough to not experience the “it’s over already” feeling, but not so long that the poor screaming toddler who isn’t a fan of the fake Smarty Jones doesn’t suffer too much.

August 2013

August 2013

March 2014

March 2014

May 2014

May 2014

Square Burger is also rather delicious and keeps the menu simple with burgers, hotdog and fries. Oh and course milkshakes. There isn’t a designated kids menu, but whatever Flynn doesn’t end up eating Dominique doesn’t seem to have a problem finishing. There are picnic tables around and we have never had trouble finding a seat. There aren’t high chairs (which hey Franklin Square if you are reading – add a few – that would be awesome). If your kid sucks at staying seated during a meal – it may be worth it to have someone order while your kid plays to avoid an extended period of time sitting in the chair/stroller. Or you know be a better parent than me and teach your kid to stay seated.

Square Burger Menu

Square Burger Menu

As for the mini golf, we have not joined in on the fun just yet. Flynn is still a little young to follow the rules and at one point pointed to the mini golf course and asked to go play hide and seek in there. I believe he thought it was Mason Mills Park’s Safety Town, where we often play hide and seek. That being said – probably not going to be ruining people’s good time in the mini golf in the near future.

This place is worth the trip for kids of all ages. If they are still too young to use playground equipment, it is nice to walk around the fountain and enjoy a milkshake. If your kids are a little older and too cool for playgrounds the mini golf course is great and you could even let the kids loose in the minigolf while you sit outside and enjoy a burger in peace. We have already been a few times since the warm weather kicked in and I am sure to be back again soon.

 

Square Burger Ratings: (1-5 Scale)

Ease with Young Kids (Infants, Toddlers): 4 (a 5 if they had high chairs)

Ease with Older Kids: 5 (They can play while you eat!)

Food: 5 (Delicious!)

Wait: 3 (It is not a long wait, but if you go by yourself you will have to stand around after ordering and wait for your name to be called. If your kid is being annoying, this can be a pain.)

Experience: 4

High Chair: No

Stroller Accessible: Yes