Anything goes (almost)! Some random guy strips to his underwear to pose with the “Naked Cowboy” in Times Square and this is deemed normal. (Also not surprising? The Naked Cowboy is a former Catholic school boy from Cincinnati, Ohio running for president for 2012 — Tea Party.)
Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category
I fell in love with NYC on my first trip there eight years ago. Since then, I’d been back three times — twice with my husband and once with my BFF — just loving it more each time. I’ve wanted to take the kids with us and finally couldn’t wait any longer. The question was, after four days and three nights in NYC with three young children, would I still love NYC? Stay tuned …
Growing up in Northeast Ohio, our amusement park options were either the now-defunct Geauga Lake and Cedar Point. I never even heard of Kennywood, near Pittsburgh, until about 10 years ago. But this year we decided to graduate from the delightful and young kid-friendly Idlewild to its sister park Kennywood. Tickets, through AAA, are $22 each and you can bring your own food in. It’s small enough to be manageable yet there’s a nice variety of rides for all ages. I especially liked the rides which are listed as historical sites — rides which have been there for 80 or 90 years (“The Kangaroo” is the only one left of its kind in the world!). And even though we were puzzled by the carousel playing holiday songs like “Jingle Bells” and “Frosty the Snowman”(?), our family definitely gives this park a big thumbs-up! (Though I don’t know if I can stand a whole year of hearing “When are we going to go to Kennywood again? When are we going to Kennywood again?”)
In the movie “Singles”, there is a character whose job is to convince the mayor to build a high-speed rail in Seattle. He puts his heart and soul into that project, but at the end, the mayor rejects it because, as he says, “people like their cars”. I thought of that while in Atlanta. Atlanta is known for its traffic delays, yet the average resident, let alone traveler, does not use MARTA (the city’s rail/bus system). At least that’s what I observed from using MARTA nearly 20 times on a variety of routes at different times of day for a week. True, the system isn’t as convenient as some other cities, like NYC, where most people don’t even own a car. For example, to get to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, we had to take a train to the Peachtree stop, then a bus which only runs every 40 minutes — on weekdays! Even the biggest attractions, like The World of Coca-Cola, are about a 15-minute walk from the train station. I imagine some of it is probably a chicken and egg thing (more riders might justify more stops or routes but no routes or stops can be added until there are more riders). Ironically, in a couple months MARTA prices will rise and routes will be cut, making this an even less attractive option. It’s funny because as much as I love the public rail system, I don’t feel the same about public buses. I’ve used them from time to time when necessary, but it’s obviously not my first choice for transportation. What can I say? I like my car too.
When I was in my late 20s, I began to travel overnight by myself. A few times, I stayed at cheap hotels/motels and was really creeped out and scared to be there alone (especially since at one place the rooms could be entered from the parking lot; I was awakened several times during the night by someone(s) knocking on the door and trying to twist the knob). At some point I realized a B&B might be safer for a single woman traveling alone. A host/ess at least would know by morning if I didn’t make it back at night. I don’t remember my first B&B — I think it was the glorious Chocolate Turtle in Albuquerque, where I went to celebrate my 30th birthday.
Since then I have stayed at countless B&Bs from coast to coast — first alone, then later with my nieces, my BFF, my husband, and now, with my own children. Some B&Bs were absolutely incredible – and some were incredibly bad. But each one was an adventure in itself. I stayed on a tugboat in Seattle (actually, it was a “bunk and breakfast”), an old jail in Bardstown, KY and in someone’s kid’s old basement bedroom in Ann Arbor. Breakfast has ranged from a gourmet, five-course affair served on fine China by candlelight with classical music playing to stale donuts and in one case, no breakfast at all. Some hosts/esses have bent over backwards, and some have seemed irritated when we asked for a fork. We’ve met other guests who have been a source of information, a source of annoyance, or once, a source of creepiness (another couple was a bit too friendly, if you know what I mean).
One of my favorite memories was a trip my husband and I took in France — we biked from B&B to B&B in the French countryside. Each B&B would pack a picnic lunch for us to carry on our bikes, then they’d take our luggage to the next place. Yes, it was as incredible as it sounds. The food, the scenery, the utter “coolness” — and especially, the memory of sitting around a huge table for three hours enjoying a 7-course dinner (the only time I’ll probably eat “duck throat” in my life) with couples from all over Europe. B&Bs are definitely not for everyone — but for those adventurous enough to try them, you could be in for a real “trip”!
Growing up in a solidly middle class home, when we traveled, we always stayed at a solidly middle class hotel – Holiday Inn. Oh, on occasion it was a Howard Johnson’s or if we were lucky, a Ramada. But almost always it was the Holiday Inn. So of course now as an adult I can’t stand the thought of staying in one. There was just a sameness – a predictability – a smell – that creeps me out. As I grew up and made my own travel plans, I deliberately sought places that were unique, like B&Bs.
But now with three kids my options are limited (most places have a 4 person per room max) so I now almost always choose an Embassy Suites. It’s a great place to stay with the kids – prices are reasonable, the cooked-to-order breakfast is often outstanding, the manager’s reception includes free drinks and snacks, and the suites have a door separating the bedroom from the living room with the sleeper sofa (“door” being a key point). You also get a refrigerator, microwave and dining room set. Other hotels have some of these things at some of their locations, but Embassy Suites has a consistency you can count on. Hmm – sameness … predictability … have I become my parents?? In a way, yes. But I like to think of the Embassy Suites as the best solution for this time in our lives, and when things change, we can go back to a time when the lodging was half the adventure!
Sure, why not? Everyone we knew who was fortunate enough to go on vacation this summer headed to Disney World or the beach. We, however, grabbed some cheap flights from Pittsburgh and headed to The Big Easy. “That’s different,” the librarian responded when I told her our travel plans. My husband and I had been there before and did think it would be a different experience for the kids since there truly is nowhere in the world like New Orleans. We stayed in the Central Business District and because it was low season/hurricane season we got an incredible deal on our room at the Embassy Suites: $99/night for two nights with the third night free (a huge breakfast and nightly drinks were free, too!). Sure, what we saved in travel and lodging we made up for in entertainment and food expenses, but hey, it’s New Orleans and there are just some things you’ve got to do! So in our five full days there we did: City Tour with cemetery stop, day at City Park (Botanical Gardens, Carousel Garden, Storyland and Sculpture Gardens), streetcar rides, Riverwalk, French Quarter (including two stops at Cafe DuMonde for heavily powdered sugar beignets), Steamboat Natchez ride down the Mississippi, swamp tour, Insectarium, Audubon Zoo and the Presbytere Museum (Internet coupons and AAA discounts helped with the admissions, by the way).
The kids tried food they had never tried before, like alligator sausage, talked to people who lived through Hurricane Katrina (or “when the levees broke,” as one cab driver called it), and experienced a part of our country unlike any other, a city which is recovering very well, I might add. So if you think New Orleans is just for adults partying on Bourbon Street (where we never took the kids, by the way), think again. And like our family, you too might just fall under the spell of the Crescent City.
Right near Pittsburgh is Sandcastle Water Park, one of my favorite water parks. Why? It’s got a great “boardwalk” theme, the lazy river is long and runs parallel to the Monongahela River (where you can relax and watch the boats pass by), and it’s got a special area for adults that lets the fun continue into the evening (if you don’t have the kids with you!). Regular admission is $28.99 which includes a buffett at the Tidal Wave Cafe. Discounts are available through Giant Eagle, Pepsi and also through hotel packages (which often include two free tickets). It definitely feels like a mini-vacation!!
Ever since we became parents, people were telling us to take the kids to Idlewild in Ligonier, PA (about 2-1/2 hours away from Akron). We finally went for the first time in 2007 and now we (and the kids) are hooked! It’s a great little overnight trip (or even a day trip) that doesn’t cost a fortune. Discount tix are available through AAA for $20 each (ages 3 and up); Giant Eagle also offers a discount. In addition, there are a bunch of hotel packages that include tickets and very reasonably priced (some are under $100). If one day isn’t enough, you can sign up for tickets for the next day for only $14.99 each. And one day really isn’t enough to do everything, between the SoakZone water park, amusement park rides and special areas just for younger kids (Story Book Forest, Jumpin’ Jungle, Raccoon Lagoon, Mister Rogers Trolley). The parks are very family friendly, with lots of picnic areas inside and out, reasonably priced food, no alcohol permitted and lots of shade. It’s definitely on this summer’s “to do” list!!