West Point

In early January, we went to West Point to watch a basketball game and visit the West Point Museum.  This is a great wintery day activity and it is a quick drive from Northern NJ/NYC.  The tickets are only $10 each, are almost always available (even at the last minute) and the kids love the atmosphere of a college game.  There is one game left in the season this weekend but if basketball isn't your thing, there are still a few hockey games on the schedule and in the spring, baseball starts up. 

We were lucky to get tickets to the Army-Navy game, which was almost completely sold out.  It was great as all the cadets were there to cheer on their team as well as quite a few midshipmen and it made the game that much more exciting.  One tip if you go, allow plenty of time to get through the security checkpoint at the entrance of the Academy as we did not and missed the first half!

After the game, we went over to the Museum located next to the Visitor's Center.  Admission is free and it takes about 2-3 hours to go through it.  This was our second visit but there is so much to see we found things we had missed on our previous trip.  There are fantastically detailed dioramas detailing famous battles throughout history (Jack's favorite part), a kid's scavenger hunt you can pick up in the gift shop, and uniforms from every era of the American military from the Revolution to the present. 

On the way home we stopped for an early dinner at The Burger Loft in New City.  The restaurant grinds its own beef daily so not surprisingly the burgers were delicious as were the fish tacos, fries and shakes.  In fact, everything was so good we all agreed we would willingly drive the 1 hour round-trip from our house just to eat here again.

Decorating a Gingerbread House

I've never been able to get it together enough to bake and construct a gingerbread house at home so I love any opportunity to turn up and decorate a pre-constructed house.  There are a few places nearby that offer this option and Chef Central is one that comes to mind.  When we were in Brooklyn, we discovered the Gingerbread Decorating workshop at the Church Street School in Tribeca (it is a fundraiser for the school) and went for several years until we moved out to NJ.  We decided to give it a try again this year and everyone was so glad we did.  You start out with a large house and a pot of icing for each child:

The candy shown on the plate is just the tip of the candyberg.  Elves come out constantly offering up more candy:  M&M's, Skittles, gummy rings, gummy penguins, marshmallows (big and small) and the list goes on and on.  Be prepared as more than a few pieces wind up in mouths rather than on the house!

If the kids are a little older like ours, you can sit back, hum along to the live piano player playing holiday tunes and enjoy a coffee.  Smaller kids will obviously need more hands-on help but even then the whole event is very low-key and a refreshing break from the holiday chaos.  

Once the house is completed and all the requisite pictures have been taken, they wrap it up nicely for you to transport home.  We spent about 1 1/2 hours here and then headed off for lunch and our yearly picture with Santa at ABC.

Pictures from our first time:

A Day Out in Philadelphia

We are lucky to have family outside of Philadelphia so we headed down there when the kids had a couple of days off from school last week.  We spent one day of the break exploring Philadelphia which we always enjoy.  

We started off at the U.S. Mint and took the very informative self-guided tour (unfortunately I don't have any pictures of this as photography is prohibited).  The whole experience only takes about 45 minutes and includes seeing the factory floor where the metal is cut into different coin shapes, washed and dried and then sent over to the other side where it is then stamped with the coin faces and reverses.  The kids were amazed that we were seeing actual money being made and packaged for transport.

Next we headed over to the Reading Terminal Market to grab lunch.  The building has been the site of a food market since 1892 but it's current emergence began in the 1990's.  You can find any type of food you are craving here and there are lots of great shops to purchase something to take home.  We wanted cheesesteaks so we went straight to Spataro's.  You can get a cheesesteak in multiple variations (with or without cheese, onions, or mushrooms), and for those who want something else (Ava), they also have standard deli sandwiches such as ham or turkey.  

On our way out we stopped by Metropolitan Bakery for dessert.  In addition to amazing cookies and cakes, they also sell fresh breads, granola and dog treats!  We tried the chocolate pound cake and two different chocolate chip cookies (one with walnuts, the other with macadamias) and each one was better than the last.

If I hadn't had my hands full with cookies and kids, I would have stopped next door at Old City Coffee and grabbed a latte and some beans to take home.

Finally, we checked out the Franklin Institute.  We had visited years before but the kids really enjoyed our time here.  This place is fantastic with so much to do and see although I think it is really best for those kids ages 5 and up.  We didn't come close to seeing everything on offer here including the special exhibits such as Body Worlds:  Animals Inside Out or any of the IMAX shows.  The exhibit on the brain was fascinating and had lots of hands-on experiments to demonstrate the complexity of the brain.  The space section had a great demonstration of gravity by having kids pick up the same lunch box on each planet and see how heavy or light it felt.  I also loved these travel posters for planetary travel...

Day trip from NYC: Stone Barns Center

Located in Pocantico Hills, New York,  about an hour north of NYC, Stone Barns Center is the perfect place to spend a day.  We visit as often as we can to have lunch, visit the farm animals and stroll the trails that wind throughout the property.    


The center also offers various tours such as a family tour of the farm or a trip out to collect the eggs.  If you plan to do a tour, reserve in advance on their website as they do fill up quickly.  We have collected eggs and I am hoping to do the family tour of the farm over Thanksgiving break.  

After you've had your fill of fresh air and farm animals be sure to head over to the Blue Hill Cafe for lunch or at least for a snack.  They have an ever-changing menu depending on what is in season but whatever they have is always delicious and while you are in the cafe, be sure to pick up a jar or two of the Blue Hill honey to take home.  There is seating outdoors at picnic tables or you can do as we often do and have an impromptu picnic in the courtyard.

Don't leave without checking out the gift shop which has a fantastic collection of cookbooks, kids toys and things for the kitchen and garden.  Also, look in the fridge for fresh eggs which are worth the trip alone.  If you are there on Sunday, hit up the farmers market (from 10-4) for fresh vegetables, delicious baked goods and chicken and pork products.  

Finally, if you are in need of a special adults-only night out, I would definitely recommend a meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  We had the good fortune to enjoy dinner here last summer and it was unforgettable.