We decided to take part in the first day hike tradition to celebrate the first day of 2015. We are lucky enough to have Crescent Lake Recreation area nearby here in Connecticut. Although we have covered these acres of woods many times in the past whether looking for a geocache, fishing or just to scout wildlife; it never gets old. A short car ride and we are in the wilds! On this day the kids had a blast with ice. Walking, pretending to skate, trying to break it…you name it they tried it. While they toiled away at their latest project it gave me time to ponder the previous year. Although the year started rather rough for our family we did end up conquering it and I do consider us quite blessed. We live in an amazingly family friendly area of Connecticut and we have had some terrific adventures both in state and out! We cannot wait to see what 2015 brings. Winter The kids enjoy winter sports. Skiing, sledding and of course basketball. We scored some great tickets to watch our favorite home team and alma mater UCONN bring home 2 National Championships….for the second time! We did however find some time to make a quick escape to St. John USVI for some fun in the sun as well. The Villa Mariposa treated us right as we made our way to some of our favorite beaches; Maho and Lameshur Bays. The snorkeling, sunsets, and scenery are forever remembered. It was a break we really needed! Spring Spring reminded us again why we love our home town and home state so much! There is so much to do. While we scheduled in gymnastics meets and basketball games we found time to check out some of our favorite spots and discover a few new ones! On Track Carting in Wallingford fulfills the need for speed even for the littlest in our family. Hots Dogs from Hollywood….Pinks…made their way to our little corner at Lake Compounce Amusement Park. The summer season pass for the park is only $50 and a terrific bargain. Score for our neck of the woods again! We even made our way to Pepe’s New Haven Style Pizza to celebrate the end of the basketball season. However the highlight of spring was a mother-daughter getaway to the Sugar and Spice Horse Camp in Bandera Texas; the Cowboy (girl) Capital of the World. What a treat to spend some alone time with my tween daughter and watch her fall in love with horses while gaining so much confidence along the way. The San Antonio Zoo added a bit more zip! Summer Summer is usually our busiest adventure time of the year and 2014 was no different. We started in Tampa Florida for the YMCA Gymnastics Nationals Championship. This was quite an experience as the gymnasts participated in a Olympic like opening ceremony at The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Stadium and competed over a 2 day period. Of course the competition was exciting, but bonding with the team was far more memorable. We found remote adventure at Caladesi Island Beach after a ferry ride from the mainland near Clearwater. We spied the elusive Gopher Tortoise near the beautiful beach. Of course we couldn’t leave Florida without a visit to Orlando. Universal Islands of Adventure and SeaWorld were the picks for this trip. I actually rode on the Hulk Coaster for the first…and last time. The kids had fun feeding the dolphins at SeaWorld and interacting with the Mystic Fountain at the Islands of Adventure. It didn’t matter that the fountain was spitting water at us. We were soaked from the thunderous July rainstorm that cleared the park and cut the wait time to zero for the Harry Potter ride! The end of the summer brought us to one of our favorite spots; Vermont. We are in love with Vermont and we were happy to take part in Mount Snow Family Camp. The camp allowed us to go on some adventures as a family. We paddle boarded, went tubing, mountain biked and completed a tree top ropes course. We also met some terrific families from around the East coast. We highly recommend this fun camp. As summer was drawing to an end we needed to spend some time at our home away from home; Charlestown, Rhode Island. Trips here evoke so many family memories and this year was especially difficult, however we visited some of favorite locations; Trustom Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, Charlestown Breachway, Captain Jack’s and of course Brickley’s Ice Cream and thought of our Poppa every day. Fall Fall is always a hectic time for us. We begin our annual holiday traditions and throw in a couple of birthdays as well. We start off with apple season here in Connecticut at Karabin and Lyman orchards and also the Connecticut fair season. New Hampshire is the next stop for Columbus day weekend and trips to Storyland and my all time favorite amusement park; Santa’s Village. Did you know that Santa’s Village is a Trip Advisor top 25 park? One visit with your little ones and you’ll know why. They rolled out a new tubing ride just in time for Christmas this year. Of course we can’t leave Jackson New Hampshire without a visit to EVERY Pumpkin People display we can find. Our trip was topped off with a fall foliage horseback ride which is really the only way to view foliage.(At least in my daughters opinion) The Christmas traditions commence right after Thanksgiving. The Hartford stage produces a terrific adaptation of Dickens: A Christmas Carol. Although this is our 8th year to see the show I am moved to my feet every time by the fabulous Bill Raymond. We round out the Christmas tradition with visits to Carl Bozenski’s Christmas Village in Torrington and the nearby Christmas House. The village is a true Santa experience for the small ones. Santa sees each child and offers them a toy he picks just for them. Other buildings house Mrs. Claus with her candy canes and elves busily making toys. The reindeer also await your visit. And so another year of tradition and adventure has come to a close. We are very thankful that the place we live is so conducive to family fun, that we are able to have so many adventures and that we are starting another year. Welcome 2015! Disclosure: My family and I were provided complimentary trips to Sugar and Spice Ranch and Mount Snow Family Camp. All of the opinions are my own and I was not required to provide any specific opinion.
I have lived in Connecticut all of my life and thought I was pretty well-versed on all of the family fun that is to be had in these parts. I honestly had no idea that Long Island was just a short ferry ride away, nor did I know that the Cross Sound Ferry out of New London over to Orient Point Long Island would introduce us to so many treasures.
The Cross Sound Ferry leaves New London eight times each day. We rode in comfort on a rather wet,overcast, brisk fall day. Upon arrival we discovered that the North Fork is a well-known wine region that competes for visitors with its very well-known sister region to the south; the Hamptons. There are over 40 wineries on Long Island and of course so much to sample. Some of our favorites include; the beautifully situated Kontokosta Winery, Waters Crest for their blending expertise and Sannino Bella Vita for their rustic, educational approach and the very tasty Spiced Wine which we will be sharing with our friends and family this Christmas.
Jo-Ann Perry of Vintage Tours in Peconic will schedule a tour of the vineyards with you should you decide to visit sans children for a couple or girlfriends getaway so you do not have to drive. She is a local and very knowledgeable about the area and the wine making process.
However, bringing the kids along will not preclude a vineyard visit.The Harbes Farm and Vineyard in Mattituck allows for combining the interests of vineyard loving parents with farm loving kids so be sure to make it a stop on your trip. Pony rides, pig races, pumpkin patches and pedal cars are all part of the fun.
Families seeking educational experiences can find other farm experiences that certainly are out of the ordinary. The Catapano Dairy Farm makes award-winning goat cheese and gives tours allowing for interactive goat milking and cheese tasting. Lavender by the Bay grows acres of the sweet-smelling flower and provides a terrific backdrop for photos in season. There are also several oyster farms available to visit.
Since our visit coincided with the beginning of the holiday season we spent some time decorating gingerbread at Gingerbread University. Gingerbread Fred, the owner met with us and offered some oven warmed gingerbread and frosting while he read us a story he authored, “Gingerbread For All Seasons“. We learned that Gingerbread isn’t just for Christmas and therefore you can decorate gingerbread flags, bunnies or hearts at Gingerbread University depending on the time of year. Successful students leave with a diploma!
There are several other family friendly locations on the North Fork. The Long Island Aquarium provides a learning experience with outdoor penguins or touch tanks. The East End Seaport celebrates the maritime history of the North Fork and offers a boat ride tour to several lighthouses that dot the area. Visits in the summer will require a stop to Splish Splash water park in Riverhead.
Should you decide to stay a night or two to take it all in, the Harborfront Inn will provide a base from which to start your exploration. The Harborfront Inn is located on the shore in Greenport village within walking distance to shops, restaurants and some attractions including the Mitchell Park Jess Owen carousel which I am sure your kids will want to ride. As a matter of fact we could see the carousel from our room balcony. The Harborfront has an outdoor pool and a complementary breakfast bar.
I am sure there are plenty of other Connecticut and Rhode Island residents that were unaware of this gem of a spot across the sound. Anytime of year is a good time to see all that the North Fork has to offer.
When will you be planning your getaway?
Disclosure: I was graciously provided an overnight stay at the Harborfront Inn and tours through the Cross Sound Ferry. I was not required to provide any opinion and all opinions are my own.
Kontokosta Winery 823 North Rd Route 25 Greenport, NY 631-477-6977 Open weekdays for tastings. Groups of 7 or more need reservations
Waters Crest Winery 22355 Middle Rd Cutchogue, NY 631-734-5065 Seasonal hours vary. Groups of 7 or more require advance reservation.
Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard 1375 Peconic Lane, Peconic, NY 631-734-8282 Open Thursday through Monday. Groups of 6 or more require a reservation. This establishment also operates a bed and breakfast: Sannino Vineyard B & B.
If your kids are like mine, they enjoy getting dirty and looking for critters. Their Dad can take the credit for being the naturalist of our family and I have learned along the way. The kids have become very intrigued with outdoor science and biology as a result of their ‘mini-lessons’ and family hikes.
Recently they have taken the initiative to create an outdoor terrarium to examine what life might take up residence there. They scraped a small area of earth and covered it with a piece of plywood. The result was magnificent!
Within a few days a salamander appeared and they checked on her daily when they arrived home from school. Soon after small clumps of eggs were noted. Oh my were they excited! They examined the terrarium daily and soon noticed several baby ‘sallies’ had hatched.
I have heard it said that there is a diminishing population of Salamanders, but not in our yard.This is likely due to the fact that we live in a wooded area of Connecticut and have never treated our yard with any type of pesticide. Of course this makes for a rather ugly lawn, but a healthy habitat for wildlife. There are many days I wish for a beautiful lawn, but this experiment has reinvigorated our commitment.
The egg cycle has repeated at least twice and currently we are on the third set of eggs. The next step will be to keep better records of eggs and births. Anyone with suggestions on how to keep the kids excited while making this process more scientific? What do you do to encourage a love for science and learning?