Charleston - Boneyard Beach

One of the highlights of our trip was a boat trip out to Capers Island and Boneyard Beach.  The beach got its name from the large pieces of driftwood lying on the shore that look like the bones of some long forgotten prehistoric animal. 

The trip out to the island winds through tidal creeks where we saw dolphins, egrets, and osprey while we learned about the unique eco-system that exists in these waters. 

Our guide was fantastic and was a huge part of what made the trip so great.  A former school teacher, he took a real interest in the kids and explained everything clearly without dumbing it down.  He even stopped along the way and hauled in some crab traps, showing us both the difference between male and female and between the species that co-exist here on the ocean floor.

Once you arrive on the island, you are free to wander around on your own.  We walked along the shore playing in the waves and scaling the larger pieces of driftwood.

When it was time to return to the mainland, we did so reluctantly with a few treasures in hand.  Jack was thrilled to get the chance to pilot the boat part of the way home while Ava took the time to relax and grab a little nap.


Day Trip to Dutchess County

Dutchess County is one of my favorite getaways in the Hudson Valley.  There is something here for everyone:  historical homes, great farm stands, apple and pumpkin picking in the fall, and nice restaurants and shopping.  On our last visit we started at the Vanderbilt Mansion Historic Site in Hyde Park.  Built as a country home during the Gilded Age, this site is much smaller than other Vanderbilt homes open to the public, which makes it very manageable for touring with kids.  The house can only be toured with a guide but it is a relatively quick tour, lasting only about 45 minutes.  

The mansion's location on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River is it's best asset.  You can come out and just explore the grounds without paying an admission fee and there is a paved trail which leads to FDR;s home next door.

If you visit, be sure to spend some time in the museum's bookstore.  There are some great books for adults and children and a really nice collection of items that would be perfect as a gift or a memento to take home.  

For lunch, Rhinebeck is always a good option.  There is a variety of places to eat but our favorite is Bread Alone.  On the weekends they offer both breakfast and lunch options but everything is delicious.  We've tried lots of things on their menu and have never been disappointed.  

Also in Rhinebeck are some shops that aren't to be missed.  Every time I go in Hammertown Barn, I want to completely redecorate our entire house, all with things purchased here.  Right next door is Oblong Books & Music, where we usually spend a good deal of time browsing.  They have a fantastic selection of children's books and I usually pick up something for myself as well.  Finally, no small town is complete without a general store and Rhinebeck's does not disappoint.  The AL Stickle Variety store has a vast array of items for sale including children's games and toys, crafting supplies, yarn and knitting supplies, and kitchenwares just to name a few.  

This is a great day if you are in the NYC area and don't mind driving a bit.  The area is gorgeous in all seasons and most sites are open year round.  I am planning a trip back in the fall to pick some apples and pumpkins and to take in an air show at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome.

Christmas Day Trip - NYC

This week I will be posting some ideas on what to do over the long holiday weekend once all the turkey has been eaten and the football games are over.  First up is a day trip to Manhattan to kick off the Christmas celebrations.

New York is a fabulous place to get in the holiday spirit and there is so much going on at this time of year that it is hard to choose what to do.  We always try to make it a mix of old and new, keeping some traditions and trying out some new things each year.  Last year we were in the city the day after Thanksgiving and while all of the decorations weren't up, there was enough to make us feel properly festive.  

We started at Grand Central and took in the constellations on the ceiling of the main hall and then headed to the small outpost of the New York Transit Museum to see their annual holiday train show.  This is on a relatively small scale but it is big enough and has so many small details that it will keep the kids fascinated for quite awhile.  In the meantime you can browse the store's nice collection of goods and pick up something for the train lovers in your life.  

There is also a large indoor holiday market with 70+ vendors selling an eclectic selection of items such as soaps, art, handbags, and toys.  If you haven't eaten breakfast or just need a little pick-me-up, visit Magnolia Bakery on the lower level dining concourse or Joe the Art of Coffee in the Graybar passage.  

From here we headed south for our meeting with Santa in Union Square, stopping to make a quick detour to see the holiday windows at Macy's.  

For the last several years we have visited Santa at ABC Carpet and Home in Union Square.  Over the years the crowds have grown but the experience has stayed the same.  This is not your Macy's Santa.  The line is made up of mostly local families and the wait is usually no longer than 20-25 minutes.  There is no fee, you snap a picture with your own camera, and each child is presented with a small gift after telling Santa what he or she would like for Christmas.  We love the low-key vibe and the kids are convinced that this is the real Santa!

One of our earlier visits and...

One of our earlier visits and...

Last year's visit

Last year's visit

If you haven't visited ABC before, prepare to fall in love with everything you see and to keep a firm hand on whatever child(ren) you have with you!  This is a great place to look for a special gift for someone on your list or simply a little something for yourself.  Their holiday decorations change every year and I always find a new ornament to add to our tree.  Be sure to check out their holiday windows on the way out.

If you and the kids still feel like browsing, the Union Square Holiday Market is one of the best holiday markets in the city.  There is something for everyone here and our kids love exploring the stalls and their wares such as handmade puppets, puzzles and treats to eat.  You could easily find enough food choices here to have lunch while you stroll or for a picnic in the park.  Also in the park is a nice playground if the kids need a chance to burn off a little energy.

Photo via Urban Space NYC

Photo via Urban Space NYC

There are lots of options for a sit-down lunch in the area but one of our favorites is Chop't located on E. 17th Street.  Chop't has a selection of salads and sandwiches made to order or you can create your own.  Alan and I usually have a salad while Jack and Ava enjoy the wraps.  This is a quick and easy meal and a nice chance to get some greens into the kids between the cookies and hot chocolate.

After a quick stop for the aforementioned hot chocolate, we were ready to call it a day and head home.  If your group is still up for more, you could take in a movie at the nearby movie theater or head back uptown and see the holiday windows at Lord & Taylor, Barney's and Bendel's.  Along the way take a peek at the tree at Rockefeller Center (it will be up and decorated but not lit) and the ice skaters and then stop in at the Food Hall at the Plaza and grab a bite.