Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Upstate NY: Ithaca and Trumansburg

Yesterday we had the best day--we headed to Trumansburg which is about 10 minutes north of Ithaca on Cayuga Lake (one of the Finger Lakes). It's a sleepy and sweet little town, with a great coffee shop (Ithaca-based Gimme Coffee, which also had perfect muffins and scones from a local baker), a couple of cool antique stores, a destination restaurant that serves up organic fare from local farms (Hazelnut Kitchen), and a couple of other cool stores. One of the best parts was this little play area right in the center of town that had three wooden play structures--a library, a school house, and a firehouse. It totally inspired imaginative play, but also physical (ladders, a pole to slide down in the fire house), and we could have spent the whole morning there.
After Trumansburg we headed to the Taughannock Falls in the State Park--we wimped out on walking to their base (20 minutes each way), and opted to check them out from the top of the falls, but it was still super impressive. Afterwards, Clara went swimming in Cayuga Lake (a chilly 70 degrees) in the Taughannock State Park, right across  the street from where you walk the path to the falls. 
We headed in to Ithaca for lunch, thinking we'd go to Moosewood Restaurant , which I've been dying to go to...but we didn't want to leave our dog in the car too long, so we just ate at the Ithaca Farmer's Market which is in DeWitt Park on Tuesdays.  
We finished off the day in the very idyllic Ithaca Children's Garden. A fine example of what could and should be done with unused land in many cities.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Old School Amusement Parks: Fairyland

I always gravitate to pretty much anything that has been operated since the 1940s. It can be a hot dog joint that sells crappy dogs that I would normally turn my nose up to, but if it's been in the family for a couple of generations, or has great signage, I lose all of my organic uptightness. This week I'm in Binghamton, NY, where Grandma lives, and I'll be posting about what we discover all week (and continuing my Vacation Idea World Series next week, when I'm back with my big computer with all of my pictures). On Friday we're going to the Sylvan Beach Amusement Park, which Grandma remembers going to as a teenager, so it must be cool. Here's one of our favorite old school amusement parks we've been to, Fairyland, which is in Oakland, and is so off the beaten path, that many of my SF mom friends didn't even know about it.
("old school" in practice--no parents allowed in this ferris wheel occupied by two 3 year olds.)
Now one of the things you have to bear in mind with 'old school', is that it isn't the padded playground that we've become accustomed to. Clara was three when we went there, and when she saw this little merry-go-round, that was probably the tallest one I've ever seen, for how small it was, she just had to go on it. However, the attendant wouldn't let me hold her, and it had no harness/belt. She kept saying she could do it and would hold on, so I decided it was better to trust her, even though it was concrete below. She was completely fine, although I think I am still a little traumatized by it. 

Lastly, if you do go and check out Fairyland, here are some food suggestions, so you can make a day trip out of it. Restaurant suggestions come courtesy of Mike Sterba, a family friend, who lives in the area and has two kids, and good taste in food.  
Fenton's Creamery: 1.5 miles from Fairyland, and how the heck did I not know about this place?! An ice cream joint that's been around for 115 years!

Arizmendi Bakery : a worker-owned cooperative bakery that has amazing looking pizzas using organic and local ingredients, plus pastries and pies (and about a half a mile from Fairyland).

Bakesale Betty : a former Chez Panisse alumn who has a fantastic bakery. Also a half mile from Fairyland.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Postcard from Napa Valley

Matt is in Northern California for a couple of weeks on assignment, and making us very jealous with all of his food finds--one of my favorites being the taco place in Agua Caliente that uses Diana Kennedy recipes, all organic products, and is incredibly delicious. Then there was the night he drove to Bouchon to have oysters and on the way home ended up at a farmer's market that had the most gorgeous pluots but also perfect corn dogs (organic, natch). More pictures on his blog .

Thursday, June 24, 2010

NYC Afternoon

Last week we had friends in town and spent the afternoon in Midtown with them. It was one of those days where we didn't know if it was going to pour rain, so we didn't want to completely commit to an outdoor or an indoor activity. I suggested we meet at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central, so the kids could have some chowder, and afterwards do the Whispering Wall. Service was so slow at the Oyster Bar, so we decided to beat it and find dessert elsewhere. Down into the food court we went, and got some delicious Ciao Bello gelato. After that, we headed out to Bryant Park, which was super close--very important when walking with 5 adults and 3 kids. The carousel was fun for them (when do carousels stop being fun for kids?!) and we sat around and talked while they went around and around. 
(that's the reading area for families at Bryant Park, next to the carousel.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Seabrook Day Trip

One morning we took a trip towards Aberdeen, and meandered through some little towns like Hoquiam (great seafood place to pick up oysters and fish called Lytle Seafoods) and Ocean Shores. Copalis Beach had some cute antique stores, a guy selling tie-dye shirts out of a bus, and a pretty nutty guy that was selling driftwood, antiques, and junk, with very angry hippy signage out front. Ocean Shores has a bumper car/arcade place, with an ice cream stand, and I'd say you have to be pretty desperate for civilization to make the effort to go there--because it isn't pretty, and there's so much that is so pretty around. Really, the best thing to do is to park it at Seabrook, and then do day trips into Olympic National Park

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Olympic National Park

(Kalaloch Beach)
(on the road to Kalaloch from Quinault)
(Lake Quinault Lodge)
(rainforest walk)
Out of the five days we spend in Seabrook, we went to the Olympic National Park twice. And I feel like I barely scratched the surface. We entered in from the southern part, and went to Lake Quinault, to Kalaloch Beach, and on a Rainforest Walk just a mile away from Lake Quinault. I know there are lots of options of places to stay within the park itself, but there was something really nice about going back to our sweet little town, that didn't have RVs around. The Lake Quinault Lodge is a beautiful wooden structure from 1924, with a swimming area and dock, and boats you can rent, and you don't have to stay there to take advantage of these activities. We parked the car in their lot (free), got lunch from the Quinault Mercantile, a general store/cafe across the street (the restaurant at the lodge seemed mismanaged and unappetizing), and then went for a swim and a row-boat ride. Afterwards we had huckleberry ice cream back at the general store. A 5 minute drive further north brings you to "the world's largest spruce tree" which is definitely worth a look, and a 5 minute drive the other direction brings you to a lovely rainforest walk, which takes about 30 minutes tops, and that's with some lollygagging kids and adults. On another day we brought a picnic and went to Kalaloch, a lovely beach filled with driftwood. I think we could have stopped anywhere along the way and been blown away by the beauty. It's just that kind of place--everything you see is so spectacular, and it is surprisingly lacking in tourism.
(Quinault Mercantile--the general store)