Top New England Fall Foliage Spots – 2009

New England is poised to put on quite a Fall Foliage display this year – Fall 2009. Hurricane Bill has passed with minor damage – the leaves are still on the trees waiting for the autumn weather to arrive. Its just around the corner – by mid-September, the show starts at the higher elevations.  As in the past, we have to stay flexible – we suggest visiting our friends at Foliage Network for the latest Fall Foliage Reports.  The best fall foliage viewing in the US is in New England (fans of the golden Colorado fall colors may disagree), so we will pick from these destinations for a few weekend “Fall Foliage Staycations” this year:

  • Around Columbus Day more people show up in Vermont than have ever lived there.  Vermont Fall Foliage is truly world-class.  Combined with some harvest festivals and visits to quaint towns and you can’t go wrong.  If the kids are not impressed by the views, take them to Ben and Jerry’s factory of overload them on maple sugar.
  • Maine Fall Foliage is best along the coast.  You get the colorful leaves as well as a rocky coast. Something you will not get in Vermont.
  • If Vermont is too quaint and Maine too far, go for some historic and urban Boston Massachusetts fall foliage, which is also a good idea once the Vermont colors have peaked. Another choice urban spot, on the border of New England is New York City – think Central Park, the Cloisters, the Ice Age ponds of Alley Pond Park and more for some subway-accessible NY foliage.
  • Also bordering New England – Hudson Valley and Catskills Fall Foliage is a great day trip from New York. Try a biplane ride in Rhinebeck or enjoy the views from the Hudson River mansions.

Have a fun fallstaycation!  Save some vacation time for ski season.
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10 Great Places for Fall Foliage

Fall Foliage trips are a great addition to a business trip or for a quick weeeknd away or even for a longer family vacation. First 10 reasons why it is great –

  1. Weather has cooled off
  2. Crowds are less (if you pick the destination right) – like Long Island Fall Foliage
  3. Apple Cider
  4. Harvest Festivals – like Pennsylvania Fall Foliage in Amish country
  5. Close to East Coast population centers
  6. Apple Cider
  7. Can be done on a tight budget
  8. Can spend lots of money (e.g. Cruise to see Maine Coast Fall Foliage)
  9. New England Fall Foliage makes the quaint and historic towns even MORE quaint and historic
  10. You can still do all the usual vacation stuff – golf, museums, theme parks, zoos, etc.

And, 10 destinations:

  1. Vermont
  2. New Hampshire
  3. Upstate New York – Fall Foliage Trips, Catskills Fall Foliage , Adirondack Fall Foliage
  4. Central Park, Alley Park, Prospect Park – New York City Fall Foliage
  5. Massachusetts Fall Foliage in the Boston suburbs (e.g. Concord, MA)
  6. DC, Virginia and Maryland Fall Foliage – its not just the Cherry Blossoms that are famous, here
  7. Virginia Fall Foliage is at its best in the Shenandoah, and Blue Ridge Mountains.
  8. Colorado Fall Foliage just a month or two before the skiers arrive. Enjoy the Colorado Rockies Fall colors less than an hour from Denver.
  9. New Mexico Fall Foliage for a different experience
  10. Fall Foliage in the Four Corners region – don’t expect crowds.

And an honorable mention for Pittsburgh for Southwest Pennsylvania Fall Foliage. Who would guess that one!

Boston for the Boys: Good father-son museums

Just to continue the Boston conversation that Sharon has started…
I think of these things as “guy things” but that could just be because I’ve been to Boston a number of times to visit my father who always insists on taking me to one of these museums (among many others):

The art of sightseeing while on a tight schedule

If you’re anything like my husband, you’ll have a business meeting in Chicago and then have a few hours to kill before boarding your next flight and jet setting to another meeting in San Diego, where you’ll then maybe get to sleep the night and have another few hours before you get right back on that plane and, if you’re lucky, head home. According to Linda Vaughn from the Business Traveler magazine, the average reader of BT takes about 30 round trip flights a year, rarely taking advantage of the little time he or she has in between meetings. Which is why the folks at BT have created the 4-Hour Guides, a great resource that directs busy business travelers to the must-see sites in a manageable between meetings/flights time span. But these plans are also good for all us regular people who want to have some efficient, fun, site seeing while our husbands/wives/parents are at their meetings and we’re bored of sitting around in the hotel waiting for them to get back and take us down to the lobby for dinner.

This month’s 4-Hour Guide is on Boston and since it has not yet been published online (we get the actual paper magazine) I thought I’d share it with you all! This article is by Alison Stein Wellner and I’ve taken her recommendations of the places, but have used my own experiences as explanation.

1. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – I love Boston and this is one of my favorite places in Boston. This museum is actually Isabella Stewart Gardner’s former residence, complete with her personal art collection. The building is a magnificent Venetian-style home with a garden and courtyard filled with beautiful flowers, art, and music. Works of Titian, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Manet, Degas, Whistler and Sargent are organized not according to era or style, but are placed aesthetically in a manner that Gardner had thought was beautiful to admire. In the summer months the Gardner Café is open. And, if your name is Isabella, you get in for free! Also, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is right near Fenway Park, so you should pop in there while you’re in the area.
2. The Backbay Fens – Beautiful urban parks that connect the Boston Common, to Franklin Park (where you can then take the kids to the Franklin Park Zoo). The park was established in 1879 and offers great respite from city noise.
3. Harvard Square and Harvard Book Store – I lived in Cambridge for a year and loved every second of it. Just walk around and enjoy the cobblestone roads, bookshops, cafes, and street performers. You can take the T here from The Fens, by taking the E train to Park Street and then switching to the red line. You’ll come out right by Harvard University. While you’re in the area, head over to Davis Square (2 more T stops away or a nice 20 minute walk) and get some ice cream at J.P. Licks. (Get the Oreo or the peanut butter yogurt.)
4. Mr. Bartley’s Gourmet Burgers – Wellner recommends this Harvard Square hot spot, and I’d have to agree with her choice. She suggests getting the onion rings, which I’ve never had, and the malted milk shake, which I have had and which is amazing.
5. The Prudential Center Skywalk Observatory – Take the T back to Park Street and then take the Green Line back to Copley Square. Besides for another J.P. Licks in the area, you should stop by the Pru for some great views, and some great food and shopping.

Have fun in Boston!
P.S. For more on Boston, check out this post that I wrote a few months ago.
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Juneteenth – Happy Freedom Day!

I’ve been teaching this whole year based on the theme “Time and Place”, so I seem to live from holiday to holiday. Recently it’s been Earth Day to Cinco De Mayo to Memorial Day, and now Juneteenth. Even though we celebrated Black History Month in February and talking about the history of African Americans then, Juneteenth is a time to specifically commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States. It was on June 19th, 1865 that the abolition of slavery was announced in Galveston, Texas and the Emancipation Proclamation that Lincoln declare two years earlier was finally enforced.

Because I like to think of my classroom as a virtual traveling time machine, we take the week or two leading up to Juneteenth to recall important landmarks and figures (black and white) in the history of slavery and emancipation.

Here is a list of places that we “visited”:

1. Booker T. Washington National Monument, a well preserved plantation that highlights major aspects of slave life in general and the life of Booker T. Washington specifically.
2. Boston African American National Historic Site, because it’s important to remember that not all blacks were slaves, especially in the North, especially in Boston, where African Americans owned homes, businesses, and land pre-Civil War.
3. Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park, where John Brown led his heroic insurrection against slavery and the site of one of the largest Civil War battles.
4. George Mason Memorial, commemorating the man who withheld his signature from the U.S. Constitution because it did not abolish slavery.
5. United States National Slavery Museum.
6. New York Historical Society, where we took a nice field trip where we saw artifacts from New York’s involvement in the slave trade.

As a not so well known holiday, Juneteenth has lately been getting significantly more press. Once only a holiday in Texas, Juneteenth is now observed in 26 states, including California, as instituted by Governor Schwarzenegger on June 19, 2005. President George W. Bush also recognizes the memorial of the enforcement of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation with his Presidential Message on Juneteenth.

Happy Juneteenth—go out and celebrate!
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Top Ten Children’s Museums

I was so happy to find Port Discovery on parents.com 10 Best Children’s Museums. I brought the girls there a few days ago and was really impressed. There is a exhibit on water going on now called the Wonders of Water that fit in perfectly with the science unit we were working on and even though it was geared toward children younger than the girls, they were very proud (as was I!) going around to each part of the exhibit saying “we know this” and “we learnt that” over and over again. 🙂

Since we do so much traveling, I figure it would be good to hold onto this list in case we’re in any of these cities before the girls outgrow children’s museums. Thought I’d share it with the group —

  1. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
  2. The Children’s Museum of Houston
  3. The Children’s Museum, Boston
  4. (tie) Port Discovery, Baltimore
  5. (tie) Discovery Center, Rockford, IL
  6. Brooklyn Children’s Museum – We’ve actually been to this one and love it!
  7. Strong Museum, Rochester, NY – And we’ve been here, though honestly, I don’t really remember much about it.
  8. Minnesota Children’s Museum, St. Paul
  9. Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose
  10. Madison Children’s Museum, WI

Does anyone recommend otherwise ?

Boston’s Exciting Day Life

Boston is one of my favorite cities in the whole world. The bars and restaurants are top-notch and the shopping is fantastic. I went to college in Boston, so for me the life in Boston is the nightlife. So when I went with my kids a few weeks ago to visit my alma mater, I wasn’t quite sure where to take them. Did a little research and WOW — we ended up having a great time doing all the things Boston offers to its daytime travelers. We’re all animal people, so the Franklin Park Zoo and the New England Aquarium were sure stops for us. (I didn’t know at the time that 3 weeks later we’d be in San Diego for another business trip….but no one seemed to mind visiting so many animals in such a short time.)

Franklin Park is the historic home of the Franklin Park Zoo, a huge 72 acre expanse which you would never guess existed in the urban Boston area. Katie and Alison were so cute squealing with laughter when one of the Masai giraffes in the Kalahari Kingdom came nose to nose (well almost) with us in the observation area.

The New England Aquarium’s greatest perk perhaps was that it was SO easy to get to! It’s just off the T—you can either take the Blue Line, or just get off at Government Center and walk, which is what we did because it was absolutely gorgeous outside! We bought the ticket combo to the Aquarium and the IMAX Theater and spent all day with the penguins (so cute!), sharks, and dolphins. The IMAX show we saw was Sea Monsters 3D, which I found to be a little scary at times, but the kids found absolutely mesmerizing—they’re still talking about what it feels like to be underwater surrounded by monsters.

We took a lovely day trip to the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, where we island hopped and learned about early American history. We could not have been luckier with the weather, which was hot, but not the usual Boston humid, and we took advantage of it by splashing each other during our hikes, and jumping in for a swim at Lovells Island.

I definitely remember Natick Mall from my college days and couldn’t come up to Boston without hitting one of Boston’s greatest shopping havens—though really it’s in Natick, not Boston, but close enough!

We spent the rest of our New England trip in Nantucket where my husband’s cousins live, and pretty much hung out at Surfside Beach for three days straight, sailing, swimming, and lounging in the sun. And Rick’s conference was over by then, so even he was relaxed!

Looks like Boston’s family-friendly after all!