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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Maybe a word about where we actually live…

…“Back to the grind” of our everyday life is not nearly as depressing as it sounds. We travel a lot, but we also happen to have a house and a hometown and a bit of stability believe it or not! We live in Bethesda, Maryland, but we used to live in Annapolis until recently when Rick’s job required him to be in the D.C. office everyday rather than once a week. I found this blog a few weeks ago and for some reason I feel the need now to share the wealth, so to speak of my knowledge of my traveled regions, near and far.

If you’ve been to Bethesda, you’ve been to Westfield Montgomery, a cozy neighborhood mall with everything we need. But when we really want to go all out for some serious shopping, I take the girls to Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover or to Potomac Mills Outlet Mall in Prince William, Virginia which is not too far a drive.

I bring the girls to Baltimore three times a week for a homeschool “team meeting” and then, either with the group, or alone, we go to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. We’ve got a family membership, so sometimes we go in just for brief visits or to participate in whatever programs they may have going on. I don’t know if you’ve read my other posts, but my girls are a little obsessed with zoos—we’re really been to zoos all over the country and they don’t ever tire of it. The National Aquarium in Baltimore also offers great programs throughout the year and is often one of our destinations during our Baltimore trips.

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!

A Family Trip to San Diego

We just got back from a fantastic trip to San Diego. I hadn’t been there since I was 8 years old (nearly 30 years ago!), and since our daughters are now 8, we thought it would be fun to give them the same memorable experience that I had had when I was their age. My husband, Rick, had business to do during the 5 days that we were in the area, so Katie, Alison, and I kept ourselves busy visiting zoos, parks, malls, and beaches. I am homeschooling the girls just for this year (to try it out), so we take every opportunity we can to tag along with Rick on his business trips—this way they get to see the country that they live in and get a much more hands-on learning experience.

The San Diego Zoo was Katie’s favorite day. Though I thought it was a bit pricey to get in, it was well worth the expression on her face when she came face to face with the giant pandas—her favorite animals. Both girls rode camels, laughing all the while knowing full well that I had fallen off one of those very camels the last time I was at the San Diego Zoo.

The highlight for Alison, and I think for me too, was Mission Beach. We’re all serious beach bums, but Alison carries after her mom in that severe desire to be sun-drenched all the time (always with sunscreen, of course!). The Strand, part of San Diego’s gorgeous coastline, provided hours and hours and hours of lounging in the sun, people watching at the Mission Beach’s busy boardwalk, and riding the Big Dipper Roller Coaster over and over again. We even joined a game of volleyball just opposite the sparkly Pacific Ocean, which was warm and refreshing in the hot July sun. We had dinner plans with Rick at 6, and when we saw that it was only 3 and we needed a break from the heat, we headed to the Fashion Valley Mall for some refuge from the sun. We headed straight to Wetzel’s Pretzels for a snack, and then did some “serious damage” (as the girls say) at some of their favorite stores, including Limited Too, Bath & Body Works, and Borders Express. We also went to the Build-A-Bear Workshop. We’re on vacation—we’re allowed to go overboard a bit with special treats!

The next day we did some more shopping at Westfield UTC —do you see a theme? There’s an ice-skating rink there, which is what really convinced us to hit two malls in a row. I’m not exactly the skating type, but the girls held my hands and took me around and around the rink until my two little girls had doubled into four. We needed a rest afterwards so took at break at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers before heading off to San Diego Sea World. Rick was meeting us there, and I’m glad he did because I was exhausted! I ended up sitting through a couple of Shamu shows while they hiked through the rest of the park. I think the girls said the liked the Shark Encounter best…or maybe it was the Manatee Rescue?

We did more—went to certain restaurants that I had gone to as a kid and just hung out in our hotel room and relaxed. Now we’re back to the grind of daily life, yet somehow, I feel a bit more relaxed. There’s just something about seeing the ocean….