New York City Field Trips

The school year has finally begun and with it, curriculum finalizations and field trip bookings. Teaching in New York City should be every teacher’s dream—while one does need to be careful about crowds, the field trip possibilities are truly endless and the entire city becomes an extended classroom.

So for all you teachers out there (or just if you’re visiting NYC with kids), here is a list of great field trip locations in New York City:

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think parents are excited when they’re kids end up in my class because they know it’ll be a year on the go, both because of the “simulated U.S. travel itinerary” and the actual New York City traveling that goes on during the year. Looking forward to another great school year!
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A Kid’s Guide to L.A.

It’s been a while since I’ve put in my two cents on the California scene, and when my sister and her two little kids came for a visit, it inspired me to do a little research. So here’s a list of fun activities for kids in the Los Angeles area. Some are more obvious and some are a bit more obscure. Feel free to add to the list!

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San Francisco

I can’t believe our family trip has already come and gone so quickly! I don’t think I have ever had such a jam packed vacation. Usually we’ll go somewhere A LOT smaller and spend most of the time on the beach or hiking, with a museum or theme park thrown in for kicks. This time, we spent the entire time on the go. it was exhausting, to say the least, but fun. The kids had a great time and I really felt like they deserved it after a difficult year, moving and all.

We did the things that were on my list: Basic Brown Bear Factory (loved it!), the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf (helloooo Elvis!), and Alcatraz Island (Julia threw up on the ferry, but otherwise, fun!). We also went to Pier 39, at Fisherman’s Wharf where we bought tons of junk and saw sea lions (which Justin loved).

Other big hits were the Exploratorium which was fantastic, the de Young Museum which I loved, but mainly because it was just me and my dad. My mom took the kids to the Golden Gate Park. One day we went to the Ghirardelli store and then rented bikes and rode across the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito. Had lunch, and ferried back (Julia was fine that time). That was probably the best day.

We spent a day on Baker Beach only having to shield the kids’ eyes a few times. (NOTE: if you want to stick near clothed (at least minimally) beach goers, stay away from the northern section of the beach). We went to Oakland Zoo, Children’s Fairyland (cute), the Chabot Space & Science Center, and Waterworld Park.

And more! It was definitely our best trip. I only got into a few fights with my parents (which is NOTHING) and the kids got to see their cousin and my brother is doing great. it was such a relief to have things out of my hands, the planning, the paying, the transportation. And the best part…is that it’s nice to be home!
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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!

The Parsons are in Minneapolis!

And we are having a blast! We only got here yesterday and have already explored the area around our hotel (we walked all over Downtown Minneapolis), went to the Walker Art Center, and out for a nice family dinner. Today Rick started his slew of business meetings and the girls and I spent the entire day at the Mall of America, which was just thrilling—what a world in there! The girls particularly liked the Park at Mall of America, but I was a big fan of the shopping part of the Mall of America. Not it’s after midnight and I should really be getting to bed because I know the girls are going to wake up early and make me take them down to breakfast…

In store for tomorrow is the Science Museum of Minnesota or the Water Park of America. And then also in the next week we’ll visit the Como Zoo. For our last two days, we’ll be staying near Itasca State Park, which is Minnesota’s oldest state park with over 100 lakes. and hopefully the weather will be nice because the Parsons are going to try something new and exciting—we’re going to be camping out! We borrowed a whole slew of gear that we brought with us and we’ll be renting a car, parking it, and then will hike and camp for two days. The girls are really excited—in fact is was their idea (I guess it’s obvious that it wasn’t mine or Rick’s idea…).
Wish us luck!!

Five Days of Disney

Seth Stevenson asks a shrewd question in Slate: Why would anyone want to go to Disney World every year? And as an elementary school teacher who sees the same kids go to Disney World year after year after year, I’m curious to know his answer.

Stevenson explains that Mr. Walt Disney did not just create a company and open a few theme parks, but created a Disney ideology—he calls it Disneyism. Walt Disney’s career arc is comparable maybe to L. Ron Hubbard of Scientology fame, who also grew up in middle America and exploded into the mass-market. The “Disney-as-religion”, as Stevenson calls it, is indoctrinated into Disney visitors from the overabundance of souvenirs available to the five weddings a day that take place at the iconical Disney castle. Utopianism spills out of Disney’s ears and captures children and parents, convincing them that because things are so cheery, they must be doing something good.

I think Stevenson’s point (I didn’t get through the treatise he wrote on the subject) is that people flock to the Disney Empire because the Walt Disney Co. has done a fantastic job transforming the ordinary into the magical. The movie rides at MGM Studios are larger than life; the innovations at Epcot are sensational.

I’ve never been to Disney World, and if all Mr. Stevenson says is true, and all that my hundreds of students say is true, Disney World probably is just a bit as magical as it seems. I will probably take our kids there when they are at an age where they’ll love it and remember it. But only once. I certainly don’t need my (future) intelligent, creative children being sucked into believing that it’s an every summer sort of trip. And besides for the fact that I think my wife and I would go crazy, I think about all the other places that I want our (again, future) kids to experience, like the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls.

The Disney empire in the U.S. includes:

Business trip to Austin, Texas

I’m in Austin, Texas for five days, spending three nights at the Hilton near the Austin Convention Center, and two nights at the Lake Austin Spa Resort, which I am really looking forward to (last two nights). As you know by now, I don’t ever plan a business trip without a significant pleasure portion. I’ll really be busy this trip (not like my last trip to Jackson, Wyoming where I spent most of time out on the green), but of course have scheduled some time at the Barton Creek – Crenshaw Cliffside Course, which, coincidentally, I just wrote about in 10 Great Places to go for the Green, so that’s certainly a highlight.

Here are my goals for the week: Get work done, golf, eat some good BBQ and Mexican food, and get a few massages. That shouldn’t be too hard. One of my coworkers suggested the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum—does anyone know if that’s worth going to?
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