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Posts Tagged ‘2008’

If it is father’s day and you are in New England, it has to be at Canobie Lake Park, right? (They have free admission and lunch for dads when you pay for a kid). But this time, the decision was not such a no-brainer. The day started off dark and drizzly. I checked the forecast and the high was supposed to be 62. This, after a week of 90+ days. We had planned to go with four families and slowly one by one, they started to drop out. We decided to bail too. For about half hour. Then I decided we have to go – we have only a few summer weekends and we have stuff planned for most weekends, so if we didn’t do this now, I wasn’t sure we could go back this season at all. I explained this “now or never” to our close friends and they signed back on right away. Because of this dilly-dallying, we were there a bit later than we would have liked to, but it was a day well spent.

The upside to the chilly, damp weather was the short lines. Some of the popular rides with the kids – like the antique cars, the mini-bumper cars etc, the wait was less than 5 minutes. Last year, we had waited about 45 minutes for these rides. They were able to go on these rides several times. Even for some of the bigger roller coasters like corkscrew, star blaster etc, there were no lines at all. We walked right in. Through out the day, all of us had to wear our sweat shirts and fleece tops, so it didn’t really feel like a summer day. We didn’t go on any of the big water rides, but some of us went on a few mildly wet ones. The ponchos we had saved from our trip to the Niagara helped.

The highlight for me was how enjoyable the visits to the parks are, as the kids grow older. AK is now the required height for all rides except one. So, he was able to come on most rides and he has also started to be less afraid and more open to trying the new rides. He has been a late bloomer, in this sense. Up until he was 5, he only did the toddler aged rides and was afraid to try anything new. The classic moment I remember was in StoryLand when he was 4. The bamboo shute is a wet ride which we all love. I didn’t go on any rides that year since I was expecting, so PK was the one going with him. We coaxed him to go once and he agreed. He did ok on the ride, but wasn’t particularly thrilled. When PK was insisting on taking him again, AK says “This is the last time, Ok daddy? After this we really have to go home”. It was funny to see the role reversal since it was mostly the dads saying it to their kids. He used to be very scared of sledding in the snow too and he has come a long way from those years. He went on all the rides with us. When he was going on the antique cars for the third time, he said “I want to take my whole family” and so he and his sister sat in the front and we sat at the back and he drove us. At that moment, I felt very old, in a nice sort of way. It won’t be long before he’s driving us in his own car! SK too, absolutely loves these rides. I remember last year, she was fussing and throwing tantrums to get off when the rides were over, but now she understands the rules. It was great to hear her scream and laugh in delight on many of spinning rides like the tea cups and the rooster ride.

I wish they had better food options – the only thing I liked was the spicy fries and the nachos. We went on more rides after filling up on junk. Despite snack breaks and bath room breaks with four kids, we did cover a lot of rides and some of them, multiple times. We finally left around 8.15 pm. It was a great bonding experience, more so than last year. I’m looking forward to many more visits to the various theme parks in the years to come.

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Toronto is ~80 miles from Niagara falls. Much of the drive was uneventful, but closer to Toronto, the Gardiner Expressway was PACKED and was down to a crawl, even on a Sunday. I found the last 15 miles the most painful – took almost 40 minutes for this stretch! Our hotel was right in downtown (it is PK’s insistence that we stay in downtown in most big cities we visit).

Our plan for the day was to visit the Toronto Islands and do some biking over there and see the rest of the city the next day.From the top of the CN tower But the timing, weather forecast, fatigue etc called for some change of plans. We decided to go see the CN tower. So, after lunch, we started walking there. It was a good 40 minute walk! Kids who live in the suburbs are not used to this. It is not like AK is not physically active – he does a lot of hiking, biking, sports etc, but just walking in the city to get to a place is new to him. He whined a bit, but we goaded him on, trying to get him excited about the trip to the top. The lines for the elevator were long and we probably waited for about 45 minutes for our turn. The guide book had mentioned that on summer weekends, it could be a 2 hour wait, so I can’t complain too much. There were some kids in the line who seemed to be scared at the prospect of going up. It was a clear and sunny day and the views from the top were absolutely gorgeous. Then, we headed to the glass floors section. A small section of the floors of the observation deck have been made of glass. Apparently it can withstand the weight of 14 large hippos, so they assure you not to worry and even jump up and down on it, if you can handle it. Even though I don’t have a fear of heights, I muGlass floorst say that this part was a bit scary, initially at least. This is also one of the most crowded places, with many people just not wanting to leave. We didn’t go to the highest level, the Skypod, since that was extra money. The walk back seemed never ending, even though there was a break for dinner. The kids wanted pizza. The main street in downtown is YongeSt, which is lined witha ton of eateries. The side walks were very crowded with a lot of pedestrian traffic. The Yonge St Square, near Eaton center had a live band playing and the water fountains were on, so we hung around a bit.

Next day’s agenda was Toronto Islands. But the morning started off very damp and the forecast didn’t look encouraging either. But it did say it would clear up by afternoon, so we decided to while away the morning. Hoping to get some Indian food in Little India, we rode the subway there. This was the highlight of AK’s trip so far (goes to show how often we go to Boston, he doesn’t remember riding the T there). It was a wasted trip. First of all, the shops and restaurants open around noon time and it was barely 10.30 am when we reached there. And I wasn’t desperate enough to hang around till noon. So, we turned right back. We exited the subway into a mall, had lunch at the food court and back to the hotel.  After a short nap, weather still didn’t look any better, but we were headed back home the next day, so considering that we had lugged bicycles all the way, I was determined to go. The ferry dock in the harbor was probably 2 miles from our hotel, but parking would have been very hard to find and very expensive. So we decided to bike it up all the way. Our only hesitation was that the streets were crowded and we have never ridden anywhere outside of designated bike trails in state and national parks, so this was very different. We decided to take a longer, less crowded path, but it was still a “stop and Toronto Skylinego” ride since we had to stop at the lights at every block. And at some point, we had to join the busy streets which led to the harbor and it was evening rush hour, but we finally made it there in about 1/2 hr. We caught the 4.45 pm ferry to Central Island. It was a short 15 minute ride with great views of downtown. The islands themselves are heaven. I don’t know if it was because it was past 5 pm or what, it was practically deserted. There’s miles and miles of park/greenery with lots of picnic tables, drinking water etc. Very clean and well maintained. And its free, except for the nominal ferry fare. I couldn’t have imagined such a serene place right across from such a big, crowded city. We rode our bikes (PK on rollerblades) for about 1.5 hours. We first went left to Hanlan’s point. Great views of the city from here. From there we went all the way to the other end of the islands – Ward’s island. The only downside of going that late in the day was all the cafes and eateries were closed. Not to worry, we had our PBJ sandwiches and had a picnic dinner at Ward’s Island. We took the 7.45 pm ferry back into the city. I was dreading the ride back to the hotel for three reasons – by now, my legs were tired, then there was the stop and go thing and the third was that the return back would be slightly more uphill. We somehow made it back – I could see the others were tired too.

The next morning was pretty chilly, so we abandoned plans for any more sightseeing. We anyway had a long drive back, so we decided to just hit the road. We started @ 9 am. 10 hours and 2 stops later, we were home by 6.45 pm. It was PK’sbirthday and I felt sorry for him – he spent most of the day driving and had a terrible lunch at one of the fast food places in the service areas. But friends visited in the evening with cake and some drinks, which was nice, and the kids had a blast. They were surprised at how calm, pleasant and energetic our kids were after spending most of the day in the car. And the fact that we made such few stops each way.

So, may be we are all ready for the cross-country drive PK and I have talked about!

 

 

 

 

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Last weekend we went on a 4 day road trip to Niagara falls and Toronto. Basically AK had been asking for a while to go see the falls, but I wasn’t so keen since we have been there too many times and it is such a long drive (~8 hrs), but he was persistent.

We started around 7.45 am with the car crammed with bicycles, roller blades, tons of food, snacks and drinks.  After filling up for $3.89/gallon, we hit the road. We bought a portable DVD player in preparation for the trip, but even then I was actually dreading the ~450 mile drive. But the kids did amazingly well. The first stop was around noon for a second tank fillup. Since we had snacked so much through out, no one was ready for lunch. The service areas on Interstate 90 in New York are AWESOME! The rest rooms were clean (I have a phobia of public restrooms. My kids are troopers too and can go upto 6 hrs without needing to go, so I’ve been lucky!), fast food selection was decent,  good picnic benches to eat any home brought food and best of all, they had free Wi-fi access. I remember taking my parents on the same trip ~ 7 yrs ago and my dad was so impressed with these rest areas. Around 2 pm, we were approaching Buffalo and road signs indicated about 30-45 minutes wait at the border crossings. So, we made a quick lunch stop, and another Walmart stop in Niagara Falls for some essentials we forgot, and we were at Rainbow bridge @ 3.30 pm. Took us ~45 min to get through the border post. This was our first visit to the Canadian side here. The great planner that I am, I didn’t take either the address or the phone number of the hotel we were staying. After holding for Expedia on the phone for several minutes and struggling to get the required info over poor cell signals, we were finally checked into the hotel by 4.45 pm! The kids had watched only one movie (cars) and had done so good for the rest of the drive – no whines or fights. I was pretty thrilled.

Rainbow

We set out in the evening to see the falls lit at night. When we arrived there around 6.30, we were treated to beautiful views of a rainbow (the picture does not do it justice). The spray from the falls were drenching us and SK was cold. We walked around a bit. I didn’t like the Clifton Hill area at all. It was too touristy, almost like Las Vegas – too visually distracting and loud. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve liked my visits to Vegas, but this is too artificial, especially in a place where the main attraction is a wonder of nature! We soon realized it would be past 8.30 for sunset and the lights to come on. Everyone was tired, so we decided to skip it and went back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Horseshoe falls

The next morning we went back for the boat ride into the falls. We were early, so thankfully there were no long lines and we walked right through. We also found good spots on the boat. But when you get closer to the falls, you get so drenched, it is almost impossible to keep the eyes open, so I don’t remember seeing the falls up close from any of my boat rides. The kids enjoyed it. AK was even paying attention to the commentary on-board and excitedly told me the height and volume of water flowing. We were all done by 10 am. We had some coffee, croissants and bagels (second round of breakfast!) at the ubiquitous Tim Hortons and started our drive to Toronto.

 

 

 

 

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