Monday, October 13, 2014

Leaves, Apples and Wine, Oh My!

LEAVES, APPLES AND WINE, OH MY!
A GUIDE TO PLANNING YOUR 
AUTUMN LEAF-PEEPING TRIP

In autumn, in the Northern USA, autumn is a time for some Northerners to close their summer residences to snowbird in warmer climates. As they're leaving town, they pass by others who are headed north to enjoy the magnificent visual feast the leaves offer. Read on to know what to know before you go (and plan).





1. Where to go:  the public and national parks. Out West, parts of Northern California, Washington State, Upper Idaho, Montana and Oregon provide the calendar worthy landscapes that photographers drool about. Mountainous areas such as Tennessee, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Western North Carolina are all beautiful. In the Northeast, the sights are seen in New England, upstate New York, the Poconos of Pennsylvania and upper New Jersey. These mentioned areas provide extra special backdrops such as mountains, lakes, waterfalls and small picturesque towns.



2. When to go: Brilliant fall colors are dependent on various climate factors during the summer. Late August and early September give good indicators when foliage will reach peak colors and how vibrant the leaves will be. Cool summer weather might lead to less than fantastic colors. Hot wet summers, a gradual cooling September and later frosts might yield great color. A rainy windy and cold September might knock the leaves off sooner without them giving their full potential of color. Use a weather website and fall foliage maps to help you plan.



3. What else to do: After sightseeing, enjoy the areas where the leaves are: farms, orchards, wineries, antique shops. Activities at local farms include u-pick-ur own produce, with hay rides, mazes, pumpkin patches, face painting, booths, homemade jam, cider and baked goods, hot corn and baked potatoes (see below).




In the NYC Metro area: 

~Lewin Farms in Calverton, Long Island is a huge operation. With over 1100 acres, it seems to dominate the LI scene but there are other farms. From May to October, you can pick berries, peaches, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, pumpkins and of course, apples. Because of the variety of produce, they have several locations, with the apple orchard in a different location than the farmstand. For the apples, they charge by the pound (whatever you can carry). You can bring your own bags and they sell the old fashioned wooden baskets.

~Nearby is Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard, a fun filled vineyard (check the website for live music) complete with horse rides. Combine Lewin and Baiting Hollow (with the nearby Tanger Outlets in Riverhead) and you have a day trip guaranteed to please all ages in the family.

Baiting Hollow is charitable as well as fun!


~Other farms in the area (and they will let you know by the homemade signs along the way) are listed on longisland.com





Instead of east, with NYC as a center point, one can head north. Tourists are surprised to learn that New York is a top agricultural producer, one of the top five states in the country. Just one hour out of NYC and you'll be in farm country (you see the Catskill Mountains looming ahead of you on I-87). 


~Masker Orchards, in Warwick, NY, just barely over 100 years old, seems to have perfected the quintessential day in the "country." You can picnic within the orchard. There are "parking lots" but some areas of the orchard are wide enough for cars to park within the rows of the trees themselves. They charge a flat rate of 26.95 per bag picked (they provide the bags). On the bag itself is a map of the orchards (it helps to know your species of apples). 

Maskers Orchard: Family Fun Area (Editorial Use Only)

In the Family Fun Area was a full scale "festival:" country store, pony rides, haunted house, apple maze, face painting, pizza, apple pies, pumpkins, ATM machine (they do take credit cards, no Amex), and, hallelujah, rest rooms. By the way, be prepared to have your car checked for bootleg apples. They mean what they say about paying on your way out. No honor system here.


Maskers Orchard's Country Store (Editorial Use Only)

~Further up Route 17 or I-87, depending on how fast you want to get there, are several in New Paltz. The benefit of these farms is the proximity to several vineyards, Minnewaska State Park and the charming town of New Paltz itself, with its funky college vibe and historical French Huguenot houses. Apple Hill FarmDressel Farms and Wilklow Orchards are all good all have family fun.

In every region, be prepared for traffic galore. Between the outlets, vineyards, farms and every day life on the week-ends (school football games, etc), my suggestion is to be at the farm by 10AM. When you are ready to leave around 12 noon, you will see the crowd heading in and you'll be glad you got there early.

Click the social media icons to share. Spread the word. Happy Travels.

Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, Tumblr. Purchase our fine art, decor or stock photos on ShutterstockImageKindmcraytonphoto.comiStock by Getty Images , and Dreamstime.

All Photos Copyright Marcia Crayton, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Disclaimer

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

This review is my personal opinion. I am not paid by anyone. I do not receive any amenities (free or discounted).


 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Cruise Ship Review: Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas

Royal Caribbean: Jewel of the Seas




Most cruise lines advertise their biggest and most expansive ships. But always check out the other class of ships: they may have the time and/or itinerary you want. Keep in mind that the lower class ships may not offer all of the bells and whistles (bumper cars, etc). This is a review of a mid-class ship.


1. The décor featured blond wood grain interior.  Each landing on the staircases is highlighted with art. Glass elevators say the day of the week with a removable panel on the floor (a Royal feature) and a lit staircase rose from the lobby. 





2. The corridors were slightly wider than the ships of this class. They were decorated with pop American art, such as portraits or black and white photos of Hollywood stars. The staterooms were well-equipped. Like any other ship, the staterooms with a balcony will be slightly smaller.




3. The main dining room, Tides was divided into 2 levels: assigned dining on one level and the flex time diners on the other. The lunch buffet was sometimes better than dinner because an international theme is featured every day: Caribbean, European, Asian American.





4. Entertainment is included on all cruises: shows, live entertainment, a movie screen on deck (a recent upgrade) and an indoor cinema. 

5. The fitness room was spacious for a ship of this size. There is also a track (6 times around for a mile) and the usual spa.

12.

6. The pools were saltwater. When I sailed, the gift shop did not sell goggles but that may have changed. The excursion desk had snorkel masks for sale. 



7. The solarium is an adults-only area of the ship but the website mentions that during inclement weather, children are allowed. It was enclosed with a pool, hot tub, a pool bar and a food area that was open when the buffet was closed. Soft music helps to create a relaxing ambience.

8. Sports: The water slide and rock climbing may have restricted hours and it may be restricted in age. The basketball court is also used for other events. Featured is miniature golf and a golf simulator.




9. The usual kids' and teens' clubs are offered. Royal stated that if no one showed up within 15 minutes of an activity’s start time, the event would be cancelled. Adults are allowed in the video arcade.



10. The Safari Club is a nice place to be if you just want to lounge. This area included the Schooner, the Zanzibar lounge, the Congo bar, the Game Reserves and the Serengeti Card Club.


Sailing the top-notch ships is fun, but don't discount the smaller ships or a shorter itinerary. Some people like smaller ships because of there is less people. The staff will be professional, the amenities are increasing and you may save money. 

Click the social media icons to share this article. Happy Travels!






Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, Tumblr. Purchase our fine art, decor or stock photos on ShutterstockImageKindmcraytonphoto.comiStock by Getty Images , and Dreamstime.

All Photos Copyright Marcia Crayton, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Disclaimer

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

This review is my personal opinion. I am not paid by anyone. I do not receive any amenities (free or discounted).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A "Band" New Day: Disney Magic Bands


INTRO TO...DISNEY MAGIC BANDS





1. What are Magic Bands? The Magic Bands, introduced in 2013 and updated in 2015, are waterproof wristbands with a chip using RFID technology inside that can function as your admission ticket, your annual pass, your hotel key if you are staying in a Disney resort, your "credit card" in Disney (if you are at a resort) and also, your FastPass+. Got that? 


If you pre-order, your bands will arrive in the mail, in a discreet package



2. How do I get one? You will receive one when you book a Disney resort or buy an annual pass. It will be mailed to you. Your name will be inside. If you buy a regular ticket at the park, you get a plastic card but you can purchase a Magic Band and link the ticket.  If you already have one, you can decline the band when you book your resort online. If you don't customize it, you will get the standard gray color when you check in.


Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Magic Kingdom): FastPass worthy for the kids


3. How do you use them? Simply touch "Mickey to Mickey." In other words, you touch the Mickey icon on the bracelet to the Mickey icon at the ride or cashier. The technology will read who you are and confirm your FastPass or charge your credit card for a purchase. A PIN is required for purchasing. 



Disney's All Star Resort: The Bands are your hotel keys

4. How do I link my information? Your info will be linked when you check in if you are staying at a resort. If you buy a band, you can link it through the My Disney Experience app. When you book a FastPass, the info links to your band.




Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom): Stand by and Fast Pass entrances

5. What else may happen with my Magic Band? Ride through "it's a small world"® and find out. There are limited edition bands that have extra effects when you use them or the band may indicate your status. For example, if you are a Disney Vacation Club member, the indicator on the entry turnstile will turn purple when you enter one of the parks.

The original Disney Magic Bands ® They will still work.


6. What happens if I lose it or it doesn't work anymore? The battery inside supposedly lasts for at least two years. My first one was still working after 4 years. You can go online and deactivate any Magic Band in your account.







Click the social media icons to share. Spread the word. Happy Travels.

Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, Tumblr. Purchase our fine art, decor or stock photos on ShutterstockImageKindmcraytonphoto.comiStock by Getty Images , and Dreamstime.

All Photos Copyright Marcia Crayton, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Disclaimer

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

This review is my personal opinion. I am not paid by anyone. I do not receive any amenities (free or discounted).

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Intro to...Coney Island: A Local NYC Treat

Intro to...Coney Island, NYC
Top Ten Things to Know



Coney Island Boardwalk
Seaside resorts, traveling fairs and carnivals, world's fairs along with the Industrial Revolution (resulting in rides) coupled with an increase of people having money to spend on entertainment gave rise to amusement parks. Coney Island, being near the shore, was a natural location for NYC to have its own. One could say that Coney Island was one of the original staycations, easily accessible by subway from Manhattan yet far enough to feel like you're out of town, literally at the seashore.
The Cyclone
1. Coney Island is one of the oldest amusement areas in the world. The name Coney comes from the Spanish "conejo," which means rabbit. Apparently, the peninsula was full of the little bunnies until development limited their numbers. "Coney" was a nickname that stuck. 

2. Popular before World War II, Coney Island descended into almost a delicious seediness, where only hardy NY locals would dare to go. During the 1960's and 1970's Nathan's, the famous hot dog stand; the Cyclone, one of the grandfathers of all roller coasters; the Deno's Wonder Wheel and the inactive 1939 World's Fair souvenir, the red Parachute Jump managed to survive.



Surf Avenue
3. Meanwhile, an entire community built up around the resort area, complete with residences, schools, churches and supermarkets. Street names like Neptune, Surf and Mermaid pay tribute to the seaside theme, but make no mistake, Coney Island is a real neighborhood and a vital part of NYC.

4. Coney Island limped along until the 1980s revitalization started. It is actually several independently owned parks, the most famous being Deno's, Luna Park and Steeplechase Park. Thanks to local politicians and developers, the area is a hot spot.
The new Thunderbolt, Coney Island (editorial usage)
5. Locals, however, are not giving it up to the tourists so easily. NYC can promote it to the out-of-towners all it wants but Coney Island belongs to us, always has and always will. It's even more alive after dark: with everything lit up and the noise of the games spilling out onto Surf Avenue.


Nathan's Famous
6. You can spend a day or even weekend in this part of Brooklyn. Visit the NY Aquarium. The amusement parks (Luna ParkDeno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Parkstill operate old school: admission is free and you buy tickets (or books of tickets) to ride the attractions. Old and new games are there, also: bring lots of cash, they are not as cheap as they used to be! Comprehensive info can be found at Coney Island Fun Guide.

Soaring Eagle

Wonder Wheel (trademarked, editorial usage)
7. Cut through the side streets and head to the famous boardwalk, immortalized in many movies, including the building from the film Two Weeks Notice at 21st Street and the Boardwalk. 

8. Warning: NYC waters never really warm up, our season is too short, but the Parks Department is makes an effort to keep the beaches clean. Official season is Memorial Day to Labor Day for the life guards. In the winter, dare to dive in with local polar bear clubs, especially on New Year's Day.


The Boardwalk
9. When you get hungry and thirsty, this is the best place for junk food: custard ice cream, seafood, candy, popcorn and all sorts of interesting drinks along the boardwalk and Surf Avenue. Of course, the most well-known is Nathan's Famous (it tastes better down here). However, the other spots are just as good, particularly since Nathan's can seem slow and the lines can be very long. Don't forget to go to Williams Candy store and take home one of the famous candy apples.


MCU Park (editorial usage)
10. Take in future sports stars at Municipal Credit Union (MCU) Park and cheer on the Brooklyn Cyclones, one of our local minor league baseball teams. With the mascot running around and all the fun things in between innings, a minor league game becomes quite intimate. The park is smaller, the players are accessible and the crowd is fun. It is certainly cheaper.


Williams Candy Store, next to Nathan's, Surf Ave


Subway Station
Getting there: the old BMT lines, now known as the MTA F, Q, N, D trains will take you to the area. The main buses would be the B36 and B68. By car, it gets a little complicated and parking between June and September is ridiculous, but for a small fortune, you can park in privately owned lots without running out to the meter every 15 minutes.

So, come on down to our very own seashore resort area and take a few hours to enjoy yourself.



Click the social media icons to share. Spread the word. Happy Travels.

Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, Tumblr. Purchase our fine art, decor or stock photos on ShutterstockImageKindmcraytonphoto.comiStock by Getty Images , and Dreamstime.

All Photos Copyright Marcia Crayton, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Disclaimer

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

This review is my personal opinion. I am not paid by anyone. I do not receive any amenities (free or discounted).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Kids, Travel and You: Part 3 Basic Activities in Europe


KIDS, TRAVEL AND YOU: PART 3- 
BASIC ACTIVITIES IN EUROPE

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy
Check out the other articles in this series:
Part 1: Planning 
Part 2: Traveling with Ages 18-21
Part 4: Road Trips

What do you do with children in Europe? In this 3rd part of our series, we explore basic activities to do.

Capri, Italy
Plan in advance

As we stated in the first part, a successful family vacation depends on your already established family dynamics and how much prep you put into the process. Before you leave, plan local activities that will introduce your child to the culture they will see: restaurants, museums, US cities that resemble European cities and maybe some apps that introduce the language.

Parc Guell, Barcelona, Spain
Is it right for everyone?

It is difficult to travel with children, but even more so with children under 3. Also, consider those with disabilities. There are stairs, canals, cobblestone alleys, steep streets and hotels and train stations without no elevators. Wheel chairs, strollers, canes and crutches were often not accommodated.

Amalfi Coast, Italy
Will it be the right time of year?

Take into account the time of year. Remember, the seasons are reversed past the equator (it's summer in Australia in February). Summer in Europe is hot and the down time is August. Some attractions have reduced hours or are closed altogether. Beach areas are crowded and beach hotel rates are high. Spring Break is a good time. It can still be crowded, but many attractions are open. The weather can be a gamble, but that's what museums are for.

Window display in pizza restaurant, Notting Hill, London

What to do?

Basic: play on-going games. Challenge your child to say hello, please, thank you, good-bye and their menu choice in the target language. Take a look at the details (an faces) on the old churches. The many piazzas (plazas) may street fairs, vendors, musicians, performers and carousels. 

St. James Park, London


Gardens: Springtime brings flowers and butterflies and rolling hills. Any place that encourages touching and participation is a guaranteed hit. Some museums are also gardens: your kids will want to pose by each sculpture at the Musee Rodin.  At Versailles, rather than touring each palace, opt for only Marie Antoinette's Estate and pay extra for the musical fountain show in the gardens in the evening.

Musee Rodin, Paris

Ferris Wheels ("Eyes"): They seem to be all the rage: London, Paris, Niagara Falls (Canada), a few places in Japan. We're even building one in NYC.  These are outside of the theme parks and there are often attractions surrounding them as add-ons.

Wax museums: Keep your children's ages in mind for these. Some have horror themes. For the others, it can be spooky standing next to a life size statue that looks like it may come alive at any moment. But, wax museums can be good history lessons and certainly a lot of fun.

Museu de la Xocolata (Chocolate), Barcelona, Spain
Children's Museums: they are popping up more and more in Europe. The USA seems to be the place that is child-centered and places around the world are on the band wagon. The Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Florence (there's one in Milan, too) is hands on.  


Canals and steps and bridges, in Venice, oh, my!

Boat Rides: Venice, Capri, Versailles. If you have ever taken a ferry, your kids can handle this!



Buckingham Palace, London
Montjuic, Barcelona, Spain
Forts, castles and palaces: These are always a hit with kids: castles and cannons and towers and tales of pirates and adventures, oh my! They can be dusty, so don't wear your best clothing. 

Roland Garros: Site of the French Tennis Open, Paris, 
Olympic and Sports Museum, Barcelona

Sports arenas and museums: Many Olympic sites have been converted for public use, one can visit the four famous tennis open stadiums, or it could be high season for the local favorite. Check your local listings, as they say.

School bus in Positano, Italy
Schools: Depending on the age of your child, just walk by a local school. Seeing kids play in the yard somehow always links the cultures of the similarities, makes a city seem more real. For the older ones, walk by a famous university.

Magnet Butterflies

Shopping: Set down some ground rules before you go. Compare prices of their favorite sneakers and make them do the conversion, look at the language of the foods in a market and note the lack of huge supermarkets. Check out the many neighborhood marts and how people still shop daily for dinner. Finally, you may run into one of the farmer's markets.

Pizza...in Paris!

Restaurants: Eating can be a challenge, but while world cuisine is one reason to travel, at the same time, it's universal. Encourage kids to try new things but almost every place has fries (believe it or not). 

Arc de Triomf in Ciutadella Park, Barcelona, Spain
Tuileries Garden, near the Louvre, Paris

Central parks: When you have seen the Mona Lisa or Michaelangelo's David (which you should certainly do), take some down time, get ice cream  and walk in the park. Outside of the Louvre you have Tuileries Gardens, up the street from Buckingham Palace is St. James Park or visit one of the 8 Royal Gardens. Madrid has it's Parque de Retiro.
Piccadilly Circus, London


Night Time: Cities come alive and lights are fantastic at twilight. Make sure your lodging is in a well lit and well populated area. The Eiffel Tower actually gives a light show, vendors sell little toys with lights in Florence and Venice, London's Piccadilly Circus looks like Times Square and Barcelona's Ramblas seems to never sleep as you window shop. Fountains are lit up, families are taking strolls and you can walk off your dinner before putting the little ones to sleep.
Street artist in Siena, Italy
In the hotel room: Television programming is likely to be limited and children's programming may be sparse. I would suggest bringing a tablet with downloaded books, games and movies. If you have wi-fi, make it your child's job to research the next day's agenda and let him find it on the map.

All in all, taking children on a trip to Europe can be fun, educational and an adventure for all with just a few adjustments and some pre-planning.

Click the social media icons to share this article. Happy Travels!

Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, Tumblr. Purchase our fine art, decor or stock photos on ShutterstockImageKindmcraytonphoto.comiStock by Getty Images , and Dreamstime


Disclaimer

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

This review is my personal opinion. I am not paid by anyone. I do not receive any amenities (free or discounted)