Tag Archive | family friendly travel

Atop the Big Apple

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By Karen Hendricks

New York City is one of my favorite places on earth. I’ve been very blessed to have the opportunity to visit numerous times over the years, and we even enjoyed a family vacation there several years ago. Last week, as a small business owner, I was very thankful to receive a scholarship to attend a conference–which doesn’t sound all that exciting–but actually it was very enriching and energizing. I was in desperate need of a change of pace, due to this long, frigid winter. Thanks to my husband’s support at home, I enjoyed four days in the Big Apple, where it’s always fun to make new memories and discoveries.

One of those discoveries was The High Line, a former elevated train line that’s been converted into a pathway and park. It stretches for about a mile, running north/south, on the lower west side of Manhattan. It’s urban renewal at its best! Right in the heart of New York, it provided time “off the merry-go-round.” And I can’t wait to share it with you–our Off the Merry-Go-Round readers–and the rest of my family on a future trip.

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Entrance to The High Line

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Now, I should disclose that I absolutely LOVE walking in New York. I almost always travel there by train, as a car is really is hindrance–I don’t like to drive in the city especially during busy weekdays, and parking fees are astronomical during weekdays as well. If it’s raining more than a drizzle, I might hail a cab. But otherwise, I choose a hotel that’s central to the locations I’m planning to visit, and then I walk everywhere I need to go. Comfy shoes are a must.

The High Line aligned perfectly with my walking route, to and from my conference. So up I went every day, taking several flights of stairs to access The High Line, which gave me a fun, new perspective on the city. Looking out across rooftops, walking alongside towering buildings–both modern and old–with a bird’s eye view of city streets… it was incredible. Even though it was winter, and the path was lined with snow on either side, it was still beautiful. The park-like setting featured gorgeous trees and intriguing sculptures, with plenty of benches where you could relax and soak in the view. There were plenty of visitors during my walks to keep me company–it was a popular, happening place!

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I’m anxious to return on a warm summer day, when trail-side gardens are in full bloom, for a visit with my family. I think kids would especially enjoy the awesome views and new perspective above the city streets. And one huge benefit to walking on The High Line–especially for families with young children? You can actually walk continuously for a mile, without stopping at crosswalks and traffic lights, as you normally do in the city. However, you should make frequent stops on The High Line, simply to admire the views… there are many just waiting to be discovered.

Enjoy a few bonus pics below… And tell us: What family-friendly and/or budget-friendly destinations have you discovered in New York? Please share your tips and ideas below! 🙂

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I spy… the Empire State Building

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View of the Hudson River

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A light mist put a touch of gloss on the city streets below

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A snowy, snarled street… with a peek at the Hudson

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A little boy’s dream… bird’s eye view of a construction site

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The former rail lines gleam within the walkways…

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The High Line’s route

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I was intrigued by the design, shape and shine of this building!

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A former warehouse reminds visitors of a past life in the city…

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Looking down 22nd Street…

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Sculpture provides energizing color and shape against a building’s structured backdrop…

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One last intriguing skyline view…

If you enjoyed this article… you might also like:

Up for Family Adventure? Try Biking on a Rail Trail

And click here for The High Line’s website

Insider’s Guide to Family-Friendly Events in Gettysburg

By Karen Hendricks

Gettysburg Battlefield Vista: The white monument in the center of the photo is the Pennsylvania Memorial

Gettysburg Battlefield Vista: The white monument in the center of the photo is the Pennsylvania Memorial

Several of our Off the Merry-Go-Round writers live in Gettysburg, PA—myself included. Summertime, to us, means tourist season… although having worked with numerous Gettysburg events and festivals in the past, those in the tourism industry prefer we call our guests “visitors” and not “tourists.” Sounds nicer, I agree. We are thankful indeed for the many visitors who flock to our south-central Pennsylvania town—approximately three million annually. This year, our charming Civil War-era town is humming with excitement as we approach the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, and tourism officials predict our annual visitors may number closer to four million.

Sesquicentennial events are spread out through the entire year, but certainly the bulk of the commemorations are planned for the end of June into July. As a freelance writer in Gettysburg, I’ve written a number of articles about the 150th anniversary—so many in fact, that during the height of my research, I was dreaming about the Civil War on a regular basis!

Too often, I think we overlook events happening “in our own backyard,” so I am making a point to put several 150th events on my family’s calendar. If you live in the central PA or MD area also, or if you’re headed to Gettysburg on summer vacation, I hope the following “Insider’s Guide to Family-Friendly Events in Gettysburg” is helpful. Welcome and enjoy!

Family-Friendly Events in Gettysburg, Summer 2013:

Battlefield IMG_1862rOk, it’s summer and the kids think that since school is out, learning stops. Here is a way to sneak a history lesson into summertime… because after all, studies have shown that summertime is the greatest period of growth, both physically and mentally, for children.

So Gettysburg’s history in a nutshell goes like this: One hundred and fifty years ago, on July 1-3, 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg claimed 51,000 casualties. The bloodiest battle of the entire Civil War, the name “Gettysburg” became forever etched in history as the turning point in the war, as well as a pivotal point in America’s history. The South (Confederates) never fully recovered from their losses at Gettysburg, and the North’s (Union’s) victory in the Civil War preserved the United States as our country. (Feel free to explain this to your children in laymen’s terms, depending on their ages! 🙂

At the heart of Gettysburg’s commemoration, is a period of ten days, June 28-July 7, 2013. Within this timeframe, Gettysburg will host two major battle reenactments, official Gettysburg National Military Park commemorative events across the 6,000-acre battlefield, and a full slate of events staged by businesses in Gettysburg’s tourism industry.

Rather than giving you a rundown of the highlight events, which will undoubtedly be crowded and/or difficult to access, I’m going to list a few family-friendly events likely to be less crowded. Since they are all programs organized by the National Park Service, they are all free:

July 1-4 NPS Family Activity Tent:

The front lawn of the Gettysburg National Military Park’s Museum and Visitor Center* will host a special family and children’s tent full of activities, programs and hands-on opportunities, 9 am-5 pm daily. Stations will include:

  • A living history stage where a new Gettysburg “personality” will be revealed every hour
  • Infantry, cavalry and artillery drilling stations
  • Soldier pastimes circle
  • Dress-up photo booth
  • “Ask a Ranger” desk

July 1-4 Battle Overview:

For a summary of the Battle of Gettysburg, attend this brief (30 minute) overview program led by park rangers in the Ford Education Center, Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center.* Programs run every hour on the hour, from 9 am-5pm. This program serves as a wonderful orientation to begin your visit to Gettysburg.

July 1-4 Civil War Soldier Program:

What was life like, for Union and Confederate soldiers at Gettysburg? Attend this hour-long program to find out. You may even have the chance to try on a soldier’s uniform for size! This program is to be held at 10 am, 12 noon, 2 and 4 pm, at Ranger Site #1, behind the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center.*

Key Moments:

The NPS is presenting “Key Moment” programs, explaining events that happened during the Battle of Gettysburg, exactly 150 years ago. To travel to the sites, you can park at the National Cemetery North and South lots* and use special NPS shuttle buses, which stop at Devil’s Den, Little Round Top and other sites, every 15-20 minutes:

  • July 2 Key Moments at Little Round Top:

Rangers will explain what happened at Little Round Top, the scene of heavy fighting on the afternoon of July 2, 1863. Programs will be presented every hour, on the hour, from 9 am-12 pm and 2-5pm.

  • July 2 Key Moments at Devil’s Den:

A desperate struggle ensued between the Confederates of Longstreet’s Corps and the Union 3rd Corps on July 2, 1863. Rangers will explain the series of events during presentations every hour, on the hour, from 10am-12pm and 2-5pm. Devil’s Den, with its rock formations, is a fascinating stop for children of all ages, but to fully explore and climb on the rocks, sneakers should be worn.

My nephew especially enjoyed visiting Devil's Den with my family last summer!

My nephew especially enjoyed visiting Devil’s Den with my family last summer!

Every Thursday through August 15: Hike with Ike:

Gettysburg’s history isn’t limited to the Civil War—the town was also home to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Every Thursday at 7:15 pm, take a free, guided walking tour through downtown Gettysburg that explores President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s life in Gettysburg. Meet the National Park Ranger at the Gettysburg College gates, at the corner of North Washington and Water Streets.

*The Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center –and- the National Cemetery North and South lots are both located off Baltimore Street (PA Route 97) just south of Gettysburg. If you follow the brown NPS signs approaching Gettysburg from any direction, they will direct you to Baltimore Street.

For additional events and more information, check out the Gettysburg National Military Park website.