Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Ah New York in the summertime. Is there any better place to get away to the city? I say no. So, my son and I took our summer trip to New York City, and we learned some things. Now, I am passing it all on to you. So, we went biking again. This time, our target was Central Park. We were going to bike the whole ring of 6.1 miles. The question was how to do it?
Just outside the park at Columbus Circle you have some really great things. Some of the best Gelato at Grom's. You have a great high end mall, and you have all the stuff at the bottom of Trump Tower. That is, when there isn't someone trying to climb Trump Tower. Election years are getting interesting in this neighborhood. What you also have is one of the busiest entrances to Central Park and in this tiny little neighborhood you have about thirty ways to rent modes of transportation to go through the park. There's a lot to choose from. There are pedicabs, there are horse and carriages, there are cars and taxis, there are mopeds(which you must have a special license for), there are roller blades available, and there are tons of places to rent a bicycle.
My son and I quickly got tired of the upscaleness of the area, with the Whole Foods in the mall and all these vendors trying to direct us away from the park to rent bicycles from their companies. There are a ton of bicycle places. It's hard to choose. My son and I walked by all the vendors and headed straight for Citybike. Now, in most cases I say this is the way to go. But, we found out that you have to be careful if you want to pull off the ride through Central Park on Citybike.
There's so much to see in Central Park. You can do so many things. There's boating, the zoo, carousels, castles, Shakespeare, concerts, more. There's a waterfall in the north woods. There's an enormous pool, and manicured gardens. The options are limitless. So, no matter how you bike the park, take a lock. You don't want to lose a rented bicycle. But, there are other worries too, which me and my son soon found out. At the time, (which things have changed now) there were not enough Citybike stations to allow us to stop every thirty minutes which is the rule. So, we got charged a lot to rent a Citybike. Not their fault. It was our fault for not being prepared enough for our journey. Just be aware that when Citybike says that they will charge you extra for riding over thirty minutes at a time; they mean it. Since that time, which was just last month, there have been more stations opened. They do this all the time, so check the map before you go anytime you go. It can make a big difference.
So, if you aren't adept at Citybike, just take the tour. There are a lot of them. I would make sure that I take the tour that is associated with the Central Park Website. And the only bike rental that I would use at Central Park besides Citybike is the rental agency run by the park. It's right at the Columbus Circle Gate. You can't miss it. The one thing that you don't get from the side agencies is guarantees. You don't know what the others might charge you for when you're done. They are mostly fly by night pop up companies. So, if you bike the park there are the things you need to know. Rent from the park, take a tour, or if you're in the know take Citybike. Make sure you bring a chain lock so you can enjoy the sights. Bring money so you can buy water or other drinks and snacks. You also may want to rent a boat or get ice cream at the patio of Tavern on the Green. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Natural History Museum, and the Guggenheim are all along the way as well. Plan accordingly if you want to go to the zoo, ride the carousel, or go swimming. It's all possible in the world's most famous park.
Now, the mall at the entrance is great. However, be aware that it is a high end mall. When those of us who come to the park for a ride go walking in there in our jeans and tshirts, we are not always what they picture as a customer. Whole Foods is a grocery store for those of you who've never seen Top Chef. They are great, but a little expensive. We tried to stop for a drink at a bar that had a great view and we could not get acknowledged. Be aware of this. I say use the mall for the restrooms and a bottle of water from Whole Foods. Leave the rest for the rich people who spend money like water.
So, after biking 6.1 miles through Central Park and a little browsing in the high end mall, what do you do? Well, in our case we encountered some pop up storms, so our plan to check out another park before dinner did not happen. I'll tell you all about that next time I go to the city. Instead, we decided to get something to eat. We decided to dine like the celebrities do and we went to a great little soul food spot in Harlem known as Amy Ruth's. Presidents come here. It's located on 116th street in Harlem, and if you look up soul food restaurants in New York City on Yelp; it's the first place that pops up. Is it worth all the hype? You bet it was. The atmosphere was down home. The smothered chicken was amazing, as was the mac and cheese burger. We had rum cake and all kinds of truly great food. Amy Ruth's is one of Harlem's institutions. It's just a short subway ride from the park and it is one of the best places that I've ever eaten in New York City. It's casual, moderately priced and very affordable. The staff is friendly and the food is good. I mean, what else do you need? If the place is good enough for the Clintons, the Bushes, and the Obamas; well then it's good enough for me.
We had a little time to kill before our train, and our go to thing to do is to stop off in Times Square. We haven't done it for a while. Here's my tip. What the hell happened down there? That place was beautiful, but it looks like a demilitarized zone. I appreciate that they are doing work down there, but that isn't the only problem. It's difficult to get to the things you want to see, because there are barricades everywhere. Toys R Us is gone. That takes away a whole family element from the area. I was disheartened. I hope it gets better, but for the foreseeable future; check the web cams before you stop there. It was a little depressing when we stopped by.
The long and the short of New York is that things are always changing. You never know what you're going to see whether you're on the street or on the subway; whether you're at the park or in the train station. It's always an adventure. That's why when I go, I try to share my experiences to keep you up to date on what things are like when I visit the city. So, take a ride, take a walk, eat great food, and maybe venture into Times Square. It's all an Adventure for Anyone. Enjoy!
Saturday, August 13, 2016
In my lifetime I've seen a lot of change. When I was young, certain things did not exist. We did have roller coasters, but nothing like the crazy thrill rides that we see today. A water slide was a slide by the side of the pool in most cases. I remember going to parks where they had a water slide. Just one. That was all you needed. Alpine slides were our big invention.
Now, everyone seems to be seeking a thrill and the aerial adventure parks are more popular than ever. I remember when you had to drive for hours to find one. Now, it seems like they're everywhere I go. The first aerial adventure park that I remember in my area was Jiminy Peak in Hancock, Mass. In the winter, a ski resort; this is the MO of the adventure park. They were partially born out of the concept of finding some way to use the ski resort in the summer time.
What is the history of the adventure park? Interestingly, no one seems to know. Several theories exist. Some say that it comes from the popularity of mountain climbing and rappelling. Makes sense. Some say that it all started with zip lines, and that they came from the rudimentary cables used to cross ravines and such in central and south America. Could be. I actually heard that the popularity of the zip line first gained popularity after the movie "Medicine Man" with Sean Connery came out. It is true that zip lines and tree bridges have been used for a long time as a means to investigate the rain forest. But, what's the big deal?
People seem to want to have a thrill more and more. Why do we suppose that is? Psychologists would tell you that hard working people who aren't that fond of their jobs seek fun. They want a thrill. It's believed that many of us need a thrill. Our lives are mundane and we want something to make us feel alive. We want to feel like we did something spectacular. Climbing through the trees and flying around on zip lines seems to be just the ticket.
Lately, no matter where they started, these parks have been cropping up all over. They have them everywhere in Connecticut. They have them in Stafford close to the speedway in Stafford Springs. In New Britain, they have them in the park. In Storrs, they have it in the woods to give the college kids something to do. In Bridgeport they have them in the park connected to the Discovery Museum. In Portland, they're all around the quarry that you swim in. In New Haven, they have them indoors.
The phenomenon is world wide. It is said that the popularity of the adventure park is the biggest in Europe. That may be true, but here in the US, they are cropping up everywhere. They come in varying levels of difficulty, and they can keep us in the trees for hours. It depends on what you're looking for whether or not you choose to do the adventure course, or you just choose to zip line.
But it looks like the thrill is here to stay. Here in Connecticut we have courses by our biggest university, next to our military base, in our biggest cities, and even in our furniture stores. We have them over water and in the woods. We have them everywhere. It's a great way to use a ski resort in the summer, but it's something extremely versatile. People love to be in the air, I guess.
However you look at it, one of the big changes in how we spend our leisure time has changed since I was a kid. With the never ending challenge of more and more thrills, we've come to the point where our choice is to climb and fly through the tree tops. Is it a wise choice? I think so. With the availability of video games and other such things that some people are blaming for the obesity plague in this country; it's nice to see that there is something that people want to go out and get up and do.
No matter whether the Mayans came up with it, or if it was Sean Connery who made it popular; zip lining and aerial adventures rock. So, if you're traveling this summer, and you've never tried one of these parks or a zip line; check ahead. See if there's one in the area of your vacation. It will be a great addition to your vacation. Do you need a thrill? They're everywhere these days. Try an adventure park. Enjoy!
Friday, August 12, 2016
I've spent my summer trying to find out more about the state that I decided to call home 24 years ago. Connecticut is a small place with a lot to do and even more to learn. My husband and I decided to take a quick overnight to the Groton and New London areas to see some parks and things. I was amazed at what we found. Let's start by talking about the Historic Waterfront District. Like a lot of other towns, New London is trying to turn their waterfront into a visitor friendly art, food and shopping district with some history thrown in. They've done a great job in New London.
New London is a business town. The port there is busy. General Dynamics still builds submarines for the base on the other side of the river in Groton. There are ferry services that run out of the harbor that go all over from Long Island to Block Island and even up the coast to Cape Cod and beyond. They have a busy shipping lane. They also have Amtrak running through their waterfront, and the Gold Star Memorial Bridge running I-95 right over it. It's busy, and making that waterfront with the Coast Guard Academy and who knows what else using it into a tourist spot is quite some trick. But they did it.
Fatboys was the place that we chose to try the cuisine along the waterfront. It comes with a bar, outside seating and a yard out back where they have live music at times. You do have a view of the waterfront, and it is a great atmosphere. The food was something that I wanted to try. It was a lot of seafood and burgers and what not. But, I must say, the food was really good. The service was great. The feel of sitting on the balcony seating was great. We also walked the historic neighborhood, and had a great time. There are a lot of shops, bohemian style. There are art galleries, taverns, restaurants, and bars. There is a maritime museum as well. There are plenty of things to keep you occupied, and the atmosphere is comfortable.
The city put in a park along the waterfront, not far from the historic district, right down the hill from Fort Trumbull. The park includes a pier that juts right out into the shipping lanes and is specially equipped to be a fishing pier. The locals put it to good use, and the views are amazing.
The views from the pier are amazing. You can see way out into Long Island Sound. You can see the bridge over I-95. The day we were there we saw the USS Virginia go by on it's way to the submarine base in Groton. You never know what you might see, but, once again, the atmosphere is fabulous.
Then there is Fort Trumbull just up the river bank from the park and city pier. This is only one fort You can see Fort Griswold across the way in Groton. These two forts were unique in their history. Fort Trumbull is the cement fort that is the newer of the two. The remains of the original single wall fort lie across the street from the later fort that was built for better protection and was never attacked. Now, in the early days, the old single wall fort was attacked and the troops ran across the river to Fort Griswold. There was no real way to protect themselves in the Fort Trumbull situation, so they joined forces with the guys on the other side of the river and still did not win the battle.
But the fort today comes with a museum, and an open atmosphere. You can wander the grounds, the fort, and even climb up to the top of the fort and get an amazing view of the area. There are exhibits around the entire fort that tell you of the history of the areas military, including a lot of history about the Coast Guard; who has an academy in New London, and the submarine base in Groton.
Still in town we have Ocean Beach Park. This is a New London institution. They have the beach, a kiddie land with rides, waterslides, an arcade, restaurants and bars, a gift shop, mini golf, a pool, a playground, a sprinkler area for the kids, and their famous boardwalk. There are a lot of things to do at Ocean Beach. If you want, they even have a gym. Each night of the week they have different live entertainment as well. We went to see the magician on a Wednesday night. The best part about going at night is that the sun is less damaging and so is the price. At Ocean Beach you pay to park and then you pay separately for activities. During the day it costs $18, but after 5 it only costs $7. Good bargain and the evenings are when the entertainment is there.
Harkness State Park is technically in Waterford, but it is the next thing up the beach. This magnificent park come with coastal walks that have amazing views, a beach, and a mansion with manicured gardens for your viewing pleasure. It's a great place to spend some time, and in the beginning of June they have what they call British By The Sea. That is the local British car club having a car show. It's a lot of fun and you see all kinds of cars there.
So, in addition to the casinos in the area at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, there are a lot of surprises in New London. The biggest surprise is that this working town is quite a tourist friendly place. There are so many things to do. There are tons of great places to eat. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed. In a town that has a rich military history, lots of industry, and is full of working class folks; they've created a place that you can visit on vacation and be glad that you stopped by. So, for another one of my indepth looks at the microcosm that is Connecticut; there you have it. I was really glad that I took the time to check out New London. Enjoy!