Clarissa Day in Boston

Standard

In the fall, we decided that we wanted to attend at least one day of PAX East 2020. Held in Boston at the end of winter, we had not been since Tim won tickets when I was pregnant with Clarissa in 2013.

Eight hours plus stops is a long time to drive with a five month old so we decided to stop halfway in New Jersey. We had lunch at Shady Maple on our way through Pennsylvania. Then we spent the night with Tim’s Aunt Paula.

We deemed Friday Clarissa Day and did several activities that we knew Clarissa would enjoy. The high was in the 30s for the day and very windy, so we put Tiffany in her snowsuit every time we went outside.

0228200942_hdr4772480580140937853.jpg

We went online to LAZ Parking and reserved a parking spot at the Dock Square Garage. We then walked a couple of blocks to the New England Aquarium where the Northern Fur Sealswere outside. This guy was asleep but the rest were awake and ready to greet us.

02282009407376483477179025666.jpg

The aquarium was good. But we have seen better ones in Asia. There was a live presentation at the coral reef at the top. We did see a lot of different tanks that were clean and vibrant.

Clarissa was able to touch a sea star, sea urchin, hermit crab, horse shoe crab, and oyster upstairs. She also got pretty wet touching some sting rays. The sharks never came by for her to pet. She wasn’t super impressed with the gift shop so she did not buy anything there.

We chose our particular parking garage because Hard Rock Cafe was on the first floor. We ate there for lunch. The service was okay but the food was great.

Next we headed to Assembly Row to check out Legoland Discovery Center. We have been to the Tokyo location, but Clarissa was two and doesn’t remember. There was free public parking for up to three hours so we decided to do that.

I was impressed that Clarissa chose to do a ride. She enjoyed it so much that she did it twice, once with Mommy and once with Daddy. She liked the VR roller coaster as well. I think we all enjoyed seeing the major sights in Boston as a Lego city. Clarissa and I took a class while Tiffany napped in the stroller and made a Lego panda. We also made Lego race cars and actually raced them on a track. There were a couple of play places and also a big clock where every half hour a dragon would pop out and sing “Rock Around the Clock.” Clarissa really enjoyed that and would dance every time.

We contemplated visiting Carlo’s Bakery on our drive but saw some interesting reviews and decided to skip it. Instead we headed to Mike’s Pastry which is supposed to have the best desserts in Boston. We had them pack a box for us of like 15 different things that we wanted to try. It will take us a week to eat it all, but they have all been pretty good so far. I’m not sure that it’s the best dessert that I’ve ever tasted. But if you want pastries in Boston, I would check out one of their locations.

We ate at Legal on the Mystic for dinner. Clarissa had a cheese pizza but Tim and I enjoyed some excellent seafood.

We ended the day at Burlington Mall. Clarissa has been wanting to try Build-A-Bear and so we decided that vacation was the perfect time to check it out. There was a sale of buy one, get one for $10 so Clarissa ended up with both Toothless and Luna. The girl that worked there was great with Clarissa. She got to help stuff her dragons, kissed the heart that went inside them, and give them their first bath.

When your vacation turns into a history lesson

Standard

We went to Virginia Beach for Christmas for the first time in six years. It is the first Christmas with relatives that Clarissa will remember.

We were there five days so we had some time for exploration. On Thursday, we headed to Fort Story to see the lighthouses. The general public can get on base by showing ID and getting a visitor pass for your car. Tim’s work ID got us on base without all of the extra steps.

Our first stop was to see the Cape Henry cross. When the settlers first arrived in Virginia in 1607, they planted a cross on the beach before heading to Jamestown. There is also a statue for French Admiral de Grasse who was very helpful during the Revolutionary War. We also went to the lookout to see the beach.

Next, we walked over to the “new” Cape Henry lighthouse which was built in 1881 and is still functional today. Across the street is the “old” Cape Henry lighthouse, which you can actually climb. There is an admission cost and you have to be 42 inches tall. You are not allowed to carry children up the 192 steps.

Clarissa really enjoyed our little field trip. Be careful where you step though. We all ended up with small brambles on our pants and shoes, probably from walking through the grass.

On Friday, we headed to Colonial Williamsburg. Tim and I wanted to see it decorated for Christmas and we were honestly disappointed in that regard. But Clarissa really enjoyed seeing the old houses.

The Governor’s Palace had a garden and a maze that Clarissa really enjoyed. She also enjoyed seeing the kitchen. You can only see the main part of the house on a tour, but after five minutes of waiting, Tiffany was losing it so we had to keep moving.

We headed to the art museums because there was an advertised craft event. We did not last there either as Clarissa was bored with the craft. She liked the art museum though. It was fun to see the old furniture and animals.

Veterans and their families can get in to Colonial Williamsburg for half off admission and active duty families can get in free once per year. Another perk to this kind of ticket is the Liberty Lounge. The information lady told us it was kind of like a USO. There were chairs to sit down (and nurse the baby), a bathroom, and hot drinks (coffee, tea, or hot cocoa). It was a blue house next to the Millery.

1227191429_hdr385046970222359549.jpg

Veteran’s Day Fun

Standard

I appreciate that there is a federal holiday to celebrate my husband. Tim served in the Air Force for four years as active duty and has worked for the Department of Defense as either a contractor or federal employee almost every job since.

His first choice for his free lunch today was Texas Roadhouse. But when we got there, there weren’t any parking spots and the line to get in was outside. We headed to Buffalo Wild Wings instead for his free wings and fries. We were all pretty happy with our meal.

Our next stop was Fair Oaks Mall. We had never been before but I saw on Facebook that veterans and their entire family could have free entry to the Children’s Science Center. I am so glad we decided to check it out.

There were several different exhibits and stations. In one room, Tim and Clarissa were able to create a hovercraft, make slime music, and play with Legos. There was a room for children 5 and under that had a large fish tank, life size light bright, fort building, and books. A different room had a place to learn about wind turbines and forces. We really enjoyed all three of those rooms.

Then there was an announcement that the kids could learn about animals and watch the staff clean an animal tank. Clarissa and some other children could get really close to an axolotl. The staff were really great and talked about fresh water vs salt water tanks. They explained adaptations and talked to the kids for about 20 minutes.

The last part of the museum was science experiments. There were three to choose from and you are allowed to do all 3 if you want to. Clarissa chose to do two of them. She learned about acids and bases with putty and also studied some rocks.

In the science experiment room, there are a few more fish tanks. Clarissa enjoyed the seahorses, lobster, and hermit crab. Before we left, a staff member asked Clarissa if she wanted to see some land animals. She invited her to get closer and she was able to see snakes, a lizard, cock roaches, and a scorpion. The staff member was very knowledgeable and answered all of Clarissa’s questions.

After we finished at the science center, we decided to check out the mall. Santa is already there, and while we don’t usually do Santa, they had a really cool display. Clarissa was able to make a badge that allowed her in to elf training. The staff members walked her through and she got to see how tall she is, and dance in a virtual elf costume. She got to press buttons and choose Santa’s route and load the sleigh. There was even snow! Then, her badge let her have a visit with Santa. It’s genius really because the badge puts her name on the screen so that Santa knows her name. Clarissa really enjoyed it.

At the end of our mall visit, we decided on Coldstone for some ice cream before we headed home.

Clarissa’s last adventure as an only child

Standard

The Wednesday before Tiffany’s due date, Clarissa and I went on one last adventure. We were up early to drive Daddy to work so I decided that we should go somewhere before my ob appointment. We decided on Hidden Pond Nature Center in Springfield. It was Clarissa’s favorite so far as she has asked to go back at least 5 times in the past month.

We arrived about the time the visitor center opened at 10. Clarissa was not interested in the animals just yet when she saw the huge playground near the parking lot. She was the oldest kid there since it was a school day but she didn’t mind. She played there for an hour before we headed to the visitor center.

The visitor center was small but nice. There was a restroom, small play area for babies and toddlers, as well as several small reptiles to look at. Clarissa really enjoyed looking at the turtles, snakes, and frogs. Her favorite part was probably touching the snakeskin.

We then headed outside for a nature walk. There were plenty of insects and birds among the plants. The pond was great too with several turtles. Clarissa enjoyed looking out on the pond from the dock. She made up some rather loud songs and even made a new friend.

After the pond, we spent some time on a nature trail with our new friends before heading back to the playground. We finished our adventure at McDonald’s for a happy meal before my last ob appointment.

Huntley Meadows Park

Standard

One of the problems of moving to a new area in the summer, is that sometimes it’s too hot to explore. We had planned to visit Huntley Meadows Park a few times, but never got around to it until the weather started to cool down in September.

The park was really nice. There is a visitor’s center with displays of plants and animals that are in the park. There is a gift shop as well as some classrooms as well. We are going to have to go back another time to check out some of the homeschool classes this fall. The visitor’s center is closed on Tuesdays but there is a portapotty in the parking lot.

We had a great time on the trails. We walked on the boardwalk (dogs and bikes are not allowed on the boardwalk) and then through the woods as well. The whole thing took less than an hour to walk through and it is mostly flat other than the overlook that has steps. It is perfect for families with small children. There is another side to the park with a different entrance that has a trail as well, but we didn’t get over there on this trip.

Clarissa’s birthday museum adventure

Standard

Every time we take Tim to work, we see the Washington Monument in the distance. Clarissa gets really excited and points and shouts, “Look! It’s the tall tower!” When we asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday adventure she said she wanted to see the Dinosaur Museum and the Tall Tower.

Her adventure day was rainy. And we told her that we could go and see the outside of the Tall Tower but the inside would not be open until next month. So she decided that we could skip the Washington Monument this time and go back in the fall so we could see the whole thing.

We started the day by taking the same bus that Tim takes to work every morning. Then we took the metro into Washington DC. Our first stop was the National Air and Space Museum. Clarissa loved it. She thought the space shuttles were amazing and she enjoyed the kid exhibits that taught about friction and flight. She was even able to climb into a cockpit and pretend to fly an airplane. Some of the exhibits in the kid section were out of order and they are renovating the museum right now, so we will probably need to go back again to see everything.

We crossed the National Mall and saw the Capital Building on one side and the Washington Monument on the other, so she did get to see the Tall Tower from a distance.

Next, we headed to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Clarissa was able to see her dinosaurs. But she also really liked both the mammal and bird exhibits to see real animals instead of just bones. She was really excited about the dioramas in the fossil section as well. We didn’t head upstairs to see the bugs because we were getting hungry, so I’m sure we’ll be back.

We went to Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. All three of us enjoy the food there so we knew it would be a good choice.

After lunch, Clarissa asked for one more museum. We decided to the try the International Spy Museum. I’m not going to lie. This museum is pricey. Clarissa was free because she was 6 but the adult prices are over $20, even with a discount. Clarissa loved it, so I guess it was worth it. But Tim and I would have preferred to go by ourselves to really enjoy the experience.

When you go into the museum, the staff hands you a lanyard that you scan into the computer. The computer gives you a secret identity. Then, they usher you into a room to watch a movie about being a spy before releasing you into the general museum. There were a few computers to get clues and work on your mission. However, it was a really crowded, rainy, Friday in the summer, so we couldn’t get near the computers. The exhibits were very informative, but Clarissa blew through them because it required a lot of reading and she just isn’t there yet. So we looked at some pictures and spy stuff, but didn’t really get the full experience.

The next floor wasn’t quite as crowded, so we did a little bit with the computers and reviewed some clues. Clarissa was excited to find her clue and scan her lanyard. The exhibits were very informative and had video as well as text on the walls. I think this museum is geared toward tweens/teens and adults. Clarissa wasn’t afraid of anything at the museum, but I think she would have gotten way more out of it if she was older.

After the third museum, the pregnant lady was pretty tired, so we headed back. We took the metro back to the Pentagon and then the bus back home. On the walk home she said, “This was the best day ever!”

We wanted to watch a spy movie but couldn’t think of one that was really appropriate for Clarissa (other than Bolt which she’s seen a hundred times) so we ended up watching some White Collar. She was really into it after the museum so we’ll have to find a spy movie for her.

A Pennsylvania Adventure

Standard

We decided that it would be easier to visit Pennsylvania before Tiffany was born than to try to come to the big family Thanksgiving meal with a two month old. We knew we wanted to stop somewhere along the way to break up the trip. Tim had not had a meal at Shady Maple since before he went into the Air Force, so we decided to stop there for lunch as our halfway point.

I saw a billboard on the way that said that Shady Maple Smorgasbord was the largest buffet in America. I believe it. The building itself was huge. There was plenty of food. You stand in line and they seat you. The waitress asks if you have eaten there before and explains the four different grill stations as well as the salad, dessert, and drinks. Then you get to go through the line and serve yourself. You leave dirty dishes on the table and get new ones each time you go through the line.

0809191218_hdr7004217857753903560.jpg

We all really enjoyed our lunch. Clarissa said we should go back to eat there again. There is a set price for breakfast and lunch. Dinner is a different price each night of the week because there is a different special. Clarissa was half price because she is 5.

There were several other attractions nearby. The Shady Maple also has a Farmer’s Market, a Gift Shop, and a General Store. We went to the gift shop which is located under the Smorgasbord. It was huge! There were so many different items for sale. There was a huge toy section, pop culture pictures (think Beatles and Star Trek), Christmas items, and a large selection of personalized items. As usual, there was nothing that said either Clarissa or Suzanne. But there were several items available for Tim and Tiffany. I couldn’t talk Tim into buying this mug though.

08091913218165610892802406660.jpg

After lunch we headed to Tim’s parents house. We hung out with them for a bit before we all headed to his aunt’s house for dinner and some pool time. There was also a birthday dessert for Tim and Clarissa.

On Saturday, we went to Knoebels. Most of Tim’s extended family (including himself) have spent many summers working at Knoebels as lifeguards and in food service. So it is kind of like a part of family history to be able to go there. Parking and admission to the park are free. Then, you pay for food, rides, and games. Veterans and active duty service members can get a free book of $20 ride tickets by showing your military ID or DD214.

At first, Clarissa wasn’t super excited about any of the rides. She did some of the games that require quarters like using an excavator or driving a car. She got excited about the trains so we rode the train twice. She was also really excited about the bounce house and the hand cars. The food was good and the prices weren’t awful for an amusement park.

After Knoebels, we took Clarissa to play at Fort Discovery in Sunbury. It was a wonderful playground and she would have stayed all day if we let her. It is located right next to a community center and baseball field, so there are bathrooms and parking available.

Next, we headed to Shikellamy State Park. Tim and I actually got engaged at this park ten years ago. He had originally planned to take me to the overlook to propose, but the road was still closed for the winter so he had to settle for the marina. We went to the overlook for the first time Saturday. The views were beautiful. And you can see the marina from the overlook so that was fun to be able to point out the spot to Clarissa.

On Sunday, we headed home a different way so that we could stop by Clarksburg Premium Outlets near Gaithersburg, MD. I read that there was a STEAM Fair that day so we thought Clarissa would enjoy the festivities. There were a few fun events and the shopping was decent too. We got some decent deals at Motherhood Maternity and Columbia.