Review: Boston Harbor Islands – Spectacle and George

One of the hidden gems of Boston are the Boston Harbor Islands. If you have an extra day (or half day) on your trip, consider going. There are 34 islands in all, 24 with archaeological activity on them. Not shockingly, Native Americans used these islands before we settlers did, for hunting, farming and other activities. You can visit 12 of the islands. This is part of our Boston series.

boston harbor

Even their recent history is interesting. The country’s oldest lighthouse was first built here in 1716, though the British burned it down  in 1776 and rebuilt in 1783. That makes our own Sandy Hook lighthouse (built in 1764) the oldest working lighthouse in the United States. You can tour the lighthouse on Little Brewster Island on a different boat tour, along with two other lighthouses.

The popular Spectacle Island is only a 15 minute boat ride from Boston’s Long Harbor. On the way, Continue reading “Review: Boston Harbor Islands – Spectacle and George”

Review: Harpoon Brewery Tour in Boston

After touring the Sam Adams brewery in Boston (review here), I heard about Harpoon Brewery, another local stop. Fortunately for me, it was just down the street from the Seaport Hotel where we were staying in the trendy Seaport area.  This time I did not go and drink alone, but rather went with my husband who had just finished a week-long course on immunology, and clearly needed a very big beer. By the way, this is part of our Boston series,

Harpoon 5

The plan was to take a tour of Harpoon, hang out in their brew pub and then head to the airport a few hours later. Unfortunately, we arrived around 1:30, but the tours were already sold out until 4:30 or later (a common occurrence apparently). Oh well. Fortunately they had a very large bar and rows of long wooden farm tables to park ourselves, though the waitress kept walking right past us (or not at all – it WAS busy and a Friday afternoon) that I finally had to go to the bar to order from there.

Harpoon 7

I’ll tell you a little about the brewery first, Continue reading “Review: Harpoon Brewery Tour in Boston”

Review: Sam Adams Tour in Boston

While I’ve been to Boston a number of times, I’d never gone on the Samuel Adams brewery tour. It’s free, with a suggested $2 donation which goes to charity. Here’s what I learned on the tour! And by the way, this is part of my Boston series, and I’ll be doing a post on Harpoon Brewery as well – another Boston tour stop.

sam adams1

I read about how popular this tour could be, and how in summer and on weekends it could fill up really quickly. Since I had another agenda for the day, I got there in time for the first tour of the day – a Wednesday at 10 a.m. By 10:30, I was swilling beer. And hadn’t had breakfast. You should eat breakfast first. Continue reading “Review: Sam Adams Tour in Boston”

Review: Wild Safari at Six Flags Great Adventure


We went to Great Adventure’s safari a few years ago, when it was a stand-alone entrance or upgrade. Last year they closed it down to redo it, including it in the Great Adventure offerings as an attraction you don’t pay extra for. We heard about the three hour lines (and there’s even mention of that in the park. But we were smart – or so we thought – arriving at the park at opening bell (10:30 a.m.), hitting Kingda Ka first (10 minute wait!) and then the log ride right next to the safari entrance (10 minute wait) – figuring it was still really early and we’d have a relatively short wait.

We were wrong. Continue reading “Review: Wild Safari at Six Flags Great Adventure”

Visiting the White House – with Kids

Let’s just say that preparing to go to the White House is worse than flying a plane these days. Not that our president should be unsafe, but…

If you’re planning a trip to Washington D.C., you probably want to go to the White House. It’s free, historical and exclusive! It’s hard to get in.

The Front? The Back? Nah, just one side.

I thought my kids would be SO excited to go into the White House. In the end, they were bored. BORED! What’s wrong with them? When we entered, they gave us a Junior Ranger activity guide, which the kids promptly handed to me and made me hold. But it was interesting.

Continue reading “Visiting the White House – with Kids”

The Tenement Museum – with Kids

In its day (1832-1935), the Lower East Side (LES) was the largest Jewish community in North America. The Lower East Side is defined as from the East River to South Street Seaport, from Broadway to Lafayette to 14th Street. This was in an era where there was no Tribeca, no SOHO. The LES has always been an immigrant neighborhood, and is also associated with the Irish, Chinese, Poles, Ukranians, and many others.

The Tenement Museum is a unique place where you’ll learn about the lives of actual families who lived (and sometimes worked) here. I’ve been to the Tenement Museum twice, once with and once without my kids, who are 8 and 10. I’ll share a lot of information here, and give you the thumbs up or down for the kids at the end. And if you disagree with any of the history I mentioned, feel free to leave a comment. The information came from my tour guide.


In 1988, Ruth Abram and Anita Jacobsen wanted to create a testament to immigration. They couldn’t find a worthwhile place, while looking for something that had deteriorated naturally and hadn’t turned into a crack house. The finally found this, where they also found 9,000 artifacts from some of the 7,000 people (from 20 countries) who lived here over 100 years. They later bought the buildings next to the museum and are converting those now as well. Read more about this history here. This is the first tenement to be individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Continue reading “The Tenement Museum – with Kids”

American Museum of Natural History – 7.5 Ways to See it with Kids

The American Natural History Museum is so immense you just can’t see it in one visit. Or two. Or three. So here are 7.5 ways to explore it with your kids!


Whether you choose a special exhibit or a permanent one, pick one and explore it in depth. Given the high cost of visiting the museum, newcomers to the museum might want to stick with the standard holdings unless there’s an exhibit you REALLY want to see. The special exhibits are add-ons, i.e. they cost extra.


–Space movies

–special exhibitions

–Butterflies – (open part of the year, now through May 27, 2013)

–Our Global Kitchen (open through August, 2013)

–IMAX movies

For permanent exhibits, don’t miss the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life (that’s where the big whale is), Fossil Hall (with the dinosaurs), the Grand Gallery (the beautiful 77th Street lobby), or the gemstones.

Continue reading “American Museum of Natural History – 7.5 Ways to See it with Kids”

Vermont Factory Tours

For a state that relies heavily on tourism, it’s not surprising there are a lot of factory tours to pull in the tourists. Here are a few to consider:

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream

I wrote a long review of this revered mecca for this frozen, gourmet, hip treat. Read it here. Note that there’s no ice cream production on weekends, and if they finish their production for the day on weekdays, you may not see the action either.

Where: 1281 Waterbury-Stowe Road, Waterbury, VT

When: daily, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Times vary by season.

Tour length: up to 30 minutes

Tours leave: at least every 30 minutes Continue reading “Vermont Factory Tours”

Review: Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour in Vermont

When we told people we were going to Vermont, they all asked “are you going to Ben & Jerry’s?” And given how much I love factory tours, we went.

The tour was really short. After watching a sanitized (but cute) several minute video, we went into a viewing area above the production floor. Though they’re supposed to be producing ice cream on the weekdays (we were there on a Friday at 2 p.m.), unfortunately they had already finished the batch for that day, so we got to see them cleaning the equipment. Sigh.

The kids didn’t understand much about the ice cream making process, and didn’t really like the actual viewing part. But then again, that part took only about 10 minutes.

“I liked the eating part the best,” said Zachary.

Continue reading “Review: Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour in Vermont”

King Tut in NYC – Review with Kids

Tutankhamun Coffin © Andreas F. Voegelin, Antikenmuseum Basel and Sammlung Ludwig


When I saw the King Tut exhibit in San Francisco last year, I left the kids behind, not sure if they’d make it through without getting bored.  While I enjoyed going alone, I did feel the kids were missing out on a huge piece of history  – an experience not usually readily available in museums.

When the exhibit arrived in New York City’s Times Square Discovery Exhibition space, I knew I had to take them. Now they had 3-D movie as well!

The big deal about King Tut is not that he was Egypt’s greatest king. He wasn’t, though he did have some interesting challenges. By the time Tut’s tomb was discovered, it was the only tomb that was almost completely intact on discovery. It gave researchers an understanding of the burial process.

Continue reading “King Tut in NYC – Review with Kids”