Our Visit to the Cincinnati Zoo

Our Visit to the Cincinnati Zoo

Our visit to the Cincinnati Zoo was a great experience. I understand now first hand why the Cincinnati Zoo is often ranked as one as the best in the United States (US News). It is actually considered amongst the best zoo’s in the world! That would explain why more than 1.5 million people visit the zoo each year.

Located in the city of Cincinnati and founded in 1873, Cincinnati Zoo is the 2nd oldest in the United States. Home to more than 500 animal and 3,000 plant species many cool and unique things to see. We will definitely return on another trip.

Getting to the Cincinnati Zoo

We planned a road trip to visit a friend in Indianapolis and decided that we would add a stop at the Cincinnati Zoo on the way home. When we left Indianapolis, the drive to Cincinnati only took about 1.5 hours. The drive home to Rochester, NY from Cincinnati took us about 7 hours. If you choose to fly into Cincinnati, the airport is only about 20 minutes from the Zoo.

Parking when you arrive at the zoo is easy. The parking lot on Vine Street is mostly covered parking which is a nice convenience. Cool fact, the solar panels on the covered parking lot power aspects of the Zoo including the electric train!

There is overflow parking for those peak visit times in an additional non-covered lot. You pay for parking by scanning a QR code before you leave. The QR code posters are located around the park and on the walkway to the parking lot. You can also pay at the parking kiosk prior to your exit. Parking is $10 per car.

African Penguins

Tickets and Pricing

We purchased our tickets online. I used ticketsatwork.com to purchase my tickets at a discounted rate but you can also buy them from the Zoo website. Our tickets were $16.00 each for adults and $10 each for the kids. Adult prices start at age 13 and child/senior pricing is in effect for ages 2-12/62+. Our visit took place in last August. My family likes to take advantage of the fact that most kids are back in school during late August, so prices can be cheaper and venues are far less crowded.

If you purchase tickets online at the Zoo website, you will need to select the day of your visit and then you will see the price for that day. Ticket prices can change daily based on attendance. According to their website, the price you pick when you plan ahead will definitely be cheaper than if you wait until the day of your visit. If you do wait, you can purchase tickets at the front entrance. There are also different tickets prices for zoo members, Good for any Day tickets and Twilight Admissions tickets.

Sights to See at the Cincinnati Zoo

Cincy Zoo Lions

At the time of our visit, the newest addition to the zoo was a part of the hippo family. Baby Fritz was just a few weeks old! We did manage to catch a glimpse, but the baby was sticking pretty close to mom in the 70,000 gallon home of Hippo Cove. A few years ago, Fritz’s big sister Fiona made quite a splash when she was born.

There are so many things to see and experience in this zoo. A few things that we noticed that we really loved were the bamboo lined pathways, cleanliness of the areas and clear signage. Another observation was how healthy the animals looked. Their eyes often looked bright, their coats shiny and the habitats well kept.

In total, there are 21 different animal habitats and we hit many of them. The favorites of the Kent Crew included spotting the Asian elephants in the Elephant Reserve, the playful gibbons on Gibbons Island, funny penguin’s at African Penguin Point and animals of Africa. As big Lion King fans, finding real live Meerkats is always a treat along with the lions, cheetah’s. We watched as other fed the Masai Giraffe’s but we didn’t join in.

The absolute favorite for them was however the Spaulding Children’s Zoo. This habitat in the zoo is dedicated to many friendly farm animals like, llama’s, goats and alpaca’s. You enter into a gated area and can walk around with the various animals in the petting zoo. Their favorite goat was a black Nigerian Dwarf goat named Neil.

This section of the zoo also features a small playground where parents can grab a seat while they little one’s let off some energy. Between the slide, monkey bars, crawl tunnel and balance bean the smallest zoo goers can enjoy some run and play time.

All Aboard the Zoo Train

The Zoo has a train and a carousel. Although we didn’t die the train, we did club aboard the train before we left for the dat. Train tickets are $5 per person. My son didn’t want to ride, so Camryn and I hopped aboard for the brief train ride through the park. In 2022 the Zoo switched out the beloved classic diesel train for an electric train. Other attractions include Kanga Klimb and Scooter Pals (Zoo attractions).

Autism Friendly Features

Since we made our visit at a slow time of year, we didn’t run into issues with crowds and lines. The Cincinnati Zoo has done a great job of making the zoo and the attractions accessible to individuals with developmental disabilities. They offer things like Sensory Maps, Zoo Social and Video Narratives and calming rooms. I also thought it was neat that they offer sensory bags with oral motor chewy tubes, fidget, noice-canceling headphones and sunglasses for checkout at the Welcome Center.

Where to stay near the Cincinnati Zoo

With the zoo being located in the city of Cincinnati there are a variety of hotels to pick from within a short distance. The official hotel of the zoo is Graduate Cincinnati on the University of Cincinnati campus.

Since I’ve been partial to Marriott for years, I picked a Springhill Suites hotel in midtown approximately 10 minutes from the zoo. For our family of 4, the suite accommodations that come with a sitting area are always preferred over regular rooms where the bed takes up all the space. Hotel parking was free. We paid about $200 for a double-queen suite studio suite.

We loved our time at the Cincinnati Zoo. My kids have asked to go back and see Neil the goat.

Visiting the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Visiting the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

We packed up the kids and headed to the midwest on a roadtrip to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Our 9 hour road trip from Rochester, NY to Indianapolis, Indiana took us to the one of the best children’s museums in the United States.

Coming from Rochester, NY the home of the Strong Museum of Play, we had high expectations for our visit to the largest children’s museum in the US. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis did not disappoint!

Getting There

For this road trip we drove straight through only stopping for gas and food. The 9 hour trip took us west and south through Buffalo, Erie, PA and Columbus, OH.

If you choose to fly, the Indianapolis International Airport is only seven miles from downtown.

Where to Stay

I like Marriott brand hotels. Years ago when I used to travel about 3 months of the year as a college recruiter, I became a loyal Marriott guest.

We stayed downtown at the Courtyard Indianapolis at the Capitol. For this trip we picked a downtown location for convenience. Everything was close by so we only drove a few blocks or in some instances we just walked.

I redeemed credit card points for our 3 night stay at the Courtyard Indianapolis at the Capitol. At the moment, I am not a credit card reward points collector. It just happened that we had a credit card with some points available and decided to use them for this trip. without points, our room would have been over $350 per night.

The hotel was recently renovated and is less than 2 miles from the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. We were close to attractions like the Indianapolis Zoo, the state capitol, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Fountain Square and Lucas Oil Stadium. We booked a room with 1 king bed and a sofa bed. We find that with the kids, it gives us more room during the day to have the sofa bed vs two doubles. Also, it gives them somewhere to sit, eat and play other than the bed.

This hotel also had a pool. Since our kids have learned to swim, a hotel with a pool is a must. It is a great way to entertain them for free without much effort. Courtyard as a brand generally does not do free breakfast, but there was a small Bistro onsite where you can order cold or a hot breakfast. Parking was $30 per day which you can often expect with downtown hotels. That was the trade off for not having too drive much.

monument circle

Getting Your Children’s Museum Tickets


During this visit I was also visiting one of my best friends. On our first full day, we hung out at her place for our kids to play with her dogs. On day two we excitedly hit up the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

The friend who we visited was able to score us free tickets to the museum through a friend! Ticket prices range according to the time of year and when you buy tickets. If you buy at least two weeks in advance, you can save 20% according to their website.

Adult tickets (age 18+)range from $23-33 while youth tickets (age 2-17) range from $19-26. Children under 2 are free. You have to check online to find the best rate for the best dates. The prices can change. Between driving our own car, using hotel points and free museum tickets we were making out like bandits on this trip!

Our tickets were emailed to us. If you buy tickets online you can download the ticket barcode as well. Once you reach the entrance you will scan your barcode. You can print off tickets if you choose.

Our hotel was about a 5 minute drive from the museum. If we were feeling more adventurous we could have walked or even have taken one of the many scooters located downtown for rent. The parking garage is located directly across from the main entrance. You can access a covered bridge from the parking garage if the weather isn’t the best. There additional outdoor parking lots as well. Parking is always free.

Timing Your Visit

Our visit in late August yielded an almost empty museum. In upstate NY, our kids don’t return to school until after Labor Day. We use this to our advantage and schedule most of our longer trips during late August when most of the country is back in school. We find the prices to be cheaper for attractions and hotels, and often many major attractions less crowded. Since one of our kids is in public school and one is homeschooled, we still have to follow the school calendar.

As we crossed the covered parking bridge into the building, we could see the really cool and large sports park! Once we made it inside we were never without something cool, interactive or educational. We spent nearly 3 hours at the museum. For us, that is pushing the limit before my the kids start to get tired or meltdown.

In addition to the time of year or the time of day, you can also check the Children’s Museum site to see which exhibits are starting or ending. This is a great way to help plan when you want to take a trip to Indianapolis.


Exploring Exhibits

Once in the lobby, we peeped the bigger than life version of Bumblebee from the Transformers movie franchise.

At the time of our visit, there was a Scooby-Doo! Mansion Mayhem exhibit which was perfect for a our Scooby obsessed son! The interactive exhibit featured the iconic blue van as well as the opportunity to solve mystery clues like a real member of the team.

Like many museums, the Children’s Museum changes exhibits seasonally and they then often rotate exhibits to other children’s museums throughout the country. At the time of our visit, we were able to the Scooby-Doo! Mansion Mayhem exhibit which is now moving throughout the country until 2025 (see dates and locations). When you are planning your visit, visit the museum website to learn about  upcoming exhibits.

There are some areas and experiences that stay the same for visitors to enjoy year after year. Things like the 35-foot-long, 55-ton steam engine train, the classic Carousel that is over 100 years old (costs $1 to ride), the Playscape area for kids 5 and under, the Power of Children, and the Beyond Space immersive exhibit that details NASA’s Project Mercury program just to name a few!

Playscape for the Littles

Playscape is an area of the museum for children ages 5 and under. This was the perfect spot for our smallest Kent Krew member to engage in activites that fit her perfectly.

The pre-schoolers can build giant block towers, play with a huge water table, explore a pond habitat and there is a Babyscape section for the smallest visitors. This section also includes a private nursing area, bottle feeding space, family restrooms, and diaper changing station.

There is a really fun, safe and create climbing structure that my daughter enjoyed but she liked the dinosoar dig site best. Kids get to dig for din fossils in real sand at tables built to their height. 

The World of Sports

Indianapolis has a rich sports history and culture. From the home of the NCAA Final Four, Indianapoist 500 Race Series, the home of the Indiana Pacers and the Indianapolis Colts too! The museum has an indoor and outdoor celebration of sports. The indoor exhibits are open year round.

Thw World of Sports lets guests interact with exhibits and practice their skills on a balance beam, play the role of sports broadcaster, block hockey goals, learn about the History of Hoops and even more. The Children’s Museum is also home to the National Art Museum of Sport, a celebration of sports through art.

The Outdoor Sports Legends Experience

Indy Childrens

We had great weather take full advantage of the outdoor area. As a fan of our local Rochester Strong Museum of Play, I have to say the Outdoor Sports Legends Experience area is really one of the things that sets it apart from all other children’s museums. Since Indy is in the midwest, the outdoor sports area is only open from March – October.

There are 12 outdoor sports experiences and 3 indoor activities that make up the Outdoor Sports Legends Experience. You will find football, basketball, soccer, hockey, racing, golf, baseball and the huge tree of sports. What makes this even more unique is the fact that many of the sports activities are made for all ages and have kid-sized equipment.

There are regular sized basketball goals where you can run a full game of 5-on-5 but the other courts have basketball goals that players can easily crank down for the littlest baller. My 5 year old was able to make a basket on a lower goal on her own and feel proud. Additionally, they offer adaptive equipment for those who have visual and other physical impairments.

The Tree of Sports

The tree of sports is like a big tree house. When you reach the top, you can look out over the entire sports park area. The kids had a ball running in and just hanging out at the top. This is also where we decided to eat lunch.

tree of sports Tree of Sports at the Children’s Museum

There is a food court on site inside the museum. The food court was a little pricey as I paid $9.00 for a bag of chips an a soda. There is a snack bar in the sports section as well. We ate mostly the snack we had brought with us.

After lunch, the kids continued to try out the different sports experiences. We ended our day at the basketball courts.


Sensory and Autism Services

The museum offers select days called Museum My Way. It is an adaptive museum experience with limited capacity for visitors with disabilities and/or sensory sensitivities.

On their website you can also find a sensory map so you can easily identify exhibits with bright lights, loud noises, flashing lights, strong smells or other sensory effects. Lastly they also provide a social narrative complete with pictures you can view online so you can walk your loved one through a visual experience and explain what will happen.

For our son, before we visit new places we try to do social narratives. Walking him through the visual pictures helps reduce his anxiety of entering a new environment and sometimes he is able to pick the things he wants to see most.

Activities in Indy

While downtown we checked out Monument Circle, got some Chicago style pizza from Giordano’s (awesome!) and went to the mall. Chicago is only about 3 hours away and we considered driving over but decided it would be too much for the kids.

The other advantage to being downtown was that we were able to access the city Canal Walk. Canal Walk cuts through White River Sate Park in downtown Indy and is a lovely walk along the Canal. there are paddle boats available to ride the canal if you don’t want to walk. We walked to the Colts Canal Playspace, a playground dedicated by the Indianapolis Colts. It is an very nice park offering a lot of space to climb, jump and swing.

IndyColts Park Colts Playground at Canal Park

On one day, I met my friend for lunch downtown and she took me to a spot called Dave’s hot Chicken where I got my first taste of Nashville Hot chicken. The food was great, service was quick and the chicken wasn’t too hot. I had a medium (spice level) chicken slider, fries and we split the mac n cheese (it was just okay) but my chicken sandwich was bomb!

Other activities that we did not experience but that are major attractions in the area:

Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Home of the Indy 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, you can watch an Indianapolis Pacers or Indianapolis Colts game, the Indianapolis Zoo, and Fountain Square to name a few.

We also couldn’t pass up a trip to Long’s Bakery, a local institution and voted repeatedly as the best donuts in Indy.

Overall, if you are visiting the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, you can definitely fill in few days with other activities and experiences. Indianapolis is a major city offering major fun.

Canal Park
Family Road Trip to Cedar Point Amusement Park

Family Road Trip to Cedar Point Amusement Park

My first trip to Cedar Point Amusement Park was a summer vacation with my family when I was about 15 years old. I was long overdue for a return visit. We decided to take our family road tripping to Cedar Point Amusement Park at the end of August.

Located in Sandusky, OH, Cedar Point Amusement Park is the oldest operating amusement parks in the US. The park boasts 18 dollar coasters and 71 rides – which is a world record for most rides – on over 334 acres.

Ceader Point is the Roller Coaster Capital

Nicknamed the Roller Coaster Capital of the World, the park does not disappoint when it comes to thrill rides. The 18 roller coasters within Cedar Point are some of the highest and fastest around. In fact, it’s the only amusement park in the world with six coasters that are at least 200 feet high.

The Magnum XL-200 was the first hyper-coaster and first ever coaster to top 200 feet. At 205 feet, it reaches a top speed of 72 MPH. My seven-year old niece talked her dad into riding the Steel Vengeance coaster with her. After her trip on the 205 foot high, 74 MPH mixed wood and metal coaster, she stuck to the kiddie rides for the rest of the trip. She’s a champ for doing it though!

On my first trip years ago, I did brave the Corkscrew and the Raptor coasters. Neither myself, husband or kids were really into thrill rides at the time.

Magnum XL-200
Magnum XL-200

Plenty for the Littles Too

It’s not all thrill rides at Cedar Point Amusement Park. There is plenty for the littles too. We took our time making our way through the Camp Snoopy area, a section with many “Peanuts” themed rides. There are plenty of kid and family friendly options. Closer to the main entrance, many of the old school kids rides are front and center. The motorcycles, police cars and dune buggies that take it easy on the little ones who prefer slow speeds.

In addition to the rides, access to Cedar Point Beach is included in park admission. If ripping through water slides is more your speed, the Cedar Point Shores Water Park hits you with all of the splishy-splashy summer fun you can take.

Travel to Cedar Point

We are a family that is always up for a road trip. Leaving from our home base of Rochester, NY, the drive to Sandusky, OH is about 5 hours. From western NY to northern Ohio, I-90 West cuts right through Cleveland and travels along the shores of Lake Erie.

On this visit it was me, my husband, our two kids, my parents and cousin in our rented Chrysler Pacifica mini van. In a separate van my sister, niece, nephew and great niece and nephew. Once we arrived, we didn’t need to use our car for the duration of our trip.

For travelers who fly in, the closest major airport in Cleveland Hopkins International airport about 55 miles away. Another option would be the Toledo Express Airport, 65 miles away but with limited flight selection.

Places to Stay at Cedar Point Amusement Park

Hotel Breakers and the Lighthouse Point campground are located onsite with walking access to the waterpark, beach and amusement park. Nearby you will find the Express Hotel and Castaway Cay accessible via shuttle service or car. Although Express and Castaway are not onsite, they still qualify for the vacation package discounts and are Cedar Point properties. Guests staying at Cedar Point properties get one-hour early entry into the park, complimentary parking and ticket discounts.

Hotel BreakersHotel Breakers is a recently renovated beachfront resort with 669 guest rooms and suites. My sister and her crew reerved at suite at Hotel Breakers. They had a great view of the water, enclosed balcony, bedroom with 2 queen beds, and a pull out sofa bed. In addition there was a microwave and small fridge in the room. One of the best benefits is that you are just steps away from the beach. The easy access to to the water, day or evening gives more opportunities to create memories. There are evening activites on the beach including fireworks, parasaililng and jet ski rentals.

In addition to the awesome location, Hotel Breakers has five onsite restaurants. You can choose from Perkins, TOMO Hibachi Grill, Surf Lunge, TGIFriday’s and a Starbucks.

Tiny House Living at Lighthouse Point

The cabins at Lighthouse Point are essentially tiny houses. After many episodes of Tiny House Hunters, the husband and I were probably too eager to give it a shot. There are multiple floor plan options available to choose from with the 156 cottages & cabins.

Water-front cabins can sleep up to six, family cabins up to eight and the Deluxe cabins can accommodate up to 10 people. For my group of seven, we chose a Deluxe cabin. The determining factor for us was having two bathrooms.

The two-level Deluxe loft cabin consists of a 42” flat screen, two futons, a bedroom (queen size bed with TV), two full bathrooms with tub/shower combos a kitchenette with a sink, microwave and small fridge, all on the first level. When you travel up to the second floor loft space, there are two separate sleeping places, each with a queen sized bed and two televisions. Complimentary wi-fi is included.

Linens and toiletries are included in the room. Another thing that sold us on the cabin experience was the outdoor patio space for each tiny home that includes a picnic table and charcoal grill.

My favorite part of the trip might have just been the cabin itself. It felt so cozy and comfortable. I loved the wood! The cabins was also very clean.

We spent a good portion of one evening at the Lighthouse Point pool. In addition to the swimming pool, the kids splash pad had many cool sprinkler additions to it. Our visit took place in late August when many schools were already back in session. Schools in NY start after Labor Day so we always have the chance to do late trips, when crowds have thinned out.

Spalsh Pad and Pool

Camping at Lighthouse Point

The cabins are located in the RV park that also has 145 full hook-up campsites. As aspiring RV owners, walking through the campsite, checking out the set ups always gives us ideas for our future purchase.

Cedar Point was actually one of the first trips we took in our family RV trailer all those years ago when I was a teenager. On that trip, my parents, my best friend and I spent three days camping at Lighthouse Point. We had an 18-foot Real-Lite travel trailer that was comfortable enough for the four of us. I remember the comfort and convinces of coming and going from the park to the RV and waking up to the smells of my mom making breakfast in the camper. It was my dad who planted the seed of RV camping. Back in the 90’s we were very often the only Black family around the camp ground. Not much has changed. Momentum is growing as more Black families explore the great outdoors.

While you can hear the occasional screams from the nearest roller coster, the campgrounds were otherwise peaceful getaway. The cottages are lake front, the cabins are in a section that surround small man-made lake and he RV hook up sites are all in the middle.

What to eat at the park

Inside of Cedar Point Amusement Park you will find all of your amusement park favorites, from Auntie-Anne’s/Cinnabon to Chick-Fil-A, Dippin-Dot’s to Dominos. When eating with the kids we stuck to the basics of pizza, fries and burgers.

This family road trip also dubbed as an anniversary trip for the husband and I. We ditched the kids for a nice meal at over at Hotel Breakers at TOMO Sushi and Hibachi. We failed to realize how busy it would be and didn’t make a reservations. Since I was hungry and didn’t want to wait an hour, we happily opted for a table were we could order from the menu. I’ve been to enough hibachi restaurants so I wasn’t too particular about needing the table show.

Our food was fast, tasty and filling. Very similar vibe to an upscale hibachi places that I’ve eaten at in other places.

The morning before our departure we all met for breakfast in Hotel Breakers at Perkins. Perkins is a breakfast place similar to an IHop or a Cracker Barrel. You can get breakfast anytime of day and they have the most awesome pancakes! We no longer have a Perkins location in upstate NY, so we were pretty excited to see the familiar breakfast place.

Going back again

We will be going back again to Cedar Point. The short drive from upstate NY, the reasonable ticket prices and the campground make you feel as though you are getting multiple vacations in one.

LEGOLAND New York is Open

LEGOLAND New York is Open

After a year long delay, LEGOLAND New York is open for business. In addition to Legoland, the LEGOLAND Hotel also opened in August 2021.

Legoland New York was made with kids in mind

LEGOLAND New York is the 3rd Legoland resort in the United States, joining California and Florida. There are a total of ten LEGOLAND Parks across the globe.

These theme parks were all designed with kids age 2-12 in mind. Since the Kent Krew littles are 8 and 4, this was a perfect place for us. Even if your kids are not LEGO fanatics (mines are not), there is something for all adults and kids alike. You know because at LEGOLAND, everything is awesome (pun intended).

Legoland entrance
Welcome to Legoland

What you will find at LEGOLAND New York

Located in Goshen, NY, LEGOLAND New York is just 60 miles north of New York City. You can catch a flight to any of the major NYC or NJ airports and drive to the park in 1-2 hours (of course traffic could make it longer). You can easily extend your trip and spend some extra time in NYC or in the gorgeous green (in the summer) Hudson Valley.

We live in Rochester, NY so the trip to LEGOLAND New York was a quick 4.5 hour ride south for us. We actually drove to NYC first. It was the first trip to NYC for the kiddos and their chance to see the “city” with the big buildings. The highlight was an view of the Empire State building from the sunroof and an authentic slice of NYC pizza. 

LEGOLAND New York has seven themed lands spread across 150 acres: Brickstreet, Bricktopia, LEGO NINJAGO World, LEGO Castle, LEGO City, LEGO Pirates and Miniland. 

We did explore all seven lands. We spent about 4 hours at the park before the kids started to wear down. The majority of our time was spent in LEGO Pirates, Miniland and LEGO City. 

Making our way through the park

We arrived a few minutes before the park opened. Although there was a line, it moved rather quickly to get inside. You have to go though the security scanner of course. We were able to have a backpack with two water bottles and some snacks with no problems. 

Parking was simple and easy. You actually just drive right in and follow the directions and parking lot attendants to the next open spot. You pay on your exit. Parking is $20 when you pre-pay and I was told $25 if you pay on exit. If you pre-pay, you can scan the barcode on your receipt to get out, otherwise you can use a debit/credit card to pay and get out.

You enter the park on Brickstreet. You are greeted by the Lego store, or The BIG Shop as it is called. There you can find unique LEGO sets and items that are only available in the store. I fully intended to purchase sets for the kids but they didn’t seem too interested. The prices weren’t too bad, but since the kids didn’t ask I didn’t offer!

Brickstreet is also where you can find things like stroller rentals, locker rentals and guest services. The first ride of the day you see will be Brick Party, or what most people would call a merry-go-round. Camryn and I happily hopped aboard.

We then moved into Bricktopia where Camryn enjoyed the Duplo Express train. I’m pretty short so I was able to squeeze onto it with her. On our way out of the park, we made another pass through Bricktopia to ride a few more attractions including DJ’s Dizzy Discor Spin which did make me a little dizzy. 

Miniland Will Blow Your Mind

Miniland is a collection of miniature Lego builds of landmark places in the world. I think it was likely my favorite of the parks. The details, the intricate nature of the builds, the complexity was so good. Even while walking slowly and taking your time, it’s just so much to take in. From the NYC skyline, the San Fransisco Bay Bridge, the Las Vegas Strip, monuments in Washington DC, and so many others.  

We found the pizza in LEGO City

My son is a super picky eater. We eat pizza multiple times per week. So, his favorite thing was no surprise, eating at Brickolini’s Pizza and Pasta found in LEGO City. The pizza and pasta restaurant is a buffet. It costs a little over $50 for the four of us to access the buffet and unlimited soft drinks.  A bit pricey considering the day before we had 2 slices of NYC pizza for $9 and feed all our of us! 

The pizza selection was good and pretty tasty. The pasta was bland. They do have Coke machines that let you create and mix any flavor of Coke products you like.  I wasn’t too impressed by the dessert options either. The food definitely wasn’t the high point for me. There are other eatery options in the park that we didn’t try.

I’ve heard great things about the famous Apple Fries, but unfortunately didn’t get to try them. 

The other highlight of LEGO City were the Driving School and Junior Driving School. After looking at YouTube videos of the park before visiting, my son had already determined he wanted to ride that ride and the Fire Academy Ride. The Fire Academy wasn’t opened due to staffing.

The Driving School attractions allow little drivers to make their way around and through obstacles all while driving mini cars. At the end, they get their “driver’s license”.

Get a little wet at the Splash Battle

Moving into the land of LEGO Pirates I was excited to see a few water rides. While we didn’t get on Splash Battle, the ride is set up so that you can engage with the riders. They can spray you with water cannons and you can try and spray them at the same time. It was a fun way to interact with the ride without going through a line.

The other pirate themed rides like Anchor’s Away! and Rouge Riders looked fun as well. The kids spent a fair amount of time running through the Shiver Me Bricks playground.

The Dragon Coaster

Since LEGLOAND was made for smaller kids, you won’t find a bunch of big thrill rides. If you are into thrill rides and coasters, check out my review of Cedar Point Amusement park, the roller coaster capital of the world.

There is one roller coaster though, the Dragon Coaster. Open to guests who are at least 4 years old and 42 inches tall. Camryn was big enough, but mommy might have convinced her otherwise (shhh). Although the coaster looks pretty tame, I just wasn’t up for it, or the line. She was a very understanding 4 year-old though. It’s a great first coaster for kids, and we will be riding it when we go back. If you have a smaller little, the Dragon’s Apprentice is for riders as small as 36 inches tall. 

The other rides in LEGO Castle like Merlin’s Flying Machines and Tower Climb look like fun too. We did explore the gift shop in the castle to find a few keepsakes. Also, there was another food court in this section of the park. 

Unfortunately, many of the smaller food stands throughout the park that have drinks, popcorn and ice cream were closed due to understaffing.

Lego Dragon Coaster
Dragon Coaster

Back to Bricktopia

When we reached Ninjago, we didn’t spend a lot of time there. There were some ninja training obstacles that my son found interesting but my daughter wasn’t entertained by. We passed through and headed back around to Bricktopia. 

The Factory is a ride exclusive to LEGOLAND New York! You get to experience what it’s like to be a Lego toy, getting boxed and shipped to your new home. We didn’t actually know it was a ride when we started walking in. We figured it out pretty quickly though. 

While waiting to get to the ride, The Factory has neat Lego builds that give you the idea you are in the Lego factory. When we reached the ride (which was quick because there was almost no line) we were a little concerned. 

The ride is dark and loud. For most kids, that’s fun but for some kids with sensory processing challenges it can be overwhelming. Luckily, I was able to offer my son a pair of shades and we ear buds and we made it through the ride okay. The ride itself was pretty cool and my husbands favorite part. 

Perfect Timing for a Visit to Legoland New York

Our visit was in late August 2021, about a month after the park opened. We chose to spend a few days in the Hudson Valley region of New York State and dedicated a full-day to LEGOLAND. I picked a Tuesday because according to the website it’s usually a less crowded day. Also, there was also a promotion on tickets for Tuesday visits at the time.

Tickets for adults (13+) are $79.99 and ages 3-12 $69.99. There are some discounts and promotions I saw on the Legoland website. Annual passes are $229 per person for a year. You can also get a discount when you book a package with a stay at Legoland Hotel. We did not stay at the Legoland hotel for this visit. 

I scored tickets through an employee portal at work at a huge discount! I paid $188 for all four tickets (including tax and an administrative fee). That was by far the best deal I found. 

Although the LEGOLAND Hotel looks awesome, it was a little pricey for the amount of time we would be there. We stayed at a nearby Fairfield Inn which hosted a lot of families visiting LEGOLAND that week. It was only about 1.5 miles away. There are a number of hotels within a few miles of the park.


Visiting LEGOLAND New York During COVID

During our visit to the park in late August, it was busy but not crowded. We were able to move freely without being shoulder to shoulder with large groups of people  I attribute that to the time of year (most other schools outside of NY were already back in session) day of week and many people still not knowing it’s open. 

Masks were not required but recommended. Given the park is mostly outdoors, I saw high levels of mask wearing by many families. The park was very clean and well stocked with hand sanitizer at rides, at bathrooms and throughout the park. While in line, there wasn’t too much social distancing, however, it wasn’t crowded so no need to be right up on each other. 

LEGOLAND is completely cashless. You can use credit cards or Apple pay only, which limits contact. Coming into the park, you can print your tickets to be scanned or just download your tickets to your phone to be scanned. 

Overall, we had a good time at LEGOLAND New York and we plan on going back. The staffing issues meant that there were a few rides that were closed. Also, it seemed live the rides that were operational, went very fast. The rides lasted 45 seconds to 2 min. Since there was only one person to operate the ride and do the safety check, I fee like they sped up things keep it moving.

We will make a return visit at some point. And, Camryn has already told me we are going to ride the roller coaster next time.

Visiting Boston and the Franklin Park Zoo

Visiting Boston and the Franklin Park Zoo

There was a time when I was sure I was going to move to Boston. I’d never been to Boston, but somehow it landed on my list of post college destinations. Boston was only 6-ish hour drive from home (Rochester, NY), 1 hour flight, a big city on the east coast and offered career options in higher education or publishing. 

Fast-forward a few years and I ended up picking Baltimore over Boston. I have, however visited Boston several times now. My latest visit in July 2018 was the first time for my family. For me it was a work trip, but the family was able to tag too. A very quick mid-July trip to check out a few new things. We only had one day to explore, which was mostly spent at the Franklin Park Zoo.

Hit the Road

Although I’d been to Boston a few times before, it was always by flight. This was my first time driving from western NY to Boston. We packed up the rented Nissan Altima and took off for Boston. For longer road trips, we like to hit the road at night so the kids will sleep more, but in this case we left early in the morning. The drive through New York State is scenic.

Our normal road trip routine includes the DVD players linked up for entertainment. I try to not let the kids watch the screens too much, they are a necessary evil on our rides. The littles managed to stay awake for the entire seven hour ride…. yup, not a single nap! We hit Boston at peak rush hour at which point Camryn finally took a nap. If you are driving, try to avoid arriving at rush hour. The last hour of our trip was just trying to get a few miles to our hotel.

A River Runs Through It

Charles River
Hyatt Balcony

While I am pretty much a Marriott girl, this time was stayed at a Hyatt. The hotel was probably a little fancier than we usually do with the kids. The pricer hotels just usually don’t offer free breakfast which is a great money saver. At this time, the kids didn’t know how to swim yet either which also now drives our hotel choices.

My work events were at Harvard and this was one of the host hotels so we stayed at the Cambridge at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge. Of the choices, I picked it primarily because it was within walking distance to a park and directly across from the walking path along the Charles river. I figured my husband would want to escape the hotel for a while and those would be two great options. Rather than go outside, turns out he just let them run around the hotel halls and ride the elevator.

Our waterfront view room overlooked the Charles River. Since it was peak summer in July, we had many occasions to watch the boats, kayaks and row teams on the river.  Our room was equipped with a queen bed and a pull out couch. We prefer this over two beds because it gives the kids a place to sit, play and eat. The kids are still small enough the sharing a bed isn’t an issue.

Our only hotel dinner also came at the in-house restaurant Zephyr. We enjoyed the outdoor patio overlooking the river. Since it wasn’t crowded, it gave the kids to room to roam a little.  After a long day of traveling with kids, hotel restaurants while not the cheapest are definitely convenient.

Visiting the Franklin Park Zoo

On our one day to explore, we chose to visit the Franklin Park Zoo. Easy decision really because the kids love animals. Visiting the Zoo is something the we do a lot in different cities. So far we have done the Nashville Zoo, Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, DC, Cincinnati Zoo and the Franklin Park Zoo.

The Franklin Park Zoo overall was a fun experience. We were able to buy tickets online to skip the line. Admission for all four of us was about $50. I think the kids liked the Meeting Barn farm animals section the best. The Meeting Barn puts the kids up close and personal with some familiar farm animals. 

Courtesy of www.zoonewengland.org/

The zoo is not super big (72 acres), so we were able to hit all of the exhibits within a few hours. Although the zoo itself is on the smaller side, the playground is pretty big. I don’t think it is possible to walk about a playground and not let me kids play we let them go. The playground has two sections, one for older kids and one tiny toddlers. At that time, the littlest little was about 2.5 so she was still in the small kid section. With our usual divide and conquer strategy, the husband took one kid and I took the other.

Courtesy of www.zoonewengland.org

Since I was mostly tied up for work but we somehow managed to make a trip to Target. My excuse was that we needed snacks for the ride home, the reality is that I couldn’t resist the huge Target downtown in view of Fenway Park. There was a game that night but we didn’t go but did make traffic a little busier. Check the game schedule if you will be out in the summer downtown to see how traffic might be if you are not going to the game.

In other visits to Boston I’ve enjoyed some great seafood, taken in the beautiful history and architecture, hung around the Haah-vard yard, road the subway, and peeped the Green Monster. There is a ton more to do we didn’t experience this time around, I’m sure at some point I’ll make another return visit. 

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