Q & A: Family trips to NYC

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

Q: My family wants to go to New York City this summer. Can you recommend activities for kids who are in elementary school?

A:  The truth is that there are so many kid-friendly activities in New York that it would be impossible to list them in just one entry.  First off are the classics: The American Museum of Natural History (explain that Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson won’t be there), Central Park Zoo, Bronx Zoo, looking up relatives at Ellis Island, waving to the cameras at “The Today Show.” But the lesser known attractions are just as much fun. Ramp up the sugar buzz at Dylan’s Candy Bar on Third Avenue. Then head over to the New York City Police Museum or take the Roosevelt Island Tram. For more great ideas, check out

New LEGO keepsakes

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Good news for colorful little brick fans: the LEGO Architecture Landmark series is a new line of collectible keepsakes of famous world landmarks and architectural masterpieces. So far, you can build your own Empire State BuildingSeattle Space Needle, the Eiffel Tower, the Sears Tower and the Guggenheim Museum.

Hump day getaway: Wisconsin Dells

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

This Friday marks the reopening of the Wisconsin Dells Tommy Bartlett Water Show, the Vegas-on-waterskis spectacle that’s been drawing crowds since 1952 . (As you may recall, the show was closed last summer after flooding burst a dike that drained Lake Delton.) Get in the spirit with this human pyramid video, and relive old times with this vintage 1967 clip

Hump day getaway: Family tour around the world

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

I follow soultravelers3 on Twitter. Given that they are limited to 140 words per posting, I had a hard time figuring out what they were up to. That is until they uploaded this video of their daughter, Mozart, playing the violin in all the countries — Italy, Morocco, Spain, Turkey, France, Croatia, Greece — the family has visited so far on a multi-year, open-ended journey. Part of their plan in seeing the world is to “unschool” their adorable and musically talented kidlet. (Given her name, I wonder how her parents would feel if she sucked at the violin.) Their website is a great travel resource, full of videos and tips. As I watch their family’s adventures, I’m reminded of my fantasy of what having children would be like. I imagined a life full of adventurous journeys with children who loved —  loved — seeing new places. Almost ten years later, here’s reality: My  three kids like to travel, but could never embark on this kind of experience. The constant transitions, lack of structure, new friends every few weeks would result in serious emotional chaos. What are your experiences of traveling with your kids?

Q & A: Family camps

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Q: My family and I would like to spend some time this summer at a family camp. Can you suggest one?

A: Family camps — traditional summer camps that are open to the entire family — are a great vacation option for families who enjoy the outdoors and the inherent hokiness (think skits and “repeat after me” songs) that comes with the summer camp experience. Several Minnesota children’s camps offer  family sessions in addition to their regular programs. But when it comes to camps that are devoted solely to families, the best known and loved is Camp du Nord, on Burntside Lake outside of Ely.  Run by the YMCA of Greater St. Paul, du Nord hosts sessions throughout the year. Their extremely popular summer sessions are filled by a lottery in the dead of winter, but the camp’s website shows they still have openings, especially at the begining and end of summer. Please note that some of those sessions take place before the full-team of counselors — whose grace and wit are the hallmark of the du Nord experience — is in place and that there may not be as many organized activities as there are during the peak of the season.

Hump day getaway: Ice Out Minnesota

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

According to the Minnesota Climate Working Group, many of the lakes in the northern tip of Minnesota are still covered with ice. As the state’s fishermen know, that won’t be the case for long and we can now start to think in earnest about our longed-for summer getaways. We love Burntside Lake outside of Ely, home to YMCA camps and classic resorts such as the iconic Burntside Lodge. We especially love Camp Van Vac, a rustic resort that keeps to the simple traditions of a bygone era. Get into the spirit of the place with this video