Tag Archives: kids

Places: Central Vermont

For the second year in a row (see last year here) we spent our Labour Day weekend at Little River State Park just outside of Waterbury, VT. Once again, we had perfect weather for the weekend and it was such an awesome way to end off a summer of adventure before heading back to work and school.

After a summer of camping in the tent, we stepped up our level of luxury and rented one of the small, basic cabins that are available at the park. The kids enjoyed having their bikes at the park, hauling chopped wood back to the site from the woodlot and of course, relaxing in the hammock. Although we were in a different cabin this time, it was still adjacent to a huge cliff and for the third year in a row we managed not to lose any kids (or adults) off the edge.

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The Moose Cabin
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Hard at work.

We explored a bit further afield this time, taking in the farmer’s market in Montpelier, and travelling down the Mad River Valley for the first time. While trying out some new places, we revisited some of our favourites such as the Prohibition Pig and Green Mountain Coffee in Waterbury.

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Dinner at the ProPig and a selection of craft beers; true Vermont.

We also spent a morning at the Waterbury Flea Market which was plenty of fun and netted the kids a whole bunch of hockey and basketball cards from a friendly gentleman who just couldn’t help himself from giving them each more and more for the $1 they had to spend.

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The house that Howard Dean built; Montpelier, VT

Our last full day of summer was definitely one of the most fun days I had all year. We awoke to a perfectly sunny day at our campground and after making breakfast at our site, we took off to explore the Mad River Valley, the area that runs south of Waterbury to the Sugarbush Ski Resort.

Vermont is famous for their ‘swimming holes’ that can be found all over the state – some of which are more legally accessible than others – and as we headed out, we scoped out a couple that might be fun. After that, we headed further south to the Warren Country Store, a general store that has been in business since 1839. I love these cool institutions that are scattered throughout the United States and the sheer amount of them that are located in the East is always amazing to me since in the west there are just not that many things that are more than 100 years old.img_2742

From Warren, we went north to the Lareau swimming hole, one of the most popular, and accessible swimming holes in the Valley. We spent hours here, jumping off the rocks once we had adjusted to the mountain water which while refreshing was still pretty crisp even at the beginning of September.

After an afternoon of sun and swimming we went across the highway to the American Flatbread Lareau Farm for a quintessential Vermont meal – all the ingredients from a small radius around the farm and a totally relaxed environment with a delicious meal included. Wandering around outside the restaurant with a craft beer, there were games to play, campfires going, a farm to explore and the beautiful backdrop of the mountains. Noah spent the entire meal in front of the wood-fired pizza oven watching the chef do his thing with the pizza peel. A giant ‘vermont creemee’ on the way back to the campsite was a perfect way to end the weekend.

The weekend was a wonderful end to a fantastic summer with the family – with lots of good food, time in the great outdoors and new adventures.

Places: Summer 2016 Roadtrip

On Saturday, we will leave for our most ambitious roadtrip yet. Last year we tackled Eastern Canada, which you can check out here, but this year we will head west and the 4000km we travelled last year looks pretty easy compared to this year’s task.

Through to Alberta we pretty much have our route set; although the Google Map above doesn’t reflect it, we will actually head through Sault Ste. Marie and follow Lake Superior up to Thunder Bay before passing through Winnipeg, Saskatoon and to Edmonton. On the way back, we are a little undecided as to what route we will take and whether we want to include a large city such as Chicago – this may need to be something we decide as we go.

Although I have done the drive many years ago, I am excited to show the kids the great diversity of landscapes in Canada and I hope we will be able to do that by travelling through the Canadian Shield, the Prairies, the Rockies and the Badlands. I also expect they will gain a new appreciation of the enormity of our great country. The four-hour flight to Edmonton doesn’t translate in the same way.

If anyone has suggestions for ‘must-see’ spots, or ‘must-eat’ restaurants, we’d certainly appreciate your ideas and hopefully we can add to them when we return. If you’d like, follow along with our adventure on Instagram with @uhrblock or on the sidebar of this site.

Places: Lake Placid, NY 

One of the places I have camped the most since I’ve moved out east is Meadowbrook, situated right between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid in the Adirondack mountains. I’ve probably stayed there a dozen times over the years and although it is hardly the nicest place to camp – situated right off the highway beside a BBQ restaurant and a car dealership – it is comfortable and within the small campground there are a few really nice sites.

This year for Fathers Day we were able to snag my favourite site, #26, a huge site in deep trees at the terminus of the campground road.IMG_1336

We drove down with H’s brother, while her sister and parents arrived in different vehicles bound for their own accommodations.

We pitched our new tentropolis, which is the size of a small apartment and settled in to relax on the Friday night with perfect weather. On Saturday morning, after a lazy start we headed out to climb Haystack Mountain. This is a relatively easy and short climb (even for kids) just outside of Saranac Lake that has a pretty good payoff in terms of the view from the top.IMG_1331

After our hike we went just north of Saranac Lake to Lake Clear to cool off. This mountain lake was still pretty chilly for swimming but with the heat it didn’t take long for us all to get in.

For dinner on Saturday we went in to Lake Placid to eat on the main strip at H’s parents’ favourite spot, The Dancing Bears, and afterward we enjoyed a nice walk along Mirror Lake with the beautiful weather. We capped the night off with another great campfire at our site.IMG_1310

After taking down the site on Sunday, we stopped in Saranac Lake for ice cream and also to check out the restored Adirondack Carousel – something I’ve meant to do for years when we’ve visited but thought we better get done this time before our kids were too old to ride. It was another great weekend in Lake Placid – so I’m sure we will be back again soon.

 

Places: Montreal, QC

For years it seems we have talked about going to Montreal but because it is so close there has never been any urgency to do so. Planned trips are easy to cancel, other things get in the way or we pass through quickly on our way to somewhere else.

For the first time in five years, we didn’t go to New York City for May Long weekend. You can see posts from some of our previous NYC trips here, here or here. Rather, we took the shorter drive to Montreal to finally make a weekend of it.

Although Old Montreal is the highlight for many people when visiting the city, we wanted to stay in an actual neighbourhood and found a great spot on Airbnb. This place was right on the border between Mile End and Plateau – although not too close to the subway, it was right on a major bus route to downtown and close to lots of great shops and restaurants.

Our first night there, we explored our ‘hood and with beautiful weather we walked a long way (longer than planned), ate some poutine at La Banquise and found some great ice cream at Cremerie Meu Meu.

Our second morning I was up early to hit one of the famous bakeries in the area, Boulangerie Guillaume. This place was incredible; although I arrived at about 7:05, just minutes after they open, the line was already 10 deep and for good reason. There is nothing more appealing to me for breakfast than a wall of pastry. After enjoying our pile of absolutely delicious pastry on the back deck, (order the almond croissants) we took the bus to Old Montreal for the day on Saturday.

We did a good tourist circuit, checking out the Notre Dame, exploring some of the small streets, eating at Jardin Nelson, hanging out in Jacques Cartier square and going down to the Old Port.

After our full tour, we took the subway back at Noah’s request and relaxed on our patio for a couple of hours before a great dinner at a neighbourhood Italian spot, Keste. Finally, we ended our day at the famous Cafe Olympico with some coffee and dessert. Although it has been a lousy spring, we had beautiful weather and made the most of it, eating outside everywhere we went.

On Sunday, we were in no real rush to get going so we went for some more pastries, this time from Cheskie, and some bagels from the famous St. Viateur store. Although the Cheskie had some good babka, it didn’t quite live up to the New York version in our minds.

Upon checking out of our place, we headed up to the top of Mont Royal, the first time I had ever visited it and checked out the beautiful view of the city below. Our last stop on the way out of the city was another Montreal institution, Schwartz’s smoked meat. The meat that is used here to make the sandwiches is fantastic and justifies the line that was out the door.

With our first foray to Montreal in the books, we were happy to have less than a two-hour drive to home and we will certainly look forward to returning soon.

 

Places: Toronto, Ontario

At the beginning of December we headed down to Toronto and it had been quite a while since we had made the trip. We stayed at our friend’s new condo on the East end of downtown which was a great location for our activities. We were right at the junction of the King Street and Queen Street streetcars and since Noah’s goal for the trip was just to ride the streetcar again and again, it worked out pretty well.

On our first night there we headed down to the relatively new Barhop Brewco which was a great choice. Although we were the only ones to have kids in there – not the first time that’s happened – it was a perfect spot for a great selection of beer and really good food. One of the things the new Barhop is known for is their ‘pig-head nachos’ which actually consist of a full, cooked pig head served with fully loaded nachos. Obviously this is something that must be ordered when the opportunity presents itself.  The kids squealed with delight when it arrived, H made the waiter turn the platter so the pig wasn’t looking at her and we were off! The nachos were delicious and SO filling – even Lil’ E helped herself. I would certainly go back to this spot – great service, food and lots of beer selection.

After dinner we headed down to Ripley’s Aquarium. I had heard lots of good things – and apparently it is all the buzz amongst 8-year olds as well so we were curious to check it out. It didn’t disappoint – the whole thing is really well done. Saturday night was a great time to go as well because it wasn’t busy at all. To go through the whole thing took almost three hours but we really took our time. Despite the ticket prices adding up a bit, it is well worth the visit.

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On Sunday, we took it pretty easy, eating a nice brunch on Queen Street East and then watching football for most of the afternoon. The kids have both really taken to basketball this year and have been anxious to go to a Raptors game at the Air Canada Centre. They both seemed to really enjoy themselves, especially once we tracked down the last foam fingers in the stadium. A live basketball game is fantastic for kids, there is always something going on and lots of action to keep their attention.IMG_0207

The Raptors beat the lowly 76ers and after a late-night pizza at One Pizza on King Street, the kids were exhausted. We wanted to get back to Ottawa pretty early the next day so after an early breakfast at a coffee spot Lil’E had scouted out (only she would do that…) we hit the road and were back in Ottawa by 2pm.

A great weekend in Toronto overall – although I am pretty sure I could never live there, it is a pretty fun place to visit, and especially when you have such an awesome place to stay.IMG_0219

 

Places: Little River State Park, VT

While an extra week of summer vacation for the kids last year caused angst for some parents, we decided to make the best of it and enjoy every last day, culminating with a Labour Day trip to one of our favourite spots from the summer before; Waterbury, Vermont.

Since we had been spending a lot of time in the tent in August, we decided to go for one of the small cabins that are offered at Little River State Park. These are pretty basic, offering a set of bunkbeds, a full-size bed and a table inside. They remind me a lot of Kamping Kabins that we used as a family when I was a kid at KOA campgrounds.dscf4816

For this trip, our friend Chris flew up from Toronto to come on the drive with us. For a while, it looked like it just might be him, myself and the kids making the trip as H was having some serious dental issues. However, nobody can ever accuse her of bailing out on a trip easily as she toughed it out, threw back some Tylenol and hopped in the car!

It’s a smooth drive down to Waterbury and we chose to go interstate all the way since we had gotten a bit of a slow start.

Our weather for the entire weekend was perfect – warm for early September and no chance of rain. While our family bunked down in the cabin, Chris set up our small tent outside. One thing that can’t seem to be avoided at this campground is that many of the good sites, including this one, are located right beside a huge cliff that leads down to the lake. Although there was plenty of calls to ‘be careful!’ – there were no incidents.

Although the campground was full for Labour Day, it is not overly large so it never felt busy and the kids were able to run over to the playground and the washrooms by themselves.dscf4835

Our first night there we bought an enormous amount of firewood and were ready to go for the weekend. That went well with our pretty fantastic selection of craft beers that we had picked up as well. We had great fires every night with the kiln-dried wood that I appreciate so much at Vermont State Parks.dscf4800

On our first full day, we spent a lot of it swimming in the reservoir, doing some of the nature hikes in the area and then went into Waterbury for a delicious meal at the Prohibition Pig. The popularity of this place is amazing – we had to wait almost 2 hours for a table but were able to relax on the patio of their new brewery which also offers a few snacks and watch the people go by.

We went back into Burlington on the morning of our second full day, spending some time on Church Street and picking up dinner for the campsite at the City Market. We managed to make it back for another swim since it was a gorgeous day and had a relaxing evening around the fire again.dscf4836

On our way back to Ottawa, we took the route through Stowe and over the mountain pass. This is such a crazy narrow and twisting road – it is pretty hilarious to drive, as long as you don’t have someone running into you!

This was a great end to the summer vacation as the kids headed back to school the next day. We will certainly plan something similar for next year!

Places: Murphys Point, ON

Over the past couple of years, my brother-in-law and I have made an effort to set aside at least one night each year to take our daughters camping. The cousins love spending the uninterrupted time together without their brothers and they are at an age now that makes it a pretty relaxing trip for the fathers too.

Since we only go for one night, we stay close to Ottawa, heading to Fitzroy Harbour and to Lac Phillipe in the past. This year we went to a park, Murphy’s Point, that I hadn’t visited in 12 years – since the first spring I was in Ottawa.

Mandatory poutine stop

We were lucky to have great weather, and a great site (#29) to enjoy the park. After a quick lunch stop in Perth at Retro Fries, we headed out to set up camp. I always like to go on at least one short camping trip at the beginning of the year so I can remember everything that I have forgotten to put back in the bins or that has broken the year before that hasn’t been replaced. This way, I have a chance to make the adjustments without too many consequences. This year, it didn’t take long to figure out that I had forgotten to charge our pump so after it made a small dent in the air mattress, I was left to blow up the rest myself. Luckily, beyond batteries for flashlights, it didn’t seem that we forgot anything else too crucial.

Site #29

After a break to sit in the sun and enjoy a cold beverage, we did the short but satisfying Sylvan Trail, a 3km loop that provides a nice view over Big Rideau lake.

We returned to our campsite for dinner and a big fire including smores before tucking in for a pretty chilly night as it dropped down to about five degrees.

Smores!

The next morning we woke up to sun and once we had breakfast and packed up we rented a canoe for a couple of hours to enjoy the nice weather on the lake. After the girls even did some swimming (water was still freezing!) we had a picnic at the beach before heading home.

Just one night of camping was a good reminder that a trip doesn’t have to be long or far from home to serve as a nice break. Even though we were gone for less than 30 hours from door to door, it felt refreshing to get away from home and experience something different.