Tag Archives: playground

Day 4 – Alexandria VA to Spencerport NY

Four years ago, the Hen and I were flying together to see his Tía Nesa in DC for his first visit to the Capitol. So it’s fitting that we said goodbye to the Brownes this morning as we head north on our adventure. El was inconsolable at Vanesa leaving for work; he may have thought he was going to work with her to be a Boss Baby and that we were staying longer. Next time, little one.

Boss Baby!

Continuing the day of seeing Godparents and Godchildren, we briefly stopped by the Costa’s house on our way out of DC, even though we’ll be seeing them again in a week and a half. Totally worth it for the hugs and the kids to see/play with each other.

We got back on the road and drove until lunchtime where we stopped at Kidsgrove Park (247 W Sassafras St) in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. A wooden fortress of a playground, it had ladder tires, a wooden train, tunnels, turrets, and swings! Sadly, we didn’t have all day to play or else I think the boys would have tried. We ate lunch at the adjacent Major Anthony Selins Park (241 W Sassafras St), which had a small colorful playground and a shaded pavilion. Keith took a walk in it’s tree museum, kidnapping the Doritos and having a peaceful time up in a tree.

Several hours later, we made it to the Meyer’s house and it’s just so wonderful! Too fantastic to remember to take pictures. I’ll be sure to take plenty in the next few days while we’re here.

Miles driven today = 397 Miles

Day 2 – Walterboro SC to Alexandria VA

Last night when Keith asked what time the hotel pool opened in the morning the clerk responded with a grin, “Do whatever you want to do. I don’t care.”

Challenge accepted.

We didn’t swim because we had a busy day of driving through three states, but we are doing what we like because we’re living that vacation life.

We had planned to stop to play at a park in Dunn, North Carolina, but Elliot was asleep so we continued north to Rocky Mount for lunch and park time.

Sunset Park (1550 River Drive) was an awesome detour. We rode an antique 1920 carousel and a 1952 Model G-16 Miniature Train around the park including through a tunnel. For train aficionados, it had a 20 horsepower Wisconsin gasoline engine and is a scale model one fifth the size of the train it depicts (F7 General Motors Diesel Locomotive). There were actual seats for 36 people (unlike the Largo Central Park trains) and it went FAST (well, faster than I thought it would, topping out at 8 mph).

The kids’ favorite part was the spray ground, where they ran (until Elliot wiped out) and then walked and chopped their way through the water making friends. For $5 a person (E was free) I definitely recommend it!

Getting out of the car for a bathroom break in Virginia, Henry said to me, “Thanks for planning such a great trip, Mommy. I’m having a great time.” I asked Keith if he prompted the Hen to say this, and he came up with it all on his own. No, I didn’t cry, but my heart soared.

We made it to the lovely Casa Browne in Alexandria just before dinner and we are so thankful to spend some time with Vanesa and Scott. Complete with a champagne welcome, presents for the kids, and a home-cooked meal we feel so welcomed and loved. An evening passeggiata to the playground (actually 4!) combined with races and climbing fun rounded out our evening.

E now has his very own Marlon Bundo!

H loves Minecraft and Legos so this is amazing!

Miles driven today = 504 miles

Day 1 – Seminole FL to Walterboro SC

We left an hour and a half past what I had planned. I knew my leaving time was aspirational at best, but I’d still hoped we would leave close to that time. But we made it out of our nearly clean house and survived our first travel day.

Some tears before leaving home.
All packed up!
Buckled up and ready to go!

Keith is a champion at driving. I drove to Ocala and he drove the rest of the way to Walterboro, SC. The kids ate the dinner of their dreams at McDonald’s (I know, we’re so fancy). They rarely eat it, and I always tell them it’s vacation food. Since we’re on vacation, they get to live their best fast food life.

We stopped in North Jacksonville at Oceanway Park (12215 Sago Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32218) to run off some steam. Located less than a mile from I-95, it was an easy stop. The playground had a tent over it, keeping it cool. Slides, tunnels, and ladders galore; the kids loved it. We didn’t love the lack of bathrooms or the ants surrounding the picnic table like our food was the Last Supper. Keith took a short walk around a natural area and saw a snake!

Adios, Florida!

The kids predictably had a million of the same questions, asked over the course of our 6+ hour drive:

  • How much longer?
  • Where’s the hotel?
  • Are we out of Florida yet?
  • How long are we driving?
  • How many miles?
  • Can I use the iPad?
  • How long to hotel?

They fell asleep before we made it to the hotel, and easily continued sleeping once we carried them inside.

Hen got a map!

Miles driven today = 416.

Playgrounds Around Pinellas – Caldwell Park

I don’t know about you, but it’s been just so hard to make it to playgrounds this summer with this crazy heat making it unbearable outside. But last week I got our act together and we made it to a park a little before 10am and it only felt like 87 degrees. Or something like that.

A couple weeks ago, I spied a park that had SHADE on our car tour of South Pinellas! So it was totally worth it to make the 23 minute drive into Gulfport for a mostly shaded playtime adventure at Caldwell Park (Gulfport Blvd and 64th St, Gulfport). Pulling into this small neighborhood park, Elliot exclaimed, “This is so cool!” He wasn’t wrong.

The boys loved spinning themselves silly on the multiple spinners, climbing up the fun webs (and laying in their hammocks), racing cars down the slides, and of course swinging on the swings (which were also partially in the shade – a Pinellas park miracle because there’s rarely any shade cover for the coveted swings!)

The playground abuts the busy Gulfport Boulevard, but the park is fully fenced and set back behind the trees. Kids can watch cars, but you don’t have to worry about them running out in front of them. It’s nicely mulched and well-kept with and adjacent adult fitness area so you can work out while your kids play. There’s also benches and a picnic table for you to sit back and watch your kids when they aren’t asking to be spun like maniacs. The only drawback is no bathroom facilities, so it’s not the best if you’re potty-training. Everyone agreed we had to go back this summer.

Playgrounds Around Pinellas – Northeast Park

Northeast Park (4630 East Bay Drive, Largo, FL 33764) is a City of Largo park tucked away from the busyness of East Bay. I can imagine the playground gets more use when parents are playing basketball or roller hockey on its concrete-jungle courts (they close at 11pm), but on a weekday morning we saw no one. Pine trees provided needed shade cover for the playground equipment, which varied from the usual swings and slides.

We loved the zip line swing that is the focal point of the playground. A challenge to get up the platform because of its steepness (teamwork with Henry allowed the ramping up to happen; he did a running Superman and then leapt and grabbed onto the rail, which allowed me to haul him up the rest of the way), it was totally worth it to hear the boys’s giggles as they swung down the first big drop and were whipped around the corners. They did a great job of taking turns.

They also ascended the yellow mountain climber, which required help for Elliot and panicking by Henry that he couldn’t do it (even though he did). It was a different type of climbing because they had to move sideways without great handgrips. A small jungle gym that looked older than the other equipment was quickly climbed, then forgotten. The boys liked the merry-go-round (safer than the one at Largo Central), but didn’t ask to be lifted up for the bigger kid spinner. Elliot, of course, loved the swings, but didn’t like only having baby swings as an option. I guess the zip line swing is supposed to provide all the swinging fun needed for bigger kids. Finally, my kids tested the workout equipment made for adults, which looks like it was recently installed.

Dislikes: On our most recent visit I saw an abandoned car in the overflow parking with a lot of gear (plus a bike). I saw no one else at the park while I was there. Previously (more than 3 years ago), the trails were overgrown and littered with needles and other trash. I didn’t try to take a stroll this time around because of that. Additionally, my kids ended up getting filthy dirty from the park because there is no mulch or other ground cover. It’s pretty much pine needles over Florida black sandy soil. Dirtiness doesn’t really bother me, but it was a LOT.

Overall, I’m sure we will return this summer because that zip line swing was so unusual and fun, but I don’t think we will regularly go (unless the boys ask).

Amenities:

  • Restrooms and (Cold!) Water Fountain
  • Dog Park (“Paw Place”), closes 9pm
  • Lighted Basketball Court
  • Lighted Roller Hockey Court
  • Paved Trails
  • Picnic Shelter, but no table
  • Exercise Equipment for Adults

Henry is Five (way back in May)

Henry turned five in May – he’s a whole hand old now! And since he starts Kindergarten on Monday (tomorrow, eep!), I figured I needed to add in his fifth birthday adventures to the blog before I do his first day of school post.

At his five-year checkup he had excellent vision, weighed 44 lbs (68th percentile or so), and stood 43.5 inches tall (62nd percentile maybe). It’s been a while since the appointment so I don’t remember the exact percentiles. He’s super healthy and energetic for life.

He runs like the wind, dances crazily, wrestles Elliot, and jumps and tumbles on everything. He’s reading short books; we do hooked on phonics lessons daily, but he’s reading “real” books, too. It’s pretty amazing. He considers himself an artist who takes coloring completely seriously. He also draws, traces, and creates 3D art projects with his Oma. He builds complex Legos all by himself, with occasional outbursts that he can’t do it and needs help. But by the time I get to him to help he has already finished and moved on to the next step.

He feels emotions deeply so if someone is sad he is usually the first to comfort them. He gets angry like the Hulk and it takes a while for him to settle down from his anger. No one can help him with it (in fact, we make it worse when we help), so he’s trying different strategies to calm himself. He continues to love people and makes friends easily. It’s pretty impossible not to have a fun time when Henry’s around.

We celebrated his birthday with Elliot’s at Lake Seminole Park with family and friends. Henry had 6 or so friends come, and Elliot had 2 or 3. Plus, we had both sets of grandparents, aunts and uncles, and the oh so important cousins – Grayson and Finley – come to the party. The LEGO themed (of course) bash was a smash, at least the chili pepper piñata was totally smashed after all the kids had multiple turns. The kids ran like maniacs on the playground and ate their weight in delicious goodies. We opened presents at home so there could be more playtime. It was a totally awesome party!

The Yearly Birthday Survey:

How old are you? Five.

What is your favorite color? Turquoise and Purple.

What do you want to be when you grow up? A ninja.

What is your favorite animal? Manatees and monkeys.

What is your favorite food? Chicken and scrambled eggs.

What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Blueberry muffin.

What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or scrambled eggs.

What is your favorite thing to eat for dinner? Mac and cheese.

What is your favorite thing to drink? Apple juice

Who is your best friend? Samuel.

What is your favorite toy? The toys I like are actually Legos.

What is your favorite TV show? LEGO Guardians of the Galaxy

What is your favorite movie? LEGO Ninjago

What is your favorite book? Chewie and the Porgs.

What is your favorite thing to do? Play Legos and with Porgie.

What is your favorite thing to do with your family? Going to splash pads.

What is your favorite holiday? Christmas and Halloween.

What is your favorite thing to wear? My Sonic shirt!

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation – Chicago Edition, Part 1

I may never catch up on my writing, but maybe I’ll finish the summer by the end of the year!

We traveled to Chicago for a family wedding this past June, but since it’s such a big deal to fly with littles we extended our trip for a fun (not restful) family vacation. Henry was great on the flight up: he colored, played quietly, and then watched movies or gamed for the duration of the flight. He also got hopped up on juice and skipped his nap, but that wasn’t too bad. Elliot, however, did not like to be contained since at one, he could finally move on his own and could not understand that he needed to sit still for the flight. It wasn’t the easiest, but still it went fairly smoothly since there were two of us to one of him. And as adults, we are bigger and stronger than him so we prevailed.

Keith’s cousin, Donna, graciously picked us up from Midway and drove us downtown to our hotel in rush hour traffic the week of her son’s wedding so we didn’t have to worry about figuring out how to get all our gear and the boys downtown. She even packed us a cooler with snacks and drinks for our stay – she is the best! The boys napped during the commute, and our hotel (Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront) turned out to be fantastically situated on the Chicago River. We especially lucked out and got a corner riverfront view – we had giant windows on two of our walls! We could people watch, boat spy, and check out all the cars, trucks, and buses to our heart’s content! In other words, it was a preschooler and toddler’s dream, spoiling us making all other hotel rooms pale in comparison.
 


After unloading our gear, we had two priorities on our first day: (1) eat and (2) find Maggie Daley Park. We decided to combine the two and get carry-out Chicago-style pizza for a park picnic, before running wild at the playground. The three of us determined that deep dish pizza is not our favorite, but Maggie Daley Park definitely is. This Park is a wonderful garden oasis with several playground areas for all kids. If you want to climb a rock wall – there is a giant one available. If you adore miniature golf, play your heart out on its course. If you want peace and quiet, there are plenty of nooks scattered throughout where you can have alone-time.
 
The Play Garden is 3 acres of amazingness for kids. It encourages imaginative play with trails meandering to hidden treasures, gigantic playground structures, and water fountains. Henry spent the majority of his time in the Slide Crater, dashing across the Tower Bridge, climbing the towers, and speeding down the slides. He had a blast running up and down the hills and playing tag with new friends. Elliot strolled with me through the Enchanted Forest, balanced himself across the tree beams, and tried his best to jump into fountains (despite it being chilly for us Floridians!)
 

Every day of our trip Henry asked to return to this park. It may be his favorite one ever! He still asks us when we will be returning. Unfortunately, it rained a ton while we were downtown, so we only made it back one additional time, in the rain. Still, totally worth it, and it wasn’t crowded when it was raining! This time we first focused on a couple of Play Garden areas we missed the first time around – the Sea and the Harbor – before returning to the Slide Crater for madness.


Located about a 10-15 minute walk from our hotel, we returned from Maggie Daley through Millennium Park and Pritzker Pavilion by way of the Bean. This area of town is truly a gem, and we will be returning for more fun on our next visit!



Playground of the Week – Philippe Park

Philippe Park (2525 Philippe Parkway, Safety Harbor 34695) is a Pinellas County Park located on Old Tampa Bay and shaded by gloriously large oak trees draped with Spanish moss. This combination makes the park particularly lovely for family photos, if you’re looking for a picturesque, Pinellas location.


The main playground (I haven’t made it to the climbing one) is mostly shaded and overlooks the water from a distance on a hill. It has many of the same features as the other county parks, most noticeably, the rideable green and purple dinosaurs. There are 2 infant/toddler swings in one section and at least 4 regular swings in a different area.
 
Henry liked the variety of slides to climb up (& then slide down) on the older kid (5 to 12) set, and both generally liked the equipment. We spent the most time accumulating sticks and climbing the centipede, which Henry mastered the art of dangling by our second trip. He still needed a touch of help climbing down the centipede after he rapidly ascended.
 

Dislikes for us include the distance to the park (it takes us about 30 minutes from Seminole), especially since there are closer county parks to us, and the lack of kids playing on a weekday morning. My boys love playmates, and often immediately judge a playground as lame if no one else is there.

History

Around 1,000 years ago, Tocabaga Indians feasted on clams and oysters, leaving the remaining shells which comprise the still-visible Indian Mound that is listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks. You can climb to the top of the Mound for a fantastic view of the Bay.
 
This 122-acre park is the oldest county park in Pinellas, having been acquired in 1948! Named after Count Odet Philippe, the man who introduced grapefruit to Florida, it covers the site of his citrus plantation (St. Helena). Philippe has the distinction of being the first permanent, non-native settler of Pinellas County (he took the land in 1862), and is an ancestor to the prominent McMullen and Booth families. His grave site is located somewhere within the park.

Amenities

  • 9 picnic shelters
  • Restrooms
  • 2 playgrounds (one is a rock climbing playground)
  • Boat launch ($6 with trailer, $2 without)
  • Tocabaga Indian Mound
  • Softball field
  • Fishing (saltwater permit may be required)

Playground of the Week – Seminole City Park

Since my Playground of the Week posts have essentially been sporadic park posts whenever I get around to it, I’m going to do a few playground posts in a row to make up for it, starting with one of my favorites. Seminole City Park (7464 Ridge Rd, Seminole 33772) has long been a top park for our family, but the playground has been closed all summer for a complete renovation (I think its last major renovation was in 2001.) The ribbon cutting for the new playground was supposed to occur last Friday, September 8th, but a little hurricane named Irma (haha, just kidding – it was a monster) cancelled the event. Despite the hurricane on the horizon, the City of Seminole kept the park open up until the day before the storm, so we had to stop by to play beforehand. After the storm, public works’ employees worked hard and cleared the debris from the park so the littles could quickly enjoy the playspace when so many of us were displaced or had no power.

My boys LOVE the playground! Henry said, “It’s my new favorite; I could play here for six hours!” Their shared favorite is the seesaw swing (for lack of a better name) – Elliot joyfully rode in the toddler side while Henry did the leg-pumping work on the other. Henry liked standing on it to swing and alternatively, sitting. I’m going to try to find a similar one for our swing set; it was that awesome.
 

There are two playground structures, aspects of which are similar to Lake Seminole Park, the Sunshine Playground, and Largo Central Park, but this playground makes them feel unique. On the smaller structure, Henry created an obstacle course route while Elliot jammed out to music on the drums and bells. On the larger one, Henry searched for the hidden animals, finding 8 out of 10 – we have to do better next time!
 



He loved being the Flash and running around the climbing merry-go-round, and hanging upside down while spinning. We all practiced our climbing on the spider web-orb structure, feeling the wind blow through our hair. There’s also a small zip line, but Henry was too small (at 4, he will grow into it) to hang on the whole time.

Finally, I love the turf instead of the small rubber pieces as the groundcover. I don’t have to worry about Elliot trying to eat the rubber, or it getting stuck in my kids shoes, and I feel better about it when my kids inevitably remove their shoes to play. My only complaint with the playground is the lack of shade covering the equipment. It’s Florida and it’s HOT at least 6 months of the year. The surrounding trees provide some shade, but a tent overhead would help immensely.

The official ribbon cutting is going down this Friday, September 15th at 6:30pm before the kickoff of the City’s Music in the Park series at 7pm. This week’s concert is Voice of Jazz, a Dunedin-based big band featuring classic jazz and swing music plus modern arrangements of popular tunes. I’ve never been to the concerts before, but I’ve heard they are fun for the whole family and free so we are going to try to make at least one this fall.
 

Amenities

  • 2 playground areas, including swings 
  • Band shell
  • Right on the Pinellas Trail
  • Trailside Restrooms
  • 3 picnic shelters
  • Mear Lake (where you can feed the birds, which I try not to do because being surrounded by birds terrifies the crap out of me)

Upcoming Music in the Park

  • September 22nd – Gloria West and the Gents
  • September 29th – Charlie Souza and Titewad Band
  • October 6th – Ellie Lee and Blues Fury
  • October 13th – Sounds of Soul

Going Home to Jacksonville Part 2 – Mandarin

My parents wanted to take us to Clark’s Fish Camp on our visit because it has delicious seafood and stuffed animals. I thought they meant weird looking Care Bears, but they meant taxidermy stuffed animals in a “lovely room of death” (to quote Ace Ventura). Actually multiple rooms of death, I felt totally creeped out and saddened by the dead animals. The seafood was on point, though. Shrimp for days, plus tasty sides (I brought my Grandma my shrimp since she wasn’t feeling well enough to come out with us. She actually smiled, she was so stoked. 


But backing up a bit to before we went to the restaurant, we hit up Mandarin Park first. Keith couldn’t believe we were still in Jacksonville after driving for one hour to get to the park. Oh, but we were – Jacksonville is the largest land area city in the United States. It’s freaking huge! And also explains why I have no idea where things are outside of Arlington and some of the Beaches, Riverside, and Southside areas.
 
Mandarin Park is beautifully shaded right on Julington Creek. Keith and I watched the boats sail and motor down the river, taking off from a small dock on the property. Henry napped in the car (watched over by my Mom), and Elliot played on the shaded playground with my Dad. We sat on a bench in blissful silence, enjoying every moment. It was like a date (if by date I mean it was a break from parental responsibility for all of 20 minutes before the littlest came looking for us.)

The playground had swings, slides, and things to climb – all in the shade! Elliot liked the swings the best, but we couldn’t rouse Henry to get him to play. His sleep schedule was all out of whack being out of town and all. If we lived in Mandarin, I would definitely return to this park often.