Hudson Valley: Bear Mountain with a Baby or Toddler

We visited Bear Mountain during a two-day weekend trip with our 8 months old son that started here. We truly enjoyed taking a break from the city in this beautiful place.

DRIVING TO THE BEAR MOUNTAIN LOOKOUT

We got to Bear Mountain around noon, we opted to drive to the top of the mountain instead of climbing up with a stroller. It was an easy drive up up via Perkins Memorial Drive.

And here we are sitting under a tree for a moment and enjoying the calmness and beauty of this place. The Hudson River views never disappoint.


I read a picture book to my son and then we walked downhill to a more deserted area so that I can breastfeed him. The views were just as pretty down there.

On the way to lunch we stopped at this cute carousel.


Coming with a baby worked out well but I would be a little nervous to go up to the top of the lookout area with a toddler or at the very least keep a tight grip.

LUNCH AT THE BEAR MOUNTAIN INN

This place has great reviews but our experience was just ok here. We arrived just before brunch was over and the wait for lunch was very long. Perhaps because it was nearing the end of brunch, I thought the buffet options were not so great. I didn’t help that the staff was too busy to keep everyone happy and even getting our check took a while.

UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY AT WEST POINT

After lunch we them drove to West Point to the US Military Academy. From there we saw more gorgeous views of the river but also spotted some castles 1. 2.

We then drove back to our hotel for dinner.

DINNER

We had dinner at STK and the food was great! If like us you prefer the convenience of staying in for dinner, this restaurant has great food. Their brunch is amazing.

HOTEL

We stayed at the Time Hotel Nyack which was about a 30 minute drive from Bear Mountain.

This hotel was somewhat baby and toddler friendly as they have cribs available and the beds are large enough to co-sleep and was very comfortable. The sink was big enough for the baby to take a bath. My only warning is that the walls were paper thin and you can hear everything.

I hope this gives you an idea of what to expect about taking a trip to Bear Mountain with you are traveling with a toddler or baby. If I left anything unanswered please ask in the comments or send me a message on Instagram.

Xo,
Leslie O.

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Little Sparks of Joy

Doing more of the things we enjoy invites even more joy into our lives.

I love and appreciate art but for as long as I can remember, I’ve told myself things like “you are not creative,” “you can’t draw or paint,” “those crafty projects that you like on those beautiful websites and Pinterest, forget about those, yours will look like a kinder garden project” (no offense little ones).

What are some of the negative stories you have told yourself about the things you “can’t do?” or that your are “not good enough to do?”

The reality is, I had never given myself the chance to just create art out of my own initiative, free of self judgment, and without caring about the outcome.

And so I went and gathered my son’s art materials, found a YouTube tutorial and painted these beautiful pink peonies.

They are not perfect but I love them so much. And just like that I broke through my fear of just doing it and now I can get better if I wish to go in that path.

What fears are you holding on to? What are some of the things you’ve told yourself you can’t achieve?

Can I challenge you to think of one thing that you enjoy watching others do but that you don’t dare to do it yourself out fear? Just try it once. You don’t have to do it again if it doesn’t feel good but at least you tried.

With love,

Leslie

If you enjoy this post you might also like my live stories on Instagram.

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Hudson Valley: Storm King Art Center with a Baby or Toddler

We took a two-day trip to the Hudson Valley and headed straight to Storm King Art Center (SKAC), about an hour drive from the Bronx, and there we met with friends from the city.

I was really unclear about what to expect in my visit to this place and didn’t want to over think it or over plan it and I’m glad that I showed up with no expectations and a child-like curiosity.

This outdoor museum of giant sculptures is truly a sight to see.

standing next to the Endless Column, Tal Streeter (1968)

Visiting with a Baby or Toddler

Now for the visiting with a baby and toddler part. Not only are these sculptures impressive but so is the vast amount of green space available, perfect for an active walking toddler or for taking a leisure stroll with a baby.

Taking a stroll with my son
Holding my son underneath the “Free Ride Home”, Kenneth Snelson (1974)

Getting Around

Once inside, we walked around the Meadows field then hopped on the free tram at the Museum Hill, which gave us a tour of the sculptures.

Different angles of the sculptures presented a new perspective of each piece. Some of them were designed to work with elements and move with the wind.

Note that you will not be able to bring a stroller on the tram but you can park your stroller right where you board. The challenge here is that you if you get off the tram, you have to get on it again or walk back to where you started.

Untitled, Joel Shapiro (1994)
“The Arch”, Alexander Calder (1975)
playing with my son underneath the Iliad, Alexander Liberman (1974–76)

Logistics

Weather 

The weather was bit windy and chilly when we came and so I recommend going in late spring or early summer when it’s not too cold or too hot. The SKAC website warns of bugs but we didn’t really have any issues with this. Be sure to bring sunblock, bug spray.

What to Wear

Wear comfortable clothing and shoes for walking.

My son and I standing underneath “The Arch”, Alexander Calder (1975)
Amenities

Changing stations are available in the main restrooms. I highly recommend stopping by the Museum Shop which has a great selection of books and art gadgets for children and adults. You can also purchase sunblock and bug spray here if you forgot yours at home.

Food

There’s an outdoor cafe offering great quality salads, sandwiches and soups. For little ones I recommend bringing your own foods and snacks that you know for sure they like to eat. There are quality restaurants nearby and you can find suggestions here.

Location and Admissions

Storm King Art Center

1 Museum Road
New Windsor, NY 12553

https://stormking.org/visit/

Admissions: $18 adults; Free for children under 4 years old. Rental bikes available.

I hope you found this guide useful.

Xo,

Leslie O.

Hudson Valley: Benmarl Winery Sangria Festival With a Baby

When our son was 8 months old we drove 1 hour and 20 minutes on a beautiful summer day from the Bronx to their Sangria Festival. The weather was gorgeous and many couples, friends and family were there enjoying the views, the music and of course tasting a variety of sangrias and wines.

Benmarl Winery is located on a hill overlooking the Hudson River and the view is stunning!

I was breastfeeding at the time so I painfully skipped the wine, never the less a glass of non-alcoholic sangria, the flamenco and the views were more than enough for me.

We set up a picnic a blanket and relaxed for a while before joining the flamenco singers and dancers under a tent. As a new mother with a baby I did not feel out place here. It was a very friendly atmosphere and although we didn’t see a lot of children the winery seems to be welcoming of families with children.

We really enjoyed visiting this place and highly recommend it. New York State is so beautiful and we have so much ground to cover.

Winery Details:

Benmarl Winery

156 Highland Avenue

Marlboro, NY 12542

Festival fee: $10 non drinkers; 25 at the door; children 12 and under are free.

Follow me on Instagram for real time travel stories.

Xo,

Leslie O.

Our Favorite Free Toddler Activities in The Bronx

We love the outdoors and The Bronx is the greenest of all NYC boroughs, that’s because it is twenty five percent parkland, so clearly we still have a lot more ground to cover and parks to see.

In this post I’m sharing three FREE things we love to do with our toddler, including an indoor activity for those cold winter days.

Wave Hill Gardens

This gorgeous garden overlooking the Hudson River looks like it came out of a dream. Coming here is like taking a mini vacation. It’s serene, relaxing and a breath of fresh air in the city. We love escaping the loud sirens and cars honking in this gorgeous place and there’s huge lawn for toddlers to burn off energy.

Wave Hill Gardens admission is free on Tuesdays and Saturdays before noon and they host family workshops and activities for children on Saturdays. Parking is not free but you can park outside and take a free shuttle, the guards at the main entrance will direct you. You can view a full list of themes events and workshops here.

Family Nature Club @ The Bronx Zoo

This is a themed monthly meet-up group organized by the Wildlife Conservation Society with the goal is to give parents the tools and guidance to explore the outdoors and nature and encourage inquiry and play-based learning. We meet at the Mitsubishi River Walk. I couldn’t believe this program is free!

Since we last went I have seen the themes of bird watching, animal homes and fort building, nature weaving and more.

Date/Time: 2nd Saturday of every month from 10:30-12:30pm. October through June.

Tip: We got free tickets to the zoo that we can use that same day or later! So come prepare if you want to visit the zoo on that day. They even provide a free parking pass.

You sign up here.

Story Time at the Bronx Library Central

This is a very nice library with great programs for little children. We attend their story time regularly. Some of their family friendly events include age-based story time, puppet shows, concerts, book fairs and author events and more.

You can view the Bronx Library Central children’s events calendar here or a full list of NYPL (Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island) children’s events here.

What are your favorite free activities to do with your toddler? Have you’ve been or want to go to any of these places? Please share in the comments.

Also follow me on instragram for real time updates.

Xo,

Leslie O.

Visiting The MoMa with a Toddler

I went to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) with my 19 month old toddler and was delighted with the experience, this museum is very child-friendly.

Our first stop was the Art Lab. They had nature inspired sensory boxes and activities for older children and a really great selection of books and puzzles that are great for the tiny ones.

From the lab, we went to walk through the galleries.  At the Constantin Brancusi exhibition we played a Montessori-inspired matching game to keep him from knocking things down and to get him interested in the art. I pointed at images of the sculptures in the booklet I was given and my toddler will then find the matching sculpture . He was so accurate at finding them. I then shared a little bit of information about it with him, like the sculpture’s name or the material it was made from.

But it wasn’t long before he was tired so we kept the visit short. And since we happened to have collided with the Free Fridays, we had a quick bite at the Cafe on 2 and ran out as quickly as we could to avoid to large crowd that was already starting to come in.

Strollers are permitted in the galleries but you can also check them in to coat check for free. You can find more information about their children’s program here.  They also have many great free programs for children 4+ and all children 16 and under have free admission.

Have you visited a museum with a toddler? Please share your tips for visiting museums with toddlers and small children in the comments.

 

Xo,

Leslie

If you were a flower, what would you be?

This simple question had me lit!

Name the first flower that comes to your head.

Don’t over think it.

How do you feel about your flower and how would you describe it?

Are you a rose? a peony? a Lotus Flower?  Or like me are you just well… 

The first thought that came to my mind as I was reading this question on the worksheet for The Desired Map was a “Wild Flower.”

I felt cheap

I caught myself quickly dismissing the thought and searching for a more beautiful, more admired, more graceful, more valued flower in the garden than just a plain, simple and inexpensive, common Wild Flower, which for some are not even flowers but rather weeds ruining their garden.

As I scanned through all the beautiful flowers in my head, trying to find a more worthy flower non of them truly felt like me.  Wrapped in the thought of wanting to be something different, I started to feel like I was being dishonest with myself. 

Because I was.

So I quit searching.

Maybe one day I would be exotic like an orchid, but I don’t feel like that, not today. I don’t think I’ve ever have.

I reminded myself to keep my promise to treat my true self with respect as the teacher of this course has wisely advised.

I accepted my flower and answered the question like this:

“A Wild Flower– often overlooked and under appreciated but incredibly resilient and with a persistent and hopeful spirit.  They are beautiful, light hearted, small and seemingly fragile but can withstand any condition with cheerful energy.”

After writing this I got goosebumps and  felt instantly connected to these flowers. I thought to myself, wow that sounds so much like me. 

I don’t feel under appreciated but I do have a persistent and hopeful spirit and can navigate difficult times in life. Luisa, one of my best friends in High School used to tell that she admired that about me. She never understood how I was able to deal growing up without my mother and how I dealt with difficult situations, seemingly unharmed. She also admired that I always went for what I wanted in life and truly be believed that I would get it.  This last sentence actually became one of the biggest source of my fears, as in “be careful what you wish for”. More on that another day.

Like Wild Flowers, which pop up wherever they please (they don’t need to planted to grow) and not even concrete can stop them from flourishing, I am also in constant search of my own self-development and self-growth.

Just like Wild Flowers I treat life as if it offers boundless and infinite possibilities, all within the reach of those who really want it.

Just like Wild Flowers I dream of of setting foot everywhere on this earth. 

As I thought about all this, I felt this beautiful energy surrounding me, specially as I realized the incredible beauty and joy these flowers bring to earth. I, for a moment, tried to make them small when they are in deed so grand.  They are truly special.

I wanted to learn more about my flower more I looked up the definition:

A flower of an uncultivated variety or a flower growing freely without human intervention. (Google’s dictionary)

wildflower (or wild flower) is a flower that grows in the wild, meaning it was not intentionally seeded or planted. (wikipedia)

Then I started to read quotes, and more quotes about them.

I then found a new Children’s picture book called my heart that teaches children emotional intelligence, an on the cover is a little girl picking up a Wild Flower in the shape of a heart. I’m in so love!

There are days it is broken,
but broken can mend,
and a heart that is closed
can still open again.

Then researched their role on this earth and discovered this:

Wildflowers are native to where they grow, meaning they’re conditioned to thrive there.   They require less water and fertilizer, are less prone to disease and are more tolerant to pests. They also provide critical habitat for pollinators, beneficial insects and wildlife, which is important for ecosystem function and pollination. Wildflowers can improve soil health, prevent erosion, improve water quality, increase yields and enhance forage conditions for livestock. (source)

Do you have food on the table? You’re welcome!

Then beautiful images of Wild Flowers popped into my head and on my instagram feed:

I mean what would this bouquet be without the Wild Flowers? Pretty I’m sure, but can we all agree that the Wild Flowers (though they may hardly ever be the center of attention for any bouquet) brightens it up and elevates it to unthinkable heights.

The bring beauty where ever they pop up. Some can see it, some are blind to it. Just like some people live intensely and others let life pass them by, not everyone is alive and awake to the gifts of Mother Nature, and the Wild Flowers are one.

I’ll never think or look at Wild flowers the same ever again after this exercise.

Now I’m really curious about you, what was your flower and what did you learn about yourself today?