I visited friends in Charlotte, NC in late March. The weather was beautiful, so we went for a morning hike around Lake Wylie in McDowell Nature Center and Preserve.
In the afternoon, my friend gave me a brief walking tour of uptown Charlotte. We relaxed in a quiet literary-themed pocket park called The Green. I enjoyed the book sculptures and colorful mosaic stools.
Speaking of mosaics, the Firebird sculpture in front of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is a sparkling mosaic wonder, reflecting bits and pieces of everything around it.
We went to the Denver Zoo in early March, and were delighted to find out that an adorable two-day-old giraffe was making its zoo debut that day. We also enjoyed seeing several animals playing with the toys in their habitats, such as the elephant and hippopotamus below.
We watched some amazing big horn sheep and mountain goats climbing on Sheep Mountain, and Bear Mountain had two beautiful grizzly bears.
This is a great zoo with all kinds of animals, but the thing we were probably most surprised to see was a Lego lion sculpture, apparently by the same artist as the Lego sculptures we saw at the McKee Botanical Garden in Florida. These awesome Lego sculptures get around!
We visited the McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach in February. The first thing that we noticed and loved was the huge stick structures, which you can go inside.
The gardens currently have a special exhibit, Nature Connects: Art With LEGO Bricks. These super cool Lego sculptures will be in the gardens through May 7, 2017.
Our favorite Lego sculptures are shown above. The smallest of these sculptures, the “Pileated Woodpecker,” is made of 4,424 pieces. The largest, the “Monarch Butterfly On Milkweed,” contains 60,549 pieces and has an eight-foot wingspan! These Lego sculptures were so impressive, and the beautiful gardens were the perfect setting for enjoying them.
During our Florida mini-vacation we visited the Manatee Observation and Education Center in Fort Pierce. When we arrived, we appreciated the manatee artwork on a bench and on the walkway to the entrance.
Inside, there was an optional scavenger hunt for kids, to encourage them to observe the different types of fish inside the building. Our three-year-old loves this sort of challenge, and the possibility of earning a little prize. There were also a few fun crafty activities for kids, and a short movie about manatees and the observation center. The best part of visiting the observation center, of course, is the chance of seeing wild manatees in the creek behind the building. The observation center has beautiful views of the creek and Indian River Lagoon, and we were lucky enough to see three manatees relaxing in the creek!
Admission to the manatee center was only one dollar per person (!), so I highly recommend visiting if you are in the Fort Pierce area.
We went to Vero Beach, Florida in early February to visit my parents and enjoy some warm weather.
Besides the beautiful ocean, sandy beach, and warm pool we had access to, one of the highlights of Vero Beach for me was a little vegan snack shop called Planet Yum. We went there twice and enjoyed vegan soft serve ice cream and milkshakes (the chocolate chai milkshake topped with coconut cream was fantastic), gluten-free waffles, and handmade chocolatey popsicles. Can’t wait to go back!
It should come as no surprise that Loveland, Colorado, the “sweetheart city,” is really into Valentine’s Day. Around this time of year, there are charming red wooden hearts with personalized dedications posted on all of the light poles on the main street. And the Fire and Ice Festival is celebrated all over downtown Loveland on a weekend near Valentine’s Day. We enjoyed the festival’s great live music, carousel, carnival games, kettle corn, and of course, ice sculptures.
There was also an awesome community art project that came together throughout the festival. People painted individual smallish sections of a huge mural and the finished sections were mounted on the side of a building, creating a beautiful, funky image of Mona Lisa in Loveland. What a cool idea!
One last post from our December overnight trip to Boston: behold the views from the Skywalk Observatory on the 50th floor of the Prudential Center.
This was a surprisingly great place to bring a three-year-old. She loved being in a building that was “as high as an airplane,” and there was ample space for her to run laps around the perimeter of the observatory without bothering other folks (much). The personal audio tour device was an unforeseen bonus, as she loved pretending it was a phone and taking photos with it.
I lived in Boston for six years and never saw the sunrise (thanks to being a college student and twenty-something, and never living higher than the fifth floor). I stayed there for one night with my three-year-old daughter, and there it was!
[view from the 17th floor of the Sheraton Boston north tower]
When I was a college student in Boston and needed a distraction from stressful academic stuff, I often went to the Museum of Fine Arts or the New England Aquarium (both of these awesome places were free with my Northeastern student ID). Now, more than ten years later, we visited Boston for the first time with our little one, and had to hit up the New England Aquarium.
Many things I loved haven’t changed in all these years. Myrtle the sea turtle, now 95 years old, is still swimming laps in the big tank. The little blue penguins are still being adorable alongside the big tank. I was pleased to see that there are now sea lions outside, but I sure missed the sea otters that I used to watch playing out there. [Does anyone know why the otters aren’t there anymore? Google has failed me on that question.]
I couldn’t believe how crowded the aquarium was, but I guess that’s what you get on a cold rainy day during the school vacation week between Christmas and New Year’s. The jellyfish area was probably the quietest part of the building, so at least I was able to get a couple of nice shots of the photogenic jellies!
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, in Amherst, MA, is a fantastic museum for little kids. It’s spacious, bright, and modern, and has all sorts of things for little kids to enjoy. First of all, there is a great art gallery with picture book art by Eric Carle (author and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and illustrator of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?) and other well-known picture book illustrations. I really enjoyed this area, but it is probably the only part of the museum that is more appreciated by adults than little kids. Budding bookworms will love the library, and finding books scattered around the museum (even inside the very hungry caterpillar himself, on a cozy little bench).
There is also an art studio with suggested projects for kids to work on, and a small movie theater that shows short (~15 minute) movies based on picture book stories. My three-year-old’s favorite part of our visit was the scavenger hunt for footprints from the various Brown Bear animals, which also encouraged us to explore the museum fully (and she got a temporary tattoo as a prize when we found everything!). I would definitely recommend visiting this museum if you’re looking for a special activity for little kids on a winter afternoon. With all of the things to see and do, you can easily spend two to three hours here.