20 Things to Do with Tweens & Teens in NYC

grimaldis.jpgI have to say, now that my kids are getting older, I’ve actually been having a great time exploring every nook and cranny of New York City with them. Since we don’t have to worry about strollers, whining and potty breaks, my kids and I are foot loose, fancy free and subway bound. So what do we do when we hit the Big Apple? Simple, check out our top 20 list and give some of these attractions and activities a whirl.
1. Head to a NYC street fair and browse through all the kiosks and savor the tasty food.
2. High tail it to Times Square where you can hit M&M world, ESPN Zone, Bubba Gump Shrimp, and more.
3. Kids fixated with theme restaurants? Then visit my family faves Planet Hollywood, Mars 2112, Hard Rock Cafe or Jekyll & Hyde.
4. On October 27, head to Bryant Park for holiday shopping and ice skating
5. Rent bikes and then head to Central Park for a family ride.
6. Dessert anyone? That one’s simple – Serendipity, Dylan’s Candy Bar and Cafe Lalo are a few of my faves.
7. Hit Bowlmor Lanes or Lucky Strike for some family fun.
8. In the Halloween spirit? Then visit Ricky’s Costume Shop and then head to the Limelight Marketplace where you can dine on a delectable pie at Grimaldi’s pizza (cash only).
9. Take your kids to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and check out the incredible mummy exhibit.
10. Shop in the Flatiron district at H&M, Forever 21, the Farmers Market and more.
11. Movies anyone? Hit AMC Lincoln Square for the coolest film going experience ever.
12. Best musical hands down for Tweens (and their moms)…WICKED!!!
13. Visit Ellen’s Startdust diner for a burger, shake and singing waiters and waitresses.
13. When in doubt, visit the Nintendo world store at Rockefeller Center.
14. Try a family sport outing with golf, skating, basketball and more at Chelsea Piers.
15. Hop aboard a Spirit of New York cruise around New York.
16. Stroll down Fifth Avenue and visit Tiffany’s…window shopping is always free.
17. Enjoy tea and scones at Alice’s Tea Cup or head to the Plaza Hotel for high tea.
18. On Saturdays, visit the upper west side and shop the GreenFlea market on 77th and Columbus Avenue – then head to Isabella’s for brunch and their chocolate basket for dessert. Yummy.
19. Rent Sleepless in Seattle and watch with your tween. Then head to the top of the Empire State Building and pretend you’re Meg Ryan.
20. Go kayaking or canoeing along the east river or just bike along the trail that’ll take you all the way to Battery Park City.
More fun outings to come. We still haven’t hit Greenwich Village, Little Italy and Chinatown – guess a new top 20 list will be coming your way soon!

FamilyiTrips App to the Rescue!

Thumbnail image for image.png Summertime is the best, I love it. One of my favorite things to do during the summer is to travel with my family. Recently we had a trip planned to Maine and my husband thought it would be fun to make a stop in Boston on the way for a couple of days. Since we are coming from NY, Boston seemed like the perfect place to break up the road trip, not to mention a great city to explore. Now that my kids are 8 1/2 and 5 1/2, it is easier to travel… no bottles, no strollers, no diapers etc. The only problem? We knew nothing about sightseeing in Boston!
Here is where the FamilyiTrips Boston App saved the day! Created by award-winning travel journalists, this user-friendly app makes planning easy by pinpointing exhibits and experiences best for young kids, grade schoolers and teens, by showcasing little-known gems, and by allowing you to create a personalized itinerary that matches your family’s needs. Locals and travelers also use the detailed plan-ahead information so as not to miss out on what they want to see and do.
I loved being able to do research and make plans ahead of time, but also felt relaxed about switching things around while we were there, since I had all the information I needed right at my fingertips. Everything is broken down by age range so we could find appropriate activities for my kids. The trip was amazing, from the museums to the tips on walking the freedom trail with young kids, to the places to eat, it could not have worked out any better.
The Washington DC and Boston FamilyiTrips app were on the iTunes Hot List for Travel apps! More cities are being added soon. Fun facts and illustrations add to the enjoyment, and my kids love using the app too! The apps are compatible with the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Purchase for $2.99-$4.99 through www.familyitrips.com or from the iTunes store. Updates are always FREE.

We drove I-95

Written by Role Mommy Contributor, Danielle Feigenbaum
DSFLA.JPG I do not like the cold, winter is not my friend. One of my favorite times to escape the cold New York winters (even though this winter was a pleasure!) is while my kids are off from school President’s week in February. Since we couldn’t quite afford to escape to some tropical island, we started to think about less expensive options. My best friend since High School happens to live near Orlando, Florida, which takes care of our accommodations, but flights nowadays are a fortune. So, we decided to drive. I know you are all thinking I am crazy with two kids (ages five and eight) to spend so many hours in the car. But we looked at it as an adventure. Quality family bonding time on the open road. And let me tell you, it was a huge success!
If you decide to drive down to Florida from anywhere on the east coast, here are some useful tips that will help you plan your adventure!
First, either buy or take out of the library, the book, Drive I-95! It was our bible for the entire trip. The book offers easy-to-follow mile-by-mile maps showing services on each side of I-95: motels/hotels, gas stations (even 24-hr ones), restaurants, ATM machines, auto mechanics, supermarkets, malls, golf courses, campsites and pharmacies. Fun stories – history on I-95, museums, trivia, towns to explore or places for kids – will entertain and entice motorists to discover someplace new. Having little kids who will have to use the bathroom at a moments notice, it was super helpful to know when the next rest stop or gas station would be. When you make a stop, be sure to let the kids run around for a few minutes. Many rest stops have grassy areas, perfect for a quick game of tag!
We split the trip into two days going down and two days coming back. We slept in Florence, South Carolina going there and Richmond, Virginia on the way home. The kids were so excited to all sleep in a hotel room together. I found very reasonable rates on hotels via Trip Advisor, with a hot breakfast included and an indoor pool so the kids could swim before we got back on the road.
I recommend packing breakfast and lunch for the first day on the road, to minimize long stops as well as unhealthy fast food joints. We also packed a cooler full of water and other drinks to save money and stay well hydrated. There is usually a Cracker Barrel restaurant every few exits you can can stop at for a meal, since it’s fun for the kids.
There are so many amazing places to see in the South. If you have the time, you can make a detour to Colonial Williamsburg or spend some time at the beach in Hilton Head. We went about fifteen miles off 95 to have lunch on the river in Savannah and drove around the historic town. Our friends who also drove down spent some time in Charleston, and loved it there too. On the way home we drove into Washington DC and stopped at all the major monuments, it was very cool.
The most important thing is to have fun! The kids will follow your lead. They watched movies and of course played video games, but we also played concentration, Geography, and the “A my name is…” game. We even listened to some good books on tape (101 Dalmatians is four hours long!)
I am so happy we drove I-95! We have private jokes we are still laughing about and made memories that will last a lifetime. Believe it or not, I would actually do it again!

The Ultimate Family Vacation – Part III

Our evening took us into the mountains of Jamaica where Jason, the owner of Jake’s introduced us to the farmers of Treasure Beach. As we traversed one of several winding roads, Jason made a turn into Flagaman, a stretch of land inhabited by hard working farmers and their families. From there, we began to see beautiful homes that had been built from the fruits of their labor.
During our evening journey, we met Ms. Maisy, one of the most prosperous farmers in Treasure Beach who has been a staple in the community for over 40 years. Ms. Maisy supplies fruits and vegetables to local businesses throughout the region and her generosity has helped support a number of community based initiatives being spearheaded by the Treasure Beach Breds Foundation.
IMG_0270.JPGWe then drove a bit further and met Doul, one of the few organic farmers in Jamaica who not only gave us a tour of his farm, but shared some of his most prized possessions, mouth watering mangoes, sweet sop – which tastes like custard and genips – my son’s personal favorite fruit that looks like a grape but tastes like lychee. Doul walked us through his field and what I noticed first was the striking red color of the soil. We then saw banana trees, sour sop (another delicious fruit treat), more genips, scallions, melons, avocados and mangoes. As we approached a clearing, the view was absolutely spectacular. At that moment, Jason explained that each month during the full moon, guests of Jake’s are invited to the Pedro Plains “Farm to Table” dinner at the bottom of Doul’s farm where they can enjoy an incredible caribbean meal under the stars. Jake’s plans to arrange farm tours for guests and families throughout the year so that you can meet the hard working farmers of Jamaica while helping them tend their fields. Jake’s also plans to expand the “Farm to Table” experience so that the farm dinner takes place on a regular basis with the ultimate goal of hosting a Jamaican food festival featuring the culinary talents of some of the best known and well-loved chefs throughout the region.
IMG_0281.JPGAs sunset approached, we arrived at Jason’s home and it literally took our breath away. Jason and his wife Laura’s home is nestled into a hill and offers sweeping views of southern Jamaica from two 40 foot long verandas that adorn the property. As four dogs raced up to greet us, Jason brought us inside to meet Laura and the Henzell’s two gorgeous children – Seya (named for one of their favorite artists) and Max. We also were introduced to their incredibly talented cook Sheila, who works for Jake’s and prepared a delectable dinner for all of us.
We spent the next few hours learning more about the Henzell’s and their incredible ties to Jamaica – Laura’s family created the wildly popular Red Stripe beer and Jason’s father, Perry, who passed away in 2006, produced the legendary film “The Harder They Come.” According to the Guardian, “The Harder They Come” is “one of the most the most outstanding films to emerge from Jamaica that has continually served as a reference point for film-makers in the Caribbean and Latin America.” Today, Jason’s sister, who is also a filmmaker, manages the film property and also spearheads the Calabash Literary Festival – one of the most popular events in the region which takes place each fall at Jake’s.
From the arts, to education, to the sea to the farms, Jason and Laura Henzell are committed to making their community a better place to live and visit for generations to come. So take my advice and spend a family vacation at Jake’s Resort, where you’ll get the chance to experience the magical allure of Treasure Beach. Once you visit, you’ll want to go back every year!
Related Posts:
Ultimate Family Vacation – Part I
Ultimate Family Vacation – Part II

Jakes Resort: Ultimate Jamaican Family Vacation – Part II

In my previous post, I shared my family’s off the beaten path adventure at Jake’s Hotel and Resort, located in Treasure Beach, Jamaica. When we first arrived, I was concerned the kids would be bored because they weren’t going to be enrolled in a traditional vacation camp program. Instead, my kids were going to explore the land, sea and culture of Jamaica and you know what? That experience proved to be one of the most exciting of their lives.
Since we already let you in on the details about our adventure at sea, let’s jump right into day three!
IMG_0205.JPGDay 3: We began our morning with breakfast at Jake’s restaurant – Becca and I opted for traditional porridge and Dylan went for the french toast. Meanwhile, Darin savored callaloo – which tastes like spinach – cod and ackee (the national fruit of Jamaica). As the kids went for an early morning dip, Darin made his way over to the Driftwood Spa for a Swedish massage. Meanwhile, I got the chance to chat with Jason Henzell, the owner of Jake’s about vital projects that will serve to strengthen the economy of Treasure Beach while supporting the entire community as a whole.
This fall, a fishing sanctuary will be unveiled off the coast of Treasure Beach to help revitalize the fishing industry. The sanctuary will be off-limits to fisherman, enabling fish to breed and grow for at least two years – thereby increasing the amount of viable fish available in the region.
Jason also shared details of a brand new 15 acre sports park that is currently under construction in Treasure Beach. The sports park, also slated to open this fall, will offer a formalized youth program for budding soccer athletes and cricket enthusiasts – with trained coaches who will guide players through instruction, practices, games and tournament play. The fields will also be utilized for local and international cricket and soccer tournaments. The project will be built in four phases and when completed, will also include tennis courts, basketball and netball court, community and cultural center and playground. Jason’s wife Laura is spearheading the development of the playground and is currently raising awareness and funds on behalf of the project.
“I knew what we should do with the land the moment I laid eyes on it,” says Director Laura Henzell. “It begs for some park benches where parents and grandparents can sit and enjoy watching the kids, a few swingsets and slides where children wide eyed and with toothy grins can run around safe and happy. It only takes a few tools to get kids going … by taking away commonly found sticks and stones and replacing them with simple but quality equipment, by just doing something as simple as that — you’re allowing kids to release some energy AND some imagination!”
Sponsors for the sports park project include businesses and banks located throughout Jamaica and Canada as well as residents of Treasure Beach. In fact, guests of Jake’s resort have even lent their support. In lieu of wedding gifts, one couple asked that their guests make a donation to Breds to support the playground build. Another promotion taking place at Jake’s is an initiative that will launch Sept. 15-Dec. 15 where guests will receive an upgrade in return for bringing a soccer ball (ie; 6 soccer balls would upgrade guest for 6 nights to a higher room category). Visit www.jakeshotel.com for details or the Treasure Beach Foundation online where you can find out more about the sports park project and make a donation to help support the project.
The idea for the sports park came from Darin James – a lifelong resident of Treasure Beach who lives directly across the street from Jake’s. Darin currently works for Jake’s as a driver and took us on a picnic to YS Falls. While Darin was driving to the waterfall, he told us about his love of sports – he was an avid cricket player in his youth and shared his idea with Jason about building a sports park in Treasure Beach to better serve the youth residing in their community. His vision is now being turned into reality with the help of Treasure Beach residents, the Jamaican government, sponsors such as Digicel and the Breds Foundation, which Darin had previously served as an executive board member.
SANY0374.JPGBefore we knew it, we arrived at YS Falls, a breathtaking waterfall comprised of eight cascades falling 120 feet. We first hopped aboard a tractor which transported us up the winding road to YS Falls and after viewing acres of farmland, cows, horses and goats, we finally made it and proceeded to follow a guide who escorted us to the falls.
From there, the guide encouraged all of us to swing from a vine and jump into the water below. My husband and kids instantly accepted the offer, while I stayed below on the rocks videotaping and snapping photos of their experience. The guide then directed all of us to swim directly under a waterfall and once I sought refuge on a large rock, the kids and my husband climbed above the waterfall and jumped into the water below.
SANY0384.JPGThe kids couldn’t stop talking about the exhilarating experience they had just had as we made our way over to a picnic table where we opened a basket packed for us by Jake’s and dined on smoked marlin, caribbean chicken and tuna sandwiches along with a fruit plate with watermelon, mangoes and pineapples. As we sat down to unwind, flying high above our heads were tourists who were riding a zip line through the trees. While we didn’t opt for that adventure, it definitely looked pretty exciting. For me, it looked incredibly scary…if I don’t jump into waterfalls, I obviously don’t go for zip lines either.
Following lunch, we walked over to a beautiful cold water pool where the kids took a dip before we headed back to Darin’s van and the kids and I took a nap in the back seat on the way back to Jake’s.
More to come…

Five Northeast Road Trip Destinations

iStock_000011964153XSmall.jpgPlanning to hit the road this summer with your family and don’t know where to go? Here at Role Mommy, we’ve got you covered. Check out our fave five summer road trip destinations and get ready to make some memories!
1. Block Island, RI – We have been going back to this cozy, family friendly island with our friends for the last five years and I have to say, that every year we find something new – whether it be a Blueberry Mojito at the Spring House, fabulous jewelry, cakes and picture frames at the farmers market or just great conversation at an outdoor restaurant with a view of the ocean. Our friends, who are Block Island veterans, know every nook and cranny of the island and have introduced us to all their favorites including the Spring House, Mansion Beach, hiking trails, bonfires and much more. For an ultimate family vacation, go away with a few friends and make it one that you will never forget.
2. Nantucket, MA – There is nothing that quite compares to Nantucket. From the decadent restaurants (Le Chanticleer), the great brunch spots (Black Eyed Susie’s), bike trails, beaches, sailing cruises and shops, this is by far one of my favorite New England destinations. If you can’t swing a summer trip, then check out the island in the fall where you can still enjoy biking, eating, shopping, sailing and more. Best hotel on the island for families: The White Elephant — one of the most beautiful resorts on the island. If you have time for a weekend getaway without the kids, I highly recommend visiting Nantucket on your own too – my husband and I spent our first anniversary there and still remember it as if it were yesterday.
3. Bethany Beach or Rehobeth, DE – Rent a house with friends or family, hit the beach, play tennis, relax at the pool, bike ride and more. At night, the restaurants are plentiful as are the crabs and there’s a boardwalk filled with shops and activities for families. If you live in the tri-state area, the ride to Bethany Beach is just long enough before the kids start asking “Are we there yet?”
4. Smuggler’s Notch Vermont – The drive might be far, but once you arrive, the experience is well worth the trip. With several pools and slides for the kids, hiking and biking trails, lakes, pedal boats, canoes, water skiing (which I managed to do after not having tried it in more than 20 years!), Smuggler’s Notch has it all. And if you venture out of the family friendly resort, check out the Ben & Jerry’s factory nearby, Cabot Cheese, great shopping in Burlington and the Trapp Family Resort, Vermont has everything in a family vacation and more.
5. Explore Pennsylania – this pick takes me back to my childhood since I spent my summers at my parent’s home in Dingman’s Ferry, PA. If you’re looking to experience the simple life at its finest, then Pennsylvania is the way to go. From canoeing and white water rafting, to the Amish Country, Gettysburg, Milford, PA and more, Pennsylania is the place where history, adventure and memory making begins. To find out more go to VisitPA.com

I Love L.A.!

hollywood-sign.jpg I recently took a vacation with my husband and two kids, ages 7 and 4, to sunny California. First of all it was wonderful being in 75 degrees with blue skies after the winter we have had in NY! (Yes, there is snow on the ground AGAIN!) Second of all we did so many great activities – I’m still smiling just thinking about all the fun we had! If you live in the L.A. area or you are planning a trip to the area (if you’re not, you should), here are some ideas for activities to do that the whole family will enjoy!
California Science Center: This place is unbelievable. We literally spent the whole day there! There are so many interesting exhibits that are hands on and really interesting for little kids all the way through adults. My kids loved learning about the different Ecosystems, how a plane works, the history of toys and so much more. The museum is located in Exposition Park and is free, all they ask for is a donation.
L.A. Zoo: What kid doesn’t love going to the zoo, and the L.A. Zoo is wonderful. They have areas set up where kids can see certain animals up close and even touch them, my daughter loved holding a snake! The children’s section is nice and the entire place is beautifully done. They even have a new Elephants of Asia habitat that just opened up!
Griffith Park: There are many things to do at this beautiful park. Have a picnic, go to the observatory, play in the playground… my kids went on a pony ride and a train ride to “New York City”. You may even have a celebrity sighting, we were there with David Caruso from CSI Miami! We also went to Travel Town which has old trains that you can actually go into. It was very cool!
Skirball Cultural Center: There is an amazing interactive Noah’s Ark exhibit going on at the Skirball, my kids had an absolute blast there. There is a huge ark with nets to climb, tons of stuffed animal puppets (two of each of course), a huge ark with figures to play with and all the big animals are made out of items such as a keyboard or rope or boxing gloves. It’s a must see. There is even an arts & crafts area where my kids made cardboard arks to bring home. They didn’t want to leave. Educational and fun, gotta love that.
Last but definitely not least… Disneyland! It’s hard to be 45 minutes away and not go, it is the happiest place on earth. We did a one day park hopper pass, got there at 9 am and spent half the day at Disneyland and half the day at Disney California Adventure right across the street. We left at 8:45 pm with two very tired children (and adults). You may think I’m crazy but we had the best day ever! Your best bet is to go on a non-vacation week if possible, we hardly had to wait on any lines and even had our picture taken with Mickey Mouse with only a 6 minute wait. Disneyland is smaller and more manageable than Disneyworld in Orlando, FL and if you have been before, then you have to check out California Adventure because there are many wonderful attractions there. For example, Muppet Vision 3D, Turtle Talk with Crush from Finding Nemo, Toy Story Mania, A Bug’s Land, an animation studio and so much more!

Travel Tips with Amy Tara Koch

We recently got the chance to speak with style and trend expert Amy Tara Koch, author of the new book for moms to be “Bump it Up.” Since it’s been ages since we’ve had a baby bump of our own, Amy was on hand to offer advice on the essential items to bring with us when we’re traveling with our family. From the ultimate travel chargers to snacks with a twist, get ready to watch, learn and start packing!

Stopping in Snow or Ice

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skidding_pic2.jpgThe other night, we were driving home from seeing “Gulliver’s Travels” and the roads were downright treacherous. In fact, when we had to climb an incredibly steep hill, the car started swerving to the right and left and I gripped the door handle in fright. Of course, the kids had no clue anything was going on as my husband drove about 7 miles an hour. Thankfully, we made it home but after watching a segment on “The Today” show this morning, I thought it would be helpful to share their tips on how to stay safe while driving in the snow and ice. Plus, I’ve added a few tips of my own!
1. Do not speed when driving on snow and ice. I know that sounds pretty logical, but many people don’t realize how fast they’re going until it’s too late. According to “Today,” it’s four times harder to stop your car when you are attempting to brake on ice.
2. Do not try to brake and turn at the same time. You should do one or the other – otherwise, you could skid or spin out of of control.
3. If your car has anti-lock brakes, apply solid pressure on the brakes (don’t pump them) – that will enable the tires to keep rolling. If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, you can pump them.
4. Look where you want to go. Look torward the solution – not toward the problem. That means if you are skidding, turn the wheel where you want to go – not into the skid.
5. Put kitty litter under your tires before you leave – that actually gives you traction! (I knew that kitty litter was good for something).
6. Apply snow tires or snow chains on your car. Since we’ve already had our first major blizzard, better safe than sorry.
7. You can take a defensive driving class that will give you a refresher course on how to drive in inclement weather and taking the class might even help reduce your insurance rates.
8. If the conditions are too dangerous…DON’T DRIVE and use public transportation!
9. If you are not confident driving in the snow, select a more experienced designated driver who can drive your car.
10. If you are the parent of a new teen driver, DO NOT LET THEM DRIVE!!!