Growing up, every summer included a trip to the Bronx Zoo. My grandmother and mom would pack a cooler and we were spend the day at the zoo. As an adult, I continued to visit and over the past several years, I have continued the tradition by taking my nieces each summer.
The Bronx Zoo offers many programs for kids and I looking around Facebook one day when I saw an announcement for a new program, Zoo Camp for Adults. It was a 3 hour morning program that had three dates available. I was able to sign up and attend the very first one a few weeks ago.
The experience was divided into three segments. First, we went to the ambassador building where we got to get up close with a few animal ambassadors. That was followed by a tour of the hospital facilities and then we ended our day with a hands on experience.,
To start with our ambassador program, all 16 of us went to the ambassador building and were seated in one room to wait for the animals to be brought in one at a time by the keepers. We were visited by a porcupine, a bear cat and a kangaroo. The keepers would tell us how the animals came to be a part of program and also about the species in general. We were able to observe them but not touch them and, of course, we could ask as many questions as we would like.
While I could have stayed at the ambassador building all day and seen even more animals, after about an hour, our time there was over and we were on to our next stop which was the hospital area. We were given a tour of the facility but unfortunately pictures were not allowed. We saw the areas where they exam any animal that passes away in their care. They are meticulous in their studies so that they can determine not only why that particular animal passed away but what they could be doing to improve the care of the other animals currently on exhibit.
We also got to see the areas in which they keep animals that are sick and operating rooms where they will perform procedures on animals. If you saw "The Zoo" on Animal Planet, you would have been very familiar with our guide and the areas that we visited.
Our last stop was at the aviary for our hand on experience. We were tasked with preparing all the fish that are needed to feed the birds for the day. There were several jobs to do, including counting out different types of fish for each exhibit, cutting fish into smaller pieces, weighing out and bagging fish and placing vitamins into some fish. We were divided into teams and each team had a job. My team did the "pilling" which involved tipping back the head of the fish and sliding a vitamin into the gills area.
When we had all finished, we were able to go into the aviary and up to the keeper area and put some fish out for the birds. They came down to eat which gave us some close up views.
The 3 hours went by so quickly! It was great to get a behind the scenes experience at a place I have been coming to since I was a child. Being the very first time they were doing this, I had expected that there may be some bumps or missteps but that was not the case. It was very well thought out, planned and executed. I hope that they do more and expand their programming for adults in the future.
Like many people, I am obsessed with the Broadway show, "Hamilton." I was fortunate enough to see it last summer and even more fortunate to be seeing it again in August.
Back in December, my brother and I decided to head into NYC and visit some locations that have a Hamilton connection.
Our first stop was Trinity Church Wall Street to visit the church yard. In the church yard, you can find the grave site of Alexander Hamilton, Eliza Hamilton and Hercules Mulligan. There is a marker stating that Phillip Hamilton is know to be buried in that graveyard as well but the exact location is not known. We also knew that Angelica was buried there but we were unable to find her grave. (We did some further research later on and found information that she is in another section.)
Our next stop was Federal Hall. Federal Hall was the site of the inauguration of George Washington. The original building was built in 1700 and was also the site of the first Congress. The building was demolished in 1812 but then rebuilt in 1842 as the US Custom House and part of the treasury. It is now part of the National Park Service.
There are several exhibits inside, including a slab of concrete that is thought to be where George Washington stood at his inauguration. If you visit, be sure to go downstairs to where the restrooms are located. There are vaults there from when it was the treasury building..
Our third stop was to the Museum of American Finance to see a special exhibit about Alexander Hamilton. The exhibit was small but did include some original writings and had a replica of the dueling pistols used by Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.
Our last stop was Fraunces Tavern. The tavern was built in 1719 and was frequently visited by Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and George Washington. Currently, the downstairs is still an operating tavern / restaurant. In fact, we had lunch there. Upstairs is a small museum with the highlight being the long room where George Washington gave his farewell address to his troops in 1783.
It was a fun day to plan and enjoy. We already have our sites set on new locations to visit this spring.
The Culinary Institute of America is a premier culinary college for the food industry. It is located in Hyde Park, NY, right along the Hudson. Every semester, they offer “chef enthusiasts” the opportunity to take a class there on the weekend. They have several Saturdays available each semester with courses that cover baking, cooking and even knife and food preparation techniques. The sessions are from 9:30 – 2:30 and include a continental breakfast, a CIA apron and lunch.
My sister and I have been fortunate enough to take a few of the baking classes but this past Saturday we ventured into cooking with a class called “Delicious Vegetables.”
We arrived around 8:45 and reported to the dining area at Roth Hall. There was coffee, juice and some pastry and fruit. The pastries are all baked by the CIA students so they were very good!
All the classes meet in the same location so there was quite a crowd by the time everything was ready to begin. All of the CIA chefs that are teaching gather in the front of the room and then each class is called one at a time. You all gather together, meet your chef and are then escorted to your room for the day.
We had 17 people in our class and Chef Sean led us to our classroom.
We started off with introductions and a tour of the room. It is a commercial kitchen with multiple burners and stoves on both sides of the room. There were racks with pots and pans and a closet with bowls and other appliances. Each of us had a station with a cutting board, two knives, our aprons and chef hats and our recipe booklet. We also had 3 CIA students that were the classes’ assistants for the day.
In all of the classes we have taken, the chefs and the student assistants have been awesome and this day was no exception. They are very friendly and helpful throughout the class. And the best part… you don’t wash any dishes! The students do all of the cleaning for you.
Once we had the lay of the land, we chose our stations. Our stations were already set up at 4 tables which made us into 4 teams. Each team was assigned a set of recipes that we would be responsible for creating. My team assignment was to make fresh ravioli with three different filling and three different sauces. Once the recipes were assigned, it was off to the races.
Honestly, my sister and I were pretty confused for the first 20-30 minutes. Our team had divided up the tasks and we were going to make the spinach filling but there was some confusion about the recipe in our booklet. We got some help from one of the students and then it started coming together. The chef would come by each table and share a technique or help out with whatever we were doing. Since we were making ravioli, he came over to show us out to make pasta from scratch. He did one batch as a demonstration and then we got to try it as well.
The goal was for us all to finish our recipes by 1 pm and then we would make a big buffet with all of the dishes and enjoy a lunch of sampling everything.
My favorite part of the day was actually making the ravioli. The chef showed us how to roll out the dough using a machine to make it super thin and then use a mold to form the ravioli. After we had everything done, he cooked the ravioli and combined it with the different sauces we made.
We had quite a buffet and once we made our plates with samples of everything, we went to the dining room to eat. The chef came and sat with us to answer questions and just talk about cooking / restaurants in general.
It was a fun day though I think I realized that my comfort zone is definitely more in the baking department. Hope to take a class there again in the future.
Our next stop on our travel agent education program was the new Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando. This beautiful resort has 1000 rooms available. They have kids suites where the kids will have a separate room with twins beds and their own television right off the main room so they are not able to exit to the hallway on their own.
The pool area is beautiful and there are private cabanas available for daily rentals.
I also enjoyed dinner and a rum tasting at one of their restaurants, Strong Water Tavern.
Enjoy my pictures and contact me if you have any questions.
The first tour of our agent education trip was to Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas. The ship was huge! We were able to explore the public areas and see a few different staterooms. I was impressed with how many different options there were for dining and entertainment. You will always be able to find something to do!
I am happy to answer any questions!
I have returned from a 6 day trip to Walt Disney World for a travel agent education program. It was a very busy and informative trip and I have a lot to share.
We were fortunate enough to stay at the Grand Floridian for the 5 nights of our trip. It was my first time ever at the resort.
The property is beautiful and it is only one monorail stop away from the Magic Kingdom. It is also so convenient to resort hop over to the Contemporary or Polynesian for shopping and dining.
Before my 2017 adventures begin, I wanted to go back in time a bit and finally report back on my Oct 2016 cruise on the Disney Fantasy.
My husband, my sister and I went on a 7 night cruise to Eastern Caribbean ports. My husband and I had done this itinerary before but it was the first time for my sister.
The cruise was great and we all had a great time but the part I wanted to especially share was the theme of the cruise. During the fall months, Disney designates certain sailings as “Halloween on the High Seas.” Our cruise fell into these dates and it was truly a great experience.
The theming starts as soon as you enter the ship. Everything is decorated in the atrium and there were little touches everywhere. There were many special events through the entire cruise. We made sure to read through the Navigator each day (that is the daily schedule) to make sure we didn’t miss anything. I believe we did most of everything that was themed to Halloween. I will talk about each one below.
Overall, I found the theme to be immersive but not over the top. There were definitely enough Halloween activities to enjoy, but if you weren’t into celebrating Halloween, you could easily find other activities to enjoy. There was still a Pirates Night so the Halloween theme did not interfere with that.
I would definitely do this cruise again and now I would like to try a 7 night Christmas themed cruise!
Wow, it has been awhile since my last blog post!
I am happy to report that I have several adventures ahead in 2017 so I am ready to get back to blogging.
So far I will be heading out for the following trips:
- In just one week, I will be heading to Florida for a travel agent education program. I will be touring Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, visiting Universal Orlando hotels and spending some time in Disney as well.
- In March, I will be going to Virginia Beach for the Shamrock 8K and Half Marathon. I am meeting friends there for the race and going to enjoy Williamsburg for a few days after the races.
- May is the big one! My husband and I will be sailing for 15 nights on the Disney Magic across the Atlantic. We have 5 port stops after we cross and I am so excited to go!
- June will be my annual ladies trip to Cape May. That is always fun and relaxing.
- November will be a big family trip to Disney. We will be a party of 9, with 5 adults and 4 kids. It is going to be interesting to handle planning for a group of that size but I am looking forward to the that trip as well.
In between, I hope to share some travel tips and other information about traveling.
So stay tuned!
Last Friday, I took my niece, age 3, to Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA. It was the first visit there for both of us.
Before Memorial Day, the park is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The park has two sections – dry and wet. The “wet” side, which is all the water park type rides, is not open before Memorial Day. This was just fine with us and we took advantage of a quiet day there since all the local schools were still in session.
We started our visit with a character dining experience called Breakfast with Elmo. There was an admission cost for the breakfast in addition to your park admission. The park does not open until 10 am, however we were able to enter at 9 am for the breakfast.
Upon arrival, we were greeted and told which table would be ours. Each table was numbered so there was no need to search out a seat. Because of the low attendance that day, there were less than half of the tables being used.
The breakfast consisted of a buffet with your standard hot and cold food items. There was definitely something for everyone to enjoy. While you are eating, the characters come around to interact and take photos. Elmo was in a special location in one corner of the room. You could visit him whenever you like and a photographer would take a picture for you with him in front of a backdrop. Those photos were then brought to your table as a package available for purchase.
We finished up with about 5 minutes to spare before the park opened. There were employees in the main hub area holding back guests until 10 am when the rest of the park opened.
In the dry ride area, there are many rides that are similar to amusement park attractions but all themed to Sesame Street characters. It is important to note that children need to ride with someone who is at least 14 years of age. While this was fine for my niece and myself, I saw how this posed a challenge for other families and school groups that were visiting with multiple children and only one adult.
Another important note is that you are not allowed onto the rides with any bags or loose items. There are lockers available to rent if you do not have someone in your party that can hold items for you. I used a small fanny pack which worked out great.
My niece loved all of the attractions. Because it was not crowded, we were able to go on everything that she wanted to several times before noon. Then we took a break for “Elmo the Musical.” This was a 20-minute show starring Elmo and Cookie Monster. The theater was small but with low crowds we walked right in and had a great seat. The show was cute and had the kids in the audience engaged in searching for items around the room.
After the show, we took a lunch break. Again, there are a few different areas to purchase food but only one was open on this day. There was a long line but it moved along at a decent pace. There were standard kid’s meals, adult meals and some salads. Prices ranges were $9 – 12.
Unfortunately, when we had finished our lunch, it had started to rain. We knew this was a possibility and it was great that we got in all the rides that we did before the rain began. We hit up a gift shop and then called it a day.
Overall, I think Sesame Place is a great experience for preschool children. Friends have told me that the water park section is fun for the whole family so older children could be entertained as well when those rides are open. I will say that it could be a challenge when it is a hot and crowded summer day. The rides load slowly and then you need to wait for that to finish for it to unload and re-load. I could see how this would lead to long wait times and unhappy kids and adults in the summer heat.
We had a fun day and my niece says she wants to go back again!
This blog has been quiet for too long! Time to get going with some new adventures.
This past weekend I went to "The Science of Pixar" exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.
The exhibit started out with a five minute introduction video that takes you through the process of creating a Pixar movie.
Then you enter into the first room of the exhibit. Each stage of the process that was described in the video is presented with a more detailed video and a hands on activity.
It was relatively quiet the morning that I visited so I was able to take my time and experience each activity. Since this was the main focus of the entire exhibit, if it had been more crowded, it would have been hard to get very much out of the experience.
There were also several large Pixar characters scattered throughout the exhibit for photos. It wasn't clear if you were allowed to touch them or take your pictures with them...though there was no sign that said you couldn't.
The second room of the exhibit followed the same layout of video kiosks and activity. And then the final area was small gift shop with all Pixar related merchandise.
With almost no crowds, it took about 90 minutes to fully explore the exhibit and I enjoyed it very much. Obviously, I knew that Pixar films were computer animated but I guess I thought it was animators just using pre-existing computer software. It was impressive to see how much math and programming the animators do to evolve the process and get even more realistic effects.
I wouldn't recommend the exhibit for children under age 10, unless the child is very interested in math / computers.
The exhibit will continue until September at the Franklin Institute and you can purchase tickets online.
I have been a huge Disney and travel fan since childhood. I love going to new places and, of course, heading to Disney as often as I can.