Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Review of The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

There are so many fun things to do in New Jersey, but you know every now and then I like to venture out of state, too (like our trips to Planet Snoopy, Sesame Place, America on Wheels or The Crayola Experience). Today, we head to The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City!

What is the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum?

The Intrepid is an actual aircraft carrier that you can visit and explore.  Here's a direct quote from their website, describing who they are:  "The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is a non-profit, educational institution featuring the legendary aircraft carrier Intrepid, the space shuttle Enterprise, the world’s fastest jets and a guided missile submarine. Through exhibitions, educational programming and the foremost collection of technologically groundbreaking aircraft and vessels, visitors of all ages and abilities are taken on an interactive journey through history to learn about American innovation and bravery."

How Much Will it Cost Me?

I have always wanted to visit the Intrepid, but never had the chance.  I knew the Kid Stuff coupon book had a discount coupon for The Intrepid, so I figured it would go on our "To Do" list.  Then one day I was at our local library (in Somerset County) and I saw a sign advertising their free museum passes.  Free?  Like, really and truly free?  I couldn't believe it, so I checked out their site online.  And, sure enough, the library offered free passes for patrons, not only to the Intrepid, but several other museums as well (The Guggenheim, Children's Museum of Manhattan and Grounds for Sculpture, just to name a few).  I don't know if all of New Jersey's libraries have museum passes, but look into it, for sure.  If you live in Somerset County, read more about your library's museum passes here.  The pass we borrowed from our library allowed for up to 6 people to visit the Intrepid completely free, AND we got to use the membership pass holders entrance at the museum, so we didn't even have to wait in line!!!  If you plan on using the library's passes, be sure to read my tips at the bottom of this page.  Now, on to the Intrepid!

How Do I Get There?

Alas, everyone knows the Jersey Momma hates crowds.  My son happened to have off a day from school during the week, so I convinced Mr. Jersey Momma to take a vacation day and join us in the big city for our Intrepid visit.  We decided to take the ferry from Weehawken, which was a completely awesome idea.  My son loved the boat ride, and it was such a peaceful, stress-free ride, I'd do it again in a heartbeat!

                                              On our ferry boat, the "Alexander Hamilton"

The ferry has a parking garage (fees vary, from $10-$12) and a quick walk across to a beautiful little port building.  There are shops, a spot to eat, and even a bar inside the building so you're occupied while you wait for your boat to arrive (the boats arrive continuously throughout the day).  The ferry was $18 round trip (per adult) and free for children 5 and under.  That might seem steep, but the ferry ride also includes free bus shuttle transportation to various locations in the city.  Check out the NY Waterway website for more details.

Once the boat crosses the Hudson, it's just a quick walk to the Intrepid.  Such a sight to see it close up!  My son was so excited!

What Will I See on The Intrepid?

We used our magical free library passes and bypassed the longer wait line for tickets.  We still had to present our passes and library card at the member window, and we also opted to purchase tickets to see the space shuttle pavilion (additional $6 fee per person).  But how could anyone pass that up?  So now our tickets enabled us to board the Intrepid, board the Growler submarine, and view the space shuttle.  Onward!

We headed onto the Intrepid first because the line for the submarine was kind of long.  The Intrepid itself is huge, but the walking route is clearly marked and it's easy to find your way around.  They give you a ship map and there are tons of volunteers and staff walking around to help.  Jersey Momma warning here:  wear good shoes, and be prepared to do a little bit of climbing in and out of some tight spaces.  This is a ship, after all, so there are some narrow hallways, stairs and ladders that you have to climb.  Nothing impossible, but just realize your own limitations.

A little blurry, but you can see how narrow the staircases are.  Get ready to climb!

We loved touring the inside of the ship, seeing the captain's quarters and all of the many rooms.  There were hands on displays for the kids and even a giant Lego model of the Intrepid for you to see!

It's made of Legos!

One of my favorite things about the ship was meeting some actual former Intrepid crewmen who were stationed on one of the floors.  I was honored to talk to them and thank them for their service.  They wore little photos of themselves from their days on the Intrepid, and I was amazed that they return to the ship on a volunteer basis to talk to guests.

The top deck of the Intrepid was awesome.  So many planes and helicopters to see!

The Space Shuttle Pavilion was also AMAZING to see.  My son was in awe of the Enterprise.  The sheer size of it was overwhelming.  The only disappointment is that you are not permitted inside the Enterprise, but you can walk around it and see some neat artifacts from space travel.

Once we finished touring the Space Shuttle Pavilion, we headed downstairs to see the Concorde, which is on the pier just outside the Intrepid.

But sadly, you can't go inside of the Concorde, either, unless you preplan a guided tour for an added fee.  From there we headed across the pretty pier to The Growler submarine.

Now here's another Jersey Momma warning:  this is a REAL submarine.  If you are claustrophobic, have health issues or are a significantly large person, maneuvering through The Growler might be a challenge for you (Mr. Jersey Momma stands over six feet tall, so some spots for him were even a little tough).  There is a "sample doorway" for you to climb through before you get into the ship, to see if you can handle it.  That being said, The Growler was incredible.  A tour guide lets a few groups in at a time and you can walk through it in about 20 minutes.

The Growler

Inside the Growler submarine- see how you have to climb through the doorways?
From here we chose to go home, but your adventure doesn't have to end.  Remember, if you took the ferry, you can choose free bus shuttle service to another area of the city (Times Square, Columbus Circle, etc.) before you give up and head home.  We arrived at the Weehawken ferry around 11:15, and we headed home around 3:00.


*If you plan on using the library's free passes, be sure to read and follow ALL of their rules.  They have strict policies about when the passes are borrowed, when they should be returned, and how you reserve them online.

*There is an Au Bon Pain aboard the Intrepid where you can stop for a bite to eat.  The food was okay and reasonably priced (for New York standards), but I didn't like sitting at the dirty cafeteria style tables (one of which had a huge chunk taken out of it, which I clumsily banged into, which resulted in a bloody knee under my pants- blech!).  I would clearly not make a good crewman!

*There is a cute restaurant just outside the Intrepid's gates and several food vendors near the CircleLine port, but I don't know how good any of them are.  If you've been there and have suggestions, feel free to add them to the comments section below!

*They will take your photo outside the space shuttle and the submarine.  You can later choose to buy the photos in packages but it is not required.  They offer discounts if you purchase more than one photo package, too!

*There is a small gift shop on your way out of the space shuttle.  We purchased some pencils and other space related goodies there.

*Be sure to preplan your trip by visiting the Intrepid's website. You can find ticket prices, hours and more here.

*If your library doesn't offer free museum passes, try looking for coupons in the KidStuff coupon books (for sale through most local elementary schools) or searching online.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Science Experiment for Kids and Toddlers: Moving Food Coloring!

Sometimes I actually enjoy a rainy day (sometimes, I said, sometimes!).  I love that temporary change in weather- the sound of rumbling thunder,  the hint of rain in the air.  If I were alone I could curl up and read a book or watch a good movie with some snacks.  But of course I'm never alone, I'm a momma!  So there's usually a bored kid tugging at my shirt tails.  So here's a quick science experiment you can do to pass the time.  You can create a swirling rainbow of your very own!

What you'll need:

-milk (not skim, must be 2% or higher)
-liquid food coloring
-dish soap

Fill a shallow bowl with milk (I put the bowl on my handy dandy kid tray- I tell you, I use that tray for everything!!).  You can also see my son's Wall-E robot joining us for this experiment in the background.

Pick the colors you want to use and add a few drops to the milk.  My son went overboard and added a lot of drops.  You can't see it in the picture, but at one point he squeezed so hard I thought he emptied the dye bottle.  Although this amount of food coloring still works, I think you get a "swirlier" effect with less drops.  He wouldn't listen to me, but I'm hoping you'll concur.

Now here comes the fun part.  Drip a few drops of liquid dish soap right into the mixture and watch it swirl right before your eyes!

It will actually move and swirl for a good amount of time.  And when it's finished we decided to mess around and see what else would happen, so we added more milk, more dish soap, more color, etc. to see what effects we could get.

And hopefully by the time you're done with your science experiment, the sun will be shining and you can head back outside again!

*If you're looking for a handy dandy art tray of your own, check out my Amazon affiliate link below!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Cabela's: What's Inside?

Time for another out-of-Jersey experience!  Let's head over to Pennsylvania and visit Cabela's Outfitter's Store!  If you're rolling your eyes, cut it out.  Seriously, I am the farthest thing from an outdoor enthusiast.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE nature.  I love hiking and visiting state parks.  I love animals and trees and flowers.  But I am no camper, and I certainly don't like hunting.  But Cabela's is cool.  I assure you!

Now, a word of warning here.  If you are totally, 100% against hunting and take offense to it, then maybe Cabela's is not the place for you. Hunting is not all that Cabela's represents, but it is a good portion of it.  Although I am not a hunter and can't imagine killing an innocent creature, I understand that hunting has been in some families for generations, and it is a way of life for them.  I understand that most hunters take their sport seriously and are respectful of the craft.  That being said, let me tell you about Cabela's. And just so you know, I'm not on any secret Cabela's payroll list or anything.  This is just my honest review and opinion, 'cause that's what I do.

What is Cabela's?

Cabela's is a giant sporting/hunting/fishing/outdoor store located in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, with super-easy accessibility right off of Rt 78 (but there are other locations across the country.  Find them here).  They carry everything and anything you can think of for hunting, camping, fishing, hiking, and general outdoor activities.  But it's not just a store.  You can spend the whole day there, really, because there is so much to see and do.

This amazing sculpture stands outside of Cabela's.  My photo doesn't even capture the size or beauty of it.

What Can I Do at Cabela's?

Besides shopping, Cabela's has some other fun activities.  There is a restaurant inside (they offer a variety of hot and cold dishes, sandwiches, soups, and unusual deli meats- like boar).  They have a shooting gallery (not with real guns- these are the kind that shoot with laser, like they have in Disney World, the old saloon style).  You put a coin in, and then aim your light at the targets to make the characters in the display move.  I am not very good at it.

There's a massive display when you enter the building of taxidermy animals (now, if this bothers you, then like I said, maybe Cabela's isn't for you).  The animals are beautifully displayed on a giant "mountain" in the store.  It's really a sight to see.

You can walk around the entire display and read about each of the animals.  You'll find others scattered throughout the store, too, like this moose:

The moose stands in an actual fish pond.  You can put money into a little machine to feed the fish, too.  My son really enjoyed that.

Speaking of fish, there is an actual walk-through aquarium in Cabela's.

There is a room of wild taxidermy animals, too.  I felt bad for them.  I don't know how they all died but there is something sad about seeing them frozen in there.

And there is an entire room full of taxidermy deer.  I call it "The Hall of Dead Deer," although I am sure they have a better name for it.

'Look at The Jersey Momma sporting that stylish children's Yankee bag!' said no one ever.
If you don't like the idea of viewing the animals like this, you don't have to go into the deer hall or the wild animal hall, but you can't really avoid the animal mountain in the middle of the store.

There is also a candy shoppe inside with homemade fudge and other goodies.  I actually love the Cabela's brand of candy- they sell bags of flavored licorice and other old-fashioned sweets that I always bring back home with me.

Jersey Momma Tips

*You can make souvenir pennies here (one of our favorite things to collect on trips!) because the machines are scattered throughout the store.

*If you don't want to eat at the Cabela's restaurant, there are tons of other restaurants to choose from outside of Cabela's, including a Cracker Barrel and Red Robin, just to name a few.

*There is a lot to do in Hamburg.  Check out their website if you want to visit some other attractions, too.

*I have friends whose kids love to do a "Day out with Daddy" here.  Then Mommy gets to go do whatever she wants.  But, hey, to each their own!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Best New Jersey Day Trips (and Pennsylvania, too!)

New Jersey is a fun place to live because of its proximity to so many fun theme parks, state parks, beaches, shops and more.  As the weather turns warmer, we often search for fun weekend adventures, so I gathered a few of my favorite day trips in one place for you to see.  Some are outside The Garden State (but not too far outside, just Pennsylvania!), and some are completely free.  Check it out!