I like school vacations that involve more sleeping-in late, less homework, and less routine, so having a two-week holiday break was a real treat. However, with brutal temperatures and snowstorms, finding activities to get the kids moving can be a challenge.
By Lee Sandford
I like school vacations that involve more sleeping-in late, less homework, and less routine, so having a two-week holiday break was a real treat. However, with brutal temperatures and snowstorms, finding activities to get the kids moving can be a challenge. Dropping my three children off at a movie theater on Christmas Eve bought me last-minute preparation time, but when I went to fetch them, two were racing one another up and down the stairs, their instinct to get their bodies moving after sitting still for a couple of hours kicking in. The third was texting, her cold turkey symptoms after two hours without social media obviously too strong to ignore, and more pressing than any need to be active.
So, with the inspiration and organization of friends, we road-tested a couple of day trips that were indoor but active. I also canvassed a few friends with younger kids for some of their suggestions. I’m hoping the winter will also be conducive to sledding and skiing, but here are a few suggestions for the days when the outdoors just holds no appeal!
Scavenger Hunt in New York City
The day before New Year’s Eve, 22 bleary-eyed “Miltonvillers” got on a train to Grand Central by 9 a.m. (my kids had been sleeping until noon most of the vacation, so this was a challenge). We’d signed up for a scavenger hunt in Grand Central through Watson Adventures (watsonadventures.com). We assembled under the New Haven sign at 10:30 a.m. and formed teams of one to six people. Our group was split into four teams. There were five other teams, all families.
We were given a list of 25 clever and challenging questions, which took us all over the station and twice outside it, and 90 minutes to complete it in. The 15 kids we had with us ranged in age from 4 to 16. All of them really enjoyed the morning, and, when we came back to the meeting point, animatedly compared what were the trickiest questions, and who in each team spotted which answer first. A bonus was that it was a Rye team that won, with a collaborative effort by all 22 of us on the tiebreaker question!
I thoroughly recommend this as a really fun way to spend a winter’s day. You’ll see murals and sculptures you’ve never taken time to notice and learn a few things about the history of Grand Central you may not have known. I will definitely be trying out Watson’s other family scavenger hunts at The Met, the Museum of Natural History, and Central Park.
Trampolines and More
On another day over the break, my 13-year-old daughter Anna and friends headed to Bounce, the indoor trampoline center in Valley Cottage, Rockland County. The facility has areas for groups 7 and under and one for 7 and over. The most popular activity is dodge ball, which is further split between ages 8-12 and over 12s. Anna has been before and always raves about how much fun it is, the only downside being: “It’s quite expensive, can be a little bit smelly, and obnoxious kids cut in line.” So there you have it! (bounceonit.com)
Rope Walks and Rock Walls
Just over the Tappan Zee Bridge, at the Palisades Mall, is the world’s tallest rope course, open to ages 4 and up. This review is again courtesy of Anna, plus friends who tried it out last summer. You are harnessed for the whole course and there are 75 different challenge elements such as a tremor bridge, beams, and a vertical rope ladder. Anna definitely wants to do it again, and friend Kelsey Myers, age 14, said, “It was scary because you were so high up, but that’s what made it fun and exciting.” (palisadesclimb.com)
Another popular indoor choice, for ages 8 and up, is indoor rock climbing. We recommend The Cliffs in Valhalla. (thecliffsclimbing.com)
A few friends recommended the New York Hall of Science in Queens as a great interactive destination for all ages. Caroline Walker said she’s been taking her 10-year-old twin boys there since they were little. It’s also one of Rye Middle School’s annual sixth-grade field trips. My teens loved it — especially the weather simulator, where you don a poncho and experience extreme weather like tornados, and the walk-through exhibit about the construction of New York City. (nysci.org)
Stepping Stones museum in Norwalk, geared for children 10 and under, has space and fun activities to tire out your littler ones. (steppingstonesmuseum.org)
Play Zones for the Younger Set
Caroline Houghton, mom of three children under 6, recommends Bruce Chung in Harrison, which has soft play hours for under-5s, to use up some of that boundless energy. Kids U in Stamford has a play zone you can buy passes for to go along ad hoc, as opposed to the Port Chester location where you have to be signed up for a class.
Local favorite — the Y!
When my kids were younger, open gym and swim at the Y was invaluable in keeping everyone sane on the coldest days of winter. You can be there in minutes, so if you have a cabin fever emergency in your house, check their schedule and get to the Y.