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Brenda Austin

Campbell, California

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I like to pack in as much as I can in every city. I'm the one with the clipboard of fun!

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Lemon Grass

238 W Jefferson St., Syracuse, New York

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  • Little kids (3-5)
Visited: 2014-12-01 | Submitted: 2014-12-24 20:10:51.0 | I traveled with little kids (3-5)

Best Restaurant in Syracuse

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This is our go-to date night spot. The restaurant is split into two parts; Lemon Grass, with a Thai-inspired menu, and Bistro Elephant, a French-American bistro specializing in steak and seafood. We always sit on the Thai side. The food is beautifully presented, but don't expect authentic Thai - it's upscale fusion. I recommend the house spring rolls, the Thai iced tea, the pad Thai, the prig pow, the roast duck with tamarind sauce, any of the seafood dishes, and any of the curries. Be aware that protein substitutions are not always possible and that there aren't many vegetarian entrees. The desserts are creative and delicious - don't miss them.

Tips for Families

This is not a kid-friendly restaurant per se, but that doesn't mean that kids are unwelcome. There is no designated kids' menu, but our 4 year old daughter just shares our entrees. It's fine for teens and younger kids with good behavior and adventurous palates. When bringing younger kids, go earlier for dinner (5pm as opposed to 7pm) or take them at lunchtime, as the meal can take quite a while depending on what you order. Ask to sit in the main dining room as the bar area in Bistro Elephant can become very noisy. Rather than trying to find a metered parking spot around the traffic circle, opt for the public garage with valet parking next door. Take a walk around Armory Square before or after your meal. It's one of the nicest parts of the city and there are many independent stores nearby, including one selling children's clothing.

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly accommodations

Stay in/near Armory Square. Lemon Grass, the MoST, and many nice shops are within walking distance, and Destiny USA is a short drive away.

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly attractions

The MoST (Museum of Science & Technology) is right across the street and has a large, multi-story play area for kids.

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Cayuga Nature Center

1420 Taughannock Blvd, Ithaca, New York

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Visited: 2013-08-01 | Submitted: 2014-03-12 03:30:07.0 | I traveled with little kids (3-5)

A Six-Story Treehouse in the Woods!

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The Cayuga Nature Center might be the best place in Ithaca that visiting families don't seem to know about. Maybe part of the reason is that the website doesn't seem to advertise the amazing *six story wooden treehouse* in the woods behind the main building. Primarily used by The Museum of the Earth for educational programs, the Nature Center is also home to a small butterfly greenhouse that our daughter enjoyed. However, the treehouse on its own merits a visit. A staff member will show you to the back door, where you follow a well-worn path into the woods (you can't get lost). We kept looking for it as we were walking, but then we looked up and suddenly there it was - the most enormous treehouse ever! We were the only visitors there mid-day on a Sunday, so we had the whole place to ourselves. Climb up to the top and take in the views of the woods! It's very rustic and wild and wonderful. Our daughter talked about it for weeks. I think she is ruined for future treehouses now!

Tips for Families

Watch out for splinters. Some of the flooring is netting, not wood, so help little kids avoid those areas. It's a bit of a trek back to the Nature Center to use the bathroom, so make sure everybody goes before you head to the treehouse. If you'll be in Ithaca for a while during summer and/or school breaks, the Nature Center runs camp programs for kids ages 3-16. Finally, the Nature Center is currently raising funds to make the main building more accessible for visitors with disabilities. Hopefully they'll be able to make those renovations soon.

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly accommodations

Homewood Suites Ithaca

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly restaurants

Moosewood - you must go! They have great kids' options as well. Also, if you're there on a weekend in the summer, the Ithaca Farmer's Market is great. Many local restaurants sell lunch items there.

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Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

11 W 53rd St, New York City, New York

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  • Little kids (3-5)
Visited: 2014-03-01 | Submitted: 2014-03-10 16:28:32.0 | I traveled with little kids (3-5)

Breathtaking!

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Almost all of my 3 year old daughter's children's art books came to life in one evening. We saw "Starry Night!" That's all we could talk about for the rest of the night. MoMA is a must-see in NYC for all ages. Know your child's limitations. My daughter lasts an hour (and not one minute more) in a museum where she's not allowed to touch anything. She does well while she's there and takes direction from us without a problem, but too much museum and not enough play time is just asking for a meltdown. Perfect solution at MoMA - we timed our visit during the last hour of the day, when admission is half price! The top two floors are the "big name" artist floors, so we focused our visit there. We saw Van Gogh, Monet, Dali, Kahlo, and more, and then before even so much as a snack request, we were out! It was a whirlwind visit and it was fantastic. We will be back!

Tips for Families

Visit during the last hour for half price admission. Concentrate on the top two floors to see the big names. Check the website for kid-friendly workshops and visiting exhibits. If your child doesn't do well during long museum visits, pick one or two paintings you really want to see and head there first. Be aware that some of the sculpture art might look like something to play with for younger children, so be sure to tell them what they can and cannot touch / sit on *before* any issues occur. This is NOT a place for children whose behavior is difficult to control; there is nothing separating visitors from the precious works of art, so proceed with caution and teach your child the rules of behavior for art museums before attempting this one.

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly accommodations

We stayed at Le Parker Meridien, which is within walking distance of MoMa.

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly restaurants

Russian Tea Room, Fogo de Chao, Burger Joint, Chop't, Chipotle, the Halal guys - many places are nearby.

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Le Parker Meridien Hotel New York City

119 West 56Th Street, New York City, New York

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KID-FRIENDLY AMENITIES

  • Rollaway beds available
  • Smoke-free property
  • Pet friendly
  • Babysitting
  • On-site restaurant(s)
  • Refrigerator in room
  • Microwave in room
  • Cribs (infant beds) available
  • Video game system in room


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  • Little kids (3-5)

My detailed rating

  • Cleanliness
  • Customer Service
  • Comfort
  • Location
  • Value
  • Pool
  • On-site/nearby restaurants
  • Other kids' amenities

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Visited: 2014-03-01 | Submitted: 2014-03-10 15:38:28.0 | I traveled with little kids (3-5)

Great Location, Rooftop Pool with City Views

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Le Parker Meridien is luxurious without being pretentious; kids are warmly welcomed. It's conveniently located, the rooms are larger than average for NYC, the entire hotel is very clean, and there is a fantastic rooftop pool that kids will love. The staff was very friendly and helpful, and they often waved to and interacted with my three year old daughter. The room was large enough that we had no issue with finding a spot for our daughter's inflatable travel bed. The king-sized bed was comfortable. I read some reviews online before we left, and people mentioned having to pay for internet - we didn't have to unless we wanted to upgrade to a higher speed. However, the internet connection there was fine, so upgrading was not necessary. The walls were well insulated; we didn't hear anything from other guests' rooms other than running water, so that was nice. Only a few issues with the room - when we were first taken to our room, I almost tripped over a tray of dirty dishes from room service in front of our door from the previous guest. Wouldn't you think that they could manage to clear the previous guests' breakfast dishes from the floor in front of our room by *4pm?* I've never had that happen before. After we unpacked, we left to go to MoMa and grab dinner and the tray full of dirty dishes was still there by our door! Also, our bed was made strangely two nights in a row, with a top sheet used in place of the fitted sheet on the mattress (obviously, it wouldn't stay tucked in). The floor of the bathtub was incorrectly installed and bubbled up / moved around under our feet, which was just weird. Beware the minibar - be sure to let the kids know that it's not a "real" fridge and that it's actually a store. There was nothing "mini" about that fridge - it took up a ton of space and was unusable. The room also got quite hot even with the heat turned off. A ceiling fan or some way to circulate the air or being able to open the window even a crack would have been nice. One person taking a shower steamed up the whole room. This might have something to do with the fact that we were staying in the second cheapest class of rooms, though. In NYC even more so than anywhere else, you get what you pay for. Overall, I really enjoyed my stay (mostly due to the pool view, kid-friendly staff, and the location) and would definitely stay there again.

Tips for Families

Don't skip the rooftop pool. The pool itself is mediocre, but the views are fantastic! It feels like a special experience.


My detailed rating

Cleanliness
Value
Customer Service
Pool
Comfort
On-site/nearby restaurants
Location
Other kids' amenities

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly attractions

We walked to MoMa and Times Square. Central Park, Carnegie Hall, FAO Schwarz, and Broadway are also walkable from the hotel.

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly restaurants

Check out Burger Joint right in the hotel behind the big red curtain in the lobby - their burgers are on many "Best Of" lists in NYC (I still think Shake Shack wins, though). If you call ahead from your room, you can skip the line. It was Restaurant Week when we visited, so we went around the corner to The Russian Tea Room - yes, it's touristy, but it's a bucket list kind of thing. Plus, it used to be frequented by Russian ballerinas, which was enough to get my 3 year old daughter to try borscht, vareniki, and caviar. Try Norma's for brunch. There's also a Chipotle and a Chop't down the street and a Starbucks directly across from the hotel. Momofuku Milk Bar is a short distance away - try the cereal milk. Also, *THE* Halal Guys are a few blocks down by the Hilton. Grab a plate with white sauce if you can survive the queue.

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The Mid-Hudson Children's Museum

72 N Water St, Poughkeepsie, New York

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Visited: 2014-03-01 | Submitted: 2014-03-10 14:43:46.0 | I traveled with little kids (3-5)

Small Museum Right Next to the Train Station

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We visited the Mid-Hudson Children's Museum in Poughkeepsie on our way back to Syracuse from New York City. We timed the trip so that we would arrive in Poughkeepsie in time for lunch, with a bit over an hour left over to play in the museum. The museum was small enough to cover in the space of an hour or two, which worked out great for us. The first floor is geared toward smaller children, with a playhouse, large foam blocks, and an interactive pretend town complete with an ATM and even a construction zone. Upstairs, there is a large replica of a mastodon next to a larger play fort for older kids that has a green tube slide. The second floor is best suited to older kids (4+), with various exhibits geared toward math and science exploration. The museum itself feels a bit worn, and the building has a faint moldy odor reminiscent of a video store (maybe some carpet needs replacing?), but our 3 year old daughter had a wonderful time. If you find yourself in the Poughkeepsie area with little kids, definitely take them.

Tips for Families

If you're stuck at the train station with kids, you are in luck - the children's museum is within walking distance! Also, the museum has clean, one-stall family bathrooms on both floors (convenient!), but they are separated by gender. I didn't realize this - gender is denoted by paintings on the doors, and the door to the bathroom we used was open and the painting wasn't visible when we went in. It wasn't until I noticed a urinal on the wall that I realized I'd been casually hanging out in the men's room! :) So, pay attention to which bathroom you use.

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly accommodations

Residence Inn Poughkeepsie (Marriott) - inexpensive, has an indoor pool, and you get a full kitchen in your room. Suite style extended stay hotel chains don't usually have a minimum stay and are perfect for families.

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly restaurants

Cinnamon Indian Bistro is about a minute away by car and has a great lunch buffet most days that goes until 3:30. Kids eat free. It's right next door to Mole Mole (Latin American), which unfortunately we didn't get to try, but plan to if/when we go back to Poughkeepsie.

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Musee Pour Enfants

3805 Curé-Labelle blvd., Chomedey, Quebec

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Visited: 2014-02-01 | Submitted: 2014-03-08 01:47:38.0 | I traveled with little kids (3-5)

Cute Profession-Themed Museum for Little Kids

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Musee Pour Enfants (Museum for Children) in Laval just outside of Montreal is a small, occupation-themed museum geared toward younger children. The target age for visitors appears to be 2-7. The exhibits invite the question, "What am I going to be when I grow up?" Kids can climb inside a real fire truck, police car, ambulance, and more. With a pretend grocery store, classroom, music studio/stage, rocket ship, farm, veterinary clinic, construction zone with a mechanical shovel, boat, archaeological "dig," television studio, restaurant, and more, kids will have the opportunity to try on many different hats - literally. Our three year old daughter had lots of fun and didn't want to leave! Of special interest to her was the room on the second floor with the ball mazes and the interesting funnel that can keep a ball spinning around and around its perimeter for an extended period of time before it finally drops down into the hole. A few of the exhibits were a bit worn and it's clear that they don't get picked up and organized as much as they should, but the staff was very friendly and helpful. After a preschool group left, we had the entire museum almost to ourselves. Since there is no museum geared solely toward this age group in Montreal, I definitely recommend making the trip out to Laval, especially if you combine it with a trip to FunTropolis next door.

Tips for Families

Make sure you bring cash if you don't have a Canadian debit/credit card! They would not take our American Visa card and we had to find an ATM at the last minute. Call ahead and try to time your visit so as not to coincide with large preschool group tours. Don't forget to check out FunTropolis while you're there - it's a huge indoor play space within easy walking distance, right next door. The museum alone might not be worth the trip to the outskirts of the city, but add in FunTropolis right after your museum visit and you have successfully filled a morning or afternoon - maybe more.

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly accommodations

We stayed at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth in Montreal. It had a good pool area with a shallow pool for kids and the facility itself was modern and clean, but our room was cramped. This hotel is better suited to families with older children.

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly restaurants

There are several chain restaurants on the same street, but not too many healthy options. I would recommend packing your own lunches if healthy food is a priority.

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Ontario Beach Park

799 Lake Ave, Rochester, New York

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Visited: 2013-05-01 | Submitted: 2014-03-04 22:11:02.0 | I traveled with little kids (3-5)

Huge Lake Beach, Playground, Antique Carousel

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When we arrived at Ontario Beach Park and waded along the sandy banks of Lake Ontario, the scale of the water was such that the only thing separating the experience from visiting an ocean beach was the lack of salt water. Good sized waves and everything! It was very much unlike other lake beaches we've been to in that respect. The water stretches out as far as the eye can see. We visited on Memorial Day Weekend, and of course, the park was packed with picnicking families, some sort of barbecue festival, and kids playing on the large playground. Don't miss the antique carousel! The beautiful, enclosed 1905 Dentzel Menagerie Carousel is open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. Volleyball set-ups, boating, fishing (you must have a valid fishing license), and open-air pavilions are also available for use. If you find yourself able to visit only one park in Rochester, this would be a good choice.

Tips for Families

I would avoid bringing kids after sundown, especially if there is a festival aimed toward adults, to avoid smokers/partiers. Sometimes the beach is closed due to a high bacteria count in the water, and visitors are not allowed to swim for a period of time. You can call 585-753-5887 for information about current swimming conditions.

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly accommodations

We stayed at the Homewood Suites in Greece.

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly restaurants

Abbot's for custard. There is also a concession stand in the park. Better yet, pack a picnic.

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Chittenango Falls

5241 Gorge Rd, Cazenovia, New York

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Visited: 2013-06-01 | Submitted: 2014-03-04 15:51:16.0 | I traveled with little kids (3-5)

167 Foot Waterfall with Picnic Areas & Hiking Trails

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We enjoy taking our daughter to this small park in the summer and fall and often pack a picnic lunch. Visitors can take in the waterfall up close near the top via a small fenced-in observation area; families with older children might enjoy hiking down into the gorge and viewing the falls from the ground up. If you're in or near Cazenovia, come see the falls!

Tips for Families

Pets must be leashed (no more than 6 feet). I've never seen the swing set be operational; don't expect there to be a full playground. I don't believe that bathrooms are available; you'll have to drive into Cazenovia and find a gas station, so make sure the kids go before you visit.

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly accommodations

Lincklaen House or The Brewster Inn

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly restaurants

Consider grabbing some picnic fare from Circa, Dave's Diner, or The Pewter Spoon in Cazenovia. There is also a Subway right in town.

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Toggenburg Mountain Ski Center

1135 Toggenburg Rd, Fabius, New York

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Visited: 2014-03-01 | Submitted: 2014-03-04 03:40:21.0 | I traveled with little kids (3-5)

Nice, Small Ski Area with Lessons for Kids

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Our 3 year old daughter started taking skiing lessons at the family-owned Toggenburg Mountain Ski Center (known locally as "Tog") this year, which is also where my husband learned to ski and snowboard. The instructors are patient and kind, and the mountain is fairly small and not too overwhelming. If you are in the Syracuse area with kids who are just learning to ski or board, Tog was recently ranked the best place in the area for them to get started by the Syracuse New Times.

Tips for Families

Childcare services are available for non-skiing children. Skiing lessons are sometimes cheaper when purchased with a season pass. If group lessons don't work with your schedule, private lessons can be scheduled in advance. Be aware that Tog isn't super close to Syracuse - you're going to drive for a while, and you're going to end up kind of in the middle of nowhere. Pack supplies and food accordingly.

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly accommodations

Residence Inn Syracuse Downtown Armory Square

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly restaurants

There are a few eateries at the ski area, but when we go, we pack our own lunches. Grab a bunch of prepared lunch stuff at Wegmans DeWitt before you head out; there's something there for everyone.

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Mygym

3218 Erie Blvd E, Syracuse, New York

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Visited: 2014-03-01 | Submitted: 2014-03-04 03:23:22.0 | I traveled with little kids (3-5)

Wonderful Classes, Camps, Parents' Nights Out

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We love MyGym Syracuse on Erie Blvd! Our daughter has been enrolled in baby/toddler gym classes there since she was 6 months old, and she's now almost 3 1/2. What a lot of out of town visitors to Syracuse might not be aware of is that you don't have to have a MyGym membership to take advantage of some of the programming here. Of particular interest to visiting parents with kids in the 3-8-ish age group is Parents' Night Out, a 2 1/2 hour drop-off program that takes place about once a month, usually on Friday or Saturday nights from 6-8:30. Drop the kids off for a night of pizza, games, relays, and lots of physical play, and go out to dinner with your partner/spouse/friends! Friday afternoons as of the time of this review also offer Fit & Fun Drop Offs (approx 2 hours) - call ahead and reserve your child's spot. Visiting families can also enroll children in MyGym's summer and/or school break camps. There are 3 hour morning and afternoon camp slots available. If you need to pull a birthday party together quickly, MyGym is a very good place to do that as well. You can also swing by for a free trial class. The facility is clean and well-managed, the staff is very professional and kind to the children, and they switch the equipment around every week so that the gym has an entirely new layout nearly every time the kids visit the gym. This is, in my opinion, one of the best places for kids in the area. If you're looking for a date night or a morning/afternoon free in the summer, call them and see what they're offering. Very affordable, as well.

Tips for Families

Parents must wear socks inside the facility, but the kids go barefoot. Follow the MyGym Syracuse Facebook page and join their email list for information about upcoming events for non-members, if you do not have a MyGym membership. You can also call the gym and set up a free trial class if you want to see what the classes are like and/or tire out the kids with an hour of physical activity. Most Parents' Nights Out (2.5 hours), camps (including the 3 hour summer and holiday break camps), Friday Fit & Fun Drop Offs (2.5 hours), and some Open Play hours are open to non-members; you just might have to pay a bit more. Also, look for special holiday events that are open to the general public for a small fee, such as the annual Halloween Party.

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly accommodations

Residence Inn Syracuse Downtown Armory Square

Suggestions for nearby family-friendly restaurants

There is a Ruby Tuesday's right next door to MyGym, and Erie Blvd. is packed with chain sit-down restaurants and fast food places. If you're looking for something a bit healthier, head to Dosa Grill in the plaza across from the firehouse in DeWitt for the area's best Indian food, or head to Wegmans DeWitt for a huge variety of prepared foods (most very healthy) that you can sit down and eat right in their cafe area. They have everything! "The Big Wegmans," as we call it, is much more than a typical grocery store - give it a try for lunch!

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