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Tag: family activities

Kid-Friendly Vacation Activities in New Orleans

Traveling to New Orleans doesn’t have to be all about Bourbon Street. I’ve got a few tips from our family trip.

New Orleans is actually a great place to take your family on a little vacation. We traveled there over spring break and really enjoyed exploring the city, learning about its history, listening to jazz, and of course eating all of that great food. It didn’t hurt that the French Quarter Festival happened to be going on during our last couple of days.

A key ingredient to our vacation’s success was doing a lot of our exploration on foot. That’s the way to really get a good sense of a city. As my sixth grader, wife and I all enjoy a good hike, it wasn’t a problem racking up some serious city-walking mileage.

If you’re considering a similar adventure and one that specifically avoids Bourbon Street, here are a few of our own highlights. A big shout out goes to my wife for doing the research to identify these peak experiences.

Spooky Family Ghost Tour by Unique NOLA Tours
We learned about the many ghosts haunting houses in the French Quarter. And along the way, we also got a nice New Orleans history lesson. It’s important to have a great storyteller as a guide, and we got really lucky with Dane Rhodes. He’s a local actor who’s been in a variety of movies in small roles. He told our tour group that his claim to fame was we’ve probably seen a movie on TV with his face exploding. Enough said.

Crescent Bike Tour by Buzz Nola
The only limitation to a good walking tour is you can only travel so far. The solution is to expand your reach on a bicycle. This three-hour bike tour took us to the amazing City Park and its live oak trees, the beautiful riverfront as well as Cemetery #3, where we learned about the complex process of managing generations of family members in above-ground tombs.

Audubon Park in the Garden District
To expand your view even further, you can jump on the St. Charles Streetcar and head out to the beautiful Garden District and Audubon Park near Tulane and Loyola universities. (The Audubon Zoo is also in the park, though we didn’t take the time to go there.)

A super lunch spot a few blocks outside the park is Tartine at 7217 Perrier Street.

Cajun Encounters Swamp Tour
If you really want to get out of town, then a swamp tour 45 minutes outside of the city is a worthwhile half-day excursion. (A bus picks you up in the French Quarter.) If you’re looking to see some alligators and other cool wildlife up close, this is the perfect boat tour.

HH Whitney House Bed and Breakfast
There are plenty of hotel options in New Orleans, but staying at a bed and breakfast really enhanced our experience. We loved our time at the HH Whitney House Bed and Breakfast just northwest of the French Quarter. (We had a two bedroom suite with a private bath.)

It’s located at 1923 Esplanade Avenue (about a 25 minute walk to the center of the French Quarter) and run by Glen Miller.

Beyond enjoying a fantastic home-cooked breakfast each morning, we really appreciated Glen’s hospitality and recommendations for where to go and what to do. Not that you can’t do your own research, but it was so great having a home base with someone looking out for you. By the end of our five days in New Orleans, it felt like we were staying with a close friend. Glen is simply fabulous.

Bring your Camera!
Finally, no vacation is complete without the opportunity to spend some time taking photos. And of course, New Orleans offered plenty of visuals for me to capture.





Time to Dust off your Luggage

After two years of relative isolation during the pandemic and really three years since our last family trip by plane, it felt so energizing jetting to Louisiana and exploring a different part of our country with my family.

Two final recommendations:
Praline Beignets from Loretta’s
Café au Lait from Café Du Monde

Yum.

At Home with Apples

If you enjoy apple picking and apple cider donuts, you may be interested in what happened during our weekend adventure to Rogers Orchards.

A lot of advice out there talks about spending time outdoors to help manage the everyday stresses caused by the pandemic. If apple picking has previously been part of your annual routine, I think you should move that trip to the front of the line for your next weekend activity. It’s a great way to reconnect yourself to the ‘normal.’ Just be sure to wear your mask and maintain social distancing.

Visiting Rogers Orchards
This past weekend, my family and I visited Rogers Orchards in Southington, CT. We picked apples to our hearts’ content under the bright, warm sun of a cool October day.  The apple orchard was about a two-minute drive down the road from its 336 Long Bottom Road farm store and bakery.

I’ve found that taking pictures of apple trees is similar to picking apples. It’s mostly about the experience. What you bring home isn’t always as amazing as you hope for, but you always feel like the effort was worth it. 

While you’re out there, don’t forget to focus on the colors of fall foliage. That’s always a good bet.

Timelapse of Tree during Fall

Look for the Views
Plus, there’s a good chance that your immersion into nature will reveal an unexpected surprise…

Timelapse of Shuttle Meadow Reservoir

I shot this timelapse of the Shuttle Meadow Reservoir at the edge of the apple orchard with my DJI Osmo Pocket camera. 

Before heading back, we stopped by Sunset Rock State Park to do a short nature walk around part of Crescent Lake. The views were gorgeous.

It was the perfect fall day. Normality restored.

At Home with Pumpkins?
If you’re lucky, you don’t always have to drive an hour away to recenter yourself and rediscover the gifts of nature. Sometimes it’s growing right outside your window.

This surprisingly huge Lester pumpkin materialized after its host vine burst outside of the confines of our garden. I think it’s on track to be ready in time for Halloween!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Now, it’s time to eat the rest of our apple cider donuts from Rogers Orchards.

Did I forget to mention the donuts?

#Comfort

How to Take Great Photos at Family Events While Still Enjoying the Party

Taking a DSLR Photo

If you’re often too focused taking photos and then forget to enjoy the activity, I can entirely relate. So I’ve got three ways to help you have your cake and eat it too.

So you’ve decided to take on the responsibility of documenting your family get-together with your camera. Well, that decision can really get in the way of your own enjoyment. If you’re like me, you usually show up with a predetermined ‘shot list’ that you absolutely have to get. And I’ve sometimes had to remind myself to be more mindful of the moment and actually pay attention to ‘experiencing’ my family affair as opposed to ‘covering’ it.

To do that, I feel it usually comes down to staying emotionally connected to the action.

Here are three ways to help ensure that happens:

1. Snap Your Shots Early
I find the longer you wait to begin taking photos, the less likely it is that you’ll get the shots you really want, and you’ll quickly begin to stress. So whenever you see a natural moment, you’ve got to go for it. You just can’t wait and hope that another opportunity will magically appear later on.

I used to feel that the appropriate time to ask folks to say “cheese,” or gather everyone together for a group family photo was towards the end of the party.

While that may make sense from a social etiquette perspective, you may find any number of variables that foil your plan. Some people may have already left. Others may be tired and a little cranky. And if you do actually get to take the shot, it had better be perfect with nobody’s eye mid-blink, because there will be no second chances for you.
(If you orchestrate the shot earlier, then there’s still time for a second attempt later on.)

2. Take Lots of Group Selfies
You’ve got to pick the right moment, because suggesting that a ‘conversation pod’ suddenly join you for a group selfie will likely halt things. But once you’ve successfully sold the idea, it can be a really fun group activity, especially if you’ve got to jam a bunch of people into the shot. Yes, it will be entirely imperfect, but the often absurd attempt to squeeze everyone together to fit in the frame is usually a whole lot of fun. I highly recommend trying it, and the resulting goofy shots will pleasantly surprise you.

3. Set a Time Limit
This is where you draw your own line in the sand to ensure that you also get to fully participate in the event. I like to spend 20-30 minutes or so walking about the room to get the shots I want. I quickly review what I’ve got, and then I put my camera or iPhone away.

If another photo opportunity spontaneously self generates, yes, of course you can still snap it. But the important point is you’re not putting any more pressure on yourself to continue on as the family photographer after your self-imposed time limit.

It’s a Balancing Act
Where’s the value in documenting your family event if you don’t really experience it yourself? Sure, you may be contributing to the greater good, but at what cost?

So, go get the photos you want, and don’t forget to add to the life of the party.

Find your balance and enjoy!
Thanksgiving Dinner

 

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