Last weekend we split up: Cute W and M headed to a soccer tournament, while J and I headed to LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester. J and I clearly got the better deal. The soccer tournament was a long drive to three games outside in cold, slushy rain.
When J and I arrived on Saturday afternoon, we headed over to Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site, where we took a tour that detailed the history of the house and the Philipse family, super-wealthy Tories who got out of dodge when things didn’t go their way during the American Revolution. We were part of a tour group of mixed ages, and J was listened attentively and answered question after question to the point that it got comical, and other grown-ups were giving me the thumb’s up and chuckling. The whole trip gave me nostalgia pangs, because it was an historic house right in the middle of the city, just like where I used to work Once Upon A Time Before Kids. Many of the exhibits, as well as some interactive things were kids–focused on the history of slavery in New York. That’s what J found most interesting–here she is checking out swatches of fabric–cheap, course stuff for the slaves, colorful and fine for the family.
For dinner, we headed to Havana Central Restaurant & Bar, which was very fun.
They had live music and gorgeous decor, and I don’t think J had ever been to a specifically Cuban place, so it was a new cultural experience for her. When the server arrived, he recommended that I have a mojito or a sangria, and this was a business trip, people. I wanted to review a restaurant near LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester, and a review would not be complete without sampling one of the recommended cocktails. Or some of the recommended cocktails, I should say. Whatever. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. On the same philosophy I prevailed upon J to order a Shirley Temple, and she took one for the team. Actually, she loves a Shirley Temple, except when they’re way too sweet, and this one was perfect. We followed this up with the most delicious plantain chips I’ve ever had. They came with a mojo dip and both J and I were shameless in our quest to scrape as many chunks of garlic onto our plantains. We were pretty much full by the time we’d finished out empanadas, but then J discovered that she loves yellow rice. This was my order, and she totally stole almost all of my rice.
When dinner was over, lesser chicks would have headed back to the hotel, but we were in full-on vacation mode at this point, so we grabbed some tickets to see Cinderella. Then, when we realized that we had a good 50 minutes before showtime, we did some speed-shopping. Apparently, someone on J’s gymnastics team is going to have a bat mitzvah soon, and ever since I explained to her that even though it’s a coming-of-age thing, it basically feels like a cross between a birthday party (celebrating one person with fun) and a wedding (a service to sit through, followed by a big dance party), she has been super-excited. She’d been talking about getting a dress ever since she realized that we’d be at Westchester’s Ridge Hill shopping center, she’d been lobbying hard for dress shopping. Which is not normal behavior for my daughters. Well, we hit Lord & Taylor and I knew we’d nailed it with this dress when she started twirling in the dressing room. Then it was off to Cinderella. We’d only heard about the Frozen Short at the beginning of the movie earlier that evening, but as soon as I had the new dress in a bag, we basically ran back to the theater, in a panic that we’d miss it. J insisted she could manage popcorn (how??), and she laughed uproariously ever time Elsa sneezed. We were already excited that Cinderella was Lady Rose from Downton, but we were super-excited to see Daisy, too, playing Drisella. By the time the movie was out it was way too late, and we were shivering as we waited for our hotel shuttle, hoping that shuttle driver wouldn’t turn into a lizards, but it had still been a fun night out.
The next morning it was off to LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester. I’d been afraid that it would be too young for J, and while I think that she was aging out of it a bit, she really did have a great time. Except for when I abandoned her in the indoor jungle gym: it was one of those kids-only climbing spaces, and I sent her in to scout the location for my review. Except that I didn’t realize that it’s one of those places where they guard your kids, so when you’re ready to exit, you need a parent to claim you. This is an excellent policy in general. If I had little kids, I’d love it. But since my Free-Range 10-year-old is allowed to walk to Starbucks with her sister, and my 10-year-old’s mother is the type of woman to wander off and take pictures and check out the cafe menu before the lunch rush (but seriously: the cash registers are encased in LEGO® bricks: how cute is that?), it didn’t work out so well for us.
And, the staff there were very nice about it, but J was pretty irritated with me. Actually, she was adorable, because once I sprung her, she glared at me, pulled the notebook out of my hand, then set to work taking copious notes on the jungle gym experience. At the top, she wrote, “Parent must claim child to exit!” and then she proceeded to draw a couple of diagrams. Incidentally, she recommends that section for 4- to 7-year-olds, except she thinks that some kids might get nervous crossing over the net bridge section. Holy cow, I love that little dumpling!
I also managed to screw up my pictures. First, I had my camera in my pocket for the Merlin ride, which involved pedaling. So I dislodged my camera and it plummeted to the ground. So then I spent the rest of the ride alternating between fretting about my camera, kicking myself for being so stupid, and reminding myself to soak up J’s delight. We rescued the camera and it seemed just fine. Phew! Except–it wasn’t completely, totally fine. I’d somehow dislodged the camera’s memory card, so it took photos, displayed the photos, and then, virtually speaking, threw them away. This was a particular bummer because I had adorable shots of J raising her eyebrow while wearing 3-D glasses for the 4-D movie, and then I took a ton of photos of the newest exhibition, City Builder, which was J’s absolute favorite section of the exhibit. It was also where we met Veronica, the only LEGO® Master Builder of LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester, who was super-friendly and helpful, and who had beat out a bunch of other people (mostly guys) in a series of building competitions. So cool! And I got a picture of her helping J to create a magnificent new construction project. . . . A little while later I actually noticed the alert that my camera flashed about a memory card, and I fixed it, but those photos now live only in my memory (sniff!).
And, okay, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center are squished together, but still!
Altogether things look so realistic, and then you could look up close and each of the various details is so cool, too:
Plus they’re interactive, so you can hit buttons to make the lighting change or turn on sounds or move a crane. J and I loved this: the jumbo screen takes footage from within the room, so you can pose and look like you’re up over Time Square:
If you want more information about these places, you can read my complete review of LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester as well as my article highlighting other spots called Family Fun in Westchester.
Between staying up too late, sucking down sangrias, waking up early with my girl, and the tremendously overstimulating LEGO® good time we’d had, I was exhausted, but I knew that poor Cute W and M were exhausted, and they hadn’t had nearly as much fun. So we booked it home and had spaghetti and meatballs ready when they came in. And told me that they’d eaten on the road. But I still get a gold star.