Category: Urban Parks

I just spent seven jam-packed days of nostalgia and appreciation of the ever-evolving city of New York. The weather was perfect, the spring blooms at their peak and that dazzling mix of old world and high tech chic on display everywhere.

I try to make it back to New York at least once a year, usually for events, this time my epic High School reunion. I often travel solo but this time my companion was my nine-year-old. There was so much I wanted to share with him and narrowing down our plans was painful…and true to how I roll, the best things happened serendipitously.

We walked by the West 4th Street Courts just a block from my mom’s apartment, a famous spot where Lew Alcindor played before becoming the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an iconic public court where legions of other basketball greats have shot hoops over the years. Tucked in the the back are handball courts — I had forgotten about the New York obsession with the game. A tiny pinky ball, perhaps a glove and a wall, that’s all that’s needed. The sport, now called “American Handball”, is a big draw for beach goers, but as I traveled the city I was surprised to see so many courts in every borough. My son was fascinated and wanted to play. A player at W. 4 Street let him on the court to give it a try and he was smitten. The guy even gave him a ball — I LOVE NY. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Amusement Park, Brooklyn, Family Travel, Food, Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York, Restaurants, Russia, Sports, Urban Parks, shopping

As daffodils blossom and birds once again sing in the trees, spring has sprung in many parts of North America. Many folks have weathered a long snowy winter and crave warmth, sunshine on their bare arms and all the outdoor activities that forced hibernation kept from them over the last few months.

I, for one, can never get enough of winter fun. Living in San Francisco, a trip to the mountains is easy but requires some planning and often ice skating indoors has to satisfy my cravings.

In Ottawa, Ontario, workers and students can ice-skate commute (skammute?) on the Rideau Canal Skateway. The 4.8-mile-long, 26-foot-wide frozen canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Visitors can rent skates, and warm up spots, cafes and other amenities dot the route. It is of course a popular tourist attraction and the centerpiece of Winterlude, a three-week-long winter festival including ice sculptures, skate clinics and Snowflake Kingdom, a snowy playground wonderland. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Canada, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Festivals, Ontario, Ottawa, Sports, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Urban Parks

Katniss from The Hunger Games, Hawkeye from The Avengers and London’s 2012 Olympic Archery Competition have all given the ancient sport of archery a jolt. Kids and adults across the country are smitten with the idea of using a bow to shoot an arrow.

A recent New York Times Fashion & Style article explores the trajectory of the sport given the cultural craze. From Staten Island to San Francisco, sales of kid-size recurve bows have more than quadrupled this year!

Whether you have a Robin Hood fan, a small Cossack (a kid into ancient weaponry) or you just love fun, free, urban family activities, you’ve got to check out the Golden Gate Park Archery Range in San Francisco when you’re visiting the city. It’s a beautiful and well-maintained piece of park real estate, near the beach. It’s easy to park and accessible by public transportation. It’s always open for folks with their own archery equipment. If you’re looking to try it out as an activity, you can swing by the nearby Archery Pro Shop, where you can sign up for lessons, rent or buy bows or investigate other equipment. You can also buy bows and arrows on-line. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Books, Budget Travel, California, Camping, Family Travel, Olympic Peninsula, Olympics, San Francisco, Urban Parks, Yosemite

San Francisco is known world wide for stunning views and hilly terrain. Some streets are so steep that more than 300 stairways exist throughout the city, providing access and shortcuts to areas difficult to reach otherwise.

There are the famous routes to Coit Tower where one can catch a glimpse of the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, and the now famous Mosaic Stairs in Golden Gate Heights. Although not as crowded as say, Lombard (the crookedest street in the west), these top stairwalks can be bustling.

Instead, grab Adah Bakalinsky’s stairwalk bible, now in it’s 20th edition, and explore some of the more quirky areas. The book offers up the popular routes, but many of the stairways highlighted are tranquil spots, used only by locals and known only to a handful of people. Most walks take no more than an hour and string a number of staircases in a neighborhood together, with informative descriptions of the history, architecture and flora and fauna of the area.

Together, families can explore the nooks and crannies of this great city. My family often decides on a route and picks a restaurant or café in the area to make our ultimate destination. Avid hikers, we love to take our boys on treks outside the city, often inspiring them with treats or the prospect of counting banana slugs. Some days however, we just can’t get out of town, but want an outdoor activity that feels like a hike. Then we reach for our stairwalk book and pack a few snacks and layers of clothing. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Books, Budget Travel, California, Family Travel, Hike/Backpack, San Francisco, Urban Parks, wildlife

Tulips and daffodils, cherry blossoms and birds galore, the charmingly decrepit Central Park of my youth is now ancient history, as I learned on a recent trip. Defunct buildings are now sparkling hotspots like the Boathouse, refashioned and refurbished as a posh eatery with 19th-century Parisian charm.

Civilized cafes have sprouted up and scary bathrooms are well lit and clean, even the carousel seems perkier. Just a few years ago I took my kids on it, and an ex-con type was running the controls. The merry-go-round went so fast I feared my toddler son would fly off. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Birdwatching, Manhattan, New York, Urban Parks, wildlife

Tonight, my seven-year-old made origami cranes for the children of Japan. Tomorrow, at school is a bagel breakfast to raise money for those in need, following the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

It is also cherry blossom season, here in San Francisco, in our nation’s capital and of course in Japan, a rite of spring and a life-affirming, annual natural event. As I wheeze through the days full of blooms and pollen I stop to think about the brutality and generosity of what we call Mother Nature.

Traditional custom this time of year in Japan is to picnic under the cherry blossoms with friends and family. Sake, poetry and karaoke often accompany a spread of bountiful treats. This year though, as the country mourns, many are avoiding conspicuous consumption and opting to forgo the annual ritual, or to tone it down considerably. The elderly mayor of Tokyo has erected signs to ask residents to avoid the spring fun as a show of solidarity for those suffering in the northeast of the country. Mother Nature, or the force in nature, whatever you want to call it, can be so cruel and so glorious. The cherry blossoms are beautiful, fleeting, and fragile…like life itself. There is poignancy this year, but certainly the pink blossoms offer a small glimmer of hope, that life goes on.

2 Comments | Filed Under Asia, Culture, Festivals, Japan, Urban Parks

Visiting NYC, what I miss most is nature, not something I thought about as a kid. On a recent trip back home, I had a few things I had to do. One key spot on my must-see list was to visit New York’s new-ish High Line.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken to greening the city, opening many small median parks, closing streets to traffic and planting lots of trees.

The High Line, an elevated garden built on an old freight railroad line, runs through Chelsea and the Meat Packing district, which, like most of Manhattan, is now upscale. When I was growing up, this area was treacherous, true meat packing was going on as well as other nefarious activities. Today, the neighborhood is bustling with fancy shops and the new High Line is a treasure to behold. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Eco Friendly Travel, Feature, Food, Urban Parks, wildlife

The counterculture of Greenwich Village in New York City is legendary, although these days you’re more apt to see downsized Wall Streeters roaming around at midday rather than artists or activists. History is cyclical, however,  and Washington Square Park, the epicenter of many social, political and cultural movements, is being renovated and of course there is a controversy.

The diehard Villagers still have a huge voice in the politics of the neighborhood. The park is a landmark, 10 acres in size and nearly 200 years old. It has seen hangings, burials, countless graduations, generations of kids, dogs, joggers, seniors, and drug dealers—you name it, it has happened in THE PARK, as I called it growing up on its West side. Continue reading »

2 Comments | Filed Under Budget Travel, California, Family Travel, Feature, Urban Parks