Dec 012011
 

If you are heading to central Vermont between now and Christmas try to stop by the capitol city of Montpelier for a couple of hours of shopping and relaxing.  Montpelier’s classic New England downtown is certainly the antithesis of the shopping mall Christmas experience.  There are no chain stores or chain restaurants here.  Instead, Montpelier offers an eclectic mix of book sellers, handmade crafts and jewelry boutiques, organic clothing, wearable art, vintage collectibles, and independent coffee shops, diners and restaurants.  For teens, equipped with cell phones and a buddy, Montpelier is small enough that mom and dad can turn them loose to browse and shop on their own for a couple of hours.

Shopping in downtown Montpelier, VT is the anthesis of a mall holiday shopping experience

Shopping in downtown Montpelier, VT is the antithesis of a mall holiday shopping experience

We found ourselves Christmas shopping in Montpelier,VT on Black Friday (dubbed Flannel Friday as part of a local holiday promotion).  The horsedrawn wagon rides, cheerful sales people, and snow covered countryside made us feel like we had stepped into a modern day Currier and Ives print.  Mom and dad enjoyed browsing the unique ornaments, pottery, textiles and jewelry at the Artisan’s Hand and  picking up Vermont chocolates, maple syrup and tee shirts at Capitol Stationers .  We also took a break for lunch at Sarducci’s, which specializes in Italian food.

Holiday Wagon Ride Montpelier VT

Holiday Wagon Ride Montpelier VT

The teens got their lunch at Village Pizza and had some fun checking out the wearable art at the Cheshire Cat.  We all spent a fair amount of time browsing and buying at  Bear Pond Books too.  It is everything a small town bookstore should be.

Cheshire Cat Montpelier

Cheshire Cat offers wearable art in Montpelier, VT

The Montpelier Alive downtown business association is working hard this holiday season to provide a number of family friendly activities to encourage shoppers to spend time shopping on Main Street instead of at the mall.  Free wagon rides are available from 11-3 on Saturday Dec 3, 10 and 17.  Santa arrives along with the tree lighting on the evening of Dec 3rd.  A holiday themed Art Walk with dressed up windows and live mannequins is planned for 4-8 pm on Friday Dec. 9th and a family movie is planned for the morning of Dec 11th.

Looking for something different? Montpelier is sure to have it!

Looking for something different? Montpelier is sure to have it!

The holiday fun in Montpelier keeps going all the way to New Years Eve where the annual First Night Montpelier celebration is one of our favorites.  If you are in the area don’t miss the chance to let your teens and tweens explore and spend a few bucks to support these wonderful and unique local businesses.


Asbury Park, NJ Making a Comeback

 Posted by on September 9, 2010  Comments Off
Sep 092010
 

    

Welcome to Asbury Park

     The beaches and boardwalk of Asbury Park, NJ were once jewels of the shore, featuring a mile of rides, mini-golf, shops, sand, beautiful people and happy families.  However, for the last 25 years or more it has been tough times in Asbury,  as the boardwalk and shopping district were largely abandoned.  Thankfully, the tide is beginning to turn in Asbury and for the first time in many years the summer crowds are coming back.

     Our recent visit to Asbury Park shows that times are indeed changing for the better.  On a beautiful hot Sunday afternoon the beach and boardwalk were mobbed and a new generation of trendy restaurants and shops were doing a brisk business.   In addition, the town’s performance venues such as the Stone Pony, the Wonder Bar, the Paramount Theater and Convention Hall,  have beefed up their calendars and been successful in attracting many visitors to a wide range of events as well.   

Jazz Brunch on the Asbury Park Boarkwalk

     For teens and tweens who are too young for the nightclubs, the boardwalk offers some fun and funky shopping at the likes of Posh Den, Style Rocket, and Cielo.   Its a refreshing mix of independent craftspeople and entrepreneurs here – no national chain stores or restaurants to be seen. We enjoyed lunch at the Langosta Lounge; they even had a jazz band playing outside.  Several other sit down restaurants also offered full service indoor and outdoor dining along the boardwalk.

Shopping at Posh Den on the Boardwalk

     The Silverball Pinball Museum was worth the trip to Asbury Park all by itself.  Dad and #1 Son really enjoyed playing vintage pinball machines from the 1930s to the 1990s eras while the girls went shopping.  For a flat rate half-hour, hourly or daily fee you can play any machine – no quarters required.   Nearby Hot Sand offers a unique opportunity to blow your own glass – and they sell some really lovely pieces that are made right there in their boardwalk studio.  

Admiring the hand blown glasswork at Hot Sand

     Don’t get us wrong, there is still a lot of work to do in Asbury.  A few new condo buildings have opened, but many vacant lots remain on the streets behind the Boardwalk and the southern end of the Boardwalk still has a pretty empty feel to it.  Nonetheless, the beach is beautiful and there is definitely more energy and positive vibes along the Asbury Park Boardwalk than there have been for many years.   We are hoping that the comeback continues.

     Looking for more ideas for fun with teens and tweens at the Jersey Shore?  Check out our Jersey Shore Top 10 list

     We want to thank Jersey Shore Jen for letting us know that Asbury is back in action and encouraging us to check it out.  Visit her blog for all the latest on Jersey Shore happenings throughout the year.


Teens Love Mount Washington Valley, NH Shopping

 Posted by on July 10, 2010  Comments Off
Jul 102010
 

     As any parent of teenage girls knows, shopping is always at the top of the list when it comes to vacation activities.  Our teen was not disappointed with the range of shopping options available in North Conway and the surrounding towns of New Hampshire’s  Mount Washington Valley.  

Shopping in downtown Conway, NH

     Shopping in the Mount Washington Valley breaks down into two distinct experiences:

  • The large direct manufacturer and name brand outlets clustered at the southern end of Route 16 in North Conway.  The outlet area is anchored by Settlers’ Green Outlet Village, but is also well supported by large LL Bean, Eastern Mountain Sports and other destination outlets on both sides of the highway.  A number of chain restaurants and hotels round out the outlet area.
  • The small, eclectic shops found in the downtown centers of North Conway, Jackson, Conway and several other smaller towns.  These downtown shopping areas tend to feature  independently owned stores selling hand crafted jewelery, local artwork, fun tee shirts, and boutique clothing. The downtown streetscapes are charming with lots of character.  Stroll the shops and catch lunch or dinner at one of the non-chain downtown restaurants to enjoy the local vibe.

     All stores in New Hampshire share one attraction — no state sales tax, except on restaurants.   This can quickly save shoppers from other states 5%, 6% or more depending on the sales tax rules at home.    The outlets we shopped, including Adidas, Nike, Under Armour, Reebok, Hanesbrands and Coach, all seemed to offer standard pricing that was roughly 25% off manufacturer suggested retail pricing.  From there, most outlet stores feature 50% discount racks, 2 for 1 specials and other promotions to help increase the discounts on some but not all items.  Our teen was thrilled to be handed a 30% off coupon as she walked in the Coach store.  Applied to an item from the 50% off rack she scored a stylish Coach wrist purse for about 1/3 of retail.

     In the downtown shopping areas, the emphasis is more on finding something unique and memorable.  In North Conway, our teen spent a great deal of time examining the wares at several small downtown shops before settling on an amber and silver ring.  We found the shopkeepers to be very accommodating and appreciated their giving her ample time to browse.

     Our visit to the Mount Washington Valley was arranged by the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce.  Shopping was NOT a sponsored activity and we received no compensation from any of the stores mentioned here  — everyone who visited Coach when we were there got that 30% off coupon.  For our schedule, shopping was a good evening activity since the outlets are open until 9 pm. 

     Of course, for many visitors, shopping is the main attraction.  We will leave it to you to set your own priorities.    To get more ideas on how to spend your time in the Mount Washington Valley check out the links to our detailed reviews for things to do with teens by visiting our Mount Washington Valley Top 10 – Summer Edition landing page.

Mt. Washington Valley, NH Top 10 – Summer Edition

 Posted by on June 27, 2010  Comments Off
Jun 272010
 

    

Welcome to the Mount Washington Valley

We want to again thank the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce  (1-800-DO-SEE-NH) for arranging a jam packed weekend of teen oriented activities for us to review from June 25-27, 2010.  

     We have always thought of the Mount Washington Valley as a place to take small kids, but this trip convinced us there is plenty there to keep teens, tweens and their parents happy as well.    Over the course of a three-day weekend we felt we just scratched the surface of what the Valley has to offer.   You can read all about it by clicking the red links, each goes to a full article about a different piece of our adventure:

  • The accommodations and breakfasts at the Merrill Farm Resort in North Conway. Located on the banks of the Saco River the Resort offers great access to restaurants and shopping in North Conway as well as the Valley’s many natural and manmade attractions.
  • Monkey Trunks  Zip Line and High Ropes Adventure Park in Chocorua, NH which proved to be our teen’s out and out, can’t miss favorite attraction!
  • The Mount Washington Valley Auto Road to the top of 6,288 foot Mount Washington.  We took the Stage van so we could enjoy the views around every hairpin turn.
  • Great, teen friendly Mexican food at Cafe Noche in Conway, NH.
  • A relaxing dinner and nightcap at the the classic  Eagle Mountain House in Jackson, NH. 
  • The terrific views from the  Wildcat Mountain ZipRider and Gondola Express
  • Attitash Mountain’s summer attractions including the Alpine Slide, mountain biking, waterslides, a climbing wall and a EuroBungy Trampoline
  • Hiking in the White Mountains in search of a waterfall
  • Tax-free shopping on the North Conway outlet strip and in eclectic downtown main street stores.
  • A all the great activities we couldn’t fit into the weekend but want to go back to try out    

     There is definitely enough to do in the Mount Washington Valley to easily fill a full week vacation.  If you expect to stay that long, or visit several times in a season, the White Mountains Attractions Value Pass can be well worth the $299 per person.  The pass provides one-time access to 16 major area attractions including the Mount Washington Auto Road, the Mount Washington Cog Railway, the Attitash Summer Programs, Wildcat Mountain Gondola, the Flume Gorge and many others.  The list price of all the attractions combined is $695 so it can be worth considering.

Thanks to the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce

     We also advise taking the time to visit the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce Vacation Specials and Last Minute Deals pages.  Check in with your hotel as well as many packages are available that can significantly reduce the standard rack rate prices.

Teens Shop SoHo

 Posted by on May 6, 2010  Comments Off
May 062010
 

     From the day we started planning our mom and teen girls getaway to New York City, shopping was the number one priority for the girls. 

A street in SOHO, photo by Jorge E. Fernandez, Wikimedia Commons

A street in SOHO, photo by Jorge E. Fernandez, Wikimedia Commons

     The Big Apple is home to flagship megastores for many of the major brands, but what we really wanted was an experience you can only get in New York.  It was clear, we had to go to SoHo.  

     Unlike the skyscrapers of midtown, SoHo (i.e. South of Houston St.) is made up of lower rise cast iron buildings that harken back to the mid-1800s.  The streets are narrow as are many of the storefronts.  The result is a cozy neighborhood with many quiet side streets that you can cross freely when you see a store or restaurant that interests you.

     We poked around a number of the many eclectic boutiques in the neighborhood from the second hand stores to the high end designer showplaces where the girls fell in love with $300 multi-colored shorts before mom turned them down flat.  Energy started to flag after that disappointment, until we turned a corner and came face to face with the mecca of all jeans stores – True Religion

     Little did we know that an hour with our personal sales consultant and a couple of bottles of sparkling water later, the girls would emerge triumphant — each sporting a new pair of signature designer jeans and the biggest smiles we have seen in a long time.

Life is good

Life is good

     After a quick lunch stop, we headed over to the the recently opened Uniqlo US flagship store on Broadway.  Trendy but incredibly affordable, this big bright 3 story building allowed the girls to do a little more shopping without breaking the bank!   We managed to shop long enough to miss a passing thunderstorm but had to wrap things up to head back uptown and get ready for our night on Broadway.

     This article is part of a series about our mom and teen girls getaway to New York City.  You can visit our Teens Take New York City summary page to discover our full itinerary and find links to other articles about our visit.


Teens Take New York City!

 Posted by on April 29, 2010  6 Responses »
Apr 292010
 

     After much planning and plotting our mom and teen girls’ getaway to New York City was a major success! Our regular readers know we spent weeks doing research and checking out web sites, twitter and guide books.  If you need some ideas, read our trip planning pages for inspiration on New York City hotels and tours, iconic experiences, and teen friendly restaurants, attractions, and shopping destinations. 

We're really in New York City!

     As always we made a point to get the teens involved in formulating the plan.  An evening of snacks for the girls and wine for the moms quickly showed that the girls’ number one priority was shopping.  The moms built in time for a Museum and we left some open time to choose from a couple different options depending on weather and energy levels.  And of course, we bought our show tickets well ahead of time so we’d know we had good seats.

     After some negotation we ended up with a rough plan (click the links below to go to our detailed post about each major piece of our visit):

    We set up base camp at the Radio City Apartments on 49th Street near Rockerfeller Center.   We loved being able to walk to many of our destinations, plus the we got a sense of what city living is like.  We also got two bedrooms, a living room, and a small kitchen for the price of a normal hotel room. 

Bocca near Radio City

Bocca near Radio City

   We found great, affordable breakfast and lunch options across the street at Bocca and were thrilled when we realized we could walk to dinner and Wicked the next evening. 

Neither of the teens had ever spent much time in New York City and they said they felt like they were in a TV show with all the energy, stores and people around them!

     Over the next week or so we’ll share lots more info and pictures about our adventures.  We are already thinking of a return trip next year, we had so much fun.  If you are looking for a great mom/daughter teen and tween vacation consider New York City — you certainly won’t be bored whether you make it a daytrip from the Jersey Shore or stay for a week.


NYC Food, Culture and Shopping for Teens and Tweens

 Posted by on April 1, 2010  Comments Off
Apr 012010
 

     Our teens and moms girls adventure to New York City is getting close.   With the hotel and Broadway show set, and going to the top of the Empire State building identified as our number one priority, its time to think about where to eat, shop and take advantage of the cultural opportunities that only the Big Apple has to offer.   Here is the short list of New York City teen and tween treasures we considered for our trip.

Museums

  • The American Museum of Natural History – with 45 display halls, an IMAX theater and planetarium this museum can be an all day event.  We probably won’t have that much time but the dinosaur fossils, meteorite, and gem stone exhibits are high on our list.  This spring and summer the museum is hosting a Silk Road exhibit.  An exhibit of live tropical butterflies will be in place until the end of May. 

    Statue of Liberty

    Statue of Liberty

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art – home to the works of Rembrandt, Titian, Van Gogh, and many other masters this is another must do, if only for a short visit.  After studying Jackson Pollock in school seeing his work is a priority.
  • Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty - this iconic entry to New York, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty is studied extensively in middle school social studies.  Ellis Island tells the story of our daughter’s immigrant great, great grandparents who entered the US through its doors.  This spring and summer, the Statue of Liberty is offering the opportunity to ascend to the Crown (with pre-reserved tickets).  There is currently no elevator service available at the Statue so be prepared to ascend 168 stairs just to get to the top of the pedestal!  It is 354 steps to the top of the Crown.  Accessible only by boat, leaving from Battery Park, you get a great view of the New York City skyline as part of the bargin.
  • Saint Patrick’s Cathedral – construction began on this gothic wonder in 1858 although it didn’t open until 1879.  It is the largest gothic style cathedral in the United States.  Thanks to ongoing restoration efforts a tour of the Cathedral provides a glimpse into an amazing architectural past.

Restaurants

     Thanks to Twitter friends for help with restuarants, particularly @NewYorkGuest for some great tips.  The top recommendations so are are shown below but we are still open to more suggestions.

  • Ellen’s Stardust Diner, a 1950’s retro home to singing waitresses and waiters servng up chili, ribs, burgers and more on Broadway at the corner of West 51st Street.
  • Serendipity3, on East 60th Street is venerated as the home of Frozen Hot Chocolate. 
  • Jekyll and Hyde Pub in Greenwich Village might be a little too creepy for our girls but it gets rave reviews for those looking to eat their burgers in a haunted house populated by vampires, werewolves, mummies and Frankenstein’s Monster.

Shopping

     Amid the theater, museums, tourist attractions and restaurants you know teen girls will demand time for shopping too. 

  • Berkely Girl on Columbus Avenue gets high marks for tweens but may not be hip enough for teens.  They are known for tee shirts and accessories.
  • SOHO boutiques come highly recommended although we are told the names change constantly! 

     You can tell we need some more help on shopping ideas, particularly in the Times Square and Rockerfeller Center area where we will be spending most of our time.  We’ve heard that Shop Gotham offers walking shopping tours, but that seems more appropriate for older teens.

     This post is part of our  series about planning for our  New York City trip with teens.