Daffodil Hill!

If all the joyful newness of springtime could be captured in just one location-

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If all the vibrant bursts of color and light could be cornered-

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If all the giddy exuberance of this new season, with its sunshine, warm breezes, budding blooms, and unfurling leaves could be crystallized into just one magical place-

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That place would be Daffodil Hill.

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Right now, for a just a short time, there are 670,000 daffodils spreading their gorgeous colors across the hill at the New York Botanical Garden. (Yes! 670,000!)

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Some of these daffodils have been blooming in this very spot for over one hundred years, and they are blooming again, right now.

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You should go! 

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PS – There are many other gorgeous specimens in bloom too.

Find out more at NYBG.org.

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Disney’s Frozen: The Broadway Musical

Seeing a Broadway show is always an EVENT.

Even for someone raised in the New York City area, heading into the theater district for dinner and a show carries a special allure- a certain sense of excitement and glamour that is unmatched. The lights, the glitz, the historic theaters and world-class performances – what could possibly be better?

A flourish of Disney magic, perhaps?

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Disney’s Frozen on Broadway is an unforgettable experience. Exuberant, beautiful, transporting, and yes, magical.  

Your evening begins in the historic and elegant St. James theater, complete with crystal chandeliers, red velvet seats and “gilded” walls.

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Arriving to your seats, you find the stage before you beautifully wrapped in a carved wood border imported straight from Arendelle. As the curtains open, you are instantly transported into this faraway land and into the childhood of our two favorite sisters. The mini actresses that greet you set the first mood of the show: young Anna exudes excitement, energy, and fun, while Elsa is more reserved, wanting to follow the rules.  The girls’ portrayal of sisterly love and childhood innocence is profound and deeply impressive for such young talents.

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The unfolding storyline will not be a surprise to most audience members. And yet, there are countless new elements in this live production that will simply captivate. Stunning set pieces, original songs, and entirely new scenes have been created for a seemingly all-new experience. It goes without saying that the vocals and acting are top-notch, and the show is at times funny, touching, and exciting. The breathtaking visual effects – Disney’s forte- take the show to the next level.

As the story begins, the stage transforms from one scene to the next into the many rooms and courtyards of Arendelle Castle, with all its soaring windows, grand arches, and great halls. The stage seems to stretch endlessly high to accommodate the huge rooms and windows, and the stone walls magically expand, contract and glide across the stage to reconfigure the rooms. The action moves seamlessly from the girls bedroom to the glowing, candlelit ballroom, and then onto one of my favorite backdrops: the moonlit castle garden, filled with lush purple flowers growing in vines along the towering castle arches, as Anna and Hans fall in love.

As Elsa’s magic develops over the timeline of the story, so too do the dramatic and beautiful visual effects that both capture her magic and transform the stage from the warm and cozy castle into the frozen world that Arendelle becomes. Lighting is used in unique and spectacular ways to represent the icy flourishes of magical cold that Elsa sends flying across the land.  The fierce, windy ice bridge stretched across the stage was truly a work of art- I didn’t want that scene to end. Elsa is of course at her magical best in her Ice Palace, both while she is creating it and when she is defending herself against her foes. These effects are stunning. One of the most unique visual effects of the show was in the final scene when Elsa’s magic moves across a line of people, freezing them slowly in place until they seemingly form a small iceberg.

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photo via FrozenTheMusical.com

Another masterful element of the show was the creation of the non-human characters. Olaf, a fan favorite, is a puppet who is brought to life by a wonderful puppeteer who actually adds a new dimension to the character on stage. The trolls from the movie are presented as “Hidden Folk” – human actors transformed into other-worldly beings. And finally, Sven, the reindeer, was a beautiful creation with incredibly realistic movements and personality – good luck taking your eyes off of him.

The show ends with a fun surprise…here’s a hint:

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If you are wondering about what you might find at intermission, rest assured that opportunities abound to bring home a Frozen souvenir. A classic Disney shopping experience awaits in the lobby, with everything from high-end jewelry, stuffed Olafs, and clothing to themed drink cups and lollipops at the concession stand.

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It’s also worth mentioning that while the show is a perfect choice for children- and there were many children in the audience- my own two hard-to-impress teenagers were also captivated. The show has broad appeal.

As a natural skeptic, I had my doubts about whether the show would feel completely fresh and alive, given the fact that I know the story so well. After all, I’ve seen the movie countless times with my children and heard the hit-songs a gazillion times. I can confirm that this is not a concern. The show is a “must-do” for Disney fans as well as anyone else simply looking for a fantastic entertainment experience.

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This post originally appeared on PlusTheMagic.com , a blog about all things Disney.

Review was written by Amy with contributions from Zoe Swiss.

 

The Puzzle Parlour

With a steady supply of below-freezing temperatures in the forecast this winter, my family has been looking for some unique ways to have fun, stay warm and avoid cabin fever. We recently discovered one perfect solution: The Puzzle Parlour, a new escape room destination in White Plains.

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The Puzzle Parlour describes itself as a “live-action adventure unlike anything you have ever experienced”. For us, this description was 100% accurate! This was our first time trying an escape room, and it won’t be our last- the experience was an instant hit with the whole family. The premise is simple: immersive storytelling, teamwork, and puzzle-solving. The clock is ticking…you have one hour to solve the mystery and escape the room!

Several storyline experiences are offered at the Puzzle Parlour, but after a quick review of the options, we chose the adventure entitled “The Surgery”. Upon arrival, a member of the Puzzle Parlour team explained the backstory to us: it seems we had been enjoying the vacation of our lives when we unexpectedly woke from a groggy sleep in a dark, dismal operating room. As our guide explained the details, she led us down the hall and dropped us into the story by leaving us alone…in a room with no windows and several locked doors!puzzle parlour surgery clues

My family jumped into action, exploring the room. With plenty to see, touch and manipulate, everyone in the group was able to actively participate in discovering clues. The room was filled with interesting props, mysterious wall hangings, and fixtures which were not what they originally appeared to be. After a few minutes of intense discovery, we finally figured out a way to unlock the door…which led to another locked room! Our experience had four separate rooms in total, with each room presenting a completely different set of problems to solve, all while the clock ticked down.

One of the most fun parts of an experience like this is watching the true personalities of your group bubble to the surface. Who takes charge? It may not be who you expect! Who catches the tiny details that everyone else misses? Who cracks under the pressure, and who proves themselves worthy of becoming the next Sherlock?  You’ll have a blast watching it all unfold.puzzle parlour surgery

The Puzzle Parlour was a great way to spend an afternoon. It would be the perfect activity for a girls-night out, an employee team building exercise, a teenager’s birthday party or an afternoon with your family. And don’t worry about not being able to solve the puzzles: if you get stuck, hints are available. You won’t need to use them though…I have a feeling you are up to the challenge!

The Puzzle Parlour is conveniently located in the heart of downtown White Plains. For more information or to buy tickets,  visit the Puzzle Parlour at http://www.thePuzzleParlour.com.

Bannerman Castle: Adventure Awaits

A trip to Bannerman Castle, on Pollepel Island, has all the irresistible elements of a wonderful adventure. A boat, a castle, a hike amongst the ruins; some mystery, some history: a lovely afternoon.

A castle? On an island? In the middle of the Hudson River?

Now that I’ve discovered it, I wonder what took me so long to find it. Apparently, the castle and the island are two of the best kept Hudson River secrets.

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Who built it? Who lived there? How old is it?

The answers to these questions are fascinating and surprising, and for someone with an interest in history, these stories alone are worth the trip – but this adventure is so much more than history.

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Ready for your adventure? The fun begins as you board a boat in Beacon for the first leg of your journey. You’ll glide along the gorgeous Hudson River, passing Denning’s Point and the Hudson Highlands along the way, reaching the island about 30 minutes later. The Estuary Steward was our boat, and the ride along the Hudson was definitely part of the fun.

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Approaching the island from onboard the Estuary Steward

Once on Pollepel Island, you’ll meet your guide on the dock: a member of the Bannerman Castle Trust. Your guide will lead you on a walking tour of the island, and is guaranteed to be a wealth of knowledge about the people who lived here, beginning with the Native Americans who first used the island as a look out point. The story your guide will tell continues through the years of bootleggers, smugglers, and Revolutionary War involvement, and finally winds up at the time of Frank Bannerman –the man who built the castle, and a summer home, on the island. The castle is actually an armory, and the full story is worth the wait. Wes, our guide, was an exceptional storyteller who made the history funny, engaging and irresistible. When you start your tour, look for Wes!

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Wes, our guide -and an amazing storyteller

As you hike around the island, you’ll take in incredible views of Storm King, Breakneck Ridge, and even West Point in the distance. These are vistas you just can’t see anywhere else; this vantage point is unique and breathtaking. The ruins of the castle and the Bannerman summer home, with their crumbling brick and stone, evoke another time and place. The gardens are lovely and are being tended and expanded every week.

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Looking south from the island. Breakneck Ridge is on the left, Storm King is on the right, and West Point is directly down the river.

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Hiking from the house on the hill down to the water

Bannerman Castle is a MUST-DO! Bring your camera and book your tickets early. Tours do sell out.

Bannerman Castle is open to the public thanks to the non-profit organization Bannerman Castle Trust. Donations keep the island open for future tours – visit them on the web here:

 

 

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Happiness, found- in a small, sugary pillow of dough, drizzled with chocolate

While my quest for a weekly hit of Westchester happiness continues, life also continues to sometimes get in the way of even the best laid plans. Recent weeks have been challenging, side-tracking my attempts at big new adventures or even just solid blocks of family time. I’m sure you know the feeling. I didn’t give up on my quest, though- I just adjusted my objectives. Sometimes a brief escape for a decadent treat is all you can pull off…so you might as well make it good!

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Not long ago I was surprised to hear about a restaurant right here in Westchester specializing in none other than {my-childhood-definition-of-culinary-happiness}: ZEPPOLE.  Continue reading

March Hike: Cranberry Lake Preserve

Yes, it’s still cold…spring has not yet sprung…and it’s still awfully hard to get everyone motivated to get outside for a hike. I know, I know! But I’m on a mission here, folks – one hike a month. So, this month, I had to plan carefully and find a hike that offered just a little something “extra”. Maybe that’s what you need, too, to get your family out the door.  Consider Cranberry Lake Preserve- one of my favorite hikes in Westchester. Here’s how we made this hike just a little more enticing, to get the family motivated on a cold and partially overcast day: we turned this hike at Cranberry Lake Preserve into a scavenger hunt, full of history and mystery.

Cranberry Lake Preserve has a fascinating past, and remnants of its days-gone-by are preserved all around the trails. Not only that, the Westchester Department of Parks has made available a History Trail Map, which makes the historical markers and artifacts around the park easy to find and explore.  Click here to link to the map, and bring a copy with you.

This hike is easily turned into a scavenger hunt by searching for the many unique points of interest around the lake. This will engage even your reluctant hikers. Here’s  a quick list to get you started – 6 of the many interesting features to hunt for and find on your hike at Cranberry Lake:

1. The quarry – it’s beautiful and there are plenty of areas along the back ridge where the kids can do some rock scrambling….with careful supervision, of course! Continue reading

Hastings-on-Hudson, Part II: Beyond the Museum in the Streets

A few days ago I wrote about the fun we had exploring the Museum in the Streets in Hastings-on-Hudson– but the Museum was only part of our afternoon in this vibrant little town. In addition to all the things we saw on the walking tour, we discovered many other beautiful spots, delicious eateries, and interesting places. If you remember, I talked about the fun of being an intrepid explorer, even when you’re close to home and you won’t be leaving the ‘burbs anytime soon. When you explore a town you don’t usually visit, you’re guaranteed to find unique places and things your own town doesn’t have. That’s how we discovered The Museum in the Streets – and so much more…

During our day in Hastings, around  every corner we found something novel – a beautiful garden, a playground we’ve never visited, a “Gingerbread House”, a shop selling vinyl records (“What’s a vinyl record, Mom?”). Continue reading

Be an explorer! The Museum in the Streets at Hastings-on-Hudson

Be an explorer. No matter how wonderful your own little corner of Westchester is, everyone needs to do this once in a while: go for a long walk in a corner of Westchester that you usually don’t spend time in.  You’ll feel a little like you’re on vacation, wandering through a funky neighborhood or quaint old village, maybe for the first time, discovering all the wonderful little things the “locals” take for granted.

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Continue reading

Beautiful Sites, Happy Moments: The Bedford Oak

Spring is coming – really, it is – and life is starting to heat up around here. As schedules get busier and spring sports kick into gear, it gets harder to find the time for big family outings or special events. Sometimes the best you can do is string together a few sweet and simple happy moments in between errands, appointments, tournaments and recitals. Luckily, Westchester is filled with so many beautiful places, there’s bound to be someplace nearby to stop and have a few quiet, special moments, or even a mini-adventure.

Not far from the center of town in the historic village of Bedford grows the mighty Bedford Oak.  This wondrous tree first sprouted up out of the ground over 500 years ago. Before our lovely Westchester was a county – before New York was a state – before The United States was even a country – this tree started it’s journey. Continue reading