Monday, July 13, 2015

Lake Compounce Family Day

We went to Lake Compounce for the first time last year on Fathers Day. After spending the day there and seeing how much the park had to offer families with kids of all ages, we bought seasons passes. Its located in Bristol CT, so not too long of a drive. You can upgrade your day tickets to season passes at the end of the day, which is nice. If you go twice, it pays for itself. 

This year we got a couple extra weeks on our season and went at the end of May for my daughter's birthday. Even with bringing her friend, it was still cheaper then any birthday party. And less stressful. 

The kids have a great time. And I won't lie, my husband and I enjoy the water slides and rides as much as the kids do. There are several pools with activities for smaller children in the main area, including a Pirate Ship with a tipping bucket and slides, a wave pool, some beginner slides, a kiddie pool for the really young ones with baby swings and slides, and a lazy river with an optional slide. Super fun. If you walk to the newer area, there are 4 racer slides and a big wave pool. Also there is a family restroom on this side of the park, which is always clean and vacant, so we always change into or out of our swimming gear there. 

You can pack a lunch and eat in any of the many seating areas, or get your grub at a variety of places, including Johnny Rockets, Pinks Hotdog Stand, Croc Pot, a pizza place or a 50's style diner. Just note that there are very few healthy options and all the main places close a couple hours before the park does. If you wait too long, you'll end up having fried dough for dinner. We usually eat at the Croc Pot and our family shares two entres with sides. Fried chicken, Mac and cheese, biscuits and home fries for $25 for 5. Or for about the same price you can get a large pizza. 

Once we're done with water rides, we head to the dry side of the park, usually starting in the kiddie area. It's just like a carnival except the rides are better and free with your admission fee. Kiddie coaster, caterpillar train, bumper cars, swings and Drop Zone, the kids love them all. New in 2015 is a walk through Dinosaur area, with some great photo ops. 

My 9 year old started going on the bigger rides last year. She went on Bolderdash with me, a long wooden coaster with plenty of sharp turns, bumps and drops. It was actually voted one of the best wooden coaster in the US. While we do a few of the more mature rides, my husband takes our 2 and 5 year old on their rides. There is something for everybody and we always look forward to a family day at Lake Compounce.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

York Beach, Maine

York Maine is just a 3 hour drive from where we live in CT. That's just long enough to feel like a getaway and about as long as my kids can handle in the car.  The fact that we reside in a small, New England Seaside town doesn't keep us from vacationing in other small, seaside towns.  In fact, I think we favor them because they feel so much like home: a quaint New England vibe, no strict schedules to follow, sandy toed by day and a cozy fireplace at night. 

We pulled into The Anchorage Inn and checked in. I had gotten a deal on Travel Zoo a few months back, so my vacation was already paid for. Gotta love that! We were booked in the Ocean Suites, and as we drove into our covered parking garage, we could see our pool and jacuzzi reserved for our building.

For the price we paid, my husband was expecting our room to have that run-down look and feel that some of the older beach-side accommodations sometimes have. This was not the case.  I do not lie when I tell you that this was one of the nicest rooms we've ever stayed in, budget conscience that we are.  We entered a beautiful suite with two queen beds, adorned with more pillows then a family of 5 could need, a living area with fireplace, pull-out couch, and kitchenette. And the bathroom! Radiant heat in the floors, perfect for feet getting out of the huge jetted soaking tub. From the living area of our room a set of sliding doors went out onto a balcony overlooking the ocean.  We had breakfast on that balcony every morning, soaking in the view. What more do you need on a family vacation?

I loved how the beach roses lined the pebbled beach and perfumed the salty air. I loved watching the waves tease the sandy shore, playing games with young children who delight in being "caught" by the refreshing, salty water kissing their toes.  

Families with strollers packed to the brim with beach toys, towels and coolers shuffle across the street from The anchorage Inn, young ones in tow, ready for a day in the sun. And we were among them.
 After a dip in the pool, we ventured across the street as well, with not quite as much gear. Some towels, sand toys, and snacks, was all we would need.  After a few hours of wave chasing and Sand City building, the kids declared their hunger. Conveniently located right on the beach is Sun and Surf Restraunt. My two little ones shared a bowl of clam chowder (money saving on vacay!), my oldest had the chicken Caesar wrap, I had the grilled swordfish, and my husband had the soft shell crab sandwich. It was seaside scrumptious! I restrained myself from getting a fancy cocktail, so with all of us getting waters, and our 20% discount we got from our hotel, our bill was under $40. 

After the kids had a swim in the soaking tub, we took ourselves on a little self-guided tour of the town, in search of ice cream and whatever other adventures we might find. 

Nubble Light is a lighthouse about 3 miles from The Anchorage Inn (too far to walk with 3 small kids). We drove there at sunset and the kids had a grand time climbing the sea-splashed rocks that posed as a viewing grounds for us and many other light-lookers. As with all other tourist attractions, there is a gift shop on site. Although as a general budgeting rule, we don't do gift shops. There was a restaurant right there with both a take out window and also a sit-down service, and yes, they had ice-cream. Right around the corner was another ice-cream place. 

The next day was a rainy one, so after swimming in the in-door pool, we headed out of York and drove about an hour to Portland Maine to check out their Children's Museum. It was $9.00 per person (they charged for adults too) and had a few exhibits for older children, but  mostly it was fun for my 2 and 5 year old. After that, we ventured off for another hour longish car ride, to the Freeport outlets, specifically to get the kids backpacks at LL Bean. 

Back in York that evening, the clouds had parted, revealing  a beautiful sunset. We got take out at Lobster Pound, satisfying my husband's craving for Maine Lobster. We also discovered a huge playground located right on the beach, just on the other side of town. 

Our last night in York we walked to Stones Throw, a more gourmet style restaurant with an intriguing menu. We chose outdoor seating and started with mussels in a coconut Thai sauce and calamari. My husband ordered the blueberry beer and I had the Sangria. If you're a beer lover, this place had a long list of craft beers on tap. My adventurous 9 year old order the lobster roll, I had the lobster and feta flatbread, and my husband got the Tuna. I ordered kids meals for the younger two, but the grilled cheese was on thick slices of bread and the chicken tenders (though absolutely moist and delicious) were not familiar enough for my kids to eat. So we ate their leftover food the next day. That's the only thing with eating out with kids. I always feel like it's such a waste of money when they don't eat the food. Obviously that meal was a big splurge for us, ringing in at $130. However, we had saved money by going to a local grocery store and eating lunch, snacks and breakfast in our room. Its nice to treat yourself to a fancy meal once in a while. I would want to go back to Stones Throw, if we go back to York, as there are many more things on the menu that I wanted to try. 

All vacations must come to an end. But I always leave one with plans of future vacations on my mind. When I checked out, I asked how much our room would be if we were to go back in July. I was told $500 per night. I had paid $130 per night through TravelZoo! So I'll be on the lookout for another great deal!
An artisan eatery. Would be great for a date night. 
Wild Blueberry Sangria and Blueberry Beer. 
Beach roses. 

Lobster Pound Restaurant. A great place to eat lobster and chowder while watching the sunset. There's also a campground across the street. 

LL Bean anniversary boot!

Portland Children's Museum. 

Fancy vanity at The Anchorage Inn
Spa tub
Living area, pull out sofa bed. 
Cozy fireplace
Our view.