Thursday, July 15, 2010

Playgound Camp Rules!

Back in March, while my wife and I were away for the weekend, my mother was nice enough to stand in line early Saturday morning to sign up my boys for the summer camps offered thorough the town.  We looked at summer camps last year but decided to skip the town programs as our youngest missed the cut off age and we didn't want to send them two places.

This year we were excited to try out these programs, both boys would have a chance to meet more local friends and we expected a great program from the town.  The Playgound Camp is definitely a win.

I honestly didn't expect much from the camp, maybe some organized games, time to run around on the playground...overall just activity for the three hours each morning.  As I said the biggest reason for us participating in the camp was for my oldest to meet new friends.  He starts at Fales in the Fall so it was a perfect match.  We also intentionally separated them so they couldn't rely on each other to play with and met new friends.   This program has definitely exceeded my expectations and I am so happy to have the boys in it.  Here are some reason:
  • Fun - The counselors seem great, they are engaged with the kids, there are activities each day and both of my boys are excited to go in the morning and eager to talk about all the fun they had when they come home.  When I drop them off they seem excited to see him and interact.
  • Organized - I am confident the kids are being watched.  There are plenty of counselors and they are very organized, knowing who is there, what the kids are doing.  As a parent it is nice when you can walk away and have confidence that your children are being watched.
  • More then Just Play - The other two points are important but a little expected.  This it what really puts it over the top for me, the camp is much more then just playing on the playground.  On Wednesday this week there was a talent show.  My oldest talked about the night before and planned out a dance.  I wasn't sure if it was really a talent show or not, but on Wednesday I heard the full report of how he got up in front of everyone and did his dance.  1, awesome that it is something different. 2, even more awesome that they are encouraging the kids to be in front of an audience.  Every chance I get I put my kids in front of a crowd so they are less likely to be afraid of it later in life.  Capping off the week, they are doing tie dye.  I decided to send him with socks and a new pair of boxers.  Everyone gets to do shirts, this way he can have more fun things to wear.
If you missed this year I suggest you sign up early next year for playground camp.  Registration is usually in March and you can get details from the Recreation Department Website.  They claim to have a Facebook page, but it appears to just be a person.  Anyway, this program is worth the money and the kids will have a blast.  We have some other activities planned this summer with Westborough Recreation as well and I hope they are this great. 

I want to try other programs in the greater Boroughs...I am specifically looking at the Northborough Recreation Department.  I ended up on their mailing list and the number of programs and activities that they run is astounding.  And for the summer programs..."Non-residents are welcome to join any program at no additional fee!"  I enjoyed the big trucks earlier this spring and I am still looking at options from their brochure.  I will say the Northborough Recreation website is far better then Westborough's.  We should work on that.  :-)

Monday, July 12, 2010

A zoo of a day

My family and I returned from a fun filled vacation visiting family and friends to the lovely heat of the past weekend.  Since couldn't seem to decide if there would be thunderstorms until the last minute we were tentative on weekend plans.  But yesterday morning looked good enough for a trip to Southwick's Zoo.
I love zoo's.  As a parent it is wonderful to see a child's face when they see an elephant up close or have to arch their neck to see the head of a giraffe.  Each time the experience is the same, amazement at the size of the giant tortoise or the antics of the spider monkey as he climbs along the cage.  But children aren't the only ones who enjoy the zoo.  As an adult and even a teenager/college student, the zoo was and is always one of my favorite date options.  Dinner and a movie gets boring after a while, but a nice afternoon at a zoo is fun and sweet and lets you be a little more original.

There are several "zoo's" in our driving area.  From the Boroughs you can visit the Franklin Park and Stone zoos near and in Boston or see a few animals at the Ecotarium or Davis Farmland.  But to me, Southwick's is a gem...the perfect zoo for young and old.

I expect most of my readers have visited Southwick's already but I had such a great time today, I wanted to share some of the photos I have taken over the past couple of years and remind everyone what makes this zoo so spectacular:
  • Variety and Size - There are tons of animals at Southwick's, enough variety that I missed a few the first times I visited.  And I never feel like I am just seeing another enclosure with more goats or deer.
  • Walk-ability - There are two points for me on this one.  First, I don't want to feel like I have to hike a mile to get to the next animal.  Nor do I want to see animals living the way we pack into cities.  There needs to be enough space without requiring a driver.  Southwick's does a great job here, it is compact but somehow spacious.  Second, the heat.  Especially this weekend, or really any summer weekend it is hot outside.  Walking around in the blazing sun detracts from the zoo experience.  This is my biggest issue with the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston.  I am exhausted if it is a hot day.  If I want to bask in the sun, I will hit the beach.  Southwicks seems to be mostly shade.  I intentionally thought about this today and looked to see how much sun there was and I have to say at least 75% is shaded.  One caveat on this point...I was at Southwick's in April before the trees were fully grown and on that day it was very sunny.  Even Southwick's can't speed up leaf growth on deciduous trees.
  • Proximity to the Animals - Maybe it is the design of the enclosures or maybe Southwick's has more social animals, whatever it is I have always felt I can get the closest to the animals at Southwick's.  When I lived in Pittsburgh this was one of my major pet peeve's of the zoo there.  It always seemed the animals were so far away...even when they seemed close to the enclosure edge.
  • Continued Improvements - I have been to far too many zoos that have not changed in 10 or 15 years.  It definitely seems that Southwick's Zoo is working to make the park better and better.  One of the latest (opened late in 2008) additions is the SkyFari Sky Ride.  My boys are big enough to enjoy this chair ride through the park and it is a great experience.  For my kids...or even if I was on a date, I think it is worth the $5 ride price.
The only downside to Southwick's is the price.  For a family it is expensive, $18.75 for adults, $12.75 for kids 3 and up.  I can still pass my youngest (who is 3) as being "almost 3" but the cost still adds up.  Personally, I buy the 12 pack so all admissions are only $10.  In a year I will visit at least 3 or 4 times and if I see the end of the season in sight, I can invite friends so they only need to give me $10 per person.  There is also a AAA discount of $2.00 which you should take advantage of if the pack of passes is not an option.  If you are not a AAA member Southwick's offers a coupon themselves, just print it out - Southwick's $2 coupon

As I said I love a zoo, and Southwick's is my current favorite.  I am happy to have it so's just another reason the Boroughs is so great...location.   For those who love animals I included a link to the web album.  I hope you enjoy.