Kendra and I spent most of our school vacation week apart – she ran a poetry camp for middle and high school kids, while I took members of the high school Outdoor Adventure Club to western Massachusetts for a winter adventure. Though we both got lots of time with Addison, we had very little time for the three of us during the week. So, we had an awesome idea – we booked a hotel room in Boston for a mini stay-cation!
The day started off well. We dropped Kendra’s mom, Jane, off at the airport with no complications (sad to see her go, but that’s another blog post!), and then headed to the Appalachian Mountain Club to return the gear I’d borrowed for the kids. After that we made a beeline for the New England Aquarium for Addison’s first visit. We wanted to take advantage of the vacation week deal for teachers. By showing our school ID’s, we got in free! With Addie under 3, she also qualified for free admission. Since the price was right, we opted to spend $15 for IMAX tickets to see the Deep Sea 3D film during our visit.
On our way to the aquarium’s entrance, we stopped to watch the sea otters swimming in an outside tank. Addie was enthralled. Once we entered the building, things took a turn for the worse. – It. Was. Crowded. – Not a little crowded – but salmon swimming upstream crowded. Not to be deterred, we headed downstairs to look at the jellyfish. They were pretty neat – and we learned that they have control over each individual tentacle. Addie especially liked the ones that glowed under the black lights.
As we moved through the aquarium, it just got more crowded. School vacation week is clearly not the time for a visit. Throngs of teens, with eyes glued to their smartphones as they furiously tweeted and texted, almost ran Addie over on several occasions. It didn’t help that the main deep-sea tank is under renovation until summer, leaving the rest of the exhibits inordinately more crowded. After some stealth maneuvering, we managed to make our way to the blue penguins. We stood in line for five minutes for a 10 second look through the glass. From there, we spent a few minutes watching the seals play in their outdoor tank until moving inside to glimpse at the fish in the exhibits.
After pushing through a few more crowded exhibits, we called it quits and headed over to the IMAX theater for the Deep Sea 3D film. This was Addison’s first movie experience, and in hindsight, we realized going to a 3D film was probably not the wisest decision. She was very excited for the film, hopping right into the seat and putting on her 3D glasses. She munched some popcorn during the very realistic opening scene of floating jellyfish. Things were going well until about 5 minutes into the film when a large fish chomped a small fish. While the 8 year olds behind me were exclaiming, “cool!!!!” Addison was literally shaking. I scooped her onto my lap and asked her if she wanted to stay and watch the fish, or leave. Without any hesitation, she replied, “leave right now Mama!” So we did, taking about 10 minutes to sit outside the theater and decompress while we watched the boats floating in the harbor.
With a scared toddler, and feeling underwhelmed by the aquarium experience, we had our first epic fail of the day.
Though we had planned on checking in early to the hotel for Addison’s nap, we opted to go home instead. After she and Kendra awoke, we headed to exciting stay-cation activity number two – dinner at the Rainforest Cafe in Burlington, MA. We had reservations at 4:45, so we showed up ten minutes early so Addie could look at the mechanical butterflies and crocodile. We also looked at the fish, realizing that ironically we were seeing more fish here than at the aquarium.
Despite a large number of open tables, we weren’t seated until 5pm. It irks me when I make restaurant reservations and am seated more than five minutes after the reservation time. So far, I was unimpressed. After waiting for our host for another five minutes, we were finally seated after a long, winding walk through the tables as he tried to figure out where to put us. (We ended up next to a fish tank.)
Neither Kendra nor I found anything appealing on the menu, so we split nachos, and ordered Addie mac & cheese. The food was okay, but I was shocked when Addie was served her kids meal in a very hot, very breakable bowl, with a gigantic serving spoon. Not to mention, the noodles were huge. I cut them up for her, but she still struggled to fit even an edge of the gigantic spoon into her mouth. We ended with the volcano cake, a giant dessert of cake, ice-cream and cool whip. Not super tasty, and again, we all got giant spoons. For a kids’ restaurant, it was strange that they had no kid-sized utensils. Overall, the experience was lame, and Addie wasn’t overly enthused by the mechanical animals. Epic Fail number 2.
After dinner we decided to hit Barnes & Noble, a place we hold dear to our hearts after the refuge it provided during our cross-country road trip in 2011. I took Addie to the children’s section, and we came upon an ongoing story time event that featured several books by Laura Numeroff, including, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” A sweet older man was reading the books, while another person was dressed as the mouse in the books. Addie squeezed onto one of the wooden benches, listening intently to each story. In this small moment, we managed to salvage some of our day.
Our next stop was the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. We checked into our room and were dismayed to see they’d given us a double bed, rather than the queen we’d paid for… too tired to argue, we stayed put and set up Addison’s cot. She was so excited that she snuggled right under her blanket.
Sadly, that didn’t last for long. Despite reading every book we’d brought, including the new one she’d picked out at Barnes & Noble, Addie didn’t settle down to sleep. We are not used to her putting up a fight at bedtime – usually she’s asleep by 7pm. I ended up rubbing her back, and finally had the genius idea of using my iPhone as a sound machine which seemed to help her make the transition to sleep. At 9:30 she was finally snoring… and so was Kendra. With nothing else to do, I went to bed as well.
I wrongfully assumed that since Addie had gone to bed so late, she would get up late too. Oh, how wrong was I. At 4:45am, she was bright-eyed and ready to hit the town. She asked to crawl into bed with us, and in a moment of sheer exhaustion, I let her. Big mistake. She tossed, turned, stuck her legs into my back, and refused to fall back asleep. At 5:45am, we gave up hope of her settling back down and instead got ready for breakfast. At this point, Addie thought it would be a great idea to sing at the top of her lungs. We tried to get her to quiet down so as not to disturb everyone else on our floor, but she had other plans. After hastily dressing and packing, we managed to get into the lobby before anyone complained. (However, as annoyed as I was at her for waking us up so early, it was hard to stay irritated for long when she started dancing to the music in the lobby. She’s too darn cute!)
Though we thought a night out in a hotel would be a fun adventure for the three of us, it knocked Addie off her routine, and left us all sleep-deprived. Epic fail number three.
Desperate to salvage some of our stay-cation, we were determined to have a nice breakfast. Unfortunately, though the nightlife in Boston is certainly more exciting than in the suburbs, there are no places to eat at 6am. We were hoping to go to The Friendly Toast in Cambridge, but they didn’t open until 8am. Throwing in the towel, we left Boston and headed home to eat at one of our local favorite’s – Carleen’s in Lawrence, MA. With bellies full of french toast and sausage, we called an end to our stay-cation. Though not one of our more successful adventures, Addie did get to see some cool jellyfish and turtles, got a new book, and we all enjoyed being together, even if everything didn’t go quite as planned.