By ANASTASIA MILLS HEALY
Kids under foot? Bookmark these suggestions for driving distance destinations the next time you need indoor activity inspiration. You’ll always have a response to “I’m bored!”
A half hour from Greenwich, the sprawling Ridge Hill Shopping Center (ridgehill.com) in Yonkers, NY can easily occupy kids for an entire day. There’s a multiplex with the hottest movies and a playground near the Cheesecake Factory; but what really makes the outing special are the rides and activities at the LEGOLAND® Discovery Center and the opportunity to catch air at iFLY.
Geared to kids under ten, LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester has two rides, a 4D movie, and a two-story, 2,300-square-foot interactive play area called LEGO® Ninjago City Adventure with more than 20 interactive features. The 4D movie opening in April is LEGO® NINJAGO®: Master of the 4th Dimension. Shows are Friday, April 13 and Saturday-Sunday, April 14-15 and 21-22; the movie and all attractions are included in the ticket price. To celebrate the movie’s release, there will be a ninja-themed MINILAND scavenger hunt, build activities, and giveaways. Book online for savings; purchase timed tickets for as early in the day as you can to avoid crowds.
Kids as young as three – and people of all ages and abilities — can suit up and fly in a vertical wind tunnel at iFLY. Allot two hours for training; donning a flight suit, helmet, and goggles; and observing others fly until it’s your turn for 60 seconds of indoor skydiving.
Will you be in the 20 percent of players who Escape the Room? Teams of up to eight people are locked in a room in Scarsdale and given exactly 60 minutes to work together to solve puzzles and riddles, deciphering planted clues. Kids eight and up can play; an adult needs to be with every group.
Your whole family can channel their inner Dale Earnhardt Jrs and Danica Patricks at Grand Prix New York in Mt. Kisco. Drive state-of-the-art gasoline powered go karts that run on quarter-mile indoor tracks with decreasing radius turns and elevation changes to keep things exciting. There’s also a 6,000-square-foot arcade and 12 family bowling lanes.
There’s a great wooded ropes course in Bridgeport, Adventure Park at the Discovery Museum, but if the weather isn’t conducive to hours outside, there’s an alternative. The four-level aerial ropes course at Spins Hudson in Peekskill is both outside and indoors. For those who do not necessarily want to become America’s next ninja warrior, the 40,000-square-foot waterfront sports and entertainment complex also offers laser tag (children must be at least 42 inches tall and seven years old), bocce, shuffleboard, and an arcade.
An indoor rock climbing destination, The Cliffs has learn-to-climb packages for kids and families, open climbs with instructors on hand, and a Spring Break Camp April 2-6, 9:30 am-1:30 pm. They suggest climbing for kids five and older.
Manhattan / New Haven
A few blocks from Columbus Circle at 8th Avenue and 55th Street, a spy museum opened in February. Plan to spend two hours at Spyscape finding out what’s involved in espionage, testing spy skills, and learning about real life spies and their devices. Skyscape is not recommended for kids under five.
Don’t forget the all-day destination the American Museum of Natural History, or for a smaller version, the Yale Peabody Museum. A bonus of traveling to New Haven is the excuse to indulge at Pepe’s and Libby’s.
Who doesn’t love pandas? How about being overwhelmed by fuzzy black-and-white cuteness on an IMAX screen, following Qian Qian as she takes her first steps from China’s Chengdu Panda Research Base into the wild when Norwalk’s Maritime Aquarium opens “Pandas” April 6. The aquarium’s other IMAX movie, “Backyard Wilderness,” opens March 24 and was literally filmed in our backyard (Croton-on-Hudson). It shows how we often overlook suburban wildlife as its beauty is captured in rare intimacy by IMAX cameras. Feed seals, turtles, horseshoe crabs, rays, and sharks on April 12 from 8 to 10 am in a special behind-the-scenes program “Feeding Time!” The aquarium also has a full day Spring Vacation Camp April 9-13 for kids ages 6-12.
For more indoor fun, reserve one of the 38 lanes at Bowlmor Lanes Norwalk, which also has an arcade and laser tag.
If your kids are into pirates, take them to “How I Became a Pirate” April 15 at the Westport Playhouse. This musical is recommended for ages 4-10.
If you only have time for a quick overnight trip, here are some engaging options.
Did you know that Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain lived literally next door to each other in our state’s capital in grand old homes that have tours geared to kids? The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is offering its Family Tour daily April 7-15 at 1:30 pm (year round on Saturdays and Sundays). Accompany your kids ages 5-12 on a walk through her Victorian Gothic home learning how Stowe’s words (Uncle Tom’s Cabin) changed the world and how theirs can, too.
Samuel Clemens wrote Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer while living in the Mark Twain House. See where the magic happened and learn about his fascinating life on living history tours led by actors playing his butler, wife, etc. You get a few dollars off per ticket if you visit both houses.
Our state’s Met, the Wadsworth Atheneum has 50,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years and is free on the second Saturday of every month. There are three different family tours and a puppetry workshop on April 14.
Another enormous venue is the Connecticut Science Center a nine-story Cesar Pelli-designed museum featuring 165 hands-on exhibits and activities like a butterfly encounter and 3D movies. A spring vacation camp April 9-13 is for kids in grades 1-6.
There’s a lot to do in Hartford, so an overnight would be fun. The new boutique hotel The Goodwin has 124 rooms with 60 floor plans so a conversation with a reservationist is worth the time. It’s 2018 on the inside but 1881 on the outside, and has a fun bar (think adult snow cones) and Harlan Brasserie.
Mohegan Sun / Foxwoods
If you want to combine a little adult time with family time, choose Mohegan Sun as it has Kids Quest, a child care area where kids ages six weeks to 12 years can be entertained while you hit the tables, see a show, or simply dine in peace. However, drive the 20 minutes to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum at Foxwoods. Kids love walking through a realistically recreated village listening to an interactive guide. If you visit on a clear day, don’t miss taking the elevator to the observation tower for a view of the Foxwoods complex nestled in 2,000 acres of forest.
Brilliantly using technology, this fun, interactive attraction engages kids from toddlers to teens: You can put your name on a crayon wrapper, take a selfie with a 3D dragon you colored, teach a human size digital crayon how to dab, create melted crayon drip art, mold a crayon into a ring or a race car, make your drawing a puzzle, see your drawing projected on a wall, and more. There are 26 things to do on four floors, so no wonder people spend three or four hours here. Bonus: It’s in a pretty, walkable town just over the Pennsylvania border from New Jersey, halfway between NYC and Philly (1.5 hours from each), 2 hours from Greenwich. The Grand Eastonian Hotel is two blocks away.