Archive for the ‘Bristol’ Category

My surfboard on the sand

My surfboard on the sand

Ah, summer. Finally, we’re together again.

Although I do enjoy ice skating and skiing, for me, they just don’t compare to lying on a warm beach, swimming, and surfing. And in Rhode Island, we’re lucky to find everything we need to enjoy summer right here in the Ocean State.

This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather a list of ten of my favorite ways to spend a day during the summer in Rhode Island. I’d love to hear yours too, so post in the comments below!

1.  Surf, Beach, and Mini-Amusement Park in Narragansett

Photo by Dee and Tula Monstah.

Narragansett Town Beach. Photo: Dee and Tula Monstah.

For more low-key (read: novice) surfers like myself, Narragansett Town Beach generally offers small (one to three foot) waves, and the water tends to be freer of seaweed than some other local surf beaches. You can set up a surf lesson in Narragansett or rent a board with Warm Winds Surf Shop or Narragansett Surf & Skate, or just head out with your own board. The beach is separated by a surf side and a swim side, so if you’re only up for swimming, you can head to the other side of the beach. Note that Narragansett Town Beach has a fee both for parking and for entrance on the beach.

Prepare to get wet on the bumper boats...

The bumper boats at Adventureland.

For lunch, I love Crazy Burger, which has a great selection of burgers, salads and sandwiches for vegetarians and omnivores alike.

If that’s not enough action for the day, then we’ll stop at Adventureland, a miniature amusement park with a carousel, bumper boats and a kids’ raceway.

We usually like to pick up some local seafood at Champlin’s to cook at home later (likely stopping for some ice cream at the Sweet Spot while we’re there), and picking up some local corn at Sunsets Farm on the way home.

2. Bike Ride and Lunch Along the Bay

Stopping along the East Bay  Bike Path.

Stopping along the East Bay Bike Path.

If it’s not too hot, one of my favorite things to do is take a bike ride along the East Bay Bike Path, which follows the coastline of the bay between East Providence down to Bristol, Rhode Island. The ride isn’t terribly hilly, and it’s so peaceful to ride along the water.

I like to stop along the way at the Audubon Society in Bristol to explore their outdoor grounds or indoor museum.

A cup of coffee chip at Gray's Ice Cream.

A cup of coffee chip at Gray’s Ice Cream.

Although the food is underwhelming, it’s hard to beat the view at Agave in Bristol. Save room for ice cream at Gray’s Ice Cream, which is one of my favorites.

3. Rocky Coast Hike and View of the Bay in Jamestown

The view from Fort Wetherill State Park in Jamestown.

The view from Fort Wetherill State Park.

When I’m up for a more adventurous activity, I love to hike up Fort Wetherill in Jamestown. It’s a fairly easy walk, even with children, and the views of Narragansett Bay are fantastic. If you think ahead, you can pack a picnic lunch. Or, you can make your way into the town of Jamestown to pick a spot along the water.

There’s also the Jamestown Community Playground for kids that need to let off steam before or after their meal.

4. Beach, Boats, Kites and Seafood in Newport and Middletown

Second Beach in Middletown, RI.

Second Beach in Middletown, RI.

I usually skip Newport’s Easton’s Beach (“First Beach”) in Newport, and head to Sachuest Beach (“Second Beach”) in Middletown, Rhode Island. The water tends to be freer of seaweed, although the seagulls remain as aggressive as ever here, which is why I don’t recommend lunch on the beach. Plus, who needs lunch when you can go straight from the beach to Frosty Freez for delicious soft-serve.

Kite flying in Brenton State Park along the water in Newport.

Kite flying in Brenton State Park along the water in Newport.

We always like to try to make time to take a drive along the coast on Ocean Drive, stopping at Brenton Point State Park, which typically makes for a great kite-flying spot.

We’ve also spent many pleasant hours over the years in the rental boats available at Sail Newport in Fort Adams State Park.

For dinner, I usually head to Flo’s Clam Shack for my favorite lobster roll and clamcakes. Or if I’m in the mood for a more relaxing sit-down dinner, then I head to  Scales & Shells for local seafood or Mamma Luisa for homemade Italian, both favorites that have stood the test of time.

5. Pool, Cake and a Drive-in Movie

Pool-time.

Pool-time.

Although I do love the ocean, swimming in a pool can often be much easier–no waves and sea creatures to contend with.

If you don’t have access to a pool, see if you can find a friend and get invited by someone with a membership to one (guest fees tend to be about $5-10 per person at local clubs).

Wrights Dairy Farm

Wrights Dairy Farm

After swimming (I like to do laps), I like a treat (shocking, I know). Depending on where I am, I might drive to Eskimo King.

Another one of my favorites is an excursion to Wrights Dairy Farm for some coffee milk and strawberry shortcake.

And what better way to finish a summer evening than with an outdoor movie at the Rustic Tri-View Drive-In?

6. Fishing, Baseball and Fireworks

I love to sit on the grassy field by the outfield at McCoy Stadium.

I love to sit on the grassy field by the outfield at McCoy Stadium.

What could be more American? Start with fishing and a ride on the carousel at Slater Memorial Park.

Then head to a Paw Sox game at McCoy Stadium, where you can grab some beers and a Super Pretzel, some shelled peanuts, or hot dog, and spread out on the lawn to watch the game. If you pick a night with fireworks after, then you can end the night with a close-up show.

7. Beach, Cocktails and Oysters

One of my favorite state beaches is East Matunuck Beach–it’s a bit rockier than some, but it’s has a great atmosphere for children. Plus, you can eat at the waterfront Matunuck Oyster Bar before or after. Am I the only one who finds the beach makes them hungry?

If I’m looking for a more lively beach day, I might head down to Misquamicut Beach in Westerly, RI and have cocktails and lunch at The Andrea’s newly restored bar, right on the beach.

8. An All-Providence Summer Day

Breakfast sandwich from Pat's Pastured.

Breakfast sandwich from Pat’s Pastured.

On Saturday mornings, you’ll typically find us at the Hope Street Farmers’ Market in Lippitt Park, Providence. There are dozens of farm vendors from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and throughout the summer, the produce increases in variety. You’ll also find the Pat’s Pastured Pork stand for breakfast sandwiches, or Tallulah Tacos for lunch. There’s even a series of local craft vendors if you want to do additional shopping.

DePasquale Square on Atwells Ave.

DePasquale Square on Atwells Ave.

On other days of the week, I might head to Venda Ravioli, where you can eat outside in DePasquale Square on Atwells Avenue.

You might not think of the zoo as too appealing on a hot summer day, but the Roger Williams Park Zoo now has Hasbro’s Big Backyard with sprinklers and water play for the kids (and I suppose, over-heated adults). Don’t forget to squeeze in a few minutes to see some elephants, giraffes and gorillas while you’re there.

Sparks fly on a windy night.

Sparks fly on a windy night.

Then, it’s hard to deny the tourist appeal of Providence’s Waterfire. It was the first event that brought us into Providence before we moved here, and its success has led to its adoption in other small cities. It’s one of the only times you’ll see actual traffic in downtown Providence, as a novelty, I appreciate it, especially since I don’t have to drive.

In my ideal day, I’d begin with watching them light the fires, then enjoy a meal at Figidini or Gracie’s, and finish off with a concert at Lupo’s.

9. Berry Picking and Wine Tasting on Aquidneck Island

Newport Vineyards tables overlooking the grapevines.

Newport Vineyards tables overlooking the grapevines.

When I get sick of the beach (it takes a lot of beach days in a row for this to happen), I love going to Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown for berry picking. They also have a small gourmet grocery shop with other tasty treats.

Then, I’d enjoy a relaxing snack and glass of wine at Newport Vineyards at their outdoor seating overlooking their rows of grapevines.

10. Biking and Surfing on Block Island

Ok, this one is actually on my ‘to do’ list.

It’s a bit absurd to admit, but even after living in Providence several years, I have failed to make the short ferry ride to Block Island. But I’m determined that this will be the year.

List of Places Mentioned (without links):

Narragansett Town Beach
39 Boston Neck Rd.
Narragansett, RI
www.narragansettri.gov

Crazy Burger
144 Boon St.
Narragansett, RI
www.crazyburger.com

Sunsets Farm
www.farmfresh.org

Audubon Society of RI
1401 Hope St
Bristol, RI
www.asri.org

Agave
805 Hope Street
Bristol, RI
www.agavebristol.com

Jamestown Community Playground
41 Conanicus Ave.
Jamestown, RI

Sachuest Beach
474 Sachuest Point Rd.
Middletown, RI
www.visitrhodeisland.com

Brenton Point State Park
Ocean Drive
Newport, RI
www.riparks.com

Sail Newport
60 Fort Adams Dr.
Newport, RI
www.sailnewport.org

Scales & Shells
527 Thames St.
Newport, RI
www.scalesandshells.com

Mamma Luisa
673 Thames St.
Newport, RI
www.mammaluisa.com

The Andrea
89 Atlantic Ave.
Westerly, RI
www.andreabeachbar.com

Hope Street Farmers’ Market
Lippitt Park
1059 Hope Street
Providence, RI
www.farmfresh.org

Venda Ravioli
265 Atwells Ave.
Providence, RI
www.vendaravioli.com

Gracie’s
194 Washington St.
Providence, RI
www.graciesprov.com

Lupo’s
79 Washington St.
Providence, RI
www.lupos.com

Newport Vineyards
909 E Main Rd.
Middletown, RI
www.newportvineyards.com

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Geoff and I both grew up with the tradition of Christmas and have continued it with our girls despite the fact that we are not religious. Although our daughters know that Santa Claus isn’t real, we all love pretending during the holiday season. Here are some ways we’ve celebrated Christmas in Rhode Island…

1. Pick Your Own Christmas Tree

It’s the ultimate ‘paper versus plastic’ debate — we’ve chosen a real tree because ultimately it’s more sustainable (another tree can be grown) and so much more festive to have the smell of pine in the air. This year, we once again got our tree from Lockwood Tree Farm. Trees get collected after the holidays in Providence — don’t make the mistake of one over-eager dad who tried to burn his tree in the fireplace and nearly set his house on fire.

2. ‘Christmas’ Waterfire

Tonight (December 13), there will be a special (and as always, free) WaterFire lighting to enjoy. It really is much warmer by the glowing fires, although you’ll still need a coat, and a hat, and gloves, and a scarf.

3. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

The Providence Ballet also will put on a performance tonight (December 13) at Rhode Island College of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

4. Christmas at a Mansion

Somehow seeing someone else’s house decked out in holiday spirit can be as satisfying (and a lot easier) than your own. Christmas at The Newport Mansions continues through January 5. I personally love to visit Blithewold, a 45-room English style manor house adorned with holiday decorations. Don’t forget to stop in the Carriage House where the “Gingerbread Wonderland” features mini-gingerbread houses of all styles made by area children. And right in Providence, you can visit the John Brown House Museum‘s Home for the Holidays.

5. A Christmas Carol

The Trinity Repertory Theater has certainly perfected its performance of the classic Dickens tale. The show has moments that can be scarier for children, although of course we were brave (or stupid) enough to bring our two-year-old one year. Let’s just say, it was a good thing we packed plenty of lollipops. Anyway, the show kept all of us mesmerized. I also recently discovered there’s another production of A Christmas Carol featuring Big Nazo puppets, which is definitely on my list to check out.

6. The Nutcracker

Festival Ballet's Nutcracker

Festival Ballet’s Nutcracker

Festival Ballet puts on a stellar performance of The Nutcracker at the Providence Performing Arts Center. For next year, you might also consider the Island Moving Co.‘s performance at one of the Newport Mansions, Rosecliff.

7. Gingerbread Houses and Holiday Cookies

Of course, a great way to celebrate is to make your own or build a gingerbread house (or village as the girls did this year) at home. There are also several decorating events and contests (everything’s a contest apparently) throughout the state. Check out the Decorate Your Own Gingerbread Man event on December 21, 2013 at the Smith-Abbleby House Museum in Smithfield, RI. The Ocean House in Westerly also hosts a Gingerbread Village Competition and Reception on December 16, 2013.

8. Ski, Skate and Sled

There are plenty of indoor and outdoor skating options throughout the state, including the Kennedy Plaza rink in Providence. If we actually get enough snow, you’ll probably find us sledding on the East Side. We still haven’t been, but there’s kid-friendly skiing in Yawgoo Valley Ski and Sports Area in Exeter, RI.

9. Shop Local

Two years ago, I came up with a list of great places to shop locally for children’s gifts. There are also guides to Shop Downcity and the Shops at Hope Street, which includes stores like Kreatelier which has wonderful hand-made items for adults and children.

While you’re shopping, get into the spirit by donating gifts at any one of the local toy drives: Children’s Friend or Toys for Tots (Whisky Republic in Providence is accepting gift donations today December 13), for instance.

10. Holiday Pops

Last but not least, tonight the Boston Pops comes down to Providence Performing Arts Center for a special local performance. We went years ago without children when we were living in Boston. I think older children (especially aspiring musicians) certainly would appreciate the performance.

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Getting ready for a ride on the trailer bike.

As you may have guessed from the ratio of blog posts on restaurants versus sports and recreation, we are not the most athletic of families. But inspired by a recent “bike to school” day, we decided to purchase a trailer bike, which enables our 5-year-old to feel like she’s riding a regular bike (and can even help peddle) but leaves the steering and the braking to the adult rider.

Early Sunday morning, we loaded the bikes on the car rack, ate some oatmeal while wearing our helmets (I’m not kidding, although our 18-month-old Lucy refused to wear hers), and then drove to Warren to park the car and get on our bikes. Of course, you can bike fairly easily to the path from Providence, but we wanted to make our first family ride low-stress by starting directly on the path itself.

There was just one small problem, and her name was Lucy. She screamed, kicked and swung her arms as Geoff attempted to get her into the baby seat on the back of his bike. I didn’t have any more luck than he when I tried, although as it turned out I had less sympathy. Determined to at least attempt a ride on the path, I wrestled her into the seat, got on Geoff’s bike, and rode around the parking lot — and incredibly, she quieted down. So we decided we would switch bikes for this ride — I’d ride Geoff’s and he’d ride mine. More screaming as we strapped on her helmet and locked down her feet,  but again once we started riding, there was complete silence.

After our ride on the East Bay Bike Path.

We kept our first attempt short, but it was nonetheless a peaceful and scenic ride along the water — we started in Warren and rode into Bristol and then headed back. It wasn’t until I was writing this that I learned that the East Bay Bike Path is just one of the paths in the East Coast Greenway’s plan to “create a contiguous bike path from Maine to Florida”. Well, we’re not quite ready for that yet, but you never know…

Greenways Alliance of RI
www.rigreenways.org

East Coast Greenway, RI
www.greenway.org/ri.aspx

East Bay Greenway map in RI
http://www.greenway.org/pdf/RI.pdf

East Providence Bicycle
414 Warren Ave.
East Providence, RI
http://eastprovidencecycle.com/

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Plouf Plouf Gastronomie parked on Thayer Street in Providence.

Roast chicken with mushrooms.

Here in Providence, we’ve come to expect the gourmet hot dog and cupcake from our food trucks, but fine French dining? That I didn’t see coming.

Chef Mario Molliere has worked at a three Michelin starred restaurant, and now he’s here in Rhode Island in his new digs — the Plouf Plouf Gastronomie truck. Dishes range from $5-15, more than most food trucks, but then again, you don’t normally get escargots,  duck confit, and crème brûlée from one.

They’ve been operating only a few weeks, but we’ve already been several times. As it turns out, fine French dining and a screaming, running eighteen-month-old normally don’t mix well — but Plouf Plouf Gastronomie has changed all that. On my last visit, I opted for the goat cheese and beet salad, followed by poulet rôti with mushrooms and a side of pomme frites, and finished off with the chocolate mousse. It doesn’t get much better than this.

I haven’t been down to Bristol yet to taste their homemade morning croissants, but clearly it’s on my list.

Beet and goat cheese salad.

Plouf Plouf Gastronomie
Follow them on Twitter to find out location
www.ploufploufgastronomie.com

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Breakfast on the fire consists of jonnycakes made with molasses and farm fresh milk.

It may seem absurd to wake your kid up early on a Saturday morning for morning chores, but we did exactly that this past weekend in order to visit Coggeshall Farm for their Breakfast in the Barnyard program.

Starting at 8 am, our Early American costumed hosts selected volunteers to carry a basket of corn husks, a container for milking and and a basket for vegetables.  We then headed to the garden to collect some rotted vegetables to feed the swine (unnamed, but you can call her bacon).  We watched the cow get milked, met her new calf (which the cow seemed a bit touchy about), let the sheep out to graze, saw a chicken find food for her baby chicks, and brushed the cattle. And all the while, we learned about customs of the late 1700s and life on a heritage farm.

A calf drinks from its mother while the sheep graze on the field at Coggeshall Farm.

We then headed into the original 18th century farmhouse to wash up and sit down for a breakfast of old-fashioned jonnycakes, some fruit and apple cider.

It certainly was the best time I ever had doing chores, and Madeline loved it even if she did spend most of the time there wearing her pajamas.

Coggeshall Farm Museum
Breakfast in the Barnyard takes place Saturdays August 21, 28 and September 4, 11, and 25
Poppasquash Road
Bristol, RI 02809
(401) 253-9062
www.coggeshallfarm.org

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A cup of coffee chip at Gray's Ice Cream.

After last fall’s botched attempt to try Gray’s Ice Cream, I decided to give it another try this spring. Their Bristol location officially opened for the season on May 8, and I arrived the next day despite the cold and windy weather. I had to sit in my car waiting for them to open for the day, since apparently they don’t expect people to want ice cream before noon.

I tried their chocolate, which was quite tasty — more of a light malt chocolate than a rich dark flavor. But I ultimately opted for their coffee chip since the coffee is their specialty, along with a scoop of regular chocolate chip for comparison. The woman working there told me they had just brought in the batch of coffee chip that day, and you could tell — the texture was perfectly soft and creamy. I guess ice cream is more like bagels than I thought — the fresher, the better. The chocolate chip was fine, but nothing special. Overall, it’s no Handel’s, but it’s a much shorter drive to Bristol than Ohio, and that’s not to be overlooked.

Gray’s Ice Cream
16 East Road
Tiverton, RI 02878

259 Thames Street
Bristol, RI 02809

www.graysicecream.com

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My personal favorite in this year's Gingerbread Wonderland -- "Guatamala" by Brianna Ritoli.

If over a foot of snow isn’t enough to put you in the ‘Christmas spirit’ then you might need to take a trip to Blithewold. The 45-room English style manor house is decked out with shimmering lights and wintery decorations for their annual event Christmas at Blithewold. The front door opens onto their 18-foot “Big Tree” decorated with their theme for the year — Fairy Tales and Fantasies. Each room has its own theme such as The Night Before Christmas, The Owl and The Pussycat and Frosty the Snowman and remains roped off (elegantly with ribbon) so you can peek in. Of course, Madeline simply slid right underneath it, but I grabbed her in time, so the displays remain intact. Don’t forget to stop in the Carriage House on your way out where the “Gingerbread Wonderland” features mini-gingerbread houses of all styles made by area children. And keep your kids from eating the candy — if I can do it, anyone can.

A scene from the classic 1950s Frosty the Snowman decorates the nursery.

Christmas at Blithewold
Through Sunday, January 03, 2010
101 Ferry Road (Rt. 114)
Bristol, RI
www.blithewold.org

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