Tag: santa claus

Road Trippin’ – Winter Fun in Cooperstown, New York!

 

things to do in cooperstown ny winter

When I think of Cooperstown, New York, I think of one thing – baseball.  Similar to how Augusta, Georgia is revered by golf aficionados, baseball fans like yours truly hold Cooperstown in the highest esteem. As such, many people flock there in the summer, especially during the Hall of Fame induction festivities. However, being so closely tied to a summer pastime does pose an interesting  question- what the heck goes on in Cooperstown, after the bases are put away, and the diamonds are cleared up for the season? Fortunately for my family and I, we were able to find out the answer to that question, when my friends at This Is Cooperstown invited us down for a fun-filled almost winter weekend! Turns out there are plenty of things to do in Cooperstown in the winter!

Regular readers know that we love road trippin’, and Cooperstown was a perfect destination. To my fellow Canucks in the Hamilton/Toronto area – our drives there and back each took about five hours, with stops. Upon arrival, it becomes apparent quickly how unique a place Cooperstown is. It’s a small village, nestled at the end of a lake, basically. The downtown area has one stoplight. There’s only one grocery store in town. Main Street is lined with restaurants, shoppes and the Hall of Fame, but you can’t exactly drive very fast down it.  I kind of felt like that I was in Stars Hollow, actually, and expected to bump into Rory or Lorelai Gilmore at any time. I don’t mean that to throw shade; I love Gilmore Girls. I’m just sayin’, picture Stars Hollow with a baseball focus, and that’s Cooperstown.

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

This Joltin Joe Dimaggio song is now on my daughter’s playlist of favorite songs, no joke.

Most of that focus obviously is on the town’s biggest attraction, the Baseball Hall Of Fame. Things To Do in Cooperstown in the WinterAs someone who’s dreamed of strolling the hallowed halls since I was a lil dude, I was in heaven. The amount of history that it covers, and the items and memorabilia on display, is overwhelming, but in the best way possible.  Walking past the walls filled with the plaques of all of the inductees gave me goosies (word to Jennifer Lopez!).  Things To Do in Cooperstown in the WinterThe Hall does provide a scavenger hunt for children to do, with a prize given out, for completing it. B and J, to their credit, were determined to finish it, which was cool. The only thing was that they zipped through the place to find the answers, and didn’t really want to drink in the awesomeness of it all, which meant that I couldn’t either. I left thirsty (for more).  K thought that more interactive exhibits probably would have helped engage them better, which is probably true. Regardless, my family, who range in levels of baseball fandom, all enjoyed the Hall Of Fame to varying degrees, and it’s definitely THE must-see attraction, when in Cooperstown. Be sure to grab a bite at the iconic Doubleday Cafe, too, before or afterwards. Besides having delicious food with generous portions,  it’s like a two minute walk from the Hall, and there’s lots of interesting baseball memorabilia on display there, as well.

Along those lines, a visit to the Cooperstown Bat Company was also in the cards. They offer tours of their factory, including a bat turning demonstration. The people there were very friendly, knowledgeable and legit seemed to love their jobs. To be honest, my kids, while initially really into it, did get bored after a while.  Maybe just plan on a quick trip, if you go with little children.  However, it’s a fascinating place.  Don’t let the size of the facility fool you, too.  Their capabilities and clients are impressive.  One of the coolest things that they offer is a custom engraving service. A high quality wood bat with a name engraved on it makes a great souvenir.  Since they have an online store that ships all over, it makes a great gift, too, for Christmas!

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

Balancing bats on random things is fun!

Along those lines, the timing of our trip (late November) happened to coincide with some local holiday festivities. For example, we braved the cold one night to check out the Santa’s Arrival Parade. Main Street  was filled on both sides with families eagerly awaiting Santa’s appearance. Things To Do in Cooperstown in the WinterThere was a buzz in the air, as only St. Nick can create, among excited children.  Well, a buzz and a lot of chattering, too. From people’s teeth. For real, it was chilly!

Eventually, after the floats and performers and whatnot went by,  Mr. and Mrs. Claus arrived with their ‘reindeer”, police escort in tow, like they were rock stars or something. They set up shop in a park on Main Street, which had been transformed into a Christmas village. Kids then lined up to meet them, which was a nice touch, different from other parades that we’ve been to. Anyway, it was nice to see the community come out, to interact and enjoy the event. I really felt at home there, and not like a tourist.

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

 

Also on our agenda was an adventure on The Santa Express, courtesy of the Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley Railroad.  Train cars were decorated on the inside and outside with a holiday theme. While on board, we went for a slow, relaxing, heated ride along the tracks, while enjoying goodies and Christmas music. The highlight, of course, was an appearance from Santa and Mrs. Claus. They had gifts for each of the kids on board, and handed them out to everyone, by name. B and J couldn’t believe it, when they received a couple of toys on their wish lists.  The magic of Christmas, I tell ya.

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

 

Along those lines, we were magically transported back in time, while in Cooperstown, too! Well, not really, but we did venture out to the Farmer’s Museum, to see what life what life was like 100+ years ago. Things To Do in Cooperstown in the WinterCooperstown in general has a throwback, old-school vibe to it, especially in terms of the architecture, but the Museum takes it up a notch. Past the main barn (which had various interactive exhibits and displays in it) was a historic village. It was comprised of buildings and characters which would have been common in the 18th and 19th centuries, like a school house (with a teacher) and a tavern/hotel.  There’s also a farmstead on site.  My kids’ favorite part, though, was the Empire State Carousel, a retro merry go round.

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

Alright. Maybe it was my fav part, too.

Along those lines, my family LOVED our accommodations for the weekend! We stayed at the Oneida Lodge North, courtesy of CooperstownLuxury.com.  This was basically the most spectacular cottage that I’ve ever seen. The lodge was multi-levels,  featuring a beautiful, intricately designed staircase that wrapped around a pine tree.   It was huge and spacious, too, which meant that the kids had lots of room to run around acting lit, or in B’s case,  to work on his Fortnite dance moves. I tried to play hide and seek with B and J at one point, but I gave up after one round, in trying to find them. The place was that big.   It’s also located on a lake, with access to a boat house, and a dock. In the summer, it would be dope. However, even during a frosty November weekend, it was still fun.  There was a games room, loaded with board games, and plenty of flat screen TVs throughout. Fireplaces, too, if you want to level up the cozy factor.

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

With lots of windows and balconies, the views were outstanding, and peaceful. Nature rules!

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

The kitchen was well stocked with utensils, and lots of modern appliances, including a dishwasher. No paper plates and plastic spoons for us. Everything about the lodge that I could see was high quality, made with a fine attention to details. Things To Do in Cooperstown in the WinterThe owners and staff were even nice and responsive.  They were in communication our whole time, making sure things were going well.  Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter If you’re planning on staying with a large group of people, this is a great option, too, as our lodge could sleep 10, with bedrooms that were very roomy.  Seriously, if want to treat yourself to something a bit different and more secluded than a regular hotel, I can’t recommend staying at a CooperstownLuxury.com property enough.

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

 

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

So there you have it. After spending three days in Cooperstown, I think that the question has been answered. What goes on there, after the baseball season has ended?

A lot of fun stuff still, that’s what.

Until the next one, peace!

 

Disclaimer:  while we received complimentary accommodations and tickets/passes to various attractions, thoughts/opinions expressed are 100% my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Role Modelz

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a few brushes with fame in my life. Of these celebrity encounters, one has always stuck with me, though.

At a 1994 FIBA World Basketball Championship game, when I was a kid, NBA star Toni Kukoc happened to be in the stands. This totally got me starstruck.  People were coming up to him in his seat, between breaks, so figured I’d ask him for an autograph, too.  I remember being super nervous as I got closer and closer to him. When I did get near, I didn’t get a chance to speak, unfortunately. Mr Kukoc, without looking at me, said “Get out of my face.” I couldn’t believe it…..but he then said it again! The dude he was with also told me to go away, which I quickly did.  Once the shock wore off, I can’t say that I was really upset about the incident. It was more of a disappointed, angry feeling.  However, because of that one moment, in my opinion, Mr. Kukoc (who may be a swell guy, to others) was, and always will be, a jerk.

 

Let’s now talk about the other day, when like father, like son, B had a similar  “celebrity” encounter.

It happened at a Toronto Raptors 905 NBA G-League game. B was there with his basketball teammates and their parents, which included yours truly. Midway through the game, a bunch of them noticed Fred VanVleet, point guard for the Toronto Raptors, was also in attendance. Like any 8-10 year old hoops fans, they were excited about seeing a real life NBA player. So, at halftime, one of the other dads in our group took the boys down, to meet Mr. VanVleet, and get autographs.

Now, to be fair, I didn’t see what exactly happened next. I can only go by what B and the other parents told me.  I saw the group down near where Mr. VanVleet was, and then I looked away for a bit. When I looked back, I saw the group walking towards our section, with a bunch of disappointed faces. From what I was told, Mr. VanVleet saw the team approaching, and legit turned his back on them to talk to someone else instead. A 905 representative came over as well, to tell the boys that Fred VanVleet “wasn’t available”. I guess the optics of it were savage, as one of the dads got really worked up when he saw the incident occur.

Now look, there are always two sides to every story.  For all we know, Mr. VanVleet was having a bad day, and is normally very accommodating to his young fans. It could have been a case of bad timing and miscommunication. He could possibly have been sick, and didn’t want to infect the boys with his illness. Or, maybe, he just wanted to enjoy the game, without having to interact with the general public.  In any event, why he wouldn’t be more appreciative to the ones who put him on a pedestal so he can make a comfortable living playing a freaking game?

I understand that, in our culture, we tend to idolize, romanticize and build up celebrities. Shoot, I remember last year, when B and I went to a 905 game, Mr. VanVleet was on that team, as just another guy. I don’t think he had many people looking to take selfies or get an autograph then. To go from there, to now playing a regular role on one of the best teams in the NBA, well, I’m sure a lot of stuff comes with that. It’s just like if anybody in any job works their way up to become successful. You hope that they remain decently humble and stuff doesn’t go to their head, but that’s not always the case.

Yet, who are we to judge, if the celebrities we make role models turn out not to be who we thought they were? They’re  human beings, too. They don’t owe us anything. If they want to turn their back to ignore a group of kids, in spite of how bad it might reflect on them and their employer, it’s their choice, right? Like Charles Barkley said back in the day – just because someone can dunk a basketball shouldn’t make them a role model. Just because someone played a hero in a movie doesn’t mean that they aren’t a scummy deviant once the camera stops rolling. I guess that’s on us, for buying into the facade, when the truth emerges.  With all that said,  finding out Toni Kukoc was a jerk still kind of hit me the same way as when I found out Santa Claus wasn’t real. It sucked.

Ho-Ho-Hold up! I’m not real?

Ok, rambling over.

Unlike my Kukoc experience, B’s night ended on a happy note.  At the end of the game, B’s team went down to high five the 905s as they walked off the court. Bruno Caboclo, sometime Raptor/sometime 905er, on his way out, high fived everyone, AND signed every autograph, no questions asked. The kids were pumped and had the biggest smiles when they came back to us. This made their night, including B’s, who doesn’t want me to wash his autographed shirt now!

Actions speak louder than words.  And when you’re on a pedestal, role model or not, it can go a long way in affecting how you’re perceived.
Fred VanVleet, you lost some young fans that night, bro, sorry.  Bruno Caboclo, on the other hand, gained a bunch.

 

 

Stocking Stuffer Ideas For Kids!

Note: While I was compensated for this post by Imports Dragon, the opinions expressed are mine, as always.

Every year in our household, Santa Claus covers off the main presents, no problem, but he slacks off on the stockings. In fact, typically, he scrambles last minute to fill them, and pretty much just hopes that the kids won’t go ‘WTF’ when they empty them. This year will be different, though. My, err I mean, Santa’s good friends at Imports Dragon got it covered. As a distributor and manufacturer of numerous brands of toys, they offer a wide variety of products to satisfy kids of all ages. Available online, or in stores nationwide, here are some that I think make great stocking stuffers for my kids (and hopefully the children in your lives, too!):

 

Shopkins Cutie Cars, Single Packs or 3 Packs

I’ve mentioned before that Shopkins are big in our house. Cutie Cars are a natural extention of those. Cute little collectible cars that you can put mini Shopkins in, and take for a cruise!

NHL Figures, Various Sizes

Speaking of collectibles, these high quality, licensed NHL figures, available in various sizes, are a sure shot to please any hockey fan’s stocking.

Pikmi Pops Single Packs

Pikmi Pops are toy lollipops with an element of fun surprise inside. If your kid loves making videos of them unboxing stuff, they’ll especially love these.

Ooshies

Another cool collectible. Ooshies are tiny, squishy figurines of licensed characters, like DC, Marvel and Disney Princesses. They also double as pencil toppers, ensuring your child will have the most lit writing utensil in the whole school, fam.

Peg + Cat Plush Toys. Peg + Cat Memory Card Game

Peg + Cat is a popular children’s TV show, so fans of that show will really appreciate the plush toy, and the themed memory card game!

Twozies

 

More surprise toys! Except instead of just one mystery inside a pack, there’s two – a cute little baby and a pet. The fun is in collecting them, and mismatching the duos.

Happy Places Shopkins Packs

Here’s another one from the Shopkins universe. Happy Places are collectible, miniature decor toys.

Drawmaster Drawing Kit

Drawmaster is exactly what it says it is. A drawing kit that helps you draw the perfect piece every time. Sweet!

When And Where To See Santa Claus In The Hamilton Area

 

One of our annual holiday traditions is taking the kids somewhere to sulk, act scared and cry get their picture taken with Santa Claus. This year, while looking into when and where Saint Nick is at, in and around the Hammer, I figured I’d pass on my findings, so here ya go. Cheers!

Limeridge Mall

From November 18 – December 10th:

Monday to Friday – 11 to 8pm

Saturday – 10am to 8pm

Sunday – 11am to 6pm

From December 11-23:

Monday – Saturday – 9:30am to 9:00pm

Sunday – 10:00am to 7pm

Christmas Eve (December 24th): 9am – 3pm

Santa’s workshop will be located on the Upper Level, Centre Court. All visits with Santa are free of charge. Photo package pricing varies.

Eastgate Square

Santa arrives November 19 at 2:00pm with his friends Nutcracker, Teddy Bear, Bella the Snowflake Doll and the Christmas Elves!
A fun interactive musical Elf show will accompany the character toys. They will be performing “A Toy Box” Christmas. The show starts at 2:00PM-2:30PM in  Sears Court!

November Hours:

Monday to Friday  10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Saturday  9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Extended Holiday hours begin December 1st:

Monday to Friday 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Black Friday (November 24)-  7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Christmas Eve (December 24) – 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m

Photo package pricing varies. See pricing here.

Note these special events:

Friday December 1st – 9am to 3pm is a Babies’ First Christmas Event. Donate a new unwrapped toy or a gift card for the CHCH Christmas Toy Drive and receive a preselected FREE photo with Santa (Newborn babies until age 12 months).

Sunday, December 3rd – 8am to 10am – Before mall opening is Quiet Time With Santa. Children and teens to age 18 with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other
special needs will enjoy a craft area/entertaining Elves and St John
Ambulance Therapy Dogs for a preselected FREE Santa photo package.

Dog & Cat Photos with Santa:

Saturday, November 25th – 3pm to 6pm
Sunday, December 3rd – 3pm to 6pm
Saturday, December 16th – 6pm to 9:30pm

Regular Santa photo charges apply. Children are welcome without a pet,
too, provided they do not have a pet allergy. $5 will be donated to the CHCH Christmas Toy Drive from each pet photo package purchased.

Mapleview Mall

Free 5″x7″ photos here!  Just bring a donation in support of McMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation.

DECEMBER 1 – DECEMBER 10:

Thursday – Saturday 10 AM – 8 PM
Sunday 10 AM – 5 PM

DECEMBER 14 – 23:

Monday to Saturday 10 AM – 8 PM
Sunday 10 AM – 5 PM

Burlington Mall

Santa will be arriving  on Saturday November 25 at 10am.  There will be entertainment and free hot chocolate while we  wait for him to arrive by helicopter (?!?!), in the north parking lot on the corner of Fairview St and Guelph Line. The first 1200 kids will receive a free gift!

November hours are Monday to Saturday from 10am – 8pm and Sunday from 10am – 6pm. Note that Sundays November 26, December 3 and December 10 are also pet photo days (after hours) and Saturday November 25 is a Baby’s First Christmas event (the first 300 babies will receive a free ornament).

 

Royal Botanical Garden

Visits with Santa are included in your general admission on these days:

Wednesdays (November 22, 29, December 6, 13, 20) 5 p.m. to 8 p.m (Hendrie Park)

 Fridays (November 24, December 1) 10 a.m. to 4 p.m (Hendrie Park)

The RBG has a bunch of other cool holiday-themed events going on, too. Check them out!

Stoney Creek Santa Claus Parade

The Hamilton parade will have come and gone by the time I post this, but you can still get a glimpse of Kris Kringle at the Stoney Creek Parade on December 2nd, 2pm, King Street East, Downtown Stoney Creek!

FINALLY, NO SANTA, BUT IT’S PRETTY AWESOME:

CP Holiday Train

Gage Park

November 28, 2017

7:45 PM to 8:45 PM

The train  features 14 rail cars decorated with hundreds of thousands lights and a modified boxcar that has been turned into a traveling stage.  The Hamilton stop will feature music artists Kelly Prescott, Jim Cuddy and Devin Cuddy. Concert starts at 8 pm. It’s a free event, just make a cash or non-persishable donation to the Hamilton Food Share.

45 Minutes

 

So my family was in Michigan recently. While strolling around a town one evening, we decided to eat at a restaurant. I won’t say the real name of it (to not falsely incriminate them), so let’s call it Milky’s. Milky’s looked fairly busy, so I figured that I’d run in, to see what the wait time was for a table. With a seven and a five year old, along with a baby,  plus a hungry wife, timing is everything. If the wait wasn’t too bad, I’d put my name on the wait list; otherwise, we would go somewhere else.

There were four employees standing around the front area in Milky’s, and the place looked at most 3/4 full. There were only a couple of kids hanging out in the waiting lounge, too. I asked one of the hostesses how long it would be for “a table for five, but one just needs a high chair”.  The four of them talked quietly among each other, then one wandered off towards the back area. When he returned, I was told that it would be at least a 45 minute wait. That seemed a bit long, so I said thanks but no thanks, and left.

I told the family about the 45 minute time. After talking to K, we realized that by the time we walked to a different restaurant, and got seated, it would probably take at least 45 minutes, anyway. As such, we decided to add our name onto the wait list at Milky’s. Or, more specifically, because I felt sheepish about going back, K headed in to put our name down.

As K went inside, B said the following:

“If mom gets us a table, then this place is racist!”

B’s seven years old. The whole subject of racism wasn’t one that I had touched on with him yet. Needless to say, my jaw dropped at his remark, so my knee-jerk reaction was to defend Milky’s. I told him it was really busy, it didn’t matter who you were, you would have to wait regardless, and so on.

I looked up, and saw K waving us in.  She said there was a table ready for us now!  B then said to me:

“See? I told you this place was racist!”

Once again, I was speechless.

This incident sucks, to be honest. I want to give the restaurant the benefit of doubt here. K did tell me that she asked for “four people plus one high chair”. This wasn’t like how I asked, so maybe they had a different set of tables in mind for my request, than hers. Waiting 45 minutes or longer isn’t that big of a deal, as long as everyone is in the same boat.

And yet…..

A black guy wearing jorts, a baggy shirt and a fitted hat (yo, I never said I dressed well, people) gets the ‘take a hike’ time, while the pretty blonde woman walks in right after, and gets immediate service?  The table that we ended up at was in the same area where the employee had went to, when I inquired.

So the time to be seated there went from 45 to zero, real quick?

Man, the optics are sketchy. It’s entirely possible that Milky’s rationale for this was perfectly valid. However, it’s plausible that their reasoning could have been discriminatory-based, too. I don’t know for sureAnd that not knowing part sucks.

Worst of all was B’s reaction, obviously. Your number one job as a parent is to protect your kids. Unfortunately, though, there are some things in our life which you just can’t protect them from.  Death, for example. Or the cold, hard truth about Santa Claus. Or, when you are a visible minority, the fact that there are people who will hate you because of the colour of your skin. I thought seven was too young of an age to be exposed to racism, but I was wrong.

I was a little bothered during dinner. I wanted to give it some thought, before talking to B.  So later, when we discussed what had happened, I asked him where he learned about racists. His response?

“Well, Donald Trump, because he doesn’t like black people”

WTF!

Look, don’t get it twisted, I’m not throwing shade at Trump.  B apparently heard things from his friends at school, and ran with it. I just think it’s messed up that a little boy visits the USA, and because (in his mind) the President of that country doesn’t like his skin colour, he can expect to go somewhere and be discriminated against. To reiterate, I’m not claiming Trump or Milky’s are racist. I’m saying that it sucks that my seven year old son somehow came to this conclusion, and I couldn’t entirely dismiss him, when he called out Milky’s on their tactics.

It’s on me now to work on this mindset with my children, I get that.  I can’t fix racism, but I can at least instil confidence and hope in my kids about who they are, and what the future holds.  Without going all John Lennon on y’all, imagine a world where you never have to think that the colour of your skin is going to hold you back from doing stuff. Pretty crazy, eh?

And yet, why is that crazy?

Anyway, that’s my story for today. For what it’s worth, if you can deal with the possible discrimination at Milky’s, I highly recommend the fish tacos.

 

 

 

 

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