Thanks to another suggestion from Jayme (who is officially leaving me tomorrow... I'm obviously distraught), I was going to successfully meet my goal of finding both a free and family-friendly activity in Worcester. Unfortunately, even the best laid plans can backfire.
Original Plan: Attend a free open skate at the DCU center.
It seems simple enough, right? Obviously not. The advertisement announced that they had limited rental skates available. Honestly, I know better and should have been much more weary about this, but I wasn't. A little bit of background for those of you who don't know, I was a figure skater for a few years of my life. I was never very good, but I could hold my own on the ice. I come from a hockey family, so skating rinks were a major part of my childhood and this open skate was very appealing to me in a strangely nostalgic way. Anyway, I decided to invited my cousin Jenny and her 6 year-old son, Brayden to join me. I dragged Jackson along as well -- he's such a good sport. Open skate was slated to start at 11 a.m. We arrived around 1 p.m. After a little wandering around the building searching for the entrance and access to the ice, we found our way to the lower level. It was a mad house. I must admit that I was a little terrified of all the children with blades in their hands. Kids with weapons do not sit well with me. There were people everywhere you turned and we were puzzled by a strange line wrapping down the corridor. Turns out that the line was the skate rental line. We waited for about 15 minutes in said line only to be told that they had no kid's skate sizes left and the only adult sizes were those that would fit Jackson. Needless to say, we decided to leave. I was a tad dismayed. Though, inwardly, a little revealed because what if I'm not the fabulous skater I remember and what if I failed at teaching Brayden to skate. You've all heard about how I feel about failure...
To be fair, I'm sure if you have your own skates this would have been great, cheap family fun. If you don't, like us, you're out of luck. Which leads us to...
Dilemma: I promised a 6 year-old that I would take him ice skating. I may not be the most kid-friendly individual on the planet, but I do not break promises to kids. It's cruel. As a child, the worst offense I could imagine was someone breaking their promise to me, I hear this is an inherited mindset from my mother. So, Jenny, Jackson and I were forced to figure out a plan B. We presented Brayden with 2 options: Higgins Armory or the Ecotarium. He made a quick decision to see the Polar Bear and we were off!
Contingency Plan: The Ecotarium. When I was a kid this place was called the New England Science Center, but I digress. I hadn't been there in years, so once Brayden decided that was where we were headed, I was pretty psyched and easily over my ice skating fail. We pull up to the gates to buy tickets (3 adults and 1 child) and pay a hefty $44 admission fee. I thought it was kind of steep, but at this point I was paying no matter what. I can't give you a play by play of my afternoon, but here's some highs and lows of the day.
High: The train was running! The archaic choo-choo train that took my cousins and I around the museum grounds as a child was still in existence and despite having 4 feet of snow on the ground, was still offering rides to paying customers. (We had limited time and opted out of the train, but kudos to it's continued lifespan).
Low: The place looks fairly similar to what I remember, but sans the kid goggles. What I mean is this: the museum looks tired. They have a few new exhibits that were cool, but overall they need better funding and a serious face lift. It was borderline depressing.
High: New interactive science exhibits. I'm pretty sure if we let him, Brayden could have played for hours and so could Jackson (age 27). There were water games, magnets, drawing tools, etc that really were edu-tainment.
Low: The place was under construction. There was a lot of red tape and the temporarily re-located gift shop was poorly lit and tiny. I'm a huge fan of gift shops, so this was a little more than disappointing. I feel like once construction ends, the place has some potential, but I'm pretty sure one of the most exciting things for kids to do was to get beyond the ropes and red tape.
High: Despite the size of the gift shop, they still sold Astronaut Ice Cream!!! Enough said. The trip was worth it.
Low/High: We went to see Kenda, the polar bear. Looking around her habitat, she was no where to be seen. Then we saw the sign. Kenda had been injured and was undergoing treatment and she would only be out for viewing on occasion. It seemed like out trip wasn't one of those times. As we dejectedly climbed the stairs back towards the museum building, something white and fluffy in an open door way caught our eyes. KENDA! She was sleeping in her inner habitat, but lying across the doorway so we could at least see parts of her hulking form. Brayden was pleased so all was not lost.
High/Low: I didn't get sick! Okay, let me explain. I do not interact with kids on a normal basis, so I tend to catch all sorts of colds/flus/plague when I am in kid-friendly places. Case and point: I spent the month of February fighting a cold that I swear is from my friend's kid who catches weekly colds from daycare. What is the "/Low" you ask? Jackson has flu-like symptoms. He was not so lucky.
Unexpected outcome: While wandering the museum, I began to contemplate my trip. I realized I was paying $44 for about an hour and a half of entertainment. That didn't sit all that well with me. So I started to scheme. The Ecotarium was having a discount on memberships (I saw the sign on my way in) so I headed to customer service to inquire. For only the cost of another admission for the 4 of us, I could come back any time with 3 other adults and 4 kids. I have several cousins with children and I do love museums... so I thought... and then I decided and I went for it. So for about $50 more (they applied that day's admission to the cost) I now am the proud holder of a family plus membership. So, friends and family and avid readers, let me know if you want to go to the Ecotarium any time before March 2012. The trip is on me :-D
I'm not sure if this week's challenge can be seen as a success or not. I still need to find a free event to meet my goal. I feel as if I shouldn't be penalized for the DCU center's lack of rentals, but I figure I will poll the audience. Am I off the hook for finding a free event this week or do I have to scramble?
Speaking of audience, I've had several people tell me they actually READ AND ENJOY my blog! This is great news. I had been debating whether or not writing a blog that no one reads is equivalent to talking to yourself, but now I am spared the concern for my mental health. So thanks guys!
Until next week.