Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Over the River and Through the Woods: A Family Thanksgiving in Erie, Pennsylvania

We haven't been home for Thanksgiving in several years. This year, we took full advantage of the academic break and flew from Colorado to Pittsburgh for a week of family fun. We crashed with a friend from college in Pittsburgh, grabbing a quick dinner at the neighborhood gastropub. I had a delicious crab cake sandwich and Jeff had a cobb salad that included french fries - delicious. We couldn't hang out too long, since the long flight had taken a toll on H and his brain was fried.

The next morning we walked from our friends apartment to the Pittsburgh children's museum. What a treat! There is a life size "rat maze" that kids can crawl on that takes them from the ground floor to the second floor. Jeff got in there with H and they crawled around a bit, until Jeff got tired of being hunched over. The other big hit is the third floor pool that kids can play in. There are boats and ducks to float through locks. You can turn handles to create whirlpools. There is even a section to create your own fountain. H  loved looking at the water coming from all different directions and getting to splash around.

With the little one exhausted, we hit the road and headed for Erie, PA. It's a beautiful two hour drive through rolling mountains and over rivers. It felt like the perfect fall road trip.

With all three boys and their families home, our time in Erie was the perfect mix of fun family activities and down time at home.

Monday we headed to Erie's indoor water park Splash Lagoon. Monday was a low visitor day, so in addition to using some BOGO coupons and a military discount we nearly had the place to ourselves. The little ones (H and his  older by 7-weeks cousin, L) loved the water and there were plenty of attractions to keep them entertained. A small play area for children included water slides they could go down with an adult and some pipes that sprayed water. There was a family hot tub with warmer water where they could swim. The lazy river nearly put the little ones to sleep. Amazingly, it was the wave pool that was the family favorite. Little H loved sitting where the waves would rush up to him, little L was walking into the waves with grandpa and the big boys loved riding the waves back to "shore." The grandparents watched the kids, so we could ride some of the larger water slides and we made it a full 2 hours before the little ones got sleepy.

Tuesday we left the boys at home and Jan took her daughter-in-laws out for lunch and mani-pedis at a lovely little place just outside of Erie. We had a great time and got to catch up without the children. The big boys took the little boys to the grocery store, where they had a blast. When we got home everyone was napping. That evening we had dinner as a family at the Erie Mannerchor Club before Jeff's oldest brother and father's bowling tournament. Jeff and his other brother went in search of a beer in downtown Erie and the girls headed home to put the babies to sleep and to enjoy some wine in a quiet house.

Wednesday we headed out to the Erie Children's Museum. As we were pulling in, little H decided it was time for a nap. We re-routed out to Prescot Isle for a drive around the island and a beach picnic. After lunch, with H finally awake, we headed back to the Children's Museum. This is a little Erie gem. The place could use a little more love, but the exhibits are well done and quite entertaining. They have a great water table that Jeff and I really enjoyed. We came home in time for naps and ended the evening with an Erie Tradition of Pizza and Wings. I don't know what is up with the rest of the country, but you can't get wings that are as good or as big as you can in Erie. (Ok, maybe in Buffalo!) Then we were off to the Festival of the Trees at the Erie Convention Center. In addition to amazing trees we got to meet Santa, pet live reindeer and watch a dance performance of the Grinch.

Thursday we headed into the woods behind the house for a little hike. With my 7 year old niece leading the charge, we found enchanted sticks, crossed the creek on downed trees and found the magic pond. We spent about an hour in the woods. I'm not going to lie, I was a little concerned we would never see the house again, but it was truly enchanting to see how fun a forest can be. Jeff assures me that the woods are surrounded on all four sides by homes and it would have been impossible to become lost. We sat down for a late afternoon dinner before heading to the Erie Otter's Hockey game, where I had my first pepperoni ball (not made by Jeff.) It was delicious.

We were up and out early on Friday morning to head back to Pittsburgh to catch our flight home.

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