Back to school we go. No more loosey-goosey bedtime, no more flying by the seat of our pants. No more scheduling vacations whenever we feel like it – we have to stick to a strict schedule of district breaks and national holidays. Boo!
But we still have the weekends – 52 opportunities to get away with the family. And though we may not be able to drive off to Myrtle Beach or jet down to Florida, we can shuffle off to Syracuse or trek to Toronto. All you need are some close-enough good-value day trips.
• Hidden Valley Animal Adventure, 2887 Royce Road in Varysburg. This is just a short, beautiful one-hour drive from our house in the Northtowns.
You’ll board a trolley, get a cup of feed and travel through the preserve where you’ll rub elbows with buffalo, camels, zebra, wildebeest, llama, emu, ostrich and more. Extra cups of grain are $2 and can be bought as you go on the train, so bring cash instead of risking overbuying ahead of time. You’ll also get free admission to the small game petting zoo where you can pet and pose for selfies with ponies, donkeys, goats and piglets. There are swans, peacocks, brahman calves and other beauties on display. My 3- and 5-year-old loved this, as did my 11- and 13-year-old nieces.
The grounds are beautiful, and there’s a great restaurant with very reasonably priced food and ice cream. It’s a better value than African Lion Safari, too, even with the exchange rate. It closes for the season Oct. 31. Call 585-535-4100 for more information.
• Do your kids watch the Funnelvision channel on YouTube? If so, you have my sympathies. My Chloe loves this oh-so-grating show, which is the real reason I limit screen time like the experts say to. But at least one good thing has come of it – ever since the show visited Ripley’s Believe it or Not! in Niagara Falls, Ont., my kids want to go there worse than they want to go to Disney World. And the best part? Kids 5 and younger get in to all the attractions free.
Its “odditorium” was just renovated, and has 900 new, weird artifacts. Admission is $17.99 Canadian for adults, $14.99 for seniors, $10.99 for kids.
But the 4-D Moving Theater was also featured on Funnelvision, so the kids are sure to want that, too. Canadian ticket prices are $13.99 for adults, $10.99 for seniors and $7.99 for kids. (There’s a 43-inch height restriction for little ones).
My personal favorite at the museum is Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks. Tickets are $14.99 for adults and $7.99 for kids.
Just make sure you buy your tickets online so you can avoid the 13 percent sales tax. If you plan to do the Odditorium plus one or two other Ripley’s attractions, purchase combination tickets, which will get you a better price. If you want to get really crazy, buy tickets for the Odditorium and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in Toronto and save 25 percent. Call 905-356-2238.
• Lucy Desi Museum, 2 W. Third St. in Jamestown. If anything can take the sting out of summer’s end, it’s the wholesome, family-friendly comedy of Lucille Ball. Get the kids pumped up with a marathon screening of “I Love Lucy” on Hulu then hit the museum, which also includes the Desilu Studios.
Admission is $15 for adults, $14 for seniors and $10 for kids age 6 to 18. Kids 5 and under are free. There’s a $1 discount for AARP and AAA members. Memberships are $50 or $40 for seniors and come with two free passes.
Catch “Scary Lucy” and the lovely sculpture that replaces it. You can also see her birthplace at 69 Stewart Ave., her childhood home at 59 Lucy Lane in Celoron, and her family plot in Lake View Cemetery.