Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Your Upstate Fall Bucket List

Now that we’ve got that harvest moon eclipse fever behind us we can concentrate on autumn here in the Upstate – my favorite time of year in Greenville. The dogwoods and red maples have started turning here in town, although there is significantly more color up in the foothills. We’ve got a busy couple of months ahead of us and so I thought I would share some of our favorite things to do this time of year!

Fall color viewing

Greenville has made several top 10 lists for best autumn foliage viewing including Tripadvisor’s Top 10 Fall Foliage Destinations in the U.S. and USA Today Travel’s Autumn colors: Beautiful fall foliage around the USA. So where should you go to see the season in all her glory? Spots along the Blue Ridge Escarpment will offer the best views over the hardwoods of the Foothills. Within about an hour’s drive you’ll find Caesars Head State Park, Fred W. Symmes Chapel a.k.a. “Pretty Place,” Bald Rock and Jumping Off Rock. If you are up for a longer drive, try Dupont State Forest just across the NC state line. A shorter drive (only about 20-30 minutes) away is Paris Mountain State Park with dozens of trails to choose from. Campbell’s Covered Bridge, Stumphouse Tunnel, Lake Toxaway… I could keep going all day! Or if you want the color right here in town, Falls Park and the Swamp Rabbit Trail are two local options.

An autumn view from Jumping Off Rock

Fall for Greenville

A three day outdoor festival modeled after the likes of Taste of Chicago, Greenville’s “a taste of our town” is the largest food and music festival in the Upstate featuring over 40 restaurants and six stages of live entertainment – definitely something for everybody. Check out live music from local favorites such as Mountain Homes while sampling signature dishes from some of Greenville’s most popular restaurants this October 8th through 11th.  

Apple picking

A local favorite is Sky Top Orchard up in Flat Rock, North Carolina, and although it can get crowded on weekends this time of year, the panoramic views from the rows of apple trees can’t be beat – and neither can their apple cider donuts! If you’re looking for something a little closer to town try Niven’s, although this will be the last season for the Spartanburg county orchard after four decades in the business.

A weekend getaway to the Blue Ridge Parkway

Enjoy the chill in the mountain air while touring some of the most colorful fall foliage in the southeast along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Believe me, it’s hard not to stop at every single scenic vista!

RMSC Fall Harvest Festival

On November 14th the Roper Mountain Science Center is hosting their annual Second Saturday fall harvest festival from 9am-2:30pm. Or pick from one of these other 25 fall festivals from Kidding Around Greenville’s list such as the Spartanburg International Festival, Balloons Over Anderson, Art on the Trail or Oktoberfest in Greenville!

Swamp Rabbit Grocery & Cafe

Make a stop at this local treasure just off the Swamp Rabbit Trail for pastries fresh from the oven and hot coffee, perfect on a crisp fall morning. Fresh, seasonal produce and local goods round out the experience, and if you’ve got kids joining you I suggest a stop at the Swamp Garden – all the better for you to enjoy a special fall treat if the littles are busy at play.

Enjoy a concert at your local State Park

Catch a Music on the Mountain bluegrass jam session at Table Rock State Park Lodge or Music in the Woods at Paris Mountain State Park. The Table Rock SP dates are October 10th and November 14th from 2-6pm, and the concerts in the outdoor amphitheater at Paris Mountain SP are Saturdays from 2-4pm during October (a schedule of performers is available here).

The Falls Park beech tree dressed in gold

Your National Parks

Take advantage of the cooler weather to visit one of our nearby National Parks, Historic Sites or Battlefields such as the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, Congaree National Park, Kings Mountain National Military Park, Cowpens National Battlefield or Ninety Six National Historic Site. With smaller crowds and lower temperatures you’ll be able to really immerse yourself in the history of our region while enjoy the natural beauty of the Upstate. 

The Greenville Zoo

Popular Halloween event Boo in the Zoo notwithstanding, there is tons going on at your local zoo this fall! With a brand new baby red panda Willie (named after one of our fave musician’s ‘Red Headed Stranger’ album), baby siamang George and twin female ocelot kittens just a month old making their first outdoor appearances, there is plenty of motivation for a fall trip to the zoo. Exciting changes are on the horizon with a new mixed species South American exhibit, but the favorite programs such as Wild for Reading Wednesdays are still on weekly...

For the sports fan

Catch a football game at Clemson or University of South Carolina. (The Tigers face off against the Gamecocks this year on November 28th if you want to cross both teams off your list at once, and if you make it to Clemson, don't forget to stop at the South Carolina Botanical Gardens to see this local favorite decked out in its colorful fall garb…) If football isn’t your thing head to the Bon Secours Wellness Area (or ‘the well’ as it has been nicknamed) to see the recently rebranded Swamp Rabbits play hockey! Formerly known as the Road Warriors (who replaced the Greenville Grrrowl) and affiliated with the New York Rangers, the Swamp Rabbits start their season October 17th.

A new logo, source here

For the beer fan

Take a microbrewery tour here in the Upstate just in time to sample fall-inspired beer such as Swamp Rabbit Brewery’s Marzen, a German style Oktoberfest, or Quest Brewing’s Pecan Porter. A big event is Octoberfest @ Brewery 85 on Saturday, October 24th. And there’s always Dark Corner Distillery’s Moonshine to ward off that late fall chill!

Farmers markets

New farmers markets have popped up across the Upstate to give you plenty of opportunities to shop local seasonal goods. In addition to the State Farmers Market on Rutherford and the downtown Greenville market you have the Traveler’s Rest Thursday Market in Trailblazer Park and the brand new one in Greer. Grab some hot apple cider, buy a couple loaves of pumpkin bread and pick out the mums and gourds to decorate your home.

Wishing everyone a beautiful autumn in the Upstate!
x votre Femme au Foyer

 Thank you for the inspiration Daina!!!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Turaida - the ancient castle on the banks of the Gauja

The steep banks along the Gauja valley extend north to Turaida, and together with a large bend in the river provide the perfect point for yet another castle. Along with dozens of other historic buildings, the castle and several sculpture parks form the Turaida Museum Reserve,  a 108-acre historical, archaeological and architectural monument.

The sculpture "Dziedot dzimu, dziedot augu..."

Turaida means “the garden of God” in the ancient Liv language. Livs (Livonians) are one of the indigenous peoples of Latvia with an ancient and rich culture, the language belonging to the Finno-Ugric language family (along with Finnish and Estonian, among others). It was around the 11th century that the Livs were flourishing on the banks of the Gauja River in the Turaida, Sigulda and Krimulda areas, but the Crusades and the advance of Christianity saw the Livs lose power in the region. Today this aspect of Latvian history is reflected not only in artifacts and place names in the region, but also in the ornaments and color composition of the mittens and national costumes of Turaida.

Mikus with the sculpture "Neguli, saulīte, ābeļu dārzā", Lauris and "Bij' manam kumeļam" and Vilis with a view of the castle

We parked and entered the Museum Reserve, heading first towards the Tautasdziesmu parks and Dainu kalns, the Folk Song Gardens and Folk Song Hill. This portion of the Park was created in 1985 (before Latvia regained its independence from the Soviet Union) in honor of the 150th anniversary of the birth of folklorist Krišjānis Barons. When the first international folklore festival Baltica was held in Latvia in 1988, the Latvian flag was also raised on Folk Song Hill alongside the sculpture of the “Father of Song.” Turaida brought together increasingly larger numbers of folklore and ethnographic ensembles, helping to strengthen the Latvian people’s identity in a time of uncertainty.  As the 3rd Latvian Renaissance approached in the mid-1980s, Folk Song Hill was the place where the Latvian Singing Revolution emerged and continued until the restoration of Latvia’s independence in 1991. According to the website, “Today Folk Song Hill is a symbol for the Singing Revolution, sending an eternal message about the strength of song and the self-respect of the Latvian people.”

The gardens feature 26 sculptures made by Latvian artist Indulis Ranka, including the iconic Dziesmas Tēvs. On one side of the sculpture is the image of Krišjānis Barons, and on the other side are singers of three generations who are familiar with the songs he collected and documented.  Beside them is a powerful young man, representing a defender of culture.  The sculpture sits on a dowry chest which contains song, the symbolic dowry for the Latvian people.

From the hill of Dainas we headed to the Turaida stone castle, high on a ridge overlooking a bend in the Gauja River. Construction was started in 1214 at the command of Albert, the Bishop of Riga, on a site previously occupied by a Liv fort. The defensive walls were built in the 13th century, and over the following 300 years more towers added and defenses modified in correlation to improvements in weaponry and the development of firearms.  The castle reached its zenith in the 16th century, fortified by four defensive towers and three gate towers. However, by the 17th century the castle had lost its military significance and experienced gradual deterioration. A large part of the interior was destroyed in a fire in 1776, and by the beginning of the 20th century only fragments of the defensive wall, the west block and portions of the main & west towers remained.

1952-1963 saw the partial restoration of the castle, and the last quarter of the century saw numerous archaeological excavations and reconstruction & conservation of the exposed structures. Today those structures provide an exciting look at the Middle Ages, with the opportunity to see medieval cellars, the prison, the guard`s room and a cannon room.

Our main goal was to check out the view of the Gauja valley from the top floor of the main tower, and to accomplish this we took two shifts. Lauris, Mikus and Roberts climbed first, leaving Vilis and me to explore the courtyard. Once they came down I left Vilis with them and hurried up myself, eagerly taking in the bird’s eye view of the castle, river and surrounding countryside. I could have stayed for an hour or two, taking photographs of the river and sculpture park & watching the people traffic down below, but we had relatives waiting on us and so back down the tower I went, skipping the exhibits with hope I might return someday.

On our way out we passed a sign indicating the memorial to the Rose of Turaida, and while the boys proceeded I took the flight of stairs up for a moment in front of the linden tree. The tragic love story goes like this:

“After a battle at the foot of Turaida Castle in 1601, the castle clerk found a baby in the arms of its dead mother while searching for survivors. He called the child Maija and brought her up as his own. She grew up to be very beautiful and so was known as the Rose of Turaida. She fell in love with Viktor, the gardener at the castle of Sigulda (opposite Turaida over the Gauja River) and in the autumn of 1620 they prepared to be married. Shortly before the wedding Maija received a letter from Viktor asking her to meet him at the Gutmanis Cave (Gūtmaņala), their usual meeting place. She went to the cave with Lenta, the young daughter of her adoptive father. When she reached it, however, it was not Viktor she encountered but a Polish nobleman or soldier called Adam Jakubowski who was lying in wait for her with the intention of forcing her to be his wife. Maija promised to give him her magic scarf, that had the power to make the wearer immune from injury (in some versions the scarf is impossible to cut through), if he would let her go, and persuaded him to test its power on her. He struck her with an axe and she died, having thus saved her honour. In the evening Viktor came to the cave and found the body of his betrothed and was accused of the murder. But in court there appeared a witness called Peteris Skudritis, who testified that he had been commissioned by Jakubowski to deliver the fatal letter. Lenta confirmed the course of events. Viktor buried his betrothed near the castle, planted a linden tree on the grave and left the country forever. According to documents in Sigulda's archives the soldier was later caught, tried and hanged for his crime. From then on it has been customary for newlyweds to leave flowers on the grave of the Rose of Turaida in hopes of knowing the same eternal love and devotion.” Source here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Krimulda - hiking the historic Sigulda area

Just southwest of Gūtmaņala are a steep set of stairs leading up the wooded cliffs. What better reason is needed to climb dozens of flights of stairs than simply their existence? We probably could have looked at a map beforehand, but our spontaneous ascent led to a scenic day in the area between Turaida and Krimulda, and so it wasn’t the worst decision.

Trails crisscross the ridges and valley between Sigulda and Turaida, some of them newer and well-marked, others older and not as well-suited for hiking with children. Upon reaching the top of the stairs above Gūtmaņala we found ourselves on a trail with clearly marked directions (either to Turaida or Krimulda), but no clear indication of distances or degree of difficulty. Despite this we set off in the direction of Krimulda, and not long after found ourselves on the summit of Rata kalns, or Rack’s Hill. It is believed that during the Middle Ages this was a place of torture as well as home to a castle. We hurried on to the next hill, Taurētājkalns or Trumpeters’ Hill. With a good view of the Gauja valley it is thought that this was an old observation point where soldiers stood on guard, warning of the enemy’s approach by sounding a bugle.

Somewhere we must have deviated from the main path, as we were suddenly encountering fallen trees over the trail and entire sections of steps missing from stairs. However, we made it down to the valley and better marked trails, and decided to continue on in search of a meal.

At this junction we had the option to hike west to the Vikmeste castle mound, not far from Veļu klēpi (also on the shores of the Vikmeste river), named as such because of the historical importance as a burial grounds for the ancient Liv peoples. Instead we opted for the shorter route to Krimulda, up Serpentine Road. The historic route connecting Sigulda to Krimulda was built in 1862 in honor of the visit of Tsar Alexander II, and was restored in 2007. At the top lie the Krimulda Medieval ruins of the castle built in the 13th century for the Archbishopric of Rīga. In 1601 the castle was burned down upon the approach of Polish troops on the order of a Swedish colonel, and afterwards the location abandoned. A little further there are several old wooden structures with fascinating ornate facades, identified on a sign as the Swiss House, built in the first part of the 19th century. The chalet was modeled after the architecture of Swiss mountain houses, and served as a guest house.

We passed the station for the cable car & the greenhouses and entered the gates of the Krimulda manor-house, walking down a lane lined with old trees towards the 19th century castle. Built in 1872 in the style of late classicism, the estate was home to three generations of the Lieven family. The last of the Lievens left Latvia during WWI, whereupon the estate was transferred to the Red Cross to serve as a tuberculosis sanatorium.  Over the years the property has served as a children’s sanatorium and a rehabilitation center, and today is “Rehabilitation Centre Krimulda” in addition to a tourist destination and overnight accomodations.

We lunched at the grocery/café Milly in what used to be the cattle-yard building, refueling after what had been a steep climb. From our outdoor seating we had a good view of the 19th century Steward’s house and Bookkeeper’s office, built of stone and covered in a century’s worth of ivy.

Just as we finished our lunch it started to drizzle, and so instead of continuing on to explore the rest of the estate we retraced our steps, passing between the manor and the sunbathing ‘porch’ built in 1927.

Arriving at the cable car station we learned the next car was due in 10 minutes and elected to wait. Dating back to 1969, the car takes about 5 minutes to transport you 140 feet above the Gauja river to Sigulda, a distance of 3,500 feet. The aerial excursion was not meant to be; upon the car's arrival the operator informed us there was a 2-3 hour wait for a return trip, and so we continued down the Serpentine Road down into the Gauja Valley.

Instead of climbing the steep stairs and returning via the ridge, we followed one of the trails that led us back to Gūtmaņala along the Gauja river. Along the way we found Mazā ala, the little cave that is much smaller than its counterpart a little further on, but that had a powerful artesian aquifer flowing out of the ground. We all ducked inside, amazed at the drop in temperature and mesmerized by the eddying sand of the spring.

And then suddenly we rounded a corner to find ourselves back at Gūtmaņala, and at the foot of the stairs that had started our adventure. A stop at the Visitor Center was a must, and soon after we were in the car headed the short distance north to Turaida…

Monday, September 21, 2015

Raven Cliff Falls Trail

On the mountain road that winds its way up to Caesars Head we saw evidence of the approach of fall; it was in the first red maple and tupelo leaves to turn bright orange and red, and in the smell of the cool air rolling in through the windows. Down in Greenville it is still summer, with 90˚ days despite the chill in the nights. We gambled that the majority of the Upstate might be at one of the dozen of events this weekend and therefore the parking lot at Caesars Head might not be so full, but as we joined the caravan of cars driving up the steep road full of switch-backs, it became obvious we weren’t the only ones with fall fever looking to get outdoors and away from the busy weekday craziness.

Our destination was the Raven Cliff Falls overlook, a 1 hour drive from Greenville followed by a 2.2 mile hike. The parking area for the Raven Cliff Falls Trail also serves as the western terminus of the 2.3 mile Coldspring Branch Trail and 0.7 mile connector to the west end of the Jones Gap Trail. A daily use fee of $2/adult and a card with our hiking information deposited in the day-use hiking logbox and we were off, headed south towards and then along the Blue Ridge Escarpment.

The hike is rated ‘moderate,’ but in reality it is stretching the limits of our 3 and 5-year-old’s little legs. Lacking the really steep sections of trail that earned the ‘Dismal Trail’ its name (which along with Gum Gap/Foothills Trail and a portion of the Naturaland Trust Trail connect the Raven Cliff Falls trail to the swinging suspension bridge just over the falls), the Raven Cliff Trail is do-able with kids, but still a challenging hike with one child in the carrier and two on foot.

There were too many leaves on the trees to be able to see the falls clearly, although the evergreens blocking the upper portion will not change as the season progresses. The next time I hike this trail it will be with the intention of completing the loop that passes right over the falls via the bridge: Raven Cliff Falls Trail (2 miles) to Dismal Trail (1.5 miles) then west on Naturaland Trust Trail (about 2  miles) over the suspension bridge to Gum Gap Trail (1.5 miles) and backtracking on Raven Cliff Falls Trail (1.5 miles) for a total of 8.5 miles. As Dismal Trail is currently closed, another option is to take the Gum Gap Trail to Naturaland Trust Trail, for an in-and-out total of 7 miles. This option skips the 1,200 foot descent into Matthews Creek gorge and out.

From our vantage point we looked out across the gorge where Matthews Creek falls 420 feet into the cove below. The boys didn’t mind the shabby view of the falls; in fact, Mikus kept repeating “I wish we could have stayed longer” on the trip out. Although the trail was relatively crowded (as should be expected on a fall weekend), we never felt overwhelmed by crowds, even at the shelter at the overlook. Temperatures this time of year were perfect, the breeze on the escarpment cooling the sweat we worked up on the hike without feeling a chill, but the heat which can make even a 4-mile hike unbearable, absent.

Big picture: The Raven Cliff Falls trail is one of dozens crisscrossing the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. Raven Cliff Mountain marks the western border of the area, and is part of Caesars Head State Park. Jones Gap SP is on the east end of the area, the two state parks connected with several trails including the Palmetto Trail – the planned 425-mile-long foot, mountain bike and equestrian trail that will cross the entire state from Oconee SP to Charleston County. The Gum Gap Trail (via the Raven Cliff Falls Trail) is also an access point to the Foothills National Recreation Trail, which covers some of the most scenic portions of the Blue Ridge Mountains: Table Rock to Whitewater Falls to the Chattooga River and Oconee State Park. All in all I’ve got a lot of miles ahead of me here in the Upstate!

Directions: One mile north from Caesars Head State Park on US 276 you will find a large, paved parking lot. Pay the daily use fee for a permit to hang in your window, and then cross the road to reach the trailhead. After registering at the trail box you’ll follow the red blazes. Happy hiking!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Gūtmaņala - Latvia's biggest cave

Gūtmaņala is not only the largest and oldest cave in Latvia, but also the most visited. A protected geological site since 1967, it is the largest grotto in the Baltics: 33 feet high, 40 feet wide and 62 feet deep.

The cave dates back about 10,000 years to the postglacial period, carved over time by the Gauja River and spring waters running through the Devonian sandstone. The original name has been lost, replaced by the Germanic gute Mann cave or ‘good man’ cave after Baltic German naturalist and apothecary Jakob Benjamin Fischer described the cave in his 1778 papers.

According to legend the spring that flows out of the cave is sacred and its waters healing. A local healer lived next to the cave and treated patients with herbs and water from the spring, thus the name ‘good man’.

The cave just might be the oldest tourist attraction in the country, with mentions in German literature of carvings dating back to 1521 and 1564. However, the sandstone surfaces have faced much erosion since these 1812 records, and the oldest inscription remaining today is “ANNA MAGDALENA VON TIESENHAVSEN ANNO 1667,” located in the arch of the ceiling above the cascade of the spring. A majority of the ancient inscriptions have been lost to newer inscriptions.

Located between the towns of Sigulda and Turaida, there are a variety of walking trails crisscrossing the valley and ridgetop. A Gauja National Park visitor center has extensive information on the animal and plant life of the park, and a cafe and restrooms are available. Although the cave can be viewed for free, there is a fee for parking.

A 360˚ virtual tour of the cave can be found online, at the Gauja National Park website:

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The fall of the giant oak

“The state came out and measured it a few years ago. Said it was the third biggest willow oak in South Carolina.” Our neighbor paused and looked up into what remains of the canopy of the giant oak that seemed to shade half the city block. “There used to be a city bus stop right there. That bus came right up (our street), took a left and went back down (the next street) on its way back to town. The help for (the big estate house) would all take that bus.”

According to A Development History of the Stone Avenue and North Main Street Area, in 1924 Greenville’s first bus route came out North Main, turned west on Stone, and went up Rutherford Road as far as Ashley or Mountainview Avenue. It was about 40-50 years ago that the bus stop was taken down.

The center of the grand tree had slowly rotted from age, and the storm last weekend was finally too much. It seems as if the willow oak just gave up; the enormous branches were dropped to the ground radiating from the trunk. One lone branch remains stretching upward toward the sky, but not for long; the City of Greenville arrives today to clean up. I wonder if the armada of dump trucks and cherry pickers will be enough, or will they call for backup. I speculate how big of a blade they’ll need for that trunk, probably 200 inches around even without the burls. I mourn how quickly 200-300 years worth of North Main history can be reduced to wood chips and sawdust.

200-300 years of shade here in North Main. That oak has been here longer than any of the houses on our street, the hundreds of busses that passed by the stop at its base just a fragment of its history. How many couples have paused in its shade to steal a kiss, how many people out for a walk have rested in its shadow. The hundreds of birds that have fledged from its branches and the gallons of honey produced by the bees that still swarm from hollow cavities.

a branch, with Vilis for scale

I came home with a few pictures of the enormous trunk and branches, and a heavy heart.

My son came home with a handful of acorns…


Although my diameter tape wouldn't reach around the massive trunk, we did get out to measure the tree utilizing a string. Our measurement, taken at breast-height (DBH) was 203 inches in circumference, which is almost 17 feet. That's roughly a 65 inch diameter, or 5 1/2 feet.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Ten top New York City gifts for kids

My father was born and raised in the Bronx, reluctantly leaving the borough and his parents behind for his new family in Chicago. Fast-forward many years to find my sister living there with her husband, only this time in Brooklyn. New York City: the Big Apple, the City that Never Sleeps, the Center of the World! We’ve always had a special connection to NYC, and have all sorts of souvenirs, presents and keepsakes to prove it. I wanted to share some of the more recent gifts that have come our way; these would be perfect for a child with ties to New York and NYC fans alike!

For his first birthday Vilis received a couple of books from his godfather, including the most fantastic dimensional board book I’ve ever seen. New York City is written by Paula Hannigan & illustrated by Shannon Chandler, and features iconic locations such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Terminal, Times Square and Central Park (among others), with die-cut pages contoured in the shape of New York’s skyline. The familiar outlines of the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty provide tactile learning opportunities for toddlers while the fun facts engage older children: “…one souvenir you’ll want to pick up in a New York minute.”

This cozy toddler zip hoodie by Brooklyn Industries is a fall staple. The durable zipper, split kangaroo pockets and leather detailing ensure you’ll be able to pass it down to younger friends or siblings. If you’re looking for some warmer weather gear check out the “Brooklyn” line of graphic T-shirts – plenty of trend-setting designs for men, women and children.

Pop-up New York takes slightly older readers on a tour from Brooklyn to the Bronx with a fact-filled, interactive, large-format book that might teach even life-long New Yorkers a thing or two about the city they live in. Jam-packed with informative blurbs and fantastic paper engineering by Richard Ferguson, this book touches on all five boroughs and a variety of subjects: sports, history, architecture, culture, culinary, the arts and more. You’ll find all of your favorite places in New York within, and a ton of stuff to move, open and read - the pop-ups are even double-sided! From the lush greenery of the High Line and Central Park to the dizzying heights of the Manhattan skyline, this book is really for children of all ages.

The High Line train whistle is a nod to the High Line’s past as an elevated rail line serving Manhattan’s West Side. The wooden toy is made in the USA and in our home is played with daily while the kids are gathered around the train table. It makes me happy to see the boys playing with solid wooden toys rather than the plastic crap that lines the toy aisles these days, and it’s a lovely reminder of our trip to this unique Urban Park.

Dynamic illustrations layered over black & white photographs of Park Slope tell the story of a day in the life of Trixie in Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale. Adult readers will recognize scenes from Prospect Park and the streets of Brooklyn while the kids are involved in the tale of a lost-then-found stuffed bunny. We enjoyed the two books that followed as well, Knuffle Bunny Too and Knuffle Bunny Free.

A good friend of Lauris and Mikus spends his summers in New York City, and I consider his mom to be an expert on great NYC gear. It was at their home that we first read Knuffle Bunny, and through her recommendation that we discovered Wow! City! by Robert Neubecker, and I Lego N.Y. - a humorous look at the city through a series of vignettes featuring designer and illustrator Christoph Niemann’s son’s toys.

For the train enthusiasts nothing beats the NYC wooden subway trains from the NY Transit Museum Store. Which rail line would you choose?

As a child I visited the Bronx Botanical Gardens, and upon returning as an adult found them every bit as enthralling as I remembered. This “color-me” Tee from the New York Botanical Gardens shop would be a fun gift for an artist, as it can be colored in again and again with the included markers.

There’s always New York In A Bag, the wooden playset from the Museum of Modern Art featuring NYC icons such as the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Statue of Liberty, and the Guggenheim Museum. The 8 structures and 6 cars are made of wood from sustainable forests, and although not intended for children under 3, would be appreciated by a budding architect or a NY child-at-heart .

So there you have it, an idea or two for a NYC-themed gift outside of the usual “I heart NYC” gear or NYPD T-shirts! The new books have quickly become favorites on our bookshelf, and having a little piece of the Big Apple in our home makes a couple of our favorite people seem closer despite the 700 miles between us. Do you have a favorite New York City souvenir or toy?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...