Top Long Island Gardens, Parks, & Water Where You Can Walk Around

Long Island is filled with gardens, parks, and water where you can take great walks. You can think of them as fantastic ways to spend time outside, or as a lazy person’s hike. Either way works, the truth is – that is between you and your water bottle.

The Mint Chip Mama - Long Island Mom Blog - Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery

We spend a great deal of time outside. We love to see water and flowers but also enjoy all four seasons that we have in New York. Some of our best visits are off season when the places are empty. Plus, if you’re a dork like me you can do longitudinal studies and take the same picture every season enjoying how the view changes.

These family-approved locations will fill your day with some good old fashioned fresh air and exercise. Even better, almost all of the walks below are free, so you can enjoy them at your leisure. If you’re looking for more of a hike – please check out my previous Long Island hiking posts – Part 1 and Part 2. Want even more stuff to do that doesn’t involve hiking? Check out my exploring Long Island posts.

Long Island GARDENS, Parks, & Water

The Mint Chip Mama - Long Island Mom Robert F. Ench Gardens

Robert F. Ench Teaching Gardens, Farmingdale

Part of Farmingdale State University – but open to the public – this garden is right off Route 110. This hidden gem is a really special place to visit. We even saw frogs. We like frogs.

The Mint Chip Mama - Long Island Old Westbury Garden

Old Westbury Gardens, Westbury

Perfect in any season. This garden is a great place to take the same picture every few months. Lots of paths to walk on here and lots of really pretty things to see.

The Mint Chip Mama - Long Island Mom Clark Botanic Garden

Clark Botanic Garden, Albertson

A small but very pretty garden with bridges and water. Perfect for smaller kids who may not be able to take long walks.

The Mint Chip Mama - Long Island Centennial Gardens

Centennial Gardens and Bird Sanctuary, Floral Park

This place is amazing. I took my five-year-old here to explore and it was great. They have lots of paths, a working garden (that donates it’s produce to a shelter), bridges, alphabet planting beds, murals, birdhouses, and colors galore. One of the best finds this year.

The Mint Chip Mama - Long Island Mom Bayard Cutting Arboretum

Bayard Cutting Arboretum, Great River

In true arboretum fashion this place is filled with everything you would expect. Beautiful trails, water, flowers, and the weirdest roots we’ve ever seen. They looked like gophers frozen in time. You could spend hours here walking around.

Long Island Gardens, PARKS, & Water

The Mint Chip Mama - Long Island King’s Park Psychiatric Nissequogue State Park

Kings Park Psychiatric Center aka Nissequogue River State Park, Kings Park

Wow – want a crazy place to walk around? This is it! The huge campus of the former Psychiatric Center is now vandalized with colorful graffiti and open to the public to enjoy. Some say it’s haunted. Those “some” told us after we went (phew). Definitely an “if these walls could talk” feeling there.

The Mint Chip Mama - Long Island Mom Callahan Beach

Sunken Meadow State Park – Callahan’s Beach, Fort Salonga

This beautiful beach has some trails cut out of the tall grass, and a nice, long boardwalk. Great place to go for a walk. Especially at sunset.

The Mint Chip Mama - Long Island Gardens, Parks, Beaches

Fire Island National Seashore, Robert Moses State Parks, Babylon

A fun walk from Robert Moses field 5 in any season. You will almost definitely see deer as well as some beautiful scenery. Of course the iconic Fire Island lighthouse is not to be missed. It is the halfway mark to Fire Island.

The Mint Chip Mama - Long Island Jones Beach field 10

Jones Beach State Park, Field 10, Wantagh

A great walk in any season. This is where the seal walks are as well as the fishing piers. It is also where many of the famous Jones Beach sunset pictures are taken. If you go, you will see why.

Long Island Gardens, Parks, & WATER

The Mint Chip Mama - Long Island Gardens, Parks, Beaches St. John Pond Preserve

St. John’s Pond Preserve, Cold Spring Harbor

This pond is located in the same parking lot as the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery. This is our favorite spot on Long Island. We come here every season to see how the view changes. I challenge you to take a bad picture. There is a large tree right by the parking lot with a plaque in front claiming to be the oldest trees on Long Island dating back to the 1700s. Go ahead, hug it.

The Mint Chip Mama - Long Island Mom Blog - Argyle Lake Park

Argyle Lake Park, Babylon

This beautiful park can better be described as a lake with a path to walk around. It’s a great place to spend some time and has a nice playground. There are fun shops and restaurants in the area too.

The Mint Chip Mama - Long Island Mom Reeves Beach Shipwreck

Reeves Beach Shipwrecks, Riverhead

If you’re looking for a super cool experience, head over to Reeve’s Beach where you can see shipwrecks from World War One unearthed by hurricane Sandy in 2012. To see them, park in the lot, walk down to the beach and make a left.

There’s Also A Museum

The Mint Chip Mama - Long Island Mom Heckscher Park

Heckscher Park, Huntington

A family favorite for years, this park with an art museum, sculptures, a big lake, stone bridges, a playground, and all the water fowl you could want – is right in the heart of Huntington. A beautiful place to visit in any season, it should be on everyone’s list.

The Mint Chip Mama - Long Island Nassau County Museum of Art

William Cullen Bryant County Preserve/Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn

A beautiful sculpture garden surrounds the art museum of this Gold Coast Mansion. This is a great destination for some exercise and fun pictures. We especially like the mirrored sculptures. Another one of our favorites in all seasons.

The Mint Chip Mama - Long Island Cedarmere Park

Cedarmere Park, Roslyn

Around the Clayton-Cedarmere Estates you’ll find a waterfront park with lots of land to run around as well as beautiful gardens and a lake with a great stone bridge. You can also walk down to the water and see their old mill.

The Mint Chip Mama - Long Island Mom Fire Island Beach

Here’s to you finding your Zen at one of these beautiful Long Island gardens, parks, and water. Let me know your favorite below!

Make A Chocolate Pop-It: Your Complete Guide (Perfect for December Break)

With December break on the horizon, grab some chocolate melting wafers and make a chocolate pop-it! Making a chocolate pop-it is a fun, simple and cheap activity to do with your kids.

The Mint Chip Mama - Rainbow Pop Toy

Pop-Its – The Hot Toy In Everyone’s House

As I’m sure you know – right now – one of the most popular toys is the push and pop bubble fidget sensory toy known as the pop-it. However, that plastic bastion of bubbles is so much more than just a toy! You can use it as a mold to make chocolate and candy! We recently signed up for a library class where we learned how to do this great activity. We tweaked it a bit and thought it would be fun to share!

Most importantly, it can take as little as twenty minutes to make a chocolate pop-it or as long as your little Picasso can last.

The Mint Chip Mama - Melting Wafers

Start off with deciding what type of chocolate melting wafers you want to use. They come in all different flavors and colors; you can get creative! Specifically, the library gave us milk chocolate but if we had our choice we would use mint chocolate (obviously, says The Mint Chip Mama).

The Mint Chip Mama - Toppings

Next, grab some fillings for your popped out bubbles. Any candy around your house works especially the size and shape of M & M’s or Skittles. They fit perfectly and will look really pretty. Since my kids love mini marshmallows we cut them in half and put them in there too. In a perfect world my ideal candy would be Junior Mint cabochons.

Make A Chocolate Pop-It In 10 Easy Steps!

The Mint Chip Mama - Wash Your Pop Toy

1. Wash your pop-it because who knows where your kids took that thing. I filled up a bin with soapy water and let it soak for a bit. 

The Mint Chip Mama - Make A Chocolate Pop-It!

2. Take eight ounces of melting chocolate and microwave for 30 seconds at 50% power, then stir and repeat. You can play around with the time and power. Funny enough, because of this activity I discovered our microwave has a “melt” setting with a chocolate option!

The Mint Chip Mama - Make A Chocolate Pop-It!

3. Take the cup out (be careful – it may be hot – duh) and stir the chocolate so it’s all melted together. I find a knife works better than a spoon, its easier to clean off, and you can use it again.

The Mint Chip Mama - Make A Chocolate Pop-It!

4. You are ready for the big pour! Make sure all bubbles are facing up – or experiment for a funky design (you can pop out a smiley face or even your child’s initial!). Start in the middle and slowly pour the entire cup of chocolate onto the pop-it.

The Mint Chip Mama - Make A Chocolate Pop-It!

5. Flattened the chocolate into all corners using your knife.

The Mint Chip Mama - Make A Chocolate Pop-It!

6. Pop it into the freezer to harden. Yep! That’s it! That’s all it takes to make a chocolate pop-it! The hardest part is making enough room in your freezer to fit your plate flat. Unless your freezer is neater than mine – then good for you.

The Mint Chip Mama - Timer

7. Set your timer for fifteen minutes.

The Mint Chip Mama - Make A Chocolate Pop-It!

8. Your pop-it is ready to come out! It should be shiny indicating it’s nice and solid.

The Mint Chip Mama - Make A Chocolate Pop-It!

9. Run your nail under the edge and slowly pull the chocolate off. There is a bit of suction so go slowly and carefully. Tada! Well just look at that. Pretty cool, right?

10. Set up your toppings and let your kids go to town decorating their creation.

The Mint Chip Mama - Decorate A Chocolate Pop-It!

Decorate Your Chocolate Pop-It!

To secure your toppings into each bubble, you need “glue”. For this you will use a little more melted chocolate. We tried both dipping the toppings into the melted chocolate and painting the chocolate with a small (clean) paintbrush. Either works, it all depends on what you want to do – and if you want to clean up something else.

The Mint Chip Mama - Make A Chocolate Pop-It!

Keep in mind, the chocolate “glue” hardens quickly if you use the paint brush so make sure to move quickly. It dries a little slower if you dip the topping into it.

The Mint Chip Mama - Make A Chocolate Pop-It!

They can make patterns, designs, or just pop stuff in randomly. Anything that fits in the bubble works for a topping. Just don’t forget your chocolate glue to keep it all together. Or leave it out and your kids can play tic tac toe, or you can use it for a number or letter game!

The Mint Chip Mama - Happy Boy

You Did It!

Pat yourself on the back for repurposing something laying around the house into a cool, edible creation. Since the chocolate is so thick, you’ll most likely want to eat this in shifts. You can easily break apart the rows thanks to the indentations.

Play Around And Make All Kinds Of Pop-Its

I hope you enjoyed this step-by-step guide on how to make a chocolate pop-it. I can’t wait to see how all of yours come out. Play around with different things – anything that melts and hardens should work – you can even try Jell-O! If you want to think bigger, try making them as a customized DIY party favors.

More From The Mint Chip Mama

Not here over break? This would be fun for a snow day too! Speaking of snow days, check out my other crafty ideas here. In addition, please follow me on Facebook and Instagram and subscribe to my blog (new posts come right to your inbox!) for more creative ideas. Looking for a new item to keep your kids busy, a birthday present, or a treat for yourself? Check out my Amazon storefront (where I get a small commission from each purchase)! 

The Ultimate Guide For Fun Loving Family Adventures In The Tri-State Area

I’m so excited to host another GUEST BLOGGER on The Mint Chip Mama! Please welcome: JENNIFER FRISCH, who has some great tri-state area family adventures to share!

Family travel is one of my passions. I get so many great ideas and family travel tips from The Mint Chip Mama. I wanted to share my family’s most recent fun and exciting tri-state area itinerary with you, her readers.

The Mint Chip Mama - Tri-State Family Adventures by Jennifer Frisch

Where Tri-State Area Family Adventures Begins – Sesame Place

We started with Sesame Place – a fun location to visit and a top one for tri-state area family travel. One of the highlights was the “dining with the character” experience (some characters were only visible with this option) which includes a character show and games. We were nice and relaxed and well-fed from the delicious buffet. 

The Family Adventures Continue in New Hope, PA

My family and I rested our heads for the night in New Hope, PA, at the Clarion Hotel – 20 minutes from Sesame Place. Our suite had two separate rooms and a small kitchen. Our family loved having this feature since it’s more like home, and my daughter, Madison, got her own room. 

The Mint Chip Mama - Tri-State Family Adventures by Jennifer Frisch

Duck Soup Café

New Hope, PA, is a darling small town – perfect for family adventures – and filled with character. We started our day with a delicious home-cooked breakfast at the mom-and-pop shop, Duck Soup Café. In line with the cafe’s name – there were little wooden boxes of duck food on some street corners throughout the town. My daughter loved feeding the local ducks. 

Peddlers Village

After breakfast we explored the charming little shopping area called Peddlers Village. There were so many shops and delicious specialty foods – like gourmet popcorn. We also enjoyed their scarecrow contest.

The Mint Chip Mama - Tri-State Family Adventures by Jennifer Frisch

Waterfront Dining at Martine’s Riverhouse Restaurant

Next, we went to dinner on Main Street at a wonderful restaurant named Martine’s Riverhouse Restaurant, right on the river. Martine’s was delicious and had an amazing view.

The Mint Chip Mama - Tri-State Family Adventures by Jennifer Frisch

Lost River Cavern

The next morning, we got up bright and early and headed to a family-run, family friendly, local cave named Lost River Cavern. My family thought it was so cool to be down in the cave – where they even held weddings many years ago! We explored and learned so many interesting facts about the cave and its history.

Moving On To The Colors of Easton, PA

The next part of our trip was very colorful – in more ways than one. We continued to Easton, PA. Our first stop was the Easton Public Market for lunch. Recommended on a mom’s Facebook page, this place did not disappoint. The market was awesome and it lived up to the hype. We were in the mood for noodles, so we chose ramen. We shopped and found some good coffee drinks and oddball items like birthday cake flavored gum. Finally, we were ready to go to the next mecca for family adventures in the tri-state area – the rainbow factory, A/K/A, the Crayola Experience.

The Mint Chip Mama - Tri-State Family Adventures by Jennifer Frisch

The Crayola Experience – Another Must For Family Adventures!

We entered the building and participated in every activity offered. From climbing up a rope tower structure to scribbles to recreating our own crayons (with custom labels) into the form of a seahorse – we did it all. We also viewed a fantastic behind-the-scenes video of the factory where Crayola makes it’s famous crayons. It kept everyone entertained.

Book & Puppet Company

As closing time approached at Crayola Experience, we had to say goodbye to our new favorite place and find another activity. Luckily, we found that right next door at a local bookstore called Book & Puppet Co. The owner was a nice gentleman who was doing a Zoom Storytime. This store had a great selection of books, toys, and games.

On to East Stroudsburg, PA

Our next stop was East Stroudsburg, PA where we stayed at Staybridge Suites. The Staybridge was a nice suite hotel with a separate sleeping area for my daughter and a big kitchen. It included a hot breakfast which we loved. I mean – who doesn’t love free breakfast?

The Mint Chip Mama - Tri-State Family Adventures by Jennifer Frisch

Lakota Wolf Preserve

We had a wonderful experience at Lakota Wolf Preserve (run by a lovely & knowledgeable husband and wife team) where we got very close and personal with some very cool wolfpacks. Since many of these wolves were raised here from cubs, the couple knew everything about them as well as the other animals on premises. It was so educational and kid-friendly too. You can hike up to the reserve or take a shuttle from the parking lot. It was so interesting hearing the wolves howl and interact with one another.

The Mint Chip Mama - Tri-State Family Adventures by Jennifer Frisch

Bushkill Fall

After we said goodbye to the animals, we headed to an incredible (and reasonably priced) waterfall park called Bushkill Falls. Bushkill Falls had beautiful trails and wooden walks around the falls where we enjoyed our packed lunch. It was very well maintained and a unique experience. There was also a gift shop, café, and museum-like rooms to walk through. 

Jennifer Frisch

Pocono Snake And Animal Farm

Our next stop was the roadside zoo Pocono Snake and Animal Farm. We fed all types of exotic animals from bears to pigs to goats to monkeys. It was so cool and unique. All of us loved the experience. The monkeys even caught their food with their little hands if they liked what we were throwing!

Dinner On The River At Willow Tree Inn

Dinner time came as did more wonderful waterfront dining – this time along the river at the Willow Tree Inn in East Stroudsburg, PA. It was so gorgeous. Not only was the food delicious but they have a seasonal menu and grow their own herbs. This wonderful experience was enhanced by a piano player serenading us throughout the night (and the waitress mentioning they had a Groupon for the restaurant!).

Jennifer Frisch

Wild West City

We headed out early to the fantastic and interactive Wild West City. This place has been open for decades and is such a unique experience (including a live carousel with ponies). My mother-in-law reminded me that my husband visited when he was younger! I’m pretty sure they are still doing the same things as when he was a boy. The kids got to experience what it was like in the old west for the day – from helping solve crimes and apprehend the bad guys (including a visit to the jail) – to visiting the bank and print shop. We even got to ride on a stagecoach and get robbed. It was a hoot.

Cracker Barrel – A Classic For Family Adventures

Our final dinner was at the infamous Cracker Barrel – and it lived up to the hype. It was fabulous and the perfect restaurant for a family adventure. We enjoyed some of their signature dishes like the chicken and dumplings, and the catfish and loaded sweet potato with jumbo marshmallows on top with a pecan sauce. After all the yummies, and a quick pit stop at the gift shop, we jumped into the car to head home.

Overall, it was a fabulous trip with so many adventures in four days. I can’t wait for the next one. 

Jennifer Frisch

My name is Jennifer Frisch. I’m a loud and funny 40-year-old mom and wife from Dix Hills, Long Island who has lived in Manhattan for the last 18 years. My daughter Madison is four and a half. All my life I have loved exploring my city and surrounding towns and that has not changed after becoming a mom. I still love traveling near and far with my husband and daughter and visiting new, fun, and quirky places I find online. 

5 Fun Customizable Video Games to Play (and A Freebie) to Keep Your Kids Learning Over the Holidays

I’m so excited to host another guest blogger on The Mint Chip Mama! Please welcome: Barbara Peters. Barbara Peters is a speech language pathologist and a mother of two. She is going to showcase her awesome customizable video games!

School’s out for winter break, but you can use customizable video games to keep your kid’s brains from freezing over! They’ll never know they’re learning over the holidays! Most kids don’t want to do work sheets or practice flashcards on their vacation, but who wouldn’t want to play a game? Although I created these to use with my students in school, my own kids beg to play these games over and over (I screencast the games from my computer onto my smart TV and it’s like our very own gameshow)!

I Can Put MY Child’s Face In Video Game!?

All of these games come with an easily customizable digital card deck. Replace the images or text on the cards and practice letter ID, decoding, sight words, math facts, speech sounds, vocabulary questions, or anything else that needs practicing… but have fun while doing it!  Copy and paste the card deck from one game to another easily for additional practice! Travelling over the holidays? These customizable video games are perfect for a snow day as well! They are also great for homeschool and remote learning!

Need a little holiday gift for a kid in your life and don’t know what to get? One of these games would be perfect!

The Mint Chip Mama - 5 Fun Customizable Video Games to Play (and a freebie) to Keep Your Kids Learning Over the Holidays

1. SNOWBALL FIGHT!!!!

No need to spend all your time getting the kids into snowpants, boots, gloves, scarves, and hats… .just so that they can say they need the bathroom right before you head out the door (or worse, 2 minutes after they head out the door). In this interactive game, you can insert photos of your little ones (and all their friends, family members, or favorite tv show characters) right into the game and then throw snowballs at them to your heart’s delight! Just watch out…because someone is going to throw one back at you!!

The Mint Chip Mama - 5 Fun Customizable Video Games to Play (and a freebie) to Keep Your Kids Learning Over the Holidays

They may run fast, but you’ll catch one of these cookies before he gets away in this interactive game. Practice some winter vocabulary and describing skills to choose your cookie.   See if you can guess which one will be too slow (it changes every time!). 

The Mint Chip Mama - 5 Fun Customizable Video Games to Play (and a freebie) to Keep Your Kids Learning Over the Holidays

Time to light the menorah! Click a cookie to eat it, and if you find a candle cookie, click on the shamash (the middle candle) to light another candle on the menorah. When the menorah is all lit, the game is over and whoever lit the last candle is the winner!  

The Mint Chip Mama - 5 Fun Customizable Video Games to Play (and a freebie) to Keep Your Kids Learning Over the Holidays

4. Pop Up Elf

I know he’s hiding behind one of those presents! Take turns choosing a present to shake. If you find the elf, you win!

The Mint Chip Mama - 5 Fun Customizable Video Games to Play (and a freebie) to Keep Your Kids Learning Over the Holidays

5. Pop Up Snowman

In this customizable game, you can swap out the pop-up snowman to be any favorite character (or even a photo of yourself or your child!). Choose a snowflake and see who pops up!

FREEBIE: Our Holiday Gift to You!

The Mint Chip Mama - 5 Fun Customizable Video Games to Play (and a freebie) to Keep Your Kids Learning Over the Holidays

Happy New Year Game

Time for the countdown!  Describe which child you want to pick on your turn, and see if they start the countdown. When you find the one who triggers the countdown, you win! 

The Mint Chip Mama - 5 Fun Games to Play (and a freebie) to Keep Your Kids Learning Over the Holidays Family Dressed as Harry Potter Characters

Meet Mrs. Peters!

Barbara Peters is a speech language pathologist who lives and works on Long Island. She’s the mother of two children, ages 6 and 9.   When not driving them to their afterschool activities, she can be found choreographing for the middle school musical! She’s been creating digital games and customizable video games to play with her students for almost 20 years, but only started sharing them with the world in August 2020. She’s sold over 1500 games to customers in at least 10 countries! Pretty cool, right? Check out her Instagram, Facebook & Twitter pages or email her at: MrsPetersSpeech@gmail.com.

The Top 5 Holiday Light Shows on Long Island

It’s wonderful to live in an area with so many holiday light shows. What’s even better is we are so lucky to have many beautiful historic mansions on Long Island offering the perfect back drops for such events. Coupled with that, these holiday light shows are a safe way to enjoy an evening outside with family and friends. With walk through and drive through options there is something for everyone to enjoy.

We chased many holiday light shows this season and are happy to present our top five (in chronological order of our visits). The best show for the evening may change based on who is attending with you. With that said – they are all really pretty and fun and you can’t go wrong with any of them! Unless your kids complain that they are cold…

The Mint Chip Mama - 2021 Holiday Lights Show on Long Island

1. NYC Winter Lantern Festival: A Bug’s Night at the Nassau County Museum of Art

If you are looking to relax in your heated car while seeing a beautiful holiday light show, animatronic dinosaurs, sunflower fields, sea creatures, and endless flowers, “A Bug’s Night” is for you! This was a fun light show to kick off the season. This show is located on the grounds of one of our favorite museums – a former Long Island Gold Coast mansion – with history dating back to 1862. I loved how they incorporated some of the sculptures in their large garden (one of the largest publicly accessible sculpture parks in the Northeast) into the holiday light show. In addition, they have some food vendors and a bathroom at the end in the museum’s parking lot. This show runs October 22, 2021 – January 9, 2022.

The Mint Chip Mama - 2021 Holiday Lights Show on Long Island

2. Shimmering Solstice at Old Westbury Gardens

If you are looking to leisurely walk-through a big garden and enjoy multiple types of light installations or loved the game Simon as a kid, Shimmering Solstice is for you. This is one of our happy places so to see how they masterfully utilized their expansive grounds (off season) to bring this Gold Coast mansion (completed in 1906) to life was fantastic. The holiday light show culminated with a gorgeous cinematic extravaganza projected onto the back of Westbury House. Add in the hot chocolate and s’mores from Lessing’s and we could not have been happier. Well, except maybe me – as I ate a gourmet pulled chicken sandwich. There is also a nice mobile bathroom at the entrance that my kids said was nicer than the bathroom in our house. Kids will love this show but it also fits the bill for a date night or girls night out. This show runs November 20, 2021 – January 9, 2022.

The Mint Chip Mama - 2021 Holiday Lights Show on Long Island

3. LuminoCity Festival at Whitney Pond Park

This winter wonderland offers multiple beloved characters and themes across a 24-acre park. Highlights of LuminoCity Festival situated in the historic “West Egg” park include the iridescent “fortress of solitude”, the light up floor planks, and illuminated things to stick your face in for pictures (my favorite). While this park is not a large piece of land, there were many paths to take.  With each direction came a different adventure and we loved seeing everything in one place before us. This holiday light show is a great option if you want to maximize your light show experience and minimize your walking. There were lots of delicious food vendors and the park’s bathrooms were open once inside the event. This show runs November 12, 2021 – January 9, 2022.

The Mint Chip Mama - 2021 Holiday Lights Show on Long Island

4. Bright Lights: A Magical Holiday Celebration at The Vanderbilt Museum

The third holiday light show installed throughout the spacious grounds of a Gold Coast mansion (built in 1910) is Bright Lights. This event was unique because there was a lot going on in addition to the lights. We were greeted by favorite holiday characters near the crepe truck and coffee and donut truck as well as while we walked around. There is also a charming courtyard (with a European feel) waiting for you with hot pretzels and carolers. If you want to be transported to old world charm, this show is for you. There were bathrooms at the entry gate house. This show runs November 27, 2021 – December 23, 2021.

The Mint Chip Mama - 2021 Holiday Lights Show on Long Island

5. Holiday Lights at the Bronx Zoo

While not on Long Island, I would be remiss not to include the holiday light show that started it all for us. The Bronx Zoo (which opened in 1865) is one of our favorite places in New York. The Bronx Zoo Holiday Light Show transforms the beloved zoo into miles and miles of lights, performers, shows, and our favorite – ice carvers. You could spend hours here meandering through all the paths and watching the shows. All the zoo bathrooms and food vendors are open (including additional fire pits for s’mores). This show runs November 19, 2021 – January 9, 2022.

The Mint Chip Mama - 2021 Holiday Lights Show on Long Island

Experience Long Island History

Each holiday light show mentioned is unique and enjoyable for a different reason. Tickets to any of them would make great experiential gifts for the holidays. Above all else, I love how the light shows are woven into the historical context of Long Island. What’s even more interesting – some of these historic properties did not have electricity themselves in their heyday!

The Mint Chip Mama - 2021 Holiday Lights Show on Long Island

Drive Your Own Light Show

With the holidays coming and the temperatures dropping, don’t forget how much fun it is to pile into your car and drive around hunting holiday lights. We love venturing into new areas and finding all the crazy, creative, and beautiful things people do for the holidays. Each year I put together a map for my friends to follow based on many hours of research. I’ve yet to finish this year’s list but here is my list from last year, as well as the LI Lights Map. While I can’t confirm all houses on here are up and running this year, I can confirm driving the routes will showcase beautifully lit homes. Hopefully you will find some specials ones of your own.

The Mint Chip Mama - 2021 Holiday Lights Show on Long Island

Also don’t forget you can make your own home and yard into a lighted oasis with some fun solar string lights (we are obsessed with them!) and a firepit!

holiday lights around a house

Happy Holidays!

The Mint Chip Mama - 2021 Holiday Lights Show on Long Island
Photo Credit: Rick Rosa Photography

The Mint Chip Mama’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide!

Welcome to The Mint Chip Mama’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide!

How is it the 2021 Holiday Gift Guide season already? No really, how? I work on my Holiday Gift Guide all year and somehow this one just snuck up at lightning speed! Maybe it’s because I wore a t-shirt today?

ross wallenstein making the mint chip mama a lemon drop martini

If we learned nothing else this year – it is that we can make something out of nothing. We can do great things, like go on a local hike with friends or sit at the beach and listen to live music – and it costs nothing. This is something I want to carry through my holiday season. For instance, my favorite gift last year was a “free experience”. My husband surprised me and learned how to make my favorite drink – a lemon drop martini – because we no longer went out. I thought this was the most thoughtful thing and have enjoyed his new skill many times this year.

kids in elf pajamas

We are trying to stop bringing things we don’t find useful and valuable into our home. In addition, we are actively passing along items we no longer want so others can enjoy them. This is a great lesson to teach this time of year. Spread the good. Help others. A good experience doesn’t have to cost anything – it is about the quality, not the quantity. Unless you’re talking about taco toppings (try mango – life changer).

3 kids in chanukah pajamas

OK, Now Let’s Rock & Roll

Presenting The Mint Chip Mama’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide. All year I search for the best gifts and toys – also the weird and quirky – and bring them to you. I love finding things off the beaten path that will make you laugh. I aim to find the gem that will make your (enter gift receiver here) crack up. As usual, there are some repeats (indicated with an “*”) – these items are still getting much love in our home a year later.

a boy sitting by a fireplace drinking hot chocolate during the holidays

P.S. Thinking about what to get your favorite blogger? I have just the thing (assuming it’s me). Please share this post if you find it helpful and follow me on my Blog, Facebook, Instagram, & Pinterest pages (pretty please with guac on top).  

blue poinsettia

I will be updating my 2021 Holiday Gift Guide all season long, so please save and visit regularly!

ticket to ride game

Family Games

Countaloupe

Beat That!

Ticket to Ride Board Game

JABUKA Best Word Puzzle Game

Exploding Minions Game

Chicken War*

Mancala*

Sequence*

a little boy with Masters of the Universe Toys

Elementary School Aged Kids & Their Nostalgic Parents

Carrom Nok Hockey

Rubik’s Race Game

Scrunchie Maker

Special edition Fisher Price Little People Collector sets: The Golden Girls, Run DMC, The Office, LOTR

Masters of the Universe Castle Grayskull, Battle Cat & Action Figures

Saved By The Bell Uno

Pokémon Battle Deck

Vintage Casio Calculator Watch*

pixicade plus set - The Mint Chip Mama’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide!

For the Child Who Likes to Draw & Build

Pixicade Video Game Builder

LEGO DOTS Creative Designer Box

LEGO DOTS Bracelet Mega Pack

Snap Ships

Anti Smudge Artist Gloves

Active Stylus Pen for Android & iOS

Portable LED Light Box

Keva Wooden Plank Set

Brick Innovations Brick Knobs & Minifigure Shelf / Wall Hook

Tubelox Lifesize Building Set*

Avengers Hero Inventor Kit*

Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pen Set*

Grateful Dead Magnan Tilles

Unisex Gifts for Kids

CreateOn Grateful Dead Magna-Tiles

A beautifully illustrated book from Clever Publishing

Tiny Values Subscription box – a monthly box filled with kindness, courage, & gratitude. (save 10% with code “TVLaunchGift10”)

Alltruist Good Deed Subscription Box

The Young Scientists Club Space Adventures Pack

Sprout & Grow Window Plant Growing Kit

Bucket Stilts

Color America’s National Parks Coloring Book

TruKid Bubble Bath Pods

GUJO Adventure Build-Your-Own Mars Space Station

Syma Drone

Cats vs Pickles Plush Toy

Glow in the Dark Tape & Multicolor Duct Tape

Day-Glow Two-Rider Sled

Adjustable Inline Skates with Light up Wheels

Binoculars for Kids

Thames & Kosmos My Discovery Telescope*

LED Headlamp Flashlight*

Learn to Read with Bob Books and VersaTiles*

VTech KidiZoom Smartwatch DX2*

Ring-A-Ding-Ding Game*

JOOLA Midsize Compact Table Tennis Table

Mabels Labels* (save 10% with code “MINTCHIP” (excluding masks, stamps and sale items))

tween gift sets

For Your Tween

Signature Scent Art & Craft Kit

Wooden Charm & Tassel Jewelry Art & Craft Kit

Purpose Pendant Jewelry Kit

DIY Candle Kit

Cat Patrick’s Books: Tornado Brain & Paper Heart

LED Strip Lights

Lanyard Pack & Hooks

Zippered Accordion Folder

Tie-Dye Design Studio

A classic DVD like Mean Girls or Clueless or this set because clearly Amazon agrees with me.

Cami Training Bra

Body Positive: A Guide to Loving Your Body

Chalkola Chalk Markers

Nair Hair Remover & Beauty Treatment Seaweed Leg Mask

Big Joe Fuf*

Kore Wobble Stools*

Aerial Yoga Flying Yoga Swing*

Velvet Hair Scrunchies*

The unofficial Hogwarts cookbook for kids

For the Harry Potter Obsessed Fan

The Unofficial Hogwarts Cookbook for Kids

Domez Harry Potter Series 1 Collector’s Box Set

Invisibility Cloak*

Harry Potter Uno*

Harry Potter Wizard Chess Set*

brooklyn unplugged tour and graffiti workshop - The Mint Chip Mama’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide!

Experiential Gifts

Tickets to a New York Riptide Lacrosse Game

A customized video game with your child’s face!

Tickets to Old Westbury Garden’s Shimmering Solstice Light Show

Tickets to the Nationwide Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit

WildPlay Jones Beach

Private or Family Yoga Session with Yogi Beans

Graffiti Workshop & Street Art Walking Tour in Brooklyn

Help your favorite musician get a record deal with Indiebible

The Adventure Park of Long Island*

holiday lights around a house

I Don’t Want More Clutter IN My House

A backyard trampoline from Wood Kingdom West, mention TMCM for a free hoop!

A fun lawn sign from Brenner’s Birthday Signs

Sonic Fin Aerodynamic High Performance Outdoor Football

Billy Buckskin Fatwood Fire Starter Sticks

Camo Bike Cup Holder

Wind Spinner

PRO Swingball – All Surface Portable Tether Tennis Set

Mystical Fire Flame Color Changer*

Solar String Lights*

Collapsible/Foldable Folding Hammock*

EzyRoller New Pro-X*

Stomp Rocket Dueling Rockets*

PlayMonster Super Duper Spinner*

woman holding a water bottle with crystals in it. Crystal la vida

Fill Your Belly, Open Your Mind

Popilicious Gourmet Popcorn Cake

Goli Gummies: Apple Cider Vinegar, Superfruits, Supergreens, Ashwagandha & Bites: Calm, Multi (save 15% with these links!)

Beyond insane, delicious, stuffed cookies from Chonky Cookies

LocaLI Bred Subscription Box – Locally sourced Long Island gift box

CBD Products from Medterra

Spicely Organics Unique Spices

Quick defrosting tray

BeMe Immunity Booster & Energy Boost Liquid Supplement

A box of delicious cream puffs from Plainview Puffs

Kibo Chickpea Chips

Letter/Number Candy Dish from Sweese or Coffeezone

Virginia Gold Peanut Coffee

Weber BBQ Smoker Box & Smoking Chips

Crystal La Vida Crystal Infused Water Bottle

Cooking On The Run

I Love Tacos! Taco Holders*

Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt & Ice Cream Maker*

Stainless Steel Drinking Straws*

A woman holding Scrubz body products

For Your Friend Who Loves Beauty & Skincare

Scrubz Cubez Sugar Scrub Cubes with Shea Butter and Alegna Soap

Aloisia Beauty Essential Daily Masks

Naturala Hair Growth Shampoo and Conditioner Set

DERMAPORE Pore Extractor and Serum Infuser Tool

Nature’s Beauty Body Care Collection

bareMinerals Poreless Clay Cleanser

Original Blends Pump Styling Gel

Scrubz Body Oilz+ Shea Butter & Botanical Oil Lotion*

Kitsch Derma Roller (save 15% with this link)*

The Mint Chip Mama’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide! Woman with ryka hiking boots

Clothes That Will Make You Smile

Victorian Nightgown

Windproof Cycling Bike Jacket & Gloves

Fun mental health motto apparel from FerrisBuilt

Ryka Summit hiking boots

Sweatpants with Zippered Pockets

Heated Socks

A fun 80s/90s mask lanyard/chain from RSDUbs Ribbons*

Tie Dye Hoodie Sweatshirt Dress with Pockets*

Just Love Spaghetti Strap Nightgown & Tie Dye Thermal Pajama Set*

Shinesty‘s absolutely amazing Chanukah & Christmas outfits*

hand warmer at softball - The Mint Chip Mama’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide!

For the Adult Who Has It All

Life Changing, Ultrathin Microfiber Beach Towels

A trendy handbag from Popular by J & M, including my favorite “The Mint Chip Mama” Neoprene Tote

Rechargeable Hand Warmer

Toilet Bombs by Mama Suds

Weighted Blanket

Jackbox Games

Lighted Birch Tree 

Beautiful printed event & guest napkins from Hudsonest

Flexible Tripod*

Mini Movie Projector*

Umbra Mask Hanger with Flip-Down Hooks in Sticks or Skyline*

Light Up Electronic Word Clock*

happy new year - The Mint Chip Mama’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide!

Still need more ideas? Check out Amazon’s Gift Hub, Small Business Gift Guide, & Handmade Holiday Guide with even more categories. Or my Holiday Gift Guides from 2020, 2019, 2018, & 2017.

2 kids dressed for the holidays

Happy shopping and as always – let me know what you think!

family in front of a christmas tree

Most items above contain affiliate links. In addition, some items were received in exchange for an honest review. All items listed above on The Mint Chip Mama’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide are items I genuinely think are cool and are things that I think you will like too. Happy holidays!

mom and daughter in front of chanukah decorations

Happy Holidays!

The Mint Chip Mama - 2021 Holiday Lights Show on Long Island
Photo Credit: Rick Rosa Photography for Redmax Events at Bright Lights LI

A “Bigg” Week For The Mint Chip Mama’s Public Relations – From Apple Pie to Apple Picking

American Pie, Apple Picking, Apple Pies. The irony is not lost on us! The last few days have been exciting in our house! Quite the public relations parade!

The Mint Chip Mama - Bigg Week For The Wallensteins with Jason Biggs for Cash At Your Door Public Relations

We’re TV Stars!

On Tuesday, my family was on national television. The ultimate public relations! In the spring, I was contacted through my Instagram page to appear on a show about our home on E! Entertainment Television. We passed the production company’s video screener – including trivia questions – we were chosen and we picked a date. Our direction was to act surprised and natural when the big day arrived. This was not hard to do as a thirty person crew showed up in our driveway! Surprise! Then in walked Jason Biggs of “American Pie,” fame! 

The show, which premiered in August, is called “Cash at Your Door”. In this show Jason knocks at your door and “surprises” the homeowners with a chance to win $25,000! He asks an entry question and if the people get it right several series of trivia questions follow (including a hard one about their own homes).

Playing Giant Connect Four with Jason Biggs on Cash At You Door - Good public relations

Cash At Our Door!

They filmed our episode in May, 2021. We were hanging out in our backyard – like an ordinary day. There was a knock at our gate. Biggs yelled through the fence and walked into the backyard “surprising us”. I was “gardening” and my kids were playing. It was great. He played our giant game of Connect Four with the kids. Then came the big entrance exam question – officially beginning the game. As luck would have it, the question was about Superman. In our home, four out of five people have a PhD in this subject. We were ready to go!

My family and I waited on our patio while Jason and the crew snooped around our house. Little did we know he was looking for the “in home” questions that we would get wrong (oh the anguish). We had not let anyone in house in over a year so this was a big step for us. We agreed to it because the company tested us and the entire crew multiple times that week to confirm we were all negative for Covid-19.

Thank You Public Relations! We Won $5,000!

The crew quickly turned our kitchen into a television studio and invited my husband, daughter, and me to play (the boys were too young). Jason asked us a bunch of pop culture and historical questions. After a few tense rounds – and nail-biting pauses – we won $5,000! It was so exciting to finally have an outlet for our extensive library of useless knowledge! There was even a Harry Potter question in there for our Harry Potter fanatic!

My favorite part was after agonizing for five months over what they would show America from our house – the messy closets, the holes in the wall – they picked our crazy funny lamps! I bought them as a joke twenty years ago. The lamps got more press out of the show than any of us!

We had a great time making the show and I appreciate everyone from E!, NBC Universal, and Lion TV for their hard work (and COVID safety protocols) for putting it together. 

Thank You Public Relations! We Got A Full Page NY Post Feature!

Moving on from Apple Pie to Apple Picking… Recently, I wrote a blog post about how – as Moms – we only go apple picking for the social media pictures. This tongue-in-cheek topic is true so it was very well-received. It was so well received, in fact, that The New York Post wanted to write a broader story about the trend I described!

I had a nice conversation with Doree Lewak, the Post reporter. On Thursday – while I was at the amazing BlogHer Biz event in Brooklyn – we were notified that the story was running in the physical paper as well as online. Even more exciting – The New York Post was sending a photographer to our house to take pictures of us with the kids the next day!

An efficient use of the boy’s picture day haircuts – we were all camera ready. We had so much fun with a super cool photographer being silly with apples around our property.

Saturday, we woke up to a text from a friend with a link to the story. It all happened so quickly surprising half our friends. What a thrill!

The Mint Chip Mama - Wallensteins On Their Stoop
Photo Credit: Zandy Mangold for the New York Post, October 22, 2021.

Life Gets In The Way Of Apples

What a fun, big, funny week for us! From a famous celebrity (because of apple pie) to an article published about apple picking – and subsequently making an apply pie! Quite the theme!

Of course it’s Fall and if your kids play sports you know what that means. You constantly run from one field to another (times three) so they can play with a ball. Kids are so packed with activities that a simple and fun family activity like apple picking becomes a whole to-do. Despite my vitriol, we planned to go this weekend with our friends – despite the charade. Because the truth is – it IS a really nice thing to do. Then the baseball practices trickled into the calendar so we updated the plan to visit a local farm stand for the preferred accoutrements of cider and donuts. Then the baseball games trickled into our calendar. Now we have no time. Oh well.

NY Post Article with Wallensteins on Apple Picking Public Relations

Even Public Relations Can’t Stop Baseball Practice

So, in the true arena of life imitating art – the only thing we have time for is to enjoy the apples brought to our house via The New York Post. The funniest part is we now have the apples – the whole point of apple picking – but who wants them? YES! Exactly! Who wants six bags of apples!? We missed the cute pictures for social media, we missed the picking, and we missed the donuts. However funny enough – we still had the yelling and screaming (maybe there is an anger releasing pheromone in apples…?).

A tween making an apple pie from scratch Public Relations

The Post photographer inspired my daughter to bake an apple pie. She’s currently on hour four of this endeavor. She has time for this because we canceled another activity for her. We are calling it an apology pie and giving it to our friends for being total assples with our time.

A Little boy apple picking at Lewin Farm Public Relations

Update – the apple saga continues. As I was putting my middle child to bed last night, he started crying. He was so sad we didn’t have time to apple pick this year. I said didn’t we just do it efficiently? The apples are literally in our kitchen! But he said no, he wants the experience of pulling them off trees, and getting that “fall feeling”. So here it is – yet another parenting lesson. When we think something totally sucks our kids see it as a wonderful annual family activity. They ignore the yelling (shocking), they ignore the shlepping, they ignore the expense, and they just want to pick those damn apples. An eight year old doesn’t have a camera or Facebook, he doesn’t have Instagram, he just wants to be with his family, outside, doing a fun “fall feeling” activity. Yet again, perception.

Apple Picking Blog Post Public Relations

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who commented and shared my apple picking blog post and the New York Post article!

There has been so much news about social media‘s negative impact on mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a monster filled with smiling Jones’ making you just want to keep up. Happy families picking apples and in pumpkin patches fall into this category. We need to support each other and talk about the truth. It’s not all smiles, come on – it’s hard to be a parent!

The Mint Chip Mama - Kissing A Homegrown pumpkin Public Relations Shot

As you can see – it’s easy to fake a beautiful picture. This is in my backyard, I’m blowing a kiss to the ONE pumpkin we successfully grew from ten vines. But it looks pretty good, right? My grey hair streaks glistening like sparkles from the sky…

Continuing with this truth serum, I’m thinking my next post can discuss how all parents ruin their child’s Halloween with four little words: “put on your coat.”

The Mint Chip Mama - Bigg Week For The Wallensteins Public Relations

Apple Picking – Admit It – You Don’t Like It, You Just Do It For The Fake Happy Family Pictures… Resist The FOMO! If Not: The Mint Chip Mama’s Unconventional Apple Picking Guide

Apple picking is a wonderful annual family tradition. As soon as the summer tapers off and the temperature drops, someone in your family – or a friend – will no doubt suggest going apple picking. There’s cider donuts, fun things to stick your face in, freshly grown vegetable farm stands, the ability to wear a vest, and endless good family pictures ready to be snapped.

The Mint Chip Mama - Apple Picking Applewood 2005
Apple picking (prior to kids) at Applewood Orchard & Winery – Warwick, NY in 2005 – right before we got married.

But you know what? Apple picking sucks. I know I shouldn’t say that, but I am liberating us all and shouting it from the roof tops.

The Mint Chip Mama Apple Picking 2009, Warwick
Apple picking (kid 1 on board) at Applewood Orchard & Winery – Warwick, NY in 2009.

No One Really Likes Apple Picking

Let’s be honest – it’s a charade. You just go to take pictures so it looks like you’re having fun. Don’t tell me you want to make a pie. I made one once. A good old fashion “Little House on the Prairie” style one from scratch and it took me longer than doing the laundry I have piled up – that I didn’t get to fold – because I drove an hour away to take pictures. I mean pick apples.

The Mint Chip Mama - Apple Picking Stuart Farms 2010
Apple Picking (kid 1’s first time) at Stuart Farm – Granite Springs, NY in 2010.

You like apples? No, you don’t. I mean – maybe you do, but not so much that you need 50 of them all at once.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. OK, so that’s 30 a month. Family of 5? 150. SO technically this is the only loophole. If you commit to eating one apple a day and you put it in your calendar – so you don’t forget (Post-It notes also accepted) – you get a pass. But also, if I saw a unicorn – I’d be excited.

The Mint Chip Mama - Apple Picking 2011
Apple Picking at Masker Orchard – Warwick, NY in 2011.

I love spending exorbitant amounts of money on fruit. Ok – if this is you then apple picking is for you. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love supporting local businesses and especially farms – but I always seem to spend more on entrance fees and paying by apple weight – to pick my own apples – than a filet mignon dinner. That’s wrong. Also – mmm… filet mignon dinner.

The Mint Chip Mama - Apple Picking NY 2013
Apple Picking (kid 2 on board) at Melick’s Orchard – Oldwick, NJ in 2013.

Our Kids Love Apple Picking!

I love seeing how big my kids get each year, it’s an annual tradition. Here is my proposal. Fake it. Everything on the internet is fake anyway. Take the five apples you already have in your fridge, find a tree that doesn’t immediately identify your backyard, and fake it. Yell at your kids to smile and look at the camera and stop hitting their sibling to give them the authentic orchard feel.

The kids love it. Yeah, they do. But they don’t like sitting in the car for an hour, parking 10 miles away, and then seeing empty trees. Let’s be honest, by the time you got your act together to find an orchard – on the one day there aren’t ten activities going on – the trees were all empty. Oh – the kids are whining because they’re hungry the second you left the driveway? Why don’t you have them eat an apple. You no doubt have some in your fridge now. They don’t like apples—SEE! Ha. Gotcha.

I love all the varieties I can pick. Know who has lots of varieties of apples? Every store within a 5-mile radius of your house.

Apple Picking 2015 - Lewin Farm, Wading River
Apple Picking (kid 2’s first time) at Lewin Farm – Calverton, NY in 2015.

Where to Go Apple Picking

It’s so nice to go (out east, up north, down south) for the day. Yes, I agree but then you realize on the way home you will be stuck in traffic, and you still have to fold your laundry.

We love meeting up with our friends who live near an orchard. Us too. But their backyard is less crowded, they have a bathroom with toilet paper, and they have a sink with soap so I can actually wash my hands (while singing a song in my head for 20 seconds). Go on a hike with them instead.

It’s so much fun trying new places each year. Said no one ever who is the one actually trying to find a place to go. Ask them how much time they spent asking on FB mom groups, looking at mom blog calendars, and stalking their friend’s pictures.

We go to the same place every year. It’s a tradition. True. That takes away the googling part. But I bet prices went up this year so that bag of apples you don’t really want will cost you double. You can photoshop your kids looking a year older into last year’s pictures and photo shop yourself looking a few years younger into the same picture. Hopefully someone comments “The kids got so big! How do they get older while you look like you get younger!?”

The Mint Chip Mama - Apple Picking 2016 F & W Schmitt Farm
Pumpkin Patch at F & W Schmitt Farm – Melville, NY in 2016.

Apple Orchard Bonuses 

I can also pick a pumpkin! Yeah, you can and for those prices you can also buy a diamond tiara. The diamond tiara is a better investment as you can wear it while doing dishes and wave to yourself in the mirror like the Queen when no one is looking.

The Mint Chip Mama - Apple Picking Cider Donuts at Stuart Farms
Apple Cider Donuts at Stuart Farm – Granite Springs, NY in 2012.

Apple cider donuts. OK, yeah, that’s the only reason to go. But I bet you ten bucks they sell them around the corner from your house. Also – mmm… apple cider donuts.

Hot apple cider. Same as above. Also – mmm… hot apple cider.

The Mint Chip Mama - Apple Picking Lewis Farms eating corn 2015
Roasted Corn at Lewin Farm – Calverton, NY in 2015.

Roasted Corn. Yes. This is worth it. Always a hit. But to be fair – for the $5 I spent on one ear I can go to Costco and buy enough corn for a family barbeque where I serve – roasted corn.

Oh no, I’m starting to convince myself that I want to go apple picking… NO NO stay strong.

Fake It

If there was an option where I could pay fifty percent and just take pictures or pick the apples and then leave them there – I’m in.

The Mint Chip Mama - Apple Picking Cider Donuts at Stuart Farms
Apple Picking at Stuart Farm – Granite Springs, NY in 2012.

I would barter picking and bagging the apples for the guy who comes to the orchard and just buys the pre-bagged apples (don’t you always think what’s the point of that?) if they let me come take some cute pictures.

Let’s get back to faking pictures. This is easy. You can even use your own step stool to impress your friends. They will be like – Wow! You are amazing! You thought to bring a step stool so your kids could reach the higher apples. I wanted to do that but was busy spending nine hours googling “apple orchards near me that still have apples October 2021”. Ha ha. They don’t know you’re across the street and stopped to eat a cider donut you bought at Dunkin between pictures.

The Mint Chip Mama - Apple Picking 2018
An apple picked from my refrigerator on a year we resisted – 2018.

Tradition

Every year when September rolls around – and I suggest we go apple picking – my husband offers to go to Trader Joe’s and “pick” a bag of apples to save us the trouble of going.

Every year I roll my eyes at him.

Every year we fight about going apple picking because the truth is – he knows I just want those damn pictures.

Every year in December we throw out the apples.

We say next year we will stand our ground.

We won’t go.

Tradition. Tradition. Tradition.

The Mint Chip Mama - Apple Picking at Lewin Farm 2019
Apple Picking (kid 3’s first time) at Lewin Farm – Caverton, NY in 2019.

In Closing

If you really want apples – and let’s be honest – none of us do, you can go find a wonderful orchard in the rolling bucolic hills. Any of the ones listed above would be fantastic options. In truth, we had a great time at all of them.

The Mint Chip Mama Apple Picking 2021
It looks real, right? She’s got the vest, the apple, the tree, the smile… ha ha she’s in our backyard.

But if you just want the pictures, bam. On it. Fake that sh*t.

With that said, we have plans to go apple picking with our friends on October 24th… in between religious school, baseball, a day at camp, and a baseball training clinic. FML.

BUT after going through a decade of these fake happy family pictures to populate this post, I REALLY want to go apple picking now. It looks like so much fun. Come on, it’s a TRADITION!

The Mint Chip Mama - Apple Picking a little boy on a pumpkin 2016
My little pumpkin – 2016.

The Mint Chip Mama’s Family Hikes on Long Island (for All Skill Levels) – Part 2

As I said last year in my first hiking post, family hikes on Long Island have saved us since the world closed due to Covid-19. I still agree that these family hikes – and spending time outside in nature – have preserved our sanity. It’s the perfect marriage of exercise, enjoying beautiful scenery, and being far away from other humans.

More Family Hikes on Long Island, a little boy making a funny face and looking confused on a hike because of arrows
Shu Swamp Preserve

Similarly, like my first hiking post, these family hikes on Long Island are for all skill levels and probably more nature walks than hikes. We are a family of five – with kids ages five, seven and eleven. If you also have small kids – any of these will work perfectly for you. This means the trails are not very strenuous or with dramatic terrain.

More Family Hikes on Long Island, A mom & 3 kids in front of 2 signs on a hike
Manetto Hills Park

Finally, we continued to use our little tripod to take family pictures. It’s a great addition to your hiking back pack.

More Family Hikes on Long Island: Nassau County Hikes

More Family Hikes on Long Island, 3 kids at Shu Swamp Preserve
Shu Swamp Preserve

Charles T. Church/Shu Swamp Nature Preserve – One of our favorite hikes this year. Partly because it was beautiful and partly because of the company. We can safely say we got very lost in these woods, but at every turn there was so much beauty it made it all worth it. This is one of North Shore Land Alliance‘s many properties I’ve come to love.

an owl pellet at Fox Hollow Preserve
Fox Hollow Preserve

Fox Hollow Preserve – This preserve is all woods and very pretty. The highlight was finding an owl pellet the same week my son was learning about them in school. This is one of the many North Shore Land Alliance properties.

Hempstead Lake State Park
Hempstead Lake State Park

Hempstead Lake State Park – Another big lake to walk around. It was very pretty and allowed me to channel my inner Salvador Dali. Definitely a great place to visit if you are going for a “walking around a lake” vs. hiking on a trail vibe. I believe the park is actually very big and has lots of other trails but we just focused on the lake.

More Family Hikes on Long Island, 3 kids at Islin Preserve
Iselin Preserve

Hope Goddard Iselin Preserve – Another of the North Shore Land Alliance properties, this easy loop hike was perfect for a little after school exercise.

More Family Hikes on Long Island, A mom & daughter at Humes Preserve
Humes Preserve

Humes Preserve – Lots of native Long Island plants here on a very pretty trail with lots of historic significance. Another of the North Shore Land Alliance properties.

More Family Hikes on Long Island, 3 kids at Manetto Hills Park
Manetto Hills Park

Manetto Hills Park – One of my favorite finds this year. This park is cool because it’s so hidden. No marker, no sign, you just see a little opening on Washington Ave in Plainview heading North – just past the Northern State Parkway. A great place to get lost in the woods. It also has a few surprises like some fun signs added in by a local boy scout troop.

More Family Hikes on Long Island, 3 kids at Mill Pond Park
Mill Pond Park

Mill Pond Park – A very pretty & relatively small park with a big pond. The walk around the pond is short and easy and it is a beautiful spot to spend some time. Plus there’s a gazebo, small waterfall, and lots of ducks.

More Family Hikes on Long Island, 3 kids at Muttontown Preserve in front of King Zog's ruins
Muttontown Preserve – King Zog ruins

Muttontown Preserve – While technically this should be under the “Repeat Favorites” section below, I do not count our previous hike last year successful as we did not find the fabled King Zog ruins. This time we did! There are now spray painted markers (on trees) with arrows directing you to find them. This would have been helpful had we come in that way… but we found them nonetheless and they were really cool!

a bat house at Plainview Park Trail
Plainview Park Trail

Plainview Park Trail – Very small but pretty. The perfect spot to get in some exercise while one of your kids is playing a ball game on the baseball or softball field. When I was growing up someone scared my 4th grade class (at our class picnic) into thinking Ninjas lived in these woods. It took me thirty years to get up the courage to see that was not -in fact – true. However, you may find bats thanks to a local Boy Scout Troop bat house installation. I can’t find any information on this trail so to find it follow the path behind the softball field all the way up to the top. The trail links around to the tennis courts.

a boy at Red Cote Preserve
Red Cote Preserve

Red Cote Preserve – Another North Shore Land Alliance property. This is a relatively flat hike that would be great for little kids. It’s a great place to see Long Island native plants.

a girl in front of an abandoned car on a hike - Stillwell Woods Preserve
Stillwell Woods Preserve

Stillwell Woods Preserve – Nice if you’re on foot, better if you’re on a bike. This was a pretty hike but we felt like we either took the wrong trail or we should have been on wheels. Most people here were riding their bikes. Lots of trails, and lots of parking. Plus some fun random abandoned stuff to see.

More Family Hikes on Long Island, A mom and daughter at Sands Point Preserve
Sands Point Park & Preserve

Sand Point Park and Preserve – A beautiful and expansive property – once the Guggenheim Estate from Great Gatsby‘s “East Egg” fame. It has everything you’d want in a hike – tons of trails, bridges, water, and old mansions. There is also a playground. It is a very famous place for good reason and a great place to visit. They have programs going on all year and an annual membership if you plan to go multiple times. This is one of the only hikes on my lists that has a year round admission (parking) fee.

a woman standing in front of 2 old wheel spokes and graffiti
Tackapausha Nature Preserve

Tackapausha Nature Preserve – A bit over grown when we visited but an interesting walk with fun graffiti to find. It’s spread over a few areas so you have to cross the street and choose your own adventure.

More Family Hikes on Long Island: Suffolk County Hikes

sunset at Belmont Lake State Park
Belmont Lake State Park

Belmont Lake State Park – As the title would suggest – there’s a big lake. It is beautiful with a nice walk around it. We took family pictures here many years ago shortly after we moved to Long Island so this park holds a special place in my heart. Once again – a great place to visit at sunset.

3 kids sitting on a rock at Caumsett State Park
Caumsett State Park

Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve – Another park that sometimes fills to capacity in the high season – this park is huge and you could spend a month exploring it. We went for a beach cleanup and got to see the north tip of the beautiful park. This would be a great park to bring a picnic and spend your day enjoying.

More Family Hikes on Long Island, a girl on a jetty at Connetquot State Park
Connetquot River State Park Preserve

Connetquot River State Park Preserve – Many speak of the beauty of this park and now we see why. There are so many beautiful trails here, water, animals, bridges, sculptures, jettys, etc.

More Family Hikes on Long Island, 3 kids at the water's edge at Gardiner Park
Gardiner County Park

Gardiner County Park – This was an interesting park with a long trail heading straight down to the water. There was lots to see and many smaller paths heading in different directions, but if you went straight you were afforded a gorgeous beach view. The landscape looked foreign to me and for a moment I pretended to be on the Scottish Plaines.

More Family Hikes on Long Island, a sunset at Heckscher State Park
Heckscher State Park

Heckscher State Park – A huge park with a ton of different areas to hike, bike, and enjoy a day by the water. This is a spot where you can bring lunch and spend the whole day just exploring around the space.

3 kids at Makamah Preserve
Makamah Nature Preserve

Makamah Nature Preserve – A great hike with lots of (easy) inclines perfect for a family who wants a little more of a hike but is accompanied by people who have small legs.

a girl skipping in tires at San Souci Park
San Souci County Park

San Souci County Park – A beautiful park with lots of trails. Kids can find some special things hiding in the ground too to excite them. We liked winding around and around here, finding water, teepees, and pipes to balance on and sit.

More Family Hikes on Long Island, 3 kids at Target Rock Nature Preserve
Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge

Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge – Another of the “hot ticket” parks (aka the parking lot fills up in the summer), we decided to return at an off peak time after being turned away last year. We came on a weekday after school and were the only people there (yay!). It was so beautiful and there was so much to see. This is a hike offering a great aerial view that winds down to the water. We went during the holidays as a (planned) surprise for my kids the day after we gave them binoculars as a present. We also saw a deer.

a boy at Wawapek Preserve
Wawapek Preserve

Wawapek Preserve – Hidden up in Cold Spring Harbor, this is a nice and relatively short hike. It opens into a big field with a beautiful wooden trellis – sure to be a crowd pleaser for the kids. This is another North Shore Land Alliance property.

A girl standing on top of the Walt Whitman rock on Jayne's Hill
Jayne’s Hill – West Hills County Park

West Hills County Park – As the name implies, it’s hilly. A pretty straightforward hike that was easy enough but also a bit more challenging than others because of the inclines. Very nice with some nice views. Home of the famous Jayne’s Hillthe highest point on Long Island. This is a pretty cool landmark with a quote from Walt Whitman’s Paumanok poem on the boulder landmark.

More Family Hikes on Long Island: North Fork of Suffolk County

A dad and 3 kids at the 2021 1 day of the year beach clean up at Hallock State Park.
Hallock State Park

Hallock State Park Preserve – we did a beach cleanup here on January 1st to kick off the new year. Lots of pretty trails in different directions, but we focused on the path that got us down to the beach. It was a nice hill so it was a good work out.

More Family Hikes on Long Island, 3 kids at Inlet Pond County Park in Greenport
Inlet Pond County Park

Inlet Pond County Park – The Eastern most park on my lists, this gorgeous hike is in Greenport, were we love to go in the summer. This is a pretty easy hike that at points goes along the shore giving you beautiful views of the Long Island Sound. Great boulders for the kids to climb on, lots of fun stuff. Just beware – lots of ticks out there.

Repeat Favorites – Hikes to Visit Each Season

3 kids at King's Park Bluff
King’s Park Bluff

King’s Park Bluff/Sunken Meadow State Park – I was so glad to return to this park – one of our favorite and first hikes last year. This time we found a trail that went from the top of the bluff down to the water and we walked back along the water. It was the perfect marriage of fire & ice. Or mountain and water… This park is so beautiful and special.

More Family Hikes on Long Island, a mom and 3 kids at Lakeland County Park
Lakeland County Park

Lakeland County Park – Probably our favorite hike. We have visited this park multiple times and recommended it to everyone who has requested a good place to start on their hiking journey. It is so special and offers so many things for the senses even the whiniest of children will love it. This is a great spot to visit each season. It is so unique and beautiful. Every time we go there are changes, it is different every time. Lots of graffiti as well. You will also most likely see some animals – turtles, otters, ducks, etc. If you go no where else from these posts – just go here.

a woman in between 2 graffiti paintings at Massapequa Preserve
Massapequa Preserve

Massapequa Preserve – Beautiful in all seasons, and guaranteed to show you different paths with each visit. A large park with many different trails where you can choose a different adventure each time.

a girl on rollerblades at Trail View State Park on the Long Island Greenbelt Trail
Trail View State Park – Long Island Greenbelt Trail

Trail View State Park – Many different trail legs in each direction from North to South on the Nassau/Suffolk border. You can go up to Cold Spring Harbor and down to Jones Beach. We go on these trails regularly and find new things to see each time. Each leg offers a different experience and is filled with great flowers, trees, and foliage. We are so grateful this trail is practically in our backyard. It also offers paved and unpaved sections to make it whatever level you’re looking for at that moment.

When You’re Sick of Hiking On the Ground

Grand Rapids Course at Adventure Park Long Island
Grand Rapids Trail – Adventure Park Long Island

Hiking in the Air – If you’re looking for another type of adventure, we suggest an aerial “hike” at Adventure Park Long Island! Instead of hiking on the ground, hike in the trees! We love it here so much. It’s a really fun way to be outside and get some great exercise in a super fun way. I’m going to be honest with you – I love it as much as my kids. So when they ask to go it’s not a hard sell. I especially love their Firepit Fridays (how we annually celebrate my son’s birthday).

Family Hikes on Long Island: To Be Continued AGAIN…

I hope this list has been helpful and given you some inspiration to get out and hike with your family on Long Island. The most important thing is – just GO! Get outside, walk around, and enjoy the fresh air. Look for frogs and turtles, find new creatures, and watch them in their own homes. Don’t forget to bring water and snacks because your kids are guaranteed to get hungry the moment you back off the driveway. Which is not a good way to start your fun day.

Happy hiking!

Trail View State Park – Long Island Greenbelt Trail

The Honest Way To Make Self Care A Priority As A Mom

I’m so excited to host another guest blogger on The Mint Chip Mama! Please welcome: Halimeh Salem from Crying Toddlers. Halimeh is an English teacher, a freelance writer, and a mother of two. She is going to teach us the importance of making self care a priority as a mom. Because we all need it. Whether we admit it or not (everyone raises their hand at the same time).

Are you feeling guilty for wanting to separate yourself from your kids? Are you enjoying the alone time you have when going to the bathroom? You are not the only mom who enjoys being alone and feels guilty for it. I know I did especially when I had two under two. You are probably spending your entire day cleaning the house, taking care of the kid’s needs and cooking. But, you never have the time for self-care or me time. It’s your responsibility to take care of yourself. No one will care for your health as much as you can. So, stop what you are doing and fit self care into your schedule. I would recommend at least an hour daily for self care. If you’re interested in taking care of yourself, keep reading to find out the honest way to make self care a priority as a mom.

Why You Should Make Self Care A Priority As A Mom?

Being a mom is not an easy task. We, mothers, have so many responsibilities and put others as priorities before thinking about ourselves. Self-care should be a priority on your to-do list, and here is why.

Imagine two moms. One mom gets up with her kids and changes their diapers, cleans the house, plays with kids, drives them to extracurricular classes, cooks, and then puts the children to sleep. She then lays down on her bed mentally preparing herself for the next day. She dreads it. The only thing she wishes for is a change in routine or just a day without her kids.

A woman reading a book on a couch
The Second Mom

The second mom wakes up early before the kids and drinks coffee while answering emails. She gets the kids up and changes diapers, cleans the house, plays with the kids, and tells her partner to drive them to extracurricular classes. Then she decides to take some time for herself and reads a book. She talks to her friends and before you know her kids are back home wanting to spend more quality time with mom.

Who do you think is happier in their routine? Mom One or Mom Two? I personally was just like mom one a few years back. Feeling helpless and depressed, I felt bad taking time for myself so I kept saying I don’t need help and time. I kept convincing myself I could do it. Well, I need to do it, I am the mom.

But, this is the wrong way of thinking. You should be more like Mom Two. Someone who takes me time because you would not be mentally happy. You would be depressed and your children would be affected by this. You need self-care because it decreases stress levels which tend to rise to extreme levels during motherhood.

How You Should Make Self Care A Priority As A Mom?

Put Your Children On A Schedule

Children thrive when they follow a routine or schedule. This will make your life so much easier. I have both my children on the Moms On Call Schedule. I highly recommend it. Schedules organize your day. Choose specific times when your children play independently or anytime they don’t need you. Those are the times where you are going to fit in some time for yourself. If you can’t find time when your children don’t need you, then make time. Include independent time, quiet time, or time with other people like daddy time or grandparents time for your kids. Make a self-care schedule that includes only the things you will do for yourself. Follow it and you will see how much happier you will be.

Think About The Benefits Of Self Care

You can only prioritize something if you truly believe it is important. If you still do not think it is a priority, answer this question. Which would your kids like- a happy calm mom or stress out depressed mom? That should help motivate you to prioritize self-care before anything else.

Self Care Should Be Included From Morning To Night

When I say self-care, I am not only talking about alone time or me time. I am also talking about taking care of your health just like you take care of your children’s health. Remember to drink water throughout the day, eat healthy with your children, exercise, and take vitamins if you need them. If you forget like I used to, put sticky notes around the house to remind yourself. When I talk about self care, it could be in any form. You can take a small vacation with the family or go on family hikes on Long Island. Not everything has to be so serious with your children. You can also play games like dares for kids to help create a strong bond and relieve stress.

A mom and daughter playing on a bed

Be A Role Model

When you put yourself first and recognize the importance of self-care, you are teaching your kids to do the same. Be a role model for your children. Teach them how to take care of themselves and you can include them in your daily self-care routine like skincare, meditation, yoga, or much more.

Listen To Your Emotions

Your parents probably taught you to let your brain guide you through decisions. This is not always the right thing to do. Listen to your emotions because only your feelings will tell you when you need a break. If you are feeling overwhelmed or depressed, give your children to someone you trust or just step aside for a bit. Relax and come back because only then you would be able to think correctly.

Woman doing a headstand outside

Change Some Bad Habits

You might have some habits that are not really good for you. For example, you may eat while you’re doing something for your children. Stop, and sit down and eat. Also, you may be upset with your children, when in reality you only need a break. So, stop and step away. You may be putting everyone’s food desires in the grocery list and not include yours. Add the things you love!

Conclusion Make Self Care A Priority As A Mom

You are important! Only you can take care of yourself. Add self-care to your routine. If you want to be happier and look refreshed, take care of yourself and put yourself as a priority. Remember, to enjoy your children in the journey of motherhood because their childhood doesn’t last forever. Time flies with children. The next thing you know, your son or daughter would be ten. So, it is best to get self care so you can enjoy time with your children.

About The Author

Mom with two small children in front of roses.

Halimeh Salem

Halimeh Salem is an English teacher, a freelance writer, and a mother of two beautiful children, Basem who’s a 2 year old and Sama who’s an 8 month old. They are from California. To pursue her dreams of helping mothers overcome the obstacles of motherhood, she founded her own blog, Crying Toddlers. She loves spending her free time playing with her children and helping others. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook!

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