One of the things I always imagined doing with my kids, before I had kids, was taking them to places I went as a child, introducing them to the wonders of nature, and basking in their loving appreciation.
In reality, this has met with mixed success. Nine years in, I’ve realized that fun and fast (as in, avoiding the “Are we THERE yet?” commentary that occurs after 15 minutes in the car) are the two essentials for a successful family road trip.
So, on a recent sunny Saturday, I took my sons to Crescent Park in East Providence, and the park and beach across the street (which was once part of Crescent Park, but is now Rose Larisa Park), which are under 30 minutes from our house.
Crescent Park, for anyone who hasn’t heard the story from their parents or grandparents, as I did, was once an amusement park complete with a shore dinner hall, boardwalk, and a steamship pier that welcomed visitors from as far away as New York. The pier was destroyed by Hurricane Carol in 1954, and today, all that remains of the amusement park is the historic Looff Carousel, now a National Historic Site, that dates back to 1895.
This Looff Carousel gives you the chance to try for the brass ring with each ride, and most of the horses on the two outside rows go up and down. Those two facts combined for what was, in memory, a pretty thrilling ride. You had to reach waaay over, on a swiftly moving horse, and grab the ring at just the right time. If it wasn’t the brass ring, you would try to toss it into the open mouth of a canvas picture of a clown that collected the discards. Watching my kids on this day, I saw that the ride seemed just over their comfort level, too – on this first trip, my oldest was not ready to lean out far enough to actually connect with a ring.
No matter, I got to do it (which is part of my purpose in ALL these excursions – to have fun myself) and for the second time ever, I got the brass ring and won a free ride, which I handed over to one child, while I purchased an extra ticket for the other, to be fair. But for $1.50 a ride, and a couple more bucks for popcorn and candy, it was a very reasonable way to spend a half hour or so on a weekend afternoon.
I should add that it was a “sensory-friendly” day at the carousel, so there was no organ music that afternoon—a nice thing to be aware if that’s a concern.
From there, we walked across the street to the nicely landscaped Rose Larisa Park, where the kids spent some time rolling down the hill, and eventually made our way down some concrete steps to the beach. There were no lifeguards, and I’m not recommending it for swimming, but the shoreline was littered with interesting rocks, shells, and small pieces of beach glass. The kids had never seen beach glass in its natural environment before, and I had to differentiate it for them from ordinary broken glass, of which there was plenty.
The other feature along the beach were the remnants of the old boardwalk. The kids had fun jumping from the wooden posts jutting up out of the sand.
We returned from the beach to find a car show had set up in the area next to the carousel, and the smells of chowder and clamcakes wafted over from the Blount Clam Shack nearby.
The kids tap out after two hours, though, so after a cursory look at some antique cars, it was time to pack up and head back. And for me, carousel + popcorn + brass ring + beach combing = time to go home and clean off the shelf for my mother-of-the-year award.
Want to discover more places like Crescent Park? Check out shoreline-ri.com. Know. Go.
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— Monica Allard Cox, Rhode Island Sea Grant Communications Director