Travel Edition – July Unschooling Adventures

by ChristinaPilkington on July 28, 2012 · 12 comments

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This month I’m going to share our unschooling fun and resources in two posts. Most of the month we were on a big road trip covering almost 3,400 miles in 19 days. We had lunch in Vermont and Connecticut, got gas in New Hampshire, stayed a night in Toronto and two nights in Montreal, relaxed at a cabin in Franklin and explored Acadia National Park for 7 days, saw the most gorgeous lighthouse ever in Portland, Maine, spent three hot days in Boston, had three days of adventures in New York City and spend a night swimming at a hotel in Ohio.

Here’s a breakdown of the trip. If you have a chance to visit any of these places, I highly recommend it!




We were actually able to get out the door at a great time 7:45, which was good because we had about a 9 hour drive to Toronto.

After a Subway dinner and then lots of play at the indoor pool at the hotel, we went to bed early to get ready for our 7 hour drive the next morning.


We arrived at 4 in the afternoon. After settling in to the apartment, we set out to eat in the Old Montreal area. It took one hour instead of 20 minutes because we got turned around, but we eventually made it. Every lower budget food place was closing up, so we had to grab some quick slices of pizza and Thai food at a food court.

Horse-drawn Carriage Ride around the Old Montreal section. After our quick dinner we went on a carriage ride. It was spectacular! We rode down cobble-stoned streets, lined with real gas lamps, that made me feel we were somewhere in Paris in the 1800s. We had wanted to tour the inside of the Notre Dame Basilica but arrived too late, but it was simply gorgeous on the outside. Finally, we came back to apartment and went to sleep by 11:00.

Mont Royal Park – We had a picnic in this park which was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted of Central Park fame. The kids loved watching hundreds of caterpillars hanging from trees, hiking around a lake, and playing with new friends at a playground. (They spoke French, the kids spoke English, and it all worked out!)

Pointe-a-Calliere  Museum of Archeology & History  This was a wonderful museum. We watched a very unusual, interactive presentation about the history of Montreal and then explored the rest of the museum, which was mostly underground. The museum showcased the original foundations of the city.

Eating Dinner right on the Palace Jacques-Cartier – playing in the fountain, watching a wedding party take pictures.




We left Montreal and drove for about 7 hours to Bangor, Maine.

Steven King’s House – I just had to stop by Steven King’s House for pictures. Then we stopped for a quick dinner before driving the hour to Franklin, Maine.


We stayed for 7 nights at a cabin right on a very large pond in Franklin, Maine. It was my favorite week of the trip.

Here’s what we did around the house:

Played The World of Knowledge, Life, Chess, Checkers, & Jenga on the screened in back porch that overlooked the lake.

Kayaked around the island and hiked across the middle of it. In the middle of the pond was a little island- about a half mile long and ¼ mile wide (you can buy it for $480,000!). We climbed out of our kayaks and tied them to shore, and then we hacked our way through the middle. There was very thick foliage growth and the kids and I just had flip flops on, so it wasn’t easy. On the other side, Steve and the kids decided to swim around the outer edge of the island to get the kayaks and come back for me. Steve and the kids also kayaked about two other times while we were there.

Watched many bald eagles swoop over the pond and up into their nests near the cabin.

Roasted hot dogs and marshmallows over the campfire. The kids spent a long time throwing twigs, leaves and everything else they could into the fire to keep it going. They also got a kick out of roasting marshmallows inside in front of the wood-burning stove.

Watched several episodes of Little House on the Prairie Season 3. I also would read them a chapter from By the Shores of Silver Lake most nights before bed. What made it even more fun to listen to the book at night was that the cabin was built just like the Little House cabin. Every night the kids climbed the ladder to their loft to go to sleep just like Mary and Laura.

Swimming and floating on the raft in the pond.

Here’s what we did in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park:

Doctor Office: Not what we expected to do at all one of our mornings there. I started to get a sinus infection that just started getting worse and was turning into an ear infection, too. So we spent two hours waiting out in a health clinic. Fun! I am very thankful they could see me, though, and I could get some medicine and start feeling better.

Hikes: Ship Harbor Trail, Harbor Compass Trail, Cadillac Mountain, Great Head Trail, Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

Swimming: Sand Beach and Echo Lake Beach

Great Maine Lumberjack Show: This was such a unique, wonderful show. Tina Sheer, a former Survivor show cast member developed this lumberjack show which showcases 12 events: underhand chopping, axe throwing, log rolling, cross-cut sawing, power sawing, obstacle pole relay, chain saw carving, speed climbing and more. The kids were able to saw using a two man saw up on the stage area.

Diver’s Ed Dive-in Theater Boat Cruise – This was one of the highlights of the week. It was a two and a half hour boat ride- the most unique boat ride I’ve ever been on. Ed, who has made at least 1,000 dives off Frenchman Bay in Acadia and his wife, who mans the boat, took us out an hour off shore, and then set anchor. We watched as Ed got suited up, and then the kids pushed him off the side of the boat. Carrying a very sophisticated underwater camera (the same used by the folks at Discovery Channel), Ed was able to broadcast on a large screen TV on the boat in real time as he collected animals from the bottom of the ocean floor including a huge lobster, crab, sand dollar, sea stars, sea cucumbers, sea urchins.

Then after he came up, he gave a little talk about all the animals and the kids had a chance to pick up and hold all the animals he had collected.

Pemaquid Lighthouse, Bristol Maine – We stopped at this lighthouse on the way to Portland, Maine. After having a nice time at the small museum there, we were then told we couldn’t go to the top of the entirely enclosed top of the lighthouse because Jared was a ½ inch too short. After getting pretty upset about that (considering they let us climb all over huge rocks next to the ocean where people have been known to be washed out to sea), and them wanting us to pay to use the bathroom, we hightailed it out of there fast.


We stayed one night at a hotel in Portland. The kids spent most of the night doing their favorite thing in the world – swimming at the hotel pool.

Portland Head Lighthouse – This was the most gorgeous lighthouse I have ever seen, and I’ve seen some gorgeous lighthouses in California and Hawaii. We couldn’t go to the top (no one could this time!), but the view around it was incredible.


We stayed at a small apartment in East Boston and had a beautiful view of the city. However, the apartment had no air conditioning and during the day it was in the mid 90’s, so it was very hot at night and we had a hard time getting to sleep. Needless to say, we tried to spend as little time possible there as we could.

Walking the Freedom Trail was the big highlight for me in Boston.

Here are the stops we made along the way:

Boston Common – We took a gorgeous ride around the pond in one of the Swan Boats .

Massachusetts State House – just saw the outside

Park Street Church – My Country Tis of Thee was sung on the front steps for the first time  on July 4th 1831.

Granary Burying Ground – Found the graves of Paul Revere, the Boston Massacre victims, and Samuel Adams

King’s Chapel – Went inside this gorgeous church that George Washington visited. The kids had a great time opening up the Bibles and hymn books and singing and reading loudly- to the amusement of many people….at least I hope most of them were amused!

Old South Meeting House – This was where people gathered and set out from here down to Boston Harbor to throw the Tea into the Harbor.

Old State House – The Declaration of Independence was read for the first time from the balcony here in July of 1776.

Site of the Boston Massacre & Faneuil Hall

Paul Revere House – We were able to tour the inside.

Old North Church – This was the famous church where the lanterns were lit to signal if the British were coming by land or by sea.

USS Constitution – We took a tour of the inside of the ship and then spend a few fun hours at the USS Constitution Museum.

Watched the new Spiderman movie. We wouldn’t have normally paid to see a full price movie like this on a trip (actually we’ve never taken the kids to see a full priced movie before!), but we didn’t want to go back so soon to the incredible hot apartment.  It was really, really great!

Boston Harbor Islands:

We took a ferry to two of the Boston Harbor Islands on our second day in Boston.

Georges Island:  Most of this 39 acre island is dominated by Fort Warren, a Civil-War era fort. We didn’t have much time to explore the area, but we walked through parts of the fort, including climbing to the top.

Spectacle Island  We mostly (well the kids and Steve anyways) went swimming at the beach while we were here. Even though it was in the 90’s, I couldn’t work myself much further than poking my toes in the icy ocean water. Alexa had met a little girl on the ferry, so the girls played together for over an hour in the water while Steve and Jared went searching for treasures along the shore. We also watched a short history of the island at the visitor center.


We drove 4 hours from Boston to our hotel in New Jersey. We had wanted to go to the Empire State building the first evening, but it was raining. So we picked up dinner and brought it back to the hotel while we watched a few Little House episodes.

We packed quite a bit into our two full days in New York City

Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island – We boarded the ferry at Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Our first stop was Ellis Island. It was amazing the walk through the hall where millions of immigrants waited to be “processed” before they could leave and make their new home in the United States. We couldn’t go the top of the Statue of Liberty because they were renovating it (ugh!), but it was a memorable experience to walk around it.

Central Park – My favorite part of Central Park was renting a rowboat for an hour and rowing around the small lake. Jared was so proud to row us part of the time by himself. We even saw a genuine New York City rat sunning himself on one of the rocks! We also rented model sailboats for a half hour for the kids to sail around a small pond. The kids also really enjoyed playing at one of the playground.

Empire State Building – It was a long wait to get to the 86 floor Observation area, but very well worth it. I even ventured to the edge for a minute or so (I’m pretty scared of heights). The kids freaked me out by sticking their heads and shoulders out of the bars, though. I’m glad they haven’t inherited my fear of heights!

Times Square  We weren’t going to go to Times Square since we’re not big fans of lots of flashing lights and crowds of people, but since we were within 8 blocks or so from there after leaving the Empire State Building, we decided we might as well check it out. It was an experience, let me tell you.  Lots of costumed characters reaching out to grab your kids so you can pay them to take a picture. Lots and lots of people jammed into a small space. But it’s something we’ll always remember!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art  This was by far the most favorite thing I did in New York City. I’m so glad we spent $5 each for an audio set for each of us. The kids ran around from exhibit to exhibit, searching for the little audio icon. After 6 hours there, Alexa and I were still going strong and wanted to stay, but Jared had reached his limit. I would love for a chance to go back here someday.

OHIO (Cuyahoga Falls)

We had a 8 hour drive the next day to Ohio –our overnight stop before arriving at home the next day. The kids swam for almost two hours in the pool. Then they had a major pillow fight with Steve before finally falling asleep.

Our drive home the next day took about 7 hours. About 40 minutes from home, we blew a tire. Thank God there was a transportation truck right behind us. He had a hydraulic jack which helped save a lot of time.

It was an incredible time filled with lots and lots of amazing memories. I’m very, very thankful for this opportunity.

Have you ever visited any of the places I wrote about? What were your favorite places to see on the East Cost?

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  • Karen Terry Cagle

    My goodness Chris. What an amazing trip. I can’t even believe all the awesome things you did. I have always wanted to go to Acadia Park. And lighthouses…Keilee loves lighthouses and has never seen a ‘real’ one. New York? Boston? I would love to go on this exact trip.

    • christinapilkington

      It did seem like a whirlwind. We packed as much fun into the trip as we could! If you can get to Acadia, you really should go. It’s absolutely gorgeous by the coast. I have a lighthouse collection made up of the lighhouses we’ve been too, so I was able to add this fourth one from Portland to the collection. Do they have any lighthouses along the coastline nearest you to the south? You should check that out.

  • Melanie Wilson, Ph.D

    What a wonderful bunch of adventures you had. Thanks so much for sharing them. We hope to visit the East Coast next year with homeschooling friends.

    • christinapilkington

      If you get a chance, you should definitely go. I’ve been wanting to go for about 15 years, so it was a dream come true.

  • Susan

    Your trip sounds like such an amazing experience!!! We have been to the Portland Head Lighthouse…one of my brothers and his wife used to live in ME, and we went there a few times. I’ve spent a bit of time in Boston, but a LONG time ago. I would love to go with David and the girls and visit the historical sites…the same with Philadelphia. Even though we live in NY state, we have not spent time in NYC. We did go to the Bronx Zoo more than a year ago, and we really enjoyed that.

    • christinapilkington

      It really was amazing! You should definitely have your girls walk down the Freedom Trail. We really, really liked doing that and spent the entire day on the trial. I have the cutest picture of the kids walking down the red brick trail. They took their job of leading us down the trail very seriously! New York City was really fun to go to, but I’m not a big city person, so I’d be fine if we never went back again. Although I LOVED the Met and would love to spend a few more days there.

      • Susan

        I am so NOT a city person! But, with that said, I think there are so many great things to be seen in various cities within driving distance that I still want to go and experience it with my girls :)

        • christinapilkington

          Me, too! I’ve never gone more into downtown Chicago since I had the kids. I’m more of an introvert and they’ve done a great job of pushing me past lots of comfort zones and to get out and start exploring and going to lots of new places.

  • Jenn

    Now, that’s a vacation!!
    Wow…you packed a lot of fun into your trip:)
    Hope you are feeling better!
    I can’t wait to take my girls that way for a vacation…such amazing places to visit!

    • christinapilkington

      It was a really, really amazing experience! We love to travel more than just about anything else, so it’s a major line item in our budget. I like to see how far I can stretch our money each year and fit the most adventures that I can! And we really like to go (on a bigger trip anyways) for at least two weeks if we can. My husband’s work is pretty flexible, so we’re blessed that we can sometimes get away for longer periods of time because he can work remotely for an hour or two a day if he needs to.

      And I’m starting to feel much, much better now. Thanks!

  • tereza crump

    Most North Americans take only one week of vacation. One can barely unwind and it’s time to go home. You guys certainly did enjoy yourselves with 3 weeks. That’s the way to do it. In Brazil, we always took long vacations. :) Those are soooo much fun!

    I haven’t been to the east of the US yet. I know California, Oregon and the Southeast but haven’t visited NY or other states, or Canada. That would be a lovely trip in the Summer time like you guys just did. i don’t really care for winter or snow! Ha! Too cold for a tropical bird like me.

    I am amazed at how dedicated you are to your family and children. They are so blessed to have you. You have learned to count your blessings and enjoy each one of them. :)

    • christinapilkington

      I hate that in the United States most people are seen as almost lazy if they want to take more than one week off at a time for a trip. I know it Europe almost everyone takes up to 5 weeks off at a time regularly. I wish we could import some of that same attitute here! It was a great year to take the trip, too, because Maine was especially warm when we went. We usually hate to take trips during the summer. This same trip would have cost almost 1,500 less if we could have gone the end of the fall, when we usually like to travel, but then it would have been in the 50′s in Maine, and we wanted the kids to have a little time splashing in the ocean, too.

      Plus, Steve usually gets off the 3rd and 4th of July, so this way we could take an even longer trip. I’m already doing research and planning our trips for next year! I’m so super excited about where we’ll be going. I love for us to set a travel budget and then see how many things I can set up for us to do with it!

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