The summer is always busy with plenty of things to do. So, when we have a rare weekend day with no plans it can be difficult to decide what to do. It can be tempting to stay home and relax, but if it’s nice out it’s usually easy to find something to do.

We recently had one of those rare free days and had to decide how we should spend it. We decided to consult our Summer Bucket List. After a brief discussion we decided to head to Chestnut Ridge Park to cross two things off the list.

We brought Charlotte’s Frozen Jeep with us and stopped and picked up subs from Nino’s (our favorite pizzeria in town) on our way to Chestnut Ridge. We drove through the park and headed towards the biggest playground there. We parked beside an empty shelter close to the playground and setup our own little spot. There was a large shaded area beneath a tall tree. We placed a blanket under the tree and began our nice little picnic.

We enjoyed our meal in the peaceful setting. Having a picnic in a park was on our Summer Bucket List. It is something we talked about doing last year, but never got around to it. It’s a very simple thing, especially if you bring food that’s ready to eat.  It was very relaxing to eat outside and away from TV and other distractions at home.

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Once we finished eating we took the Jeep out of the back of the car. That was the second item from the Summer Bucket List. I thought it would be fun to bring the ride-on toys to a big park togive the kids plenty of space to drive around. Charlotte hasn’t learned how to drive yet (or shown much interest for that matter), but it’s pretty much Noah’s favorite thing. We brought the jeep instead of his tractor, because Charlotte could ride along with him. The park is pretty large at over 1,200 acres, but Noah only needed a couple of those acres to keep him happy. He loved driving across the large meadows and going up and down tiny hills.

He drove the jeep to the playground, where he and Charlotte played for a little while. Then they drove to another smaller playground a few hundred feet away. After a little bit Noah drove the jeep back to our car and we packed up to leave.

We were going to drive home, but then decided to drive by Green Lake in Orchard Park, since it was a short distance away.  We were curious about what activities were available there and if you had to be an Orchard Park resident to partake.

Within minutes we drove up the entrance road adjacent to Green Lake. It is a relatively small body of water, but it is situated in a tranquil setting. The lake is man-made, but it is quite striking as about half of its shore is bordered by trees and the water is extremely calm. We soon learned that Green Lake is part of Yates Park, which at 51 acres is considerably smaller than Chestnut Ridge, but it has tons of things for kids to do there.

The lake was to the left of the road and athletic fields were to the right. We also passed a ramp where people could easily unload kayaks and canoes into the lake. We found a parking lot just past the baseball diamond (where a game was going on). On the opposite side of the parking lot is a large playground and across a walkway from that is a splash pad. Just past the splash pad is a small sandy beach. Without warning we seemingly entered a summer wonderland for kids.

Noah was super excited. He said he wanted to get wet, which is actually a little unusual for him, because he had kind of been off of swimming pools for the last year or so. We first walked to the beach. Noah and Charlotte both walked around in the calm shallow water for a couple of minutes, and then Noah wanted to go in the splash pad. I walked him over there, but once he was wet he decided he had enough of that. So, we headed back to the beach.

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The kids played in the sand for a while. Then Noah became obsessed with the small boats out on the lake. We saw a few kayaks and a couple of paddle boats. He was very interested, so I walked over to the dock with him. We looked at the boats that were available for rent ($5.00 for a half hour for kayaks, canoes, or paddle boats). Just past the dock, out in the water, was Quaker Splash, which is essentially a large inflatable playground in the water (that also costs $5-$8 and kids must be able to swim to go on it).

After a couple of minutes on the dock we rejoined Ashley and Charlotte on the beach at the water’s edge. I walked back to the car and got a blanket to spread out on the sand since it seemed like we might stay for a while.

Right after I put down the blanket  Ashley and Noah walked up to the small building next to the beach to inquire about the boat rentals. Ashley found out the price of the boat rentals and also learned that anyone is officially welcome in the park, the only thing different for non-Orchard Park residents is that Quaker Splash costs $3 more for those that aren’t residents. We loved that news, since we were pretty sure we’d become regulars at the park. Ashley and Noah also told me that we were going to rent a paddle boat. So, I brought the blanket back to the car and by the time I returned I was impressed to see that both Noah and Charlotte were wearing life jackets. I really didn’t think they would tolerate life jackets, but they didn’t seem to mind them all.

A lifeguard helped us successfully get the kids in the seats behind us in the paddle boat and then off we went. I’d like to point out here that I own two kayaks and really enjoy kayaking (although I don’t get out on the water often), but using the paddle boat was exhausting. I’m pretty sure I was doing most of the paddling, because my legs were exhausted after about ten minutes. Steering was fairly difficult, too. It used a rudder, which took a little getting used to. Charlotte liked to put dip her hand in the water and let it drag next to the boat. That made me nervous, so I had my left hand behind me holding on to her and my right hand on the lever to steer.

Charlotte was pretty tired, so she wanted to end our boat ride after about ten minutes. We steered our paddle boat back to the dock, where Ashley and Charlotte got out. Noah wanted to continue, so off we went again. Soon after we got back to the open water the wind picked up and Noah said he was cold and wanted to get out, too. So, back we went again. My legs were pretty sore from our very brief trip out on the water. I realized it’s much easier for me to get around in a kayak than it is in a paddle boat. I find steering is much easier using a paddle and it’s easier for me to get around using my arms to paddle versus using my legs in the paddle boat.

Once we reunited on the shore we headed over to the playground for a few minutes before finally heading home. The playground was pretty nice, but it was obvious that all four of us were rather tired from our time at Chestnut Ridge and Yates Park.

I highly recommend a visit to each.

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