Weekday Picks: Movies, Gardens, and Stars, June 20-24, 2016

Summer officially arrives on Monday, and with it comes the fun outdoor movies, concerts, and hands on learning programs that make life in Connecticut so much fun.  This week alone, families can enjoy a movie on the beach or in a cool, air conditioned theater, or get up close and personal with hands on projects exploring gardening, flotation devices, or astronomy.

My own kids finished school last week so I'll be scouring the Event Calendar (and posting new events) to keep us all busy and happy. Check back here often and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest so that you don't miss a thing.

Thomas Land Theme Park: A Magical Day on the Island of Sodor

The kids and I had the pleasure of being invited back to Thomas Land for opening day of this summer. For those who already know Edaville, this brand new section of the theme park is absolutely worth a trip back. Twelve years in the making, Thomas Land – right in our backyard in Carver, MA – is the only one in the United States. The other park is in England, and ours is bigger!

Thomas Land is a treat for the young and the young at heart; the creators have done a great job of making the park fun for all ages. Here are some newly scouted highlights, plus a few tips along the way. All aboard!

Dinosaurs Return to New Jersey at New Field Station

Calling all pint-size paleontologists! New Jersey’s outdoor dinosaur-themed adventure park, Field Station: Dinosaurs, once homeless, has again found a spot for its T-Rex and 30-plus other animatronic dinos.

The seasonal kiddie attraction skipped over from its old location in Secaucus, New Jersey, to a flat, sunny field not far from the George Washington Bridge for the summer of 2016. The new digs in Overpeck County Park in Leonia, NJ, are temporary and so, the set-up is probably not as impressive as what past visitors will remember, but my two little kids (ages 3.5 and 1.5) had a blast during our recent visit.

Finding Dory: How Does It Measure up to Finding Nemo?

You certainly can't accuse Disney•Pixar of rushing things. The sequel to the 2003 animated classic Finding Nemo was 13 years in the making, so evidently the studio was more interested in getting it right than in making a quick buck. That philosophy shows in every aspect of this movie, from its breathtaking underwater visuals to its cute, quirky characters to its moving story, which flips the Nemo plot and has Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) searching for her long-lost parents. Although the heroine suffers from short-term memory loss, anyone who saw Finding Nemo will find the proceedings very familiar. The result is immensely enjoyable for both children and adults, with heartfelt messages about family, self-reliance, and perseverance.

But before you start pushing your stroller to the nearest cineplex, be warned: the PG-rated Finding Dory is a bit darker than its G-rated predecessor (notwithstanding the latter's Bambi-esque death of the mom sequence). Dory and her pals are frequently lost and stuck in scary situations. Can your preschoolers handle it, and—if you have older kids—is it worth splurging on IMAX 3D? No need to go on a fishing expedition: we've got watertight answers.

5 Ways to Decide Which NYC Pre-K Is Right for Your Child

New York City's universal pre-kindergarten plan is a boon for parents in many ways, offering FREE education a bit earlier to all of the city's 4-year-olds. But it can also make picking a school that much trickier. 

NYC parents must apply for spots at their preferred schools, often going on multiple tours, sitting on wait-lists, and then wading through multiple decision rounds to accept or reject offers. (We hear middle school selection is even more fun, by the way.) Last year wait-lists and assignments were fluid through August, so parents might even still have time to consider the right fit for their 4-year-olds for this fall, or get a jump start on next year. After all, those applying for private preschool for 2017 need to start the touring process in September, so there is no better time than summer to narrow down what you’re looking for.

We wanted to help parents stay sane through this process, and possibly even make your decision a bit clearer. Read on for five key considerations in determining which pre-K is right for you and your child.

Still sorting through options? Check out our NYC Preschool Guide and Listings for pre-K and nursery options.

Father's Day Weekend for LA Kids: Pasadena Chalk, Bowl Opening, Rodeo Drive

Settle down, padre; we get it. It’s Father's Day. This weekend it’s all about you: Dad’s choice from sunup to sundown, make way for baseball (with and without the home teams), BBQ and buffetsMarx Brothers and Mario Brothers. Or, if you prefer, Irish dancing and movies about forgetful fish. As long as you’re happy, we’re happy. Yep, whatever it takes, no expense spared...

Psst: Moms and kids! Did you know there's a ton of cool stuff going on this weekend that you can take Dad to for free? Luxury cars on Rodeo Driveno-cost concertsclassic westerns by moonlightfestivals and celebrations. You can even make him a variety of from-the-heart gifts. All without dipping into the trust fund. There are also things you can do that cost money, if you're into that. (And we have a feeling some of it Dad will be very into!)

Speaking of being into things, no doubt you have some local faves you can't get enough of. Favorite kids museum, favorite playspace, favorite social media mom (or dad!). If you haven't already, make your picks in our Best of LA contest. Your favorites could end up winning... and so could you!

Keep reading for our votes for the best of this weekend...

Father's Day Weekend Fun for LI Kids: Daddy & Me Brunch, Painting, June 18-19

This Father's Day weekend make dad the center of attention. Whether it's a Daddy & Me Painting session, Daddy & Me Brunch, Building a Boat with Dad or celebrating Father's Day in Flight with an aviation craft, there's plenty to do, see, eat and create.

Remember, you can find even more options in our jam-packed Event Calendar and our Summer Fun Guide, plus great ways to celebrate dad in our Father's Day roundup. To receive our posts in your inbox, subscribe to our free newsletters.

Father's Day Weekend: Cars, Cockpits, Festivals, and a Stampede, June 18-19

It's here! It's here!! Put on your sun hat and officially welcome summer and everything it brings: family cookouts, fairs and carnivals, beach outings, park adventures, pick-your-own fruit, and time spent by the water. School vacation has begun and Sunday is Father's Day, so there's lots to celebrate this weekend and plenty of free opportunities to do so. 

If your family is looking to dote on dad, check out our roundups of Father’s Day fun in Connecticut and also specifically in the Hartford area. A Father's Day Barbecue Picnic at Lyman Orchards, open cockpit tours at the New England Air Museum and East Haven trolley rides are just some of the activities on tap. Of course, who doesn't like food? The New England Food Truck Affair in Guilford is sure to satisfy. 

If you're headed to a big city, let our regional Boston and New York City sites help you make the most of your trip.

For more ideas throughout the state, be sure to check out our Event Calendar. And if you're still figuring out summer, peruse our list of camps with availability or our Summer Fun Guide. To keep up with everything happening in CT, subscribe to our free newsletters, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Family-Friendly Restaurants Near Rockefeller Center

For more than a decade, I worked across the street from Rockefeller Center and found the food choices downright depressing at first glance. Whether you're there over the holidays to see the tree, or enjoying one of the other fun experiences in the action-packed complex, you'll need to eat eventually, and there are some good options if you know where to look.

Here are my top picks for kid-friendly places to eat near Rockefeller Center.


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