The Holidays are almost here! Before you know it, we will be dipping the apple in the honey and building our sukkot.
Hol hamoed Sukkot 5779 begins on Wednesday September 26. It’sa fabulous time for parents to take off from work and enjoy family time with their children. When it comes to planning day trips, please keep in mind that you will have two full days on Wednesday and Thursday for activities that require travel. On Friday, September 28th, you will have less time, since it is Erev Shabbat. Sunday is Hashana Rabbah with Shemini Atzeret beginning that night, so it is also a shorter day. Therefore, let’s be focused in our hol hamoed planning to maximize our joy and connection with our children.
Please check with your rabbi regarding the melachot (work) that are permissible on hol hamoed.
Other factors to consider in your planning include: ensuring the venue you want to visit is open on hol hamoed, finding out if you need to buy tickets in advance or make a reservation, thinking about where will you eat (are there kosher restaurants with a sukkah available for eating, and/or kosher food for sale?) and setting up contingency plans if it rains, i.e. are there nearby indoor spots your kids will enjoy?
Fortunately, every year, a list of restaurants with a sukkah is published on YeahThatsKosher.com just before the hag and the list is continuously updated throughout hol hamoed.
Now that we’ve got those logistical details covered, let’s go to the activities themselves.
Are you ready to think out of the box and plan some unusual family outings that you have never experienced before?
Your children can partner with you to be creative and look at things in a different way than you typically do. Guess what? One way to think out of the box is to ask a child for advice. Children tend to think less conventionally than adults.
Enlist your children to do research and come up with ideas, and then have a family meeting to agree on which excursions make sense for hol hamoed as far as distance, cost, and other relevant factors. You may want to consider activities that you can’t do in the summer or will not be able to do in the winter.
One idea that comes to mind is Fall Foliage. Consider taking a scenic road trip and viewing the vibrant and brilliant colors of the leaves during the fall. This trip totally jives with Sukkot, which is very much about nature, the outdoors, giving up material comforts, and enjoying the harvest. This holiday provides us with an opportunity to teach our children to appreciate what we have and to connect with family and nature.
Fall officially starts on September 21st. There are toll-free numbers you can call to find out the best times to view the foliage in your state (I Love New York: 1-800-225-5697, NJ Travel and Tourism: 1-800-VISIT-NJ). New York State even has Fall Foliage Train Rides and Fall Festivals. You can also coordinate a trip to a state park and do some family hiking while checking out the beautiful burgundy, russet, and gold leafage.
Apple Pickingis also lots of fun in the autumn season. You can find orchards that are not as far as you think (80 to 100 miles from the Flatbush/Madison area). For you Brooklynites, check out Masker Orchard in Warwick, New York and Lawrence Farms Orchard in Newburgh, New York. For those who live in the Jersey shore area, please remember that New Jersey is called the Garden State. Visit the top pick-your-own farms that are close to home. You can choose from Jersey Fresh cranberries, peppers, spinach, peaches, blueberries, cucumbers, sweet corn, tomatoes, and lots more. Your kids can help you bake apple pie, apple crisps and crumbles, and prepare yummy fruit and vegetable salads for hosting guests in your sukkah. Some of the Jersey farms also offer pony and hay rides (Check out Battleview Orchards, Johnson’s Locust Hall Farm, Alstede and Ort Farms).
Another option to get the creative juices flowing is to have each member of the family (including Mom and Dad) brain storm a bucket list and then decide as a team which items make the most sense for hol hamoed. My favorite definition of a bucket list is “all the things you would really like to do or see in your life.”
A group in Great Britain called the National Trust composed a list of 50 things for kids under 12, with their mission being to engage them, and get them outdoors and into nature. Items on the list include: climbing a tree, rolling down a big hill (a favorite
of my brother’s and mine in a Shore Road park near the
Verazzano-Narrows Bridge), catching a butterfly in a net, and taking a look inside a tree.
What About a Combination of
a Sukkah Hop and Block Party?
Children love sukkah hops! Parents or older siblings lead younger kids to three or four sukkahs to look, smell, and taste the joy of this hag. Many people do these hops on the first days of Sukkot, but doing them on hol hamoed may work even better for you. You can turn it into a block party as well as play dates for your boys and girls. Take it one step further and have a potluck dinner in various sukkot, and choose a fun cuisine for the meal.
Both in the Big Apple and the Jersey Shore area, there are museums, boat rides, aquariums, amusement parks, free parks, and so many other fun and reasonably priced things to do as a family on hol hamoed.
Hol hamoedis also a great time to take a drive and visit relatives and friends who you haven’t seen in a long time, and loved ones who can’t travel to you. Please remember to leave some time for relaxing and unplugging. Our minds and bodies need to refuel and recharge.
For the longer hol hamoed days, below are some places or activities that you may have not tried before.
Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park(https://walkway.org/) – My friend recently took me to this magnificent linear park that spans the Hudson River. There is an entrance in Poughkeepsie, you can ride your bike or walk, and it’s free! The drive takes close to three hours from Brooklyn or the Jersey Shore, but it’s so worth it! There are lots of cute towns nearby, shops, hiking trails, boat rides, and many things to do once you are there.
Gone Fishing– My husband and I took our children to Sheepshead Bay for a fishing expedition on hol hamoed. Our kids had so much fun on the boat, and I can’t describe how much they enjoyed cooking the fish and eating it for dinner. Google “fishing excursions in Sheepshead Bay” and you will find charter boats that take you fishing from Emmons Avenue in Brooklyn. For the Jersey Shore, you can hop on a boat from Point Pleasant Beach.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden and New York Botanical Garden (NYBG)– NYBG has a great tram that allows you to hop on and off and see as much as you can. There are breathtaking flowers, plants, tea gardens, hiking trails, hands-on children’s exhibits, and so much more.
The Bronx Zoo– For animal lovers and those who enjoy the outdoors, the Bronx Zoo is the best! You can spend a whole day there, and you will forget that you are in New York City as you ride on the Wild Asia monorail and walk through the Rain Forest. Lots of new must-see exhibits!
Ride the Ferry – Ride to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island from lower Manhattan.
When you sit and eat in the sukkah, please look around and savor these special moments, talk about the New Year, explain what Sukkot is about, and express hakarat hatov for all that Hashem has given us.
Wishing you all a Shana Tova and Hag Sameach!
Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach. Ellen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org (www.lifecoachellen.com).