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Budget: Spring Fever Means Baseballs, Birds and Syrup-Soaked Breakfasts

By now, most parents are screaming, “No more snowsuits, no more wet footprints, enough snowmen already.” Indeed, if like us, your family did not sing rounds of Jingle Bells over Christmas in the Caribbean or wing off to Florida for March Break, then you are probably suffering from a severe case of Winter Blahs. What’s needed is a spring tonic, a reminder that warm weather, soft air and grass stains are indeed on the horizon. In honor of the official beginning of the season (Ha!), here are some inexpensive ways to celebrate spring and perhaps even hurry it up:

BASEBALL FEVER: What says spring better than balls, bats and the game of summer? Why not take a drive to Cooperstown, New York (about five hours from the New York border) to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (607-547-7200), have lunch in a baseball-themed café and visit the bat factory. We spent an entire day in the quaint baseball-crazy town and wished that we had booked for an entire weekend. Admission US$9.50 for adults, US$4 for kids seven through 12. Or, simply drive downtown as we did one stir-crazy Saturday to Canadian Pacific’s SkyDome Hotel (1-800-341-1161) to book in for a Blue Jays game. The home opener is April 12th. Starting on the weekend of April 16, All Star Packages for $259 include accommodation for two adults and two kids, a welcome kit with discount coupons and breakfast for everyone.

BIRDING FEVER: Just one and a half hours east up the 401 at Presqu’ile Provincial Park, thousands of ducks (along with the occasional goose or swan) provide colour and sound for the park’s Waterfowl Viewing Festival, March 27 and 28 and April 2, 3 and 4. According to Natural Heritage Education Leader Mike Gurr, some 10,000 of the creatures fly through on their way to the high Arctic or the Atlantic Coast. Telescopes will be set up to help identify the 25 species and naturalists will be on hand to answer questions. Kids can take part in special activities such as interactive games with prizes; after viewing the traveling exhibits and duck carving displays, there is always the spectacular Lake Ontario beach and biking trails. The cost is only $5 per vehicle. Binoculars recommended. Call 613-475-4324.

BUTTERFLY MANIA: Shed winter woes in the steamy hothouse atmosphere of the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory (905-358-0025), home to some 2000 butterflies and two iguanas. After a 7-minute video, spend as long as you like among the flowers and fluttering butterflies. If you wear bright red or purple, the winged creatures may think you’re a flower and land on your shoulder. Most fascinating to my daughter when we visited were the bowls of tropical fruit set out for refreshment—not for us but for the butterflies. Admission $7.50 for adults, $3.75 for kids up to 12, free for under sixes. Afterwards, book one of the junior suites at the Marriott Fallsview Hotel in Niagara Falls. This new hotel, built so close to the Falls that you can sit up in bed and feel as if you can almost touch the roaring water, offers a special package until the end of April—starting at $259 midweek, you get a junior suite that sleeps six for two nights, full buffet breakfast and a $60 credit towards a romantic parent-only dinner. Call 1-888-501-8916.

TAKING FLIGHT: Hope for a fairly blustery day if you’re planning to attend the free Smithsonian Kite Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This year’s event. March 27 (raindate March 28), harkens back to Orville Wright’s historic 1889 kite while acknowledging the technological advances of today’s creations. Kite demonstrations, tips on kite making and kite-flying competitions attract fliers from around the world. Your family can even enter the major kite competition in this 33rd annual celebration. All you need is a handmade kite that can fly at a minimum of 100 feet for at least one minute. Visit www.si.edu/tsa/rap or call 202-357-2700.

SYRUP GALORE: Spring means that the days are getting warmer and the sap is flowing. If you want to take part in a giant pancake party, there’s no greater than the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival on March 27. Admission is free. Last year, some 60,000 visitors ate 15,000 pancakes smothered in 160 gallons of famous Waterloo County maple syrup. Tractors and hay wagons will meet you and the kids on the edge of town and transport you to the food booths, craft vendors, the antique toy and collectibles show, petting zoo at Old MacDonald’s Farm and other activities. If you have early risers in your house, this event is perfect. The festivities start at 7:30 a.m. Also on tap is an hour-and-a-half Countryside Heritage Tour, $5 for adults, $2 for 12 and under; kids will be curious about the one-room schoolhouse, the buggy factory and Ontario’s last remaining “Kissing Bridge.” Give the kids a hug and a squeeze and kiss winter Goodbye! Call 519-669-2605 or visit www.elmiramaplesyrup.com





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