Armenia Without The Plane Trip

Maybe you knew that sumac is an edible spice.  I only learned this recently, and I just ate some.  (Disclaimer: I bet you can’t go and pick the sumac off the tree in your backyard and roast it.  But then again, maybe you can….my friend Lauren cooks with grape leaves she picks from a parking lot near her house.)IMG_4177


Seta’s Cafe, Belmont

Seta’s Cafe opened in 2013 on Belmont Avenue in Belmont (right on the border of Watertown), and although I’ve only had one dining experience there, I’m already planning my return trip. Lunch today was Luleh Khorovats, which is ground lamb and beef, grilled with onion and spices (yes, sumac), served on homemade lavash bread.  Seta serves brunch, lunch and dinner, and caters.  This is an accessible place: parking lot behind the restaurant, ramped door, space between tables, room to place your order, and an accessible bathroom.  I must return soon for brunch, because I cannot resist the allure of Foul Mudamas.  (Isn’t language a beautiful thing?)IMG_4169

To round out your dining experience, you could visit the nearby Armenian Library and Museum of America (review coming next week).   Tickets are on sale now for “Women of Ararat,” at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown on March 28th and March 29th.  “Woman of Ararat” is a love story of a young couple, William and Julie, which also tells the story of Julie’s family, four generations of Armenian women living in Watertown.  Later this spring is a centennial commemoration of the Armenian Genocide:   on April 23rd, Trinity Church hosts a memorial service and on April 24th, there will be a procession leaving from the Massachusetts State House to Armenian Heritage Park.


The Labyrinth, Armenian Heritage Park, Boston, MA

Side note: I had no idea where the Armenian Heritage Park is, but I found out and look forward to going.  With Marianne.  Just as soon as the ice and snow melt.   It’s on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway (the website claims the Greenway is fully accessible), near Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Christopher Columbus Park.  World Labyrinth Day on May 2 might be a good time to visit, as the labyrinth looks beautiful and accessible.

In “About Us” on her website, Seta says “My baba (my father)…..would hand me a piece of the dough and say ” This is what the dough should feel like once it’s done” and so I learned to bake bread my grandfather made at his bakery in the Armenian Quarters in Jerusalem.”

I’d say she learned well.   Dining at Seta’s cafe is an inviting, and accessible, first step into Armenian culture.

The (New And Improved) Harvard Art Museums

Harvard Art Museums, courtesy of their website

Harvard Art Museums, courtesy of their website

The new museums on the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, MA, are beautifully accessible in many ways.

IMG_3403Formerly in three separate museums, Harvard’s works of art are now collected in one recently renovated space called the Harvard Art Museums.  My subway trip took me an hour (just as the MBTA trip planner said it would).  The Harvard Square stop on the Red Line is accessible, as is the path through Harvard’s campus to get to the new museum.    Were you to drive in, beware that parking is costly.

For Cambridge residents, entrance to the museum is free.  It is free on Saturdays for Massachusetts residents from 10 am to noon.  An adult pays  $15 to get into the museum.

IMG_3450There is a small (um, rather expensive) cafe, Jenny’s Cafe, in the lobby with accessible seating in the courtyard.

IMG_3426I spent about two hours looking, perhaps, at the architecture as much as the works of art.  Three separate, historic, museums (the Fogg, the Busch-Reisinger, and the Sackler) have now been united with glass, steel and cedar.  The museums do have a wonderfully presented collection of early American portraits (my favorite is Joseph-Siffred Duplessis’ Benjamin Franklin, with his gorgeous, basset-hound eyes;  a close second being John Singleton Copley’s dignified old Yankee, Sarah Morecock Boylston).  The Busch-Reissner Museum (originally the “Germanic museum”) has a significant collection of German expressionism and materials related to the Bauhaus.  Don’t miss the lightbox gallery on the top floor, which has a digital play on the museum’s holdings.

Having poured over many and many a website looking for accessibility info, I have to give the Harvard Art Museums a giant shout-out for a truly “accessible” statement on accessibility on their website.  In general, I find their website masterful in that it is easy to navigate and it has succinct information.  You can also access the  on-line directory of the museum’s complete collections from the comfort of your own home, which might tide you over until you can get there in person.IMG_3389

NYC: Focus On Chelsea For Accessibility And Less Stress


The High Line Hotel, NYC

Central Park, the Top of the Rock, Times Square, Museum Mile, a Broadway show, St. Patrick’s Cathedral:  a quintessential New York City trip to some.   I offer you here an itinerary for a slightly less touristy – but no less iconic – NYC experience that is much friendlier to the slow walker or wheelchair user.

Consider booking a room at The High Line Hotel;  a fairly new hotel built on the site of the former dormitory for the General Theological Seminary in Chelsea, New York City.  The developers retained the feel of the Gothic Revival structure and to me, it’s just beautiful. The price can be right too, from the low $300’s per night (up to mid $500’s).



Intelligentsia runs a fantastic espresso bar in the lobby of the hotel with really, really nice baristas, and there’s plenty of indoor and outdoor seating (if you don’t mind rubbing shoulders with a preponderance of small dogs). The good news is that you too can bring your dog (even if it’s not a service dog) for a sleepover if you so desire. There are a few downsides:

– There is only one ADA room, and the back outside courtyard (which beckons invitingly, were it warm outside) is not accessible. (There is another courtyard with cafe tables in the front of the building, and this one is accessible.)

-The bed in our room was tucked into an alcove in the room, and there isn’t enough room for a transfer. I didn’t see the ADA room, but you’d want to make sure there is clearance around the bed.IMG_3617

– The lighting in the room is too dim, especially in the bathroom. The manager responded to my trip advisor review saying that the lights are on dimmers;  I knew that and still think the lighting is poor.  The bathroom sink area has very little counter space;  I’d check to find out what the ADA bathroom looks like.


Chelsea, NYC


The Morgan Library and Museum, NYC

Something I love about the Chelsea neighborhood:  the sidewalks in this part of midtown are wide, great for walkers and wheelchairs.  I walked for hours both in this neighborhood and then uptown to The Morgan Library and Museum (an accessible museum) on Madison Avenue, and every street I hit had clear curb cuts and pedestrian walk lights.  You could theoretically walk or roll as far as the theater district from here (but probably not much further unless you had many hours and good weather).

Need some other ideas to while away your weekend?  Let’s start with food:  Across the street from The High Line Hotel  is a great breakfast (and more) place, the Tenth Avenue Cookshop, which is nicely accessible from the street.  Wide aisles and good spacing between some tables, as well as an ADA bathroom.


Chelsea Market, NYC

Nearby is the Chelsea Market, a restored factory, chock-a-block with accessible stores and eateries. The biggest problem here is that some of the stores (the bookstore) and diners (Friedman’s) have squeezed too much into their space.  It’s also all a little precious, but I can be convinced to overlook that for a small price (like those free samples the Fat Witch Bakery doles out).   Droobing (a 3D photo booth) alone would be a reason to go to the Chelsea Market (and the Droob stall is accessible!) – that and some people-watching from tables scattered through the main area. It’s all indoors and there is a big public bathroom area (with an ADA stall).


Clement Clark Moore Park, NYC

And then you could walk or roll around for hours to work up your next appetite.  Right next door to our hotel, The High Line Hotel, is an accessible park, the Clement Clark Moore Park (he of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” fame);  the grounds of the seminary and the hotel once belonged to the Moore apple orchard estate.  Photos show a big swath of land and a grand country house;  hard to imagine that here, now, in the midst of the all the concrete, storefronts and traffic.  I hear that there is a reading of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” in the park on the last Sunday of Advent each year.


View from the High Line, NYC

The Hudson River Park is a great outdoor destination, with about 500 acres of space along the west side of Manhattan.  The piers in the Chelsea neighborhoods are all accessible according to this site.  Another place for views is along the High Line, a converted freight line that now serves as public space, runs overhead. See this map for accessible entrances to the High Line.  The park is 1.45 miles long and runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street.

The Hotel Chelsea, on West 23rd Street, is being renovated and will open in 2015.  Built around 1883, it’s a landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Dylan Thomas died here, Sid Vicious’ girlfriend was found stabbed to death here, and it’s been home to Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Brendan Behan, Mark Twain and others.  This iconic hotel is worth a sidewalk viewing, at least it’s open to the public.

Since the mid 1990’s, many art galleries have re-located to Chelsea (many from Soho).  There are several performance venues (Irish Repertory Theater, Joyce Theater and The Kitchen), although, interestingly, none of these performance venues listed any kind of information for the wheelchair-user.  The Irish Repertory Theater is accessible but needs advance notice (call the box office) to put out a ramp at the front door.  The Kitchen is completely accessible. The Joyce Theater is also accessible.


Greenwich, NYC

History lovers take note: Chelsea features prominently in the Manhattan Project and WWII.  “In the early 1940s, tons of uranium for the Manhattan Project were stored in the Baker & Williams Warehouse at 513-519 West 20th St.  The uranium was removed and decontaminated only in the late 1980s or early 1990s…” (Wikipedia).  For more info on the development of the atomic bomb and uranium stored in Manhattan, see this New York Times article.

And do check out a copy from the library of Up In The Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell, that veteran New Yorker, if you plan on staying midtown and venturing downtown.  Mitchell wrote for The New Yorker from 1938 to 1996, and his book chronicles (mainly eccentric) people in a place (on the margins) that is rapidly vanishing to gentrification.  His characters and the streets they frequent will inform your downtown trip for sure.


Downtown Manhattan

A Good Day At The Boston Athanaeum And A Bad Cup Of Coffee

A really old book bound in human skin AND a wheelchair-accessible venue near the Freedom Trail and the Boston Common in downtown Boston.  What more could you want for a day’s outing?

DSC03627The Boston Athanaeum, 10 1/2 Beacon Street in Boston, was packed to the gills today, at the first open house they’ve had in years.  Five-plus floors of books, art and reading and writing space comprise this National Historic Landmark building.  The library, founded in 1807, is private, although anyone can join by paying an annual membership fee  (individual or family, varies from $200 to $320).  The Athanaeum is accessible by ramp from Beacon Street, and every floor available to members is accessible by elevator.


Park Street station is about a five-minute walk from the Boston Atheneum.

There are a couple of ADA-parking spaces around the corner on Park Street (outside the Paulist Center), although I imagine you are more likely to win the lottery than land one of these downtown parking spaces.  The Park Street MBTA station is wheelchair-accessible, and the short walk or roll up Park Street and around the corner to the library is accessible.  Beware, though, you’re in for a bumpy ride on these Beacon Street sidewalks:  DSC03639

Old Pat The Independent BeggarThe library offers regular guided tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays; reservations are required.  You might see us tucked into a cozy nook called the Deborah Burnheimer Room….along with two, inviting red leather arm chairs, an enchanting view onto the Granary Burying Ground, and “Old Pat The Independent Beggar” gazing mournfully upon us from his gold-embossed frame on the wall.



Just don’t try to begin or end your day with a coffee from the Thinking Cup, serving Stumptown coffee, on Tremont Street.  Technically the cafe is wheelchair accessible – you can roll in from the street entrance – but once inside you’re trapped in a narrow path that ends in a logjam for wheelchairs at the register and take-out counter.  And yes, there’s a hip vibe, but the coffee is unreliable.  I’ve had one great latte there and then today, one terrible one (that found its way into the trash at the Park Street T station).  I am thinking that at their prices, every cup of coffee at the Thinking Cup should be a superb one AND that the owners need to re-think their accessible traffic flow.

Massachusetts Historical Society: Making History Accessible (If You Can Get There…)

John Adams and John Quincy Adams were members.  So were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  John F. Kennedy was too.

DSC03565Members of what? The Massachusetts Historical Society, which has a scholarly, sombre reading room (in which I know that even I could pen a masterpiece) and a research room (from which David McCullough and Nathaniel Philbrick have gathered information for their literary works).  The Society also offers lunch seminars (many are free and open to the public) and provides enrichment to K-12 history teachers throughout the area.

Recently, I attended Barbara Berenson‘s lecture on how Boston’s abolitionists (think William Lloyd Garrison, Theodore Parker, William Cooper Nell, and Frederick Douglass) fueled the flames leading to the Civil War.  Berenson, a compelling Civil War historian and speaker, side-lines as a senior attorney at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.  She has written both a guide to the Freedom Trails Walking Tours of Civil War Boston and a book, Boston and the Civil War: Hub of the Second Revolution.  Berenson also leads walking tours – when I take one, I’ll let you know how accessible they are.  In the meantime, she is more than worth listening to, if you are interested in Boston’s Civil War history.

The Historical Society is accessible by outside ramp, although you must be buzzed in to gain entrance).  There is an accessible bathroom on the first floor and an elevator to the exhibits and seminar room on the second floor.  The research and reading rooms on the first floor are accessible.  I’d say parking is the biggest issue here, as it is on the end of Boylston Street near the Fenway (right next door to Berklee College of Music), and the parking garages are spread out.  Sidewalks are plenty wide to accommodate wheelchairs and giant-musical-instrument-toting scholars;  there are ample curb cuts (on most every corner of Mass Ave save one, weirdly) and pedestrian lights (although be prepared to hustle as they’re fast-changing).

If you manage to get this far, then next door, you have your pick of after-research venues in which to look as cool as you possibly can (do bring your cello along), or at least to people-watch: Pavement Coffeehouse and Berklee Book Store, to name but a few.


Don’t take the train though:  the green line stop at Hynes Convention Center is NOT accessible.  According the to the MBTA website, all buses are accessible.   I mapped a trip using  the T’s trip planner, and taking a wheelchair-accessible bus route from Newton Corner to the Hynes Convention Center involves four bus changes and is estimated to take 74 minutes.  I’m not sure what to say about this, except that I probably would only undertake this excursion if I were writing what promised to be a real blockbuster of a book.

Good Lord.  The Massachusetts Historical Society is cool but kinda hard to get to, if you use a wheelchair.  Maybe stick to the Boston Public Library.  At least the T stop has been updated here.


*If you do decide to make the journey, noteworthy upcoming events include:

-“Cocktails with Clio, featuring David Hackett Fischer” (author of Washington’s Crossing, a must-read for Revolutionary War fans) although, um, I just realized how expensive this is. I guess Fischer is a big deal.

– “Forgotten Drinks of Colonial New England” with Colin Hirsch; our ancestors were serious tipplers. This one is free. There’s probably no food, no drink, and no Fischer.

– “Making History: King Philip’s War” – hey, Natick residents, this one’s for you.

– “Water Rights in the American Southwest” – I don’t know what you think, but I think this is a prescient topic.

– “So Sudden an Alteration: The Causes, Course & Consequences of the American Revolution” in recognition of the 250th anniversary of the Stamp Act

Anchorage, Alaska Is Surprisingly Accessible

IMG_2887Alaska is the home of the grizzly bear, avid fisher-folk, cruise-ship mavens, hipsters and artists, and the highly-caffeinated. It is not, in general, an easy state for a wheelchair-user to navigate, but Anchorage stands out as an oasis.  (In the summer, that is.)

I prefer big hotel chains for accessibility, because they tend to be more predictable. The downtown Hilton Anchorage was bleh and expensive but accessible. (I do, however, thoroughly applaud the usefulness of their website for wheelchair travelers.  If only all hotel websites were this descriptive!)

I would suggest staying downtown, as the sidewalks are wide, wheelchair-friendly, and there are many well-timed pedestrian walk lights (meaning that you can actually get across the street before a rented Jeep or truck with mounted gun-rack mows you down).

You can easily spend a day or two in Anchorage.  Here’s what I’d suggest:

– drink espresso (Kaladi Brothers is accessible and excellent) but skip Side Street Espresso (terrible latte and so-so egg burritos)
– eat the salted caramel ice cream at Fat Ptarmigan (their pizza establishment next door gets great reviews, and they’ve got locally brewed beer too) IMG_2911
– visit the Anchorage Museum (couldn’t peel my 13-year-old from the interactive science displays, had a fantastic meal at Muse in the museum, appreciated the multi-faceted display on Alaskan culture, was transfixed by the earthquake monitor and tsunami display on the second floor; GREAT exhibit on ocean trash, photo below)IMG_2899
– go on Saturday to the Anchorage Market and Festival (it’s accessible and you can find art, jewelry, crafts, clothing, food and more food).  Loved Octopus Ink‘s clothing and crafts (they have a shop and are represented at the Saturday market too — or you can buy online)
– motor or wheel on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (11 miles of views, although check on the status of the bridge before you go; if it’s still out, your trip on pavement will be considerably shorter)IMG_2916
– indulge your inner outdoor-enthusiast and go shopping at 6th Avenue Outfitters

From Anchorage, drive the Seward Highway for some breath-taking views and wheelchair-friendly pull-outs (some even have ADA port-a-potties).  National Geographic published a piece with suggested places to stop on the highway.

DSC_0088Anchorage and its surrounds provide an adventurous day or two (maybe three) if you’re a slow walker or wheelchair-user. Those long daylight hours of summer give you even more time to get around, and the abundance of espresso shops can only help keep you motoring along.


One weekend, two museums…what kid wouldn’t love THAT?

Years of parenting have taught me that my kids will tolerate a short stint in a museum if they are promised:   a) candy  b) ice cream or c) decaf coffee (if the kid in question is Marianne).

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Recently, Marianne and I checked out two Boston museums, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA).  The MFA is wondrously, marvellously accessible.  I could spend all day there (Marianne, not so much, and promises of decaf coffee only go so far).

MFA, Boston

MFA, Boston

Many of the interior doors are outfitted with accessible door openers, as are the exterior doors.  There is plenty of clear signage to direct you.  Docents are everywhere, and in our experience, they are extremely helpful;  one even took a picture for me of the two of us!  Bathrooms and water fountains are on every floor, with excellent wheelchair access.  There is an accessible Green Line T stop across the street, and there is decent parking in an outside lot (two caveats:  it is expensive at $10, and that is with the membership discount, and there seem to be only about five ADA parking spaces).  There are multiple venues to have a bite to eat, ranging from the expensive restaurant Bravo on Floor 2 to the serve-yourself cafeteria on the lower level.  There is also a glorified coffee shop on the first floor (Taste cafe) and a more upscale cafe (The New American Cafe) near the Chihuly glass in the museum’s indoor courtyard.  We had a terrible but inexpensive latte at Taste;  I think I’d schedule a little more time and budget for The New American Cafe next time around.

Photograph from "She Who Tells A Story" at the MFA, Boston

Photograph from “She Who Tells A Story” at the MFA, Boston

"She Who Tells A Story" exhibit at the MFA

“She Who Tells A Story” exhibit at the MFA

If John Singer Sargent is your cup of tea, there is an exhibit running at the MFA until January 24, 2014.  Marianne and I skipped it in favor of “She Who Tells A Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World.”  The title describes it, but you really have to see it for yourself (showing through January 12, 2014).  I can’t recommend this exhibit enough;  it’s thought-provoking, mesmerizing, disturbing, and more.   (Note:  there is a curator talk on Thursday, December 19th from 6:30 to 7:30 pm in Remis Auditorium; tickets on sale as of November 21st)

Hippie Chic exhibit at MFA, Boston

Hippie Chic exhibit at MFA, Boston

We also visited the Hippie Chic exhibit (all clothes from the 70’s) and Think Pink (small exhibit that explores the significance of the color pink throughout history).  Interesting, but I’d skip these two exhibits next time and spend all my time with the photographers in “She Who Tells A Story.”

I used to be able to get guest passes for the MFA at our local library;  if that doesn’t work, single admission is $25 (7-17 are free after 3 pm on weekdays and on weekends).  I bought a membership at the supporter level for $75 which gives me and my children (17 and under) free admission for the year, plus a discount on parking and at the gift shop. That’s two more visits, kids!

Chihuly sculpture and The New American Cafe space at the MFA, Boston

Chihuly sculpture and The New American Cafe space at the MFA, Boston

In my experience, weekends are crazy busy at the MFA.  If you can get there late afternoon, say an hour and a half before closing on a weekday, it’s quiet.  Wednesday through Friday night they are open until 9:45 pm, which might also be a promising time to visit.  And if you’re over 21, you can enjoy a glass of wine at either The New American Cafe or Taste, the coffee shop on Floor One that doubles as a wine bar!

The Harborwalk, Boston, near the Institute for Contemporary Art

The Harborwalk, Boston, near the Institute for Contemporary Art

The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) has beautiful, industrial space and has the advantage of sitting on the Boston harbor, with the Harborwalk running alongside and beyond.  The Harborwalk will remain a separate adventure – and blog post.  Suffice it to say, for now, that there are almost 40 miles of pathway and many segments are ADA-compliant.  Of course, the big question is: which sections aren’t?!  I’ll let you know.

Amy Sillman's exhibit, "one lump or two" at the ICA, Boston

Amy Sillman’s exhibit, “one lump or two” at the ICA, Boston

Amy Sillman’s exhibit “one lump or two” is on exhibit now through January 5, 2014.  I appreciate her use of color in the abstract pieces, but it’s the faces she creates that I love.  That alone is worth the price of admission to me ($15 for an adult, kids 17 and under are free; Thursday nights all are free from 5 to 9 pm).  The other space I appreciate at the ICA is the media lab, which looks out over the harbor as though through a camera viewfinder, and which has computer resources for researching contemporary art, artists or exhibits at the ICA.  The top level is accessible, and has two accessible computers, but the other three or four levels in the lab are not.  There is a kid-friendly (and teenager/wheelchair-friendly) art space on the first floor with ongoing projects for kids and teens.

The downside to the ICA:  the only parking, really, is at a public lot that charges $15/day.  The parking lot is in rough shape, and the wheelchair access through a gate doubles as a parking spot….so you have to hope that the car parked in the spot has left enough room not only for a thin person but also for a wheelchair or carriage.  Seems wrong to put the spot there, somehow.

The Bee's Knees Supply Company, Farnsworth Street, Boston

The Bee’s Knees Supply Company, Farnsworth Street, Boston

We walked and motored to the Bee’s Knees Supply Company for an early dinner.  The Bee’s Knees has a little bit of everything:  deli, sit-down cafe with great pizza and salad, wine story, charcuterie – in short, a gourmet grocery store, with in-store light dining.  The real reason we braved the sidewalks (see photos – ARGHH!):  the salted caramel ice cream.  Oh joy!  Oh rapture!  We’d brave these sidewalks again for that ice cream.  Our friend thought the pumpkin latte (seasonal, I am sure) was also de-lish.

Teeny tiny sidewalk space near Sleeper Street, Boston

Teeny tiny sidewalk space near Sleeper Street, Boston

But don’t wheel there, as we did, from the ICA.  Yikes.  The whole area around the ICA is still very much a work-in-progress, and the sidewalks are in terrible shape with potholes and sporadic curb cuts.  There are not enough crosswalks either.  The side streets around Sleeper Street, where the Bee’s Knees Supply Company is, are even worse.  The sidewalks are not always wide enough and there are holes galore.  Go there for sure, but not on foot or wheelchair from the ICA!


Why Boise?

My father-in-law, his second wife and their two teenage daughters moved to Boise, ID two years ago.  Our daughter Marianne ADORES her grandfather, but since he moved to Boise, he has become increasingly ill and is now no longer able to travel.  So, we must go to him.

Molly's Diner, en route to Boise from Salt Lake City

Molly’s Diner, en route to Boise from Salt Lake City

I guess there is no need for wheelchair-accessible rental vans in Boise, because I can’t find one to rent, despite many hours on the internet and the phone.  So, we fly into Salt Lake City, rent from and begin driving.  In the desert.  For miles on end.  With no sign of a rest area in sight.  In a heat so intense (because it is summer) that the road shimmers.  Or maybe that’s the haze from the raging wildfires in Utah and Idaho….

The good news is that we now have a third driver, our son Pat who just turned 17.  So we decided to add a week, detouring to Wyoming and the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks before driving across southern Idaho to spend the second week with our family in the Boise area (see post on Jackson).

I think Boise is pretty hip (not only because of the great number of tattoo parlors one could patronize if one so chose).  It’s not too big and has a young, friendly, outdoorsy vibe.  Although we’ve only been there twice and in the over-100 degree summertime, I think when it’s NOT summer, the weather can be beautiful.  The Boise River runs through the city, and the Boise River Greenbelt (see has 25 miles of paved pathways connecting 850 acres of parks.  Bike shops in town rent bikes, but you can motor in your wheelchair or roller skates too.   Last year, some of us floated down the river in tubes (see – a lot of fun on a hot summer day but not very accessible.

Idaho does have its fair share of rodeos, and we went to the Snake River Stampede last year (  )in Nampa Valley’s Idaho Center.  That was accessible and even better, it was indoors and not too long.  We went in the afternoon for a family event and there is no alcohol served;  it seemed like rather a big deal that there was no alcohol being served which makes me wonder if the evening events rock out and get crazy.  Might be good to see what you’re in for before you commit to an evening rodeo.

If you are there in the summer months (June through September) and appreciate good outdoor theater, then do check out the Idaho Shakespeare Festival (‎).  We’ve seen two great productions there:  (Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid and Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd).  The theater is fully accessible, and you can bring your own picnic for outdoor dining.  The setting is really beautiful, and the summer nights are so pleasant once the sun goes down.

I can’t speak personally to this event, but both years we’ve traveled to Boise I’ve hoped to get tickets for the Treasure Valley Rollergirls, an all-female, amateur roller derby:  seems like it’d be a fun evening and not something we’ve seen before.   Check out their website for for tickets and locations:‎.  Please post a comment if you’ve been to a show and recommend it – or don’t recommend it!

Peregrine Fund World Center for Birds of Prey (‎) is located on a quiet hilltop close to the city of Boise.  The Center is wheelchair-accessible, full of information, and scenic, set as it is on a quiet prairie-like hill.  They do live demonstrations with owls, falcons, eagles and hawks, and the interpretive displays are informative.

This year on our way from Wyoming, we drove across southern Idaho so that we could go to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve ( and – of course! – the Idaho Potato Museum.

Craters of the Moon, Arco, ID

Craters of the Moon, Arco, ID

Craters of the Moon is so weirdly beautiful.  It is 18 miles southwest of Arco (and about a 40-minute drive from Blackfoot, where the Idaho Potato Museum lies). There is a seven-mile loop road, starting at the wheelchair-accessible visitor center.  You can see a lot from the car, and one of the stops on the loop road has a wheelchair-accessible trail.  There is also a campground (on a first-come, first-served basis), and apparently it is cool at night (literally and figuratively).  While we were there, meteor showers were expected at night.

Apparently lava fields cover much of southeastern Idaho, but this national monument has a variety of different volcanic features.  It lies along the Great Rift, a 60-mile fissure in the earth’s crust, which is stretching apart and creating cracks where the lava can ooze out.  It is so worth a trip, although it does feel like it’s in the middle of nowhere.

A feeling compounded by the fact that after leaving the National Park site and driving on to Boise, we drove through miles and miles of barren, barbed-wire-dissected, tracts of land with big signs proclaiming it as the purview of the Idaho National Laboratory.  As I read a little more about it and narrated for my family (stuck in the car with me), I realized: hey, I can’t wait to get out of here!  There have been 52 nuclear reactors built here, according to Moon Guide Books, and 13 are still in operation.  That’s the country’s largest concentration of nuclear reactors and oh, by the way, they are built on top of one of the country’s most geologically active areas AND sits on top of an aquifer that provides drinking and irrigation water for much of southern Idaho.  I really hope they are being careful out there….

Idaho National Laboratory, ID

Idaho National Laboratory, ID

If you don’t mind sticking around the site for a while, you can make a stop in at Environmental Breeder Reactor-1 (EBR-1) , which was the world’s first atomic plant.  It was decommissioned in 1951 but you can take tours (self-guided or guided).  Here’s the website:  I couldn’t talk anyone in my family into it:  I think the Potato Museum and national park did them in, but I’d go.  And you have to get pictures of yourself at Atomic City.  As of the census of 2010, there were 29 people living in Atomic City, and there is one store and one bar.  Denise Kiernan’s book The Girls of Atomic City about young women working during WWII in (what became) Atomic City on the first atomic bomb is on my to-read list (

Exhibit from the Idaho Potato Museum, Blackfoot, ID

Exhibit from the Idaho Potato Museum, Blackfoot, ID

The Idaho Potato Museum (‎) is small museum located in downtown Blackfoot, in the old Oregon Short LIne Railroad Depot.  You’ll get the history of potato farming and the potato industry, nutritional information on the potato, and trivia galore (including the biggest collection of potato mashers AND Mr. and Mrs. Potato Heads that I’ve ever seen).  It’s wheelchair accessible, inexpensive, and at least when we were there, staffed by a very kind and courteous woman!

For the past two years we’ve stayed at The Modern Hotel ( in downtown Boise, in the Linen District.

Restaurants we’ve liked:

  •  The Matador ( is a chain of (very good) Tex Mex food.  Although we brought our kids and it was early (6 pm), there was already a bar vibe going on.  It’s loud and the staff have a little bit of an attitude, but the food is very good and it’s very accessible.  Hmmm, I just noticed that the website doesn’t give prices for the dinner menu;  that’s annoying.  My memory is that it was somewhat on the expensive side for Tex-Mex.
  • Fork ( is near Matador in downtown Boise, and we had a great meal here last year.  You can dine well for about $15 an entree (of course, if your taste runs to Prime Rib, you’re looking at $30 per entree), the service was good, the atmosphere alive but not too loud, and it was wheelchair-accessible.  I’d return.
  •  Tony’s PIzzeria Teatro (no website but see Yelp reviews, is a fun, inexpensive Italian restaurant near The Egyptian Theatre in downtown Boise.  Although technically wheelchair-accessible, I don’t think you could truly get your chair indoors.  We sat outside on the patio and had a great antipasto plate and delicious  Neapolitan-style pizzas.  I hear the owner is Italian and makes his own sausages;  whether he does or not, someone here cares about good food at a good price.
  •  Cafe Vicino ( in Boise’s North End serves excellent Italian food in an upscale setting.  We had a fantastic meal there last year with our extended family, and they cheerfully accommodated a wheelchair and a slow-walker, and a big group (there were almost 10 of us).  The food is expensive but worth it for a splurge.
  •  Big City Coffee ( in the Linen District was just down the street from our hotel, The Modern.  It was an easy destination with a wheelchair, both in the ease of motoring down the street and access to the restaurant.  They have a “big” atmosphere and serve very big portions of hearty foods to nourish body and soul.
  • We also liked take-out (or dine-in) at a’Tavola (‎), just across the street from Big City.  The portions are a little smaller (which I prefer) and a little simpler but also, I think, somewhat better.  We liked getting our breakfasts to go from there (although it’s very accessible both for indoor seating and on the patio outside) as well our picnics (also known as car lunches).

Is it “Jackson” or “Jackson Hole”? Or: A Wheelchair and A Week in Wyoming

View of the Grand Teton Mountains from Mormon Row

View of the Grand Teton Mountains from Mormon Row

A quick geography primer:  according to Moon Handbooks, Jackson Hole is the name of the valley at the base of the Grand Tetons, a jagged set of mountains named “Teewinot” by the Shoshone Indians.  Jackson was named after a trapper who was based in the town;  the “hole” means a valley ringed by mountains.  Apparently it used to be called “Jackson’s Hole” but the name was eventually changed to “Jackson Hole” to end the sly comments.

Jackson is the town at the southern end of Jackson Hole.

This summer, my family and I stayed in Teton Village, about 12 miles northwest of of Jackson.  My favorite thing about this village is its proximity to the entrance of Grand Teton National Park (   For $25, you can get a seven-day pass for a car for both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.  If you are a US citizen and have a permanent disability, you can get a free pass to all US national parks;  see:

In my experience, there are always facets of the national parks that are accessible to the mobility impaired:  the visitor centers are often educational and accessible; there is usually one trail or more that works for a wheelchair; and most of the parks have a loop for cars with roadside parking for scenic viewpoints (that are often labeled with informative signs).  I have yet to meet a park ranger who was not resourceful and helpful when it came to my questions regarding accessibility.  The website at has detailed information on what is accessible in the park.  I cannot stress enough what a good resource the National Park Service (NPS) website is.

Grand Teton National Park is in the northwest corner of Wyoming (just south of Yellowstone National Park).  A few highlights follow:

  • Marianne at the Craig Thomas Visitor Center, Grand Teton National Park, WY

    Marianne at the Craig Thomas Visitor Center, Grand Teton National Park, WY

    The Craig Thomas  Discovery and Visitor Center (also known as Moose Visitor Center) is 12 miles north of Jackson.  It was renovated in 2007 and is a green and accessible building, with gift store, accessible bathrooms, exhibits and auditorium.  It is fully-staffed with rangers, at least in the summer.


  • The Jenny Lake visitor center is 8 miles north of Moose at Jenny Lake.  This visitor center is much smaller and not truly wheelchair-accessible, although there are accessible trails around the lake.   There is also accessible parking and curb cuts, as well as accessible rest rooms.  The big draw here is Jenny Lake;  you can rent kayaks or take the shuttle over to hike Hidden Falls (not accessible).  There is a scenic boat tour (narrated tour around the lake, about 45 minutes long)  that operates out of Jenny Lake and it is wheelchair-accessible; contact the visitor center there for more details.
  •  Colter Bay Visitor Center is 25 miles north of Moose and adjacent to Jackson Lake.  We didn’t have a chance to explore this area of the park beyond a drive-through.  Jackson Lake is bigger than Jenny Lake, and the Jackson Lake Lodge has a wheelchair-accessible restaurant, which is supposed to have beautiful sunset views over the lake.
  • Mother moose and baby on Moose-Wilson Road, Grand Teton National Park, WY

    Mother moose and baby on Moose-Wilson Road, Grand Teton National Park, WY

    Just driving through the park is a beautiful experience, affording sightings of moose, elk and prong-horned antelope.  My youngest daughter, Delia, and I got up at 5 am several mornings and parked ourselves (in our car) along Moose-Wilson Road hoping to spot a bear, but to no avail.  They are here, as are wolves, eagles and the pica, but we didn’t see them.

My second favorite thing about Teton Village was our hotel, The Hotel Terra.  (See my post review of the hotel.)

Other things to do in the Jackson area if you have mobility challenges:

  • Jackson Hole Therapeutic Riding stables,‎
    • IMG_2831Our daughter had a private lesson here, and we would consider coming back just so that she could do a week of camp (really, daily lessons); the staff is supportive and welcoming, and they have a fantastic hoyer lift set-up to help someone with mobility challenges get on a horse
    • Wildlife Art Museum,‎
      • A small museum but interesting rotating exhibits, beautiful lounge room with views over National Elk Refuge, and an accessible pathway for viewing the outdoor sculpture
    • Jackson Hole Whitewater,‎
      • they’ll accommodate you in their rafts with (extra) supportive seating for scenic float trips down the Snake River but you have to transfer into their big blue rafts
    • And there’s always eating:

IMG_2497The biggest downside to the town of Jackson if you use a wheelchair?  A deranged person designed the downtown sidewalk system.    Sidewalks are raised for no apparent reason, with steps spouting from nowhere;  ramps appear and disappear into stairs, and many sidewalks are missing curb cuts.  I guess you could motor down the street in your wheelchair, as we did, but frankly, it seems like you’re increasing your chances that one of the parallel-parked cars will back out over you….