Category Archives: Kids & Family

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Live theatre and family fun

My wife and I took my six-year-old to see the Nutcracker at the Fulton Theatre, and we were blown away with the creativity. The Fulton does an amazing job selecting and producing their Family Theatre Series shows.

The dance numbers, slapstick comedy, and riveting action kept my son on the edge of his seat throughout the entire performance, and there was plenty of pop-culture references and subtle jokes for the adults in the crowd. The show moved at the perfect pace and held everyone’s attention the entire time.

If you can’t make it to the Nutcracker before it ends on December 27, there are other family-friendly shows coming up in 2015 including Cinderella (March), Little Women (May), and Peter Pan (June).

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Don’t miss Santa’s Paradise Express

I took my daughter and one of her friends to the Strasburg Rail Road for Santa’s Paradise Express. The kiddos, both 4-years old, were very excited about riding the train, but even more excited about seeing Santa himself. We boarded the train and waited about 5 minutes before the train whistle blew and we slowly took off. It wasn’t long before Santa and two of his helpers came aboard our car. It was a joy to see all the children’s eye light up. Santa greeted each child, posted for a seasonal iconic photo, and gave each an old-fashioned train which doubled as a pencil sharpener. After Santa, two tuba players made their way through our car playing happy holiday tunes, then a couple of carolers who insisted that we sing along with them in merriment.

While we had the opportunity to climb aboard the Tinsel Trolley, a self-propelled motor car, my kiddos wanted to warm up in the heated stationary Caboose while listing to a costumed character read Christmas classics. Afterward, the children made their way to Mrs. Claus who was at the station helping children finalize their letters to Santa.

This experience was wonderfully magical and fun. There’s no way that one can leave this place without a fond memory.

There’s only two days left to ride this train – December 20 and 21. Don’t miss out! Click here to learn more.

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Dinner and a Show – Lancaster County Style

There is nothing better than a good laugh. One of the many things my husband and I like to do (especially on long car trips) is listen to some of our favorite comedians like Jim Gaffigan, Brian Regan, and Bill Cosby – you know, the ones who are just plain funny without all of the rudeness and profanity. Little did I know that there is a place right here in Lancaster County where you can go for some good, clean comedy. The Lancaster County Comedy Show runs several times a month at the Hershey Farm Restaurant in Strasburg. Always up for dinner and a show, my husband and I planned our night out – although, I don’t think either of us was expecting just how much fun it would be.

We started our date night with dinner at Hershey Farm Restaurant. (I recommend making a dinner reservation as the restaurant tends to be pretty busy.)  The menu selection is pretty big and we were hungry, so we opted for the Grand Smorgasbord.  My husband is a vegetarian, so we sometimes have a difficult time finding things on the menu that he can eat. Not only does Hershey Farm serve traditional PA Dutch recipes, but they have a soup, baked potato and salad bar, daily grill specials, a carving station, pizza, seafood, and of course the dessert bar. You can make your meal as healthy or as decadent as you want, and there is something for every appetite. Just make sure you save room for their famous chocolate cake! The dessert bar was my favorite part of the meal, and I had a hard time not sampling one of every dessert they had.

After stuffing ourselves full of delicious food, we made our way to the theater for the comedy show and took our seats. While we waited for the show to begin, we chatted with the couple next to us who were visiting from West Virginia. None of us had ever see the comedy show so we took turns guessing  what kind of jokes would be told. When the lights dimmed, comedian and ventriloquist Ryan Bomgardner took the stage.

From the second Ryan brought his friend little Jakey out onto the stage, the entire room was filled with uproarious laughter. The show went through an entire cast of characters from Jakey, the 8-year-old-Amish boy, to an elderly couple named Harold and Irene, to some real life “dummies” in the form of participants from the audience. I won’t give too much away, but I will say Ryan and his friends did a great job of giving non-locals a sense of what Lancaster County looks like from a local perspective. I found it pretty funny when the man sitting next to me leaned over and asked what Ryan meant by a “road apple.”  (For those of you not familiar with road apples, they are produced by horses and certainly not edible!) I absolutely loved Ryan’s clean sense of humor and honestly laughed so hard during this show that I cried!

When the show ended, I wanted to meet Ryan and little Jakey so my husband graciously waited with me until everyone left. Not only is Ryan absolutely hysterical, but he’s genuinely nice and took the time after the 85-minute performance to greet everyone who wanted to meet him.

I would definitely recommend seeing this show.  Whether you are young or old, a local, or visiting from out of town, you will have a guaranteed laugh-until-your-cheeks-hurt, tears-streaming-down-your-face, great time!

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Annual American Girl Fashion Show

At a certain age many girls are nearly inseparable from their favorite doll. Their mini sidekick becomes a best friend, someone to learn about life with and take on adventures together. Thanks to Hands-on House Children’s Museum of Lancaster girls – and their dolls – will be treated to the ultimate girls’ night out to celebrate growing up as a girl at the American Girl Fashion Show.

The American Girl Fashion Show is an interactive opportunity for girls and their families to learn about the stories of growing up as a girl throughout history and today. Girl “models” will walk the runway as fashion, music, and lively commentary bring to life historical events from the 1700s through today while showcasing the cultural influences that have shaped American history.

After the fashion show, girls can enjoy refreshments and have the option to treat their dolls to a visit to the Doll Salon.

The American Girl Fashion Show will be held November 14-15 at the Conference Center at IU13 in Lancaster. Tickets are $35 per person and include admission to the show, refreshments and an American Girl goodie bag. For more information, show times and to purchase tickets, visit www.handsonhouse.org.

Girls and their families will not want to miss this limited opportunity for fun and fashion at the American Girl Fashion Show!

Written by Victoria Hill, Scheffey Integrated Marketing

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Fall Fun at Cherry Crest Adventure Farm

My 4-year-old daughter, Sophia, and I went with her daycare to Cherry Crest Adventure Farm for a half day field trip. Our group of preschoolers and toddlers were so excited to explore the farm. While there are over 50 farm fun activities included in the admission, the first thing they wanted to do was see the animals in the Farm Animal Center. From funny goats to friendly pigs, the kiddos giggled with delight and petted the animals with wonderment. Sophia’s favorite animal was the chicks; she was thrilled that she was allowed to hold them. With gentleness, she nuzzled them and held them close.

Even though the kids would have been completely content staying with the animals, we knew that there were a lot more age-appropriate fun things for them to see and do. Although the Farm is well-known for its Amazing Maize Maze (an incredible activity for older kids and adults), it also has many other wonderful activities such as the Farm Tour Wagon Ride and Wagon Express Ride, Hay Maze, jumping pillows, giant slides, giant sling slots, playground, Singing Chicken Show, and much more. Sophia’s favorites were the jumping pillows (like bouncy castles without walls), the giant slides, and the hay maze.

It didn’t take long to work up an appetite. While Cherry Crest offers hearty lunch and dinner menus of Angus burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, fries, salads and wraps, pizza, and more, we chose to pack our own lunches. Under a large tent with picnic tables, we enjoyed our lunches. It was the perfect moment… the day was beautiful, the sun was shining, the wind was blowing gently, and our bellies were full.

After lunch, we only had a few minutes before we had to leave. Since the Farm Animal Center was so close to where we were eating lunch, the children all wanted to go back to see their barnyard friends one last time. Of course, Sophia made a bee line to the chicks. (She asked if she could take one home with her… I’m sure you can guess my answer.) Before we left, each child was allowed to pick their own small pumpkin to take home. What a special and unexpected surprise!

We had a great time. My only complaint… I wish that we could have stayed longer!

If this place sounds like fun to you, keep in mind that Cherry Crest Adventure Farm is a great place for field trips, company picnics, corporate events, and teambuilding. You can even ride the Strasburg Rail Road to the farm if you’d like!

This place is perfect for any age and is the perfect a Fall day excursion. Don’t miss their freshly made cider donuts and farm fresh roasted sweet corn – yum!

Click here to learn more about Cherry Crest Adventure Farm: www.cherrycrestfarm.com

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Overnight at the DoubleTree Resort Lancaster

My friend Jessica and I decided to introduce our 4-year-old girls to “girls night out.” We thought an overnight stay in a hotel would be a blast. We knew the girls would enjoy a swimming pool and we wanted some luxury, so we landed on the DoubleTree Resort Lancaster.

One thing I love about the DoubleTree Resort is their signature chocolate chip and walnut cookie that greets you at check-in (so delicious, warm, and gooey!). We were not disappointed – as soon we were handed our room key, we got our cookies. My friend Jessica has a gluten-free diet… she thought she was going to lose out on the coveted treat, but to her surprise, they offered her a nice selection of her favorite gluten-free cookies of which she could choose any one she wanted. Nicely played, DoubleTree!

We walked through the beautiful hotel lobby and rode the elevator to our floor. Our kiddos ran ahead of us eager to find our room. As soon as we located the room and opened the door, the girls each claimed a bed and began jumping up and down while Jessica and I allowed our bags to fall off our shoulders and onto the floor. We breathed a sigh of relief. The fun can now begin!

Within a few minutes we out in our swimming suits and headed to the pool area. What a cool place! They have a “grown up” pool area that includes a hot tub and a “kid-friendly” area that is 0-4 feet and has fun, age-appropriate water playground. We laughed and played for over an hour. Then we grabbed fresh towels to dry off and headed back to our room for a pre-bedtime snack. Before long, the kiddos dozed off, so Jessica and I watched TV from the comfort of our beds.

The next morning we headed down to Cafe 24 Hundred for breakfast. We chose the breakfast buffet which featured everything you’d hope to see or have for breakfast. The girls downed their breakfast and chocolate milk like it was their job while Jessica and I enjoyed our breakfast slowly and sipped our freshly brewed coffee. The food and the servers were fantastic!

After breakfast we headed back to our room to let the girls watch cartoons while we each took a nice long shower. Sadly, though, it wasn’t long before we had to pack up our things and start our day. We had a great night’s sleep and the girls had a fun time together. This is definitely something we’d do again with the girls.

Next time you’re looking into hotel for an overnight stay, I highly recommend the DoubleTree Resort Lancaster. I understand why it’s considered a premier meeting destination and family resort. The friendly service and host of on-site amenities – including a golf course, two restaurants, state-of-the-art fitness center, and indoor water playground – promise a great stay for everyone. Plus, the resort is only minutes from Lancaster’s most popular attractions.

To learn more about the DoubleTree Resort Lancaster or to book your stay, go to www.doubletreelancaster.com.

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The Amazing Annual Whoopie Pie Festival

Are you a fan of the whoopie pie? If you aren’t then you most certainly will be after you attend the annual Whoopie Pie Festival at Hershey Farm Restaurant & Inn. If you’re like me and are a die-hard fan of this tasty creation, you definitely want to make plans to attend this festival.

My family and I planned to visit the 2014 Whoopie Pie Festival on Saturday, September 6, but I have to confess I was dreading the parking situation. I was so relieved to read on the festival’s website that they would be providing shuttles from several locations. We decided to catch the shuttle from the American Music Theater. The shuttle bus was air conditioned and very fancy. My kids are used to school buses, so this was a big treat for them and got our day off to a good start. The driver told me shuttles run every 20 minutes to each location to make it easy to get back to your car when you’ve finished your day.

When we arrive at the festival, my children and I couldn’t believe the sheer number of whoopie pies that were gathered in one place; everywhere you looked there were whoopies. Not knowing what else to do, we started off in the Whoopie Pie tent where over a 100 varieties of whoopies were available for purchase.

At first we played it safe by picking up the original chocolate whoopie pie with vanilla filling, then we branched out to coconut and strawberry fillings. Finally, we got brave with a vanilla cookie with sprinkles featuring cream cheese filling. My son, the most adventurous of us, got a root beer filled chocolate whoopie pie.

We wished we would have brought a cooler so we could have taken home the banana orange, marble salted caramel, chocolate chunk mint chip, and chocolate dipped whoopies… but without a cooler they’d wouldn’t have made it home without melting.

I didn’t venture into the “adults only” section of the tent, but I heard that some new special whoopie pies featured flavors like Bailey’s Irish Creme and Creme de Menthe. Bring ID if you want these extra special ones because they will card you!

We checked out the craft vendors selling everything from cards to stuffed animals. There was lots to choose from and all were friendly folks eager to help you make a selection. I would have liked tohave shopped longer, but my kids were pulling me to the Whoopie Pie Treasure Hunt.

The Treasure Hunt is a free activity where kids can hunt for up to ten mini-whoopies to take home with them, but it is the famous golden whoopie that gets them the prize. My daughter found one of the golden whoopies and she was thrilled with her prize – silly band bracelets in Amish themed shapes. There were two of each shape in the package, enough for her to share with her not-as-lucky brother which made life easier for me.

Next up we took pictures with the World’s Largest Whoopie Pie. Weighing in at 720 pounds, you’d need a lot of milk to get this one down. The cream filling would keep my sweet tooth satisfied for at least a year (OK, maybe just a month).

Next door was the Make Your Own Whoopie Pie booth. For $2 the kids were given a box with the chocolate cookies and decorating candy in it and filling was available on the decorating tables. I have to give the festival organizers bonus points here; the person working the booth asked right away if either child had a peanut allergy. My son is one of the lucky no-peanut kids, so he received an extra special box that was peanut-free. So often he is left out of food-related activities because people don’t think about food allergies, but here he was able to do the very same thing his sister did plus he got licorice which made him really happy. It is these types of things that keep me coming back to a food event year after year, the little touches that help my family have a good time even though we have some dietary limitations.

We didn’t get to see the Whoopie Yell Off, the Whoopie Pie Launch, the Whoopie Pie Eating Contest, or the live entertainment, but the kids did enjoy the bounce slide and seeing the farm animals.

When it was time to go home, we caught the shuttle bus back to our car. I was thankful the wait for our bus was less than five minutes. On a hot day even that length of time can seem forever. Despite the heat, my family enjoyed the Whoopie Pie Festival and we would visit again.

If your family would like to attend the 2015 Whoopie Pie Festival at Hershey Farm Restaurant, here are a few tips for you:

  • Use the shuttle bus service. It is so nice to have air conditioning and a chance to rest your feet and parking at the event site is limited.
  • If it is hot, bring a cooler with ice packs for your whoopie pies so you can stock up on your favorites.
  • Arrive early for the best selection. If you want some of the limited flavors like chocolate chunk cookies and cream or vanilla rootbeer, be sure to beat the crowds.
  • Bring small bills for the bounce house, decorate your own whoopie and checkers. They do not accept cards and the prices are minimal.
  • If it is a sunny day, be sure to wear sunscreen.

I’ve been to many food festivals, but this one by far is the best I’ve attended. If you want to do something unusual and tasty with your family on a nice fall day, definitely consider the Whoopie Pie Festival at Hershey Farm Restaurant. It’s a whole lot of fun.

 

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Thomas the Tank Engine Welcomes Percy!

Strasburg Rail Road is best known for its historic steam trains that leave soft puffs of smoke along the iconic Lancaster County countryside between the small towns of Strasburg and Paradise.

For parents and grandparents of Thomas fans, Strasburg Rail Road conjures up a different image – one bustling with excitement as the heritage railroad station transforms to welcome Thomas the Tank engine, star of the popular series Thomas & Friends. These visits happen three times a year – filling out a season of special events including Santa’s Paradise Express, Wine & Cheese Trains and on-board dining opportunities.

This September the excitement level is going way up as Thomas’ pal, Percy, tags along to join in on all the fun!

Percy makes his debut at Day Out with Thomas at Strasburg Rail Road September 13–21, before chugging along on his national tour. Little engineers and their families will meet Thomas, Percy and Sir Topham Hatt®, Controller of the Railway and take a 20-minute ride aboard one of Strasburg Rail Road’s larger-than-life trains pulled by Thomas himself.

Many Thomas & Friends-themed activities are included in the ticket price making this a full-day adventure. Children of all ages can enjoy arts and crafts, blocks and toy trains in the Imagination Station, storytelling and extra rides Percy and Strasburg Rail Road’s Pint-Sized Pufferbelly Train, Cranky Cars and Motorcar Train.

Tickets for Day Out with Thomas are on sale now and available by calling Ticketweb at 866-468-7630, or by visiting www.ticketweb.com/dowt or directly from Strasburg Rail Road at www.strasburgrailroad.com/train-schedule/events/day-out-with-thomas. Ticket prices are $21.00plus tax for ages 2 and up (service charges may apply).

For more information and directions, contact www.strasburgrailroad.com or 866-725-9666 and share your experience at facebook.com/StrasburgRailRoad and twitter.com/StrasburgRR

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Victoria Hill is the Social Media & Public Relations Specialist at Scheffey Integrated Marketing.

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Zip line your way to adventure and fun

Refreshing Mountain is a family-friendly, all-inclusive retreat facility with a large outdoor pool, sports fields, sand volleyball courts, indoor gyms, hiking trails, high ropes courses, zip line courses, a giant swing, archery, paintball, and more. While everything about this place is amazing, my goal was focused: to conquer the high ropes and zip line courses.

The Zip Line Canopy Tour at Refreshing Mountain has two courses from which to choose – the Challenge Adventure Course and the Aerial Excursion Course. The Challenge Adventure Course consists of five zip lines and the Aerial Excursion Course has seven zip lines, three sky bridges, and a surprise ending (you’ll have to experience it for yourself to find out). I went for the Aerial Excursion Course; I had to go big.

First things first, I signed the waiver and was fitted for a helmet and harness. Our tour guides seemed calm, cool, and collected… of which I was none. Though I love adventures, I always get nervous before hand… especially when heights are involved.

We ascended to the platform. The guides climbed like monkeys – like they were made to do this. Clearly this was second nature to them. Thankfully my harness and rope made me feel secure enough for my defenses to diminish. At all times the rope, securely connected to my harness, was attached to a pulley that road along the cable. I could pull the pulley along with me as I moved – like a dog on a leash. The pulley is key – because of that little piece of metal, we are able zip from platform to platform through the canopy of trees and not fall.

The first zip line was the scariest. Not knowing that to expect, I closed my eyes and with some hesitation, jumped. I went whizzing through the air like a flying squirrel. As I picked up speed, it wasn’t long before I saw the next platform quickly approaching. I extended my legs; my feet slammed into the wood platform. I made it. Safe and sound. One down zip line down; six more to go.

Later that day I tried my hand at the high ropes course. It was awesome! While at times I felt like I couldn’t conquer the challenge and sweat cascaded down the sides of my face, I stuck with it, and made it to the end. Nothing feels more gratifying.

My experience was incredibly exhilarating. I recommend that everyone try high ropes and zip line courses at Refreshing Mountain. If you’re afraid of heights like I am, remember, you are always strapped in and safe – so there’s no excuses.

To learn more about Refreshing Mountain or to book your aerial experience, to go refreshingmountain.com/ziplines.cfm.

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Dinosaurs, planets, bones and more

The North Museum of Natural History and Science, over 50 years old and located near historic Downtown Lancaster, allows children to explore everything from outer space to precious rocks to dinosaurs. Children are encouraged to touch and investigate what’s in the museum. Behind every nook and cranny there’s more to see and discover.

My daughter, Sophia, and I started out in the Living Animal Room. We saw lizards, snakes, turtles, and more. From there we went to the Discovery Room – Sophia’s favorite place – where she was able to touch antlers, hold hooves, and see a spider legs up close. What I loved most about this room was that Sophia thought she was playing… but I knew that she was learning. This room provided a fun and safe way to interact with life and science that would otherwise be nearly impossible.

Next we went to the planetarium where many enjoy exploring the galaxy. We chose, however, to see the National Geographic special, Sea Monsters. This featured film follows one prehistoric, ocean-dwelling dinosaur family from start of their life to fossilization. The planetarium features a variety of educational movies, but you can always count on the Night Sky Tour for an awe-inspiring look at millions of stars, fascinating constellations, and unusual planets. For a limited time only, younger viewers can watch Big Bird and Elmo take an imaginary trip from Sesame Street through the starry night sky to the moon in One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure.

Many exhibits in the North Museum  - such as the Dinosaur Gallery (you can touch and examine dino claws, teeth, and bones) – are permanent, others are temporary. When we went, the temporary exhibit on display was Race: Are we so different? The exhibit confronts the misconceptions of race and investigates how human variation has shaped our culture and what the future holds for our society. The exhibit explores racism, equality, diversity, prejudice, social justice, ethnic and cultural differences, and ways to make things better.

Cabinet collections are featured on lower level of the museum. We found birds of every type and size – more than we could count. There were also minerals and precious rocks on display. Sophia enjoyed the Dichotomous Cabinet the most. From snakes to butterflies, pulling out each individual drawer revealed more surprises. In this area there’s also a Lego play station – Sophia liked that, too.

After all our exploring and discovering, we stopped at the onsite gift shop to check out souvenirs and science-related gifts. Sophia picked out a small dinosaur egg that, when submerged in water for 48 hours, will hatch. This inexpensive keep-sake will indeed remind her of her adventures at the Museum.

We had an enjoyable time and look forward to a return visit. Conveniently, the Museum is open every day of the week except Monday. For more information and pricing, visit www.northmuseum.org.

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