Category Archives: Kids & Family

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Lancaster’s Wolf Sanctuary

There are three sounds I’ve heard in my life that I will never forget: the sound of my mom singing “Day is Done” (don’t ask); the sound of pebbles washing back into the waves on the beach in Riomaggiore, Italy; and the sound of 45 wolves howling at once.

These 45 wolves live a mere 15 miles away from my house, at the Wolf Sanctuary in Speedwell Forge. The sanctuary is a non-profit organization that maintains a natural environment for rescued wolves and wolf-hybrids, educating visitors about wolf culture and the plight of these species – many of which are extinct or endangered.

The day that I visited the sanctuary was muddy. I changed into the boots that I keep in the trunk of my car (doesn’t everyone?). Shortly after, a busload of boys aged 13-16 showed up as part of a school field trip. Now, I have two younger brothers, and I remember ages 13-16. Not pretty! As I walked around for an hour that day, I not only observed the wolves, learning about their histories, personalities, and behaviors. I also observed the students, fascinated by their fascination, respect, and interest in learning about these regal creatures.

If a wolf sanctuary can keep 20+ teen/preteen boys interested, I’m willing to bet almost everyone will love the experience. The sanctuary is volunteer-run and open year-round, offering public tours on Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays (visit their website for registration details). They also run special events, including full moon tours which draws hundreds of people and includes a bonfire and fundraisers like the upcoming Music and Art with the Wolves (May 9, 11am-3pm). If you go, here is my advice:

  • Wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy.
  • Go in the winter if possible. The wolves are more active and their coats are full when it’s cold.
  • Bring a camera.
  • Bring all of your friends.

And lastly, ask your tour guide to try to get the wolves to howl together. This is how they communicate with each other within and between packs. To be honest I have never heard a more haunting and beautiful sound.

avalanchexpress

Snow Tubing: Not Just For Kids (But They’ll Love It Too)

I didn’t have snow pants. I didn’t have gloves. But that didn’t stop me from reveling in my first snow tubing experience at AvalancheXpress. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Here’s what you need to know:

Hot chocolate bar. First things first—there is a hot chocolate bar where you can add your own toppings including sprinkles, whipped cream, smashed up M&Ms and Oreos, and (most importantly) AS MANY MINI MARSHMALLOWS AS YOUR HEART DESIRES.

Racing is a thing. There are 8 lanes at the top of the hill. You can pick a hill next to your friend, launch at the same time, and race to the bottom. If you’re tubing with your lover (also a thing), you can pick a wide lane and hold onto each others tube as you speed to the bottom. If this can’t save a relationship I don’t know what can.

Tow rope-lines. The worst thing about sledding growing up was walking back up the hill. The struggle is real. Not at AvalancheXpress, however. There are two powered rope-lines that will pull you (in tube!) back up to the top of the hill. Of course, fitness buffs can choose to walk up if they choose; it’s a good way to wear your kids out. But being pulled up backwards feels almost like a fun ride in and of itself.

To get to the bathrooms you have to pass right by the hotel bar. Self explanatory, yes?

FIRE. At the bottom of the hill (protected by nets and bumpers for those exuberant tubers) are four fire pits, complete with chairs. It’s the perfect spot to stop between downhill trips to warm your hands and thaw your face. And if tubing isn’t your thing, it’s the perfect place to watch the fun.

Night tubing. Did I mention I did all of this at night? AvalancheXpress does night tubing from 8-10 PM (weekdays & Sundays) and 9-10 PM (Fridays & Saturdays). It’s so worth it. I only had to stand in line once, with about 5 people in front of me. There were very few children. Plus, hurtling through the darkness?? Nearly indescribable.

Make no mistake, this hill is BIG. It was intimidating at first, then immediately addictive. I couldn’t stop laughing each time I flew down, and by the end of the night, I wasn’t sure if my face hurt from the cold or from smiling.

amishvillage

Visiting the Amish Village

When I was six years old, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than by hanging out with animals, especially horses. I jumped at any chance I got to see them. And of course, like most young kids, I loved learning about new things from a hands-on experience. Well I’m not a child anymore (though my older, wiser siblings might disagree with this), but as an Aunt to five wonderful nieces and nephews, I have the opportunity to see their faces light up when running around a playground or petting a live animal much like mine did at their age. So when I got the chance the visit the Amish Village, I thought it would be fun to take my oldest nephew, Silas, along for the ride!

Strolling through the Village

When we first arrived at the Amish Village, Silas and I were greeted by a friendly staff member who assisted us in a quick registration before directing us to the Village. We were free to explore many different buildings that are part of their Amish community. Silas thoroughly enjoyed feeding the horses and roosters in the barn. And I loved that we were free to visit each area of the Village at our own pace. There were always staff members available to answer any questions we had about a particular tool or building but no one made us feel rushed. Silas and I checked out a real Amish buggy and got an up-close look at Amish farm tools and equipment in the blacksmith shop. After snapping a few photos in the Village, we headed toward the property entrance to meet our driver for the backroads bus tour.

 Our Backroads Bus Tour Excursion

While the animals may have been the highlight for my nephew, the bus tour was my favorite part of the visit! Our tour guide was incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. She took us to parts of the county I had never seen before—and remember, I am Lancaster born and raised. We stopped at an Amish bakery along the way as well as a small Amish farm that sold handmade crafts and homemade snacks. I couldn’t resist a pint of fresh-squeezed lemonade for the ride. It was delish! We saw children riding through cornfields on carts pulled by miniature ponies, we passed buggies, and we drove through the rolling hills of Lancaster County’s countryside for about 90 minutes. It was quite picturesque, and everyone on the tour thoroughly enjoyed the experience. NOTE: The backroads bus tour is not recommended for children under five.

After we arrived back at the Amish Village, Silas and I decided to take one last look around the grounds. It was neat to see what an Amish schoolhouse looks like from the inside—Silas was very intrigued by the reading and math exercises displayed on the chalkboard. We made sure to check out the water wheel during our visit as well. Did you know that even today most Amish farms use a water wheel and windmill to operate a pump that provides water to animals in the barn? Fascinating stuff!

Planning Your Visit to the Amish Village

If you’d like to experience an authentic Amish property, Silas and I recommend visiting the Amish Village. It’s a great place for both kids and adults to learn in a fun, hands-on environment. They even offer a 25-minute farmhouse tour in addition to the bus tour we were on. You can find all of their tour package information and rates on the Amish Village website. Experience how the Pennsylvania Amish really live today!

Emily Long is a Lancaster County native, singer/songwriter, and all around music lover. She is an Online PR Specialist and, on the side, works at her family’s business, Long’s Horseradish, at Lancaster Central Market. To learn more about Emily, visit her website: www.EmilyLongMusic.com.

Emily Long is a Lancaster County native, singer/songwriter, and all around music lover. She is an Online PR Specialist and, on the side, works at her family’s business, Long’s Horseradish, at Lancaster Central Market. To learn more about Emily, visit her website: www.EmilyLongMusic.com. – See more at: http://padutchcountryblog.com/pedal-preserve-lancaster-county-farms/#sthash.yrgaTAWZ.dpuf
Emily Long is a Lancaster County native, singer/songwriter, and all around music lover. She is an Online PR Specialist and, on the side, works at her family’s business, Long’s Horseradish, at Lancaster Central Market. To learn more about Emily, visit her website: www.EmilyLongMusic.com. – See more at: http://padutchcountryblog.com/pedal-preserve-lancaster-county-farms/#sthash.yrgaTAWZ.dpuf
creativereuse

Creative indoor fun… and shopping

Lancaster Creative ReUse (LCR) is like heaven for crafters and creators. It’s filled with an inexpensive yet vast array of everything from buttons to wallpaper. It’s the Good Will or Salvation Army of the craft world. LCR is a non-profit creative supply thrift shop and Open Craft Table. LCR’s nonprofit mission is to inspire creativity, increase access to the arts through affordability and to encourage reuse.

One thing I love about this place is that while I rummage through the shop, my daughter can hang out at the Open Craft Table and for only $2 she can make her own craft(s). It is stocked with a variety of up-cycled materials, scissors, and glue for kids to create anything they dream up. This time, Sophia painted a flat, wooden swan cut-out, dressed “her” in several cut-up pieces of fabric, and hot-glued a magnet on the back… the perfect project for display on our kitchen fridge.

LCR is easy to find and they have plenty of on-site parking. Best of all, the staff is extremely friendly and knowledgeable.

This place is a treasure that everyone should know about it. I  highly recommend that you check it out.

skyzone

Indoor fun at a trampoline park

Sky Zone is the world’s first indoor trampoline park featuring an array of fun, fit, and low-impact activities. They pride themselves in being the inventors of “fun fitness” and the “wall to wall” jumping experience. Now, Lancaster has its own Sky Zone – YAY!

My 4 year-old daughter loved their Toddler/Preschool time. It was time dedicated to her age-group – no “big” kids allowed. She had a blast with other kiddos her age. The staff was very friendly and did a great job interacting with the kids. The kids started in the free-play area and ended in the foam pit jump zone.

In addition to Open Jump and Toddler/Preschool time, Sky Zone also offers dodge ball, Sky Slam (basketball), Skyrobics, and they host birthday parties and team building events. Plus, they have a sensory-friendly jump time – pretty awesome! It’s clear that people of all ages and abilities can come here to get a great workout.

As a mother, I appreciated how clean everything was kept. With kids running around and sweating, one can only imagine how dirty things must get. But this place was spotless. As soon as you arrive, be sure to read and sign their waiver (you can do that at the computers they provide for you). Once that’s done, you can pay for your jump time. Get this – each jumper gets a pair of socks. Yes, a brand-new pair of socks to wear while jumping. Another super sanitary way to keep things clean. Love it!

Now that we have Sky Zone Lancaster, you know where I’ll be taking my daughter and her friends when they need to get some energy out during these cold winter months!

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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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comedy-show

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!

american-girl-show

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 2014 American Girl Fashion Show will be held November 14-15 at the Conference Center at IU13 in Lancaster. Tickets include admission to the show, refreshments and an American Girl goodie bag. For more information on this annual show, keep an eye on www.handsonhouse.org.

Victoria Hill works at Scheffey Integrated Marketing and promotes the Hands-on House and their events.

Cherry-Crest

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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