Category Archives: Kids & Family

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A great day trip for the whole family

Myself, a friend, and our two preschoolers decided to go on an adventure; one that would be appropriate for the kiddos, but also interesting and educational for us. Our destination: Indian Echo Caverns.

When we arrived we headed to the Gift Shop to purchase our admission tickets. It’s not hard to get distracted while standing in line; the store is filled with eye-catching items. From sweatshirt to Indian arrows, the gift shop has everything you could imagine. Everyone can find a suitable souvenir with little trouble.

After we got our tickets, we waited a short 10 minutes before meeting up with our group and tour guide. Once assembled, we embarked on our decent to the cavern. The kids were giddy with excitement. Before long, we were standing in front of the entrance – a large stonework facade with heavy wooden doors boasting the letters “I.E.C.” (Indian Echo Caverns, of course).

Throughout the tour our witty and friendly tour guide shared interesting facts and anecdotes about the cave and it’s history. We learned that the cavern is made mostly of limestone and was formed by water erosion over millions of years. The earliest known use of the caverns was by the Susquehannock Indians who lived and hunted in the area. However, since 1783 it’s been visited by many others. The temperature inside the caverns is 52 degrees year around (be sure to bring a light jacket or sweatshirt).

The kids loved the tour. Never before had they seen anything quite like it. We saw two pristine ponds of immaculately clear water, stalactites and stalagmites, interesting geological features, large rooms with high rock ceilings, and 150-year-old graffiti. We experienced the pitch blackness of the caverns and learned about a man who lived in the caverns for 19 years (his journal is allegedly on display at the State Museum of Pennsylvania).

All along the way, the path was safe and well lit for all those touring. One word of caution: don’t touch the rocks! The oils from your hands can compromise the rock, potentially breaking down their chemical composition.

Before we knew it, the tour was over… but it wasn’t time to go home.

The kiddos had energy to expend, so we headed to the spacious, well-shaded onsite play area. It had a slide, swings, and a rock wall. Near the play area are picnic tables for guests to use for lunch (yes, you can bring your own food onto the property!). There are also two covered picnic areas available for rent, one which seats 30-40 people and another which seat a total of 100 people.

Did I mention they have a small petting zoo, too? Yep. Sure enough the kids were captivated by the animals. They saw goats, bunnies, chickens, and roosters.

After spending some time with the animals, we headed to Gem Mill Junction, a hands-on activity that allows you to shift through water and sediment to find gemstones, amethyst, jasper, calcite, agate, and more. You can have your favorite stone turned into a necklace – pretty cool! Because the Gem Mill Junction is outdoor, it is a seasonal attraction that operates 7 days a week between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Indian Echo Caverns has a lot to offer. Plan a day to spend with your family, friends, or even a large group. It is well worth your time.

To learn more about this unique destination, find admission prices and hours, or to download an admission coupon, visit their website http://www.indianechocaverns.com/plan_your_visit.htm.

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dutch-wonderland

Dinosaurs in Lancaster County?

Every year my family takes several trips to Dutch Wonderland, but this year we were doubly excited to make our first trip – we were going to see dinosaurs!

Dutch Wonderland is a 48 acre amusement park tailored for families with children under the age of 10. The park is themed around a princess named Brooke, the Knight of Safety, Merlin the Magician, and Duke the friendly Dragon. Built in 1963 the park has 34 rides including two roller coasters.

We normally ride the Wonderland Express train when we first arrive, but the thing my family couldn’t wait to do this year was visit the new Exploration Island. My children, ages 4 and 6, wanted to head there first, so we made our way to the back of the park. We couldn’t believe the changes Dutch Wonderland had made to the island which used to be a decorative garden area until last year when construction began.

They ran for the Dino Dig area which has three large sand pits with buried “fossils” for the kids to uncover. Shovels and brushes were there for them to play with as well as some digging machines my son fell in love with. Two of the areas were covered with shade which made nice spots for the littlest kids to play.

Nearby we could hear some prehistoric sounds, so we dropped our shovels and made our way to the Prehistoric Path. Here we met over a dozen dinosaurs that moved and made sounds as we passed them. The dinosaurs had signs which explained their official names and a little about them. There was even a dinosaur you could control yourself and a dino egg to climb in!

We tried out the Sunoco Turnpike at its new home on Exploration Island as well. Even my 4 year old was able to drive the car (with a little help, of course). We enjoyed the lengthened route around the island which went by the dinosaurs and along the water where the Gondola Cruise boats travel.

We spent a good hour on Exploration Island, but then went in search of something cold to drink. Dutch Wonderland offers refillable toddler cups which are a great size for smaller hands. We keep these cups all year long to use on car trips. They are a great value since they also come with reduced price refills – or you can get water refills in them for free.

Some of our favorite rides at Dutch Wonderland include: the Monorail where we love to sit up front with the driver or in the very last car, the River Boat which is now themed like a Jungle Cruiser and is a great place for the little ones to settle down if they are overexcited, and the Dragon’s Lair which takes you on a ride in a log through the lake near Duke’s home. There is a special surprise waiting there in the cave so be looking for it!

If you have never been to Dutch Wonderland before you will be surprised by the many things to do in addition to rides. There is Duke’s Lagoon water park open during the summer, many games with great prizes, panning for gems, pony rides, tiny buildings to explore, rabbits, chicks, a shooting gallery, and a silo slide. Oh, and don’t forget to milk Bossy the cow and get your picture taken with the giant pretzel!

On top of all those activities the park features many entertainment options. There are strolling musicians, Storytime with Princess Brooke, the music-filled Decades of Dutch Wonderland, and the not-to-be-missed Adventures of the Frog Prince in the Aqua Stadium. Not too many places offer high dive shows, so it is very likely your kids will be amazed by the antics of the divers – just be prepared to get wet if you are in the splash zone!

Dutch Wonderland is also a place to get lots of great treats to eat like Dole Whips, Potato Patch fries with cheese and bacon, Nathan’s hotdog, Dippin’ Dots, and lots more. There is even a full service restaurant called Merlin’s which includes gluten free items on their menu.

We spent a full day at Dutch Wonderland and can’t wait to go back in the fall for Happy Hauntings when the park is all decked out for some not-so-scary fun and trick-or-treating. We’ll go one last time around the holidays for Winter Wonderland when we can meet Santa and do some Christmas shopping.

If your family includes smaller children and you’d like to visit an amusement park, I suggest you give Dutch Wonderland a try since everything is child-size and tons of fun.

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Come here to learn more about the Amish

Did you know that the Amish have a horse-drawn trailer that contains benches, hymnals, and all the other items necessary for Sunday church services at one another’s homes? Or, did you know that the Amish are often bi-lingual, speaking English, German, and “Pennsylvania Dutch?”

For those inquisitive and curious minds who want to learn more about the Amish lifestyle and culture first-hand, a great place to check out is the is the Amish Experience. Located on route 340 in the heart of Amish country, this educational destination is the only location of its kind in Lancaster County to be named a “Heritage Site” by the Lancaster County Historical Society. And, unlike other museums or destinations, The Amish Experience is surrounded on all sides by farmland beauty; rural, rolling farmland, horses, cows, cornfields, and even a fruit market that set the scene for what guests will enjoy during their visit. The Amish Experience is also a perfect option for your Sunday itinerary because many other Amish destinations are closed.

So, on a sunny Sunday in June, I surprised my out of town guests with a visit to the Experience. As we toured the grounds, we enjoyed walking through rows of vegetables and herbs which are part of the museum garden. We learned that many guests had never seen what a beet, sweet pea, or potato plant actually looked like, and we enjoyed listening to the excited laughter of children when they saw a real tomato growing on a vine. We enjoyed seeing (up close) a laundry line of colorful Amish clothing, fresh from the wash, and hanging out to dry in the warm summer air. And, yes, even an Amish phone booth!

The homestead tour was fascinating. Even as a resident of Lancaster, I learned numerous things about the Amish that I had never known before. Our favorite part of the tour was the Schoolhouse, where we were able to learn from our tour guide while sitting in authentic desks donated from an actual schoolhouse in the neighboring town of Strasburg. We also got to browse through a real Amish Hymnal and see workbooks that Amish children would use.

A unique part of the Amish Experience is the theatre show “Jacob’s Choice,” which brings to life the story of an Amish teen who is struggling with his decision to join the church. The show boasts surprising special effects, and a story that is certain to touch the hearts of all who see it.

As we got in the car to head home, I couldn’t help but think of the “Jacob’s Choice” story, and ponder the similarities that we, as human beings, share, regardless of what lifestyle we choose or what path we walk. We all experience joy, sorrow, and the pursuit of happiness – whatever that may be. And while sometimes we have our differences, the more we learn about other ways of life, the more we realize that we’re all in this together.

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A different mode of transportation

Since moving to Lancaster a few years ago, I have gotten accustomed to seeing Amish horses and buggies. I have often looked at the little faces staring out the back of the carriage as I drive past and thought “I wonder what it would be like to live a slower pace of life?” I got a small glimpse into this world recently when I hopped aboard a buggy for a private tour of the Amish countryside.

I met up with my group at Aaron & Jessica’s Buggy Rides in Bird-in-Hand. As we waited for our driver, we got an up close and personal introduction to the horses that pull the buggies and wagons. Most of them are Draft horses which weigh about 1,000 lbs and can pull about 3 times their weight. They are much larger in person than I realized, but they were definitely relaxed and docile around the crowd of people who had congregated around them to pet them and take photos.

Our driver, Levi, arrived and helped us into the buggy and introduced us to Kate – our horse. We were even allowed to have Teddy Bear, our friend’s dog, join us on our ride. (Yes, this tour is pet friendly!) With that we were off on our journey through the country. The first thing I noticed about riding in a buggy was how cool it was. In 80-something degree weather with no air conditioning and a partially enclosed buggy, I expected to be a little warm, but it was cool and comfortable as Kate trotted along at a mere 8-10 miles per hour. As we heading to our first stop on the tour, Levi gave us some information about the Amish. I was surprised and slightly embarrassed at how little I know about them. Levi explained that Lancaster County is home to the oldest and largest community of Amish in the state of Pennsylvania. The Lancaster County Amish are “old order” and are traditionally more restrictive about modern technology than other groups such as the Mennonite. I was surprised to learn that there is a new group of Amish who drive and use some modern technology. Levi also explained to us that most of the local Amish are big into using solar panels so as not to have electricity in their homes.

We saw the solar panels in use at the first stop on our tour, a working dairy farm. The Amish family who owns the farm does everything by hand or with non-electric tools. We walked through the barn where the dairy cows were all lined up in their stalls and relaxing. We also saw the huge tank where the fresh milk is stored before it is picked up by truck and shipped off for processing by a larger company. I couldn’t believe how much milk the farm produces each day. The cows are milked twice daily and the milk is picked up by truck every other day, that’s a lot of milk!

After our farm tour, we piled back into the buggy and rolled along more beautiful back country roads to the Countryside Road-stand. This is a nice stop for groups to stretch their legs a bit and get a snack.  Of course when I saw a sign reading “Homemade Soft Pretzels” I jumped right in line. They also had homemade root beer which I had to try. Both were delicious! Since we had some time to look around, I wandered around to check out the playground, petting zoo, and gift shop. The Road-Stand sells a lot of items that would make nice gifts to take home such as quilted items, crafts, and homemade apple butter. My souvenir was a pretzel to take home for later!

As we traveled back to Aaron & Jessica’s, Levi talked about growing up and working on his uncle’s dairy farm, his children and grandchildren, and Amish life in general. He was open to just about any question and curiosity our group had about Amish life and culture. He even joked about silly questions some visitors have asked in the past. (One that made me laugh was a lady asking him if Amish wear undergarments since she’d never seen any hanging out to dry!) I feel like I learned a lot about local Amish culture and people during my buggy ride. It was nice and refreshing to leave my fast-paced and busy life behind for one morning. Mind you, I won’t be converting to Amish any time soon, but I definitely left Aaron & Jessica’s feeling relaxed!

Aaron & Jessica’s Buggy Rides offers several types of tours through Amish towns and farmland.  If you’re visiting them any time soon, check out their website for discount coupons!

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A village of shops and surprises

This day trip was an extraordinary surprise. It was so much more than I expected.

My five-year-old son and I visited Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse for the first time, and found a lively village of shops mainly showcasing hand-crafted creations, both culinary and handcrafts. There are shops that had leather goods, pottery, tinware, jewelry, quilts, and more. A highlight for me as a craft-lover was the Lancaster Yarn Shop. It was bright, friendly and welcoming, and stuffed full of hand-picked yarns, choice tools, and books. I will definitely need to go back and linger a little longer next time.

Outside the back entrance of the yarn shop was a singer-songwriter playing an acoustic guitar as part of the annual Music for Everyone Festival. On the main stage in the center of the Village were The Roof Rockers who lived up to their name. They had people’s attention as they belted out dance music from the 70′s and 80′s.

Also in the center of the Village is The Bake Shop and the Jam & Relish Kitchen, where you can decorate your own cookies and watch the making of jams and jellies. During our visit, they were canning blueberry preserves. Yum – our mouths were watering! While checking out the goodies on the shelves, we learned that you can also order most everything from their online shop. But you have to see this working kitchen for yourself. It is such a wonderfully unique experience.

Next we decided to take the buggy ride through the Lancaster County countryside. There was a 35 minute and a 55 minute ride. We opted for the 35 minute ride given our time constraints.

In the matter of five minutes, we were swept away from the lively, bustling Kitchen Kettle Village to quiet country roads. It’s incredible how dramatic the scenery can change in the matter of a mile. We saw Amish farmers with their mules baling straw, a pair of newly born colts playing in a field, and farm after farm with laundry on the line and children working in the garden with their mothers. It was a bucolic scene. The perfect weather seemed ordered up for the occasion. Our driver pointed out where the power lines stopped since the Amish homesteads don’t use modern electricity. It was educational and scenic – a real joy.

As we returned to Kitchen Kettle Village, we decided to get a quick ice cream snack. We listened to a trio of bluegrass musicians and meandered through the toy store.

Word of advice: You can easily spend a whole day at Kitchen Kettle Village, so plan accordingly!

We definitely plan to go back again. I wonder what they’ll be canning in the Jam & Relish Kitchen next time…

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Kid-friendly Strasburg day trip

My 4-year old daughter Sophia, 4-year old nephew Ethan, and sister Sherry, joined me on a trip to The Shops at Traintown in Strasburg. We started our day at The Choo Choo Barn – Traintown U.S.A. where we experienced one of America’s largest and most engaging custom model train displays, then had a scrumptious lunch at Isaac’s Famous Grilled Sandwiches, and ended the day by eating homemade ice cream while watching fudge being made at Uncle Leroy’s Ice Cream and Candy Kitchen.

Have you been to The Choo Choo Barn? It’s fascinating! It features more than 1,700 square feet of special model train displays with more than 150 hand-built animated figures & vehicles, and 22 operating trains. The layout represents many Lancaster sights and sounds, such as an Amish barn raising, Dutch Wonderland, and the Strasburg Rail Road. Sophia and Ethan were mesmerized by all the moving parts, small details, and fun surprises (the lights in the room turn off and the stars come out – you’ll have to visit to understand what I mean). For older kids, the Choo Choo Barn provides a check list of items to find throughout the display – kind of like “Where’s Waldo” if you remember those books. The Choo Choo Barn also has a great gift shop. The kids spent about 15 minutes looking around, deciding what their souvenirs would be. The prices were reasonable, so letting the kiddos choose a memento was an easy decision.

We were starving by the time we finished at The Choo Choo Barn, so we walked a few doors down to Isaac’s Famous Grilled Sandwiches – a Lancaster favorite. In addition to being a bird-themed restaurant (click on this link to find out more), it is also train-themed – how cool is that? This uber kid-friendly restaurant is perfect for the whole family, and the food is delicious! Being a vegetarian, it can be challenging to find variety when eating out, but Isaac’s is the exception. I got the Black-Eyed Susan (grilled black bean burger with ranch dressing, cheese, fresh tomatoes and lettuce in a soft cheddar wrap) and it was great! Don’t look at the dessert menu unless you’re still hungry; their amazing and decadent desserts WILL lore you in every time.

To end our day, we walked a short distance to Uncle Leroy’s Ice Cream and Candy Kitchen. We each indulged in a scoop of ice cream. I had Almond Joy – delish! While we ate, we roamed around the store and tried all the FREE SAMPLES of fudge and brittles. Everything we tasted was so fresh and the flavors were creative and unique. Before long, the onsite magic started: the boiling sugar concoction in the large cauldron-like pot was poured on to a table topped with a large marble slab. We watched the whole process of fudge being made, from start to finish. It took about 30 minutes. The best part? We got to taste the fudge straight from the marble slab. THE. BEST. EV-ER. I highly recommend the fudge and brittles at Uncle Leroy’s – he knows that he’s doing!

The day was fun, educational, insightful and totally suitable for youngsters. Next time you’re in Strasburg, be sure to visit Shops at Traintown.

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Pedal to preserve Lancaster County farms

One of the best parts about driving through Lancaster County is the gorgeous rolling hills and picturesque farms. Each farm has its own personality and roadside stands selling fresh produce and flowers abound. Now, imagine a leisurely bike ride through the small towns and green countryside of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Farmers are out in full-force planting fields, making repairs and working with livestock.

Whether you are in the area or looking for an excuse to come back to Lancaster, we have the perfect opportunity for you.

Every June the Lancaster Farmland Trust is hosts its annual Pedal to Preserve bike ride. It’s a non-competitive, leisurely ride through iconic Lancaster countryside to benefit farmland preservation. You can choose between 6, 20, and 51-mile rides that offer breathtaking views of over 75 preserved family farms. Since it’s non-competitive, riders can start anytime after 7:00 AM registration – which is great for those who want to beat the heat.

All riders begin and end at Garden Spot Village Retirement Community in New Holland, PA – just a few miles east of Lancaster City. Beginners, families, and experienced cyclists are all welcome at every age and ability level.

If we haven’t convinced you, at the end of the ride you can enjoy fresh made-to-order omelets and Turkey Hill ice cream – for free!

Children under 12 ride free with an adult, so bring the whole family and spend the day in Lancaster County helping to preserve one of the most important parts of our history and culture here!

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Putt putt and yum yum

Last weekend my husband and I had the pleasure of playing our first round of mini golf of the summer. We played at our favorite course, Village Greens. If you haven’t played Village Greens and you enjoy mini golf, then it’s time to get over there for a round. Village Greens boasts two different course options and over 13 acres of beautiful countryside.

The Orange course is the shorter course and provides a traditional mini golf experience. The holes have obstacles (like a windmill for instance), and you can play the course in about half an hour – depending on how crowded the course is. I suggest this course to large groups and those with younger children. It’s a perfect “first timer” course for kids.

The other course is the Gold course; this is the course that my husband and I love to play. This course is challenging for any mini golfer, but it is beautiful! It winds through wooded scenery with gardens, has a stream running through it, and has 23 holes instead of the standard 18.

My husband’s family has quite a history with Village Greens; I’m pretty sure his parents have been playing mini golf there since it first opened, even holding competitions between family members and friends on an annual basis. So many great family memories have been made there and now we look forward to taking our own children to create new Village Greens memories.

Another wonderful bonus to Village Greens is the Snack Shoppe. It’s got the perfect selection of both hot and cold items for hungry mini golfers. Be sure to try a hand dipped ice cream cone or milk shake. We can’t seem to escape without something sweet.

Whether you’re a resident of Lancaster or looking to plan a getaway, be sure to stop at Village Greens. You won’t be disappointed.

To learn more, check out their website: www.villagegreens.com

railroadmuseumblog

An exceptional historical museum

Most people hate to see the flashing red lights of a railroad crossing and that long black and white arm dropping in front of them when they are driving through town. Not me, I’m delirious with happiness as I watch that beautiful engine approach from the distance. I’ll open my windows to smell that oily smell of metal and to hear the sounds of the cars swaying gently on the track. I sit there grinning like an idiot and enjoying the trembling of the earth as tons of freight moves in front of me while everyone else is tapping their fingers on their steering wheels wondering when it will be over. I’d be happy if it never ended, but they always do.

My husband is not the train person that I am. He thinks they are “OK,” but nothing to go crazy about it. I was a little concerned when we made our trip to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania that he might get bored. He’s a car guy – the faster the better. So I crossed my fingers that maybe he’d catch the train bug.

Located in Strasburg, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is the state’s official railroad museum hosting more than 130,000 visitors a year. The museum is operated by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Friends of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania organization. It opened in 1975 and is the largest lineal train museum in the world! If you think it looks big from the outside, just wait until you go inside, you won’t believe what you will see.

My hubby and I went through the entrance doors and into the lobby area where we got our guide map and took a look at the model railroad set up for visitors to enjoy. As a former model railroader, I always love to see a carefully thought through layout, and I appreciate all the work that goes into maintaining one. On the lobby wall we found a timeline of railroad history in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States.

From the lobby there is a set of double doors that lead you into a hallway that opens onto the Rolling Stock Hall. I will never in my life forget the moment those doors opened. I know that sounds dramatic, but the smell of trains – oil, coal, iron – just overtakes you as those doors open and you know you are about to experience the real thing. Entering the Rolling Stock Hall itself is like stepping back through time. In front of you are over 100 pieces of rolling stock – engines, cars, cabooses – all just waiting for you to get up close and personal. If you’ve only seen trains from a distance it can be quite a shock to see how big they really are up close. Ever wonder what it’d be like to stand in front of an oncoming train? You can do it here. I did; I stood right in front of a classic blue Conrail Engine with its headlight on. Got a picture of it too. It’d be awfully scary if it was moving. Several of the cars are open for inspection and museum guides are there to explain the purpose of the cars and their history. We spent time talking to the guides about the museum, the specific cars we were in and about railroading in general. Be sure to ask questions when you see these guides, I guarantee you will learn something new!

One of the highlights of our morning was going into Stewart Junction which is the museum’s Railway Education Center. Here children 8 years and older, and younger ones with a little help, can use a model railroad to learn how trains move freight in different situations. I myself got to run a train carrying coal. Boy it was challenging, but it was also a lot of fun. Stewart Junction also includes many interactive displays that teach about rail history plus there are books to read, wooden railroads to play with, and an amazing Lego display that kept my hubby’s attention for a good long time.  (When you go, see if you can find something from the movie Back to the Future…)

I don’t think you could ever see all there is to see inside the Railroad Museum, but we did finally venture outside to the Train Yard where a real turntable and more rolling stock can be seen. You can also view pieces that are undergoing restoration in the Train Yard. The Museum is currently in the planning stages of building a new roundhouse which will allow them to put a lot more stock under cover. That will certainly be something to see when it is finished.

We made our way back inside and after a last tour of the Rolling Stock Hall we stopped in the Whistle Stop Shop.  This has to be the best railroad gift shop ever with tons of books on railroad history, train related gifts and souvenirs for the kids. There was something for everyone of every age who loves trains.

So, did hubby become a convert?  Did he catch the train bug? Yep, he most certainly did! He is just as anxious as I am to go back for another visit. He still loves his cars, but he couldn’t deny the allure of a beautiful steam engine. (He really loved the Lego display, too.)

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is open year round and admission is charged, but their hours vary so be sure to check out their website for information. The main areas are handicapped accessible and there is a lot for children to see and do. Picnic tables are available in the area for lunching and the Museum is located directly across the street from the Strasburg Rail Road so it would be a great day trip for your family.

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Riding First Class is something special

I love riding trains, especially steam trains. The slower pace lets you get a good look at the beautiful countryside as you move through; it a different experience than traveling by car on crowded interstates.

The Strasburg Rail Road offers an unusual experience to those who want to travel by train. Not only do they use steam locomotives, but they also pass through an area of Lancaster County that is largely farmed by the Amish. It is easy to imagine that you have stepped back in time when you board the train and see from your window farm fields being plowed with horses.

My husband and I took a rare trip without our children to the Strasburg Rail Road to treat ourselves. I’ve ridden the rails at Strasburg many times in my life, but I had never traveled in the First Class Parlor car before. I will be to be the first to say that there is nothing at all wrong with riding Coach or in the Open Air cars. It is a comfortable way to travel, and the fact that the windows are open thrills the kids. However, we wanted to do something different this time. This time we rode in the beautifully decorated, air-conditioned First Class Parlor car.

We dressed the part as well. We are both involved in the Steampunk movement so we have the formal attire once required for the Parlor car in days gone by. (Believe me shorts and t-shirts are just as welcome. Children are welcome too; we just didn’t have ours along on this particular day.) We got our tickets and passed the time until our 2 PM train by poking around in the various shops on the property.

The First Class Parlor car was at the end of the train; when we stepped inside we were definitely impressed. Gleaming polished wood, leather chairs and gleaming glass with fine details filled the car. It was just beautiful and on this trip we had the whole car to ourselves. At one end of the car there was a bar area where a smiling attendant waited for us to take our seats.

There were many seating options available with and without tables, for singles or pairs. We chose to sit at a small table facing each other, but we changed seats numerous times during the trip to see various things out the window and take pictures. The conductor stopped by to take our tickets and the attendant brought us a menu to review as we waited for the train to leave the station. We reviewed the menu, and though the whoopie pie appealed to me greatly, we opted for the fruit and cheese plate along with our favorite mixed drinks.

We rode silently just enjoying the time to relax and take in our surroundings. As parents of two young children, this type of quiet rest does not come often. The end of the first leg of the journey is in a town named Paradise; here the train stops so the engine can relocated to the other end of the train in order to take everyone back to Strasburg.

As our ride drew to an end, my hubby and I settled our bill with the attendant, finished the last grapes and bits of cheese, and we descended the stairs back to the real world.

If you travel to Strasburg Rail Road, I highly suggest you treat yourself to a ride in a First Class Parlor Car. It is a bit more expensive, but it is also an experience that you will remember for a long time. Children are welcome, food and drink purchase is optional and the air-conditioning can be very welcome in the middle of the summer. Check out the Strasburg Rail Road’s website for their operating schedule and more information on their special excursions.

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