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Come take a tour, research, and explore

If you love history like I do, you must visit LancasterHistory.org.

Located outside Downtown Lancaster, the LancasterHistory.org campus includes the historic grounds and gardens of Wheatland (President James Buchanan’s home), the Louise Arnold Tanger Arboretum (featuring more than 100 species of trees from around the world), and the headquarters of the Lancaster County’s Historical Society (including 15,000 objects, 45,000 historic photographs, and 1 million archival manuscripts).

Wheatland is the historic house museum of the 15th President of the United States, James Buchanan, the only bachelor president and only one from Pennsylvania. You will start your tour at the Wheatland Visitor Center where you can see on display rare political memorabilia and personal artifacts belonging to Buchanan and other members of the Buchanan family and watch a short introductory film in preparation for your tour. Your knowledgeable guide will take you through both the public and private rooms of the Federal style mansion, giving glimpses into Buchanan’s everyday life both as a public servant and family man. Unlike many other house museum, Wheatland has historically precise rooms and many original artifacts.

The Historical Society’s research library houses documentation of births, deaths, divorces, as well as tax records, ownership records, directories, and maps. Not only to guests to the library have access to these documents and records, they can also use the library’s Ancestory.com membership to research genealogy. Want to learn more about Lancaster County’s history and how your family may be connected? This is the place to start. If you get stuck, helpful staff members are ready and eager to assist. The current Historical Society exhibit is “Country, Commonwealth, and Country, A Guide to the Exhibition.” It intertwines the stories of Lancaster, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the United States of America. If you venture downstairs, you can get a glimpse, through an observation window, of their collection in storage.

While you’re on site, be sure to check out the frog pond next to the campus entrance. Although now artificial, it’s where Buchanan’s spring-fed pond was once located. It was his favorite place to sit and reflect. And don’t miss the green ash tree next to the drive way near the corner of Wheatland – it’s estimated to be over 350 years old!

Before you leave, stop by the museum store for your choice of historical books, period art, local goods, and more. Don’t leave without a treasure to take home.

Visit www.lancasterhistory.org to learn about special events, tours, exhibitions, lectures, and more. And remember, for those history buffs who are impossible to buy for, yearly memberships are available!

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Tubing down the Pequea Creek

Myself and a few coworkers decided to check out Sickman’s Mill Tubing. Yes, tubing. Something that none of us had done in years. Let me say, we had a blast!

After driving on winding back roads through beautiful Lancaster County, we found our destination. The large, beautiful stone mill greeted us as we entered the property. The mill, adjacent barn, fresh country air, and the nearby creek – full and flowing – made us feel like we were stepping into one of the adventures of Huckleberry Fin.

We were greeted by Trina, whose family owns the property. She was kind and hospitable. Excited to go tubing, we signed the waiver forms and headed to the barn to pick up our canvas-covered tubes. There we were instructed on what to expect during our tubing adventure.

As we entered the creek, we felt the cool water surround our legs – it felt wonderful. Once we climbed into our tubes, the water did the rest. From calm water to mini rapids, we spent approximately an hour drifting along the two mile stretch of the tree lined Pequea Creek. We laughed a lot and enjoyed relaxing together. As we neared our exit, we jumped off our tubes and ascended up the small hill toward the meeting point. There the shuttle van conveniently picked up us (and our tubes) and returned us to the Sickman’s Mill property. I highly recommend wearing water shoes or old sneakers, sunscreen, and bug spray for this trip; and it would be good to bring a towel and a change of clothing.

We were pleasantly surprised by the other offerings that Sickman’s Mill has in addition to tubing. If you’re looking for a longer experience, you can sign up for their reservation-only kayak tube trip that lasts anywhere from 3-5 hours with a distance of about 7 miles. You can also enjoy a self-guided tour of the 4 1/2 story mill. Hungry? No problem. You can bring a picnic or buy food from their reasonably priced snack bar. If you’re planning a trip to Lancaster, you can rent their onsite, air-conditioned A-frame house which has 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths, and can up to 12 people comfortably.

Sickman’s Mill has everything you need for a getaway – lodging, water activities, and beautiful scenery.

For more information, hours of operation, and pricing, visit www.sickmansmill.com.

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Nxtbook Media – the Google of Lancaster

While not technically a tourist destination, Nxtbook Media is certainly a sight to be seen. Often called “the Google of Lancaster,” Nxtbook Media is determined to show the world that while Lancaster might be smaller than many cities, it is big and mighty in the tech world. July has been an exciting time at Nxtbook as they moved into their expanded location in the trendy Urban Place complex on New Holland Avenue. The historic architecture of the building is juxtaposed with the futuristic vibe of the renovated space.

The firm specializes in strategic marketing, brand management, technology solutions, digital content management, and workplace leadership. What allows them to excel is their progressive corporate culture of creativity, teamwork, and collaboration. “We exist to inspire,” reads the beginning of their vision statement. They have over 600 clients in over 20 countries throughout the world, and even have a sister office in Manchester, England, to whom they pay tribute with a large, red phone booth in their lobby. Over 2 million users access the digital content they manage. Want an “app?” They can do that. Want to produce a video? They can do that. Want to host your company presentation in their state of the art theatre? Sure, they can do that too. Or, if you just want to stare in awe at all the blinkey lights in their multi-color LED-illuminated server room, that’s probably ok too, because I have to admit – I did.

To increase productivity and creativity, Nxtbook’s 57 employees are provided with hula hoops, brain teaser games, inspiration stations, and even encouraged to “blow off steam” and regain concentration by engaging in an occasional Nerf gun battle! (Of course, to align with their mission, employees must donate to a designated charity to participate in the Nerf battles.) To excel in wellness, the organization sponsors employee running clubs (with employee running goals posted on their wall) and healthy snacks in their two kitchens. Employees are provided with modified desks if they wish to stand at their computer rather than sit, and ergonomic positioning of chairs, keyboards, etc., is apparent everywhere. It’s no wonder they are consistently rated by Central Penn Business Journal as one of the region’s best places to work.

Nxtbook also believes in giving back to the community, and supports many local charities including Pet Pantry of Lancaster, One Run Together, and JDRF. However, if you’re wondering if they raise money by the typical dinner gala, think again! Try Chocolate syrup chugging contests, communal meals, water wars, beard growing contests, and, of course, the previously mentioned Nerf gun wars.

So, if you thought that the only technology in Lancaster County is found plowing through a corn field, think again! Nxtbook is creating an awesome trend with it’s amazing people, amazing culture, and collaborative heart of gold.

To learn more, go to www.nxtbookmedia.com.

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Gun shop and indoor range worth a shot

Trop Gun Shop and Indoor Range is an amazing place – it has everything a novice or expert could ever want or need. Whether you’re already familiar with guns or want to learn how to properly handle and shoot one, this is the place.

They offer retail and online stores, on-site armory (staff who can make modifications to firearms that are simplistic but still require expertise) and gunsmithing (staff who can make substantial alterations to a firearm including fabrication of new components), state-of-the-art indoor range, training courses, and more.

My friend, Julie, and I felt overwhelmed as we walked into the retail store. The store was filled with guns, ammo, optics, apparel, survival gear, knives, and NFA (Class III) items. You name it, it was there. The staff is knowledgeable and eager to help no matter how little (or much) you know.

Located in the building, behind the retail space, is the shooting range. It was very impressive to say the least. It was clean, well lit, and had a low-wind air purification system. If you don’t have your own ear and/or eye protection, you can rent it there. If you don’t have a gun, no problem. You can also rent a gun for as low as $5. The only item you must buy or bring along is ammunition.

Above the store and range is The Club, a stylish meeting space that is professional enough for a corporate event, yet intimate enough for a private party. The Club boasts amenities such as seven flat screen televisions, kitchen for catering, coffee bar, café tables, booths, and sofas, and access to a private balcony. Anyone can use the space, but advanced reservations are required.

Because I had never shot a gun, there was no better time to learn than the present. Cindy, the knowledgeable staff member who had given Julie and I the grand tour, was ready and willing to educated us in gun safety and use. After watching a short video and reading the range rules, Cindy gathered ear and eye protection for us to use. The firearm of choice: a 9mm Smith and Wesson pistol. Cindy, an awesome instructor and competitive practitioner, helped us to feel empowered as we learned the proper way to carry, hold, load, and shoot the pistol. Then it was “go” time. Julie and I felt nervous. We put on our protective wear and entered the range. (It was loud inside the enclosed range. We were glad to have ear protection!)

Once in our stall, I picked up the gun as instructed, carefully loaded the magazine into the pistol, then I gripped tightly, ready to fire. I slowly squeezed the trigger… and BAM! With a little recoil, the bullet blew through the target and the cartridge flew through the air. Awesome!

After we got our first shots out of the way, the nervousness began to dissipate. We spent about 45 minutes in the range practicing – with Cindy close by, of course. I happened to be a pretty good shot. I was able to keep all of my shots within the 10 point range, two bullets even hit the bulls eye. Not bad for a beginner, eh?

So, will Julie and I go back to the indoor range? Absolutely yes!

We admittedly had a great experience from the moment we walked in the store to the moment we put down our 9mm. Whether a novice or expert, we recommend that you plan a visit.

To learn more, go to www.tropgun.com.

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Long Johns, candles, animals, and more

You don’t often hear about Leola, PA, but nestled in the heart of PA Dutch Country is a quaint town worth visiting. My sister, our two kiddos, and I decided to spend the day in this town, discovering it’s treasures.

We started our day at Achenbach’s Pastry. They are known throughout the County for their baked goods, but particularly for their Long Johns (a long, almost rectangular, filled doughnut, often iced). But beyond their Long Johns, all of their pastries are amazing and, best of all, they contain no preservatives and are served straight from the oven to the customer… can’t beat that! From cinnamon buns and breads to pies and cakes, this place has it all.

The kids gravitated to the chocolate covered doughnuts, I chose a peanut butter Long John and a chocolate Long John (don’t judge me), and my sister picked out a cheese danish. With pastries in one hand and drinks in the other, we headed outside to sit at a picnic table. If the weather is poor, there are a couple indoor tables at which you can sit. Otherwise, head back to your hotel room or to your favorite indoor spot to devour your goodies. If you’re looking for made-to-order cakes (birthday, anniversary, graduation, wedding or otherwise), this is bakery you must check out.

After our sweet and satisfying breakfast, we headed to Hayloft Candles & Petting Zoo just down the road. As soon as we pulled in, the kids spotted the petting zoo. It was larger than I expected. It was clean, well kept, and the admission is free. We gave quarters to the kids so that they could buy food to feed to the animals. They were so excited to meet, feed, and pet the animals. In the middle of the zoo is an beautiful pond surrounded by a walking path. We walked around the lake, fed the ducks, then met the another animals. The zoo has goats, birds, ducks, bunnies, chickens, donkeys, a Scottish Highlander (a breed of cow), llama, peacock, kangaroo, and more. We enjoyed feeding the Scottish Highlander most. His tongue was so large and unusual – the kids giggled with delight as the mammoth animal licked the food from their hands.

After 45 minutes of free outdoor entertainment, we headed inside the store. It’s large! It has two floors filled to the rafters with home décor. From homemade candles of every size and scent to decorative wreaths, knick knacks, and postcards, they have everything. A shopping dream come true! They also have homemade ice cream and refreshments for purchase.

I would say that Hayloft Candles & Petting Zoo is a destination that everyone should put on their itinerary. The location is great, and the scenery beautiful, plus there’s so much to do… and buy.

Our stomach’s began to rumble, so we packed in the car and headed to The Back Page Restaurant, only a stone’s throw away. What a surprise! We didn’t know what to expect going there, but what we found was a casual sports bar with a great beer selection, a spacious family-friendly seating area, an adjoining game room complete with billiards, air hockey, video games, and a patio with a fully equipped Tiki bar. The atmosphere felt comfortable and welcoming.We chose to pile into booth near the game room. Deciding to give their appetizers a try, we ordered Garlic Herb and Mozzarella Crustini, Quesadillas, and Beer-Battered Onion Rings. Everything was absolutely delicious and reasonably priced. Between myself, my sister, and the kids, we devoured every last bite.

We had a blast together and enjoyed the treasures we found in Leola. Be sure to put this town on your “must do” list for the next time you visit Lancaster County!

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An afternoon stroll through Intercourse

One of my favorite places to visit in Lancaster County is the Village of Intercourse. Yeah, it has a funny name, but it also has some of the best little shops to visit, especially if you love taste testing great food and seeing beautiful handcrafts.

Kitchen Kettle Village is a huge draw to this location and, with over 40 shops, there is a lot to see. My favorite shop is the Jam and Relish Kitchen where they can, bottle, and jar jams, jellies, relishes, salsas, and more for you to take home. If you like to taste-test samples, this will be one of your favorite places since nearly every item for sale is open for you to try. Online ordering is also available.

A short walk from Kitchen Kettle Village is the Old Candle Barn. Don’t let the name fool you, they have much more than candles. There are tons of home decorations, lamps, and linens waiting for you to look through. The shop is changed seasonally, so no matter when you visit, you will find something wonderful to take home with you. The candle selection is marvelous and includes soy candles which are fragrance and dye free.

If you are a quilter you must visit Zooks Fabric Store. I’ve been getting my quilting fabric from them for over 25 years. They have a fine selection of popular commercial brands plus Kona cottons and the hard-to-find Amish solids you need to finish that Sunshine and Shadow quilt you’ve been making.

Not a quilter, but love quilts? Then visit Dutchland Quilt Patch to see ready-made Amish and Mennonite quilts for sale. Smaller sized wall hangings and quilted accessories are also available if your budget isn’t ready for a full size quilt. This shop is a great place to find gifts for birthdays and holiday.

Cross the street and you can visit the Intercourse Pretzel Factory. A free tour is offered when the factory is in operation; otherwise, you can sample and buy a wide variety of freshly made pretzels. Both hard and soft pretzels are made in the factory and all are delicious.

If taste-testing is your favorite hobby, then you definitely want to visit the Intercourse Canning Company. A huge selection of canned goods waits for you in a rainbow of colors and flavors. Previously housed in an older building, the Canning Company has moved to Center Street, but is still within walking distance of the heart of Intercourse.Cooking demos are offered at certain times and a video history of canning is also available.

Near the Intercourse Canning Company is Stoltzfus Meats and Deli. This is a great place to pick up a snack of some lebanon bologna and farmer’s cheese and a nice cold drink. Be sure to pack a cooler in your car to take home a pound or two of their great meats and cheese for later. They also feature Amos’ Place Restaurant if you need more than a snack.

I know you are curious… so here’s the scoop on the village name. The Village of Intercourse was founded in 1754 and the word intercourse at that time was used to reference fellowship or a social gathering. Since the village is also the place where two main roads cross it makes a lot of sense that it was named Intercourse. But if you’d like to think that this piece of history is all wrong and it means something else, well, there will be a lot of t-shirts to support your theory in the gift shops, so have fun!

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Cars, motorcycles, buses… and a Kissmobile

My husband and I recently made a trip to the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum and were totally amazed by the themed areas and the variety of transportation vehicles on display there.

I should say up front that I am not a car person. I like them as well as the next person I guess, but I’m not crazy into them (I prefer trains actually), so I was a little worried that I’d spend a couple hours being bored while my husband “the car guy” enjoyed the museum.

Let me tell you, I had no reason to worry. The AACA Museum has plenty to keep anyone fascinated. From a replica Drive-In theater (can you find the bathing beauty?) to a full size diner, the museum is full of the history that everyone can find something to enjoy.

The AACA Museum opened in 2003 as a separate entity from the Antique Automobile Club of America, but the two organizations work together to expand the knowledge and enjoyment of antique automobiles, motorcycles and buses. The museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute; it changes exhibits throughout the year and includes special activities for Halloween and Christmas.

On our trip we were lucky enough to see the Indian Nation: Indian Motorcycles & America exhibit and the Motoring Mysteries of the Far East – A Curious Collection of Asian & Pacific Vehicles display. Yes, you read that correctly, motorcycles and non-American cars! The AACA Museum prides itself on variety and wants to offer something for everyone. The special collections change several times a year so there is always something new to see.

The exhibit called From Sea to Shining Sea features a changing collection of American vehicles from the 1800′s to the 1970′s with dramatic scenery, a gas station reproduction, a drive-in, and the Floinn Cafe Diner. There are interactive features in many of them with sound and video recordings, and they are adding iPads to certain exhibits to provide even more interaction and information.

The museum doesn’t just feature cars; they also have motorcycles and The Museum of Bus Transportation. They have twelve full-size buses on display… it’s so fascinating to see how buses have evolved over the years. Also featured is a model train display of O Gauge trains, many with buttons you can push to make the scenery move and light up.

There is a children’s play area downstairs where toy trucks and cars are set up for kids to play with, and there are two antique cars they can have their picture taken in. Refreshment machines and rest rooms are available which make this the perfect place for families to take a rest before heading out to explore more.

The museum is planning several future exhibits such as 100 Years of Dodge beginning in September 2014, Lotus: The Art of Lightness coming in January 2015 and A Family Affair: Station Wagons coming in May 2015, but the real excitement is brewing over the Cammack Tucker Gallery being opened late in 2014. The AACA Museum will be home to the largest collection of Tucker automobiles in the world when this exhibit opens.

The museum has a gift shop full of items for every age and budget. From t-shirts to travel mugs, puzzles to postcards, and models to magnets, you can find it with a car or a bus on it.

I have to admit I highly enjoyed my trip to the AACA Museum and would recommend it to anyone. If you’d like to visit, the AACA Museum is open daily, but please check their website for hours, pricing and special events. Group events can be held at the Museum, and it is also a popular spot for weddings and car club events.

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A Behind-the-Scenes Tour of QVC

Do you like to “shop till you drop?” Of course! That’s one of the reasons why you love visiting Lancaster, right? You can always go home with some incredible deals from the outlets, markets, and gift shops. But we know that for the true shopaholics among us, the shopping doesn’t stop when you go home. You may enjoy searching for bargains online, in catalogs, and more. But I’m going to guess that one of your best go-to spots is QVC.

Just the sound of those three letters rolling off the tongue puts me in a happy, shopping mood. Well, let’s be honest. It puts us all in a shopping mood. Thankfully, Lancaster is home to a QVC outlet store, a distribution center, and we are next door to their Studio Park in West Chester, PA. Just recently, I got the chance to visit their expansive studio and take a behind-the-scenes tour with one of QVC’s wonderful guides. We had a blast!

Some Quick Facts

In order to really appreciate the size, reach, and quality of QVC’s production, it’s helpful to know a few statistics. QVC stands for “quality, value, convenience” and is the world’s leading video and e-commerce retailer. They broadcast live 24 hours a day, 364 days of the year. That’s right. So while you may be fast asleep, the team at QVC’s Studio Park is hard at work. QVC is available in 300 million homes worldwide through its broadcast programming in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Japan, Italy and a joint venture in China. In 2013, they shipped more than 169 million products to these markets. Wow! I knew QVC was big, but I had no idea it was quite that big until I visited Studio Park.

You can read more about these impressive statistics on QVC’s fact sheet. But for now, I think you’ve got a pretty good idea of how vast their work is. So let’s talk about their fascinating tour!

The QVC Experience

Upon entering QVC, I was introduced to my tour guide, Joan, and we set off on our way. One of our first stops was in front of about ten TV monitors, showing a live feed of QVC’s programming worldwide and online. It was wild to think that QVC teams were filming in multiple countries and reaching people all over the world at the exact same time. After this, we enjoyed a short video that provided an overview of some of the things we were about to see throughout the studio. This was very helpful because it enabled me to recognize what certain pieces of equipment did and how they contributed to the overall production.

Our guide then led the group down a glass-lined hallway where we could see one of the network’s live beauty segments being filmed. It was so neat! I saw robotic cameras moving around, monitors showing the program hosts what shots to prepare for, large sets of lights, and more! We also saw the program guests and models on set. After that, we took a stroll down QVC’s “hall of fame.” This is where guests can learn about some of the network’s accomplishments and sales records that have been set over the years. Do you own a Halo portable cell phone charger? Well, this piece of technology has earned a coveted spot in the QVC hall of fame.

Up next was the prop room. Don’t you love how QVC films each of their segments in the perfect atmosphere? One of the ways they are able to do this is by using a variety of props to transform their studio into different spaces with distinct aesthetic appeal. But as you know, it takes a lot of props to ensure that every set has the right look for a 24/7 production. Studio Park is home to thousands of different props including pillows, chairs, beds, blankets, dishes, picture frames, and pretty much anything under the sun that might come in handy for a segment. I can imagine it would be pretty easy to get lost in this prop room for a day or two… maybe three.

Before visiting Studio Park, I would have guessed that most of QVC’s tour guests were women. However, our guide explained that she sees a good mix of both men and women on their tours – the main difference is that most of the women love seeing the merchandise and catching a glimpse of their favorite hosts, while a majority of the men get caught up in the studio’s cutting edge production equipment and technology. If that’s the case, then the next part of my tour must be a very popular stop for the men visiting Studio Park. We walked by several production rooms where every QVC program is monitored. The technology here was unbelievable!

One of the last stops on QVC’s regular tour is the observation deck. This is the perfect opportunity to see one of your favorite program hosts filming a live segment. It also gives you the chance to see just how large the 58,000 square foot studio space is.

The All-Access Tour

For visitors who would like a closer look at what goes on behind the scenes at QVC, you can take part in their all-access tour. This tour puts you right in the action, and it is so much fun! I got to go on-set, visit the Talent Service Center, see a Green Room, and more. All-access visitors even get to enjoy lunch in the Studio Park Café with their tour guide. I love this aspect of the all-access experience because it gives visitors a chance to get to know their guide and ask additional questions about the QVC broadcasts.

Planning Your Visit to QVC

Tours are available seven days a week at 10:30 AM, Noon, 1:00 PM, 2:30 PM, and 4:00 PM EST. Admission is only $7.50 per adult and $5 for children ages 6 to 12 years. Reservations for this tour are not required for parties of nine or less. All-access tours are offered once a week on Fridays and require reservations. Admission for the all-access experience is $75 per person. More information about QVC’s tour packages can be found on their studio tour page. And don’t forget to stop in for a little shopping at the Studio Park store before you head home!

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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 hotdogs, 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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Where the grass is greener

One of the best parts of my work here is getting to talk with many of the Amish who live nearby. Recently, I stopped by the home of an Amish mother. Most of her children are grown now. We talked about the struggles of raising children today. While the challenges are different in our two worlds, there is more shared concern than one might imagine.

Our conversation led to the cell phone and the internet. She professed to be unfamiliar with both to a degree, but knowledgeable enough to know how they tempt young people today, whether Amish or not… and the concerns these technologies present for parents.

Amish parents, unlike many of us, don’t fully realize all that can be done with these new phones, with the “world in your pocket.” There have actually been formal meetings among the Amish where outside speakers have discussed today’s technologies and their impact.

Several hundred Amish youth have Facebook accounts. They stay in touch by texting.  We have heard that some are unable to resist the temptation to take photos at weddings, where cameras are not allowed. Since quite a few Amish businessmen have cell phones, it is not surprising that many young folks do, too.

For example, the first time I had ever seen a Blackberry was years ago in the hands of an Amish carriage maker. More recently, I was having lunch with an Amish businessman who was receiving text messages from his son while deer hunting. I felt as if I was not even present at the table. He agreed that once you possess the technology, it becomes difficult to give it up or even limit its use. Our devices can bring those far away from us closer, while at the same time alienating those sitting right next to us.

The Amish position on technology is not that “anything new is bad.” Rather, they ask, “Do you control the technology, or does it control you?” They then decide to limit it, make accommodations, adapt it, or ban it altogether.

Many visitors are incredulous to learn the Amish population continues to double here about every 20 years. Surprisingly, most Amish youth still decide to join the Amish faith and the world of the horse-and-buggy, plain clothes, and eighth grade educations. The fact remains that family and community transcend the allure of the modern world, even though much of what they see “beyond the fence” certainly looks appealing.

In the end, it was this Amish mother I was chatting with at her kitchen table who summed up our conversation about the difference between what we want and what we need. “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, but it’s just as hard to mow.”

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I got some great suggestions for recipes while I was visiting the shop. Pete, the owner suggested trying the Chocolate balsamic on ice cream for a... Read more

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