Have you ever set out on a fishing trip with your enthusiastic little fishermen and fisherwomen only to spend a few hours catching a whole lot of nothing? Of course a stop at the ice cream parlor on the way home might help to soothe those bruised egos, or you can visit a fee fishing farm like Fish-In Barrel located in White Hall, MD. Opened only on the weekend, this serene, scenic locale offers many fully stocked ponds that include rockfish, trout, catfish, bass, bluegills and a few other types I can't recall at the moment. Some ponds on the premises are catch and release but they also offer trout and rockfish ponds if you were hoping to catch your supper. Please note that any trout or rockfish caught must be purchased. My family enjoyed chatting with the friendly owner and petting his massive but super friendly pups. If you are new to fishing or if you are introducing this pastime to children, Fish-In Barrel is a wonderful place to teach the basics and to almost guarantee a catch. To give you an idea on this chilly, windy day, my son managed to catch 6 fish all on his own! Since this is a private farm, no fishing license is required and there are no catch limits. If you aren't sure if you want to invest in fishing tackle or if you forgot your bait, no worries. They have tackle available for rent, and bait available for purchase. Fish-In Barrel is open Saturdays and Sundays from 8am - 5pm. Admission for those 13 (+) is $8/person. Those under 13 are just $5/person.
Legoland Discovery Center Philadelphia
Yesterday we enjoyed a fun day trip to the newly opened Legoland Discovery Center Philadelphia. The big question I've been asked since I posted my photo collage on my personal FB wall is, "What's it like?" Legoland Discovery Center Philadelphia is located on the first floor inside Plymouth Meeting Mall which makes for a perfect day trip no matter rain nor shine. We purchased tickets online which made our entry much quicker.
The LEGO magic begins as you and your family board your own personal LEGO train called Imagination Express. Everyone is given a magic wand to point at video screens along the way to collect point as your train chugs along to Legoland's Neighborhood. Once inside, visitors can find large LEGO sculptures throughout which make for fantastic photo opportunities. They have a fun LEGO builders racecar build and test area, a laser maze, lightning reflex game, LEGO Friends section, and popular bubble area. One of my son's favorite activities was the indoor pirate ship playground; think indoor Chick-fil-a play space but on a much much larger scale. My personal favorite was the mini LEGO replica of the city of Philadelphia. Every 15 minutes the setup would go from day to nightfall with some sections projecting fireworks. While impressive on their own, push buttons make these scenes interactive. Children can press a button to make Rocky race up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Two turn cranks allow children to exercise their arm muscles and see which crew racing shell makes it to the other side of the miniature Schuylkill River.
Our entire family enjoyed the 4D Nexo Knights film. Be prepared for wind, misting, and a few strobe lights which bring the movie to life. Another popular activity was the creative workshop sessions which last about 25 minutes but allow your children to learn new ways to create with their LEGOS. If you get hungry, Legoland Discovery Center has its own cafe which offers coffee to help parents keep up with their little ones. We spent approximately four hours there but I can see families staying for quite some time making this a worthwhile outing for LEGO lovers10 and under.
The cost of admission is $19 online or $24 at the window. Children 2 and under are free.
I remember when I was a little girl I once received a talking doll for Christmas. Her face would move as she spoke. My father, who was always curious about how things worked, decided to take apart the doll while I slept to satisfy his curiosity. He was determined to understand the inner workings of my new doll. The only problem? He couldn't put the doll back together again. My son has inherited my father's penchant for discovering how things work. For example, as a tiny baby he was fascinated by various locking mechanisms on doors and would spend an inordinate amount of time turning the knob to try and figure out how exactly it locked. Today my little guy loves gadgets and tools and has a collection of Snap Circuits and littleBits. It's this level of curiosity in how things work that causes us to sign him up for STEM activities at libraries but it's also what drove us to make the trek out to to Bethesda to check out KID Museum.
KID Museum is a unique, interactive space that allows elementary and middle school students the opportunity to be curious and creative while engaging them in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) activities. For President's Day, the museum offered an Open Explore which gave visitors a variety of activities to choose from. My son particularly enjoyed configuring a pneumatic tube system, carving out his name in cardboard using a band saw, catapulting ping pong balls on to piano strings, developing a circuit with a switch and light source, and so much more. In addition, KID also offers one hour facilitated workshops in electronics, woodworking, sewing, etc. We did not sign up for additional workshops since there were plenty of activities to keep the little man active and engaged.
For three hours my son worked independently or with a group of other children he just met to solve a variety of problems. Trial and error was part of the fun. When gadgets were stubborn or tricky, friendly museum staff helped guide the children towards a solution. The museum space is open, light-filled, and inviting. Staff from the front desk and throughout each station were friendly and engaging. The entire experience was worth the drive and my son has already said he cannot wait to go back, so HZM readers, if you have a kiddo who likes to tinker and create, I highly recommend the KID Museum in Bethesda. It's a STEM lover's dream space.
Mule Drawn Boat Rides at the C&O Canal
The Greater Baltimore/DC area has a rich history. This past weekend my family and I enjoyed learning more about it by visiting the C and O Canal in Potomac, MD where they offer mule drawn boat rides that take visitors back in time to the 1870's. Park rangers, dressed in period garb, describe what daily life was like for people working the canals. While you're there, don't forget to make a stop at the Great Falls Tavern which now acts as the visitors center and offers exhibits, activities, and information on the construction and importance of the canal at the time it was built.
If you have a bike, you may want to bring it with you since the trails are perfect for an easy ride, or feel free to hike the trails to see the Great Falls waterfall as well as an impressive boulder forest. Keep an eye out for lizards, turtles, herons, and other colorful wildlife. A snack bar and picnic tables are available to make this a fun day-outing for the entire family.
The cost for the boat rides is $8.00 for adults (ages 16-61), $6.00 for seniors (ages 62 +), and $5.00 for children (ages 4-15). Children aged three and under ride free. Ten or more people are required to make advance reservations for the boat ride. Otherwise, seats are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.There is a $5 fee to park your car in the designated parking area. Purchase tickets and board the boat at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center located at 11710 MacArthur Blvd., Potomac MD 20854.
If you would like to enjoy a mule drawn boat ride, call in advance to make sure the canal has adaquate water levels to make the boat ride possible.
Herr's Snack Factory Tours - Nottingham, PA
Herr's Snack Factory Tours - Nottingham, PA
Children are always so full of questions. One of my son's favorite questions is to ask how something is made. I had been meaning to take him on a factory tour of one of his favorite treats, potato chips. Today was the day when we enjoyed a one hour, free guided tour of Herr's.
After you check in at the front desk, you will notice that the visitor's center houses a theater, snack bar, and a gift shop. Following a 10 minute movie in the theater that focuses on the Herr family and how the company was started, we were off on our tour. Every step of the manufacturing process is thoroughly explained by friendly, knowledgeable tour guides. Even factory workers, in the middle of boxing up items or adjusting machines would look up at tour groups and give a quick wave and smile. Towards the end of the tour, our tour guide generously doled out potato chips that had just come off of the conveyor belt. They were still warm and SO delicious! You can't help but want seconds, and I'm not really a chip person.
Seeing the hard work and manufacturing process firsthand makes you really appreciate that small bag of chips you might enjoy with your meal. Speaking of small bags of chips, at the conclusion of the tour, everyone in our group received two snack sized bags of chips. Yum! You can tell from the picture which flavors my kiddo enjoys the most, but I picked up a few bags of some interesting chip flavors at the gift shop that I hadn't seen on our store shelves. Can't wait to try them. If you decide to take the tour, be sure to make your reservations online for a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday when the company guarantees production. Again, the tour is free but Herrs likes to keep groups touring the facility small so that everyone can truly enjoy the experience. Be sure to wear comfortable, rubber soled shoes since you will be taking stairs and entering/exiting three buildings on the property. It's such a fascinating process that your hour tour will fly by. ~HZM
This next outing to Gnome Countryside comes courtesy of HZM guest writer and my lovely friend, Kim Barbarino. Kim is a busy mother of four and somehow makes time to round up her crew and take them on the road to fun and interesting place. Here's Kim's experience at this magical place...
Gnome Countryside is located in southern Lancaster County, just over an hour away from Northern Baltimore County, but a world away as your imagination comes to life! The tour begins with Mr. Rich Humphries cheerfully greeting your group in his eye-catching attire. He entertains you with gnome legends and favorite songs, and shares little treasures from gnome living. He also teaches you about some of his favorite plants and flowers found in nature.
Mr. Rich guides you over bridges and across paths, igniting your imagination for gnomes along the way. He points our little doors where gnomes may live, swings gnomes just might play on, and tests your knowledge of the plants he showed you earlier. There’s time to explore and play in the woods before winding up & down the beautiful trails.
Mr. Rich emphasizes what a special place nature is and how important it is to take care of the world around us, leaving it better than before. Kids & kids at heart will enjoy this natural adventure! The tour is about 2 hours and is enjoyable with a group of friends.
Gnome Countryside, 63 Bridle Path, Kirkwood, PA 17536 717.786.4928
Lititz, PA is home to an amazing Fire and Ice Festival (Feb. 12-15) http://www.lititzfireandicefestival.com/ We LOVE visiting “America’s Coolest Small Town" 2013 as named by Budget Travel. Why you ask? Downtown Lititz has so much to offer. It's home to amazing small businesses. They have so many quaint historic sites, and they have delicious restaurants including one of our favorites, Tomato Pie Cafe. Yum!
The town sometimes smells like chocolate because of Wilbur Chocolate which is located next to one of the most adorable parks I have ever seen --- Lititz Springs Park. A natural Spring runs through this historic town and park and they have some of the friendliest ducks around. Just one quarter in one of the feed dispensers will have the ducks flocking to you. Don't forget to stop by Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, the first commercial pretzel bakery in America and learn how to make pretzels.
If your child is like mine and adores farm and construction toys, be sure to visit Outback Toys. They offer pedal tractors, ride ons, farm toys, construction toys and all sorts of clothing items for children and adults. If you can't make Fire and Ice which is usually held in February, keep Lititz in mind when planning for Spring break or summer vacation. It really makes for a wonderful day trip.
The Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, MD owned by Major Thomas Snowden, is a beautiful example of Georgian style architecture. The mansion and its exquisite grounds are open to the public. Certain rooms have hands-on exhibits for children where they can "dress up in colonial style clothes, play with old fashioned games, see what school was like in the 18th and 19th century."
Children "can also visit the Dinosaur Room as part of the exhibit of dinosaur fossils originally discovered on the Snowden property (part of this land is now the Dinosaur Park, where you can search for fossils yourself!). In the Dinosaur Room, kids can do dinosaur activities, like assemble a giant 3-D dinosaur puzzles, examine fossils through a microscope, and craft projects."
The best time to come is in July when the museum hosts "Blast-in-the-Past: A Hands-On History Playground. Montpelier’s grounds will be transformed into a kid-sized colonial village! Young visitors can camp out on the frontier, design a hat at the milliners, harvest crops at the farm, and much, much more." So much for for the entire family!