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    Traveling with Kids: Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Lancaster County, PA

    *Apologies in advance. My beloved Nikon DSLR had a possibly fatal heart attack right before we arrived at this museum. It is lying in a heap on my kitchen table. I might start weeping again.  We had to take pics of the museum with our *hangs head in shame* camera phones.  I’m sorry.

    Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania Trains

    Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania Trains

    Alright!

    Last stop during our fantastic trip to Lancaster County, PA was the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.  Biker Bob and I have already decided that we will DEFINITELY be heading back here when Lily Bean is a little older.  We would love more time to explore this place.  At over 90,000 square feet and with over 100 historic locomotives and vintage railroad cars on display, you could VERY easily spend a day here.  We had about 1.5 hours thanks to a little girl who really needed a nap.

    Located literally right across the road from the Strasburg Railroad is the RR museum.  There is SO much to see here!

    We started out on a walkway that gave you a bird’s eye view of the display floor.  Trains everywhere- what a collection!

    Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania Trains

    Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania Trains

    When you set out to explore the different locomotives and cars on the main display floor, you will discover that you can actually climb IN and ON some of them!  We climbed up onto one of the old steam locomotives and I have to tell you.. I walked away thinking a couple things:

    • How unbelieveably INTRICATE and COMPLICATED all of the controls, switches and valves were.  It must have taken some serious training and skill to properly operate.
    • How in the WORLD did the engineers and men who shoveled coal (I’m sure there’s an official title for them?) stand the blistering heat of that coal oven? Especially in the summer?  They practically stand on top of it the entire train ride.  Talk about stamina!
    • Just that LITTLE, TINY window on either side to peep out of??  How did they see ANYTHING at all?  Talk about obstructed views! Phew!

    How amazing!

    There were some favorite places that we found at the museum…

    Stewart Junction Railway Education Center: entire area set up for kids to learn, play and explore the rails!  GeoTrax, Legos, Thomas Tracks and more were set up for kids to play the day away.  This was Lily Bean’s first time playing with trains- it goes without saying, she now has a new hobby!

    Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania Trains

    Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania Trains

    We decided to brave the extreme heat and humidity and ventured outside where even MORE trains could be found.  This was my very favorite find- a steam locomotive similar to train in The Polar Express.

    Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania Trains

    The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania has SO MANY events throughout the year.  Different themed events- truly something for everyone.  As a teacher, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg was always my very absolute favorite book to read to my students.  I made a huge production out of it… rearranged their chairs in rows like a train, printed up special “tickets” that they had to have punched for admission, served chocolate milk and snacks while I read the story.  At the end of the book, each child was presented with his or her very own silver bell. :)

    So it’s no surprise that this event caught my eye more than any of the others:

    Polar Express Parties 12/4/10 & 12/11/10

    The conductor calls “all aboard” for a reading of Chris Van Allsburg’s classic holiday story in an authentic, historic passenger coach.  Kids who believe are welcome to dress in their pjs and will delight creating their own seasonal take-home craft and receiving a small bag of goodies.  Advance registration required (beginning 10/18/10) at $10/child.  Recommended for ages 3+.

    Regular Admission Rates

    Kids 2 and under: FREE

    Youth 3 to 11: $8

    Seniors 65+: $9

    Adults 12-64: $10

    Website: http://rrmuseumpa.org/

    Save some $$- combo tickets with other area attractions ARE available!

    The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania invited our family to be their guests which included complimentary admission.  All opinions our 100% our own.  Everything written above was based on our own experiences.

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    Traveling with Kids: Choo Choo Barn in Lancaster County, PA

    How many of you out there have a model train or two in your house?  How about a train play table for the kids?

    At this point, we do not have either kind.  But I have a feeling that this is about to change.  I, for one, have always thought that a train around the Christmas tree would be really fun.  Biker Bob, on the other hand, is all about getting a train table for Lily Bean to play with.

    Now, imagine that your family’s model train become more than just a hobby- perhaps, a dream job.  Along those lines, imagine working on a model in your basement as a kid with your parent(s).   You add, changed, rip apart, grow, build, paint… hours upon hours of creating and maintaining.

    choo choo barn logo

    choo choo barn lancaster

    Some 60 years ago, this very scene took place in the house belonging to the Groff family.  Their basement was slowly overtaken by trains, models and landscape.  What started as a small model is now over 1,700 square feet of model magic.

    The Choo Choo Barn in Strasburg, PA is the current day home to the Groff’s impressive miniature town.  This is one of those places that you just have to see to believe.  With over 150 animated scenes and 22 operating model trains, this is a MUST SEE for young AND old!

    Our favorite parts were when it turned into “nighttime” and also every 10 minutes when one of the houses in the model burst into flames and the firetruck/firefighters put it out!

    (Plus, it’s located, literally, right down the road from the Strasburg Railroad- so be sure to add it to your train themed itinerary!)

    Here we go!

    choo choo barn lancaster strasburg

    The model:

    choo choo barn lancaster strasburg

    choo choo barn lancaster

    choo choo barn lancaster

    choo choo barn lancaster

    choo choo barn lancaster

    choo choo barn lancaster

    The Choo Choo Barn is open Mid-March through December.

    Admission is just $6 for ages 12+, $4 for ages 4-12 and FREE for kids under $4.

    Fun, affordable and definitely unlike anything you’ve see before!

    The Choo Choo Barn invited our family to be their guests which included complimentary admission.  All opinions our 100% our own.  Everything written above was based on our own experiences.

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    Trip to Lancaster County: Our Night at the Downtown Marriott

    There were several things that might have been good signs that we were in a really nice hotel…

    Perhaps it was the gorgeous, spacious, inviting main lobby.

    Perhaps it was the Nickolodeon (DORA!) activity book and bracelet that Lily Bean received upon check-in.

    Perhaps it was the gracious hospitality of the staff and the ease of check-in.

    Or maybe, just maybe, it was the marshmallow bed that I slept on.

    Okay, nevermind- it was all of the above!  The Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square in downtown Lancaster was just beautiful.  We were greeted with enthusiasm and treated very well.  We enjoyed the turn down service (with robes and chocolates!).  Our corner room had a stunning view of Lancaster itself.  Best of all, this hotel provided exactly what we needed: a quiet, modern, comfy place to rest our weary heads after a long, HOT day of exploring.

    Our beautiful room (and view!):

    marriott lancaster

    marriott lancaster

    marriott lancaster

    Our bathroom (and look at the bonus- toiletries from Bath and Body Works!):

    marriott lancaster

    marriott lancaster

    I also enjoyed this office workspace- complete with internet and other hookups:

    marriott lancaster

    The next morning we sat for a little while and watched a crazy thunderstorm as it rolled through town:

    marriott lancaster

    Lancaster Marriott invited our family to be their guests which included complimentary stay in their hotel.  All opinions our 100% our own.  Everything written above was based on our own experiences.


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    Traveling with Kids: Cherry Crest Adventure Farm in Lancaster County, PA

    cherry crest adventure farm logo

    cherry crest adventure farm aerial shot

    Before we left on our trip, friends and family kept asking me where we would be visiting in Lancaster.  As I rattled off the various attractions on our itinerary, I kept getting raised eyebrows when I mentioned Cherry Crest Adventure Farm.  “What is that?” everyone wanted to know.  And honestly, I had no idea. A farm?  Some animals?  Corn?

    We passed the farm on our train ride and I think I swallowed a bug because my mouth was literally gaping wide open as I tried to take in all of the activities that I saw.  I knew that the afternoon was going to be a blast.

    cherry crest adventure farm lancaster

    As we approached the sprawling (15+ acre) “adventure” portion of the farm, we truly could not believe all of the fun activities in front of us.

    cherry crest adventure farm lancaster

    cherry crest adventure farm lancaster

    Of course, the biggest bragging point for Cherry Crest Adventure Farm is their Amazing Maize Maze: this 5+ acre maze includes 2.5 miles of tricky paths that wind you through all sorts of crazy stuff.  There are even fun diversions that let you paddle a canoe, explore a cave, identify animal tracks and more. I am told that you are given a flag as you enter the maze.  If you should give up before finding your way out, simply hold up your flag and await your “rescue.”  We did not attempt the maze on this trip- the heat and humidity of the day + a no-nap Lily Bean had us on borrowed time.  We opted instead to explore the rest of the farm and save the maze for a future trip.

    cherry crest adventure farm amazing maize maze

    We had such a fun time exploring the rest of the farm (there are 50 activities to choose from- it goes without saying that you could spend an entire day at the farm (we only had 1 afternoon) and still probably not see everything.

    These were some of our favorites:

    Farm Animal Center

    cherry crest adventure farm lancaster

    cherry crest adventure farm lancaster

    cherry crest adventure farm lancaster

    cherry crest adventure farm lancaster

    Lil’ Cabin Building (Use giant “Lincoln Logs” to build a kid sized cabin!)

    cherry crest adventure farm lancaster

    Giant Hay Chute Slide

    cherry crest adventure farm lancaster

    Watching the Strasburg Railroad chug through the farm!

    cherry crest adventure farm lancaster

    cherry crest adventure farm lancaster

    Singing Chicken Show

    cherry crest adventure farm lancaster

    Farm Jump for Tiny Tots

    cherry crest adventure farm lancaster

    cherry crest adventure farm lancaster

    Lil’ Farmers Playland (This area had a whole bunch of fun stuff, from swing sets to a 3 tiered water table- PERFECT for the sauna of a day!)

    cherry crest adventure farm lancaster

    cherry crest adventure farm lancaster

    Wow!  And honestly- that probably doesn’t even crack the surface of all of the activities that you will find at Cherry Crest Adventure Farm.  In addition to the maze and other activities, the farm also hosts an array of seasonal events such as:

    Sweet Corn Festival

    Potato Festival

    Cruise In (Car Show)

    Harvest Festivals

    Pumpkin Madness Festival

    Tickets to Cherry Crest Adventure Farm start at just $11.95/person and that includes everything at the farm except for the maze.

    Add the maze for a few dollars more (2 and under are free in the maze and there is a child discount for ages 3-11).

    Save even more with a combo pass including tickets to Cherry Crest and another attraction in the Strasburg Area.  (You can even ride the Strasburg Railroad TO Cherry Crest… and hop back on the train when you are ready to leave!)

    P.S. This certainly deserves a mention.  Cherry Crest takes “going green” seriously.  From the GIANT solar panels on their hillside to various stations set up around the farm- they use solar energy to operate their farm.  ROCK ON!

    cherry crest adventure farm lancaster solar panels

    Cherry Crest Adventure Farm invited our family to be their guests which included complimentary passes to the farm.  All opinions our 100% our own.  Everything written above was based on our own experiences.

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    Traveling with Kids: Strasburg Railroad in Lancaster, PA

    lancaster trip strasburg railroad 1

    The Strasburg Railroad dates back to 1832 when it was chartered as a line for hauling freight and passengers from Lancaster County to Philadelphia’s main line.  For over 100 years it served that purpose, and is now considered to be America’s oldest short line railroad.  Then in the 1950s, the Strasburg line was turned into a tourist attraction – inviting the public to come ride the rails in its refurbished passenger cars.

    As part of our trip to Lancaster County last week, we had the chance to check out some of Strasburg’s biggest bragging points.  Strasburg is a small town tucked right inside the heart of Amish Country.  As we drove to the railroad we passed farm after farm, and yes- saw quite a few horses and buggies trotting along the road.

    We arrived at the Strasburg Railroad Station and took in the sights and sounds.  Train whistles, coal burning, shops, train themed kiddie rides, a cafe… lots to explore while awaiting our train’s departure.

    strasburg railroad lancaster 5

    strasburg railroad lancaster 4

    We boarded our train and enjoyed a 45 minute ride through Amish farmland.  Corn fields and other crops as far as the eye could see.  Barns, silos, tiny farmhouses all dotted the rich, green landscape.

    lancaster trip farmland 1

    You probably know by now that I am a total sucker for history.  I found it fascinating to imagine what it must have been like to ride on the Strasburg Railroad “back in the day.”  Back when the only other form of transportation in that area was by stagecoach or on horseback.  Train rides were considered a “luxury” in most cases and your average every day Joe would not have had the opportunity to take such a journey.

    Lily Bean LOVED looking out the windows- this was actually her very first train ride!

    strasburg railroad lancaster 3

    And yes, as it WAS a BLOGGER event afterall, I was definitely caught updating our journey via Twitter and Facebook a couple times. :)

    strasburg railroad lancaster 2

    We enjoyed our ride and before we knew it, were pulling back into the station.  We ate some tasty lunches from the cafe and then had some time to wander around.  After exploring the shops, Lily Bean and Biker Bob took a ride on this tiny Cagney steam train- how cute is that?

    strasburg railroad lancaster 1

    The Strasburg Railroad offers several options for riders: coach, first-class, open air or the dining car.

    In addition to the traditional railroad trip, Strasburg Railroad has various themed events that run throughout the year (ticket prices vary by event- you can find more info here).  Events still available for this (2010) year:

    Wine & Cheese Train – Offered April – November

    The Great Train Robbery – October 23rd

    Day Out with Thomas – September 11-19 & November 19-21

    Trains and Troops – November 6 & 7

    Santa’s Paradise Express – November 26-28 & December 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 & 19

    This ride was definitely appropriate for any age bracket- young and old.  Let’s face it- there’s just something fun and exciting about trains!

    Want to check out the Strasburg Railroad with your fam?  Tickets start at just $7 for kids, $14 for adults.

    Quick Links

    Train Schedule

    Website

    Combo Passes with Other Area Attractions

    Stay tuned… more from our adventures in Lancaster to come!

    Strasburg Railroad invited our family to be their guests which included complimentary passes aboard the train and lunch.  All opinions our 100% our own.  Everything written above was based on our own experiences.

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    Lancaster, PA: A Slice of Americana + Choo Choo’s Galore

    lancaster

    This past week we had the opportunity to take a short getaway to Lancaster, PA.  We have been to Lancaster many times in the past- it is a mere 1.5 hours from home.  I have to say, it wasn’t until this trip that I truly gained an appreciation for the wonderful bounty that Lancaster waits to bestow upon its visitors.

    We were invited to visit Lancaster as part of a Blogger Meet -Up.  We joined several other bloggers and their families and were taken through a well-planned, thoughtful itinerary that quite frankly, left us ready for another trip to Lancaster!

    Last night I finally had a chance to look through our pictures.  Absolutely no exaggeration: we took over 500.

    We covered so much good stuff in just 2 days, I have decided to post our trip review in segments.  Look for upcoming posts bursting with pictures and reviews of the following:

    .
    One thing that I was pleasantly surprised to learn was how affordable a trip (overnight or day) to Lancaster can be.  Did you know that tourism dollars go about 10% further in Lancaster than they do in Philadelphia, DC or Boston?  How about that they go a whopping 35% further than in New York City?

    Budget = Happy

    Family = Happy

    I guess I’m one of the last people to learn all of this, because about 8 million tourists descend upon Lancaster annually.  Clearly, they are already “in-the-know.”

    Stay tuned for tales of our adventures!

    lancaster trip farmland 1

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