Our frequent visits to see family in Pennsylvania with Curious G have given us the chance to explore some fun spots for kids and adults that can be destinations on their own, or as additions to Sesame Place or Hershey Park. Here are our favorites.
Philadelphia, Sesame Place area
As a child, my parents took me to this beautiful place and I still have memories of it over 30 years later. Although Curious G is less than 4 years old, I imagine that she will still remember our visit when she is an adult. The topiary garden was a lovely start to our recent visit where C.G. ran around and weaved in and out of the bushes. The Fountain Garden adjacent to the topiariy garden is stunning, and people were already reserving spots for the nightly fountain light show, which was sold out when we were there. The Conservatory is gorgeous and showcases a diverse group of gardens, including a children's garden, waterlily ponds, and exotic orchids. We also enjoyed exploring the tree house, peony garden, and the forest walk. I would also like to note that café is surprisingly good, with a variety of menu selections and a lovely patio dining area. There is also a wood fired pizza option and beer garden in the patio area.
Please Touch made it to our 23 Things to Do this Summer list for many different reasons. It is such a beautiful museum and is still something that Curious G talks about. The carousel was a big hit. The Alice in Wonderland section was entertaining for both adult and children. The little town complete with supermarket, shoe maker, fast food restaurant, house, and doctor’s office kept C. G. and her 7 year old cousin busy for a good hour. While we were there, we were treated to story time and kite making. We spent about three and a half hours there, but could have spent more. We definitely did just a cursory run through a few sections in the interest of time.
We did a Philly weekend last year and stayed in a hotel by the Liberty Bell in order to be within walking distance from Franklin Square, where the annual Chinese Lantern Festival takes place. We walked to Spruce Street Harbor Park right after we got settled in our room, which was a lovely stroll that took us past some historical sites and buildings. We grabbed lunch from a few of the vendors (there are some local celebrity chef run food options) and relaxed in the picnic area and swung on some hammocks. After lunch, Curious G and her cousin, played in the playground, got balloon animals, played giant Connect Four, and ran around the fountain. It was hard to get them to leave, but my parents wanted to move onto the Liberty Bell (we grabbed coffee at La Colombe across the street from the Bell, rode the carousel in Franklin Square, then walked to Rittenhouse Square to do some shopping instead)
I learned about Fishtown from another mom from Curious G's Brooklyn Forest School class. She told me it was straight out of an episode of Portlandia with all of the hip artisanal hipness trimmings. However, she also mentioned good food, so that piqued my interest. I immediately got in touch with a chef friend from Philly and posted on a local FB Mommas board to ask for recs. Multiple sources pointed us to Surya, an all-day market and cafe, which had just opened. The interior is very charming and the menu choices made us want to try everything. We wound up getting take out, which we took to Penn Treaty Park for a picnic. After lunch, we walked around a bit and marveled at the amusement park sized La Colombe flagship (this is the second time La Colombe makes an appearance in this post because it's indigenous to Philadelphia and my husband is obsessed with their draft lattes), Wm Mulherin's Sons restaurant and hotel, Fette Sau, other assorted boutiques and eateries.
Hershey Park Area, Hershey, Harrisburg, Lancaster
Lions and Tigers, and Bears, oh my! And chickens, and buffaloes, and so many other animals. We were impressed by the animals we saw on our mini safari jeep ride. Curious G jumped at the chance to feed the gentle animals, and to see them up close. The landscape we saw on during the ride was a slice of pure Americana.
City Island also made it to our 23 Things to do this Summer list, and we can’t wait to visit again. We went last year during the Jump Street Arts Fest, which takes place over Labor Day weekend. To get there, we walked over the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge, which happened to be the backdrop of a tightrope act during the festival. The big winner of the visit to City Island was the choo choo train that circled the island and gave us a chance to preview what we wanted to do. We saw a playground, a beach, the baseball field, a few snack and ice cream stands, and a mini golf course. We wound up riding the little carousel after the train ride, having a chicken finger lunch chased down by giant ice cream cones; then playing in the playground before heading back over the bridge.
The Curiosity Connection in this museum is one of the most creative play spaces we have ever experienced. Curious G loved planting and harvesting the toy vegetables, riding on the pig statues, crawling in and out of the trees and mushrooms in the woodland section, and of course, dressing up and reading books. After spending an hour in the playroom, we explored the Hall of Geology (C. G. has always been fascinated by rocks), looked at the fossils in the Life Through time exhibit, and gazed at the animal dioramas in the Mammal Hall.
Curious G had her first pony ride here, and took a spin on a myriad of different kiddie rides that were perfect for toddlers. The Sky Ride gondola was first on our agenda, which gave us a nice overview of the park. We could have spent the entire day here and played in the water park, caught a show, and rode more rides; but we did pack in a lot for the three hours that we stayed. After hour three Pwah Pwah (Chinese grandma) was ready to take the tram back to the parking lot.
Curious G had her first berry harvest at Strite’s Orchard, and made out with a berry bounty. We also experienced the thorniness of raspberry bushes for the first time. The vistas serve up some idyllic countryside realness and we left the farm feeling relaxed and refreshed.
While we have yet to do the tour of the brewery here, we have had a few lovely family dinners at Troegs. The food is great! Some of our go-to's are the duck confit (which is basically super crispy bites of salty goodness served over potatoes and greens), the fried chicken sandwich, and the pulled pork sandwich. The popcorn and giant pretzel are a must for the table. Now the beers are delicious. And while "delicious" is not proper beer terminology, the Troegs beers are yummy and I have tried so many that I cannot keep track of the different varieties and names. The nice bartenders in the tasting room serve generous multiple tastings and I usually wind up with a flight. Gong Gong (Chinese grandpa) likes to get in on the beer action too.
Hershey Garden, which is adjacent to The Hotel Hershey, and across the street from the Hershey Outlets is absolutely beautiful, especially when the roses are in bloom. The views from the garden are spectacular, and Curious G loves the butterfly atrium and the interactive children’s garden. We visit the Gardens every summer.
While this Science museum is an abridged version of larger science museums, it is also more palatable for a first time science museum going toddler. There is also an in-house cinema and live performance theater. Curious G enjoyed the hands on exhibits on each floor.
I don’t have photos from any of our trips to this cinema in downtown Harrisburg, but I can tell you that this is an “art house” cinema that’s adjacent to a brewery (beer and a movie anyone?), and we have enjoyed movies including Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea (ok, I didn’t love this movie but it was nice just to be able to sit in a movie theater while my kid slept at grandma and grandpa’s), Three Billboards, and Lady Bird. The popcorn is really good here, as are the Swedish fish that come in an unlabeled plastic bag (Does that mean they’re from Costco?).