Tag: family travel blog

The Stone Cold Truth About Hot Air Balloon Rides

hot air balloon ride

 

 

Greetings, fly guys and fly girls! If you ever considered going on a hot air balloon ride, but don’t know what you’re getting into, then you’ve come to the right spot.  Last summer, my daughter and I took flight in a hot air balloon, compliments of my friends at the US Hot Air Balloon Team. Boy, let me tell me you, the experience was something else! And as a certified balloonatic (OK, not really), I figure that gives me enough credibility (this is probably wrong, too)  to debunk myths and spit hot truths about  hot air balloon rides.

 

 

YOU CAN’T GO ON A HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE ANYTIME OF THE DAY

 

Ever notice that you’ve never looked up in sky during lunchtime in the summer, and seen a hot air balloon floating by? Me neither, but there is a reason for that.  A hot air balloon ride is very susceptible to weather, and can only fly in the most stable of  conditions. For scientific and technical reasons beyond my pay grade, this happens to be before dawn or occasionally at dusk.

For J and I, this meant taking a 45 minute long Uber ride at 4:30AM from our hotel to the heart of Amish country in Pennsylvania, Bird In Hand. We had to arrive by 5:30AM, at the US Hot Air Balloon Team’s headquarters. If you’ve ever wanted to wake roosters up, instead of vice versa, I highly recommend taking early morning hot air balloon rides. Also, to give you an idea of the high volatility/subjectivity of ballooning, ours was a shared flight, with two long-time friends, and an older couple. This was the older couple’s sixth attempt at trying to take a hot air balloon ride, as every other time that they tried, it ended up being cancelled because of the weather. Talk about your hardcore balloonatics!

 

 

THE CHASE

Unlike an airplane, hot air balloons do not need an airport to depart from. After we arrived at the headquarters, we were then transported via white van to the launch point, which was just an open field. The van’s driver and navigator also doubled as set up and take down crew. Most interesting, though, is that the van was a chase vehicle. While in the air, the van followed the balloon around, until it landed.  Watching this lonely white vehicle on the empty roads from high in the sky,  kind of made me feel like a journalist in a chopper following OJ Simpson’s Bronco. Kind of.

 

 

up,  up, and…..in?

 

At the launch point,  the crew setup the hot air balloon, which was much larger in person (like, small building-sized) and inflate it. I then realized that the basket, which was also larger in person (the size of a small car, and about chest level high) didn’t have a door. So how the heck do you get in it, you ask?

The answer is….not delicately.

The older couple weren’t especially agile, for lack of a better term, especially the wife. They thought that the basket would be on its side, and that they would get in, sit on the bottom, and wait for the inflated balloon to  pull it upright.

This wasn’t the case, though.

The crew are there to assist, but for the most part, you’re on your own, to enter the basket. In the couple’s case, the crew gently helped lift the wife up, and over, the edge of it. In the husband’s case, he climbed in on his own, with some struggle. When it came to J’s case, I gave her a boost and dropped her in, since the basket was too high for her to climb  on her own. In my case, I tried to clear the edge by leaping over it, like how this guy jumped over the wrestling ropes. Spoiler alert: my leap was U-G-L-Y, and I ain’t got no alibi:

 

 

 

 

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

 

Once you’re in, there is nowhere to go but up. For real, when in flight, the experience of hot air balloon rides is as breathtaking as you probably imagine it to be. Our US Hot Air Balloon ride was over miles of farmland in Amish country.  Picturesque views of the Pennsylvania landscape stretched as far as the eye could see.  The world seems so different when you’re gliding through the sky, thousands of feet in the air. Surprisingly, it was very quiet. Besides the chit chat of those on board, the only sound was the hissing of the burners. At one point, we could hear dogs barking below!

 

hot air balloon ride experience

 

BE PREPARED FOR A CRASH LANDING

 

Unlike planes, hot air balloons don’t just land on a runway. In our case, the pilots pointed out a spot in an open field that looked land-able, called down to the chase vehicle to see if it was OK or not, and after receiving affirmation, started the descent. They actually missed the spot, then had to re-ascend, and get the chase vehicle to confirm another location.

Unlike planes, hot air balloons don’t have wheels, to roll into a gentle landing. They literally just crash into the ground. Now depending on how skilled your pilot is, the crash landing varies in gentleness. In our case, it knocked me off of my feet (word to Stevie Wonder!), because I didn’t have time to brace myself, and J  went tumbling into the side of the basket.

This was considered a good landing.

 

 

So….crash, and dash?

 

Once on the ground, you don’t just leave the balloon, and take off in the chase vehicle. Everything needs to be packed up, too. One of the dudes in the crew was jacked (re: very muscular), and he had the job of doing most of the heavy lifting (fun fact: a deflated hot air balloon still weighs a lot).  I tried to help where I could, as well, though. We happened to be in an Amish family’s farm, so they all came out, too see what all the commotion was. I’m sure the scene was quite the culture shock to them! Once the van was loaded up, we headed back to the headquarters, where we celebrated our save travels with the traditional balloonist champagne toast. J had orange juice, by the way, so stop wagging your fingers, people.

 

 

ARE HOT AIR BALLOONS RIDES SAFE?

 

Aww, the proverbial elephant in the room, err, post.  Are hot air balloons safe?

The answer is….I think so? I mean, it is a pretty outdated mode of transportation.  When you’re planning a trip on Google Maps, a balloon is never an option for the fastest way there. It’s all for pleasure and enjoyment now, based on skills and techniques developed over centuries of balloon aviation.

Whereas, for example, people a long time ago stopped riding those bikes with the giant wheels, because of how dangerous they were, ballooning remains a popular past time today. If they weren’t suitable, they wouldn’t still be a “thing”, right? The accident rates online seem to support hot air balloons as being fairly safe, too.

J couldn’t peak over the edge unless I lifted her up, so there was no concern of the basket rocking, if that’s what you’re thinking (or at least that’s what I was thinking, after watching that episode of Family Matters recently, where Steve Urkel and Carl go up in a hot air balloon, and that’s what happens to Carl). The basket’s floor was sturdy, too. So, to me, as someone who is pretty cautious, somewhat afraid of heights, and flying with a child, I didn’t feel like we were in any real danger….except during the landing, as mentioned.

All in all, hot air balloon rides, while not for everyone, are a really cool experience.  I’d recommend them anyone looking to book a flight with their kids, if they’re up for it.

Until the next one, you balloonatics,  peace!

 

are hot air balloons safe

 

 

 

Disclaimer: we received a complimentary flight from US Hot Air Balloon Team while on a press trip in Hershey, PA. All opinions expressed are mine, as always.

 

24 Hours In Detroit

 

24 hours in Detroit

 

 

Even though Detroit has a rich music history,  there’s a case to be made that the city’s theme song should be “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett. Indeed, to outsiders like me, Detroit has a perception for being dangerous, unsafe and having a struggling economy. So, with that in mind, I figured a perfect road trip for my family would be to spend 24 hours in Detroit!

Whoa.

Reading that out loud makes it sound like a terrible idea. Anyway, there are actually  plenty of things to do in Detroit with kids, that are safe and fun. During our brief time there, we scratched the surface of Motown’s sights and sounds like a DJ playing a vinyl record on a turntable.  While that probably doesn’t make me qualified to give you and your family a guide of things to do if you’re spending 24 hours in Detroit, it’s too late now. To quote Marvin Gaye, let’s get it on!

 

 WHAT BECOMES OF THE BROKENHEARTED LIONS FAN?

 

Detroit is a serious sports town, with professional teams  represented across all four of the North American Big Four leagues. For the family of sports fans, you could base a short road trip to Detroit around attending a Tigers, Lions, Pistons or Red Wings game. This is actually what we did, as we were fortunate enough to check out an NFL game for free, courtesy of my friends at the Detroit Lions!

 

Ford Field review

 

Now, almost every sporting event that we have been to over the last 10 years has been with a kid who was still in diapers, thus requiring us to bring a diaper bag. To our chagrin, the NFL ain’t about that. They have a  strict clear bag policy  and diaper bags are prohibited. Attempts to find an approved bag beforehand, last minute, were futile, so we Macgyvered a solution:

 

NFL Clear Bag Policy

Our diaper bag for the day.

 

I tried to get clever with it, once we got inside the stadium. I stopped by a merchandise stand, and asked if they could give me a plastic bag. They, not surprisingly, said no, unless I bought something. I promptly purchased an official Detroit Lions clear bag, which I will probably never use again, but made for a nice souvenir.

Of the five people in my family, only B and I would consider ourselves true football fans. As such, the off-field stuff would need to be as on point as the on-field product, to entertain my clan.  While we didn’t partake in any tailgating, we did arrive at Ford Field early, to check out the pre-game festivities. To the Lions’ credit, they did a pretty good job of getting even neutral bystanders like us to buy into the #onepride spirit.  Games were set up, with chances to win Lions swag.  A drumline roamed the stadium, playing some hyped-up jams. A live band rocked out near one of the gates, which had people dancing in the streets.

 

things to do in detroit with kids.

Coincidentally, Martha Reeves, who sang “Dancing In The Streets” with the Vandellas, was even in attendance.

 

Ford Field doesn’t wow you with anything, but everything about the stadium is OK, if that makes sense.  As we wandered around Ford Field, I noticed that the concourses were very wide and spacious. I didn’t worry much about losing my kids in a crowd, as they were always within site.  Guest services was helpful in this regard too, as they provided us wristbands which K and I wrote our contact information and the kids’ names on, for them to wear. Food and drink options were plentiful. The washrooms weren’t disgusting. Our complimentary seats were in the 100 level. Great sight lines, and comfortable enough.

 

 

24 hours in detroit

 

 

I’ve been to  football games before where drunk and belligerent fools made the experience less than family-friendly. Luckily, this wasn’t the case at our Lions game. The crowd was very lively and rawkus, but I didn’t see anyone being too out of control. Well, besides little KJ, I mean. He developed cranky toddleritis, so we had to leave before the game ended. This was for the good, as the Lions ended up losing in last-second, heartbreaking fashion. Beyond that, it was a solid afternoon of pigskin action, and I wouldn’t find checking out a Lions game again, in the future!

 

knocks me off my feet (to sleep)

 

Now, a good chunk of our 24 hours in Detroit was obviously dedicated to the Lions game. However, we still needed a place to rest our heads.  If sports are the purpose of your trip, like ours, Ford Field, Comerica Park (where the Detroit Tigers play) and Little Caesars Arena (home of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons) are located downtown.  As such,  it makes sense to try to stay downtown.

When looking into hotels, I found ones located in downtown Detroit to be a bit on the pricier side.  For the most part, parking was an extra cost, too. The rates were not insignificant at that ($30 and up), especially if in and out privileges weren’t included. If you just plan on taking public transportation/taxis/Ubers around, this isn’t a big deal, of course. For us,  it was potentially a costly issue.

We ended up staying at a Holiday Inn Express in Allen Park, Michigan, which is a 15 minute drive in the southwest direction from downtown Detroit.  The room was about half the price of similarly rated rooms near Ford Field, plus free parking.  This seemed to be typical of most hotels located outside of downtown, either in surrounding neighbourhoods or bordering cities. Speaking of that….

WHAT’S GOIN’ ON (in detroit)?

 

downtown detroit

 

Look, man, there’s no way to sugarcoat it.  Detroit is known for being a violent, unsafe city. When looking up hotels, I did do location research, too, to see what the crime vibe was like. I’m not trying to perpetuate any stereotypes. I’m just saying, in my case, a van with Canadian license plates, not in Canada, just screams tourist. This can be a petty criminal’s dream in any city with unreputable areas. It’s a good idea to be cognisant of these areas.

 

 

stop! in the name of the love of sightseeing!

 

When driving through, and walking around, downtown Detroit, the efforts to revitalize this neighbourhood were noticeable. Contemporary looking buildings are numerous, and beautiful artwork dots the streets.  While the weather was too rainy for them on our visit, the Detroit Riverfront  and Campus Meritus Park looked like fun places to take the family for some outdoor quality time.  There were many theatres and concert venues downtown, too, which I guess is to be expected from a city with a rich music history like Motown.

 

 

 

Once you start to venture outside of downtown, things in the city start to look more….gritty, for lack of a better term. Some of the more popular tourist spots are sprinkled all over the town, which allows you to see the grittiness up close.  If you only have 24 hours in Detroit, hitting up at least one of the tourist attractions really is a must, though.

For example, music lovers will appreciate a trip to Hitsville, USA, to check out the Motown Museum.  For hardcore and casual art enthusiasts,  the Detroit Institute Of the Arts and its huge collection is what’s up.   In our case, my friends at Visit Detroit hooked us up with complimentary tickets to The Henry Ford, so we had the pleasure of checking that place out.

The Henry Ford is the brainchild of, you guessed it, Henry Ford. It’s located in Dearborn, Michigan and is a huge indoor/outdoor museum complex, with the overriding theme of it being a tribute to Americana. The campus is home to the Henry Ford Museum Of Innovation, Greenfield Village, the Ford Rouge Factory and a giant 4K screen. We focused our attention on the artifacts, exhibits and memorabilia of the Henry Ford Museum. There were lots of hands on activities, and things to climb on/in, which was great, in term of keeping B, J and KJ engaged. The amount of cool, eye-opening stuff to be seen was impressive.

 

the henry ford museum

The Kennedy Presidential Limousine.

 

 

the henry ford museum

Paper Planes weren’t M.IA. in this exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum.

 

 

I do wish that we explored Greenfield Village (which features, among many highlights, one of Thomas Edison’s lab), but weather and timing did not permit this. Regardless, The Henry Ford was awesome. Just be sure to budget a fair chunk of your 24 hours in Detroit there accordingly, if you go.

 

 

the henry ford museum

 

One other comment. On the way back to Canada, my kids really got a kick out of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. The whole ‘being underwater to cross the border’ aspect was pretty neat (though not recommended for any claustrophobes).

 

TAKEOUT, OR SIGN, SEALED, DELIVERED?

 

If you’re like me,  your knowledge of Detroit cuisine consists of Little Caesars Pizza and Eminen’s mom’s spaghetti.  You probably aren’t like me, however. Anyhoo, Detroit’s food scene is quite dynamic. On the one hand, the rejuvenated downtown core is littered with trendy, hip restaurants. On the other hand, Motor City is still a blue collar town, and the dining options tend to reflect this.

One thing that my family and I were confused about  was why there were so many Coney Island restaurants, as we had never heard of them before. Turns out that these are a  Detroit staple, and the Coney dog is one of the city’s signature foods. Detroiters love these pseudo-gourmet hot dogs the same way that my fellow Hamiltonians love Tim Horton’s coffee, apparently.   Alas, I was not able to convince my family to indulge in one of these Detroit delicacies, as tasty as the sounded.

 

you heard it through the grapevine

 

downtown detroit

Note: this is not a grapevine.

 

When it comes to visiting Motown,  the city isn’t nearly as bad as its reputation.  Not once did I feel like myself or my family where in any imminent danger during our 24 hours in Detroit.  Just take the usual precautions that you would, when going to any major city, and you should be alright.  I got the impression that it is slowly improving, one neighbourhood at a time. It’s truly a proud, unique place, and while living there may be a different story, I enjoyed our brief time in town.

 

 

24 hours in detroit

Until the next one, peace out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Definitive Guide To Splash Lagoon in Erie PA

Splash Lagoon Erie PA

 

Believe it or not, I’m Canadian…but I hate the winter.  Some people love dealing with that cold, numbing feeling of the wind chill hitting your face. I’m not one of them. Escaping potential frostbite to go somewhere warm and sunny isn’t really in the cards, either. Luckily, however, there are places not far from me (or anyone else in the Greater Toronto Area)  to temporarily get away for some summer-like fun. Places like Splash Lagoon  in Erie, PA!

 

 

What is Splash Lagoon in erie pa?

 

Splash Lagoon is an indoor, Polynesian-themed waterpark, located in Erie, PA. At 80,000 square feet, it’s one of the biggest indoor waterparks in the USA. It’s full of aquatic activities (and more) for people of all ages, set to a tropical theme/design.

 

 

GETTING THERE

 

Erie, Pennsylvania is located about two hours southwest from the Niagara Falls border (or the comparable indoor waterpark to Splash Lagoon in Niagara, Great Wolf Lodge). This worked out to a three hour drive for us. When travelling with three small kids, this is about as good as it gets, time-wise, for a road trip. It’s almost doable in one drive, without having to stop for bathroom breaks. Also, you can schedule it so that you can hit the road after a meal at home, negating the need to stop for food along the way. Just throw on The Irishman for them to watch, and by the time that it’s almost over, you’ll be there (note: that was joke. I do not advise showing The Irishman to little children).

 

 

staying there – SPLASH LAGOON ERIE PA

 

I mentioned Great Wolf Lodge earlier, because that is more of the go-to waterpark destination, for families in my region.  My family has stayed at Great Wolf Lodge several times before. I will say that Splash Lagoon is different, but in a good way.

The experience at Great Wolf Lodge is pretty immersive.  Everything at the resort, from the hotel rooms on-site, to the waterpark, to the decor, to the  games and restaurants, all have the same kind of nature-y, rustic theme. The thing is, though, that you really pay for the immersiveness, as an overnight visit can be quite pricey.  You also can’t easily obtain day passes only, to visit the park.  If you want to get your swim on, you gotta get your sleep on there, too.

Splash Lagoon, on the other hand, is its own standalone place. However, it has three hotels connected to it: Holiday Inn Express, Comfort Inn and Hawthorn Inn & Suites. These have stay and play package deals which include passes to Splash Lagoon. The good thing about these, of course, is that you can stroll from your hotel room to Splash Lagoon in just your Speedo, without having to set foot outside in the frosty winter elements (note: that was a joke. I do not condone unwanted Speedo strolls. Think of the kids, people). If these don’t float your boat, a few of the nearby hotels also offer overnight package deals, and include a shuttle service Splash Lagoon, too.  Then, if none of these are appealing for whatever reason, you are able to just buy day passes to Splash Lagoon, and stay somewhere else .

 

Holiday Inn Express Erie PA

 

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Erie PA, which is the closest hotel, proximity-wise, to Splash Lagoon.  Our stay was complimentary, but the rates online for a stay package were more affordably priced than Great Wolf Lodge.  Our room was suitably clean and tidy. Breakfast was included, too. With a family of five, anytime that you have one less meal to worry about is always nice.

One more thing. The Peace Bridge Duty Free store, near the Canadian border, also promotes Splash Lagoon overnight deals, that seemed to be very reasonable, so keep an eye out there, too, when booking  a stay.

 

 

playing there (water)

 

Alright, now let’s get to the wet and wild stuff! Over two days, my family experienced  almost every attraction. Instead of a typical Splash Lagoon review, though, I’ll break them down for you, by age appeal and appropriateness. And yes, Splash Lagoon does have life jackets on-site, don’t worry.

 

Splash Lagoon review

 

 

 

For KJ Sized kids (re: babies and little kids)

Monkey Shines Island

This play area is in a shallow pool, with seven small slides scattered around it, which have a 48″ maximum height requirement. KJ could go down these by himself, but I still had to hang out at the bottom, to catch him.  Some parents took their kids down them on their laps, as an option. There’s also a tipping bucket in this area, and “showers”, as KJ called them.

Adventure Bay

Adventure Bay is a big pool with basketball nets and balls, along with lily pads to jump on (which were off limits when we were there).  While more suited for all ages, little kids can still have fun here, in life jackets, with parents nearby, I think. B and J both commented that the water was colder in Adventure Bay than other areas of the park.  Hoops-loving B could have stayed there the whole time, regardless, challenging random kids to one on one games, like he was at the aquatic version of Rucker Park.

Wild Water Waves Pool

Billed as “the largest indoor wave pool in the Eastern United States”, Wild Water Waves Pool was a hit with my fam. Again, while more suited for all ages, KJ did enjoy bobbing up and down on the waves, some of which got pretty big!

 

Splash Lagoon Erie PA

Underwater selfies in a wave pool are hard!

 

The Frog Pond 

The Frog Pond is an area with a whirlpool for the family to relax in, and leapfrog fountains for little kids to splash around on.  It’s kind of tucked away in a corner, behind the Tree Tops Ropes Course. Not gonna lie, because we didn’t try the ropes course, I didn’t notice the Frog Pond, so we never went in it.  #planningfail

The Lava Pool

This is a small pool, with “lava” for kids to play in. Again, not gonna lie, I assumed that it was a hot tub, and didn’t stop to go in. J checked it out, though, with K, and reported back, in her words “the water was not deep, and  it was hot, and there were benches nearby, and it was relaxing.”

 

For B and J SIZED kids (re: big kids)

Tiki Tree House

This is located in the middle of Splash Lagoon, and is a featured attraction. It’s four stories high, with activities like water cannons, and a giant tipping bucket. I’m not sure why, but the Tiki Tree House didn’t seem as functional as it probably normally is, during our stay.  If fully operational, it appears to be a blast, but I can’t vouch for it, based on our experience.

The Lazy River

This is just as it sounds. Grab a tube, alone or with your kid, and lazily float around the river. It’s a decent size, so you can do a few laps without taking up too much time. Minimal congestion, too, which is sometimes an issue with these things.

WARNING: if you have a mischievous daughter like mine, she will probably steer you towards the waterfall, where you will get splashed worse than a basketball net after a Steph Curry versus Klay Thompson three point contest. I suggest singing the chorus to TLC’s ‘Wateralls’ to alleviate any potential soaking (note: that was a joke. You should obviously sing TLC’s Creep, instead).

 

Things To Do in Erie PA

Thumbs up to TLC song references outta nowhere!

 

 

Big Kahuna

This is a big, curvy water slide that actually goes outside for part of it.  It’s for single or double riders with a tube, with a minimum 36″ height requirement. Children 36″-42″ tall, like J, had to slide with an adult, though.

Python Plunge

Python Plunge is similar in thrillness to the Big Kahuna. It has the same restrictions and tube requirement, too (though this one is a lot of fun with two riders).

Shark Attack

This is a single person body slide, minimum 36″ height requirement.  It feels like you’re going pretty fast, and it’s another slide that takes you outside for part of it.  The lineup for this water slide was a bit confusing. It’s located beside the Big Kahuna, and I noticed a lot of people standing in the line for that because they didn’t realize that the line for Shark Attack was separate.  In B and I’s case, we made that mistake initially before noticing, once we got to the top, that there weren’t actually any people in line for Shark Attack, so we went right on.

Black Hole

This was J’s personal favorite. From the top of the Tiki Tree House, the whole water slide is in complete darkness.  Single riders only, no tube, minimum height requirement of 36″.

Maui Wowie

Maui Wowie is a bit of a quickie single rider slide, no tube. It shoots you down and around the sharp, sudden turns pretty fast. 36″ height requirement.

Cyclone

B’s fav because, in part, of the toilet bowl effect of going round and round before being flushed out into a pool below. For single or double riders with a tube, with a minimum 36″ height requirement. Children 36″-42″ tall gotta ride with a grownup.

Hurricane Hole

This is like the Cyclone, if the Cyclone was on Red Bull energy drinks. A bit more extreme, as it’s for tubeless single riders, which means you go faster, and end up in a deep pool. For people 48″ and up, who are strong enough swimmers to swim out of the deep pool at the end.

for DA GROWNUPS

There’s a bar upstairs called Island Oasis Bar.

What?

Stay thirsty, my friends.

 

extra playing there at splash lagoon

 

All of the above attractions are included in your day pass admission. If you want to spend a few more bucks, Splash Lagoon in Erie PA has some other fun ways to take your money. The aforementioned Tree Tops Ropes Course, for example, costs $7 per person. It’s three stories high,  of various climbing challenges, for kids and adults (36″ and taller).  $7 will also get you a spin on the Aqua Tumbler, a giant inflatable ball that loops you around and shoots water at you while you’re in it.

Upstairs from the park is an arcade. It has a decent selection of games, with the usual selection of prizes to be won when winning tokens at said games.  One unique feature, though, was the Hologate Virtual Reality game, which cost $8/person, and looked pretty interesting.

If you’re like my family, you can expect to spend $20 at the arcade, for the joy of watching your kids win about $1 worth of tokens, which they will then argue about because they want to each cash it in for a different toy. B played one of those claw pickup games, and somehow ended up winning so much candy that even Milton Hershey would have been like “dang, homey”.

Splash Lagoon Erie PA

Spoiler: We did not win 100 tickets on this spin.

 

Things to do in Erie PA

 

During our trip, The FlowRider, a wave simulation ride similar to ones seen  at other theme parks,  was not  operational.

 

 

eating there

 

Outside food is a no go at Splash Lagoon. However, there is a restaurant on site called Laguna Grill. It serves the expected theme park foods like burgers, pizza and chicken fingers.  One kind of odd thing was the ice cream stand. It’s nearby to the Laguna Grill, but to order a cone, you have to place the order at Laguna Grill, and then go to the stand to get your order. However, there was never anyone working at the stand, so you had to wait for someone who wasn’t busy at the grill to come over to scoop your order. K and the kids actually waited a half hour for an order that we placed (it was really good ice cream, admittedly, and almost worth the wait).

 

 

Hooch and Blotto’s Sports Bar& Grill is also connected to Splash Lagoon, and it’s a great place to go for a change of pace of the waterpark. While we didn’t partake in any food,  the menu was pretty tasty looking.  There was nice selection of craft beers featured, which I may have had one or two of. We did hit hit up the lanes there one night, to play some bowling. No shoe rentals required, and small balls with bumpers in the lanes available, so it was very kid-friendly. At the end, though, you might leave the prohibition-themed restaurant with the same thing on your mind as B did: what’s with all the moustaches?

 

 

Beyond these options, there are several restaurants a couple of minute’s drive away. Because, as I have noted before on here, we are kind of suckers for chains that aren’t near us, we went to Applebee’s one evening. It was delicious. Come to Hamilton, Ontario, Applebee’s. Sheesh.

 

applebee's erie pa

Who goes to Applebee’s with their family and takes a picture of his oversized drink? This guy.

 

 

this, that and there

 

Some closing points about Splash Lagoon in Erie PA. Staying at the Holiday Inn Express did allow us to walk back and forth to the waterpark and our room swim-ready. However, I did duck my head into the change room on hand, and it looked really clean. The closeness also meant that we could just leave our stuff in the room. Otherwise, a locker might have been needed, which are available on the premise, for various prices. As an option, there was lots of tables and seating around, which people would claim by leaving their stuff on.

Towels, unfortunately, are not available, unless you want to buy them at the Surf Shop store upstairs, so you gotta bring your own.

Parking is free.

In terms of staff, everyone that I encountered was friendly, and helpful. There were  plenty of lifeguards on hand, too, at every attraction.

 

 

getting out AND ABOUT there in erie pa

 

things to do in erie pa

 

I mentioned above about doing other stuff as a change of pace to Splash Lagoon. In terms of things to do in Erie,PA, it is a nice little city, with some cool options to keep you and your family busy, if you want to take a break from the water.

I loves me a good children’s museum (yes, even more so than my kids sometimes), so I, uh I mean we, really liked The expERIEnce Children’s MuseumLocated about 10 minutes away from Splash Lagoon, it’s three stories high, along with an outside play space.  Each floor focused on a different  play-inspiring theme: creativity, explore, and imagination. I  do think that it’s a bit more suited for smaller kids. B’s ten years old, and was more into goofing around with his brother and sister than most of the exhibits. However, J and KJ both had lots of fun, especially on the imagination floor being doctors, grocery store clerks, and firefighters.  The expERIEnce Children’s Musuem is definitely a nice place for kids to safely run around and blow off some steam, while learning a thing or two, in the process.

 

experience children's museum

 

 

 

experience children's musem

 

 

 

experience children's museum

Surprisingly, this wasn’t taken at Splash Lagoon.

 

 

 

If you want to blow off some steam, in the offline retail variety, Erie is also home to the MIllcreek Mall. It’s one of the largest mall complexes in the USA. Even with the Canadian dollar being where it’s at, there were some good deals to be had there.  Also, there’s no sales tax on clothes in Pennsylvania, to boot.

 

Millccreek Mall

 

For the sports fan, Erie, Pennsylvania is also home to teams like the NBA G League’s Erie Bayhawks and the OHL’s Erie Otters. Neither were in town during our stay, unfortunately.

 

While we didn’t do a heck of lot of sightseeing and exploring in Erie, PA, what we did see and do was very worthwhile.  Splash Lagoon, in particular, was the obvious highlight. When it comes  to affordable road trip destinations where you can pretend to get away to somewhere tropical for a day or two,  put Splash Lagoon at the top of your list.

Until the next one, peace!

 

Disclosure:  though our accommodations and experiences during our stay were covered by Visit Erie, all opinions expressed are my own, as always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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