Tag: lonely island

Road Trippin’ – Harrisburg And Hershey Pennsylvania!

My good friends at Visit Harrisburg and Hershey generously invited us to explore the area recently, as part of their incentivised Media Days program.  If you’re thinking of doing a road trip this summer with your family, making the drive deep into the heart of Pennsylvania is definitely worth considering!

For us, it was about a seven hour ride with stops, because, well, kids. It’s a nice drive, though, as it’s pretty scenic.  Since it was kind of on the way to the hotel, and because we wanted to walk around after being in our van for so long, the first place we checked out was the Indian Echo Caverns at Echo Dell.  This is a limestone cave, located in Hummelstown, which also has a playground and petting zoo on site. Upon descending down a long flight of stairs (which feels longer when you ascend them afterwards, especially if carrying a one year kid, like I was), we were given a guided tour into the caverns.  The tour took about 45 minutes, and I was amazed at the various formations. It was really cool (no, for real, the temperature inside was 52 degrees), and our guide was entertainingly knowledgeable.  He also unintentionally took our best/worst family photo ever:

I asked him how the picture looked, and he said good. I shouldn’t have taken his word for it.

We next made our way over to the hotel, The Central Hotel And Conference Center, in Harrisburg.  For our purposes, this was a perfect place to stay, as it was in a central location to any place that we wanted to visit. Hershey, for example is about 14 miles from Harrisburg, so only about 20 minutes away from the hotel. I also understand that since Hershey is more of a known tourist destination, actually staying at one of the official Hershey lodging options is a bit expensive. If you don’t mind the short drive, I’d recommend staying in Harrisburg instead, and saving a few bucks.

B and J reacting to our welcome package at the hotel.

After dinner, it was time to satisfy our sweet teeth, as we headed over to Chocolatetown USA, to visit Hershey’s Chocolate World.  This place had all kinds of delicious, fun things to do, and also a store with the huge selection of Hershey’s goodies. Parking is free for up to three hours, which is plenty of time to enjoy a bunch of the attractions. We all did the Trolley Works tour, where we rode a trolley though Hershey and learned about the history of the city, while also sampling some chocolates. K and the kids then went on  the chocolate making tour (note: this is free, plus you get a chocolate sample at the end).  I went to unleash my inner Milton Hershey by creating my own candy bar!

 

Despite being tasty, The Daddy Realness bar will not be hitting store shelves any time soon.

The next day was spent at Hersheypark. For the uninitiated, this place is a Hershey’s themed family park, which has an amusement park, a water park and a zoo in it. Our plan was to hit up the water stuff in the morning, and then do the dry stuff in the afternoon, as we figured (correctly, as it turned out) most people would do the opposite, so the lines wouldn’t be as long. We tried to jam as many rides in as possible, but the place had over 70 of them. We barely made a dent. The selection was great, though, I gotta admit. They ranged from ones that KJ (a Hershey’s miniature, according to the height guide) could go on and enjoy, to ones the thrilliest seeker would like. Fahrenheit in particular, had me looking up at it, shaking my head in disbelief.

Yeah. Heck no.

Another nice aspect of the amusement park was the layout. I’ve been to parks that had a ‘kiddie section’, with the ‘adult’ rides at a separate spot. At Hersheypark, though, everything was mixed. So in theory, the parents could go lineup for a ride, while the kids went on a different one nearby. My kids were too young to do this, admittedly, but it’s a good thought.

One other thing to mention is that you should keep an eye out for the various Hershey characters throughout the park. J was lucky enough to be picked to play in the travelling Character Game Show, where she won a prize!

East Coast Waterworks was easily the favorite attraction, among my fam. It’s a kid friendly water play area, with lots of slides, tunnels and toys. We spent at least an hour there. I’ve noticed that I’ve become more of a chicken as I’ve gotten older, when it comes to thrill-seeking, so my favorite ride by far was the lazy river. All in all, it was jammed-pack, exhausting day at Hersheypark, and we didn’t even make it over to the zoo!

The following day started with a visit to Hershey Gardens. In addition to the 23 acre botanical part, it also houses a butterfly atrium.  Walking through the atrium was quite an experience. I’ve never seen so many butterflies before! There were dozens and dozens of different kinds, from all over the world, freely flying about.  I will say that they kept the temperature hot in there, which had me feeling like Nelly in 2002.

Sad attempt at a selfie with a butterfly.

 

Afterwards, we made our way outside, specifically, to the Children’s Gardens.  We followed the pathways while going past various gardens, many of which were interactive in nature. It unfortunately started to rain, so we didn’t check out the rest of the grounds. I’m not exactly a flower enthusiast, but I’ll vouch for the beauty of the Gardens as being something everyone can appreciate.

Afterwards,  it was time to go on a boat ride. Since Harrisburg actually lies on the Susquehanna River,  we took the bridge to City Island, to take a cruise on The Pride Of The Susquehanna. The Pride is one of only six authentic paddle wheel riverboats in the USA (so paddles only for steering and propulsion). Besides driving like a throwback, the interior is decorated as such, too, giving it an old-timey vibe. The sightseeing tour that we went on was about 45 minutes long.  I’d like to say that we relaxed and enjoyed the views while listening to the recording explaining the history of the river and Harrisburg. But, you know, kids. B and J were more excited about being on a boat than The Lonely Island ever was (note: T-Pain was not on the Pride).  They ran around like maniacs, getting excited about the littlest things (“HEY DADDY! LOOK! THERE’S A BATHROOM!). You were also able to buy some snacks on board, if that floats your boat (this fact really floated B and J’s boat).

After docking, it was time to hit up downtown Harrisburg. To be honest, it wasn’t quite what I expected. There were definitely some nice old buildings, like the Pennsylvania State Capitol, and a bunch of cool looking restaurants. Like most major cities, though, I get the feeling that you probably don’t want to be in certain streets when it’s dark. That’s not to say stay away from downtown, obviously; I’m just saying I felt a bit uncomfortable in certain spots during the day, but totally safe for the most part.

One of those safe places is the Whitaker Center. I loves me a good science center, and the Whitaker fit the bill. Three floors of over 200 hundred hand-on, interactive exhibits? Yes please! Kidsplace, in particular, was a favorite of KJ’s.

B and J really liked building cars and paper planes in the Move It! section. K and I had fun trying our hands at making stop-motion animated movies in the Backstage Studio. While my attempts predictably sucked, K apparently is Walt Disney’s grandchild or something, as she made a couple of mini masterpieces.  The Whitaker Center also has a cinema with a huge 38’x70′ screen, if you want to catch a flick, as well as an intimate performance theater.

There’s also plenty of cheesy tourist photo opportunities, don’t worry.

Not far from the Whitaker is the State Museum of Pennsylvania, so we headed there next. This museum is very comprehensive, in terms of covering different periods in Pennsylvania history. It was hard to soak in as much as I would have liked (because, you know, kids), but it was still a worthwhile visit. KJ loved the baby/toddler Curious Connection area. It’s the type of place where I saw a tunnel, so I was like, yo, I wonder where that goes. The next thing I know, I was on my hands and knees crawling through it like I was Andy in The Shawshank Redemption, and I ended up in a playhouse. Just a fun environment to put your little one down in, to let them explore. The rest of us liked the third floor the most, with the various animal and dinosaur exhibits.

Plus, there’s a huge statue of William Penn there.

Our last stop on our trip was my personal favorite. I was hoping to catch a Harrisburg Senators minor league baseball game, but alas, they were out of town. However, we got the next best thing – a private tour of their stadium, FNB Field! The team’s general manager, Randy Whitaker, generously took some time out of his day to show us around. FNB Field is located on City Island,  which made it unique from the other stadiums, because how many stadiums are even on an island?! Besides this, the coolest part is their Life Sized Bobblehead Hall of Fame, featuring numerous Harrisburg Senator legends.

All in all, it was a great trip!  Hershey on it’s own was awesome, but besides the Sweetest Place On Earth, our experience in Harrisburg was positive overall, too.

In J’s opinion, it was the best trip ever!

Until the next one, peace!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make A Dollar Out Of 15 Cents

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – never underestimate the power of a child’s imagination. Even though the game’s changed, and kids nowadays are different than how I was when I was a little, this statement still rings true.

B and J, for example, love technology. If left to their own devices, they could spend hours playing on their devices, or watching TV, Netflix or Youtube.  And in all honesty, sometimes I don’t mind a little tech time. It’s a break from the chaotic havoc and non-stop bickering that usually goes on in our house. The kids quietly staring at a screen, not getting into trouble? Sign me up!

The downside, of course, is that too much screen time will probably turn their brains into mush. Therefore, kids need to find other ways to entertain themselves. And I gotta admit, when it comes to making something out of nothing, to combat boredom, J is a pretty resourceful girl.

Take last Sunday, for example. It was just J, little KJ, and yours truly hangin’ and bangin’. Out of nowhere, J blurted out that she was going to make a train.  Lacking anything even remotely resembling train parts, I had no clue what her plan was. She then ran off to the garage, came back with two giant boxes and put in some work.

KJ also tried to help.

A while later, here was her end result:


Two train cars, attached with tape. One baby-friendly, with toys and snacks for KJ.  One J-friendly, with, uhh, a picture of her hanging in it, for some reason.

They played in these for a while, including pulling them around the kitchen, making “stops”. Eventually (or a lot longer than I would have thought, since it’s just two boxes),  J got bored and tried to play on her tablet. I could tell that KJ wanted to keep playing with her, though, so I suggested that she entertain him.

Her solution? Instead of watching unboxing videos on Youtube, her and KJ could play “unboxing videos on Youtube”!

This literally involved J hiding in a box and KJ opening it up. To his credit, KJ seemed impressed each time he peeled back the flaps, and saw her sprawled inside.  You know,  like how Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph looked when they opened their presents in that Saturday Night Live “D**k In A Box” video.

Step 1…

Later that evening, after I put KJ to bed, I heard J singing. While some kids belt out Disney songs, or Bruno Mars hits, or Cardi B jams (see, I’m hip to today’s music), J was singing about…..punctuation.  I went in her room, and saw her standing with a marker in hand, beside this creation:

 

We then had the following conversation:

Me – What are you doing?

J – Oh, I’m just working on my anxiety.

Me – Your anxiety?!

J – Yeah.  My teacher says that I need to practise my anxiety. *starts singing about puncuation*

Me – I don’t think that’s the right word. You drew some punctuation marks.

J – I did?

Me – Yes! *I point to them*

J – Oh. There’s four of them! Question mark….explanation mark….comma…..what’s the fourth one?

Me – Period.

J – What’s a period?

Me – You drew it! It’s the dot.

J – Oh right! I forgot. Then what are these? *scribbles randomly*

Me – Those aren’t anything. Why are their hands?

J – Those are my hands.

Me – I know. But why did you draw them?

J – I dunno.

Maybe the hands were anxiety hands. Who knows.  You catch my drift, though. Leave a kid on on their own, and they can come up with some wild thoughts (word to DJ Khaled!).

Anyway, I went downstairs after that encounter. A bit later, since imagination knows no timeframe (re: she didn’t want to go to bed),  J came downstairs, to tell me about her latest project:

J – You know how you always wanted a puppy house?

Me – I’ve never said that before. We don’t even have a dog.

J – Well feast your eyes on this! See, you just put your puppy in here, and they can sleep in it.

Me – Ok. This is awesome. But the roof is a book? What if you want to read it?

J – Oh, I’m too big to read it.

Me – What if KJ wants to read it?

J – Oh. Well. He can just take the tape…

*stops talking, to think hard*

He’s never going to read it! *grabs house, goes back upstairs*

 

Children’s imagination, people. They can turn nothing into something better than we can, for real.  And that’s not even getting into the deadly burglar ball that B and J concocted.

Until next time, peace!

 

 

 

Lazy Sunday

 

SNL_Digital_Shorts-title

 

One of the funniest things that I’ve seen on Saturday Night Live was the digital short “Lazy Sunday”, by the Lonely Island. Two guys rapping about the boring, kinda wack stuff that they do? Somehow, it’s hilarious, for real!   Along those lines, I realize now that kids can also turn the most mundane activities into memorable experiences. It’s cool, though, because that means that things are always interesting, for better or worse.

Usually worse.

I remember one Sunday afternoon maybe a year ago. Me and B were chillin’ like villians. Some quality dude time minus the girls. B wanted to play downstairs (his exact words: ‘I want to play cars downstairs. I want you to play cars with me downstairs. C’mon man, I love you!’), so off we went.

After playing for a while, I noticed B was hogging all the fun stuff. I guess that is one way to always be entertained, to horde all the cool toys. That did nothing for my interest level, however. So, I did what any bored parent would do in this situation – I started being a jerk and taking things from him while he was playing with them. B, being an unusually aware toddler, immediately caught on and smelled what I was cookin’:
B(reaches into pile, pulls out a balloon) – ‘You swipe it?’
Me – ‘Yeah!’ (I take the balloon and laugh.)
B – (pulls out a toy guitar) – ‘You swipe it?’
Me – ‘Yeah!’ (I take it and laugh again)
B (pulls out a zoo play thing) – ‘You swipe it?’
More swiping and laughing by me.
B (pulls out a toy baseball bat) – ‘You swipe it?’
Me – ‘Yeah!’
B- ‘No!! I swipe you first!’
He then wound up like Mark McGwire and cracked me in the head with the bat. If it was a ballgame, he would have had a homer, easy. Serves me right, though, for being a jerk.

Mark_mcgwire

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stupid Poetic Justice!

Anyway, later, after my head stopped hurting, B suggested that we play hide and seek….except he didn’t actually know how to play it.

Me – ‘OK, turn around, count to ten. I’ll hide and you come find me!’
B (turns around, starts walking over to the couch) – ‘1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 10!’ (He stands beside the couch, in the wide open) ‘Come find me!’
I try to explain how it works, then we try again:
Me – ‘OK, I’ll turn around, close my eyes and count to ten. Go hide and I’ll find you!’
I turn around and count. I turn back around, B hasn’t moved, but is smiling huge. He then walks over to the same spot beside the couch that he was at before:
B – ‘Come find me!’
Yeah, this wasn’t going well. So we did some walkthroughs and B sort of gets the hang of it. And then:
Me – ‘OK, I’ll go upstairs, count to ten, and come back down and find you!’
I leave, come back, I hear B giggling behind a curtain. Minus the giggling, not a bad spot, right? I pull the curtain back:
Me – ‘Found you…….wait, where are your pants!?’
B – ‘Hide and Seek!’
He took his pants off and hid them……beside the same spot by the couch that he was at before.
Like I said, it is always….interesting, for better or worse.

Usually worse.

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