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Where to Stay in Lancaster: Hershey Farm Restaurant & Inn

(Thank you to the Hershey Farm Restaurant & Inn for hosting NY Foodie Family.  As always, all opinions are our own.)

When visiting Lancaster, Pennsylvania there are many choices on where to stay.  From campgrounds to bed and breakfast inns, there are accommodations for every budget. On our recent visit to Lancaster, we enjoyed a stay at the the Hershey Farm Inn.  This is a great family-friendly lodging choice with lots of amenities.

The Hershey Farm Inn is not a chain hotel.  They have 60 rooms, located in three different sections of the property. The two-story Main Inn has the feel of a traditional hotel, with a central lobby and interior rooms.

The Carriage House is the Inn’s more budget-friendly lodging option.  These rooms are more motel-like with private outdoor entrances.

Our family stayed in the Amish Farm House.  This 2-story house has traditional standard rooms as well as couples suites and 2-room family suites, which we stayed in.

In our suite, the exterior door enters the master bedroom.  This room has a king size bed, a chair, dresser, television, refrigerator and coffee maker.

The kids shared the second bedroom, which has a double bed, desk and chair.  It was nice for them to have a separate space to themselves.  After putting the kids to bed, my  husband and I could stay up with the lights on and  not disturb them. 

There is one bathroom in this suite.  I really loved the decor of the bathroom.  However, I wish that the sink area was a little larger.  Due to lack of space, it was hard for everyone to keep their toiletries around the sink.

The Hershey Farm Inn & Restaurant offers more than just a place to sleep.  There is plenty to see and do on the 23 acres of property.  For kids, there are two different playground areas for them to climb and explore.

At the back of the property, there is a large fishing pond.  Many swans and geese were inhabiting the area when we visited.  If we had more time, I would have liked to sit in one of the Adirondack chairs with a book.  It was so quiet and peaceful here.

The Inn has farm animals including goats and a barn with chickens and a rooster that wander freely.  Feed is available for purchase in the main lobby.

My kids loved swimming in the pool the most.  My husband and I enjoyed sitting under the cabanas to keep out of the sun.  There is no lifeguard on duty, though, so parental supervision is a must.  The pool is open until 10 PM though so the kids even got in some night swimming!

The Inn is located right next to the Sight & Sound Theatre.  For guests that have tickets, there is a convenient walking path connecting the two properties.

The Hershey Farm Restaurant is located on the property and overnight guests receive complimentary breakfast at the Grand Smorgasbord.  The breakfast buffet has an omelet station and made-to-order eggs.  They also have french toast, pancakes, make-your-own waffles, bacon, sausage, cereal, baked goods and more.  You will leave stuffed!

There is also a large gift shop and outdoor market onsite.  The gift shop sells everything from souvenirs and toys to clothing and sports merchandise.  Before we left, I purchased several plants and flowers from the outdoor market.   Guests who would like to have lunch or dinner at the onsite restaurant can get discount coupons at the front desk in the main lobby.

When planning a trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the Hershey Farm Restaurant & Inn is a great lodging choice for your family!

The Details:
The Hershey Farm Restaurant & Inn
240 Hartman Bridge Road
Ronks, PA 17572
(717) 687-8635

Rates:  Vary depending on dates – please check the website for availability and prices

Location:  The Hershey Farm Restaurant & Inn is conveniently located near the Sight & Sound Theatre, American Music Theatre, Strasburg Railroad, Dutch Wonderland, the Rockvale and Tanger Outlets, and more.

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A Tasty Good Time at the Turkey Hill Experience

(Thank you to the Turkey Hill Experience for hosting us.  As always, all opinions are our own.)

If you’ve perused my Instagram feed, you realize that my family loves ice cream.  Turkey Hill is one of our favorite brands and we especially love their Double Dunker and All Natural Mint Chocolate Chip.  But honestly, all the flavors are delicious!  So, on our recent trip to Lancaster County, I knew we had to make a stop at the Turkey Hill Experience.

Located in Columbia, Pennsylvania, the Turkey Hill Experience is about a twenty-five minute drive from the heart of Lancaster.  No ice cream or iced tea is actually made on premise.  Instead, as the name suggests, this attraction is a fun-filled, interactive “experience.”

The Experience is housed in a beautiful, large brick building that was a former silk mill. You know you are at the right place when you see the giant cow greeting you.  There are a couple of different admission tickets.  Our family enjoyed the Triple Scoop – which includes the Experience, the Taste Lab and the Tea Discovery.  It is important to note that the Taste Lab and Tea Discovery both require additional admission and a reservation time.

The Experience, located on the second floor, is self-guided.  Visitors get to learn how Turkey Hill ice cream is made; from quality assurance, to packaging and freezing.  In product development, guests can create their own virtual ice cream. Since the terminals can get backed up, we created our ice cream flavor as a family.  Further into the experience you will arrive at a different area to design the carton for your ice cream.

Finally, if you choose, you get to star in a commercial.  You stand in front of a green screen and read the provided script.  A commercial is then created, starring you (or, in our case, one of our children!). You can get it e-mailed to you so you have it as a keepsake of your visit.

Of course, you have to sample all of Turkey Hill’s iced teas and lemonades.  Unlimited samples are available, mostly of their different iced teas flavors.

There are lots of interactive exhibits throughout the Experience for visitors to engage with.  How well do you know Turkey Hill ice cream flavors?  You get to test your knowledge in this exhibit!  There are also great photo opportunities and even a small ball pit for children six and younger.

I highly recommend adding the Taste Lab to your Experience.  This was hands down our family’s favorite part of the visit!  During the 45 minute session you learn more about Turkey Hill ice cream.  You are then guided through the process of creating your own flavor.

Starting with a pint of vanilla ice cream, you get to add a flavor extract, inclusions and a variegate (what they call the syrups and sauces such as fudge, caramel, peanut butter, marshmallow, etc.).  There are some tough decisions to be made.  I mean, look at this wall of inclusions!

These were our delicious creations after we added our inclusions, but before we added the variegates and did the final mix.

After our delicious ice cream making adventure, we explored more of the Experience.  There are several exhibits about Turkey Hill’s other main product: Iced Tea.

We also got to learn more about tea in Tea Discovery.  During our thirty minute session we learned about and sampled six different teas.  Honestly, I don’t think you’re missing out if you don’t participate in a tea tasting.  Most of the teas we sampled were unsweetened and my kids didn’t enjoy them.  For tea connoisseurs, do not expect freshly brewed tea leaves.  However, you will get a short introduction to the history of tea and learn about different aromas and flavors of teas.

We were stuffed early on since we each devoured almost a pint of ice cream at the Taste Lab!  So we didn’t go to the ice cream sample room until the end of our visit.  The day’s flavors included vanilla, Dutch chocolate, chocolate mint chip, fruit rainbow, chocolate peanut butter, orange cream swirl, salted caramel and Graham Slam.  You get one sample at a time, but can go up as many times as you’d like.

You can’t miss the giant gift shop at the Turkey Hill Experience!  It literally takes up most of the main floor.  They sell everything from ice cream scoops and bowls to t-shirts and flavored lip balm.

If you have family of ice cream lovers, then the Turkey Hill Experience is for you!  This is such a tasty and fun attraction that the whole family will enjoy!

The Details:
Turkey Hill Experience
301 Linden Street
Columbia, PA 17512

Hours:  Please check the website for details.  Hours vary by month and day.

Admission:  Varies depending on what activities you’d like to participate in.  The Experience only starts at $9.95/adults, $9.50/kids 4-12 and senior citizens, Free/military and kids 3and under  Taste Lab; $5.45/person, Tea Discovery $3.45/person

Parking:  Free

Tips:

*Plan to spend around three hours at the Experience if participating in both the Taste Lab and Tea Discovery.  The recommended times are 60-90 minutes at the Experience, 45 minutes at the Taste Lab and 30 minutes at the Tea Discovery.

*Try to arrive closer to opening on weekends.  We arrived at opening and there was plenty of parking.  By the time we left around 12:30 the Experience was filled with a lot more people and the parking lot was full.

*If you know what day you will be visiting the Experience you can purchase your tickets online and reserve your time for the Taste Lab and/or Tea Discovery.

 

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A Foodie Tour of Kitchen Kettle Village

 

A foodie tour of Kitchen Kettle Village in Lancaster County Pennsylvania.

(Thank you to Kitchen Kettle Village for hosting NY Foodie Family.  As usual, all opinions are our own.)

Kitchen Kettle Village in Lancaster, PA started as a backyard jelly business over 60 years ago. Today, it’s a bustling village with over 40 different shops.  It’s also a haven of deliciousness for food lovers!  NY Foodie Family experienced quite the foodie tour of Kitchen Kettle Village. There’s a reason why nearly a million people visit each year!

Our tour started with lunch at Kling House Restaurant.   Before being turned into a restaurant, this was the house of several generations of Klings and Burnleys, co-founders of Kitchen Kettle Village.  The restaurant consists of many small rooms and has a very homey feel. Breakfast and lunch is served here and, in nice weather, you can enjoy your meal outside on the Terrace.

Once seated, guests are served a dish of Pepper Jam and cream cheese spread with crackers (I had to find out what that bowl of deliciousness was!).

During our lunch, my daughter and I shared the soup of the day (a salmon and corn chowder) and the Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich.  I cannot gush enough about the cajun ranch dressing that came with this sandwich.  We were even dipping the kettle chips in it!

My son opted for the Nuts and Berry Salad and my husband had this Lancaster County Reuben.  Everything was delicious and I highly recommend dining here if you are looking for a sit-down restaurant for lunch.

After our delicious meal, we continued our foodie tour with a stop at Aged and Cured.  This shop sells locally smoked meats and cheese.  The store sells over 50 different types of cheese.  And these aren’t your run-of-the-mill cheeses; Aged and Cured sells cheeses like Smoked Swiss, Strawberry Chardonnay and Steakhouse Onion cheese, the majority of which are made locally.  Even better, you can sample almost every cheese they sell!

The only cheese made on-site is the fresh mozzarella, which is made every Friday and Saturday.  You can see the cheese stretching demonstration both days at 11 AM and 2 PM.  It was fun watching a bowl of cheese curds transform into a delicious ball of mozzarella!  I didn’t realize so many variables like the pH of the water used, the humidity and even the temperature of the room all affect how the mozzarella will turn out.

If cheese isn’t your thing, Aged and Cured sells plenty of cured meats.  There is a selection of jerky, beef sticks and more.  Once again, there are plenty of samples of each to try.

Our next stop on our food tour was Pepper Lane Fudge and Sweets.  This shop sells all different kinds of fudge, including chocolate, cookies and cream, chocolate marshmallow and peanut butter.  All of the fudge is made on site at the shop and sold in slices that weigh just under 1/2 pound each.  On our visit, we were able to sample the regular chocolate fudge.

We watched the beginning stages of a batch of fudge being made.  The chocolate first has to be heated to 234 degrees F.  Once the chocolate reaches temp, it is poured on a chilled marble slab to cool. Eventually, the fudge will be paddled to aerate it, which gives it its creamy texture. It’s then rolled into a five foot loaf, which they slice and sell.  Fudge tip:  Do not refrigerate your fudge!  It will keep in an airtight container for two to three weeks.

Next we enjoyed ice cream cones from Lapp Valley Farms Ice Cream. The ice cream is made at the Lapp Valley Farms dairy, located only a couple of miles down the street from Kitchen Kettle Village.  Jersey cows produce the milk that is used to make the sixteen flavors of ice cream served here.

We enjoyed the strawberry, butter brickle, chocolate chip cookie dough, and (not pictured) mint chocolate chip.  The ice cream was super creamy and delicious!

A visit to Kitchen Kettle Village is not complete without a stop at the Jam & Relish Kitchen.  This is how Kitchen Kettle originated and is the “heart” of the Village.  Over 90 different products are made onsite here and Monday through Saturday visitors can watch some of them being made in the open kitchen.  Unfortunately, we missed seeing the vidalia onion relish being made the day of our visit.

The Kitchen sells everything from jams and relishes to salsa, pasta sauce, dips and more.  The number of jams and jellies they make is astounding, taking up a whole wall of the store. And, of course, there are samples of all to try.  The only question is, what items won’t you want to take home with you?!

You must try some of the classic Chow Chow.  Consisting of sweet and sour garden vegetables, this is one of Kitchen Kettle’s top selling relishes.

The Bake Shop is connected to the Jam & Relish Kitchen and sells many different pies, cookies and other delicious baked goods.  You can even purchase a gingerbread cookie for 99 cents and then use the icings they have set out to decorate it.

We made a stop at The Olive Basin, to do some olive oil and balsamic vinegar sampling as well.  This is one of the newest shops to Kitchen Kettle Village.  The taproom  has over 40 different olive oils and balsamic vinegars that are bottled on-site.

While I highly recommend the Kling House Restaurant for lunch, if you are looking for a quick-service meal, the Harvest Cafe menu includes burgers, wraps, soups and salads.  Still hungry for more?! You can get all kinds of different popcorn from Pappy’s Kettle Korn.  If you need a caffeine boost, The Roasted Rooster sells a variety of coffee roasted in Lancaster County.  They also sell smoothies, iced coffees and other beverages.  If we weren’t already stuffed I would have tried a pretzel from The Pretzel Haus.  I can only imagine how good their hand-crafted soft pretzel rods but taste!

 

A buggy ride in Lancaster County.

After our foodie tour we were stuffed!  We stopped by AAA Buggy Rides for a horse and buggy tour before we left.  We enjoyed a 55-minute ride through the Amish Country and even passed through a covered bridge.  Our driver Susanna was a great tour guide.  She was very informative and even let the kids, who were sitting up front with her, each take a turn driving the horses!

If you need a place to stay, The Inn at Kitchen Kettle Village has 17 lodging rooms available including deluxe guestrooms and suites.  We didn’t stay overnight at the Village, but the Inn has received great reviews on both TripAdvisor and Yelp.

As you can see, Kitchen Kettle Village offers lots of tasty options for foodies.  It’s a very family-friendly attraction for kids of all ages.

 

 

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A Visit to The Amish Farm and House (Lancaster, PA)

(Thank you to the Amish Farm and House for hosting NY Foodie Family.  As always, all opinions are our own.)

Lancaster County in Pennsylvania  is hard not to associate with the Amish.  And rightly so.  The Amish have had a presence in Lancaster since the 1720’s.  The Amish Farm and House offers great ways to give kids an up close look at Amish culture in a relaxed and fun setting. In fact, this unique attraction was the first to offer an inside look at Amish life and essentially created the Lancaster tour industry in 1955.

The Amish Farm and House in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, commercialization has infringed on the farm since that time, which now sits feet away from a Target store.  You enter the Amish Farm through the main entrance at the House.  Tours of the house are given every hour.  Although the tour guides are not Amish, many are Lancaster natives and are very knowledgeable on Amish culture. Our tour guide Susan was fantastic. She was so informative and I learned so much in the 40-minute tour.  The Amish live a very simple life, focused on family and community.  These values are reflected in the sights on the house tour as you visit the kitchen, bedrooms and a room set up to show what an Amish funeral might look like.

Both men and women wear solid-colored simple garments. Typically, the older you get, the less vibrant your clothes are.

When we finished the House tour, we exited onto the farm. The farm is 15-acres and tours are self-guided.  A numbered map identifies all of the attractions on the farm.  There is so much to see and do, including milking a “cow” (see photo).  I have to be honest, the kids were not as interested in the House tour as me and my husband.  However, they loved the farm!  During the summer months, there are several resident artists including a blacksmith, woodcarver and farrier onsite who practice their craft and answer any questions visitors may have.

There are several goats, two of which are pregnant as of this writing. The farm recently welcomed two sets of goat triplets (somewhat unusual) and one set of quadruplets (very unusual). And, yes, goat kids are adorable. I’m still trying to figure out how to keep pet goats inside our house! You can buy a handful of goat food from the dispenser for 25 cents. However Chris, the resident wood carver, shared that the goats really like the dried leaves on the ground. We spent a good amount of time feeding the goats dried leaves galore.

The kids loved Scooter Run where they got to ride scooters similar to the ones that the Amish ride.  Since Amish cannot own or drive cars, they use a horse and buggy, scooters, or even roller blades to get around. Surprisingly, they are allowed to hire cars to drive them around!

The farm has many different animals located throughout the farm including goats, chickens, horses, pigs, donkeys, mules, a steer and peafowl (peacocks and peahens). Unfortunately, we didn’t see the sheep or alpacas, which also live on the farm.  This steer was one of our favorites to watch.

There are a couple of play areas for younger kids to climb and slide with benches for adults to sit and supervise.

It started to rain quite a bit toward the end of our visit.  This didn’t stop my kids from riding the Farm’s newest attraction, Tractor Trails.  They pedaled around the track so many times I lost count. There are two tracks, one for children ages 2-7 and the other for children ages 8+, with appropriately sized pedal tractors.

We visited the Willow Lane One-Room School House, Lancaster’s only school house designed for public viewing.  Most Amish one-room school houses have 25+ students in grades 1 through 8. It was interesting to see the inside of the school and discover that it looks very similar to my own kids’ classrooms, minus all the technology.

We already had lunch plans elsewhere the day of our visit, but Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the Farm has a chicken BBQ. They also have a food stand that sells ribs, chicken, pulled pork sandwiches and more during normal operating hours.

Before you leave, you’ll want to stop by the gift shop.  They have a large selection of Amish-made items for sale including soaps, baskets, wooden toys and more.  My kids purchases almost every flavor of stick candy that was avaialble!

Goat Yoga is the newest addition to the farm.  I wish that I lived closer because I would be at every session!  Imagine doing yoga with baby goats running and jumping around:  cuteness overload!

We spent three hours at the farm, but we would have stayed longer if we had more time.  There’s lots to see and do and you really do get an idea of what Amish life is like.  If you have the time, The Amish Farm and House also offers bus tours into the neighboring areas.

The Details:
The Amish Farm and House
2395 Covered Bridge Drive
Lancaster, PA 17602
(717) 394-6185

Hours:  Open seven days a week 9 AM – 6 PM

Tips:
*The Amish Farm and House offers many different tour options. Check out the different tour packages that they offer.

*The house tour is approximately 40 minutes.

*Many attractions in Lancaster are closed on Sundays.  The Amish Farm and House is open seven days a week and  makes a great attraction to visit on a Sunday.

*Make sure your kids wear sneakers or close-toed shoes, especially if you think they will want to scooter or pedal on the tractor bikes.

 

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Visiting the Pagoda at Reading

 

During a recent visit to Reading, Pennsylvania our family visited the iconic pagoda.  Situated on Mt. Penn, the 110-year-old pagoda looks down upon the city and is, “Berk County’s most famous cultural and historical icon and landmark.”

As you drive up Dureya Drive, it is a surprising sight to see the majestic pagoda appear.  The walk from the parking area to the pagoda is a photo-worthy view of Reading, even on a cloudy day.   It sits 620 feet above the city of Reading and is anchored to the mountainside.

The pagoda was commissioned in 1906 by William A. Witman, Sr. and was intended to be a luxury resort.  Completed in 1908, the resort never opened due to the denial of a liquor license and a bank foreclosure.  Witman eventually deeded the pagoda to local business owner Jonathan Mould and his wife.  They in turn “sold” the pagoda for $1 to the City of Reading in 1911, who has since owned and cared for it.

The pagoda is seven stories high.  You enter on the second floor, through the Pagoda-Skyline Gift Shop and Happy Cat Cafe.  The cafe sells a variety of snacks and drinks, with plenty of seating to sit and enjoy them.  Although there is no admission, donations are requested to visit the top floor of the pagoda.

There are several staircases, totaling 87 steps in total, to climb to reach the top observation level.  Decorating the walls of each level are framed postcards and photos of the pagoda through the years. The sixth level of the pagoda houses a small exhibit that details the history of the pagoda and includes a small number of artifacts.

The observation floor is a small space.  There are two coin-operated binoculars that give a close-up view of the city of Reading.  Hanging from the ceiling is an antique Japanese bell.  This bell was cast in Japan in 1739 and shipped to the pagoda in 1907.

During your visit, be sure to walk down the outside steps and walk around the base of the pagoda.  There are several benches where you can sit and enjoy the view.

A visit to the Reading Pagoda will probably take about an hour.  This is a unique attraction that should be added to your to-see list when visiting or traveling though Berks County.

The Details:
Reading Pagoda
98 Duryea Drive
Reading, PA

Current Hours: (please check with the pagoda or the website for up-to-date information)
Thursday –  2 PM to 6 PM
Friday – Sunday 12 PM to 6 PM

Admission:  Free – $1.00 donation requested (50 cents for children 6-12 years) to visit the top floor observation area

Parking: Free parking

Tips:
*Wear comfortable shoes.  If it’s a nice day there are hiking trails adjacent to the pagoda.

*Food is available for purchase at the Happy Cat Cafe.  Snacks are reasonably priced with bottles of water for $1 and hotdogs for $2 each.  Only cash or checks are accepted at the cafe.

*There are bathrooms at the base of the pagoda.

*For geocache fans, there are two geocaches nearby (although we could only find one).

A Weekend in Corning

Nicknamed “Crystal City,” Corning, NY is perfect for a fun family weekend getaway.  Situated in the southern Finger Lakes region, there is something here for everyone. Last summer I visited Corning with my two children and we had a great time. However, the town will appeal to art lovers, wine connoisseurs, or couples looking for a romantic getaway as well.  The trip to Corning is a little less than 4 hours by car.

Where to Stay:

Staybridge Suites Corning
Staybridge Suites Corning is located a short distance from the Corning Museum of Glass.  This hotel is perfect for families.  Our suite had a small kitchenette with a table and chairs and a living room with a television.  The kids shared one bedroom and each got a bed all to themselves, while I slept in the other bedroom.  Getting ready in the morning was made easier with a bathroom in each bedroom.  My kids loved swimming in the indoor pool.  Breakfast is included with your stay, which is always nice when traveling, to save on expenses.  The buffet had a decent selection of hot and cold choices including oatmeal, scrambled eggs, waffles, pastries, fruit and more.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings the hotel hosts an evening reception with complimentary food and beverages.

What to do:

Rockwell Museum
The Rockwell Museum is located in the heart of Corning, on the corner of Cedar Street. The museum houses a diverse collection of art that tells the story of the American experience through the works of American artists.  Open at 9 AM, this is a great place to start your visit in Corning.   You can easily spend a couple of hours viewing the paintings, sculptures, photographs and other works of art.  You can buy a combo ticket to the Corning Museum of Glass and take advantage of the free shuttle.  Read all about why this museum is great for families!

 

 

Corning Museum of Glass
Most people associate Corning with the Corning Museum of Glass and of course it is a mandatory stop on your trip. The Corning Museum of Glass houses the world’s largest collection of glass art, with over 3,500 years of glass history exhibited throughout its galleries.  During your visit you will also be able to watch live glass making demonstrations that are held continuously throughout the day.

Prior to your visit, be sure to make a reservation at the Studio if you want to participate in a Make Your Own Glass experience.  For an additional fee, you can enjoy a memorable glass blowing experience and take home a souvenir of your trip.  Because the glass needs to undergo a slow cooling process, it must remain at the studio overnight and can be picked up the next day or shipped to your house, for a fee.  Read all about our visit to the CMOG.

Other Museums and Historic Sites
Located in or around Corning you will also find other museums including the Arnot Art Museum,  Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, the Finger Lakes Boating Museum and the Erie Depot.  History fans will also enjoy Mark Twain’s Elmira.

Watkins Glen International Speedway

Located approximately 30 minutes away is the Watkins Glen International Speedway.  If you are into car racing, you may want to plan a weekend when a race is taking place.  On specific dates, you can purchase a pass to drive your car around the raceway!


Shopping

The Gaffer District is home to over 50 shops. From clothing, jewelry, glass, wine, cigars, art and more, you will find something for everyone among the different shops.

Wineries & Breweries
The Finger Lakes is well-known for its wine trails.  But did you know that the region is also home to many breweries and distilleries?  While not something that I could partake in with the kids in tow, I can’t wait to return with my husband to enjoy the craft beverage trail.

Outdoor Fun
There are many different outdoor activities to enjoy in Corning.  Depending on when you visit you can kayak, hike, bike, fish, boat and even horseback ride.  No matter what season you visit, you should make time for a stop at Watkins Glen State Park.  A short drive from Corning, this New York State park is home to 19 waterfalls, a couple of which you can actually walk behind!  During our visit we kayaked, went horseback riding, and also visited Watkins Glen State Park.

Where to Eat:


 Old World Café

Within walking distance of the Rockwell Museum is the Old World Cafe.  It sits in the heart of the Gaffer District, and is a perfect place to grab lunch.  You can enjoy the homemade soups, sandwiches and salads, but leave room for some Purity ice cream, served in the parlor.

Hand + Foot
Back in the Gaffer District enjoy dinner at Hand + Foot.  The have a drink menu featuring an extensive list of draft beers.  Their menu features sandwiches and dishes made with seasonal ingredients.  The restaurant focuses on community and has one long table for seating, conducive for meeting the locals and making new friends.

Nickel’s Pit BBQ
After a hike at Watkins Glen State Park, visit Nickel’s Pit BBQ located on North Franklin Street. The restaurant is located in the historic Watkins Glen fire department building.   It serves all kinds of delicious BBQ in a casual, but fun atmosphere.

Village Tavern Restaurant
Located approximately 40 minutes away in Hammondsport, near Lake Keuka, is Village Tavern Restaurant.  This European style bar and restaurant serves award-winning wines and over 100 different beers.  While the restaurant specializes in fresh fish and seafood, the lunch menu includes a variety of salads and sandwiches.  This restaurant is seasonal and is open May through the beginning of December.

Note:  Thank you Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes for hosting our visit.  As always,  all opinions are our own. 

4

A Day of Family Fun at the Strong Museum of Play

You will enjoy a full day of family fun at the Strong Museum of Play.

{Thank you to the Strong and Visit Rochester for hosting us.}

The Strong Museum located in Rochester, NY is a must-see family attraction.

Bringing out your inner kid is easy to do when you visit the Strong Museum in Rochester.  Encompassing two floors and over 100,000 square feet of exhibits, you will easily spend an entire day visiting this museum.  I visited the Strong this summer with my 9 and 11-year-old children. During our visit we saw kids of all ages, from babies to college freshman visiting with the University of Rochester as part of orientation!

The kids playing Dance Dance Revolution at the Strong Museum of Play.

This is a very popular place! When we arrived at the 10 AM opening, there was already a line at the admission desk. Every exhibit in the Strong has interactive elements.  We first headed towards the Field of Play, where the focus is on the six different elements of play.  Here the kids climbed a rock wall, walked through a giant kaleidoscope, stood in an optical illusion house and more. They loved playing Dance Dance Revolution and I may have even danced a round or two for old time’s sake!

Younger children will love the Sesame Street Exhibit where they can sit on the stoop of 123 Sesame Street, visit Elmo’s World, watch old episodes of the show and more.

The Wegmans Super Kids Market at the Strong Museum.

My kids loved the Wegmans Super Kids Market and WKID TV.  When you enter the exhibit, you can pick either a shopping basket or a miniature shopping cart to shop with.  You are allowed to shop for six items at a time and then are requested to check out.  While shopping you can choose from a variety of foods including fruits & veggies, breads, fish, meats and cheese.  My son even picked up some sushi at the prepared foods section!  Checking out was their favorite part.  You place your items on the movable conveyor belt, scan them and then get an itemized, printed receipt! When you are finished, you are asked to re-shelve your items for the next group of shoppers.  The back of the store has the WKID TV station where kids can be on television or work the camera and lights.

During our visit, “Have a Ball” was in the short-term exhibit gallery.  This exhibit showcased the importance of ball play through different zones. We especially enjoyed playing with Spheros, remote-controlled balls, in the Robot Park. Upcoming exhibits include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Sept. 16, 2017 – January 1, 2018) and Thomas & Friends (January 20 – May 6, 2018).

Superhero fans will love the American Comic Book Heroes exhibit. Young and old will see a collection of familiar superheroes.  There are several hands-on displays and a fun photo op too!

A whole room of pinball machines at the Strong Museum. For a couple of bucks you can get a ton of tokens and play almost all the pinball machines.

The kids were sad that my husband couldn’t make the trip with us. He’s a huge pinball machine fan and they knew he would have loved the Pinball Playfields exhibit. It’s a huge room filled only with pinball machines! Included in the exhibit are the early, basic pinball machines to the fancy, themed ones of today. For only a couple of dollars you can get a bunch of tokens and play to your heart’s content.

You can spend the entire day at Reading Adventureland at the Strong Museum. There is so much to see and do!

One of my favorite areas of the museum was Reading Adventureland.  You can literally spend the entire day in just this one exhibit.  There are five different areas inspired by children’s literature including Adventure Island,  Fairy Tale Forest, Mystery Mansion, Upside-Down Nonsense House and Wizard’s Workshop.  Each landscape has books, interactive elements and some even have craft areas.

We didn’t spend much time in The Berenstein Bears exhibit, but younger children will have a blast with all of the hands-on fun here.  We also didn’t visit One History Place, an interactive exhibit of toys from the past.  For $1 per person you can ride on the Strong Express Train or the Elaine Wilson Carousel.

While we were visiting the Strong Museum we stopped for a lunch break at Billy Gray's.

Before heading upstairs we took a lunch break.  We opted to eat at Bill Gray’s where the kids got a cheeseburger and hot dog kids meal and I got a mushroom swiss burger.  I shared their fries and had brought a water bottle with me.  The kids were super excited that they could get a slushie with their kids meal.

The World Video Game Hall of Fame at the Strong Museum.

After lunch we visited the second floor.  We first stopped at the World Video Game Hall of Fame, where there is a pay-per-play video game room.  There is also a Toy Hall of Fame with the most popular toys of the different decades.  Definitely a walk down memory lane for me!

The kids loved playing electronic Bingo at the Strong Museum.

Upstairs  we also visited the “Game Time!” exhibit.  The kids really enjoyed playing oversized versions of classic games like Connect Four and Battleship. There are games including Jenga, an electronic word search, an electronic big screen Bingo game and more.  We didn’t spend too much time in the other upstairs exhibits, Play Pals, Build, Drive Go and America at Play, due to lack of time.

I was most impressed with the literature connections the museum makes.  Every exhibit in the library houses a collection of books related to the featured theme.  Even better, local area residents can borrow the books!  The Grada Hopeman Gelser Library is a circulating library open during normal museum hours.  Children can borrow books and then return them either back at the museum or any other public library branch in the system.  I think this is such an amazing resource.

As crowded as the museum was on a Friday during the summer, it’s spacious enough that it never felt like it.  The kids never had to wait more than a minute or two to interact with different exhibits. As you can see, there is a lot to do at the Strong.  We visited on a Friday, to take advantage of the longer hours.  When visiting the Rochester area, a visit to the Strong is a must!

The Details:

Strong National Museum of Play
One Manhattan Square
Rochester, NY 14607
(585) 263-2700

Parking:  Free large parking lot

Hours: Monday – Thursday, 10 AM – 5 PM Friday & Saturday, 10 AM – 8 PM, Sunday 12 PM – 5 PM

Admission: $14.50/ages 2+ (does not include admission to the butterfly garden)

Food: There is a food court with a Pizza Hut Express, Taco Bell Express, Subway and Louie’s Sweet Shoppe.  Billy Gray’s Restaurant is located in the museum atrium.  Outside food is permitted but must be eaten in lunchroom C, as the dining room tables and chairs in the food court and atrium are reserved for restaurant guests.

Tips:

*Bill Gray’s has a Happy Hour everyday from 2:30-4:30 PM with 1/2 price milkshakes.  Take a break and enjoy a sweet treat!

*Bill Gray’s restaurant accepts online coupons from its website.

*To make the most of your visit, get there at opening.  Plus, it’s less crowded!

*I recommend that moms wear a crossbody pocketbook or a backpack.  Having a bag keep falling off your shoulder can be very annoying (I know from personal experience!). You will want your hands free, because you will be playing and interacting with the exhibits too!

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California Globetrotter
6

Stepping Back In Time at the Genesee Country Village & Museum

(Thank you to the Genesee Country Village & Museum and Visit Rochester for hosting us.)

Imagine living in a time when you had to grow all of your own food and go to school in a one room schoolhouse.  It’s very difficult for children today to believe such times existed! When I learned that the Genesee Country Village & Museum is the largest living history museum in New York State, I knew that it had to be a stop on our #NYSummer2017.  History is so important in understanding the present and I know my kids learn best from hands-on experiences.

The Genesee Country Village is located approximately 25 minutes away from where we were staying in Rochester.  We arrived at the 10 AM opening ready for a day of fun.  Even though we were there from opening to close, we still weren’t able to see and do everything! When we arrived we received a map and a daily visitor’s guide of all the activities.

We started our visit at the John L Wehle Gallery.  A large collection of hunting and wildlife art is housed here, including paintings and sculptures.  There is also a historic costume collection display featuring 3,500 articles of historic clothing.  They have a room especially for children that has Lincoln Logs, a play kitchen, books and more. I let the kids play while I walked around the gallery.

After leaving the gallery, we headed towards the Historic Village.  The Village is comprised of 68 buildings and encompasses three different time periods: the Pioneer Settlement (1780’s -1830’s), Antebellum Village (1830’s – 1860’s) and Turn of the Century (1870’s – 1920’s).  To visit in time period order, you must start at the left after passing through the village entrance.

Costumed interpreters are in almost every building acting the part of a 19th century villager.  We met many villagers during our visit including a blacksmith, a printer, a tailor, a tinsmith and a dressmaker.  They are both knowledgeable and informative and able to answer any questions you may have.  They actually practice their craft while you visit, building baskets, spinning yarn, making prints and more.

We enjoyed sitting at a desk in the one room schoolhouse and learned that approximately 20 students of different ages would attend each day.  The exception was during planting season, when they would be needed to help in the fields.

Another favorite building was the Pioneer Farmstead.  There we watched a woman preparing Bubble & Squeak (cabbage, onion and potato) for the lunchtime meal.  There are animals on the farmstead  including a pig, sheep and chickens that the kids especially enjoyed visiting.

At 11:30 AM we headed to the Civil War Camp for the Civil War Cooking demonstration.  There we learned about the different types and small amounts of rations the soldiers received. Since there was no mess hall, soldiers had to prepare their own food.  With limited supplies, they had to cook their meager rations to make them edible and to prolong their shelf life. Besides the cooking demonstration we were also able to peek into a camp tent.

Watching the cooking demonstration made us hungry.  After the demo we headed to lunch at the Depot Restaurant.  The restaurant serves sandwiches, burgers, salads, chicken fingers, soup, mac and cheese and more.  The chicken salad sandwich was very good and the kids liked the mac and cheese and chicken fingers.  The restaurant sells ales for those interested in an adult beverage.  Everything is reasonably priced as well.

When the kids needed a break, we headed to the village square where they played 19th century games and attempted to walk on stilts.

D.B. Munger Confectionery is located in the village square and sells sweets and homemade baked goods.

We stopped by Silver Base Ball Park to some of the match between Spring Creek and Flower City.  It was fun to sit in the stands and see them playing ball, with no baseball gloves!

At 2:30 we returned to the Gallery for the free adult-and-child art activity.  On our visit we first took a look at a Bruno Liljefors fox painting out in the gallery. Then we went into the art studio and under the instruction of a gallery staff member painted our own copy. (If you have children 10 or older who enjoy art, like my children, try to take advantage of this fun activity!)

We left the Historic Village right around the 4 PM closing time.  Unfortunately, by the time we visited the Nature Center adjacent to the parking lot, it was closed.  There is access to several hiking trails from the Center but our feet were so tired from walking all day that we opted not to.  We did stop to take some pictures of the  beautiful water gardens before heading out.

We enjoyed our visit to the Genesee Country Village & Museum.  As you can see, there is a lot to see and do here!  When you’re in the Rochester area, make time to visit this fun and educational living history museum.

The Details:

Genesee Country Village & Museum
1410 Flint Hill Road
Mumford, NY 14511
(585) 538-6822

Parking:  Free, large parking lot

Hours: 10 AM – 4 PM, Tuesday through Sunday (May through September)  Wednesday- Sunday (September & October) The Historic Village and John L. Wehle Gallery are closed for the winter months except for special holiday events.  Please check the website for more details  as well as for the nature trail hours.

Admission:  $18/adult, $15/senior citizens (62+) and college students (w/ID), $10/youth (4-18)
-includes access to the Historic Village, John L. Wehle Gallery and nature trails (please check the website for admission prices for only the gallery or nature trails)

Food:  Food and snacks are available on premise at the Depot Restaurant, Freight House Pub and Pavilion Garden Restaurant (summer only).

Tips:

*The Historic Village is very large and you will most likely not be able to do or see everything.  Make sure to check out the daily visitor’s guide to plan which timed activities you’d like to visit.  They only occur once throughout the day.

*Certain village buildings close between 11 AM and 2 PM for staff lunch breaks.  You may want to visit the village before or after those times if you wish to see all the buildings.

*There is a free trolley on weekends (or by advanced registration if needed).

*This attraction requires a lot of walking. Wear sneakers or comfortable shoes.

*These are historic buildings.  Most of them are not stroller friendly.  You may need to park your stroller outside the building and walk with or hold younger children.

*For an additional fee you can make your own punched-tin ornament or purchase prints at the Printing Office.

*Go to the gift shop at the end of your visit.  During the summer it stays open until 4:30 PM, 3o minutes after the museum closes.

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California Globetrotter
12

Family Fun at the Seneca Park Zoo

(Thank you Seneca Park Zoo and Visit Rochester for hosting us.)

The kids and I visited the Seneca Park Zoo this past summer.  Located in Rochester along the Genesee River, this 15.5 acre zoo is home to over 90 species.  If you are expecting a gigantic zoo, this is not it.  Despite its small size, it offers plenty to see and do for several hours of enjoyment.

We visited on a Sunday and arrived at the 10 AM opening.  While at the admission booth, we learned it was “Funday” and we each received a ticket for a free small popcorn.  This was a tasty surprise!

The zoo’s layout is a straight path.  As you walk from the admission booth, the first building you see is the main building.  This is where you will find animals like the orangutans, lemurs,and white rhino. During our visit we were able to see a snake in the midst of shedding its skin, something we had never witnessed before.

While visiting this area we attended the orangutan experience.  We got to see four-year-old Bella playing around outside while her mom Kumang, pictured here, sat and watched.  I might have a love of orangutans and could have stood here all day and watched these two.  Denda, the dad, was inside the main building.

After leaving the main building, you can walk the Genesee Trail, which leads to the Eco Center.  The fish, reptiles, amphibians and otters live here.

From the Eco Center, you will next visit the Rocky Coasts.  As you walk, you will pass several animals including the Spotted Hyena, Gray Wolves, and Amur Tigers.  The Rocky Coasts area houses the Sea Lions and the Polar Bear habitat.  Sadly, Aurora, the zoo’s only polar bear, didn’t make an appearance while we were visiting.

Personally, I don’t think a visit to the zoo is complete without watching the sea lion feeding. For the best view, I recommend standing along the railing above the rocks.  We got to see 8-year-old Sea Lion, Lily, being fed and given her daily check-up from the zoo keeper.  Lily’s two-month old baby, Bob, sat on a rock sleeping in the sun for the duration of her feeding.  Bob was born in June 2017 and named via an online poll.

In the Center for Biodiversity Exploration you will find the  Z.O.T. (Zoologists of Tomorrow) Zone.  This is a hands-on display with different areas of zoo exploration for kids to engage with including zoo planning puzzles and Critter Kitchen (choosing the correct diets for different animals).

The “A Step Into Africa” exhibit is at the far end of the zoo.  This is where the baboons and the zoo’s four female elephants are housed. During our visit, we were able to see one of the elephants being scrubbed clean.  It was funny to see her being fed treats of whole ears of corn, heads of cauliflower, zucchini and peppers while she was bathed.  The elephants know over 50 verbal commands, which was impressive to see in action.

We ended our visit eating lunch at the Crater Canteen.  I was impressed by the food selections available as well as the reasonable prices.  The three of us shared a Strawberry Fields salad ($8.50) and a Canteen Panini (smoked turkey with pesto, fresh Roma tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella on sourdough bread for $8.50).  For those not as adventurous, they have burgers, hot dogs and chicken tenders as well as “Little Cubs” kids meals.  In the Crater Canteen area, there are several umbrella-covered tables for eating.

For me, one of the key features of the zoo isn’t the animals.  It was the docents standing at several of the exhibits.  These volunteers are there to answer any questions and inform visitors about the animals that they are viewing.  There is also a ZooTeens program where students in grades 8-12 act as zoo ambassadors.  During the summer, the teens make presentations and engage guests in interactive learning activities.

The Seneca Zoo is currently undergoing extensive renovations, which are expected to be completed sometime in 2018.  Construction is underway for new habitats for the White Rhino and the Snow Leopard.  Plus, there will be an “Animals of the Savanna” exhibit, as well as Red Panda, Giraffe and Zebra exhibits.  A new eatery, the Trailside Cafe, will also be opening.  When all the new construction is completed, the zoo looks to be an even better place to visit.

As I mentioned, this is a small zoo.  In approximately three hours we visited all the animal exhibits,  watched a couple of demonstrations, and ate lunch. There are animal experience programs occurring throughout the day and a small playground. Depending on the attention span and temperament of your children, you can make a longer or shorter day of it. This is a great family attraction to visit when in Rochester.

The Details:
Seneca Park Zoo
2222 St. Paul Street
Rochester, NY 14621
(585) 336-7200

Hours:  10 AM – 4 PM (April – October) 10 AM – 3 PM (November – March)

Parking:  Free parking

Admission:
April – October –  $12/adult, $11/seniors (63+), $9/youth (3-11)
November – March  $10/adult,  $9/seniors, $7/youth

Food:  Two food service areas Eagle’s Landing Cafe and Crater Canteen  (most entrees cost between $5.75-$8.50, most beverages, sides and snacks are priced between $2.25-$4.75)

Tips:

*The zoo is stroller-friendly.

*You can bring your own food and snacks.

*Make sure to check out the daily program to plan out what animal encounters you want to see.  Each experience only occurs one time each day.

 

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Horseback Riding in Watkins Glen with Painted Bar Stables

(Thank you Painted Bar Stables, Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce and Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes for hosting us.  As always, all opinions are my own.)

My kids are super adventurous and really wanted to try horseback riding this summer.  They were very excited to discover that they were going to go riding for the first time on our trip to the Southern Finger Lakes region of New York.

Painted Bar Stables was established in 2003, with Erika Eckstrom taking ownership in 2008. Located in Burdett, NY, minutes away from Watkins Glen, Painted Bar is a community-oriented riding facility.  There are approximately 37 horses at the stable, including three foals not yet ready for riding. The stable has a horse suitable for just about any rider and can accommodate groups as large as 15.

When we arrived at Painted Bar Stables, Erika was there to greet us.  As with any outdoor recreation activity with a physical risk, waivers have to be signed before riding and helmets must be worn.  Once we entered the barn, Erika gave us a short, but informative, overview on horseback riding.  She told us how to hold the reins and steer the horses. She noted that the rider is in control of the horse, but if we are not diligent, the horses will take advantage. For example, they prefer that the horses not eat during the trail ride.  However, the forest is a buffet for them and they will try to sneak in snacks if they can.  She used great analogies and explanations that the kids were able to understand, which helped give them a better understanding of horses and their behavior.

Prior to our arrival, Erika had chosen horses to match our sizes and riding ability.  My 9 year-old son rode Smudge, a small tan pony, perfectly sized for him.  My 11 year-old daughter rode Captain and I rode Panda (a.k.a. “Panda Paws”), a black and white horse named after a flavor of ice cream.  Once we met our horses Erika had her assistants help us untie them and we walked them out to the paddock. Once we mounted our horses our stirrups were adjusted and we were ready to ride!

Although I have some previous riding experience, it had been years since I was last on a horse. I have to admit that I wasn’t scared for myself riding, but I was concerned about how the kids would do being on a horse for the first time. Cody, one of Erika’s assistants, accompanied us on our ride, bringing up the rear. I was riding in the middle with my son in front of me and my daughter behind.  Since I couldn’t see my daughter, knowing Cody was there to help her made me a lot more comfortable.

Our trail ride was an hour long and approximately three miles. We rode from the paddock along a pasture where we saw some of the other horses, including the foals, grazing. We then rode past a field and eventually entered the woods.  The ride was a great length for us beginners and was super enjoyable.  It was a very scenic and peaceful trail ride. During the ride, the horses navigated fallen logs and rocks.  There were a couple of shallow streams we crossed where we stopped for a moment to give the horses a water break.  As we came to different parts of the trail Erika gave us reminders on how to sit (lean back  going down a hill or slightly forward riding up).  There is one part of the trail where the horses need to trot up a hill.  While my daughter loved it, my son was a bit unsure.

Erika really adapts the ride to the riders. At the end of the trail, there’s a straight path back up to the paddock, perfect for riding with a little more speed.  She asked if we wanted to ride a little faster up the hill.  Since my son was a bit hesitant, she rode with him up the path at a comfortable speed.  Then Cody led me and my daughter up at a faster trot. It was a win for everyone!

My kids loved horseback riding!  It’s all my daughter could talk about for days.  I had to hear how much she loved Captain and how she wants a horse of her own.  Getting a horse is never going to happen, however the kids are anxiously awaiting their next opportunity to go horseback riding.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures during the trail ride.  I kept my phone in a waist bag under my shirt, afraid that I’d drop it during the ride.  Plus, this was one of those experiences that should be fully taken in and enjoyed.

The Finger Lakes region of New York is such a picturesque area with lots to see and do.  On your visit, I recommend you make some time for a horseback ride at Painted Bar Stables.  Erika and her crew will ensure you have a great ride!

The Details:
Painted Bar Stables
4093 Lake Street
Burdett, NY 14818
(607) 216-8141

Hours:  Trail rides are by appointment only, available through the online rider request form.  Please give 24-48 hours advance notice.

Price:  Painted Bar Stables offers a variety of trail rides, specialty rides and even overnight and multi-day pack trips. The basic beginner rides are listed below.  Please check the site for other rides and prices.

Scenic Trail Ride (1 hour – 3 miles) $55/person
Beginner Adventure (1 1/2 hours – 4.5 miles) $$80/person

If paying by credit card, there is a 3.5% surcharge.

Additional Info:

*Children must be at least 8 years old to ride.
*There is a maximum weight limit of 250 pounds.
*Long pants and closed toe shoes or boots must be worn.
*Arrive 5-10 minutes before your scheduled ride.  If you are late it will cut into your ride time.

Tips:
Remember to wear sunscreen and bug spray.

Don’t bring along anything that you don’t mind losing!

If you enjoyed your ride, tip your guide.  Although it’s not required, tips are always appreciated.