While in Philadelphia, we knew that even though we were close to Washington DC and New York City, we just couldn't fit those stops into our intinerary. But, we could go to the Atlantic Ocean. We chose Belmar, NJ as it was "family friendly" and a straight shot over from Philadelphia. It took only an hour to get there, but we did have to park several blocks away from the ocean. It was a busy place that day! The adults have to have a beach pass which cost $7 a piece, to get on the beach. This was the kids first time in the ocean as was a highlight from the trip. The waves were pretty high that day and the kids and their dad had a lot of fun riding them out.
Saturday morning we tried out our first Dunkin Donuts. Boy do we wish we had one of those in Iowa. We loved it. The highlight was talking with the highlight was talking with the "men's group" that meets there every morning for coffee and donuts. They enjoyed hearing about our life in Iowa and what we were going to see in the great state of Pennsylvania as well as sharing stories about their lives with us. But, if anyone is reading this from Dunkin Donuts, we would sure love to have you out here in Iowa! We then took the kids to a local playground and visited the King of Prussia mall which is the second largest mall in america. The rest of the evening was spent swimming and treating ourselves to ice cream from the local Dairy Queen!
On Sunday we checked out of our hotel and headed to Hershey, PA. We went to Hershey's Chocolate World and took the free tour of the "factory". It is a musical ride through a make up factory that tells the history of the Hershey company and how the chocolate is made. Our daughter loved it so much we took it twice. At Chocolate World you can also watch an IMAX movie and make your own Hershey's chocolate bar (for $14.95). We opted not to do either one of those, but did spend a considerable amount of money in the Hershey gift shop. :-) We did take the trolley tour through town and is something I definately recommend. The guides are in period dress and one plays different characters throughout the tour. They tell the story of the Milton Hershey and his many many struggles with producing chocolate. The Hershey story is very inspirational as there were many times he could have given up, but never did. Since Hershey and his wife couldn't have children, they started the Hershey School for orphaned boys and the students live at the school. A$60 million endowment was left to the school. The school now serves girls as well and kids who are underpriviledged or couldn't afford school. I could tell this community was very proud of their Hershey roots and will be a Hershey candy supporter for life. Gee....isn't that honorable of me! :-) Mmmmmmm!
We stayed in Mechanicsburg, PA at the Hampton Inn because it was considerably cheaper than staying in Hershey. To stay at the Hershey Lodge for 2 nights and go to Hershey Park would have cost our family over $800. But, to stay 1/2 away for 2 nights and pay to get into the park was just under $500, a HUGE savings! The Hampton Inn was very nice and had an outdoor pool which was a nice change from the indoor pools at other hotels. The only down side was the smoking area was in the pool area. Not a good choice for kids to be around smokers. There was a very nice free, hot breakfast each morning as well.
Hershey Park was the highlight of the trip for the kids. Our middle son had no fear and was eager to try all the roller coasters including the newest, Farenheit, with a 90 degree ride up and 97 degree drop down. Each of their rides are coded with a different type of candy that is related to your child's height. So, it was easy to see which rides your kids were able to do. There were plenty of rides for our youngest as well as our oldest, including us too. I appreciated the pride the ride workers took in their job. Safety was definately a priority there and if a child was close to being to small or too big for a ride, they were immediately measured and removed if they didn't meet the qualifications. We spent 11 hours there, but unfortunately, we didn't get to go into the Boardwalk, which is their waterpark. It was huge and could have spent one entire day just in the waterpark. Something to keep in mind if you visit there. It cost our family just over $200 to get into the park even using discount coupons that we got at KFC. The meals in the park were the usual amusement park fare and a little pricey. You can leave the park to picnic, but it would have been pretty time consuming to walk back to our vehicle just to eat. We opted to eat in the park. We were all super exhausted that night, but it was a fabulous day!
On Tuesday we left and headed to Gettysburg, PA. We went to the Visitor Center and watched the movie, saw the Cyclorama, toured their museum, and took a battlefield tour on a bus. This got a little long for our kids, but was still very interesting. It is amazing that the battlefields and monuments are still so well taken care of. The tour guide was excellent in making us feel like we were there during the civil war. I know once the kids learn about the civil war and the battles, they will remember this tour and hopefully find the material easier to remember.
Enjoy the photos:
Vacation Part 2 on PhotoPeach