Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Backyard Adventures at The Academy of Natural Sciences

Science is often a concept we think we need to go out of our way to find. Everyday life and environment are often overlooked when we compare them to a lab of test tubes or a jungle of exotic creatures.  This summer, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University invites you to explore the hidden world of science right outside your door with Backyard Adventures. From the red patio chairs at the exhibit entrance to an actual indoor mini golf course, there's plenty to experience!

Backyard Adventures is fully interactive with stations set up throughout the exhibit that engage, teach, and invite visitors to discover more. You can learn more about the honey bees by riding a bee bike while a nearby "sand table" uncovers the science of topography. You can even be a part of the food chain in a fun food web video game for up to four players. And for the youngest ones (or even the young at heart), you can dress up as some of the key players in backyard science: a bee, a lady bug, a snail, and more!

A highlight for us was definitely the mini Garden Golf course. The holes are very imaginative with fun features including lightweight balls, air tunnels, and a giant spider! We also enjoyed trying to throw a ball at the speed camera. Who doesn’t have dreams of being a world-class pitcher at some point in their lives? The park benches, picnic tables, and flowers everywhere around the exhibit gave it a nice outdoorsy touch that reminded us of our own yard or a nearby park.

A neat take-away from this exhibit was the DIY displays. A Billy cart and a bird house were built and on display for you to look at, touch, and explore. But as an encouragement for visitors to do more than just see it, they offer the plans for these do-it-yourself builds that include a materials list and instructions. What a clever way to take the science back home! Each station in Backyard Adventures shows a fun and different way you can find science in nature all around you. You don’t have to go to a museum to find it, but it sure was fun to get kick-started at this exhibit!

Backyard Adventures is on display through September 10.
Purchase tickets online at a discount at ansp.org.



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Monday, June 19, 2017

The Museum of the Revolutionary War

Daily Vacationer recently had the privilege of visiting the Museum of the American Revolution, (located at the corner of 3rd and Chestnut). This new museum, perfectly placed in Philadelphia's historic district, uses documents, artifacts, interactive exhibits, and theater programs to tell the story of America’s road to revolution.  We had a great time exploring all of it!

The staff recommends kicking off your visit with a viewing of the short movie "Revolution" in the Lenfest Myer Theater on the first floor. We definitely agree! "Revolution" perfectly sets up the experiences waiting on the museum's second floor. Upstairs, a cleverly organized path of rooms lead visitors along the revolution road. The exhibits start with a film depicting angry New Yorkers pulling down a statue of King George III. There's a mighty thud when it hits the ground that actually shakes the floor under your feet! A personal favorite place in the museum was the Boston Liberty Tree display, where visitors have a chance to touch a piece of wood from the last surviving Liberty Tree. Farther on, the Oneida Nation Theater, complete with life sized Native Americans and a large curved screen, teaches guests about the magnitude of the decision that Native American’s faced when choosing whether or not to take sides in the war (and which side to take!).

(Photo: The Museum of  the Revolutionary War)
You may have to wait in line for a little while to enter the Battle of Brandywine Theater, but it’s well worth it! After “forward marching” into this enclosed theater, you’ll get a small taste of what it may have been like to be part of the defeated continental army at Brandywine (note that while none of the violence is graphic, this brief movie does show the realities of war, and along with the loud sounds, flashing lights, and smoke, it may not be appropriate for the museum’s youngest visitors). All visitors, regardless of age, however, will be impressed by the privateer ship that is part of a display on The War of Sea. We especially enjoyed talking to the museum staff member on board, who told us all about what life was like on a sailing ship and even showed us how to tighten up the ropes holding the sails in place. Following a film about independence at Yorktown, we had the chance to think about what groups of people were not truly “free” even after independence. The continuing quest for rights and freedom by women, Native Americans, and African Americans is outlined in the “unfinished victories” display, as well as the film, “The Ongoing Revolution”.

After exiting the displays, we immediately got in line for a viewing of Washington’s War Tent, which museum staff recommended we see after going through the museum. This stirring film talks about the great leadership of George Washington, sharing the story of how he camped in a tent alongside his men, even in very difficult circumstances. The film ends when a screen is raised and you see on the stage George Washington’s Tent. The exhibits and film built up to this moment perfectly, allowing visitors to sense what a privilege it is to see this artifact from American history.

Daily Vacationer Jr says: Keep an eye out for panels that slide, lift up, or even spin around, revealing important objects or information from American history. Kids will also enjoy the large number of interactive displays and touch screens, as well as the life-sized people. Movies may be of special interest depending on a child’s age, but everyone should enjoy boarding the privateer ship. Make sure to bring your young visitor to the Patriot’s Gallery, down on the museum’s first floor, where children can dress up and role-play various parts in the revolution. Note that this room closes before the rest of the museum. You may want to ask for more information at the front desk. Museum staff was more than happy to talk to the youngest visitors and point out items of special interest in any given room.

The Museum of the Revolutionary War is a Timed Ticket Experience.
Make sure to book ahead!




Thursday, June 8, 2017

Chinese Lantern Festival

After last year's incredibly successful event in Franklin Square, Historic Philly has brought back the amazing Chinese Lantern Festival for 2017. We recently had the privilege of checking it all out, and we have to admit that it might be even better this year!  The Festival is made up of 25 plus displays that were put together in China using traditional techniques and then lit up with LED lights.  The giant lanterns (and some of them are HUGE) reflect mostly animal themes and cultural designs - though we did get a kick out of seeing the beloved Visit Philly "XOXO" lit up among the others.

There was delight at every turn of the festival, and as it got darker and darker, the more magical it became. You could keep going back to see it all in a new way again and again. Some of our favorites included the blinking Owls, the immersive Undersea scene, and the playfully swinging Monkeys.  We also loved looking for our own Zodiac Animal, as each one was whimsically represented with their corresponding years printed underneath. Of course, the breathtaking Walkways earned top marks in our books, while the 200-ft Chinese Dragon stole the show from every turn - wow!

The festival is enhanced with Asian cultural experiences including delicious Roe Thai and Japanese food, beautiful music, artisan craft demonstrations (we loved watching the Sugar Painting), and live entertainment from dancing to plate spinning.  At the feet of the mighty enormous dragon, the Dragon Beer Garden returns for another year with a bigger menu and a fantastic view of the displays.

Daily Vacationer Jr says:
The Chinese Lantern Festival is a great place for families!  The shining lanterns turn Franklin Square into a magical world that speaks to every age and sparks imagination.  Children will be delighted to discover that the Parx Liberty Carousel and the Philly Mini Golf course are still open throughout the festival.  The Playground is open until 9pm with a connecting gate this year. Square Burger also remains open with a delicious menu for twilight and evening food breaks. Many of the artisan crafts are child-friendly, and everyone will want to take home a stuffed friend from the Pagoda Shop!

The Chinese Lantern Festival will be in Franklin Square nightly through June 18th

Sunday - Thursday 6pm to 10pm
Friday and Saturday 6pm to 11pm
$17 adults
$12 ages 3-17 (2 and under are FREE)
$15 seniors and military




Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Daily Vacationer Jr: Port Discovery Children's Museum

One of our favorite things to do as Daily Vacationer Jr is visit children's museum.  Not only is it a lot of fun for the little vacationers that tag along, but we usually find ourselves having a great time among the interactive play spaces and exhibits.  So when we spent a little time down in Baltimore recently, we jumped at the chance to explore Port Discovery.  And we were not disappointed!  Set up in a uniquely leveled building with incredibly immersive themed exhibits, this children's museum was different than any other we've checked out before.

There's no way to miss "Kidworks"  - the three story urban treehouse smack dab in the center of the building and rising up to the very top of the museum. We admit, this was our most favorite thing in Port Discovery.  We could have had a blast on this just by ourselves, so it was fortunate that the little ones with us also wanted to climb and explore the whole thing over and over again. The ultimate in physical play meeting imagination, "Kidworks" can become anything you want it to. From a pirate ship to a space station, there was no lack of ideas at what it was being used for.  A maze of climbing walls and ropes, bridges, and platforms, one could spend all day in it and barely go the same way twice.  (A quick note for those with a fear of heights: If you make it to the top, the only way down is out across one of the bridges. We ventured out on the rather precarious hanging tunnel bridge ourselves, but there were a few more less intense options as well).

Another Port Discovery permanent exhibit that we loved was "Adventure Expeditions".  Visitor brave quick sand, tomb mazes, and ancient puzzles to explore 1920's Egypt (think a kid friendly Indiana Jones adventure).  The attention to detail in this exhibit is really what made it a favorite.  We found ourselves immediately reminded of a past visit to The Mummy Ride at Universal Studios.  While there was no roller coaster at the end, the painted walls, atmospheric voices and noises, and added environmental elements were impressive.  Little ones will enjoy the physical aspects of making it across the pull bridge and wandering the maze, while the older kids will love deciphering hieroglyphics to discover the tomb of the pharaoh.

For the much younger crowd, "Tot Trails" is the place to be.  With a calming nature theme, this exhibit is perfect for babies and toddlers just learning to explore the world around them.  Fake sand dunes provide a safe place for early walkers to test out their skills on inclines.  While the soft boats in the pond area are a relaxing spot for pre-mobile children to hangout. The climbers will love exploring the short steps and ramps in the forest and tunnel parts of the room.  There was even mess-free sand to play with.  Bring the little ones out various days during the week for special programs and storytimes in this exciting for small kids and relaxing for caretakers exhibit.

Each exhibit is has its own unique hands on learning and play experience whether you're pumping gas and grabbing a snack at "Royal Farms", cooking up a meal in "Tiny's Diner", or solving a crazy puzzle in "Miss Perception's Mystery House". Let the kids run free on the soccer field in "Kick It Up" or take a quiet break among the books and pillow in "The Oasis".  We personally loved the "Studio Workshop" with its grown up art studio feel.  "Wonders of Water" scored big points with our group (especially the big dryers for when they were done).

Port Discovery also has a schedule chocked full of fun from weekly programs to special events. Save on admission between 1-4:30pm on Thrifty Tuesdays and Thursday ($8 admission!) and stop in on Wonderful Wednesdays and Fantastic Fridays for Circle Time, Jingle Jangle Music Time, and more! The museum also hosts exciting traveling exhibits throughout the year along with weekend events. And be on the lookout for their Target $2 Family Fun Nights  Port Discovery also makes a great place for parties, overnighters, and group trips. The museum offers a few different membership levels, and this is place where purchasing a membership will definitely pay off!

One added note: We were big fans of the extra safety Port Discovery has in place for the visiting children.  Everyone gets a wristband on the way in, and in order to leave the building with any child, their number must match yours.  Fantastic idea!




Monday, May 22, 2017

Corner Bakery Cafe

Recently we had the privilege to be invited to check out Corner Bakery Cafe, a popular chain in the Greater Philly area.  We had actually never been in one ourselves, so we were really looking forward to the opportunity after hearing such good things about the food. We visited the location in Moorestown, NJ for breakfast and promptly returned that same afternoon for lunch. The experience was so good and tasty that we just had to go back and try something else on the menu.
The Corner Bakery Cafe is set up with counter ordering (similar to other chain bakeries in the area), but with a bit of table service included and A LOT more food choices.  Guests can look up at the options posted on the wall or view yummy choices right before them in the case, however we loved the printed menus available that made it easy to see everything offered and browse at your leisure. (The person standing at the counter who isn't sure yet what they want and is a little afraid they are missing out on seeing something they could be ordering? Yeah - that's us.)  We were also big fans of their fold out pamphlet with full nutrition information and healthy picks sitting right next to the regular menu.

The list of choices at the Corner Bakery Cafe is rather extensive with their delicious breakfast options available all day.  There is the usual cafe offerings of salads, soups, hot and cold sandwiches, and, of course their baked goods, but all are served above and beyond the expected with fresh ingredients and surprisingly yummy combinations (Ham and swiss on pretzel bread! Asian wonton salad! Meatball panini on sourdough!). We were also impressed to find handcrafted pasta on the menu (not a usual addition to most of the bakeries and cafes we've been to).

During our breakfast visit (where they were very patient with our indecisiveness in the face of so much good food), we finally decided on the Bacon & Cheddar Panini. served on grilled sourdough. This choice comes with two scrambled eggs, beautifully melted cheddar, and amazing smoked bacon (like the crispy good kind that your dad would make on Saturday mornings - yep, that good!).  The food was brought out to us along with our Caramel Latte, and we admit, we polished off the panini pretty fast before lingering over our Latte in the calm and relaxing cafe environment.  We unabashedly returned for lunch and got to enjoy the experience all over again.

Daily Vacationer Jr says: Corner Bakery Cafe is the perfect to place to take the little ones (even the picky eaters).  They have their own menu with an activity book inside to help keep them occupied while waiting for their food and afterwards when you want to stay and sip your coffee a bit.  The staff was very friendly and encouraging when our little vacationer wanted to order their own food: Chocolate chip buttermilk pancakes with bacon plus a chocolate milk (because sometimes you get to order whatever you want).  And while we thought we were chowing down quickly, we had nothing on the exuberant little eater in the booth with us.  They thought everything was absolutely delicious!

Corner Bakery Cafe also offers catering options for parties or meetings (or really anytime you want a ton of great food).  Gift cards are available as well and come in adorable mini brown shopping bags!

Greater Philadelphia Area Corner Bakery Locations:




Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Paws Discovery Farm

We go a lot of places as Daily Vacationer Jr, and every now and then we visit a location that gets everything unbelievably right.  Recently, we headed over to check out Paws Discovery Farm (a new sister location of the Garden State Discovery Museum), and things just kept getting better and more fun the longer that we were there.  With so much to do and see on and around the farm, this is one place that is absolutely worth the membership! (Usually we wait until the end of our posts to mention memberships, but we're saying it right from the beginning: Your kids are going to want to go again and again and again.)

The buildings on the property are some of the oldest structures in Burlington County and are cool throwbacks to when it was used as a working farm before becoming a non-profit nature center in 1979.  Since being brought into the Garden State Discovery Museum family, Paws maintains its family fun and farm history roots while benefiting from a renovated face lift with updated indoor and outdoor play areas as well as more ways to enjoy interacting with the animals in residence.  

The entry building is not only the place where you can buy feed for the animals and shop the awesome farm and nature themed gift shop, but it's also home to a fantastic indoor play place. Honestly, this play area could have been the entirety of the whole thing, and our little vacationers would have been completely content. With a nod to the different ecosystems of New Jersey, kids have the opportunity to build an eco-friendly house, host a BBQ picnic outside of their woodsy cabin, and go fishing and swimming "down the shore" in the ocean ball pit. Lovers of the classic children's story "Where the Wild Things Are" will be particularly delighted for the chance to make some noise with Max and a life sized Wild Thing in the storybook's forest.

This amazing play area is actually only the first of two indoor places with the second being a huge renovated barn with even more hands on interactive and pretend play (we did mean it when we said that you're going to want a membership to this place).  The barn play area is more farm focused with nooks to milk cows, gather eggs, plant and harvest crops, and bring all the fruits of your labor to the country market to sell and shop.  Visitors also get the chance to saddle up some horses, play veterinarian, and pretend to be chipmunks gathering and storing nuts.  We were also big fans of the train tables set up in the back, as well as the area for arts and crafts.  This is another place that we would have been content to spend all day playing inside.

The rest of Paws Discovery Farm is equally impressive and fun with something new to enjoy around every corner.  Nature trails decorated with forest fairies and friendly garden gnomes make a walk through the woods enjoyable for everyone, while the Butterfly Garden is a great place to see vibrant flowers and fluttering wings. We really enjoyed the outdoor play area with so many different kinds of wooden structures to play on!  Our vacationers cooked up a meal in the little house before boarding the long train, though their favorites were the pirate ship and the tractor with the slides.  (Personally, we were most appreciative of the easily accessible outdoor bathrooms nearby!)

One of the coolest parts of visiting Paws Discovery Farm is, of course, all of the live animals. We recommend checking out the Animal Gallery to really get a feel for just how many different kinds there are to see. In the newly opened Reptile and Small Mammal Farm House, we took great delight in meeting Ricardo, the mega-sized Iguana, Lily and Penelope, the large Red Footed Tortoises, and the Hedgehogs, Coconut and Cactus.  Out in their pens, we could see the massive Scottish Highland Cattle, as well as Curly the Emu. Visitors can also get up close with pigs, peacocks, chickens, goats, sheep, cows, alpacas, miniature horses, and more (make sure to bring the feed with you to the Storybook Barnyard!).  We were also impressed with the look we got of Lakota, the Red Tailed Hawk, and the other birds along the Wildlife Trail. A lot of the animals are available for adoptive sponsorship through the Paws Farm Protector Program.

Paws Discovery Farm is available for birthday parties, farm rentals, and field trips.  They can even take the farm to you with their Paws on Wheels Workshops and Mobile Petting Zoo.  On top of their normal hours and farm fun, Paws has a full calendar of Special Events, so there's always a good reason to visit. Paws Discovery Farm also has many different Memberships available (and we SO recommend one - our personal top pick being a combo membership with the Garden State Discovery Museum). Follow them on Facebook to stay in the know on upcoming events and new additions to their farm animal family.




Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Dinosaur Revolution at the Delaware Museum of Natural History

What is it about dinosaurs that are so interesting at every age? You can be four or forty, but there is always something exciting and new to learn about dinosaurs. At the Delaware Museum of Natural History’s Dinosaur Revolution exhibit, visitors are invited to come explore and learn so much more about these giant creatures of the past.

The exhibit is set up as a maze (this is your warning!) and begins with a walk past a giant long-necked dinosaur.  Then it's time to explore! The entire thing it set up as a series of questions and answers. You get asked a question, and based on what you think the answer is, you move in that direction. We love this set up. because it kept us mentally reviewing all the dinosaur info we knew (or thought we knew) while teaching us brand new things.  Don't worry if you get the wrong answer - the maze always loops around to give you another try.

Throughout the exhibit, interactive boards of information are sprinkled as you proceed through the maze. There was a great wealth of information! Once you get the right answer, things get even more hands on with stomping dinosaur footprints, swinging on a zip line, and digging for fossils.We went through twice so that we could get the full experience!
Daily Vacationer Jr says: With so much hands on and interactive parts to the exhibit, Dinosaur Revolution is fun for all ages. We recommend leaving the stroller outside the maze as the corners can get a little tight. Also the puppet theater and puzzle area is a great place to hang out and keep a look out for your party on both the entrance and exit as well as familiar feet going through the maze (bonus: it serves as a fun spot for younger or less adventurous siblings to play while they wait).

Dinosaur Revolution is on exhibit at the
Delaware Museum of Natural History until May 29, 2017



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