Sunday, August 21, 2016

Daily Vacationer Jr: Day Out with Thomas at Strasburg Rail Road

Thomas & Friends lovers rejoice! A Day Out with Thomas is returning to Strasburg Rail Road from August 27 thru September 4th, and we are SOOOOOO excited! Of all the places that the A Day Out with Thomas tour travels to around the country, it's no secret that the historical Strasburg Rail Road is known as THE BEST place to experience this fun and memorable event! Strasburg Rail Road runs daily steam trains most of the year with special events constantly popping up on their calendar.  Its old time feel (from the ticket booth and cute shops at the station to the costumed staff and the steam trains themselves) make it an awesome place to visit on any day, but when Thomas and his best friend Percy come rolling in for the week, it becomes literally one of the coolest things your child (and admit it, yourself) will ever experience!

We had a chance to check out A Day Out with Thomas last summer, and we were absolutely blown away by how well run the event was and how much there was to do!  Obviously the focal point of the day was getting a chance to watch real life steam trains, Thomas and Percy, chug their way up to the platform smiling and greeting everyone (really! they talk!).  Just seeing them from afar rolling across the countryside was enough to send our Day Out with Thomas testers into an absolute frenzy!  Both trains hang out in the station long enough for lots and lots of photo ops between rides.  After riding behind both engines, we HIGHLY recommend purchasing the Percy package for the full experience. (Don't worry if you already only bought tickets for just Thomas - you can upgrade right at the station.)

On top of the fun of the train rides, there's TONS to do at the station (and most of it is FREE for train ride ticket holders).  Strasburg Rail Road already boasts an impressive amount of fun extras including the hand propelled Cranky Cars and the Pint -Sized Pufferbelly, but during A Day Out with Thomas there's even more to do around the station.  Take your pick of riding Thomas mini Power Wheels, listening in on a Story Time, playing at the Wooden Train Tables and the Imagination Station, viewing favorite Thomas & Friends videos, and meeting the chairman of the railway himself, Sir Topham Hatt!

Tickets for A Day Out with Thomas sell out (especially on the weekends), so book in advance! This is an experience that we feel is an absolute MUST for families who LOVE Thomas & Friends.  We've been there, and if we had the chance we would go back to do it all again every single time Thomas and Percy make tracks to Strasburg Rail Road!

What's that coming down the track? A GIVEAWAY!!
Enter to WIN tickets for 1:15pm on Monday, August 29th!!
Good luck!



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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Philadelphia Museum of Art: Creative Africa

The summer season may be coming to a close, but fortunately you still have until September 25th to experience Creative Africa on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Perelman Building (an endeavor achieved in partnership with the Penn Museum).  An eye opening explosion of art, we were blown away by the all the different facets of the exhibit, and how they each showcase the beauty and history of the African continent.  We loved the tone of the exhibit - a total celebration of an amazing mix of cultures.  Creative Africa ushers in either a deeper appreciation of a way of life beyond one's own or a deeper sense of pride in a personal heritage. It tells a story of different groups of people with common histories yet unique ways of looking at and reacting to them.

Creative Africa highlights an array of different art mediums spanning centuries of formation from photography and fashion to sculpture and architecture.  The exhibit also shines a light on various locations around and sometimes very conflicting views of the continent.  For example, Three Photographers/Six Cities takes a look at Cairo, Nairobi, Lagos, Johannesburg, Bamako, and Tombouctou while Threads of Tradition showcases textiles from West and Central Africa. We also love how Creative Africa uses less traditional methods of exhibiting artwork and innovation as through the colorful runway of Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Scale and the multimedia look at what The Architecture of Frances Kere: Building for a Community is doing to improve lives in Burkina Faso.

One of the best parts of the exhibit was how interactive each part was with a hands on station in almost every part of the building.  From being able to create your own textiles and guardian image masks to using special "cameras" to go on assignment in the photography area, Creative Africa doesn't just show the results of others' creativity, it also inspires creativity in its visitors.

Daily Vacationer Jr says:  Creative Africa is the focal point of this year's Art Splash with age appropriate tours,  hands on crafts, and loads of fascinating fun!




Monday, July 25, 2016

Daily Vacationer Jr: Art Splash at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

One of our favorite summer activities is back at the Philadelphia Museum of Art! Art Splash returns this year immersed in the middle of the explosively colorful and sensory Creative Africa exhibit at The Perelman Building.  Each week from July 1st to September 5th Art Splash showcases a new take on the different artistic mediums and highlights of the exhibit including Travel, Design, Build, Print, and Sculpt.  Stop in at the Splash Studio between 10am and 5pm daily to create your own take home art project (parents of little ones will especially love the building blocks and puzzles and the little chairs and big squishy pillows).

At 11:00am and 3:00pm little ones can go on Family Tours around the galleries.  We tagged along with the Early Birds (ages 3-5) and found it all to be extremely engaging and very age appropriate. A great way to introduce children to the vast world of art, the tour included a short story time and and ended with a souvenir.  The Art Cart is also out daily from noon to 3pm giving even more hands on experiences to the Creative Africa exhibit.

Families who love Art Splash will be thrilled to learn that the Philadelphia Museum of Art offers family programs all year long with festivals, special tours, classes, and workshops. Caregivers of toddlers can enjoy an Early Bird Playdate while those with babies can join others on a Stroller Tour. Every Sunday is Family Day with the interactive Art Cart and fun Family Tours. Admission for 12 and under is always FREE (check the website for class and workshop prices).  Visit the Museum of Art's Calendar of Events for dates, times, and more information.



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Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Academy of Natural Sciences: Dinosaurs Unearthed

The Dinosaurs have returned to The Academy of Natural Sciences.  And we don't mean the bones down in the Dinosaur Hall and the Fossil Lab - we mean THE Dinosaurs.  The ones that move and roar and transport us back to a time when these amazing, terrifying beasts actually lived, breathed, and thrived.  It's true - Dinosaurs Unearthed is back in Philadelphia, and it's even bigger and better than before!  From the moment we spotted the giant T-Rex and Triceratops (affectionately known as Rexie and Trixie) on the sidewalk outside the museum, we knew this exhibit was going to be good, and it definitely did not fail to wow.  We're calling it now: Dinosaurs Unearthed is a MUST SEE exhibit for 2016!

The main highlight is of course the animatronic dinosaurs that roar at passersby and spring out in attack at their prey.  With over a dozen full-bodied beasts, there's a lot to see and experience! We loved being able to control the movements of the Yangchuanosaurus and the Protoceratops. Another favorite is of course the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex who made us feel a little bit farther down the food chain than we are used to being.  Walking among the lifelike dinosaurs was just a thrilling this time as it was the last time the exhibit came to The Academy of Natural Sciences (maybe even a little bit more!).

Dinosaurs Unearthed is an interactive experience with lots different ways to learn even more about the stories that fossils leave behind including a new multi-touch table.  Visitors can also use clues to figure out the quizzes in Dino Detectives, see how they compare to the weight of a triceratops on the big Scale, and touch various fossils within the exhibit.  Be on the lookout for claws, horns, teeth, an Oviraptor egg, and even some dinosaur poop!  What we love most about visiting Dinosaurs Unearthed at The Academy of Natural Sciences was that once we were done enjoying every roaring and exploring moment in the exhibit, we could head over to Dinosaur Hall to experience the museum's permanent dino displays.

For more about where to see and experience dinosaurs in the Greater Philadelphia area,
check out our Dino Week tour!!

Dinosaurs Unearthed is at The Academy of Natural Sciences through January 16, 2017.  

Non-members: $7
Individual, Family, and Family Plus members: $4
Partner's Club members and above: FREE

Stay in the know by signing up for the Academy's eNews!




Friday, July 15, 2016

Daily Vacationer Jr: Summer at the Garden State Discovery Museum

It's summertime again at the Garden State Discovery Museum, and their schedule is packed with fantastic deals and super fun events!  Groovin' and Grubbin' (a personal favorite of Daily Vacationer Jr) is back every Wednesday evening in July and August from 5pm to 8pm.  This FREE outdoor concert series takes place in the museum parking lot rain or shine with special performances from various kid-friendly musicians and amazing gourmet food trucks (check out their Events Calendar for the line up - we had an awesome time sampling the PB&J from Lunchbox, syrup drenched Waffles and Wedges, the healthier carnival food off Tony and Tori's Grill, and the delicious desserts from Sweet Lavender).  Groovin' and Grubbin' is laid back for the parents and exciting for the kids - the perfect way to spend a summer evening. For more weekly fun, join the Discovery Museum every Monday at 5pm for Movie Monday or paint your own creations at Pottery Workshop Wednesdays at the brand new Milly's Which Craft Art Studio (sponsored by AC Moore).  

(Did we mention that Monday thru Thursday after 5pm, the museum is only $5 and stays open until 8:30pm?!?!? EVEN ON EVENT NIGHTS!!)

The Discovery Theatre will also be performing two original shows this summer. "Robin Hood: Princess of Nottingham (Tues, Thurs, and Sat in July at 2pm) and "CinderElliot" (Tues, Wed, and Sat at 2pm in August).  July 20th and August 10th are special bonus performances during Groovin' and Grubbin'. Discovery Theatre performances are always included with the cost of admission.

This year the Discovery Museum is also introducing some pretty awesome summer camps and classes. LEGO® enthusiasts will love Snapology (Monday - Thursday, 9am to 12pm various weeks in July and August) with a new focus and different age range included every time.  You can also sign your 7 to 12-year-olds up for the Summer Art Series where they can experience different mediums and techniques taught by Master Artist Liliana LIFE and create their own masterpieces to take home (Session Two runs Aug 1st-24th with classes on Mondays and Wednesdays from 2-4pm).  The Garden State Discovery Museum is also very excited about pairing with Brian Hurley to bring KIDVENTURE Fitness Classes to their facility.  Be on the lookout for more fun in this area coming Fall 2016, and in the meantime check out their different Tuesday and Wednesday sessions (sign up for a full block of sessions or pay per class): Future M.V.P.s (5-7yrs), Ninja Training (5-7yrs), Toddle & Tumble (2-4yrs), or Go Baby Go (18-24mons).  Visit for more information on or to register for all the classes and camps.

On Sunday, August 14th from 6pm to 8pm, the Garden State Discovery Museum hosts another Open Arms event for a relaxing night of fun for children on the autism spectrum and their families to socialize and play in a safe and interactive environment.  This event is FREE and no pre-registration is required.


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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Ride the Ducks Philadelphia

You can't miss them.  The white and blue boats on wheels coasting the streets of Philadelphia or riding the waves of the Delaware River with the sounds of the Rocky Theme or passengers merrily doing the YMCA coming from inside their open windows.  With a fascinating history and an enthusiastic way of sharing Philly facts and folklore, Ride the Ducks is one of the funnest (and funniest) trips around the city Daily Vacationer has ever taken.  Though usually assumed to be only for tourists, Philadelphia area locals looking for a new twist on familiar sights will also enjoy this novel and humorous (dare we say campy?) view of Center City.

(Photo: U.S. Army)
The Ride the Ducks story actually begins during World War II when the DUKW (more commonly known as "Ducks") amphibious vehicles were designed to transport fully equipped troops and cargo to assist in a war that was being fought across channels and seas and into ports and beaches.  With the ability to ride right from land into water and back onto land again, the Duck boats were incredibly helpful to the Allies during battles along the French and Italian coastline and later again in the South Pacific.  The Ducks were also used in the Korean War and were continually used by the United States Army until the 1960s. Then in 1977, Bob McDowell revived used of the amphibious vehicle for sightseeing in Branson, MO.  Today Ride the Ducks tours in 8 locations around the country carrying 1,500,000 guests annually on their fleet of 95 Duck boats.

Though the mechanics of the vehicle remain the same as the original, the design of the tour boats has changed significantly in order to keep up with modern day safety and comfort standards. Every Duck boat is fully equipped with first aid and emergency gear for on the road, as well as life jackets in Infant, Child, and Adult sizes for the water portion of the tour.  The ride on the river is made even safer with a boat captain taking over for the bus driver and a rescue crew standing by just in case. The transition from land to sea and back again is done effortlessly but also professionally and with every precaution being taken.

The tour itself boards in Historic Philadelphia right near the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall (tickets can be purchased at the Independence Visitor Center).  It's a fitting start to a Philadelphia tour with a look back at the city's fascinating beginnings and most famous role in U.S. history.  After a look at Washington Square, Jeweler's Row, Old City dining, City Hall, and various public art, the Duck Tour rolls into the Parkway Museum's District to take a look at Logan Square, the Barnes, the Rodin Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and The Academy of Natural Sciences.  Then it's back into the Old City for points of interest such as Elfreth's Alley, the American Jewish Historical Museum, and the Betsy Ross House before heading down Race Street.

At this point Ride the Ducks one ups all the other bus tours in the city by driving straight into the Delaware River sending up an exciting wave of water during the the tour's famous "Splashdown" (don't worry - remarkably, no one gets wet).  The river cruise portion is fascinating and refreshing with a unique look at the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, the Delaware River Waterfront (including Penn's Landing and the Independence Seaport Museum), as well as landmarks across the way at the Camden Waterfront (such as the Battleship New Jersey and the Adventure Aquarium).  

The Duck Tours are made especially fun with witty and knowledgeable tour guides who are quick to banter with guests, sing along with the tour's continuous soundtrack, and throw an amusing story or historical rumor in with the facts.  (On our tour we had Ranger Rick, who shared the spotlight with Matt, our friendly, funny, and trustworthy driver.) With a never-ending assortment of Duck puns, guides continue to "quack" jokes and entertain with a self-deprecating sense of humor about riding around on a Duck boat.  Like your favorite teacher from school, Ride the Ducks takes what might be dry or repetitive information and turns the subject into something that is exciting and fun to learn about and experience.  From history to legend, art to science, and diverse cultures to pop culture with a bit of fun weaved into it all, Ride the Ducks is definitely all it's  "quacked up" to be!

Daily Vacationer Jr says: Ride the Ducks is a great way to tour Center City with kids.  Younger ones will enjoy the music and friendly guides, older kids will find themselves absorbing knowledge in the midst of amusing commentary and obvious jokes, and everyone will love "splashing down" into the Delaware River. Parents of little ones can park their strollers at the "stroller tree" to be picked up after the tour and can fit infant car seats right next to them on the bus.




Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Standup Philly (SUP Rentals and Tours)

What is your favorite view of Philadelphia?  The top of the Rocky Steps looking down the Parkway? Floating along in the Philadelphia Zoo Balloon?  The observation deck on top of the Liberty One skyscraper?  At Daily Vacationer, we have a new favorite view: standing in the middle of the Schuylkill River.  Even with all the places that we've been in and around the city, we've yet to find a more peaceful way to experience traveling into Center City than on the hidden river that snakes around buildings, under bridges, and past the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk.  An absolutely stunning experience that we recommend to everyone made possible by Standup Philly - the new SUP rental and tour company located in Bartram's Garden.

What is SUP you ask?  SUP stands for Stand Up Paddleboarding, a fantastic active yet relaxing past time where you stand on a long flat board (rather like a surfboard) and use a long kayak-like paddle to get around.  And while balancing on top of the water sounds intimidating, we can assure you that it's easier than it looks (we managed to not fall in during our two hours on the river in any case).  The sport originated in Hawaii and has spread internationally to the point where it's pretty commonplace to see folks paddling about on oceans and lakes.  But while SUP can be found just about anywhere, it has yet to become the norm in more urban locations such as Philadelphia's own Schuylkill River.

Standup Philly decided to tap into a largely unexplored niche of outdoor recreation in a city that not only has the most extensive urban park system in the country but also encourages its visitors and residents to stay active and take care of the nature made available in Philadelphia. Based out of Bartram's Garden (the nation's oldest living botanical garden - which has free admission and deserves a visit itself), Standup Philly runs SUP rentals and tours from the boathouse down by the river.  The launch point is so peaceful and exotic looking in places that it's actually quite a shock to paddle past docks overgrown with foliage, turn a corner in the river, and come up on the skyscrapers of Philadelphia's skyline.  We love that Standup Philly is not only dedicated to furthering interest in the sport of SUP but they also seek to give back to the local community and be conscious of ways to further water conservation in Philadelphia.

Our personal experience was absolutely amazing with breathtaking views at every point up and downstream. Soon after leaving the boathouse (still on our knees at this point - they like to ease you into being comfortable balancing), we paddled directly under a cargo train headed across the river. From there we continued up the Schuylkill passing under various bridges such as South Street and Walnut Street and coming along side the Schuylkill Banks Trail and Boardwalk on one side and University City on the other.  Lots to look at and see from a brand new fascinating perspective. Passersby around us looked on with much interest as urban paddleboarding is incredibly novel at the moment and cool to see!

Standup Philly is open for rentals on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays and runs two hour guided tours once a month (great for beginners!).  Boards are available for 1-hour, 2-hour, or half day rentals.  Check the schedule for hours and rates.

Insider Tip: Follow Standup Philly on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter to find out about Promo Codes and Specials or become a Bartram's Garden Member to save $10 on your rental!


More Photos from Daily Vacationer