Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mirror Maze at The Franklin Institute

This summer, The Franklin Institute has been privileged to be the very first travel destination for a brand new special exhibit put together by the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago. This exhibit takes the everyday things we see out in the world and brings them under the microscope to examine their exquisite natural patterns. Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature not only allows visitors to look closely at different kinds of patterns from different angles with a room full of interactive screens and displays, but it also invites them to step directly into one with the astounding 1700-square foot maze!

We often think of patterns as man-made or simple accidental sequences, but the amazing truth is that the natural world is a design made up of uniform shapes and angles that seem almost surreal the more one is aware of them.  From honeycombs and dragonfly wings to fans of coral and spots on giraffes, the mathematical patterns are both precise and beautiful.  Every part of the exhibit is factually fascinating as well just plain fun to interact with.  There is a futuristic feel to the touchscreens and the layout that juxtapose nicely with the natural elements on display.  We really enjoyed the whole thing and spent a lot of time at each station.

Obviously, the biggest draw of the exhibit is the Mirror Maze itself. Quick Tip: Don't go too quickly or you will discovered what a bird feels like when it hits a window.  (We now know why it is so hard to catch the bad guy in all those movies when they wander in a fun house during a chase.) With the angled set up of the mirrors, everyone's reflections seem to be everywhere at once or suddenly no where depending on where they are standing.  For awhile we thought we were following a guy in front of us, who suddenly stepped out behind us!  Added to the maze are extra exhibit facts and finds that only show up if you happen to wander close enough to where they are.  The whole Mirror Maze is loads of fun and best experienced with someone else to venture in with you.

Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature will be on display through September 4th.




Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Storyland at the Please Touch Museum

How often do we wish we could step between the covers of a good book and spend a day within its pages?  We read and reread the stories, setting the characters into motion along beloved plot lines and through familiar settings, thinking how fun it would be to tag along beside them. Storyland: A Trip Through Childhood Favorites, the current special exhibit at the Please Touch Museum, allows visitors to do just that with some of the most cherished children's books found in libraries, on nursery shelves, and open on caregivers' laps all over the world.

Delighted kids (and delighted parents - let's face it) will be thrilled with the fun and hands on approach to Storyland with timeless favorites like Peter Rabbit and The Snowy Day coming to life with vegetable gardens to explore and paths of snow to crunch in.  The sing-song lines of Chicka Chiicka Boom Boom become even more fun when you help to send the letters up to the top of the coconut tree (with lessons about the alphabet thrown in to boot!).  Each book gets its own unique area as you jump from exploring New York City with Abuela to making mischief in the kitchen of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. We also loved how the each part managed to capture the feel of the book it was meant to represent like the hushed tones of Tuesday where the images tell most of the story to the simple boardbook-esque blocks of Where's Spot.

Every area of Storyland had not only the actual book to reference and many sections directly from the story's pages, but also a little bit more added for pure fun. Our favorite parts included climbing the huge letters of the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom beach, listening to all the different languages singing together on Abuela's city tour, wandering among Mr. McGregor's giant vegetables, and following in Peter's footsteps as he explored The Snowy Day. Storyland is also a bilingual exhibit with everything available in English and Spanish.  There's also lots of early learning concepts to practice and have fun with!

Storyland: A Trip Through Childhood Favorites is open at the Please Touch Museum through September 10th and is included in the price of admission.




Thursday, July 6, 2017

Summertime at the Discovery Family Attractions

It's summertime, and the Discovery Family Attractions have a schedule absolutely packed with fun and exciting things to do all summer! All three locations (Garden State Discovery Museum, Paws Discovery Farm, and Kid Fit NJ) are hosting special seasonal events, camps, and deals following along with their "We Are Childhood" theme for 2017.

The Garden State Discovery Museum is once again hosting original shows in their Discovery Theater with "Little Red" on the schedule for July 4-29 and "Fearless" August 1-26 (all shows performed Tuesdays, Wednesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 2pm and are included with museum admission).  Come by during the summer weekends for different events and hands on activities including special crafts in Milly's Which Craft Art Studio by A.C. Moore, Karaoke in the Discovery Theater, and even a fun Carnival in the museum parking lot August 5th and 6th.

The newly opened Paws Discovery Farm is also hosting weekend events while maintaining their calendar of weekday on the farm type programs,  Both the Farm and the Museum are open late with extended summer hours, and the Garden State Discovery Museum has once again brought back its super popular $5 after 5pm admission Monday through Thursday!
Kid Fit NJ is keeping everyone up and moving this summer with awesome classes for children from 1 to age 12.  Practice those Ninja, Superhero, and Gymnastics moves at the place where running, jumping, and climbing is always pure fun.  Kid Fit Camp is also offered on Mondays and Wednesdays for a drop-off afternoon adventure for ages 3 and up.  Camp goes from 12pm to 3pm and includes action-packed play, a craft, snack, and story time.

Purchase a special summer Combo Ticket for admission to ALL THREE locations! 
(A savings of $9 per person!)




Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours

In our many excursions into and through Philadelphia, we've often spotted the bright red, double decker buses making their way around Center City (they are pretty hard to miss!).  The more we saw them zipping around, the more we so wanted to be up on their top level getting a completely new and unique view of the city. In just about every temperature and weather, we have seen at least a handful of people braving the cold, heat, or rain sitting up above everyone else. Needless to say, we were thrilled when Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours gave us the opportunity to check out just why this particular bus tour is so appealing.

The Tours begin in front of the Historic Bourse Building on Independence Mall.  Same day tickets are often available for purchase, but we strongly advise buying them in advance through the Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours website to be guaranteed a spot. Guests have the option of One-, Two-, or Three-Day Passes which get you all the knowledge about the city and its points of interest that your tour guides have plus convenient hop-on-hop-off transportation around Center City. They also offer a Twilight Philly Night Tour (next on our list for sure!).

Driving around with Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours was a fantastic and convenient way to hit all the highlights. The route covers 16 miles of Philadelphia, providing guests access to 100+ attractions including spots in the Historic District like Elfreth's Alley and The Betsy Ross House, places in the Museums District such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Eastern State Penitentiary, and the attractions down by the Delaware River Waterfront.  One of our favorite of the 27 stops was right under the Beautiful Chinatown Friendship Gate.

We love learning all the extra tidbits we can about anything and everything around Philadelphia, so we were thankful for our tour guide, Pauley, who provided us with entertaining commentary throughout the tour.  He offered not only historic information but quirky and interesting Philly facts, like pointing out the "I see dead people...." house used in the filming of M. Night Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense".  He was also a wealth of knowledge about the city's eateries, ice cream shops, and even a legendary speakeasy.  With the breeze in our hair and the streets of Philadelphia below us, we paid close attention (especially when he called out "Duck, Duck, Goose!" to alert us of any low hanging branches!).

Day, Night or Combination Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours are available at varying cost for adults, children and seniors.8 Tour commentary is conveniently available in multiple languages for international guests.  We now see why these bright red buses are so popular! Riding atop a double decker bus gives a great view of all the sites with a comprehensive 90-minute tour of Center City, and we loved the hop-on-hop-off option for making it super easy to take a closer look at any historic site, museum, or point of interest!




Thursday, June 29, 2017

Smith Memorial Playground: Kidchella 2017

Daily Vacationer Jr was thrilled to attend Kidchella Music Festival at Smith Memorial Playground in Philadelphia's East Fairmount Park. Smith Memorial Playground is a gem of a playground, and the perfect location for a children's music festival. It is located on a beautiful and historic 6.5 acres of small hills, woods, shade and sun, and is home to 50 pieces of playground equipment.  Our favorite may be the 100 year old Ann Newman wooden slide.  All you need is a burlap sack to sit on and a childish spirit to have a blast going down this unique slide. 

When we arrived at the Festival around 4:00pm, we were able to park on the street a short walk from the entrance. Each person got a wristband as they entered the lawn in front of the historic Playhouse. There were two different crafts for children to participate in led by ceramic and photography students of The Village of Arts and Humanities.  We really enjoyed gluing colored tiles on the group mosaic while others decorated popsicle stick picture frames with sequins and markers. 

The Playground did not open until almost 5:00 because the stage was still being set up for the concert, so we ordered some food from the food trucks on the lawn. PBandJams, Curbside Creamery, Philly Fry, and Brazba Brazilian BBQ were all there with both child and adult friendly selections.  One large scoop (dish or cone) of incredibly creamy ice cream from Curbside Creamery was $5 and a double was $9, and it was so worth it! Two chicken tacos with green shredded lettuce, chiptole mayo, cheese, and tomato were only $7.  The prices were reasonable, and the lines were short. We appreciated having the food trucks as it made it more relaxing to not have to pack our food.  Outside food is permitted, however, so bring your favorite takeout or pack a picnic if food trucks don't appeal to you.

As soon as the Playground gates opened, we noticed people laying out blankets and setting up chairs in front of the stage to reserve their spots on the lawn.  We recommend doing this if you want a guaranteed spot up front and center. However, there was still plenty of space on the side of the stage for the audience, and as people came and went, we were still able to have a great spot to view the concert. Next time, though, we will come with blankets! 

The organizers of Kidchella really thought of all the important details of a music festival geared towards young children. There is a dancing section for young kids directly in front of the stage and the volume is not too loud.  Karen K and the Jitterbugs played first at 6pm and had the kids and parents loving their music. They finished their set with a bubble machine, spitting out thousands of bubbles to the kids, (and parents) delight.  After a short break, the Deedle Deedle Dees took the stage and played a new favorite of ours, "I'm Gonna Light Up the World". While the music played, kids and adults were able to roam and run through the grounds and have a spectacular evening together in a beautiful setting.

Kidchella returns July 21 with The Not-Its and Chibi Kodama, and again on August 18 with Alex and the Kaleidoscope and Pears 4 Bears. Cost for members is $5 per ticket and non-members is $10 per ticket.  Bathrooms are open in the Playhouse and outside food is permitted.  We will be sure to return in again!




Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Winter at the Philadelphia Zoo

We started to hear the rumors.  We saw billboard ads and teaser videos across social media.  But we didn't think that they would actually dare to do it.  Surely it would just be bubbles or a video or something else just there for effect.  But then we were invited to come check it all out for ourselves, and wow - were we ever blown away by what we found:  The Philadelphia Zoo is truly making actual real SNOW to play in ALL SUMMER!!

Winter, the Philly's Zoo special Summer event (not as confusing as it sounds), is a white wonderland where visitors can toss snowballs, build snow forts and snowmen, and slide down slopes with sleds and tubes.  It is, without a doubt, one of the most refreshingly incredible ways to cool down during this season's heat. (Bring close toed shoes - frozen water is actually as cold in June and July as it is in January and February.)
It's hard to pick out the most impressive feature of Winter, but we were personally pretty drawn to the 20 ft high, 120 ft long Snow Leopard Slope. Snow tubing in August looks and feels magical and absolutely unreal.  We also loved perfecting our aim in the Snow Zone. Winter has some seriously impressive packing snow, so those snow balls were flying at the snowflake targets. Everyone was a winner at this game and got to take home a little pocket packet about Polar Bears.

The Polar Bear Pavilion is the best spot for the little ones, with real piles of snow to play and build in, plus their own mini sledding hill!  The Zoo provides buckets, shovels, and building tools for visitors to try their hand at a summer igloo or snowman.  This is also a great spot to pick up one-of-a-kind Zoo souvenirs (nothing like a Winter t-shirt and stuffed Penguin to help you brag to everyone about your summertime frolic in the snow).

Along with being chilly fun, Winter is also has plenty of interesting facts about animals who live in colder temperatures and how they are physically equipped to handle it.  We enjoyed the wall comparing cold the weather gear humans put on to the natural "coats", "snowshoes", etc worn by arctic animals. (Later we got a chance to fully appreciate the info when we visited the Zoo's resident Polar Bear, Coldilocks.) Winter also has its own spot to chew down and chill, with adult and kid refreshments available at the Cozy Cafe.

Winter is a specially ticketed experience and timed tickets are required.  Entry times are spaced out every 20 minutes, but guests can enjoy all the snow and refreshing cold for up to 2 hours.  Zoo Members can purchase tickets at a discount.  Winter is open daily at the Philadelphia Zoo through August 20th.



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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

B&O Railroad Museum: A Day Out with Thomas

The B&O Railroad Museum is a train lovers dream on a regular day.  The location itself is a critical part of American and Locomotive history (you literally get to ride down where the very first tracks in the United States were laid!).  The different museum buildings house what can only be considered one of the most amazing train collections in the nation.  We were so blown away (big train buffs over here!) that we immediately bumped B&O Railroad Museum up to our absolute favorites list.

As if things could not get any better, we were able to visit this Baltimore landmark during one of its biggest events of the year: A Day Out with Thomas!  As true fans of Daily Vacationer know by now, we are BIG Thomas & Friends fans and take great pleasure in following their events and exhibits around the Greater Philadelphia area (and sometimes a little beyond).  As much as we love every experience, some places just seem to do it a little bit better than others, and the B&O Railroad Museum knocked it out of the park.

Upon arrival, we were given a passport to have stamped in each location of the Friendship Tour event so we could receive a prize before we left. At first this seemed like yet ANOTHER thing to try to do at such a big event, but we actually found that the kids were super excited to collect the stamps, and that they were all located in places where we would naturally be going to anyway.  It also gave us an added reason to move on to another spot since the little ones definitely would have stayed all day in the MEGA Bloks Imagination Station without some prompting to move along (as if they don't play with trains everyday at home).

A mini Knapford Station was set up for a fun photo op with Sir Topham Hatt himself.  No confusion and delay here - everyone got to take professional shots and some on their own cameras and phones with an extra minute for hugs and high fives.  We were personally big fans of the Storytelling and Entertainment area that gave everyone a quick (or long) rest and break from walking around.  B&O Railroad Museum also had an additional spot for entertainment outside with live shows scheduled for the entirety of the event.

The Roundhouse was loads of fun to explore (kids got a kick out of pointing out which real trains reminded them of their favorite Thomas & Friends characters, and we personally had to be forcibly removed by our companions when we tried to linger over every train in there), but there was plenty to see and do outside as well.  We were immediately drawn to the model trains running around a giant track.  We spotted plenty of special trains on the track (Thomas, Percy, and even a whirling Harold the Helicopter), as well as some B&O Railroad mainstays (Go Orioles!).  As a treat for the event, there were also mini powered Thomas' to ride, as well as multiple bouncehouses.  The B&O Railroad also boasts permanent train themed kiddie rides which were included in the event admission. We took a whirl on the carousel and watched others enjoy chuffing in ChooChoo Blueville and around and around the Happy Train.

Just when it seemed like A Day Out with Thomas couldn't get anymore fun, the guest of honor puffed into the station. There was Thomas the Tank Engine, smiling and greeting passengers! We made sure get to a few pictures with him (Special Tip: Get on line BEFORE he arrives to be right in the front for a quicker photo op), and then we headed up for our special train ride behind the Number 1 Engine.  A jovial conductor gave us a brief history on the route we were about to take and then lead us all in a boisterous "ALL ABOARD!".  The trip itself was a lot of fun with Thomas' voice and catchy songs piped through the speakers while his real steam drifted by the windows.  As always, a magical experience for train lovers of all ages.

A Day Out with Thomas returns annually to 
the B&O Railroad Museum.

Look for their other upcoming events:


Nearby Neighbor: Port Discovery