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



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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 www.discoverymuseum.com 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.



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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!

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Local Destination: Historic Philadelphia

Old City Philadelphia is so chocked full of things to do and amazing history that it's hard to know where to even start - especially if you're only going in for a day trip!  Well we've been there, and we recommend asking the people who know Philadelphia's history better than almost anyone: Historic Philadelphia! (Didn't see that coming, right?) Historic Philadelphia is made up specifically of a few of the most interesting things to do and see in Old City  - namely The Betsy Ross House and Franklin Square and activities such as the Once Upon a Nation programs and Tippler's Tour Colonial Pub Crawls.
Our absolute favorite part of The Betsy Ross House was meeting Betsy herself.  The guides and impersonators in Historic Philadelphia are not messing around with their characters, seamlessly blending modern conversation topics with visitors like ourselves and their early American personalities and knowledge. A small pleasant woman, Betsy Ross reminded us of the fairy godmother from Disney's Cinderella speaking Ye Olde English and making time to meet and greet all ages of visitors as well as give interesting talks in her upholstery shop.  When one of the visitors mentioned that he was from Chicago, she immediately exclaimed: "How delightful - all the way from the Ohio Valley in the Northern Frontier!" throwing us all back in time and spreading historical knowledge from that time period.  If you only manage to fit a couple of things into your schedule in Historic Philadelphia, make sure that a chat with Betsy Ross is on your list!

The museum itself, located right in the authentic 18th-century home where Betsy Ross lived, is fascinating, teaching visitors about not only the woman who famously committed treason by making the first American flag for General George Washington but also about everyday life during that time period.  Some of our favorites moments included comparing an old painting of some very famous historic figures sitting in a parlor discussing the first flag with the actual real parlor right in front of us.  Another enjoyable moment was visiting the upholstery shop and hearing Betsy tells us all about her very intricate work including one very recognizable old flag.  We also loved the basement of the house with its servant work areas for laundry and cooking. Make sure you look around outside in the courtyard (which is FREE is visit during museum hours) to observe the final resting place of Elizabeth Ross and see if you can discover what animal Betsy was particularly fond of.  (The museum is also nice and cool making it a great place to duck into during the heat of the day).

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Daily Vacationer Jr says:
The house maintains its historic authenticity with dimensions that only accommodate very winding narrow stairs, so strollers are a no go, but the flights are short and we observed even the smallest visitors slowly tackling the steps without a problem. Park strollers right inside the fence after purchasing your tickets in the museum shop.  Older kids will love taking the museum at their own pace with the audio tour while little ones can be engaged in picking out the similarities between a painting on a wall and the room that they are standing in and discovering just what those pots on the bedroom floors were used for.  The basement is very interactive with lift and discover little doors that share about common market purchases and what morning beverage you would be drinking depending on if you were a Rebel or a Royalist.  One can also try their hand at lifting a 25 lb bucket of water to do the laundry and be reminded of just how grateful they should be for modern technology.  The best place for kids in the house is the play kitchen located next to the historical kitchen.  The littlest visitors can whip up a turkey pot pie and will most likely have to be coaxed away from the pretend play.
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Historic Philadelphia is also home to one of the most fun public parks in the city: Franklin Square! Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Franklin Square is the only one of the four squares in Center City that feels like a party all day everyday it's open!  The maintained carnival-like atmosphere is due largely to the exciting Parx Liberty Carousel.  With $3 tickets (2 and under ride FREE), a ride on one of the exotic animals or the hometown racehorse heroes is an absolute must for any visit to Old City.  While you're there, take a swing at the Center City themed Philly Mini Golf course with cool Philadelphia landmarks like the Art Museum Steps, Boat House Row, and the Liberty Bell. Franklin Square is also a great spot to relax and take a break from your Philly adventures.  Grab a bite to eat from the super tasty SquareBurger (we recommend its namesake Square Burger with a refreshing milkshake) and sit by the beautiful fountain or at a table under the trees.

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Daily Vacationer Jr says:
Franklin Square is one of the best places in Philadelphia for kids to blow off some steam and just play.  Not only will they be excited to experience the carousel and mini-golf, but they will be able to take advantage of the Square's TWO playgrounds!   If you have plans spanning from daytime into evening, then use Franklin Square as a fun break to regroup before moving on to the next activity.  If you're just in the city for the day, then make Franklin Square your last stop (being able to remind everyone that they get to ride a carousel and have a milkshake soon helps encourage little ones through less interactive moments of the day).
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The Once Upon a Nation programs bring Historic Philadelphia to life with free activities and events including the award-winning Storytelling Benches in 12 different locations around Old City.  Listen for the marching drum at 2pm and 3pm to take part in  musket and marching drills with the Continental Army during their Military Muster.  Spend time meeting and learning from History Makers and Founding Fathers such as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson behind Independence Hall, at the Free Quaker Meeting House, and other locations for crafting, gaming, and interactive music.  New this year, visitors can enjoy the Colonial Kids' Quest Puppet Show twice a day on Saturdays. Check out Historic Philadelphia's Events Schedule for dates, times, and more information.

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Daily Vacationer Jr says:
Believe it or not, kids will have a blast experiencing history first hand!  The History Makers are great at chatting and interacting with all ages and really make the past come to life.  The talks at the Storytelling Benches are only a quick 5 minutes and are tailored to keep antsy legs and wandering minds interested and engaged.  The Military Muster and Colonial Kids' Puppet Show earn many points for teaching loads of historical knowledge under the guise of pure fun.  (Expect some kids to be as excited to meet Ben Franklin and George Washington as others are to meet their favorite Disney characters.)
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Historic Philadelphia keeps things going into the evening with Tippler's Tour Colonial Pub Crawls on Thursdays at 5:30 (21 and over only).  The tour changes depending on the time of year with a search for Mr. Franklin in summer with "Ben's Kites & Flights", then gets spooky in autumn for "Ghosts & Toasts", and then takes a festive turn during the holidays during "Yuletide Cheers & Beers".  Make your way with guides such as Ben Franklin himself through venues including Salon 41 at The Franklin, National Mechanics, Victoria Freehouse, Independence Visitor Center Cafe, and historical City Tavern as you enjoy tales, toasts, and songs from 18th-century history and tradition.  Make your reservations in advance for Thursdays or book a private tour for a group of 20 or more Sundays through Thursdays!

Look for special events at the Betsy Ross House and Franklin Square throughout the year including movie nights and holiday light shows.  History, fun, and food, and so much more await you in Historic Philadelphia!  So now the question should no longer be where to start exploring Old City, but rather how soon can you get there?

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Valley Forge Music Fair at the Valley Forge Casino Resort

Daily Vacationer had an absolute blast checking out the entertainment venue at the Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia recently!  There were so many things that made the experience really stand out from other concerts we've been to, but the accessibility of the location and the intimate feel of the actual concert earned the biggest points in our book.  A classy step up from your average venue, the seated portions were lined with comfy ballroom chairs while the standing room section got to enjoy their beverages right up next to the stage.  


We were privileged to get to experience a fun and lively show from Daughtry and his band over Memorial Day weekend during the Valley Forge Music Fair (other performances that weekend included Phil Vassar). Daughtry's famous smooth vocals and diverse sounds rocked the venue as he performed his classic hits, some new songs, and even an awesome cover of Purple Rain.  It was the perfect venue for such a fantastic show (Daughtry even mentioned hanging out in Valley Beach, the casino's Beach Club, after the performance).

(Photo: Valley Forge Casino Resort)
We definitely recommend investing in a seat close to the stage for future shows (check out the upcoming event schedule including The Charlie Daniels Band on July 8th!).  Another tip is to purchase a $10 Player's Card to go explore the casino and grab a bite in one of their wonderful dining experiences (including our fav - Chef Luke Palladino's delicious LP Steak).  The Player's Card also gets your valet parking fee waved - yes!

The Valley Forge Casino Resort has the full guest experience with a packed schedule of events from celebrity appearances and poolside parties to comedians and memorable concerts.  The Resort boasts over 100.000 square feet of luxury hotel accommodations, spaces for meetings, banquets, and conferences, fine and casual dining,  and indoor and outdoor entertainment (not to mention the Casino itself)!

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Chinese Lantern Festival

We're not sure who came up with the idea to celebrate Franklin Square's 10th Birthday in Historic Philadelphia into an authentic Chinese Lantern Festival, but whoever that was, they deserve a pat on the back.  We had the privilege of checking out this event recently, and we have to admit that it totally blew us away!  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 spring 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 Zebras and Giraffes, the towering Chinese Palace, and the whimsical Panda Paradise.  Of course the breathtaking Dream Corridor and the entrancing Windmill Gallery earned top marks in our books with the 200-ft Chinese Dragon stealing the show from every turn - wow!

The festival is enhanced with an immersion into Chinese cultural experiences including delicious food (cash only), beautiful music, artisan craft demonstrations (get ready to shop for some awesome things!!), and nightly live entertainment such as Tibetan dancing and amazing juggling.  At the feet of the mighty enourmous dragon, the Dragon Beer Garden is also open and a great place to see new views 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 entrances 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 at 7th St entrance). Square Burger also remains open with a delicious menu for twilight and evening food breaks.  Many of the artisan crafts are child-friendly toys, and everyone will want to take home a stuffed panda from the Pagoda Shop!

The Chinese Lantern Festival will be in Franklin Square nightly through June 12th

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

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