Saturday, October 22, 2016

Glow in the Park 2016

(Photo: Fairmount Park Conservancy)
We have looked on with envy at the Fairmount Park Conservancy's Glow in the Park events of past years, so we were thrilled to have the chance to check out their 2016 night in person!  This annual gathering is the perfect setting to showcase all that Fairmount Park has to enjoy while offering park visitors a chance to give back.  Fairmount Park is a phenomenal urban treasure unlike any other in the country. With various trails, picturesque bodies of water, historic mansions, beautiful museums, and much more, it's the location of year round fun, relaxation, and amazing memories for all ages.  Anyone who has ever enjoyed even a just small piece of all the Park has to offer will appreciate its celebration during Glow in the Park.

This year's event took place at the Palazzo on the Parkway, a beautiful historical building we've been dying to see the inside of for years!  While enjoying the lamp lit stone walls and intricately painted wooden ceilings of this architectural intrigue from the early 1930's, we got to sample savory fresh fish tacos from Buena Onda. Outside, the entryway arches were lit up in a spectacular display from Klip Collective (the imaginations and technology behind Longwood Gardens' famous Nightscape).  Constantly changing colors and patterns were an enjoyable and relaxing backdrop to the groups of party guests gathered around fire pits and along the front lawn of the Palazzo.

To the side of the building, even more delicious food was being offered from some of the Philadelphia area's best eateries including Poi Dog PhillyThe Cow and the CurdBonjour Creperie, and Dre's Water Ice and Ice Cream.  It was all deliciously amazing! Our top picks after chowing down were the Sweet Potato Pie Ice Cream from Dre's, the Fried Cheese Curds from The Cow and the Curd,  and the Savory Crepes from Bonjour Creperie.  The evening was made complete with a performance from the West Philadelphia Orchestra - Philly's premier Balkan brass band.  Their Eastern European flavor ignited the guests into a spontaneous and exuberant dance party, and it was a pure thrill to finally experience the sound of these amazing musicians in person.  (Check out their new album Tour de Flilli).

It was a lovely evening with eclectic entertainment, fantastic eats, and a wonderful time to learn more about all that Fairmount Park has to offer.  We have been perusing and marking up the new "50 Unique Experiences in Fairmount Park" map that we took home that night - so many different places to go and so many things that we haven't done yet!

Become a Fairmount Park Conservancy Member to help support this amazing park system while receiving wonderful membership benefits.



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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Daily Vacationer Jr: The Fairy Ball

The Fairy Queen requested our presence at the Garden State Discovery Museum's Fairy Ball, and we were thrilled to attend this delightful annual event.  A regular day at the Museum is already filled with loads of fun, but this enchanting evening made it all even more special.  Being greeted by the Fairy Queen, going on carriage rides with Princesses, dancing in the ballroom with a Prince, and taking a yummy dessert break with Tinker Bell - all amazing moments we got to enjoy!

On first arriving at the Ball, guests were announced and given a welcoming round of applause.  We quickly found the Fairy Queen for a few of the great photo op moments of the night.  Then it was on to the ballroom where Aladdin and others were busting a move with visitors - giving special attention to each little guest.  The ballroom itself was magical and fun with sparkling lights and great tunes!

We took advantage of the cool crafting available and put together a quirky Frog Prince and Magic Mirror with the assistance of lots of helpful fairies.  At the same time, Sweet and Sassy was doing simple up-dos and adding fun princess accessories (they also made sure to get every guest a special take home bag!).  The museum was open for free play, so there were lots of princesses building houses, doing science experiments, going fishing, and more - so cute!  We got to chow down on ice cream from The Silver Diner while chatting it up with Aladdin and Tinker Bell (all in The Silver Diner play area of course).

The dessert table opened at 7:30 with beautiful cakes (the birch tree one was our favorite!) and delicious cookies to be indulged in. It was quite a colorful spread with lots to choose from. After eating our fill, we headed outside for the evening carriage rides.  This part was of tons of fun!  Such a memorable experience to ride in a real horse drawn carriage accompanied by Snow White, Belle, and Cinderella.

As always, the event was fantastic due to the commitment and helpfulness of the Garden State Discovery Museum staff.  Whether dressed as a character from Frozen, helping in the craft area, dancing in the ballroom, or just hanging out, the fairies, princesses, and princes went above and beyond to make the Fairy Ball a wonderful experience for every single guest.  We had an amazing time and will definitely be back next year!

Check out more upcoming events at the Garden State Discovery Museum!

Bring your action heroes out this spring to their annual Calling All Superheroes event.



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Monday, October 17, 2016

Edaville USA: Seasonal Fun and Events

(Photo: Edaville USA)
Comprised of three parks in one, Edaville USA is already always a fantastic place to visit. Guests have over 90 rides and attractions to explore from mini coasters and carousels to daily shows and fun shops!  Travel from Edaville Proper, to Dino Land, to Thomas Land (yes, THAT THOMAS!) to discover new experiences at every turn. Daily Vacationer Jr is thrilled to be planning our own visit after hearing so many awesome things about this place!

(Photo: Edaville USA)

Thursdays thru Sundays throughout the month of October, the family friendly Pumpkins AGLOW comes to Dino Land with trail after trail of incredible carved pumpkins (stay in the park after dark to see the pumpkins lit up!).  Guests are encouraged to come in costume and bring bags to trick-or-treat all month long. New for 2016: apple cider and tasty doughnuts PLUS pumpkins for sale!  Take note of the last weekend in October when your little ones can come in their fanciest attire for Teatime with Madeline. On October 29th, EdavilleUSA hosts its Second Annual Spookatular Halloween Bash with Sir Topham Hatt, Sandy the Dinosaur, KC McBogg, and Madeline there to celebrate with dance parties, park-wide trick-or-treating, and more! (Pumpkins AGLOW and special event tickets include admission to Edaville Proper, Dino Land, and Thomas Land).

(Photo: Edaville USA)

EdavillaUSA reopens November 18th with the Festival of Lights, a magical annual tradition comprised of over 17 million sparkling lights. The Festival is so big, it needs its own part of the park (not to mention the holiday decorations and fun spread out over Edaville Proper and Thomas Land as well)!   It's certainly the "most wonderful time of the year" with a beautiful New England Christmas weaved around the parks' wonderful rides and daily experiences. Guests can enhance their visit with two amazing VIP train rides including helping dancing elves find Santa Claus (Edaville Express: Where's Santa?) and riding with Saint Nick himself (SANTA VIP Train)!  The VIP trains sell out quickly, so make sure to book your ride in advance.  (Festival of Lights and VIP Train Tickets also include Edaville Proper and Thomas Land).

(Photo: Edaville USA)
This is the time of year for making amazing memories and lasting traditions, and we can't think of a better place to do that than Edaville USA. Check out their full Events Schedule to for even more upcoming fun and special discount days.  (Thomas & Friends lovers especially need to make tracks for this fantastic place.  We are super excited to experience it ourselves soon!)


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Friday, September 30, 2016

Get the Picture! at the Brandywine River Museum

Children's picture books have long been most people's first exposure to the world of art.  The focus of telling a story primarily with illustration relies heavily on an artist being able to express an entire book's worth of moments and emotions. Whether the pictures are detailed beauty or simple sketches, they capture the imaginations of a young audience while expanding a child's ability to identify and relate to the feelings and reactions of others.  Picture books have a profound impact on the way we see and learn to experience the world around us.  Favorites are enjoyed over and over -  never forgotten even into adulthood where they are then often shared with one's own children.

Get the Picture! Contemporary Children’s Book Illustration is a celebration of eight artists currently thriving in the picture book business: Sophie Blackall, Bryan Collier, Raúl Colón, Marla Frazee, Jon Klassen, Melissa Sweet, David Wiesner and Mo Willems. Each one has their own unique style, demonstrating the inclusiveness of the field and the variety of ways there are to tell an engaging story.  It's a beautifully put together exhibit by the Brandywine River Museum and guest curator H. Nichols B. Clark with fantastic image selection from the different books covered alongside the engaging personal stories of each illustrator.

Something we absolutely loved was the attention to setting up the exhibit in a way that could viewed and enjoyed by kids.  It's such an amazing opportunity to introduce children to the realization that the pictures they love and experience daily can stand alone as works of art and still tell a story.  That a simple drawing, such as one that they themselves can create, is to be celebrated for its own sake and the thoughtfulness poured into it.  Get the Picture! inspires awareness of the emotions of others and ones own self and sets the stage for a future appreciation of the world of art.

The exhibit is set up with some interactive elements that Daily Vacationer Jr enjoyed including an engaging game of Seek and Find within the pictures.  Carrying our own scavenger hunt lists, we viewed the pictures closely giving attention to the details in each piece - searching for a lobster, melting ice cubes, etc.  Fortunately each item to be found was listed with what artist did the illustration, narrowing the search from the entire exhibit to a less daunting handful of pictures.  There were also a few touch screen versions of various stories to explore (such as David Weisner's Spot), as well as an engaging video with interviews and fun demonstrations with and by the artists themselves.  We had also brought our own sketchpads and colored pencils to try our own hand at copying pictures or drawing our own stories.

We had definite favorites in the exhibit from our own collection at home or library experiences including the hilarious Elephant and Piggie and Pigeon books of Mo Willems, the slightly unsettling I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat from Jon Klassen, and the detailed collages of Melissa Sweet in stories such as Balloons over Broadway.  Every picture had its own appeal, however, and we were delighted to discover a large reading area with all of the of books covered in the exhibit.  After seeing the illustrations on their own and learning so much about the people who drew them, we wanted to know the full story of each and every book.  We spent a lot of time looking, reading, and appreciating, and we left with a long list of future book purchases and library check outs. (And for those visitors who find themselves desperately wanting a new book then and there, the museum's gift shop is selling copies of many of the stories from the exhibit!)

Get the Picture! will be at the
Brandywine River Museum through October 9th.

Visit for FREE Oct 2, 11am-2pm for PNC Arts Alive First Sunday and meet Mo Willems' famous characters, Elephant and Piggie, take part in an interactive storytime with Lisa Oster of Dance Me a Story, and experience a performance from the Academy of International Ballet.


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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Daily Vacationer Jr: Moozie's Play Cafe

We are big fans of all the places we go where kids can play and be kids and we can play and be kids with them, but we have a special love for locations that allow kids to be kids while we remain adults. This is one of the best reasons why we were thrilled to discover Moozie's Play Cafe in Turnersville, NJ.  We could sit and drink FREE! coffee (slowly, at our leisure) while still being able to see and interact with everything going on in the play areas.  It was wonderful (plus hours and hours of fun for children, of course!).

The play area is divided into sections called "pods" that each have a different theme (including the new and timely "Schoolhouse Pod") but are still open so that you can see into each one and toys can easily drift from one pod to another as imagination and creativity strikes. And with the types of toys all around (dolls, cars, blocks, costumes, etc), there is a lot of room for imaginative play.  The wooden indoor playground area for climbing, swinging, and sliding was very popular, as was the little ride on train.  Every inch of space in Moozie's is used well to encourage both individual and group play, but still has plenty of open space for impromptu Plasma Car rides, dancing, storytime, and dashing to the well situated bathrooms.  As a total stroke of genius, Moozie's also has a room made just for more active running and jumping play with almost nothing in it but an exciting whirling disco ball overhead and upbeat  tunes coming through the speakers.

The cafe part of Moozie's is both family friendly and adult friendly, with various sized tables accommodating bigger groups as well as caregivers by themselves.  The tea and coffee are FREE (YES,  REALLY! AND IT'S GOOD!) and the rest of the food and beverage choices range from a quick snack or addition to a lunch brought from home to a full child-friendly meal pieced together with fruits, dairy products, and grains. We also loved that tax was already factored into the prices, so if an item was $1, caregivers could just send their kids over with a dollar bill to go buy it without worry about extra small change.

Along with it's extensive Open Play hours, Moozie's also offers a variety of special classes and events every week.  Sing and dance at the Music Class, get creative with the Craft Class, make believe with the Drama Class, and get centered during a story with Yoga Classes. Classes can be purchased as either three or four week packages or single drop-in sessions. Open Play hours are Tuesdays through Fridays with Mondays set aside as a Special Needs Play Day and weekends are used for birthdays and special classes.  Birthdays should be reserved well ahead of time as the various party packages make throwing a party at Moozie's a popular and easy way to celebrate.

Moozie's also hosts events beneficial to adults and older children such as their Parents' Night Out and Mommy's Mornings Out with safe and supervised play spaces to leave the kids at for that much needed date night, meeting, or errand-running time.  They also host Parent Seminars and other community events.  For the preteen crowd, they have a fantastic Pre-Slumber Party package for a fun way to fill in the early part of any sleepover get together.

When we visited Moozie's, we were there for hours and probably could have stayed for hours more.  It was fun for the whole group and so relaxing to be in a location where everything like good food, clean bathrooms, places to sit, and places to play were all mixed in cohesively together. We definitely recommend Moozie's Play Cafe to every parent who loves providing their kids with exciting opportunities to play and grow, but who, if pressed, would admit that a comfortable chair, a complimentary hot beverage  makes the experience possibly even better for them than the children.

Socks are required in the Play Area
(socks are available for purchase on site)

Follow Moozie's Play Cafe on Facebook for additional
Event and Play Info!


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Friday, September 9, 2016

Daily Vacationer Jr: 14 Tips for A Day Out with Thomas at Strasburg Rail Road

We were absolutely thrilled to experience another amazing Day Out with Thomas at Strasburg Rail Road in beautiful Lancaster County, PA.  This was our second year, and it was just as exciting to see Thomas and his best friend, Percy, face to face, ride the trains they pulled, and enjoy all the fun extras around the historic train station.  Now that we've been to this awesome event a couple of times, we have a few tips and suggestions on how to make the experience easy and fun for every family.

1. Don't Freak Out if You Have to Park Far Away

The first time we arrived at A Day Out with Thomas, we were surprised to discover that the parking areas around Strasburg Rail Road were completely filled, and we were directed to park at the Sight and Sound Theatre about 5 minutes drive away.  We were upset thinking that this meant we'd have to wait awhile in line for a bus to get there and then get back, and that we'd be in a real jam if we left anything behind.  However the busing situation was run just as smoothly as the rest of the event with buses making trips every few minutes.  Not 15 minutes after we locked up our car did we find ourselves at the train station (and many, many families took trips back to their car in the middle of the day to drop off lunch coolers or to go back for strollers).

2. Buy Your Tickets in Advance

A Day Out with Thomas is one of THE MOST POPULAR events held at Strasburg Rail Road during the year (yay that it comes three times!), and tickets sell out - especially for the weekend trains.  In order to cut down on significant stress on whichever day you choose to visit, have those tickets already purchased!

3.  Buy At Least the Percy Package

Tickets for A Day Out with Thomas come in different packages from just a ride on Thomas to experiencing both Thomas and Percy as well as one of the nifty steam trains native to Strasburg Rail Road.  You are going to at least want to ride both Thomas and Percy.  Even if you've only decided to ride behind Thomas, you will  find yourself at a point during your visit where you are going to want to upgrade to tickets for Percy as well.  It's going to happen, so you might as well just plan to ride both trains from the get go (Bonues: Percy is NOT a timed ticket, so you can hop on board at any time during the day).

4. Get a Good Seat on Percy

A friendly conductor on the train gave us this little tip.  By sitting all the way to the back of the train (right by the diesel that actually pulls his coaches - shhhhhh...) and staying to the side facing the station, you'll get a great view of Thomas pulling out on the tracks alongside.  The cheers from your little traveling companions when they spot him accompanying his best friend on a short train ride will be worth walking all the way down the aisles. (We also like to be on this side of the train rides, because it gives us a great view of The Red Caboose Motel just down the tracks.)

5. Arrive at Least an Hour Earlier than Your Train Time

One of the things we love the most about A Day Out with Thomas is how well it is run and how helpful the staff is at accommodating families with little ones (since the average age of Thomas fans is 2 to 4 years olds). But even with well timed buses and well trained staff, bathroom breaks, feeding schedules, and random scrapped knees and dropped toys are bound to happen en route from your car to the train.  Give yourself enough time to make the experience fun and easy instead of having to rush.

6. Bring Something Entertaining for the Train Ride

In a similar vein of planning for mishaps or midday crashers, prepare for your little one to get bored in the middle of the train ride.  The time on the trains vary between Percy, Thomas, and the Strasburg Rail Road trains, but even enthusiastic riders may quickly tire of watching farmland go by after a couple of minutes. Many passengers had their own Thomas train toys and books to play with and read.  Our own group enjoyed showing their Thomas and Percy toys the scenery and having them cheer on their big versions out the window.

7. Meet Sir Topham Hatt

It's definitely worth it to stop and meet the Chairman of the Railway himself.  Not only is it a fantastic photo-op, but it brings The Island of Sodor to life even more for all the little visitors. The line goes quickly so don't worry about being stuck for a long time (no confusion and delay here, Sir!).

8. Line up for Thomas and Percy Photo-Ops BEFORE They Arrive

While the lines go very quickly as well for getting your picture with the Thomas and Percy Trains, they are only in the station for a set amount of time before they head back out with more coaches full of passengers.  The line is pretty much non-existent while the trains are out and then fills up quickly after everyone spots them again, so we highly recommend already being in line ahead of the rest of the crowd.  We did this with Thomas and Percy, and it only took us about 5 minutes of waiting and then 30 seconds to get our group shot and be on our way to our next fun stop.

9. Leave Time to Do Extras

One of the best reasons to do A Day Out with Thomas at Strasburg Rail Road is all of the fun extras they have around the entire station all day: hand-cranked cars, a little pufferbelly steam train, the Imagination Station presented by MegaBloks, shops to browse, places to stop and eat, lots of photo ops and fun banners, plus all the different views of Thomas and Percy coming and leaving.  Our first year we didn't realize there would be so much to do, and we wound up missing a lot of it.  This year we made sure to give ourselves lots of time to just play at the train tables and with sidewalk chalk and coloring pages and just roam and do anything that caught the little ones eyes.  Almost all of it is free with your Thomas ticket, so definitely make a day of it.

10. Bring a Bag of Spare Change

Among the extras around the station, are a handful of things that you will need quarters, pennies, and a few nickels for.  There are a few coin-operated rides for the little ones (including a Thomas, of course) as well as a place to squish pennies into souvenirs.  And the nickels will come in handy in Strasburg Rail Road's main shop where a fun player piano is waiting to be danced around.

11. Head to the Storytelling/Video Viewing Area for a Break

A Day Out with Thomas is VERY exciting! It's so exciting that sometimes the little ones we bring get too excited and then wind up crashing in the middle of the day.  Fortunately Strasburg Rail Road has a seated area set up (not too far from the cafe - hurray!) where families can take a break and rest. Get some snacks and drinks and spend a little while watching some of your favorite Thomas and Friends videos before heading back out for more fun with renewed enthusiasm.

12.  Look in All the Shops for the Perfect Book or Toy

Strasburg Rail Road always has their own shop set up with a huge selection of Thomas items (as well as other brand train and farm toys), but during A Day Out with Thomas there are a few extra places to shop set up including a huge temporary store near the Imagination Station.  Our group was on the search for specific characters and new books for the ride home.  We browsed through all the shops until we found exactly what we were looking for. (Searching for already decided on toys also helped reign in the impulse buying that invariably happens when you're surrounded by so many potentially awesome buys.)

13.  Rely on Staff to Help You Out

Both years we attended A Day Out with Thomas at Strasburg Rail Road proved to be a lesson in what happens when a location and event properly trains and prepares their staff.  Everyone from ticket takers and cashiers to photographers and conductors were helpful at providing answers to any question and patiently solving the issues that tend to crop up in a place with so many little ones trying to get around.  We are always very impressed by how kind and amazing the staff is.

14.  Watch Thomas and Percy Arrive at Least Once

This is the big moment (probably even bigger than riding the actual train).  Visitors hear the familiar whistles they've heard time and again in Thomas and Friends movies and episodes, and then suddenly there they are! Full-sized Thomas and Percy steam engines who not only whistle, chuff along, and let out steam - they also smile and TALK! Definitely make sure to be there at least once for that moment for your family to experience being greeted by Thomas and Percy.  Above everything, that is the lasting magical memory that stayed with our group.



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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Daily Vacationer Jr: Kid Fit Preview at the Garden State Discovery Museum

The Garden State Discovery Museum has recently been partnering with more and more local companies and organizations to bring exclusive experiences and classes to their already amazing facility.  This summer they hosted a variety of programs for different ages and interests (can't WAIT to see what they offer next summer and during the year). We had the chance to check out one of the KidVenture classes run by Brian Hurley of Kid Fit.  We LOVED it and were thrilled to learn that Kid Fit is actually opening its own gym RIGHT NEXT TO THE GARDEN STATE DISCOVERY MUSEUM THIS FALL!!

As adults who go to a lot of children's events and locations, we see first hand the importance of starting kids as early as possible in the pattern of a healthy lifestyle.  Little ones have a lot more energy than the rest of us, so instilling in them a love of moving and physically doing while it's still simple and fun is very, very important.  And Kid Fit is all about making things fun.  We attended the Toddle and Tumble class for ages 2-4 and got to see children attempt gymnastic basics like different kinds of rolls, the high bar, and the balance beam (which was super exciting after these past Summer Olympics!), but they also got to run around with active games like "Clean Up the Yard" and just shooting hoops with whatever sized ball came their way. Everyone broke a sweat at some point but not one kid noticed.

Something we especially love about Kid Fit is how Brian doesn't just give attention to being active and getting physical exercise, but he also gives kids a place to gain confidence in themselves while discovering what their body is capable of.  The instructors were all very encouraging (we liked how they addressed the participants instead of their caregivers) and any attempt was deemed a success. The whole group observed and cheered on each other in turn teaching patience and empathy, and then toward the end they got to interact more with their peers during a couple of team activities.

The Garden State Discovery Museum is extending its preview classes for Kid Fit into September. Four cool programs are being offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays (Tiny Tumblers, Junior Gym, Superhero Academy, and Ninja Training - seriously, how fun are these??) with overlapping age ranges to best fit your child's own personal skill level.  We cannot wait to see what Brian Hurley does with Kid Fit once the new facility opens since just the preview in the Museum's Sport Zone gets a big two thumbs up from Daily Vacationer Jr!


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