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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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Daily Vacationer Jr: Kids at Play

Imagine children playing at an indoor playground.  Imagine that there are very little crawlers, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged big kids.  There are also children with special needs, physical restrictions, and every level of developmental delay.  And all of these children are there for the same reason - to have fun and learn and grow through play.  What would this place look like?  Would it even be possible to build such a boundless indoor play space?  We know that such a place is not only possible, but we have seen it with our own eyes!

Kids at Play is a new indoor play facility in Philadelphia that specializes in professional speech, physical, and occupational therapy services as well as ABA services while centering their programs around the idea that every child should be able to just play and have fun being a kid.  Research has shown that a person will achieve more in "natural environments" or places where they feel comfortable, and Kids at Play is the only pediatric therapy location in the Greater Philadelphia area that meets the federal guidelines for a "natural environment".  The facilities are designed so children who are in need of therapy will have a place that the whole family can look forward to coming to and playing in.  Rather than the usual set aside sterile locations for therapy services, at Kids at Play all children (whether they are there to work on sensory, social, language, or motor needs or to accompany a sibling) can just be children going to have fun.

Kids at Play has professional therapists for private services as well as classes and open play for every child. They make the most out of every inch of their facility using both cutting edge and common sense play equipment and spaces. Right in the middle of the sensory gym is a large sturdy playground set with lots of places to climb, crawl, and slide (we loved the extra mats at the end of the fast slides!). Underneath are numerous colorful ball pits (which are cleaned weekly by a cool machine).   Kids at Play also boasts indoor swings with various weight requirements and ways to sit or lie down.  We really liked the red ship swing as well as the large net swing that easily holds multiple people including adults.

Though it would be hard to pick out our favorites with so many fun things to choose from, our play testers were big fans of the zip line chair, the race car ramp (we really wish we were small enough for that one!), and the interactive floor projector. Even with all of these fascinating things to play with and around, Kids at Play maintains a quieter and calm environment.  It even has a separate soft play area for the very smallest children to enjoy, complete with riding toys, balls and cars, an interactive felt wall, and lots of books.

Upstairs the fun continues with an arts and crafts room stocked with toys that encourage fine motor skills.  With large tables for activities like coloring and Play-Doh and a chalkboard wall, the room doubles as the party room for birthday parties.  Next door is an area put together specifically to give children with sensory issues a place to relax and recharge. It's quieter and darker than the other spaces with less traditional seating options including a hanging seat, pillows, and a tented chair.  Down the hall, older children will enjoy trying their hand at the indoor archery (yes, seriously).  The SAFE Archery equipment is specifically geared toward teaching young ones the art of archery, which is actually teaching them patience, awareness, and a bit of real life math when factoring in weights, distance, and angles.  We tried it ourselves and can guarantee that it takes practice and will keep a kid entertained for a long time trying to perfect their skill.

One of the things that we enjoyed most at Kids at Play was that the design caters not only to the needs of the visiting children, but also their parents and caretakers.  We don't think we've ever been to a children's play place that did such a good job making it convenient for an adult to be there too.  The parent lounge near the front door had very comfortable seating with a view of almost the entire main room.  We also noted the clean and thoughtful family bathrooms (a garbage NEXT to the changing station - how rare!), as well as the free Wi-Fi.  There was also plenty of seating in the food area (with high chairs available), and we were delighted to discover a vending machine stocked with all healthier snack options.  Kids at Play makes it easy and convenient for families to come and just concentrate on everyone having a good time.

The Kids at Play facilities can be rented out for parties, and they have a few different birthday packages to choose from.  (TIP: Book your party well in advance as their schedule fills up very fast!)  They also offer a wide variety of awesome classes such as Fun with Food, Astronaut Training, Mommy and Me, Early Language and Play, and so many more!  Each class is geared toward teaching a certain set of skills whether it's physical development, social interaction, or an awareness of good health choices.

The location is open every week for any kid during Open Play hours Sunday through Friday. Memberships can be purchased on a monthly basis for each child or for a whole family for an entire year.  Memberships include discounts on therapy, classes, and birthday packages, as well as special hours for Open Play.  Contact Kids at Play to book a consultation for physical, speech, or occupational therapy.  It's definitely THE best location in Greater Philadelphia for kids to grow and learn just like a kid.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Looking Back at The Broad Street Run: Tips for Future Participants

Participating in the Broad Street Run has always been on our "Philly bucket list", and this year we actually registered for it.  To our great surprise, our name was picked in the lottery (such a popular race that they have to limit it to 40,000 runners), and then we were faced with the realization that we actually had to run a 10 mile race in only a few short months. *gulp*  Not being a runner by nature or inclination, we managed to squeeze in time to train and can proudly boast to running the ENTIRE 10 miles (with only one quick pause for a photo-op with City Hall).  Of course we will not be sharing how long it took to actually finish the race, but we can tell you that our time definitely reflects more of the Tortoise's "slow and steady" running philosophy.  All in all we had a great time, and once we could walk normally again, we began to think optimistically (stupidly?) of doing it all again.  In case you are thinking about attempting to "beat Broad Street", we have some thoughts, tips, and reflections from our own personal experience to share.

Get There Early:

We decided to be the race dork and show up embarrassingly early to the Broad Street Run as it was our first time, but we're so glad that we did.  Not only did it mean that we got to sit down on the north bound subway ride and go to the bathroom TWICE before the race, but as it was POURING COLD RAIN, we also got to stake out one of the few dryer spots around the start of the race to chill until we got into our corral.  Similarly to how mothers look forward to child birth just because they are tired of waiting, we also had time to get bored enough to actually look forward to running 10 miles.

Wear Throw Away Clothes:

We read in many tips to bring clothes to wear over your race attire that you won't mind leaving behind at the beginning of the race or sometime during it.  This was especially important this year as it was POURING COLD RAIN on us.  We wore a giant hoodie we had picked up for a couple of bucks from Goodwill the day before, and it kept us warm and dry while standing and waiting for the race to start.  (We also went with the must-have accessory of the day: a thin rain poncho).  We left our hoodie on the side of the corral (clothing left behind is picked up and donated to local homeless shelters), but most people apparently just stripped down right where they were.  We were definitely not expecting the piles of clothing that we had to step over to get to the starting line.  We're not sure if those in the corrals in front of us actually ran the race or were just raptured.

Pace Yourself:

The beginning of the Broad Street Run is super exciting.  You're running downhill in a mass of people as far as your eye can see either direction down the road, there's spectators cheering on all sides of you, and everyone is going quickly from the burst of adrenaline.  We definitely had to fight to keep the pace that we had trained doing and consoled ourselves as we were passed on all sides by the thought of passing these same people later after they had burnt out their energy by giving too much too soon.  With this type of distance it's better to speed up later than have to slow down toward the end (and those last three miles got brutal).

If Possible, Be a Man:

Running the Broad Street Run seems to be a heck of a lot easier for men for the simple fact that they don't need a toilet to pee.  Due to race jitters or badly timed bathroom runs, a large chunk of racers had to make pit stops along the way at the port-o-johns lined up in various places along the route. In actuality you only had to wait in line for a quick potty break if you were female or a more self-conscious male.  We couldn't help but notice that in every empty lot we passed there were always a handful of male runners making their mark on the wall before rejoining the race as fast as they could. Male runners also have the benefit of being able to wear obscenely short shorts that no one seems to bat an eye at (but be warned men, you better have the speed to back up those little pieces of mesh - the shorter the shorts, the faster we expect you to be).

Have a Good Playlist:

Yes, TECHNICALLY you are not allowed to wear headphones during the Broad Street Run, but unless you are thinking you might be disqualified from placing (we were not the least bit worried about it), no one cares if you wear them.  Whatever motivates you to go the distance is what you should be listening to whether that's a specific list you trained with, an audiobook, or nature sounds. It doesn't matter if it's not what someone else would prefer - YOU are the only one who can get yourself to the finish line.  As for ourselves, we had originally put together a general playlist, but wound up downloading this the night before and just listened to it on repeat for pretty much the entire race.  Whatever works, right?

When You Get to the End, Keep Moving:

Once we finally crossed over the blessed finish line after running 10 miles, we were encouraged to continue moving and pick up various items all while trying to be a grown up about the fact that we almost literally could not walk or breathe.  So we staggered forward like a big mob of zombie race participants and somehow found ourselves out in the open Navy Yard with a heat blanket, our medal, a bottle of water, a soggy soft pretzel, and our bag of race goodies and snacks.  It had been POURING COLD RAIN the entire time, but now we could actually feel it.  So rather than stand still and contemplate our exhilarated misery, we just kept moving - to the parking lot, to the shuttle buses, to our cars, to the subways, to our showers, to our beds, to a warm meal, to congratulatory hugs and cheers.  If you just keep moving, you'll get to some place better than just exhaustion and confusion.

Enjoy the Display of Humanity:

It's moments like participating in the Broad Street Run that really make you proud to be a human being.  You're there with 39,999 other people waiting, waiting, waiting and then running, running, running all together like a giant river of arms and legs, smiles and cheers (and since the year we decided to run IT POURED COLD BUCKETS OF RAIN THE ENTIRE TIME, we were literally a river).  For some people running 10 miles is a breeze, but for most of the participants this takes varying degrees of actual effort.  No matter how difficult or painful it got (and where we racing, you better believe the runners were feeling it toward the end there), everyone around us was not just focused on getting themselves to the finish but also on bringing all of their fellow race participants with them.  "Keep going!" "We can make it!" "Don't stop now!" "We'll do this together!" all being shouted and bandied about by complete strangers.

And runners weren't the only ones keeping each other going.  Lined on either side of Broad Street were people who were up early that morning (standing in the POURING RAIN for hours) for no other reason than to cheer on thousands and thousands and thousands of people that they didn't know and will most likely never see again.  But we definitely saw them - all of them.  From the boys with the banging pots and pans and the ladies with their big foam fingers and morning coffee to proud family members with witty signs and the loads of musicians playing to keep us going.  We appreciated all the high fives, the smiles, the shouts of encouragement, and especially the basic fact that you really didn't have to be there that morning and decided to show up anyway.


The Broad Street Run is a race that we think everyone who can attempt it should attempt it.  It wasn't easy, but it was definitely worth it.  We will never forget the time we had the amazing experience of joining 39,999 other people crazy enough to run 10 miles (in the COLD, POURING RAIN) for no other reason except that they could.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Day Out with Thomas at Strasburg Rail Road

This past June, Daily Vacationer Jr got the thrill of a lifetime when we were able to attend one of the most talked about and anticipated childhood memory-making events of the year: A Day Out with Thomas at Strasburg Rail Road.  We absolutely love Strasburg Rail Road out in Lancaster County (tons of happy times were had there in our own childhood)!  A regular day at Strasburg is already loads of fun, with rides on historic steam engines and train cars through Amish farmland and lots of extra fun to do at the station from browsing the extensive gift shops and sampling the good eats to taking a spin on the hand-powered cranky cars and behind the Pint-Sized Pufferbelly miniature steam engine.  But when A Day Out with Thomas comes to Strasburg, it all becomes even more exciting - an absolute must for anyone with Thomas and Friends/train fans in the family.

One of the things that we liked best about A Day Out with Thomas was how well run it all was (no confusion and delay here, Sir Topham Hatt).  The overflow of parking was redirected with easy to follow signs to the Sight and Sound Theatre where buses were transporting visitors back and forth pretty much every five minutes.  There were no lines or huge crowds waiting even at the height of the weekend, and it was no big deal to run back to the car to grab something you forgot.  We also observed a distraught family who had missed their time slot to ride the Thomas train being assured that they would be able to get on the next ride and were quickly printed new tickets with a new time.  Everything was clearly marked and there were staff everywhere to answer questions and keep everyone safe with all the train comings and goings.  A Day Out with Thomas was probably was one of the smoothest run events we've ever been to - and for an event where the main audience is not even school-aged yet, that is saying a lot!  It was very clear that it was the staff's job to worry about all the details, and visitors were just expected to relax and have fun.

The highlight of A Day Out with Thomas is, of course, seeing the blue tank engine himself, and no matter how many times he puffed in and out of the station, there was always euphoria among the crowds as he went by.  Making things even better was the addition of his best friend, Percy, who was also available to ride behind ( and don't worry - we were informed that back on the Island of Sodor, James was taking care of Percy's usual job pulling the mail cars so he was able to come too).  Both engines talked and smiled as they entered and exited the station and then would stop to pose for photos with guests in between train rides.  We rode behind Thomas and Percy and definitely recommend going for the upgraded ticket to experience both (and you can always upgrade once you are there as we saw many families doing).

A Day Out with Thomas also includes many special extras around the train station that aren't usually there.  There's a fun photo op with the famous Sir Topham Hatt, a tent to get temporary tattoos, lots of Thomas and Friends toys, books,  clothing, and more to browse and buy, plus lots of activities.  We headed over to the Imagination Station where numerous train tables and piles of building materials gave everyone a chance to create their own Thomas story.  Nearby, a handful of Thomas power wheels were available for little ones to ride around the tracks.  A favorite spot among parents was the Storytelling and Video Viewing location - a great place to rest and regroup without getting bored.  Photo ops also abounded with big banners of Thomas and Friends characters hung low for smaller visitors to enjoy, as well as many places to stop and see Thomas and Percy puffing in and out of the station.

A Day Out with Thomas is already chocked full of special fun and activities, and Strasburg Rail Road manages to make it even better by continuing to run their normal steam train route, as well as all their regular extras around the station.  Different ticket combos allow you to enjoy some or all of the trains available to ride during the event (and  as always, train station extras are FREE with a train ticket).  Daily Vacationer Jr had an amazing time at A Day Out with Thomas at Strasburg Rail Road - and judging from the looks on the faces old and young around us, we were not the only ones.  Definitely take advantage of this awesome event and bring your Thomas and train lovers to meet their beloved tank engines face to face and make memories that the family will remember forever.
June 18 - June 26

August 27 - September 4
November 18 - November 20
TICKETS WILL SELL OUT, SO BUY IN ADVANCE!

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