Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Night in the Museum (The Academy of Natural Sciences Overnight)

The Academy of Natural Sciences  of Drexel University is always an amazing place to visit, so participating in their “Night in the Museum” experience was just as awesome as we expected. The overnight was well organized and all of the museum staff members were friendly and informed. Put that together with the Academy’s one-of-a-kind exhibits and you’ve got a winning combination!

We knew right from the beginning that this would be a great experience. A helpful packet of information was emailed out well before the overnight, letting us know what to bring and what to expect. When we arrived at the museum, check-in was quick and easy. A staff member gave the adults in our group colored wristbands, and we brought our overnight equipment to our color’s assigned area. Overnight equipment in each area was stored against the wall so that it would be out of the way while we were exploring the museum. We were thrilled to be assigned to dinosaur hall and enjoyed checking out the exhibits in that area while we waited for orientation to begin.

Everyone headed to the auditorium at 7:00pm for a brief but informative orientation. Soon we had all the information we needed about the rules and expectations, as well as the exciting evening we had to look forward to! The presenter was energetic and funny and held everyone’s attention. After orientation, we opted to head up to the top floor of the museum to avoid the larger groups that began their exploring on the main floor right outside the auditorium. We practically had the Inside-Out area to ourselves, and enjoyed petting a friendly box turtle and seeing what the museum creatures were up to after hours. 

As we made our way through the museum, we found quite a few special activities set up on each floor. Here were some highlights:

-Decorating sleep masks so that the museum’s emergency lights wouldn’t keep us awake.

-Covering shark teeth in tinfoil and plaster, just like paleontologists do when transporting real dinosaur bones.

-Using special markers to put our own mark on the glass in front of several diorama’s in the North American Mammal hall.

-Talking with some dinosaur experts about their table full of replica bones.

-A flashlight scavenger hunt in Dinosaur Hall.

We made sure to head down to the Commons for a snack (pretzels and apples) at 8:15, and we toured the fantastic "Dinosaurs Unearthed" exhibit before it closed at 9:00pm (a special exhibit - now moved on to make room for "Frogs: A Chorus of Colors"). Then we watched a squid dissection, and learned all about the different parts of the squid – the braver members of our party even touched them! Plus we brought home cards with our names written on them in ink directly from the squid! At 10:00 everyone headed back to the auditorium for the Live Animal Show. The kids were impressed by the large eastern rat snake and the rescued hawk, and the adults were impressed by the well-informed and articulate speaker. When the presentation ended we were reminded about where to set up our sleeping bags, and then we were dismissed to lay out our gear. Although we sat closer to the back of the auditorium to have the prime pick of where to lay our things out, we shouldn’t have worried. There was plenty of room for everyone! (Note that the area directly around the T-Rex is reserved for VIP guests.)

After getting ready for bed, we headed back to the auditorium one more time for a half hour movie about dinosaurs. By 11:30 everyone was tired out from all our adventures, and we crawled in to our sleeping bags, just in front of the triceratops skeleton. We guess you could say we slept with visions of dinosaurs dancing in our heads! A friendly voice over the loudspeaker woke us up at 7:00 am, and we all headed downstairs for a breakfast of cereal and bagels (and coffee for the adults!). We packed our things up so they wouldn’t be in anyone’s way, and after breakfast we had the opportunity to go through the butterfly exhibit, which had been closed the night before. Overnight guests were invited to stay for as much of the day as they desired. They even had special t-shirts and patches for sale for the overnight guests. Our Night at the Museum was both wonderful and memorable, and we highly recommend this unique experience at the always amazing Academy of Natural Sciences!

Night in the Museum overnights are hosted throughout the year and are a great time for families as well as groups for scout trips, birthdays, sports teams, and kids' clubs.  For upcoming dates, ticket prices (take note of the benefits of the VIP ticket!), and more information on other museum programs, head to www.ansp.org.

Sign up for Academy eNews to be the first to learn about specials events and exhibits. 



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Monday, January 9, 2017

Winter at the Garden State Discovery Museum

It's the perfect time of year to invest in an indoor play membership, and one of our top recommendations is the Garden State Discovery Museum.  We absolutely love this children's museum.  The permanent exhibits are loads of fun (you can literally play in just one small part of the building the entire day), and they constantly have fun extras and memorable events to add some excitement to any time of year.

Take a journey around the world in January and February with the Passport to Discovery series (included in general admission). Every weekend visit and learn about a new culture including an Indian Kite Festival, a Chinese Snow and Ice Festival, the Up Helly Aa Viking Festival from Scotland, a frosty Finland weekend, and the rhythms of Africa with the Universal African Drum & Dance Ensemble.  Enjoy fun and science from around the world and create your own special take home craft.

Fans of Frozen can rejoice with the return of the 3rd Annual Frosty Ball on Friday, February 10th. Make sure to reserve your spot ASAP as pre-registration is required, and this event is POPULAR (for good reason!). This year looks to be even bigger and better with delicious desserts from Classic Cakes, games, Frosty friends, take home crafts, a hot chocolate bar, and chilly snow cones.  Dance the night away with this super fun winter tradition (tickets are discounted for museum members!).

Stay up to date on events and announcements by following the
Garden State Discovery Museum on Facebook.



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Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 in Review

All the places and things we check out in Greater Philadelphia for our followers would not be possible without various people and places giving us all these amazing opportunities.  As 2016 comes to a close and we look forward to a brand new year, we'd like to thank all those who made it such an amazing year for Daily Vacationer and Daily Vacationer Jr. 

The Academy of Natural Sciences
Garden State Discovery Museum
Delaware River Waterfront
Independence Seaport Museum
Liberty One Observation Deck
Glen Foerd on the Delaware
Diner en Blanc Philadelphia
Brandywine River Art Museum
Sesame Place
Philadelphia Christmas Village
En Route Marketing
Philly Tour Hub
Philadelphia Urban Adventures
Philadelphia CVB
The Kimmel Center for Performing Arts
Pennsylvania Ballet
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Johnson's Corner Farm
Hill Creek Farm
Morris Arboretum
Aversa PR
Strasburg Rail Road
UniverSoul Circus
Please Touch Museum
Fairmount Park Conservancy
Edaville USA
Adventure Aquarium
Dutch Wonderland
Moozie's Play Cafe
Kid Fit
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Ride the Ducks Philly
Stand Up Philly
Historical Philadelphia
Franklin Square
Betsy Ross House
Valley Forge Casino Resort
Kids at Play
Broad Street Run
Sahara Sam's Oasis
The Franklin Institute
Philadelphia Horticultural Society
The Philadelphia Flower Show
International House Philadelphia
Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge
Philadelphia Parks and Recreation
Gloucester County Parks and Recreation
Gloucester County 4H Show
West Philadelphia Orchestra
Longwood Gardens
Royal Haven Horse Farm
Philadelphia Horticultural Center
Camden Waterfront

 We tried to remember everywhere and everyone.
Thank you so much!

-From the Daily Vacationer and Daily Vacationer Jr Team


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Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Very Furry Christmas at Sesame Place

Sesame Street and the holiday season have always gone hand in hand for us at Daily Vacationer. Watching "Christmas Eve on Sesame Street" is a cherished tradition, and we love every second from the beginning at the ice skating rink to the very end when Cookie Monster has devoured Gordon and Susan's Christmas tree.  As a kid (and kind of as grown up too), we couldn't think of a better way to spend the holidays than with our friends on Sesame Street, so when we got the chance to head up to Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA to experience A Very Furry Christmas, you better believe we were thrilled!

Sesame Place is incredibly exciting during its regular season with loads of fun and attractions geared for different ages of children.  There's so much to do in this fantastic location, and it seems like every year they come out with a new ride or expansion to the park.  The waterpark sections were, of course, closed when we visited this December, but there was still tons to do, and since the amount of visitors were no where near the numbers in the summer, we could hop on and off anything around the park.  Some of our favorites included Captain Cookie's High "C's" Adventure and Oscar's Rotten Rusty Rockets (great for even the most timid of the group), the views from the Count Around, and the Sunny Day Carousel.  We had to give special marks to Vapor Trail for being the most thrilling ride we've ever seen at a children's theme park for very young kids (nothing like getting to do a real roller coaster with a three year old!).

For those of us who are, have been, or now have our own Sesame Street lovers, it's an absolute dream come true to walk past Mr. Hooper's Store, up the stairs of the apartment building next to Big Bird's nest, and get to meet beloved characters!  We were too old ourselves for the Elmo phenomenon and the introduction of super popular Abby Cadabby, but we're not ashamed to admit that we took plenty of selfies with our personal favorites like Ernie and Bert, Grover, Count von Count, and Oscar the Grouch. Other characters we met or saw that day included Telly Monster, Zoe, Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Honker, Murray, Rosita, and Prairie Dawn. So much fun!

You don't just get fun photo ops with the Sesame Street characters, you also get to sing and dance all day with them during their various show and street parades.  We were absolutely floored by the level of professionalism from the Sesame Place friends.  Not only did they perform a bazillion different dance routines, songs, and scripts throughout the day, they also knew their stuff well enough to be able to improvise with it and continue to have spontaneous interactions with the audience and each other.  While we loved the carefully choreographed dances ("backup" dancers during the parade: we are in awe of you as well), it was all the extras that made the characters really believable and fun.

There are so many different shows to choose from (we saw and loved A Sesame Street Christmas though it looked like the indoor Elmo the Musical was the most popular), and we highly recommend seeing as many as you can for more time with the characters. (Another great place to meet and greet Sesame Place Friends is to pay a little extra to Dine with Elmo & Friends - that experience got rave reviews from others we talked to that day).  And whatever you do, DO NOT MISS THE STREET PARADE! It's a lively and magical show from beginning to end with floats, music, and fun It captures the excitement of Sesame Street like nothing else you will see that day.

During A Very Furry Christmas, the park has a ton of holiday extras to enjoy that make this season a great time to visit for both first time guests like ourselves and frequent Sesame Place visitors.  More than 300 Christmas trees (including one giant one with its own light show) and millions of twinkling lights that get brighter and more amazing as the sun goes down shine all around the park (some in the shape of Sesame Street characters!). The Twiddlebugs Gingerbread Factory, an adorable interactive walk-through attraction, was located right next to the Reindeer Games where we got to meet Lightning, the reindeer from the movie "Elmo Saves Christmas".  There's also Christmas Storytimes, meet and greets with Santa (Cookie Santa after Christmas), and the enchanting Furry Express train ride.  Also look for festive and warming additions to the menus and food options around the park.

We loved our visit to A Very Furry Christmas at Sesame Place!  It was pure magic for the little ones and nostalgic fun for the grown ups (when the characters burst into "Keep Christmas with You" during one of the shows, we just freaked out inside).  The holiday cheer runs select days through January 1st with New Year's Eve Fireworks on December 31st.  Tickets are discounted for the holiday season plus an extra 2016 visit is included for FREE!  Now is also a great time to buy season passes for 2017 as they are being offered at their lowest price ever.


(Great About Allergy Issues!)


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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Brandywine River Museum's Christmas with the Dolls

Events at the Brandywine River Museum are always an enjoyable experience, and Christmas with the Dolls was no exception!  They created an opportunity for an experience which built anticipation and excitement even before we reached the museum.  Christmas with the Dolls proved to be an event fun for adults and kids. We really appreciated the calming and relaxed atmosphere they created by playing festive music and showing multiple screens with a peaceful snowy scene.  The staff was so friendly and nice, and they were very organized and prepared for this event!

We made bracelets for kids and dolls and also colored and cut out paper dolls that were similar to some of our favorite dolls in the museum. We appreciated that materials for the crafts were prepared ahead and ready to go. Time went by quickly as we completed these activities! After craft time, we enjoyed cookies and juice in sweet kid-friendly tea cups (we loved that they had separate tables for eating vs. crafting keeping things clean and less stressful for caregivers).  Truly this event was thoughtfully done and enhanced our enjoyment of the museum overall. It was fun to see kids with their dolls exploring the miniature scenes and dolls in the rooms of the museum, and "helping" their dolls spot fun details in the train exhibit.

At Christmas time, the museum is a perfect experience for kids. The train exhibit has platforms for the kids to stand on so they can see, and the doll rooms are easily visible at many levels. A harp player was part of creating a beautiful, calming holiday experience. The museum is just the right size to explore as a family and has art that is enticing and interesting to enjoy. The Brandywine River Museum isn't afraid of children. Instead they embrace how this museum experience can encourage life long appreciate for the beauty of the arts. It has so much to offer throughout the year. We can't wait to go back for another visit!


More Photos from Daily Vacationer Jr

A Brandywine Christmas

Brandywine River Museum

Visiting with Children

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Center City Holiday Tour

Philadelphia Tour Hub and Philadelphia Urban Adventures are once again running their popular Center City Holiday Tour this season.  The tour is actually so popular that they added a second departure time this year. Guests can now choose from an afternoon 1pm excursion or see the city lit up in the night at 5pm.  The tours begin and end conveniently at the Christmas Village at City Hall and are set up to entertain both Philly natives and out of towners. This past weekend, we opted for the 1pm afternoon Center City Holiday Tour. We met up with our knowledgeable and friendly Tour Guide, Alex, and the rest of the group at Dilworth Park, and though it was rainy and windy, the weather did not put a damper on our good time.

We began by taking the short walk to Reading Terminal Market to do a little shopping and indulge in a snack. The extensive toy train display is the highlight of the market at this time of year with young and old gathered around the plexiglass to catch a glimpse of the toy village and miniature trains. Reading Terminal Market is home to many iconic Philly eateries, so it is a great place for a snack or a quick lunch. After about a half hour to tour the market independently, we met back up with our group for the walk to the Wanamaker Building, home of the present day Macy’s. Along the way we learned a few historical facts about Philadelphia and it’s holiday traditions. When we arrived at the Wanamaker Building we took in the famous window displays before heading indoors for the dazzling Light Show. Once inside we joined a huge crowd to stare in awe of the massive, four story, old fashioned light show set to music from the world famous Wanamaker Grand Organ. (We recommend going back on your own sometime to visit Macy's fun Dickens Village Display as well).

After the spectacle had ended, we made our way over to the Comcast Building for a new high tech, holiday show. Luckily, we got there a few minutes early so we could get a hot latte from the Starbucks conveniently located in the lobby of the building. The Comcast Holiday Spectacular is projected on the lobby wall with the world’s highest resolution LED screen. This 15 minute show includes snippets from various well known Christmas Carols and the famous Nutcracker. It all ends with a sleigh ride that was so real looking we literally felt like we were on Santa’s Sleigh! The next stop on our tour was the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. This building, beautiful in it’s own right, is breathtaking all decorated for the Christmas Season. After a quick lesson on the history of the building, we took a walk around to take in the ambiance of the incredible Cathedral.

Afterwards, we strolled around the city, taking in the festive window displays and peeking into stores as shoppers searched for the perfect gifts. We also got a chance to pop in to Di Bruno Bros. and taste some samples of their wares from the heart of Philadelphia’s Italian Market. Our tour ended at the Christmas Village around City Hall. Alex left us there to watch the Rothman Rink ice skaters and wander around at our leisure. There were vendors selling food and gifts in little huts. This year in the center courtyard of City Hall there is an old fashioned Carousel as well as a place to meet Santa Clause with some great photo ops. We also loved the new Winter Garden in Dilworth Park.  We left with more than a little interesting information about our beloved city and our hearts filled with the holiday spirit.  We can see why this tour is so popular!

The Center City Holiday Tour runs daily through December 31st.


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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Pennsylvania Ballet's The Nutcracker

During December every year the Academy of Music comes alive in way like no other time of year as they celebrate the holidays with the Pennsylvania Ballet's production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Walk down the Avenue of the Arts, and you'll see families and friends coming from and going to performances - all excited to be there and to be experiencing such a wonderful Philadelphia tradition. We had the opportunity to go ourselves this year. We wanted to find out if seeing The Nutcracker at Christmastime is as amazing as others make it out to be. Well, we walked away with our answer: Yes - absolutely yes!

The Academy of Music itself is a breathtaking building to visit from it's throwback gas lit lamps along it's entrance to the beautiful carpeted staircases rising up from the marbled lobby. Since opening in 1857, the concert hall and opera house has been a center for the arts and culture in the city of Philadelphia and became a National Historical Landmark in 1962. The most amazing part of the building (besides the sets and performers on stage, of course) is the actual interior with it's high rising balconies and unbelievably amazing chandelier.  

The Pennsylvania Ballet Company also has a rich Philadelphia history, being established by Barbara Weisberger, a protegee of George Balanchine, in 1963 and performing The Nutcracker for the first time in 1968.  Over the years, different choreographers' versions were added to the two acts, until 2007 when the entire ballet was performed following Balanchine's choreography - a tradition that has continued every year since.

The Nutcracker is a special experience for the Academy of the Music, as the majority of the audience are families with children younger than the usual ballet attender.  Even so, everything from coat checks and finding bathrooms to locating seats and getting little guests booster chairs happened easily and without a hitch. Moments that could have easily turned hectic for parents and caregivers were instead a relaxing and memorable time. Everyone, older and younger, gathered together in their holiday finery already enjoying this amazing experience, and then the orchestra began and the curtain went up...

(Photo: Alexander Iziliaev)
We aren't extremely knowledgeable about the art of ballet, but even we can recognize good dancing when we see it.  And the Pennsylvania Ballet is very, very good. Breathtaking actually. Coupled with the enthusiastic children in the cast and the stunning set designs, the company is a sight to behold - telling one of the most famous Christmas stories with every movement, turn, and leap. While the second act is usually considered to be the favorite, we have a particular love for Act I as we watch a Christmas party unfold from the excitement of everyone arriving to the relatable end of overtired children being lead and carried off as grown ups give their goodbyes.  Our personal favorites during this scene were the trouble making little Fritz (Rowan Duffy) and the perfectly stiff movements of the lady wind up Harlequin toy (Nayala Lopes). We loved that the Mouse King (Aleksey Babayev) was out in the lobby meeting guests before the performance (as was the Sugar Plum Fairy!), so when the time came for his memorable appearance on stage, his part was fully entertaining rather than scary to the small children in the audience.  The end of Act I was exciting from the mouse battle and the growing Christmas tree to the dazzling winter scene and the Nutcracker transforming into the Little Prince (Aidan Duffy). 

(Photo: Alexander Iziliaev)
After a pleasantly spent intermission, Act II arrived in all its colorful glory with its famous Tchiakovsky Christmas music (Waltz of the Flowers is one of our most favorite classical pieces ever, so seeing a beautiful ballet performance accompanying it was just breathtaking). We entered the World of the Sweets where treats and goodies came alive to dance for Marie (Avi DiEmedio), the Little Prince, and the audience. We love how each song represents a different sweet with dashing Hot Chocolate, adorable Tea, rhythmic Coffee, exciting Candy Canes, spritely Marzipan Shepherdesses, and a hysterical Ginger Mother with her little Polichincelles.  The audience also gets a quick trip around the world as each sweet comes dressed in the traditional garb of and dancing to a different country's style of music.  It would seem even the World of Sweets is diverse with plenty to celebrate and enjoy about each other.

(Photo: Alexander Iziliaev)
Every member of the audience had their favorite sweet (ours being the high flying, hula-hooping lead Candy Cane (Albert Gordon)), and they would go nuts for beloved parts of the dance in a way that I can't imagine happens in a usual ballet performance.  The exquisite Sugar Plum Fairy (Dayesi Torriente) accompanied by her Cavalier (Arian Molina Soca) executed a gorgeous pas de duex that would cause most little audience members to go home that day with ballerina aspirations.  The Nutcracker came to its vibrant conclusion as the World of Sweets all gathered to wave goodbye to Marie and the Little Prince as they soared off in their magical flying sailboat.  There are no words to describe such a beautiful and perfect moment, and we were not the only ones with tears in ours eyes as the lights came up.

(Photo: Alexander Iziliaev)
Should you go and take a loved one to see The Nutcracker this holiday season? Absolutely yes. You should also go next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.  We now get why this is such an important tradition for so many people.  It's a performance that manages to capture how each generation experiences Christmas and puts it on stage for us to see and hear - from adults enjoying being together with friends and family and seeing their children light up to the kids themselves getting lost in a magical candy world and who view a Christmas tree as the potential for so much more adventure and excitement than the adults ever could imagine.  

George Balanchine's The Nutcracker will be running at The Academy of Music through Dec 31st. Check the calendar for specific dates and times and definitely order your tickets as ahead of time as possible!


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