Wednesday, April 22, 2015

PAFA: Art in Process

Recently, PAFA unveiled new late hours every Wednesday evening, and with it, the introduction of Art in Process (included in museum admission).  A cultural event happening every week, Art in Process connects the museum visitor with the artist - immersing them in different aspects of art creation, from inception to completion.  Discussions, presentations, and programs compliment the beautiful galleries, while the presence of the academy gives a closer look at the creative process than other museums can produce.  As an added bonus, the newly renovated Tableau, PAFA's full-service café run by STARR Events, is open until 8pm on Wednesday nights.
Daily Vacationer's own personal experience at Art in Process was quite the memorable evening.  We were treated to an architecture tour throughout the Historic Landmark building from PAFA's director, Harry Philbrick (tours are free with admission, so definitely always check if any are being offered during your visits).  At 7pm, the Copeland String Quartet preformed in the Rotunda with the gorgeous strains of Ravel, Gershwin, and Dvorak drifting through the galleries and the Cast Hall where art students worked on their own pieces in all different mediums.  We wandered from room to room watching, observing, listening, and taking it all in before settling in to enjoy the second half of the performance (we highly recommend going to see the Copeland String Quartet play if you ever get the chance - absolutely breathtaking).
A fantastic look at the inspiration, celebration, and practical application of art, Art in Process takes a visit to PAFA to a whole new level.  Check out their calendar to  see what exciting program is coming each week.  Artists, art lovers, and culture enthusiasts all take note: Art in Process is the new "must do" event to experience in Philadelphia.
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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Daily Vacationer Jr: Easter at Strasburg Rail Road

Spring break has come and gone - and what a cold, messy couple of weeks it was this year!  Still, Daily Vacationer Jr managed to discover lots of fun out in Lancaster County during the holidays.  Every year, Strasburg Rail Road hosts its annual Easter Bunny Train, and this year, we finally got to check it out for ourselves.
Strasburg Rail Road is a great favorite of Daily Vacationer Jr's.  Every time we find ourselves back there again, we are immediately reminded of all the great times we had there when we were young.  Some things haven't changed at all: the excitement of the train coming into the station, the old coach cars with sliding seats so you can always face forwards (or backwards if you wish), and the beautiful scenery of the Amish farmland out both sides of the train car.  And some things have changed a lot: the new fun extras to play with and ride on at the station, yummy choices at the Trackside Café, and all the souvenirs, toys, and books a train lover could wish for at the gift shops!
It's always an exciting experience to be at Strasburg Rail Road, but riding with the Easter Bunny over the holiday weekend made it even better.  Even though the day we visited was overcast with a threat of rain (that fortunately never showed up), the station was full of excited families - kids in engineer hats, parents carrying train tickets, and grandparents capturing it all on video camera.  The mood was infectious, and everyone got a little giddy every time the steam engine puffed and clanged its way into the station with the Easter Bunny and Mrs. Macgregor waving and smiling from a boxcar.
The train ride itself was loads of fun with friendly staff coming through to collect tickets and take group photos.  A cheerful sounding conductor kept the trip upbeat and interesting with fun information and tidbits about the surrounding countryside, the railroad, and, of course, the Easter Bunny.  When we reached Paradise (yes, we really did), the train came to a stop and waited for the steam engine to come around to the front of the cars (formerly the back) to return home.  During this delay, we got to see the impressive engine puff right past us, and that was also when the Easter Bunny made his rounds.  A child friendly version donning an engineer outfit, the Easter Bunny was welcomed by everyone for photos throughout the cars with nary a frightened little one in sight (BIG thumbs up on this choice of bunny, Strasburg Rail Road!).  Mrs. Macgregor trailed behind handing out special holiday treats to the kids which we all happily enjoyed during our return trip.
Daily Vacationer Jr finished up the day taking advantage of all the fun extras around the station included with our train ticket.  We took a mini train ride on the Pint-Sized Pufferbelly Miniature Stream Train, used our own power to get our Cranky Cars around the track, and explored the new playground area.  Naturally, we also popped into all the gift shops (and may have made a couple of purchases), and we saved our nickels to enjoy the lively player piano.  We had a wonderful time, and we are already looking forward to our next visit to Strasburg Rail Road!

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Daily Vacationer Jr: Garden State Discovery Museum: Pinocchio

Daily Vacationer Jr. has long been a fan of the performances from the Garden State Discovery Museum's Discovery Theatre.  After enjoying American Legends and Rapunzel last year, we were looking forward to this year's Passport to Discovery 2015 show.  A timeless tale rewritten with original songs, audience participation, and comedic twists, the Discovery Theatre's version of Pinocchio entertains children of all ages (and the adults who bring them).
Shows from this troupe usually move at a quick pace, and Pinocchio is no exception.  Scenes flow one after another as characters hop in and out of the story to keep things moving.  Certain cast members play various parts with countless (and sometimes surprisingly hysterical) costume changes.  The story maintains the major characters of Geppetto and his puppet son Pinocchio, as well as some recognizable plotlines (a wish to becomes a real boy, discovering what happens when you make bad choices, and, of course, the growing nose), while second hand characters from the original and Disney versions of the tale make appearances (such as a puppeteer, a sly fox, and a wise cricket).
As always, the audience is included in the show as much as possible with actors often addressing themselves to the viewers to tell them their problems, their achievements, and to ask advice.  Various audience members get to become a part of the cast in this show in the form of marionettes, sly foxes, and helpful blue birds.  And no one needs to ask the audience twice to join in the catchy sing-along near the end of the show.  The performances at the Discovery Theatre always have the great distinction of completely enrapturing a roomful of little, fidgety children to where the crowd gets quieter and more attentive the farther into the story they get.  If you're looking for something special to do with younger kids this spring break, Pinocchio at the Garden State Discovery Museum definitely gets our vote!

Discovery Theatre shows are always FREE with admission!

April 8th, 9, and 11th at 1:00pm and 4:00pm
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Daily Vacationer Jr: Strasburg Rail Road: Easter Bunny Train

(Photo: Strasburg Railroad)
We are unbelievably excited to announce our upcoming visit to ride the Easter Bunny Train at Strasburg Rail Road in beautiful Lancaster County!  Strasburg Rail Road is definitely on our list of places that everyone in Greater Philadelphia should experience at some point, and what better way to welcome spring than with a ride with the Easter Bunny?  Friday, April 3rd, Saturday, April 4th, and Sunday, April 5th, guests are invited to board the First Class Parlor and Lounge Cars or the Coach Cars and take a trip through gorgeous Amish farmland.  Be on the lookout for the special Easter Bunny conductor coming through with a holiday surprise and photo op moment for every child on board!  On Easter Sunday only, guests can ride the Easter Dinner Train and enjoy a delicious full meal aboard the fully restored Victorian dining car.  Trains board 15 minutes before leaving the station, so be sure and get there early for your seat.
There are a lot of "Fun Extras" to do around the train station before and after your train ride (included with your ticket), so Daily Vacationer Jr recommends making a full day of it!  Take a turn with the hand-powered Pump Car and Cranky Cars.  Go for a ride on the Pint-Sized Pufferbelly Miniature Steam Train.  Burn up some extra energy in the train-themed play area before checking out the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania (located right across the street!).  The Trackside Café is a convenient place to stop for good eats from quick snacks to full meals.  Daily Vacationer Jr  recommends purchasing tickets ahead of time to guarantee a spot on the train.
 Daily Vacationer Jr is thrilled to be GIVING AWAY a
Four Pack of Tickets to ride the Easter Bunny Train at Strasburg Rail Road on Saturday, April 4th at 2pm! 
Enter below and good luck!


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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Daily Vacationer Jr: Sahara Sam's Oasis (Indoor Waterpark)

It was the middle of winter - snow on the ground, below freezing temperatures, and dark for a needlessly long amount of time.  And where were we?  We were hanging out in bathing suits, coasting down a lazy river, being thrilled with crazy waterslides, and enjoying constant 84 degree weather.  The best part about all of this?  We were still in the Greater Philadelphia area (actually only about a half an hour from Center City)!  We had discovered Sahara Sam's Oasis, an indoor waterpark in West Berlin, NJ, and we were loving it!  Sahara Sam's opened in 2009, making it the very first free standing indoor waterpark in the state. 58,000 square feet of water and arcade fun, and it can be used year round thanks to its one-of-a-kind retractable roof (quite a bang for that membership buck!). Since it's beginning, Sahara Sam's has been committed to constantly improving on the family friendly experience that they offer, with the additions of expanded kitchen and party facilities, even more restrooms, the tallest free-standing ropes course in the world (now at Diggerland USA), and a new outdoor waterpark area finished in 2013.

Sahara Sam's is not just a business and entertainment center - they are also invested in the local community.  In 2011, they launched the SAMBULANCE Educational Safety Program, a non-profit funded mostly by Sahara Sam's Oasis devoted to "the independence of individuals with special needs through educational programming and safety alliances".  The SAMBULANCE Safety Squad travels to special needs schools and organizations to give complimentary, hands-on training and education about 9-1-1 emergency situations, first aid, and first responders.  Sahara Sam's has since committed itself even further to the special needs community with the introduction of S.E.A.S. (Special Needs Events At Sam's).  With limited tickets sold, reduced lighting and noise, and extra accommodations made (quiet rooms available, as well as zero depth and transfer lifts for easy entry to the waterpark fun), it's a great place for families and individuals with special needs to relax, have fun, and network - all for a greatly reduced price!

Sahara Sam's Oasis has something fun and exciting in every single section of its indoor waterpark.  Most visitors are drawn directly into the fun and variety of Tim-Buk-Tu - an adventure play land with obstacles, slides, platforms, and plenty of water (look out for that giant bucket overhead!!).  Other great play areas include Crocodile Flats (a floating cargo obstacle course), Sam's Slamdunker (an aquatic shoot out), and the Lizard Lagoon (a mini water world perfect for the littlest visitors).  An easy trip around The Congo Bongo makes for a relaxing break whenever you need it.

As much fun as we had exploring the "tamer" sections of the waterpark, we were really looking forward to trying to out the thrill rides that we had heard so much about!  Flow Rider (New Jersey's only indoor surfing simulator) was indeed a wild ride and a crazy challenge.  We now understand why visitors sit nearby to enjoy watching the successes AND the total wipeouts of their fellow guests.  The Nile Mile, an impressively fast 350ft body slide, is a LONG ride - with a full 50ft of runway needed at the end just to slow you down!  Grab a tube and either go solo or in a double to disappear into the belly of the beast of Snake Eyes.  And if that isn't enough people for a crazy ride, Mount Kilimanjaro can accommodate groups of 3 and 4 for a unique bonding experience.  For an even more thrilling ride, make sure to visit sometime when it's dark out (those pitch black water tubes definitely had our adrenaline going when we were there!).

Sahara Sam's Oasis is the perfect place for birthday parties and group functions.  Never having to worry about being rained out at a waterpark is a HUGE plus when setting the date for a party.  Various packages are available to make the big day fun and memorable!  We also love their hotel partnerships with "stay and place" discounts available at local places to spend the night.  And if you're looking to make the most of your Sahara Sam's experience, then definitely check out their season pass.  Unlike other waterparks, this is a year round return of fun on your investment.  Other member benefits include discounts on food and party packages, discounted tickets for friends' admission and select Bring a Friend FREE days, and discounted pricing for special events.

Until March 27th, purchase a family season pass for LESS than the cost of two tickets!!

Sahara Sam's is open EVERYDAY for SPRING BREAK from March 28th - April 12th!

Daily Vacationer Jr always jumps at the opportunity to share places that we have fantastic times at with our readers, so we are thrilled to announce that we are GIVING AWAY a FOUR PACK OF TICKETS to Sahara Sam's Oasis!!!!! Good luck!!


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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Daily Vacationer: Philadelphia Flower Show 2015

Since making its debut in 1829 as the first ever flower show in the United States, the annual Philadelphia Flower Show hosted by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has awed and inspired nearly two centuries of show visitors.  With local, national, and international participants, it is a world-renowned show complete with dazzling displays, amazing exhibits, close competition, and superb shopping.  This year the PHS has added good eats and a fantastic theme into the mix, making the Philadelphia Flower Show an absolute must on Daily Vacationer's list of Greater Philly fun.
We assume that planning and constructing the Flower Show is akin to awaiting the birth of your second child - you just can't believe you'll be able to love them as much as your first.  But then they arrive, and you discover that they are just as amazing.  Even following the smashing success of the unbelievable "Articulture" theme from 2014, this year's "Celebrate the Movies" manages to impress just as much, if not more!  We weren't sure what to expect with the Disney/Disney-Pixar theme (a wonderful draw for families this time around), but we were delighted with what we discovered.  After arriving and taking many, many pictures of the grand entrance (oh wow!), we were immediately drawn to the showcased exhibits.
Rather than a literal take on the movies, most exhibitors choose to express the overall mood of the movie, its location, or the characters.  "Into the Woods" presented itself as a forbidding foggy path through the trees, while "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" compared the green English countryside to the stark white of snowy Narnia.  A personal favorite for Daily Vacationer was "Pooh's Hunny Depot", perfectly capturing the whimsy and innocence of the 100 Acre Wood.  We also enjoyed the various representations of the Disney Princesses as horticultural arrangements and had a great time attempting to guess which princess belonged to which display (big wows for Aurora, Rapunzel, and Pocahontas!).  We could go on forever just listing everything we loved ("Route 66"'s live chickens, the "Underwater Adventure" inspired by Finding Nemo, the beautiful view through Mulan's "Chinese Blossoms", the exotic escape of "The Persian Garden" and "Dreams of the Magic Carpet", the promise of adventure in "Tarzan" and "Peter Pan in Neverland", etc, etc....), but honestly you should really just go see it all yourself!
Some new twists this year include the "Guess the Movie" exhibit (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is our pick - fingers crossed!), mouth watering dining choices (including the PHS Pop Up Garden in the Grand Hall), and some new theme days (Fido Friday and Cinderella Sunday anyone?).  Going right along with the movie theme of the show, Gene London's Hollywood Collection is an exciting addition to the events this year, showcasing famous costumes worn by Vivien Leigh, Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, and many other stars of the big screen.  The Flower Show is also continuing its popular traditions and competitions with the Design Gallery, demonstration studios, unbelievable shopping and vendors, and cool extras like the "Make and Take" room and The Butterfly Experience.
The PHS makes visiting simple with the FREE Flower Show app, parking reservations through Parking Panda, coat check right near the show's entrance, and hand stamps for easy re-entry.  PHS members get FREE Flower Show tickets as well as a ton of discounts and exclusive benefits at the show.  The Philadelphia Flower Show will only be at the Pennsylvania Convention Center from February 28th to March 8th, so make plans to Celebrate the Movies before it's too late - lights, camera, bloom!

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Daily Vacationer Jr: My Gym (Springfield, PA)

My Gyms are famous for being safe, clean indoor spaces for children from 6 weeks to 10 years old to have fun with movement, and the location on Baltimore Pike in Springfield, PA is no exception.  Classes and programs are divided up into age groups with a different, age appropriate experience for each class.  From Little Bundles and Tiny Tykes all the way up to Champions and Cardio Kids, each level offers environmental stimulation and healthy fitness fun (sibling and free play programs are also available).
One of our favorite aspects of My Gym is the way the staff can completely overhaul and change the layout of the rooms, making each experience a new discovery.  Soft wedges and mats, trampolines and ball pits, and ladders and slides are available to be set up for free play as well as fun-based programs.  My Gym gives kids a wonderful environment to master milestones, develop new skill sets, and gain confidence in themselves through interaction with the equipment, the trained staff, and the other children.
With their ability to transform the room with so many layout options, My Gym is a fantastic place to host a birthday party too.  Their party specialists can design a fun-filled day around the birthday boy or girl's specific interests, and they handle everything (our favorite part!).  Parties feature activities, games, puppets, songs, and more depending on the age range of guests and the party packages.  (Be on the lookout for their Parents Night Out events too - a fun, safe, supervised environment to drop off the kids!)



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