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 CafĂ© 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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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Daily Vacationer Jr: The Pop Shop: Dr. Seuss Week

March 2nd is Dr. Seuss' birthday, which means it's time again for the annual Dr. Seuss Week hosted by The Pop Shop in downtown Collingswood, NJ!  Set up as an old fashioned soda fountain, The Pop Shop has a menu full of Americana favorites (they carry Bassetts Ice Cream!) with vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options, as well as wonderfully priced menu options for the youngest guests (check out their Little Squirts and Baby Squirts options).  They also host various events and special discounts throughout the week (Sundae Sunday or Wiener Wednesday, anyone?), so everyday is the best day to be there.
Daily Vacationer Jr loves visiting The Pop Shop  at anytime, but we have to admit that Dr. Seuss Week is our favorite time of the year to be there.  The diner is already a whimsical mix of retro fun and pop art, so when they throw in some Sneetches, the Cat in the Hat, a Lorax, a faithful elephant named Horton, and the wild world of Dr. Seuss' imagination, it becomes even more perfect.  Choose all week from a special kids menu that includes choices like Noodle-eating Poodle Noodles (Fox in Socks), Daisy-Head Mayzie Burgers (Daisy-Head Mayzie), Green Eggs and Whoo Hash (Green Eggs and Ham), and a Schlopp Sundae (Oh, the Thinks You Can Think).
While you're chowing down on your Gritch Pop Fries and slurping down some Pink Yink Ink Drink, there's lots more to do with coloring sheets, mini parades, Lorax mustaches, book readings, trivia games, and Seuss movies to watch (check the event schedule for details).  The Cat and the Hat himself will also be in attendance all week during lunch and dinner hours (expect Friday night) to meet and hang out with.  Make time to come out for a special Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast on Tuesday and Friday!

Monday 3/2: Horton Hears a Who Day

Tuesday 3/3: Cat in the Hat Day

Wednesday 3/4: Wacky Wednesday

Thursday 3/5: Lorax Day

Friday 3/6: The Foot Day

Check out The Pop Shop's BRAND NEW location in Medford!

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Choose a Way: Philadelphia

There are a billion different ways to tour Philadelphia.  While we love having the experience of going with a guide, we're also huge fans of the self-guided tour.  Taking yourself around and doing everything at your own pace can be more relaxing and lots of fun.  But where to start?  Jim Cheney from has a solution with his new interactive ebook, Choose a Way: Philadelphia.  Available for Kindle and the free Kindle App, this wonderful guide is chocked full of great ideas  with 39 different locations for all different interests, ages, budgets, and schedules.
The most fun part about Choose a Way: Philadelphia is its unique "choose your own adventure" style to touring the city.  You can open the book at any time of the day and right away get started with your Philly adventure.  We love how the options aren't just a list of locations, but rather a description of what visiting the place entails.  Once you make your choice, then you click to the page and see where you're headed.  After you've explored your first location, you then consult the book again to find your next destination choices.  There are actually enough locations and choices to explore Philadelphia for five whole days - each a unique visit!

Choose a Way: Philadelphia does not just give you a location and then leave you to figure out the city on your own.  It also has pages of great advice and suggestions on dealing with public transportation, food options, what to bring, and if advanced tickets are needed for any location.  We also love that it takes every possible visitor into consideration including international tourists with mentions of the airport and exchanging currency.

Daily Vacationer loved the idea of Choose a Way: Philadelphia so much that we immediately set out to have our own adventure.  The guide recommends having Google Maps or GPS set up on your device for an easy link to directions, but we opted for the physical Visit Philly map that you can pick up at any of the visitor centers (even following an ebook, we're still pencil and paper type people).  We started our adventure between 9:00am 10:00am which gave us a great list of places to begin.

For stop number one, we opted to go full out tourist and started with a visit to Independence Hall.  As the book mentions, usually timed tickets are needed, but as we went in February, we could just walk up to the security check and go right in.  We've done this visit before, but we'd never turn down the opportunity to enjoy such an iconic historical experience.  Even so, we wanted to make sure that the rest of our adventure was brand new, so our next choice was the Polish American Cultural Center - a fantastic and FREE little museum dedicated to Polish history, it's influence within America, and a look at their art and culture.  With friendly staff and an adorable gift shop area, we thought this place was wonderful and plan to return again.

To keep things random and fresh as we followed Choose a Way: Philadelphia, our next stop was the Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum.  The slick modern interior makes for a fun contrast to its location in Old City, and we were fascinated from the moment we entered.  The museum is a beautiful open space of two floors dedicated to the history of and daily realities of the science of chemistry from alchemy to current uses.  Even for non-science minded people, the exhibits are fun to look at and are filled with interesting info.  Although this is not a "hands on" museum, the giant periodic table tower in the center is an interactive touch screen.  The staff's passion for chemistry and down to earth way of sharing it is contagious.  A visit to this FREE museum is a must for everyone!

From this point, we decided to indulge a walk down 3rd Street for some of the coolest and quirkiest shops in town.  Briar Vintage is always a great favorite of ours, and we love to stop in at Wedge+Fig when we are in that part of town.  Even just window shopping along this route between Market and Race is a pleasure, but do yourself a favor and stop in at every place that catches your eye (it may take awhile!).  For our last stop we decided to head to a place that we have heard so much about but never made time to actually go: The Franklin Fountain.  From the outfits of the staff to the ancient cash register, this old-fashion soda fountain tucked near Penn's Landing is a fun recreation of a beloved bygone era.  The place can get hopping in warmer weather, but thanks to our visit in the middle of winter, we were able to peruse all the choices before making a decision (and there are A LOT of choices).  We thought an ice cream sundae was a fitting end to one of the coolest day we've ever had in Philly.
After taking Choose a Way: Philadelphia out for a spin ourselves, we definitely recommend this unique guide to anyone and everyone.  This guide book is a great purchase for yourself, but it would also make a great gift to anyone who loves or is planning to visit Philadelphia (did we mention it's only $6.99??) Within the span of one day we explored history, science, culture, fantastic shopping, and yummy food - most of it in places that we wouldn't have normally planned to go on our own.  We certainly had an adventure in Philadelphia, and we can't wait to go back and choose a whole new way next time!

(Amazon Affiliate)



Choose a Way: Philadelphia author Jim Cheney is a travel writer and photographer based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His writing focuses primarily on the state of Pennsylvania, but he also writes about his extensive world travels through Europe, Asia, and North America. Jim is one of the foremost experts on Pennsylvania, and writes, Pennsylvania's top travel blog.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Franklin Institute: Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out

The animal kingdom is absolutely fascinating.  With so many shapes and sizes, breeds and kinds, and classes and species, there is always something new to discover about them.  The special Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out exhibit at The Franklin Institute's Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion (until April 12) gives visitors an incredible look at the insides of a huge range of wonderful creatures.  From tentacles and gills to giant hearts and tiny brains, Animal Inside Out literally dissects and exposes the inner workings and curious oddities of the natural world.

Thanks to his invention of the amazing preservation process called Plastination, Dr. Gunther von Hagen was able to create this incredible showcase.  We were thrilled to find an explanation of the Plastination process included within the exhibit (especially after we gawked at the animals comprised almost entirely of only their blood vessels!).  We were also delighted to learn that not one animal was harmed or killed during the preparation of the exhibit, but rather all the animals (and the couple of humans) had their bodies donated posthumously.   We are admittedly squeamish and were a little concerned about seeing insides exposed, but we found the whole thing to be more of an artful homage to the animal kingdom rather than just a scientific display of innards.  From leaping reindeer and a massive bull to a towering giraffe and a cross-sectioned camel, Animal Inside Out is a truly unique look at not only the natural world around us, but also ourselves.

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