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Here is Part 2 of our Revolutionary War & 8 State Road Trip. Don’t miss part 1!
8. Washington DC Day 3 (see above) & Delaware – We drove 2 hours to get to our Delaware destination – Lums Pond State Park. I’m sorry if you are from Delaware, but I didn’t see a lot of unique exciting things I wanted to do. So we decided to stay in a yurt at a state park. It was WONDERFUL! The circular yurt had a double bed and a bunk bed. No air conditioning, but there was electricity (I might consider bringing a fan if you were staying here a week in the summer). There was a nice deck with a couple chairs, a picnic table, fire ring, and access to the beautiful lake! Here is the best part – the rental came with a free kayak!! We had SO much fun kayaking!!
9. Cape Mae New Jersey – A 2 hour drive took us to our New Jersey destination: Cape Mae Lighthouse. We had a great time climbing the 157 steps for a stunning view. Then we had a picnic on the adjacent beach (no swimming allowed). The kids made sand castles and ran around in the water. PERFECT!
- Timberland Campground – We stayed 2 nights at this nice campground. It is beautifully maintained! There is a wonderful pool, industrial strength washing/drying machines, shopping nearby, ducks wandering around the pond, and easy access to Philadelphia!
10. Historic Philadelphia – The quick, easy drive into Philadelphia was a breeze. We parked at the very large and convenient Visitor Center. Grab your free tickets to see Independence Hall right away as they can run out. If you visit in the summer I recommend taking advantage of the story benches for information & direction to your visit. If not, you can walk all the historic part, but you will miss some of the information. We did a hop-on-hop-off bus to get a complete tour of the city. Here are some of the highlights:
- Liberty Bell (we saw this first thing). You will see the remains of the first Presidential house as you approach it; right behind the visitor center. It won’t take you very long to read & see it ~ 30 minutes. Double that if you want to see the video.
- Independence Hall – You will need a free ticket to get in. You will need to go back 30 minutes early to go through security. You enter a room where the rangers gives you some background information. Inside you will see the Assembly room all set-up for the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The Ranger will give you background information. Notice the Rising Sun chair.
- Benjamin Franklin’s Print Shop – Although the museum is closed right now you can see Benjamin Franklins print shop is open. The rangers will answer questions and give demonstrations with the printing press. For $3 you can buy your own copy of the Declaration of Independence printed on a printing press! So cool! Don’t miss the post office next door that still stamps mail with “Be Free”
- Betsy Ross’ House – Although we don’t know for sure if Betsy made the 1st American flag, she is someone most people credited the making of the flag to. If you are interested in going inside an old house you can tour it. I think I’m glad we went once, but wouldn’t need to go back.
- Elfreth’s Alley – The alley is touted as the oldest street in America – with people continuous living there even to this day. You can tour it, but we choose just to take a look at the street outside. I can’t imagine people who live here having tourists around all the time!
- Reading Market Terminal (Monopoly fans will recognized the Reading Railroad it is named after) is a great place to grab a bite to eat from one of a hundred shops.
- Others to see depending on time: Rodin Art Museum, Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia Zoo, Franklin Institute (wish we’d had time for this), Please Touch Children’s Museum, or Penn’s Landing
11. Trenton Old Barracks & Valley Forge –
- Trenton Old Barracks - We drove 2 hours to the site where George Washington crossed the Delaware River and surprised the Hessians on December 26, 1976 – the Old Barracks. This win was a turning point in the Revolutionary War. The Old Barracks was built in 1758 for British Troops during the French-Indian War. Your visit begins as you “join” Washington’s army and get a demonstration on how to use a musket (Goofy LOVED this!). Then as a newly enlisted soldier you will visit the doctor to get a physical (learn about small pocks – great visuals) and talk to a Torrey (Colonist who is loyal to Great Britain). If you come as a family you will also get a tour of the officers quarters (very interesting) and be able to walk through their small museum (the French-Indian War part is very interesting) and watch a video about the Battle of Trenton.
- Valley Forge – Then we drove 2 more hours to Valley Forge. Start your visit in the Visitor Center to see their museum with a timeline of the Revolutionary War. Don’t forget to pick up your map with stops and information for your self-guided driving tour. Consider watching the short video to help you understand more. Next begin the 2 hour driving tour. It is one-way and a pleasant drive. You will see the shelter the soldiers built during their winter at Valley Forge (they reminded us of Lincoln Logs), see canons, and tour the home Washington stayed at. Very interesting and worthwhile for those studying the time period, history buffs, or older elementary ages children.
- Best Western – After another couple hours drive we arrived at the Best Western we would spend the next two nights at. This was WAY cheaper that one of Hershey’s eye gauging hotels! It is super close, nice rooms, beautiful pool with mushroom sprayer & zero depth entry, plus a good breakfast (waffles, yogurt, pastries, cereal, juice). You may also consider staying in nearby Pittsburg.
12. Hershey – After studying about chocolate when we talked about the Aztecs during our Early Explorers unit I was eager to visit Hershey! The town is small and perfect for 1-2 day get-away. Here is what we did:
- Hershey Gardens – This was one of our favorite stops. The roses were STUNNING!!! WOW! We had so much fun looking & smelling the roses. They have other areas in the garden too, this was just our favorite. We also really enjoyed the Children’s Garden with the Hershey Kiss sprayer, musical stepping stones, and butterfly house. Plan to spend 2-3 hours to see this beautiful garden – more to sit & savor it =)
- The Hershey Story Museum Experience – It is hard to imagine coming to Hershey and not learning more about Milton Hershey himself! The museum was bright, interesting, with lots of hands on things to keep the kids entertained. Definitely worth seeing once; allow 2 hours.
- Hershey’s Chocolate World – I am not sure what I was expecting, but this was much larger & crowded than I had expected. You can park for free for 3 hours or expect to pay $16+ after that (unless you pay for 2 experiences). It is very large and overwhelming when you come in. We are thrifty people so did not do everything. With the few things we did below we made it out just under 3 hours – just watch your clock! Here is what we did & loved:
- Factory Tour – This is not really a tour of the factory. But more a ride, a la Disney, through the process to make Hershey Candy. It was a lot of fun and FREE! You can go back through as many times as you like, I think we did it 4 times. The girls loved the singing cows and the large tubs of chocolate. Goofy really liked the factory at the end where you see conveyor belts of all their chocolate wrapped up & ready to go! Did you know they make 60 million kisses a day?!?!? WOW! At the end of this informative, fun, and well done ride you will get a chocolate sample =-)
- Make Your Own Chocolate Bar – This was one of our highlights! You will put on an apron and hair net, pick a couple ingredients to add to your chocolate bar, watch the chocolate bar move through the factory, and then design your own label. It was a lot of fun & a GREAT souvenir! One thing I wanted to point out is you have to have a ticket to enter. We planned on just watching the kids make their bars, but no can do. You must pay $14.90 per person to even get in. With that being said, it is a great experience, fun, and you get your own personalized chocolate bar to take home – totally worth it!
- Food – I suggest waiting and eating lunch or dinner here. Why? The ‘secret’ ingredient in much of the food here is cocoa! The BBQ Pizza with cocoa was AMAZING!!! The mac & cheese (no cocoa here) was also very good. The White Chili was nothing special; I wouldn’t get that again. You can also get baked goods or decadent Sundaes made with – you guessed it – Hershey’s Chocolate.
- Kiss Packaging – This free activity (with the option to buy at the end) allows your family to be a factory worker. You get a free factory hat to wear while you push the button to fill the Hershey tin. Our kids got a kick out of the dance they did as they made sure the box was well packaged.
13. Great Wolf Lodge – As our vacation was nearing the end we planned this fun overnight at the Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio. It took us about 6 hours to get here from Hershey. We had never been to an indoor waterpark before and we had an amazing time! Even 19 month old Tinkerbell would squeal when she got to go in the water! If you go at off-peak times you can get a great deal – think under $100 a night. We stayed in the Family Cabin Room which was wonderful. The kids had their own ‘log cabin’ complete with bunk beds, desk, TV (we didn’t use) and a window. We really didn’t spend much time in our room although we did use the microwave to make mac & cheese for dinner. The waterpark at this particular location was probably the smallest of all Great Wolf Lodges – that was great with us because with the exception of the baby, everyone could ride everything. Our favorite was Alberta Falls – tallest tube slide. The lazy river didn’t really move, but other than that it was a lot of fun. The girls loved playing in the Soak’n Oak Springs where they could move around in the shallow water by themselves. The lodge has life vests the kids could use for free – all my kids wanted one! It really is a great deal considering you can start using the pool at 1pm the day you arrive and all the way until 9pm closing the following day! At 8pm we went to the clock show/story time. The animals around the clock are animated and move & dance (not up to Disney standards, but cute for young kids). Violet (dressed up wolf character) ‘helped’ read the story to the kids. It was a nice end to the evening.
14. Drive thru Safari – After we had a chance to swim for a couple more hours we headed over to Animal Safari Wildlife Park just 20 minutes away.We had a GREAT time and the kids laughed and laughed. For your entry price (look for coupons for entering before 11:30 or show you Great Wolf wristbands) you get one container of food, unlimited drive thru for the day, and access to the other part. We went through the drive-thru twice and ended up buying 2 more food ($3/each) and a large bag of carrots $5. You are not suppose to bring in outside food. It wasn’t exactly what it looked like on their web page, but we had fun. You feed the animals from your cup, inside your car. You wouldn’t want them to take a bite of your finger thinking it’s a carrot! Mainly you will feed llamas, deer,and moose. There are also a couple bison and Scottish Highlander roaming around – we did feed them, but fair warning their horns may scratch your car. It did buff out for us & was hilarious! We did get to feed Zebras and a giraffe, but they are behind a fence and are not always interested. The rest of the park was nothing special – pig race was fine and there were a couple of animals in very small cages. Overall I say don’t miss doing a drive-thru animal park, but it doesn’t need to be this particular one. And you will need to give your car a good wash afterwards as you will have lots of tongue marks on the widows =-)
Well, that’s what we saw. There are of course many things one can do in each state, but these were the things that struck me as unique, went along with what we had studied in our homeschool this year, and that looked like a good fit for our family with 3 small children.
As silly as it might sound to some, my goal is to get my kids to every state before they leave our nest. I want them to explore the natural beauty and history within our 50 states. This year we are sure knocking through a whole bunch of them!!
I’d love to hear if you went to one of these states and what you saw! Did you find this helpful in planning a trip – I LOVE comments =-)