On Sunday, Greg from MindFlakes invited my family to a charming nature area called Robbins' Park and to lunch at a cool spot in Ambler called K.C.'s Alley. It was a wonderful time, their nearly 5 year old boy and my 3 1/3 year old gal ran, raced, jumped and played like best friends - despite only seeing each other a depressingly low number of times, maybe once or twice, each year.
In creepy pond we saw a big bull frog, a handful of turtles and some neat little orange fish. It was a swell time with old friends.
My gal was a sweetie all Sunday and I woke up Monday unable to shake the feeling that we should do something fun. So we played hooky from school and work and drove out to Hershey, PA for a tour of Chocolate World and a stroll around the Hershey Gardens. We had a blast. We rode the free tour of the "Factory" (once the home of the actual factory - now just a neat show about how Hershey's makes their world famous Kisses, Hershey Bars, Resees, Kit Kats and more). They give everyone a free mini-bag of Kissables after the ride.
It is possible to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the sweetest place on Earth for hardly a dime (even parking is free for the first two hours - although it jumps to $8 for the next couple), although it is not likely that you and yours will be able to escape the huge gift shop without flashing the plastic. Luckily, the good people at American Express had my back.
Be warned that lunch inside Chocolate World is pretty lame, although dessert, as you could imagine, is not. The menu options are limited and the $7.99 Kid's Lunchbox special was a make your own PB&J (or a premade Ham/Turkey and Cheese). Seriously, there were two pieces of white bread and little plastic containers of peanut butter and jelly inside.
Is too much to ask that for $8 they assemble the food for us?
Dessert, in the FactoryWorks section, was better. A singing bakery worker made a custom cupcake for my gal. You choose the cake (vanilla or chocolate), the icing (those same two plus peanut butter are the options) and the toppings (anything Hershey makes). That was yummy, cool and reasonably priced.
You would be better served packing a lunch and enjoying the free Chocolate World tour as many times as you wish. Despite how long the lines look, it moves very quickly and remember there are three lines down the steps to the platform to board the little cars! (you may be able to get right in front of the line, as we did, because the herd will line up behind one another leaving 2 of the 3 lanes wide open).
The Hershey Gardens are worth the visit. In addition to the cool view of the amusement park below, there is an impressive Children's Garden with a butterfly house - featuring over 300 butterflies. Inside the Children's Garden is a little maze, Kisses-shaped Old-Faithful styled water fountains, some percussive musical "instruments" and a ton of herbs, flowers and more to scratch and sniff. The Gardens encourage contact with the flowers to learn about the fragrances of peppermint and more. Really, a fun time. We spent hours in the kid's area and never felt bored. Each summer Sunday evening their is a musical performance in there.
I love the idea of playing hooky. I announced my intention to do this kind of thing several times a year throughout their school years long before the kids were born. I think it is fun, of course, but also critical as a way to show that while school is important, so it getting out there in the world as a family and experiencing life together with some spontaneity. That is what OWTK did this week and it was worth every minute (and penny)!