Tuesday, September 7, 2021

EA Roundup: Our Favorite Kids' Activities in the Arlington Area!

Now that we are almost a full month into the school year, it might be time to start thinking about kids' activities. Do you have a soccer player at home? Or maybe a gymnast? Perhaps your child wants to pursue art or music or scouting. We are fortunate to live in area where the list of activities in which you can enroll your child is virtually endless!

While you're here, click over to my article for Zulily, about all the classic board games you should own to play with your kids on weekends or on family nights spent bonding over board games from yesteryear!

No matter what interests your child has, there is truly something for everyone available in the greater Arlington area. While I won't pretend that we have personally tried out every place on this list (although, to be honest, we've tried a great many of these spots!), I will tell you that these spots all come recommended by friends and family.

Best Sports, Clubs and Activities for Kids in the Arlington Area

If you have an aspiring gymnast or dancer...

United Performing Arts Center will encourage your tiny dancer to learn tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical and more as a fun way to express themselves. This Park Row spot is a favorite with local parents. 

Tiny dancer
There are lots of great dance studios in Arlington, Texas, for your tiny dancer!

Stars Gymnastics Arlington is a great spot for your dancer if they want to learn tumbling, as well. Stars will teach your child acro-dance, which will combine dancing and tumbling for your tiny dancer. 

Spirals Gymnastics in Kennedale and Mansfield will bring out the inner Simone Biles in your child. Your kiddo will get to learn bars, beam, vault and floor exercise at both of these area locations. 

Ice at the Parks will help your child get comfortable on ice! Whether your child wants to pursue ice hockey or figure skating, this is a great spot to start! 

If your child wants to pursue the arts...

Theatre Arlington can help your child gain confidence on stage and learn what it takes to become an actor.

KidCreate Mansfield will help your child hone their artistic skills with painting and craft classes.

Destiny Voice + Music Studio has a variety of musicians on hand who provide guitar lessons, piano lessons, voice coaching and more. My middle daughter loves lessons here (I take credit for exactly zero percent of her musical talent. Her guitar skills skipped a generation as they passed from my dad to my daughter). 

Girl plays guitar.
Learning the basics of playing the guitar- inspired by her days of listening to Dave Matthews Band with her dad!

If your child wants to pursue athletic endeavors...

MARSwim will have your child in the water year-round. You can start with lessons at UTA (or several other area locations) when your child is four, and then they can progress to swim team when they are ready. Swim meets are optional but oh-so-fun!

swim team
I love going to swim meets and cheering on my favorite middle girl. 

i9 Sports offers a variety of athletics for your high-energy kiddo. Whether your child wants to pursue baseball, soccer, football or other sports, i9 likely offers a great team-sport experience for your child.

The Arlington Tennis Center will help your child learn the coordination and skills it takes to be successful on the court. Don't forget to follow Arlington Tennis Association on Facebook to learn about all the fun, free lessons they host for kids at the ATC! 

Viridian Sailing Club will help your child learn to sail right here in Arlington! They don't appear to offer regular weekly lessons, just summer camps... But keep your eye out, just in case! 

Girl on boat
How fun would sailing lessons be?

Action Skatepark in Grand Prairie is a great spot for your child to learn to skateboard. My youngest just started lessons here and loves every second- even when she falls (hard) and ends lessons dripping in sweat. She (almost) never complains! 

If your child wants to learn new skills...

Code Ninjas Mansfield offers a number of computer programming classes and courses to help your child learn to code and so much more. 

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts offers kids a variety of ways to get involved in the local community. Kids will earn badges and learn skills that will help them throughout their lives. 

Girl Scouts
Girl Scouts is so much more than just selling cookies... Although we love doing that, too!

4-H introduces kids to the world of livestock. Kids will learn ways to serve their community through this organization. 

La Puerta Spanish Center offers Spanish instruction for kids interesting in learning a new language.

Arlington Chess Club will have your child thinking critically and mastering a new, challenging game in no time! (I admit- I have no idea how to play chess. Maybe I should join the adult club?...)

What activities will you be signing your kids up for this fall? 

Thursday, September 2, 2021

A New Reading Adventure: The Cities of Adventure Series by Rishi Piparaiya

I love to travel. And I love to read. 

So when I discovered the Cities of Adventure series by Rishi Piparaiya, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a few books! 

Books about travel have such a special place in my heart because I think they help you visualize places you maybe haven't personally experienced. I admit, one of my favorite things about Dan Brown's books (Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code) is reading about Robert Langdon racing through some of my favorite cities in Europe, uncovering secrets. I've been to the Vatican before, but Angels & Demons made me want to race back to Rome and rediscover some of the areas Dan Brown discusses in the novel with the information the book provided. I love when reading and real life intersect!

A new reading adventure: exciting stories for young readers

Cities of Adventure books
The Cities of Adventure Books by Rishi Piparaiya. 

These new adventure books, available on Amazon, are that intersection of travel and adventure for kids. My middle daughter, my most avid reader of my three, sped through these great chapter books, embarking on a city-wide adventure in three major metropolitan areas around the world. 

The Race to Phar Lap's Saddle follows kids Neil and Tara through this exciting Australian City as the kids find themselves on mission to recover a stolen artifact. The book includes a kid-friendly map of the city, as well as travel tips, some differences between American English and Australian English and lots of cool facts about the land down under.

Cities of Adventure Book: Melbourne
Cities of Adventure: The Race to Phar Lap's Saddle.

Framed in Hollywood tells the tale of a famed and framed Hollywood actress. Sally Sinclair is a well-known actress who is accused of committing a crime on the set of her latest film. Is she guilty? Or innocent? The books incorporates some of my favorite spots in Los Angeles- Rodeo Drive, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Sunset Boulevard. You can also learn cool facts about the US and some of your favorite celebrities in the back of this fun book. 

Cities of Adventure: Hollywood
Cities of Adventure: Framed in Hollywood

The Secret of the Snallygaster takes place in our nation's capitol, Washington D.C. Tara and Neil, the tale's star brother and sister duo, are on vacation in DC when a long-hidden family secret is revealed. The secret turns their vacation on its head, and the duo race to save a mysterious and magical creature, the snallygaster. We loved reading the tidbits about America in the back of the book and my middle daughter is mapping out all of the places she wants to go visit in Washington thanks to this book. 

There is already a fourth book out about New York City that we haven't read yet, called The Men from B.A.G.E.L. These books are all available on Amazon for $12.99. I am not an Amazon affiliate, so I don't stand to gain anything if you purchase through the links I've provided. There are more books coming in this series about cities all over the world. What a fun way to expose your kids to new cities and cultures and foster their love of reading!

Cities of Adventure Books
Showing off a city map in a Cities of Adventure book from Amazon.

I did receive these books for free in exchange for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 


Thursday, August 26, 2021

Kids & National/State Parks: Best Trips in Texas and Beyond, Y'all!

A few years ago, a friend told me about the National Parks Pass for kids. Any fourth grader in the US can apply for and receive a free National Parks Pass, good for an entire year. Even better, this pass is good for the fourth grader and their family! This year, because of Covid, fifth graders can get one, too! We have ours, and, although we haven't used it yet this year, we used one two years ago when my oldest was in fourth grade. It got us into the Grand Canyon free, saving us $50. Score! 

Visiting Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona with kids is so fun and educational!

If you don't have your National Parks Pass yet, go here

Don't miss out on your FREE National Parks Pass if you have a fourth or fifth grader during the 2021-2022 school year.

I just did an article for Zulily with my Bucket List of National Parks I want to visit with the girls in the next few years- check that out here!

If you are looking to get out and about with your kids this year, consider snagging your free pass (if you have a fourth or fifth grader at home) and hitting the road! Here are some great National Parks you can visit that are within reasonable driving distance of Dallas/Fort Worth.

Visiting the National Parks in Texas

If you want to use your National Parks Pass for a Texas adventure, you have two options:

Big Bend National Park is located in Alpine, Texas, about seven and a half hours from Arlington by car. Big Bend is in the southwest corner of the state, just across the border from Mexico. This park is the only destination you need for vacation as there is so much to do there! Not sure where to start? Here is what visitors to Big Bend recommend over and over again:
- Learn about the area's history at the Fossil Discovery Exhibit
- Soak in the hot springs at the Rio Grande Village area
- Hike the Santa Elena Canyon
- Canoe along the Rio Grande
- Enjoy the nighttime sky at this designated National Dark Sky Park

Guadalupe Mountain National Park is located in Salt Flat, Texas, just east of El Paso and not far from the Texas/Mexico or Texas/New Mexico border. This state park is about seven hours from Arlington by car. Located near Carlsbad Caverns State Park, this spot is for nature lovers. Here are some of the favorite activities as reported by visitors:
- Behold El Captain, an icon made from limestone and the most visible point in Texas at just more than 8,000 feet
- Hike Devil's Hall Trail from Pine Springs
- Explore the Frijole Ranch History Museum
- Visit the Salt Basin Dunes

The Best National Parks Nearby Texas

Located about seven hours from Arlington, this national park, just over the border in New Mexico offers plenty for visitors to do. Spend time in the Big Room, a large limestone chamber that is the 5th largest in North America and the 28th largest in the world. Cool!

Only four and a half hours from Arlington, Hot Springs National Park is a fun spot for guests of all ages. Visit ancient thermal springs, explore the hiking trails and partake the historic Bath Houses right in the heart of Hot Springs.

Posing in front of Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. 

The Best Texas State Parks

Texas is home to a whopping 80 state parks. Amazing! That means there is a lot of beautiful land in this great state to explore and enjoy. 

Although there is not an annual discount or free pass to Texas State Parks like there is to the National Parks, you can find more information on yearly passes here

A stunning view of Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas. 

Five Texas Parks to Explore with Kids

Palo Duro Canyon, located about five and a half hours from Arlington near Amarillo, is home to the second largest canyon in the country. During the summer, you can enjoy an outdoor musical at the park. Year-round you can hike, camp, explore and more. 

This East Texas park is less than three hours from Arlington on the Texas/Louisiana border. Water lovers will enjoy fishing (no license required!) in the lakes... But keep your eyes out for alligators!

Oh give me a home, where the... bison roam! This Amarillo-area state park, located about four and a half hours from Arlington, offers plenty for nature lovers. Enjoy stunning bluffs, roaming bison and miles and miles of winding trails. 

Have you ever been sand surfing? If not, you need to check out the Monahans Sandhills! Located about five hours from Arlington (just west of Midland/Odessa), Monahans Sandhills is for adventure-lovers. Rent sand disks and try your hand at surfing down the sand hills. Just don't forget your water- it gets super hot at this park!

There is so much to do at this Bend, Texas, state park, it's hard to know where to start! Colorado Bend State Park is located less than 200 miles from Arlington (a little over three hours by car) near Lampasas, Texas. Home to Gorman Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Texas, this park is perfect for a weekend getaway from DFW. 

Exploring with kids is always an adventure!

Monday, August 23, 2021

Kids & Creativity: How to Tie Dye!

The fact that tie dye is back and all the rage these days makes my heart happy. I lived for tie dye in the 90s, wearing it (and making it!) as often as I could. We had a store in my hometown mall called The Funky Monkey where you could buy just about anything in tie dye (with or without the Grateful Dead bear as the centerpiece), and I spent more than my fair share of my allowance there!

My middle daughter got a couple of tie dye kits for her birthday this year and couldn't wait to try them out. She was constantly begging to run to the store and buy a few white t-shirts to tie dye and make her own. I just did an article for Zulily with tons of great tie dye crafts, so I had a couple of tricks up my sleeve for sure! 

There are lots of fun tie dye techniques you can try these days. We started with a basic spiral tie dye. 

Tie dye t-shirt, designed by this cute kiddo! 

How to Tie Dye: The Basics

Creating a traditional tie dye shirt is actually really easy and fun! Your kids can easily do it themselves with a little guidance from you.

I like to purchase tie-dye kits because they really come with everything you need. Zulily usually has a few good ones for sale. But you can absolutely buy everything separately for inexpensive, too!

Materials needed:

White t-shirts, bandanas, socks, etc., all prewashed. No need to dry!

A white t-shirt ready to be tie-dyed! We got this one at Walmart for $3ish. 

Tie dye in whatever colors you want to use.

Rubber bands.

Plastic gloves.

Plastic sandwich bags. 

Step by step tie dye instructions:

Make sure your items are prewashed so they don't shrink. No need to dry them, you want the fabric wet to tie dye. If your items are already dry, wet them. You don't want them soaked and dripping, just damp.

Lay the garment flat and find the center. I found it helpful, when I was learning to tie dye, to use a pencil to mark the center of the item and wind. 

Twist the item from the center until it is in a circle or pie shape. 

This t-shirt is ready for tie dye!

Rubber band the item to make it hold its shape. Use lots of rubber bands or only a few. Rubber bands should go all the way around the circular item and create "slices" in the fabric, like a piece of pizza or a pie. 

Using tie dye in whichever pattern you wish, starting dying the slices different colors, making sure to cover the fabric front and back with tie. We wear plastic gloves for this step so our hands don't get to messy. We do this step out on the grass or our back sidewalk. 

Getting her tie-dye on! Outside. Because tie dye is fun but oh-so-messy! 

Once you have dyed all the "slices" of fabric, the item needs to dry. We place the shirts we make in plastic sandwich bags and let them sit overnight.

After the dye has set for 24 hours, remove the item from the bag and remove the rubber bands and discard. 

Wash and dry your t-shirt as normal and voila! You have a fun tie dye creation all your own!

If you are a visual learned like I am, this is a great tutorial to help you visualize the above steps. 

My youngest's tie dye creation, before it went through the washing machine! 

Tie Dye Extras: More fun tie dye projects to try!

Now that the girls and I have mastered basic tie dye, we are ready to branch out. Here are a few more tie-dye projects we are looking forward to tackling in the next few weeks!

Ice Tie Dye- Honestly, these t-shirts and socks look so cool! I can't believe that they were designed simply with a pile of ice and powdered dye color. This is even less messy than traditional tie dye, which is a total bonus in my opinion. I see a bunch of tie-dye socks on my girls' feet come fall...

Bleach Tie Dye- This is another easy(ish) tie dye trick the girls can't wait to try. Just grab a darker colored cotton shirt and let the kids make a pattern using bleach and rubber bands. Even better- this one technique is super inexpensive and doesn't require many ingredients. Plus you can always use the bleach for laundry or cleaning so it won't go to waste after you're finished crafting with it. 

Galaxy Tie Dye- I had no idea that galaxy tie dye shirts were as easy to create as they look on this tutorial! I would have guessed that the unique pattern created by galaxy tie dye took a lot more than a few spray bottles of bleach and dye color and a twisted t-shirt! I'm excited to give this one a try!

Sharpie Tie Dye- Talk about easy and (virtually) mess-free! Sharpie tie dye is the perfect craft for a play date because it is fun and unique but not as messy as traditional tie dye. Kids of all ages can have fun creating their own mini masterpieces with fabric and Sharpies in all different colors.

What fun tie dye creations have you made lately! I'd love to you to share instruction or photos in the comments! 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Toddler Formula from Growth Spurt Nutrition: Review & Giveaway!

Sometimes I get serious baby envy.

I mean, there are so many incredible products out there on the baby market in the years since I've had babies. From wagons that are strollers to breast pumps that are hands free to adorable, easy-to-use swaddles, the baby market is full of products that totally make me want another baby.

Don't worry, I'm not going to announce that I'm pregnant. Ever again. My husband reminds me all the freaking time that the baby ship sailed long ago for us. Our baby is almost eight, and the baby days sometimes seem so long ago that I could cry!

But I'm not writing this article to reminisce... I'm writing this article to tell you guys about an amazing product that I would have used with my babies when they were actually babies: Goat's Milk Premium Toddler Formula from Growth Spurt.

Toddler nutrition is important!
This sweet tot wishes her sippy was filled with Goat Milk Toddler Formula from Growth Spurt!

Growth Spurt Toddler Formula: Premium Toddler Nutrition

My girls each stopped nursing around 12 months and started on whole milk. I never loved giving them whole milk- there is so much controversial advice out there about cow's milk. My oldest never much cared for milk. She went from nursing to water with a few kids nutritional shakes added in for good measure. My middle daughter loved soy milk. She preferred that to cow's milk. My youngest, well, to be honest, I can't remember what she drank. Blame it on Mom Brain I guess. 

But I would have loved to have the option of a toddler formula using goat's milk when I had tots around the house. Recommended for toddlers ages 12-36 months, Growth Spurt is full of all the stuff you want your toddler to have and none of the stuff you don't. It's first ingredient is full cream goat milk powder, not any of the less-than-desirable ingredients this article says most toddler products are filled with. Let me tell you all the ways that this stuff rocks:

Goat Milk Toddler Formula from Growth Spurt!

Growth Spurt Toddler Formula with Goat Milk

  • Non-GMO verified
  • Features DHA & ARA for brain and eye development
  • Has prebiotics and probiotics for digestive health
  • Filled with more than 20 vitamins and minerals, including Vitamins A, C, D, E and Calcium
  • No Maltodextrin or corn syrup
  • Has a protein composition closer to breast milk
As if all of these aren't great reasons to give Growth Spurt a try, it is also made with full cream goat milk powder, so it actually tastes (and smells) good! My middle daughter drank formula for a short time when she quit nursing and the smell of it still haunts my dreams... No icky smell with this formula! If your kiddos have a sensitivity to cow's milk, this formula might be more gentle on their tummies. 

Does my toddler need formula? Can I just feed them milk?

Many will recommend that, after your toddler is 12 months old, you switch them to cow's milk. However, goat's milk can be a great alternative because, according to Dr. Sears, it is actually more similar to human milk than cow's milk is. If your child doesn't like whole cow's milk, this can be a great alternative! Always consult with your child's doctor before changing your child's diet. 

Have you tried goat's milk with your toddler? Did they like it?

Being a toddler is exhausting. Proper nutrition is key! 

Want to win a can of formula to try with your toddler? Head over to my Instagram to win- www.instagram.com/everythingarlingtontx 

*I was paid to write this article. All thoughts and feelings are my own*

Monday, August 9, 2021

Plant Life: The Best Places to Buy Plants in the Arlington Area

 So... I'm not great with plants. I have noble intentions every year of being an honorable plant mom, whose home is filled with leafy greens hanging from curtain rods and decorating table tops. I know they are good for people in so many ways- seeing them is supposed to help reduce anxiety and so many other great things. 

But I just usually forget to water them until its too late. Or I remember, like, every day for about two weeks, and I over-water them, which, as it turns out, isn't so great for plants either. Really, I can't win.

But I just did an article for Zulily about house plants- best ones for beginners, best plants for indoors, best plants for outdoors- so I'm starting off my next round of plant ownership totally inspired. I can keep babies and pets alive! Plants shouldn't be that difficult for me.

Plant party! Or... the level of plant ownership I aspire to...

So I've been shopping around, trying to determine which plants would do well in home. Which will achieve my desired look, which will flourish in my home (I have a surprisingly dark first floor because of a combination of low ceilings and lots of trees!) and which plants need the least amount of water in case I (unintentionally, obviously!) forget to water them. I also probably need some, um, professional guidance, in all of this. SO, I've put together a list of the top five places in the Arlington area to go to for plant advice and gorgeous greenery. Because plants are pretty.

Trying to teach my daughter about the benefits of plant ownership. 

Top 5 Spots in the Arlington Area to Buy Plants

1. Green's Produce and Plants. This Arkansas Lane shop is hardly a secret, but it is one of my favorite places to shop in the area for produce and plants! I love wandering this shop when I have extra time or need dinner inspiration. Plus they host an awesome pumpkin-themed free activity every fall that my kids go gaga for. Love this local business!

2. Pat's Plants and Gifts. This local Grand Prairie plant stop will help get your started on your journey to being a plant parent. Grab everything from greenery to pretty pots to fun yard decor here. 

3. The Tree Place. I can't tell you how many times I've driven past this spot on I-20 with the intention of stopping and staying a while. Here you can snag trees, plants, vegetables, herbs and flowers and more. 

4. Mansfield Gardens. Your one-stop shop for gorgeous flowers in the Mansfield area, this garden retailer offers a variety of plants and greenery for your garden. Sign up for their emails to receive specials right in your inbox!

5. Calloway's Nursery. Calloway's may not be a local spot like the other nurseries on this list, but let me tell you why I love Calloway's. Number one- they host an amazing fall festival each October where your kids can get free pumpkins, free snacks and free face-painting. We have attended yearly since my kids were babies and it always feels like fall when we head to Calloway's! Number two- they've done great, free Girl Scout programming for me through the years. I love love love Calloway's! Plus, there are two Arlington locations and one in Mansfield, meaning it isn't a far drive no matter where in the area you live! 


What is your favorite spot for flowers and plants in the Arlington area?

Friday, August 6, 2021

Have Kids, Will Travel: Pennsylvania!

Taking a Pennsylvania Roadtrip with Kids

When I asked my husband where he wanted to go for vacation this summer, his response was: the mountains. When I asked which mountains, he told me "Doesn't matter. Just mountains." 
I then asked my girls if they had any summer travel preferences. My oldest wanted "a fun theme park." And my middle wanted "something with water." My youngest was the one who tipped the scales by saying "I want to see the Liberty Bell." 

Pennsylvania, a place no one in my family had ever visited, checked all of the requirements laid out by each member of my family. It has the mountains my husband wanted (the Poconos), the theme park my oldest wanted (Hersheypark), the water my middle wanted (Aquatopia indoor waterpark) and the Liberty Bell my youngest requested in Philadelphia. This is how I decided to take my family on a Pennsylvania roadtrip!

Smiling for the camera in Philadelphia. 

Planning a Pennsylvania Roadtrip

The best part about  traveling to the East Coast is you have so many options to fly! I set up alerts for flights to New York City, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I watched all the flights and ended up finding flights in and out of La Guardia (in NYC) for $250 a piece on American for my family of 5. Score!

Smiling in front of the I Love NY sign at La Guardia Airport in NYC. 

From there, I planned our trip. NYC is a two-hour drive from the Poconos. The Poconos is a two-hour drive from Hershey. Hershey is two hours from Philadelphia. And Philadelphia is two hours from New York City. Everything came together nicely! (Including finding a rental car, which my husband did through his employer, which offers discounts with several national car rental companies. We ended up in a brand new Yukon Denali that we may or may not be considering leasing at this point...)

So here it is... Our guide to exploring some of Pennsylvania's biggest attractions by car!

The Mountains of Pennsylvania: Vacation in the Poconos

Fact: I knew nothing about the Poconos Mountains, beyond that they existed, when we decided to head there this summer. I mean, as a Midwesterner and a Texas Transplant, why would I?! Here are a few fun facts about these mountains...

- The Poconos Mountains' highest peak is about 3,000 feet (so, these mountains are quite a bit smaller than the Rockies!)
- The Poconos Mountains are only in Pennsylvania.
- A bartender in the Poconos told us that locals jokingly refer to Mount Pocono as the sixth borough because during the peak ski season it is filled with New Yorkers!
- The weather was gorgeous during our visit. The high was 79 during the day and the low was about 50 at night!
- In the summer, you can bike, hike, swim, fish, boat and so on. In the winter, you can ski!

There are several resorts in the Poconos Mountains that cater to tourists. Everything is onsite and it's super family friendly. We ended up staying at Split Rock Resort because we found a spectacular last-minute deal. This spot was an absolute throwback to a bygone era. The decor is so retro it's practically cool again! Onsite there was an arcade, bowling alley and waterpark, all of which cost extra. There was a small beachfront on Lake Harmony as well as a stocked pond where we can fish (but we had to release the fish after we caught them). There was an indoor pool and outdoor pool and an indoor conference room with games for the kids. For the price, it was great.

The indoor pool at Split Rock Lodge in the Poconos Mountains in Pennsylvania. 

But the shining jewel of the Poconos is Camelback Resort. Think Great Wolf... But bigger. And set in the gorgeous mountain backdrop. We want to plan a ski trip here soon! They gave me free tickets to Aquatopia, their indoor waterpark, for one day, and the kids went gaga. Tons of awesome slides, a wave pool, a lazy river and a swim-up, 21-and-over bar made our day at Aquatopia fantastic. We didn't make it to the mountain rollercoaster or Camelbeach... But that is simply because we ran out of hours in the day! We can't say enough good things about Camelback. The inside arcade was huge and flashy and amenities look fantastic. It was a good thing I was kept on a tight leash because I could have done some damage in their fabulous gift shop... Our bartender told us that, in the wintertime, many parents of older kids send their kids out to ski during the day and the parents hang out in the swim-up pool in the warm, balmy indoor waterpark. So, my wheels are definitely turning!

Kids play area at Aquatopia, an indoor waterpark at Camelback Resort in Pennsylvania. 

Get Ready to Indulge... with a Trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania!

After two days in the Poconos, we headed to Hershey.

Again... Before our trip, I knew nothing about Hershey. It's actually a quaint country town built around chocolate. Milton Hershey picked this spot back in 1905 because of its proximity to dairy farms, which would provide the milk he needed for his well-known milk chocolate. Originally called Derry Church, PA, Hershey is truly a town built around chocolate. Today, Hershey is a great small town with a huge presence in America. The town itself has population of only 15,000, but you will be enchanted by Hershey from the second you arrive.

Things you can do in Hershey, PA, with kids:
- Visit Hersheypark (we were gifted free tickets). They have some of the best rollercoasters we have EVER been on.
- Take a FREE tour of Chocolate World and get free candy at the end! Also shop and engage in some of the other activities, which do cost money.
- Visit Hotel Hershey and tour Hershey Gardens. 
- Grab a room at the Hershey Lodge, a retro drive-up motor lodge with a new indoor waterpark attached! (it gets incredibly pricey- book early!)
- Learn about the history of Hershey at the The Hershey Story Museum.
- Chocolate not your thing? How about ice cream? Try the Turkey Hill Experience with the kids!

Hershey's Chocolate World in Hershey, PA.

We had wanted to stay at the Hershey Lodge but couldn't justify the prices despite the perks of an indoor waterpark and free transportation to Hersheypark. We ended up at the Howard Johnson and truly loved it! It's on a cute little main drag through town, across the street from a great brewery and even better dessert shop. The outdoor pool was well-kept and the restaurant in the lobby was surprisingly posh. We highly recommend the Hershey HoJo!

Having a blast at Chocolate Town. 

Time for a History Lesson: Philadelphia with Kids

Philadelphia was a gorgeous, two-hour drive from Hershey. I can't tell you how excited I was to go and check out this historic city. I've spent my fair share of time in New York City through the years, but never Philadelphia. It was time to walk the same roads as our founding fathers!

Experiencing history in Philadelphia. 

Here are all of the fun things we did in Philadelphia:

- Rollerskated at the Blue Cross RiverRink. It was hot but gorgeous! We loved looking across the Delaware River into New Jersey and strolling the shoreline people-watching and sightseeing.

- Listened to free stories from Once Upon a Nation. These free, five-minute stories help history come alive! 

- Explored the Betsy Ross House. Did you know: no true picture of Betsy Ross exists. She was not famous in life, only some years after her death. There is no known photograph of her. Any paintings or pictures you see are simply an imaginary rendering!

- Admired the Liberty Bell. Y'all- it's so much smaller than I thought it would be! But every bit as fascinating and cool.

- Strolled Elfreth's Alley. This is the nation's oldest continuously inhabited street. It is quaint and charming and makes for a gorgeous morning stroll.

- Learned about history at Independence Hall.

- Admired all of the art and sculpture through Old City that pays tribute to our nation's founders.

- Rode the carousel at Franklin Square. We would have played mini golf, too, but it was hot!

- Smiled for a photo in front of the Love sign and cooled off in the fountains at Love Park

Loving the City of Brotherly Love from Love Park! 

There are easily dozens more of incredible activities we could have done in Philadelphia. We didn't make it to the Rocky steps (please don't hate me when I admit I've never seen the movie...) We debated the Philadelphia Zoo or the New Jersey Adventure Aquarium. If we had fanned out to the suburbs I'm sure we could have been entertained for weeks! But we loved strolling the streets of Old City, soaking up the history and learning about some of the buildings and landmarks that have stood for centuries. We didn't even drive our rental car in Philadelphia. We walked most places and then took a subway ride to the hotel from Love Park because the girls were tired. We stayed at the Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District and highly recommend. They had great rates, and you can walk to all the historic landmarks from there. They also had a gorgeous pool on the eighth floor that my girls loved playing in. 

After two days in Philly, it was time to drive back to LaGuardia and head home. We loved our trip to Pennsylvania even more than we thought we would, which is definitely saying something! 

What do you like to do in Pennsylvania? Maybe next time we will make it to the other side of the state and check out Pittsburgh!