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Summer activities across the region for kids

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By Rebecca Antonioli
For 21st Century Media

Summer is finally here. But now that your children are done with school, that might leave more down time than you know what to do with. Before summer boredom kicks in, it’s a good idea to have an arsenal of day trips up your sleeve. Luckily, there are tons of family-friendly activities going on throughout the region.

New Hope and Ivyland Railroad

What child isn’t fascinated by the allure of trains? Hearing the tooting of the horn in the distance and feeling the clickety-clack of the rails beneath the train cars are memories that can stay engrained for a lifetime. The New Hope and Ivyland Railroad allows families to hop on an antique steam or diesel engine train and explore the rolling countryside of Bucks County. The train departs from New Hope, on a round trip journey that lasts about 45 minutes.

Photo courtesy of the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad

The New Hope and Ivyland Railroad in New Hope, Pa., allows families to hop on an antique steam or diesel engine train and explore the rolling countryside of Bucks County.

“Kids think it’s so cool to ride the train,” said Tricia Falcone, senior director of marketing for the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad. “The conductor’s talking to them about the experience and they get to learn the history. It’s not an amusement park and not a playground so it’s every interesting to them. It’s a big draw for parents and kids.”

While the nine-mile railroad operates year-round, families can take advantage of the open-air cars during the spring and summer.

“It has no windows so when you sit in it, it might feel like a ride to them [children] because it’s open air,” Falcone said. “You can sit and look out the side and look out at the beautiful country.”

The railroad will be operating its wildflower open air car through July. Children on this car will receive seed packets and then during the ride, the train will slow down so they can throw the seeds out of the side of the car. They will then receive a free ticket to ride the train the end of August through September to see the actual flowers in bloom.

The railroad even offers children an opportunity to attend a song and story hour aboard a historic train. The story time is offered Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning June 10 through Aug. 28, from 11 a.m. through 1 p.m., on the hour.

Children and parents ride aboard the train and they participate with the narrator and sing along with the story.

“Kids think it’s really cool to be on a train, and to participate with the stories and songs. It gives the kids and parents something else to do that’s different,” Falcone said.

If you go:

New Hope & Ivyland Railroad

32 W. Bridge St.

New Hope, Pa. 18938

Prices starting at $19.95, adults; $17.95, children 2-11; $3.95, under 2.

Info: visit www.newhoperailroad.com

 

Independence Seaport Museum

This summer, it’s time to stretch your sea legs, and check out the Independence Seaport Museum at Penn’s Landing. The museum is the only maritime museum in Philadelphia, and offers guests a chance to learn the history of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.

Families with children 12 and older can explore the historic ships the first Saturday of each month, from noon to 5 p.m. They can go below deck of the Olympia, a naval ship used in the Spanish-American War. Visitors can tour the triple expansion steam engines, boiler room, working ash hoist, and even explore the brig, aka prison.

Photo courtesy of the Independence Seaport Museum

Families with children 12 and older can explore the historic ships the first Saturday of each month, from noon to 5 p.m. at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing.

Giggleberry Fair at Peddler’s Village in Bucks County is ideal for ages 2-12 and offers children an opportunity to ride the historic grand carousel, blow off some steam at Giggleberry Mountain, or for the younger crowd, explore Giggles Discovers.

“It’s especially, nice and cool down there during the summer,” said Hope Corse, director of marketing and communications.

Families can also tour the Becuna, a submarine used during World War II. The narrow submarine makes the visitors wonder how all of the sailors fit into the tiny space.

“The kids love it,” Corse said of the behind-the-scenes tour. “The kids notice they fit in the submarines so much better than their parents. There’s nothing better than seeing a jaded 14-year-old go through the ship. They get excited climbing through this thing.”

One of the things that the Independence Seaport Museum prides itself on is its hands-on-approach to learning.

“It’s an interesting way for kids to see that you can learn math and science through building a boat,” she said.

For the younger children, the museum offers Seafarin Saturdays every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The program is aimed at 3 to 7 year olds, and offers them a chance to make nautical crafts and focuses on a different theme each week including nautical flags and navy dog tags.

“Younger kids get hands on experiences and engaged,” Corse said. “It’s a way for them to really understand what the museum is. We tend to find entry points the kids will understand. For example, all kids get pirates, so it’s a way to connect the museum’s mission to the younger crowd.”

If you’re looking for a great spot to watch the fireworks on Saturday, July 5, the Independence Seaport Museum might just be your place. Included with the day’s admission, visitors will get a chance to watch the fireworks from the museum’s second floor balcony.

“This makes it easier for families to see fireworks,” Crose said. “It gives you something to do when you’re waiting for it to get dark, because we have lots of things happening.”

This summer, the museum is also offering boat rentals to the public. The rentals include kayaks and rowboats. The rentals range from $10 to $15 per hour. Children five and under can’t ride in the boats, and children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

If you go:

Independence Seaport Museum

Penn’s Landing

Philadelphia, Pa.

Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Info: call 215-413-8655 or visit www.phillyseaport.org

 

Peddler’s Village

When the summer heat is just too much to bear or a rainy day causes you to cancel a trip to the lake, fear not, because Giggleberry Fair at Peddler’s Village is a great indoor place to take children.

Giggleberry Fair is ideal for ages 2-12 and offers children an opportunity to ride the historic grand carousel, blow off some steam at Giggleberry Mountain, or for the younger crowd, explore Giggles Discovers.

Giggleberry Fest at Peddler's Village.Photo courtesy of Peddler's Village.

Giggleberry Fair at Peddler’s Village in Bucks County is ideal for ages 2-12 and offers children an opportunity to ride the historic grand carousel, blow off some steam at Giggleberry Mountain, or for the younger crowd, explore Giggles Discovers.

Giggleberry Fair at Peddler’s Village in Bucks County is ideal for ages 2-12 and offers children an opportunity to ride the historic grand carousel, blow off some steam at Giggleberry Mountain, or for the younger crowd, explore Giggles Discovers.

“Parents can come sit and relax, and let the kids run around,” said Eve Gelman, senior communications Manager at Peddler’s Village.

Giggleberry Mountain is a three-story, six-level indoor obstacle course and maze. It allows children 6-12 an opportunity to fire thousands of foam berries with berry blasters.

“It’s hours of fun and great exercise for the kids,” Gelman said.

Children six and under can visit Giggles Discovers, which focuses on sensory learning. They can visit the music corner, take a trip to the Giggles Fire Station, play with a wall-mounted lightspace system, put on a puppet show, and even get their hands wet in the waterway.

“There are mushroom fountains and horizontal sprinklers. It’s a cool way for kids to learn about water currents,” Gelman said. “There’s a lot of creative water play, and toddlers love that.”

This summer, Giggleberry Fair is offering Family Fun Fridays. Admission for adults and children will be $9.99 as opposed to the normal admission of $15. Included in the special admission is a drink and either hot dog or pizza. This summer Giggleberry Fair will also be open until 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

If you want to find an event for the entire family, then taking your children to one of the summer festivals at Peddler’s Village is a great idea. The second annual Bluegrass and Blueberries Festival runs from July 12-13 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

“All of our festivals are free and we always have a kid element and a lot of great food,” Gelman said.

Some of the children’s activities include music, jugglers, stilt walkers and balloon art.

The annual Peach Festival will run Aug. 9 and 10, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The festival will even offer old fashioned pie eating contests for various age groups.

“Children love it here because there’s so much room to run around,” Gelman said. “It’s very safe and there are no streets going through the village, so parents don’t have to worry. Sitting on the big green with your families provides a very relaxing place.”

If you go:

Peddler’s Village

Routes 202 & 263

Lahaska, Bucks County, PA 18938

Info: call 215-794-4000 or visit www.peddlersvillage.com

 

American Helicopter Museum

If aviation is your child’s thing, then it might be a good idea to check out the American Helicopter Museum. Here, children — and adults — have the opportunity to climb into real helicopters. At this interactive museum you can try out the various helicopter controls and check out the gauges from inside the cockpit.

“You have to see things that a pilot would pay attention to,” said Patti Spackman, education and exhibit associate at the museum.

Stubby at PSF

At the American Helicopter Museum in West Chester, Pa., visitors have the opportunity to climb into real helicopters. They can try out the various helicopter controls and check out the gauges from inside the cockpit.

The museum also hosts a military helicopter that visitors can walk through. According to Spackman, the military helicopter is set up like it would be ready to take troops and wounded personnel. There’s even a mannequin on a stretcher, and a toilet in the helicopter.

The museum is geared towards children ages 6 to 12. In addition to exploring the helicopters, the museum offers a wind tunnel and a flight simulator, where visitors can use a computer to simulate flying the helicopter.

Spackman explained that during the day, visitors get direct interaction with the experts at the museum.

“Kids can learn a lot of history and get a chance to talk to people who have direct experience with the helicopters — flying them or engineering them — it’s great,” she said.

The helicopter museum offers entertainment for the whole family. If you have younger children, there is a toddler area. Children six and younger can play in this area. There, they can climb in a toy aircraft or play at the gear table or transportation table where they can run cars.

“It’s a nice play area if you have a mixed age group of kids. The younger kids can go and chill out in the toddler area,” Spackman said.

Typically helicopter rides are held one Saturday a month. There is no age restriction, and the cost is $40 per person.

“Kids get to see the grounds from the sky, even though it’s the road they might travel down all the time,” Spackman said. “It’s very cool to wave down while you hoover. The helicopter gives you a good bird’s eye view.”

If you go:

American Helicopter Museum and Education Center

1220 American Blvd.

West Chester, PA 19380

Admission: Adults, $10; Seniors/children/students with ID, $8

Info: call 610-436-8642 or visit www.americanhelicopter.museum

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Mike Berman