The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center – a Top Family Destination in PA!

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The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

@whitakercenter #whitakercenter Facebook

As a kid I was completely obsessed with science centers. They were my favorite place to go. On a class trip, with my parents, any way I could get to a hands-on science center simply made my day. The same excited butterflies recently entered my stomach when I found out The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center – located in Harrisburg, PA was in the path of our family vacation.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

As authentic as a good old hands on science center can get – my kids (and let’s be honest, I) had THE best time. OK, my husband too… and the baby. So we were five for five! We started our day on the third floor playing with light, sound, air, and everyone’s favorite – the giant bubble machine.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

We then moved on to what would be our home for the next two hours – the “tot” area – KidsPlace. I could not get my kids – ages seven and three – out of this amazing area filled with everything a kid could want to exercise their imagination.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

Even the baby got in to it!

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

Between the play ambulance, theatre (with multiple background curtains and really nice props), water play area, fish tank, big brick & slide structure, they were engaged and playing and content as can be. Guess what we were able to do? Sit down and just watch!

If The Harsco Science Center was nothing but this one area I’m convinced they would still think this was the highlight of our trip.

Also in this area was my favorite accessory to any good family venue – a nursing room! Part a mom’s refuge from her own children and part a quiet, private, cheerful place to breastfeed, it got a full A+ from me!

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

Heading down a flight, brought us to the “Move It” area with car races, die cut machines, and tons of play experiences.

Followed by the circus themed “Carnival of Health”, that was filled with interactive exercise games as far as the eye could see.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

Heading down another flight brought us to “Forces of Nature” where we learned about weather (including a hurricane simulation machine) and gravity. The kids loved lifting thousands of pounds with pulleys and having very fast wind blown in their faces! Since the last few months have been filled with crazy weather occurrences it was nice to have hands on demonstrations so the kids could actually learn about them.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

But here – the pièce de résistance – was the “Backstage Studio”, including a stop animation lab. Upon seeing this, my husband became giddy. It was quite possibly the most excited I’ve ever seen him at a place for kids. Normally the guy telling us it’s time to go – he sat down and created a whole movie for our kids which he proudly played. Forget them; I was excited to watch HIM enjoy it so much!

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

What we thought would be a fun back-up – in case of a rainy day while visiting amusement parks – turned out to be the highlight of our trip. I can’t recommend The Harsco Science Center enough if you will be in the Harrisburg, Lancaster, or Pennsylvania Dutch area. Rain or shine, this place will be a hit.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

As if their permanent exhibits aren’t cool enough, they have visiting exhibits as well (while we were there it was dinosaurs!). If you live in the area you can also take advantage of the wonderful programs they offer like Little Learners and a Parent-Child STEM Adventure program for kids 3-5. They also have Girl Scout programs and Girls in STEM programs.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

With the holidays coming, definitely check out the Holiday Celebrations including the seasonal Whitaker Wonderland – a sock skate rink, “snowball” pit, and Cranky Cars – from November 17, 2017 – January 28, 2018.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

Venturing past the little ones – The Whitaker Center offers movies on the giant screen (Central PA’s biggest if you’re keeping track!) and live performances (including comedians and musicians) at the Sunoco Performance Theater.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

We really did have the best time. Plus the kids got to learn a little science (ha ha- tricked them!). I can’t recommend this place enough. A great stop for Fall, Winter, or a place to add to your itinerary for next summer.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

***GIVEAWAY***

I’m not the only one who wants you to experience this amazing place, the kind people at The Whitaker Center want you to come as well! They’ve generously offered to give away to one lucky reader of The Mint Chip Mama a Family Four Pack of tickets!

To win, please comment below – what your kids would be the most excited to see (or learn about) at The Whitaker Center!

Winner will be picked Wednesday, November 1st, 2017, 5pm EST.

Please also take a moment to follow my blog & like my Facebook page where I share a little something special every day!

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The Crayola Experience in Easton, PA. What a Great Family Day!

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@VisitCrayola #VisitCrayola #magicofcolor

Who doesn’t love arts & crafts? In my family – from the age of eight months to thirty eight years, we all love creating. Upon booking our first family ski trip to the Poconos, we knew immediately the best place to stop enroute would be the Crayola Experience, in Easton, PA!

Back in 2012, on our first visit (and prior to the expansive renovations), we ventured to the Crayola Experience as an easy day trip from Manhattan.

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Since moving to the suburbs, and subsequently having two more children, we have been looking for an opportunity to return. The timing could not have been better. My seven year old and three year old went to town, while I enjoyed the baby friendly facility (including a nursing room on the 2nd floor!). There was literally something there for everyone.

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Bursting with four floors of color, we began our creative journey at the top.  While I waited on the short line for Melt and Mold, my kids were at Meltdown. Think painting directly from the belly of a giant Crayola crayon – the kids dipped brushes into melted wax and “painted” their creations.

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Next, it was Melt and Mold time. Here the kids put a crayon into one of three machines and watched it melt, drip down, and mold into a dinosaur, ring or Crayola swirl. My kids thought this was fascinating! We spent a good amount of time here and made souvenirs for pretty much everyone we know.

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Our last stop was Drip ArtCrayola’s take on spin art. As a child, spin art was my jam, so I eagerly awaited my turn right behind my kids. Yanking the throttle to control the speed of the spinner, my son pretended he was on a rocket ship as the crayon wax dripped into a beautiful circular design. It’s safe to say this exhibit was a winner.

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Feeling like we successfully conquered the fourth floor, we headed down to the third floor where my kids had tunnel vision to the jungle explorer in the Activity Studio. A HUGE two story jungle gym with twist, turns, slides, and climbing galore meant they were in heaven (and I could sit down for twenty minutes – yay)! I watched them have the best time and even ran back up to the fourth floor to snap a quick picture of them in one of the clear lookout bubbles.

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After some begging, I got them to move on to the Doodle in the Dark area. This great (dark) space provided large neon doodle boards on the walls, an animated dance floor, and an interactive dancing experience where a Crayola crayon copied your moves. Let’s just say Mr. Purple pulled out some impressive choreography!

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Heading down to the second floor, we found ourselves mesmerized by the Art Alive area – where your iPad creation magically transports  into a live animation on the wall.

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But once they saw the Molding Madness area they started running. Loving the vending machine and the crafting equally, they put in the provided tokens and picked their Crayola Model Magic colors.

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If your kids are like mine and seek out shows and character meet and greets, this is the floor for you. We not only met Mr. Green, we saw crayons being made at the Crayola Factory show and were transported into the two dimensional world of a coloring page in the Be A Star studio.

Favorites of ours on both visits, these are all not to be missed.

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As our grand finale exhibit, we created custom crayons by picking a color, logo, and name at Wrap It Up! Once the label printed out we used the machines to attach it to the provided crayon making it an official Crayola color. Woot!

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As our time at the Crayola Experience came to an end, and we exited through the colorful gift shop – loot bags in hand – we once again agreed the “Experience” was a success.

Perfect as a day trip or enroute to one of the many fun things to do in the Poconos, the Crayola Experience is a great place to spend the day. If you live in the area, check out their special events. Wish I could do a Mom’s Night Out here!

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****Giveaway****

Know what’s even more fun than coloring? Winning an annual pass to color as much as you want! The nice people at the Crayola Experience have offered to giveaway 2 annual passes to The Mint Chip Mama readers!

To win comment below:

What is your favorite arts and crafts/creative thing to do with your kids?

Winner chosen Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 5pm EST!

(Drum roll) the winner is Jen H! 

But even better – everyone is a winner! Follow this link to save $3 off  your admission tickets! The code to access the tickets is: Chip. With the school break next week it’s a great time to go!

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Dutch Wonderland – A Fantastic Family Destination!

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Hear Ye Hear Ye.

If you’re looking for a fun weekend getaway, look no further than Dutch Wonderland.

While the water rides are hibernating for the season, the dry rides & shows are plentiful and festivals are non-stop!

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Few things are a young family’s rite of passage like a road trip to an amusement park. So as a new family of five we decided to give it a go. We strategically planned our visit to Lancaster, PA in early September before our school started – but while most others were already in session. Off peak, off peak, off peak.

I should note I have been DYING to go to Dutch Wonderland for (give or take) thirty five years. As a child my parents and I frequented Amish country but as my Dad says “It was raining every time we tried to go”.

Uh..huh…

While I won’t say I specifically remember sun…. I’ll just say I never got to go – but I passed those castle gates many a time with my hand outstretched towards them and a tear in my eye.

Alas…

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I vowed that one day, one day (!) my kids would get to walk through those castle gates. That day, people, was September 1st, 2016.

With three kids – six and a half, almost three, and three months we thought this was the perfect time to visit. I have to say – we were right!

The park is large in attractions but not overwhelming. While you could go on all the rides in one day the best offer around is to take advantage of the evening preview the night before. For us – with the earlier closing hour of 6pm – this was perfect. We arrived at 3pm and knocked out all of the “bigger” rides we knew would have lines the next day. I loved the preview not only for the efficient (and complimentary) aspect of it but also so I could plan our full day there with some knowledge of the park layout from my own eyes vs. the online map.

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My daughter loved the “bigger” rides but equally loved the smaller rides she could go on with her little brother. The rides were a bit edgier than our local amusement park so she was super excited. My son loved driving the cars and the train. I liked the “sitting and recharging” rides – read: train, monorail, and boat ride. As a parent – shade plus sitting is always a big, big win. The baby was excited for the new “Nursing Station”. But truthfully, I found the whole park nursing friendly with benches located all around.

While the summer months (Memorial Day – Labor Day) are a great time to visit Dutch Wonderland to take advantage of Duke’s Lagoon, the Fall and Winter months are a killer time to go as well. Rides in jeans and a t-shirt vs. tank tops and sweat? Sign me up.

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The 2016 season is still going strong. In the Fall there is Happy Hauntings (Saturdays and Sundays through October 30th) featuring themed rides, special entertainment, tasty treats, and the Trick-or-Treat Trail (a safe, interactive trick-or-treating experience).

If you’re looking for a party – check out the Spook-tacular Halloween Bash (Saturday and Sunday October 29th and 30th) featuring music, dancing and more.

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In the winter – on select dates from November 19th to December 30th you can check out the Dutch Winter Wonderland with rides, entertainment, and the Royal Light Show – a spectacular display of thousands of twinkling lights dancing to your favorite holiday tunes!

Want to do good and receive a complimentary ticket to Dutch Winter Wonderland!? Well head there on November 19th, 2016 between 3:00pm and 9:00pm (the grand opening evening of Dutch Winter Wonderland) with a new, unwrapped toy. Children under the age of 12 will receive one complimentary admission in exchange for each donation to the Toys for Tots Foundation toy drive.

As frequent visitors to our local amusement park – which has the same number of rides packed in to half the acreage – it was absolutely delightful to spend a day at Dutch Wonderland. Not only were there tons of rides and games, special treats like Dole Whip Junction and Funnel cake, a few Dutch education stations (my kids were really into these), shows, and characters – there were also lots of fun “stick your face in the picture” thingies which we all love.

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So at 38 I can say my dream came true. I finally got to enter those big castle gates, walk over the drawbridge – naturally surrounded by a moat – and see the amazing place that is Dutch Wonderland. We had such a great time. The park wasn’t big enough to be stressful, but was big enough to fill our day and leave us wanting to return.  There were plenty of places to eat, rest, play, and enjoy. Dutch Wonderland’s location offered many fun resorts and restaurants within a ten minute drive and there was more to do in the area than we had days to be there. Just a fantastic weekend all around.

Go. Enjoy.

Think of me when you’re eating that Dole Whip!

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The Mint Chip Mama’s Sesame Place Tips!

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If you live on the East Coast, I’m guessing at some point in your life you have been – or are planning to go – to Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA.

Sesame Place was my absolute favorite amusement park as a kid so I could not wait to take my own children. It’s a great park because you have the characters for the little kids and the rides for the big kids. It’s just a happy place to visit and even with going back year after year it just gets better.

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Right on the tails of our third trip (last Friday – my strategy is always go on a weekday!) I offer up my tried & true tips.

Planning in advance

If you can’t tell by now, I’m a planner. I highly suggest booking your tickets, meal reservation, and anything else you want (locker, parking, etc) at least 24 hours in advance. The meals lock out that day so be sure to book it in advance. The park is a bit bigger than Adventureland and very manageable in one day.

Weather

Weather is always the wild card. Remember to check the weather in Langhorne, not where you live (duh) because it could be completely different.

Speaking of weather, in the three times we visited we had pouring rain, a hot summer day, and a 70% chance of rain which turned out perfect (woot!). Have no fear, if it does start raining, you can score a Sunny Day ticket to go back!

July 24 2012 064Our most recent visit was my favorite because the weather was perfect and I could go on the rides (last time I was preggers)! Interestingly enough I learned if you have a little cookie in your monster you can purchase a Single Day Admission Ticket at 50% off the front gate price (the day of your visit at Guest Relations) since your ride options are limited. In other words you can be the designated stuff holder without paying full price!

Arrival

You’ve driven four PAW Patrol’s (the way my family measures time) and you arrive.

I suggest getting there at 9:45am (they open at 10am). Pay your $17 parking fee, drive as far to the right as you can, and park. You will be very close to the park entrance. This is helpful so you can go back and forth to your car if needed (we kept all water ride supplies in there). As you wait for the park to open you can take your obligatory family photo under the “Sesame Place” arch d’triumph.

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Also take a moment to enjoy the Hollywood Boulevard-ish Sesame Street character handprints and Edward Scissorhands-Esque foliage characters out front!

As you approach the entrance, there are ticket kiosks to the left but if you printed out your tickets at home (highly recommended) you can proceed to the entry and get scanned through. If you encounter any issues the guest service booth is located right there and the line goes fast.

Ride Strategy

At first glance you will see the biggest attraction, the Vapor Trail roller coaster. Head to that first as it’s popularity comes with a line to match. We did dry rides first, lunch, changed into our suits (secretly digesting along the way. Ah ah ah), water rides, and a final dry ride “spin cycle“.

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Character Encounters

There are several ways to meet the Sesame Street characters – around the park (usually with a line), during a character meal, a VIP Meet & Greet, or the parade.

Shouting out a HUGE endorsement to the character meal – Lunch with Elmo & Friends – the highlight of our trip three times in a row. BOOK IT IN ADVANCE. You may be able to get 10% off as a AAA member. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. Worth a try. Kids under 2 eat free but include them in your reservation. They offer breakfast and dinner as well.

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I love Lunch with Elmo & Friends – it’s a great way to break up your day, refuel, and get some great photos.The characters walk around, sit at your table and pose with you. They also put on a show culminating in a big old dance party. Don’t forget to take home the straw cup they serve your kids. It’s the perfect (free) souvenir!

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Water Rides

I haven’t been on legit water rides since college. Know what? I loved them as much as I remembered. The highlight was – while mid-tunnel and sparked by the pin holes in the Sesame Streak – a flash back memory of that very ride as a kid. Suddenly I wasn’t a wife and mother but a teen tour kid enjoying my favorite ride. I had totally forgotten about it. When my daughter asked if we could go on again I said “YES” with the gusto of younger me instead of 37 year old me dodging my husband and 20m old son who desperately wanted to go home.

Most water rides offer single or double tubes. At 43″ my daughter was able to ride alone. Not gonna lie, on our second turn when she asked to go solo I shed a small tear. Sunrise sunset.

As a big amphibious shoe fan I recommend wearing a pair of water shoes, Tevas, or Keens all day. I also like long sleeve rash guards especially the ones from Lands’ End or Old Navy. Also worth mentioning – there are complimentary life vests for babies & kids so no need to bring your own.

One of the coolest rides (and scariest for me because of the size & difficulty keeping an eye on my kid) was The Count’s Splash Castle. It was “awesome” and I’m sure my daughter could have spent another two hours there. I owed her a second dessert for pointing out the giant bucket was about to pour on my head as we exited.

Shows

If your visit coincides with very hot weather or a child too small or afraid of rides, be sure to check out the shows – some offering air conditioning along with entertainment!

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Parade

The daily Neighborhood Birthday Party Parade is best seen at the intersection of the black & blue streets near the dry ride entrance. On a busy day it might be worth sending someone to stake out a good spot. Not totally necessary but a nice break from your family the rides. (I won’t tell your husband). People start lining up thirty minutes prior. Be sure to check your map or app for the day’s schedule.

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We were lucky enough to attend a VIP Character Meet & Greet (30 minutes before the parade) this time. Afterwards, upon my husband’s suggestion, we sat down on a bench in the shade at the beginning of the route (in front of the lockers). It wasn’t the best viewing point but it was good enough and got us back on the water rides before the lines formed again.

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The parade was cute and a good “grand finale”/exit strategy. If you live in the NYC area this strategy could get you home by dinner.

Bye Bye

You made it! If you’re expecting a sleep & transfer situation, I suggest a thorough delousing (think sun + sweat + ice cream in hair) before getting in the car. Bring a wash cloth and pajamas. I also brought a spray bottle filled with Mustela. Spray, wash, pajama, go. They’ll be out before you leave the parking lot.

Bring lounge pants.

Your welcome.