Author Archives: Brian Evans

Brian Evans

About Brian Evans

Brian is a father of three boys, and enjoys documenting his excursions with photographs as he makes his way through Lancaster County (and beyond).

Dutch WINTER Wonderland

My wife and I always set aside an evening during the holidays to take the boys over to Dutch Winter Wonderland.  Dutch Wonderland is such a special place for young children during the summer it’s easy to overlook they have special hours during the fall for Happy Hauntings, and then again over the holidays as well.

The main attraction for us is always the Royal Light Show.  DW literally has tens of thousands of lights strung up throughout the hub of the park all synched to a stirring holiday soundtrack.  Make sure to take the sky ride, or take a drive with the antique cars to either get a birdseye view of the show, or drive right through the heart of it.

Of course, many of our favorite rides are open in addition to the holiday specific attractions.  My 2-year-old is a fan of Duke’s Dozers (miniature bulldozers), the Off-Road Rally (nice and tame Monster Trucks!), and of course taking a tour of the light be-decked park on their miniature train, the Wonderland Special!  The older boys (6 and 9 respectively) ride the Twister, hit up the bumper cars, and take a swing on the Space Shuttle (a space-themed Viking ship type ride).

If you have any budding young female royalty in your family, you might want to check out Storytime with the Princess.

With so much to see and do and at a great price, Dutch Winter Wonderland is another budding holiday tradition for the Evans family right here in Lancaster County.

Tour an Amish farm and house replica

During your visit to Lancaster County, if you want to learn more about the life and culture of the Amish, there’s plenty of entertaining and informative ways to learn about our plain neighbors.  One of the best ways to get a well-rounded view of the Amish culture is a classic Lancaster County destination, The Amish Farm and House.

The Amish Farm and House has been educating visitors since 1955.  With a wide variety of activities on site (A one-room schoolhouse, scooter run, farm animals, and a woodcarver to name a few!) in addition to their classic tour of a historic 1805 farmhouse, you’ll leave their property with a great overview of our living heritage!

 

Ready, set, go – the joy of Easter egg hunting

Looking at the numerous options for our three boys ( Ages 1, 5, and 8 ) to hunt Easter Eggs in the area, we decided to head out to Strasburg to Village Greens Miniature Golf. The folks over at Village Greens do such a great job maintaining their grounds, especially the gold course with its amazing landscaping in the summer time, we were sure they would bring that kind of care and attention to the Easter Egg hunt.

We weren’t disappointed. Besides having three separate hunts for three different age groups (fitting our sons’ ages perfectly) with lots of prizes, they had a bunch of different activities for the kids to participate in while they were waiting for the hunts to start. The boys got to visit with the Easter Bunny, pet a real bunny and chick, get their faces painted, chalk the sidewalks, putt for free game, and fish for prizes in a small duck pond.

You could really tell the employees and volunteers at the hunt were truly enjoying themselves and were excited to see how excited and happy the children were. It’s fun local events like this that are run by small-businesses that truly enhance the fabric of our community in Lancaster County, and make it a special place to live and visit.

Village Greens has always been one of our favorite place to go miniature golfing (ever since my wife and I started dating, in fact), and their annual Easter Egg hunt has only solidified that position in our hearts. The boys had a great time, and we’ll be sure to come back soon to hit the links.

Some Amish neighbors enjoying the spoils of the egg hunt.

Mom introducing Emerson to the Easter Bunny

The hunt is on!

 

Things We Love About the Strasburg Rail Road

There’s just something about real live steam locomotives.

My boys and I are drawn to them like a moth to a flame. Maybe it’s the grandeur of the gigantic steel machinery or the comforting sound of a steam whistle in the distance, but every year we are inexorably drawn to the Strasburg Rail Road to take a ride on the rails.

Riding in an open air car through the Lancaster County countryside with the familiar clickety-clack noise of the passenger cars rumbling beneath us is a comforting and fun summertime tradition. There are lots of thing to love.

  • They love seeing one of the steam engines in all its restored glory pull into the station and drop off passengers.
  • They love flipping the bench in the open air car so they can be facing the “right way” going to Paradise as well as the trip back to the Strasburg station.
  • They love hearing the Ghost Whistle.
  • They love asking me if we can stop at the picnic spot halfway through the ride, although they’re always disappointed with my, “Not today,” response.
  • They love seeing the farms whip by. I enjoy knowing that they’re beginning to appreciate the inherit beauty of PA Dutch Country.
  • They love that I’m a sucker and buy them kettle corn when we arrive back at the station at the Strasburg Rail Road at the end of the day.
  • I love seeing the big smiles on their faces. What more can you ask for?

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Cherry Crest Adventure Farm’s Sweet Corn Festival

The boys and I were able to visit Cherry Crest Adventure Farm recently during their Sweet Corn Festival. While I’ve documented how much fun we have at Cherry Crest Adventure in this space before, some of the things we love about this place bears repeating.

Noah, my 7-year-old, still loves the tractor pedal kart / hay bale race course, the pumpkin slingshots and the corn maze. But what’s great about Cherry Crest is that there are so many things to do, your young ones can ease in to activities when you come back year after year. This year Jacob, my 4-year-old, went on the potato sack slide, the jumping pillow and the aforementioned pedal karts when last year he would have been too timid or too small to try one of those things (he’s not overly adventurous).

Old favorites for everyone include the farm animal center where the boys got to hold a chick and feed goats and llamas, the water pump rubber duck race, and the corn bin. There were some new additions this year as well. The had some giant Lincoln logs where you could build a playhouse sized cabin, and some carnival style areas where you could throw footballs, baseballs and basketball at their respective targets, hoops etc.

Roasted Sweet Corn

Because we went to Cherry Crest Adventure Farm during its Sweet Corn Festival, we received a voucher for a free piece of roasted sweet corn with each admission. As we’re Lancaster County residents, we get our fair share of sweet corn at home, but I rarely roast it for the family (we’re boilers) so this was a special treat for the boys. The roasting really brings out the sugary sweetness of late season corn. Noah loved it so much I anted up for an additional ear or two for him. I’m a sucker like that.

I took my video camera along for our day and I put together a short video. Hopefully it captures just how much fun of an attraction Cherry Crest Adventure Farm can be for families of any age in Lancaster County.

Fun at the Whitaker Center

My first-grader loves math and science.  Considering I’m the only computer nerd on the entire eastern seaboard who didn’t excel at those particular subjects growing up (I was an English and History kind of student), the fact that my son checks out non-fiction after non-fiction book from his school library is a bit mystifying to me.

Me: “Why don’t you get one of those Arthur books? Nice little morality tales wrapped up in some light-hearted aardvark-based shenanigans!”

Him: “Naw. I’m going to get this book on lizards instead.”

Me: “Are you sure? That D.W. is quite the firecracker!”

Him: (Leaves the room shaking his head)

Harsco Science Center at the Whitaker Center for Science and ArtsWho am I to rain on his preferred educational interest parade? So a few weeks back, on a school in-service day, I took the short drive to Harrisburg with my boys to the Harsco Science Center at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts.  The science center has three floors chock full of hands-on science activities and exhibits that were engaging for everyone. Considering we had a 3-year-old, a six-year-old, and a 35-year-old in tow, that’s saying something.

The first (top) floor of the museum has some neat interactive exhibits with general science principals on display, as well as KidsPlace, an area for kids 5 and under, that had my pre-schooler working on tubes in a water table and performing on a “right-sized” stage.

The second floor of the Center is focused on health and wellness as well as the science of sound and motion.  While, at their age, the boys might not be taking home the finer points of the principles behind the Doppler effect, they certainly had fun pushing all the buttons and levers and seeing the results of their actions.

Harsco Science Center at the Whitaker Center for Science and ArtsHighlights from the bottom floor, from the Forces of Nature exhibit, included the ability to actually touch a home-brewed tornado, destroying our carefully constructed Lincoln Log homes with a mini earthquake, and seeing the real-time weather unfold on the Science on a Sphere exhibit; a five foot animated 3-dimensional globe .  The boys particularly enjoyed seeing the results of storm force winds on their Dad’s hair.  Friendly tip, hats are of no use in the Hurricane Chamber.

For a day of fostering my son’s budding love of science, and just plain having fun, the Harsco Science Center at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts was just the ticket.  I think even Arthur, or at the very least his friend the Brain, would agree.

Some More Photos From Our Trip to the Harsco Science Center
at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts


Yummie’s Giant Easter Egg Hunt at Kitchen Kettle Village

The Boys with Yummy at KKVI was able to take the boys over to Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse yesterday morning for Yummie’s Annual Giant Easter Egg Hunt.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t Yummie that 6 foot tall anthropomorphic Gingerbread Man that regularly strolls down Pepper Lane?”

Bingo.

The good folks over at Kitchen Kettle had plenty of free things for the kids to do leading up to the hunt. The boys got some balloon animals made for them, they made their own custom Easter egg and pencil toppers, and they even got to hold some baby chicks. Of course, when I’m at the Village I always have to pick up a gi-normous bag of Kettle Corn. Yes, it was 10 o’clock in the morning, but I was hungry and I love that stuff. Don’t judge me.

Noah handles a PeepAnyway, the skydiver they had on tap was delayed due to a pesky low cloud cover so they got right to the main event.  Kids and parents were broken up into separate age groups and hunted for eggs throughout the village. My wife went off with my 6-year-old and I escorted Jacob, my 3-year-old, next to the Village Quilts shop to make sure he extracted his allotted amount of eggs (to make sure everyone got a fair share).

Turns out Jacob luckily procured himself one of the special prize eggs that entitled him to a chocolate-covered treat over at Pepper Lane Fudge & Sweets shop. His mother (ol’ sweet tooth as we like to call her) was especially pleased about this particular instance of eggshell serendipity.

After a quick stop at the Canning Kitchen to pick up an Easter gift for my father-in-law (an extra large jar of Pepper Jelly, his favorite) we were off, but not before one last photo-op with the cookie man himself. All in all, it was a pretty great way to start our Easter weekend in Pennsylvania Dutch Country.

My Long John Birthday Cake from Achenbach’s Pastries

When someone mentions pastries in Lancaster County, it takes less than a millisecond for the name Achenbach’s to come up.

Achenbach’s Pastries in Leola is famous for a lot of the delicious confections they make daily from scratch, but within the county, they’re probably most known for their Long Johns. For those not in the know, when we talk about Long Johns here in Lancaster County we’re not talking about something we might wear on an extra cold night. We’re talking about something that looks and is shaped like an éclair, but is ohhhhh so much better.

It’s like a donut… super-sized.

Really, what’s not to like about that last sentence? I’m telling you all this, so I can tell you that Achenbach’s has provided me with two of my best event “cake” experiences in my life. I know, I know, I just rambled on for three paragraphs about Long Johns, and now I’m talking about cake. Let me bring some transparency.

A few years back, my wife and I attended the wedding of one of her best friends from college. As we were driving to the reception she kept on mentioning to me that she had some inside info and she knew that I was going to, “love the cake.” Knowing that I’m not a big cake fan in general (I leave most of the pastry critiquing to my lovely bride), I figured something was up.

She wasn’t kidding. Her friend had been a big fan of Achenbach’s growing up and she had commissioned a donut wedding cake.

BEST. WEDDING. CAKE. EVER.

Donut CakeIt looked just like a regular wedding cake on the outside but it was constructed entirely of donut pastry on the inside.

Pure genius, and totally tasty.

A couple of years pass, and every wedding, birthday or special occasion adorned with a cake just cannot live up to the pastry-Olympian standards now set by the Achenbach’s donut varietal. Cue my 36th birthday party. That’s right, the return of the Long John birthday cake.

When I was a kid, my parent’s used to spend hours painstakingly hand decorating cakes resembling the likes of Cookie Monster, Superman, and Scooby-Doo. Unfortunately, their toils were for naught. These cakes are all now fully obscured by the long shadow cast by the best-tasting birthday confection known to man.

Happy birthday to me!

Achenbach's Long John Birthday Cake

The Comic Store

Well into my college years, I collected comic books. Titles like Spiderman, Ironman, Captain America & G.I. Joe (Yeah, I was a Marvel guy) were purchased with the small amount of disposable income I had on hand at the time.   loved the art and the creative storytelling that was inherent with the medium.  hat’s why when Sarah needed someone to go down to the Comic Store in Lancaster for the 25 days of Christmas Shopping assignment, I was quick to volunteer.

Stepping into the store, I was filled with nostalgia from my collecting years. Besides having a wall filled with the week’s new delivery of fresh issues, the Comic Store has shelf upon shelf of graphic novels for every taste. I spent some time thumbing through some past issues in backers and bags hunting for bargains and also took some time to look at the wide variety of collectible figurines, toys, statues, collectible card games and board games.

They had something for every comic and movie lover on your list. From an eclectic selection of Star Wars comics, magazines and action figures, to toy replicas of the characters from the Rankin/Bass stop motion classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, there was a wide array of comic, tv, and movie memorabilia for sale.

I ended up buying myself a wind-up tin robot of URL from Futurama (in a fantastic looking two-color box no less!), a current G.I. Joe book, and a few younger-skewing comics as stocking stuffers for my boys. Hopefully, one day, one of them will take up my interest in comics.  If they do, we’ll have a great place nearby to go together in the Comic Store to look for the latest and greatest.

A Trip to the North Museum of Natural History & Science

I had a chance to return to the North Museum of Natural History & Science with my family this past weekend.  The museum, located on the edge of the campus of Franklin & Marshall College near downtown Lancaster, is a fantastic, accessible way to introduce your school-aged children to the world of science.  My oldest son has shown more of an interest in math and science since he’s started first grade (much to the befuddlement of his English teacher mom and his book-loving Dad) so I thought a return trip to the North Museum might be in order.

The North Museum is filled with lots of hands-on activities and displays for kids.  Even my 3-year-old could get into the act.  Sure, he may not be gleaning any of the “science” from his exploits, but he was having fun which is a bonus for any parent who’s ever heard the phrase, “Can we leave yet?”

The first level of the museum contains a live animal room full of snakes, turtles and insects the kids can inspect through the safety of glass enclosures.  A helpful docent was on hand to clue my boys in on lots of interesting facts about the reptiles and amphibians on display.  We also spent a decent amount of time in the “Hall of Cosmos” which had all kinds of interactive displays geared towards those with an interest in space.

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The boys also enjoyed the “Light & Sight Gallery” where they got to see what kind of effect ultraviolet light had on their respective clothing.  Having already been in a college dorm room in my lifetime, I was somewhat less shocked and intrigued by the day-glow effect then they were, but it was great fun to see how excited they got nonetheless.

The current traveling exhibit was Attack of the Bloodsuckers, which focused on the science behind insects that… well… enjoy an opportunity to dine on you.  The boys particularly enjoyed seeing the world through a mosquito’s prism-like eyes and sitting on the giant inflating tick (no lie).

We hit pretty much everything in the museum, from the expansive Cabinet Museum on the lower level with a vast collection of birds and bugs and gorgeous geology specimens, to the Dinosaur gallery filled with fossils and a fierce looking T-Rex model.  We finished up our visit with the planetarium (south-central Pennsylvania’s largest), where we learned quite a bit about the stars we see in the skies here in Pennsylvania Dutch County, and got a primer on the different constellations.

All in all, the North Museum of Natural History & Science was a fun (and educational) way for the family to while away a brisk fall afternoon in Lancaster County.

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