US Mint in Philadelphia

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When people visit Philadelphia, they often think about visiting the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. While those are great to visit, don’t forget to walk a block down to the Mint! It is seriously just a block from the Visitor’s Center (where you get your tickets for Independence Hall).

At the Mint, you take a self-guided tour and see the machines, giant rolls of metal, and learn how they make our US Coins. It is really interesting! Since it is self-guided, you can go through anytime – as fast or slow as you want! There also aren’t many people going through, so you don’t have to worry about crowds or waiting for some of the hands-on activites for the kids. It doesn’t take very long to tour and you learn quite a bit about how they make coins. It’s pretty cool. The kids love it too! The gift shop is actually pretty good and we can always find a deal/clearance there.

If you’re heading to Philadelphia, take a half an hour and visit the US Mint! It is a great tour for all ages and no tickets or reservations are needed.

Just like the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, NO pictures are allowed (hence why I have none). They are serious about the security of our money and how it’s made!

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Valley Forge

I think I’ve mentioned how much I love the Junior Ranger Program? I learn so much about each of the places we are visiting while doing them with my kids (And one of my degrees is in History!). We learned about and did our Junior Ranger badges before our visit, which made the visit more interesting!

After Hershey Park, we stayed at a hotel a bit closer to Philadelphia, right near Valley Forge – like less than a mile from Valley Forge. We, of course, had to visit Valley Forge, especially since we were staying so close. It doesn’t take too long to drive around the park. Of course, if you stop and look at everything, it will take longer, but we have kids (and adults) with short attention spans, so it doesn’t take too terribly long to drive around and see the memorials, houses, and important sites.

The visitor’s center is large and has some interesting things in it. We didn’t spend too long in there, but the kids enjoyed the fun cutouts and some of the artifacts on display.

If you’re near Philadephia, it is a great stop to learn about this period of time in our country’s history. Love bringing history alive to my kids! Plus another Junior Ranger Badge!

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Hershey Park

 

We stayed the night in Hershey this year – it had been a few trips since we had been to Hershey Park and we wanted to go again. #2 wanted to go to celebrate his 12th birthday. I think the last time we went was to their Christmas Celebration evenings and it was AMAZING! We loved going that time of the year!

One of my favorite things about Hershey Park is that they offer a Preview night! You can get into the park the night before your day at the park and get the lay of the land! You can ride the rides and figure the park out before you spend the whole day there. We rode almost half the rides in the park that night alone.

Hershey Park offers an ALL day drink. You can refill the drink all day long. It is a GREAT deal. You can start using your drink during the preview night too! So get it the night before to get all of your money’s worth.

The next morning, we knew where we wanted to go and what rides we wanted to ride. We were able to ride everything once or twice (some rides up to 6 times). Kid #1 was able to ride EVERY open roller coaster at least once. Most 2-4 times. #2 rode most of them, but he chickened out on a few. #1 is a THRILL seeker and will ride any ride with no fear. #3 rode probably half the roller coasters – all the ones he was tall enough for. He loved the wooden roller coasters, which his dad and I do NOT enjoy. Thankfully, we have older kids now, so they can take their siblings on those rides we don’t want to ride. Phew!

#4 was tall enough for the Super Dooper Looper. A LOOP roller coaster! I couldn’t believe a 4-year-old was old enough for a loop roller coaster. Alas, he was tall enough (the height restriction was surprisingly low) so I took him on his first loop roller coaster. He LOVED it!! He went again with his dad. 4 years old and already riding loop roller coasters. Crazy!

One of the other things I loved about Hershey is they had TONS of little kid rides. I love Disney so much because kids of all ages can ride a majority of their rides. While Hershey has plenty of height restrictions, next to all the big rides with height restriction was at least one (if not 2-4) rides that little guys could ride! This was so wonderful! While the big kids (and maybe one parent) would ride the big rollercoasters or other rides, we could wait for them on rides for the little guys, without having to venture to another “land” or area! It was great. There were ones that they would go on by themselves too. If you know any toddler, if they can ride it by themselves (because they think they can do everything themselves!) they love it. Needless to say, even the one-year-old had a wonderful day at the park. He didn’t want to leave at the end of the day – wanted to keep riding rides. Thankfully, it wasn’t busy, so he was able to just go from ride to ride! Great for a short attention span.

A fantastic day was had by all. Watch for deals on tickets. I bought our tickets when it was Adults at kids prices and then bought the kids tickets from a discount retailer. We love Hershey Park (don’t tell Mickey that I cheated on him 😉 )

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Hershey’s Chocolate World & Lancaster County

Another trip we take every time we go to DC is to Lancaster County and Hershey. I love Lancaster County. Donuts (cheese danish! Coconut Long John!) at the Central Market are a must for us! If you get a chance, go to Costco in Lancaster. They have Horse and Buggy Parking!! (no Joke!) And there is usually a horse and buggy or two there. So cool! My kids love Kitchen Kettle Village too – mainly to try all the free samples of Jam, salsa, and dips! Bird in a Hand Market has GREAT apple cider too! If you have the time, try one of the Smorgasboards – YUM!


Hershey is just a fun stop. The street lights are topped with Hershey Kisses. I’ve even taken a Chocolate Bath at the Spa at the Hershey Hotel. I’ve always wanted to bathe in chocolate, and now I can say I have! I didn’t do it this time, but we had lots of other plans instead.

Hershey’s Chocolate World has lots of shopping and food options. We LOVE The free ride/”factory tour” they offer. We have ridden it so many times. Seriously, one trip, I think we rode it 10 times…. They recently remodeled the ride and made some changes. Some of the improvements were good, some not as good. I miss the catchy jingle the cows used to sing “It’s a milk chocolate… Tasty Treat… It’s a milk chocolate..” We have the whole thing on video somewhere in our cloud. The new song is not nearly as catchy and entertaining. I can’t even remember it. However, some of the technical advances were a nice improvement though.

Plus, you get FREE Chocolate at the end of the ride!!! So worth it! Maybe that is why we did it 10 times in a row…

This will always be a must visit for us. We are suckers for chocolate and a free ride (that ends with FREE chocolate!)

You can easily do Lancaster County and Hershey Chocolate World in a day. If you want Donuts at the Central Market, be sure to get there EARLY, or they run out!  Also, bring CASH to the market – most places don’t take credit card. Stoltzfus Homestyle Bakery has the best donuts. We’ve tried others, and theirs are by far the BEST!

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Holocaust Museum

When I was a teenager, my parents took me to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It changed my life and view of the world going to the museum. It is an emotional and horrifying journey that you take through the museum. Truly a life changing museum.

Our older 2 kids were interested in seeing the museum. This is not a museum for younger kids. My sisters took the younger 3 kids back home, while we toured the museum in the afternoon with our 2 older kids. It was amazing to experience this museum with our kids. It was my Husband’s first time through too. Some parts were too much for me. Being a mom, I had to skip some of the parts that specifically involved children. It was too much for me. It is nearly impossible to leave this museum not being brought to tears. It is heart-wrenching and such an important part of history that we must ALWAYS remember, so it NEVER EVER happens again. It is so horrible to walk through this museum and imagine the horror and trials that they endured. Unimaginable.

When you enter, you receive a booklet with the story of someone who lived during the time of the Holocaust. As you progress through the museum, you will turn the pages and learn about their life during this time. At the end, you find out if they lived or died. It really helps the museum to become even more personal.

This museum is life changing. I don’t think I would say that about any other museum that I have ever been to. This was my third time through and my life was still changed experiencing this museum again, especially through the eyes of my children.

If you are in DC, I HIGHLY recommend seeing this museum. It will change your life and stick with you forever. I do NOT recommend taking young children to it, hence the reason we haven’t been to it in a really long time (and my husband had never been). Take 12+ and up – it is important for them to see and learn about it. (maybe a mature 10 and 11… maybe…)

 

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Bureau of Engraving and Printing 

We take a tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing almost every trip to DC. The kids enjoy seeing how money is made! It is quite the process. You learn every (well, almost every) step of the process of how they make money. You see people who make the money, the machines, the ink – each step – more steps than you would think! The kids really enjoy this tour! I mean who doesn’t enjoy seeing money made and millions of dollars sitting around in rooms?!

You can NOT take pictures on the tour. You are warned OVER and OVER not to take pictures or your phone/camera will be confiscated.

We booked our tour through our senator’s office. We got a PRIVATE tour this time! It was soooo cool! Not sure I want to do a general tour again. Ha! Getting spoiled. Not sure how we got a private tour, but I think it was because we had 12 people and booked it with our senator. We booked it with our senator before, but it wasn’t a private tour. I think it was because we had so many people this time. Well, that’s what I am guessing was the reason at least….

If you don’t book through your member of Congress, then you can simply get timed tickets for a tour at the building. If not going in summer, I don’t think you even need tickets.

This is a great tour for kids and I would highly recommend taking the tour with kids of all ages (and we have taken the tour with kids of all ages!)

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Native American and Air & Space Smithsonian’s

The American Indian Smithsonian is probably the prettiest Smithsonian building. Their elevators are awesome. My family tree has lots of Native American in it (my mom’s dad’s side). The top floor is my favorite – lots of fun areas to see and explore. They have lots of interactive areas and it isn’t as busy as many of the other Smithsonian, so you can enjoy your time without tons of people around! Stop by this Smithsonian, even if just a quick visit!

We headed next door to the Air and Space Smithsonian, which I think we’ve done every trip. We were here during the big Washington DC Earthquake a few years ago! This is the most popular Smithsonian. Checking out the Wright Flyer and Amelia Earhart’s planes are always a favorite, as is all the space artifacts. I didn’t take many pictures this trip, because a certain toddler had my phone most of the time. Be prepared for long lines getting in, but they move faster than some other Smithsonian’s because they use X-ray machines instead of hand inspection (it is busier, so they have more resources than the other museums). This is the most popular museum, so it is usually pretty full of people most of the time.

The downstairs in the gift shop usually has some good clearance deals. This trip, there didn’t seem to be nearly as many deals as usual – bummer.

These are great museums and can be seen together in a morning or afternoon. (or longer, depending on how long you like to spend in museums). If you’re going to eat in one, eat in the American Indian – it has the BEST food of ALL the Smithsonian’s. Fry Bread! Need I say more?!?! Plus, Air and Space just has an expensive McDonald’s. Trust me, hit up American Indian food court if you’re going to eat in any Smithsonian Food Court (all of them are outrageously expensive though!)

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