We took a long weekend trip up to Lancaster County, PA primarily for a Day Out with Thomas and for the kids' first amusement park experience. I figured I would share my review since you all are in the same boat for finding fun family things to do!
Lodging: We rented the Lincoln Boone cottage in Lancaster for three nights, primarily because it is pet-friendly. We had such a great time! It sits in a woodsy area among Amish and Mennonite farms. DS loved our walks to look at the farm animals and he had plenty of room to wander outside. The setting was really pretty, and after the kids went to bed, we spent the evenings sitting on the porch enjoying some wine and watching the fireflies in the valley.
This place was built in the 1700?s and definitely has character. It was fairly easy to babyproof?DD?s favorite thing to do is climb stairs but there are doors at the top and bottom of the stairs, so we didn?t need to worry about her heading up (the stairs were narrow and winding, so we were also concerned about DS, but since the place still has it's original doors and some funky latches that he couldn't figure out, we were fine).
Day Out with Thomas the Train: It was hot, it was crowded, but seeing the look on DS?s face when he saw Thomas for the first time was priceless. ?Luckily? we got stuck in satellite parking so we got to ride a school bus (bonus for a two-year old), and we also had some great views of Thomas going through the corn field from the parking area.
The 20 minute train ride with Thomas pulling was nothing to write home about, but the miniature train ride was fun. There were quite a few activities, including trains to play with and music, but both of our kids don?t do well if we don?t adhere to their nap schedules, so we did not have time to do a whole lot before heading back to the cottage.
Dutch Wonderland: This is a smaller amusement park geared toward younger guests (there is only one roller coaster and no ?thrill? rides). Ages two and under are free, and the adult admission prices are reasonable ($34) in comparison to most amusement parks. They have a few boat rides, a train ride, a monorail, and a carousel that we could ride with both kids and there are quite a few rides that DS could ride by himself or with one of us. The lines were either non-existent or short, which was good for DS?s patience level. We were going to attempt the water park after lunch, but it was again clear that our kids needed naps.
We had a good time, but I don?t think I?d recommend making a special trip to PA for this park. I?m guessing there is more going on at Sesame Street Place.
Food: Our first night, we asked for a recommendation from the cottage owner and she suggested the Shady Maple Smorgasboard. I got a big kick out of this place. DH said he felt like we walked into an episode of "Big Love." Shady Maple appears to be popular with both tour buses and Mennonites so we had to stand in line for awhile to pay and be seated.
The prices are very reasonable for all you can eat of a large variety of not very good food. And you do not pay for kids under 4?both of ours thought the mac and cheese was excellent. The place is big, it?s loud, and two cranky kids went unnoticed. So, while the food was bad, I would recommend if for an entertaining experience.
Since we are currently at a point where eating out with both kids is not very enjoyable (good for our budget, since we now realize we were eating out a lot), we took advantage of the kitchen at the cottage and shopped at Martin?s Country Market about two miles down the road for the rest of our meals. We even packed a picnic for Dutch Wonderland, which has a picnic pavilion outside the park (and near the roller coaster, which provided DS entertainment while eating).
There is so much to do in this area, and it's only a three hour drive...we figure we'll probably be going back at some point!