For the best weekend getaways look no further than Pennsylvania. That's right! It is just an hour or two away but offers a wide variety of activities and venues that are just perfect for a day trip or more with the kids. Here are six great ideas for places to visit in Pennsylvania over Columbus Day Weekend, or any time. From the Poconos to Amish Country, Hershey Park to Philadelphia and even a fun-filled factory tour, there's lots to do with the kids:
Dutch Wonderland (Lancaster, PA)
This amusement park is reputed to be among the best for kids under age 8. If you are looking for a weekend of train rides, bumper cars, log rides, mini roller coasters, Thomas the Train shows, Princess storytimes, and "Frog Prince" diving shows, this is the place to go! If you need a distraction from the amusement park, take a ride down route 30 in Lancaster to experience Amish Country.
No excuses needed to visit chocolate land! First visit The Hershey Story Museum where you can book a class in the chocolate lab for hands-on chocolate making. Then head to Hershey Park, an amusement park sure to entertain kids of all ages with rollercoasters, characters, shows, games, and everything else you can imagine. Tons of fun holiday events for 2012 listed here.
The Crayola Crayon Factory (Easton, PA)
The Crayola Crayon Factory is a great destination for a day trip or the perfect pit stop on your way to Dutch Wonderland or Hershey. In addition to the live demonstration of how crayons are made (kids get to put labels on the freshly made crayons), this is an arts and crafts extravaganza where kids can try virtually every Crayola product. Expect them to spend hours coloring with every imaginable crayon color on paper and glass, trying out Crayola's clay products, gluing and pasting with "magic" paper. When you are done, head upstairs to the National Canal Museum where kids can play with the 90 foot model canal system and move model boats through real water and mini locks.
Great Wolf Lodge (Pocono Mountains, PA)
If you didn't get your fill of waterparks and beaches this summer, Great Wolf Lodge lets you experience it all year long, regardless of the weather outside. The resort's main feature is its huge indoor waterpark and tree house water fort with water slides, lazy rivers, and raft rides. There are also arcades, a race zone for remote control vehicles, an animated clock tower show, craft activities, a family game room, and more. Remember that one night gets you admission to two full days at the waterpark, the day you arrive and the day you leave!
Philadelphia is a perfect place to visit for a weekend of history, culture and fun. Take the kids to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall for a dose of American History. To balance history with fun, go to Smith, the Kids Play Place in the Park, a 6 acre outdoor playground for kids 10 and under and a 24,000 foot playhouse for kids 5 and under. Then check out the Franklin Institute for science exhibits including the giant heart and the train factory. Don't leave without the obligatory Philly Cheesesteak at either Pat's or Geno's!
The Poconos (Delaware Water Gap, PA & NJ border)
Book a campground cabin (try kid-friendly campgrounds like KOA or MountainVista) in the Poconos for the weekend for a more rustic experience. Aside from activities at the campground, hike the beautiful waterfall trails at Bush Kill Falls. Kids will love to visit the zoo like The Snake and Animal Farm where you can feed the pigs a baby bottle of milk and throw peanuts at the monkeys or Space Farms which features both zoo animals and fantastic collections of everything from toys and cars to historic farm machinery.
This article was first published in September 2009.