Friday, August 14, 2015

A Review of Lost River Caverns, PA

The Lost River Caverns in Hellertown, Pennsylvania has always been a point of interest for me.  I would drive by the billboards on Rt. 78 and wonder, 'What is that place like?'  I asked friends for advice, searched online for reviews, and got such a mish-mosh of responses (from, 'It's cheesy and old!' to, 'It's cool!') that I figured I had to see for myself.

The lobby is very 'Land of the Lost!'

Where is Lost River Caverns?

The caverns are located in Hellertown, Pennsylvania, not far off of Rt. 78.  When we went (around lunch time on a Tuesday in the summer), there was construction off of the exit onto rt. 412, but nothing that caused us any trouble.  We were coming from Hunterdon county, New Jersey, so the trip was only about 30 minutes for us.  On a second trip there, we still encountered construction on rt. 412 (nothing awful, just messy) and from nearby Somerset county, it took us about 45 minutes to get there.

The outside of the caverns - not much to look at, I know, but the inside is cool!
The Jersey Cave Momma's Boy and The Jersey Cave Momma! Where is Mr. Jersey Momma?

What Will I See There?

Friends told us it was 'cheesy and old' and 'small and cool.' I found that it was all of these things.  Much like Roadside America and Northlandz, this is an attraction that has been around for decades.  The main lobby is a little dusty and the bathrooms are ancient.  It smells like a basement (but in all fairness, there is a cave in there).  I don't know what it is about these old landmarks, but no one ever wants to maintain them.  How hard is it, guys, to dust your displays every once in a while, or to fix that toilet in the bathroom with the giant garbage bag over it?  I fear that someday these historic attractions will be no more, simply because no one bothered to maintain them over the years.  But maybe I'm naive here, and it is a challenge to maintain these places.  If that is the case, then I stand corrected.  But it seems like just some simple upkeep (dusting, painting dingy walls, etc.) would make a big difference.

Inside the lobby of the Lost Caverns.

When you enter the lobby of The Lost River Caverns (a tiny little building stuck in the mountain), you check in at the front desk and they inform you when the next tour is.  You don't have to pay anything until the tour is over, and as of the publication of this entry, fees were $12.50 for adults and $7.75 for kids 3-12 (always check their website for pricing info).  They no longer offer a AAA discount, so unfortunately, that's not an option.

The entrance is above the gift shop, where the windows are.
This is my kind of place!
We didn't have to wait long for the tour (maybe 10 minutes?), so we were able to explore and take some photos.  There was a huge dinosaur/waterfall display and a gift shop to wander around in before the tour.
Who's hiding up there? Lost River Caverns lobby.
Lobby of the Lost River Caverns

The Lost River Caverns Tour

Our tour guide was named Andy and he was very knowledgeable and friendly (we also had a second tour guide on another trip named Lexi, who was equally fabulous).  The Jersey Momma's boy was so excited to go down into a real cave that I thought he was going to burst!  Standing in front of the cave entrance is a thrill as you stare down the path.  I mean, look at it!  How cool is that?  I actually think the anticipation at the entrance was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Cave entrance- cool, right?

We were fortunate to be in a small group of about 15 people, but we did pass very large groups of at least 20-25 people.  Andy led us through the cave and told us about its history and beauty.  There were so many neat facts to learn about the cave and the 'lost river,' which you actually get to see (it's so crystal clear, it looks like a mirror).  I don't want to give everything away, so you'll just have to take the tour and learn for yourself.

Inside the cave- wowee!!

Things To Know

It's chilly down there!  So bring a sweatshirt or wear something warm.  The cave maintains a constant 52 degrees, but it is damp and being down there for 30 minutes gives you kind of a 'cave chill' after a while.  The floor is wet (I was told it is always wet) so wear good walking shoes with socks.  The walk is not dangerous or treacherous, but there are a few places where you have to watch your head or face as you're walking.  There are handrails to hold onto if you need them, but you can't touch the rocks.

I'm in a cave and my legs look fabulous!

It might help to bring a little flashlight.  The path is lit well enough, but the boy next to me had a little flashlight on a string around his neck and he was shining that on the rock walls to see them better.  I thought that was a cool idea (he also had a flip phone which he was using to take pictures.  This has nothing to do with anything, I just thought it was cute that he had a flip phone).  I was using the flashlight on my smartphone, which worked well, too.

The cave ceiling at Lost River Caverns
There are no bats and no bugs, so don't worry if you're afraid of creepy crawlies.  You won't find that here.  As far as caves go, I think this one was pretty clean!

At one point a huge drop of water dripped onto my forehead and splashed right in my eyes (figures!).  They say this is good luck and called a 'cave kiss.' It won't cause you any harm, but if you get freaked out about stuff like that, then wear a hat or a hoodie.

Rock formation inside the Lost River Caverns

The tour was only about 30 minutes. Some reviewers online complained that the tour was too short and that Lost River did not have as much to offer as other caves in Pennsylvania.  But for a Jersey Momma and her 6 year old boy (and his grandparents!) this was the perfect amount of time.  It was hard enough for a little boy to stand and listen intently to a tour guide for that amount of time anyway.  We visited with a friend a second time when the Jersey Momma's Boy was 7 (his friend was almost 9) and they really, really enjoyed it.  I don't think you can go wrong with this trip, really.  Our tour both times contained a mix of age groups.

At the end of the tour, I noticed some people tipping our tour guide.  I didn't even realize that you're supposed to tip a tour guide and I had no singles on me anyway.  So Andy, I'm sorry if I gypped you, dude.

The Gift Shop

The Jersey Momma's boy usually despises gift shops, much to my dismay (and delight, I guess, as I don't have to worry about him begging for souvenirs).  But he liked this one.  There were a lot of funky things (and cheesy things, too, but that's sometimes the fun of it).  He really enjoyed rifling through their barrel of polished stones that were 4 for $1.00.  I liked their chocolate candy rocks and their rock collection pencil. We also got a cave coloring book and a mini rocks/minerals identification book.  Parents will appreciate that there were many gift choices for $1.00 or less.

Lost River Caverns Souvenir Shop

Gem Panning and Nature Trail

The weather did not permit us to use the Lost Caverns' nature trail, but there was a little sign and staircase to explore if you happen to arrive on a sunny day.  The gem panning was really neat, though.  For about $3.77 we purchased a small bag of sandy silt at the gift shop.  After we left the shop, we took the bag with us to the panning area, which is like a little trough of flowing water.  The kids were able to dump their sandy bag into a tray and wash it in the water to see what rocks and gems they found.  It was really fun and the results were cool.  We got a good selection of rocks for that price, and we didn't even mind that it was drizzling outside!

The gem panning station at Lost River Caverns
Panning for gems outside the Lost River Caverns
Rocks and minerals found while panning!

Is It Worth the Trip?

This is another moment when we must ask ourselves, 'Will my child like this?' Because even though you might see it as cheesy, old and small, your kid sees it as...a cave!!  Which is...just plain cool!!!  

We didn't have to travel far so this was a fun, interesting trip for us.  If you are coming a greater distance, then I suggest you experience all of it- head for the nature trail, do the gem panning, maybe picnic across the street.  Hit up the local Rita's on your way out, too!

More cool cave pics

More Jersey Momma Tips

*Parking is free.  Their main lot is small but there is a larger parking lot across the street that you can also use.

*There are areas across the street where you can sit and eat or picnic, if you like.  This is a good option if the weather is nice!

*There are towns nearby so you can visit the local Rita's or drive a little further to find the local Wendy's, which is near the entrance to Rt. 78.  But other than these two recognizable chains, we couldn't find too many other food choices.  There are a lot of small local places to eat if you're up for that (pizzerias and small tavern types) but I don't know how kid friendly they are.

*The caves are open year round except for major holidays, and the temperature in the cave is always a balmy 52 degrees, no matter what.

*The Jersey Momma is NOT compensated for any trips, unless otherwise specified.  In fact, The Jersey Momma was very grateful that the Jersey Grandpa paid our admission fee.  :)

One thing I have to add about the Lost River Caverns is that everyone working there was super friendly, respectful and just plain nice.  The front desk greeter, our tour guide, the cashier at the souvenir shop- everyone was so polite.  I really appreciate that in any establishment, so kudos to the Lost River Caverns for having such a friendly staff, and thank you for a fun day trip.  Now go and plan your trip at  Have fun!

Disclaimer:  As previously stated, I was not compensated by Lost River Caverns but I did add some fun affiliate links below from Amazon if you want to shop for some cool rock collecting books or kits. I highly recommend the National Geographic Kids book of Rocks and Minerals.  It's one of our favorites.  Go for it!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Science Guest Blog: Why Does it Hail in the Summertime? by Dr. Joe Castanza

I am fortunate to know some really cool people in my life (people with really cool talents).  My friend, (affectionately known as 'Dr. Joe') was kind enough to answer a question for the Jersey Momma's boy, who once asked me, 'Why does it hail in the summertime?' Now my typical answer to this would be, 'Let's Google it,' but this time I thought I'd have my friend, Dr. Joe, write us a guest blog about this interesting topic.  We hope you enjoy it!

Cold Ice from the Sky on a Hot, Summer Day...What the Hail???
by Dr. Joe Castanza, Theoretical Physicist, Meteorologist and Former Airline Pilot

How can it be that ICE falls from the sky in the summertime? We call those bits of ice “hail” (which is different from sleet—sleet occurs during the winter when rain from warmer air higher up falls into colder air below).  To understand how hail is formed, we need to understand how thunderstorms form and what goes on inside.

Now, a lot of people may think that the wind only blows across the ground; that’s not true!!! Air also rises and falls in the atmosphere. We call those up-and-down currents “convection”.

Another thing that needs to be understood is that, while it may be 88°F on the ground, it can be -20°F at 15,000 feet above the ground and, even on the hottest days, -65°F or colder at 43,000 feet!!!  So, even on really hot summer days, it’s still really cold way up in the atmosphere!!!

It gets colder (normally) as we go higher up into the sky.
photo courtesy of the National Weather Service
Sometimes, on hot, humid days, the warm air rises and cold air falls very quickly… when we have that kind instability and water vapor (gaseous moisture, which we feel as “relative humidity”) in the air, the conditions are just right for the formation of a strong thunderstorm.  If it’s too windy on the ground and a few thousand feet above the ground, however, convection may be interrupted; we might still get a thunderstorm but, it will not be nearly as severe (that’s NOT to be confused with the strong gusts of winds that we see just BEFORE a thunderstorm; that’s the front of the storm passing by and it’s a sign that it’s time to go inside.)

So.  It’s a hot summer’s day… perhaps, in late July or early August.  The sun is out, the air is warm and humid, and there are large birds gliding around in circles overhead.  These large birds are able to glide without having to flap their wings because the sun is heating the ground, the ground heats the air above it; hot air is lighter than colder air and, therefore, it rises—just like a helium-filled balloon.

We sometimes call these rising currents of warm air “thermals”; these are what those big birds are gliding on; that’s a good sign that there’s convection occurring in the atmosphere.  When it comes to the formation of thunderstorms, we call these currents of rising air “updrafts”.  As these updrafts carry that moist air higher and higher into the atmosphere, the warm, moist air eventually reaches a level at which the temperature is cool enough that the water vapor condenses—it turns from water vapor (a gas) into tiny, lighter-than-air water droplets (liquid).  This is what forms clouds, as well.

BUT, the stronger those updrafts are, the higher up those tiny water droplets are carried.  When they reach the top of an updraft, the air carrying these droplets cools to the point that it becomes heavier than the warmer air around it and we wind up with a downward wind, which we call a downdraft.

Again, this continuous cycle of rising and falling air is called “convection”, and it’s required for the formation not only of thunderstorms but, hail, as well.

CONVECTION AT ITS FINEST!  In this image, updrafts are red, downdrafts are blue.
photo courtesy of the National Weather Service
As the water droplets fall with the downdrafts, they combine together with other water droplets and increase in size. Then, they end up in warmer air below and start to rise again with the updrafts.  As this happens, the speed of the updrafts continues.

Also, something else happens: Whenever water vapor turns into liquid droplets, heat is released (this is called the “latent heat of evaporation” and, it’s why sweating keeps you cool; as the water evaporates from your skin, it takes away some of your body heat and cools you down).  When that heat is released higher up in the atmosphere that causes the updrafts not only to accelerate but, also, go even higher, into much colder air.  If the moisture only goes so high to a point that the air is not cold enough to cause the water droplets to freeze, we’ll wind up with just rain.  The bigger the rain drops, the higher up those updrafts carried that moisture—the droplets had time to join together with other droplets to form really big rain drops!!!

On the other hand, sometimes, those updrafts go so high that they reach air that has temperatures below freezing, and these water droplets freeze.  That’s hail—but, we’re not done yet!!! That little piece of ice will fall into warmer air, its outer parts will melt (with ice still inside) and rise again—and, depending on how high they get carried back up in those updrafts, these little bits of ice will bump into water droplets that will accrete (freeze onto) our original bits of ice, and the hail gets even LARGER!!!  In fact, the largest, single piece of hail ever recorded fell in Vivian, South Dakota on July 23rd of 2010; it was 8” across and nearly 18¾” around; it weight almost two pounds!!!  Here’s a picture of it:

The largest hailstone, EVER!
(photo courtesy of the National Weather Service)
The stronger the updrafts are and the more moisture that’s available in the upper atmosphere for freezing onto our already-frozen hail, the larger the hailstones will be.  Eventually, even the strongest hailstones will become too heavy to be supported by the updrafts and they will fall.  Commonly, they’re small stones, like this one in my hand which is only ¼” across:

A 1/4" hailstone
(photo courtesy of ISI Physics Research Observatory, 2014)

…but, sometimes, they can grow to golf ball- or even softball-sized stones and do some serious damage.  For example, look at this poor car!!   
Ouch!  Someone better call the Insurance Gecko!
(photo courtesy of the National Weather Service)
Hail can cause serious damage to cars, homes, trailer homes, tall buildings… it can even hurt or kill people!!!  Airplanes are directed around hail storms and downdrafts because hail is one of the most hazardous weather effects known to aviation; just look at the window of this Boeing 727 airliner!!!

 Thank God, this aircraft landed safe
(photo courtesy of the FAA)
                    Look at the wing of this poor, single engine, propeller plane!
            (photo courtesy of the FAA)
So, to get thunderstorms, we need heat from the sun, moisture and unstable air (convection).  The higher that convection goes up into the atmosphere, the better the chances are that hail and severe thunderstorms will occur.  Hailstones can grow pretty large in those storms and, when they fall, they can do lots of damage to property, and even hurt or kill people!!!  When it starts to hail, “Get the hail inside!!!”

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Best Coloring Books for Adults

If you're looking for a relaxing, quiet hobby (you, yes you, not your kids, not your family, you!) then adult coloring books might be right up your alley.  Coloring in coloring books was always fun as a kid.  Now there are coloring books geared towards adults, with more complex patterns and more 'grown up' illustrations. You can choose whatever medium you like (it doesn't have to just be crayons!).  Colored pencils are my medium of choice at the moment.  Sharp ones!  They say coloring is a stress reliever and a great way to find some 'quiet time.'  It's also something you can do with your kids, in your own way.

Anyway, here are some of my favorite picks for adult coloring books.  I've included some affiliate links if you want to jump ahead and purchase them, too!

Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford

This coloring book (along with its companion mentioned below, Secret Garden), have become so popular that they are often hard to find.  The manufacturer actually ran out of copies and the book had to be reprinted to fill demand.  You can also visit Johanna Basford's website to see what she's got cooking up next (an ocean coloring book!  Woot!) or just view her amazing artwork.  She also has a coloring gallery so you can get some ideas on how to color her books.

The pros about Enchanted Forest:  adorable illustrations (think mushrooms, cottages, woodland friends, birds and more).  The pages are big and the sizes of the illustrations vary, so some are more detailed than others.  Enchanted Forest is also an 'inky quest,' which means there are little search and finds and games hidden within, too.  But you can ignore those if you'd rather just color!

The cons about Enchanted Forest:  the pages are not extremely thick, so some markers tend to bleed through the other side.

Enchanted Garden coloring book by Johanna Basford - a fabulous coloring book for adults!

If you're lucky you can find Enchanted Forest at your local bookstore, or if it's in stock, you can use my Amazon link below.


Secret Garden by Johanna Basford

Secret Garden by Johanna Basford has also been in demand for a while now and might be hard to find (I did include an affiliate link below, though, so give it a shot!).  It's very similar to Enchanted Forest but it has more flowers and fairies.  Equally beautiful and has pretty much the same pros and cons of  Enchanted Forest, mentioned above.

The Secret Garden adult coloring book by Johanna Basford is super popular!
Johanna's books are paperback but they're a heavy duty quality with a thick cover.  Johanna published some recommendations about pencils and mediums to use on her blog.

The Jersey Grammy was not finished with this page yet but I still thought it was beautiful!
The Jersey Grammy used colored pencils for these flowers from Secret Garden
Here's an affiliate link for Secret Garden.  If it's available, get it while you can!  They sell out quickly.


Doodle Invasion by Zifflin and Kirby Rosales 

Doodle Invasion is by FAR my favorite adult coloring book of all time.  I found it thanks to an article on one of the coolest sites, Bored Panda.  This paperback book is full of whimsical, silly illustrations of little characters all swirled together to create one image.  Sometimes it's a moon, sometimes it's a big whale. I love sitting and coloring all of their little faces and discovering funny things about each drawing as I color it.  There are 50 pages.  The pros are the wild illustrations and funny drawings.  The cons are that the ink is a little thin on the pages and it will sometimes smear or look like it's smearing. This didn't bother me much but it bothered The Jersey Grammy a little bit, who had just come from the thicker pages of the Johanna Basford books.

This was the first illustration I completed from the book and it was all done using Crayola colored pencils (along with a really good pencil sharpener!)

My first completed coloring page from Doodle Invasion

This one was done by The Jersey Grammy:

Colored by The Jersey Grammy - Doodle Invasion adult coloring book

Look for Doodle Invasion at your local bookstore or you can purchase it through my Amazon link below.


You can also visit Kirby's cool website and see all of his awesome artwork, as well as read more about his books.

Owls by Noelle Dahlen

Owls is more of a cartoony type coloring book.  If major details are too time-consuming for you, you might appreciate a book like Dahlen's instead.  These are bold, cute illustrations, and are good for kids, too.  The pros are the adorable pics, the thick pages and the price (you can't beat that!).  Cons are that it's more kid-like, and less pages than the other books.

Owls is a cute coloring book, and not overly challenging to color for adults
Inside an Owls coloring book!
You can't beat the price of this Owls book! Check out my link on Amazon:


There are a ton of owl coloring books out there, so if this one is too simple for you, you can check out some of the other owl ones available on Amazon or at your local bookstore.

Mandalas Collection by Alberta Hutchinson

Mandalas are really fun because of their circular patterns.  There are SO many Mandala coloring books out there with all kinds of themes. I bought this one for The Jersey Grandpa because I really liked the illustrations in it.  It's called Mandalas Collection by Creative Havens (Alberta Hutchinson is the illustrator). The Jersey Grandpa is the master colorer, and I learned all of my blending skills from him.  You should see the art he can create with crayons alone!

One of my favorite Mandala adult coloring books
A mandala coloring page completed by The Jersey Grandpa
Another mandala created by The Jersey Grandpa

Here's a link to the exact Mandala book where these came from.  Did I mention these make great gifts?  I purchased this one as part of a Father's Day gift and it was a big hit with my dad.


Pixelations by Arkady Roytman

I chose Pixelations as one of my favorites because it's so unique.  There are only 32 pages but it's a great price.  Again, this one is meant for older kids, but if the details of the adult coloring books are too stressful for you, this one is a different choice.  Everything is drawn in square pixels, much like a video game.  My Minecraft loving boy also took a liking to this book, and was delighted to find that he could transfer some of the ideas of the drawings to his favorite video game!  Pros:  price, thick pages, unique drawings.  Cons:  really made for kids, not very long so you will finish it quicker than the others.

Pixelations is for kids, but it's still fun to color as an adult!

The Pixelations book features sea creatures, robots, animals and more

Just like the Owls coloring book, if you're not sure about the whole coloring thing, you can't beat the price, just to try it out.


Mediums (What to Use)

This is really a matter of preference, and sometimes the best mediums vary based on what kind of books you are coloring.  Each book seems to have different pages, so depending on the thickness and smoothness of the pages, you might want to experiment with different mediums.  So far I actually love Crayola colored pencils.  But my parents prefer markers at times, and they like a variety of different kinds.  Check out my affiliate links below for some suggestions.

Whatever books you choose, I can attest that coloring for adults really is a stress relieving, fun activity.  I love taking the books outside with me to color on the deck.  I keep my pencils in a little tray so I can see them better, and I take such pride in each picture I finish.  I love sharing them on Facebook, so check out my page for the latest updates on my creations!  Or just go make your own!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Hotel Hershey vs. The Hershey Lodge - Which to Choose? (Part 1)

If you're thinking of planning a trip to Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania but you're not sure where to stay, The Jersey Momma is here to help!  Here's my honest review of the Hershey Hotels.  You can also read Part 2 - The Hotel Hershey vs. The Hershey Lodge, which highlights the Hershey Hotel.  *FYI:  I was NOT compensated in any way by Hershey or these hotels.  I am just sharing my honest opinions with you 'cause that's how I roll.  I can't tell you which choice to make for your family, but I can tell you what I experienced at each one, and hopefully, this will help you decide!

Now maybe I'm a snob, but I highly recommend staying at one of the Hershey hotels- either the Hotel Hershey or the Hershey Lodge.  I know it is more expensive, but I truly feel like you get the full "park experience" if you stay at one of the park's hotels as opposed to its competitors.

We just returned from a super fun night at Hershey.  And NO I was not compensated for my stay or asked to review the hotel in exchange for anything (although I would be happy to oblige if you want me to give you an honest review of your establishment!  Hint, hint!).  Also keep in mind that my review is of the Hershey Lodge during the month of June, so experiences may differ for you during different seasons.

The Hershey Lodge

I stayed at The Hershey Lodge when I was a kid in the 1970's, but things are very different there now.  I remember the Lodge out in an open field with a large lake and sprawling land.  The lake, Swan Lake, is still there, but there is a lot built up around it, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers and office buildings.  If you're thinking it's going to look like a log cabin or a ski lodge, think again.  It's more along the lines of motor lodge, with some of the rooms actually at parking lot level.

The lobby has a bit of a lodge feel to it with a stone fireplace and leather chairs, but that's about all I can say as far as "lodginess."  Check-in was super fast and friendly.  They presented us each with a milk chocolate Hershey bar.  I was disappointed that the advertised Kids' Check-in Desk was not going to be open till 5pm.

The Rooms at The Lodge

The rooms are situated in buildings named after Hershey candies:  Reeses, Peppermint Patty, Kisses, etc.  Each building has a letter.  We stayed in the I- Reeses building adjacent to the mini golf course and small outdoor pool.

Here is what I noted about our room and stay in general:

-If you want to get from place to place, it feels like you have to do a lot of walking from building to building.  If you're walking outside, you are walking through parking lots.

-Not exceptionally pretty, but well kept grounds.

-Some of the hallways of the other buildings smelled a little musty, like an old basement (but ours in Reeses smelled ok).  When we passed staff in the hallway, most of them did not acknowledge us or even smile, though a few did.  We stopped and asked one attendant where the ice machine was and he apologetically said that he did not know, since it was his first day on the job.

-Our room was updated and clean.  We only stayed one night, but I was disappointed and surprised that there was no turn down service.  It was a little deflating to come back from the park and have our room still be in disarray with no new amenities added (and no Hershey Kisses on our pillows- boo!).  Was this an oversight or do they really not offer turn-down service?  I don't know.

-For whatever reason, it was very noisy at night, at least until 11:00pm.  There was a lot of banging in the walls which I can't place (staff closets nearby?  Clunking of doors within rooms?  Not sure) and my husband snored ALL NIGHT LONG (but this is no fault of the Lodge.  Ha!)

Dining at the Hershey Lodge

Friends have told me that the food at The Hershey Lodge is more "kid friendly" as opposed to the Hotel Hershey.  This is sort of true.  There are several dining options at the Lodge.  There is a coffee shop called The Cocoa Beanery that offers coffee (duh) and some quick breakfasts and sandwiches.  There is the Hershey Grill and The Forebay, both of which we skipped because we came upon the other restaurants first.  There is Lebbie Lebkicher's named after Milton Hershey's childhood friend, which served a breakfast buffet.  There is The Bear's Den, which we ate dinner at.  It's kind of like a sports bar named after the Hershey Bears hockey team. The food was pretty good here, with kid-friendly choices like hot dogs, chicken nuggets and mac and cheese.

Lebbie Lebkicher's breakfast was good, but not terribly inexpensive.  The dining room had no character whatsoever.  It was just a big room akin to a dining area in a Holiday Inn.  I think Lebbie himself might have been a little disappointed.  I was also a little sad that they did not offer the Hershey Kiss shaped waffles that the Hotel Hershey does.  That was a bummer.  For a few bucks more, I think the Hotel Hershey's breakfast buffet at the Circular has them beat.  Sorry, Lebbie.

We did not eat at the other restaurants at The Lodge so I can't attest to them.  If you have any input about them, please feel free to leave it in the comments section below.

Activities at The Hershey Lodge

Much like The Hotel Hershey, there's plenty to do here if you have kids.  They go out of their way to entertain the young ones, with s'mores roasting, chocolate bingo, and the kids' check-in (which we did visit after 5pm).  They gave our son a lanyard with his name on it, let him sign the guest book, grab a piece of free chocolate, and take a guess at the candy jar giveaway.

There's a Wii room (which we did not use, just peeked in), a game room and mini golf, all free with your room stay.  We did play mini golf, and it was a well-kept, cute little course.

But something made me feel that the buildings needed renovation.  The Wii building was small and looked a little old to me inside, as did the game room.  I suppose this is not something that would bother kids at all, so you have to decide what matters to you as a family.  There are basketball courts, shuffleboard courts and tennis available, too.  You can also check out their fitness center.

There are plenty of excursions and activities for purchase (just like the Hershey Hotel).  From Segway tours to Falconry experiences.  You can find a link to all of their recreation options here.

NOTE ABOUT THE ACTIVITIES AT HERSHEY LODGE:  It is worth mentioning that many of the activities at the Lodge are FREE as opposed to the Hotel Hershey.  The Hotel Hershey charges a small fee for use of their putting green and the Lodge does not.  There is a free playground at the Lodge while you can only use the playground at the Hershey Hotel as part of the paid Cocoa Kids Club care center.

Oh, another neat tidbit is that you can see the Hershey Kiss factory from the mini golf course.  We spotted the Hershey Kiss Mobile parked outside.  So cool!

Pools at The Hershey Lodge

-There are two outdoor pools and one indoor pool.

-The outdoor pool next to the mini golf course was small but looked clean.  However, it also appeared to be closed.  When we inquired about it at the mini golf stand the girl working there said, "No, it's open.  Is it closed?  It's not supposed to be closed.  Is there a lifeguard there?  We can call someone if you want to use it and they can come down."  That all seems well and good, but it just seemed odd to me that the pool was locked and closed when it was supposed to be open?

-The larger outdoor pool nearby is connected to the indoor pool, which is kind of neat.  The indoor pool has doors that open to the outdoor patio (sort of like a giant garage door) so you can actually go back and forth between the two.  The kids seemed to love this, going back and forth between the pools.

There was a small playground right next to the pool in a shaded area.  But if your kid gets cranky like mine, you might get this instead of a kid who wants to play:

You can order food at these outdoor/indoor pools at Ripples which, again, is in need of renovation.  It was cute but reminded me of something at a gym or YMCA, with painted cinder block walls, and expensive, mediocre food.  I had pretzels with cheese which was just 'meh' for the price.  There was no outdoor waitress to take my order but the server inside did bring my pretzels out to me when they were ready.

Transportation Shuttles from The Hershey Lodge

-Guests of the Lodge can take a complimentary shuttle to and from Hershey Park and Chocolate World.  If you want to go to Hershey Gardens or the Hershey Hotel, you have to pick up another shuttle once you get to the park.

-The shuttles arrived and departed quickly, and the drivers were super friendly.  They even offered up some Hershey trivia during the drive.  Buses were clean, comfy and air conditioned.

-The drive from The Lodge to the park (and vice versa) is significantly longer than it is from the Hotel Hershey.  It took us a little over ten minutes to get to the park in the morning from The Hershey Lodge, but the return ride took about 15 minutes or a little more.  The Hotel Hershey is a lot closer to the parks so you can get in/out a little quicker.  The Hotel Hershey is also right across from Hershey Gardens, so you don't have to change any shuttles, and you can even walk to the Gardens if you desired.

- The shuttle drops you off right at the entrance to Hershey Park.  You can't beat that!  The park and Chocolate World are right across from each other, so you can walk to either quite easily and quickly.  The shuttles run consistently throughout the day, as well as at night so you never have to worry about being left behind.  That is one of the biggest perks about staying at the Hershey Hotels.  Off-season, the shuttle service varies, so be sure to ask ahead if you'll be staying off-season.

Be sure to check out part 2 of my blog review, where I compare the Lodge to the Hotel Hershey.  Which one is better?  Which one is worth the price?  Read Part 2 to find out!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What is The Hershey Story Museum? A Jersey Momma Review

I am a huge fan of Hershey.  It's no secret that I love Hershey Park and the Hershey Lodge.  I am a frequent guest of The Hotel Hershey, and Hershey Gardens is one of my favorite places.  In fact, out of all of our trips to Hershey (and there have been many) one of the only places I hadn't visited was The Hershey Story Museum.  Until now!  Come visit with me!  Oh, and just a disclaimer here - this is not a sponsored post.  I was not compensated in any way by the museum or any of the other Hershey properties.  I just really, really like chocolate.

What is The Hershey Story Museum?

The Hershey Story is a museum that details exactly that- the life and times of Milton S. Hershey, and the history of Hershey, Pennsylvania.  There are interactive exhibits, antiques and artifacts to see, as well as chocolate tastings, a chocolate lab, kid friendly activities and more!

The Hershey Story Museum - Hershey, PA

Where is The Hershey Story Museum?

The Hershey Story Museum is located right on Chocolate Avenue (yes, there is such a place!) in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  There is free parking in the garage right behind the museum.  Yay for free parking!  Chocolate Avenue is a neat place to see, as the streets really are lined with Hershey Kiss shaped lights.

How Much are Tickets for the Hershey Story Museum?

If you are staying at the Hotel Hershey or Hershey Lodge, they usually give you complimentary passes to the museum (which is how we visited).  Otherwise, the fees vary based on what you decide to do there.  Basic admission to the museum (as of the publication date of this entry) is $10.00 per adult and $7.50 for kids ages 3 and up.  There are discounts for military personnel and seniors (ages 62 and up).  There are also all kinds of combo packages you can buy, and different fees for different activities in the museum, so be sure to check their admission page for exact information.

What Will I See at The Hershey Story Museum?

The Hershey Story Museum is a small museum and we were able to visit on our way home after a two day trip to Hershey.  There is a small cafe on the lower level called Cafe Zooka, and the coffee in there smelled delicious!  But we did not stay to eat.  However, you can find details about the cafe here.

The lobby of The Hershey Story Museum (by the Xploroscope)

Also at the entry level was a computerized machine where we designed our own Xploroscope Passports.  It prints out a cute little ticket with your picture on it that you can keep as a souvenir.  Don't miss the beautiful painted mural of Milton Hershey on the wall.  If you pose just the right way, it looks like he's talking to you.

Your basic admission to the museum allows you to explore all of their interactive exhibits about Milton Hershey's life.  They give the kids a little I-Spy card (which my son loved) to help them spot things around the museum.  When they've found everything, they can bring it back to an attendant for a special sticker.  You basically wind yourself through different rooms that tell about Milton Hershey's life.  His story is really fascinating, and we loved seeing all of the things from his life and business.

Inside The Hershey Story Museum
Relics from The Hershey Story Museum
Inside the Hershey Story Museum

There are also all kinds of neat facts about the history of the town of Hershey.  I especially loved seeing all of the old outfits and uniform of Hershey team members, engineers, park workers and more.  We also enjoyed playing with the headline machine, which superimposed our photos onto an old fashioned newspaper.  We were able to email the images to ourselves and then save the image as a JPEG when we got home.

The Jersey Momma made the paper! Well, I pretended to, anyway!

Special Exhibits

The Hershey Story Museum has changing special exhibits.  While we were there during the summer, they had a fun exhibit all about being a worker at the Hershey Factory in the early 1900's.  An attendant hands you a card that you must stamp at each working location, and then return to him to 'punch out,' and see what job he will 'hire' you for.  I was hired for the Wrapping Department.  My pay at the time would have been 10 cents per 5 pound box of wrapped Kisses!  Don't I look like I'm ready to work on the line?

Ready for my day on the job!
Weighing Hershey Kisses for packaging!
An old Hershey Kiss machine!  Wow!
My New Worker Training Card and Xploroscope Ticket from The Hershey Story Museum.

Chocolate Lab and Chocolate Tastings

For a small added fee you can participate in the museum's Chocolate Lab, where kids can experiment with hands-on chocolate creations.  This is a 45 minute family activity that is led by museum personnel.  We chose to skip this because we only had a short time at the museum and we didn't think The Jersey Momma's Boy could sit through a 45 minute session (he is 6).  If you plan on doing the lab, be sure to read all of their regulations.  Children under 4 are not permitted, and children under 13 must be accompanied by a paying adult.

Also for an additional fee is their Chocolate Tasting session.  There are different options for purchase and different items the kids (and adults!) can taste, so check their page or call the museum for more details.  We chose to skip this, too, only because we had just come from Chocolate World, where we had all consumed more than our share of chocolate for the day!

Souvenir Shop

As always, I loved the little souvenir shop.  They had plenty of cute items and many chocolate treats for sale.  I somehow found a Reeses product that I did not see at Chocolate World, so I was excited to purchase that.  They also had scented pens, shirts, jewelry, books and more.

Jersey Momma Tips

-sometimes it's hard to get the little ones to really appreciate artifacts and antiques at museums.  The I-Spy booklet really helped to keep them involved, so I encourage you to use it with your kids while you're there!  There are also plenty of buttons for them to push and things for them to watch and listen to along the way.

-food and drinks are not permitted in the museum, but the cafe was clean and cute and had lunch offerings, too.

-you usually receive complimentary museum passes when staying at one of the Hershey hotels, so be sure to take advantage of it!

-the museum is not far from other areas of town, so you could potentially make a day of it and go shopping at the outlets or go to other areas of Hershey if you desired.

-you can purchase a ticket package for both the museum and Hershey Gardens to save some money!

-the  museum holds events, holiday specials, and fun activities throughout the year.  Check back often with them to see what's new!