Sunday, August 23, 2015

Vacation 2015--destination Hershey and History

When we planned the trip, we intended to spend about half the first day in Gettysburg, the whole second day in Hershey, and about half the third day in Gettysburg before heading home. Despite changing the plans to Hershey on day one, we continued with our plan to spend two-ish days in Gettysburg.

We first had breakfast in the hotel. More on that later, in the hotel review!

I had never before been to Gettysburg, and wasn't sure what to expect. I misunderstood what I read online and paid. It wasn't expensive, but it was unnecessary for our family. We paid for entrance to the museum, a film, and the Cyclorama; all surely cool things, but unnecessary expenses and time for our family. There is plenty to see without paying that money for sure.

Since we took our time getting out of the hotel this morning, we planned to go through the museum before heading to lunch in town. One can certainly purchase lunch in the visitor's center, but since there was no car entry fee, it was very easy to eat lunch in Gettysburg and get in our car for the auto tour afterward.

So, the museum. My husband and 5-year old apparently did the museum in about 15 minutes. In that short time, though, my husband commented that he learned the smell of the bodies after the battle was so horrible that people had to keep their windows closed for weeks (if you recall, the Battle of Gettysburg was in early July 1863--it was hot and decomposition happened quickly).

My reader and I took a little more time, but still only made it about halfway through the museum.


But before lunch, we wanted to hit the Ranger led demo for kids, "Join the Army."


The boys loved this, and one of the things E said he learned was "how to shoot a musket." But as parents and educators, we were disappointed that this program was lecture heavy. There was a lot of explaining the Civil War as a whole to the kids while they sat on the benches. Once they got their gear and the pretend part happened, the boys were really into it.

Next, it was decidedly lunchtime. I found a great looking place on Yelp, Dobbin House. We learned when we arrived that Dobbin House is only open for dinner, but they have a separate area specifically for lunch.

Yelpers said the French Onion soup was a must not miss, so we did not miss at all. It was fantastic with huge chunks of beef and delicious rye bread.

I took this photo not only to show the Onion soup thiefer, but also to show the stone walls. Behind us was a well, which used to act as a cooling for the house and an early form of refrigeration.

After lunch, we toured the museum of the house, which was built in 1776. One can also view the sliding shelf area where escaped slaves would have hidden as they escaped to the North or Canada.

Bellies full, we headed back to the battlefield. This time, we decided to take the self guided auto tour, and began looking for another Ranged demo. The boys were very excited about cannons and artillery, so we headed to the area of Pickett's charge for a demo on cannons. It was very near to the Virginia memorial, so here are a bunch of the photos. E, again, was disinterested, so they took a walk toward the battlefield. Again, it was really lecture heavy. I have to admit, I was surprised there weren't cannon demos or anything like that, but I also acknowledge a battlefield to be a sacred space and that might be a tad bit disrespectful.

Unsurprisingly, E had to use the restroom in the middle of the talk, right before A might have gotten to see or do something exciting. Alas.

So, we continued on the auto tour, exploring the Confederate line.

A did some play-acting at each cannon.

By this point, we were to the end of the Confederate line and began to explore the Union line, starting at Little Round Top.

This was the Cyclorama. Nice, but not really worth it for our purposes.

We ate dinner in Gettysburg, at a place called Gettysburg Eddies. It was typical chain restaurant food (like Fridays), but our service was horrible horrible horrible. We waited probably 15-20 minutes just to put in our food order. Disappointing.

But, the hotel was pretty nice. Finding a hotel that was halfway between Hershey and Gettysburg worked our very well, and we wanted something affordable that also had a bed behind a closed door. It was worth the extra expense for us to have that luxury. Surprisingly, a lot of the "suites" hotels I found had a living room and a bedroom, but it was all open floor plan (and some even had a bathtub in between the rooms.. again, open floor plan. Very strange.)

The Centerstone Inn and Suites was a great place to stay. It is right on the highway, so I imagine it might be loud, but we were fortunate to not be on that side of the hotel. The included breakfast was way better than continental; it included make your own Belgian waffles, cereal and pastries, juice and coffee, scrambled eggs, french toast sticks or pancakes, and sausage. It was good, particularly for being included with our stay.

The pool was an added benefit for our family; we used a hotel pool once before when we went to Buffalo, but it was so gray and chilly that day, no one was interested in staying long.

The living room area
 The hotel gym was nice-ish, but left much to be desired in the workout department. The only piece of equipment not seen in this photo was the second treadmill.

We had a great first day in Gettysburg!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Vacation 2015--destination Hershey and History

It would appear that the only updates to this blog come in the form of travel posts. So be it.

This year, we traveled at our older son's request. He loves to read, and one of his favorite book series is the I Survived... series. He recently read I Survived: The Battle of Gettysburg 1863, even suggesting that I should read it too. He had many questions, so I asked if he wanted to visit Gettysburg; it's only 3 hours or so away. He jumped on that one, and we made it his birthday present this year.

So, for day 1. We planned to be flexible on the first day, because we weren't sure if it was going to rain or not. We packed rain boots in anticipation of tromping through Gettysburg in the rain and mud, especially since that was what we faced as we left New Jersey.

My husband is brilliant and got the boys these headphones. Now they can listen to "their" playlist... and we don't have to. Ditto for long road trips; we don't have to listen to their movies and be quiet in the front seat.

But soon into our drive, the weather turned gorgeous and we figured we should go to our other destination, Hershey Park. We expected to be in chilly and gray weather, so we were pretty thrilled when arrived to sunny skies as well as small sized crowds.

Due to the timing of our trip, though, we stopped for lunch in the Hershey area before hitting the park. We chose Top That in Hershey, which was highly reviewed on Yelp.

Lunch was pretty good here. Since I'm posting this a few weeks later, I don't exactly remember what we had, but we all enjoyed our meal and were well fueled for the fun filled day at Hershey Park (our next meal was in the park and regrettably, pretty terrible).

Tram car from the parking lot

Coincidentally, the same size A was for our last trip to Hershey Park.

After spinning too quickly in the teacups, I took a break and met up with Miss Kiss!

They had scooter cars. Just slightly too tall! Not sure in what world I'm too tall for things, but there it is.

We had a great trip. I didn't take too many pictures, but we got some great ones anyway. The boys went on tons of roller coasters--A did the Sooper Dooper Looper, which he was tall enough for in September 2013 but was too afraid to try. Same happened with E this trip; he was tall enough but chickened out at the last moment. Both boys rode the Runaway Train ride and a wooden roller coaster and we had a BLAST on HP's newest roller coaster, called The Laff Track. It was the only long line in which we waited, and it was incredibly worth it. In a car for 4 passengers, you either face forward or backward. A and I rode backward for much of the ride, and it was an amazing thrill!

We stayed at Cornerstone Inn and Suites in Mechanicsburg, PA, which was situated half an hour from Hershey Park and half an hour from Gettysburg. More on that in the next post, but we selected it for the huge benefit of affordability, location, and a separate living room so the boys could sleep and we didn't need to!