Category Archives: Destination from DC

Scenes from a Weekend Getaway to Jim Thorpe, PA

Jim Thorpe is a vibrant, picturesque, and oh-so-charming town

I’ve had the best intentions to write a post about a getaway to Jim Thorpe, PA, practically since I returned from a trip there with a friend back in October. But since it’s taken so long to get to it, and I really want to share info about this awesome destination, I’m doing a more abbreviated version than I’d originally planned. However, the gist is this: Jim Thorpe, PA, is a fantastic place for a weekend (or longer) escape. And even though I experienced it on a girls’ weekend away, it would be ideal for families, too. In fact, I’m making plans to return with mine this summer.

Lots of whimsy to be found

Jim Thorpe is located in northeastern Pennsylvania, about a four-hour drive from DC. It’s apparently often called the “Switzerland of America,” and one look at the pretty town with it’s colorful buildings and stone clocktower against the backdrop of the Poconos Mountains you understand why. Two main streets, Broadway and Race, are lined with a mix of shops, restaurants, and cafes. There’s a whimsical, almost magical vibe about the town — it seems like several stores have an Alice in Wonderland thing going on, and many of them sell lots of fun, clever, artistic items. My friend and I were there during the Fall Foliage Festival that runs almost every weekend in October, with all kinds of free live music both indoors and out, a big outdoor market, a scarecrow contest, and ghost tours.

Music outdoors during the fall fest

Rolling along the 25-mile trail

Before our trip, I had heard of JT as a popular mountain biking destination, but didn’t know much about the town beyond that. Looking into it further, we discovered even more to enjoy all year round. One of the town’s main attractions is the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, which offers excursions along the Lehigh River north into Lehigh Gorge State Park. The small station — and train, if it’s there — is one of the first sights when you drive into town. We actually didn’t ride the train on our visit, since we opted to navigate the route on two wheels instead. We rented bikes and rode the 25-mile Lehigh Gorge Trail through the state park back into town. It’s slightly downhill, so not really strenuous, a ride that experienced young bikers could probably tackle, too.

Take an excursion on the Lehigh Valley Scenic Railway

Or make your way on bike instead

Leaf peeping from the saddle

There’s even more active recreation to enjoy in Jim Thorpe, depending on the season. During summer, whitewater rafting on the Lehigh River is a popular pursuit and lakes in the area are great for boating and swimming. Skiing is the big winter sport with resorts all around the Poconos. And there’s plenty of good hiking most of the year — trails meander through woods, lead to waterfalls, and offer scenic views of the pretty area. Even more, there are festivals that bring all kinds of fun and entertainment (the next one being the Jim Thorpe Hometown Festival on July 6, and the Fall Foliage Festival is a great one to plan ahead for).

During the festival, a scarecrow contest among the businesses brings some hilarity to the sidewalks

Music on the steps of the Mauch Chunk Opera House

We found an Airbnb just across the river within walking distance of town, which was great since we didn’t have to worry about driving and finding parking. There are rentals available in town, too, along with a few inns. Larger homes and cabins can be found a bit further out, where you can spread out more then make excursions into town for fun and food. There are plenty of good restaurants to enjoy a meal and lots of live entertainment — the Mauch Chunk Opera House and Broadway Grille are great places to hear good music. And for some KidFree fun, I highly recommend the totally awesome Back to the 80’s Bar, where it might be possible to convince a bar-ful of tipsy people to sing along to Borderline with you (not that I’d know from experience or anything πŸ˜‰).

Nostalgia abounds

View from the Harry Packer Mansion Inn, where you can stay or just enjoy a drink and nibble

With summer right around the corner when families might be looking for fun weekend escapes, this seemed like a good time to finally post about Jim Thorpe. Learn more about the wonderful destination here and get more of a glimpse in the photos below.

One of the lovely sites on the bike ride

You might get to see a steam engine roll into town, too

Evening lights around town

More music during the Fall Foliage Festival

A creepy-funny sighting

Take a Ghost Tour at the Old Jail Museum

Stop and enjoy the views

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Filed under 2018, All ages, DC, Destination from DC, Nature, Outdoor, Weekend

Take a (Time) Trip to Colonial Williamsburg

A colonial time-out? πŸ˜‚

Given the proximity, my penchant for adventures that recall the past, and the small fact that I publish a blog all about family activities, you’d think we would have visited Colonial Williamsburg ages ago. But, no. It wasn’t until the recent Spring Break that the kids and I finally took a little time trip south to explore 18th-century life at the living history museum (the largest in the world!). And I would say it was worth the wait, but we had such a great time, I’m actually a little mad at myself for not getting there sooner.

In front of the Governor’s Palace

Colonial Williamsburg isn’t just a museum, but a living history experience — essentially, a whole town that recreates life almost exactly the way it was 300 years ago. Structures from that time have been preserved and restored, people work in trades and engage in activities they did back then, products and food from the era are available to view and purchase, and visitors are welcome to enjoy, observe, and be a part of it all.

Horses and buggies are the main mode of transport

The kids and I spent two days there (Levi had to stay back for work), though our whole trip to Williamsburg was longer. I booked a package that included a stay at one of several official CW properties and seven-consecutive-day passes to both Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens (even though we only used them for three days, it was still a good deal). We stayed at the Woodlands Hotel & Suites, which offered the lowest rate, breakfast daily, and came recommended as a good resort for families.

A stroll through the streets of the historic zone

We arrived late afternoon on Monday, just in time to pick up our passes at the Visitors Center, which took about 30 minutes even though I reserved in advance. Most of the buildings in the historic zone close at 5pm, but the area is open 24/7, so after a dip in the hotel pool, we took the free shuttle over to get the lay of the land and book a Haunted Williamsburg tour for the next evening. (We lucked out and got the last three spots, so I recommend doing this in advance of your trip!) There are other evening programs available, including the Official Ghost Walk Junior geared toward families with kids ages 4-7. From there we walked to Berret’s Seafood Restaurant & Taphouse Grill for dinner, which was quite good. We were able to get a table outside easily since it was a chilly night, but indoor seating there and most other places was a long wait, so I recommend making reservations.

Walk a path of historical facts

The next day (as well as the third; we went to Busch Gardens in between) was all about exploring Colonial Williamsburg. The weather was great, so we opted for the 10-minute walk there over the shuttle — a good choice, as some interesting sights along the way included in-ground plaques with dates and historical facts, an old windmill; and a reconstructed 18th-century farm.

In the lovely manicured gardens around the Palace

Catching some entertainment at the Playbooth Theatre

Once we arrived at the historic zone, it was almost hard to choose where to begin — looking at the map, there were interesting sights and activities everywhere. But that’s also what I loved about it. You can go at your pace, just wander around, and see what you happen upon. It’s free-flowing and relaxed, no fast passes or structured agendas (essentially, it’s totally up my alley). We explored the grounds of the Governor’s Palace, then stopped in shops to watch demonstrations by cabinetmakers, printers, tailors, shoemakers, blacksmiths, bookbinders, and so many more trades people.

Guess what this guy does?

An early Dior?

The best part of this is that the folks who do this work are as authentically colonial as you can get in this modern time. They are skilled in the labor and create products in the colonial environment, using the same tools and techniques as they did three centuries ago, even sourcing many materials the same ways. Even more, the people you meet in these roles aren’t just employees; they’re enthusiasts and historians who are very knowledgable and zealous about their work — and about colonial times in Williamsburg. And they are more than happy to talk about their trades and life during the 1700’s. We found that most didn’t act like they were from the past (think, Ren Fest), rather they described that time from a modern POV.

A “Wood” sweatshirt in the cabinet making demonstration – what are the chances?

Making lanterns in the Tin Shop

Other historic sights included the Capitol, Courthouse, Burton Parish Church, several taverns, and homes of notable people. Tours are offered at just about all of them and some also have special programs like talks, concerts, and tours for children — daily schedules are available with details. We really enjoyed tours of Wetherburn’s Tavern and Randolph House (especially the latter after spending part of our Haunted Williamsburg tour there). The enthusiasm of our guides was evident as we got more than a look at the places, but also a glimpse into society and domestic life of that time, too.

Guests at Wetherburn Tavern could rent space in a bed (with a stranger)

A colonial kitchen

Let there be light… candles were pretty important during pre-electricity times

The kids also had an opportunity to be part of the festivities as they joined the ranks of soldiers enlisting in the army and got into formation with other young visitors. We also spent time at the Market Square checking out colonial-style games and products for sale.

“Soldiers” getting into formation

Playing a ring toss game at Market Square

Baby in a bonnet πŸ˜‚

Colonial inspired dining is available, too. We had one meal at Shields Tavern, though I think we all enjoyed the “reconstructed 18th-century tavern” part more than the fare. There are several other family-friendly eateries right next to the historic zone — we really enjoyed Berret’s (noted above), Mellow Mushroom, and The Hound’s Tale. I recommend making reservations, especially during busy travel seasons when there could be long waits for walk-ins.

Sharing stories over a meal at Shields Tavern

For a close-to-home getaway for DC families, Colonial Williamsburg is kind of perfect. Not only is it an easy 2.5-hour drive away, it’s fun, educational (in a fun way), and thoroughly enjoyable for all ages. Two full days wasn’t enough to experience it all, and we’ll definitely be going back. (Plus, Levi needs to check it out, too.)

Hearing stories about hauntings at Randolph House

Of course we had to go see it during the day

Ready for a time trip to Colonial Williamsburg? Here are some KFDC tips:
* Look for special packages and promos
* Book special tours, such as Haunted Williamsburg, in advance as they fill up
* Pick up a schedule of daily programs to help plan your days
* Consider pairing it with a Great Wolf Lodge getaway (a couple of days at each)
* Throw in a day at Busch Gardens like we did (another post on that soon)
* Extend your historic explorations with a visit to Jamestown

One of the best parts of the getaway: sibling bonding 😊

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Filed under All ages, DC, Destination from DC, Educational, Exhibit, Getaway, Museums, Outdoor, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

A Multi-Family Getaway to Deep Creek Lake

Going away with a bunch of families can either be a brilliant idea or a big disaster. The more people, the greater the chance of personality clashes and chaos. But there’s also potential for way more fun if you’re with the right crowd. Luckily, our four-family getaway to Deep Creek Lake over Memorial Day Weekend easily went that route, and I’m sure I speak for all 16 of us when I say it was an absolute blast.

It wasn’t just the company that made the trip such a success. Located in Garret County, MD, about a three-hour drive from DC, the Deep Creek Lake area abounds with excellent options for recreation. With several state parks and forests around, there are numerous trails for hiking and biking. And, of course, the lake itself is a boon for water-inspired fun — swimming, boating, tubing, paddling, and more. (It’s also a popular winter destination with Wisp Resort offering all the snow sports, and some people rank the snow quality among the best in the area.)

My friend, Torey, came up with the idea to go there. All of the families who would be joining enjoy outdoor activities, and she easily found a fantastic, reasonably priced house that accommodated our whole crew very comfortably. On top of that, the space around the house was sublime, wide and open with lots of room for the kids to run around and roam. We actually booked it only about three weeks ahead, so either there are plenty of good lodging options for large groups, or there weren’t many others looking for a house that size.

We spent our first full day at Deep Creek on land, first visiting Swallow Falls State Park where Muddy Creek Falls, Maryland’s highest free falling waterfall, is a scenic highlight. We also hiked around, clamored over rocks, watched kayakers, and enjoyed the beautiful dose of nature. Later we went to Deep Creek Lake State Park, where there is a beach and swimming area, plus nice stretches of grass by the lake for lawn sports and relaxing. The park is also known for its great mountain biking — some of the dads took advantage and gave it a big thumbs up (well, except for one who broke his hand during a fall).

Speaking of bikes, just about everyone brought them, and even though we all didn’t hit the trails in the woods, they were great for riding around the area near our house. The roads weren’t heavily trafficked, and the vast stretches of fields alongside provided pretty backdrops, especially in the morning light. Wooded lanes made for nice cycling (and walking and running) routes, too.

Our second day was all about the water. We rented a 19-person pontoon boat and enjoyed a good eight hours on Deep Creek Lake, cruising all 5.6 miles, tubing, and swimming. An inner tube connected by rope was included with the rental, and the kids (and a few of us parents) clung on for thrilling spins along the water. We packed a couple of huge coolers with food and drinks for an onboard picnic plus plenty of snacks. There are also public docking areas near snack stands and shops, and we stopped at one for treats later in the day. If you can swing it, I highly recommend splurging a bit on a boat rental — it really lets you take advantage of the area’s main attraction.

Our final day there before heading back home, we stopped at Funland for go-karting, bumper boats, and more games. It may not have been the highlight of the trip, but it was some of the best scenery for those activities we’ve seen.

This is a trip we’ll definitely be taking again. And if we can get our friends who are moving across the country to come back for a long weekend, we’ll get the whole gang back together for it.

Find more information about Deep Creek Lake here and here.

Some other good things to know:
* We found our house on VRBO, but there are places available on Airbnb and through rental companies — just do a quick Google search to find them.

* While we cooked most of our meals at home, there are restaurants around for eating out. There is a Shop ‘n Save grocery store in McHenry, about 15 minutes away from where we stayed, and a couple of smaller stores. However, we had some good cooks in the mix and planned meals in advance, so we brought groceries to ensure we had everything we needed.

* There’s even more great recreation than what we did in Deep Creek Lake, and you can read about it all here.

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Filed under 2018, All ages, Destination from DC, Getaway, Maryland, Outdoor, Weekend

Enjoy a Family Getaway at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay

Spring into action and book your family-friendly spring break getaway to Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina and enjoy an array of complimentary activities for all ages!

During your stay, send the kids to Camp Hyatt and enjoy a round of golf at River Marsh Golf Club or treat yourself to a massage or your favorite treatment at Sago Spa & Salon. Then gather the whole family for a Family Iron Chef competition, nature walk, magic show, and many more activities the whole gang will love. Families can relax by the indoor and outdoor heated pools and waterslide, and watch dive-in movies each night.

Go on a last minute Spring Break getaway or plan an escape for later in the season or summer. Room nights starting at just $169. If you need more than one room, HRCB’s Family Plan offers 50% off a second room for children 18 and under!

Visit the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina website to learn more and book your reservation!

Disclosure: Our family is receiving complimentary accommodations at Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay in exchange for this post.

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Filed under All ages, Destination from DC, Maryland, Spring, Summer, Winter