Hey! I’m back! I’m sure you were terribly worried, since I haven’t blogged in a whole week. GASP. What has the world come to? The world around here has turned into our vacation week. Or, to be more precise, our staycation week. We’re at a point right now where we simply can’t afford our usual week at the beach but still wanted to do something special for the summer. Hello, staycation.
Living where we do in Pennyslvania has it’s disadvantages at times – we’re at least 2 hours from most big cities, we don’t have a Starbucks in our town, and there is a sad lack of blogging events for me to attend. Cue violins. But it has some great advantages – like the fact that we’re only a 2 hour drive from several large citites filled with fun activities for the whole family.
Oh and we have Hershey. So there’s that.
But since we’ve gone to Hershey several times & were looking for a chance to do an overnight trip with the kiddo, we planned a trip to Crayola Experience and Great Wolf Lodge. Not exactly next door to one another, but close enough that we were able to make a two day trip out of it! And the amazing marketing team at Crayola was so kind and offered us two tickets, which made it even more special. I thought I’d share our favorites from our #stinestaycation today, in case you missed the photos on social media this week!
So our staycation officially kicked off on Monday as we joined our church for the Hunger Project. For the last several weeks we’d been raising money to pack meals with Feeding Children Everywhere – an organization that provides healthy meals for a quarter to children in the US and around the world. Geared toward encouraging the youth in the church help other children, we were given mini M&M tubes to fill with $10 worth of quarters – enough to feed 40 children. The goal? Raise enough money for 20,000 meals.
We packed 30,000.
In an hour.
And listen – nothing is more important to us that making sure our little one learns to serve and give back. And this was a great project for our whole family. I just wish it hadn’t been past her bedtime so we could have avoided the epic meltdown. But once she found a job she could help with (quality control – shaking the bags after they were sealed & before they went in the box) and was able to have a dance party with mommy (see if you can spot us in the video), she was a happy – and helpful – camper.
Ah, the beginning of the trip. We’re so fresh. So full of anticipation. So excited to stop for coffee. The trip to Crayola was over two hours for us, so we decided to break the trip up with a stop for breakfast at our favorite vacation/staycation spot. Crackerbarrel. I know, y’all. I KNOW. But it’s so good – and I was able to find a healthy option on the menu! Woot!
After our breakfast stop we were on our way. Some road-tripping with toddlers lessons learned:
- Do stock the car with snacks
- Don’t forget a trash bag for the half eaten banana your child will hand back to you after swearing she’s so hungry she won’t survive
- Do take lots of “new” books from the library
- Don’t plan to read much of your own book that you brought
- Do pack baby wipes – because they work for everything
- Don’t tell your kiddo too far in advance about your trip or you will never. hear. the. end. of. it.
- Also don’t assume toddlers understand time so “when will we get there?” is a complete waste of time to try to answer
But finally….FINALLY…we were there! The second Madi spotted the big markers and crayons outside the building she grabbed my hand and said “This is going to be PERFECT mommy!” I mean, come on. Does it get better than that?
The entire Crayola Experience is amazing – I don’t care if you’re three years old or over thirty, you are going to have fun. It’s creative, beautiful, and so perfectly geared toward children that you can let your guard down for two hours, knowing your child is actually supposed to touch/play with/pick up/draw on everything.
Madi likes to know what to expect before we go places, so she had seen a part of Crayola where you could paint with melted crayons, and it was her dream. So we traveled our way through four floors of Crayola awesomeness (including making your own crayon wrapper, creating fun characters on iPads that were then projected on to the walls, a toddler play area, model magic, a water table, glow-in-the-dark room, and so..much..more).
When we had our tickets scanned we were each given 2 tokens, which we were able to use throughout the building at marker vending machines, model magic vending machines, etc. The kiddo ended up with a bag full of memories long before we even made it to the gift shop (possibly my favorite part – it was just so pretty!).
In case you missed the Periscope videos I did, here they are, to give you a quick idea of just some of the many activities we were able to do:
We absolutely can’t wait to go back!
Great Wolf Lodge
The second part of our staycation was to Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos. It was a gorgeous drive, minus the cranky toddler who just wanted to BE THERE ALREADY. We weren’t sure how she would like being in a hotel room (fell in love and was delighted that she could take her shoes off AND our beds were right next to each other) or how she would do with the waterpark (she was so brave!).
I was a little disappointed that the majority of the extraordinary structure of the lodge is fake – not a real log or carving to be found. And although I received an email offering an upgraded room, they never mentioned it at check-in. They also failed to tell us that our wristbands were our room key, so that created a little confusion. the room was big – all the rooms at Great Wolf are “suites” and much larger than a typical hotel room.
It was nice not to be smooshed on top of one another, but we had to pass the very, very loud arcade to get to our room, walk about a mile down the hallway, and then – after twisting our wrists around to try to get in the room – were met by a bit of a musty smell. I get it. It’s a waterpark. But it just seemed like the rooms could have been taken care of a little better (our towel rack was hanging on the wall by a prayer and a wish).
But since we spent the least amount of time in the room, the highlight was by far the waterpark.
Our waterbug loved the slides. She started off small on the little slides and quickly asked to go on the big slides. Like 30 feet in the air slides. She was braver than I was, until she bumped her head on our last morning there and refused to ride her favorite slide again.
Until mommy asked if she would help me be brave and go with me.
So I gathered up all my courage and went on the waterslide with her, because even though I didn’t want to do it, there was no way I could let her leave the waterpark feeling afraid of something I knew she loved.
- Do pack your own food – it’s insanely overpriced to eat on site
- Don’t bother to pack your child’s floaty – they provide life jackets that work perfectly
- Do go to the storytime at bedtime around the big fireplace in the lobby
- Don’t bother showing up right on time – you can skip the 20 minute creepy animatronic show and just grab a good seat on a sofa to hear the story and learn the wolf howl
- Do splurge on new pjs for your kiddo in the gift shop
- Don’t complain loudly behind me at 7am as we stand in line for Starbucks to open. Coffee before talkie, people.
- Do grab these awesome maxi skirts at Target (they were buy 1 get 1 half off AND they have a 50% off Cartwheel coupon) because they’re the comfiest travel clothing EVER
- Do pack multiple swimsuits so you don’t have to squeeze into a cold wet one on day 2
- Don’t bother to take towels – they have them in the waterpark
- Don’t bet on the locker system – we couldn’t get it to work, so we just tossed our stuff on an empty chair – it worked, and everyone there was great & kept to themselves
Would we go back? Definitely. Now that we know what to expect and what to pack, I think we’ll make this a repeat trip for sure. Because at the end of the trip, on the way home, as Madi leaned over and put her hand on my arm to say “Mama, this was SO fun.” you start mentally planning the next trip.
One last Don’t? Don’t plan to have a yard sale the day after you return home from your staycation. And then it rains, and you keep everything in the garage and sell about $2 worth of random books and toys. Maybe next week, when our #stinestaycation is over, I’ll get to relax 😉
Affiliate links included above. We were given two free tickets to Crayola but all opinions are completely my own.
Angela Sangalang says
I did not know there was a Crayola place. That’s going on my bucket list!
Amy Krance-Wendt says
Oh my goodness — Madi’s expression in front of that giant blue crayon — SO. Adorable! We don’t even have kids and I want to go to Crayola land now. Thanks for sharing your great tips too!
LeeAnn Taylor says
Looks like you guys had a great time! We took a trip to PA a few years ago and went to the Crayola place too. Our kiddos loved it…and, well, we did too!