Why is it nighttime? Why do bears hibernate? Where do the lightning bugs go in the winter? Why do I have to eat my dinner? Where does chocolate come from? Why do you keep telling me to brush my teeth?
Right now, my 4-year-old has an insatiable curiosity. Every day is kinda like being the sole contestant on a new game show: “157 billion questions – the game where we question you to see which runs out first, your answers or your patience.” She is a master at 157 billion questions. I am reallllly wondering when I get the prize trip to Jamaica.
I do love that she’s curious about the way stuff is made. And I want to keep that going. I don’t want her to take for granted that stuff just gets here – like her dinner or the books we read. I want her to wonder about how it was made. Why is it packaged that way?
So a few weekends ago, my husband and I packed up the girls and joined my parents (hello, new contestants!) on a trip to Pretzelvania (Lititz, Pa.). It’s a quaint Pennsylvania town hailed as ‘America’s coolest small town.’ (More: lititzpa.com)
The main street is filled with specialty food stores, candy shops, pubs, old-fashioned soda fountains and B&Bs. It’s a family-friendly town with lots to see, eat and discover in a very walkable area. And on our discovery trip, we had our sights and our stomachs set on two delicious buildings.
The Wilbur Chocolate Store (45 N. Broad St.) was our first stop. Chocaholics will love a trip in here. You’ll be able to sample the popular Wilbur bud and take it home by the bagful. Window areas allow visitors to watch as candy makers craft the specialty chocolates the store has been known for since 1894. It’s not a large store and definitely not on the scale of Hershey’s Chocolate World, but that’s what I like about it. You’ll be able to browse without being elbow to elbow with tourists.
The only trouble is getting out of the Wilbur store without a bag full of chocolate. Wilbur is one of my favorite chocolates, and I stock up on those buds like they’re going out of style. (More: wilburbuds.com)
Then we headed toward the heart of town for a tour at the Julius Sturgus Pretzel Bakery (219 E. Main St.), America’s first commercial pretzel bakery. My daughter was fascinated by the 30 minute tour. Visitors can roll and twist their own pretzel (though you don’t eat it) to earn a pretzel certificate, learn about how pretzels are made and even look inside the giant ovens to see how each pretzel was baked. Her eyes opened wide hearing that in the old days, 4-year-olds could be working in the factory earning a quarter for every 1,000 pretzels they made. And the free bag of pretzels they handed her at the end of the tour pretty much sealed the deal that it’s one of the coolest tours she’s been on. In the gift shop, we found free samples, bags of specialty pretzels and pretzel trinkets to buy and of course, hot, soft pretzels. (More: juliussturgis.com)
The nice thing about Lititz is that it’s conveniently located near Lancaster and Hershey. So if you wanted to continue this theme of homemade goods, you could veer toward Lancaster and traverse the Amish farmland. Stop by small grocery stores where nary a brand name can be found, and the canned veggies far outnumber the rest of the goods. Visit fabric and quilt shops. And save room for smorgasbords of Pennsylvania Dutch treats and homemade baked goods. (More: lancasterpa.com)
Or venture towards Hershey for a sweet stopover at any number of museums, the beautiful hotels, zoo or the amusement park. Anytime we’re on a road trip that passes even remotely close to Hershey, we make an immediate detour for the Chocolate Peanut Butter milkshakes at Chocolate World. I think our kids are still too little to appreciate the park, but they still love stopping by for a free ride through Chocolate World to learn how chocolate is made (and snagging a free candy bar at the end). Visitors can stock up on their favorite candy and Hershey products, souvenirs and lots more. As seasoned vets, we skip the tchotchkes and head straight for the milkshake counter where you’ll find the creamiest, thickest Chocolate Peanut Butter milkshake you’ll ever come across. It’s amazing.
And if you need to refuel, like I did at this point in the trip, you’ll be happy to know that Hershey offers some atypical amusement park fare at Chocolate World. I was pleasantly surprised to find kids meals that offered chicken skewers with a heaping portion of roasted veggies, milk, an applesauce cup and a small piece of chocolate for dessert. Sold! Other stands had edamame and black bean salad, sandwiches and other healthy options. I mean if you eat a healthy lunch, you can consume way more chocolate for dessert, right? Hershey Park could be its own post. So I’ll have to revisit that soon. In the meantime, find more in the links at the end of this section. (More: Hershey Park AND Hershey, Pa.)
Also, after you sugar the kids up at the park, parents will be happy to note that Tanger Outlets and Troegs Brewing are a hop, skip and a jump down the road from the park. Full disclosure: There is a Disney Store outlet. Your kids (like mine) might go BANANAS (like mine). You may want to visit that BEFORE the park. Or hit the brewery immediately after. Either way, you’ve been warned.
If the nice spring weather has you itching to get out of the house and see something new, try a quick day trip through some of these delicious Pennsylvania spots. Who knows, it might just answer one of your kids’ questions and spark a lifelong curiosity in the process.
Have another family-friendly day trip idea? Let me know in the comments section.