Wednesday, June 04, 2008

101 Things to Do Here & There & Everywhere

I've got 101 ideas to keep the kids happy this summer. Some ideas are specific to Central Pennsylvania and the surrounding region where I live, but they still could spark an idea for a similar outing in your area. Other ideas are for activities that kids can do anywhere.

Did I forget something? Let me know in the comments! And keep checking back for a great summer contest that will want to know how many of these ideas you tried.

1. Join other moms in the area every Tuesday morning for a playdate at a different area park. See sidebar for complete schedule.

2. Make an obstacle course with sidewalk chalk and time each other on how long it takes to complete the course.

3. Teach the kids how to decorate cakes and let them experiment with a few cupcakes.

4. Plan a scavenger hunt. All you need to do is list 20 or so items that are frequently found in nature. Then distribute the list to each of the kids. The first person or team to find everything and bring them back wins a small prize.

5. Bike or walk the Capital Area Greenbelt Trail, a 20-mile loop around urbanized portions of Harrisburg, linking many city neighborhoods, parks and open spaces. It provides recreational opportunities such as hiking, biking, birding, walking, and jogging for visitors of all ages and can be accessed at multiple locations.

6. Take the kids to a free movie at the Palmyra and Camp Hill Cinema Centers on Tuesday mornings. Hoyts Theater in Harrisburg offers a G and PG movie every Tuesday and Wednesdays at 10:00am.

7. Keep your kids reading this summer with the "Catch the Reading Bug" summer reading program at your local library. The program runs June 1 - August 31 and gives your children the opportunity to win prizes and attend great events and activities. For teens ages 13-19, Metamorphosis is their summer reading program. Check out your local library for more details and to pick up your reading log.

8. Introduce your kids to the theater through the Popcorn Hat Players. Shows running this summer are Sleeping Beauty and Hansel & Gretel. Tickets are $6 for adults and children and shows are performed at the Gamut Theatre in Strawberry Square.

9. Go tubing down the Yellow Breeches.

10. Have lunch or just browse the booths at the Broad Street Farmer's Market or at the West Shore Farmer's Market.

11. Bike the many rail trails in Central Pennsylvania. These biking trails are great for beginner riders because they are always flat or with minimal incline. My favorite is Stony Creek in Dauphin.

12. Catch fireflies.

13. Put the PJs on the kids, pop some popcorn, and load into the mini-van for a nostalgic night at the drive in movies. Haar's in Dillsburg still has the magic.

14. The Children's Garden at the Hershey Gardens is filled with surprises at every turn. This magical world of whimsy provides a self-guided learning environment designed specifically for children. Kids of all ages are enchanted as they scamper, climb and dance throughout the 30 colorful theme gardens. The Children's Garden even makes it fun to learn the ABCs, colors, counting and math!

15. Have your kids help you wash the car. Or let them wash their bikes.

16. Set up a lemonade stand.

17. Go outside during a summer rain and play.

18. Play miniature golf: Adveture Sports in Hershey, Challenge Family Fun Center in Hummelstown, Bumble Bee Hollow in Harrisburg, Water Golf at City Island.

19. While they call it the "Children's Lake," visitors of all ages will also enjoy sharing a rest with the ducks calling the Boiling Springs Lake home. Take along some bread or buy some food for the ducks at the cafe on the corner.

20. Children tend to marvel at it and adults tend to marvel at how it intrigues children! It's Strawberry Square's three-story clanging, clinging, ball-dropping, kinetic clock. Its playful whimsy is pure enchantment. And it tells time to boot!

21. The largest one-day street-fair on the East Coast takes place in Mechanicsburg. Admission to Jubilee Day is free and so is the fair's non-stop entertainment.

22. Sway to the beat of reggae, soak in sounds of jazz or country's latest hits. Harrisburg's free summer music festivals at Reservoir Park offer great musical entertainment, as well as an excuse to walk the grounds of a city park recently receiving $1.6 million worth of improvements.
23. On Sunday nights, Italian Lake in Harrisburg is the place to be for free summer concerts that will include the Harrisburg Symphony, American celtic and Latin Jazz music.

24. Get lost in Cherry-Crest Farm's Amazing 5-acre Maize Maze in Lancaster. Travel 2.5 miles through an elaborate corn maze and collect clues along the way to find your way out. The maze opens July 15. It was listed in Sports Illustrated Kids as one of the "25 Coolest Things to do this Summer."

25. Even if you're not interested in the Maze, you can still enjoy great family fun at Cherry-Crest farm. They have a Pumpkin Slinger, Hay Chute, Singing Chicken Show, Barnyard Jump, Lil’ Farmers Playland (Play House - Coloring Barn - Sand Box - Bean Toss - Climbing Structures), Cherry Crest Farm Tour Wagon, Petting Zoo, Big Ball Play Area and general store.

26. Ride the Millersburg Ferryboat.

27. Learn about some of the Indians that first settled in the Susquehanna Valley at Indian Echo Caverns.

28. Plant a vegetable or flower garden together.

29. Decorate flip-flops with puffy paint, beads, foam shapes or even small toys to make a one-of-a-kind fashion statement.

30. Slip n' Slide

31. Enjoy a Summer Concert on the lawn of the Fredrickson Library. Concerts include the Baltimore Steel Orchestra, The West Shore Symphony, Greater Harrisburg Concert Band and Voxology.

32. Take a ride on the Hershey Trolley Works. This memorable excursion delivers good, old fashioned fun as singing trolley conductors dressed in period costumes entertain and inform you on an enchanting ride through CHOCOLATE TOWN, USA.

33. The Pennsylvania State Capitol building is supposed to be one of the nicest state capitol buildings in the US. It was "architecturally inspired" by St. Peters Basilica in Rome and dedicated by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906. Guided tours of the Capitol are offered every half hour Monday through Friday.

34. For the lil' fireman in your family, consider visiting the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum in Harrisburg. The Sights, sounds and history of firefighting come to life in the 1899 Victorian firehouse Reily Hose Company No. 10. The museum houses an outstanding collection of artifacts from the hand-drawn equipment of yesterday to the modern tools of today.

35. The Pride of the Susquehanna Riverboat is an Authentic Paddlewheeler that sails the Susquehanna River. The Riverboat is docked on City Island. The island is a lovely park where there are walking areas, a free playground, a miniature golf course, and places for children to play and eat lunch.

36. Have you ever wondered how chocolate is made? Take a trip to Wolfgang Candy in York or Wilbur Chocolate in Ephrata to see how your favorite treat is concocted.

37. For the budding journalist in the family, show them what it takes to put out a paper by visiting the Upper Dauphin Sentinel. Visitors tour the various departments of the newspaper and learn how the paper is produced from start to finish. Demonstrations of cameras, computers and printing presses are included.

38. Food and snack makers are in abundance in the Susquehanna Valley. Martins Potato Chips, Snyder's Hanover, Seltzer's Lebanon Bologna, and Utz all offer tours so you can see what it takes to make a bag of your favorite snack food.

39. Unleash your child's inner artist at The Crayola Factory. You can color, draw, paint and create with the latest Crayola products without the worry of cleanup afterwards. Each creative space invites you to play and explore while learning and having lots and lots of fun. See how Crayola Crayons and Markers are made.

40. Lake Tobias, located in Halifax, offers safari tours, petting zoo and a reptile building to see various kinds of animals up close. African Lions are their newsest exhibit for 2008.

41. Ranked among the top 5 children's museums in the US, Port Discovery in Baltimore provides experiences which ignite imagination, inspire learning, and nurture growth through play. Less than two hours away, Port Discoversy allows kids to learn about life on a real farm, explore a three-story urban treehouse, create in the art works gallery or take part in running a 50s diner.

42. A rainy day is the perfect day to explore the many hands-on type houses in the area. Locally, Museum 4 Me in Lemoyne, Curiosity Connection in Harrisburg are great choices or you can travel to the Hands On House in Lancaster or Explore n' More in Gettysburg.

43. All Aboard! The Choo Choo Barn is a one-of-a-kind hand-uilt display of miniature trains. This unique experience for your train enthusiast will enjoy over 1,700 square feet, with 150 animated figures and 22 operating trains.

44. Show your kids the kind of fun we use to having by going to The Castle Roller Skating rink in Lancaster. This family-oriented rink is the perfect place to do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around. Every Wednesday night is Christian music night.

45. A recent birthday party took us to Color Me Mine and I realized how much fun this place can be for the entire family. Create your own one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Choose a piece of pottery, paint it and then have it fired. Great for all ages.

46. For just $1, kids can enjoy the sounds of the Gretna Music summer concert series. Experience theatre, comedy, jazz, pop and our signature classical chamber music concerts in the beautiful Mt. Gretna Playhouse.

47. After the concert, head over to The Jigger Shop. A lot has changed about the Jiggershop over the years, but their generous serving sizes and incredible ice cream treats haven't. Introduce your kids to a Mt. Gretna landmark while enjoying the beauty of the area.

48. A summer's not complete without a trip to the zoo. In our own backyard is ZooAmerica featuring its exhibits of animals native to North America.

49. If you head south, you'll find The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. Currently the Zoo’s animal collection encompasses more than 1,500 animals displayed in natural settings replicating their native habitats.

50. The Philadelphia Zoo is America's first zoo, established just after the Civil War. This 42-acre Victorian garden is home to more than 1,300 animals, many of them rare and endangered.

51. Visit one (or more!) of the 18 State Parks are in the greater Susquehanna Valley. Camping, swimming, boating, hiking, canoeing, fishing, nature trails, rock climbing, biking, picnicking and wildlife watching are just some of the activities offered for free at the parks.

52. Letterboxing is an intriguing pastime combining navigational skills and rubber stamp artistry in a charming "treasure hunt" style outdoor quest. A wide variety of adventures can be found to suit all ages and experience levels. Visit the Letterboxing web site to learn more about this growing pastime.

53. Take your kids to their first ball game! The Harrisburg Senators or Lancaster Barnstormers, the area's newest farm team, are great choices for even the smallest fans.

54. Attach a note to a helium balloon and ask the finder to send you a postcard and let you know how far it travelled.

55. Make a home fire plan and have a surprise fire drill.

56. Research your family tree.

57. Clean out your closets, host a yard sale and donate the earnings to a charity.

58. Make ice cream in a bag.

59. Tie-dye tee shirts.

60. One of the highlights of the summer is the Smith Barney Harrisburg Mile that takes place every year on Front Street. Thousands of people come to run in the largest race in our area. It's a great event to take the kids and watch or if your kids like to run, they even offer a half-pint half mile and a fun run/walk.

61. Keep the kids' reading skillz sharp doing MadLibs.

62. For the older kids, a little adventure is probably what they want. Treat them to a wild White Water Rafting trip.

63. Take advantage of those clear summer nights to expose your kids to the science of astronomy. Head out to your local observatory for programs and viewings especially designed for the your astonomer.

64. Teach your kids how to make a daisy chain.

65. Start a new tradition at Celebrate America in Camp Hill on June 29. A local church puts on a huge patriotic celebration that includes inflatables, arts and crafts, petting zoo, and carnival games for the kids. Also on hand will be Fire Trucks, Police Cars, Blue Moon Cruisers, Black Dog Motorcycles/Harley Davidson Display, a 30 Foot Rock Wall, and entertainment including Keystone, Jazz Me, Jim Worthing, 61 South, and Matt Glass Band. Oh, and Fireworks!!! And the best's all FREE.

66. Build a time capsule.

67. Mix 2 cups water with a little food coloring, add 6 cups of cornflour/cornstarch to make goop.
68. Go pick your own strawberries.

69. Take the kids to breakfast at a diner.

70. Everyone enjoys a good amusement park and we've got lots to choose from in Central Pennsylvania. The obvious first choice is Hersheypark, featuring their new Farenheit rollercoaster.

71. Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster is a great choice if you need an amusement park that's scaled to young kids. With over 30 kid-friendly rides, including coasters, water-play, miniature golf, and live entertainment, Dutch Wonderland provides many of the first and most memorable moments of childhood.

72. Knoebels is the home of free admission, free parking, free entertainment and free picnic facilities. Is there really anything else to say?

73. Clyde Peeling's Reptiland, along Rt. 15 in Allenwood (north of Lewisburg), has alligators, tortoises, snakes and much much more. With interactive exhibits, multimedia shows, touching sessions and programs running five times a day, this fun adventure is not to be missed.

74. Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater house is Come visit one of the world's most significant architectural structures. The key to the setting of the house is the waterfall over which it is built. Entrusted to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1963, Fallingwater is the only remaining great Wright house with its setting, original furnishings, and artwork intact.

75. Vacation Bible Schools are a staple of any kid's summer---and don't believe the myth you can only attend the one at your own church. VBS's are plentiful and usually offer crafts, drama, games, and, of course, Bible truths for kids that follow a fun theme. Held usually in the morning or the evening, age requirements will differ from VBS to VBS. Call around or watch your local newspaper for VBS's offered in your area.

76. For those football punks in your house, take them over to Carlisle late summer to watch the Washington Redskins practice. Yep, you heard me right. The Washington Redskins hold their pre-season camp in Carlisle in August.

77. I'd like to think that this next idea is a no-brainer for anyone who lives here, but just in case there's a newbie out there, a trip to Hershey's Chocolate World definitely needs to be on your short list for the summer. Cute music, fun "ride", free chocolate. Any questions?

78. The Doll House Museum in Harrisburg is an extraordinary collection of dolls and toys displayed in a life sized Victorian doll house. There are ten rooms filled with over 5,000 dolls and toys from 1840 to present day.

79. Hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

80. Visit Boyd's Bear Country in Gettysburg, the world's most humongous teddy bear store. Adopt a bear, visit the free museum, sample some vittles, or make your own bear to take home.

81. Get up close and personal with miniature horses at the Land of Little Horses and their farm animal friends. Races, Displays, and Special Events are sure to delight the kids and "kids at heart."

82. The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War. It also provided President Abraham Lincoln with the setting for his most famous address. Give your kids a tour of the battlefields and be sure to stop by the brand new visitor's center. Whether you choose a guided tour, audio tour or you do it on your own, your kids will love walking with history.

83. Teach your kids about Amish culture with hands-on projects at the Make-A-Friend Workshop in Lancaster. Kids can choose to make an Amish doll or become a craftsman and build a wooden Lancaster County barn, steam train, or tractor and wagon. The workshop supplies everything you'll need to build your special creation.

84. Have the kids write a letter to grandparents the old fashioned way---with a pen and paper.

85. On a rainy day, host a Brady Bunch or Little House on the Prairie marathon. Check the library for the complete seasons of both show.

86. For the kid who likes to concoct new delicacies in the kitchen, they might enjoy getting their hands dirty at The Kitchen Shoppe's in Carlisle's Cooking Classes for kids.

87. Got a kid that can't keep his feet on the ground? Head on over to the Climbnasium in Mechanicsburg. Climbnasium is an indoor rock climbing facility that caters to first timers as well as advanced climbers. Kids as young as six can climb 40 feet walls.

88. Build an art farm.

89. Teach your kids how to speak pig latin.

90. Have a picnic on the lawn of the State Capitol.

91. Take a bike ride along the Harrisburg side of the Susquehanna. Head down to Shipoke. Stop at the park.

92. Play flashlight tag at night.

93. Camp out in the backyard.

94. Fly a kite.

95. Get an appliance box from a store and let kids turn it into a space ship, house, fire engine, or store.

96. Wade in a creek and try to catch fish with your hands.

97. Visit a local nursing home and have your kids play an instrument or sing, pass out pictures colored by them or simply sit and let residents tell them stories of yesteryear.

98. Organize a neighborhood pet parade.

99. Make popsicles.

100. Watch falcons, eagles and other birds of prey hatch their young with these awesome bird cams from around the world. To see young falcons nesting in Harrisburg, scroll down to Harrisburg Falcons, then click on June 2 falcons sitting atop the Rachel Carson Building.

101. Join other moms in the area every Tuesday morning for a playdate at a different area park. See sidebar for complete schedule.

For more great summer ideas, visit Rocks in My Dryer for Works for Me Wednesday!


Robin @ Heart of Wisdom said...

WOW. Great list. That took some time.
I have a blog about memes today at my other mentioning WFMW.


Classic MaMa said...

Oh my goodness! This is so awesome, I must tell all of the world. Really, you gave some great advice. Thank you.

Melissa said...

You're my hero. I could never have sat still long enough to type this out. And, link. Oh My Word. The linking alone would have driven me mad.

In honor of you doing this, I plan to do 99 things on this list.

Hands-Free Heart said...

Thanks for taking the time to do this. I'm checking out several links, and will be sure to include some new activities in our summmer this year.

Jen said...

Great ideas and so many, I forgot about fire flies.....

Sandy@ Jesus and Dark Chocolate said...

Wow!!! What a list. How did you come up with all of those? I will be checking back through out the summer, for ideas when the kids are going a bit stir crazy.
BTW, Wilbur Choc. is in Lititz, and if you go, let me know. :) It's about 5 min. from me.
And my daughter loves Setzlers Leb. bologna, I didn't know they give tours.

Jon said...

Great job. Any chance you can put one together for the Philly region?

Natalie said...


I can't imagine that you can't find a pretty comprehensive list for Philly by googline "philly things to do." Good luck.

jon said...

you'd be surprised... most of what you get are either sponsored links or lazy overviews that don't go much beyond the major museums. What makes your list so inspired are the small, out-of-the-way finds. Nice work.

Natalie said...


I have a few readers who live in or near Philly, I'll do a post today and ask for their suggestions. Maybe we can find you a few good suggestions.


Anonymous said...

you should put info on here about the "Green Dragon" in's a nice day's adventure too

CampHillGirl said...

This is a well-put-together, insightful list. We've done many of the suggestions before, but some I've never heard of. Thanks!

Momma's Drama said...

Great list! I have been looking for something that wasn't sponsered by only the more expensive places for kids and you did a great job. Thanks so much for making this list!!!!!