You’ve probably hear the phrase, the days are long but the years are short. We understand the message, but it doesn’t help with the here and now: seemingly endless summers day with the kids at home. So we’re here to help keep the boredom at bay, while also respecting your budget. All of the activities listed can be done for free!
Please touch the animals!
We have some fun zoos and wildlife centers near us, but here are some ways to get close to nature without paying an admission price. Visit the alpacas at Painted Spring Farm Alpacas, 280 Roths Church Road in Spring Grove. They schedule tours for small groups on the weekends and early mornings (9 a.m.) and by appointment. Head to Perrydell Farm Dairy at 90 Indian Rock Dam Road in York to see a working dairy farm. Depending on when you visit, you could see cows being milked, calves being fed, or milk being bottled. After the tour, visit with the cows or splurge on some homemade ice cream and other farm fresh foods. Prefer smaller critters? That Fish Place That Pet Place at 237 Centerville Road in Landisville isn’t just a pet supply store — it’s also is a great place to visit lots of small animals and fish up close. There’s an aviary, a small pet corner, a fish room and a reptile room. But kids will probably gravitate to the Pirates Cove Touch Tank, where kids can gently touch stingrays and hold live starfish.
Every public library in Central Pennsylvania host story times. You can check out their schedule online or just drop in to find out what they offer and when. Some libraries throughout our region have some special story times planned for the summer, with visits to nature centers, retirement homes, and more. Also, during the first few weeks of June, be sure to sign your child up for your local library’s summer reading programs. Special events often accompany the summer reading kick-off vents, and at the end of the summer, kids can earn prizes for the number of books they read (or have read aloud to them).
Calling all firefighters!
Nothing thrills little kids like fire trucks and related equipment. Check with your local fire station to see if they provide tours to the public. If they do, schedule a time when you can take the kiddos. Have them prepare some questions—like when they decided they wanted to become firefights, how many calls they go on each week, and so on. Ask if your kids can see the inside of a fire truck. And be sure to let your children know that in the event of an emergency, the tour will end.
Anyone interested in fire trucks and fire fighting should also head to the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum, located at 1820 N. Fourth St., in Harrisburg. Housed in an historic 1899 Victorian Firehouse, the museum shows the history of the fire service from the time of America’s colonial days to the present. While there is an entrance fee ($7 for adults, $6 for students) most days, the third Saturday each month is free.
How it’s made.
What’s more fun for the curious young mind then seeing first-hand how things we eat or see are made? Hershey’s Chocolate World has a 30-minute chocolate-making tour (complete with a chocolate sample at the end) that’s free — as is the admission (other attractions and activities are pay-as-you-go). Love pretzels? Head to the Hanover bakery for Snyder’s of Hanover for a free tour. It takes a half-hour and you’ll visit the raw material warehouse, finished goods warehouse (where you will see robotics at work), the packing room, and the aroma-filled baking room. You’ll also get a free bag of pretzels at the completion of the tour. Call 1-800-233-7125, ext. 28592, at least 24 hours ahead to reserve your spots on the tour. Prefer potato chips? Head to Hanover for the self-guided Utz Chip Trip Tour. You’ll get to observe the product process from beginning to end from a glass- enclosed observation gallery. Tours are usually offered Monday – Thursday from 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.; call 1-800-367-7629 before you head out to confirm.
Have a motorcycle fan in the family? The Harley- Davidson plant in York provide an up-close look at their assembly line and fabrication areas. Tours, which last an hour, are offered weekdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. While it’s decidedly not a factory – they hand pour their candles — you can take a self-guided tour of the Old Candle Barn at 3551 Old Philadelphia Pike in Intercourse, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; call them first at 717-768-8926 to make sure they’ll be able to accommodate you.
Take a hike.
Get the kiddos moving! Head out for a morning hike, and leave a packed cooler in your car for a picnic when you’re all done. We have some stunning trails all around our region. Some of our favorites are the mostly flat, easy to walk Conewago Recreation Trail in Elizabethtown; the Ned Smith Center Trails in the Millersburg Watershed; the Conservation Trail at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area; and the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail which begins at the Columbia Crossing trailhead in Columbia.
Stroll through history.
The Army Heritage Trail in Carlisle, open daily from dusk to dawn, covers a mile and nearly every era of Army history. Among the 14 individual exhibits along the outdoor trail are full-scale reconstructions of a stations or encampments from the French and Indian War; the Revolutionary War; WWI and WWII and the Vietnam War. Additionally, there are numerous smaller exhibits featuring armor, aircraft, and artillery from several different eras of U.S. Army history.
Let the music move them.
Grab the blanket and head out with the whole family and friends to some of the free summer concerts in Central Pa. In the days around July 4, the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra performs several free summer concerts in a variety of community settings. Kings Gap Environmental Education Center in Carlisle hosts Music on the Mountain the first Sunday of June, July, August and September from 3-7:30 p.m. It’s free, but goodwill offerings are appreciated. The Summer Music Series at Long’s Park in Lancaster, in its 57th season, will bring 16 different performers to amphitheater stage between June 2 and August 25. In York, the Sounds of Summer at Springettsbury Park offers free evening concerts from June till early August. For daytime music, head to Downtown York’s Cherry Lane (near Central Market House) for the Box Lunch Review. Free concerts are held throughout the summer on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Literally (not the card game). Summer and fishing go hand-in-hand, and Central Pennsylvania is home to some of the best fishing in the state. Kids can fish for free—fishing licenses aren’t required until they’re age 16 or older. Adults can supervise their child’s fishing without having to purchase their own license, either—as long as they’re within arm’s reach of their child when helping to cast or retrieve a fishing line or fishing rod.
If you don’t already have a fishing spot in mind, try Children’s Lake or Yellow Breeches Creek in Boiling Springs; Wildwood Lake within Harrisburg’s Wildwood Park; Hammer Creek in Lititz; Lake Grubb Nature Preserve in West Hempfield; and Pinchot Lake in York.