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Three parks worth a little drive south

I think I am the southernmost Mommy Blogger, so I’ve shied away from writing too much about local stuff. But I was inspired by Bitsy McCann’s post last week, so here are some parks in south central Pennsylvania I think are worth the drive:

Norlo Park

3050 Lincoln Way E, Fayetteville, PA 17222

Norlo Park is literally near (and dear) to my heart – it’s just down the road from my childhood neighborhood and under 10 minutes from our current home. It’s carved out of a former farm and retains the barn, silo and farmhouse. There are two playground areas, two dog parks for the pups, and numerous walking trails to get your steps in for the day (or to let the kiddos bike on). 

While this may sound like your everyday neighborhood park, there’s more! If you have a rail fan in the house, they will love Norlo Park. There are several rescued train cars: two Pennsylvania Railroad cabin cars, a flatcar, and a car built specially to carry vinegar, as well as a restored train station from nearby Quincy.

But best of all, between Memorial Day and Labor Day (COVID permitting), on Saturday afternoons you can ride a miniature train! It’s free – you just need to get a ticket from the station. I haven’t been able to find out if the trains will run this year, but it’s something to keep an eye out for! The phone number for Norlo Park is (717) 264-6626.

Caledonia State Park

101 Pine Grove Rd, Fayetteville, PA 17222

As you may have gathered from previous blogs, we like hiking the Appalachian Trail. Pennsylvania may have a bad reputation with AT thru hikers, but “Rocksylvania” doesn’t really begin until you get farther north. There is a nice flat, easy section of the AT through Caledonia State Park, as long as you stay north of U.S. 30 (If you head south into Michaux State Forest, you’ll start going up a mountain and there is a rockier patch through there).

There are a number of other trails in Caledonia to appeal to a varying level of experiences. You can also see the Thaddeus Stevens Blacksmith Shop for a bit of history, take a swim in the pool, or spend a night or two camping. I have a soft spot in my heart for Caledonia, since I grew up about five minutes away and went there often, but it definitely offers something for every member of the family.

It’s also only about a 20-minute drive up PA 233 to Pine Grove Furnace State Park for more AT hiking, (lake) swimming, or industrial history – but I think I have to save that for another blog, because I want to leave you with…

Pen Mar Park

14600 Pen Mar High Rock Rd., Cascade, MD 21719

Yes, I’m writing about a Maryland park, but it is literally just over the state line. You can jump on the AT in the park and walk about a quarter mile north to the famous Mason-Dixon Line sign. I may never actually thru-hike the AT, but I can cross the Mason-Dixon Line. 

Pen Mar is probably my favorite park. It has a lookout with spectacular views, more of the AT to hike and a great play area for the kids. My favorite part, however, is the Sunday music series. Pen Mar was quite the resort back in the day, with a train bringing people from all over on pleasure excursions. There was a carousel, an arcade and many other attractions. Most of those are gone today, but the dance hall remains, and on summer Sundays (again, COVID permitting) different bands will play. I’m not a dancer, but it’s so lovely and relaxing to just pack a picnic dinner and sit in the park listening to the tunes of a different time. As with the Norlo Park trains, I wasn’t able to find out if the music series will resume this summer, but if and when it does, it’s worth the drive for a Sunday in the park. The county parks information number is 240-313-2776.

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