As voted by Trekaroo families, here are the Reviews of the Day from back in the day to today.
The PA Wilds is a vast area in north central Pennsylvania that feels almost untouched. Outdoor activities are highly encouraged, and one of the best ways for families to get outdoors and view nature is by visiting The Elk Country Visitors Center! With a focus on the reintroduction of the elk species to Pennsylvania, the visitors center is a haven for elk lovers and children.
The Elk Country Visitors Center has a beautiful location perched atop a large hill in Elk County. With a span of 245 acres, the center and its grounds provide for the perfect location to view and learn about elk and their habitat in the PA Wilds. With free admission, the center is perfect for budget conscious families.
What Makes The Visitors Center Fun?
Hands on learning is definitely at the forefront, and young children up to adults will adore the interactive exhibits. A Discovery Room houses elk racks, bones, and animal furs. Taxidermy samples are available for viewing and loads of information regarding Pennsylvania and The PA Wilds encompasses the entire room.
A 4-D Immersive Theater is a fabulous choice for families and visitors wanting to take a rest and learn about the reintroduction of elk into Pennsylvania. Logging and hunting caused the elk species to become extinct, and this 20-minute show will delight your eyes and ears with its tale of the growing elk population. Theater seats rattle and buzz and light snow even falls from the ceiling as you watch and listen to the movie. My daughter loved the beautiful tri-screen movie and laughed when the wooden benches shook. A $3.00 per person charge has been set for watching the movie, but the cost goes toward the center upkeep.
The center encourages getting out into nature and does this by the creation of its nature trails. Hike, walk, or even take a leisurely stroll on the various paths cut out through the woods and open spaces in the 245 acres of grounds and take along your binoculars as the elk tend to graze during the day and may be spotted. Although the center cannot guarantee that you’ll see the elk, various video cameras about the property keep an eye on the herds and alert patrons to the best possible viewing area. Too cold to hike? Observation windows
inside the center have large viewing scopes to help with sightings.
Take Home a Piece of The Wilds
An on-site gift shops sells one-of-a-kind pieces crafted by local artisans to postcards and pens. Hoodies, t-shirts and other ware bearing elk images are for sale as well.
Eco-Friendly and LEED Certified
The Elk Country Visitors Center has received a gold designation for being LEED certified and earth-friendly. Completing its construction in 2010, this fine example of conservation uses recycled water, geothermal heating, and even stones found on property to conserve energy and natural resources. During the colder months, a large wood fireplace supplements heating bills. surrounded by benches and seats, the fireplace is the perfect place to warm up after a trek on the trails. The center is run by a non-profit organization called The Keystone Elk Alliance. Donations are a key to the upkeep and maintenance of the center and area.
And the Verdict is…?
Go! We loved it! The hands-on experiences and 4-D movie were informative and fun and the land and center itself so beautiful! The trek to the center was scenic and we even saw a young elk bull standing on the side of the road. We visited during the winter and I can only imagine the beauty of the center and grounds during the summer! My only issue was with the windy, hilly two-lane roads that lead to the center. A fine idea might be to call ahead to check road conditions if you are not used to such rugged terrain.
Disclosure: My family and I were hosted by The Pennsylvania Tourism Office and The Elk County visitors Center for the purpose of this review. My review is honestly written and, as always, the opinions are my own.
After living in Manhattan for years, I am extremely picky about where I stay when I bring my kids back to visit because I just can't do NYC as a tourist. Most hotels you will hear about are in midtown, but if you want to stay in a true New York neighborhood and live like a New Yorker for a few days - this is THE place!! Even if you do want to go to a Broadway show and see Times Square, I still think it is better to stay on the Upper West Side; especially if your kids are used to playing in actual grass everyday, you may need to get to Central Park in the afternoons for some down time!
The Upper West Side is absolutely perfect for families. You can easily walk to Central Park, the Manhattan Children's Museum and the American Museum of Natural History from this hotel. It is also where you are going to find the more kid friendly restaurants and Trader Joe's is just a few blocks down for easy, kid friendly snacks. The area is also just much easier to walk around and enjoy yourselves with kids as it isn't as crowded and loud as midtown.
The hotel also has family friendly rooms, which is so rare in NYC. The family suites had two bedrooms with 1 Q bed in one bedroom and 2 full beds in the other bedroom. It is still small as compared to suites in other parts of the country, but it was enough room for our family of four plus the extra child we brought with us on this trip.
There was a nice lobby with a coffee shop on the ground floor, but no breakfast or restaurant on site. Don't worry though, there is a yummy bodega on every corner, go out and explore!
This hotel is not cheap, but I would always recommend staying here to families if they are looking for an alternative to a typical NYC hotel experience.
This was great for the kids and it was affordable. Together we have 3 kids under 7 and they all enjoyed it. The Mr. Potatohead exhibit is fantastic. The place is clean and offers a lot of unique experiences. We have been to other kids museums where half the exhibits are broken. That is not the case here.
SeaWorld's Halloween Spooktacular is a safe family friendly event held weekends 12p-7p during the month of October inside SeaWord! Best part about this great event is that it does not require an additional ticket to attend - just your regular park pass.
Children are encouraged to dress up and trick-or-treat through the sea of bubbles. SeaWorld provides bags for the candy (Airheads, Nerds, M&Ms). Children not dressed up can still participate in th fun.
Beautifully dressed up characters like fish, hammerhead sharks, jelly fish, and underwater princesses greeted us along the path, told jokes, and included us in some of the impromptu acting.
There are numerous tents set up along the path where you can enjoy face painting, hand-print art, cookie decorating, caricatures, and games. All of these "tent activities" require a fee ($7-$10).
There is a snack area with picnic tables and umbrellas. Also a food tent serving hamburgers, kid hotdogs and chicken nuggets. Kid meals come with french fries, carrots, and a drink. It's nice they've set this up this year so you do not have to hike back out to the park for food.
At the end of the Spooktacular path is an interactive game station. My 8yr old didn't want to stop playing the animated "penguin game". Also kids can put together digital puzzles and paint sea creatures on smaller electronic devices.
There is a nice shaded area for little ones to color at cute small tables or dance along with Penelope's Dance Party. Check times for shows!
Overall I believe this Halloween Spooktacular is the perfect opportunity for younger families to enjoy the non-scary side of Halloween. You will not find one spooky, scary, creepy thing at SeaWorld's Halloween Spooktacular, and this mom greatly appreciates that!
Although my 12 year old joined us, he felt too old for some of the activities. My 8 year old absolutely loved it!
*disclaimer: SeaWorld provided access to Spooktacular to my family on "media day" as a Trekaroo Superoo. No other compensation was provided. All opinions are my own honest thoughts about the event and facility.
After two stays, I am officially in love with this hotel.
The Omni is gorgeous, convenient and actually kid-friendly, with the feel and look of an upscale resort without the price or attitude. And the pool complex is fantastic.
The first thing to know is that it is not among the strip of Disney hotels or on Disney property. A Disney hotel does have its advantages, particularly if you plan to go to Disney parks more than once on a trip. The Omni is west of Disney, Universal and SeaWorld -- not more than 15-20 minutes if traffic is light, but it requires a hop on the interstate. The Omni offers a shuttle to Epcot and Magic Kingdom at designated times during the day.
The good thing is that this distance gets you away from some of the insanity and crowds surrounding the theme parks. The Omni sets this tone from the moment you walk into your room, where the TV is on and set to a mood channel with relaxing music. If you're a select member (it's free and kicks in after your first visit), they'll have water set out of you and cookies and milk, with free turndown service, and a card where you can pre-order what beverages you want delivered to your room the next morning.
When I booked the room online, the form asked if there were any special notes. I said that it was my son's birthday, and they had a small chocolate cake waiting for us with plates and forks. Such a fantastic surprise! The desk clerk who checked us in even sent up a Happy Birthday card addressed to him.
We arrived after 7 p.m. and hadn't eaten, with a 5-year-old who was tired and cranky from a day of fun overload at Legoland. The front desk suggested David's, the upscale sports bar, but it was clear we would have a hard time getting him to behave for table service. We wound up ordering room service (out of character for our family) and it was wonderful. Lots of options, and we ate in our pajamas.
We were up early the next morning, greeted by fresh coffee on a tray with cream and sugar at our door. We caffeinated and then headed to the pool -- heavenly! There's a lazy river with several surprises (cannons, waterfalls and fountains, but you don't get drenched unless you want to) and a large family pool with a twisty waterslide. My son proclaimed the waterslide "awesome" and it only dumps you into 3 feet of water, so there were lots of small kids on it (there is a height minimum to slide, however).
We checked out the formal pool -- beautiful and more quiet -- and hot tubs, and then headed back to the family pool, where my son discovered the splashpad and played there happily while my husband and I lounged nearby. We should have ordered drinks at the pool bar to make the experience complete, but we had to head home shortly afterward.
We were not there long enough to experience the activities, but the resort does offer "Camp OMNI" with childcare and activities for young kids. It also frequently shows movies out by the formal pool at night. There's also a beautiful golf course and a spa for parents to enjoy. We'll have to return to test them out.
As someone else mentioned, there is a resort fee, and they charge for parking, so be aware of that when you book the room. They do often offer deals, so do your research before you make a reservation. We stayed under a promotional rate that waived the resort fee (it wound up saving us about $5 from what we would have paid if we had booked a cheaper room and paid the resort fee separately). The package also included a $25 resort credit, which was applied to our room service charge and offset a good bit of dinner.
The hotel experience is so good you may want to include a day or two to just enjoy it, even if you are visiting to see the theme parks.