Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Summer of Fun (part 1)

Since my summer vacation has officially ended two weeks ago, I guess I should also end my vacation from the blog. There is so much to write about our summer “home leave” vacation, that I’ve definitely been procrastinating. I’ve finally got a day with no plans to sit down and try to put a very busy summer vacation into words.

There is so much to write about, I’ll have to break it up into a few postings. This one will be about the first trips we took after I arrived in the US. Hersheypark and Great Wolf Lodge! After that, our trips to Sag Harbor and Boston. The third post will be a round up of all of our activities, fun and family visits in Virginia.


For those who haven’t heard of it, Hersheypark is an amusement park in Hershey, PA. It is exactly what it sounds like. A park built around the theme of Hershey chocolate right next to the Hershey candy factory.

Jack and I had never been to Hersheypark before. Melissa had been there when she was a kid. It was not at all what I was expecting. I figured this would be a small, worn out amusement park. This park was at least the same size as a Six Flags. There were 9 rollercoasters and dozens of other rides to go on.

When we arrived, we had some problems with our hotel reservation that took a little while to sort out. Fortunately, we were able to find another place to stay and even had enough time left to tour the candy factory our first night there.

As far as the “factory tour” goes, it was what you would expect. You don’t really see the factory, just a “ride thru” tour that shows how chocolate is made. Not must to see there unless you're into singing animated cows. What was a bit more interesting was the chocolate “tasting”. We were each given about five different kinds of chocolate to try. Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, yada, yada… A chocolate expert then talked us through each different kinds, explaining the flavors and what to look for when you tasted them.

The next day we started bright and early and were waiting at the park gate when it opened. We spent the entire day going on rides, eating junk food and generally enjoying ourselves. There were two really big moments of the day worth telling you about.

First, Jack went on his first upside-down rollercoaster. It was called the “Super Dooper Looper”. He wasn’t even a bit scared. He and I just jumped onboard and stuck our hands in the air and screamed for the whole ride.

The other biggie will forever be blamed on Melissa by Jack and me. There is an entire section of Hersheypark that is basically a waterpark. Unfortunately, we didn’t know this when we got ready in the morning and we didn’t bring bathing suits. There was a nice cool breeze that day anyway, so we weren’t wishing we could jump into the water that day. We did walk through the waterpark and rode the small flume ride they had. It got you about as wet as Splash Mountain in Disneyworld. After that, we passed by another similar ride, only bigger. While Jack and I weren’t really interested, Melissa insists and we get into line. Near the end of the line, before you get on, I see a sign that says, “Please be advised, all riders will get soaked!”

“I don’t know about this, hon,” I say. “I really don’t want to be walking around in wet clothes for the rest of the day.”

“Oh, we won’t get that wet. We’ll sit in the back. Don’t be such a baby.” Melissa says.

Somehow, I foresaw what was about to happen and took my shirt off as we got on the ride. I took Jack’s from him too and put it with our bag in the little cubby holes next to the start of the ride. I’m sure you can see what is coming.

When the sign said “soaked”, it was totally accurate. I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me. Every bit of every inch of our entire bodies; shorts, underwear, shoes, socks, hat, armpits…everything; was dripping, soaking wet. I don’t think we would have gotten that wet if we’d fallen into the wave pool.

As the ride slows to a stop, Jack looks at his mother with a quivering lip. “This is all your fault!” he says. At that point, all we could do was laugh and drip-dry throughout the day. At least it makes a good story!

Great Wolf Lodge

Melissa discovered Great Wolf Lodge on a short trip to Williamsburg, VA she took with Jack before I got to The States. We decided that we’d stop at their location in the Poconos, PA on the way from Hershey to my brother’s place on Long Island.

Great Wolf is basically a big hotel that is designed to cater to families with kids. The biggest attraction at the hotel is the humongous indoor waterpark. There are huge waterslides, a lazy river and areas to climb and play.

The other fun thing that they offer is the “Wizard Adventure.” Kids can get (for a small fee, of course) a magic (electronic) wand that they can use throughout the center area of the hotel to go on missions assigned by the old wizard.

There are items spread all over the hotel for the kids to find. For example, a simple mission may tell the kid to find and point his wand at a painting of a dragon, a purple crystal sculpture and a yellow treasure chest. He must then search the hotel for these items, each of which have a sensor in them. The wand remembers which items he’s found and in which order. When he returns, he’s then given credit for completing the mission.

The missions get progressively longer and more difficult. Instead of just telling him what to find, he has to figure out riddles and clues to make his way from item to item. It all culminates in the battle with the great dragon (which is a huge relief to complete after two days wandering around the hotel!!!). After dinnertime, the hotel is littered with little kids running around in their pajamas looking for stuff (and crying when they can’t find it).

Jack had a blast there and it’s a place we would definitely return to. If you’re interested, they are a national chain, spread from Texas to Wisconsin to the East Coast. Here’s the link to their website.

After Great Wolf, we were off to Sag Harbor, NY to stay at my brother’s house. We’ll cover that in part 2 later this week.