Monday, December 28, 2015

Family Travel Tips to Getting Chocolate Wasted During Christmas at Hersheypark!

Recently I had the chance to combine three of my most favorite things in one weekend: chocolate, family and travel, not necessarily in that order. It had been a while since we planned a trip (because anything involving children is just that, a trip) for some good old fashioned family fun and as soon as I heard about the 4-million twinkling lights at Hersheypark's Christmas Candylane, I knew exactly where our adventure would begin, after all it truly is The Sweetest Place on Earth.

I started off by booking our family a room at the Hershey Lodge, conveniently located just a five minute drive from Hersheypark itself. Although we could have easily driven the two hour drive to and from the park in a single day, I really wanted our stay to feel like a mini getaway and I knew the big boys would be totally excited to stay overnight in the hotel. Plus, how could you argue with an establishment that leaves Hershey Kisses in your pillows at night?

Upon arrival to the lodge, check-in was quick and easy. I worried about arriving during the height of the holiday season but the staff we encountered was fast, friendly and efficient. Within minutes our bags were whisked away by the bell hop as we walked through the beautifully decorated lobby and made our way up to our room. We even had the chance to order a couple of adult beverages from the bar and pose for pictures in front of the giant Christmas tree. 

With so much to do and see in Hershey I didn't want to waste a single minute dawdling around the hotel. As temperatures dipped into the forties that evening, we brought the boys upstairs and changed into warmer clothes before heading out to our first destination, Christmas Candylane at Hershey Park. (During check-in we were presented with a darling little gift bag filled to the brim with sweet stuff and I was pleasantly surprised to find the warmest pair of gloves in the mix. Many, many thanks to the staff at the Lodge for thinking of Mom, as I had forgotten to pack gloves for myself!)

Not only were we about to enjoy the benefits of Hersheypark in the dark but also bursting with holiday cheer from just about every nook and cranny. The kids' minds were absolutely blown that they were getting to do anything instead of get ready for bed let alone embark on a Christmas adventure of a lifetime. 

We made sure to grab a bag of freshly popped kettle corn as we skipped, danced and ran around the park. Riding rides, playing games, waving hello to Santa's reindeer and witnessing the incredible NOEL light show was icing on the cake. It might have been the biting chill in the air (it definitely wasn't) but my eyes filled with tears to see the sheer joy and excitement on my boys' faces during the light show.

With hot chocolate warming them from the inside out, it wasn't long before the boys drifted off to sleep, ready for the next day's adventure. 

Saturday was my most favorite time spent in Hershey. I swear even the air smells like chocolate, making it impossible to wake up anything but happy. After reading rave reviews on Yelp, we ate breakfast at Top That Cafe and believe me, it did not disappoint. It's a quaint little place right off the main drag- if you drive by too fast, you'd miss it. 

Right after breakfast we took the boys over The Hershey Story Museum where we learned all about Milton S. Hershey, his life, his legacy, his chocolate company and the growth of Hershey, Pennsylvania. The best part about our time there is that it's so incredibly hands-on. The kids loved learning on their level and they had a blast taking part in all of the fun activities like the museum scavenger hunt, epic (fake) snowball fight and little elves workshop where they even got the chance to make their own chocolate clay ornament (or try to eat it, if your name is Collins).

After lunching at nearby Panera it was time to head off to Chocolate World, home of the infamous ride along Hershey's Chocolate Tour. With the boys being as young as they are there was much we didn't take advantage of here, including Make Your Own Candy Bar and Chocolate 4D Mystery show. They did, however, have a blast riding inside of the tour car and seeing the inner workings of the chocolate factory. 

Hershey's largest candy store was the perfect send off as we loaded ourselves back in the car to burn some energy and some hours before our last adventure, Hershey's Sweet Lights. Had the weather been warmer, we would have taken the boys to Hershey Gardens and let them run around but being that we had already checked out of our hotel and had roughly two hours to burn before Sweet Lights opened, we decided to take the boys to nearby Bass Pro (because who doesn't love Bass Pro?).

Hershey Sweet Lights, a more than 2 mile ride through over 600 illuminated light displays, began at 5pm each night and having driven through the traffic upon our arrival to Hershey a day prior, we knew we wanted to get there and get in line on the earlier side. 

I would recommend stopping at the nearby Starbucks for a latte or two and heading towards the Sweet Lights entrance around 4:30pm. Sounds crazy but trust me, traffic backs up quickly and you don't want to be sitting in your car with little people approaching bedtime for any more time than you need to. 

Being able to view the spectacular light displays from the comfort and warmth of our own car was a nice bonus. The boys loved pointing out some of their favorite fairy tale characters and you could tell they were disappointed that our own exterior light display at home didn't hold a candle to the sights and sounds of Sweet Lights. 

And if this doesn't make it all worth while, I don't know what does. If you're looking to take a trip with your family this holiday season, be sure to check out Hershey, Pennsylvania and all that Hersheypark has to offer. I promise you won't be disappointed! We can't wait to head back in the summer to see what fun Hershey has in store for us then!

Disclaimer: Our stay at Hershey Lodge as well as all entrance tickets to attractions was comped as part of an agreement to review our trip and share it with the ILYMTC readership. All thoughts and opinions expressed above are honest and my own. Additional monetary compensation was not received.

What To Pack for Hersheypark in December: 

Stroller and/or Baby Carrier
Changes of clothes, extra clothes
Warm clothes! (Hats, mittens, long johns)
Tote Bag to bring inside park (kid snacks and drinks)

Where To Stay: 

Hershey Lodge

The Hershey Lodge
The Hotel Hershey
Hersheypark Camping Resort

What To Do: 


Hershey's Chocolate World
The Hershey Story Museum

Where To Eat: 

Top That Restaurant | 717-838-8337 - Dine In, Call for Take Out, Catering For Events

Top That Cafe
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Monday, December 21, 2015

What's 3, Wears Hole-y Jeans and Loves My Little Pony?

What's three, wears hole-y jeans, has the most kick-butt haircut and loves My Little Pony?

Give up?

My three year old, Maclane. 

This post is in partnership with Playskool and Socialstars. 
All opinions expressed are my own. #PlayskoolCrew

He's seen the My Little Pony Friendship is Magic TV series and he knows most, if not all of, their names. I find this especially endearing since I grew up with My Little Pony in the 80's and it gives me something that I can bond with my son over and actually have a little background knowledge of. While I've never seen a single Star Wars movie and I'm still brushing up on all of the names of construction vehicles, give me Applejack, Ember and Pinkie Pie and it's as if I'm reliving Rescue from Midnight Castle all over again.

For weeks now he's been asking for the Playskoool Friends My Little Pony Rainbow Dash Friendship Bus (thank you abundance of toy commercials during the holiday season) so when it showed up on our doorstep on behalf of Playskool along with the Playskool Friends Musical Celebration Castle featuring My Little Pony, his tiny mind was absolutely blown. 

He couldn't wait to tear into the box and begin playing with his new pony friends. The best part of all? He didn't waste a minute inviting his little brother in on the fun. These Playskool My Little Pony products are rated for kids ages 18 months to 4 years and encourage play in many, many ways so there's fun to be had by everyone. 

Whether they're using their imagination to host a pony dance party, inviting all of their pony friends over for a sleepover, or escaping the aliens sent from another planet (I kid you not), this toy has become THE most played with toy in our house for the second week in a row.

The bus and figurines especially are created with the smallest of hands in mind. Chunky and proportionate to tiny toddler hands, little ones can spend hours playing with their pony friends. With various activities throughout both the bus and the castle (real music, a spinning carousel, buttons to push and wheels that roll, etc), these toys appeal to all of a toddler's senses as well as promote healthy motor skills development. 

After seeing how much fun my own kids have had playing with these My Little Pony toys, I even went ahead and ordered a set for my niece. No doubt they will make for the perfect last minute Christmas gift! 

For even more pony fun, the Playskool Friends My Little Pony Figurine Collector Pack features 7 additional adorably chunky figurines including Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Applejack and an exclusive Cheerilee. While my boys have already started using the ponies alongside many of their other toys, including garbage trucks, helicopters and building blocks, I have to admit that it's nice to look around our playroom and see splashes of pink and purple among all of the primary colors!

If you're looking for a last minute holiday gift idea for the littlest one in your life, be sure to check out Playskool and the entire My Little Pony product line! 

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

2 Easy Holiday Crafts for Kids (And An Awesome Holiday Hop + Cash Giveaway)

I'm back again today with the same lovely group of bloggers who shared heaps of holiday inspiration just before the Thanksgiving holiday. We've joined forces again to drum up some additional holiday entertaining ideas and have included everything from gift guides, to swanky fashion ensembles, kid's Christmas pajamas, stocking stuffer ideas and beyond. 

I'll be sharing two easy Christmas crafts that you can do right from the comforts of your own kitchen table with your kids. Each of the ideas shared below would make for a great Chistmas gift- especially for grandparents and teachers! Read on to see why! 

Be sure to hop around and visit each one of the blogs below to see their take on Christmas fun! At the end of today's post, there's also a chance to win a nice chunk of spending cash just in time to snag those last minute gifts so be sure to enter!

Gift Wrapping Idea | Thuy at Hey Thuy
Gift Wrapping Idea | Ashley at Fancy Ashley
What To Wear | Sandy at Sandy a la Mode
Gift Guide - Women | Chelsea at Two Twenty One
DIY Gift Idea - Teacher Destiny at Just Destiny Mag
DIY Gift Idea - Bestie | Taryn at Design Dining and Diapers
Gift Guide - Men | Heather at My Life Well Loved
Gift Guide - Kids | Erika at The Slaughters
Stocking Stuffer - Kids | Jennifer at Life in the Green House
Christmas Pajamas | Ashley at The Vanilla Tulip
Kids Craft | Andrea at Momfessionals
Free Printable Kristin at Taz + Belly
Cookies for Santa | Molly at Stilettos and Diapers
Holiday Decor Tips | Mandy at House of Rose

What You'll Need:

Glitter-based acrylic paint for the actual prints
Red, Blue and Black paint markers for the eyes, nose and antlers
Sponge brush to paint the bottoms of your kid's feet
1 canvas
Your kid's feet ;)

What You'll Do: 

Pour a little of your paint into a dish and paint onto the bottom of your kid's feet using the sponge brush. Utilize an extra set of hands to help hold your child over the canvas as you press their feet down. Kids are wiggly. Try not to get upset if the prints aren't perfect. (Easier said than done, from one Type-A mom to another).

Let the initial prints dry before you use your paint markers to draw on your eyes, nose and antlers. 

Be sure to add the year and any additional flourishes you wish! I think I may eventually draw a string of red and gold beaded garland around the perimeter of our canvas as a little festive frame! 

What You'll Need: 

1 box of 6 glass ornaments (from Michaels, $2) 
Peeled crayons in various colors, broken or cut into tiny pieces (size we used is shown)
Ribbon embellishment

What You'll Do:

Simply remove the cap from the ornament and place your crayons bits inside- we did roughly four or five colors per ball (be careful not to use large chunks of the darker colors, they will overwhelm!)

Replace the cap and with your hairdryer on its highest heat setting, begin to melt crayons and swirl the ornament as you go. I would suggest wearing a glove for this part of the DIY because the ornament will heat up!

When done, simply tie up with ribbon as a finishing touch! This entire project cost us less than $10 and oh the way it twinkles and shines on a lit Christmas tree! 

Don't forget to enter 
to win $300 in cold, hard Christmas Cash!

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide for Boys (Ages 2-6)

I know. Another gift guide. You either love 'em or you hate 'em and during months as early as October, you're inundated with them. Kudos though to those bloggers who have their stuff together enough to compile a gift list before they throw their annual Pinterest-perfect Halloween party. I am not one of those bloggers. In fact, I'm only about 55% done with my shopping this year and yesterday I realized I bought nothing for the baby. #ThirdChildProblems 

That's why I'm thankful for those bloggers, who like myself, publish gift guides, no matter how early or late in the holiday season they might be because even though I've been shopping for boys for nearly six years now, sometimes I run out of ideas and could use a little gift-spiration.

This year we're really trying to stick to the Want/Need/Wear/Read formula of gift-giving. It's become quite apparent given the state of our playroom (and the family room, the living room and the boys' rooms) that the boys do not want for much, if anything at all and therefore they do not need an abundance of toys this holiday season. That said, each of them has gone through their current stash, selected at least 3 toys for the Annual Toy Purge and Church Donation and picked at least one special thing they've had their eye on that Santa is going to try his best to provide for them. 

The following gift guides are made up purely of things that my boys will be receiving this year for Christmas, give or take an extra idea or two for inspiration. Most, if not all of the items featured are less than $50 each and we really tried hard to incorporate lots of hands on toys and activities. (Not pictured are the last minute Hape drumsmini electric keyboard and toddler guitar that Santa picked up!)

Want | RC Quadcopter With HD Camera | RC Monster Truck XL  
Need | Portable Art Set with Carrying Case | Waterproof Art Smock 
Wear | Kids Duck Boot (Little Kid/Big Kid)  
Read | Books for Early Readers

Want | Paw Patroller 
Need | Minion Play-Doh Set | Water Wow Activity Sets
Wear | Little Boys Yellow Rainboots 
Read | Skippyjon Jones Books

Want | Count and Learn Cookie Jar | Little Tikes Car Carrier 
Need | Plasma Car (to keep up with his brothers!) | Divided Meal Plates
Wear | Pajamas
Read | My Big Board Books
 Happy Shopping!  
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