Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Tale of Two Field Trips

Two weeks ago (sorry, I am getting behind here!) we went with my Mom to check out the Hopewell Furnace Historical Site.

Last week we went with some friends to see Playhouse Disney Live in Reading.

Guess which one the kids liked better?

Hopewell Furnace! Wow!

And get this - we didn't even get anything in the gift shop (!)

Playhouse Disney Live was OK - but I think basically my kids are just too big for it. There was no plot to speak of. One hour total running time. And the "actors" were lip-synching along to a soundtrack of cartoon character voices.

Very pre-packaged. Very Disney-ish. Kind of blah.

The littler kids in the audience were very excited to see Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger. And Mickey of course. Gotta say I have never been a huge fan of the mouse (please don't throw things at me - just being honest!) cost a truckload of money to go, we were in mediocre seats, and I think my kids were most excited that they got to eat cotton candy ($10 each with a "free" hat (!))

In contrast, Hopewell Furnace was a far different experience. It is just up the road from home here. We have been driving past signs for it for years, but had no idea what it was.

It turns out it is an a historic iron producing site. The Furnace itself is a huge stone structure and "back in the day" they put iron ore (rocks) and charcoal into the furnace to melt the iron out and make things out of it.

I know that doesn't sound all that fun. But it is actually like a mini-Williamsburg. The Furnace was like a small town. There are houses where the workers lived, the "big house" where the owners lived, a barn, and the actual production facilities.

It is all completely beautiful (look at that picture!) and I bet in the Spring and Summer even better. It seems that they have live demonstrations in the summer, so we'll have to check that out.

The tour starts with a quick movie that talks about the history of the site and the iron industry. I know that sounds horrifically boring, but it really wasn't.

The kids got a scavenger hunt page of things to find during the tour. If they found everything they would get a "Ranger Badge". My kids are pretty competitive so they were totally into that.

They have a nice map and information so you can do a self-guided tour. There are audio recordings at many of the landmarks - the kids were very excited to find the buttons. Not so interested in hearing what they had to say - but finding the buttons was like a bonus part of the scavenger hunt.

There is a lot of outside space, so the kids enjoyed running around. We were basically the only people there, so I was OK with them doing that. No lost-in-the-crowd fears here!

We were there for probably about 2 hours. And the kids were into the scavenger hunt right till the end and completely thrilled with their badges. A hint for anyone who does go - look in the little museum in the gift shop - it is part of the scavenger hunt.

There was no admission charge for kids under 16 and adults were only $4. AND the kids were happy enough with the badges that I was able to drag them out of the tiny gift shop with no money spent. Whew!

So, somehow the lower cost, more convenient, interesting even for grown-ups, educational expedition was the big winner here. I can't tell you how much I LOVE that!


ceejay said...

Hey - Ali and Dan loved it there. Absolutely a trip worth doing!


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I think it's not far from here. We loved Williamsburg last year, so I bet we'd love Hopewell, too.