School calendars countywide have wound down, meaning that as summer settles in, it's only a matter of time before parents hear that familiar whining chorus: "There's nothing to do."
Fortunately, our area has plenty to keep the boredom at bay. Try these Top Ten Local Hot Spots for Family Fun:
- Within the historic treasures of Valley Forge National Historical Park are plenty of opportunities for summer fun for children. The park provides an extensive network of paved trails ready for biking, hiking and horseback riding. Its 3,500 acres of open space are perfect for kite-flying or picnicking. And what kid doesn't like getting a little wet? Youngsters can join the Crayfish Corps and work with National Park Service staff to remove a species of harmful crayfish from the Valley Stream ecosystem.
- At Arnold's Family Fun Center, kids can zap each other in laser-tag, race friends on go-karts, "spare" their siblings no mercy at bowling or challenge mom and dad to a mini-golf tourney, all indoors, regardless of weather. Parents can connect with classics from time gone by - air hockey and an array of classic video and pinball games, for instance. What better way to impress your offspring than a high-score displayed for all to see?
- Elmwood Park Zoo has 300 animals from across 100 species, grouped across 16 acres by habitats that include grasslands, wetlands, woodlands and bayou. Giraffes Jukuu and Dhoruba have settled in nicely to their temporary residence in Norristown; they are available for daily hand-feeding, quite a thrill for kids both little and big. Through Elmwood's summer camp program, your zealous zoologist can go behind the scenes and witness animal feedings, training and care first-hand.
- If your brood likes the thoughts of "roughing it," schedule an overnight camping trip to Green Lane Park, where the canopy of trees and the closeness of the Reservoir and Deep Creek Lake offer cool respite from summer's swelter. Boating, fishing and hiking are plentiful and beautiful. The amphitheater has an ongoing schedule of weekend concert and educational programs.
- Your budding Botticelli can explore art in a whole host of forms at Abington Art Center. Its Summer Arts Camp provides week-long activities themed to puppetry, music, science, self-exploration, and international crafts. Tuesdays and Thursdays begin with pottery and, to ensure that things don't get too regimented, move onto free-form creativity.
- If those summer thunderstorms threaten on a Thursday, amble over to Ambler and take in the Stoogeum. This three-story mecca of madcap houses thousands of items of Three Stooges memorabilia, from props and costumes used by "the boys" to mint-in-box displays of their related merchandise, including toys, games, puzzles, matchbooks, records, shot glasses, breakfast cereal, puppets and even bowling balls.
- At the John James Audubon Center, information conservation and birding are brought to kids in hands-on, interactive ways, including the opportunity to draw our fine feathered friends. The center also offers canoeing on the Perkiomen Creek, where expeditions begin with instructions for landlubbers and include naturalist guides to lead the tours.
- Ask a little one where milk comes from. If the answer is "the refrigerator," it's time to visit Merrymead Farm and get the lactic lowdown. Merrymead hosts Holsteins that supply national-quality award-winning milk, and the entire milking process is explained in the "Moo to You" tour. Best of all, the fresh dairy at Merrymead finds its way into the products sold onsite, including 32 flavors of ice cream.
- Spring Mountain Adventures will pound the pulse of the playful with mountain biking, geo-caching and zip-line canopy tours. Spring Mountain was the first ski area in the U.S. to install a zip-line canopy tour for year-round thrills. Its zip lines have been recalibrated for 2013 to now be one of the fastest (but safest) courses around.
- Longing for the links of a challenging miniature golf course? Tee's Golf Center has two 18-hole setups that have been landscaped to the hilt: Granite boulders found onsite were used to create two grand waterfalls overflowing into rolling streams. A driving range, golf lessons and batting cages enable you to tee up a full day of fun.
The summer season means extra daylight, giving you plenty of time to kick back with the kids. But don't dawdle. The first day of school is only about 77 days away!