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Virginia Travelogue 6
Future of the Travelogue
Due to the end of Pebble Version, and a desire not to do too much rehashing of things I've already written about in this travelogue, things are changing a little. The date range for each page, for one. Also, there will be fewer entries. For example, since the previous travelogue, I've done a number of trips around the Virginia area. But all stuff I've written about before. Ocean City, Busch Gardens, etc. But there were no major changes compared to previous visits. So there probably won't be too many Virginia travelogue entries going forward, but here's a few for the year. (On a side note, the dates I actually post these things may be rather inconsistent depending on my schedule.)

June 26th (Monday): King's Dominion
I've visited, and written about, a few different theme parks in the area. Busch Gardens is my main one, though Connie and I usually take Zack to Dutch Wonderland every year, and I've been wanting to start going to Hershey Park a bit more. But there's still a couple of other parks in day trip range. In fact, I never visited the one closest to where I live, King's Dominion. Mainly, because it just didn't look as good as Busch Gardens.

That said, King's Dominion does has a full water park inside the main theme park. (There's a water park near Busch, but not in it.) And, as it turns out, it's actually the closest proper water park to where I live (there's a number of so called "water parks" but they're really nothing more than a pool and a couple slides). And now that Zack likes water parks, I figured it was time to give it a try. Though Zack and I actually went for the first time a little earlier in the year, before the water park section opened. However, we got rained out not long after lunch so I wasn't able to get a very good feel for the park.

Anyway, we headed back in June to check out both the water park and the park as a whole. Technically, King's Dominion isn't really a theme park since there's not much of a theme. The entry area is somewhat European, and some of the other parts of the park are lightly themed (the kid friendly Peanuts area and a sorta jungle expedition area being the only ones I can remember), but it's all pretty shallow. The park is fairly large, with a solid selection of rides and games. Not a lot in the way of shows or exhibits though. On the plus side, some of their roller coasters are pretty unique. Zack passed 48" in height this year we means he can now go on most rides and he really got into the roller coasters. He started out small but eventually built his way up to the big ones (including the ones in those photos).  I didn't even push him, he decided to do them all on his own, which was impressive. And since the lines were short he went again, and again, and again... After a while, I actually had to stop due to motion sickness and just send him on by himself...
Of course, the main reason I had wanted to go was the water park, and we spent a few hours there after lunch. It's surprisingly large with quite a lot of slides, play areas, and the like. Nothing particularly new or special, but the size and selection is enough to rank it above a lot of other water parks I've visited. However, I should note that the layout is kind of weird. The first area is smaller and rather self-contained and if you're not paying attention it's easy to miss a significant portion of the water park. There's also quite a lot of walking between areas, to the point where I'd probably recommend shoes or sandals (which I normally skip at water parks) due to the hot cement paths.
After Zack was finished in the water park it was back to the regular rides (that's when he really started going coaster crazy). Oddly enough, we actually did get rained out again...but not until about an hour before closing time so it wasn't a big deal. On a side note, sorry there aren't many pictures. I didn't carry my camera or phone around in the water park section and the rest of the time I was too busy with Zack to take many photos.

So how is King's Dominion? Well, in terms of rides, food, entertainment, and general layout and theme, it loses out to both Busch Gardens and Hershey Park. However, its water park beats them both (Busch Gardens doesn't have one, though they do own a separate one nearby; and Hershey's water park is nice but smaller). And, as far as I know, it's the biggest and best water park in the Northern Virginia area so that alone can be pretty attractive. Also, if you're a roller coaster fan, I'd say that King's Dominion is worth visiting at least once due to some of its more unique offerings.

As for me, I still prefer Busch over all, but plan to add King's Dominion to our regular family outing rotation, at least during the summer, so we can enjoy the water park.

July 25th (Tuesday): Lancaster Indoors
If you're been reading my travelogues, you know that we always do some family trips to Lancaster, PA. Primarily to visit Dutch Wonderland and Cherry Crest Farm. Neither of them have changed much (though Cherry Crest gets a new theme (bees this time) and a new attraction every year). A couple years back we also started going to Sight & Sound Theater (this year was an updated version of their old Moses show). All lots of fun, but nothing I need to write about again.

This year though, in addition to some day trips, I had one overnight trip planned. Just Zack and I though, since Connie didn't want to take the baby. Unfortunately, the weather forecast for our first day ended up being pretty bad (since I had already booked the hotel a while ago, I couldn't really change things). As a result, I decided to save my Dutch Wonderland tickets for another day (it's a good thing I had spent a few dollars extra for the "any date" option, and find some indoor things to do with Zack. Of course, if I had been there on my own, the selection would have been totally different, but here's some good indoor things for kids in the area.

First stop, Hands On House, a children's museum / play center that Connie and I actually visited once before a few years ago on another rainy day. It's got a nice selection of play areas (many of which are at least a little bit educational). If the weather is ok, there's also a moderately large outdoor area.

By the end of the morning, Zack had been through everything and was getting kind of bored so we moved on to location number two, Tiny Town. It's an indoor play town with a fire station, hospital, restaurant, castle, etc. for kids to run around, roleplay in, and the like. Pretty nice for what it is, though if the weather is ok I'd say that the Sproutsville section at Cherry Crest is an even better play town and you get access to the entire rest of the farm along with it.

We stayed there for half the afternoon before Zack again wanted to move on. But since we still had a couple of hours to kill before dinner, that meant one more stop, The Science Factory. It's another children's museum, which a science theme, and it's the most educational of the bunch. Actually, I'd probably say it was the best of the three as well and had some rather neat activities. Kind of wish I'd gone there first.

Finally it was time for dinner. Unfortunately, due to fire damage, the restaurant at Hershey Farm Inn (our usually dinning spot) is closed for a while so we tried out Miller's Smorgasbord, the other famous Pennsylvania Dutch buffet. It's a little fancier than Hershey Farm (though that might change once the new building is done) but has a fairly similar food selection. It's mostly classic American with some more unique Pennsylvania Dutch dishes thrown in. I'd say I still prefer Hershey Farm Inn (at least its previous incarnation), but they're both good and it's worth visiting at least one if you're in the area. Though do note that, like Hershey Farm, Miller's can potentially get some long wait times if you don't arrive early.

Fortunately, for our second day in Lancaster the weather was clear so it was off to Cherry Crest as planned. Which was just as good as always

September 10th (Sunday): Lego Discovery Center DC
I've visited (and written about) Lego Land in Florida, and I went to Lego Land California once as well (long before I started doing travelogues). But Lego also has Discovery Centers, which are sort of part way between a Lego Store and the full on theme parks. They're smaller, cheaper, indoor locations that combine a sort of mini park with a large store. I'd heard about them, but never been. However, one opened up near us in late summer so naturally we decided to give it a try.

One thing I should note is that Lego Discovery Centers are for kids. To the point where adults aren't even allowed inside unless they're accompanying a child (though the store is open to everyone, and there are occasionally special adult only events in the evenings). For kids though, the Discovery Center is one of the best indoor play areas in the region. After making a mini-figure (which you get to keep), you enter the main part of the center which features a number of Lego focused attractions. You can build cars and see if they can make it through various tracks, build a rocket then scan it and take it for a spin in a big space shooter game, take building classes from a resident master builder, watch 4D Lego movies, and the like. There's also some small rides and more normal play areas (all with a Lego theme, of course), and a Duplo area for the youngest kids. Of course, like all Lego parks and centers, there's also a massive mini-world featuring elaborate Lego recreations of famous landmarks and imaginary locations with tons of neat builds and hidden details. Add in a passable restaurant and a big Lego store (complete with some stuff you can't get anywhere else, albeit with slightly inflated prices) and you've got a great way to keep kids busy for a few hours. Even better, they have a reasonably priced annual pass, which drops down to ridiculously cheap if you're ok not visiting on Saturdays or certain holidays.

Zack loved the Discovery Center and I had fun there as well (though, even as a Lego fan, it wouldn't hold my attention too long if I was on my own). I got the pass so I'm sure we'll be visiting fairly often.

October 15th (Sunday): Cirque du Soliel's Echo
Cirque du Soliel started touring again last year after taking a couple years off due to lockdowns, but only with their old shows. You may remember that I took Zack to see Kurios (my second time) last year, and also ended up watching Alegria earlier this summer in Tokyo. But their newest show is called Echo and they chose Tysons Corner (where I've seen a few Cirque shows) as their second location, so Zack and I went to check it out (Connie often goes with me to Cirque, but she decided that, with the baby, it would be easier to skip this time). Echo is one of the shows that makes use of a unique prop, in this case a giant cube. It's not featured in every act, but they do some clever stuff with it. As I'm come to expect from Cirque, the story is rather vague, but the costumes and music are fantastic, giving everything a dream like atmosphere, and the main acts are amazing. Some were similar to ones I've seen in other Cirque shows, others were pretty unique, but they were all top quality with acrobats and performers that make you question the limits of what humans are capable of. While I wouldn't quite put Echo in my top three Cirque shows, it's another excellent addition to their line-up and very much worth seeing.

Virginia Travelogue 6

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