Unsupervised Play: Yay or Nay?

This post about Unsupervised Play is brought to you through a collaboration with myself and The Toy Association. All opinions are 100% my own.

This morning I was working from home and got to experience the joy of listening to my two older children as they were playing in my son’s room. The conversations they held sounded very “grown” – such as “make sure the baby has a clean diaper” and “I’ll cook dinner so you can take a break tonight”. Surely modeled after the example Greg and I give them, their simple act of playing house (with Evan’s firefighter house and characters) spoke volumes to me. They know how to play and we are teaching them good things. 

Where was Greg during this play? He was feeding the twins their breakfast in another room. Where was I during this play? I was working in my office across the hall from Evan’s room. Shock! Our kids were engaged in unsupervised play…and not only engaged in it, they didn’t have to be told to just go play!

unsupervised play

What is unsupervised play?

In our house, unsupervised play is any play that takes place when an adult isn’t in the same room. It challenges them to fight off boredom and to make up ways to interact with each other without the help or influence of us adults or technology. Honestly, it helps us to get our to-do lists and work done, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t listening/checking in. Unsupervised play is showing our kids that we trust them (and letting them know when they’ve broken that trust).

Unsupervised Play: Outside vs Inside

But what about when that play is outside and unsupervised? Again, all parents are going to have opinions. When The Toy Association posted the video below on social media, it gained many comments on the topic.

Things sure are different than they were in the 80’s and 90’s when I grew up, but we keep our boundaries pretty tight around here, too. As you know, we let them explore the wild but with our supervision. When they do get to go outside and have unsupervised play, I (imagine) they are pirates and princesses, braving the “wild seas” of our backyard. We have a fenced in backyard, but the kids don’t get to run out back whenever they want – we need to be downstairs so we can see/hear them.

Will that change as they get older? Honestly, likely. We’ll trust them more and give them a little bit of freedom. But for now, our unsupervised play will continue to take place within the four walls of our house where we can check in on them every ten or so minutes.

Tell me – what are your thoughts on unsupervised play in and outside of the home? 

I’ve teamed up with The Toy Association to help raise awareness around the vital role play has on kids’ lives and development. They are currently sharing this set of videos to bring awareness of some hot play topics to the table – head out and see what you think! Let’s help each other navigate the world of parenting.

Stay on top of your parenting game when it comes to play! Follow along with The Toy Association / Genius of Play on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Their website is full of creative ideas and advice on play – be sure to check it out!

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The Freeloader Child Carrier

*articles may contain affiliate links* This post about the Freeloader Child Carrier contains information provided by US Family Guide. I’ll be reviewing this carrier soon and will share my personal opinions with you then!

Where are my baby-wearing moms and dads? My hand is raised high, but my babies aren’t so much babies any more, so wearing them hasn’t happened as much as I’d like. Now that the twins are two, they’re bigger and less interested in being worn. But to be honest, sometimes it would make life so much easier to be able to wear them.

That’s why I am excited to be sharing information on The Freeloader child carrier with you – and soon you’ll get to see us using this carrier in action! Can’t wait to see how the girls do with it!

Freeloader

According to my friends over at US Family Guide:

The Freeloader is the First Child Carrier Built Specifically for Toddlers! It is a new, better child carrier. Compact, lightweight and portable, the Freeloader child carrier uses advanced materials and design to create a better experience for parents who love spending time with their kids.

Whether you are traveling by air, going to the zoo, or hiking with your little ones, the Freeloader is ready to help carry the load. When not in use, the Freeloader’s integrated aluminum seat folds up neatly to the size of a daypack. The Freeloader is a perfect fit for parents that want a lighter, more versatile carrier. The Freeloader features an easy-to-use, 5-point safety harness. The safety harness is specially designed to fasten securely and safely out-of-reach of your child.

The Freeloader provides wide, ergonomic shoulder and waist straps to evenly distribute your child’s weight to your hips and core. The contoured shoulder straps are adjustable and provide extra padding for comfort and support. Padding in the back panel and seat offers extended comfort for your child.

The Freeloader is small enough to carry-on and stows away neatly, making it perfect for air travel, road trips and more!

I can just imagine how this will revolutionize Greg’s Wildlife Wednesday hikes, can’t you? And for me, I’m excited to give it a try the next time we go to the zoo – Ava had me carry her far more than I expected (and she hates the stroller).

If you’re intrigued and can’t wait to see my review here on the blog, head over to the Freeloader Child Carrier website or find them on Facebook.

Bonus: My readers get to take 10% off your Freeloader Child Carrier when you enter the code “freeloaderfun” at checkout. Enjoy!

Tell Me: Did you baby wear your kiddos? When did you stop? Where was the coolest place you carried?

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Toy Tuesday: July 25

*articles may contain affiliate links* Today’s Toy Tuesday features swag from Blogger Bash: Find It (from the Toy Association), Green Toys Dough, and Kawaii Squeezies. Enjoy!

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Like Statues

Arianna and Evan have always loved visits to the Pittsburgh Zoo. On a recent trip, they acted just like statues as part of their journey through what’s become “the norm” for them.


If you ever have the chance to experience the zoo on a cloudy afternoon, late in the day – do it! We were there the day they brought the baby elephant out to public but just an hour after they’d closed up the elephant house to visitors. It was like a ghost town and we got to slowly mingle and truly enjoy our favorite parts of the park up until closing time.

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Blogger Bash NYC 2017

*articles may contain affiliate links* No matter what line of work you’re in, professional development is key! That’s why I packed up two small bags (more to come on that) and hit the road for New York City last week. It was time for Blogger Bash NYC 2017, a conference for bloggers who focus on baby, kid, and parenting writing.

blogger bash nyc

A Veteran’s View of Blogger Bash NYC

This was my third time embarking on the city for this conference, but my first time without Greg and the kids enjoying the sights while I worked. I road-tripped it from Pittsburgh with another ‘burgh blogger (I think there were five of us there in all) and we talked shop for the six hour ride.

(Pro tip – find yourself an accountability partner, no matter what you do for a living. It’s great to have someone to bounce ideas off of and to have someone hold you to goal setting and meeting!)

I knew going into the trip that the hotel we’d booked (The Jane) was tiny, hence the packing lightly. But one important thing came with me – my Converse. They were incredibly comfortable on my feet after I learned my lessons wearing dress shoes and sandals the last two years. (And they looked just fine with my dresses, don’t you think?)

anne geddes paint

Meeting Anne Geddes (the second time at BBNYC).

Once we got registered at the two-day event, it was time to catch up with some of my favorite fellow attendees (and find coffee). But first…we stood in line out on the Chelsea Piers in the heat – good thing I didn’t sweat too bad!

Turn Your Passion Into Adventure

The breakfast was sponsored by Armitron and featured a panel of moms who inspired us to do what we love and make it an adventure.

After having the discussions on our ride to NYC, I was really inspired by Sara Roberts of Elle Magazine who told us “stay in your lane”. It’s very easy to get distracted by what people to the left and right of you are doing (in any business). You need to focus on YOU and what works for your business. That’s big stuff right there! 

But we also want to work to “create a real community where people can connect” (Rebecca Dube of the TODAY Parenting Team). Since then, I’ve been really thinking about how to make this site more of that for parents (and maybe moving some of the more personal things to another space). I want to be a source for moms like me – and while I’m sure some of you get that from my thoughts, more of you might be interested in things to do in Pittsburgh with kids or you’re coming here for toy reviews. We’ll see if some changes I’ll be making prove this out! Feel free to take a moment and comment about what you’d like to see less and more of around here! 

Everyone on the panel was inspiring – this was a great start to the event!

Babypalooza

Even though I don’t have teeny tiny babies anymore (for those of you who were there in 2015, I am the mom who had twins strapped to me – they’re now two and done with being worn), I got a lot out of this event. There are some really awesome things coming for new moms and moms of babies/toddlers/early school aged kids!

As a sneak peek, my favorite things I’ll be using and sharing with my family/friends that new moms had a ‘lil something to do with these photos…


Yes, I’m baby wearing at a Babypalooza, AGAIN! This time the baby wasn’t real but was a prop to shw how Bridge the Bump can solve the common prego-problem of buying a new coat for the 3-4 months that the belly is present…then to turn it into a solution for baby wearing moms (and dads) once baby arrives! I’m really excited to tell you more about this in an upcoming post.


This Austlen stroller is a DOUBLE STROLLER. I know, right? It’s so compact and is like a swiss army knife with all the ways it can be configured. With one of these, our travel with a stroller in tow would be solved (as long as the girls stay under 35 pounds). Hopefully more to come about this beauty!


When cold season hits, I’m going to be armed with Oilogic to make the stuffy noses and tough to sleepies go away!


OK, take all my monies. You guys know me and clean eats. Well, Tickle Water is going to be added to my list of musts – and I’ll have my own private stash that the kids won’t know about!

This was just a SAMPLE of all the amazingness that I saw at Babypalooza! And if you’re my friend on Facebook, you might have noticed that Zulily did a photo shoot and got me a fancy new headshot!

CE Week

The conference included a private tour of CE Week, a tech show. There were WAY too many booths and too much cool stuff at that event to cover in just two short hours, so I made my way back over there on Thursday after the last official event wrapped up. While I didn’t take too many photos, I did get to see some super cool techie things like home security systems, at home vision screenings, carbon monoxide alarms, laser hair growth stimulation, smart pillows, and adaptive technology. Really cool stuff that will hopefully make it here for Tech Tuesday features!

Sweet Suite

I almost feel like The Biggest Night of Play needs its own dedicated post. During this four-hour event, I got a sneak peek at all the hottest toys coming this Christmas. I’m going to share my list of things you’ll want to get your hands on in a future post, but here’s an idea of what to be ready for:

  • Slime, slime, slime!
  • Squishy collectibles
  • Science (STEM/STEAM) kits
  • Throwbacks – Teddy Ruxpin and Cabbage Patch (I AM IN LOVE)
  • Dolls

There’s no way I could sum this up with words, so a collage will have to do. Trust me.

Sweet Suite

And after four hours of play, these ‘lil piggies were exhausted!

Toy Association Breakfast

The last day of Blogger Bash started off with a trip to the Toy Association’s office to talk about toys and toy safety. Because I took three pages of notes and am a rule following mama, I want to give you some tips in another post; however, if you don’t make it back here to read that one – I ask you to – Have Fun and Play Safe!

Stuff for Moms and Dads Expo

The final event (tears!) was the CPE Stuff for Moms and Dads Expo. While there weren’t as many brands here as other events, I took full advantage of getting to know the items that were showcased. I spent three hours learning about things that were going to make my life as a mama better so I could be more for my kids. Interestingly enough, my favorites all had a good fitness/wellness spin to them:


Pea Protein Powder from Growing Naturals could easily become my newest post-workout fuel. (Truth be told, I might have been swayed by the vodka they mixed with it for our “coping cabana” theme; however, this wasn’t “textury” or tough to swallow, so it sat well with me.)


Hero Clean is going to kick my clothes’ butt. Ever since starting YFit, my workout gear reeks like the Chatham College Hockey locker room – ugh!


Laguna Blue – The Smarter Towel – would be a great addition to our summer routine. Greg is taking the kids swimming every weekday, so that’s five towels that maybe don’t get 100% dry before the next swim. Eco-friendly and bacteria resistant = piece of mind!


Touchpoints are a cool new technology to help with anxiety and stress. These bands help calm the fight of flight feeling!


The one product I got to take home with me was a pillow from Snuggle-Pedic. I’ve been sleeping on this “Ultra-Luxury Kool-Flow® bamboo shredded memory foam pillow” since getting back to my own big bed (again, more on that later!) and have had some really great nights of sleep! 

Do it again?

If I got selected to attend again next year, you’d better believe I’ll find a way to get there! Blogger Bash NYC is my favorite blogging event – and not just because we are super spoiled with things like the swag box that ships to our homes. The coordinators are awesome, the event space is incredible, and the brands are ready and willing to showcase the best of their best. It’s a win-win for everyone.

If you’re on the fence about a blogging conference in 2018, don’t think twice – add BBNYC to your list of musts!

Did you go to Blogger Bash NYC this year? I’ll be linking up, but feel free to share your thoughts with me here, too.

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Experience NYC at Night with THE RIDE

*articles may contain affiliate links* This post is brought to you by THE RIDE.

It’s been a week since I got home from New York City, but I’m stuck in a New York State of Mind. It was refreshing to get some time away by myself – albeit blog work time – and to take in the city for the first time on my own without Greg. We talked about safety and security before I left, and one thing I promised was not to be out roaming around at night. That’s why I was really excited when I found the best way to experience NYC at night – taking a tour with THE RIDE!

The Ride NYCYou might remember that last year the whole ‘lil Burghers family took THE TOUR – the tamer, more family-friendly daytime option with The Ride. This trip was similar in that it was on the same type of bus (a $1.5 million double-decker bus turned into an entertainment stage) and took us through some of the same sights, but I laughed probably 10x more on THE RIDE (probably due to the more adult-geared humor).

The Ride: The Best Way to Experience NYC at Night

Not saying I was nervous to walk the streets of New York, but I did want to listen to Greg. I was traveling with my friend Rachel (a fellow blogger) and as we’re both moms, we agreed that roaming the streets alone probably wasn’t a grand idea. Instead, we roamed the streets in a comfy seat with air-conditioning blowing on us!

We started our 75-minute journey just outside of Times Square on 42nd street as the sun was setting over the city.  After we got introduced to our guides Jackie and Scott, we got to know “The Ride” a little better. (The bus is named THE RIDE.)

From our second-story street view, we got to experience the city above the hustle and bustle that started to take over. As the lights came up, the people came out! (We rode through Times Square twice and the first time it had just started to get crowded – but by the end of the ride it was jam packed!)

One of the skits we got to stop and watch was the ballerina – you’ve probably seen an ad for this experience with a dancer in daylight. But at night? Her skirt is lit up and she twirls around Columbus Circle. It was moving – and I’m not sure if it was the fact I finally was “relaxing”, but I cried!

Seeing Bryant Park, the Chyrsler Building, and the (in the distance) Freedom Tower lit up was pretty incredible, too!

Why Be Like a Tourist?

With over 61.8 million visitors a year (20.6 million of them coming to NYC between Thanksgiving and New Years), there’s definitely more than one reason to visit. Taking on tourist attractions like the highly entertaining THE RIDE can also be educational. (For instance, I found out that M&M’s world is the most visited Times Square shop.)

Because of attractions like The Ride, you get a chance to “see it all” without worrying if you’re walking the right direction or putting our trust in an Uber. Who wants to celebrate New Years in Times Square? (Ok, I do, secretly.) If you’d rather not be all crowded, you can experience that right here on The Ride!

Click “Play” to Countdown with us!

And you never know when you will become part of the show – Rachel and I got a rap shout-out during one of the stops!

Thanks for enjoying THE RIDE with me, Rachel!

Know Before You Go

Here are some logistics to keep in mind:

  • The Ride is for ages 6+. If you have little ones, take The Tour!
  • The Ride has daytime and evening options. (The Tour is in the daytime.)
  • Print your tickets at home or pick them up at a gift-shop about 2 blocks away about 30 minutes before your trip starts (or earlier if you are in the area).
  • You can’t take food or drink on The Ride (water is okay) and there is no restroom on the bus (or in the area where you get picked up unless you’re eating at a restaurant nearby).
  • The Ride picks up and drops off at the same location.
  • If you have motion sickness, be prepared that the bus has you sitting sideways to look out at the street. There are also windows above you and multiple lights/LED screens as “moving parts” of the show. (Or bring yourself some motion sickness meds!)
  • You can buy tickets online or even package them up with some other NYC experiences.
  • There are special holiday versions, too!

If I didn’t get you in a New York state of mind, maybe this last skit will help you make up your mind and check it out!

Have you been to NYC? What was your favorite thing to do? Did you take The Ride?

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On The Move: Tips for Families to Minimize Stress When Moving

This post is brought to you by Northwood Realty Services and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own. When I think of the most stressful times in my life, moving easily trickles to the top of that list. Yes, even our wedding day or having twins is beat by the times I’ve moved. Is there really a way to minimize stress when moving?

Minimize Stress When Moving

The thing is, I’ve moved a lot in my life. Moving kind of was my “thing” for a long time. It didn’t bother me in the least, probably because I grew up moving every three to four years as a preacher’s kid. It became part of my blood, something I expected. But just because it was my “norm” doesn’t mean it was easy.

In the time that Greg and I have been together, I’ve moved five times (back to Pittsburgh, down the street to our first rental together, to our first house, to my parents’ for an interim stay between our closings, and to our current – and hopefully forever – home). That’s a lot in a span of eight years, and every one of them was with kids, four of them with dogs. You try to hold it together and keep your sanity so the kids don’t get all worried about the move, but it’s nearly impossible when you’re dealing with schedules and rental trucks and trying not to break precious household items. (And sometimes when you add being pregnant to the mix, it’s just 100x more stressful!)

Luckily, I recently found out that the things I worry about when moving aren’t things that I make up in my head. If you’ve ever had to move (or buy or sell a home), you’ve likely felt these same things. At least that was the case when I got the chance to sit down and talk with fellow Pittsburgh-area bloggers and Northwood Realty Services about the huge life event of moving. We talked about our experiences and personal challenges then came up with ways to minimize stress when moving as a family.

Families on the Move: Tips to Minimize Stress for Moving

Okay, so you’re ready to move from your current home and into your dream home. What gets packed first? What do you pack last? Who do you have help sell the home? Who will be there on moving day? Before you start to fret, here is a list of tips that Northwood Realty Moms (both Realtors who are moms and mom bloggers) came up with to make it less stressful:

Can you tell which tips resonated with me? Here they are:

  • Time house showings for when you know your house will already be empty. We did this when we sold our home in Tarentum – put the sign up in the yard then booked it for Aruba. Thing is, we left Greg’s mom and dad to handle the Bigs and the Dogs for a slew of showings that happened while we were away. Maybe all the family should go on vacation!
  • Make your new house a home. First thing Missy and I did when the guys were off getting the last load of things from my brother’s garage (in our current home) was set up Arianna and Evan’s rooms. I then texted my mom a picture so the kids could see – their beds and packed away special friends were waiting for them to arrive the next day!
  • Don’t overlook selling over the holidays. We didn’t buy or sell over the holidays, but in both I was able to envision the Christmas tree. I can’t even begin to imagine how amazing both would have looked trimmed for the season and how much more in love with them I would have been (if that is possible).
  • Help ease transition to a new school. Arianna went to three different schools her kindergarten year. If she wasn’t such a resilient kiddo, there’s no way I would have embarked on that! We would have moved in the summer or at the end of Christmas break. Hands down. (Next time we move will be after the Twins graduate! HA!)

Families on the Move

So moving with kids (or babies in the womb) isn’t the easiest, but there are plenty of stories from the women who contributed to this infographic – we’ve all survived and I think most of us would do it again for the right house at the right time. I’m not suggesting that Greg and I up and move again anytime soon (our family and friends who bear the load when we move are thanking me), but I know that if the time comes again we’re seasoned and will make it through.

Have you or your family ever moved? What tips and tricks would you add to this list (including buying/selling ideas) to minimize stress when moving?

About Northwood:

  • Northwood Realty Services is one of the region’s largest real estate service providers, serving customers across 30 counties from 39 offices in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio.
  • Since 1956, Northwood has earned a reputation for integrity, accountability and hard work. Guided by these principles and a desire to serve others, Northwood provides its clients with full-service real estate solutions that cover every step of the buying and selling process.
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Wildlife Wednesday: Attack of the Mayflys!!!

The kids and I were coming home on a particularly balmy Friday evening last week and drove into what looked like a scene from a horror movie. As we crossed the bridge into town, we noticed a dense fog ahead. As we got closer, the fog seemed to dance…it was alive and all of a sudden it engulfed our van. What appeared to be a supernatural weather event, was in fact an enormous Mayfly swarm!

 

Mayflys are harmless winged insects which actually spend the majority of their lives on the bottom of lakes and rivers feeding on algae. Then, as if on a timer, they grow wings, emerge, and swarm together. In a matter of a few days they will molt (shed their skin), mate, then lay eggs and die. We were lucky enough to stumble across this incredible display of nature, so of course we had to stop and check it out!

Some of my local folks may have actually been down at riverfront park enjoying movie night, so you probably experienced this first hand. We parked behind a vehicle which was directly underneath a street light and was absolutely covered in mayflys! They were definitely attracted to light.  I was in awe at the sheer number of insects. The sound of thousands of wings was incredible. There was also a notable “crunch” as cars ran them over.

 

Evan and I decided to get a closer look and wandered underneath some of the lights. We were immediately covered in mayflys. It is definitely not a feeling for the squeamish. I fought back a slight panic as they began flying down my shirt and up my shorts. I have heard that if you are lucky, you may actually have one land on you and molt, leaving behind a perfect shadow of its former self.

It’s kind of beautiful and sad if you think about it. These creatures, as well as many other animals, basically live for one purpose, reproduction. It reminds me of the Salmon run. Animals so driven by a primal instinct to perpetuate their species, knowing that they may never even reach their goal, but pushing forward nonetheless.

Mayfly swarms, or hatches as they are often called, are a good sign; they are an indicator that despite what I may think, our river is actually pretty clean and the eco system is healthy. I feel honored to have witnessed such a miracle of nature, thankful that I was able to share such wonder with the kids, and hopeful that the mayflys will be around to invade our shores for years to come.

Until next time, happy herping ya’ll!

 

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Toy Tuesday: July 18

*articles may contain affiliate links* This edition of Toy Tuesday is going to bring you some fun toys we recently got to check out thanks to our friends at The Learning Journey and The Toy Insider’s Sweet Suite. We love getting a sneak peek at some of the coolest toys out there!

Find It! Dinosaurs!

The Learning Journey has a line of “Puzzle Doubles” which include a 50-piece 2’x3′ floor puzzle that once completed becomes a matching game. It’s recommended for ages 3 and up (and admittedly my 6 and 8 year olds put it together in no time, so Evan says it would be best for 3-5 year olds in his opinion). The pieces are big and sturdy, but they’re also beautiful when put all together.

Once the puzzle comes together, use the included cards to find the matching object on the puzzle. There’s either a picture or a word to match to the images on the puzzle’s border. The Bigs tried to use the words then confirmed their guesses with the picture on the back (making this a fun challenge for your older learners).

Puzzle Doubles are available online (get the Dino version HERE) and retail for approximately $14.99.

Disney Junior’s Puppy Dog Pals & Dreamworks’ Spirit Riding Free

The Bigs love getting blind bags, so of course they were excited that Just Play Toys sent me home from Sweet Suite ’17 with a set of blind bags from some of the most popular kid’s entertainment brands out there today. We checked out a cute dog crate from Puppy Dog Pals and a miniature horse pen from Spirit Riding Free.

These toys are coming out soon – keep an eye out!

Check out what the kids thought here:

What are your kids loving in the toy space right now?

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Road Trip Idea: Darien Lake Theme Park

*articles may contain affiliate links* This summer, are you and your family going on any road trips? We’re planning one to Darien Lake Theme Park in New York. This theme and water park is just a short four hour drive from Pittsburgh with plenty of fun for the whole family to have.

Darien Lake Theme Park

US Family Guide provided us with some information on what makes Darien Lake Theme Park a great place to visit:

Darien Lake’s wide variety of entertainment has made it “destination fun” since 1964. Located 45 minutes from Niagara Falls between Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y., today the park boasts more than 50 rides, including six world-class roller coasters; dozens of family-friendly rides; the region’s largest water park complete with wave pool; a 20,000-seat performing arts center, operated by Live Nation; and world-class in-park entertainment.

There are rides for the thrill seekers and rides for the kids. If you’re a coaster fanatic, the Viper is celebrating it’s 35th year – making it older than me!

Darien Lake Viper

Have you been to Darien Lake Theme Park before? (I have, with youth group many years ago!) We might even do some camping along with our visit (tickets are included if you camp!), or even glamping! Visit their website (darienlake.com) to schedule your visit today. (Tickets are free for 2 and under and start at 29.99 for 3 and up.)

Need some Road Trip Packing Tips? Check these out!

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