So many times you hear about all kinds of neat places to visit, things to see, all the while the people who live right there have never been. Since I’ve only lived here in central Pennsylvania for a little over a year, some of that can be forgiven, but there’s no time like the present to correct such things.
Monday I took off, so Dylan planned a sightseeing trip to two of our local points of interest: Indian Echo Caverns and ZooAmerica. Both are about and hour and a few minutes away, and just a few miles from each other, so we tried to get an early start.
We go to the Caverns at 10:30, and after a few minutes looking around the gift shop, we got our tickets for the tour. Ten minutes later they were calling for our group, A, to gather at the starting point by the playground. After a quick headcount, our guide began telling us a little about how far underground we’d be at what parts of the cave and where, in relation to the structures on the surface.
“Now is when we see if you’re in shape,” he joked as he led us to the long flight of stairs leading down the side of the cliff to the cave’s entrance (90 stairs, if I remember right). When we got to the bottom, he told us of the cave’s history, of the family who bought the property and from 1927-29 made paths in the cavern and opened it to the public in 1929. That wasn’t the best time to open a tourist attraction with the Great Depression, and the family lost the property to the bank. In the 40’s, a company bought the property and reopened the caverns to the public.
As with any cavern, it was filled with beauty, but with its own unique formations and lakes, its own challenges (flooding from the nearby creek, most notably from Hurricane Agnes in the 70’s and Irene a few years ago), and its own hermit, who lived there for some 19 years before he died…in the cave. It even has its own mystery: a small wooden box, covered in weird symbols that was discovered by a couple explorers. It contained all manners of old coins from literally all over the world. No one came forward to claim it, so it was donated to the Caverns and is now on display in the gift shop.
We hit up the gift shop for a couple things, then we were off to ZooAmerica in Hershey, PA. Now it’s not a large zoo, but all the animals there are from North America, and from my understanding several of the animals are rescues (to include one of the alligators and a mountain lion cub).
It was a beautiful afternoon, though a bit warm, and the only thing that was really irritating was the snack bar wasn’t open, I presume because it wasn’t during “peak season”. There were so many cool animals, the ringtails being Dylan’s favorite of the day. They were in the nocturnal exhibit, so a good picture was hard to get. There were three little ones that had been born on Christmas, and they were bundles of energy. They didn’t sit still for long, and spent their time pulling each other’s tail, chasing each other around, and climbing on their little obstacles set up in their area. Needless to say, they were adorable.
The bears were napping, one of them with his foot on the wall of the building as if holding it up, and the fish in their pond were some “slab”-sized gills and crappie that we would love to see at the end of our line. The prairie dogs had little pups who were the tiniest lil guys are were very cute. They had several owls and other birds of prey, to include a pair of bald eagles.
Altogether they had about 60 different animal exhibits, so it only took a couple hours to go though. I’d definitely like to go again, but as one of their early bird or night owl tours they were advertising. During those, you get to help feed a few of the animals, “touch a reptile, and hold a bird of prey!” I would love to hold one of those eagles.
When we left it wasn’t quite 4pm, so we decided to hop over (almost next door) to Hershey’s Chocolate World. Wow. It’s every chocoholic’s dream (and every dieter’s nightmare!). The smell of chocolate is everywhere, and there’s more chocolate candy than I’ve ever seen in one place before.
We went on the little free “chocolate tour” which tells you about how the chocolate is made, in part by three singing cows.
There were other attractions too, from a trolley bus tour to making your own candy bar. Perhaps next time we’ll have time for those. As it was, I had a lot of fun (not to mention peanut butter!) without breaking the bank, and the only downside was sore, tired feet by the end of the day.
But it was so worth it!