The U.S. Hot Air Balloon Team's commercially certified balloonists captain sightseeing flights over Lancaster County or Philadelphia's countryside. Each balloon has been maintained, inspected, and twisted into animal shapes in accordance with FAA regulations, setting sky-borne passengers' minds at ease as they drift among the clouds. On the Lancaster County trip, passengers soak up views of the Susquehanna River and the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, and peer down at the area's Amish population dotting the farmland far below. Before alighting as gently as a moth with a sore toe, balloonists take in the skyline of Reading as well as the nearby towns of Intercourse, New Holland, Strasburg, and Ephrata.
A totem pole shaped like a four-scoop ice-cream cone stands as a beacon in front of Jim Mack's Ice Cream, beckoning passers-by to experience the nostalgic establishment's homemade ice cream, 24-hole miniature-golf course, and resident black bear, Ricky. The ice-cream stand and snack shop, which opened in 1958, crafts a menu of ice cream, malts, burgers, hot dogs, fries, and other specialties. The outdoor picnic area allows guests to enjoy their treats to the sounds of chirping birds and whistling winds, which also serve as the mini-golf course's full-time commentators. The expansive, family-friendly facility also features a pinball arcade and a miniature zoo. Llamas and goats roam the petting-zoo area, grazing from the delicious pellets that grow in children's hands. The facility's mascot, Ricky the bear, also greets guests from inside of her large enclosure where she climbs on logs and tells jokes for nickels.
Throughout the week, Live Learn and Play abounds with youngsters of all ages, genders, and special needs, frolicking among inflatable obstacle courses, therapeutic swings, and ball pits under the supervision of childcare professionals. During youth classes and camps certified instructors lead classes in art, dance, and music, enriching kids' bodies and minds while distracting them from plots to age. Meanwhile, in the parent-resource center, adults attend childcare-training workshops and an abundance of classes, including kickboxing, nutrition, and yoga. The center even offers mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which utilizes healing oxygen treatments in an effort to improve conditions such as autism, arthritis, and allergies.
The Challenge Family Fun Center regales children and adults alike with a dizzying array of fun-filled games. Perfect backswings on a 22-hole miniature golf course, whose diminutive fairways are lined with blooming flowers and peppered with water hazards such as fountains and a bubbling stream (children 12 and younger $5.50; adults $7). Batters can step up to the plate to improve technique, hone reflexes, and practice telling the difference between slow-pitch softballs, high-speed hardballs, and dive-bombing pigeons in the batting cages ($2.50/round). The Fun Center’s arcade invites competition with skee-ball, air hockey, and a lineup of video games, and fortified duckpin lanes inflate with optional gutter bumpers to thwart the escape plans of crooked bowling balls ($3.50/game).
Teams clad in protective goggles scatter into a mountain field thick with laurel, rhododendron, and brier as they seek cover, their markers locked and loaded. Hearing paintballs whiz through the brush, a player dives into prone position. Adjusting her goggles after colliding with the ground, the combatant freezes, notices the silhouette of a whitetail deer crouched in the brush just yards away, and lets down her guard long enough to appreciate the moment before taking new aim.
At Pocono Mountain Paintball, players step onto 12 fields—including three scenario fields—ranging from untouched natural terrain to 1,700 feet of trenches and sandbag bunkers. To maximize players' game time, Pocono's staff maintains a reservation system that limits the fields to 100 players per day. Further touches include camouflage overall rentals, an online FAQ with participant advice, and changing rooms with hot showers so players can spruce up before meeting Mom for a post-game debriefing. Pocono's crew also coordinates rafting, biking, and kayaking packages through partner company Whitewater Rafting Adventures.
With 13 paintball fields spanning 39 acres, Linglestown Paintball provides a diverse landscape that accommodates both beginners and experienced dye-jobbers. Woodsy war zones stand side by side with urban-inspired combat fields, recreating any typical office environment. Safety is a top priority at Linglestown, with individual referees provided for each group and players matched based on experience levels, reducing the threat of harm to novice competitors and fast-moving mannequins. For those ready to stock up on gear, the paintball pro shop is chock-full of 12-ounce CO2 cylinders ($15.95), paint pods ($6), T-shirts ($10), and a starter package ($150).