Fun In The Sun

Today I chuck my full-time job as at-home dad to share my article in The Baltimore Sun. One editor rejected an August pitch about how parents can survive the waning days of summer without eating their young, but he said a project with bloggers writing about cheap weekends still needed a Mommy blogger.

Ahem.

You mean a parenting blogger?

I’m one of four local bloggers in a package about the ultimate cheap weekend. See the Brady Bunch-inspired front page here or jump straight to my piece here.

A few ideas got cut for lack of space. Others are less timely as the weather cools. But file them away for next summer, because they were huge hits with my kids.

So here are the bonus ideas for you.

At no extra charge.

STREAM STOMPING

Nothing suits a warm fall day like a trip to Baltimore County’s Double Rock Park. Point your GPS to the corner of Texas Avenue and Glen Road in Parkville, and drive to the second play area in the back. In Stemmer’s Run, the wide stream down a steep slope behind the bathrooms, your kids can chase tiny fish, build dams and drop football-sized rocks into shallow pools. And like my 8-year-old son, try in vain to smash the tiny fish.

Meanwhile, you can marvel at the dense woods and wonder if you’re still in Baltimore. Teens might text their pals how lame nature is, but younger kids will probably go for this. Wear shoes you can get wet and swimsuits you don’t mind getting dirty. And don’t forget the bug spray and a change of clothes.

HOURS: dawn ’til dusk

8211 Texas Ave., Parkville, Md., 21234

BABY COWS

Answer at least one of your kids’ incessant questions with irrefutable proof and show them where milk comes from. Inside the shop at Perrydell Farm Dairy near York, Pa., which sells ice cream, baked goods and other dairy items, start your self-guided tour by looking on the wall to find papers with dairy farm facts. Out back in the “milking parlor,” watch workers attach machines to beachball-sized udders as cows give eight gallons of milk a day. Wait until the red doors open, then step around the storage tanks and stand your kids on milk crates to see.

Afternoon milking time starts daily at 3. Then children often like to help bottle-feed a dozen enthusiastic calves at 4 p.m. My kids jumped when they felt the calves’ tongues, which were muscular, ropy and sandpapery all at once.

Then sit at a picnic table as your kids run off their ice cream crazies in the corn maze for a while.

HOURS: 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday – Saturday; Sundays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

90 Indian Rock Dam Rd., York, Pa., 17403; 717-741-3485

BEACHES IN BALTIMORE

Don’t want to go take a hike? Head to the other end of Maryland and try the Hammerman area of Gunpowder Falls State Park. Just north of where White Marsh Boulevard meets Pulaski Highway, head four miles east on Ebenezer Road past Rump Shaker Farm.

No, really.

Halfway along the park’s 1.2-mile loop you’ll find ample parking, dozens of shaded picnic tables and a long sandy beach. Along this wide stretch of the Gunpowder River, a few miles north of where it joins the Chesapeake Bay, my children spent five hours in and out of the water, building sandcastles and harassing Canadian geese. For $3 a vehicle, there’s hardly a better bargain in Baltimore.

It was hard to get my kids to stop to eat – except the $1 a scoop ice cream at the snack bar, which also serves hot dogs, hamburgers and snoballs. Walking to the nearby watersports area – which rents kayaks and other water gear starting at $15 an hour – I saw the area needs better trash pickup. The best part: my 5-year-old daughter napped on the ride home.

HOURS: 8 a.m. to sunset

7200 Graces Quarters, Chase, Md., 21027

PICK YOUR OWN

Show your kids where food really comes from by visiting a PICK-YOUR-OWN FARM. (Find nationwide listings here.) For listings by county, scroll down and click on the map. Try our family favorite, Shaw Orchards, on the state line. Even as toddlers, my children could pick blueberries and strawberries — more landed in their tummies than in the buckets. This month, expect apples, pears and melons. Before you go, check online to see what’s ripe.

HOURS: Monday – Friday 8-6, Saturday 8-5, closed Sundays.

21901 Barrens Rd. South, Stewartstown, Pa., 17363, 410-692-2429

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