Over the course of 48 hours last week, we felt both ends of the experience spectrum that we’ve come to know on this trip.

On Thursday, we set out for Diggerland USA, a construction theme park in West Berlin, New Jersey. We have been waiting for this day for a really long time, long before we even planned to do this trip. Lowell has been infatuated with all things construction or “Mighty Machines,” as he calls them, since he was old enough to push a toy truck.

Kids often go through phases, loving something deeply one month, then abandoning all the toys Santa brought them to celebrate that joy the next. Lowell has certainly gone through his fair share of phases- Thomas The Train and Jake And The Neverland Pirates come to mind. Mighty Machines, however, have stuck. This entire theme park where he can actually operate REAL construction equipment has remained high on our family bucket list for years because of this.

I worried we ran the risk of over-selling this whole experience, both to him and to ourselves. We’ve set ourselves up for disappointment before in the past. Luckily, this day totally lived up to the hype and our expectations.

From the minute we arrived until the minute we left (after shutting the place down), it was incredible, not just for Lowell, but for the whole family. It’s not that common that one experience brings real joy to every person in this family of 6.

I really tried hard to soak in the whole day. Lowell’s happiness was radiating.

And even the big kids found themselves having a great time.

Time was on our side because not only was Lowell big enough to enjoy nearly every ride, but Wallace was just exactly 36″ tall, meaning he was tall enough to ride several rides with an adult.

While not a National Park or a museum or any place of historical significance, this was the kind of experience I envisioned for us- a place we might not otherwise take the time and carve out the resources to visit, a place that would have a lasting impression.

Diggerland USA gave us free tickets to the park, and if it wasn’t more than an hour from our RV park, I’d probably buy tickets and go back for a 2nd round of fun this week.

Since it was a bit of a drive from our RV park in New Jersey, and close enough to Philadelphia that we could hop on over there for a 2nd day adventure, I reached out to one of Diggerland’s partner hotels- Hyatt Place in Mt. Laurel, and they offered to put us up for the night in one of their suites.

Hyatt Place is one of the few hotels that comfortably sleeps our family of 6. The room had 2 double beds and a pull-out sleeper sofa, giving us plenty of room to pair off and get a good night’s rest.

After some of the kids took advantage of tub time while the others binged on Cartoon Network.

We began the next day with a wonderful, big breakfast. It’s free at Hyatt Place locations when you are a member of their free loyalty program- Wold Of Hyatt. 

The Hyatt Place, Mt. Laurel GM told me the Hyatt Place brand recently revamped their breakfast to offer cleaner ingredients, many locally sourced. The quality was above and beyond any free breakfast we’ve had at a hotel this year. And if we had gone out to eat, we could have expected to pay at least $50+ on feeding our family of 6 a breakfast like this.

I found this note on the desk as we were packing to head out. Leyna, like the rest of us, really liked that place- Hyatt Place.

Our 2nd day wound up being a far cry from anything I’d call magical. I want to say, though, that Philadelphia- the city- was lovely and fine and I’m sure is a fantastic place to live and visit.

We forgot the stroller, and it was raining, and we had to look hard for a parking spot for our dually truck…

And Scott didn’t realize you had to arrive early to get tickets to Independence Hall. They were all out for the day by the time we got there.

We still did some other Philadelphia experiences because we paid $25 for parking, but it was trying and exhausting. The thing about doing this life is we have a life to live in between these stops. What I think some people don’t quite understand is that planning out all these stops and experiences could be a full time job. So sometimes we look up and say, “Oh darn, we need to get to that place, like, tomorrow, or we won’t get to go there at all.”

And sometimes we make it happen, but it’s not always a well-researched day of fun. It’s a lot of improvising and working with the time and limited resources that we have.

So that’s what Philadelphia wound up being. I would have loved for it to be a full day of meaningful experiences. There is SO MUCH to learn about and learn from there. We will have to settle for the few connections we made for now.

For what it’s worth, Leyna was really excited to learn more about Benjamin Franklin since she just wrapped up a history unit about him.