Monday, November 5, 2018

Mister Rogers’ Trail Celebrates a Man and His Message

Fred Rogers
Fred Rogers gathers around the piano with his mother, sister, grandfather and grandmother
Fred Rogers may no longer be with us, but his memory lives on in the hearts of many. With the release of the “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” documentary, Rogers’ popularity has grown to include a new generation of fans. 

Fred Rogers' imagination was honed at a young age.  “I had every imaginable childhood disease, even scarlet fever. I had to make up a lot of my own fun,” said the iconic personality known best as the creator and star of "Mister Rogers Neighborhood," a PBS television series that ran from 1968-2001.

When television arrived on the scene, Rogers found himself watching with wide-eyed amazement on how the medium was being used. “I was all set to go to the seminary,” he said, as he observed people being hit in the face with pies. “This could be a wonderful tool; why is it being used this way?” he asked himself.

And the rest is history.

Traversing the Fred Rogers Trai
Fred Rogers
The Fred Rogers Statue in the James H. Rogers Park

Fans of Fred Rogers no longer have to be content to simply watch re-runs of his shows online. Today they can go on a journey to 12 destinations that celebrate the man and his mission.
Highlighted below are a few of those stops along the Fred Rogers Trail, which included his hometown of Latrobe, nearby Ligonier and finally Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Idlewild & SoakZone
2574 U.S. Route 30, Ligonier

Idlewild & SoakZone has been recognized by Amusement Today as “The Best Children’s Park in the World,” which is reason enough to schedule a visit. The fact that the original Mister Rogers Neighborhood of Make-Believe operated in the park from 1989-2013 is just icing on the cake for Mister Rogers’ fans. When the attraction closed in 2013, it was replaced by the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Ride, which uses the same trolley, tracks and several of the sets from the original show.

Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College
300 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe
Fred Rogers
Display panels at Saint Vincent College tell the story of Mister Rogers. 

A selection of sweaters worn by Mister Rogers is on display at the Mister Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College.

Fred Rogers
Exhibits at the Mister Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.

The Fred Rogers' Center is an interactive exhibit, which is open Monday through Friday and features a selection of Mister Rogers’ sweaters, all of which were knitted by his mother. Additional artifacts include puppets from the show, Rogers’ iconic sneakers, the Neighborhood Trolley and more. A series of panels follows his life from a small-town boy to a nationally known media personality.

Latrobe High School
131 High School Road, Latrobe

Fans of Mister Rogers may recognize the McFeely name. Fred was raised by James H. and Nancy McFeely Rogers and graduated in 1946 from Latrobe High School, where he served as yearbook editor and president of the student council. A collection of memorabilia celebrating Mister Rogers school years is open to the public during scheduled school activities.

Fred Rogers Statue in James H. Rogers Park
200 Main Street, Latrobe
The James H. Rogers Park, named in memory of Fred’s father, is located at the corner of Jefferson and Main streets in downtown Latrobe. There Mister Rogers awaits on a nearby bench to welcome visitors to sit and maybe even snap a selfie. The artist who worked on the statue was said to be so precise that he asked for the size of Mister Rogers’ clothes to create the most accurate likeness of the television star.

Senator John Heinz History Center

1212 Smallman Street, Pittsburgh

John Heinz history center
Exhibits Courtesy of the John Heinz History Center

John Heinz History Center

Brady M. Smith, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Senator John Heinz History Center, said that the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood exhibit draws visitors of all ages, attracting not only children, but parents and grandparents as well. “It is arguably the most popular display at our six-floor, 375,000 square foot museum,” said Smith. “When visitors walk in and see X the Owl’s Tree or King Friday XIII’s castle for the first time, they just light up with a sense of nostalgia that overwhelms them,” he added.
Smith said that Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on PBS has also spawned a renewed interest in Fred Rogers. “Many of the set pieces are featured in the cartoon, so it’s wonderful to see Fred Rogers’ legacy reaching new generations of fans,” he said.
These are but a few of the highlights along the Mister Rogers Trail. His timeless appeal lives on due to his simple message of love, which Rogers described as ‘the root of everything.’
Paul Siefken, President and CEO of Fred Rogers Productions, offers his take on why Fred Rogers’ appeals spans generations. “In Mister Rogers Neighborhood, everyone is welcome and valued. Embracing new experiences, respecting yourself as well as others, fostering curiosity about the world—these are timeless messages that will always be relevant for both children and adults,” he said.

To learn about all 12 stops along the trail and noteworthy detours, check out the Fred Rogers Trail page at

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Anxious for a Little "We" Time? The Poconos Await

Fall is a lovely time here in Pennsylvania. The weather is perfect for outdoor activities and the leaves enchant with a vibrant display of color. For those of us who dread cold weather, it's also a time to savor the remaining vestiges of autumn before we are forced to hunker down for what often seems like an interminable winter.
Autumn colors come alive in the Pocono Mountains (photo courtesy:
If you're itching to get away, fall is also a fantastic time of year to visit the picturesque Poconos. For decades the area has been known as a haven for romance and today it continues to attract its fair share of couples seeking a little "we" time.

Pocono Palace Offers Year-Round Fun 

The Roman Tower at the Pocono Palace includes a personal pool, a champagne glass whirlpool and a dry sauna. (Photo courtesy: Cove Haven Resorts)
Pocono Palace, located in Marshall’s Creek, Pennsylvania, has been welcoming couples for years and the helpful staff there have service down to an art. Guests can choose from among seven varieties of  spacious suites, which offer amenities like Jacuzzis, saunas, personal indoor pools and log-burning fireplaces. Rent a Roman Tower and you can have it all—a seven-foot champagne glass whirlpool for two overlooking the living room, (yes, that’s still a guest favorite), a glass-enclosed, heart-shaped pool and a dry sauna. 

The rooms may be impressive, but there's also plenty of outdoor activities as well.  Lisa Scaltrito, Guest Manager, said, “We offer paintball, laser tag, horseshoes, Frisbee golf, tennis, basketball, bocce ball, archery, horseshoes and badminton to name a few,” adding that many couples like to explore the acreage on golf carts, which are available for a small rental fee. 

Nature lovers can also traverse miles of trails by foot, or on mountain bikes, which are offered free at the resort.

For those who enjoy spending time on the water, beautiful Lake Echo awaits and is a short stroll from any room. Paddle boats, rowboats and SUP boards are available free of charge and are popular with many of the couples who appreciate the beauty and peacefulness of the lake and its surroundings.
Couples rent canoes, SUP boards and kayaks to explore Echo Lake at Pocono Palace Resort, especially during the warmer months.

Inside Entertainment

If the weather isn't exactly conducive to outdoor activities during your stay, there is always plenty to do indoors, from taking a dip in the heated pool, to visiting the arcade, or engaging in games like trivia and bingo to compete for cash and prizes.

Couples can walk from their rooms to the lounge for an evening of entertainment, which includes bands, DJs, comedians, magicians and even hypnotists, so there’s always something intriguing happening. Be sure to check the website to plan ahead.

Included in the fall specials are seasonal offerings like hayrides and donuts and cider in the lobby on Fridays.


A buffet breakfast and dinner are included in the price of the room and an onsite café offers sandwiches, drinks and wraps available for those in-between times when guests are hungry for a quick, casual bite. Those who are willing to venture off property will find several restaurants located just a short drive away.

The Pocono Palace is just one of three couple's resorts within the Cove Haven Resort family The other two properties are located in Mount Pocono and Lakeville, Pennsylvania.

Take a Side Trip to Bushkill Falls 

Bushkill Falls has been open to the public since 1904.

It would be a shame if you left the region without visiting the nearby Bushkill Falls. Known as the “Niagara of Pennsylvania,” Bushkill Falls was opened to the public in 1904 by Charles E. Peters. Today the falls are owned by the Charles E. Peters estate and leased and operated by Aramark.

The area features a total of eight waterfalls accessible via a series of steps and sturdy wooden platforms.  Be sure to wear comfortable shoes since some of the climbs can be challenging. You’ll pay a $14.50 entrance fee whether you take the easy 15-minute route to the main falls, or spend two-and-a-half hours hiking the most challenging route.

Food and drink are available at an onsite snack bar, although many choose to pack their own lunches and take advantage of the picnic area, which includes charcoal grills, pavilions and picnic tables.

Everywhere you turn, there is an opportunity for a photo-op, so don’t neglect to pack your camera.
The falls are open from April through November, weather permitting.

Here’s hoping you can find some time to enjoy the remainder of the season with someone you love. Remember, you don’t always have to wait for Valentine’s Day to plan a couple’s escape.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Art, Architecture, History and More in Fun Frederick Maryland

The clustered spires of Frederick.

This has been a very wet summer--I believe the wettest on record in our area, so I have been squeezing in activities while I can.

A few weeks ago, I decided to spend two nights in Frederick, Maryland, Frederick is a great walking city with plenty of independent shops, restaurants, an impressive art walk and the fascinating Civil War Museum of Medicine.

I was disappointed to miss out on a ghost tour due to a deluge, but I realize these are small problems compared to the rest of the country and was thankful that it only rained for a few hours one evening.

Luckily, I was able to swap out the ghost tour with a food tour before I left the following day. Tours, no matter what their theme, are always informative and local tour guides are happy to answer any questions that might pop up during the walk.

First Stop: The Frederick Visitors' Center
Although obvious, it sometimes bears repeating that the Visitors' Center should be your first stop for event schedules, brochures describing activities and maps to learn the lay of the land.

The Frederick Visitors' Center is located at 151 S. East Street, Frederick in a renovated warehouse that dates back to 1899. It is open seven days a week from 9 to 5:30 p.m. and touts 2,200 square feet of interpretive exhibits, along with a state-of-the-art theater that features a film about the area. Helpful Visitors' Services Specialists are always on duty to answer any questions.  They also validate parking, which is free for three hours at any of the area's five garages.

The Public Art Trail
What initially attracted me to the area was the Public Art Trail, which is in walking distance of the Visitors' Center. It did not disappoint

The first stop on the trail is The Delaplaine Arts Center located at 40 S. Carroll Street.
Bin Feng, a Shanghai-born artist displays his photos in "The American Dream" installation.
The free museum operates as a non-profit and is housed in a re-purposed mill that dates back more than a century. Their tagline: "Everyone Deserves Art," and it is provided abundantly with three floors of rotating exhibits featuring regional and national artists. During our visit, we experienced the thought-provoking work of Bin Feng, whose installation titled, "The American Dream" evokes the isolation he feels as a Shanghai-born artist living in America. His large-scale photographs possess a dream-like quality and he often appears in them as a dispassionate outsider.

Seven galleries of exhibits change monthly, so there is almost always something new to see.
A sculpture garden out back features contemporary art sculptures among the blooms.
sculpture garden
A sculpture garden is located behind the Delaplaine Arts Center.
art center
The Delaplaine Arts Center offers art classes, workshops and seven galleries of rotating artwork.
Located not far from the garden is the Iron Bridge traversing Carroll Creek Park. Created by David David Chikvashvili and Nikolai Pakhomov of Iron Masters, it highlights some of nature's wonders that can be seen in the area.
The hand-forged iron and steel bridge that crosses Carroll Creek.

Nearby is the spectacular trompe l'oeil mural, which was conceived and executed by Frederick artist William Cochran in 1993. He and his assistants used permanent silicate paints to create the expansive work on all six walls of the Community Bridge.
trompe l'oeil
"The Forgotten Song."

Trompe l'oeil
Tour guides have noticed birds trying to land on "The Unfound Door."

trompe l'oeil
"The Woman of Samaria."

"Archangel" depicts a painting technique called "anamorphic projection" a technique invented by Leonardo da Vinci where the image appears different at various angles. The painting's message? "Where we stand, determines what we see."

Hands holding the earth.


The artist's concept was met with quite a bit of controversy at first. It took years before the city was given the green light to go ahead and within a period of five years, the painting of the bridge was completed. The award-winning work of art is described as one that  "speaks with a communal voice." You can learn more about this impressive project by clicking on the video below.

More art awaits on the Stone-Arch Bridge crossing the Carroll Creek where zodiac-themed sculptures are installed on both sides. This is another work created by Nikolai Pakhomov, with the message that time, universe and humanity are connected.
zodiac art
Zodiac Sculptures
This statue is situated in front of the library and was created by George Lundeen. It depicts two children gazing over the shoulder of an adult as he reads the lyrics of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Nature's art plays a part as well, with plants that bloom in the creek that flows through the middle of the park. I believe I may have just missed a spectacular show, but you can see that a few plants were still blooming when I visited in early September. We spotted a few ducks as well.
trompe l'oeil
The bottom one is real.

Among the 4,000 plants are lilies, lotuses, water irises, reeds and cattail. You can see additional pictures and learn more about "Color on the Creek" here.

Additional works of art continue on buildings located downtown, like this depiction of The Frederick News-Post.
newspaper mural
Frederick News-Post mural
And no, the picture below isn't some 80's rocker belting out "Eye of the Tiger." The mural, also done by Cochran, is named "Edge of Gravity," and depicts a young man from 1745. The red, white and blue colors are to intended to evoke a 250-year-old dream of liberty, equality and inclusion.
levitating man mural
The Edge of Gravity.

Further along the way at 108 Church Street is "Guess," the Greyhound sculpture. Lore has it that the dog was named by the impish little girls who lived in the building after the Civil War, who, when asked their dog's name, would reply "Guess."
Greyhound sculpture
Guess, the dog statue is located at 108 W. Church Street
Along the same vein is this sculpture, a Newfoundland known as "Charity Dog," named for the work of the non-profit Federated Charities housed in this building at 22 S. Market Street.
charity dog
"Charity Dog" is located at 22 S. Market Street.
The last piece two pieces of art I'll share with you were painted by Cochran as part of his "Angels in the Architecture" series. 
trompe l'oeil
aging angel mural
The top painting is called"Egress," and is located at Second and Market. The second painting, also created by Cochran, is named "Earthbound" and depicts an aging angel overlooking the city.

Historical Sites

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine
It's easy to think we have it bad when it comes to pain and various ailments our society contends with, so sometimes a trip back in history is necessary to kick us in the pants and remind us of how blessed we are.

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine, which spans two floors, is both interesting and informative. Placards, dioramas and exhibits transport visitors to the Civil War time period and the rapidly evolving world of medicine.
A patient is sedated with ether.
According to Jake Wynn, Educational Programming Coordinator at the museum, the war took place in an interesting time when the Industrial Revolution was just underway. "Engineering, science and a whole host of other fields were just beginning to enter into their modern forms," he said, adding that many of the lessons learned on the battlefield were brought back to civilian life. Specialization emerged from the Civil War, from plastic surgery for treating disfiguring facial injuries, to dental surgery that came with the rebuilding of jaws and neurologists who specialized in treating head injuries.  Fun fact:  Half of the early brain surgeries performed by Civil War era doctors were successful!

Additional innovations that emerged during that period as a direct result of the war was the practice of embalming, females' roles in nursing, and the ambulance system.
Civil War Exhibit
A doctor peers into his medicine chest.
Our informative guide, John Lustrea, led us through the museum to provide us with an overview and answer our questions. There was quite a bit to read along the way, so I think I'll return at some point to delve deeper into more details. I appreciated seeing the Clara Barton exhibit and learning more about her as well. Not only did she found the Red Cross, but she was also instrumental in what would today be described as a crowd-sourcing effort to help connect soldiers' remains with the families seeking them.
Clara Barton artifact
Clara Barton's trunk bed.
Guests can also spend time reading about how various ailments were treated. One exhibit was dedicated to the treatment of  STDs which, I was told, were not uncommon during the period.

There is much to see, read and digest in this captivating museum, which provides insight into this sad, yet fascinating, pivotal point in our history.

The Museum of Frederick County History
The Museum of Frederick County History was once an orphanage and a private home.

The Museum of Frederick County History located at 24 E. Church Street, once served as an orphanage and private residence. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum is open to the public from Wednesday through Sunday and a changing selection of exhibits tells the story of Frederick County from Colonial Times to the present day.
An interior room of the Museum of Frederick County History.
Two floors of exhibits share details on Frederick County and its impact on the nation.

Signature events include walking and architectural tours. To learn more, consult their website for dates and times.

Before we left, we couldn't resist purchasing "The Diary of Jacob Englebrecht." Jacob served as mayor from 1865 to 1868 and began recording his day-to-day life when he turned 20. He continued to journal on a daily basis for 60 years. I might also add that it was quite the bargain at $25 for both tomes.
Jacob Englebrecht documents his life over a period of 60 years.

historical society
A children's room encourages interactive play for budding historians.

Visiting the Monocacy Battlefield
The Monocacy Battlefield  serves as a memorial of the battle fought between the Union and Confederate armies on July 9, 1964. 
The Monocacy National Battlefield Visitors' Center
Each year approximately more than 43,000 tourists visit the area to learn more about the Battle of Monocacy, where Union troops staved off an effort to take Washington, D.C. 

The Visitors' Center, located at 5201 Urbana Drive, is open daily from 9 to 5 p.m. and should be the first stop on your visit. There you can pick up maps and learn more before touring the fields. The two-story center opened to the public in 2007. The first floor contains a welcome area and gift shop and the second floor features interactive exhibits to help shed light on the soldiers, citizens and families who were affected by the battle. 

Guests can learn more about the battle through a self-guided automobile tour, which features five stops spanning six miles. Those who prefer to tour the area on foot can traverse six miles of designated walking trails.
Cannons seen from the balcony of the visitors' center.
Monocacy visitors' center
Learn about the Battle of Monocacy at the Visitors' Center.
A view of the battlefield from the balcony with interpretive signage.

Standing on the battlefield, it's difficult to imagine that the peaceful setting along the Monocacy River was once the site of a fierce and bloody battle to the death. This destination, run by the National Park Service, provides the public with the finer details of a fight that doesn't seem to get all much attention, yet is credited for saving Washington, D.C. 


The exterior of the Flying Dog Brewery on a cloudy day.
Frederick is home to its fair share of breweries and choosing just one was difficult. In the end, we decided to take a drive out to Wedgewood Boulevard to check out the place that could be described as one of the pioneers in the area's craft brewing industry. Flying Dog Brewery was founded in 1990 in Colorado and expanded into Maryland in 2006. Today it is the largest craft brewery in Maryland and the 28th largest in the United States.

Guests can sign up for free tours held Thursday through Sunday. Cards are available listing a number of flights available for tasting and guests can simply mark which ones they'd like to try. The night we visited, the place was hopping (pardon the pun). The tasting room was standing room only, so many patrons wandered outside with their refreshing libations to relax and socialize at the picnic tables, or stare at their phones. (Gotta stay real here.) A few patrons engaged in a friendly game of cornhole, while others lined up at the food truck on site.
tasting room
Flying Dog's busy tasting room.

Guests relax at tables out front.

Dining and Shopping in Frederick

Frederick is home to scores of independent boutiques and eateries and a few large-scale antique stores. We actually got lost in Emporium Antiques as we strolled through the maze of rooms.
antique shop
Emporium Antiques features scores of vendors.
Interesting decor items at Industrial Home Inc.
On the last day of our visit, we decided to learn more about the city and its food offerings by taking a "Taste Frederick" food tour. We met our guide and about 10 other friendly folks for a three-hour tour that took us through the town and into various eating establishments. Our first visit at Pretzel & Pizza Creations started with what was billed as a "turkey Reuben calzone," something I wouldn't have ordered, but ended up liking quite a bit. Other stops included Firestone's Market on Market located beside the restaurant we had visited the night before There we enjoyed a pastrami sandwich. "People come from miles around for these," said our guide.
Firestone's Restaurant
As we walked the streets, we learned stories of Frederick and its architecture, including interesting information about sisters that used to live in this mansion where top-chef alumni Brian Voltaggio operates a popular restaurant by the name of Volt.
Volt is located at 228 North Market Street.
On the tour, we sampled craft beer at Brewer's Alley, which has an interesting story that dates back to the 1700s. If that piques your attention, I've provided the link here.
Brewer's Alley is located at 124 N. Market Street.

We also took a stroll along the picturesque Carroll Creek to The Wine Kitchen on the Creek where we indulged in fried green tomatoes, wine and homemade cinnamon buns.
Shops and restaurants along Carroll Creek.

Inside The Wine Kitchen on the Creek.

Our last two shops included the North Market Pop Shop, which offers 400 types of soda, some with unusual names like "Always Ask for Avery's Totally Gross Dog Drool."  I am glad we weren't offered that flavor.

soda shop
The North Market Pop Shop offers 400 types of soda.


The last stop on our tour was Zoe's Chocolate Co. where we enjoyed a truffle sampling. Zoe's is a third-generation chocolate company that started in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania and expanded into Frederick. You can learn more about their story here.

Our engaging and knowledgeable guide prepares the chocolates for serving.
Well, that's more than I intended to write for this blog. Hard to believe I spent less than three days in Frederick. Perhaps this will be an enticement to set up your own visit to the area. One thing's for sure--you won't run out of things to do.