It’s Hot … Get Wet!

The dog days of August are here! If you’re looking to cool off, there are plenty of options beyond a community swimming pool. Here’s a look at some “hot” spots that I found.

Growing up I was at the mercy of New Holland’s public swimming pool. For those who never got a chance to cool off in that relic of a pool, it was notorious for leaving brush burns on bodies, the victims having met its rough, sloped, concrete sides. Jammed fingers were also a hazard for those not keeping their eyes open under the water while approaching the sides.

For those of us who do remember it, the old pool is more of a nostalgic rite of passage than a fond memory.

I’m glad to say it was filled over years ago and replaced with a much nicer facility in the same park. Like New Holland, many communities have upgraded their pools and have added such amenities as slides, fountains and sprays, as well as concessions that are beyond sticky shaved ice, rubbery pizza and soggy hot dogs.

Big Fun

Just over the county line – in Lebanon – you’ll find one of the area’s most popular swimming attractions. I think almost everyone has spent a summer day swimming at Mount Gretna at least once in their life. While its official name is Lake Conewago, locals and visitors alike have always called it Mt. Gretna Lake, hence it goes by the name Mt. Gretna Lake & Beach. The place has changed a lot since I first visited as a little kid.

Billed as a family-owned and -operated swimming and recreation facility, Mt. Gretna Lake & Beach is more than just a place to take a dip. The lake features a 300-foot sand beach area with specialty zones cordoned off for little ones and lifeguard service. There is a water swing, a high-dive platform, and a large wooden dock for adventure seekers to enjoy. The full-fledged mini-resort also offers tube, kayak and canoe rentals. (Leave the balls, frisbees and other projectile-type games at home; pets are also not permitted.)

Back on land, there is a spacious grassy area for families and groups to set up camp – picnic food, beverages (non-alcoholic), coolers and grills are permitted. A shaded picnic grove with tables is the perfect place to enjoy a meal in the great outdoors. A snack bar is also on the premises.

If a picnic or cookout isn’t your thing, a brand-new brewery has opened nearby. Mount Gretna Craft Brewery just started offering their brews to the public in their taproom and eatery at 2701 Horseshoe Pike (Route 322) in Palmyra. Then, it’s back to Mt. Gretna and dessert at The Jigger Shop.

Mt. Gretna Lake & Beach, 130 Lakeview Drive, Lebanon. Open daily through September 4. For details, visit mtgretnalake.com or call 717-964-3130.

To Nature

I’m about to give away one of my most cherished, secret spots in the county. Most Lancastrians are familiar with Speedwell Forge Lake near Lititz, due to the headlines the marine recreational area made after the dam that created the lake gave way to Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. Well, the lake is full again and all that water had to come from somewhere. That somewhere is Hammer Creek.

Upstream from the attraction of anglers on watercraft rambles Hammer Creek as it cuts its way from Cornwall, Lebanon County to just outside Brunnerville. The section of the creek connecting to Speedwell Forge Lake falls under the protection of Lancaster County Parks and Recreation Commission. The undeveloped park contains a comfortable hiking trail that skirts the creek (if you hit at just the right time of the year it’s filled with wild berries).

It is here where you can get in and wet your toes. The spot is a quiet, lovely place to let the kids explore nature as the waterway bounds with wildlife, including egrets, frogs and groundhogs, If you are lucky, you can hear the call of a wolf from the nearby Wolf Sanctuary of PA.

Speedwell Forge County Park, 480 Speedwell Forge Rd, Lititz; co.lancaster.pa.us/290/Speedwell-Forge-County-Park

For Fido

“Stop on out. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights we can have anywhere from 1 to 15 dogs swimming, jumping in off the side – practically splashing all the water out of the pool – playing with their toys. It’s a lot of fun. We have people who come in groups and bring food and make a party out of it,” says Dashia Stauffer with a true sense of happiness in her voice.

She’s talking about open swim at her family-run Canine Country Club in Manheim, home of The Oasis Canine Pool. The Oasis measures 16×32-feet and is 4-feet deep. Steps on both ends allow for easy exits for dogs and their human sidekicks. The Stauffer family started the country club in 1991 and bought a second location (the former Sun Hill Kennel) in 2015. The pool, which is located at the second location, is a hit with dogs and their humans.

Before heading out, owners should know dogs are required to complete an introductory swim session ($30 for a half-hour private session for up to 2 family dogs) before they dive in for any private swim sessions or open swims. Vaccines are required for rabies, DHLP, and Bordetella. Staff members also offer swim classes for the pooch not accustomed to the water.

“For a lot of dogs, swimming is their natural instinct. But, we have life vests and our first goal is to get them to go in one side and out the other. We really want to teach them how to exit without trying to climb out the side,” says Dashia.

It is fine if dogs, or owners, are more comfortable with canine swim vests. The Oasis welcomes all swim levels, even therapy sessions. Just like humans, sometimes aquatic exercise is the best form of a workout for aging joints and post-surgery rehabilitation. For this, private swim sessions are available.

The Oasis Canine Pool at Canine Country Club, Inc., 346 S. Erisman Rd., Manheim. 717-665-2710 or caninecountryclubinc.com

 Inside swim-cations

I’ve always wanted to take a staycation and get one of the poolside rooms at the Eden Resort & Suites. From what I understand, the Indoor Poolside Queen rooms provide direct access to the pool deck. How fun! The rooms boast accommodations for up to five and amenities like complimentary Wi-Fi, 42” TVs and valet service. One of these days …

However, a couple of years ago I did hit one of the area’s other hotels that’s known for its indoor pool experience. Lancaster’s Caribbean Indoor Waterpark is the only indoor “waterpark” in the county and it is housed in the Lancaster Budget Host Inn & Suites on Route 30, just down the road from the outlets.

With two long water slides, themed play areas for all ages, and a separate pool for exercising, the place is a lot of fun. But, don’t just take my word for it. The attraction boasts a 4.0 rating on TripAdvisor with 62 percent of the reviews coming in at “excellent.”

While we are on the subject of staycations, the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton in Willow Street offers guests the use of an indoor water playground complete with slides, dump buckets and water sprayers. There is also a toddler-friendly wading area with a frog slide and rainbow sprinkler.

Eden Resort & Suites, 222 Eden Rd. 717-569-6444 or edenresort.com

Lancaster’s Caribbean Indoor Waterpark, 2100 Lincoln Hwy. 717-397-7781 or caribbeanlancaster.com

DoubleTree Resort by Hilton, 2400 Willow Street Pike. 717-464-2711 or doubletreelancaster.com 

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