Two things make my 4-year-old son happier than anything else in the world. First, pirates. Second, hitting things with sticks. For him, Pirate's Putting Cove in Dover Township is the best place on Earth.
"This is going to be so awesome!" he squealed as we pulled into the parking lot, just behind Bill Mack's Ice Cream.
My daughter, 7, was slightly less convinced. But when she got to choose an electric pink golf ball, she started skipping to the greens.
The course reminds me of my own childhood - no animatronics, vivid colors, or holes that are secret tunnels for the golf ball. This is putt-putt. Simple and purely entertaining. It's a perfect place to break up a lazy
Although it was a family day for us, a couple a few holes behind us proved that mini-golf is still a first-date staple.
The highlight of the course is the huge wooden pirate ship. About halfway through the course, golfers go up a few stairs onto the ship. Three rounds are played on its deck. But there is also a wooden wheel to turn and cannons to aim. This was, by far, the best part for my crew.
Dover might not be exactly oceanfront, but Pirate's Putting Cove sticks to its theme throughout the course. Black cannons poke from around the course as well as on the ship. Boating rope coils around wooden posts. In one corner, tombstones of fallen pirates - or perhaps their victims - raise from a blanket of pine needles.
A waterfall serves as a fun obstacle, with its stream weaving throughout the course. My children loved having to whack their golf balls over a small bridge. This took about five tries from each of us, even a certain not-to-be-named family member who had endless advice for the rest of us.
This unnamed person offered to show us "how it's done" and proceeded to send his ball straight into the stream. Ha! This rivaled the ship as my favorite part of the course.
After playing the course, golfers have a shot at a free game. Players aim for a yellow hole in a steep incline. If they get a hole in one, they get a free game. If it misses, the ball will drop into a receptacle, saving you the trouble of returning the balls along with the club.
Next time we go, we might cool off at picnic tables with shaved ice bought from the Cove's Tiki Hut or walk down to Bill Mack's for some homemade ice cream. A few picnic tables with umbrellas surround the hut, if you feel like relaxing after a round or are waiting for your family's turn.
It cost $24 for my family of four to play. We took our time at the Cove, just long enough for me to realize that I really stink at golf.
- Beth Vrabel, for FlipSide
If you go
WHAT: Pirate's Putting Cove
WHERE: 3896 Carlisle Road, Dover Township
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
COST: $6.50 adults and $5.50 for children ages 12 and younger
Keep it going
Looking to extend your night out? Consider these:
THE SPOT: Moonlight Café
WHAT IS IT: The Italian restaurant is tiny; you're likely to pass it on Carlisle Road. From any seat inside, patrons can watch the chef prepare meals in the open kitchen. Entrees range from about $10-$15 a plate, but the lunch and children's menu are much less.
WHERE: 4140 Carlisle Road, Dover Township
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday
DETAILS: Call 292-5643
INSIDER TIP: Bring your own wine or beer; cash only
KID ALERT: Dinner tends to be leisurely, so if your family has a hard time waiting, you might want to stick to lunch.
TRY THIS: One taste of the rich, decadent chicken asiago pasta or the perfectly flavorful vegetable pomodoro and you might never be able to order anything else again.
Grab a cone
THE SPOT: Bill Mack's Ice Cream
WHAT IS IT: Ice-cream parlor and restaurant
WHERE: 3890 Carlisle Road, Dover Township
HOURS:10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
DETAILS: Call 292-1931
INSIDER TIP: The chicken tenders took a bit of time to prepare, but they will keep you coming back. Each tender is hand breaded and fried from real pieces of tenderloin chicken.
TRY THIS: We're talking homemade ice cream, with flavors such as black raspberry, butter pecan and ice cream cake, alongside soft serve, sundaes and splits.
DON'T FORGET: Bill Mack's also offers homemade soups, sub sandwiches and daily specials.
THE SPOT: Whitecomb's Farm Market and Greenhouse
WHAT IS IT: It has rows of greenery and flowers, already made hanging baskets and mountains of mulch for your at-home landscaping adventures. The store also offers fresh, often local produce and amazing baked goods, deli meats, penny candy, soups and salads. And if your interior design style is country or eclectic, be sure to give yourself enough time to browse the rows of home décor.
WHERE: 2410 Roosevelt Ave., West Manchester Township
HOURS: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
DETAILS: Call 767-4742 or visit www.whitecombs.com
INSIDER TIP: Check the day-old baked goods carts to pick up a baked pie, cinnamon buns or loaf of bread for huge discounts.