Whether it is across the county or across the state, seniors enjoy getting away from it all.
A trip can be as simple as enjoying a luncheon with friends or going a distance to take in a show or a baseball game. Either way, day trips offer a change of scenery and have a way of lifting one's spirits.
Blair Senior Services Inc. offers at least three van trips a month at its centers throughout the county. At Central Blair Senior Center, about six or seven events are planned each month.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) Margie Stiffler of Hollidaysburg climbs onto a motor coach for a trip to the Hollywood Casino in Grantville Tuesday. Many seniors enjoy the opportunity to visit other areas and take in different activities and events that a bus trip provides.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) Boarding a bus in Lowe’s parking lot for a trip to Hollywood Casino are (from left) Bernice Smith, Betty Covino and Shirley Colledge, all of Altoona.
Holly Jo Miller, senior center manager, said she receives input from the seniors and schedules activities based on where they want to go.
She said they often choose restaurants, such as the Gourmet Buffet or the Ramada Inn- Altoona. A trip to the Hometown Market in Bellwood along with the nearby Dollar Store is scheduled for a Tuesday every month. Miller said the seniors enjoy the discounts.
While the trips must be in Blair County, they are not limited to dining and shopping. In the past, seniors have gone to Canoe Creek, Royer Mansion and Baker Mansion. Last month they went to the circus.
Lois Lamson of Altoona said she really enjoyed the trips to Baker and Royer mansions.
"We got to tour the buildings and the guide gave us some history," she said. "It was very interesting."
Lamson said she looks forward to the trips and they provide companionship.
"We laugh and talk and sing. It depends on whatever mood we are in that day," she said. Lamson also finds that the van drivers are friendly and helpful. She said she has a little trouble negotiating steps and the driver is right there to assist her.
Miller said seniors can either meet at the center or have the van come to their door.
Seniors interested in taking a trip sign up at the receptionist's desk at the center. Miller said the van ride is 50 cents per trip and all trips take place between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays.
Seniors who are looking for more adventure can hop on a bus that will take them to events in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia or places in between.
Casinos are popular destinations for seniors, said Duane Bordell, tour and travel director for Raystown Transit, Sugar Run Plaza, Duncansville. Other excursions include Pittsburgh Pirate baseball games, American Music Theatre shows in Lancaster or Philadelphia's Flower Show in the spring.
Bordell said a day trip to a gaming destination, such as the Hollywood Casino in Grantville or the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh is $34 round trip. Excursions to The Meadows horse racing track in Washington, Pa., also are available.
He said trips are planned three ways: A group leader charters just the bus for a planned destination, the motor coach company offers a per person public tour open to anyone or the group leader requests an organized group tour where the motor coach company takes care of transportation, meals, tickets and other amenities.
Shirley Hippo organizes tours for residents of Graystone Court in Altoona. She said the group takes about six trips a year or one about every other month.
"They like to go to one of the casinos," she said. "Most prefer the Pittsburgh River Casino.
Hippo said people set aside a certain amount to spend at the tables or slot machines.
"I don't know anybody who goes overboard," she said, adding that people look forward to getting away for awhile.
"I still drive," Hippo said, "but a lot of people don't get out. They don't drive any longer."
Graystone Court residents have traveled to the American Music Theatre in Lancaster and are planning a trip in June to see "Noah" at the Sight and Sound Theatre in Lancaster. While they are there, they can shop at the outlets.
She said sometimes residents of the Graystone Courts in Bellemead and Roaring Spring also come on board, and it gives people the opportunity to make new acquaintances.
Another group that enjoys an attraction and shopping are the garden lovers who visit the Philadelphia Flower Show.
Palmer Knisely of took over responsibility for the trip about eight years ago after the woman who led it for years died. Knisely said a garden club used to fill the bus, but now people from all over the area go.
Knisely said the flower show is like a shot in the arm after winter. He got a desire to see flowers in bloom before warm weather hits after being in the Norfolk and Portsmouth, Va., area years ago and has been attending the flower show ever since.
He said his family used to drive there, but he prefers the bus.
"It's more convenient," he said.
After the tour, gardeners can shop for plants and flowers in the gift shop or travel across the street to the farmers' market.
Bordell said shopping trips are popular three times a year - Christmas, Easter and late summer for back-to-school outfits for grandchildren. Groups take tours to outlets in Grove City, Lancaster, New Hope and Hagerstown, Md.
Seniors travel by bus to take a cruise on the Clipper or watch a production at the Benedum Theatre in Pittsburgh. Sights known for their significance, such as Gettysburg's battlefield, Philadelphia's historic district, Quecreek Mine or Shanksville, also attract riders.
"It's a nice long day," Knisely said about the trips to Philadelphia. "But [if you are tired], you can take a nap on the bus on the way home."