24 Hours at Stone Mountain Park

24 hours, with kids, at GeorgiaR...

I look back at my childhood, growing up near Atlanta, and one place towers over everything else: Stone Mountain. I had the pleasure of rediscover...

Exploring St Augustine with Tweens

Exploring St. Augustine with Tweens...

As you can imagine, my two tween sons keep me in search of buzzing action to satisfy their indomitable spirits while balancing quality family-bonding ...

u_pirate_treasure_museum_004

Mythbusting Pirate Lore & Lege...

Buried among the shops and eateries of Florida's Historic Coast, we uncovered a treasure trove of history visiting the Pirate & Treasure Museum. I...

Val in N Ga

Val in North Georgia, an Outdoor Fa...

The other day, I introduced y'all to Val from Val in Real Life. Refresh your memory, if need be-- But, I'm revisiting some of her favorite Georgia des...

Great Outdoors

24 Hours at Stone Mountain Park

24 hours, with kids, at Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park

I look back at my childhood, growing up near Atlanta, and one place towers over everything else: Stone Mountain. I had the pleasure of ...

Travel & Adventure

24 Hours at Stone Mountain Park

24 hours, with kids, at Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park

I look back at my childhood, growing up near Atlanta, and one place towers over everything else...

Camping

24 Hours at Stone Mountain Park

24 hours, with kids, at Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park

I look back at my childhood, growing up near Atlanta, and one place towers over everything else: Stone Mountain. I had the pleasure of ...

Thrills

Exploring St Augustine with Tweens

Exploring St. Augustine with Tweens – Florida Fun Giveaway

As you can imagine, my two tween sons keep me in search of buzzing action to satisfy their indomitable spirits while balancing quality famil...

Science

24 Hours at Stone Mountain Park

24 hours, with kids, at Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park

I look back at my childhood, growing up near Atlanta, and one place towers over everything else: Stone Mountain. I had the pleasure of ...

24 hours, with kids, at Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park

24 Hours at Stone Mountain ParkI look back at my childhood, growing up near Atlanta, and one place towers over everything else: Stone Mountain. I had the pleasure of rediscovering Stone Mountain Park, this past weekend, exploring with my own children.

There are two sides to Stone Mountain Park that give it a unique place in the hearts of all who visit. I have come to appreciate the effort that’s been put forth to balance modern fun, historic charm and the natural world.

We struck a perfect balance, for our family, with a Stone Mountain Camping Package that included one night of camping and four adventure passes. Ready, Set, Camp!

 

Not-to-be-missed highlights of our 24 hours at Stone Mountain Park

The Carillon Bell Tower – Free with Parking
We packed a dinner picnic to enjoy during the evening concert of the Carillon Americana. The Carillon Americana is an interesting instrument played by the same musician for over 30 years. The bell tower, originally exhibited at the 1964 World’s Fair,  plays 732 notes that dance upon the waters of the lake. While enjoying the gentle bell tones, we watched the waters as many turtles–including the cutest baby turtles– came up for air and dipped back below the surface. There’s also a nearby geocache.

Confederate Hall, Geology & Ecology Museum – Free with Parking
Located at the trail head of the hike to the mountaintop, Confederate Hall has become a wonderful museum to help visitors connect with the geology, ecology and history of Stone Mountain. Our visit was greatly enhanced by checking out the exhibits on how the mountain formed and what types of plants and animals are found living on Stone Mountain. Visiting the museum before hiking to the top gives visitors a useful knowledge of interesting sights to look for while walking on this unique geologic formation.

Stone Mountain Park Hike to the topHike to the Top – Free with Parking
Both of my boys exclaimed that this was their favorite part of Stone Mountain. At two miles, round trip, the hike is moderately strenuous in places. But, experiencing the mountain this way is always very rewarding. If you don’t want to hike to the top, you can take the SkyRide–for a fee. There is a covered picnic area, a little more than halfway up because hiking a mountain can make visitors mighty hungry! Don’t forget your water & a camera. The top of the mountain, and all along the trail, you’ll find gorgeous vistas and interesting rock formations that make great backdrops for family photos.

Stone Mountain Park TrainTrain Ride – Fee, Adventure Pass
Riding the rails all the way around the base of the mountain is an Atlanta tradition. While younger kids may always be ready for a train ride, my two boys were much more interested in the relaxation it offered after our mountaintop hike. For the best views of the mountain, sit to the right when you board the train!

4D Movie – Fee, Adventure Pass
I sat out the 4D movie for a little mom-time. But, both of my boys really enjoy the 4D movie experiences and always come out with big happy grins!

Stone Mountain Park SkyHikeSkyHike – Fee, Adventure Pass
This newer addition to Stone Mountain Park contains 3 levels of aerial obstacle courses. Harnessed in a safe and secure system,Families complete obstacles ranging from easy to advanced. Alternate routes help younger, smaller or more cautious SkyHikers avoid obstacles that seem too difficult or scary. For the youngest adventurers, check out the Highland Outpost! It’s a lot like SkyHike without the heights.

Great Barn – Fee, Adventure Pass
For a wild and crazy time beating the heat or waiting out storms, enter The Great Barn. It’s difficult to describe The Great Barn, but I think old-fashioned gaming does the trick. The entire playplace centers around foam balls that are collected, in tote bags, for game play. Toting bags filled with the foam balls, children make their way through four stories of active play games and air-powered shooters.

Stone Mountain Park Cherokee & King's TrailsCherokee Trail, Grist Mill – Free with Parking
The 5-mile Cherokee Trail is designated as a National Recreation Trail. While we didn’t have the opportunity to hike the entire trail, the part we did hike left us wanting more. We began by exploring one of the most picturesque locations in the park, a Grist Mill with working water wheel. This quiet spot is a great place to hunt down a couple geocaches located nearby. Continuing on, we walked the natural trail through the woods and upon a stone path along the water’s edge until we reached the Covered Bridge.

King’s Trail at Indian Island – Free with Parking
This was probably the most peaceful area we visited in the park. After crossing the Covered Bridge, we hiked King’s Trail around Indian Island. I wanted to mention this location because it struck me as the perfect place to bring the family for a picnic. The trail is an easy hike with picnic tables positioned throughout. The Covered Bridge is passable by cars and there is a parking lot available for picnickers and hiking families.

Lasershow Spectacular – Free with Parking
Stone Mountain’s Lasershow Spectacular is the longest running laser show on planet earth. The community of visitors gather on the lawn, laying out blankets and folding chairs, to enjoy the light show displayed on the mountainside. The lasershow is designed around many popular songs including, “Georgia on my Mind,” “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and the national anthem.

Camping Stone Mountain ParkCamping – Fee
There’s just no better way to end a day of exploring Stone Mountain than to camp right in the park. The campground offers convenient restrooms, showers and a camp store. There are several options for camping Stone Mountain ranging from primitive campsites to full RV hookups. Read my Stone Mountain Park Campground Guide.

Disclosure: I was fortunate enough to receive complimentary camping & adventure passes for my family thanks to Stone Mountain Park. But, let me assure you that does not influence my opinion of this fantastic experience.

Exploring St. Augustine with Tweens – Florida Fun Giveaway

Exploring St Augustine with TweensAs you can imagine, my two tween sons keep me in search of buzzing action to satisfy their indomitable spirits while balancing quality family-bonding experiences and some downtime. This mom’s on a mission to weave their youthful exuberance with moments of simplicity. Normally, this is no easy task. But, in the heart of, “The Old City,” I discovered St. Augustine really is a Fountain of Youth that had me lazing on the beach, zip lining over crocodiles, strolling through history and climbing the heights of an iconic–and romantic–lighthouse. Experience the best this seaside stronghold has to offer by adding these 8 great family-friendly explorations to your itinerary.

Ripley’s Odditorium, Red Train Tours & Ghost Train Adventures
The Odditorium in St Augustine will delight the imaginations of young and old. A dizzying vortex room, interactive optical illusions and fun mirrors entertain the family while bizarre exhibits like shrunken heads and a motorcycle constructed of bone turn up the creepiness factor.

Not only were my children completely mesmerized by the strange and unusual exhibits at Ripley’s Odditorium, we painlessly explored St. Augustine from this hub of activity by parking our car and taking the Red Train. Over 20 stops along the Red Train Tour offer convenient navigation to many attractions, historic sites and shops while the lively guide offers tips and information.
TIP: Download the Ripley’s Odditorium App, when you arrive, for more interactive features throughout your visit.

st-augustine-lighthouseSt Augustine Lighthouse
The iconic black-swirled lighthouse of St. Augustine is one of those few places you can snag a moment of precious romance while simultaneously challenging children’s sense of adventure. Inside the lighthouse, starkly contrasting black spiral stairs and white walls create a stunning visual for the climb. Though the climb seems less daunting than some other lighthouses at only 165 steps, the grand view is rewarding for the whole family. While the children revel in the new heights they’ve achieved, an opportunity for parents to steal a romantic moment reveals itself.

The lighthouse, although clearly the focal point, isn’t the only draw to the classic shoreline attraction. Enjoy a well-deserved rest stop under the cover of shade trees while the children expend their energy clambering on a sea-inspired playground. Discover history by visiting the museum and take a leisurely stroll along the nature trail before choosing your souvenirs at the gift shop.
TIP: This souvenir shop has reasonably priced tabletop replicas of the famous lighthouse to remember your visit.

floridasp-anastasia-beach02Anastasia State ParkRead My Campground Guide
This quiet park was the scene of our overnight accommodations and beach activities. I was pleasantly surprised by the overall cleanliness of the park. As a regular camper and hiker, I am no stranger to carrying along a trash bag to scoop up disposables left by others. So, I have to hand it to the staff and visitors of this Florida State Park for their attention to detail. View more photographs and read my full guide to camping Anastasia State Park to better plan your trip.

The beach is just a short drive, walk or bike ride from the camping area. A scenic boardwalk leads to four long miles of gorgeous Florida beach. We were fortunate enough to have this amazing location nearly all to ourselves during our stay in early June. My 10-year-old son has a thing for bodysurfing and has never been disappointed by St. Augustine’s waves.
The park is also home to the archaeological site where the coquina rock was quarried for nearby Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. A visit to the quarry, located just inside the park, will add another dimension to your experience at Castillo de San Marcos.
TIP: There are lessons and rentals available for a variety of watersports you can enjoy such as kayaking, paddle boating and more.

st-augustine-castilloCastillo de San Marcos National Monument
Breathe deep as you walk the gundeck of this fortress to take in nearly 450 years of history and an expansive view. An inexpensive addition to your itinerary, Castillo de San Marcos enriches your visit through self-guided tours, ranger programs, historical demonstrations and an informative video.
TIP: The coquina walls also provide a unique backdrop for enjoying a family picnic and some much-needed relaxation.

ripple-effect-kayakRipple Effect Eco TourRead my full review + video! 
I have lovingly dubbed the Ripple Effect Eco Tour as, “one of the best experiences in the Southeast US.” I mean it. A knowledgeable and friendly Ripple Effect guide leads an expedition in the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve–an extraordinary pristine environment teeming with wildlife and adventure.

My sons were able to explore a place like no other in the world and I rediscovered a child-like sense of wonder in myself. This truly instills a spirit of conservation and respect for nature. View photos, video and more from our experience kayaking with Ripple Effect Eco Tours.
TIP: Make sure you have sun protection and bring water to hydrate.

pirate-treasure-museum_001The Pirate & Treasure MuseumFull Review + GIVEAWAY
Traveling back in time to dark and mysterious surroundings we peek into the lives and lore of the most infamous pirates to sail the seven seas. Excitedly, my tween sons busted myths and uncovered the truth about pirates and their treasure troves while engaged in an interactive treasure hunt throughout the museum.

An historic tale is woven of intrigue and drama with the added fun of practicing necessary pirate skills: treasure hunting, knot-tying and blasting cannons. The self-guided tour begins and ends in a small gift shop perfect for choosing a treasured trinket for the pirate in your life.
Tip: DO enter the room labeled, “Enter if you Dare,” for a dark surprise that any adventurer will appreciate. This was one of the boys’ favorite parts of the museum.

 

Marineland Dolphin Adventure – Scroll down for GIVEAWAY 
An unforgettable encounter awaited my boys, at Marineland, where we came face-to-face with friendly dolphin, Lily. Lily gave us a hands-on learning experience that should never be replicated with a wild dolphin. We fed her, tickled her belly and even gave her dolphin kisses!

Make a splash with your kids and one of the most beloved creatures of the sea, dolphins. The specially trained dolphins, at Marineland, show a range of interaction from gentle kisses to high-flying jumps. These powerful creatures will amaze you as you learn about their lives, their struggles in the wild and their playfulness. Read my full review on Homeschool Travel.
TIP: Remember, these are trained dolphins, not wild animals. As long as you follow the guidelines, for properly interacting with the dolphins, you can relax and have fun.

st-augustine-alligator-farmAlligator Farm Zoological Park & Crocodile Crossing Zip Line
Don’t let the name fool you. There is much more to this Zoological Park than gators, as my reptile-obsessed son discovered. It isn’t your average zoo, either. Nestled among komodo dragons, a variety of snakes and many bird species live hundreds of charming alligators and crocodiles. A variety of daily wildlife shows promote knowledge and awareness of often misunderstood animals and some of Florida’s native species. We even saw park staff feeding alligators from within the enclosures before we headed over to the boardwalk and tossed snacks to the gators below.

Feeding hungry alligators too tame for your adventurous crew? Take them on a zipline adventure through the trees–directly above the alligator habitats! Crocodile Crossing is a thrilling addition to the Alligator Farm that zips visitors through seven acres of aerial obstacles.
TIP: Parents, find a bench near the fossil hunting tent and chat while the kids try their hand at paleontology.

Effortlessly, I was able to bring together my family’s cravings for adventure and quench the desire to peacefully unwind. The unique mesh of St. Augustine’s historical richness and modern family fun combine to form lasting memories, uncover intriguing treasures of our past and instill a passion for pristine nature.

Disclosure: I was fortunate enough to receive complimentary admission for my family thanks to St. Augustine and the wonderful attractions listed above. But, let me assure you that does not influence my opinion of this experience.

Win 4 General Admission Passes to Marineland Dolphin Adventure
General admission guests are able to view the dolphins through 6 x 10 ft acrylic windows as they swim, play and interact with guests in programs alongside the pristine Atlantic coastline.

For your chance to win, just leave a comment, on this post, telling what you LOVE about Florida! 

Mythbusting Pirate Lore & Legends in St Augustine Florida – Pirate & Treasure Museum Giveaway

pirate-treasure-museum_001Buried among the shops and eateries of Florida’s Historic Coast, we uncovered a treasure trove of history visiting the Pirate & Treasure Museum. I have no hesitation in saying that this was positively one of the most captivating experiences I’ve had in a history museum. Mythbusting your way through the Pirate & Treasure Museum is definitely among the top things to do in St Augustine. 

The high level of hands-on interactivity is perfect for keeping visitors immersed in the pirate theme. Guests are given their own treasure map, engaging them in a historic hunt throughout the detailed atmosphere. We tried our hand at knot-tying on the ship deck, “shooting,” replica cannons, touching a 400-year-old treasure chest, lifting a gold bar and explored the true history of some of the most infamous legends of the pirate world.

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The sheer volume of artifacts, maps and information is enough to fill an entire day learning about archaeology, history and famous treasure hunts. The museum invites families & educators to enhance their visit, for free, by downloading the full curriculum of Pirate & Florida History. The printable curriculum includes more than 20 pages of fun educational activity covering geography, history, art, science and more.

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pirate_treasure_museum_002So, what are you waiting for? Get to the Pirate and Treasure Museum and learn more than you ever thought possible about this mysterious period of history and the people who lived it.

Disclosure: I was fortunate enough to receive complimentary admission for my family thanks to St. Augustine and The Pirate & Treasure Museum. But, let me assure you that does not influence my opinion of this experience.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Maker Camp is fun for everyone! Best Kids Activities for Week One!


Maker Camp is a cool virtual camp that supplies folks with ideas & instructions for cool daily projects as well as fun interviews & videos related to various topics. Here are week one’s best picks for kids. See the full lineup for week one, here.

Day One: Make a Milk Jug Rocket Launcher – Link
This seems like a pretty simple project anyone can enjoy & to top it off there was a live stream from behind-the-scene at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. 


Day Two: Rola Bola Balance Board – Link

Not only will this be fun to make, but it will be a blast to play & strengthen balance with. I’ve seen these before, decorated with bright-colored duct tape designs.

 

Day Three: Build a Heron’s Fountain with a water bottle – Link
This is very cool. It’s a project that doesn’t use electricity, but seems like it might. Heron (Hero) of Alexandria was a mathematician and an inventor. He is well known for his steam engine, the Aeolipile, and many other inventions that use pneumatics.


Day Four: Make Your Bike Glow with EL Wire – Link

For about $20, you can purchase an EL Wire Starter Pack with 10 ft of glowing wire that you can use to make your bike (and other items) glow in the dark!

Val in North Georgia, an Outdoor Family visits 3 Georgia State Parks

Val in N GaThe other day, I introduced y’all to Val from Val in Real Life. Refresh your memory, if need be– But, I’m revisiting some of her favorite Georgia destinations, this first week of July. Earlier, this week, we found this outdoor mama’s Top 5 Atlanta Attractions for families. Now, we’re going to places she REALLY loves…. places outside where she and her family have enjoyed connecting with Georgia’s nature.

Cloudland Canyon State Park
Aside from scenic overlooks, the trails here are amongst my favorites. I could spend days exploring all of the nuances of Sitton’s Gulch in particular. The rim trails give excellent views of the canyon walls and, in fact, have you treading upon the the very rocks that make up those walls so you get to see them up close and personal. There are exposed boulders rife with crevices and cracks to explore the rocky goodness. (Sorry… a little bit of latent geologist just slipped out.)

Amicalola Falls State Park
in terms of activities. Beyond hiking and geocaching, there’s typically all kinds of crafts, animal talks, and that sort of thing planned by the very knowledgeable park staff. The visitor center has a nice collection of snakes, there’s a junior ranger program, and it also happens to be the jumping off point for the Appalachian Trail as well as the Len Foote Hike Inn which I’ve mentioned before. All sorts of groovy.

Vogel State Park
Even with that little detour, we managed to get to Vogel in the early afternoon. And we wanted as much time as possible because it’s a faboo place criss-crossed with delightful babbling creeks. The bulk of the campsites back up to one creek or another so there’s opportunity aplenty for wet, muddy fun right in your back yard so to speak.