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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mountain Getaway

It took us almost a year, but we finally found a weekend that wasn't calling for absurd amounts of rain, and headed to Grandfather Mountain Campground to use our rain voucher from last Labor Day weekend. We had $70 in vouchers, and couldn't use it all ourselves on a tent site, so we decided to rent a Cozy Cabin for a night. It is just a 12x12 cabin, with a double bed and bunk beds, plus a bathroom, shower stall, and kitchenette with sink, mini fridge, and microwave.

Cozy Cabin, Grandfather Campground, Banner Elk, NC

This campground is probably one of the best campgrounds at which we've stayed. It is easily accessible from Greensboro and takes just a bit over 2 hours to get there. The grounds are in good condition, with plenty of tent sites, cabins of various sizes, and RV sites. It is also very family-friendly, with a playground, Saturday night hay rides, and big open fields where kids can play. The people are friendly, and the bathhouse is clean, with hot water for showers. In addition to all that, the Watauga River runs through the campground, which is situation with beautiful views of the mountains. There is also a big field for group tent camping, that has almost zero light pollution and amazing views of the nighttime sky. We were lucky enough to have a clear night to lay under the stars and just marvel at the universe.

Grandfather Campground, Banner Elk, NC

Watauga River, Grandfather Campground, Banner Elk, NC

The campground is located less than 30 minutes from Blowing Rock, so we were able to head over to The Blowing Rock and take in the views of the mountains from a beautiful vantage point. There is a small admission fee to enter, but the spectacular sights are worth the price. There are small trails to follow around to different points to take in the view.
The Blowing Rock, NC
We visited Linville Caverns our last trip to this campground a year ago, which was a great tour of the caverns and history of the area. This time we took time to drive to Linville Falls, and experience the beauty of the park. It is a short hike, but it does have some change in elevation going up and down the trails to the falls. Kids would be OK hiking, but new or unsteady walkers might need some assistance. There are a few trails to different viewpoints, and we were able to take some amazing pictures. I took a short video (26 seconds) of the upper falls going down into the gorge.


Linville Falls, NC (Upper Falls)
Linville Falls, NC (Lower Falls)

Linville Falls, NC (Upper and Lower Falls)

Linville Falls, NC
Linville Falls = Truly spectacular.

On the way back to Greensboro, we took a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway to take in some of the clear views of the mountains. We are all lucky to live so close to such beauty. If you haven't taken the time to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I highly recommend spending a day driving and taking in the sights. It is easy enough to get there from Greensboro, with plenty of stopping points and overlooks to take photos, let the kids out, and have a picnic.

Blue Ridge Parkway view

Blue Ridge Parkway view

All in all, a great weekend away, very affordable, and beautiful scenery.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Guest Post: Museum of Life and Science

One of our family’s favorite day trips to take is a trip to the Museum of Life and Science located in Durham, NC. The museum and all of its attractions take up about 84 acres. Included in your admission cost is an indoor science center, a huge playground, a train caboose, a petting zoo, a butterfly house and insectarium, a dinosaur trail, a woodland habitat and wetland site, and several other outdoor exhibits. There is a wonderful restaurant on the campus and there are also tickets available to purchase for extra for a train ride around the grounds.

My 5 year old, Grayson, loves to see everything the museum has to offer, but he has his three favorites. These top three can absolutely never be skipped when we visit, and considering he is our resident kid “expert,” I will focus on them in this post.

His top choice for what a kid must do when he goes to the Museum of Life and Science is the Dinosaur Trail. The museum’s website says, “On the Museum of Life and Science's Dinosaur Trail, you are entering a world of late Cretaceous, North American dinosaurs.” My son just says “they are super huge and really cool especially the one you can climb on!” The start of the outdoor trail has a Parasaurolophus on which the kids can touch and climb, but the rest are on display only. It is a short loop, but it is packed with loads of cool dinos! There is an Albertosauras, a relative of a T. Rex, and what my son calls “the long necker,” an Alamosaurus (which, by the way, is an impressive 65 feet long). The trail comes to an end at a great fossil dig. The kids can pick up a shovel and dig for fossils that have been trucked in from a site in North Carolina that used to be an ocean floor. Some of the fossils are more than 5 million years old. It’s quite awesome.

Grayson ranks the “Into the Mist” Exhibit in the Catch the Wind area of the museum grounds as the 2nd best thing to see and experience on a visit. I think it is because it feels like either walking on the moon or visiting Bilbo Baggins in The Shire. It is really a unique experience. Be warned, the kids can get very, very wet. A lot of families wear their bathing suits and water shoes to play here and change afterwards. In addition to the mist, the Catch the Wind area has a sailboat pond in which the kids can sail remote controlled boats, an area to jump on bungee trampolines (for an extra cost, I think), and more. We have been to this museum many times, and we never skip visiting the Catch the Wind area. It is really so much fun!

Finally, Grayson says that the Science Center itself is his 3rd favorite stop on our visits to the museum. It is the main building, and it has the gift shop, the ticket counter for admission and train rides, and many exhibits. Grayson loves to don an astronaut suit and sit inside the Apollo Space Capsule. There is also a neat meteorology area where visitors can watch a tornado form and touch it. After, Grayson has pretended to blast off to space and create natural disasters, he likes to sit and build with the massive collection of blocks they have. For the younger children, the science center also has a wonderful play area called Play to Learn with things to climb and build. Truly, a family could spend hours inside and never make it out to see the rest of the attractions.

If you decide to take the trip to Durham, make sure you plan for the whole day. Honestly. My family and I have been a dozen or more times, and we have never seen and done everything there is to do in one day. To us, that’s ok. It makes every time a new adventure!

The Museum of Life and Science is open 10:00am-5:00pm Monday- Saturday and 12:00pm-5:00pm on Sundays. They are open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Check the website for admission cost and any changes to hours. http://lifeandscience.org/

This post and the accompanying pictures were submitted by Amy Schenck, a Greensboro mom of two.

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