As our family comes into celebration week, named such due to the number of birthday and anniversary events during this 7-day period, I realized I had missed writing about several outings and was remiss in getting them put together. So here are several brief adventure highlights, comments and tips (making it a really long writing!) without any attraction note summaries but perhaps with some typos 😉 .
Pool Time @ Kernersville YMCA
Water slides, obstacles courses, splash pool, and swimming areas grace the awesome outside pool areas of the Kernersville YMCA (https://ymcanwnc.org/locations/kernersville-family-ymca/), and Analise tried every one of the activities. Though the day was hot, the splash pool area water felt like it was just above freezing so a quick dip there and down the stairway to the larger “bigger kid” pool.
To swim unaccompanied in the larger pools, Analise had to be tested in the indoor pool, which was also set just above freezing, and she passed with flying…er…swimming colors! It was amazing to see how well she swam the length of the pool! She was so excited, proud and self-confident about passing this test!!
The outdoor larger pool area consisted of four distinct areas: a swimming lap area, a kids & adults play area, an obstacle course (see picture) and two water slides. As soon as we entered, Analise with her new “I am a great swimmer” bracelet raced off to the lower water slide and slid down it several times before looking up at the taller slide and deciding to climb up to the top. Watching her get in the slide and zoom out of the it, I wasn’t sure what the end result would be (fear, scared, hit water wrong) but she zoomed out of the tunnel, landed with a splash and then went up again. All told she probably went down the slides a dozen times each (I tried the lower one and thought I would get stuck so I only did it a few times!).
The one activity that captured her adventurous spirit and challenged her was the obstacle course where she leaped from pad to pad across one section of the pool. The first time she went on them she crawled on hands and knees with a few dips in the pool but just like babies learning to walk soon she was leaping from pad to pad and using the rope net as an impromptu jungle gym! I lost count of how many times she lined up to do this. Between this activity and the two slides, there turned out to be no time to just swim (oh, how boring!).
Lake Daniels TRACK Trail
With a playground in sight ready to welcome us back, we set off for Analise’s first TRACK Trail adventure. Lake Daniel Park, located in Greensboro NC (https://www.greensboro-nc.gov/departments/parks-recreation/trails-greenways/greenways/lake-daniel-greenway), was the subject of an earlier write-up so here we’ll focus on the fun of just checking off the list of things on the “Nature’s Hide & Seek” adventure (https://www.kidsinparks.com/sites/default/files/brochures/HideNSeek2_1_3.pdf). Walking down the paved path it was easy to quickly mark off most of the items on the adventure guide. Tougher to find nature objects included butterflies and wild flowers as the time of year or the time of day made spotting these more difficult than we expected.
Other natural wonders that caught Analise’s eye included the seedpods in several of the trees. Had we been following the Trees TRACK Trail guide, we would have realized we had found a Black Walnut tree, Basswood (?) tree, and a Shagbark Hickory tree. I have to admit I was “blind” to these hanging seeds having seen them so many times in my life but Analise was quick to point them out during our nature scavenger hunt. Makes me wonder what else I walk by without noticing…just due to familiarity…and miss the opportunity to be amazed.
Kaleideum North aka SciWorks of Winston-Salem (https://north.kaleideum.org/visit/) has numerous activities and things to see, touch and hear. From the science experiments to engineering hand-on displays to the wild animals there is always something to do. Taking a walk outside we visited the farm animals however the heat was extreme and the animals were, rightfully so, trying to stay still and shaded.
The Engineer It! Section was filled with many paper folding activities, roller carts, and building blocks but during this visit it was apparent that we arrived after some large groups had gone through (little or no paper was available for activities). This one section has themes that rotate a few times a year so visit the Kaleideum website to see what its theme is. Other areas are “stagnant” (do not change) however the kids always get a kick out of the SoundWorks area where sounds can be generated in a variety of ways including a large step-on piano keyboard. Analise and Pa had a wild safari adventure with the toy animals, and she danced herself silly on the floor piano trying to play some of the tunes they have displayed.
NC Zoo – North America with Analise
Depending on the weather, the NC Zoo (https://www.nczoo.org) is a fantastic way to spend an hour, half a day or all day. Animals galore, several kids areas, strategically placed plazas and special displays make time pass quickly. On our visit day, it was another blazing North Carolina, blue sky morning, which is awesome, except for the heat. Since we have an annual pass we decided to only visit half of the zoo during this trip and we chose the North America section (the other is Africa).
Skipping the Dragonfly Paddle Boat and the Cypress Swamp areas we headed toward the Rocky Coast and made a quick look-see stop at the Seal and Polar Bear enclosures before jumping into KidZone. KidZone is comprised of multiple activities including touch, feel, see, smell, wander and climb events. From sand and mud pits to butterfly garden to rocks and treetop trail climbing, a good bit of time can be spent here on a cooler day. We ended up going through the rock maze, the treetop trail, and climbing a few rocks before heading back out to see more animals.
One of the sights that brought a smile to our faces was watching the otters that were busy trying to find worms under the grass then playing with them in the small stream. Other areas that merited a stop by us included the honey bees, elk viewing, and red wolves displays. I have to say that Analises’ absolute favorites were the Carousel and the Kaleidoscope Butterfly Garden where we saw butterflies coming out of their chrysalis and had butterflies float around and land on us.
NC Zoo – Africa with Isaiah & Jeremiah
NC Zoo (https://www.nczoo.org) – Part 2…with Isaiah and Jeremiah on a different day but with the same hot North Carolina weather. This time we visited Africa where Isaiah became our tour Navigator (with some input from Jeremiah 😉 ). First up, Ostriches! We tried to see the other animals in the enclosure but most were hiding in the shady areas out of sight except for one tall giraffe whose head we just barely saw.
Then we traipsed to the red river hogs, lions, chimpanzees, and gorillas before we arrived at the aviary. The aviary is always a great place to go and play bird scavenger hunting games. We saw many colorful and song-full birds on the ground, in the bushes and in the trees. Handy signs helped us identify what type of birds they were, and the cooling fans of the aviary helped evaporate some of the perspiration we produced while walking through Africa.
As an aside, the lemur exhibit was closed so we missed seeing them on this trip and also we skipped the savannah where elephants, rhinoceros, antelopes and other veldt animals play. Next time…
Finally we reached the Junction Plaza where time was spent grabbing a bite to eat, drinking lots of water to drink, visiting to the butterfly garden ($3 fun ticket) where the boys had these fragile creatures land on their arms, shoulders and heads, and wrapping up our trip with a side on the carousel ($3 fun ticket).
Salem Lake (http://www.cityofws.org/departments/recreation-parks/salem-lake) has many features that our gkids enjoy: playground, fishing, hiking, biking, duck & goose watching, and pier walking. After a 2.5-mile bike ride, Isaiah decided to make friends with the local Muscovy Ducks and their ducklings. “We” have discovered that the ducks will ignore any duck sounds but the Canadian geese will raise their heads and stand perfectly still if a Canadian goose call is played to them. It is quite interesting and somewhat comical to see a gaggle of geese become statue-like.
For those who like walking, running or bike-riding, Salem Lake’s path is a perfect way to spend some time in nature. The path meaders around Salem Lake completing a 7-mile loop through shady and sunny areas. Turtles, ducks, geese, grey herons and other animals can be seen along the path, on the shoreline and in the water. Whether walking, riding or running solo or taking your favorite dog with you, it is a great place to get some “away time” from the busy-ness of life. Just remember to turn your phone off…for a little while…and enjoy the day.
So would we do these adventures again…heck yeah!
- Pool timeis a great way to watch the kids learn to be confident in and around water. Though there are times when for safety reasons, a g’parent or parent may need to step in, watching them interact with the water and find new friends to splash with is enthralling. Finding a pool with obstacle courses in it also provides a different way for the kids to be prepared for the unexpected while dealing with water.
- TRACK Trailsprovides a unique, guided experience outdoors sans electronics. Whether the scavenger hunt involves trees, bugs, hide ‘n’ seek, or other adventure, it is great to watch the gkids observe, find and get excited about the outdoors. Having a playground as part of the outing helps to wrap it all up.
- Kaleideum North (and other Science Centers) provides many activities that challenge, entertain and teach the gkids. Whether it is outdoors with animals and other activities or indoors with music, engineering, health, et al, the gkids always find something that they see “for the first time” and that enthusiasm is contagious. Safety-wise the only “rule” is to stay within eyesight otherwise they are free to roam and experiment.
- NC Zoois full of animal exhibits broken up by food and plays areas. That means when the kids start to wear down, they will regain energy by entering a kids’ play area, a food plaza or a specialty display (like the Butterfly garden). Membership is reasonable and additional costs in the zoo itself involve food, drink, fun tickets and special adventures like Air Hike and Zoofari (sign up early for these). Soon to be opening is the Treehouse Trek (actually the day after we visited with the boys!!) so there will be one more thing to do and see.
- Salem Lakeis another great way to get the kids outdoors. As with the others, sunscreen and bug spray may make this more enjoyable, and allowing the kids to wander off under their own power (instead of pointing, pushing, “hard” teaching, “don’t”-ing that parents and g’parents may be inclined to do for safety, unwritten rules or other adultitis reasons) is a fantastic way to step back and observe what they find interesting, how they interact with nature and what gets them excited.
Last Note (really!)
Is there any aggravation to these types of adventures? You betcha!
- Weather or not– too hot, too cold, too rainy, too sunny all influence the length of time we spend doing an activity. Sometimes we attempt to do too much…and get worn out, cranky and just down-right disagreeable. Best tip: check the weather forecast, plan out the trip, then subtract 25-50% of the planned trip time and leave then. As an example: not including travel time, the original in-zoo planned tour was 3 hours; best plan – making the in-zoo-time 2 hours and leaving while everyone is not exhausted)
- Crowd-control– if the facility is relatively small, call them to see how many schools or groups will be visiting when you plan to go. Best tip: If you can make the trip at non-busy hours (immediately after facility opens or after school hours), you will enjoy the time together instead of worrying about safety issues or hassling with the crowd.
- Food crisis– food at each venue is generally more expensive than bringing snacks and sandwiches. Though purchased food provided financial support for the facility, food allergies and food “likes & dislikes” are better handled by bringing food along. Yes, there are the snacks that can be bought as a treat but once this is done, it becomes expected… Best tip: have the kids help pack what they may want to eat ahead of time.
- Cool, clear water– bring it and drink it. There are too many times where grumpiness can be averted by drinking tons of water, and on those hot days it is essential. Best tip: Bring it & Drink it!
- Money trees– there aren’t any but the gift shops and other activities may make the kids feel like there is a money tree growing nearby. Best tip: Best to set expectations ahead of time, or surprise them with a set dollar amount they can use in a gift shop. As an example, we knew we were going to take the gkids in a gift shop to buy a baseball hat…they didn’t. Though they were immediately distracted by everything, we reiterated we were there to buy a baseball hat…if they wanted one to keep the sun off of their heads (yes, they could leave without one).
- Travel – long trips require car activities. Sometimes it is as simple as a tablet computer that has games on it, sometimes it’s a story CD, and other times it is just plain car games or crazy chatter. Makes stops if needed, have patience with other drivers, and try to have the kids talk to you (vs. whine at you). Best tip: And the answer to the “Are we there yet?” question is “Yes” because you are always “there” (“Wherever you go, there you are”) but maybe not at your planned destination 😉 .
- Change of Clothes – there times when it would be beneficial to carry another set of clothes with you. Whether food accidents or other activities (I’m sure you can think of a few), being dry for any length of travel is much more comfortable than spending a trip fidgeting. Best tip (attributed to Dennis Waitley): “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.”
- Medicine & First Aid – yup. Bring a box of first aid goodies, bandages, hand sanitizer, etc to handle the expected scrapes, allergies and bang-ups. Nothing speaks louder than a hollering kid who is hurting. Best tip: Be Prepared!