Funnest Summer Ever!!! Week 4 a Wrap

Frontier Culture Museum German Mousetrap

We wrapped up week four of the Funnest Summer Ever!!

This past week we started shifting our focus to frontier life.  However, we also threw in a lot of play.  We went to Gypsy Hill Park, caught a few Staunton Braves Games, explored Walnut Hills Campground, visited the Staunton Train Station and learned a bit about life in the home countries of those that settled the Shenandoah Valley with a trip to the Frontier Culture Museum.

This upcoming week includes a trip to the Virginia Safari Park, back to the Frontier Culture Museum to learn about frontier life in the Valley and a visit to Monticello.

The Details:

Miles traveled: 19.6
Total Distance Traveled: 246.6
Money Spent: $39: $35 for Frontier Culture Annual Pass and $4 for Explorers Club

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The Natural Chimney–500 million years of history in the Shenandoah Valley

Week 3 of the Funnest Summer Ever!!! kicked off with a trip to the Natural Chimneys in Mt Solon. At a mere 500 million years old, the chimneys are a sight to behold and a treasure trove for geologists.  They were first formed when the Valley was under the sea and over years, with the help of volcanoes, shifting plates and water, the chimneys took shape.

NaturalChimneys

Natural Chimneys

Kids and the Natural Chimneys

We’ve been studying geology and the kids loved looking over the chimneys and in the caves to see if they could find any fossils.

Fossils--Natural Chimneys

The Chimneys are an anchor to a recreational park that offers camping, a junior olympic pool, playgrounds, shelters, horseshoe pits, and an occasional jousting match.  Yes, jousting.  There is also an event stage and the Natural Chimneys is home to the Red Wing Roots Festival.

Natural Chimneys Playground

Natural Chimneys Pool

Natural Chimneys Shelter

The kids spent over an hour and a half running, exploring, and playing.  We then settled down for lunch.  After our bellies were full, we loaded the kids back into our cars and headed home.  Needless to say, naps were a given.

Kids Eating at Natural Chimneys

The Details:

  • Cost: Free for exploration, there is a fee for camping
  • There may or may not be someone working the front gate
  • There are bathrooms (and showers).  They aren’t bad.
  • Located 16 miles northwest of Staunton

Have you been to the Natural Chimneys?  What did you think?

Endless fun at Boxerwood Nature Center

We ventured to Boxerwood Nature Center and Woodland Garden as part of our Funnest Summer Ever!!  I can not speak highly enough of Boxerwood. My boys spent two hours playing and would have stayed another two hours if I let them.

Boxerwood Garden Center

Located in Lexington, VA, Boxerwood offers an interactive play trail that allows kids to use their imagination, get dirty, and learn through play.

Boxerwood Playtrail Signs

The trail includes a challenging slack line, mud tub, play kitchen, play house, creek, small mountain tunnel, digging  to china and a tree house and den.  Hours of fun!

BoxerwoodPlayKitchen

BoxerwoodPlaytrail

Boxerwood Playtrail Fun

After a good hour on the Play Trail, the boys were ready to explore more.  We ventured down a few trails, towards a pond and took in the sights and sounds.  I loved that there was art interspersed along the trails.

Boxerwood Art

After our hike, we had a picnic lunch under the trees.  And then, we played some more! There was a preschool group visiting and my boys loved playing with the other kids.  I enjoyed chatting with the team members who make Boxerwood happen.

The Details

  • Boxerwood is free, although free-will donations are most appreciated.
  • There are bathrooms located in the main building, as long as there are staff members on duty. If not, there is a port-a-potty located at the head of the Play Trail.
  • Check out the scavenger hunts that are pinned in the first “kisosk”.
  • Wear play clothes…the kids will get dirty.
  • Pack sunscreen, bug spray, water, and wipes (to clean the munchkins off).
  • Pack a lunch–there is a nice area to eat.

Have you been to Boxerwood?  Do you have any tips to share–if so leave them in the comments below.

Funnest Summer Ever: Week 1

Basil and cilantro in a potIt has officially begun; the Funnest Summer Ever.  The boys are so excited about our field trips and they were so good about studying the map and picking out places to visit.

This week we decided to go with the theme of Nature. We plan to visit Chiles Peach Orchard near Crozet, VA and Boxerwood Nature Center & Woodland Garden in Lexington, VA.

As we spend our week learning about Nature, we have been working diligently in our garden.  The boys helped pick out some veggie plants to round out our garden (waited too late to plant from seeds) and also herbs for our herb garden.  They like digging in the dirt and really have a good time watering (themselves more than the plants).

I am looking forward to our hands on learning this week and sharing our experiences with you.

2 little boys and their aunt walking on a trail

Family Friendly, Energy Burning Outings

It’s Spring!  The flowers are popping, the leaves are budding, the birds are singing and the kids are bouncing—off the walls.  It’s time to get out and let them RUN!  With spring breaks on the horizon, let’s talk about healthy, semi-organized play. Below are a few family-friendly, heart-pumping, nap-inducing activities.

Take a Hike2 little boys and their aunt walking on a trail
The Commonwealth is rich with great hiking destinations.  Some are quite challenging while others are nice strolls.  My kids love our hikes and there are three trails  that we routinely  take;  Augusta Springs Wetlands TrailHumpback Rocks and Humpback Rocks Mountain Farm Trail, and St Mary’s Wilderness hike.

I like to go with another adult when we are heading into the woods, for multiple reasons.  We usually bring snacks and drinks and make a fun morning exploring nature.  It’s a science lesson, without the formal classroom.

Disc Golf
What is Disc Golf you ask?  It is golf, played with a frisbee.  There are 18 holes and the rules are the same as golf; sink the frisbee into the basket with the fewest amount of throws. The best part, there are usually few lines, very little wait times and it’s free (although check your local course for their information); you just have to bring your own discs.

Is there a disc golf course near you?  Check this link of Virginia disc golf courses. Staunton has a great course (ranked #3 in VA) located at Montgomery Hall Park.

TIP: Make sure you mark your discs with your name.  Like golf balls, they may become lost or find themselves with a few other strays out in the woods.

FootGolf
Much like disc golf, FootGolf is golf, played with a soccer ball.  Using a regulation #5 soccer ball, the object is to kick the ball into a 21″ cup. It’s a fun sport that combines foot skills with precision. This is a sport that is on the rise, with courses being added each year.  Virginia boasts 9, with the newest one just added at Gypsy Hill Park in Staunton. Costs vary; please check with your local course for pricing info.

Other Fun
We also like getting on our bikes and going for rides in the neighborhood, taking our kite out on a windy day, and tossing the ball (especially now that it’s tee ball season).  

What does your family do to burn off energy?  Leave your fun outing ideas below in the comments section.

Fun, Family-Friendly Festivals

I must apologize.  The time has flown by and here it is a month later and I did not write a single post.  It is our busy time of year; school starting, festivals and politics.  While I will not be very active in October, I still hope to pass along our adventures as they occur. 

Living in the Shenandoah Valley, we have the benefit of lots of fall festivals. And wine festivals.  And craft beer festivals.  And craft festivals.  Fall is prime festival season and we try to hit a couple each month.  We made it two this September: The Good Times, Tastes and Tradition and The Roadkill Cook-off.

The Good Times, Tastes and Traditions, sponsored by the Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce, is hosted at the Frontier Culture Museum.  This festival combines the cultural aspects of Germany, Ireland/Scotland, United Kingdom and West Africa, with a fun beer and wine festival.   There is also an entire section devoted to education and play for kiddos. We like this festival because there is so much to do for both kids and adults.

The Roadkill Coof-off takes place in Marlinton, WV and is sponsored by the Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce.  The rules are pretty simple, contestants must use wild game that can be found on the side of the road.  It can not be pre-cooked, and preparation and cooking begins at 9 am.
This is a quirky festival.  In the past there has been bear, alligator, turkey, squirrel and more.  This year, there were 5 entrants, and all served a version of turkey.    
Along with the cook-off, there is music, a fair and fun products that can be purchased.  It’s a great day trip through some gorgeous mountains.  The weather this year was perfect!
Street Festival

One of the contestants…The Coal Hollow Brothers

The judges hard at work 

Matt sampling some wild turkey

The 3 Amigos, Matt’s favorite
Where the magic happens

Not part of the festival, but pretty cool!!!

My tips for a successful festival:

1) Bring the stroller; it makes life so much easier to load the kids up and go.
2) Bring lots of snacks and water.  I am always amazed at how quickly snacks can ward off a meltdown.
3) Take it slow and don’t plan to stay more than a couple of hours.  They still need their naps and may not be quite as interested as we are in the uniqueness of the event.
4) Find out where the bathrooms and food tents are upon arrival…that way you can avoid a crisis.
5) Bring a camera and have fun!