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


Our favorite walk through the past

One of our favorite activities is heading to the Staunton Train Station and exploring.  I don’t know if it’s nostalgia–my dad used to take my brother and me every Friday night to see the trains when were my boys’ age–or if it’s looking at the fun cabooses, but this is an activity we do several times a month.

Staunton Train Station with the Sears Hill Bridge crossing

Staunton Train Station with the Sears Hill Bridge crossing

This morning the kids were bouncing off the walls.  I was working on a few projects and no field trips were planned for Tidy Up Thursday.  But, it was a beautiful day and there was no good reason to stay inside ALL day.

We got dressed and headed on down.  This time we altered our plan a bit, heading up the Sears Hill Bridge. The Sears Hill Bridge has recently been restored thanks to many generous sponsors in our community.  It is the connector between Sears Hill and downtown and is used by many.

Sears Hill Bridge 1

Sears Hill Bridge 3

The boys crossed the bridge and wanted to keep going.  We were greeted with a Little Free Library along the path to Woodrow Park. This made me quite happy!

Little Free Library

The boys ran and payed and then we took a moment to sit and enjoy the view towards the top.

View from Sears Hill

We headed back down and resumed our usual route along the train platform.  It is a great spot for the boys to run (noticing a theme here?) and get out their energy.

Train Platform

The train depot has several businesses (Monica Wilson Photography, Rachel’s Quilt Patch and Appalachian Pieceworks Antiques) and a restaurant (The Depot Grille) located along the tracks, and I love that they use cabooses as part of their store space.

Train Caboose as Stores

We can easily spend an hour running around and exploring.  If you are looking for a fun and free outing for the kids, head on up to the train station.

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.


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?

Funnest Summer Ever!! Week 2 a Wrap

Week 2 of the Funnest Summer Ever was a bit soggy.  Okay, in actuality it was a lot soggy; a cold front decided to park itself over the Shenandoah Valley for 4 days.  So our plans for hands-on geology  exploration were put on hold a week. Instead, we went bowling and visited Eli’s Fun Center.

3 young boys standing in front of the lanes

This week we are determined to visit the Natural Chimneys and Natural Bridge.  We have our friends lined up for our first trip and I look forward to sharing the fun with you tomorrow.

Stats for the week:

  • Distance traveled: 17.6 miles
  • Money spent: $18 total–$6 for bowling (shoe rental) and $12 for Elis
  • Total Distance traveled to date: 192.6 miles

Eli’s Fun Center in Verona

This week’s field trips for our Funnest Summer Ever!! were a total bust.  But, we decided to make ice cubes out of rain and go have fun anyway.

On Friday the boys and I met  preschool friends at Eli’s Fun Center in Verona.  I will be honest, the germaphobe in me was a bit worried.  However, I decided to suck it up and see what it was all about.

We arrived at 10am for the 1.5 hour open jump session.  It’s $6 per child.  We signed our kids in, but didn’t fill out the usual release form that I’ve seen at other jump house places.  While the building itself is meh, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it looked clean.

Elis Fun Cener Infaltables

The kids had a blast.  There was a huge inflatable obstacle course, a batting area, bouncy basketball along with 2 smaller inflatable houses for the littles.

Children playing on inflatables

What I liked was that there was more for the kiddos to play with.  There were a lot of coin operated ride-ons, a play house, a train table and a balance air plane.

Elis Fun Center Play

There was a separate room that houses an arcade, tables, snack bar and an area for parties.

Elis Fun Center Arcade

Elis Fun Center snack bar

The drawbacks–there was no soap in the ladies rest room and if there had been more big kids, it would have been tough for my little guys.

The Details:

  • Cost is $6 per kid
  • Public Play hours are Fridays and Saturdays from 10-11:30am
  • Make sure you wear socks and no studded clothing

Have you been to Eli’s Fun Center?  What do you think?

Kids Bowl Free–Really!

Apparently Mother Nature fully intends to thwart all our plans this week. A cold front has pushed over the Valley and seems to really enjoy the view. That’s okay–we  are always up for a plan b!

This week we signed back up for Kids Bowl Free.  This  national program gives 2 free games of bowling each day to children. The only cost is shoe rental. And,  parents can purchase a family pass, for up to 4 adults, for only $28. Each family member can bowl 2 games themselves.

Young boy holding a bowling ball

The details vary based on participating bowling alleys.  Staunton Bowling Lanes give kids access from April 1-September 30th and the age limit is 18 and younger.  However, the lanes in Woodstock run the program from May 1-August 31 and the age limit is 15 and younger. Check the Kids Bowl Free website for specific details for your local bowling alley.

3 young boys standing in front of the lanes

My boys love bowling and this is a great way to spend an hour and a half having lots of fun! Thank you to Kids Bowl Free for sponsoring this great summertime event!

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!



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.