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


Walnut Hills Campground with the Explorers Club

The Staunton Parks and Recreation host an Explorers Club for kids ages 5 and under.  We meet on the 3rd Friday of the month and check out different places in Staunton and Augusta County.  We’ve been to a pet store, the fire station, a hike in Montgomery Hall Park.  In the interest of full disclosure, my little brother Steve runs this program.  And it’s totally awesome.

This week we went to Walnut Hills Campground, a KOA near Mint Spring, VA. There is tent and RV camping, along with cabins that can be rented.  We rode over on the Pickle, the Parks and Rec green van, and pulled into the campground.  The main building houses check-in and a store.

Walnut Hills Campground


Camping at Walnut Hills

The team was wonderful.  While the campground and all of it’s amenities are usually reserved for camping guests, we were given permission to play for the morning.  First up was a duck race.

Walnut Hills Duck Race

Walnut Hills Duck Race 2


Then the kids got to feed ducks and play along the banks of the 2-acre Lake Kerplunken. The lake is stocked with fish and a license is not required.  They campground does ask that campers fish and release or only catch what they intend to eat.

Lake Kerplunken WH

Next it was over to the playground.  There was a slide, swings, a wooden train and a climbing center.

Walnut Hills Playing

It was a warm summer day.  The kids were super excited about putting on their swimsuits and jumping in the pool!

Walnut Hills baby pool

Walnut Hills Pool

Then, we had one last surprise; we were treated to watermelon.  Yummy!

Watermelon at Walnut Hills

Many thank to Walnut Hills and Staunton Parks and Recreation for a fun day!

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?

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?

Funnest Summer Ever!! Week One a Wrap–On to Week Two

Last week for our Funnest Summer Ever!! we traveled 175 miles visiting Chiles Peach Orchard in Crozet, Green Valley Book Fair  in Mt Crawford and Boxerwood Nature Center in Lexington.  We studied plant life and worked on planting our own garden while we were at it. Total cost $14 plus gas (excluding books at GVBF).

Natural Bridge Bear

This week we are focusing on rocks and geology.  We are in the unique part of the country that boasts amazing rock features including the Natural Chimneys in Mt. Solon and the Natural Bridge in Rockbridge County.

We kicked off our week with a walk to the Staunton Public Library to pick up books on geology. We will read these as we learn about the different kinds of rocks and minerals that are native to our beautiful Shenandoah Valley.

We are looking forward to a fun week of exploring!

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.