|our kid-friendly road map|
We left early on Monday morning while the kids were still pretty sleepy and made it through about 3 and a half hours of the 5 hour drive before they were up and awake. Our first stop on the trip was to Covington, VA for an overnight and visit to the George Washington National Forest. We planned to spend the day relaxing in the sand & sun at Cole's Point with the kids.
We spent the day on a mostly deserted little cove of the lake that offered beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, enjoyable water, and clean bathrooms! It was a sweet little spot. The kids got their first try at using their Puddle Jumper Life Jacket floaties and Gemmi took right to the water like a fish. Grey hung back in the more shallow parts but was definitely more brave than normal. Puddle Jumpers are amazing if you have non-swimmers in your family. They have been the only thing that have given my kids confidence enough to swim independently AND they are US Coast Guard approved. (This is my own recommendation that has not been requested or endorsed by anyone).
We had a really wonderful afternoon at Cole's Point; picnicking, swimming, playing ball, and building castles and moats. It was the perfect start to our week long roadtrip! We enjoyed delicious pizza and turnovers at Cucci's for dinner, then swam some more and stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Express.
|picnic lunch on the lake|
|Daddy and Gemmi|
|trying to catch fish with his sand strainer!|
|Mumma and studerbaby#3!|
After free hotel breakfast on Tuesday morning, we headed out on the road about an hour away to Natural Bridge, VA to make a visit to the Natural Bridge Zoo. It was a hot day, but we spent a few hours, happily visiting with the animals and feeding quite a few of them. Gem and Grey loved feeding those hilarious, crazy goats while Brandon preferred feeding the camels (!). We even got to feed a giraffe! Grey loved riding the elephant; Beautiful, while Gem didn't enjoy it as much - although she went along for the ride. We got to see baby tigers; pet a baby camel, hedgehog, and baby porcupine; and for the first time in our lives were introduced to the crazy bird called a Cassowary which Booboo said, "Look! A giant turkey!"
|face to face with a giant turkey; better known as a Cassowary|
|Mum and Booboo riding Beautiful|
|Daddy and Gemmi on Beautiful|
|Gem's true feelings about riding an elephant|
|Swamp Boy wannabe|
|Eeee! Baby Hedgehog!|
We finally made it to our hotel for the next three nights; La Quinta, and settled in for a little while until the Hubbards came over and we all fell in love with Baby Andrew - especially Gemma. The kids gave Andrew tons of attention through kisses, constant hugging, too close talking to his face, and reading him books (poor little guy - he sure is loved though!) We all went out to dinner together at O'Charley's and laughed, chatted, and chowed well past our kids' bedtimes (which aren't actually a real thing on vacation, right?)
|she cares not if he cries every single time; she is holding that baby!|
|so much baby staring|
We stopped for a quick bite to eat at PF Chang's, on our way over to the Hubbard's house to spend the rest of the day at their house swimming in the neighborhood pool and having dinner at their place (thank you Hubbards!) This was a super high energy burning day for the kids and they went at it like Olympic athletes. It was go-go-go the whole day; jumping, swimming, playing, sliding, running! It was madness, and they loved every minute of it. They played so hard all day that both of them had blisters on their toes that night!!
|reuniting with Baby Andrew and meeting Regi (the Hubbard's dog!)|
|our little mumma|
|Two best friends getting photobombed by Regi!|
|Sweet, sleepy Andrew|
The Marble's Kid's Museum was another great stop on our trip for the kids to run around and have a blast while B and I sat back and watched with grateful hearts that we have healthy, happy, and curious kids. We found benches to cozy-up on with our third little baby baking and laughed at our kids being wild and free in a space filled with interesting kid stuff.
We felt so good after exploring the museum, we even caught How to Train Your Dragon 2 at their Imax theater that afternoon. Grey loved it - it was in 3D! - and Gem made it through about 15 minutes before falling asleep on her Daddy's lap.
We headed back to our last night in NC to eat pizza and wings with the Hubbards and to cap off the night with a little night swimming, a little star gazing, and a little baby Andrew squeezing before saying goodbye to our dear friends. They were amazing hospitable hosts and we had the best time visiting their city and spending time with them. (We miss you guys so much already!)
We had a very early start on Friday morning, car packed and asleep kids buckled in by 5:30am when we made our way back up north toward Chincoteague, VA for an early boat cruise around the islands with Captain Spider! We pulled into the parking lot with only about 2 minutes to spare after a very long trip up north from NC! Our boat trip was informative and fun. We've now (finally?) learned our lesson after our boat cruise and last year's trip to Lincoln Caverns that our young kids do not do well on 'tour' type trips that require listening to stories and histories of where we are. But they hung in there and enjoyed the wind and boat riding until they both fell asleep - hah!
After our boat cruise, where we saw both the famous Assateague wild ponies and a bald eagle (!), we headed back to grab some late lunch at the Wave House Grill and a quick dip in the hotel pool. Back at the Rodeway Inn (our hotel), the kids crashed (as did Brandon and I) and we took a long, much needed nap for the better part of the afternoon into the evening.
When everyone woke up feeling refreshed, we made a visit to the playground at Veteran's Memorial Park where Grey learned how to do the monkey bars by himself for the first time ever! Then we skipped dinner entirely and went straight for some Mister Whippy's ice cream instead!
So, we had some lunch at Famous Pizza before heading into Assateague to spend the rest of the day at Tom's Cove as beach bums.
After dinner, we headed down to the Firemen's Carnival where the kids had a blast riding the kiddie rides and even hit the jackpot on the fish pond winning two big prizes! We enjoyed funnel cake, some live music, and then stopped at the docks to relish in the gorgeous sunset on our last night of vacation.
We got another early start on Sunday to head home. After such a fun-filled (and exhausting for all of us week) we bailed on our Sunday plans to make an afternoon stop at Cascade Lake in MD on the way home. We were reluctant to do so because it looked so much fun and the kids enjoyed swimming so much all week - but the thought of our own house and settling back into regular life was just a little too enticing. A stop for brunch and we were home about half a day earlier than we had originally planned.
It was such a great vacation this year, not without it's small issues and frustrations. But surprisingly, traversing over 1000 miles in a week (!) and driving down south only to turn around and head back up north after three days was incredibly enjoyable and happy. Nothing like vacation to remind me just how grateful to be for my little family and the our silly, nonsensical fun that comes from long car rides, hotel sleepovers, and being the first in the swimming pool every single day.