Studer Summer Roadtrip Vacation

Friday, July 11, 2014

My North Carolina-living best friend had her first baby this year and since we were all itching to meet the little man, we opted for a summer vacation roadtrip style this year, hitting spots along the way for kid-friendly fun and adventures.  I'll be posting soon about how I go about planning our trips (like this roadtrip and our annual Grandma&Kids to NYC) - but for now, let's get to the fun stuff.

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 enjoyed lunch at the Pink Cadillac Diner before jumping back on the road - with two sleepy kids after a day of zoo fun - to make our way down to Apex, NC to finally meet our favorite friends; The Hubbards.  It was a long haul down (about 4 hours) but the kids did great and were only awake and semi-cranky for about an hour and a half.  I spent plenty of time in the backseat with them to keep them occupied.

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
On Wednesday morning, Gem woke us all up by opening the window and shouting, "Swimming Pool Open!"  We had free breakfast (a requirement for our hotel stays, hah!) and then spent some time at the hotel pool.   Grey finally got the courage to try swimming independently with his Puddle Jumper and was so sweetly proud of himself.  He said over and over, "Look at me!  I'm doing it!  I'm so proud!"

After a quick snack (leftovers from the night before's dinner), we headed out to Monkey Joe's for an afternoon that put a smile on their face that stretched from ear to ear.  They probably weren't technically big enough for some of those bouncy-house slides, but our two kids went at them like wild animals.  Honestly.  It was hilarious and so much fun to watch.  B and I got to sit peacefully on the sidelines and giggle at our two amazing and funny kids while they climbed, jumped, slid, and bounced their energy away.

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
When we finally headed back to the Hubbards for a BBQ dinner, Gem barely made it into her jammies before falling asleep on the couch.  Grey drifted in and out of sleep while watching Nick Jr (and introducing Karpy and Matt to their very near future of Peppa Pig marathons).  The grown ups got to enjoy delicious home cooked food and laugh.  It was a great, great day.

Two best friends getting photobombed by Regi!
Sweet, sleepy Andrew
After a short-lived 'sleeping in' on Thursday morning, we hit the hotel pool again (obviously) and then had some lunch in the room (PF Chang's leftovers) before heading out to the Marble's Kid's Museum in Raleigh.  I cannot say enough good things about the museum - honestly!  We had a wonderful time there all afternoon into the evening.  The kids loved each different section of the museum a little bit more than the last!  I think if I had to guess, they liked the Around Town part best with Power2Play and IdeaWorks sections as close second & third.

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!

On Saturday morning, we made the mistake of trying to walk to the Chincoteague Pony Center and got majorly lost on the confusing streets of Chincoteague in the hot sun with two cranky kids.  It was not some of our finer vacation moments.  We finally made it back to the hotel though before hoping in the car and driving to the Pony Center.  The kids got a pony ride (at $7 a pop!) and we did a little wandering but there wasn't much else to do besides the pony rides.

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.

Around dinnertime, we packed up and headed back to the hotel to get ready for a nice dinner (nicest we'd had all vacation yet!) at Etta's Channelside restaurant.  Grey managed to stay asleep through the entire dinner (!) and Gem was well behaved, so Brandon and I counted it as an actual real live romantic dinner.  hahha!

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.


  1. What a great family vacation! You look fabulous (and I'm kind of jealous of your pregnant belly) and the photo of Gemma feeding the stuffed animal with a giant bottle melted my heart. You have such a beautiful family! Thank you for sharing with us :-)

    1. thank you so much Aly. that pic of Gemmi feeding the stuffed animal is one of my favs from vacation. that pouty mouth! hahha, she's such a little mumma girl. thanks for reading! xxox