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Archive for the ‘Homeschool’ Category

15 Day Trips with Teens Near Greenville, SC

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Are you looking for a fun day trip for teenagers? Need a way to spend a day with your teen near Upstate, SC? These are a great way to spend some quality time exploring together or just having fun. Here’s our list of the 15 best day trips for teens & tweens near Greenville!

Activities for Teens Near Me: Greenville, SC

Looking for more things to do for teenagers? Ways to get them involved in the community? We’ve got your Ultimate Guide for Teens in Greenville, SC!

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{2024} Homeschool Days near Greenville, SC

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Looking for a fun homeschool day event near Greenville, SC to attend this school year? We have a list of local and regional places that offer Homeschool Days including farms, zoos, and amusement parks.

Part of the fun of homeschooling is all the field trips my kids and I take. We try to go out as often as possible to any number of places that give a hands-on, visual, and educational experience and always have a lot of fun.  

There are so many fantastic places in our area Upstate SC area that offer Homeschool Days specifically for homeschooling families. I put them together here to help all of us homeschoolers have some options for extending learning beyond the home environment. 

You may also find our Homeschool Guide to Greenville, SC, Field Trip Guide, and Homeschool Discounts stories helpful as you plan out your year. Also, check out these Educational Things to Do Near Greenville, SC.

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Museum & Gallery at Bob Jones University: Art History for All Ages

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M&G, the Bob Jones Museum and Gallery, is a place to examine cultural and art history for all ages. Though M&G has been closed to the public since 2017, you can still view historic pieces of art from the gallery at various campus locations, off-campus locations, and events throughout the Upstate.

Plus, M&G still offers homeschool programs, specialized tours, and summer camps! As M&G continues to fund for a new location, we can support them through the various art history programs available.

Where to See Collections on View Throughout the BJU Campus

Though the brick-and-mortar Museum and Gallery location is no longer open at BJU, there are several places where you can view Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, American, and religious art throughout the campus at Bob Jones University. The M&G Collection on View has pieces displayed in three campus locations, including:

  • Gustafson Fine Arts Center Atrium: Open Monday – Friday, 8 am – 5 pm
    Tours are available, Open to the public
    European Old Masters painting collection of Luther’s Journey: Experience the History
  • War Memorial Chapel: Open by appointment only
    Tours available
    The Benjamin West Collection: The Father of American Painting
  • Mack Library: Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm
    Open to the public
    Medieval and Renaissance artifacts and art pieces 

You will also find off-campus art displays from the M&G collection at First Presbyterian Church of Greenville from April 4, 2023- October 12, 2023, at the Jerry and Alice Lenz Gallery in Downtown Greenville, SC. These art pieces explore the Baroque era and include 14 paintings as part of the Ponder Anew: Baroque Masters of the Baroque exhibition. The satellite location is used to temporarily house one of the largest collections from M&G while BJU acquires a permanent location for the museum.

The gallery is open to the public on Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm. You can also make an appointment by emailing cfraser@firstpresgreenville.org for out-of-public hour visits. 

Kids creating art at the Bob Jones Museum and Gallery

Activities for All Ages

Does history and art make your eyes glaze over? It doesn’t have to be like that! History is rich with incredible and interesting stories and art reflects that intrigue. M&G offers Scavenger Hunts that encompass everything from the signs and symbols in the art that mean something more than meets the eye to be able to identify techniques used by the greatest artists in all of history.

For 2023, Scavenger Hunts are currently held at the Ponder Anew: Baroque Masterworks of the Museum and Gallery exhibit at the First Presbyterian Church of Greenville. You can grab it at the reception desk at First Presbyterian from April until October 12, 2023. 

M&G also offers two print-off seasonal scavenger hunts for Easter and Christmas. These hunts are for all ages and use short audio clips and videos to help the hunter find out more information about the pieces they are hunting for.   

Art Discovery Tours for Kids

There are also specialized Cultural Discovery Tours for kids so they can learn more about art history. These tours are from K – 12th grade, and groups of 10 or more are needed. Tours are free but must be requested in advance.

Currently, M&G offers on-campus and off-campus tours for three different exhibits, including Luther’s Journey: Experience the History (grades 6th – 12th), Benjamin West: The Father of American Painting (grades 3rd -12th grade), and Ponder Anew: Baroque Masterworks from the Museum and Gallery (1st – 12th grade). Homeschool groups and teachers can submit a Specialized Focus Tours form to find out more information about the exhibits.

homeschool days at Bob Jones M & G

M&G Homeschool Days

M&G at Bob Jones University offers a special program for homeschoolers for their Homeschool Days, one that caters to students ages 5 – 14 years old. Lessons are 75 minutes long and are available once per month at the Mack Building on campus.

The Homeschool Days theme for 2023/2024 is American Masters. During their visit, students will learn about American artists, while exploring various art styles, media, and artists themselves. Elementary and Middle School lessons are available, so your kid will be learning on their level. Children will be inspired to dream and imagine what impact they can have on history too!

Homeschool days for 2023/2024 include:

  • September 7 or 8, 2023
  • October 5 or 6, 2023
  • November 2 or 3, 2023
  • February 8 or 9, 2024
  • March 7 or 8, 2024
  • April 4 or 5, 2024

Homeschool Days Class Schedule

Elementary classes for children ages K5- 5th grade are on Thursdays at 10 a.m. and 2 pm or and Fridays at 10 am, noon, and 2 pm.

The Middle School lessons are for children grades 6th – 8th grade, and follow the same order of subject matters on Fridays at 10 am, noon, or 2 pm.

Registration for Homeschool Days

Registration for Homeschool Days begins in August, and you can register for the Fall 2023 classes through the Homeschool Days Fall Registration form. Registration for the second semester for Spring 2024 will open at the end of the year.

Fees are $8.50 for children and $3 for adults. Adults are not required to stay for the lesson but are asked to walk their children into the museum and pick them up after 75 minutes.

For FAQs on the Homeschool Days, see here.

Digital Homeschool Days

If you prefer an at-home program, M&G also offers Digital Homeschool Days. These digital classes are for ages 5 – 14 years old and explore The Age of Antiquity. You must pre-register for the digital lessons and will have access to lessons on Sumer, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Hebrew, Greece, and Rome. 

Museum on the Move

If you are looking for a unique way to bring the museum to your classroom or homeschool co-op, then M&G has you covered! They offer art-based STEAM units, whoo hoo! If you choose the in person option, an educator will come to your classroom or group for a 30 – 60 minute lesson. Lessons meet core SC standards, so you don’t have to stress about that. 

You can also choose for grades 1st through 6th, with several lesson options available. You can find more information about the Museum on the Move program and how to register for in person and digital lessons on the M&G Museum on the Move page. 

Kids Create! Summer Camp at M&G

Every summer, M&G at Bob Jones University offers a Kids Create! Summer camp that will have your child exploring the world through art. Summer camps are available for children aged K5 – age 12. Your child will explore the fine arts, create art projects, play interactive games, learn age-appropriate material, and make new friends! Camps are typically a week long in June and are half-day.

Registration for Kids Create! Will open at the beginning of 2024 for the 2024 summer session.

Museum & Gallery at Bob Jones University
864-770-1331
http://www.bjumg.org
https://www.facebook.com/bjumg

Have you ever taken your kids to M & G at Bob Jones University?


The Ultimate Homeschool Guide to the Upstate, South Carolina.

Homeschooling?

Check out our Ultimate Homeschool Guide to the Upstate!


Summer Camps are the Best!

We have a Guide to over 120 Summer Camps Near Greenville, SC. There is something for every interest.

Summer camps in Greenville, SC and Upstate, SC

20+ Stores, Businesses, and Venues That Offer Homeschool Discounts

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If you’re homeschooling in Greenville this year, you might be eligible for homeschool discounts at some of your favorite local stores and businesses. You can find discounts for books, computers and even local things to do like visiting Roper Mountain Science Center. So, stock up on school supplies and save money with perks for the upcoming school year!

There are also some pretty significant discounts for homeschoolers when traveling. We’ve included discounts to popular venues at nearby vacation spots in Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida.

Where to find homeschool discounts at stores and venues near Greenville, SC.
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Eden Farms Offers Amazing Trail Rides Overlooking the Mountains near Greenville, SC

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Interested in horseback riding in SC? Trail rides at Eden Farms, just outside Greenville, SC, are available on their sprawling 160-acre farm overlooking the mountains. Kristina took her kids and has all the details.

Thanks to Eden Farms for letting us do a trail ride so we could write the review!

I’ll take any chance to get close to the beautiful mountains surrounding Greenville and if it involves horseback riding, even better. This is exactly what Eden Farms in Marietta, SC offers to anyone who wants to enjoy their gentle horses, the sprawling farm, and the shaded trails.

Eden Farms

About Eden Farms: SC Equestrian Center

Eden Farms, founded in 2001, is family-owned and operated. They have several pastures, three arenas (one of them is covered), and 160 acres of land with views of Table Rock, Caesars Head, and Paris Mountain. You can even catch a view of downtown Greenville on one of the trails. 

They are perhaps most well-known for their horse therapy program, Happy Hooves, a nonprofit Therapeutic Equestrian Center that serves people with special needs of all ages and abilities. Since the nonprofit began in 2003, Eden Farms has served thousands of individuals. Happy Hooves Therapeutic Equestrian Center is the only one of its kind in the Upstate and one of five in the state that is a PATH International (formerly NARHA) Premier Accredited Centers. This basically means they have high standards of training and safety. 

Eden Farms also offers birthday parties, camps, trail rides, riding lessons, horse boarding, and homeschool days. Our editor, Bethany, checked out one of their homeschool days in this great video, which includes a tour of the farm, horses, barn, and awesome playground.

Explore on Horseback in Upstate, SC: Trail Rides

I’ve ridden horses before but all in all, I’m still pretty clueless about horses. My kids have only ridden them at events around in a circle. We are all beginners to say the least, which didn’t matter at all when it came time for our trail ride at Eden Farms. 

As soon as we got there, Becky, the owner, and her team made us all feel welcome and encouraged. Once I signed all the release forms (which you can do online beforehand to save time), we were off to meet our horses in the spacious barn. By the way, the barn is gorgeous. It is just so pretty and clean! And all the horses we met were very calm and gentle. You could tell they were happy.

Petting a horse at Eden Farms

When we booked the trail ride, Becky asked our weight and height so she could prepare the correct horses for us. My seven-year-old had a beautiful small horse named Twiggy. My daughter fit on her perfectly. And my oldest daughter at 11-years-old rode Hannah Eve, a gorgeous quarter horse. My horse, Rebekah, was a Belgian. She was huge but very gentle. I immediately could relate to this horse as she loved to eat while we were riding. 

Once we got our helmets on and were introduced to our horses, we were taken out to one of the arenas to mount our horses from a wooden stand, which made it really easy. And then we rode around the arena for a few minutes while Becky and our guide instructed us on how to turn, stop, and go on our horses. It was really easy. And then we were off to the trail. 

Meandering Through the Forest

My two kids each had their own guide walking alongside them as is the standard at Eden Farms. Kids ages 7-12 can ride but do have a guide with them for safety. I had never seen this before on previous trail rides when I was much younger but it made me feel very safe and secure to have them with my kids even though they were right in front of me. I was pulling up the rear with Rebekah and got to see the joy my kids felt while riding the horses. It was awesome. 

The trail we were on was about a mile long and runs through the back of the farm on a dirt path and then up into the nicely shaded woods. But on our way up there, we were treated to beautiful views of Table Rock, Caesars Head, and Paris Mountain. It was just so peaceful. Like I mentioned in the beginning, mountains make me so happy. Seeing them is very calming for me and being able to ride such a sweet and gentle horse while watching my kids enjoy something so thoroughly was very special. 

Trail Ride at Eden Farms

To give the best experience to their guests, Eden Farms only takes out four people at a time on trail rides. Based on my previous trail riding experiences, I had expectations of what it would be like at Eden Farms but it was so much better than what I had imagined. Becky and her team were so attentive and patient and answered all our questions while encouraging us in our handling of the horses. The horses were so well-behaved and gentle. I never felt unsafe or unsteady and really loved the experience. My youngest wanted to know how to trot by the time we were done and now she’s begging me to send her to summer camp there while my other daughter is already planning her birthday party at Eden Farms. It’s definitely a fun and welcoming place. 

Booking Your Own Trail Ride 

Eden Farms runs trail rides Monday – Saturday by appointment. Over the summer, trail rides go out at 8 am because of the heat. Make it a day trip and head to Table Rock State Park to jump in some waterfalls or hit up a nearby sandy mountain beach. During other seasons, rides are in the morning and early afternoon.

Give Eden Farms a call to schedule a trail ride at 864.898.0043. Kids are welcome and those ages 7-12 will have a guide walking with them on the trail but they will be the ones to control the reins. Kids need to be at least seven years old and riders must be under 225 pounds. 

Eden Farms trail ride

This would make an awesome date activity with your significant other or your kid(s). It’s a fun special occasion activity or just something enjoyable to do with your friends or family visiting as well. 

Trail rides are about an hour long and include a safety lesson and helmet. They are $80/person. 

Eden Farms
4700 Dacusville Highway, Marietta
864.898.0043

Brushing a horse at Eden Farms

Learn More About
Eden Farms & Happy Hooves!

Ever Wanted to Homeschool at Dollywood in TN? You can with their special Homeschooling Days!

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Did you know that the famed theme park, Dollywood, has Homeschool Days? The park offers reduced admission and educational programs plus all the fun of the rides and experience of the attractions.

If you are looking to have an adventure, Dollywood will be offering Homeschool Days for families that are utilizing the homeschool option. These days focus on mostly science and math – and really, what’s cooler than learning about the laws of physics by riding a roller coaster?

Dollywood Roller Coaster

Be sure to check out the newly installed whimsical area of the park, Wildwood Grove, complete with rides, including a new roller coaster called DragonFly. There is plenty to see and do at the park in addition to the educational programs offered these days.

What Do Homeschool Days Include?

Homeschool Days at Dollywood are geared for kids in Kindergarten through 12th and include a new curriculum, Science in the Park, that utilizes the scientific principles that make many of the rides at the park actually happen like velocity and speed.

Wildwood Grove at Dollywood

There will also be lots of visual learning through craftspeople doing glass-blowing, candle making, and forging. The Tennessee Valley Authority partnered with Dollywood to create STEM-related learning experience that kids can do throughout the park. Some activities are learning about water filtration, kinetic energy, solar and wind energy, eco-friendly transportation, and weather.

Kids can also learn about the science of birds by visiting the 30,000 square feet Eagle Mountain Sanctuary at the park, which houses the largest collection of non-releasable bald eagles in the country.

Admission & Dates

Normal admission to Dollywood is $79+ for people ages 10-61 but on Homeschool Days, parents can take advantage of $41/ticket for kids in grades K-12 and $51/ticket for each accompanying adult. Huge savings!

To obtain the tickets, you need to call (888) 428-6789 at least 72 hours ahead of your visit. These tickets are not available at the gate. Parking is $20/car so plan for that cost as well.

Homeschool days for 2023 are August 7 – September 18, 2023. The park is not open every day so be sure to look at the calendar before planning your trip. Dollywood Splash Country also has homeschool days from August 8 – September 10, 2023 and tickets are discounted to $37/person.

Where to Stay

Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort is a beautiful hotel that offers free transportation to the park. The resort is offering 20% off a standard room for homeschool families Sunday – Thursday.

We’ve personally stayed at these places below and can recommend them as wonderful options for families.

Margaritaville Island Hotel
A stay at this beautiful and trendy hotel will be a relaxing experience. Margarita makers are in every room and balconies overlook either the river or the Island at Pigeon Forge. You can explore the Island, take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, grab a margarita at the bar (or in your room) and just chill. Read our review of our stay at this awesome hotel. 

131 The Island Dr, Pigeon Forge, TN

Greystone Lodge By the River
One of the very last family-owned hotels in Gatlinburg, the Greystone dates back originally to the early 1960s and has become the go-to hotel for generations of families. The location cannot be beat as it is steps from the aquarium and across the street from Anakeesta, within walking distance to shops and restaurants. They also have a great pool and free breakfast. It’s perfect for families looking to have a restful and accommodating place to call home during their trip. We stayed there and absolutely loved it

559 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN

Greystone

Foothills RV Park & Cabins
If you are not into tent camping but are still looking for a cheaper option than a hotel, Foothills has bare bones cabins to rent where you bring your own linens/sleeping bags and pillows. This is a good option if you’re really trying to stay within a budget but want someplace clean and comfortable. The location is right on the cusp of Pigeon Forge, very close to Dollywood, and maybe ten minutes from Gatlinburg. Camping cabins are rented April through October and start at $52/night.

4235 Huskey St, Pigeon Forge, TN

The Ridge Outdoor Resort
The Ridge Outdoor Resort is about ten minutes from Dollywood and has two zero-entry pools, a lazy river, a catch & release pond, a deli and laundry facility on-site, two fenced in dog parks, a playground, a game room, and one of the pools has a hot tub. We stayed in one of their two-bedroom glamping tents and it was amazing!

1250 Middle Creek Rd, Sevierville, TN

Glamping tent at the Ridge Outdoor Resort
Some of the glamping tents at the resort

Camp Margaritaville RV Resort & Lodge
A water slide, pool, beautiful rooms, on-site restaurant, arcade, and amazing staff make this spot an incredible place to stay. Relaxation and fun are perfectly balanced here. Read our review of Camp Margaritaville RV Resort & Lodge to plan your own trip.

149 Cates Lane, Pigeon Forge, TN

Pool at Camp Margaritaville

Smoky Hollow Outdoor Resort
Stay in a covered wagon or tipi at this resort in Sevierville, TN for the ultimate pioneer adventure. The resort is close to Soaky Mountain and minutes from Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Smokies. Read our review here.

660 Gists Creek Road, Sevierville, TN

Smoky Hollow Wagon

Go Lodge

Be blown away by the 17 room game mansion in Gatlinburg! It has more than 300 indoor and outdoor games and sleeps up to 20 people. This is perfect for a multi-family or big friends vacation and about 15 minutes from the main strip in Gatlinburg.

Camp LeConte
Kicking up the glamping a notch further is Camp LeConte, which offers a treehouse, safari tents, and a retro camper. You can even catch the trolley into Gatlinburg from the campground. Depending on the time of year, the two-person safari tent starts around $128/night. Read our review here.

1739 East Pkwy, Gatlinburg, TN

A tent at Camp Leconte

Other Things to Do Nearby

There are a ton of things to do in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is minutes away – and it’s free. Anakeesta, the SkyBridge, PINK Jeep Tours, and lots more are all within a 20-30 minute drive of each other and excellent opportunities for both learning and fun.

Here is our Ultimate Guide to Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge, which has lists of all kinds of activities to enjoy during a trip to the area. We also have a guide to nearby Sevierville, TN for some lesser known, but super fun, things to do and places to eat and visit.

Will you take your kids to Dollywood for Homeschool Days?

Getting Started Homeschooling: 11 Frequently Asked Questions

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Thinking about homeschooling? We’ve gathered some common first timer homeschool questions and asked Dianna Broughton, director of Carolina Homeschooler, to help us with some answers.

Carolina Homeschooler is an Option 3 Homeschool Association. Dianna also runs Traveling Homeschoolers, a group that provides domestic and international group travel for homeschoolers and their families. She’s also the author of a book for new homeschoolers called, Homeschool Essentials: A Practical Guide to Getting Started.

As an Amazon Associate, Kidding Around earns from qualifying purchases.

  • Looking for more help? Don’t miss the Kidding Around Greenville Homeschool Guide with homeschool classes, activities, co-ops, field trips, and more in the Upstate, SC area.
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Homeschooling in the Wild: Offerings of the Greenville Zoo

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Have a homeschooler and need a little time outside, away from all the books and computers? Pick a day and make an educational adventure out of a trip to the Greenville Zoo. They have lots of special events to help your family learn and enjoy the zoo like story time or with the zoo keepers for questions. They even offer special classes just for homeschoolers. KAG Contributor and local mom Maria Bassett is sharing some of the educational opportunities you’ll find at the Greenville Zoo. 

Be sure to check out our Homeschool Guide for tons of idea, resources and more!

Sure a trip to the zoo is fun any day, and it can be an educational adventure. Sometimes, though, my kids run from exhibit to exhibit and we never really take the time to read the signs, observe and learn. That’s frustrating, and doesn’t feel very educational. Sometimes we bring along some animal classification work (if you’d like some freebie worksheets checkout this homeschool giveaways site for some options.)  But sometimes, it’s really just more fun to listen to the great folks at the zoo, than it is to listen to mom!  That’s why I am so thankful for the many educational gems that the Greenville Zoo offers.  They have so many educational programs, and many of them are completely free with admission.

Greenville Zoo homeschool programs

Homeschool programs at the Greenville Zoo

Homeschool class

The zoo offers a homeschool class once per month for K5- 8th grade students. The classes are broken down into smaller age groups and are on a variety of topics.  My two oldest boys love these classes! They get some hands on time with various animals and critters. (After the class that featured a number of invertebrates, I heard a lot about how they got to touch the hissing cockroach.  Yuck!) And they really learn lots of neat facts. Each class costs $10 for members and $15 for non-members. The dates vary each month and the class requires registration you can complete online. You can find the registration and dates here.

Tell Me About it Tuesdays

Free! (with admission) At 10:30 am and 12:30 pm on Tuesdays you will find zoo staff at specific exhibits talking about and answering your questions about the animals they highlight.  Tell Me About it Tuesdays is a great opportunity for homeschool students to get answers straight from the source.

Learning Safari Thursdays

Free! (with admission)  Want to see some zoo creatures up close?  Check out the Learning Safari Thursdays in front of the Buck Mickel Education Building on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month at 3:30 pm. These are fun, hands on exhibits. What a great chance for homeschoolers to learn from zoo staff, without the added cost!

Wild for Reading Wednesdays

Free! (with admission) The younger homeschool kiddos might enjoy reading a book with a zoo staff member and a live animal friend at Wild for Reading Wednesdays every Wednesday at 2:30 pm.  You’ll find this event near the farm yard exhibit.

Note: All three of the above free programs meet September through May.

Family Workshops

Looking for an activity the whole family can enjoy together? The zoo offers Family Workshops on a variety of topics through the year. You need to register in advance for these programs!

Conservation Lectures

Families with older children might enjoy the zoo’s free conservation lecture series. The zoo has partnered with Furman to bring educational lectures about conservation efforts for specific animals. Lectures take place at The Children’s Museum of the Upstate or a Greenville Library and are scheduled in the evening. These lectures are totally free!

Plan your own trip to the Greenville Zoo

150 Cleveland Park Drive, Greenville
864.467.4300
www.greenvillezoo.com

Adults $9.75; kids 3 – 15 $6.50; under 3 free. Members: free

What is your favorite program for your homeschooler? Tell us in the comments!

Your Kids Can See Elk at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Cherokee

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Did you know there are elk in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains? We didn’t! After hearing in passing about the elk herd, we decided to load up the kids and set off on an adventure to see what we could find. And find them we did at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, along with some other great educational gems.

Elk were originally native to the Smoky Mountains, but over 200 years ago the population died off to extinction in the area. However, back in 2001 a project was begun to reintroduce the elk to the Smoky Mountains. Since then, the herd has multiplied. Cherokee, NC offers excellent viewing of these impressive animals in their wild habitat.

You can find more day trip ideas on our Day trips in Western NC page.

Find a place to stay near Oconaluftee. This article contains Stay22 affiliate links.

Oconaluftee Visitor Center

One great place to view the elk is the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. This spot offers a wealth of opportunities for homeschool students. The field next to the visitor center is known for elk viewing. In addition, the center boasts a small indoor museum about the history of life in the Smoky Mountains and an impressive outdoor museum consisting of original farm buildings built in the early 1900s.

There is no admission fee.

The best time to observe elk

First, observing the elk. We arrived at the center around 10 am, and we were disappointed to hear from the rangers that the best time to view the elk in the field is either first thing in the morning, about 7 am, or in the evening, approximately 6 – 7 pm, as elk prefer the cooler temperatures.

Walk along the Oconaluftee River

However, determined to enjoy our day anyway, we walked on the easy trail along the Oconaluftee River. The river was crystal clear and we enjoyed skipping stones and our leisurely walk. After walking a short while, we turned around to head back to the car to pick up our picnic basket. But our walk was interrupted by a few large park natives, elk. We were treated to a small group of 14 elk. One of them was a large bull with an impressive set of antlers.  They were just a few feet off the trail! It was thrilling.

The bugle sound the bulls make to attract the females is unforgettable. This occurs mostly in September and October.

Be careful to view the elk safely

We climbed down the river bank to avoid getting too close to the bull. However, other walkers did not make the same decision. Another walker decided to approach the bull to take a picture and we watched the him rear up and toss his antlers. Fortunately the bull turned and ran, leading small herd away. (Note that especially in mating season, bull elk can be very aggressive. Approaching them closely is NOT recommended. It is actually illegal to approach them willfully within 50 yards. Stay on the trail and be mindful of getting too close. The Smoky Mountains National Park has some information about viewing the elk safely, you can find that here.)

Mountain Farm Museum

While the elk were extremely exciting to see, we also really enjoyed the small museum in the visitor’s center and the Mountain Farm Museum adjacent to the center. Both of these places allowed us to get a glimpse of what living in the mountains in the early 1900s was like. At the entrance to the Mountain Farm Museum (outdoors) look to the right of the opening in the fence and you will find a covered box with self-guided tour booklets. This will give you a lot of information about the individual buildings themselves, as well as their role on mountain farms at this time. We really appreciated that the buildings in the farm museum were original and not replicas, so we were able to examine the construction and see elements like pegs used as nails, and the dovetail construction of the cabin walls. Here we viewed a cabin, chicken coop, meat house, wood shed, pig pen with pigs, apple house and many other buildings utilized by mountain farmers in the 1900s.

Admission to this site is completely free, and the travel time is a little over 2 hours from Greenville, making this a really fantastic day trip.

Homeschool Field Trip Expansion Ideas for Elk

This section contains affiliate links.

As a homeschool trip, this site offers both science and history opportunities. If you’d like to augment the trip, check out some books or search the internet for information about elk or mountain farm life in the 1900s. You might also enjoy the following:

Read Little Farm in the Ozarks, by Roger Lea MacBride. This story is a continuation of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, focusing on her daughter, Rose. It is set in Laura’s mountain farm in the Ozarks, in the same time frame as the buildings viewed at the Mountain Farm Museum.

Read Little House in the Ozarks: The Rediscovered Writings, by Laura Ingles Wilder. This is a collection essays Laura wrote for a newspaper during the late 1800s and early 1900s about her life as a farm wife on an Ozark Mountain farm. This is NOT a Little House series story and was not written for an audience of children, so parents may wish to read through first and make sure it is accessible and acceptable for their children.

This article from American Forests offers a lot of information about the project to reintroduce elk to the area. It contains a lot of information, but is quite long, so parents may want to go through it with children and select a few points to focus on.

For an alternative view, read this article about the struggle farmers in the area have with damage caused by the elk (you can view an example of this damage on the farm museum’s apple trees). Consider holding a mock debate in your home between siblings, or kids vs parents, about the benefits to the elk and the park vs the viewpoint of the farmers and the damage the animals cause.

Here is a brief minute and a half long video showing the elk at Oconaluftee with a little bit of information about the herd from the wildlife biologist for the Smoky Mountains National Park. You can hear the male elk bugle at the beginning of the video.

Oconalufee Visitor Center

Oconaluftee Visitor Center
1194 Newfound Gap Rd, Cherokee, NC
828.497.1919

Open every day except Christmas Day

How do you think your kids would feel about a road trip to visit elk?

KidSenses: Just an Hour from the Upstate

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For Fall break this year, my family decided to head up to western North Carolina for a day of fun. While we were up there, we stopped in Rutherfordton, NC  (one hour and a half from Greenville and under and hour from Spartanburg) to see the children’s museum KidSenses. I had heard other local parents tell me that it was a popular day trip destination from the Greenville/Spartanburg area and I wanted to see it for myself.

Review of KidSenses in Rutherfordton, NC

What Is KidSenses?

KidSenses is an interactive children’s museum with 16 exhibits. While at first glance the museum might look small from the outside, the space is packed with fun things to do for all ages of children.

Some of our favorite exhibits were:

Kid’s Pueblito – This Mexican diner was my daughter’s favorite exhibit. The space was bright and cleverly decorated with everything from small tables to food prep and beverage stations.

Zap Theatre! – My son said that the Zap Theatre! was his top choice and I agree that it was an unique experience hearing and watching a Musical Bi-Polar Tesla Coil play music. This particular exhibit has select showtimes so be sure to ask ahead of time for the schedule.

Alphabet Trail – My children were too old for this section of the museum reserved for ages 4 and under but I still peeked in to see what it looked like. The space had ample room to play, imaginary areas, and couch (perfect for feeding a baby or resting while the kids play). The area was completely closed off by a door and the museum staff assured me that they enforce the age limits. I would have happily retreated to this quiet corner back when my kids were smaller.

Bubble-Ology – This room was perhaps one of the most unusual exhibits at the museum. In it, kids could create all sorts of bubbles including a contraption that allowed you to stand inside a giant bubble.

HealthWise – This particular exhibit is not open at all times, but if you are lucky enough to catch it when it’s open you should definitely check it out. Inside, kids could don lab coats, goggles, and gloves to perform science experiments. If you have a child that is always wanting to mix everything in your kitchen cabinets to see what happens, this is the perfect place to let them experiment without the mess.

Lights! Camera! Action! – This exhibit included a full stage, complete with curtains, costumes, and a puppet theatre.

WFUN Studios – My kids enjoyed pretending to be newscasters in this mini studio that had everything from a working camera to a news desk and green screen. This exhibit is best enjoyed with two or more people as one person can pretend to report while the other person can control the background.

PetSenses – In this area, kids could grab a stuffed pet, groom it, weigh it, and even check the pet for ID chips.

In addition, there was also a mini grocery store, firetruck, art room, and more. With 16 exhibit areas, there was plenty for my children to explore.

Tips for Visiting KidSenses

We would recommend calling ahead of time to ensure that you aren’t visiting at the same time as a school trip.

There are only a couple options for dining in Rutherfordton, so pack a lunch or ask at the desk for a couple recommendations. There is however, a great ice cream and coffee shop right across the street.

We saw plenty of street parking on the day we visited.

My kids are old enough where I wasn’t worried about “losing” them, but some other parents told me that they did feel like they had to watch their children closely due to the fact that you could quickly scale a climber in the middle of the museum to get from one floor to another. The museum was pretty contained though with only one entrance. There is a back door but it has an alarm. Overall, I think that due to the smaller size, it would be easier to watch small kids than other similar museums.

KidSenses is in the process of adding a new division for youth ages 11 and up called The Factory. It will be located right behind KidSenses in a separate building. We still don’t have a date on when this new hands-on maker space will open, but it will certainly be a great addition for families with older kids.

Basic Information

KidSenses is located at:

172 N. Main St.
Rutherfordton, NC 28139

You can call them at 828-286-2120.

They are closed Sundays and Mondays. Tuesdays-Saturdays they are open from 9-5.

Admission is $8/person (children & adults)

Have you been to KidSenses? We would love to hear what you think.

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