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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 with teens? 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!


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 $39/ticket for kids in grades K-12 and $49/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 2022 are August 8 – September 19, 2022. 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 5 – September 5, 2022 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

Lounge chairs and tables with umbrellas between a creek and a swimming pool.

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

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

Open outdoor canvas tent with rustic swing, table and chairs, and hanging lights.

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.

Will you take your kids to Dollywood for Homeschool Days?

Inquisitive Kids will Love these Ranger-led Hikes at Paris Mountain

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If you have a child in your life who likes to ask “What’s that?” you might want to check out the ranger-led hikes at Paris Mountain State Park, Greenville, SC. We found the hike to be educational and exciting and think your family will too! Learn more about the Ranger-led hikes and when you can take one of your own. Plus you can find out more about Paris Mountain State Park in our article about the park.

We reviewed Paris Mountain State Park’s ranger-led hikes back in 2018 and we updated this review with current 2022 dates and information. The kids who attended this event back in 2018 still talk about “that time we looked at creek creatures under the microscope.” Their interest, knowledge, and experience with creatures and animals have only increased, yet this hike remains a very fond memory of a truly educational adventure right here in Greenville. If you have the opportunity to attend, we highly recommend it!


Eden Farms Offers Amazing Trail Rides Overlooking the Mountains near Greenville, SC

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Eden Farms, just outside Greenville, SC, offers trail rides 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 horse

About Eden Farms

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.

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

2023 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.


These Stores, Businesses and Venues Offer Discounts for Homeschoolers

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If you’re homeschooling in Greenville this year, you might be eligible for 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.

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.


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.
  • Also see our homeschooling Q&A video with local homeschool moms

Why I’m Preparing to Homeschool Next Fall

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I have two elementary-aged kids that are currently in public school. We have a lot of respect and gratitude for their school, our district, and for the way our school has tackled home learning.

The winter (pre-pandemic) we had already decided to homeschool my oldest who was entering middle school this fall. We have always been open to alternative options if we thought it was the best decision for a particular child.

But, now we are strongly considering also homeschooling my younger daughter who we had originally planned to keep in her public elementary school. Here’s why my family is thinking of homeschooling next year due to the current COVID-19 pandemic:

But first, here’s a couple disclaimers:

  • This article is about what I’m thinking might work best for my family. Of course, different families have different considerations and needs and what we are choosing might not be what works best for them.
  • This article is not about criticizing public education or the public education plans for the fall. I’m thankful for our many public educators and their hard work to keep education running during a difficult time.
A chalkboard with scattered school supplies. Text on chalkboard says, "Why I'm preparing to homeschool next fall."

Why we might choose to homeschool next fall

It is unlikely that school will be normal this fall.

Molly Spearman, South Carolina Education Superintendent has stated that it is doubtful that school will look normal in the fall and that the state is working on creative solutions for this fall. The potential plans (dependent on disease spread) include ideas for socially distancing students such as staggering attendance to reduce class size or continuing e-learning from home. In addition, teachers will have new challenges as they work to remediate students who have fallen behind or lack educational resources at home.

Read more: CDC guidance for Schools During COVID-19 and for information on South Carolina’s plans watch this video with Amy Wood & Molly Spearman.

If next year’s school situation includes learning at home (part-time or full-time), homeschooling will allow me to make sure my kids learn to their potential.

If I have to school at home in the fall (part-time or full-time), I would rather be in charge of my kids education myself. I would like to make sure that they are learning in a way that both challenges them and includes more than the minimum of subjects. While I’m sure the schools will do their best in the fall, they may be limited by the wide variety of needs that they need to meet and there may be a lot of time spent on remedial work that my children don’t need.

Homeschooling is more flexible than pandemic schooling.

If I’m going to end up possibly schooling my kids at home, I may as well be able to enjoy the benefits of homeschooling’s flexibility. You can take extra field trips, study topics that are of special interest to your child, and slow down or speed up as appropriate.

You also get to choose how much time your kid spends on screens, completing worksheets, or joining Zoom calls.

Homeschooling allows our family to stabilize school at a time when it feels uncertain.

I remember the day that my phone pinged a notice that school was closing. I was at the library trying to stock us up on books, and you could see the shock as parents across the room heard the news.

Since that day, we have spent weeks wondering how our kids would be graded, if they would return to school, and more.

I’m not sure that I want my children to go to school each day not knowing whether school will be open the next day or whether they will suddenly be on a new schedule or not allowed on the playground.

In addition, my youngest child struggles with transitions and changed schedules. She may have trouble adjusting if school feels uncertain from week to week.

Homeschooling doesn’t change the fact that we are living through a difficult, uncertain time, but it does allow my family to take control of school and stabilize it best we can for our children.

My kids have thrived while learning at home.

While it’s not always been easy, my kids have thrived while doing school at home. They enjoy being able to work hard to finish assignments and play outside once their work is completed. They seem better rested and less stressed.

My husband and I both work from home so we’ve been able to keep the kids learning while still working. Both of us enjoy learning and don’t mind relearning how to do a math problem or correcting a writing assignment.

What would make us still consider public school for the fall

We haven’t made our final decision on homeschooling both kids. These are some factors that will be part of our decision:

What the actual state of the pandemic is in the fall

If it seems highly likely that school will look relatively normal next fall and will not be likely to be disrupted, we would strongly consider still enrolling our youngest in public school.

What South Carolina’s plans look like for the fall

We are watching South Carolina to see what official plans they will announce. These are some of the questions that I’m wondering.

  • Will the kids still have class in school every day?
  • In the event that children are learning part-time/full-time at home, what will learning at home look like?
  • Will there be any health requirements that might make school a stressful environment such as children not being able to be near each other or having to wear masks during class?
  • Will gifted and enrichment programs in the arts and academics still continue as normal?
  • Will the children be able to enjoy clubs such as drama or music?
  • Will instruction be kept on grade level for children that don’t need remedial help?
  • Will children be allowed to go on field trips?

How we are preparing to homeschool

We are preparing now just in case because early preparation gives us the greatest flexibility.

We researched curriculum and homeschool styles.

There is an overwhelming amount of information and opinions about homeschooling curriculum and styles on the internet. We spent some time figuring out what types of options would work best for our family so that we would be ready to go if we need to homeschool. I’ve found that joining the Facebook groups related to my top curriculum choice has been helpful to see what I could expect if we choose to use that curriculum.

I also have learned that there are a lot of homeschool related sales this time of year. It might be hard to know what’s a good fit for your family, but if you know for sure what you want you might be able to get a good deal with a decent return policy.

A couple good homeschool groups to start with: South Carolina Homeschooling Families, The South Carolina Homeschooling Mom, Greenville Homeschoolers Directory

We researched how to legally homeschool in South Carolina.

In South Carolina there are three options under the law that allow you to legally homeschool. The third option is the most popular because it is the simplest, which is to register with a homeschool association. We will also need to formally withdraw our children before the school year starts.

Learn more: South Carolina Homeschool Laws & The South Carolina Homeschooling Connection

You can also learn at home via public online charter schools in South Carolina. This option is not homeschooling but it is another option for parents that want their children to learn from home. If you were to chose this option, you would need to formally enroll your child in the public online charter school of your choice.

Public online charter school is free but may require that your child owns a computer and has internet access. It also will have more formal attendance requirements and you will be required to use the provided curriculum.

We budgeted money for homeschooling.

Homeschooling isn’t free. We budgeted money for curriculum, laptops, a local co-op, association fees, and music lessons. You can homeschool inexpensively, but most people will spend more than they would on public school fees.

Taking time to research the costs involved for my family now makes it easier to know whether this choice is one that works for our family. We also know what preferred services and opportunities have deadlines or specials before fall so that we can factor those in our decision.

For more information: our homeschool guide lists local associations, co-ops, lessons, and more.

That’s our family’s story about why we might homeschool this fall. Are you considering it yourself? We would love to hear your story in the comments.

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

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

Open every day except Christmas Day

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