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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

The Davidson River Campground Is Lots of Fun for Kids & Adults

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Are you looking for the best place to camp in the Pisgah National Forest? We visited the Davidson River Campground near Brevard and think that you should consider it for your next camping trip! This campground offers not only hiking but also easy access to tubing.

For even more great camping choices see our list of 12+ Campgrounds Near Greenville that Are Perfect for Kids.

What is the Davidson River Campground

The Davidson River Campground is located in the Pisgah National Forest (off 276) just outside Brevard, NC. It is about an hour and 15 minutes from Downtown Greenville, moments from major grocery stores and dining, and yet seems an entire forest world away. Campers can enjoy wading in the knee-deep Davidson River, diving into the brisk swimming hole, hiking on beautiful mountain trails, tubing down the lazy waterway, fishing for trout, biking through the forest, or simply enjoying the quiet serenity found in the park’s many shaded campsites.


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?

12 Unique Ideas for Family Fun in the Port Royal-Hilton Head-Beaufort Area of the Lowcountry

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Planning a trip to the Hilton Head or Beaufort area this summer but unsure of what to do with the kiddos while there? After a recent trip to the area with her family, Kristina put together a list of 14 fun things to do with family while in the Hilton Head-Beaufort-Port Royal area. You’re sure to find the perfect activities for your next family trip to this area of the Lowcountry!


Kidding Around Dollywood: Rides, Shows, and Fun

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Dollywood is such a perfect destination from Greenville! At just about three hours from the Upstate, it’s a favorite with Kidding Around Readers! See what advice Kidding Around’s Bethany had to offer after her trip to the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee theme park.

roller coaster at Dollywood

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


I’ll be honest; we truly had such a great family experience visiting Dollywood that I’m not even quite sure where to start. During our visit, I was immediately struck by the carefulness and attentiveness of the Dollywood staff. The park was well-maintained, clean, and attractive. We found a wide variety of attractions for all ages. And, our family, despite visiting for one and a half days, never stopped enjoying our time at the park.

Dollywood Rides & Play Areas

As a family with young children, we were impressed by how many rides Dollywood provides for children. Our then five-year-old was tall enough to ride several small roller-coasters and most other rides when accompanied by an adult. Even our then two-year-old was big enough to ride most of the rides in the “Country Fair” section of Dollywood.

I noticed that the attendants in “Country Fair” were especially alert to helping families with small children. I saw rides stopped on several occasions because a small child was scared or crying. The child was politely allowed to get off, and then the ride was started again for the rest of the group.

The rides also spanned different thrill levels allowing all children have fun choices to ride comfortably. Most of the rides could also seat adults who wanted to ride with their children.

Dollywood Tip: If you visit the Centralized Measuring Station inside the park, your child will receive a colored armband coded by which rides your child is tall enough to ride. This armband will help you not accidentally wait in line for a ride that your child is too small to ride.

We also found a couple of Dollywood rides that our entire family could ride. One of which was the Dollywood Express, an authentic coal-fired steam engine. Unfortunately, we made the mistake of riding the Dollywood Express during our daughter’s nap time (I thought she might fall asleep). Instead, though, she had a complete melt-down and struggled to get free during the entire ride. The train does not stop for anything, so you may want to be sure your kids are happy before boarding.

Dollywood also has a couple of great family rollercoasters, FireChasher Express. Children as small as 39 inches can ride this roller coaster, making it ideal for families wanting a ride that everyone can enjoy. The coaster is a fast-paced ride through a curling track with a mid-stop inside a “fireworks truck.” The car experiences a back-blowing explosion (complete with small flames as a special effect) that shoots the roller coaster back to the station. The fire is a bit thematically scary for some children, but the ride is not too intense.

Another great rollercoaster for younger riders is Blazing Fury, which starts as a sightseeing ride through a mine but ends with a minecart off the rails twist. This rollercoaster only has a couple of small hills and quick twists but is completely dark in the last seconds of the ride.

Not only did we find plenty of rides suitable for our young kids, but my husband and I enjoyed the larger roller coasters as well. My personal favorite roller coaster was the Wild Eagle roller coaster. It’s a massive rollercoaster that runs at 60 mph, but the ride is smooth, and the harnesses fit very snug, making it a more pleasant ride.

This YouTube video of Wild Eagle is a great preview of what to expect.

Dollywood Tip: If you are visiting with small children, be sure to check out the “Parent Swap” feature that allows you to wait in line once and take turns riding the roller coaster while the other parent watches the children.

In addition to the Dollywood rides, my kids enjoyed playing in the playgrounds and water spray areas of the park.

Dollywood Shows

While we missed out on most of the shows due to my kids’ ages, I enjoyed watching two shows in The Little Engine Playhouse. I love children’s books, so I was delighted to find out that the shows were based on books. I was equally impressed that the shows kept not only me entertained but my two-year-old mesmerized. Outside The Little Engine Playhouse, we also had fun watching a small magic show.

Dollywood Tip: Schedule a show for the hot part of the day to give your kids a break from the heat!

Each summer features a different main show, including everything from bubble shows to dog stunts. Be sure to arrive early as the theater was packed the day we went. The shows do not play every day, so you will want to consult the show guide as you plan your time in the park.

This year we also visited in the peak season and were able to see the nightly firework show. The show was great and definitely worth staying until closing time to see. You can see the fireworks most clearly from near Firechaser at the top of the park. Most of the rides continue to run until closing time, but some of the rides up near the fireworks do close at dusk.

Dollywood Food

We ate inside the park our first year, but the food was expensive and the plates small. In later years we instead opted to pack our cooler with sandwiches and tailgated outside of the park. Consider bringing a couple of lawn chairs if you choose to do so. Re-entry is easy with a stamp upon exit, and the parking lot shuttle runs during the entire day.

Dollywood Tip: You can get free ice water at any of Dollywood’s food vendors! This helps fight the heat of the summer!

Dollywood craftsmen

Dollywood Extras

I felt like one of the biggest perks of visiting Dollywood was the unique variety of attractions for our family. Here are just a couple of the enjoyable spots we noticed through the park:

  • Local craftsmen and shops full of handmade items.
  • A wild bird preserve
  • A roller-coaster museum
  • Places to feed ducks
  • Lots of scenic spots & plenty of shade and benches

Baby-Care Stations
If you are breast-feeding or bottle-feeding an infant, you will be happy to find out that Dollywood does have a nursing station with gliders and a changing station. I also noticed several family bathrooms throughout the park. The bathrooms were well-maintained and clean during our visit.

First-Aid Stations
We managed to scrape a knee within moments of getting in the park and had the opportunity to visit the first-aid station. The nurse was able to save the day by applying an Angry Bird bandage to my kid’s knee.

More Dollywood Tips for Families

  • Don’t miss the tram back to your parking spot just because you have a stroller! The tram has stroller parking in the front of the tram.
  • While you aren’t allowed to bring food in the park, you can get your hand stamped, leave the park, and reenter during the same day.
  • The roller-coasters have sample restraint systems outside where you can check to be sure that you fit in and are comfortable with the restraint system.
  • The restaurants inside the park can help warm bottles for bottle-feeding parents.
  • You can turn in your tickets after your visit for a credit on a season pass. The season pass is an excellent deal and costs less than three visits to Dollywood.
  • You can also purchase a 3-day pass to visit both Dollywood and Dollywood Splash Country on the same trip.

I received media tickets in order to write about Dollywood but this post contains my honest opinion about our trip. We had such a great time that we have made two additional family trips to Dollywood since the original publication of this review.

More To See At Dollywood

The team at Kidding Around are huge fans of the country music legend and her amusement parks! Because of that, there is no shortage of information from our trips to share with readers! If you are planning a trip to the Dollywood Resort, we encourage you to make the most out of your trip with the information offered on Kidding Around!

  • Wildwood Grove
    Dollywood, the premier theme park attraction located in Eastern Tennessee, added a new attraction to the park in 2019 called Wildwood Grove.
  • Homeschool Days
    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?
  • Christmas At Dollywood – Smoky Mountain Christmas
    The famous theme park becomes a mecca with over five million lights draped across every single building. Shows like It’s A Wonderful Life play throughout the month-long festival. And a Christmas parade is held nightly at 8:15 pm, an engaging entertainment show full of lights and colors.
  • Splash Country Water Park
    Dollywood is a popular place to visit for Greenville families as it’s tons of fun and only three hours away. While you’re there, you can beat the heat by spending some time at Dollywood’s Splash Country.

For more information on the area surrounding Dollywood, check out the Kidding Around Guide to the Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg areas of Tennessee

Have you ever visited Dollywood? What was your experience?

See Red Pandas, Black Bears, Gray Wolves, and Pet Goats & Sheep at This Nature Center Near Asheville

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After I saw photos from the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville, NC, I knew that my family would have to go. We love outdoor adventures and seeing animals, so I knew that my kids enjoy a visit. When we decided to finally visit, the WNC Nature Center was even better than I anticipated. If you haven’t been, you need to schedule a visit. And guess what? If you already have a Greenville Zoo membership, you can get half off admission to the WNC Nature Center.

Find a place to stay near Asheville, NC. This article contains Stay22 affiliate links.

Why the WNC Nature Center is so cool

The WNC Nature Center focuses on animals and plants in the southern Appalachian mountains so you’ll get to see animals that roamed this area eons ago up to the present day. The uniqueness of this aspect helps guests to understand more about their own environment and animals they may see in the area.

The center is built into nature with lots of shade, walkways, and natural playgrounds. It’s not huge so it’s very manageable for a day trip, especially with smaller children. The exhibits are interactive and fun for kids of all ages and the park is hardly commercialized.

The center is expanding though and has been building into their 2020 vision plan with new merchandise areas, a new (and beautiful) entrance, expanded parking and restrooms, and even a new name – which we don’t know yet.

What You Will See at the WNC Nature Center

You will start your visit in the Appalachian Station where kids can see a variety of small animals and reptiles. Children will also enjoy interacting with a textured wall and looking at rocks under microscopes.

Then, you will venture outside where you will follow paved and wooden sidewalks through animal exhibits. Most of the animals are behind glass or chain link fences but the exhibits themselves are large and full of animal play structures. These animal exhibits include: otters, raccoons, foxes, gray wolves, cougars, coyotes, bobcats, black bears, hawks, owls, and more. There is a brand new red panda exhibit with the cutest, fluffiest red panda ever. And the red wolf exhibit is an educational experience unto itself.

While exploring, you will also find the Trillium Nature Trail, a .6 mile nature trail to allow children to see the beauty along the Swannanoa River.

Kids will enjoy the Arachnid Adventure, a playground based on spider web jungle gyms. This playground also is surrounded by spiders hiding on the surrounding trees making a fun “eye-spy game”. There are also other playgrounds scattered throughout the park where kids use natural materials to build and play with.

Otter Falls also has a slide that kids can play on while they watch the active animals enjoy the water.

Your visit will end at the Western North Carolina Farm where kids will get to pet animals and even pretend to be farmers themselves in an interactive play zone with small wheelbarrows and tools inside the huge barn. Be sure to check out “water painting” nearby. A gem mine is also next to the barn and the buckets can be purchased in the little shop.

A new Songbird Garden is near the wolves and built like a big wall but cutouts to try to find the birds that are pictured on the wall.

Sensory Bags are available for free

For parents of children with autism or sensory processing disorders, free sensory bags can be signed out at the gift shop upon entering the center. They are sponsored by KultureCity, a national non-profit, and include headphones, a fidget toy, and a feelings chart.

Signs are posted throughout the park indicating areas to perhaps use the headphones. It’s great that the WNC Nature Center now has these available!

Should I bring a stroller?

If you’ve got small kids, bring a stroller or rent one ($10) there. There are lots of hills and little legs will probably get tired. There are plenty of places to rest and enjoy the animals and playgrounds but yes, strollers would be ideal.

Our Experience at the WNC Nature Center

We came later in the day, so we ended up missing the petting zoo (it closed at 4 pm) and didn’t have time to explore the trail. My kids had such a great time though that we hardly missed the extra activities. We easily spent two hours exploring and could have spent another 30 minutes if the nature center would have been open longer. We tend to be slow visitors to attractions, so your family may tour the center quicker especially if you don’t have small children who want to play in the play areas.

I really enjoyed that the layout and outdoor walkways seemed more like a nature walk than zoo. The animals were active in the cool fall air and most of them were easily visible. The paths were easy to follow, though it was confusing figuring out which way to turn to explore the center without missing any of the exhibits.

My kids favorite exhibits were the Otter Falls and the WNC Farm play area. I personally loved watching the cougars and was thrilled to get some wonderful photos even through glass. I was disappointed that glass and fences made it difficult and even impossible to get good photos of some of the animals, but at least the animals were easy to see in person.

Some concessions are available through vending machines and new concession areas will likely be opening in the next year.  The center also has plenty of picnic space for families wanting to bring a lunch. The WNC Nature Center is also right beside a large park with a playground, picnic shelters, and public pool. The center has restrooms in the ticket access, barn near the petting zoo, at the arachnid climbing playground, and in the Appalachian Station which are wheelchair accessible.

Open: 7 days a week, 10 – 3:30 pm
Admission: $13.95/ adults ($1 off for seniors), $13.95/ youth (13-15), $9.95/ kids (ages 3 – 12) 2 and younger free, half off with Greenville Zoo membership
75 Gashes Creek Road; Asheville, NC 28805
WNC Nature Center

Have you ever visited the WNC Nature Center? What did you think?

Mom Review: Camping at Mount Pisgah

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One of my favorite places to celebrate the outdoors with my kiddos is high atop the Blue Ridge Mountains at Mt Pisgah Campground. The campground is right off the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway (near Canton, NC), and while individual sites are mostly wooded and tucked away, the entire area boasts breathtaking panoramic views of rolling green-blue mountains from horizon to horizon. Picturesque sunrises, sunsets, hikes, picnics, drives, you name it, it all comes with an incredible view.

What to Expect at the Mt. Pisgah Campground

As it sits at an elevation of nearly 5,000ft, the entire area boasts much cooler temperatures than here in Greenville. Even in the middle of summer, don’t forget a light jacket. If you’re camping in the fall, enduring the chilly air will bring the payoff of a vibrant colorscape you won’t soon forget. The campground accommodates both tents and RVs with a total of 127 sites, as well as offering drinking water, fire rings, picnic tables, and full service bathrooms.

Reserving a Campsite

Some sites can be reserved online and some are first-come first-serve. Campsites are just $20/night. There are no power hook-ups – so plan accordingly. And don’t forget to head down to the campfire circle for fun programs and marshmallow roasting. Ranger-led programs are offered most Saturday evenings at 7:30 pm in the amphitheater at the top of B loop.

The Camp Store

Directly across the street, through trails behind the campsites, is a quaint camp store that is always fun to visit, plus it’s got you covered when you think of what you forgot, like lighter fluid, matches, and even coffee if you can’t get that fire going in the morning. The store is open daily from 8 am – 8 pm.

Things to do around the Mt. Pisgah Campground

What else can you do? The campground offers hiking straight from the sites. If you’re feeling ambitious (and your kids are too) you can trek about two miles up the summit of Mt. Pisgah to a viewing platform that’s truly worth the effort. Our kiddos have done this many times over the years and have always enjoyed the hike.

Or drive about a mile to the trailhead of Frying Pan Tower trail, an uphill climb to an old fire watch tower with 360 degree views of the mountains.

If you want to take a dip or explore some more just head down the mountain along 276 toward home and you can enjoy Looking Glass Falls, Sliding Rock, the trout hatchery, Cradle of Forestry, and the Davidson River among many, many others. Head further along the Blue Ridge Parkway and find yourself in Asheville for the afternoon.

One of my kids’ favorite pastimes about this camp spot is simply driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway with the windows down, and screaming their heads off in every tunnel we encounter. A warning dear friends: there are many tunnels on the BRP. Share this tradition if you dare!

Plan your own trip to Mount Pisgah

Mt. Pisgah Campground
408 Blue Ridge Pkwy, Canton, NC 28716

Have you taken your kids camping lately?

Related Content: Where to Find Waterfalls Near Greenville | Davidson River Campground | Western NC Day Trips

What to Expect at Pirates Voyage in Myrtle Beach

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Recently, my family traveled to nearby Myrtle Beach in order to check it out for our Kidding Around community. We had a lot of adventures (you can read our full Myrtle Beach itinerary here) but one of the experiences that stands out for being truly amazing and beyond our expectations was the dinner & show, Pirates Voyage produced by the Dolly Parton Company. Here’s a review of our experience at Pirates Voyage plus some tips for your visit.

Thank you to the Myrtle Beach CVB and Pirates Voyage for inviting us to enjoy the show.

Pirates swing from ropes in front of a pirate ship. Pirates Voyage Myrtle Beach

Before the show

Don’t head in too quickly as you might spy a sea lion or parrot outside before the show.

The doors open at 50 minutes before the performance. The show is around 2 hours long so take that into consideration when you plan your arrival time. However, there is an entertaining pre-show in the Pirates Village with pirates singing and tricks to help pass the minutes before your meal begins. We were happy to see lots of seating in the waiting area and there was popcorn and drink available for purchase if you needed a snack.  Before the show you can also pay $19.99 per person to “Join the crew” which includes face painting, costume accessories, and flags. The face painting area was decorated very nicely with huge chairs for the kids to sit in and the face painting looked very elaborated. You should reserve your spot ahead of time if you want to add this to your package.

I was also pleased to find that the gift shop had a wide range of prices and types of items.  Our kids had brought some of their own spending money but it wasn’t much and both found a decent costume prop for $3 each in the gift store.

About the show

Pirate on stage spinning fire

Be prepared to be entertained by pirates, tricks, animals, and even mermaids during the two hour show. My family was impressed by the number of tricks and the many surprises. The show also included singing, dancing, and a fun story plot. Don’t worry if your kids are not into pirates, there are parrots, sea lions, mermaids, and lots of tricks and aerobatics. The show is fast paced and kept my kids’ attention for the entire time.

You will also be assigned a pirate team to cheer for which adds a fun interactive element. It’s all lighthearted and while there is enough sword fighting and banter to keep the kids entertained, it’s not violent or scary.

At a couple points in the show, members of the audience were given a chance to participate. I’m not sure how the members are chosen, but my kids were picked to chase ducks. They received a book from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and a medal for their participation.

It’s easy to see from any level of seating in the arena. We were seated in one of the higher sections and had no trouble seeing. In my opinion, it’s worth paying a couple extra dollars to be in the preferred section though in order to be in the middle of the room.

The food

Plates of food and a drink

Like most dinner & show venues, you will be served a set menu, though you can request a vegetarian meal or gluten free meal when you make your reservation. The beverages served are Coke, Diet Coke, tea, and water and you are served multiple refills during the meal. The food was hot and fresh and included chicken, shredded pork, corn on the cob, creamy vegetable soup, bread, basted potato, and an apple pie pastry. You can purchase additional beverages at the start of the show.

Last Tips

Be sure to bring a suitable cash tip as tips are not included in your ticket price. Our table had a small sign that suggested 15% for good service. The servers work very hard carrying large trays across the arena while in costume and they deserve a decent tip.

Have your kids use the restroom before the show as it’s a long show during which they will possibly be consuming a lot of beverage. We were really happy to find clean restrooms that were actually large enough to accommodate the crowds (in fact when we headed there after the show we didn’t even have to wait in line).

If you choose to skip the pre-show, be sure to still arrive early enough to allow time to go through the ticket lines and get your photo taken before the show.

You can purchase a bundled deal on the Pirates Voyage website when you purchase your tickets to save money on tickets to Ripley’s Aquarium or Wonderworks.

About Pirates Voyage

8907 N. Kings Highway
Myrtle Beach, SC 29572
(843) 497-9700
Pirates Voyage website
Ticket prices: $49.99/adults, $26.99/children

Have you ever been to Pirates Voyage? What did you think?

Brookgreen Gardens Is a Miniature Paradise Near Myrtle Beach

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If you are visiting Myrtle Beach, you must put Brookgreen Gardens on your bucket list. This miniature paradise is located in Murrells Inlet (about 45 minutes from Myrtle Beach) and it’s only a couple minutes from Huntington Beach State Park.

Thank you to the Visit Myrtle Beach and Brookgreen Gardens for inviting us to experience Brookgreen Gardens during our week stay at Myrtle Beach. You can get our complete Spring Break Itinerary for Myrtle Beach here.

The azaleas at Brookgreen Gardens

What’s there to do at Brookgreen Gardens?

First, don’t allow the name to trick you into thinking that you will only experience a garden (though you will certainly stroll through plenty of beautiful gardens), this award winning destination includes also a lowcountry zoo, several children’s areas, a large sculpture collection, and more. Put on your walking shoes and sunscreen because you could easily spend the entire day exploring.

The Creek Excursion

The Creek Excursion at Brookgreen Gardens

We started our visit by heading to the Wall Lowcountry Center to purchase tickets for the Creek Excursion. This pontoon boat tour down the creek is not included in general admission but it’s priced very fairly. I’m so glad that we choose to go on the boat excursion because the tour guide shared a lot of interesting historical information about the rice plantations that were originally in the area and the various owners of the property. We also saw several alligators and native birds. The pontoon boat is shaded too giving you a little break from the sun. Be sure you have your kids use the restroom before the boat ride as it is 45 minutes. Children old enough to enjoy the presentation or that don’t mind sitting quietly for longer periods of time will enjoy the ride best.

Children’s Discovery Center

After we finished the boat ride, we headed back to the Wall Lowcountry Center where we discovered that the Children’s Discovery Center had opened for the day. This small room was stocked with fun activities for the kids including a dinosaur dig, a clay sculpture area, and an art station. It was also air conditioned and had two rocking chairs. I imagine that in July, this is the most popular spot in the gardens for kids needing to cool off for a couple minutes.

Walk to the Lowcountry Zoo

You can either ride the trolley up to the Lowcountry Zoo or walk, but if it’s spring you should definitely choose to walk because you won’t want to miss the path framed by Azalea bushes and the many look out stations and trees that you will pass on the pathways. There are complimentary strollers parked at the Wall Lowcountry Center if you have a little kid that tires quickly from walking. The strollers are quite large and our seven year old managed to cram herself in one.

Storybook Forest

Right before you reach the zoo, you will find the Storybook Forest which is a collection of play houses and structures painted and themed around fairy tale characters. There isn’t a lot of shade (despite it being a “forest”) but the kids didn’t seem to mind at all.

Lowcountry Zoo

The Lowcountry Zoo is not large but it’s perhaps one of the most relaxing zoos I’ve ever been in. The pathways were shaded and beautifully landscaped with plenty of shade and the animal exhibits mostly blended in very well with the native surroundings. Inside the zoo we walked close to herons, watched otters play, and saw an alligator. All of the animals in the zoo are native to the area and the raptor area is all rehabilitated birds that can not live in the wild. The zoo does offer free tours and activities depending on what time and day you visit. We also saw a butterfly house but it was not open during our visit.


Of course, you cannot visit Brookgreen Gardens without seeing the famous gardens. They are quite large and varied. The azaleas were in bloom when we visited in early April and were absolutely beautiful. In the gardens, you will find not just flowers and fountains but also a large collection of around 2,000 pieces of art, mostly sculptures.

Tips for Visiting Brookgreen Gardens

We learned a couple things during our visit that I’m sure you will want to know:

  • There are plenty of bathrooms, but if you go on the Creek excursion like we did, make sure your kid goes to the bathroom FIRST. It’s 45 minutes which is plenty of time for a kid to go from “I need to go to the bathroom” to “it’s an emergency”.
  • Your ticket includes the entire gardens and zoo. It’s quite a large area and there are several guided tours. Plan on eating while you are there. There are several restaurants onsite and there are lots of great spots to eat a picnic.
  • There are complimentary strollers (including “adult strollers”) which is really nice because there is a lot of walking.
  • Almost everything is outside so be sure to put on your sunscreen and bring a bottle of water.
  • Many of the sculptures have a fig leaf or less of clothing. Be prepared for your child to point this out loudly at the most inappropriate moments.

About Brookgreen Gardens

1931 Brookgreen Drive
Murrells Inlet, SC 29576
Hours: 9-5 every day (with extended hours during select periods of the year)
Admission: $18 for adults (13 and older), $10 for children (4-12), FREE children under 4, $16 for seniors (65+)

Have you ever been to Brookgreen Gardens? What did you think?

What to Expect at Medieval Times in Myrtle Beach.

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If you have ever wanted a chance to let your kids be a medieval lord or lady for a night, you should definitely consider reserving tickets for the dinner/show Medieval Times. Our family recently attended this show for the first time on our spring break trip to Myrtle Beach. Our children enjoyed the show immensely and there are a couple locations that aren’t too far from the Upstate. Here’s what to expect and also a couple tips from our visit. To see everything that we did in Myrtle Beach, see this article packed with ideas of things to do while in Myrtle Beach on spring break.

Thank you to Visit Myrtle Beach and Medieval Times for making it possible to write this review.

Exterior of Medieval Times building

The Preshow and Souvenirs at Medieval Times

The doors open  75 minutes before the show and seating is first come, first serve. We arrived about an hour before the show started and while it did result in very good seats, our children had trouble waiting until the show began. Before the show begins you can watch a pre-show where you can pay to be “knighted”, several gift shops, a bar, and a torture museum (additional fee). The show is around two hours, so if your kids are younger you may want to arrive closer to 20-30 minutes early if you don’t care about your seats.

Upon arriving you will be given your seat ticket, officially crowned with a paper crown, and posed for a photo. My kids were especially impressed when they saw that we were entering a castle, complete with a drawbridge.

Be sure to have your children use the restroom right before the show as you won’t want to have to take them in and out during the action.

The gift shop has a number of interesting souvenirs such as light up swords, costumes, and rather real looking weapons.  You may want to consider budgeting for flags as your children can wave them during the show. The gift shop sells some really nice flags but we were also offered $3-5 pennants and flags once we were seated in the arena.

Interior of Medieval Times

The Food at Medieval Times

Remember that the show is the big part of the evening, but my family did really enjoy the meal too. You will be served a four course meal that includes tomato bisque soup, roasted chicken, garlic bread, corn on the cob, herb basted potatoes, a dessert (it was pound cake our night), and Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, or water. Coffee is also on the menu, but it wasn’t offered to us the night we attended. You can substitute a vegetarian meal that includes items such as warm pita bread and humus, carrots and celery, three bean soup, and fruit which is a nice option.

The meal is served to you throughout the show so there is no customization available (other than the option to choose vegetarian), you will have no silverware (since you are in the Dark Ages), and there is just two rounds of drinks served. You can order additional drinks including non-alcoholic and kid-friendly drinks from the bartender who will visit your table before the show.

What the show is like at Medieval Times?

People on horseback carrying poles at Medieval Times at Myrtle Beach

The show is approximately 2 hours and includes horses, a falcon demonstration, a knight tournament, and then a battle between the knights to determine the victor. The different parts of the story are tied together through dialogue of the king, his daughter, and the herald who frequently address the audience. Our family had trouble understanding what was being said but we were still able to follow the general flow of the story.

Each family is seated in the arena and assigned a knight and team to cheer for. The show is very personable with the knights making eye contact directly at to the people in their sections (or even sneering at the opposing sections). The knights are also  awarded flowers from the princess throughout the night which they throw out to the children in their section. My children seemed particularly captivated by the closeness and realism of the arena, in fact my daughter kept blowing kisses to our knight after receiving a flower. All the seats are really quite good in the arena but you are a little closer to the knights and action if you have a front or second row seat.

My kids favorite part was definitely the sword fighting at the end of the show. It was full of big clangs, sparks, and all sorts of weapons. There is no blood, but be prepared for your knight to die as only one will survive.  I did read reviews online where some families felt like the fighting was inappropriate for small children, but I personally did not think that it was scary or particularly violent beyond being a sword fight.

Tips for Medieval Times.

Gratuity is not included in your ticket price, so be sure to bring cash so that you can tip your server. Even though the meal seems simpler than what you would experience at a regular restaurant, your server is having to carry massive trays (possibly a long distance) and be in character and costume during the entire evening. After some online research, we settled on $5/person which seems to be a common tip amount for the show.

Medieval  Times is a show with horses and animals so don’t be surprised if you occasionally smell horses or see things that you would rather not during dinner. At least though your average kid thinks that horse poop during dinner is pretty funny. The arena is continually cleaned throughout the show.

If your kid needs to use the restroom at the end of the show (and it’s an “emergency”, of course), you might want to duck out right before the show officially ends as the lines for the restrooms can get quite long post show.

You may be able to find deals on the Medieval Times website depending on when you are attending.

General Information

We attended the Medieval Times show in Myrtle Beach, but you can also find a show close to the Upstate in Atlanta, Georgia.

Location: 2904 Fantasy Way, Myrtle Beach, SC
Medieval Times Website
Phone: (843) 236-4635

Have you ever been to Medieval Times in Myrtle Beach? What did you think?

Kid-Friendly Vacation Ideas for Spring Break? Myrtle Beach, SC is Perfect for Families

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Are you planning a fun family trip for spring break? Myrtle Beach makes an excellent choice for a family friendly spring break vacation! Though it may be a little chilly for swimming in the ocean and the waterparks won’t be open yet, don’t think for a minute that spring weather will limit your fun in the Myrtle Beach area. Instead, the cooler weather will make the parks and attractions more pleasant. There are also smaller crowds and plenty of kid friendly hotels with indoor pools to enjoy. Here is a list of things to do during spring break at Myrtle Beach, plus a schedule of how to fit it all in (complete with dining options).

Thank you to Visit Myrtle Beach and the many venues we visited for hosting Kidding Around.

Where to stay in Myrtle Beach?

This article contains Stay22 affiliate links.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites Myrtle Beach/Oceanfront. The hotel is situated right on the beach and has multiple indoor and outdoor pools. The outdoor pools even have sprinklers and there is a lazy river and hot tub. Since it was April, we spent most of our time swimming in the indoor pool but the outdoor pools were open even though it was only early April.

Hampton Inn Oceanfront Myrtle Beach hotel room view

Our room faced the ocean with a porch with rocking chairs and a table. It was pleasant to be able to watch the sunset over the ocean from the comfort of our room in the evening and the kids loved being able to open our porch doors to let in the fresh ocean breeze in the morning. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the complimentary “continental” breakfast at our Hampton included a hot bar with eggs and sausage, fresh waffles, fruit, and plenty of other choices. Not only is breakfast great but the breakfast room overlooks the ocean and it’s quite pretty. It was a good start to the day.

Hotels in Myrtle Beach with Indoor Pools

If you want the summer beach vacation experience during your Spring Break vacation, finding a hotel with an indoor pool is a must. Captain’s Quarters Resort Myrtle Beach offers a wonderful indoor lazy river and indoor pool that is open all year, so your spring break vacation will feel more like summer. The resort is kid friendly and is only a few miles drive to Broadway at the Beach, the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, and tons of attractions.

First Evening of Spring Break in Myrtle Beach – Catch a Dinner Show!

Medieval Times at Myrtle Beach

Who says that you need a full day to start having fun. Start your spring break vacation off right and make your first night part of vacation by heading to Medieval Times for a dinner show. The show will transport you right back to the Dark Ages. Upon entering the castle, you are immediately lords and ladies (complete with a crown). The show includes a full knight competition with horses followed by serious threat to the kingdom that requires an all-out sword fight to determine the best knight to defend the kingdom’s honor. It’s full of cheering, booing, and fun.

Tip: Make sure you plan plenty of time. The traffic into the Myrtle Beach area can be a little slow and you will want to arrive at the dinner show at least a half hour or more in advance.

Day 1 of Spring Break – Visit the Murrells Inlet & the Murrells Inlet Marshwalk

We decided to hit the ground running our first day of spring break in Myrtle Beach with an action-packed day at Murrells Inlet. Murrells Inlet is about a 45-minute drive from Myrtle Beach, but it’s well worth the drive.

brookgreen storybook forest

Brookgreen Gardens – We started our morning at Brookgreen Gardens. I had researched the gardens online before our visit but was still amazed by the size and the beauty. We started out our morning in the gardens with a Creek Excursion that took us in a pontoon boat along the creek where we saw rice fields and wildlife (including a couple gators). The excursion is super family friendly, and it is interesting to watch your kids awe over the boat ride. We also learned quite a bit about the history of the area and the Brookgreen Gardens. After our boat ride, we spent time exploring the Children’s Discovery Room, Storybook Forest, Lowcountry Zoo, and the Gardens.

For lunch, we packed a picnic to eat at Brookgreen Gardens where we found ample picnic spots. There were also a couple restaurants on the grounds to choose from.

huntington beach

Huntington Beach State Park – After the gardens, we headed over to Huntington Beach State Park which was just a short distance down the road. This state park offers hiking, a wide 3 miles of beach, and Atalaya. Huntington Beach State Park is also one of the best places to spot birds in the Southeast. Our kids were tired and itching to get on the beach but I was able to sneak off first and get a peek inside Atalaya. You can tour Atalaya, the original 30 room winter home of the Huntingtons for just $2/person.

Drunken Jack's Murrells Inlet Marshwalk

We decided to splurge on fresh seafood that night at the iconic Drunken Jack’s at the Murrells Inlet marshwalk. Our table offered a view of the ocean and I tried Chef Casey’s Risotto (an award-winning dish that has Mahi-Mahi, scallops, risotto, and lobster & crab cream sauce). It was a more expensive meal, but the atmosphere, fresh seafood, and cool decor made it worth the cost. Our kids felt very welcome as their kids’ meals came with pirate hats and they were presented with a gold coin at the end of the meal as a reward for “eating good”. After eating dinner, you can take a walk down the docks to watch native birds perching, boats cruising through the marsh, or even catch an evening sunset. The Murrells Inlet marshwalk is quite magical at sunset, and my kids loved looking at all the herons and seabirds hanging around.

Spending our first day of spring break in Murrells Inlet was really packed and resulted in some tired kids, so we elected to head back to the hotel after dinner where the kids had a quick swim before bed.

Day 2 of Spring Break – Myrtle Beach SkyWheel and Broadway at the Beach

Ripleys aquarium Myrtle Beach

We started our second day, by heading to Ripley’s Aquarium at Broadway at the Beach. The aquarium was really clean and brightly decorated and the exhibits were very nice. There was a shark tunnel, sting ray exhibit, jelly area, and more. I was impressed to see two sting ray petting tanks (one with some massive stingrays) and even a moon jelly touching tank. If you are looking for additional options beyond the aquarium Broadway at the Beach offers shopping and several kid-friendly attractions including Ripley’s Odditorium, Ripley’s Movie Theatre 5D, Ripley’s Mirror Maze, Wonderworks, and a nice playground. Broadway at the Beach is one of our favorite attractions because it is super family friendly, offers live music and entertainment, has excellent dining options, and is a great way to spend a day during your spring break vacation.

Dagwoods Deli Myrtle Beach

After a couple hours at the aquarium, we ate lunch at Dagwood’s Deli. The burgers and sandwiches we ordered were absolutely delicious and we were glad that we arrived a little before noon as the restaurant quickly filled up soon after we arrived. It was an affordable meal too with most menu items priced under $10.

Dagwood’s Deli was located near several $5 parking lots where we were able to snag a parking space that was not only perfect for lunch but an easy walk to our next destination, the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel.

Myrtle Beach Skywheel

We had never ridden a ferris wheel as tall as the Skywheel before and we were all a little nervous (in fact, one of my kids almost backed out), but we decided to all give it a try. The line looked long but moved remarkably fast (I think that we were only in line for about 10 minutes). There was space for our entire family to be in one car and it felt safe and even had air conditioning. (If ferris wheels make you nervous, you will be glad to know that there is also an emergency button in the car too).

The Skywheel is in middle of the strip at Myrtle Beach where you can easily shop for souvenirs or walk along the Myrtle Beach boardwalk.

Savannah's Playground

After the Skywheel, we headed to Savannah’s Playground, a massive all-inclusive playground for children. The playground offered a zipline, large playground, swings, and plenty of space to play. It’s also completely free.

Pirates Voyage Myrtle Beach

Evening Entertainment & Dinner: We chose to experience the dinner show, Pirate’s Voyage, where we were delighted by acrobatics, singing, dancing, and animals. It was a fast-paced show with a lot of special effects and music and there were even mermaids.

Day 3 of Spring Break – Myrtle Beach Full Experience

On our third day, we decided to experience the heart of Myrtle Beach by heading out to nature followed by a relaxing game of mini golf (Did you know that Myrtle Beach is the mini golf capital of the world?).

Myrtle Beach State Park

We were struck immediately by the beauty of Myrtle Beach State Park. It’s a lovely drive into the park area where you will find a Nature Center and programming, a nature trail, a fishing pier, and a beach front. The hiking was very simple and easy for our two children and while we did not fish we did walk out on to the pier to get a better view of the ocean and shore. Our kids then played in the ocean despite it being a nippy 50 degrees outside. Fortunately, the park has rinsing stations and bathhouse where you can change. We packed a couple sandwiches figuring that our kids would be hungry before we left the park.

Captain Hook's Adventure

After the park, we decided to try our hand at mini golf. One thing, we noticed immediately when we drove into Myrtle Beach was how many mini golf options there were to choose from and they all looked fun. We chose Captain Hook’s Adventure Golf, which ended up being just perfect. The easier course, The Lost Boys was fun but not too difficult and our greens took us past mermaids, into a skull cave, near a pirate ship, and past numerous waterfalls.

After a good game of mini golf, you need ice cream! So we returned our putters and drove over to Kirk’s 1890s Ice Cream Parlor. There we found not only an excellent selection of ice cream flavors but also cute retro decor.

 Kirk's 1890s Ice Cream Parlo

Dinner & Evening Entertainment – We were all in the mood for pizza that last night, so after a little bit of research we settled on Ducatis Trattoria and Pizzaria. We knew it was a good choice, the second we saw the ginormous garlic knots arrive at our table. The pizza was equally delicious.

After dinner we decided to cap our trip off with a night at the Carolina Opry. The show was truly amazing and our kids really enjoyed the singing and the dancing. We also saw a couple acts that gave a taste of Thunder and Light (a dance & laser light show) and Pure Magic the Wagsters (a magic show). Both performances were amazing and fun. The evening show did end up having a couple jokes and a song that were too close to PG-13 for our family. In addition, it was a little long for little kids (over two hours) but the music and dancing were incredible. Next time we are in town, we plan on snagging tickets for either the Thunder and Light show or the Pure Magic show as both of those are in the morning and our kids especially loved those acts.

Enjoying the Trip back home

LW Paul Living History Farm

On our way home, we decided to stop in route in Conway to see the LW Paul Living History Farm. This working farm is open to the public on Tuesdays-Saturdays from 9-4. You can either call ahead and schedule a tour or explore at your own pace. There are animals, restored original buildings, and it’s completely free. Check their schedule ahead of time as they also have events on the calendar. The farm is only about 45 minutes from Myrtle Beach. The Horry County Museum is also just a couple minutes away and is also free to the public.

Have you ever been to Myrtle Beach for Spring Break? What are your favorite things to do?