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Surf City, North Carolina is the Perfect Beach Town for Any Family

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Searching for your perfect beach to visit this summer? Surf City, North Carolina is a quiet coastal town that offers tons of family fun, great places to eat, peaceful beaches, and more! They even have a turtle rehabilitation center that your family can visit. Local mom Jennifer spent some time in Surf City with her family and had a wonderful time. You can check out her review below.

local beach Surf City, North Carolina

We are beach people, but we are quiet beach people. My family prefers to rent a beach house for a week rather than stay in a hotel. We like beaches where there is some space between your beach chairs and umbrellas. This is how we ended up in Surf City, NC for the first time this summer. And, we fell in love!

If you haven’t heard of Surf City, I’m not surprised. This is a small township located on Topsail Island. Maybe you’ve heard of Topsail Island, which is a 26-mile-long barrier island off the coast located close to Wilmington, NC. Whereas Topsail Island is 26-miles-long, Surf City is a small, walkable section of the island. And, it is where all the action happens.

Looking for other beaches to explore in the Southeast? Check out our list of 20+ Amazing Beaches in the Southeast that are family-friendly and waiting to be explored! 

What to Expect at Surf City, NC

Surf City is full of vacation rentals instead of large hotels. There are a few hotels on the island, but far more townhouses or beach houses for rent. Since this is a small township, almost everything was within walking distance of our rental. It was fantastic! We could walk to get food from restaurants, pick up groceries, or shop.

Another fun part of staying in Surf City was the number of surfers! While we didn’t see many large waves, we did see a large number of surfboards in the water each morning. And, the local Surf City Surf School offers daily surfing lessons to tourists.

Surf City is quiet during the week, which was perfect for my introverted family members. But, it is much more crowded on weekends. This is because the locals head to Surf City on Topsail Island because it has several public beaches, as well as a beautiful pier. On the weekend we visited, there were lots of people around; however, there were still far fewer people than you find at other beaches that are tourist destinations.

Things to Do at Surf City

Surf City is a quaint beach town, so do not expect to find a ton of tourist attractions. Instead, plan to spend your days enjoying the beautiful beach. Take time to explore the town on foot. Visit the pier, shop the various boutiques and beach stores, and try out the restaurants. My favorite thing to do was walk across the street from the beach to the local bookstore.

Additionally, there is a mini-golf course in Surf City, as well as a turtle rescue and rehabilitation center. Both are family-friendly tourist attractions.

Topsail Island is close to Wilmington, NC, and Carolina Beach, NC. My family took a day trip to Carolina Beach and visited the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher and the Carolina Beach Boardwalk amusement park.

local shops in Surf City beach in North Carolina

Where to Eat when visiting Surf City

Since we were on vacation and could walk to multiple restaurants, we ate out a lot. And, I do not regret it one bit! The food was excellent. In particular, I grew incredibly fond of Shaka Taco, a fun taco restaurant connected to the Surf City Surf School. I ate there three times in a week. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I am still dreaming about their Shaka Nachos. Plus, there were several other local restaurants that my family enjoyed while on vacation, such as Daddy Mac’s Beach Grille and Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar.

Why We Plan to Go Back to Surf City

I love going to beach towns that feel like authentic beach towns, and this is the case with Surf City. It is not commercialized. It is quiet and quaint. My family felt safe enough there to walk everywhere. Plus, it was beautiful. Honestly, I would drive the five hours so that I could walk from the beach to eat at Shaka Taco again.

Surf City beach in North Carolina

What’s your family’s favorite nearby beach to visit?

Half a Million People Are Traveling to Tryon for the World Equestrian Games™ and We Live Just an Hour Away

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Are you planning on attending the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 and looking for all the information you need for your visit? Do you live in the Upstate region and are considering attending the games? We have put together this comprehensive guide that will give you all the information you need for the 2018 Games in Tryon including where to stay,  where to eat, where to park, and what else you can do in the Tryon area.

Update 9/12/18: PHOTOS from the first day of competition are here. A FREE Community Day is happening at the games on Monday, September 17th as well. There are no competitions that day but everything on the grounds – including kids activities like the carousel-  are open!

Half a million spectators are expected to flood into North Carolina in September for one of the largest horse competitions in the world, the  FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 (WEG) in Mill Spring, NC.. The economic impact is enormous, which could trickle into the Upstate’s economy – organizers expect the games to generate $400 million into the greater Carolinas.

John Lummus is president and CEO of Upstate SC Alliance and told the Upstate Business Journal that he “anticipate[s] a great deal of eyes will be on Tryon and nearby communities like Asheville [N.C.], Greenville, Spartanburg, and the surrounding retreats.”

In a word, these games are going to be huge. They are happening at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Tryon, NC, only an hour from Greenville. This is the place that our readers just love! They have Saturday Night Lights events over the summer that are free of charge and include lots of kid-friendly activities like a carousel, face painting, pony rides, magicians, and a horse show.

Tryon International Equestrian Center Saturday Night Lights

What are these games?

The World Equestrian Games™ are held every four years in the mid-Olympic cycle, the largest event of its kind. The events showcases the core disciplines of reining, vaulting, driving, endurance, dressing and para-equestrian dressage, show jumping, and eventing.

The games happen from September 11-23. The 2014 games in Normandy attracted over 1,200 horses, almost 1,000 riders and 575,000 spectator. Again, this is huge.

Each discipline will have its own competition and a schedule of events are here. If you’re not familiar with horse competitions, here is what each discipline means in regular people terms:

Dressage is actually an Olympic sport and has been compared to ballet, where horse and rider work together to create a beautiful performance in tune with music of the rider’s preference.

Driving is probably the most exciting for the spectators as they watch a three-man team navigate four horses that are pulling a carriage through a specially designed course that includes water obstacles and sharp turns. The phases for the driving competition are split up into three days: Dressage, Marathon and Cones.

Endurance is exactly as it sounds: a test of both horse and rider through 100-mile course to challenge the speed and endurance of both. Mandatory rest periods and vet checks are enforced to ensure the welfare of rider and horse.

Eventing is another Olympic discipline that tests the jumping, dressage, and endurance of horse and rider over a three-day period of competition.

Jumping is the third Olympic discipline, and arguably the most popular, as it showcases the rider’s ability to control the horse as it soars over obstacles.

Reining is the only western discipline for these games and looks most like what rodeo horses do when they spin, ride in fast circles, and pull off immediate stops. This competition will happen at the indoor arena at TIEC.

Vaulting is essentially gymnastics on a horse and has its origins in the circus. There are individual, team, and freestyle competitions where the rider performs gymnastics moves on the back of the horse as it rides.

Para-Equestrian Dressage is the same as dressage except riders are scored by their division of functional abilities. The bond between horse and rider are perhaps even more evident as these special athletes demonstrate the relationship with their horse.

Are these events kid-friendly?

Yes, but some more than others. At Saturday Nights Lights, the horse competition is usually jumping and dressage and spectators are requested to stay quiet as to not spook the horses. It’s pretty amazing though to watch but sometimes the smaller kids have trouble keeping quiet.

But other disciplines are more conducive to louder environments and are exciting for the kids to cheer along. For example, Reining events encourage a loud and rowdy crowd. The Cross-Country phase of Eventing and the Marathon phase of Driving are done in an open, outdoor atmosphere and is exciting as spectators watch horses galloping through.

And Vaulting – gymnastics on a horse – is performed to might and often includes colorful costumes, both of which kids will likely love.

Kids are welcome at all events though so don’t be shy about checking out one that sounds like your family will love. Also, Reining and Vaulting are performed indoors, which could be great options if it’s a hot day. There are covered seating in the big arena outside as well.

All tickets include entry to the World Equine Expo™, which includes lot of fun activities and a kids zone. You can also buy these tickets separately.

Are tickets available?

Tickets are sold for individual disciplines, day passes, weekend passes, and all access passses. They can be purchased online. Tickets include access to all the grounds, restaurants, vendors, exhibitions, and entertainment. Parking will be an extra fee, which has not yet been released by the organizers.

Children two years old and younger are free but must sit on the lap of a ticket holder. If parents or guardians want that child to sit by themselves, they need to buy a ticket for them.

Day passes start at $20 per person. Individual competition passes start at $30 and some include more than one day and time for that individual competition.Passes for individual competition qualifiers are more expensive, upwards of $300. For the bad daddy of tickets, the All Sessions Full Games Pass is $1,380.

All tickets bought online are charged a service fee (8.5%) and sales tax (6.75%).

Tryon Internation Equestrian Center World Equestrian Games


The Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) is only an hour from Greenville but maybe you want to stay up there for a few days or you have friends coming to town and want to check out the area near the games. There are certainly places to stay near Tryon, from hotels to AirBnbs and apartments. The official games website has a listing page of all area rentals that you can view here.

For a family-friendly place that has activities everyone can enjoy, Lake Lure is 18 miles from where the games are held. A quick Google search turns up several cabins, resorts, and vacation rentals in the area. This local website has information on where to stay as well. If you’re the outdoorsy type, there are several campgrounds in the area like Rutherford Mountain, Hitching Post, Hickory Nut Falls, or Creekside Mountain.

Asheville is an hour away from the TIEC so staying there is also an option for visitors. Hendersonville is a 30-minute drive away and other nearby towns are Landrum, SC, Flat Rock, NC, and Saluda, NC.

Many Greenville and Spartanburg hotels have reported rooms are already filling up for those dates so if you’re thinking of getting out of town and offering your own home for VRBO or Airbnb, maybe you can make some money during the games by hosting visitors.

Places to Eat Near Tryon International Equestrian Center

There are several places to eat on site at the TIEC. From full restaurants to coffee shop and general store, they have it.

Blue Ginger Sushi & Noodles: traditional sushi, rolls, sashimi and more

Campagna Italian Cuisine: wood fired pizza, Italian grill

Legends Grille: Seafood and steak

Roger’s Diner: classic diner fare, milkshakes, gluten free and diary free options

Siesta Cantina: Mexican cuisine, tacos, burritos, salads and margaritas

Mane Street Coffee: pastries and treats, serving North Carolina’s Larry’s coffee

The General Store: Ice cream, deli, along with groceries and donuts

Nearby Columbus, NC is about 8 ½ miles from Tryon. Google maps says that’s about an 11 minute drive, and there are a number of restaurants in Columbus. Here are a few with top reviews!

Mountain View BBQ & Deli: This Columbus favorite serves pulled pork, bbq ribs, brisket and more

Southern Manners: Open for breakfast and lunch, sandwiches, pastries, milkshakes

The Brick Pizzeria: Pizzeria with a variety of appetizers, salads and traditional Italian dishes

Rutherfordton, NC is a little farther from the Equestrian Center but at 12 miles away (an approximately 20 minute drive) it is still a good option for a meal. We’ve listed a few with great reviews.

Rutherford Thai: Popular Rutherford restaurant serving Thai food for lunch and dinner

Mi Puebltio: Mexican restaurant serving salads, nachos and combos loaded with traditional Mexican favorites

Scoggins Seafood and Steakhouse: Lobster, prime rib, steaks, chicken, salad bar, and a lot more!


General parking will not be available at the TIEC for this event. Parking will be available at nearby lots with shuttle service. It will not be free parking. More information on parking is still To Be Announced, check the World Equestrian Games™ FAQ page for updated parking information.

Extra Things to Do in Tryon and the Upstate

If you are looking for fun things to do in addition to attending the World Equestrian Games™, you have several nearby options. Tryon is a lovely town with art galleries, golfing, and picturesque views – you can easily spend a day just exploring the town itself! Here are some ideas to make the most out of your visit:

Go Back to Nature

The area surrounding Tryon offers excellent hiking and outdoor adventures. For example, families should check out The Gorge in nearby Saluda for an amazing zipline canopy tour. If a zipline tour over the gorge is out of your comfort zone, head to Pearson’s Falls for hiking and scenic waterfall views or to Chimney Rock State Park for amazing views of Western North Carolina.

Pick Some Apples

September is the ripe apple-picking time, and Western North Carolina is home to several outstanding apple orchards where you can pick your own bushel. Sky Top Orchard in Flat Rock is a popular venue for families.

Play Like a Kid

Tryon is situated close to two super fun children’s museums. Kid Senses Interactive Children’s Museum is located in nearby Rutherfordton, and Hands On! Children’s Museum is located in nearby Hendersonville. Both are only a short car drive away from the equestrian center. Additionally, if your kids near to run off some energy indoors, Mountain Play Lodge is close by in Arden.

Tour the Wineries

Within minutes of the TIEC are several award-winning wineries, such as Mountain Brook Vineyards, Parker-Binns Vineyards, Overmountain Winery, and others, that offer wine tastings and more. To get an idea of where to start, check out the WNC Wine Trail. It will tell you where to find the area’s best wineries.

Be a Tourist

The location of the World Equestrian Games™ could not be any better. Your family can hop in the car and tour several nearby towns and popular tourist destinations, such as the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. Plus, Tryon is only 40 minutes from Spartanburg, South Carolina and 1 hour from Greenville, South Carolina. Visit Kidding Around Greenville and Kidding Around Spartanburg to find out the many fun things to do with kids here. We’d love to have you visit the place we are proud to call home!

Will your family visit Tryon for the World Equestrian Games™ this September?

This website post was a collaborative effort by Kidding Around Contributors Kristina Hernandez, Jennifer Curry and Maria Bassett. 

Majesty Music Academy Offers Music Lessons and Classes for Kids and Adults, Summer Camp and More

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Wondering if maybe it’s time to start your child in music lessons but not sure where to look? KAG Contributor Kristina recently met with the owner of a brand new music academy that she’s sharing with us. Majesty Music Academy offers lessons and classes for all ages, summer camp and more!

Thank you to Majesty Music Academy for sponsoring this article. Be sure to check out the KAG reader special offer and sign up for two free KinderFlute classes today!

Music is such a transcendental form of art. It touches the artist, the teacher, and those who listen to it in ways that are sometimes indescribable. Learning how to play an instrument or sing well is something no one can take away from another person. If nurtured, encouraged and properly formed, a lifelong love of music can transform lives in incredibly positive ways.

Studies indicate that students who participate in high-quality music programs score higher on standardized tests, including 17% higher in mathematics and 19% higher in English than students in a low-quality music program or no music program. These students also have a larger vocabulary and better reading skills than their peers who do not participate in music lessons.

Right here in Greenville is the new Majesty Music Academy, which houses talented professionals and distinguished musicians who are dedicated to giving children a head start in math, reading, music, and self-confidence. People of every age and background enjoy studying here. It is the only private music school in the Upstate where the general public can study with both award-winning artist teachers and expert elementary specialists under one roof. The academy offers an array of music programs and private lessons for preschoolers, elementary and middle schoolers, high schoolers, and adults.

Majesty Music Academy music lessons for kids

About Majesty Music Academy

Majesty Music Academy is founded by Greenville native, Dr. Susan Kindall, an internationally recognized performing pianist and teacher. Dr. Kindall says, “Music study fosters skills and character traits that go far beyond playing an instrument. Our work with students helps them to develop problem solving skills, independent thinking, discipline, commitment, concentration, confidence, and creativity. In addition, one-on-one private music study provides the opportunity for a unique experience where teaching and learning can be highly customized, allowing students to realize their full potential and transfer their lessons to life.”

The academy is equipped with cutting edge technology, including a professional recording studio and full-service classical percussion studio. Piano lessons are taught on acoustic concert grands, baby grand and studio pianos. Visual arts are also promoted in their on-site fine art gallery featuring community artists.

Majesty Music Academy strives to make their exceptional lessons both affordable and accessible for all, even offering online classes.

Majesty Music Academy offers KinderFlute® and WunderKeys®

Through unique music programs geared specifically for kids ages 4–8 (KinderFlute®) and ages 4–5 (WunderKeys®), Majesty Music Academy has the opportunity for children to start very young and learn the basics of music through age-appropriate fun.

The Preschool and Elementary Music Studies are taught by Majesty Music’s expert early childhood development specialists. These two programs consist of finger play and a foundational understanding of piano playing (for WunderKeys®) and impeccable flute technique (for KinderFlute®), group play, musical games, movement activities, and a well-rounded curriculum. The academy is the exclusive provider of KinderFlute® in the Upstate.

Try out KinderFlute® for FREE

No instruments are needed for your first two free introductory KinderFlute® classes. Sign up here.

KinderFlute® consists of 10 weekly sessions for 60 minutes each and the cost is $64.50 per month. WunderKeys® is a little longer with 14 weekly sessions, but they are only 30 minutes each and cost $112 per month. Enrollment is ongoing and students can enroll at any time.

KinderFlute Majesty Music Academy music lessons for kids

Lessons and Classes for Elementary, Young Artists, and Adults

Private lessons are available for kids ages 6+ in piano, voice, strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion, conducting, and even theory/composition. Terms are all 14 weeks long and prices vary depending on how long instruction lasts. For 30 minutes for young beginners, the cost is $119 per month, for 45 minutes, it is $164.50 per month, and for an hour session, the fee is $217 per month.

Majesty Music Academy offers an accelerated program for serious students with professional and collegiate aspirations for students ages 13+ in their Young Artists program. This program includes competitions, master classes, solo recitals and festivals. Master teachers nurture students, propelling them beyond what they thought possible.

Sessions are offered in 45-minute increments ($189/month), 60-minute increments ($248.50/month), and 90-minute increments ($357/month).

Evening adult classes are also offered by the professionals at Majesty Music Academy. Adults (ages 16+) can study different instruments in the woodwinds, strings, percussion and voice. Lessons are semi-private and take place over 12 weeks in 45-minute sessions, which costs $95/month.

One neat thing about the academy is that they offer online classes through a secure platform. This is awesome for people who want exceptional instruction but for whatever reason, cannot commit to getting to the academy every week. Adults, young people, teens, and even seasoned music teachers and church musicians enjoy the convenience of studying online from the comfort of their own living rooms.

What about instruments at Majesty Music Academy?

Students need to practice their chosen instrument in order to improve, just like anything else they are learning. So Majesty Music Academy does require their students to have the instrument they are learning.

There are places in the area that actually rent musical instruments to students. Other places sell used instruments as well. Majesty Music has lists of all these places and relationships with local dealers to help students do the best they can during lessons.

Majesty Music Academy begins with an Interview Lesson

Every student new to the academy completes an initial 30-minute interview lesson for only $34. This gives people the chance to meet the teacher, see the facilities, and receive expert advice on selecting the perfect program. To schedule the interview, see this link.

Majesty Music Academy offers Summer Camp

Majesty Music Academy offers a week-long MusiCamp for children K5–6th grades (ages 4–11), with a specialized piano track for grades 3–6. This morning camp is the third week of June annually and costs only $30/individual and $60/family. It features its own original curriculum and music. You can register here.

Majesty Music Academy
733 Wade Hampton Boulevard, Greenville

Giveaway! Win Hymnproviser 1 – The Art of Improvising Text/Workbook

One lucky Kidding Around reader is going to win Hymnproviser 1 – The Art of Improvising Text/Workbook.

“Use the talents that you possess. The woods would be very silent if the birds that sang were only the best.”

The Hymnproviser series is acclaimed as one of the most comprehensive and effective hymn playing tools for sacred pianists today. The Art of Hymnprovising Text/Workbook carries the prerequisite of the ability to play four parts out of a hymnbook. The first workbook in the series covers 20 lessons with such concepts as:

  • Sacred Song
  • The Musical Sentence
  • Half steps and Whole steps
  • Intervals
  • Transposition and Scales
  • Circle of Fifths
  • Major, Minor, & Perfect Intervals
  • Triads and Inversions
  • The Major/Minor 7th Chord
  • Chords in Hymn Style
  • The Diminished Chord
  • Diatonic Triads
  • Playing a Solo by Ear
  • Playing Duets by Ear

This giveaway starts now and ends on July 12th at midnight.

  • You must be 18 or older and live in the USA to enter this giveaway.
  • You must use a valid email address to enter this giveaway.
  • One entry per person per day.
  • We will contact the winner via the email address provided within three [3] days of the giveaway ending. The winner will have three [3] days (72 hours) to respond via email. If the winner does not respond within the three [3] days (72 hours), the prize will be forfeited and another winner chosen. Directions for claiming the prize will be given via email. A valid photo ID and/or mailing address may be required.
  • For a complete list of Kidding Around Greenville SC’s giveaway policies and terms and conditions, see the Kidding Around Greenville SC policy page. By entering this giveaway, you agree to comply with Kidding Around Greenville SC’s terms and conditions.

What type of music lesson would your child like to try?

SCCT’s Madagascar A Musical Adventure is Theatre the Whole Family will Love

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Looking for family fun this week? South Carolina Children’s Theatre’s Madagascar, A Musical Adventure is playing at the Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre. My son and I saw the show this morning and we’re going to tell you all about this fun performance filled with music, comedy, dancing and fun for all.

Thank you to our sponsor the South Carolina Children’s Theatre for providing tickets to this performance so we could review this great show for our readers!

Madagascar A Musical Adventure

The Story

If you’ve seen the Dream Works Animation Motion Picture, Madagascar the story line of SCCT’s Madagascar, A Musical Adventure will be very familiar. Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Gloria the hippo and the hilariously hypochondriac Melman the giraffe are on display at the Central Park Zoo in New York City. Spurred on by the ideas of those famous plotting penguins, Marty decides to head via train for the wilds of Connecticut. However, as his friends follow to rescue him they all get a little more than they had bargained for as they end up on a ship. Thanks to the penguins meddling, the animals find themselves washed up on a beach in Madagascar where they learn being in the wild is a lot different than the zoo. They meet the famous lemur King Julian, enjoy some dancing and hospitality. But what Alex the lion really wants is a steak, not seaweed on a stick. And the more hungry he gets, the more his friend Marty, the zebra, starts to look like a steak.

The Characters

My son’s favorite character in this show was Melman the giraffe. His constant remarks about MRIs, colds, sciatica nerve pain and more really added many layers of humor to the performance. We also liked his costume and the platform shoes that made him just a bit taller than his friends. The costumes in general were pretty creative, and if truth be told, the costumes, lights and sets was the thing that my son talked about the most after the show. He’s 8 years-old and loved to figure out how things work. That just goes to show you, there’s something for everyone at SCCT’s productions!

We also really enjoyed the penguins and King Julian’s “I Like to Move It” song. I remembered this song most from the New Year’s Eve Countdown Netflix puts up each year featuring King Julian. Because my kids don’t just watch it once to ring in the New Year. We have to watch over and over and over, because they think it is so funny. Anyway, the choreography for this dance was really fun, and they even performed it again at the end of the show and invited the audience to stand up and dance, too.

Who should see Madagascar A Musical Adventure?

We think children of all ages would enjoy this show. The performance lasts about an hour with no intermission, so if your young child would have difficulty sitting that long, this might not be the best show for them. Also, a mom note: The dialogue in the play uses, “What the heck!” several times which is not a phrase allowed in my house. Realizing all parents are different, with different rules and expectations, I just wanted to point that out.

Want to go?

The South Carolina Children’s Theatre is performing Madagascar at the Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre on the following dates. You can purchase tickets here. They cost $18 for children and $27 for adults.

June 17th, 1:30 pm
June 17th, 5:30 pm
June 23rd, 10:00 am
June 23rd, 1:30 pm
June 24th, 1:30 pm

Have you seen a South Carolina Children’s Theatre production?

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?

My Daughter’s Super Fun Birthday Party at Pigtails & Crewcuts

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KAG team member Elizabeth shares her family’s birthday party experience at Pig Tails and Crew Cuts.  For more great birthday ideas, check out Kidding Around Greenville’s Ultimate Birthday Party Guide.

Thank you to Pigtails & Crewcuts for hosting my daughter’s birthday party in exchange for this review.  Even though the party was given in trade, all opinions are my own!

Okay so I think I got the title of this post wrong.  It should be “my daughter’s super fun and SUPER EASY birthday party at Pigtails & Crewcuts” but that seemed a little long.  And I really needed an easy party this year.  You see, when my daughter turned 7 she wanted a party at home.  What I expected to be a low-key party ended up being 14 little girls, a cheer theme party, complete with high school cheerleaders.

I scoured pintrest for birthday party ideas for weeks.  I spent the entire week prior to the party making pom poms out of streamers and cutting megaphones out of poster board for 14 little girls to decorate and scream into. (What was I thinking?!?)  I enlisted the services of a few high school cheerleaders and begged my friend to stay and help me manage the bash.

The girls made megaphones, learned cheers, danced, even had their faces painted. The party was fun; really fun.  I, however, was completely exhausted when it was finally over.  And my house was a wreck.  I had spent a ridiculous amount of time and way more money than I had intended.

So when my daughter’s 8th birthday rolled around I had one firm rule – the party was not going to be at home.  Nope.

Pigtails & Crewcuts haircuts for kids

Before the party

My daughter is a girly girl.  She loves playing dress up, dons lip gloss any chance she gets and adores getting her nails done, even if only on my bathroom floor.  So it seemed like a no-brainer to hold her party at a salon where she and her little buddies could be pampered and play dress up.  And my excitement was only heightened when, after chatting over the party plans with the salon owner, I realized all I had to do was bring cupcakes.  They would handle the rest. Sign me up!

So rather than spending weeks getting ready for the party I spent, ummm, maybe an hour picking up cupcakes for the party.  The helpful staff at Pigtails & Crewcuts took care of everything else.  It was exactly what I was hoping for!

Party time

We arrived a bit early so my daughter could get all dolled up before her guests arrived.  She had plenty to choose from – would she be a princess or a diva?  She even had the option of a pirate but she’s way too fancy for that!  She got her hair styled in a way her mom could never pull off and her nails painted exactly as she requested.  When her guests arrived she looked like the little diva I know her to be all too well!

After each and every little girl got dressed up, hair styled perfectly and nails manicured to her specifications they posed for a group picture.  I mean, what’s cuter than a group of little girls all dolled up for a night out?  Or, in this case, a night in!

The group picture needed a fancy frame to be proudly displayed by every guest so, of course, there was a fun craft involved.  Each guest was given a wood picture frame and more pretty decorating options than they could handle!  They got serious about picture frame decorating and every girl went home with a keepsake photo in the frame they created – perfect!

Last came singing, cupcakes, lots of hugs goodbye and, just like that, the party was over.  Or almost.  My daughter had one special party extra – her big night ended with getting her ears pierced!  Not part of the party package but saved us the trip to the mall we had scheduled for the next day, so a win-win if you ask me!  After that was done, we packed up and headed home.  It was the perfect party for my now 8 year old daughter & the completely stress-free party I was looking for.  No stress, no mess for me to clean up, and the girls all had a blast!

birthday party for kids

Party packages at Pigtails & Crewcuts

Pigtails & Crewcuts is a brand new salon for kids on Augusta Road.  Of course they cut hair but they also offer a hair products, accessories and gifts too! They even offer a special package for first haircuts, including a souvenir card with your child’s name, the date of the haircut, a lock of hair and a photo to take home, so your family can look back on this day and smile.  Plus they do nail painting, as well as up-dos or braids should you have a special occasion in your near future.  And, of course, fun party packages too!

Pretty Little Princess
(recommended for ages 3-5)

It’s a royal ball! All princesses will dress up in our beautiful gowns and receive two of the following services: a pretty up-do (topped with a tiara), makeup or colorful nail polish! A game of “Pin the Candle on the Cupcake” and decorating a picture frame to take home with a picture of all the princesses in it is part of the event as well.

$300 (for up to 10 guests)

Darling Divas
(recommended for ages 5-10)

For a diva in the making! Strike a pose! These glamorous girls will be treated to sequined dresses to wear as well as two of the following services: a fashionable up-do, pretty makeup or colorful nail polish. Revelers can also decorate a picture frame to take home with a picture of their paparazzi ready crew in it and rock out on our karaoke machine!

$300 (for up to 10 guests)

Sweetheart Spa
(recommended for ages 8-12)

Time to get pampered! All spa guests get treated to a pedicure while relaxing in a comfy robe with cucumbers over her eyes. A choice of a fun braid or colorful nail polish will complete the look while each guest also get to decorate their own picture frame to take home with a picture of the party crew in it.

$300 (for up to 10 guests)

birthday party packages Pigtails & Crewcuts

Ahoy Matey!
(recommended for ages 3-6)

Even pirates like a party! All pirates are welcome aboard as they put on his pirate gear to begin their adventure. Each matey will pick out a tattoo and have their hair “painted.” They will also love going on a treasure hunt to find hidden treasure and decorating a picture frame to take home with their pirate crew in it.

$300 (for up to 10 guests)

Superhero Squad
(recommended for ages 3-6)

Calling all superheroes! All crusaders are welcome as each guest starts this party by transforming into a superhero sporting a cape. Everyone takes home a frame they have decorated with a picture of their superselves in it!

$300 (for up to 10 guests)


If these parties are not exactly what you are looking for, call us to customize your own special event.

For all parties Pigtails & Crewcuts provides a party hostess, choice of two services, age-appropriate themed activity, paper goods, set up & clean-up.

birthday parties in Greenville

2 locations in Greenville

Pigtails & Crewcuts Greenville
2222 Augusta Street
Greenville, SC

Pigtails & Crewcuts Five Forks
2815 Woodruff Road
Simpsonville, SC

Would your little one love a birthday party at Pigtails & Crewcuts?

Giveaway~ SC Children Theatre Kicks off Madagascar: A Musical Adventure on June 16th

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South Carolina Children’s Theatre is about to kick off their next performance, Madagascar: A Musical Adventure. They have a long history of great shows put on, and often produced, by local kids. Adults and kids alike have loved SCCT shows for years and this one is sure to be no exception! And be sure to read to the end of this article for your shot at a pair of tickets to see the opening performance on June 16th!

Thank you to the South Carolina Children’s Theatre for supporting Kidding Around by sponsoring this giveaway!

The Story

Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe and Gloria, the hip hip Hippo and, of course, those hilarious plotting penguins bound onto the stage in a musical adventure of a lifetime. Based on the smash DreamWorks animated motion picture, this production will captivate your heart from start to finish.

Madagascar South Carolina Children's Theatre SCCT

Dates & Times

June 16th
10:00 am

June 16th
1:30 pm

June 17th
1:30 pm

June 17th
5:30 pm

June 23rd
10:00 am

June 23rd
1:30 pm

June 24th
1:30 pm

The Location

Peace Center, Gunter Theatre
300 S. Main Street, Greenville

Tickets start at $18.00. Click here to purchase yours!

The Giveaway

One lucky Kidding Around reader is going to win a pair of tickets to see Madagascar A Musical Adventure at Gunter Theatre on June 16, 2018 at 10:00 am.

This giveaway starts now and ends on June 1st. Good luck!

  • You must be 18 or older and live in the USA to enter this giveaway.
  • You must use a valid email address to enter this giveaway.
  • One entry per person per day.
  • We will contact the winner via the email address provided within three [3] days of the giveaway ending. The winner will have three [3] days (72 hours) to respond via email. If the winner does not respond within the three [3] days (72 hours), the prize will be forfeited and another winner chosen. Directions for claiming the prize will be given via email. A valid photo ID and/or mailing address may be required.
  • For a complete list of Kidding Around Greenville SC’s giveaway policies and terms and conditions, see the Kidding Around Greenville SC policy page. By entering this giveaway, you agree to comply with Kidding Around Greenville SC’s terms and conditions.

Which Madagascar movie was your child’s favorite?

Double Play Package 2018 is Announced

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It’s that time of year again for one of the most popular deals in Greenville, Playcation, now renamed the Double Play package. This bundle deal includes 4 tickets each to the Greenville Drive and The Children’s Museum of the Upstate. This year’s deal is $60 total, a 25% discount.


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?