Did you know Hendersonville, NC has an aquarium? Team ECCO Aquarium and Shark Lab is located right on Main Street in Downtown Hendersonville, NC. Squeezed in beside stores, restaurants, and coffee shops, Team ECCO ‘s footprint may be small, but the education squished between those walls is massive. The aquarium’s true charm is in interactive experiences led by its knowledgeable volunteers. Here’s a bit about our visit to Team ECCO, plus everything you need to know to plan your family’s visit.
Are you looking for road trip tips for families? And maybe you need some ideas about how to manage the kids in the car on a family road trip? Whether you need ideas for long-distance travel with the family, safety tips while traveling, or what road trip essentials to keep in the car, we have some great tips from lots of experience taking road trips with kids. Keep everyone having fun, and sane, with these family road trip tips!
We’ve spent a LOT of hours in the car on the road with many small children. I don’t think we are experts in many things – but we might qualify as experts on sitting in the car with our kids. The road can be a challenge for sure. Look at the same signs. Play the same games. Hear the same music. Create the same memories. However, being in the car with our whole family can be pretty amazing if you allow it to be.
Well before you start packing for your big road trip, you’ll need to figure out where you want to go! Check out our Travel Guide, loaded with ideas, reviews, and information about dozens of places to vacation. The guide offers ideas based on state, city, educational opportunities while traveling, seasonal travel, and so much more!
Top 10 Tips for Traveling by Car with Kids
Don’t travel with children (Just kidding. Although I think I might have some PTSD from this last trip)
If you are traveling with your children to places where the weather is different, dress in layers. It’s so much easier to take a jacket on and off rather than to change a whole outfit.
Book your hotel ahead when traveling with kids, do it. It will save you (and your kids) some tears and will be more budget-friendly in the long run. And while you’re at it, try to find a chain that will give you rewards for your booking.
Pack a special bag for each child. Your kids can put in it a few small toys from home. They can also add a coloring book and some crayons or colored pencils or Sudoku and crosswords for the older children.
Pack a bag just for snacks! The natural version of Lunchables and the drinkable yogurt are an excellent way to make a road trip lunch easy and painless. Muffin liners make a great pass-around tray! (My children thought the little tray with its personalized portions of meat, cheese and crackers was super cool. And anything cool means no whining, which I am all about.)
Play a Scavenger Hunt. Make up stuff that would be funny to your family – a personalized list – such as: a purple punch bug, three kids in a car, dogs on a billboard, a car that exactly matches ours. Decide a reward. Lots of fun!
Pack a special surprise for each day that you travel (or each hour on a short trip). These can be simple things from the dollar store, to a special candy to give them something to look forward to.
Find something that will motivate them to behave in the car. We have clips on the visor that get removed when there is naughty behavior. If our kids’ clip is on the visor at the next stop, they get a reward.
Make sure that each child gets out at every stop and wiggles. It makes for a long stop when you have to unload and load everyone every time, but it will be worth it. Utilize fast food play areas when possible!
Last, but not least, take advantage of your surroundings. If you’re passing by a Civil War battlefield, stop for 30 minutes and learn some history while getting out the wiggles. Traveling can be an amazing learning time because children are actually experiencing and seeing the things they are learning about.
Packing Trip Essentials for Long Road Trips with Kids
Packing for a long car ride is already difficult, but making sure you have what you need in the front of the car is very important when it comes to car rides with kids. Entertainment, snacks, emergency supplies, and things to make your children comfortable will help everyone stay calm and collected during the trip.
Utilize books on tape, music, and movies. Maybe even buy or borrow (from the library for instance) a few new movies that they haven’t yet seen. The Greenville Library has many movies, audiobooks, and magazines that can be checked out, or try Amazon and Audible and download them to your phone.
Pre-download movies, games, and books onto your child’s tablet. This way, you will not have to run your hotspot from your phone the entire time, and it will save you the hassle of running into connectivity issues!
Pack a portable charger (and actually charge it beforehand). These will help keep everyone’s phones, tablets, and portable dvd players charged and ready for the long haul.
If you are going screen-free, Keep the little ones happy and the car somewhat tidy, with a small bin tall enough for books standing up. We used the kind meant to hold a few file folders on top of a desk.
Utilize coloring books. You can give each child a new hardcover drawing book with new super washable markers to keep them occupied. You can also purchase WaterWow coloring books for kids that are mess-free, and they are great for toddlers and preschoolers.
Use creative storage ideas to keep organized. Consider getting shoe organizers, meant to go over the back of closet doors, and hang them (cut to fit) on the backs of seats. The pockets can hold coloring supplies, wipes, paper towels or even a juice box. (Side note: Even if you don’t have a child in diapers, bring wipes. So many messes can be cleaned with wipes.)
Pack a lot of snacks. Making sure there are snacks is key to reducing meltdowns and boredom. Try snacks that are rare but desirable, so they have a treat to look forward to. Having a combination of carb, fat, and protein-rich foods will help everyone stay full and avoid crankiness. If bringing a baby along, make pre-filled bottles of milk, formula, or breastmilk and use freezer packs to keep them cool while easily accessible.
Pack a set of essential items for each child. Paper towels, tissues, hand sanitizer, snacks, and drinks, placed all within reach while they are buckled are very helpful. We also have a water bottle for each child
Make sure there is a change of clothes for each child that is easily accessible (not in the suitcase). I like to organize these in Ziploc gallon bags. Also include some bags to use for dirty clothing.
I like to let each child take their own pillow, it’s worth it in the long run if they feel more comfortable. My children like to stuff their blankies, stuffed animals, and pajamas into their pillowcases.
Keep your emergency kit up front. Pack a thermometer, Tylenol, motion sickness medication, etc just in case along with your emergency kit. Keeping this upfront will help you avoid random stops if someone gets a cut or feels nauseated.
Tips for Making Your Road Trip as Safe as Possible
When traveling with children, especially ones that can walk off and away from the group, its important to prepare everyone to be as safe as possible during your road trip. The tips below will help keep everyone safe while traveling.
Double Check car Seats are properly installed. Sometimes seats get shifted, toys get lodged underneath the car seat, and straps get twisted. Go ahead and make sure the seats are secure before you head out. Also, the current recommendation is to stay rear-facing for as long as possible, at least until age two, so following the safety protocols can keep everyone safe.
If traveling alone, try to do most of the driving during the daytime on well-used streets to avoid dangerous situations.
Utilize a child locator device if you plan to take extended stops in unfamiliar places. For teens, they may be able to easily communicate with you via their cell phones, but this can come in handy with smaller children in crowded places. Utilizing an apple tag, AngelSense and HereO GPS can ease your mind during hectic travel.
Practice Memorization of important information with your children. Make sure your children know your first and last name, phone number, or even license plate number if they are old enough. You can also write your phone number on your child’s arm or place where they can show someone if they get lost.
Use a buddy system– Never let your children travel in unfamiliar places alone. Let them know They have to stay with a buddy, whether that buddy is me or an older sibling. “Strength in numbers” is our motto.
Use well-lit areas when stopping– Rest areas and large-scale service stations are the best places to stop if anyone needs to let our their wiggles or go to the restroom. Before stopping, take note of where you are (mile marker, nearby town, surroundings) and discuss this briefly with your children.
Tips for Staying in the Budget on Long-Distance Road Trips
Long distance, sightseeing trips can be magical and full of wonder! A couple of years ago Maria took a family road trip with three young children across the entire country. Traveling long distances with young children can be done without losing your sanity! The family traveled to Kentucky to visit the Corvette Museum on day 1, and then on to St. Louis to visit the Gateway Arch. Then continued to travel to Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and then headed to meet up with our Traveling Homeschooler group at YMCA of the Rockies, where they spent one spectacular week. We gathered some of the best way to keep the cost down during long-distance road trips!
How to Keep Cost Down When Traveling Long Distance
Utilize affordable hotel options. Hotels that offer affordable rooms, complimentary breakfast, and are located close to your main routes of travel can help you save money in the long run. You can also join their rewards program to rack up points to potentially gain a free night or two. Two popular hotel chains across the country that tend to have affordable rates and are well-maintained include Drury Inn and Home 2 Suites, by Hilton.
When credit cards, use the ones with rewards programs. With many, you can earn points, rewards, and cash back. You can do this preliminarily in the months beforehand to help yourself earn rewards for your trip so you have some freebies or cash back during the adventure.
Use your memberships. When planning a road trip consider all the memberships you have to local museums and zoos. Many of them are reciprocal with facilities around the country. Places like the Roper Mountain Science Center are part of a program of multiple museums and facilities across the country where their membership can be used, making your visit free! To find out what museums offer reciprocity through the Roper Mountain membership, visit the ASTC Travel Passport Program page.
Avoid heavy spending at gift shops. Gift shops are at literally every stop when you travel, but making a plan with the family to find a special, small item from each one can cut the cost while making for the perfect collection of souvenirs. Consider magnets, pin buttons, ornaments, and postcards as budget-friendly options!
Remind yourself – your kids will literally be older at the end of the trip than they were at the beginning.
And when you strap them into their seat and you sit down into yours, you have just entered a little time machine where you get a chance to listen to your children, talk to your spouse, build up a memory bank with the people you love and redeem the day if you choose.
What’s your best tip for car travel with your kiddos?
Been searching for “where to see dinosaurs near me”? Do you want to take your family somewhere to see dinosaurs? We have a list of all the places to see dinosaurs near Greenville, SC. Our list includes some fabulous places to learn about dinosaurs in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. All of them make a great dinosaur day trip from Upstate, SC.
Are you looking for a fun day trip for teenagers? Need a way to spend a day with your teen near Upstate, SC? These are a great way to spend some quality time exploring together or just having fun. Here’s our list of the 15 best day trips for teens & tweens near Greenville!
Planning a trip to the Mount Pleasant area? If you’re looking for free things to do in Mount Pleasant, SC, you’ve come to the right spot. We’re sharing our top recommendations for things to do that you will not want to miss on your next trip to the Low Country. From history-rich tours to fun at the waterpark, we’ve got you covered on things to do and even where to eat in Mt. Pleasant.
Charleston is a popular destination for residents of the Upstate of South Carolina. Tucked away, just at the other end of the iconic Ravenel Bridge, is the town of Mount Pleasant. And if you’re looking for free things to do in the area, we’ve got some recommendations for you to consider adding to your itinerary.
Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park
As you cross the Cooper River into Mount Pleasant, you’ll be on top of one of the best places to visit. Beneath the Ravenel Bridge is the Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park. The Park offers visitors a bunch of things to do for little to no cost. The Mount Pleasant Visitor’s center is located at the front of the park, and this should be one of your first stops. Inside you’ll be able to get all kinds of information about the area, grab discount tickets for area attractions, and book reservations for popular restaurants.
Underneath the bridge is a great playground for kids. With seating for parents and a fenced-in area, it will be a favorite stop for you. The park’s huge greenspace is host to several free events, including live music, moonlight movies, and more.
If fishing is something your family enjoys, you’ll love the pier. The bait shop offers everything you’ll need to drop a line in the water with your kids. You could be in for an exciting time on the pier! If fishing isn’t your thing, the pier is excellent for people-watching.
Shem Creek Park
Another great place to visit in Mount Pleasant is Shem Creek Park. The 2,200-foot boardwalk extends over the marsh and out to the water. The creek is home to the local fleet of shrimp boats, and kids will love watching them come and go. The boardwalk is a great place to bring your kids’ scooters. If your family owns a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard, this is a great place to bring it. You can rent one at the shop right there if you don’t own one.
This is also a popular spot for watching dolphins frolic in the creek as they hope for scraps from the incoming fishing vessels. Grab a picnic lunch and enjoy the view from the many benches along the boardwalk.
Exploring Sullivan’s Island
If the crowds at Folly Beach aren’t your thing, then you’ll enjoy Sullivan’s Island, located off the coast of Mount Pleasant. Free public parking makes the beaches on this quiet island appealing, and the secluded nature of the beach makes it peaceful. Searching for shark teeth is a great lesson in patience and attention to detail for adults and children alike.
There’s also a small local library, the Edgar Allan Poe/Sullivan’s Island Library, you can visit. There’s a comfortable sofa and plenty of books for kids to enjoy. The Island has ties Poe, and you’ll find his name all over the island.
The Pitt Street Bridge (also known as the Cove Inlet Bridge and the Cove Inlet Causeway) was once the only way to cross the water to get to the beaches. Originally built for a trolley, it was later widened for personal vehicles. The bridge closed in 1945 and was converted into a fishing pier. The old bridge burned, and now it’s covered by Pickett Park, a greenway lined with palm trees that takes pedestrians and cyclists across the former bridge site. At the end of the bridge is a great spot to go fishing.
Charles Pinckney National Historic Home
Charles Pinckney helped draft and sign the US Constitution, and now you can visit a 28-acre remnant of his original 715-acre plantation, Snee Farm. While visiting, you’ll be able to learn about Pinkney’s life and political influences, the People he enslaved, plantation operations, and the main cash crops of the Lowcountry (indigo and rice). There is no fee to visit Charles Pinkney’s National Historic Home.
Cheap Things to Do in Mount Pleasant, SC
Taking a trip to the Charleston area doesn’t have to break the bank. If you need some extra things to do on your trip, there’s plenty of low-cost fun to be had!
Charleston Water Taxi
Kidding Around’s fans are some of the best around! The suggestion of the Charleston Water Taxi was from a loyal reader. She hesitated to share her secret, but we’re glad she did.
The Water Taxi is a great way to see the waterfront from a different perspective. The pontoon-style boat picks passengers up at several different locations. Pro-Tip: There are no bathrooms on board, so make sure to stop at a restroom before hopping on.
One of the nice things about the taxi is you can stay on as long as you’d like, or hop on and off to sightsee. The taxi offers some very unique views of the ships docked at Patriots Point.
A complete trip around the harbor takes approximately 60 minutes. Make sure to have your camera ready because, in addition to the photo opportunities at Patriots Point, guests of the taxi are often treated to visits from dolphins. You can also capture some nice family photos with the Ravenel bridge in the background. The guys that captain the ship are happy to jump in a play photographer, so you can capture the memory of your entire family’s day out on the water.
$14 a person gets you a pass that covers the entire day, and kids 3 and under ride free.
Sullivan’s Island is also rich in history, as it was home to where some of the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Fort Moultrie is part of the National Park Service. Adult admission costs $10, and children 15 and younger receive free entry.
Among the ranks at the Fort was someone who was destined for fame later in life. Regimental Sergeant-Major Edgar Allen Poe spent just over a year stationed here, and you will find evidence of his time here all over the island.
More Things to Do in Mt. Pleasant, SC
Patriots Point Naval Maritime Museum
For more immersion into Lowcountry history, take a visit to Patriots Point. In June 1975, the USS Yorktown entered Charleston Harbor and was the first ship dedicated to the Naval & Maritime Museum. Patriots Points opened the following year, housing the museum and a fleet of National Historic Landmark ships. You’ll be able to view a World War II Aircraft Carrier. You’ll also find the Cold War Memorial, the only Vietnam Experience Exhibit in the US, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, and the official Medal of Honor Museum. It’s a very popular attraction and one to consider.
Give yourself 2-3 hours to go through everything. A single-day Patriots Point ticket for adults 12-61 years old is $27, children 6-11 years old tickets are $16, children 6 and under are free, and seniors 62+ years old will pay $19 for their tickets. There are bundle ticket options, and Veterans, First Responders, Teachers, and Active Military are offered discounts.
Splash Island Water Park
Splash Island Water Park is an excellent and fun attraction within Mount Pleasant Palmetto Islands County Park. The water park features a 200-ft body flume, a 16-ft otter slide, cyclone swirling water ride, a pool, and plenty of sprays, geysers, and raindrop waterfalls. There are lifeguards on-duty, and you’ll find concessions, restrooms, showers, and changing areas. Be sure to check their site for hours of operation because they do close during the winter season.
Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens
Another thing to do in Mt. Pleasant is to visit Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens. The plantation was founded in 1681 by Major John Boone. His family and descendants were significant influencers in South Carolina’s history. It’s one of the oldest working plantations in the US; it continues growing crops to this day. Boone Hall has been dubbed “a must-see stop on any trip to Charleston, SC” by NBC Daytime and is recognized as the “#1 Plantation in the Charleston Area by USA Today 10Best.”
Regular Adult tickets are $28, Seniors/Military/AAA are $25, children 6-12 years old are $12, and children 5 and under are free.
Where to Eat in Mount Pleasant
There’s no shortage of pitmasters in the Lowcountry, that’s for sure. Swig & Swine BBQ is a favorite. If you haven’t been yet. Be sure to follow Swig & Swine BBQ on Facebook so you don’t miss out on their daily specials, like $5 burger night and Wing Night!
Bon Bahn Mi is another local favorite restaurant in Mount Pleasant. They have delicious food and a build-your-own kid’s meal menu that is a hit when we go! Kids get to choose from a taco, a rice bowl, a noodle bowl, or a sandwich – and build it with protein and veggie options all for just $7 with an included drink!
Be sure to treat yourself to one of their iced Vietnamese coffees, they are amazing!
The Pitt Street Pharmacy Soda Fountain is an old-school spot where you can grab a no-frills meal and a low price. Cheap burgers, sandwiches, and ice cream are the perfect lunchtime meal when you are on the go. Dine in and go around exploring Historic Mount Pleasant, or get it to go and head up the road to Shem Creek to relax.
Every Monday night, from 6-8 pm, Dog & Duck has family bingo night! The family-friendly prizes include gift cards for X-Box, iTunes, and more. If you make it there before we do, let us know!
Planning a trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee? We sent KAG Contributor Kristina Hernandez to take a peak inside the Titanic Museum. In this review she’s telling us all about what you can expect to see at the Titanic Museum so you can add it to your list of things to do when you visit Pigeon Forge. Complimentary tickets were provided for this review.
Are you looking for day trips near Greenville, SC? You have found our official Kidding Around Day Trip Headquarters! We have compiled our ever-expansive list of day trip offerings to one page, where you can easily find your desired trip, fuel your wanderlust, and still have the kiddos back by bedtime! Happy adventuring!
Need ideas for things to do this winter break? Greenville and Upstate students are out of school for the next couple of weeks, so we’ve put together a huge list of over 50 things in the Upstate that you can do with your kids during the winter break. You’ll find fun activities, day trip ideas, and ways to have a great time while keeping your kids busy while school is out.
If you have any more suggestions for ways to keep your children busy while school is out let us know in the comments! This list contains affiliate links and may include non-paid mentions of KAG sponsors.
Are you thinking about snow tubing at Black Bear Snow Tubing in Hendersonville, NC? Western North Carolina has great snow tubing and Black Bear Snow Tubing is a stellar option for families! They have a huge mountain to get your winter in high gear with a fun snow tubing trip for the whole family! We took a trip up to try out that snow-tubing mountain and it was so much fun! Now we have all the details to share so you can plan your trip!
Media tickets were provided for this review and the opinions are solely those of the author.
While there aren’t any places to snow tube in the Upstate, SC, there are definitely options nearby and one of them is Black Bear Snow Tubing in nearby Hendersonville, NC, just over an hour from Greenville, SC. The snow tubing family-owned operation has been in business for over seven years and they really have a good thing going there, which I’m going to tell you all about in this story.
Scenes From the Slope
Take a sneak peek at this video at Black Bear Snow Tubing.
Snow Tubing at Black Bear
The slope at Black Bear Snow Tubing is 600 feet long with an 80-foot drop and it’s pretty fast. They make their own snow (unless they get a big snowstorm, which doesn’t happen too often) and the hill is well-maintained by their attentive staff.
How it works is that when you get to Black Bear, you go to a little shed to watch a short safety video, where you learn how to get out of your tube on the run and not to start snowball fights, sign a waiver, and head inside the cozy lodge to pay. Then you get your tubes and head to the hill.
They have a pulley system to get you to the top of the hill, which works by slipping the handle of your tube on a cable that takes you, while sitting inside your tube, right up the hill to the top. Once at the top, you’ll wait for a few minutes before being situated into your group by the staff and then sliding down the hill.
Why Black Bear is Different
I’ve snow tubed at many places in our area and I think Black Bear Snow Tubing is pretty fantastic. Here’s why:
You can (and should) make a reservation ahead of time, which is crucial for us in Greenville who need to travel out of state to go snow tubing. It’s quite a bummer to get to our snow tubing place and either find out that they are sold out or having to wait hours for an open slot.
The staff is attentive and efficient. They were always around watching the hill to make sure things were running smoothly and safely. When there was a slight backup at the top of the hill, they figured out how to manage to get us all down the hill and back up to keep snow tubing without interruption.
The lodge is super cozy and warm and has reasonable concessions. I got a $2 hot chocolate and it was amazing. Plus, they have food, including apple cider donuts, that is affordable and you can get warm by the wood-burning stove inside or watch on the deck if you don’t want to go tubing.
The setup takes into account smaller kids. There is playground next to the place where you wait in line to go up the hill so smaller kids can get out their energy and there is a big fire pit also near the waiting area where you can warm up.
If you forgot a hat or gloves, they have them for sale inside the lodge. I feel like us parents can relate when our kid gets out of the car to go snow tubing and forgot his or her winter hat.
The check-in is fast. This is important because you want to get on the hill and start having fun as soon as possible!
Black Bear has excellent communication. They post daily on their Facebook page about current snow conditions, which is super helpful when you’re unsure about the weather.
The snow is real. They don’t have any synthetic chemicals in the snow – it’s the real deal.
My kids, ages 11 and 8, and I had such a blast snow tubing at Black Bear Snow Tubing. We went down the hill about 10 times (maybe more, I lost count honestly) and had so much fun together. I really love places where adults can carelessly be kids again. My kids are already asking to go back. The hill was super fast and seeing my kids faces light up with joy was special. I love those moments.
Tips on How to Enjoy Snow Tubing at Black Bear
Winter being winter, it’s usually cold when you go snow tubing. I’ve found that bringing hand and foot warmers is a really good trick to keeping everyone warm and comfortable. You can get them at Wal-Mart, Amazon, or most drug stores and they stay warm for hours.
It’s also really important to make a reservation when you know you want to go snow tubing. This is especially true during school breaks and holidays. Snow tubing is an awesome family activity on a day off but a lot of people also have the same thought. Don’t forget to make a reservation.
You don’t need to wear snow bibs or snow pants. I had on fleece leggings, hiking boots, and a couple layers of tops with a heavy coat (it was really cold when we went!) and I was fine. I saw people wearing all kinds of clothes that worked for them like pants, leggings, jeans, and sweatpants. The snow wasn’t wet at all when we went but if you go on a warmer day, you may want to bring a change of pants in case they get wet.
There are port-a-potties outside the lodge to use and no bathrooms indoors.
Double-check Black Bear’s Facebook page before heading out. Snow tubing is very dependent on weather, which changes often in the mountains. They will post current conditions and if they are open or closed most days.
Ticket Prices and Policies at Black Bear Snow Tubing
Tickets are $30/hour or $40/two hours for snow tubing. Kids must be 4 years old in order to go snow tubing. You can either sign a waiver when you get to Black Bear Snow Tubing or print one out online ahead of time. Either is fine.
While Black Bear Snow Tubing does take walk-ups, it is much better to make a reservation ahead of time instead of getting there and finding out they are full. Online reservations are fantastic for this very reason so definitely make use of them.
And be sure to check Black Bear Snow Tubing’s Facebook page before heading out to double check they are open and running. Winter tubing runs mid-December through February usually depending on the weather, of course.
And if you want to tube during other times of the year, you totally can! They have warm-weather tubing in the fall.
Taking your kiddos on a hike in winter may seem like a crazy feat, but if the unpredictable upstate weather is in your favor it can be one of the best times to go. Cooler temperatures bring broader views, a change of scenery, less sweat, and fewer bugs. It makes hiking the tougher trails just a bit easier and also allows you to choose hikes that offer a view, rather than a water feature, as a payoff – something you wouldn’t opt for in the summer months. Get your camera ready and read on for a list of tips to help you and your little troops make the most of your adventure.