• Prisma Health Jan 2024
  • SCCT April 2024
  • YMCA Apr 2024
  • CCES Feb 2024
  • Int'l Ballet April 2024
  • Five Oaks April 2024

Posts Tagged ‘Day Trips’

Christmas Wonderland Huge Light Display and Winterfest Village at the Tryon International Equestrian Center near Greenville, SC

Posted on | 1 Comment

Ever heard of the Tryon Christmas Lights? Millions of lights are on display through more than 2 miles of entertaining Christmas lights in the Christmas Wonderland Light Show at the Tryon International Equestrian Center only an hour from Greenville, SC. We sent Kristina and her family to try out this holiday day trip and give readers the scoop on everything they need to know. Media tickets were given so Kidding Around could review the Christmas Wonderland and Winterfest Village.

In one of our area’s best drive through Christmas light displays, the Christmas Wonderland Light Show has set up millions of lights synchronized to an orchestra of holiday music in Tryon, North Carolina at the beautiful Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC), just an hour from Greenville, SC. And Winterfest Village is a great add-on to the drive through light show with ice skating, s’mores, live music and entertainment, and lots more.

2023 Dates for the Christmas Wonderland Light Show: November 17th, 2023 through January 1st, 2024. Winterfest happens Fridays-Sundays December 1-17 and 19-23, 2023.

(more…)

The NC Arboretum Is A Dreamy Holiday Light Experience in Asheville, NC

Posted on | No Comments

Have you visited Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum in Asheville, NC? While the Greenville area has its good share of fantastic Christmas light displays, a completely over-the-top experience at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville for their Winter Lights exhibit is worth the drive. Winter Lights has returned to walk-through light displays, exhibits, treats, smores, activities, and more!

The Arboretum, which is adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway and part of the Pisgah National Forest, is set on over 434 acres of gorgeous gardens, biking trails, and streams, meticulously planned out and designed to deliver a top-notch experience for guests.

Christmas activities in Asheville, North Carolina

Make a day of the visit to North Carolina with The Kidding Around List of Ways To Celebrate Christmas In Asheville!

The Winter Lights at NC Arboretum

The Winter Lights exhibit is no less than that. With nearly half a million LED lights lit up for the exhibit, there is no shortage of amazement.

Guests are greeted in the parking lot – the parking lot – with rows of huge trees adorned with red, blue, green, and white lights, all leading to the entrance, a two-story lodge with staff and volunteers ready to scan tickets and send guests on their merry way into the gardens.

These trees are gorgeous with the lights and make for an incredible entrance. The staff at the Arboretum started putting up the lights on September 1st. That’s how expansive this exhibit is.

Guests first exit the lodge onto a patio where they can choose to begin their walk through the lights or go straight to the Cocoa Shack, where they can purchase hot chocolate or hot cider and many different goodies like a chocolate-dipped Oreo cookie or chocolate-covered pretzel rod, or even a s’mores kit to be used at one of the supervised fire pits throughout the Arboretum.

Bent Creek Bistro will also be selling sandwiches, soups, and more during Winter Lights. Here is the Bent Creek Bistro Menu for Winter Lights 2023

What To Expect: Gum Drops and Chandeliers

Passing the Cocoa Shack, guests can meander under a lighted trellis where lights on the ground look like gumdrops. Gaze to your left and you’ll be greeted with an enormous structure of string lights that look like a Christmas tree. Head to your right for the light display that lights up in sync with captivating Christmas music.

Keep walking to the white lights strung up on trees that mimic snow falling off of branches. Or stroll under the tunnel of lights that lead to chandeliers – several of them – hanging from trees. The Arboretum also expertly decorated some of the larger trees to look like elaborate gowns, which made that part of the gardens look like a gorgeous, darkened dance hall, where a ghost of Christmas past may be seen floating among the chandeliers, dressed in a flowing gown.

The imagination can easily wander in this place.

The NC Arboretum Wishing Tree

Heading past the chandeliers is the Wishing Tree in the bonsai garden (where bathrooms are as well, in case you need to know). Guests are invited to write their warm holiday wishes on little cards and hang them from the Wishing Tree.

This was honestly my favorite part. While people wrote all kinds of interesting wishes (one guy wrote his name and number and asked pretty ladies to call him…), there were some that left me feeling like I was peeking into someone’s heart. One woman wrote that she wished to see her late husband. Another wrote that they wished everyone would feel valued this holiday season.

It was beautiful. I’m not going to say what I wished for, though.

Reindeer Games and Crafts

Past the Wishing Tree was the “Reindeer Games” section, where people could play “tic tac snow” – you and your partner could press buttons that would correspond to a tic, tac, toe board of holiday wreaths, which would light up according to the moves each player would make. They also had a game of Jenga and a nearby fire pit for making s’mores.

Past the games was another inviting building, where families could do a free craft with their child (or just do it themselves because it was fun). When we went, my kids made a butterfly that had a glowstick inside, which was perfect for when we got back outside.

In the same room, there was an animal storytime, “Storytime at Woodland Cove”, a set-up of deer and bears and squirrels that all talked (think a Disney ride but without any actual ride) and told a story of a baby bear going through his first winter alone.

On our way back through the exhibit outside, we happened to come across a train exhibit, which was fun to watch. We saw it atop the bridge that led to the big Christmas tree-like light display, but you could walk down below and see the trains up close as well. My oldest wanted to go to see, as did I, but my youngest was reaching her breaking point so we had to head out. Next time!

Winter Lights

Making The Trip To Asheville, NC

The NC Arboretum is just over an hour from Greenville. There are nearby restaurants that are great for families if you want to eat before you go. I was given the recommendation to go Papas & Beer, which is five minutes from the Arboretum, and it was awesome.

It’s a late night for little ones but depending on your child’s temperament and mood, they will probably love it. My three-year-old was hitting her limit about an hour and a half into the exhibit so opted to head out.

There were a bunch of families, children, couples, and grandparents all enjoying the exhibit. One dad even had on a hiking backpack where he stowed his smaller child. Smart thinking.

To enjoy as much of the exhibit as possible, try to get there when it opens at 6 pm. You’ll have to show your tickets and park, which takes about 20-25 minutes, and then you have the rest of the time to wander around the exhibit and enjoy the magical experience.

2023 Winter Lights Ticket Info & FAQ

  • DATES
    November 17th, 2023 – December 31st, 2023
  • HOURS
    The gates open for the Winter Lights Display at 6:00 PM. Tickets are timed and guests may enter anytime between the time on their ticket and 9 pm. All guests must be off the property by 10:30 pm. Don’t not arrive early and block the gate.
  • TICKETS
    Tickets for a standard passenger vehicle range in price from $40-$70 per car when purchased in advance. Peak days will be priced at a premium. All the pricing details can be found on the NC Arboretum Winter Lights Ticket page If you have your ticket on your smartphone, take a screenshot before you arrive. Cell service is limited at the ticket gate.
  • North Carolina Arboretum Winter Lights -100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC | 828.665.2492

Know Before You Go

  • Animals are not allowed in the Arboretum and food and drink cannot be brought in either.
  • Bathrooms are in the main lodge entrance building, near the Wishing Tree in the bonsai garden, and in the building where the restaurant and crafts are located.

See Historic Planes for FREE! Western North Carolina Air Museum in Hendersonville, NC

Posted on |

Did you know Hendersonville, NC has a FREE airplane museum? The Western North Carolina Air Museum is in a hangar beside a small runway full of historic airplanes. Learn about the history of the planes, how they’re made, and how they fly. There are even aircraft that kids can climb in, explore, and experiment with the controls. If you have an aviation enthusiast in your family, no matter their age, this is not a place you’ll want to skip. Let us introduce you to this amazing little gem in Hendersonville so you can plan your visit soon!

WNC Air Museum planes

What is the Western North Carolina Air Museum?

The museum consists of a single hanger filled to the brim with interesting and historic aircraft, informational exhibits, and knowledgable staff there to answer your questions and explain everything about these planes. There is also an aviation library that takes up almost an entire wall of the hanger, full of information for anyone researching an aviation topic whether it’s historical, technical, or anything in between.

Plane at the WNC Air Museum

Is the WNC Air Museum a Place for Kids?

YES! Definitely bring kids to this museum. Signage at the museum asks parents to supervise their children at all times, which makes sense since there are so many valuable aircraft and exhibits densely packed into the space.

That said there are definitely things for kids to touch, explore, play with, and enjoy. There are photo ops for kids in the form of a wooden painted plane. And your kids may also notice some stuffies doing a little piloting. Both a plane and a gyrocopter are available for kids to climb into the pilot’s seat and move the controls. They’ll actually be able to move the rudder, ailerons, and elevator. This was definitely my kids’ favorite part of the museum.

Kids lpiloting at WNC Air Museum

The staff at the museum were very kind to my kids, answering all their questions and complimenting us on their inquisitiveness and behavior. And really, what parent doesn’t want to hear things like that about their kids?

On our way out, my kids were offered copies of some aviation magazines which they eagerly accepted. Members of the Air Museum donate copies they are done with to the museum so kids can bring them home to learn more.

WNC Air Museum Stuffed Pilots

When Can We Visit the Western North Carolina Air Museum?

The regular hours of the museum are as follows:

  • April – October: Wednesday & Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday 12 pm to 5 pm
  • November – March: Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, 12 pm to 5 pm

The museum may also be open for additional hours for special events, like the Hendersonville Apple Festival. Visit the Western North Carolina Air Museum website for special event information.

WNC Air Museum

Getting to the WNC Air Museum

When you plug the address into your GPS or maps app you should have no trouble getting to the museum. It’s located just a few miles from downtown Hendersonville, but the area is residential and you may feel like you’re headed off in the wrong direction. The drive is gravel and you’ll see the hanger from the road.

WNC Air Museum entrance

Western North Carolina Air Museum
1340 Gilbert Street, Hendersonville
FREE admission and parking

Free Things to Do in Hendersonville, NC

There are so many more free and fun adventures in Hendersonville, NC!

Here’s our list of totally free fun in Hendersonville, NC.

The Annual Cashiers, NC Christmas Parade Is A Perfect Day Trip This Holiday Season

Posted on | 2 Comments

Love a small-town Christmas parade? Head to Cashiers, NC for Christmas this year! Celebrating in the mountains for the Cashiers Christmas Parade sounds like a great day trip from the Upstate!

As much as we love being in Greenville for the holidays, there are just some events that prove to be too much for the younger kids, one example being the Poinsettia Christmas Parade. Between finding parking downtown, getting there early enough to get a good spot, keeping the kids occupied until the parade starts, and then managing the hungry little guys upon getting home late, parade day could be extremely taxing on this mom’s holiday spirit!

I can’t exactly remember how we first heard about our new holiday tradition, but our Christmas in the Upstate now includes a trip to the mountains for the Cashiers Christmas Parade!

Be sure to check out our guide to the holidays for more fun things to do during Christmas near Greenville, SC.

(more…)

National Gingerbread Competition: Make Asheville’s Grove Park Inn A Christmas Tradition For Your Family

Have you heard about the National Gingerbread Competition at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC? Hansel and Gretel would not miss this Christmas extravaganza, as it showcases dozens of gingerbread houses and holiday decorations galore! Luckily you don’t have to worry about the waistline, because this is a feast for the eyes, not the stomach.

The charming Grove Park Inn in Asheville is a seasonal delight you won’t want to miss this holiday season, and who knows – once inspired, maybe you’ll find yourself building a gingerbread house with the kiddos.

This article was originally published on Femme au foyer.

Looking for more great holiday fun in Asheville, NC? Don’t miss our Guide to Christmas in Asheville, NC. It is loaded with fun things to do from Asheville’s Christmas lights to free Santa photos!

The Annual Gingerbread Competition at Asheville’s Grove Park Inn

The famous gingerbread house competition at the Grove Park Inn is a favorite winter activity for families. Viewing dates are November 27, 2023 through January 2, 2024. If you are not staying at the resort, you are invited to view the displays after 4 pm on Sundays or anytime Monday – Thursday based on parking availability. Excluded dates for guests not staying at the resort are December 23-25, 30-31, and January 1. Only registered resort pets are allowed and no outside pets are permitted.

The gingerbread houses are as diverse as they are amazing; on our last visit, we saw everything from clock towers to sleighs to igloos to skate parks. The entries must be constructed entirely of edible materials with the exception of the base, but the ingenuity in construction is simply remarkable.

There are four entry categories: adult, teen, youth and child, and entries are judged on overall appearance, originality and creativity, difficulty, precision and consistency of theme.

While there is no admission charge to view the display, although there is a $25/car parking fee. Half of this fee goes to local non-profits. For more information on the gingerbread competition visit the website, and make sure to keep a lookout for entries from the Upstate; in previous years an entry from Greer placed second in the teen category, while a Greenville entry in the child category received an honorable mention.

grove-park-inn-gingerbread-competition-1

Holiday Decorations at Omni Grove Park Inn

All decorated areas of the hotel may not be available to those who are not registered guests staying at the hotel.

As you walk through the hotel viewing the gingerbread competition winners you’ll see more than a few Christmas trees decorated in all sorts of motifs. My boys’ favorite part of the visit was discovering the elaborate ornaments on these themed trees, deciding on their favorites, and planning which decorations we should have in our home. The giant Christmas tree in the lobby is a perfect place for that family photo, the entire Great Hall filled with the smell of the giant evergreen.

The enormous fire places in the Great Hall are adorned with wreaths, heat radiating out to warm those seated in the area.  One year, there was a gingerbread house in the hall, built by the pastry department. The ingredients included 50 pounds of egg whites, 440 pounds of powdered sugar, 220 pounds of red fondant and 400 pounds of bread flower!

Visitors could purchase hot beverages and gingerbread from the gingerbread house, and then settle into the giant rocking chairs near the fireplace with hot chocolate to enjoy the holiday bustle.  Spend a little more time than just a couple of minutes in the rocking chairs – sitting by a roaring fire in a relaxing chair is part of the mystique of the Inn that should not be glossed over.

The Grounds of Grove Park Inn

The original Grove Park Inn was built in 1913 and over the years has grown to encompass a golf course, spa, sports complex, five restaurants, three bars and a café.

To truly appreciate the scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains it is worth stepping out onto the veranda, or even descending down into the gardens and spa area. This descent via outdoor stone staircases is also a good use of the kids’ extra energy; ask them to take a photo of the Inn from the lowest level.

The view of the front of the hotel is also quite grand, and after imagining the long-ago sound of horse-drawn carriages rattling across the cobblestones you might want to take a short stroll. From the front of the hotel up to Sunset Mountain is a short hiking trail that is appropriate for all skill levels and ages that will let you work off whatever delectable you may have bought at the Inn, but will also let you appreciate the spectacular natural setting of the Grove Park Inn.

Then, as you set off on the drive home take a minute to determine whether you should enter next year’s Gingerbread Competition – or once more return as a spectator to this wonderful annual event.

grove-park-inn-reindeer-1

Plan a trip of your own

Grove Park Inn
290 Macon Avenue
Asheville, NC 28804
800.438.5800

Celebrate the Season With Your Family: Holiday Day Trips Near Upstate, SC

Posted on | 3 Comments

Searching for “Christmas day trips near me”? Or maybe you’re interested in taking a trip out of Greenville to enjoy the holiday spirit? There are a bunch of places you can head for the weekend or just the day to enjoy some holiday fun away from the Upstate.

Check out our list of popular destinations for day trips during the holiday season. From train rides to giant light displays and towns all decked out for Christmas, there are some fantastic ideas on this list!

Christmas Day Trips from Greenville


(more…)

Get Tickets Now! Great Smoky Mountain Railroad’s Polar Express in Bryson City, NC

Posted on | 1 Comment

Wondering about the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad’s Polar Express? Bryson City offers one of the most magical experiences of a kid’s life on this themed train ride based on the book The Polar Express. Whether you love an early beginning to the holiday season or wish you could put it off, this North Carolina attraction is one very good reason to start your own planning early this year. KAG Contributor Liene has all the information you need to know about this very popular holiday attraction.

The Polar Express in Bryson City, North Carolina

The Polar Express: Bryson City, NC

Bryson City is a gateway city to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but is it also home to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad depot, with scenic rail excursions through the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. Beginning November 9th, 2023, a very special train will be departing from the historic Bryson City depot: The Polar Express. This is one of two very popular train rides on the Polar Express near Greenville, SC, so get your tickets soon!

Based on the popular children’s book written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, this magical train ride recreates the journey to the North Pole complete with hot cocoa and a warm cookie.  At the end of the train ride, Santa Claus himself will be waiting at Santa’s Village to board the train and present each child with their very own silver sleigh bell.

Things to Know About the Ride on the Polar Express

You’ll want to arrive in Bryson City at least an hour before your departure time. This will give you time to park, which is not an easy task in this little town that brings upwards of 90,000 passengers through for the Polar Express. Parking charges are already added when purchasing tickets ($6) and parking attendants are on hand to direct traffic.

Once you’ve walked to the depot you might want to explore the GSMR train museum, and you’ll find a dozen little souvenir and snack shops lining the street to explore while waiting for your train’s boarding time. Hint; the Smoky Mountain trains museum is free with tickets, but you can purchase pictures with Santa if you arrive early.

When it is time to climb on board, passengers join the queue at their assigned boarding station, which correlates to the train car in which you will be riding.   The beautifully restored vintage coaches date from the 1920s to the 1940s, and the interior has been festively decorated in the holiday spirit. Friendly employees are on hand to help the boarding process and get everyone situated, and before you know it, the whistle blows, and the Polar Express is off, headed for the North Pole!

While music plays in the background (from the motion picture The Polar Express), the conductor comes through to stamp the ‘golden train tickets.’  These tickets, based on the book, make a cherished souvenir for the children. Hint: make sure to bring your copy of “The Polar Express” on the trip so that you can read along while enjoying the hot chocolate brought to you by the singing and dancing chef.  

Like most parents, we had changed the kids into their pajamas so that they would be cozy and comfortable on the journey.  And, the singing of Christmas carols and antics of the Polar Express characters kept them mesmerized the entire trip.

Bryson City, North Carolina Great Smoky Mountain Train view

Tips to Make the Most of Your Trip

With three different ticket options (First, Crown, and Coach), families have a variety of choices concerning seating, snacks, and memorabilia – only reserve your tickets soon, as the tickets for the weekends approaching Christmas tend to sell out by the end of October. We opted for Coach and were completely satisfied with the seating, the service, and the benefits that came with our package.

We purchased tickets on the 5 pm train, meaning it would still be light out for the first 1/2 hour of the journey (and we could watch the gorgeous mountain scenery roll by). The sun had set and darkness descended just before our arrival at the North Pole, and so the Christmas lights adorning ‘Santa’s Village’ twinkled in the darkness, helping convince reluctant believers… On our return trip, lights from homes along the route sparkled in the distance, adding a magical dimension to the ride.

When selecting seats, you might want to choose to be on the left side of the train (that would be the opposite side where you board the Polar Express), as the river and the majority of North Pole lights will be on that side. Also, Santa boards on the front of the train, so be prepared for him to come through rather soon after stopping if you’re in Coach; have your copy of “The Polar Express” ready for him to sign, and the kids ready to tell him what they would like for Christmas.  He even makes some time to ask some disbelieving adults about what they would like under the tree – so make that list and check it twice!

More information on the Polar Express: Bryson City, NC

The first Polar Express departure is on November 9, 2023, and the train operates through December 31, 2023, with the exception of certain weekdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas day. They do have a Christmas Eve ride if you want a truly memorable night. Most days, there are three departures a day and tickets sell out quickly.

For detailed information on the different seating available, visit the Polar Express website.

Bryson City is about 2 ½ hours by car from both Greenville and Spartanburg, optimally a weekend destination, but doable in a day (since the kids will sleep on the way home!).

There are several classes to choose from with Coach Class being the cheapest of the tickets starting at $29 for kids ages 2-12 and $44 for adults up to First Class, which is $47 for kids and $68 for adults. Crown and Premium Crown Class are in between those prices. Depending on what ticket class you choose, you’ll receive a cookie, hot chocolate, and a souvenir of some type for a full Polar Express experience.

You can book tickets by calling 800.872.4681 or you can book them online.

Where to Stay Near the Polar Express in Bryson City, NC

This Stay22 Affiliate links map will help you find the perfect place to stay during your visit!

Sky Ridge Yurts

If you want to enhance your Polar Express experience with a super cool place to stay in town, try Sky Ridge Yurts, only about 20 minutes away from the city center and the railroad. The yurts are spacious, clean, and very comfortable. We tried them out over the summer and fell in love with the unique structures. Enjoy some warm cocoa and the mountain views during your trip!

Sky Ridge Yurt exterior

For other Great Smoky Mountains Railroad family-friendly adventures, check out the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad website.

“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”

From The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg

Would a ride on The Polar Express be a trip your kids would cherish?


Tree farms in Bryson City, NC

Bryson City has a lot to offer during the holidays! Read more about the town’s holiday offerings while you plan your winter getaway.


See our list of Western NC Day Trips and our list of Holiday Day Trips for even more suggestions for fun around the holidays.

This post was originally published on Femme au foyer and is republished with permission.

25+ Hendersonville, NC Things to Do: Fun Days Start Here

Posted on | 1 Comment

Are you looking for things to do in Hendersonville, NC? Just over the border into North Carolina is the mountaintop town of Hendersonville, NC. There are lots of things to enjoy, but the thing Hendersonville, North Carolina is most famous for is their apple orchards! If you are planning a trip to Hendersonville, we’ve got all the info you’ll need to fill your day with fun, or enjoy a day trip or weekend getaway any time of year.


We Love Adventures in Hendersonville, NC


(more…)

Spend A Day in Easley, SC: Things to Do

Posted on | 1 Comment

Looking for things to do in Easley, SC? Or a new a place to explore? Don’t want to travel too far? We’ve got recommendations no matter your preference when it comes to adventure near Easley.  

The town of Easley is just 15 minutes from downtown Greenville, and if you haven’t made time to explore this cute little town, here’s your chance. We’ve separated the recommendations by season, with plans to update them as new and exciting things get completed around town. 



Looking for more fun in the area? Check out Kidding Around’s Guide To Pickens,SC

(more…)

Huge Catawba Science Center is a Fun Day Trip in Hickory, NC

Posted on |

The Catawba Science Center in Hickory, NC has so much to explore! See animals, build, learn about physics, space, gardens and more! We checked it out and have all the information you need to enjoy a fun day here as a day trip from Greenville, SC, or Charlotte, NC, or anywhere in between!

Catawba Science Center

Ever since I got my Roper Mountain Science Center membership, I’ve started planning day trips and homeschool field trips according to where my family can get in for free or half-price using the reciprocal membership benefits. The Catawba Science Center in Hickory, NC was on the list so that’s where we went. 

(more…)