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Posts Tagged ‘Educational Things to Do’

Amazing Discoveries at Roper Mountain Science Center

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Have you explored the Roper Mountain Science Center in Greenville, SC? You may have heard the name of the Roper Mountain Science Center and wondered what in the world this is or maybe your kids attended a field trip there. But really, do you know how cool this place is?

With a dinosaur trail, a living history farm, a Marine Ecology lab, and active classrooms you can explore, you can visit multiple times and find something new and exciting at each visit! Plus, RMSC has the only planetarium in Greenville, SC and a giant 23” refractor telescope that you can look through during special events. It doesn’t get much cooler than that!

Things to do at Roper Mountain Science Center
Things to Do in Greenville, SC.

Looking for more things to do near Greenville, SC? We’ve got you!

RMSC is part of the Greenville County School system and during the week they host classes for science exhibits and hands-on learning for the public school system. However, they have greatly expanded their offerings and hours for the general public in the last several years and there several wonderful opportunities to explore this gem in Greenville. Every season offers something new and exciting at the RMSC.

This article includes:
What is at the Roper Mountain Science Center?
Friday Starry Nights
Laser Shows at Hooper Planetarium
The Nature Exchange
Afternoon Explorations: September to May
Summer Adventure
Summer Camps
Science on Wheels & Educator Tools

What is at Roper Mountain Science Center?

The Roper Mountain Science Center is absolutely the place to go for STEM activities in Greenville, SC that are fun and engaging. During special events throughout the year, Roper Mountain is open to the public, and it is truly worth a visit (or ten). From September through May, you can visit during Afternoon Explorations on Thursdays and Fridays.

You can also explore June through July during their Summer Adventure programming, during which an exciting traveling exhibit is set up. And don’t forget their year-round Friday Starry Nights at the Hooper Planetarium.

Kids of all ages will love the RMSC. There is so much for them to see and do from the Dinosaur Trail, the touch tanks in the Marine Lab, the rainforest with its small waterfall, the outdoor play area, the pirate and castle playgrounds, and traveling exhibits.

Environmental Science and Sustainability Building

There is so much to explore at Roper Mountain Science Center that we promise you’ll need lots of visits to see everything. When you first arrive, you will enter through the Environmental Science and Sustainability Building. The building is dedicated to water ecology and sustainability practices and is filled with immersive experiences, a traveling exhibit (in summer), live animal displays, and more.

You can see a Timber Rattlesnake and Copperhead snake mere inches away and see a Hellbender up close as well. Kids love the interactive exhibits that teach them what not to flush down the toilet (parents like this one as well) and how to lower and raise the water level in a lake. Pretty neat stuff.

One of the most popular exhibits is the Nature Exchange. Here, your child can bring in items they found in nature, including moss, rocks, shells, lichen, or other items in exchange for points that they can use to spend on awesome items like crystals, fossils, and even owl pellets.

The Environmental Science and Sustainability Building is only open to the public during special events and Afternoon Explorations and Summer Adventure.

Harrison Hall of Natural Science

As you leave the lower level exit of the Environmental Science building, you can follow the path toward the Dinosaur Trail to the left or the Harrison Hall of Natural Science to the right. I am a huge ecology lover, so I immediately gravitate toward Harrison Hall. Here you will find multiple active classrooms to explore. There are live animals to meet and even touch like docile snakes, lizards, and sometimes even an alligator.

I love the permanent rainforest exhibit since it’s nice and humid and has a small waterfall, cocoa tree, and benches to enjoy the warmth, which feels especially nice during the colder months.

You can explore taxidermied animals, bone collections, specimen collections, and living animal exhibits. Your child can touch snakes, meet a skink, and learn about ecology and biodiversity during their exploration.

The Marine Lab is super popular because you and your children will be able to touch stingrays, starfish, and other sea creatures in the tide pool while learning about them.

The Ecology Lab showcases South Carolina habitats with their native animals, which include a Mountain Trout Stream, a Beaver/Turtle Pond, a Cypress Swamp (with an alligator), and a Salt Marsh. Guests can also check out a live honeybee hive at work.

Harrison Hall of Natural Science is only open to the public during special events such as Summer Adventure.

Dinosaur Trail

If you decide to head to the Dinosaur Adventure Trail first, then your dino adventure will start with a meet and greet with a Triceratops. All the dinosaurs are life-size models, so be sure to notice the awe in your young kid’s eyes as they notice them towering above them.

T-Rex on Dinosaur Trail at Roper Mountain Science Center

Be mindful of the ropes, as RMSC does not allow climbing on the majority of the exhibited dinosaurs. There is a big slide and play area that was designed to look like dinosaur bones coming out of the ground that kids can play on.

In 2023, a brand new animatronics T-Rex was added, which moves and roars. It’s motion-activated so you have no idea it’s going to move until you (or your kids) walk in front of it.

The Dinosaur Adventure Trail is open to the public during special events, Afternoon Explorations, and Summer Adventure.

Pirate and Castle Playgrounds

In 2023, RMSC added two new playgrounds: a large pirate playground for older kids and a smaller castle playground for toddlers.

playground at Roper Mountain Science Center

Both are located next to Harrison Hall and are partially in the shade depending on the time of day. There are benches for parents to sit on as well. Kids really love these new playgrounds as they foster lots of imaginative adventures on the high seas and in the world of knights and ladies at the castle.

These playgrounds are open during Summer Adventure and Afternoon Explorations.

Living History Farm & Butterfly Garden

One of my earliest memories as a kid was visiting the Living History Farm when I was in Kindergarten. With authentic log cabins, a schoolhouse, a working barn, and a reconstructed former slave cabin, there is so much history that you can live the experience. Walking through the gardens, fields, pasture, farm pond, and farm animals certainly lend itself to easily imagining that time period.

The Living History Farm also has an incredible garden in the summer. You will find the Butterfly Garden on the outskirts of the Living History Farm. The garden has native plants that are frequently visited by butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.

The Living History Farm is only open to the public during special events and Summer Adventure while the Butterfly Garden is open during Afternoon Explorations, Summer Adventure, and special events.

Living History Farm, Roper Mountain Science Center
Living History Farm, Roper Mountain Science Center

Symmes Hall of Science

If you are a lover of all things STEM, then the Symmes Hall of Science will be the highlight of your trip to the Roper Mountain Science Center. Though Symmes Hall is only open during special events, it is worth it when you get to explore chemical reactions through experimentation, explore Tesla coils and solar panels, and interact with robotics.

Hooper Planetarium & Daniel Observatory

Last, but not least, the incredible Hooper Planetarium and Daniel Observatory. If you are wanting to spark a love for science in your child, this is a great place to start. The Hooper Planetarium is designed with a 360-degree dome with 4K projection and a truly immersive sound system.

The Hooper Planetarium offers special space-themed programming called Friday Starry Nights throughout the year. The planetarium is also equipped with a Laser Fantasy projection system, which is spectacular, to say the least! You can enjoy Laser Days of Summer, Halloween Laser Shows, and Special Laser Events throughout the year. 

If you’re looking for a truly magical experience for adults and kids, then head to the Daniel Observatory after your planetarium showing to look through the historic 23’’ refractor telescope. The telescope is the 8th largest of its kind in the United States! You’ll be able to observe Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, and more as you climb the steps to look through the scope.

Friday Starry Nights at the Roper Mountain Science Center

You can find out everything you need to know about Friday Starry Nights in our KA review. 

Friday Starry Nights at the Roper Mountain Science Center on Friday nights is a favorite activity for many. Shows sell out quickly and RMSC suggests purchasing tickets online beforehand.

Friday Starry Nights are offered on Friday evenings throughout the year at the Hooper Planetarium. Typically, there are three showings (4:30 pm, 6:00 pm, 7:30 pm), with each showing offering a unique feature film themed around space. The 4:30 pm show is excellent for younger children to attend and is recommended for ages 4 and older. The 6:00 pm show is also kid-friendly and features a film that is more exploratory of space in a kid-friendly way. The 7:30 feature showing is most appropriate for older children and adults. 

Tickets to Friday Starry Nights are $8/adults and teens, $7/kids ages 3-12. Starry Nights is free for RMSC members. The shows are generally not recommended for kids three and under (I can vouch for this – to my dismay, my toddler was scared when we visited the planetarium during an event).

Laser Shows at the Hooper Planetarium

The planetarium also features several special events throughout the year, including Laser Days of Summer, Halloween Laser Shows, Holiday Laser Shows, Pink Floyd Laser Shows, and more. I saw the Laser Days of Summer Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon a couple of years ago, and it was EPIC.

These events are fully immersive, and allow you to sit back and listen to classic albums of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Stranger Things, and more while lasers tell a story across the 360 degree screen. Regularly check the Roper Mountain Science Center website for updates about their upcoming special events and laser shows

Tickets for Laser Days of Summer can be purchased now, and the event will begin July 18th, 2024. Multiple showings are offered from Thursday through Saturday from 4:30 pm to 9:00 pm on most nights. Tickets for Laser Days of Summer are $8 per adult or child, and $4 for members.

The Nature Exchange

There are 12 Nature Exchanges in the country and they are like little shops for kids that focus on learning about things you find in nature and seeking out neat things that you may not otherwise see if perhaps you weren’t looking for them. 

The Nature Exchange at the RMSC is the only one in the state but it’s connected to the other 11 through a database. When your kids sign up, they are entered into this national database. As they rack up points, if they visit another Nature Exchange on a trip, they can use those points to get something from that particular place they visit. 

At the Nature Exchange at RMSC, there are lots of neat items already that kids can choose from if they earn enough points. Each person who signs up automatically gets 100 points plus they get points for their birthday, also. Kids can then choose something from the big Nature Exchange wall that is the same number or less than the points they have accumulated. Or, they can accumulate their points and save up for something super cool like a dinosaur fossil plate or a pretty stone or a big bug. 

Kids will find everything from gemstones to intricate shells to mummified grasshoppers and tarantulas. The Nature Exchange is located on the top floor of the Environmental Science and Sustainability Building, to the left of the main entrance.

RMSC Nature Exchange scenes
Nature Exchange at Roper Mountain Science Center

Afternoon Explorations at Roper Mountain Science Center

Afternoon Explorations is when RMSC is open to the public during the school year. For 2023-24, they will open on September 14, 2023 and be open on Thursdays and Fridays from 1:30-5 pm. Guests will have access to the Environmental Science and Sustainability Center, the Rain Forest Room, Marine Lab and Ecology Lab in Harrison Hall of Natural Science as well as the Living History Farm when weather permits.

You will also be able to hunt for dinosaurs on the Dinosaur Adventure Trail, play in Wildwood, visit the Butterfly Garden, and play on the Pirates of the Carolinas playground.

Tickets for Afternoon Explorations are $8/adults and teens, $7/kids ages 3-12. Members receive free admission.

Summer Adventure and 2024’s summer Traveling Exhibit

Summer Adventure dates for 2024 have not been announced as of publication. You can typically visit during Summer Adventure Tuesday – Saturdays from 10 am – 4 pm. Explore all the exhibits RMSC has to offer, including a traveling exhibit that is only accessible during the summer.

The traveling exhibit changes every year, so it’s something special and unique to experience. Summer Adventure also offers special programs, including cockroach racing, the Eat a Bug challenge, farm animal interactions at the Living History Farm, period costume volunteers, and more to get children engaged and excited about science.

Traveling exhibit at Roper Mountain Science Center

2024’s Traveling Exhibit hasn’t been announced as of publication. But for 2023, the traveling exhibit theme was ‘How People Make Things’, located on the top floor of the Environmental Science and Sustainability Building. This exhibit is a lot of fun as kids can create different objects at various stations throughout the exhibit like a trolley car (based on Mr. Rodgers’ show), a pressed coin, or a small box made from cut-out paper.

Admission is free for members, and tickets are $12 per adult and $10 per child 3 – 12 years of age. EBT cardholders can purchase tickets for $5.

The Butterfly Garden

The butterfly garden is located beside the parking lot in front of the Harrison Hall of Natural Science.  It’s definitely something to check out, enjoy the beautifully landscaped garden, and see some butterflies.  If you’d like to make it a homeschool adventure, try some of the books, ideas and activities below.

Make it Educational

Math:  Draw the butterflies with colored pencils (maybe take pictures with a cell phone to reference later) and keep a tally count of how many of each variety you see.  Once you return home, turn your tally count into a bar graph.  Siblings can compare their graphs and see how they differ.

Science: Use some butterfly books or websites to help you name the different species of butterflies you see.  If it’s too much to manage “in the field” just take pictures and look them up when you get home.  The following resources may be helpful.

Discuss the butterfly life cycle before or after your visit to the garden.  Here’s a great freebie coloring sheet of the life cycle.

Language Arts: Come up with some super sentences about butterflies. Make them factual or fictional. Use the bright colors and textures of the insects and the garden to dress up your sentences with adjectives. Look at how the butterflies move and what they do to pick some great verbs for your sentences.


This website deals with butterflies specific to our area, and has pictures that may be helpful to you when trying to name species.

The Life Cycles of Butterflies: from egg to maturity, a visual guide to 23 common garden butterflies  (J 595.789 Burris) by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards  -This book shows the life cycle of butterflies, but also shows pictures of common butterflies and areas where they are found.  The Greenville libraries have many other fine books on butterflies with photographs under the call number J 595.789.

If you’d like to know a little more about the purpose of butterfly gardens, or the specific plants and landscaping you see at the garden, check out this portion of Roper Mountain’s website. It lists the host plants and nectar plants found at the science center’s butterfly garden.  Many of these plants are labeled in the garden.  Spend some time examining these plants.

Summer Camps at Roper Mountain Science Center

RMSC is focused on making STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics- fun for kids, and summer camps are no exception. But summer at Roper Mountain is more than just science: they also offer camps focusing on art, literature, moviemaking, mythology, photography and so much more. Summer camps at the Roper Mountain Science Center are available from K5 through Grade 12, and early drop-off and lunch stays are available for students attending separate morning and afternoon sessions.

Summer camp registration begins in March and camps fill up very quickly. Members will get first dibs on summer camp registration and if you really, really want your kid in a certain camp, you can get the concierge membership, which will ensure you will be able to register your kid(s) before anyone else.

Bring Science Lessons to you with Science on Wheels

If you are looking for a unique and science-driven demonstration for a school program or public outreach program Science on Wheels will bring the experimentation to you. They even have a portable planetarium! The program is perfect for school science days, preschools, library events, family audiences, afterschool groups, evening school events, summer camps, and community centers.

If you think RMSC’s Science on Wheels would be perfect for your group event, you can request more information by contacting the Roper Mountain Science Center directly. Educators can also utilize the many amazing programs Roper Mountain has to offer, including field trips, virtual field trips, elearning Live From Roper, and more to boost their science curriculum for their students.

Roper Mountain Science Center Membership

Speaking of membership to the RMSC, they have some worthwhile packages, especially if your family loves science and technology.

Memberships include free admission to Afternoon Explorations, Summer Adventure, and Friday Starry Nights, special pricing for special events and Laser Days of Summer, and early registration to summer camps. A family membership costs $125 and is easily paid for in just a couple of visits to the RMSC.

Additionally, members get free or discounted admission to over 300 science centers and museums worldwide. This is a great perk when traveling or planning day trips or summer vacations.

For instance, if a family of four travels to nearby Asheville and goes to the Western NC Nature Center, admission for them would be free with a membership to the RMSC.

Bottom line: A membership to the RMSC is a good investment in both learning and entertainment!

Have your kids ever been to Roper Mountain Science Center?

{2024} Homeschool Days near Greenville, SC

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Looking for a fun homeschool day event near Greenville, SC to attend this school year? We have a list of local and regional places that offer Homeschool Days including farms, zoos, and amusement parks.

Part of the fun of homeschooling is all the field trips my kids and I take. We try to go out as often as possible to any number of places that give a hands-on, visual, and educational experience and always have a lot of fun.  

There are so many fantastic places in our area Upstate SC area that offer Homeschool Days specifically for homeschooling families. I put them together here to help all of us homeschoolers have some options for extending learning beyond the home environment. 

You may also find our Homeschool Guide to Greenville, SC, Field Trip Guide, and Homeschool Discounts stories helpful as you plan out your year. Also, check out these Educational Things to Do Near Greenville, SC.


Duke World of Energy: Learn About What Powers The Upstate

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Do you have a young one with an inquisitive mind? Bring them to the Duke World of Energy where they can learn how the electricity that keeps the lights on at home is generated and brought to local houses and businesses.

Did we mention this exhibit is FREE?

We know our readers love free things to do near Greenville so we visited the Duke World of Energy and we’re bringing you all the information you need to plan your own visit soon!

Free Things to Do in Greenville, SC

Looking for more Free Things to do in the Upstate? Here’s our list of free and low-cost things to do near Greenville, SC!

Duke Energy World of Energy

Located on the southern shore of beautiful Lake Keowee, The Oconee Nuclear Station provides energy to nearly 2 million homes via nuclear power. There is a multitude of steps that go into producing so much energy, and families can learn all about it at the power plant’s educational center.

Inside the Duke World of Energy

The Duke World of Energy is a free hands-on exhibit. Visitors will learn how electricity is generated at the plant and how the surrounding lakes contribute. You’ll start off with a short film, followed by a variety of interactive educational displays about energy production at the plant. The experience takes about 30-45 minutes.

As you enter each exhibit room, the presentation is started by an interactive touchpad. As you move from room to room you will learn about the process the plant uses to create the power that flows into homes. The way the exhibit is set up, in multiple rooms will keep kids from toddler to school-age entertained. About halfway through, you’ll find a huge picture window overlooking the power plant – a perfect photo opportunity. I was surprised to learn that this is the fifth-largest nuclear plant in the country.

Duke Energy World of Energy

The exhibits towards the end seemed to be the stars of the show for my children. My son loved the security display which features half of a car and the mirrored tool they use to check underneath cars entering the facility. The last two rooms – my daughter’s favorite – feature a simulated outdoor space, complete with taxidermy animals and an adjoining room that looks like a home. She loved looking out the window back into the “outdoor” room and waving to us.

The topography map is really neat – you can see the entire Jocassee Gorges, the Foothills Trail, the SC State Parks near there, and Lake Jocassee and Lake Keowee. These kinds of maps are always fascinating!

Topographical map at Duke Energy World of Energy

Nature Trail and More at Duke Energy: World of Energy

After visiting the World of Energy exhibit, head outside to the quarter-mile nature trail by the lake. You’ll find a covered picnic shelter, a fishing pier, and even a butterfly garden that’s open during the warmer months. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of dining options nearby, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead and bring a picnic.

We sat on the dock to eat lunch and finish our homeschool work and it was very relaxing. There’s a path that winds its way down to a small beach as well where you can hang out and enjoy the beautiful view. Stay off the helipad though, as the signs say!

You can also fish on the pier if you like. This is such a great way to spend a leisurely afternoon and a fun field trip. The view is breathtaking, and you just might learn something while you’re there.

Dock at Duke Energy World of Energy

FREE Special Events at Duke World of Energy

Don’t forget to check the Duke Energy website for events. In the past, The World of Energy has hosted several community events, including a National Hunting, an Orchid event (currently scheduled for February 15-17, 2024), a Fishing Day event, and a home school day.

Want to Visit Duke World of Energy?

Duke World Of Energy
7812 Rochester Highway | Seneca, SC 29672

Open 10 am-4 pm
Wednesday through Friday
Please confirm the hours before you head to the World Of Energy.

This article was originally written by Melanie Coblentz and has been updated by the Kidding Around Team.

Things to Do at the Greenville County Museum of Art

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Did you know you can visit the Greenville County Museum of Art completely for free? This Greenville gem features permanent art exhibits as well as traveling exhibitions. Plus, they offer excellent free programming including family art workshops, Sunday afternoon tours, activities or concerts, and so much more!

Greenville County Museum of Art

Ahoy! Pirates and treasures galore at this pirate museum in St. Augustine, FL

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The incredible St. Augustine Pirate Museum has lots of amazing hands-on entertainment and treasures in St. Augustine, Florida. 

Making a trip down the East Coast from the Upstate, SC? The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum is the real deal and has such cool exhibits and treasures! We checked it out and have all the details. 

Captain Kidd's Chest at the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum
Everyone has fun at the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum

About the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum

The museum is a brainchild of Pat Croce, a best-selling author, entrepreneur, and pirate scholar. Some of the artifacts in the museum were obtained from dives he did to sunken ships. So cool. 

The museum initially opened in Key West in 2005 but was moved to St. Augustine in 2010, where it has resided ever since. St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city, is no stranger to piracy after all. Famous pirates such as Robert Searles and Sir Frances Drake even visited St. Augustine. Castillo de San Marcos, the Spanish fort which I had visited on a previous trip (highly recommend, super neat), saw its fair share of pirates. It is right across the street from the pirate museum. 

St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum
St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum

Today, the museum spans about 5,000 square feet and holds more than 800 authentic pirate artifacts ranging from the 1600s to the present day. The entire museum is arranged so that you feel like you’re actually on a pirate ship. 

Exploring the Museum 

Honestly, I thought the museum would be a little cheesy and touristy but I had seen good reviews and wanted to give it a shot. Also, one of my daughters had recently done a presentation on female pirates for school so we were already into the history of pirates and I thought this would make a fantastic addition to her knowledge of pirates. 

I am happy to say I was blown away by this museum. It is not even close to being cheesy. I have always been fascinated by pirates and the museum just brings the history of piracy and the more famous pirates to life right in front of you. 

There’s a scavenger hunt you can do during your time there where you look for drawers with the Jolly Roger sign (skull and crossbones) and write down what’s inside them on your treasure map. That was easy and fun for all of us and certainly interactive. 

Captain Kidd's Chest at the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum
Captain Kidd’s Chest at the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum

We found all kinds of incredible artifacts from sunken ships off the coasts of North Carolina and Florida that had been recovered even up to 2011. There were remnants of barrels, guns, pottery, glasses, and even books and Bibles. 

Exhibits featured screens with drawings of famous pirates and their stories. We even found stories about Mary Read and Anne Bonny, two of the pirates my daughter had researched. We learned about knot tying, why certain sails were raised at certain times, how pirates were tortured, and even how the famous pirate, Blackbeard, met his end. 

There is a really interesting room that holds the only known pirate treasure chest in the world from several hundred years ago plus gold and silver coins and other pirate treasure that has been recovered from shipwrecks. 

My kids are 9 and 12 and they really enjoyed it. Even as an adult, I absolutely loved it. I wish I could have stayed longer and read through more of the exhibits but the kids wanted to see different parts of the museum so we kept on going on our pirate adventure. 

Visiting the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum 

The pirate museum is open daily 10 am – 7 pm except for Christmas Day. We spent a little over an hour there and bought our tickets online. We went during Christmas Break so I just wanted to be sure that we could get in. I don’t think we would have had any problems buying tickets at the museum though. It wasn’t terribly crowded. 

St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum Treasure Chest
Treasure chest at the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum

Tickets to the museum are $17.99/ages 13-59 and $9.99/ages 5-12. Military and ages 60+ tickets are $15.99. You can buy them at the museum or online.

If you’re visiting the nation’s oldest city, I definitely recommend checking out the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum. 

You can park across the street at Castillo de San Marcos where it is metered parking or in a nearby parking garage. 

For more fun things to do in St. Augustine, see our reviews on Castillo de San Marcos, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, and Blue Springs State Park.

St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum 
12 S Castillo Drive, St. Augustine, FL
St Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum Website

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Mom Review: Greenville Gemstone Mine

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Looking for something fun to do inside in downtown Greenville? KAG Contributor Andrea Beam is sharing a family favorite with us today, the Greenville Gemstone Mine, located right along Downtown Greenville’s Main Street across from the Hyatt. This shop offers unique gifts and a place where kids can do a little gem mining for themselves. 

Gem mining greenville sc

We have an amazing time every time we hang out in downtown Greenville. However, if you ask my son to name his favorite activity, he would tell you it is “finding treasure” at Greenville Gemstone Mine on Main Street.

While I can’t say I share his love for “treasure,” I do appreciate the tables full of unique jewelry and cases of sparkly stones. The prices are just as appealing as the merchandise. It is definitely worth a visit (or two), even without little ones in tow!

I’ve never been in the store when it wasn’t packed. If there is one thing I am not completely crazy about, it’s the size of the place. It’s rather small. Having said that, we always manage to make our way through the crowd to the back (where the fun begins) with ease.

downtown Greenville gemstone mine

Now to our mining adventure! The first thing you’ll do is choose your bucket of rocks. They have many sizes, but the $9 kiddie bucket suits my budget just fine. If you happen to have extra cash burning a hole through your wallet, you can pay as much as $55 for a family bucket. Once you’ve made your choice, the (extra friendly) associates will give you a ziplock bag, a Gemstone identification chart and turn you loose! My son likes to take his time in the magical waters and smiles as each stone turns into something shiny and new. This is the part where you, as the parent, can stand back and check your Facebook page – I mean, take pictures.

When you’re done, you’ll leave with a slightly damp bag of treasure and one happy customer!

Want to visit Greenville Gemstone Mine?

Greenville Gemstone Mine is open 7 days a week:
Monday-Wednesday 10 am – 6 pm
Thursday 10 am – 7 pm
Friday-Saturday 10 am – 8 pm
Sunday 11 am – 6 pm

Go ahead and plan your visit. Show up around 10 and you’ll be out in time for an early lunch!

Greenville gem mine downtown Greenville, SC

Just a side note: walk out the door, turn left and walk a short distance to the Subway on the same side of the street. If the weather is nice, we like to take our sandwiches across the street and eat at the neon green tables in the Hyatt courtyard.

A second Greenville location is open in Haywood Mall near Macy’s. Hours for the mall location are
Monday-Thursday 10 am – 8 pm
Friday-Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 12 pm – 7 pm

Have you ever taken your kids to Greenville’s Gemstone Mine?

Guide to things to do indoors near Greenville, South Carolina

Looking for more fun ideas? Try our The Ultimate Guide to Things to Do Inside in Greenville.

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

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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. 


See Hundreds of Raptors in the Air: South Carolina Hawk Migration

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Looking for something different to do outside this fall? How about a trip to observe an amazing hawk migration? Visit this fall to see these amazing creatures soaring across the sky. Join in the SC Hawk Watch at Caesars Head State Park or Sassafras Mountain. Kidding Around’s Maria visits each fall with her children and today she’s sharing some ideas for making the most of your visit.

Are my children the only ones with hawk fascination? They seem to have a knack for spotting them from the car, on a hike, at the park, all over. After our unit study on birds, I have to agree with them, raptors are pretty captivating birds. If you agree, you might want to head up to Caesars Head State Park this fall where you can see hundreds of migrating hawks.

The Hawk Migration at Caesars Head State Park

From September through November, Caesars Head plays host to thousands of migrating raptors who use the thermals coming off the rocky outcrop to soar upward, conserving their energy as they migrate to their winter ranges.

The peak of this migration is early to mid-September. During this time it’s possible to see a couple of hundred raptors in the air all at the same time. You can expect to see Broad-winged hawks, but other possibilities include Bald Eagles, Ospreys, American Kestrels, and many others. My children really hoped to spot the less common Peregrine Falcon, and we did!

You won’t need to go far from the parking lot area to see the hawks. Just head for the scenic overlook. We like to bring lunch and sit on the rocks with our binoculars. You’ll often find a ranger or knowledgeable bird watchers at the overlook who are happy to point out various raptors in the sky.

Sassafras Mountain

Sassafras Mountain is another great place to view the hawk migration. Sassafras is the highest point in South Carolina and you can access the beautiful observation platform without any hiking. Even better, there’s no admission for Sassafras Mountain so visiting is totally free.

Landscape mountain views from Sassafras Mountain

You can find out more about Sassafras Mountain in our review.

Plan a homeschool field trip to the hawk migration at Caesars Head State Park

Check out Raptors! A kid’s guide to birds of prey (J 598.9 Laubach) at the Greenville Library. It is packed full of information about the habits of these birds from diets, to migration, to nesting habitats, and all in language accessible to kids. This book also features silhouettes of flying birds, so it might be a good one to bring along on your trip.

Once you’re back home, older children may appreciate examining data from past year’s hawk watches. You can find that information at Hawkcount.org by selecting Caesar’s Head Hawk Watch (South Carolina) in the Hawkwatch Site box. Select the year and month on the left-hand side to view the data for that month.

Consider letting students turn the data from the tables into pie charts or other graphs and compare the data across years or individual fall months. This is a great way to bring math into this predominantly science trip.

If you’d like to bring in a little history, check out some books about John James Audubon, who in addition to drawing beautiful pictures of birds and documenting their species and habitats, proved that when birds migrate they return to the same areas each year. What a fitting study after observing a hawk migration!

My children really enjoyed The boy who drew birds: a story of John James Audubon, by Jacqueline Davies (JB Audubon), which, of course, you can find in the Greenville Library System.

If this trip sparks some curiosity about birds, consider a full unit study. We really enjoyed Homeschool Legacy’s Once-A-Week Unit Study, Birds of a Feather.

If you’d like to view these magnificent raptors up close, check out the Carolina Raptor Center in nearby Huntersville, NC.

Carolina Raptor Center

The Carolina Raptor Center is an awesome place to see raptors up close. Check out our review of the Carolina Raptor Center.

Plan your own trip to Caesars Head State Park

8155 Geer Hwy, Cleveland
Website: Caesars Head State Park
Admission: $3 per adult; $1 children 6-15, free 5 and under
Hours: 9 am – 6 pm, daily

Enjoy your hawk watch at Caesar’s Head!  Maybe we’ll see you there!

Walhalla State Fish Hatchery Is Fishy Fun Your Kids Will Love

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Did you know you can bring the kids and visit the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery for free? The hatchery, located in Mountain Rest, SC, is responsible for stocking trout in a number of waterways and lakes in the Upstate. You’ll get a chance to see trout in various stages of their life cycle, enjoy the grounds, picnic, hike and even fish in the East Fork Chattooga River. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery.

Visiting the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery: Things to Do

We love free activities and here’s one you can do to relieve school doldrums. Only an hour and a half drive is the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery (WSFH). Located 21 miles north of Walhalla in Sumter National Forest, the hatchery is open to visitors daily.

Allow about 1.5-2 hours for your tour which consists of the Hatchery Building, walking around the outdoor fish raceway, and feeding the fish.

After your tour, make a day of it and you can picnic in the shady Chattooga Picnic Area which is adjacent to the hatchery.

There is a barrier-free fishing pier, accessible in the East Fork which runs through the hatchery grounds.

If you are not up to fishing, you can choose to hike 2.5 miles to the main Chattooga River. Pick-up a map from the Hatchery office.

Brief History of the Hatchery

One of five fish hatcheries in South Carolina, it is operated by the South Carolina Department of  Natural Resources. WSFH raises brown, brook and rainbow trout for stocking the public waters of South Carolina. Most of the trout are cultured to a catchable size of 9-12″ before they are released.

Approximately 500,000 trout are produced and stocked annually by the WSFH. We especially enjoyed seeing the very large trout (5-15 pounds) kept at the Hatchery for public viewing.

How to tour the Hatchery

You may call ahead to arrange a guided tour, but the hatchery is open to walk-ins. Upon entering the Hatchery property, pick up a brochure or print a brochure from the hatchery website.

Hatchery Building

I suggest that you start your visit at the Hatchery building first before you visit the outdoor raceway sections. The Hatchery building has a video introduction about the site and the life cycle of a trout. Around the building are informative interpretative wall signs for your reading pleasure. Feel free to approach Hatchery employees who are used to being asked questions by curious visitors.

Inside the building, we found vats of thousands of small trout or fry (trout babies) no more than 2 inches long. Once they grow to 2 inches, they are brought outside to grow some more. Do not feed the fish fry as they are on a special diet!

Outdoor Fish Raceways and Where to Feed the Fish

Outside the Hatchery building are long fish raceways. The one with the covered shed is where the brood fish(parent fish) are stocked. Use your quarters here to purchase a fistful of fish food. The fish here are very active and kids get a kick out of all the attention they get with the fish pellets.

Note: Before going, take some quarters with you from home for fish food. These fish pellets are dispensed by machine and the only food you’re allowed to feed the fish with. After a couple of feeding rounds, we just challenged the kids to hunt around for fish pellets that fell on the ground.

Fish Hatchery Rainbow Trout

Plan your own visit

Their site recommends visiting the Hatchery in the fall, as this is the best time to view the full life cycle of the trout (specifically the eggs and sac fry).

Walhalla State Fish Hatchery
198 Fish Hatchery Road
Mountain Rest, SC 29664
Visit the Walhalla Fish Hatchery website.
Open 8 am – 4 pm daily.

Would your kids enjoy a trip to the Walhalla Fish Hatchery?

Here’s How You Can Get Behind the Scenes at The Greenville Zoo

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Note: The Greenville Zoo is not currently offering behind-the-scenes tours. We will update this article if they begin offering the tours again.

Have you heard of Greenville Zoo’s Behind-the-Scenes Tour? KAG Contributor Anna Artz and her family attended a behind the scenes tour of the zoo. She’s written all about the experience here, so you’ll know what to expect if your bring your crew.

The Greenville Zoo is a well-loved downtown attraction in our family. Our kids will never get tired of walking around the zoo, from saying hello to the ant-eater and trying to spot the lions and leopards, to waving goodbye to the pigs and goats at the Farm section near the exit.  Whenever the sun is out, a trip to the zoo is always on top of our list. ~Anna Artz, KAG Contributor

What is The Behind the Scenes Tour?

If your family loves animals as much as we do, there’s a special way to visit Greenville Zoo.  The Behind The Scenes Tour of Greenville Zoo offers a rare chance to walk behind the zoo’s exhibits and visit to the zoo’s commissary. Ever wonder what it’s like to be a zookeeper? Or what the different animals at the Greenville zoo eat? Or why a giraffe’s tongue is brown? All of these questions and more can be answered by signing up for this tour.

Our family recently attended a Behind The Scenes tour of the zoo, and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We learned a lot about the inner workings of a zoo and we also gained knowledge about the zoo’s wildlife conservation efforts. Below are some highlights of our visit.

The Commissary

The tour began with a warm welcome from our guide who was accompanied by a docent volunteer. We then proceeded to the zoo commissary. This part of the tour was learning about the contents and preparation of various animal’s diets. We learned that the zoo’s nutritionist feeds the animals organic vegetables and tries to get the best produce for them in the same way we shop for our own vegetables. We got a glimpse of the kitchen and the menus for each animal. We learned that some ate more frequently than others. While the alligators were known to go several months without eating, the orangutans ate four to five times a day. We were also shown the leaf-eater biscuits, a favorite giraffe snack, which was edible even to humans. We were offered a chance to taste a biscuit and my daughter gamely volunteered and ate the whole cookie! She said it tasted like grass.

The Animals

The next part of the tour was a visit to the giraffe barn. We entered from the back, where keepers would usually go. We had one of the zookeepers talk about the habits of the giraffe, and we met Autumn, a Masai giraffe, who came by to say hello. She was so close we could see her very thick eyelashes.

giraffe at Behind the Scenes Tour Greenville Zoo

As we walked behind the exhibits, we observed that many of the exhibits had an area where the animals can enter and be by themselves. Needless to say, we saw the multiple gates and locks for the lion cage. The zookeepers carry lots of keys!

We then moved on to the Asian animal section. One of the zoo keepers opened the gates for us, and led us  behind the leopard exhibit. As we stood next to Emerald, the leopard, we learned that these felines are very good climbers, and we were glad that their area had a steel net above. We were also reminded not to get too close to the cage since a paw could fit easily fit through the fence. We were surprised with how active the animals were. Usually, we find them sleeping in far corner of their exhibit. This time, we were in that far corner and eye to eye with a very awake Emerald.

Greenville Zoo Behind the Scenes Tour

Another set of gates were opened and we came to the last part of our tour, a visit to the two grand Sumatran orangutans, Kumar and Lana. Not only were we impressed by the size and beauty of the orangutans, we witnessed how the keepers trained the animals using sign language. The keeper showed us how they used sign language to ask the animals do things and in return, the animals received a treat.

Kumar, the male orangutan sensed a snack and approached the fence. The zoo keeper then made some signs with her hands and Kumar responded following her direction. This went on for a while, with Kumar, turning to his left, then his right, opening his mouth and so on and so forth. This gave his keeper a chance to  gave Kumar a full body check-up. Not satisfied, at the end of the check-up, Kumar wasn’t quite done.  He looked for more grapes, and expressed this by pushing his blanket through the fence. According to the keeper, he was trying to trade his blankie for more fruit!

Greenville Zoo Behind the Scenes Tour

The whole tour took an hour, but can be longer since the guides and the keepers are happy to answer all of your questions. It was quite a unique experience seeing the animals up-close and interacting with the keepers. Our kids left with much admiration for the zoo keepers and had lots of questions on how to become keepers themselves when they grow up. Our daughter has always talked of becoming a veterinarian. This experience showed her other interesting opportunities for kids who want to work with animals.

Tips for the Tour

  • Bring a bottle of water.
  • Bring a camera.
  • Wear a hat or cap since the tour is mostly outdoors except for the zoo commissary.
  • The tour will involve some walking and standing so wear comfortable shoes.
  • Be prepared to be licked by a giraffe!

Have you been on a Behind-the-Scenes Tour of the Greenville Zoo?