My family and I drove over to the NC mountains this weekend and all I can say is OMG….soooo beautiful! I have only seen the mountains in Virginia when we went to Wintergreen Resort to go skiing and tubing this past winter.
This time we went to Boone, Blowing Rock, Sugar Mountain, Beech Mountain, and Grandfather Mountain. We wanted to check out some other ski areas we might consider trying for our ski trip next year so we figured we’d visit them during the summertime when we could navigate the roads better since we wouldn’t have to worry about ice or snow.
Thank goodness we did. If we had made that trip for the first time in the winter, I would most definitely need a Valium to make it up through those mountains. Holy cow. Not only were my ears continually popping with each twist and turn, but half the time I couldn’t even look out the window because we were so high up….with NO GUARD RAILS on the side of the road either!
When I was looking though, the view was absolutely spectacular! It is almost indescribable really. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be in the Fall when all the leaves are changing (and we WILL go back for that!). No matter we we were, each direction I turned my head to look, there were mountains.
Having been born and raised in South Florida where everything is FLAT and PLAIN looking (unless you’re lucky enough to live by the ocean), this view was new to me and a sight to behold. In fact, it was so amazingly beautiful, that I imagined what it would be like to live there all year round. Boone is a college town as it is home to Appalachian State University, which by the way is a GORGEOUS campus. Still not as as incredible as the University of Florida (UF Alumni and MAJOR Gator fan here) but a close second.
Downtown Boone is adorable with it’s quaint little shops and restaurants too. Just a few miles down the road there are other major retail stores such as Walmart, Kmart, and Old Navy, to name a few. There is even an outlet mall with Coach and Gap! What I loved about the area is that although it is old, it has charm and character but at the same time, it is infused with larger well known stores and restaurants. It is quaint, but very well kept, which adds to its appeal.
My hubby and I could soooo see ourselves retiring there. In fact, we would probably move there tomorrow if we could. The weather was absolutely perfect too. Mid 70’s with low humidity during the day, and mid to high 50’s at night. It’s the end of JULY and it was in the 50’s? How awesome is that! I’m not a fan of the summer OR the heat so I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
If you are of fan of nature and the outdoors there are endless possibilities for you to explore in the area as well. We hiked through a forest to find a waterfall which was amazing. I had never seen one in real life before and its beauty was breathtaking.
Yes we will definitely be back to visit the mountains in the Fall and I cannot wait! Now that we know better how to navigate our way around it won’t be as intimidating I’m sure. Next time, we plan to rent a cabin instead of a hotel room so we can get the whole “mountain experience” and see what it would be like to actually live there. Who knows? Maybe living there would get old after awhile. Maybe I’d get sick of all the shady trees, winding mountain roads and cool weather.
If you are visiting South Florida with (or even without) your children, and you have an opportunity and a least 2 hours to spend, you MUST visit Butterfly World in Coconut Creek. If you’ve ever wondered where the best place to see butterflies might be, this is the place! It has to house one of the largest collections of live butterflies in the world.
I know, I know, you’re thinking “what could be so great about looking at a bunch of butterflies?” Well I must admit, I thought the same thing when the idea to go there was suggested to me. However, I decided to see what it was all about since my then 2 year old was so fascinated by butterflies.
My father-in-law catches caterpillers in his back yard, puts them in a jar, waits for them to go into their cocoon, then hatch. One time we were there when one hatched and my son got to release the butterfly - a monarch. That’s probably why he likes them so much. We figured he’d love to see a bunch of butterflies all at once so we took him there ON his second birthday and ended up having a perfect day!
Before we got there I was picturing walking around in a small indoor aviary with several butterflies sitting on trees here and there. I had been to other butterfly exhibits before where they did a live butterfly release and although it was neat to see, I wasn’t overly excited about 10 or 12 butterflies being released into a very small room only for them to fly away and disappear into the trees. Again, I figured it would be the same thing at Butterfly World: neat to see the various species of butterflies and getting through the whole exhibit would take about half and hour or so. NOT the case!
We walked inside the building and found our way to the butterfly aviary which was not small at all. Upon entering, I was amazed at what I saw through the glass door and I wasn’t even inside yet. We walked through the door and there right before our eyes where THOUSANDS of beautiful butterflies flying right in front of our faces. In fact, they were actually swarming around us.
One little girl had been walking around for about an hour with the same butterfly sitting on her shirt. Her grandmother said it landed there when they arrived and never flew off. So this little girl is just walking around with this butterfly sitting on her like it’s her pet.
Now you aren’t supposed to touch or grab the butterflies. Obviously they are very delicate and they don’t live a very long time to begin with. However, these things are obviously used to being around a lot of people. Some of them were dive bombing us. If you stuck your finger out, they might land on you. Of course the boys were all excited about the possibility of one actually landing on them (and thankfully some did).
One landed on my two year old’s nose and for months after that he would say “butterfly nose”! I guess male butterflies are like their human counterparts. As you can see from these pics, we found one guy was obviously a leg man while another had a foot fetish.
I have never seen that many butterflies in my life and so so beautiful. There are 10,000 butterflies on display and over 150 different species over the course of one year. These are butterflies you will never see in your backyard with brilliant colors and all kinds of shapes and sizes. Amazing!
You can also stop by the Butterfly Farm and Lab Encounter where you can see some of the hundreds of cocoons growing every day. You will also see butterfly eggs and larvae in various stages of growth. Such a great learning opportunity for the kids! The only problem is that with so many live butterflies flying around, it’s hard to get them to stop to see the ones that have yet to hatch.
The aviary was large enough to spend a good hour walking around in-if not longer. You can just move at your own pace and there are benches to sit and enjoy the view. We took our time walking around admiring not only the different species of butterflies, but the exotic plants and trees as well. This place has plenty of “photo ops” if you are into photography whether you are a novice or professional. If you are a nature photographer, this place should be on your must-see list.
There are fountains that cascade into ponds and gorgeous tropical flowers everywhere. There are also tons of different free-flying birds to enjoy and a pond full of Koi and other fish that you can feed if you so choose (food is available to purchase).
Once you make your way through the entire butterfly aviary, there are beautiful grounds surrounded by botanical gardens and flowering Passion Vines with a beautiful bird-filled lake in the middle. Winding paths lead to a lorikeet exhibit where you can purchase a cup of nectar and the lorikeets will sit on your hand and drink from the cup. Very cool! And they are beautiful! There is also a photographer there to take your picture of you feeding the birds and you can purchase the photo when you leave if you are interested.
If you or your kids are “into” bugs, there is also a Bug Zoo. There are all different species of insects, arachnids and other creepy crawlys that are not of the average garden variety kind. My older son’s favorite was the “walking stick”. He’s not a big fan of bugs, but even he enjoyed some of the neat ones there.
There is also a snack bar with tables outside that you can grab a bite to eat or get an ice cream bar or a cold drink. We went when the weather was not too hot, but that’s never going to stop the kids from asking for some ice cream.
Right next door is a very nice gift shop as well where you can purchase mugs, t-shirts, jewelry and various other cool gifts including real butterflies preserved in lucite. If there is anything that exists with a butterfly on it, you can probably find it in their gift shop.
We had a fantastic day when we visited Butterfly World. The kids absolutely LOVED it and surprisingly, so did my husband and I. It truly is a wonderful place to spend a nice afternoon with your family and see perhaps on of the largest collection of butterflies in the world.
There are several exhibits to enjoy and it’s fun AND educational…a perfect combination for the kiddos! Check out their website for discount coupons, bird and butterfly guides, downloadable butterfly books for kids, educational programs they offer, and map and directions.
This past winter my family and I visited Wintergreen Resort Virginia. None of us had ever been skiing or snow tubing and Wintergreen came highly recommended by close friends of ours. We wanted a resort where we wouldn’t have to drive several miles to get to the slopes or tubing tracks, restaurants, shops, and most importantly, a resort that was super kid-friendly. Did it fit the bill? Read my Wintergreen Resort review and find out!
This was our first adventure as a family to a ski resort. We knew enough to realize that skiing on the east coast is not the same as heading out to Colorado and being in the south isn’t the same as going to Vermont. We wanted someplace close enough to drive to, but that was fun for us and the kids. We weren’t looking for some black diamond slope that leaves your stomach in your throat. So with that in mind, it did narrow our choices down significantly. From what we saw online in other reviews and from what we’d been told, it would be a good ski resort to enjoy and had great tubing.
With all our snow gear in tow, we were ready for some good snow time fun in the mountains. It was February after all…
So we drive up there and of course my worry wart husband is all stressed out about driving our minivan up through the potentially snowy, icy Blue Ridge Mountains. I wasn’t worried, but of course, I wasn’t driving. He was going on about sliding down the mountain, hoping the roads were plowed, etc. so I was praying they weren’t too bad just to shut him up. As we get closer we are looking for the snow covered mountains and, well, we weren’t seeing snow…anywhere. Good for driving, but a liiiiitle but worrisome when you’re looking to go skiing and tubing. We figure, it’s winter, we’re in the mountains, and there should be snow everywhere. Well obviously we’re wrong.
We did finally get up to the resort and we saw the snow on the trails, and a little on the ground in patches. It was almost 60 degrees! We were somewhat disappointed. Of course the trails, and tubing runs were covered in snow they had made, but there wasn’t going to be any playing in the snow outside the room. It turns out that they had a snowfall a few days before we got there and that was the FIRST natural snow they had all winter! That’s crazy. It had been cold enough to make snow, but the warm temperatures were melting everything and it was too warm to make any more.
The trip included me and the hubby, my two kiddies, and my parents so we needed two bedrooms. They have several different lodging options from studios, 1-5 bedroom condos, and 2-7 bedroom homes. Some of the homes had breathtaking views, but they weren’t going to fit our budget. We decided to go with a 2 bedroom condo and our unit happened to be in Fairway Woods which overlooked one of the golf courses. Wintergreen Resort is not just a ski resort, but a four season resort. They have two golf courses, a top 10 ranked tennis academy, a spa, and various other activities. A golf course view doesn’t offer up much in the winter, but it was the fun for the kids we were looking for anyways.
The master had a queen bed and the second bedroom had two twins. My oldest son tosses and turns so much that my husband and I often flip to see who ends up sleeping with him. Fortunately, we brought our queen sized air mattress and there was just enough room for it at the foot of the beds. He could toss and turn to his heart’s delight and we could get a decent night’s sleep.
It had a kitchen with everything you would need to cook - dishes, plates, utensils, etc. and the living room had a small tv with a DVD player as necessary to entertain the kids. It was clean and basic, nothing extravagant. Each unit is different and while they show a representative 2 br condo, the unit we were in was not as nice so it’s a hit or miss proposition.
Shuttles stopped at various points throughout the resort and would take us from our room to the ski rental area and also from there to the tubing area. They seemed to come along fairly frequently, ran continuously, and were never full. On the weekends they run continuously, however during the week, you need to call to have them pick you up and take you to/from where ever you might want to go.
Part of why we chose this resort was for the dedicated kids play area called Ridgely’s Fun Park. It’s $10/ hour per person and they limit the amount of tickets they sell for each hour so it doesn’t get too crowded. It’s specifically designed for the little ones. It’s a mini hill with a small two lane tubing run that anyone 3 and up could do on their own or smaller ones on mom or dad’s lap. There are little sleds, snowball makers, and big plastic blocks to hide behind or make forts with when the inevitable snowball fights break out. There are large corrugated pipes used as tunnels for the kids to crawl through and a tee-pee with a bonfire you can go into to warm up. One family had brought all the goodies to make Smores and was kind enough to share with us.
Now it was pretty fun except that the snow was more like slush or like a giant snow cone, because it was mostly snow that had been made and was melting. It was still fun, but you can’t really pelt your kids in the face with an ice ball like you could with a handful of powder.
Right across from Ridgley’s is a place called The Dome. It’s basically a game room with the standard fare - air hockey, a pool table, and foosball, but also has Wii’s and XBox’s. It’s $18 for 2 hours. If the weather is bad, you need a ski break, or you’re a gamer, this is your place. Out front they have a big bungee/trampoline thing (I’m not sure what else to call it), a climbing wall, and a miniature golf course.
Another big reason we chose Wintergreen Resort was that it has a great snow tubing run called The Plunge. It’s 900 feet long and a 100 foot vertical drop. I was looking forward to this more than the skiing! Only one person per can go in each tube, but you can hook several tubes together to get more speed. At $25 for two hours, it’s definitely worth it. They say you travel at speeds up to 30 mph and I can believe it. I almost think they should make you wear a helmet, because if you get bounced off this thing, it’s going to hurt.
They have 12 lanes and again like at Ridgely’s they only sell so many tickets during each 2 hour block so it isn’t too crowded. That way you are sure to get plenty of turns. Our first trip was during the 4-6PM time slot. Hubby stayed behind with our little one who is too small to go barrelling down this thng because you have to be at least 42 inches tall. It was a total thrill. The only problem is that my 6 year couldn’t make it all the way to the end because he wasn’t heavy enough to get enough speed. When all 4 of us linked all our tubes together - we were flying!
My husband came out for the 7-9PM session with me as my folks and 6 year old went back to the room. Now here’s where the lack of snow works in our favor. During the afternoon the sun comes out and melts the snow/slush, then at night when the temperature drops, it freezes into a sheet of ice and increases the speed big time. This is snow tubing to the extreme.
At the end of the run they have these rubber mats on each track that are supposed to slow you down/stop you and a little ways past that is an orange mesh retaining fence. During the daytime the rubber mats work pretty well. During the nighttime when you are really hauling ass…not so much. If not for that orange fence which looks to be made of the same crap they used to make those plastic rings that hold a six pack together high quality plastic, you’d be preparing to meet your Creator as you go sailing head over ass off the edge of the cliff.
If you’re not much for spinning, twisting, going fast backwards, then stay home or hit The Dome. Otherwise the snow tubes are awesome fun!
Once you purchase tickets for The Plunge you are entitled to a 75 minute group ski lesson for $15 (which includes the equipment, and lift access to the training slope). Due to a snafu, the lesson started without us and left us at the rental area. However an instructor was nice enough to give us a private lesson instead of the group lesson. His name was Kevin, but his nickname is “Chocolate”. Evidently he loves chocolate and always carries some around with him and gives it to people during the lesson (instant brownie points of course…who doesn’t love chocolate). He was fantastic with us and even more so with my son. If you go to Wintergreen Resort and get a private lesson (or check the instructor for a group lesson), I highly recommend you request him. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
My son loved the lesson so much we decided to put him in a kids class the following day. Their Ridgeley’s Rippers class is $65 for a half day or $95 for a full day 8-4. It’s a combination of ski lessons (including equipment and lift access), time on the slopes, snacks, and lunch in their indoor facility called The Treehouse. Now if you do this on the weekend, it’s quite crowded and while they probably try to keep a low child to instructor ratio, you’ve got a lot of little ones in one area so I can imagine what that would be like. Fortunately, we brought him there on a Tuesday and there was hardly anyone there. For the morning session there were only 2 kids per instructor and since he had already taken a lesson the previous day, he was able to go right out to the slope. After a few runs, he came back for some more practice at the training area. The training area is off limits to parents and is nicely fenced in so no one will come crashing into the kiddies. You are able to stand outside and see the area, but can’t get close enough as to distract the kids while they are practicing. It was well designed.
A few kids were enrolled only for the half day session so for the afternoon session each child had his own private instructor since there were only 4 of them. So it was a few hours out on the trail, back for another snack and hot chocolate, then a few more hours all by himself with the instructor, who was also great with him. My son loved it and by the end he was so thoroughly exhausted that he could barely walk. But he loved it, every minute of it and had a grin from ear to ear.
Overall, I’d say it was a great first ski and tubing experience, especially for the kids. I really can’t say enough about how fun the tubing was. We went in early February and although the weekend did have plenty of action, during the week it was almost like a ghost town so it was perfect for individual attention and lots of room on the slopes. If you are looking for a mix of skiing, tubing, and fun for the little ones, we think you should give Wintergreen Resort Virginia a try.