We started our day at the Riverbanks Zoo. Let me just say I LOVE this zoo!! It is probably not the best zoo for the animals but it is the best zoo for visitors.  We got in free with our aquarium pass but I wish I had splurged and gotten the unlimited ride bracelet. Next time we will stay longer and get the bracelet for the kids at least. Claire loved feeding the giraffe where they ate out of her hand. It is not like the NC Zoo where you hold out a long stick and they may come and get a bite. She also loved feeding the birds. They were all over her including on her head. The zoo had two movies, ride the pony,  a train, a carousel, and a climbing wall that we did not do that are all on the ride bracelet. They also have a ropes course that is extra.  We saw the Aquarium Diving Demo and it was awesome. I have seen several divers at other aquariums but this one was by far the best.  They have a different show about every half our so you could spend a day doing that. There were very low crowds and not a huge amount of walking for a zoo. We will be back and plan to spend the day!!



Next stop was Edventure, the Children’s Museum. We had been several years ago but the kids barely remember. They loved Ed and climbing in his brain and stomach. Claire liked playing in the Vet of course. Cobey liked being the weatherman and tearing down his building with the bulldozer. I wish we had spent more time at the zoo and less time here. Two hours would have been enough here but they had a good time. Cobey got a little bored but Claire stayed entertained.

We then went across the parking lot to the night at the museum at SC State Museum with Carolina Homeschoolers. We had to wait for the museum to close and for our group to be allowed in so we read some while we waited. When we got in they showed us to our sleeping spots where we dropped off our stuff.  The second floor is a bad natural science museum. The third floor has some cool space and interactive science exhibits. The fourth floor has some cool history exhibits. Claire liked the Hunley and schoolhouse exhibit. Cobey liked the Revolutionary and Civil War exhibits. Big surprise. They had special activities on each floor. They had a star lab which was the best activity. They had a station with colonial games, tasting station with hard tack, grits and coffee and a station to make butter. We had gone to bed last night at 10:30 but it was hard to get to sleep because the exhibit we were next time had an African slave song playing over and over. They did not know how to turn it out off and it was not exactly lullaby music. Many people were very upset and most moved to another area. Our group took it in stride. Do you really expect to go to a museum to sleep and think it will be perfectly quite? Anyway, it went off around midnight. It was neat to explore the museum after hours with so few people. The next morning we got to tour the traveling BodyWorks exhibit which was AWESOME!! It was my favorite part by far. I am glad we had the experience of sleeping in the museum.  I am glad we did it but I don’t know if I would pay the money to do it again. I thought many times during the nights for the amount I paid I could be sleeping in a  nice hotel right now.

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You would think after the Chocolate World ride, Create Your Own Chocolate Bar and the trolley ride, we would have heard enough about Mr. Hershey and had enough sweet, but we decided to head for The Hershey Story museum. It had been a long time since I had been and it had mixed reviews so I was a little unsure.  I decided I love the story of Mr. Hershey and reinforcement of the story would not be so bad.

If you have kids, spend the extra three dollars per kid and do the Apprentice Program. They have to find things and answer questions and they get stamps and punches along the way. The staff was AWESOME and helpful. The kids got way more out of the museum then they would have otherwise. At the end they get their photo and name put into a newspaper article and printed. They loved it! Also while we were there we also did the Chocolate Lab, where we made chocolate cobwebs and learned about how chocolate was made. The class was interesting and kept the kids attention.

If I had to choose between Chocolate World and The Hershey Story it would be a hard choice. People who say it is the same thing are wrong. Chocolate World is more entertaining while The Hershey Story is more educational.  There is some overlapping but hearing something twice is not a bad thing. However, I would do the Create Your Own Chocolate Bar at Chocolate World not The Hershey Story. It is more expensive but totally different experience. Chocolate Lab was the best for teaching them about how chocolate is made though. Cobey’s favorite thing was Create Your Own Chocolate Bar and Claire could not pick because she loved it all.  And for once I agree with Claire- I can’t choose.



We spent the rest of the afternoon at GAIN Warehouse in Mt Joy.  Claire was VERY disappointed to find out that Richard (the friend she made last time) was not their this time. We brought in four boxes of clothes we had collected from our COOP and hundreds of bracelets that the AHG girls made. It took Claire a long time to put in all the quarters and coins she had collected. I was proud of her!  We spent the rest of the time packing care packages and boxing up new clothes. It was my favorite part of the day.

On the way home, The Artist Inn is like our second home, we had dinner at Shady Maple. When we drove into the parking lot it was like driving up to an amusement park. I have never seen so many cars at a restaurant. I am not sure why I thought this was a good idea since I have never liked buffets. This is a buffet on steroids. You stand in line to pay first. It was $35 for the three of us no bad but not great. You then stand in line to be seated. After you are seated, you have to navigate through lots of people to several different lines. This is not easy when you have to do it times three. People where eating in the lines, there was spilled food everywhere and did I mention people everywhere. It was not relaxing at all. The kids liked the huge variety of food but it was not for me and I will not be back.

We finally made it to The Artist Inn where Jan had decorated the house with lots of pumpkins just for us!! 🙂  It was nice to be able to clean out the car, have plenty of room to spread out and relax. I love that place!



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Baltimore- Day Two

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Saturday Oct 8, 2011 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Military Museums, National Parks, Travel

We had a rough start to the day. No one had slept well. We stayed at Hilton Garden and the hotel was fine except Claire did not get her french toast which is her favorite thing there. And they don’t know how to cook grits this far north. Cobey and Bruce haves colds so the first stop was the CVS. We then tried to find our way to Fort McHenry. We were very close but it took almost an hour. There was first a VERY long VERY slow train that came to a stop. We then try to find our way around the train when we find a bridge out that we had to navigate around. We were only a few miles from the fort but it took forever.

Cobey loved the visitor center. His favorite part was the interactive time line. He liked how “modern” it was. The visitor center is small but has a great movie and some interesting exhibits. The fort is well preserved and has displays in most of the buildings.  You could also walk around the outside and top of the fort. The kids did the Junior Ranger program which was okay but not a stand out at all.

The fort is famous for the battle during the War 1812 where Frances Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner. The fort was also used during the civil was as a prison and World War I as a hospital. Bruce and Cobey said the fort was their favorite part of the day.

We then headed back to Inner Harbor for the Star Spangled Banner Museum and the Flag Museum.  They have a small museum with a film. The film was interesting but was hard to hear and understand. We then got a guided tour of the house where the flag that flew over Fort McHenry was made. This was my favorite part of the day. I learned the flag at that time had 15 stripes and that it was put together in a brewery across the street. The tour guide was interesting and informative. The picture is showing how big the actual flag would have been. Amazing!! Claire loved the room inside the museum where she got to dress up and pretend to cook by the fire.

We finally made it to what Cobey had been asking for the Historic Ships We first went into the USS Torsk a submarine. There is no guide, no audio and very little printed information. It is interesting to walk thru and get a size perspective. I really liked the USS Constellation. There is a great audio tour – one version for adults and one for kids. I listened to the kid one and it was very good at teaching about the boat and what life would be like on the boat. It did not get into what kind of action the ship saw. You get to see all four levels of the ship and Cobey even got to try out the sleeping arrangements.  This tour turned out really good.

The last stop was the dragon paddle boats for Claire. She had been asking to go on the them for two days. We decided we enjoyed the Sawn boats in Boston better. You got to relax more and the scenery was nicer.

We ended up getting the museum membership for the Historic Ships. It is better than a Go Card!  Our membership will last till Dec 2012 and gets us in free to over 15 Baltimore History Museums and over 30 Maritime Museums.  Some of the museums are already free so look carefully to see if it will pay off for you.  As much as we travel I know it will pay for itself very soon!

We at at Denny’s because Saturday is Kids Eat Free! We are at the Embassy Suites tonight and the kids had a great time at the pool. Now for a good nights sleep.

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Another Great Day on the Road in Rhode Island

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Monday Jun 20, 2011 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Travel

We spent the day in Newport, Rhode Island. Newport was what I expected except maybe a little bigger and more crowded. I thought it would be more quaint like our southern coastal towns.

This is the day we started using our Boston Go Cards. We got seven day cards which cover attractions in Boston and the surrounding areas. I am keeping a running tap to see if we actually save money. I did a rough estimate  before I purchased but we will see what we actually happens.

We used our cards for the Newport Mansions where we could choose three of the twelve sites. We started with the Breakers which is the summer home of the Vanderbilts. I thought it would be good because of the ties back home. It is called the Breakers because the view is where the waves break. The view from the house is beautiful which probably made it my favorite of the the three we saw. We had an audio tour at all three house but this one had a family version. The house was actually narrating the tour and it was very good. I can’t believe how much the kids loved this house. They thought it was amazing. Cobey  went from wanting to build forts to a mansion. Claire loved the playhouse with working fireplace and kitchen. It was a huge hit.

We then went to The Marble Mansion, also built by a Vanderbilt. It was interesting with the different types of marble used but I did not like it as much as the other two. I really liked Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom It was decorated in lilac. Twenty years after it was built, she went to China and loved the tea houses so much she had one built by the water. This is were we had lunch. The food was a little disappointing for a tea room. It was prepackaged sandwiches and things on a paper plate. It was a charming little house with a great view though.

After lunch, we went to The Elm. This summer home was built by Edward Berwind who was in the coal business. This house was built and decorated in a French style. It was absolutely beautiful and artwork is amazing. This property has a carriage house and small garden. I am not sure about the first tour but the last two were thirty minutes each if you did not do any of the extras. I would recommend The Breakers for any kid. I think the three houses in one day would be too much for most kids unless they love history like mine.

After The Elm, we made our way to The Cliff Walk. This is the famous walk along the cliffs of Newport. It was a beautiful walk and we got some great photos but I did not care for the black chain link fence that bordered most of the walk. It took away from the scenery. It was there for safety but I wish they could have had something more ascetically pleasing.

Our final stop was Fort Adams where you have to have a guided tour to see the fort. I was wondering if I could really get something out of another fort. I feel like we have been to so many this year. I actually liked this tour. This fort was built after the War of 1812. The tour guide did a great job of sharing things that made this fort unique. First the size. Fort McHenry, Fort Sumter and Fort Ticonderoga would fit inside the parade grounds with room to spare. Second the land defense was really cool. There is no way someone could actually reach the fort. Lastly, we got to go thru the listening tunnels which were cold, narrow and dark. We had a flashlights. The kids got stickers saying “Fort Adams Tunnel Rat”. The tunnels were  one of the highlights of the day.

We then had a relatively short ride to our next hotel. We finished the day at Friendly’s, one of the kids favorite places to eat and it just happen to be next to our hotel.

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