A Family Outing: Luray Caverns

The Luray Caverns (near Luray, Virginia) were discovered in 1878, and they are a Registered Natural Landmark. The Friday before Labor Day, we visited the Luray Caverns in Virginia. We attempted to go in 2015 (the same weekend), but the caverns were packed. That time, we drove by and saw the overflow parking lots were filled. So this year we went early and arrived right when the caverns were open. There was already a tour bus there, so we didn’t make it on the first tour, but we did make it on the second! The tours leave every 20 minutes, and each tour does have a guide.

The caverns aren’t super cheap to visit. Right now, the general admission cost is $27 for adults and $14 for children (6-12). If you’re a military family, you can visit your base’s Leisure Travel Services for discounted tickets. If you don’t have tickets when you get there, you have to go through one line to buy the tickets and then a second line to actually get into the caverns, so I’d recommend buying your tickets ahead of time, so you only have to worry about one line. Tickets can be purchased online.

The walkways within the caverns are paved, which was a good thing! The tour is over a mile long (in a loop), so we brought the stroller. I figured Little J would be tired, bored and crabby after 30 minutes or so, and the tour takes about an hour. Parts of the walkway were still bumpy, and there are a lot of hills, but it really wasn’t too bad for the stroller. There are about 70 steps to get down into and then out of the caverns. We had to close up the stroller for that part and carry it.

Tips: Don’t touch anything!!!!! If you touch any of the stalactites or stalagmites, you will get yelled at. You can take as many as photos as you’d like, so that’s a plus! Also, it’s cold in the caverns, so bring a light jacket! And don’t leave your tour guide. They don’t like that.

Your ticket purchase also includes a self-guided tour of the Car and Carriage Caravan museum, and the Luray Valley Museum. I actually really enjoyed the car museum. It had old Cadillacs, Benzs, Fords, and more. I love history, so it was neat to read the plaques and see the vehicles that other generations grew up with.

Overall, we really enjoyed our trip to Luray, and we would do it again. If you’re ever in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, I recommend checking out Luray Caverns.

Have you been to Luray Caverns? If not these caverns, have you been to other caverns? Which ones?

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A Family Outing: Port Discovery Children’s Museum

A few Saturdays ago, we visited the Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore for the first time. It’s not the cheapest place to visit. Besides the entrance fee, you have to pay for parking.

Ticket prices vary. As of September 2016, general admission costs $14.95 for ages 2 and up, but they have specials. For example, military personnel receive $2 off general admission for themselves and up to 4 guests. Also, if you have an IKEA Family Card, you can get 50% off one general admission ticket.

If you park in the Harbor Park Garage, which is next to the museum, ask the staff in the museum to give you a discount card to reduce your parking price to $15. I did check on Parking Panda the day before, and I found cheaper garages, but they were a further walk to the museum. Drivers in Baltimore (actually, pretty much anywhere in Maryland) do not stop for pedestrians, even when they’re in crosswalks and even though it’s the law, so I did not want to walk any further with Little J than I had to!

We started on the top floor of the museum and worked our way down. The Wonders of Water play area (closed Tuesdays for maintenance) and Tiny’s Diner were probably Little J’s favorite places to play.

Port Discovery
Little J and Big J building a plumbing system at the Wonders of Water play area. The museum has Crocs (cleaned daily) for people to borrow for this exhibit if they want. They had rain jackets for the kids too.
Port Discovery
Tiny’s Diner has play food, pots, pans, and trays for kids to play with.

Port Discovery
The play food looks realistic!

I felt like the museum did a good job of catering to kids of almost all ages, from crawling infants to upper elementary ages. There were some areas that may appeal to middle school students (like the indoor soccer “stadium”), but I think they’d be a bit old for most of the exhibits.

Port Discovery
In the Adventure Expeditions, you can wander around in 1920’s Egypt, decipher hieroglyphics and more.

The museum also has a quiet room called The Oasis. I think this is a great place for kids who are overwhelmed by all of the busyness in the museum. There’s even a nursing room inside of The Oasis!

Port Discovery
The Oasis has quiet toys, lots of books and places to sit and relax.
Port Discovery
There’s a Nursing Station in The Oasis too! You have to duck down a little to get into it. There are windows between the room and the rest of The Oasis, so moms can nurse their little ones and still keep an eye on older kids.

The pictures in this post were on my iPhone, but once I eventually get picture off my Nikon, I’ll put up another post with more photos. That post will include photos of Tot Trails, which is the more infant-friendly area, and BGE Studio Workshop, the craft area.

Something I really liked about the museum, they don’t let adults in unless the adult is accompanying a child. Also, the adults will have the same wristband code as the child or children. Before you can walk out of the facility with a child, security will match the child’s wrist band with yours.

We spent a few hours there, and Little J still wasn’t able to do everything, so I think it’s feasible to spend an entire day. They don’t sell food there, but they do have a sitting area where you can eat food you brought with you. You can also leave the museum to eat at one of the numerous restaurants within walking distance, and you’ll be allowed back into the museum with your wrist band.

Bottom line- our whole family had fun, and we’d do it again!

What fun places did you visit this summer?

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A Family Outing: Montpelier Mansion

Note: I had issues with my site after publishing this post, so I recalled it, and I’m trying again!

Montpelier Mansion
The dining room

Hubby, Little J and I recently had the chance to visit Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, Maryland, which is about 40 minutes south of Baltimore. If you’re ever up that way, this is an inexpensive, interesting National Historic Landmark to visit. I’m used to visiting historic mansions and houses where you get to see the downstairs and that’s about it. At Montpelier, you actually get to climb the stairs and go to the upper level! It sounds like such a little thing, but it was neat to see the majority of the house. Tickets are $5 for adults, and kids are free or $2 depending on the age. Montpelier Mansion is a Blue Star Museum, so it’s free for active-duty military, National Guard, and reservists and their family members between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Montpelier Mansion
Walking up to the mansion

Montpelier Mansion was built between 1781 and 1785 by Maj. Thomas Snowden and his wife, Anne. Guests at the home included George Washington and Abigail Adams.

The not-so-nice reality of this mansion and its past

Upstairs, there’s a children’s room where almost everything is hands-on. They can try on clothes, write on chalk slates, and play with old-fashioned wooden toys.     Kids collage

Montpelier Mansion
This bed chamber belonged to the lady of the house. Do you think that bed is actually squishy in the middle?

One really cool thing about the property- they’ve found dinosaur skeletons there! Some of those bones are now on display at the Smithsonian, but there’s a cool kid’s dinosaur room on the property where Little J was able to play with some toy dinosaurs and dinosaur bone replicas, and even build a 3D wood dinosaur skeleton! Montpelier Mansion

We had a fun time, and considering that most of the exhibits had A/C, it was a great place to explore in this summer heat! I recommend visiting Montpelier Mansion if you’re in the area.

What historic places have you visited this summer?

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