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My journey as a mom, teacher, and Navy wife, one challenge at a time!
Note: I had issues with my site after publishing this post, so I recalled it, and I’m trying again!
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 was built between 1781 and 1785 by Maj. Thomas Snowden and his wife, Anne. Guests at the home included George Washington and Abigail Adams.
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. Â Â
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!
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?
Can you believe it’s 2016 already? I feel like this year has flown by. I probably say that every year, but I think the weirdly warm weather we’re having on the East Coast this year makes it feel even less like it’s winter. If you read my last post about camping with kids, then you know we started camping this year. We’ve gone three times- once with just our little family (me, Hubby and Little J) and twice with my SIL, her husband and kids. One of those two times was to Shenandoah National ParkÂ in Virginia. We went during Labor Day weekend, and unless you have reservations (which go fast, months earlier), I wouldn’t recommend just showing up. That’s what we did, but it was risky. I took Thursday afternoon off from work, and we arrived at the Big Meadows Campground around dusk. We were able to get one of the last 5 spots. The other 4 were gone within 45 mins or so. People get arriving all day Friday and were turned away, because they didn’t have a reservation and there weren’t any first come, first served spots available. So we were lucky.
There are other campgrounds at Shenandoah, and some of them are exclusively first come, first served. Ours was the mostfamily-friendly campground. I say thatÂ because itÂ had hot showers, laundry facilities and a camp store down the road with gear and food. Roughing it? Not exactly, but if you have three small kids with and-thistime- two dogs…having some luxuries available seemed like a good idea. We did end up going back and forth to that store at least once a day. We also made a trip down the mountain toWalmart once. That was about a 45 minute or longer drive one way, so I wouldn’t recommend doing that often if you camp at Big Meadows.
The sites themselves seemed nice. They have the typical paved spots with a bit of grass that work for either tents or campers. They also have tent-only sites, and we ended up in one of those spots. Each of the tent-only sites had a metal bear box to put your food inside and out of the reach of animals. To reach the tent-only sites, you have to park your car in a little lot and walk up a short trail to your site. It’s really not far at all -maybe 50 feet- but that makes it inconvenientÂ to keep your cooler and food in your car, hence the bear box.
We didn’t see any black bears while we were there, but the park rangers and other campers told us about sightings. A park ranger at the visitor center down the road gave a talk about black bears. He said that if you see a black bear, don’t run! That’s the worst thing you can do. Just stand still, and if they get close, then make lots of noise, and it will scare them away. The kids were hopeful the entire weekend that they’d see bears but no such luck. We did see bear scat when we were walking on the Appalachian Trail, and it was interesting to see the berries inside the scat. Apparently the bear had been foraging on plants, which bearsÂ like to eat.
We went hiking on quite a few trails and rode our bikes on the paved paths. There was a playground at the nearby lodge that the kids played on a couple of times. There was a restaurant at the lodge at whichÂ we ate. I know…definitely not back woods camping. đź™‚
There were deer everywhere. They’d even walk by our tents in the middle of the night! We also saw your smaller animals like squirrels, rabbits and lots of birds.
One thing worth noting…Hubby and I have AT&T as a phone carrier, and most places in the park we did NOT get a signal. We did get a signal at the lodge, and there’s also free wi-fi there.
Conclusion- the views at Shenandoah Park were beautiful; we had a great time; and we will definitely be going back!
Note: This is not a sponsored post, and the opinions expressed are my own.
Want to visit the National Aquarium? To start with I want to point out that the National Aquarium is in Baltimore, not DC. I’ve run across quite a few people who were unaware of this. There USED TO BE a national aquarium in DC, but it closed in 2013 for renovations, and many of the exhibits were moved to Baltimore, which isn’t much further away.
Big J, Little J and I visited the aquarium a couple of months ago, but I’m just now getting around to posting about our visit. I’ve been so busy with work. My new job is going very well, but before I was considered a “qualified” instructor who could teach on her own, I had to personalize more than 30 master lesson plans (each lesson plan ranges from 1 lecture to 11 lectures) and pass two performance evaluations. Normally, new instructors will have three performance evaluations, but because of my previous teaching experience and skill, my department head decided I didn’t need the middle one…woohoo! Anyway, I’m now qualified, so I’m not bringing work home at night and on the weekends quite as much. I have time to blog!
So back to the aquarium… We visited a couple of weeks before the infamous Baltimore riots, but from what I understand, things are back to usual in the Inner Harbor, and the aquarium wasn’t damaged.
Things to know: Tickets to the aquarium aren’t cheap. If you live in the area and plan on going a few times a year, I recommend looking into a membership. Ticket also sell out, and the aquarium has a timed entry system, so I’d buy ticketsÂ ahead of time online. Currently, tickets for kids 3-11 are $24.95, and tickets for kids/adults 12-64 are $39.95. Senior tickets are $3 off the regular admission price. As you can see, the aquarium can be a little expensive!
You also need to factor in parking. There are parking garages and lots all over the Inner Harbor, and the prices vary wildly too. I would expect to pay anywhere from $15-25 in parking for your aquarium visit, but it’s possible you could find a cheaper rate, depending on the season and day of the week. We chose the aquarium’s official parking partner, LockwoodÂ Place, because of its proximity. It’s about half a block away from the aquarium. The parking garage offers a small discount (I believe it was $2 or $3 for us) to aquarium visitors. You need to take your parking ticket with you and get it validated at the aquarium, after you park.
Once you get inside the aquarium, it’s important to note that strollers aren’t allowed. I did see one stroller, but it had a handicap tag fixed to it. The aquariumÂ is designed in a way thatÂ people stand on conveyor belts that move you up and in between the tanks. I’ve read elsewhere that the aquarium offers a limited number of baby carriers, but I’ve never needed to take advantage of this. There is a stroller check when you first come in.
This was actually our second time at the aquarium. The first time we visited, Little J was Baby J…only about two months old. I had a baby carrier with already, so we just checked the stroller downstairs, and I carried him through the exhibits. This time, I just let him walk around, since he’s a “big boy” (almost 3).
There is a small cafe, but we haven’t had issues bringing in a few snacks and water.
About the aquarium: It’s awesome! Okay, I have to admit that Hubby is not impressed, but I really don’t understand why. I love the layout. It’s a tall building, and you just keep going up and up and up, and looking down into the tanks. The view is fantastic. Then when you get to the top, you can take a spiraling ramp all the way down, and the ramp is surrounded by a circular shark tank that is stories high. How is that not cool??
Little J LOVED it. I thought he would get tired, but he didn’t. I guess it’s really not too much walking for a little guy. Just a couple of weeks after our last visit, a new interactive exhibit was opened, so I’m planning on going back later this year. I think Little J would love to pet a crab!
I think the pictures speak for themselves, but the architecture and set up of this place is amazing. If you’re in the area and have a chance, I recommend visiting the National Aquarium!
What is your favorite aquarium to visit? Have you been to the National Aquarium?