A Family Outing: The Griffin Espresso Bar

Fredericksburg is one of my favorite little Northern Virginia towns. The downtown is lined with historic stone buildings containing delightful little shops and cafes. On my last visit, I discovered “The Griffin,” a bookstore and espresso bar.

The Griffin Bookstore and Espresso Bar

 The Griffin Bookstore and Espresso Bar

Here’s the delicious iced raspberry latte I ordered:

 The Griffin Bookstore and Espresso Bar
The staff at The Griffin were great with kids too, both Baby J and my nephews. In fact, they even have a little kids section in the bookstore.

emegburg's Kids Corner album on Photobucket

Besides the main area with the espresso bar and the children’s room, there are three other little rooms filled with bookshelves.

The Griffin Bookstore and Espresso Bar
One of the smallest book rooms

The Griffin also has a large table to sit at inside, patio area out front, and a lovely patio area in the back.

emegburg's Patio album on Photobucket

The cookie and latte at The Griffin were delicious. I loved the atmosphere of the place, as well as the friendliness of the staff. We didn’t try the patio area, because of the heat. Well, that and Baby J would spend the entire time trying to climb up and down the stairs, which is still dangerous for him! The only thing I didn’t love about The Griffin is the books were fairly new, with many of them still being published. When I go to a used bookstore, I hunt for my favorite 20th century, out-of-print, Gothic romance authors:  Victoria Holt, Joan Aiken, Madeleine Brent, Mary Stewart, M.M. Kaye, and so on. I didn’t find any books from these authors there and instead spotted names of current authors.

It was a really fun, quaint, little store. On my next trip to Fredericksburg, I do plan to return to The Griffin for another iced latte and browse some more books!

Are you a reader? Where’s your favorite place to sit and read?

Note: I was not compensated for this post.

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A Family Outing: Norfolk Botanical Gardens

With temperatures unusually high this summer, finding a way to get outside, stay active, and beat the heat has proven challenging for us. But we’ve found one solution! Besides its 150+ acres of gardens and shaded woods, Norfolk Botanical Gardens boasts a three-acre children’s garden called World of Wonders: A Children’s Adventure Garden. Our favorite part of WOW? The splash pad!

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emegburg's Splash Pad album on Photobucket

The building pictured below contains bathrooms and Exploration Station, while the blue tent (called a Yurt) holds several curtained and paneled changing areas along with an infant changing station.

 photo Yurtcollage_zps322dee5f.jpg Besides the splash pad, there are the passport gardens, a treehouse with slide, play houses, paths to walk (the Trade Route), exploration station, and other fun and educational activities for kids. Click HERE to see a map of WOW and what it has to offer.

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Behind WOW is  playground of sorts. There’s a tree house nearby in the shade and in the clearing, a giant pile of sand complete with a slide and plastic cannon. Large, plastic chairs for the adults are lined up under a canopy to block the sun.

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The rest of the Norfolk Botanical Gardens are gorgeous! Fountains, flowers, pools, luscious grass, shaded woods and waterways…it’s a lovely place to walk, and most of the pathways are paved and perfect for strollers.

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There’s also an airport overlook on the property, near the visitors center. Climb the little hill next to the Norfolk International Airport and watch planes take off and land! If you get tired, hop on their free “train” (it’s basically a golf cart pulling other carts) that cycles around the gardens. They also have pontoon boats that travel the waterways, but that tour is not included with regular admission (so we haven’t tried it yet).

Norfolk Botanical Gardens hosts a myriad of programs for adults, families, and kids. Some are included with admission; others require an additional fee. They even have events for home schoolers.

Ticket Info:

As of July 2013, tickets are: adults- $11, active duty military and seniors- $10, children ages three to 18- $9, children two and under with parent or guardian- free. A family membership for one year is $85. This membership admits six people- adults, children, or a combination. Members receive discounts to the gift shop and cafe; reduced or free admission to reciprocal botanical gardens; magazine subscription; and discounted rates on classes, camps, and workshops.

Visit the Norfolk Botanical Gardens website to learn more.

What’s your favorite way to keep cool in the summer?

Compensated Pink

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A Family Outing: The Virginia Zoo

If you’re in the Hampton Roads area, the Virginia Zoo is located near downtown Norfolk.

I’ll be honest, it’s not the best zoo I’ve ever been to. It’s not very big, and they don’t have a ton of animals. However, admission is only $11 for adults and $9 for kids 2-11! If you’re military, a senior citizen, or an AAA member, it’s $10. The zoo near where I used to live charged $24.95 for one adult ticket. The San Diego Zoo is $44 for adults, and the Bronx Zoo is $33.95 in the summer months. So I think $10 each for my husband and I at the Virginia Zoo is dirt cheap for a fun afternoon!

In a perfect world, zoos wouldn’t exist. Yes, I ultimately think that animals should be left alone in the wild, in their natural habitat. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Animals live in captivity today for a variety of reasons. The Virginia Zoo is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). They adhere to strict standards and work to educate the public and promote wildlife conservation.

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Now on to the zoo…

There are several places to eat inside the zoo, and you don’t have to walk very far to find them. The zoo’s website says no outside drinks or food allowed, but I did notice people carrying small coolers inside the zoo. They didn’t do a bag check, so I guess they don’t enforce it. There is a park with a large playground right outside of the zoo, which looks great for picnics. You can get a stamp for re-admission on the same day, if you choose to leave for lunch, etc.

Bring your kids’ swimsuits! They have a splash pad type area right past the main gates of the zoo. There are also some little fountains set up near one of the restrooms that Baby J enjoyed running through. It was perfect to cool him down, since it was a hot day!

The barnyard area was closed for renovations while we were there, which was disappointing. I think that was their petting zoo. I plan to return once it’s open (if it opens while we still live in Hampton Roads!), because I think Baby J would really enjoy petting animals.

Animal exhibits include lions, tigers, and bears (are you chanting right now?); as well as otter, baboons, elephants, foxes, orangutans, iguanas, gibbons, prairie dogs, giraffes, tapirs, ocelot, and monkeys. Their website says they have a white rhino, but we didn’t see it. They also have a reptile exhibit.

Some photos:

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 What’s your favorite zoo?

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