Last weekend, I had a glorious child-free weekend with girlfriends at Myrtle Beach. We gabbed, walked, napped, swam, ate, drank, laughed, shopped, and relaxed. It was definitely a different vibe from our family trip to Emerald Isle last month, but both trips were fabulous. The beach is always my happy place. I love this quote from the book "Where'd You Go Bernadette?" (a great beach read, by the way).
"When your eyes are softly focused on the horizon for sustained periods, your brain releases endorphins. It's the same as a runner's high."
~ Maria Semple
I'm thinking these faces have some of those beach horizon endorphins coursing through them.
We did a lot of boogie boarding.
Elise did some jumping.
Grandparents came... my parents for the first part of the week...
And J.C.'s parents for the second half.
This was a very laidback vacation. We didn't play putt-putt, or go to the aquarium, or take a boat ride. We just played in the pool,
buried sisters in the sand,
got lost in a good book,
got illegal lessons in driving a golf cart,
rode bikes behind the golf cart,
went out for seafood,
and some of us may have taken afternoon naps.
Overall, it was a very mellow, relaxing vacation spent with family. In other words, it was just about perfect.
J.C. spends several weekends of his summers up on Snowshoe Mountain, WV, downhill biking with a bunch of buddies. During the winter, he spends his weekends counting down the days until ski season is over and he can get back up to Snowshoe. For years, he has been saying, "We should go up there for a family vacation! I always see families up there having fun! The kids would love it!" No matter how many times he has said this, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the six hour drive. Call me a wimp. Call me spoiled. You won't hurt my feelings. I can own it. I just really hate being in the car. I have restless leg syndrome, and car rides are my own little personal version of torture.
Besides the drive, I just couldn't get past picturing Snowshoe solely as a place where grungy, muddy bikers...
ride their ridiculously expensive downhill bikes...
at breakneck speeds down the mountain. (I use the term "breakneck" very deliberately. Two of his biking buddies are out of commission this season - one for a broken collarbone, the other from a broken humerus last summer. On his trip up there last month, one of his friends came back with broken ribs.)
J.C. would tell me, "No! It isn't just for bikers! There are all kinds of things to do up there! There is a pool..."
"and a lake..."
"and the kids can bounce on the bungie thing!"
He would say, "The weather is gorgeous, and we can ride the chairlift! The girls will love it!"
Somehow, none of his arguments could convince me to take the trip. I don't fault him. He really did his best to accurately describe the place. I think I just had so many images ingrained in my head of the world of Snowshoe that is downhill biking. A lot of his biking buddies are my coworkers, so I have heard about Snowshoe from all of them for years as well. After years of seeing photos and videos of the rocks, mud, ramps, jumps, and biking gear, "family vacation destination" was never what I pictured. Plus, there was still that six hour drive.
He finally convinced me to go though, and I'll go ahead and admit it now... I was wrong. There. I said it. J.C. now has it in writing. Snowshoe is absolutely a wonderful place for a family vacation. Don't let the scary jumps that my husband flies off on his bike make you think otherwise. (Yes, he really rides off that thing.)
We all had a blast. When we first arrived, as if eager to welcome us, deer were hanging out in the backyard of the condo.
As J.C. had promised, there were plenty of non-downhill-biking activities to keep us occupied. The older two went zip lining through the village, and...
a huge smile was plastered on Addie's face any time she was bouncing on the bungie thing.
The lake was loads of fun for swimming,
and paddle boating.
Everybody tried out the slack line.
Mostly, we just enjoyed the cool mountain air,...
hung out in the village,...
rode the lifts,...
and took in the views.
In the evenings, we could relax in the hot tub with a view of the mountains,
and enjoy the sunsets.
So... while Snowshoe is very much a Mecca for scrappy downhill bikers, it is also an absolutely lovely destination for families!
I even managed to survive the six hour drive there and back and would do it again.
After leaving Great Wolf Lodge (Summer Vacay Part 1), we headed down to Atlanta, Georgia, to partake in the touristy scene. Nina had been bouncing around elated when we first told her we were going to Atlanta. We weren't really sure why she was so excited or what she had heard about Atlanta, but we were glad she was so thrilled. After a day or so, we finally realized that she thought we were going to Atlantis in the Bahamas rather than Atlanta in Georgia. Ummm, big difference. We had to reel back her expectations a bit before the trip. I'm glad we figured it out before we got there though. That could have been a huge disappointment.
We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites in downtown. It was a cute little place... sort of retro modern, and it was walking distance to most of the downtown attractions.
Our first stop was Centennial Olympic Park which was so nice. I had walked through some of it during previous visits to Atlanta, but never really stopped to smell the roses. It is really a fabulous urban park.
Next we headed off to the World Of Coca-Cola. This was the big suprise hit of the trip. J.C. and I had both been there a few years ago and enjoyed it. We weren't entirely sure if the kids would like it or not though. None of them are Coke drinkers, but we decided to take a chance on it anyway. It turned out to be their favorite part of the whole trip! At the end of the trip when we asked each one what was their favorite place to visit in Atlanta, they all said the World of Coke!
The World of Coke seemed to provide lots of photobombing opportunities.
We all had fun there, even Nina who was scared of the polar bear.
Our next destination was the Georgia Aquarium which is spectacular. I really shouldn't even share pictures because my photography skills inside an aquarium are apparently atrocious. Just trust me that this is a great place to visit. Don't judge it by my photos!
We finished off the day (and, um,... every day) at Johnny Rockets.
We spent the next day at Zoo Atlanta where seeing the pandas was our number one priority.
As I get older, I'm finding more and more that I am just not a big fan of animals in captivity. It isn't like I'm a major animal lover or animal rights activist. I eat meat. I wear leather. I don't have pets. It is just something I'm discovering about myself. The zoo made me sad more than anything. On the one hand, I enjoyed seeing the animals, but I hated seeing their habitats and small enclosures. I have the same problem with the Kilimanjaro Safari ride at Animal Kingdom. I just have a hard time enjoying it. Anyway, the zoo was fine. I just think maybe zoos aren't my thing any more.
Once again, the day ended with smiles and shakes at Johnny Rockets.
On our last day, we had reservations for lunch at the American Girl Bistro. We thought this would be a huge treat for Addie. She loves her American Girl doll, and the last time we had the chance to go to an American Girl store, she was two.
When the older girls had been her age, they were positively giddy about going to the American Girl store. It was like floating up to doll heaven for them. I'm not sure whether it is just the fact of Addie being a jaded third child or whether we didn't hype it up as much as we did in the past, but she was just sort of "meh" about the whole thing. She had a good lunch, and she enjoyed seeing the store, but I don't know that it was any more special to her than if we had gone to PF Chang's in the mall and walked around Toys R Us. Sigh. Live and learn. We won't be shelling out the big bucks for an American Girl lunch again.
It was J.C.'s first time at an American Girl store, and you have to figure a Dad of three girls needs to experience that place at least once in his life, so at least now he can say he has been there, done that.
Our last stop of the trip was a meal at the Atlanta hot spot, The Varsity. We figured we couldn't take the kids all the way to Atlanta without at least one greasy meal at The Varsity.
The next day, we packed up and headed for home. All-in-all, it was a fun trip. It wasn't the beach, but I survived. I'm sure it is healthy and educational for the girls to be exposed to non-beach destinations every now and then too!
When we started summer vacation planning, I said, "Beach!" J.C. turned up his nose. I said, "OK! Lake house!" His eye twitched. Then he said, "Let's do something different... not the beach, and not a lake house." Huh? What? My brain couldn't compute. No ocean? No lake? Possibly no pool? What sort of summer vacation is this? And why on earth would we consider it? In my mind, vacation involves a large body of water. Always. That's just how I roll. He won out though, and we made plans to spend a few days doing touristy stuff in Atlanta. At the last minute, I added on a night at the Great Wolf Lodge with some friends. It couldn't be a completely swimsuit-free vacation!
Our plan was to skip the last day of school in order to arrive at Great Wolf Lodge right at 1:00 when you can access the water park. As luck would have it, kindergarten graduation and a middle school awards ceremony interfered with those plans, so we got on the road as soon as we could after those events. As always, Great Wolf Lodge was a lot of fun.
That's Nina face down in the background getting slammed.
After 24 hours of waterlogged Great Wolf Lodge fun, we all felt about like this.
Then, it was time to head to Atlanta. Stay tuned for part two.