Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Virginia Beach: Captain Jack's Pirate Ship Adventures

While visiting family near Virginia Beach I wanted to make sure we explored some of the area.  We aren't really a "beach" family - at least not in the way that I think most people enjoy the beach.  I HATE to sunbath and I can't stand to even be in the sun for long.  Especially on a HOT day!

After searching through a few travel sites I ran across a recommendation for Captain Jack's Pirate Ship Adventures.  It sounded like something my kiddos would enjoy and I liked the idea of us getting out on a boat that included some entertainment.  Here is our experience:

Group picture before getting on the ship.  This is done just after check-in (where the kiddos get paper hats and you can purchase "weapons").  Before getting off the ship you are given the opportunity to view the picture and purchase.  I don't recall the exact price but I think it was only $5 and it did come in a nice paper frame.  

Waiting for the ship to take off.
We LOVED how well each of the staff members spoke perfect pirate.  We were told that they trained at Disney World.
On the way out to sea.  I LOVED that the "pirate" next to my son yelled out to people in other boats and on shore.  it really felt like we were with a group of no-good rotten pirates looking for treasure ;-)

Dolphin mom and baby - all part of the adventure of being on the water!
We did pause the boat for a bit to watch the dolphins.  There were a total of 5 in their group.

Great views of the shoreline!

Tons of pirate activities to keep the kids happy!

Face Painting

Looks cute but it was hot out and the make-up started smearing. ..

Preparing the cannon.

A smaller blast was made to experience the sound of a real canon.  It was loud!!

Preparing to shoot the enemies (with water).

Hot potato - with a skull ;-)

The winner of the hot "potato" game.
My little lady was so happy!  But my son was not happy about losing.
The staff jumped right in to cheer him up again!  Less work for this mom ;-)
BTW - it was really hot out and this green bead necklace turned my daughters skin green - YIKES!
It did wash off (whew)!

Story time!

The bad pirate that had the treasure.

Souvenir map.

Jewels - their own little piece of the treasure after defeating the bad pirate!

-There is free parking where you can meet up with the shuttle that takes you to the ship.  We parked in the wrong spot and paid $10 before we found the right one.  The ship parking is part of a hotel.  The shuttle staff will give you a parking pass to put in your window before heading to the ship.  
-The shuttle staff is also part of the pirate crew.  They do a lot to keep you entertained for the short trip.  
- The ship was actually a big red metal boat.  nothing like a "real" pirate ship.  But, they did have it decorated nicely to make up for it.  
- There is a restroom on the ship and a lot of space to sit.
-There is a small shop on the ship.  You can purchase some food items, beverages, snacks, trinkets, ... My kiddos had hot dogs and drinks.  We did buy a few Popsicles to keep cool since it was such a hot day.
- There are cruises offered at night for those that are 21 and above.  They apparently offer a more adult themed adventure ;-)
- I did make our reservations online in advance.  I'm a planner :-)
- The shuttle will take you back to the parking area - with the same entertainment.  The staff will also give you recommendations on places to eat.  We ended up eating at the same place a couple of our pirates ate at.  Our kiddos were so excited to see them and the staff continued their "pirate" act with out even skipping a beat.  They seemed more than happy to do so!
- They will ask for tips at the end of the show.  It was well worth tipping them!!!

A little time at the beach!

Would I recommend this pirate adventure?  ABSOLUTELY!!!

North Carolina: Digger's Dungeon

Digger's Dungeon!!!  My family LOVES Monster Jam and my son's favorite is Grave Digger!  You don't know who Grave Digger is?  Well, this post is probably not for you ;-)

Digger's Dungeon is owned by Dennis Anderson and his family.  It is located in their hometown of Poplar Branch, North Carolina.  Poplar Branch is close to the North state line and very close to where my brother now lives in Virginia (only a few minutes away).  

Of course there are Grave Digger Trucks!

And a workshop to build, rebuild, and modify trucks!

Surprisingly there was more than the Grave Digger team trucks!

They offer autograph days at the store!
Dennis Anderson!!!

And pictures with Dennis! 
I can't forget to mention the store!  There are so many monster truck items!!  We were there at the start of autograph day so the store was very busy!  But, there was so much to explore and they also had a penny smasher for Grave Digger!

$5 a person monster truck rides!

There is a restaurant on site.  I didn't really find much information about this online but I did see it in a map.  The only information I knew ahead of time was that it was near the store and had great food. It is a small place which made it hard to find a place to sit.  But, the staff was very friendly and the food was awesome!!

The diner!

There's even a free petting zoo!

Road Trip To Virginia

This past summer my brother and his family moved to Virginia - near Virginia Beach.   Last summer I blogged about our trip to visit his family in Boston.  I think I was more excited about this trip! Why?  My family LOVES Monster Jam!!  Did you know that Dennis Anderson (founder of Grave Digger) and his family have a store in North Carolina called Digger Dungeon?  We have been trying to find an excuse to make our way to that area of the country.  Well, my brother and his family happened to be moving just a few minutes away!  Plus, it's always great to get some quality family time ;-)

Here's our experience: 

We did stop for one night so we could see some sites the 2nd day.  

I was happy to see that there was a national park along the way!  I make it a mission to visit as many national parks as we can to help my kiddos learn more about their grandfather that they never met.  My dad worked most of his life at a variety of national parks until he passed away at the young age of 48.  

Front Royal (North Entrance Station).  Note:  There is an entrance fee per vehicle.

Shenandoah National Park is breath taking!  There are a few entrances to the park.  We entered through the one closes to our route (see picture above).  We had planned to travel the length of the park but there were two things.  First, it's a long winding road!  My daughter has motion sickness issues so it was miserable for her - which made it miserable for the rest of us.  Second, It may look like this adventure wouldn't take long.  However, it would take an entire day to drive through the park and that doesn't include stopping to explore now and then.  With all this to consider, we took one of the first exit opportunities.  We did still manage see a lot of the park - just not all of it.

The Dickey Ridge Visitors Center (near North entrance) is a fun place to visit.
There is a small museum, gift store, restrooms and a great view!
The rest of Virginia:

Loved these trees!!!  Not sure what the are called but they were pretty and all over the state.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge - Tunnel:  A fun experience!  But, we were stuck in a traffic jam for hours on the way to the bridge/tunnel.  We had no idea what was going on until we got there.  No accidents - just too many cars trying to go from 4 lanes into 2 (each direction).  It wasn't worth the wait!  But, now we can say we did it.  Also, we took it on the way home (tried to avoid it but we were not familiar enough with the area) and the traffic wasn't bad.

There are a lot of HUGE beautiful houses and the weather is great year round!

The best part - visiting with family!!!  Even if it is over a game of Minecraft - LOL!

I am so glad these cousins get along so great - even though the only see each other about once a year!

Sphecius Speciosus - These things were HUGE and took over my brothers back yard!  They built nests in the ground and seemed to be more bothered with each other than us.  But, we didn't want to take any chances so we avoided any back yard activities until the yard was sprayed.

PHO 79:  My first Vietnamese food - tofu veggie soup  Yummmmm

Captain Jack's Pirate Ship Adventures

We made it!!!  Digger's Dungeon

I will add links to our other adventures on this trip once they have posted.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Michigan: Pentwater & Silver Lake

When I was in high school I would go camping in the fall with one of my friends and her family.  I always loved the place because it was right on a beautiful Lake Michigan beach!  It was the Charles Mears State Park in Pentwater, Michigan.  My memories of those camping trips were so wonderful that I had to add them to my families bucket list!

They offer free crafts for campers.  Check out the schedule near the restrooms.  They have a lot of activities to participate in like star gazing and yoga on the beach.

The kids craft that was offered one of the days we were there.
My friend and I loved climbing up a big hill in the campground.  That hill has changed a lot since then.  There is a much nicer "path".  Actually - its a pretty awesome experience and now its a lot safer!  It's called "Old Baldy" and at the entrance to the path you can find a nature "scavenger hunt" list for some education of what you will see along your journey.

Entrance to path and the "scavenger hunt" list.

There are a lot of steps...

But there are many places to rest and enjoy nature.

Some of the old path from when I was in high school.

One of the educational markers.

It's hard to tell by this picture but there is a beautiful view of Lake Michigan!

More path.

The big sandy hill!  Beautiful view and a fun way to get back to the campground.

Hmmm - good thing I decided not to bring our dog....

Beautiful swimming area!

A fun option at the beach for those that have a hard time getting around.
Some of the food and beverage options at the campground.

The town of Pentwater does offer a few places to eat, at least one place to find last minute supplies (groceries, beverages, even some nice grab and go food options), lots of cute stores, and an ice cream shop.  You will not find a Mc Donald's or any other big name place.  

Other campground information:

- There are public restrooms and showers.
- It is very hard to get a reservation over the summer so make sure you commit as soon as they start taking reservations for the year.
- The campground has a couple of play areas.
- The amenities at each campsite varies but most have electric.  There is no water connections at any of the sites so make sure you have your tank filled prior to parking.
- There is a water spout in at least one spot in the campground so you can have access to water other than the restroom/shower area.
-The camp sites are not big and they do not have a lot of driving space to work with.  I thought it was going to take us forever to back our camper in.  Thankfully, it did not but I saw others having a hard time!
-We had a 5th wheel camper to stay in and we decided on a campsite with the sand dune and beach in our "backyard".  We also had a fire pit and picnic table which seems to be common with all the campsites.
-Note to self:  If I were camping in a tent I would prefer 111 due to the shade, size, and close to the restroom/play area.  I also liked 107 but it might be a little noisy due to it being very close to the restrooms.  Both have easy enough access to the beach.

Silver Lake

Silver Lake is very close to Pentwater.  We are not really into hanging out at the beach a lot but I did want to spend some time in the sand dunes.  A friend of mine went with her family and they rented a jeep to ride the dunes.  She said it was a blast!  But, my kiddos and I were camping with my mom so we decided on the safer experience by participating in a dune ride.

We chose Mac Woods Dune Rides and had a lot of fun!

Our tour guide shared stories (both fiction and non-fiction) of the area along the way.

One picture stop during the ride.