It's taken long enough to get this post up, but I wanted to share about our wild, wonderful West Virginia vacation.
I grew up in West Virginia, and my family still lives there. It will always be home to me. This year, we ended up spending more than a week at my parents' house for our family vacation. We took advantage of the free housing (thanks, Mom and Dad!) to take a few day trips and spend a little more on activities than we normally do.
It's kind of funny that I lived where I did for so long and did not fully take advantage of the many opportunities available. I guess that happens to people in all places; it's hard to recognize most local treasures.
If you ever plan on visiting West Virginia, our trip was not an exhaustive tour of the entire state, but I'd love to give you a few recommendations based on what we did.
There will be two more posts on two specific spots (with lots of pictures and a video if I can figure that out).
One of the spots we visited was the West Virginia Wildlife Center outside of Buckhannon (in the northern central part of WV) Basically it's a zoo of animals native (or once native) to West Virginia. Sure, we have most of these animals right in our backyard, but we don't often get to see them or see them up close. My favorite part of the center was the owls and watching the bear cubs wrestle and tumble about.
Another great thing about the center was the price. Many zoos are quite expensive for a family. This really wasn't at all. It was also small enough the little kids could take it all in without being to exhausted. Our three-year-old walked the entire way. She was a little droopy by the end, but she made it without a meltdown.
On another day we took a trip to Seneca Caverns. This time around we didn't actually visit the caverns (which are fine and dandy). Instead, because some of our children had been interested in panning for gold, we took them gemstone mining. They have a huge sluice, and our kids enjoyed splashing in the water while discovering all sorts of treasures. We bought a big bucket full of stones mixed in with rough dirt stuff, and each child (and their parents) brought home a bag of geological beauties. I can't believe that, as a homeschooling mom, I didn't see the educational value of this activity beforehand. They are so interested in learning about rocks now.
Seneca Caverns is located near Seneca Rocks (which we drove past several times on our ramblings). While we didn't stop this time, it's fairly close to my folks, and it's on the list for future visits. I have taken advantage of this spot many times, but I'm fairly certain I'll never climb the rocks. It's just not my thing, but if it is yours--enjoy! Luckily, there's a hiking trail to the top for folks like me--or maybe for folks like me 15 years ago :)
If you're in the area, another fun place to stop is Smoke Hole Caverns. I worked there one summer giving tours, and the place is owned and operated by the family of a high school classmate of mine. It's grown and changed over the years. Due to arson, the gift shop where I worked is no longer there, but they've opened a new and huge gift shop on the site. I haven't been there yet, but they also now have gemstone mining. (We went to Seneca Caverns for gemstone mining because my husband and I went there on our honeymoon.) Anyway, at the Smoke Hole Resort there is plenty of lodging if you're in the area for a while, and they also have a trout pond for fishing which is especially convenient for out-of-staters who don't want to buy an expensive fishing license.
And speaking of trout ponds, we went to another one on one of our jaunts. Mountain Meadow Farms was a great experience for us. If you've ever been fishing with a bunch of little and inexperienced kids, a place like this is the answer! The owner was so nice and helpful to us. He did his best to help out while I chased the little one around and my husband helped get worms on hooks and take fish off hooks. I'm not kidding when I say my husband was really juggling hooks, worms, kids, and fish. It was comical. Almost.
We allowed each child to catch two fish, and we even splurged and paid the owner's daughter to clean them up for us. They were delicious for supper. Yum! I can't say enough nice things about this family-owned business. Also, what a beautiful place to live and work. Oh, and one of my sons caught a big one--I think it was 3.5 pounds; the fishing pole was just like in cartoons, all doubled up. Fun day.
Next post-- Dolly Sods!