Camping at Crabtree Falls, Virginia – A Photo Tour

Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Recently, Virginia is For Lovers posted about 13 Awesome Tent Camping Experiences in Virginia. The list was a great selection of camp sites across Virginia from False Cape to sites in Luray. Though 13 locations does not even begin to touch on the amazing places to set up your tent in the wildlife of Virginia, I was disappointed that one site in particular was left off the list.

Crabtree Falls Campground is the epitome of what family travelers would like to see in a camping experience. There are things to do, clean facilities to use, nature all around, a friendly ownership, and the list goes on… One of the great pulls to the campgrounds is Crabtree Falls, the highest vertical cascading waterfall on the East Coast, surrounded by lush forest and abundant wildlife.  It is located in the George Washington National Forest and is touted as one of the best known Virginia hiking trails. Crabtree Falls Campgrounds is immediately adjacent to the stream that flows from the base of the waterfall. Saddled with enormous boulders, the grounds are a brief walk down the road from the waterfall.

Crabtree Falls Campgrounds - Two Kids and A Map

Whenever I try to explain the experience here, I am almost at a loss for words.  How do you describe the beauty of one of the most serene places you have ever been?  We learned about Crabtree Falls through our Boy Scout/Cub Scout group.  The boys take a trip there each year and one day my best friend recommended we stop letting the boys have all the fun, and take our two families there together.  I had no idea what was in store.  When we arrived we were greeted by the husband-wife owners of the campsite who live on location.  We were given a description of the amenities – clean bathrooms and showers, a small shop with just about everything you could have possibly forgotten at home, a game room (not that you will use it when you have this type of location), playground, laundry and YES! well behaved pets are allowed! Then we were directed down to our waterfront tent sites beside the gurgling stream.  After our four older children helped our families unpack the car and heft the equipment down to the site, they were off!  They immediately turned into children of the land, climbing over rocks, wading in the water, and more.  It was straight out of a movie.

There are options for every type of camper at this campground…cabins, RV sites, and tent sites – many with electric – are all available and each is equipped with a fire pit and a picnic table.  However, NOTHING beats the four waterfront sites, two of which we took up with our party of 9!  We built so many memories that weekend and were all able to get away from the world and experience nonstop relaxation.

Prime camping right next to the stream and away from the road:Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

The kids were off to explore as soon as we were all set up!Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Wildlife abounds in all the nooks and crannys (see the butterflies on the ground???)Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

The two year old was NEVER boredCrabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Can’t beat relaxing in a stream on a warm summer’s day
Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Crabtree Falls is a short walk up the road from the campgroundCrabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Once reaching the base of the trail, you start your hike to the top!  The trail winds in and out and up and down and is a REAL hike (especially when carrying a 30 pound two year old on your back the entire way!)Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

One of the many small waterfall sections you see on your way to the topCrabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

There truly was never a dull moment on this trip
Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

I cannot wait for a chance to return, especially if it is with this crowd again.  Next time you are camping in Virginia, seriously consider staying a Crabtree Falls Campground.  You won’t regret it!

Where is your favorite campground?!

Civil War Reenactment at Endview Plantation

Did you know there were only two major battles fought in the North during the Civil War?

That is the question my 12 year-old-asked me while we were driving to Endview Plantation in Newport News, Virginia last weekend.

My answer: No, I didn’t.  At least I don’t think I did.

His response: Yep, the Battle of Antietam and the Battle of Gettysburg.

Yay for the Virginia Public School System!

I do have very vivid memories of driving through battlefields as a child listening to George Winston instrumental soundtracks playing in the cassette player of my mother’s car.  Considering there were only two major battles fought in the north, I find it odd that in my 15 plus years of living in the deep south I have never attended a Civil War reenactment…until last weekend.

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This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia.  Over 70,000 lives were lost during those 9 months of battle south of Richmond, Virginia.  There will be several activities this summer at the National Battlefield Petersburg that honor that battle and those who lost their lives, but we got started a little early in Hampton Roads.

I am so sorry it took me that long to go. Have you ever seen Sweet Home Alabama? The movie about the southern transplant returning home to divorce her first husband? Her father is an AVID re-enactor and they show a scene where he is in character, dying on the battlefield. THIS WAS JUST LIKE THAT!

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My family and I took advantage of the Civil War Reenactment at Endview Plantation in Newport News (cost was $7 per person over 7 years old) this past weekend and we had a terrific time!  There were Boy Scouts selling food and reenactment vendors selling their mostly handmade goods.  I couldn’t resist buying a bag full of pewter and bone buttons for my knitting habit!

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We slowly meandered through some of the soldier encampments where we found out what life could be like for men on the road during the war.  It was great for the kids to check out the different types of tents and living situations.  The authenticity was amazing from the cooking, to the clothing, to the way the horses were outfitted.

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We only had time to wander into one of the several encampments that filled the tree line before we decided to head down and grab a seat before the show.  And what a show it was!

Union Soldiers

The actors hooted and hollered.  The cannons LOUDLY rang.  The gun shots were almost nonstop.  The reenactment itself lasted about 30 minutes.  The men and women did a terrific job depicting a battle of the Siege of Petersburg.  The Union troops advanced slowly across the field and continually pushed the confederates back, trash talking and goading each other all the while.  Men fell dead right and left and several crawled away injured, fighting their way to safety.  I was presented with several opportunities to answer important questions my children had.

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While we sat on our blanket and ate lunch (much like crowds would do on the sidelines during the war) the kids learned why the men were marching and basically standing in line to die.  My daughter wanted to know why it was taking them so long to fire their weapons between shots.  I even learned how to tell when the cannons were about to blow (“the cannon handlers cover their ears, hon,” my husband pointed out).

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I may possibly have had the best time in our group.  It was such a unique experience and I was so thrilled I pulled the family along to check it out with me.  We were there a total of about three hours, and we could have easily spent more time exploring.

Plantation House

I don’t know if Endview Plantation has reenactments on a regular basis, but the Plantation is a permanent historical site where you can tour the house and grounds.  You can check them out on their Facebook page or visit their website for information about their tours and summer camps for children.

And if you have the opportunity to attend a reenactment, jump on it!  You won’t be sorry!  You can find a list of battlefields in your area here on the National Park Service page.  Just click on search “by topic” and select Battlefield/Military park.

Did You Know You Should Search for Pigs in Smithfield, Virginia?

Ham is the head honcho in Smithfield, Virginia.  Everywhere you turn, you see signs of this delicatessen.  There isn’t much to Smithfield and it might be overlooked by many who drive north from the Suffolk and Norfolk area.  My sister proclaimed Smithfield to be one of their favorite places to go when they want to get out of dodge on a weekend day so we decided we had to check it out ourselves.

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The name, Smithfield, might sound familiar if you like to eat ham because the town is famous for its Smithfield hams.  In fact, in 1926 the General Assembly of Virginia passed an act that states all Genuine Smithfield Hams must be made within the limits of Smithfield, Virginia.

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We arrived right at lunchtime so we started our visit out at the Smithfield Ice Cream Parlor.  This restaurant will remind you of the old soda fountains.  I had the Smithfield ham sandwich (of course!).  Everything was reasonably priced and our meals were perfect for lunch.  You might be tempted by the ice cream counter but I recommend you wait.

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First, head across the street and to the left to the Smithfield & Isle of Wight Visitor Center.  You can learn more about the town of Smithfield but you will also want to pick up the Coloring Book and Scavenger Hunt for the kids.

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Open that scavenger hunt booklet to the page that says Meet P.D. The Flying Pig.  There are a number of participating attractions listed and each one has a P.D. hiding in the venue.  The children need to find four of the flying pigs in four different venues.  When you find one of the flying pigs, show it to an employee and they will sign off in your scavenger hunt booklet.  After you have found four of the pigs, head back to Smithfield Ice Cream Parlor for a free ice cream scoop. There is also another option for ice cream at Sir Jeff’s Sir Cakes or a donut at Ringo’s Donuts.

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Don’t miss the Isle of Wight County Museum where you will see the world’s oldest, edible cured ham from 1902!

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The museum also has an interactive country store with a scavenger hunt for the kids.

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I wish that we had more time to explore Smithfield but both the scavenger hunts kept all the kids happy and made for a lovely afternoon outing.

This post is part of Travel Tips Tuesday with Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels.
suitcasesandsippycups.com

 

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel System

Even though the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel is exactly that, a bridge and tunnel system to get you where you want to go, it can certainly qualify as a great attraction.  According to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel website, shortly after the opening of the bridge-tunnel system, it was selected as “one of the Seven  Engineering  Wonders of the Modern World.”  The Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel system is just one of many in this area but it is considered the world’s largest bridge and tunnel system.  It just seems to go on and on and on!

Two bridges, two tunnels, causeways, roads leading up to the bridge and four manmade islands all make up the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel system.  From one shore to the other, the system measures 17.6 miles.  The water depth ranges from 25 feet to 100 feet!  It is not only a convenient way to get to the Eastern Shore from Norfolk/Virginia Beach area, but it will also fascinate the kids.  Just when you think you have reached the end, you come up on another man made island.  When you stand on one of the islands in the middle of the bay, we could not see the ends of the bridge. 

This picture was taken with my 75-300 lens from one man made island.  I zoomed in as close as possible to snap the picture of the next island.

The turn offs to park on the islands and walk around come up quickly (right before the tunnel begins if I am remembering correctly) so if you are planning on stopping, be sure to pay attention and slow down.  On one of the islands, there is a restaurant that was being renovated when we were there and also a fishing pier that was packed to the brim with fishermen! 

There are signs that describe a little bit of the history of the bridge and the Naval history from that area. 

There are lookout binoculars and it is worth the 25 cents. 

They also support a birding program and the website lists many of the different birds that you might see.  You will see ships galore.

The toll to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel System is 12.00 per car and goes up from there. 

Be sure to stop by Delicious Baby to see where other travelers are going this week!

Norfolk Family Vacation on raveable

Goodbye, Summer!

In summer, the song sings itself.

~William Carlos Williams

Chincoteague

Today marks the last day of summer.  Big S is back in school bright and early Monday morning (we aren’t counting the weekend because, well, weekends don’t count!).  He is so very excited.  We met his teacher and saw his new classroom this morning and he can’t wait for school to start.  Sending him to first grade is much easier than sending him to Kindergarten last year.  He is such a big guy and seems ready to navigate his little world.  It is time to get back into a daily routine, plan weekend adventures and start deciding where we will go for Fall break!

So today we say goodbye to summer.  Summer–you have been very good to us and we can’t wait to see you again next year!

The following pictures were taken on our road trip to Chincoteague Island, Virginia.  The kids were so excited to put their toes in the Atlantic and weren’t the least bit discouraged when they discovered the Atlantic Ocean is many degrees colder than our cozy, warm, bathwater-esque Gulf Coast.  I just love these pictures of them playing at the beach on the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

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Of all the pictures taken of my husband and I this summer, this my favorite:

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The Ponies of Chincoteague Island, Virginia

For as long as I can remember, Misty of Chincoteague has been one of my favorite books.  I was so excited, even as a grown adult, when we planned a trip to Chincoteague Island to see the wild ponies.

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And the not so wild ponies of Chincoteague Island:

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To find out best places to see the ponies of Chincoteague, head over to Traveling Mom where I wrote a post about our search.

Stop by DeliciousBaby to see other Photo Friday posts.

Steamers – Chincoteague Island, Virginia

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You have got to love a restaurant that has brown paper on the table and a full sized trash can next to it! 

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We chose Steamers on Chincoteague Island because it was within walking distance of our hotel, looked family friendly and boasted lots and lots of delicious seafood.  The restaurant was noisy and perfect for our group of nine.  If you can think of the seafood, they probably have it grilled or fried!  The kids were amazed by the All-You-Can-Eat trays that were coming out of the kitchen.  If you order all you can eat crabs, shrimp, etc, it all comes out on a cafeteria tray!  If you don’t like seafood, don’t worry because they also serve chicken, steak and seafood.  The sweet potato biscuits that come out as soon as you sit down are so tasty and sweet.  I am on a search to replicate the recipe.

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The clam chowder was good but the shrimp was absolutely delicious.  And yes…that is a bowl of butter sitting on top of it.

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We loved the fried scallops and oysters!  And the hush puppies…YUM!

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The prices are on the high side but are still reasonable.  We loved the restaurant so much that after a failed attempt to eat at another restaurant in town the next day, we headed straight back to Steamers!

This post is part of Wanderfood Wednesday.    Stop by and see all the other delicious foods travelers are talking about today

Chincoteague Island Family Vacation

Virginia Living Museum – Newport News, Virginia

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What is it?  Part zoo, part children’s museum, part educational museum, part aquarium.  The Virginia Living Museum is possibly one of the best museums I have been to in a long time.  It is educational and kid-friendly but at the same time it will captivate adults for hours as well.  The building is set up so that you walk through different Virginia habitats.  In each gallery, you will see exhibits that showcase the animal and plant life from each habitat. 

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I have an ASTC Membership card so the visit was free, which definitely makes the deal even sweeter!  We went to the Virginia Living Museum with the intention of spending an hour or two and then heading to the next activity but we ended up spending hours wandering around inside and out and then back inside again!

There are interactive stations throughout the entire museum where you and the kids can learn more about the animals and the lives they lead.

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There are Discovery Centers where you can interact with animals.  Our favorite was the Chesapeake Bay Touch Tank.

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The Coastal Plain Aviary will allow you to get up close and personal with more than 16 species of birds native to the area.

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The Outdoor Boardwalk is a wonderful walk and along the way you will see beavers, bald eagles, bobcats, wild turkeys and more.  This was one of our favorite parts!

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There is also a Planetarium, a Butterfly Garden and an observatory.

The Virginia Living Museum is located at 524 J. Clyde Morris Blvd., Newport News, VA 23601.

Stop by DeliciousBaby to see where others are traveling today!

Newport News Family Vacation

Bluebird Gap Farm – Hampton, Virginia

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Bluebird Gap Farm is not what you think it is by name.  When we made the trip Bluebird Gap Farm, we were expecting a farm in the country…you know stereotypical stuff…rolling hills of crops, animals roaming, etc!  When I got off the freeway exit, I thought for sure the GPS took us to the wrong place.  We were in the middle of the city.  Houses on one side, businesses on the other…but we turned down the last street and here was Bluebird Gap Farm!

The kids loved walking from one animal area to another naming the animals, talking to them and taking pictures.  There were cows, goats, horses, llamas, pigs, deer, turtles, geese.  It is a city park with animals!  There are feed machines around so that you can give the animals a snack.  There are clean restrooms, a great playground and covered seating to get out of the sun.  And the best part?!?  It is FREE to visit!

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Stop by DeliciousBaby to see where others are traveling today!  I am also linking up to the Talking Trekaroo Weekly Spotlight.

Hampton Family Vacation

Sleepy Hole – Suffolk, Virginia

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Some of my fondest memories of traveling with my children are from when we came across a park or a large patch of grass where they could run around and just be exactly who they are…kids. No one telling them to keep their hands to themselves. No one telling them to use their inside voices. Some of my favorite memories: running through the grass and gravel walks at Schloss Hellbrun in Salzburg; Big S learning to crawl in the ruins at Trier, Germany; sliding through the snow and ice in the Olympic ski jump area in Garmisch, Germany; skipping around the giant cow at the Braselton Mayfield Dairy.

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When we were in Suffolk, Virginia during the month of February, we were trapped in the house for a few days by sleet and snow. Because the area doesn’t get much snow as a general rule, everything pretty much shut down. Once the weather cleared, we went exploring and found a park that my sister often talked about.

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Sleepy Hole is a gem! We ran around for hours until our noses were pink and we could barely feel our fingers and toes.  We explored the nature trails, played on the park and ran around until we were laughing so hard we couldn’t stand any longer.   Afterwards, we went home and made hot chocolate.  We collapsed in exhaustion and giggled about how much fun we had.

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How can you not smile when you see joy like this?

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For an added Friday photo, I had to share this picture.  Little S had the worst static electricity the entire time we were in Virginia.  Her hair was always standing on end!  It was hilarious!

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Suffolk Family Vacation