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

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

Carousels

My 3 year old daughter can spy a carousel a mile away.  Before the carousel is even in sight, it is like she has a 6th sense…the carousel sense.  She can hear that distinct sound that immediately makes you think of carousels.  She can see the beautifully painted “horsies” spinning around in a circle.  We have been on carousels all over the world, however this is a perfect time to remind myself that I need to sit down and organize years worth of digital pictures that are in folders with names like Mem Card 1 or New Folder217 instead of Washington DC and Vienna, Austria!  Of the many carousels we have been on, here are a few of the pictures that I could find!

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The carousel in Washington DC on the Mall (and possibly the fastest we have been on!)

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Little S can find carousels in shopping malls too!  This is the carousel at Pier Park in Panama City Beach, FL.

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Did you know there was a carousel at Downtown Disney?  We have been to Downtown Disney three times but this last time was the first with my daughter.  I hadn’t seen a carousel before, but she has no problem finding it! (And this is probably the slowest carousel we have been on)

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This carousel in Hampton, Virginia is located next to the Virginia Air and Space Center.  We were leaving the museum and much to my surprise my daughter took off towards this building.  That is her at the very front!

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This is what we found inside the building!

Carousels, parks, and water features are things that my kids can spot a million miles away when we are traveling.  What do your kids always tend to locate?

Stop by DeliciousBaby to see where everyone else is traveling this week!

Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center

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I have always been fascinated by aquariums.  When I was younger, I wanted to be an oceanographer…that is until I found out that most oceanographers actually got off the boat into the ocean.  Being bizarrely afraid of ocean animals that might attack me, I quickly changed my career path.  My love for all things water has never dissipated and now my children are also mesmerized by even a tiny fish tank.  If I find out that there is an aquarium in our destination city, it moves up to the top of the list of places to visit.  We have been to huge aquariums, we have been to humble teeny tiny aquariums, and we have been to everything in between.  The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach ranks at the top of my list of favorite aquariums right next to the Baltimore Aquarium.

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The first thing I noticed was that admission into the aquarium was fairly reasonable.  They have a special package that gets you aquarium admission, an IMAX movie, and a Creek Cruise for only $22.50 (adults) or $18.50 (children).  We chose to just get admission to the aquarium because of time constraints.  When you arrive at the aquarium, you purchase your tickets and the first thing that you get to is the huge beautiful wall of nothing but beautiful fish and other sea animals.  My two kids could have sat all day in front of this tank. 

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We saw sea turtles, sharks, otters, harbor seals, and rays. 

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There are many hands on activities throughout – the kids got to touch horseshoe crabs, rays and a skink. 

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I loved this aquarium because so many of the exhibits concentrate on the marine environment of Virginia.  It was a great way to learn more about the area that my sister was moving to. 

There is a boardwalk in between the two buildings where you can spot some more wildlife. 

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Beware though…the website states that the boardwalk is about a ten minute walk.  With small children, it is definitely longer than ten minutes.  After much whining, we ended up heading back when we hit the halfway point 20 minutes later.  We were mainly worried about the walk back.  We were afraid that the kids would not make it back if we walked all the way!

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A few of my favorite things about the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center:

  • The Osprey Cafe – We didn’t have a chance to grab lunch before the aquarium visit so we ate at the cafe.  The prices were reasonable and the food was good. 
  • Crowd Control – The layout of the aquarium lends itself to large crowds.  It was very crowded but as we wandered through the exhibits the only sections that got bottlenecked were at the touch/interactive exhibits.
  • Large Exhibits – The exhibits are all very large…the touch pools are huge and the aquarium windows are gigantic.

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A few things that fall under the “not my favorite” category:

  • Parking – The parking is ridiculous.  Nobody was paying attention to the direction that you were supposed to go.  There is a second  parking lot directly across the street from the aquarium.  If we returned, I would go straight to that lot.
  • Gift Shop – The gift shop is very small and super crowded.  If you plan on heading into the gift shop, leave the whiny kids outside or skip it all together.

Virginia Beach Things To Do

Dreaming of Finding Great Parks When We Travel

When my husband and I traveled before we had kids, we dreamed of finding the great pastry shop tucked in a corner on a quiet little street.  We dreamed of a great wine bar in the middle of the bustling city.  We dreamed of a quiet afternoon at an art museum.  Having kids hasn’t stopped us from dreaming of and finding these things but we have also added parks and nature walks to our itinerary.  Every time one of our kids spots a playground or a city park, they shout out loud with glee.  Our travel itinerary often looks the same with each trip.  We love to get an early start and spend the morning at the place of our choosing whether it be an aquarium, manor home, a museum, a factory tour, etc. with the kids while they are in a happy mood.  I am not going to lie-you will often hear me bribing my children with a visit to a “cool new park” to get us through the rest of the exhibit.   Then we eat lunch and head for a park.  Many times we go to the park and have a picnic.  The kids love the picnic and I love saving the money that we would have spent on a restaurant!  It also helps us avoid the stress of making sure our children behave in a restaurant.  The kids love to check out the new parks and are so funny when they compare them to the parks we have at home. 

Finding a park to head to is a great way to have your kids let off some steam and explore other parts of the cities you visit.  On this road trip, we are in Virginia Beach dropping my sister off in her new house.  We had to get the kids out of the house (four under the age of 7) so that she could get some unpacking done.  I did a little Internet search for city parks and recreation and found Mount Trashmore, an awesomely huge city park that was created by compacting layers of solid waste and clean soil.  The kids loved hiking up the hill and rolling down the hill.

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How can you find parks when you travel?  We found Mt. Trashmore listed on both Trekaroo and Visit Virginia.  Debbie, at Delicious Baby, has a great way of finding playgrounds when she travels by using Google Satellite.

Head over to Mother of All Trips to see what everyone else is dreaming of!