A few years ago, I bought this framed map as a gift for Ryan. I thought it would be fun for us to track our family travels with the boys by marking them with pins on the map. We've opted to only track family vacations that we've taken since we've had the boys.
I purchased this one from PersonalCreations.com, but if you're so inclined, this would be an easy DIY with the right tools.
Ours has an engraved plaque that says The Walkush Family Travels the USA, but I bet your local awards shop could create something similar should you choose the DIY route:
As we were swapping out pins on the map, Aidyn started counting the states that he remembers visiting, and he noted that we've visited eight - "Eight states in eight years! Only 42 left to go!" (He's eight years old now.)
He is such a sweet boy. I don't think he realizes that at our current run rate, we'll be vacationing with him and HIS family to wrap up all 50 . . . and that I'll be 80 when we finish. Guess we need to pick up the pace! :-)
At any pace, I would encourage you to get out there and see new things with your kids. As it turns out the boys really, REALLY enjoy road trips, so that's what we've focused on thus far. But I can imagine we'll branch out soon enough. (We'll have to if we want to see some of those other states - and when they're older even other countries!)
Here's a rundown of the states we've visited since we've had the boys:
1. Virginia - Galax
We visited Galax for a quick day trip in 2008 right after Jaxon was born. We had a picnic lunch by the river, hiked the New River Trail State Park, and let Aidyn play on the red train. It was a fun day trip.
2. South Carolina - Fort Mill and Myrtle Beach
We visit one of these locations nearly every year. New places are fun, but sometimes kids LOVE the old standbys! Fort Mill, SC is home to half of the large theme park, Carowinds:
And while our choice of beach is usually Sunset Beach, NC, we always make a day trip from there into Myrtle Beach, SC for fun activities. Both boys had their first carousel rides on this very carousel in Myrtle Beach:
3. Maryland/Washington DC - Cunningham Falls State Park and Washington, DC
We count these two destinations together because TECHNICALLY Washington, DC isn't a state (although that was our intended destination on that particular day in 2011). We stopped off from driving and landed at this awesome recycled tire playground in Maryland, and the boys often talk about "the time we visited Maryland" so it seems that particular "visit" stuck with them even though it wasn't the plan. You never know what kids will remember:
And here's a picture of them actually in Washington, DC later that same day. You can tell by the looks on their faces that they're thinking, "You mean there's no playground equipment here? Take us back to Maryland!" We'll definitely be taking them back to DC when they're a little bit older and can enjoy it more.
4. Pennsylvania - Hershey and Lancaster
We also visited Pennsylvania in the same trip as Washington, DC and Maryland. They're all in the same general area. And THIS was the trip that cemented road trips as a favorite with the boys. We first visited Hershey Park and downtown Hershey.
While we were there, the Great Race was also coming through town, so the boys also got to see some classic cars at a car show.
And we also made a day trip to Lancaster, PA to visit the train museum and to take a ride on an actual train.
5. Tennessee - Franklin and Nashville
Ryan and I had previously traveled to Memphis in 2003 before the boys were born, but we've returned several times since 2010 to the Franklin and Nashville areas to visit Harris Sister, Deanna, since this is now where she's put down roots. And even though it's not Memphis, you can always find Elvis in Tennessee:
And boots that are bigger than your children:
And giant wishing fountains:
6. Ohio - Cleveland and Solon
Ryan's family is from the Solon area, a suburb of Cleveland, so we've visited this area a few times over the years. The most recent visit was in 2012 when we took the boys to a Cleveland Indians baseball game:
They got to meet and hug Slider, the Indians' mascot:
And they got to run the bases at Progressive Field after the game:
7. Florida - Orlando
The Hershey, PA trip in 2011 was actually a "test" trip for our trip to Disney World and Sea World in 2013. We wanted to make sure that the boys were OK with larger than life characters and enjoyed multiple days in a theme park. They had the time of their lives:
8. North Carolina - Sunset Beach, Blowing Rock, Mooresville, Eden, Asheboro, Concord, Kure Beach, Danbury, the list goes on . . .
I really think that even if you can't pack up and head to another state, there's nothing preventing you from exploring your own state. We're lucky to live in a state that has both mountains and beaches. (We live in the Piedmont area in between those areas.) We've traveled to many locations in our home state, but there are many still on my list:
I happen to think that Sunset Beach, NC has the absolute finest sand. The boys would know, they've been playing in it every year since they were babies:
Blowing Rock, NC is home to Tweetsie Railroad, a small theme park that still has a working train (and lookie - a jail for those infamous Walkush boys):
Mooresville, NC has Lazy 5 Ranch, a drive through animal park that allows visitors to feed animals that walk up to the car. They also offer wagon rides and have a separate petting zoo. If you're traveling with a baby, just make sure he doesn't try to kiss the animals. :-)
Eden, NC still has a working drive in. They operate in the summer months and show double features. That's a whole lotta movies (and not to mention nostalgia) for your buck!
Asheboro, NC is home to the North Carolina Zoo. We are fortunate to live so close to this particular attraction - it is the largest walk through zoo in the world. We've actually written about it several times on the blog. Here's a link about how to save money on a trip to the zoo, and here's another link with a fun list of scavenger hunt photos to take at the zoo. Here are the boys in 2012 at the Dinosaur exhibit:
Concord, NC is home to Great Wolf Lodge Water Park - a sure winner with the kids.
Kure Beach, NC is the site of Fort Fisher, a national historic landmark marking the site of an actual Civil War fort. It's a quick ferry ride from Southport, NC to visit both the fort and the Fort Fisher Aquarium. And there's always the bonus of getting to feed the birds while on the ferry!
And this one is near and dear to my heart. We've been visiting Hanging Rock State Park in Danbury, NC ever since Ryan proposed to me there in 1998. We've continued to take the boys there every few years. It has hiking trails, camping and picnic areas, and beautiful waterfalls.
So, that's it.
"Eight states in eight years."
Guess I'd better get a move on with the next wave of vacation planning.