Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Have Kids, Will Travel: North Texas Jellystone

North Texas Jellystone is a spot I've wanted to escape to for years. Not only is it close by (less than 30 minutes from Arlington in Burleson, Texas!), but it is full of outdoor activities that my husband and I would have engaged in as kids. From arts and crafts to Gaga Ball and fishing to foosball, kids (and adults) can find a plethora of things to do away from dreaded screens.

Jellystone offers year-round fun. We have talked for years about visiting in the summer because Pirate's Cove, the onsite waterpark, would offer my girls hours of fun. However, we opted for fall because there is just something wonderful about cooler nights and shorter days (and I love love love fall festivals, pumpkin everything and a good excuse to get into your Halloween costume more than once a season!).

There are lots of options for lodging at Jellystone, and the option you pick really depends on the number of people in your party and the amount of cash in your budget. If you are a true outdoorsman, tent camping might be for you! Renting a tent site is the cheapest way to do Jellystone, and community bathrooms are available to use. If you are an RVer, you can pull up your RV to a campsite and enjoy. (You can even rent an RV if you are curious as to what vacationing in an RV might be like!) There is even a brand-new pirate ship on site that is multiple levels and accommodates multiple people and parties per room and per floor. 

After looking extensively through all options, we decided on the new 2-bedroom family cabins that sleep up to 10 people with two bedrooms containing a queen bed each and a large open loft with three queen mattresses. We had nine people camping with us, so this fit our group the best! Our cabin came complete with a fridge and microwave, screened-in porch and AC. Outside there was a fire pit and picnic table and inside there were multiple TVs, in case you, like my husband, need one to fall asleep to. Aside from linens and towels, we carried in everything that we needed for the weekend, including firewood, utensils, plates and so on. We were given two parking spots with our rental and extra cars were $10 each. We also paid for 9 guests for two days. Additional guests we wanted to bring in for the day would have been $25 each. There is a two night minimum on most bookings. (I did not receive any sort of discount or incentive for my stay or my review. I paid the same prices anyone else would have had to for the same accommodations on my selected dates)

Once you arrive at Jellystone, the opportunities for entertainment are truly endless! Year-round, there are three playgrounds for kiddos, complete with swings, slides, monkey bars and more. There is a GaGa Ball pit, Laser Tag, Paintball (this activity costs additional money), fishing at Stafford Lake (bring your own supplies), two basketball courts, foosball, trails for hiking and more. In warmer months, there are two on-site pools in addition to Pirate's Cove Waterpark. You can rent golf carts to zip around the property, bring your bikes to move around or simply walk, as we did (this earned more than a few complaints as we moved over to accommodate golf carts!). There is also a spot to purchase arts and crafts to make and assemble on property as well as a gift shop and snack shop. While we brought in our own food for most of the weekend, we did order Mr. Jim's Pizza Saturday evening and they delivered right to our cabin!

We absolutely loved the Fall Festival that launched the first weekend of October. Sure, things look a little different than they may have a year ago because of Covid, but Jellystone did a good job of keeping things as normal as possible. There were costume contests and pumpkin painting (bring your own pumpkin!). We participated in a "pumpkin fling" with a slingshot and a pie pumpkin. We walked around the property locating wooden pumpkins and snapped photos by them. Once we found all 18, we showed our photos at the gift shop to receive small bags of candy. There was a nightly rolling dance party with Yogi Bear and a DJ that encouraged us to dance and move around. And, Saturday night, there was a Carnival de Jynx, where we played carnival games to earn prizes and went through a haunted house! I brought six girls into the haunted house and only brought out four not crying, so, I guess it was pretty spooky! 

This is the second Jellystone property we have vacationed at in recent years (we went to the property in Cherokee, NC, in summer 2018) and we loved our experience. We want to find another location to visit in a year or two!

Quite honestly, Jellystone is a bit pricey. If you are looking to just camp and don't need all the amenities, you could most certainly find less expensive accommodations in DFW and beyond. I also recommend Jellystone for families- individuals without kids might not love all the children running around all day. While I paid quite a bit of money for the weekend to not include any food or drink, when I break down the cost per person per day, it wasn't terrible. There are most certainly less-expensive weekend getaways around town, but this is a fun option if you are looking for a spot for your kiddos to unwind!

I think what we loved the most about this vacation was letting the kids wander off a bit. My girls are getting older, and I'm starting to trust them a bit more than I used to. At Jellystone, I could let the girls wander to the playareas without me and trust that they knew how to get back. The girls loved telling me they were "headed off to hang out" without me. It was refreshing! I've heard so many people say this about Jellystone. It is truly a spot where kids can be kids.

Tips & Tricks for a Successful Jellystone Visit:

1. Plan meals ahead of time. Bring in all the food you can fit in your car! Once you are there you won't want to leave to go get anything!

.2. Don't forget bug spray. And suncreen. And firewood. And a lighter.

3. Bring bikes for the kids. Or scooters. It's fun for them to ride around with the other kids at the property. 

4. Bring flashlights. It gets dark at night!

5. Check the schedule on Jellystone's Website or app. There are lots of fun activities every weekend!

What did I miss?

Find out more info or book your own trip here: www.northtexasjellystone.com


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Everything Arlington's Pumpkin Patch & Fall Festival Guide 2020

This Fall, typical October activities may look a bit different (thanks, Covid!).

However, if you are an all-things-pumpkin lover like I am, you are ready to at least attempt a fun Fall with your kiddos!

I've rounded up a few of the activities going on in the greater Arlington area. Let me know if I missed any!

Farms & Festivals

Mainstay Farm (Cleburne; 30 minute drive)

Hayrides, pumpkins, a new mini rollercoaster and more! Buy tickets in advance to save on admission. Open through Halloween.

Country Critters Farm (Alvarado; 20 minute drive)

Activities include: bounce house, tractor and train playground area, pony rides, hayride, wooden maze, game areas and more. Admission is $10 per person. Some activities have an additional cost. 

Sunset Hill Tree Farm (Alvarado; 20 minute drive)

Games, activities, pumpkins and more! Weekends only. Check the Facebook page (linked above) for special admission prices.

Shadow Creek Pumpkin Farm (Midlothian; 20 minute drive)

Corn maze, swings, games and so much more... Buy tickets in advance online to skip the wait.

Forest of Fear at Joe Pool Lake (Grand Prairie; 10 minute drive) October 16, 17 & October 23, 24

Drive through the haunted forest and get spooked! No hayrides this year. $15 per car.

Midlothian Fall Fun Festival (Midlothian; 20 minute drive) October 31, 8:30a- 2:30p

Family-friendly festival featuring shopping and kids activities. Free goodie bag while supplies last.

Pumpkin Patches

Randy's Farmers Market Pumpkin Patch (Venus; 30 minute drive)

Wear your costume! Pet some cute animals, bounce in the bounce house and snag a pumpkin. Open through Halloween. Free admission.

St. John Youth Ministry Pumpkin Patch (Mansfield; 10 minute drive)

Post for cute pictures and take home some pumpkins to carve! Check the Facebook page (linked above) for weekend events with various food vendors including Pokey-O's and Steel City Pops!

Drive-Thru Events

Inglewood Kids Drive Thru Fall Festival (Grand Prairie, 10 minute drive) October 16, 5-8p

Enjoy a Fall Festival from the comfort of your vehicle. Sign up on the Facebook page (linked above)

Grace Lutheran Church Drive Thru Trunk or Treat (Arlington) October 25, 5-6:30p

Bring a bag to collect your treats!

New World United Methodist Church Trick or Treat To Go (Arlington) October 25, 5-6p

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Have Kids, Will Travel: Oklahoma City

When you are asked where you would go to have a quick weekend getaway with your family, what would you say?

Austin? San Antonio? Broken Bow, OK? Turner Falls, OK?

What about Oklahoma City? Would you suggest it?

Honestly, prior to my recent visit to OKC, I would not have thought to take a family vacation to Oklahoma City. There aren't any famous lakes or amusement parks. It's not a "known destination" by any means. 

And that is exactly why Oklahoma City needs to be the spot you run to for your next weekend escape!

The EA crew headed to Oklahoma City for a fun weekend getaway. The drive from Arlington was super easy- just 35W straight north for about three hours. We had a full itinerary of things to see and do during our three days in OKC and couldn't wait to hit the ground running!

We started our weekend festivities at Scissortail Park. And, y'all, this park ROCKS! It is similar to Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, only it's not surrounded by busy streets and crazy traffic. This park has a stage for entertainment, large open areas for sports, a fantastic playground for kids of all ages, a splash area for younger ones to get wet, bathrooms, a pond (with rentable paddle boats) and SO much more. We easily could have spent a full day here running, playing and soaking up the Oklahoma sunshine. This is definitely a spot to add to your list to let the kids run off some energy and just have an easy, breezy, free afternoon of fun!

I think know the part my kiddos will tell you they loved the most about Oklahoma City was the Science Museum. Guys- This. Museum. Is. COOL. I seriously don't think there are enough words to describe how impressed we all were with the science museum. There is just SO much to do. Ride a Segway. Try out gymnastics. Trick your mind. Learn about the history of the bicycle. Play life-size versions of your favorite games. Climb and play in the kids' area. Check out some airplanes from yesteryear. I could go on. We spent four hours here and easily could have spent four more! There is an on-site cafe and coffee shop, as well as a gift shop, so you can truly plan an entire day here. I really can't say enough good things about this museum, and everyone I've talked to that has been says the same thing- OKC is worth a weekend trip for the Science Museum alone! Throw in Scissortail Park and you're totally going to win parent of the year award in your kiddos' eyes!

National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is a spot to check out with the kids and then go back without the kids! My girls adored the replica Old West Town inside the museum- complete with a jail cell they loved being "locked" in! And the new outdoor area, Liichokoshkomo’ (Let's Play!), is a gorgeous outdoor space with lots of room for kids to roam. Check out the different dwellings Native Americans lived in, play on the playground, relax by the waterfall... The sheer beauty of this outdoor space will knock your socks off! Go back later without the kiddos and check out all the fantastic art pieces depicting life in North American hundreds of years ago. 

Blue Zoo OKC wasn't a spot I was expecting to love. We have both SeaLife Aquarium in Grapevine and SeaQuest Aquarium in Fort Worth. We've been to each of these locations countless times (and love them) but weren't expecting Blue Zoo to be any different. But I love being wrong- and I certainly was this time! Blue Zoo entertained my girls for hours! Downstairs, you can pet stingrays and observes sharks in the shark tank. Upstairs, though, you really get to let loose! Not only are there plenty of areas for kids to roam, climb and play (my kiddos loved the climbing wall), you can feed birds (they come right up to you!), pet lizards and turtles and stick your hands in a tank full of manicure fish! Yep. Manicure fish. Little fish that will come up and nibble on the dead skin on your hands! I had a pedicure with these fish years ago in South Korea... It's an experience to say the least! My girls were fascinated, though, and spent at least 20 minutes with their hands in the tank! There is a mermaid show in the evenings, which my 6 year old loved. They mermaids even swam in the shark tank! Impressive to the younger set.

The Wheeler Ferris Wheel is a fun stop for the kids after dinner (and ice cream!) one evening. The views are peaceful and gorgeous from the top of the Ferris Wheel, and the girls really enjoyed the carnival ride. Afterward, grab a hammock and relax by the south fork of the Oklahoma River!

Other activities we loved in OKC:

Aqueous, a free light installation outside the Oklahoma Contemporary Museum by artist Jen Lewin, was a fun way to burn some energy after the sun set. 

The Oklahoma City National Memorial is a peaceful and stunning memorial dedicated to the Oklahoma City Bombing. My girls had so many questions about the hows and whys of this event. While I couldn't answer very many of them, we were thankful to be able to wander through this tribute to the victims and learn a little bit about their lives.

Myriad Gardens is another great spot to wander and explore for free. Be sure to check out the childrens area with littles!

Brickopolis- laser tag and mini golf and video games, oh my!

One of our favorite spots to eat in OKC was Bricktown Brewery. So many great beers on tap! Plus a reasonably-priced kids' menu, delicious appetizers and more! Look this up for sure! We also really enjoyed hanging out at Chisholm Creek Market. Lots of eateries (with adult beverages!), ice cream spots and places for the kids to run wild while you relax.

What did I miss? When we return to OKC (and we will because we loved it so much!), what hot spots do we need to add to our list of places to visit?

*Please note: I received free accommodations as well free admission to many of these attractions in exchange for my honest reviews. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Have Kids, Will Travel: Austin, Texas

I can't count the numbers of times I've been to Austin without kids. I've partied on 6th Street, shopped at The Domain, had tacos at El Arroyo and watched the bats at the Congress Avenue Bridge. Several years ago, I even visited the Facebook offices there with my brother.

But I haven't really ever done Austin with kids. 

It turns out Austin has a lot to offer for the under-18 set!

While traveling is tricky right now (hello, Covid), it can also be lots of fun if you are willing to venture out. We have found that many places are incredibly clean, properly enforce social distancing and are generally just not as crowded right now (although, let me be clear, there are many places that are not taking precautions, too). 

This trip to Austin didn't include a few of the things I would have loved to do because of Covid closures. Seeing peacocks at Mayfield Park came highly recommended, but the park was closed. Many public parks and swimming areas in Austin are closed or at severely reduced capacity, meaning we didn't want to take our chances by showing up and getting turned away. 

So I did some googling and came up with some fun, outdoor activities that allowed the girls to enjoy the unofficial last weekend of summer while still trying to keep germ spread to a minimum. 

Obviously, seeing the bats was the top-most line item on my list of things to do in Austin. If you don't know what I'm talking about, start here: Austin Bats  Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. It is estimated that 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats live underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. Every night at dusk, the bats begin flying out in droves to feed. It's an eerie but cool sight to see- and it's totally free (although you may need to pay to park)! Peak season is May-November to view the bats. You can watch from beside the bridge or on the bridge, and there are numerous boat and water tours (that cost money) you can also enjoy for bat viewing. We arrived at 7 pm and the bats flew around 7:45. The girls loved it! (the smell though...)

On Saturday we decided to head to Lake Travis to enjoy the water before water activities shut down for the season. A quick google search lead me to Volente Beach, Texas' only beach and waterpark resort. My girls love all things water, so I figured this was worth the 30-minute drive from our Austin hotel. Parking was $7, and the waterpark was $24.99 per person. The fee included 4 waterslides and a large pool area (with a kiddie slide) as well as a pirate ship play area for the 5 and younger set. The waterpark had an attached restaurant and a separate but attached bar. In the evenings, there is a stage for live entertainment (this hotspot becomes 18 and over after 7 pm). From the waterpark, you could walk to the beach and swim in a small area of the lake surrounded on three sides by a dock. My girls were there for six hours and did not leave willingly, so I'll call the day a win! The waterpark wasn't very crowded, which meant they got to enjoy the attractions for hours!

We stayed at the Aiden by Best Western, just south of downtown Austin on I-35 and highly, highly recommend this spot! The hotel was less than $100 per night for a room with two queen beds. It has an attached restaurant that has a full bar- and free breakfast is included! (due to Covid, the breakfast is not buffet style. You fill out an order form and get brown sacks filled with your requested food items, which can be consumed in the restaurant or in your room). The pool is in the center of the property and very picture-esque. It has a shallow area for kids and an 8 ft. area for older kids and adults. You can sit out by the pool and enjoy a meal or an adult beverage (no glass) and visit with friends. You do have a make a reservation at the front desk- only 30 guests are being allowed at the pool at a time to limit large gatherings. All rooms had outside entry so you didn't have to be in common areas of the hotel at all if you didn't want to be.

On Monday, we stopped at Sweet Eats Farm, just east of Georgetown and about 30 minutes from Austin. Y'all... my girls and I are doers of all things, and we have done hundreds of activities in DFW and beyond. And this farm is in my top five favorite activities we have ever done. Like, ever ever. This farm is a total throwback to my own childhood. No screens or gadgets or high-tech activities here (not that there is anything wrong with that!). Just good, old-fashioned fun. Check out the pig races, find your way out of the hay maze, swing, climb, slide, ride a horse, pet animals (alpacas and goats and baby chicks, oh my!), jump on an inflatable jump zone, slingshot apples and SO much more. The cost was $12 per person and it was SO worth it. Honestly, we stayed three hours because I was anxious to get on the road and get home to prepare for virtual school on Tuesday, but, if we had had more time, we would have stayed longer. The weather was warm but the activity areas were completely shaded. Food was available onsite. The girls got muddy and sweaty and didn't ask about iPads or YouTube Kids once. It was such a fun way to unplug and enjoy watching my kids be kids! (Although I did get good cell service, in you you were wondering!) The next time you are in Central Texas, I highly recommend checking out this spot!

Of course on the way home we had to stop at Buc cee's with half the state of Texas (are those spots ever not busy? Like, ever?). But it was an easy three hour drive each way to Austin and just what we needed for a little fun away from home. When is the last time you went to Austin? What activities would you recommend for family fun in Central Texas?

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Virtual Schooling Field Trips: The Best Spots in DFW for Learning Adventures

Here we are, folks. Back to school, the 2020 edition.

Whether schooling virtually was the choice you wanted to make or the choice you had to make, virtual school is now a thing for most of the country. While I have very, very mixed feelings about how this is all going to go (I have kids in first grade, third grade and fifth grade- yikes!), I do know that it is up to me to make sure my kids are happy, healthy and learning from home for the foreseeable future. 

So, I've been wondering how I can make the best of this situation I'm less than thrilled about. And, as you all know, my girls are I are wanderers who don't sit still often (or well), so, naturally, educational field trips seem to lurking in my future. We can get out of the house, get some exercise, change the scenery and learn something new in the process!

So, at the request of many, I've compiled a list of the best places in the Metroplex to take an educational trip with your kiddos during this era of virtual schooling. 

Note: Check hours of operation as well as policies for each of the facilities listed below- may require advance registrations and masks for anyone older than 10. Also, please no negative comments. If going out to these places during this time isn't for you, I completely understand! Let's all agree to do the best we can for ourselves and our kids, whatever that looks like. 

Learn about animals

Both the Fort Worth Zoo and the Dallas Zoo allow kids to get up close and personal with the animals. Feed giraffes and birds, catch a few educational shows and so much more! Plus, these are both outdoor facilities that allow for easy social distancing. SeaQuest Aquarium at Ridgmar Mall in Fort Worth, SeaLife Aqaurium at Grapevine Mills and the Dallas World Aquarium let kids explore marine life and observe fish, sting rays, sharks and more (I also want to note that the Children's Aquarium at Fair Park should be included in this list, but it is temporarily closed. Keep checking the website for updates). Go back in time and learn about dinosaurs at Dinosaur World in Glen Rose. Don't forget how much fun drive-thru safaris are! Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose and Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari allow you to interact with animals from the comfort of your own vehicle!

Study art

The Metroplex is home to some fantastic art collections, many of which can be enjoyed by all ages. In Dallas, try: the Meadows Museum at SMU, the Dallas Museum of Modern Art, the Crow Museum of Asian Art or the Nasher Sculpture Center. (There are so many more fabulous museums in Dallas that I simply couldn't list them all- but I think these are all great educational spots for kids!). In Fort Worth, try: the Kimbell Art Museum, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art or The Modern.

Hands on learning

When the kiddos need a more hands-on approach to learning, check out these spots for a combo of learning and playing! The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History has lots of great experiments and play areas for kids to explore. The Perot Museum in Dallas has multiple levels and exhibits for kids to learn and play. Legoland Discovery Center in Grapevine allows kids to get creative building with Legos. Crayola Experience Plano encourages kids to experiment with colors. And KidZania in Frisco is literally a miniature town where kids can earn "money" by "working" various jobs and then trade their earnings for prizes before they leave.

Unique Opportunities

Learn about life in yesteryear at the Log Cabin Village in Fort Worth. Discover the women of the West at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Engage at the African American Museum, which has one of the largest African American Folk Art collections in the US. Learn all about the history of flight at the Frontiers of Flight Museum from Southwest in Dallas (American Airlines also has a great museum called the CR Smith Museum that is currently closed due to COVID). Watch airplanes take off (pack your picnic lunch!) and listen to a radio that broadcasts communications from the FAA tower at Founder's Plaza. Experience farm life back in the day at Nash Farms in Grapevine. See Dallas from a bird's eye view at Reunion Tower. Try to figure out for yourself who killed JFK at the The Sixth Floor Museum and Dealey Plaza. Trick your mind at the Museum of Optical Illusions. (Also keep the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame right here in Arlington in mind, although it is also temporarily closed)

Be one with nature

Take your learning outside! We have some gorgeous spots in DFW to learn, explore and just relax! Take a stroll through the Dallas Arboretum and see how many different kinds of flowers you can name. Embark on a floral scavenger hunt through the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens. Learn about plants, vegetation and more at the River Legacy Living Science Center. Hike the trails, learn about butterflies and so much more at the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary.

Lastly, if you just need a spot for kiddos to get out of the house and stretch their imagination, check out PlayStudio Fort Worth, or one of the Playstreet Museums around the Metroplex. (Also put Spark Dallas on your must-visit list, although it is currently closed)

Hopefully this list will help you fill your days with your kiddos home virtually schooling and allow everyone to enjoy this temporary time in our lives! 

Friday, August 14, 2020

Roadtripping with Kids: Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri!

Missouri is definitely not the obvious choice for a summer road trip with kids- at least not from Dallas/Fort Worth! There are closer lakes, closer beaches, closer family-friendly destinations.

But if you've never been to Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, in the south central part of the state, it is worth considering the next time you decide to hit the road, with or without kiddos. The Lake of the Ozarks actually features more than 1,000 miles of shoreline- more than the state of California! Lake-goers can fish, water ski, jet ski, boat, play in the sand and so much more! Do I have you dreaming of a lake vacation yet?

Fun fact: Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, is consistently rated one of the top party lakes in the nation, but, trust me here, it's as fun with kids as without kids! Can you name the top party lake in the country? Hint: it's right here in Texas! (Scroll to the end for the answer)

I hadn't actually been to the lake since my college days, back when the lake was the place for Mizzou students to party on long weekends. It looks a bit different when you've got kids in tow, but it's such a fun spot all the same! 

A simple search of AirBnB pulls up lots of spots to rent, from condos to houses and apartments. There are also plenty of hotels around the lake- the The Lodge of Four Seasons was one that was often recommended to us and looks fabulous! We lucked out and were able to stay at a friend's lake house.

Lake of the Ozarks is about an 8.5 hour drive from Arlington. For those of you that think that's simply too far- Galveston is 6 hours, Orange Beach is 9 and Destin is 11. So it's not any further than lots of common Texas road trips. The drive takes your north through Oklahoma and then east through Missouri. The drive allows you to see some fun Oklahoma spots (casino, anyone?) as well as Springfield and Branson, Missouri! If your kids are anything like mine, they will start asking "are we there yet?" by the time you hit Durant.

The Lake of Ozarks website has lots of great information on what to do when you reach the water. We were able to jet ski daily thanks to my friends, but jet skis and boats are easily rentable from many spots and retailers on the lake. It's a busy lake! While we were able to zip around easily on Thursday and Friday, Saturday and Sunday brought choppy waters and boaters galore. Something to keep in mind if you are a novice boater. My girls absolutely loved jet skiing- it was such a fun way to see the lake! The lake is huge, and there are gorgeous homes and hotels and restaurants to observe. We enjoyed looking around from our jet skis the same way we love looking at different houses and neighborhoods from our cars!

My girls really loved pulling up to waterfront restaurants around the lake and eating and enjoying the ambiance. Our favorite spot is called Franky & Louie's. This waterfront spot was a place we could have hung at all day. There is ample outdoor seating, but get there early! F & L's has a beach with a small, shallow swimming area safe for kiddos to play in (there is a dock surrounding it on three sides). Kids can build sandcastles, play in the water, play sand volleyball, play Jenga or so many more activities. Parents can enjoy adult beverages and a full menu. And there is an ice cream stand (bring your cash, no cards at the ice cream shack!). You can access the restaurant from the water or land. Bring your beach towels and sand toys and lots and LOTS of sunscreen (there is no shade on the beach or water area, save for a few sparse umbrellas). But this is a spot where you can spend an afternoon kicking back and soaking up lake life!

A few other spots we loved: Dog Days Bar & Grill (two separate pools, one for adults, one for kids, plus live entertainment and dogs are welcome!); Nautifish Rum Bar (bring quarters for fish food so kids can feed the massive fish that hang out by the dock, play ping pong and shuffleboard plus catch live music); Backwater Jack's (pool for ages 10 and over, so keep this in mind, great food prices, fun ambiance). 

When you tire of the water, there is plenty to do on land! There are several spots to mini golf (check out Sugar Creek Mini Golf), multiple indoor arcades (Miner Mike's comes highly recommended to us!), lots of great shopping spots (hello Osage Beach Premium Outlets) and so much more! The Visit Missouri Website has so many great resources for planning an unforgettable trip! And, if you've never been to Branson, it is totally worth a stop for kids and adults alike!

Let the EA crew know if you've been to Missouri lately and what we missed in terms of fun things to do with kids! We are pretty partial to the Show Me State (I met my husband at the University of Missouri- Go Tigers!), but we genuinely think that the Lake of  the Ozarks (and Branson) is worth a trip. 

The number one party lake in the nation is Lake Travis in Austin. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Cherokee Trace: A Wild East Texas Safari Adventure!

Drive-thru safaris are probably my newest quarantine-appropriate favorite activity!

We've been to Bearizona in William, Arizona (right near the Grand Canyon). We've driven through the Badlands National Park in South Dakota and stopped while buffalo crossed in front of our car.

And now, we've been to Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari in Jacksonville, Texas, about 150 miles from Arlington.

Honestly, it's the perfect day trip for DFW kiddos. The park is open from 10 am to 6 pm daily (except Sunday, when the park opens at 1 pm). Admission is $16.95 per adult and $11.95 for kids. Each admission includes a bag of feed for the animals. 

We pulled up to the park at 10:15 am because we new we wanted to beat the heat. We drove through the park at 10 miles per hour with all the windows down. The park was quite shady, and my temperature gauge in my car only reported 87 degrees... But I recommend going early so you aren't fighting with the heat of a Texas afternoon!

The drive takes you about an hour and a half, and during that time you will come to face to face with a variety of fun animals! We saw deer, ostriches, llamas, alpacas, zebras and so much more. The animals are SUPER friendly and walk right up to your car. Most aren't afraid to stick their heads in if they are tall enough! It can actually be a little bit intimidating- prepare your kids ahead of time to avoid tears! 

We had a blast checking this place out. I did not get any sort of discounted admission- we paid $55, which is the price for one adult and three kids. We found that the four bags of food included with admission were plenty, but you can purchase additional feed bags for $3 each. There are portapotties available at the start and finish of the safari.

Cherokee Trace is a bit of a drive from Arlington, but we do have some recommendations! Pack a lunch (or grab a drive-thru lunch in Jacksonville when you finish your safari) and eat it at Lover's Lookout, a gorgeous rest stop with pretty views about 15 miles from the safari. 

Plan a few other stops! You could plan to go on a weekend when First Mondays are happening in Canton and shop one day and safari the next! You could also stop at Splash Kingdom waterpark or Yesterland Amusement park, both located on I20 not far from Canton. If you are a country music fan, Miranda Lambert's Pink Pistol Boutique is about 55 miles away in Lindale. The drive-thru safari is also not far from Tyler, where the entertainment possibilities are endless! And did you see my post about The Waterpark at the Villages? Watch for it to reopen (thanks, covid!) and you can safari in the morning and waterpark in the afternoon!

What East Texas adventures am I missing?