Category - Travel

A Visit to the North Carolina Zoo – Travel Tips

This is NOT a paid post. Thank you NC Zoo for hosting our family for this trip. All opinions are honest thoughts from MommyB Knows Best.

 

Imagine walking around on a beautiful day enjoying time with your family surrounded by some of the most incredible animals nature has to see.

Our family had the opportunity to visit the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro recently and we wanted to share our experience with you. In this blog series you’ll find out helpful travel tips, learn more about the zoo and it’s different areas, and hear about upcoming events.

 

For this first post we will focus on some travel tips we have for visiting the zoo.

Getting Around the Zoo

The North Carolina Zoo is an expansive zoo that houses many different animals. It should take around 4-6 hours to visit the entire park. Touted as the worlds largest zoo there’s no surprise that when you visit there will be a fair amount of walking involved.

Major animal habitats provide a good amount of space to roam around and not feel as confined. Habitats are roughly 8 minutes walking distance from one to the other. It’s a good idea to wear comfortable walking shoes and take plenty of breaks. There are some areas to sit, take advantage of those with a short break, enjoy the scenery and check out where you’re headed next on the map.

Strollers and wheelchairs are permitted and strollers are highly recommended for little ones to offer a break from walking. These items are also available for rental on a first-come, first-served basis at the Earth Explorer Gift Shop and Safari Gift Shop.

The park offers tram cars and buses inside the park and I would encourage your family to make use of them when possible, especially when weather conditions are hot or if you have very young or elderly guests.

Parking

Parking is free and there is also a free shuttle that operates from 11:am to 5:30pm during peak tourist season. We got to the park pretty early and had a very easy time parking and were able to have a short walk to the park.

Tickets & Fun Tickets

Single ticket costs are $15 per adult, $13 per senior, and $11 ages, 2-12, ages 2 and under free. (*ticket price subject to change). For us this was a very reasonable cost for entry because of how large the park is and what we were able to see. You can check out ticket pricing and get yours HERE.

AAA, SEANC and military members receive general admission discount with member identification.

If you think you will want to visit several times a year, park memberships may be purchased through the North Carolina Zoological Society.

During peak visiting season you can save by purchasing fun tickets in bulk. Whether your kiddos would like to ride the Carousel, hang out on the Giraffe Deck, or your family would like to make use of the Paddleboats or sit in and watch the latest move at the 4D Theater, there’s something for everyone. *Some attractions are weather dependent.

We used our Fun tickets for Rio 4D and it was a great experience, got us out of the heat and was something fun for the whole family.

Food

There are picnic areas open outside the park and several restaurants and snack shops and food/drink carts located throughout the park.

Our family dined at Billy D’s Fried Chicken restaurant. We loved the idea of a sustainable meal. While sustainable and farm-to-table are buzz words these days it really is neat to know where your food is coming from and knowing that it’s benefiting local vendors. When we visited they had recently opened and we were excited to try their yummy offerings. The waffle fries were a family favorite and I loved the dill in the ranch dressing. If you’re looking for food that everyone will enjoy but have a fun twist, definitely check out Billy D’s.

Shows & Attractions

The NC Zoo features regular feedings, check the feeding times for each animal as they vary. While we didn’t experience this first hand I can only imagine how neat it would be to check out.

If you’re looking for some adventure the park also offers the Air Hike Ropes Course for a nominal fee. Height restrictions apply and activity is weather dependent.

Another new attraction that we were able to check out during our visit was the Birds in Flight Bird Show. This show is around 25 minutes of feathered-fun! We saw funny birds, beautiful birds, talented birds and loved the audience interaction. This is a show that’s great for the entire family! Tickets are $3 per person over age 2 and well worth the cost. A great chance to relax, laugh, and see some beautiful birds.

 

Head HERE for more park tips and purchase your tickets!

 

In our next posts we will highlight favorite parts of our trip in both of the zoo sections, North American and Africa.You won’t want to miss it so make sure you subscribe!

 

Have you ever visited? If so, what are your tips for visiting?

Have any questions about the zoo? Head to my Facebook page!

Family Friendly Holidays in Charlotte

Having lived in Charlotte for 10 years, our family has been able to create memorable holiday traditions. We also love that new activities and creative events that are popping up each year. Here are some of our favorites that we wanted to share with you!

 

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Holidays at the Garden

This destination is one of our favorite must-visit locations during the holidays {and other times of the year too}. If you are looking for a family tradition, Holidays at the Garden is an event where you’ll be able to make memories for years to come.

Children will look forward to filling out their passport when they complete fun holiday-themed games located around the garden and parents will love the beauty of the lights and spending time around a fire with their family.

With light features changing each year everyone in your family is bound to find a favorite, or two. While the stunning lights may be what brings you to Daniel Stowe this time of year, the live music, fairy village, and ambiance of roasting s’mores over the fire will keep you coming back year after year.

There are several food and snack options there are including food trucks, beverage bars, and of course it wouldn’t be the holidays without some amazingly sweet goodies. This year Sproutycakes Bakery greeted us again with a huge array of Christmas yumminess.

{Check them out: Sproutycakes Facebook and tell them we sent you, you can thank us later.}

While you will definitely want to bundle up, DSBG has done a great job of creating warm spaces for your family whether it’s the roaring fire pits, or the warmth and beauty of the Orchid Conservatory.

Additional activities include horse-drawn carriage rides, visit with Mrs. Claus, and Capture the Magic with Santa. *Some pre-registrations and payments required, please check the website for details.

To check out more details or purchase tickets online at a discounted rate for Holidays at the Garden at Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens head HERE.

 

Carowinds

WinterFest

WinterFest is an all-new immersive holiday entertainment tradition, opening select evenings through December 30th.

WinterFest transforms the park into a winter wonderland adorned with more that five million holiday lights, a beautiful 70-foot Christmas tree and festive décor displayed throughout the park.

These words and picture alone do not do the park justice, they really went all out and several park goers outside of our party were in awe.

We loved how the park was divided into different themed areas from Charlie Brown’s™ Christmas Town to Jingle Bell Boardwalk, the ever-so-sweet Candy Cane Lane, and who can forget Celebration Plaza where it all kicks off.

WinterFest activities include a nightly tree lighting, live holiday shows and strolling performers, up to 16 family rides, a special holiday menu, a live nativity and 38-animal petting zoo, falling snow, and so much more!

Additional activities include taking a picture with Santa at St. Nick’s Pics*, decorating cookies with Mrs. Claus*, creating take-home keepsakes at Sally Brown’s Christmas Crafts, , skating on Snowflake Lake* and horse-drawn carriage rides*. *The activities listed may require advance ticket purchase or ticket purchase on-site.

The PEANUTS™ gang, and wonderful winter characters are all decked out in Holiday Spirit {except for Scrooge} and the joy is pretty contagious. With the help of some cheerful elves, Miss C and other excited children, wrote a letter to Santa at the North Pole Post Office.

 

Our family loved the singing and dancing featured in Charlie Brown’s™ Christmas Spectacular, and it was a great way to warm up the entire group, not to mention a fun way to get into the holiday spirit. All through the park is festive, live entertainment both indoors and outdoors.

If you’re anything like our coaster-loving family, you’ll want to take advantage of some extra ride time this season. With up to 16 rides, including Afterburn there’s sure to be a ride for family members of every age and thrill level.

Carowinds’ hasn’t forgotten the holiday treats. There are 20 new menu items just for WinterFest, including Turducken burgers, gourmet mac and cheese, gingerbread-eggnog and chocolate-peppermint funnel cakes, and homemade hot chocolate. {Buy your souvenir mug and get free refills on your day of purchase and $1 refills for return visits.}

Who would have thought, shoppers can browse for gifts at WinterFest too. My favorite section are the booths by local vendors at Artisan Alley. If you’re looking for stocking stuffers, or ugly sweaters, the park has those too!

**Don’t forget, guests can visit WinterFest once for free when they purchase a 2018 gold or platinum season pass.

Otherwise, grab your advance-purchase tickets, and check out all the details at carowinds.com.

Billy Graham Library

Christmas at the Library

If you’re looking for a faith-based Christmas tradition Billy Graham Library is rich with history. Parking and admission are FREE. The library is known for it’s year-round Journey of Faith that creatively tells the journey of Billy Graham {this may be a feature you want to save if you have pre-school aged children}. During the holidays the library comes alive –literally– with a delightful live nativity.

Enjoy the sleigh bells jingling while you take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the library grounds {for an additional fee}, or make your reservations for Christmas Dinner and enjoy time with your loved ones.

We loved hearing the different carolers and musical groups that were featured while drinking a hot cup of cocoa. We haven’t been this year, but in previous years the only thing that was a little let down was the food selection and taste. You may want to consider dining out before or after your visit.

Find out more details about your upcoming visit to Christmas at the Library.

Founders Hall – Uptown Charlotte

Leonard Bearstein Orchestra


The Leonard Bearstein Orchestra is located in uptown Charlotte at Founders Hall in the Bank of America Building. This is a fun event to attend, especially if you have little ones. This full animatronic orchestra perform from on the hour from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. With the exception of Christmas Day.

Founders Hall also has some restaurants, places to grab a quick bite or coffee, and shops if you are planning on making the visit a longer trip.

**Occasionally, a regularly scheduled performance may not take place due to a special event in the hall. As a parent it’s always good to have a back up plan just in case. I always recommend 7th Street Market, ImaginOn, and the Light Rail.

Head here to view the schedule: Bearstein Orchestra

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Speedway Christmas

Speedway Christmas is definitely one of the must-visits if you haven’t been or if you are new to the area. Surprising to me, I’ve found that people either love the experience or don’t. My family personally really enjoys this Charlotte Holiday event, but if you have anyone who doesn’t like being in the car for an extended period of time they may not enjoy this selection as much. {We haven’t used it but have heard that the fast pass to skip the line is worth the additional fee.} There are several days and times that the speedway is less busy and lines are shorter.

We like to go on a day we feel will be less busy, but also one that still has the Christmas Village experience. In the past the village has had an opportunity to visit Santa, purchase Holiday gifts from local vendors, and enjoy yummy food and treats.

In a previous year we’ve enjoyed the nativity/Bethlehem experience and our girls always love the petting zoo filled with a variety of adorable animals. Often times there will be additional activities for an extra charge like carnival and horse rides.

Get your tickets and more information here: Speedway Christmas

 

While this is a pretty long list of some of our family favorites, we have others and know that you do too. Please comment and let us know your favorite local areas to spend the holidays with your family. Also tell us if you agree or disagree, we want to hear from you!!

Thank you to Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens and Carowinds for hosting us this holiday season!!

Carowinds KidsFest Celebration

A couple of weekends ago we had the privilege of attending Carowinds’ KidsFest with our family. Although it was only for that weekend, I can assure you the many times we have been to Carowinds and hosted events this is certainly a theme park that has a lot of activities and rides for children of all ages.

While we were at Carowinds, we were able to watch and participate in singing and dancing at Harmony Hall midway with our favorite PEANUTS™ characters. We took a break from the head to color under some shade that was provided by The Community Blood Center of the Carolinas (CBCC). We also got hands on with with Atomz Lab, learning about earth worms and physics. The nice people at Cabela’s taught us some safe ways to shoot arrows and C even got to try her hand at shooting foam-tipped arrows at floating targets.

One of my favorite parts of our day was the opportunity to meet local heroes. We were able to meet and thank the Flint Hill Fire Department, and people really enjoyed checking out the police car and appreciating Officers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD).

Unfortunately due to rain, we missed Disney Junior’s musical act Choo Choo Soul, but they did still perform at PEANUTS™ Showplace, and everyone who attended had an amazing time.

The only thing I felt could have been more kid-friendly was the DJ music as it seemed to cater more to the adults, but overall the entire event was a blast. We saw kids hula hooping, enjoying Planet Snoopy rides, and also loved the pop-up vendors and games.

We hope that Carowinds continues to host more kid-friendly events and look forward to those already scheduled.

 

What are your thoughts on Carowinds when it comes to younger children? Would love to hear your feedback.

This is not a sponsored post. We received media passes in order to experience and give our honest thoughts. All opinions are that of MommyBKnowsBest.com, each individual experience may vary.

Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Field Trip

We received admission for the children in attendance to be able to experience and write our thought about Sea Life. The experiences and opinions in this post are that of MommyBKnowsBest.com and attendees.

 

 

Miss C’s first grade class has been studying the ocean, focusing on different ocean zones, and sea animals. Their most recent project asked them to choose something that lives in the ocean and become an expert on that animal. Children chose sand dollars, blue whales, giant squid, sea otters, and more. They were also challenged to find ways that these animals were being harmed and figure out a way to help them.

Sea Life Aquariums not only help to educate people about sea animals but they too are helping the ocean to thrive. Their motto: Breed, Rescue, Protect is exactly what they do. We felt with the current unit, going to Sea Life for a first grade field trip was the perfect fit.

 

Sea Life has a lot of great offerings for field trips for schools, pre-schools, homeschoolers and many other groups. We were able to learn that Sea Life is part of the largest seahorse breeding network in the world. At the Charlotte-Concord, North Carolina location, Catherine, our guide was incredibly helpful in tips on finding the octopus, and shared with us all about the new turtle shelter.

 

 

Throughout our visit we were able to enjoy talks where we learned in-depth about sea animals living at Sea Life. We even got to see the manta ray and other fish and sharks being fed by a trained Aquarist while Kathy talked to us about methods of feeding and what breeds were in the tank.

 

 

Sea Life offers great group rates, educational workshops, and behind-the-scenes tours whether you’re learning about the ocean and sea life or just looking for a great field trip where kids will learn AND have fun at the same time. Check out their website to find more information on group tickets, field trips, and more: www.SeaLife.com

 

 

What’s In My Diaper Bag? – Diaper Bag Essentials

This is a sponsored post with Beech-Nut brand, however all opinions are my own, honest thoughts.

 

Let’s face it moms are always on-the-go, whether it’s doctor’s appointments, playdates, or running errands. It’s so hard to try to remember the list of things to bring with you as you scramble to make it out the door. Organization and pre-planning go a long way in the mommy world, and while it’s not possible to plan everything {ie, diaper blowouts, or traffic jams; both equally horrible}, there are some things that you can plan that are easy and will simplify your life.

Today’s What’s in My Diaper Bag? – Diaper Bag Essentials post isn’t an absolute list, it’s a list to get you started in the right direction and allows you to make changes that will fit your family and personal on-the-go needs.

Playtime

The type of toy will vary depending on your child’s age, but generally speaking choose toys that are easily washable. You already know those toys are going straight to the ground. Sophie la Girafe Teether** {pictured above} is a must-have diaper bag toy. She’s easy to find in stores and can be wiped down quickly {don’t use her as a bath toy}.

Some fabric toys that wrap around the carseat or shopping cart are great too. {Always look for machine-washable to save yourself some time and stress.}

Mealtime

Easy travel dining ware, like pop-up bowls and disposable flatware are great for meals on the go.

I also highly recommend easy snacks. We’re pretty mindful of what our kids are eating and compare brands to see which are the healthiest and Beech-Nut** really stands out. Not only are their baby and toddler snacks and cereals real ingredients, but they are super portable and a great addition to your diaper bag essentials.

 

Check out their Naturals™ and Organics™ lines:

 

Don’t forget the two-in-one highchair/shopping cart cover like this multi-colored Eddie Bauer Reversible Cart & High Chair Cover**. We loved ours and highly recommend keeping one in your diaper bag. {Opt for darker colors to hide stains.}

While we are at it, I love these Tommee Tippee Closer To Nature Milk Feeding Bib the unique dribble catcher absorbs moisture and is ideal for drips or teething and they’re reversible as well.

Changing time

Of course diapers and wipes are important, we heart Pampers brand. Be sure to put a few diapers in your bag, get a travel wipes case, and remember to check every so often to refill.

Changing Pads often come with diaper bags but personally I’ve always been hesitant to use them because I feel like they may not be super clean, I typically go with disposable options and you can find earth-friendly versions as well.

Don’t feel like carrying a dirty diaper around in your diaper bag? Yuck! I highly recommend having the handy Munchkin Arm & Hammer Diaper Bag Dispenser & Bags** attached to your diaper bag at all times. It clips on to the strap AND smells great.

 

 

Remember the extra change of clothes for when messes occur, trust me you’ll thank me later.

Mommy time

It’s always nice to have a few things for mom stashed away in your diaper bag. Remember some bottled water, a quick snack, extra clothes, and maybe even some shower wipes to freshen up a bit. If you can sneak a good book or magazine in, GO YOU!!

Healthy time

Disinfect the world. Okay I know some germs are good, but for public places and unexpected stops I love a good disinfecting wipe. Yep, I’m that mom.

You can buy a set of nail clippers, a thermometer, all your baby’s health needs separately, but why when you can get everything in a complete set that comes with a great little bag to keep everything in one place in your diaper bag. Love this set by Safety 1st. Check out their Deluxe Healthcare & Grooming Kit**.

Okay on this last one, I have not personally tried this but feel like I have seen parents in a standing ovation over this health product. Ladies, and gents, I give you the Fridababy NoseFrida® Nasal Aspirator**. Again, people swear by it and reviews on shopping sites are pretty impressive.

 

And don’t forget the cute Oh Joy!® Backpack Diaper Bag** that’s super stylish and just the right size to hold all your essentials and not be overwhelmingly large.

 

So tell me, What’s In Your Diaper Bag? No, seriously, I really want to know! Leave a comment below, can’t wait to see what your must-haves are.