Rockwood Park in Chesterfield, VA

IMG_1594If you live around the Richmond, VA area you have to check out Rockwood Park in Chesterfield County.  While visiting Tech buddies in Richmond at the end of June we set out for Rockwood Park Nature Center’s annual Honeybee Festival and everyone (kids and adults) fell in love with this park!

Rockwood Park is located at 3401 Courthouse Road in Chesterfield County near the intersection of Hull Street Rd.  While the festival vendors were setting up outside, we stepped inside the park’s nature center and got to see a whole lot of slithering, crawling, squirming and buzzing animals.  The kids got to see several types of snakes (including a copperhead and corn snake), turtles (including a gigantic snapping turtle), bull frogs, a large iguana, and a live bee exhibit.  All of the permanent exhibits were at levels great for little ones to see all the action.  With the Honeybee Festival going on outside there was a very knowledgeable and friendly bee expert who described bee keeping to us and pointed out the queen bee in the hive exhibit.  This center also has a great reading nook with nature books and kid-size table with coloring activities.

IMG_1604After spending at least 30 minutes in the center, we headed outside to enjoy the bee festival activities.  The friendly staff helped the kids make pipe cleaner bee crafts and plant flowers.  Then they enjoyed listening to bee themed stories and having bees painted on their hands.  After exhausting the storyteller’s books we headed out across the field to explore the playground area.

IMG_0113The playground area is made for kids mostly 5 years and up, but that didn’t stop these almost 2-year olds and 4-year old from playing.   The playground has a small slide for younger kids that is connected to higher play areas by monkey bars.  There are several more climbing areas connected by ladders with access to twisty and straight slides.  With the recent rains the kids happily discovered the large mud puddle at the bottom of the twisty slide.  Tot swings and regular swings are nearby and several benches and picnic tables are also located in the playground area.  The entire area is mostly shaded by tall, mature trees and there are several more amenities (such as a dog park, pickleball courts, baseball fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, pavilions) adjacent to the playground.  As someone who has spent a lot of time visiting family and friends in Chesterfield, I am excited to explore more parks in this area.

For a complete list of the amenities at Rockwood Park, see the County of Chesterfield website.

Thumbs up: live animals at nature center, friendly staff, variety of activities for young kids, shady playground area

Thumbs down: poor drainage near playground

Garner Groundhog Day 2013 @ White Deer Park

img_2612A few months ago we ventured south to Garner, NC to take in our first Groundhog Day celebration!  And, what a unique celebration it was!  I don’t think I’d ever seen so many different and unusual things to do at one town park at the same time.  We did everything from visit with rescued birds, pet reptiles and amphibians, play on the natural playground, watch local mascots compete in a dance competition, and cheer on the release of rehabilitated hawks.  Due to a hungry and restless child and husband we left before Mortimer the Groundhog made his prediction about the spring weather.  Based on the actual weather from the past several weeks, we all know the winter weather stuck around far too long this year!

White Deer Park is located at 2400 Aversboro Rd in Garner.  This park features a nature center, playground, pavilions, large open field, and paved walking trails.  Visit the Town of Garner website for more information about this park.

Thumbs up: unique community event, variety of animals on display, family-friendly event, natural playground area, dancing mascots (best part)

Thumbs down: lack of food/drink vendors

Here are some pictures from our adventures that morning at White Deer Park:


NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island

img_1973Another part of our Nags Head vacation involved a rainy day trip to the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island.  The aquarium is about 10-15 minutes from south Nags Head and is located near Dare Co airport on the northern side of Roanoke Island at 374 Airport Rd. Manteo, NC 27954.  Everyone joined us on this fun adventure, which proved to be a great time, even for the over 1-year old crew.  Being that it was a Sunday and after Labor Day, the crowds were small and we were able to walk briskly through the museum in about an hour.  The NC aquariums are a division of the  North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and with admission fees of $8 for adults and free for kids under 2, it was a great deal for a rainy day event.

We started off checking out the inhabitants of the freshwater creeks and rivers, which included various fish, otters, alligators, and turtles.  Ashley was completely in awe of all these animals.  We then headed into the saltwater exhibits where the variety of animals exploded!  We saw dozens of fish, horseshoe crabs, stingrays (which you can touch), sea turtles (complete with an entire rescue exhibit), an octopus, sea urchins and so much more! One of the coolest exhibits was the stingray tank where you can lean over and feel the ray’s backs as they scoot around.

img_1992After the saltwater exhibits, we visited the 285,000 gallon, 81 degree Deep Ocean tank!  This fish tank is home to several different species of fish and sharks, including sand tiger sharks, sandbar sharks, nurse sharks and more!  We happened to arrive at the perfect time when a diver was swimming with the sharks and answering questions from the audience.  In addition to this program, there are several other interesting programs the aquarium offers.

After the Deep Ocean exhibit, we hit up the museum store to buy some fun souvenirs and then headed outside to explore the fossil hunt exhibit and take some fun pics on the sea turtle statues.  The aquarium overlooks the Croatan Sound, which would make a great picnic spot on a nice day.  There is also a small vendor on-site with food and drink options.  However, we headed back into Manteo to admire the docked boats and then to enjoy delicious beers and lunch at Full Moon Cafe & Brewery.  The food and atmosphere were the perfect combination for this first vacation day!

For photos of downtown Manteo near the water, check out my old post on Roanoke Island.

Thumbs up: variety of fish and animals at aquarium, diving with the sharks program, beautiful views of sound, lunch/beers at Full Moon Cafe & Brewery

Thumbs down: nothing to report