I wanted to take one last trip this summer, so I convinced Jesse to spend the night in Asheville on Tuesday. We found a cheap hotel room on Priceline and used a Visa gift card I've been saving for the hotel and gas expenses. The plan was to leave right after speech therapy, but it ended up being closer to 3pm before we were finally on the interstate. We returned at 8 pm the following day. Here's what we managed to cram into our overnight trip:
French Broad River Greenway
It was after 5pm when we arrived in Asheville. We checked into the hotel and I dropped our bags off in the room while Jesse stayed in the van with the kids and googled a nearby place to play. The greenway was minutes from our hotel. I was hoping there would be easier access for everyone to play in the river, but the hills were very steep. Jackson and I briefly waded in the river and rock-hopped while Jesse and the trio collected sticks. It was a nice chance to run around and stretch our legs after being cooped up in the van.
Our carefree moods took a turn while searching for a place to eat. Jesse's phone died and my internet wasn't working after I installed the latest phone update. We roamed around without direction, trying to find a place where kids eat free. At last, we settled upon Applebee's. Up to two kids eat for 99 cents each with every paying adult. The waitstaff was very accommodating and seated us in a large corner booth. Every table had a tablet with games for kids to play. The best part about having so many kids is being able to order four different meals and let everyone share. The kids had an impressive spread of food.
Our hotel was more than adequate, especially for the cheap price. It was after the trio's bedtime, but still daylight, when we finally found our way back to the hotel. We changed James, Amelia, and Maddie and attempted to get them settled for bed. Jackson and I played in the pool. I forgot his puddlejumper, so he was attached to me the whole time. James fell asleep in the hotel crib, but the girls were wide awake. Jesse put the girls in bed together. Every time Maddie began to fall asleep, Amelia would yell, "wake up". Jackson and I shared a bed. The girls fell asleep in a bed with Jesse, though Maddie was eventually moved to a crib.
The continental breakfast was sufficient. The kids did surprisingly well considering there was only one high chair and we let them drink from open cups.
We spent the morning perusing the streets of downtown. The only thing on my agenda was finding a church where I could light a candle for a triplet mom friend. It was the one year anniversary of her 11 month old son's passing, and a huge loss in our 2013 triplet community. We parked outside a gorgeous basilica and reverently toured inside. After lighting the candle and saying a prayer, we continued walking around downtown, stopping at various art museums, statues, and stores. No mountain visit is complete without a candy stop. Thankfully Asheville also has a Mast General Store.
Western North Carolina Nature Center
A quick phone call confirmed that our Discovery Place membership was accepted at the Nature Center, meaning our family would receive free admission. We spent several hours admiring wildlife in their natural habitats. The facility was very well organized, clean, and spacious. There were slides, aquariums, a picnic area, and a petting zoo. There was a staffed area where you could hold a snake and turtle. The animal exhibits were well designed. Unlike a traditional zoo, there were walkways and bridges where you could observe the animals from different angles instead of only peering through glass windows. I felt at one with the black bears. Needless to say, we really enjoyed our experience at the Nature Center.
Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education
A friend recommended we check out the fish hatchery off the Parkway. Our phone navigator took us a different route through Brevard. I loved the fact that it was free, but it wasn't an especially entertaining activity for the trio. Most of the time there wasn't anything for the kids to do or see besides walk through a forest. The fish hatchery was neat, but we didn't realize the fish food was in a quarter machine and we didn't have any change with us. I would have been disappointed if we drove 30 minutes just for the fish. Thankfully we found more entertainment a few minutes away.
Cradle of Forestry
The same friend also recommended this sight, which was a school for forestry in the late 1800's. I ran inside to check the place out before we decided to go inside. Apparently there is no admission fee after 4 pm, so that made our decision easier. The museum offered plenty to do for the kids. There were interactive play areas, exhibits with extremely realistic mannequins, and a helicopter simulator over a forest fire. Outside there were multiple paved trails you could take. If we'd had more time we would have taken the longer trail that included a sawmill and steam locomotive. We took the shorter trail through the original school campus. We explored the one-room schoolhouse, general store, and cabin.
Looking Glass Falls
In between the fish hatchery and forestry school, we passed a waterfall. Much like every adventure, Jesse didn't want to stop but he begrudgingly went along with my pleas. The descent to the waterfall required walking down hundreds of stairs. Jesse kept the trio on the lowest platform so Jackson and I could walk along the rocks and play in the water. When the kids get older we can return with our bathing suits and swim under the falls. The water was cold, refreshing, and exhilarating. Jackson adventurously led the way.
Unfortunately, we couldn't stay long since it was hard to occupy the trio and keep them away from the rocks. While walking back up the slippery rocks, a middle-aged woman fell, breaking her fall with her face. Jesse described it by saying, "It sounded like someone dropped a cantaloupe onto a sidewalk." We left while others were attending to the woman.
We pushed our limits and totally lucked out.
-The only nap the trio had was the half hour car ride from the Nature Center to the fish hatchery, yet they were cooperative and playful the entire trip.
-I never even checked the weather forecast in advance, but it was a cool 80 degrees the entire time.
-No one was injured, despite many opportunities to fall on stairs, rocks, and bodies of water. (Obviously we do everything we can to prevent such falls, but accidents happen, especially with four young children.)
-Our trip was cheaper than we expected. We didn't spend a single dime on any entertainment. Our dinner was discounted; breakfast was free, lunch was a packed picnic, and dinner on the way home was a quick fast food stop. We were able to use the gift card to cover almost all expenses.
As we were having a ton of fun exploring the mountains, it dawned on me that overnight trips don't have to be reserved for summertime only. For so many years I've equated "mountains" with "Boone", since that's where Jesse and I spent our college years. Our trip to Asheville was a great reminder that there are many mountain adventures we've been neglecting. We are fortunate to have dozens of cool places to visit within a few hours radius of Charlotte. My mind is already turning trying to plan various trips throughout the year.