Saturday, August 6, 2016

Raleigh/Durham Day Trip

We spent yesterday visiting some incredible museums in the Raleigh/Durham area, all free thanks to our Discovery Place membership. Immediately after breakfast, we drove two hours to the Museum of Life and Science. The kids and I explored the outdoor exhibits of this museum in April. They had so much fun I knew we had to return this summer. Once again, the museum did not disappoint! 

We first explored the tree houses, which are connected by a series of rope bridges and slides. Maddie befriended a slightly older girl who took her by the hand.

The trio waded in the nearby creek while Jackson continued to play in the tree houses. There was a butterfly release at 11 so we made our way to the butterfly garden. Amelia was so excited because she was wearing her butterfly dress. The release was anti-climatic, mostly because the garden was crowded and uncomfortably humid. On the way out, Jackson got to hold a tarantula. I thought he might change his mind once he sat down but he was strangely happy holding the fuzzy arachnid.

We continued the path to walk on the dinosaur trail. The kids gleefully pointed out each of the dinosaurs and requested pictures with them.

Our picnic lunch was taken over by yellow jackets. Thankfully everyone ate without getting stung. Our next stop was the misty play area. The kids and I did not visit this area last time. Jesse and I were both surprised at how dense the fog was, as well as how filthy the kids became! After getting wet, then playing in the muddy tunnels, they required sponge baths in the bathroom. Jackson had a tough time following directions about wearing shoes, causing him to sit out for a bit. Otherwise, this was one of the favorite play areas of the day.

We chose to forgo the long boardwalk to see lemurs and bears. Instead, we stopped by the farm exhibit before going inside.

The indoor exhibits provided refreshing air conditioning and more objects to manipulate. Jesse and I took turns taking kids to the restroom over and over again. The girls did great but James has completely regressed in regards to potty training. Everyone enjoyed the indoor areas, though we were losing steam at this point in the day.

The kids played hard for nearly four hours. We loaded everyone in the van and drove to Raleigh. All four kids slept almost the entire 40 minute drive. Our next stop was the NC Museum of Natural Science. This museum is geared towards older children and adults, but it still kept the kids' interest. Some of the highlights include the whale fossil and a deep sea simulation.

Of course the most exciting exhibit and reason we came was to see the dinosaur fossils. Unlike other museums we've visited, these fossils were made from real dinosaur bones, not just models. It was pretty incredible for the kids to stand next to such large structures. Amelia cracked me up with her reaction to the baby dinosaurs. Everytime she sees anything baby related (human, duck, dinosaur, etc) she squeals, "Look at the baby" in an adorable high pitched voice.

Not pictured is the insectarium, which provided another source of entertainment.We witnessed giant, live grasshoppers mating, enormous centipedes crawling, black widows hiding, and more.

On our way back to the van, Jesse decided to take us into the NC Museum of History. Again, we spent an equal amount of time in the bathroom vs in the exhibits. I'm not sure how much the trio got out of this museum, but the rest of us were really intrigued. Some of the more memorable artifacts included medical supplies from the Civil War and a fully recreated drug store from the 1920's. Each of the kids wanted the display ice cream and candy.

The museums close at 5, which worked out well for us to eat dinner. Jesse navigated us to our trusted favorite, CiCi's.
A few miscellaneous things I should note:
  • Despite paying an astronomical repair fee this past May, the air conditioning in our van has once again stopped working. The heat was not just uncomfortable; it was unsafe. We had no choice but to roll the windows down, which created a very loud ride. Maddie tolerated the wind, likely because it provided some relief.
  • James did not pee or poop in the potty once the entire day. He did, however, require multiple wardrobe changes, even with the training pants and plastic underwear. Jesse and I are beyond frustrated.  I would not care if it wasn't for the pressure of preschool requirements. On the other hand, I can't remember the last time Amelia or Maddie had an accident. 

Our final stop on the museum tour was Marbles Kids Museum. We saved this museum for last because it was open until 7 pm. We had roughly 45 minutes to investigate the different play areas. This children's museum did not disappoint! From musical stairs to multi-tiered pirate ships, the kids had a blast.

I think Jesse and I enjoyed watching the kids' excitement as much as the kids enjoyed playing. We will most definitely return to this museum.

We changed the kids into pajamas in the van, knowing they would fall asleep on the way home. Once again, the ride was uncomfortably warm and muggy. It was nearly 10 pm when we returned home and all six of us guzzled a cup of water as soon as we got home. Clearly we'll be taking the van back to the mechanic before going on any more adventures.

Despite a few hiccups to our day, it was an overwhelmingly fun, educational trip with so many engaging things to do and see. The fact that is was all free was a huge bonus.

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