Even though we weren't spending the night, I still packed two bathing suits, 3 outfits, and pajamas for each child, as well as towels, blankets, sand toys, swimming floats, food, etc. We started loading everything up at 4:30 a.m. and were on the road by 5 a.m. It was an easy, quiet drive. We pulled over once we got closer to eat breakfast (yogurt, bagels, apple).
We parked in one of the many public parking areas, changed into bathing suits, and were on the beach by 10 a.m.
We were the only people on the beach for most of the morning.
There were random clouds and a dozen or so rain drops. The mild weather and secluded beach was quite pleasant.
I don't know why Maddie demanded to wear her puddle jumper. The second her toes hit the water she ran back to the sand. She did not return to the ocean once the rest of the day.
The boys, on the other hand, were impossible to keep out of the water. James was especially brave, getting knocked over by waves, then laughing.
Jackson was slightly more cautious, but still adventurous.
Amelia spent the better part of the morning sulking with Jesse. She cried, "I want to go home".
I eventually won her over by drawing a giant Amelia in the sand. After that, the kids requested pictures in the sand and drew their own scribbles and train tracks.
Then we chased birds, which seems to be a favorite pastime for children.
Finally, Amelia decided to play in the water. Once she was in the ocean, it was hard to get her out! Unfortunately, once she was happy, Maddie started crying and rolling in the sand, requesting to leave.
Our lowest point of the day was leaving the beach. It was 11:30 at this point and the beachgoers were gathering. The temperature was also rising considerably, making us hot, tired, and thirsty. We spent about 20 minutes sweating, cursing, crying, and eventually not speaking at all. Here is why:
- Jesse had to carry a screaming Maddie to the van because she was so over the beach.
- On the way to the van there was an enormous buried drain pipe. The tunnel was between two embankments of sand. James ran directly towards it, saying, "Look, I go in tunnel!" I had to chase after him in the thick sand and wrestle him.
- Amelia followed us. She couldn't climb up the sand walls and was crying because she was stuck. (Of course she could have gone out and walked around.)
- While the public beach access is convenient, it lacks hoses, showers, etc. All six of us were covered head to toe in sand. It was impossible to brush off. We had to all get dressed in the van and shake off sand everywhere. We used up all our drinking water trying to rinse off. It was miserable!
Morale was low, but we proceeded to the nearby aquarium as planned. Admission was free because of our NC Zoo membership. We were not at all impressed by the actual aquarium. In fact, the kids would have been just as entertained at Bass Pro Shop.
The touch tank was a plus.
The aquarium was dark and crowded with lots of turns. James kept running away and the kids were going in different directions, so Jesse and I were in a hurry to leave the indoor exhibits.
The reason I included the aquarium on our agenda was because they have an outdoor dinosaur walk. It featured a half dozen animatronic dinosaurs. The kids loved it!
There was an archaeology site where kids could find fossils, as well as a playground.
Adjacent to the aquarium is Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. Lo and behold, there were bathrooms, showers, beach access, shaded picnic tables, water fountains, etc. If we had just driven there first we could have avoided the storm drain and sandy situation. Sigh...
We ate our picnic lunch and began to perk up.
Next on the agenda was the Cape Fear Museum. Like every museum excursion this summer, we went because it was free with our Discovery Place membership. We knew nothing about the museum and had no clue if it was kid friendly. Thankfully, a few fun hours in air conditioning proved to be exactly what we needed!
We spent a considerable amount of time in the exploration area: playing games, putting together puzzles, dressing up, reading, building, and playing with puppets.
An unexpected bonus was an awesome exhibit that featured artifacts from various movies and television shows filmed in the area. I'm not sure if Jesse or Jackson was more excited about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I was especially excited to see Dawson's Creek memorabilia.
Maddie gravitated towards Iron Man.
Most bizarrely, James was obsessed with this disturbed doll from American Gothic. He demanded to "take picture with fire baby".
We later realized we went through the museum backwards, walking from modern to historic times. Most of the exhibits were appealing to all ages, especially this one on school segregation.
James was a bit of a loose cannon all day. We encouraged the kids to feel the raw cotton. James grabbed a handful and shrieked, "Yummy cotton candy!"
The museum receptionist told us the sloth on display was actually a replica of the real sloth fossil in Raleigh. We just saw the authentic fossil last week. All these museums are starting to blur together!
Ample time in air conditioning lifted our spirits considerably. We drove back south to return to the beach. Dinner was an overpriced, completely unhealthy McDonald's feast.
We broke the parking rules and walked three blocks from McDonalds to the Carolina Beach Boardwalk.
Jesse stayed with the trio,
while Jackson and I ran down to the ocean.
Jesse and I were not in agreement about our evening plans. He was ready to head home, though the kids and I were happily enjoying the beach. The temperature had cooled down significantly and the breeze was amazing. Jesse still advocated leaving, but there was no point stopping the kids from playing. We drove nearly four hours for the kids to play at the beach; we were going to enjoy it.
I ran back to the van to grab bathing suits and stale popcorn. One of the beach traditions is to have a "bird circus". The seagulls put on quite a show as they swooped down to devour popcorn.
The next two hours were the most enjoyable. We built sandcastles, jumped over waves, befriended another little girl, collected seashells, turned the kids into mermaids, and watched the sunset.
|Jackson was mad that we were leaving the beach.|
Best of all, the boardwalk has ample showers and restrooms. I think James had just as much fun under the showers as he did in the ocean.
We capped off our evening with a quick ice cream stop while admiring the bright lights and rides along the boardwalk.