Go jump in a lake!

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Ohhhhhhh believe me, I want to! I’m sitting on a darn good discounted stay at our favorite getaway, and it’s burning a hole in my pocket and has got me daydreaming….

I am lake person; not a beach person. In fact, I will fully admit that the idea of a beach vacation is not my idea of relaxation. The (my) problem is that I cannot sit still, I don’t like to be hot, and I burn to a crisp. And don’t get me started on sand. It’s insidious. I will say that I’ve had some great times at the beach:  Surrounded by my best gals or my family and some cold adult beverages = winning. It’s just that much like the ocean calls Moana, the lake is where I’m most relaxed (a state that doesn’t come easily to me). #tightlywound

My hope is that this piece will inspire anyone reading it to #gotoWV (state tourism hashtag for the win!) and visit one of our favorite places here in our beautiful state: Stonewall Jackson Lake & Resort. We have spent countless days there enjoying all that lake, resort and area have to offer, both on and off the water. We have even spent holidays there (Mother’s Day, 4th of July, and Easter) and gosh they do them well! Added bonus: the Easter Bunny knows where SJR is! *Wink wink.*

It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, which I think is part of the charm. A beautiful Adirondack-style resort in Lewis County, it takes us about 2.5 hours to get there from Huntington; the perfect distance for a weekend trip. So, what do they have? A little bit of everything: fishing, hiking, swimming, water recreation, activities and recreation specifically for kids and holidays, great views, a campground, a boardwalk, a marina, segways, wildlife, biking, golfing, a spa, great food, cold beer, nice wine…. Have you started packing yet? I have.

Even though right now we are probably heading out of peak season, the fall foliage is stunning, and nothing would be more breathtaking than a jaunt around the lake on their double-decker excursion boat, the Little Sorrel. We ride it every time we go, and the kids always manage to somehow get behind the helm. Brave captains! Sometimes, on special occasions, they will serve food and drinks (i.e. Mother’s Day).

For water recreation, of course you can take your own boat to the marina, or you can rent one of their water craft such as a kayak or paddle boat, or even a SUP, aquacycle, or CraigCat. The kayaks, SUPs, and paddle boats are part of the Outfitters Pass you can purchase, and you basically walk out the back of the resort and jump on one and go. Life jackets provided! The motorized watercraft are available over at the marina.  The have an indoor/outdoor pool and it has always been impeccably clean during our visits. In fact, the whole resort and grounds are quite well-kept.

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There are three restaurants on property, two of which are in the lodge itself (Stillwater’s and T.J. Muskies). The other dining option, Lightburn’s, is fancier and up at the top of the hill overlooking the property and golf course, and it is seasonal in operation last I checked. Of all three, it is probably the priciest.  Stillwater’s has the BEST buffet and brunches you’ll ever eat; we were particularly impressed with their Easter spread. T.J. Muskies is more of a lounge experience with good pizza and burgers and a good selection of snacks and drinks for “pool breaks.” They also often have entertainment in T.J. Muskies in the form of local musicians or comedy acts. If you find you have indulged a little too much, take a hike on one of their trails! Stonewall boasts 16+ miles of trail ranging in distance and difficulty. I recommend the Chipmunk Point route for beginners or families with little kids.

Some additional info:

  • You have options for accommodations: the lodge, cabins, or camping. Pro tip: The lodge often runs really great deals, and even further discounts for WV residents!
  • Definitely get a s’mores pack for beside the fire pit! It’s a cute touch and fun for all, but make sure it doesn’t get dropped. (Looking at you, Caroline.)
  • Check out nearby Weston to visit a winery and/or a “haunted” Asylum. (I’d recommend wine before the ghost tour, but that’s your call my friend.)
  • When you are at SJR, you are officially in the “Mountain Lakes” region of West Virginia. Pro tip:  download the “Wild, Wonderful West Virginia” app from the App Store to get more details on local adventures, history, and cultures.

All in all, this is an easy and fun trip that will help adults relax and allow families to enjoy the true beauty that is our Wild and Wonderful state of West Virginia! Be sure to visit their website and sign up for their emails as these often include some great discounts and information about upcoming events and specials!

See you at the lake!

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Into “The Wilds”

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I’m starting with our most recent adventure first since it is fresh in my mind and is really what served as the tipping point for me wanting to start this blog. My niche tends to be these quick 1-3 night trips that aren’t too far away. After all, whoever said “getting there is half the fun” clearly never drove 12 hours with two kids under the age of five. That being said, my kiddos really are troopers at traveling. Start ’em young, I say!

I also find a lot of joy in planning travel, and not just for us. I love it when people come to me for travel advice. Being a former “frequent flier” and “road warrior,” I am quite familiar with the in’s and out’s of the travel industry, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of putting together an itinerary. The one drawback of my planning obsession is that I tend to fixate too much on what I think the adventure should look like, and sometimes build up an unrealistic picture of how the whole thing will play out. But then again, don’t we all want that picture-perfect experience? I assure you, our adventures are anything but perfect, but the memories are made in the imperfections that make up the adventure.

Case in point: This past weekend, our Magic Mini Van took us to “The Wilds” in Cumberland, OH. “The Wilds” is a private, not for profit safari (yes, a safari in Ohio) that focuses on conservation. It has a pretty cool backstory as well. We left Saturday afternoon and made our way about 3 hours north of Huntington to Cambridge, OH, where we stayed at a Hampton Inn. I’ll go ahead and issue this disclaimer now: When I travel, I stick with 3 vendors… Hilton, Delta, and Hertz. It’s a matter of personal preference, and those are mine. This particular Hampton Inn was clean, safe, quiet, and it had an indoor pool (that no one else seemed interested in). Score! So, we flipped on the Marshall game and went for a family swim. Has anyone else ever noticed just how freaking exhausted swimming makes kids? That was an added bonus for us parental units. We got a queen suite for a little extra space. Pro Tip:  We have found that instead of traveling with fancy toddler bed solutions, we opt to pull the mattress off of a pull-out sofa and put it on the floor for the floppy little dude to sleep on. Who needs a pack-and-play anyways? Not Leo.

After a fun night of getting assaulted in our sleep by small kicking feet, we awoke refreshed and ready for breakfast. We hit up Denny’s right down the road for easy in and out and fun kid options. There are plenty of restaurants around this hotel. Nothing fancy, but all reliable.

Next… onto The Wilds! The day prior, I had made the mistake of mentioning we were going to see animals to Leo and the poor little guy must have said “Animals?!” at least 20 times. Lesson learned. Keep it a surprise next time. I started to feel bad lying to him by saying “just a little bit longer” knowing full well we were a solid 24 hours out.  But, alas, the time had come for ANIMALS!

It’s a bit off the beaten path, but then again, it is a safari. In Ohio. I keep having to wrap my brain around that. My expectations were not high, if I’m being honest. But I can honestly say it was amazing with hints of Jurassic Park (picture double gate systems locking around you before you can move onto the next section). You park at the bottom of the park and a cool khaki-colored bus shuttles you to the top. It is $6 to park, and right across from the parking lot is a free butterfly sanctuary you can walk through. We did not get to partake in that as by that time, my dear sweet Woodland Creatures were ticking time bombs. (Mandatory family fun is hard people!)

Once you get to the top, there is a little concession stand-like area, a small gift shop, and a kid center and building where you can see what I would consider the stuff of nightmares, The Hellbender. We played in the kids area for a little while (a cool little classroom setting area for kids to explore) and admired the view. Then, our open-safari bus picked us up! We had made reservations ahead of time (highly recommended!) and the tickets were $30/person. Again, I was skeptical about this being worth the drive and the money, but I’ll try most things once.

We boarded the bus and went to the back. There are NO bad seats on this bus, so sit anywhere. Warning: If you sit in the back, it is very bumpy. Do not sit in the back if you have any issues with being jostled (neck/back problems or pregnant are two that come to my mind based on our experience). Leo went airborne at one point. Jeremy caught him. Such good parents, we are. We even dressed our kids in adorable identical sweatshirts! Just kidding. I forgot jackets and it was cold so I had to buy the sweatshirts at the gift shop.

We wove through the park with a fun tour guide/driver named Jeff. He was the King of Dad Jokes, and Jeremy bowed down in his presence. We had a fun little checklist of animals we would see, and we did indeed see all but two of them. One of those was a beetle that laid its eggs in dead carcasses, so I didn’t feel like I missed out. The animals are roaming free (with the exception of the carnivores like the cheetahs and dholes), so they can come right up to the open air bus. We were within spitting range of camels, almost touched a wild horse, and had a family of rhinos come right up to us. We learned a lot and had a lot of fun checking the animals off our list!

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The ride has two stops: one to feed fish and parakeets and the other stop to see things that would like to feed on you (carnivores). First stop: Highly recommend springing the $1 to get a seed stick for the parakeet house!  You basically get attacked by these adorable little Australian parakeets. Birds aren’t really my thing, but Leo loves them and they were pretty cute. The second stop was at the carnivore area where they have a little grill/concession area. I very much recommend bringing your own drinks and snacks! You can’t eat/drink on the shuttle because you might choke, but you can eat your own stuff at the stops.

The adventure terminates at the gift shop (of course, right? It is owned by a zoo, after all) and another grill/concession area. The view here is AMAZING! For adults/older kids: they have a lot of other activities such as horseback riding and zip lines. Oh…. and they have yurts! It is on my bucket list to stay in a yurt, so this Glamping experience opportunity is definitely on my radar.

We left the park refreshed from the beautiful weather and exhausted from a whirlwind trip full of fun. I always bask in the happiness of my kids when I know I’ve shown them something pretty darn cool. Have you ever heard of a Sichuan Takin? Interesting creatures. Don’t forget to tip your guide! They really are a wealth of knowledge and entertainment on this tour.

On the way out, I asked the kids which animal was their favorite. Caroline said “giraffes!” I agree. Cool creatures.

Leo’s response? “Cows!” (Ya know, the ones we saw on the way TO the park because it is in the middle of Ohio.) Asked him again what his favorite was, and he responded slightly more adventurously with “hippopotamus,” which would have been great if we had seen those.

All in all, well worth the quick 26-hour turnaround trip and another fun weekend adventure in the books!

Weekend Worrier: The Beginning

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Hi, my name is Holly and I’m obsessed with weekends.

“Hi, Holly.”

(But really, who doesn’t love the weekends, right?)

I’m jumping on the Blog Wagon with this new adventure in technology and sharing, and I’m so excited to see how this goes! My inspiration comes from the things I love the most: my friends, my family, and adventures! Whether at home or out seeing the sights, I love every part of travel and adventuring and trying new things with the ones I love most.

Except unpacking. I could do without that.

But where did the name come from? It’s kinda a long story, so buckle in…

I used to travel for work a lot. As in, at one point I had about 500,000 frequent flier miles to my name and reserved parking at many a-Hilton property. But that meant my weekends with my family were spent recovering from these work trips, which was kinda a bummer. I also suffer from what I discovered to be called “Sunday Blues.” (It’s a real thing. Look it up. Seriously.) This is where a person gets kind of anxious/antsy for the work week to start. I’d like to think of it as “Monday-Eve Anxiety” wherein I turn into a bit of a nut, so any distraction is welcome.

Oh, and did I mention I’m a mom to a 5- and 2-year old? First of all, no one can fully prepare you for the anxiousness brought on by the constant feeling of vigilance that is required to keep these crazy kids happy, healthy, and safe.These kids are the absolute loves of my life, but dang they wear us out sometimes.

Never one to wish time away, I admit to occasional yearning for the stage of life where we can just throw some stuff in the van and go without packing 100 diapers, 2 strollers, a million bottles/nipples/rings, a pack-and-play, a bottle warmer, a breast pump, a gazillion safe toy options for baby, 3 changes of wardrobe for each day of planned travel (you get the idea ….. Parents: Can I get an AMEN?).

Well, I think we are getting to that point! While we still have to pack some diapers (potty training is the WORST) and the occasional extra change of clothes, I am happy to announce that this past weekend, our entire family of four packed in one bag.

Yes, it was only for 2 days/1 night, but still. How is that for easy?

To bring this whole word-vomit full circle, I no longer travel for work, which frees up the weekends to take some seriously quick, easy, and fun adventures with my family and friends! Admittedly, I’m also from the school of thought that adventures and getaways should occur regularly; not once a year. Occasionally, we will plan a “big” vacation (i.e. a Disney Cruise), but most weekends, you can find us just scooting off to someplace new and fun, or sticking around here to try something fun and new or tried and true. It keeps the mind and body busy, while creating new memories with the ones we love.

My hope with this blog is to share some of these adventures to inspire readers to take on some new adventures themselves! Many of these posts will be geared toward families/younger kiddos, but I also have a handful of AMAZING girlfriends with whom I like to go a little crazy with as well sometimes, so the occasional Adventures with Mommy Juice (wine) will make an appearance. You’ll also see some info about little activities and great gear that makes my life easier and more enriched so I can focus on what matters most.