This week is spring break for Montgomery County Public Schools students. All too often for my family, spring break turns into a long slog through an unexciting week wherein my kids desperately want to just play video games and I desperately want my kids to just do anything other than play video games.
This year, I decided to get ahead of the game and make plans to keep us busy for much of the week. Step one? Plan an adventure! Because I am really good at thinking ahead, I started planning for our overnight Monday adventure on Sunday.
The hardest part was finding a destination. With my three kiddos, once we have a place to go, we automatically have an adventure. The problem was finding a location within a couple of hours of DC that all three of my kids (ages, 7, 9, and 11) would like, and that wouldn't require me to split into two people to keep everyone happy. Also, it had to be near a hotel with an indoor pool. Obviously.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a place that fits all of those criteria?
I hit the internet to start looking for adventure locales. I checked Pennsylvania first. My oldest loves history and is really into the birth of the United States. I knew he would love going to see the Liberty Bell or Gettysburg, but my youngest would probably set world records for whining if I dragged him there.
I figured the little one would like the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia though. Doesn't just the name sound awesome? Considering that my kids would consider the National Gallery of Art to be a "please touch museum," this sounded great for all of us! Sadly, I found this in the museum's mission statement on their website: "Our museum was the first in the nation whose target audience was families with children seven and younger." Harumph. We've aged out.
Okay, moving on. Let's look for fun history! I bet Mount Vernon is fun. They even have a section on their website for "Kids' Activities." Let's see: orientation center, 40-minute tour; mansion tour, 40-minute tour, no photography. Not promising. The pig pen sounds promising though, except for this: "Visiting tip: Do not feed the animals." I think this section of the website was mislabeled. Mount Vernon is clearly not for my children.
Well, the website for Jamestowne is actually historyisfun.org, so maybe that would fit the bill? I decided to go a little bigger—I was adventure planning, after all—so I popped over to the Williamsburg website to plan what would surely be two days of fun! What actually awaited me there was 20 minutes of anxiety as I tried to navigate their overwhelming website. I figured that if I couldn't hack the website, I probably wouldn't do very well at the actual site—with three children in tow.
Zoos are pretty straightforward. I found a couple in Pennsylvania and Virginia, but then it occurred to me that the National Zoo is ten miles away from my house and they have pandas. I briefly considered taking my kids there and booking a nearby hotel with a pool, but decided that plan wasn't technically true to the "adventure" title.
I had pretty much settled on Chocolate World because even if it isn't educational it's, well, it's Chocolate World! When I took my kids to New York City, their favorite tourist attraction was the M&M store. I figured Chocolate World was right up their alley. Then my husband got all sad about not getting to go to the Hershey's factory and a friend told me that there was likely to be a good amount of snow on my drive up there and I decided to look south again.
I finally decided on Luray Caverns because who doesn't like stalactites and stalagmites? (No one.) Plus, I think spelunking automatically qualifies as adventure. Even though it is supposed to snow in Virgnia too, caves always stay the same temperature inside. Not to mention that there is a hedge maze there, which, if I tie all of my kids together, could be a lot of safe fun where no one gets lost. (Knock on wood! Knock on wood!)
I knew that I would get nervous about taking my kids underground all by myself (my husband has to work), so I quickly made nonrefundable reservations at a nearby hotel (with an indoor pool) so I couldn't back out. Rain, sleet, or snow, my family and I were going to Luray Caverns.
I wrote this column a couple days ago, so as you read it, our trip has probably come to one of three conclusions: (1) We had a great time! Caves are awesome! (2) I am never going on vacation by myself with three kids ever again, or (3) We are still trying to find our way out of the hedge maze.
I figure that no matter what happens, it will be an adventure.
Jean, a.k.a. Stimey, writes a personal blog at Stimeyland and runs an autism-events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Stimeyland.d