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20+ Adorable Farms & Petting Zoos: Pet & Play With Animals

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Think a fun day would be an adventure with your family to a farm or petting zoo near you? It’s hard to resist a photo of your child petting or interacting with a cute animal at a farm or petting zoo.

I know what you are thinking, “are there any petting zoos near me?”

Yes! There are quite a few! We’ve pulled together a huge list of petting zoos and farms where you can interact with animals. These farms and petting zoos are located near Greenville, SC, in Western North Carolina, Northern Georgia, as well as in Charlotte, NC, and Columbia, SC. So wherever you are, find a petting zoo near you, or a farm that makes a great day trip.

Petting zoos and farms in Greenville, SC

Our list includes places open year-round places to pet animals, plus seasonal farms, and mobile and event-based petting zoos. We have tried to make sure these are places that treat their animals kindly and with respect as well. If we missed any, let us know in the comments.

Is There a Petting Zoo Near Me?

Yes, there probably is a petting zoo on this list near you! Use the links below to navigate this list by location.

View Petting Zoos and Farms by Location:
Petting Zoo: Greenville, SC
Petting Zoo: Western North Carolina
Petting Zoo: Columbia, SC
Petting Zoo: Charlotte, NC
Petting Zoo: Northern Georgia
Seasonal Petting Zoos in the Carolinas
Mobile Petting Zoos Serving Upstate, SC


25+ Things to Do When You’re Stuck at Home

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Looking for things to do when you’re stuck at home? Whether you’re home because of illness in the family, school closings, or because gas is too expensive, you need ideas to help you not lose your sanity and entertain your kids. If you’re looking for things to do at home with kids, we have lots of ideas (because that’s what we do here). This may be the perfect time to cross off some of your bucket list items.


Lots of Winter Family Fun at Black Bear Snow Tubing in Hendersonville, NC

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Are you thinking about snow tubing at Black Bear Snow Tubing in Hendersonville, NC? Western North Carolina has great snow tubing and Black Bear Snow Tubing is a stellar option for families! They have a huge mountain to get your winter in high gear with a fun snow tubing trip for the whole family! We took a trip up to try out that snow-tubing mountain and it was so much fun! Now we have all the details to share so you can plan your trip!

Media tickets were provided for this review and the opinions are solely those of the author.

Snow tubing at Black Bear in Hendersonville, NC

While there aren’t any places to snow tube in the Upstate, SC, there are definitely options nearby and one of them is Black Bear Snow Tubing in nearby Hendersonville, NC, just over an hour from Greenville, SC. The snow tubing family-owned operation has been in business for seven years and they really have a good thing going there, which I’m going to tell you all about in this story.

Snow Tubing at Black Bear

The slope at Black Bear Snow Tubing is 600 feet long with an 80-foot drop and it’s pretty fast. They make their own snow (unless they get a big snowstorm, which doesn’t happen too often) and the hill is well-maintained by their attentive staff.

How it works is that when you get to Black Bear, you go to a little shed to watch a short safety video, where you learn how to get out of your tube on the run and not to start snowball fights, sign a waiver, and head inside the cozy lodge to pay. Then you get your tubes and head to the hill.

They have a pulley system to get you to the top of the hill, which works by slipping the handle of your tube on a cable that takes you, while sitting inside your tube, right up the hill to the top. Once at the top, you’ll wait for a few minutes before being situated into your group by the staff and then sliding down the hill.

On the snow tube pully at Black Bear in Hendersonville, NC
Black Bear Snow Tubing Pulley System

Why Black Bear is Different

I’ve snow tubed at many places in our area and I think Black Bear Snow Tubing is pretty fantastic. Here’s why:

  • You can (and should) make a reservation ahead of time, which is crucial for us in Greenville who need to travel out of state to go snow tubing. It’s quite a bummer to get to our snow tubing place and either find out that they are sold out or having to wait hours for an open slot.
  • The staff is attentive and efficient. They were always around watching the hill to make sure things were running smoothly and safely. When there was a slight backup at the top of the hill, they figured out how to manage to get us all down the hill and back up to keep snow tubing without interruption.
  • The lodge is super cozy and warm and has reasonable concessions. I got a $2 hot chocolate and it was amazing. Plus, they have food, including apple cider donuts, that is affordable and you can get warm by the wood-burning stove inside or watch on the deck if you don’t want to go tubing.
  • The setup takes into account smaller kids. There is playground next to the place where you wait in line to go up the hill so smaller kids can get out their energy and there is a big fire pit also near the waiting area where you can warm up.
  • If you forgot a hat or gloves, they have them for sale inside the lodge. I feel like us parents can relate when our kid gets out of the car to go snow tubing and forgot his or her winter hat.
  • The check-in is fast. This is important because you want to get on the hill and start having fun as soon as possible!
  • Black Bear has excellent communication. They post daily on their Facebook page about current snow conditions, which is super helpful when you’re unsure about the weather.
  • The snow is real. They don’t have any synthetic chemicals in the snow – it’s the real deal.

My kids, ages 11 and 8, and I had such a blast snow tubing at Black Bear Snow Tubing. We went down the hill about 10 times (maybe more, I lost count honestly) and had so much fun together. I really love places where adults can carelessly be kids again. My kids are already asking to go back. The hill was super fast and seeing my kids faces light up with joy was special. I love those moments.

Tips on How to Enjoy Snow Tubing at Black Bear

Winter being winter, it’s usually cold when you go snow tubing. I’ve found that bringing hand and foot warmers is a really good trick to keeping everyone warm and comfortable. You can get them at Wal-Mart, Amazon, or most drug stores and they stay warm for hours.

Sliding down in a tube at Black Bear Tubing

It’s also really important to make a reservation when you know you want to go snow tubing. This is especially true during school breaks and holidays. Snow tubing is an awesome family activity on a day off but a lot of people also have the same thought. Don’t forget to make a reservation.

You don’t need to wear snow bibs or snow pants. I had on fleece leggings, hiking boots, and a couple layers of tops with a heavy coat (it was really cold when we went!) and I was fine. I saw people wearing all kinds of clothes that worked for them like pants, leggings, jeans, and sweatpants. The snow wasn’t wet at all when we went but if you go on a warmer day, you may want to bring a change of pants in case they get wet.

There are port-a-potties outside the lodge to use and no bathrooms indoors.

Double-check Black Bear’s Facebook page before heading out. Snow tubing is very dependent on weather, which changes often in the mountains. They will post current conditions and if they are open or closed most days.

Ticket Prices and Policies at Black Bear Snow Tubing

Tickets are $30/hour or $40/two hours for snow tubing. Kids must be 4 years old in order to go snow tubing. You can either sign a waiver when you get to Black Bear Snow Tubing or print one out online ahead of time. Either is fine.

While Black Bear Snow Tubing does take walk-ups, it is much better to make a reservation ahead of time instead of getting there and finding out they are full. Online reservations are fantastic for this very reason so definitely make use of them.

And be sure to check Black Bear Snow Tubing’s Facebook page before heading out to double check they are open and running. Winter tubing runs mid-December through February usually depending on the weather, of course.

And if you want to tube during other times of the year, you totally can! They have warm-weather tubing in the fall.

Black Bear Snow Tubing
373 Kerr Road, Hendersonville, NC

Want to spend the day in Hendersonville? We’ve got lots of ideas on what to do in this fun town!

Go Sock Skating at the Schiele Museum in Gastonia, NC

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Indoor “sock skating” at the Schiele Museum is just the thing for kids to get out their energy during colder months. Located in Gastonia, NC, the Schiele Museum is only about an hour from Greenville, SC, or 35 minutes from Charlotte, NC.

Sometimes you just come across something so fun and unexpected that you have to share it – which is exactly what happened when we visited the Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia, NC during a rainy day and to our great surprise, learned that our kids could go ice skating but with socks!

If you didn’t know sock skating was a thing, don’t feel too bad. We didn’t either until we happened upon it at the Schiele Museum. It’s exactly as it sounds: skating with socks on instead of use skates on ice. We’ll tell you more in this story, plus give you the dates when you can get free tickets to the museum. 

About the Schiele Museum of  Natural History 

We have a whole Schiele Museum story about this amazing museum, which is worth a read. This museum has extensive exhibits on animals, plants, gems and minerals, and dinosaurs. They also have an outdoor farm and Catawba Village. 

Dinosaurs at the Schiele Museum

If you love learning about the stars, don’t forget to see a show in the planetarium. You can reserve your seat when you buy your tickets at the entrance. 

Sock Skating 

During the wintertime, the Schiele Museum has a room dedicated to a winter wonderland of Sock Skating. The room is lit to look like it’s snowing, complete with a little snowbank and a wooden house with a Christmas tree in the window. We have a short reel if you want to see how it all works!

There are benches for parents to relax and watch their kids enjoy skating on a slippery floor. All kids need are socks and they need to be sure to bring their own as the museum does not have socks to lend out. 

Sock Skating is for kids ages 2-10 years old and you need to purchase a wristband for $3 for each kid to participate. When we went, it was a busier day and the front desk ladies gave us a timed entry ticket, which was fine. We were basically able to go when we saw there weren’t many kids inside and it worked out great. 

Sock Skating at Schiele Museum

My kids absolutely loved this and I thought it was such a creative and unique idea for indoor fun. We spent a lot of time at the other museum exhibits as well, which were awesome. This is easily a great day trip from the Upstate. 

Sock Skating at Winter Wonderland opened November 25th and runs usually through February.

Tickets to the Schiele Museum

Tickets to the museum are $7/adults, $6/kids 4-18 and kids ages 3 and under are free. Planetarium tickets are $5/each and farm tickets are $3/each. 

There are certain dates every month where admission to the museum is free, thanks to the support of Duke Energy. Free museum admission is available the second Tuesday and fourth Friday of every month from Noon – 4 pm. 

Do you have a Roper Mountain Science Center membership? The Museum is part of the same ASTC passport program as RMSC which means great news! If you have a RMSC membership, then you get in free to the Shiele Museum. The ASTC Passport program gets you free admission into partner museums all over the world. If you plan to travel, it can pay for itself in just one trip to a partner museum. 

Schiele Museum of Natural History & Planetarium
1500 East Garrison Boulevard, Gastonia NC

Historic Banning Mills: Hidden Gem in N. Georgia Perfect for Adventure and Nature Lovers

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Home of the world’s largest zip line, Historic Banning Mills is a gem hidden just outside Atlanta, GA. We stayed for a weekend and have all the details on this location ideal for adventurers.

Thank you to Historic Banning Mills for hosting us!

Banning Mill is only an hour outside of Atlanta but feels a world away. And once you get there, you don’t need to leave for anything. You can have all your meals at the lodge. You can spend your entire time going from adventure to adventure or just relaxing. It’s so close to that elusive all-inclusive experience that makes time away a true getaway because you don’t need to worry about going anywhere else or meals or entertainment – it can all be booked together ahead of time. And Banning Mills is just that: a true getaway. You get to experience nature in very unique and exciting ways and have that chance to reconnect with your partner or family.

Banning Mills is also well within easy driving distance from Greenville at just over three hours (could be a bit longer depending on Atlanta traffic).

History of Banning Mills

Banning Mills was a originally part of the Creek Indian tribe land, led by Chief William McIntosh, who was half Creek Indian. When the white settlers came in the early 1800s, Chief McIntosh fought alongside Andrew Jackson, dined with President Thomas Jefferson, and eventually became a wealthy businessman who owned a plantation very close to Banning Mills. In 1825, he signed the Treaty of Indian Springs, which infuriated the Upper Creek Native Americans, who came to his home and killed him. He is buried where he died at McIntosh Reserve, now a county park.

In the mid-1800s, a textile mill was developed along the hidden Snake Creek gorge, which operated through the Civil War. It fell into disrepair until 1878 when Arthur Hutchinson bought it and made it into a paper mill, creating the birthplace of the modern paper industry. It thrived and a town was built to accommodate all the families who worked at the mill. By 1895, Banning Mill had ten mills, including two pulp mills, a sawmill, and a grist mill – all of which were within a mile of each other. The town was also the first to produce electricity in Georgia. Historical documents state that people from Atlanta would ride down in their buggies just to see lights turn on and off!

Banning Mills ruins

On several trails throughout Banning Mills, you can see the ruins of the old mills and the crumbling chimney of one of the original homes of a family who worked at the mill. Many of the trails you walk on were old roads, now covered in years of dirt, leaves, dust, and roots, that connected the mills and the town. One of the trails, the Creekside Trail, was the trail used by the Creek Indian tribe to traverse Snake Creek. I learned that after my kids and I had walked on the trail and it was just a moment of reflection to think what that must have been like for the tribe. I get to see the same things they saw and I just felt connected to that history and those people, just for a moment.

Conservation Efforts

When Mark and Donna Holder bought the property in 1998, they were focused on conservation and didn’t really know about the history of the place. There are several unique ecosystems within the property plus wildflowers, mushrooms, and wildlife. When they started designing and building the zip lines, they were extremely conscious of working with nature rather than against it. This is entirely obvious when you walk the hiking trails and spot the zip line platforms – they are nearly invisible, which is exactly how they were meant to be when built.

Mark’s extensive military and flight career turned out to be an excellent background for designing and building zip lines and adventure courses. Both Mark and Donna run a high adventure consulting business where they help other adventure companies design and build their zip lines. They’ve helped design adventure parks all around the world with an eye on preserving nature and surrounding ecosystems.

The Birds of Prey exhibit and nature talks are also part of their conservation and education efforts as they seek to help people understand more about these birds and their habitats. In the spring, Banning Mills offers guided hikes to explore the wildflowers and other flora and fauna native to the area.

Banning Mills Lake

As the business grew, Mark and Donna’s four kids got involved in running and operating it, making Banning Mills a family-run business, which is actually a nonprofit so they can focus exclusively on conservation and adventure. Banning Mills is 300 acres but it’s right in the middle of more than 1,000 protected acres of wilderness, which I think is part of the allure of the place. As a guest, I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere, completely apart from the world and in my own little slice of paradise.


There are endless adventures to be had at Historic Banning Mills. You could probably spend a week here and not get to all of them. All pricing is listed on the website. And the guides will take photos of you during your adventures so you don’t need to worry about documenting all the awesomeness. They are emailed/messaged to you for free afterwards.

Crazy Squirrel Course

There are two Crazy Squirrel rope and zip line courses: tier one can be done by someone as young as four years old and tier two is a lot more advanced and kids must be nine years old for that one. These are great for both kids and adults and are a fantastic introduction to the world of aerial adventure.

Tier 1 consisted of several bridges and obstacles and a few zip lines. After gearing up and going over safety precautions, my kids and I hit the course. Our guide, Jack, was super funny and very chill. He showed us a great time on this course as we navigated the shaky bridges and giant swinging balls. It was a lot of fun and took us about 45 minutes or so to go through the whole thing.

The safety features they have are a continuous belay system which means you are never disconnected from the cable at all. It took a bit to learn how to work them and get into our gear but once we figured it out, it was easy. I was definitely proud of my kids for learning how to do it on their own and saw it as a great confidence builder for them.

Tier 2 of the Crazy Squirrel did indeed look crazy. Jack said you are pretty much guaranteed a good three hours to go through all the obstacles on that course. We saw multiple platforms on the same trees as the level 1 course and many, many more obstacles. It looked like it would be really fun.

Eco Tour Spider ATVs

I knew my kids and I were riding spider ATVs before we went but I really had no idea what we were in for. So these spider ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) were created by a paraplegic engineer. He wanted a way to experience nature and the trails so he created the Swincar – aka spider ATV – which is controlled by your hands and where each wheel is on its own suspension system. This means one wheel could be in a ditch and other on level ground but the driver remains level. Plus, these things are powerful and can go over roots, rocks, dirt, gravel, you name it. The cars are all electric as well.

I drove one car with my youngest daughter in the seat behind me and our guide took my other daughter. After he explained how the cars worked and got us our helmets and made sure our seat belts were properly secured, it was off to the test track to make sure I could safely operate this thing. The test track was a short loop, off-road trail where I could get a feel for the car.

I was awful at driving this thing, which my daughter eagerly pointed out at every turn. Because it’s electric and controlled by just my fingers by pushing a small lever, even a little pressure makes the car go fast, which meant a lot of stopping and starting and jerking. I loved it.

Once I was comfortable driving the car, which took all of five minutes and more backseat driving from my kid, we were off to the woods. Not only did we traverse most of the 300 acres of Banning Mills but we did most of it on the trails, some of which my kids and I had hiked earlier in the day. I haven’t had that much fun in a while! And we got to go over bridges in the woods, see the three lakes that reflected the gorgeous leaves changing colors, and even rode over the 760-foot-long suspension bridge on the cars – twice. I only got stuck once and figured out how reverse worked so I think it was a win overall.

The whole tour lasted about 90 minutes, which included our guide stopping at historical points along the trail to show up the old ruins of the paper mill and town plus check out where the birds of prey are located at the property. Guided tandem spider ATV tours are $199 and single ones are $139.

Some of the spider ATVs are wheelchair accessible and are a wonderful option for those with lesser mobility. You must have a valid drivers license to operate the spider ATV and be at least 16 years old for the single car and 18 years old for the tandem car.  

Hiking Trails

Historic Banning Mills is known for its amazing bridges and whoa, we can confirm that these bridges are amazing. The longest one on the property – 760 feet long – spans the Snake River where the original dam at the mill was placed. It’s a swinging bridge and quite the adventure crossing it. It definitely sways and is really high but we never felt unsafe. We really enjoyed the bridges plus they make for amazing photos. There are more than 100 of them on the property although most are on the zip line courses. But the longest ones you can cross without any equipment. On the long swinging bridge closest to the Main Lodge, you can see the Flight of the Falcon zip line, which is the longest zip line. We could see where it started on the big tower way above the gorge but we couldn’t see where it ended!

Banning Mills Bridge

There are 15 miles of hiking trails and three ponds to visit at Historic Banning Mills. You can hike all over the property as a guest and while the trails are open to the public, it is $7/person to hike them.

We especially enjoyed the Creekside Trail as it was directly next to Snake Creek. We saw some people zip-lining above and had great views of some of the bridges.

World’s Longest Zip Line & World’s Highest Climbing Wall

Banning Mills is home to the world’s longest zip line at nearly 3,400 feet long (that’s about three-quarters of a mile!). It’s called Flight of the Falcon and you are in a horizontal position and can reach speeds up to 55 mph. I so wanted to do this but my youngest was too small so now we have to go back when she grows a bit. It looks so amazing. The zip line was so long when Banning Mills was installing it that they had to use a helicopter.

One of the other zip lines is about a half mile long and is called the Screaming Eagle. Guests go crazy fast on this one, about 75 mph. Again, on my list!

Banning Mills is also home to another record-setter: the world’s highest climbing wall. It’s 140 feet high with nine climbing lanes and two rappel walls. It’s part of the Adventure Wall and where guests will start their Screaming Eagle zip as well. My fearless 8-year-old was really hoping to do this one but she didn’t make the weight requirement (60 pounds). It costs $35/hour to climb this monster.

Adventure Wall at Banning Mills

There are four levels of zip line adventures you can do at Banning Mills and if you decide you want to add on more things, you can do that as well. Each level increases in speed and height so you may not want to the fun to end. There are multiple packages and add-ons for zipline tours, which you can read through on their website. Be sure to take note of the height, age, and weight restrictions before you go so you know what to expect. Given this kind of high adventure experience, safety is the first priority, and the staff and guides are expertly trained. All of the policies are for the safety of the guests and guides.

Other Activities at Banning Mills

Horseback Riding

Banning Mills has stables on their property where they offer horseback riding through their trails. Kids have to be at least 10 years old to do this activity.

Birds of Prey

Banning Mills hosts Birds of Prey talks throughout the year where they have a Master Falconer come and give a talk and demonstration about the falcons, eagles, and owls they have right there on site hidden amongst the trees. I was so hoping we would have been able to see this since I have a fascination with all of those animals. You can see the owls and the bald eagle, whose name is Liberty when they aren’t doing shows. Shows are $7/person and kids 4 and under are free.


Banning Mills is very close to the Chattahoochee River and runs kayak trips over the summer. The trips are great for beginners since they only have Class I and II rapids (smaller rapids).

Night Zip Lining

These tours are only available a few nights a year and they look amazing. The lodge had one of these happening on one of the nights we stayed and it was so cool to see the guides with glow sticks on their helmets and hear the people whooping on the zip lines in the dark. All we could see were lights moving and zip line towers lit up with lights. I definitely want to do this also!


Stay in a Tree House

There are several tree houses at Banning Mills all over the property. Ours was a two-story tree house with a tub, king-size bed, and bathroom on the lower floor and up the spiral staircase was a room with a bunk bed. There was a microwave, a small table, and a balcony as well. It was just beautiful and really, who doesn’t want to stay in a tree house and fulfill that childhood dream?

We loved the gas fire stove and balcony especially. The leaves were putting on quite the show so we felt like we were, well, in the trees, as close as possible to the leaves and glory of nature. It was super cool and relaxing. Our tree house also had an awesome rope bridge as an entrance. My kids thought this was the neatest thing ever. I mean, I did too.

The entire place was well-thought out to provide for that getaway and relaxation that we seek when we go on vacation plus very comfortable to provide for ample rest so you have all the energy you need for your adventures. The tree houses also have a jetted tub, which would probably feel really great after a long day of adventuring.

Banning Mills has brand new tree houses as well that are a bit more spacious than the one we stayed in but just as relaxing and comfortable. There are truly plenty of options for you to enjoy a unique experience at this place.

Cabins & The Lodge

Other accommodations at Banning Mills are lodge rooms, which are more like typical hotel rooms and are usually booked when groups come in for retreats.

There are also pine log cabins and larger family cabins available for rent. Just remember these are not luxury accommodations. It’s not the Ritz. These are modern cabins and tree houses in the woods.

Dining at Banning Mills

All rooms except the family cabins, which can fit up to nine guests, include breakfast in the morning. The breakfasts we had were awesome – bacon, eggs, biscuits, fruit, coffee, oatmeal, waffles, sausage, and orange juice. There is a beautiful terrace room at the Main Lodge that overlooks the creek with some zip lines overhead so the view is perfect. Since we went in late October, the colors of the leaves were incredible. I could have stared out those windows all day.

For lunch and dinner, guests can reserve meals at the lodge but they must do so when they check-in or before.

There is a sit-down gourmet meal served nightly by reservation, which my kids and I did one of the nights we stayed at Banning Mills. We had to make our meal choices when we got there, which included an appetizer, salad, entrée, and dessert. They prepare these to be shared by two people but the kitchen can do single dishes. Kids’ meals of chicken fingers, pizza, spaghetti, and other items are also available.  

If you’d rather enjoy a meal in your tree house or other accommodations at Banning Mills, you can order a souvenir backpack that you get to keep, two large sandwiches, chefs’ choice salad, cookies, crackers, and bottled water.

If you’d rather eat out, Banning Mills lists several location restaurants in their guidebook in your room that you can choose from that are 15-20 minutes away by car.


I did say in the beginning of this story that Banning Mills is so close to that elusive all-inclusive experience. And it is. You just have to be sure to add on everything you want when you book or when you arrive for your trip. Once you arrive, you don’t need to leave the property for the entirety of your trip if you choose to book all your meals and adventures there (I recommend you do because they are all amazing).

There are several adventure packages to choose from depending on what you want to do. There are a couple of getaways, adventure, and room packages which include meals, zip lining, eco-tour spider ATV tours, and lots more. Most are for two people but just call Banning Mills and they will help you to put together a package for your family or to fit your needs and desires. They are very accommodating and just a wonderful group of people who want guests to have an amazing stay

Best Ages to Experience Banning Mills

This is always something to consider when planning family getaways, right? You want something that is fantastic for everyone. My kids are 8 and 11 and my youngest could do limited activities because of her age and weight. She wanted to do the Flight of the Falcon but we’ll have to wait a few years. That said, we were able to do the Crazy Squirrel Tier 1, hiking trails, and the Eco Spider ATV Tours, which kept us quite busy. If we had gone in the summer, we would have been able to enjoy the swimming pool as well. So there were definitely enough activities to keep us active but also provide that downtime to just relax.

I think if you have teenagers and are looking for adventure, book this place. If you and your partner are always on the lookout for the next thrill, book this place. I’m already thinking of coming back when my kids are a bit older because wow, the options are endless for the super cool and unique experiences you can have together.

And the memories you could make here with your kids would just be so priceless. This is the opportunity to really connect with your kids/partner, to get away from technology for a bit, and to just be together while doing something super fun.

My Honest Mom Review

For myself, relaxation involves hiking or kayaking, or something outdoors. This was a relaxing weekend for me because I captured that elusive feeling of really getting away from my normal, everyday work, from deadlines I have coming up, and whatever else had been on my mind the previous week. Staying in a tree house, wandering around the hiking trails, learning the history of the property, and enjoying those amazing views from the swinging bridges was very special.

Banning Mils Crazy Squirrel course

Connecting with my daughters, even while one was telling me how awful of a driver I was for an hour, was fantastic. Our time is short with our kids and intentionally making the most of the time we have together is of utmost importance. This is a truly amazing place to make that happen.

I also want to give a shoutout to the staff at Banning Mills. Everyone was so kind, considerate, and accommodating. I know working in hospitality can be hard but everyone we met was wonderful and friendly.

Also, be sure to check their website for current deals when planning your trip!

Historic Banning Mills
205 Horseshoe Dam Road, Whitesburg, GA

5 Tips to Reduce the Pressure of Overscheduling Your Kids

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If you find yourself running ragged all week with zero time for family dinners and feel more like an Uber driver than a parent, maybe overscheduling is the problem. We asked our readers about this topic and for some possible solutions. 

I have no middle ground on overscheduling my kids for activities. It’s basically all or nothing with some classes or organized events thrown in. Why? For two reasons: firstly, I played competitive sports from age 12 through high school and still regret that my poor siblings were dragged all over the place to watch me play sports and that it cut into better things my family could be doing together. Secondly, that having very few evenings and weekends free to do what I want with my kids sends my anxiety through the roof. 

Avoid overscheduling your kids

When we asked our readers if overscheduling your kids is possible, the majority answered with a resounding yes. Scrolling through social media only reinforces this as parents are asking where their two-year-old can play organized sports or dance classes for their 18-month-old. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to ask these questions but experts tell us that overscheduling kids at any age can lead to very little free time and opportunities for relaxation and creativity. It can also lead to burnout – for both kids and parents, which isn’t fun for anyone.

Overscheduled & Overstimulated

The author of a book called Kids Under Pressure, Karen Sullivan, expands on this topic: “Parents put children under enormous pressure with heavily orchestrated schedules of extra activities, all of which are designed to help them succeed in life. However, this leaves little free time for children to be children and to relax. Children are often left feeling they are not good enough because they are not ‘the best’.”

She goes on to say that because of the time suck of these “heavily orchestrated schedules” there is no more room left for fun. And that causes stress. She’s just talking about the kids and not the stress this places on parents. 

One of our readers shared that “Many parents are so obsessed to do allll the things society tells them they should. Sometimes less is more. These kids are overscheduled and over-stimulated.” 

The Comparison Trap

It’s so, so easy to compare yourself and your kids to other people with the prevalence of social media. I see friends post about all the cool activities their kids are involved in and I will freely admit that I have moments where I wish that was one of my daughters involved in those activities. But I quickly get back to reality and know that I’d lose my mind if that was my life.

Another reader of ours put it this way: “Remind yourself that kids need to be kids. If you find yourself feeling like an Uber driver. Or like your family are like ships passing in the night, and they don’t have time to just be kids (ie play in the neighborhood, use their creativity and imaginations, and learn what boredom is and in turn how to entertain themselves), probably too much…. But you have to feel like you’re comfortable with what they are scheduled for. Not what other people are doing with their kids but what is right for your family. We were not created to be in constant go mode. Not as kids and not as adults.”

If you feel yourself falling into that comparison trap, think about how you would feel if that were your kids and your crazy schedule and your budget. It may not work for your family or your own personality and that’s totally ok. It’s fine not to schedule your kids for every class or activity.

View of Lake Glenville

Every family is different

When my daughters did gymnastics, I made sure their class was at the same time on the same night to minimize our weekly disruptions. We ended those classes when covid hit and while I’d like to enroll them again, I need the same kind of schedule where they both can do classes at the same time. My oldest daughter did Cub Scouts for a few years, which was perfect because it was one meeting a week that I could take both my kids to and the activities fit well into our hiking and outdoor-loving schedule. I did say no to swim team a few years ago when I found out the swim meets were on Saturday mornings. As a working mom who plans the best adventures on weekends, I was not about to give that time up for sitting at a pool during the prime summer months. But that’s me – if you’re the swim team cheering, soccer mom yelling kind of parent, that’s awesome.

But for myself, I really think I’d lose my mind if I had to work all day, homeschool, and then shuttle both my kids to places all week and on weekends. No way. My time with them is too short and too precious. And it’s not like we don’t do anything. We travel often for my work with Kidding Around and have incredible adventures together, go paddleboarding all summer, camp, hike, and have that quality, uninterrupted time with each other that helps to enrich our relationships. 

One other thing I would not be able to handle are dinner times and cooking if my kids needed to shuttled all over the place during the week. I know that healthy eating and homecooked meals would fall by the wayside, which not only means unhealthy food for our family but also more money spent on fast food – and that would put even more stress on our family. Yes, I could plan ahead but with working full-time and homeschooling, it wouldn’t work well for us. But that’s my own family and everyone is different and probably more organized than myself!

VillagePark Playground

Playing & creativity also provide benefits

While sports and creative arts certainly provide multiple benefits to children like physical fitness, muscle coordination, boosting of self-esteem, the ability to focus and problem solve, the benefits of play are also numerous. The Genius of Play points out that play also provides:

  • Creativity
  • Social skill development
  • Cognitive development
  • Physical development (i.e., balance, coordination)
  • Communication skills
  • Emotional development

Play also provides an outlet for stress. Think about it as an adult. We need that downtime from our work to rest and relieve stress. For myself, that’s anything outdoors. Send me on a seven-mile hike up Table Rock and I’m good to go for the week. Kids need that same kind of stress relief and if they are always running from one activity to the next, they aren’t getting it.

So what are the solutions to overscheduling?

My own personal solution is to skip pretty much everything that requires my kids to be in multiple places during the week. But that’s me and while it works for us, other parents likely think this is a little crazy or that their kids absolutely need to be involved in some kind of activity. So back to our readers, who have more solutions than I do. 

1 – Each kid gets one sport at a time 

This was a common response when asked how to solve the problem of overscheduling. 

One mom said, “My kids get 1 extra curricular activity each, that’s it. It’s important to spend time as a family and learn how to entertain yourself.”

2 – Each kid gets one sport at a time and the practices must be limited

Another mom took it a step further and limited practices that the sport required: 

“My kids are allowed to have one sport going at a time And it can’t be anything that’s going to require More than two practices a week during the school year.”

3 – Stay out of competitive sports. 

Competitive sports often require multiple practices a week plus games on weekends, including traveling to surrounding states several times a year. One mom says no to that: “We have 4 kids and DON’T do competitive sports for this exact reason. Takes away family time and money.”

4 – Choose a couple of lower key activities and stick to those. 

One mom, who I totally identify with, says she’s an introvert so it’s a little harder on her to stick with a taxing schedule so she does more low-key activities with her kids: “We are introverts and I have health issues so we keep it low key on activities with lots of socializing. We do library day once a week or every other week and get together with others once a month or so. Plus, we have Sunday morning & Wednesday evening church. Smaller activities we might do more often, bigger activities less often as they are very taxing on me.

5 – Take a day off.

 If you find yourself overscheduled, don’t be afraid to take a day off now and again. You really can just not go to dance class this week, or skip that practice and go hiking with the family instead. 

Do you have any other suggestions for parents who feel like they have overscheduled their kids? 

See Minerals Glow in the Dark at the Emerald Village Mine in Little Switzerland, NC

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Did you know Emerald Village Mine has a cave where you can see minerals glow in the dark? If you’re looking for a bucket list adventure in Western North Carolina, the Black Light Tour at the Emerald Village mine near Little Switzerland, NC is it. Kidding Around’s Kristina took her kids for this unique experience and tells us about it. 

I thought Geology was a pretty boring subject until we studied it for a homeschool science unit. I was completely taken with the cool rocks, how the cycle of minerals, magma, and sedimentary rocks form. I loved learning about the chemical makeup of minerals. And when I took my kids to the Geology Museum at Clemson, the fluorescent black light room was a favorite. So when I heard that the Emerald Village Mine near Little Switzerland, North Carolina, was offering a very limited Black Light Mine Tour, I was in. I didn’t hesitate to get tickets when they went on sale back in the early spring and good thing, because they immediately sold out. 

So start planning your 2023 adventure right now! As of January 29, 2023, tickets are now on sale for the 2023 season.

Glowing minerals

Lake Glenville is a Hidden Gem in Western NC

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Lake Glenville in Jackson County, NC is truly a hidden gem, perfect for families especially who love the outdoors, and a peaceful retreat away from our busy lives.

Thanks Jackson County, North Carolina for inviting us to spend a weekend at Lake Glenville.

The Cashiers area of Western North Carolina has held a special place in my heart since my family moved to South Carolina more than eight years ago because it was the first place we took a family vacation. And it was just amazing – we hiked, ate at delicious restaurants, went swimming in waterfalls, tried out paddle boarding, and had that relaxing family trip I had envisioned. Now, even years later and after many day trips to the area, I’m still in love with this piece of heaven and was delighted to explore a part of Jackson County that I had yet to check out: Lake Glenville.

My two daughters, ages 11 and 8, packed as much as we possibly could into the weekend and left reluctantly because we had such a great time together. I already have a list of things I want to do that we didn’t get to. But, for now, let me tell you about why Lake Glenville should be on your family’s list of places to go, especially if you’re searching for that hidden gem of a spot to relax and enjoy each other. And one of the best parts: we did our entire weekend trip on just one tank of gas.

If you need more ideas of places to go and things to do in the Cashiers area, see our big guide!

Pines Rec Lake Glenville
Pines Recreation Area at Lake Glenville

Take a Boat Ride on the Highest Lake East of the Mississippi River in Jackson County, NC

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You can explore Lake Glenville, the highest lake in Eastern US, in Jackson County, NC by boat with Lake Glenville Scenic Boat Tours. We did the beautiful boat tour and will tell you all you need to know to enjoy the scenic lake.

Thanks to Jackson County, North Carolina for hosting us and providing the opportunity to take the boat tour.

Created in 1941, Lake Glenville is the highest lake east of the Mississippi River at more than 3,400 feet. But really, even if you didn’t know this cool information, you would be just as enamored as I was seeing it because it’s spectacularly gorgeous and serene. That’s what drew me in the most. There’s something really special about mountain lakes (besides the amazing fact that they are free from sharks). Maybe it’s that crisp mountain air, the ancient hills that loom in the distance, that clear water – whatever it is, that’s where I want to be. 

So when I had the opportunity to take a boat tour with Captain Mark and his scenic boat cruise on Lake Glenville – the only boat tour company that operates on the lake – I was all in. We got to see waterfalls, a bald eagle nest, and enjoy the beauty of the lake. 

Lake Glenville Boat Tour

Pick apples, explore a corn maze, and eat pumpkin donuts at Stepp’s Orchard in Hendersonville, NC

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This family-owned orchard in Hendersonville, NC has u-pick apples, lots of fun family activities on weekends, and pretty amazing cider and pumpkin donuts.

Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard is the very first u-pick apple orchard in Henderson County and has been in operation for more than 50 years. They know what they’re doing and we had to go check it out for ourselves. Honestly, I went for the pumpkin donuts. I love apple cider donuts but pumpkin? Yes, please!

One thing that stood out to me immediately was just how super nice and helpful everyone at the orchard was. They have u-pick apples, pre-picked apples, a big store that sells homemade soap, t-shirts, and honey, a bakery, corn maze, pumpkin patch, jumping pillow, apple canon, and wagon ride. Some of these activities are only available on weekends, which I’ll tell you about in this review.

Stepps Orchard

Charlotte Guides