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Cottle Strawberry Farm in Columbia, SC has Delicious Berries You Can Pick Yourself!

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Have you visited Cottle Strawberry Farm for strawberry picking? Columbia, SC has one of the largest strawberry patches located on a beautiful, huge farm where strawberries are plentiful. Plus, it is such a memorable springtime experience to visit a strawberry farm. Columbia, SC’s Cottle Strawberry Farm offers both u-pick and prepicked strawberries, so you’ll never go without those sweet juicy berries.

The first thing I noticed when pulling into Cottle Strawberry Farm outside Columbia, SC was the rows upon rows upon rows of strawberries. The place is huge and the berries are juicy, sweet, and delicious. 


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


10+ Places to See Dinosaurs Near Columbia, SC

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Do you want to take your family somewhere to see dinosaurs? Have you been searching for “places to see dinosaurs near me”? If you have a dino-loving kid, you probably have been. And, you’re in luck. Because, we have a list of all the places to see dinosaurs near Columbia, SC. Our list includes some fabulous places to learn about dinosaurs right in Columbia, SC,  and also in North Carolina and South Carolina. All of them make a great dinosaur day trip or even a weekend adventure from the Midlands.


Where to See Dinosaurs in the Southeast

This article includes:
Where to See Dinosaurs in Greenville, SC
Places to See Dinosaurs in Columbia, SC
Places to See Dinosaurs in North Carolina
Places to See Dinosaurs in Georgia
Dinosaur Traveling Exhibits


Action-Packed Jurassic World Live Tour Review: 5 Things You Need to Know

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The action-packed Jurassic World Live Tour is in Greenville, SC this weekend and we have a full review of what to expect when you see this live dinosaur show! We were given media tickets so we could review the show – all opinions are our own.

This article contains affiliate links.

I’m a big fan of the Jurassic Park movies and my kids have seen most of them – and we just really think dinosaurs are cool – so when the Jurassic World Live Tour came to town and we had the opportunity to go, I jumped on that like a T-Rex on the bad guys. After all, this is Jurassic World comes to life. 

I’ll tell you all about the live show, what to expect, what ages this may be good for, and some mildly scary parts to think about before you go. So let’s go on with this Jurassic World Live Tour review!

Get tickets to Jurassic World Live Tour.

Jurassic World Live TRex
Jurassic World Live T-Rex

About the Jurassic World Live Tour: the Pre-Show

The Jurassic World Live Tour starts with a pre-show that anyone who has a ticket can go to. But you have to get there when the doors open an hour before the show. You’ll get to go right on the floor of the arena and see two dinosaurs – a Stegosaurus and a Triceratops – plus the baby dinosaur, baby Bumpy from Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous. The Jurassic World Jeep is on display as well as the glass globe that you’ll recognize from the movie. 

Jurassic World Live dinosaurs
Jurassic World Live Pre-Show

You’ll have the opportunity to take as many photos as you like and get pretty close to the dinosaurs as they move and blink. The show did a really great job with these creatures, making them life-size and super cool to see. 

The floor will close to guests 20 minutes before the show starts so you’ll have time to go to the restroom and get to your seats. 

About the Jurassic World Live Tour: the Main Show

The storyline of the Jurassic World Live Tour centers on Jeanie, a Troodon dinosaur, and Dr. Kate Walker, her trainer and a scientist herself. Dr. Walker created a device that goes atop Jeanie’s head and transmits what she is feeling, which the evil  guys from Ingen definitely want and try to get throughout the live show.

The show starts at Isla Nubar and gets right into the action immediately with dirt bikes and fighting and Jeanie being captured by Ingen. But Dr. Kate Walker and her crew of scientists and hilarious interns track Jeanie down in Chile and then have to fight the bad guys even more, especially when the raptors (my favorite!) show up. 

Jurassic World Live Tour
Jeanie and Dr. Kate Walker

There are a lot of surprises that may make guests jump, like pyrotechnics, but overall, the show is fast-moving and pretty fun to watch. The 20-minutes intermission comes about 35 minutes into the show when Dr. Kate and her team have to travel back to Isla Nubar to help Jeanie find her eggs and save the day. 

The second half starts off with a possible Triceratops fight after one of the interns mistakes her eggs for Jeanie’s. The Stegosaurus and her baby make an appearance here, as do more Raptors and the flying dinosaurs. The mighty Tyrannosaurus rex rounds out the show with a bang and a lot of fire on the stage. 

Jurassic World Live Tour: Appropriate Ages

I took kids ages 8-12 and all of them loved it. They got the gist of the storyline, which I don’t think younger kids will understand. But younger kids also won’t care because the show has big, lifesize, and live dinosaurs so really, what’s better than that?

The arena was filled with families who had babies through tweens. I’d say most of the kids were preschool through elementary-aged. I saw some kids cuddle up next to their parents if they were scared but I didn’t think there were a ton of scary parts. It really depends on each child. 

jurassic world live
Jurassic World Live Dinosaurs

There was a lot of (fake) fight scenes between Dr. Kate and her team and the Ingen guys. Dr. Kate gets into a one-on-one fight with a burly guy during the second half of the show and he really looks like he hits her but she gives it right back to him. One of the scientists on her team has a crush on her and saves her from this dude and they share a short kiss before heading off to rescue the rest of their team, who Ingen had captured. 

There is one part where a flying dinosaur takes off with one of the bad guys, which is typical Jurassic Park style. There is no inappropriate language and overall, the show is very family-friendly. Some older kids may think it’s cheesy but thankfully my 12-year-old thought it was great. 

As for the noise level of the Jurassic World Live Tour show, it wasn’t that loud at all. The biggest noise makers were the surprise pyrotechnics and maybe some of the music and the roars from the T-Rex. If you’ve been to a Monster Jam show, this was less than half that noise level and I don’t think ear plugs are needed. 

And if you haven’t ever seen any of the Jurassic Park movies, don’t worry, you’ll still enjoy the show. You don’t need to have seen the movies to enjoy all that the show has to offer. 

Jurassic World Live Tour: The Dinosaurs

OK, the dinosaurs are awesome. The Raptors and Jeanie are obviously people and you can see their legs, which are covered in black leggings but honestly, I hardly noticed because the movements and sounds of the dinosaurs is so real. I thought the show did such a great job with this. 

If you sit in the premium floor seats, the dinosaurs will come right up to you. It looked super cool and I was mildly jealous. 

Jurassic World raptor
Jurassic World Live Tour Raptor

The bigger dinosaurs are on rolling floor things that make them move so that may take away the “real” look of the dinosaurs but their heads and tails move independently and their eyes even blink. The T-Rex was impressive. It also moves by a controlled floor machine but man, that thing can turn on a dime. It was awesome. The jaws on all the dinosaurs move like you would think a real dinosaur would move so I felt like I wasn’t even watching the animatronics or the people that moved the dinosaurs because just watching them as a whole was pretty captivating. 

The set was also fantastic. The show did a great job making it seem like the actors and dinosaurs were in the rainforest in Isla Nubar or the desert in Chile. It was a very thought-out show all the way through and truly, a lot of fun. 

Jurassic World Live Tour: Tickets

You can get your tickets for the Greenville, SC show at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena website or box office. For all other shows, you can get tickets from the Jurassic World Live Tour website

The schedule for Greenville, SC is: 

  • Friday, February 10th: Pre-show starts at 6 pm and the show starts at 7 pm 
  • Saturday, February 11th: Pre-show times are 10 am, 2 pm, and 6 pm and show times are 11 am, 3 pm, and 7 pm
  • Sunday, February 12th: Pre-show times are 10 am and 2 pm and show times are 11 am and 3 pm. 

The entire Jurassic World Live Tour show runs about 1 hour and 45 minutes, which includes the 20-minute intermission. Ticket prices start at $20. 

Get tickets to Jurassic World Live Tour.

Have you seen the Jurassic World Live Tour?

More Family Fun

Another big arena family entertainment favorite is Monster Jam. Thinking about bringing your kids to Monster Jam when those giant Monster trucks come to town? Don’t miss our Monster Jam review, where we tell you everything you need to know!

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!

Parents: You Don’t Need to do All the Christmas Things

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The Christmas season is supposed to be all about joy, peace, and a fleeting holiday spirit that seems to be gone quicker than a wispy trail of smoke once the dishes are done after Thanksgiving dinner. It’s all of a sudden a whirlwind of school holiday parties, making a list of gifts and going all out to fulfill that list, trying to create magic at home with an elf just because everyone else is seemingly doing it, taking a holiday overnight trip, and trying to see all the Christmas lights and displays because your family will be deprived if they don’t do that. 

This is for all you parents who are hanging by a thread trying to make this season the most spectacular of all for your kids and just don’t know if you can hang on much longer. To all of you: you don’t need to do all the things. 

Your Christmas tree doesn’t need a giant stack of presents under it. Your kids don’t need the latest toys. You don’t need to stretch yourself so thin trying to cram the most you can into this holiday season. You and your kids are not deprived if you don’t do it all, buy it all, and sacrifice your sanity for an experience, toy, or magical experience that will soon be forgotten. 

Don't do it all at Christmas

You don’t need to do it all

Last year, parents estimated they would spend about $276 on Christmas gifts for each of their kids and a whopping 41% of Americans were willing to go into debt for gift-giving. Meanwhile, the estimated worth of unwanted gifts hovers around $15 billion. Those aren’t small figures, especially in today’s world where many families are struggling with everyday bills. Kids don’t need the latest toy, the most expensive phone, and all the other material things that they’ll forget in a month’s time. Smaller gifts or experience gifts, like memberships to places you and your family go often (hello, SC Parks Pass!) go a long way towards making great memories together all year long. 

I’m not sure why we parents sometimes feel like we need to do all the things during the Christmas season. Maybe social media, maybe endless ads, maybe just talking with friends about all the cool stuff they are doing, or maybe it’s what our parents did with us that we are trying to replicate with our own kids. Whatever the reason, it’s totally fine – more than fine – to back off from the deluge of activities that come with this season. 

You aren’t depriving your kids if you don’t do it all

Your kids will be okay if they aren’t doing everything their friends are doing and it’s a good opportunity for them to learn that not doing everything their friends are doing isn’t something to be ashamed about. We all have our own struggles and priorities and I think it’s good to learn early on that kids don’t need to fit in to have fun. I wish I would have learned that a lot earlier than I did in life. 

I didn’t grow up doing a ton of activities during the Christmas season. Sometimes our family would take a trip together, which was a blast. We would go during Christmas and experience it in another state or town and have fun together exploring a new city and making dinner together in a small kitchen in our hotel room. It was awesome.

We didn’t do parades but we did go drive around looking at Christmas lights in neighborhoods with popcorn that we cooked over the stove and tried not to let explode all over the kitchen. We had fun decorating our Christmas tree together. One year my dad found a tree that legit looked like the poor little tree from Charlie Brown’s Christmas and it turned into the joke that never ended year after year since we couldn’t do worse than that tree. 

I don’t remember the gifts I got or gave. I don’t remember sitting for Santa photos. The memories from the Christmas season that remain are those with my family. I do remember one gift: it was tickets to a New Jersey Nets (a professional basketball team) the day after Christmas or so. I had played basketball with a passion as a tween and teenager and that gift was special. That’s really all I remember in terms of gifts. 

Choosing sanity

Because of those memories and because I have zero desire to drive myself crazy during these weeks leading up to Christmas, I intentionally try to minimize what we do. While I love writing about new activities for Christmas for Kidding Around, aside from those excursions, I try to take these weeks of Advent to spend quality time together with my kids. We go look at Christmas lights, go ice skating, go to live nativities and remember the real reason for this season, take time to volunteer, and read books together on Christmas. And, I intentionally try to not go overboard on gifts for my kids. 

I want to get to Christmas and not be completely worn out or fed up or just plain unhappy. After all, this is indeed a season of joyful expectation. If you’ve got to seriously scale back your calendar to be happier and less stressed, then by all means, do it. You truly don’t need to do it all so your kids can experience the magic of the season. They will remember the special moments with you above all else and that’s what matters.

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? 

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