Jeep Family Road Trip Noccalula Falls in Gadsden, AL: Train Ride, Petting Zoo, and Nature Hike

I grew up on Lookout Mountain in Fort Payne, Alabama; which happens to be the midway point between Chattanooga and Gadsden- less than an hour from both cities.

A month ago, my wife and I took a scenic drive all the way down the mountain to downtown Chattanooga. But this past weekend for our son’s Fall Break, we simply drove in the other direction, which led to Gadsden -home of Noccalula Falls.

Despite visiting the place throughout my own childhood, somehow I had yet to take my own family there. I suppose our new Jeep serves as constant motivation to discover (or rediscover) nearby hidden gems!

Children ages 3 and under are free admission, so we only paid a total of $16 to enter the park. That granted us access to the petting zoo, the train ride around the park, and the trails that go down to the bottom of Noccalula Falls.

It was a great way to spend an Autumn morning…

So if you are looking for a fun affordable family road trip, I highly suggest Noccalula Falls in Gadsden, Alabama!

Dear Jack: Your Week at Nashville Zoo Camp

8 and a half years.

Dear Jack,

You are one lucky kid. Last week, you got to spend 5 days of summer camp at the Nashville Zoo!

It was especially cool since you got to spend that time alongside your friend Duncan, who you have known since before you were born:

We were in birthing class with his parents back in 2010 when then two of you were still in the womb!

Needless to say, you had such a great time that we’ve already decided to send you back again next year.

Not to mention, your sister is already saying she wants to go in a few years once she is old enough!

Love,

Daddy

2010 Jeep Wrangler JK Sport to the Nashville Zoo with the Kids

It is exactly 30 miles from our garage to the Nashville Zoo; which really isn’t bad for such a great source of family entertainment.

Somehow though, it’s been a solid two years since our family has journeyed down there.

But as I’ve mentioned before, now that we have a Jeep Wrangler as our family weekend vehicle, suddenly anywhere we go is not only more exciting, but also worth the journey.

Despite being an SUV, the JK series of the Jeep Wrangler doesn’t have much storage capacity. However, I was still have to squeeze in the double stroller in the back, which made things much easier for my wife and I to shuttle the kids across the Nashville Zoo. It takes a solid 3 hours of constantly moving if you want to see all the animals.

We actually started off our visit to the Nashville Zoo with my son and and my wife (Jack and Jill) finally getting to try out the Soaring Eagle.

Check out the quick video I made of their ride…

As the population of Nashville continues to rapidly grow, so does the number of exhibits at the Nashville Zoo. For example, I don’t remember there being rhinos the last time we were there…

But as you can see from these pictures from this weekend…

There was a lot to see and do…

And we were so exhausted, Mommy and Daddy took a nap when we got home…

Even if our kids didn’t.

3 Experiences to Share With Your Kids in Syracuse 

By guest blogger Eathen Smith, as part of the sponsored Hotel Planner campaign.

Syracuse is a well-known family-friendly destination located in Upstate New York. There is so much to discover here. The accessibility of the city is perfect for families with young kids seeking conveniently located hotels near attractions and places to visit. Syracuse has a diverse cultural mix, and families describe the mix of people and general atmosphere as warm and welcoming.

Green spaces and historic architecture complement the people. Children can experience wonder, creativity, learning, and just plain fun in a hassle-free and convenient environment. Experience a taste of what Syracuse has to offer by choosing some family-friendly ways to see the city.

Something Unique for Everyone at Rosamond Gifford Zoo

Children have many opportunities to be connected to the wildlife and educational experiences offered by the Rosamond Gifford Zoo. Elephants, penguins, tigers, and all kinds of marine life will delight kids of all ages. The zoo offers birthday parties with catering, crafts, games, and admission all included.

The Rosamond Gifford Zoo also features many upcoming events such as Under the Sea Day. Ocean themed games and fun activities like a bouncing castle are all part of the fun. Conservation themed events are also held regularly during the year. Members are also offered a number of free or discounted events.

Family Friendly Festival and Events.

There are also many different festivals and events to put on the kid’s to-do list during the calendar year. Syracuse is named the City of Festivals for good reason. Family-friendly events such and the Great New York State Fair include rides, music, livestock competitions, and animals for all ages. The festival runs from the second last week of August through to early September. There are also Greek, Italian, Irish, and Scottish Festivals held yearly. A range of different kid-friendly activities and delicious foods for the whole family can be found at all the festivals mentioned.

Walking With Kid Convenience

Sensational Syracuse is responsible for the maintenance of over 1000 acres of open space including parks, swimming pools, and, ice rinks. For visitors on a tight schedule or budget, it is highly recommended to check out some of the convenient walking tours offered throughout the city.

The Onondaga Historical Association offers a map of the Syracuse Historic Walking Tour. Over 70 historical attractions are shown on the map and tours can be started or finished at any point. This is perfect for just choosing a few sights that are of interest to the children. There are plenty of hotels in Syracuse located in close proximity to the tour. Public transport or a taxi can do the rest.

Why choose Syracuse? It is easy, fun and perfect for all ages. Hotels are plentiful and can be found for every budget making it a convenient destination. It has the perfect mix of free and paid events sure to pique the interest of children of all ages. Festivals, attractions, history, green space, architecture, education, and lots of fun are all a possibility in Syracuse. 

Image via Flickr by vastateparkstaff

Dear Holly: Your 1st Visit to the Louisville Zoo

1 year, 1 month.

Dear Holly,

As part of our 9th wedding anniversary celebration, Mommy and I took you and your brother to Louisville, Kentucky in the outstanding 2017 Toyota 4Runner.

While this made your brother’s 3rd time to this zoo, it was your first time to experience it.

The highlight this time ended up being when we got to see the bear taking a fun swim. It was like he was just showing off; like a cartoon bear! The exhibit was built around a 2 story tall tank.

We started out seeing the bear from the bottom floor of the tank. As you can see, you and Mommy marveled at the sight!

Your brother asked, “What if this tank burst open and we had to swim with the bear?”

After a few minutes of taking it all in, we went upstairs and saw the swimming bear from a higher perspective. It was almost like he was smiling at us as he swam!

Being that your current animal obsession is birds, you obviously loved pointed each one out to me, whether it was an owl or a parrot.

When it came time to see the gorillas, I’m not sure you were convinced it was even an animal! After all, you’re used to me sometimes dressing up in my Chewbacca pajama onesie as a joke.

So yeah, you may not have been impressed by the gorilla for that reason, but at least your brother was.

Speaking of the gorillas, perhaps one of my personal favorites parts of our visit to the Louisville Zoo was when we all individually got our pictures taken in front of the “How do you measure up to a full-grown gorilla?”

Your picture is hilarious, as you’ve obviously so small and cute compared to the outline of a gorilla! Meanwhile, I was the best match to the gorilla- which I guess is a good thing?

Love,

Daddy

This is 36: We Celebrated Our 9 Year Wedding Anniversary by Taking Our Kids on a Road Trip to Louisville, Kentucky

Yes, it was indeed nine years ago today that my wife and I were married at Brenthaven Cumberland Presbyterian Church. We purposely got married right next to a holiday (July 4th) so that we’d sort of always have a built-in day off for whatever we ended up doing for our anniversary.

For our 9th anniversary this year, we decided there was no better way to celebrate, than the load up our 6 and a half year-old son and our 1 year-old daughter and take a random road trip to one of my favorite cities in America:

Louisville, Kentucky.

Perhaps a more normal couple would have ventured there without the kids- and checked out some venues that are little more anniversary-ish and perhaps not so focused on catering to the attention spans of children.

Nah. Not us.

If we’re going to spend the money on a road trip, even just a 3 hour one across the state line, we might as well make it a family affair.

Being the world’s most famous vegan family friendly daddy blogger, Toyota helped us out by sending a 2017 4Runner; which proved to be ideal for our laid-back adventure to the Blue Grass State.

Because we’ve got our annual family zoo pass from Nashville, we were able to get in the Louisville Zoo for half off.

And because we’re cool adventurous people, we even took an unplanned stop at Dinosaur World in Cave City, Kentucky on the way back home to Tennessee.

Thanks to some points we’d earned, my wife was able to cash in a free stay at the Marriott Courtyard Louisville East, just a few miles from the zoo.

I must say we were quite entertained by the “New Japan Pro-Wrestling” tournament that happen to be on, while we enjoyed our dessert treats from Whole Foods Louisville; which was also just a few miles away too.

Two queen size beds between the four of us…

You can imagine how it must have been getting our daughter to sleep too; in the pack-and-play bed next to ours.

It was around 10:30 PM by the time both our kids were asleep. To ensure we didn’t disturb them, we laid out a towel on the bathroom floor in front of the sink, and enjoyed our gourmet vegan cupcakes from Whole Foods.

This is 36.

Our Family’s 1st Visit to the Nashville Zoo, as a Family of 4

The original plan was to take our daughter Holly to the Nashville Zoo on her 1st birthday back in April…

But between the rainy weather that weekend, and her being sick the next weekend, and our family being out of town after that, it took until this month to finally make our family’s first visit to the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, as a family of four.

It actually suddenly made sense though, to buy an annual family zoo pass, since it pays for itself by the 3rd visit. We live in Spring Hill, which is about a 45 minute drive for us; not so bad of a trek.

It pretty much takes at least that long to get anywhere in the Nashville area anyway, if you’re lucky.

Something I didn’t realize was how much the Nashville Zoo has expanded since the last time our family was there, a couple of years ago when we were only a family of three.

They have this new swinging rope bridge that our whole family loved, for starters.

Our 6 and a half year-old son Jack was pleasantly surprised to see the Nashville Zoo now has a Komodo Dragon. To him, that’s one of the most fascinating animals, because it’s ultimately a living dinosaur.

He also really liked seeing the porcupines, which I don’t remember from our last visit back when he was only about 3 years old. His hair actually looks like a porcupine, right?

Which, speaking of, Jack was so excited to be able to feel an actual porcupine quill. Coincidentally, the high school intern who showed him the quill was also named Jack.

Oh! And the kangaroos…

The last time I had taken Jack to the Nashville Zoo, the kangaroo exhibit had just opened. He obviously was in his element, being able to pet the tame kangaroos.

I also don’t remember him being able to see the giant turtles up close until this time either. He could have chilled out with those guys all day!

As for our daughter Holly, she was equally thrilled by the whole experience. She is currently fascinated by any kind of animals, especially birds. Right now she’s working real hard on trying to say the word bird. So it was a big deal to see big birds up so close.

I think in her mind, every other kind of animal is basically a mouse, a cat, or a dog. She loved pointing at each new creature she discovered.

Perhaps by default, her favorite bird was the flamingo. Why wouldn’t it be? A giant, funny, pink bird… perfect.

So naturally, her souvenir was a small stuffed animal version of one.

As for Jack, he choose a clouded leopard, as ultimately, that was the animal he was most enthralled by during this visit.

We were at the zoo for only two hours and only saw half of place. Good thing we have a year-long pass.

Obviously, we had so much fun and are looking forward to our next visit. And yes, it’s a complete coincidence that our last name is Shell, and the zoo just happens to have a section now called The Shell Station. (In case you were wondering.)

As for our next visit, maybe we’ll get around to sharing our experience in seeing the other half of the Nashville Zoo.