There are some distinct perks to being a single mom. Vacation planning is one of those. I don’t have much experience planning vacations with a significant other. Many of those trips were visits home, which really didn’t take much planning, and aside from the good times visiting family, weren’t filled with much adventure. I do, though, have vivid memories of family vacations as a child and use these as my frame of reference. From that lens, I must conclude that, like putting up Christmas trees, vacations can be easier going it alone, and sweeter with the addition of a good friend.
Last year, Lesley and I planned and navigated through our first Nurture Her Nature family vacation to the glorious destination town of Cave City, Kentucky. Never heard of it? I hadn’t either. If you are ever traveling down Highway 65 in Kentucky and happen to notice a giant T-Rex towering alongside the highway, you will have found it. It is home to the epic, but not-widely-known, Dinosaur World. In it you will find a trail through the woods lined with life-sized dinosaur replicas. It is epically cheesy but was adored by the girls. Story imparted onto us her vast knowledge of these prehistoric beings, Riley got serious about digging for fossils, and Maddie practiced her toddling. They were each in their element. And of course, the trip wrapped up with an enthusiastic (from the kids’ perspective) trip to the gift shop.
While we spent one day in the interior of the Jurassic (and Triassic and Cretaceous) time periods, we found ourselves the next day in the heart of Australia. Or at least as close to that as Kentucky can come. Yes, beautiful Cave City is not only home to Dinosaur World but also Kentucky Down Under, a zoo of sorts. It was a pretty cool place that allowed the kids to get up close to kangaroos, tortoises, and dingoes. Lesley also let the girls get closer to a gigantic snake than I was comfortable with. It could have easily swallowed each of them. Not that I’m still holding that against her. In between animal habitats, my girls suffered from spells of moodiness, but we were able to pull it together for the ending attraction: good ole’ Midwest barn animals. You gotta love Midwestern roadside attractions.
While we had a great time at both of the kid-friendly Cave City attractions, the best part of the whole vacation was the time we spent at our cabin at the local Jellystone. Lesley told me about the fun that they had a summer before at this exact location with her sisters. The cabin, and Jellystone, did not fall short of the expectations she built for me. The whole weekend was water-themed, which meant park-wide water fights each evening at 5 and a wild water hayride that really was quite wild. We spent the long weekend walking to the playground, grilling, and eating bourbon balls on the porch (us, not the girls!). It was glorious and soul-filling. The way all great vacations should be.
Vacation planning this year did not have a clear winner the way that we saw Cave City. There are a lot of great Midwest towns, but with Maddie being two this year, the length of time we were willing to spend in the car with all of them was a factor. In the end, we decided to return to another of Lesley’s past vacation spots, St. Louis, and will be braving a hotel room instead of a cabin. We’ve researched what the city has to offer and have excitedly compiled a short-list of what we want to do while we are there. The thing about traveling with friends is that the compromises are easy, and the planning is full of laughs.
I also planned my own family vacation this year. Last year, we headed out to Chattanooga, Tennessee, for a cousin’s wedding. It was a fantastic trip and gave me the confidence to brave road trips with my girls. Without much hesitation, I knew that I wanted to go back to a Jellystone with them this year. I might just make that a family tradition, and I do love a good family tradition. The planning for this vacation was easy and exactly what I want.
This weekend, the girls and I are heading out for this vacation. There are no roadside attractions in store for us this time, but the town does boast of a truly awesome playground designed like a magnificent wooden fort. We will be putting that to the test. This morning, I will pack the car, gather up the girls, and set out on our road trip – now one of my favorite parts about vacation. The long weekend has in store for us adventure, some mishaps, and likely a couple of temper tantrums. But, it will have a lot of quality family time and that’s what it’s really all about.