Friday, August 24, 2012

Keeping up with the Crains: Vacation Memories and a Williamsburg Travelogue

I grew up in a family that not only adores traveling, but has made it into a competitive sport.  It's not that we were wealthy, in fact we were far from it, but it was important enough to my parents (my dad in particular) that they made it a priority.  Mostly we did roadtrips that brought us zigzagging around North America, driving through cities and states just to say we'd been there.  Then when I was 14 they'd saved enough frequent flier miles from my dad's business trips that they brought the whole family to Europe for a couple weeks.  We rented a bottom-of-the-line metal cargo van with utilitarian (a nice word for uncomfortable) seats and camped our way through 15 countries during one of the rainiest summers in European history.   It was miserable at times, but the trip truly ended up being a life-changing and amazing experience for us kids. 

By the time I graduated from college I'd visited 49 states and 19 countries and I felt like I was quite the world traveler.  But then it all fizzled out.  Nearly 20 years later and I am still at the exact same number.  We haven't even knocked off my one last unvisited state. 

One of my brothers keeps a spreadsheet  (seriously) that tracks countries visited by my family members.  I think he started it as a way to  keep track for fun, but it's turned out to be quite the competition fodder for certain of my family members.  Not me though.  Although I am the oldest, I am second-to-last on the list.   While my  brother, Nate, and sister, Heather, regularly plan exciting excursions around the world every-other-year or so and have been to nearly 50 countries.   Glen and I, on the other hand, have proved to be pretty sedate travelers.  Neither one of us really loves trip planning and we tend to stick to the same comfortable destinations over and over.    My younger kids don't even remember ever having flown on a plane.  

Our most common vacation destinations are:

Utah or Denver--because that's where our parents live. 
Idaho/Yellowstone--because that's where Glen's family cabin is
Minnesota--because that's where I grew up and up until a few months ago where my sister lived. 
Williamsburg, Virginia--because it's close to home and has a fun mix of different kinds of activities

Usually our idea of a daring trip is traveling a different route to get to a familiar destination.  Here are some of our more off-the-wall vacation destinations:

Philadelphia--we've lived 2 hours from there for 15+ years and have been there one time
Boston--we tagged along with Glen on a business trip there in 2007 and my kids still consider it one of their favorite vacations ever
NYC--we've been there a few times over the years
Outer Banks--although only  one state away, last week's trip there was actually our family's first trip ever to North Carolina
Pacific Northwest/California--one year my brother got married in Oakland, California, then two years later Glen's sister got married in Sacramento, so both times we just made it into a whole roadtrip around the area

I do have to interject here, that Spencer's Make-a-Wish trip will be to a country that no one in our family has ever been to before--a fact which excites me greatly.  I may be almost last in numbers of countries visited, but at least I'll have beat everyone to that one place! 

So with all that rambling on about my family's traveling habits, really I just wanted to show off some more pictures from our recent vacation.  Although we've been to Williamsburg a million times before, we actually discovered a few new treasures there this time.   Forgive the detail here, but since we travel here often enough I am hoping to keep track of some of these deals/places, to help us next time we go. 

First off we learned that our family is pretty spoiled when it comes to lodging.  Glen had researched beforehand and got what he thought was the best deal, which was a Knight's Inn in Williamsburg.  The kids started complaining as soon as we pulled up and with good reason.  It was dirty, had spotty internet coverage, had a laughable free breakfast of stale mini muffins, and because of our family's size we had to get 2 rooms in opposite ends of the motel.    We stayed there one night and basically decided that if we couldn't find somewhere better then we would just come home.  Luckily we found the Staybridge Suites in Newport News.   It was a longer drive to the sites in Williamsburg, but it had everything that Knight's Inn didn't.  It was clean!  The internet worked consistently!  The free breakfast was delicious and plentiful!  There was an in-room fridge and kitchenette so we could save money by not eating out!   And it had enough beds for our whole family to be in one room!   And to top it off, the nightly rate was cheaper than our 2 rooms at Knight's Inn.  We figured that with the lower rate, the filling breakfast, and being able to cook our own dinners, that we saved over $50 a night. 

And because it was in Newport News, it helped us to branch out from the same old Williamsburg sites we always do (Busch Gardens, the outlet mall, all the historical sites, etc.)


Virginia Living Museum--This very cool museum is in Newport News and had enough to see/do there, that we could have stayed there most of the day.   We stayed for a couple hours and watched a planetarium show,  before heading home.  There were discount coupons in the travel magazines, but with how big our family is, it turned out to be cheaper to just get a season pass.  We will definitely go back here again. 

There were aquariums:

Live animals to see up close (and even touch): 

A screech owl: 

There were walking trails with dozens of native animals to see:   

Another day we went to Go Karts Plus where we mini-golfed....

Spencer and Glen tied at first, then Glen won the tie-breaker...

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this picture (even if Spencer is chewing on a straw)...

The kids enjoyed cooling off on the bumper boats

and they even rode a little mini-roller coaster, which Ellie thought was the coolest part about the day...

It was a hot day, so they enjoyed cooling off in this misting machine...


Newport News Park:
  A very large park, we could have stayed here much longer, but for the thunder that eventually came.  The kids enjoyed playing a rousing game of Frisbee Golf with Daddy. 

We also took a hike around part of a lake and got to see some wildlife, like these deer: 

And a whole lot of turtles...
We also saw redwing blackbirds, a humongous centipede, a real oriole's nest, dragonflies, salamanders, a woodpecker, a frog, and fish with neon green tails. 


Lastly we went to Fort Fun, a part of Huntington Park in Newport News.  Set right on the banks of the James River, it was a scenic spot for a children's playground.  Although not in the greatest part of town, it was fun and worth a stop to burn off some energy.  Storms were just about to roll in, so we had the playground to ourselves. 

All in all, it turned out to be a very fun vacation and maybe someday I'll stop blogging about it.  

But not yet. 


annalisa said...

I am glad you guys discovered some new places!

Is that a really good zoom on your camera or were you that close to the eagles?! That is pretty awesome!

The bumper boats look awesome!

It looks like you all had fun!

P.S. Unless I happen to get a job where I have to travel a lot, I am a little too far behind on the countries to ever catch up.

shannon said...

I do kinda love this post :) The best part is seeing your family enjoying a proper family holiday all together! Looked like so much fun! I also loved reading about your travel obsessed family. I kinda really want to see that spreadsheet :) And what's your one missing state? I have three and feel like I'll never finish my list.

The McArthur Family said...
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