Well, we visited Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock, NC, again this year. It's only a 45-minute drive from our place up on Beech Mountain, and there's something about these wonderfully cool high country summers that makes taking the kids to an amusement park so much easier! I don't know about other parents, but spending the day in a loud, hot, gritty roped-off place in some parking lot, waiting in lines for tacky rides and jostling amongst sweaty crowds is not one of the experiences I was most looking forward to as a Mom. But as you know, unless you can afford a nanny or are prepared to finagle a solid schedule of Day Camp for the kids, mornings spent at charming boutiques and upscale cafes, followed by afternoons quietly relaxing before an inspiring view, no longer typify the bulk of your time while on vacation.
Thank God for places like Tweetsie Railroad! Yes, it has the photographer at the entrance, the carnival food, the cheesy tourist trinkets in the gift shop - and even some rides blaring rock music that appeal to the teenagers and others who have not yet learned to truly respect the laws of gravity and high-speed motion. But what they say about "Location, Location, Location!" is true. Nestled in the beautiful blue ridge mountains, where the temperatures stay reasonable in the Summer, and where beautiful views are all around, this is one amusement park I really don't mind visiting repeatedly. And the main attraction of the park is an honest-to-God steam engine, with real smoke, real soot and real cinders. Now that's interesting to see, feel and smell - no matter what your age.
Up at the top of the park (It's on a mountainside, so it's great for your calves, if you don't decide to avail yourselves of the chairlift ride) there are kiddie rides, a petting zoo, magic shows, etc. With Emily currently being 5 and a still too afraid of all the friendly cowboys and Indians wandering around down near the train platform, we do find ourselves spending more time at the top of the park. This visit, we brought a picnic (It was pretty easy for me to pop out to the parking lot and get our cooler from the car at lunchtime, since we arrived by 10 a.m. and consequently got a great spot up near the entrance.). We ate at one of the many tables scattered in pleasant shady spots throughout the park.
But when you've tried it all and have finally run out of steam, we love the peaceful trail through the woods along the backside of the park (downhill - that's important) along which we can meander back towards the exit, occasionally spotting a chipmunk or woodpecker, pointing out an interesting mushroom or wildflower, and discussing that amusing encounter with a goat or why the cheese in Mortimer Mouse's cheese mine glows in the dark (Oh, I'm not going to try to describe that one here. You've just got to go and experience that ride for yourselves).
Anyway, a great family day out. (But if you have a big family, it's worth scouting out some sort of coupons, as admission is a bit on the pricey side. After all, it costs to keep an old steam locomotive in fine working order.)
To find out more, visit www.tweetsie.com/