Farm Family Fun Around Laurel Mississippi

I am pleased to introduce my son-in-law, Ken McCarron, who is an enviromental consultant, and the author of this post. He lives in Denver, Colorado with my daughter, Becca. They have two dogs, Konza and Lexi. 

Traveling with kids near Laurel, Mississippi and looking for outdoor activities just a short drive from town? You may want to get out of the car and check out some of these fun attractions for the preteen set. With a dairy farm, a replica homestead and village, pumpkin patches, and corn mazes, you’ll not only find places to stretch your legs, but some family fun and entertainment, too!  Every year, some of the farms in the region open their doors and give eager visitors a chance to connect with local farmers and learn about and experience working farms.  Most of these activities are seasonal so be sure to check with their websites for scheduled events.  Also, please remember these are working farms so wear appropriate clothing, older shoes (not open toe), and maybe a change of clothes/shoes if it is muddy.

Lazy Acres Plantation

(596 Lazy Acres Road, Chunky, MS 39323): Lazy Acres has two main crops, Christmas trees and pumpkins.  Like many farms their big season is fall with the harvest of the pumpkins and then later the cutting of Christmas trees. However, they also have an annual Easter egg hunt and Breakfast with the Bunny at the farm in the spring.  Easter activities for children include field trips to the Bunny Patch, story time, Easter egg scavenger hunt with prizes, the previously mentioned Breakfast with the Bunny, and chances to learn about the farm and farm animals.  During the fall there are wagon rides to the pumpkin patch to pick pumpkins, children’s educational talks about the pumpkin’s life cycle, giant jumping pillow and slide to play on, and a chance to visit with the farm animals. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas there are Christmas lights displays, Santa’s workshop, and a chance to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus.  Please see the Lazy Acres website for details about events and schedules 

Landrum’s Homestead & Village photo from Landrum Homestead & Village website

Landrum’s Homestead & Village

(1356 Highway 15 South, Laurel, MS 39443): The Landrum’s Homestead and Village is only a few miles from downtown and has many great opportunities for family style events.  The village is a replica of a late 1800s settlement with over 60-buildings including a restored cabin, chapel, schoolhouse, general store, smokehouse, trading post, and a small replica Indian village. The site is open year round (Monday through Saturday) and welcomes walk-in visitors, however they do have special events scheduled throughout the year. During the spring they have Spring Heritage field trips (reservations needed) with demonstrations of  some of the everyday tasks for early settlers, wagon rides, nature trails, and tours of the buildings.  One of their largest events is the annual Christmas at the Village with visit with Santa, food vendors (kettle corn, smokehouse, and homemade ice cream), hand-made craft vendors, civil war re-enactments, a chance to meet and pet some of the farm animals, and lots of live entertainment. For a list of events and schedules please see their calendar on their website 

Ard’s Dairy photo sourc

Ard’s Dairy Farm

(3479 Orchard Lane SE, Ruth, MS 39662): Ard’s Dairy Farm is a working family run dairy farm near Ruth, MS, about a 1.5 hour drive west of downtown Laurel.  They offer year round tours of the farm (with reservations) and a chance to learn about dairy farming and “how your milk, butter, cheese, and cream magically appear on your grocery store shelves”.  Fall is their biggest time of the year with their Fall Festival in October.  Every Saturday in October they have tours, wagon rides, a chance to pet and feed baby calves, and their annual corn maze.  At night they have a bonfire, with bring your own marshmallows and hot dog cooking (they do have food available for purchase), and flashlight maze adventures.  Please see their website for updated information and schedules.

 

Mitchell Farms Photo Source

Mitchell Farms

(650 Leaf River Church Road, Collins, MS 39428): Just half an hour drive from Laurel is another great fall opportunity to learn about daily life on a working 1,500 acre farm.  Every fall (2017: September 30 – November 5) Mitchell Farms opens its door to visitors for their annual farm event.  Every weekend (also weekday school tours) they have tours of historic log cabins, antique tractors, wagon rides, pumpkin patch, chance to meet some of their “furry farm friends”, corn maze, and many other family fun activities.  More information can be found on their website 

 

Feeding Alpacas  Photo Source

A Stroka Gene-Us Alpacas

(383 County Road 155, Stringer, MS 39481): Every year the A Stroka Gene-Us Alpacas open up their farm to the public and host the annual Alpaca Festival on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  For groups of 10 or more they do have tours at other times of the year (with reservations) and they also host birthday parties (petting alpacas on your birthday is a must do!).  During the annual festival, families will have a chance to learn about these wonderful creatures along with the other farm animals (goats, Scottish highland cow, and four Great White Pyrenees) and the daily workings of the farm.  For more information about Alpaca Festival and tours please see their website .

Three State Parks Within A Mornings Drive Of Jackson, Mississippi

I a pleased to introduce my son-in-law, Ken McCarron, who is an enviromental consultant, and the author of this post. He lives in Denver, Colorado with my daughter, Becca. They have two dogs, Konza and Lexie.  

As an environmental consultant, part of my job I often get sequestered away to client’s offices for weeks and sometime for months at a time. I generally enjoy the traveling and I love to see new places, the adventure of exploring, but after a few visits to the same city it becomes a challenge to find new inspirations.  This was my reality a few winters ago as I worked on a long-term consulting project in Jackson, Mississippi.  I had explored the city on previous trips, seen the museums, walked the streets around the capital, and I needed something different.  I didn’t have a lot of time on the weekends, so I wanted something close to the city.  My inspiration came from an unexpected source, the long ignored iconic symbol of the cheap hotel lobby; the tourist brochure stand.  

No, I didn’t go for the flashy casino ones, golfing vacation rentals, or the numerous ones advertising the battles of the Civil War.  As a child my father had saturated our family vacations with everything Civil War; I really thought that every vacation had to include a picture of my sister and myself sitting on a battlefield canon.  The one that caught my eye was the simple paper one, dull against the glare from all the glossy reflections around it, with the simple print; the State Parks of Mississippi.  It was February in Mississippi, the rental car was paid for, and I had a couple Saturdays to myself.  So, for the random encounter with the simple non-intrusive state park pamphlet, I would visit the four closest parks to my hotel in Jackson, Mississippi and spend my day off.  . Side note, I had already visited the LeFleur’s Bluff State Park in Jackson, including the Museum of Natural Science on a previous trip and since it was only about 5 minutes from the hotel, I decided to visit the next three on the list.

Roosevelt State Park (Morton, MS):

kims no bull

Roosevelt State Park Mississippi Watchtower photo (https://www.mdwfp.com/parks-destinations/ms-state-parks/roosevelt/park-photos/roosevelt-photos.aspx)

It’s not a far trip from downtown Jackson, it only takes about 40 minutes with light traffic on interstate I-20 going east. The entrance to the park is north of I-20 about half mile, you will notice the watch tower on the hill just before the turn.  It was a warm winter Saturday morning when I drove into the park and I didn’t expect to see many visitors, that was my plan, to escape and shake off some of my hours in front of a computer screen editing reports.  To my surprise there were a number of visitors down by Shadow Lake near the visitor center enjoying the sunny day.  I milled around the area, walked down to the lake and past the pools that were closed for the season.  Back at the visitor center there was an information board with a copy of the trail map, which I studied, noted the color system and names (really, trail #7 Civil War Hill; my Dad would be so proud) and then headed off to walk around the lake.  Once I was on the trail I quickly left behind the few picnickers and entered into a pleasant trail system that took me through the winter forest, past pine stands, through a couple of wetlands, past the rental cabins, and into the many campsites on the backside of the lake. I had the place to myself, except when I decided to climb the watch tower, but it was not even that busy.  The park is really nice, situated in the Bienville National Forest the scenery was beautiful and there are some great panoramic views from the overlooks and the tower.  

Golden Memorial State Park (Walnut Grove, MS):

 

My second stop of the day was a trip to Golden Memorial State Park.  I didn’t have a lot of information about this place when I set out, but I really enjoyed my time in this small park.  The park is centered on a 15-acre spring fed lake and seems to be popular among local fisherman and the park memorializes the “Patrons Pupils Teachers and Friends” of the old Golden School and their descendants (I was so tempted to put commas on the stone memorial).  When I entered the park in the late afternoon there were only a couple of cars and a few people fishing.  Since there were not a lot of trails and the park was fairly empty, I ended up walking along the road across the levee up to the trail head.  It was very relaxing and I felt like I had the place to myself.  I assume during the summer the small size of the park may hinder this feeling, but for my afternoon it was perfect.  The trails take you to the far side of the park where you can walk among the pines and see the second largest loblolly pine in the state of Mississippi, and yes, it was pretty tall.  It was getting dark by the time I got back to the car, but the drive back to Jackson was not that bad; without stops it took me about an hour. 

Lake Lincoln State Park (Wesson, MS):

Lake Lincoln State Park Mississippi photo (http://www.mdwfp.com/parks-destinations/ms-state-parks/lake-lincoln.aspx)

The next Saturday was a bit overcast with some rain, however living in Denver, I was just happy that it was not snowing and that it was almost 60 F in February.  I headed south on this trip to Lake Lincoln State Park; I figure that I had already been to Roosevelt, I should keep up with the presidential theme.  The trip from Jackson, down I-55, and through Weston took about an hour.  However, it took me a lot longer to get into the park because right across from the entrance to the park was Smokin’ Oaks BBQ & Steakhouse, and yes I am a sucker for good BBQ.  After lunch I drove/rolled across the road to the park, the rain had picked up so I slowly drove around the park roads and took in the sites of the forest and all the campgrounds. I parked my car near the boat ramp wanted waited for the weather to clear a bit before heading out to explore on foot.  The park seemed larger than the ones I had visited the week before, but I was a little disappointed in the lack of trails, however, this park is all about the 550-acre Lake and fishing.  This was obvious when I realized that everyone I saw in the park that day was either getting ready to fish or was out on the lake in a boat fishing.  I enjoyed my time in the park and I did walk around after the weather had cleared, but I was kind of jealous that I didn’t have a boat to really appreciate this park.  With the weather turning on me again, I decided to head out early and take the back roads back to my hotel.  Part of enjoying a place is to step away from the interstates and just let the roads dictate where you go.

 

Weekend Getaway To Monroe, Louisiana

Although Monroe, Louisiana is a small town, it has a ton of places to see and things to do. And, it is only a seven hour drive from Atlanta via I-20. That’s close enough to go for a weekend or for a week long vacation. Here are some of the attractions you will find in Monroe.

 

Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo

Interstate Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram

Flamingos at the Louisiana Purchase and Zoo
(Photo from http://www.monroe-westmonroe.org/Discover/Attractions)

The Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo would be at the top of my list to visit in Monroe. The zoo has a flock of Flamingos, which I think are so pretty! There are more than 450 species of animals at the zoo, with exhibits that include those animals indigenous to the original Louisiana Purchase. You’ll see Bison, Black Bears, and Elk and more. I can’t wait to see the Australian Exhibit with all the animals that only live in that country. The Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. Tickets costs are: Adults $4.50, Seniors $3, Children $3, 2 & under are free.

Market at 7th Square

7th street market

Market at 7th Square
(photo from http://www.monroe-westmonroe.org/Discover/Attractions)

The Market at 7th Square is open year round, and offers a great variety of produce depending on the season. Early spring brings Strawberries and bedding plants. In Summer, expect to see things like corn, tomatoes, squash, peas, peppers, butter beans, okra, watermelon, muscadines, and peaches. During the Autumn months you’ll find sweet potatoes, and your pumpkins for Halloween Jack O’lanterns or yummy pies. This is the kind of place I look for when I travel, to find locally grown vegetables and fruits, either to eat while I am in the area, or to take home and freeze. They are open Monday thru Saturday, from 7:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. and are located at 1700 North 7th Street in West Monroe, Louisiana. 

Landry Vineyards

After you’ve been by the Market at 7th Square for your fruits and vegetables, you must go see Landry Vineyards. Family owned and operated, Landry Vinyards was established in 1999. The first vineyards were established in Folsom, La. where the winery was also located. Hurricane Katrina destroyed that first vinyard. After that, the family moved their business to West Monroe. The 20 acre site includes a new winery, vineyards and beautiful tasting room. They offer a wide range of wines from Bayoutage Red Blend, Bayoutage White Blend, Peach Muscadine, Blackberry Merlot, Chardonay, and more. They are open Monday thru Saturday from 11:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and offer tastings and tours of the winery. 5199 New Natchitoches Rd, West Monroe, Louisiana 318-557-9051

Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Want to go fishing on Black Bayou? Here is your chance to experience Louisiana wildlife up close. Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a 4,500-acre lake, swamp, bottomland hardwoods, mixed pine and hardwood uplands is a wildlife habitat with all kinds of plant species and everything from small alligators and turtles to coyote, deer and a wide variety of birds. You can rent a canoe and go fishing, or just look at the wildlife that lives in the refuge. Refuge is open daylight hours. Visitor Center open 8-4 weekdays; 9-5 Sat.; 1-5 Sun. Get more info here. 

Whether you stay a weekend or for the week, you’ll find lots to do in Monroe, Louisiana. Get more information here.

 

Fun Ideas For Valentine’s Day in Philadelphia

If you’re planning to go to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during February for a getaway with your Valentine, here are some great things to see and do while you’re there! 

A Great Deal On Hotels! 

This is one of the best reasons to think about going to Philadelphia! If you book an overnight stay at one of the 38 participating Philadelphia hotels, you’ll get a bunch of free perks! Things like free parking; tickets to Jurassic World: The Exhibition; skate rentals at Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, and a whole lot more

Book an overnight stay at one of 38 participating Philadelphia hotels and get free perks like parking, tickets to Jurassic World: The Exhibition at The Franklin Institute, skate rentals at Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, a Garces Restaurants gift card and much more. This great offer is valid on stays now through March 19, 2017. Click here to book your stay!

(M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia)

Jurassic World: The Exhibition at The Franklin Institute

This exhibit at  The Franklin Institute will transport you to Isla Nublar from the 2015 blockbuster film Jurassic World. This animatronic exhibit, in it’s debut in North America, brings dozens of massive prehistoric beasts to life, immersing guests of all ages in an exciting, multi-sensory experience. Now through April 23, 2017.

Rothman Ice Rink

What could be more fun and romantic than going ice skating, then snuggling up with a cup of hot cocoa? The Rothman Ice Rink  is in downtown Philadelphia, near the Capital. 

LOVE in Philadelphia!

Be sure to have your photo taken with your sweetie by the LOVE sculpture. What could say “I love you” more than that? 

(visitPhiladelpia.com)

Stargazing In Reading

Show your sweetie that love is in the stars for you at the Neag Planetarium. just an hour drive from Philadelphia, the planetarium has star shows every Wednesday and Sunday. See their website for more information. While you’re in Reading, stop in to test drive a new car at Bob Fisher Chevrolet

Spend Valentine’s Day In Pittsburg

Are you planning a road trip with your sweetheart during the month of February? Here are some ideas of things to do in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Be sure to have your car serviced at your local dealer before you go. 

Hot Hotel Deals!

Now is the time to save big bucks with the Cozy Up in Pittsburgh Hotel Deals available now through March. Book now and save big – up to 25% – at many of the finest hotel properties in the best locations in and around the ‘Burgh. You won’t want to miss this special deal to Cozy Up in Pittsburgh. Discover why Harper’s Bazaar named Pittsburgh one of the best places to visit in the world in 2017 – and save while you’re doing it!

 Chase Away the Winter Blues

Escape to a tropical showcase of nature’s finest specimens at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens’ Orchid and Tropical Bonsai Show. Delight in two of nature’s finest botanical wonders – now through March 5. Walk through colorful orchids gardens displayed in all of their glory throughout the glasshouse and admire the meticulously trained tropical bonsai in its permanent collection. Sport a tropical shirt on Sundays in February and receive 50 percent off admission!

 Cheers to Beerfest!

Gather with beer enthusiasts from across the region at the Fourth Annual Pittsburgh Winter Beerfest slated for February 24-25 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Enjoy unlimited sampling of over 400 craft beers from 125 breweries. Check out local food and music, and know that while you’re tasting away, Pittsburgh Winter Beerfest will be raising money for Animal Rescue Partners – it’s the best of both worlds! Visit the event page, see what hotel to stay in, and buy your tickets in advance to save $10! Take note: This year marks the first Saturday Day Session.

It’s A Hockey Night (Under the Stars)

It’s intrastate rivalry at its best when the Pittsburgh Penguins play host to the Philadelphia Flyers outdoors at Heinz Field as part of the 2017 Coors Light NHL Stadium SeriesTM. This regular-season open-air matchup on Saturday, Feb. 25, celebrates the 50th anniversary of both the Penguins and the Flyers, who were introduced to the NHL as part of the six-team NHL Expansion in 1967. As cross-state foes, the rivalry between these two clubs was natural and immediate. This marks the first outdoor meeting of these teams with Pennsylvania bragging rights on the (red) line. Let’s go, Pens!

The Best in Basketball

Calling all college basketball fans and Atlantic 10 alumni! For the first time, Pittsburgh will host the Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Championships at PPG Paints Arena, March 8-12. See some of the best competition that college basketball has to offer, while the 14 Atlantic 10 institutions duke it out until one team stands alone as champion. Tickets are on sale now at www.atlantic10.com.

Edward Eberle Retrospective

See the intriguing work of a true master Pittsburgh ceramic artist by visiting the Edward Eberle Retrospective exhibit at Contemporary Craft throughMarch 11. Comprised of over 40 works, the show highlights the evolution of Eberle’s exquisite forms and fragmented, dreamlike imagery by featuring both his trademark porcelain work, as well as a series of works on paper.

#Pixburgh: A Photographic Experience

Experience the city through the lens of Pittsburghers with #Pixburgh, a Heinz History Center exhibit that connects the city’s passion for photography from the early 1850s through today. Each image featured in #Pixburgh reflects a wide variety of subjects and time periods, from turn-of-the-century mugshots to the 1960 World Series, from the 1936 St. Patrick’s Day Flood to the Westinghouse Skybus, and from early “selfies” to Polaroids, all while exploring Pittsburgh’s cycle of change and renewal. The exhibit runs throughJune 4, 2017.

Five Great Day Trips From Baltimore, Maryland

Located in Chesapeake Bay Region of Maryland, Baltimore is just a short drive from many places to go and things to do. From fishing for and eating the freshest seafood to discovering the places where history happened, there is always something to do. Here are five great day trips you can take from Baltimore for a day or a weekend.

Urbana, Virginia

Drive the Tidewater Trail on a 200 mile drive to Urbana, Virginia. Depending on the time of year, you might find an asparagus farm, where you can buy the freshest asparagus at below supermarket prices, or get pick your own raspberries or blueberries. Look for a pick your own farm on Local Harvest.

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

George Washington Birthplace National Monument (Photo courtesy of GEWA)

Take a step back in time to see where the first president of the United States was born. Located in the Northern Neck of Virginia off of Hwy 204, the home and grounds have been meticulously kept to look like it was when George was born here. Get directions and more information at the National Park Service website.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

land of little horses

Petting a miniature horse at the Land of Little Horses

Gettysburg is only about 60 miles away. There is so much history here, from the Civil War Battlefields to the train station where President Lincoln arrived to give his famous Gettysburg Address. History is not all there is to Gettysburg, though. See a show that features miniature horses, dogs, and other animals doing things like dancing and playing basketball, and tour the petting zoo at The Land Of Little Horses. Take a ghost tour and see if you can feel the presences of the spirits. Visit the Round Barn, and see one of the last of these amazing unique architectural designs still standing. There is a farm stand and a shop inside.

Hershey, Pensylvania

Take the 90 mile drive to Hershey, the sweetest place on earth. Hershey is famous for chocolate, and you can find so much about chocolate here. At Chocolate World, you can make your own candy bar, or participate in a chocolate tasting experience. Other things to see and do include Hershey Gardens and Butterfly Atrium; and ZooAmerica. If you’re looking for concerts, shows, and night life, you’ll find that too, with such diverse shows and The Harlem Globe Trotters, Brad Paisley, and Guns N’ Roses.

Chincoteague Island, Virginia

A 175 miles trip to the coast of Maryland gets you to Chincoteague Island. Relax on the beach, see the wild ponies, or take a charted boat fishing trip. There are plenty of things to do if you want to stay busy. Rent a cottage, a house, or stay in a bed and breakfast. A weekend in Chincoteague Island will be memorable no matter what do or where you stay.