Friday, April 28, 2017

First Flight Adventure Park - Nags Head, Outer Banks, NC

First Flight Adventure Park in Nags Head, NC © Katrena
On a recent quick trip to the Outer Banks with my kids in April 2017, we decided to try the First Flight Adventure Park located at 6716 South Croatan Highway in Nags Head, North Carolina. We had visited the Outer Banks the previous summer and this park immediately caught the attention of my second oldest child, who began asking to do this course since that time.

High Ropes Course at NC Outer Banks © Katrena
If you are traveling east on Highway 64 and head over to the Outer Banks, look for a Dairy Queen on the left. They also have a sign for First Flight Adventure Park near the road. Check-in is at the building where the Dairy Queen is located before going through a safety demo and walking back to the course. If you make a reservation, allow plenty of extra time, particularly if traffic is heavy.

Safety Equipment for First Flight High Ropes Course at OBX © Katrena
My crew has some various ages and heights. Make sure to check the First Flight Adventure web site for height and weight requirements. They do check heights and weights before allowing participants to go to the course. My youngest was several inches above the lower limit for going on the course, but they checked her height anyway. I spoke with a parent who was three pounds over the upper limit - he was not allowed to go on the course. So yes, they are strict on both heights and weights.

Unusual Things to do at the Outer Banks in NC © Katrena
You can make a reservation ahead of time by going to the web site or calling. I called to see if they offer discounts but found out that they only offer discounts on Sundays. Prices for lodging are higher on weekends, but if you are in the area on a Sunday, this might be a consideration. I'm guessing the crowds may be lower on Sundays as well.

First Flight Adventure Park in OBX © Katrena
We showed up without a reservation. During busier seasons, that might be more of a gamble because if they have a full group, you might end up having to wait for a while to get in. The first group of the day was pretty full and the group coming in after us was also pretty full, but our group was fortunate to have only about six or seven people in it. Small groups are good because you will have less wait time to complete the obstacles. We visited in April during the off season. I am assuming that most of the groups would be pretty full during summer months.

Safety First at First Flight in Nags Head © Katrena
I believe they start a new group every 30 minutes. As we waited, we noticed a video showing what to do and what not to do on the video. It caught my kids' eyes as the guy demonstrated quite a few goofy no-no's and then the video followed up with proper procedure. While we waited, staff members helped the smaller kids get suited up. A guide then led the older kids and adults were led through donning equipment all at the same time. They do have bathrooms near the check-in area. I highly recommend ensuring that everyone in your group has empty bladders before putting on the harnesses. They also provide a helmet and gloves for everyone. Helmets are required; gloves are optional.

Sam Giving Safety Demonstration at First Flight Adventure Park - notice the signs you can see from the road © Katrena
Sam was the guide who went through our safety talk. When asked, he mentioned that he had been working at First Flight Adventure Park almost since they opened. I thought that spoke highly of the place, and I believe that quite a few of their employees have been with the company for a while. Sam did a great job explaining safety rules. They have a small demo area outside so that visual learners can see how to maneuver on the lines and learn about the various equipment used.

Safety Instructions Prior to Going on Ropes Course © Katrena
Participants who are under five feet tall will need someone over five feet tall to help them through the course. Due to this, I decided to go ahead and try going on the course so that my older two kids could enjoy the course at their own pace. My daughter who had been eyeing the course for a year was determined to make it through the entire course. I had read on some reviews that participants had to complete each course in order, from easiest to hardest, but I believe they have modified that rule. All participants had to complete one of the two easiest courses and then could skip to harder ones if they felt very comfortable, which is what my second oldest daughter did.

Ropes Course Set up Like Hurricane Categories © Katrena
The park has a central tower and six courses. The tower has winding stairs that take participants to the various levels. Two courses are on each level and are named for hurricane categories. Those that are 12 feet above ground are the easiest ones: Tropical Storm and Category 1. Categories 2 and 3 are above those and the 50-foot courses are the most difficult at Categories 4 and 5. Each course contains seven obstacles. At the end, participants ride a zip line back to the tower and then choose the next course they wish to tackle.

Fun Ways to Get Exercise with the Family © Katrena
Staff members are able to hook and unhook participants from safety lines with special devices. They also have safety mechanisms to ensure that participants do not exit the tower without the go-ahead from a staff member. I noticed that the staff members were very attentive. They would watch participants and offer encouragement or advice on how to complete an obstacle if needed. (If they were placing bets on whether or not I'd be able to get back in the kayak, they didn't let it show.)

Tips for Enjoying First Flight Adventure Park in OBX © Katrena
As a participant moves through the course, there are special metal pieces over which you slide your safety line - these prevent a participant from moving backwards through the course. Only one person is allowed on an obstacle at a time. Two people can be on each platform at the edge of each obstacle, which is helpful if you have a smaller child who needs to have the safety lanyard moved past that metal piece. You can pay someone who works at First Flight Adventure Park to go with a shorter person in your group if you don't have a taller person who is willing or able to help a younger one. If you have two smaller children who need help, one adult was allowed to go with both, but one child would have to wait for the other child and adult to finish a course before the other child would be able to begin, meaning that the adult would have to do the obstacles twice.

Hardest Levels at at the Top - the Kayak was Rough for Me! © Katrena
I'm an overweight, middle-aged woman, but I exercise an average of about two hours per day. This course was challenging for me by the time I got up to the Category 3 level. I think I would have done just fine, but I didn't do well staying in the kayak. The safety line prevented me from having a bad fall, but trying to get back up on the platform was challenging as I don't have a lot of upper body strength. Thankfully, a staff member put a strong guy behind me on the course, and I'll forever be indebted to him for helping me to get back up on that platform not once but twice. I think adding a step under each platform would greatly help folks like me who have an oops moment to be able to complete the course.

Easier Ropes Courses are on Lower Levels © Katrena
Two of my kids are avid climbers with many hours of practice on a rock wall at our local YMCA. My second oldest completed the entire course not once but twice (and also helped my youngest one when I decided I had been challenged enough). A staff member mentioned that very few people do that as the course is pretty challenging physically and mentally. My youngest child also completed the entire course, which is pretty unusual for someone of her height as a lot of reaching is involved with the highest levels. I think it is very helpful for participants to develop good problem-solving skills to overcome physical and mental challenges. Experiences like the rock climbing wall helped my kids to be pretty resilient and to think of alternative ways to accomplish goals. My other daughter has not done a lot of climbing, but she completed all of the courses that she wanted to complete and enjoyed watching others as they climbed.

Zip Line Back to the Tower to Start the Next Course © Katrena
On a day that is not very busy, the staff might ask a participant if they want to be timed on a course for fun. Those who are comfortable with a course might particularly enjoy that added challenge. All participants have a time limit of two hours, which was plenty of climbing time for our family. I don't know if they would let participants have a little extra time if they are having to wait a good bit for folks who might be struggling on the course - we didn't ask about that. I'm guessing that time limits may be a little more lax on slower days, but that's only a guess on my part.

Observation Deck with Ropes Course in Sight at First Flight © Katrena
Those who are not paying to participate will be directed to an observation deck. You can see part of the course really well, but don't expect stellar pictures from the deck unless you have a really good zoom lens. I would have loved to have taken pictures from the tower, but that would be a safety issue to have people standing on the tower taking pictures. All pictures of the course in my article were taken from the desk. The guides must constantly watch climbers and don't need any extra distractions. They do have a few places where pictures are automatically taken and downloaded on the course - you'll need the number off your helmet to find them on the computer screen after your group is done. They wrote our helmet numbers on our wrist bands so we could find the pictures after we finished.

Nice Layout of Ropes Course in Outer Banks © Katrena
A few of my tips:
  • Read the web site carefully - don't expect them to fudge on height and weight requirements. I think they do change a few of the obstacles occasionally, but what we saw on the web site was a pretty good indication of what we saw on the course.
  • Ensure that everyone is wearing comfortable clothing in which they can bend and reach easily. Those participating in the course must wear closed toe and closed heel shoes.
  • Bring water bottles - they can be left in the tower. This is a physically challenging course. The Outer Banks can get really hot during summer months, and you can expect those participating to sweat.
  • People who are physically fit will probably enjoy the course the most, but others can choose to stay on easier levels.
  • Off season and cooler weather was great for us - it wasn't very crowded and the cooler weather felt great.
  • Participants might want to watch someone go through a course before going out to see what works and what doesn't work.
  • Look toward the tower and ask a guide for tips if you get to a place that looks challenging. If I had done that, I probably would not have fallen out of the kayak! Everyone was very supportive of those struggling on any of the obstacles. And if a person absolutely cannot finish a course, they do have safety measures in place to help get someone off the course.
  • Congratulate anyone in your group who does the course, no matter how far they go. It doesn't have to be a competition - it can simply be fun and an opportunity to encourage yourself and others.

One Photo Opportunity is in the Middle of the Heart © Katrena
Overall, this was a fun, safe, and challenging experience for my family. The price is a bit high for someone with several kids who is on a budget; I've looked at other courses in North Carolina and the prices look comparable. They do offer season passes during the off season only. If we lived close to the Outer Banks, I'm sure my kids would be begging for season passes.

High Ropes Course in Nags Head, NC © Katrena
Feel free to visit the First Flight Adventure Park official web site for prices, FAQ, reservations, waiver, etc. NOTE: First Flight did not offer me any incentives for writing this article. This is an activity my family wanted to try, and we enjoyed it, so I decided to write an article about it. All of the equipment looked to be in good condition and those who worked there were knowledgeable, helpful, and nice.

Adventures in NC Outer Banks © Katrena
Additional articles I've written about trips to the OBX:
Thanks for visiting my Travel NC with Kids blog!
First Flight Adventure Park Ropes Course in Nags Head, Outer Banks of NC © Katrena

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Christmas Shop and General Store - Manteo, Outer Banks, NC

The Christmas Shop and General Store in Manteo NC © Katrena
Go ahead, look back at the date. I realize April is not anywhere near Christmas, but my crew tends to celebrate holidays at any time of year. After working as a cancer nurse for nearly 18 years and losing quite a few relatives suddenly, I decided that any holiday is fair game on any given day!

Star Trek Themed Room at The Christmas Shop © Katrena
I last visited this shop about 25 years ago, but I remember how much fun it was to look at the vast supply of ornaments and other holiday items way back then.

Fun Things to do in the Outer Banks © Katrena
My kids and I were headed back from a short vacation at the Outer Banks, so I thought it would be fun to visit the store again. For me to say I enjoyed going to a store is a big deal - I typically despise shopping and would rather go to the dentist than to shop.

Fun Rainy Day Activities at the Outer Banks © Katrena
The store is easy to find. It is located at 621 S. Highway 64 in Manteo. It is very close to The Lost Colony theatre and the NC Aquarium at Roanoke. You could easily make an entire day of those three activities.

Glass Ornaments at The Christmas Shop in Manteo, NC © Katrena
The Christmas Shop and General Store is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Apparently, the store closed for a few years, but the owner, Mr. Green, got a bit bored and wanted to open his shop again. This resulted in some challenges as the Christmas items and huge supply of antiques had been sold when the store closed. But folks who are determined simply look at challenges as another opportunity and keep moving forward.

Antique Organ at the Christmas Shop at OBX © Katrena
I don't have a good memory of exactly what the store had 25 years ago, but I was impressed with how the shop was set up, decorated, and themed. The shop looks to be an old house, or perhaps several houses connected, and each room or area features similar items.

Wizard of Ox Nutcrackers © Katrena
The very first thing that caught my kids' eyes were the nutcrackers in the check-out area as you enter the building. They were characters from The Wizard of Oz. Anything Oz is going to be a favorite with my kids, and from that point, my kids knew they would like this store.

The Christmas Story Ornaments © Katrena
There were quite a few nostalgic areas with items related to old TV shows and movies, such as I Love Lucy, Star Trek, The Christmas Story, The Wizard of Oz, etc. Many of the rooms and hallways had trees decorated with various ornaments and decorations that were for sale.

Nutcracker Room at The Christmas Shop © Katrena
One room featured different types and sizes of nutcrackers. Some of them were pretty unusual, perhaps an idea for someone who collects nutcrackers.

Minions at The Christmas Shop © Katrena
They also had quite a few themed areas featuring newer items, such as Minions, Frozen, and Disney princesses. The store had items younger boys would like, but since my crew is all girls, we didn't linger in those areas!

Antique Baby Doll at The Christmas Shop © Katrena
My youngest particularly liked the room for new additions to the family. That area had several antique baby dolls and an old play stove. According to my source, the store has fewer antiques than it did before, but the ones they have are nicely displayed.

Pet-themed Room at The Christmas Shop © Katrena
Several ornaments could be customized, with space for adding a name, such as in the pet room where they had a good variety of ornaments resembling various types of dogs and cats. They have an area at the check-out where staff will personalize items.

Beautiful and Unusual Ornaments at Manteo Christmas Shop © Katrena
One large room had several Christmas trees and many different types of glass ornaments. Some looked to be blown glass. They also had brightly colored thicker glass decorations and wild animals featured in this room.

Beach-themed Room at The Christmas Shop © Katrena
Another area featured beach-themed ornaments and items. After all, we were in Manteo, right by the ocean. We saw a few pirate-themed items as well.

Handmade Soup and Other Items at The Christmas Shop and General Store in Manteo © Katrena
Moving farther back in the store, I noticed a nativity area and another large room, this time with more of a country store feel. Jewelry, hand-made soap with fairly intricate designs, and some shells caught my kids' eyes.

Sports-themed Room at The Christmas Shop © Katrena
A sports-themed area beckoned to those who enjoy the thrill of the game. They had a pretty wide selection of different teams in that area.

Halloween-themed Room at The Christmas Shop in OBX © Katrena
Past the sports area was a hallway that led down to several Halloween-themed rooms. If you have folks in your group who are frightened by scary figures and items, I wouldn't recommend taking them through this one, but this is off to the side, so it is easy to skip.

Halloween Room Like a Haunted House at Manteo Christmas Shop © Katrena
The Halloween area lighting is low, and quite a few of the figures are motion activated. You have to go through several doorways to see all of the Halloween areas, and the area gives you the sense of walking through a haunted house. If you have people in your group who love all things Halloween, you might have to drag said members out of this area.

Suncatchers at The Christmas Shop and General Store © Katrena
You can bypass the Halloween area by turning left and heading down another hall toward a large room. This one has fudge, candy, magnets, suncatchers, and more. This area reminded me a little of The Candy Shoppe in Salisbury, NC.

Artwork at The Christmas Shop © Katrena
Several halls are lined with artwork, perhaps reminiscent of when Mr. Green and Andy Griffith would sit by the road in front of what would become the store and sell paintings many years ago.

Fudge and Candy at The Christmas Shop and General Store © Katrena
I *think* I found all of the rooms at The Christmas Shop and General Store. Although I had planned to run in for 30 minutes or so, we ended up exploring for about an hour and a half. All of the people who worked in the store were very friendly and helpful.

Entrance to The Christmas Shop and General Store © Katrena
The store looks to be accessible with a ramp going to the front door and fairly wide aisles for maneuvering. You might contact the store if you have special needs as they would have more specific information on that.

Nativity Scene at The Christmas Shop near Roanoke © Katrena
We visited during the off season and there were very few other customers, but I would think this store could hold quite a few people browsing due to the many rooms and shopping areas. We could have checked out very quickly, but we chatted a while since nobody else was waiting in line behind us. Like I said, everyone was very friendly!

Unusual Items at The Christmas Shop and General Store © Katrena
I don't typically purchase Christmas ornaments, so I'm not a good one to rate the prices. Many of the ornaments were running $10 and up. My oldest daughter said this was her favorite activity of our trip to the Outer Banks. Particularly if you run into a rainy day while at the OBX, this would be a great idea with the potential to be memorable and fun.

Nostalgic Ornaments at The Christmas Shop and General Store in Manteo © Katrena
NOTE: I wrote this article because this shop interested my group and we enjoyed the experience. I did not ask for or receive anything from this store to write this article. I can tell that a lot of effort has gone into bringing this Christmas shop back to life. For more information, including hours, visit The Christmas Shop and General Store official web site.

Frozen and Disney Princesses at NC Christmas Shop and General Store © Katrena
Additional articles I've written about our trips to the OBX:

Big Selection at The Christmas Shop and General Store © Katrena
Thanks for visiting Travel NC With Kids!
Fun Store to Visit at NC Outer Banks © Katrena

Friday, October 21, 2016

Hutchinson Homestead at Stone Mountain State Park – Great History Lesson

Hutchinson Homestead at Stone Mountain State Park © Katrena
When visiting Stone Mountain State Park, staff members recommended that we hike by the Hutchinson homestead while on the Stone Mountain loop trail. Stone Mountain State Park is located in Wilkes and Alleghany counties in North Carolina near Elkin.

Homestead along the loop trail at Stone Mountain State Park © Katrena
We parked in the lower trailhead parking lot and began hiking the loop trail from that point. We decided to take the split on the left side and hiked part of the way on a road that leads to the homestead. Those who have mobility limitations may drive up that road and park very close to the homestead. You can see the edge of the parking just to the left and behind the cabin photo at the top of this article.

See old farmhouse & barn & farm machinery in North Carolina © Katrena
The homestead includes quite a few buildings that have been well-maintained. Several people were visiting the area when we arrived. One group with several dogs mentioned that they had met a park ranger whose family had owned the homestead. He had told them all sorts of stories of visiting his grandparents and memories of activities his family enjoyed. He was not there on the day we visited, but what a wonderful opportunity that would be!

Stone Mountain State Park Hiking Trail in NC © Katrena
Signs at the buildings include information about how the building and farm machinery were used. Just beyond the buildings is a small trail leading to a field with a tree and a few benches. From that area you can see the large stone face that heralds Stone Mountain's name. A plaque designating the area as a national landmark in 1975 is in the field closer to the rock beyond the homestead.

View of Stone Mountain from Hutchinson Homestead © Katrena
The loop trail continues on from the trail if you keep walking straight back or you can cross a wooded bridge to the right of some of the buildings. When we visited the park, temperatures were in the high 90s, so we did not spend a lot of time in the sun, but I tried to capture a few pictures to share with all of you.

Scenic Hiking Trails in North Carolina
I would love to visit the park again some time when the park ranger whose family owned the land is there to share his stories. The homestead has been well-preserved and the entire park is well-maintained.

Old Privy or Outhouse at Hutchinson Homestead at Stone Mountain State Park © Katrena
Additional articles by Katrena

Homestead at Hiking Trail at Stone Mountain State Park © Katrena
Thank you for visiting my Travel NC With Kids blog. Have you visited the Hutchinson homestead at Stone Mountain State Park? If so, what did you especially like?
Fun Family Activities in Wilkes County and Alleghany County in NC © Katrena